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Re: Removing Assad
Reply #375


Quote
Once more the western 'anti-war' movement has awoken to mobilise around Syria. This is the third time since 2011. The first was when Obama contemplated striking the Syrian regime's military capability (but didn't) following chemical attacks on the Ghouta in 2013, considered a 'red line'. The second time was when Donald Trump ordered a strike which hit an empty regime military base in response to chemical attacks on Khan Sheikhoun in 2017. And today, as the US, UK and France take limited military action (targeted strikes on regime military assets and chemical weapons facilities) following a chemical weapons attack in Douma which killed at least 34 people, including many children who were sheltering in basements from bombing.

The first thing to note from the three major mobilisations of the western 'anti-war' left is that they have little to do with ending the war. More than half a million Syrians have been killed since 2011. The vast majority of civilian deaths have been through the use of conventional weapons and 94 per cent of these victims were killed by the Syrian-Russian-Iranian alliance. There is no outrage or concern feigned for this war, which followed the regime's brutal crackdown on peaceful, pro-democracy demonstrators. There's no outrage when barrel bombs, chemical weapons and napalm are dropped on democratically self-organized communities or target hospitals and rescue workers. Civilians are expendable; the military capabilities of a genocidal, fascist regime are not. In fact the slogan 'Hands off Syria' really means 'Hands off Assad' and support is often given for Russia's military intervention. This was evident yesterday at a demonstration organized by Stop the War UK where a number of regime and Russian flags were shamefully on display.

This left exhibits deeply authoritarian tendencies, one that places states themselves at the centre of political analysis. Solidarity is therefore extended to states (seen as the main actor in a struggle for liberation) rather than oppressed or underprivileged groups in any given society, no matter that state's tyranny. Blind to the social war occurring within Syria itself, the Syrian people (where they exist) are viewed as mere pawns in a geo-political chess game. They repeat the mantra 'Assad is the legitimate ruler of a sovereign country'. Assad - who inherited a dictatorship from his father and has never held, let alone won, a free and fair election. Assad - whose 'Syrian Arab Army' can only regain the territory it lost with the backing of a hotchpotch of foreign mercenaries and supported by foreign bombs, and who are fighting, by and large, Syrian-born rebels and civilians. How many would consider their own elected government legitimate if it began carrying out mass rape campaigns against dissidents? It's only the complete dehumanization of Syrians that makes such a position even possible. It's a racism that sees Syrians as incapable of achieving, let alone deserving, anything better than one of the most brutal dictatorships of our time.

For this authoritarian left, support is extended to the Assad regime in the name of 'anti-imperialism'. Assad is seen as part of the 'axis of resistance' against both US Empire and Zionism.  It matters little that the Assad regime itself supported the first Gulf war, or participated in the US illegal rendition programme where suspected terrorists were tortured in Syria on the CIA's behalf. The fact that this regime probably holds the dubious distinction of slaughtering more Palestinians than the Israeli state is constantly overlooked, as is the fact that it's more intent on using its armed forces to suppress internal dissent than to liberate the Israeli-occupied Golan.

This 'anti-imperialism' of idiots is one which equates imperialism with the actions of the US alone. They seem unaware that the US has been bombing Syria since 2014. In its campaign to liberate Raqqa from Daesh all international norms of war and considerations of proportionality were abandoned. Over 1,000 civilians were killed and the UN estimates that 80 per cent of the city is now uninhabitable. There were no protests organized by leading 'anti-war' organizations against this intervention, no calls to ensure that civilians and civilian infrastructure were protected. Instead they adopted the 'War on Terror' discourse, once the preserve of neo-cons, now promulgated by the regime, that all opposition to Assad are jihadi terrorists. They turned a blind eye to Assad filling his gulag with thousands of secular, peaceful, pro-democracy demonstrators for death by torture, whilst releasing militant-Islamists from prison. Similarly, the continuing protests held in liberated areas in opposition to extremist and authoritarian groups such as Daesh, Nusra and Ahrar Al Sham have been ignored. Syrians are not seen as possessing the sophistication to hold a diverse range of views. Civil society activists (including many amazing women), citizen journalists, humanitarian workers are irrelevant. The entire opposition is reduced to its most authoritarian elements or seen as mere conduits for foreign interests.

This pro-fascist left seems blind to any form of imperialism that is non-western in origin. It combines identity politics with egoism. Everything that happens is viewed through the prism of what it means for westerners - only white men have the power to make history. According to the Pentagon there are currently around 2000 American troops in Syria. The US has established a number of military bases in the Kurdish-controlled north for the first time in Syria's history. This should concern anyone who supports Syrian self-determination yet pales in comparison to the tens of thousands of Iranian troops and Iranian backed Shia militias which are now occupying large parts of the country, or the murderous bombing raids carried out by the Russian air force in support of the fascist dictatorship. Russia has now established permanent military bases in the country, and has been handed exclusive rights over Syria's oil and gas as a reward for its support. Noam Chomsky once argued that Russia's intervention could not be considered imperialism because it was invited to bomb the country by the Syrian regime. By that analysis, the US's intervention in Vietnam was not imperialism either, invited as it was by the South-Vietnamese government.

A number of anti-war organizations have justified their silence on Russian and Iranian interventions by arguing that 'the main enemy is at home'. This excuses them from undertaking any serious power analysis to determine who the main actors driving the war actually are. For Syrians the main enemy is indeed at home - it's Assad who is engaging in what the UN has termed 'the crime of extermination'. Without being aware of their own contradictions many of the same voices have been vocally opposed (and rightly so) to Israel's current assault on peaceful demonstrators in Gaza. Of course, one of the main ways imperialism works is to deny native voices. In this vein, leading western anti-war organizations hold conferences on Syria without inviting any Syrian speakers.

The other major political trend to have thrown its weight behind the Assad regime and organize against US, UK and French strikes on Syria is the far right. Today, the discourse of fascists and these 'anti-imperialist leftists' is virtually indistinguishable. In the US, white supremacist Richard Spencer, alt right podcaster Mike Enoch and anti-immigration activist Ann Coulter are all opposing US strikes. In the UK former BNP leader Nick Griffin and Islamophobe Katie Hopkins join the calls. The place where the alt-right and alt-left frequently converge is around promoting various conspiracy theories to absolve the regime of its crimes. They claim chemical massacres are false flags or that rescue workers are Al Qaeda and therefore legitimate targets for attack. Those spreading such reports are not on the ground in Syria and are unable to independently verify their claims. They are often dependent on Russian or Assad state propaganda outlets because they 'don't trust the MSM' or Syrians directly affected. Sometimes the convergence of these two seemingly opposite strands of the political spectrum turns into outright collaboration. The ANSWER coalition, which is organizing many of the demonstrations against a strike on Assad in the US, has such a history. Both strands frequently promote Islamophobic and anti-Semitic narratives. Both share the same talking points and same memes.

There are many valid reasons for opposing external military intervention in Syria, whether it be by the US, Russia, Iran or Turkey. None of these states are acting in the interests of the Syrian people, democracy or human rights. They act solely in their own interests. The US, UK and French intervention today is less about protecting Syrians from mass-atrocity and more about enforcing an international norm that chemical weapons use is unacceptable, lest one day they be used on westerners themselves. More foreign bombs will not bring about peace and stability. There's little appetite to force Assad from power which would contribute to ending the worst of the atrocities.  Yet in opposing foreign intervention, one needs to come up with an alternative to protect Syrians from slaughter. It's morally objectionable to say the least to expect Syrians to just shut up and die to protect the higher principle of 'anti-imperialism'. Many alternatives to foreign military intervention have been proposed by Syrians time and again and have been ignored. And so the question remains, when diplomatic options have failed, when a genocidal regime is protected from censure by powerful international backers, when no progress is made in stopping daily bombing, ending starvation sieges or releasing prisoners who are being tortured on an industrial scale, what can be done.

I no longer have an answer. I've consistently opposed all foreign military intervention in Syria, supported Syrian led process to rid their country of a tyrant and international processes grounded in efforts to protect civilians and human rights and ensure accountability for all actors responsible for war-crimes. A negotiated settlement is the only way to end this war - and still seems as distant as ever. Assad (and his backers) are determined to thwart any process, pursue a total military victory and crush any remaining democratic alternative. Hundreds of Syrians are being killed every week in the most barbaric ways imaginable. Extremist groups and ideologies are thriving in the chaos wrought by the state. Civilians continue to flee in their thousands as legal processes - such as Law No.10 - are implemented to ensure they will never return to their homes. The international system itself is collapsing under the weight of its own impotence. The words 'Never Again' ring hollow. There's no major people's movement which stands in solidarity with the victims. They are instead slandered, their suffering is mocked or denied, and their voices either absent from discussions or questioned by people far away, who know nothing of Syria, revolution or war, and who arrogantly believe they know what is best. It is this desperate situation which causes many Syrians to welcome the US, UK and France's action and who now see foreign intervention as their only hope, despite the risks they know it entails.

One thing is for sure - I won't lose any sleep over targeted strikes aimed at regime military bases and chemical weapons plants which may provide Syrians with a short respite from the daily killing. And I will never see people who place grand narratives over lived realities, who support brutal regimes in far off countries, or who peddle racism, conspiracy theories and atrocity denial, as allies.

This is a weird slice of "the left" that I haven't really come across, to be honest.

Along the lines of what tioh is saying, it's much more that the expectation is that Western military intervention will almost inevitably make things worse, not better. It has nothing to do with defending Assad's legitimacy, or Russia, or anything like that.

Where are the successful models we can point to here for Western intervention making things better? My recollection from a few years back was that plenty of research bore out that foreign military intervention was worse on the whole for civilian populations.

Re: Removing Assad
Reply #376
I've seen a few people throwing out the whole "how do we know its not a false flag" thing. Now some of them are definitely on the side of "make sure we know what happened before doing anything- and make sure what you do will improve things", as with this woman, but there are a few of them who have definitely bought into some of the conspiracy theories.
Why do I bother?

Re: Removing Assad
Reply #377
This is a weird slice of "the left" that I haven't really come across, to be honest.

it's basically a broadside against tankie morons who operate on a very crude "enemy of my enemy" logic that sees the US as so bad that they'd probably uphold al queda. like their "line" on the ypg is that because the US is offering support, they are tools in US imperial ambition. which, granted, the US isn't going to support anyone who they believe is a threat to its geopolitical designs but this is a really grim logic for not supporting an actual grassroots democratic movement that is successful at beating fascists and zealots. (also lol the US makes its own monsters on the regular, see the aforementioned al queda)

it's not wrong about the tankies, but the thing is that they're way louder than their numbers would indicate. but because they've been organizing around a very specific anti-war agenda they can actually mobilize a lot more people than actually agree with their overall ideas. so you might actually have come across them in their various front group guises but they may not have let you in on the higher mysteries of why the DPRK and the lion assad are cool and good actually.

anyway, i like the idea of "precision strikes" because it's a great encapsulation of the general failure of thinking around this issue. like, hey, i won't lost sleep over military bases and chemical weapons plants that get blown up. i might lose sleep over hospitals and medicine factories that were were totally sure were military targets, ah well gotta break a few eggs.

Re: Removing Assad
Reply #378
I've seen a few people throwing out the whole "how do we know its not a false flag" thing. Now some of them are definitely on the side of "make sure we know what happened before doing anything- and make sure what you do will improve things", as with this woman, but there are a few of them who have definitely bought into some of the conspiracy theories.

on the other hand have you, like, heard of the CIA?

Re: Removing Assad
Reply #379
See I always thought of the CIA as being all about conspiracies until after the fact when they were all "damn straight we organised a coup in your country and replaced a democratically elected socialist with a totalitarian military regime"...
Why do I bother?

Re: Removing Assad
Reply #380
anyway, i like the idea of "precision strikes" because it's a great encapsulation of the general failure of thinking around this issue. like, hey, i won't lost sleep over military bases and chemical weapons plants that get blown up. i might lose sleep over hospitals and medicine factories that were were totally sure were military targets, ah well gotta break a few eggs.

usually i like being proven right, but...

At destroyed Syria lab, workers say they produce antidotes to snake venom not toxic weapons

eta: like i'd really rather be wrong here, i'd really rather this report be bullshit and this was actually a weapons plant.
  • Last Edit: April 15, 2018, 06:34:48 AM by the idea of Harambe

Re: Removing Assad
Reply #381
I've seen a few people throwing out the whole "how do we know its not a false flag" thing. Now some of them are definitely on the side of "make sure we know what happened before doing anything- and make sure what you do will improve things", as with this woman, but there are a few of them who have definitely bought into some of the conspiracy theories.

The "false flag" idea was floated by Russian troll networks weeks before the attack and is being amplified by them now. Very strong evidence this is not a false flag.

Re: Removing Assad
Reply #382
anyway, i like the idea of "precision strikes" because it's a great encapsulation of the general failure of thinking around this issue. like, hey, i won't lost sleep over military bases and chemical weapons plants that get blown up. i might lose sleep over hospitals and medicine factories that were were totally sure were military targets, ah well gotta break a few eggs.

usually i like being proven right, but...

At destroyed Syria lab, workers say they produce antidotes to snake venom not toxic weapons

eta: like i'd really rather be wrong here, i'd really rather this report be bullshit and this was actually a weapons plant.

That's not an antibody production facility you idiot.

Re: Removing Assad
Reply #383
e.g. where are the fucking horses

Re: Removing Assad
Reply #384
whoa, chill out.

Re: Removing Assad
Reply #385
e.g. where are the fucking horses
Ask pence

Re: Removing Assad
Reply #386
I should clarify.... 

mainly I support continuing obama's mix of syria policies, which (contrary to his rhetoric) trump has continued more or less unchanged, until he said last week that he'd break them off.  I think they were more or less working and pushing things toward a sustainable truce and a non terrible negotiated settlement.  if trump recommits to supplying and supporting sdf and various smaller factions we've worked with,

lol the jerusalem post: Prevent The Rise of a North Korea-Style Kurdish Dictatorship

Quote
A communist Kurdish state, under the ostensible authority of the PKK and formed with the support of the US, will find a gateway to the entire Middle East.

  • uncool
Re: Removing Assad
Reply #387
Hey tioH, I'm curious:

You have one of the views closest to isolationism that I know. Is there a point at which (or situation in which) you would support direct military intervention, and if so, what is it?

my stance is based on my inability to trust the US government to not fuck up, so it's basically contingent on that.
Hrm. Is there some point where you would say "Even the US couldn't screw it up worse than this"?

Re: Removing Assad
Reply #388
Hey tioH, I'm curious:

You have one of the views closest to isolationism that I know. Is there a point at which (or situation in which) you would support direct military intervention, and if so, what is it?

my stance is based on my inability to trust the US government to not fuck up, so it's basically contingent on that.
Hrm. Is there some point where you would say "Even the US couldn't screw it up worse than this"?

in theory, if a particular conflict zone were completely depopulated aside from combatants and rendered incapable of supporting a long-term civilian population, it would be impossible for the US to make it any worse. although i guess even then they could escalate a conflict and cause it to spread out from the dead zone.

Re: Removing Assad
Reply #389
being a bit more serious: military interventionism defenders like to use WW2 as an argument in their favor. it's compelling because it is as close to a pure good/evil battle as you are likely to get. it's also pretty fucking exceptional. like, counting it as a win for US intervention, the scorecard's gotta be something like 1 for 20 or something. but another thing about it is that it occurred in the context of ideological conflict on a stage of serious world powers.

the US had a serious ideological opponent in the USSR. it was operating not just with the forces of, but in the territory of, nations which were its partners and near-equals in power. it thus had an incentive to good behavior after the war. so it's not really so much that something has to be as dire as the nazi regime and the holocaust for me to trust the US to not fuck up a situation worse. rather, there has to be some incentive for the US to not fuck up in humanitarian terms, otherwise it really has very little reason to care. in WW2, this incentive was a geopolitical contender with a radically different vision for the world that the US had to struggle to make itself look better than, for an audience of nations that were close to being peers. the context in which WW2 occurred was so different from most US military interventions that i really think there's no reason to take anyone seriously for using it as an argument.

lacking something like a context in which the US feels the need to perform goodness because actors in that context can actually hold it accountable with real consequences for its actions, i don't trust it to not fuck things up further because the US simply does not have any real interest in humanitarian goals in its geopolitics. since such goals aren't a priority, they are expendable. only context forces the US to make them a priority.

Re: Removing Assad
Reply #390
I feel like US interventions in the Balkans were actually pretty successful, all said and done.

Re: Removing Assad
Reply #391
Hey tioH, I'm curious:

You have one of the views closest to isolationism that I know. Is there a point at which (or situation in which) you would support direct military intervention, and if so, what is it?

my stance is based on my inability to trust the US government to not fuck up, so it's basically contingent on that.
Hrm. Is there some point where you would say "Even the US couldn't screw it up worse than this"?

in theory, if a particular conflict zone were completely depopulated aside from combatants and rendered incapable of supporting a long-term civilian population, it would be impossible for the US to make it any worse. although i guess even then they could escalate a conflict and cause it to spread out from the dead zone.
So we should resolve all our conflicts by sending the troops to the moon first?

I can get behind that. :)

Re: Removing Assad
Reply #392
I feel like US interventions in the Balkans were actually pretty successful, all said and done.
Given what the alternative would have been like, yes. But it wasn't just the US, you had the whole of NATO getting involved, as well as UN peacekeepers. I don't see anyone offering that as a solution to the Syrian civil war, or until recently, the Syrians themselves wanting that kind of intervention.
Why do I bother?

Re: Removing Assad
Reply #393
No one has offered it because Russia is vetoing anything that comes through the UNSC and Turkey is vetoing anything that comes through NATO. The issue is not multilateralism so much as that key players in both organizations have a vested interest in keeping the massacre going.

  • el jefe
  • asleep till 2020 or 2024
Re: Removing Assad
Reply #394
I feel like US interventions in the Balkans were actually pretty successful, all said and done.
also, the first gulf war was basically a clean, positive success.  unfortunately, its results are lost in the mess bush junior created with his needless follow up.

there won't be greater nato involvement in syria than we already have, because russia thinks of their military bases there as their last major outposts beyond the old USSR and won't back down as a matter of national pride.

  • Faid
Re: Removing Assad
Reply #395
I feel like US interventions in the Balkans were actually pretty successful, all said and done.
:whyyou:
Who even made the rule that we cannot group ducks and fish together for the simple reason that they are both aquatic? If I want to group them that way and it serves my purpose then I can jolly well do it however I want to and it is still a nested hierarchy and you can't tell me that it's not.

Re: Removing Assad
Reply #396
don't you just hate it when a superpower uses its UN veto to protect its client state's atrocities?

Re: Removing Assad
Reply #397
I feel like US interventions in the Balkans were actually pretty successful, all said and done.
also, the first gulf war was basically a clean, positive success.  unfortunately, its results are lost in the mess bush junior created with his needless follow up.

there won't be greater nato involvement in syria than we already have, because russia thinks of their military bases there as their last major outposts beyond the old USSR and won't back down as a matter of national pride.
The first Gulf War was one nation launching an unprovoked attack on another. Intervention was limited to kicking them out and restoring the status quo. I don't see it as the same thing at all.
Why do I bother?

  • ksen
Re: Removing Assad
Reply #398
don't you just hate it when a superpower uses its UN veto to protect its client state's atrocities?
:popcorn:

  • el jefe
  • asleep till 2020 or 2024
Re: Removing Assad
Reply #399
I feel like US interventions in the Balkans were actually pretty successful, all said and done.
also, the first gulf war was basically a clean, positive success.  unfortunately, its results are lost in the mess bush junior created with his needless follow up.

there won't be greater nato involvement in syria than we already have, because russia thinks of their military bases there as their last major outposts beyond the old USSR and won't back down as a matter of national pride.
The first Gulf War was one nation launching an unprovoked attack on another. Intervention was limited to kicking them out and restoring the status quo. I don't see it as the same thing at all.
I didn't think it was comparable.  I'm just coming up with examples of where a US-led military intervention was constructive, in case anyone is categorically doubting that they can be.