“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

US, Britain and France were so convinced that the Syrian dictator was about to fall, they ignored the Russian proposal - I wonder how it feels to be watching the tide of human misery coming out of Syria, knowing that you had a chance to stop it, but didn’t because of hubris. And none of these people will be held to account for their (lack of) actions

GUARDIAN                 Header: AndyCH

West 'ignored Russian offer in 2012 to have Syria's Assad step aside'
Exclusive: Senior negotiator describes rejection of alleged proposal – since which time tens of thousands have been killed and millions displaced

Tuesday 15 September 2015 04.20 EDT

Last modified on Tuesday 15 September 2015 09.09 EDT
Russia proposed more than three years ago that Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, could step down as part of a peace deal, according to a senior negotiator involved in back-channel discussions at the time.
Former Finnish president and Nobel peace prize laureate Martti Ahtisaari said western powers failed to seize on the proposal. Since it was made, in 2012, tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions uprooted, causing the world’s gravest refugee crisis since the second world war.

Ahtisaari held talks with envoys from the five permanent members of the UN security council in February 2012. He said that during those discussions, the Russian ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, laid out a three-point plan, which included a proposal for Assad to cede power at some point after peace talks had started between the regime and the opposition. 
But he said that the US, Britain and France were so convinced that the Syrian dictator was about to fall, they ignored the proposal.

“It was an opportunity lost in 2012,” Ahtisaari said in an interview. 
Officially, Russia has staunchly backed Assad through the four-and-half-year Syrian war, insisting that his removal cannot be part of any peace settlement. Assad has said that Russia will never abandon him. Moscow has recently begun sending troops, tanks and aircraft in an effort to stabilise the Assad regime and fight Islamic State extremists.
Ahtisaari won the Nobel prize in 2008 “for his efforts on several continents and over more than three decades, to resolve international conflicts”, including in Namibia, Aceh in Indonesia, Kosovo and Iraq. 
On 22 February 2012 he was sent to meet the missions of the permanent five nations (the US, Russia, UK, France and China) at UN headquarters in New York by The Elders, a group of former world leaders advocating peace and human rights that has included Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter, and former UN secretary general Kofi Annan.

“The most intriguing was the meeting I had with Vitaly Churkin because I know this guy,” Ahtisaari recalled. “We don’t necessarily agree on many issues but we can talk candidly. I explained what I was doing there and he said: ‘Martti, sit down and I’ll tell you what we should do.’
“He said three things: One – we should not give arms to the opposition. Two – we should get a dialogue going between the opposition and Assad straight away. Three – we should find an elegant way for Assad to step aside.”

Churkin declined to comment on what he said had been a “private conversation” with Ahtisaari. The Finnish former president, however, was adamant about the nature of the discussion.
“There was no question because I went back and asked him a second time,” he said, noting that Churkin had just returned from a trip to Moscow and there seemed little doubt he was raising the proposal on behalf of the Kremlin.
Ahtisaari said he passed on the message to the American, British and French missions at the UN, but he said: “Nothing happened because I think all these, and many others, were convinced that Assad would be thrown out of office in a few weeks so there was no need to do anything.”
While Ahtisaari was still in New York, Kofi Annan was made joint special envoy on Syria for the UN and the Arab League. Ahtisaari said: “Kofi was forced to take up the assignment as special representative. I say forced because I don’t think he was terribly keen. He saw very quickly that no one was supporting anything.”

In June 2012, Annan chaired international talks in Geneva, which agreed a peace plan by which a transitional government would be formed by “mutual consent” of the regime and opposition. However, it soon fell apart over differences on whether Assad should step down. Annan resigned as envoy a little more than a month later, and Assad’s personal fate has been the principal stumbling block to all peace initiatives since then. 

Last week, Britain’s foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, suggested that as part of a peace deal, Assad could remain in office during a six-month “transitional period” but the suggestion was quickly rejected by Damascus.

Western diplomats at the UN refused to speak on the record about Ahtisaari’s claim, but pointed out that after a year of the Syrian conflict, Assad’s forces had already carried out multiple massacres, and the main opposition groups refused to accept any proposal that left him in power. A few days after Ahtisaari’s visit to New York, Hillary Clinton, then US secretary of state, branded the Syrian leader a war criminal.
Sir John Jenkins – a former director of the Middle East department of the UK’s Foreign Office who was preparing to take up the post of ambassador to Saudi Arabia in the first half of 2012 – said that in his experience, Russia resisted any attempt to put Assad’s fate on the negotiating table “and I never saw a reference to any possible flexing of this position”.

Jenkins, now executive director of the Middle East branch of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said in an email: “I think it is true that the general feeling was Assad wouldn’t be able to hold out. But I don’t see why that should have led to a decision to ignore an offer by the Russians to get him to go quickly, as long as that was a genuine offer.

“The weakest point is Ahtisaari’s claim that Churkin was speaking with Moscow’s authority. I think if he had told me what Churkin had said, I would have replied I wanted to hear it from [President Vladimir] Putin too before I could take it seriously. And even then I’d have wanted to be sure it wasn’t a Putin trick to draw us in to a process that ultimately preserved Assad’s state under a different leader but with the same outcome.”

A European diplomat based in the region in 2012 recalled: “At the time, the west was fixated on Assad leaving. As if that was the beginning and the end of the strategy and then all else would fall into place … Russia continuously maintained it wasn’t about Assad. But if our heart hung on it, they were willing to talk about Assad; mind: usually as part of an overall plan, process, at some point etc. Not here and now.”
However, the diplomat added: “I very much doubt the P3 [the US, UK and France] refused or dismissed any such strategy offer at the time. The questions were more to do with sequencing – the beginning or end of process – and with Russia’s ability to deliver – to get Assad to step down.”

At the time of Ahtisaari’s visit to New York, the death toll from the Syrian conflict was estimated to be about 7,500. The UN believes that toll passed 220,000 at the beginning of this year, and continues to climb. The chaos has led to the rise of Islamic State. Over 11 million Syrians have been forced out of their homes.

“We should have prevented this from happening because this is a self-made disaster, this flow of refugees to our countries in Europe,” Ahtisaari said. “I don’t see any other option but to take good care of these poor people … We are paying the bills we have caused ourselves.”


  1. For Those Who Remain in Syria, Daily Life Is a Nightmare

    As crowds of Syrians transfix the world with their flight to Europe, in cities like Douma, a suburb of Damascus, routine strikes have severely disrupted life for those who are unable to flee.

    1. Wow, what do you know?

      Now the syrians KNOW what it's like to be bombed on a daily basis...


  2. It has finally seeped into my little pea-brain that I've been reading this election all wrong. It's not Jeb! that has a chance (although, small) of beating Hillary; It's Ben Carson.

    In fact, I will go so far as saying, "if he gets the nomination, he's the Favorite." There will be about 17 Million Black Voters, this election. It's just common accounting to put a net 15 Million in the Dem. Win Column.

    If Ben Carson was to take half of that vote, and hold the Dems to a big, fat goose-egg under the black column, there's not a way in the world that they could win the election.

    Could he get half of the black vote? I don't know, but I sure as hell wouldn't bet a plugged nickel against it.

    1. If he only got a third of the black vote, I believe he would effectively lock the Democrats out.

  3. Rufus states he has been here for almost 13,000 years (his family) but has no rights to dispute with the modern folks who live in America.

    By that same logic?

    Regardless of whether you like Israel or not.

    Israel is the sovereign nation of the lands.

    Palestinian "so called" claims are now null and void. (regardless if I think they are full of shit)

    Cant have it both ways.

    Those that claim the "palestinians" are the natives? Need to get with rufus's pov.

    Those that have been conquered? The native Americans?

    Need to get over it...

    Israel is a modern nation. Like it or not? The issue is settled.

    Palestinians have no rights to lands inside israel or any lands they have not held on to.

    Possession is 9/10th of the law...

    Too bad.

    1. The Solutreans were the first.

      Clan Rufus were Johnny Come Latelys.


    2. Could he get half of the black vote? I don’t know, but I sure as hell wouldn’t bet a plugged nickel against it.

      He will do as well as Clarence Thomas would in an election. If the Republicans like him, he will not get more than 20% of the black vote.

    3. LOL 50 percent of the "black vote" will not even vote...

      now that their "guy" aint running...


  4. NYT/CBS poll: Ben Carson now within four points of Trump, rest of field lags in single digits
    posted at 11:21 am on September 15, 2015 by Allahpundit


    Only once since the beginning of August had any poll showed Trump leading by less than double digits, and that poll had him up seven. Today’s four-point lead over Carson is the slimmest advantage he’s had since Trumpmania started to break big six weeks ago. In fact, with a six-point margin of error in the new NYT/CBS survey, it’s possible that Carson has already passed Trump for the lead nationally. How’s that for a pre-debate aperitif?

    Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, whom many thought would be the last two men standing for the nomination, are at eight percent. Combined.


    Mike Huckabee has three times the support that Walker does. For shame, conservative America.

    Toss in Carly Fiorina’s four percent and you’ve got 54 percent combined for the three amateur/outsider candidates versus 37 percent for the field’s many professional pols, with another nine percent who don’t know yet. Proof that we’re destined for an outside-the-box nominee this year? Don’t be so sure: Per the Times, fully 63 percent of those polled say they haven’t made up their mind yet about whom to support. Even within the phenomenon of Trumpmania, 46 percent of Trump backers say it’s possible they could eventually switch to another candidate, meaning that only 14 percent or so of Republicans polled here are firmly committed to the Donald. Last week’s Quinnipiac poll showed Carson easily winning the largest share of Trump’s voters as their second choice, so if he has a good debate tomorrow and Trump gets hit hard, you may see him and Trump flip as 1-2 in next week’s surveys....................

    Ben would be our 1st 100% black, born and raised here, truly wonderful, REAL AMERICAN black President, a role model for us all.

    Go, Ben !

    1. Quirk was born in that same tent too....


    2. The main event, Trump v Fiorina, coming up in the debate......I hope it gets really wicked.....


  5. Assad is a dick, as is the Iranians and the Russians and Hezbollah... (ISIS sucks too)

    But there is a bit of irony that the people who supported the bombing of Jews on a daily basis are now being bombed by the very same people who helped the Fakistinians bomb the Jews...


    Sucks doesn't it?

    I might suggest that the good and decent folks of syria do a sit in, pray for peace while they are sitting in refugee camps in gerhmany, hungry and such..

    Have peaceful gandhi like protests...

    shame the world into helping you....

    oh that's right, they are turning violent. Rape, murder, forced prostitiution, attacks, throwing fecal matter...

    Yep the refugee crisis is going to get a whole lot worse before it's over..

    Of course if people had listened to me 6 years ago when I advised to "take" out assad and have a military coup?

    Too late, now russia and iran have troops there (not to mention the hexbollah death squads)

    1. USA followed the advice of folks like Quirk.

      The results are before us for all to see.

  6. Blacks are Very Good Voters. 13% of the population is Black, and 13 percent of the Voters are black.

    Deuce, even though I'm sure he would get more than that, 20% Would Quite Likely Be Enough.

    Twenty Percent would bring the Dems' Net for the black votes down to about Ten Million (vs. an expected 15.5 Million. That would make it very, very close.

    1. Of course, we don't know how many white voters a Carson candidacy would drive into the Clinton camp.

    2. BTW, I'm not completely "winging it," here. I'm looking at the non-white vote in this poll.

      CNN/ORC Poll

    3. identity politics is overrated.

      The Democrats gave us the klan and segregation.

      The Democrats gave us Margot Sanger and Planned Parenthood.

      The Democrats gave us Affirmative Action and taught us that blacks were inferior and needed a lowered bar..

      Maybe Blacks are getting tired of the Democrat Plantation.. After all 7 years of Obama and things SUCK for the Black community.

  7. interesting choice of words

    British historian uncovers the oldest written use of the f-word
    8:09 a.m. ET

    Turns out, people were dropping the f-bomb way back in 1310. When British Historian Paul Booth of Keele University was flipping through a court document from the city of Chester, he made an entirely unexpected discovery: An outlaw listed by the name of "Roger Fuckebythenavele." Believed to be a nickname, this marks the oldest written use of the f-word in the English language.

    Previously, its earliest written use was thought to have been in the 1500s. Booth's discovery, however, moves that date up over 200 years, "shift[ing] back the rough historical consensus on the when the word widely entered the vernacular as a vulgar, pejorative term," The Washington Post reports.

    The word appears three different times in the 1310 document, suggesting that "Fuckebythenavale" was a nickname and not simply a one-time joke. "I suggest it could either mean an actual attempt at copulation by an inexperienced youth, later reported by a rejected girlfriend," Booth said of the term's likely meaning, "or an equivalent of the word 'dimwit,' i.e. a man who might think that was the correct way to go about it." Becca Stanek


  8. Polls: Hillary slipping among young people and women
    posted at 10:01 pm on September 15, 2015 by Mary Katharine

    Obama Coalition, where art thou? The latest polls on Hillary Clinton, one in New Hampshire and one focused on college students, shows the former Secretary of State losing ground with two important groups of the powerful combination of voters that carried President Obama to the White House two times over.

    First, young people, from whom Obama drew so much of his enthusiasm and volunteer support are not exactly flocking to the second Clinton:

    In the nationwide survey of college students enrolled at two or four-year universities, just 18 percent selected the former secretary of state as the Democratic candidate who holds their support. When the survey was first commissioned in mid-June, Clinton led Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Vice President Joe Biden by nearly 20 points each, with 40 percent support.

    While Clinton, the long-presumed Democratic nominee, has fallen 22 points in less than three months, the percentage of college students backing Sanders as their Democratic candidate of choice has climbed nearly 34 percent, putting the self-described socialist at 59 percent support among the undergraduate respondents.

    If you look at cross tabs for these polls, you’ll find the younger the demographic on the Democratic side, the less interested they are in electability over policy. Sanders voters are primarily interested in him because of his positions, not his ability to win the White House, and there are more voters like that in each progressively younger cohort. The opposite is also true. The older the cohort, the more likely Democrats are to care about electability vs. positions. As Bernie Sanders has risen, so has the age of the average Hillary Clinton supporter.

    1. In New Hampshire, a poll showing Sanders in the lead again shows Hillary with weakness among a key group of voters her team imagined would be inevitable supporters—women:

      The Monmouth University poll shows Sanders ahead of Clinton by 7 points at 43% to Clinton’s 36%. Vice President Joe Biden, who is still considering a bid, has the support of 13% of New Hampshire Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. When Biden is removed from the race, Sanders still leads Clinton by 7 points.

      And Sanders has even eked ahead of Clinton among women voters, 42% to 38%. “Sanders has certainly cut into Clinton’s core constituencies, but his ultimate success may ride on how many new voters he can get to the polls,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

      Clinton leads among registered Democrats, but Sanders has a wider advantage among independents and new voters.

      Five points is no joke. Once again, the Hillary machine seems to have relied too much on inevitability and a drive to “make history” with the first woman president in place of trying to be a good candidate who makes people excited.

      Methinks this line of attack isn’t going to help her with her problems on the idealistic left. David Brock to the rescue, y’all!

      WASHINGTON — A super PAC backing Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is going negative, circulating an email that yokes her chief rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to some of the more controversial remarks made by Jeremy Corbyn, the United Kingdom’s new Labour Party leader, including his praise for the late Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan leader who provided discounted fuel to Vermont in a deal supported by Sanders.

      Clinton’s camp has long said it has no plans to attack Sanders. But the super PAC, called Correct the Record, departed from its defense of Clinton’s record as a former secretary of state in an email Monday that compares Sanders with Corbyn. Correct the Record, led by Clinton ally David Brock, also has sent trackers after Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley…

      The more serious stretch comes as the email highlights how Sanders helped negotiate a program with Venezuela’s national oil company in 2006 that provided discounted heating oil assistance to low-income Vermonters. The senator said it was “not a partisan issue,” in the state, which was the sixth to make the deal. His support for the program was apparently enough to merit a mention, since Corbyn has written that the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez’s “electoral democratic credentials are beyond reproach.” .....

    2. Let's all raise a toast to 'Hillary is Toast' hoooray

      I like the equation connection in the last of the above -

      Chavez = Corbyn = Sanders

      And if the policies of a Sanders were tried out here, we too could say "We are all Venezuelans now"

  9. President William McKinley: Assassinated by an Anarchist
    Wyatt Kingseed

    President McKinley greeted each person with a warm smile and a handshake, pausing briefly to exchange words with any children who had accompanied their parents. The line moved quickly. Many in attendance held cloths to dab the sweat from their foreheads on the warm, humid day. As the waiting people shuffled forward, Foster noticed one man in line who had his right hand wrapped in a handkerchief. Foster wondered if it covered an embarrassing injury.

    McKinley saw the man’s apparent disability, and he reached to shake his left hand. Suddenly, Leon Czolgosz thrust his bandaged right hand into the president’s chest. Onlookers heard two sharp popping sounds, like small firecrackers, and a thin veil of gray smoke rose up in front of the president. McKinley looked confused and rose up on his toes, clutched his chest, and leaned forward. Members of his entourage moved to support the slumping president and help him to a nearby chair as the blood spread across his white vest. ‘Be careful how you tell my wife,’ McKinley said, his strength already waning.

    Foster and others pounced on the assailant, knocking him roughly to the floor as he tried to aim his revolver for a third shot. McKinley managed a weak, ‘Don’t let them hurt him,’ when he saw Czolgosz being pummeled beneath a mass of angry guards. As the pandemonium continued, aides rushed the president to a hospital on the exposition grounds. One bullet had struck his sternum a glancing blow, causing only a superficial wound, but the other had penetrated his abdomen, a potentially fatal injury.

  10. Bernie Edges Hillary in New Hampshire
    Hate-America rhetoric sells on the Left..
    September 16, 2015
    Matthew Vadum

    That Sanders is beating Clinton in New Hampshire and nipping at her heels nearly everywhere else is seeming proof that his hate-filled blame-America-first rhetoric is turning on the radical left-wingers who make up the Democratic Party's political base. Sanders has been getting away for years with describing himself as a "socialist," sometimes a "democratic socialist," when in reality he is an outright America-loathing communist. Clinton, of course, isn't much better with her communitarian-sounding "it takes a village" rhetoric and her close ties to the late radical organizing guru Saul Alinsky.

    Sanders' belief in communism is reflected in his platform, which the actual Communist Party USA is openly praising. Even a brief glance reveals his plan to be hopelessly utopian. It will extinguish freedom and shutter businesses and cause widespread suffering especially among the poor people he claims to want to help. It is a program for exporting the best and the brightest to places that appreciate them.

    But from a conservative's perspective at least, most of Clinton's policy platform doesn't seem much different from Sanders'. Both want to cripple the United States internally and externally. Both want to go after the so-called 1 percent and tax them aggressively. Both are pandering to the ugly, racist Black Lives Matter movement.