Since support for the Assad killing machine is generally associated with Putin worship and Stalin nostalgia, Jacobin continues to surprise by publishing the kind of crap you’d expect to read on WSWS.org or Global Research but not in a magazine that is in the DSA/Dissent Magazine neck of the woods. There were hopes that the magazine might have wised up at this point but Greg Shupak’s article on ISIS persuades me that the editorial board is still covered in muck—at least on this question.
Titled “The Case Against Bombing ISIS” (https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/03/isis-united-states-iraq-syria/), Shupak repackages all the hoary source material that has appeared already on Jacobin, Salon (courtesy of Patrick L Smith), Counterpunch, DissidentVoice, Information Clearing House, Moon of Alabama, Consortium News, VoltaireNet, Veteran’s Today, Infowars and countless other websites that echo RT.com and Press TV.
Shupak states: “a Democratic president helped produce the conditions for ISIS’s rise in Syria.” Gosh, that’s news to me. I always thought it was Assad releasing jihadists out of prison, barrel bombing the FSA while ignoring ISIS, and generally creating a sectarian logic that was responsible but then again why would we want to assign any blame to someone who was profiled in Mademoiselle Magazine, got a red carpet treatment from Tony Blair and Queen Elizabeth, and received 90 percent of the vote in Syria. Yeah, I know. It was an election that excluded opposition parties but nobody’s perfect.
To prove his case, Shupak dredges up material that has been used ad infinitum. He cites the generally reliable Aron Lund on the growth of Islamism in the Syrian revolt but a careful reading of the article must single out a key phrase: that “secular activism” is being “squeezed out of the uprising entirely”. This is the problem with the passive voice. It fudges over agency. Who is doing the squeezing? In fact, it was the Baathists who began killing protesters and other members of “civil society” in 2011—if you want to call that “squeezing”. By killing young activists who sought human rights and economic justice, a vacuum was created for militants who were more Islamist in their outlook. This was exactly what Assad sought. By representing himself as a democratically elected secular leader, he could hoodwink the left into believing that he was the “lesser evil”.
Far less authoritative is a classified intelligence document that Shupak cited. It first appeared on Judicial Watch, a rightwing website that like many others, including David Horowitz’s Front Page, supports Assad. As is always the case from the amen corner, Shupak claims that the article reveals that the West and its allies supported the growth of a Salafist movement that could “isolate the Syrian regime” . I have yet to see a single one of these articles refer to the last paragraph that states such a development would have “dire consequences” for Iraq as well as constituting a “grave danger” for both Syria and Iraq. Does any of this matter for the Greg Shupaks of the world who traffic in Orwellian double-think? Doesn’t he care about journalistic integrity? After all, he teaches this shit to students. Apparently not. The ends justify the means even if you are a media studies professor.
He cites General Martin Dempsey as an expert on how America’s allies were funding ISIS but most serious analysts of the region point out that this group is largely self-funding, a result of taxing citizens unlucky enough to be under its control. (Not to discredit Dempsey, but this is the General who Seymour Hersh claims was disobeying Obama and collaborating with Russia in the war on ISIS—not exactly someone with no skin in the game as they put it.) It hardly bolsters Shupak’s case when he tells us that Vice President Biden “said the same thing”. You might as well say that Pee Wee Herman said the same thing. Testimony from his panel of experts concludes with Joshua Landis, who believes that 80 percent of American weapons have ended up in al-Nusra’s hands in Syria. This is the same Joshua Landis who advised NY Times readers in 2005 that “For Mr. Assad to help the United States, he must have sufficient backing from Washington to put greater restrictions and pressure on the Sunni majority.” I guess that’s another way to describe putting “the squeeze” on the riffraff. Fortunately for the USA, Assad was only too happy to oblige. He, like Gaddafi, participated in the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program that resulted in men being kidnapped under legal cover and sent off to be tortured in Libya and Syria.
The idea that the USA is still set on “regime change” in Syria can only be maintained by a cynical avoidance of the facts. The same CIA upon whose behalf Assad tortured kidnapping victims had a training program for Syrian rebels that required them to sign a contract promising that their weapons would not be used against Baathist troops. This was a 500-billion-dollar program that fell apart not long after it was initiated. Who knows where the money went? Certainly not for MANPAD’s that could have made Syria a graveyard for the MiG’s that were bombing working class apartment buildings, open air markets, schools, hospitals and the like. Only 60 men completed the training. For a government that was supposedly determined to topple Assad, the Obama administration certainly did not act that way. Of course, people who had been paying careful attention to Syria knew all along what Obama would reveal to Jeffrey Goldberg: he had no intention of removing Assad.
Obama, unlike liberal interventionists, is an admirer of the foreign-policy realism of President George H. W. Bush and, in particular, of Bush’s national-security adviser, Brent Scowcroft (“I love that guy,” Obama once told me). Bush and Scowcroft removed Saddam Hussein’s army from Kuwait in 1991, and they deftly managed the disintegration of the Soviet Union; Scowcroft also, on Bush’s behalf, toasted the leaders of China shortly after the slaughter in Tiananmen Square.
One can understand why Jacobin would publish such garbage. We realize that most leftists are tinged with Islamophobia. Given the constant barrage of propaganda against immigrants from the Middle East, the popularity of Bill Maher, the glee of Sanders supporters over Islamophobe Tulsi Gabbard joining his campaign, the nonstop propaganda campaign against Syrian rebels in a wide spectrum of the left that is essentially warmed over Christopher Hitchens will likely have the effect of the ringing of a bell for Pavlov’s dogs. Please excuse me for my refusal to salivate.