The both-sides-in-Syria-are-bad heresy

And so it’s becoming fashionable among journalists nowadays to describe both sides of the Syrian conflict (the regime and rebel factions) as equally bad for Syria. The premise is that whichever side wins will be just as bad as the other.

The main, and perhaps only, doubtfully legitimate reason for such a premise is the widely circulated incidences of excessive violence perpetrated by rebel factions against regime troops/henchmen and against other rebel groups. While these violent events are miniscule in number and intensity when compared to regime atrocities, they are heavily capitalized by both rebel groups (for propaganda reasons) and by the media who generally has better access into rebel-controlled areas than regime-controlled ones.

But apparently these reactionary acts of excessive violence are the perfect excuse for the international community to keep turning its back while the Syrian regime continues to slaughter and expel its own citizens. Shame on those rebels.

One has to wonder what rebel groups need to be like in order to be good enough for us. Are rebels expected to act with perfect morals as they watch the regime’s henchmen literally butcher children and rape women on a daily basis? Are rebels, down to every last lay soldier at the bottom of the chain of command, supposed to reject all kinds of violence as the Syrian regime bombs residential neighborhoods with barrels of TNT and shrapnel? How easily it is that we forget that even organized armies of superpowers don’t act with the purity we are demanding of Syrian rebels.

More importantly, what drove the rebels to these violent acts? Did they begin the violence simultaneously with the Syrian regime? If I remember correctly, the Syrian revolution was non violent for several months before it finally had no choice but to adopt weaponized defense. These first few months of non violent protests saw some of the worst crimes imaginable perpetrated by the regime, from kidnapping children en masse and returning them as mutilated corpses to their parents to raping women in front of their families to machete attacks on neighborhoods.. the gruesome list is quite long.

How full of crap do we have to be to pretend that human beings should all react to such barbarism with perfect manners?

And how, pray tell, can a neophyte group of rebels trying to overthrow a regime be considered as bad as the regime that has proven to be hopelessly corrupt, limitlessly oppressive, and astonishingly blood thirsty over many decades? On what basis are we judging the rebels other than the way they react under the immense stress of months of war, starvation, lack of means, and zero international support?

Why are we allowing ourselves to be so myopic?

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Alcohol is terrible, so let’s legalize cannabis

If you think marijuana’s bad, just look at alcohol!

This has been a main hinge for arguments in favor of legalizing the use of cannabis. All of a sudden, we acknowledge that alcohol is bad – very bad. We know the thousands killed on the roads every year from drunk driving. We know that even the celebrated one glass of wine a day will raise the risk of certain cancers by a percentage half of which is sufficient for a drug to be recalled from the market.

So we come to the only natural thing to do: We seek to legalize another intoxicant because, you know, God forbid we have to rethink alcohol.

Strangely enough, one cannot smell lobbying power here. The alcohol industry doesn’t seem to be straining to push for the utter negligence we are practicing toward alcohol. Instead, alcohol seems to automatically drive itself deeper into our culture. That is, we have reached such a degree of adoration for boos that we can look it in the eye, acknowledge that it’s killing us by the thousands, yet proceed to pull it in for another embrace.

Ok, maybe not entirely “automatically”. There are the hardly inconspicuous billboards for heavy liquor on hi-ways for kids to see. There are the movies, TV shows, and music videos teeming with product placement for boos. Vodka ads litter every TV and Youtube station there is. Regardless of who’s to blame, though, our acceptance of alcohol as a general public is alarming.

Alcohol is like the ubiquitous lobbyist who has a connection with everyone who matters. Lawmakers use it (liberal and conservative), celebrities cherish it, and doctors and even religious leaders drink it. Writers and pundits of all persuasions – from far right Tea Partiers to Occupy Wall street activists to Green Party liberals – will scramble to defend it at the slightest hint of prohibition. Its stronghold is truly legendary and its novelty never seems to wane.

But facts are: It’s deadlier than all illicit drugs and it’s a known carcinogen – among its many other known health hazards. And next time you hear that someone took their own life, ask if they had alcohol in their blood. There’s a 1 out of 3 chance they did.

Perhaps it’s time to ask ourselves: Is alcohol worth its cons? Is “having a good time” worth all the violent tirades, the broken households, the dead sons and daughters, the orphaned children, and the bar fight injuries?

Isn’t it time for a serious debate about alcohol?

Ugly Time

I happened upon Time magazine’s 12/30 edition today, with a “Year in Photos” feature on the cover. A quick look through these summarizing photos was interrupted by a 2-page dramatic photo of the anti-government summer demonstrations in Taksim, Turkey. 5 people were killed in these demonstrations. Of course, Time made sure to mention that these demonstrations were against the “pro-Islamist” government of R.T. Erdogan.

But something was missing from this photo gallery. Something big. Photos of dead Syrian children from the chemical attack on Damascus suburbs launched by pro-Assad forces, killing over 450 people – an event that sparked a worldwide effort to rid Syria of chemical weapons. Instead, they had a photo of an execution undertaken by an “Al Qaeda-linked ISIS militia”, who are fighting against the Assad regime.

Meanwhile, millions of Syrian refugees suffer through winter in tents after fleeing a regime that killed hundreds of thousands of their fellow countrymen. They ran away from mass murder, random arrests, and torture. They also ran away from Iranian and Lebanese Hizbollah militias who were turning their villages into slaughterhouses and killing their children in cold blood. With knives.

Why is that not worthy of a photo?

World leaders have turned their backs to the Syrian cause of seeking freedom from a totalitarian regime similar to the one ruling over North Korea. Politicians are like that, and we shouldn’t expect any more. But for Time to join in this obtuse negligence is simply asinine.

Some manners, Time!

The irony of the NSA spying fiasco

Yes, there is deep irony here. For someone who lived under dictatorships, wiretapping, home bugging, and internet tracking came as a given. Walls had ears, cars had GPS trackers (and ears), and every other person could be a government snoop, including your own brother.

So when that person comes to the US and starts to hear about government surveillance, they’re not surprised one bit. Moreover, they expect that the NSA has been recording all communications in full for a long time and that it probably will continue to do so, with or without corrective measures from Congress, namely the USA Freedom Act.

The irony for us here is this: we’ve been supporting dictatorships that have invaded their peoples’ privacies for decades, and now we’re having our privacies invaded by our own government. Let’s just hope that other aspects of dictatorship rule don’t come around to us like surveillance did.

The USA Freedom Act can only do so much. The internal intelligence apparatus has grown to become a monster beyond control. It employs thousands of Americans and now has its own agendas, interests, and lobbies. It has vast buildings filled with advanced technology and it’s not going away any time soon. What will likely happen is an outward “restructuring” of activities, while inward operations will stay largely the same, monitoring and recording all communications of all kinds, but finding clever ways of keeping itself secret.

Meanwhile, we will keep supporting foreign dictatorships whose job is to keep their peoples under a watch to protect us from them, and think that the universal law of “what goes around comes around” does not apply to us.

Update on our status (if you even care..)

Yeah, we started off pretty excited, and we still are, but we decided to be excited about something slightly different. You see, our initial idea was to get people to send us information about their loved ones who were killed or injured and dubbed “collateral damage” or “civilian casualties”. As it turned out, this required lots of connections on the ground all over the globe. It required way more time and effort than we can currently spend.

Meanwhile, we had a blog that we’re paying for but not even using! I know: how cute, right? So while we’re working on the front of getting the stories of people out there for everyone to see, we’ll be utilizing our domain and webpage to speak our minds. We’ll talk about sociology, psychology, economics, and as much as I hate to say it, politics.

Stick around and subscribe to our RSS feed. Thank God for the internet(s), where we can say cool things and totally conceal how incredibly lame we are in person.

C.D.