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

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

"Well, what about the barrel bombings that kill thousands?"

"Well, what about the barrel bombings that kill thousands?"
                                            Only a reclaimed Left can defeat Daesh

"Well, what about the barrel bombings that kill thousands? Maybe if the beheading helps to stop that." This was the retort of a Chicago teenager to a FBI agent who was stopping her from boarding a plane to Turkey to join ISIS and fight in Syria. Barrel bombing, in this case, should be understood to stand for the wanton slaughter of civilians and resisters by the Syrian government with barrel bombs and many other killing tools. It has been going on for almost five years now and will soon count a half-million dead as the result. Barrel bombing, in this case, can be understood, as symbolic of what is more and more looking like the first holocaust of the 21st century. While the brutality of ISIS has captured the attention of the West, those that follow events in Syria know that the Assad regime has been responsible for 95% of the killing there.

Most of what passes for "civil society" in the West has acted as if this great tragedy has not been playing out since March 2011. The imperialists have not seen their way clear to stop a people from being throttled by a local dictator. This is expected behavior. The bourgeois media has pretty much buried the story. This too is expected behavior. The so-called Peace & Justice movement in the West has been dominated by an Imperial Left that has aligned itself with the bourgeois media in not covering the story and has actually, on balance, supported the assassin Assad against his own people. In other words, those who could normally be expected to stand with the oppressed have spat upon them in this case.

However, not everyone has blinders on, especially the youth. Today, via YouTube, Twitter and facebook, anyone who really wants to find out what is going on can do so, in spite of the bourgeois/Left media blackout. Today the world is shocked by the murder of 130 in Paris one Friday night. Those that chose to make themselves aware of what has been happening in Syria know that for years now, while the world paid it no-never-mind, that has been about the average daily bodycount.
Martyrs distributed on all the days of the week. The average number was (136 martyrs a day) and the highest number was recorded on Sunday 9-2-2014 when (195) martyrs fell.

* The percentage of the martyrs who died as a result of fire shots and sniper bullets is (20%), while that of those who died because of artillery shelling, mortar, rocket launchers is (12.5%), whereas the percentage of those who were martyred as a result of military air raids is (42%).

Violations Documentation Center report for week of 8/2/2014 - 14/2/2014
Some people, especially young people, have acted on their conscience by going to Syria or attempting to do so. In a NPR piece on foreign fighters in Syria, Dina Temple-Raston opened with a historical perceptive on the current wave of radicals traveling to Syria. She compared them to those that traveled to Spain to fight the fascists before World War 2:
The heyday of "war tourism" was probably the 1930s, when a host of intellectuals and artists left the U.S. to bear witness to the Spanish Civil War. Ernest Hemingway wrote about it. George Orwell, just to name another, actually fought in it.

Regular people from all walks of life showed up on those fields of battle as well, in much the same way young men — both Muslim and non-Muslim — are streaming to Syria today.
And not just young men, I would add. The article profiles one of the first US citizens to fight against Assad in this revolution, former Army Pvt. Eric Harroun. In 2013 he posted "Bashir al-Assad your days are numbered, you're going down in flames," to his facebook page and went to Syria. He started out fighting with the Free Syrian Army but end up fighting the Assad regime along side of al Nusra. That got him charged when he returned to the US.

In the past few years thousands of men and women have made the journey from Arab countries like Tunisia and Libya and western countries like the United States and France to make jihad against Assad in Syria. According to French Senator Jean-Pierre Suer 1,430 men and women from France had made their way to Iraq and Syria as of April 2015. About 20 percent were "born again" converts to Islam. In Paris: The War ISIS Wants, New York Review of Books, 16 November 2015, Scott Atran and Nafees Hamid write:
French Muslims are also predominantly a social underclass, a legacy of France’s colonial past and indifference to its aftermath. For example, although just 7 to 8 percent of France’s population is Muslim, as much as 70 percent of the prison population is Muslim.
As one twenty-four-year-old who joined Jabhat an-Nusra in Syria told us:
They [Western society] teach us to work hard to buy a nice car and nice clothes but that isn’t happiness. I was a third-class human because I wasn’t integrated into a corrupted system.
Similar numbers have come from other countries in Europe and hundreds have come from the United States, and increasingly we hear of youths from Christian families converting for the purpose of joining the jihad.

The mainstream media would have us believe all these people are sick puppies who have become religious fanatics that are only going to Syria to join Daesha and only for the purposes of building an Islamic State caliphate. This is far from the case. Young people are rushing to the aid of a people who badly need it. It is also important to note that not all foreigners who join the fight in Syria do so under the banner of Daesh. This is what the media wants you to believe. So do Assad and Putin for that matter. Although Daesh has effective propaganda and is very good about trolling for newbies looking to cross into Syria, and the FBI is very good about trolling for wantabes in the name of Daesh, not everybody is caught by either.

Naturally, those involved in the cover up of the Syrian tragedy can't talk about its role in motivating thousands to leave relatively comfortable lives at home and travel to a war-torn land. Besides, by and large, these are the kind of people the imperialists would just as soon see dead whether their radicalism leans towards the left or the right, so painting them all as Islamic extremists suits them just fine.

Jaelyn Delshaun Young, 20, and Muhammad Oda Dakhalla, 23, a Mississippi couple, were arrested for allegedly attempting to join Daesh while boarding a plane for Turkey in August. He is a Mississippi State graduate and the son of an iman that has lived in Mississippi for decades. Sam R Hall of the local Clarion-Ledger reported "She was a cheerleader, an honor student and a member of the homecoming court in high school." She also was the daughter of a Vicksburg police officer and a "recent convert" to Islam. According to an FBI affidavit, she planned on "giving medical aid to the injured in Syria." Sam Hall, wondered in his column:
What could lead this young girl to become so enraged at the nation of her birth that she would decide her loyalty belonged to ISIS and then recruit her boyfriend to join her in a plan to become engaged in the Muslim tradition, flee the country, marry in Turkey, cross the border into Syria and seek to pledge their allegiance and their lives to ISIS?
Shannon Maureen Conley, a 19 year old Colorado youth was arrested at Denver International Airport while attempting to travel to Turkey to join ISIS as a nurse and marry an ISIS member she met on the Internet. She was reported to the FBI by the pastor of her church, Family Bible Chapel in Arvada, Colorado. According to a Denver channel report "Conley told the investigators she does not like Israel or FBC’s active and vocal support for Israel." When an FBI agent warned her that her intention to travel to Syria might be illegal, she said "she would rather be in prison than do nothing." I remember feeling that way about the Vietnam War when I was 19, and I was soon watched by the FBI for my anti-war opinions. The agent also talked to Conley's parents and said she "described Jihad to her father as struggles to help the oppressed or the poor." That also sounds like what I was about at that age. Fortunately for me, there was a strong Left presences in the struggles that attracted my attention, so strong, in fact, that it had a progressive influence even on the right-wing religious jihadists, the Nation of Islam, that otherwise might have captured my young allegiance.

Another American convert to Islam, Don Morgan, 44, was following events in Syria and then decided to go and help out:
I began to set up things that would protect those that I was leaving behind and then, after all of that, I purchased the ticket with the intent of entering to Syria, either joining up with medical and food aid convoys or directly with Islamic State.
Nguyen courtroom drawing
Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen is the son of Vietnamese immigrants who was still attending Sunday Mass with his mother when he was arrested in Santa Ana, CA while boarding a bus to Mexico. According to the LA Times "In a plea agreement, Nguyen admitted that he went to Syria about a year ago to join opposition forces against the Bashar Assad regime."

Abdella Ahmad Tounisi, 18, was a Chicago teen who talked about going to Tunisia, Egypt and Syria to help the oppressed people there. He told an FBI agent posing as an al Nusra recruiter that he was willing to die in the Syrian struggle.

Mohammed Hamzah Khan, 19, was another Chicago teen arrested in an FBI sting at O'Hara International Airport trying to make his way to Syria. He left a letter for his parents saying “We are all witness that the western societies are getting more immoral day by day,” and expressing opposition to the way his tax dollars were being used to kill his "Muslim brothers and sisters."

While most people have learned to go about their business and ignore the mass murder Bashar al-Assad has been committing daily, many young people have not. Because the Left has also been ignoring Syria, there have been almost no progressive channels for this frustration or energy. Daesh is a criminal organization concerned neither with helping the Syrian people nor overthrowing the Assad regime, but in this vacuum, they have been very effective at mobilizing the best human instincts to their advantage. CNN asked:
But what draws Americans to give up their comfortable lives in the United States and travel to war-torn countries to fight? An appeal to their sense of duty. It's a message frequently posted by ISIS on social media: "You have to join. It's your religious duty,"
Aki Peritz, a former CIA officer says of those Daesh recruits:
They're often times searching for an identity, because what the jihadis are actually pushing is a specific narrative, which is: "Your people (Muslims) are being oppressed in this place called Syria; your government is doing nothing; we're the only ones who are actually going to help you out, Why don't you join the fight?"
Again from the Scott Atran and Nafees Hamid report:
As our own research has shown—in interviews with youth in Paris, London, and Barcelona, as well as with captured ISIS fighters in Iraq and Jabhat an-Nusra (al-Qaeda) fighters from Syria—simply treating the Islamic State as a form of “terrorism” or “violent extremism” masks the menace. Dismissing the group as “nihilistic” reflects a dangerous avoidance of trying to comprehend, and deal with, its profoundly alluring mission to change and save the world.
While it is true that with the alienation that runs rampant in our culture, many of the reasons that drive youth to join ISIS are messed up, and Daesh knows how to exploit them, it is also true that many of them are noble and represent the best of humanity. It is exactly this idealism, energy, and lack of moderation, that continuously bring the young to the forefront of the revolutions that ultimately will save humanity.

[ As a side note, this would be a good place to point out that the bourgeois and Imperial Left practice of mislabeling the democratic and more secular forces in the Syrian revolution, the "moderate opposition" is not doing them any favor and is likely to influence foreign youth heading for Syria to throw their lot in with the hard core jihadists like Daesh and al Nusra. These youth aren't interested in anything labeled "moderate." Much less in anything labeled "US backed." ]

Picasso's Guernica, considered by many the greatest anti-war painting, was a product of the Spanish Civil War
Eighty years ago youths like these would have been traveling to Spain to fight the fascists under Left leadership, but today the fascists who are wreaking Syria are aligned with the Imperial Left, so these youths have found no Left leadership to guide them. When they listen for the Left point of view about this developing holocaust, they hear silence, punctuated by occasional outbursts of support for Assad. They see a Left that is utterly bankrupt with respect to the biggest humanitarian crisis of this century. This has created a hole in the social fabric big enough for Daesh to get someone to drive a truck bomb through - and they have.

Many factors have given rise to Daesh:

The "anti-imperialists" are quite correct in pointing to George Bush's war against Saddam Hussein in Iraq as creating the fertile ground in which Daesh would first develop. Generally, their analysis comes up short after this insight. They aren't likely to talk about the support al Qaeda in Iraq received from the secular Baathists on both sides of the Sykes-Picot line, and even less likely to talk about the very direct role the regime of Bashar al-Assad has had in the development, funding, protection, and direction of Daesh.

Beyond these specific conditions, there are two major features of the 21st century that have made the rise of Daesh possible: 1} a corrupt bourgeois culture, both in the imperialist countries and their "elites" that run the dependent nations of Asia, Africa and the Middle East and, 2} a corrupt Left.

In the age of imperialism and monopoly capitalism, the bourgeois culture can't help itself, so it is a given. The Left that has been hijacked by opportunists is the side of the question to which we much address ourselves.

The Left use to be the great bulwark of support for the downtrodden, but not in the case of Syria. Most on the Left turned their back on the Syrian people and their developing tragedy. "Well, what about the barrel bombings that kill thousands?" is a question that could be well put to both Democracy Now and Fox News. Those that followed events in Syria have known where the Left has stood, largely by its silence. Silence about their crimes is what the Assad fascists want most from the Left media just as from the bourgeois media. They are using mass murder and collective punishment to put down a popular uprising, so they want as little light as possible shined on the results of their handiwork. The Left has obliged. Hundreds of thousands slaughtered. Many of them by barrel bombs. Where have the anti-war demonstrations been to protest that? Where has been the Left leadership for youth whose anger grows daily because of what the world is allowing to be done to people they regard as their brothers and sisters? They can't turn off their feelings for this tragedy like a lot of leftists with some throwaway line about "fighting their own bourgeoisie."

Where the Left has not been silent, it has most often spoken out in support of the regime. This has not been lost on those that support the struggle against Bashar al-Assad. Because it has allowed itself to be dominated by this entrenched Imperial Left, the Left as a whole has been discredited. Most involved with or supporting the Syrian revolution see the Left as standing on the wrong side of the barricades, as virtual enemies of the Syrian revolution.

There are many reasons why the Left finds itself in this position but they are really just so many forms of opportunism and corruption. No matter how the details are cataloged and listed, the results are the same. Any human being troubled by what has been taking place in Syria will find the stand taken by the so-called "Peace & Justice" movement, the "anti-war" movement, the "Peace" movement, or the Left by any other name, as bankrupt as that presented by the bourgeois world.

Daesh's clearly marked HQ in Raqqa remained unbombed by Assad until coalition strikes began

How can Daesh be defeated?

US President Obama has been leading an air campaign against ISIS in Syria for over a year now. Just what they have been bombing is subject to question. Particular since with 2,857 US and coalition air strikes in Syria, US intelligence somehow still had fresh ISIS targets in Raqqa for the French to hit. According to The Guardian, 16 November 2015, the French dropped 20 bombs:
The operation, carried out in coordination with US forces, struck a command centre, recruitment centre for jihadists, a munitions depot, and a training camp for fighters. The sites targeted had previously been identified on reconnaissance flights, the statement said.
Just why they hadn't been struck already isn't said. Apparently, the coalition wasn't hitting ISIS were it could really hurt - in the pocket book. Before US air strikes hit 238 ISIS oil trucks in Syria on Monday, only 260 targets out of 16,075 listed as damaged/destroyed in Operation Inherent Resolve have been listed as "Oil Infrastructure."

It should go without saying that Daesh can't be defeated with air strikes. Air strikes always come with "collateral damage," especially when the dumb bombs that the Syrians and Russians favor, are used. And with every innocent death, the outrage that fuels ISIS grows. Daesh can't be defeated by western, eastern, or regional government ground troops for the same reason. Daesh is like one of those science fiction monsters that have risen from the murk of the modern world and with every missile strike it grows in strength and fierceness.

While the fear mongers paints images of ISIS terrorists sneaking in among the huddled masses of Syrian refugees, US Republican governors engage in hate speech, and congress again acts to deny those fleeing a holocaust; Ahmet Dahmani, the Belgian Daesh 'scout' for the Paris attack, coolly flies to the seaside resort of Antalya, Turkey and checks into a 5-star hotel. What's wrong with this picture?

It also shouldn't need to be said that the new barriers to Syrian refugees and the widespread Islamophobic reaction to the Paris attacks is a big part of the payoff ISIS was looking for. It is probably why a fake Syrian passport was left at the scene. Responses like these to Daesh's crimes only helps to fuel its growth.

The notion that defeating Daesh requires working with Assad is just plain silly. He quite consciously helped to create this monster and he uses it still. Even if the Islamic extremists are put away again while restoring his bloody rule, he will only conjure them up again as soon as the people revolt again. Besides the Syrian opposition will never stop fighting as long as Assad clings to power and the Syrian refugees will never return while he rules.

Daesh can only be defeated by taking away the energy that feeds it, which are the many outrages of imperialism, and redirecting that energy in a forward looking rather than a backwards looking direction. Daesh can only be defeated by cutting off its supply of new recruits and that can only be done by giving those who want to fight Assad in the present and hope to build a better world in the future, a real way to do it. That means developing a revolutionary Left path that they can follow.

The only thing that will dry up Daesh recruits is a Left led effort to rally young people to the side of the revolution, and this will require overthrowing the current entrenched Imperial Left and reclaiming the Left as an instrument for revolutionary change.

                 - Clay Claiborne

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

1 comment:

  1. Tremendously important research into the backgrounds of countless ISIS recruits as well as others traveling to fight but not for ISIS. Essential for the left to understand these things, to demystify ISIS, if it is ever to defeat Daesh by being an alternative pole of attraction for those inspired by internationalist ideals. as you suggest. Unfortunately I can't see that happening any time soon; if not the ridiculously pro-Assad left, it is more the dreadful Tariq Ali, UK Stop the War, type of "left" that remains dominant, which means despair, frankly. All the more so since the important revolutionary left governments of Latin America - whose presence on the world scene could actually make a difference - are now essentially irrelevant to the Mideast due to their dreadful position on these issues (which may not alter their the fact that they are still doing great things in Latin America, but for exactly this reason they are grand opportunity wasted for offering left leadership in the Mideast).