Category Archives: Syria

US Out Of Syria And The Middle East

US Out of the Middle East, Los Angeles protest against bombing in Syria from ABC7.com.

Stop The Turkish Invasion Of Syria

The crisis in Syria has taken a new direction with the Turkish invasion into the Northeast ostensibly to push the Kurdish peoples out. The US has added to this crisis by its green light to Turkey to attack after using the Kurds as a proxy force in the battle against ISIS.

The US’ role in Syria and in the greater Middle East has been destructive throughout this century. The invasion and occupation of Iraq have left destruction and chaos. The illegal bombing of Libya and the brutal murder of its prime minister, Muammar al-Gaddafi, have created a failed state. The US’ alliance with Saudi Arabia in the war against Yemen has resulted in mass murder and destruction. The ongoing conflicts with Iran through illegal unilateral coercive measures (sanctions), regime change attempts, threats of war and military skirmishes have created more instability in the region. And, the US’ ‘special relationship’ with Israel has allowed continued ethnic cleansing and land theft from the Palestinians and has been a tool for instability in the region. The never-ending war in Afghanistan continues to cause destruction as the US remains even though it has been defeated.

These actions have resulted in more than a million deaths and mass migration, which has not only impacted the region but also Europe, causing political instability and the advance of right-wing, anti-immigrant forces. The Middle East was better off, more stable and wealthier before the disastrous US actions of this century. The illegal wars have cost the US trillions of dollars with no benefit. US policy has not served any positive purposes but has caused instability, conflict, and destruction. It is time for the US to get out of Syria and out of the Middle East.

Syria: A Major Defeat for the US and a Geopolitical Game Changer

Mobilization against war protest in Vancouver, Canada

Pepe Escobar describes Syria as the biggest defeat for the CIA since Vietnam. It is a significant defeat, but US losses in Iraq and Afghanistan are in the running for the worst defeat since Vietnam. Escobar describes the failure “as a massive geopolitical game-changer” that strengthens Assad as he retakes control of Northeast Syria. Russia benefits as a guarantor for Syria and key player in the victory over US regime change. The losers are the United States and Kurds.

The US’ contribution to the current chaos and destruction precedes Trump. While the brutal attacks by Turkey in Syria are being blamed on Trump, in reality, they go back to President Obama. Max Blumenthal reports in The Grayzone that “many [of the Turkish fighters] were former members of the Free Syrian Army, the force once armed by the CIA and Pentagon and branded as ‘moderate rebels.’” Blumenthal cites a research paper published this October by the pro-government Turkish think tank, SETA: “Out of the 28 factions [in the Turkish mercenary force], 21 were previously supported by the United States, three of them via the Pentagon’s program to combat DAESH. Eighteen of these factions were supplied by the CIA ….”  Further, the leader of this force is Salim Idriss, who hosted John McCain when the late senator made his infamous 2013 incursion into Syria.

The Turkish attack in Syria has been filled with ugly extreme violence that is causing outrage. Mercenaries are sawing the heads off of Kurdish fighters they have killed, a Syrian Kurdish legislator was pulled from her car and executed along with her driver, unarmed Kurdish captives were filmed as they were murdered, the corpse of a female Kurdish fighter was vandalized, ISIS captives were deliberately freed from unguarded prisons, and in a video message, one of the invading fighters promised mass ethnic cleansing if Kurds in the area refused to convert to his Wahhabi strain of Sunni Islam.

Ajamu Baraka points out that the US created the “Free Syrian Army” (FSA), who were the good guys when they were overthrowing Assad, but have now been turned into the “Turkish supported FSA,”  especially after the gruesome graphic videos of the Turkish invasion emerged. In reality, Baraka points out, “many of us knew, along with the CIA and most of the honest foreign policy community, that the FSA was always al-Qaeda’s Syria operation in the form of Jabhat al-Nusra and other jihadist militias.”

                             Listen to our interview with Ajamu Baraka on Clearing the FOG (available Monday).

Blumenthal concludes: “Left out of the coverage of these horrors was the fact that none of them would have been possible if Washington had not spent several years and billions of dollars subsidizing Syria’s armed opposition.”

These recent events need to be viewed through the context of sixty years of on-again, off-again coups and regime change campaigns that have failed. Timber Sycamore, the regime change project of the Obama administration, was a “secret” plan that allowed the CIA to arm terrorists in Syria. Timber Sycamore, which included Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, and Turkey working with the US, officially began in late 2012 and ended in failure in 2017. The secret program trained future ISIS members as part of covert aid to the insurgents targeting Bashar al-Assad. The US was duplicitous and used terrorism as a tool as documented in the book The Management of Savagery.

When Obama’s regime change strategy failed, the US switched to occupying one-third of Syria, including the oil region in the Northeast. In January, Secretary of State Tillerson announced the US was creating a de facto Kurdish State there with a 30,000-strong Syrian Defense Force (SDF) troop, US air support, and eight new US bases. In April 2018, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley announced the US planned to maintain its illegal presence in Syria.

Obama’s effort to dominate Syria was rooted in the Bush-era. In 2001, former NATO commander Wesley Clark was on record stating that Syria was on a list of targeted nations to be toppled by the US. In 2002, former Secretary of State John Bolton said, in a speech titled “Beyond the Axis of Evil“, that Syria was among a handful of nations the US was targeting. The 2011 protests in Syria were quickly manipulated by the US and foreign powers who sought to destabilize Syria. CIA-backed Muslim Brotherhood assets were in place to snipe at both police and protesters when the demonstrations broke out and Saudia Arabia provided weapons to aid regime change.

Caitlan Johnstone points to more evidence that Syria was not an organic uprising but a foreign regime change effort from the beginning:

The former Prime Minister of Qatar said on television that the US and its allies were involved in the Syrian conflict from the very beginning. A WikiLeaks cable and a declassified CIA memo both show the US government plotting to provoke an uprising in Syria exactly as it occurred, years before it happened. Former Foreign Minister of France Roland Dumas stated that he was informed that the UK was engineering an uprising in Syria two years before the violence erupted.

Even the Obama era regime change goal needs to be put in the context of over sixty years of the US trying to control Syria. The first coup attempt by the CIA after it’s creation was in Syria in 1949. Controlling Syria has been a consistent policy objective. CIA documents from 1986 describe how the US could remove the Assad family.

Each of Trump’s efforts to get out of Syria has been opposed by bipartisan war hawks. In March 2018, Trump tweeted that the US would soon be withdrawing from Syria. One month later Secretary of Defense Mattis told Congress the US was not withdrawing testifying, “We are continuing the fight, we are going to expand it and bring in more regional support.” In January, Trump called for withdrawal from Syria, which was met with a firestorm of opposition. He was outmaneuvered by war hawks in his administration and Congress.

There continues to be resistance to withdrawal today. The US is not leaving Syria but is merely moving troops from the Northeast to other areas. David Macilwain reports, “The truth of US intentions – to remain in Eastern Syria until they are driven out militarily – has now been emphasized by US Defence secretary Mark Esper. At a press conference where he confirmed the US intention to withdraw 1000 troops from Syria, when asked whether this meant from all of Syria he simply repeated what he had said –’from Northern Syria.’”

It is past time for the US to leave Syria and end its long term desire to dominate the country. People in the United States and around the world must insist on the US obeying international law, which means the US must leave Syria as it has no legal grounds for being in that sovereign nation.

The Rojava Cantons direct democracy governance without a state (Still from video)

Kurds in Syria Negotiate Their Future With Damascus

Kurds, who live in Turkey, Syria, Iraq , and Iran, are often regarded as “the largest ethnic group without a state.” With the US withdrawal from Northeast Syria, the Kurds in Syria are now working with Damascus to repel the Turkish invasion and negotiate their future.

In mid-2012, Assad’s forces largely withdrew from the Kurdish area, and the battle against ISIS was left to the Kurdish militias: the YPG (People’s Protection Units) and the YPJ (Women’s Defense Forces), the autonomous women’s militias. When the Free Syrian Army failed, the US funded the Syrian Kurdish militias known as the Peoples Protection Unit using a new name, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).  The Kurdish never targeted the Syrian government but focused on ISIS.

The Kurdish Rojava cantons are a liberated area in Syria led by socialist-feminists and a population that makes decisions through local councils. Their economy is based on a cooperative model with thousands of co-ops, but private businesses are allowed. The co-ops are initiated and controlled by the communes; i.e., the community assembly structures. Their basic principle is the participation of everyone in production. In the words of a minister of economics: “If a single loaf of bread is manufactured in Rojava, everyone will have contributed to it.”

Their governing model is direct democracy governance without a state, built on local assemblies. There are multiple levels with neighborhood councils, District Councils and a People’s Council for the entire region. And there is also ‘Democratic Self-Administration,’ which is a more conventional government structure of legislative and executive bodies as well as municipal administration. These bodies are not limited to Kurds but open to all religions and ethnicities. Women hold 40 percent of leadership positions at all levels. Three leftist enclaves make up an area slightly smaller than the state of Connecticut.

Some see Rojava’s governance without hierarchy, patriarchy or capitalism as a model for the future of the Middle East and beyond, and as an antidote to capitalism. It is the Communalist Model of Democratic Confederalism, an adaptation of the ideas of the Zapatistas in Chiapas and the work of Murray Bookchin.

In Turkey, Kurds remain part of Turkey and “have formed a political party (Peoples Democratic Party – HDP), which unites progressives of all ethnicities.  In the 2015 Turkish election, HDP emerged as the third most popular party and stopped Erdogan’s election domination.”  The HDP opposes Turkey’s invasion of Syria.

Turkey is concerned that the Kurds will use the territory they’ve captured to establish an independent Kurdish state for the region’s 25 to 35 million Kurds, roughly 15 million of whom reside in Turkey. Four percent of Kurds reside in Syria, approximately 1.6 million people. Kurds are the fourth largest ethnic group in the region after Arabs, Persians, and Turks. After the Ottoman Empire’s defeat in World War I, they were not granted a homeland.

Peace activists and popular movements around the world should be in solidarity with the Kurdish people’s desire for a semi-independent territory. A contiguous Kurdish state is an impossible dream and negotiation will be required by each population in the country where they reside.

US Out of Syria Internationalist protest in NYC (Internationalist photo).

US Out of Syria and Out of the Middle East

We agree with the US Peace Council, which urges “the US peace movement to organize a united national campaign in support of the Syrian people and demand the total withdrawal of all occupying forces from Syria. Leave Syria to the Syrian People!”

The movement’s first demand must be the US out of Syria and out of the Middle East because the US is not yet leaving Syria or the region. Reports indicate between 200 and 300 U.S. troops will remain at the southern Syrian outpost of Al-Tanf and 1,000 troops will shift into western Iraq adding to the more than 5,000 US troops in Iraq. US forces may conduct operations in Syria from Iraq.

On October 11, the US announced it was sending an additional 1,800 troops to Saudi Arabia. An additional 14,000 US troops have been deployed to the Middle East since spring, including more than 6,000 who are part of a naval strike group. The US is fighting in at least seven countries in the Middle East and North Africa: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Niger, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen.

We must also be in solidarity with the Kurdish people and call for an end to the Turkish invasion of Syria. The Turkish invasion is already backfiring and people mobilizing against the invasion will lead to its retreat.

And, we must accept immigrants from Syria, Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan where migration crises have been caused by US wars. Rebuilding nations destroyed by the United States is a costly endeavor that the US owes to the region. These countries do not want the US meddling in their efforts so compensation must be made through the United Nations without any strings attached.

Greater Middle East Project of Chaos

Destination Afghanistan was known as the big easy back in the halcyon days of the late 1960s. Hippies from throughout the affluent West hitchhiked to the capital, Kabul, where crash pads and hashish were cheap, and the locals were tolerant. Life appeared to be mellow in the scenic shadow of the Hindu Kush Himalayans. That was then.

Now Afghanistan is engulfed in year 18 of the forever US war with no end in sight. The war has gotten so old – the longest in US history – that the Pentagon PR flacks changed the code name from Operation Enduring Freedom to Operation Freedom’s Sentinel to spruce up its image.

Half of Kabul is now in rubble. Music, education for girls, and cultivation of opium poppies are prohibited in areas controlled by the former US-allied Taliban. US-backed warlords in the rest of this devastated land supply the majority of the world’s illicit heroin, visiting a plague of drug addiction on nearby Iran, China, and Russia – official US enemies – and on the ghettos, rural wastelands, and hipster dens of the West. US attempts at “reconstruction” of Afghanistan have cost $117 billion, eclipsing the price tag of the entire Marshall Plan for Europe.

So why is the US still in Afghanistan? The official explanation has something vaguely to do with the arch villain Osama bin Laden from Saudi Arabia who was last holed up in Pakistan before reportedly being assassinated by US special forces and unceremoniously dumped into the sea eight years ago.

Max Blumenthal’s The Management of Savagery (Verso, 2019) provides a far more cogent explanation for the US wars in Afghanistan along with Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Libya, and Syria with Iran on the to-do list (and may be on the war list by the time this article gets posted). Savagery reads like a real-life whodunit tracing the shadowy back channels of the CIA, FBI, DIA, and NSA piping jihadists around the greater Middle East to create chaos only to find their assets turning against them. Besides being well written, the analysis of the maturation of the neoliberal imperial project by the world’s sole remaining superpower illuminates the current bi-partisan consensus for militarism.

The politics of chaos

 The collapse of the Soviet Union left a geopolitical power vacuum and an opportunity for the US to more aggressively exert its imperial will. The ensuing politics of chaos produced some strange bedfellows: “human rights” thinktanks with Gulf monarchies, anti-Semites with Zionists, the US security state with jihadists, and neoconservatives with establishment liberals.

Bin Laden, according to Savagery, had a master plan to create “full chaos” in the greater Middle East, which he believed would precipitate the collapse of local regimes so that the culture of jihad could supersede them. Dovetailing this scenario was the neocon plan for regime change in regional states not subservient to US dictates and Israeli expansion. “In the global war bin Laden envisioned,” Blumenthal reports, “these [US] foreign policy fanatics would make the perfect partners.” Leading the charge were neocon Republicans like John Bolton and Elliot Abrams with the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), later to be joined by liberal Clinton Democrats.

Both foreign jihadists and domestic militarists needed a precipitating incident, what the PNAC envisioned as a “catastrophic and catalyzing event.” That came with 9/11. Blumenthal finds credence that the US government likely had some foreknowledge of the attacks, but accuses some Truthers of inadvertently running interference “for the imperialist power they claimed to disdain” by “omitting any historical discussion of the American government’s relationship with the forces directly implicated in the attacks.”

The Authorization for the Use of Military Force was passed just five days after 9/11 as a joint resolution of Congress with only one dissenting vote. “Congress thus voluntarily abdicated its constitution authority and,” according to Blumenthal, “gave its blessing to America’s forever war.” The Patriot Act followed a month later, “granting the executive branch unprecedented wartime powers to investigate and prosecute Americans.”

The neocons and the alt-right have been able to mainstream anti-Muslim politics in the US. Meanwhile the liberal “responsibility to protect” (R2P) doctrine has created popular support for forever war “by weaponizing the discourse of human rights to justify the use of force against governments that resisted the Washington consensus.” The R2P liberals achieved what the right could not.

“In the era of Russiagate, when so many liberals cling to institutions like the FBI and NATO as guardians of their survival,” Blumenthal explains, “the dastardly record of America’s national security mandarins has been wiped clean.” The forever wars are “marketed to the Western public as clinical exercises in freedom-spreading” with a “dual layer patina of patriotic hoopla [for the right] and humanitarian goodwill [for the liberals].”

The refugee crises coming out of the Middle East, generated by the forever wars and accompanying economic sanctions (more accurately, illegal unilateral coercive measures), have consequently fueled xenophobia both in the US and abroad. This, in turn, has fostered an ascendant wave of rightists. “Trump’s election,” Blumenthal contends, “would not have been possible without 9/11 and the subsequent military interventionism conceived by the national security state.”  The national security state did not arise with Trump, but “has maintained a steady continuity between successive administrations.”

Unwanted refugees are not the only inconvenient byproduct of the forever wars in the greater Middle East. The US security state’s alliance with jihadists to overthrow the Soviet-friendly government in Afghanistan – a pattern which is has been repeated in each subsequent Middle Eastern misadventure – has created a “disposal problem” of what to do with these US-armed combatants.

For Americans, the tragedy of 9/11 was just the most dramatic example of the “disposal problem.” “The plague of international jihadism that the United States helped to unleash through its covert interventionism in Cold War-era Afghanistan,” Blumenthal warns, “was to expand and metastasize…”

The neoliberal imperial project, a symbiotic association of liberal “military humanism” and right-wing straight-up militarism, is now showing signs of undoing according to Blumenthal:

Through covert operations and overt invasions, America’s national security state had destabilized entire regions, from the Levant to North Africa, unleashed a migration crisis of unprecedented proportions onto Europe and spurred an inevitable right-wing backlash that was unraveling the neoliberal consensus they sought to protect.

Critical reviews

In a critical review of Savagery, Louis Proyect finds himself “in agreement” on Afghanistan and Libya but not on Syria. Proyect rejects the analysis that the purpose of the US is or ever was regime change of the Assad government in Syria: “with the regime still intact, it might be obvious that this was never the goal.”  Proyect dismisses what otherwise the purpose of the US war effort might be with a “let’s leave that aside.” In contrast, regime change is the central thesis of Blumenthal’s book.

 Proyect accuses Blumenthal of being “one of Assad’s biggest supporters on the left,” though a reading of Savagery would suggest Blumenthal is not an apologist for the governments targeted by the US for regime change. In an interview after his recent visit to Syria, Blumenthal commented: “Whether or not Syria is a dictatorship or a police state; I would not dispute that at all.” Rather, the focus of Savagery is on the policies and actions of the US and its allies, the deleterious effects it has had on the people of the region, and the blowback it has had at home.

A critique in the Times Literary Supplement, from a liberal “humanitarian imperialism” point of view, kvetches:

It is easy to blame the United States for many of the world’s ills: easy because of the availability of evidence. It is also easy to overstate your case, with misleading or one-sided examples – the trap that Max Blumenthal falls into in The Management of Savagery.

Which raises the question of why, given “the availability of evidence,” the TLS and its co-conspirators in the corporate media unerringly fall into the opposite trap of being sycophants of the Empire? Why have they failed to connect the dots, as Blumenthal has, and shown “how America’s national security state fueled the rise of Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Donald Trump”?

US Democrats cultivated the Barbarism of Isis

There is something profoundly deceitful in the Democratic Party and corporate media’s framing of Donald Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Syria.

One does not need to like Trump or ignore the dangers posed to the Kurds, at least in the short term, by the sudden departure of US forces from northern Syria to understand that the coverage is being crafted in such a way as to entirely overlook the bigger picture.

The problem is neatly illustrated in this line from a report by the Guardian newspaper of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s meeting this week with Trump, who is described as having had a “meltdown”. Explaining why she and other senior Democrats stormed out, the paper writes that “it became clear the president had no plan to deal with a potential revival of Isis in the Middle East”.

Hang on a minute! Let’s pull back a little, and not pretend – as the media and Democratic party leadership wish us to do – that the last 20 years did not actually happen. Many of us lived through those events. Our memories are not so short.

Islamic State, or Isis, didn’t emerge out of nowhere. It was entirely a creation of two decades of US interference in the Middle East. And I’m not even referring to the mountains of evidence that US officials backed their Saudi allies in directly funding and arming Isis – just as their predecessors in Washington, in their enthusiasm to oust the Soviets from the region, assisted the jihadists who went on to become al-Qaeda.

No, I’m talking about the fact that in destroying three key Arab states – Iraq, Libya and Syria – that refused to submit to the joint regional hegemony of Saudi Arabia and Israel, Washington’s local client states, the US created a giant void of governance at the heart of the Middle East. They knew that that void would be filled soon enough by religious extremists like Islamic State – and they didn’t care.

Overthrow, not regime change

You don’t have to be a Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi or Bashar Assad apologist to accept this point. You don’t even have to be concerned that these so-called “humanitarian” wars violated each state’s integrity and sovereignty, and are therefore defined in international law as “the supreme war crime”.

The bigger picture – the one no one appears to want us thinking about – is that the US intentionally sought to destroy these states with no obvious plan for the day after. As I explained in my book Israel and the Clash of Civilisations, these haven’t so much been regime-change wars as nation-state dismantling operations – what I have termed overthrow wars.

The logic was a horrifying hybrid of two schools of thought that meshed neatly in the psychopathic foreign policy goals embodied in the ideology of neoconservatism – the so-called “Washington consensus” since 9/11.

The first was Israel’s long-standing approach to the Palestinians. By constantly devastating any emerging Palestinian institution or social structures, Israel produced a divide-and-rule model on steriods, creating a leaderless, ravaged, enfeebled society that sucked out all the local population’s energy. That strategy proved very appealing to the neoconservatives, who saw it as one they could export to non-compliant states in the region.

The second was the Chicago school’s Shock Doctrine, as explained in Naomi Klein’s book of that name. The chaotic campaign of destruction, the psychological trauma and the sense of dislocation created by these overthrow wars were supposed to engender a far more malleable population that would be ripe for a US-controlled “colour revolution”.

The recalcitrant states would be made an example of, broken apart, asset-stripped of their resources and eventually remade as new dependent markets for US goods. That was what George W Bush, Dick Cheney and Halliburton really meant when they talked about building a New Middle East and exporting democracy.

Even judged by the vile aims of its proponents, the Shock Doctrine has been a half-century story of dismal economic failure everywhere it has been attempted – from Pinochet’s Chile to Yeltsin’s Russia. But let us not credit the architects of this policy with any kind of acumen for learning from past errors. As Bush’s senior adviser Karl Rove explained to a journalist whom he rebuked for being part of the “reality-based community”: “We’re an empire now and, when we act, we create our own reality.”

The birth of Islamic State

The barely veiled aim of the attacks on Iraq, Libya and Syria was to destroy the institutions and structures that held these societies together, however imperfectly. Though no one likes to mention it nowadays, these states – deeply authoritarian though they were – were also secular, and had well-developed welfare states that ensured high rates of literacy and some of the region’s finest public health services.

One can argue about the initial causes of the uprising against Assad that erupted in Syria in 2011. Did it start as a popular struggle for liberation from the Assad government’s authoritarianism? Or was it a sectarian insurgency by those who wished to replace Shia minority rule with Sunni majority rule? Or was it driven by something else: as a largely economic protest by an under-class suffering from food shortages as climate change led to repeated crop failures? Or are all these factors relevant to some degree?

Given how closed a society Syria was and is, and how difficult it therefore is to weigh the evidence in ways that are likely to prove convincing to those not already persuaded, let us set that issue aside. Anyway, it is irrelevant to the bigger picture I want to address.

The indisputable fact is that Washington and its Gulf allies wished to exploit this initial unrest as an opportunity to create a void in Syria – just as they had earlier done in Iraq, where there were no uprisings, nor even the WMDs the US promised would be found and that served as the pretext for Bush’s campaign of Shock and Awe.

The limited uprisings in Syria quickly turned into a much larger and far more vicious war because the Gulf states, with US backing, flooded the country with proxy fighters and arms in an effort to overthrow Assad and thereby weaken Iranian and Shia influence in the region. The events in Syria and earlier in Iraq gradually transformed the Sunni religious extremists of al-Qaeda into the even more barbaric, more nihilistic extremists of Islamic State.

A dark US vanity project

As Rove and Cheney played around with reality, nature got on with honouring the maxim that it always abhors a vacuum. Islamic State filled the vacuum Washington’s policy had engineered.

The clue, after all, was in the name. With the US and Gulf states using oil money to wage a proxy war against Assad, Isis saw its chance to establish a state inspired by a variety of Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabist dogma. Isis needed territory for their planned state, and the Saudis and US obliged by destroying Syria.

This barbarian army, one that murdered other religious groups as infidels and killed fellow Sunnis who refused to bow before their absolute rule, became the west’s chief allies in Syria. Directly and covertly, we gave them money and weapons to begin building their state on parts of Syria.

Again, let us ignore the fact that the US, in helping to destroy a sovereign nation, committed the supreme war crime, one that in a rightly ordered world would ensure every senior Washington official faces their own Nuremberg Trial. Let us ignore too for the moment that the US, consciously through its actions, brought to life a monster that sowed death and destruction everywhere it went.

The fact is that at the moment Assad called in Russia to help him survive, the battle the US and the Gulf states were waging through Islamic State and other proxies was lost. It was only a matter of time before Assad would reassert his rule.

From that point onwards, every single person who was killed and every single Syrian made homeless – and there were hundreds of thousands of them – suffered their terrible fate for no possible gain in US policy goals. A vastly destructive overthrow war became instead something darker still: a neoconservative vanity project that ravaged countless Syrian lives.

A giant red herring

Trump is now ending part of that policy. He may be doing so for the wrong reasons. But very belatedly – and possibly only temporarily – he is closing a small chapter in a horrifying story of western-sponsored barbarism in the Middle East, one intimately tied to Islamic State.

What of the supposed concerns of Pelosi and the Democratic Party under whose watch the barbarism in Syria took place? They should have no credibility on the matter to begin with.

But their claims that Trump has “no plan to deal with a potential revival of Isis in the Middle East” is a giant red herring they are viciously slapping us in the face with in the hope the spray of seawater blinds us.

First, Washington sowed the seeds of Islamic State by engineering a vacuum in Syria that Isis – or something very like it – was inevitably going to fill. Then, it allowed those seeds to flourish by assisting its Gulf allies in showering fighters in Syria with money and arms that came with only one string attached – a commitment to Sunni jihadist ideology inspired by Saudi Wahhabism.

Isis was made in Washington as much as it was in Riyadh. For that reason, the only certain strategy for preventing the revival of Islamic State is preventing the US and the Gulf states from interfering in Syria again.

With the Syrian army in charge of Syrian territory, there will be no vacuum for Isis to fill. Its state-building rationale is now unrealisable, at least in Syria. It will continue to wither, as it would have done years before if the US and its Gulf allies had not fuelled it in a proxy war they knew could not be won.

Doomed Great Game

The same lesson can be drawn by looking at the experience of the Syrian Kurds. The Rojava fiefdom they managed to carve out in northern Syria during the war survived till now only because of continuing US military support. With the US departure, and the Kurds too weak to maintain their improvised statelet, a vacuum was again created that this time risks sucking in the Turkish army, which fears a base for Kurdish nationalism on its doorstep.

The Syrian Kurds’ predicament is simple: face a takeover by Turkey or seek Assad’s protection to foil Turkish ambition. The best hope for the Kurds looks to be the Syrian army’s return, filling the vacuum and regaining a chance of long-term stability.

That could have been the case for all of Syria many tens of thousands of deaths ago. Whatever the corporate media suggest, those deaths were lost not in a failed heroic battle for freedom, which, even if it was an early aspiration for some fighters, quickly became a goal that was impossible for them to realise. No, those deaths were entirely pointless. They were sacrificed by a western military-industrial complex in a US-Saudi Great Game that dragged on for many years after everyone knew it was doomed.

Nancy Pelosi’s purported worries about Isis reviving because of Trump’s Syria withdrawal are simply crocodile fears. If she is really so worried about Islamic State, then why did she and other senior Democrats stand silently by as the US under Barack Obama spent years spawning, cultivating and financing Isis to destroy Syria, a state that was best placed to serve as a bulwark against the head-chopping extremists?

Pelosi and the Democratic leadership’s bad faith – and that of the corporate media – are revealed in their ongoing efforts to silence and smear Tulsi Gabbard, the party’s only candidate for the presidential nomination who has pointed out the harsh political realities in Syria, and tried to expose their years of lies.

Pelosi and most of the Democratic leadership don’t care about Syria, or its population’s welfare. They don’t care about Assad, or Isis. They care only about the maintenance and expansion of American power – and the personal wealth and influence it continues to bestow on them.

Why Withdrawing US Troops from Northern Syria is GOOD

The foreign policy elite is in an uproar. They claim “we have abandoned our allies”. They question “how can America be trusted?” They say the decision to withdraw from northern Syria was a “gift” to Russia, Iran, and Assad, even ISIS. It is true that the policy of US/NATO interventionism is failing. But that has been true since the invasion of Iraq or earlier. After the disastrous invasions and attacks on Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, and the 8 year undeclared war on Syria, isn’t it time to  question the foreign policy elite?

If one believes in restoring international law and the UN Charter, it is GOOD that US military forces have been withdrawn from  northern Syria. Here are some facts and history which explain why.

Basic fact: It’s not our country and US troops were never authorized by the sovereign government. Whether or not Washington likes Damascus is irrelevant. Under international law those troops have no right to be there. Even the overflights of Syria by the US air coalition violate international agreements. It’s up to  Syrians to defend their country against invading Turkey. If they choose to get support from another country, that is their right.

Another fact: President Obama was correct when he said that “putting boots on the ground” in Syria would be a “profound mistake”. Later he said, “We have a very specific objective, one that will not lead into boots on the ground or anything like that.” But the hawks prevailed. There were not only “boots on the ground”, there was a shifting rationale why they had to be there.

The US and allies have done all they could, short of direct invasion, to overthrow the Syrian government. They have spent tens of BILLIONS of dollars in weapons, training, equipment, recruitment, etc. This is in violation of international law. More than one hundred thousand Syrians have died defending their country against a foreign sponsored army of mercenaries and foreign fighters.

An astonishing fact: The US encouraged the emergence of the Islamic State. Why? Because it put pressure on Damascus and because it justified the entry of the US.  While the US carpet bombed Raqqa, it looked the other way as hundreds of trucks conveyed oil from eastern Syria into Turkey to fund the Islamic State. The US air coalition attacked the Syrian Arab Army in the midst of a critical battle against ISIS near Deir Ezzor. In  a secretly recorded conversation in New York with Syrian “activists”, John Kerry admitted they were watching ISIS and hoping to use it to pressure Damascus. In other words, US foreign policy was duplicitous and used terrorism as a tool. This is well documented in the book The Management of Savagery.

After the US-backed “Free Syrian Army” failed, the US looked for another means to destabilize Syria. They started to fund  the Syrian Kurdish militias known as the Peoples Protection Unit (YPG /YPJ). They gave the militias a new name, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and encouraged the secessionist tendency. Meanwhile in Turkey, which has the largest Kurdish community,  most Kurds want to have their rights within Turkey and have formed a political party (Peoples Democratic Party – HDP) which unites progressives of all ethnicities. In the 2015 Turkish election this party emerged as the third most popular party and stopped Erdogan’s election domination. Currently the HDP is campaigning against Turkey’s invasion of Syria. As of 13 October the Syrian Kurdish militias have come to an agreement to work with Damascus to combat the Turkish invasion. The agreement specifies that the Syrian Arab Army will control and defend the entire area from Jarablus on the Euphrates River to the far eastern border with Iraq.

Advocates of US intervention claim that the Kurds were fighting and dying “for us.” That is not true. They were defending their own community. To the extent that they accepted and welcomed US air support, equipment, weaponry, etc. it was for their own benefit. There were two parties trying to use each other.

Whenever the US attacks or occupies a country it needs a rationalization. In 1991 there were false claims about incubators being stolen by Iraqi troops in Kuwait. In 2003 there were false claims about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. In 2011 there were false claims of civilians being threatened by Libyan troops in Benghazi. All these claims were subsequently found to be exaggerated or entirely false.

One of the main justifications for continuing US presence in Syria is “keeping our word” and not “abandoning” the Kurdish forces. This is a favorite rationalization for war. In Cuba, the CIA trained Cuban exiles that attacked Playa Giron “were counting on us.” Fortunately, JFK resisted the pressure and said “No”. In Vietnam, the US continued the war for a decade because we could not let down our “ally”, the government of Saigon. Millions of Vietnamese were killed plus 55,000 US troops because we could not “abandon” a government that in reality was a proxy.

In the Democratic Debates (15 October) Joe Biden said that the  withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria was “the most shameful thing any president has done in modern history in terms of foreign policy.” This is absurd. Over one million died in Iraq including 4500 and at least 100,000 severely injured US soldiers. Joe Biden was an influential supporter of the 2003 Iraq  invasion. Later, as Vice President, he supported the overthrow of the Libyan government. The country is still in chaos with tens of thousands dead.  These two countries were devastated by US actions. It is evidence of shameless unaccountability in media and politics that Joe Biden is a serious candidate for President after he destroyed so many lives at a cost of trillions. In the same Democratic debates Tulsi Gabbard was honest and accurate as she said that the plight of the Kurds in northern Syria is “yet another consequence of the regime change war we’ve been waging in Syria”.

Despite the howls of indignation and disinformation, withdrawing US troops from northern Syria is a step in the right direction.

Could Turkish Aggression Boost Peace in Syria?

On October 7, 2019, the U.S. President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of American troops from northeast Syria, where the contingent alongside Kurdish militias controlled the vast territories. Trump clarified that the decision is connected with the intention of Turkey to attack the Kurdish units, posing a threat to Ankara.

It’s incredible that the Turkish military operation against Kurds – indeed the territorial integrity of Syria has resulted in the escape of the U.S., Great Britain, and France. These states essentially are key destabilizing components of the Syrian crisis.

Could this factor favourably influence the situation in the country? For instance, after the end of the Iraqi war in 2011 when the bulk of the American troops left the country, the positive developments took place in the lives of all Iraqis. According to World Economics organization, after the end of the conflict, Iraq’s GDP grew by 14% in 2012, while during the U.S. hostilities the average GDP growth was about 5,8%.

Syria’s GDP growth should also be predicted. Not right away the withdrawal of U.S., French, British, and other forces, but a little bit later after the end of the Turkish operation that is not a phenomenon. The Turkish-Kurdish conflict has been going on since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire when Kurds started to promote the ideas of self-identity and independence. Apart from numerous human losses, the Turks accomplished nothing. It is unlikely that Ankara would achieve much in Peace Spring operation. The Kurds realize the gravity of the situation and choose to form an alliance with the Syrian government that has undermined the ongoing Turkish offensive.

Under these circumstances, Erdogan could only hope for the creation of a narrow buffer zone on the Syrian-Turkish border. The withdrawal of the Turkish forces from the region is just a matter of time. However, we can safely say that the Turkish expansion unwittingly accelerated the peace settlement of the Syrian crisis, as the vital destabilizing forces left the country. Besides, the transfer of the oil-rich north-eastern regions under the control of Bashar Assad will also contribute to the early resolution of the conflict.

It remains a matter of conjecture what the leaders of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Russia agreed on during the high-level talks. Let’s hope that not only the Syrians, but also key Gulf states are tired of instability and tension in the region, and it’s a high time to strive for a political solution to the Syrian problem.

Syria: Exposing Western Radical Collaboration with Imperialism

Despite so many self-defined radicals’ reading and claims to understand Gramsci’s corrective to Marxism-Leninism’s mechanistic understanding of the relationship between the base and the ideological superstructure, the ease by which some radicals are manipulated by the crude ideological machinations of the ruling class is truly astonishing. It is quite understandable that liberals would be manipulated by fairly innovative ideological gimmicks like the notion of “humanitarian intervention” and the “responsibility to protect,” which relied on the assumption, proving correct, that the liberal consciousness would react favorably to appeals to oppose “authoritarians” and authoritarian systems. However, I suspect that state propagandists didn’t realize the potential effectiveness of this ideological device when they first began to disseminate this framework for its ability to also mobilize radicals to the side of the bourgeois state and imperialist adventures.

The latest misadventures in Syria over the last few weeks revealed just how effective the bourgeois ideological apparatus has been in winning over not only liberals to support the “regime change” policies of the Obama administration in Syria, but also radicals and self-defined revolutionaries throughout the Western world.

The construction of the narrative in which street demonstrations against the Assad government would go from supposedly non-violent demonstrations to a “justifiable” call for armed struggle in a matter of weeks and gain support from Western radicals was an amazing feat.

Without rehashing the details and timeline of this sad spectacle — which resulted in millions internally displaced and as refugees, hundreds of thousands dead, the Syrian nation divided by sectarianism, and the state constricted with its territory occupied – it is, however, important to be reminded that the armed wing of the rebellion that received uncritical support from liberals and Westernized radicals was the “Free Syrian Army (FSA).”

When some of us warned Western radicals that they were being manipulated, that the so-called revolution in Syria had become fraudulent because it lacked an organic, independent social base, and was being driven by imperialist forces who cared little about democratic reforms, the working class or Syria as an independent sovereign state, we were condemned as “Assadists” and “Putin puppets.”

Expunged from acceptable discourse was any consideration of the relationship between oppressor and oppressed states, the real geostrategic and economic class and national interests in contention in Syria and the region, or the legality of intervention outside the framework of the United Nations Charter.

Instead, the hegemonic framing of Syria was driven by the convergence of a Left-Right, paternalistic form of white saviorism ethically legitimized by the concept of humanitarian intervention, itself constructed on the normalized belief in the superiority of  the white West, be it in its’ current capitalist form or its’ imagined socialist future. Politically, the logical stance for both versions of this Eurocentric self-delusion is that any people striving to emulate either of those Eurocentric visions should be supported.

However, in the case of Syria, that carefully constructed ideological framing is now imploding as a result of its own internal contradictions. The white supremacist “responsibility to protect,” the 21st century version of the “white man’s burden,” requires an adolescent bad guy-good guy framing. The dictator/authoritarian figure and the suffering people longing for freedom – Western style freedom that is- provided a familiar cultural framing for this epic struggle between “good” and “evil.”

In Syria, Assad was the villain and the Kurds the virtuous other who took on the savage forces of ISIS — that appeared out of nowhere according to this version of the story. While the Kurds were saving Western civilization from ISIS — and that is how it was framed because it is the only way real support is generated for non-European life (you have to be saving white folks) — the good guy revolutionaries and moderate opposition in the form of the FSA were fighting Assad to liberate the millions of people who didn’t seem to understand that they were being oppressed by Assad.

But all of that has now been turned on its head with the Trump administration’s decision to abandon the Kurds and give a green light to the illegal invasion of Syria by Turkey, with none other than the FSA acting as the point of the spear operating with the Turkish army to crush the Kurds.

In the anger toward Trump, the corporate press forgot the memo that the FSA were the good guys who had been supported by U.S. authorities from the very beginning of the manufactured war. The new framing became the “Turkish supported FSA,” especially after gruesome videos began to circulate that demonstrated in graphic images what many of us knew, along with the CIA and most of the honest foreign policy community, that the FSA was always al-Qaeda’s Syria operation in the form of Jabhat al-Nusra and other jihadist militias.

Independent journalist Aaron Mate, who was one of the many journalist smeared as an Assadist simply because he attempted to raise objective questions about what was unfolding in Syria and the impact of U.S. policies in the region, suggests that now that it is no longer viable to pretend that the FSA and the so-called moderate rebels ever existed, all those who smeared independent analysts on this question should apologize.

I am confident that an apology of that sort will never happen; nor do I think Aaron believes that either because arrogance and self-righteousness is so deeply ingrained into the cultural DNA of most Westerners. Similarly to how U.S. radicals desperately tried to find a revolutionary entity to support in Syria to justify their objective alignment with U.S. imperialism, they will find a way to explain away what everyone can clearly see today, that the war on the people of Syria was a monstrous crime against humanity.

Instead of apologies, real justice demands that there should be international prosecutions beginning with Obama, Clinton and all the Western leaders who perpetrated this crime.

The ideological struggle is real. It shapes consciousness and informs actions. There is no middle ground. Western radicals must take a consistent anti-imperialist position despite the internal contradictions or problems that exist within a state in the Global South. This is their task and responsibility, especially of those individuals and organizations that reside at the center of the empire.

What distinguishes the Western radical from its counterparts in the global South is the fact that Southern-based radicals understand that any nation that finds itself in the crosshairs of U.S. and Western imperialism is a nation that, in one way or another, is considered a threat to imperialist domination. Its time Western radicals understood this as well and stopped aligning themselves with the enemies of collective humanity.

It’s Curtains for US in Syria: Russia, Iran Owe Big Thanks to Erdogan

The scenario agreed on behind the curtains through months of confidential exchanges, often one-on-one, between the Russian and Turkish leaders regarding north-eastern Syria is entering a critical phase of implementation on the ground with the agreement between the Kurds and the Assad regime.

We have a complex scenario where on the one hand the Turkish army and the Syrian opposition units loyal to Ankara are relentlessly continuing their southward offensive expanding control over Syria’s border regions populated by the Kurds. According to Turkish President Recep Erdogan, 1000 sq.kms. of territory previously under Kurdish control have been “liberated.”

On the other hand, following up on the agreement with the Kurds, the first columns of Syrian government forces have moved into the north of the country toward the Turkish border.

Prima facie, Damascus is challenging the Turkish offensive — as it should — and, in principle, a confrontation can ensue. But things are never really quite what they appear on the surface in Syria.

A clash between the Turkish and Syrian forces is simply out of the question. That is not how the game is being played. A Turkish Defence Ministry statement on Monday disclosed that the military chief Gen. Yasar Guler and his Russian counterpart Gen. Valery Gerasimov were in contact on the phone and discussed the “security situation in Syria and recent developments.”

No further details have been divulged but the picture that emerges is that Russia proposed and Turkey agreed that Russian units will be patrolling between Turkish and Syrian forces in northern Syria after the withdrawal of the US troops from the area.

Accordingly, Moscow’s Defense Ministry has revealed that its military police in the Kurdish town of Manbij have begun patrolling along the Syria-Turkey border and interacting with Turkish authorities. Russian troops entered Manbij town with the Syrian government forces on Monday.

More importantly, through Russian mediation, Ankara and Damascus will prefer to agree on dividing the zones of control in northern Syria. That is to say, things are broadly moving in the direction of what the Adana Agreement of 1998 (over the Kurdish question) between Turkey and Syria had envisaged, namely, that the security of the Syrian-Turkish border will be a bilateral affair between Ankara and Damascus.

In the given situation, Turkey’s imperative need is to prevent a contiguous “Kurdistan” emerging on its borders. The so-called “safe zone” aimed at frustrating the US plans to create a Kurdistan in Syria akin to what it succeeded in creating in Iraq in the Saddam Hussein era.

Arguably, there could be congruence of interests between Ankara and Damascus on this score. (Tehran too has common interests with its two neighbours in this regard.)

Indeed, for Damascus all this is a bonanza insofar as the “deliberate withdrawal” (as Pentagon put it), or, more accurately, the inevitable eviction of the US troops in the northern regions of Syria triggered by the Turkish incursion, enables it to reoccupy parts of the northeast regions, especially those parts that are well-endowed with water resources and hydrocarbon reserves, which the American military had designated as its exclusive zone.

For President Bashar al-Assad, this is a great leap forward in the fulfilment of his pledge to reclaim control of entire Syria. (See the Euronews commentary Damascus is looking stronger than ever’: What next for Syria as Kurds join forces with Assad?)

As for the Kurds, they have nowhere to go but to settle with Damascus. They are simply no match for the highly professional Turkish army.

Clearly, the Turkish incursion and impending offensive against Kurds has made continued American military presence in northern Syria untenable and Russia has leveraged the situation to bring about the agreement between Kurds and Damascus.

Having succeeded in this endeavour, Russians have taken Turks into confidence. Unsurprisingly, President Recep Erdogan is nonchalant about the agreement between the Kurds and Damascus and has shrugged off the Syrian troop movements close to Turkey’s borders. He evasively referred to Vladimir Putin’s assurances.

In the final analysis, the Americans are paying a heavy price for being clever by half — stringing Turkey along in the recent years while methodically consolidating the ground for the creation of an autonomous Kurdistan on its borders, apart from arming and training the Kurdish militia to shape up as a regular army.

Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring in Northern Syria has reportedly advanced to a 1000 square kilometers area

Erdogan gave a long rope to the Americans to hang themselves, literally. When he struck, the contradictions in the US policy got exposed overnight — the game plan to balkanise Syria and overthrow Assad; the Faustian deal with a terrorist group that has been bleeding a NATO ally; and the geopolitical agenda to sever Iran’s axis with Syria and the Levant.

Suffice to say, with the eviction of the US forces from northern Syria, the Turks have achieved something that Russia and Iran (and Damascus) all along wished for but couldn’t attain. From this point onward, Russia and Iran will prevail upon Ankara to reconcile with Damascus.

The US has belatedly understood that Turkey has summarily terminated its 8-year old intervention in Syria to overthrow the Assad regime. The vitriolic reaction by Trump and US defence Secretary Mark Esper (here and here) is self-evident.

But the threat of US sanctions will not deter Erdogan, as the spectre of Kurdistan on its borders threatened Turkey’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and there is no scope for compromise when national security is under threat. By the way, the Turkish domestic opinion is overwhelmingly supportive of Erdogan.

Turkey was uncharacteristically patient with the US, hoping that the latter would give up the nexus with YPG (Kurdish militia) once the fight against ISIS got over. It is not Trump so much as the Pentagon that is responsible for the breakdown in trust between Turkey and the US. Like on most foreign policy issues, Washington had two policies on Syria — Trump’s and the US security and defence establishment’s.

The US has no locus standii under international law to keep a permanent military presence in Syria and when Trump first announced the troop withdrawal, it should have been implemented. But, instead, the Pentagon undercut Trump’s decision, whittled it down and finally ignored it altogether.

Erdogan knows that the US will huff and puff but will get used to the “new normal” in Syria. Europe won’t have an alibi either, as Russians will never allow ISIS to surge in Syria. Trump is reportedly deputing VP Mike Pence to travel to Turkey to seek a “negotiated settlement” — whatever that may mean in tackling the fait accompli that Erdogan has created.

Lessons Not Learned from History Can Kill You

The Kurds in Northern Syria have been abandoned by the United States military and left to the mercy/mercilessness of the invading Turks.

Is it a surprise?

Tibet expert Thomas Laird tells of an old Tibetan guerrilla who had supplied intelligence about Chinese atomic testing that was, according to CIA sources, “dollar for dollar, some of the most valuable intelligence of the Cold War.”1 Yet, according to the Laird, the guerrilla cum-invaluable intelligence asset was subsequently left to languish in poverty and anonymity.

In the 1960s, the CIA promised the Tibetan guerrillas that the United States wanted to help expel the Chinese from Tibet. However, in the 1970s, support to the Tibetan guerrillas was suddenly cut off.2

The result was hundreds of guerrillas killed, left-behind American ordnance killed children, and former allies were left in poverty.

It is not an unusual story of the US abandoning an ally. South Vietnam was quickly left to fend for itself as Americans scurried to rooftops and clambered onto helicopters to escape.3

There is also the little known history of Korea which shared an enemy with the US during WWII: imperialist Japan. At the war’s end, the general of the defeated Japanese, Abe Endo, surrendered the reins of self-government to Yo Un Hyung, a politician well regarded in both the south and north of Korea. Yo participated in the forming of People’s Committees in all Korean provinces and the Korean People’s Republic arose. However, Japanese general Kozuki Yoshio convinced his American counterpart, general John Hodge, that the new government in Korea was communist. Consequently, the communist-phobic US abolished the government of the Korean People’s Republic, and the United States Army Military Government was installed in the south of a truncated Korea.4

The abandonment of the Kurds is not a phenomenon attributable solely to president Donald Trump.

The US should never have been there in Syria the first place. The Syrian government never granted the US permission to enter sovereign Syrian territory. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad had made it known, “Any foreign troops coming to Syria without our invitation or consultation or permission, they are invaders, whether they are American, Turkish, or any other one.”

The Kurds — vulnerable, desperate, and longing as they may be for sovereignty over claimed lands — decided to align with the US. Still, this begs the question: given the history of the US abandoning erstwhile allies, why would anyone trust the US to uphold its end of an alliance?

Consider whence Americans came to be. Were they not originally Europeans, for the most part ex-pat Brits, who fought against their mother country for greater control over their own affairs in the 13 colonies? And how was it that the 13 colonies transformed into a continent-wide 50 states? Wars of extermination against the Indigenous peoples, broken treaties, war with Mexico, the annexation of Hawai’i, the enslavement of Africans — what sort of national psyche would be expected to emerge from such a historiography?5 The US Establishment seeks to depict the US as a beacon on the hill, an indispensable nation, and the land of the free. Yet the beacon’s light illuminates an undeniable history of genocide,6 unremitting racism, unremitting wars, and class war on its own citizenry.

Now, the Kurds have set aside any possible concerns about losing face and asked the Syrian government to intervene.

The lesson: beware of forging alliances with dubious allies.

  1. Thomas Laird, Into Tibet: The CIA’s First Atomic Spy and His Secret Expedition to Lhasa, location 160.
  2. Laird, loc. 163.
  3. See Earl Tilford, “Abandoning Vietnam: How America Left and South Vietnam Lost Its War (Book Review),” HistoryNet.
  4. Young Park, Korea and the Imperialists: In Search of a National Identity, (AuthorHouse, 2009): 188-192.
  5. The historical list of US acquired “possessions” is much longer and includes Puerto Rico, Guam, and Philippines from the US-Spanish War, the Canal Zone in Panama, and several Pacific Ocean islands, and the military occupation of the ethnically cleansed Chagos archipelago.
  6. “Somehow, even ‘genocide’ seems an inadequate description for what happened, yet rather than viewing it with horror, most Americans have conceived of it as their country’s manifest destiny.” Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, (Beacon Press, 2014): 79. Review.

Nuclear War: Just Another Day

Catastrophic events that send the world into turmoil happen on ‘just another day’. The atom bomb that exploded over Hiroshima took place while thousands of ordinary folk were just going about their everyday business on ‘just another day’. A missile attack on a neighbourhood in Gaza or a drone attack on unsuspecting civilians in Afghanistan: death and destruction come like a bolt from the blue as people shop at the local market or take their kids to school on ‘just another day’.

Will it be ‘just another day’ when the next nuclear bomb is exploded in anger, an ordinary day when people are just going about their daily business? By then it might be too late to do anything, too late to act to try to prevent an unfolding global catastrophe on a scale never before witnessed by humans.

Yet so many appear too apathetic and wrapped up in a world of gadgets, technology, shopping malls, millionaire sports players and big-time sports events to think that such a thing could be imminent.

Are they so preoccupied with the machinations of their own lives in cotton-wool cocooned societies to think that what is happening in Syria or Iraq is just too boring to follow or that it doesn’t really concern them or it is ‘not my problem’? Do they think they are untouchable, that only death, war and violence happens in faraway places?

Could any of us even contemplate that on some not-too-distant day a series of European cities could be laid waste within a matter of minutes? It isn’t worth thinking about. Or is it?

The US (and the West’s) foreign policy is being driven on the basis of fake morality and duplicity. Millions lie dead in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Libya as a result of US-led imperialism and nuclear-armed Russia is constantly demonised simply because it will not acquiesce to Washington and serve as a vassal state.

And now, as the US continues to stir up tensions with Iran and as China warns neighbouring countries about allowing US nuclear missiles aimed at it on their territories, much of the Western public and media remain oblivious to the dangers of conflict escalation and the biggest immediate threat to all life on Earth: nuclear war.

The threat of mass murder

Some fell to the ground and their stomachs already expanded full, burst and organs fell out. Others had skin falling off them and others still were carrying limbs. And one in particular was carrying their eyeballs in their hand.

The above extract comes from an account by a Hiroshima survivor talking about the fate of her schoolmates. In 2016, it was read out in the British parliament by Scottish National Party MP Chris Law during a debate about Britain’s nuclear arsenal.

In response to a question from MP George Kereven, the then British PM Theresa May said without hesitation that, if necessary, she would authorise the use of a nuclear weapon that would kill hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children. May also implied that those wishing to scrap Britain’s nuclear weapons are siding with the nation’s enemies.

Politicians like May read from a script devised by elite interests. This transnational capitalist class dictates global economic policies and decides on who lives and who dies and which wars are fought and inflicted on which people.

The mainstream narrative tends to depict individuals who belong to this class as ‘wealth creators’. In reality, however, these ‘high flyers’ have stolen ordinary people’s wealth, stashed it away in tax havens, bankrupted economies and have imposed a form of globalisation that results in devastating destruction and war for those who attempt to remain independent or structurally adjusted violence via privatisation and economic neoliberalism for millions in countries that have acquiesced.

While ordinary folk across the world have been subjected to policies that have resulted in oppression, poverty and conflict, this is all passed off by politicians and the mainstream media as the way things must be.

The agritech sector poisons our food and agriculture. Madelaine Albright says it was worth it to have killed half a million kids in Iraq to secure energy resources for rich corporations and extend the wider geopolitical goals of ‘corporate America’. The welfare state is dismantled and austerity is imposed on millions. The rich increase their already enormous wealth. Powerful corporations corrupt government machinery and colonise every aspect of life for profit. Environmental destruction and ecological devastation continue apace.

And nuclear weapons hang over humanity like the sword of Damocles.

The public is supposed to back this status quo in support of what? Austerity, powerlessness, imperialism, propping up the US dollar and a moribund system. For whom? Occidental Petroleum, Soros, Murdoch, Rothschild, BP, JP Morgan, Boeing and the rest of the elite and their corporations whose policies are devised in think tanks and handed to politicians to sell to a largely ignorant public: those who swallow the lie about some ‘war on terror’ or Washington as the world’s policeman, protecting life and liberty.

Rejecting hegemonic thought

Many believe nuclear weapons are a necessary evil and fall into line with hegemonic thinking about humanity being inherently conflictual, competitive and war-like. Such tendencies do, of course, exist, but they do not exist in a vacuum. They are fuelled by capitalism and imperialism and played upon by politicians, the media and elite interests who seek to scare the population into accepting a ‘necessary’ status quo.

Co-operation and equality are as much a part of any arbitrary aspect of ‘human nature’ as any other defined characteristic. These values are, however, sidelined by a system of capitalism that is inherently conflict-ridden and expansionist.

Much of humanity has been convinced to accept the potential for instant nuclear Armageddon hanging over its collective head as a given, as a ‘deterrent’. However, the reality is that these weapons exist to protect elite, imperialist interests or to pressure others to cave into their demands. If the 20th century has shown us anything, it is these interests are adept at gathering the masses under notions of flag, god and country to justify their slaughter.

To prevent us all shuddering with the fear of the threat of instant nuclear destruction on a daily basis, it’s a case of don’t worry, be happy, forget about it and watch TV. It was the late academic Rick Roderick who highlighted that modern society trivialises issues that are of ultimate importance: they eventually become banal or ‘matter of fact’ to the population.

People are spun the notion that nuclear-backed militarism and neoliberalism and its structural violence are necessary for securing peace, defeating terror, creating prosperity or promoting ‘growth’. The ultimate banality is to accept this pack of lies and to believe there is no alternative, to acquiesce or just switch off to it all.

Instead of acquiescing and accepting it as ‘normal’, we should listen to writer and campaigner Robert J Burrowes:

Many people evade responsibility, of course, simply by believing and acting as if someone else, perhaps even ‘the government’, is ‘properly’ responsible. Undoubtedly, however, the most widespread ways of evading responsibility are to deny any responsibility for military violence while paying the taxes to finance it, denying any responsibility for adverse environmental and climate impacts while making no effort to reduce consumption, denying any responsibility for the exploitation of other people while buying the cheap products produced by their exploited (and sometimes slave) labour, denying any responsibility for the exploitation of animals despite eating and/or otherwise consuming a range of animal products, and denying any part in inflicting violence, especially on children, without understanding the many forms this violence can take.

Burrowes concludes by saying that ultimately, we evade responsibility by ignoring the existence of a problem. The evasion of responsibility, acquiescence and acceptance are, of course, part of the conditioning process.

The ‘problem’ encompasses not only ongoing militarism, but the structural violence of neoliberal capitalism, aided and abetted by the World Bank, IMF and the WTO. It’s a type of violence that is steady, lingering and a daily fact of life under globalised capitalism.

Of course, oppression and conflict have been a feature throughout history and have taken place under various economic and political systems. Indeed, in his various articles, Burrowes goes deep into the psychology and causes of violence.

But there is potentially a different path for humanity. In 1990, the late British MP Tony Benn gave a speech in parliament that indicated the kind of values that such a route might look like.

Benn spoke about having been on a crowded train, where people had been tapping away on calculators and not interacting or making eye contact with one another. It represented what Britain had apparently become under Thatcherism: excessively individualistic, materialistic, narcissistic and atomised.

The train broke down. As time went by, people began to talk with one another, offer snacks and share stories. Benn said it wasn’t too long before that train had been turned into a socialist train of self-help, communality and comradeship. Despite the damaging policies and ideology of Thatcherism, these features had survived her tenure, were deeply embedded and never too far from the surface.

For Tony Benn, what had been witnessed aboard that train was an aspect of ‘human nature’ that is too often suppressed, devalued and, when used as a basis for political change, regarded as a threat to ruling interests. It is an aspect that draws on notions of unity, solidarity, common purpose, self-help and finds its ultimate expression in the vibrancy of community, the collective ownership of productive resources and co-operation. The type of values far removed from the destructive, divisive ones of imperialism and capitalism which key politicians and the corporate media protect and promote.

In Support of Brother Donald Lafleur, Executive Vice President, Canadian Labour Congress

Dear Comrades,

We write to you as fellow trade unionists and comrades dedicated in the struggle for workers’ rights in support of Donald Lafleur and his visit to the GFTU trade union congress in Damascus. Brother Lafleur has been unjustly placed on administrative leave despite the fact that he attended the meeting as a private individual, on his own time and at his own expense. The Union Executive is continuing its deliberations and considering further actions against him.  We demand that he be permitted to resume his full duties!

We are surprised by the witch hunt against a fellow comrade and double standards taken by western media and governments when it comes trade unionism in Syria! We draw your attention to the fact the Canadian Labour Congress has never endorsed the economic sanctions against Syria and we don’t believe it would ever support actions that would bring hardship and undermine fellow trade unionists.

Donald had the courage to accept an invitation to the congress in Syria in order to listen, learn, see with his own eyes and try to understand the experience of fellow trade unionists in Syria and the 42 other countries represented at the conference. Unlike many others, he kept an open mind and did not accept without question the one-sided accounts and demonization in the western media and governments.  Now he is under attack by those same media and governments, as well as the many, many persons and organizations that have been willingly brainwashed by the prevailing war propaganda. He deserves to heard and honoured for his efforts and solidarity, not pilloried and reviled.

And Donald learned a lot.

Syrian trade union members in Syria have for the last 8 years been standing alone in an unjust war against their nation and people. This war has brought terrorism on a scale never seen before and has deceitfully promoted the actions of terror groups as calls for freedom. It has made the peace-loving people, sacred sites and culture into victims of international terrorism, geopolitics and hegemony administered by imperialist powers and worsened by massive economic and humanitarian sanctions. Members of Syrian trade unions have spent many cold winters either mourning the loss of loved ones or caring for many of their injured comrades.

To date over 12,000 fellow union members were either killed or injured by terror groups in the last 8 years, and the fate of over 3000 kidnapped members is still unknown. Yet none of this is ever reported or relayed in western media.   Many of the workers were subjected to draconian and barbaric torture by the terror groups before they were killed, like the mutilation that happened to Issa Mahmood Hassan in Homs. Issa was a gas storage facility manager who was ambushed on his way to work and killed by armed militants belonging the so called “moderate rebels”. After severing his head from his body, they used his mobile phone to call his wife and describe in detail what they did to her husband. Other examples include the killing of railway workers while they were trying to repair the railway tracks between Aleppo and Hama in September 2011; the killing of electricians who were trying to repair electrical cables in Deir Ez-Zour and Homs and the atrocity committed in August 2012 by the so called “moderate rebels” in Al-Baba, in the North of Aleppo Province, where the rebels threw post office workers off the roof of their work building. However, none of those incidents ever received sympathy in European Media.

Terrorists throwing post office workers from the rooftop in Aleppo

The massacres that were committed in December 2013 by the rebels (Jabhat al-Nusra) in Aadra Al-Oumaliah against the GFTU workers and their family members were war crimes on a mass scale. Hundreds of workers and their families were either burnt in their homes or abducted, raped and mutilated in the streets. like Nabil Barakat (a trade union members) whose wife, three children and sister were all killed by the armed rebels.

Nabil Barakat Family, Murdered by “rebels” in 2013

We urge full restoration of Brother Lafleur’s status and authority. Instead of treating brother Donald Lafleur with disrespect and ostracism, we must all stand by him, and hear about his experiences. We also urge other trade union members to visit Syria and find more about what is going on there directly rather than being brainwashed by one-sided mainstream media reports. We hope that you will stand by the side of Donald Lafleur as well as brother Syrian trade union members and help them to overcome the injustices that have been imposed upon them.

Signed,

Fellow delegates to the GFTU Trade Conference in Syria (signatures pending confirmation)

NAME

POSITION

ORGANIZATION (for identification only)

Richard Sterling

Journalist and retired union member

Graphic Communications International Union (GCIU)

Col. Alain Corvez

Former advisor to French government ministries and UNIFIL in Lebanon

French Army

Issa Al-Chaer

Associate Professor

Syria Solidarity Movement
Syrian Social Club (UK)

Judith Bello

Board Member, SSM
Adminitration Committee Member, UNAC

Syria Solidarity Movement (SSM), United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC)

Mark Taliano

Research Associate, Global Research

Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War

Hassan Husseini

Former President, Ottawa District Council

Canadian Union of Public Employees

Ajamu Baraka

National Organizer

Black Alliance for Peace

Paul Larudee

Former President, Chapter 841

Piano Technicians Guild

Rania Khalek

Journalist

Maffick Media

Max Blumenthal

Journalist
Former director of Anacostia Writers Guild

The Grayzone

Anya Parampil

Journalist
Former member of Anacostia Writers Guild

The Grayzone

Tiffany Flowers

Vice President and Deputy Director of Organizing, Local Chapter 400

United Food and Commercial Workers

Yasemin Zahra

Chair, Board of Directors

US Labor Against the War

Yvette Shamier

Independent

Robert Shamier

Lawyer

Independent

Roger Harris

Journalist, environmentalist, former union member

Teamsters

Mpho Massemola

Secretary General

Ex-Robben Island Political Prisoners Association of South Africa

Amal Wahdan

Chairperson

Shaikh Hassan Foundation

Tim Anderson

Director

Centre for Counter-Hegemonic Studies

Francis Hughes

Trade Union Member

Unite the Union