Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

September 19, 2015

Baathist truthers

Filed under: journalism,Syria — louisproyect @ 7:52 pm

In the course of responding to the amen corner for the past couple of weeks over the Syrian refugee crisis, it dawned on me that it is not only an ethical lapse that we are dealing with but a theoretical one as well. Largely as a function of its narrow focus on US foreign policy and the sort of revelations we associate with Seymour Hersh type investigative reporting, Wikileaks, etc., there is zero interest in how Marxism can relate to events taking place within Syria. The country becomes a kind of black box where reductionism is taken to such an extreme degree that everything is bracketed out except what the CIA or other Western imperialist agencies are up to. Tunnel vision is perfectly suited to Baathist state terrorism.

When the protests erupted in Syria in 2011, I tried to get as much information as possible about the social and economic conditions that spurred people into action. Although I disagreed with Jadaliyya’s Bassam Haddad on some questions, I found his analysis of the agrarian crisis most useful, especially “The Syrian Regime’s Business Backbone” that appeared in the Spring 2012 Middle East Report. It was a reminder that the Baathist state was socialist in name only:

By the late 1990s, the business community that the Asads had created in their own image had transformed Syria from a semi-socialist state into a crony capitalist state par excellence. The economic liberalization that started in 1991 had redounded heavily to the benefit of tycoons who had ties to the state or those who partnered with state officials. The private sector outgrew the public sector, but the most affluent members of the private sector were state officials, politicians and their relatives. The economic growth registered in the mid-1990s was mostly a short-lived bump in consumption, as evidenced by the slump at the end of the century. Growth rates that had been 5-7 percent fell to 1-2 percent from 1997 to 2000 and beyond.

But within the first month of the protests, others were searching for a CIA connection since Syria was perceived as an ally of Russia, Venezuela, Cuba and Iran—four countries that to varying degrees represented an “anti-imperialist” pole of attraction. When I kept urging one old friend to look at websites that took the side of the anti-Assad revolt, he told me that he did not have time for that. Meanwhile, he was obviously keeping track of what Patrick Cockburn, Robert Fisk and Tariq Ali were writing with no problem. In essence, what you had was a total refusal to examine all sides of a political question because “our obligations were to oppose imperialism”. Basically it was the same kind of intellectual laziness and lack of backbone that allowed most of the left to defend the Moscow Trials in the late 1930s.

As the years and bloodletting wore on, a “truther” mentality set in that was not that different from the “911” type. “False flags” were constantly being referred to as if the USA was planning to invade Syria and impose a sectarian Sunni state in the same way that George W. Bush imposed a sectarian Shiite state in Iraq. Blaming Assad for the Sarin gas attack in East Ghouta was like the WMD propaganda campaign in 2002. Or like 911 since Dubya supposedly needed that as a casus belli.

Even today, you have warnings about “regime change” in places like WSWS.org no matter what Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly I. Churkin stated: “This is something we share now with the U.S. Government: They don’t want the Assad Government to fail. They want to fight ISIL in a way that won’t harm the Syrian government.”

Instead of examining class relations, the left became amateur sleuths anxious to prove once and for all that the USA has been using Syrian rebels as puppets to bring down the Assad dictatorship. Influenced by the musings of ex-CIA agents such as Ray McGovern, there was a search for incriminating evidence that would allow the scales to fall from the public’s eyes and rouse it to pressure politicians to end the “war on Syria”. If only they knew. The dedication to this cause is almost as impressive as what you get from those arguing that burning jet fuel was incapable of bringing down the WTC.

Just as is the case with 911 truthers, the Baathist left shares links to the same articles that get repeated endlessly in places like Jacobin, Mint Press, DissidentVoice or Information Clearing House. I would venture to guess that the items reviewed below have been recycled hundreds of times already by the Baathist left and there is no sign that their shelf life will expire any time soon. And to what end? To justify the killing of countless more Syrians. And how is this possible? The answer: you have to objectify and dehumanize human beings, the function of a left gone mad. As a political response to mass murder, it is exactly the same as how most Israelis view the destruction of Gaza.

What all of these items below have in common is that they are based on some revelation of a top-secret or nearly top-secret memorandum or diplomatic initiative that proves once and for all that the USA was behind the “war on Syria”. Once they are exposed, they are picked up by a myriad of websites dedicated to the Baathist cause. In some ways, the websites that carry out this task are similar to the hired trolls who work in a basement in Moscow on Putin’s behalf. I am not sure whether doing this kind of work for pay is sleazier than doing it for free.

US refusal to accept a deal that would have removed Assad from office

Three days ago the Guardian reported on the revelation made by former president of Finland Martti Ahtisaari that when the aforementioned Vitaly Churkin proposed a deal three years ago that would have resulted in Assad stepping down in exchange for peace, the USA, Britain and France said no.

Writing for CounterPunch, Peter Lee considered this “an instance of neoliberal ass-covering, as if the Western allies were just waiting for Assad ‘to fall’” while Information Clearing House, a reliably pro-Assad website, reposted the Guardian article with the obvious intention of showing how Putin stood for peace and the West for war. Then there is David Swanson of Lets Try Democracy who concludes: “peace has been carefully avoided at every turn.” (http://davidswanson.org/node/4914)

The only problem is that Churkin was not the ultimate authority on such matters. Much closer to Putin and certainly speaking for him, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated just four months later: “We will not support and cannot support any interference from outside or any imposition of recipes. This also concerns the fate of Bashar al-Assad.”

The other thing that was obviously of zero interest to Peter Lee, David Swanson or Assad’s pals at Information Clearing House was the feelings of the Syrian opposition. Clearly, what the plan entailed was a Yemen type solution in which Assadism without Assad would continue. If you could see things through the eyes of people who had been tortured in Assad’s jails, you could understand why they would resist a solution that left the Syrian army and police intact especially since it had just gone through the ordeal of seeing its nonviolent supporters shot down in the streets by government snipers for the better part of a year. Maybe the protesters didn’t understand that they were CIA puppets and that decrying torture only benefited ExxonMobil and Chase Bank.

One might understand why the rebels are of no consequence to some. As an indistinguishable mass of bearded takfiri inimical to our values of freedom and tolerance, they have to be stopped before they come here and carry out more Charlie Hebdo type attacks. FSA, ISIS, al-Nusra Front—it’s all the same. That’s why it was so beneficial when Patrick Cockburn advised Parliament that jet bombing attacks against the terrorists had to be coordinated with Assad. Can’t you see Christopher Hitchens smiling benignly down from heaven (or up from hell) now that his message to an errant left has finally been vindicated?

Wikileaks regime change memo from 2006

This one is in heavy rotation in all sorts of places, from Global Research to Glenn Greenwald. This State Department had outlined a series of measures that could destabilize the Assadist dictatorship ranging from influencing members of the military to stirring up the Kurds.

What it does not include is any reference to exactly what posed the biggest threat to Assad five years later: a peaceful mass movement calling for democracy and an end to the sort of robbery that characterized the big businesses aligned with the regime, starting with Rami Makhlouf who controlled 60 percent of the Syrian economy.

Nor was there any consideration of a shift in US foreign policy that coincided with the arrival of Barack Obama into the White House in 2008. On March 26, 2009 the New York Times reported:

Only a year ago, this country’s government was being vilified as a dangerous pariah. The United States and its Arab allies mounted a vigorous campaign to isolate Syria, which they accused of sowing chaos and violence throughout the region through its support for militant groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.

It is not just a matter of the Obama administration’s new policy of engagement. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France led the way with a visit here last September. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who was said to be furious at the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, welcomed him warmly in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, this month. Photographs of the two men smiling and shaking hands have been on the front pages of all the major Arab newspapers, along with frequent headlines about the “Arab reconciliation.”

One might safely assume that if the rabble had not taken to the streets in March of 2011, there would have been a rapid march toward fulfilling the “new policy of engagement” alluded to above. Indeed, even with the death of 225,000 Syrians, the Obama administration has shown an impressive determination to go full speed ahead with a realigned foreign policy that sees Iran and the Baathists as having a common interest in bringing stability to the region.

Judicial Watch release of US Intelligence Report that shows the USA was in cahoots with ISIS

Ever since this document appeared on the rightwing Judicial Watch’s website got the Baathist juices flowing. Seumas Milne, a diehard supporter of the gangsters in Damascus, wrote:

A revealing light on how we got here has now been shone by a recently declassified secret US intelligence report, written in August 2012, which uncannily predicts – and effectively welcomes – the prospect of a “Salafist principality” in eastern Syria and an al-Qaida-controlled Islamic state in Syria and Iraq. In stark contrast to western claims at the time, the Defense Intelligence Agency document identifies al-Qaida in Iraq (which became Isis) and fellow Salafists as the “major forces driving the insurgency in Syria” – and states that “western countries, the Gulf states and Turkey” were supporting the opposition’s efforts to take control of eastern Syria.

(Milne was joined by David Mizner, a pinhead over at Jacobin who wrote essentially the same article, as is common practice in such circles. Jacobins Mizner, Patrick Higgins, and Max Ajl are part of a Twitter network that includes the imbeciles who organized the “Zizek must be destroyed” panel discussion at the Left Forum two years ago. If they organize something like this again, maybe they can invite Bhaskar Sunkara to speak although that might not sit well with fellow editor Sebastian Budgeon whose admiration for Zizek is boundless.)

As is universally true when dingbats like Milne consult such documents to bolster their Baathist talking points, they omit anything that would undermine their case. Do they think that people lack the ability to read critically? It is astonishing that a reputable paper like the Guardian would hire someone who wouldn’t cut the mustard at a Murdoch newspaper at least on the basis of professionalism. Milne says that the Intelligence Report “effectively welcomes” the growth of a formation like ISIS. But the concluding paragraph of the report states:

1. THE DETERIORATION OF THE SITUATION HAS DIRE CONSEQUENCES ON THE IRAQI SITUATION AND ARE AS FOLLOWS;

-1. THIS CREATES THE IDEAL ATMOSPHERE FOR AQI [Al Qaeda in Iraq—don’t ask me why this stupid memo is in all-caps] TO RETURN TO ITS OLD POCKETS TN MOSUL AND RAMADI, AND WILL PROVIDE A RENEWED MOMENTUM UNDER THE PRESUMPTION OF UNIFYING THE JIHAD AMONG SUNNI IRAQ AND SYRIA, AND THE REST OF THE SUNNIS IN THE ARAB WORLD AGAINST WHAT IT CONSIDERS ONE ENEMY, THE DISSENTERS. ISI COULD ALSO DECLARE AN ISLAMIC STATE THROUGH ITS UNION WITH OTHER TERRORIST ORGANIZATIONS IN IRAQ AND SYRIA, WHICH WILL CREATE GRAVE DANGER IN REGARDS TO UNIFYING IRAQ AND THE PROTECTION OF ITS TERRITORY.

What could possibly have allowed Milne to describe anything like this as “effectively” welcoming the emergence of ISIS? Do the words “Grave Danger” mean something different to him than they do to the average person? Where is George Orwell when we need him to unravel such doublethink when “effectively welcome” and “a grave danger” go together?

Since the report was only a draft and heavily redacted, it is open to different interpretations. If ISIS were such a “grave danger”, why would “the west” support it? It does state that Qatar, Turkey and “the west” support the opposition but if so, why does it conclude with a dire warning about the jihadist threat to Iraq and Western interests?

But that’s the problem you run into when everything turns on a top-secret memo whose author is unnamed and unaccountable. When Seymour Hersh kept referring to his sources inside the intelligence community, there was no way to validate their claims. It was their word against any detractors who came along that found their story to be pure bullshit.

The report also claims that the Muslim Brotherhood was one of the main participants in the armed opposition but this is utter nonsense. A couple of its members were represented in the official Syrian opposition in exile but it has never been a “driving force” as the report asserts.

If you want to read a serious analysis of how ISIS came into being, I recommend Peter Neumann’s article in the April 2014 London Review of Books, a journal that has published Seymour Hersh, Tariq Ali, Charles Glass, and David Bromwich on Syria. As these four individuals are part of the amen corner, rest assured that the LRB is no friend of the Syrian opposition. Neumann wrote:

The most significant, long-term consequence of Assad’s policy arose from the opening up of Syria to international jihadist networks. Before he turned his country into a transit point for foreign fighters, Syrian jihadists had been largely homegrown. If international links existed, they were to neighbouring countries. Al-Qaida had always had prominent Syrians as members – the strategist Abu Musab al-Suri, for example, or Abu Dahdah, who was sentenced to a lengthy prison term in Spain – but they had fled the country in the early 1980s, and there is no evidence that they directed jihadist activities inside Syria, sought to organise them, or even showed any interest in doing so. The terrorism experts were not entirely wrong, therefore, in believing that – for some time at least – Syria was outside al-Qaida’s orbit.

This changed in 2003 when Assad allowed the jihadists in his country to link up with Zarqawi and become part of a foreign fighter pipeline stretching from Lebanon to Iraq, with way points, safehouses and facilitators dotted across the country. With the active help of Assad’s intelligence services, Syria was opened to the influx – and influence – of experienced and well-connected jihadists from Libya, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Tunisia, Yemen and Morocco, who brought with them their contact books, money and skills. Within a few years, the country ceased to be a black spot on the global jihadist map: by the late 2000s it was familiar terrain to foreign jihadists, while jihadists from Syria had become valued members of al-Qaida in Iraq, where they gained combat experience and acquired the international contacts and expertise needed to turn Syria into the next battlefront.

The Washington Post article that alluded to a billion dollars spent on the armed opposition to Assad

Adam Johnson of FAIR, Patrick Higgins of Jacobin, and countless others have linked to this article that like the ones cited above amounts to some kind of “smoking gun” that proves the USA has been involved in “regime change”. Referring to the article, Higgins lamented the fact that “the United States launched a full-scale war against Syria, and few Americans actually noticed.”

I guess Higgins is stunned by the monumental expense but maybe he isn’t aware that a billion dollars is chickenfeed when it comes to supporting military adventures. Experts in the field estimate that Iran spends $6 billion per year to prop up the Syrian dictatorship. Syria spent $2.5 billion on its military in 2011, the last year for which data exists. You can safely assume that it has doubled given the escalation of the violence. So if it was $5 billion, Iran and Syria have spent 44 times as much on warfare than those it has been trying to kill.

One might think that people like Adam Johnson would be more motivated to scrutinize media reports since after all a media watchdog employs him. As is always the case, you need to evaluate multiple reports to gauge whether the USA was involved in what Higgins called “a full-scale war” and that he himself referred to as “intervening” in Syria in “measurable and significant ways.” Perhaps they have a subscription to the WSJ over at FAIR. If they do, Johnson should have been doing his homework before writing such a stupid article. On January 26th of this year, Adam Entous reported:

It didn’t take long for rebel commanders in Syria who lined up to join a Central Intelligence Agency weapons and training program to start scratching their heads.

After the program was launched in mid-2013, CIA officers secretly analyzed cellphone calls and email messages of commanders to make sure they were really in charge of the men they claimed to lead. Commanders were then interviewed, sometimes for days.

Those who made the cut, earning the label “trusted commanders,” signed written agreements, submitted payroll information about their fighters and detailed their battlefield strategy. Only then did they get help, and it was far less than they were counting on.

Some weapons shipments were so small that commanders had to ration ammunition. One of the U.S.’s favorite trusted commanders got the equivalent of 16 bullets a month per fighter. Rebel leaders were told they had to hand over old antitank missile launchers to get new ones—and couldn’t get shells for captured tanks. When they appealed last summer for ammo to battle fighters linked to al Qaeda, the U.S. said no.

All sides now agree that the U.S.’s effort to aid moderate fighters battling the Assad regime has gone badly. The CIA program was the riskiest foray into Syria since civil war erupted in 2011.

Now I don’t care if Higgins and Johnson believe this or not, or for that matter, whether they think the refugee crisis was caused by Nicholas Kristof, but if you don’t take the trouble to account for data that contradicts your thesis, you better get out of the journalism business and look for a job with Rupert Murdoch who is always on the lookout for people who know to twist the truth into a pretzel.

29 Comments »

  1. Ok, lets say that we all agree that the FSA is led by and manned by followers of Karl Marx and Thomas Paine then what?
    Then what? Does that mean that the USA needs to continue to play the role of the world’s policeman or only that the USA needs to play the role of arsenal for world democracy? If we intervene in Syria to help the nice people why not then Libya and then Sudan and then Egypt? If you got your wich and there were a socialist or Marxist government in America there is a good chance that the military would be abolsihed all together so that is not exactly a future in which the USA would be supporting liberation movements. It would not have the capability if it wanted to. It would be a country that is not stepping on the necks of the people of those countries that try to reform their countries. To bad for those people the Russians or the Chinese might replace us as the ones preventing a country from reforming. But I doubt that. No I can not source that doubt to wikipedia or wikileaks.
    I can link this staunch defence of European borders.

    http://www.der-postillon.com/2015/08/fluchtling-renkt-seinen-unterkiefer-aus.html

    Comment by Curt Kastens — September 19, 2015 @ 8:46 pm

  2. Interesting article, Lou. Damn primary sources ….I believe what I want to believe…especially if it’s from the WSJ.

    Comment by georges — September 19, 2015 @ 9:49 pm

  3. Georges, aren’t you aware of the reports that flooded the media this week that only 4 or 5 men have “graduated” from the most recent American training program meant to take on ISIS? If you prefer to believe bullshit, be my guest. This has been a pattern all along. When the USA is committed to “regime change”, it will move heaven and hell to achieve its objectives. I say that as someone who was deeply involved in Nicaragua solidarity in the 1980s.

    http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/sep/16/us-military-syrian-isis-fighters

    A $500m effort to train Syrian forces against the Islamic State has resulted in only a handful of fighters actively battling the jihadi army, the top military commander overseeing the war has testified.

    “We’re talking four or five,” General Lloyd Austin, commander of US Central Command, told a dissatisfied Senate armed services committee on Wednesday.

    The training initiative is Barack Obama’s linchpin for retaking Syrian territory from Isis. The Pentagon anticipated in late 2014 that it would have trained 5,000 anti-Isis Syrian rebels by now.

    “The program is much smaller than we hoped,” conceded the Pentagon’s policy chief, Christine Wormuth, saying there were between 100 and 120 fighters currently being trained. Wormuth said they were “getting terrific training”.

    Both Wormuth and Austin defended US strategy against Isis in the face of bipartisan skepticism from the senators.

    Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri, mocked the Syrian training program, expressing incredulity that the Defense Department would seek another $600m to fund fighters she said the US was counting “on our fingers and toes”.

    “It’s time for a new plan,” McCaskill said.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 19, 2015 @ 10:19 pm

  4. Also, why do you suggest that Tariq Ali, Fisk and Cockburn are “Baathist apologists” when all I’ve ever seen them do is weigh against US (or their allies, Turkey, Saudi etc) bombing Syria? They plainly state that the Assad gov has committed atrocities. It’s just childish to call them regime supporters. If you accept that the “rebels” probably can’t win or consolidate Syria on their own, well then what? US bombing and occupation? Nevermind whether Iran or Russia is proping up Assad, of course they are, and nevermind who spends the most on each side. What do you suggest? We can’t pressure Russia to do anything, probably. So the regional proxy balancing is going to continue, with its awful human costs. Unless you favour the US or its allies intervening decisively, which of course is going to lead to a situation of complete chaos.

    Comment by Engorgio — September 20, 2015 @ 9:08 am

  5. Everyone need to be aware of a basic truth here.

    Proyect has no problem with babies having their legs blown off. And he has no problem with the Islamists being eradicated from the face of the Earth in a genocide.

    What really upsets Proyect is that he wants his puppets to be the ones to carry this out. He is upset that Assad seems so incompetent at achieving this task.

    Like many foaming at the mouth pro war leftists Proyect is frustrated that US imperialism isn’t even more murderously barbaric than it already is!

    What the pro war leftists want is operation clear the region. What imperialists want is business. So sometimes these conflicting interests cause a little disagreement.

    Pro war leftists are very much similar to the Nazi’s. They are interested in an ideology, a certain expectation of the way the world should be, an absolute idea. So Hitler could carry out the holocaust in the name racial purity, whereas the pro war leftists will carry out genocide in the name of promoting ‘Western values’.

    Which to me represent the values of the destruction of planet without giving too much of a shit of the consequences and consuming cheap goods without worrying about the conditions they were produced under.

    Well, everyone needs their banner to hang on to!

    Comment by Simon Provertier — September 20, 2015 @ 10:10 am

  6. –curt kastens
    I find it despicable that all you people can do is ask whether Syrians are passing some kind of political litmus test (or jihadi test) when half the country has fled (mostly barrel bombs), and about 80-90% of all the dead, murdered and tortured are because of Assad. It’s as if you don’t care whether Syrians live or die.. It should not be about “geopolitics” or politics any more. It’s life and death. When Saddam made half-million Kurdish and Shia refugees over night, the US, UK and Turkey created a NoFly Zone so there would be less of a refugee problem. It’s Syrians right to live without barrel bombs whether or not you “like” their politics. Its just plain snobby to be debating their politics at this point.
    Provertier–you are proving Louis’ point by projecting. You pro-russkies ar egood at that.

    Comment by mui — September 20, 2015 @ 12:45 pm

  7. Mr. Provertier, don’t you realize that your invective would be a lot more effective if it was based on an examination of concrete social, historical, or economic material? I spent three hours yesterday working on an article demonstrating that the four items under review failed to make the case that the “war on Syria” was coming from any source that matched up to the Baathist pigs whose scorched earth tactics come out of the Wehrmacht playbook. If you spent three minutes doing the same kind of analysis, you would be taken more seriously instead of coming across like this:

    Comment by louisproyect — September 20, 2015 @ 1:35 pm

  8. They plainly state that the Assad gov has committed atrocities.

    It would be very difficult to find anybody praising Assad given the atrocious record of the past 4 years. However, the tactic of people such as Fisk is instead to distort the character of the opposition to the point that he becomes a “lesser evil”.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 20, 2015 @ 1:51 pm

  9. “Just as is the case with 911 truthers, the Baathist left shares links to the same articles that get repeated endlessly in places like Jacobin, Mint Press, DissidentVoice or Information Clearing House.”

    “Largely as a function of its narrow focus on US foreign policy and the sort of revelations we associate with Seymour Hersh type investigative reporting, Wikileaks, etc., there is zero interest in how Marxism can relate to events taking place within Syria.”

    Is this really a left, or an anti-American, anti-imperialist configuration that just happens to include leftists? I think that it is really more of the latter. And to what extent is their willingness to participate in such a configuration associated with the emergence of “post-Marxist” leftism over the last couple of decades? I don’t have an answer for that, except that the abandonment of any sort of class perspective on the Middle East appears to be related to it. Or, maybe, more crudely, there are those on the left who believe that recasting events around the world into an anti-American mold is one of the better ways to retain what remains of their public appeal.

    My guess is that, as with the Ukraine, there are some anarchists who, because of their anti-state philosophy, are closer to getting this right than Marxists. But that assumes that they aren’t just uncritically passing along mainstream analysis from people with Marxist pasts.

    The unwillingness of leftists to acknowledge a historical agency among the peoples of the Middle East and Central Asia is a huge problem. Last week, I interviewed someone involved in opposition to the Iranian regime who lives here in the US. As you might guess, he is as appalled by the left response to what is happening in Syria as he is to the left response to Iran. He describes the left’s imputation of passivity to the peoples of the region as “reverse orientalism”, whereby by the left rationalizes the brutality of the regimes there through pseudo-cultural rationalization, as if Iranians have a predisposition for having the highest rate of state executions in the world.

    Comment by Richard Estes — September 20, 2015 @ 1:53 pm

  10. –Richard Estes
    That could be a very good discussion. Did some of these glom onto the left or was there always this tilted, (soley) anti-West, pro-Stalin vein? I wish I knew. I don’t have the past or the history to know.I missed out on most of the coldwar. But they’re really ok with authoritarian govts, as long as they’re not western. That’s not fair-minded. It’s like they have a snobby attitude toward everyone but those in western countries, then they become “Champs” of fair labor, human rights, or in the case of Syria, right to live.

    Comment by mui — September 20, 2015 @ 2:14 pm

  11. Mui,thanks for your response. I needed that. Someone to cut me down to size.

    Comment by Curt Kastens — September 20, 2015 @ 2:36 pm

  12. […] Louis Proyect writes: In the course of responding to the amen corner for the past couple of weeks over the Syrian refugee crisis, it dawned on me that it is not only an ethical lapse that we are dealing with but a theoretical one as well. Largely as a function of its narrow focus on US foreign policy and the sort of revelations we associate with Seymour Hersh type investigative reporting, Wikileaks, etc., there is zero interest in how Marxism can relate to events taking place within Syria. The country becomes a kind of black box where reductionism is taken to such an extreme degree that everything is bracketed out except what the CIA or other Western imperialist agencies are up to. Tunnel vision is perfectly suited to Baathist state terrorism. […]

    Pingback by Baathist truthers — September 20, 2015 @ 6:27 pm

  13. Guys, guys… when we are all upset about Baathist truthers, let’s just remember how these guys were wrong about Libya and the success that the country is today.
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/21/libya-at-least-six-die-in-fighting-near-benghazi

    Comment by Georges — September 21, 2015 @ 2:34 am

  14. I have no objection to Robert Fisk or any of these people urging non-intervention in Libya or Syria or Afghanistan or Iraq or Somalia or Venezuela or Cuba or a dozen other countries. What I object to is lying and spin-doctoring for a torture state. You can oppose US drone attacks, etc without writing a bunch of bullshit about Syria when you were embedded with the Baathist army–as was Fisk–or relying on Baathist military accounts of what took place in some village where civilians were killed–as Cockburn did. Or for that matter writing a bunch of horseshit about Gaddafi opposing Africom…

    Comment by louisproyect — September 21, 2015 @ 2:45 am

  15. Exploiting a mutilated kid by using him to bolster a rant trivializes violence and whatever it is you are arguing for.

    Comment by jeff — September 21, 2015 @ 6:36 am

  16. -Georges. Gee you mention Libya. I was just looking at Libya’s UN stats on refugees. They’re enviable compared to Syria. I guess they don’t have barrel bombs.

    Comment by mui — September 21, 2015 @ 11:52 am

  17. I’m in agreement with you guys. Libya is what I would like all revolutions to look like.I’m glad Libya has an enviable record when it comes to refugees, except if you are Black -skinned, in which case it’s not so good. I can hardly wait for the celebration in Damascus with Obama, Cameron, Hollande, the Saudi royalty… you know the people with a track record of supporting popular uprisings. And thank God the Syrian rebels aren’t torturing anyone, because as you know the West would never support torturers.

    Comment by Georges — September 21, 2015 @ 2:12 pm

  18. Georges, a little less irony and a lot more substance would impress those trying to evaluate our debate. My article addressed four points of contention on Syria. Unless you have some important insights to share, maybe you can just shut the fuck up for the time being.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 21, 2015 @ 2:30 pm

  19. –Georges. you still haven’t addressed the mortality and refugee rate of Libya vs. Syria. And for the record, I’ve heard the anti-black thing was something inherited by the Qaddafy regime, you know that King of Africa guy, who was like Assad perfeclty willing to torture or disappear a few victims for the Bush administration. Rebels can be vindictive, but many of them have either been or have had family and friends disappeared by Assad. Assad for the record, runs a torture factory. At least 20,0000 dead by torture.

    Comment by mui — September 21, 2015 @ 2:42 pm

  20. Lou, all the issues you brought up have been debated. People, groups and countries as diverse as George Galloway, John Pilger, Tariq Ali, Julian Assange, FAIR, WSWS ,Black Agenda Report, AntiWar.com, PLFP,, Hezbollah, KKE, Iran ,Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia etc… have all flagged the so-called Syrian revolution as a regime change operation. There is nothing anyone can say that will convince you that the DIA report and the Wikileaks cable are legitimate. You are the one who invites ridicule by titling your article “Baathist truthers”.

    Comment by Georges — September 21, 2015 @ 2:53 pm

  21. as diverse as George Galloway…

    Can’t you use an emoji when you are telling jokes?

    Comment by louisproyect — September 21, 2015 @ 2:56 pm

  22. “Milne was joined by David Mizner, a pinhead over at Jacobin who wrote essentially the same article, as is common practice in such circles. Jacobin’s Mizner, Patrick Higgins, and Max Ajl are part of a Twitter network that includes the imbeciles who organized the “Zizek must be destroyed” panel discussion at the Left Forum two years ago. If they organize something like this again, maybe they can invite Bhaskar Sunkara to speak although that might not sit well with fellow editor Sebastian Budgeon whose admiration for Zizek is boundless.”

    I get the joke but really, that wouldn’t happen. Bhaskar admits that he agrees with with “only about 3/4 of what’s actually published on the Jacobin blog.” I can make an educated guess as to what makes up part of the other 1/4.

    If Max Ajl stepped down from Jacobin’s editorial board I think the Assad-as-lesser-evil articles on said blog would make no further appearances.

    Comment by jschulman — September 21, 2015 @ 3:05 pm

  23. Sorry, don’t get the joke.. I’m too busy preparing potato salad for our Baathist Family picnic.

    Comment by Georges — September 21, 2015 @ 4:00 pm

  24. Maybe the policy is not to overthrow Assad but to bleed Syria by stoking the war while denying to either side the ability to win. This would explain the apparent American dithering on Assad, the lackidasical campaign against ISIS and Putin’s current efforts to upend American policy by calling for a real war aganist ISIS.

    Comment by marco — September 21, 2015 @ 8:15 pm

  25. Marco, you are probably right. Ironically, Assad’s refusal to implement a Yemen type solution has led to what will almost certainly lead to the dismemberment of Syria.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 21, 2015 @ 9:25 pm

  26. […] Like so many, Chomsky seems to believe that such a peace was in hand after a Finnish diplomat recently reported that a Russian diplomat was agreeable to a Yemen solution but it was aborted by the USA that demanded Assad’s removal as a precondition. Not withstanding the dubious merits of a Yemen type solution, there was never such a deal in the offing as I point out here: https://louisproyect.org/2015/09/19/baathist-truthers/ […]

    Pingback by Random notes on “anti-imperialism” | Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist — October 21, 2015 @ 4:37 pm

  27. […] I pointed out in my article on “Baathist Truthers”, most members of the amen corner simply operate on a different basis than Marxism. Their method […]

    Pingback by Seymour Hersh vindicated on sarin gas attack? Not really | Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist — October 26, 2015 @ 6:45 pm

  28. […] He has written: “In 2012, Russia proposed a peace-process that would have included President Bashar al-Assad stepping down, but the U.S. brushed the idea aside without any serious consideration, suffering under the delusion that Assad would be violently overthrown very soon, and preferring a violent solution as more likely to remove the Russian influence and military — and perhaps also due to the general U.S. preference for violence driven by its weapons industry corruption.” In fact no such proposal was ever made as I pointed out in a September 2015 article. […]

    Pingback by The demonization of Jill Stein | Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist — July 29, 2016 @ 6:09 pm

  29. […] flags” to justify its intervention. I reviewed this in an article I posted a year ago titled “Baathist Truthers” that points out how Wikileaks and other hacked material matters much more than class relations […]

    Pingback by The uncontrolled demolition of the Truther brain | Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist — September 18, 2016 @ 8:20 pm


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