Jordan Visit (Short report)

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From Hull to Jordan: the intrepid Pete Pollard investigates first-hand the plight of Syrian refugees.

Background

I had watched the situation in Syria developing for quite some time and as it rapidly culminated into a civil war, I wondered how the ongoing crisis would affect me and my family, as a British person, in view of the stance of Her Majesty’s UK governance and the Russian alliance of President Putin with Syria’s President Assad.

Would there be a new cold war? Would the ex-Soviet states feel pressurised and would a review take place regarding their policy towards NATO? Would nuclear arms and ‘new technologies’ be strategically implemented?

***

I watched a film documentary called ‘Syria; Ground Zero’ and although not particularly well balanced politically, it inspired me greatly and I decided, I needed to do something for the Syrian people.

I went over to Jordan to meet the SCI Jordan branch secretary Amir to exchange greetings and discuss the situation regarding the Syrian refugees in Jordan.

I spent seven days in Jordan, assessing, meeting people and familiarising myself with the culture and people. I met families who had been near to the worst of the fighting in Aleppo and Homs. I was also driven to Zaatari Refugee camp, home to 100,000 displaced Syrian people, close to the Syrian border.

In a Jordanian town, I sat with a refugee family in their temporary house. The TV, which was the only fixture in an otherwise sparse and empty room, constantly showed violent images of the conflict, whilst the family talked, argued and gestured provocatively, in a manner that suggested, the situation was no longer of their making or within their control. Another family, in a similar room, had the blanket they had taken with them from Zaatari camp neatly on display, above their TV, a memento, of their escape from Syria, via Zaatari. A family member showed me a picture of his dead brother on his mobile phone, a victim of the violence… The families kept in contact with family and friends in Syria, through a series of mobile phones.

A young man, who had fled Syria, told me he had been held by police in Jordan. They had told him he had two choices: he could go directly back to Syria or he could train to fight with the Free Syrian Army at a camp in Jordan. After training he would be then sent back to Syria, to fight the government. The young man took a third option. He is still ‘on the run’ in Jordan.

Another family, which has two young boys, a teenage brother, told me how life was normal and relatively idyllic in their home, in a village, outside of a major (troubled) city in Syria. They had a house with land and a car. The father had a good job and was well respected and established within the neighbourhood. I asked if there were any problems before the conflict. The father replied ‘No, there were small problems, like the corruption of the police and officials, but,’ he said, ‘those problems had existed for a long time and although annoying, were pushed aside and forgotten.’

I asked him also, ‘Did the Israelis or Nato allied governments cause mischief or initiate any of the problems prior to the demonstrations, as had been reported in some media?’ He replied ‘No’ and he indicated that the global recession had caused the ruling ‘Allawites’ (loyal to President Assad) to take the best positions and work and to cause the ‘Sunni’ population to work for less pay and harder working conditions. This was the sourceof the demonstrations. When I asked what had caused him to leave his home, he replied, ‘The police had set up road blocks and checkpoints and the situation was becoming increasingly tense, caused by the violence which had taken place from both sides (the government and the rebels) after the initial demonstrations.’

The police had stopped me many times, going back and forth to work but one day, the police had stopped me in my car, while I was with my family. They asked me to get out of my car and checked my papers. They then produced a military knife and threatened to decapitate me.’ They said to me, ‘Are you ready to die? We are going to cut off your head.”

The man pleaded and asked for them, for the sake of his family, to let him go. They allowed him to leave but, he explained, he had heard from friends that the violence was becoming worse and that a group of children who had been caught writing graffiti on walls, criticising President Assad, had their fingers cut off and later, there were also murders of children, including decapitation.

His boss had told him, certain people were under investigation and were under imminent danger of arrest and he (the father) was one of them. The family left their home with a few possessions and travelled to Jordan, fearing for their lives. They were directed to Zaatari camp when they entered Jordan. The father explained that Zaatari was like ‘Hell’. No one wanted to be there and people were leaving the camp, saying, they would rather take their chances in Syria being bombed or shot rather than be in Zaatari.

His children told me they used to play football at home and had a computer but had to leave it behind. I asked the nine year old son could he teach me how to use mine. He said ‘yes’ but he couldn’t format it. I laughed and told him I didn’t need an IT expert just someone to teach me how to use it. Their relief, to be away from Syria, was obvious. Although the family told me they missed their home and friends terribly.

The father used to manage the children’s football team at home but now didn’t have a football, never mind a team strip to make up a team.

None of the family was in employment in Jordan, apart from the fourteen year old eldest son. He was missing school and for a twelve hour day, working as a welder’s mate, he was receiving two Jordanian dollars per day. To put the wage into perspective, I paid three JD for an average bag of nuts from the local shop.

His hands were dark grey from the oil and material he was using and he complained of being tired because of the long hours. The father lastly explained that the most uninspiring part of being a refugee was the boredom of being unemployed and the inability to provide for his family. Mother explained, the family had only left Syria with a few possessions and had very little means to even repair or sew clothes or things. I thanked the family for their hospitality and tea and said goodnight. I felt positive about the meeting but unable to see how best to help at that time. I have focused with more clarity since then and will present some thoughts during the pathfinder mission.

People are still very fearful of talking and having photographs taken because of the fear of recriminations from the police if they return to Syria. They are now unsure of their futures and feel there are problems with the Jordanian people because of their numbers. They are being extorted by bad business people. The refugees are trying to blend into the local community but have no means to do so. Apart from Amir, the branch secretary of SCI Jordan, they have few friends amongst the Jordanians. Amir is their hero, has their confidence and is treated like a brother. He sits like a chief family member in their community.

There is an oppressive mood toward the refugees in Jordan and government is aggressive toward them mainly because of the numbers and financial upkeep. Amir is sometimes reluctant to communicate electronically because of the problems he has had with the Jordanian police and their interference with his work.

I believe the intervention of volunteers from modern democratic states will change the status of the refugee and this will be embraced by the Jordanian government and the people, because it will introduce real governance and stability without further financial cost to the host people.

Zaatari camp

We decided to drive to Zaatari camp and from a distance it came into view, a great swathe of white tents spread across the landscape. As we got closer, the size of the camp (100.000 people) became very impressive. There seemed to be a mixture of simply built buildings and tents. We came into the area close to the main road into the camp. I noticed there were lots of people on the road trying to hitch a ride into town. There were also a group of children trying to steal iron from a building site. The police were nearby but didn’t intervene.

Amir pointed to a family packing items into a car and explained they were escaping from Zaatari. I asked him how did he mean escaping? He said people were climbing over the fence and escaping because they were disturbed by the poor camp conditions. Bad water, no beds, poor sanitation, prostitution and violence were not uncommon on the camp. I have to admit, the man at the car looked around as we passed by him and he looked petrified with fear.

We went to the gates and a Jordanian guard told us we could not enter. He also told us we could not take photographs. We turned around in the car and headed back to the main road. Back at the main road Amir stopped to give a ride to a family. They had just a few bags and as Amir drove he asked them questions. They had decided to leave because of the problems on camp. Stories were being told of the trafficking of young women to highest bidders in Saudi for quick marriages. Old men were paying a fee to marry women thirty, forty. fifty or even sixty years younger than themselves and claiming they were helping the family. Many marriages have been annulled because the man just wanted to take the woman’s virginity. The family in the car had a teenage daughter and were desperate to be away from the camp. Teenagers as young as fourteen were being sold.

Conclusion

Because the meetings in Jordan were informal I have not made any recommendations in this report. I will say however, in my opinion, the Secretary of SCI Jordan is a honest and very credible individual, who was an excellent host to me and I feel assured he will offer the same hospitality, to the pathfinders, who will subsequently submit reports during and after their mission.

Peter Pollard. Volunteer. ‘International Voluntary Services. GB’ (SCI UK)

No machete. No beheading. But how much MI5?

If you heard that Drummer Lee Rigby was attacked with a machete, and also beheaded, then you heard wrong. If you had an outraged and emotional reaction to that news then that’s understandable, I’m sure we all did to varying extents.

However, to some extent, you were made to feel like that by the either deliberate, or sloppy, reporting from the mainstream media who originated those ideas… It will have echoed memories of videoed beheadings, designed to be barbaric. Language such as machete and beheading is inflammatory, especially to do with a murder in broad daylight.

A soldier is still dead of course, and dead from incised wounds, by cutting with the weapons identified as knife and a meat cleaver. And yet by using those words, and being wrong, was there an aim by the media to be as inflammatory as possible…? Another attack, earlier in the month, was also headlined as by machete,…the killing of a 75 year old Muslim man in Small Heath. He was stabbed 4 times in the back in a seeming random racial slaying. Again it wasn’t a machete but some type of long knife. A Muslim man dead.

This may seem like nit-picking but hang in there. Details are important. At trial they can mean innocence or guilt. An untruth, like ‘beheading’, can travel the length of the land, whereas the true extent of MI5 involvement with the Woolwich killers and their families, while running the risk of people’s eyes glazing over, may actually go a long way to explaining more fully the motivation behind what happened.

—————-

Is MI5 foiling terror plots of its own hatching?

British intelligence services facilitating activities of UK Islamist extremists

What we know (includes killer’s statement)

Who does he think he is, Jenny Tonge??

David Ward MP – Bradford East – is in trouble. His crime: the temerity to mention Palestinian suffering in a post on Holocaust Day… Who does he think he is? Jenny Tonge??*

“Holocaust Day” has parallels with the theology of November’s Remembrance Day. Free speech gets suspended… There are things you may not say… How terribly impolite to mention more died than just soldiers… Or Iraq, where British forces helped kill a million people… Or that in WW2, bombers killed 100,000 fire-bombing Dresden and were forbidden to receive medals because of the horror…

The Holocaust was a horror, in its millions… But that’s not why Britain fought… We fought because of our treaty with Poland! Only as the years progressed did we really realise the fate so many Jews had met. Now, most of us are not Jews, while still being horrified at Hitler’s horror. Most of us, these days, are very critical of the wars Britain’s leaders order us to fight.

To see Holocaust Day ONLY as the suffering of Jews, is to sentimentally identify with a nation, race or religion, which, for most of us, is not ours. Therefore it is untrue emotion. They weren’t ‘our’ victims, they were Hitler’s. British forces truly liberated them, in 1945. To celebrate that liberation surely cannot lead to supporting Israel, the state Jews founded, in its apartheid racist persecution of others…

To see Remembrance Day ONLY as a rightful commemoration of the sacrifice of British forces, is to sentimentally indentify with Britain, the armed forces, the wars we are commanded to fight…

It’s far more important what is missed out:

Because there, are the civilians, the women, the children, the elderly – all officially unremembered that day. There, are the rest of the 60 million who died in that war. There, ultimately, is peace, and criticism of the centralised power and nationalism that might prevent the next Hitler launching wars, or the next Bush or Blair from launching his.

And there, too, is a rejection of sentimentalism of the Holocaust, and a rededication to  criticising any centralisation of power, any blinkered propaganda, any demonisation of some chosen so-called enemy… and this, of course, goes for Israel’s current treatment of the Palestinians, undergoing the longest military occupation in modern history.

Martin Deane

*Jenny Tonge was a front bench Lib Dem MP, but removed because of comments around Palestinian suffering. She’s now a Lord, Baroness.

Lib Dems condemn MP’s criticism of Israel ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-21194991

Don’t pick sides, stop the bloodshed.

This is Prof. Michel Chosudovsky’s comments on the Observers’ Mission Report of the League of Arab States to Syria:

The report acknowledges the existence of  “an armed entity” involved in the killings of civilians and police as well as the conduct of terrorist acts, which in turn have contributed to triggering actions by government forces.

The Report refers to “armed opposition groups” as well as to the “Free Syrian Army”,  both of which, according to the AL Mission, are involved in the deliberate killing of innocent civilians:

“In some zones, this armed entity reacted by attacking Syrian security forces and citizens, causing the Government to respond with further violence. In the end, innocent citizens pay the price for those actions with life and limb. 

In Homs, Idlib and Hama, the Observer Mission witnessed acts of violence being committed against Government forces and civilians that resulted in several deaths and injuries. Examples of those acts include the bombing of a civilian bus, killing eight persons and injuring others, including women and children, and the bombing of a train carrying diesel oil. In another incident in Homs, a police bus was blown up, killing two police officers. A fuel pipeline and some small bridges were also bombed. ”

“Such incidents include the bombing of buildings, trains carrying fuel, vehicles carrying diesel oil and explosions targeting the police, members of the media and fuel pipelines. Some of those attacks have been carried out by the Free Syrian Army and some by other armed opposition groups.”

The Mission also underscored to role of media distortion in the coverage of events in Syria as well as the campaign to discredit ithe Mission’s findings:

“The Mission noted that many parties falsely reported that explosions or violence had occurred in several locations. When the observers went to those locations, they found that those reports were unfounded.

The Mission also noted that, according to its teams in the field, the media exaggerated the nature of the incidents and the number of persons killed in incidents and protests in certain towns.”

The Report also underscored attempts to discredit the Mission and dismiss its findings:

Arab and foreign audiences of certain media organizations have questioned the Mission’s credibility because those organizations use the media to distort the facts. It will be difficult to overcome this problem unless there is political and media support for the Mission and its mandate. It is only natural that some negative incidents should occur as it conducts its activities because such incidents occur as a matter of course in similar missions.

Also of significace were attempts by officials of AL governments to pressure several of the observers into providing “exaggerated accounts of events”.

Some observers reneged on their duties and broke the oath they had taken. They made contact with officials from their countries and gave them exaggerated accounts of events. Those officials consequently developed a bleak and unfounded picture of the situation.

Also of significance is the fact that the Mission acknowledged that peaceful protests by unarmed civilians against the government were not the object of government crackdowns:

group team leaders [of the Observation mission] witnessed peaceful demonstrations by both Government supporters and the opposition in several places. None of those demonstrations were disrupted, except for some minor clashes with the Mission and between loyalists and opposition. These have not resulted in fatalities since the last presentation before the Arab Ministerial Committee on the Situation in Syria at its meeting of 8 January 2012.

While the Mission does not identify the foreign powers behind “the armed entity”, the report dispels the mainstream media lies and fabrications. It largely confirms independent media reports including Global Research’s coverage of the armed insurrection since April 2011.

The West Wing – a spectrum of acceptable opinion.

The West Wing series is great, a fine example of intelligent, politically focused scripts which cover any number of political issues, at the same time drawing you in to often feel sympathetic towards the main characters. You don’t have to be a fan of Martin Sheen, US politics and the White House, to enjoy it, although a similar treatment of the Kremlin might possibly lack in appeal! And, we can’t say we’re not used to the genre!

I’m not a devotee, but in series 7, there’s an entire episode spent purely on a US presidential debate between the two candidates, Democrat and Republican. Surely this was ground-breaking for a series, outside of actual real debates themselves, although Alan Alda was always going to make it more palatable!?

A lot of truth on the American situation is spoken – one reason why it is so popular among a great many people, especially those interested in politics, aware of how it is fought over, and controlled, and also how important it is in covering health, education, war, welfare, and so on.

In series 7 a nuclear accident happens on the Californian coast. It gets lots of coverage and influences the fictional electoral outcome. That was a few years ago but in it, it previsioned Fukushima 2011, a nuclear accident (on a much greater scale) and which arguably affects Americans more than the fictional events affected the fictional population (who fled the area en masse).

Despite covering important themes in different ways, at all times it continues the myth of noble America:

  • The myth of the world’s remaining superpower, with US peacekeepers keeping a fragile peace in Israel-Palestine – instead of an America which arms Israel to the teeth occasionally selling Palestinians a dodgy roadmap.
  • Yet another full-scale invasion is portrayed as an intervention to prevent a Russian and Chinese standoff  instead of the reality of unjustifiable invasions like Iraq, killing 1.5 million people, or Vietnam killing 3-4 million locals (or 58,000 GIs if you were educated in the US), or any of 100 interventions, invasions, coups and destabilisations since World War II, all favouring power – but not people.
  • The myth of an honourable US military is challenged by the revelation of a secret military space shuttle, flagging up the militarisation of space, an important issue (undoubtedly much further advanced than we have ever been told to date) but not that it has been America leading the arms race for decades, and with such an immoral level of defence spending as if it’s designed to take on the rest of the world (which it is).
  • The myth of Democrats being for socialisation and Republicans about tax-cuts is well-played, but unaddressed is the real power of big business and finance which pays both their elections bills, expected to be over $1 billion each this year!

Some home myths are challenged strongly, that government healthcare, MediCare, is hugely expensive – is outed as having only 2% administration costs, that education should have a better-rewarded professional teaching workforce.

The series covers huge amounts of ground, as American politics does, wherever money is involved, in fact. But what it provides is the spectrum of acceptable opinion.

Which series will it be that challenges America’s subversive role in the world, or its major inequality at home while outing the roles of big business, which can get protective laws changed resulting in wrecking the global economy, resulting in new, patented, forms of life, improperly tested and with effects for generations to come, not just the current generation of small farmers lives and livelihoods being wrecked, which can make a killing out of a global flu scare which turns out to be hype, which can fabricate a war for oil?

For some things, it will take more than just a change of administration.

They’re not heroes. They’re victims.

Whenever we idolise or demonise there’s a problem.

We demonise Hitler and so we perpetuate a deadly enemy. When we want a new deadly enemy we resurrect the image of Hitler, and use it for Saddam or Gaddafi or, currently, Assad. These modern enemies (ours, though not others) aren’t in Hitler’s league, but it makes it much more easy to attack them and justify it to mass populations (and ignore whoever else suffers or dies).

But demonising Hitler, too, does injustice to the truth, to the history of what happened. We must understand how Hitler came to power in Germany, the poverty, the unemployment, the international debt oppression, the idolising of the state, the Aryan people, the nationalism, the racism and hate encouraged against various groups. Or it will happen again. It could happen here. It could happen elsewhere, even with our nation’s help.

Others we put on a pedestal. One of the easiest ways to justify war is to idolise the warriors, the fighters, the soldiers, those who kill and die, suffer and cause suffering.

The soldiers will say the same! Yes, there may be some who definitely carried out some heroic action (on whichever side!), but they don’t regard themselves as heroes either. Almost universally. Rather they know the reality of war: murder, suffering and death, like Harry Patch below.

This is important.

Especially after Iraq.

They’re not heroes. They’re victims. They die, they get wounded, disabled. Worse – they do that to others. The vast majority of victims of war today are civilians, 0ver 80%. But the soldiers are victims in other ways too:  the things they do stay with them, maybe consciously, always subconsciously, always lifelong. That’s why, of just the soldiers, more of them kill themselves after whichever war, during ‘peace’, than died during the conflict. Certainly true of Vietnam, and the Falklands, and on its way to becoming true of Iraq and Afghanistan, as the suicides continue.

Kissinger called military men “dumb, stupid animals”. There just to do his bidding, the orders of the powerful, the elite, the Bushes, the Blairs, the Obamas and Camerons. Einstein said, Nothing will end war unless the people themselves refuse to go to war.

Our hierarchical societies are pyramids of sacrifice. We sacrifice our blood, and the blood of enemies, in order to what? ‘Make the world a better place?’ We so easily trot out some self-justifying description. Or we ask any critic, Well what would you do then, let the enemy win?  But we studiously ignore the lives wrecked, or the advantages gained by the rich and powerful, in territory, resources, advantage over other countries. Oil. And we fall for what the same rich and powerful tell us  through prowar propaganda from the media.

Kissinger’s right while any soldier thinks his only calling is to follow orders.

Because the soldier’s foremost duty is peace. It has to be. It’s the only way it can be ultimately justified. But this means we have to train them in the ways of peace, not just to kill! International law, Kellogg-Briand, Nuremberg, the Geneva Conventions, the treatment of prisoners, the rejection of torture. And, ultimately, the refusal to start a war. No matter how much the Blair’s of this world lie to us, to them.

Harry Patch, war is murder

Harry Patch, war is murder

Why I wear the White Poppy, not the Red Poppy

Repost from Richard Jackson –

http://richardjacksonterrorismblog.wordpress.com/2011/10/30/why-i-wear-the-white-poppy-not-the-red-poppy/

I would wear a red poppy if it was a symbol of remembrance for all the victims of war, and not just the ones who did the killing. By excluding the non-military victims of war from remembrance, the red poppy upholds a moral hierarchy of worthy and unworthy victims: the heroic soldier who is worthy of respect and official commemoration, and the unworthy, unnamed civilians killed or maimed by the heroic soldier who remains unacknowledged and unremembered. This validation of those who wage war and the moral hierarchy of victims is a central part of the cultural architecture which upholds the continuing institution of war in our society. It is a central part of what makes war possible. When the red poppy comes to be associated with an honest public acknowledgement of all the people killed by our soldiers, enemy soldiers and civilians alike; when it symbolizes our sorrow and regret for all the victims of war, not just a chosen few; then I would consider wearing a red poppy.

I would wear a red poppy if it did not function to hide the truth and obscure reality – if it wasn’t a way of enforcing a particular kind of collective memory which is actually designed to forget uncomfortable realities; if it wasn’t intimately tied up with a whole series of myths and untruths about heroic sacrifice and necessary violence in war. The truth is that war is cruel, bloody, and inglorious, and that the soldiers we remember are there to kill and maim fellow human beings, and to die screaming for their mothers. The truth is that when we send soldiers to kill others, we consign those who survive to mental and moral injury; a huge proportion of them will attempt suicide in one way or another after they return home. The truth is that many of our wars are nothing to do with freedom, liberty, or democracy; they are often illegal, pointless, or predatory. When the red poppy is associated with an honest debate on the reality and morality of our wars; when it acknowledges the truth about the horror of war and its often pointless slaughter of our best and brightest; then I would consider wearing a red poppy.

I would wear a red poppy if its fund-raising and symbolism had the true interests of the military personnel it purports to support at heart. The fact is that the best interests of every military person would be to never have to kill or face death or mutilation ever again, and certainly not for the squalid purposes most often dreamed up by our venal and vainglorious politicians. The funds raised by the red poppy should be used to work for the end of all war, not to make up for the short-coming in state support for military personnel or to prepare the nation for the further slaughter of our fellow citizens in future wars.

I would wear a red poppy if it wasn’t a way for the state to offset the costs of war so that it can engage in ever more military adventures. In truth, the state sends the nation’s young people to war and then refuses to spend the necessary money on supporting them when they return home. Buying a red poppy is in effect a second tax for funding war, as it allows the state to spend the money it should have spent on rehabilitation on buying new weapons and training new soldiers. Instead of buying a red poppy, we should demand that the state pay the full support and rehabilitation of all soldiers who need it out of the taxes we have already paid to the military. If this means that there is not enough money for the next military adventure because we are taking care of the last war’s victims, then this is how it should be. It should not be easy for governments to take the decision to go to war; they must pay the full cost. If the red poppy came to symbolize a challenge to government to properly care for service personnel; if it was a means to really question the decision to go to war, instead of implicitly supporting every war regardless of its morality; I would consider wearing a red poppy.

I would wear a red poppy if it wasn’t used socially to enforce an unthinking patriotism, and to punish and discipline those who would question the morality of war or the values of militarism. Those who fervently promote the red poppy often assert that the soldiers we remember fought for our freedom, but this does not include the freedom to question military values or public displays of violent patriotism. Anyone should be allowed to refuse to wear a red poppy in public on the basis of conscience without being questioned or looked down upon, or even to wear a different coloured poppy.

I would wear a red poppy if it wasn’t part of a broader militarism in our society which makes war more likely, rather than less; if it wasn’t bound up with national narratives of heroism and the legitimacy and rightness of military force; and if it wasn’t implicitly supportive of military values. If the red poppy came to symbolize opposition to war and support for peaceful values; I would consider wearing it.

I wear the White Poppy because it is an unambiguous commitment to peace, the end of all war and opposition to militarism. The Red Poppy may have once been part of a commemorative culture shortly after the First World War that was aimed at working towards ensuring that no one ever had to experience the horrors of war again; but this meaning has long since vanished, replaced instead by an insidious military patriotism. The White Poppy is now the main symbol of a commitment to remember all the victims of war, to tell the truth about war, to work to ensure that no soldier ever has to suffer its horrors again, and to make peace the central value of our culture, instead of militarism.

(You can order a white poppy to wear from: http://www.ppu.org.uk/whitepoppy/index.html)