Saturday, November 1, 2014

219 kidnapped Nigerian school girls have converted to Islam, been married off, now reside in their marital homes, won't be returned to their parents-BBC

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10/31/14, "Boko Haram denies ceasefire claim by Nigeria's government," BBC

"Boko Haram has denied claims by Nigeria's government that it has agreed to a ceasefire and will release more than 200 abducted schoolgirls. 

The group's leader, Abubakar Shekau, said the girls had converted to Islam and been married off since being taken. 

Nigeria's army announced a ceasefire with the militants on 17 October, saying the girls would soon be freed. But violence has continued since news of the alleged truce, including a fatal bomb blast on Friday. Boko Haram has been fighting an insurgency since 2009, with some 2,000 civilians reportedly killed this year.

'We will not negotiate'
 
In a video released on Friday, Abubakar Shekau said: "We have not made ceasefire with anyone. We did not negotiate with anyone. It's a lie.

"We will not negotiate. What is our business with negotiation? Allah said we should not."

Shekau also claimed that the militants were holding a German national, thought to be a teacher, who was kidnapped by gunmen in July. There was no indication of when or where the group's latest video was shot.

The BBC's Tomi Oladipo in Lagos says the video will come as a huge embarrassment for the Nigerian government after it said it had secured a ceasefire with Boko Haram.

The Islamist militants sparked global outrage in April by abducting 219 schoolgirls from the remote north-eastern town of Chibok, in Borno state. 

Their continued captivity has led to criticism of the Nigerian government's efforts to secure their release. Hopes were raised earlier this month when Nigeria's chief of defence staff, Alex Badeh, announced a truce with the group. 

"They've assured us they have the girls and they will release them," he said. "I am cautiously optimistic."

But the Boko Haram leader said the girls were "in their marital homes" after being married off by the group. 

Last week, Human Rights Watch said in a report that Boko Haram was holding more than 500 women and young girls captive and that

forced marriage was common in the group's camps."


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Friday, October 31, 2014

Bob Beckel on Fox News correctly notes John Boehner wants the same things Democrats want, and if more Boehner picks get elected to the House, he "could finally do the job he wants to do" and pass more Democrat priorities

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10/30/14, "Watch: Bob Beckel Hopes GOP Picks Up at Least 12 House Seats," Breitbart TV

"Thursday on Fox News Channel's "The Five," liberal political pundit Bob Beckel said he hopes the GOP will take at least 12 seats back in the House of Representatives in next week's midterm election because he theorized that would free up House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) from having to deal with the Tea Party caucus, which Beckel said was "bad for the country."

Beckel said, "I almost wish the Republicans would pick up 12 seats in the house, 

which is what the margin would be

to get them away from those fruit cakes 

and Boehner could finally run his caucus and 

do the job that he wants to do

which is to find common ground on some things. You leave those people with just the margin they have, and from the time they have been elected, they have been stifling every serious piece of legislation or  

making it so impossible that it can't be passed by Democrats."

"If you get rid of the chains of those people and let them go caucus in South Hampton or something, but get them out of here. They're a waste of time. They're bad for the country. They're bad for the country," he added."

=====================

Comment: In Nov. 2012 no one was happier than John Boehner when Obama was re-elected and the Tea Party was silenced. Boehner immediately told remaining GOP House members that their party lost the election badly, the country had spoken, it was time to quiet down and let Boehner compromise with democrats as he'd been trying to do. Following from NPR and NY Times:

NPR rejoices in Boehner-Obama 2012 victory:
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12/8/2012, “Once Boxed-In, Boehner May Finally Be Master Of The House,” NPR, Frank James


"In a paradoxical way, Obama's re-election victory coupled with congressional Democrats adding to their numbers 

may have helped Boehner. 

Some of those wins came at the expense of the Tea Party, the conservative movement whose affiliated House members have been very willing to stand up to Boehner....

'Somewhat Unprecedented' Reversal...

"It is somewhat unprecedented, though, to see speakers starting off their tenure at a severe disadvantage and then cementing their power later, 

which appears to be happening right now with Boehner
.
"Usually the pattern in recent decades is the opposite, where a new speaker has strong support, a broad base of good will and then, later, they start to see problems within their party and their power starts to dissipate. [Newt] Gingrich is a classic example of that.""...


======================
====================== 

In Nov. 2012, NY Times had the inside scoop on Boehner's first conference call with his members after Obama's re-election. The message was the GOP lost, Boehner must be left in peace to compromise with Democrats as he's been trying to do. NY Times notes "some" elected GOP "latched on" to their own election, suggesting they served both their voters and Obama in a "dual mandate":

11/10/2012, “Boehner Tells House G.O.P. to Fall in Line,” NY Times, by Jonathan Weisman and Jennifer Steinhauer

On a conference call with House Republicans a day after the party’s electoral battering last week, Speaker John A. Boehner dished out some bitter medicine, and for the first time in the 112th Congress, most members took their dose.

Their party lost, badly, Mr. Boehner said, and while Republicans would still control the House and would continue to staunchly oppose tax rate increases as Congress grapples with the impending fiscal battle, they had to avoid the nasty showdowns that marked so much of the last two years.

Members on the call, subdued and dark, murmured words of support — even a few who had been a thorn in the speaker’s side for much of this Congress.

It was a striking contrast to a similar call last year, when Mr. Boehner tried to persuade members to compromise with Democrats on a deal to extend a temporary cut in payroll taxes, only to have them loudly revolt.
 
With President Obama re-elected and Democrats cementing control of the Senate, Mr. Boehner will need to capitalize on the chastened faction of the House G.O.P. that wants to cut a deal to avert sudden tax increases and across-the-board spending cuts in January that could send the economy back into recession. After spending two years marooned between the will of his loud and fractious members and the Democratic Senate majority, the speaker is trying to assert control, and many members seem to be offering support.

“To have a voice at the bargaining table, John Boehner has to be strong,” said Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, one of the speaker’s lieutenants.  


Most members were just taught a lesson that you’re not going to get everything that you want. It was that kind of election.”...
 

Some Republican members appear ready to accede.

The election was a wake-up call,” said one veteran Republican in the House. For many members, “everyone they knew hated Obama....And then we lost.”...

Even so, some Republicans have issued a stern warning to Mr. Boehner that he cannot expect their votes if he makes a deal with Democrats before seeking their consent. “What we’ve seen in the past is the speaker goes, negotiates with the president, and just before we vote, he tells us what the deal is and attempts to persuade us to vote for it,” said Representative John Fleming, Republican of Louisiana. “We’re just not very happy with deals being baked, then we’re asked to stay with the team and support the speaker.” 
.
Given those conflicting demands, Mr. Boehner must decide whether he wants to seal his role as an essential player in a grand plan to restructure the nation’s fiscal condition, or continue the status quo....
  
Some House Republicans have latched on to their own re-elections to claim a dual mandate.  

“The message from this election for me seems to be, ‘You guys keep going,’ ” said Representative James Lankford of Oklahoma.... I was elected by my district to represent their values. I really don’t approach this and say, Now I’ve got to cave to what the Senate or president want.”"...

=================================

..
More: Boehner and the GOP E have happily neutered the two party system:

9/17/13, "The Obama-Boehner Project," Angelo M. Codevilla, libertylawsite.org 

"These heads of our ruling class’Democratic and Republican branches made plans with reference only to the ruling class’ priorities, and assumed that the rest of America would be too stupid or too awed to object....

The Republican Party owes its majority in the House of Representatives – and John Boehner his speakership thereof – to the American people’s dislike of Obamacare. Because the US Constitution is explicit that the US government may expend only funds appropriated by Congress, Obamacare has existed strictly at the sufferance of the House leadership since that majority took office in January 2011. But John Boehner and his chosen band have thwarted the majority of Republican congressmen’s desire to use the constitutional power they have to refuse to appropriate money for Obamacare. In this, Boehner &co. have worked in bipartisan coordination with the ruling class, including the media, including Fox News....

The ruling class’ foolishness and insincerity, its willingness to insult the American people’s intelligence, are no joke. But we can take comfort in its transparent ineptitude."
.

================================

More: GOP leadership has merged into the UniParty. Democrat priorities prevail at all times:

12/15/13,  "Breaking the UniParty," Angelo M. Codevilla

"The Republican Party’s leaders have functioned as junior members of America’s single ruling party, the UniParty. Acting as the proverbial cockboat in the wake of the Democrats’ man-of-war, they have 


made Democratic priorities their own  

when the White House and the Congress

were in the hands of Republicans as well as in those of Democrats, and when control has been mixed. 


The UniParty, the party of government, the party of Ins, continues to consist of the same people. The Outs are always the same people too:  

American conservatives. They don’t have a party.

Whatever differences exist within the Uniparty, between Republican John Boehner and Democrat Nancy Pelosi, between Republican Mitch McConnell and Democrat Harry Reid, get worked out behind closed doors. Those differences are narrow....

The UniParty is unanimous: more of the same!

 
Hence, so long as the Uniparty exists, mere voters will have no way of affecting what the government does."...


===========================
  
Comment: It's fine if Boehner or any GOP prefers democrat views. That's not the point. The point is with only one functioning political party 300 million people have no voice. They're to turn their wages over to their superiors and ask no questions. As in third world countries.




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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Sea ice extent prevented Northwest Passage from opening to commercial vessels in 2014 for first time in 5 years, lower temperatures cited-gcaptain.com

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10/28/14, "Northern Sea Route Transit Applications Hit Record High in 2014," gcaptain.com, by Mike Schuler

"The Northern Sea Route of the Northeast Passage saw a record number of applications for permits to sail the famed arctic route in 2014, while sea ice extent prevented the Northwest Passage from opening up for the first time in five years, according to new data from Weathernews Inc.’s Global Ice Center.

In their annual 2014 report, Weathernews notes that this year the Northeast Passage fully opened in late August and stayed open for six weeks until closing October 1. Russia’s Northern Sea Route Administration (NSRA) received over six hundred applications for permission to transit the Northeastern passage – or part of it – this year, the most on record, according to the report.

The lowest area of ice observed by the Global Ice Center (GIC) this summer was 4.8 million km2, which is the sixth smallest area in recorded history, but different trends were observed when comparing the Northeast Passage above Russia to the Northwest Passage above Canada.

According to the report, ice in the Northeast Passage began to melt away starting in late May, and the NSR was opened fully from August 21 to October 1. On the Canadian side, however, the Northwest Passage remained partially blocked by ice, preventing its opening to commercial vessels for the first time in five years, the report says. According to Dr. Genki Sagawa of the Global Ice Center, this was caused by lower temperatures and few low-pressure systems that help ice to break up.

The possibility of commercial use of the Northern Sea Routed emerged in 2005 when the passage opened fully for the first time, the GIC report says, followed by the first commercial voyages in 2009. Although ice extent followed a trend of recession until reaching the lowest ice coverage ever observed for more than two months in 2012, the following year saw a shorter opening period at a little more than three weeks.

The number of days the NSR stays open can vary greatly from year to year, so the GIC has been keeping a close watch on Arctic ice trends,” said Dr. Sagawa. “Even after the opening closes, it has still been possible in recent years to transit the route with ice-breaker escorts until about November. Since a lot of ice starts to appear along the route about this time, finely detailed information concerning sea ice and weather conditions become critical in order to safely sail the NSR.”

Weathernews says that the increase in applications to transit to the NSR is a good indication of the commercial shipping industries’ eagerness to reduce operating costs by sailing the NSR." via Free Rep.

Image: "Comparison of lowest recorded ice extent of 2014 and current conditions. NSR route is seen on the left. Image credit: Weathernews"

====================

Added: Global Ice Center provides a network for maritime companies and academia. (I wasn't able to access 2014 report cited above so I include this for reference):

About Global Ice Center:

"The Global Ice Center is the “field” for maritime companies and academia to work together to achieve the dream of Polar Routing and to provide innovative service for ship safety concerning sea ice. For the innovative service, the Global Ice Center reinforces the network between maritime companies ship operations and academia by using innovative technology."

========================
  
Arctic Sea Ice Extent, 10/29/14, close to 1979-2010 mean per NSIDC, click "Daily" tab:























10/29/14, Arctic Sea Ice Extent, NSIDC,  turquoise line: 
.


















---------------------------

10/27/14, "Global Warming Related Sea Ice Decline Linked to Colder Winters in Europe, Asia," Climate Central, Andrea Thompson, via Weather.com

"In the past decade or so, frigid winters have been happening with a regularity that defies the projections of climate models, 

which said that winter would be the fastest-warming season."...

=======================

10/24/14, "The Northwest Passage was finally successfully traversed in 1906 (Some give credit to Robert McClure in 1854, but his success, in my opinion, is dubious at best.)"... 

=====================

In 2012 alone $1 billion a day was spent on the idea of man caused global warming. 








ISIS Islamic views "beyond question" per fellow Islamists in Free Syrian Army and Al Qaeda. Only difference is leaders of ISIS and Al Qaeda both want control of oil and infrastructure per US journalist held captive for 2 yrs.-NY Times

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[Dialogue shortly after photo of Padnos at his home in New England]: "Your practice of Islam is exactly the same as ISISyou admire the same scholars and interpret the Quran just as they do?”

Yes,” they agreed. “All of this is true.”...

ISIS commanders' "religious learning was beyond question." [7th parag. below photo of Padnos jihad clothing]

[4th parag. above photo of Padnos and his mother]: "I had stopped being surprised when Nusra Front commanders introduced their 8-year-old sons to me by saying, “He will be a suicide martyr someday, by the will of God.” The children participated in the torture sessions. Around the prisons, they wore large pouches with red wires sticking out of them — apparently suicide belts — and sang their “destroy the Jews, death to America” anthems."... 

10/29/14, "My Captivity," NY Times Magazine, Theo Padnos. "Theo Padnos, American Journalist, on Being Kidnapped, Tortured and Released in Syria"

[7th parag. above photo of Padnos' jihad clothing]: "The real issue between the Nusra Front and the Islamic State was that 

their commanders, former friends from Iraq,

were unable to agree on how to share the revenue from the oil fields

in eastern Syria that the Nusra Front had conquered.

On the one hand, I was pleased by this. It made the men despise each other. Had their armies reconciled, I would have become the prisoner of a reunited fundamentalist organization under the command of the stronger of the leaders, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of the Islamic State. Even before the recent beheadings, I was unenthusiastic about this prospect....In addition, the fighters told me, both sides believe that 50,000 years ago, Allah decreed that they should die in exactly this way, at exactly this instant in history.

2005 in Yemen
For the moment, however, the Islamic State seemed to have the edge in the recruitment battle. Many of the Nusra Front soldiers told me that over the previous months, their siblings and cousins had been fighting for the Islamic State. The pay was better. And the Islamic State, a stronger army, had won victories across eastern Syria and Iraq. Once, during my time in Deir al-Zour, the commanders put me in a cell with five disfavored members of the Nusra Front. These prisoners were accused of having defected or wishing to defect to the Islamic State. They denied this, but when the guards were far away, they told me that any Nusra Front fighter wishing to become an Islamic State fighter had only to make a few phone calls. He would be required to whisper certain words about the greatness of Baghdadi. In that instant, the fighter’s history would be forgiven. The next day, he would meet his new commanding officer in a mosque or a restaurant. He would be given a new name and a new cellphone, and his life would begin again....

It was clear, even to the foot soldiers, that our voyage was no “glorious operation on the path of God. Its purpose probably wasn’t to retake the Golan Heights either, though rumors to this effect had circulated through the caravan. It was nothing less than an abandonment of the oil fields, the military bases, the prisons and everything else the Nusra Front had worked to control for some two and a half years....
One morning in August, when the fighters guarding me were asleep, I took a bag of trash into a courtyard as I normally did....A half-hour later, having stuffed the Vermont manuscript deep into my jihadi trousers, I tiptoed out.

[1st parag. below photo of Padnos' jihad clothing]: By this point, I knew better than to seek refuge among the “moderates” of the Free Syrian Army. I asked a passing motorcyclist to take me to a hospital. At the hospital, a dour-looking man greeted me. “I am a journalist,” I said. “From Ireland. Please, you must help me. I love the Syrian people.”
Don’t worry,” he said. “I am the F.S.A.” He admitted me to an inner room. “No one comes in here without my leave,” he said. “You can relax. You are safe.” I asked if I could contact my family. “Of course,” he said. The easiest way, he said, was for me to send an email. But the man with the computer’s password was away. It would take just a few minutes for him to get to the hospital. Did I need tea? Medical attention?

The F.S.A. soldier stepped out. Ten minutes later, he returned, beckoning me with the index finger of his right hand. He seemed to do it in slow motion, as a jailer might summon an innocent prisoner to his execution.

In the front hallway of the hospital stood a group of about 15 Nusra Front fighters, Kalashnikovs dangling from their right hands. No one spoke. A few seconds passed, and then someone said in a barely audible voice, “Come, American.”

They drove me back to the villa. They hit me a bit in the car, and then, on arriving in the living room where the guards had been dozing an hour before, they flung me onto the carpet. The Man of Learning sat cross-legged on a sofa. “Who has handcuffs?” he asked. Someone cuffed my hands. The Man of Learning grinned. “You are a Nazarene liar and a sneak, Bitar,” he said. “This afternoon, I will execute you by my own hand.”

I spent much of the following weeks locked inside a bedroom in the villa....As I waited for something to happen, I sat by a window and worked on my Vermont novel....

[7th parag. below photo of Padnos' jihad clothing]: Earlier, in March, the Nusra Front commanders in Deir al-Zour put a pair of Islamic State commanders in the cells on either side of mine. Because their religious learning was beyond question, the jail administrators allowed us to speak, provided it was about Islam. During this period, I occasionally brought up the “You killed my men, I must kill yours” logic in which the Muslims of the region seemed trapped. My cell neighbors were well placed to have an opinion. Abu Dhar, on my left, previously of Al Qaeda in Iraq, subsequently of the Nusra Front, lately of the Islamic State, had been a weapons trafficker. Abu Amran, on my right, had the same credentials and bragged of having been responsible for explosions that killed dozens — perhaps hundreds — of Syrians and Iraqis.

But surely,” I said, “this violence is not good for Islam. They temporized. In their view, the fight between Baghdadi and the Man of Learning amounted to mere childishness. Abu Dhar and Abu Amran were almost too embarrassed to speak of it. Yet the explosions and sniper killings that both groups espoused were justifiable — even wise....

The battle against his forces was just a skirmish in the great global combat to come, in which the believers would prevail against the unbelievers.

“After we conquer Jerusalem, we will conquer Rome,” Abu Amran told me.

“No one is trying to conquer you,” I said. 

Why do you want to conquer everybody?”

The conquerors had come to Syria in the past, Abu Amran answered. “They are sure to come again.He spoke of 

the oil fields over which the West slavered, the archaeological treasures and the rise of Islam, which the world’s governments — all of them unbelievers, especially the Middle Eastern ones — could not abide.

“If Obama bombs the believers here, we will bomb you there,” Abu Amran told me....Over the last 22 months, I had stopped being surprised when Nusra Front commanders introduced their 8-year-old sons to me by saying, “He will be a suicide martyr someday, by the will of God.” The children participated in the torture sessions.
.
Around the prisons, they wore large pouches with red wires sticking out of them — apparently suicide belts — and sang their “destroy the Jews, death to America” anthems in the hallways. It would be a mistake to assume that only Syrians are educating their children in this manner. The Nusra Front higher-ups were inviting Westerners to the jihad in Syria not so much because they needed more foot soldiers — they didn’t — but because they want to teach the Westerners to take the struggle into every neighborhood and subway station back home.

They want these Westerners to train their 8-year-olds to do the same. Over time, they said, the jihadists would carve mini-Islamic emirates out of the Western countries, as the Islamic State had done in Syria and Iraq. There, Western Muslims would at last live with dignity, under a true Quranic dispensation.

During my discussions with senior Nusra Front fighters, I would force them to confront the infinity of violence that this dream implied. “O.K., perhaps you have a point,” they would say. 

“Anyway, we only want to dispense with Bashar. We must build our caliphate here first. Provided the West doesn’t kill us, we won’t kill you.”

“Will your caliphate have schools?” I would ask. “Hospitals? Roads?”

“Yes, of course.” But not one of them seemed interested in repairing the mile after mile of destroyed cityscape encountered during any voyage in Syria. Not one seemed interested in recruiting teachers and doctors — or at least the kinds of teachers and doctors whose reading ventured beyond the Quran. They wanted bigger, more spectacular explosions. They wanted fleets of Humvees. Humvees don’t need roads....

[Last parag.] I later learned that the Qataris helped engineer my release, as they have for others kidnapped in the region. But in those first moments, it felt to me that I had escaped from Al Qaeda by an incalculable miracle."... 

======================

Padnos thought he knew his "way around the Arab world." His capture took place after he'd settled in Turkey in Oct. 2012:

"The cruelty of my captors frightened me, but my bitterest moments in those early weeks came when I thought about who was most responsible for my kidnapping: me.

I believed I knew my way around the Arab world. In 2004, when the United States was mired in the war in Iraq, I decided to embark on a private experiment. I moved from Vermont to Sana, the Yemeni capital, to study Arabic and Islam. I was good with languages — I had a Ph.D. in comparative literature — and I was eager to understand a world where the West often seemed to lose its way. I began my studies in a neighborhood mosque, then enrolled in a religious school popular among those who dream of a “back to the days of the prophet” version of Islam. Later, I moved to Syria to study at a religious academy in Damascus. I began to write a book about my time in Yemen — about the mosques and the reading circles that formed after prayer and the dangerous religious feeling that sometimes grew around them.

At the beginning of the Syrian civil war, I wrote a few articles from Damascus, then returned to Vermont in the summer of 2012. Just as the Islamists were beginning to assert their authority in Syria, I began pitching articles to editors in London and New York about the religious issues underlying the conflict. By now, I could recite many important Quranic verses from memory, and I was fluent enough in Arabic to pass for a native. But these qualifications mattered little. The editors didn’t know me; few bothered to reply. Perhaps, I thought, if I wrote from Syria itself, or from a Turkish town on the border, I’d have better luck. On Oct. 2, 2012, I arrived in Antakya, Turkey, where I rented a modest room that I shared with a young Tunisian. I tried pitching the editors again. Still nothing....

By this time, despite its aggressive bombing campaign against the opposition and the civilian population, President Bashar al-Assad’s military government was losing ground....On TV, Islamic preachers railed against the Syrian government: Those who helped it would have their flesh cut into bits, then fed to the dogs. The government, for its part, warned that in areas of the country under opposition control, fanatical Islamists, possibly in the pay of the Israelis, were sneaking in from Iraq and Libya. The main opposition group, the Free Syrian Army, founded by former Assad generals and considered moderate by many in the West, had taken over the two most important border crossings north of Aleppo....

Anyone who has lived in Syria knows how bitter the divides are between the pious and the secular, the Assad loyalists and the dissidents, the well connected and those who struggle to get by. It would be impossible to plot these divisions on a map, because they often run through families, even individuals. Nevertheless, by the autumn of 2012, a traveler might have oriented himself by them: 

Most who lived east of the mountain chain that runs from the city of Homs toward the Turkish border were Sunni opponents of the government; 

most who lived in the mountains or to the west were Alawite supporters of Assad.

As I walked, I envisioned myself traveling along these fault lines. I would stop into villages and interview people, telling the story of a nation with many identities, dissatisfied with them all, in trouble, wanting help....

My experience in Arab countries ought to have given me pause.

After I published my Yemen book, I changed my name from Theo Padnos to Peter Theo Curtis, worried that the book might make reporting from the Middle East difficult. I knew how Westerners were often viewed. But I had done all my studying under the eye of military governments, in places where the secret police listened to every word uttered in every mosque. 

I had never set foot in a region where only a militant Islam held sway

Things are different in such places. 

Almost immediately, I fell into a trap.

One afternoon in Antakya, I met three young Syrians. They seemed a bit shifty, but not, as far as I could tell, more militantly Islamic than anyone else. “Our job is to bring stuff from here to the Free Syrian Army,” they told me. They offered to take me with them. Thinking I’d be back in a few days, I told no one, not even my Tunisian roommate, where I was going.

We slipped through a barbed-wire fence in the middle of an olive grove. I looked back toward Turkey. So far, so good. My Syrian friends led me to an abandoned house that I could use as a kind of field office. The next morning, I helped the young men straighten up the place, cleaning the floors and arranging pillows in an orderly row on a rubber mattress. They sat me down in front of a video camera and asked me to interview one of them, Abu Osama. When we were done, the cameraman smiled, walked across the room and kicked me in the face. His friends held me down. Abu Osama stomped on my chest, then called out for handcuffs. Someone else bound my feet.  

The cameraman aimed a pistol at my head.

“We’re from Al Tanzeem Al Qaeda,” Abu Osama said, grinning. “You didn’t know?” He told me I would be killed within the week if my family didn’t provide the cash equivalent of a quarter kilogram of gold — which the kidnappers thought was about $400,000 but was actually closer to $10,000 — the sum to which he was entitled, he said, by the laws of Islam.

Despite the video and the ransom demands, these kidnappers were amateurs. That night, I slipped out of the handcuffs that attached me to one of the sleeping men. In the soft sunlight of the Syrian dawn, I sprinted past walls covered in graffiti, through a cemetery and over a median strip, then stopped a passing minibus. “Take me to the Free Syrian Army right away,” I said. “This is an emergency.”
When I arrived at the F.S.A. headquarters, I appealed to the officers in the most desperate terms. They argued a bit among themselves, then took me to an Islamic court, where a judge questioned me and remanded me to a cell that had been converted from a Turkish toilet....
.
Ten minutes later, the F.S.A. officers returned, accompanied by my kidnappers, and I was trundled into a car and taken to an F.S.A. safe house. There I was placed in a hole in the ground. Was I six feet below the surface? Only three? I didn’t know. Officers threw dirt on me, laughing and shouting insults. Someone jumped down and landed on my chest. Someone else beat me with the butt of his Kalashnikov. One officer insisted that I reply to his questions by yelling out, “I am filth, sir!”

A few days later, the F.S.A. transferred me to a group of Islamists, and I had my first lesson in 

how to distinguish Islamist fighters from the Free Syrian Army: 

The fundamentalists think of themselves as the vanguard of an emergent Islamic state. 

They torture you more slowly, with purpose-specific instruments. You never address them as “sir,” because this reminds everyone of the state’s secular military. When the Islamists torture you, they prefer to be addressed by a title that implies religious learning. For the younger fighters, “ya sheikhi!” (“o, my sheikh!”); for the older ones, “emir.”

[2nd parag. below picture of Padnos in fetal position]: The F.S.A., it turned out, had given me to the Nusra Front, or Jebhat al Nusra, which was using the Children’s Hospital in Aleppo as a headquarters and a prison. During my first days there, I couldn’t believe that what was happening to me was actually happening to me. My mind kept replaying the hours just before and after the young men I met in Turkey attacked me. It seemed to me that I had been walking calmly through an olive grove with Syrian friends, that a rent in the earth had opened, that I had fallen into the darkness and woken in a netherworld....

When the emirs came to my cell, they often stood in a semicircle over my mattress, muttered among themselves, dropped a candy wrapper or a used tissue on the floor, spit and then left without saying a word....

The leader — I’m not sure who it was, I couldn’t see — carried a heavy stick and a cattle prod. As I lay there, he hit me across the back of the head, then strolled around the room reciting prayers.... He would shock me with the cattle prod....Toward the end, I heard the leader approach and braced myself for another blow. It didn’t come. Instead, he knelt close to me and whispered in my ear: “I hate Americans. All of them. I hate you all.”...

I was then, and remain now, more than willing to say good things about Islam.

When religious authorities or higher-ranking Nusra Front members — anyone with bodyguards — came by my cell, I sometimes recited verses from the Quran. These were verses that I loved, and the visitors seemed pleased. But the net result of these recitations was...nothing. Eventually, one of the more educated guards explained to me that 

as a Christian and an American, I was his enemy. Islam compelled him to hate me.

“Does it really?” I asked.

Yes, he said. America had killed at least one million Muslims in Iraq. Anyway, the Quran forbade amicable relations: “O you who believe!” this guard would recite. 

“Do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends. 

They are friends one to another. And whoso among you takes them for friends is indeed one of them.”...

My guards spent the first 10 minutes trying to get me to accept Islam. Then they gave up. Then they asked if I could introduce them to single women from a Western country....

I didn’t know it at the time, but the Nusra Front was losing its war with the Islamic State, the group often referred to as ISIS. From conversations with guards and other prisoners, I gleaned that the two organizations were about equal in strength and that under no circumstances would the Islamic State be allowed to touch the oil fields, the real prize in Syria’s east. But in mid-June, when I was allowed to watch TV for the first time since my capture, I saw a map covered in Islamic State logos. Soon, the Nusra Front stopped construction on a prison it was building next to my cellblock. “Why?” I asked a guard.

“You’ll see,” he said....

After traveling several hundred miles, our train of pickups and Kia Rios arrived at a ridgeline bunker about 20 miles east of Damascus. A detachment of Free Syrian Army soldiers held the position. They welcomed us, but with no special warmth....

How was I to communicate with the F.S.A.? At the outset of our journey, the Man of Learning told me that I was never to talk to outsiders. That morning, I decided to take a risk.

The F.S.A. soldiers were heating up their tea. “Hey!” I said to them. “What’s your news? Peace be upon you.” They returned my salaams. One asked where I was from.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I can’t talk to you.” They gave me a cup of tea, and the five of us drank in silence. Then another soldier repeated the question.

“From far away,” I replied. “How about you?” They were all from around Damascus.
“Have you come to Syria for the jihad?” someone asked.

“No,” I said. “I’m a civilian, a journalist.”

“How long have you been with Jebhat?” he asked.

“Almost two years,” I said....

“I studied Arabic for two years in Damascus,” I said. “I love the Syrian people.” He nodded....

I returned to the F.S.A. troops. One told me that his unit had recently traveled to Jordan to receive training from American forces in fighting groups like the Nusra Front.

“Really?” I said. “The Americans? I hope it was good training.”

“Certainly, very,” he replied....

After a few moments, I asked, “About this business of fighting Jebhat al Nusra?”

“Oh, that,” one said. “We lied to the Americans about that.”...[2nd parag. above photo of Patnos in New England home].

I was curious about the futures of the five people now responsible for looking after me. What if they retired from military life, I asked, went home and promised to obey the Islamic State in the future? Would the group still wish to kill them?

“Of course,” they said.
 
“Really?” I asked. “But why?”

“Because we are Jebhat al Nusra,” they replied.

I knew the answer to the next question but asked it anyway. Your practice of Islam is exactly the same as ISIS — you admire the same scholars and interpret the Quran just as they do?

“Yes,” they agreed. “All of this is true.”

“And it’s true,” I said, “that when you joined Al Qaeda, in the early goings of the revolution, ISIS did not exist?”

“Yes, this is so,” the fighters agreed.

“And now they’re hoping to kill you?” I asked.

They shrugged their shoulders. “Yes.”"...

[7th parag. above photo of Padnos' jihad clothing]: The real issue between the Nusra Front and the Islamic State was that their commanders, former friends from Iraq, were unable to agree on how to share the revenue from the oil fields in eastern Syria that the Nusra Front had conquered."...

Image above: "Padnos in 2005 in Yemen, where he studied Arabic and Islam. Credit From Theo Padnos"
 

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Among comments at NY Times:

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"Ponderer Mexico City 2 hours ago

So much for McCain's tiresome yowling about arming the Free Syrian Army "moderate" rebels....The "moderate" Muslims certainly seem complicit with the atrocities of their "extremist" brethren."

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"Tony California 2 hours ago
 

What this story makes clear is that there are no "good guys" in the Syrian conflict. Much as many members of Congress and the public want us to support this side or the other, these will only be alliances of convenience. One side needs our weapons to defeat the other side so that its own brand of harsh Islamic rule may hold sway. Those same "allies" when given control of the reins of power after Assad's eventual defeat and death will not be secular or Western oriented like Assad, they will however, like Assad, spread death and destruction throughout the region (and possibly even here). Unlike Assad, they'll do it in the name of Islam. These are the alliances the hawks and chicken-hawks in Congress are aching for. I'm not saying we shouldn't ally ourselves with the least bad group, but we shouldn't harbor any illusions that they too won't turn on us in a heartbeat."


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"Theo Padnos has written for The London Review of Books, The New Republic and other publications. This is his first article for the magazine."





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