Archives for May 2011

How Roger Ailes built the Fox News fear factory

For Rolling Stone, Tim Dickinson writes:

At the Fox News holiday party the year the network overtook archrival CNN in the cable ratings, tipsy employees were herded down to the basement of a Midtown bar in New York. As they gathered around a television mounted high on the wall, an image flashed to life, glowing bright in the darkened tavern: the MSNBC logo. A chorus of boos erupted among the Fox faithful. The CNN logo followed, and the catcalls multiplied. Then a third slide appeared, with a telling twist. In place of the logo for Fox News was a beneficent visage: the face of the network’s founder. The man known to his fiercest loyalists simply as “the Chairman” – Roger Ailes.

“It was as though we were looking at Mao,” recalls Charlie Reina, a former Fox News producer. The Foxistas went wild. They let the dogs out. Woof! Woof! Woof! Even those who disliked the way Ailes runs his network joined in the display of fealty, given the culture of intimidation at Fox News. “It’s like the Soviet Union or China: People are always looking over their shoulders,” says a former executive with the network’s parent, News Corp. “There are people who turn people in.”

The key to decoding Fox News isn’t Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity. It isn’t even News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch. To understand what drives Fox News, and what its true purpose is, you must first understand Chairman Ailes. “He is Fox News,” says Jane Hall, a decade-long Fox commentator who defected over Ailes’ embrace of the fear-mongering Glenn Beck. “It’s his vision. It’s a reflection of him.”

Ailes runs the most profitable – and therefore least accountable – head of the News Corp. hydra. Fox News reaped an estimated profit of $816 million last year – nearly a fifth of Murdoch’s global haul. The cable channel’s earnings rivaled those of News Corp.’s entire film division, which includes 20th Century Fox, and helped offset a slump at Murdoch’s beloved newspapers unit, which took a $3 billion write-down after acquiring The Wall Street Journal. With its bare-bones news­gathering operation – Fox News has one-third the staff and 30 fewer bureaus than CNN – Ailes generates profit margins above 50 percent. Nearly half comes from advertising, and the rest is dues from cable companies. Fox News now reaches 100 million households, attracting more viewers than all other cable-news outlets combined, and Ailes aims for his network to “throw off a billion in profits.”

The outsize success of Fox News gives Ailes a free hand to shape the network in his own image. “Murdoch has almost no involvement with it at all,” says Michael Wolff, who spent nine months embedded at News Corp. researching a biography of the Australian media giant. “People are afraid of Roger. Murdoch is, himself, afraid of Roger. He has amassed enormous power within the company – and within the country – from the success of Fox News.”

Fear, in fact, is precisely what Ailes is selling: His network has relentlessly hyped phantom menaces like the planned “terror mosque” near Ground Zero, inspiring Florida pastor Terry Jones to torch the Koran. Privately, Murdoch is as impressed by Ailes’ business savvy as he is dismissive of his extremist politics. “You know Roger is crazy,” Murdoch recently told a colleague, shaking his head in disbelief. “He really believes that stuff.”

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UK training Saudi forces used to crush Arab spring

The Guardian reports:

Britain is training Saudi Arabia’s national guard – the elite security force deployed during the recent protests in Bahrain – in public order enforcement measures and the use of sniper rifles. The revelation has outraged human rights groups, which point out that the Foreign Office recognises that the kingdom’s human rights record is “a major concern”.

In response to questions made under the Freedom of Information Act, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed that British personnel regularly run courses for the national guard in “weapons, fieldcraft and general military skills training, as well as incident handling, bomb disposal, search, public order and sniper training”. The courses are organised through the British Military Mission to the Saudi Arabian National Guard, an obscure unit that consists of 11 British army personnel under the command of a brigadier.

The MoD response, obtained yesterday by the Observer, reveals that Britain sends up to 20 training teams to the kingdom a year. Saudi Arabia pays for “all BMM personnel, as well as support costs such as accommodation and transport”.

Bahrain’s royal family used 1,200 Saudi troops to help put down demonstrations in March. At the time the British government said it was “deeply concerned” about reports of human rights abuses being perpetrated by the troops.

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U.S. yanks diplomat from Bahrain after he’s threatened

McClatchy reports:

The United States pulled its human rights officer from Bahrain last week after he’d become the subject of a weeks-long campaign of ethnic slurs and thinly veiled threats on a pro-government website and in officially sanctioned newspapers.

Ludovic Hood left the island nation on Thursday. During his final days in Bahrain, Hood was given security protection equal to that of an ambassador, U.S. officials said.

“The safety and security of our diplomatic personnel is our highest priority,” the State Department in Washington said in a statement in response to inquiries from McClatchy. “It is unacceptable that elements within Bahrain would target an individual for carrying out his professional duties.”

Hood’s early departure from Bahrain — five human rights and U.S. officials confirmed that he had not been scheduled to leave Bahrain last week — underscores the serious tensions that have arisen between the U.S. government and Bahrain, the home port of the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

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Egyptian general admits ‘virginity checks’ conducted on protesters

CNN reports:

A senior Egyptian general admits that “virginity checks” were performed on women arrested at a demonstration this spring, the first such admission after previous denials by military authorities.

The allegations arose in an Amnesty International report, published weeks after the March 9 protest. It claimed female demonstrators were beaten, given electric shocks, strip-searched, threatened with prostitution charges and forced to submit to virginity checks.

At that time, Maj. Amr Imam said 17 women had been arrested but denied allegations of torture or “virginity tests.”

But now a senior general who asked not to be identified said the virginity tests were conducted and defended the practice.

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Yemeni military battles opponents on two fronts

The New York Times reports:

The government pounded a major coastal city on Monday with airstrikes to dislodge Islamic militants and, to the west, smashed the country’s largest antigovernment demonstration in overnight clashes that killed at least 20 protesters, according to witnesses reached by phone.

In Zinjibar, along the country’s southern coast, residents said warplanes attacked militant positions with repeated bombing runs beginning early Monday afternoon, a day after Islamists of uncertain affiliation took control, seizing banks and a central government compound. The compound was hit in the airstrikes and also shelled by the army, witnesses said.

It is unclear how many people have died in the Zinjibar fighting, which began Friday. The city has few medical services left, and no electricity or water, people there say. Hundreds have fled; others have taken refuge in local mosques, residents said.

In the city of Taiz, west of Zinjibar, security forces and plainclothes gunmen swept through a main square, driving out the thousands of protesters seeking the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Witnesses said that security forces descended from three directions in a thick cloud of tear gas late Sunday afternoon, and that the clashes continued until after midnight with security forces firing water cannons and setting the protesters’ tents ablaze with Molotov cocktails. Video posted on social networking sites by opposition groups showed protesters scattering as plainclothes gunmen fired from doorways and from rooftops. Bulldozers and tractors demolished remnants of the sit-in. Sporadic gunfire echoed through the city on Monday, witnesses said.

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Karzai calls for end to NATO air strikes on Afghan homes

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Afghan President Hamid Karzai called Tuesday for an immediate halt to coalition air strikes on civilian homes and threatened to take unilateral action to block such attacks if international forces don’t take him seriously.

Three days after an errant U.S. air strike killed as many as 12 Afghan women and children in southern Afghanistan, Mr. Karzai called a press conference to criticize the international alliance.

“The Afghan people can no longer tolerate these attacks on their homes,” Mr. Karzai said during the televised news conference. “Nobody has the right to take the life of an Afghan child.”

While Mr. Karzai has no significant authority to block the air strikes, his threats could inflame passions across Afghanistan and undermine the fragile working relationship with Western leaders as the U.S. military prepares to begin withdrawing thousands of troops this summer.

Western officials in Kabul said that relations between Mr. Karzai and the U.S.-led coalition have been deteriorating and the Afghan president took repeated jabs at military leaders during his hour-long press conference.

“We must clearly demonstrate our understanding that Afghanistan is an ally, not an occupied country,” Mr. Karzai told reporters. “And our treatment with NATO is from the point of view of an ally. If it turns to the other, to the behavior of an occupation, then of course the Afghan people know how to deal with that.”

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‘Land swaps’: is there enough land to swap?

Nathan Jeffay reports:

It is the magic formula that could end the occupation while letting the majority of settlers stay put. But how would an Israeli-Palestinian land swap, the basis of President Obama’s Middle East vision, outlined on May 19, actually work?

The main practical problem of an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank is the fact that some 300,000 Israeli settlers live there. Not only would a full evacuation be hazardous for any Israeli government on the domestic political front, but it also would be logistically difficult and exceedingly costly.

The solution Obama talked about, one that is “based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps,” means that Israel would hold on to some settled areas that it captured in 1967 and compensate the Palestinians with land that currently falls under Israeli sovereignty.

Even if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu endorses the principle, a problem remains. Every Israeli leader insists on retaining the large settlement blocs — usually defined at a minimum as the Etzion Bloc, Modi’in Illit, Ma’ale Adumim, and Givat Ze’ev and its surroundings — and the national consensus in support of this position is strong. But in Israel, many experts say there simply isn’t enough free land under Israeli sovereignty to exchange for them.

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Threat of violence keeps police out of Jerusalem Haredi neighborhood

Haaretz reports:

Police are reluctant to enter the ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea She’arim because of residents’ violence, a police spokesman said during a recent court hearing over the remand of a neighborhood resident.

A police official said in court Thursday that the reason the police had not arrested a wanted man for more than a month, despite knowing where in Mea She’arim he was, was that every time they go into the neighborhood police property is damaged and they do not want unnecessary confrontations.

Police issued an arrest warrant on April 13 for Shalom Baruch Roset, who is accused of assault, property damage and making threats.

The official said police have “often tried to detain suspects for questioning” who belong to the same group as Roset, with the result that “we were attacked and the station chief sustained a head injury as a result of a stone thrown at him.”

He added that efforts to send police patrols into the neighborhood have “failed.”

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Egypt-Gaza border opening turns out to be less than billed

McClatchy reports:

Mufid al Masry, 46, was so excited about his first trip to Egypt that he couldn’t sleep the night before he set out for the Rafah border crossing, which Egypt’s ruling military council ordered opened Saturday under new hours and fewer restrictions for Palestinian travelers.

So when Egyptian border guards rejected him, citing security concerns, Masry grew belligerent as other Palestinians at the terminal watched in sympathetic silence. An officer ordered him to stop shouting, which only made Masry angrier.

“I’ve been locked in Gaza for the past seven years and just wanted a breath of fresh air!” he said. “If you were locked up for seven years, wouldn’t you be yelling like me?”

The Egyptian government’s decision to permanently open its border with Hamas-controlled territory was heralded — or feared — as a sign of a new Egypt, one willing to risk U.S. and Israeli rebukes to provide a lifeline to Gaza’s 1.5 million residents and to break from the policies of toppled President Hosni Mubarak.

But Saturday’s landmark opening of the Rafah crossing ended with a fizzle.

By dusk, just 400 Palestinians had crossed into Egypt, and another 30 were turned back because their names appeared on a security “blacklist,” according to a senior Egyptian border officer who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to make public statements. About 150 Palestinians returned to Gaza from Egypt.

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Surprise turn against Gaddafi is Russia’s latest westward step

Max Fisher writes:

Russia, a quasi-democracy and an imperial power that never quite gave up all of its colonial holdings, has dedicated much of its post-Soviet foreign policy to resisting everything that the NATO intervention in Libya stands for. It shrugs at human rights violators, abhors military intervention, enshrines the sovereign right of states to do whatever they want internally without fear of outside meddling, and above all objects to the West imposing its ideology on others. NATO itself, after all, is a military alliance constructed in opposition to the Soviet Union. But Russian President Dmitri Medvedev took a surprising break from Russian foreign policy precedent on Friday when, in the middle of a G8 summit in France, he declared that Libyan leader Muammar “Qaddafi has forfeited legitimacy” and that Russia plans “to help him go.”

For Libya, Russia’s call for Qaddafi to go is more than just symbolic. Russia abstained from the original UN Security Council resolution authorizing the no-fly zone, but was reportedly upset that NATO states stretched the resolution to launch an extended bombing campaign. Russia’s angry reaction, it was widely assumed, meant it might outright veto any future Security Council measures on Libya. But Medvedev’s recent statement makes clear that his government supports the implicit goal of the air strikes — regime change in Libya — and would not block further action toward that end. If Qaddafi had hoped that he might outlast the Security Council’s will to fight, he is clearly nowhere close. The window for him to leave the country peacefully remains open, but is clearly closing quickly.

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Libya’s Goldman dalliance ends in losses, acrimony

The Wall Street Journal reports:

In early 2008, Libya’s sovereign-wealth fund controlled by Col. Moammar Gadhafi gave $1.3 billion to Goldman Sachs Group to sink into a currency bet and other complicated trades. The investments lost 98% of their value, internal Goldman documents show.

What happened next may be one of the most peculiar footnotes to the global financial crisis. In an effort to make up for the losses, Goldman offered Libya the chance to become one of its biggest shareholders, according to documents and people familiar with the matter.

Negotiations between Goldman and the Libyan Investment Authority stretched on for months during the summer of 2009. Eventually, the talks fell apart, and nothing more was done about the lost money.

An examination of the strange episode casts light on a period of several years when Goldman and other Western banks scrambled to do business with the oil-rich nation, now an international pariah because of its attacks on civilians during its current conflict. This account of Goldman’s dealings with Libya is based on interviews with close to a dozen people who were involved in the matter, and on Libyan Investment Authority and Goldman documents.

Libya was furious at Goldman over the nearly total loss of the $1.3 billion it invested in nine equity trades and one currency transaction, people involved in the matter say. A confrontation in Tripoli between a top fund executive and two Goldman officials left the bankers so rattled that they made a panicked phone call to their bosses, these people say. Goldman arranged for a security guard to protect them before they left Libya the next day, they say.

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Cyber combat: act of war

The Wall Street Journal reports:

The Pentagon has concluded that computer sabotage coming from another country can constitute an act of war, a finding that for the first time opens the door for the U.S. to respond using traditional military force.

The Pentagon’s first formal cyber strategy, unclassified portions of which are expected to become public next month, represents an early attempt to grapple with a changing world in which a hacker could pose as significant a threat to U.S. nuclear reactors, subways or pipelines as a hostile country’s military.

In part, the Pentagon intends its plan as a warning to potential adversaries of the consequences of attacking the U.S. in this way. “If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks,” said a military official.

Recent attacks on the Pentagon’s own systems—as well as the sabotaging of Iran’s nuclear program via the Stuxnet computer worm—have given new urgency to U.S. efforts to develop a more formalized approach to cyber attacks. A key moment occurred in 2008, when at least one U.S. military computer system was penetrated. This weekend Lockheed Martin, a major military contractor, acknowledged that it had been the victim of an infiltration, while playing down its impact.

The Associated Press reports:

This cyber attack didn’t go after people playing war games on their PlayStations. It targeted a company that helps the U.S. military do the real thing.

Lockheed Martin says it was the recent target of a “significant and tenacious” hack, although the defense contractor and the Department of Homeland Security insist the attack was thwarted before any critical data was stolen. The effort highlighted the fact that some hackers, including many working for foreign governments, set their sights on information far more devastating than credit card numbers.

Information security experts say a rash of cyber attacks this year — including a massive security breach at Sony Corp. last month that affected millions of PlayStation users — has emboldened hackers and made them more willing to pursue sensitive information.

“2011 has really lit up the boards in terms of data breaches,” said Josh Shaul, chief technology officer at Application Security, a New York-based company that is one of the largest database security software makers. “The list of targets just grows and grows.”

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WikiLeaks: Saudis often warned U.S. about oil speculators

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‘Perfect storm’ looms for world’s food supplies

AFP reports:

Oxfam called on Tuesday for an overhaul of the world’s food system, warning that in a couple of decades, millions more people would be gripped by hunger due to population growth and climate-hit harvests.

A “broken food system” means that the price of some staples will more than double by 2030, battering the world’s poorest people, who spend up to 80 percent of their income on food, the British-based aid group predicted.

“The food system is buckling under intense pressure from climate change, ecological degradation, population growth, rising energy prices, rising demand for meat and dairy products and competition for land from biofuels, industry, and urbanization,” Oxfam said in a report.

It added: “The international community is sleepwalking into an unprecedented and avoidable human development reversal.”

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Obama’s mental bookkeeping

David Bromwich writes:

Minutes before midnight last night [on May 26], President Obama, in Paris, by a species of teleportable pen signed into law a four-year extension of the Patriot Act: the central domestic support of the security apparatus devised by the Bush administration, after the bombings of 11 September 2001 and the ‘anthrax letters’ a week later. The first Patriot Act passed the senate on 25 October 2001, by a vote of 98-1 – the opposing vote coming from Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. In the years that followed, a minority view developed, which said that the Patriot Act ‘went too far’; but its steadiest opponents have come from outside the mainstream media: the American Civil Liberties Union, the Cato Institute, and libertarian columnists such as Glenn Greenwald and Nat Hentoff.

In the last few days, two senators, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado, took up the mantle of Senator Feingold (who lost his bid for re-election in the anti-Obama midterm disaster of 2010). Both spoke against a government interpretation of the new Patriot Act which has not yet been shared with the American people.

The senate as a whole voted (this time 72-23) to renew a law that citizens have had no opportunity to understand, as Wyden and Udall present it, and that few members of Congress have looked into, even to the limited extent allowed. The Patriot Act controls secret investigations. The government, however, according to Wyden, has a private understanding of the law. This interpretation has been classified. So the meaning of a law about secrets is hidden because the government’s view of the law is itself a secret.

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CIA prisons in Poland ‘illegal’

SAPA reports:

Secret prisons operated by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on Polish territory violated international law and the Polish constitution according to legal experts, reported the daily Gazeta Wyborcza on Monday, citing sources close to an investigation.

The CIA held terror suspects inside a military intelligence training base in Stare Kiejkuty, north-eastern Poland from 2002 to 2005, anonymous Polish intelligence officers have said.

Public prosecutor Jerzy Mierzewski had wanted to charge officials from the 2001-2005 Democratic Left Alliance government with violating the constitution, unlawful detention and participation in crimes against humanity, the daily reported.

The left-wing party is today Poland’s second largest opposition party. Polish politicians who were in power when the prisons allegedly operated have denied allegations that CIA prisons were located in the country.

Mierzewski, however, was withdrawn from the case two weeks ago, the daily wrote. His supervisor, Dariusz Korneluk, declined to comment on the reason for the dismissal.

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A post-9/11 registration effort ends, but not its effects

The New York Times reports:

In the jittery months after the 9/11 attacks, the federal government created a program that required thousands of Arab and Muslim men to register with the authorities, in an effort to uncover terror links and immigration violations.

After complaints that the practice, known as special registration, amounted to racial profiling, the Homeland Security Department scaled back the program in 2003, and ended it late last month, saying it “no longer provides a unique security value.”

But for Mohammed G. Azam, a 26-year-old Bangladeshi native who came to the United States when he was 9, its legacy lives on. When he registered in Manhattan in 2003, officials began deportation proceedings, and now, eight years and numerous hearings later, his case has outlasted the program.

Mr. Azam is one of hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of people still caught in the program’s net, immigration experts say.

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Syria in fragments: divided minds, divided lives

At Syria Comment, Joshua Landis has posted an article written by a contributor from Damascus — “the best piece of writing on Syria since the uprising began,” says Landis. The author requested that his identity not be disclosed and that the piece simply be given the byline “From Damascus.” He writes:

About a week ago I sat with a good friend from the muhafiza (governorate or county) of Dera’a. The raw account of events in Dera’a that he presented to me bore striking contrast to the opinions of people outside that area, people of Damascus, confused people trying to weigh the injustices vs. necessity of the military action in Dera’a.

Details of our conversation that might have been news at the time I spoke with him are now known by most readers at this late date: electricity, water, mobile phone service, land line telephone service, all cut off; rooftop water tanks, common in this area, are shot by military personnel; anyone who moves in the streets is shot. Furthermore, people who have used their own generators to provide power to their homes are visited by the military and the generators are promptly confiscated.

This friend (let’s call him Adham) has a sister and brother who both live in the city of Dera’a with their families. For weeks, they have had no word from them. They don’t even know if they or their children are alive. Adham’s brother was working in Damascus when the occupation of Dera’a began. He was unable to return home to his family. He cannot communicate with or receive any news from his wife or children. He has traveled recently to the city, hoping that after these weeks he would finally be allowed to reunite with his family, but has been prevented from doing so by the military that is keeping the city sealed off.

News that does trickle out of Dera’a seems to be coming from people who have Jordanian cell phones that sometimes find coverage in the area. People are using their car batteries to charge their cell phones, among other devices.

Many Damascenes continue to look me in the eye and tell me that “There’s nothing happening in Syria! Everything is fine!” Consider that Adham’s village in the muhafiza of Dera’a is closer to Damascus than it is to the city of Dera’a, and yet his family is without cell phone service, or even land-line service. Phone service of all types has been cut off from the entire muhafiza. When he comes to work in Damascus, he and his family have no way of checking on each other. This treatment is having the effect of galvanizing oppositional sentiment in the muhafiza and the growing sense of Dera’an separateness.

Adham is an atheist whose family is of Shia background. Being an atheist and coming from a Shia family, he is in no way sympathetic to Sunni Islamism. Therefore, it’s telling when he affirms that “there are no Salafiin in Dera’a. I can say for sure that any group of such people that exists is very, very small.”

Rather, he explains that the government’s siege has been effective in unifying the muhafiza of Dera’a against it. By treating the entire muhafiza as criminal, the sentiments of most of its inhabitants (not just those inside the city of Dera’a) have turned against the regime. It’s interesting that identity runs not only along religious, ethnic, and tribal lines, but also along geographical lines, in that the people of Dera’a—not only the city, but the entire muhafiza—are viewing themselves as a unit, separate from those who comprise the leadership of Syria. “I can say that 90% of people in the entire muhafiza are against the government,” Adham says. Rather than viewing the uprising as one of sectarian character, he explains that “my brother’s family in the city of Dera’a has Christian neighbors. There are many Christians in the city of Dera’a and in other villages who have joined in the protests.”

Dera’a is becoming a unit—I hesitate to say almost separate from Syria—not only in how people there are beginning to view themselves as separate from the state (an understandable effect after feeling attacked by the state), but in the way many other Syrians are reacting to Dera’ans. Adham tells me that in the hospital where he works in Damascus, he is experiencing a new, unmistakable resentment and coldness from his coworkers. “They say nothing, but I can see in their faces that they blame us for the current situation in Syria.” He says that he doesn’t feel safe responding to the opinions voiced by people in his workplace. He believes that people’s opinions are misled and mistaken, but if he defends “his own” Dera’ans, he fears reprisal.

“One Alawi girl who works in the hospital was very happy about the army entering the city. She said, ‘They must destroy the entire city and should kill everyone demonstrating.’” Her comments reflect the result of the government’s successful campaign to demonize the protesters; many people simply believe that there is an insidious cancer of extremism growing inside Syria, that threatens all life, security, and humane values, and that drastic measures are needed to thoroughly wipe it out.

In stark contrast to Adham’s understanding of the situation, I witnessed unreserved approval for the government crack down on a Thursday a week after the siege on Dera’a began. I visited some close Christian friends in Damascus who we can call Samer and Najwah. It was impossible not to broach the subject of the situation in Dera’a, knowing that the next day, Friday, would likely produce significant casualties. This household however, grimly viewed the army’s cordoning off and occupation of the city as necessity. I couldn’t help but begin to argue with them that even if there was a poisonous “Salafi” threat in the town, the siege and suppression would mean the suffering, trauma, and even killing of many innocent people as well. If some people from that area had indeed called for the establishment of an Islamic emirate (and it’s no surprise that some there would be oriented this way), I was just not convinced that the entire city, the many thousands protesting there, were all seeking such a goal.

For Najwah, however, the city of Dera’a has become a single entity containing one kind of people: bad. For her, the terrorist persuasion of the people in that community now justifies virtually any action against them. From her attitude, I felt that if the city was to be wiped off the map, she wouldn’t mind. I began to mention reports of the more grisly examples of violent killings there. “Good!” was her angry response.

I tried to think back and remember if I’d ever been in a country where serious atrocities were taking place and had looked in the eye of someone who rejoiced in them. I couldn’t, and I realized that I was witnessing the kind of passive approval for massacre that one reads about in history books, when individuals or groups become convinced of the evil of another and of the necessity of wiping them out. Najwah is not an evil woman, but the people of Dera’a have become completely vilified in her mind, and she fears them. [Continue reading…]

(H/t Helena Cobban.)

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