Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

February 5, 2018

Fact-checking the latest propaganda rolling off the Assadist assembly-line

Filed under: journalism,Syria — louisproyect @ 9:23 pm

Judith Miller and Christopher Hitchens: forerunners of today’s Assadist propagandists

One of the most off-putting things about Assadist propaganda is that it advertises itself as a corrective to the “mainstream media” even as its purveyors adopt the journalistic norms of Judith Miller. What explains the cavalier attitude toward the truth? To a large extent, it is a function of deep-seated Islamophobia that is rooted in 9/11. Back then, Christopher Hitchens earned the contempt for most of us on the left for his close ties to the Bush administration. Even if it was becoming obvious that the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq was based on a mountain of lies, Hitchens gave the Bush administration a free pass because he saw al-Qaeda as the greatest threat to “Western Civilization” since Adolph Hitler.

Today, there is a virtual army of journalists who combine the shoddy journalism of Judith Miller and the virulent Islamophobia of Christopher Hitchens on behalf of a new crusade against the “Salafist menace”. But instead of serving as the lapdog of George W. Bush, they operate as cogs in the propaganda machine for the Kremlin and the Baathist state. Their hatred for “jihadism” runs so deep that they justify the bombing of hospitals in Idlib because Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly al-Nusra) has a foothold there. The ability of many leftists to lament the war crimes in Yemen and now in Afrin while cheering on Russian and Syrian mass murder is a defect in the kind of movement we have become, showing the same kind of cynical “ends justify the means” mindset that destroyed the Stalinized Communist Party.

Two recent examples illustrate how low the Assadist left has sunk. The first is an article in Viewpoint by Patrick Higgins titled “The Enemy at Home: U.S. Imperialism in Syria” that invokes Karl Liebknecht’s call for opposition to WWI. Hasn’t Higgins any idea that opposition to WWI in the USA back then would land you in prison as Eugene V. Debs discovered? Today, opposition to a Bush-style American intervention in Syria is universal, spanning from Higgins on the left to Henry Kissinger and David Duke on the right.

As is customarily the case, as long as Higgins writes about American foreign policy exclusive of Syria, there is not much to quibble with. Most of it is what you’d read in Noam Chomsky or Alexander Cockburn. Or, for that matter, what I wrote about Vietnam, Nicaragua, Palestine or Iraq over the years.

It is only when he gets to Syria that the propaganda kicks in.

Higgins argues that the war in Syria is the culmination of a policy that began during Eisenhower’s administration to contain Arab radicalism, particularly of the type Nasser represented. Making the case that the Baathist state is inimical to American interests in the region would by necessity omit any reference to Hafez al-Assad becoming part of the coalition to oust Iraq from Kuwait in 1991. The Baathist dictator’s support for American imperialism paid dividends as the Chicago Tribune reported:

A year ago Syria, which always has aspired to a leadership role in Arab affairs, was isolated and resented by most of its neighbors. Now it has forged an alliance with Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and has joined with Egypt in providing the bulk of the troops for a new Arab peacekeeping force in the Persian Gulf region.

It has received about $2.5 billion in assistance from the Gulf States and Japan, and its role in the peacekeeping force promises another sizable windfall.

So, imagine that. Assad the father cuts deals with Mubarak and the Saudis in cahoots with the USA and this is what “Arab radicalism” amounts to? Oh, did I mention that Kuwait is not mentioned once in Higgins’s article?

Like many others who profess support for the Palestinian cause, Higgins credits the Syrian dictatorship for backing Hezbollah’s resistance to Israel in 2006 even if it is impossible for him to sweep under the rug how it allied with Israel against the PLO in Lebanon.

Once again, this is a highly selective version of Syrian-Palestinian relations. Search for a reference to Gaza or Hamas in his article and you will come up empty just as was the case with Kuwait. He cannot admit that Hamas has condemned Russian and Syrian war crimes in East Aleppo. When Russian and Syrian jets were bombing hospitals, Hamas issued a statement that said: “We are following with great pain what is happening in Aleppo and the horrific massacres, murders and genocide its people are going through, and condemn it entirely.” Unlike Higgins, Hamas was not persuaded by the need to bomb hospitals because they were treating 4-year olds with broken bones who might grow up one day to become “terrorists”. When Syria dropped leaflets in East Aleppo to demand that the citizenry repudiate terrorism in the way that IDF did in Gaza City, Hamas could not help identifying with the victims of the “war on terror”.

In a journalistic maneuver that would have been too crass for Judith Miller to employ, Higgins claims that weaponry supplied to rebels in Syria were “diverted” to al-Nusra. As is often the case when I click the link to an article such as this, it is not what it was supposed to be saying. Maybe Higgins did not read past the Reuters article headline: U.S.-trained Syrian rebels gave equipment to Nusra: U.S. military. However, when you continue reading the article, you will learn that the weapons were surrendered in order to gain safe passage. This is like saying shopkeepers used to “give” protection money to the Mafia as if the consequences for refusing such payments would have been nothing but a slap on the wrist rather than a bullet in the head.

To make the case that the rebels were “Salafists” from the beginning, Higgins cites a Pentagon report that appears on the rightwing Judicial Watch website and that has been cited by a thousand other Assadist propagandists. However, in 2012 the dominant force in Syria was the FSA that would soon begin to clash with ISIS as it had with al-Nusra on occasion. To really make sense of the relationship of forces in Syria, you’d have to do more than write a brief report that was never official policy and that was also heavily redacted.

In May of 2013, the Center for American Progress issued a report estimating that the FSA had 50,000 fighters as opposed to al-Nusra’s 6,000. Another report from Charles Lister around this time estimates ISIS and al-Nusra’s combined forces to be 12,000 (I would have put ISIS into a separate category altogether since it had little interest in the goals of the Arab Spring, even less so than al-Nusra), while all other rebel groups amounted to 88,000. Perhaps Higgins has his own estimates but I doubt that someone who relies on the specious Judicial Watch report has any interest in that.

Higgins has the audacity to compare US bombing in Syria to that which occurred during the Vietnam war. This is truly astonishing. The USA dropped more than 3 times the tonnage of bombs on Vietnam than it dropped during all of WWII. And what was an example of US bombing in Syria? The only examples that Higgins could dredge up was a mortar attack on a trade fair in Damascus last August that killed 6 people and a suicide bombing there 3 months earlier that killed 31. This is on one side of the ledger and on the other you have artillery, missiles, barrel bombing and Sarin gas attacks that have cost the lives of hundreds of thousands. Talk about putting your fingers on the scales of justice.

As it happens, Higgins wrote essentially the same article for Jacobin in 2015 before it switched gears editorially to oppose Assad. To a large extent, Max Ajl was responsible for Assadist propaganda when he was a member of the editorial board. That kind of garbage disappeared after he got the boot. Now that he is on Viewpoint’s editorial board, we can expect the same kind of Islamophobic junk to appear. We might even assume that he will recruit the same scoundrels he used to line up for Jacobin.

On December 2, 2017, I wrote about Ajl’s conversation with fellow Assadist Justin Podhur about his departure from Jacobin. The oddest thing about their wound-licking session is their outlandish exaggeration of the power that is wielded by people like me, Gilbert Achcar, the ISO, New Politics and the new Jacobin over the Syria debate. Podhur put it this way:

And I think that feeling is something that I have personally been feeling for a really long time – guilty, muted, fumbling, silenced – about opposing imperialism, especially in Syria, and it’s been really confusing for me. And so for you to write that…I felt a lot of relief reading that somebody else felt that way.

This is truly astonishing. You have Alternet, Truthdig, CommonDreams, The Nation, the Boston Globe (via Stephen Kinzer), the LRB, the NYRB, 90 percent of the articles on CounterPunch, and countless other bloggers and websites making the same arguments as Ajl and Higgins and they feel “silenced”? Maybe what is irking them is that there are still a few lonely voices that don’t buy their crap. It wasn’t enough that Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton were bribed into write Assadist propaganda. Speaking for myself, I’d rather be water-boarded than justify bombing hospitals.

Unlike Higgins, who was an obscure graduate student with little to show either as a journalist or activist, Daniel Lazare has written some important stuff, including two books on the American constitution. But like all these good people from Seymour Hersh to Patrick Cockburn, he turned into Mr. Hyde after 2011.

In a Truthdig article titled “Jacobin Is Fueling the Lies About Syria”, Lazare hyper-ventilates on the post-Ajl Jacobin:

Syria has generated more lies than any United States action since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. That’s why Jacobin Magazine, the self-proclaimed “leading voice of the American left,” is so important. Readers need it to help cut through the dense fog of mendacity billowing forth out of Washington.

Correction: That’s why Jacobin should be important. In fact, the magazine/website has echoed U.S. propaganda on Syria and in some cases even exceeded it.

Like Higgins, Lazare makes claims that are not backed up by the articles he links to in support of those claims. For example, he writes that “Jacobin has attacked the Assad regime for dwelling excessively on rebel atrocities against Christians, Shiites and other minorities” but when you go to the article in question, which is an interview with Yasser Munif, you can find nothing remotely connected to this. Just go to the article and look for anything about the Assad regime being attacked in such a manner. If you can find it, I will donate $1,000 to the Moon of Alabama’s next fund-drive.

Lazare misses the good old days when Jacobin was publishing Patrick Higgins. That’s a laugh. His 2015 article was even a worse case of yellow journalism than his Viewpoint piece. I would refer you to my commentary on it here. He tells his readers that the rebels were bloodthirsty jihadists from the beginning, referring to a BBC article that connects them to the death of 120 Baathist cops in 2011. What he fails to tell you, however, is that the BBC was simply reporting what state television said. Covering this up is just what you’d expect from a shameless propagandist like Patrick Higgins.

Lazare is upset that Jacobin questioned whether Obama was for “regime change”. Maybe he hadn’t read the October 22, 2013 N.Y. Times article that made this crystal clear, written when worries over a looming war with Syria were at their height. It stated “from the beginning, Mr. Obama made it clear to his aides that he did not envision an American military intervention, even as public calls mounted that year for a no-fly zone to protect Syrian civilians from bombings.” The article stressed the role of White House Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough, who had frequently clashed with the hawkish Samantha Power. In contrast to Power and others with a more overtly “humanitarian intervention” perspective, McDonough “who had perhaps the closest ties to Mr. Obama, remained skeptical. He questioned how much it was in America’s interest to tamp down the violence in Syria.”

This is not to speak of the Atlantic Magazine interviews that Jeffrey Goldberg conducted with Obama in 2016. Once again the clash with Samantha Power is cited:

At the outset of the Syrian uprising, in early 2011, Power argued that the rebels, drawn from the ranks of ordinary citizens, deserved America’s enthusiastic support. Others noted that the rebels were farmers and doctors and carpenters, comparing these revolutionaries to the men who won America’s war for independence.

Obama flipped this plea on its head. “When you have a professional army,” he once told me, “that is well armed and sponsored by two large states”—Iran and Russia—“who have huge stakes in this, and they are fighting against a farmer, a carpenter, an engineer who started out as protesters and suddenly now see themselves in the midst of a civil conflict …” He paused. “The notion that we could have—in a clean way that didn’t commit U.S. military forces—changed the equation on the ground there was never true.” The message Obama telegraphed in speeches and interviews was clear: He would not end up like the second President Bush—a president who became tragically overextended in the Middle East, whose decisions filled the wards of Walter Reed with grievously wounded soldiers, who was helpless to stop the obliteration of his reputation, even when he recalibrated his policies in his second term. Obama would say privately that the first task of an American president in the post-Bush international arena was “Don’t do stupid shit.”

Lazare explains Syria’s war as the outcome of religious Sunni resentment toward a leader who even Robin Yassin-Kassab and Leila al-Shami considered “genuinely popular” with most Syrians. These are the co-authors of “Burning Country” whose meeting at Columbia University was trolled by Lazare. I suppose that Lazare assumed that people would not go out and buy their book to judge the accuracy of his citation. As it happens, the book—happily—can now be read online and in the context that Lazare slyly omitted. The authors were referring to the hopes of some that Assad would respond positively to the earliest protests in 2011:

Some even thought the popular protests would be welcomed by Bashaar as ammunition in his presumed struggle against regime hardliners. After all, the man was genuinely popular. Perhaps – after allowing  non-sectarian and non-ethnic parties to operate openly – he could  even have won a real election, and gone down in history as hero of  the democratic transition.

In other words, the authors were referring to what some thought. I suppose by this criterion, Assad was the most popular president in modern history, routinely getting 98% of the vote. That “some” might have been 25% of the country or maybe even 40% but we’ll never know since door to door polling would have been about as possible as a television station that challenged a system that relied on prison, torture, murder and beatings for a stability based on fear.

For Robin Yassin-Kassab’s reaction to Lazare’s intervention, I recommend this:

We heard some strange things, but were only once confronted by a highly aggressive, profoundly ignorant and prejudiced white man. This was during our talk at Columbia University, New York. This character was the first to put up his hand after our presentations. He’d been glaring, particularly at Leila, throughout the talks.

He was almost spitting with anger. How could Leila describe Iran as a prime generator of sectarianism, he wanted to know, when everyone knew it was Saudi Arabia? He himself knew for sure that Syria’s 2011 protest movement was entirely made up of Sunnis, and that they were calling for the blood of the Alawis and Christians from the first day. He knew that all the Christians and Alawis and Druze had demonstrated for Assad. He named a French commentator as evidence for this (Fabrice someone?), and expressed admiration for Patrick Cockburn, who I’d criticised in my talk.

And so he encapsulated some of the worst characteristics of this pro-fascist ‘left’ that has run so badly aground. The lack of detail, and useless binarism, of the Iran/Saudi comment; the orientalism and Islamophobia of the rest; the anger born of a sense of entitlement to narrate other people’s struggles; and the reliance on French and Irish commentators rather than on Syrian revolutionary voices. Neither Leila nor I claim to be Syrian revolutionary voices, but we have interviewed many Syrian revolutionaries, including many from Christian and Alawi backgrounds, who were part of the protest movement from the start. In my answer I mentioned them, and also towns like Yabroud, with a very high proportion of ‘religious minorities’, which liberated themselves from Assad’s forces and set up free local councils and Free Army militias instead. The angry man tutted and spat through my answer. At least two Syrian Christians were in the room, rolling their eyes as he spat.

Leila was disturbed by him. I told her not to dwell on it. The man was so emotionally overwrought he probably had mental problems, like so many in this city. But afterwards we learnt that the angry man is a Stalinist ‘intellectual’, that he writes for the ugly magazine Jacobin, and that his name is Daniel Lazare.

If Lazare’s analysis rests on shaky foundations, his writing is just as badly in need of a watchful editor that the well-endowed Truthdig’s editors were unable to catch. He cites a book “Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam” as proof of the U.S.’s evil intentions. The author? None other than Richard Dreyfus [sic, it is actually Dreyfuss], the star of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” who was recently charged with sexual harassment? Nope. Lazare meant Robert Dreyfuss, who is as hysterically obsessed with al-Qaeda as Lazare or Higgins.

Like Higgins’s 2015 Jacobin article, Lazare insists that the rebels were bloodthirsty jihadists from the start:

The claim that protesters turned to violence only after the regime used deadly force is belied by an Israeli TV report in March 2011 that protesters had killed seven soldiers in Dera’a and set fire to the local courthouse and Baath Party headquarters.

Naturally, Lazare fails to mention that four protestors were killed and another 100 were wounded days before the retaliation took place. If you want to see why peaceful protestors decided that they had enough, watch this:

Naturally, Lazare begins to wind down his article with an endorsement of Robert Fisk’s reporting from Syria, where he has  been continuously embedded with the Syrian army just as CNN was embedded in the U.S. military during the war in Iraq. Fisk’s reporting has been so atrocious that the word “Fisking” was invented to describe his habitual distortions and lies.

On February 2nd, Fisk told his Independent readers: “I have to say, however, that after a 2,000-mile tour over much of Syria, I have – for the first time in recent months – seen neither a single Hezbollah member or Iranian revolutionary guard. And since Western leaders believe Syria is swamped with Iranians, this is interesting.”

But on January 3rd, Hezbollah’s leader Nasrallah was quite clear that his troops were in Syria.

The leader of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah group said on Wednesday the Syrian war, now in its seventh year, will be finished in one or two years at most.

In an interview with Lebanon’s pro-Iran al-Mayadeen channel, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah also said Israeli strikes on Hezbollah positions in Syria did not, and will not, prevent supplies of weapons reaching the group.

You can read the whole thing here: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/five-things-you-may-have-missed-nasrallah-s-interview-372610417.

So, if Robert Fisk didn’t see any Hezbollah fighters in Syria, maybe he should get checked for cataracts. As for Daniel Lazare and Patrick Higgins, they are clearly beyond help.

17 Comments »

  1. appreciate all your hard work Louis. as you undoubtedly know treating cataracts isn’t a big challenge these days, mental blindness is a more difficult problem

    Comment by Dayne Goodwin — February 6, 2018 @ 1:45 am

  2. Daniel Lazare is such a disappointment, to say the least. “The Frozen Republic” is a classic book. Hell, he used to write articles for New Politics. Somewhere along the line he lost his marbles.

    Comment by jschulman — February 6, 2018 @ 4:10 am

  3. You’ve got a lot more patience than I have Louis, dissecting what these fools write. As for Fisk, it is not surprising that he has never seen any Hezbollah or IRGC in Syria; because, after all, he has also never seen any evidence that such a thing as the FSA exists anywhere in Syria, as he proclaims here as he travels around with Assad army! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mIyg7xaLGTY

    Comment by mkaradjis — February 6, 2018 @ 1:11 pm

  4. Louis: Much as I’ve enjoyed your movie reviews, I’m having second thoughts given the sheer incompetence of your attack on me and Patrick Higgins. For example, you accuse Patrick of failing to read a Reuters article that he cited in support of his statement that US arms were diverted to ISIS and other such “unsavory organizations.” But while Higgins did indeed cite that article (entitled “U.S.-trained Syrian rebels gave equipment to Nusra: U.S. military”), he first cited another Reuters piece (“Arms supplied by U.S., Saudi ended up with Islamic State”) that said precisely what he said it did. How on earth did you miss that initial reference?

    You criticize him for citing a 2012 Pentagon report stating that “the Salafist [sic], the Muslim Brotherhood, and [al Qaeda in Iraq] are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria,” a report that you dismiss as “specious.” But since the report’s warning that the rebels would seek to establish “a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria” turned out to be correct, one might expect you to pause for a moment to explain why. But you don’t – you just race breathlessly ahead.

    You declare that “Higgins has the audacity to compare US bombing in Syria to that which occurred during the Vietnam war.” But Higgins didn’t accuse the US of bombing Syria into oblivion, but of employing other means that have proved no less effective.

    You make similarly false claims about my Truthdig piece. You quote my statement that “Jacobin has attacked the Assad regime for dwelling excessively on rebel atrocities against Christians, Shiites and other minorities.” But then you say that the article I cite in support of that contention, i.e. an interview with a US academic named Yasser Munif, contains “nothing remotely connected to this.” But in fact Munif says plainly in the interview that “the regime has played that card of protecting the minorities” because it “plays well in the West.” So what’s the difference?

    You say that I’m “upset that Jacobin questioned whether Obama was for ‘regime change'” and then quote a New York Times article and an Atlantic Magazine interview with Obama in support of the view that regime change was not on the White House agenda. But neither article says that. Rather than the question of regime change per se, their only concern is with the debate over how to achieve it, i.e. directly or indirectly via US military intervention or aid to the anti-Assad forces. In fact, regime change has remained official US policy since August 2011 when Obama declared that “the time has come for President Assad to step aside,” and no amount of obfuscating on your part will make that change. You also accuse me of quoting Robin Yassin-Kassab and Leila al-Shami’s statement that Assad was “genuinely popular” out of context because I didn’t specify that “the authors were referring to what some thought.” But their statement was in fact unqualified, which is why I felt justified in quoting it word for word.

    I could go on, but what’s the point? You’ve has swallowed the idiotic USec line that the Syrian rebels are progressive, and nothing that I or anyone says will make you give it up. As a famous rabbi once put it, “There is none so blind as he who will not see.”

    P.S. So glad you liked “The Square.” That really is a terrific little movie. But you really must check out Maysaloun Hamoud’s 2016 “Bar Bahar” (“In Between”). Even better.

    Comment by dhlazare — February 6, 2018 @ 5:34 pm

  5. Much as I’ve enjoyed your movie reviews, I’m having second thoughts given the sheer incompetence of your attack on me and Patrick Higgins. For example, you accuse Patrick of failing to read a Reuters article that he cited in support of his statement that US arms were diverted to ISIS and other such “unsavory organizations.” But while Higgins did indeed cite that article (entitled “U.S.-trained Syrian rebels gave equipment to Nusra: U.S. military”), he first cited another Reuters piece (“Arms supplied by U.S., Saudi ended up with Islamic State”) that said precisely what he said it did. How on earth did you miss that initial reference?

    (Because the other article does not state that the weapons were “diverted” to ISIS. They were seized. In fact, ISIS has been a ruthless enemy of the entire rebel movement in Syria, including al-Nusra.)

    You criticize him for citing a 2012 Pentagon report stating that “the Salafist [sic], the Muslim Brotherhood, and [al Qaeda in Iraq] are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria,” a report that you dismiss as “specious.” But since the report’s warning that the rebels would seek to establish “a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria” turned out to be correct, one might expect you to pause for a moment to explain why. But you don’t – you just race breathlessly ahead.

    (I have dealt with the report at length here: https://louisproyect.org/2016/06/16/the-conspiracy-theory-shared-by-donald-trump-and-the-left/.)

    You declare that “Higgins has the audacity to compare US bombing in Syria to that which occurred during the Vietnam war.” But Higgins didn’t accuse the US of bombing Syria into oblivion, but of employing other means that have proved no less effective.

    (The USA was trying to bomb Vietnam back into the stone ages. If the rebels got their hands on anti-tank weapons from the Saudis, god bless them. In any case, most of Syria has been destroyed by Assad and Putin’s combined air forces. Unless, of course, you think that Homs, East Ghouta, East Aleppo were not part of Syria and simply mini-caliphates that had to be exterminated.)

    You make similarly false claims about my Truthdig piece. You quote my statement that “Jacobin has attacked the Assad regime for dwelling excessively on rebel atrocities against Christians, Shiites and other minorities.” But then you say that the article I cite in support of that contention, i.e. an interview with a US academic named Yasser Munif, contains “nothing remotely connected to this.” But in fact Munif says plainly in the interview that “the regime has played that card of protecting the minorities” because it “plays well in the West.” So what’s the difference?

    (Maybe if your prose was more pellucid, it would be less open to misinterpretation.)

    You say that I’m “upset that Jacobin questioned whether Obama was for ‘regime change’” and then quote a New York Times article and an Atlantic Magazine interview with Obama in support of the view that regime change was not on the White House agenda. But neither article says that. Rather than the question of regime change per se, their only concern is with the debate over how to achieve it, i.e. directly or indirectly via US military intervention or aid to the anti-Assad forces. In fact, regime change has remained official US policy since August 2011 when Obama declared that “the time has come for President Assad to step aside,” and no amount of obfuscating on your part will make that change. You also accuse me of quoting Robin Yassin-Kassab and Leila al-Shami’s statement that Assad was “genuinely popular” out of context because I didn’t specify that “the authors were referring to what some thought.” But their statement was in fact unqualified, which is why I felt justified in quoting it word for word.

    (If the USA was committed to regime change, it never would have stationed the CIA on the borders of Syria to prevent MANPADs from Gaddafi’s arsenal reaching the rebels after Berlusconi’s best friend was overthrown.)

    I could go on, but what’s the point? You’ve has swallowed the idiotic USec line that the Syrian rebels are progressive, and nothing that I or anyone says will make you give it up. As a famous rabbi once put it, “There is none so blind as he who will not see.”

    (I have no idea why you bother defending your Assadist propaganda here. You have ten thousand other people making the same points as you, from Richard Spencer to Pamela Geller. It reminds me of the Princess and the Pea. Sorry, but I will continue to be that pea.)

    Comment by louisproyect — February 6, 2018 @ 6:38 pm

  6. How is quoting Obama vapidly, vacantly, hollowly saying “the time has come for President Assad to step aside,” proof of a policy for regime change? dhlazare writes very complacently, there is a smug unconcern about the millions in Syria. I don’t think Louis Proyect regards all rebels as ‘progressive’ anyhow, – but whatever, it’s something to be so smug as people are being annihilated across Syria and bombed to pieces in ‘de-escalation’ zones.

    The Guardian writes today ‘ Idlib also contains large numbers of jihadist fighters who control much of the province. Jihadist and conservative Islamist groups have besieged two Shia towns near Aleppo for much of the past three years. Their presence has been used by Syrian and Russian officials to claim that any genuine anti-Assad opposition was fleeting and has long been subsumed by a global jihadist agenda.

    “They have stuck to this line for the past five years,” said Manaf Khaled, a businessman from the town of Zabadani, near Damascus, who was relocated to Idlib last September. “When we came here, it was the first time we saw them. Now they want to tell the world that we are all like them. It is a dangerous trap and people must know this.”

    The UN said that in 2017 only 27% of its requests for access to opposition areas were granted by the Syrian government. As the military offensives have continued in Ghouta and Idlib, not a single request has been granted so far this year. Idlib was supposed to be a de-escalation zone, where hostilities were slowed or stopped to pave the way for negotiations.’

    dhlazare you smug buffoon, Proyect doesn’t follow any US government line, he is a revolutionary Socialist and you are a foolish prating knave pushing support for genocidal reactionaries. No reason to be a smug bastard at all.

    Comment by Matthew Jackson — February 6, 2018 @ 11:50 pm

  7. Russia foiling US schema for hegemony, not supporting Assad or interfering in civil affairs. Also trying to broker peace talks among all actors. US will kill to achieve their goals Russia willing to die to stop them, That’s their roll and I thank them for their sacrifice. Am I wrong?

    Comment by Les Kober — February 7, 2018 @ 4:19 pm

  8. US will kill to achieve their goals Russia willing to die to stop them, That’s their roll and I thank them for their sacrifice. Am I wrong?

    Yes.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 7, 2018 @ 4:30 pm

  9. Thanks, I’ll keep following and learning.

    Comment by Les Kober — February 9, 2018 @ 6:14 am

  10. What the US apparently did in Mosul and Faluja seem to be undisputed and typical. I haven’t perceived the anti Russia western press make and support with evidence anything comparable from the Russians. I admit to watching RT but they seem to have video corroborated newscasts, while all I get from corporate industrial media is unsupported accusations from ex-deep state toadies. Not to say Russia is not guilty of war crimes as you stated, I honestly don’t have knowledge of them.
    Russia has been trying to get international experts to alleged government chemical attack sites, to no avail, much the same as the MH-17 crash site and radar data that refutes US claims, and renders arguments against Russia biased,
    Are you equating what occurred in Libya by Nato/US comparable to what Russia has done in Syria?
    If so, I disagree. If Russia did not intercede, it would not be farfetched to envision another fallen domino in the game of war for profit. Assad did what he did, Russia carried out an intervention to stop cowardly US proxy invasion and annihilation, a humanitarian intervention, if ever there was one.
    It goes without saying, if the US had “succeeded” the term genocide would not hyperbole. And yes, I am defending Russia and President Putin. Who in the world or the US will intercede if not Russia.
    Certainly it’s the responsibility of us who acquiesce and fund the warfare state to stop it, not sit in our easy chairs and criticize those putting their lives on the line. Seems like we need another Trotsky, know anybody like that?

    Comment by Les Kober — February 9, 2018 @ 1:37 pm

  11. Not to say Russia is not guilty of war crimes as you stated, I honestly don’t have knowledge of them.

    You need to look into Aricept.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 9, 2018 @ 3:18 pm

  12. “You quote my statement that “Jacobin has attacked the Assad regime for dwelling excessively on rebel atrocities against Christians, Shiites and other minorities.” But then you say that the article I cite in support of that contention, i.e. an interview with a US academic named Yasser Munif, contains “nothing remotely connected to this.” But in fact Munif says plainly in the interview that “the regime has played that card of protecting the minorities” because it “plays well in the West.” So what’s the difference?”

    Try this: you write an article accusing Israel of posing as a defender of women’s rights and gay rights when its politicians speak to audiences in Europe and the US (‘pinkwashing’ etc.). The point being that Israel doesn’t really give a damn about either and is using it as an excuse for very brutal repression of the Palestinians. Someone translates your argument as ‘Lazare attacks Israel for dwelling excessively on the rights of women and gay people’. What’s the difference? A pretty clear one I would think, and I don’t think you’d struggle with the difference in that case either.

    Comment by Ed — February 9, 2018 @ 3:46 pm

  13. Ed, you need to go to the same remedial writing class as Lazare.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 9, 2018 @ 5:42 pm

  14. A minor Reuters report, buried deep down ts newswire: Assad funnels ISIS combatants into Idlib to fight anti Assad opposition. You’d think the Imperialist regime change media would have this front page news everywhere…

    BEIRUT (Reuters) – Islamic State fighters battled Syrian insurgents in the northwestern province of Idlib on Friday, a monitoring group and a rebel commander said, accusing pro-government forces of opening a corridor for the jihadists to reach the region.

    “This morning at dawn we were surprised by the joint treachery by the regime and Daesh,” he told Reuters. Clashes were under way in the village of Lweibdeh, he said. “They have six armored vehicles with them.”

    A source in the Ahrar al-Sham faction said Islamic State fighters had pushed into south Idlib from government territory.

    “The rebel factions are repelling Daesh attempts to advance,” the source said. “The regime’s militias opened a gap helping the besieged Islamic State forces pass.”

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-idlib/islamic-state-fighters-move-to-syrias-idlib-clash-with-factions-sources-say-idUSKBN1FT1CZ?il=0

    Comment by seaspan — February 9, 2018 @ 7:15 pm

  15. “Ed, you need to go to the same remedial writing class as Lazare.”

    Seriously, what the hell are you talking about? I was explaining to Lazare, using an analogy he couldn’t fail to understand (or pretend not to understand), why his arguments about Syria are total BS. I picked one example: Lazare taking a statement in one of the Jacobin articles that the Assad regime only claims to be protecting minorities in Syria for the benefit of Western audiences to make it seem more progressive, and changing the meaning of that statement entirely with an absurdly tendentious misreading (“Jacobin has attacked the Assad regime for dwelling excessively on rebel atrocities against Christians, Shiites and other minorities”). What the hell is your problem with that? I agree with you that Lazare’s article for Truthdig is misleading rubbish, but for some reason you appear to be looking for a row with people on the same side of the argument. The issue here is not my writing skills; it seems to be your reading comprehension skills that are at fault.

    Comment by Ed — February 10, 2018 @ 1:53 pm

  16. My apologies. But I still had trouble understanding your analogy.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 10, 2018 @ 2:24 pm

  17. Ok no worries, we all take things up the wrong way sometimes.

    Comment by Ed — February 10, 2018 @ 5:41 pm


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