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Friday, April 29, 2016

Robert F. Kennedy's Jr. Andromeda Strain

For more than ten thousand years, humanity has looked up at the night sky and drew patterns among the stars. We created relationships between the stars based on our very unique point of view that have no basis in reality. Take for example the Andromeda Constellation. It is visible in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. One of its stars, Mirach, is red giant around 200 light years from Earth, another of its "stars," M31 isn't a star at all, it's a galaxy made up of over a trillion stars more than 1.2 million light years from Earth. Even so, since at least the 2nd century, humans have grouped then together in one of the original 48 constellations listed by Greco-Roman astronomer Ptolemy. Obviously these two points of light in the night sky share nothing in common outside the brains of humans and yet we group them together and assume a connection because that's what it looks like to us.

Here's another fun fact about constellations: The sun is the only known star in our galaxy which is not part of a constellation. Now, why is that?

In the piece that we are about to examine, in some detail I should warn, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. strains to understand what has been happening in Syria, but he is like the primitive Earthbound observer straining to understand the points of light that make up Andromeda. Whereas the early astronomers mistook the super galaxy M31 for an ordinary star, Kennedy sees in the million points of light that make up the Syrian Revolution, just another oil war.

What "the Arabs" Want & Why

Back here on Earth, we also have to be aware of the dangers of analyzing distant things with blinders on. When we look at other peoples' revolutions solely from the point of view of our involvement and our concerns, a narrow, self-interested, and generally white supremacist outlooks tends to dominate and it can lead to incorrect and chauvinist conclusions. This is the case with Robert F. Kennedy's Jr.  recent piece in Politico titled Why the Arabs Don't Want Us in Syria.

Friday of Immediate Military Intervention | Homs | 16 Mar 2012

The title already is bathed in the brand of chauvinism that would allow a Kennedy to think he could speak for all Arabs. Does Kennedy claim to speak also for the hundreds of thousands of Syrian Arabs that protested in every major Syrian city on the Friday of a No-Fly Zone or the Friday of Immediate Foreign Intervention? How about the Syrians that were dis-heartened by Obama's reneging on his redline promise after Assad murdered 1400 with sarin? Actually Kennedy's essay reeks of this chauvinism. Take for example, just the first paragraph:
In part because my father was murdered by an Arab, I've made an effort to understand the impact of U.S. policy in the Mideast and particularly the factors that sometimes motivate bloodthirsty responses from the Islamic world against our country. As we focus on the rise of the Islamic State and search for the source of the savagery that took so many innocent lives in Paris and San Bernardino, we might want to look beyond the convenient explanations of religion and ideology. Instead we should examine the more complex rationales of history and oil—and how they often point the finger of blame back at our own shores.
He seems to equate Arab with Islamic which is odd since the Arab that murdered his father, Sirhan Bishara Sirhan was a Palestinian Christian. He speaks of the "bloodthirsty responses" of the Muslim religion and says nothing about the revolutionary response of Arab nationalism that is very much a part of this history. This is to be expected since in the last sentence he lets us know this essay is really about us and our history anyway. But most insulting to the Arabs Kennedy seeks to speak for is his reference to "so many innocent lives" taken by Daesh, which he respectfully calls the Islamic State. He mentions only the 143 lives taken by Daesh in Europe and the US and ignores the thousands of Arabs they have slaughtered in Syria and Iraq. It is also clearly his intention not to mention the hundreds of thousands of Arab lives taken by the savagery of Bashar al-Assad. Those aren't "innocent lives" Kennedy shows much concern for.

Still, this lengthy essay is actually quite good, so long as it sticks to cataloging the abuses of US imperialism to the region since the 1950's. For those less familiar, it gives a good summary of "CIA coup plots in Jordan, Syria, Iran, Iraq and Egypt." He goes back to when "The CIA began its active meddling in Syria in 1949" just as did my 13 January 2013 post How the US help put Assad in power in Syria. That piece nominated CIA agent Deane Hinton for making the most prophetic statement of 1949. He made it to the CIA committee that was planning the coup to replace the government elected in 1947, and it got him kicked out of the meeting:
"I want to go on record as saying that this is the stupidest, most irresponsible action a diplomatic mission like ours could get itself involved in, and that we've started a series of these things that will never end."
Oh, how those words still echo down the history to this very day! In Kennedy's telling of this history, his singular perspective gets him into trouble on the Syrian Revolution because not every effort to overthrow a foreign government is a CIA coup plot. No doubt, the CIA will try to involve itself. If its not a party they started, it most certainly is a party they will try to crash., and if you only look for CIA influence then its likely that's all you'll see. This is especially true if you are possessed by a chauvinist bias that discounts the agency of the natives and see's its activists only in the light you shine from a great distance.

This is how one of those activists, Robin Yassin-Kassab, one of the authors of Burning Country, recently described the causes of the Syrian conflict:
EVERY REGIME or government or state system in the world has to govern through a combination of two things--coercion and consensus. Depending on the state, there's a different balance between the two. The current Syrian regime came to power when Bashar al-Assad's father seized power in 1970. He used the Baath Party to impose a totalitarian state with him at the apex.

It leaned heavily on coercion to keep the people down ever since. But it also did things to win consent from key groups in society. So, for example, Hafez al-Assad opened up opportunities for sections of the Alawis, Christians, Ismailis, as well as Sunni peasants. He encouraged them to enter the army, security services and universities.

Many were willing to tolerate the dictatorship as long as their lives improved. The peasantry in general, whatever their religious background, acquiesced to his rule. Their villages were being electrified, roads were being built so they could get crops to market, and schools were being built in their villages and towns. The urban Sunni working class also benefited though getting jobs in the growing state-owned sector of the economy and from subsidized food and fuel.

Nevertheless, people were discontented with Hafez al-Assad's dictatorship. When Bashar al-Assad came to power in the year 2000, he promised a "Damascus Spring," raising hopes among Syria's masses for a new democratic opening. But those were quickly dashed. Assad the younger actually strengthened his family dictatorship and imposed neoliberal economic changes that were disastrous for workers and peasants.

Assad's neoliberalism was simply crony capitalism. He sold off state-owned companies mainly to his family and friends. For example, the president's cousin, Rami Makhlouf, ended up with a finger in 60 percent of the economy. At the same time, he cut subsidies on food and fuel, destroying the safety net for the poor.

While conditions were terrible before neoliberalization, they grew profoundly worse after it. Discontent began to build and people began to share their concerns over the Internet. Syria was ripe for a resistance movement.
Notice how his brief description leaves out any reference to US imperialism or the CIA? This is not because Robin is in denial about their roles but because it is a brief description. Compare this to the genesis Robert F. Kennedy Jr. gives us. He sees Assad's refusal to build a pipeline through Syria
that Qatar and other western interests wanted as the cause of the massive Friday demonstrations demanding the downfall of the regime. If Kennedy's essay was a photo shoot, this paragraph would be the "money shot" because this is where he presents the facts underlying his view that the uprising against Assad was instigated by outsiders:
Secret cables and reports by the U.S., Saudi and Israeli intelligence agencies indicate that the moment Assad rejected the Qatari pipeline, military and intelligence planners quickly arrived at the consensus that fomenting a Sunni uprising in Syria to overthrow the uncooperative Bashar Assad was a feasible path to achieving the shared objective of completing the Qatar/Turkey gas link. In 2009, according to WikiLeaks, soon after Bashar Assad rejected the Qatar pipeline, the CIA began funding opposition groups in Syria. It is important to note that this was well before the Arab Spring-engendered uprising against Assad.
This is the "money shot" because the whole point of this essay is to promote a view of that the uprising against Assad is in reality a CIA engineered regime change program. Unlike Robin's assessment that the principal causes of the rebellion against Assad are to be found within Syrian society, Kennedy shows little concern or knowledge about these Syrian developments. He discounts a decade of struggle and repression since the Damascus Spring Movement that followed the death of Hafiz al-Assad, and dates the struggle as starting in 2011, engendered by what was happening in other Middle East and North African countries.

His narrative seems to make perfect sense because by the time he has gotten to 2011, he has already led us through a 50 year history of CIA regime change plots, and at the same time he has ignored the struggle of the Arabs, in those same 50 years, for Arab unity and self-determination. Both of those histories intersect in the present day conflict in Syria but Kennedy's narrative sees only one, and the lesser one at that, and ignores the other.

Even so, Kennedy still has to play fast and loose with the facts to make his case. He implies a cause and effect relationship when he says "soon after Bashar Assad rejected the Qatar pipeline, the CIA began funding opposition groups." This is just not true! The CIA was already funding Syrian opposition groups long before 2009. We can either believe Kennedy or not with regards to "secret cables and reports by the U.S., Saudi and Israeli intelligence agencies" because he gives us nowhere else to go with them. If we follow the "began funding" link to details, we find this Washington Post story U.S. secretly backed Syrian opposition groups, cables released by WikiLeaks show. That article names only one group receiving US dollars, the MJD and its Barada TV, an opposition satellite TV station:
Barada TV is closely affiliated with the Movement for Justice and Development, a London-based network of Syrian exiles. Classified U.S. diplomatic cables show that the State Department has funneled as much as $6 million to the group since 2006 to operate the satellite channel and finance other activities inside Syria. The channel is named after the Barada River, which courses through the heart of Damascus, the Syrian capital.
If the State Department has been funding this group since 2006, it kinda undermines Kennedy's argument that they began in 2009 because Assad rejected Qatar's pipeline deal, and remember, this is his link.

In 2006, when this funding began under Bush, Assad was still running jihadists into Iraq to fight the US occupation. This $6 million works out to about $1 million a year. That's not a lot to run a TV station on, even if you're not doing it in London. Consider for scale that the annual budget of Los Angeles alternative radio, Pacfica's KPFK is $13 million, and its only a radio station! And while we don't have anything to tell us how those funds were metered out, I'd wager that it was heavily front loaded, when the group was first starting and when Bush's policy of regime change in Syria still ruled the day. All this changed under Obama.

But not only does Kennedy never mention the 2006 start date for this $6 million, although that is clearly stated in his source materials, he goes even further to imply that this money was specifically for the present conflict by saying:
In 2011, the U.S. joined France, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the UK to form the Friends of Syria Coalition, which formally demanded the removal of Assad. The CIA provided $6 million to Barada, a British TV channel, to produce pieces entreating Assad’s ouster.
This is just intellectually dishonest. Clearly Kennedy is leading the reader to believe this funding began in 2011, after the US, France, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the UK got together to oust Assad. He says nothing about the months of massive peaceful protests and Assad's bloody assaults on them that preceded the forming of the Friends of Syria Coalition. He also calls it a British TV channel whereas it is a Syrian opposition channel based in Britain [They don't last too long in Syria.] and he says the $6 million came from the CIA, whereas his Wikileaks source material says in came from the US State Depart filtered through two NGOs, the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) and the Bureau of Human Rights and Labor (DRL). Are these differences important? If you want to know whether Kennedy is calling out imperialist lackeys or slandering Syrian revolutionaries, they are.

The reason for thinking these US govt funds came mainly in the Bush years is that Obama changed the US policy towards Syria from one of regime change to one of engagement. It was only after the masses started loudly demanding an end to the regime that Obama begin meekly parroting them by asking Assad to step down. The Wikileaks State Department cable Kennedy and the Washington Post use speaks of that too, in a part they didn't quote:
2. (C) As the Syria policy review moves apace, and with the apparent collapse of the primary Syrian external opposition organization, one thing appears increasingly clear: U.S. policy may aim less at fostering "regime change" and more toward encouraging "behavior reform."
Wikileaks has another document from 2009 that also gives us a very different picture of the US attitude towards Bashar al-Assad at that time. It is to be found in one of the emails in the Statfor Global Intelligence Files, subject line US sends military team back to Damascus for talks, Reva Bhalla, one of their Mideast experts, summarizes the current state of affairs. This is in August 2009:
Syria offering intel cooperation on AQ, Iran, HZ
Syria facilitating March 14 win in Lebanon
Saudi pouring money into Syrian coffers
US and Saudi rewarding Syria with diplomatic recognition (notice how
quiet everyone is about Lebanon)
Signs that Syria is moving forward -- big Syrian military/intel
reshuffles; Iran threatening to destabilize the Syrian regime; HZ
this is all covered in our analysis
Kennedy's narrative seems to work as much because of what he leaves out as it does on what he focuses on. Here we have a different view of US - Syria relations circa 2009. It doesn't sound like the Obama administration is simply continuing the Bush policy of isolation and regime change towards Syria at all. It sounds like he is changing that policy.

Who is Barada TV?

Barada TV
Kennedy would have us believe that a London based Syrian opposition TV station that has been receiving about $1 million a year from the US State Department since 2006 is the center piece of the CIA regime change plans for Syria. So what is Barada TV when its at home? ABC.Net's Elizabeth Jackson did an interview with one of Kennedy's "pipeline proxies" responsible for the station in June 2011 when the rebellion was still very young:
In this spring of revolutions, Arabic satellite channels have defined the story by providing around-the-clock coverage and commentary. But that hasn't happened in Syria, where authorities have banned the international media.

But in this brave new digital world, a London-based satellite channel, Barada TV, has been able to circumvent the Syrian authorities.

Malik al-Abdeh is the chief editor. I asked him how the station began.

MALIK AL-ABDEH: Well it began in late 2008 when a group of Syrians from inside Syria and also from the expatriate community decided that they really wanted a TV channel that expresses the people's opinions freely without any government censorship. So I was one of the people from the beginning and we sought funding for this new channel, we got funding and we began working on it and then the channel was launched in April 2009.
They sound like a group of activists with a dream that was beyond their budget and didn't look too far down the throat of a gift horse when some "NGOs" showed up with the money. So what did it buy in the heart of London?
ELIZABETH JACKSON: Describe for us what your studio is like.

MALIK AL-ABDEH: Very small, it's actually very, the number of employees we have at Barada is about 10 people and one part-timer. It's a very small set up. It's extremely small studio, it's a virtual studio, so it's very, very modest.

I mean viewers can tell when they watch us that this is a very low-budget production, but we more than make up for it in terms of our content, our bravery in terms of dealing with a lot of issues relating to Syria, especially with what's happening now in the country and the revolution is almost entering its fourth month now.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: Tell me about the material that you broadcast there from that tiny studio. Do you get material from YouTube, or do the Syrians themselves somehow upload videos directly to you?

MALIK AL-ABDEH: Some of the videos are sent directly to us. I mean ever since we've been broadcasting daily to our live show, we've had a lot of viewers, our viewership has really skyrocketed inside the country.

People watch our channel to get the news of what's happening in Syria and also to get opinion. And also to call in. So we've got quite a strong, I would say a very strong following in Syria. For that reason people now trust us. That if they send their recorded material that it would be broadcasted.
He then goes on to describe a critical role some ex-patriot groups were playing in the struggle to take down Assad:
These are groups of young men, usually around two, three or four maximum, who set up a YouTube channel and then through their contacts inside Syria, through their ability to get these videos onto mainstream satellite channels, they build up a reputation and people then send videos that were recorded using mobile phone or a very simple hand-held camera and they send them to these guys and some of these guys are based in France, some of them are based in Jordan, in Turkey, it's really quite dispersed.
And on the pivotal question of funding, which on the basis of Kennedy logic, makes this guy the principal instigator of "just another proxy war over pipelines and geopolitics" he says this:
ELIZABETH JACKSON: There's been a lot of speculation that the US is bankrolling the channel. Is that right?

MALIK AL-ABDEH: Well if you're referring to the US government, that's not true. We have a funding relationship with a US-based NGO who are currently contributing about 50 per cent of our budget and that's primarily to pay for a three-year contract with the satellite provider.

The rest of the money, program making is funded by Syrian expatriates who became very interested in what we do because they felt we were having an influence on the ground. And that's our funding arrangement.

But I would like to stress the fact that regardless of who pays for the channel, and let's not forget, there's no other way of funding a channel like this, it's not as if we can go commercial and have advertisements because no one in Syria would be willing to advertise with us. Regardless of who's actually paying the money, the most important thing is we have an independent editorial policy.
He knows the money paying the all important satellite bill is tainted. They have chosen to accept it along with the cover story for what is undoubtedly the true source. The money is forthcoming because they share a common goal with the US govt. They want to overthrow Assad and at a minimum, the US govt wants to trouble Assad and also has an interest in appearing to support the fight against him.
Full Disclosure: Did I make a morally equivalent deal with the devil by licensing Vietnam: American Holocaust to RT? We all know who bankrolls RT so did that make me a Putin proxy? If enemies want to charge that, I have little defense, except to say that both he and I share a commonality of interests when it comes to exposing the crimes of US imperialism ........but other imperialist crimes have captured my attention lately and RT doesn't call me any more.
Ho Chi Minh & Vo Nguyen Giap with OSS agents in 1945
A million dollars a year is peanuts to the US govt, but it is enough to hang a whole conspiracy theory on, as Kennedy has shown us, which raises the sticky question of whether revolutionaries should ever risk even the appearance of being proxies by accepting support from imperialists. Should Ho Chi Ming have accepted weapons and training from the pre-CIA OSS when the Viet Minh and the US were both fighting the Japanese? Should Vladimir Lenin have accepted that train ride across Germany? Should the American Revolutionaries have accepted the support of France that had purely imperialist reasons for wanting to see Britain weakened? Are such alliances indispensable to the revolution? Should even the appearance of compromise be avoided? These are sticky questions every revolution and every revolutionary has to grapple with and the answers that seem clear when considered in the comfort of a western parlor may not be so easy when the battle is drawn, your friends are dying, and every asset must be brought to bear to turn the tide.

Who really needs a Syria pipeline?

According to Kennedy, Qatar and the West needed to overthrow Assad to do their pipeline deal and that's why they financed and fomented an uprising against him. What he doesn't tell you is that there was an alternate, and by some preferred, route that didn't involve Syria. In August 2009, Tamsin Carlisle reported in The National:
The reports said two different routes for such a pipeline were possible. One would lead from Qatar through Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq to Turkey. The other would go through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and on to Turkey. It was not clear whether the second option would be connected to the Pan-Arab pipeline, carrying Egyptian gas through Jordan to Syria. That pipeline, which is due to be extended to Turkey, has also been proposed as a source of gas for Nabucco.
Again, Kennedy makes his case as much by what he leaves out as he does by what he focuses on. Five months later it seems that the alternate route that involved Syria had been forgotten, as Tamsin Carlisle was now reporting in The National:
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister of Turkey, used his appearance in Abu Dhabi yesterday at the World Future Energy Summit to promote the ambitious project, which could supply gas to Europe through a Turkish hook-up with the proposed Nabucco pipeline....Qatar proposed an overland gas link to Turkey through Saudi Arabia last August during talks in Turkey ... The biggest obstacle to the project is likely to be winning support from Saudi Arabia
In this article, Syria doesn't even get a mention. This is after Assad supposedly rejected the pipeline to please Putin and "well before the Arab Spring-engendered uprising against Assad." to use Kennedy's happy phrase.

Kennedy also didn't say that Iran is pushing its own $10 billion pipeline deal. Oilprice.com said it is "in direct competition with Qatar’s similar designs" and added this "pipeline is another proxy in the Syrian conflict theater," abet, one that Kennedy failed to mention. Maybe Iran's desire for a pipeline can explain why they have been willing to spend so much of their national blood and treasure to kill so many Syrians and prop up Assad? One thing is for sure, they don't have an alternate route involving Saudi Arabia!

Kennedy on recent Syrian history

Kennedy is telling us what the Arabs want and why but he doesn't listen to Arabs. These are the Arab experts he cites: Sy Hersh, Joe Biden, Dexter Filkins of the New Yorker, the right-wing group Judicial Watch, FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, and of course Wikileaks and the Washington Post. Where are the Syrians? Why doesn't he ask those in the refugee camps if they prefer it if the richest, most powerful country on Earth, a country that claims to stand for freedom and democracy, just leaves them to their fate with Assad & Putin?

Kennedy may claim to speak for the Arabs but he certainly doesn't know the history of the Syria revolution. For example he tells us "Sunni soldiers of the Syrian Army began defecting in 2013." Clearly, he hasn't been reading my blog because he must have missed these:
06/20/2012 BREAKING: Syria fighter pilot defects
06/21/2012 BREAKING: Senior Syrian Officers Defect
06/24/2012 NATO meetup tomorrow as more defect from Syria
06/26/2012 BREAKING: Another mass defection from Syrian army
07/01/2012 BREAKING: Syrian General defects with 293 to Turkey
07/05/2012 BREAKING: Defection of major Assad insider reported in Syria
07/14/2012 Syrian defector spills beans as important new defection reported.
And I didn't start blogging about Syria until April 2012. There were many more defections before that. In fact the Free Syrian Army first formed from a group of 200 Syrian Arab Army soldiers that defected in Dara in July 2011 when they were ordered to fire on peaceful protesters. And it wasn't just Sunnis who defected, Christians and Alawite soldiers also defected. Kennedy is wrong about that as well. As Reuters reported in 2012, a year before Kennedy said the defections began, many were paying an even higher price for trying:
Thousands of soldiers have been killed or imprisoned because they tried to flee and failed, or were suspected of planning to do so. Around 2,500 officers and lesser ranks are imprisoned in the notorious Seidnaya jail north of Damascus, which has been emptied of political prisoners to make way for military personnel, according to opposition sources.
To Kennedy its like these heroic pre-2013 defections and attempts never even happened. These soldiers weren't Syrian patriots for refusing to kill their country men and women for the regime, to Kennedy they were just so many "pipeline proxies."

Syrian soldiers joining the fight against Assad | 31 Dec 2011

Here is another example of Kennedy's distorted history:
The Sunni insurgency named itself Al Qaeda in Iraq.
That's not what happen! Does he see no Arab opposition that is not al Qaeda and therefore illegitimate?

Assad is best for Us

Listen to how Kennedy attempts to prettify conditions he would never tolerate for himself:
Assad maintained peace among his diverse peoples by a strong, disciplined army loyal to the Assad family.
So the purpose of the national army is to protect the government from the people because that government rules with "a coldly efficient intelligence apparatus and a penchant for brutality" and is loyal to one man and the family he controls. Kennedy doesn't ever address the internal opposition this brutality generated because everybody he talked to thought the Syrians were fine with it. Too bad he didn't talk to any Syrians:
No one believed that the regime was vulnerable to the anarchy that had riven Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia.
He calls people rising up again police state rule "anarchy" even when the police state is a US client. Kennedy may think he can speak for the Arabs but he's really not on their side.

In defense of Assad, he makes an argument that Saudi Arabia is worst. Most who know the pre-March 15, 2011 brutality of the Assad regime wouldn't think Saudi Arabia is worst. Saudi Arabia may announce hundreds of executions every year but in Syria thousands just disappeared into the state security gulag without a trace. Anyway this question of who is worst is neither here nor there for Syrians. Why should they curtail their attempts to overthrow Assad because people somewhere else have it worst? This is a purely POV argument being made by and to people that don't have to live in either Saudi Arabia or Syria.

These so-called anti-imperialists really don't care about the suffering of people under a dictator unless they can use it as a talking point that puts their country at the center of everything. They don't care how many Arabs these dictators slaughter to stay in power and they want them to stay in power because they falsely think that will make the world safer for them. Seymour Hersh sang a similar song about Libyan "Brother Leader" Mummar Gaddafi on Democracy Now Monday:
Gaddafi was a tame cat....they [Obama & Clinton] were going after a guy that had been doing a lot of good work for us, believe it or not, horrible as he was. He was a horrible human being. Bad things happened inside that country to the people. But he was actively working with us on the al-Qaeda issue,..

They took out a guy that didn’t need to go.
From whose point of view did Gaddafi not need to go? Clearly, Hersh takes the POV of the imperial chauvinist and not the people inside that country. Hersh saw Gaddafi as providing a valuable service to the West and didn't mind too much if he did bad things inside of Libya. That's not his problem and he'd just as soon not hear about it. Mercifully, from Democracy Now, he won't.

Bernie Sanders reflected the same imperial preference for dictators during a recent Democratic debate when he said:
Yes, we could get rid of Gaddafi, a terrible dictator, but that created a vacuum for ISIS. Yes, we could get rid of Assad tomorrow, but that would create another political vacuum that would benefit ISIS. [ It would also stop the barrel bombs from falling - Clay ] So I think, yeah, regime change is easy, getting rid of dictators is easy. [ Tell that to the 30,000 dead Libyans. Tell that to a half-million dead Syrians. Its even harder when no one helps. - Clay ] But before you do that, you’ve got to think about what happens the day after.
Again, its a matter of your POV. If a dictator serves some useful purpose, like say suppressing the drug trade, then you might want to think long and hard before you get rid of him. If on the other hand, if you are living under a dictator, you get rid of him as soon as you can and then you deal with the perils of freedom as they come.

Sanders also has the same priorities as Kennedy when it comes to Bashar al-Assad:
In terms of Assad - a terrible dictator.

But I think in Syria the primary focus now must be on destroying ISIS and working over the years to get rid of Assad. That's a secondary issue.
Again its a question of POV. 95% of the half-million Syrian that have died in this conflict have been killed by the forces backing Assad. A few more years of Assad will probably mean a couple of hundred thousand more Syrians will "feel the burn." Not a problem for Sanders. And never mind Assad's role in creating ISIS, they are our main problem now and we can live with "a terrible dictator" in Syria "over the years" even if many Syrians can't.

Kennedy also shows little humanitarian concern for what many call the first holocaust of the 21st century. He is willing to excuse Assad "dropping barrel bombs onto Sunni strongholds and killing civilians," that is to say bombing neighborhoods and apartment blocks and not just Sunni ones, as "Assad’s overreaction to the foreign-made crisis." In other words, its not his fault, we made him do it. Joseph P. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy's Jr. grandfather, was similarly forgiving and supportive of Adolph Hitler. Meanwhile, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. uses the word "holocaust" to describe the autism epidemic but not the hundred of thousands of dead Syrians Assad's carnage has produced.

He also lets Assad escape blame for creating the worst refugee crisis since World War II:
But then, in 2014, our Sunni proxies horrified the American people by severing heads and driving a million refugees toward Europe.
What a kindness to Assad! It has mainly been his barrel bombs, artillery bombardment, chemical weapons attacks, missile strikes and ground assaults that are driving millions of refugees in neighboring countries and tens of thousands into Europe, not the much better publicized Daesh be-headings. Apparently to Kennedy, millions of Syrian refugees crowded into camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan aren't the problem. The problem that they may be headed for Europe (and the US). Again, its a question of your POV.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is in agreement with Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin in seeing only two sides in the Syrian conflict, the Assad side and the western-back terrorist side. Five years of struggle by Syrians to overthrow a 40 year dictatorship, the millions that came out in peaceful protests, the tens of thousand who left Assad's army to join the people's flight, the untold suffering of so many is reduced to nothing, like they don't even exist!
...we must recognize the Syrian conflict is a war over control of resources indistinguishable from the myriad clandestine and undeclared oil wars we have been fighting in the Mideast for 65 years.
But there weren't mass protests demanding an end to the regime when the US invaded Iraq or Afghanistan. There wasn't a revolution going on in those countries. It makes no difference to Kennedy. Those brave Arabs are just "pipeline proxies" and so can be completely discounted. In this one sentence the outrageous chauvinism of Kennedy's POV really shines:
Once we strip this conflict of its humanitarian patina and recognize the Syrian conflict as an oil war our foreign policy strategy becomes clear.
With maybe a half million Syrians dead and more than ten million made homeless, it should be clear that the Syrian conflict is a humanitarian disaster of enormous magnitude no matter who you blame for it. To call this a patina or veneer, to say it is something put on for show, represents a very ugly attitude towards humanity. From his POV the US is behind every conflict in the Middle East, and the motive is always oil, he pays no attention to the struggle of the Syrian people against dictatorship. In his mind they have no independent agency worth considering. Those millions that rallied for the downfall of the regime are just "pipeline proxies" in his mind and clearly we should do nothing.

His solution:
... let the Arabs run Arabia. Other than humanitarian assistance and guaranteeing the security of Israel’s borders, the U.S. has no legitimate role in this conflict.
Which is not to say that he is objecting to the Iranians and Russians running Syria, he means we shouldn't have any objections to Assad running Syria so long as he only kills other Arabs and the only civilians in the region that deserve our protection are settlers from Europe and America and their continuing annexation of Arab lands. Make no mistake about it Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is no friend of "the Arabs" and has no business thinking he can tell us what they want and why.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria


  1. The whole tone of the piece reminds me of the neoconservative narrative that US troops will be welcomed as liberators in Iraq. That some US backed rebels organized demonstrations calling for US intervention offers no assurances to the parents of US troops who will surely become targets of IED attacks by some of the allies of the very same rebels. The piece is a pretentious as the one it criticizes.

  2. Nobody said anything about US troops being welcome but do they need to have anything that is bombing civilian targets wiped from the skies or be allowed to get the weapons they need to do it themselves? Yes!

    You, meaning all the so-called anti-imperialists, are so willing to sell endorsement labels so cheap when you don't even own the product. Usually a capitalist has to pay for the better part of a building or project to get his name on it. But you guys will sell the "US backed" label to somebody else's rebellion for a few million dollars and a handful of bullets. What a give away - to both Assad and Obama! And again, nobody is asking for US troops to defend civilians on the ground. We know that is not what they do so their parents should have no worries on that account.

  3. Yes, so many of the self-styled anti-imperialists preach an ideology that places Western preoccupations, interests and ideologies, including first and foremost their own far above those of the 'natives' in any non-Western country.

    Do they consult Syrians about Syria? Of course not. Syrians are not Westerners, or even honorary members of the Western Left, and therefore cannot be regarded as participants in the debate about Syria.

    This is of course the purest kind of unreconstructed imperialist discourse and dogma. The natives cannot stage their own revolution, they are too stupid, apathetic, incompetent or savage to engage in any such activity without outside orchestration. Indeed without foreign prompting they cannot even formulate the desire for a revolution. There is no way in which mere Syrians can be accepted as members of the community of discourse of civilized (Western) people. Their protests, demands and arguments must be ignored as little more than the incohate braying of wild beasts.

    Compare the way in which the pro-revolutionary Syrians are simply ignored (treated as not existing) with the discourse directed against Western capitalist opponents. Here, whatever the vitriol flung at them, the capitalists are treated as members of the privileged Western community to be confronted and argued against.

    It is not surprising that the anti-imperialist Left is so blind to the imperialism embedded in its own thinking. It was born in an age of imperialism and so was bound to carry within it much imperialist thought, but being anti-imperialist it would never suspect itself of harbouring and preserving such ideological tendencies, and would therefore remain blind to the imperialism within its own discourse.