All posts by Deborah Lagutaris

Woody Guthrie to be honored by hometown after decades as black sheep

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Ash Grove List Woody Guthrie to be honored by hometown after decades as black sheep

On Behalf Of Rick Kissell Sent: Monday, September 16, 2013 10:04 AM http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/14/woody-guthrie-home-rebuilt-oklahoma/print

Woody Guthrie to be honored by hometown after decades as black sheep Plans to rebuild folk singer’s home under way as part of tourism push by Okemah, Oklahoma. When Woody Guthrie’s dilapidated boyhood home was ordered torn down in the late 1970s, the demolition reflected the strained relationship between conservative Oklahoma and the native son who became famous for his folk singing and leftist politics.

Those tensions persisted for more than a generation, but attitudes about Guthrie have slowly softened. Now developers, working with the blessing of Guthrie’s relatives, have announced plans to rebuild his 1860s-era boyhood home in Okemah, a time-worn town of 3,300 people that is desperately seeking tourism dollars.

“If you were to put a Mount Rushmore of American music here in the midwest, the first two artists on it would be Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie,” said Johnny Buschardt, a spokesman for the project. “Without Woody, there wouldn’t be a Bob Dylan or a Bruce Springsteen.” Best known for the song This Land is Your Land, Guthrie came of age during the Great Depression and later embraced left-wing politics, including some tenets of communism. By weaving social issues into his music, he reimagined folk songs as platforms for protest, starting a creative tradition carried on by scores of other top artists.

In hundreds of folk songs and ballads, Guthrie’s lyrics celebrated American workers, lamented the woes of the poor and advocated for civil rights. Although revered as one of the best songwriters in American history, he was rarely acknowledged, let alone honored, by his home state, even decades after his death. Some of his early songs, released as the Dust Bowl Ballads, depicted the plight of migrant workers who traveled from Oklahoma to California in the 30s.

Guthrie died in 1967 at age 55 in New York, from complications from Huntington’s disease, a genetic neurological disorder. “When I was going to school, it was almost like his name wasn’t supposed to be mentioned. And when it was brought up in class, the teacher would change the subject,” recalls resident Ric Denney, whose family has roots in the town dating to the 20s.

It took more than 30 years, but Okemah now celebrates Guthrie with an annual music festival that draws thousands of people from around the world. Tributes, such as a mural of Guthrie strumming his guitar on a downtown building, are commonplace. Other parts of Oklahoma are honoring him, too: in April, a 12,000-square-foot museum showcasing his life’s work opened to much fanfare in downtown Tulsa. A community park across the street from the museum is called Guthrie Green.

The estimated $500,000 reconstruction of Guthrie’s childhood home will use original planks salvaged from the run-down property, called London House, which was purchased by a prominent local businessman named Earl Walker in the early 60s. Walker hoped he could eventually win support from town leaders to restore, arguing that it would promote Okemah, which lies about 60 miles south of Tulsa.

Instead, they ordered him to tear it down, declaring the property a public nuisance because it had become a place for teenagers to smoke and winos to pass out.

Walker complied, but he saved the lumber for when his neighbors would recognize Guthrie’s importance to the town. The bundle of preserved wood eventually ended up at the Okfuskee County History Center.

Today, all that remains of London House are a few blocks of sandstone foundation mostly obscured by tall weeds. A faded sign warns visitors against stealing the stones. London House is to be rebuilt on the lot, and project organizers want to make it look as much as possible like it did when Guthrie lived there.

At the historical center, board member Ron Gott is eager for work to finally begin after years of indifference or opposition from town leaders. “In the early 1970s and 80s, Woody was still a bad name among some residents,” Gott said. “You had some old-timers here in Okemah who were just against Woody, but there’s maybe a handful still alive.”

The town is “coming around,” he added. “Most people understand [the home is] a draw, something that is part of history.” Leann Priest, who has lived in Okemah since she was 14 and owns a house near the Guthrie parcel, said the ranks of those who despised the songwriter are thinning dramatically.

“There are still people in town that still believe he was a communist,” said Priest, who grew up listening to her dad and uncle sing Guthrie songs. “I don’t think he was. He was a man who stood up for everybody.” Linda Knebel, who has lived here for 22 years, said Guthrie “did a big thing for Okemah” and openly honoring him is the best way to return the favor.

“It was the old codgers who said that” about Guthrie, Knebel said. “I’m glad those thoughts are going away.” Organizers hope to raise money through donations and an October benefit concert in Tulsa, by singer Kris Kristofferson, among other events.

Construction is scheduled to end in May. Kansas-based project coordinator Dan Riedemann, who owns a company that restores celebrity properties, said the undertaking will preserve Oklahoma’s music royalty for future generations. “He’s their Elvis Presley, and this is their Graceland,” he said in a recent interview. Guthrie’s family members have also praised the plan. His granddaughter, Annie Hays Guthrie, who travels to Okemah every year, said she feels like a part of her has “come home”.

The Ash Grove: Gideon Levy: Spasibo, Moscow

The Ash Grove List

Gideon Levy: Spasibo, Moscow From: David McReynolds [mailto:davidmcreynolds7@gmail.com]

Spasibo [thanks], Moscow, for saving the U.S. from itself and averting war The era of the U.S. as the world’s sole superpower is over. Henceforth, Washington’s global ambitions will have to take Russia and other countries into account.

By Gideon Levy VIA Dorothy Naor Haaretz (Jerusalem), Sept 12, 2013 http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.546432

Mother Russia (without Father Stalin this time) has saved the world from an unnecessary war. If not for Russia’s intervention, the Tomahawks would already be on the way. More blood would have been spilled in vain and the Middle East would have endured another pointless bombardment, only to sustain the image of Barack Obama and the “status” of the United States.

After the bombardment — with American arms, of course — would have come the quagmire and after the destruction, the reconstruction, contracted to American companies, of course. Syria, for whose welfare everyone is honestly and touchingly concerned, would have bled even more and the horrific chemical weapons would have remained in their arsenals.

In the words of the Internationale, “We’ll change henceforth the old tradition.” The old world, in which the U.S. did whatever it wished, waging a futile war in Iraq and a worthless one in Afghanistan, is approaching its end. Get ready for the new one. Welcome (back) to the world of multiple superpowers. It will not be a world that is all good, but maybe it will be better. It has already proven itself in Syria, and perhaps it will do so next in Iran.

This is not a return to the days of the Cold War in a bipolar world — Russia is too weak and rotten from within — but the Russians have raised their heads, the Chinese are on their way, with the Indians perhaps behind them — and the American monopoly on power is about to crack. There is a world in southern Asia and in South America too, and that world is awakening. That’s good news. We were always told that the “Russian bear,” as we liked to call it, was the ultimate source of offense in the Middle East. We were told that the Soviet Union instigated war while the U.S. sought peace.

Lo and behold — after 20 years of American hegemony and the crumbling of Russian influence in the region, we have not even a scrap of peace. We have only more and more wars of the kind that the U.S. fought, and the kind that Israel fought with its support and equipment.

The peace treaty between Israel and Egypt was born in the days of the Cold War, while the only attempt to make peace with the Palestinians took place behind America’s back. Then we should say so: America did nothing to promote peace in the region. If it had wished, peace would be here already. If it had wished, the Israeli occupation would have ended already. Even now, with Russia’s proposal of a peaceful solution to the problem of Syria’s chemical weapons and America’s determination to bomb Syria, America is seen as the one that wants peace and Russia as the warmonger — a faint echo of the days of Cold War propaganda featuring the bad Russians and the good Americans.

Russia’s return is not entirely good news. With its highly dubious regime, corrupt economy and abysmal human rights record, it certainly will be no light unto the nations. A country that fights gay people, locks up journalists, assassinates opponents of the regime and imprisons women singers is a sick country. But its return tells us that once again there will be one who balances, even a little, the power of the U.S.; a country that stands in its way, which is far from always being the way of peace and justice.

Take Syria, for example. Let’s say Russia was not its ally. Let’s say Russia hadn’t stopped America. Let’s say America was the sole superpower in the region. Would the result have been better or worse? The solution Russia proposed has not been carried out yet. It is full of pitfalls. But if it works, it could serve as a lesson for the future. Not everything can be solved with a bomb, no matter how “smart” it may be. Occasionally, it is a good idea to try diplomacy, too.

Russia could play the constructive role it is playing in Syria in Iran as well. We need to encourage its involvement and not mark it as an enemy from the start. Obama should send a bouquet of flowers to Vladimir Putin, the man who helped him out of the corner he had painted himself into regarding the bombing of Syria. The world should thank Moscow for having saved him from trouble. Israel also needs to stop grimacing every time a war or bombardment against Arabs in the region is averted and tell Russia: Spasiba. Thank you for showing us, even for a moment, that there is another way, without bombardments. Visit my website www.michaelmunk.com

The Ash Grove: David McReynolds: Quick take on Obama’s speech

Ed’s Daily Digest
David McReynolds: Quick take on Obama’s speech

From: David McReynolds [mailto:davidmcreynolds7@gmail.com]
Sent: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 7:02 PM

Quick take on Obama’s speech. To, among others, the Edgeleft list.

A weak speech. The theory that we have reached this point (of the Syrian willingness to give up their chemical weapons) because of Obama’s threat of a military attack is questionable – the fact is Obama simply didn’t have the support he needed in Congress. We emerge with a badly weakened Presidency. Ironically it is the Russians who score points, since they broke the deadlock (for whatever reason).

None of us (I hope) support the use of poison gas, but I am weary of Obama and Kerry hammering this point and ignoring the US silence (and perhaps complicity) in the case of Saddam Hussein’s use of poison gas against the Kurds and then against the Iranians. Once again, we see is the traditional “double standard” of every major state – we pick and choose what we will be upset about. One is reminded of Orwell and 1984. (Leaving aside the significant issue of chemical war in Vietnam with Agent Orange, and depleted uranium in Iraq).

I am sick to hear Obama talk about American exceptionalism, of being the anchor of world stability. This, from a President who surely knows his history, and who knows that it was the United States which laid waste to Vietnam, laid the basis for the rise of Pol Pot, invaded Iraq and Afghanistan, in the process simply destroying Iraq and leaving it in ruins. (One could list other items, from the invasion of Panama and Grenada, but it is Vietnam and Iraq which loom like ghastly corpses from the recent history of American actions).

Disturbing to hear a President who understands world law talk about the need for the US to act unilaterally. This is in direct violation of international law which, under the Charter of the United Nations, which we signed, states there are only two occasions when a nation can resort to violence. One is when its national security is directly threatened, and the other is when the Security Council authorizes such action. Obama’s proposed actions would be criminal under international law.

There are technical problems with the US approach – on the one hand the outrage about the use of poison gas, and on the other hand the promise by John Kerry that any US military attack would be “unbelievably tiny”. This is the worst of all possible worlds – to stir a hornets nest and hope for the best.

How can the US think of a military strike at an already bloodied Syria without realizing that such violence only adds to the violence, and cannot diminish it. What the Pope recently said on the Syrian issue makes much more moral sense than anything Obama said tonight.

What Obama did not say – and what he could have said (and might yet say if there was enough political pressure) – is that a political solution will require a serious agreement among the Americans, the Saudis, Turkey, and Russia, to have a genuine blockade on any further arms shipments.

Press for an international conference. Press for aid to the refugees. Press for a total blockade on the flow of arms (and the most difficult nation to deal with here might well be Saudi Arabia, not Russia).

I felt sorry for Obama – he had dug himself the hole into which he stumbled tonight by talking of red lines and suggesting that Assad must go. One can deplore the Assad regime (and most of the rebel opposition as well) without feeling it is helpful, as a pre-condition to negotiations, to argue that the leader of one side must leave the room.

Whoever used the poison gas – and I don’t find this as solidly proven as Obama does – what horrifies me more than the thousand dead from its use, are the 100,000 dead thus far in the Civil War (it is estimated that half of those killed have been Syrian government forces, and about a fourth had been civilians).

A weak speech from a President who faces a hostile Congress and will now find it much harder to achieve progress on more urgent domestic issues. (Though you would not guess almost any of this from listening to the commentariat on MSNBC and CNN).

David McReynolds

The Ash Grove: LAUSD iPad Deal: iPaid Too Much?

Ash Grove List ** LAUSD iPad Deal: iPaid Too Much?
From: Kim Kaufman [mailto:kim.kaufman@att.net]

Sent: Sunday, September 08, 2013 11:02 PM

Did LAUSD go through the proper channels in order to promise to pay $1billion+ for iPads with bond money from Measures Q, R and Y – which we voted on to build new schools and update existing schools?

Please click on the link here http://k12newsnetwork.com/blog/2013/09/06/lausd-ipad-deal-ipaid-too-much/ (or below) and sign the petition asking for an investigation into our school bond money purchases. (See supporting articles below.) And please pass on to your lists. Thanks! Kim “The next economy will be defined by the struggle to get there.”

Kevin Zeese September 6, 2013 ** LAUSD iPad Deal: iPaid Too Much?
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CLICK HERE TO SIGN PETITION: http://k12newsnetwork.com/blog/2013/09/06/lausd-ipad-deal-ipaid-too-much/

To the LAUSD Inspector General, the LAUSD Bond Oversight Committee, and LAUSD School Board, Scour the iPad project before $1 billion goes down the drain! LAUSD’s $1 billion project to buy iPads for students has only begun its roll-out. $30 million into the project, it already shows signs of missteps and even possible improprieties. § Using 30-year construction bonds to buy computers with a 3-year shelf life? Voters intended Measure R (http://notebook.lausd.net/portal/page?_pageid=33,53089&_dad=ptl&_schema=PTL_EP) and Measure Y (http://notebook.lausd.net/portal/page?_pageid=33,201386&_dad=ptl&_schema=PTL_EP) to address overcrowded classrooms, dilapidated facilities, fire and earthquake safety, and other capital improvements that outlast the time it takes to pay for them. § Now the LA Times reports (http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-lausd-keyboards-20130903,0,6184460.story) that the district forgot to include keyboards. That oversight will cost an unbudgeted $38 million. What else got overlooked? §

The LA Daily News reports that one board member recused (http://www.dailynews.com/general-news/20130618/lausd-spending-30-million-to-buy-30000-ipads-for-students) himself because he owned Apple stock. What other relationships did LAUSD officials have with contracted vendors? Were these all properly disclosed? Now is the time—before millions more are wasted—to take a closer look and correct course or stop it altogether. Sign the petition to tell the LAUSD Inspector General: Scour the contract. Scour the process. Keep LAUSD clean . Sign our petition here: http://k12newsnetwork.com/blog/2013/09/06/lausd-ipad-deal-ipaid-too-much/ Why Is L.A. Spending School Construction Bonds to Buy iPads? (http://dianeravitch.net/2013/09/03/why-is-l-a-spending-school-construction-bonds-to-buy-ipads/) http://dianeravitch.net/2013/09/03/why-is-l-a-spending-school-construction-bonds-to-buy-ipads/comment-page-1/#comment-299667 LA Times: $500 Million for iPads Did Not Include Keyboards (http://dianeravitch.net/2013/09/03/la-times-500-million-for-ipads-did-not-include-keyboards/) http://dianeravitch.net/2013/09/03/la-times-500-million-for-ipads-did-not-include-keyboards/ ** In school iPad project, L.A. might need to tap funding for keyboards ———————————————————— ** School district’s $1-billion tablet-for-every-student project could need a further outlay for keyboards. ———————————————————— http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-lausd-keyboards-20130903,0,6184460.story First L.A. Unified school gets iPads in $1-billion effort http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-first-ipads-broadacres-20130826,0,6929665.story#tugs_story_display Apple Sells iPads to LAUSD — Something Does Not Compute http://k12newsnetwork.com/blog/2013/09/07/apple-sells-ipads-to-lausd-something-does-not-compute/

Vijay Prashad: Letter to a Syrian friend

Letter to a Syrian friend who said: “Your opposition to the US attack on Syria means you support the Assad regime.”

By Vijay Prashad September 4, 2013 Jadaliyya Empire enjoys watching the two sides battle like caged mice, weakening each other to its advantage.

Dear Friend: You are in Syria, somewhere in Damascus. You have been involved in various protests to fight for more democratic space in Syria, and then, after the early months of 2011, to overthrow the regime of Bashar al-Asad. I have learned a great deal from people like you, about your country and about the nature of the struggles that confront you. You have seen the tide go out in your disfavor on two fronts: first, an international environment that seemed to be in harmony with your goals, but then turned out to be as conflicted about “regime change” as you are certain about it; second, an internal opposition that seemed to mimic the early wellsprings of the Arab uprisings in North Africa in its multivalent diversity, but then turned out to be hijacked by imperialist interests and by radical jihadis that you find intolerant and dangerous. As the politics goes against your more secular nationalism and democratic liberalism, and as you feel isolated in every which way, the advent of a US bombing raid seemed to be a deus ex machine—a thundercloud from Zeus himself.

Such a clap of lightening on the hardened bases of military power would perhaps knock the wind out of the Asad regime, making it possible for people like you to clamber to the top of a revolutionary dynamic. History offers you no hope of success along this path. On the wings of empire can come only grief. Recent interventions, whether in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Libya, have not ended well for its people. In the month of August 2013, 804 people died in Iraq—numbers that rival the death rates of the worst period of sectarian violence. Libya’s security situation is torturous for its people, with assassinations and random violence the order of the day. The people of Afghanistan, and their twin in Yemen, face untold misery through night raids and drone strikes, and with few of the main human obstacles undone by the occupation. The United States and its North Atlantic partners make extraordinary rhetorical pledges on behalf of human rights and for humanitarian relief, but these rarely translate into reality. Set aside the human rights record of the North Atlantic itself, whether in its colonial phase but equally in the present moment when it has been known to block routinely international regulations on arms sales and on the use of dangerous weapons. Set aside as well the internal human rights problems in the North Atlantic, whether against immigrants or against workers. Such things shall not detain us here. We should look only at the way the North Atlantic has used “human rights” in its military adventures.

First, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) states use “human rights” as pretext for war-making, but care little for the regime of human rights which would include reconciliation of the parties and investigation of the manner in which wars are conducted. NATO went to war in Libya based on a UN Security Council resolution. When asked if it would allow an investigation of its bombing campaign by a UN commission, NATO’s legal counsel Peter Olsen wrote in a letter dated 15 February 2012, “We would accordingly request that, in the event that the commission elects to include a discussion of NATO actions in Libya, its report clearly state that NATO did not deliberately target civilians and did not commit war crimes in Libya.”

NATO states used an International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant to go to war in Libya, but they have since been stubborn in their refusal to allow the ICC to execute these warrants against Saif al-Islam al-Qaddafi (held in Zintan, Libya). The regime of human rights has been trampled by NATO states, whose interests are to use the language of human rights for its sectional interests rather than fight to create a robust human rights system to benefit the wellbeing of the people of the planet. If the North Atlantic states are cynical with their use of the language of human rights, they are equally limited in their appropriation of the idea of humanitarian relief.

The most recent Syria Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan (SHARP) from June 2013 shows that there are now 6.8 million Syrians under UN care, including 4.25 million internally displaced people. Of these, three million are children, a million of whom have been edged out of Syria. The UN has criticized governments for being “slow to commit funds” and even slower to deliver the money. Pledges of financial support to the crucial UN agencies are made at the frequent conferences. Little more than a third of the SHARP request has been committed. Only one percent of the eleven million dollars requested for food and nutrition for the Syrian refugees has been delivered, and only 3.7 percent of the 343 million dollars of the emergency non-food aid has been transferred.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that almost sixty-five percent of the needs of Syrian refugees are unmet. If the North Atlantic states were truly humanitarian, they would open their vast coffers to take care of the immediate needs of the Syrian refugees, and if the Gulf Arab states were equally humanitarian, they would finance the removal of these refugees from dangerous zones to safe havens. If the North Atlantic states were truly interested in humanitarianism, they would increase the actual financial resources given to the refugees. Bombing Syria will simply displace more people into penury.

The United States says that it wants to bomb Syria to punish the Asad regime for its use of chemical weapons. But keep in mind that it will likely use Tomahawk missiles, whose warheads might or might not be tipped with depleted uranium (DU). In other words, the United States will punish the Asad regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons by bombing Syria with a weapon that the UN General Assembly has four times asked to be sanctioned (but cannot because of the votes against these resolutions from France, Israel, the United Kingdom, and the United States). One hundred and fifty-five countries worry that depleted uranium will contaminate groundwater and produce environmental and health hazards for generations. The United States used such weapons in Iraq, where a 2010 study (Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005-2009) found that the rate of heart defects was thirteen times that in Europe, the nervous system abnormalities at birth were thirty-three times that in Europe, and the childhood cancer rate was twelve times greater than those before the use of DU in Fallujah in 2004.

These are the consequences of an imperialist bombardment. It will violate law in order to pretend to uphold law. It will use dangerous chemicals to protest the use of dangerous chemicals. It will get self-righteous about chemical weapons, such as nerve gas, that it sold to the Assad government within the past three years. You are part of the Syrian rebellion, sandwiched between the expatriate leadership of the Free Syrian Army and the heinous fractions of jihadis. Your claim is that the US bombardment is to overthrow Assad, but this is precisely not the war aim of the United States. It threatened to act in late August only because the US President Barack Obama had the previous year fallen into the trap of the “red-lines.” Unable to act in any way in 2012, he threatened that he would act if the Asad regime used chemical weapons. His words came back to bite him (although we do not know yet with any certainty about those chemical weapons). To respond, Obama had chosen, before he was blocked by the UK parliament, to fire a barrage of Tomahawk missiles. The US military says that the Tomahawks have “limited tactical effect”–which means they would create random destruction in Syria, but would be unlikely to degrade the military capacity of the regime. Why has the United States been unwilling to conduct a Libyan-style air war on behalf of the rebels in Syria? For one, the Libyan engagement did not work out as well as the NATO states assumed: chaos reigns supreme in the country, and the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi has made the US political class skittish of full action on behalf of rebels whose political views spank of anti-Americanism. Second, chaos in Libya is a price that the NATO states are willing to pay as long as the oil continues to flow and the migrants do not. With Syria, chaos that threatens Israel and that allows Hezbollah to continue to get logistical support from Iran is unacceptable. It is far better to allow Syria to bleed and to let a maelstrom of internecine warfare blind Hezbollah and the jihadis than to allow any kind of Islamist regime in power in Damascus. Asad is preferable to Israel than a Syrian Muslim Brotherhood leader (the Syrian Brotherhood is far more radical than the Egyptian Ikhwan, and even that was too much for Tel Aviv).

The commitment of the NATO states to the fall of Asad is shallow. They are committed to a weakened Iran and Hezbollah, which is what motivates their cynical policy. Asad is neither here nor there. All this is well and good, you say to me. What alternatives do you have? Do you expect us to have to tuck our dreams to sleep and return to the status quo ante? But the status quo ante is no longer possible. Asad is weakened, as are his class allies. His braggadocio is that of a man who knows that he has nothing to lose. What comes next is not going to be the return of the old regime. It will be whatever the pressure from below can produce as an alternative. But nothing of a political nature is going to come if the violence continues, which will have thrown at least ten million people into displacement by the end of the year, and close to one hundred and fifty thousand people to their deaths.

Such bloodshed is unacceptable, particularly when there is no light at the end of this long tunnel that runs from Homs to Aleppo, from Damascus to Hama. What will stop the violence? Not the regime, which is ready to fight to the end. Not the rebels, who taste victory even when it smacks of blood in your mouth. In the northern belt, the violence has mutated so that the Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Levant and Iraq are at war with the Kurdish protection committees (YPG). That violence, where the Asad regime is not involved, led to almost fifty thousand people rushing over a pontoon bridge into Iraq over a weekend. Matters are far from pre-2011. That is one reality that all sides need to recognize. The refugee and humanitarian relief crisis is acute. Neither the regime nor the rebels want to put their focus on this problem. They are too centered on the frontline. Syria’s neighbors are weighted down with the refugee crisis, which threatens to morph and has morphed to some degree into a political crisis. Car bombs in Beirut and in Tripoli are an indicator of the latter. Lebanon is on edge.

Jordan’s monarchy is on the line. Iraq returns to sectarian fissures that it has tried to paper over. There are now 704,877 registered refugees in Lebanon, 517,168 in Jordan, 440,773 in Turkey, and 155,258 in Iraq. These four neighbors have the bulk of the 1.9 million refugees. If the region is serious about a political process it might want to begin where it has needs, and where it can have an impact: call for a Regional Syrian Refugee Crisis Conference. The UN would underwrite such a conference, which would allow the neighboring states to have a formal platform to begin consultation for their common crisis. The practical matters of relief can be dealt with at such a forum, including how these countries will tackle the extra problem of another winter for the refugees in temporary shelter. The fifty-seven percent funding gap that the UN’s SHARP faces leaves the Syrians vulnerable to the harsh weather that will approach. The Inter-Sector Coordination group of the UN agencies would be helped by a regional platform of member states. A Syrian Refugee Crisis Conference would necessitate that the regional states move from practical matters to political ones–they, along with Syrians themselves, will be the ones who will suffer most if the situation destabilizes further. The roots of the crisis are not the stream of refugees, who are only the symptom, but the violence inside Syria. Any Syrian Refugee Crisis Conference would have to eventually turn to the political question, which would mean coordinated regional pressure on the actors in Syria, all of whom rely on the region for logistical support of one kind or the other, to come to the table and hatch out a plan for de-escalation of the war and renewal of a political process. None of the sides see this as possible at this point, but if the regional partners are serious about it they may leave the various factions no choice but to come to the table. If the regional states do nothing, they will be drawn further into the vortex of Syria, bringing Bilad al-Sham into the madness that has overtaken its heartland. Mine is not the politics of two sides, of the battlefield.

I recognize that you are in the midst of a civil war and that what I propose sounds to you like surrender. You wish to fight on, with the messianic view that eventually you will prevail over the regime of Asad. This might be the case, but the odds are stacked against you as much as they are stacked against the Asad regime that it will have a complete victory. Neither of you are willing to see that the human suffering is not worth the chances of triumph. Empire enjoys watching the two sides battle like caged mice, weakening each other to its advantage. Syria deserves better. But now the cord of Syrian nationalism is wrapped around the neck of the Syrian people, asphyxiating your dreams of sovereignty and freedom. A mediated peace alongside a process for genuine democratization guaranteed by your neighboring states would strengthen the chances for the renewal of your national ambitions. Anything else will simply lead to the destruction of your country, its history, and its future.

I am not in favor of the gallows of Ba‘th, nor the execution chambers of Jabhat al-Nusra, neither the guns of NATO nor the neoliberal spirits of the Gulf Arab regimes. Humans have complex minds, and even more complex ambitions. It is for us on the Left to foster those desires, and not to fall prey to the choices of the present. Neither this nor that, but only the future. For you, my friend, a taste of the great Pakistani leftwing poet Habib Jalib, this is the opening of Dastoor, from 1962: Deep jis ka sirf mehellaat hi mein jalay,?Chand logon ki khushyon ko lay ker chalay,?Wo jo saye main har maslihat kay palay;?Aisay dastoor ko,?Subh-e-bay noor ko,?Main naheen maanta,?Main naheen jaanta. The light that shines alone in palaces, Steals away the people’s happiness. Feigns its strength from other’s weakness. That kind of system, Dawn without light, I refuse. I deny. Portside aims to provide material of interest to people on the left that will help them to interpret the world and to change it. Submit via web http://portside.org/submit Submit via email mailto:portside@portside.org Frequently asked questions http://portside.org/faq Manage subscription http://portside.org/subscribe Search Portside archives http://portside.org/archive ============================================================