Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

December 12, 2017

A look at recent Assadist propaganda

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 8:07 pm

Patrick Lawrence

Two articles have surfaced recently that deserve commentary from those plucky few of us who have not joined Robert Fisk, Stephen Kinzer, David Bromwich, David Duke and millions of other intellectuals, journalists, politicians and self-described anti-imperialists in rallying around Bashar al-Assad. Years ago, when I first joined the Trotskyist movement, old friends from my bohemian days used to tell me that my new-found radicalism was some sort of psychological overcompensation related to unresolved issues with my mother that a therapist could help me overcome. Do I have the same problem today? Is my objection to MIG’s bombing hospitals a neurotic symptom? If so, I prefer to live with it.

On November 26th, Salon published an article by Patrick Lawrence titled “The war is over in Syria, and America lost” that as the title indicates sums up the sentiments of the aforementioned Assadist camp. Apparently, there must have been some complaints to editor Andrew O’Hehir over the far too candid wording and was recaptioned in a day or two as “American policy totally failed in Syria — let’s be thankful”. Nothing changed besides this. Even the ghoulish photo of Assad and Putin remained.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving Day, just 3 days before his article appeared, Lawrence was thankful that Donald Trump joined him, Fisk, Kinzer, Bromwich, Duke et al in dumping Obama’s “regime change” policies and seeing eye to eye with an ultraright racist who keeps people up at night worrying about nuclear war with North Korea. Good old Donald Trump has seen the light. Yes, he has screwed poor people, backed Roy Moore to the hilt, opened up national parks to drilling, retweeted Britain First’s Islamophobic videos and generally been Salon magazine’s worst nightmare. But on Syria, he warms the cockles of Lawrence’s heart.

Showing an utter incomprehension about the reactionary character of the Assad-Putin axis, Lawrence also cheers on the reorientation of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and even Israel to the Putin-Assad axis. “For what it is worth — and I cannot evaluate this — even Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, includes Putin in his loop since the outcome in Syria became evident some months ago.” He cannot evaluate this? Okay, let’s do it for him. Israel is also drawing closer to Saudi Arabia as this Jerusalem Post article points out. Both powers might still be hostile to Iran but nonetheless agree that the Arab Spring was “destabilizing and unleashed dangerous forces”.

So, we have a commonality of interests between Trump, Putin, Assad, Turkey, Iran, Israel and Saudi Arabia about the need to keep Assad in power. If Lawrence weren’t a half-assed, has-been “investigative journalist” resting on his laurels like Fisk, Cockburn and Hersh, he’d understand that there is a class explanation for this. These powers seek stability in the Middle East in order to create fertile ground for capitalist investment. The poor, rural, and often religious rebels who took up arms against Assad 6 years ago were an inconvenience to powers that were in fact happy to be seen shaking hands with Assad over one deal or another in 2010 before the uppity rebels spoiled everything. Here’s just one example from dozens of photo ops:

Writing for the Nation last January, Lawrence was giddy with excitement over signs that Trump had dispensed with the “liberal, postwar order” that had produced “regime change” operations repeatedly. He was confident that a new détente with Putin could usher in a new world of peace and harmony between nations. His analysis was closely linked to that of the degraded Stephen F. Cohen whose wife Katrina vanden Heuvel was chief editor at the liberal magazine.

One supposes that the Nation and Salon got what they bargained for when they signed Lawrence up. On August 9th, a Lawrence article about Russiagate relied on the word of VIPS, a group of ex-spooks led by Ray McGovern that has defended every murderous step taken by Assad, including the sarin gas attacks. Not long after the article appeared, vanden Heuvel wrote an editor’s note that appeared above the article stating, “As part of the editing process, however, we should have made certain that several of the article’s conclusions were presented as possibilities, not as certainties.” In other words, the editors failed to do their due diligence when Lawrence’s bullshit crossed their desk. Even some of the spooks differed sharply from the report issued in their name. “This VIPS memo was hastily written based on a flawed analysis of third-party analyses and then thrown against the wall, waiting to see if it would stick.”

Hastily written and based on a flawed analysis? That sounds like 99 percent of the crap that is written on Putin and Assad’s behalf.

In trying to absolve Russia of hacking Clinton’s email (and who cares if they did) by establishing it as an inside job, Lawrence resorted to a technology-steeped analysis that showed him to be as inept as Theodore Postol or Seymour Hersh are on the chemistry of sarin gas. Relying on an “expert” only known as Forensicator, Lawrence wrote, “1,976 megabytes of data were downloaded from the DNC’s server. The operation took 87 seconds. This yields a transfer rate of 22.7 megabytes per second.” This was supposedly much too fast for any Russian hacker sneaking into Clinton’s email server. The VIPS dissidents pointed out that data transfer rates across the Internet from far-off locales can reach that speed and even exceed it while a server sitting in the same room as a client computer can be slower. Even the Forensicator was forced to issue a correction.

Finally, Ray McGovern, who Lawrence relied upon for his shoddy article, is not too particular about who he schmoozes with. In fact, before the article appeared in the Nation, McGovern gave an interview to the crypto-fascist and terminally obscurantist LarouchePAC making the same arguments.

Max Abrahms

John Glaser

Next we turn to Max Abrahms who co-authored LA Times op-ed with John Glaser titled “The pundits were wrong about Assad and the Islamic State”. I am familiar with Abrahms’s Assadist propaganda but had not stumbled across Glaser before. It turns out he is a staff member of the Cato Institute who has an M.A. in International Security from George Mason University. Did you know that Koch Industries’ executive vice president for public policy, Rich Fink, heads two Koch-funded programs at the school? Nice.

Like Patrick Lawrence and David Duke, Glaser is dead-set against “interventionism”, even going so far as to bad-mouth Trump for not breaking with the “liberal, postwar order” that Lawrence predicted he would. While being opposed to America’s wars overseas, Glaser has no problem with the war on the poor inside its borders (and Chile, I guess) as his valentine to Milton Friedman would indicate.

The gist of the article is to point out the error of neoconservatives like Max Boot who argued that ISIS could not be defeated as long as Assad was in power. While I have nothing in common with Max Boot, did he really argue that vanquishing the Islamic State was futile unless the U.S. also moved to depose the “Alawite regime in Damascus” as the article alleges? If you take the trouble to track down Boot’s article, which is unlinked in the article, you’ll see a somewhat different formulation: “The president also needs to do a better job of mobilizing support from Sunnis in Iraq and Syria, as well as from Turkey, by showing that he is intent on deposing not only ISIS but also the equally murderous Alawite regime in Damascus.” In other words, defeating Assad was not a precondition for defeating ISIS. Did Abrahms and Glaser think that LA Times readers would not fact-check them? What arrogant pricks.

They also claim that reports of Assad avoiding military confrontations with ISIS were false. They refer to numerous engagements that clearly did take place but only within the context of an all-out war on ISIS jointly coordinated by the USA and Russia. Before Obama made fighting against ISIS his sole interest in Syria, there were clear indications of a united front between Assad and ISIS against the Syrian rebels.

Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Center’s (JTIC), hardly a citadel of pro-rebel sentiment, took note of the non-aggression pact that was obvious to everybody outside of the Assadist old boys network:

Forces loyal to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and Islamic State fighters (IS) in Syria appear to be avoiding each other on battlefield, as they focus their efforts fighting other groups in the war-torn country, data published by NBC news suggests.

Two out of three attacks carried out by IS militants in Syria this year targeted other non-state groups, according to data by Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Center’s (JTIC).

The figures suggest that IS and Assad’s forces are mostly “ignoring each other,” said Matthew Henman, head of JTIC.

“They both recognize there’s a mutual benefit in crushing other groups,” Henman said.

Only 13 percent of the militants’ attacks during the same period — this year through Nov. 21 — targeted Syrian security forces.

Most of the article consists of academic political science blather but this particular sentence is worth noting: “The Realist paradigm reminds us that the U.S. need not share the same ideology of a nasty international actor to countenance working with him against a mutual foe.” This obviously is another way of saying that Assad was a lesser evil to ISIS even though you have to wonder what criterion the authors are using. This table dated January 7, 2015 will give you a good idea who is producing mass murder on an industrial scale:

Finally, it must be noted that Ben Norton, Max Blumenthal and Rania Khalek have cited Max Abrahms in their Assadist propaganda since he shares their obsession with the jihadist threat. This is the same Max Abrahms who is on record as saying things like “Clearly, Palestinian society still places greater value on maintaining peace with the terrorists than with Israel” and “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.”

And these three are supposedly pro-Palestinian? God help us.


December 2, 2017

Young Assadist academics nursing their wounds

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 8:53 pm

Justin Podur

Max Ajl

One of the most depressing things about the six years of war in Syria, besides the obvious destruction of life and property, is the trail of intellectual damage left behind by investigative journalists, leftist leaders, and academics who bend the truth or outright lie in order to defend the mafia state. History will certainly remember people such as Seymour Hersh, Theodore Postol, and Tariq Ali as being ethically and intellectually challenged no matter how virtuous they were in the past.

While by no means as well-known as such figures, there are two young scholars who have been carrying Assad’s water since the war began. Justin Podur is an associate professor at York University, where he likely developed ties to Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin of Socialist Register. He has been an outspoken defender of the dictatorship and perhaps the person responsible for posting tweets in the name of Panitch and Gindin’s Socialist Project gloating over Assad’s recent military victories—or the victories of the Russian air force on his behalf. When I complained publicly about such vile material bearing the imprimatur of people like Panitch and Gindin, I was told by Gindin that I should have taken it up with him privately. Perhaps so, but I was deeply troubled by the failure of Socialist Project leaders to monitor a Twitter account in their name and implicitly their failure to stay on top of what was happening in Syria. It is regrettable that in six years of war, not a single article about Syria has appeared in Socialist Register, New Left Review or Monthly Review. Perhaps that is a blessing in disguise since if trouble had been taken to publish one, chances are that the analysis would have been amiss.

The other young scholar is Max Ajl, who is a Ph.D. student at Cornell and whose views on Syria are identical to Podur’s. The two are part of a loose network of Assadists made up of bright young things including Rania Khalek, Ben Norton, and Max Blumenthal. Unlike the latter two just named, Podur and Ajl never needed to cover their tracks. They have been ardent defenders of the war criminal and oligarch from day one.

Yesterday, in doing some research totally unrelated to Syria, I stumbled across Ajl’s name. Out of curiosity, I googled it to see what he was up to and discovered a truly eye-opening conversation that Podur conducted with him on April 29, 2017, as part of something called the Ossington Circle podcast series. It likely gets its name from an avenue in Toronto near York University.

As is the case with Khalek and Norton who have issued similar complaints, Ajl feels wounded by people like me calling him an Assadist. (Blumenthal could care less, probably because he is mostly into the Assadist thing for the money as the trip to Russia on RT’s dime might have indicated.) Podur has a caption at the beginning of the interview: “In this episode of The Ossington Circle, academic, activist, and editor at Jadaliyya Max Ajl discusses the destruction of Syria and the vitriol directed at leftists and Palestine activists who have opposed intervention in Syria.”

Opposed intervention? As I told a long-time Marxmail subscriber and member of the Israeli CP this morning who has the same Assadist POV as the two, “All of us oppose foreign intervention in Syria–starting with me. The USA has to stop bombing Iraq and Syria, as does Russia. Same applies to Israel. The Syrians have to determine their own destiny, not combatants from Lebanon, Iran, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Or from ISIS’s foreign fighters. In fact, if Assad had to rely exclusively on Syrians to do his fighting–including jet pilots, he would have been toppled in 2012.”

It seems that Podur feels “guilty, muted, fumbling, silenced – about opposing imperialism, especially in Syria” and that it’s been “really confusing” for him. And who is responsible for him being hounded into oblivion like Leon Trotsky in the 1930s? It turns out to be Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

When Qatar launched Al Jazeera, who could have predicted that it would end up making life unbearable for the young associate professor and his dissertation student pal. You, see, there was a devious trick behind Al Jazeera. It gained admiration for its stance on Palestine but its real agenda was to advance the foreign policy goals of the reactionary oil sheiks against Syria, Libya, Iran and any other state in the region that dared to stand up to imperialism. Agreeing with Podur, Ajl offers this summary of what has happened:

And so, what we can see since 2011, are a variety of almost formulaic attacks on the left in Syria: “the left isn’t doing this on Syria”; “the left is all Putinites”; “the left is supporting genocide”; “the left has a double standard”; “the left should supply the same standard of Palestine to the Syrian conflict”; “the left is inadequately supporting the revolution”. And at the same time, we have so-called news coverage saying that whatever is occurring in Syria has no foreign help, is not getting support from the US government, there are no sectarian elements, and so forth.

When Ajl refers to news coverage not referring to foreign fighters in Syria, I wonder what newspaper he has been reading. Assuming that Cornell has Lexis-Nexis, he could have made a search on Syria and “foreign fighter” and discovered 990 articles. Here are 10 right off the top:

Assuming that Ajl is smart enough to have become accepted into a school as prestigious as Cornell, how could he come up with something so inarticulate as “the left isn’t doing this on Syria”? What is this supposed to mean? Doing this? Doing what? If he wanted to accurately describe what people like me have been writing, the words would have been: “The majority of the left has been writing propaganda for Assad”. For example, in a Telesur article Ajl wrote in 2015, he claims that “it is Europe which freely exports reactionaries to Syria.” At the time I responded:

I paused over this passage and wondered what Ajl had in mind. Was he saying that the European security forces were lining up fanatics to go build the caliphate that is beheading Christians? I tried to imagine a cop at the airport security gate in Orly spotting a guy in black fatigues with a turban on his head and a beard down to his belly-button. After he pulls him aside for interrogation, the guy shows him an official letter from the Direction générale de la sécurité intérieure stating that he had been cleared to wreak havoc in Syria. After seeing this, the cop pats him on the back and sends him on his way.

Ajl complains about Al Jazeera’s bias. It opposed Assad but was “basically silent” about Bahrain during the Arab Spring. Just as you can check Lexis-Nexis on Syria and foreign fighters, you can go to Al Jazeera’s website and do a search on Bahrain and 2011. These are just some of the articles that show up:

I only hope he has more rigorous standards when it comes to his dissertation.

Ajl also resents how people like me (or perhaps me specifically) refer to Assadists like him viewing Syria within the context of a geopolitical chess game. Yes, it is true that this is exactly how most of the left approaches the dictatorship in Damascus. To paraphrase FDR, Assad might be a son of a bitch, but he is our son of a bitch if our means the BRICS, the good guys in the cold war, and the Manichean anti-imperialism of sects like the Party for Socialism and Liberation or the Socialist Equality Party.

That’s not the way Ajl sees things. Instead, “it’s about things like state sovereignty – that’s the entire framework of the post-Nazi international juridical order and it’s meant to actually prevent wars of aggression and to allow states to be sovereign, and for political movements to feel that that state sovereignty has social and political meaning.”

Sovereignty? Who the fuck is he kidding? Hafez al-Assad came to power through a military coup and a family dynasty has been ruling Syria since 1970. Yes, we oppose imperialism invading a country to topple a dictator like Manuel Noriega or Saddam Hussein but when an outside power like Russia shores up the Baathist family dynasty, how does that serve Syria’s sovereignty? For true sovereignty to have been respected, there should have never been outside powers meddling in Syria even if they were “invited in” by the dictatorship. That, of course, applied to South Vietnam in the early 60s just as much as it applied to Syria.

For Ajl, any talk about Russian or Iranian intervention in Syria being on the same plane as what the USA did in Indochina is to be rejected. Showing his deep grasp (at least in his mind) of Leninist theory, he writes:

To talk about who is or isn’t imperialist isn’t a question of describing who is or isn’t intervening in Syria, or if you don’t like them or don’t like the side they’re supporting. It should be a theoretical category. It should be a theoretical category that derives from what was going on before, and be used to interpret it and make sense of it, not just opportunistically deployed in order to justify whatever side one’s on.

 So one can go back to 1917 – or earlier – and talk about Lenin’s theory of imperialism or export of capital, and in that case, Russia is not exporting capital to Syria – at the current moment, Iran is expending capital in order to support the Syrian government: there’s loans, I think there are oil shipments that are ongoing. Both countries are supporting the Syrian treasury, extending large credit lines. Calling a post-colonial state – no matter what one wants to say about its political and social track record post-1970 – that called on allied forces to support the state institutions doesn’t strike me as imperialism by any understanding of the word, especially if one actually looks and tries to understand why both Russia and Iran have actually supported it.

The truth is that even if you accept Ajl’s rather superficial understanding of imperialism, this has little bearing on how to judge what Iran and Russia have been up to. For all of the talk about Syria’s sovereignty, there is zero engagement with the country’s class divisions. You really have to scratch your head when it comes to Podur and Ajl’s utter indifference to the economic structures in Syria that have fueled the rebellion. Since Ajl serves an editor at Bassam Haddad’s Jadaliyya, you’d think he might have taken the trouble to read what its founder once wrote about the material conditions that led to the revolt in a MERIP article:

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

Maybe people like Podur and Ajl should reintroduce the term capitalism into their political vocabulary. After all, Lenin did not consider it as a system different from capitalism but only its highest stage.

I learned from the podcast how Max Ajl got the boot from Jacobin, another oozing psychic sore for the young scholar. It seems that when Ajl was the Mideast editor at Jacobin and responsible for the dreck that appeared there from people like Patrick Higgins and Asa Winstanley, he was being “pestered” by a Palestinian professor named Bashir Abu-Manneh to publish Gilbert Achcar. If I had known about this, I would have advised Bashir not to waste his time since this was equivalent to asking Rupert Murdoch to hire Robert Reich to write op-ed columns for the NY Post.

Supposedly this must have gotten Bashir so worked up that “he helped orchestrate a kind of soft coup d’etat” against him at Jacobin. Hmm. Interesting. I never knew the particulars on how Ajl got axed but I was glad to see him go. I obviously don’t have any inside knowledge about what happened there but I suspect that it was more likely that the ISO had influenced Bhaskar Sunkara to reverse the magazine’s rancid position on Syria. As you probably know, the ISO has had a significant presence on the magazine—and thank god for that.

Perhaps Ajl’s grudge got the better of him since he accused Bashir of ending his book on “The Palestinian Novel” with a call for rousing up “support for the US destruction of Syria.” That’s quite a charge but a false one as I found out from Bashir this morning after alerting him to this slander. He sent me a copy of the only reference to Syria in that chapter. You judge for yourself whether Ajl was correct or lying like a rug.

Ajl sees himself as a member of a bloodied but unbowed anti-imperialist minority that has been silenced by the pro-revolution left. As he saw it, his role was to identify what the American government was doing and come out against it. In doing so, he was accused of “denying Arab agency”.

Podur asked how it felt to be told to “shut up” by the likes of me. Ajl replied:

“Yeah, it means “Shut up”, and the people saying “shut up” have been emerging from the woodwork since 2011. They want people to shut up, and that’s the basic agenda.

You can only be left in utter astonishment by people like him and others (Rania Khalek in particular) sounding like they were Leon Trotsky trying to tell the truth about the USSR in 1939 against a sea of Stalinist lies. The truth is just the opposite. Except for Jacobin (which has pretty much dropped the ball on Syria), the ISO, New Politics, and my blog or Clay Claiborne’s, nobody on the left has supported the struggle against Assad.

Let me conclude with a list off the top of my head of magazines and individuals that agree with the two young and wounded academics. (I hope it isn’t fatal.)

  • The Nation
  • Consortium News
  • Alternet
  • Salon
  • Monthly Review
  • London Review of Books
  • New York Review of Books
  • Patrick Cockburn
  • Seymour Hersh
  • Theodore Postol
  • Robert Fisk
  • David Bromwich
  • Tariq Ali
  • Charles Glass
  • Jeffrey Sachs
  • Stephen Kinzer
  • Gareth Porter

I am reminded of the Hans Christian Andersen story “The Princess and the Pea”. A prince was looking for a bride but only a true princess would do. So he had a test. He piled 20 mattresses on a bed and a pea underneath the one on the bottom. Princesses tried out the bed and those who slept soundly were cast aside. It was only the last one who complained about the pea making her so uncomfortable that she could not sleep that became his bride. He concluded that any woman with such a low tolerance for annoyance would be a genuine princess.

We are the peas and Max Ajl is the princess.

November 24, 2017

The Witchfinders

Filed under: Counterpunch,Syria — louisproyect @ 5:38 pm

Jonathan Cook: tireless propagandist for Assad

 Jonathan Cook wrote an article for CounterPunch on Wednesday that connected Israel’s bombing of a non-existent nuclear plant in Syria 10 years ago to the sarin gas incident in Khan Sheikhoun this year. By casting aspersions on the journalists and scholars who tried to clear Bashar al-Assad of having anything to do with Khan Sheikhoun, George Monbiot’s article exposed him in Cook’s eyes as “The left’s Witchfinder General” and just as culpable of promoting “regime change” as the lying neocons of yore.

Cook was reacting to Monbiot and “many others” that challenge the versions put forward by Seymour Hersh, Gareth Porter, and Theodor Postol. The first two blame the civilian deaths on the accidental bombing of fertilizer and/or pesticides that generated a toxic cloud with sarin gas-like symptoms, while Postol implicitly blames jihadists for mounting a false flag incident by setting off a sarin gas bomb when nobody was watching. Since Monbiot’s article credited me as a blogger who “patiently explored and demolished” Postol’s theories (his account went through several iterations), I have vested interest in this discussion as a fellow Witchfinder General  (or at least a Corporal).

Continue Reading


November 1, 2017

Ben Norton and Yassin al-Haj Saleh

Filed under: journalism,Syria — louisproyect @ 4:56 pm

I sometimes wonder if people hate Ben Norton for his Assadist propaganda or more for his careerist “Road to Damascus” conversion that turned him into the kind of ideologue he once denounced. After taking a job with Salon in 2015, he dumped previously held positions opposing Assad and soon became one of his most fervent supporters in partnership with Max Blumenthal who went through the same kind of evolution.

To cover his tracks, he systematically deleted all traces of the old Ben Norton. However, like all criminals, he left a clue behind:

That’s dated November 29, 2015 and clearly endorses the analysis of Yassin al-Haj Saleh.

But this year he sings a different tune:

Of course, Twitter is the perfect medium for slandering people. Saleh is an exceedingly obscure figure in the Western media despite Norton’s attempt to turn him into something like Brandeis professor Kanan Makiya who was frequently cited as an Iraqi supporting regime change in 2002.

As for Erdogan’s “leftist paradise”, who knows what Norton is trying to say here. The implication is that Saleh is some kind of supporter of the AKP. Naturally, when you write a bunch of bullshit in 140 characters, you can always claim that people misread what you wrote. Just ask George Cicariello-Maher or Donald Trump.

October 20, 2017

Was Syria an exception to the Arab Spring: commentary on Stephen Gowans’s “Washington’s Long War on Syria”

Filed under: Counterpunch,Syria — louisproyect @ 12:29 pm
Stephen Gowans

One can debate whether to label the ideology that structured the Arab nationalists’ economic policies as socialism, but U.S. officials unquestionably regarded the economic demarche of the Arab nationalist countries, including Syria, as socialist. As mentioned, some even went so far as to brand Assad’s father, Hafez, an Arab communist. Others described Syria’s economic policies under Bashar as inspired by Soviet models.

— Stephen Gowans, “Washington’s Long War on Syria

Late last year, a group of big-name investors — including Bill Miller of Legg Mason Capital Management and Barton Biggs, managing partner of Traxis Partners, a New York hedge fund — spent a week in Syria and Lebanon. They met with top political leaders and local businesspeople and were feted with elaborate dinners with the cream of society.

Traveling to far-flung corners of the world to get an early look at promising markets has long been a staple of global investing. But Syria — until recently a pariah state in the eyes of the U.S. — proved irresistible, drawing an unusual array of money managers.

Long isolated from international finance, Syria is one of the last remaining investment frontiers. It has a sizable economy, an educated populace, and, lately, a new degree of openness to foreign investment.

“This was not a group of naive investors, and [I] have to say it opened all our eyes,” said Steven Galbraith, a partner at Maverick Capital, a $11 billion hedge fund.

— Joanna Slater, “Syria Woos Investors From Half a World Away”, Wall Street Journal, January 10, 2010

Published in April, 2017, Canadian blogger Stephen Gowans’s “Washington’s Long War on Syria” is a 282-page full-throated defense of Bashar al-Assad, who, according to the excerpt from the book’s Introduction above, amounts to a heroic figure defending socialism just as much as Fidel Castro did during the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. In a Manichean-like understanding of politics that permeates the openly pro-Assad left, the world is divided between Good and Evil. On one side, you have vintage Arab nationalism that stood up to Israel, exploited a nation’s resources for the common good, opposed medieval Islamic institutions, and generally took the side of people struggling against imperialism everywhere in the world. On the other hand, you had villainous Salafi jihadists funded by the Saudis and other Sunni states in the Middle East who sought to kill “infidels” such as the Shia and the Alawites. These mustache-twirling fiends were in turn backed by the CIA and Israel. According to this scenario, the revolt that began in 2011 was nothing but a plot hatched by the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria to foment discord among a comfortable and untroubled Sunni population that was unfortunately susceptible to demagogic appeals based on religious dogma. It was not hardship that drove people to protest but differences over who is entitled to speak in the Prophet’s name.

Continue reading

September 15, 2017

Gareth Porter: master alchemist

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 2:30 pm

Gareth Porter: master alchemist

The Grayzone Project at Alternet is a primary source of Assadist propaganda, the latest instance of which is a 5,226 word article by Gareth Porter titled “Have We Been Deceived Over Syrian Sarin Attack? Scrutinizing the Evidence in an Incident Trump Used to Justify Bombing Syria”. It denies that the Syrian dictatorship unleashed a sarin gas attack in Khan Sheikhoun on April 4th and instead puts the blame on an accidental release of phosphine gas when a warehouse containing aluminum phosphide was bombed. As has been claimed by a number of Assadist propagandists, it was the bombing of a phosphate based pesticide rather than sarin gas that caused over a hundred deaths.

I addressed this claim in a July 8, 2017 article titled “Phosphorus, phosphates, organophosphates and phospine” that attempted to ground the discussion in the abc’s of chemistry even though I am obviously not a chemist. Under the section that dealt with phosphine, I referred to Porter’s initial foray into this matter:

On April 13, 2017 Gareth Porter, who was as ardent in his support for Pol Pot in the 1970s as he is today for Bashar al-Assad, told Truthout readers that it was not necessarily sarin gas that was used in Khan Sheikhoun. He came close to Ritter’s account but identified phosphine rather than white phosphorus as the smoking gun. He stated, “Both the Syrian Army and the Al-Nusra Front fighters in the Aleppo area, moreover, had abundant stocks of phosphine-producing smoke munitions in 2013” and that “phosphine-producing munitions can be lethal if humans are exposed in confined space”. Well, I don’t know how Porter defines confined space but by all accounts the toxic cloud swept across several miles. Maybe the jihadists were funded by the Rothschild bank to put a huge glass dome over the village to make sure that the “false flag” worked. Who knows?

Chemically, phosphine is produced by combining white phosphorus with sodium or potassium hydroxide in laboratory conditions. As is the case with Ritter’s accusation, there are no news accounts of phosphine weaponry being used in Aleppo by either Assad or rebels—not even by Sputnik news. Maybe it was a dream he had.

Porter returns to the phosphine explanation but from a different angle this time. He writes:

Eyewitness accounts of the airstrike, the revelations in Seymour Hersh’s article in Die Welt and other information about the building hit by a Syrian bomb, the geographic pattern of the casualties, the known characteristics of aluminum phosphide and the symptoms of the victims all indicate a very different explanation: A Syrian high explosive bomb hit supplies of aluminum phosphide stored in a building in the northeast area of Khan Sheikhoun, releasing a cloud of deadly phosphine gas, which caused the deaths and injuries.

Can bombing aluminum phosphide release phosphine gas? Only if there were different laws of chemistry that were only recognized by Porter and his feckless editor at the Grayzone Project, one Max Blumenthal. Maybe it would be best to describe Porter’s article as an exercise in alchemy.

As it happens, aluminum phosphide is a deadly poison that has resulted in significant accidental deaths in India, Saudi Arabia and Iran. But this is typically how it occurs. Since as a pesticide, it comes in the form of what looks like rice pellets, it is often swallowed by toddlers or by adults intent on suicide. You can understand why this would make India a prime candidate for aluminum phosphide deaths since farmers who have access to the pesticide are also prime candidates for suicide. The International Journal of Medical Research and Review pointed out in a recent article:

Acute self infliction of poisoning is very common among young in developing countries. The epidemiology of poisoning changes time to time and varies region to region. In south India, organophosphorus compound poisoning has been more common as compared to Aluminium phosphide poisoning in north India. All over India males are more commonly reported to poison themselves. Poisoning in farmers has been reported more commonly than in any other profession. Madhya Pradesh is situated in central part of India, where agriculture is the predominant source of income.

The actual chemical basis for the poisoning, however, is the creation of phosphine gas when the pesticide reacts to water in the human body since it is only this combination, which chemists call hydrolysis, that can produce the gas. This is what you will find in the Wikipedia entry on aluminium phosphide poisoning:

The toxicity of aluminium phosphide is attributed to the liberation of phosphine gas, a cytotoxic compound that causes free radical mediated injury, inhibits vital cellular enzymes and is directly corrosive to tissues. The following reaction releases phosphine when AlP reacts with water in the body:

AlP + 3 H2O → Al(OH)3 + PH3, and

AlP + 3 HCl → AlCl3 + PH3 (stomach)

So if you drop a bomb on barrels of aluminum phosphide, that does not produce phosphine gas. All it will produce is pulverized pellets. For a citizen of Khan Sheikhoun to have been poisoned by phosphine, it would have required them to scoop up some of the powder and ingest it. This hardly seems likely. Nor does it seem to matter to people like Blumenthal and Porter that the warehouse in question has never been identified by Syria or Russia.

To illustrate the difference between bombing aluminum phosphide and the chemical process needed to unleash phosphine, I would refer you to a December 29, 2015 article in Marine Insight, a trade publication:

A container vessel loaded some containers of Aluminium Phosphide (IMDG Class 4.3, UN No. 1397) from an Asian port. The consignment used plastic bags as inner packaging and steel drums as outer packaging. The drums were then secured on wooden pallets and these were finally stacked inside a standard marine freight container.

During the voyage, the crew heard a number of small ‘explosions’ inside one of these containers, after which some smoke escaped past the rubber seals of the door. On seeing the smoke, the crew assumed that the cargo inside was burning and sprayed water on the outside of the container exterior in order to cool it.

Although the cargo had been correctly declared at the time of shipment, the relevant Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) was not provided to the carrier or to the vessel. The crew was unaware of the fact that contact between water and Aluminium Phosphide produces phosphine, an extremely flammable and toxic gas.

I have no idea how much money Alternet pays Max Blumenthal to turn out this easily refuted propaganda but they are not getting their money’s worth. Maybe they should reassign him to cover the alchemy beat. It would make a lot more sense than this bullshit.

September 12, 2017

Why in god’s name did the Socialist Project decide to recommend Alastair Crooke’s article hailing Assad’s victory?

Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 3:54 pm

Alastair Crooke

Yesterday, I wrote a message to Marxmail condemning Socialist Project’s decision to regularly tweet Assadist propaganda, the latest installment of which is an article by ex-MI6 operative Alastair Crooke that appeared on Consortium News. Crooke, whose spooky past and name seem lifted out of a John Le Carré novel, was described as a supporter of Islamic “freedom fighters” and power-hungry clerics in a Mother Jones profile ten years ago but more recently has become the typical Assadist, sounding every bit as committed to the “war on terror” as all the other people writing for Consortium News, starting with its webmaster Robert Parry, a one-time investigative reporter who like Seymour Hersh is far more dedicated to covering things up today.

In email exchanges with Sam Gindin today, I was assured that the Socialist Project editor Greg Albo was only posting a link to Crooke’s article for informational purposes, only to allow readers to get inside the skull of a figure with a background in foreign affairs. Since the Socialist Project Twitter feed is an almost daily source of Assadist propaganda, I tend to doubt that but will not dwell on it. Gindin invited me to write a critique of Crooke’s article, which I will do after saying some brief words about the provenance of Socialist Project.

This is a collective of sorts that was initiated by Socialist Register editors, including Gindin, Leo Panitch and Greg Albo, who is the nominal editor of Socialist Project. I welcomed this initiative back in 2000 as described on their website:

At a meeting in Toronto in the fall of 2000, some 750 activists responded to a call to “rebuild the left” by developing a structured movement against capitalism. This call for a new political formation that would be “more than a movement, less than a party” was similar to other initiatives in Canada and around the world that have been undertaken as the traditional organizations of the political left have waned.

I suspect that Gindin, Panitch and Albo have not given much thought to Syria, at least on the basis of a search of Socialist Register where there are zero references to the country dated after 2009. Nor will you find a single reference to the Arab Spring. I would describe this as a dereliction of socialist duty and leave it at that.

Turning now to Crooke’s article, it basically describes Syria as suffering the same kind of “regime change” attack as Iraq in 2002 that was supposedly intended to bolster Sunni fundamentalism against Russian and Iranian interests: “Fired-up Sunni radicals have now been used by Western states to counter Nasserism, Ba’athism, the USSR, Iranian influence, and latterly to try to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.”

Would you expect Crooke to explain why Bush’s invasion helped to install a Shia regime close to Tehran? Of course not.

One of the host of experts on Syria Crooke calls upon is a libertarian named Dan Sanchez, who has written articles like “Mises Never Gave In to Evil“. This is the same Mises who once wrote that “It cannot be denied that Fascism and similar movements aiming at the establishment of dictatorships are full of the best intentions and that their intervention has, for the moment, saved European civilization. The merit that Fascism has thereby won for itself will live on eternally in history.”

No wonder Sanchez is an Assad fan.

I have no idea who at Socialist Project deemed Crooke’s article worth linking to but wonder if they share his view that the Arab Spring was a vehicle supported by the West “to break up the nationalist-secular Arab world” and replace it with Islamists.

Crooke is encouraged by BRICS calling out Pakistan for providing aid to jihadist groups. As Charles Davis pointed out in a recent al-Jazeera article, George Bush’s brand of “war on terror” has spread internationally as a favorite tool to cover up of war crimes. Does anybody think that Modi, whose BJP carried out pogroms against Muslims, or China that has been suppressing Uighur rights for decades in the name of fighting terrorism have the moral high ground to lecture Pakistan?

Right now Myanmar is working with China and Russia to make sure that the UN Security Council is prevented from censuring the Assadist-like scorched earth tactics that has forced nearly 150,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to Bangladesh. Myanmar National Security Adviser Thaung Tun said he was counting on China and Russia, both permanent members of the Security Council, to block a UN resolution on the crisis. “We are negotiating with some friendly countries not to take it to the Security Council. China is our friend and we have a similar friendly relationship with Russia so it will not be possible for that issue to go forward.” About Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi blaming “terrorists” and “a huge iceberg of misinformation”, the less said the better.

Crooke is also encouraged by a statement made by his country’s Middle East minister Alistair Burt on behalf of General al-Sisi in Egypt who has killed, imprisoned and tortured members of the Muslim Brotherhood as part of a crackdown on “jihadism”. With the “axis of resistance” to jihadist terror now encompassing the White House, the Kremlin, the British foreign ministry, Assad, Robert Fisk, Seymour Hersh, Patrick Cockburn and thousands of other journalists and politicians, one can understand why the Socialist Project has decided not to swim against the current.

Crooke, like many others on the Assadist left (using the word left charitably), is positively gloating over Assad’s victory, since it has shown Wahabbism to be “thoroughly discredited by its careless brutality.” How remarkable it is for someone to write an article hailing Assad’s victory without even the slightest whisper that the man he is hoisting on his shoulders has used poison gas repeatedly, killed 13,000 prisoners, driven half the country into either internal or external displacement and is responsible for over a half-million casualties. If Syria had the same population as the USA, this would amount to 9 million deaths.

Crooke asserts that this victory was ensured by “the mostly Sunni Syrian Arab Army.” Odd, all along I thought it was Russian bombers, Hezbollah, Iran’s Quds Brigades, Shia mercenaries from Afghanistan and Iraq that did the trick. I guess I should have been paying closer attention to sources like Dan Sanchez to understand what was happening in Syria. In reality, it is doubtful that Assad would have made it past 2014 unless these outside powers had stepped in. In a speech made in July 2015, Assad stated that “the country’s army faced a manpower shortage and had ceded some areas to insurgents in order to hold onto other regions deemed more important”, according to the NY Times. It was just such a manpower shortage that led to the use of barrel bombs and poison gas. The barrel bombs were meant for wholesale murder in rebel-controlled areas and the sarin or chlorine gas was meant to frighten the survivors into submission.

With all due respect to Sam Gindin, I don’t think that Crooke’s article was meant as an example of how such people view the current situation in Syria. I am convinced that this is the editorial outlook of some leading Socialist Project members, at least those like Justin Podur, an ideologically committed Assadist. For all I know, it is Podur who is responsible for this garbage.

Back in 2014, Greg Albo signed an open letter titled “Odessa: The Last Warning” that repeated the Kremlin’s talking points about Euromaidan being a fascist plot. At the time, it suggested to me that the milieu around Socialist Register and Socialist Project were being drawn into the emerging “anti-imperialist” front based in the Kremlin. I have no idea whether Sam Gindin or Leo Panitch paid much attention to this development but I certainly did.

I was struck by this sentence in the letter: “If we allow the Banderovites in Kiev to do what they like in Odessa, then we will allow tomorrow the same crime to be committed by the ‘Golden Dawn’ in Greece, by Jobbik in Hungary or, even, by Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France.” What a striking irony that these three fascist parties are all staunch supporters of Bashar al-Assad. That is a contradiction I will leave Sam Gindin and Greg Albo to resolve.


August 25, 2017

White Supremacist Support for Assad in Charlottesville (and Beyond)

Filed under: Fascism,Syria — louisproyect @ 4:34 pm

It was impossible not to miss the support for Bashar al-Assad that was on display in the white supremacist gathering in Charlottesville. The press drew attention to the picture of Assad with the word “Undefeated” emblazoned beneath it on the Facebook page of James Alex Fields, the man who plowed his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of counter-protestors killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. There is also the video clip  of a couple of fascists saying that “Assad did nothing wrong” and calling for “dropping barrel bombs on those motherfuckers”, a reference to the counter-protestors.

Washington Post article dated August 14 concluded that there was always an underlying affinity between the Baathists and fascism: 

The far right’s love affair with Assad might not be entirely unpredictable. His Baath Party is fiercely nationalist and ethnocentric, focused on the promotion of Arab identity. One of the few political parties permitted by his regime and one of his staunchest supporters in the war is the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, which drew the inspiration for its logo from the swastika.

In my view, this analysis—while not entirely wrong—is inadequate to explaining the underlying reasons for racist and fascist support for Assad. Nor does it come to terms with the much broader appeal that Assad has had for many on the left who regard him not as a fascist but as a fearless anti-imperialist warrior who is being attacked by American and Saudi proxies because of his resistance to IMF-imposed austerity. This analysis is encapsulated in Canadian blogger Stephen Gowans’s new book Washington’s Long War on Syria:

Juxtapose U.S. prescriptions for how the Washington-led global economy would be structured against the economic program espoused in the founding document of the Ba’ath Party: Industry “will be protected together with the national production from the competition of foreign production.” Natural “resources, and means of transportation ” “shall be directly administered by the State,” in the public interest. Workers “shall take part in managing the factories and they will be given, [on top of] their wages, a share of profits to be determined by the State.” The Interim 1990 constitution of secular Arab nationalist Iraq declared that the “State assumes the responsibility for planning, directing, and steering the national economy.” These views were inimical to the economic policies Washington promoted as the world’s self-appointed leader. They did not fit with the global economic order Washington insisted on creating.

Like a Rorschach test, the Syrian dictatorship is open to multiple interpretations. To really get to the bottom of this complex and dialectically contradictory phenomenon of Baathist rule, it is necessary to place it into the context of two historical sea changes that have marked this epoch.

Continue reading

August 12, 2017

Left and Right agreement on Syria?

Filed under: Fascism,Syria — louisproyect @ 11:53 pm

The only thing keeping westerners from seeing through the lies that they’ve been told about Syria is the unquestioned assumption that their own government could not possibly be that evil. They have no trouble believing that a foreigner from a Muslim-majority country could be gratuitously using chemical weapons on children at the most strategically disastrous time possible and bombing his own civilians for no discernible reason other than perhaps sheer sexual sadism, but the possibility that their government is making those things up in order to manufacture consent for regime change is ruled out before any critical analysis of the situation even begins.


The Facebook page of James Alex Fields Jr., the man who drove a car into anti-racist protestors, killing one and injuring dozens of others:

August 8, 2017

A weekend in Hudson

Filed under: bard college,Catskills,Film,Syria — louisproyect @ 5:17 pm

Louis Proyect and Lucas Jedrzejak

My primary purpose in going to Hudson, NY was to attend a screening of Lucas Jedrzejak’s documentary “Ketermaya” on Sunday, August 6th,  a film I first saw at the 2017 Socially Relevant Film Festival in March of this year. The screening was organized by Danette Gorman who was also at the SR 2017 festival and was inspired by the film to show solidarity with Syrian refugees determined to forge ahead despite dire circumstances. They are a microcosm of the freedom struggle that continues after six years of the regime’s genocidal attack on civilians.

Unlike other films about Syrian refugees that tend to be stories about their desperate flights across Europe or the Mediterranean and subsequent estrangement from an aloof if not hostile Swedish or German society, “Ketermaya” is a different kind of film. It is a testimony to the unquenchable spirit of the Syrian people and particularly the children of this refugee camp who will be the future leaders of a free Syria someday if there is any justice in this world and if there are enough people like Lucas and Danette to help make the critical difference.

Another motivation was to return to a town I had visited with some frequency when I was at Bard College in the early 60s. About a twenty minute drive from Bard, Hudson was in decline just like other towns and villages along the Hudson River. What all of them had going for them was a stunning view of the river and the Catskill Mountains behind it that I enjoyed from my dorm window at Ward Manor, a mansion the school purchased in my junior year. One night I came back around 8pm to see Bob Dylan in a salon on the ground floor playing an electric guitar with some of Bard’s folk musicians. I listened to them play for a bit and walked back to my room wondering why Dylan had gone electric.

Ward Manor

In a stroke of luck, Danette found lodging for me and my wife in the house of her friend Agi in the hills above Hudson. The view, as indicated above, was spectacular. Our host was nicknamed Agi since it easier to pronounce than her Hungarian birth name.

Her story was remarkable.

During WWII, when she was only three years old, she was among the Jews living under the protection of Raoul Wallenberg. As a Swedish diplomat assigned to Budapest, he was able to issued protective passports and to keep Jews like Agi and her parents alive in buildings designated as under Swedish protection. As an ally of Nazi Germany, Hungary obviously sought ways to help carry out the Final Solution. One day a gang of machine-gun touting Hungarian militia members swarmed into her building and ordered her and everyone else to line up on the street. With death staring them in the face, Wallenberg’s limousine showed up at the last minute. Using his authority as an official representative of Sweden, he ordered the fascists to disperse.

Why would Soviet Russia have had Raul Wallenberg arrested in January 1945, the month of my birth, and sent to the Lubyanka prison camp near Moscow where he died two years later? Since the USSR had no use for “bourgeois democracy”, there are no records of the charge against him, which were probably as bogus as all the others that took place under Stalin. What we do have is a record of Soviet leader Nikolai Bulganin’s order for his arrest:

On Saturday during lunch at Agi’s home, Lucas referred briefly to his own exposure to Stalinist criminality. In high school, he had a teacher who was notoriously strict and demanding—the sort of man who would throw a heavy keychain at the blackboard to get the attention of an unruly class. One day, he closed the door to the classroom and told the students that he was going to tell them the truth about the massacre in Katyn. 23,000 Polish officers were executed in 1940 for no other reasons than that they were officers. This occurred when the USSR was in control of the eastern half of Poland as part of the secret protocols of the Malenkov-Ribbentrop nonaggression pact. It was the determination of men and women like this high school teacher, as well as Lucas’s parents, to be free that put them on a collision course with the Kremlin, which finally culminated in the emergence of Solidarity in 1980.

Like Lucas, Agi knew what it meant to be part of a powerful anti-bureaucratic movement. Like many Hungarian youth, she started off seeing some benefits in Communism, especially its ambitious athletics program modeled on the USSR’s but when she joined a massive protest march in 1956, she felt the same way that Poles would feel in 1980 and Syrians would feel in 2011—free at last, to repeat Martin Luther King Jr’s immortal words.

As I have said hundreds of times before, the Western left has a deficit problem. Seeing Washington as a kind of absolutely evil presence in the world, it tends to demonize any movement receiving its aid. This leads it to excuse oppressive behavior by the Kremlin on a consistent basis, just like the Communist Parties did in the 30s and 40s. When there was a USSR, one might explain this as motivated by good intentions even if it objectively helped Stalin have Wallender arrested or invade Hungary and Poland. But with Putin supposedly being one of the wealthiest men in the world today according to some experts and Assad’s crony capitalist cousin controlling 60 percent of the Syrian economy, there can be no excuse.

With 150 people showing up for the screening of “Ketermaya”, it was obvious that human rights trumped geopolitical foolishness. Like anybody else who has seen the film, they understood that Syrians deserve our support and solidarity.

There are good reasons why Hudson would serve as a “sister city” to Ketermaya, to recall the term activists used in the 1980s when places like Park Slope in Brooklyn would link up with a Nicaraguan city that had been a victim of Reagan’s contra war. What better way to oppose American foreign policy than to act as a citizen of the world sending medicine or computers to people under siege? Agi described Hudson as a city with many liberal-minded New Yorkers who moved there because they could no longer afford the rents in Park Slope. Among them were a sizable contingent of gays and lesbians who flocked to the there in the mid-80s when it was rapidly becoming a center for antique dealers, a business long favored by gay men and women. Wikipedia refers to this development:

In the last few years, perhaps encouraged by the number of gay business owners among the original antiques dealers, Hudson has become a destination for gay people who have opened new businesses, moved here from larger urban areas, and who have been in the forefront of the restoration of many of the city’s historic houses. In 2010, Hudson High School made history when openly gay seniors, Charlie Ferrusi and Timmy Howard, were named prom king and queen. During the same year, Hudson hosted its first gay pride parade, which was attended by several hundred people.

Since January, Americans have been agonizing over the direction of the country with a racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, Islamophobe in the White House. While a lot of the discussion veers toward electoral strategy, there was something about the positive example of Hudson that deserves consideration by the left.

Aided by the Presbyterian Church in Hudson, which is as progressive as any Unitarian church I have ever seen, Danette Gorman has taken the initiative to create an alternative America that embodies the true spirit of this country. Only arriving in Hudson around the same time she saw “Ketermaya”, she raised money to fund a needs assessment trip to Lebanon. Her next step is to organize a meeting at the church to get people involved. So instead of bemoaning the evils of a know-nothing president, she and her fellow Hudsonites are acting to create a different reality, one in which solidarity across borders in the interests of peace and fair play reigns supreme.

If you want to support Danette Gorman’s project to help the children of Ketermaya, please go to https://www.helpsyriaskids.org/ and help spread the word.

Finally, as someone who recognizes the power of “Ketermaya” to cut through the stereotypes of Syrians as fanatics and potential terrorists, I am hoping to recruit college students in NY to help organize a screening when the fall semester starts. Ideally, it would include Skype connections to Lucas for a Q&A and with the children of Ketermaya who love connecting with people in the West to tell their story. Contact me at lnp3@panix.com if you find this trailer inspiring, as surely you will.

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