Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

March 6, 2012

Once again on that Arab League report

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 4:19 pm

This is a follow-up to the citation from McClatchy news that was included in my post on Syria and the left yesterday, the one that treated the Arab League report on Syria as problematic at best.

In an exchange on the pro-Ba’athist Socialist Unity blog in Britain, a sorry crypto-Stalinist outlet that once held some modest promise as a voice for a non-sectarian left, I urged its readers to not only read the troubled Arab League report that admitted its “experts who were nominated were not qualified for the job, did not have prior experience and were not able to shoulder the responsibility” but media coverage of the report as well, especially concerning what delegation member Anwar Malek had to say. The National, an Abu Dhabi English-language newspaper, reported:

A former Algerian army officer who resigned in disgust and fear from the Arab League mission to monitor events in Syria accused the regime of Bashar Al Assad yesterday of committing crimes against humanity.

Anwar Malek said he saw snipers kill at least two people, one of them a child, was shown corpses, witnessed brutal beatings and arrests by soldiers and militiamen and escaped an attempt on his own life during a 15-day stay in the city of Homs.

Speaking from an undisclosed location in France, he alleged that the Syrian authorities had placed him and other monitors under constant surveillance and brushed aside any criticism of tactics used to crush popular revolt. Everything possible was done, he said, to undermine attempts to produce an independent assessment.

“In my own case, they tried to humiliate me and falsely accused me of supporting terrorists,” he said.

After my comment appeared, a Socialist Unity regular attempted to discredit Malek by referring to an article that referred to him as a liar:

Damascus said Thursday that Head of the Arab League’s observer mission, Lieutenant General Mohammed al-Dabi, confirmed that monitor Anwar Malek’s statements to a satellite channel were untrue.

Al-Dabi said that Malek did not leave his hotel room for health reasons ever since he was appointed among Homs team.

“Before leaving Damascus, Malek had asked for the permission to go to Paris for treatment; but he left before procedures ended (…) he travelled at his own expense,” al-Dabi explained.

Wow, that’s pretty devastating, isn’t it? Malek issues a press statement about atrocities in Homs, but never left his hotel room the entire time. I imagine that he might have been one of those people that the mission report described as coming to Syria only for “pleasure”. How decadent, sitting in his air-conditioned hotel room the whole time watching TV and getting fat on room service meals. And then he has the audacity to lie about the plucky Ba’athist government, the last bastion of Arab nationalism in the region, according to Aijaz Ahmad.

Well, not so fast. Malek had this to say in response to al-Dabi in an interview with Al Jazeera:

“This is all lies and a kind of tactic because in fact I appeared quite a lot in videos that appeared on the internet and were broadcast by satellite channels even Syrian TV aired about 20 packages that had me in them when I was visiting hospitals, prisons, schools and out on the streets talking to people. I am clearly shown meeting and talking to people in these videos.

So these allegations are all baseless. However what they say about me not leaving my rooms for 4 days is true. I only left to eat but it was at the end of my mission when I decided to quit but this was after I’d spent about 15 days on the field but then I decided to stop work so I stayed in my room for 4 days then I left Homs for Damascus.

I did not send any letter to the head of the mission saying I was unwell and was going to stay in my room. If this is true let them produce the letter. In fact I went to see him to talk to him about my reasons to stop work but he refused to listen to me and gave me only 2 minutes to leave without even listening to me.”

And, like the final scene in an Agatha Christie novel, here’s the proof that Anwar Malek was doing his job:

This really has to make you think about who is telling the truth about Syria. Is it the pro-Assad left that has attached itself to the Arab League Observer Mission Report like a three-year old to a security blanket? If the former head of the blood-soaked intelligence agency of the Sudan who headed up the mission can lie so brazenly about Anwar Malek, what can he be telling the truth about?

This god-damned report has been elevated to the status of holy writ by the “anti-imperialist” left, a sorry collection of leftwing sects, crypto-Stalinist bloggers and websites. In particular, Sharmine Narwani, whose article Socialist Unity forwarded, has become a mainstay of the pro-Assad left.

Unlike many leftists who cite her, Narwani appears more impressed by al-Assad’s staying power than anything else. In a NY Times opinion piece, she wrote:

While President Bashar al-Assad has made some gross miscalculations since the crisis began in March, he is still favored by a slight majority of Syrians, according to recent online polls. But popularity is not why his government remains intact. The regime still enjoys the support of its key constituencies: the army, the major cities, the business/regime elite, minorities and Sunni secularists, with limited defections of the sort experienced by other Arab states.

One imagines that the same sort of thing could have been written about the King of Jordan for that matter.

Even more tellingly, Sharmine Narwani has a distinctly odd affinity for collaboration with American imperialism, as long as it has Sunnis rather than Shi’ites in its gun-sights. In a USA Today article written in July 2009, Narwani proposed a bloc between the U.S. and Iran that could have been written by anybody committed to realpolitik:

With the U.S. military engaged in battles in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan against Sunni fundamentalist militants, America would be foolish not to engage directly with this new power bloc. In a dramatic gesture, the Obama administration recently said it would be reinstating an ambassador in Syria. America is already friendly with the Iraqi government, of course. And a bipartisan group of former top U.S. officials have urged taking a more pragmatic approach toward Hamas. As for Iran, the leader of this new bloc and the most cited regional ideological foe of the U.S., the question really is, can we “deal” with them?

In May, in a RAND Corp. study to examine this very question, the longstanding conventional U.S. view of Iran was challenged. The study determined not only that the Iranian regime is not territorially and ideologically expansionist, but also that “ideology and bravado frequently mask a preference for opportunism and realpolitik — the qualities that define ‘normal’ state behavior.”

This power bloc is calculating in a way that makes it politically flexible and strategically minded. The U.S. needs strong partners in the region for what lies ahead and has an opportunity for real change — if only we can shrug off 30-some years of tunnel vision.

Excuse me while I puke.


  1. i have seen and read that the Syrian govmint is more liked than the US backed thugs and puppets… but i don’t understand the whole sale murder of them ~ was the story of the sniper killing a baby true? i wish we/US had nothing to do with it and even better that Syria and it’s govt were all Happy… but the US is believes in destabilizing and has many means via the God Damn CIA to do its dirty work.
    thanks for the insight on an awful mess.

    Comment by Darwin26 — March 6, 2012 @ 7:06 pm

  2. We need to stay out of it. That means Libya, Syria, Iran etc. We don’t have the money and our government needs to stop thinking that we must regulate world affairs. Unemployment is still high despite the miraculous recovery Obama takes credit for while seeking another term on this premise. We need leadership that doesn’t live in a trigger happy fantasy land.

    Comment by Deborah Jeffries — March 6, 2012 @ 8:46 pm

  3. Meanwhile, how about that JOE GIAMBRONE http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/03/07/imperial-death-mongers/

    “..,the Arab uprisings, which have been linked to US State Department sponsored NGOs, such as Freedom House, the International Republican Institute and the National Endowment for Democracy, among many others.”

    Yes, imperialism conspired to get rid of its key client dictator in the region, Hosni Mubarak, one upon whom they have showered many tens of billions over the last 30+ years, whose relation with the U.S. and Israel has been a linchpin of their hegemony in the Middle East. All to install the Brotherhood and Salafists as a majority force, trash the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, and see their own NGO fronts kicked out. Uh-huh.


    Comment by Matt — March 8, 2012 @ 2:37 am

  4. Oh one more thing: Joes’ name rhymes somewhat with jabroni, a designated loser stunt wrestler. Joe Jabroni, how appropriate

    Comment by Matt — March 8, 2012 @ 2:40 am

  5. A compelling critique of the Assad Regime, and its supporters:

    Comment by manuelgarciajr — March 8, 2012 @ 5:23 pm

  6. Socialist Unity blog is now a blood soaked shit pit and first port of call for the League Against the Arab Spring. It is full of Stalinists and Stalinised Trots who are more than capable of rationalising Assad’s shooting and castration of children not to mention more than happy to do so. In the UK last weekend the Stalinist and SWP-dominated Stop the War Coalition that set about capturing the anti-Iraq war movement as soon as the masses had left the street and reduced the three million to about 200 Tankies passed a resolution to hold a conference that specifically condemns humanitarian operations to prevent civilian massacres on the grounds of cost. These people are truly degenerate. The British Fascist movement is nowhere near as bold yet in its public support for mass murder.

    Comment by David Ellis — March 9, 2012 @ 9:27 am

  7. I also contributed to the discussion on Socialist Unity – which, despite one of the comments here, I find is still a useful forum for discussion of different left perspectives. I think the debate over Anwar Malek’s role is somehting of a side issuebecause a close reading of the Observer’s interim report shows it to be quite critical of the Syrian government. It records that one of its teams was beaten up, and effectively prevented from doing any effective Observing, by Government supporters at the start; points out that it had repeatedly to request Government forces to pull out of civilian areas, despite the fact that this was supposed to have been done prior to its arrival; and its most often quoted passage can be seen as cutting in a quite a different way to that suggested by those who cite it: “The Mission determined that there is an armed entity that is not mentioned in the protocol. This development on the ground can undoubtedly be attributed to the excessive use of force by Syrian Government forces in response to protests that occurred before the deployment of the Mission … A source overlooked is this discussion is Sara Firth, Russian TV (RT) accredited correspondent in Syria who travelled with the Observers. In her blog she provides a more candid account than she was able to do in her to-camera pieces for RT. Interestingly, she was eager for the Observers mission to stay, because she seemed to think that while attacks on civilians were significantly reduced by the Observers presence, they were likely to resume once the Mission left. See: http://rt.com/news/blogs/full-disclosure/

    Comment by Brian. O. — March 10, 2012 @ 1:35 pm

  8. Brian, I think your points are very salient. However, we are dealing with a problem that the crypto-Stalinist left has cherry-picked the report for sentences that flatter Assad and demonize the opposition. None of this would have become an issue if people like Andy Newman were not so compromised.

    Comment by louisproyect — March 10, 2012 @ 1:41 pm

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