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The white-Left Part 1: The two meanings of white

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Imperial Left's sarin song: still "Regime Change" after all these years!

Assad knows sarin kills children first
More than two years ago we saw the reintroduction of mass poisoning into the class struggle on a massive scale when more than 1,400 people were killed by a sarin attack in and around the Damascus suburbs of East Ghouta. It had been one of the great victories of the progressive movements of the last century that a ban against such weapons was put in place after what they then called "The Great War," showed the world the true horror of these weapons. Before this war, they were gaining favor as a means of putting down insurrections while minimizing damage to capitalist property. The outcry against them after the war put an end to that and put in place a prohibition against their use that has largely held up for the better part of a century. It hadn't been used on such a massive scale in a quarter-century before its use against the Syrian uprising. That earlier use was in 1988 when Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein used sarin against the Iranians and the Kurds. Washington gave him a green light for those attacks. The US even provided targeting intelligence knowing sarin would be used. They would only become "troubled" by his possession of chemical weapons 15 years later, when he didn't have any.

Donald Rumsfeld & Saddam Hussein
As history shows, the US imperialists generally don't have a problem with a third world dictator ruling by murder and naked terror. Disorientated by the Arab Spring and pushed by its European partners, they made an exception for Gaddafi in Libya. They entered the struggle on the side of the people and on terms set by the Transitional National Council and the United Nations. They have gained little from Libya as a result, not even an Africom headquarters, so they have not been happy with the outcome and made it clear early on that there would be no such humanitarian intervention for the Syrians. The revolution was less than two weeks old, 27 March 2011 when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was asked on Face the Nation, "Can we expect the United States to enter the conflict in the way we have entered the conflict in Libya?" Her answer was "No. Each of these situations is unique, Bob." The headline that went out the next day was: Clinton: No attack on Syria.

After Assad had been assure of no US military intervention, he made a speech three days later, 30 March 2011, in which he reversed his promise to lift the emergency law. When people took to the streets in protest the next day, 25 were killed by his security forces in Latakia.  After Clinton's policy statement, Assad started using his army against protesters and the death toll started to rise dramatically. The private spooks at Stratfor Global Intelligence saw clearly that Hillary Clinton was signalling US acceptance of Assad's brutal crackdown. In a memo dated 31 March 2011, they wrote:
Washington could have easily sent a warning to Damascus by saying that "Libya-like treatment for Syria is one of the options". France was already willing to get engaged in Syria. But US did the contrary.
John Kerry & Bashar al Assad
There was nothing unusual in Washington's acquiescence to a dictator's used of force. After what could be considered a Libya deviation, it was back to business as usual. What was unusual is that this time they would have the Imperial Left demanding that they do what they had every intention of doing. "Hands off Syria" was Obama's policy a year before "anti-imperialists" started putting it on signs. Of course these "anti-imperialists" always had to put the word humanitarian in quotes so that they could demand no humanitarian intervention in Syria with a straight face as the death toll multiplied a thousand fold after Clinton told Assad that there would be no humanitarian intervention in Syria. Unlike Libya, in Syria there hasn't been a no-fly zone or a UN mandated force to protect civilians. With maybe a half million killed and half the country homeless, Syria is a non-interventionist's success story. For years now they have been complaining that Libya is a mess while ignoring the exponential growth of Syria as a killing field.

Obama makes a presidential promise to Assad and those he is killing

30,000 Libyans were killed in the struggle to overthrow Gaddafi in 2011 and less than that number of  Syrians had been killed in that conflict by 20 August 2012 when US President Barack Obama made chemical weapons his red-line. Because his "red-line" statement made the bar that might provoke a US military response so very high, it was largely seen in the region as a green light to Assad's continuing attacks on civilians with conventional weapons.
Assad denied he had been given a green light. A week after Obama made his statement, Assad broke a 40 day public absent by giving a TV interview in which he said "Syria doesn't need a green light when dealing with it's internal affairs, neither from our allies or our enemies," but he did step up his attacks on civilians with new confidence. In that statement Obama assured Assad that there would not be a no-fly zone to hinder his barrel-bombing campaign when just leaving the threat of one hanging out there may have stayed Assad's hand a little. Assured that he could go on killing "the old fashion way" without US military intervention so long as he didn't use "a whole bunch of chemical weapons," he kicked his "conventional" death machine into high gear. Another 80,000 Syrian's were to die by conventional means before 1,400 were murdered with unconventional sarin a year later.

That attack, which took place exactly one year after Obama's red-line statement, was also given something like a green light by Washington. Two days before the 21 August attack, on 19 August, top US general Martin Dempsey sent a letter to congress restating the Obama administration's opposition to US military intervention in Syria. The day before that, on 18 August, U.S. eavesdropping equipment began picking up signs of Syrian army preparation for the attack as an elite CW unit moved into Damascus. They didn't translate the intercepts until later and had no foreknowledge of the attack was the "believe it or don't" claim the White House made when these facts came out. The question of whether the green light to Assad's continuing carnage contained in Demsey's 19 August letter was more of a general nature, or specific to the 21 August sarin attack, hangs in the balance. In any case, the record of the Obama administration remains one that shows it has done little to discourage Assad's civilian massacres and much to encourage them, especially given its role in leading the international "opposition" to the Assad regime.

Almost no one on the Left objected to Obama's signal to Assad that the US military would not intervene to stop his slaughter of civilians, just as none disavowed his promise to take military action if Assad did use chemical weapons --- at the time this promise was made and the green light given. Like most other things about the growing conflict it Syria, for most on the Left this was happening where they were trying not to look. That is probably also why the many voices on the Left that emerged after the 21 August 2013 deaths to question who was really responsible for the sarin attack on East Ghouta, never speculated about who was really behind the months of attacks by conventional bombs and missiles on East Ghouta that preceded the sarin attack, or commented on the multitude of attacks since, including most recently, Russian air strikes against East Ghouta. It still is proving to be an area Assad can't conquer. That should answer the commonly put question: "Why would he use sarin when he is winning?"

At the time of the big sarin attack, many voices on the Left emerged to defend Syrian President Bashar al Assad by questioning the commonsense conclusion that his regime was behind the attack. A good number of alternate theories or stories about who was behind it also emerged. Some blamed Prince Bandar and the Saudis, others blamed Turkey and Qatar. None claimed to have definitive proof but they did complement the other campaign that emerged in the Imperial Left. That was a campaign against any military attack on the Assad regime in response to the sarin attack. Anything that cast doubt of Assad's culpability was a good fit for demands that Obama renege on his promise to the Syrian people.

Now it would seem that these theories have been adopted wholesale and uncritically because there appears to be a perception on the Imperial Left that it was "proven" that the sarin attack was a "false flag" attack. I have been very surprised by the number of "anti-imperialists" who treat that as if it were an established fact.

The Defense rests

Given the significant of this breach of the hundred year old ban on the use of chemical weapons against civilians, and the importance of its return as a weapon against mass uprisings, one should expect the Left to be first among those pursuing the perpetrators no matter who they might be. The US military strike question aside, 1,400 people were murdered in what clearly was a war crime and someone needs to be brought before the International Criminal Court for that. That's not what happened. Those promoting alternate theories were acting as Assad's attorneys, not prosecutors for the people. As soon as the danger of a US military response passed, they dropped the case. The Imperial Left never really settled on whodunit, but they are sure Assad is innocent.

There never was any real danger of a US military response. The original "red-line" statement was more about what the US wouldn't do rather than what the US would do under what Obama thought were improbable conditions. Now that his bluff had been called, he needed a way out. That's why he threw this command decision to congress and why all those protesting "Hands off Syria" were doing him a favor.

Veterans for Peace marching with Assad supporters
After Obama "yielded" to popular pressure, not only did he call off any US military strike, he made the French stand down as well. Although Assad's conventional bombs started raining down on Syrian civilians at an ever increasing rate, there was dancing in the streets by the Imperial Left over having "stopped a war." There was very little awareness of what effect America's reneging on a promise to finally step up if Assad ever did use chemical weapons had on the balance of forces inside of Syria or what a gift it was to the jihadists. Even now, few on the Left see the connection between the West's turning its back to the people while a dictator massacred them and the rise of Daesh. Still, it could be said that Daesh rode Obama's "red-line" from Raqqa to Mosul, and having conquered Mosul, Baghdadi declared his caliphate.

UN answers Sy Hersh's "Whose sarin?" question

Of course, the military strike against Assad never happened. Hasn't even happened yet when Obama has bombed just about every side in Syria but Assad's. That's how close he came to bombing Assad in 2013! What did happen was that Assad agreed to give up all the chemical weapons he would admit to having. That included his well known supply of sarin. Although the United Nations had been prohibited from naming a culprit in the sarin attack by the Russian veto, after Assad turned over his sarin, they were able to compare it to samples that came from the 21 August attack and come to the very interesting conclusion that the sarin used in the 21 August attack came from "the chemical weapons stockpile of the Syrian military."

If those UN test results are believed, it it almost impossible not to conclude that the Assad regime was behind the attack. After all, it never claimed any was stolen or otherwise went missing. If the UN results are believed, we have to conclude that all the stories concocted by Sy Hersh, Ray Govern and Mint Press about sarin created in someone's kitchen were so much hooey. Yet none of them have been called to task to defend their stories in the light of this new information or to discredit the UN report. As near as I can tell, that UN report has been ignored by the Imperial Left that long ago concluded that it was a false flag situation of some sort and that Bashar al-Assad was innocent of attacking East Ghouta, at least with sarin on 21 August 2013.

The mainstream Left has been dominated by this Imperial Left and it has been wrong about Syria from the beginning. While its militants like to portray themselves as the staunches opponents of US imperialism, they have been supporting US policy in Syria all along which, contrary to public pronouncements, has been to keep the Assad regime in power. This Imperial Left has played an important supporting role in promoting this US imperialist policy in Syria because this policy meant standing aside while Assad and his backers waged a ruthless campaign of mass murder and collective punishment against a popular uprising while looking like they are against it. The "anti-imperialist" claim that Obama was for "regime change" because he said so helped to sell the illusion, and their "exposure" of even the smallest example of US support for fight against Assad was a real propaganda force multiplier.

Anyone who is aware of the serious lack of coverage of events in Syria over the past four years knows that the US bourgeois media is almost unanimously supportive of this non-interventionist policy. Hundreds of people have been murdered on a daily basis, day in and day out, and it rarely makes the news. Barrel bombs are dropped by the Syrian government every day but the mainstream media never shows us the pictures. The Assad regime kills seven times as many as ISIS but you would never know it from the news coverage. If the US imperialists had ever wanted to build popular support for military intervention in Syria, they wouldn't need to make stuff up or stage any false-flag attacks, all they would have to do is show people what the Assad regime has been doing.

It should surprise no one, especially on the Left, to learn that the last thing the US imperialists would want in Syria is a revolutionary government. Whenever did the US really want that for a 3rd world country? In spite of the "war of words" between the West and the Assads, they have been partners in maintaining the oppressive status quo. The Assad regime cooperated with the Pentagon in its 1991 war on Iraq and with the CIA in its "war on terror." In the past forty years it has given Israel its most peaceful border.

But since the US claims to be a beacon of democracy and the Assad regime was well known to be a brutal dictatorship, no US President can be expected to come out openly in support of such a regime. At least not without a Daesh of terrorism thrown into mix to justify a "lesser of two evils" solution, as is happening now. It should surprise no one when a US President expresses support for the overthrow of such a tyrant or repeatedly asks him to "step down." This has all been part of Obama's "Good Cop" play on Syria. What is surprising is that the mainstream Left should enhance Obama's play by believing his words over his actions and accusing him of "regime change" for years while he has done nothing to implement it, or that they threw their support behind a mass murderer because he claimed to be an "anti-imperialist."

Let me count the ways the Imperial Left has supported "their own" Imperialists:

The first way the Imperial Left has supported its own bourgeoisie on Syria is that, generally speaking, it has been as silent as the mainstream media about publicizing Assad regime atrocities. They have done almost nothing to protest a war that has killed hundreds of thousands in years. If Democracy Now, to take one example, had chosen to campaign against Assad's barrel bombing on an almost daily basis with raw footage generally available on YouTube, it may have well been a game changer. But that didn't happen. You are no more likely to hear about Assad's most recent barrel bombing on Amy's show than on Fox News. 

The second way the Imperial Left has supported its own bourgeoisie on Syria is that they have helped to sell the story that the US government really was opposed to Assad and was working to get him out. Its one thing for Obama to say that Assad should step aside. Having an opposition that complains that he is carrying out a program of regime change has helped a lot more people believe. It has also helped that they make hay out of what little support he has given to the opposition by implying that it is just the tip of an iceberg. They have also been a useful conduit for stories "leaked" from the CIA. Far more effective than a press release from the CIA.

The third way the Imperial Left has supported its own bourgeoisie on Syria is that they have come out loudly on Syria whenever one of Assad atrocities does break through the wall of silent and threatens the world's indifference to his crimes. Then they work hard to blow smoke and dust into the air only for the crimes that have come to public attention, all while being very careful not to bring others into the light of day. They did that when the Houla massacre made the news, most notably, after Assad used sarin in East Ghouta, and most recently to defend the Russian bombing of Assad's opposition.

By their mean-spirited indifference to the struggle of the Syrian people, they have driven thousands of young people away from the Left and towards the jihadists. They have done quite a bit to discredit the Left in the Arab world and among Muslims. The Syrians fighting the regime count Code Pink and Veterans for Peace as being in the enemy camp and they are quite correct to do so. It is therefore quite ironic that one of the main justifications of this Imperial Left for not supporting the Syrian revolution is its lack of Left leadership.

Obama & Putin discuss Syria today
The biggest problem is that they refuse to learn from their mistakes and from history. They are still claiming that Obama is for "regime change" in Syria even as he repeats his opposition to the creation of a safe-haven in Syria or any military intervention to stop the Assad regime assault on civilians before the G20 summit this morning. Most shamefully of all, this Imperial Left still stand 100% behind the decision of the imperialists not to intervene against Assad regime attacks on civilians even while these attacks continue to fuel the Syrian refugee crisis and the rise of ISIS.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

1 comment:

  1. There are many sharp and accurate criticisms in this piece, but the overall thrust is that the Left should be demanding the U.S. government and its allies support the Syrian revolution (or resistance as some call it) by initiating military attack on Assad’s forces. How can we do that? The empire goes to war for the interests of the 1%, not ours. Saddam’s treatment of the Iraqi Kurds was terrible, but the U.S. sanctions/invasion of Iraq was much worse. After Iraq how can the Left support any U.S. attack? (let alone after the U.S. horrors in Guatemala, Vietnam and a myriad other places) Our strategy should be to rally popular forces worldwide to demand all foreign forces (including Hezbollah) withdraw from Syria. This could include calls for resolutions in the UN General Assembly and, more importantly, boycotts and furious exposure on social media of Iranian and Russian regime crimes in Syria

    I also don’t agree with your attack on CODE PINK. It hasn’t defended Assad one bit as far as I can tell. It is anti-war, anti-U.S. interventions anywhere.

    You’re “"Hands Off Syria" Applies to Russia Too" statement is a fine declaration


    and is the good basis for a continuing campaign.