"Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another." author Toni Morrison (1931- 05.08.2019)

“If I tell the story, I control the version. Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me”; Nora Ephron, author/comedian

"Make your story count". Michelle Obama

"Social pain is understood through the lens of racial animus". Researcher/author Sean McElwee writing in Salon, 2016

"We are citizens, not subjects. We have the right to criticize government without fear."  Chelsea Manning; activist/whisleblower

“My father was a slave and my people died to build this country, and I’m going to stay right here and have a part of it, just like you, And no fascist minded people, like you, will drive me from it. Is that clear?” Paul Robeson; activist/singer

“We have a system of justice in this country that treats you much better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent”. from civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson

“This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?” Frederick Douglass, WHAT TO THE SLAVE IS 4TH JULY? 07.05.1852 (full text in blog)

Senator Elizabeth Warren "We're a country that is built on our differences; that is our strength, not our weakness"


"We are more alike than we are different"v  Maya Angelou

As a Black writer, I was expected to accept the role of victim. That made it difficult in the beginning to be a writer.      James Baldwin

I often feel that there must have been something that I should’ve done that I didn’t do. But I can’t identify what it is that I didn’t do. That’s the first difficulty. And the second is, what makes you think you’re it?   

         Harry Belafonte, activist and singer at 89


It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble; It's what you know for sure that just ainst so.

Mark Twain


You can't be brave if you've only had wonderful things happen to you.

Mary Tyler Moore


 You can’t defend Christianity by being against refugees and other religions

Pope Francis:


"I don't have to be what you want me to be". Muhammad Ali

"The Secret of Living Well and Longer: eat half, walk double, laugh triple, and love without measure"  attributed to Tibetan sources

Recent audio posts include interviews with Rumi interpreter Shahram Shiva, London-based author Aamer Hussein, South African Muslim scholar, professor Farid Esack, and Iraqi journalist Nermeen Al-Mufti's brief account of Kirkuk City history. Your comments on our blogs are always welcome.


Syria's War of Attrition


by Barbara Nimri Aziz

Strategists in Syria are doubtless eyeing today’s conflict in Egypt. But they’d be better advised to recall the war fought in nearby Iran and Iraq twenty years ago. Although the nature of that conflict differs in many respects from the one engulfing Syria, it can still be instructive for Syria. A look at that earlier war may reveal a similar US strategy at work too.

The Iran-Iraq war, lasting from 1980 to 1988, was innocuously labeled war-of- attrition. The sinister concept behind war-of-attrition is illustrated in a remark attributed to the wily US diplomat Henry Kissinger, i.e. “I hope they both win”. Which of course implies that they both lose. And in some respects, they did. That lose-lose war was supported through the “dual containment” policy of the USA and Israel against Iran and Iraq.

That both parties win (or lose) may underlie the position of Washington and its allies towards Syria today, namely a policy to keep government and rebel forces destroying one other to the point of mutual collapse.

Criticism of the American administration for withholding military aid to Syrian rebels seems to fall on deaf ears. But a strategy of “containment” through promoting mutual self-destruction may already be in effect. A containment policy towards Syria does not mean inaction; it is a strategy to weaken the Syrian government, rendering it ineffective beyond its borders.

First Syria was essentially isolated through the US-led diplomatic and economic embargo. Then by assuring low level arms flow to rebels (mainly from Arab Gulf allies), the Syrian regime is preoccupied with the armed insurrection. Meanwhile Syrian civic society disintegrates and millions flee. Opposing fighters kill each other and lay waste their country with virtually no cost to the primary adversaries-- Israel, the UK and USA.  (Read Venezuelan advisor Raimundo Kabchi’s comments.)

Let’s be brutally honest. The US government doesn’t care about Syrian people or its civilization or any Syrian democracy. What always angered the US was Syria’s ideological, diplomatic and economic independence and its considerable regional influence. Now, with those perceived threats effectively neutralized by its containment strategy, the US may be content to stay the course. No American blood has been shed and only a few hundred million are needed for so-called non-lethal assistance.

Additional signs that a war-of-attrition in Syria is now Washington’s preferred strategy are, first, a statement by the supreme American commander, General Dempsey, that the Syria war will last a decade. This at the same time the EU decides it too will not arm the rebels. (Dempsey’s declaration that US military action in Syria would carry a monthly price tag of a billion dollars is further evidence of Washington’s distance from the conflict.) Then we see increasing support for humanitarian assistance to millions of Syrians in semi-permanent camps outside their homeland. Finally, along with European allies, the US announces it will admit thousands of Syrian refugees for resettlement.

After years of mutual destruction Iraq and Iran, with no encouragement from western powers, eventually signed a cease fire.

Polarization among Syrians is as fierce as it is daunting. In my view no meaningful help will arrive from outside. How much clearer should this containment policy be to drive Syrians to a cease fire?

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