In Episode 77 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg applauds The Young Turks for challenging the increasingly hegemonic pro-Assad consensus on the American "left," with incisive programming on the 2018 Douma chemical attack and this year's sham elections that confirmed the dictator's rule. For calling out the relentless disinformation, they are of course coming under withering attack from Aaron Maté, Jimmy Dore, Katie Halper, Roger Waters and other stateside exponents of the Kremlin propaganda machine. Disgracefully, similar exponents, e.g., Ben Norton, are now predictably lining up behind the Burmese junta. Forthright repudiation of this toxic tendency is long overdue. But does the TYT critique go far enough? Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
In Episode 74 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg rises to the odious duty of deflating an idol of his youth—former Pink Floyd frontman and creative genius Roger Waters. While he grandstands against the bombardment of Gaza, Waters spreads propaganda that seeks to deny and whitewash the equal and even greater crimes of Syria's genocidal dictator Bashar Assad. Pink Floyd's 1979 album The Wall satirized rock stars who flirted with fascism, but Waters has now perversely turned into just what he was satirizing back then. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
The head of a UN team investigating the atrocities by the Islamic State in Iraq & the Levant (ISIL), Special Advisor Karim Khan, reported to the UN Security Council May 10 that the team has established "clear and convincing" evidence of genocide against the Yazidi religious minority. The UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da'esh/ISIL (UNITAD) has finalized preliminary case briefs on two key priorities: the attacks against the Yazidi community in the Sinjar region of Iraq starting in June 2014, and the mass killing that month of predominantly Shia unarmed cadets and military personnel at Iraq's Tikrit Air Academy.
Syria was stripped of its voting rights at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on April 21, after recent findings evidenced the regime's use of poisonous gas throughout the nation's civil war. A two-thirds majority of nations voted to strip the Bashar Assad regime of its rights and privileges as a member of the organization, including the right to vote at OPCW conferences. The OPCW, monitoring body for the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, has 193 members, 87 of whom voted in favor of suspension of Syria's rights. Out of the 136 countries participating in the Conference of State Parties where the vote was taken, 34 states abstained and 15 voted against, including Russia, Iran and Syria.
The first-ever extensive report on the Syria war by Russian human rights groups was released on April 2, highlighting the role of Moscow's military intervention in the conflict and its impact on civilians. The report, "A Devastating Decade: Violations of Human Rights & Humanitarian Law in the Syrian War," is the result of two years of research by Russian rights groups, including Memorial Human Rights Center, the Civic Assistance Committee, Soldiers' Mothers of Saint Petersburg, and the Youth Human Rights Movement. The 198-page report provides chilling first-hand testimonials of life inside besieged areas, aerial bombardment, chemical weapons attacks, as well as the widespread use of torture and deprivation in regime prisons. The report is critical of all parties in the conflict—including the US-led coalition—but especially focuses on the impacts of the Russian intervention.
In Episode 66 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg interviews Alexander Reid Ross, author of Against the Fascist Creep and a fellow at the Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI), who has faced threats of litigation as well as relentless online harassment for his exposés of Russian propaganda and Red-Brown Politics. After his recent piece in the Daily Beast on leftist flirtation with the far right around conspiracy theories concerning COVID-19 and the war in Syria, the odious Max Blumenthal quickly retaliated with a piece on his Grayzone website charging in its headline that Reid Ross "works with ex-cops, CIA spies, and DHS agents." This refers to the fact that former CIA, Homeland Security and NYPD officials are now also researchers with the NCRI. The accusation is hilariously ironic given that Blumenthal himself has shared platforms with former CIA analyst (and now a star of the conspiracy set) Ray McGovern. As well as (of course) avidly cooperating with Russian and Chinese state propaganda efforts.
Ten years ago this week, the Syrian Revolution began with peaceful pro-democracy protests. The first demonstrations broke out in the city of Deraa after local schoolchildren painted a mural depicting scenes and slogans from the recent revolutions in other Arab countries, and were detained and brutalized by the police. The Bashar Assad regime responded to the demonstrations with serial massacres. After months of this, the Free Syrian Army emerged, initially as a self-defense militia to protect protesters. But the situation soon escalated to an armed insurgency. The regime lost control of large areas of the country, and local civil resistance committees backed by the FSA seized control. Assad then escalated to levels of violence rarely seen on Earth since World War II.
The United Nations' top disarmament official on Feb. 3 stressed the urgent need to identify those who have used chemical weapons in Syria, and hold them accountable for their deeds. "Without such an action, we are allowing the use of chemical weapons to take place with impunity," Izumi Nakamitsu, UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, told the Security Council in a virtual briefing. "It is imperative that this Council shows leadership in demonstrating that impunity in the use of these weapons will not be tolerated," she added. Nakamitsu was briefing Council members on implementation of Resolution 2118, in which unanimous agreement was reached in 2013 to condemn "in the strongest terms" any use of chemical weapons in Syria. The Resolution also expressed "strong conviction" that those responsible for use of chemical weapons in Syria must be held accountable.