Now it is raining. Bombs a little bit calmer.
December 13, 2016 12:48 PM   Subscribe

Syrian government close to complete control of Aleppo. More civilians, including women and children, killed by government forces as they attempt to flee the city amidst "a complete meltdown of humanity." Many civilians tweeting goodbyes online. Russia claims deals in progress to evacuate city safely.
posted by stillmoving (47 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
I have been thinking about this recent, gut-wrenching BBC documentary a lot this morning. Even given the inspiring, resolute humanity of the Syrians interviewed in it, it's difficult to see any future for the country that isn't bleak.
posted by ryanshepard at 12:53 PM on December 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm not remotely suggesting people shouldn't donate, but I wonder how much of the humanitarian aid is able to get through.

I've seen lots of people on social media saying we should DO SOMETHING (meaning the US or NATO, I guess) but what, exactly? I'll admit I don't know much about the history of Syria specifically, but it seems that in general, intervention in that area has done more harm than good, even if we meant well (which is certainly open to interpretation).

It's just awful all around. Those poor people.
posted by AFABulous at 1:40 PM on December 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

Of all of those agencies listed, I would only send money to the White Helmets. My understanding is that Americans cannot send money directly to anyone in Syria, at least not through PayPal.
posted by cairnoflore at 1:49 PM on December 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

What the hell can you even say?

. for humanity
posted by billiebee at 2:14 PM on December 13, 2016 [12 favorites]

Jesus I just deleted a long comment about hitchhiking and bussing through Syria in the 1980s, starting in Aleppo, but who gives a shit really. This is a fucking disaster and I just can't even cope with my thoughts for all the beautiful, gracious, welcoming, respectful, loving, hospitable Syrians who made my circles through their country such a formative few weeks of my life.

A "."

And millions more like it. Fuck.
posted by Rumple at 3:57 PM on December 13, 2016 [22 favorites]

For what it is worth no other conflict before has been so documented with a view of providing any future accountability mechanism with masses of evidence from the very beginning. Dozens of ordinary people solely or with various civil society groups have risked, and lost, their lives to gather what they hope will be evidence that will available regardless of the military outcome. I'm planning my first post on this but suffice it to say that should the political wheel turn in the right direction one day a lot of people may have to answer to the ghosts of Syria.

posted by Malingering Hector at 4:18 PM on December 13, 2016 [8 favorites]

There is more than one truth to tell in the awful story of Aleppo. - Robert Fisk.
What is Aleppo - Syrian Dust - a review. The twisted reality of an Italian freelancer in Syria - Francesca Borri.
. x 82 and more.
posted by adamvasco at 4:28 PM on December 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

MADRE is my go to for conflict zone giving.
I also gave via the Aleppo cats sanctuary (memail for details because it requires circumventing Paypal's jerkishness)
posted by spamandkimchi at 4:34 PM on December 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

The money that I donated via the cat sanctuary went to an ambulance, food for people, and food for cats.
posted by spamandkimchi at 4:35 PM on December 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

The people who tweeted their goodbyes. I don't even know how to process that. I just don't.
posted by Ruki at 6:18 PM on December 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

It's not a civil war, it's a war for regime change.

Syrians elected Assad two years ago, by a large majority, in an apparently credible democratic exercise. Syrians on the ground don't see Assad as the problem.

The White Helmets claim neutrality but are funded by US and UK and are not credible, and have been caught using the same child actors in multiple propaganda films.

Eva Bartlett, an independent Canadian reporter, has been covering this very well. Here's a recent article about US & Russian forces targeting everyone in Syria:

And here she is slamming some hack reporter:
posted by ugly at 8:48 PM on December 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

Syrians elected Assad two years ago, by a large majority, in an apparently credible democratic exercise. Syrians on the ground don't see Assad as the problem.

The Syrian presidential elections were contested by three candidates:
  • Assad
  • Hassan Al-nouri, a supporter of the Assad regime
  • Maher Abd Al-Hafiz Hajjar, a supposed opposition candidate (disavowed by the actual opposition) nominated by ruling party MPs
That of course doesn't account for the fact that millions of refugees didn't vote, and large parts of Syria at the time were not under Assad's control and little to no voting occurred there.

But if you want to pretend that the "vote" in areas under Assad's control constitutes an actual, legitimate election representing the free will of Syrians go ahead.
posted by PenDevil at 11:11 PM on December 13, 2016 [10 favorites]

Here's a recent article about US & Russian forces targeting everyone in Syria:

Mint Press News is not where you want to go for truthful information on this, unless your name happens to be Bashar al-Assad.
posted by thetortoise at 2:31 AM on December 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

Still no evacuations, and now more shelling. Those poor people.
posted by Catseye at 2:39 AM on December 14, 2016

What sickens me is all the double-dealing and lies while innocent women and children are slaughtered with impunity. None of us (while we watch the latest occupant of the Golden Elevator summoned to Lord Trump's sanctum and thousands dying in boats on the Mediterranean) really have the faintest idea of what is really going on.
posted by Myeral at 3:35 AM on December 14, 2016

I just emailed my family to suggest we donate to Doctors Without Borders. They're the most trustworthy charity I know, and they're trying to gain access to the battlegrounds even now.
posted by XtinaS at 7:15 AM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

There is some controversy about The White Helmets . Like most things Syria it's complicated.
posted by adamvasco at 9:13 AM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Why is there this push to imply that we shouldn't believe that large numbers of civilians are at risk (inflated numbers, secretly rebels) and rescuers are shady (western funding, use of social media)?

Russia is helping Assad bomb the shit out of these places and somehow we're supposed to believe it's not that bad?
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 10:59 AM on December 14, 2016 [4 favorites]

There is some controversy about The White Helmets . Like most things Syria it's complicated.

Both of those authors are members of the Syrian Solidarity Movement, who are on Assad's dime.
posted by PenDevil at 11:15 AM on December 14, 2016 [4 favorites]

Why is there this push to imply that we shouldn't believe that large numbers of civilians are at risk (inflated numbers, secretly rebels) and rescuers are shady (western funding, use of social media)?

This might be rhetorical, but I believe the answers are:
1) a coordinated disinformation campaign by Assad's regime directed at maintaining international inaction, similar to the one Putin already waged in Ukraine;
2) a rebel opposition that is disorganized and has a shady history of outside funding, that doesn't represent the Syrian people either;
3) anti-US-interventionists attempting to reduce cognitive dissonance at the expense of Syrians being massacred.
posted by thetortoise at 11:40 AM on December 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

also 4) the general appeal of conspiracy theories, especially when you've got a well-oiled propaganda machine feeding you the validation that everyone else is easily-duped sheeple falling for the lies of The Corporate Media.

I've already seen pro-Russia/Assad accounts on Twitter blasting the pretty well-verified reports of civilians under fire as "Fake News!". Didn't take them long to see the use of that term, did it?
posted by Catseye at 11:57 AM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thanks, thetortise! My question was only part rhetorical as I'm still trying to wrap my mind around wtf is guiding #3. And it seems like various sides use #2 to argue their more simplistic approach rather than acknowledging how all over the place-ness of the rebel factions. Meanwhile jfc, people are dying, but expressing frustration about that yields these "yeah but" responses.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 12:00 PM on December 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

Evacuation agreement 'back on', due to start in the next few hours. Hopefully it'll actually happen this time.
posted by Catseye at 1:37 PM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Syrians elected Assad two years ago, by a large majority, in an apparently credible democratic exercise.


That is not at all the impression given by the Wikipedia article on the 2014 Syrian election, which describes how almost all candidates (21 out of 24) were eliminated, and the election itself was only held within government-controlled areas. Even the reported numbers are dodgy; as the article says, they were almost certainly calculated post facto from predetermined percentages.

Incidentally, there's another odd thing about the reported figures. They're all near-primes. I have no idea what this means, but it's a weird coincidence.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:53 PM on December 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

Joe in Australia: “In Aleppo’s misinformation war, a 7-year-old girl prompts a fact check
While sitting in my kitchen eating lunch this afternoon, an alleged human being told me that "that Syrian girl with the videos" was making them all in front of a green screen like in Wag the Dog.

But despair is a sin….
posted by ob1quixote at 7:45 PM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Eva Bartlett also writes for Russia Today.
posted by JonB at 11:06 PM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Nicely put from that WaPo article: "Information warfare of the sort practiced by Russia doesn't require the imposition of a coherent narrative, but rather the undermining and delegitimization of all other narratives."
posted by Catseye at 11:31 PM on December 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
The Syrian War Condensed: A more Rigorous Way to Look at the Conflict.
posted by adamvasco at 9:20 AM on December 15, 2016

It's simple. Mourn the civilians and innocents harmed by the regime's attacks on Aleppo. Do not mourn the rebels there, who are largely jihadists.
posted by Apocryphon at 1:05 PM on December 15, 2016

Neil Macdonald @ CBC News: "The fall of Aleppo isn't humanity's disgrace"
Syrians are slaughtering Syrians in Syria. It's evil, and impossibly sad. Bashar al-Assad, the goofy-looking, London-educated ophthalmologist, is now a member of the war criminal pantheon.

If there is any justice, Assad's corpse will wind up on a pile of garbage, urinated upon by passersby whose relatives and friends died screaming in the chambers of his security forces, or whose children's bodies were shattered by his damned barrel bombs.

But it probably won't. Justice is an opportunistic concept in the Middle East.

And citizens of Western democracies have no reason for self-mortification. What exactly could they have done?

Some have suggested America and its allies could have imposed a no-fly zone.

But does anyone seriously think a no-fly zone would have prevented the Syrian regime, an alliance of Alawites and Christian elites, from trying to exterminate the Sunni rebels and fundamentalists advancing against them?


This is difficult to write. I feel deep sorrow for the suffering of Syrian civilians. I've stood and watched what happens to civilians when armies turn on them, and the anger it creates is corrosive.

But humanity did not destroy Aleppo. Canada in fact did something more constructive than most: it welcomed tens of thousands of Syrians fleeing for their lives. Europe did much more.

America, given the hell it caused over there, might consider doing the same.
posted by Apocryphon at 2:56 PM on December 16, 2016

Syrians are slaughtering Syrians in Syria.

Some of those slaughtering Syrians are Syrian. Many are not. This is a shit-fest that includes international volunteers on all sides. It's like the worst backpackers' party you could imagine.

Among the pro-regime forces are Afghans in the employ of Iran who've been deployed to Syria - largely in order to secure an Iranian passport to escape the shithole that Afghanistan has become. Also there's the (experienced, better trained, better armed) Hezbollah troops. Also, more obviously, the Iranian Republican Guard have been involved. Also much Russian airforce and artillery involvement. The navy have been basically doing live-fire exercises into Syria (cutely some of this concided with the US election. Presumably the world would be distracted).

Among ISIS, you have loads of international volunteers. Manbij was known as 'Little London' for a while because of the number of UK volunteers there.

Among/supporting the non-ISIS jihadis you have Turkish regulars, French and US special forces*. I think the UK SAS are there too, but they tend to keep their heads down. When Turkey made their recent advance there were a few Turkish (ie NATO) tanks taken out by US-supplied (ie NATO) ATGMs.

Not to mention the USAF and RAAF (and I'm presuming RAF) who've done a great job of accidentally bombing pro-regime militias. Oops.

Then, of course, there's Rojava: slightly supported by the US & EU, but not so much as to upset Turkey. Unless the US thinks its useful to upset Turkey that week. Or vice versa. Or something. I don't know, I'm just some bloke (who thinks that US-Turkish relations are going to be, erm, interesting, once the US president just makes shit up on the spot and doesn't care who gets bombed**).

Oh, and of course Israel will bomb what it wants to bomb - though it seems to me that they're largely just opportunistically reducing Hizb forces where they see them.

The idea that the Syrian 'Civil War' is just a thing among Syrians is absurd.

As to what the West 'could have done'? Probably: try not to fuel a proxy war with Iran, and thus Russia, which will smoulder for years. Ship fewer TOWs? Sanction Turkey somehow for a few years of looking the other way while supplies crossed the border?

* Fairly sure this list is too short.
posted by pompomtom at 8:17 AM on December 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

More from Veteran's today which is often problematic but this does not have any of their anti Israel anti Jewish crap.
posted by adamvasco at 4:07 PM on December 20, 2016

In January 2016, while Russia’s warplanes were bombing civilian targets such as hospitals in Syria, Twitter activists founded a new pro-Kremlin domain,, titled ‘South Front, Analysis and Intelligence’. This site promises its readers that it ‘digs out the truth in issues which are barely covered by the states concerned and mainstream media’ (South Front 2015). South Front seems to have a special target group: conflict news enthusiasts attracted to conspiracy theories and action films.

The content of the South Front website is a fascinating hybrid of revealingly detailed military intelligence and totally bogus stories. The site has published a series of articles titled ‘Russia Defence Reports’, which visualise the actions in Syria of the insurgents and the armies of Russia and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a ‘text analysis’ format, as well as through Hollywood-style ‘video reports’ with exciting action film music. The content focuses on the success of Russia’s armed forces, and showing off Russia’s weapons. The videos have titles such as ‘Russian Airspace Defence Forces’, ‘(Russian) Anti-Missile Shield’, and ‘Russia Develops Military Infrastructure and Facilities in Latakia’. Versions of the South Front website are available in other languages too. Nothing about Russia attacking civilians is published (see South Front 2016).

South Front uses Facebook to share its contents (Facebook 2016). It has over 17,500 fans and troll profiles liking, commenting on and sharing its posts. These include articles, photos (for example, of Russian military equipment in action in Syria) and other items, such as caricatures of US President Barack Obama promoting gay marriage. As on most pro-Kremlin and disinformation Facebook sites, the quality of the comments made by South Front readers is low. It reveals the commenters’ lack of knowledge of both military issues and international politics. This lack of understanding is often taken advantage of by the pro-Kremlin propagandists. South Front portrays itself as being a crowdsourced project, but it looks more like a professional info-war project run or backed by the Russian military.
Source by Jessikka Aro (NYT article on her reporting on Russian disinformation and paid trolls)

I'm sorry to attack your sources, adamvasco, but I want transparency in what these links are. The Guardian is a legitimate source that reports extensively on Syria; why not use them?
posted by thetortoise at 4:20 PM on December 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

Here is the Southern Poverty Law Center article on Veterans Today as a hate site. I would not give them clicks.
posted by thetortoise at 4:25 PM on December 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

I was so frustrated at the conversation in this post that I wrote this originally to post here, but then the StayFocusd chrome add-on kicked me off MeFi (I'm only allowed 10 min a day) so I posted it on FB first.
My parents are both survivors of the Korean War. For me, the siege of Aleppo has been filtered through what I know about civil war, from family stories and graduate seminars about the Korean War. I don't know if more “boots on the ground” would save lives or take lives.* I don’t know what percentage is the fault of Russia and which percentage can be blamed on the U.S. or climate change or geopolitical realpolitik.*

I do know that the photos of families fleeing the rubble of their city have an emotional reality for me that has absolutely nothing to do with assigning blame and everything to do with empathy. My parents endured three years of civil war as children. My dad was orphaned at the age of 7. My mom was bundled up by my grandmother and put on a refugee boat to a southern island. A quarter of a million pounds of napalm was used to firebomb entire cities.

All of this is reality for the people of Aleppo and Syria too. It’s a goddamn tragedy we have seen countless times before and in this case, it’s some next-level bullshit that people are trying to convince me to discount the suffering of Aleppo’s residents as propaganda. Seoul was taken by the North Korean military, retaken by the U.S. and South Korean armies, and then taken back yet again by the North Korean combined with Chinese military and then once again by the allied forces. And each time the city changed hands there were massacres and reprisals and targeted revenge killings on both sides. I suspect that accusations of atrocities and killings against the rebels as well as Assad’s troops and the foreign fighters will be borne out.

But I cannot call a pox on both their houses, because in both houses are families and children and siblings and aunts and uncles. That rebel jihadist? That government stooge? They are people, in all of their heartbreaking complexity. My spouse's grandfather went North before the war to help start what he believed would be a just society based on equality instead of a hierarchical system of exploitation. My grandfather stayed South and sought to improve understanding with the American military government. After that goddamn civil war, one was kidnapped with whereabouts unknown and the other was dead or alive on the other side of the most densely militarized border of the Cold War. So don’t tell me that I should only mourn the innocents, apportion out my caring and grief based on whether people deserve it or not.

* I’m referring to both the war in Syria and the Korean War.
posted by spamandkimchi at 11:29 PM on December 20, 2016 [5 favorites]

thetortoise if you read my post carefully you would have seen that I was not overfond of the sources. However if these people have been arrested (whatever their real names are) then that is indeed news. Naturally the national bodies for whom these people worked will want to minimise any information. Some stories take time to flesh out. That other nations have boots on the ground should not surprise anyone.
The Guardian is but one legitimate source that reports extensively on Syria. If you want indepth I suggest Al Jazeera and here is a good article about Journaists in the front line.
posted by adamvasco at 5:57 AM on December 21, 2016

And further here a video of the Syrian Ambassador naming foreign agents captured in Aleppo If this is true, it is a story worth reporting by the more mainstream press. If it is propaganda it should be denounced as such.
posted by adamvasco at 6:06 AM on December 21, 2016

If it is propaganda it should be denounced as such.

And given more airtime in the process? There's been a lot of discussion in the last year or so about how debunking fake news does more damage by spreading the fake news without the debunking "sticking" in people's minds (if they don't really want it to stick).
posted by Etrigan at 6:11 AM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

If it is propaganda it should be denounced as such.

But Southfront has already been denounced as being, essentially, a propaganda outfit, or a 'fake news' distributor in the modern parlance. If every single story has to be individually discredited, one by one, then it cedes grounds to propagandists because it is surely easier to invent untruths than it is to disprove them.

And further here a video of the Syrian Ambassador naming foreign agents captured in Aleppo If this is true, it is a story worth reporting by the more mainstream press.

No, that's a page with analysis that contains a video, that falsely summarizes the video as saying that they've been captured, or 'caught in' Aleppo. What the video actually says, having watched it, is that 'foreign intelligence and military officers' are trying to leave Aleppo, ie, they would like to leave but have not been able to. Parsing that as 'captured' gives a drastically incorrect impression of what's being claimed.

The video merely names 'foreign agents' who may or may not exist -- they have not been captured; they are not in the hands of Syrian authorities; it's unclear how they even know who they are, if they're indeed real -- and who have not been captured. It also offers no evidence that these people actually exist (unless that's cut from the speech excerpt, which would be a dumb thing for a reporter to cut); or that, if they do exist, that they are really foreign intelligence or military operatives rather than self-motivated individuals.

If this is true

By the very video you're citing, it is false. There's no real news here.
posted by cjelli at 7:55 AM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Tablet Magazine republished two articles on Syria from earlier this year. I think they're worth reading to remember how we got here:

The Ambassador From Hell?
America’s Moral Collapse in Syria: Samantha Power wrote the book on how the U.S. government ignores and legitimates genocides. Or was it a handbook?
Obama’s Syria Policy Striptease
America’s Moral Collapse in Syria: Why hasn’t the administration done anything about Syria, and won’t? Because the Iran Deal.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:34 PM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

No peace in sight in Syria.
posted by adamvasco at 3:26 AM on December 24, 2016

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