This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Cradle of Civilization

"ISIS is imposing a curfew and searching for any elements related to the regime."
"They executed nine people from two families after accusing them of being spies for the regime."
Abu Leith al-Shaer, Palmyra refugee

"We have to act because there is a threat against these monuments which are part of humankind's inheritance and at the same time we must act against Daesh [Islamic State]."
"It is really upsetting when a site of such riches, which belongs to all of humanity, falls into the hands of a terrorist group."
French President Francois Hollande

"If they are not willing to fight for the security of their country, we cannot do that for them."
"No, I don't think we're losing. [The U.S. would have] to ramp up not just training, but also commitment [but not] repeat the mistakes of the past [and send in American troops]."
U.S. President Barack Obama

"It [Palmyra] is the birthplace of human civilization. It belongs to the whole of humanity and I think everyone today should be worried about what is happening."
Irina Bokova, director-general, UNESCO
In 2007, CNN Correspondent Ivan Watson visited the ancient desert city of Palmyra, Syria as a tourist on the bus. It was an "astounding sight," he recalls: "A thousand year old city remarkably preserved in the middle of the desert." Now, the site is under grave threat from ISIS.
Roman-era ruins in Palmyra -- CNN
Sunni Syrians in their millions-strong who have fled their country for the very real fear of being kidnapped, arrested, tortured, raped, killed by their very own government might feel bitter at the resolve expressed by France's president to rescue heritage antiquities, however priceless and irreplaceable, while there was no international concerted effort to rescue them or their country from the horrors that have since occurred with the civil war leading to a total breakdown of civilization.

So there is great irony in claiming Palmyra to represent the 'birthplace of human civilization', in view of the fact that the Islamist jihadi militias that have now entered the city and dispersed some 50,000 Sunni Syrians from their homes, making of them hapless migrants, killing some among them and threatening to destroy the world heritage site in an expression of pure, unadulterated civilizational dysfunction.

Islamic State represents a pathologically failed human condition from which all human compassion has been drained.

President Obama has responded to calls from Republicans in the U.S. government to send in American troops to face ISIS directly, by a sound rejection, insisting the loss on the weekend of Ramadi represented nothing more than a "tactical setback", irrespective of the tens of thousands of newly-made refugees trudging their way to Baghdad, which has agreed to permit them to enter the city confines, even though the government fears that among them may be some ISIS jihadis.

In line with President Obama's insistence on continuing to 'ramp up' training and commitment, the Pentagon has stated that two thousand anti-tank missiles for defence against ISIL's huge suicide car bombs will represent all the weapons aid scheduled for delivery for the time being. Once again Mr. Obama stressed that the Iraqis themselves had to combat and defeat the Islamic State terrorists, however long it would take.

A senior U.S. State Department briefing by a senior official stated ISIS represents a more 'accomplished' group than al-Qaeda in Iraq. "ISIS as an organization is better in every respect than its predecessor of AQI", he stated unequivocally, but rather opaquely. "Better?" A more heinous modus operandi? As it was, al-Qaeda in Iraq had earned the censure of senior operatives of al-Qaeda, for its brutality that even they abhorred.

Or do they venture to mean that they are more effective strategically in their combat roles than their predecessors? Whatever the analysis, the capture of Palmyra represents a "setback" for the U.S.-led coalition. As for Palmyra, it is being cleansed by Islamic State jihadists, busy going door to door in search of "regime collaborators"; those they have found have been beheaded and left in the street to warn others what lies in store.

"It looked like something that belonged in Normandy," remembers Watson.
The Crac des Chevaliers, Crusader Castle in Syria, CNN

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Fulfilling a Prophecy

"Mr. Malik said several times, 'We have to do something in Canada'."
"He said that there are no civilians in Canada, only enemies because all Canadians pay the tax and the tax dollars are used to buy the planes that are sent to Syria and Iraq and are used to fund the military."
"He was supportive of both al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. [His] main inspiration [the late al-Qaeda idealogue, Anwar al-Awlaki."
"He said that Abu Muslim died as a shaheed, he gave his life for Allah and gave his life defending Islam."
"On a separate occasion Mr. Malik said that when somebody dies a shaheed [a martyr] he goes straight to heaven and on the day of judgement, the belief is, he will have the right to ask Allah to get his family into paradise as well and he would get 70 virgins."
Undercover RCMP officer
Image capture of Toronto terror suspect Jahanzeb Malik during a video conference hearing inside Lindsay, Ontario prison on March 16, 2015.
Image capture of Toronto terror suspect Jahanzeb Malik during a video conference hearing inside Lindsay, Ontario prison on March 16, 2015.   Global News

The undisclosed identity of an undercover RCMP officer is meant to protect him from any possible revenge attacks by Islamists. He is in the process of testifying before an Immigration and Refugee Board panel who will determine whether Jahanzeb Malik, 33, should be escorted out of the country, and returned to his native Pakistan. Should the testimony convince the panelists that Mr. Malik represents a danger to Canada he will be deported.

How he can fail to be considered a potential danger to Canada is another matter entirely. But the letter of the law must be observed, before action is taken to rid the country of the malignant presence of a man whose Islamist beliefs are convincing enough. He had wanted to travel to Syria to join Islamic State, but finally made the decision to remain where he was and conduct a terrorist attack in Canada, preferably.

Jahanzeb Malik had become a person of interest to the RCMP in 2013 when he returned from a trip to Libya; and from that time forward an investigation was launched into his background and activities. Under questioning he claimed to have taught at a Benghazi school. Authorities, on the other hand, suspect that during his time there he attended a training camp for al-Qaeda operatives.

After befriending Mr. Malik the RCMP handler had a conversation with him after they had viewed ISIL videos. They exchanged notes between one another; the notes comprising the 'conversation':
"Can you make explosives?"
"What do we need?"
"Doesn't matter."
"Calculation [materials required for bomb depended on target]."
"American embassy, financial district, Bay Street."

The notes they had exchanged were then burned in the stove by Mr. Malik. Mr. Malik was 90 percent certain he would commit to an attack plan; the rest was up to Allah: "Inshallah". The Toronto financial district was chosen as the location for a bomb: "because it would definitely bring the Canadian economy down." A video would be produced to claim the attack was carried through on behalf of the "entire Muslim population".

Jahanzeb Malik has lived in Canada since 2004 as a landed immigrant. A six-month investigation by the RCMP Integrated National Security Enforcement Team led to his arrest though he hasn't been charged with crimes, but is to be deported to Pakistan, representing a threat to Canadian security.

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The Obama administration called off retaliatory air strikes following the infamous 2013 Ghouta nerve gas attack in exchange for Syria's promises to surrender its chemical weapons.
The famed "red line" warning that Barack Obama issued in August 2012 to Bashar al-Assad of Syria was arguably the defining foreign policy moment of his presidency: an unequivocal warning to a rogue leader to desist from war crimes or pay the price.

When Assad's crossing of this red line a year later ended in a blur, with Russian-backed promises that the Assad regime would hand over its chemical agents, responses were bifurcated. The president and his allies hailed this as a monument of diplomacy, whereby a plausible threat led bloodlessly to a major improvement in behavior. In contrast, critics presented Obama as a paper tiger who raged with threats that collapsed when offered meaningless assurances by a well-established liar.

Obama's threats against the Syrian dictatorship vanished into thin air, replaced by squirming and prattle.
For two years, there was no verdict; the two sides kept making their points without closure. But now, closure is at hand.

That's because there are now multiple reports of the Assad regime using chlorine in barrel bombs, plus the discovery of traces of ricin, sarin and VX. In response, the U.S. government has done nothing about these hideous developments other than issue mild rebukes, turn to the feckless United Nations, and hope against hope that the Russians and even the Iranians would dispose of the problem. No mention of red lines this time, just a wish no one would remember 2013.

But we do remember and we do draw conclusions. It's now indisputably clear that Obama is no more than a paper tiger. His threats against the Syrian dictatorship meant nothing but vanished into thin air, replaced by squirming and prattle.

If Obama dares not handle the weakling in Damascus, how might he venture to do so with more formidable foes?
Not only is this response important in itself, but it has implications for other hostile states, notably Russia, China, and especially Iran. If Obama dares not handle the weakling in Damascus, how might he venture to do so with the more formidable foes in Moscow, Peking, and Tehran?

For this reason, the issue of Assad's chemical weapons is crucial to American foreign policy. Like many observers, I count the months (still another 20 of them) until this president is gone and the United States of America has an opportunity for a fresh start to stand by its word, live up to its historic reputation, and protect itself.
Daniel Pipes (DanielPipes.org, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum.

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Gatestone Institute

Translations of this item:
  • The international community and the media often ignore the fact that Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah has a number of armed groups. Their fight is to destroy Israel, eliminate the "Zionist entity" and achieve the "right of return" for millions of descendants of refugees.
  • The Palestinian Authority leadership has never distanced itself from the rhetoric and actions of these groups. Fatah's militias will be the first to reject any peace agreement that includes the slightest concession to Israel.
  • Several Fatah leaders, in fact, often speak in English about the need for reviving the peace process, while in Arabic they praise and endorse the Fatah gunmen.
Many in the international community often refer to the Palestinian Fatah faction, which is headed by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, as a "moderate" group that believes in Israel's right to exist and the two-state solution.

What these people do not know is that Fatah, the largest faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), consists of several groups that hold different views than those expressed by Abbas and other English-speaking Fatah officials.

Some of these Fatah groups do not believe in Israel's right to exist and continue to talk about the "armed struggle" as the only way to "liberate Palestine and restore Palestinian national rights."

One of these groups is called The Aqsa Martyrs Brigade - El Amoudi Brigade.

The Aqsa Martyrs Brigades is Fatah's armed wing, established shortly after the beginning of the second intifada in September 2000. Although the Palestinian Authority leadership maintains that the group has been dissolved and its members recruited into its security forces, scores of gunmen continue to operate freely in Palestinian villages and refugee camps in the West Bank.

Based in the Gaza Strip, the El Amoudi Brigade, which consists of dozens of Fatah gunmen, is named after Nidal El Amoudi, a top Fatah operative killed by the Israel Defense Forces on January 13, 2008, after he carried out a series of armed attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers during the second intifada.

During the last war in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas ("Operation Protective Edge"), the El Amoudi Brigade claimed responsibility for firing dozens of rockets at Israeli cities and IDF soldiers.

Sources in the Gaza Strip claim that many of the group's members are former security officers, still on the payroll of the PA. Other sources claim that the group is funded by ousted Fatah official Mohamed Dahlan, who is currently based in the United Arab Emirates, and the Lebanese Shiite terror group Hezbollah.

It is worth noting that the Palestinian Authority leadership has never distanced itself from the El Amoudi Brigade's rhetoric and actions.

In addition to an official website, Fatah's El Amoudi Brigade regularly issues threats to pursue the armed struggle against, and destroy, Israel. Last week, the group posted a video with a message to the "Israeli enemy" on the 67th anniversary of the creation of Israel -- which Palestinians refer to as "Nakba Day" (Day of Catastrophe).

Entitled, "A Message to the Israeli People" and accompanied by Hebrew subtitles, the video declares that the "battle for the liberation (of Palestine) was closer than ever," and warns Israelis: "Our Nakba (catastrophe) is unforgettable; soon you will have to leave because you have no other choice."

The Fatah video shows the group's members during military training in the Gaza Strip, in preparation for the next battle against Israel. "We have prepared the best soldiers," says the song in the background.

In a separate statement on the same occasion, the Fatah group emphasizes that the "armed struggle" against Israel "is the only means to liberate Palestine." It also stresses that the "right of return" for Palestinian refugees to their former homes inside Israel cannot be compromised and is non-negotiable. "Our people reject all alternative options to the right of return," the statement read, repeatedly referring to Israel as the "Zionist enemy."

Elsewhere, the Fatah group boasts that its men have been able to manufacture a new 12-kilometer range rocket called 107 that was used against IDF tanks and soldiers during the last war in the Gaza Strip.

The El Amoudi Brigade is not the only armed Fatah militia operating in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Another significant group in the Gaza Strip, which also participated in the last war against Israel, is called the Martyr Abdel Qader Hossaini Brigade. Like its sister group, El Amoudi Brigade, the Martyr Abdel Qader Hossaini militia also supports the armed struggle against the "Zionist enemy."

A third major Fatah terror group is called the Abu al-Rish Brigades, which has been responsible for many terrorist attacks against Israel and the kidnapping of foreigners in the Gaza Strip. The gang, which describes itself as the "military wing of Fatah," also refers to Israel as the "Zionist enemy" and claims to have participated alongside Hamas in the last war in the Gaza Strip.

Gunmen from Fatah's Abu al-Rish Brigades, which describes itself as the "military wing of Fatah," appear in a September 2014 propaganda video.

The international community and the media often ignore the fact that Fatah has a number of armed groups that are still openly dedicated to the "armed struggle" and terrorism as a way of "liberating Palestine." They also ignore that "moderate" Fatah leaders who speak in favor of peace and the two-state solution do not distance themselves from these groups. Several Fatah leaders, in fact, often speak in English about the need for reviving the peace process, while in Arabic they praise and endorse the Fatah gunmen.

The presence of armed Fatah gangs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is a sign of the huge challenges that any Palestinian leader would face if and when the Palestinians and Israel reach a peace agreement. Obviously, these Fatah groups will be the first to reject any peace agreement that includes the slightest concession to Israel. Some of these groups are opposed in principle to peace with Israel because they simply do not recognize Israel's right to exist.

This is something that the international community -- first and foremost the U.S. -- needs to take into consideration when dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Decision-makers need to know that opposition to peace with Israel will come not only from Hamas, but also from many groups within Fatah. As the armed groups themselves indicate, their fight is to eliminate "Zionist enemy" and achieve the "right of return" for millions of descendants of refugees to their former homes inside Israel.

Meanwhile, Abbas and other Fatah leaders, who are fully aware of the actions and threats of their loyalists, are doing their utmost to stop the world from hearing what the Fatah gunmen have to say about peace and the two-state solution. The question remains: Until when will the international community continue to bury its head in the sand and pretend that Fatah is a unified, moderate and pragmatic group that seeks peace and coexistence with Israel on behalf of all Palestinians?

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Gatestone Institute

  • This time, there was no request for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council; no talks with the EU, NATO, Obama or Merkel. Instead, the Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a weak protest note.
  • President Erdogan's reaction to an attack on a civilian Turkish vessel by a foreign army was revealing: "Things would have been different had the ship carried a Turkish flag."
  • By the way, what flag did the Mavi Marmara carry? Comoros.
  • For Turkey's Islamists, "what was done" does not matter much. "Who did it" does.
"This is the first time in history that a foreign army has killed civilian Turks in peacetime!"
This is how government-friendly media justified Turkey's reaction to Israel when, in May 2010, the Israel Defense Forces raided the "Mavi Marmara," a ship in a Turkish-led flotilla off the Gazan coast, and killed nine pro-Palestine activists aboard.

Any reader could be tempted to believe that Turkey was preparing to go to war with Israel.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, then foreign minister, insisted that "This is Turkey's own 9/11."

Turkey asked the United Nations Security Council to summon an emergency meeting. It knocked on other doors too: NATO, the European Union (EU), the Arab League and the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Then Prime Minister (now President) Recep Tayyip Erdogan called to discuss the Mavi Marmara crisis with U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Erdogan's portrayal of the incident contained words such as "state terrorism," "an attack on world peace," "piracy," "thuggish state," and "massacre." He said that:
  • Israel must definitely be punished,
  • Israel will pay a very heavy price for this,
  • Israel murdered innocent people at sea, and
  • [Addressing and threatening Israeli citizens:] Israel is openly exposing your security to great risk.
The Turkish-owned ship Mavi Marmara, which took part in the 2010 "Gaza flotilla" that attempted to break Israel's navel blockade of Gaza. (Image source: "Free Gaza movement"/Flickr)

Since the incident, Turkey's relations with Israel never normalized. Neither country has an ambassador in the other's capital. Turkey has vowed to isolate Israel internationally until Israel has apologized, paid compensation to the families of the victims, and removed the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip (which a UN commission probing the Mavi Marmara incident later declared to be legal).

One might, initially, understand the Turkish ire. After all, a foreign country's military had targeted a civilian ship and killed people aboard, with or without good legal reason. After all, again, the vessel that was attacked was not a Turkish frigate intending to shell the Israeli coast. So, Turkey's justified anger presumably had nothing to do with the inherent anti-Semitism of its Islamist rulers. Really?

For Erdogan, Israel is a terrorist state. But apparently, he has had a confused mind about another Mediterranean-basin country: Libya. In 2010, Erdogan, with a happy and smiling face, received Libya's "distinguished" Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights. He returned the favor by eventually joining an allied force that overthrew the Libyan dictator and led to his lynching. However, shortly before Erdogan decided that Turkey should join the allied forces, he had publicly said -- in criticism of the planned NATO operation against Gaddafi -- "What business does NATO have in Libya?"

As Turkey did in the Palestinian territories, or elsewhere where such groups exist, it apparently has an obsession about supporting the Islamists in Libya, too.

In response, Abdullah al-Thinni, the Prime Minister of the Libyan interim government, has repeatedly accused Turkey of interfering in the domestic affairs of Libya and earlier this year warned that Libya's government could put an end to investments by Turkish companies in the country.

On May 10, almost five years after "Turkey's own 9/11," a Turkish cargo ship's third officer was killed and several other crew members were wounded after the ship was shelled off the Libyan coast and attacked from the air by Libyan forces.

The vessel, the Tuna-1, was approaching Tobruk, a coastal city in Libya where the country's internationally-recognized government is headquartered, to deliver sheetrock cargo loaded in Spain, when it was shelled in international waters, 13 miles away from the Libyan port city. The Tuna-1 was then attacked twice from the air as it tried to leave the area. A Libyan military spokesman told Reuters that the Turkish vessel was bombed "after it was warned not to approach the Libyan city of Derna."

But this time there was no request for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council; no talks with the EU, NATO, Arab League, OIC, Obama or Merkel. No words flying in the air such as "terrorist state," "piracy," "massacre," "an attack on world peace." No "murderers." No threats to Libyans that "your security is being exposed to great risks." And, naturally, this is not "Turkey's own 9/11."

Instead, the Turkish Foreign Ministry on May 11 issued a weak protest note. It condemned the attack and demanded legal action. It called the attack a violation of international law. All Turkey's Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, could say was that Ankara had sent a frigate off the Libyan coast to escort the Tuna-1 back to Turkish waters.

President Erdogan's reaction to the attack on a civilian Turkish vessel by a foreign army was revealing. He said: "Things would have been different had the Turkish ship carried a Turkish flag." That would be Turkey's wrath on Libya, he simply meant, were the Tuna-1, owned by a Turkish company, not registered in the Cook Islands.

By the way, what flag did the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara carry? Comoros.
Still wondering why Turkey's voice was so loud after the Mavi Marmara incident? For Turkey's Islamists, "what was done" does not matter much. "Who did it" does.
Burak Bekdil, based in Ankara, is a Turkish columnist for the Hürriyet Daily and a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

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Gatestone Institute

  • The first priority of most Western governments today seems to sign a deal with Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, who openly calls for Israel's and America's destruction.
  • The next priority of many European governments, and apparently the Pope, is to entrust a state to the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, a movement that does not hide its genocidal intentions.
  • Unless the Obama Administration and Congress stop Iran, we are about to witness the world's next genocide, committed by Iran. By teeing up Iran's nuclear capability and triggering a Middle East nuclear arms race, the U.S. and the negotiators of the P5+1 are creating conditions that can only lead to a disastrous war with catastrophic results.
On April 28, ceremonies were held to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp. It might seem not a major event, as Dachau was not an extermination camp. Auschwitz-Birkenau, the main Nazi killing center, had fallen three months earlier. The absolute horror of Nazi crimes was fully known. The end of World War II was near: ten days later, on May 8, 1945, the surrender of Germany was signed.
Dachau nevertheless has a special meaning: it was the first camp. After its doors opened in 1933, it became the model for all Nazi concentration camps.[1]

More than 30,000 Jewish men were sent to concentration camps shortly after Kristallnacht -- a wave of violent anti-Jewish demonstrations throughout Germany and Austria on the night of November 9-10, 1938. At the instigation of the Nazi party, Jewish businesses, synagogues and homes were attacked and burned, nearly a hundred Jews were murdered and thousands injured, and tens of thousands of Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps.

The rest of the world could still have saved Jews and stopped the destruction machine. But the world did nothing. Hitler knew -- as Iran knows now -- that the world would do nothing.
Six weeks earlier, on September 30, the Munich Agreement had been signed. Britain's Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, had presented the agreement as "Peace for our time" -- in exchange for allowing Germany to help itself to the German-speaking part of Czechoslovakia, later known as Sudetenland. Chamberlain and France's Prime Minister, Édouard Daladier, had accepted Hitler's conditions without even mentioning the fate of the Jews.

Six months earlier, in July 1938, during the Evian Conference, no country had agreed to take in Jewish refugees.[2]

There were few consequences for Germany. Nothing had changed.

In May 1940, Auschwitz opened.

On January 20, 1942, the Wannsee Conference was held, during which high-ranking German officials coordinated what they called, "The Final Solution to the Jewish Question."[3] Auschwitz became an extermination camp a few days later.

The plight of European Jews, and the crimes at Auschwitz and other extermination camps, came as no surprise. Witold's Report, written by Captain Witold Pilecki, a secret agent of the Polish resistance, who entered and escaped from Auschwitz, had been forwarded to the British.[4] The report detailed the "selection process," the three crematoria that could burn 8,000 people a day, and the so-called "medical experiments." The British questioned the report's reliability. [5]

The recognition and commemoration of the Holocaust began in Israel several years after 1945.[6] For decades, however, the rest of the world remained silent.

Political considerations prevailed over ethical considerations. Emphasizing the responsibility of Germany would have implied that many more Germans than those tried at Nuremberg would have had to be tried. Several Western political leaders could have been considered accomplices. It was only when almost all the perpetrators and survivors were dead that the time of remembrance came. But were any lessons learned?

The crime of the Holocaust was the only attempt at the total extermination of a people by industrial means, and it was committed on a continent considered the "cradle of Western civilization."

The other horrific acts of extermination that took place during the twentieth century were treated as of little importance -- and still are.

The crimes of Communism -- including the Communist killing fields of Cambodia that took place during in the late 1970s -- were also immense. They were committed on five continents and lasted several decades. Communism killed about a hundred million people.[7] Although the crimes of Communism are public information, the world is still mostly silent. Again, political considerations prevailed over ethical consideration. The Black Book of Communism was published in 1999. The issue was then dropped. It is likely that there will never be a Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Communism.

Another genocide took place in Rwanda, in 1994: 70% of the Tutsis living there were killed. One of the most horrifying aspects of the Rwandan genocide was that international forces, sent by the UN, stood by and remained passive. France launched a military operation to evacuate French and Belgian citizens, but refused to evacuate any Tutsis. Hundreds of people were massacred a few feet away from the French forces. Once again, political considerations prevailed over ethical considerations. The responsibilities of the international forces and the responsibilities of France have been internationally ignored.[8] An International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was established; it will end its work soon. Only Rwandans were incriminated. Hardly anyone in the rest of the world remembers the Rwandan genocide.

A genocide also took place in the Ottoman Empire at the time of its collapse, during World War I, a quarter century before the Holocaust. Beginning in 1915, between 800,000 and 1.5 million Armenians were slaughtered by soldiers of the Ottoman army.[9] Turkey has never recognized the massacre as a genocide.[10] The world was, again, largely indifferent to the fate of the Armenians. Hitler seized on this indifference to say that if the world condoned what happened to the Armenians, it would condone what would happen to the Jews. He was proven right. Again, political considerations prevailed over ethical considerations. As Turkey was an ally of the West against the Soviet Union, any decision likely to annoy or offend the Turkish government was set aside. Since the collapse of the Soviet empire, however, Turkey has lost some of its geopolitical importance, but it contributes to new genocide-like massacres. In recent months, tens of thousands of Christians and Yazidis have been savagely murdered in Syria and Iraq by the Islamic State -- which could not exist without the support of Turkey. Much of the oil sold by the Islamic State, and its needed military supplies, pass through Turkey. The silence of the West continues. No doubt. Political considerations are at work.

Seventy years after the fall of Dachau and Auschwitz, Israeli Jews, Christians and Arabs are threatened with a second Holocaust by people who deny the existence of the first Holocaust: Iran's leadership. The West, apparently willing to vote Iran nuclear breakout capability, pays no attention and acts as if Iran's continual threats had no meaning.

The first priority of most Western governments today seems to sign a deal with Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Hosseini Khamenei, who openly calls for Israel's and America's destruction.

Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei (center), is shown meeting in May 2014 with Iran's military chief of staff and the commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. (Image source: IRNA)

The next priority of many European governments is to entrust a state to the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, a movement that does not hide its genocidal intentions. Political considerations are at work, full time and at open throttle.

Since the Armenian genocide, one hundred years have passed, marked by mass killings, massacres, and genocides. These culminated in the Holocaust, but did not end with it. The Communist killing fields of Cambodia took place during the 1970s. The Rwandan Genocide of the Tutsis was perpetrated just twenty-one years ago.

The twentieth century was appropriately described by historian Robert Conquest as a "ravaged century."[11]

It is urgent that that ethical -- not political or monetary -- considerations receive priority. If not, this will be the second "ravaged century."

[1] The Dachau Concentration Camp, 1933 to 1945: Text and Photo Documents from the Exhibition, with CD. Dachau: Comité International De Dachau, 2005.
[2] William R. Perl, The Holocaust Conspiracy: An International Policy of Genocide, Shapolsky Publishers, Inc, 1989.
[3] Mark Roseman, The Villa, The Lake, The Meeting: Wannsee and the Final Solution, Allen Lane, 2002.
[4] Witold Pilecki, The Auschwitz Volunteer: Beyond Bravery, Aquila Polonica, 2012.
[5] There were three other reports about the conditions in Auschwitz as well: The "Polish Major's Report" by Jerzy Tabeau; the "Vrba-Wetzler Report" by Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler in April, 1944, and a short report by Arnst Rosin and Czelaw Mordowicz, who escaped from Auschwitz in May, 1944.
[6] Yom HaShoah ("Day of the Holocaust") became an annual memorial in Israel in 1953. The Days of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust were held in the US for the first time in 1979, twenty-six years after 1945. The French government acknowledged France's responsibility in the deportation of Jews in 1995. A Day of Remembrance of the Victims of National Socialism was established in Germany in 1996. Holocaust Memorial Day was established in the UK in 2001.
[7] Stephane Courtois, Nicolas Werth, Jean-Louis Panné, Andrzej Paczkowski, Karel Bartosek, Jean-Lous Margolin, The Black Book of Communism, Harvard University Press, 1999.
[8] Gerard Prunier, The Rwanda Crisis, Fountain Publishers Limited, 1999; Romeo Dallaire, Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, Arrow, 2004
[9] James Nazer, The first genocide of the 20th century: the story of the Armenian massacres in text and pictures, T&T Publishing inc., 1968.
[10] Fatma Müge Göçek, Denial of Violence: Ottoman Past, Turkish Present, and Collective Violence Against the Armenians, Oxford University Press, 2014.
[11] Robert Conquest, Reflections on a Ravaged Century, W. W. Norton & Company, 1999.

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Islamic Humanitarianism

"As we came close, I was shocked. I saw them crammed onto the boat. It left me speechless, and I broke down in tears as I watched them screaming, waving their hands and clothes."
"I could not let them die, because they are also human beings. Just like me. I am grateful to have saved hundreds of lives."
Razali Puteh, fisherman, Aceh, east Indonesia
Rohingya migrants sit in a boat as they're towed closer to land by fishermen, off the coast near the city of Geulumpang, in Indonesia's East Aceh on May 20, 2015 (AFP Photo/Januar)

"This is not an ASEAN problem. This is a problem for the international community."
"[Malaysia and Indonesia agree to offer temporary shelter] provided that the settlement and repatriation process will be done in one year by the international community."
Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman

"A year is the maximum. But there should be international co-operation."
Indonesian vice-president Jusuf Kalla

Over three thousand people representing Rohingya Muslims, persecuted in Myanmar where they are seen as illegal Bangladeshi economic migrants, though many have lived there for generations, have boarded overcrowded boats, landing on the shores of southeast Asian countries. Thousands more are estimated to be stranded at sea. A crackdown on human traffickers has led ship captains and smugglers to abandon their boats, and those aboard, to the mercy of the sea.

Leaving the desperate migrants fleeing misery, poverty and violence in Myanmar to fend for themselves, without food, without water, without medical attention, without hope.  Malaysia called an emergency meeting with the foreign ministers of Indonesia and Thailand. They had already stated they had no intention of taking in any of the migrants; they provision the incoming boats with food and water and send them back to sea.

Now they have agreed to offer temporary shelter. With the proviso that the international community must take up settlement of the refugees and alternately undertake repatriation. When these countries were hit with the tragic disaster of a tsunami in 2004 after a massive earthquake, the international community was quick to come to their aid; the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people appalled the world community and humanitarian aid was swift to appear.

Indonesia in particular took to charging humanitarian groups customs and duties on the emergency supplies they were bringing in to help save lives. At that time the world saw no line of separation between unaffected nations and those for whom the devastating earthquake-tsunami disaster impacted to create mass death; foreign government reaction was swift and positive, with donations pouring in from all over the world.

This, on the other hand, is indeed an ASEAN dilemma, one which should be solved regionally, with an uptake of refugees, giving them the opportunity to settle in countries where their religion, for which they suffered under Buddhist rule in Myanmar, would not be a discriminatory issue in Malaysia and Indonesia, two majority-Muslim countries with vast populations.

The Aceh fisherman who originally came across the migrant boat holding over 430 weak and hungry people didn't react by ignoring them in the belief that it wasn't his business to save them but that of his government's. He urged them to wait aboard their wood trawler, and left to bring back other fishing boats to pull the trawler to shore, and its desperate cargo to haven.

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Hosting Hatred, Faulted for  Islamophobia

"Over the past months, it must be noted that the phenomenon of youth indoctrination has taken a turn that we could not have suspected."
"It appears clearer and clearer that the recruitment of young people goes through their activities on social media."
College Maisonneuve, Montreal

"There is no profile of terrorists. You can come from whatever (income), whether Canadian-born or foreigner, the profile of a terrorist is very diverse."
"What we need to work on is the motive. We need to be able to identify at an early stage those individuals who are being radicalized and, more importantly, we have to work on the radicalizers."
Federal Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney

"Imagine for a kid who is today 17. For eight years in a row, everything surrounding his community is a problem. How do we expect these kids to actually feel part of the Quebec nation?"
"They are born here They're not Algerians. They're not Syrians. They're really from here, but they feel lost, and religion can be a way out to feel part of a group."
Haroun Bouazzi, co-president, Association des Musulmans et des Arabes pour la Laicite au Quebec

"[Each time Quebec youth try to leave] there is one point in common, one individual – Adil Charkaoui. What is going on at that centre? What is Adil Charkaoui telling the children who attend? How is it that children who attend his centre and hear his teaching have a sudden desire to join the Islamic State?"
PQ MNA Agnès Maltais, National Assembly, Quebec City

In 2003, Adil Charkaoui had been arrested under a federal security certificate. He was suspected of being a sleeper agent for Islamist terrorism. He was able to successfully use Canadian law to fight in court against the security certificate and charges were dropped against the imam. Ten years later he was granted Canadian citizenship. He has been running courses in Islam at the College Maisonneuve CEGEP.

And in January five of the CEGEPs students were grouped with seven Montreal area teens who left the country for Syria. Another two of the students from the CEGEP were arrested last month as they attempted to leave the country. They were charged with trying to leave Canada for the purpose of committing terrorism abroad. One of the students who left for Syria in January had taken classes in Islam with Adil Charkaoui.

And on Wednesday the Islamic centre operating the Ecole Les Compagnons stated that one of the people arrested on Friday was also a registrant for Mr. Charkaoui's Islam courses. The Moroccan-born Mr. Charkaoui took pains to point out: "The fact I got my citizenship [in 2014] signed by the Honourable Prime Minister Stephen Harper with a letter of congratulations shows there’s no evidence I’m [a] threat to national security."

And he has decried a McCarthyish witch-hunt denying he has played any role in youth radicalization:  "It’s a new form of McCarthyism. It’s this social climate that is radicalizing people. Instead of telling Muslims they are partners, they are telling them they are suspects." But on the evidence, they are suspects; what would motivate teens to leave their homes, their communities, their country, to take up jihad?

As for the charges by Mr. Bouazzi, they fall into the same muddy water as Mr. Charkaoui's; in essence turning suspicion away from any possible role that they or the Muslim community from among whom there are inciters to jihad looking for new recruits, to blaming government agencies and other Canadian citizens for driving young Muslims toward jihad through suspicion and expectations that jihad holds great appeal for them.

When Canadians are being accused of Islamophobia, this represents an attack based on an unwillingness to identify Islam itself as the crux of the matter, the credo of jihad in expectation that the faithful will recognize their obligations to Islam as proselytizers, as defenders of the faith, a faith that exists for the sole purpose of broadening its footprint within the world community using all means to that end, including violence and death.

The world is increasingly unsettled by violent Islam. More desperate refugees are being created daily, seeking haven elsewhere than in the Muslim world which is preying on its own. When vicious jihadists terrify Muslim populations and Muslim governments act as violent predators against their own, and threats are issued against the West interfering in the free flow of blood in Africa and the Middle East, the issue is out in broad daylight, yet not recognized by Muslims.

Who far prefer to place responsibility and blame on the West for all the carnage, misery and upheaval transforming the world into anarchic wretchedness resulting from the pathology of pure Islamist dedication to jihad.

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Benefiting Canada

"Your submissions were reviewed and the decisions regarding Jazmine's medical inadmissibility remain unchanged."
Canadian Immigration official

"It's difficult. I've sacrificed a lot."
"As she [her daughter] grows up, I miss a lot of things."
Karen Talosig, Filipina personal care worker,Vancouver
Filipina caregiver told deaf daughter can’t join her in Vancouver
Karen Talosig has worked in Canada as a live-in caregiver since 2008. She applied for permanent residence but was recently denied because her 14-year-old daughter (pictured in 2008) in the Philippines is deaf and the government has judged that she would place excessive demand on the health care system.   Photograph by: Jenelle Schneider , SUN

Entree to Canada for many impoverished young women from the Philippines looking for a better life for themselves and their children, means long absences from their children. They leave their dependent children in the care of a husband, or with their own parents to look after them in the absence of their mother. Their mother has obtained a work permit enabling them to labour in Canada as personal care workers or attendants in the hope that this will fast-track them to obtain permanent residency status.

With that status gained, they are then able to sponsor their family members to come to Canada to live with them. And they will all -- the successful applicants and their family members -- eventually become Canadian citizens. Their presence in Canada represents a boon for the country, for they are hard-working, honest, dependable people who want nothing better than an assured future for their children.

The letter of rejection that Karen Talosig received from Citizenship and Immigration Canada resulted from the fact that her 14-year-old daughter is deaf. That, according to immigration officials, Jazmine would need special education funding amounting to $91,500 over a five-year period, imposing on the public system an excessive demand.

But it would seem that someone didn't do their homework on the issue. Due diligence would have discovered that the host school district of Burnaby is prepared to accommodate the young girl within their existing budget, having no requirement for an additional sum on the public purse in order to meet Jazmine's educational needs.

Karen Talosig arrived in Canada in 2008, through the live-in caretaker program.

In 2010 she applied for permanent residency for herself and her daughter, informing immigration officials that Jazmine is deaf, and receiving no intimation that this would pose a problem. Jazmine's father died when she was eight months old, and she lives with her grandparents in the Philippines. A three-hour trip each way to a boarding school for the deaf is where she lives during the week.

Her grandparents confine her mostly to the house out of fear for her safety. They are themselves incapable of communicating with her other than by writing. "Almost every day she says to me, 'I'm bored, Mom', because nobody talks to her", explained her mother. Her employer in Kitsilano has supported her throughout the process of trying to obtain status in Canada.

The B.C. School for the Deaf is funded by the government of British Columbia. The district, according to an assistant superintendent at the Burnaby school district, would have no need to apply for new funding to add one more student. This is an unfortunate instance where the federal bureaucracy has failed to adequately understand its obligations in administering their own program.

Leaving Canada in danger of losing a valuable citizen, and leaving Karen Talosig, a vulnerable person in need of recognition, with a disappointing outcome to her gamble in aspiring to achieve opportunity, despite her tremendous personal sacrifice.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

As Iraq Self-Destructs....

"They are adaptive and they remain well-armed and well-resourced."
"The different lines of operation by the U.S. coalition remain disjointed, poorly resourced and lack an effective operational framework, in my view."
Derek Harvey, retired army colonel, former Defense Intelligence Agency officer

"The president's plan isn't working. It's time for him to come up with [an] overarching strategy to defeat the ongoing terrorist threat."
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner
A Syrian armoured tank takes up position during fighting against IS militants in the ancient oasis city of Palmyra
Government troops have been pushed back by Islamic State fighters

Yesterday Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi swore he would arm Sunni tribesmen to enable them to give assistance in the retaking of Ramadi. This is a plan that has been encouraged by the United States; to equalize the positions of the minority Sunni community in Iraq, to give them confidence that they have equal status in the country of their birth, and give hope for the future.

Pledge he may as Prime Minister of a severely divided country whose future is at risk mostly because of its tribal and sectarian dysfunctionality, but his own government is responsible for alienating the Sunni minority, giving them due cause to side with the jihadi Sunni Islamic State militias. When Mosul was taken by ISIS, a similar pledge was given, to empower the Iraqi Sunni tribes, to turn them away from ISIS.

It simply failed to materialize, so little wonder the Sunni tribes met this pledge with the skepticism it deserved. Since the pledge was immediately met with resistance from Shiites within al-Abadi's own government, yet again. They are adamantly opposed to arming their Sunni citizens tribal members, even for the purpose of demonstrating trust and expectations of equality; perhaps particularly because there is no trust and no expectations and equality will continue to be denied them.

Sending them right back into the tender arms of Islamic State, empowering the jihadists instead. Simultaneously the Iraqi government rallied Iranian-backed Shiite militiamen to the offensive. Adding fuel to the fire of distrust on the part of Iraq's Sunnis and in the process increasing the potential of ongoing sectarian frictions in a country already split asunder from the same source.

The Shiite militiamen have been useful to the government, loyal to the Islamic Republic of Iran which gives them their orders, but their reputation for hostile abuse of the Sunni population has not gone unnoticed anywhere and they're held in detestation. They are mostly deployed on routes from Anbar province leading to Shiite holy sites, prepared to defend those sites, not necessarily Ramadi itself.

Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren has estimated that tanks, artillery pieces, armoured personnel carriers and hundreds of Humvee type wheeled vehicles have fallen into the hands of Islamic State. Most of which will be destroyed in U.S.-led air strikes when the Islamic State jihadists attempt to use them. Similar in pattern to what has occurred over the past year, with Iraqi troops fleeing, leaving American-supplied military equipment for Islamic State.

The inability of Iraqi forces, even after repeated instruction and training led by U.S. special forces, to hold their own against the Islamic State terrorists, even with the help of Iranian-backed militias leads to questioning the Obama administration's blueprint in Iraq; a blend of retraining and rebuilding the Iraqi military, and urging Baghdad to reconcile with the country's Sunnis.

And now, the march by Islamic State on Palmyra, the ancient city of the desert, has resulted in its capture and the anticipated destruction of UNESCO-designated heritage, an immense loss to the world of historical artefacts and treasured historical objects of antiquity.

Graphic showing Palmyra sites

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Deporting Criminals from Canada

"It is self-evident that depriving the appellant of the right to appeal deportation to one of the most dangerous places on Earth would be grossly disproportionate to this offence."
Justice Robert Sharpe, Ontario Court of Appeal

"It is somewhat troubling that the court seems to be trying to fit the sentence to fall shy of the six months bar, which was intended by Parliament to expedite the removal of non-citizen criminals."
Sergio Karas, immigration lawyer, former chair, Ontario Bar Association immigration section
"We will review this decision very carefully and act in the best interests of law abiding Canadians."
"Canadians are generous and welcoming people, but they have no tolerance for criminals abusing our generosity. If someone commits a serious crime, our government feels he or she should face the full consequences of that decision, including possibly deportation."
Kevin Menard, spokesman, Chris Alexander, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

But this is precisely what has occurred, the Ontario Court of Appeal taking it upon its judgemental discretion to slash a nine-month jail term given a Syrian-born bank robber, to enable him to avoid deportation to Syria where he was born, on the basis that he could be conscripted into the civil war there. Citing "collateral immigration consequences", the three- justice panel of the appeal court reduced the sentence meted out to Amjad Nassri by one third.

The decision clearly circumvents the government's crackdown on foreign criminals remaining in Canada when they should be deported, having shown themselves to be unsuitable for residency in Canada through their criminal activity. The new legislation meant to speed removal of foreigners who have been sentenced to over six months was newly enacted. And now, newly subverted, by yet another panel of justices who feel they should be making Canadian law, not Parliamentarians.

In 2010, at the age of 21, Amjad Nassri drove the getaway car where three other men, Mohamed Noori, Abdirahman Diriye and a third unidentified man, held up a bank, equipped with knives, one of which was held to the back of a teller's neck. They were all apprehended after the driver went through a stop sign and made contact with an 18-wheeler tractor-trailer.

Amjad Nassri claimed he had no idea his friends planned to rob a bank. Diriye was sentenced to two years less a day and Noori to 13.5 months in jail. The judge hearing Nasari's case found him guilty of robbery and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose. The trial judge felt that eight months would "not accurately reflect the seriousness of this offence", sentencing him to nine months.

Yet the three justices on the Appeals panel contradicted the trial judge's finding, planning to upend the government's Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act to limit immigration appeal rights of permanent residents inadmissible for "serious criminality".

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The Intolerance of Racism

"Two people in the pro-eviction [group], they were trying to break my front door down. They started handling the handle, banging on the door, banging on the porch."
"People were on the side of my porch in the back where the pool is. I had the back door gate locked by the pool, they're trying to kick it in. 'Get the f--k out of here, get the hell out of here. We want him out!' And the police are standing there doing nothing."
Amanda Deer, Kahnawake resident

In 2010 the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake sent out eviction letters to 30 households located on the reserve. These were families where one half of the union was not of First Nations birth. Most often it was an aboriginal woman marrying or cohabiting with a non-aboriginal man, both wishing to live on the reserve. But the reserve practices the kind of racial discrimination that is illegal in Canada.

Elder says prayers during Rally in support of the Kahnawake Membership Law in Kahnawake on Monday October 27, 2014. The Membership Law rules that Mohawks who marry non-natives must leave the community.
Pierre Obendrauf / Montreal Gazette

No problem, as far as the reserve, like others in Canada, that states that as a sovereign nation it makes its own laws and has no need to respect the protection of the equality clause in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Residents involved sued the council on the basis of harassment and intimidation. Those who launched the lawsuit argue that the band policy violates both Canadian and Quebec charters of rights.

Kahnawake protest
Earlier in May, people in Kahnawake protested in front of the home of another mixed couple - a Mohawk and non-native. (CBC)

The council defends of course Kahnawake's Mohawk residency law, prohibiting any Mohawk who marries a non-Mohawk from living on the reserve as a family. The law is grandfathered to 1981. It targets any such alliances from 1981 forward. Couples find their homes vandalized, and they feel threatened by the hostility that comes their way from their neighbours.

Mixed native and non-native couples in Kahnawake report receiving letters from a group of residents making it clear that their presence is considered anathema; they are in violation of the reserve law, largely supported within the community whose purpose it is to prevent assimilation, and to protect the identity of the community and its land ownership. Anywhere else in Canada, in a non-native community this would be seen as a human rights violation and a civic disgrace.

Last weekend a couple and their 11-year-old son left Kahnawake after a group of protesters, other residents, formed a cordon around their house. Some of those people, neighbours in fact, made an attempt to break down the front door of the house, according to Amanda Deer, who finally left their home, with her non-native boyfriend.

A family in Kahnawake woke up to graffiti on their house and car on Saturday as a May 1, 2015, deadline passed for them to leave.
Courtesy of Kahnawake resident    A family in Kahnawake woke up to graffiti on their house and car on Saturday as a May 1, 2015, deadline passed for them to leave. 
Earlier in the month Terri and Marvin McComber, again a mixed couple on the reserve, saw their home and car spray painted. Signs near their home read: "Marry out get out", and "Mohawk land for Mohawks". The reserve has been host to similar signs all month; clearly a campaign is under way to clear the area of non-native residents and their native spouses.

This, from Canada's aboriginals who decry majority Canadian racism behind their historical presence in the country as second-tier citizens.

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Exclusive: Iranian embassy blown up in Damascus: Nusra Front suspected

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 21, 2015, 1:11 AM (IDT)
Iranian embassy in Damascus - before bomb blast
Iranian embassy in Damascus - before bomb blast
A mighty explosion struck the Iranian embassy in Damascus Wednesday night, May 20, debkafile’s exclusive intelligence and counter-terrorism sources reveal. First reports are of “heavy casualties” and serious damage to the embassy compound. The Iranian and Syrian governments have clamped a curtain of secrecy down over the disaster, although the thunder of the explosion and rush of special forces and relief teams to the scene in the Syrian capital could not be concealed.

debkafile’s sources add: The explosion has initially been attributed to the Syrian arm of al Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra. A day earlier, Tuesday, Ali Akbar Velayati, senior adviser to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was known to be present at the embassy building in Damascus. It is not known whether he was still there when the explosion occurred or had meanwhile departed for Tehran.

The Iranian embassy is a pivotal point for the Syrian conflict. As the Revolutionary Guards general staff center, it is the venue for the joint Iranian-Syrian military and logistic decisions taken in the conduct of the war. It also served as the Iranian command center for its operations in Lebanon, including military liaison with the Lebanese Hizballah, whose forces are fighting with Bashar Assad’s army in Syria. From there, Al Qods Brigades chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani issued his war directives when he was present in the Syrian capital.

The embassy building was therefore one of the most heavily fortified and guarded premises in the Syrian capital.

Its destruction by a bomb explosion came on the heels Wednesday of the fall of the ancient city of Palmyra to the Islamic State - the second devastating blow for the Assad regime and its backers in a single day. The fate of its rare heritage sites is not the only concern. With Palmyra ((Tadmor - est. pop. 120,000), the Islamic State also gained access to important military sites, including the biggest Syrian air force base.

The disaster may be compared to the ISIS conquest in January of the northern Syrian town of Raqqa, today the Islamists’ headquarters in the country. Palmyra is the second major Arab city to fall to the group this week after the Iraqi town of Ramadi on Sunday.

For Iran, the loss of Palmyra is a major setback in the sense that it removes from Syrian military control the main air base where Iranian flights delivered war materiel for the Syrian army and Hizballah day by day.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

It Was Ever Thus: The Unenlightened American

Canada and the United States are close geographic neighbours. Sharing a long border. Sharing trade and energy resources, and depending on close cooperation in a myriad of ventures including manufacturing and defence. Yet Canada has always known that it was low on the totem pole of esteem from the American administration, whichever one was in power at any given time. And the lowest ebb appears to be right about now.

The American public has never been too interested in their neighbours; a type of mind-cloistering arrogance typical among those who feel such high self-esteem that they imagine noting the presence of others is completely redundant to their needs. Parochial and xenophobic in the extreme, Canada and Canadians are, by and large, considered irrelevant to the Americans, if they're considered at all, and that much is debatable.
Image result for photo, canadian, american flags
Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs has long established Canadian studies programs in various U.S. universities, to try to help educate Americans on the very basics of their neighbours, culture as expressed by literature, by art, along with the political culture which is different from that of the Americans, a focus of that attempt to arouse some interest and facilitate some absorption of basic facts about Canada.

Nothing much seems to have  worked. And now comes some data anew validating the gross ignorance of Americans and their disturbing disinterest in the existence and affairs of a geographic neighbour. Recent results from the U.S. National Assessment of Educational Progress emphasize the gap in knowledge by American teens in grade eight to the most basic of understanding of Canada, its politics and its society.

Results from the "nation's Report Card demonstrate that 33 percent of American Grade 8 students know just about nothing outside their own country's existence; they respond to questions about Canada, Australia and France with the assumption that all three represent some manner of dictatorships.

A national standardized test queried what the current governments of the three countries have in common; and 23 percent of the 29,000 teens taking the test selected "they have leaders with absolute power" from among four options. Another ten percent selected "they are controlled by the military." Again, out of four options, an additional 12 percent picked "they discourage participation by citizens in public affairs."

In total 54 percent selected the correct response: "They have constitutions that limit their power". In 2014, 23 percent of teens scored at or above proficient on the civics portion of the test; astonishingly a mere 18 percent scored at or above proficient for U.S. history. So the ignorance and educational neglect is not isolated to knowledge about foreign countries, even one in door-knocking distance but a lack of interest in their own country as well.

Kenneth Holland, professor at Ball State University and the president of the Association for Canadian Studies in the United States thinks that ignorance may indicate a larger failure to educate American youth: "I think there's a broader problem and that is that Americans know very little bout Canada"; a stunningly obvious declaration. The Canadian government once funded programs providing grants to academics studying Canada globally.
Image result for photo, canadian, american flags
"One purpose of those grants was to provide professional development for K-12 teachers", explained Professor Holland. But the government of Canada eliminated the program in 2012 "So there really is very little money now to train teachers who teach those middle schoolers", he added. Which is a mite absurd, that a country would have to fund specific areas of education in another country to ensure it is not entirely forgotten in a country whose education system leaves much to be desired.

"Canada is a very important ally of the United States. You can see that all over the world right now. Ukraine, Iraq, Syria: Canada is right there fighting alongside the United States", he emphasized. Stressing areas far less important than those of social, trade and political ties, but effectively summarizing which has greater importance in the opinion of Americans.

The reverse, on the other hand is a fact of Canadian life; that most Canadians know the important details about U.S. politics, its society, and its culture; the exertion of the powerful over the modestly moderate.


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