Middle East

Debating the pro-Assad “Left”

Here are photos of East Ghouta today and Gaza in 2014 after Israel got done bombing there. Can you tell which is which? Yet many “socialists” seem to consider the mass slaughter in E. Ghouta acceptable.

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.

D__ makes much of some supposed involvement of US imperialism in the Syrian uprising and seems to be saying it was all a part of a US plot. When I was in Egypt during the Arab Spring, I met some Egyptians who had connections with the Republican (Party) Institute. Does that mean the Arab Spring in Egypt was all part of a plot by the Republican Party? Ridiculous. Of course US imperialism – like ALL imperialist powers – would try to find some crevice where they could find a handhold, but that doesn’t mean they ran the operation.
D__ gives quote after quote from Michael Chussodovsky. Chussodovsky  is a super conspiracy theorist who never, ever considers the working class as an actor on the stage of history. In this, he is just like the Arabists, who are the strategists for US imperialism who specialize in studying the Arab world. They, too, only see the different imperialist and sub-imperialist powers.  D__ and other “lefts” mimic Chussodovsky and the Arabists in this. They too in effect deny the role of the Syrian masses.
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.
D__, like others on the “left” (and I will justify using quotation marks later) makes much of Obama calling for Assad to step down. He forgets that Obama also called for Mubarak to step down. In both cases, Obama did so because he felt that both these rulers were going to be overthrown anyway, and they were an obstacle to capitalist stability in the region. Obama stuck with the call in relation to Assad for a while, but later in practice shifted his position. Although he never retracted that call, his aid to the FSA was tiny and only was used to control them. In one famous case, later in the Obama years, he and his ally – the Jordanian regime – prohibited what was probably the most effective wing of the FSA, the Southern Army – from attacking Assad’s forces.
By 2016, it was all but an open position that the only concern became the Islamic State. And Trump and high up members of his administration repeated time and again that “we” should be supporting Assad. So, if the “left” Assad supporters want to take Obama at his word early on that they were opposed to Assad, then they have to do the same regarding Trump’s verbal support for Assad.
Inconvenient facts
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 purpose of US imperialism for aiding the Kurds was several fold: One was to crush the Islamic State. Equally important was to limit the influence of Iran and Hezbollah, which they and their ally Israel saw as a threat. They also want to limit the influence of Russian imperialism, especially in the east, where Syria has a little bit of oil.
Then we get to 2017-18.  Even greater US involvement in support of the Kurds. In order to do what? Attack the Islamic State. And what’s happened since? Turkish imperialism has invaded in the west, where the US had helped the Kurds take power away from the Islamic State. Since then, the Kurdish forces have moved into open alliance with Assad, inviting him to send troops into that region that they control.
The main point in this narrative, though, which the “left” Assad supporters completely ignore, just as do the Arabists and one other element that I’ll get to in a minute, is the massive human suffering. About 500,000 Syrians killed, the overwhelming majority by the Syrian and Russian Air Force. Hospitals, public markets, residential neighborhoods relentlessly bombed. That is going on right now in Ghouta. Anybody can do a google or YouTube or Twitter search and see film after film, photo after photo, of the massive human suffering. There is also the use of chlorine and sarin gas by Assad’s regime. (As to the claims that it is the Islamic fundamentalists who are responsible: Every single one of the narratives making those claims have been decisively refuted. But what is really significant as far as the methods of the “left” Assad supporters is their response to Assad’s use of sarin in Khan Sheikhoun. There were three “alternative” claims as to what happened, starting with Putin the next day. Each one of these claims successively totally contradicted the previous one. Each one of them was seized by the “left” Assad supporters without a thought to that simple contortion of simple logic. It really shows their methods.)
What socialists should really stress is solidarity with the people of Syria. Every single independent grouping, from human rights groups to groups like Doctors Without Borders to UN agencies that in the past have condemned US imperialist actions as well as Israeli actions in Gaza – all of them point to Assad and Putin as being responsible for the war crimes in Syria. That include not only the murderous air campaign, but also the sieges, such as the ongoing one in Ghouta, where people are being starved into submission. Yet those crimes against humanity are ignored by the “left” Assad supporters. Either ignored or outright denied.

Assad is supported has in his administration the fascist Syrian Social Nationalist Party, whose symbol is a redrawn swastika.

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.

These “left” forces, in adopting the simplistic conspiracy theory approach, in ignoring or outright denying established fact, in putting forward “alternative facts”, is mimicking what happened in the left during the ‘30s and ‘40s, when Stalinism became dominant. Then, too, they denied all reports of Stalin’s crimes as, in effect, fake news. Then, too, they had their people who traveled to the Soviet Union as guests of Stalin and returned with reports of a workers’ paradise there. Now, we have “left” representatives from Kucinich and Gabbard to Vanessa Beely (who is hardly really a left in general) to lifetime socialists like Jeff Mackler and socialist and “peace” groups doing the same. What we have is the “red-brown alliance” being born – the alliance between the “left” and outright racists and fascists. And the nexus points are both Putin and Assad, both of whom count on outright fascists as their supporters in their respective home countries (Dugin and the Night Wolves among others in Russia, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party in Syria).
Along with this goes an intellectual dumbing down that mimics what is happening in US society in general. Rather than seriously looking at the class forces involved, they both search for any “facts”, anything they can find no matter the source, to “prove” their point of view. In this, they are like those who deny the fact of human caused global warming. That, too, is all a big plot you see.
Finally, as to the question about supporting the slogan “US imperialism out of Syria” – yes, but ONLY if we also add a call for ALL imperialist forces to get out, especially Russian and Iranian imperialisms (as well as Turkish imperialism and also, now Israeli imperialism). But I stress Russian and Iranian imperialism because these two forces are the main actors in Syria and are the ones causing the most killing and suffering. We real socialists are, after all, internationalists and our Number One concern should be allying with the working class in any country in the world, including Syria.
That is what “workers of the world, unite!” means, after all, isn’t it?
John Reimann
Added point:

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.

These same “opponents” to US imperialism had been totally silent just a couple of weeks earlier, when US forces bombed a mosque in Syria, killing about 40 or 50 men, women and children. And again, more recently, when US forces committed war crime after war crime in their bombing and shelling of Raqqa (as well, by the way, of the same in Mosul, Iraq). Why the silence? Because in those cases the war crimes were done in support of Assad. These “opponents” of US imperialism don’t really oppose US imperialism; they support Russian imperialism!


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.

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