Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

November 23, 2013

Jonathan Cook proves my point

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 10:58 pm

This a brief reply to a short part of Cook’s latest post that mostly tries to prove that the Palestinians and Syrians are unalike. I only wish he had devoted half of his attention and energy to the question of Mother Agnes and the “false flag” narratives that were really at the heart of the STWC conference dispute. Until he begins to realize that taking a skeptic’s position on the Sarin attack in Ghouta flies in the face of the evidence and humanitarian/pacifist principles, he will remain terribly compromised. He must understand that the Baathists have a powerful public relations machinery, much of it on a pro bono basis from places as diverse as Global Research to the London Review of Books, and that Mother Agnes and many others help the war aims of Bashar al-Assad by blaming the rebels for the killing of their supporters.

But let me turn your attention to this:

This brings me to my main point in responding to Proyect. Like a lot of interventionists, he wants to undermine the position of non-interventionists like me by accusing us of hypocrisy – or at least implying it.

I really wasn’t aware that I was an “interventionist”. For example, if you google “Kristof Syria intervention”, you will get 5,290,000 results. The article at the very top of the list—written by Nicholas Kristof—states:

In Syria, it seems to me that cruise missile strikes might make a modest difference, by deterring further deployment of chemical weapons. Sarin nerve gas is of such limited usefulness to the Syrian army that it has taken two years to use it in a major way, and it’s plausible that we can deter Syria’s generals from employing it again if the price is high.

But if you substitute Proyect for Kristof in that search, you will find nothing like this. It might take a little bit of work, but if you went to my blog and clicked “Syria” on the right-hand side of the home page, you will find an article titled https://louisproyect.org/2013/09/08/in-the-court-of-leftist-public-opinion/ that states:

My position is that Obama must be opposed. I have not written anything to that effect for the same reason I have not written anything lately about opposing drone strikes. Because I have not blogged about drones, one should not draw the conclusion that I favor what Obama is doing to the Yemenites. Basically, what he wants to do in Syria is a drone strike on steroids.

In my initial post on Cook that was only prompted by his taking me to task for speaking out against Mother Agnes, I stated “One of the gravest side effects of the war in Syria for those living outside its borders has been a decline in journalistic standards.” This is just another example. To refer to me as an “interventionist” without bothering to take fifteen minutes or so that was necessary to establish a basis for the assertion is a sign of bias and/or laziness. Being linked to someone like Nicholas Kristof is a slander but I really can’t get very bothered by that since I know what I  stand for and what my readers stand for—at least those who don’t send me hate mail once or twice a week about being a ZioNazi.

My primary interest all along has been to defend the living heart of the revolution that has been facing two mortal threats: the Baathist dictatorship and the jihadists, a number of whom were released from Syrian prisons in order to create the very image that Global Research, the London Review of Books, and Rush Limbaugh are anxious to cultivate—namely that Syria is trying to quell an al-Qaeda uprising. That so many on the left are willing to lend credence to this filthy lie is not my business to analyze or psychoanalyze for that matter. My only interest has been and will remain to get out the truth.

17 Comments »

  1. I thought you said that Obama never intended on intervening in any way in Syria. But he wanted to do a drone strike on steroids? So which one is it / was it?

    Also isn’t it possible for something that starts as an organic uprising to be taken over and drown out by forces that are perhaps even more reactionary than the target of the original fight? Some examples come quickly to mind: Stalinism and the October Revolution and Solidarnosc and the Polish workers movement. Surely the October Revolution and the original strikes in Poland were to be supported just as surely as Stalin and Lech Walesa were not.

    Comment by Marcus Banahasky — November 24, 2013 @ 5:39 am

  2. Interesting how Proyect implies that Assad was wrong to free political prisoners (i.e. the Jihadists). I presume Proyect would have favoured them being held longer for further torture? And yet Proyect cries tears over Assad’s prisons? When someone has to twist and turn and twist again you just know that their position is a total mess.

    “My primary interest all along has been to defend the living heart of the revolution that has been facing two mortal threats: the Baathist dictatorship and the jihadists”

    In other words, you defend the puppets. The so called jihadists, note how you repeat the lie that Syria faces some threat from savages, are in fact the masses rising up against the status quo. The centre can no longer hold and the people have spoken. Proyect, like the people he criticises, are terrified of the masses. Proyect therefore calls for puppets, those born to rule, those who sit in the shadows waiting to ‘liberalsie’ the economy and free the people from Islamism.

    Down with puppets, all power to the jihadists!

    Comment by The Man With No Name — November 24, 2013 @ 12:15 pm

  3. I thought you said that Obama never intended on intervening in any way in Syria.

    No, I said that an Iraq-style “regime change” intervention was unlikely. Also, because something is unlikely it does not mean that it will not happen. I think it was important for the antiwar movement to oppose *any* kinds of intervention but it does not serve the antiwar movement’s broader goals to provide support for Bashar al-Assad politically.

    Comment by louisproyect — November 24, 2013 @ 12:52 pm

  4. Interesting how Proyect implies that Assad was wrong to free political prisoners (i.e. the Jihadists).

    If someone puts out a leaflet calling for a new caliphate and mandatory use of the chador, they become a political prisoner when they are jailed for that act. When that same person sets off a car bomb at a movie theater that kills people waiting to buy a ticket to see a gay movie, they are a terrorist and deserve to get life imprisonment.

    I hope that is clear but giving your track record, I doubt it.

    Comment by louisproyect — November 24, 2013 @ 12:56 pm

  5. Proyect, you weave a web of deceit every bit as strong as the leftists you criticise. At least they get the facts straight, at least they recognise that the Syrian revolution isn’t about a few middle class lawyers or students from better off backgrounds asking for the right to pontificate, it is about the masses no longer tolerating daily insult and injury.

    How many so called jihadists did Assad release from jail, what % is that of the total number of brave Islamists fighting the status quo?

    Your view that Assad deliberately turned the rebellion into an Islamist insurgency is an insult to the masses fighting Assad, and apology for puppets.

    That is what you are selling, Libyan style puppetry.

    Incidentally, a number of fighters in Syria were found to have been released from Guantanamo bay by the Americans. So was it the plan of the Americans to turn this great rebellion into a foreign killing field? I think the USA wanted to, let us say, complicate matters, so the puppets could take over. The plan didn’t work, so they held off a Libyan style transformation. Your cheerleading will have to wait.

    Just post another article telling us great Libya is, you unrepentant liar.

    Comment by The Man With No Name — November 24, 2013 @ 1:31 pm

  6. Just post another article telling us great Libya is, you unrepentant liar.

    You are here as my guest. The next time you use language like “unrepentant liar”, you will get the boot. In terms of “brave Islamists”, we are dealing with individuals who are a plague.

    Al-Qaeda-linked rebels mistakenly behead fellow fighter, rebel group says
    http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/14/world/meast/syria-beheading-mistake/

    Comment by louisproyect — November 24, 2013 @ 1:42 pm

  7. We do have to give Louis credit for opposing the US airstrikes on Syria and I would support Leftist Revolutionaries if he or someone could identify them since they need arms to fight the Islamist rebels.

    The problem is who is going to arm these Leftists if we find them, if it is the US then by definition this is supporting Imperialist intervention.

    Recent developments between the West + 2 and Syria/ Iran may have made this debate moot and a political solution may be possible.

    The West needs cheaper oil to help pump the next bubble so realignment may have to wait until economic necessities are met.

    Comment by PeteM — November 24, 2013 @ 10:37 pm

  8. “I really wasn’t aware that I was an “interventionist”. For example, if you google “Kristof Syria intervention”, you will get 5,290,000 results.”
    Yes, that was funny.

    “at least those who don’t send me hate mail once or twice a week about being a ZioNazi.”
    LOL. Sorry about those guys. (as in, my condolences)

    “My primary interest all along has been to defend the living heart of the revolution that has been facing two mortal threats: the Baathist dictatorship and the jihadists,”
    Bingo. I got it!

    “Syria is trying to quell an al-Qaeda uprising. That so many on the left are willing to lend credence to this filthy lie”
    Actually, I believe that too!

    It is fun corresponding.

    Comment by Hal Smith — November 25, 2013 @ 7:35 pm

  9. “My primary interest all along has been to defend the living heart of the revolution that has been facing two mortal threats: the Baathist dictatorship and the jihadists, a number of whom were released from Syrian prisons in order to create the very image that Global Research, the London Review of Books, and Rush Limbaugh are anxious to cultivate—namely that Syria is trying to quell an al-Qaeda uprising.”

    Both of these perils have been present in Syria for a long time. The sad, difficult question is why has the more secular base of the revolution has been so weak in comparison to them. This is a generational problem, and it is to Louis’ credit that he has not seized upon the U.S. Air Force and covert operations as an answer to it as some others have done. One negative interpretation of the recent agreement with Iran is that the US, the EU and the Iranians, while competitors, are in agreement about the urgency of suppressing the mass movements that have erupted since the Arab Spring began. Not a reason to oppose it, obviously, but something to keep in mind in terms of future challenges.

    Comment by Richard Estes — November 25, 2013 @ 8:57 pm

  10. Dear Louis,

    I would like to see you write an article on his views for Mondoweiss about how you support the Arab Spring but not intervention or the Jihadis. I think you bring alot of insight, and due to the situation, there actually can be a push for democracy. I think that the Syrian government is more open to compromise in order to find allies and I heard about recent reforms there. The importance of change should not be glossed over, even though the main goal of leftists is avoiding intervention. And actually you have, despite Cook’s mis-assertion.

    The main weakness I see in your discussion is the Ghouta gas attack issue. My immediate reaction to the Ghouta gas attack is that it was falsified actually, for a number of reasons, like the timing due to the UN weapons inspectors being present in the country. I do think the rebels have had chemical weapons, reported by different sources. And the Jihadis who brutally killed people are not really a reliable source of information either.

    But your main idea about the importance of having the Arab Spring is a good one.

    Comment by Hal Smith — November 26, 2013 @ 12:50 am

  11. My immediate reaction to the Ghouta gas attack is that it was falsified actually, for a number of reasons, like the timing due to the UN weapons inspectors being present in the country.

    The best source for understanding these issues is the Brown Moses blog. Just go there and search on Ghouta.

    http://brown-moses.blogspot.com/

    Comment by louisproyect — November 26, 2013 @ 1:41 am

  12. @Hal Smith #10. Your comment on the Ghouta attack suggests that you haven’t reviewed the evidence very closely. To rely on the purely circumstantial fact that it was “unlikely” that the Asad regime would do this on the eve of the weapons inspectors arrival is all very well as a preliminary consideration before tangible evidence is available, but it can’t outweigh the bulk of more direct evidence that has become available subsequently. Even as a circumstantial argument it doesn’t hold water: it depends on the assumption that the regime is a coherent and centralised entity – but it clearly isn’t: the security apparatuses are quite capable of undertaking actions at their own initiative without the knowledge or approval of the political leadership. And against this one circumstantial factor we have to set a series of contrary ones:
    1. there is no evidence that the rebel forces had access to sarin (all the claims to this effect have proved to be false); 2. the rebel forces did not have the logistical capacity to deliver this attack (they had at most crude rockets that could not have delivered this synchronised attack on multiple targets; 3. the rebels operating in Ghouta were a local force – so they would be gassing their own families (an even more improbable assumpton than the one you start with).
    The Ghouta chemical attack is definitely (or as definite as one can be in any complex situation) down to Asad regime forces.

    Comment by Brian S. — November 26, 2013 @ 2:20 pm

  13. Brian,
    You are right that I haven’t reviewed it very closely. I remember a relative, who is antiwar and a critical thinking reading the news about Iraq’s WMDs and believing it. So now I am skeptical when it comes to claims that are war pretexts.
    You wrote:
    A. The timing of inspections goes against the idea Assad’s regime did it.
    B. There is no undisproven evidence the rebels had access to Sarin. So actually there is evidence (like the statement by the Belgian reporter released from rebel control), but other sources reject it. I would say the Saudis and others with Sarin knew about the red line and were supplying foreign fighters with weapons.
    C. The rebels lacked capacity to deliver it. (However there are videos of rebels using mortar/artillery to launch what looks like colored chemical shells)
    D. The rebels in Ghouta were local. (That’s true, but perhaps there were other forces that were not local, and would be interested in an attack).

    I would add that the beheadings and brutality we have seen from the rebels does not really show that they would be beyond this in terms of morality, etc. So you are making interesting points

    I read some articles from the site Louis linked me to. One of them mentions a hypothetical where the Saudis sent gas to the rebels who stored it in tunnels where it was damaged by army shells and then spread. This would go along with Syrian News reports that their soldiers entered rebel tunnels and were killed by gas in them, and that they found foreign-marked gas weapons in the tunnels.

    So yes, I have not looked into it really closely, but for that matter not many people really have because it is a warzone, and either side is going to have very biased reports. I would say that I am way too skeptical about the claims to use it as a basis for action against anybody. It would be helpful if there was a succint article explain the evidence and logic on both sides of the argument.

    Comment by Hal — November 26, 2013 @ 8:57 pm

  14. I meant to say ” I remember a relative, who is antiwar and a critical thinker, reading the news”
    🙂

    Comment by Hal — November 26, 2013 @ 8:57 pm

  15. Hal – This is an area where disinformation is widespread:So we have to double check every claim carefully.
    A: I said this could be understood as an initial ground for scepticism – but only by those who didn’t understand the regime and its lack of coherence – and it loses any force at all in the light of later evidence (as reported on Brown Moses)
    B. The statement you refer to was never very plausible and was disowned by the Belgian reporter; the second (Italian) witness is highly unreliable – he has moved from being an vigorous opponent of the rebels to being a vociferous supporter and then back again.
    These weapons could not have been delivered by mortars; videos of the gun in question have been examined by specialists who confirm that the loading procedures do not correspond to use of chemical weapons (its dealt with on the Brown Moses blog if you look)
    C this story again was full of holes (the person writing it didn’t seem to even understand the geography of Ghouta) and was disowned by the alleged author – it was really written by a journalism student from Jordan.
    The chemicals “discovered” by Syrian troops look like fertiiser ingredients – can be used for making explosives but not chemical agents. I am not aware of any claims that Syrian soldiers were gassed in tunnels – there is a Russian claim that a chemical weapon was fired at troops – this was initially reported as chlorine but the story changed to sarin when that became more fashionable. Whatever it was, it involved one attack over 18 mos – Ghouta saw four attacks over a couple of hours.
    Its unlikely that a rebel group could be operatiing in Ghouta without the local rebel force being aware of it- certainly not one deploying artillery from several different positions. While some of the jihadist groups might be brutal enough in theory to contemplate such an operation, in practice these groups did not want an American intervention, because they were afraid that it would be directed against them.
    I suggest you think again. Look at Brown Moses more closely and also Clay Claiborne’s site http://claysbeach.blogspot.co.uk/

    Comment by Brian S. — November 26, 2013 @ 11:25 pm

  16. Hi Brian.

    Regarding the claims of Syrian soldiers killed by gas in tunnels, there is this:
    “On August 24, 2013, Syrian Commando forces acted on intelligence about the possible perpetrators of the chemical attack and raided a cluster of rebel tunnels in the Damascus suburb of Jobar. Canisters of toxic material were hit in the fierce fire-fight as several Syrian soldiers suffered from suffocation and “some of the injured are in a critical condition”. http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/atlas_shrugs/2013/09/did-the-white-house-help-plan-the-syrian-chemical-attack.html

    I disagree with your statement: “in practice these groups did not want an American intervention, because they were afraid that it would be directed against them.”
    First, the groups know how things turned out in the Jihadis’ favor in Libya due to US intervention there.
    Second, they are getting treated in Israeli hospitals and are in control of the area along the israeli border, suggesting complicity.
    Third, they are already being armed by the US and its allies, so they see the US as a friendly force.
    Fourth, McCain posed for photos in a Jihadi camp in Syria with known terrorist killers in the photo, so they have a symbiotic relationship. (http://www.mediaite.com/tv/jon-stewart-rips-mccain-for-syrian-photo-op-oh-my-god-hes-literally-palling-around-with-terrorists/)
    Fifth, the US did not propose a full on invasion that would remove power from the Jihadis, but rather a punishment strike on Syrian forces. That is what the Jihadis want.
    Sixth, the US favors the Jihadis, and the Jihadis are backed and sometimes imported by the Saudis, Pakistanis, Turks, Libyans, etc. So those Jihadis are not afraid that the US is going to direct an intervention against them.

    On a sidenote, are you aware of Richard Perle’s and Doug Feith’s Clean Break Document where years ago they set out a future plan to destroy Syria using proxy forces? What it suggests to me is that The Powers That Be have had it in for Syria for a long time, with a proxy war in the works. The Clean Break Document is just one example.

    Comment by Hal — November 28, 2013 @ 3:31 am

  17. P.S. I did look at the two websites you mentioned. If there is a specific article you recommend I can look at it. The main thing is that I am a major skeptic due to the fact it is being used as a pretext for war, like the Iraq WMDs claim, Bay of Tonkin, Sinking of the Maine, etc.

    Do I think Sadaam was a very bad dude? Yes. Do I think he had WMDs or that we invaded for regime change and to spread democracy? No. You know what, maybe there were even times the brutal Sadaam was accused of things he did not do or that were exaggerated. I have no idea, but I would not be surprised either. And Iraqis are way worse off now with a massive refugee crisis, sectarian killing, churches burned, headcuttings, etc.

    Comment by Hal — November 28, 2013 @ 3:42 am


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