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Monday, September 7, 2015

Does the "do nothing" Left want Assad to win in Syria?

Recently there has been a spat of articles from the "anti-imperialist" Left opposing calls to do something about the carnage in Syria and the resulting refugee crisis. Specifically, they oppose calls for military intervention to create a safe-area or a no-zone inside of Syria that Assad wouldn't be allowed to bomb. They think that would be unfair because it would only apply to Assad, according to Adam Johnson on the FAIR website:
A no-fly zone would only be applied to Assad because anti-Assad forces don’t have an air force.
Of course, much of carnage is being created by Assad's air force because even though he has lost control of 83% of the country, he can still bomb 100% of it. These "anti-imperialists" oppose the various suggestions about what to do coming from the Syrians under attack. They don't address those directly but treat demands for a no-fly zone as having originated in the West as part of a "regime change" plot and not from the civilians being bombed. They have no alternative plans to stop the daily rain of barrel bombs and the measures they do propose, such as a one-sided arms embargo against Assad's opposition, only give him more freedom to continue the carnage.

Nor do they address the glaring need to do something to help the thousands of refugees fleeing Syria. Instead, they see this current crisis, and the popular calls to do something about it, as one more opportunity to repeat their view that it has been caused by a Pentagon "regime change" plan revealed to Wesley Clark ten years before the Syrian revolution began, and not Assad's crackdown on genuine pro-democracy protesters. To them, its not Assad's very visible barrel bombs that are the problem, its America's secret war against Syria that is the problem. In this crisis they see another opportunity to condemn the US, which is their favorite pastime. Beyond that, they don't make any suggests for stopping the slaughter in Syria or helping the refugees. Helping Syrians is not what they are about. Condemning the US makes them feel righteous. It also avoids much needed introspection about how this rotten "anti-imperialist" stand has only contributed to this disaster by collaborating with the mainstream media silence about who is dying in Syria, why and how many, and then speaking out only when there is a "danger" that Assad's campaign of carnage might be impeded in some way, as in September 2013 when there were calls to do something in response to Assad's sarin murders or now when the refugee crisis has broken through the silence.

The first major "anti-imperialist" piece to speak out against "the need to do something" about "the specter of humanitarian crisis" that appears quite real to Syrians, was The War on Syria by Patrick Higgins, published on the Jacobin website 27 August 2015. I have critiqued it previously in Jacobin's "War on Syria." The only concrete proposal it made to "do something" was to unilaterally disarm the people fighting the dictator:
If the supplies to anti-government fighters can be cut off in Syria, negotiations for a political solution will be more meaningful.
In other words, if the Assad's opposition can be deprived of anything to fight with, they will be forced to sue for peace on Assad's terms and the regime that has run Syria as a fascist police state for 40 years will be preserved. Clearly, these "Leftists" oppose "regime change" in Syria regardless of who is for it. They may say the Syrian government is legit because it counted 89% of the vote for Assad in the last presidential election, but it is extremely hard to find an Assad supporter in the refugee camps of Turkey, Iraq and Jordan. Mission Impossible, in fact.

There is no solution to the Syrian refugee crisis that does not involve "regime change" for two basic reasons: 1) Syrians will continue to flood out of the country as long as Assad is bombing them, and 2) most Syrian refugees will refuse to go back to Syria so long as Assad is in power.

The reason the only road to peace the "anti-imperialists" support in Syria is one that keeps the Assad regime in power is that he has convinced them that he is a front-line fighter in "La RĂ©sistance" to Zionist Israel and they hate Israel even more than they hate the US. Perhaps this can be seen easiest in their differing attitude towards Palestinians resisting Israel and Assad. In the long siege of Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus, Assad has been applying their preferred tactic of cutting off supplies to anyone who fights the government with terrible effect and they have been as silent as the grave. If Israel was doing that, they would be screaming "bloodly murder," which is what it is no matter who is doing it.

The piece of "do nothing" advocacy that seems to be getting the most play was written by Adam Johnson. It first appeared on FAIR, 5 Sept 2015 and has since been republished by Global Research and Common Dreams and had exerts and links in Op Ed, Business Insider, and other places. Adam Johnson even posted it to the Russia News Feed. He titled it:

The Syrian Refugee Crisis and the ‘Do Something’ Lie

In the first place, what a terrible title! Naturally, twitter and the blogosphere were filled with calls to "do something," after the discovery of 71 Syrian corpses in a truck on an Austrian road, the march of thousands of Syrians down a highway in Hungary, and the picture of a little Syrian boy washed up on the beach like so much seaweed went viral. If people didn't respond like that, I personally would give up on revolution and stop trying to save humanity.

Most of those who want to do something about the Syrian refugee crisis are entirely sincere in their attitude, and it is that attitude that will ultimately save us. So how will they read this title? They probably consider themselves a part of the "do something" crowd. What is inherently false or bad about wanting to do something? After this week's news, I think it safe to say that humanity can be divided into three broad groups when it comes to Syria: 1) The "do something" crowd, 2) The "don't care" crowd, and 3) The "anti-imperialists."

Johnson's main thesis:
The “do something” crowd wants us to “do something” about the refugee crisis and “solve” the “bigger problem,” which, of course, involves regime change.
Well, yes. If there was a mad gunman in a clock tower picking off people, most would want to do something and probably would find the suggestion that first we evacuate and treat the wounded, and then we solve the bigger problem, which would involve stopping the shooter, one way or another, to be a reasonable one. But not our "anti-imperialists." Now that the bloodshed started by Assad has reached over 300,000 Syrian deaths, and left half the population homeless. Now that Assad has greatly stepped up his campaign of "Death from Above" and the world comes to understand that people are literally dying to leave the land that he rules, they have gone to war against anyone who suggests doing anything to stop the carnage. These are people who claim to represent the best interests and the future of humanity! Give me a break.

The primary support for its main argument that:
The US has been “intervening” in the Syrian civil war, in measurable and significant ways, since at least 2012—most notably by arming, funding and training anti-Assad forces.
While the bar of "measurable and significant" is too low to deny and "arming, funding and training" could mean as little as giving a few rebels 16 bullets each and showing them how to load them into clips, this is followed by a quote from the Washington Post that claims: 
US officials said the CIA has trained and equipped nearly 10,000 fighters sent into Syria over the past several years...
This is the same anonymous source and Washington Post article that the Jacobin's piece used for its claim that "the United States launched a full-scale war against Syria." It now seems that this one Washington Post piece is destine to be the new Wesley Clark clip - all the evidence you'll ever need to prove that everything happening today in Syria is largely the result of nefarious Washington schemes. But as I said in the Jacobin critique, we have every reason to take whatever comes from anonymous US intelligence officials with enough salt to give it flavor. The "leaked" news that the US secretly has sent 10,000 fighters to Syria may be music to the "anti-imperialist" ears. That doesn't make it true. The US government wants the world to think that it supports "regime change" in Syria. That doesn't make it true either, but it can go a long way to explaining why they would make a "show" of supporting "regime change" and would be likely to exaggerate anything they have done.

We have to be careful. If the story about the 10,000 fighters isn't true, these writers could be guilty of spreading Assad regime propaganda and Obama administration propaganda in the same breath. So where is the proof? We know much about the 54 rebels trained by the Pentagon, some of whom were captured by al Nusra as they were entering Syria to fight ISIS in July. We know the exact number, we know they are Division 30, we know who commands them and so on. Of these 10,000, we know nothing. Not what units they are in. Not what they call themselves, what battles they fought it, how they were supplied etc. They provide only the one source, between the two "anti-imperialist" pieces and yet they believe it.

How wonderfully naive they are! In a period in which we are seeing increasing calls from the masses to "do something" about the destruction of Syria, the government "leaks" the news that they are already doing something, they've sent 10,000 fighters in to topple the Assad regime and these "anti-imperialists" believe it because it suits them.

This piece also plays fast and loose with the facts to make its case. One example of where this piece fails to be fair and accurate, it says Obama “provided air support for those looking to depose him [Assad]” and it links to a piece about Obama pledging air support for the US trained Division 30, but those US trained Syrian rebels are only to fight ISIS. In fact, they had to sign pledges not to use their weapons or training to fight Assad. So Johnson is factually wrong. Since his prime argument is that Obama is making war on Syria, he needs to avoid having to explain why the US Air Force has attacked ISIS, al Nusra, even the Free Syrian Army, everybody in Syria but Assad and those fighting on his side.

Another example of where Adam Johnson distorts the truth to protect Assad is in this paragraph which opposes the idea put forward in a Guardian op-ed that a no-fly zone would help to stem the tide of refugees:
But here again, there’s some serious fudging going on by the Guardian. While there’s no doubt many of the refugees are escaping Assad’s bombing of cities, the boy in question, Aylan Kurdi, wasn’t: He was escaping ISIS and the US bombing of his hometown of Kobani, far from anything the Assad government is doing. A no-fly zone would not have saved his hometown. An absence of fueling jihadists by the United States and the subsequent bombing of said jihadists by the United States? Perhaps.
Actually, Aylan Kurdi wasn't escaping ISIS or US bombing when he drowned, as Johnson would have found out had he bothered to check. He just knew from media reports that the boy was from Kobani and he figured he could make up the rest to suit his politics. This is typical of the "anti-imperialist" method.

The family left Syria in 2012, years before either ISIS or US bombing came to Kobani. They had been refugees in Turkey for three years before paying $6,000 for a boat ride that killed three members of the family and left the father, Abdullah Kurdi, to return alone to Kobani and bury them. Before they escaped from Syria, the father had been detained for 5 months by Air Force Intelligence in Damascus. While in detention, he was tortured and his teeth were pulled out. He had to sell his shop in Damascus in order to bribe the officers to let him out. This cost him 5,000,000 Syrian Liras (around $25,000) After he bribed his way out of jail, Abdullah fled to Aleppo with his wife and sons, Alyan and Ghalib. The situation in Aleppo became dangerous due to the constant bombardment, so he fled again to Kobani, his hometown and then they left the country.

When the facts are known, it is easy to see that this tragedy wasn't far from anything the Assad government was doing and a no-fly zone over Aleppo may have spared them from needing to leave the country at all. Johnson doesn't want to know the facts. He is only using this little boy's death to deflect blame from Assad and the facts get in the way of that.

Also, beyond his errors in fact, there is "some serious fudging going on" with regards to his whole line of argument here. For while he is wrong about Aylan Kurdi, I have no doubt that some refugees leave Syria because of ISIS or US air strikes, but that is really besides the point which is that a no-fly zone will remove the major reason for Syrians fleeing the country [and not just "many" as Johnson states] and complaining that it won't remove all the reasons for fleeing the country is fudging the advantages of a no-fly zone.

Also in point of fact, most of Kobani's 400,000 residents fled fighting between ISIS and the YPG/FSA forces defending the city. Obama didn't want to intervene and did so reluctantly only after he was embarrassed by media reports of the brave defender's demands for air support. Then he only bombed ISIS targets outside of Kobani. The way the "anti-imperialists" tell it, you'd think Obama did a full-on Vietnam style carpet bombing of Kobani that created all these refugees. "But this is all a fantasy."

The paragraph ends with a good example of how the “anti-imperialists” prove their imaginary Obama war against the Assad regime, for example, Johnson's statement above about the US “fueling jihadists” links to a Business Insider article for proof, and that links to a New York Times article that was discredited long ago, as I did here:

The "Left" has ignored the real plight of the Syrian people and used them as pawns in their own games by taking self-centered positions that oppose all "western backed," "foreign intervention" and producing a string of "statements on Syria" like "The U.S. is largely responsible for the prolonged war in Syria," while excusing those who are actually doing the bulk of the killing, the Assad regime and it supporter in Moscow and Tehran. Now they are coming out to oppose doing anything meaningful about the greatest humanitarian crisis of the 21st century, a catastrophe that I am starting to call Assad's holocaust.

If it wasn't such a tragic situation, the stand taken by the "Left" on Syria would be a joke. It is a double-tragedy really because this stand hasn't only contributed to the slaughter in Syria, it has discredited the Left in the eyes of the world's people to an extent that only the Left could do to itself when only a true socialist course, and not the caricature of Marxism being promoted by this Mock Left, can save humanity.

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