Nikki Haley No More US Ambassador to UN

Local Editor

US President Trump accepted Nikki Haley’s resignation as UN ambassador. Haley had wanted some time off and discussed her resignation with Trump last week at the White House.

In announcing her resignation, Trump said on Tuesday that Haley first broached the subject six months ago, when she told the president that she wanted to take some time off at the end of the year. Trump said that he hopes Haley will one day return to his administration, and told her “you can have your pick” of positions within it.

Haley will depart at the end of the year, and Trump said that he “will be in constant touch” with her afterwards.

“I think that it’s just very important for government officials to understand when it’s time to step aside,” Haley said on Tuesday. “The truth is I want to make sure that this administration has the strongest person to fight.”

Haley had held her post since Trump’s inauguration in January 2017. Since then, she echoed Trump’s tough line towards the United Nations, and oversaw the US’ withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council, which she called the UN’s “greatest failure.”

After the publication of an anonymous op-ed in the New York Times in September, which described a concerted effort by officials to thwart the president’s plans, Haley denied involvement, and said that she openly disagrees with Trump when necessary.

“I don’t agree with the president on everything. When there is disagreement, there is a right way and a wrong way to address it. I pick up the phone and call him or meet with him in person,” she said. She later called rumors that officials were planning on trying to remove Trump from office for unfitness via the 25th Amendment “absurd.”

Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team

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Kerry Reveals Egyptian, Saudi Ex-Leaders Pushed US to Attack Iran

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Kerry Reveals Egyptian, Saudi Ex-Leaders Pushed US to Attack Iran

October 6, 2018US Secretary of State John Kerry

Former US Secretary of State John Kerry expressed alarm over a possible war with Iran following the US’s exit from the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

By pulling out of the deal, US President Donald Trump has “made it more likely that there will be conflict in the region because there are people there who would love to have the United States of America bomb Iran,” Kerry emphasized in an address to the Council on Foreign Relations on Friday.

He also revealed that both Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdullah and Egypt’s ousted president Hosni Mubarak told him that the US should attack Iran.

According to Kerry, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also urged then-US President Barack Obama to give the go-ahead for bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Earlier, the former US Secretary of State warned that Washington’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal may undermine his country’s security and isolate the US from its European allies.

Last month, Kerry berated Trump for having described the JCPOA as the “worst deal ever”, adding that the US President tries to “make things up” on Iran.

He rejected Trump’s allegations that the JCPOA was ostensibly weak and harmful to the US as false, adding that they could disrupt “the possibilities of international nuclear policy.”

“Just saying that doesn’t make it that. This is the toughest agreement in terms of inspection, accountability — no country has had to do what Iran did in order to live up to this. But to just walk away?” Kerry said.

Source: Agencies

In case tou missed it: Netanyahu finds Hizbullah weapon factory in Lebanon!

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On Saturday, the serial liar Benjamin Netanyahu warned Tehran that he wouldn’t let build underground arms factories in Lebanon for Hizbullah.

His threat was aimed at Lebanese government that Israeli airstrikes will blast such underground factories as it did Iranian-assisted on-ground weapon factory in Al-Yarmouk (Sudan) in October 2012. The Zionist regime had claimed the said factory was used by Tehran to manufacture ammunition for the Gaza-ruling Hamas. Khartoum government had blamed the explosion in the factory as a terrorist attack by the Zionist entity.

On April 4, 2017, the ruling Likud Party mouthpiece, the Jerusalem Postreported that Israel’s intelligence ministry had claimed Iran is building several rocket manufacturing facilities in Lebanon for Hizbullah. These facilities are 50-meter deep underground, similar to Iran’s underground nuclear bomb-making facilities reported by Netanyahu – another lie fabricated by Netanyahu since the 1990s.

Netanyahu claims the source of this information comes from a Kuwaiti newspaper. Let’s not forget Kuwait is currently conducting dialogues between Riyadh and Doha to end the siege of Qatar by four Arab neighbors (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE and Bahrain). Furthermore, Kuwaiti ‘royals’ like the Qatari ‘royals’ are not anti-Iran.

US ambassador to Lebanon, Israel-First Elizabeth Holzahll Richard who had admitted that her official duty is to destroy Hizbullah, couldn’t find this smoking gun for Netanyahu. Nor Saudi Arabian-born anti-Hizbullah Lebanese prime minister Sa’ad Hariri, whose father Rafik Harriri, former prime minister of Lebanon, was assassinated by Israeli Mossad on Valentine Day 2005, had no knowledge of these deep underground arms factories.

This latest smoking gun reminds me Netanyahu’s earlier lies about Hamas tunnels to smuggle arms.

American Jewish academic and author Norman Finkelstein called Hizbullah, Defender of Lebanon (watch below).

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Unconvincing Abbas General Assembly Address

by Stephen Lendman (stephenlendman.org – Home – Stephen Lendman)

In January 2005, Israel installed Mahmoud Abbas as puppet Palestinian president to serve its interests. 

He stays in charge by following orders, short of going along with Trump’s no-peace/deal of the century-peace plan, at least so far – demanding unilateral Palestinian surrender to US/Israeli demands in return for nothing. It’s that bad.

The Jewish state abolished Palestinian elections after Hamas won majority control over the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) to become its legitimate government.

The Abbas-led PA, taking orders from Tel Aviv and Washington, has no legitimacy. He long ago sold his soul and credibility for special privileges he, his family members and cronies enjoy – benefits for enforcing apartheid rule.

Hamas political bureau leader Ismail Haniyeh earlier slammed the Abbas-headed Palestinian National Council (PLC), saying it betrays Palestinians by flagrantly “violat(ing) the unity (and rights) of our people…”

For justifiably resisting occupation harshness, Hamas and two million Gazans are virtually imprisoned under suffocating blockade conditions, supported by Washington and the West, the world community doing nothing to challenge it. 

Abbas supports what’s been going on in Gaza for over 11 years, along with occupation harshness in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. He’s widely despised for betraying the people he’s sworn to serve.

If free, fair, and open democratic elections were held, he’d be overwhelmingly defeated. 

From Oslo to now, he’s been a self-serving Judas goat, a hugely corrupt Palestinian Quisling.

His addresses ring hollow each time delivered, again Thursday at the UN General Assembly, pretending to serve long-suffering Palestinians he sold out over a generation ago.

Calling for peace, an independent Palestinian state, and an end to colonial occupation ignored his longstanding failure to back his rhetoric with responsible actions – just the opposite.

Instead of challenging occupation harshness and Gaza’s blockade, he supports what he claims to oppose by serving as Israel’s enforcer, persecuting his own people, silencing their dissent, paying lip service alone to their liberating struggle he’s done nothing to pursue.

Saying he abandoned Oslo and “suspend(ed) Palestinian recognition of Israel until Israel recognizes the State of Palestine on the 4 June 1967 borders” belies his failure to contest the unacceptable status quo.

More stooge than statesman, Abbas says what Palestinians want to hear while back-stabbing them through betrayal – subverting their liberating struggle, not pursuing it.

He knew about Israel’s Cast Lead (2008-09) war of aggression in advance.

Leaked US diplomatic cables quoting a senior Israeli official confirmed it. Israel coordinated war on Gaza with the Abbas-led Palestinian Authority.

He urged Israel to crush Hamas. When Israeli foreign minster, Avigdor Lieberman was quoted, saying

“I witnessed (Abbas) at his best. In Operation Cast Lead, (he) called us personally, applied pressure, and demanded that we topple Hamas and remove it from power.”

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said this revelation “reaffirms the fact that Mahmoud Abbas is no longer fit to represent our people, who conspired against his people during a war.”

He was never fit to serve, why Israel and Washington chose him as a convenient puppet. He likely knew about Pillar of Cloud (2012) and Protective Edge (2014) Israeli aggression in advance.

Throughout Israeli wars and suffocating blockade on Gaza, he did nothing to help its beleaguered people, going along with or turning a blind eye to mass slaughter and destruction.

He supports Palestinian division, not unity. He opposes Trump’s no-peace/peace plan because backing it could lead to his demise, Palestinians unwilling to accept unilateral surrender to US/Israeli demands or leadership backing it.

As long as he’s in charge, or anyone else like him, genuine efforts for Palestinian liberation won’t be made. The worst of occupation apartheid viciousness will continue.

VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: stephenlendman.org (Home – Stephen Lendman). Contact at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

 

My newest book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

Stephen Lendman
Stephen Lendman was born in 1934 in Boston, MA. In 1956, he received a BA from Harvard University. Two years of US Army service followed, then an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1960. After working seven years as a marketing research analyst, he joined the Lendman Group family business in 1967. He remained there until retiring at year end 1999. Writing on major world and national issues began in summer 2005. In early 2007, radio hosting followed. Lendman now hosts the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network three times weekly. Distinguished guests are featured. Listen live or archived. Major world and national issues are discussed. Lendman is a 2008 Project Censored winner and 2011 Mexican Journalists Club international journalism award recipient.

The Palestinian people’s principal problem is their own leadership

Abbas at the UN

September 27, 2018

By Abdel Bari Atwan

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ address to the UN General Assembly was disappointing. It repeated the same phrases used in his last eight speeches. Nothing new at all. The same appeals for international sympathy. Even the wording of his complaints about Israel’s failure to respect agreements was unchanged. And his declaration that the US is not an honest broker but biased towards Israel we have heard a million times before.

So it was neither strange nor surprising that the chamber was almost empty of delegates and delegation heads, and that the warm applause came mostly from the Palestinian delegation.

US President Donald Trump will not heed Abbas’ demands that he rescind his recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel. Nor will East Jerusalem be capital of a Palestinian state, because there will be no Palestinian state at all. Not according to the US’ ‘Deal of the Century’, which has rapidly begun entering the implementation stage – with US support, the collusion of some Arabs, and Palestinian security coordination.

***

The US and Israel will not fret about Abbas’ threats regarding their non-compliance with the agreements signed with them. Nor will that arouse the sympathy of UN member-sates. So long as he continues talking Mother Theresa-like about peace, renouncing violence, and joining the fight against terrorism in any part of the world – as he affirmed in his speech – nobody will listen to him or take him seriously.

It was regrettable that the Palestinian president used the UN podium to discuss the agreements he signed with the Hamas movement and threaten not to abide by them. That is the only one of his threats he will actually carry out: to cut off what remains of the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s aid to the Gaza Strip. This amounts to around $90 million in electricity subsidies and salaries, the vast majority of which go to members of Fateh, the PA’s party. Is this the place to make such threats? Does the world benefit from hearing them?

The international community will not thank Abbas for promising not to resort to violence or revert to ‘terrorism” i.e. legitimate resistance to occupation. How could such thanks be forthcoming from UN delegates when so many of their countries gained their freedom through resistance, not by imploring and lamenting the loss of their rights at international forums.

Abbas has been saying for the past ten years or so that peaceful popular resistance is the only option. We ask:

Where is this resistance? Why do the PA’s security forces repress all political activists and throw them in jail, or inform on them to the occupation authorities to facilitate their arrest?  Enough lies and deception, please. Respect your people’s intelligence, and their martyrs and prisoners.

***

We ask President Abbas:

Why did the US administration cut off all aid to schools, hospitals, PA institutions and UNRWA, while increasing its aid to the Palestinian security forces, at a time when he announced a boycott of any meeting or dialogue with the US? What good did this boycott do in this case?

The fault does not lie with UN, the US, or Israel. It lies with President Abbas, his leadership and administration, his Authority, his security coordination, and his speechwriters and cheerleaders.

When Palestinian leaders chose the course of resistance and sacrifice, the US and Israel and the West in its entirety sought to meet and negotiate with them, recognized them, and feared them.

This farce needs to be ended at once, and the actors stripped of their masks. It has gone too far, and the Palestinian people, both in the homeland and the diaspora, must not remain silent about this situation.

DAMASCUS TRADE FAIR AND FESTIVAL OF THE CROSS MARK THE RETURN OF PEACE TO MUCH OF SYRIA

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A Maaloula fire spinner during the annual September Festival of the Holy Cross in Maaloula, Syria. Eva Bartlett | In Gaza

Eva Bartlett attends the Damascus International Trade fair and the annual Maaloula Festival of the Cross to see how Syrians in areas liberated from jihadi rule are defiantly celebrating their new found freedoms.

September 24, 2018, Mint Press News

DAMASCUS and MAALOULA, SYRIA — (Report) In April 2018 I returned to Syria, visiting recently-liberated areas in eastern Ghouta and also travelling to the southern village of Hadar — which at the time was under continual bombardment by terrorists just to the south, with the assistance of Israel and its observation towers over the region.

My focus last April and May was highlighting this media-neglected issue, but also going to the site of the concocted and yet-unproven allegations of a chemical weapons attack. Indeed, as I wrote, no one at the hospital in question, nor the people of Douma I spoke with on the street, believed a chemical attack had occurred. Instead, they were more concerned with detailing the horrors and starvation they had lived under the rule of Jaysh al-Islam and other terrorist factions.

So, the focus of my last visit to Syria, which has been warred upon for the last seven years, was in highlighting the crimes of the terrorist factions against civilians, but also the crimes of the Western and regional nations promoting war propaganda and baseless accusations against Syria and its allies.

In early September, I returned to Syria for more uplifting reasons: to attend two important annual events that in recent years were interrupted due to terrorism: The annual Damascus International Trade Fair and Maaloula’s annual Holy Cross Festival. 

A Crowded, Peaceful Damascus International Trade Fair and Revival

This year, both went on in a cheerful climate, and the only blasts were celebratory ones. The resumption and successful holding of these events is a clear indication that Syria is returning to peace, and is closer than ever to ending the war that the NATO-Gulf-Israeli alliance plotted years before 2011.

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At the Damascus International Trade Fair Ground, Opening Night. Eva Bartlett | In Gaza

In 2017 the trade fair, in its first year resumed since 2012, was attacked by terrorists who were then occupying eastern Ghouta. Six people were killed. On September 6, the opening night of the 2018 fair, I encountered Fares Shehabi, a Syrian MP who elaborated on the murders:

“Those in eastern Ghouta, the so-called ‘rebels’, al-Qaeda gangs, they targeted the entry of this fair and killed some people — visitors and participants. One lady from old Damascus was killed. She was participating in this fair — she had a clothing garment factory — and she was killed at the door.”

Watch | Aleppo MP Fares Shehabi on the re-opening of the Damascus International Fair

This year, with Damascus’ Yarmouk district (formerly occupied by ISIS and al-Qaeda) liberated, and with the liberation of eastern Ghouta — the source of most of the missiles and mortars that killed over 10,000 civilians in Damascus alone — there was no concern that the deadly attack of 2017 would be repeated.

The official opening ceremony included a year-by-year overview of the six decades of fairs past — minus the years 2012-16 — and various stunning musical and dance performances.

I revisited the fairgrounds just south of Damascus after the opening events and while walking around I saw the diversity that is Syrian culture, including young women dressed how they chose — something unthinkable under the rule of the fanatical extremists who occupied the now-liberated areas. In fact, under their rule, women wouldn’t be out strolling period, much less doing so with male friends.

The atmosphere was in that regard less that of a trade fair and more of a public park with people sprawled on lawns, picnicking and children playing. Elsewhere, music blasted from fair booths and from stages set up to entertain the crowds, including a children’s concert where a young boy impressively crooned a song by legendary Syrian singer George Wassouf.

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A crowd watches a children’s singing competition at the Damascus International Trade Fair. Eva Bartlett | In Gaza

A novelty at this year’s fair was the Sahab 73 two-seater plane, designed and built by Syrian engineers — the “first nationally-made aircraft,” as SANA reported.

Fares al-Kartally, the fair’s General Director, told me that of the 48 countries participating, 27 of them were officially participating through their embassies and 21 through companies and agents. The latter included companies from France, Britain, Spain, and some Arab countries, including Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.

In fact, 1,722 companies participated in the trade fair, the main participants being Russian, Indian and Iranian. That said, walking around the exhibits, I also saw South Korean, Cuban, and countries neighbouring Syria participating, offering services and goods from textiles, medicines, cosmetics, and food products to products and skills for Syria’s much-needed reconstruction. Of that reconstruction phase, al-Kartally noted it is Syria that will decide who will participate in its reconstruction.

A representative of a Russian company specializing in metal and steel production for warehouses and agricultural use told me:

“It’s just this year that you will be able to foresee the next steps for Syria. Last year, it was very hard to tell when this will be over. This year, we thought it was the right time to participate. We believe this is the right time to come and help the government of Syria, through Russian cooperation, to rebuild Syria, the infrastructure and food security.”

Corporate media has spun this as being a bidding ground for exclusively Russian and Iranian companies. But in reality, while Russia and Iran definitely have a strong presence here, many other nations are present.

In any case, Russia and Iran have not imposed criminal sanctions on Syria, nor have they supported terrorists there. To the contrary, they have been a vital part of the defeat of terrorism in Syria, and a return to peace and stability in liberated areas, providing the peace that allowed the fair to take place.

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Flags of countries participating in the Damascus International Trade Fair fly outside of the fairgrounds in Damascus, Syria. Eva Bartlett | In Gaza

In our conversation on the opening night, Fares Shehabi said:

We expect high participation from many countries and local firms. It’s about a political statement, an economic statement, that we won this war and we will win also the reconstruction war, and this is just one proof of it.”

Notably absent were companies from Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

As al-Kartally reflected:

In 2007, I took a course in strategic planning in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The instructor was American. He was talking about countries witnessing rapid economic growth, so I mentioned Syria. He looked at me and laughed, and said, ‘These countries will create problems for you,’ referring to Saudi Arabia and its allies.”

And indeed, they did.

However — after seven years of war, untold tragic loss of life, and immense destruction in areas occupied or targeted by terrorists — the tide is turning for Syria. Rebuilding will be a challenging process, to put it mildly, but more importantly, in my experience, most Syrians first and foremost want an end to terrorism. That wish has been widely granted — thanks to the Syrian army, government, and Syria’s political and military allies.

Yet Idlib remains occupied by al-Qaeda and other fanatics. And eastern Syria remains occupied by the U.S., its allied forces and other fanatics — including ISIS — who seem to flourish wherever an American presence has a hand.

According to al-Kartally, the 2017 trade fair saw over 2.2 million visitors attend over the course of 10 days:

Last year’s Fair was the first held in many years during the crisis and for people it was a chance to get out and breathe after feeling suffocated for so long.”

On September 7, its first day open to the public, this year’s fair saw 112,000 visitors. On the fifth day, nearly 220,000 visitors attended. By September 14, the eighth day of the fair, a reported half million visitors went to the fairgrounds.

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Fair-goers walk through the fairgrounds at the Damascus International Trade Fair in Damascus , Syria. Eva Bartlett | In Gaza

One night at around 8 p.m., I walked out of the fairgrounds to hail down a taxi on the airport road. I walked past a parking lot filled with buses providing free transportation to and from the fair. Adding to the masses already at the fair, people streamed in to spend their night out with family or friends.

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On September 15, the fair’s final day, Israel again illegally targeted Syria, firing missiles — which were intercepted by Syrian air defenses — towards the Damascus International Airport, not far from the fairgrounds.

The response of the fairgoers was to dance defiantly.

As Fares Shehabi wrote, “This is how Syrians attending Damascus International Fair reacted to the Israeli assault on the adjacent airport..! Defiance..! With people like that we cannot be defeated.”

As Syrian comedian Treka reported, the fair captures the sentiments many visitors were feeling: impressed that, so soon after the liberation of eastern Ghouta and Damascus, there had been so much change for the better in and around Damascus; encouraged that the war on Syria is drawing to an end and peace will prevail; and immense admiration for the Syrian people for remaining steadfast for their country, and with their army — which has, with Syria’s allies, nearly eradicated terrorism in Syria.

Life, Love, Peace: The Maaloula Festival of the Cross

From September 2013 to April 2014, the ancient mountainside village of Maaloula, which lies in the Damascus countryside, was subject to terror attacks, snipers, and occupation by armed groups that Western leadership and some members of the media wanted us to believe were bringing democracy and freedom to Syria. These groups systematically destroyed the town’s heritage, stealing or burning ancient relics and breaking ancient altars and tombs in their plundering for valuables.

In June 2014, two months after it was liberated, I visited Maaloula. The destruction was fresh — historic holy places burned, looted, destroyed.

As I wrote then:

There was the expected destruction from battles waged by and on the terrorists. There was further—clearly-intentional—destruction meted out systematically by the al-Qaeda death squads—particularly on Christian, cultural, and heritage sites. …

In Maaloula, terrorists likewise took great apparent pleasure in destroying and desecrating Christian relics, to the extent of gouging out the eyes from icons and mosaics and shooting down the large clifftop Jesus and Mary statues which had overlooked the village. They likewise burned, robbed and vandalized churches and homes. …

Outside of the early fourth century A.D. Monastery of Sts. Sergius et Bacchus, NDF volunteers and other locals swept rubble, and prepared for the long process of restoration. Inside the ancient church, light poured through mortar holes in the unadorned white dome smashed by terrorist-fired mortars. According to the General, when the SAA had pushed the invaders back beyond the monastery, the terrorists fired mortars towards the monastery and village. They later occupied the monastery, then looted and vandalized it. …

‘They stole many idols from here, including the oldest one in the church,’ the volunteer said. The smashed altar with its unique ridged rim is said to be from between 330 and 325 A.D. ‘In other churches, the altar is rectangular and flat. And only here the altar is a half-circle and rimmed, like the altars of pagans for their animal sacrifice,’ she explained. …

The arson at the tenth-century Convent of St. Thekla was visible from the street, the top two floors utterly blackened by fires set by the invaders. …

In the convent’s Church of St. John the Baptist they likewise set fires, black soot reaching the painted dome high above. They completely destroyed the altar, as well as the pews—which presumably fueled the fire. Throughout the halls of the convent and inside the church itself, NATO’s mercenaries tore, stabbed, burned, or stole Christian iconography, looting what they could, meticulously destroying what was unmovable. Since none of that was possible for the images painted directly on stone walls, they instead machine-gunned the eyes and faces of Mary and Jesus, as well as a stone cross.”

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A Maaloula local defence soldier traces the 2013/14 battles on a map of the town. Eva Bartlett | In Gaza

When I revisited in the summer of 2016, much had changed. The area was cleaned and stores had reopened. In September of 2013, I wrote about the point-blank assassinations of unarmed Maaloula citizens and of the defenders of Maaloula — locals who left their trades to take up arms in defense of their historic town and people. Not long after, invading terrorists, under the guise of anti-government rebels, assassinated an elderly man who had refused to leave his town.

wrote at the time:

On a street below, near the main square, a man and some children collected water from a spring. It was at that spring on September 17, 2013, that 65-year-old farmer Zaki Tabib was shot in his head by a terrorist sniper. Tabib was one of about fifteen mostly-elderly villagers who had refused to evacuate a week earlier.

Abdo Haddad, also one of Tabib’s nephews, commented on the stoicness of his uncle and men like him: ‘These old men are so pure in their heart that they don’t believe someone in their village would kill them.’”

Left bleeding on the street, Tabib was dead by the time his two courageous nephews braved a torrent of sniper fire to retrieve his body, in order to give him a proper burial.

On that 2016 visit, I also wrote about the destruction that still plagued the town:

Piles of rubble lay at many corners, and gaping holes in some walls remained evidence of the near total damage to the old part of the village. Although official estimates were that 80 percent of the homes were damaged, Abdo Haddad pointed out that “damage” in most cases means missing entire walls, and that in fact every house in the old quarter suffered damage, from mild to entire.

Many homes were boobytrapped by terrorists, to further kill and destroy. ‘They rigged houses so that when someone opened the door, an electrical trigger with a small charge would detonate and explode a gas canister,’ Haddad explained, saying that they could not count the number of rigged houses, maybe tens, maybe more: ‘The whole village was on fire. For the safety of the soldiers, in many cases the army had to blow the booby trap instead of defusing it.”

The church walls and dome roof of St. Thekla convent remained blackened with soot from the fires terrorists lit within. Local stonemasons stood on scaffolding, patiently rebuilding the thick walls in the traditional manner. Up the long staircase above the convent, the tomb in the cliffside grotto remained sooty black but was tidied up, with a few of the icons returned until complete restoration is possible. Other icons will never be returned — destroyed or stolen by the terrorist bandits, which occupied the convent.”

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Mikhael Taalab, Anton Taalab, and Serkis Zakhen, assassinated by terrorists on September 7, 2013. Eva Bartlett | In Gaza

Upon my return to Maaloula on September 13, 2018, I stood on Abdo Haddad’s balcony looking out upon one of the town’s historic mountains. It was from these mountaintops that terrorists rolled explosive-stuffed tires onto the simple homes below. It was from these mountaintops that terrorist snipers killed Zaki Tabib.

On September 13, those mountaintops were adorned with the traditional brightly-lit crosses of the Festival of the Cross.

I attended mass in Maaloula’s Catholic church. The rituals of countless years continue, as do the devotion of Maaloula’s residents, with both clergy and congregation singing the mournful lyrics sung for centuries. This is the culture that Western-backed fanatics attempted to destroy.

Watch | Mass during Maaloula’s Festival of the Cross

From devotion to celebration

Immediately following the mass, the congregation quickly exited into the church square. By the time I arrived at the door, the exit was nearly impassable as so many people had amassed in the square. Pushing through, I saw the cause of the crowd: raised on the shoulders of residents, two men sang songs traditional to the Festival of the Cross, swigging frequently from plastic bottles of Arak in their hands. The crowd periodically cheered at their words, and eventually moved — cheering, singing — to the main square.

By the time I made it to the main square, it was likewise completely full of celebrants, many swigging Arak, cheering, singing traditional songs, and praising their army and president. Mini-Syrian flags abounded, as did people on balconies to watch the festive chaos. This went on for over an hour before crowds started moving up the mountains. Later, down in the town square, they were dancing.

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Crowds gather to in Maaloula Syria’s town square to celebrating the Festival of the Holy Cross. Eva Bartlett | In Gaza

When I later made this arduous hike up often-challenging mountainside, it was nearing sunset. Strong, young Maaloula men were stationed at more difficult points of the mountain trail, pulling people up when necessary.

One such young man joined me to help me navigate the path, sometimes leading me down steep inclines on shortcuts to the top.

Reaching the top in darkness, the glare of multiple crosses and the blazing bonfire was enough illumination to see masses of people, mostly young but also elderly and families, standing and sitting perilously close to the mountain edge, overlooking the glowing village below.

Periodically, a burst of whirling light burst out, as people in the town square far below spun fire. Throughout the night, crowds sat drumming, singing, and watching the bonfire.

Watch | Devotees attend Maaloula’s Festival of the Holy Cross

I asked Abdo Haddad to summarize the importance of the Festival of the Cross. He said (video):

“Tonight we are celebrating the finding of the cross that happened 1700 years ago. This celebration is represented by putting fire on top of the mountains, from Jerusalem to Constantinople, to tell the people in Constantinople that the cross was found.

Maaloula is the only place in the world that is still celebrating this custom.

The only time that this custom stopped is when the so-called rebels and other “revolution” people in Syria invaded Maaloula, and instead of putting fire on top of the mountain, they put our houses on fire. But since we are sons and daughters of life, we kept on celebrating it since Maaloula was liberated by the Syrian army in 2014.

So we celebrate life now, and we celebrate the cross.

We were born here 3,000 years ago and we’ll keep existing until the end of time.”

In 2016, Syria’s First Lady, Mrs. Asma al-Assad, was interviewed by Russia 24. During that interview, she spoke of the struggles Syria has faced during its ancient existence. Particularly poignant, and fitting to end with, were these words:

“Syria comprises of land that has been continuously inhabited for a very long time. Over thousands of years, this soil has been exposed to dozens of wars and invasions. Some areas were completely destroyed. I know that Syria can and will rebuild itself. … As Syrians, we’ve always prevailed and this period in our history is no different. It is known or often said that Syria means ‘rising sun.’ And Syrians will rise again, that I can assure you.”

Tulsi Gabbard on the Administration’s Push for War in Syria

By James Carden

The congresswoman has accused President Trump and Vice President Pence of protecting “al-Qaeda and other jihadist forces in Syria.”

September 20, 2018 Information Clearing House   On September 13, Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard took to the floor of the House to rebuke the administration, accusing President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence of protecting “al-Qaeda and other jihadist forces in Syria,” all the while “threatening Russia, Syria, and Iran, with military force if they dare attack these terrorists.”

“This,” continued Gabbard, “is a betrayal of the American people, especially the victims of Al Qaeda’s attack on 9/11 and their families, first responders, and my brothers and sisters in uniform who have been killed or wounded in action and their families. For the President, who is Commander in Chief, to act as the protective big brother of al-Qaeda and other jihadists must be condemned by every Member of Congress.”I spoke to Gabbard earlier this week about her opposition to Trump’s Syria policy.James Carden: In June you and Republican Congressman Walter Jones introduced HR 922, the No More Presidential Wars Resolution, which would both define presidential wars not declared by Congress under Article I, section 8, clause 11 as impeachable “high crimes and misdemeanors” as well as prohibit the president from perpetuating ongoing wars or from supplying, among other things, war materials, military troops, military intelligence, and financial support without first receiving congressional authorization.

While the policy of attacking Syria clearly fails on a moral, legal, and consequentialist grounds, it also will likely backfire on realist grounds. What is your view in terms of who would benefit and who would suffer from a US-led attack on Syria?

Tulsi Gabbard: In the short term, President Trump would benefit the most. The president loves being adored and praised, and despite his rants against them, he especially craves the favor of the media. Trump remembers very well that the only times he has been praised almost universally by the mainstream media, Republicans, and Democrats, was when he has engaged in aggressive military actions. Brian Williams, Fareed Zakaria and others could hardly contain their delight. CNN’s Fareed Zakaria said, “Donald Trump became president of the United States” the moment the bombs started dropping. MSNBC’s Brian Williams praised the launching of US missiles, saying, “I am guided by the beauty of our weapons.” The Washington Post’s David Ignatius said that he thought that by taking this action, Trump “restored the credibility of American power.”

Right now, President Trump’s approval ratings are dropping, and he craves positive reinforcement. He and his team are making a political calculation and looking for any excuse or opportunity to launch another military attack, so that Trump can again be glorified for dropping bombs.

Others who would gain the most are Al Qaeda and all the terrorist organizations who are wanting to keep alive the regime-change war against Assad. Their war to overthrow Assad is about to end. They’re finally facing defeat. A US attack that significantly weakens the Syrian military and would be a gift to these terrorist groups who want to overthrow the government and set up a Sunni Extremist theocracy in Damascus. Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar would be the beneficiaries.

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