Palmyra in Syria, ISIS and the CIA


This 2010 video is called Palmyra, Syria.

By Bill Van Auken in the USA:

The atrocities of ISIS and the US wars of sociocide

26 August 2015

Images posted Tuesday on social media have confirmed the destruction by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) of the 2,000-year-old temple of Baal Shamin in the Syrian city of Palmyra. The images show ISIS fighters planting explosive charges throughout the ancient structure and then detonating them, reducing the temple to rubble.

The willful demolition of this site, one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world and one of the best preserved Greco-Roman ruins in existence, followed the savage murder a week earlier of Professor Khaled Assad. The 82-year-old Syrian archeologist had participated in the excavation and restoration of Palmyra’s ruins and had remained there as the head of antiquities for nearly half a century. He was beheaded for refusing to assist ISIS in looting the site.

UNESCO, the United Nations cultural and educational agency, justifiably denounced these atrocities as “war crimes,” adding that “their perpetrators must be accountable for their actions.”

There is no question that those responsible for these acts and for far bloodier atrocities against the Syrian people are criminals and should be held accountable. The obstacle to bringing to justice those principally responsible, however, is the fact that they are the former and current chief officials in the White House, the Pentagon and the CIA.

It was they who laid waste to one Middle Eastern country after another, while working with the Islamist forces that comprise ISIS to carry out their wars of regime-change against a series of secular Arab governments.

The systematic destruction of a cultural heritage carried out by ISIS has a historical precedent in the crimes carried out by the Pol Pot regime and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. This regime set out to erase the country’s cultural heritage, while carrying out a reign of terror and mass murder against the population.

The similarities between ISIS and the Khmer Rouge do not end with their barbaric assaults on culture and human life. In both cases, the preconditions for these atrocities had been created through the destruction of entire societies by US imperialism.

In Cambodia, a US bombing campaign dropped some 532,000 tons of explosives on the country in four years—more than three times the tonnage dropped on Japan during all of World War II. The resulting death toll is estimated as high as 600,000, while 2 million people out of a population of 7 million were made homeless and economic life was shattered.

ISIS and the current bloodshed across Syria and Iraq are the direct products of similar acts of sociocide on the part of US imperialism. In Iraq, the illegal US invasion of 2003, the subsequent occupation and the systematic destruction of what had been one of the most advanced health and social infrastructures in the Arab world claimed the lives of over 1 million Iraqis, while turning another 5 million into refugees. The divide-and-rule strategy pursued by the Pentagon stoked a sectarian civil war by deliberately manipulating tensions between Iraq’s Shia and Sunni populations.

The ramifications of this policy have long since spilled across national borders, with increasingly catastrophic consequences, all driven by Washington’s resort to militarism to advance its aim of hegemony over the energy-rich regions of the Middle East and Central Asia.

To this end, the US has been involved in wars for over 35 years, beginning with the CIA’s orchestration of the war for regime-change against the Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan, where it allied itself with Islamist forces, including Osama bin Laden and the other founders of Al Qaeda.

Nine months before the last US troops withdrew from Iraq in December 2011, Washington and its NATO allies launched another unprovoked war of aggression to topple the government of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and impose their own puppet regime over the oil-rich North African country. The destruction of the Libyan state and the murder of Gaddafi plunged the country into chaos and bloodshed that continues to this day. Islamist militias used as US proxies in the Libyan war, along with tons of captured Libyan weapons, were subsequently funneled—with the aid of the CIA—into the civil war in Syria, strengthening ISIS and helping create the conditions for it to overrun more than a third of Iraq.

In the name of the never-ending “war on terrorism,” Washington is prosecuting another military campaign in alliance with the Shia-based government in Baghdad against ISIS in the predominately Sunni regions of Iraq, while in Syria it is stepping up military operations in alliance with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni Gulf monarchies, while attempting to find “moderate” Sunni Islamists it can utilize as proxies in the war to topple the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

The New York Times Tuesday published a lengthy article reflecting an internal debate within the Obama administration over whether to provide more direct US support to Ahrar al-Sham, a Sunni Islamist militia with multiple links to Al Qaeda. The group already receives extensive backing from key US allies Turkey and Qatar.

The horrific consequences of decades of US wars are now spilling into Europe, with the increasingly desperate flight of hundreds of thousands of refugees—in many cases at the cost of their own lives—from homelands that Washington has turned into killing fields.

Politically and morally, the US government and its top officials, starting with Bush and Obama, are totally responsible for all of the crimes, atrocities and human suffering resulting from the multiple wars of aggression they initiated.

None of them have been held to account. Representatives and defenders of an oligarchy of corporate billionaires, they are not, under the present political setup, answerable to the American people, whose opposition to war they routinely defy.

The task of bringing these war criminals to justice and putting an end to the succession of wars and growing threat of a new world war lies with the working class.

Hieronymus Bosch painting back to the Netherlands after 450 years


Hieronymus Bosch, the Haywain

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Haywain‘ by Jeroen Bosch for the first time to the Netherlands

Today, 14:19

The Haywain, one of the masterpieces of Dutch painter Hieronymus (Jeroen) Bosch, is coming to the Netherlands. For the first time in 450 years, the triptych is leaving Spain, where it usually hangs in the Prado museum in Madrid.

The painting will remain in the Netherlands for half a year and will this autumn be part of the exhibition From Bosch to Bruegel – Uncovering everyday life in the Boijmans van Beuningen museum in Rotterdam.

500th anniversary of his death

In early January the masterpiece will move to Den Bosch, the birthplace of the painter. There will be until the beginning of May in the North Brabant Museum an exhibition with 20 paintings and 19 drawings by the artist expected, the largest retrospective to date.

The exhibition is the culmination of the National Event Hieronymus Bosch 500 years which will be celebrated in 2016 and will commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of the painter.

Everyday scenes

Jeroen Bosch was actually called Hieronymus van Aken. Bosch he used as his artist’s name after the town where he was born and where he painted his masterpieces.

Around 1516 he painted the Haywain, one of the first paintings in art history in which everyday scenes are depicted.

The painting depicted a procession of people behind a hay wagon, a metaphor for materialism. The procession leads directly to hell.

Hieronymus Bosch, the Haywain, detail

In the foreground medieval scenes are depicted with drunken monks, tooth pullers, musicians and gypsies.

Hieronymus Bosch, the Haywain, detail

On the hay wagon sits a couple in love with on each side an angel and a devil.

The Spanish King Philip II bought the triptych in 1570 for his private collection and since then it has never left Spain. According to Museum Boijmans van Beuningen the work of art is in an excellent condition after it was restored some years ago.

William Shakespeare and the English language


This video says about itself:

Shakespeare – The History of English (3/10)

1 July 2011

Frpm daily The Independent in Britain:

These are all the words that William Shakespeare is credited with inventing

by Evan Bartlett

24 August 2015

Despite passing away nearly four centuries ago, William Shakespeare has left an indelible mark on the English language.

The likes of Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth have seen Shakespeare regarded as the greatest writer in the English language.

While those plays are still widely read and celebrated, the Bard has arguably left a far greater legacy in all the words and phrases that he is credited with inventing, or at least first popularising through his work.

Here is a list of 117 words credited to Shakespeare (just try and having a conservation without using any of them):

  • academe
  • accused
  • addiction
  • advertising
  • amazement
  • arouse
  • assassination
  • arch-villain
  • backing
  • bandit
  • barefaced
  • beached
  • bedazzle
  • bedroom
  • besmirch
  • bet
  • birthplace
  • blanket
  • bloodstained
  • blushing
  • bump
  • buzzer
  • caked
  • cater
  • champion
  • cheap
  • circumstantial
  • cold-blooded
  • compromise
  • countless
  • courtship
  • critic
  • dauntless
  • dawn
  • deafening
  • discontent
  • dishearten
  • drugged
  • dwindle
  • elbow
  • embrace
  • epileptic
  • equivocal
  • excitement
  • exposure
  • eyeball
  • fashionable
  • fixture
  • flawed
  • frugal
  • generous
  • gloomy
  • gnarled
  • go-between
  • gossip
  • green-eyed
  • grovel
  • gust
  • hint
  • hobnob
  • honey-tongued
  • hurried
  • impartial
  • impede
  • inauspicious
  • invulnerable
  • jaded
  • label
  • lacklustre
  • laughable
  • lonely
  • lower
  • luggage
  • lustrous
  • madcap
  • majestic
  • marketable
  • metamorphise
  • mimic
  • monumental
  • moonbeam
  • mountaineer
  • negotiate
  • nimble-footed
  • noiseless
  • obscene
  • obsequiously
  • ode
  • olympian
  • outbreak
  • panders
  • pedant
  • premeditated
  • puking
  • radiance
  • rant
  • remorseless
  • sanctimonious
  • savagery
  • scuffle
  • secure
  • skim milk
  • submerge
  • summit
  • swagger
  • time-honoured
  • torture
  • tranquil
  • undress
  • unearthly
  • unreal
  • varied
  • vaulting
  • vulnerable
  • well-bred
  • worthless
  • zany

Citations for where the majority of these words can be found in Shakespeare’s plays can be seen here.

Music drives away neo-nazis in Manchester, England


This video from England says about itself:

2 EDL splinter group NWI members arrested in Manchester

23 August 2015

Two members of the North West Infidels (NWI), a far-right splinter group from the English Defence League (EDL), were arrested during a protest rally in Manchester City Centre yesterday against “radical Islam, Zionism, Communism, Irish Republicanism and the militant left.”

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Protesters trolled a far-right group by blasting house music at a neo-Nazi march in Manchester

Members of the far-right group allegedly threw bananas at black people in the crowd, whilst shouting “You’re not British any more”

Siobhan Fenton

Sunday 23 August 2015

Anti-fascist protesters in Manchester have used house music to drown out far-right protestors.

Two groups called The Far Right Infidels and Combat 18

The number ’18’ in the name of the nazi group Combat 18 stands for the first and eighth letters of the alphabet=AH=Adolf Hitler.

attempted to stage the event on Saturday in the city centre. Members appeared to perform Nazi salutes and one was seen wearing Ku Klux Klan robes.

The Manchester Evening News reports that some members threw bananas at black members of the public, whilst shouting “You’re not British anymore.”

Read more

Liverpool fascist march cancelled after barely anyone turns up
Organiser of anti-Jewish rally arrested over anti-Semitic tweets to MP
The humiliation of Neo-Nazis in Liverpool makes me proud to be a Scouser

However, just 40 far-right members turned up to their planned event in total, meaning that they were vastly outnumbered by the 200 anti-fascist counter protesters who also attended.

The latter blasted house music to drown out the sound of the white supremacist groups’ speeches and slogans.

They chanted: “Master race? You’re having a laugh” and “You don’t live in Cheetham Hill or Moss Side- you must be from Emmerdale.”

After an hour, the far-right group were escorted onto a bus and driven out of town.

Emma Leyla Mohareb, from the anti-austerity group The Party Protest, told The Manchester Evening News: “The atmosphere at the protest was brilliant- it was nice to see everyone say ‘no’ to racism in our city.”

Last week, a similar far-right event called the ‘White Man March’ was planned by Neo-Nazis to take place in Liverpool. However, it had to be cancelled after barely anyone turned up and hundreds of locals attended pro-diversity counter protests.

See also here.

Canadian author Margaret Atwood’s satire of Conservative prime minister censored


This video from Canada says about itself:

Protesters impersonate Mike Duffy, Stephen Harper outside Duffy trial

12 August 2015

Two protesters dressed as Mike Duffy and Prime Minister Stephen Harper stood outside the courthouse Wednesday holding a cheque for $90,000 dollars, a reference to the money Harper‘s former Chief of Staff Nigel Wright paid Duffy – allegedly without the PM’s knowledge.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Hair today, gone tomorrow: Margaret Atwood in Canada censorship row

Author’s satirical piece on prime minister Stephen Harper’s hair is removed within hours of publication on National Post website: ‘Did I just get censored?’

Oliver Laughland

Sunday 23 August 2015 15.26 BST

She is a prize-winning author who has conjured vivid dystopian futures, but on Friday Margaret Atwood found herself at the centre of a somewhat mundane censorship debate in the present.

The acclaimed author penned a satirical column lambasting Canada’s conservative prime minister Stephen Harper’s hair, which has become an unusual talking point in the lead up to the general election in October.

Hours after publication on the National Post website, the piece was removed. Senior newspaper staff later said “the necessary fact checking had not been completed”.

“Um, did I just get censored? For my flighty little caper on Hair?” Atwood tweeted after #Hairgate began trending on Twitter.

Throughout the election campaign, the Canadian Conservative party has attacked Liberal leader Justin Trudeau as inexperienced and lacking in policy focus. It has also mocked him simply for having “nice hair”. Trudeau has hit back through advertising, arguing Harper is struggling to talk about anything else.

Atwood’s piece argued the entire debate had trivialised the election. “Hair, an election issue? Really?” she wrote, before going on to poke fun at Harper.

“Of the three national male leaders, which one travels with a personal grooming assistant – lavishly paid for in whole or in part by you, gentle taxpayer – so that none of his hairs will ever be out of place … Hint: Initials are SH.”

The column was eventually republished by the National Post, with three sentences, which made reference to Harper’s political donations and a recent travel expenses scandal, removed.

The edits appeared to outrage the author even more – Atwood said the piece had been submitted nine days before it was published.

“Which of my facts were Wrong? What are the alternate facts, presumably Right? Cite sources please,” she tweeted at the National Post on Saturday, after thanking readers for the flurry of puns mocking the episode, which had erupted on Twitter throughout the day.

Canada’s Conservatives boast mighty war chest but corruption scandal looms. Stephen Harper’s ruling party has maintained campaign spending advantage before October vote, but a senator’s expenses trial could yet derail Conservatives: here.

British author Doris Lessing spied on by secret police


This video is called Re-Reading Doris Lessing‘s ‘The Golden Notebook’: Ten Years Later.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

MI5 spied on Doris Lessing for 20 years, declassified documents reveal

Newly released and redacted British intelligence files refer to author from early 1940s to long after her break from communist party in 1956

Richard Norton-Taylor

Friday 21 August 2015 00.01 BST

MI5 targeted the Nobel prize-winning author Doris Lessing for 20 years, listening to her phone conversations, opening her mail and closely monitoring her movements, previously top secret files reveal. The files show the extent to which MI5, helped by the Met police special branch, spied on the writer, her friends and associates, long after she abandoned communism, disgusted by the crushing of the Hungarian uprising in 1956.

MI5 was concerned about her continuing fierce opposition to colonialism, the files, released at the National Archives on Friday, make clear.

Lessing first came to MI5’s notice in the early 1940s in Southern Rhodesia when, as Doris Tayler, she married Gottfried Lessing, a communist activist and leading figure in the Left Book Club. …

From British daily The Independent, quoting MI5:

One memo to London said: “The general tone of the club is reported to be very left, and it is stated that most topics of discussion there usually end up in anti-British, anti-capital and anti-imperialist vapourings.”

The BBC quotes MI5 that it was ‘a club “patronised by persons with foreign accents”‘ Gottfried Lessing, Doris’ husband, was a refugee from nazi Germany of Jewish ancestry, so probably spoke English with a German accent.

The Richard Norton-Taylor article continues:

She kept his surname when the marriage ended and she left Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), where she was brought up, and moved to Britain in 1949.

MI5 stepped up its spying on her when, in the course of its permanent bugging of the British Communist party’s headquarters in King Street, Covent Garden, her name (initially misheard as Lacey) came up in a conversation.

From British daily The Independent, quoting MI5:

One 1951 report in her Security Service personal file said: “Doris Lessing has been described as certainly pro-Communist although it is doubtful if she is a party member. Her Rhodesian background has brought out in her a deep hatred of the colour bar which has now reached the point of fanaticism. In this way her Communist sympathies have been increased.”

The Richard Norton-Taylor article continues:

In 1952, MI6 passed to MI5 what it called “character sketches” of members of a visit to Moscow by a number of British authors, the files released on Friday reveal. Under the name Miss Doris Lessing, it wrote: “Her communist sympathies have been fanned almost to the point of fanaticism owing to her upbringing in Rhodesia, which has brought out in her a deep hatred of the colour bar.”

MI6 added: “Colonial exploitation is her pet theme and she has now nearly become as irresponsible in her statements as … saying that everything black is wonderful and that all men and all things white are vicious.”

… In 1956, Special Branch informed MI5 that Lessing, whom it described as “of plump build”, had moved into a flat in Warwick Road, London SW5. “Her flat is frequently visited by persons of various nationality,” it reported, “including Americans, Indians, Chinese and Negroes.” The report added: “It is possible that the flat is being used for immoral purposes.”

But 1956 proved tumultuous for Lessing. She was banned from South Africa and Rhodesia.

From British daily The Independent:

Lessing, who was expelled from South Africa during the trip after an alert to the apartheid country’s police force from London, was also followed onto a flight back to Britain and observed to be writing in a large black notebook which her tail considered suspicious because the author covered what she had written each time someone came past.

An attempt to find the notebook in her luggage upon her return to London airport was abandoned because of fears it would alert Lessing to MI5’s scrutiny.

While the author, who died in 2013 aged 94, maintained her radical politics throughout her life, her MI5 file reveals nothing to suggest she was an active threat to national security.

The Richard Norton-Taylor article continues:

Then came Moscow’s violent suppression of the Hungarian uprising. MI5 reported a fraught meeting at the communist party headquarters where Lessing agreed to sign a letter exposing “the grave crimes and abuses of the USSR and the recent revolt of workers and intellectuals against the pseudo Communist bureaucracies and police systems”. …

Lessing, an MI5 file notes, resigned from the Communist party and rejected an appeal from party officials to change her mind.

Early the following year, 1957, an MI5 source described Lessing as “disgusted with the Russian action in Hungary”, and attacking the attitude of the British communist party as “hopeless and gutless”. The same source described her as “an attractive, forceful, dangerous, woman, ruthless if need be”. …

MI5 continued to monitor Lessing’s movements, speeches and writing, and eagerly passed titbits on to the South African police. MI5 officers make clear they chose not to believe that she had “broken completely” with the Communist party, as one file puts it. In 1960, a Special Branch officer told MI5 she attended an “inaugural discussion” of the anti-war group, the Committee of 100, at Friends’ House on the Euston Road, London.

In November 1962, six years after she left the Communist party, an MI5 officer wrote, in a file stamped “secret and personal”: “She is known to have retained extreme leftwing views and she takes an interest in African affairs as an avowed opponent of racial discrimination. In more recent years, she has associated herself with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.”

This is the last entry in the intelligence files on her released on Friday, two years after her death. Official weeders have taken out some pages and passages, partly to protect the name of informants. They may be released at a later date.

In 2007, aged 88, Lessing, who made no secret of her political views, became the oldest winner of the Nobel prize for literature. She died in November 2013, aged 94.

The files released on Friday reveal that MI5 also kept a close watch on prominent figures of the left who were never members of the Communist party. They include the brothers David and Martin Ennals: the former became social services secretary in Callaghan’s 1976 Labour government and was later ennobled, the latter became general secretary of the National Council of Civil Liberties, a founder member of the Anti-Apartheid Movement and secretary general of Amnesty International.

An anxious Foreign Office diplomat wrote shortly after the end of the second world war to Roger Hollis, who later became head of MI5, asking about the pair. MI5 replied that its files on the Ennals brothers had been “in great demand recently”. MI5 was concerned that UN groups, in which it said both brothers were involved, might be infiltrated by the Communist party. MI5 noted that Martin was “well known to Special Branch for his activities in the Anti-Apartheid Movement”.

The MI5 files contain extracts of Harold Laski’s private correspondence that were intercepted because it was worried about his alleged communist connections. His private communications were intercepted, though MI5 reported to the Home Office in 1933 that he was “not a Communist”. Laski was chairman of the Labour party at the time of its landslide victory in the 1945 general election.