Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

November 1, 2014

Critique of Patrick Cockburn’s ‘Whose Side is Turkey on?’

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 1:09 am

Syrian Revolution Commentary and Analysis

Critique of Patrick Cockburn’s ‘Whose Side is Turkey on?’

By Michael Karadjis


The November 6 London Review of Books has published Patrick Cockburn’s latest article (http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n21/patrick-cockburn/whose-side-is-turkey-on), ‘Whose Side is Turkey On?’. Now, as I support the struggle of the Syrian Kurds, led by the PYD and its armed militia, the YPG, against ISIS’ genocidal siege, I have no interest in defending Turkey’s shabby role in this, even if I think both the US and Turkey, in their current difference on this issue are both being totally cynical in their different ways. So this critique will not deal with these issues.

Unfortunately, the angle from which Cockburn criticises Turkey is full of the same contradictions that significant parts of the left espouse, basked in an overall hostility to the Syrian revolution. Valid criticism of Turkey’s sabotage of the defence of Kobani – connected to Turkey’s own oppression of…

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  1. Thanks for making Cockburn that much more relevant.

    Comment by Dieter Neumann — November 1, 2014 @ 2:04 am

  2. That’s the most accurate history of the way things have really been going down I’ve ever read.

    To back up the author’s assertions, last week the Frontline episode on the rise of ISIS made clear that it wasn’t the monies from the despicable Monarchies that sustained ISIS financially but rather stolen crude oil sold on the black market.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — November 1, 2014 @ 10:00 am

  3. I’m with Cockburn. The United States, Turkey, and Karadjis are obsessed with regime change in Syria. Now there may be no no question that Assad is a war criminal, as are the rest of the leaders of the nations in the area and Obama and Netanyahu, and Karadjis is standing with them. Regime change worked so well in Libya that we need to figure out a way to accomplish something similar in Syria, right?

    I’m not anywhere near expert in analyzing this catastrophic mess, but I do know that the United States and Turkey are playing their own imperial games and that Karadjis appears to be one of their gamers. Does Karadjis actually believe that an “Assad must go” approach is the way to proceed? It’s a no-go.

    Comment by Joe Barnwell — November 1, 2014 @ 3:55 pm

  4. “The United States…obsessed with regime change in Syria.”

    What stupidity. Doesn’t anybody with these sorts of opinions bother to read a fucking newspaper?


    In fact there was zero interest in a large-scale intervention in Syria in either civilian or military quarters. All this is documented in a NY Times article from October 22nd 2013, written when the alarums over a looming war with Syria were at their loudest, that stated “from the beginning, Mr. Obama made it clear to his aides that he did not envision an American military intervention, even as public calls mounted that year for a no-fly zone to protect Syrian civilians from bombings.” The article stressed the role of White House Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough, who had frequently clashed with the hawkish Samantha Power. In contrast to Power and others with a more overtly “humanitarian intervention” perspective, McDonough “who had perhaps the closest ties to Mr. Obama, remained skeptical. He questioned how much it was in America’s interest to tamp down the violence in Syria.” In other words, the White House policy was and is allowing the Baathists and the rebels to exhaust each other in an endless war, just as was White House policy during the Iran-Iraq conflict.

    Comment by louisproyect — November 1, 2014 @ 4:04 pm

  5. You’re a clown Joe. I understand the turn of events is difficult for you guys. For years you spouted ignorant rubbish about a conspiracy of the US, Gulf monarchies and al-Qaida jihadists all aimed at overthrowing the nice progressive secular anti-imperialist regime of Assad. Anyone who, like Proyect says, actually read a newspaper or anything else with an ounce of credibility, knew all that was a laugh. Then the US finally, after 3 years of massacre, does actually intervene in Syria – to make war on the jihadists! Those jihadists that the conspiracist left imagined the US was backing. And the US intervention is being carried out in open coordination with the regime. And although the US has not only bombed ISIS, but also Nusra, also islamic Front elements, and even the FSA (by accident, I guess??), it has made sure to not touch the regime. In fact, the abundance of empirical evidence of coordination between regime and US on actual bombings, not only of ISIS, is significant. For good reason, most of the FSA units on the ground, although they have been fighting like hell against ISIS themselves, opposed to US attack, due to its pro-Assad nature and the fact that it attacked non-ISIS forces. Yet we still get these deluded pro-Assad conspiracists talking as if the US is out to overthrow Assad! That the ‘secret, real, objective” of the war, despite all appearances, is to take out Assad! I’m soirry that it is so hard for you guys Joe, but please deal with your own delusions before attacking and accusing me of things when you have no idea what you’re talking about.

    Comment by mkaradjis — November 2, 2014 @ 6:07 am

  6. I’m a clown, Karadjis? I refer to Assad as a war criminal and you say I’m a “pro-Assad conspiracist”? That says a lot more about you than me.

    And Louis, aren’t you reading too much bourgeois press? Obama had established a Red Line for intervention in Syria that his then more friendly relations with Russia saved him from crossing at the time. Obama may be a rather timid imperialist, but now he’s hopelessly stuck in this massive misadventure, and Assad has always been in his sights. I’ll also note the ease with which Israel and Turkey spank Obama and his administration when he doesn’t toe their lines, a rare event.

    Comment by Joe Barnwell — November 2, 2014 @ 4:50 pm

  7. The US IS “out to overthrow” Assad even if it has to zig,zag and wait to build pro-Israel puppets capable of keeping the stability after he’s overthrown. That would be true as long as Israel believes the Moscow-Hezbollah-Syrian-Tehran axis is intact and more dangerous than militant Sunni Islam.

    Comment by amspirnational — November 2, 2014 @ 7:43 pm

  8. Joe, the argument is not whether Assad is a war criminal. It is whether the USA wants to get rid of him. Do you think that people can’t take the Rand Corporation seriously when it says that the overthrow of Assad was the worst possible outcome in the imperialist calculations? Do yourself a favor and relate to the arguments we have and not ones that we don’t have.

    Comment by louisproyect — November 2, 2014 @ 8:05 pm

  9. The US IS “out to overthrow” Assad even if it has to zig,zag and wait to build pro-Israel puppets capable of keeping the stability after he’s overthrown. T

    Why is it that the conspiracist left is so uninterested in facts or data? Everything is empty speculation. i always feel like taking a shower after reading shit like this, as if I was in close proximity to someone who is diseased.

    Comment by louisproyect — November 2, 2014 @ 8:45 pm

  10. I guess some people are so self-obsessed that they think it is OK to call someone a “gamer” for US imperialism, the Turkish regime and even (really in your fantasies), Netanyahu (who has always preferred Assad to the opposition), call someone an imperialist stooge advocating imperialist regime change, but then get all hurt when that person merely calls you a clown. I’ll tell you what Joe, the reason I only called you a clown was because I was focused on your arguments, it wasn’t about me; if it was about what you called me, then you’re a liar and slanderer.

    But so back to the content, which I’m more interested in. “Obama had established a Red Line for intervention in Syria” – right, and you took that seriously, did you? Most observers understand that the red line was to enable Assad to use every other conceivable weapons except sarin; so even when Assad tested the line in August 2013, Obama had no interest in doing what he pretended to aim to do. You’re entitled to your fantasies about that, but I would have thought the outcome made it all rather obvious: it made it even clearer to Assad that literally everything but sarin was OK, so the intensity of the slaughter got much much thicker, while the US, Russia and Assad carried out a nice chemical removal program. “Obama may be a rather timid imperialist, but now he’s hopelessly stuck in this massive misadventure.” Right, so a guy that has been bombing Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq and Syria is timid, yeh OK. Did it occur to you that all these thousands of drone strikes and air strikes all across the region were killing thousands of people, and that they are all aimed, in Syria included, officially at “Sunni jihadists” (with tons of Sunni civilian collateral damage), ie, the kind of people Assad is also (officially) fighting, and it doesn’t make him any more timid just because he is not attacking the regime that you imagine he wants to attack. Why don;t you just open your eyes and look at who the US is attacking instead of relying on fantasies that “Assad has always been in his sights” – ah, no, Assad hasn’t. The only thing the US has ever said, politely enough, is that Assad should “step down,” in order to preserve his state and regime and defuse the uprising – this is the entire premise on which alot of the left imagine that Obama has called for “regime change” in Syria. He hasn’t. Prove me wrong.

    Comment by mkaradjis — November 3, 2014 @ 5:22 am

  11. Mike Karadjis, I didn’t call you a stooge. I did say, though, that your article relentlessly pushed for regime change in Syria, which is correct and that position is a non-starter if there is to be any even partial remedy for the massive, violent chaos US and Western imperial blunders have created in the Middle East. If there is to be any solution to increasing jihadist extremism, the US and the other major Western imperial nations will need to establish working relations with Iran, the Shiite government of Iraq, Syria, Hezbollah, and the Kurdish “terrorist” groups. But Assad-must-go kills any such possibility and can only exacerbate what has become a regional Sunni vs. Shia civil war of sorts.

    The strategic logic of the current position of the US inevitably leads to an attempt at regime change in Syria, which it is already bombing without consulting its government.

    And with allies such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and Israel often opposing the US and whatever hapless policy it is pushing, the US has become Nixon’s “pitiful, helpless giant.” An extraordinarily destructive but pitiful, helpless giant.

    So my choice of terms may have been intemperate in referring to you as a “gamer” for supporting bankrupt imperial approaches to the chaos in the Middle East, but you couldn’t have been more wrong in assuming I am one of those terminally stupid “leftists” who support anyone who appears opposed to the US and other Western imperialists. I would never support an Assad or a Gaddaffi (sic), but I sure can see circumstances when regime change can only loose the hounds of hell. Particularly when it’s the US and its Middle East “allies” running the show.

    Comment by Joe Barnwell — November 3, 2014 @ 5:40 pm

  12. I’d critique Cockburn’s piece for rather different reasons — his disgusting slanders againsts the revolution’s real vanguard.

    Comment by Tony Iltis — November 4, 2014 @ 2:14 am

  13. Tony, What are Cockburn’s “disgusting slanders” against the Kurds? I’m in ignorance here (and perhaps elsewhere).

    Of course, the Kurds are already those boots on the ground opposing IS, but Turkey will not allow their arming and use. I also recently read that the US immediately withdrew from its “rescue” of the yazziddi (sic) on that mountaintop when it discovered that the Kurds there who had already accomplished the mission were YPG whom the US regards as PKK-aligned and thus a terrorist group. This is just one example of the US being a hapless captive of its imperial politics and “allies.”

    But it appears a Kurdish nation, at least, will emerge from this otherwise seemingly intractable mess, and I’ll be rejoicing along with you when that happens.

    Comment by Joe Barnwell — November 4, 2014 @ 7:27 pm

  14. ” In Kobani, for the first time, Isis was fighting an enemy – the People’s Defence Units (YPG) and its political wing, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) – that in important respects resembled itself. The PYD is the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which since 1984 has been fighting for self-rule for the 15 million Turkish Kurds. Like Isis, the PKK combines fanatical ideological commitment with military expertise and experience gained in long years of guerrilla war. Marxist-Leninist in its original ideology, the PKK is run from the top and seeks to monopolise power within the Kurdish community, whether in Turkey or Syria. The party’s imprisoned leader, Abdullah Ocalan, the object of a powerful personality cult, issues instructions from his Turkish prison on an island in the Sea of Marmara. The PKK’s military leadership operates from a stronghold in the Qandil Mountain in northern Iraq, one of the great natural fortresses of the world. Most of its fighters, estimated to number seven thousand, withdrew from Turkey under the terms of a ceasefire in 2013, and today move from camp to camp in the deep gorges and valleys of the Qandil. They are highly disciplined and intensely dedicated to the cause of Kurdish nationalism: this has enabled them to wage a war for three decades against the enormous Turkish army, always undeterred despite the devastating losses they have suffered. The PKK, like Isis, emphasises martyrdom: fallen fighters are buried in carefully tended cemeteries full of rose bushes high in the mountains, with elaborate tombstones over the graves.”
    The self-administration in liberated Rojava is, contrary to Cockburn’s claimes, extremely bottom-up.

    Comment by Tony Iltis — November 5, 2014 @ 4:22 am

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