Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

June 1, 2019

Was the Douma chlorine gas attack a “false flag”?

Filed under: conspiracism,Syria — louisproyect @ 9:34 pm

Did jihadis do this rather than Assad?

Starting in May 2013, I have written 84 articles about sarin gas attacks in Syria, with another 9 dealing with the chlorine gas attack in Douma. So, whether you agree with my analysis or not, you’d have to accept that I have spent more time than the average person looking closely at one of the major issues dividing the left: whether all these attacks were “false flags” intended to justify an American regime change operation in the same vein that WMD’s were used by Bush, Cheney and Powell to drag us into Iraq. For people like Max Blumenthal, Jonathan Cook, Seymour Hersh, Robert Fisk, Theodore Postol, Vanessa Beeley, Eva Bartlett, Gareth Porter, and dozens of others, time has stood still. In 8 years of asymmetric warfare in which aerial bombardment has virtually annihilated the opposition to Assad, nothing has changed. We are still in the same situation as we were in 2013 when Obama was making empty threats about “red lines”. The “false flag” brigades are still at it, with the latest flare-up occurring over a leaked OPCW document that tries to make the case that the death of dozens of men, women and children in Douma on April 7, 2018 was not a result of a helicopter dropping weaponized chlorine tanks on a tenement but being placed there by jihadists who hoped to persuade Donald Trump to go to war because some working-class Sunnis were gassed to death. Yes, I know, this is an idiotic proposition but it is necessary to debunk it.

This propaganda offensive is taking place at the very moment when Syrian and Russian jets are bombing Idlib, the last piece of territory out of the dictatorship’s control, into oblivion. The NY Times reported on the situation there yesterday:

Over a quarter-million people have been displaced in the past month and 160 people have been confirmed killed, the United Nations said on Thursday, warning of an impending disaster if the violence is not stopped. Officials say the actual number of dead is much higher than 160.

Video footage of the bombardments, and of dead and injured children being pulled from the wreckage of homes, has flooded social media. In one, a small girl screams as she tugs at the arm of her brother, trapped under rubble. In another, a teenager pulled from a crushed building is told that his brother, lifeless beside him, is sleeping.

As has taken place in Aleppo and East Ghouta before, bombs have been dropped on hospitals. Since Blumenthal and company tend to regard the people living in Idlib like Netanyahu regards those in Gaza, none of this matters. In the war against jihadist, al-Qaeda, Salafist terror, only final victory will guarantee peace and the possibility of Bashar al-Assad moving forward with Baathist socialism.

On May 13, British academic Tim Hayward got his hands on a leaked OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) document written by one Ian Henderson, a former employee of the agency. In essence, Henderson argues that the two chlorine tanks found in Douma could not have been dropped from the air because the physical evidence of both the damage done to the tanks and to the buildings was not reproducible through computer models. Hayward and his small group of pro-Assad academics then launched a campaign to get the word out. Among the websites pushing hardest to absolve Assad are Moon of Alabama, Off-Guardian, World Socialist Website, Grayzone, and Consortium News—mainstays of “false flag” conspiracy-mongering confederacy of dunces.

One of the first reporters to jump on Hayward’s whistle-blowing bandwagon was Peter Hitchens, the British conservative and brother of Dubya’s chief “leftist” supporter Christopher Hitchens. Writing for the Daily Mail, Hitchens uses an argument that you have heard 10,000 times from the left:

I ask again and again why the Syrian state would choose to use poison gas in a battle it had all but won, when using poison gas was probably the only way to ensure American backing for the Syrian rebels. Why do so when with the aid of Russian airpower and Iranian and Hizbollah ground troops, it had turned the tide of the war already? What possible calculation could lead it to such a course?

If Christopher Hitchens supported a war on the basis of a WMD “false flag”, brother Peter supported Assad’s war against his own people using arguments found in the conspiracist left. Of course, it should be understood that the rightwing and the Assadist left are in total agreement about the jihadi menace to Enlightenment Values. David Duke, the LaRouche cult, Tucker Carlson, Ann Coulter, and the entire European far-right have all been keen on establishing Assad’s innocence.

Writing for CounterPunch on May 29th, British Palestinian solidarity activist Jonathan Cook claimed that Henderson’s report indicated that the Douma attack “ was very possibly staged, a false-flag operation by…al-Qaeda groups.” He adds that “It was vitally important that the OPCW reached that conclusion — and not only because the west has an overarching ambition for regime change in Syria.”

Most people familiar with American foreign policy probably understand that if the USA was really interested in “regime change”, it would have not taken 8 years to achieve its goal.

Keep in mind that after a sarin gas attack took place in Khan Shaykhoun a year earlier, Donald Trump’s decision to fire missiles at Shayrat air force base in Syria had little impact. To start with, the runway was not damaged—something that was never even part of the plans—and jets and helicopters took off a few hours afterward. According to Wikipedia, even the Russian defense ministry said that the “combat effectiveness” of the attack was “extremely low” and that only 23 missiles out of 59 fired hit the base, destroying six aircraft. It did not know where the other 36 landed. Russian television news, citing a Syrian source at the airfield, said that nine planes were destroyed by the strike but that they were inoperative at the time.

This time Trump did not even bother with a slap on the wrist.

Grayzone’s Aaron Maté allowed Theodore Postol to weigh in on Henderson’s report. Postol is a retired MIT professor who has been a consistent supporter of Assad’s innocence. He has relied on the chemistry knowhow of Maram Susli, better known as the Partisan Girl. To put it bluntly, she is a fascist who has appeared on David Duke’s podcasts. I guess that’s the sixth degree of separation between Grayzone and David Duke.

Postol reprises Henderson’s findings along the same lines found on most of these conspiracy-mongering websites:

That is to say: somebody was firing rockets and mortars; some of them landed on the roof of this building, one of them landed on the roof of this building. It produced a hole. And somebody else came along and hauled the cylinder to this location and stuck it through the hole and tried to make it look like there was a scene that was created where the cylinder fell, caused the hole, and then it happened to be sticking through the hole. Well it turns out when you do the mathematical calculation that’s not what would occur — this cylinder would just pass through pass through the roof.

This is the same Postol who concluded that it was Syrian rebels who launched a sarin gas attack in East Ghouta in 2013 and followed that up with another false flag narrative about a sarin attack in Khan Sheikhoun two years ago. When a missile was found in the ground at Khan Sheikhoun, he came to the conclusion that it was placed there just like the chlorine tanks in Douma. He wrote, “If this is in fact the mechanism used to disperse the sarin, this indicates that the sarin tube was placed on the ground by individuals on the ground and not dropped from an airplane.” His analysis drew from the Partisan Girl’s vast reservoir of chemistry knowhow (odd that an MIT professor emeritus never thought of consulting colleagues from his own institution.) Eliot Higgins and Dan Kazseta offer a useful rebuttal to Postol here.

Much of the focus on Douma has been on computer modeling, engineering ABC’s, photos of damaged ceilings and chlorine tanks, etc. What’s missing is any engagement with the people who were most impacted by this incident, the Syrians themselves.

Based on Postol’s account above, try to imagine what might have taken place in that building in Douma. To start with, the hallways were filled with people desperately fleeing a bombing attack. Accepting Postol’s version of the timeline, jihadists entered the building sometime before that morning and climbed the stairs with two tanks full of chlorine, each one weighing between two and three hundred pounds according to one chemical company. One tank was on a terrace just beneath the roof and the other was resting on a bed on a top floor apartment. So if you assume that it took a couple of men to transport these tanks up the stairs without attracting any attention, you probably have a dim view of Syrian working people. If “jihadis” would risk being identified as willing to kill men, women and children in order to get Donald Trump to bomb an air force base just for show, you have lost the ability to see Syrians as part of the human race. Only those so degraded by “Salafist” ideology would kill their supporters in such a manner. Frankly, the real degradation is that taking place is on the Assadist left, which has reached the point of no return advancing a theory this deranged.

Whenever I hear these tales about jihadis being so open to killing their own supporters, I wonder if those who advance them might be basing them on what Bill Maher has wisecracked about the Quran or a version of the Orientalism that Edward Said wrote about—the fanatical Arabs who don’t value life because their reward is in heaven. Indiana Jones versus al-Nusra, that sort of thing.

One more thing about the tanks. There is clear evidence of them being weaponized through a a metal harness with three key features: lugs for lifting them, tail fins at the rear to improve their aerodynamic performance, and a wheel assembly (presumably for maneuvering them out of helicopters. So, in addition to hauling these 300 pound tanks to the top of an apartment building without being noticed, you’d have to fashion the metal parts to give them the appearance of the actual bombs that Assad has used. This means finding a machine shop in Douma that would keep its role in this “false flag” incident a secret. As you can see from the picture of one of the tanks used in Douma, this is not a trivial matter:

I should add that the image above came from the conspiracy-mongering Off-Guardian’s media library. Apparently, it never entered the minds of these geniuses to consider how difficult it would be to construct such a harness from scratch. Then again, there was always Seymour Hersh with his belief that sarin gas could be cooked up in your kitchen.

Finally, there is the question of why the jihadis had never used such chlorine bombs to attack Damascus if they had the capability of building them. For men so indifferent to human life, especially their own supporters, why wouldn’t they have been willing to kill Alawite infidels? After all, Douma is very close to downtown Damascus and was deemed necessary by the Baathists to crush because it had been in mortar duels with the regime since the war began.

All you need to do is search for articles in Lexis-Nexis on “Douma”, “Damascus”, “Chlorine”, and “attack”, and you will not find a single article pointing to chlorine gas attacks emanating from rebel-controlled suburbs.

For that matter, your best bet is to have a look at probably the most comprehensive report on chemical attacks in Syria prepared by the Global Public Policy Institute titled “Nowhere to Hide: the Logic of Chemical Weapon Use in Syria”. I realize that this recommendation will be ignored by the Aaron Matés and Ben Nortons of the world who are likely being paid to write the garbage they write.  But for those not corrupted by rubles, it is a very informed presentation of the facts.

They were able to identify 336 confirmed chemical attacks in Syria. Of those, 98 percent were attributed to the regime and the other 2 percent to ISIS. While sarin gas is more deadly, chlorine is very useful because it has been tacitly accepted by the USA as legitimate weapon given the slap on the wrist at Shayrat air force base. The GPPI report lays out in some detail how chlorine is weaponized:

In the case of improvised air-delivered chlorine munitions, Syrian regime forces went through multiple phases of development. The available evidence suggests that chlorine barrel bombs are delivered almost exclusively via the Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF) fleet of Mi-8/17 transport helicopters. Again, we can see the influence of designs for conventional improvised munitions used by the same units from the same platforms. The initial attempts at developing air-delivered chlorine munitions in the spring of 2014 very clearly drew upon conventional “barrel bomb” designs used by government forces since August 2012: instead of high explosives and shrapnel, industrial gas vessels were lodged inside metal drums, occasionally wrapped with detonation charges to ensure rupture and the dispersion of the gas. Eventually, regime engineers developed a simpler, more functional munition design by using a welded steel “cradle” to convert a single, usually yellow, standard industrial chlorine canister into a crude but functional munition. The complete contraption features stabilizing tail fins, two “eyes” for easier loading and transportation, and two small sets of wheels that make it easier for the munition to roll off – two at a time – a ramp installed in the back of Mi-8/17 “Hip” helicopters. No explosives are needed, as the high-pressure canister – or its valve – are expected to rupture on impact. This design appears to have superseded all previous chlorine barrel bomb variants and has been in exclusive use since late 2016. Remnants of this type have since been recovered from dozens of sites across Aleppo, Idlib, Hama, and rural Damascus, including the site of the 7 April 2018 Douma attack.

Of course, none of this happened according to Assad’s propagandists at Grayzone, Consortium News, and other propaganda outlets. Probably the only other craziness that matches this is 9/11 Trutherism. It is no accident that Tim Hayward’s gang of conspiracy-mongers includes people like Vanessa Beeley who in addition to smearing the White Helmets as jihadis like Max Blumenthal does, believes that the attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo was a false flag, that al-Qaeda wasn’t behind the 9/11 attacks, and that there are NATO “sleeper cells” living in suburban America that have infiltrated the anti-war movement. She has appeared onstage alongside holocaust deniers and has been interviewed for far-right German magazines. This information was furnished by Chris York in the British edition of Huffington Post titled “’Whitewashing War Crimes’: How UK Academics Promote Pro-Assad Conspiracy Theories About Syria”. It will help you understand how these loathsome, degraded, and cynical apologists for war crimes operate.

 

39 Comments

  1. Syria was and is an atrocity caused by neo liberals in France and US.

    Russia did no more or less than St Franklin did to Germany and Japan.

    There was no “liberal democratic” alternative.

    Comment by Feldman — June 1, 2019 @ 11:22 pm

  2. You must be referring to Francois Hollande’s chemtrail attacks. What a devil he was,

    Comment by louisproyect — June 1, 2019 @ 11:25 pm

  3. Using the term neoliberal,, How academic of you…

    Comment by m_dean — June 2, 2019 @ 12:56 am

  4. Good article again. Clay Claiborne has written an interesting piece about this subject also. One weird thing about Henderson’s report is that he seems to have gone ‘so far as to invent a fake classification category to make the document look authentic.’ (Luke O’Brien). As Clay Claiborne points out OPCW classification is usually R (Restricted), P (protected), and H (highly protected). Yet Hendersons report is marked ‘OPCW Sensitive’.

    The Assadist ghouls in the West always latch on to weird one off comments or reports, to distract from the self evident , and appalling reality of what the regime and its fiendish allies are accomplishing. Its reminiscent of 2013 when the Assadists latched onto Carla del Pontes ill informed and doltish comment that it was likely Syrian rebels who had weaponised sarin. That her remarks were immediately rejected as unfounded by her peers was of no use to them and was discounted. So now in the midst of more wanton mass murder and targeting of hospitals in Idlib they latch on to a random report that serves their purposes and ignore the OPCW report, and all on the ground realities. ‘8 years of asymmetric warfare in which aerial bombardment has virtually annihilated the opposition to Assad,’ has changed nothing for these useless idiots in the West like Cook, Fisk, Hersh, Bartlett, Pilger. A disgraceful, loathsome shower they are, one and all.

    Comment by Matthew Jackson — June 2, 2019 @ 8:34 pm

  5. A significant aspect of the denialists’ claims regarding the sarin attack in Khan Shaykun (the one Louis refers to in relation to the US bombing of al Shayrat air field): There were three claims that denied that Assad was responsible. The first was immediately after the attack and came from the Putin administration. It claimed that Islamic fundamentalist groups had been storing the precursors to sarin in separate tanks and that the bombing attack ruptured these tanks, allowing the precursors to combine in the air and form sarin. It was pretty well proven that sarin cannot be formed in that manner. Next came the claim from Seymour Hersh (I believe it was) that it wasn’t sarin at all. Then, finally, the claim from Postol that it was from a rocket fired in the middle of the street. Those claiming that what we have in Syria is a case of US inspired regime change jumped on and defended each of these claims as soon as they came out. One little problem: Each claim contradicts the previous one. But that fact didn’t give the “regime change” advocates the slightest problem. Why let facts and logic stand in our way, when we know what we believe already?

    Comment by oaklandsocialist — June 2, 2019 @ 11:09 pm

  6. The ‘one Ian Henderson’ referred to was the lead engineer responsible for the OPCW report. Henderson is somewhat more qualified than the writer in making a judgment about the physics of cylinders falling through a reinforced concrete roof, especially how none of the cylinders showed any signs of the damage from doing any such thing. Nor from how they possibly landed where they did. For those interested, here is the link posted by the dastardly Tim Hayward, and it’s not based just on ‘computer modelling’: http://syriapropagandamedia.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Engineering-assessment-of-two-cylinders-observed-at-the-Douma-incident-27-February-2019-1.pdf

    The OPCW engineer’s report was suppressed. Why was that? Was it a ‘minority report’ as alleged by the Guardian hack Brian Whitaker? Where then was the ‘majority’ engineering report with modelling and calculations that contradicted or refuted those in the report authored by Henderson? This shows the extent that the OPCW is under the iron heel of this particular troika of tyranny, the US, UK and France.

    As for the credentials of the journalists who have reported from the locations of these operations (Robert Fisk, Seymour Hersh, Eva Bartlett and Vanessa Beeley particularly), they’re better qualified at journalism than the writer. Baseless ad hominem McCarthyite 2.0 attacks on individuals (“I realize that this recommendation will be ignored by Aaron Matés and Ben Nortons of the world who are likely being paid to write the garbage they write. But for those not corrupted by rubles…”), or on alternative news sites like Consortium News, Off Guardian, Moon of Alabama et al., as Assad apologists, only discredits the writer further. No credible attempt is made to engage the facts, particularly those adduced by Henderson, let alone is a case made that compels a re-evaluation of what Henderson has reported.

    To claim that the CIA-armed and funded Salafists of al-Nusra, et al. were ‘supported’ by their civilian victims and therefore would never have harmed them is utterly ludicrous. They’ve been shown to cage the local populaces they’ve ruled over and use them as human shields; they’ve been shown to be in league with that British MI6 creation, the White Helmets, in conducting all manner of atrocities against these same people; and when they’ve been driven out of their strongholds, guess what’s been found: not only ammunition dumps but chemical weapons manufacturing laboratories. The fact they’ve subsequently resorted to chlorine lends credence to the fact that their chemical weapons manufacturing capability was fundamentally degraded.

    It’s therefore not at all beyond al-Nusra at al. to conduct these false-flag operations, to ‘weaponise’ the cylinders and make them appear as ‘bombs’ by attaching rigging (to not just ‘lift’ them, but with three handles on each side to make it easy for six men to carry their 300 lb bulk upstairs if need be), with a couple of ‘fins’ on the back to complete the picture. When one conducts a false-flag operation, one must at least look the part, even if the physics won’t allow the ‘parts’ to ‘play’ their part.

    Be that as it may, no-one has produced a rational argument for why Assad would gas his own people when military victory was imminent on each occasion, or when, and un-coincidentally, Trump was talking of withdrawing. The motive and interest was all on the other side, not Assad’s. And no-one has produced a rational argument for why so many otherwise excellent investigative journalists somehow have fallen under the spell of Assad and Putin, just as magically as the US electorate were supposedly entranced by Putin in the 2016 presidential elections. And don’t neglect including Rania Khalek, Caitlin Johnstone and Abby Martin in the list of ‘Assad apologists’ and ‘Putin puppets’. Tulsi Gabbard too.

    It’s alleged also by the dastardly Vanessa Beeley that British special forces helped them set them up and chemical weapons plants are also in Idlib. Two recent chemical weapons attacks clearly carried out by the jihadists on civilians in Western Aleppo in November 2018 and another at a nearby location in March 2019 have gone unreported, and remain uninvestigated by OPCW. Wonder why.

    So much for the ‘engineering’ and investigative ‘journalism’ credentials of the writer, but what about the ‘Marxism’? Any Marxist would at least enquire as to the current economic and strategic interests at play in Syria. Economically these boil down to whose gas pipeline from the Persian Gulf gas field (the largest in the world) goes through Syria. One proposed is from Iran (who ‘owns’ a smaller portion of the field) to run from Iran through Iraq and Syria to the Mediterranean, ultimately to Greece; the US backs Qatar (who ‘owns’ most of the field), whose proposed pipeline is to run through Syria, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Assad, as bonapartist and dictatorial as he may be, nonetheless is the Syrian head of state and preferred the former. After all, Syria is majority Shia, like Iran, and still has sovereignty despite the best efforts of the imperialists since at least 1947. Sorry US, UK, France, and the CIA’s operation Timber Sycamore, which launched this whole disgusting war, notwithstanding.

    For a supposed ‘Marxist’ (who, by the way, mourns the demise of the State Department socialists of the ISO), such a touching faith in the narrative put about by the stenographic mainstream media in the service of the same State Department is pathetic; and for one to cite such ‘authorities’ as the MI6 outlet Bellingcat (ie, Eliot Higgins) and the UN advisory think tank The Global Public Policy Institute to bolster his case, clearly shows that the ‘unrepentant’ adjective is wholly inappropriate for this State Department socialist. It should be changed to ‘repentant’, assuming, naively, that the writer ever was a ‘Marxist’. More fittingly, an unrepentant McCarthyite.

    Comment by Stephen Morrell — June 2, 2019 @ 11:36 pm

  7. To claim that the CIA-armed and funded Salafists of al-Nusra, et al. were ‘supported’ by their civilian victims and therefore would never have harmed them is utterly ludicrous. They’ve been shown to cage the local populaces they’ve ruled over and use them as human shields; they’ve been shown to be in league with that British MI6 creation, the White Helmets,

    You fucking moron. If they are callous enough to kill the people who were considered enemies by the dictatorship that bombed them to the point of forcing them to leave their homes, why wouldn’t they lob some of these chlorine bombs into government buildings in Damascus? You can’t answer that because you are a two-bit troll and an intellectual coward. Take your sorry ass to a public library and find a single article in Lexis-Nexis about these bloodthirsty jihadis firing chlorine bombs into Damascus with a DYI cannon. If you find one, I’ll donate $1000 to your favorite charity–the David Duke podcasts or pay for Vanessa Beeley’s 4-star hotel the next time she goes to Damascus.

    Comment by louisproyect — June 3, 2019 @ 12:20 am

  8. Proud to be called a ‘fucking moron’ by a neo McCarthyite in service of the State Department who can’t even mount a rational response. Thank you for this badge of honour.

    Comment by Stephen Morrell — June 3, 2019 @ 12:28 am

  9. I guess there are no libraries in your city.

    Comment by louisproyect — June 3, 2019 @ 12:30 am

  10. … no one has produced a rational argument .

    This person obviously does not understand the meaning of state terror unless it can be attributed to the United States.

    A butcher who has been winning a civil war by slaughtering his own people in myriad ways would shrink from this? From deploying a munition that has clearly been fitted with a harness enabling it to be air-dropped from a helicopter, including wheels to roll it on and off and tail fins (clearly visible in the photo) for fuck’s sake? And all because some conspiracist, like the obviously senile and incompetent Postol–no doubt entranced by “the Syrian girl” (MeToo where are you?)–has a “qualification?”

    Besides, where’s the nanothermite? Can’t have a false flag attack without that … .

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — June 3, 2019 @ 10:01 am

  11. Also, regarding the argument that Assad could not have done it because he was winning already: In that case, it was the Soviet Union that dropped the nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, since the US was winning already.

    Comment by oaklandsocialist — June 3, 2019 @ 12:06 pm

  12. Now, that you’ve all had your little tanties, shall we focus on the findings of Henderson’s engineering report?

    ‘Location 2’, The balcony:

    (i) all the engineering modelling, under differing assumptions, but building up to the most realistic scenario of ‘coupled responses’ of the impact of two elastic bodies [see paragraph 11 of Henderson’s report], shows that it was impossible that a cylinder of ~200-300kg mass dropped from a minimum height of 500 metres (let alone from 2,000 metres) could have been slowed to a standstill by the concrete balcony floor, yet this is evidenced by the picture of the cylinder at rest at its alleged impact hole/crater in the balcony floor. At a terminal velocity of approximately 100 metres/second (ie, ~360 km/hour) the cylinder would have gone through the balcony floor, not stopped where it was. [See paragraphs 17 and 20]

    (ii) empirical findings:
    (a) the cylinder showed no signs or marks from impacting reinforcing steel (‘rebar’) inside the concrete slab floor of the balcony [see paragraph 19, first dot point, and the second picture, Appendix 1];
    (b) the rebar below the hole was bent away from the impact at over 90 degrees (‘splayed out at the underside of the crater’) which could not be reproduced from simulations and couldn’t occur if the cylinder didn’t actually go through the hole. The appearance of the rebar was consistent only with highly accelerated loose concrete or masonry from a explosive mortar or artillery round, and was very similar to other holes and craters in nearby buildings from artillery and mortar shells [see paragraph 19, second dot point, and paragraph 25].
    (c) this is very telling: mangled fins, a truncated ‘conical object’ (possibly a nose cone) and the steel ‘lifting frame’ were on the balcony but don’t appear to have been attached to the cylinder nor stripped from it at impact. Just sitting there. What’s that about?[see paragaph 26]

    ‘Location 4’: The bedroom

    (i) the impact hole is too small to fit the cylinder in its post impact deformed shape horizontally without breaking off the valve, which was intact, or deforming the fins in the manner shown. Instead the damage to this cylinder is consistent with it being dropped horizontally against a horizontal surface. [see paragraph 27 and Appendix 4]
    (ii) there were no signs on the cylinder of a truncated conical ‘nose cone’ (originally at the scene, but missing by the time the investigating team arrived) having been fitted to the cylinder nor stripped off it on impact.[see paragraph 28]
    (iii) this is rather telling: the cylinder and its fittings showed evidence of long term corrosion that occurred after it was originally deformed. There should have been signs of fresh metal where there was tearing and/or bending/deformation but there was none.[see paragraph 29]
    (iv) the mysterious horizontal travel from the entry hole to the (still intact) bed with no signs of ‘bounce’ or impact on the walls or floor of the room and with the fins and valve showing no signs of such impacts (or ‘rugby ball’ bouncing) defies all possible physical scenarios.[see paragraph 30]
    (v) there’s no report of rebar-pattern deformation to this cylinder either.

    The investigators concluded: “…observations at the scene of the two locations, together with subsequent analysis, suggest that there is a higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed at those two locations rather than being delivered from aircraft”.

    On the basis of these patently incompetent false-flag operations, the US/UK/France troika of tyranny launched missiles into Syria that could have led to WWIII. And the US is now arming jihadists with TOW missiles through Turkey so they can hang onto Idlib.

    By all means, please debunk these findings from the ‘disgruntled’ ex(?)-OPCW employee Henderson. And who wouldn’t be disgruntled after having their report suppressed and the consequence being military action by the imperialist bullies?

    It’s a very good thing this report has been leaked because it vindicates people like Vanessa Beeley, Robert Fisk, Eva Bartlett and other journalists courageous enough to go on location and get behind the lies put about by the imperialists and their mouthpieces.

    Only useful idiots infected with Russophobia and McCarthyism would cheer on the bloodthirsty theocratic ‘rebels’ as ‘freedom fighters’, etc, in Syria. These ‘rebels’ mostly aren’t even Syrian and they’d gleefully string up anyone who called themselves a ‘Marxist’, ‘unrepentant’ or no. The US is fighting a proxy war through these ‘rebels’ and they deserve no support — unless and only if they were fighting US forces. But useful idiots who under all circumstances support this spawn of US depredations in the Middle East should know they’re siding not just with some of the most reactionary swine around but also with the most bloodthirsty power on the planet, US imperialism.

    Comment by Stephen Morrell — June 3, 2019 @ 3:54 pm

  13. Louis, a partisan for clerical fascism? Sad.

    Comment by Feldman — June 3, 2019 @ 4:05 pm

  14. Morell, let me try one more time without the invective. If the jihadis had the capability to kill the people living in an area they controlled, why wouldn’t they gas the infidels in Damascus? As for Henderson’s analysis, it is answered here:

    https://www.opcw.org/sites/default/files/documents/2019/05/s-1755-2019.pdf

    Comment by louisproyect — June 3, 2019 @ 5:25 pm

  15. Feldman, the next time you post a comment that is nothing but an insult, you will be banned. I don’t mind being cursed out but if you can’t address the substantive issues, you need to find another blog to troll.

    Comment by louisproyect — June 3, 2019 @ 5:26 pm

  16. The cited OPCW report (21 May 2019) is responses to questions put to it by the Syrian (Annex 1) and Russian governments (Annex 2), on 11 March 2019 and 26 April 2019 respectively. Note that the date of this report (21 May 2019) post-dates the date of the leaking of the Henderson report (on 16 or 17 May 2019) by four or five days. Consequently this particular OPCW report in no way addresses any of the specific issues raised by Henderson (whose report was issued on 27 February 2019). But let’s persist and examine the relevant parts here.

    Annex 1, answer 3.1: After stating that independent experts were consulted and that they concluded that the trajectory of the cylinder onto the bed in ‘Location 4’ was indeed plausible, the reader is directed to paragraph 8.34 of the OPCW report of 1 March 2019 for details. Paragraph 8.34 does not address any of the observed anomalies reported by Henderson’s team regarding ‘Location 4’. It presents a graph of two velocity/deceleration scenarios that does not demonstrate a plausible trajectory of the cylinder from the roof to the bed. All the graph shows is two scenarios of change in the speed component of the cylinder’s velocity, not its direction. Note also this rather unhappy formulation: “The assessments further indicated that, after passing through the ceiling and impacting the floor at lower speed, the cylinder continued an altered trajectory, until reaching the position in which it was found.” No evidence is adduced to the impact point on the floor to produce the ‘altered trajectory’ from which the cylinder would continue, nor any evidence of this impact on the cylinder itself. The valve was still intact, the fins at the other end still extended, so the rugby ball bounce is ruled out.
    See this link for the fuller report: https://www.opcw.org/sites/default/files/documents/2019/03/s-1731-2019%28e%29.pdf

    In paragraph 8.35 a couple of computer simulation images of distorted cylinders are presented, but paragraph 8.35 also shows further pictures of the scene, which confirm the extreme state of long term corrosion of the cylinder and its fittings with no signs of fresh metal fatigue from a recent impact. Importantly, there are no evident impact points on the cylinder indicating that it could have bounced, like a rugby ball for example, with the valve still largely intact at one end and the fins still extended beyond the other end of the cylinder after its supposed impact, as noted above. Just as reported by Henderson.

    In Annex 7 (pp.59-64) of the OPCW 01 March report is a fuller account and probable scenario of what may have happened at ‘Location 4’. Noted first were the differences between the open source video of the scene taken soon after the ‘event’ and what the FFM found, including: apparent cleaning of the cylinder of the white powder that initially covered it; the similar funnel-shaped cap (possible nose cone) to that found at ‘Location 2’, present in the video but missing at the scene; a ‘viscous liquid throughout the room’ but not apparent in the open source video; the liquid was found also outside the room and on some disposable gloves left there. It’s not stated what the viscous liquid was. Diagrams are presented of the entry point and final resting place of the cylinder, but no physically plausible scenario of how it got there, nor evidence of its secondary impact or path.

    Answer 9.1: In response to Russian government queries about the evidence from ‘Location 2’, the balcony, the OPCW’s experts attributed the slowing down of the cylinder to a prior collision with the roof and walls above the balcony. If one refers to the OPCW 01 March 2019 report, Annex 6, the fuller account of the FFM simulation and inspection of ‘Location 2’, a more interesting picture emerges.

    First, the FFM noted differences between the open source video taken near the time of the incident and the scene, including: fins and frame on the balcony in the video but missing at the scene; the cylinder had been moved a number of times since the video; debris was moved in front of the cylinder. But what’s particularly interesting about this is the picture of the cylinder with a steel mesh patterning apparently matching that of the steel mesh lying nearby (see. p.54). Notable firstly is that the steel mesh patterning appears not to be occluded or restricted by any frame or fins, suggesting that the frame and fins videoed previously on the balcony were never part of the cylinder in its flight and when it landed. And if the frame wasn’t attached, and if the cylinder were carried to the location for placement, then a handy way to carry it without its frame would be on a…steel mesh sling or ‘stretcher’. Secondly, the FFM concluded that “The visual damage on the body of the cylinder indicates that the lateral aspect of the cylinder did not slide on the mesh but it hit perpendicularly” (p.54). This clearly contradicts the notion that cylinder hit the balcony almost vertically to produce the symmetrical hole. It could not have done both.

    Particularly striking also in this section are the photos of the hole/crater with its round symmetry and 45 degree bevelled edge at ‘Location 2’ (picture a top of p.54), and a crater almost identical in size and shape on a nearby building caused by a mortar or artillery shell (picture at top of p.55) — confirming what Henderson had observed.

    Nonetheless, the FFM concluded that the hole in the balcony was unlikely to have been created by an explosion “given the absence of primary and secondary fragmentation characteristic of an explosion that may have created the crater and the damage surrounding it.” What does this statement mean? Primary fragmentation originates from the explosive device itself, its casing and so on. Secondary fragmentation comes from surrounding objects and debris shattered and propelled by the explosion. However, it’s not clear from the report how this aspect was investigated. And from the reporting of a fire being lit to clear the gas as explanation for the dark residue on the surrounding walls below the hole otherwise suggesting an explosion; to numerous movements of the cylinder itself; to the disappearance of the frame and fins — all would suggest a very contaminated crime scene indeed.

    Notable also is the complete absence of rebar in the hole itself (which was clearly wide enough to allow passage of the cylinder unhindered) even though the cylinder didn’t go through it; and the rebar being bent past 90 degrees below the hole even though the cylinder didn’t go through it. Moreover, rebar is normally tied around 200 mm apart and there should have been some deformed remnants of this pattern remaining inside the hole if the cylinder didn’t go completely through; nor was there any rebar impact pattern apparent on the cylinder, as noted by Henderson.

    The FFM team concluded that the cylinder was slowed down enough by an impact with the roof above the balcony before it landed at the hole it created. Yet the hole it supposedly created, whose symmetry suggests an almost perpendicular missile trajectory, was plenty big enough for the cylinder to go right through, yet it didn’t. Why didn’t it? How did it suddenly stop dead after creating a hole wider than itself and impacting the rebar to break and bend it way past 90 degrees below, but still manage to not fall through the hole?

    Finally, in all the additional photography of the cylinders in the fuller OPCW report of 01 March 2019 there are no signs of any bare, un-corroded metal that should manifest from recent impact damage. None. The cylinders look very old and like they were were bent and deformed long before April 2018.

    In summary, it’s more than rather odd that OPCW resorted to independent ballistic experts and not use its own OPCW in-house expertise. The 01 March report post-dates Henderson’s report date by 3 days, suggesting that the ‘independent experts’ were enlisted when the gist of Henderson’s report was becoming known to the OPCW hierarchy, well before its finalisation. Occam’s razor suggests that all this was a consequence of the Henderson failing to make his report conform to the imperial narrative of only Assad gassing his own people.

    Comment by Stephen Morrell — June 4, 2019 @ 8:32 am

  17. Morell, don’t you realize that people following this thread have noticed that you keep evading my question? I will now pose it the third time. How do you explain the fact that these bloodthirsty, bearded Salafists for the past 5 years, going back to the East Ghouta sarin gas attack, have NEVER FUCKING USED CHEMICAL GAS AGAINST ASSAD’S MILITARY? That is the real anomaly, not whether a chlorine tank is sitting on a bed or not.

    Comment by louisproyect — June 4, 2019 @ 11:36 am

  18. Simply because gas attacks using improvised chlorine cylinders like other improvised devices aren’t that efficient at killing armed, militarily trained and organised opponents. You kill opposing military much more effectively with conventional weapons, where each of your fighters uses battle-proven weaponry, organised along well-established military or guerrilla warfare lines. In the current circumstances, gas attacks from these improvised devices really are only useful, fantastically so, for inflicting on civilians, usually well behind the battle lines, to induce the imperialists to intervene on your side when you’re militarily on the ropes. After all, when the imperialists announce in advance that ‘we’ll bomb you if you cross this red line’, that’s just an open invitation to your opponents to make you appear to be crossing said red line. That’s how false flags work. Get it?

    And please don’t falsely accuse me of ‘evading’ your supposed ‘gotcha’ question. Also, try to learn to spell someone’s name correctly.

    Comment by Stephen Morrell — June 4, 2019 @ 12:23 pm

  19. Simply because gas attacks using improvised chlorine cylinders like other improvised devices aren’t that efficient at killing armed, militarily trained and organised opponents.

    —-

    You’re right but it was my mistake in not phrasing my question in the way I did initially. Chlorine bombs fired into a Damascus neighborhood would kill Alawite infidels, wouldn’t they? Your can’t explain why a sectarian militia would refrain from sectarian attacks against civilians. If they were willing to kill Sunnis in their home base, why not kill Alawites? They have the means of firing such devices with improvised artillery as well as the motive, don’t they? But whenever they have gotten their hands on sarin or weaponized chlorine, they only kill their own supporters. Anybody without a love for a mafia state that has used chlorine bombs exactly like these repeatedly would understand that Douma was just the latest in a series of war crimes. Assad has used chlorine persistently in the past few years. Since you obviously have no interest in the politics of Syria except justifying war crimes, there is probably nothing you comment on beyond these OPCW reports that assiduously avoid political explanations.

    Comment by louisproyect — June 4, 2019 @ 12:36 pm

  20. First, you assume the people they’re killing are their own supporters. They’re not necessarily. Most people of secular persuasion whether from Sunni, Shia or Alawite backgrounds detest living under these theocratic ‘rebels’ because they don’t want to be beheaded for enjoying the things that most other people take for granted (education, sex, drugs, booze, rock and roll, etc). Second, you assume they can actually ‘fire’ these things. They can’t. They can only carry cylinders like that to a site and make them appear to be launched from the air (hence the ‘fins’). It would be hard to imagine the cylinder, let alone the flimsy fins, surviving the artillery charge needed to launch them from a cannon. And I very much doubt if anyone there has a cannon with such a large calibre. So they certainly can’t fire those things into Damascus. Third, you assume that the chlorine cylinders actually killed anyone. They likely didn’t, and the less the better. All that matters is the appearance of a chemical weapon attack launched by the Assad regime in order to manufacture consent in the imperial centre for military intervention.

    Now for some politics, so not so fast or ‘obvious’. As I alluded to in an earlier post, Syria has been the target of regime change for a long time, decades. Strategically, the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia don’t want to see an Iranian/Shia nexus stretching from Iran though Iraq and Syria to Lebanon. This is their nightmare, and the way the US has played it, that may happen sooner rather than later. Second, Syria has been Russia’s only longterm ally in the region, and has been so for decades. The US imperialists don’t want to see even a capitalist regional power like Russia have any influence in the Middle East. The restoration of capitalism in Russia notwithstanding, a pliant regime that the US expected hasn’t been the result. But for the US war economy to keep afloat an enemy is always needed, and an ‘existential threat’ like Russia is pure gold. Russia (and Russiagate) is the centrepiece of the resuscitated Cold War — the old Cold War never really died.

    The 2011 protests in Syria were a perfect opportunity for the CIA to launch another of its ‘colour revolutions’ (Operation Timber Sycamore), and from the US-created freak shows of Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq the remnants of jihadist factions recruited and formed from places like Camp Bucca and loosely tied to Al Qaeda and Salafism converged on Syria in the hope of deposing yet another ‘godless’ secular regime. With support from the US, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia (with some sneaky support from Israel), these have moved into Syria and have inflamed communalist divisions in their quest to depose the Assad regime. No side in this squalid war can be supported militarily except when one or the other is fighting the main enemy, US imperialism or its proxies. US proxies at the moment are these jihadis (ISIS, Jaesh, al-Nusra, et al., since the ‘moderate rebels’ were no more than a desert mirage), despite them being portrayed in the mainstream media as the ‘enemy’ and by liberals and the reformist left as anti-imperialist ‘rebels’. For anyone living under these cutthroat theocrats, for example the poor people of Idlib for the last four years or so, it must be hell. And if they see their only ‘saviour’ as Assad, then that speaks volumes. After all, the Syrian government does have the ability to provide basic services that the jihadis can’t and won’t.

    Obviously Syria is very messy and complicated, and volumes could and will be written about this conflict. But the implicit State Department line taken by so many in the left, best exemplified by the now defunct but unlamented ISO (who cheered on Yeltsin and the counterrevolutionary Solidarnosc, Reagan’s and Thatcher’s favourite ‘trade union’), of support for the ‘rebels’ and making them out to be some kind of ‘anti-imperialists’ shows just how far political consciousness in the left has regressed since the restoration of capitalism in the USSR in 1991-92. No-one in the Syrian conflict is worthy of any political support, but in some instances, mostly fleeting, military support can be advocated. For example, if Russian and/or Syrian military are providing safe corridors for civilians to get out of jihadi controlled areas, then that is a good thing. Such advocacy of military support or aid should never be confused with, or imply, an iota of political support for Putin or Assad. Just as military support for the jihadists if they’re fighting US forces in Syria or elsewhere doesn’t mean any support for their horrible theocratic feudalist politics and worldview.

    Comment by Stephen Morrell — June 4, 2019 @ 2:19 pm

  21. “Second, you assume they can actually ‘fire’ these things. They can’t.”

    First of all, what makes you think it had to be those tanks that had to be fired? They could have used the same devices as ISIS:

    https://www.kurdistan24.net/en/news/06b999b3-63c9-4e80-98f5-37b63d5afb0e

    —-

    “Most people of secular persuasion whether from Sunni, Shia or Alawite backgrounds detest living under these theocratic ‘rebels’ because they don’t want to be beheaded for enjoying the things that most other people take for granted (education, sex, drugs, booze, rock and roll, etc).”

    Really? Maybe you can inform us on how people in Douma were being beheaded for educating their youth. I am not expecting an answer to this question because you know about as much about life in Douma as you do about particle physics. In fact, if a “false flag” incident hadn’t gotten all you Assadists frothing at the mouth, I doubt that even if every last man, woman and child had been murdered by barrel bombs, it wouldn’t matter in the least to you.

    —-

    “Syria has been the target of regime change for a long time,”

    Right. That’s why the CIA placed a cordon sanitaire around Syria to prevent rebels from getting MANPADs liberated from Gaddafi’s armories.

    —-

    “US proxies at the moment are these jihadis (ISIS…)”

    Oh sure, bombing Raqqa to kingdom come was just “fake news”, I guess.

    —-

    “And if they see their only ‘saviour’ as Assad, then that speaks volumes.”

    They must be so fanatical that they can’t see the benefits of this. Everybody knows that blowing up hospitals is the best way to prevent sharia law.

    —-

    “For example, if Russian and/or Syrian military are providing safe corridors for civilians to get out of jihadi controlled areas, then that is a good thing.”

    So funny to see a “leftist” using the same kind of talking points as the IDF uses when it launches a blitzkrieg against Gaza.

    Comment by louisproyect — June 4, 2019 @ 3:13 pm

  22. ‘Medical workers in Idlib said on Monday they would no longer share the locations of hospitals and clinics with the United Nations after doing so failed to stop them becoming Syrian and Russian targets. At least nine facilities whose coordinates were passed on to Moscow in an effort to protect them have come under fire in the last month.’

    Like Louis Proyect says, Stephen Morrell, ‘Everybody knows that blowing up hospitals is the best way to prevent sharia law.’

    Comment by Matthew Jackson — June 4, 2019 @ 4:59 pm

  23. I wonder if Morrell denies that Assad uses plain old explosive barrel bombs. Because if A. uses those, why not chlorine bombs? If there’s a “rational argument” for the former, why not the latter? They are both weapons of mass destruction that can serve the ends of state terrorism. Where’s the shining line from the stragetic point of view–what makes explosives rational and chlorine irrational?

    Logically speaking, all the thousands of Assad barrel bombings (https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/bashar-al-assad-syria-president-regime-13000-barrel-bombs-rebels-aleppo-douma-2016-a7521656.htmlt) also must also be “false flag” operation.

    What a bunch of busy little bees those “terrorists” must be, toting all those munitions around by hand invisibly, like an army of tooth fairies, and making them look as if they had been dropped from the air, with only a few doughty humanitarians including Stephen Morrell, Grayzone, Sputnik News, David Duke, and Consortium News crying foul.

    Oh wait–no barrel bombs were ever made or used. All those thousands of pictures are therefore either “the result of false flag attacks or outright fakes. (https://www.gettyimages.com/photos/barrel-bomb?family=editorial&sort=mostpopular&phrase=barrel%20bomb&page=1&recency=anydate&suppressfamilycorrection=true)

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — June 4, 2019 @ 8:55 pm

  24. “I wonder if Morrell denies that Assad uses plain old explosive barrel bombs. Because if Assad uses those, why not chlorine bombs? If there’s a “rational argument” for the former, why not the latter?”

    For years I’ve been stewing over the minutiae these guys resort to in order to cover up the larger picture; the bigger picture is far worse, even if the minutiae they’re obsessing over is true.

    My own beef: the gentleman states (I’ve heard different versions of this a million times, as it’s key to their argument): “Most people of secular persuasion whether from Sunni, Shia or Alawite backgrounds detest living under these theocratic ‘rebels’”. Yet Morrell fails to rectify for the fact that a THEOCRACY (*Islamic* Republic of Iran) had to come to rescue the butcher Assad! (Plus Russian air power of course.)The theocracy that came to Assad’s rescue has executed people for exactly the very arbitrary reasons and has committed worse atrocities than what Assad supporters accuse Syrian rebels for. And I am willing to bet all my savings that if a people’s movement started tomorrow to overthrow this barbaric theocracy in Iran, Morrell and his ilk will be the first to defend that very theocracy!

    So, their Islamophobia is selectively applied for some reason. On the one hand, they stereotype and overgeneralize anybody who might find political inspiration from their religious texts in Syria. Yet, they forget that Iran’s government is a theocracy.

    But, here’s the bigger (epistemological?) fallacy: we know that, for example, in Central American struggles for social justice and fight against U.S. imperialism, a thing arose called ‘Liberation Theology’ within Catholicism. Now, we also know there is a vast ocean of difference between Liberation Theology and the previous Pope’s Catholicism which is totally against Liberation Theology. Well … Why would there not be multiple similar ideological conflicts among Muslims? We all know about the Shiite/Sunni divide. But, there are multiple divisions within each branch. This goes to the core of all religious belief systems: they are not unitary, and they reflect multiple class conflicts. Each class has its own version of the same branch of the same religion. The supposed “anti-imperialist” leftists who end up supporting the likes of Assad actually think of Muslims in exactly the same way as the Trump’s of this world: ALL Muslims = irrational murderous fascists.

    I think Louis is doing a great and invaluable HISTORICAL service, debunking these assholes. But, in the here and now, they are not going to be persuaded by facts or logic. I tip my hat to Louis’s patience!

    Comment by Reza — June 4, 2019 @ 10:24 pm

  25. Speaking of Iran and Syrian rebels, here’s something from Ahmed Mouaz al-Khatib, the first head of the Syrian National Coalition that was dominated by Muslim Brotherhood leaders:

    Appearances may differ but the core is similar, and whether that core is French, British, Russian or American, the ultimate goal is the same; intervention, domination and supremacy and all in the name of human rights.

    The facts have proven beyond any doubt that the claws of international politics are tainted and that the world’s super powers are seeking, through the distribution of roles in the open and behind closed doors, to undermine the legitimate interests of the peoples of the world and trade in them by inciting sectarian sentiments, and the examples are plenty: from Syria and the Middle East, to Sudan and Rwanda, to Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.

    We should identify our own shortcomings and weaknesses that allowed Western powers to inject sectarian hatred in our societies in order to know why the talk about taking military action against Iran has become very normal.

    The bitterness in the hearts of Sunnis caused by the alleged Iranian-sponsored Shiite invasion of the Arab World is not a sufficient reason to be silent in the face of a possible military strike on Iran. If we suppose that we have 50% doctrinal differences and 20% juristical differences with Iran, we all know that we have 90% doctrinal differences with the wicked West.

    Iran’s possession of nuclear capabilities poses no threat to any Sunni but it will be a formidable deterrent to the evil powers that are rushing madly upon the Muslim World.

    The aggression against Iran is an upsurge of Western domination to snap at the riches of this region and deepen the cultural and social invasion of our Muslim World. In all honesty, it is genuinely logical and Islamic to refuse any action against Iran and to consider such action an aggression against the whole Muslim World.

    Our refusal to take military action against Iran is a rejection of aggression itself as a mean to implement hidden agendas.

    However, there is another dangerous issue that we probably overlooked, which is the fact that nuclear arms are indeed a curse against humanity.

    We should give this critical moment in our history the importance it deserves and refuse any type of aggression against any Muslim country and even against any tyrannized country in the world.

    Israel for example has more than 100 nuclear warheads but it cannot use them, despite its aggressive nature, when the opposing weapon is a stone in the hand of a child. The Zionist state can only deter Arab regimes and cannot deter people, and the soldiers it will eventually face are people not regimes.

    https://humanrightsinvestigations.org/2012/11/12/ahmed-mouaz-al-khatib-president-of-the-syrian-national-coalition-of-forces-of-the-syrian-revolution-and-opposition/

    Comment by louisproyect — June 4, 2019 @ 11:09 pm

  26. Louis, do you support the white helmets? You dont believe what many now believe, that they work with terrorists?

    Comment by Ron — June 5, 2019 @ 3:51 pm

  27. Ron, are you serious now?

    “what many now believe” has unfortunately become the standard of sound ‘reasoning’ in the age of Trump, it seems.

    Many now believe earth is flat. They hold an annual international conference. The attendees literally fly *around* the world to get to the conference. I will be attending this year’s international conference, to be held in Dallas, TX, this Nov 14-15 (register at: https://flatearthconference.com)

    Many millions of Americans believe in ghosts. They must be correct, contrary to the belief of hundreds of millions to the contrary. In fact, an Ipsos poll of 2008 found that a MAJORITY of Americans believe in ghosts (57%) (https://www.ipsos.com/en-us/news-polls/majority-americans-believe-ghosts-57-and-ufos-52).

    Many tens of millions believe that Jesus died, went to heaven, then came back. I should believe that too. (BTW, where IS Jesus now?).

    Many millions believe Trump is a genius. Clearly, he must be a genius. Evidence is Trump’s own belief in himself, as well as the 40% of the electorate that has consistently supported him. It must be true then. Are you, Ron, skeptical about his genius? Shame on you if you are!

    Many millions now believe all kinds of crazy things.

    Comment by Reza — June 5, 2019 @ 7:11 pm

  28. Louis,
    That post does not disprove the thesis that the white helmets work w terrorists and are funded by empire. You actually concede that they are funded by empire. Moreover, why try to make the point that “one article would suffice, the fact they use 5 different ones just shows they shouldnt be taken seriously.” You of all people should know that when it comes to contentious issues the more sources the better. Had they used one you wouldve said “why only one source?” If you’re gonna disprove what the white helmets are, do it right. Im still in doubt.

    I got another question for you Louis. I know more about the situation in venezuela so allow me to make an analogy so i can better understand where you’re coming from. In 2017 when there were months of protests in venezuela there was a group of med students allied w the opposition calling themselves the green helmets. Suppose the US either invaded Venezuela or put together a proxy army and started a civil war. Suppose the russians help the venezuelan government and buildings are destroyed by missiles. Now suppose USAID or the US state department gave the green helmets money so they could keep working and aiding in anti-chavista propaganda efforts. Would the green helmets be the good guys here? Would you want Maduro to give up power in that situation?

    Reza,
    I said “what many now believe” because there are still many like you who believe the white helmets are good. I could have said that the white helmets really are with the terrorists, but Im casting doubt on that when i say “what many believe.” Looks like you already made up your mind though.

    Comment by Ron — June 6, 2019 @ 3:46 am

  29. “She [Beeley] has appeared onstage alongside holocaust deniers”. Her involvement with the French far right goes deeper than that, She has claimed that Alain Soral is her “one light at the end of the tunnel” and said she’d been involved with the theatre that Dieudonne leased to use as a hub for antisemites of all stripes until his eventual expulsion. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-2CggWXv1Zk

    Comment by igps — June 6, 2019 @ 11:04 am

  30. You actually concede that they are funded by empire.

    So pulling people out from beneath the rubble left by a barrel bomb dropped by a helicopter defending a socialist country is done not in the interests of saving lives but in defending the profits of Wall Street banks? Wow, I am so glad that you helped open my mind (slapping my forehead right now.)

    As for Venezuela, I don’t deal in hypotheticals. My views are clearly expressed here: https://louisproyect.org/2019/01/28/thoughts-on-the-venezuelan-crisis/

    I would only add that in terms of comparisons, Venezuela is a democracy. They are dealing with people who resent the will of the voters. Syria, on the other hand, is a family dynasty that tortures and kills people who call for the rights enjoyed by Venezuelans. I hope that helps.

    Comment by louisproyect — June 6, 2019 @ 11:51 am

  31. The white helmets have gotten money from empire. I dont think this is debatable. That was my whole point. You wanna imply that im saying that they arent trying to save lives by doing wall street’s bidding is just ridiculous. You wanna have a serious discussion about this then lets have it. You wanna be defensive and not address others’ concerns then keep reacting with sarcasm.

    Comment by Ron — June 6, 2019 @ 2:46 pm

  32. Ron, why is it so hard for you to admit that dropping barrel bombs on hospitals, tenement buildings and open-air markets is your idea of opposing imperialism? Maybe, it is because the brains of people who read Global Research have been rotted out by 8 years of a war whose Mideastern version of General Franco you ended up supporting. So sick to turn the men who rescue people from the rubble into the Nicaraguan contras. I say this as someone who was deeply involved with support for the FSLN in the 1980s. What were you doing at the time beside jerking off in your bedroom when you weren’t playing video games?

    Comment by louisproyect — June 6, 2019 @ 2:56 pm

  33. Ron says: “The white helmets have gotten money from empire.”

    True. The money that empire provided the White Helmets was about $6.5 million dollars in 2018 (that’s about six average-priced houses in Orange County; any of Trump cabinet members can give that much away and not feel pinched); Trump wanted to stop even that paltry aid. So, yes, they have received aid. But … This is a tiny amount, compared to the tens of billions of dollars of collective bombs dropped on Syria. This ‘aid’ is like a bandaid on a gangrene on top of shot-gun wound on top of a cancerous tumor. And it goes to people who RESCUE people.

    Palestinians also receive $600 million a year from USAID. So, they also receive aid from empire. Leftists were (rightly) up in arms when Trump announced he’d stop all aid to Palestinians. What do you think, Ron? Are Palestinians agents of imperialism?

    Comment by Reza — June 6, 2019 @ 3:54 pm

  34. Most contributors here appear blind to facts and logic.

    I’ll respond as much as possible to the distortions and other liberal tantrums here, so the following is a bit long.

    First, to be clear: Assad is certainly a dictator, his capitalist regime is in no way democratic and is rather brutal in its rule. And its positive discrimination in favour of the Alawite minority is unacceptable to say the least. I’ll say it again for those hard of reading who need this to be repeated: Assad is a bad man and has blood on his hands. He’s no democrat in his rule over a notionally secular (and bourgeois) regime, whose rule not qualitatively different from that of Muammar Qaddafi or Saddam Hussein. However, any small non-imperialist capitalist country, whether ruled by dictators, democrats, theocrats, even kings or queens, must be defended from imperialist attack, whether carried out economically or by military means. With really only one precondition: that the country doesn’t already have a rival imperialist overlord backing them against the imperialist aggressor. Any other precondition inevitably boils down to a question of the regime, its ‘morality’, ‘democratic principles’ and suchlike. Such ‘moral’ preconditions can and have been used and/or created to justify the imperialists marching in anywhere they please. But for actual Marxists such moral considerations count for nought. Why?

    First, to defend Syria from attack by the US or by its proxy forces (with their large non-Syrian component, armed, funded and given logistical and intelligence support principally by the CIA, UK, France, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar) does not make one an Assad ‘apologist’. Just as defending Venezuela from US imperialism’s attempts at regime change doesn’t make one a Maduro ‘apologist’. Defending the rightwing nutjob Alex Jones against internet censorship doesn’t make one an Alex Jones apologist either. And if one happens to agree with Vladimir Putin or the head of Mossad that water is made from H2O or the earth is round and not flat — that doesn’t make one a Putin apologist or a repeater of a ‘Mossad talking point’.

    What matters is that any country has a right to its sovereignty, to make its own choices, regardless of the moral character of its regime. It’s up to the population of that country to shape its destiny and deal with their regime themselves, not some meddling imperialist overlord or its spokesmen or proxies with ulterior motives. And don’t be mistaken: US regime change in Syria will produce exactly the same result as in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, and it already has — complete chaos and prostration, ruin, devastation. And communal-based warlordism will also result, given the fractured, artificial nature of these countries created historically by imperialist drawing divide-and-rule lines in the sand. In short, another failed state. The US/CIA initiated this in 2012 under the rubric of Operation Timber Sycamore.

    Second, it needs to be recognised that all small and weak capitalist countries in the imperialist epoch have no chance of ever becoming fully developed capitalist entities in their own right, with all the ‘democratic’ trappings taken for granted in the imperialist centres — because their bourgeoisies are too weak to be anything other than a comprador class in the service of one or another imperial overlord. These countries typically have lots of holdovers and relics from pre-capitalist epochs, for example strong religion-based political forces enforcing backward practices, customs and social attitudes, a land-hungry peasantry, and so on. And the imperialists like to keep things that way, despite all the garbage they may utter about ‘democracy’, ‘human rights’, ‘economic development’ and so on.

    And pity help such countries if they also happen to have a resource the imperialists really want. Lest the leader of such a country gets the crazy notion of trying to be independent of the imperial hegemon, for instance, by nationalising the resource and allowing some of the wealth generated from it to trickle down to the population (eg, Venezuela); or by favouring a non-hegemon cartel over the hegemon’s to develop a gas pipeline (Syria). And if the country happens also to have a strategic long-term relationship with a nuclear power that’s an ‘existential threat’ to the hegemon, woe be to them again. Eventually there’s going to be big trouble.

    Third, the imperialists have always justified their depredations in the name of ‘democracy’, ‘human rights’ and all the rest, whether those currently advocating these interventions be ‘military humanists’ like Clinton/Obama and their ilk, or war-at-all costs idiots like Bolton, Pompeo Maximus, Abrams, and the neocon gaggle in the Washington Beltway. They can always use the ‘bloodthirsty dictator’ angle (because most leaders of ‘Third World’ countries are) to justify ruining a non-compliant, resource-rich country by economic or actual warfare, proxy or direct. As Henry Kissinger said once, ‘control the oil and you control the country; control the food and you control the people’.

    In short, anyone who goes along with hypocritical imperialist moralising can only go along with the consequences of it. More broadly, the question is: would anyone who seriously considers themselves a ‘Marxist’ use the same moral compass that imperialism has used historically to justify its depredations? Marxists have never taken notice of the morality of particular leaders or regimes of countries, whether in peace or at war. Instead they consider what class interests they represent and serve, and whether or not their situation objectively advances world revolution. In World War I, for example, supporting one camp or the other would have harmed the prospect of revolution, and it did, especially in the advanced countries of Europe (above all, Germany). Lenin’s position of ‘turn the guns the other way, turn the imperialist war into a civil war’ was the only principled position in that ‘Great’ inter-imperialist conflagration.

    Historically, the triggering of many, if not all, imperialist military attacks and invasions has been through false-flag operations (eg, Gulf of Tonkin incident) or through outright lies (eg, Saddam Hussein having babies thrown from humidicribs or WMD; Qaddafi giving his troops viagra and setting up ‘rape rooms’ to help them carry out ethnic cleansing, etc).

    The supposed Douma gas attack has now been exposed as yet another false flag operation, as all the recently leaked and officially published evidence makes clear to anyone who cares to examine it closely enough. So, do most of the contributors here still believe the Douma attack was perpetrated by the Assad regime?

    By no means is Douma the first false flag gas-attack operation in Syria. In August 2012, Obama issued his infamous ‘red line’ pronouncement for the Syrian conflict, an open invitation for such false flags. A year later, the first major gas attack to inflamed the imperialists’ ire occurred in East Ghouta, and refusing to produce any evidence of the perpetrators (of course on ‘national security’ grounds), the imperialists immediately blamed Assad. As reported by the dastardly Max Blumenthal, even the inveterate liar James Clapper warned Obama that the case against Assad was ‘no slam dunk’. And as pointed out by Blumenthal (in his ‘The Management of Savagery’), the OPCW was already there investigating an earlier gas attack allegedly carried out by the jihadists against the Syrian army. Assad wouldn’t have been so suicidally stupid to unleash such an attack under the noses of the OPCW inspectors, who, by the way, were invited into Syria by Assad. Assad might be a dictator but he’s not dumb. And according to the dastardly Seymour Hersh al-Nusra had acquired sarin from the materiel shipped from Libya, while Turkey and Saudi ‘chemical facilitators’ were attempting to obtain sarin precursors in bulk for sarin manufacture inside Syria.

    On to the White Helmets: set up by ex-military intelligence operative and mercenary company entrepreneur James Le Mesurier, their funding (in tens of millions) comes from the British Foreign Office and US intelligence services, the latter primarily through the CIA’s soft power outlet, USAID. Of course the White Helmets also push for regime change, ‘revolution against dictatorship’ no less, in Syria [see here: https://www.npr.org/2019/04/28/717970484/leader-of-the-white-helmets-on-state-of-the-war-in-syria
    ]. What a coincidence. Still the State Department in 2016 did revoke the US visa of the public face/leader of the White Helmets, Raed Saleh [see here: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/21/world/middleeast/leader-of-syria-rescue-group-arriving-in-us-for-award-is-refused-entry.html
    ] Couldn’t think why. Perhaps they thought he was too much of a terrorist.

    However, the ‘heroic’ White Helmets have been filmed cheering along with jihadis the summary execution of innocent civilians [see here, among many others: https://www.salon.com/2017/05/25/yet-another-video-shows-u-s-funded-white-helmets-assisting-public-held-executions-in-rebel-held-syria_partner/
    and here, the cheering: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPgOnD0n9uw
    ]; they’ve been shown to have their bases co-located with those of ISIS/al-Nusra affiliates [see here: https://21stcenturywire.com/2017/11/28/vanessa-beeley-presents-new-white-helmets-expose-to-swiss-press-club-geneva/
    ]; they’ve been shown staging ‘human carnage’ aftermaths of Assad’s ‘attacks’, including the infamous Douma hospital staged event [see here: https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-02-14/bbc-shocks-douma-gas-attack-scene-staged-producer-says-after-6-month-syria
    ]; and there’s emerging eye-witness accounts of them engaging in human organ trafficking, not just as reported by the dastardly Assad apologist Vanessa Beeley either [see here: https://21stcenturywire.com/2019/01/24/white-helmets-organ-traffickers-child-kidnappersthieves-terrorists-propagandists-or-saints/
    ]. Now that’s more the type of CIA/MI6-funded organisation we’ve come to know and love.

    On the hospital bombing footage put up here: for those who don’t know, Alex Crawford of Murdoch’s Sky News is a notorious spokeswoman for the jihadis. She’s been embedded with them for about four years, is the only western journalist allowed to operate in jihadi-controlled areas, perhaps because she played a similar publicity role for them in Libya and is known by the same jihadis now in Syria. Did anyone notice the footage of the hospital, how it was sand-bagged? Why was that? Fighters in military conflicts as a rule use sandbags to protect themselves, not buildings alone unless they’re also occupying said building, that particular hospital. And how actually did the jihadis receive information from their ‘intelligence network’ to clear out before one of the hospitals was to be bombed? One needn’t guess too hard what the ‘intelligence network’ was.

    There are very good military reasons for the jihadis to occupy hospitals, schools, etc. They use them as shelter and as shields, just as they use caged civilians as human shields [see this: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x3c52r3
    ]. Of course hospitals also are a fantastic resource for the jihadis to tend to their wounded. Along with schools, hospitals also make excellent storage and logistics depots (eg, for arms, munitions etc, to be manufactured and transported by fleets of ambulances if need be)[see this, 8 minutes in, posted above also where White Helmets have also been manufacturing weapons: https://21stcenturywire.com/2017/11/28/vanessa-beeley-presents-new-white-helmets-expose-to-swiss-press-club-geneva/
    ] or as places for holding hostages. Think about it: why would anyone, dictator or not, want to bomb their own hospitals and schools? But that’s exactly jihadi reasoning too, exactly why you capture them, to use them as a shelter, as a shield. Except Assad decided to bomb them, knowing them to be occupied and used by the jihadis, and as unwittingly shown by Crawford.

    As for ways and means to plant gas cylinders, it’s difficult to know exactly how, but it requires little imagination to conjure plausible scenarios. For example, under cover of darkness, on stretchers under blankets carried by operatives disguised as ambulance paramedics or by… White Helmets. After all, the White Helmets clearly staged the Douma hospital aftermath and they received an Oscar award for a very slick production previously.

    On alliances between secular regimes and theocracies. First, if Iran were attacked to tomorrow by US imperialism any genuine Marxist would defend it millitarily, for all the reasons outlined above. Not because they’re apologists for the regime. Second, Iran has its own reasons for supporting Assad and Assad has his own reasons for accepting such support, even from a theocracy, even as his father previously did from the atheistic communists of the USSR. What of that? Acceptance of aid from, or defense of, deplorables doesn’t mean support for their ideology, as outlined above.

    The only explanation for the Syrian mess that all the liberals here can muster is that Assad is a clinically insane sadistic maniac who decided one day after the initial 2011 anti-government protests to start killing his own people. This explains nothing, but such moralism does help keep the faithful marching in lockstep with the imperialist narrative.

    So given that Assad is such a monster, your position can only be for US military intervention in Syria. It can only be in support of imperialism’s efforts there. If not, then why not? Otherwise, you’re not fulfilling your moral duty! Clutch those pearls!

    Comment by Stephen Morrell — June 7, 2019 @ 1:31 am

  35. “First, if Iran were attacked to tomorrow by US imperialism any genuine Marxist would defend it millitarily, for all the reasons outlined above.”

    First of all, you Global Research/Off-Guardian/Moon of Alabama idiots regard any intervention, either violent or NED-type subversion, as a call to support the dictatorship that is being targeted. In a typical article, Tony Cartalucci wrote that NED support for the activists who opposed Mubarak was a color revolution that justified backing the mafia state in Egypt. I’d advise you to read Leon Trotsky’s “Learn to Think” but that is obviously outside the comfort zone you’ve created for yourself of Vanessa Beeley, Tim Hayward and Eva Bartlett. I read all their shit out of a need to stay up to date but someone like you can’t be disturbed by arguments and data that turn your belief system into rubble.

    “First, to defend Syria from attack by the US or by its proxy forces (with their large non-Syrian component, armed, funded and given logistical and intelligence support principally by the CIA, UK, France, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar) does not make one an Assad ‘apologist’.”

    Maybe not but asserting that hospitals and schools are being used by jihadis as “shields” against Assad’s bombs is straight out of the IDF playbook. As if fucking Assad ever worried about being seen as a war criminal. The guy is more shameless than Netanyahu.

    “Think about it: why would anyone, dictator or not, want to bomb their own hospitals and schools? ”

    Their own? For the same reason Franco bombed women and children in Guernica. Assad is rebuilding Syria based on the exclusion of the restive Sunni population that you dismiss as terrorist Salafis who kill people in a tenement because it will cause a repeat of Iraq 2002. It doesn’t matter that none of these “false flags” ever created the kind of response that George W. Bush prepared after Colin Powell’s WMD speech to the UN. Trump bombed an air force base after calling up the Russians to warn them that missiles were going to be fired. The only planes that were hit were so damaged prior to the attack that they were already inoperable. Those that could fly were removed beforehand and went on killing civilians the next morning. That’s some “shock and awe”.

    Assad wants all these people out of Syria so that he can re-establish the hegemony of the mafia state. Since your understanding of Syria is based exclusively on the diarrhea that pours out of Tim Hayward and Vanessa Beeley’s rear-end, it is a waste of time to try to educate you. So in writing this, I am talking over your head to people who come to this blog and are not suffering propaganda induced brain-damage.

    —-

    Middle East Report, Spring 2012
    The Syrian Regime’s Business Backbone
    Bassam Haddad

    By the late 1990s, the business community that the Asads had created in their own image had transformed Syria from a semi-socialist state into a crony capitalist state par excellence. The economic liberalization that started in 1991 had redounded heavily to the benefit of tycoons who had ties to the state or those who partnered with state officials. The private sector outgrew the public sector, but the most affluent members of the private sector were state officials, politicians and their relatives. The economic growth registered in the mid-1990s was mostly a short-lived bump in consumption, as evidenced by the slump at the end of the century. Growth rates that had been 5-7 percent fell to 1-2 percent from 1997 to 2000 and beyond.

    After Bashar al-Asad succeeded his father in 2000, the architects of Syria’s economic policy sought to reverse the downturn by liberalizing the economy further, for instance by reducing state subsidies. Private banks were permitted for the first time in nearly 40 years and a stock market was on the drawing board. After 2005, the state-business bonds were strengthened by the announcement of the Social Market Economy, a mixture of state and market approaches that ultimately privileged the market, but a market without robust institutions or accountability. Again, the regime had consolidated its alliance with big business at the expense of smaller businesses as well as the Syrian majority who depended on the state for services, subsidies and welfare. It had perpetuated cronyism, but dressed it in new garb. Families associated with the regime in one way or another came to dominate the private sector, in addition to exercising considerable control over public economic assets. These clans include the Asads and Makhloufs, but also the Shalish, al-Hassan, Najib, Hamsho, Hambouba, Shawkat and al-As ad families, to name a few. The reconstituted business community, which now included regime officials, close supporters and a thick sliver of the traditional bourgeoisie, effected a deeper (and, for the regime, more dangerous) polarization of Syrian society along lines of income and region.

    Successive years of scant rainfall and drought after 2003 produced massive rural in-migration to the cities – more than i million people had moved by 2009 – widening the social and regional gaps still further. Major cities, such as Damascus and Aleppo, absorbed that migration more easily than smaller ones, which were increasingly starved of infrastructural investment. Provincial cities like Dir a, Idlib, Horns and Hama, along with their hinterlands, are now the main battlegrounds of the rebellion. Those living in rural areas have seen their livelihoods gutted by reduction of subsidies, disinvestment and the effects of urbanization, as well as decades of corrupt authoritarian rule. The Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings motivated them to express their discontent openly and together.

    There have been no significant defections, however, from the ranks of big business, at least not in Damascus and Aleppo. It is not just presidential blood relatives like Makhlouf who have remained loyal. Other major players hailing from the above families have stood firm by the regime, financing its orchestrated mass rallies and public relations campaigns, as well as helping to float the Syrian currency. Most malcontents limit themselves to spiriting capital out of the country and expressing private wishes for regime change. Those who do back the uprising do it quietly and extremely care- fully, highlighting the fealty of their counterparts.

    The moguls know very well that their fate is bound up with that of the regime by virtue of intertwined investments and also their years of self-enrichment at regime behest. To switch sides would thus be an enormous gamble on the oppositions forbearance. Big business support is not solely responsible for the regime s resilience, but it would have been difficult for the regime to hold out in Damascus and Aleppo had these monied interests explicitly thrown their lot in with the protesters. The regime-business alliance took shape over decades, and it is unlikely to snap until the very last moment. Public defections by big businessmen would be a fair indicator that the regime s days are numbered. Until then, all eyes are on the battlefiel

    Comment by louisproyect — June 7, 2019 @ 2:24 am

  36. Woah Stephen, thats too many sources for Louis. He probably thinks Putin is paying you now.

    Hey Louis, can you give your blog to Stephen? Pleeeeeease?

    Comment by Ron — June 7, 2019 @ 3:39 am

  37. I’m well aware of Trotsky’s “Learn to Think”. The hypothetical example he gave was of Algerian independence fighters receiving arms from fascist Italy and how workers should not attempt to block such a supply. That is, a fascist imperial power giving aid to a progressive force, whose ultimate motive was to undermine the French, not to help the rebels as such. Similarly, Lenin was given safe passage by the German Kaiser who thought rightly he’d be Germany’s best hope to take Tsarist Russia out of the War. Each is eminently supportable.

    Can you see the difference between Algeria and Syria, though? You probably don’t want to because you seem determined to perpetrate the myth that these jihadis are somehow ‘progressive’, likely because they’re called ‘rebels’ by the imperialists and their media stenographers, and that they often use the word ‘revolution’ to put a ‘progressive’ face on their overwhelmingly backward sharia-law ideology. They’re a reactionary movement that will never ‘liberate’ Syrians from Assad, and if they did overthrow Assad their rule would be qualitatively worse. They’re backward and in no way progressive, and they’re also willing tools of the imperialists. So are you it appears, but you won’t admit it.

    You generate a lot of heat and no light with your abuse but appear unable to mount much of an argument. You accuse critics of the imperial narrative of being followers of Vanessa Beeley et al. I’m sure their politics are very distant to mine, but at least this crop of on-the-ground ‘millennial’ journalists, who aren’t attached or beholden to the mainstream media, are doing some good empirical work and looking in places the fourth estate wouldn’t dare. I’ve learnt far more from them than from any corporate mainstream media outlet. They represent the online fifth estate, the future, which is supplanting the fourth that has dropped all pretence to putting truth to power. As Mark Twain commented, ‘If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you do, you’re misinformed’. Never truer than today.

    And I’m now beginning to think you’re maybe a CIA front, and perhaps visitors to your site, ‘over my head’ and yours, might agree.

    Comment by Stephen Morrell — June 7, 2019 @ 4:08 am

  38. They’re a reactionary movement that will never ‘liberate’ Syrians from Assad, and if they did overthrow Assad their rule would be qualitatively worse. They’re backward and in no way progressive, and they’re also willing tools of the imperialists. So are you it appears, but you won’t admit it.

    A reactionary movement? In the thousands of words you have posted here, you have never said a single word about the class struggle in Syria. You make it sound as if a perfectly normal government was besieged by “proxies” that had no other intention except to impose sharia law on a peaceful and loyal population that was minding its own business. I posted Bassam Haddad’s analysis to give you an opportunity to refute it. Seeing that you ignored it, I can only conclude that the class struggle in Syria is of little interest to you. You have one and only one criteria and that is whether the opposition to Assad received weapons from imperialism. In the real world, as opposed to the fictitious world you occupy, poor people will try to find weapons to defend themselves from any source, including the CIA and the Pentagon. The war was basically one between a mafia state that was oppressing its people and that relied on bombing, chemical attacks, and men from beyond its borders (Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia) on one hand and on the other lightly-armed rag-tag militias that were prevented from using MANPAD’s by the CIA–the one weapon that could have ended the war 7 years ago.

    I have no idea who you are or what you stand for. You say you have read Trotsky’s “Learn to Think”. Very good. Trotsky was someone who did more than just write. He was someone who put his life on the line to make revolutions. You seem to think that the role of revolutionists is to defend men like Assad who has tortured and killed on a scale that makes Franco, Somoza, and Thieu look benign by comparison. You trawl websites like Vanessa Beeley’s to come up with ammunition to justify Assad’s mass murder. In the NY Review, Janine di Giovanni wrote: “Beeley has admitted, in a private Facebook conversation with the blogger Scott Gaulke that was obtained by hackers and subsequently published, that even Assad does not deny torture. She wrote, ‘even Govt members dont [sic] deny it btw,’ adding that she would never admit this publicly.”

    The only thing of interest is how someone who sees himself as a leftist can end up putting all his energy into coming up with conspiracy theories about men in Douma carrying around 300 pound chlorine tanks in full view of its citizens with the obvious intention of killing them. But this does not jibe with the resistance of the East Ghouta poor to the dictatorship that took 6 years to finally crush through a combination of saturation bombing and starvation siege.

    I know that you are indifferent to their suffering because of your Islamophobia but in the interests of raising the awareness of those who have been reading this thread, let me flesh out what Haddad has written with my own analysis (https://louisproyect.org/2016/12/14/the-economic-roots-of-the-syrian-revolution/):

    Myrian Ababsa’s chapter in Syria: from Reform to Revolt is focused on the northeastern provinces of Raqqa, Hassaka and Deir ez-Zor (collectively known as the Jezira), the poorest regions of Syria where most of the country’s farmers were impacted by a severe drought and government assaults on the social gains implemented in the early 70s.

    Constituting 40 percent of Syrian territory, the Jezira produced 70 percent of the wheat. In the 1950s, it enjoyed something of a boom as Aleppo merchants invested in the cotton industry. Just as is the case with cotton farming everywhere, irrigation without draining the land and monoculture led to the impoverishment of the soil.

    The drought that began in 2007 only increased the already existing misery. Up to 75 percent of the farmers in the Jezira suffered total crop failure of the sort that John Steinbeck depicted in “Grapes of Wrath”. Since wheat production relied on underground wells, a shortage of rain led to an increase in the price of a well. In Raqqa, the cost of a new well in 2001 was 16,000 euros—well beyond the capability of a small farmer to afford.

    Herdsmen were also impacted. With insufficient water for cattle and goats, livestock had to be sold at 60 percent below cost. As fodder prices rose by 75 percent in January 2008, the flocks were decimated by half.

    Not only were agricultural supports removed by the dictatorship; fuel was no longer subsidized. The price for a gallon of gasoline rose by 350 percent. This meant that motor pumps, so essential to drawing water from underground wells, became difficult to afford. All in all, the economic institutions that had been created by Hafez Al-Assad and abolished by his son came together in a perfect storm with the advent of a crippling drought.

    The conditions of life in the Jezira could not be more distinct from the paradise enjoyed by the Damascus yuppies—both Alawite and Sunni—that were benefiting from a neoliberal boom. Ababsa writes:

    The drought put an end to decades of development in the fields of health and education in the Jezira, and the sanitary situation became dramatic. In 2009, 42 percent of Raqqa governorate suffered from anemia owing to a shortage of dairy products, vegetables, and fruit. Malnutrition among pregnant women and children under five doubled between 2007 and 2009. To complicate matters, vegetable and fruit growers in dry northern Syria used polluted river water to irrigate their crops, causing out breaks of food poisoning among consumers, according to environmental and medical experts. Experts pointed out that the problem stemmed from sewage and chemicals allowed to reach rivers in rural areas near Aleppo, Lattakia, and Raqqa.

    As they were suffering from malnutrition and lack of income, small. scale farmers and herders and landless peasants stopped sending their children to school. According to a UN needs assessment, enrollment in some schools in eastern Syria decreased by 70 percent after April 2008. This decrease reversed decades of literacy efforts and school creation in the Jezira, where the illiteracy rates were the highest in the country: 38.3 percent in Raqqa governorate, 35.1 percent in Hassaka governorate, and 34.8 percent in Deir ez-Zor governorate. More than a third of the active population was illiterate, including more than half of the female active population. Between 160 and 220 villages were abandoned in Hassaka governorate. The wells dried up and the population could not afford to bring water from private tankers at a cost of 2,000 SYP per month (about 30 euros).

    When the latter-day versions of the Joad family left their farms and migrated to the cities, they tended to end up in the suburbs of Aleppo or Damascus where they struggled to find employment or entered the informal economy—in other words peddling fruit on the street. Or perhaps they would seek refuge in a city like Homs that was in the agricultural heartland and hardly a city to be profiled in Vogue magazine. Dara Conduit takes a close look at what happened in Homs after the influx of new residents with barely a pot to piss in.

    Homs is Syria’s third largest city, midway between Damascus and Aleppo. It is the capital of the Homs Governorate, which has played a major role in agriculture. It contributed 79 percent of almond production and 23 percent of poultry. The Homs Chamber of Commerce proudly referred to itself as the breadbasket of Syria.

    It was in Homs that Assad’s economic restructuring had its greatest and most damaging impact. As the largest capital of a drought-affected province, it became a major destination from both the west and from the Jezira to the east. Conduit reports that Homs was the third poorest province in the country and the capital city strained under the pressures of a massive influx of the desperate and the practically homeless. Between 2008 and July 2009, the government provided food assistance to 3037 affected households. Researchers discovered that six percent more residents of Homs were unable to cover basic food expenses than the average Syrian rate.

    So naturally, Homs would be on the leading edge of the revolution as Conduit writes:

    As a result, the unrest in Homs began in suburbs that had absorbed new rural migrants displaced from the country’s north-east or the wider province. These were urban areas once part of agricultural land and now surrounding the historic city. The clear demarcation of suburbs in Homs by socioeconomic and religious grouping made the city’s dynamics easily observable. Data on the frequency of protests between 28 September and 28 October 2011 showed that the suburbs on the city’s fringe experienced ‘near daily’ protests, including Al-Waer, Bab al-Amr, Inshaat, Ghouta, Deir Ba’albeh, Bayadeh and Khaldiyeh. Bab al-Amr was once an agricultural area on the outskirts of the city that grew most of the city’s fruit trees. By 2011, it was a ‘slum’ on the urban fringe that became ‘synonymous with the revolution’. Azzawi observed of Bab al-Amr: ‘the people there are very poor and very vulnerable, they feel that this regime put them so badly below the edge of poverty. So they are the real powers that are moving the acts of uprising in Homs’. The only exception to this pattern was Bab Houd, within the walls of Homs’ old city, which also experienced protest. The evidence therefore implies that those involved in the initial protests in Homs at the start of the 2011 uprising were citizens largely excluded from the Syrian social contract.

    It is exactly people such as this, the poor and displaced rural folk who streamed into the suburbs of Damascus, Aleppo and Homs in the hope of finding a roof over their heads and food on their table who became the social base of the Syrian revolution.

    God help us when so much of the left is clapping like trained seals when Russian bombers destroy their hospitals and force them to run through gauntlets of Hizbollah and Iranian militias that stand over them like the Wehrmacht soldiers stood over the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto. Comrades, we are in deep trouble when the left lacks the ability to discriminate between right and wrong and between the oppressor and the oppressed. It is time to build a new left that has once and for all learned to put the Stalinist legacy into the ashbin of history where it belongs.

    Comment by louisproyect — June 7, 2019 @ 12:30 pm


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