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Killer's PR Blitz Successful – Assad Can Keep Killing Children, Women and Men


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DAMASCUS – In a mesmerizing turn of events, Bashar al-Assad has basically overnight altered the international rhetoric regarding the conflict in Syria. He has gone from being seen as the murderer of his own people to someone who sets the agenda and the timetable for the US and the international community. Bashar al-Assad and his spin doctors  were successful in making the US with its intended action – and not Syria – an "unlawful aggressor", a view which has been taken on by the majority of people and policymakers around the world.  Today the world celebrates the US-Russian breakthrough on Assad handing in his chemical weapons, which will probably never happen and which does not help the victims whom Assad keeps killing with his Scud missiles, tanks, bomber planes, cluster bombs and whatever weaponry the West, China  and Russia have sold him at a profit. During our Cinema for Peace visit to Aleppo we saw a narrowed space where Assad's army had shot a Scud missile into the city center – from the former homes and its families nothing was left. Today's agreement, which is celebrated internationally as a great victory of diplomacy, will make sure that Assad can keep doing this. He will give the UN, Russia and the USA a list of his chemical weapons within a week and he will enjoy impunity for now. The agreement that Assad will allow his chemical weapons to be controlled is not realistic, if you consider how the Arab League and the UN tried to achieve similar control  in 2011 and 2012 and failed as they were faced with attacks. Russia, Kerry and Assad know all this very well:

- In December 2011, the Arab League sent observers to Syria to verify whether the Syrian regime actually contributed to the peace plan, released political prisoners, authorized demonstrations and limited the violence. A month later, they gave the mission up. "A new brutal repression by the government makes it too dangerous to continue the monitoring mission," said the Arab League.
- Subsequently, the UN tried their luck. An observer mission from April 2012 was supposed to review the implementation of the peace plan. Damascus first delayed the entry of the observers. Then they were repeatedly shot at by unknown perpetrators and soon they hardly left their hotels. In August 2012, the UN gave up frustrated and let the mission's mandate expire. The requirement for the mission – a cessation of violence by both sides – had not been met, the UN blamed.

The Western media is equally struck by this PR stunt; instead of reporting about the continuing killings committed by Assad's regime, old re-edited pictures of rebels executing army soldiers from 2012 and pictures of people in Damascus praying for peace have been published; meanwhile, innocent people are being slaughtered behind the scenes at an ongoing monthly rate of 5.000 to 10.000 victims. Imagine Hitler and Goebbels would have sent pictures of peace prayers and of Stalin's executions in a PR-Blitz from Berlin in 1942/43 and successfully avoiding hereby D-Day and the liberation of Europe? In a similar way Milosevic kept killing in Bosnia for three years during so called peace talks, before the US took the lead to stop this murdering dictator, whose troops cut off babies heads if they were male or crying too loud, as you can witness through the testimonies at our Genocide Film Library by Cinema for Peace in Srebrenica – THIS is the reality of war, not the media rhetoric which has taken control of people's opinions, sitting at home on their couches, feeling relieved that their country can stay away from Syria, while completely eliminating the most important question of all:  Are we not obliged to help this poor people in any case with all we have? Is it morally acceptable that we ban a weapon which can endanger ourselves, but comply with any other form of killings as they don't endanger us?

Why did the world agree to go against the world's most evil war criminals like Hitler, Milosevic, Saddam Hussein (which should have been possible without bombing a whole country and starting a war – Cinema for Peace was a huge opponent of the US invasion and bombing of Iraq, especially after the US administration had given Saddam Hussein up to 1 billion USD per year, and even supported him while killing the Kurds), but turns a blind eye on Assad – who can sit in US talk shows thanks to his PR-wizards and explain that he is doing nothing wrong and is actually in the end a nice guy? Imagine the victims in Syria watching this and losing their last hopes for help by the international community, possibly finally turning radical if they haven't already? Why should western principles seem attractive to them if we tolerate the death of innocent people and make them second-class global citizens with no moral obligation to protect them and follow the UN charter which all countries have signed?  What makes us different to terrorists who ignore universal principles of humanity and the rule of law – just the way it fits their own momentary goals?  Shouldn't the rule of law and the responsibility to protect include every global citizen in the same way? Wasn't the UN created in order to achieve this?

It is a crime to kill people, it is a crime to stand by if you have the ability to protect them and you lose all your moral authority if you abandon universal moral principles. Noam Chomsky states that:
“ ... if we adopt the principle of universality : if an action is right (or wrong) for others, it is right (or wrong) for us. Those who do not rise to the minimal moral level of applying to themselves the standards they apply to others more stringent ones, in fact—plainly cannot be taken seriously when they speak of appropriateness of response; or of right and wrong, good and evil.”
“ In fact, one of the, maybe the most, elementary of moral principles is that of universality, that is, If something's right for me, it's right for you; if it's wrong for you, it's wrong for me. Any moral code that is even worth looking at has that at its core somehow."


Criticism against  US action, which  was supposed to take out key military targets with the goal of diminishing Bashar al-Assad's capability of killing Syrian citizens and of using chemical weapons, has been harsh. In fact so harsh, that in the past weeks the discussion has completely replaced concrete attempts at helping the civilian population in Syria. Many policymakers refer to the UN and stress the neccessity to follow international law, even though they know  that with Russia's or China's veto probably nothing will happen and that the UN law actually obliges the member countries to intervene in Syria in order to stop a war by a dictator against his own country. This is modern day "diplomacy": You don't want to or can not solve a problem? No problem, you simply refer it into somebody else's responsibility, somebody who is equally incapable of solving the problem.

The international community's concern with any intervention also relates to  the question what will happen to Syria afterwards? Nobody can answer this question fully, but is this a legitimate  reason not to protect the victims? Should a discussion of the future of Syria not follow international action to end the conflict, especially as peace talks after stopping Assad might work well, as they did in Bosnia after the aggressor was finally stopped and forced to the negotiation table – since then there has been peace.

The international community has a shameful track record in leaving people in the grips of violence while itself doing nothing: nobody helped the Jews in Nazi Germany, even after the concentration camps were discovered, not even the train-railways were bombed to stop the death trains; the Tutsis in Rwanda nor the Bosniaks in Bosnia, and we are now letting the same happen in Syria – and don't feel in any way ashamed. The only thing which is new thanks to the successful PR-stunt: whoever opposes military help for the Syrian people can present himself as a messenger of peace - completely ignoring the fact that a strike would have provided protection to the victims and stopped Assad from killing them, and that impunity for Assad as it stands now will make him kill many more people.

What if our own group of people was next; would we wish the same fate for ourselves? Imagine Israel under attack by Syria's allies Hezbollah and Iran with 100.000 dead and nobody helping because of the surrounding geopolitical dangers? Why is such a thought obscene in regards to a western country and Israel, but not in regards to Syria, Sudan or Eastern Congo? Are they  second class humans? How can we be proud about our achievements for equal rights, for the LGBT community, the abolition of slavery, apartheid, segregation – and at the same time decide that people of certain nationality may be killed as they are not important enough to be protected?

The world's military expenditure is 1700 billion dollars per year, but if 20 billion is needed to stop a major part of a war by establishing a no-fly-zone in Syria, which would protect most of the population, this is too expensive?  If we spend a fortune for wars and all  the weaponry, why can't we oblige the arms industry to pay for the criminal misuse of the weapons they have sold to murderers?

This is about much more than just Syria. Future world peace and our moral credibility are at stake  if we don't stop the civilians of Syria getting killed by Assad. It can't seriously  matter from the perspective of the victims and our responsibility to protect  if they get killed by chemical weapons or ordinary guns (both sold with huge profits through bystanding countries and our arms industry) in a war that has cost over 110.000 lives and led to 6 million people having to flee their homes up to date.

If the international community offers to Assad to give up an intervention, then the control over the chemical weapons can only be a first step, the second demand towards Assad needs to be to immediately negotiate a cease-fire and an end of killings, a third step an intermediary parliament including the opposition and as a fourth step free elections in 2014 – and a referral of Assad and his fellow murderers to the International Criminal Court.  This would be a true victory of diplomacy and democracy. Bosnia has proven that this will not happen without military pressure on the brutal aggressor, who will give away his power or go to The Hague only if he will have to fear for himself. 

Here are further excerpts from today's news:
From the New York Times:

George Little, the Pentagon press secretary, emphasized today  that the possibility of unilateral American military force was still on the table. “We haven’t made any changes to our force posture to this point,” Mr. Little said. “The credible threat of military force has been key to driving diplomatic progress, and it’s important that the Assad regime lives up to its obligations under the framework agreement.”

That reality was bitterly seized on by the fractured Syrian rebel forces, most of which have pleaded for American airstrikes. Gen. Salim Idris, the head of the Western-backed rebels’ nominal military command, the Supreme Military Council, denounced the initiative.

“All of this initiative does not interest us. Russia is a partner with the regime in killing the Syrian people,” he told reporters in Istanbul. “A crime against humanity has been committed, and there is not any mention of accountability.”

An immediate test of the viability of the accord will come within a week, when the Syrian government is to provide a “comprehensive listing” of its chemical arsenal. That list is to include the types and quantities of Syria’s poison gas, the chemical munitions it possesses, and the location of its storage, production and research sites.

The four-page framework agreement, including its technical annexes, are to be incorporated in a United Nations Security Council resolution that is to be adopted in New York.

One concern about how to implement the deal, however, involves how to protect international inspectors who come to Syria. There will be no cease-fire so the inspectors can carry out their work.

Asked whether rebels would aid the inspectors, General Idris, the Western-backed rebel military commander, called the issue “complicated,” saying, “If investigators come, we will facilitate the mission.”

The sense of betrayal among nominally pro-Western factions in the opposition has grown intensely in recent days.

In the northern Syrian province of Idlib, a rebel stronghold, one commander said that the agreement on Saturday proved that the United States no longer cared about helping Syrians and was leaving them at the mercy of a government backed by powerful allies in Russia and Iran.

Maysara, a commander of a battalion in Saraqeb, said in an interview that he had paid little attention to the diplomacy on Saturday.

“I don’t care about deals anymore,” he said in an interview. “The Americans found a way out of the strike.”

He added: “The Russians did what they want. The Americans lied, and the lie was believed — the the U.S. doesn’t want democracy in Syria. Now I have doubts about the U.S. capacities, their military and intelligence capacities. The Iranian capacity is much stronger, I guess.”
That reality was bitterly seized on by the fractured Syrian rebel forces, most of which have pleaded for American airstrikes. Gen. Salim Idris, the head of the Western-backed rebels’ nominal military command, the Supreme Military Council, denounced the initiative.
“All of this initiative does not interest us. Russia is a partner with the regime in killing the Syrian people,” he told reporters in Istanbul. “A crime against humanity has been committed, and there is not any mention of accountability.”
An immediate test of the viability of the accord will come within a week, when the Syrian government is to provide a “comprehensive listing” of its chemical arsenal. That list is to include the types and quantities of Syria’s poison gas, the chemical munitions it possesses, and the location of its storage, production and research sites.
The four-page framework agreement, including its technical annexes, are to be incorporated in a United Nations Security Council resolution that is to be adopted in New York.
One concern about how to implement the deal, however, involves how to protect international inspectors who come to Syria. There will be no cease-fire so the inspectors can carry out their work.
Asked whether rebels would aid the inspectors, General Idris, the Western-backed rebel military commander, called the issue “complicated,” saying, “If investigators come, we will facilitate the mission.”
The sense of betrayal among nominally pro-Western factions in the opposition has grown intensely in recent days.
In the northern Syrian province of Idlib, a rebel stronghold, one commander said that the agreement on Saturday proved that the United States no longer cared about helping Syrians and was leaving them at the mercy of a government backed by powerful allies in Russia and Iran.
Maysara, a commander of a battalion in Saraqeb, said in an interview that he had paid little attention to the diplomacy on Saturday.
“I don’t care about deals anymore,” he said in an interview. “The Americans found a way out of the strike.”
He added: “The Russians did what they want. The Americans lied, and the lie was believed — the U.S. doesn’t want democracy in Syria. Now I have doubts about the U.S. capacities, their military and intelligence capacities. The Iranian capacity is much stronger, I guess.”

From The Economist:


NEVER surrender the initiative. In handling Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons in Syria, Barack Obama has twice broken this basic rule of diplomacy. First the president submitted his administration’s muddled case for reprisals to a vote in a hostile Congress. Now he has handed the steering-wheel to Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president and no friend of America. Mr Putin is championing a scheme to disarm Syria’s poison gas and nerve agents.

Disarmament might yet work. But the danger is that Mr Assad will be free to duck and feint until what little determination there is to punish him dissipates like sarin in the Damascus breeze. To regain control, Mr Obama and his allies in the West should seek a tight UN resolution instructing Syria to co-operate. If either Mr Assad or Mr Putin cynically obstructs the UN, then America should even now be ready to strike.

The plan is seductive because it serves so many interests. Mr Assad would avoid an American strike of possibly devastating severity. He would also gain a rare chance to look reasonable—or, at least, more reasonable than Syria’s al-Qaeda-infested rebels. In a display of statesmanship, Mr Putin could point out that diplomacy can achieve so much more than the West’s knee-jerk calls for regime change. To some, that would redeem his support of Mr Assad during the brutal civil war. Mr Obama would be spared the likely humiliation of defeats over Syria in Congress. He could claim that his brilliant strategy has borne fruit. American voters, relieved not to be going to war yet again, might even believe him.

Unfortunately, though, the chances are that something will go wrong. Even if all sides enter into the agreement in good faith, the practicalities are daunting (see article). Any operation to destroy Syria’s arsenal could take years. While civil war rages, it will be hard to protect UN inspectors and for them to have access to all Syria’s chemical sites. Trust is almost non-existent, so the inspectors will need the freedom to go where they choose when they choose. That will be hard, too.

What if good faith is lacking? Saddam Hussein showed in Iraq how a regime that is minded to be awkward can play cat and mouse with weapons inspectors. The scope for Mr Assad to frustrate disarmament without ever rejecting it outright is almost infinite. Thanks to the past few weeks, he now knows that voters in the West have no stomach for striking Syria. The British prime minister suffered a defeat in parliament. The French president, a hero for dispatching troops to Mali at the start of this year, is apparently a zero for wanting to strike Mr Assad. Mr Obama’s efforts to convince his countrymen of the case for going to war seem so far only to have strengthened their desire to stay at home.

A vague, open-ended plan would therefore be a blueprint for Mr Assad to get away with his crime. So long as he made a few conciliatory gestures and refrained from another chemical attack, he would be able to hang on to at least some of his chemical weapons. He would also be freer than ever to do his worst against his own people, certain that no outside power was about to step in to protect them.

To succeed in his aim of re-establishing deterrence against chemical weapons, Mr Obama needs to regain the initiative. For that he needs a tough UN resolution, backed up by a vote in Congress authorising force if diplomacy fails. Mr Assad has bombed, shot and poisoned his people. Just this week he denied having chemical weapons, even as his foreign minister admitted it. He is not a man to be trusted. That is why the UN resolution needs to be clear that, if Mr Assad does not keep his word, then a military attack will follow.

Russia may reject this. It feels that Britain, France and America wrongly exploited a UN resolution over Libya to remove Muammar Qaddafi. But Russia, too, has seen how unpopular military action would be in the West. If it means what it says, it has nothing to fear. If it doesn’t, and it blocks an enforceable UN resolution, then Mr Obama will be back to square one. But this time he would have proof that diplomacy had failed.
On Thursday, 12th September, Cinema for Peace organized a screening in Berlin on the issue of the Syrian civil conflict and screened the films "Ground Zero: Syria" and "Agony of Aleppo". If you are interested in organizing screenings in your area please reply to this email for our advice and support.

We invite you to watch the following trailers on the conflict in Syria, PR & media manipulation and lobbying:
  • GROUND ZERO: SYRIA by Robert King  is a compilation of photojournalist and videographer King’s footage into a series of raw, largely unedited vignettes that present a snapshot of the ancient city of Aleppo as it crumbles and burns while its citizens are killed indiscriminately.
  • AGONY OF ALEPPO by Marcel Mettelsiefen is a report from the city of Aleppo in Syria under the grips of the civil conflict.
  • RUSSIAN LESSONS by Andrei Nekrasov, nominated for Cinema for Peace Award for Justice 2011, explores the causes of the war between Russia and Georgia. The film looks at the media manipulation and propaganda that accompanied the war.
  • SCHINDLER'S LIST by Steven Spielberg recounts how Oskar Schindler gradually becomes concerned for his Jewish workforce after witnessing their persecution by the Nazis.
  • A CRY FROM THE GRAVE by Leslie Woodhead is a documentary about the fall of Srebrenica (Bosnian civil war, 1995).
  • HOTEL RWANDA by Terry George is a true story of a hotel manager who housed over a thousand Tutsi refugees during their struggle against the Hutu militia in Rwanda.
  • THANK YOU FOR SMOKING by Jason Reitman is a satirical comedy that follows the machinations of Big Tobacco's chief spokesman, Nick Naylor, who spins on behalf of cigarettes while trying to remain a role model for his twelve-year-old son.