Thursday, October 1, 2015

West of Eden: Discouraged.

Congratulations Russia, killing your first 30 civilians in a single day in your very first week! You guys are going to go far in this business, I just know.

Updated 10/2/2015

Image by Heiko Sakurai, via Bayerische Schloßverwaltung.

So when Americans bomb a wedding party they sometimes manage to kill as many as 40 people (Mukaradeeb, Iraq, May 19 2004), 47 tops (Dih Bala, Afghanistan, July 6 2008), and they haven't really brought one of those off in years, frankly. So it's time for some of the younger countries to show up—Hi, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, wiping out upwards of 130 wedding guests, mostly women and children, in the village of Al-Wahijah in western Yemen on Monday, possibly a record.

They'll have to step up their game if they want to catch up to the Burgundian princess Kriemhild, pictured above. It was 13 years after her wedding, to Attila the Hun, after the murder of her first husband, Siegfried, but it was the first visit she'd had from her family (Siegfried's murderers). She set up their 9,000 Knechte (squires) in the dining hall and had them all slaughtered, every last one, which caused her brothers to lose their temper, and pretty much everybody ended up dead before much longer.

I'm so sick of this stuff I'm not going to argue anything. The Saudis have killed some 5,000 Yemenis since March, including 2,355 civilians, mostly with air strikes but they've added some of those proverbial boots on the ground recently, which is exactly how they started losing their last attempt to kill all the Houthis, in 2009. I don't know what makes them think it'll work any better this time. It's nice to realize they're going to lose once more, but doesn't really make it better, and the US failure to stop this carnage, totally useless by any Realpolitik principle as well as hideous by the moral standards of ordinary human beings, is starting to make me lose my own temper, Mr. President. Can't say I haven't been stretching things to give you the benefit of the doubt.

Then again perhaps to the president this is just a bagatelle, because in comparison to the mayhem in Syria, there is no comparison. Somewhere between 230,000 and 320,000 people have been killed in Syria (Wikipedia) since the war started in 2011, including 70,000 to 84,000 civilians. The forces of Bashar al-Assad are certainly killing the largest numbers by far, with their barrel bombs dropped in populated areas and killing everything that breathes, a third of the victims civilians, as we see in the table below, from IRIN News and based on figures for just the first seven months of 2015, from the Syrian Network for Human Rights—

On the other hand the Syrian government forces have also taken the heaviest losses of any armed group, possibly as many killed in the course of the entire war as civilians have been (their top number is about 84,000 too). That's why we don't need to kill any of them ourselves, Senator McCain, there's plenty of people already working on it and doing a terrific job. In 2014 the troop strength of the Syrian army was about half what it was in 2011, with continual defections and the failure of conscription (obviously a huge portion of the refugees are young men avoiding service in the butcher army because they object to belonging to the force that drops barrel bombs on their cousins and neighbors). It seems to me certain that the reason for the Russian buildup is not so much to prosecute the war as to be in a position to influence the peace or semi-peace that must arise in the western parts of the country as the regime nears collapse. Which won't of course stop them from killing lots of people in their own right and boasting everywhere about how much "tougher" they are than the Vietnam-haunted Americans. (Why can't those Yankee pussies be psychopaths like me? asks Vladimir Vladimirovich.)

Meanwhile, the "Caliphate", with which peace literally cannot be made, finding the war didn't provide enough death for it to feed on, carried out 65 executions in September, the 15th month of its existence, for crimes including
sorcery, finding a WhatsApp conversation with relatives belong to Asoud al- Sharqiyya Army in al- Qalamoun, participating in the war against establishing Allah law and Islamic State, being a soldier in the regime Nusayri army, being a leader in a sleeping cell of the popular committees, smuggling ammunition from IS-held areas to the regime-held areas, belonging to the Awakening Movements and communicating with the Nusayri regime, banditry and looting people’s money, being agents for the awakening movement in Aleppo and Turkey, killing a person, cooperating for the sake of Nusayris (Alawites), sodomy, adultery, kidnapping people, killing them and anatomizing their corpses to buy their members, insulting God, mischief in earth, belonging to awakening movements in the past and not attending the course of repentance as well as having weapons...
They seem nice. (Guess who else wants to punish people for sodomy, adultery, and anatomizing corpses to buy their members or "selling baby parts" as we might put it here in the States.)

And now we have 10 more community college students gunned down in Roseburg, Oregon, where the county sheriff is one of those tough-guy souls who doesn't want to let mass murderers pressure our society into restricting gun ownership:
"We are Americans. We must not allow, nor shall we tolerate, the actions of criminals, no matter how heinous the crimes, to prompt politicians to enact laws that will infringe upon the liberties of responsible citizens who have broken no laws.”
Oh yeah. If we make it harder to get guns those heinous criminals will have won!

Update 10/2:

Emptywheel quotes the Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir
“We are very careful in picking targets. We have very precise weapons,” Adel al-Jubeir told CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell. “We work with our allies including the United States on these targets.
and NSC spox Ned Price:
The United States has no role in targeting decisions made by the Coalition in Yemen. Nevertheless, we have consistently reinforced to members of the Coalition the imperative of precise targeting. We also have underscored the importance of thoroughly investigating all credible allegations of civilian casualties.
I'm marginally inclined to believe the US guy because my contempt for the Saudi authorities is that bottomless and because Price's statement agrees with the way I've been trying to understand what's going on for the past months. But it doesn't quite agree with the US newspapers, which keep insisting that the US is in some way "helping" KSA with the operations in a way that certainly sounds like targeting. Sudden thought: Should we take away from that that all the sources used by the Times and Post and so on are inside the Saudi military? Which is most likely lying on principle?

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