Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

July 22, 2016

The beheading of a Palestinian child by Syrian rebels–none of it is true except the beheading

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 9:21 pm

Earlier this week the Baathist amen corner was all abuzz over the bestiality of a group called Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zinki that beheaded a 12-year-old Palestinian civilian named Abdullah al-Issa who was on his way to a hospital for treatment according to the Baathist media.

Moon of Alabama, a prime outlet for Baathist and Kremlin propaganda, posted this article:

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Mint Press accepted the regime’s story as genuine as did Daniel Lazare on Consortium News. Mint News, of course, is the sleazy Baathist outlet that published an article about the rebels in East Ghouta being responsible for the Sarin gas massacre that was disavowed by the reporter whose byline was attached to the article without her permission. Meanwhile Lazare, who is otherwise a reasonable person, turns into a stark raving madman when dealing with Syria.

This week Syrian, Russian and American jets have been killing civilians in huge numbers and this is the subject that these filthy propagandists want to put on the front burner. They would make Herman Goebbels blanch in horror.

The only thing worth mentioning is that killing captive soldiers is wrong, whether by a firing squad as the Red Army did in the Russian Civil War or by a sword. Given the horrors that the Baathists and their ghoulish allies  have visited on the Syrian people over the past 5 years, it is a miracle that this kind of retribution doesn’t take place every day.


Thursday, 21/07/2016 (updated) at 17:24 (GMT)

Boy beheaded by Syrian rebels was ’19-year-old regime fighter’

A Syrian who was beheaded by a rebel group in Aleppo this week was a 19-year-old pro-regime fighter suffering from a growth defect and not a child, activists have claimed.

He was named as Abdullah al-Issa and that his family members said he was a 19-year-old who volunteered to fight with the regime’s National Defence Forces militias.

Other social media users said he was from the Alawite village of Wadi al-Dahab in Homs, and photos emerged allegedly showing his funeral in the area.

Issa was said to be suffering from thalassemia, which led to a growth defect that made him appear to be a child. Photos shared of Issa online show him in military fatigues and carrying a rifle.

“This boy, whose [beheading] has caught the world’s attention is my cousin Abdullah Issa from Wadi al-Dahab district of Homs, and he suffers from thalassemia,” his alleged cousin – Loly Alamora [“Loly the cutie”] – wrote on her Facebook page.

“That is why he appears younger than his age, but he is 19-years-old.”

Banners reading “I am Syrian” with Issa’s picture were put up [Facebook]

The Syrian regime had earlier claimed that Issa was a 12-year-old Palestinian civilian who was on his way to hospital for treatment when he was picked up by militants from the Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zinki rebel group.

His murder caused outrage, particularly as he appeared to be a child.

He was initially reported to be a child fighter with pro-government militia Liwa al-Quds.

Facebook account user Zoze Aisa – alleging to be Issa’s sister – posted a series of angry comments about regime claims he was Palestinian.

“He is the son of Assad’s Syria,” she wrote, referring to the Syrian president.

A picture of Issa posing with weaponry was shared on the social media platform [Facebook]

“How can they turn a brave Syrian fighter into a Palestinian refugee?” she claimed.

The account user listed the exact locations where Issa had allegedly fought to “defend his country”.

This included Palmyra, Jebel Shaar, T4 airport, Hama and Homs. He would spend month-long deployments on the front-lines before returning home for medical treatment.

Issa’s cousin confirmed that he had suffered from the growth defect, but rather than staying behind to receive medical care chose to fight for Syrian regime forces.

An image of Issa’s alleged national ID card was circulated online, showing that he had joined the ranks of the National Defence Forces militia umbrella in August 2015.

Issa was beheaded by members of the Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zinki rebel group in Syria’s Handarat district, just a few miles north of Aleppo.

The rebel group – who have received US-backing in the past – said that the killing was a “mistake” committed by some of its members. The murderers are allegedly being held by rebels who are investigating their cases.


June 30, 2016

Contradictions within the Baathist amen corner over Brexit

Filed under: immigration,Syria — louisproyect @ 1:14 pm

During the midst of the controversy over the invitation to arch-Baathist Tim Anderson to a conference on refugees in Lesbos, Michael Karadjis alluded to simmering differences within this camp over how to view the refugee crisis—specifically a quarrel that had broken out between Sukant Chandan and Jay Tharappel. I paid it little attention at the time but now I realize its significance as a sign of fissures in the ranks of the Baathist amen corner over the racist ramifications of Brexit.

Both are originally from India, share Maoist politics, a passionate devotion to the Baathist state and frequent appearances on Russian and Iranian television shows so when Chandan opened up an attack against Tharappel on FB, it was a sign that the issues posed by Brexit would lead to fissures:

Jay Tharappel was my comrade and younger brother for a number of years. A very bright wonderful comrade, from Indian Keralan heritage, has an excellent grasp of Indian politics, is broadly pro CPM (half of my family are CPM, and I respect the CPM with all my criticisms), and has some understanding of anti-imperialist politics generally. However, like many, he has found himself surrounding by fascists and those who are internalising fascist politics in the process of advocating for the defence of Syria from imperialism.

What is this fascism that is being promoted, proliferated, protected and promoted by Jay and others? It is:

1 – That there are deserving and non-deserving refugees, that Syrians are the only kind of real refugees (even then), and all other Asian and Africans are ‘fake’ refugees.

2 – That there is a ‘globalist’/’jewish’ plot to destabilise europe with refugees.

3 – That the west is ‘pure’ and ‘white’ culturally, and this should be maintained and not ‘impurified’ by non-whites.

4 – That Syrians are actually not ‘backward Arabs, but ‘white’ like white europeans.

5 – That the western far right (like trump, farage, le pen, alt for germany, and other far right forces) are the ‘natural’ allies for Syrians and also Iranians, Iraqis, Lebanese, Russians etc, and they are actively working to ally with such far right forces.

6 – Is hostile especially to South Asian and African, especially darker skinned Asian and African people. These fascists just hate them, dehumanise them, elevate themselves over and above them, and eschew any solidarity and unity building with them.

7 – Using Syria (or Palestine / Iran / Iraq / Russia / Ukraine etc) to impose upon refugees that ‘a lot ‘ or ‘most’ of them are ‘terrorists’, and that they all must come back to Syria, and they really should not have left Syria in the first place.

I will always oppose imperialist war and coloniality, as I have been for the past nearly 25 years. But I will not ever accept that imperialist oppression is a situation through which to protect and promote fascism.

This fascist protection and promotion is being done in a context of the alarming and fast rising racism and fascism from state and non-state levels across the West. There is a liberal fascism developing, which talks liberal and left by supports Nato wars an strategies, and there is a right wing fascism emerging which sometimes puts out rhetoric that it is against wars but supports all the concepts of colonialism and imperialism.

Our struggle is not a joke. I am not in the business of congratulating lefties and commies for being anti-racist. I am not in the business for allowing this fascist collaboration and organising to pass, rather our decolonial, anti-imperialist and socialist legacies, histories, ideologies and struggles informs us that we go out and conceptually and actually fascists to smash them, and neutralise all forces that are protecting them.

I except people to militantly oppose, expose and defeat this fascist infiltration and protection. ie., if you see people promoting or protecting any of the 6 points: I would strongly advise to enact anti-fascism and anti-imperialism. Our people are being targeted increasingly, the western narrative is becoming even more heightened in its racism and fascism. I am not some liberal middle class western-based type who postures and plays with our politics. I tried to engage Jay on these things for years. He is not interested. He is for a number of reasons loyal to the fascists over the anti-fascist cause. That’s his choice. He like many others has sold out. I am not about to be loyal with such over and above our peoples anti-imperialist and anti-fascist cause. I suggest and request that we MUST maintain clarity of strategy and analysis over and above petty personal loyalties that push us into fascism.

We either step up to the growing challenges, or we should step down or be made to step down.

When you read this, it is a little difficult to figure out specifically what the problem is since Chandan, never scrupulous about evidence to begin with, does not name names except for Tharappel. In Maoist circles, it is obviously very easy to denounce someone as a fascist. I say that as someone who has been the target of such abuse at least 10,000 times since I broke ranks with people like Chandan long ago.

Tharappel’s response to Chandan was similarly obscure:

As you probably already know…

Sukant Chandan has accused me of promoting fascism and racism for reasons that he knows to be completely false like the shameless liar that he is, indeed his lies about me are so outlandish that they’re being rejected in the comments section of his own post.

Specifically, he accuses me promoting the view that there are deserving and undeserving refugees, that “Syrians are the only kind of real refugees”, that “Asian and Africans are ‘fake’ refugees”, and that “there is a ‘globalist’/’jewish’ plot to destabilise europe with refugees”.

This is a lie. I have always maintained that the refugee crisis is a consequence of imperialist exploitation and war, that we in the imperialist countries should welcome those seeking asylum, but most importantly that we should oppose the wars that create refugees in the first place – in February I even wrote a post condemning the idea that there’s some globalist agenda to destabilise Europe which SC commented on (see screenshot).

He accuses me of promoting the notion that “the west is ‘pure’ and ‘white’ culturally, and this should be maintained and not ‘impurified’ by non-whites”, and accuses me of being “hostile especially to South Asian and African, especially darker skinned Asian and African people”, which needless to say is an obvious LIE, as anyone who spends a minute or so examining my openly communist and post-colonial leanings would know.

He then accuses me of promoting the view that “Syrians are actually not ‘backward Arabs, but ‘white’ like white Europeans”, which is another lie as I have never endorsed this view ever.

In truth what angers SC is that I refuse to replicate word-for-word his personal crusade against those of Syrian heritage who consider themselves ‘white’, for the simple reason that it’s mostly irrelevant to me how they identify themselves, but on planet Sukant, by not vociferously denouncing these views, I’m promoting them.

His next accusation is that I’m promoting “the western far right” including the likes of “trump, farage, le pen, [and] alt for Germany” as “natural allies for Syrians and also Iranians, Iraqis, Lebanese, Russians” which is another lie, in fact, aside from Trump, I don’t think I’ve EVER publicly mentioned any of those far-right personalities and parties.

I once innocently pointed out that Trump’s stated foreign policy agenda is strictly less threatening to Syria and Russia (which is objectively correct) compared to that of Hillary Clinton, which Sukant then creatively reinterpreted to mean that I was endorsing Donald Trump in some way.

You can see that discussion here: http://bit.ly/1VEWuck

His final allegation and lie is that I am “using Syria (or Palestine / Iran / Iraq / Russia / Ukraine etc) to impose upon refugees that ‘a lot ‘ or ‘most’ of them are ‘terrorists’, and that they all must come back to Syria, and they really should not have left Syria in the first place”, which is another cheap and baseless lie.

Are former anti-government fighters leaving Syria for Europe? Yes. Have I ever demonised ALL asylum seekers based on this fact? No.

What I have said is this, even if a portion of those asylum seekers were once fighting the governments of Syria and Iraq, we should welcome the news that by abandoning the battlefield and leaving for Europe they’re no longer destabilising the middle east which is the real target of destabilisation, NOT Europe.

As for the other civilian migrants who were simply caught in the middle of this war, contrary to Sukant’s claims, I have never said that they should be sent back, nor have I ever encouraged them to go back, because as someone who doesn’t face their consequences I am in no position to judge them for leaving Syria.

What Sukant is perhaps unable to comprehend is that unlike him I view the exodus of civilian refugees primarily from the perspective of the countries that have been destabilised, for whom the exodus of their best and brightest citizens undermines their ability to resist – the cruel logic of imperialism has always been that it encourages racism towards the very people it benefits from exploiting, that too after financing the destruction of their countries.

In the real world we have to pick our battles, and in the case of Syria many of us on the Left find ourselves in an alliance with a national liberation struggle against imperialism, which draws the support of many who are not Leftists and therefore do not share our opinions on every issue, and while I’m more than happy to state my disagreements with them, I’m not going to waste my time denouncing them relentlessly, I’d rather focus on opposing and exposing imperialism.

Tharappel referred his readers to a discussion that took place on May 17th as seen above. I reproduce the most salient part here:

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This gets to the heart of the contradictions within the Baathist camp. As it happens, the Kremlin and its allies internationally are hostile to the EU, open borders, and everything else that smacks of “globalism”. So naturally you see an affinity between Donald Trump, Nigel Farage and Vladimir Putin. Trying to reconcile solidarity with the butcher of Damascus and Nigel Farage is no easy task, especially when you retain some belief in the words “Workers of the World Unite”.

To his credit, Chandan has been hammering away at the racism unleashed by Brexit on his “Sons of Malcolm” blog. Three days ago, he wrote a post titled “CORBYN INCHES TOWARDS THE RIGHT, SUPPORTS BREXIT, WOBBLES ON IMMIGRATION” that attacks what he views as adaptation to nativism in Britain similar to that I critiqued in my article on Diana Johnstone yesterday:

Corbyn and his team are choosing to ignore the two thirds of Labour voters who are hostile to Brexit, Corbyn is choosing to align himself with UK nationalist ‘left’ forces who are developing racism further by positioning a showdown with the EU in the context of growing racism and fascism. Part of this is Corbyn’s total contradictory position on immigration, while he said a FANTASTIC thing on immigration in this interview by stating there must be no upper limit to it, he also stated that the central colonial feelings that inform racism by people is not racism.

Andrew Marr: But there are lots and lots and lots of people around this country who do feel that immigration is for them a problem, they see their communities changing very, very quickly and they feel their identity is challenged and they feel their kids are not getting school places and so forth. They are not racists. They’re not far right people. They’re just people really worried about immigration and they feel that people like you are not really listening to them.

Jeremy Corbyn: I’m not calling them racists. What I’m saying is it’s a failure of our government to properly fund local authorities. …

Will any of this make any difference when it comes to supporting Assad’s murderous war that is responsible for the bulk of Syrian refugees? Probably not. These people are hopeless on this matter, I am afraid. But perhaps the growing affinity between openly fascist movements in Europe and the Kremlin will finally give them reason to pause and think things over. The Red-Brown alliance that has emerged out of the geopolitical chess game is one of the most shameful episodes of the left in decades and it is high time that it gets addressed. I don’t have much use for most of Chandan’s problematic ideology but give him credit for calling a spade a spade.

June 27, 2016

Guess what, neo-Nazi group attacked in Sacramento is pro-Assad and pro-Putin

Filed under: Fascism,right-left convergence,Russia,Syria — louisproyect @ 2:46 pm

It is old news by now that virtually every neo-Nazi or ultraright outfit in Europe is solidly behind Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad, from Golden Dawn to Marine Le Pen’s National Front. As you are also probably aware, the Brexit campaign was pushed heavily by Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party, a rabidly anti-immigrant group that advocates working with Bashar al-Assad.

The first sign of a similar development in the USA was obviously the Donald Trump campaign that is first cousin to the UKIP. Trump stated that the Brexit vote was a great thing and hoped that its goals could be replicated in the USA. As it happens, the neo-Nazi group that was attacked in Sacramento yesterday by anti-fascists falls squarely within the global Red-Brown alliance. You almost have to wonder whether a pro-Assad group like the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) might be tempted to come to their aid the next time the neo-Nazi group is threatened.

The neo-Nazis are constituted as the Traditional Worker Party and led by a character named Matthew Heimbach who first came to attention as the Donald Trump supporter who roughed up a Black female protester at his rally in Louisville in early March. That’s him in the red baseball cap.

Before he launched the Traditional Worker Party, Heimbach operated as the top man of the Traditionalist Youth Network. From early on, he backed Assad because he saw him as a pillar of resistance to Muslims who were falsely accused of threatening the Christians in Syria. In 2013 Heimbach organized a protest in Michigan that sounds very much like the sort of thing that would be embraced by the Baathist left as an exercise in Red-Brown politics.

CORUNNA, MI — An organization accused of having ties to the white supremacist movement is planning a protest in support of embattled Syrian leader Bashar Assad during a Sept. 11 event in Corunna.

The event, organized by the Traditionalist Youth Network, was initially billed as a “Koran BBQ,” a protest geared toward showing “Islamic immigrants and citizens alike that they are not welcome here in Michigan” that included burning copies the Quran and images of the Prophet Muhammad, but changed direction after President Barack Obama asked Congress for authorization to use military force in Syria.

Matthew Heimbach, leader of the Traditionalist Youth Network, said the event was changed to focus on Syria to protest what he claims is the Obama administration’s offer of support to al-Qaida and Islamist militants working with rebels to topple Assad’s regime.

Heimbach said the protest will be “anti-jihadist,” which he says is an appropriate message on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Protestors are expected to meet in McCurdy park around 5:30 p.m.

With respect to Putin, you can listen to Matthew Heimbach interviewing Dr Matthew ‘Raphael’ Johnson, a self-described Christian Orthodox Medievalist, on his Ayran Radio show about the huge breakthrough for neo-Nazi groups by the Kremlin’s strong leadership against the West.

Finally, some snapshots from Matthew Heimbach’s Faith-Family-Folk Twitter account (https://twitter.com/MatthewHeimbach):

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June 26, 2016

The latest idiocy from the Baathist amen corner

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 6:39 pm

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James Carden, house conservative at The Nation

Michael Hudson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


June 22, 2016

Who is attacking the Jo Cox Fund for supporting Syria’s rescue volunteers?

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 12:57 am

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Who is attacking the Jo Cox Fund for supporting Syria’s rescue volunteers?

For press inquiries contact Syria Solidarity UK: info@syriauk.org

The day after Jo Cox was killed, Nick Griffin, former leader of the far right BNP, attacked the Jo Cox Fund for supporting the rescue volunteers of Syria Civil Defence, also known as the White Helmets.Nick Griffin publicly supports the Assad dictatorship in Syria.

Nick Griffin’s attack on the Jo Cox Fund repeated a long-running smear accusing Syria Civil Defence of being part of Jabhat al Nusra, Al Qaeda’s Syrian branch and a listed terrorist organisation. This accusation stems mainly from an incident on 5th May 2015 where Syria Civil Defence in Hreitan,northern Aleppo, were contacted and called upon to retrieve a corpse. When they arrived at the scene they found that an execution by an armed group was in progress. The Charter of Syria Civil Defence lists the tasks of the organisation which are provided for under International Humanitarian Law. One of these tasks is the emergency burial of the dead. It was under this task and mandate that the members of Hreitan Civil Defence were operating and there was no other organisation in Hreitan with the mandate for cadaver collection and burial.

Syria Civil Defence statement: http://syriacivildefense.org/article/syria-civil-defence-statement

Syria Civil Defence are volunteer search and rescue workers in Syria. Unarmed and neutral, they have saved more than 51,000 lives, mostly of civilians subjected to air attacks by the Assad regime,and more recently by the Russian air force.

Syria Civil Defence workers have repeatedly been direct targets of air attacks. Their facilities have been repeatedly bombed. Their volunteers have been killed in so-called double tap attacks, when aircraft return to bomb an area a second time just as rescue volunteers are working to save lives. Over 100 White Helmets volunteers have been killed in Syria’s war, the vast majority by the Assad regime.


Syria Civil Defence have received support for equipment and training from the UK Government and from London Fire Brigade amongst others.


The attacks on Syria Civil Defence didn’t begin with Nick Griffin. They have been a long running theme for Assad’s supporters on both left and right. One vigorous promoter of the ‘White Helmets are Al Qaeda’ smear is Tim Anderson, an Australian academic and vocal supporter of the Assad regime.

There has been controversy recently over Tim Anderson being invited to a conference on refugees asa keynote speaker.The Crossing Borders conference, to be held in Lesvos in July, is sponsored by Stopthe War Coalition and the Peoples’ Assembly Against Austerity. Other invited speakers Paul Mason and Nina Power have pulled out of the conference as a result of Tim Anderson’s scheduled appearance.


Other scheduled speakers along with Tim Anderson include Tariq Ali and Stop The War’s John Rees. Now Tariq Ali has joined in repeating the same attack on the Jo Cox Fund as Nick Griffin.


Stop The War’s leadership say that this is nothing to do with them, despite their sponsorship of the conference, and despite Tariq Ali being a patron of Stop The War and a regular speaker at Stop The War events. The wider peace movement should be asking themselves if this is still the leadership they want to represent them.

June 20, 2016

Jo Cox, the White Helmets and the Baathist amen corner

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 7:17 pm

In 2015 Rick Sterling, a member of the steering committee of the Syrian Solidarity Movement, posted no less than five articles to CounterPunch that attacked the White Helmets as a tool of Western imperialism’s “regime change” plot.






One might ask why one article was insufficient to make his point but experts in the art of propaganda understand that repetition is key. As Adolf Hitler put it, “The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly – it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over.”

The Syria Solidarity Movement was initiated by Sara Flounders of the Workers World Party and Richard Becker of the Party of Socialism and Liberation, a split-off from the WWP. Interestingly enough, the two groups never explained why the split took place—somehow deciding that Lenin’s attempts to clarify the split with the Mensheviks was not the sort of thing they’d bother with. Despite the immense sympathy for Bashar al-Assad that runs the gamut from CounterPunch to the very posh London Review of Books, the two self-described Leninist groups have not been able to capitalize on it. They number in the hundreds rather than the thousands. Is it possible that young radicals don’t have much stomach for mustached dictators who have a murderous ambition to remain in power no matter how much suffering and death it causes?

It should be mentioned that the offensive against the White Helmets has the highest priority from the Syria Solidarity Movement. In addition to Sterling, Eva Bartlett and Vanessa Beeley have been burning the midnight oil cranking out articles to the same effect. This campaign has been so effective that White Helmet leader Ra’ed Al-Saleh was banned from entering the United States even though the State Department gave his group 23 million dollars. If the West is bent on “regime change” in Syria, it is not doing a very good job apparently.

As a casualty of both the smear campaign orchestrated by the beady-eyed Assadists of the Syria Solidarity Movement and a gunman linked to American neo-Nazis, Jo Cox has been trashed for her support for the White Helmets. When you Google “Jo Cox” and “White Helmets”, the first result is from the Holistic Works website, one dedicated to Colonic Irrigation and the like. Annie Dieu-Le-Veut, an anonymous writer who assumed the name of an 18th century French pirate, wants the world to know “The Truth About the Late Jo Cox MP and Her Husband, Brendan”:

We’re being told what a truly, extraordinarily wonderful person Jo Cox was, because her life was devoted to helping refugees. I’m sure she was a very sweet person – her face shows that. But how wise and truly aware was she? Today, with her body barely cold, her husband Brendan Cox is tweeting out a Go Fund Me link to his wife’s ‘favourite causes’ and one of those is the White Helmets.

The White Helmets is not a charity, and neither are they ‘the good guys’ despite their white helmets. The White Helmets is the military propaganda arm of the Allies attempt at regime change by destabilising Syria – and this is exactly what is causing the refugee component of Europe’s migrant crisis in the first place.

The article is basically a regurgitation of the talking points made by Sterling and company. How they managed to line up experts in Colonic Irrigation to share their story has the making of a good Gawker article.

As far as I can tell, the Baathist amen corner has been stressing the following points in its prosecution of the White Helmets, aka the Syrian Civil Defense. The talking points below come from Vanessa Beeley articles that read like Rick Sterling’s that read like Eva Bartlett’s (part one, part two):

  1. It was started by a British military veteran, not Syrians.

The culprit is one James Le Mesurier, who Vanessa Beeley describes as:

A British “security” specialist and ‘ex’ British military intelligence officer with an impressive track record in some of the most dubious NATO intervention theatres including Bosnia and Kosovo, as well as Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine.

I have no doubt that this is an accurate description of his record but it begs the question of why he would be wasting his time training men to dig people out of rubble when his expertise could be better used to lead armed assaults on the military bases that have been creating the rubble. Of course, this is the Achilles Heel of Sterling, Beeley, Bartlett, et al. They can’t explain away the fact that armored helicopters and MIG jets have been dropping bombs and firing missiles wantonly. As I mentioned to someone the other day, the tactic seems to be a crude imitation of the one used against MOVE in Philadelphia and David Koresh’s cult in Waco. Some might even call dropping bombs on apartment buildings a war crime but then again the Baathist amen corner has a talent for excusing such behavior. When John Wight seized upon the example of the firebombing of Dresden to make the case for Assad, it was obvious that he had not read Slaughterhouse-Five. If Wight had taken the same tack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, would CounterPunch have published that article? I suppose if it generated enough clicks, it might.

  1. It is funded by George Soros, USAID and the UK Foreign Office.

The amount to train and support White Helmet workers is apparently around $40 million in total. That is about the same amount the Syrian and Russian jets spend creating rubble in a single day. In a different context, this is what Marxist economist Arghiri Emmanuel called an “unequal exchange”. In terms of why such destruction has been taking place on such a massive scale recently, the War is Boring website  identified Russian “safety first” principles:

The targeting cell issues daily tasking orders some 24 to 36 hours in advance, ordering crews to bomb specific geographic coordinates. Crews then spend lots of time planning missions and programming their navigation and attack systems correspondingly. Safety is a paramount issue — not only because Russian military commanders dislike the idea of losing aircraft, regardless if in training or in combat, but because their political masters, ever mindful of the propaganda value of Russian operations, cannot afford bad news.

Therefore, well above 95 percent of combat sorties by Russian fighter-bombers are flown at medium altitudes between 15,000 and 20,000 feet, where aircraft remain outside the reach of enemy defenses — especially man-portable air-defense systems.

Whether the mission is flown by day or by night, more than 80 percent of weaponry deployed by the VKS is so-called “dumb” bombs. Obviously, when dropped from medium altitudes against geographic coordinates — frequently through cloud cover — such weapons are grossly inaccurate.

Well, no matter. The only good jihadist is a dead jihadist, after all.

  1. The White Helmet leaders are actually bad guys.

Beeley identifies Farouq Al Habib as one of them. She writes:

At least three other members of the team were a part of the Syrian “revolution” including Farouq al Habib, one of the 3 most prominent White Helmet leaders who was also a leader of the Homs uprising against the Syrian government and according to his testimony, was tortured by the Syrian “regime” security forces in 2012 for smuggling a journalist into Syria to “cover” the “peaceful protests”. Habib was a founder member of the ‘Homs Revolutionary Council’ (the CIA have been linked to nearly all ‘Revolutionary Councils in Syria) before fleeing to Turkey in 2013 (A more in-depth analysis of his anti-Syrian government testimony will be presented in Part II of this article).

Interesting how Beeley is so fond of using scare quotes. Does the fact that she does not enclose tortured with them mean that she accepts that he was tortured? I guess he deserved it for “anti-Syrian government” activity. That’ll teach his ass. I suppose that is consistent with Bashar al-Assad’s participation in the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program. If you are involved in a serious war on terror like the USA, Russia, Israel and Syria, any measure is acceptable. Don’t believe me? Just read Alan Dershowitz’s “ticking bomb” defense.

  1. White Helmets are all al-Qaeda.

Evidence of this was a Youtube video showing White Helmet workers taking away the dead body of a man executed by al-Nusra combatants. Since part of its responsibility is to dispose of dead bodies, whatever their role in the fighting, there is some question of whether them carrying out this duty was a sign of affiliation with the executioners. Beeley states, “These impartial humanitarian workers did NOTHING to prevent this execution, they appear a full 5 minutes prior to this murder at the behest of the executioners and they are ushered into shot immediately after the victim is shot twice at close range in the head, to collect the body.” Maybe the fact that they were not armed and that al-Nusra is a vicious jihadist group had something to do with it.

The above Youtube clip has been deleted since it does not meet their standards but you can find another clip that according to Beeley does confirm that they are al-Qaeda because they were seen piling corpses of dead Baathist soldiers “unceremoniously one on top of the other” and then trampling upon them. I can’t understand the Arabic in the clip but I can’t see much trampling going on. Maybe its the cataracts playing tricks on me but I doubt it.

Another proof of White Helmet extremism is a photo that shows them holding up a sign that says, “We Will Not Kneel”. Terrifying, isn’t it. I suppose they should have held up something like what Assad’s supporters scrawled on walls early on: “Either Bashar or the country burns”.

She offers more proof that al-Nusra and White Helmets are in cahoots through the example of one Muawiya Hassan Agha, who is seen standing on top of an “Al Nusra tank” with a gun in hand. It is not exactly clear what makes the tank part of Al Nusra, but let us take Beeley at her word. Since there are 2,700 volunteers working with the White Helmets, one man’s indiscipline is hardly indicative of the entire organization.


Al-Nusra tank?

The problem with Beeley, Bartlett, Sterling and company is that they are simply not capable of sweeping the evidence under the rug of cities blown to smithereens. The images of Aleppo, Homs, and other pro-revolution strongholds being reduced to the rubble that require volunteers to dig through in search of survivors is the proverbial 800 pound gorilla.

Much of the damage is being done by barrel bombs, a device even more lacking in precision than the Russian bombs dropped from 3 miles high. In one of the more chilling articles to come off the Vanessa Beeley propaganda assembly line, you see her trying to justify their use:

The barrel bomb itself is a rudimentary missile, cheap to produce [around $ 200 per bomb depending upon level of TNT].  It has design faults in that the fins on the bomb are still not aerodynamically perfect, despite several changes.

But then again why care about precision when the obvious goal is to blast a street market into smithereens and drive the citizens to emigrate?

It must be remembered that the SAA is fighting a war but not against anti government rebels as depicted in the mainstream media, rather its a dirty war against a merciless, depraved and bloodthirsty proxy army funded, armed and supported by the Empire interventionist alliance [US, Turkey, KSA, Jordan, NATO, Israel].

That’s reason enough I suppose to blow a man selling cabbages from a pushcart to kingdom come. And this really caps it off:

In war, civilian life is lost, it is unavoidable and particularly when terrorists embed themselves into civilian areas, converting civilians into human shields…Neither is it mentioned that the SAA make every feasible effort to evacuate densely populated civilian areas prior to targeting terrorist cells.

Isn’t Beeley aware that this is the same line that the IDF uses to defend its war crimes in Gaza? What an irony that she posts this material from a website called “The Wall Must Fall”, a reference to the one erected between Israel and the West Bank. History will have a hard time figuring out what drove people like Sterling, Beeley and Barrett to come to Assad’s defense when he was so obviously following the military strategy of Putin in Chechnya and Netanyahu in Gaza.

There is at least one Palestinian group that can see things more clearly than this crew:

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June 18, 2016

Putting Ben Norton under a microscope

Filed under: journalism,Syria — louisproyect @ 2:59 pm

When I visited the Verso office in Brooklyn for a panel discussion on Rosa Luxemburg last August, I ran into someone named Ben Norton who I knew vaguely as a critic of the crude “anti-imperialism” that had swept across the left like the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico. We chatted briefly about our shared political values and his latest career move, which was joining Salon.com as a staff member. I thought this was a welcome addition to a magazine that featured Patrick L. Smith, one of the worst propagandists for the Assad dictatorship to be found anywhere.

I never would have expected that within six months Norton would end up in the Smith/Cockburn/Fisk camp writing articles reinforcing the dominant narrative on the left that the USA was bent on “regime change” and that the Syrian rebels were reactionary jihadists engaged in a proxy war launched by the West against its perceived enemies in the region.

I want to review his journalism since early 2016 as a way of showing how taking the wrong position on Syria inevitably leads to bending the truth, which for a serious-minded journalist is a cardinal sin. Writing for Salon, at least until it remains in business, might pay the rent but what good is that if you lose your soul in the process?

On January 18th, 2016 Norton advised Salon’s readers that “Sieges by Western enemies get big headlines, while larger U.S.-backed blockades are ignored”. It made the somewhat obvious point that the USA has a double standard but it is questionable whether Madaya got “big headlines”. As is the case with most instances of Baathist depravity, it hardly earns top billing in the NY Times or elsewhere.

What made Norton’s article fail the smell test was his allegation that if the Syrian army was besieging Madaya, so were the rebels besieging government-held cities like Idlib: “Before capturing the city, extremist Syrian militants had imposed a siege on Idlib for two years.”

So the rebels were starving the citizens of Idlib into submission? I was curious to get the facts on that so I checked his link to find out more. The very first sentence in the linked article demonstrated that Norton had set up a false equivalence: “A Syrian government garrison at Abu al-Duhur airbase has been overrun by fighters from Al-Qaeda’s al-Nusra front affiliate after a two-year siege.” Why would Norton consider the siege of an airbase to be on the same level as starving out the people of Madaya who made the mistake of rebelling against Assad especially when they and other people had to endure years of MIG attacks originating from places like Abu al-Duhur?

In Syria you are dealing with asymmetric warfare and Norton decides to drop the first letter of asymmetric? What a sleazy trick he must have learned as an apprentice to Patrick L. Smith who recently described reports of barrel bomb attacks as unfounded.

From that point on, I decided to monitor Norton’s journalism on Syria just as I do with Smith, Hersh, Cockburn, Fisk, Whitney, Escobar, Draitser and a score of other scoundrels. It is dirty work but someone has to do it.

About a month later, Norton filed one of his many pro-Sanders articles that was all aglow over Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard becoming part of the “political revolution”. In contrast to the warmongering Hillary Clinton, Gabbard was against intervention:

Gabbard, who is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, has condemned U.S. policy in Syria. In late 2015, she introduced a bipartisan bill that called for “an immediate end to the illegal, counter-productive war to overthrow” Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.

“The war to overthrow Assad is illegal because Congress never authorized it,” she said, calling the U.S. policy of arming and training rebels “counter-productive because it actually helps ISIS and other Islamic extremists achieve their goal of overthrowing the Syrian government of Assad and taking control of all of Syria — which will simply increase human suffering in the region, exacerbate the refugee crisis, and pose a greater threat to the world.”

Somehow Norton failed to mention other aspects of the Gabbard record that might have made her appear less savory. Zaid Jilani, a journalist whose work appears in the same kind of liberal online magazines that have published Norton’s work over the years, lifted up the rock and showed what was crawling around in a well-researched article for Alternet: “To Gabbard, the fact that Syria and Iraq have been through years of brutal civil war, wrecked economies and massive displacement is irrelevant; the only reason they have an extremism problem is because of Islamic theology.”

Basically Gabbard is a Bill Maher style Islamophobe who supports the fascist-like BJP in India and who has received substantial donations from its members-at-large in the USA. Even more incriminating, Gabbard is close to Christian Zionists and even spoke at one of their conferences. You can get a good idea on where she stands on Israel from her sponsorship of a resolution claiming that Israeli attacks in Gaza were “focused on terrorist targets” and that Israel “goes to extraordinary lengths to target only terrorist actors.” Co-sponsors included other hard-core Zionists like Alan Grayson (FL), Elliot Engel (NY), and Debbie Wasserman-Schulz (FL). But none of this was reflected in Norton’s breathless paean to the wretched Islamophobe.

On May 4, 2016 Norton wrote an article titled “Doctors Without Borders condemns ‘epidemic’ of hospital attacks as ‘acts of terror’” in chilling U.N. address” that ostensibly departed from the Patrick L. Smith School of Newspeak Journalism. How could one possibly find a way to tarnish the Syrian rebels when it seemed like a different hospital was being bombed by Syrian or Russian jets on practically a daily basis? Like this apparently:

On Tuesday, rebels attacked another hospital  as part of shelling that killed at least 19 Syrians in government-controlled areas of the city, according to a pro-rebel group. The Syrian government accused al-Nusra and allied Islamist groups of being behind the attacks.

Once again Norton was trying to draw an equivalence between the Baathist dictatorship and those who oppose it. But also once again if you go to the article that is linked by Norton, it tells a somewhat different story:

Zouhir Al Shimale, a local journalist, cast doubt on the veracity of the Syrian government’s claims about the shelling of al-Dabbit Hospital.

“The hospital is 6km away from the rebel held area,” he told Al Jazeera via the messenger service Whatsapp. “Rebels’ guns or simple weapons couldn’t have shelled the facility.

“Syrian state media is trying to put the blame on the Free Syrian Army (FSA) to deflect attention from Assad’s campaign in Aleppo city.”

One might also question why Norton referred to “another hospital”, which gives the impression that there have been multiple attacks. It would have been more accurate to write “a hospital”. This kind of slipperiness is the sort of thing you’d expect from someone writing for the Murdoch press, not a “radical” who might have at one time in his life dreamed of being another John Reed. I guess Norton decided to settle for less—a lot less.

Five days later, Norton dipped into the Baathist amen corner’s bag of tricks and interviewed one Max Abrahms, a “terrorism expert” who shares Norton’s obsession with al-Nusra. The article paints the group as far more threatening than ISIS and—who knows?—one capable of another 9/11.

So who is this Max Abrahms exactly? You might want to look at Joel Beinin’s article “US: the pro-Sharon thinktank” from the July 2003 Le Monde diplomatique where he identifies Abrahms as a specialist in Israeli security affairs and a columnist for the National Review Online. Just the sort of authority someone like Norton would want to cozy up with after his earlier smooching with Tulsi Gabbard. I invite you to check out Abrahms’s articles at National Review. Maybe Norton could take a peek at them as well to get inspirations for future contributions to Salon. Like this one:

How does one explain this marked improvement in Israeli security? The “cycle of violence” theory would posit that such a reduction in terror derives from Israeli softness. Again, this logic was proven false. To staunch the bleeding from Israel’s July 2000 openhandedness, the Israel Defense Forces used an iron fist. Operation Defensive Shield, initiated in March 2002, brought the fight to the terrorists by deploying massive numbers of troops to the West Bank. This was language terrorists could understand. Evidently, it worked.

Finally, there’s the latest that appeared the day before yesterday and that prompted me to prepare this article. In an item on Jo Cox, the British MP who was assassinated by a neo-Nazi, there is not a single word about her support for the Syrian rebels. When asked by Oz Katerji why he covered this up, Norton responded that he did not want to mention her “infantile” right to protect liberal imperialism since he didn’t want to insult her on the day of her horrific death. So amusing to see Norton hurl the epithet “infantile” but let’s leave it at that.

What really stuck in my craw was Norton’s assertion that “Most refugees are fleeing Western-backed wars in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and more.” Was there a Western-backed war in Syria? Of course, Norton would say yes even though there have been reports on Obama’s indifference to the rebel cause on an almost daily basis for years now. Why let the truth get in the way of propaganda? But even if there was American backing for such a war, what exactly drove so many people to flee their homeland and risk death on the open seas in rickety boats? Was it al-Nusra or ISIS terrorism? You can actually check the results of a poll that appeared in the Independent last October.

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 6.01.23 PM

That is worth thinking about, if I were Ben Norton and tempted to write another piece of dodgy propaganda for Salon.com. One might expect a serious journalist to get the facts on what is driving Syrians from leaving their homeland even if it gets in the way of his political agenda based on calculations that it will serve his career path in a world where Islamophobia rules.


June 16, 2016

The conspiracy theory shared by Donald Trump and the Baathist left

Filed under: journalism,Syria — louisproyect @ 3:33 pm

Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 11.21.38 AM

In May 2015 a declassified Pentagon report appeared on rightwing website Judicial Watch that was cited widely by the pro-Assad left as proof that the USA supported the growth of al-Qaeda and ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

It has now gotten the exposure that the pinheaded comrades never could have hoped for. Donald Trump, the man of a thousand conspiracy theories, has now referred to it as proof that Obama supported jihadists, linking it to the mass murder of people in Orlando. Salon.com covered the story in their patented destroy Donald Trump fashion:

Even while a majority of Americans say they disapprove of Donald Trump‘s response to the mass shooting in Orlando over the weekend, the presumptive Republican presidential candidate is doubling down on some of his most ludicrous conspiracy theories — and ridiculously citing discredited right-wing websites as evidence.

In an attempt to defend his controversial suggestions that President Obama somehow allowed the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history to occur because he is secretly a “Radical Islam” terrorist sympathizer, Trump took to his favorite social media platform to share “proof” from the right-wing website Breitbart.com.

The Breitbart story (http://www.breitbart.com/2016-presidential-race/2016/06/14/hillary-clinton-received-secret-memo-stating-obama-admin-support-for-isis/) cites “a newly discovered SECRET classified memo” that purportedly proves Obama’s terrorist sympathies. The memo shows, Breitbart claimed, that the Obama administration, specifically Hillary Clinton’s State Department, backed ISIS in Syria when it equipped and trained Syrian rebels fighting against President Bashar Assad:

Hillary Clinton received a classified intelligence report stating that the Obama administration was actively supporting Al Qaeda in Iraq, the terrorist group that became the Islamic State.

The memo made clear that Al Qaeda in Iraq was speaking through Muhammad Al Adnani, who is now the senior spokesman for the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. Western and Gulf states were supporting the terrorist group to try to overthrow Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad, who was being propped up by the Russians, Iranians, and Chinese.

What the Salon.com article fails to point out is that they came to the same exact conclusions as the nasty, awful Breitbart.com report that Trump tweeted. On May 28, 2015 Marcy Wheeler wrote essentially the same kind of article that appeared on Breitbart:

What did the CIA know and when did they know it?

That’s the real question that ought to be raised by a recently declassified Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report, obtained by Judicial Watch in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The August 2012 document describes how the U.S. ended up on the same general side in the Syrian Civil War as Al Qaeda in Iraq, the predecessor to ISIS.

Somewhat to the left of Salon.com, Jacobin, which has been lionized in the NY Times as the Marxist voice of the millennial Brooklyn hipster, jumped on board the Judicial Watch “revelation” in two different articles—not content to spread bullshit only once.

In a June 1, 2015 article with a title redolent of Breitbart.com (“How the US helped ISIS”), David Mizner told the bright young things who read Jacobin:

While American politicians and pundits have blamed the ascendance of ISIS on former Iraqi president Nouri al-Maliki and Assad — or on the removal of American troops from Iraq — the DIA report reminds us that the key event in the rise of ISIS was the corresponding rise of the insurgency in Syria.

Mizner credits Brad Hoff of the Levant Report for alerting him about the Judicial Watch discovery. It should be mentioned that Hoff’s website is a cesspool of Baathist propaganda and hardly the sort of reading one would expect from champions of democratic socialism.

Greg Shupak followed up more recently in Jacobin with another nod to the declassified report:

A 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency report notes that “the West, Turkey and the Gulf” support the Syrian opposition, admits that the Syrian war could result in the creation of a “Salafist principality” in eastern Syria, and warns that “this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime.”

What Mizner, Shupak and just about everybody else who refers to this dubious report fail to mention is the conclusion that follows the reference to a “Salafist principality” immediately.

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Does that sound like the USA wanted to “help” ISIS? Grave danger? You’d think that people like Mizner would at least take the trouble to address the conclusion of the report that runs counter to their talking points. But when you are more interested in writing propaganda, the truth be damned.

Seumas Milne is the press adviser to Jeremy Corbyn—the British version of Jacobin darling Bernie Sanders supposedly—and has the reputation of being a fearless investigative reporter. Two days after Mizner’s report appeared in Jacobin, he wrote essentially the same article (the Baathist amen corner is not averse to plagiarism). Titled “Now the truth emerges: how the US fuelled the rise of Isis in Syria and Iraq”, it once again relied on the Pentagon report without bothering to include the conclusion:

A revealing light on how we got here has now been shone by a recently declassified secret US intelligence report, written in August 2012, which uncannily predicts – and effectively welcomes – the prospect of a “Salafist principality” in eastern Syria and an al-Qaida-controlled Islamic state in Syria and Iraq. In stark contrast to western claims at the time, the Defense Intelligence Agency document identifies al-Qaida in Iraq (which became Isis) and fellow Salafists as the “major forces driving the insurgency in Syria” – and states that “western countries, the Gulf states and Turkey” were supporting the opposition’s efforts to take control of eastern Syria.

Vijay Prashad, who would probably want to avoid appearing as pro-Assad as Milne or the two stooges writing for Jacobin, could not resist citing the Judicial Watch material in an article that appeared in The Hindu, just 5 days after Milne’s piece appeared:

A U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) intelligence report from August 2012 suggests, however, a much more cold and sober reality. The report came to light in mid-May because of a lawsuit brought by the conservative group, Judicial Watch, with regard to the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. A senior intelligence official, who cannot go on the record, said that the report is only one among many. Other reports would likely have contradicted its assessment — although it is one that is highly informed and was circulated across the intelligence community.

I see that comrade Prashad studied in the Seymour Hersh School of Investigative Journalism by referring to a “senior intelligence official, who cannot go on the record.” That report was only one among many? One can only wonder if they shared the report’s conclusion that the growth of ISIS would be a disaster.

Prashad’s opinions on White House policy would startle anybody familiar with the actual record of indifference mixed with outright hostility to Syrian rebels or, even better, who has read Jeffrey Goldberg’s account in the Atlantic Monthly that reveals a president with about as much interest in “regime change” as he had in changing the way Wall Street does business:

The callousness of U.S. policy is that despite such an assessment the U.S. government continued to support the “rebels,” who had now largely been recruited into extremist groups. U.S. President Barack Obama’s refrain — “Assad must go” — was not shared by these DoD analysts, who suggested that Assad’s “regime will survive and have control over Syrian territory”.

The only callousness an objective observer could see was a White House that saw the rebels (love Prashad’s scare quotes—not) as a greater evil than the Baathists. Obama was never interested in regime change, only Assadism without Assad, a variant on the Yemen solution that the ghoulish family dynast would never accept.

Next in line is Daniel Lazare, a man who has written many intelligent items on American political history but who turns into Mr. Hyde when the topic of Syria comes up. In an article for Robert Parry’s Consortium News (24/7 Baathism), Lazare takes up what he calls “A New Anti-Assad Propaganda Offensive”. It refers to a New Yorker Magazine article that deals with Assad’s war crimes. War crimes? Imagine that. What will they report on next? The earth revolving around the sun? How eating McDonald’s is bad for your health?

Although you wouldn’t know it from a travesty like “The Assad Files,” the facts about Syria have long been clear. In August 2012, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency issued a report stating that Al Qaeda, the Salafists, and the Muslim Brotherhood were “the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria,” that their goal was to establish a “Salafist principality” in eastern Syria, and that this is “exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition” – which is to say Turkey, the Arab Gulf states, and the Western powers – “want in order to isolate the Syrian regime.”

Lazare is totally obsessed with “exposing” people who have the audacity to charge Assad with war crimes. He showed up at a Columbia University meeting for Robin Yassin-Kassab and Leila Al Shami who were on a book tour for “Burning Country”. His hand shot up during the discussion period when he breathlessly poured out a litany of how the rebels were evil incarnate. He reminded me of the kind of people who used to show up at SWP forums in the 1960s accusing it of “betraying the working class”, the kind of people who look like Diane Arbus photographs and who went on to form WSWS.org. As it turns out, Lazare was one of those people and retains the bad habits of his youth.

So what unites Trump and all these high-minded leftists who can recite Karl Marx chapter and verse? It is a dirty little secret: Islamophobia. In Trump’s case, it is fairly obvious that he has the same attitude toward Muslims that George Wallace had to Black people. With Jacobin et al, it is something a bit different. For these leftists, the minute people rebelled against Assad, it became a Western conspiracy. Instead of paying close attention to what Syrians were saying or doing, they were more concerned with speeches by Samantha Power or op-ed pieces in the NY Times attacking Assad. Who could possibly identify with people whose cause they took up? It was far too easy to treat them as pawns on a chess game without faces, without ideals, without humanity. So in writing articles warning about a repeat of George W. Bush’s “regime change” intervention in Iraq 14 years ago, they have become latter-day Christopher Hitchens warning about how al-Qaeda was gonna get your mama.

June 15, 2016

Debates within ecosocialism: John Bellamy Foster, Jason Moore and CNS

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 5:52 pm

John Bellamy Foster

Jason E. Moore

It has been well over 15 years since I paid much attention to John Bellamy Foster’s writings on Marx and the metabolic rift or his 1999 quarrel with James O’Connor, the editor of the journal “Capitalism, Nature and Socialism” whose Frankfurt School leanings became a bone of contention between the two big-time academic Marxists. At the time I had much more interest in getting involved in these debates than I do now. When O’Connor invited me to write an attack on David Harvey for his journal, I relished the opportunity. After submitting it, however, O’Connor changed his mind since I erred too much in the direction of the kind of historical materialism that Foster promoted. Around the same time, I got the same invitation from Immanuel Wallerstein who had his own beef with Harvey. Once again, after submitting something to the ganzer macher of World Systems, I got a runaround with Wallerstein requesting changes that I had no patience to work on. After all, I wasn’t trying to get tenure somewhere.

Without much enthusiasm I return to controversies that will have very little impact outside of the world of journals and academic conferences. This time it is round two of Foster versus the Frankfurt School and a new dust up between him and Jason Moore, the author of the well-received “Capitalism in the Web of Life”. I was particularly interested to read the critique of Foster in Moore’s book that Foster responded to on Ian Angus’s blog. I consider myself to be strongly influenced by Foster’s ecosocialist theories even though I’d like to wring his neck for allowing MRZine to function as an extension of RT.com, PressTV and SANA—a toxic dump whose editor Yoshie Furuhashi once advised her readers: “Moreover, the president of Syria has a weapon in the obligatory media war accompanying any protest in a geopolitical hotspot these days, which neither any other Arab regime nor the Islamic Republic of Iran can claim: his undeniably charming wife Asma.” Disgusting.

In John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark’s 11,700-word article “Marx’s Ecology and the Left” that is accompanied by 121 footnotes, there is almost no possibility of the layperson understanding much of it unless you are familiar with Foster’s “metabolic rift” writings, the Frankfurt School and Neil Smith, who was influenced by the Frankfurt School. Although I am pretty familiar with Foster and the Frankfurt School, I found the discussion of Smith difficult to follow. For example, I have read this paragraph several times and still do not understand what Foster and Clark are driving at:

Hence, in Smith’s inverted Frankfurt School perspective on the domination of nature, nature as a whole was envisioned in almost Baconian terms as increasingly produced by human beings for their own ends. It was possible, he argued, to speak of “the real subsumption of nature” in its entirety within human production. The late twentieth century, he proclaimed, marked the infiltration of society into the last “remnant[s] of a recognizably external nature.” Indeed, there was no longer any meaningful nature anywhere apart from human beings: “Nature is nothing if it is not social.” “The production of nature,” in Smith’s words, was “capitalized ‘all the way down.’” From this perspective, the historical production of nature represented “the unity of nature toward which capitalism drives.”

I had some of the same difficulties with Moore’s critique of Foster that revolved around his supposed embrace of Cartesian dualism. By positing the “metabolic rift” as a result of the estrangement of society from nature (specifically through the growth of cities and the depletion of soil nutrients that attends capitalist farming), Foster is charged with failing to conceive of the dialectical unity of the social and the natural.

In Ian Angus’s interview with Foster, he defends himself from this charge:

The constant references to Cartesian dualism, or what Moore calls the Cartesian binary, are extremely misleading. In his seventeenth-century rationalist philosophy, Descartes distinguished between mind/spirit on one hand, and matter/mechanism on the other. Human beings were generally associated with mind, and animals with machines. This was quite different from the distinction between society and nature that Moore calls a “Cartesian binary.”

I have to agree with Foster. For Descartes, dualism was all about the mind-body dichotomy, having little to do with social relations. He was dealing with an epistemological quandary that had vexed philosophers going back to Plato. Ultimately, Descartes’s purpose, even if he didn’t fully grasp it, was to break the hold of organized religion on the Enlightenment that reflected the class interests of the emerging bourgeoisie.

In order to diminish the role of the Church and the feudal aristocracy, a totally new view of the universe had to be constructed. Instrumental to this was a new view of nature, which was seen as transcendent and outside of humanity, but not sacred. Scientists would replace priests in this new world-view, since they alone had the ability to explain the natural order. Newton becomes a key figure in the general assault on the old order.

If nature is conscripted on behalf of the rising bourgeoisie, the natural tendency is toward a kind of bourgeois materialism. Against this generally progressive philosophical current, he posits historical materialism. The difference between bourgeois and historical materialism is that the latter mode of thought does not see nature as transcendent but as something that society interacts with dialectically. Nature is always being transformed through labor. Furthermore, science in bourgeois society is always qualified by its social role, as Thomas Kuhn argues. The purpose of socialism is to liberate science from its class ties and make it available for the transformation of society.

In a very real sense, Descartes’s philosophy was the foundation stone of the French Revolution.

I will hold off saying anything more about Moore’s ideas until I get a chance to read his book from cover to cover but can say this much now. His main contribution to ecological thought has been his ability to weave together the origins of capitalism with Europe’s ability to displace its environmental contradictions through colonialism. In an article titled “The Capitalocene”, Moore presents an analysis that should serve as a lantern for young scholars hoping to integrate history, politics and environmental thought:

The rise of capitalism after 1450 was accompanied, and made possible, by an epochal shift in the scale, speed, and scope of landscape transformation across the geographical expanse of early capitalism. The long 17th century forest clearances of the Vistula Basin and Brazil’s Atlantic Rainforest occurred on a scale, and at a speed, between five and ten times greater than anything seen in medieval Europe. Feudal Europe had taken centuries to deforest large expanses of western and central Europe; after 1450, comparable deforestation occurred in decades, not centuries. To take but one example, in medieval Picardy (northeastern France), it took 200 years to clear 12,000 hectares of forest, beginning in the 12th century. Four centuries later, in northeastern Brazil at the height of the sugar boom in the 1650s, 12,000 hectares of forest would be cleared in a single year. These are precious clues to an epochal transition in the relations of power, wealth, and nature that occurred over the course of the long medieval crisis and the expansion that commenced after 1450.

It is the same kind of rigor displayed in Anievas and Nisancioglu’s “How the West Came to Rule” and just one more indication that Marxist scholarship is finally returning to the principles enunciated in Chapter 27 of V. 1 of “Capital”–“The Genesis of the Industrial Capitalist”. While Marx identified slavery and colonialism as key, he did not (and probably could not) document the  the devastating impact of colonialism on the natural world (does that sound like I am lapsing into Cartesianism?)

Turning to Foster and Clark’s very long article criticizing a wide range of thinkers mostly associated with James O’Connor’s journal, it would probably be useful to provide some background.

In February 1999 Monthly Review published an attack on James O’Connor by Foster’s close associate Paul Burkett. Titled “Fusing Red and Green”, it was a pretty sharp take-down of O’Connor’s new book “Natural Causes: Essays in Ecological Marxism”.  In keeping with Foster and Clark’s article, it defended Marx against charges that he was indifferent to capitalism’s assault on nature as described in Moore’s citation above:

Surprisingly, O’Connor does not systematically address the extent to which Marxism’s historical neglect of the conditions of production is rooted in partial and/or distorted interpretations of the work of Marx and Engels. Instead, Natural Causes merely recites the standard accusations of ecologically incorrect thinking against the founders of Marxism, with no real consideration of the evidence for and against these charges or of alternative interpretations, in which Marx and Engels assign a central role to natural conditions and ecological themes.

As is the case in all of these debates in the academy over theoretical questions (Kliman versus the URPE editorial board, etc.), it can get pretty nasty. Two years after Burkett’s article appeared, O’Connor organized a symposium on Foster’s “Marx’s Ecology” that amounted to revenge—a dish served cold in this instance. All the contributors dumped on him in the same fashion that Burkett dumped on O’Connor. When Foster requested space in CNS for a 3000 word rebuttal, O’Connor turned him down. Paul Burkett did reply, however.

As you can probably gather, the CNS issue is behind a paywall. When I read it fifteen years ago, I was a lot closer to Foster and even considered him a friend. So when I wrote about it (this was long before I began blogging—actually there was no such thing as a blog back then), I held the Foster banner aloft. Ironically the first article I trash was co-authored by Salvatore Engel-DiMauro who somehow got me to write for CNS two years ago after convincing me that the bad old days of O’Connor runarounds were over.)

The first article in the June symposium is so banal that one wonders why O’Connor bothered to include it. Titled “Failed Promise” and co-authored by Maarten de Kadt and Salvatore Engel-Di Mauro, it makes the startling revelation that Marx’s ecological analysis revolved around the problem of soil fertility and failed to address such problems as nuclear weapons or PCB’s. One wonders why de Kadt and Engel_Di Mauro did not fault Marx for not living into the 1980s. Too much red meat, cheap wine and cigars, one supposes.

Alan Rudy’s “Marx’s Ecology and Rift Analysis” gets to the heart of Foster’s study. For Foster, the question of a “metabolic rift” is key not only to understanding Marx, but in developing ecosocialist solutions for today’s world. Basically, the metabolic rift was created as a result of the development of cities under capitalism, when the source of organic nutrients in the form of animal or human waste was separated from the soil. It led to “guano wars” in the 19th century, open sewers in the streets of London and a host of other social problems. In the Communist Manifesto, Marx proposed the abolition of the distinction between town and country as a first step toward mending the metabolic rift. Moreover, in the absence of a socialist transformation of the world, every chemical advance to compensate for the loss of soil fertility has led to further contradictions, including the seepage of fertilizers into bodies of water like the Gulf of Mexico, cancer epidemics due to pesticides, etc.

For Rudy, “[T]he concept of metabolic rift…has a far greater affinity for natural resource economics than the dialectics of ecological Marxism.” In contrast, Rudy would shift the discussion away from scientific considerations of natural resource usage altogether–either Marxist or bourgeois. Why? Because, to put it bluntly, he is committed to the kind of anti-scientific prejudices that characterized the Frankfurt School. Foster supposedly subscribes to the “the Baconian conception of an atomized nature.” Such a conception “undergirds the assumption that there is one scientific method because, at root, all of nature is comprised of discrete piles of differently arranged, hierarchically organized, though fundamentally similar things.” That’s odd. In my reading of “Marx’s Ecology,” I found a steadfast defense of the kind of dialectical understanding of science that you find in Lewontin and Levins.

After having declared his affinity for the kind of science spoofed by Alan Sokal in “Social Text,” Rudy attempts to refute the concept of metabolic rift by referring to England at the time of the Enclosure Acts. He writes, “The metabolic rift argument suggests that the movement of human and animal waste from the country to the city leads to the accelerated depletion of agricultural soils. However, the increase in rural livestock suggests that the problem may have been as much related to the maldistribution of rural wastes as the separation of rural from urban wastes. The scientific or cultural or infrastructural incapacity to engage in this redistribution of animal waste then would need to be explained.”

This distinction is next to useless. Marx’s concern was not just with the separation of town and city, but the failure of capitalist farming in general, which tended to put short-term profits over long-term social considerations. Maldistribution of rural wastes simply suggests that the English gentry’s verbal commitment to “improvement” was at odds with the mode of production. What else is new?

Perhaps Rudy’s biggest problem is his tendency to assume that the concept of metabolic rift rests upon some kind of binary opposition that was not present in 19th century Europe at all. He writes:

“The imagery of rift suggests a chasm between country and city, nature and society, and agriculture and industry. Yet the 19th century is the era of massive road, canal and railroad construction; of extraordinary scientific and technological innovation (only exceeded by the following century); and of phenomenal introductions and migrations of non-native crops, peoples, diseases, and invasive species all multi-directionally across the increasingly accessible globe.”

What can one say? Rudy simply doesn’t get Marx’s argument, nor Foster’s very effective presentation of that argument. All of the sweeping changes described by Rudy, and which constitute the first part of the Communist Manifesto as well, are simply mechanisms to facilitate the development of the modern urban-based capitalist economy that is the root of our problem. Railroad construction made and makes it possible to separate livestock from their feed sources. The consequences are pig feces filling the rivers and lakes of North Carolina and monoculture production of corn in the Midwest with all the attendant problems. The idea is to reorganize society, not stand breathless in the face of capitalist transportation “miracles.” (Unfortunately, Foster has not explored the connections between metabolic rift and the consequences of farming based on nonrenewable energy. More about that anon.)

Nothing has occurred in the past fifteen years to make me want to take back a single word. In the ideological battle between Foster/Clark and a variety of Frankfurt-inspired thinkers, I continue to identify with the Monthly Review authors even though I find the magazine’s failure to understand the nature of the conflict in Syria a tragic mistake.

June 13, 2016

On the marbling of al-Nusra and “moderate” Syrian rebels

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 7:20 pm

One of the things I’ve noticed over the past five years of genocidal war against the Syrian people is the apparently well-orchestrated defense of the regime by elements of the “left” who are as disciplined in their way as members of the Communist Party when Stalin was running the show. Using websites such as Salon.com, Jacobin, CounterPunch, the London Review of Books and Consortium News, they can be relied upon to crank out basically the same article with the same embedded links reading in some ways like plagiarized versions of Syrian state media. It was most prominently displayed in September 2013 when it seemed like a chorus of a thousand voices spoke as one in defense of the idea that the Sarin gas attack was a “false flag” operation mounted by the rebels to give the USA the excuse it needed for “regime change”. To give you an idea of the massiveness of the propaganda campaign, Googling “Sarin gas” and “false flag” returns 58,800 results with CounterPunch, Iran’s PressTV and the LRB included in the first six.

Right now the main talking point of the Baathist amen corner seems to be the question of American support for Al Qaeda in Syria aka al-Nusra front, which is usually formulated as support not exactly for al-Nusra but those rebel groups that engage in joint military actions with it. It is like saying that Winston Churchill, one of the 20th century’s most vicious anti-Communists, was pro-Stalin because English and Soviet soldiers both targeted Hitler.

While I have grown inured to these articles, they seem to be gathering momentum as the “peace” talks broke down and allowed Russian and Syrian jets to bomb hospitals and other civilian targets. What better way to make such barbarism tolerable than to smear the rebels as those who would launch attacks on the American homeland if given half a chance. In an odd way, it reminds me of how LBJ used to defend the invasion of Vietnam except in this case it is jihadism rather than Communism that has to be stopped in its tracks.

Weighing in on Truthout.org, long time Iranian theocracy defender Gareth Porter speaks about how “Obama Broke Pledge to Demand Syrian Opposition’s Separation From Nusra Front”. It starts off:

The gradual erosion of the cease-fire in Syria over the past month is the result of multiple factors shaping the conflict, but one of the underlying reasons is the Obama administration’s failure to carry out its commitment to Russia to get US-supported opposition groups to separate themselves physically from the Nusra Front — the al-Qaeda organization in Syria.

The rest of the article contains exactly the same observation repeated continuously to the conclusion. Of course, repetition is a key device in propaganda just as it is in Trivago commercials. The Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov refers to the intermingling of al-Nusra and USA supported (verbally) rebels as “marbling”, a term that ironically evokes the way that fat is found in cuts of beef. Given the slaughterhouse that Syria has become, this must have reflected Russian subliminal thought.

As bad as Porter is, he does not come close to the sheer mendacity of Patrick L. Smith, Salon.com’s resident expert on all things Syrian. His article is titled “Our Syria policy is still a mess: These are the dots the media refuses to connect”  and covers the same bases as Porter’s, especially the refusal of Syrian rebels to separate themselves physically from al-Nusra as if it was as simple as obeying a parent to stop hanging around some trouble-makers in high school. The article begins:

Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s widely respected foreign minister, dropped a big one here last weekend. After an hour-long conversation with John Kerry, Lavrov asserted in nationally televised remarks that the American secretary of state told him he wanted Russian planes to stop bombing al-Nusra, the Syrian affiliate of al-Qaeda, in their air campaign against the Islamic State and other terrorist groups. GlobalSecurity.org carried the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty account of the exchange; it is here and worth a read.

“They are telling us not to hit it [al–Nusra] because there is ‘normal’ opposition next…to it,” Lavrov explained very soon after the two put their telephones down.

For Smith, the real explanation for physical proximity between “moderate” (an idiotic term) rebels and al-Nusra is their ideological proximity:

For the record, it has long been understood and occasionally acknowledged by those on the ground in Syria that many of the militias the U.S. has armed and trained are hopelessly tangled up with al–Nusra rebels. If you listen closely, this is not a matter of logistics or military strategy, and still less of happenstance. It is primarily a reflection of ideological affinity, given how regularly these groups are in and out of alliances with one another. Washington’s moderates, in other words, do not give much evidence of moderation. There is little ground left to qualify this even as a topic worth debate.

Once he has established that it is nothing but jihadists that are fighting in Syria, the next step for a propagandist like Smith is to serve as an attorney for Baathist extremism (or exterminism, more accurately) as he plunges the butcher knife in ever more deeply:

One concerns the propaganda that crawls like kuzdu all over official statements and press reporting on the Syria conflict. The two usually coincide, we need to note, though this is not always so.

Barrel bombs (of the kind American deployed against the Vietnamese), targeted hospitals, civilian casualties, blockaded populations pushed to starvation: If you have not read of all this and more you have not been reading the newspapers. Here is our question: How much of this do we know to be so and how much as to the culpable parties?

Oh sure, everybody knows that this is just like the reports of the Huns impaling Belgian babies on their bayonets in 1914:

And you get how Smith throws in the reference to Vietnam? What is the point? That it is hypocritical for us to condemn their use there because “our country” used them against the Vietnamese? Not for me, at least. I opposed them in both Vietnam and Syria. What a hack like Patrick L. Smith was doing to oppose the war in Vietnam back then is anybody’s guess.

Maybe the best tactic the Russians can use against marbling in Syria would be the one they used in Chechnya:

Russian warplanes dropped leaflets Monday on the capital of separatist Chechnya, declaring that the war-torn city is surrounded by troops and warning residents that they must flee by Saturday or die.

The bluntly worded statement threatened that anyone who does not leave the city of Grozny will be deemed a terrorist and will be destroyed in a massive campaign of shelling and bombing.

“You are surrounded,” the leaflet said. “All roads to Grozny are blocked. You have lost. You have no chance of victory. Your commanders do not know what to do next. Further resistance is senseless.”

–LA Times, December 7, 1999 (http://articles.latimes.com/1999/dec/07/news/mn-41422)

As was the case in 1999, the American president spoke sternly to Russia about such a threat. With a scowl on his face, Clinton said, “Russia will pay a heavy price for those actions with each passing day, sinking more deeply into a morass that will intensify extremism and diminish its own standing in the world.” Those words had some impact, didn’t they?

The only question is where Russia learned such a tactic. If you want to separate “terrorists” like the Chechen rebels and al-Nusra front from those irresponsible enough to be in close proximity to them, there’s no better solution than to drop leaflets telling them to get out of Dodge or be blown to kingdom come.

Is it possible that they learned it from the most vigilant opponents of Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East?

The air-dropped leaflets warned Gaza residents that failure to comply with instructions to evacuate “will endanger their lives and the loves of their families,” according to Reuters. The area is home to at least 100,000 people.

The BBC quotes the Israel’s military as confirming that it dropped leaflets in the area this morning.

“We do not wish to harm civilians in Gaza, but these civilians must know that remaining in close proximity to Hamas terrorists and infrastructures is extremely unsafe,” the IDF said.

–NPR, July 13, 2014 (http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2014/07/13/331122214/palestinians-flee-gaza-after-israel-drops-warning-leaflets)

Clearly two countries having so much in common in dealing with an existential challenge to civilization and cultural diversity such as Russia and Israel would naturally begin to not only cross-fertilize each other in terms of military tactics; they would inevitably draw closer together so that cheek-by-jowl they could form a united front against the dreaded jihadists who are threatening not only Moscow, Damascus and Tel Aviv but New York as well. What the world needs now more than ever is a war on terrorism with Christians, Jews, atheists and forward-thinking Muslims against the threat to our most deeply held values.

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