Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

April 17, 2020

Assad or We Burn the Country

Filed under: Counterpunch,Syria — louisproyect @ 6:30 pm


Sam Dagher’s “Assad or We Burn the Country: How One Family’s Lust for Power Destroyed” is the definitive chronicle of a tragic war that has left the country in the state described by Tacitus: “where they make a desert, they call it peace.” As for the title, it originates from the graffiti that Assad’s militias painted on walls everywhere. “Assad or We Burn the Country.”

Left in shambles by a senseless war, about 83 percent of Syrians live under the poverty line. A half-million people died in the fighting. That would be equivalent to more than seven million people in the USA. Meanwhile, more than six million Syrians were internally displaced, with another round five million going into exile. This was the necessary price, it seems, for preserving a family dynasty that began in 1971.

Sam Dagher was among the three most capable reporters covering the war. Two others succumbed far too early in their careers. N.Y. Times reporter Anthony Shadid died in 2012 at the age of 43, a result of an asthma attack brought on by walking behind horses. His asthma attack was in turn the result of putting himself into the care of smugglers who customarily used horses to enter and leave the country. If only Shadid had agreed to write the same kind of puff-pieces others have written about al-Assad, none of this would have been necessary. Then, there is Marie Colvin, who was a victim of one of Assad’s barrel bombs in Homs in 2012. Her mistake was being embedded with the rebels rather than al-Assad’s military. After a day in the field, you could always return to a four-star hotel in Damascus for cocktails.

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  1. Hi Louis, would just say that a “left” position on Syria, is not support for the Assad regime, but that of consistant anti-imperialist and anti-regime change. Liberal intervention has not worked nor will it ever work for democratic change. Sincerly, Gregg Schneider

    Comment by zalamander8 — April 17, 2020 @ 11:49 pm

  2. “One hopes that Bashar al-Assad’s supporters on the left will have the strength to read the book if only to weigh their scanty knowledge of the country against an expert’s testimony.”

    Experience tells me Assad’s apologists are even more insufferably stupid than Zionists (at least the latter can pull some creative thinking from their asses). Maybe someday people will realize anti-imperialism doesn’t imply taking sides in a Manichean battle between two powers.

    Comment by andrew r — April 18, 2020 @ 3:34 am

  3. Hi Louis, would just say that a “left” position on Syria, is not support for the Assad regime, but that of consistant anti-imperialist and anti-regime change. Liberal intervention has not worked nor will it ever work for democratic change.


    That’s true but it also true that the USA never sought regime change in Syria.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 18, 2020 @ 11:46 am

  4. Support for Assad is incomprehensible to me.

    Comment by Michael D Yates — April 18, 2020 @ 7:25 pm

  5. “That’s true but it’s also true that the USA never supported regime change.” Seriously? You sound like a neoliberal imperialist apologist. Please provide your sources and evidence!

    Comment by zalamander8 — April 19, 2020 @ 6:32 pm

  6. If the USA supported “regime change”, the CIA would never have worked with Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Jordan to block the rebels from getting MANPADs that could have stopped Assad’s air force from murdering 100s of thousands of poor people.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 19, 2020 @ 6:39 pm

  7. So the Obama admin.’s support for the so-called “moderate” rebels, actually affiliated with Al Nusra/Al Quaeda terrorists to topple the Assad regime, and the repetition of the mantra “Assad must go” by John Kerry and everyone else on the neoliberal “left” never happened? Please explain!

    Comment by zalamander8 — April 19, 2020 @ 7:41 pm

  8. Look, you fucking moron, if you are going to troll this blog, you need to make a pretense that you know what you are talking about. I just fucking told you that the one weapon that could have led to regime change, the USA dispatched the CIA to the border of Syria to block their shipments:

    Wall Street Journal, October 17, 2012:

    U.S. officials say they are most worried about Russian-designed Manpads provided to Libya making their way to Syria. The U.S. intensified efforts to track and collect man-portable missiles after the 2011 fall of the country’s longtime strongman leader, Moammar Gadhafi.

    To keep control of the flow of weapons to the Syrian rebels, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar formed a joint operations room early this year in a covert project U.S. officials watched from afar.

    The U.S. has limited its support of the rebels to communications equipment, logistics and intelligence. But U.S. officials have coordinated with the trio of countries sending arms and munitions to the rebels. The Pentagon and CIA ramped up their presence on Turkey’s southern border as the weapons began to flow to the rebels in two to three shipments every week.

    In July, the U.S. effectively halted the delivery of at least 18 Manpads sourced from Libya, even as the rebels pleaded for more effective antiaircraft missiles to counter regime airstrikes in Aleppo, people familiar with that delivery said.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 19, 2020 @ 7:46 pm

  9. Not trolling this blog. So it all doesn’t make sense that “so-called” moderate rebels with ties to Al Nusra/Al Quaeda terrorists were given nonleathal equipment in the first place, what was the overall purpose?

    Comment by zalamander8 — April 19, 2020 @ 8:32 pm

  10. I don’t know if you are trolling this blog or are just politically naive. But I will say this. You need to back and finish high school so that you will avoid writing incomprehensible sentences like this with the mind-numbing double-negatives:

    So it all doesn’t make sense that “so-called” moderate rebels with ties to Al Nusra/Al Quaeda terrorists were given nonleathal equipment in the first place, what was the overall purpose?

    I read this sentence 2 or 3 times and then gave up. (It is “lethal”, btw.)

    Comment by louisproyect — April 19, 2020 @ 8:43 pm

  11. It does not make sense that any US aid was given to the so-called “moderate” rebels at all. What was the purpose for this?

    Comment by zalamander8 — April 19, 2020 @ 9:05 pm

  12. Stop asking questions. I don’t have the time nor the motivation to answer someone with so little knowledge about Syria. My advice to you is to check the articles linked here: https://louisproyect.org/category/syria/. There’s about 300 or so. Take your time. All your questions will be answered.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 19, 2020 @ 9:17 pm

  13. “It does not make sense that any US aid was given to the so-called “moderate” rebels at all. What was the purpose for this?”

    I think the US and regional allies were hedging their bets on Syria – the smoking gun for this is the Arab League discussions about bringing Syria back. So Assad wasn’t expelled from the League for being a brutal dictator so much as an incompetent one. In the meantime, they gave the opposition varying levels of aid (and quibbled about it among themselves) to buy them off in case the conflict somehow spread to their little domains.

    Just don’t join the chorus that praises Russia and Iran for defeating a “regime-change” war because… yuck.

    Comment by andrew r — April 20, 2020 @ 1:58 am

  14. Apparently, the US halted the shipment of MANPADS to the Syrian rebels because of concern that the rebels might shoot down Russian and or civilian aircraft.

    Comment by zalamander8 — April 25, 2020 @ 12:28 am

  15. Actually, the USA never gave much of a shit about such an eventuality. They supplied MANPAD’s to Afghan rebels who did take down a civilian airliner. But in this instance, the MANPAD’s were not even from the USA. They were Russian MANPAD’s seized from Gaddafi’s arsenal. In 2012, the rebels were not Islamic fanatics like the Afghan mujahideen. They were for democracy.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 25, 2020 @ 10:43 am

  16. Thank you very much for your analysis of the war in (and on) Syria.

    If/when you have some time, this article may be of some interest to you: https://swprs.org/the-syria-deception/

    Comment by altpar — April 26, 2020 @ 7:13 am

  17. If/when you have some time, this article may be of some interest to you: https://swprs.org/the-syria-deception/

    Only in the sense that it is number 11,287 in the Assadist propaganda network. It is filled with lies and half-truths. For example, the article cites Global Research, a website distinguished for its conspiracy theories about chemtrails, 911, and the Arab Spring. Not only does Global Research describe the Syrian revolt as a subversion funded by Saudi Arabia, it also published an article by Tony Cartalucci claiming that the CIA was behind the Arab Spring.

    You are from India, right? I urge you to avoid conspiracy websites like Swiss Propaganda Research and begin reading Marxist literature, including Leon Trotsky’s “Learn to Think” that was written precisely for confused people like yourself: https://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1938/05/think.htm

    I should add that the Swiss Propaganda Research website is also publishing bullshit about COVID-19, claiming that Sweden has a low incidence of death in comparison to other countries in Europe when the opposite is true:

    Sweden has nearly 10 times the number of COVID-19-related deaths than its Nordic neighbors. Here’s where it went wrong. (https://www.businessinsider.com/how-sweden-and-norway-handled-coronavirus-differently-2020-4)

    Comment by louisproyect — April 26, 2020 @ 11:58 am

  18. That Swiss site you mention is the latest go to place for those f@cking idiot Assadist clowns at Off Guardian

    Comment by alwayswrite — April 26, 2020 @ 1:14 pm

  19. Louis, I’ve heard others make the argument that the US never wanted regime change in Syria. IMO this is wrong. All I need is this quote from Hillary Clinton from The Nation to know that regime change was on the agenda: “In her statement with Davutoglu, Clinton said that the United States is doing the following: First, supporting the opposition and their efforts to end the violence and begin the transition to a free and democratic Syria without Assad. …” (https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/obamas-regime-change-policy-syria/)

    That’s regime change. Maybe not the way it’s usually done, but it’s regime change. If you’re against Assad, that’s fine. But don’t pretend the US did not want him gone. I can’t understand the logic behind denying it. The only reason I can think of is that people cling to that in order to avoid looking like they’re supporting US imperialism. If you have a better reason please explain it without referring me to 300 articles I’ll never get around to reading.

    And no, I don’t think the reasoning you’ve given so far is good enough. If anyone is being naive here it’s you, who thinks that just bc the US prevented terrorists/rebels from getting MANPADs it must mean they didn’t want regime change. You seriously can’t think of any other reason as to why they wouldn’t want terrorists/rebels to have them? Can you imagine what they’d be doing with them now? Please don’t call people morons if you’re gonna cling to this middle school logic.

    I’m not trolling. This is a serious question. By saying the US did not want regime change in Syria you’re going against what Clinton, as the secretary of state, admitted to doing in a very public manner. She didn’t give a shit about what people thought about it. The least you, who pretends to know better than Clinton herself what she meant at the time, can do is provide a reason why we shouldn’t take her word. At the very least narrow it down to 1 or 2 articles from the batch of 300.

    Comment by Guillermo — April 27, 2020 @ 11:43 pm

  20. What is your fucking point? If the USA wanted regime change, why did the CIA block the shipment of a weapon that could have ended with the fall of Assad in 2012? As for your use of the term terrorists/rebels, you remind me of the fucking French military in “Battle of Algiers”. Is it terrorist for a helicopter to drop a barrel bomb on a hospital? Probably not in your eyes because you have the same love of Assad that the French had for the colonists in Algeria. In any case, you are such an idiot that you fail to even quote my review of Dagher’s book that gets into the rapprochement between Western imperialism and Assad. This motherfucker Assad worked with the CIA in kidnapping and torturing men during the “war on terror”. That’s the kind of human garbage you fake leftists identify with.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 27, 2020 @ 11:56 pm

  21. I don’t know what the point of reading the part of the rapprochement was. I just did and what does it matter? That happened before the war started. Clinton’s quote is from 2012.

    Instead of providing a better answer or even pointing at one or two articles you cling on to the dumbass reasoning I pointed out wasn’t good enough and then you try to shut me down by equating me to the French military in Algiers, calling me an idiot and an Assad lover. Great rhetoric Louis. I guess if you’re gonna pull this dumbass play I’ll pull the play I didn’t earlier and just call you an imperialist son of a bitch.

    Of course, people that prefer Assad stay in power must do so because we love Assad. It certainly can’t be because of the mess Iraq and Lybia are today. Oh no, no no no, we looooooove Assad. Grow up dude.

    Comment by Guillermo — April 28, 2020 @ 12:32 am

  22. Guillermo, the USA does not give a shit if missiles are used against civilian airlines. Reagan supplied them to Afghan rebels who took down passenger jets coming into the Kabul airport. The USA only supplied light weapons to the rebels that were useless against tanks, helicopters, jets and artillery. When the USA decided to get rid of Gaddafi, it gave the green light to NATO–a move that I opposed. When it wanted Saddam gone, it only took a couple of months. It is now 7 years of mass murder in Syria with half the population either internally or externally displaced. If Obama said something like Assad should step down, that is not regime change. As the Turkish beat-down of Assad’s military in Idlib demonstrated, the Syrian mafia state has neither the defense capabilities nor the level of foreign support to stave off regime change if that was imperialism’s goal. The West wanted Assadism without Assad. Like replacing Mubarak with al-Sisi.

    I can’t answer you in the depth you desire because you are not worth my time. You trawl websites like Moon of Alabama, Global Research, Consortium News, Off-Guardian and then come here expecting me to have a debate with you? You are an ignorant punk, a shallow leftist with hardly any familiarity with Marxism, who is not worth 3 minutes of my time. Instead of interrogating me as if you were a District Attorney and I was on trial, you need to read what I have written about Syria over the years. More than 300 articles. Then, write your own mother-fucking answer in the comments section here. Your problem is that you are too stupid and too lazy to bother. Typical Assadist tool.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 28, 2020 @ 1:07 am

  23. The so-called “democratic” Free Syrian army has ties to Al-Nusra/al-Qaeda terrorists, just as the so-called “democratic” White Helmets are. This has all been well documented. Just because The US imperialist regime’s attempt to topple the Assad regime failed does not mean it was not the intent. Iran, Hezbollah and especially Russia prevented the US to carry out it’s regime change plans. The US never cared if Al-Nusra/Al-Qaeda took out the Assad regime and broke up Syria into separate Shia, Sunni and and Kurdish states. Remember crazy Hillary’s no-fly-zone.

    Comment by zalamander8 — April 28, 2020 @ 1:29 am

  24. The so-called “democratic” Free Syrian army has ties to Al-Nusra/al-Qaeda terrorists, just as the so-called “democratic” White Helmets are.

    You say bullshit like this without even bothering to document it. What a lazy piece of shit you are. Most trolls try to make their case by linking to some crap that Vanessa Beeley wrote. But you are too fucking lazy and too fucking stupid to bother. No wonder Assadism attracts the dregs of conspiracy-minded imbeciles like you. It is made to order for people with low IQs.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 28, 2020 @ 1:33 am

  25. I don’t know if I’m understanding 100%. You’re saying the US wanted Assadism without Assad. So you admit the US wanted Assad to go, but you also say this is not regime change. I don’t want to get into a discussion of what constitutes regime change or not so we can just leave that.

    But will you now admit the US wanted to get rid of Assad, and that it did so by funding rebels and terrorists?

    Comment by Guillermo — April 28, 2020 @ 1:59 am

  26. Are you mentally deficient or something, Guillermo? REGIME CHANGE in Iraq rooted up Saddam, his military, his bureaucracy, his business partners and smashed it to smithereens. It was replaced by Shia social and political elites. In Libya, the Gaddafi machinery was also uprooted. THAT’S WHAT FUCKING REGIME CHANGE MEANS, YOU HALF-WIT. Can’t you take some medication to improve your IQ? There’s this stuff called Prevagen made from jellyfish that is supposed to boost memory. Maybe they have something made from sea slugs that might help you with your stupidity issues.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 28, 2020 @ 2:17 am

  27. Louis, you think getting rid of Assad will leave the army and bureaucracy intact, if Syria even gets that far without him. I think that’s naive.

    If Assad goes there can be two scenarios: one with the rebels and one without the rebels. The one with the rebels will mean uprooting the military and other things, if not altogether then surely enough to constitute a new state, which by definition is not the same as the previous state. In other words, regime change. The one without the rebels will mean the continuation of what we have now. And in both scenarios the state will likely be fighting the terrorists for years to come.

    I know it hurts to realize you’re ok with regime change, but that’s what this is. You don’t see it that way because you think Assad’s state apparatus can remain intact without him, but that’s not possible anymore. Like it or not, you want regime change.

    Comment by Guillermo — April 28, 2020 @ 2:45 am

  28. Louis, you think getting rid of Assad will leave the army and bureaucracy intact, if Syria even gets that far without him.

    I don’t deal with hypotheticals. The USA decided 7 years ago that it was not going to carry out regime change in Syria like it did in Iraq and Libya. It pinned its hopes on reaching men like Manaf Tlass, who is discussed at length in my article. It hoped that he could have lined up Alawite elites to create cosmetic changes that would have allowed the Baathist machinery to continue screwing poor people.

    Anyhow, I can’t continue this conversation with you since you are clearly out of your league. Maybe spend the next months getting up to speed on Syrian politics from scholarly sources and then coming back here to make your points. Right now it is like playing chess with a chimpanzee having this debate with you. That’s it for me.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 28, 2020 @ 3:02 am

  29. You thinking that the US wanting a “head of state change” rather than regime change is better, and that this somehow does not make you the chimpanzee is the real chess board move, as in you trying to alter the way the board works. Here you are, doubling down on your “no regime change” in Syria stance, trying to bend reality to fit your twisted logic.

    Stick to the movie reviews, Louis. At least those don’t get read by people willing to question you. Goodnight, boomer.

    Comment by Guillermo — April 28, 2020 @ 3:21 am

  30. “Iran, Hezbollah and especially Russia prevented the US to carry out it’s regime change plans.”

    Newsflash for all “anti-imperialists”, Iran is not in the business of fighting US regime change.

    “In the course of the summer, Crocker passed him the names of prospective Shiite candidates, and the two men vetted each one. Crocker did not offer veto power, but he abandoned candidates whom Suleimani found especially objectionable. “The formation of the governing council was in its essence a negotiation between Tehran and Washington,” he said.”

    Also, isn’t it amazing how the US military had been operating in Syria for a good 6 months when Russia waltzed in and aided Assad in retaking Aleppo, Dara’a, etc. without any interference? The US was certainly in a position to block Iran from moving Iraqi militias into Syria as well but I could find no evidence of that going on.

    Comment by andrew r — April 28, 2020 @ 5:13 am

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