The truth about ISIS, 9/11 and JFK

You know… is a funny expression.

Someone leans forward slightly and confides, “You know…” on the assumption that the person he’s talking to doesn’t know. (I say “he” because men are much more inclined to share their presumed wisdom in this way.)

If I say you know what I really mean is I know and you probably don’t, but listen up because I’m going to share a privileged piece of information with you.

Conspiracy theories are favorites among those who like to trade in information in this way. They resolve much of the angst in a world weighed down by too many unanswered questions. For those who feel politically impotent, these narratives of intrigue secretly at play inside institutions which exercise unassailable power, provide a comforting vehicle for safely contained outrage. Knowing how the system works means knowing why you have no power to change it — so the mindset works.

Conspiracy theories spread as ad hoc clubs in which the storytellers — these are after all just stories — dole out offers of free membership to anyone who shows an interest.

With the creation of the internet we now live in the Golden Age of conspiracy theories where ill-formed ideas spread like invasive species.

These mind-weeds most easily grow where government is viewed with the deepest suspicion and the mainstream media is assumed to be inextricably bound in a servile relationship with concealed political and commercial powers.

An article of faith that seems to bind together most conspiracy theorists is a conviction that the root of all evil in the world is the U.S. government. Ultimately, everything comes back to Washington.

You know this terrorist group ISIS? Did you know it was created by the U.S. government?

Of course! How else could such a devilish organization have come into existence.

Robert Mackey has delved into the latest rendition of this familiar story.

According to the theory, which appears to have started in Egypt and spread rapidly across the region, ISIS was created by the United States as part of a plot orchestrated by the former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton to replace the region’s autocratic rulers with more pliant Islamist allies. The evidence cited to back up this claim sounds unimpeachable: passages from Mrs. Clinton’s new memoir in which she describes how a plan to bolster the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was foiled at the last moment when the Egyptian military seized power on July 5, 2013, and deployed submarines and fighter jets to block an American invasion.

If that plot sounds like the stuff of fiction, that’s because it is. The passages described by supporters of the Egyptian military on Facebook as quotes from Mrs. Clinton’s memoir were entirely fabricated and do not appear anywhere in the text of her book, “Hard Choices.”

The fictional plot was reported as fact by Egyptian, Tunisian, Palestinian, Jordanian and Lebanese news organizations. [Continue reading...]

But if the story that the U.S. created ISIS is a work of fiction, where did ISIS come from?

That’s a more complicated question than it sounds and at this point, I don’t think anyone can claim to have presented the definitive account. Even so, there has been wealth of strong reporting and analysis that fleshes out many of the key components of the picture — the role of Sunni disenfranchisement in Iraq; the cultivation of a nemesis that suited Bashar al-Assad’s narrative of his war on terrorism; and perhaps most importantly, ISIS’s focus on self-sufficiency.

Here is some essential reading:

Sarah Burke — “How al Qaeda changed the Syrian war” (December 27, 2013)

Peter Neumann — “Assad and the jihadists” (March 28, 2014)

Ziad Majed — “Fathers of ISIS” (June, 2014)

Victoria Fontan — “ISIS, the slow insurgency” (June 13, 2014)

Alex Rowell — “Blame Assad first for ISIS’ rise” (June 17, 2014)

Simon Speakman Cordall — “How Syria’s Assad helped forge ISIS” (June 21, 2014)

Rania Abouzeid — “The Syrian roots of Iraq’s newest civil war” (June 23, 2014)

Hannah Allam — “Records show how Iraqi extremists withstood U.S. anti-terror efforts” (June 23, 2014)

Bassam Barabandi and Tyler Jess Thompson — “Inside Assad’s playbook: time and terror” (July 23, 2014)

Gary Anderson — “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the theory and practice of jihad” (August 12, 2014)

Hassan Hassan — “ISIS: A portrait of the menace that is sweeping my homeland” (August 16, 2014)

Maria Abi-Habib — “Assad policies aided rise of ISIS” (August 22, 2014)


Another American killed in Syria fighting for ISIS

Douglas-McCainDouglas McAuthur McCain was described by former classmates who knew him growing up in Minnesota as “a good guy,” “goofy,” “a fun guy,” and “a goofball” who was “always smiling.”

The New York Times reports that McCain was killed in a battle in recent days in Marea, a city in northern Syria near the Turkish border. He was fighting for ISIS.

At least 100 Americans have traveled to Syria to fight for rebel groups, according to senior American officials, but only a few are believed to have died there. In May, Moner Mohammad Abusalha, a 22-year-old Florida man who had traveled to Syria, killed himself in a suicide bomb attack. A year earlier, Nicole Lynn Mansfield, 33, of Flint, Mich., was killed with Syrian rebels in Idlib Province.

News of Americans fighting and dying in Syria renews concerns about the risk of some returning and bring their jihad home.

Frankly, for several reasons I think these fears are being overstated:

1. ISIS’s effort to recruit a few good men to fight in Syria and Iraq does not seem to be appealing to America’s best and brightest.

2. “We are coming for you, mark my words, listen to my words you big kuffār,” warned Moner Mohammad Abusalha, who grew up in Florida. But then, having burned his passport, he went on to blow himself up.

As things stand right now, foreign fighters from the U.S. or elsewhere in the West are most likely ISIS’s most expendable assets because what they lack in talent, they make up for in fervor and thus are the most suitable candidates for suicidal missions.

3. The skills these guys are acquiring are not necessarily ones they can transfer outside the battlefield. Look at the assembly of the truck bomb that Abusalha detonated. Having captured numerous Syrian military bases, ISIS doesn’t have any trouble filling a truck with artillery shells, but that’s not an exercise that would be instructive to the next would-be Timothy McVeigh.

4. Obviously, causing mayhem doesn’t require great skills. But neither does it require the motives driving a zealot.

The next time there’s a mass shooting in the U.S. the perpetrator might be a guy who acquired his blood lust under the tutelage of ISIS. But it’s even more likely that he will be some kind of misfit angry about his inability to find a girlfriend, or driven by whatever other personal demon that happens to haunt him.

The threat that ISIS poses is very real and broad in scope, but it’s not the lives of average Americans which are at stake.

The fears that the world needs to address are those that compel a young girl to carry an AK-47.


To defeat ISIS we must understand that despotism is the disease, not the cure

On Sunday, Richard Clarke, a former top counterterrorism adviser in the Bush administration, said:

If we want to eliminate this ISIS we are going to have to deal with people we don’t like. The president said we wanted Assad out. Well, we are going to have to say something to the Syrian government if we are going to start bombing in Syria. And if we are going to get rid of ISIS, we are going to have to start bombing in Syria.

This is one of the latest examples of the movement inside Washington which views a working relationship with Assad as a practical necessity — a form of realism which implies there is no alternative.

It is also an expression of a typically American view of what it means to be practical, which is to say that practicality is often viewed as a way of dispensing with the need for analysis. Just do it — don’t think.

Ziad Majed, a Lebanese political researcher teaching Middle East studies at the American University of Paris, has a response to Clarke and those making similar arguments:

Those who think that they should be impartial toward or even support tyrants like Assad in the fight against ISISism fail to realize that his regime is in fact at the root of the problem.

Until this fact is recognized — that despotism is the disease and not the cure — we can only expect more deadly repercussions, from the Middle East to the distant corners of the globe.

Majed sees ISIS as the progeny of six fathers:

ISIS is first the child of despotism in the most heinous form that has plagued the region. Therefore, it is no coincidence that we see its base, its source of strength concentrated in Iraq and Syria, where Saddam Hussein and Hafez and Bashar Al-Assad reigned for decades, killing hundreds of thousands of people, destroying political life, and deepening sectarianism by transforming it into a mechanism of exclusion and polarization, to the point that injustices and crimes against humanity became commonplace.

ISIS is second the progeny of the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, both the way in which it was initially conducted and the catastrophic mismanagement that followed. Specifically, it was the exclusion of a wide swath of Iraqis from post invasion political processes and the formation of a new authority that discriminated against them and held them collectively at fault for the guilt of Saddam and his party, which together enabled groups (such as those first established by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi) whose activities have been resumed by ISIS to get in touch with some parts of Iraqi society and to establish itself among them.

ISIS is third the son of Iranian aggressive regional policies that have worsened in recent years — taking Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria as its backyard, feeding (directly or indirectly) confessional divisions and making these divides the backbone of ideological mobilization and a policy of revenge and retaliation that has constructed a destructive feedback loop. [Continue reading...]


ISIS: Berks with MANPADS?

Mehdi Hasan writes: [R]ead the books of the forensic psychiatrist and former CIA officer Marc Sageman; the political scientist Robert Pape; the international relations scholar Rik Coolsaet; the Islamism expert Olivier Roy; the anthropologist Scott Atran. They have all studied the lives and backgrounds of hundreds of gun-toting, bomb-throwing jihadists and they all agree that Islam isn’t to blame for the behaviour of such men (and, yes, they usually are men).

Instead they point to other drivers of radicalisation: moral outrage, disaffection, peer pressure, the search for a new identity, for a sense of belonging and purpose. As Atran pointed out in testimony to the US Senate in March 2010: “… what inspires the most lethal terrorists in the world today is not so much the Quran or religious teachings as a thrilling cause and call to action that promises glory and esteem in the eyes of friends, and through friends, eternal respect and remembrance in the wider world.” He described wannabe jihadists as “bored, under­employed, overqualified and underwhelmed” young men for whom “jihad is an egalitarian, equal-opportunity employer … thrilling, glorious and cool.”

Or, as Chris Morris, the writer and director of the 2010 black comedy Four Lions — which satirised the ignorance, incompetence and sheer banality of British Muslim jihadists — once put it: “Terrorism is about ideology, but it’s also about berks.”

Berks, not martyrs. “Pathetic figures,” to quote the former MI6 chief Richard Dearlove, not holy warriors. If we want to tackle jihadism, we need to stop exaggerating the threat these young men pose and giving them the oxygen of publicity they crave, and start highlighting how so many of them lead decidedly un-Islamic lives.

Just to be clear — since berk is a British expression some Americans may have never heard — berks tend to be harmless. They typically draw scorn from others because they have a habit of becoming the victims of their own foolishness.

I haven’t seen Four Lions yet but these clips and Chris Morris’s description of his own research make it clear that he took his subject seriously. Even though he chose a comedic form, he endeavored to give the issue an honest representation.

Accurate as Four Lions might be in its characterization of some of the individuals who might have been inspired to travel to Syria to join ISIS, this doesn’t really make the current picture less disturbing.

The capacity of ISIS to recruit berks doesn’t diminish the threat it poses; on the contrary, it means that ISIS commanders have a plentiful supply of cannon fodder.

It’s reported that in the battle to capture the Tabqa air base, 346 ISIS fighters were killed — twice as many casualties as there were among government forces.

For Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, an abundance of berks in the lowest ranks of ISIS probably looks like one of his army’s greatest strengths.

But ISIS also has lots of other strengths — its successes can’t all be attributed to its ability to intimidate its adversaries through sheer brutality.

One of the photographs that showed up on Twitter soon after ISIS took control of Tabqa showed a fighter carrying what looks like an SA-24 MANPAD — one of the most sophisticated Russian-made antiaircraft missile launchers available.

Even if none of these berks know how to use it, it’s reasonable to assume that their commanders are currently interrogating prisoners with the promise that a would-be trainer can be assured that he won’t be decapitated — just yet.

Whether a guy wielding a MANPAD happens to be a berk is of less consequence than the fact that the weapon he is holding can strike an aircraft at 20,000 feet.


Why Obama and Assad prefer to see ISIS contained but not defeated

Ever since the Obama administration started back-peddling on its desire to see the Assad regime fall, the rationale for that reversal and for an unstated but obvious willingness to see Assad remain in power has been the fear that the collapse of the Syrian government would allow ISIS to gain control of most of the Syria. The U.S. and most Western governments have implicitly come to accept the argument that Bashar deployed from day one: it’s me or the terrorists.

But suppose ISIS came under attack from all sides — by the U.S., the Iraqis (including tribal Sunnis), the Kurds, Iran, Turkey, Syria’s rebels, and Assad’s air force — are we to imagine that it would fend off all its opponents?

U.S. Defense Secretary Hagel might describe ISIS as “beyond anything that we’ve seen,” but having constituted itself as an army controlling territory, ISIS is just as susceptible as any other army to facing defeat. Moreover, its success in establishing a de facto Islamic state might ironically become its undoing.

However Russia and others might want to argue against international intervention in Syria, the argument that Syria’s sovereignty must be respected no longer holds any water. Indeed, this would be an intervention one of whose principal goals would be the restoration of the territorial sovereignty of both Syria and Iraq.

The real interventionists are ISIS — they are the ones who decided to erase national boundaries and like the neoconservatives of yesteryear, attempt to redraw the map of the Middle East.

But here’s the problem: If ISIS is defeated and not just contained, Assad loses the one thing that can justify his continuation in power.

Likewise, Obama’s fear of deeper involvement in Syria is predicated on the fear of ISIS’s growing power. Paradoxically, it appears he views a contained ISIS serves as a greater source of stability than a defeated ISIS, if ISIS’s defeat is then a prelude to Assad’s defeat.

In other words, Obama might believe that a contained Islamic state is currently preferable to another Libya.

Or to put in another way: better the living hell of Syria that the world has got used to and can thus ignore, than a new form of chaos that becomes the closing chapter of Obama’s presidency.


James Foley, Assad, and ISIS

Philip Balboni, GlobalPost CEO:

“Although GlobalPost’s investigation at one point led us to believe that James was being held by the Syrian government, we later were given strong reason to believe he was being held by Islamic militants in Syria,” Balboni said. “We withheld this information at the request of the family and on the advice of authorities cooperating in the effort to protect Jim. GlobalPost, working with a private security company, has amassed an enormous amount of information that has not been made public.”

In May 2013, GlobalPost reported:

After a five-month investigation inside Syria and the wider Middle East, GlobalPost and the family of missing American journalist James Foley now believe the Syrian government is holding him in a detention center near Damascus.

“With a very high degree of confidence, we now believe that Jim was most likely abducted by a pro-regime militia group and subsequently turned over to Syrian government forces,” GlobalPost CEO and President Philip Balboni said during a speech marking World Press Freedom Day.

“We have obtained multiple independent reports from very credible confidential sources who have both indirect and direct access that confirm our assessment that Jim is now being held by the Syrian government in a prison or detention facility in the Damascus area. We further believe that this facility is under the control of the Syrian Air Force Intelligence service. Based on what we have learned, it is likely Jim is being held with one or more Western journalists, including most likely at least one other American.”

Balboni said that GlobalPost representatives were now meeting with the Syrian ambassador to Lebanon in Beirut to secure his support. The ambassador has delivered letters to the Syrian ministries of defense, interior, information and foreign affairs.

The Syrian government, however, has so far not acknowledged knowing of Foley’s whereabouts.

Note that Balboni did not call into question the accuracy of GlobalPost’s earlier assessment about Foley’s whereabouts.


Fighters in Al Qassam Brigade, the armed wing of Hamas

Among the reader comments that appear here, a fairly common one is a rebuke on my choice of sources and my willingness to regurgitate “the lies of the mainstream media” — or something along those lines.

I don’t find “mainstream media” a particularly useful concept because all too often it’s employed as the bluntest possible tool for media analysis.

To view a particular piece of reporting as credible or lacking in credibility simply on the basis of the commercial niche occupied by its publisher, is plain dumb. The following report illustrates my point.

An article focusing on two fighters in Hamas appears in today’s Wall Street Journal.

How can a right-wing newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch with editorial writers like Bret Stephens, former editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post, provide solid reporting on Hamas? Surprisingly it can.

The report notes that Hamas is a “guerrilla army” thereby drawing a distinction between its objective nature and the politically charged designation — “terrorist” — which is applied by the U.S. and Israeli governments.

The report notes Hamas’ military accomplishments (and alludes to its recent use of drones for battlefield surveillance) and that its fighters are uniformed.

It notes that the choice to engage in armed resistance has been made by and supported by those have witnessed the futility of a peace process pursued through negotiations.

All in all, it’s a report that could profitably be read by many an Israeli who still accepts the propaganda that Israel faces a fanatical foe who values death more than life.

When the shrapnel-torn body of Ahmed Abu Thoraya returned to this city in the Gaza Strip, only one member of his family knew for sure he had been a fighter in Al Qassam Brigade, the armed wing of Hamas.

Mr. Abu Thoraya had given his brother, Mohammed, a short will before he left town on July 19. “He said ‘I’m going somewhere,’” his brother recalled recently. “I knew that he may not come back.”

The conflict in the Gaza Strip has brought the secretive guerrilla army of Hamas out of the shadows and into battle against Israel’s military for only the second time. When the brigade’s fighters are killed, Hamas street organizers eulogize them as heroes, posting images of them in fatigues and toting rockets. And families in the Gaza Strip are coming to terms with never-before-discussed identities of sons and neighbors.

The fighting has given Israel its first good look at Hamas’s street-fighting abilities since 2009—the only other time the Israeli Defense Forces have taken on large numbers of the Qassam fighters at close quarters. The Hamas militia has inflicted the heaviest death toll on Israel’s military in a decade, some 64 soldiers so far. Israel and the U.S. regard Hamas, which also has a political wing and delivers social services, as a terrorist enterprise.

On Tuesday, the latest cease-fire broke down when a salvo of rockets from the Gaza Strip landed in southern Israel, and Israel retaliated against militant targets in Gaza. Truce talks in Cairo were suspended.

“Hamas has advanced on all fronts,” said a senior official in the Israel Defense Forces. “This time when we meet them on the battlefield, they are better trained, better organized, better disciplined.”

That wasn’t the Hamas that Israel encountered in its 2009 ground invasion of Gaza. When Israel’s military entered the strip back then, Hamas fighters, for the most part, quickly melted away.

This time, Hamas surprised Israeli soldiers by using a network of tunnels under the walls and fences enclosing the Gaza Strip to emerge inside Israel. Hamas commando units that Israel believes took shape mostly in the last year carried out complex ambushes inside and outside Gaza.

Hamas’s internal communications proved more difficult for Israel to track, and Hamas exhibited a new capacity for aerial observation of Israeli troop movements. Hamas rockets, though mostly intercepted above Israel, managed to shut down Israel’s main airport for a time. [Continue reading...]


Why did #ISIS kill James Foley?

Intimidation or provocation?

Since the U.S. has already launched at least 68 air strikes against ISIS, we’re already well past the point at which the U.S. needs drawing into the conflict — the enemy has already been engaged.

It thus seems more likely that the message from ISIS is not “bring it on” — it’s “back off.” More air strikes risk precipitating more executions.

The journalist Steven Joel Soltoff appeared in the same video showing Foley’s execution with the executioner making this threat: “The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision.”

Foley was kidnapped in November 2012 yet ISIS wasn’t formed until April 2013.

GlobalPost, the publication Foley was working for at that time, spared no effort in trying to locate him. In May 2013, AFP reported:

The co-founder and CEO of the online news network, Phil Balboni, said his company had hired the international security firm Kroll to investigate.

“With a high degree of confidence, we now believe that Jim was most likely abducted by a pro-regime militia group, commonly referred to as the Shabiha, and subsequently turned over to Syrian government forces,” Balboni said.

“We have obtained multiple independent reports from very credible confidential sources who have both indirect and direct access that confirm our assessment that Jim is now being held by the Syrian government.”

Balboni said the detention facility where Foley is reportedly being held is near the Syrian capital Damascus in an area still controlled by forces loyal to Assad’s regime, which is battling an armed revolt.

“We further believe that this facility is under the control of the Syrian Air Force Intelligence service,” he said, promising that GlobalPost would continue to press through private and diplomatic channels for Foley’s release.

Balboni said that GlobalPost knows the name and location of the detention center, and believes that other international journalists are also being held there, but said he could not go into details for security reasons.

This strongly suggests that the Assad regime handed Foley and the other hostages over to ISIS. Both the Syrian government and ISIS view journalists as a threat.

Although the majority of Americans currently support the air strikes the U.S. has launched in Iraq, that support is fairly weak:

Even as they approve of the airstrikes, Americans are more concerned about going too far in Iraq than they are about not going far enough to interdict Islamist militants who have swept through the country in recent months. Fifty-one percent say they are more worried about U.S. military action going too far; 32 percent say they are more concerned about not going far enough to stop the militants.

ISIS may now have as many as 80,000 fighters and it controls a third of Syria and a third of Iraq. At what point will its growth start to seriously worry most Americans?

Last week, while arguing against Western intervention against ISIS in Iraq, Seumas Milne wrote: “The likelihood is that [ISIS] can only be overcome by a functioning state in both Iraq and Syria.”

Let’s be clear: “overcome” doesn’t mean being thwarted in vigorous debate; it means military action. What was an antiwar movement is nowadays simply a not-our-war movement.

If Milne is correct in saying that functioning states in both Iraq and Syria are a precondition for overcoming ISIS, then before that happens it looks like it will grow from strength to strength.


Worse the Israel? Why these comparisons are odious

The huge loss of life and massive destruction in Gaza over the last month has triggered an outpouring of humanitarian concern from many of Israel’s most loyal defenders — concern directed towards anywhere but Gaza.

It’s a bit like responding to the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, by saying that it’s nowhere near as bad as Aleppo — which it isn’t, but so what?

Following the release of a Human Rights Watch report which says Egypt’s leaders should be investigated for committing possible crimes against humanity, the editorial board of the Washington Post says:

the massacre staged by Egyptian security forces on Aug. 14, 2013, in Cairo’s Rabaa Square far exceeds, in its wanton use of force and calculated slaughter of women and children, any action by Israel during the recent fighting in Gaza.

That’s debatable, but the Post’s concern is that this illustrates the unfairness with which Israel has been singled out as a target of international criticism.

The editorial’s headline says “Egypt should be a pariah state for its bloody crackdown on dissent” — the implication being that it is Egypt, not Israel, which is more deserving of being branded as a pariah state. And while the piece rebukes the Obama administration for cynically maintaining its ties to the Sisi regime, it makes no mention of Israel’s close ties to Egypt.

No doubt Egypt is deserving of pariah status — but so is Israel.


A death too certain, too soon

As death kept coming like summer rain, day after day, uncountable, nameless, in Gaza, Syria, Iraq, Africa and all places between, suddenly one death counted above all the others as America lost an imaginary friend.

It stalked abroad, snuck close as two American aid workers caught Ebola and then death swiftly came home — yet only because millions of people felt like they knew one person who in truth was just as much a stranger as all the rest.

How is it that death can seem so removed from our daily lives when it is just as omnipresent now as it always has been?

However much humans may have advanced since we first recognized our mortality, in that recognition itself it seems we have regressed and now understand death less than did our earliest ancestors.

Never has death seemed so foreign, so removed from life, so lacking in inevitability.

And yet, even though we have become adept at postponing death and sheltering ourselves from its appearance, it is no less inevitable for us as it was for those who first considered its meaning.

The most striking difference between us and our ancestors is that we pursue life as though death was an aberration — something that always happens too soon and never seems certain.

Those individuals who not only abandon their effort to outrun death, but instead turn towards it and choose death in preference to life, appear to have betrayed the living. But that’s only because for most of us it’s hard to imagine such all-consuming pain.

This is how the writer, William Styron, described his own descent into hell:

That fall, as the disorder gradually took full possession of my system, I began to conceive that my mind itself was like one of those outmoded small-town telephone exchanges, being gradually inundated by floodwaters: one by one, the normal circuits began to drown, causing some of the functions of the body and nearly all of those of instinct and intellect to slowly disconnect.

There is a well-known checklist of some of these functions and their failures. Mine conked out fairly close to schedule, many of them following the pattern of depressive seizures. I particularly remember the lamentable near disappearance of my voice. It underwent a strange transformation, becoming at times quite faint, wheezy, and spasmodic — a friend observed later that it was the voice of a ninety-year-old. The libido also made an early exit, as it does in most major illnesses — it is the superfluous need of a body in beleaguered emergency. Many people lose all appetite; mine was relatively normal, but I found myself eating only for subsistence: food, like everything else within the scope of sensation, was utterly without savor. Most distressing of all the instinctual disruptions was that of sleep, along with a complete absence of dreams.

Exhaustion combined with sleeplessness is a rare torture. The two or three hours of sleep I was able to get at night were always at the behest of the minor tranquilizer Halcion — a matter which deserves particular notice. For some time now many experts in psychopharmacology have warned that the benzodiazepine family of tranquilizers, of which Halcion is one (Valium and Ativan are others), is capable of depressing mood and even precipitating a major depression. Over two years before my siege, an insouciant doctor had prescribed Avitan as a bedtime aid, telling me airily that I could take it as casually as aspirin. The Physician’s Desk Reference manual, the pharmacological bible, reveals that the medicine I had been ingesting was (a) three times the normally prescribed strength, (b) not advisable as a medication for more than a month or so, and (c) to be used with special caution by people of my age. At the time of which I am speaking, I had become addicted to Halcion as a sleeping aid, and was consuming large doses. It seems reasonable to think that this was still another contributory factor to the trouble that had come upon me. Certainly, it should be a caution to others.

At any rate, my few hours of sleep were usually terminated at three or four in the morning, when I stared up into yawning darkness, wondering and writhing at the devastation taking place in my mind, and awaiting the dawn, which usually permitted me a feverish, dreamless nap. I’m fairly certain that it was during one of these insomniac trances that there came over me the knowledge — a weird and shocking revelation, like that of some long-beshrouded metaphysical truth — that this condition would cost me my life if it continued on such a course.

What I had begun to discover is that, mysteriously and in ways that are totally remote from normal experience, the gray drizzle of horror induced by depression takes on the quality of physical pain. But it is not an immediately identifiable pain, like that of a broken limb. It may be more accurate to say that despair, owing to some evil trick played upon the sick brain by the inhabiting psyche, comes to resemble the diabolical discomfort of being imprisoned in a fiercely overheated room. And because no breeze stirs this caldron, because there is no escape from this smothering confinement, it is entirely natural that the victim begins to think ceaselessly of oblivion.

But if those in despair appear at risk of abandoning the living, in a death-denying society it is we in our own refusal to look into oblivion, recognizing its draw and its inevitability, who thereby reinforce the isolation of those who find themselves on the edge of this abyss.


Fighters abandoning al Qaeda affiliates to join #ISIS, U.S. officials say

The Washington Post reports: Even before its assault on Kurdish territories in northern Iraq this month, analysts said the Islamic State had shown an almost impulsive character in its pursuit of territory and recruits, with little patience for the elaborate and often time-consuming terror plots favored by al-Qaeda.

Counterterrorism analysts at the CIA and other agencies have so far seen no indication that an entire al-Qaeda node or any of its senior leaders are prepared to switch sides. But officials said they have begun watching for signs of such a development.

The launching of U.S. airstrikes has raised new questions, including whether the bombings will hurt the Islamic State’s ability to draw recruits or elevate its status among jihadists. “Does that increase the spigot or close it?” said a senior U.S. counterterrorism official, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity and noted that U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere have crippled al-Qaeda but also served as rallying cries against the United States.

Longer-term, U.S. officials expressed concern that the Islamic State, which so far has been focused predominantly on its goal of reestablishing an Islamic caliphate, may now place greater emphasis on carrying out attacks against the United States and its allies. [Continue reading...]

Hillary Clinton:

“One of the reasons why I worry about what’s happening in the Middle East right now is because of the breakout capacity of jihadist groups that can affect Europe, can affect the United States,” she said. “Jihadist groups are governing territory. They will never stay there, though. They are driven to expand. Their raison d’etre is to be against the West, against the Crusaders, against the fill-in-the-blank—and we all fit into one of these categories. How do we try to contain that? I’m thinking a lot about containment, deterrence, and defeat.”

The breakout capacity of jihadist groups? I strongly suspect that phrase was a gift from GOP strategist Frank Luntz. It offers a subliminal connection between terrorism and Iran’s nuclear program without having to make any substantive assertion to that effect. Instead, it conjures up jihadist groups as metaphorical weapons of mass destruction. Is this how a President Clinton would frame her iteration of the War on Terrorism?

More importantly, Clinton is echoing the U.S.-centric narcissistic view of terrorism that still prevails in this country: that extremists of every description have no greater desire than to find ways of killing Americans.

No doubt, ISIS has issued blood-curdling warnings, saying that the U.S. will be severely punished if it tries to obstruct the growth of the Islamic State, but the very fact that it has made these warnings is an indication that the group has vastly more interest in its caliphate project than it has in waging war with the U.S..

ISIS is not at war with America — it’s enemy is the Shia.

That’s not to imply that the rest of the world has any justification for being complacent about the level of mayhem ISIS can and already has created. It’s simply a suggestion that “American lives are at stake” should not be the only rationale guiding U.S. foreign affairs.


‘I just want people to pay’

Even though I spend too many of my waking hours on the internet, like a hamster on an endlessly spinning wheel, I have some sympathy for John R. MacArthur’s disdain for online publishing. Indeed, it’s probably because of this sense that the internet has an unlimited capacity to eat time that I see some appeal in the idea that we might return to a pre-digital age of print.

But the passionate defense of print media that the publisher of Harper’s magazine makes, falls apart when we learn this:

On several occasions during a recent interview, he could not quite remember a fact that supported a point. His version of searching for it on Google was yelling to a staff member, who hurried to deliver the information.

Who needs Google when they have staff?

But perhaps the more relevent question would be: who needs to use Google when they have staff who can use Google?

MacArthur’s argument against online publishing is that the web isn’t “much more than a gigantic Xerox machine” that prevents publishers and writers getting paid.

Even so, when he somewhat dismissively refers to the internet as a place where people go to blow off steam, I wonder whether he is oblivious of the degree to which he indirectly relies on it — like a man who says he doesn’t need to know how to cook because all his meals get delivered by caterers.

MacArthur might believe his argument is against those who promote online media and thereby undermine the economic viability of publishing, but maybe he should imagine how he would make his case with Gutenburg.

Whereas Gutenburg came up with the means of making the written word accessible to the masses and thereby democratized human expression, the revivalists of print seem more interested in restricting access of their publications to their well-heeled subscribers.

MacArthur might believe that everyone who is cultivated enough to appreciate a quality literary magazine will also be able to afford paying for it, but in making that assumption he represents the American liberal elite with its over-sized sense of being liberal and its downplayed status as an elite.


Send them parasols?

CODEPINK asks: “Why does our President want to take sides and get involved in a civil war? The US is not the target of ISIS, but if we become involved, we will be.”

A lot of Americans these days, some of whom regard themselves as impeccable humanitarians, have formed the conviction that when it comes to the Middle East (or pretty much anywhere else in the world), intervention by the United States — especially military intervention — can do nothing but harm.

President Obama’s concerns about the Iraqi humanitarian crisis and the safety of US personnel can be solved without dropping bombs. Helping the besieged civilians in Iraq should be an orchestrated international effort, not carried out just by the US — the country that unleashed the sectarian turmoil in the first place. (CODEPINK)

Tens of thousands of Iraqis fled from ISIS, taking refuge on a mountain top where they have no food, water, or shelter. How long could anyone survive in these conditions when daytime temperatures often exceed 100F?

By the time CODEPINK’s wished for international effort could be orchestrated, thousands of those in need of help would be dead.

Channel 4 News
spoke to a Yazidi refugee, Barakat al-Issa, who is trapped in the Sinjar mountains: “the situation is very tragic, more than 100 thousand people are trapped in the mountains here, in need of water and food.”

The Americans and Turkish have carried out air drops of aid, but the effort was not sufficient said Mr al-Issa: “They are saying that planes are dropping aid, but this aid is only getting to some 5 per cent of the people who are trapped here, because of the mountainous terrain.”

“People are waiting here for international forces to intervene, in the hope that this will become a safe haven for aid to be delivered.”

“Most of the people here are civilians and they hope a peacekeeping force will come from Iraq or Nato.”

He accused the Islamic State militants of kidnapping at least 500 Yazidi women, whose fate remains unknown, and said that dozens of families had been murdered in the south of the Sinjar mountains as they tried to flee. He also repeated allegations that militants had been seen executing women and children.

To advocate neutrality in this conflict seems indicative of either being willfully deluded about the nature of ISIS or the result of simply not paying attention to what has been happening in Syria and Iraq over the last two years.

ISIS, or the Islamic State as it now prefers to be known, is utterly uncompromising. These men have chosen to fight a war that they will either win or lose — don’t expect them to ever send a delegation of negotiators to Geneva or start talking about how they want to live peacefully side by side with anyone. Coexistence is not part of their vocabulary.

Anyone in CODEPINK who is averse to taking sides should watch the video below — or at least as much of it as they can stomach — to witness how these jihadists whose passion for killing has no limit choose to portray themselves.

Some of the latest military action in Iraq appears to already by paying off but the situation remains dire, as Rudaw reports:

Local officials said today that 10,000 Yezidis who were stranded on Mount Shingal for one week were rescued and settled in the town of Zakho.

Medical teams and aid organizations in Zakho have rushed in to assist the rescued families, said Rudaw reporter.

Ashti Kocher, Zakho’s security chief said that Kurdish armed forces have opened a safe corridor for the Yezidis at Mount Shingal.

“We have also cleared about 30 kilometers of the ISIL forces in order to open a road for those families,” said Kocher, who currently leads a Peshmerga unit at Sinune village near Shingal.

Kocher said that the rescued civilians were transported to the Kurdistan Region through Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) which is under the control of Kurdish forces known as the Peoples Protection Units (YPG).

Barakat Issa, Rudaw reporter on Mount Shingal said that the number of Yezidis stranded on the mountain is higher than initially reported. He said that nearly 100,000 people are hiding on the mountain.

Issa said that in the past few days 60 children and elderly have [died] … of hunger and thirst while there is fear that Islamic militants controlling the town of Shingal and other villages have massacred hundreds of others.

Stephen Walt proposes a course of inaction for the U.S. in the Middle East on the grounds that U.S. intervention never has its desired effects, but he adds this caveat:

[T]his argument would not preclude limited U.S. action for purely humanitarian purposes — such as humanitarian airdrops for the beleaguered religious minorities now threatened with starvation in Iraq. That’s not “deep engagement”; that’s merely trying to help people threatened with imminent death. But I would not send U.S. forces — including drones or aircraft — out to win a battle that the Iraqi government or the Kurds cannot win for themselves.

So the anti-interventionist “humanitarian” perspective is this — if I understand it correctly: we should try to make sure the Yazidi do not starve to death on the mountaintop. If, however, they manage to come back down only later to be slaughtered by ISIS, that’s their problem.


No innocent civilians in #Gaza, says former head of #Israel’s National Security Council

Giora Eiland is a retired Major General from the Israel Defense Forces. As head of Ariel Sharon’s National Security Council, Eiland helped draft Israel’s disengagement plan for removing Israeli military forces and settlers from Gaza.

In an op-ed for Ynet today, “In Gaza, there is no such thing as ‘innocent civilians’,” Eiland provides a rationale for making no distinction between Palestinian fighters and Palestinian children — they all in his mind belong to an “enemy state.”

[W]e must avoid the artificial, wrong and dangerous distinction between the Hamas people, who are “the bad guys,” and Gaza’s residents, which are allegedly “the good guys.” We are dealing with an enemy state, not with a terror organization which is seemingly operating from within an innocent civilian population.

He hardly needed to articulate this view as though it constitutes a policy recommendation, since it appears to be perfectly in accordance with the way in which the Israeli government, its military commanders, and its individual soldiers, have conducted the latest war.

The casualty figures, as compiled by the UN, speak for themselves:



#Obama won’t end #Israel’s war on #Gaza

After an Israeli airstrike near a UN shelter which killed at least 10 people on Sunday, the State Department issued a statement saying: “The suspicion that militants are operating nearby [a UN shelter] does not justify strikes that put at risk the lives of so many innocent civilians.”

From day one in the current war, Israel has attempted to absolve itself for responsibility for civilian casualties by arguing that they are “human shields.” What the State Department finally made clear is that describing civilians as human shields does not make their lives expendable.

The State Department has understood this legal fact from day one but it waited almost a month before asserting this with any force. And even while the Obama administration caught the media’s attention in the last few days for voicing “harsh” criticism of the Israelis, it did so at the very same time as replenishing Israel’s supply of munitions.

The New York Times reports:

For all its outrage over civilian casualties, the United States steadfastly backs Israel’s right to defend itself and shares Israel’s view that Hamas is a terrorist organization. In a world of bitter enmities, the Israeli-American dispute is more akin to a family quarrel.

The White House seems determined to tamp down the latest eruption in tensions. “The nature of our relationship is strong and unchanged,” the press secretary, Josh Earnest, told reporters on Monday, pointing to comments by Mr. Netanyahu over the weekend, in which he said, “I think the United States has been terrific.”

The two statements are part of a recurring pattern for this administration: an angry outburst, followed by calmer words and the grudging recognition that little is going to change in the fundamental relationship between the United States and its closest ally in the Middle East.

Disputes between the United States and Israel are hardly new. President Ronald Reagan sold Awacs surveillance planes to Saudi Arabia over Israel’s fierce objections. George H.W. Bush held up loan guarantees because of Israeli settlement construction. Bill Clinton fumed after his first Oval Office encounter with a newly elected Israeli prime minister, Mr. Netanyahu.

But the chronic nature of this tension is unusual — and, according to current and former officials, rooted in ill will at the very top. “You have a backdrop of a very acrimonious relationship between the president and the prime minister of Israel,” said Robert M. Danin, a Middle East expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.

While tensions between Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu only occasionally spill into the open, Mr. Kerry became the subject of very public and vitriolic — albeit anonymous — criticism from Israeli officials for his efforts two weeks ago to negotiate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. His proposal, the officials said, was tilted in favor of Hamas and did not do enough to protect Israel’s security.

Mr. Kerry, American officials responded, based his efforts on an Egyptian cease-fire proposal that had already been accepted by the Israelis. He submitted his ideas to the Israelis, anticipating that they would have concerns. Whatever the precise circumstances, Mr. Kerry found himself excoriated across the political spectrum in Israel.

At the White House, officials were incensed by what they saw as shabby treatment of Mr. Kerry, a loyal friend of Israel. In addition to the cease-fire and the peace talks, they noted, Mr. Kerry went to bat for Israel with the Federal Aviation Administration after it imposed a ban on commercial flights to Tel Aviv following a rocket attack near Ben-Gurion International Airport.

What does batting for Israel against the FAA mean? That at a moment when Israel seemed particularly vulnerable, the Secretary of State for the United States thought that it was his job to place the interests of Israel’s economy above those of his own citizens.

Now that a ceasefire has tentatively taken hold, the U.S. role in negotiations in Cairo, nominally promoting mediation yet predictably operating as Israel’s most loyal supporter, is to make sure that Israel’s interests take precedence above all others.

It is in Israel’s interests that it now contrive an expression of its humanitarian concerns — that after having flattened many parts of Gaza it will pay lip service to the need to consider the welfare of the population.

Yet there seems little doubt that even if the siege is “eased” is various ways, Israel’s war against Gaza will continue.


#HannibalDirective: #Israel confirms that it killed 130 #Palestinians in effort to ‘rescue’ (kill) one soldier

Haaretz reports: After Friday’s abduction of 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin in the Gaza Strip, the Israel Defense Forces executed in full its “Hannibal procedure,” a protocol that calls for the massive use of force in an effort to rescue a captured soldier, even at risk to his life. As a result of the heavy fire in the Rafah area, dozens of innocent civilians were killed.

A senior General Staff officer said Sunday that “a great deal of fire was used in the area, and targets were attacked” in order to isolate it.

According to Palestinian reports, more than 130 Palestinians were killed in this onslaught, with some of the bodies located only in the days after it happened. Palestinians also accused the IDF of attacking vehicles en route to the Rafah hospital, including several ambulances.

IDF sources said that senior commanders in the field ordered the procedure implemented in full. The army knows that innocents were hurt as a result of the massive use of force after the soldier’s capture.

An IDF inquiry concluded that about 75 minutes after a cease-fire was to have taken effect on Friday morning, a Givati Brigade patrol came under heavy fire while moving toward a building where a tunnel shaft was located. Company commander Maj. Benaya Sarel and his communications officer, Staff Sgt. Liel Gidoni, were killed. The IDF now believes Goldin, a squad commander, was also killed in the incident.

Contrary to earlier reports, however, the inquiry concluded that the terrorist who came nearest the three soldiers wasn’t wearing a suicide belt, but simply continued firing his rifle until he was killed.

When other soldiers from the company arrived at the scene a few minutes later, they found three bodies, those of Sarel, Gidoni and a Hamas operative wearing an IDF uniform. They then realized that Goldin was missing. The company’s deputy commander, 1st Lt. Eitan, decided to take some of his men into the tunnel to search for Goldin, in violation of protocol.

A few hundred meters into the tunnel, the troops found some of Goldin’s personal effects, which later helped the IDF to establish that he had been killed. The tunnel itself had several branches, some of them blocked. One led into a mosque, which the soldiers searched, but it was empty. Another led to a Hamas outpost.

The IDF then sent additional forces to the area, including aircraft and observation equipment. According to an IDF source, virtually all the firepower in the south-central region of the Gaza Strip were sent to the Rafah sector, where the incident took place, on orders from Givati Brigade commander Col. Ofer Winter. This included a tank battalion and an infantry battalion, which helped search for additional tunnel shafts. These forces also laid down heavy fire “from all directions,” including tank shells, artillery bombardments and air strikes, in an effort to isolate the area where Goldin was thought to be, block all access routes to and from it and thereby ensure that nobody could either enter or leave without the soldiers noticing, the IDF source said. This was in line with the Hannibal procedure, which one senior officer said is meant to ensure that “every effort to locate the kidnapped [soldier] and the kidnappers” is made.

Anshel Pfeffer attempts to explain why Israel is willing to kill its own soldiers while attempting to “rescue” them:

Recent reports in the international media suggest that the directive is tantamount to ordering the captured soldier to be shot in order to prevent him being taken prisoner; rather, it is the suspension of safety procedures which normally prohibit firing in the general direction of an IDF soldier, specifically firing to stop an escaping vehicle.

The original order mentioned using light-arm fire, particularly selective sniper fire, to hit the captors or stop their vehicle – “even if that means hitting our soldiers. In any case, everything will be done to stop the vehicle and prevent it from escaping.”

That kind of makes sense — no effort spared in attempting to prevent a soldier being spirited away. But that’s not what just happened:

On Friday morning, when the IDF still believed that Lieutenant Hadar Goldin may have been taken alive by Hamas into an attack tunnel beneath Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, the Hannibal Directive was activated to its most devastating extent yet – including massive artillery bombardments and air strikes on possible escape routes.

Massive bombardment to “save” a soldier falls into the same category of Orwellian doublespeak as the infamous need to destroy villages in order to save them (in Vietnam).

Nevertheless, Pfeffer goes on to say:

Perhaps the most deeply engrained reason that Israelis innately understand the needs for the Hannibal Directive is the military ethos of never leaving wounded men on the battlefield, which became the spirit following the War of Independence, when hideously mutilated bodies of Israeli soldiers were recovered.

So what happened on Friday? Goldin’s body was most likely hideously mutilated by an American-manufactured, Israeli-fired artillery shell and spared the risk of becoming hideously mutilated in some other way.

I’d like to hear Gilad Shalit‘s opinion on how well this rationale holds up.


The self-aggrandizing pathology of #Israeli identity

During Israel’s latest assault on Gaza, over 1,700 people have been killed. For the Western media, no single death has been deemed worthy of a headline. The dead are counted in numbers. The identities of Palestinians have been most specific when it comes to the numbers of children, yet still to most of the world these remain nameless and faceless young people.

But on Friday the war suddenly focused sharply on a single face and name captured in photos revealing the youthful smile of an Israeli soldier: Lieutenant Hadar Goldin.

In a brutal and cynical act, Hamas had kidnapped the young soldier and in so doing, torn up an agreement for a humanitarian ceasefire — at least, that was the story Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama broadcast with outrage and indignation.

Washington must not “ever second-guess me again” on how to deal with Hamas, Netanyahu later demanded while scolding the U.S. ambassador, Dan Shapiro.

It turns out that Goldin was not kidnapped but was killed in battle, according to the IDF. That determination is itself somewhat mysterious. The IDF initially said it was the conclusion reached by a “special committee.”

Just as mysterious is this: “It is understood the army came to its conclusion after examining DNA evidence, reports the BBC’s Bethany Bell in Jerusalem. No body has been found.” Note that: DNA but no body.

Just in case Goldin’s story sounds familiar but you’re not sure why, remember what triggered this war: the “kidnapping” of three Israeli settlers who were reported as missing even when they were already presumed dead.

In a column today, Nahum Barnea writes:

The press conference convened at the Kirya Base in Tel Aviv on Saturday night was meant to be a victory conference. We have been saved: The operation has ended. Hamas has been destroyed. Our forces have returned home safely.

A crowded lineup of State of Israel flags was placed behind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. The flags conveyed a sense of festivity. The two officials’ faces conveyed a sense of Tisha B’Av.

Netanyahu delayed his appearance by 20 minutes because of the comments made by the family members of kidnapped officer Hadar Goldin. The family demanded defiantly that the IDF avoid leaving the Strip as long as their son was in Hamas’ hands, dead or alive.

Netanyahu and Ya’alon did not accept the demand, but were forced to rewrite their speeches. From an announcement about a unilateral withdrawal of IDF forces from the Strip, Netanyahu moved to vague, unbinding sentences, such as “all options are on the table.” When the Americans say that about Iran, we know there are neither options nor a table, that it’s all talk. I doubt Netanyahu has any options.

It seems highly improbable that Netanyahu was in any doubt that Goldin had been killed and his body will never be recovered, but the IDF announcement to that effect did not come until after the “victory” speech. The timing of that announcement would appear to have fit into a political schedule rather than being determined by a sequence of discovery. Netanyahu was thereby spared from facing questions about why he had decided that Goldin’s body could be left behind.

The grief of Goldin’s family and friends cannot be any less profound than that shared by the tens of thousands of Palestinians who have lost family members.

And yet, when Israel grieves its losses, it doesn’t simply convey how much it cares for its own; it underlines the extent to which it attaches so little value to the lives of others.

For many and maybe most Israelis, non-Israeli non-Jewish life apparently isn’t worth much. Nor can much worth or credence be attached to the words of those Israelis who profess their grief at the loss of innocent life when in the very same breath they justify their own brutality.

These justifications always assert that Israel only kills in accordance with the dictates of necessity. Israel uses violence when left with no other choice.

But to claim that when killing a man designated as a “terrorist” it is sometimes unavoidable to sacrifice the lives of those around him is a bald-faced lie. I repeat: it is a lie. And it is a lie that has been repeated again and again over the last month as whole families have again and again been slaughtered.

If the same “terrorist” happened to be surrounded not by his family but he was in a crowded part of Jerusalem surrounded by Jewish Israelis, the calculus would be completely reversed.

The necessity of saving the lives of the Israelis would suddenly trump the necessity of killing the “terrorist.”

(And note: we now live in a word where the term terrorist simply means: someone whose right to life has been revoked and who can therefore be killed without any legal process. Every terrorist is marked for summary execution.)

This is what exposes the lie — a lie used just as often by Americans as it is by Israelis — of so-called “collateral damage”: No government ever has the audacity to refer to its own citizens as collateral damage. This is a designation reserved for lives, always non-white, that are regarded as being worth less.

These are people who get eliminated supposedly because they are unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. But in reality they are viewed by their killers as having lives that simply aren’t worth protecting.

Anyone who believes that the life of a Jew has greater intrinsic value than that of anyone else, is, I would say, a racist.

Some may believe that among the tribes of humanity the Jewish people are something akin to endangered species — that there is a Jewish imperative for survival that non-Jews cannot understand. Of course, your not Jewish, you can’t understand, erects a wall that even the most agile gentile cannot spring over.

Even though the Jewish fear of annihilation is authentically grounded in the memory of the Holocaust and centuries of antisemitism, this fear appears in recent decades to have metastasized and grown into a rage for survival, justifying murder.

All forms of survivalism are pathological in their refusal to embrace the universal reality of death: the fact that no one’s life is so precious that it cannot be lost or so durable that it will never end.

The stridency with which Israel has come to assert its right to exist and its right to defend itself, fuels a self-righteous passion in which Israelis believe they have a right to kill Palestinians. Such a right can only be claimed by a people who hold themselves in too high regard.

Around the world there are many endangered peoples and endangered cultures — neither Jewish Israelis, Jews in general, nor Jewish culture face such a threat of extinction. What they face is a fear of annihilation that for many forms the core of their identity.

Anyone, Jewish or not, whose life becomes molded by their fear of death ends up strangling the very thing they hold too tight. We can only embrace life by also facing our own mortality.


#Hamas statement on the violation of the ceasefire and the missing #Israeli soldier

Since the mainstream media so widely reported that Hamas “violated” the internationally brokered ceasefire in Gaza on Friday, it’s worth hearing in full Hamas’s own explanation about what happened. The following press release comes from Hamas’s military wing, the Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades and appeared in English on their website yesterday.

Statement Clarifying the Zionist Enemy’s Violation of the Humanitarian Ceasefire, the Claim of the Disappearance of One Soldier, and the Clashes East of Rafah

The Zionist Enemy violated the humanitarian ceasefire yesterday, Friday, 1 August 2014, by moving forces to the East of Rafah, the continued artillery shelling, and the deployment of snipers on many fronts in the Gaza Strip. In addition, Enemy Forces committed a terrible massacre against civilians in Rafah, killing dozens; and the killing of Palestinian civilians continues. The Zionist Enemy claims the disappearance of one soldier. In this regard, Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades, after conducting an internal review in the relevant circumstances, affirms the following:

1- Zionist Enemy Forces used the talks about a humanitarian ceasefire to advance troops more than two kilometers inside the Gaze Strip to the east of Rafah. Our assessment is that one of our deployed ambushes clashed with the advancing troops. The clash started around 7:00 a.m., before the humanitarian ceasefire. Enemy artillery and air force directed its fire on civilians after 10:00 a.m. in a flagrant violation of the ceasefire, under the pretext of searching for a missing soldier.

2- We lost contact with the troops deployed in the ambush; and assess that these troops were probably killed by enemy bombardment, including the solider said to be missing, presuming that our troops took him prisoner during the clash.

3- Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades has no information till this moment about the missing soldier, his place, or the circumstances of his disappearance.

4- We informed the mediators who participated in arranging the humanitarian ceasefire of our agreement to cease fire against Zionist cities and settlements; and that we cannot operationally cease fire against troops inside the Gaza Strip that conduct operations and move continuously. These Enemy Forces could easily come in contact with our deployed ambushes, which will lead to a clash.

One of several features of the latest turn of events that has received little to no attention in the media, is the fact that Israel claimed it had agreed to a ceasefire yet it also asserted its right to continue its military operations during the ceasefire. A ceasefire that is used to reposition troops, search for tunnels, or pursue other strategic objectives, is not a ceasefire; it is a subterfuge.