To Senator Bob Carr: questions and information to consider in regard to Syria.

29 June UPDATE

This editor has submitted a comment on Senator Carr’s blog posting, “Meeting with Amnesty Officials”.  http://bobcarrblog.wordpress.com/2012/06/29/meeting-with-amnesty-international/

Dear Senator Carr,
As you write above, Amnesty is a household name; it has a great deal of power and influence. However, it is not without its serious critics, and perhaps never more so now when it has taken a partisan stand on Syria since the beginning of the crisis there.
I have met with Amnesty officials in Australia and had quite a lot of phone conversations with the person in charge of the ME desk, Michael Hayworth. I accompanied four Syrian Australians to the Amnesty Melbourne office last December to report on the killings of civilians in Syria by armed men/’rebels’/terrorists.  One incident involved the shooting deaths of three young teenage boys on 17 April in Homs.  It was a public holiday and they were in a car used as the family car but it had army number plates, hence it is assumed this was the reason they were targeted. All the occupants were killed, including the driver who was the father of two of the boys and the brother-in-law of a good friend of mine.  Amnesty apparently won’t report the case because he was an army officer. This apparently makes the boys’ deaths irrelevant and even his killing (he was off-duty at the time). Another story taken to Amnesty was the killing of the young uncle of Samir, a Syrian Australian. His uncle was also killed by militia in April last year.  He was a young farmer on his way to a market in Damascus with two other farmers. The three of them were killed.  I recorded an interview with Samir, who reported the killing of his uncle to Amnesty.  Knowing this story, I believe, helps to illustrate Amnesty’s stand on Syria.  The local Amnesty officials were very respectful and welcoming of the reports we took them. However, the London office has chosen not to report them.
One day books will be written about this shameful period in Amnesty’s history. Let’s hope that people do the research now and realise that ‘sacred cows’ such as Amnesty are made up of flawed individuals who are unwitting cogs in a machine much bigger than themselves. They are so distanced from the suffering of people across the globe that they do not seem to have the imagination to put themselves in the shoes of people who have been victims of a terror forced on their families and their country by outsiders; if they had that imagination, perhaps they would stand up and say “NO”.
One person who has stood up without knowing a great deal about Syria is Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire. She has released a statement saying “No to War in Syria”. http://al-bushra-updates.blogspot.ie/2012/06/nobel-peace-laureate-mairead-maguire.html
It is not necessary to know a lot about Syria to take a principled stand for peace. One simply needs to know the suffering of people in war (remember Guernica), the complexity of the human heart and psyche, the nature and abuses of power, and the insidious power of propaganda.
I notice in today’s Australian there is an article by Daniel Pipes, “Let them slug it out: Syrian intervention makes no sense”. There is more analysis in Pipes’ article than there is in most presented in the Australian media. However, he shows no regard whatever for the lives of Syrian people; they are expendable as long as ‘we’ in the west or our friends in Israel are safe (for how long, one must ask and at what cost to our souls). He also makes the mistake of assuming in Syria it is a fairly simple matter of Sunni vs Alawi.(Like many western commentators and politicians he avoids any focus on Christians.) The majority of Syrian Sunnis are not Wahhabis or Salafis; they are secular Sunnis who have more in common with their fellow Syrians of whatever religious or ethnic background than they have with the jihadists brought in to destroy their country and kill those who do not join in the mayhem. But this is almost getting off the topic of Amnesty.  Except, Amnesty should be telling us all of this and more and condemning the terror, as the Australian government should be.

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28 June UPDATE

Below is the link to a recent comment posted on the Australian Foreign Minister’s blog page from this editor. (Thank you Senator Carr for publishing the comment.)

http://bobcarrblog.wordpress.com/2012/06/28/downing-of-turkish-aircraft-by-syria/#comments

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Below is the Foreign Minister’s presentation of government policy in regard to the shooting down of the Turkish aircraft.

THOUGHT LINES WITH BOB CARR

Downing of Turkish aircraft by Syria

JUNE 28, 2012

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Bob Carr yesterday said Australia had joined with representatives of the United States, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and European Governments in condemning the downing of a Turkish aircraft by the Syrian military on June 22.

Senator Carr said Syria’s actions were further evidence that the Assad regime had lost all credibility, both domestically and internationally.

“I support the strong statements by US, British and NATO representatives that the world has witnessed another example of Assad regime’s disregard for international norms, for peace and security, and for human life.

“Our thoughts are also very much with the families of the two missing Turkish pilots.

“Turkey’s restraint in responding to this unacceptable provocation has been admirable.

“Australia stands by Turkey at this difficult time.”

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At the following link, you can find an analysis of the Turkish response to the Syrian shooting down of the Turkish plane on Press TV. Several ME experts are asked to contribute.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7FFqrBE54I&feature=endscreen

Turkey vows retaliation, Russia calls for restraint -News Analysis-06-26-2012

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JUNE 16 

Senator Bob Carr met with representatives of the Syrian National Council in Turkey on 16 June.  This is the notice of that meeting on his blog:

Foreign Minister Bob Carr today met the newly elected President of the Syrian National Council, Abdulbaset Sieda, in Istanbul on June 16 (overnight June 16-17 AEST).

Senator Carr was attending the Ministerial Meeting of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative.

“We support efforts to coordinate and organise opposition parties and to provide a voice for the Syrian people in the international domain,” Senator Carr said.

“Australia is deeply concerned about the worsening violence in Syria, and by the United Nations decision to suspend a large part of its operations in the country.

“The Assad regime has shown an unwillingness to end the violence. We stand with the international community in calling for President Assad to step down so that peaceful and inclusive political reform can occur.

“Australia has taken a strong position on Syria to date, with an arms embargo and travel and financial sanctions against 106 individuals and 28 entities associated with the Assad regime.

“We have contributed $11 million in humanitarian assistance to relieve the suffering of the Syrian people caught up in the violence.

“And in the United Nations Human Rights Council and the General Assembly we have co-sponsored or supported six resolutions condemning the violence in Syria.

“Last month, Australia expelled the Syrian Chargé and one other embassy diplomat.

“Recent discussions with Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu included further potential measures to end the violence in Syria, including possible United Nations sanctions and enhancement of the UN supervision mission.

“We support a peaceful political transition in Syria, that will enable its people to determine their own future.”

“Socrates and Syria” wrote a comment on Senator Carr’s blog which has yet to be published.  This blog encourages thoughtful discussion even if it is the silent ‘conversation’ between the reader and the editor of this blog. It is hoped that any comments published on it open the door to ongoing honest discussion.

Senator Carr,
By meeting representatives of the Syrian National Council in Istanbul and showing support for them, it seems you have effectively made it clear that Australia is at war with Syria.
I am ashamed of the government of my country and I am ashamed of the level of reporting in this country which leads people to believe that it is right to align our country to those forces which have been involved in terror against the Syrian people and government for more than a year.
There is shamefully little analysis in the Australian mainstream media about the SNC, so it is necessary for individuals to do their own research to find out who is represented on it. Australians still recall the victims of the Bali bombings as well as the Australian victims of 9/11 and the London bombings; hence, it would disturb the majority of peace-loving Australians to realise that you have been meeting with members of the Muslim Brotherhood or at least supporters of them.
John Rosenthal, in the  National Review, has written about the connections the SNC has with the Muslim Brotherhood:http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/297361/syria-america-allies-muslim-brotherhood-john-rosenthal
“it is openly acknowledged that the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood is a major force within the council. In fact, there is strong evidence that it is the major force. When several members of the council resigned in mid-March, they cited the overwhelming influence of the Brotherhood as a reason for their decision. “The Brotherhood took the whole council,” departing council member Walid al-Bunni told the New York Times. “We became like extras.”
What is more disturbing in your support for a war against the Syrian government and millions of secular Syrians (the majority of the population) is that serious investigations into the recent Houla massacre make it clear that the more than 100 people, mostly women and children, were killed by terrorists.
Below are references which point to the involvement of terrorists in the Houla killings as well as to other murders of civilians.
http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/analysing-the-syrian-situation-patrick-seale/4063542 (Interview on ABC’s Radio National with Patrick Seale, Middle East expert)
http://www.moonofalabama.org/2012/06/new-faz-piece-on-houla-massacre-the-extermination.html#more  (Response of German investigative reporter to his article about terrorists being responsible for Houla massacres)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGma9ExcfdI&feature=player_embedded  (interview with Mother Agnes Mariam, who lives near Homs in Syria)
http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/302998/houla-massacre-redux-john-rosenthal (John Rosenthal’s response to criticism of his article regarding rebels being responsible for Houla.)
http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2012/salt140112.html  (Interview with Aussie ME expert, writer and academic, Dr Jeremy Salt)
http://www.fides.org/aree/news/newsdet.php?idnews=31739 (information about terrorists using a church near Homs as a base and about the terrorising of Syrian Christians)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysKtld_VGbk (A November report by Mother Agnes Mariam on the terror in Syria)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2_owegdPms&feature=related (Addounia TV report on the Houla massacre. Notice the manner in which the ‘rebels’ handle the bodies of the children.)
For some reason Senator Carr, you choose a path of aggression without reference to the people of Australia; and you choose allies who are directly or indirectly responsible for terror in Syria, something which would shock the overwhelming majority of Australians if only they were better informed by our media and politicians.
I write this feeling great shame for my country because of the decisions of elected representatives and the misinformation presented as truth in regard to Syria by most reports in the Australian media. My heart and thoughts are with the people of Syria, victims of the ignorance and/or the perfidiousness of others.
Regards,
Susan Dirgham

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Soon after the massacre of families in Houla, Australia’s Foreign Minister expelled the two most senior diplomats at the Syrian Embassy in Canberra.  Other Western governments followed suit.  Many people in Australia congratulated Senator Carr on his firm  stand. Yet, there are others who might question the wisdom of further restricting the chance of dialogue with representatives of the Syrian Government, especially when the situation on the ground at the time of the expulsions was still ‘murky’, the word used by Major-General Mood, the head of the UN Observer Mission in Syria – the man on the ground.

In the U.S., Republican Congressman Ron Paul presented a different response, “War Drums for Syria?”:

However, the Australian foreign minister’s condemnation of the Syrian government was supported by many Australians perhaps because so few have had a chance to hear stories coming out of Syria from anyone but the ‘opposition’.  They are not aware of the complexity of the situation.  Much faith is placed in the usual experts to tell us what is what: the UN, Amnesty, BBC, Al-Jazeera, and journalists and commentators for western media outlets.

For example, Paul McGeough respected Chief Foreign Correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald did not hesitate to point the finger at the Syrian ‘regime’ the Monday after the weekend massacres. Except for brief reports in the Sunday papers, Paul McGeough’s article was the first response of an AGE / SMH journalist, and it may have set the agenda for reports, editorials and analyses that followed.

Paul McGeough, 28 May 2012:

AS A WAVE of revulsion sweeps the world after a regime massacre in Syria – 32 children, some with what appear to be bullet holes in their temples, are among more than 90 dead – Washington is manoeuvring to win Moscow’s support for a plan to dislodge the embattled Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/world/global-outrage-over-syrian-child-massacre-20120527-1zd77.html#ixzz1x2OQRS5w

If the stories of the victims of armed militias in Syria (such as that of a young Syrian Australian’s uncle referenced below) had been presented to the public, Australians may have been more circumspect when deciding who was to blame for the Houla massacre.

Samir’s Uncle 

Interview with Samir

Samir tells the story of the brutal murder of his young uncle and two of his uncle’s friends in April 2011.  They were three farmers taking their produce to a market in Damascus when attacked by a group of armed men.  Samir’s uncle was initially wounded, while his two companions were killed on the spot. Samir relates what is known about his uncle’s eventual murder by armed ‘rebels’. This story was passed on to Amnesty Australia in December 2011. Amnesty’s London office has yet to report it.

There have been responses to the massacres in Houla which appear very thorough.  For example, this 5 June 2012 article by Thierry Meyssan.

The Houla affair highlights Western intelligence gap in Syria

by Thierry Meyssan

Given that the West is never wrong, it is unlikely it will acknowledge its errors over the Houla massacre. What matters, however, is not whether or not it will rectify the false image portrayed by its propaganda on Syria, but the way in which the balance of power between NATO and SCO is changing. For the Houla affair shows that the West is incapable of knowing the situation on the ground, whereas Russian military intelligence is privy to exactly what is happening.

NB: Other references which can aid an examination of what really happened in Houla can be found at http://australiansforsyria.wordpress.com/

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A comment on Senator Bob Carr’s blog in response to his decision to expel the Syrian Charges D’affaires

Ref: http://bobcarrblog.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/expulsion-of-syrian-charge-daffaires/

June 2, 2012 11:19 pm

Dear Mr Carr,

Your responses to points made to critics … display a lack of knowledge of the complexity of the situation in Syria and the lengths the ‘enemies’ of Syria will go to in order to destroy what they see as a ‘heretical regime’. What has been missing in the Australian media (and your comments) is a thorough discussion of many elements contributing to the crisis. For example:

1. The role of Saudi Arabia. Why does it want to destroy Syria? Is it because it sees it as one way of prolonging the life of its monarchy or is it because it is one way of spreading Wahhabism? More importantly, what has led Australia to be allied with Saudi Arabia against a government and country whose people enjoy more social freedoms than virtually any other people in the ME? How will the spread of Wahhabism help the lives of Syrian women? Or do we consider this question insignificant because of more important loyalties – “all the way with the US and Tel Aviv” no matter what the consequences for 22 million innocent people?

2. The role of Qatar. Has Qatar’s wealth gone to the head of its emir/monarch and his family? It and Saudi Arabia are the two Gulf countries intent on destroying Syria, having committed vast amounts of money to the task with arms and ‘war propaganda’. Qatar and Saudi Arabia are the only two ‘Wahhabi’ states. Shouldn’t it be questioned why they happen to share such an intense dislike of Syria? Or if not of Syria, of the president who is committed to maintaining a secular state and who, many Syrians believe, is committed to reform? Commentators damn secular Syria based on what? Reports from Al-Jazeera, the media outlet now controlled by the emir and a voice for Qatar’s foreign policy? Highly regarded journalists have resigned from Al-Jazeera in protest against its propagandising of the Arab Spring, particularly in regard to Bahrain and Syria. Many of Al-Jazeera’s reports have been shown to be based on false witnesses or fabricated videos. (check the story of Sari Saoud, the young boy killed in Homs last year reported on Al-Jazeera as a victim of soldiers. His story is just one of thousands – victims of militias in Syria.)

3. What is the ‘ideology’ which prompts people to kill for ‘freedom’ in Syria? Freedom from what? If you say the “Alawi regime” I suggest you examine the background of the members of parliament, the ministry, and the top security and military officers. “Freedom” for Syrian women, perhaps? If that is your answer, perhaps you should check the videos of sermons by Sheik Qaradawi . ‘Freedom’ from violence? Again check the sermons of the sheiks that inspire the armed insurgency.

4. It’s been suggested by some commentators that it seems to be the time for a Sunni resurgence and if that is what the people of the ME want, so be it. But that is assuming there is one ‘Sunni’ mind set, something which is far from true. Check the number of ministers and members of parliament in Syria who are Sunni. Check the footage of rallies showing support for the president – every woman in a hijab could be assumed to be Sunni and many of those without would be as well. An imam in Midan, a religiously conservative part of Damascus, was assassinated earlier this year; his crime: he preached peaceful reform. The son of the Mufti of Syria was assassinated along with his university professor. His crime: his father is a peace maker (militant members of the opposition would use other language to describe him; “a regime stooge”, perhaps.) One Damascene was assassinated after standing in the council elections last year; he was a Sunni. There are whirling dervishes in Syria; Islam in Syria has been influenced by Sufism for hundreds of years. Are the battle lines simple ones as most commentators suggest?

5. In an interview on the ABC you justified your decision to expel Mr Jawdat Ali (who I understand is a Sunni, by the way) by saying we have a ‘responsibility to protect’ (Gareth Evans’ rhetoric). I was expecting you would add that we have a responsibility to protect peace-loving Syrians from the Saudi arms dealer Bandar Bin Sultan;from the cleric Adnan Arour, who since 2011 has been encouraging his loyal followers to kill Alawis and any one else who supports the government and to mince up their bodies; from Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi who has said on Al-Jazeera it is ok to kill 1/3 of the Syrian population if that is necessary to rid Syria of its ‘heretical’ government; from the jihadists who have rushed from various parts of the world to take part in the killing sprees; from the suicide bombers coming from Saudi Arabia and other countries sure that they are right to oppose this government because everyone else in the world does (even Bob Carr and Bob Brown); from the Salafi jihadists in Lebanon who have declared the Syrian government a target (BTW it was a group of Salafis who murdered the Italian activist in Gaza early last year); from all those at demonstrations who have chanted “Send Christians to Beirut and Alawis to their graves” (it is clear how you can send someone to their grave, but how can you force someone out of their country?). From Al-Qaeda. Shouldn’t we feel a ‘responsibility to protect’ people in Syria from all of the above? The Syrians who are the witnesses to the devastation of the bombs yell their anger at the cameras and curse Saudi Arabia, Qatar, America and Qaradawi. Maybe they know more than us.

6. Amnesty US is headed by Suzanne Nossel who used to be a State Department official and sidekick of Holbrook, US representative in the UN. She wrote a paper called ‘smart power’, which outlines what the US can get for itself without appearing to be heavy handed in a George Bush way. Could this explain the partisan stand Amnesty has taken from the beginning of the crisis in Syria and its refusal to report the killings of three children on 17 April 2011,and that of three farmers the same month (they are the deaths I know have been reported to Amnesty by people in Melbourne.)

7. Maybe you are a follower of Robert Fisk, so you trust him to do all the research necessary to understand Syria. The fact that he is a follower of Walid Jumblatt who is notorious for his opportunism and who has now chosen to support Saad Hariri and Samir Gea Gea should indicate where his articles are going to go. (By the way, Gea Gea, a Lebanese ‘Christian’ was imprisoned for a bomb attack on a church which killed many people in the congregation; the attack was carried out in order to place blame on Muslims. That is the sort of action which happens when the most unscrupulous wish to destroy their perceived ‘enemies’.)

8. You support tighter sanctions against Syria. Have you considered that more economic pressures will cause even greater trauma and stress for ordinary people and it may mean some ‘give up’ and in desperation become mercenaries, paid to kill by Qatar and Saudi Arabia and perhaps trained by the CIA or French forces (check Wikileaks cables)?

9. No doubt your history teachers and lecturers encouraged you to check many different sources, to ask many questions, before you drew conclusions, and often it was expected that those conclusions would have unanswered questions. Major-General Mood, the head of the UN observer team in Syria, has said the situation surrounding the massacre in Houla was ‘murky’ and “Whatever I learned on the ground in Syria…. is that I should not jump to conclusions.” Yet, those so far away present such simplistic certainty.

There is so much more that could should be said about the crisis in Syria. It is not being said in our media, nor by our politicians. I hope at least it is recorded on blogs for people to consider and as a resource for future students of international relations and war. Lindsay Tanner has written about the ‘dumbing down’ of our democracy. The people of Syria are victims of this.

If you publish this on your blog, I thank you. It is my wish that journalists begin to ask you some of the tough questions that need to be asked. That we in Australia act in a manner befitting a peace loving people.

Regards,

Susan Dirgham

http://susandirgham.wordpress.com/

http://pool.abc.net.au/media/syria-questions-must-be-asked-and-answered

NB:  Most comments on Senator Carr’s page support his decision to expel the Syrian diplomats. However, there are others, such as the one above, which criticise it. For example:

                             SYD WALKER  May 30, 2012 1:50 pm

The mass expulsion of Christians from Homs – by rebels when that city was substantially under their control – failed to attract any criticism from this so-called Christian nation – see for instancehttp://www.rescuechristians.org/2012/03/25/syria-islamists-have-expelled-90-percent-of-christians-in-homs/

Yet Australia has – yet again – joined what is clearly an orchestrated attempt to put further pressure on the Syrian Government before there’s any hard evidence it was responsible for this latest massacre in Houla.

There are, in fact, string grounds for suspecting this is another set-0up designed to discredit the Assad Government. Consider – why would the Government slaughter children inthe most gruesome manner – then withdraw and allow ‘activists’ to put the images on Youtube the same day?

Cui bono, Senator Carr? See – http://resistance-episteme.tumblr.com/post/23923639326/why-it-is-highly-unlikely-the-syrian-regime-was-behind

Incidentally – have we managed to find ANY of the ~40 thugs who rampaged through the Syrian Embassy in Canberra in early February, terrorizing the staff? Not according the the AFP. Are we actually trying to find the culprits? Or is the Australian Government simply on the side of the most powerful – whatever their ethics and however disgraceful their behaviour?

That’s how it seems to me. Very sad indeed…

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Not long after the decision to expel the Syrian diplomats in Australia, Senator Carr visited Burma to talk about democracy and sanctions.

Helena Cobban on Syria and Burma 

Helena Cobban, a British-American writer and researcher (tp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helena_Cobban) questions the response of ‘liberals’ in the  West to the crisis in Syria.  

Tragedies of liberal interventionist thinking in Syria and elsewhere

Posted by Helena Cobban
April 6, 2012

http://justworldnews.org/archives/004257.html

Helen Cobban’s article asks questions of those, such as Senator Carr, who support US, NATO views on Syria. Here’s an excerpt:

….I truly do not understand how liberal universalists in the west, whose views, representations, and analyses of what is happening in Myanmar/Burma in these months are so uniformly calm and supportive of the wrenchingly negotiated transition to greater democracy there absolutely never stop to ask whether a similar process may not also be the best thing for Syria today (as it was for South Africa, 20 years ago.)

Why is Syria’s current government uniquely picked out by these so-called liberals as worthy of their rage, anger, and militarized “intervention” when those other authoritarian regimes, actually, committed far worse abuses against their citizens over the course of many decades?

Why the racism that is deeply embedded in these kinds of judgments?

And yes, “Avaaz”, I am speaking about you, too.


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