The Shabiha, an unimpeachable source of information for Patrick Higgins on how the rebels were the first to use terrorist violence in Syria
This will be a brief response to Patrick Higgins latest foray on Syria that appears in today’s CounterPunch.
To start with, the title of his article refers to me as part of the Cruise Missile Left. What an odd assertion given the fact that the USA has been bombing Syria for more than a year but has not targeted a single Baathist soldier, airplane or piece of heavy artillery. What kind of 1984 world are we living in when an aspiring journalist can smear me as an advocate of American military intervention when that intervention has been ongoing for a year? Perhaps he will awaken from his slumber when a stray American missile accidentally takes out a Baathist tank.
To prove his point about the USA having plans to create a jihadist state in Syria, he cites a memo that originally appeared on the rightwing website Judicial Watch, one that has been waved in the air by Baathist supporters in the thousands including Alex Jones who told Infowars readers that it proved the “US ‘CREATED’ ISIS AS A ‘TOOL’ TO OVERTHROW SYRIA’S PRESIDENT ASSAD”. No friend of jihadists by any stretch of the imagination, Juan Cole advised his readers that the memo was not a declaration of American support for something like ISIS. In fact, Cole states: “the memo warns that any such development could lead to the break-up of Iraq, an eventuality that the authors clearly felt was undesirable for US foreign policy.” Given a choice between a bloc that includes Alex Jones and one that sides with Juan Cole, I’ll stick with Cole warts and all.
Higgins challenges me to “explain how such large chunks of Syrian territory have been taken over by armed opposition” if they haven’t been supplied by enemies of Bashar al-Assad. I don’t think there is any question that Saudi Arabia, Qatar et al have been supplying weaponry to various rebel groups. Maybe our intrepid journalist had other ideas about how to take on Baathist tanks. Throw Mao’s Little Red Books at them? In fact, weapons have been secured by the FSA from a variety of sources, including seizure from overrun Baathist outposts and on the black market as the Huffington Post reported in 2012:
The FSA officer said they had also bought assault rifles and grenades from Iraq, which were trucked across the border or carried on donkeys. Equipment also crossed from Lebanon.
Rebels paid about 350,000 Syrian pounds ($4,000) for Katyusha rockets and 100,000 pounds for anti-tank missiles.
“We get LAW (anti-tank missiles) and Katyusha rockets as well as ammunition like bullets and grenades. We buy them from arms dealers – it is easy in Lebanon,” the officer said. “The Jordanians have blocked most of our supplies from there.”
Rebel fighters have said they were also in possession of thousands of Belgian FN FAL assault rifles.
“One of the most dispersed type of assault rifles in the world is the Belgian manufactured FN FAL which dates back to the 1960s. It’s probably quite likely to be old. They have a far greater range than the Kalashnikov-pattern weapons circulating in the region,” said Conflict Armament Research’s Bevan.
Two maritime security sources said they were aware of attempts also being made to procure light arms on behalf of Syrian rebels via private security firms in South Africa.
“What’s being discussed are test runs using surplus arms inside South Africa. We are talking about paper bags full of cash involved. It’s as simple and crude as that and it’s untraceable,” the maritime intelligence source said.
You’ll note that the Jordanian monarchy had blocked the FSA from obtaining arms in its country despite the fact that it is an ally of the USA. Maybe Abdullah II did not get his marching orders that he is supposed to help topple the Baathist secular and progressive government. Of course, not only Jordan but also those diehard reactionary monarchs that were tools of Washington understood the need to intervene to prevent the shipment of weapons that could have turned the tide against the Baathist killing machine as the Wall Street Journal reported on October 17, 2012:
U.S. officials say they are most worried about Russian-designed Manpads provided to Libya making their way to Syria. The U.S. intensified efforts to track and collect man-portable missiles after the 2011 fall of the country’s longtime strongman leader, Moammar Gadhafi.
To keep control of the flow of weapons to the Syrian rebels, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar formed a joint operations room early this year in a covert project U.S. officials watched from afar.
The U.S. has limited its support of the rebels to communications equipment, logistics and intelligence. But U.S. officials have coordinated with the trio of countries sending arms and munitions to the rebels. The Pentagon and CIA ramped up their presence on Turkey’s southern border as the weapons began to flow to the rebels in two to three shipments every week.
In July, the U.S. effectively halted the delivery of at least 18 Manpads sourced from Libya, even as the rebels pleaded for more effective antiaircraft missiles to counter regime airstrikes in Aleppo, people familiar with that delivery said.
Of course, everybody who has read their Mao Zedong will understand that Manpads were not really needed when you have correct revolutionary thoughts. If the FSA fighters had read “On Contradiction”, they could have carried out a Vulcan mind meld that would have brought down a MIG with no problem.
To wrap this up, let me turn to Higgins’s feeble attempt to prove that the Syrian rebels were guilty of wanton slaughter as charged, referring us to an Al Monitor article written last month. He would have us take the word of a shabiha member profiled in the article. The shabiha was the Alawite militia that constituted the hardcore resistance to the FSA until Hizbollah poured into Syria. After quoting the militia member, hardly a pinnacle of impartiality, Higgins offers this: “Proyect will dismiss this testimony as exactly something a supporter of the Syrian government would say.” I don’t think the young propagandist should worry about what I think. Instead he should worry about what those who are still searching for a convincing analysis of the war in Syria might think.