• All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out.

  • I.F. Stone

zaterdag 4 augustus 2012

Waardigheid 4

Naar aanleiding van een tweede stukje over 'waardigheid' ontving ik deze reactie:


'Jan Verheul4 augustus 2012 01:48:00 CEST

Ik laat me natuurlijk niet voor fascist uitmaken op basis van misverstanden.

Als U niet gelooft in de evolutie-theorie -het idee dat een organisme dat betere eigenschappen bezit die hem de kansen bieden om zich voort te planten,dat dit organisme meer nakomelingen zal krijgen dan zijn 'collga's of concurrenten - dan zijn we uitgepraat.
Dan zit er weinig anders op dan creationist te zijn, lijkt mij.

Maar als U wèl in de evolutie-theorie van Darwin gelooft, dan wordt het een rare en onverklaarbare positie om te geloven dat karaktereigenschappen, of 'aangeboren gedrags-voorkeuren', NIET onderdeel van de selectie zouden zijn.
Vb: Soms tref je een dier dat geheel niet bang is voor auto's. Hij mist de aangeboren angst-reactie. Vrijwel altijd verongelukt zo'n dier nog voor het zich kan voortplanten.

Frans de Waal ( Van Nature goed) heeft al aangetoond dat chimpansees ook altruïsme kennen. Het is namelijk vaak een voordeel voor de eigen overlevingskansen als je 'berekenend' altrïstisch bent.

In bijna alle culturen worden zieken, zwakzinnigen etc. aan het oog van de samenleving onttrokken. Soms worden ze zelfs vijandig behandeld.
Allemaal geen prettige zaken.
Waarom geen medelijden met die zwakkeren, zoals wij dat als christenen leren?
Vermoedelijk is dit toch een gevolg van het feit dat veel eigenschappen erfelijk zijn, en men dus onbewust de neiging heeft om de eigen genetische zwakheden te verbergen, om zodoende de kansen op een goede partner niet te schaden.

U mag dit alles fascistisch vinden. Heeft U ook gelijk in.
Maar daar ben ik niet mee bezig.
Ik wil slechts weten: hoe ontstaat dit gedrag?
Ik geef er geen waarde-oordeel over.

Sonja heeft wel gelijk als ze vreest voor racisme.
Het is inderdaad niet te ontkennen dat er rasverschillen bestaan.
Maar als ze bestaan kun je ze misschien beter niet krampachtig ontkennen.

Je kunt er volgens mij ook op een normale manier mee omgaan.
Gewoon elkaars verschillen erkennen.

Veel anders zit er niet op, en je weet dan beter wat je wel en niet van elkaar kunt verwachten.

Er zijn in de wereld niet zo heel veel mensen die denken dat rasverschillen niet bestaan. Maar in Nederland, bij de mensen van mijn ( en uw) generatie, zijn ze wel dik gezaaid.
In China, India en Rusland zul je niemand tegenkomen die gelooft dat alle rassen gelijk zijn. En maken ze daar elkaar dood ? Welnee.

Over armoede en voortplanting: ieder wezen zoekt een gezonde, sterke partner. Baltsgedrag, pronken, vechten, prieelbouw, grote auto, gespierd lichaam: allemaal gedrag dat moet dienen om de best mogelijke partner te versieren.
Natuurlijk huwen arme mensen ook, en ze hebben zelfs vaak de meeest talrijke gezinnen. Maar dat is nog weer een ander verhaal, dat zal ik U nu besparen.'

Allereerst dit: Jan Verheul is een slechte lezer. Ik heb hem niet uitgemaakt voor 'fascist,' maar ik heb gesteld dat zijn opvatting dat armoede veroorzaakt wordt door het 'genetisch niet zo goed in elkaar zitten' een fascistische opvatting is die door de macht wordt gebruikt om de bestaande ongelijkheid te rechtvaardigen. Ook niet-fascisten kunnen fascistische opvattingen verspreiden. Of Verheul een fascist is weet ik niet precies, ik weet wel dat hij fascistische opvattingen verspreid. Vervolgens begint Verheul tegenover mij zijn 'geloof' te belijden dat hij aanprijst als wetenschap. Verheul lijkt te veronderstellen dat Darwin de wetenschapper is die het recht van de sterkste heeft geintroduceerd. Dit is apert onjuist, die gedachte is van de Britse bioloog Herbert Spencer. Darwin daarentegen stelde niet dat de 'sterkste' zou winnen maar juist de soort die zich het best zou aanpassen aan veranderende omstandigheden. Welnu, Jan Verheul, niet de rijke past zich het best aan, die blijft almaar hetzelfde doen: het verdedigen en uitbreiden van zijn bezit ten koste van alles, zowel van de natuur als de mens waardoor de overleving van de soort nu bedreigd wordt. Het is de arme die   zich aanpast aan elke verandering, om te voorkomen dat hij onmiddellijk ten onder gaat. De creativiteit van de Derde Wereldbewoner is immens veel groter dan die van de rijke westerse patser en zijn bewonderaars als Jan Verheul die als enige argument hebben dat armoede de straf is voor een genetisch defect. Ik kom hier nog op terug.

vrijdag 3 augustus 2012

Waardigheid 3

Vanuit Rome schrijf ik dit bericht niet voor u, want u kent de feiten in wezen al. Ik schrijf het ook niet voor de mensen die het niet weten, want die lezen mijn weblog niet, die willen het niet weten. Ik schrijf dit bericht voor de komende generatie:

Wij staan aan de vooravond van een onvoorstelbaar gewelddadig conflict dat in het Midden Oosten gaat beginnen. Het westers militair-industrieel complex schept stap voor voor stap de condities voor dit geweld. Er leven op dit moment genoeg intelligente goed geïnformeerde mensen onder ons die weten welke schaduw boven ons hangt, maar niemand doet iets. Wij zijn verlamd, afgekocht door de welvaart, vet gemest en lui. Rijkdom maakt decadent, vadsig en lethargisch. Barokke kitsch is de laatste fase van een cultuur. En ook dat weten we. Maar niemand doet iets. Het ontbreekt de moderne westerse mens aan waardigheid, aan het vermogen om de werkelijkheid zin en betekenis te geven. Ik loop door Rome en zie hoe honderden Derde Wereldbewoners uit Bangladesh en Sri Lanka, ingehuurd door de Mafia, nagemaakte merkkleding, tassen en andere rotzooi op straat verkopen aan wanstaltig uitgedoste toeristen. De politie weet van dit onrecht, de politici weten het, de bevolking weet dit. En niemand doet iets. Op de uitvalswegen rond de grote steden staan hoeren uit Afrika. De gekleurde armen van elders worden misbruikt, links doet alsof zijn neus bloedt, rechts profiteert van de illegaliteit. Wij weten het allemaal, maar onze cultuur is dermate verrot dat niemand wat kan of durft te ondernemen. Zo eindigt een tijdperk. Iedereen wacht tot de ontploffing begint.
Op de Campo de' Fiori in het centrum van Rome vluchten Derde Wereldbewoners met hun illegaal nagemaakte Louis Vuitton-tassen voor de politie die in een auto aan komt rijden. Een minuut later staan ze er weer. Deze verschoppelingen worden ook gebruikt als dagloners die zo de werkloosheid onder de Italianen vergroten aangezien deze economische vluchtelingen gedwongen zijn om hier ver onder het minimumloon te werken. Dit is de dagelijkse praktijk in de Europese Unie.

Syrie 64

Date: Fri, 3 Aug 2012 09:12:41 -0400


http://embassymag.ca/dailyupdate/view/294

Western media reports on Syrian conflict too simplistic
Opinion: Middle East politics

They tend to indulge in good-versus-evil scenarios, in this case with the ‘rebels’ as the good guys and the Assad regime as the bad guys. The broader context of the conflict is rarely mentioned and the nuances of Syrian politics and history are missing altogether.
Published Aug 3, 2012 12:25 AM

As Syria lurches towards full-scale civil war, the coverage of the conflict in the Western media is characteristically simplistic.
Media reports are rarely informative; rather they tend to indulge in good-versus-evil scenarios, in this case with the ‘rebels’ as the good guys and the Assad regime as the bad guys. The broader context of the conflict is rarely mentioned and the nuances of Syrian politics and history are missing altogether.
Watching dozens of reports over many months on the BBC, CNN, PBS, CBC, and various other outlets, I haven’t seen a single presentation that even attempted to inform people of who and what the ‘Alawites’ are, or their relation to the Sunnis.
At best, some coverage does mention that the Alawites are a Shia denomination and that the conflict is split on Shia-versus-Sunni lines. But the same reports fail to mention that this sectarian divide in Syria is a proxy war between Iran on the one hand and Saudi Arabia on the other.
The entire media coverage of the so-called Arab Spring fails to mention this. Instead, it tends to give the impression that the disputes sweeping the Arab world are a struggle between a populace eager for democracy and tyrants eager to hold onto power. This is very misleading. The model of daily information passage in North America equates to ‘the dumber the better.’
Certainly, the revolutions in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt have not delivered anything like democracy. Instead, they have delivered a vast expansion of political influence for political Sunni Islam (Islamists) of the Saudi Arabian colouring.
The single most important fact to grasp about the so-called Arab Spring is that the Saudis (radical Sunni Muslims) are extending their influence throughout the region, wherever they are able, in geopolitical moves designed to counter the influence of the Iranians. Needless to say, this is assisted and to some extent orchestrated by the United States, Saudi Arabia’s chief ally. Saudi/Qatari Sunnism is of the Wahhabi (extremist) school.
The Syrian government is best described as ‘Shia-affiliated’ because the Assads are not mainstream Shia, but rather belong to the Alawite sect, a group that has historical links to the Shia but, to some minds, is so esoteric as to barely count as Muslim at all.
The Shia are defined by their veneration for the Imam Ali, cousin of the Prophet Muhammad. The Alawites’ central doctrine is that Ali was, in fact, a divine incarnation. That is, they regard Ali as a divinity.
For the vast majority of Muslims this renders the Alawites heretics of the worst kind. Certainly, among Sunnis they are despised as heretical polytheists and are not usually counted as Muslims—they are beyond the limits of anything recognizable as Islam. Historically, they have faced persecution and oppression.
The position of the Assad government is secular and modernist. The problem is they rule over a Sunni majority that has deep theological objections to Alawiteism.
Pragmatically, the Assads have tried to improve such tensions by effectively ‘Sunnizing’ the Alawite community. The social cohesion of the Syrian nation has depended upon keeping sectarian tensions under control.
As we see, though, the tensions remain and—under much provocation from radical Sunnis from outside (for instance, the Saudis, Qataris, and Turks)—sectarian strife has degenerated into civil war.
The American interest here is to stretch Iran, Syria’s Shia ally.
Russian allegiances, Turkish expansionism
Meanwhile, in Russia, President Vladimir Putin maintains his support for the Syrian government. This remains the main obstacle to overt Western intervention. Again, news reports tell us very little about this.
For instance, it is little appreciated that the strongest supporter of Putin’s policy on Syria, and so Syria’s strongest supporter in Russia, is, in fact, the Russian Orthodox Church.
The Assad regime—secularizers, modernizers—has provided strong and lasting protection for the communities of Orthodox Christians in Syria. The new ‘Arab Spring’ regimes are, in fact, Islamist and are hostile to Christianity or any other minority religious groups. It has been no ‘spring’ for Arab Christians.
The Ahmet Davutoğlu-led Turkish foreign policy is a ‘neo-Ottoman policy’ and it is an obvious threat further destabilizing the peace in the Middle East for ideological and opportunistic reasons.
The current Turkish government has been working overtime using all means to achieve big geopolitical ambitions in the region and abroad. Davutoğlu’s diplomacy is an imperial dream. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan wants to be the next sultan, a man who retains full power not only in Turkey but also in the region.
He craves to be admired and talked about and has successfully used religion to gather support in the region. He wants to make himself an immortal, just like the great Ottoman sultans, which is an immoral and hypocritical behaviour.
The expansionist policy of Turkey has the potential of completely destabilizing the region including Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iran, and beyond.
None of the countries ruled by the Ottomans have good memories of the Ottoman era. Therefore, an Ottoman dream geared toward the Middle East is a foolish and destructive idea in historical context.
Davutoğlu is playing with fire and it is causing great human loss in the region. The most innocent people are suffering the greatest. The region needs peace, not another imperialist power dominating and destroying lives in the Middle East.
Various understanding of religions have been malevolently used to manipulate people into hatred for one another, which leads some to persecute and murder others, as we see it in Syria. The fate of the Alawites and Christians under a Sunni Islamist government in Syria—which is what the so-called rebels are fighting for—would be dire indeed.
Yilmaz Alimoglu is a Canadian author, philosopher, poet, and scientist. Having grown up in Turkey, he spent 15 years working as an electrical engineer, wrote the novel Deserts and Mountains, and currently writes on topics including philosophy and Sufism. A longer version of this op-ed first appeared on his blog.

Verarmd Uranium 21

Friday, 03 August 2012 09:17

By Shihab RattansiAl Jazeera English | Report and Video
Iraq.(Photo: The U.S. Army / Flickr)As deformities spike in the Iraqi city, we ask if the US has been honest about weaponry used during the 2004 assaults.

'Did the US Cause Fallujah's Birth Defects?


New research is underway on the alarming increase in birth defects in the Iraqi city of Fallujah.
In November 2004, the US led an assault on Fallujah - a stronghold of opposition against the US occupation, west of Baghdad. Intense bombardment left many of its buildings destroyed and displaced much of the 300,000-strong population.
Eventually, the US was forced to admit that amongst its arsenal was white phosphorus - a substance the Pentagon described as a 'chemical weapon' when it was used by Saddam Hussein against the Kurds.
In addition, eyewitnesses claimed the US military used "unusual weapons".
Subsequent investigations have focused on the possible use of depleted uranium by the US for its armour-piercing qualities. The US, however, denies using such weaponry.
Research has shown elevated levels of radioactivity in Fallujah and across Iraq.
Iraqi physicians have also long reported a spike in cases involving severe birth defects in Fallujah since 2004. They have reported children born with multiple heads, serious brain damage, missing limbs and with extra fingers and toes.
A report published in 2011 on the level of uranium and other contaminants in hair from the parents of children with congenital anomalies in Fallujah partly concluded that: "Whilst caution must be exercised about ruling out other possibilities, because none of the elements found in excess are reported to cause congenital diseases and cancer except uranium, these findings suggest the enriched uranium exposure is either a primary cause or related to the cause of the congenital anomaly and cancer increases. Questions are thus raised about the characteristics and composition of weapons now being deployed in modern battlefields."
Al Jazeera's Sebastian Walker reporting for the programme Fault Lines examined the legacy of the US occupation in Iraq and described what he saw on a road trip across Iraq after the withdrawal of US troops.
"What we found by visiting the general hospital there is that there are extremely high rates of birth defects, some five times the international norm, and many of the doctors who work in those hospitals believe that this is a direct result of the kind of weapons the US forces were using in those campaigns."
Many researchers say uranium from the shelling may be to blame. However, no conclusive proof of a link has been established.
In this episode Inside Story Americas asks: Is the US being honest about the use of unconventional weapons, and the possible link with the rising incidence of birth defects in Fallujah?

Joining the discussion with presenter Shihab Rattansi are guests: Ross Caputi, a former US marine who fought in the battle for Fallujah in November 2004 and co-founder of the Justice for Fallujah Project; Dai Williams, a weapons researcher whose work focuses on community health in conflict zones associated with new types of weapons; and Raed Jarrar, an Iraq analyst and the executive director for a Washington-based global strategy firm.
White Phosporus in Fallujah
US forces used the chemical in the Iraqi city in November 2004, purportedly to light up the battlefield.
Its use is legal as long as civilians are not targeted.
The US has used white phosphorus in some form or another since World War I.
US officials initially denied its use in Fallujah, but in 2005 General Peter Pace confirmed it.
White phosphorus particles burn through clothes to the bone, stick to skin and cannot be relieved by water.
The substance spontaneously ignites at about 30 Celcius, and continues to burn until it is deprived of oxygen.
Depleted uranium bullets were used heavily in the second battle for Fallujah, in tank armour and to reinforce steel. They were also used in Iraq in 1991 and again in 2003.
This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.'


http://truth-out.org/news/item/10670-did-the-us-cause-fallujahs-birth-defects

Syrie 63

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL 
PRESS RELEASE
3 AUGUST 2012.

Syria: FSA killings probe findings ‘must go to UN inquiry’

The investigation announced by the Free Syrian Army (FSA) into the alleged unlawful killings of 14 members of the al-Berri clan must be carried out in an “impartial, independent and comprehensive” manner and its results should be referred to the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, Amnesty International said today.

Fahad al-Masri, the FSA’s Head of Central Media, condemned the killings in a televised interview on Wednesday and said the FSA had opened an investigation into the incident and those responsible would be held to account.

Members of the Sunni pro-government clan were shown in social media video, allegedly filmed by the al-Tawhid Brigade of the FSA, being shot dead after being ordered out of a clan  “hospitality” building by the fighters in Bab al-Nairab neighbourhood in the city of Aleppo.

The head of the clan, Ali Zein al-‘Abdeen Berri (known as Zayno Berri), was reportedly killed in the shootings.

“Killing captives is a serious violation of international humanitarian law and a war crime. The FSA leadership have a duty to end such violations immediately,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.

“Amnesty International notes the FSA’s announcement of an investigation into the incident. This  must be carried out in an impartial, independent and comprehensive manner and the results passed on to the UN Commission of Inquiry.”

The Inquiry is responsible for monitoring, documenting and reporting such incidents to the Human Rights Council. This would be instrumental for possible prosecution when and if the situation in Syria is referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

According to local human rights activists, 14 members of the clan were summarily killed, some of them by hanging, although this was not shown in the video. Heavy fighting had earlier taken place between the two sides.

Amnesty International has also examined a number of recent social media videos showing the bodies of 15 men who appear to have been shot dead while handcuffed, while at least three of them were also blindfolded. Most of these corpses were found near the Air Force Intelligence branch in al-Zahraa’ Society neighbourhood in Aleppo.

The manner in which these bodies were found suggests that they may have been captured and later killed. The identities of the victims and perpetrators are yet to be established, but the fact that they were found in government-controlled areas suggests that they may have been killed by government forces.

“It has been evident for months that crimes under international law are being committed on a mass scale. Referring the situation in Syria to the ICC will make clear to all sides that those who order or carry out war crimes and crimes against humanity will be brought to justice,” said Philip Luther.

“We condemn such unlawful killings and again call on the leadership of all sides in Syria to insist they will not tolerate such abuses being committed by anyone under their commands.”

Background
As early as April 2011, Amnesty International concluded that crimes against humanity were being committed amid the Syrian government’s crackdown on protesters that began in March last year.

The situation over the course of more than 16 months of protest and unrest has evolved into non-international armed conflict. While the overwhelming majority of crimes continue to be committed by the Syrian security forces, serious abuses including war crimes by some members of armed opposition groups, including the FSA, are also on the rise, particularly in the province of Aleppo.

Members of armed opposition groups have been responsible for summary executions of some captured members of the security forces and shabiha militias and other unlawful killings, abductions of civilians, torture and other ill-treatment, use of children in hostilities and the reckless use and storage of arms.

In situations of armed conflict, all parties, including armed opposition groups, are legally bound by the rules of international humanitarian law. Serious violations of international humanitarian law are war crimes.

Amnesty International has therefore repeatedly called on the UN Security Council to refer the deteriorating security situation to the ICC and made clear that the crimes are subject to universal jurisdiction.

“Russia must stop blocking decisive action by the UN Security Council to end the suffering in Syria,” said Philip Luther.

“Most importantly, it should support the transfer of the situation in Syria to the ICC.

Waardigheid 2


Naar aanleiding van mijn opmerkingen over armoede heeft 'Jan Verheul een nieuwe reactie op uw bericht "Waardigheid" achtergelaten: 

Beste Stan, 

door de massamedia gaan we allemaal op elkaar lijken. De schilderachtige figuren verdwijnen. Inderdaad een grote verschraling. U beschrijft het heel goed. 
Maar U schrijft: "...voor hem is de arme een onmens, iemand die geen persoonlijkheid heeft".
Dat is hopelijk niet juist. 

Ik zie de wereld graag door de ogen van een evolutie-psycholoog. Mijn verklaring is dus: Die vroegere armoede zou kunnen verraden dat de mensen in die streek genetisch niet zo goed in elkaar zitten als de mensen elders. 
Instinctief willen mensen hun armoede liever niet tonen, omdat het hun voortplantings-competitiviteit schaadt. 
Nogmaals: dit zijn instincten, dus de mensen zelf weten niet te omschrijven waarom ze die oude foto's liever niet tonen. 

Al onze dure kleding en status-symbolen en zelfs onze sportieve neigingen kun je allemaal terugvoeren als zijnde gemotiveerd door de concurrentie 'om het meest gezonde, meest vruchtbare vrouwtje". 
Met die rijkdom en lichamelijke kracht toon je aan dat jouw genen OK zijn.'



Ik ben van mening dat 'de evolutie-psychologie' gevaarlijke nonsens is. Allereerst omdat deze visie, meer is het niet, de mens reduceert tot een door instincten gedreven organisme. Maar de mens is meer dan dat zoals we kunnen weten door de geschiedenis serieus te bestuderen. Altruisme is een even vitale drijfveer als egoïsme, anders bestond de mensheid niet meer. Niet voor niets moet het kapitalisme jaarlijks vele miljarden spenderen aan reclame om de massamens begerig te maken dan wel te houden en om hem binnen de grenzen te dwingen van de rat-race. Bovendien heeft het eeuwen geduurd voordat het christendom de arme ervan had overtuigd dat hij zijn armoede lijdzaam moest verdragen en de rijke moest vereren. In feite is de kerk daar nooit echt in geslaagd omdat telkens weer het verzet tegen de 'natuurlijke ordening' de kop opstak. De gedachte dat 'de mensen in die streek genetisch niet zo goed in elkaar zitten als de mensen elders,' is kort maar krachtig een fascistische opvatting die door de macht wordt gebruikt om de bestaande ongelijkheid te rechtvaardigen. De gedachte dat armoede en 'voortplanting' elkaar belemmeren is een andere misvatting. Met meer recht zou men precies het tegenovergestelde kunnen beweren. Jan Verheul zou eens de geschiedenis van het oude Rome onder de keizers moeten bestuderen. Uiteindelijk leidt rijkdom tot decadentie en gekte, Caligula was de achterkleinzoon van Augustus.


Tenslotte dit: eind jaren zestig reisde ik door Noord-Afrika en werd toen herhaaldelijk door straatarme boeren uitgenodigd om bij hen thuis te komen eten. Deze mensen bezaten nauwelijks iets materieels, zelfs geen stoel of tafel, geen boek of afbeelding. Maar wat ze wel bezaten was waardigheid. Ze waren trots mij een maaltijd te kunnen aanbieden. Ze waren trots op hun gastvrijheid en kenden de waarde van hun waardigheid. En dat nu, Jan Verheul, is vernietigd door de ideologie van de moderniteit die geen enkele morele waarde bezit, alleen maar nut en efficiency in dienst van de driften. Die driften moeten telkens weer gemobiliseerd worden door onze managers die van bovenaf de zaak proberen te sturen in de door hen gewenste richting. En de rest, over genetica etc, is stupide propaganda. 

Syrie 62


BY SULTAN AL QASSEMI | AUGUST 2, 2012

While civil war rages on the Syrian battlefield between regime loyalists and myriad rebel factions, another battle is taking place in the media world. Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera, the two Gulf-based channels that dominate the Arabic news business, have moved to counter Syrian regime propaganda, but have ended up distorting the news almost as badly as their opponents. In their bid to support the Syrian rebels' cause, these media giants have lowered their journalistic standards, abandoned rudimentary fact-checks, and relied on anonymous callers and unverified videos in place of solid reporting.

Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya were founded by members of the Qatari and Saudi royal families, respectively, and their coverage of Syria faithfully reflects the political positions of their backers. There's big money behind both stations: Al Jazeera was created with a $150 million grant from the emir of Qatar in 1996, and annual expenditure on the network's multiple channels reached nearly $650 million by 2010, according to market research firm Ipsos. The story is similar with Al Arabiya, which was launched in 2003 with an initial investment of $300 million by a group of Lebanese and Gulf investors led by Saudi businessman Waleed al-Ibrahim, the brother-in-law of the late Saudi King Fahd. Hard numbers on the annual operating budgets of these channels aren't known, but they're likely to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. The much smaller, U.S.-government financed Alhurra, by way of comparison, costs around $90 million annually to run.
Coverage of the Syrian uprising has drained these channels' resources. Prime-time advertisements have been reduced or canceled altogether, thereby decreasing revenues. In place of carefully reported segments, some newscasts rely almost exclusively on citizen journalist "eyewitness" accounts and uploaded media footage readily found on YouTube. For the non-Arabic-speaking viewer, news coverage of Syria on these channels is akin to CNN's iReport -- the monthly interactive half-hour citizen journalism show -- but for several hours a day. It is not uncommon to tune in to either channel and find that the first 20 minutes of a newscast consists of Syrian activists -- some with shady backgrounds -- based either outside or inside Syria reporting via Skype on events that took place hundreds or thousands of miles away.
When Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera do comment directly on Syrian affairs, they tend to paper over the rebels' flaws and emphasize the conflict's religious fault lines. Perhaps the low point of both channels' Syrian uprising coverage was when they gave a platform to extremist Sunni cleric Adnan al-Arour, who once said of Syria's Alawite minority that Sunnis "shall mince them in meat grinders and feed their flesh to the dogs" for their support of President Bashar al-Assad. While Al Arabiya referred to "the sheikh" as a "symbol of the revolution," Al Jazeera introduced him as the "biggest nonviolent instigator against the Syrian regime."
These Arabic-language stations have done their worst work when the political stakes of their coverage are the highest. In early July, Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlass, a close friend of the Assad family and son of a former Syrian defense minister, fled to France. Several weeks later, he broke his silence via Saudi media and embarked on a religious pilgrimage to the kingdom, offering himself as a unifying figure to lead Syria's dysfunctional exile opposition. Only within the realm of fantasy would Syrians -- who have paid with the blood of thousands to bring down the Baathist dictatorship -- agree to allow a former regime insider to succeed Assad.
But that seems to be the scenario that Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya are not only taking seriously, but perhaps supporting. Both channels initially covered Tlass's defection extensively, but after Tlass chose to make his statements exclusively to Saudi media -- including Al Arabiya and the newspaper Asharq al-Awsat -- Al Jazeera shunned him. Al Arabiya described the defection of Tlass -- who held no power whatsoever at the time of his departure -- as a "severe blow" to Syrian military power. It also recounted how several of his family members oppose the regime, but failed to mention his uncle Talal, who currently serves as deputy defense minister.
To be sure, reporting from inside Syria is perilous. The country is, in fact, the most dangerous place in the world for reporters, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Bloggers and journalists have beenrepeatedly detained by the regime since the conflict began, and at least 18 journalists have lost their lives in the country since November. Furthermore, government minders continuously accompany reporters who are allowed into the country.'