I had an online debate with a long time former friend and comrade about Assad and Syria. Important enough as the issue of the disaster in Syria is, there’s a deeper issue too: In following the simplistic conspiracist theories like those of Michael Chussodovsky (quoted below), socialists and others have completely lost their way; they have fallen into the same methods of the Trump supporters – ignoring or outright denial of proven fact, considering everything that’s inconvenient to be fake news, refusing to consider the class forces at work. On this basis, a real working class socialist movement will never be built.
Response to pro-Assad “left”
I’m in West Virginia right now and lack the time and energy to respond point for point to D__s “history”, but I can’t let it go unanswered. Yes, US imperialism had its conflicts with Assad, although they also worked closely together as Assad’s Syria was a favorite end point for Bush’s extraordinary rendition program.
There is also an element of chauvinism in this: Here we have a regime that, just like its counterparts throughout the region, has carried out the dictates of the World Bank in privatizing everything in sight, driving the peasants off the land, ending price supports, and opening up the economy to the ravages of world capitalism. Meanwhile, as Naomi Klein described in “The Shock Doctrine”, they massively enriched themselves. And all was done through massive repression – in Assad’s case meaning imprisonment, wide scale torture, rape of women. You name it. Yet when the people saw a chance and rose up against this, these conspiracy theorists cannot see the masses as an actor. They must be simply a tool of somebody. Why cannot the Arab masses be actually thinking and acting on their own behalf? The only explanation I can find for this sort of thinking is chauvinism or racism towards Arab people and people in the Islamic world in general.
But, anyway, here’s where the actual facts on the ground get a little more inconvenient for the “left” Assad supporters. Starting under Obama, but even more so under Trump, US imperialism did start to intervene on a larger scale, including starting to send troops. And how did they intervene? Whom did those US troops work with? Remember? It was the PYD – the Kurds! And right from the very start, the PYD had at the very least a non-aggression pact with Assad. Right from the very start, they were repressing any anti-Assad groups or forces in Rojafa/Afrin.
The “left” Assad supporters have a close ally: The chauvinist, racist, and at times outright fascist forces. From the Italian fascist Northern League to Greece’s Golden Dawn, to the British National Party – they all openly support Assad. So does the US’s David Duke as well as the fascist/racist Traditional Workers Party here. Almost all of them, if not all, have been guests of Assad. They are joined, by the way, by Alexander Dugin, the father and theoretical leader of Russian fascism. Dugin, by the way, is also closely linked with the Putin regime, which is also supported by almost all these other fascist forces.
I forgot one other point, and that is the hypocrisy of the “left” Assad supporters, who hide behind “opposition” to US imperialism. They screamed bloody murder when US imperialism bombed the al Shayrat air field. That was the airfield used when Syrian planes dropped sarin gas on Khan Sheikhoun, and the US “attack” on it was largely symbolic as they warned Assad in advance. It was so light that the air field was up and running within 24 hours.
Chussodovsky’s “Global Research” “Time line of U.S. Intervention in Syria” that the above replies to.
2006-2011 Prior to the onset of the Syrian war, the U.S. stirs up opposition to Syrian government (Assad). An April 18, 2011 article reads “Newly released WikiLeaks cables reveal that the US State Department has been secretly financing Syrian opposition groups and other opposition projects for at least five years, The Washington Post reports.”
March 2011 Daraa violence launches Syrian war. “The Daraa ‘protest movement’ on March 17-18 had all the appearances of a staged event involving covert support to Islamic terrorists by Mossad and/or Western intelligence.” “In Daraa, roof top snipers were targeting both police and demonstrators.” [Notice that this technique also occurred in the Kiev, Ukraine violence.] See also here.
August 18, 2011 Obama says Assad must go. “President Obama and European leaders called Thursday for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to resign, after months of his violent crackdown on protesters. The rhetorical escalation was backed by new U.S. sanctions designed to undermine Assad’s ability to finance his military operation.”
August 1, 2012 “Obama authorizes secret support for Syrian rebels”. “The full extent of clandestine support that agencies like the CIA might be providing also is unclear.”
October 2, 2013 “The CIA is expanding a clandestine effort to train opposition fighters in Syria amid concern that moderate, U.S.-backed militias are rapidly losing ground in the country’s civil war, U.S. officials said.” “The pace of the CIA program amounts to a trickle into the ranks of opposition fighters, who total about 100,000. U.S. intelligence officials said that as many as 20,000 of those are considered ‘extremists’ with militant Islamist agendas.”
“Those hard-line factions have drained momentum and support from moderate rebel groups. The most prominent Islamist groups, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Jabhat al-Nusra, include fighters who have extensive experience from the war in Iraq, have ties to al-Qaeda and have carried out high-profile strikes against Assad’s government.”
April 23, 2014 “The U.S. is providing more arms and training to the moderate rebels in Syria, under a growing secret program run by the CIA in Jordan.” “Skeptics doubt the U.S. effort will help much, given the weakened state of the opposition and the inroads made by al-Qaida fighters. The moderate fighters being supported currently have relatively little influence on the ground.”
Oct. 2, 2015 “The CIA has provided the thousands of fighters it has trained at secret bases in Jordan with communications equipment, intelligence support and arms, including antitank missiles. Those CIA-backed fighters reentered Syria across that country’s southern border with Jordan, but many have made their way into units that are now arrayed north and east of Damascus — areas that have been pounded by Russian strikes over the past several days.”
In my opinion, the most serious U.S. meddling is what the Wikileaks cables reveal, which is the State Department’s organization of domestic opposition to its elected government. This provoked the revolution that started in Daraa, and that provided an opening for radical and armed Muslim elements to enter the battle. Next in importance is Obama’s position that Assad must go, because this guides the entry of the CIA and Pentagon into the war while committing the U.S. to a politically untenable and impossible course of attempting to reconstitute a new government among radical and rival forces if and when Assad falls or rebel forces gain control. Undetermined but significant amounts of arms and training have ended up flowing to ISIS and other radical groups that the U.S. cannot control, and these forces can’t be dislodged without bigger military commitments by the U.S. Neither the CIA’s activities nor the Pentagon’s failed training program have resulted in control over the battlefield or those groups, which have expanded control over Syrian territory.
Why did Obama intervene in Syria? There are four main reasons and they are not mutually exclusive. One reason is “democracy promotion”. This appears again and again in his rhetoric and that of the State department, where “democracy” is taken to mean “rights” among other things. Obama viewed Assad as standing in the way of the Syrian people. Obama’s intention to bomb Syria when he accused Assad of using chemical weapons brought out a version of this position in his concern for violations of international law. Obama has an idea of world order and the U.S. role in enforcing it. Obama’s position on the Arab Spring also showed this democracy promotion concern. The second reason is to thwart Iran in order to maintain U.S. dominance in the region. Related to this is U.S. support for Saudi Arabia and Gulf states who have also supported rebel elements in Syria as well as support for Turkey.. The U.S. leads a coalition. The third reason is Israel’s influence in administration circles and on Capitol Hill. The fourth reason is to thwart Russia’s influence in Syria and deny it access to the Mediterranean. This appears to have backfired.