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14 December 2016


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English Outsider

Yup. Error. The result of some extensive late night cutting. The undifferentiated term "Jihadi" should have been used throughout, although as your correction makes clear some of the factions in East Aleppo scarcely merited even that term. I've changed the email to match - I find I'm responding to a few others who are similarly horrified by what they're hearing about Aleppo. Is that the only correction needed?

I was taken aback by the avalanche of misleading news coming out of Aleppo. The spin and misinformation we've all got used to ratcheted up to hysterical levels and almost anything was instanced as proof of mass murder. As David Habbakuk points out above they overdid it and many weren't taken in. Many were, however, and I think will remain so. The only solution I can think of would be to make SST compulsory reading for anyone near a news desk.


English Outsider

Yes, this is the only major error I saw. However, replacing the term "Daesh" for the more general term "Jihadi" wouldn't correct that mistake.

If you say jihadis had committed these crimes like looting the factories, it would be not true neither because jihadi implies people driven by jihadist ideology. But the people who did these crimes were often enough simple bands of gangsters or warlords not following any specific ideology other than personal gain. Since today's narrative is mainly about how bad ideologically-driven jihadi extremists like ISIS are, - and rightly so, because they are indeed really ugly sectarian terrorists - western people tend to forget that there was a time in Aleppo when ordinary people there preferred these ideologically driven extremists because the crimes of the non-ideological bands of "rebels" were even worse.

I think for example of people like Khaled Hayani, on whom a bit was written here for example:


Quite exemplaric for the non ideological rebels - though I'm not sure if this story is as true as the story of Khaled Hayani - is also the story about Abu Ali Sulaibi published by the Guardian at he end of 2012:


If you read these two stories you start to get a sense why ordinary people started to embrace jihadis who were sectarian extremists but oftenly had at least some sense of serving a greater good instead of just being criminal against everyone.

So this is what I mean with the error - the more secular rebels in Aleppo committed crimes that were as bad as - or even worse than - the crimes of the jihadi extremists.

In hindsight it's surely no wonder, just think about any town in the world: if someone comes and offers people lot's of guns to fight, who will pick them up? Of course, the worst kind of criminal gangs and extremists will pick them up, and it pretty much looks like that's what happened in rebel Aleppo. And many of the non ideological gangsters proved to be even worse than the ideologically driven jihadis.

English Outsider

Thank you for your reply. I reckon that you have hit on the difficulty of attempting a rebuttal of the Western account of the relief of East Aleppo. Apart from small communities of specialists such as are found on this site we in the West have so little in common with the Syrian experience that we don't have many common points of reference. We have, for all our regional variations, a fairly homogeneous society, or had one until so recently that we still most of us think in terms of such a society. We don’t see much civil disorder, let alone war. We can't therefore visualise the mosaic that is Syria, nor have any feel for how its components might operate under stress. Therefore everything has to be explained. In constructing such explanations, as we have found here, compression is misleading, expansion takes one off the point, omission loses it. Better in this case to lose the point than to mislead. Looks like some further cutting is required.

So much for that specific point in my email. There is of course a wider point. The term "Jihadi" is itself inaccurate when it comes to identifying the various elements fighting Assad. We can't most of us distinguish between fanatic and thug, Daesh and Al Nusra, local and foreign, soured adherent of the old regime and modern secular dissident. We certainly can’t cope with the various combinations of those categories, nor with all the various offshoots. In particular we fail to recognise the idealist Jihadi, or the appeal of his idealism to the disenchanted young in the West and in the ME. Amongst those unfamiliar categories Mr Cameron could therefore hide his 70,000 “moderate rebels” with little fear that we would call him out on the scam, and the press can tell us more or less what they please about the make-up of the fighting force that has just been defeated in East Aleppo.

What the press please to tell us at present is that they are “rebels”. An almost comfortable word, that. It conjures up Kossuth or Garibaldi, or maybe a Che Guevara T-shirt. As we hear more of the vicious treatment suffered by those civilians who were trapped inside East Aleppo we realise how far the press misled us in using that comfortable word. But of course, for those of who reject the propaganda our governments feed us, using the word “Jihadi” as a portmanteau term for that fighting force is similarly misleading. If you can think of a more suitable collective noun that would therefore be useful. Otherwise I hope you, as a specialist, will not find the term too misleading when a collective noun is needed.

Thank you again for your reply.

English Outsider

Babak Makkinejad

You are ill-equipped to deal with peoples and cultures East of the Diocletian Line since you have been steeped in a rational approach to the world for a millennia.

Especially in England, the poverty of those isles have impressed upon every Englishman the brutal and empirically endured indifference of Nature to man.

It is impossible for you to connect to Syrians, or Iranians, or Vietnamese - the farther East you go the more inscrutable those people appear to you.

That you try to adjudicate among sects of Islam is a child's play compared to trying to orient yourselves in that emotionally-riven world East of the Diocletian Line.


English Outsider

While it is really hard to generalize all the various armed criminals, terroroists, rebels and revolutionaries, ideologues and non ideologies in Syria, I think the English language has an almost perfect noun to catch them all: gunman. I'ld use the term "gunman" for one or plural "gunmen" for many speaking of these armed guys in Syria in general terms. I think that vague noun would transport many of the appropreciate connotations, and regardless in which colours one paints groups of gunmen roaming the streets, they usually don't bode well for the civilian population.

Another possibility would be to take a leaning from Russia. Russian media media usually uses the term "Boeviki" (Боевики) which is usually translated as "militants" - which I don't find a very bad choice neither.

I think both terms "gunmen" and "militants" are also fitting well, because as far as I understand that war, it's fully in the capacity of some of the gunmen to go one day with secular FSA symbols and beg western audiences for weapons to fight radicals while at the next day wearing jihadi symbols begging Qatar and Saudi Arabia for weapons to fight infidels. And then when they get the weapons they may well go and rob and loot their neighbors wearing Syrian army style uniforms. And to top it off they may then force their innocent civilian victims to wear these real or fake Syrian army style uniforms so they can make heroic videos how they catched and killed Syrian army soldiers while committing crimes, and than publish two videos of the same false flag massacre, one time branded as showing secular FSA "freedom fighters" at good work and another time "jihadi saviours of muslims" at good work.

Of course, not all of these gunmen in Syria work like this, but well, deception is a widely spread method to do well in war times.


Why bother with denominations Jihadis, rebels, thugs, Daesch, whatever.
(to hell with the "rectification of names")
Use tried and true methods from the past
“Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius"



"That you try to adjudicate among sects of Islam is a child's play compared to trying to orient yourselves in that emotionally-riven world East of the Diocletian Line." Am I included in this judgment? I agree with your statement. I have face this disability in my Western colleagues all my adult life. Sob. pl

Babak Makkinejad

No, I am not including you in that judgment because you have spent years trying to understand those alien people; in Vietnam or in the Middle East.

A friend of mine was in Vietnam a few years ago and he stated that at times he came face to face with the "Inscrutable Oriental". Mind you, he is very well-travelled man but he has not been able to get out of his Western Mindset since he has never lived outside of the Diocletian West for any length of time nor knows any of their languages.

That level of understanding requires years of suffering through language instruction, cultural faux pas and a whole lot of introspection - few possess the ability, the willingness or the inclination to do so.

David Habakkuk

Babak Makkinejad,

‘You are ill-equipped to deal with peoples and cultures East of the Diocletian Line since you have been steeped in a rational approach to the world for a millennia.’

That is very much a half-truth. Historically, British culture was a complex interplay between ‘rational’ and much less ‘rational’ elements. It was partly because of this that, whatever their many faults, British imperialists did not make a complete and utter hash of managing an empire in India.

(Remember that our two greatest generals were both – to hark back to Napoleon’s silly remark about Wellington – ‘sepoy generals’. The Japanese encountered another ‘sepoy general’ in Burma, Slim, and came rather badly unstuck. The guts of the army that defeated them was made up of Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs.)

But then, British culture was never simply ‘rational’ and ‘modern’. In the mid-nineteenth century the poet and critic Matthew Arnold described Oxford as: ‘Home of lost causes, and forsaken beliefs, and unpopular names, and impossible loyalties!’

The world has, however changed. A somewhat eccentric but by no means stupid history lecturer there, Mark Almond, wrote following the ‘Brexit’ vote that: ‘Once Oxford was romantically Jacobite, now it is the Bunker of referendum denialism.’

(See http://markalmondoxford.blogspot.co.uk/2016_06_01_archive.html .)

If one wants to make sense of the inanity of current British foreign policy, older cultural patterns are relevant – but so also are quite recent cultural transformations.

People often talk about ‘cultural Marxism’. Actually, I think it makes more sense to describe the ideology of large elements of the current Western élite as ‘Fukuyamist-Lennonism’.

A characteristic of this ideology, however, is that enables a coming together of those who were once the most disruptive and dangerous Marxist-Leninists, with many of those who were the most extreme – often irrationally so – anti-communists.

What it has in common with Marxism-Leninism is the belief in a ‘modern’ world in which the ‘enlightened’ put the rubbish of the past behind them; together with an absolute certainty that the ‘vanguard’ know the natural and inevitable course of history.

If anybody does not accept the ‘truth’ possessed by the 'vanguard', the only possible explanations are either ignorance or evil will.

Naturally, such patterns of thinking generate demonologies.

At this point, the pretensions of the ‘Fukuyamist-Lennonists’ to be ‘rational’ are exposed as a fraud.

You think ‘Tailgunner Paul’ Krugman is a ‘rational’ thinker? Of course he is not.

The notion of Trump as the ‘Siberian candidate’ is part of a demonology. It is clear that Krugman and his like believe in witches – or rather wizards – quite as much as those who perpetrated the Salem trials.

The critical point is that, as with Marxist-Leninists, ‘Fukuyamist-Lennonists’ are thinking in terms which make no sense outside of a – corrupted – religious framework, while being convinced that they are utterly ‘secular’ and ‘rational’.

English Outsider

1. I share that impatience to see the end of the Syrian disaster but I don't think it could happen if all bearing arms against the Government were summarily dispatched. "Kill them all, The Lord will know his own" has been tried often enough in the past but the final section of the link supplied above shows what can happen next: "However, the crusaders lost the support of the local Catholic population and thus became a hated occupying force.[1] The war became protracted ..."

It seems that Assad knows very well that "Hearts and Minds" is the only way to go.

That aside, what would stir the blood more if one were a young man inclined to fight for the cause and looking on as the battle for East Aleppo came to an end - an epic resistance to the last man; or a group of dejected losers catching a bus?

2. Names do matter. It's a cliché that if you call them Freedom Fighters we all love them but if you call them terrorists we don't, but it's a cliché that the politicians and the media know all about and make the fullest use of. It would be useful if there could be an accurate and brief term for that murderous brew of imported terrorists, mercenaries, Special Forces, dissidents, idealists, opportunists, and ordinary people just caught up in the mess that we've let loose in Syria.

Proof reading matters too, by the way, as I found out to my chagrin when I read my email the Colonel had been kind enough to post. My apologies for that, and to "David Habakkuk", whose name, I've just noticed, got its own proof reading error as an encore.

English Outsider

"Dismal record of the British military"

It's not, in fact. The record of the politicians in deploying that military recently is dismal. I'd agree with that. There may also be a question mark over defence procurement: if you read Dr Richard North on his website you may come to the conclusion that British Forces weren't sent out to Iraq and Afghanistan properly equipped and supported - though defence procurement is always the most difficult area of Government spending because the goalposts are forever moving. There has also been some debate over whether the Rules of Engagement were framed appropriately for the task. But the record of British military personnel in modern times is the reverse of dismal. From the Korean War onward it has been superb.

As for the duties we ask them to undertake, and that perhaps is what the post above is getting at, a Royal Marine Officer I heard speaking recently disposed of that in one brief sentence. "We go where we're sent." I wouldn't think you could run an army any other way.

English Outsider

Babak Makkinejad

Thank you for your comments.

I did not intend to imply that the English are some how emotionless creatures, like the punch line of that joke: "O she was dead? I thought she was English!". Rather I was endeavoring to point out that they are a people, who, for a number of unknown reasons, have learnt the best in the world how to keep their emotions in check - as much as humanly possible - "stiff upper lip" and all that.

These comparisons do not enjoy an absolute distinction but one of relative degrees. All throughout the 19-th century, the "Sober Englishman" with his "black suite of clothing" was an object of emulation in France and in Italy, as far as I know.

Compared to Iranians, I should think it be true that the English are the epitome of dispassionate analysis of the world as well as the means to alter it. Not for the Englishmen are the emotionalism displayed during the commemoration days of the Passion of Imam Hussein - it could never happen in England.

I must beg to differ with you also on the English culture - it has been Modern because England - together with France and Italy and parts of Germany - embodied what "Modern" has meant for centuries; as far back as the time of New Organon and then all the way to Spencer, Darwin and that entire empiricist approach to the world and world history - the occasional English quirkiness not withstanding.

One could be sitting beside an Iranian in a reception and casually mention the need for rational analytical approach to problems and issues and one's interlocutors would be knowingly smiling - think of one as a fool and themselves all too clever and completely dismissive of that point of view.

It is a curious coincidence that you mention Matthew Arnold, a great poet, and in my opinion, a man of penetrating genius when one reads his essay of Shia passion play in Persia (Iran) in the 19-th century - he rationally understood the Shia Iranians and produced the best description of them in English language - to this day.

Reading the rest of your response, I wonder perhaps I had used an incorrect word - "Rational" - in order to convey what I had meant. Perhaps I ought to have used the words "sensible" or "reasoned".

Canon Fodder

David Habakkuk makes an important point.
A powerful factor in our Elites' dangerous and hysterical reactions
to Brexit and Trump, is that the further Reality diverges from their Ideology,
the more desperately they cling to their Ideology.
And what might their Ideology be?

Anglo-America is the "Empire of Reason".

That's why we are Exceptional and Indispensable. And why our Meritocracy of Technocrats have been anointed by Progress (i.e, secularized Providence) to spread the Universal values of human rights to benighted realms -- including Libya, Syria, Yemen, and my own deplorable Flyover Country.

(We are the French Revolution's "Cult of Reason 2.0", pushing a newly-upgraded triad -- digital "freedom", diversity, and democracy.)

Babak Makkinejad has shown the power of correctly naming an ideology -- Shoah Cultists.

So I humbly propose we name the disease that possesses our Elites ... Enlightenment Jihad.

English Outsider

Perhaps this could be added also - Eva Bartlett in Aleppo.




I have moved your comment to this thread. It was seriously OT in the wargame thread. pl

"Col Lang
Wiki Leaks , the MSM thinks maybe , releases a large cache of documents today that purport to 'prove ' that President Elect Donald Trump had dealings with Exon Mobil & Barazani several years that" aided & abetted " the Kurdistan independence effort when US Military was 'actively engaged " with several militias in Iraqi that led to the destabilization of the Baghdad National Government , caused US military casualities , and supposedly helped fund the nascent former Baathist Parties - ( Ibrahim al Douri among other Saddam cohort being named) collaboration with al Baghdadi to launch the Daesh Caliphate. Further leaked documents purport that CEO ExxonMobil Iverson directly made money off his dealings with Barzani ' as our brave troops fought and died to save the Baghdad central government ". Meanwhile expert parties at Crowd Strike and other private cyber security companies are reporting that the documents are not coming from Wiki Leaks but 'privateers' that are known associates of the PRC. Moreover the MSM is reporting allegedly the 'Sino Centric" privateers are part of the current leaks - and thought is being given to that Beijing has launched its on stand alone campaign to discredit the Trump administration for abandoning the One China policy . The DIA , FBI , NSA , and other federal IC entities remain totally quiet on any of the new WikiLeaks Trump administration MSM reporting .."

English Outsider

From a comment on the Saker website - Turkish looting of Aleppo. Organised directly from Turkey, the FSA mentioned as involved.


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