Andre Vltchek, master of doublespeak
I just noticed a piece “When is the Syrian ‘opposition’ Syrian?” by someone named Andre Vltchek on ZNet that appeared originally on the Open Democracy website dated September 24 2012 and reported from a border town in Turkey:
A uniformed police officer appears at the door as we speak. He gives us an inquisitive look and disappears as suddenly as he entered. “90% of Syrian people are in favor of Assad’s government and only countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar are supportive of the ‘opposition’, and of course the West,” continues Suleyman. Soon a small circle of people is formed around our table. Once they hear that I am not ‘one of those official media people’, they begin gesturing and talking over each other, explaining that Hatay – the city they love and feel proud of – is renowned for the peaceful coexistence of various ethnic and religious groups. “There are Syrians living here for ages, as well as Armenians, Jews and other diverse ethnic groups. There are Sunni, Shia and several Muslim sects. We used to all live in peace!” “Hatay is very close to Syria”, explains an old man, sipping his strong tea. “90% of the people here are somehow linked to the major city of Aleppo just across the border. And this place – Hatay – even used to be an independent republic; it only joined Turkey in 1939.”
Then Suleyman who obviously has more on his mind, speaks:
“People here believe that the US and the west in general are heavily involved in the conflict in Syria, and that they are grooming the opposition which is both very religious and very intolerant. Hillary Clinton was here in Turkey, and she openly declared that her country would be supporting the ‘refugees’. Now, to make it clear, these people that are being called ‘refugees’ come to our city, and they rent houses here and then many of them are walking around fully armed, waving their machine guns. What is on everyone’s mind here is that they did not come here just to fight the war at the other side of the border – they appear to be quite ready and capable of igniting the violence in Hatay itself.”
There are some points to be made here. To start with, Open Democracy has been fairly consistently liberal/Islamophobic for quite some time, giving a platform to Fred Halliday when he was still alive. I had this to say about a piece on Hezbollah that appeared there in 2006:
Opendemocracy.net can best be described as Harry’s Place for the cognoscenti. With lavish funding from such sources as the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation and the Rockfeller Fund and editorial guidance by such wretches as Todd Gitlin and Danny Postel, Roger Scruton (the British philosopher who got caught taking surreptitious payoffs from the tobacco industry in exchange for writing pro-smoking articles in the Wall Street Journal), the website maintains a steady drumbeat for the war on terror and against ‘Islamofascism’ and the Bolivarian revolution, etc. Unlike the spittle-flecked Harry’s Place blog, Opendemocracy tries to maintain a certain kind of scholarly detachment, which arguably makes it far more insidious.
One of their recent articles is making the rounds on the Internet. Titled “How the European left supports Lebanon” and written by Hazem Saghieh, the editor of Al-Hayat–a British newspaper hostile to Arab and Muslim radicalism, it has the dubious distinction of invoking Karl Marx in support of a reactionary agenda: “The left’s embrace of an Islamist movement supported by Iranian mullahs would have appalled Karl Marx.”
In coming across the Russian-born Vltchek’s piece through a link on ZNet, I can only conclude that Michael Albert is desperate for content, whatever the source.
Intrigued by the utter stupidity of Vltchek’s article and its shameless kindergarten variety bias, I went to his website to see what else I could find there. It turns out that our intrepid investigative journalist whose command of Turkish allowed him to understand kardeş Suleyman perfectly has had a gig writing for the Chinese press over the years. I imagine that they paid good money to get the services of a seasoned pro who could write this sort of material. From his article “Should the Internet be regulated?” in China Daily:
Could the Internet be totally free and should it be? The recent turmoil in the Arab world caused by a contentious video denigrating Prophet Muhammad shows the United States, which is busy promoting global Internet freedom, has paid a huge price with the lives of its diplomats.
In an unregulated cyber world, calumniation, fraud, violence, pornography or rumors can bring serious consequences.
India and many other countries across the world are periodically suffering from “rumors” spread by the Internet and social media.
The US-led West always promotes Internet freedom and refutes any regulation as censorship, but it should think twice if it calculates the heavy price that has been and has to be paid for “free Internet”
So obviously we are dealing with a hack for hire here. Anybody writing such garbage for the Chinese press whose publishers—the government—has one of the worst record on Internet freedom in the world and that sent one blogger to prison for a year after attacking party boss Bo Xilai. The blogger’s main crime was premature ejaculation apparently since Bo Xilai has just been expelled from the Communist Party for corruption.
So what are we to make of such a crude propaganda piece appearing in both Open Democracy, a magazine that has assailed Edward Herman and David Peterson, as well as ZNet, their roost of choice.
It suggests to me that there is a growing affinity between the liberal opinion-makers and our good friends who occupy the nether reaches of the “anti-imperialist” left at places like Global Research, MRZine, and Voltairenet. They concur that the Free Syrian Army is the worst thing that ever happened to Syria and that it would be best for the world if al-Assad crushed it.
Yesterday’s New York Times had a quite candid account of the attitude of the American ruling class and its servants in the Middle East who are supposedly the FSA’s chief supporters, in the manner of Reagan backing UNITA, the Afghan rebels of the 1970s, the Nicaraguan contras, etc. If this is the case, how are we to explain this?
For months, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been funneling money and small arms to Syria’s rebels but have refused to provide heavier weapons, like shoulder-fired missiles, that could allow opposition fighters to bring down government aircraft, take out armored vehicles and turn the war’s tide.
While they have publicly called for arming the rebels, they have held back, officials in both countries said, in part because they have been discouraged by the United States, which fears the heavier weapons could end up in the hands of terrorists.
As a result, the rebels have just enough weapons to maintain a stalemate, the war grinds on and more jihadist militants join the fray every month.
“You can give the rebels AKs, but you can’t stop the Syrian regime’s military with AKs,” said Khalid al-Attiyah, a state minister for foreign affairs in Qatar. Providing the rebels with heavier weapons “has to happen,” he added. “But first we need the backing of the United States, and preferably the U.N.”
The article portrays Saudi Arabia and Qatar as fearing “sectarianism”:
Many Saudi and Qatari officials now fear that the fighting in Syria is awakening deep sectarian animosities and, barring such intervention, could turn into an uncontrollable popular jihad with consequences far more threatening to Arab governments than the Afghan war of the 1980s.
“If the killing continues, the youth will not listen to wise voices,” said Salman al-Awda, one of this country’s most prominent clerics, in an interview at his office here. “They will find someone who will encourage them, and they will go.”
As is so often the case, you have to read between the lines when it comes to official statements from Saudi Arabia or Qatar. Frankly, I find the notion that they are afraid of “sectarianism” ludicrous. What is much more likely is that they fear the example of armed guerrillas overthrowing an Arab despot since the example might spread in the fashion of “falling dominoes” as LBJ once put it.
The presence of jihadists in Syria is to be expected. The armed struggle does rely on the participation of Sunnis who have battlefield experience. For some on the left this is reason enough to condemn the movement as a whole, even though most experts doubt that they represent more than 10 percent of the fighting forces.
Then there are those who would disagree, such as Turkish ideologue Serkan Koc who told this to Vltchek:
Of course you do realize that those people are not really ‘Syrian opposition’. They are modern-day legionnaires collected from various Arab countries, including Qatar and Saudi Arabia, paid by western imperialist powers. Some are members of Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. Most are militant Sunni Muslims. One could describe them as rogue elements hired to fight the Assad government. It is important to point out that some 90% of Syrian people are still supporting Assad and I think he is now actually winning the war, although reading the western media you would never think so.
What can you say when you are told that “western imperialist powers” are paying for al-Qaeda fighters and that 90 percent of Syrians support al-Assad? We are obviously dealing with what Chomsky would call Orwellianism, all the more shameful that they appear in ZNet, a magazine that has created an altar to his writings.