Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

June 16, 2016

The conspiracy theory shared by Donald Trump and the Baathist left

Filed under: journalism,Syria — louisproyect @ 3:33 pm

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In May 2015 a declassified Pentagon report appeared on rightwing website Judicial Watch that was cited widely by the pro-Assad left as proof that the USA supported the growth of al-Qaeda and ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

It has now gotten the exposure that the pinheaded comrades never could have hoped for. Donald Trump, the man of a thousand conspiracy theories, has now referred to it as proof that Obama supported jihadists, linking it to the mass murder of people in Orlando. Salon.com covered the story in their patented destroy Donald Trump fashion:

Even while a majority of Americans say they disapprove of Donald Trump‘s response to the mass shooting in Orlando over the weekend, the presumptive Republican presidential candidate is doubling down on some of his most ludicrous conspiracy theories — and ridiculously citing discredited right-wing websites as evidence.

In an attempt to defend his controversial suggestions that President Obama somehow allowed the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history to occur because he is secretly a “Radical Islam” terrorist sympathizer, Trump took to his favorite social media platform to share “proof” from the right-wing website Breitbart.com.

The Breitbart story (http://www.breitbart.com/2016-presidential-race/2016/06/14/hillary-clinton-received-secret-memo-stating-obama-admin-support-for-isis/) cites “a newly discovered SECRET classified memo” that purportedly proves Obama’s terrorist sympathies. The memo shows, Breitbart claimed, that the Obama administration, specifically Hillary Clinton’s State Department, backed ISIS in Syria when it equipped and trained Syrian rebels fighting against President Bashar Assad:

Hillary Clinton received a classified intelligence report stating that the Obama administration was actively supporting Al Qaeda in Iraq, the terrorist group that became the Islamic State.

The memo made clear that Al Qaeda in Iraq was speaking through Muhammad Al Adnani, who is now the senior spokesman for the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. Western and Gulf states were supporting the terrorist group to try to overthrow Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad, who was being propped up by the Russians, Iranians, and Chinese.

What the Salon.com article fails to point out is that they came to the same exact conclusions as the nasty, awful Breitbart.com report that Trump tweeted. On May 28, 2015 Marcy Wheeler wrote essentially the same kind of article that appeared on Breitbart:

What did the CIA know and when did they know it?

That’s the real question that ought to be raised by a recently declassified Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report, obtained by Judicial Watch in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The August 2012 document describes how the U.S. ended up on the same general side in the Syrian Civil War as Al Qaeda in Iraq, the predecessor to ISIS.

Somewhat to the left of Salon.com, Jacobin, which has been lionized in the NY Times as the Marxist voice of the millennial Brooklyn hipster, jumped on board the Judicial Watch “revelation” in two different articles—not content to spread bullshit only once.

In a June 1, 2015 article with a title redolent of Breitbart.com (“How the US helped ISIS”), David Mizner told the bright young things who read Jacobin:

While American politicians and pundits have blamed the ascendance of ISIS on former Iraqi president Nouri al-Maliki and Assad — or on the removal of American troops from Iraq — the DIA report reminds us that the key event in the rise of ISIS was the corresponding rise of the insurgency in Syria.

Mizner credits Brad Hoff of the Levant Report for alerting him about the Judicial Watch discovery. It should be mentioned that Hoff’s website is a cesspool of Baathist propaganda and hardly the sort of reading one would expect from champions of democratic socialism.

Greg Shupak followed up more recently in Jacobin with another nod to the declassified report:

A 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency report notes that “the West, Turkey and the Gulf” support the Syrian opposition, admits that the Syrian war could result in the creation of a “Salafist principality” in eastern Syria, and warns that “this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime.”

What Mizner, Shupak and just about everybody else who refers to this dubious report fail to mention is the conclusion that follows the reference to a “Salafist principality” immediately.

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Does that sound like the USA wanted to “help” ISIS? Grave danger? You’d think that people like Mizner would at least take the trouble to address the conclusion of the report that runs counter to their talking points. But when you are more interested in writing propaganda, the truth be damned.

Seumas Milne is the press adviser to Jeremy Corbyn—the British version of Jacobin darling Bernie Sanders supposedly—and has the reputation of being a fearless investigative reporter. Two days after Mizner’s report appeared in Jacobin, he wrote essentially the same article (the Baathist amen corner is not averse to plagiarism). Titled “Now the truth emerges: how the US fuelled the rise of Isis in Syria and Iraq”, it once again relied on the Pentagon report without bothering to include the conclusion:

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.

Vijay Prashad, who would probably want to avoid appearing as pro-Assad as Milne or the two stooges writing for Jacobin, could not resist citing the Judicial Watch material in an article that appeared in The Hindu, just 5 days after Milne’s piece appeared:

A U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) intelligence report from August 2012 suggests, however, a much more cold and sober reality. The report came to light in mid-May because of a lawsuit brought by the conservative group, Judicial Watch, with regard to the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. A senior intelligence official, who cannot go on the record, said that the report is only one among many. Other reports would likely have contradicted its assessment — although it is one that is highly informed and was circulated across the intelligence community.

I see that comrade Prashad studied in the Seymour Hersh School of Investigative Journalism by referring to a “senior intelligence official, who cannot go on the record.” That report was only one among many? One can only wonder if they shared the report’s conclusion that the growth of ISIS would be a disaster.

Prashad’s opinions on White House policy would startle anybody familiar with the actual record of indifference mixed with outright hostility to Syrian rebels or, even better, who has read Jeffrey Goldberg’s account in the Atlantic Monthly that reveals a president with about as much interest in “regime change” as he had in changing the way Wall Street does business:

The callousness of U.S. policy is that despite such an assessment the U.S. government continued to support the “rebels,” who had now largely been recruited into extremist groups. U.S. President Barack Obama’s refrain — “Assad must go” — was not shared by these DoD analysts, who suggested that Assad’s “regime will survive and have control over Syrian territory”.

The only callousness an objective observer could see was a White House that saw the rebels (love Prashad’s scare quotes—not) as a greater evil than the Baathists. Obama was never interested in regime change, only Assadism without Assad, a variant on the Yemen solution that the ghoulish family dynast would never accept.

Next in line is Daniel Lazare, a man who has written many intelligent items on American political history but who turns into Mr. Hyde when the topic of Syria comes up. In an article for Robert Parry’s Consortium News (24/7 Baathism), Lazare takes up what he calls “A New Anti-Assad Propaganda Offensive”. It refers to a New Yorker Magazine article that deals with Assad’s war crimes. War crimes? Imagine that. What will they report on next? The earth revolving around the sun? How eating McDonald’s is bad for your health?

Although you wouldn’t know it from a travesty like “The Assad Files,” the facts about Syria have long been clear. In August 2012, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency issued a report stating that Al Qaeda, the Salafists, and the Muslim Brotherhood were “the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria,” that their goal was to establish a “Salafist principality” in eastern Syria, and that this is “exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition” – which is to say Turkey, the Arab Gulf states, and the Western powers – “want in order to isolate the Syrian regime.”

Lazare is totally obsessed with “exposing” people who have the audacity to charge Assad with war crimes. He showed up at a Columbia University meeting for Robin Yassin-Kassab and Leila Al Shami who were on a book tour for “Burning Country”. His hand shot up during the discussion period when he breathlessly poured out a litany of how the rebels were evil incarnate. He reminded me of the kind of people who used to show up at SWP forums in the 1960s accusing it of “betraying the working class”, the kind of people who look like Diane Arbus photographs and who went on to form WSWS.org. As it turns out, Lazare was one of those people and retains the bad habits of his youth.

So what unites Trump and all these high-minded leftists who can recite Karl Marx chapter and verse? It is a dirty little secret: Islamophobia. In Trump’s case, it is fairly obvious that he has the same attitude toward Muslims that George Wallace had to Black people. With Jacobin et al, it is something a bit different. For these leftists, the minute people rebelled against Assad, it became a Western conspiracy. Instead of paying close attention to what Syrians were saying or doing, they were more concerned with speeches by Samantha Power or op-ed pieces in the NY Times attacking Assad. Who could possibly identify with people whose cause they took up? It was far too easy to treat them as pawns on a chess game without faces, without ideals, without humanity. So in writing articles warning about a repeat of George W. Bush’s “regime change” intervention in Iraq 14 years ago, they have become latter-day Christopher Hitchens warning about how al-Qaeda was gonna get your mama.

2 Comments »

  1. Not familiar with Jacobian. Odd name for a communist paper. The jacobins being bourgeois revolutionaries and all.

    I still remember papers like “Workers Vanguard” and “Workers World”.

    Can I ask what is “the Marxist voice of the” working class now? Or don’t the millennial hipster “Marxists” in Williamsburg care about that class anymore?

    Comment by Johnny Fratto — June 16, 2016 @ 4:15 pm

  2. Can I ask what is “the Marxist voice of the” working class now?

    Some say they are: https://workersspatula.wordpress.com/

    Comment by louisproyect — June 16, 2016 @ 5:08 pm


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