Edress Othman, M.D.: A Syrian city cries out for help

Afrin, Syria, in 2009.

Afrin, Syria, in 2009.

This was sent to us by Edress Othman, M.D., an oncologist with Southcoast Health System, a native of Afrin and an ethnic Kurd.

Over the past six years, the Syrian Civil War has created a vast humanitarian crisis, with more than half a million people killed, almost half of the nation’s population displaced, and many cities destroyed.

The area in and around Afrin, a predominantly Kurdish enclave in northwest Syria, was one of the very few areas that had survived the war intact. The region, about the size of Rhode Island, became a safe zone and welcomed thousands of Syrians fleeing the destruction elsewhere.  In 2012, a democratic system based on respect for the environment and gender equality under local administration was created for the area’s burgeoning populations.  Since that time one man and one woman were selected by the people to lead every post in the government equally.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) protected Afrin from ISIS, Jihadi groups and Bashar Assad’s regime. The SDF is the same group that defeated ISIS with the assistance from the United States and coalition forces in northeast Syria.  Lt. Gen. Paul Funk, commander of the anti-ISIS coalition, recently praised them as heroes, saying,  "I would say that the people who fought to take Raqqa back from ISIS are heroes, no matter what nationality they were, no matter what their beliefs were.”

Since Jan. 20, 2018, however, this peaceful enclave has come under attack.  Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan began an aerial assault on the civilians of Afrin, forcing residents into their basements and caves. Since then Turkey has destroyed humanitarian aid stations and infrastructure, including medical facilities and water-treatment centers.  Cultural sites that define the Kurdish people have also been targeted. Many villages have been destroyed, forcing an estimated 70,000 people from the region into the city of Afrin, where they now desperately wait for international aid, food and clean water.  On Feb. 16, doctors in Afrin reported to their colleagues in other countries that they have begun treating villagers for injuries that they believe are consistent with chemical warfare.

Why is Afrin under assault?  It is the belief of the residents living there that the attacks are a direct result of the U.S. declaration of its intention to stay in Syria and support of SDF.  Turkey considers the Kurdish elements within SDF as terrorists despite the fact that they have been combating ISIS and have never targeted Turkey.

The United States has not yet stepped forward to defend the Kurdish people of Afrin.  While America provides weapons and equipment to the SDF east of the Euphrates, it has repeated that it understands “Turkey’s legitimate security concerns”. On Feb. 16, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the United States recognizes Turkey's legitimate right to secure its borders.

But meanwhile, Turkey’s President Erdogan continues his ethnic-cleansing campaign, publicly promising to kill “every atheist Kurd in Afrin”, thus putting  the lives of  Christians and Yezidis at stake.  With surrounding towns now in rubble, Afrin’s population has increased dramatically as humble farmers have fled into a densely populated area, making them easy targets for aerial attacks.  Since the bombing began, more than 200 civilians have been killed (that includes 32 children and 26 women) and hundreds have been injured. And more than a million people remain in the besieged city of Afrin.




Don Pesci: Senator Murphy's bizarre climate-Mideast brutality link

Only a few years ago a politician might have been laughed out of Congress for postulating that the troubles in the Middle East – Islamic irredentism; the emergence of Iran, still considered a terrorist state, as a regional Middle East power; the attempt by Shiites, rebuffed during the Iraq war, to establish a caliphate in northern Iraq and Syria; the threats against the United States and other Western nations that pour like a flood of mighty waters from the throats of its former enemies; the scurrying of foreign states once friendly to the United States from a U.S to a Russian protectorate; the sea of women, children and young men murdered, homeless and enslaved Christians, immigrant hordes persecuted by Islamic terrorists now flooding Europe’s shores, largely owing to the recession of U.S. power and influence in the Middle East; all this and more --  were traceable to global warming, the tocsin of a boisterous environmental movement.

The civil wars in Syria and Mali, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, of Connecticut, noted in a New Haven Register interview “… were preceded by a ‘massive multi-year drought,’ which were consequences of global warming. ‘The instability that we are seeing in the Middle East and in Africa is today the result of climate change,’ with more challenges coming, Murphy said.”

The connection between global warming and world-altering disturbances in the Middle East, remote at best, is one of the CliffsNotes taken from the current Democratic Party campaign playbook. The global warming bell will be sounded ad nauseam during the coming political campaigns. Socialist presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has already warmly embraced the queer notion. Surprisingly, Mr. Murphy has thrown his support to Hillary Clinton, not Sanders.

Mr. Murphy’s current term in office ends January 2019, and so he can well afford to flourish ideological banners on behalf of movement progressives, which includes the environmental lobby. Nothing Mr. Murphy says, however absurd, will cost him a vote in the near future. Mr. Murphy’s present assertion entails no immediate political cost to him; it is a form of cheap grace. Mr. Murphy’s comrade in the Senate, Dick Blumenthal, is up for re-election in the current cycle, and the remote prospect of losing an election has made the always cautious Mr. Blumenthal wary. Off-election year senators are usually able to find their spines.  

Mr. Murphy’s assertion – Middle East instability is caused by climate change -- is a near-perfect example of the post hoc fallacy, which may be stated as follows: A occurred, then B occurred; therefore, A caused B. The rooster Chanticleer crowed, then the sun rose; therefore, the crowing caused the sun to rise.

Messy thinking is the principal cause of a messy foreign policy, and the Obama administration is full of threadbare thoughts. Dangerous errors in foreign policy are the product of political procrusteanism, which occurs when politicians seek to fit the wide and various world into their narrow ideological beds: Feet are lopped off, fingers are sheered away, and one ends up with a dead and useless mutilated corpse, an apt description of U.S. foreign policy in the Age of Obama. Far-fetched claims such as those made by Mr. Sanders and seconded by Mr. Murphy obscure the wreckage. But these bizarre notions can be exploded by an application of “Occam’s Razor,” which holds that the most economical explanation of a phenomenon that accounts for all the important facts is usually the right one.

Here is an economical explanation that embraces real-world data in the Middle East:

Syria is ruled by Bashar Assad whose father, Hafez al-Assad, was only slightly more bloodthirsty than his son. In 2012, President Obama drew his famous “red line in the sand” in Syria. He said that the use of chemical weapons by Assad would cross “a red line” that would entail “enormous consequences” and “change my calculus” on American military intervention in Syria’s civil war. A year later, In August 2013, a rebel-held suburb of Damascus was attacked with sarin gas, and Mr. Obama’s red line inauspiciously disappeared.

Concurrent with Mr. Obama’s red line doctrine, American troops that had ousted Saddam Hussein in Iraq were withdrawn from that country, fulfilling an Obama campaign pledge. The improvident withdrawal of troops created a vacuum in northern Iraq and Syria that soon was filled with the soldiers of Allah, peace be upon him, whose ambition it was to recreate a caliphate. They expressed their fidelity to the Koran by capturing territory from the infidel, killing men who might oppose them, enslaving their children and making concubines of their wives. They also drew the sword of Allah, peace be upon him, across the throats of infidel Christians, which caused Mr. Obama to claim that the ruffians were not behaving in a manner that was faithful to Islam, the Koran or the prescriptions of Mohammed, peace be upon him.

Islamic scholars who are more faithful interpreters of the Koran would heartily disagree. 

With the supposed failure of President George W. Bush’s policy towards Iraq before her and the imprecations of Democratic politicians ringing in her ears, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, now the leading Democratic candidate for president, simply repeated the so-called “policy errors” of Mr. Bush and persuaded Mr. Obama to oust Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi from power. The ouster was a success: “We came, we saw, he died,” boasted Mrs. Clinton. Libya descended into chaos, and the Obama administration – refusing steadfastly to let a crisis go to waste – began shipping war material from a Libyan compound to American-supported, anti-Assad forces in northern Syria. The American compound in Benghazi, Libya, soon was destroyed by Islamic terrorists. It is no exaggeration to say that the terrorists who murdered Christians, among others, in the newly established caliphate and in Paris and Brussels and the United States and Canada and London and the Netherlands were, all of them, faithful followers of Mohammed, peace be upon him. 

This is only a thimble full of real-world data that should be included in any assessment of the origin and causes of the bloody mess in the Middle East, a good part of it attributable to Mr. Obama’s failed foreign policy. Mr. Murphy’s fanciful theory that Middle East instability is the result of climate change is little more than a head-fake designed in an election year to draw public attention from inconvenient truths. Mr. Murphy, who certainly is no Joe Lieberman, has until 2019 to get it straight before he comes up for re-election, plenty of time for visions and revisions that time will soon erase.

Don Pesci is a political writer based in Vernon, Conn.

A trio of dubious remarks in the news

  The day is young, but here are most idiotic remarks I was reminded of today on the radio:

American Kenneth Bae "thanking'' his North Korean captors for releasing him when in fact his arrest by the verminous Kim dynasty,  run by mass murderers, torturers and kleptocrats, was yet another outrage by a criminal government.


Apple CEO Tim Cook saying a couple of weeks back that he was "proud'' to be gay. What's there to be proud of anymore than you should be proud of having brown eyes?

Then there's President Obama's' stupid promise that the U.S. would not put in ground troops in Iraq again. For one thing, he has.  (They are officially ''advisers''.) For another, presidents must always make sure our enemies know that  we will act very firmly to protect our interests. And keep 'em guessing on how. Is Obama really as ingenuous as he sometimes seems?


And never, ever tell our enemies that we will do something to them if they do something bad and then don't do it. That's what happened when President Obama told Syria's murderous Assad regime not to  stop using chemical weapons. Obama drew a "red line'' on the issue. Assad then proceeded to murder over a thousand people with poison gas and we did nothing. Obama's credibility has never recovered, and his inaction encouraged other corrupt dictators, most n0tably Vladimir Putin, to do what they get a sort of sexual charge out of doing -- ever expanding their power.


Old Joe Kennedy had a good line: "Never tell anyone to go to hell unless you can send him there.''


-- Robert Whitcomb