Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

June 26, 2016

The latest idiocy from the Baathist amen corner

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 6:39 pm

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James Carden, house conservative at The Nation

Michael Hudson

The idiocy put forward in the name of “anti-interventionism” has reached biblical proportions. This week The Nation Magazine published an article titled “The State Department’s Wrong-Headed Push for War With Syria” that was written by James Carden, a contributor to both The Nation and American Conservative. Does that sound a bit odd to you? Not as long as you understand that the Red-Brown banner is held aloft at the magazine by publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel’s husband, the feckless Stephen F. Cohen who is an almost weekly guest on the John Batchelor show on WABC AM radio. Indeed, Cohen seems to be interviewed by the rightwing host as much as Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice-Chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations who uses the show to promote Netanyahu’s wars on Gaza, banning BDS, and other hot button issues of the Israel Lobby.

While most of Chris Hedges’s Truthdig interview with Michael Hudson focuses on the world economy, he failed to follow up on something Hudson said that is about as idiotic as Carden’s piece. In trying to explain the vote for Brexit, the self-described Marxist economist blamed U.S. intervention in the Middle East and the Ukraine.

If there is anyone who is responsible for the Brexit, it is Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. They destroyed Libya. They turned over Libyan weapons to [Islamic State], al-Qaida and [Nusra Front]. It was their war in Syria, where many of these weapons ended up, which created the massive exodus of refugees into Europe. This exodus exacerbated nationalism and anti-immigrant sentiment. Clinton and Obama are also responsible for a huge exodus of Ukrainians. This is all a response to American war policy in the Middle East and the Ukraine. In central Europe, with the expansion of NATO, Washington is meanwhile demanding that governments spend billions on weapons rather than on recovering the economy.

There are so many gaffes in this “analysis” that one wonders where to begin. I suspect that someone like Hudson can utter such nonsense because he has never read a single word that runs counter to the Baathist amen corner’s propaganda that makes the rounds on CounterPunch, ZNet, the LRB, Salon, The Nation, and a thousand other print and electronic outlets committed to the survival of mass murderer Bashar al-Assad.

It’s a little bit like asking someone in 1938 whose ideas about the Soviet Union were based exclusively on articles in the Daily Worker and Walter Duranty’s dispatches in the NY Times to evaluate the legality of the Moscow Trials. Sure, everybody knows that Trotsky was a Nazi spy. Sure, everybody knows that Obama and Clinton turned over weapons to Daesh, al-Qaida and Nusra. (Isn’t Hudson even vaguely aware that al-Qaeda and Nusra are identical? It is like saying that the USA had to intervene in South Vietnam to stop the NLF and the Vietcong.)

In terms of the non-existent weapons being responsible for the Syrian refugee “problem”, it would certainly not occur to someone as blithely ignorant of Syrian reality to check the facts, but polls reveal that it is his main man in Damascus who is responsible.

When asked by the Berlin Research Center why they left their country, twice as many refugees blamed President Assad’s military response to peaceful demonstrations for the country’s woes than on the jihadists. And even more tellingly, 489 of the 889 surveyed called for a no-fly zone to stop barrel bombs in order to reduce the emigration flow. Meanwhile, 49 thought the answer was to support Assad.

With respect to the mass exodus of Ukrainians being responsible for Brexit, this is a strikingly ignorant statement. Ukrainians have been leaving their homes but they are going east to Russia, not to Western Europe. The war between Kiev and the Kremlin has been a disaster for those living in Donetsk and Luhansk but to connect that in some fashion to Brexit is bizarre. Of course, it is possible that Michael Hudson is just going a bit weak in the head as happens to many people when they hit their 70s and confused Russia with Germany or Sweden. I invite anybody who sees me displaying such symptoms to get in touch with my wife in order to replace my Macbook with jigsaw puzzles.

Turning now to James Carden, it is important to put him into ideological context. Like Paul Craig Roberts, Donald Trump and many rightwing parties in Europe from Marine Le Pen’s National Front to UKIP in Great Britain that spearheaded Brexit, the Kremlin is seen as a bastion of peace, family values and anti-globalization policies that can stop Hillary Clinton in her tracks.

Carden is the executive editor of the American Committee for East-West Accord whose board includes Stephen F. Cohen and his father-in-law William J. vanden Heuvel. The board also includes John Pepper, who is the former CEO of The Procter & Gamble Company as well as a Nation Magazine contributor. Showing a good grasp of his class interests, Pepper is the author of “Russian Tide: Procter & Gamble’s Entry into Russia.” They say a large part of Trump’s bromance with Putin has to do with his jockeying for the right to build condos in Moscow. When capitalism came to Russia, P&G jumped in with both feet and began selling Tide detergent and Crest toothpaste. Starting with sales of $1 million in 1990, P&G can now count on $3 billion per year in exports. Expect Russia to develop its own household goods industry? Don’t be foolish. Everybody knows globalization benefits everybody. Just ask Thomas Friedman.

Like a thousand other pundits, Carden is aggravated over the 51 dissident career diplomats who want Obama to increase the military pressure on Assad. This has triggered the kneejerk response from the Baathist amen corner about the imminent threat of “regime change”. You’d think after 5 years of scorched earth asymmetric warfare including missiles, bombs, poison gas, torture and firing squads, these people would have learned that the USA had no interest in removing Assad. In fact, I am predicting that Hillary Clinton will carry out the same policy since it corresponds to the realpolitik outlook of centrist Democrats. Recently the “anti-interventionists” got all hot and bothered by Hillary Clinton cozying up to Henry Kissinger. Haven’t these brain-dead propagandists taken the trouble to find out what Kissinger thinks about Syria?

In fact, he believes that the destruction of ISIS is more urgent than the overthrow of Bashar Assad and can hardly be distinguished from Stephen F. Cohen or James Carden.

Like Hudson, Carden accuses the Obama administration of financing and training “so-called ‘moderate’ Syrian rebels (who are in fact Salafist extremists in league with Al Qaeda) since 2013.” Don’t they have editors at The Nation? Any fool understands that putting scare quotes around moderate and using the word so-called amounts to the same thing. I understand that the content of The Nation Magazine is bilge but at least they could put more of an effort to make it stylistic bilge. These terms like Salafist and Wahhabists are thrown around by people like Carden in the same way the word Communist was used in the 1950s. Ooh, scary stuff. If we don’t stop them in Syria, they will take over the USA next. But rest assured. We have the plucky Syrian army (or at least the several hundred Alawites who haven’t deserted yet), Hezbollah, Iranian soldiers, Russian jets, and Shia mercenaries from Iraq and Afghanistan to stop them dead in their tracks.

Help is on the way, however. There is one American politician at least who can be counted on:

Efforts to halt the administration’s illegal and counterproductive war for regime change in Syria have been lead [sic] by Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. Last year, Gabbard, a two-tour Iraq war veteran, sponsored a bill that would cut off funding for what Gabbard calls the administration’s “regime-change war in Syria.”

As I have pointed out here repeatedly, Gabbard is a frothing at the mouth Islamophobe who backs the BJP in India, a fascist-like party with a role in the killing of 2000 Muslims in Gujarat in 2002. As a rabid supporter of the state of Israel, she was a keynote speaker at a conference organized by Christians United For Israel, a group founded by John Hagee. This is the same Hagee who argued in a late 1990s sermon that God sent Hitler to help the Jews get to the promised land. Nice, really nice.

Apparently Gabbard spoke to the high-minded liberals (and conservatives) at The Nation on June 19th. She warned them darkly: “Escalating the war to overthrow Assad will make things even worse. It will cause more suffering and chaos and strengthen ISIS and Al Qaeda to the point where they may be able to take over all of Syria.”

Actually, Gabbard, Michael Hudson, Stephen F. Cohen, Seymour Hersh, Patrick Cockburn, Robert Fisk, David Bromwich, Tariq Ali, Kim Kardashian, Steven Seagal, Donald Trump, and the Duke of Windsor really don’t have much to worry about. Heeding Henry Kissinger’s sage advice, the USA will continue to bomb Daesh in partnership with Russia for the foreseeable future. Sunni suffering will mount with little attention paid by any state power, including Turkey that has now begun to patch things up with Russia—so much so that border guards killed a bunch of Syrians trying to get across the northern border.



  1. Let’s face it. The Syrian Revolution’s strange & terrible saga is roughly equivalent to Trotsky’s Revolution Betrayed in many ways except even worse insofar as Trotsky had way fewer twisted actors to analyze & Syria’s not quite the future of Proletarian Revolution to contend with — albeit it politically it separates the wheat from the chaff and proves how fucked up seemingly simple questions as WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON can be in this current internet climate of gutless loudmouth atomized individuals.

    There’s still all power to the WordSmiths so keep on keeping on because until one can establish, like Trotsky did, THEIR MORALS AND OURS — then everything else means jack shit.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — June 27, 2016 @ 2:15 am

  2. I’m disappointed in Hudson. He’s one of the few “left” voices in economics who seems able to offer a bit of Kitty Litter to ordinary Americans who are stuck in the Republican and Democratic ideological snowdrifts, “Destroyed Libya” indeed.

    Comment by Pete Glosser — June 27, 2016 @ 1:49 pm

  3. I could be wrong, but I think Hudson considers himself a heterodox economist, in line with the University of Missouri Kansas City group that he affiliates with. I think he’s analysis of debt, historically and presently, is invaluable. That said, his pronouncements after Brexit seem reckless and off the wall.

    Comment by David Green — June 28, 2016 @ 4:15 pm

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