Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

December 6, 2014

Syria: Top 12 Essential Articles

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 2:01 pm

Syria: Top 12 Essential Articles

 

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The Top 12 list is the result of a poll, which was presented in several media collectives working on Syria.
The “Further Reading” list below contains the articles that didn’t make the top 12. We encourage you to read all of them to gain a better understanding of the situation in Syria.

1. Syrian rebels overwhelmingly condemn US bombing as an attack on revolution

By Michael Karadjis

In extraordinary developments, the United States, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Jordan have launched a joint air war, on Syrian territory, with the full support of the Syrian tyranny of Bashar al-Assad, on the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS).

What hope is there then in Syria, where the Assad regime has been far more murderous than Maliki, has wiped entire Sunni towns and cities off the map and sent millions into exile? While the US now acts as Assad’s airforce to help smash the revolution, a stabilisation of the situation will eventually require the long-term US aim of doing some deal that encourages Assad and a narrow circle around him to “step down” in order to save the Baathist regime and its military-security apparatus, and to “widen” it by allowing in some select conservative opponents into the regime. The so-called ‘Yemeni solution.’ The difficulty being that the Assad ruling family and mega-capitalist clique is so much more completely associated with the state than a mere Saleh or Mubarak ever was.

Is an attempt to crush the revolution for the regime a prelude to a plan with regime insiders and international factors to gently push Assad aside when it’s over to gain a modicum of Sunni support to replace ISIS on the ground? Like everything else, this remains to be seen, but is one of the possibilities – as is the possibility that the crushing of the revolution simply means the current regime becomes the “factor of stability” in the region.

2. an introduction to syria – its history and its present revolutionary struggles 

By yasmeen mobayed
the syrian revolution began in march 2011, after 9-15 year old kids were inspired by the uprisings in the MENA. the first protests began in dara’a, syria – several children graffitied anti-government slogans on their school wall and were taken by assad’s forces, interrogated, and tortured (they were severely beaten and their nails were removed). on march 15th, the children’s families and the community responded by protesting for the children to be returned; however, not all the children were released. this sparked the beginning of the revolution.

on friday march 18th, cities throughout syria collectively united in solidarity with dara’a, but security forces immediately responded by firing bullets on the peaceful demonstrations, killing 6 people on the very first day. after march 18th, syrians went out to protest every day (the ba’ath flag was used by demonstrators for nearly a year and a half before the independence flag that we see today was fully adopted). it’s important to note that at first the revolution’s demand was for mere reforms, but after experiencing the regime’s hostile and vicious response, the people demanded the downfall of the regime in its entirety.

 
3.  ‘Take Your Portion': A Victim Speaks Out About Rape in Syria 

By LAUREN WOLFE

Alma Abdulrahman’s story fits her name — alma can mean a number of things in Arabic. It can mean “dark” or “black” but it can also refer to a lush kind of tree that is a metaphor for beauty. And the horrors she describes have positioned her to become the face of powerful women survivors in Syria. She says she has fought and killed; she also says she has done it for her country. She says she has endured torture and violation but that she is “capable of standing up against oppression.” Speaking out has been a decision she has made after many months of being told to stay quiet.

“We have to share this with the entire world to show that women are fighters,” she says. “The Arab woman is very strong. All she needs is just a little freedom.”

4. The Anti-Imperialism of Fools 

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

5. A Friend of my Father: Iran’s Manipulation of Bashar al-Assad​  

BY BASSAM BARABANDI AND TYLER JESS THOMPSON
The March 2011 uprising presented an irresistible opportunity for Iran to assert permanent dominance throughout greater Syria. Iran acted quickly, sending Secretary Jalili to Damascus just days after protesters took to the streets in Daraa. Jalili pitched the Iron Curtain plan to Bashar’s inner circle, assuring them that he knew the formula to neutralize protesters effectively. Iranian officials encouraged Assad to avoid concessions that could limit their influence over Assad’s inner circle. As the tensions evolved into armed conflict, Iran immediately sent advisors, snipers, and special forces to support Bashar. To compensate for defections from his officers, Bashar padded his loyalist camp with fighters and strategic planners from Iran and Hezbollah. Hafez spent decades protecting himself from such an incursion, but by late 2011, his son was desperate for a friend.

6. How Syria’s Assad Helped Forge ISIS 

By Simon Speakman Cordall
Mohammed Al-Saud is under no illusions. “In 2011, the majority of the current ISIS leadership was released from jail by Bashar Al Assad,” he said. “No one in the regime has ever admitted this, or explained why.” Al-Saud, a Syrian dissident with the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, left Syria under threat of arrest in 2011.

Alghorani is convinced that members of ISIS were released strategically by Assad. “From the first days of the revolution (in March 2011), Assad denounced the organisation as being the work of radical Salafists, so he released the Salafists he had created in his prisons to justify the claim … If you do not have an enemy, you create an enemy.”

Fellow Syrians agree. “The regime did not just open the door to the prisons and let these extremists out, it facilitated them in their work, in their creation of armed brigades,” a former member of the Syrian Security Services told the Abu Dhabi newspaper, the National, on condition of anonymity in January this year.

“The regime knew what these people were. It knew what they wanted and the extent of their networks. Then it released them. These are the same people who are now in Iraq,” Al-Saud added.

7. SYRIA: A reading into the new wave of European far-right and the reasons behind its support for the Syrian regime 

Originally published in Arabic on Al-Manshour 
By Hisham Al Ashqar

Translated by Laila Attar and Ubiydah Mobarak from Arabic for Tahrir-ICN

News of the visits of fascist and far-right groups to Syria, to show solidarity with the regime, have recently started to emerge, especially with the beginning of the revolutionary process in the Arab region. It seems that the Syrian issue ranks highly on the agenda of the European far-right. So, is it axiomatic to say that the majority of the European far-right supports Assad’s regime and stands against the revolution in Syria?

8.  Syrian Fascism and the Western Left  

by Nicole Gevirtz

The Ba’athist kind of, dare I say, tribal imperialism, can only rule through brutal terror and oppression. This is exacerbated when a minority rules. Sectarian animosity has been relentlessly exacerbated by the regime’s narratives and actions, not by the popular rebellion for democracy. Sectarian blackmail remains one of the last tools in Bashar’s arsenal that can still mobilize large segments of the Syrian population to support him. Every undermining of the government, no matter how slight, is seen as a challenge to the neo-Ba’athist tribal hegemony. Such a security state apparatus, by its very nature, is destined to be immersed in a bloodbath of its own making. The horrors in Syria today are absolutely comparable to the Nazi death camps, yet the American anti-Zionist Left is denying their pain while quoting Hannah Arendt. Even American pro-Palestinian organizations are describing the Syrian people as Wahabi-NATO-Zionists. Lebanese pseudo-secular hipsters and Hezbollah fanboys don´t know, or seem to care, that Iran cooperated with George W. Bush in Iraq but they use the disastrous Iraq war as an example for not intervening in Syria. They don´t even know basic facts about Syria, and as a result, Western Leftists have become pro-fascists; they are making speeches in praise of Assad in Syria itself – at the scene of the genocide. Others, often the same ones who refused to recognize George Bush’s election results, were praising Assad’s alleged victory in the farcical election there over the forces of imperialism and Islamism.

This is not unlike going to Germany to praise Hitler’s plan to “settle the Jews in the east” as a victory over the Jewish plot. At least the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide did not attempt to have a presidential election in the middle of the bloodshed. The Western Left has become an obstruction in the way of truth, life and freedom… at least for Syrians; the victims of this generation’s greatest humanitarian crisis. Real revolutionaries, and anyone with some common human decency, should treat these fascists the same way they treat any other fascists; with absolute contempt.

9. Tortured and killed: Hamza al-Khateeb, age 13

By Hugh Macleod and Annasofie Flamand

The child had spent nearly a month in the custody of Syrian security, and when they finally returned his corpse it bore the scars of brutal torture: Lacerations, bruises and burns to his feet, elbows, face and knees, consistent with the use of electric shock devices and of being whipped with cable, both techniques of torture documented by Human Rights Watch as being used in Syrian prisons during the bloody three-month crackdown on protestors.

Hamza’s eyes were swollen and black and there were identical bullet wounds where he had apparently been shot through both arms, the bullets tearing a hole in his sides and lodging in his belly.

On Hamza’s chest was a deep, dark burn mark. His neck was broken and his penis cut off.

“Where are the human rights committees? Where is the International Criminal Court?” asks the voice of the man inspecting Hamza’s body on a video uploaded to YouTube.

“A month had passed by with his family not knowing where he was, or if or when he would be released. He was released to his family as a corpse. Upon examining his body, the signs of torture are very clear.”
10. Bashar Al Assad: An Intimate Profile of a Mass Murderer 

By Annia Ciezadlo
To Bashar and his wife, it wasn’t the Syrian regime that required real reform. It was the Syrian people. Asma’s official biography, passed to me by an old friend of Bashar’s, distills their governing ideology. It reads like a tract from Rand Paul: Syrians need to stop depending on the state and assume “personal responsibility for achieving the common good,” the document proclaims, adding, “the sustainable answer to social need is not aid but opportunity” and “creating circumstances where people can help themselves.” That the Assad family and its loyalists have been helping themselves to Syria’s national wealth for decades does not enter into this narrative.

11. Exploding the myth of Syria being ‘anti-imperialist’ 

By Workers International
While the Assad regime may have ‘nationalised’ the oil and gas sectors of the economy, these are partnerships with imperialist companies and not under workers control. For example the Loon Lattakia oil company is a partnership with Mena which is a Canadian oil companyGulfsands Petroleum operates extensively in Syria- Gulfsands is in part controlled by the infamous Blackrock Investments, Schroder Investments, Goldman Sachs and Cheriot Norges bank. The bank of America, Barclays, AIG and Merrill Lynch, as shareholders in Blackrock are thus also participants in the imperialist operations in Syria. Earlier this year, imperialist magazine, World Finance, awarded Rami Makhlouf an award as visionary business leader. Makhlouf is part of the Assad family that through Cham Investment Group, Mada Transport (a motor assembly operation) and Real Estate Bank, control over 60% of the Syrian economy on behalf of imperialism.  Makhlouf and other Syrian capitalists have opened their warehouses as prisons as the official prisons are overflowing with the regime’s captives. Yet the Syrian CP insists that the regime is ‘anti-imperialist’!

The Communist Action Party in Syria confirms that when the Assad coup took place the local capitalist class was not expropriated and continued to operate. Thus when the oil and gas sector were nationalised, it was a state capitalist regime that made this raw material available for imperialist exploitation- the state using part of the revenue to create perks such as free education and health care to create capitalist stability. [Free education and free health care are not in themselves indicators of a ‘socialist’ regime. Saudi Arabia and some other capitalist countries also have free education and health care but are brutal anti-worker regimes. Even if education may be offered free, under capitalism it is still a tool to brainwash the working class and produce tame and obedient wage slaves for capitalist needs.]

12. Every Friday: New Slogans of the People’s Revolution 

By Not George Sabra
The democratic people’s revolution in Syria has accomplished something of world-historic importance: it has united both the imperialists and the anti-imperialists against it. Eastern imperialism led by Russia arms Bashar al-Assad to the teeth, Western imperialism led by the U.S. continues its heavy arms blockadeon Assad’s opposition, and so-called anti-imperialists led by As’ad Abu Khalil,George GallowayRand PaulCynthia McKinney, Stop the War Coalition, andANSWER Coalition relentlessly slander the uprising every step of the way in every conceivable way.

One fact that exposes the falseness of the imperialist-anti-imperialist alliance narrative is how the revolution’s supporters choose the names of their weekly mass protests. These protests have taken place in cities and villages across Syria after Friday prayers on every Friday without exception since the revolution began on March 15, 2011; they are the pulse of the struggle, the voice of the formerly voiceless, a chronicle of each twist and turn their struggle for freedom has taken.
Anywhere between 14,000 and 30,000 people vote democratically for their preferred slogans.
FURTHER READING
Blog Rolls and Compilations

- Everything from Michael Karadjis 

- Everything from Clay Claiborne on Syria 

- Everything from WE WRITE WHAT WE LIKE 

SYRIAN REVOLUTION: ARCHIVE

Useful Articles on the Syrian Revolution from MENA

History and Analysis

 The roots and grassroots of the Syrian revolution 

-  SYRIA: AN ILLUSIONED UNDERSTANDING 

-  SYRIA: The life and work of anarchist Omar Aziz, and his impact on self-organization in the Syrian revolution  

The Vocabulary of Sectarianism 

The Multiple Layers of the Syrian Crisis 

 
The Opposition

A MODERN HISTORY OF THE FREE SYRIAN ARMY IN DARAA 

-  List of armed groups in the Syrian Civil War 

-  SYRIA: The struggle continues: Syria’s grass-roots civil opposition

 
Geo Politics 

The US, Iran, Russia-Syria and the geopolitical shift: Anything for the region’s oppressed? 

Why Now? US Airstrikes on Syria 

Yet again on those hoary old allegations that the US has armed the FSA since 2012  

We Stand Behind the Syrian People’s Revolution – No to Foreign Intervention 

Naame Shaam Report: IRAN IN SYRIA – From an Ally of the Regime to an Occupying Force

 

 

ASSad

Assad emails: father-in-law gave advice from UK during crackdown 

Inside Assad’s Playbook: Time and Terror 

Bashar Assad and the Death of History  
ISIS

- On ISIS. How did the sectarian nightmare come true in Syria and Iraq? 

Assad Has Never Fought ISIS Before 

SYRIA: ‘Revolution within the revolution’ :The battle against ISIS

EXCLUSIVE: Shaikh Hassan Abboud’s final interview 

Palestine

On the Issue of Palestinian Support for the Assad Regime 

- Syria and the Palestinians: ‘Almost no other Arab state has as much Palestinian blood on its hands’ 

- How Not to Be in Solidarity with Palestinians Refugees in Yarmouk  

A guide for the Palestinian or “pro-Palestinian” shabiha sympathizer in your life 

 

Fascism

A red-brown alliance for Syria 

SYRIA: Who are Assad’s fascist supporters?  

IS FASCISM INFILTRATING OUR RALLIES?

Neo-liberal Politics of the Syrian Regime

-  Revolts in Syria: Tracking the Convergence Between Authoritarianism and Neoliberalism

 Revolts in Syria: Regime Neoliberalism, Fundamental Changes, Decolonial Arab Revolution, and Syria’s Revolt

Chemical Attacks

Syria’s Ghouta Gas Massacre of August 21, 2013: The US let it happen and the Left tried to cover it up. 

- Syria: #BreathingDeath Commemorating Actions of Those Killed in Ghouta 

- #BreathingDeath Chemical Timeline English Version 

Ghouta, the Planned Attack (Only a part of the documentary)

Promo 2 | first anniversary of the chemical massacre in Syria

Syria: List of names from the Chemical Attack in East Ghouta- NYC 08/22/14 

- Interview with Hamid Imam: “Ask me what is happening in Syria!”-NYC 08/22/14

- Qusai Zakarya: I was gassed by Bashar Al-Assad

Speak4Syria: Qusai Zakarya

-50 Documented Violations Of The UN Security Council Resolution 2118 Through Using Poison Gases In 50 Attacks-What Is Behind The Red Line?
South-American Connections

The Cuban Regime’s International Impact on Human Rights: Syria 

Assad and Kirchner pledge mutual support 

Syrian TV – Message from President al-Assad to President of Cuba on the latest developments in Syria, conveyed by al-Mikdad 

How Cuba and Venezuela Scabbed on the Syrian Revolution
Kurds

Syria-Report From Aleppo 9/30/2014: Assad Continues Targeting Civilians; Special ANA Press Exclusive Report on Kobani  

On the Syrian Revolution and the Kurdish Issue – an interview with Syrian-Kurdish activist and journalist Shiar Nayo 

 
The Position of the Western ‘Left’

Alternative Left Perspectives on Syria  

The role of US Imperialism in Syria and the Left’s Dilemma

Selective Internationalism: An Activist Disorder

 

November 16, 2014

Rojava: Syria’s secret revolution

Filed under: Kurd,Syria — louisproyect @ 2:37 pm

October 22, 2014

Charles Glass on the “improving” situation in Syria

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 1:06 pm

Charles Glasshole

The latest issue of the New York Review of Books has an article by Charles Glass titled “In the Syria We Don’t Know” that has been making the rounds on the Internet. I have seen links to it from Vijay Prashad on Twitter, on the Greenleft mailing list in Australia, and just this morning on ZNet. Apparently, those who link to it must have taken heart in Glass’s assurance that the Baathists were getting the upper hand:

As Bashar’s prospects improve with each American sortie against his enemies in the east of the country, Damascus and the populous towns to the north have been enjoying a respite of sorts from war. The Syrian Ministry of Education reported that, of the 22,000 schools in the country, more than 17,000 of them reopened on time in the middle of September. Needless to say, almost all of the functioning schools are in government-held areas. The souks in the old city of Damascus, unlike their more extensive and now destroyed counterparts in Aleppo, are open. Shops selling meat, vegetables, spices, and other basic items to the local population are doing well, although the tourist boutiques in and around the famous Souk Hamadieh have no customers apart from UN workers and a few remaining diplomats. At night, restaurants in most neighborhoods are, if not full, nearly so. Everything from wine to grilled chicken is plentiful, albeit at prices higher than before the war. Traffic remains heavy, although somewhat less obstructed since June when the government felt confident enough to remove many of its checkpoints. Electricity is intermittent, and those who can afford private generators use them in the off-hours.

So, any normal person—especially those who prefer RT.com to Aljazeera—would conclude that it was best for Assad to stay the course, no matter how many barrel bombs it takes to level Aleppo and other cities to the ground just as long as there is meat, vegetables, and spices for sale in Damascus.

I took note of Glass in an article titled “The Betrayal of the Intellectuals on Syria” that was rejected by the publishers of Critical Muslim because they feared it would run afoul of British libel laws. I post the relevant section below:

Arguably, the New York Review of Books and its counterpart the London Review of Books have served as latter day equivalents of Action Française, serving propaganda for a vicious dictatorship that has little connection to its self-flattering image as a beacon of human rights.

Even when the title of an NY Review article foreshadows a condemnation of the Ba‘athists, the content remains consistent with the “plague on both your houses” narrative that pervades this intellectual milieu. In a December 5th 2013 article titled “Syria: On the Way to Genocide?”, Charles Glass ends up echoing the talking points of more openly Ba‘athist elements:

The introduction of chemical weapons, which have been alleged to have been used not only by the government but by the rebels as well, was only the most dramatic escalation by combatants who seek nothing short of the annihilation of the other side.

As is so often the case, the use of the passive voice allows the writer to condemn the rebels without any evidence. “Alleged to have been” leads to the obvious question as to who is responsible for the allegation. Was it Vladimir Putin? Assad’s propaganda nun Mother Agnes Mariam? Inquiring minds would like to know.

On August 20th 2012 Glass penned another article for the Review titled “Aleppo: How Syria Is Being Destroyed” that portrayed the rebels as a wanton mob invading the civilized city. He wrote:

While the urban unemployed had good reason to support a revolution that might improve their chances in life, the thousands who had jobs at the beginning of the revolution and lost them when the Free Army burned their workplaces are understandably resentful. There are stories of workers taking up arms to protect their factories and risking their lives to save their employers from kidnappers.

Since Charles Glass is a Middle East analyst for NBC News, it is not surprising that he can allude to ‘stories’ of workers taking up arms against the rebels to protect the bosses. NBC is a subsidiary of General Electric, and naturally its analyst will find arguments for preserving Ba‘athist rule. You can do business with al-Assad, but the plebian rebels might be as difficult to deal with as the Libyan militias.

Glass was in the graduate program of the American University in Beirut, but did not complete his PhD. His best-known work is “Tribes With Flags: A Dangerous Passage Through the Chaos of the Middle East”, a title redolent of Orientalism. In a March 22nd 2011 NY Times column, Thomas Friedman adopted Glass’s thesis to explain why the natives might not be ready for self-rule:

[T]here are two kinds of states in the Middle East: “real countries” with long histories in their territory and strong national identities (Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Iran); and those that might be called “tribes with flags,” or more artificial states with boundaries drawn in sharp straight lines by pens of colonial powers that have trapped inside their borders myriad tribes and sects who not only never volunteered to live together but have never fully melded into a unified family of citizens.

Libya and Syria were unfortunate enough to be the kinds of ‘artificial states’ that were unsuited for democracy.

 

 

September 29, 2014

Obama’s self-unravelling strategy in Syria

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 7:58 pm

Obama’s self-unravelling strategy in Syria.

American intervention in Syria: I told you so

Filed under: mechanical anti-imperialism,Syria — louisproyect @ 1:09 pm

Well, I hate saying that I told you so but I did tell you so: When the USA finally intervenes in Syria on a serious basis, it will be against exactly those forces that the “anti-imperialist” left claim are his proxies.

On August 8, 2013 I posted from two articles that anticipated to Marxmail what is happening now.

From the March 15, 2013 LA Times:

“The CIA has stepped up secret contingency planning to protect the United States and its allies as the turmoil expands in Syria, including collecting intelligence on Islamic extremists for the first time for possible lethal drone strikes, according to current and former U.S. officials.”

From the August 8, 2013 NY Times:

“As foreign fighters pour into Syria at an increasing clip, extremist groups are carving out pockets of territory that are becoming havens for Islamist militants, posing what United States and Western intelligence officials say may be developing into one of the biggest terrorist threats in the world today.”

All those comparisons with Reagan backing the Afghan jihadists turned to be complete and utter bullshit. Reagan not only put the red carpet down for them in the White House, he armed them with Stinger missiles. The “anti-imperialist” left embarrassed itself by even making such a comparison in the first place, but then again they are so cynical and so lacking in principle that it would hardly matter.

* * * *

From last night’s interview:

KROFT (voice-over): Syria is more challenging because the U.S. has few viable allies on the ground there. The regime of Bashar al- Assad is fighting ISIS, but the U.S. wants Assad deposed for committing horrific crimes against his own people, and other opposition groups like the Al-Nusra front and a terrorist cell called Khorasan, which was plotting attacks against Europe and the U.S., are both affiliated with Al Qaida. The coalition is hoping to train 5,000 moderate Syrian fighters in Saudi Arabia.

(on-screen): Is there a moderate Syrian opposition?

OBAMA: There is. But right now, it doesn’t control much territory. It has been squeezed between ISIL on the one hand and the Assad regime on the other.

KROFT: These are the people that you said — the farmers, the doctors, the pharmacists — who stood no chance of overthrowing the government.

OBAMA: Well, keep in mind, two years ago, that was absolutely true. This is in response to the mythology that’s evolved that somehow if we had given those folks some guns two-and-a-half years ago, that Syria would be fine.

And the point that I made then, which is absolutely true, is that for us to just start arming inexperienced fighters who we hadn’t vetted — so we didn’t know and couldn’t sort out very well who’s potentially ISIL or Al-Nusra member and who is somebody that we’re going to work with. For us to just go blind on that would have been counterproductive and would not have helped the situation, but also would have committed us to a much more significant role inside of Syria.

KROFT: You said that we need to get rid of Assad. And while we’re saying we have to get rid of Assad, we are also bombing and trying to take out some of the — his most threatening opponents and — and the…

OBAMA: I recognize the — I recognize…

KROFT: And the beneficiary of this is Assad.

OBAMA: I recognize the contradiction in a contradictory land and a contradictory circumstance. We are — we are not going to stabilize Syria under the rule of Assad, because the Sunni areas inside of Syria view Assad as having carried out terrible atrocities. The world has seen them.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed. Millions have been displaced. So for a long-term political settlement, for Syria to remain unified, it is not possible that Assad presides over that entire process. On the other hand, in terms of immediate threats to the United States, ISIL, Khorasan group, those folks could kill Americans. And so…

KROFT: They’re more important than Assad at this point. That’s what you’re saying.

OBAMA: What I’m saying is that they’re all connected, but there’s a more immediate concern that has to be dealt with.

 

September 11, 2014

The Angry Arab: bad hairdo, worse politics

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 1:08 pm

 

 

Screen shot 2014-09-11 at 9.04.48 AM

When I checked my blog this morning, I saw a number of page views emanating from Asad AbuKhalil’s (aka the Angry Arab) blog, the man with a bad hairdo and worse politics.


This is now the second time he has referred to me as a “Trotskyite”, showing a grasp of my politics that can be compared to George W. Bush’s command of Marxist value theory. Frankly, I don’t mind being called a “Trotskyite”. I get called worse things 5 times a week by anonymous trolls.

But the real problem is trying to engage with this professor who at one time had a publicist capable of landing him guest spots on Bill Maher’s show. Now he has lapsed into the obscurity he well deserves.

In terms of believing that the “US is secretly backing Assad against FSA”, I have never said anything like that. (How would the Angry Arab know what I believe since there is zero evidence that he is familiar with my blog that regularly finds fault with the Trotskyist movement on one score or another.)

Instead I have said that Baathists and IS were attacking the FSA from different angles. The Angry Arab, like most of the “anti-imperialist” left has written 1000 articles (all as superficial as the one above) making an amalgam between the FSA and jihadism. Now that this analysis lies on the ground in a smoldering rubble, he is at a loss presumably to explain why he screwed up so royally. Maybe he would be better informed if he became one of my regular readers rather than relying on WSWS.org or Global Research for his talking points.

September 9, 2014

Steven Salaita statement

Filed under: Steven Salaita,Syria — louisproyect @ 6:56 pm

Statement of Steven Salaita September 9, 2014 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

My name is Steven Salaita. I am a professor with an accomplished scholarly record; I have been a fair and devoted teacher to hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students; I have been a valued and open-minded colleague to numerous faculty across disciplines and universities. My ideas and my identity are far more substantive and complex than the recent characterizations based on a selected handful of my Twitter posts.

I am here today at the University of Illinois to speak against my termination by the Administration from a tenured faculty position because of the University Administration’s objections to my speech that was critical of recent Israeli human rights violations. The Administration’s actions have caused me and my family great hardship. Even worse, the Administration’s actions threaten principles of free speech, academic freedom, and critical thought that should be the foundation of any university.

Since 2006, I have been a faculty member of the English Department at Virginia Tech, where I earned lifetime tenure. On the basis of my scholarship and teaching record, and after substantial vetting, in 2013 I was enthusiastically recruited to join the faculty in the American Indian Studies program of UIUC. In October 2013, I accepted an offer from the interim Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to join the University as a professor with lifetime tenure, which I accepted. The offer letter specifically referenced the University’s adherence to the 1940 Principles of Academic Freedom codified by the AAUP.

In preparation for my new position, I resigned my tenured position at Virginia Tech; my wife resigned her professional position at the University as well. We got rid of our Virginia home and took on considerable expense in preparation for our move here. Two weeks before my start date, and without any warning, I received a summary letter from University Chancellor Phyllis Wise informing me that my position was terminated, but with no explanation or opportunity to challenge her unilateral decision. As a result, my family has no income, no health insurance, and no home of our own. Our young son has been left without a preschool. I have lost the great achievement of a scholarly career – lifetime tenure, with its promised protections of academic freedom.

As hard as this situation is on me personally, the danger of the University’s decision has farther reaching implications. Universities are meant to be cauldrons of critical thinking; they are meant to foster creative inquiry and, when at their best, challenge political, economic, or social orthodoxy. “Tenure – a concept that is well over a hundred years old – is supposed to be an ironclad guarantee that University officials respect these ideals and do not succumb to financial pressure or political expediency by silencing controversial or unpopular views. I have devoted my entire life to challenging prevailing orthodoxies, critiquing architectures of power and violence in the US and abroad and surfacing narratives of people – including Palestinians and Native Americans – who are subject to occupation, marginalization, and violence.

The Chancellor and Board of Trustees are apparently displeased by messages I posted on my personal Twitter account that were critical of recent atrocities committed by the Israeli government, which the United Nations referred to as “criminal.” My Twitter messages are no doubt passionate and unfiltered; they reflect my deep dismay at the deaths of more than 2,000 innocent Palestinians, over 500 of them children.

In recent statements, Chancellor Wise and the Board of Trustees said that the University Administration found the tone of my tweets “uncivil” and raised questions about my ability to inhabit the University environment. This is a perilous standard that risks eviscerating the principle of academic freedom. My comments were not made in a classroom or on campus; they were made through my personal Twitter account. The University’s policing and judgment of those messages places any faculty member at risk of termination if University administrators deem the tone or content of his or her speech “uncivil” without regard to the forum or medium in which the speech is made. This is a highly subjective and sprawling standard that can be used to attack faculty who espouse unpopular or unconventional ideas.

Even more troubling are the documented revelations that the decision to terminate me is a result of pressure from wealthy donors – individuals who expressly dislike my political views. As the Center for Constitutional Rights and other groups have been tracking, this is part of a nationwide, concerted effort by wealthy and well-organized groups to attack pro-Palestinian students and faculty and silence their speech. This risks creating a Palestinian exception to the First Amendment and to academic freedom. The ability of wealthy donors and the politically powerful to create exceptions to bedrock principles should be worrying to all scholars and teachers.

Finally, my scholarship and strong student evaluations over the course of many years, along with the University’s enthusiastic recruitment of me as a faculty member, thoroughly belie Chancellor Phyllis Wise’s only recently-stated concern about my civility and respectfulness. As my colleagues and students will attest, I am a passionate advocate for equality, a fair and open- minded instructor, and highly collegial. No legitimate evidence exists for any claims or insinuations to the contrary, which have severely damaged my reputation and my prospects for future employment.

During this challenging time, I am deeply grateful to the many hundreds of people and prominent organizations who have raised their voices in defense of the principles of academic freedom, including the nearly 18,000 individuals who have signed a petition demanding corrective action and the numerous faculty around the world who are boycotting the University until I am reinstated. The students and instructors gathered here have shown themselves to be exemplars of everything to which a university should aspire.

I am here to reaffirm my commitment to teaching and to a position with the American Indian Studies program at UIUC. I reiterate the demand that the University recognize the importance of respecting the faculty’s hiring decision and reinstate me. It is my sincere hope that I can – as a member of this academic institution – engage with the entire University community in a constructive conversation about the substance of my viewpoints on Palestinian human rights and about the values of academic freedom. This is, as we say in my profession, a “teaching moment.” We must all strive together to make the most of it.

September 8, 2014

FSA is coming back into power very soon to liberate Syria from Assad & ISIS

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 11:55 pm

September 7, 2014

A rejoinder to Vijay Prashad on the Islamic State

Filed under: Iraq,Jihadists,Syria — louisproyect @ 7:20 pm

Vijay Prashad

I have no trouble understanding why so much of the left supported Bashar al-Assad from the very beginning of the Syrian revolt that began in March of 2011. It was a no-brainer. On one side you had the Venezuelan and Cuban governments throwing their full support behind the Baathists and on the other side there was Samantha Power and John McCain calling for “regime change”.

The analysis went something like this. The CIA was behind the Syrian protests and no matter how many times the protesters said they were for human rights and democracy, there was always lurking behind the scenes Saudi and Qatari money and Wahhabi politics. Furthermore, the real target of the Syrian insurgency was not just the Baathist government. Once a beachhead was established, the next targets would be Hizbollah in Lebanon and Iran. Using “moderates” in the FSA and the more obvious jihadists like those affiliated with al-Qaeda, US foreign policy would achieve its ultimate goal—to weaken Soviet (sorry, I meant Russian) influence in the Middle East—the last barrier to NATO and American hegemony.

Now, as it turns out, none of this was true. In a sense, it was a “no brainer” but only understood that such an analysis did not require a brain but rather some nimble fingers that could navigate Global Research, WSWS.org et al on a daily basis. Despite the hysteria that arose last September about Obama’s plan to make war on Syria in order to achieve Samantha Power type “regime change”, the net result has been a coalescing of Syria, Iran, Turkey, Iraq, and the USA against ISIS, arguably the only genuine jihadist group operating in the region. To try to explain or explain away ISIS does require a nimble brain and nimble fingers. Some on the “anti-imperialist” left continue to view ISIS as a CIA tool. For them there is no medication that is powerful enough to cure such delusions.

When I received email from Vijay Prashad announcing a series of articles on ISIS for the The Hindu, I was very curious to see what he had to say. I hadn’t been following Vijay all that closely since he had made some serious analytical mistakes, at least in my opinion (who else?). He had written a number of articles predicting a regional settlement of the war in Syria, the best hope for an intractable situation. No such luck, needless to say. Following him on Twitter, I was dismayed to see him give credit to the report that there had been a landslide victory for Bashar al-Assad in the last “election”. I don’t tend to pay much attention to tweets, but conveyed my displeasure to Vijay (I am sure he did not lose any sleep over this.)

After reading the first article (The Pendulum of the Islamic State), one cannot help but conclude that ISIS and the al-Nusra front are operating in concert against the Syrian army:

Intense fighting along the belt that links Mhardeh and Houla suggests that IS and its allies (including its fractious cousin, Jabhat al-Nusra) have the ability to threaten the western coastal towns of Tartous and Latakia. The Syrian Army was able to block an al-Nusra and IS advance toward the largely Christian town of Mhardeh. Tension remains high as morale in the IS soars.

I am not quite sure what the adjective “fractious” indicates. It is a synonym for grumpy, something that would describe me but in political terms—I have no idea. More to the point, isn’t it the case that al-Nusra is aligned with al-Qaeda that expelled ISIS? And isn’t the case that ISIS has drawn many of al-Nusra’s fighters if for no other reason that it has ample arms and money?

For those who stick with al-Nusra, a group that at least has the merit of having fought against the Baathists if nothing else, the costs are significant. When al-Qaeda leader Abu Khaled al-Suri came to Syria to make peace between ISIS and other rebels, he was killed by an ISIS suicide bomber in Aleppo. Something tells me that given such a background, the term “allies” does not apply to al-Nusra and ISIS. Since Vijay is based in the region, maybe he is privy to information we have no access to. Let’s hope he can shed some light.

Chugging along with this article, I was struck by Vijay’s assertion that the US was “egging on” the rebels’ Southern Front to seize Damascus. And what would be the leverage they need to accomplish such a task? Vijay observes: “The U.S. trains Syrian rebels in the deserts of eastern Jordan.” I don’t know what use any kind of training would be to foot soldiers facing an air force that can launch missiles filled with 400 pounds of TNT. Maybe the training involves reading some Maoist tracts about the importance of a fighting spirit. Who knows?

And finally there’s this. Vijay feels that as long as there is economic inequality, the threat of jihadism will arise. He writes:

Political reforms need to be on the cards. So too must an alternative to the economic agenda pursued in both Iraq and Syria since the mid-2000s. Under U.S. pressure, the Assad and al-Maliki governments pursued neo-liberal policies that increased inequality and despair. 

Well, look, I don’t think that any kind of pressure had to be applied to Bashar al-Assad. That would be like breaking down an open door. The Baathists adopted neo-liberal policies for the same reason that Mubarak did. The Syrian bourgeoisie existed on the basis of the classic “crony capitalism” that made the poor suffer so that both the Sunni and non-Sunni elite in Damascus could continue to live high on the hog. They didn’t need any pressure from the USA to screw the plebian masses of the provincial capitals and the countryside. They did it all by themselves.

Moving right along to the next article, Metastasis of the Islamic State, I was struck by this explanation of how ISIS gained such battlefield prowess: “The Syrian war allowed the IS fighters great battlefield experience, and helped them draw in jihadis from around the world (including India, according to a July 23 report to the U.N. Security Council).” Battlefield experience? Really? With who? Surely not the Syrian army.

In fact ISIS’s main battles were with the FSA that had been battered for well over two years before ISIS emerged as a fighting force. If you had been the target of barrel bombs and 400 pounds of TNT missiles for that length of time and starved of weapons and other material aid, it is unlikely that you would be able to put up much of a fight especially when the Syrian army and ISIS were involved in a two-front pincer attack. If there were any significant battles between the Syrian army and ISIS until very recently, I don’t know of them. Maybe Vijay has information that would shed light on this question or maybe he was simply saying that ISIS became a formidable force operating against the FSA. I hope not.

Finally, there’s The geopolitics of the Islamic state. Since the whole question of geopolitics intrigues me, sort of the same way that an ingrown toenail does, I wondered where he would be going with this. After reading it, I am afraid that the wheels spun off the old Prashad wagon.

To start with, Vijay states that “ISIS entered the Syrian war in 2012 as Jabhat al-Nusra (the Support Front).” Is that so? That would indicate one of two things, either that it split from al-Nusra Front or that al-Nusra transformed itself into ISIS, which is obviously not the case. The origins are a bit more complex. At one time the al-Nusra Front was receiving funding from ISI (Islamic State in Iraq) but on April 8, 2013 Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi announced that the only authorized fighting group (in a manner of speaking) would be ISIL. Al-Nusra was now persona non grata. Furthermore, getting funding from ISI does not indicate that it was a branch of ISI. I know that some of this can seem quite arcane but it really has to do with the need for clearer lines of demarcation, which are badly needed when writing about jihadists.

Vijay puts a lot of the blame for the viral outbreak of jihadism in Syria at Turkey’s doorstop:

The West’s backing of the rebellion provided cover for Turkey’s more enthusiastic approach to it. Intoxicated by the possibility of what Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutog˘lu favoured as “neo-Ottomanism,” the Turkish government called for the removal of Assad and the emergence of a pro-Istanbul government in Damascus.

As someone who has followed Turkish politics rather carefully over the years, I find this analysis dubious. I think that the more likely explanation is AKP sympathy for their co-religionists. For example, when Turkey backs flotillas to Gaza, is that an expression of “neo-Ottomanism”? The more likely explanation is that the Anatolian elites have much in common ideologically and in class terms with formations like the Muslim Brotherhood. It would most certainly want to see its member parties prevail in Gaza and Egypt but why drag the Ottoman Empire into the equation?

Showing that he has been keeping up with Seymour Hersh, Vijay writes: “Turkey opened its borders to the ‘rat-line’ of international jihad, with planeloads of fighters from Libya and Chechnya flying into Turkey to cross into Syria to fight for ISIS and its offshoots.” Wow, pretty exciting. This would make for a good episode on Showtime’s “Homeland” but I think it would work more as fiction than fact.

What source would Vijay recommend for verifying that “planeloads” of jihadists poured into Turkey en route to Syria other than the sad and discredited Seymour Hersh? Would it be the English-language version of Al Akhbar in Lebanon where Vijay reports from occasionally? A Turkish newspaper reported:

According to English edition of Lebanese al Akhbar newspaper, thousands of jihadists are coming from Jordan to Turkey by through the air. The terrorists who come to the Yayladağ region of Hatay province of Turkey are being transferred to the Latakia region of Syria. It’s reported that thousands of jihadists transferred to Turkey during the non-stop transportation operations for weeks.

Syrian sources speaking to Aydınlık confirmed the transportation of the terrorists through the mentioned routes. They also stated that according to their sources, there is a huge discomfort in the Turkish state regarding the related issue.

Wikipedia describes al-Akhbar as “pro-Hezbollah”. If that is the case, I would take its reporting with a grain of salt especially in light of what transpired with one of its most well-known reporters. Once again from Wikipedia:

[Max] Blumenthal left Al Akhbar in June 2012 in protest at Al Akhbar’s coverage of the Syrian civil war. In an interview with The Real News he said that “It was too much to have my name and reputation associated with open Assad apologists when the scale of atrocities had become so extreme and when the editor-in-chief of Al-Akhbar was offering friendly advice to Bashar al-Assad on the website of Al-Akhbar, you know, painting him as this kind of genuine, earnest reformer who just needed to get rid of the bad men around him and cut out some of the rich oligarchs who happened to be his cousins, and then everything would be fine. That was ridiculous.”

I would only hope that Vijay Prashad take some inspiration from Max Blumenthal in future reporting from the region, especially since he too has written for Al Akhbar.

 

 

August 28, 2014

The Anti-Imperialism of Fools

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 9:52 pm

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

full: The Anti-Imperialism of Fools.

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