[Marxism] MRZine's overflowing toilet

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Dec 20 21:54:50 MST 2012


An article that is linked to from MRZine states:

"Rather more credible is the fact that, since rebels choose to fight in 
populated areas, casualties will occur."

full: 
http://blogs.channel4.com/alex-thomsons-view/insight-syrias-frontline/3572

---

Meanwhile, the NYT reports right now:

NY Times December 20, 2012
Syria Unleashes Cluster Bombs on Town, Punishing Civilians
By C. J. CHIVERS

MAREA, Syria — The plane came in from the southeast late in the 
afternoon, releasing its weapons in a single pass. Within seconds, 
scores of finned bomblets struck and exploded on the homes and narrow 
streets of this small Syrian town.

After the screams and the desperate gathering of the victims, the staff 
at the local Freedom Hospital counted 4 dead and 23 wounded. All were 
civilians, doctors and residents said.

Many forms of violence and hardship have befallen Syria’s people as the 
country’s civil war has escalated this year. But the Syrian government’s 
attack here on Dec. 12 pointed to one of the war’s irrefutable patterns: 
the deliberate targeting of civilians by President Bashar al-Assad’s 
military, in this case with a weapon that is impossible to use precisely.

Syrians on both sides in this fight have suffered from the bloodshed and 
sectarian furies given dark license by the war. The victims of the 
cluster bomb attacks describe the tactic as collective punishment, a 
mass reprisal against populations that are with the rebels.

The munitions in question — Soviet-era PTAB-2.5Ms — were designed 
decades ago by Communist engineers to destroy battlefield formations of 
Western armored vehicles and tanks. They are ejected in dense bunches 
from free-falling dispensers dropped from aircraft. The bomblets then 
scatter and descend nose-down to land and explode almost at once over a 
wide area, often hundreds of yards across.

Marea stands along an agricultural plain, surrounded for miles by empty 
fields. Even at night, or in bad weather, it cannot be mistaken for 
anything but what it is — the densely packed collection of small 
businesses, offices and homes that together form a town.

Two journalists from The New York Times were traveling toward Marea as 
the attack occurred and arrived not long after the exploding bomblets 
had rippled across its neighborhoods.

Blood pooled on the street, including beside a water-collection point at 
an intersection where Nabhan al-Haji, 18, was killed.

Another victim, Ahmad Najjar Asmail, had been riding a motorcycle when a 
submunition landed beside him. He was decapitated. Ramy Naser, 15, was 
also fatally wounded.

The hospital was crowded with patients. Many more were en route to 
hospitals in Turkey.

The use of cluster munitions is banned by much of the world, although 
Syria, like the United States, is not party to that international 
convention. In the detached parlance of military planners, they are also 
sometimes referred to as area weapons — ordnance with effects that cover 
a sprawling amount of ground.

In the attack on Marea, at least three dispensers, each containing 42 
bomblets slightly smaller than a one-liter bottle and packed with a 
high-explosive shaped charge, were dropped squarely onto neighborhoods 
and homes.

Two funerals began as the sun set, the latest in a town that rose early 
against Syria’s government, and has been one of the seats of defiance.

One homeowner, Ali Farouh, showed the place where a PTAB-2.5M struck an 
exterior wall on his patio. His young son held up bits of shrapnel.

“Bashar is a horse,” Mr. Farouh said, almost spitting with disgust as he 
said the president’s name. “He is a donkey.”

An examination of the area by daylight found the signature signs of an 
air-delivered cluster munitions attack, including unexploded PTAB-2.5M 
submunitions, the tail sections and fins of three dispensers and three 
main dispenser bodies.

One resident also displayed the nearly intact remains of an ATK-EB 
mechanical time fuse associated with the same dispensers. Fragments of 
the submunitions’ fins were in abundance. An interior spacer and 
dispenser nose plate were also found.

Throughout the town, many of the narrow, telltale craters made by shaped 
charges could be seen. Some cut deep holes through asphalt into the dirt 
below, almost like a drill.

It was not immediately clear why Marea was attacked, although many 
residents ascribed motives that mix collective punishment with revenge.

The town is the home of Abdulkader al-Saleh, a prominent rebel field 
commander in the Aleppo region. Mr. Saleh, charismatic and lean, is 
locally known with near reverence as Haji Marea, and is celebrated by 
his townspeople for his mix of battlefield savvy, courage and luck. This 
month, just days before the cluster attack on his hometown, he was named 
a leader in the reorganized Free Syrian Army, as many rebels call 
themselves.

Residents said Marea’s recent history, and its indelible connection to 
the commander it produced, has earned it a high place on Mr. Assad’s 
list of targets.

“The regime especially hates us,” said Yasser al-Haji, an activist who 
lost a cousin in the attack.

No one disputes that Marea has repeatedly been attacked by some of the 
Assad government’s most frightening weapons. On Thursday, residents 
reported being hit by cruise missiles, perhaps Scuds, which they said 
landed just north of the town with tremendous, earth-heaving explosions.

In the case of the cluster munitions attack, one of the submunitions did 
strike a building being used by the rebels — a school where some of Haji 
Marea’s fighters are based. It blasted a small hole in the concrete roof 
and sprayed bits of concrete and shrapnel into the room below, which was 
empty.

Several fighters, who were meeting in the next room as the jet screamed 
overhead — and the sole bomblet, out of more than 100, hit their 
building — chuckled at their near miss. But they were enraged by the attack.

They spoke of the government’s escalation of weapons throughout the year 
— from mortars, tanks and artillery to helicopter gunships, then to 
fixed-wing attack jets. Since summer, Mr. Assad’s military has used 
cluster munitions repeatedly, and recently began using incendiary 
cluster munitions, too. This month, Syrian activists and officials in 
Washington said the government had ratcheted up the pressure with one of 
the last unused weapons left in its stock — cruise missiles, with 
conventional warheads. Analysts who have watched the gradual escalations 
said the Assad government has followed a “boil-the-frog-slowly” strategy.

With the incremental escalations, they say, Mr. Assad has prevented the 
West from finding cause to enter the war, as NATO did against Col. 
Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya after he rolled out almost all of his 
military’s full might at the war’s outset.

One fighter, who gave his name as Mustafa, said that Mr. Assad had 
little left that he had not used. The fighter said he expected no restraint.

“In the coming days, he’ll use the chemicals and he’ll destroy 
everything,” he said. “And will burn the people, and kill all the people 
— children, women, old men, the elders.”

Mr. Assad, Mustafa said, “just needs to kill.”




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