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“anti imperialism”


Those of us who concern ourselves with the Syrian revolutionary war will be more than familiar with the old line, almost solely repeated by leftists and ham anti-imperialists, that they simply just can’t support the Syrian rebels because they’re ‘supported by imperialism’ or, in its even more crude and directly antagonistic form, that they’re ‘proxies of imperialism’ or stooges of forces that they’ve deemed to be be in the wrong ‘camp’, such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar.  The logic of this is inherently irrational and/or downright perfidious.

Firstly, it’s usually wielded not as any kind of genuinely analytical point, but rather merely as a means to deny support for and even just interest in the Syrian rebels and the revolution in general.  It’s a position shaped by counter-revolution, eurocentrism and isolationism rather than any form of progressivism.  In different circumstances, this intercedes with sectarianism, different forms of chauvinisms and Islamophobia, which is apparently rendered acceptable within the remit of this kind of ‘anti-imperialism’ and the context of Syria.

Secondly, it is qualitatively and quantitively misleading and, in certain circumstances, meaningless as a description of the kind of support the rebel forces have received from countries deemed to be ‘imperialist’ over the course of the Syrian revolutionary war.  While it’s completely true that certain rebel brigades have received weaponry from countries like the US, the actual function of the US has been an arbiter of what the rebels can and cannot receive from other countries, namely Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Libya.

For example, as has been well established, the US currently enforces an embargo on rebel forces receiving anti-aircraft MANPADS, weapons which could be used to overcome Assad’s air force, which apart from being the main means used by the regime to terrorise civilian areas thus creating the massive refugee problem, has consistently given the regime the upper hand on the battlefield, but which could also in other circumstances, in the mind of the US, be turned against its regional allies, namely Israel.

But all of this obscures the fact that the vast majority of Syrian rebels have not been armed by ‘imperialism’ in any way, shape or form.  When Barack Obama began to fully concentrate US attention on the rise of Daesh, not in Syria, as it happens, where the US watched as they overran the poorly-equipped rebel positions, doing literally nothing when the rebels launched an offensive against them that wielded successes until the over-stretched rebels were caught out by the Assad regime when its forces, backed by Hezbollah and Iranian-funded ultra-sectarian Shiite militias like Badr and Asayib Ahl al-Haq took Yabroud, he rebutted the idea that the US hadn’t supported the rebels enough by dismissing them as ‘farmers and pharmacists’.

In a sense, the president was not wrong.  The rebels are mostly comprised of civilian volunteers who took up arms following the regime’s militarised attempts to crush the civil uprising, while the core contains tens of thousands of defected Syrian Arab Army (SAA) soldiers.  The vast majority of the weaponry these forces use is that which the defectors managed to bring with them from the SAA and that which has been taken on the battlefield or as a result of raids on military bases.

I remember speaking to a friend who has fought with a Free Syrian Army brigade in and around the Damascus area.  We got onto the subject of how the revolution was perceived in the west among ‘my friends’, by which he meant fellow leftists.  I told him straightly that many of them were convinced that people like him were proxies of imperialism and were being armed by imperialist forces – inshallah, came the partially sarcastic reply.

And this brings me on to the next point.  What exactly would be the problem with Syrian rebels receiving weapons from ‘imperialism’?  The only people who find it problematic are people for whom sourcing weaponry will never be a problem.  That might sound a cheap point to make, but it is nevertheless a cheap point worth making.  For many people, ‘imperialism’ is a word they so often use but rarely ever comprehend its meaning in practice in contexts beyond either hysterical, facile denunciations and sloganeering or often equally as facile academic detachment.

read full article here

Are you Progressive Except for Syria? Take the handy test here!

Posted: 02/26/2015 by editor

pes 3We have all already heard of the phenomenon of PEP (Progressive Except on Palestine), in which those who consider themselves progressives (liberals in the USA) or leftists are pretty liberal on every single issue except the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But, their syndrome has been pointed out and diagnosed fully. A lot of them justify this position by saying that supporting the government of Israel is a liberal position. Their problems are not our problem… they need help that we surely can’t provide.

However, there is another phenomenon far more worrisome because it involves those who are Progressive ALSO for Palestine, and that is the case of PES (Progressive Except on Syria). Those who are afflicted by this malady feel safety in numbers, because they are in fact the majority of non-Palestinian supporters of Palestine. They will actually USE the argument of Palestine as justification of their support of Assad, even though his regime has a terrible record regarding Palestinians, (as did that of his father).  They will argue that support of Assad is a progressive (liberal) leftist value. Whether it’s called “selective humanitarianism” “double standards” or “hypocrisy”, it is a dangerous and insidious disease and should be cured. Here is a little test to discover if perhaps YOU are afflicted with this mental illness.

pes 2Do you perhaps suffer from PES without being aware of it? Fear no more! We’re happy to provide you a self-diagnosis test with simple YES / NO replies so that you can discover your own hypocritical stance, and hopefully, be on the path to the cure.

  1. Did you protest or complain about the unfairness of the USAelections for any reason but believe that Assad won a landslide victory in free and fair elections?
  2. Do you think that Assad is fighting terrorism?
  3. Do you think that the Palestinian cause is being defended by Assad?
  4. Do you believe that the war in Syria is all about foreign aggression due to their national and pan-Arab stances” and is not a people’s uprising? In fact, you think the whole Arab Spring has got to be “exposed” as an imperialist, western plot.
  5. Do you think that the Intifada in Palestine is legitimate and that the uprising in Syria is manufactured (while of course saying so having been paid guest to Assad’s presidential palace)?
  6. Do you think that the Palestinian cause is being defended by Hezbollah even when they target and kill Palestinian refugees and ignore the growing tensions between Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and Hezbollah?
  7. Do you condemn religiously-inspired militias such as ISIS and Al Nusra when they commit murder and use violence against civilians but have not condemned Hezbollah when it commits murder and uses violence against civilians?
  8. Do you think that it was a good idea for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC) to shoot on the Palestinians who mourned those killed on Naksa Day 2011?
  9. Have you called Gaza “the world’s largest open-air prison” but don’t agree with the UNHCR claim that Syria’s war “is more brutal and destructive than the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and has turned into the worst humanitarian disaster since the end of the cold war.”?
  10. Have you endorsed or thought a No Fly Zone was a good idea for Gaza but reject it as Imperialist meddling or abid to save Al Qaeda if it’s done in Syria?
  11. Do you condemn the Palestinians tortured to death in Israeli prisons (since 1967, a total of 72 Palestinianshave been tortured to death) but have not condemned the 200 Palestinians tortured to death in Syrian prisons since 2011? You naturally probably don’t know about the at least 2100 Syrians who were tortured to deathinside these prisons.
  12. Do the at least 10,000 bodies of prisoners in Syrian regime prisons that were ordered to be catalogued by the regime mean nothing to you since you don’t have details on what the reasons for their deaths could be?
  13. Do you call for release of political prisoners from Israeli jails but do not call for the release of the tens of thousands of political prisoners in Syrian jails?
  14. Have you actually asked for money to bring Gazan children to make a protest for the NFZ but think that asking for a NFZ in Syria is a bid to help Al Qaeda?
  15. Do you think Al Qaeda and ISIS are Mossad / CIA inventions?
  16. Do you protest against the death penalty in the USA: Executions in 2014, 35, but don’t do the same for Iran: executions in 2014, Between 721 and 801 at least.
  17. Do you think it is wrong for the US to provide Israel with armaments because it engages in war crimes but at the same time, think it is justified for Russia to provide the Syrian regime with armaments and military expertsbecause “it’s war against NATO”?
  18. Do you condemn Israel’s “extra judicial killing” but claim that Assad must do everything he needs to maintain power because blocking his actions in any way, even by condemning them “… could end up ousting Assad. It would mean replacing him with pro-Western stooge governance. It would eliminate another Israeli rival. It would isolate Iran. It would be disastrous for ordinary Syrians.”
  19. Have you ever praised Assad’s government because it is secular, or “fighting the enemy of the West”: because after all, you only see the alternatives being Assad or the “Islamic Fundamentalists”?
  20. Did you support Haniyeh and Meshaal until they started waving the Syrian revolution flag?
  21. Do you erroneously refer to the Syrian revolution flag as the “French Mandate Flag” ignoring that even the Assad regime celebrated it as the Independence flag each “Evacuation (Independence) Day on 17 April to celebrate the resistance against the French colonialists?
  22. Do you know the names of at least one Palestinian dissident/political writer but don’t know any Syrian ones?
  23. Do you call the opposition to Assad “Western-backed rebels” either from a Pro-Israel or Pro-Iran standpoint?
  24. Did you protest for Palestinian detainees and even know their names but not do the same for Palestinian detainees in Syrian’s prisons?
  25. Do you know the name of at least one minor arrested or killed by Israel but don’t know the name of at least one minor arrested or killed by the Assad regime?
  26. You have protested against the racist and discriminatory Apartheid Wall and checkpoints in Israel/Palestine but you have nothing much to say about Syrian military checkpoints and sniper-lined checkpoints?
  27. Did you get angry when a US newspaper used a photo of Iraqi deaths, claiming they were Syrian, but when Palestinian supporters use Syrian ones, it’s “illustrating the suffering in Gaza”?
  28. You have protested against Israeli use of phosphorus bombs but you have nothing much to say about the unconventional weapons use by Assad against both opposition fighters and civilians such as barrel bombs andchemical weapons?
  29. Are you critical of the US for intervening in affairs of other countries but think it’s normal for Iran and Russia to be sending troops into Syria to help the regime?
  30. You would never consider Palestine compromising with Israel but you believe that the opposition must compromise with the regime in Syria.
  31. Do you condemn the Saudi monarchy and refer to them as Wahhabis, Salafis, etc., but refuse to recognise that Iran is a theocracy?
  32. Do you think that Assad is simply doing everything he can to protect the minorities in his country?
  33. Do you call the Israeli occupation of Palestine ethnic cleansing but do not speak out against the regime-driven massacres in Syria that are ethnically based?
  34. Do you refer to the Assad regime, Hezbollah and Iran as the “Axis of Resistance” even when they don’t react to Israeli attacks on them?
  35. Do you think the following two statements are both true?
    a. Dissent in the United States is patriotic.
    b. Protesting in Syria is an assault on the State and needs to be quelled.
  36. Do you think the following two statements are true?
    a. Pepper spraying protesters in the USA is a violation of human rights.
    b. The Syrian regime has to use whatever force it deems necessary against protesters, because they protesters have violent intentions.
  37. Do you think that Israel must be brought to the ICC for crimes against humanity but think that the Syrian regime should not?
  38. Do you condemn the USA vetoes on the UN Security Council in favour of Israel but praise the Russian and Chinese ones in favour of Assad both to stop sanctions and to prohibit ICC investigation including three Chinese vetoes on Syria alone out of eight total vetoes in their history?
  39. Do you think the following statements are both true?
    a.Calling a U.S. citizen anti-American or un-American for being critical of the US government is ridiculous, knee-jerk, unintelligent and actually incorrect.
    b.People who are critical of Assad are closet or overt imperialists and want US control over the region.
  40. You do not believe that Russia is an imperialist state while you are certain that Syria is an anti-imperialist state defending itself against imperialist onslaught.
  41. Do you think that Erdogan is seeking to dominate politics in the region in an attempt to restore what was once the Ottoman Empire or even think the US is trying to establish an Islamic State but support Iranian domination and the Shi’a Crescent?
  42. Have you signed petitions against companies such as Soda Stream and Coca-cola but not against weapons provider, the Russian monopoly Rosoboronexport or even the western companies providing the Syrian and Iranian regimes with surveillance equipment that they use against dissidents and opposition?
  43. Do you call innocent victims killed by American drones or victims of war crimes but consider the Syrians and Palestinians killed by Syrian bombs and chemical weapons collateral damage?
  44. Do you reject the USA/UK “War on Terror” but believe that Assad has a right to use whatever means possible tokill whoever he considers as a terrorist in Syria and that Syria is a sovereign nation fighting Al Qaeda?
  45. Have you mentioned the Blockade on Gaza in conversations and know it is illegal and a crime against humanity but don’t feel the same about the Blockade on Yarmouk?
  46. Do you respond to criticism of Assad by pointing out USA human rights violations?
  47. You know the name of USA civilians killed by cops or vigilantes, but you don’t know the name of a single Syrian victim of torture in the Assad prisons.
  48. You have protested for the closure of Gitmo, but you don’t raise your voice or even one eyebrow over theSyrian Torture Archipelago in which “The systematic patterns of ill-treatment and torture [in the 27 detention facilities run by Syrian Intelligence] that Human Rights Watch documented clearly point to a state policy of torture and ill-treatment and therefore constitute a crime against humanity.” Moreover, you don’t want to notice that Syria’s government has been cooperating with the CIA extensively in renditions and the torture programme.
  49. You think that Israel should not have nuclear capacity but that Iran should have nuclear capacity. Extra pointsif you support Non-Proliferation. Super extra points if you participated in any No Nukes events in the West or signed any such petitions, super extra and mega extra points if you are against nuclear power.
  50. You believe that the Palestinian struggle is about human rights but the Syrian protests were sectarian and religious-oriented, driven by people who wanted to overthrow and overtake power illegitimately if not in factmanufactured by the West?
  51. Do you believe it’s normal for the Syrian constitution to be amended every time that it serves the Assad familybut the US Constitution is sacred and especially no amendments should be made to limit gun possessionwhether you detest the US government or think it should basically call all the shots around the world?
  52. Do you think that Jews protesting the Israel government are noble people who are fighting for human rights and justice while any Syrian protesting the Assad regime are in cahoots with the Israeli government.
  53. Do you believe that, “We must not in any way call for the removal of President Assad unless he commits acts of terror against us. Assad’s government has committed no such act, thus rendering it criminal for foreign governments to undermine the Syrian regime. You either stand for national sovereignty, or against it. The choice is yours.” While at the same time have supported efforts from the liberals or conservatives to have Obama impeached?
  54. Do you believe that foreign countries helping the Palestinians militarily to win against Israel is legitimate but helping Syrians win against Assad is meddling and think that “any further intervention in Syria would be for U.S. interests, like weakening an ally of Iran, and would encourage Assad’s allies to step up their armament shipments. The carnage would continue, and perhaps increase.”?
  55. Do you reject claims that the involvement of Iran and Russia in favour of Assad is meddling?
  56. Do you think that the entire Syrian war is for the purpose of the US weakening Syria so that it can pursue its own interests in the region but ignore the fact that Russia has enormous interests in Syria that are far more evident?
  57. Have you ever found yourself denying Assad had chemical weapons but also applauding the Syrian regime’s decision to hand them over to Russia as a strong gesture towards peace?

pes 1

How many questions did you answer YES to?

Between 1 and 5? You are headed towards selective humanitarianism, or even are afflicted with Western Privilege Syndrome!

Between 6 and 10? You are dangerously using double standards and believe that human rights aren’t something universal, but allow your ideological or dogmatic prejudices to influence your ethical judgement!

Over 10? You are a dyed in the wool Hypocrite! Maybe you should avoid “current events” altogether, you have no understanding of what human rights and justice mean, you should wash your mouth out before you ever speak about human rights for Palestinians or anyone.

The Anti-Imperialism of Fools

معاً ضد الديكتاتورية Juntxs contra la dictadura Together against    Dictatorship (Kurdish woman fighter of PYD "Rpkan" in Aleppo)معاً ضد الديكتاتورية. Juntxs contra la dictadura. Together Against Dictatorship (Poster featuring Rokan a Kurdish PYD fighter from Aleppo)

As we all witnessed yesterday Syria’s foreign minister Walid Muallem said thatSyria will offer to help the US fight the Islamic State (IS) militant group. This of course has left the so called Anti-war camp and “Anti-Imperialist” left in the U.S/West and even Arab assadists that support Assad either confused or silent on the matter. It’s important to note these are the same leftists or as some call them ‘tankies’ that support Russian imperialism and Iranian mini-imperialism in the Middle East and don’t even care whether Russia is a capitalist oligarchy or if Iran has communist political prisoners in its jails or killed because of their ideas this shows you how unprincipled they can be by becoming reactionary by supporting bourgeois nationalism and fascism. This article will focus on the many ways to break the regime’s “resistance” and “rejection of U.S/Western Imperialism” narrative and a way for critically think about Syria and the peoples mobilization against the regime.

I. Understanding the Assad regime and Syria 

In order to understand what led to the masses in Syria rising up against the regime we must look into the social,economic and material conditions in Syria. I will provide a short introduction from comrade Yasmeen Mobayed:

the ba’ath party staged its first military coup in syria in 1963. in 1966, hafez al-assad participated in the second military coup, which brought salah jadid to power. from 1950-1970, hafez al-assad was a lieutenant in the syrian air force, the head commander of the syrian air force, and the minister of defense. then in 1970, hafez al-assad led the third military coup to topple salah jadid, finally forcing himself into power. hafez al-assad actively used sectarianism as a method of consolidating and maintaining his power – he greatly increased alawite dominance in the regime’s security and intelligence branches, though his elite class was of all sects. the core of the assad regime, however, consisted (and still consists) of assad family members/relatives who control everything from the army to the economy (ex. rami makhlouf, bashar al-assad’s cousin, controls 60% of syria’s economy).  an introduction to syria – its history and its present revolutionary struggles

Beginning in the 1980’s Hafez Al-Assad began implementing neoliberal policies and especially in 2005 where the “social-market economy” was introduced which was according to Professor Omar S. Dahi This “was more market than social”. This type of authoritarian neoliberalism caused a crisis and mass poverty and unemployment where the peasants in the country side and the proletariat in the city suburbs and working class neighbourhoods suffered and these include the rise of “informal housing” or slums where people were forced in because the rent and housing prices and gentrification rocketed in Syrian cities they people were left in despair and it’s not surprising that when the protests broke out in Tunisia, Egypt the Syrian people saw that they had nothing to lose and rose up against the regime.

II. The Assad regime has always been a servant of Imperialism and Zionism

According to syrian regime narrative it has always been a “resistance” and “Objector to Zionism and U.S Western Imperialism” now we know from it’s history that it is far from that. Beginning with the Golan Heights a Syrian territory occupied by Israel Hafez-Al Assad never bothered to fight to return it and left it under occupation and zionist settler-colonisation. During the Lebanese Civil War Hafez-Al Assad and the Syrian Army led a war on Palestinian refugee camps which resulted in the deaths of many Palestinian civilians and was condemned by Palestinian revolutionaries like George Habash the founder of the PFLP who was critical of the regime in this video he criticizes the syrian regime for being a tool of zionism and imperialism and the regime being a killer of the Palestinian people next to israel. Now recently his son Bashar Al-Assad launched his own war on the camps in Syria with siege and shelling of Yarmouk Refugee camp and other camps. like Ramel in Lattakia and Dar’aa camp in southern Syria, Homs Al’Aiddeen camp and Handarat Aleppo camp where many of the inhabitants were killed, starved and made refugees again. The Assad regime has always served U.S/Western Imperialism besides the recent offer to aid to U.S strikes on I.S it collaborated with the U.S in the gulf war and under Bashar looked to re-establish ties with Israel. Also we can’t forget that the Syrian regime and it’s mukhabarat (intelligence services) worked with the C.I.A to torture on people on “extraordinary rendition” like the case of the Syrian-Canadian citizen Maher Arar who was kidnapped, deported and sent to be tortured by the syrian mukhabarat.

III. The Assad regime is Anti-Communist

This has to be always repeated the Assad regime is a bourgeois nationalist, capitalist and social chauvinist state that has always repressed any dissent against it with the use of it’s Mukhabarat (intelligence services) and especially the air force intelligence, Army and Shabiha (Regime backed Death Squads). Yes the Assad regime is Anti-Communist which is not surprising since the 1970 coup by Hafez Al-Assad was a right-opportunist and reactionary takeover against the Marxist and leftist Salah Jadid. The Regime has cracked down on many communist groups especially the Syrian Communist Action Party it has a Maoist tendency and was heavily repressed in the 70’s and 80’s by the Syrian regime and many of its cadres were militants in the 70’s student radicalism especially in Aleppo University where it was centre of a revolutionary organization. Also the regime heavily repressed Palestinian groups like the Palestinian Popular committees which was established in the 80’s and supported the Syrian communist action party and other leftist and communist militants the group had many of its cadres killed,arrested and  tortured in Syrian regime prisons. And many of these militants were from all sects especially the Alawite, Sunni, Ismaili, Druze,Shia and Christian sects. Regarding the Kurdish people the syrian regime prisons have always been filled with  Kurdish political prisoners and the regime itself denied Kurds citizenship and cultural and linguistic rights. Syrian communists in jail include Abd al Aziz al KhatyyerJihad As’ad. Also the Palestinian filmaker from Yarmouk camp Hassan Hassan who was tortured to death by the regime. The Assad regime is no different from the Somoza, Pinochet, Suharto and Kuomintang regimes it should be condemned by every Marxist-Leninist, Anti-Imperialist, leftist and socialist.

IV. There are progressive forces in Syria 

The Syrian Communist Action Party is part of the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change a front of left-wing parties and organizations who oppose the regime and seek to overthrow it. There is also the PYD (People’s Protection Unit the military wing of the Kurdish leftist Democratic Unity Party which has declared peoples war on the regime taken control of Kurdish neighbourhoods in Aleppo and northern Syria or Western Kurdistan (Rojava) and built an autonomous self-governed region and has been fighting both the Assad regime and (I.S). Regarding non-Kurdish leftist groups who gave taken up armed struggle the Syrian Revolutionary left Current established the People’s Liberation Faction to commemorate the third anniversary of the Syrian revolution. Also these include the L.C.C (Local coordination committees), Left-wing and communist organizations like the Syrian leftist coalition and Syrian Communists. All these parties and organizations are Anti-Imperialist opposing U.S/Western Imperialism and the Arab Gulf states are part of this and Iranian-Russian Imperialism in the country and are struggling against them. Usually an assadist “leftist” will tell you that there is a communist party in the Syrian parliament yet fails to understand that the syrian communist party-Bakdash is a reactionary tool of the regime and the ruling class in Syria.

V. An end of the Anti-Imperialism of Fools 

Comrades and friends, let’s put an end to this Anti-Imperialism of fools and be principled to our ideals and not fall into supporting those who blindly back the fascist,social chauvinist and bourgeois nationalist Assad regime that is oppressing the Syrian masses we have to unite and support the syrian people’s struggle and progressive forces of Syria against the Assad regime and Imperialism whether it is US/Western Imperialism, Russian imperialism or Iranian and Arab gulf countries interventions in Syria.

– Mahmoud E.


A Leftist Response to Leftist Delusions on Syria

June 8, 2013 § Leave a Comment

This excellent piece was written by Shiar in response to Stop the War’s Lindsey German (who can’t even get the Syrian president’s first name right) and was first published at the Syria News Wire.

“Being anti-imperialist yet West-centric,” writes Shiar, “just does not work: it is still Orientalism. This Orientalist (and statist) world view is so dominant within the Western Left that even a mass, popular uprising is reduced to a Western-manufactured conspiracy (which is, incidentally, the same line as that the Syrian regime has been repeating). It not only ignores facts on the ground and the complex political dynamics at play in those countries, but also overlooks those people’s agency and reduces them to either some inferior and stupid stereotype (Islamist terrorists) or some romanticised mythical version that is compatible with the dominant Western values (pro-democracy, peaceful, etc.).”

I have no idea where you get your news about Syria from, but it strikes me that it’s probably mostly from the Guardian, BBC and other establishment mouthpieces (when it comes to foreign policy anyway). For how else can one explain your sudden realisation that Syria is only now “descending into hell”? Really?! All this death and destruction over the past 26 months has not been hellish enough for you? Only now, when your beloved mainstream media start to recycle some state propaganda nonsense about the conflict in Syria taking (yet another) dangerous turn or crossing some ‘red line’, do your alarm bells start to ring?

You see, information sources are not just about information; they also shape your perspective. As a Leftist activist, one would have thought you would mention – at least once, in passing – the popular uprising or the revolution, what Syrians think and want, or anything remotely related to people. Instead, all you obsess about is big politics from a statist perspective: regime change, foreign intervention, regional war, Israel, Iran, bla bla bla.

If you’d argued that, after Tunisia, the prospect of mass, popular uprisings bringing regimes down seemed too frightening for Western and regional powers, so they opted for pushing the revolutions into prolonged armed conflicts or wars (mainly by not intervening when they could), I might have paused and thought a bit about your argument. If you’d said that the prospects of progressive governments emerging from mass uprisings demanding freedom and social justice seemed too frightening for the conservative, neoliberal forces, both regionally and internationally, so they converged to divert the revolutions and paint them as something else, I might have listened to you. But dismissing everything people have been fighting for because of some archaic geo-strategic equations… that’s just too much to swallow.

The only time you seem to remotely allude to people’s agency is when you fall into the trap of Western media’s obsession with Middle Eastern sectarianism, reducing complex political dynamics to a savage ‘civil war’ between religious sects: “Syria, locked into a bitter civil war between the government of Bashir Assad and the various opposition forces…” Here is what a friend posted on Facebook a while ago:

“Dear friends everywhere, We, Syrians, or a vast majority of us, do not accept using the term ‘civil war’ when talking about our revolution. We hope that you can take serious note of that. It is a popular revolution against a mass-murdering dictatorship. Calling it a civil war is unacceptable to us. Thanks.”

Your misinformed, or disinformed, sources of information may also explain your simplistic analysis of the political games unravelling in Syria, such as your talk about the imaginary “alliance of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel, Jordan and the Western powers.” Had you bothered to look a bit closer, check some more informed and reliable sources, or even talk to some Syrians, you would have realised that this ‘alliance’ is riddled with power struggles, with different regional and international powers supporting different factions fighting in Syria, with very different agendas and strategies. The only thing that seems to unite them is their opposition to the regime.

But even this does not mean that ‘the Syrian people’ are united in their position regarding these factions. Had you bothered to look or ask, you would have discovered that many Syrian Leftists are fighting alongside members of the Muslim Brothers, that there have been numerous protests inside Syria against Jabhat al-Nusra when its members have gone too far in their authoritarian or sectarian practices, and so on and so forth. Instead, you chose to quote Robert Fisk – who has long lost it, as far as I’m concerned – saying: “The rebels so beloved of NATO nations are losing their hold of Damascus… This war – beware – may last another two, three or more years. Nobody will win.”

The same can be said of your eye-opening revelation that the sole aim of the Syrian revolution, as a Western conspiracy, is “a transformation of the Middle East aimed at permanently weakening Iran and its allies.” I do not want to comment on this any further but you might want to commission one of your coalition members to investigate the complex and changing attitudes of Syrians towards Hizbullah and Iran. A cursory look at recent images posted on Facebook of Syrian banners and placards ridiculing Hasan Nasrallah and Hizbullah might be a good start.

My point is that your objections to a military intervention in Syria seem to stem from the same place as the intervention: that ‘we’ (Europeans, Westerners, whatever) know better than Syrians what should be done about Syria. Had you bothered to talk to some Syrians, they might have told you how complex and nuanced the issue of foreign intervention is for most Syrians (I’m obviously not talking about a few sell-outs or parasites who are capitalising on the events for their own advantage). Their angry responses to the Israeli air strike on Damascus last week are just one example.

Did it not cross your mind, for instance, that ‘those people’ have already experienced Western colonialism and have grown up with strong anti-imperialist discourses (Leftist, pan-Arab nationalist and Islamist)? That they too might have learnt something from the Iraq war like you? (even though I would object to equating the invasion of Iraq with the recent popular revolutions in the region, but that’s another discussion.)

I doubt any of this has ever crossed your mind. Because had it done so, you might have paused for a moment and thought: what is that pushes these people to resort to the support of antagonistic regional and Western powers, knowing full well that the conditions of this support or the price they would have to pay is very high? I can tell you what I think the main reason is.

If you and your comrades had shown the Syrians who started the revolution any sort of support from the beginning – I mean serious, material support, not conditional solidarity and empty, confused slogans – they might not have had to resort to the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other powers, and to form coalitions with ‘backward’ forces. Instead, all you and your comrades have been obsessing about is an imaginary peaceful or civil society movement that would mysteriously succeed in bringing down a blood-thirsty regime just like that. Then you turn to slag off those who join the Islamists or whoever is actually fighting the regime. This is not only delusional, allow me to say, it also does not exactly strike a chord with the majority of Syrians at the moment, given the context of extreme violence.

Every time I hear people here talking about a peaceful uprising being hijacked by militant Islamists or great Western powers or whatever, I cannot help thinking that it is not just their ignorant arrogance that is making them so blind to what is actually happening on the ground; it is, rather, an ideologically driven habit of twisting facts so that they conveniently fit into a pre-constructed narrative about ‘those people’ and how they do things. It is, in other words, Orientalism.

Here is another example from your article: “The impact of Western intervention in Syria is becoming more destructive as time goes on. […] Syria… is continuing its descent into hell, aided and abetted by outside powers whose concern is not humanitarian nor democratic, but is about reshaping the region and especially destroying Syria’s ally in Iran.”

To me, the position of Western anti-war activists and politicians vis-a-vis the Arab revolutions can be best descried as ‘schizophrenic delusion’. On the one hand, they stand against ‘the war’; on the other, they find themselves not only supporting repressive regimes but also supporting the wars waged by these regimes against their peoples because they are stuck in an archaic anti-imperialist discourse.

Being anti-imperialist yet West-centric just does not work: it is still Orientalism. This Orientalist (and statist) world view is so dominant within the Western Left that even a mass, popular uprising is reduced to a Western-manufactured conspiracy (which is, incidentally, the same line as that the Syrian regime has been repeating). It not only ignores facts on the ground and the complex political dynamics at play in those countries, but also overlooks those people’s agency and reduces them to either some inferior and stupid stereotype (Islamist terrorists) or some romanticised mythical version that is compatible with the dominant Western values (pro-democracy, peaceful, etc.).

Regional and Western powers will, of course, try to capitalise on the Syrian revolution and attempt to hijack or utilise it for their own ends (they’ve always done so; that’s politics.). But by imposing your own values and political agendas on the revolution, instead of showing real, unconditional solidarity with the people living it, you do exactly the same, dear comrade: you use it to feel better about yourself; to feel you’re still relevant, superior and intelligent.


Al Azm on “Anti-Imperialists”

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Dr Sadiq Jalal al Azm is somebody I’ve been wanting to read more of and never had the chance to. I just stumbled upon a recent translation of his interview and I’m impressed by his razor sharp analysis. Of particular interest to me was his classification of the so-called anti-imperialist camp that has made it their mission to obfuscate and confuse the discourse surrounding Syria since the start of the revolution.

Whereas the smaller bloc of the left has hardened its old positions, as if nothing happened after the end of the Cold War, and with time its attitudes and methods became of the same nature as that of the Taliban-Jihadis or dogmatic closed-minded sectarians, or even that of terrorist “Bin Ladenites,” in its blind defiance of the West, global capitalism (a global capitalism that Russia and China are now a part of) and imperialism. This bloc from the left, in the Arab world and internationally, is today the most hostile to the Syrian revolution and the closest to defending the tyrannical military-security-familial regime using several arguments, not least of which is that the entire world plotted, apparently, against this regime that is peace-loving and stable.

This type of leftist emphasizes “the game of nations” and “geopolitical analysis,” with stories of collision of interests and plans of the great powers and their dominance in our region, and does not want to view the revolution in Syria through anything other than through this lens, and neglects all that happens inside Syria and to Syria’s revolutionaries today, as well as ignoring all the reasons that led its people to a peaceful revolution, and later to taking up arms in the face of a “nationalist” tyranny that is allied with this kind of leftist.

In other words, this leftist has no problem with sacrificing Syria if it leads to a victory being handed to their international camp and “geopolitics” that wants a global victory in the “game of nations.” Their first priority is not Syria or its people in revolt to restore the republic, their freedom, and their dignity, but the game of nations at the global level of analysis and the side that they want to win.

The English translation of the interview is well worth a read here.

Posted by Maysaloon at 6:21 pm


Nothing nuanced in Assad’s bloody survival strategy

During Israel’s assault on Gaza last week and the continuing Assad regime assault on Syria, media biases that have been developing for months have crystallised. While the Palestinian tragedy exposed the historical mainstream media bias towards Israel, the Syrian tragedy exposed another kind of bias against Syrian people’s aspirations for freedom.

Some activists, intellectuals and human-rights advocates who are defined as leftist, anti-imperialist and fiercely pro-resistance have struggled with the Syrian revolution since its inception in March 2011. After all, Bashar Al Assad inherited his father’s role as the champion of Arab “resistance”, even while he slaughtered his own people.

This group of journalists, bloggers and social media activists have mocked the revolution while warning against the “reactionary” tendency to frame Syria as a humanitarian crisis instead of a geopolitical catastrophe. Though they are committed to drawing attention to the unrest in Bahrain, cheering any whisper of trouble in Saudi Arabia, welcoming the unfolding protests in Jordan and expressing outrage over every Palestinian death in Gaza, they continue to watch with “critical” eyes as dozens are killed in Syria every single day.

They claim that the “real” story is more nuanced than a narrative of a people simply demanding the toppling of an oppressive regime. They frame the Syrian political opposition as a western conspiracy against a sovereign nation, but fail to acknowledge the almost impossible task of forging a unified political body out of the power vacuum left by a 42-year-old regime that rules with an iron fist against dissent.

They warn of the sectarian tendencies of the Syrian armed resistance while ignoring the right to self-defence. But as revealed in the past weeks, it is these sophisticated mouthpieces who are in need of nuance, as they are incapable of denouncing violence unless the violence is committed by Israel or a western-backed Arab country.

It is considered insensitive and ignorant to compare a people’s suffering to the Second World War Holocaust, just as it is insensitive and ignorant to compare the suffering of Palestinians over the last 64 years to the suffering of any other people in the Middle East. But what the staunch defenders of resistance have forgotten is that the suffering of Syrians has been historically linked to the suffering of Palestinians, for much of what the Syrian people endured under the Assad dynasty – oppression, repression, terror – was committed in the name of fighting for Palestine.

The Assad regime’s military might – now targeting only the Syrian people – was developed under the guise of fighting the common Arab enemy: Israel. The regime taught generations of Syrians that we were in a state of perpetual war with Israel to free the occupied Golan Heights. Our brains were pounded with empty slogans of Arab nationalism and lofty goals of unity, freedom and socialism, and visions of defeating Zionism and imperialism.

Every detail in our “official” lives was informed by the military: our drab khaki school uniforms, with our shoulder markers changing like military ranks as we passed from one grade to the next; our mandatory military training; and the Baath student organisations we were urged to join. Favoured junior Baathists were awarded bonus grades and given special opportunities. Of course, many were mukhabarat in the making.

Those of us lucky enough to avoid these traps only knew half the evil we faced everyday. We knew our government would never fight Israel and free the Golan. We knew this was Syria’s role in a game of Middle East geopolitical chess: the resistors. Crocodile tears were routinely shed by the regime for Palestine while no one did anything for Palestinians, and while Palestinian refugees in Syria were treated as second-class citizens. But we did not imagine the sinister role the army would finally play.

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Rightists and Leftists Against the Revolution

Ziad Majed

12 September 2012

Why do racist European right-wingers and some factions belonging to the far left find a common ground in their hostility towards the Syrian revolution?

For a while now, that same question has been posing itself on many friends shocked by the positions and comments of writers and reporters united in viciously criticizing the revolution, not out of concern nor “neutrality”, nor even as a result of their rejection of the revolution’s errors and impurities, which certainly exist and are plentiful.

Let us push the question even further. Why is the Syrian revolution unable to mobilize the activist segments of global or “Western” civil society, even though the media and public opinion generally empathize with it?

The answer seems compound, and is based on a combination of factors which control aspects of the political and cultural viewpoint of the Arab region, as well as political and moral criteria governing many of the attitudes and writings concerned with the region. As a result of these factors, sympathy or solidarity with the revolution seems minute compared to the brazen attacks, skepticism and perseverance of those holding hostile views.

One of those factors is the fear which prevents many political players from taking a stand towards “conflicts” in the “complicated” Middle East, where wars and crises accumulate and religious tendencies intensify, spreading their effects across the Mediterranean, inevitably reaching it northern shores.

There is also the prevalence of the “culturalistic doctrines” when comparing world issues and conflicts, particularly those associated with Arabs and their countries. Arabs appear to those “culturalistic” folks as people who habitually resort to violence in solving their conflicts, while drawing from a well of religious extremism, making it difficult to bet on their readiness to evolve towards democracy or to break free of the burdens of ‘Eastern despotism’. The severe violence associated with the Syrian conflict is therefore no exception in the context of the persistent ‘civil wars’ of the region, nor does it command surprise or urgent action.

Another factor is ‘Islamophobia’, shared by the extreme right (for racist reasons) and certain leftwing factions (who hide behind the excuse of defending freedoms and secularism). That is how writers from the far right meet with some of those on the far left in supporting Assad’s tyranny under the pretext of his hostility to the Islamists (the former) and his ‘secularism’ (the latter). In addition of both sides, there are those who are obsessed with the issue of ‘minorities’, perpetuating miserable tales of the threats and resentment posed by the majority.

This makes it easy for many political activists, especially students amongst them, to surrender to conspiracy theories and what they offer in terms of suspense, as well as pride garnered by understanding the “secrets” behind things, always stressing the malevolence of international relations. It used to be that leftist groups were more susceptible to becoming addicted to such theories. Now, however, the extreme right has also embraced them, especially those pertaining to ‘jihadist Islamic’ conspiracies, as well as international organizations being dens for plots which target the national makeup of countries, breaching their borders and sovereignty.

Another factor lies in the disdain of certain progressive ‘prominent’ writers, who hold influence over public opinion, from dealing in the issues of people, and their dignities and freedoms. What they are concerned with are borders, oil and geo-strategies, as well as the influential roles of regional countries and the ‘West’s’ decisions concerning them. Some of them surely look at Russia and China contemplating the return of the Cold War. In this they border on being racist even if they are looking at things from the perspective of ‘fighting for the best interests of Arab countries’. This is because they deal with these countries as entities that lack real people with flesh and blood and rights, or as if their citizens were deaf and dumb masses driven and misled by ‘Western’ plans and lies, and all that is required of those citizens is to rally around those who can protect them (or claim to protect them) from the Imperialist attack, even if they are to be crushed in order to thwart the success of these foreign conspiracies!

Another reason is the refrain of those intellectuals who championed the Palestinian cause with audacity and relentlessness from expressing advocacy of the Syrian revolution under the pretext of fear from Syria being torn apart or the spread of chaos in a way which would benefit Israel and America.

Finally, these factors also include the readiness of writers who have built fame and credibility over decades by residing in the region and opposing their countries’ policies towards it, to lie and be hypocrites in return for continued spotlight, battling and contradicting what they deem prevalent in their countries’ media, even if it, along with their governments, this time do not go against the ‘humane’ standpoints which those writers have had always called for to be taken into account.

We can also add to the aforementioned factors others which are linked to the boredom that has hit Western public opinion towards the Arab Spring phenomena, especially after the Muslim Brotherhood won elections in Egypt and Tunisia, and after the war in Libya, as well as the long time the Syrian revolution is taking. We can also note the geographical distance of the Middle East (in comparison to the geography and demography of North Africa). We can also talk of the skepticism held by many towards the Qatari and Saudi role in Syria and their worry that the situation will lead to the lack of stability in the entire region, as well as in Israel at its core. We must also not forget the efforts of the Syrian regime and its Lebanese and Arab allies, as well as some paid European experts, in peddling fabricated articles and information regarding the revolution and its plans as well as the horrors that threaten Christians and warnings of a repeat of the Iraqi scenario.

The bottom line is that the Syrian revolution today is not only facing Assad’s brutal regime, but also its supporters, Russia, China and Iran, and is on top of those up against a considerable amount of rotten concepts that alternate between racism, indifference and moral disease striking the hearts of certain leftists and ‘anti-imperialists’.

Even more, the Syrian revolution until now does not have a sound political leadership or a media apparatus with which it can deal with all the aforementioned factors. In return, however, the revolution does have legendary courage, as well as intellectuals, artists and activists with exceptional creativity, wisdom and nobility. It also has a reservoir of patience and hope which makes its ability to endure difficult to deplete, no thanks to any of its (ungenerous) allies.

Visit Ziad Majed’s blog for the original article in Arabic


Assad’s Useful Idiots

A protestor at a Sydney march in support of the Syrian regime, August 2012 |GREG WOOD/AFP/Getty

A protestor at a Sydney march in support of the Syrian regime, August 2012

How prominent commentators from the ‘anti-imperialist’ left have twisted the public discourse on Syria and, in the process, provided intellectual cover for the Assad regime.
Forget the ambitions of Syrians themselves — they’re just pawns in an international conspiracy.
“ He doesn’t kill his people. We’ve got militants in Syria. They’re terrorists.”
Demonstrators march in Sydney against foreign intervention in Syria, August 2012 |GREG WOOD/AFP/Getty

Demonstrators march in Sydney against foreign intervention in Syria, August 2012

“ That is why they are asking the Crusaders to bomb them — because the Crusaders are asking their servants to ask them to bomb them.”
“ For Syrians who want dignity and democracy in a free country, the rapidly mushrooming dependence of their uprising on foreign support is a disaster — even more than was the case in Libya.”
President Assad in a rare public appearance in Damascus, January 2012 |STR/AFP/Getty

President Assad in a rare public appearance in Damascus, January 2012

The moral of the Libyan story is that just because you fund a revolution, doesn’t mean you own it.
Journalist John Pilger in Kabul, Afghanistan |AAP Image/SBS

Journalist John Pilger in Kabul, Afghanistan

On no other topic have the ideologues been more ‘truthy’ than on the Houla massacre.

It was the first weekend of August, and on the highway leading out of Damascus, Syrian tanks rumbled northwards towards Aleppo. As 20,000 government troops mobilised outside the city, Syrian bomber jets shattered the shopping district of Salahedin, a rebel stronghold. Just metres away from the fighting, a Reuters reporter found a local couple, shaking with fear. “Just to hold power he is willing to destroy our streets, our homes, kill our sons,” cried Fawzia Um Ahmed as she waited for a car to take them to safety.

In Sydney that weekend the sun was out, and so were hundreds of Syrian Australians. In a rally organised by a group called ‘Hands off Syria’, they marched through the city, brandishing posters of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and signs that read, “Thank you Russia and China 4 Vetoes” and “Let the whole world hear: Syria is our Nation, Bashar is our Leader”.

“He’s a doctor, he studied in England,” ‘Naja’ told TruthNews in a broad Syrian-Australian accent, adding that President Assad had been ‘democratically elected’ by 75 per cent of Syrians. “He doesn’t kill his people. We’ve got militants in Syria. They’re terrorists.”

Flanked by cheering Assad supporters, Dr Tim Anderson, a senior lecturer in political economy at Sydney University and a member of Hands Off Syria, made an impassioned speech in support of the Syrian president. “People in this country are very ignorant about what’s going on in Syria,” he began.

“That’s not a crime in itself. But what is unacceptable is the unethical use of this ignorance… Those people saying Assad must go, they have no ethical basis to make that sort of claim,” he continued, cheered by the crowd. To this, he added: “They haven’t

understood that it’s the foundation of the post-colonial era… that a people have a right to self-determination.”

Hang on a minute. Isn’t the Syrian opposition fighting the Assad regime for its right to self-determination?

Don’t try to make sense of this logically; think ideologically.

Anderson is among the ideologues who believe there is no greater enemy than American imperialism. That means the Syrian uprising poses a grave threat to the ‘Axis of Resistance’ — Iran, Syria and Hezbollah — which, according to them, is the only force blocking America’s imperialist ambitions in the Middle East. If Assad falls, they believe it is America, Israel and Saudi Arabia that have the most to gain.

This ideological war is being fought at varying levels of sophistication by leftists with far greater influence than Dr Anderson, such as The Guardian’s associate editor and columnist Seumas Milne, award-winning journalist John Pilger, military historian and intellectual Tariq Ali and British MP George Galloway.

At first glance, it might seem indulgent to slip from reporting on the facts, to reporting on the reportage. Many of us would like to ignore these commentators. Increasingly, however, journalists reporting from Syria are

being driven to despair as their reporting is dismissed as propaganda by anti-imperialist ideologues who claim to know ‘the truth’. Many Syrians I’ve spoken to are also aware that their fate is connected to how the conflict is reported.

Using tactics that vary from the overt to the insidious, these ideologues are willfully twisting the narrative on Syria to score points against the ‘imperialist West’. In the process, they are excusing and providing intellectual cover for the Assad regime. What’s worse, their ‘truth’ is filtering into the mainstream, with many in the public convinced that the conflict in Syria is now little more than a proxy war between the world’s great powers.

This is not to say that hawks who are cheering for intervention in Syria aren’t guilty of peddling their own kind of propaganda — they are. But right-wing hawks don’t typically claim to be champions of the oppressed. Those mentioned above do, and in the same breath, happily undermine a civilian-led uprising against a remorseless dictator, all because said dictator is (on paper, at least) opposed to

Israel and the United States.

“It’s a dreadful moral and political capitulation,” says Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine. “It surrenders all other leftist values to a reductive, hyper-simplistic, anti-Western stance which makes all regimes opposed by the West worthy of support by default… That means supporting fascist right-wingers, as long as they have the right enemies.”

Syria has been one of the hardest conflicts in living memory to report on, largely because of the extreme restrictions imposed by the Assad regime. Earlier this year, I wrote about how these restrictions were making it immensely difficult for reporters to sort fact from propaganda, and how important it was that we maintain a critical eye on both sides (‘Syria’s Propaganda War’, April 12).

Now the fog of the Syrian war is providing cover for conspiracy theories which are published as fact with increasing frequency.

Here in Beirut, the worst offenders in this category write for the leftist Hezbollah-friendly newspaper, Al Akhbar. In his scathing letter of farewell to the paper, former columnist Max Blumenthal decried its opinion pages as “a playpen for dictator enablers”.


The Left, Imperialism, and the Syrian Revolution

September 10, 2012 § Leave a Comment

by Corey Oakley

This was first published at Socialist Alternative.

Of the millions of people who have risen up in revolt across the Arab world these past 19 months, few have suffered as much for their courage as the revolutionaries fighting the Assad dictatorship in Syria.

The decision of Bashar al-Assad’s regime to use the full force of his security forces against what was a largely peaceful protest movement has transformed the uprising into a full blown civil war, in which up to 20,000 people have died.

Yet the Syrian revolution – in the eyes of some on the left – lacks legitimacy. The uprising is denounced as a Western plot, a CIA- or Israeli-backed conspiracy to overthrow a regime that defends the Palestinians. Those fighting Assad’s troops on the ground are condemned as stooges of outside forces – variously Saudi Arabia, the US, Israel and Al Qaeda, among others.

In the West, open support for Assad has been mostly confined to hardline Stalinists or a minority of Assad loyalists among the Palestinian movement. Most on the left initially took a version of what has been called the “third way” – support for the revolution, combined with opposition to imperialist intervention from the West.

But over the last few months, this “third way” has begun to crack apart.

Prominent British leftists Tariq Ali and George Galloway have come out stridently in opposition to the insurrectionary aims of the uprising, claiming that the revolution has been taken over by reactionaries and arguing that a negotiated settlement with the regime is the only answer. Ali, in an interview with Russia Today, said the choice was between a “Western imposed regime, composed of sundry Syrians who work for the Western intelligence agencies…or the Assad regime.” Galloway, the left populist MP best known as a campaigner against the Iraq war, goes even further, denouncing the Syrian resistance for not accepting the peace plan advanced by the UN.

Much of this left-agonising about the Syrian revolt reflects the legacy of Stalinism, which led many to identify leftism with various despotic but “anti-imperialist” regimes that opposed the West and oppressed their own people in equal measure. But others on the left not weighed down by the legacy of Stalinism echo Galloway’s attitude over Syria. John Rees, until a few years ago a leading member of the Socialist Workers’ Party, wrote last month that he was in “broad agreement” with Galloway and Ali.

Rees argues that it is necessary to “attempt to reassert the centrality of imperialism to developments in the Middle East”. His sentiment reflects the attitude of some who see developments in Syria as simply the next phase of the US drive to recolonise the Middle East. It is, they reason, a sequel to the 2003 Iraq War when Western governments and media used rhetoric about “liberation” and “democracy” to provide a cover for imperial conquest.

US Imperialism is not the central issue

full article here

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