Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

August 7, 2016

The Battle of Aleppo

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 8:29 pm

In my review of Gilbert Achcar’s “Morbid States”, I referred to the imminent fall of East Aleppo—an event that would likely mean that the war would end on terms favorable to the Baathist dictatorship. Just three days after posting the article, I was quite surprised and elated to discover that the battle had turned against the Baathists. In a surprise attack on the Ramosa military base, an alliance of rebel groups gained control of its weaponry and opened up a corridor that will allow food and medical supplies to be shipped in to the besieged slums.

Essentially Assad and Putin were carrying out the same strategy that was used in 1999 against the people of Grozny in Chechnya, almost to the last detail. Putin had leaflets dropped on the city announcing a safe corridor for civilians just as was the case in East Aleppo. And as they began leaving in trucks, the Russian air force bombed them. That is probably one of the reasons the people in East Aleppo decided to take their chances on staying put.

And those that stayed put had to face the same kind of criminal attacks that the Chechens faced in 1999:

At least 10 explosions devastated a downtown market and maternity hospital in Grozny, Chechnya, on Thursday evening, according to accounts from the breakaway Russian republic.

The explosions reportedly killed scores of people and injured hundreds more in a scene of panic and horror. Chechen officials told The Associated Press that at least 118 people died and more than 400 were injured, although the number could not be confirmed.

Ultimately, the Chechens could not withstand such attacks and a puppet government was installed that rules in mafia style to this day.

Aleppo has been a microcosm of the war in Syria with seemingly unresolvable contradictions. In 2012, Yassin al-Haj Saleh, the legendary communist opponent of Baathist misrule who was imprisoned for 16 years for the crime of writing critiques of the regime, touched upon some of these contradictions in an article titled “Aleppo: a tale of three cities”.

The first two Aleppos were in the regime controlled western part of the city and the third was in the east that has proven indomitable up to this point, about which Saleh noted:

The third Aleppo, the one now in open revolt, started from the rural parts and from the most marginalized slums: Salahuddin, Alsakhur, Alklaseh, Bab Alhadid, Al Shaar, Al Zabadieh…. As if these neighborhoods had retained their spirit and personality while the major districts had become devoid of them, with the state having sizable presence, capital and domesticated religiosity.

When it comes to the spirit and personality of a city, the regime exhausts itself trying to eliminate them and pursue their ghosts. When it feels endangered, it kills. It has already killed Homs, Deir ez-Zor, and nothing will deter it from killing Aleppo if it could. If left alive, this wild monster will kill all of Syria.

I remember when the better-off parts of Aleppo were reported to be disturbed by what they saw as revolutionary invaders from the “rural parts”. Edward Dark, who washed his hands of the revolution when it proved too crude and unruly, could barely contain his disgust with the riffraff. In a 2013 article titled “How We Lost the Syrian Revolution”, he accused them of betraying the original goals of the revolution:

They were the underprivileged rural class who took up arms and stormed the city, and they were out for revenge against the perceived injustices of years past. Their motivation wasn’t like ours, it was not to seek freedom, democracy or justice for the entire nation, it was simply unbridled hatred and vengeance for themselves.

Extremist and sectarian in nature, they made no secret that they thought us city folk in Aleppo, all of us, regime stooges and sympathizers, and that our lives and property were forfeit as far as they were concerned.

Using a pseudonym, a young educated Aleppoite who left Syria, echoed Dark’s complaints in a Vanity Fair article from July 2015 :

But most of Aleppo regarded the Arab Spring with indifference. When the revolution broke out in earnest later that year, much of the city distanced itself from the turbulence. Demonstrations remained confined mostly to slums like Al-Saladin, Bustan Al-Qasr, and Al-Marijah. Protests were brief, with demonstrators chanting before running from the security forces.

In Aleppo, the revolution gives the impression that it is a revolt of the poor. When rebel groups from the northern countryside pushed towards the city, these slums were the first that welcomed them, unlike the richer neighborhoods, which, instead, remained in the hands of the regime.

Despite this, the author captures the spirit of solidarity that exists in the slums:

The Syrian air force has a habit of following their first barrel bomb with a second. People say this is to kill first responders. (The government still denies that it uses barrel bombs.)

Despite this, the crowd did not run away. They dug in the rubble with their bare hands—old men, Civil Defense volunteers, and militants alike—all except the media activists shooting video. When they found a victim, they gathered to help snatch them out, screaming “Allahu Akbar” as they did. Once they laid the victim in an ambulance, they began to dig again.

“If you see a body lying down, are you going to hesitate? Even when you know that if you stop to move it away, the sniper is going to make them two?,” a shopkeeper in the Al-Qasr neighborhood once asked me. “No! Your conscience wouldn’t let you walk away.”

Steps away from the scene, neighbors thanked God for safety.

In the best of all possible worlds, Bashar al-Assad might have been less savage and less determined to turn the country into a sectarian battleground. He would have actually protected his own class interests by stepping down and allowing some rich Sunni to take his place in the same way that the English-speaking ruling class of South Africa persuaded or coerced the Afrikaners to allow Nelson Mandela to become president.

This would have allowed the democratic opposition to organize itself into an effective movement capable of convincing people like the better-off Aleppoites to make common cause with the rural poor. Clearly, the university students were in the vanguard of the protests and most educated and professional Syrians would have preferred to live in a country where you didn’t have to worry if a loved one was going to be tortured or killed just for demanding change.

But Assad was a master strategist understood in narrow terms. He polarized the country along Sunni and non-Sunni lines and militarized the conflict so that those that had access to money and arms could dominate the opposition. If you had co-thinkers in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, you could rely on them for support even if they had no interest whatsoever in democracy or socialism—god forbid.

The net effect of all this was to give added weight to Islamist militias in East Aleppo, including al-Nusra that was critical to the breaking of the siege. It was their suicide bombers that were critical in storming the Ramosa military base. Speaking of al-Nusra suicide bombing, it is worth mentioning that it bears little resemblance to ISIS terrorism. The targets are always military as a search in Google would reveal:

Aleppo: Jabhat Al-Nusra Suicide Bombing Leads to Fierce Clashes in the North (March 2015)

A Turkish suicide bomber from the Syrian Al-Qaeda group “Jabhat Al-Nusra” attempted to drive his vehicle into a National Defense Forces barricade at the village of Deir Zeitoun in northern Aleppo; however, the vehicle was allegedly destroyed before it could reach its destination, according to a military source.

The suicide bomber was identified by Jabhat Al-Nusra social media pages as “’Usama Al-Turki” – a Turkish “Mujahid” carrying out his “martyrdom” operation for the militant group’s offensive that directly followed his death on Monday night.

Syria’s Nusra Front stages deadly suicide bombing in Aleppo (July 2015)

A suicide bomber from Syria’s al Qaeda offshoot the Nusra Front blew himself up in a Syrian army outpost in a contested neighborhood in the divided northern city of Aleppo and killed at least 25 soldiers and allied militia and injured scores, a monitor said.

For the past year or so, there has been a rapprochement between the USA and Russia over the need to prioritize attacks on ISIS in Syria even to the point of the Pentagon having demanded that rebels sign a contract agreeing that any arms they receive will only be used against ISIS and not the Baathist military.

Over the past few months, Russia has escalated its demands. It insists that the rebels separate themselves physically from al-Nusra so that its bombers can destroy the group and presumably any civilian that backs it. In other words, Grozny deux. Consider what this would have meant for East Aleppo. To start with, if it was risky for civilians to exit the slums, what would have happened to anybody considered a fighter? Which for all practical purposes would have meant men between the ages of 16 and 60. And those that remained behind? If you consider what has happened in Aleppo over the past 5 years, the results would have been horrific.

It is difficult to predict what will happen next in Syria. Without a doubt, al-Nusra and probably most of the militias that defended East Aleppo over the past five years would seek to impose their vision of an Islamic society. But  we can all agree that it would be a step forward if it allowed the population relief from barrel bombs, Russian missiles and the various militias intent on killing anybody who dares to oppose Bashar al-Assad. Well, maybe not Patrick Cockburn or Seymour Hersh who must be wearing sackcloth and ashes since the recent turn of events.

When asked for what he saw as a solution to the Syrian misery, Yassin al-Haj Saleh offered the following. Needless to say, a precondition for it taking place is an end to the war and the sectarian impasse that the demon of Damascus created:

One could think of a historical compromise that ends the war, guarantees full withdrawal of foreign forces, and is the basis of a wholly different political landscape in the country. A sustainable solution can only be built on a new political majority. This cannot be achieved through facing Da’esh alone or the regime alone. A new Syrian majority requires a substantial political change that is impossible to envisage without putting a full-stop to the rule of the Assad dynasty that has been in power for 45 years, a dynasty responsible for two big wars in the country: 1979-1982 and 2011-…

This change is the political and ethical precondition for a war against Da’esh with the broad participation of Syrians. The global powers have so far been putting the cart before the horse by targeting Da’esh only, ignoring the root cause of the militarisation, radicalisation, and sectarianisation that has occurred over the past five years, namely the Assad regime. This is a short-sighted and failing policy, not to mention unethical. It is a prescription for an endless war.

The new Syria could be built on a number of essential principles: decentralisation; thinking of different ethnic, religious and confessional communities as equal constituent communities; full equality among individual citizens (Arabs, Kurds and others; Muslims, Christians and others; Sunnis, Alawites and others; religious, secular and others). It is not acceptable to talk about Syria as a secular state, as the Vienna document of 30 October 2015 states, when the same document says nothing about justice and accountability, and avoids the word democracy. Lecturing about secularism reminds one of the worst traits of the colonial discourse.

What a terrible shame that so many on the left, including Jill Stein I am sad to admit, were indoctrinated by the writings of Patrick Cockburn and Seymour Hersh, et al without ever having the opportunity or the desire to track down the writings of a Syrian revolutionary anti-capitalist.


  1. Good article Louis. There is a report in Bild today with reports from regime defectors astonished at the worlds attitude to the litany of mass murder, torture, chemical weapons use that the regime perpetrates. Stein can’t be excused because she has evolved in a limited mental environment. There is no excuse for the positions of Stein and her running mate , it is their willed point of view and it is objectively Fascist.

    Comment by Matthew Jackson — August 8, 2016 @ 1:00 am

  2. Sorry, the Bild article was from August 2015, but the point holds – masses of information is out there, -if they hold their views they have chosen what to give weight to.

    Comment by Matthew Jackson — August 8, 2016 @ 1:12 am

  3. Matthew, in 1966 I was for capitalism. I was for the war in Vietnam even though I wouldn’t fight in it. I had never read Karl Marx but sure he was wrong. All I knew about the USSR was that it censored artists and writers and that you had to stand in line for everything. A year later I was a revolutionary socialist. Maybe you came out of your mother’s womb with a correct analysis of the Baathist dynasty. Not everybody is so blessed.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 8, 2016 @ 2:19 am

  4. Matthew Jackson,

    I concur with your assessment of Stein and her running mate’s stance on Syria. I also firmly believe that their failures on Syria are intricately linked with their failure to understand the nature of the Iranian theocratic regime, which should be pretty straight forward. If you cannot have a clear and unambiguous position against any form of theocracy, there is something seriously wrong with your evaluative criteria, and it is natural that you take other wrong political positions on regimes you don’t really understand.

    But … there is something else to consider as well; a left that cannot help itself cannot help anybody else.

    The U.S. left, as it is right now, cannot be of help to any struggling people anywhere in the world. I’m not talking about individual leftists, but as a social force. For the most part, the U.S. left doesn’t really understand other societies, and they don’t have any practical and meaningful resources to help other people’s struggles even if they did understand them very deeply. Most of the U.S. left is in almost constant fundraising mode. They can barely help themselves. They can’t influence policy, and even if they could have any meaningful influence at all, they’d most likely get it as wrong as current policies do because they mostly don’t really know much about the countries they write and agitate about. To top it off, in most cases their attitude towards the ‘lesser nations’ is almost as often as paternalistic as their governments’.

    For those reasons, I personally don’t put too much political weight on what position Jill Stein or anybody in the intellectual/activist left in the U.S. (or other western nations) takes with regard to governments or regimes in other parts of the world. The only thing that matters politically, and existentially, is how anybody can change the political balance of powers in the U.S., where they should matter first and foremost.

    So, let’s put aside ‘foreign policy’, for now; let’s start by focusing on internal social and political issues of injustice, of which there is plenty to choose from and organize around. Let’s see if the radical U.S. left can unite and organize around some very basic issues that affect an overwhelming majority of the American population. Along the way, they can of course learn more about other societies, and learn about the dynamic connections between their struggles and those of other people around the world. But, baby steps first.

    Comment by Reza — August 8, 2016 @ 2:28 am

  5. Or to put it another way. Lets continue to ignore Syrian voices.

    Comment by John Gamey — August 8, 2016 @ 8:07 am

  6. I repeat, we are not seeing pro-fascism among the western left rather we are seeing an under developed, confused anti-calonialism. Louis is right, there is a good chance that with time and with pro Syrian revolution activists confronting the Greens Jill’s understanding can evolve. And Reza is right, the Green Party is not in a position to affect the policies of the empire, currently. There is plenty of scope for intervening in the Green surge with critical support and enlightening resources re/ the Syrian revolution. We should appreciate much of Jill Stein’s anti colonial message while never holding ones tongue on the subject of ferocious tyrants in the so-called post colonial world.

    Comment by James — August 8, 2016 @ 11:13 am

  7. Sam Hamad in The New Arab has written about ‘Corbyn and the Lefts misguided foreign policy’. I think that has relevant things to say about Steins politics also. Hopefully Stein and her running mate will be relentlessly confronted with their idiotic acceptance of the crudest Russian propaganda. Stein praises Russia on Syria. Last night they dropped thermite on Idlib populated areas. Its difficult to ‘put aside’.

    Comment by Matthew Jackson — August 8, 2016 @ 11:34 am

  8. “Or to put it another way. Lets continue to ignore Syrian voices.”

    Actually, one of the points I was trying to make politely was not to listen to western leftists who don’t really understand Syria (or even Iran for that matter). Do listen to Syrian voices; don’t assume you know everything. My point is addressed to American leftists who have opinions about everything under the sun without understanding most of the societies they write about.

    At the same time (and this is the larger point), as a leftist you still have to do some political work, and here in the U.S., where the left cannot really affect foreign policy, it must get busy organizing around problems that grips their own societies. If you’re doing that right, you can also learn about other societies by listening to the activists involved in other struggles around the world.

    We all know that a true socialist outlook is internationalist. But, what can we expect of a U.S. left that labels a person like me with a ‘CIA agent’ tag because I, for example, supported the Iranian people’s uprising back in 2009 against their theocracy? This is what I am talking about. When you are so clueless that you think millions of people taking to the streets in Iran are CIA stooges, one wishes that the American left stopped talking about things they understand so little. That’s the point I was trying to make.

    Comment by Reza — August 8, 2016 @ 2:26 pm

  9. “The U.S. left, as it is right now, cannot be of help to any struggling people anywhere in the world. I’m not talking about individual leftists, but as a social force. For the most part, the U.S. left doesn’t really understand other societies, and they don’t have any practical and meaningful resources to help other people’s struggles even if they did understand them very deeply. . . . To top it off, in most cases their attitude towards the ‘lesser nations’ is almost as often as paternalistic as their governments’.”

    I can only add one thing to this excellent summary: that the US left substitutes anti-imperialism for a class based analysis and response. Until it adopts a more sociological and personal interest in the peoples involved in these struggles, and prioritizes them over states and political parties, there is not going to be a change anytime soon.

    Such a failing also has serious implications for the ability of the US left to participate in a transformation of the US as well, because the inability to understand conditions in the US in light of class conflict and social change driven by developments in contemporary capitalism will make it difficult for it to do so. Hence, for example, old line left support for Hillary Clinton.

    Comment by Richard Estes — August 8, 2016 @ 5:14 pm

  10. Reza , You say the left can not affect foreign policy , but voting for Clinton would affect the policy on Syria. Might Clinton not push for a no-fly zone? That isn’t nothing. Dr Samer Atta of the Syrian American Medical Society and who has worked in Aleppo and seen horrors, called for a no-fly zone tonight on Channel 4 News – [http://www.channel4.com/news/catch-up/display/playlistref/080816/clipid/080816_4ON_ALEPPODOCPAB_0808 Samer Atta].

    Comment by Matthew Jackson — August 8, 2016 @ 10:07 pm

  11. Dr Samer Attar, sorry.

    Comment by Matthew Jackson — August 8, 2016 @ 10:11 pm

  12. Yes Socialsim, like Humanism and Islam, and Libertarianism, and Christianity, is internationalist. That does not mean that people who follow these isms need to fund or participate in foreign revolutions. Not only Karl Marx, but Eugene Debs, and Henery George, L. Frank Baum, and Che Guevera all said, “the best thing that America can do for the benifit of mankind is to set a good example”. Do you expect me to footnote that?
    It is common knowledge that they all said that. I am sure that I have read it somewhere. In fact I have read so often I am sure that all of those people have said it at one time or another. You might be tempted to say just because THEY said does not make it true. But that would be the wrong thing to say. The quote is so obviously true that all of these people recognized the obvious truth to it, even if they might have not made a habit of constantly repeating it.

    Comment by Curt Kastens — August 8, 2016 @ 10:18 pm

  13. “voting for Clinton would affect the policy on Syria. Might Clinton not push for a no-fly zone? That isn’t nothing.”

    Whatever Clinton may or may not push for, in my humble opinion, will have very little to do with what the American radical left may think is necessary to happen. Clinton, like all other functionaries of the ruling class, will do what is in the interest of the ruling classes. I doubt very much that the American left can make Clinton do anything contrary to the interests she represents. Syria is no exception.

    Comment by Reza — August 8, 2016 @ 11:03 pm

  14. “Socialsim, like Humanism and Islam, and Libertarianism, and Christianity, is internationalist. That does not mean that people who follow these isms need to fund or participate in foreign revolutions.”

    No it doesn’t necessarily mean that, although it could (Che Guevara — since you brought him up — is the epitome of that aspect of internationalism). Internationalism for socialists just means that all struggles going on around the world are connected. This is true especially since capital is ‘internationalist’; e.g., capital flight is one manifestation of the internationalism of capital. And of course, if the strongest force upholding the world capitalist system can ‘set an example’ (positively or negatively), that would affect other struggles going on around the globe.

    Comment by Reza — August 8, 2016 @ 11:17 pm

  15. Reza you wrote ‘Do listen to Syrian voices; don’t assume you know everything.’ Then I said a Syrian American doctor , Samer Attar, returned from eastern Aleppo, said the people there wanted a no-fly zone, some protection from the heavy aerial bombardment. We should listen to them according to you. But then you say, ‘Clinton will do what the interests she represents want in Syria.’ Which is what ? What do the interests she represent want? Michele Flournoy , likely Defense Secretary in a Clinton administration wrote in June , ‘ the U.S. should under some circumstances consider using limited military coercion – deter Russian and Syrian bombing of innocent civilians’ . That reads to me like listening to the people of eastern Aleppo.

    Comment by Matthew Jackson — August 9, 2016 @ 1:06 am

  16. Matthew, Hillary Clinton is an enemy of the working class even she gave a Stinger missile to every single Syrian rebel. When she was Secretary of State, she supported Israeli slaughter of Gazans, the overthrow of a progressive Honduran government and drone attacks everywhere, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. When she was a Senator, she was a vociferous supporter of George W. Bush’s invasion of both Afghanistan and Iraq. In fact, I have no idea what criterion you are using to decide who to vote for. Like a lot of people who show up commenting on a blog devoted to the cause of Marxism, you seem rather unfamiliar with the abc’s of Marxism. My advice to you is to bone up on Marxism if you want to be taken seriously here.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 9, 2016 @ 1:17 am

  17. I could say you are are going to vote for a Putin sell out. If you were in eastern Aleppo right now Louis where would Marxist purity get you? I don’t support Clinton at all on Israel or on practically everything but on Syria her policy seems closer to me to the things you have argued for on this blog than Stein. In the meantime I’ll shut up – I don’t care in the least if I am taken seriously, I only write what I think and if its rubbish it is at least sincere. Marxist ‘purity’ is nothing to me obviously. The author I have read most, and admire most, is Orwell.

    Comment by Matthew Jackson — August 9, 2016 @ 1:31 am

  18. Her policy seems closer to me to the things you have argued for on this blog than Stein.

    Then you don’t understand a thing I have written. Hillary Clinton called Assad a “reformer” in early 2011. I have never written a single word calling for a no-fly zone in Syria. My position was always that the rebels should have the right to get access to weapons to defend themselves, even if it is from Satan’s grandmother. The USA blocked the shipment of MANPAD’s to Syria and Clinton was part of the team that carried out that policy as Secretary of State. If she had a shred of integrity, she would have resigned like Robert Ford did in protest. Just because some fucking politician says that they favor some policy, it does not mean that they should be taken seriously. That should be obvious after 8 years of Obama.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 9, 2016 @ 1:45 am

  19. Well doctors in Aleppo are calling for a no-fly zone.

    Putin “agreed with us on the need to create a peaceful path forward on Syria,” said Stein. By constantly bombing hospitals and markets presumably.

    Comment by Matthew Jackson — August 9, 2016 @ 1:53 am

  20. There will be no change in US policy if Clinton is elected. The deals with Russia and Iran reflect ruling class preferences that Clinton will continue to carry out loyally. You really need to get a better handle on how policy is developed. In a nutshell, the USA will never countenance the seizure of power by plebeian, rural, religiously conservative militias that are happy to work with al-Qaeda. Isn’t that obvious? As I pointed out in a previous post, the Rand Corporation said that the worst thing that could happen in Syria was the overthrow of Assad.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 9, 2016 @ 2:03 am

  21. In Idlib it seems unlikely Assad is not overthrown? So if the Rand Corporation, or any power, wants Assad in control of all Syria that is not likely. Thats what I understood anyhow. Partition of some kind most likely outcome. I may be hopelessly naive but I do think some leaders, even of basically rotten parties, want to see some political solution that will end the war. But your point above is succinct and I do get what you are saying.

    Comment by Matthew Jackson — August 9, 2016 @ 2:13 am

  22. “a Syrian American doctor , Samer Attar, returned from eastern Aleppo, said the people there wanted a no-fly zone, some protection from the heavy aerial bombardment.”

    Look, you and I may agree with the doctor that a no-fly zone is necessary for the safety of the Syrian people. But, first off, there are many different ways to define and enforce a ‘no-fly’ zone. So, even if Clinton delivered on such a policy, I personally would look more deeply (and deeply suspiciously) to see what kind of diplomatic deals she has cooked up with the Russians, the Iranians, the Saudis, Assad regime, etc., and I would try to find out what exactly are the conditions of such a no-fly zone.

    And I would strongly suspect that her methods, intentions and goals would be far from those of the good Syrian doctor or a majority of the poor and devastated Syrians. That’s just what she is: a functionary of the ruling class. She can’t just set policy according to her own individual will; there are social forces that limit and shape her policies.

    Like Louis said, politicians make all kinds of promises; and like we know, there are a lot of ways to deliver on a political promise, not all of which are in the interest of the majority of the people. Example: a politician promises to cut ‘governmental waste’. Everybody likes that, right? But then, instead of cutting extraordinarily wasteful Pentagon spending, he defines ‘welfare’ as a wasteful program, and ‘reforms’ welfare as we knew it. Sounds familiar?

    Comment by Reza — August 9, 2016 @ 4:45 am

  23. I have been convinced of the need to call for a no-fly zone; a principled demand and one that cuts through the masquerade whereby Washington fraudulently portrays support for the opposition to Assad. However, I would never trust Hillary Clinton with the task nor would it be possible to build an anti-imperialist coalition that see’s voting for Clinton as progressive. That is because under the Clinton’s and Obama Iraq witnessed a package of starvation sanctions that are said to have reduced the population by 500,000, Hillary voted for the Iraq invasion, the viscous air war targeting Islamic State is said to have killed 20,000 (that is insane), the murderous Egyptian regime is armed by Obama and Clinton, the Saudi’s are destroying Yemen under the administrations watch, I could go on and on, Matthew, but suffice it to say the Democratic party is completely compromised and untrustworthy.

    An alternative must be offered and the Green party positioned to be the breeding ground. It is our job to inseminate pro Arab revolution ideas and information within this new organ of political organization in America..

    Comment by James — August 9, 2016 @ 7:41 am

  24. Something is missing here, It is the obvious. Yes Sociailism is internationalist, just like Islam, Christianity, and Libertarianism. So what have important Socialists said about how the USA should support socialism internationally. Well, Karl Marx, John Lenin, Eugen Debbs, Willaim Jennings Bryon, L. Frank Baum, and Che Guevera have all said “that the best thing that the USA can do for the world is to set a good example.”

    What does a good example mean. Does it mean creating no fly zones 12 hours flying time from American Airspace. That might help save the lives of some people that are dying today. But look at what goes into be able to create a policy of being able to enforce a no fly zone. First of all you need the most powerful air force in the world. Well if not the most powerful at least a very powerful airforce is needed. What goes in to creating the most powerful airforce in the world? Well first of all lots of first rate aircraft are needed.. How much energy is used creating just one of these first rate aircraft? Then there are the many people that are needed to maintain and fly the aircraft. How much energy is needed to maintain all those people to maintain the aircraft when these people could be maintaining the buses and trains of an effecient and free public transportation system that would get people to stop driving because burning gasoline at even 2 dollars a gallon would not be competitive.
    Then think about all of the fuel that is needed for the pilots to fly the aircraft on training missions. Then think of all the fuel that is needed to fly the aircraft on operational missions.

    Now compare the number of people endangered by Assads murderous army with the number of people who are threatened in the not so distant future by a murderous climate.

    We shold not forget that Engles and Mao and Allende and Grant and Brandt all set forth a policy of what a good example means. It means creating a nation in which the prisons are empty becasue there is no crime. A nation in which the schools actually teach how to know when you are being told a bull shit story. A nation in which the doctors are not only capable of of treating your deseases or injuries but do not expect to live like millionairs for doing so. A nation that does not power itself at the expense of the future of the planet. A nation that does not enrich itslelf through deception. Only then will a nation be able to look around and see if other nations are looking towards it as an example to follow.

    It is obvious as hell that the USA will never be this nation. We are a nation of fake patriots if there ever was one. Our military pilots are a perfect example. They claim to be the embodiment of Patriotism and excellence in America. But tell them that it is there duty to drive a bus through the streets of Philadelphia for 12 dollars an hour for the rest of their life becasue that is what needs to be done to save America, instead of flying alone across the Atlantic for what they make now and their real level of patriotism will make itself visable in a heart beat.

    Colonjel Westhuising was right. You can not trust anyone. The conditions of life in America and the world today are a consequence of the fact that the level of trust left in our world is at absolute zero.

    Comment by Curt Kastens — August 9, 2016 @ 8:52 am

  25. I can imagine that for an Iraqi anti government rebel the complete lack of trust in the Baath Regime goes back to when it fired on Anti.government protestors in Damascus before the civil war began. I can imagine that the complete lack of trust in the Baath Party for those that were in the streets protesting goes back to 1953 before most of those protesting were even born. The securtiy forces were no doubt convinced that the Baath Party was the leading Arab revolutionary movement which was no being targeted by the same CIA-MI6 forces that overthrew the Sha and overthrew Quaddafi just recently. It would not be hard for me to imagine that they thought of the protesters as either extraordinarily stupid or extraordinarily evil tools of the CIA-MI6. Reguardless of what the case wsa such people needed to be eliminated before they could pass on their jeans to a new generation.
    It was in Sept. of 1983 that I first heard the story that the Iranian Mullahs were tools of the CIA. I thought that such a story was far fetched at the time. Well this weekend I had the oppurtunity to talk to an 11 year old girl from Greenland and a 13 year old girl from Iceland. They told me that there has been a CIA-MI6 plot to saddle Middle Eastern Governments with either pro western military dictatorships or Islamic rule that goes back almost as far as the plot against Mossadeq. Once it was learned that the Sha of Iran was playing a game with the west pretendng to be a friend of the rulers of the UK and USA to buy time to build up an independent base of power so that he could work for the benifit of the Iranian people.
    It was decided that countries of this oil rich region had to be kept tecnnologically and socially backwards so that they could never challange the west militarily.
    Wait a second you might wonder how it came about that they would tell me such a thing. Well I was talking to their parents about the attempted coup in Turkey. We had all agreed that the US and its NATO allies knew about the plan and at least agreed with it if they did not plan it. We all agreed that had it succeeded Gulen would have been injected in to Turkey to play the same role that Hamid Karzi did in Afghanistan. But then we hit a disagreement. Someone said that Gulen was an Islamic Fundalmentalist even more conservative that Erdogan. Isaid wait a second I have read that he is more liberal than Erdogan. Furthermore it does not make any sense that he would be more conservative because the coüp leaders announced that they were mounting the coup do the the threat that Erdogan posed to Turkish secularism. They would not have been able to back track from that pronouncement.
    That is when the 13 year old girl from Greenland said, no Gulen would have not been brought in right away. It would have been a longer term plan. There are several possible scenarios in how it could have played out but eventually he would have been brought in as as kind of a figure of national unity. Not in the sense that everyone loved him but in the sense that he was to everyone a lesser evil than someone else. I was stunned at the political accuity of such a young girl from such a remote place. That is when the 11 year old told me about the plot to keep the people of this region backwards.
    If this view of the USA is as widely held in Syria as it appears to be in NW Europe then it presents a very depressing expectation to the future of Syria and the Region. This civil war will continue as war of extermination. The UN could maybe stop it but it woudl likely just keep flaring up in the future until one side or the other is exterminated.

    Comment by Curt Kastens — August 9, 2016 @ 3:47 pm

  26. My kind of Marxist thinks ‘Bashar al-Assad’s military and his assorted foreign legions are (NOT) on the brink of final victory over the rebels’….because from our POV losing cities will never solve the tyranny’s problems and secure them a ‘final’ victory. Rather than an Assad victory people can expect in this complicated and spreading people’s war to continue to be unsurprised by the protracted nature of it and more regime disintegration. Less than 6 years ago Assad could travel the world and roam the length and breadth of Syria, now the tiny clique fears for their very lives their army is in tatters and they are totally reliant on outside forces to hold the current ground that they do.

    Syria for a marxist like me is clearly just one front of the wider war that in essence is a regional and islamist led war for evolving bourgeois democracy. This revolution is the classically protracted struggle of the masses and this revolution is to some extent or other assisted by western forces where last century it was hindered by those US led forces. Rather than an Assad victory on the contrary the war will see his lot fall AND spread to countries like Iran and explode across Egypt and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain etc. The swamp is being drained.

    Consider the struggle in Iran where the elected government is in a complex and deadly struggle with the deep state islamofascists that had (for example) simply stolen the election before last and who retain control over a ‘supreme’ authority, Basij, army, secret police and so forth. The election before last saw that element steal the election and the masses brutalised but as we later saw not completely terrorized from acting. The anti democratic Iranian deep state had such little support among the masses that even after excluding all manner of candidates from standing for election they could not stop the masses rallying behind a democratic opposition to them.

    The rot is comparable to the Turkish example that has proceeded over more than twenty years and very dramatically recently. Conservative but democratic islamists forces led by Erdogan overcome all opponents and are entrenching democracy against both islamofascists and social fascist and conventional necktie fascists. The revolution for bourgeois democracy is unfolding across the region and this is another very important aspect of it.

    The reality of the leading role of islamist fighters in this two front struggle to defeat islamofascists and conventional ‘necktie’ fascists is being starkly demonstrated by Erdogan in Turkey right now! The deep state of this old heart of the Ottoman empire that he is clearing out are the very enemies of democracy who began this round of struggle with murder and an immediate resort to guns. They tried to kill the elected Turkish President who is like Morsi in Egypt the leader of the only party that has and will again win the elections. So as we see in Egypt the fascists simply murder the conservative leaders and consequently bring on the predictable resistance. Erdogan called out the masses and they kept control of the streets. He is leading by defending the democratic revolution. He is forced to apply even more revolutionary methods!

    Why is the Egyptian deep state’s military coup leader (a bog standard gangster with no special policy features outside of the usual gangster rule -murder and torture- playbook) Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s regime being described as running a ‘neoliberal regime’?

    There simply is NO ‘ideological morass of large sections of the left that cannot make the connection between al-Assad and al-Sisi.’ Because ‘Al-Assad manages to enjoy the support of a wide spectrum of leftist intellectuals and journalists even if it is accompanied by the disclaimer that he is not very nice. Meanwhile al-Sisi is universally condemned.’ Which you describe as, ‘Morbid indeed.’ What stands starkly before you is the PSEUDOLEFT that you continue to treat as if they are fellow travelers on the road of the people’s liberation. They are now and have been all along enemies of the liberation struggles that you did not see coming, when other Marxists predicted that ‘the swamp’ would now be drained as the only workable strategic response to the swarm of mosquitoes that the former realist policies had generated and or sustained. Endlessly killing mosquitoes is self evidently a non starter as any kind of strategic response.

    Naturally the enemy ‘both claim to be defending secularism and democracy against Islamists.’ but do so by preventing elected governments as the US realists had always advocated and still do ‘…al-Sisi DID get support from the Pseudoleft. Recall the stupidity demonstrated by people claiming a left tradition in the debates over what was happening in Egypt when The North Star was a lively site open to genuine debate. You can find similar crap over what had been happening in Turkey over the last couple of years at various sites like the now resting KASAMA..

    Leftists could not turn from the fight for democracy and against tyranny and Islamofascists so people like Pham Binh and Gilbert Achcar dropped the remnant (failed) peace movement over Libya. Achcar and Pham Binh finally got it over Libya and would not abandon the masses as the pseudoleft ALWAYS do.

    There is no such thing as a ‘pro-Baathist left’. Tariq Ali and the other usual suspects in what you call the Syrian amen corner do not follow geopolitical compasses of the left at all. He supported the ‘resistance’ to the liberation of the Iraqi masses and has consistently refused to accept that the elections in that country are confirmation of that very liberation that has enabled the revolution to fight from the front foot. Nothing has ‘disoriented the left ever since the spring of 2011’ only the already and long discredited pseudoleft are AS USUAL backing the enemies of democratic revolution. This was well exampled and established in debates over Egypt at TNS back in 2013 http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=9267 http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=9130#comment-57083

    Anyone who speaks of ‘two equally reactionary forces.’ in Egypt will no doubt make the same error in Turkey and Iran just as they made the error in Iraq. The key political lesson to be drawn is that islamists will come to power if there is to be a democracy in any of these countries and so if you support the revolution for democracy you will acknowledge the right of islamists like Morsi in Egypt, Erdogan in Turkey, Rouhani in Iran and Haider al-Abadi in Iraq to win elections and form governments. That is what the realists and the pseudoleft that follow behind them understood would happen if elections were permitted and what they oppose.

    Comment by patrickmul — August 10, 2016 @ 4:59 am

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