Accountability for Assad’s Murder of Marie Colvin: A Precedent for Justice?

By Javier SethnessColvin RIP

Originally published on Notes Toward an International Libertarian Eco-Socialism

On Thursday, January 31, a U.S. judge found the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad responsible for the targeted assassination of U.S. journalist Marie Colvin in Homs in 2012. A reporter for The Sunday Times, Colvin had been covering the regime’s besiegement of the Baba Amr district of Homs, whose population had rebelled against Assad’s rule as part of the Revolution which had begun in the southern city of Der’aa in March 2011. Though evacuated with other internationals and journalists within days of her arrival as a precautionary measure in light of a threatened regime offensive, Colvin returned with the French photojournalist Rémi Ochlik and British photographer Paul Conroy to the improvised community media center from where they had been reporting. As Conroy describes, he, Colvin, and Ochlik believed that, by reporting on the regime’s besiegement of Baba Amr, they could affect world opinion and bring relief to civilians under fire.  It was from Baba Amr that Colvin courageously went live on CNN, the BBC, ITN News, and Channel 4 News, on February 21, 2012, to belie the Assad regime’s fabrications that its assault on the district was exclusively targeting so-called “terrorists.” It was for this reason that the regime killed her, the very next morning after the broadcast. They triangulated her location via her cell signal due to Colvin’s bravery in broadcasting the devastating truth to the world, murdering her and Ochlik in a targeted artillery strike. As judge Amy Jackson observes in her ruling, Colvin was “specifically targeted because of her profession, for the purpose of silencing those reporting on the growing opposition movement in the country.”

Colvin’s remarkable story is told in two recent films: Under the Wire and A Private War. I will not here be discussing Under the Wire, which is brilliantly reviewed by Muhammad Idrees Ahmad in the New York Review of Books here. Instead, I will offer some comments about A Private War, a 2018 dramatization of Colvin’s life, directed by Matthew Heineman and written by Marie Brenner and Arash Amel.

Though Colvin covered armed conflicts for three decades, in A Private War, we follow her in her later assignments to war zones in Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. It is amidst covering Sri Lanka’s civil war that Colvin suffers a disfiguring injury, leading her to wear a distinctive eye-patch over her left orbit. While there is little sense in the film that Colvin had an anti-imperialist critique of U.S. participation in wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, the film depicts her dynamic and increasingly humanist approach to journalism, culminating in her martyrdom in Homs in February 2012. During the Libya segment, which takes place shortly after the outbreak of protests against Mua’mmar al-Qaddafi, we see Colvin outright interviewing the autocrat. Though Colvin never had the chance to question Assad—she was no Vanessa Beeley, a neo-fascist propagandist, but rather the Syrian despot’s direct victim—we get the sense that the writers and director are here channeling Assad’s specter through Colvin’s interaction with Qaddafi, given their similarities, from political authoritarianism to inter-personal repulsiveness and sexism, and their common opportunistic use of nationalist, ‘socialist,’ and ‘anti-imperialist’ rhetoric to legitimize their crimes. It follows logically that both Qaddafi and Assad would present essentially all opposition to their rule as “al-Qaeda” and/or “terrorists,” as they have.

Continue reading “Accountability for Assad’s Murder of Marie Colvin: A Precedent for Justice?”

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A “Hands Off Syria Forum”… at the Harriet Tubman Center for Social Justice?

by Javier Sethness, for the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice (CPRSJ)

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First of all, it is extremely unlikely that Harriet Tubman, the abolitionist leader of the Underground Railroad and anti-Confederate fighter during the U.S. Civil War, would ever countenance a “forum” uncritical of a fascist dictatorship engaged in a genocidal counter-revolution taking place anywhere bearing her name!

The International Action Center’s (IAC) announcement for an event that took place on Saturday, September 22nd, declares its opposition to the supposed U.S. war “against the people of Syria!” Certainly, the more than 15,000 airstrikes launched by the U.S. since 2014, mostly against supposed Islamic State targets, have involved many atrocities, including the destruction of Raqqa. Yet the announcement is silent about the origins of the Syrian uprising as class struggle against despotism and the clear counter-insurgent war waged by Bashar al-Assad alongside his reactionary allies: Putin’s Russia, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Lebanese Hezbollah, Liwa Fatemiyoun from Afghanistan, and other affiliated paramilitary groups from Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Instead, the announcement parrots pro-Putin and pro-Assad propaganda, claiming that the regime is about to “liberate” Idlib from “Western-backed terrorist groups.” Such framing silences the estimated 100,000 detainees who have been killed by torture in Assad’s prisons since 2011, and seeks to downplay the horror that the conquest of Idlib would entail, echoing the fate of Darayya, Homs, Eastern Aleppo, Ghouta, and Der’aa. Besides, the rebel groups in Idlib are closer to Turkey than the West. To claim these to be “contra armies,” as the IAC does, is to present an extremely misleading and false equivalence between the Sandinista Revolution and the Assad Regime.

Continue reading “A “Hands Off Syria Forum”… at the Harriet Tubman Center for Social Justice?”

Massacre of Peaceful Gaza Demonstrators: An Israeli Crime Against Humanity

By Kevin Anderson

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KHAN YUNIS, GAZA – MARCH 31: A girl, affected by tear gas, is being carried away by a boy after Israeli forces’ intervention in a demonstration within the “Great March of Return” at the Israeli border east of Khan Yunis, Gaza on March 31, 2018 (Ashraf Amra, Anadolu Agency)

 First appeared in New Politics Online

On March 30, over 30,000 Palestinians — children, women, and men — gathered near the Gaza border with Israel. As they assembled several hundred yards away from the border fence, 18 peaceful demonstrators were gunned down by Israeli military snipers using live ammunition, with over a thousand reportedly suffering bullet wounds. Many of the demonstrators had come as whole families, with picnic supplies.

The Palestinian protests continued for a second week on April 6, when Israeli snipers again used live ammunition, killing 10 demonstrators. Time will tell whether this turns into a new Intifada.

March 30, 2018 showed Israel’s descent into unabashed crimes against humanity, carried out openly by its military, and defended afterwards equally openly by its political and military leadership.

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New Uprisings in Iran: A Preliminary Analysis — by Ali Kiani

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Courtesy AFP/Getty Images

Presented in Los Angeles at a January 14, 2018 public forum sponsored by the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice

It is four weeks after the protest began against the Islamic Republic of Iran in Mashhad, one of the most religious cities of the northern province of Khorasan. This protest is different from Iranian struggles for freedom and democracy over the last decade, including the Green Movement of 2009-10 that started in the capital city of Tehran. The start of this latest movement is more like the Arab Spring of Egypt and Tunisia which erupted into an unexpected uprising of poor and working-class people demanding democracy, social justice and economic equality within a matter of weeks in early 2011. The epicenters of the protests were in regions badly hit by the economic crisis like Mashhad, which was stronghold of religious fundamentalists and the home of two of President Hassan Rouhani’s main rivals in the 2017 presidential elections. On December 28, when thousands of citizens came together in Mashhad to protest against higher prices and economic hardship, some “reformers” accused religious principalist fanatics under Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda, a representative of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, of having the intention of covertly organizing the demonstration for a few days to weaken the “moderate” president, Rouhani, and his administration. Despite the hardliners’ intentions, once people went into the streets, protests quickly followed in dozens of other small to mid-sized towns that suffered from high rates of unemployment. They chanted slogans against the supreme leader and the regime as a whole, which shows that even if the uprising was started by a conspiracy on the part of one faction in the regime, it was not under its thumb.

Continue reading “New Uprisings in Iran: A Preliminary Analysis — by Ali Kiani”