Estimates of the dead vary from 70 to 150 after the latest and worst chemical attack on the besieged enclave of Eastern Ghouta, in the Damascus suburbs. The number is likely to rise, as rescue workers are still reporting new casualties at the town of Douma, the last in the enclave that remains in rebel hands. The apparent strike by a "barrel bomb" filled with either sarin or chlorine gas targeted a building where displaced families were sheltering from the ongoing Assad regime and Russian air-raids. The victims are overwhelmingly civilians, and many are said to be children. Trump has pledged a US military response to the attack. (Image: Syria Solidarity Campaign)
From anonymous radical-right xenophobes in Britain came the call to make April 3 "Punish a Muslim Day." Letters were sent to addresses across England, calling for violent attacks on Muslims. Police were on alert, and women who wear the hijab were advised to stay home. There were also reports that some of the letters had arrived in New York, causing the city's Muslim community to mobilize and the NYPD to beef up security. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams joined multi-faith leaders to condemn the threats. His comments were laudable in intent, but revealing in their wording: "Our message must be just as loud. Not punish a Muslim, let’s embrace a Muslim, let’s embrace a Christian, let’s embrace a person of Jewish faith…" Why has the word "Jew" become taboo, and especially in progressive circles? (Image: frgdr.com)
In Episode Six of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg reads and discusses selections from CS Lewis' classic work The Abolition of Man, and explores its relevance in light of the contemporary dilemmas posed by biotech and artificial intelligence. Conservative Christian moralist Lewis paradoxically developed a quasi-anarchist critique of technological society, with ideas closely mirroring those of his contemporary George Orwell—despite the fact that the two were on opposite sides of the political divide. But Lewis went beyond even Orwell's dark vision in foreseeing an actual end to humanity itself, as it has been understood for millennia, and its replacement by a conditioned post-humanity stripped of all dignity and reason. Recent technological "advances" have made this possible more literally and completely than Lewis could have imagined. Listen on SoundCloud. (Image: Earth First! Newswire)
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) last week issued a pressingly important report, "The multipolar spin: how fascists operationalize left-wing resentment." It refreshingly called out "red-brown populist collaboration"—documenting the growing convergence between figures on the supposed "left" and the radical, even fascist right, both in the US and in Europe. Playing a critical role is Russo-nationalist ideologue Alexander Dugin, who is bringing together supposed peaceniks and neo-fascists around supporting despots like Putin and Assad in the name of a "multi-polar" world. But, depressingly, at the first howls of protest from this very Red-Brown alliance, SPLC folded like punks, removing the report from their website and issuing a pusillanimous apology.
The Turkish assault on Afrin has forced the enclave's Kurdish defenders into an alliance with the same Assad regime that is committing war crimes in Eastern Ghouta. This tragically poses an obstacle to any solidarity between the respective defenders of the besieged enclaves. But we in the West are faced with no such grim choices, and should be capable of a consistent position. Yet Noam Chomsky, who signed a statement in support of Afrin, has shamefully abetted Putin's propaganda portraying the repeated chemical attacks on Ghouta as "fake news." (Photo of Aleppo ruins from UNHCR)
In Episode Four of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg makes the case that the Second Amendment is a non-grammatical muddle of obfuscation—because the issue was just as contentious in 1789 as it is today, and the Framers fudged it. That's why both the "gun control" and "gun rights" advocates can claim they have the correct interpretation—as they each advocate solutions that, in their own way, escalate the police state. In the wake of the latest school massacre, youth activists are pressing the issue, and this is long overdue. But the discussion that needs to be had would explore the social and cultural roots of this peculiarly American pathology. Listen on SoundCloud, and support us via Patreon.
The Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte—trying to justify sending the National Police back into drug enforcement after he was pressured to withdraw them by a public outcry over their slaying of innocent civilians—has been caught in a lie. He stated that 300 police officers have been killed in anti-drug operations since he took office in June 2016—this by way of providing a rationale for the police killing thousands of Filipinos in this same period. But official figures from the Philippine National Police put the number at 86. Even if one adds army troops killed batting Islamist militants in Mindanao, the number is only 250. (Photo: Anakpawis)
After the Washington Post cited FBI sources to the effect that at least one recent contributor to Counterpunch was a "probable Russian troll," editor Jeffrey St. Clair responds by defending "pro-Russian" bias, pointing to instances of "bias" in favor of horrible things like torture and nuclear strikes by mainstream wonks. So much for the notion of the "alternative media" actually taking a higher standard than the dreaded "MSM," and actually providing an alternative. Instead the idea seems to be that if they can run sinister propaganda, so can we. (Photo: Wikipedia)
A wave of protests across Iranian cities began as a response to inflation and economic pain, but shows signs of escalating to a popular repudiation of clerical rule. Spontaneous protests first broke out in the northeast city of Mashhad, where security forces responded with tear-gas and water cannons. Since then, protests have been reported from Kermanshah and Hamadan in the west, Rasht and Sari in the north, Ahvaz in the southwest, and Qom and Isfahan in central Iran. Arrests are also reported from the capital, Tehran, where a group of demonstrators attempted to occupy a public square. Protests began with the slogan "Death to high prices!" But as repression mounted, demonstrators began chanting "Death to the dictator," in apparent reference to President Hassan Rouhani and the ruling mullahs. (Photo: Center for Human Rights in Iran)
Propagandists of the isolationist right and anti-war "left" alike are exploiting the chilling emergence of a slave trade in abducted Black African migrants in Libya's remote desert south as evidence that the NATO intervention of 2011 only led to nightmares. The popular uprising that ousted Qaddafi is invisible to them—as is the dictator's own culpability in the social collapse that followed his rule.
The so-called "de-escalation" zones declared under Russia's "peace plan" for Syria have actually become kill zones, as Moscow and the Assad regime continue their bombardment, citing the presence in the rebel enclaves of jihadist factions not covered by the deal. But the rebels and civil resistance forces have little ability to expel the jihadists—and sometimes the air-strikes continue even after they have.
The violence in Berkeley has sparked divisions over how to confront the fast-rising radical right. One danger of advocating nonviolence is playing into the hands of the equivalists who blame both sides (or "many sides") for the violence. On the other hand, the fact that equivalist propaganda will be used doesn't give us a blank check to dismiss the whole discussion of astute tactics.