Perception and reality: building myths about Syria in the mainstream media

by Lebanese writer Sharmine Narwani, from Al Akhbar

“Perception is 100 percent of politics,” the old adage goes. Say something three, five, seven times, and you start to believe it in the same way you “know” aspirin is good for the heart.

Sometimes though, perception is a dangerous thing. In the dirty game of politics, it is the perception – not the facts of an issue – that invariably wins the day.

In the case of the raging conflict over Syria, the one fundamental issue that motors the entire international debate on the crisis is the death toll and its corollary: the Syrian casualty list.

The “list” has become widely recognized – if not specifically, then certainly when the numbers are bandied about: 4,000, 5,000, 6,000 – sometimes more. These are not mere numbers; they represent dead Syrians.

But this is where the dangers of perception begin. There are many competing Syrian casualty lists with different counts – how does one, for instance gauge if X is an accurate number of deaths? How have the deaths been verified? Who verifies them and do they have a vested interest? Are the dead all civilians? Are they pro-regime or anti-regime civilians? Do these lists include the approximately 2,000 dead Syrian security forces? Do they include members of armed groups? How does the list-aggregator tell the difference between a civilian and a plain-clothes militia member?

Even the logistics baffle. How do they make accurate counts across Syria every single day? A member of the Lebanese fact-finding team investigating the 15 May 2011 shooting deaths of Palestinian protesters by Israelis at the Lebanese border told me that it took them three weeks to discover there were only six fatalities, and not the 11 counted on the day of the incident. And in that case, the entire confrontation lasted a mere few hours.

How then does one count 20, 40, or 200 casualties in a few hours while conflict continues to rage around them?

My first port of call in trying to answer these questions about the casualty list was the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which seemed likely to be the most reliable source of information on the Syrian death toll – until it stopped keeping track last month.

The UN began its effort to provide a Syrian casualty count in September 2011, based primarily on lists provided by five different sources. Three of their sources were named: The Violations Documenting Center (VDC), the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) and the Syrian Shuhada website. At that time, the lists varied in number from around 2,400 to 3,800 victims.

The non-UN casualty list most frequently quoted in the general media is the one from the Syrian Observatory – or SOHR.

Last month, SOHR made some headlines of its own when news of a rift over political viewpoints and body counts erupted. Two competing SOHRs claimed authenticity, but the group headed by Rami Abdul Rahman is the one recognized by Amnesty International.

OHCHR spokesman Rupert Colville stated during a phone interview that the UN evaluates its sources to check “whether they are reliable,” but appeared to create distance from SOHR later – during the group’s public spat – by saying: “The (UN) colleague most involved with the lists…had no direct contact with the Syrian Observatory, though we did look at their numbers. This was not a group we had any prior knowledge of, and it was not based in the region, so we were somewhat wary of it.”

Colville explains that the UN sought at all times “to make cautious estimates” and that “we have reasonable confidence that the rounded figures are not far off.”

While “also getting evidence from victims and defectors – some who corroborated specific names,” the UN, says Colville, “is not in a position to cross-check names and will never be in a position to do that.”

I spoke to him again after the UN decided to halt its casualty count in late January. “It was never easy to verify, but it was a little bit clearer before. The composition of the conflict has changed. It’s become much more complex, fragmented,” Colville says. “While we have no doubt there are civilian and military casualties…we can’t really quantify it.”

“The lists are clear – the question is whether we can fully endorse their accuracy,” he explains, citing the “higher numbers” as an obstacle to verification.

The Casualty Lists Up Close: Some Stories Behind the Numbers

Because the UN has stopped its casualty count, reporters have started reverting back to their original Syrian death toll sources. The SOHR is still the most prominent among them.

Abdul Rahman’s SOHR does not make its list available to the general public, but in early February I found a link to a list on the other SOHR website and decided to take a look. The database lists the victim’s name, age, gender, city, province, and date of death – when available. In December 2011, for instance, the list names around 77 registered casualties with no identifying information provided. In total, there are around 260 unknowns on the list.

Around that time, I had come across my first list of Syrians killed in the crisis, reportedly compiled in coordination with the SOHR, that contained the names of Palestinian refugees killed by Israeli fire on the Golan Heights on 15 May 2011 and 5 June 2011 when protesters congregated on Syria’s armistice line with Israel. So my first check was to see if that kind of glaring error appears in the SOHR list I investigate in this piece.

To my amazement, the entire list of victims from those two days were included in the SOHR casualty count – four from May 15 (#5160 to #5163) and 25 victims of Israeli fire from June 5 (#4629 to #4653). The list even identifies the deaths as taking place in Quneitra, which is in the Golan Heights.

It also didn’t take long to find the names of well-publicized pro-regime Syrians on the SOHR list and match them with YouTube footage of their funerals. The reason behind searching for funeral links is that pro-regime and anti-regime funerals differ quite starkly in the slogans they chant and the posters/signs/flags on display. Below, is a list of eight of these individuals, including their number, name, date and place of death on the casualty list – followed by our video link and further details if available:

#5939, Mohammad Abdo Khadour, 4/19/11, Hama, off-duty Colonel in Syrian army, shot in his car and died from multiple bullet wounds. Funeral link.

#5941, Iyad Harfoush, 4-18-11, Homs, off-duty Commander in Syrian army. In a video, his wife says someone started shooting in the mostly pro-regime al Zahra neighborhood of Homs – Harfoush went out to investigate the incident and was killed. Funeral link.

#5969, Abdo al Tallawi, 4/17/11, Homs, General in Syrian army killed alongside his two sons and a nephew. Funeral footage shows all four victims. The others are also on the list at #5948, Ahmad al Tallawi, #5958, Khader al Tallawi and #5972, Ali al Tallawi, all in Homs, Funeral link.

#6021, Nidal Janoud, 11/4/11, Tartous, an Alawite who was severely slashed by his assailants. The bearded gentleman to the right of the photo, and a second suspect, are now standing trial for the murder. Photo link.

#6022, Yasar Qash’ur, 11/4/11, Tartous, Lieutenant Colonel in the Syrian army, killed alongside 8 others in an ambush on a bus in Banyas, Funeral link.

#6129, Hassan al-Ma’ala, 4/5/11, policeman, suburbs of Damascus, Funeral link.

#6130, Hamid al Khateeb, 4/5/11, policeman, suburbs of Damascus, Funeral link.

#6044, Waeb Issa, 10/4/11, Tartous, Colonel in Syrian army, Funeral link.

Besides featuring on the SOHR list, Lt. Col. Yasar Qashur, Iyad Harfoush, Mohammad Abdo Khadour and General Abdo al Tallawi and his two sons and nephew also appear on two of the other casualty lists – the VDC and Syrian Shuhada – both used by the United Nations to compile their numbers.

Nir Rosen, an American journalist who spent several months insides Syria’s hot spots in 2011, with notable access to armed opposition groups, reported in a recent Al Jazeera interview:

“Every day the opposition gives a death toll, usually without any explanation of the cause of the deaths. Many of those reported killed are in fact dead opposition fighters, but the cause of their death is hidden and they are described in reports as innocent civilians killed by security forces, as if they were all merely protesting or sitting in their homes. Of course, those deaths still happen regularly as well.”

“And, every day, members of the Syrian army, security agencies and the vague paramilitary and militia phenomenon known as shabiha [“thugs”] are also killed by anti-regime fighters,” Rosen continues.

The report issued in January by Arab League Monitors after their month-long observer mission in Syria – widely ignored by the international media – also witnessed acts of violence by armed opposition groups against both civilians and security forces.

The Report states: “In Homs, Idlib and Hama, the observer mission witnessed acts of violence being committed against government forces and civilians…Examples of those acts include the bombing of a civilian bus, killing eight persons and injuring others, including women and children…In another incident in Homs, a police bus was blown up, killing two police officers.” The observers also point out that “some of the armed groups were using flares and armour-piercing projectiles.“

Importantly, the report further confirms obfuscation of casualty information when it states: “the media exaggerated the nature of the incidents and the number of persons killed in incidents and protests in certain towns.”

On February 3, the eve of the UN Security Council vote on Syria, news broke out that a massacre was taking place in Homs, with the general media assuming it was true and that all violence was being committed by the Syrian government. The SOHR’s Rami Abdul Rahman was widely quoted in the media as claiming the death toll to be at 217. The Local Coordination Committees (LCCs), which provide information to the VDC, called it at “more than 200,” and the Syrian National Council (SNC), a self-styled government in absentia of mainly expats, claimed 260 victims.

The next day, the casualty count had been revised down to 55 by the LCCs. (link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-16883911)

Even if the count is at 55 – that is still a large number of victims by any measure. But were these deaths caused by the Syrian government, by opposition gunmen or in the crossfire between the two groups? That is still the question that needs to break through the deafening narratives, lists, and body counts.

In International Law, Detail Counts

While the overwhelming perception of Syrian casualties thus far has been that they are primarily unarmed civilians deliberately targeted by government forces, it has become obvious these casualties are also likely to include: Civilians caught in the crossfire between government forces and opposition gunmen; victims of deliberate violence by armed groups; “dead opposition fighters” whose attire do not distinguish them from regular civilians; and members of the Syrian security forces, both on and off duty.

Even if we could verify the names and numbers on a Syrian casualty list, we still don’t know their stories, which if revealed, may pose an entirely different picture of what is going on in Syria today

These questions are vitally important to understand the burden of responsibility in this conflict. International law provides for different measures of conflict: the two most frequently used gauges for this are the Principle of Necessity, i.e., using force only when it is necessary, and the Principle of Proportionality, i.e., the use of force proportional to the threat posed.

In the case of Syria – like in Bahrain, Yemen, Egypt and Libya – it is widely believed that the government used unnecessary force in the first instance. Syrian President Bashar Assad, like many of these Arab rulers, has as much as admitted to “mistakes” in the first months of protests. These mistakes include some shooting deaths and detaining a much larger number of protesters than expected, some of whom were allegedly tortured.

Let us assume, without question, that the Syrian government was over zealous in its use of force initially, and therefore violated the Principle of Necessity. I tend to believe this version because it has been so-stated by the Arab League’s observer mission – the first and only boots-on-the-ground monitors investigating the crisis from within the country.

However – and this is where the casualty lists come in – there is not yet nearly enough evidence, not by any measure acceptable in a court of law, that the Syrian government has violated the Principle of Proportionality. Claims that the regime has used disproportionate force in dealing with the crisis are, today, difficult to ascertain, in large part because opponents have been using weapons against security forces and pro-regime civilians almost since the onset of protests.

Assuming that the number of casualties provided by the UN’s OHCHR is around the 5,000-mark -the last official figure provided by the group – the question is whether this is a highly disproportionate number of deaths when contrasted directly with the approximately 2,000 soldiers of the regular Syrian army and other security forces who have been reportedly killed since April 2011.

When you calculate the deaths of the government forces in the past 11 months, they amount to about six a day. Contrast that with frequent death toll totals of around 15+ each day disseminated by activists – many of whom are potentially neither civilian casualties nor victims of targeted violence – and there is close to enough parity to suggest a conflict where the acts of violence may be somewhat equal on both sides.

Last Sunday, as Syrians went to the polls to vote on a constitutional referendum, Reuters reports – quoting the SOHR – that 9 civilians and 4 soldiers were killed in Homs, and that elsewhere in Syria there were 8 civilian and 10 security forces casualties. That is 17 civilians and 14 regime forces – where are the opposition gunmen in that number? Were none killed? Or are they embedded in the “civilian” count?

Defectors or Regular Soldiers?

There have also been allegations that many, if not most, of the soldiers killed in clashes or attacks have been defectors shot by other members of the regular army. There is very little evidence to support this as anything more than a limited phenomenon. Logically, it would be near impossible for the Syrian army to stay intact if it was turning on its rank-and-file soldiers in this manner – and the armed forces have remained remarkably cohesive given the length and intensity of the conflict in Syria.

In addition, the names, rank and cities of each of the dead soldiers are widely publicized by state-owned media each day, often accompanied by televised funerals. It would be fairly simple for the organized opposition to single out by name the defectors they include on their casualty lists, which has not happened.

The very first incident of casualties from the Syrian regular army that I could verify dates to 10 April 2011, when gunmen shot up a bus of soldiers travelling through Banyas, in Tartous, killing nine. This incident took place a mere few weeks after the first peaceful protests broke out in Syria, and so traces violence against government forces back to the start of political upheaval in the country.

“Witnesses” quoted by the BBC, Al Jazeera and The Guardian insisted that the nine dead soldiers were “defectors” who had been shot by the Syrian army for refusing orders to shoot at demonstrators.

Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, debunked that version on his Syria Comment website. Another surviving soldier on the bus – a relation of Lt. Col. Yasar Qashur, #6022 on the SOHR list, whose funeral I link to above – denied that they were defectors too. But the narrative that dead soldiers are mostly defectors shot by their own troops has stuck throughout this conflict – though less so, as evidence of gunmen targeting Syrian forces and pro-regime civilians becomes belatedly apparent.

The VDC – another of the UN’s OHCHR sources for casualty counts – alleges that 6,399 civilians and 1,680 army defectors were killed in Syria during the period from 15 March 2011 to 15 February 2012. All security forces killed in Syria during the past 11 months were “defectors?” Not a single soldier, policeman or intelligence official was killed in Syria except those forces who opposed the regime? This is the kind of mindless narrative of this conflict that continues unchecked. Worse yet, this exact VDC statistic is included in the latest UN report on Syria issued last week.

Humanitarian Crisis or Just Plain Violence?

While few doubt the Syrian government’s violent suppression of this revolt, it is increasingly clear that in addition to the issue of disproportionally, there is the question of whether there is a “humanitarian crisis” as suggested by some western and Arab leaders since last year. I sought some answers during a trip to Damascus in early January 2012 where I spoke to a select few NGOs that enjoyed rare access to all parts of the country.

Given that words like “massacre” and “slaughter” and “humanitarian crisis” are being used in reference to Syria, I asked International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Spokesman Saleh Dabbakeh how many calls for urgent medical assistance his organization had received in 2011. His response was shocking. “Only one that I recall,” said Dabbakeh. Where was that, I asked? “Quneitra National Hospital in the Golan,” he replied, “last June.” This was when Israeli troops fired on Syrian and Palestinian protesters marching to the 1973 armistice line with the Jewish state. Those same protesters that ended up on SOHR’s casualty list.

A Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) worker confirmed that, recalling that his organization treated hundreds of casualties from the highly-publicized incident.

As the level of violence has escalated, however, the situation has deteriorated, and the ICRC now has received more calls for medical assistance – mainly from private hospitals in Homs. The SARC today has nine different points in Homs where it provides such assistance. The only two places they do not currently serve are the neighborhoods of Baba Amr and Inshaat “because the security situation does not allow for it – for their own safety, there is fighting there.”

During a phone call last Thursday, one NGO officer, explained that the measure for a “humanitarian crisis” is in level of access to basic staples, services and medical care. He told me off the record that “There is a humanitarian crisis in (i.e.) Baba Amr today, but not in Syria. If the fighting finishes tomorrow, there will be enough food and medical supplies.”

“Syria has enough food to feed itself for a long time. The medical sector still functions very well. There isn’t enough pressure on the medical sector to create a crisis,” he elaborated. “A humanitarian crisis is when a large number of a given population does not have access to medical aid, food, water, electricity, etc – when the system cannot any longer respond to the needs of the population.”

But an international human rights worker also cautions: “the killing is happening on both sides – the other side is no better.”

People have to stop this knee-jerk, opportunistic, hysterical obsession with numbers of dead Syrians, and ask instead: “who are these people and who killed them?” That is the very least these victims deserve. Anything less would render their tragic deaths utterly meaningless. Lack of transparency along the supply-chain of information and its dissemination – on both sides – is tantamount to making the Syrian story all about perception, and not facts. It is a hollow achievement and people will die in ever greater numbers.

Sharmine Narwani is a commentary writer and political analyst covering the Middle East. You can follow Sharmine on twitter @snarwani.

294 comments on “Perception and reality: building myths about Syria in the mainstream media

  1. @ #1. Skidmarx. So, you can cite an article which asserts that a particular organisation is not as cutting-edge as it claims to be, and show that Ms Narwani used info in a report by that organisation in a previous piece that she wrote.

    Pretty desperate as an attempt to distract from & avoid the very important issues which are raised in this article.

    Oh, and by the way, the previous article by Sharmine Narwani is not bad at all, and makes some points which can be corroborated independently of Stratfor. She remarks:

    “Syria today [ie, 19th December] signed the Arab League protocol that will make way for a fact-finding mission. Provided that this important process does not get hijacked by regional politics – an unlikely scenario even with the best of intentions – we may start to see verifiable information about what is taking place inside the country.”

    Indeed, and look what happened to that attempt to establish verifiable information in Syria. Sabotaged & suppressed by the West + Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

  2. http://angryarab.net/2012/02/19/baba-amr/

    The Angry Arab:

    Baba Amr

    Today, I saw some of the footage from Baba Amr [Sunni neighborhood opposed to al-Assad]. I mean, the firepower that the regime has used against the protesters (armed or unarmed), is so much more deadly and brutal than what it used against Israeli acts of aggression against Syria in the last few decades. Not a bullet was fired against Israel when the latter attacked Syria on numerous occasions. Not one bullet.

  3. #3

    Why is Louis Project now posting here as “Hukkalaka Meshabob” ??

    I don’t even understand the point he is making.

    Syria’s caution in avoiding military engagement with Israel is due to the relative ballance of power between the two states.

    And faced with an armed insurgency, I don’t know of any government that does not respond using armed force.

  4. Andy Newman: Why is Louis Project now posting here as “Hukkalaka Meshabob” ??

    Well, let’s not forget that a few of his posts got stuck in the spam filter, and instead of contacting any of us, he wrote a blog post about “Stalinist Unity”, claiming he had been banned.

    The irony of course was that when I posted a comment on his blog pointing out how wrong he was, he didn’t allow it through – he doesn’t allow comments to be posted automatically, he moderates every single one.

    And once he realised what an idiot he had been, he proved how un-Stalinist he was by a) still not allowing my comment through, b) then deleting the entire post, and c) simply saying something like “my sincerest apologies”, but not even under his own name!

    Louis Proyect made an utter fool of himself, and given how much he goes on about people being “Stalinists”, he should not be allowed to forget it. Not allowing comments that he doesn’t like, deleting articles that show him in a less than flattering light, and then not even apologising under his own name.

    Physician, heal thyself.

    Just in case people doubt me, this link shows the ridiculous fool Louis Proyect saying “so long, Stalinist scum” – in which case, why is the ridiculos fool, Louis Proyect even posting here?

    Then, the ridiculous fool, Louis Proyect posted that article, but deleted it.

    And then there was the apology. Louis Proyect, the ridiculous fool posted 3 words, and hasn’t been seen since.

    Oh, in case you’re wondering, my use of Louis Proyect, ridiculous fool in my link text is in no way an attempt to make it so that if you type “ridiculous fool” into Google, you’ll come up with Louis Proyect at the top of the results.

    No, that would require lots of people to always call Louis Proyect a ridiculous fool every time they post a link involving him. That would be a bad thing to do, obviously.

  5. johng on said:

    This is the sort of thing I think is a huge mistake. Anybody who is not an idiot knows that the Assad regime is conducting horrific repression inside Syria. The notion that the way to oppose imperialism is to tell lies about this is utterly disasterous. No socialist should associate themselves with these kinds of arguments at this time.

  6. johng on said:

    And for the record, despite my many differences with Louis Proyect, he’s not lost the plot as badly as you have. It might be worth reading over some of his arguments on his blog.

  7. dr transparent on said:

    “Physician, heal thyself.”

    To be perfectly honest, TC, your last post does nothing to prove anything but your own childishness .

  8. Karl Stewart on said:

    johng: And for the record, despite my many differences with Louis Proyect, he’s not lost the plot as badly as you have. It might be worth reading over some of his arguments on his blog.

    JohnG, do you remember when you said you wished Assad a “hard and bitter death”? – as you also wished the same to Gaddafi.
    I asked you if you also wished a “hard and bitter death” to the heads of state of the leading imperialist nations – President Obama, President Sarkozy and Her Majesty the Queen.
    Have you thought about this question at all?
    Have you got an answer?

  9. The irony of course was that when I posted a comment on his blog pointing out how wrong he was, he didn’t allow it through – he doesn’t allow comments to be posted automatically, he moderates every single one.

    This is not true. I do not moderate anybody or anything as a cursory exam of my comments would indicate. I guess the only reason I ever suspected Andy of excluding me was the incident that occurred a few years ago when he banned someone–can’t remember who–because he objected to his politics, not his tone or anything else.

    At any rate, I am only posting as Meshabob because I don’t want to get caught in the spam filter. I should add that Hukkalaka Meshabob was a professional wrestler in W.C. Fields’s “Man on the Flying Trapeze”.

  10. paul fauvet on said:

    Yes, it’s always difficult to establish the exact death toll in conflicts.

    Both sides in any war may well have reasons to exaggerate or to downplay losses.

    And it’s even more difficult in the case of regimes like Assad’s which try to keep foreign journalists out, and which may even murder them.

    But does anyone really doubt that the Syrian army has been targeted civilians, notably in opposition-held parts of Homs?

    The scale of the bombardment is clear from the footage shown by the BBC and Al-Jazeera. Those attacks are war crimes, regardless of the exact number of civilians killed.

    On this issue, JohnG has got it absolutely rght: “Anybody who is not an idiot knows that the Assad regime is conducting horrific repression inside Syria. The notion that the way to oppose imperialism is to tell lies about this is utterly disastrous”.

    I haven’t often agreed with the SWP, but on this occasion JohnG is telling the stark and simple truth.

  11. johng on said:

    Karl, of course I do. Thing is though, very unfortunately, there is not a popular movement to overthrow our ruling class (as there was in Libya as there is in Libya). It does make it a more immediate question. But let me go on the record again. I hope Assad dies a hard and bitter death. Hopefully harder and bitterer then Gaddafi. Who got exactly what he deserved. Then, when Cameron and Obama (or whoever) have their back to the wall, they know what will happen if they prefer to pull the sky down on their heads then give up power. Her Majesty the Queen? Surely Karl you must realise my long and loyal record of loyalism, and must realise that this is what is motiovating me? surely you realise that? Don’t you.

    If anti-imperialism is in the hands of political eccentrics and wierdos of this kind, then those of us who really are concerned about imperialism are in for hard times. Thankfully it isn’t.

  12. johng on said:

    As there is in Syria. Can I just say again that I hope Assad dies a bitter and hard death? In Gaddafi’s case it was political. In Assad the yuppie scum bags case (representative that he is of the merchant bourgoisie) its a little more personal.

  13. dr transparent: To be perfectly honest, TC, your last post does nothing to prove anything but your own childishness .

    Y’see, I never make claims to being anything. What I don’t like is this pompous arrogance that allows people to say things like “so long, Stalinist scum” without ever trying to contact anyone to check, and to then delete the evidence. I think Proyect is a ridiculous fool, and he’s still lying above (yes Louis, my comment was immediately marked as “awaiting moderation” and, 8 minutes later, was still marked as such; a few minutes later, you deleted the whole lot). When I see ridiculous fools acting in a ridiculous way, I don’t think it’s incumbent upon me to be some big adult. Louis is a pompous, bloated idiot who proclaims the “stalinism” of anyone he disagrees with, and he deserves whatever he gets on here. Those who try to engage with anything that’s said on here don’t get treated with ‘childishness’ – but Louis, having said “so long, Stalinist scum”, didn’t even have the courage of his convictions; to claim now that he’s not posting under his own name for fear of the spam filter (which, he failed to notice, is checked regularly enough – no one is so important that their comments have to be fished out immediately) shows how ridiculous he is.

    It’s fairly simple for me. I don’t really worry about political disagreements; we’re all capable of fighting for our own beliefs. What I can’t be bothered to tolerate are those who position themselves as being better than others, and who then go and do the very things they’ve just slated people for. Remember we’re not talking about Louis commenting on what he thought was a banning. We’re talking about someone who, despite apparently being a socialist, felt that the most appropriate response was to post “so long, Stalinist scum”, and to then spend time writing an article about it, to not allow through my comment on the subject, and to then delete all evidence of the post. The guy is a fool.

    But on the subject of “childishness”, if your contribution to the debate is to call me names, don’t you think you should cut down on the number of different names you post under? You can hardly call yourself “Dr Transparent” and comment on people’s “childishness” if you use half a dozen different names to post under. Since 1 Jan, you’ve posted under 9 or 10 different names. So, y’know…

  14. johng on said:

    To be honest though, if you were in Homs, Louis’s comment is fairly moderate really. I do think there needs to be a bit of thought about this. Unless of course people are happy with being politically pure but loathed and despised by every revolutionary in the middle east. Its a bit of a serious question.

  15. #6

    johng: This is the sort of thing I think is a huge mistake. Anybody who is not an idiot knows that the Assad regime is conducting horrific repression inside Syria. The notion that the way to oppose imperialism is to tell lies about this is utterly disasterous.

    “The creatures outside looked from SWP to AWL, and from AWL to SWP, and from SWP to AWL again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

  16. #10

    Hukkalaka Meshabob: I ever suspected Andy of excluding me was the incident that occurred a few years ago when he banned someone–can’t remember who–because he objected to his politics, not his tone or anything else.

    This is just made up shit from the pompous balloon Proyect.

    You don’t have to read this blog long to know people are not banned just for disagreemnt

  17. #16

    johng: Unless of course people are happy with being politically pure but loathed and despised by every revolutionary in the middle east. Its a bit of a serious question.

    what position to the communist parties in the region take?

  18. Feodor Augustus on said:

    Interesting, thought provoking article. Pity the same can’t be said about most of the discussion that has followed it…

  19. #14

    johng: As there is in Syria. Can I just say again that I hope Assad dies a bitter and hard death? In Gaddafi’s case it was political. In Assad the yuppie scum bags case (representative that he is of the merchant bourgoisie) its a little more personal.

    “The creatures outside looked from Jim Denham to John Game, and from John Game to Jim Denham , and from Jim Denham to John Game again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

  20. Harsanyi_Janos on said:

    Andy Newman:
    #14

    “The creatures outside looked from Jim Denham to John Game, and from John Game to Jim Denham , and from Jim Denhamto John Game again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

    In fairness I would assume that Denham would be much drunker.

  21. Karl Stewart on said:

    And the pro-imerialist coward JohnG bottles it yet again.

    So easy to wish a “hard and bitter death” to the enemies of imperialism isn’t it you fucking coward?

    But you just won’t make the same comments direct to Her Majesty the Queen will you?

    And that’s because you’re a fucking coward.

    That’s because wishing a “hard and bitter death” to Her Majesty the Queen could actually land you in trouble.

    That’s because you’re a fucking plastic “revolutionary”.

    Happy to “celebrate” the actions of the cowardly scum who murdere d Gaddafi, but afraid to confront your own ruling class.

  22. Harsanyi_Janos on said:

    Karl Stewart: So easy to wish a “hard and bitter death” to the enemies of imperialism isn’t it you fucking coward?

    Was the “King of Kings” really an “enemy of imperialism? His warm relations with Blair, Mandelson, and Berlusconi would not seem to support such a title.

  23. skidmarx on said:

    Was the “King of Kings” really an “enemy of imperialism?

    What’s His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah,Emperor of Ethiopia, Elect of God got to do with this?

    Though as explained previously, Trotsky thought the old slave-owner was.

  24. Karl Stewart on said:

    Yes he was. That’s why they killed him.

    That’s why pro-imperialist AWL scum like JohnG and AWL supporters within the SWP like Calinicos “celebrated”.

  25. The People Will Rise on said:

    The left should not join in the imperialist clamour to remove Assad’s government. There are unpleasant governments in all sorts of places, but imperialism chooses its targets according to whether their political line conflicts with US interests. The West has raised not a murmur against dictatorships which follow its lead, such as Saudi Arabia, and has supported many tyrants over the decades. It is targeting Syria because the unrest there gives it an opportunity to remove a regime that is hostile to Israel and pro-Hezbollah, just as the unrest in Libya gave it an opportunity to unseat a leader with an anti-imperialist history. Nobody should be fooled by imperialism’s crocodile tears about democracy protestors and civilian casualties.

    Instead we should have a very clear line of no imperialist intervention in Syria. We should also beware giving support to factions of the Syrian opposition that have allied themselves to the imperialist camp.

    If NATO removes Assad, any successor government will be in the pocket of NATO. Who has killed more civilians, Assad or US imperialism? You may not like Assad, but it is no improvement to replace him with the Western camp, which has murdered hundreds of thousands of people over the last ten years.

  26. I think Karl Stewart should step back and take a breath.
    Sure, people on here have different opinions on Syria, but I would suspect all of us are against Western intervention.
    To call Johng ‘pro-imperialist scum’ and a ‘plastic revolutionary’ because of saying he wishes Assad a ‘hard and bitter death’ but not counterbalanced it with saying the same for Liz, just makes you sound like a tosser.

    I’m sure you’re not a tosser Karl, I’d like to think that was the case, I’m just saying calling someone a ‘pro-imperialist” when you know they aren’t makes you sound like one. I guess it’s a bit like someone getting it horribly wrong and calling a blog Stalinist scum.

  27. Harsanyi_Janos on said:

    skidmarx: What’s His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah,Emperor of Ethiopia, Elect of God got to do with this?

    Though as explained previously, Trotsky thought the old slave-owner was.

    Gaddafi called himself the King of Kings; I wasn’t referring to poor old Ras Tafari. But since Tafari he fought the Italians’ attempt to colonise (actually colonise) Ethiopia, I think a case could be made.

  28. johng: The notion that the way to oppose imperialism is to tell lies about this is utterly disasterous.

    Er, what lies are in the article, JohnG?

  29. Harsanyi_Janos on said:

    tony collins,

    People are far too hard on poor Louis. His own blog is a marvelous gold mine of unintended humour. This gem, for example: “One supposes that given the long and steady decline of Western civilization, there is a tendency for the sensitive among us to get more enraged about social and political conditions the older one gets. At least that’s true for me.”

    Or perhaps this: “Although I made a mental note to myself to do some research on Swedish fascism in the Columbia Library after reading the first two books in Larsson’s trilogy, I never got around to it. As is usually the case with me, research topics vie for my attention.”

    So many gems!

  30. paul fauvet: regimes like Assad’s which try to keep foreign journalists out, and which may even murder them.

    The two Western journalists killed in Homs in February were in premises run by the armed opposition, and such locations were clearly being bombarded by the army. No persuasive case has been put forward that that they were targeted as journalists.

    French journalist Gilles Jacquier was killed in Homs by the armed opposition in January, and to be fair it is again unlikely that he was killed because he was a journalist. More probably, he was killed because he was at a pro-government demonstration which was attacked with mortar fire by opposition forces.

    Despite restrictions on foreign journalists, many have been allowed to enter Syria as per the original Arab League Peace Plan. The Arab League Observer Mission Report listed 112 foreign journalists officially in Syria since 1st December & a further 37 authorised to enter Syria since 1st January.

  31. Morning Star Comment
    Case of wilful self-deception
    Friday 02 March 2012

    David Cameron’s bluster and threats over the internal situation in Syria are sickening in their hypocrisy.

    The Prime Minister claims the moral high ground in denouncing Syrian President Bashar Assad’s “criminal” regime for “butchering its own people,” while he has the blood of countless Libyans, Iraqis, Afghans and Serbs on his conscience.

    While directly responsible for the latest imperialist invasion only, he and his party fully backed new Labour’s slavish support for the US-organised assaults on these countries.

    Innocent civilians were killed, imprisoned, tortured, denied food, medical supplies and clean drinking water in these wars, but Blair, Cameron and company ignored their plight.

    Does he believe that butchering other countries’ people in pursuit of regional hegemony and mineral riches occupies a higher moral plane than inflicting human losses in an internal conflict?

    The “humanitarian” imperialists didn’t even try to count how many civilians perished following their interventions but claim to know the daily death toll in Syria.

    It is only recently that the Nato powers acknowledged the existence of the Free Syria Army, even though Damascus was reporting the killing of its troops by armed insurgents last April.

    Western media agencies make much of the disparity in weaponry of the two sides – “tanks against AK47s” – yet Arab League monitors who spent a month in the country on an observer mission issued a largely ignored report, in which they noted that “some of the armed groups were using flares and armour-piercing projectiles.”

    The monitors delivered eyewitness reports of “acts of violence being committed against government forces and civilians,” although every death is laid at the door of the Assad regime by Nato governments and media.

    It is a process of wilful self-deception akin to the British media habit of ascribing every bombing and shooting in Northern Ireland in the early days of the Troubles four decades ago to the IRA despite local people’s awareness that anti-republican paramilitary groups were also active.

    As Lebanese writer Sharmine Narwani says, “In the dirty game of politics, it is the perception, not the facts of an issue, that invariably wins the day.”

    The propaganda onslaught unleashed by Cameron, Hillary Clinton and other shameless advocates of imperialist domination, is designed to create an unquestioned picture of Assad the butcher and Syrians as his victims.

    Nothing stands in the way of this approved reality, even Narwani’s shock revelation that an anti-Assad group’s estimate of civilian casualties caused by the government actually includes protesters killed by Israeli troops on the Golan Heights last May and June.

    Such groups’ figures appear in our media daily, often excused by comments that they can’t be verified independently but adding to the one-sided picture of events.

    The imperialist states’ repeated demands for outside intervention encourage anti-Assad forces to reject internal compromise, meaning further civilian suffering, but that will cut little ice with the likes of Cameron.

    Adopting the missionary superiority that comes so easily to members of his exploiter class, he instructs the Russians and Chinese to “look hard at the suffering of Syria and think again about supporting this criminal regime.”

    Both Moscow and Beijing could reply: “Cameron, look hard at the suffering of Afghans, Iraqis, Serbs, Libyans and Palestinians and understand why we have no intention of giving you the green light to intervene militarily anywhere else in the world again.”

  32. Darkness at Noon: What about civilians in the area?

    As the Arab League Observer Mission noted, civilians are being killed by both sides.

    The original Arab League Peace plan was yielding results with a reduction in violence and an opening of the possibility of negotiations. That was sabotaged by the USA + Saudi Arabia & Qatar.

  33. Excellent editorial by the Morning Star.

    Only one quibble. The (American) English translation of the Arab League Observer Report used by the Star & most media is inaccurate. What the Report actually said re: opposition weapons used was ” ‬The monitors noticed the use by armed groups of ‭thermal bombs and armour-penetrating shells.”

    This can be checked with the original Arabic document which is on line.

  34. Darkness at Noon on said:

    Noah: As the Arab League Observer Mission noted, civilians are being killed by both sides.

    I’m sure they are, though in what kind of proportions is likely another matter. So this factor (that of innocents being killed on both sides) adds some kind of moral equivalence when it comes to both parties?

  35. jock mctrousers on said:

    Great piece by Sharman Narwani, with some material that’s new to me. I’m not the first to lament the level of discussion that followed it, courtesy of the usual suspects like johng, skidmarx,Proyect and the Harryistas. Thanks to those who had the patience to respond to them.

    What was the article about? Oh yes, the reliability of the sources for the MSM’s casualty reports from Syria. Well, no need to discuss that, because johng has assured us that the MSM is right, and the rest are liars, and johng is an honorable man and an undisputed socialist/leftist/Marxist/anti-nazi/SWPer (is he?)…which we know because… well, HOW do we know this? Because he’s a longtime sidekick of Richard Saymore (always more), and he’s always blogging there or here, or somewhere, about leftist things? I wonder if it would be on topic to wonder how he finds the time to be on the internet seemingly all day every day? Like, who IS he?

    I suspect most here who are interested in facts will already have seen these, but here are 2 other excellent pieces on this topic:

    A mistaken case for Syrian regime change
    By Aisling Byrne
    http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/NA05Ak03.html

    ‘Left’ Delusions Regarding Libya & Syria
    http://tinyurl.com/82nawtq

  36. Zhou Enlai on said:

    John Haylett quoting the Morning Star editorial “Case of wilful self-deception” gets it spot on.

    Goodness only knows what Western Imperialist “Intelligence Agencies” are up to there, as has come out about their recent hidden involvement in Libya in bringing down that sovereign government. Needless to say that the Imperialist governments had not any illusions about these rebels as being in any way “progressive”.

  37. scar on said:

    Always amazes me,the intellect of the correspondents on this line.Well read and opinionated, about the East,either for or against,yet little to render aid.
    I like the Norths stand about the freedom in Britain,being tested shortly is Scotlands, what to be.Is the same book readers, going to give the same mind and intelect to factional indolence.

  38. paul fauvet on said:

    Let’s return to reality, with the words of someone who’s actually been in Homs. This is what the wounded British photographer Paul Conroy had to say immediately after he had been evacuated from the Homs neighbourhood of Baba Amr:

    “There are no targets in Baba Amr. There are no military targets, it’s pure and systematic slaughter of a civilian population. The only reason those shells are going in are to eliminate the people and buildings of Baba Amr”.

    He described it as the “pure, systematic slaughter of a civilian population” and warned “When Baba Amr is finished, and I think it’s almost there now, we’ve watched it happen, they’re going to move on, they’re going to move into the countryside, the towns and there will be no witnesses.”

    Were the journalists deliberately targeted? We don’t have definitive proof, but since the Syrian army has the technology to discover where the foreign journalists were staying, they were certainly able to target them.

    And you know perfectly well that if this had been the Israeli army operating in Gaza or Lebanon, you would have had no hesitation in declaring that the journalists had been assassinated.

    As for Andy’s comparison of JohnG and Jim Denham, it’s accurate in one respect. They both retain the basic ability to recognize slaughter and despotism when they see it, and have not joined the revolting queue of self-styled “anti-imperialists” lining up to lick the despot’s boots.

  39. Karl Stewart on said:

    cliff foot:
    #17 -?
    #24 – pathetic,
    #30 – nice one.

    Let me explain post (17), Andy is referencing the George Orwell novel “Animal Farm” and is using this to argue that SWP policy is identical to the AWL’s. I don’t entirely agree with him – I think the SWP remains, overall, solidly anti-imperialist, but there certainly is a drift in the direction of the AWL and individuals such as Calinicos are there already. As for JohnG, I don’t know whether he’s an SWP member or not, but his politics are certainly those of the AWL.
    I think Andy makes the point more accurately at post (22).

    As to my own post at (24), yes there’s some intemperate swearing and the point could have been made more calmly. But it surprises me that you find a bit of angry Anglo-saxon language so much more offensive than an AWL supporter wishing “hard and bitter death” to the enemies of imperialism. I’s say it was that that’s “pathetic” Cliff.

    As to post (30) from MRD, yep thanks for the comments and fair criticism of my tone and choice of language. It’s important for we anti-imperialists to recognise that the SWP’s drift towards AWLism won’t be halted by such abuse, but by patient and rational argument.

    And finally, John Haylett’s Morning Star leader makes some excellent points – particularly his closing par. Well said JohnH, that’s a message for us all.

  40. skidmarx on said:

    Great piece by Sharman Narwani,
    Not to be mistaken for the rubbish one by Sharmine Narwani at the head of this thread.
    I’m not the first to lament the level of discussion that followed it, courtesy of the usual suspects like johng, skidmarx,Proyect and the Harryistas.

    Actually I think Meshabob has provided the most interesting material on this thread.
    I wonder if it would be on topic to wonder how he finds the time to be on the internet seemingly all day every day? Like, who IS he?
    So to raise the level of discussion you thought a little witch-finding would be the way to go? Styler.

  41. prianikoff on said:

    I mistrust the “government massacres its people” picture being presented in the News.
    This serves the interventionists, who are now talking about war-crimes trials and highlighting the alleged obstruction to the Red Cross convoy.
    They clearly aren’t just interested in deterring Government reprisals, or providing aid, but creating a causus belli.

    It’s obvious from earlier news reports that the FSA were active in Homs and Baba Amr.
    It was even reported that they’d withdrawn their forces yesterday.
    Which seems a little odd in itself, as the entire neighbourhood was supposed to be surrounded by the Syrian Army.

    So Conroy’s comments don’t entirely make sense.
    There aren’t any “military targets” because the FSA aren’t a conventional military force.
    They’ve popped up in areas where there have been anti-government demonstrations and embedded themselves.
    No doubt they’ve been responsible for as many of the casualties as the regime.

    When things come to civil war this is to be expected.
    But who knows what the FSA represent?
    In almost all revolutions in history, the army has split, not deserted in dribs and drabs to seek the backing of foreign powers.
    Their tactics are incomprehensible, as is their lack of a political programme.
    If fact, they serve the interests of the Western-backed oppositon, the SNC, which has virtually no support inside Syria.

    There clearly is an internal opposition – even Assad’s own constitutional referendum showed he only has support of 50% of the voters.
    But a socialist opposition to Assad would adopt very different tactics.

  42. stuart on said:

    Karl Stewart: Yes he was. That’s why they killed him.That’s why pro-imperialist AWL scum like JohnG and AWL supporters within the SWP like Calinicos “celebrated”.

    This is unfair. Your support for Gaddafi cannot be based on your ‘anti-imperialism’ as Gaddafi was happily working with imperialism. I suspect the reason Callinicos ruffled feathers was because he invited some comparisons with Popular Frontism in WW2, and it sees quite a few posters on here really love the popular front (unlike the SWP), and would be offended at such a smear.

  43. Karl Stewart on said:

    Stuart, another sensitive soul who, like MRD, CliffF, JohnG and others, is upset by some robust language, but strangely, completely unconcerned at JohnG’s rather disturbing and apolitical bloodlust.

    My objection to JohnG’s rather pathetic “death to Gaddafi and Assad, but God Save the Queen” line is two-fold.

    Firstly the inconsistency. He calls for the killing of Syria’s head of state, as he also “celebrated” the killing of Libya’s head of state, but doesn’t make a similar call towards his own head of state – or those of either the US or France.

    He therefore clearly sees Assad as “the enemy” and not the leaders of NATO.

    My second objection – and speaking as as someone who staunchly opposes the death penalty, this is actually my bigger objection – is to the whole business of actively wanting the deliberate killing of an individual – or “celebrating” the deliberate and targetted killing of an individual.

    I actually think there’s something a little bit sick and warped in actively “celebrating” or actively calling for the death of someone.

    Does the SWP actively support capital punishment?
    If so, who else would the SWP turn its guns on if it had the opportunity?

    Once again, it strikes me as extremely odd that you guys can talk like hard-as-nails revolutionary desperados who want to kill everyone and then become upset and start whining that “it’s not fair” if someone swears at you and calls you a bunch of wankers.

  44. 46 and 49 got to the rule of your door,not some border away.YER door step.Books eh! what yey recon burn them,and let reality glow.

  45. paul fauvet: reality, with the words of someone who’s actually been in Homs […] British photographer Paul Conroy

    If there were no military targets, what then were the locations of all the ‘Free Syrian Army’ insurgents in Baba Amr?

    And re: Mr Conroy, this is someone who refused (twice) to get on a Red Crescent ambulance while we were told he was “trapped” in Baba Amr, then was “smuggled” into Lebanon at the cost of the deaths (supposedly) of 13 people!

    If that was true, he would surely express some remorse that his decision to be “smuggled” instead of getting in to an ambulance resulted in those people being killed.

    There’s no reason why Paul Conroy should be regarded as a reliable source of information, any more than the rest of the Western media.

  46. John Haylett,

    The Morning Star must be in nostalgic Stalinist heaven being able to cite and support Moscow’s line about violently suppressing a popular revolt. It’s back to the glory days of 1956 and 1968 for them!

  47. John on said:

    #54

    I agree completely with Karl on this.

    Gloating over the murder of Gaddafi and calling for the same for Assad, while refusing to apply the same call for ‘revolutionar’ justice against world leaders who between them have killed more people than cancer is cowardly and morally repugnant.

  48. stuart on said:

    Karl Stewart: My objection to JohnG’s rather pathetic “death to Gaddafi and Assad, but God Save the Queen” line is two-fold.

    Did Johng say ‘God save The Queen’?

  49. christian h. on said:

    I’ll post two alternative posts. See which one you think is more useful to advance fraternal debate.

    Alternative post 1: … the usual gang of pathetic idiots, I see. (Keeping with Karl’s spirit of “robust language”.) Only complete tossers, or disgusting individuals, can read the original post and conclude that what they should do is display their unique take on available information: namely to declare it reliable if and only if it agrees with their pre-conceived ideas of what’s going on. The Karls, Noahs and other Stalinist swine (just robust language, please don’t go whining about it) here are quite simply the mirror image of the imperialist swine calling for invasion or intervention.

    Alternative post 2: I happen to think Noah, Karl and others here are wrong. Not evil, nor fooled by some secret Stalinist mind ray – just wrong. They are right on the one issue that matters most to us in the West at this current juncture, which is that we need to oppose Western attempt to interfere and intervene; and as a consequence should be skeptical of the media machine that has proved repeatedly it cannot be trusted. I’d argue that we should prove equally skeptical of information coming from pro-Assad sources, and believe the OP actually agrees. I’d also argue that the apparent trust of some in anti-imperialism by government is utterly misplaced, and that this misplaced trust is the result of an incorrect reading of the historical record.

  50. Karl Stewart, I was about to ask the same question about Johng saying ‘God save the queen’. He didn’t obviously, nor did he imply it. What happened was you demanded that he wished Liz a ‘bitter death’ or whatever phrase you’re fixated on.
    Now you may decide that because he didn’t succumb to your proposition that he definitely is ‘pro-imperialist scum’. I know there are some deep arguments re:Assad but if you honestly think Johng or the SWP are ‘pro-imperialist’ (I’ll take the word scum as an angry/frustrated error on your part) then I think you may have lost the plot a little.

  51. Brian O. on said:

    Noah,
    #
    And here’s a couple of other “quibbles” the Morning Star refers to the Observers having “spent a month” in Syria: but this is an interim report based on observations over at most 19 days ( 29 December to 17 January. Indeed, three observer groups had only been deployed for two days – partly because one group had been intercepted and beaten up by government supporters on the way to their initial assignment.
    It is clear from the report that the observer teams had on several occasions to negotiate withdrawal of government forces from civilian areas, despite the fact that this was supposed to have happened before their arrival.The Star rightly calls this a “a largely ignored report”. Why then does it choose to quote only 21 words from it? perhaps because it contains passages like “The Mission determined that there is an armed entity that is not mentioned in the protocol. This development on the ground can undoubtedly be attributed to the excessive use of force by Syrian Government forces in response to protests that occurred before the deployment of the Mission demanding the fall of the
    regime.” Oh dear, not quite on message.

  52. johng on said:

    In the period leading up to 2003 there was a concerted drive by the US and allied powers to restore western hegenomy through direct intervention in the region. This turned into a huge failure because of resistance both domestic and international. At that time many embraced a kind of soft reformism which focused on a Unipolar world as the main problem and saw regimes like Russia and China as an alternative to US imperialism. This was the kind of mass sentiment that was associated with a mass movement in 2003 and during the Bush years with a broadly anti-imperialist mindset. Its no longer the basis for a mass movement.

    There is no similar drive today either in the US or amongst its allies. And those who have turned who today read every development off the back off an equation of US unilateralism with global imperialism are not only technically wrong about the nature of global imperialism but inadvertantly leave the door open to the ideological re-invigouration of ‘liberal internationalism’ by providing no alternative at all: aside from perhaps applauding Putin: nothing to do with anti-imperialism.

    What there is is a situation of growing instability in which some powers find themselves pulled into conflicts by their fellows getting overthrown or going bonkers because they’re about to be overthrown, and doing things which endanger their own stability. There are also some survivers of the 1990s who are talking up the possibility of a new global regime of humanitarian intervention, but its not taken very seriously by most ruling classes (although one can’t imagine a better recruiting seregeant for such disasterous ideas then the kind of nonsense one see’s on this thread).

    Its also true that the weakening of US power in the region means that some European powers are nosing around to see if they might get a foot in the door (this is also true of Turkey) in the region. In the meanwhile the crisis around allegations that Iran is developing a nuclear weapons program continue. Sections of the right in Israel are talking up the possibility of a strike and the US is trying to talk them down (but will probably back them if they act, something the Israeli right know). This looming crisis also overshadows the situation. But if we want to build resistance to this kind of war we have to go back to an opposition to imperialism based on opposition to our own ruling class: and not on the false idea that there is an anti-imperialist camp which we have to rally around.

    Its hard to imagine anything more disasterous (and likely to be disasterous very quickly by the way) then basing a campaign against imperialist intervention on rapidly to be disproven nonsense attempting to relativise the dreadful crimes being committed by Assad to hang onto power.

    Its hard to take seriously concerns for Assad or Gaddafi’s health (bargain basement putinisms from those without Putins power are unlikely to impress) from supposed socialists, but be aware that those who will be opposing imperialist intervention should it happen, don’t want to be associated with your defences of vicious capitalist dictators from their own populations.

  53. Calvin on said:

    What is particularly disturbing about johng wishing Assad a hard and bitter death is that it’s not just an overblown fantasy.

    He has already watched the footage of the 69 year old Gadaffi being sexually assaulted with a knife by a NATO-sponsored Islamist militia and then beaten to death in the street, and seen his decomposing corpse displayed as a tourist attraction for camera-clicking voyeurs. johng, by his own proclamation, was greatly cheered by this gruesome spectacle.

    The latest chapter of the imperialist playbook is to demonise and dehumanise the latest “enemy” head of state, but dispense altogether with the show trial and instead have them publicly tortured, murdered and displayed, with the Fox News viewers wildly cheering as the “bad guy” gets his just deserts. johng (on behalf of the SWP?) is chief cheerleader.

  54. Calvin on said:

    Oh, and whilst I don’t recall johng saying God Save the Queen, he’s probably been humming it under his breath all afternoon. After all, he apparently doesn’t fantasise about her being sexually assaulted with a knife and beaten to death.

  55. christian h. on said:

    Johng, I don’t think the glaring ineffectiveness of Calvin/Noah/Karl etc. – style anti-imperialism is a bug. It’s a feature. They exist in a symbiotic relationship with imperialism, as do the “anti-imperialist” capitalist dictators they support.

  56. John seems entirely oblivious of the concern for defending national sovereignty as a pre condition for employing state power in a world dominated by multi national capital.

    The paradigm of unipolarity is challenged by the chinese model of a “walled world” of sovereign states, and by the progressive and socialist governments of Latin America.

    That is an alternative to western military intervention

  57. johng on said:

    I don’t know Christian h. I guess its important to recognise (even if they don’t) that in other contexts they’re recognisably on the left (in other words they have a wider existence then these kind of grotesque rationalisations of repression and bitter sectarianism). But if they think other sections of the left will go along with them and keep quiet they’re mistaken. If they want to share responsibility for Assad’s mass murder thats their business. No reason for revolutionaries in Egypt to do so, no reason for revolutionaries in Tunisia to do so, and indeed, no reason for those of us serious about building opposition to a coming war with Iran to do so. It is though important for the left more widely not to allow this pathology to destroy the possibility of mass movements against imperialist war in the region should it come. And these arguments need to be had if we are to have successful moveements against imperialist intervention.

  58. johng on said:

    Oh and I would like again to say ‘death to Assad’. I hope he dies hard and I hope he dies badly. Soon.

  59. johng on said:

    Andy western military intervention must be opposed. If you believe the attempt by Russia and China to protect their own interests in the region represent the alternative then you are mistaken. I do recall you, subsequent to the discovery that Assad’s regime were mutilating (actually burning and castrating) children, stating that the regime had lost all moral authority. Kudos to you for that. The authority they have lost is with their own population. Now the regime is utilizing sectarianism in order to try and survive. The west is unlikely (at present) to intervene because the equivilants of the Chalabis support the regime for sectarian reasons. There are those on the left who believe that because the oppressed and persecuted in Syria are Sunni’s and because reactionary regimes in the Gulf have their own reasons for opposing the Syrian regime, we should support the sectarianism of the regime against the larger possible sectarianism of the regime. Nothing, absolutely nothing, could be more disasterous. Either in Syria itself or more widely. Its hard to concieve of a position more amenable to the politics of divide and rule, more likely to stoke the most awful sectarianism and more likely to bring the Arab revolution down.

  60. johng on said:

    Oh, and, again, death to the dictators, death to Assad. My understanding is that for the likes of those like Calvin et al, the popular sentiments of the masses are a little vulgar. Some of us remain socialists.

  61. Jellytot on said:

    @73 western military intervention must be opposed.

    That is a position all sides should unite behind and propagate.

    @73the regime had lost all moral authority.

    What is that exactly?

    johng claims to be a socialist but that is a classic liberal platitude more often heard from some media hack/pusher for Western intervention.

    @65The latest chapter of the imperialist playbook is to demonise and dehumanise the latest “enemy” head of state, but dispense altogether with the show trial and instead have them publicly tortured, murdered and displayed, with the Fox News viewers wildly cheering as the “bad guy” gets his just deserts. johng (on behalf of the SWP?) is chief cheerleader.

    It’s an appalling line for so-called Socialists to take. They have really boxed themselves in policy-wise and are just coming out with wilder and more pathetic language to shore up their creaking edifice of a position.

    It’s kinda sad in a way. Thankfully, there are cooler and more considered opinions on here.

  62. prianikoff on said:

    #63 “In the period leading up to 2003 there was a concerted drive by the US and allied powers to restore western hegenomy through direct intervention in the region….. There is no similar drive today either in the US or amongst its allies.”

    That wouldn’t appear to be borne out by what happened in Libya. It could also be falsified soon by events in Syria.

    So let’s start with a different proposition;
    Imperialism isn’t just hostile to revolution and workers power. It’s also hostile to its economic rivals, especially the ones that refuse to join its economic blocs and try to protect their own interests by state protectionism.

    This stems from its continual need to control raw materials and export capital to areas where it can make the highest rate of profit.

    It applies not just to countries like Libya and Syria, but also China and Russia, (which are too powerful for Imperialism to take on right now).

    It even applies to countries like Greece, where the EC is imposing its own economic agenda, without the need to resort to force (yet).

    The precise position it takes depends on the balance of forces, which aren’t the same now as in 2003 (duh).
    It’s also based on subjective factors, including the degree to which it can persuade other countries to support it.

    This is where the UN comes in, humanitarian concerns being used as a form of arm-twisting for supporting armed intervention.
    Of course Human rights abuses by countries allied to the West are completely ignored.
    As was the case in Egypt, until the strength of the mass movement there forced Obama to ditch Mubarak.

    If the Imperialist powers had a ‘symbiotic relationship’ with Gaddafi or Assad, they would have allied with them against the Opposition.
    But they’ve done exactly the opposite.

    They’ve even been prepared to ally themselves with the Islamist forces that they’d previously demonised.
    Imperialism is now trying to make a historic compromise with the Muslim Brotherhood.
    Which means that the left must be very careful about the alliances makes in these countries.

    Of course, it’s just not true to say that there are no genuine internal oppositions inside them.
    The most pro-Western leaderships like that of El-Baradei in Egypt and the SNC in Syria have been relatively weak.
    In Libya, the TNC were too, until they were given a major boost by the NATO air intervention.

    The role of the left is not to “defend the regime”.
    It’s to oppose foreign intervention and stop the regime being overthrown from the right, in order to supplant it from the left.

    Political hysterics might balk at such a possibility, but in Marxist terms this might require a temporary alliance-
    an anti-imperialist united front, rather than the sort of political bloc that both wings of the Syrian CP have entered into with the Ba’ath party.
    It also requires maintaining complete political independence from the bourgeois oppositions and ensuring that working class demands are to the fore.

  63. johng on said:

    Jelly Tot actually that was Andy Newman’s position. And whilst its true that opposing the burning and castration of children prior to their mutilated bodies being handed back to their parents is a platitude (in the sense of ‘what else would you do’) do you disagree that a regime that does this has lost all moral authority?

    Priankoff your position strikes me as straightfowardly false. I don’t believe that the US decision to back NATO bombing in Libya represented a return to Bush’s global project of unilateralism. Far from it. It was a far more contingent affair, judged as a success largely on the basis that it has not produced any long term entanglements. A much more contingent and uncertain business.

    I also don’t believe that the west is hostile to Syria because Syria isn’t neo-liberal enough (or whatever you mean). Actually Assad would like to be more neo-liberal. Its the geo-politics that are a problem rather then the other way about.

  64. johng on said:

    And again, the notion that Syria is part of some anti-imperialist camp we must all rally around: its hard to think of a more misconceived basis for opposing military intervention. Those arguing this kind of tired bullshit should think about Jellytots argument that we all should oppose imperialist intervention. We have a duty to build this opposition on a wide basis. Not on the basis of a handful of political eccentrics who beleive Assad’s appalling regime is in some sense progressive. Given whats likely to be revealed in the next few days (never mind what is going on right now) its hard to imagine a surer way to destroy the possibility of a broad based anti-war and anti-imperialist movement. If you have these quaint beliefs thats fine. Just don’t impose them on people who are politically serious about opposing imperialism.

  65. johng on said:

    Priankoff if you want to support the regime that is your business (against those ‘to the right’ whatever this means). I am happy (and proud) to be a political hysteric who wants nothing to do with such lousy, reactionary, filthy politics.

  66. Brian O.: it contains passages like “The Mission determined that there is an armed entity that is not mentioned in the protocol. This development on the ground can undoubtedly be attributed to the excessive use of force by Syrian Government forces in response to protests that occurred before the deployment of the Mission demanding the fall of the
    regime.” Oh dear, not quite on message.

    On which message? The Syrian government was pressured into accepting the Arab League Observer Mission, and the head of the mission was chosen by Qatar. The Mission’s report is written from a position which is sympathetic to the opposition, hence eg excerpts like that one & there are others also.

    Which makes the missions _observations_, ie what they actually saw, all the more significant in their incongruence with the Western and GCC media reports.

  67. Jellytot on said:

    @81The notion that Syria is part of some anti-imperialist camp we must all rally around: its hard to think of a more misconceived basis for opposing military intervention.

    The non-intervention position should not be predicated on support/opposition to the rebels or regime. Maximum unity around the core demand of opposition to intervention regardless of ones views of the regime/rebels. We do not support intervention because it pours oil onto already troubled waters in the region.

    Don’t make mischief and try and bolt on extra demands to non-interventionism johng.

    @80do you disagree that a regime that does this has lost all moral authority?

    I don’t do the whole “morality authority” thing. I do not understand what it is and am not sure if I want to.

    It’s obvious that agents for the regime and the opposition have commited awful individual crimes. However, we should learn from Gerry Adam’s wise words in the early 1990’s (at the time of the Shankill fish shop/Greysteel massacres), “We shouldn’t get into the politics of the last atrocity”, where sympathy in the media swung between communities depending on who had suffered the latest outrage.

    I take the hard-headed view that a regime collapse, with or with foreign intervention, in the short-to-medium term would lead to a greater impetus for an Imperialist attack on Iran and the plunging of the entire region into further carnage.

    Whether Assad has moral authority or not really does not factor into it.

  68. Omar on said:

    JohnG,
    I haven’t been following the news that closely but what is the source for the “…burning and castration of children” story that you are referring to?

  69. John on said:

    #81

    johng: And again, the notion that Syria is part of some anti-imperialist camp we must all rally around: its hard to think of a more misconceived basis for opposing military intervention.

    The serious point isn’t whether or not we think Syria is progressive/anti imperialist/repressive or progressive. The key point is uniting around the principle of non intervention by our own government, as per the excellent SWP resolution put to the Stop the War Coalition conference, which Kevin Ovenden kindly posted the other day.

    Surely the only feasible position to take, given the balance of forces involved, is to call for a ceasefire and an end to the bloodshed as soon as possible. The opposition are hoping for intervention, especially now that they are on the back foot. But this would guarantee even more bloodshed rather than less, based on what we know took place in Iraq and Libya.

    It seems to me that calling for anything else from our safe vantage point is to engage in some macabre game called revolution, one in which the lives of those involved on the ground take second place to our own desire for revolutionary street cred.

  70. Whether Syria is part of an ‘anti imperialist camp’ – however such an entity could be constructed in a uni-polar world – is not the issue. The actual, real, concrete contradiction between Syria’s national interest and imperialism’s plans for the region are.
    This exists independently of the subjective intentions of the the successive Assad regimes, or even of the Syrian opposition in its many guises. The tendency to compromise with imperialism has a material basis in Syrian society, especially since the nationalised basis of the economy has been eroded and the anchor provided by the Soviet alliances has gone. There may even be forces within the regime that are prepared to strike a deal.
    Another factor is the vacillating character of the forces – both bourgeois and petit bourgeois – assembled around the Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition forces that seem prepared to ally with US, Britain and France.
    The moralising stance in relation to the deployment of force in this conflict – adopted by some people of a nominally left wing disposition – reflects an abandonment of the most basic ideas about the nature of state power.
    The invariably ruthless exercise of state power, including the defence of its monopoly on violence, is the secret tribute of the bourgeoisie to the marxist leninist conception of the state.
    To presume that the Syrian regime, whatever its political complexion, could accept a challenge to its monopoly of state power betrays the liberal foundations of this idea.
    What do the critics of the Syrian regime think might be the reaction of the British state to the deployment of an armed militia in a British provincial city, even it did not proclaim its adherence to an islamist ideology.

  71. Brian O. on said:

    Noah,

    #83. Ah, I see “Arab League monitors who spent a month in the country” and “produced a largely ignored report” as long as they re on your message, but tools of imperialism once they arewn’t. W

  72. Brian O. on said:

    Noah,

    #83.Pardon my earlier glitch: What I was trying to say was: Ah, I see “Arab League monitors who spent a month in the country and produced a largely ignored report” as long as they’re on your message, but tools of imperialism once they aren’t. As for their biases try this comment from Sara Firth, Russian TV (RT) accredited correspondent in Syria who travelled with the Observers: “Having watched and followed the observers for a number of days now, the biggest concern with regard to them is their neutrality.
    … The government minders travel with them a lot of the time … there’s no doubt that there’s a camaraderie between many observers and government officials that simply shouldn’t be there for a mission aimed at gaining objective facts.”
    Or another comment: “We’ve watched as the death tolls has risen in the time the observers have been in the country – and time is something the people in this country simply can’t afford right now because every second wasted is costing them their lives.”

  73. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    I’m pleased to report that the atmosphere at the StW conference, the seriousness of the discussion and the unity of purpose were all extremely positive signs.

    Amongst other things – and by no means the most important – they demonstrate that the SWP as an organised force, ie submitting and speaking to political positions, in the coalition was saved from some of its friends today.

    People took what they were saying seriously. Some people on here are not taking themselves seriously, let alone the issues. So there is no reason for the rest of us to indulge them.

    Netanyahu is north America. The full extent of the right wing push and Obama’s supine posture will be seen on Monday. Most likely it will lead to more people in British society being deeply fearful of a major war in the Middle East. And that is something that the StW coalition was united on today in seeing as a critical development – that should be build on and urgently. Others can rhetorically and, frankly, comically shout death to this that or the other in order to provoke what seems like a libidinal argument.

    There is a real world, a real argument and a real movement. And that’s what people committed to building today.

  74. jock mctrousers on said:

    #63 johng (surprise? you know, I think ‘he’ may be a team – note the idiosyncratic spelling in this one, for instance )

    “…its hard to imagine anything more disasterous (and likely to be disasterous very quickly by the way) then basing a campaign against imperialist intervention on rapidly to be disproven nonsense attempting to relativise the dreadful crimes being committed by Assad to hang onto power.”

    ‘rapidly to be disproven’ – like those who doubted the stories about Ghadafi atrocities were discredited?

    ” likely to be disastrous quickly by the way” – so johng knows something? The mass graves are going to be found? That’s always a good one. But how does johng know? My guess is he (they) is an SIS agent; same for Saymore, by the way.

    But enough tomfoolery. What indeed is and will be ‘disasterous’ is trying to rally opposition to NATO intervention around long-winded positions on anti-imperialism.

    Let me put it as simply as possible; if Assad is overthrown will Syria resemble more closely:

    A. Sweden and Switzerland

    or

    B. Libya and Iraq (as they are now).

  75. #94
    Actually,Jock, it does appear to be true, though the medical examiner does dispute this.

  76. On the issue of “moral authority” , I don’t think the question can be as simply avoided as jellyyot seeks.
    U
    National sovereignty does seem to require some level of popular assent to give legitimacy, and one of the aspects of the discredited political concept of “totalitarianism” that former trotskyists like Sidney Hook, James Burn ham and Irvin Kristol brought into currency was the idea that societies that deviate from the norms of western democracies lack popular involvement.

    Johng is still wedded to this cold war doctrine.

    Last year I did reproduce an article criticising the Assad government for a particularly grotesque murder of a child by the police, and I think I did say this illustrated a loss of moral legitimacy.

    Quite clearly however the Syrian state has not lost its legitimacy with many if not most Syrians. The country is divided and both camps have sufficient mass support to sustain the current crisis, and while the Syrian state has the upper hand it no longer exercises a monopoly of military force. There is now a civil war, however assymetrical it may be, where both sides are killing.

    To prevent the situation deteriorating requires a cease fire and a moratorium against foreign intervention.

  77. On the issue of “moral authority” , I don’t think the question can be as simply avoided as jellyyot seeks.

    National sovereignty does seem to require some level of popular assent to give legitimacy, and one of the aspects of the discredited political concept of o”totalitarianism” that former trotskyists like Sidney Hook, James Burn ham and Irvin Kristol brought into currency was the idea that societies that deviate from the norms of western democracies lack popular involvement.

    Johng is still wedded to this cold war doctrine.

    Last year I did reproduce an article criticising the Assad government for a particularly grotesque murder of a child by the police, and I think I did say this illustrated a loss of moral legitimacy.

    Quite clearly however the Syrian state has not lost its legitimacy with many if not most Syrians. The country is divided and both camps have sufficient mass support to sustain the current crisis, and while the Syrian state has the upper hand it no longer exercises a monopoly of military force. There is now a civil war, however assymetrical it may be, where both sides are killing.

    To prevent the situation deteriorating requires a cease fire and a moratorium against foreign intervention.

  78. Darkness at Noon on said:

    Andy Newman: Quite clearly however the Syrian state has not lost its legitimacy with many if not most Syrians.

    Quite clearly? And how would you know? The most recent ‘vote’? Your rather shaky premise seems to rely on something you posit as a ‘fact’ or ‘factoid’ when neither you, me or anyone else has got a clue as to this legitimacy. Without this argument, your position is a lot weaker.

    You constantly trot out this message but I have no idea how you can come to this conclusion when Syria lacks even the most basically transparent means of assessing such a position – even a basic lack of access to online networks. There are no polls, no votes, no democratic parties, no neutral observers of any permanence, no typical (democratic) facilities to even assess such a position. Furthermore, in a vicious and sectarian police state – which Syria most definitely is – peoples fealty to to the State is obviously influenced by the threat of violence and oppression – in this case the kind of ruthless violence that obliterates whole families and leads to knocks on doors at midnight.

    If the State might kill me for expressing dissent, I’m going to hedge my bets until such time as it’s safer. So in only in that sense might you be right.

  79. Brian O.: Arab League monitors who spent a month in the country and produced a largely ignored report” as long as they’re on your message, but tools of imperialism once they aren’t.

    Er, what?

    By all means disagree with what I am saying, but please don’t invent a point of view and ascribe it to me.

    The media reports indicate strongly that Syrians did not initially agree to the Arab League Observer Mission, and indeed the threat was that if they did not do so the issue would go to the UNSC. Russia’s influence was reportedly crucial in getting the Syrians to agree it. Qatar heads the Arab League’s Syria committee and chaired the meeting at which Al-Dabi was appointed as head of the mission.

    Those facts make it all the more striking that what the mission reported it had _observed_ was in contradiction to the Western & GCC media accounts. As do also the paragraphs in the Report summarising what they were told by the opposition, or decided on the basis of other factors, which show sympathy for the opposition position. And BTW, I don’t think anybody here is claiming that the Syrian government forces have not committed brutal acts.

    Presumably you cite Sarah Firth’s comments as she works for RT & presumably would thereby not be influenced by the bias of other Western (& Arab) media reporters? I’m not persuaded that that would particularly be the case. For example you quote her as saying:

    “We’ve watched as the death tolls has risen in the time the observers have been in the country – and time is something the people in this country simply can’t afford right now because every second wasted is costing them their lives.”

    You don’t give the date of that comment, but the BBC started with that kind of line almost as soon as the Mission arrived in Syria, so I suspect it’s not an original thought on the part of Ms Firth. The first part is factually ambiguous (does death toll rising mean the cumulative fatalities increasing- which would happen unless the armed conflict had come to a complete halt? Or does it mean the rate of fatalities was increasing?). The second part sounds like a suggestion that the observers being in Syria was a cause of the loss of life. Did she mean that, or else what, precisely?

    And when the observers did leave, there followed a big increase in the (reported) numbers of killings per day.

  80. Jellytot on said:

    @97Last year I did reproduce an article criticising the Assad government for a particularly grotesque murder of a child by the police, and I think I did say this illustrated a loss of moral legitimacy.

    I recall that article and another one by George Galloway around the same time which was critical of the regime. I too stated that the henious act was unsurprising of Baathist security police – However, a lot has changed since those early days and things have to be reassessed since Libya.

    To prevent the situation deteriorating requires a cease fire and a moratorium against foreign intervention.

    That is a position that all socialists and progressives should support.

  81. Jellytot on said:

    @96On the issue of “moral authority” , I don’t think the question can be as simply avoided as jellyyot seeks.

    With respect I didn’t seek to discuss this issue because I was not sure if the term “moral authority” could really apply to the situation in Syria or the wider region.

    The most useful and succinct definition of the term in question I located is here:

    MORAL AUTHORITY (of a person, institution, or written work): The quality or characteristic of being respected for having good character or knowledge, especially as a source of guidance or an exemplar of proper conduct.

    The Assad regime can have authority (I clearly still does). It too can be legitimate with a large number of the Syrian people (again it does have support) but could it really be described as being moral?

    I still think the “M” word should be avoided and left to others.

  82. prianikoff on said:

    johng #82
    “‘Priankoff if you want to support the regime that is your business (against those ‘to the right’ whatever this means).”
    (further abusive rubbish snipped)

    What I said at #79 was absolutely explicit:-
    the role of the left is
    “to oppose foreign intervention and stop the regime being overthrown from the right, in order to supplant it from the left.”

    It’s quite obvious what that means in practice.
    You can’t be against intervention and support the SNC and FSA at the same time.

    Here’s why:-

    At a at a press conference in Paris on Thurday, the “Syrian National Council” announced that it was launching a “military council to support the Free Syrian Army (FSA)”.
    Burhan Ghalioun said this was created “after some countries announced that they were ready to arm the FSA.”
    “The SNC, via its military bureau, wanted to organize this flow to avoid direct arms deliveries from particular countries,” he said.

    (quoted in Al Arabiya)

    Who these countries are remains a mystery, since the Arab League has denied that they took any such decision.
    But it’s a demonstrable fact that the Saudis and US right both support this plan.

    Socialists should be *opposed* to the SNC and FSA, because they represent intervention by the back door.
    They also have reactionary politics; they are pro-capitalist and will end up being anti-secularist too.

    I think that’s the message that should be conveyed by the StWC too.
    If not, they’re soon going to find that they will have to decide on whether to speak on common platforms with their supporters in this country.

  83. skidmarx on said:

    The idea that the SWP are simply lining up with those that would rather maintain their political isolationism than care about Syrians is belied by this video of a leading SWP member, who worries about the massacre that seems to be taking place in Homs from the off:
    http://socialistaotearoa.blogspot.com/2012/03/can-syrian-revolution-succeed.html

    But then it wouldn’t be the first time that someone whose politics has diverged quite noticeably from the SWP’s has tried to claim that his politics have remained the same, it’s just the SWP that doesn’t understand itself. Here’s an SWP expert on China knocking down such a claim over Tiananmen Square:

    Kevin #61 and #66 – at the time of Tiananmen Square we certainly spoke of Western hypocrisy, but it was far from being our first reaction. I’ve just checked the ISJ article I wrote, and there’s one or two paragraphs about Western hypocrisy, in some 52 pages. I went over the first draft in some detail with Chris Harman, and made anumber of changes that he suggested -that paragraph wasn’t one of them. The central target was the Chinese ruling class. That was equally true of the Socialist Worker coverage. The point was that this was a rising of the oppressed and exploited against a vicious ruling class, and we recognised which side we were on.

    Here from a protest against being asked to act like a member of the party:

    This witch-hunt has no place in the party of Tony Cliff, Duncan Hallas and Paul Foot, the party we joined in 1984 and of which we have been proud members.

  84. skidmarx on said:

    We have a mention of the regime apologist who wrote the OP in the New York Times at the turn of the year:

    There are a few holdouts. Analysts like Ibrahim al-Amin and Sharmine Narwani have continued to question the opposition’s motives and those of its foreign backers. And As’ad AbuKhalil, the author of the very popular Angry Arab blog, has refused to support the institutional elements of the Syrian opposition, alienating many longtime readers. But even he issues a constant stream of criticism against the regime itself.

    Though still-conflicting testimonies and partisan loyalties remain, a dramatic shift in opinion is unmistakable. “Choose the narrative that fits you best,” Robin Yassin-Kassab, a Syrian-British novelist, wrote on his Qunfuz blog after setting out the contradictory reports and eye-witness accounts that had emerged just hours after Friday’s bombings. Still, it was clear whose side he was on: “This is the confusion into which the criminal and traitorous regime has led us.”

    I think I’d rather go with the prescient words of the last mentioned writer from last May:

    Yet regime propaganda trots out the same silly stories told by Bin Ali, Mubarak and Qaddafi: that the rights movement is run by Salafis, al-Qa’ida-types, foreign infiltrators…The nationalist pretensions also ring hollow after the president’s cousin told the New York Times, “If there is no stability here, there’s no way there will be stability in Israel.” Syrians had previously been told that their half-century State of Emergency was designed to confront Israel – which occupies the Syrian Golan Heights – not to protect it…The other tool in the regime’s armoury is extreme violence. About a thousand Syrians have been killed so far, and about ten thousand have been detained – which means being beaten, starved, sometimes electrocuted…Many Syrians are already buying weapons as insurance against the future. If resistance to state violence gives birth to militias, regime propaganda will become reality.
    http://qunfuz.com/2011/05/20/blundering-and-adapting/#more-1543

  85. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    Here, again (as it’s on another thread also), is the motion moved by Judith Orr on behalf of the SWP at yesterday’s Stop the War AGM. It was passed.

    ’10 SWP
    Syria
    Conference notes
    The US and other Western governments have established a coalition, Friends of Syria, to coordinate an intervention in Syria. Plans to intervene are being described as “humanitarian”.
    Conference believes:
    Those Western governments are not motivated by the interests of the Syrian people or those suffering in Homs but by their own interests in the region.
    That the experience of past wars shows that humanitarian aims cannot be delivered by western military intervention.
    Military intervention by the US and Britain threatens to make the situation worse.
    Conference recognises that many activists in the anti war movement have different views on the nature of the struggle in Syria, but believes it is vital that the Stop the War Coalition maintains its unity and unites around the demand on which we all agree – no Western military intervention.
    Conference resolves
    To campaign against Western intervention in Syria and for the right of the Syrian people to determine their own future.’

    So I’m not terribly interested in various histrionics from some people. This resolution manifestly is a considered political intervention by the SWP in the policy-making arena of the anti-war movement in Britain. It is a very good resolution. I hope that some of the SWP’s friends on here take it to heart.

  86. Marko on said:

    You cannot compare Johng to Jim Denham for christs sake. You have to take into account their previous statements. Denham has a long history of supporting US and British wars and conquests, Johng does not.

    So Johng isn’t calling for the US and the UK to attack Syria, he’s just making it clear where his sympathies lie.

    Having said all that it is incumbent on the left to know exactly who the Syrian opposition are and what they believe etc. Only then can we really make clear where our sympathies are.

    Incidentally, I think the article was thought provoking. It seems quite the fashion to use the meida for propagands purposes. It was believed that the internet and modern communication would break down a few barriers and allow the truth to the aired more easily. The reality is that the confusion is ever greater! What a shame!

  87. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LN5QAAb_7go&feature=related

    The Angry Arab blog mentions this propaganda Youtube of overtly Sunni sectarian opposition fighters. They have named their unit after Yazid Bin Mu’awiya, who is the embodiment of tyranny for Shia and presumably Alawites as well. Khomeini, for example, referred to the Shah as “the Yazid of our time”. Angry Arab adds that ignorance of Arabic on the part of Western reporters or commentators means they miss sectarian stuff like this.

  88. Jellytot on said:

    @105It is a very good resolution.

    A very good, realistic and sensible resolution by Judith Orr on behalf of the SWP.

    I hope that some of the SWP’s friends on here take it to heart.

    Yes, let’s hope so.

  89. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    Sigh – read the SWP’s resolution. I agree with it. Hope others do too. Simples.

  90. “I hope that some of the SWP’s friends on here take it to heart.”

    I really don’t see any ‘friend of the SWP’ on here arguing a line that is not compatible with the motion. I think the motion is fine for the StWC to adopt doesn’t mean we can’t debate our differences alongside having a unitied position oppposing intervention. If any side needs to take anything to heart it those who have the the idea that supporting the uprising in Syria makes you a Pro-imperialist.

  91. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    Well that’s all good. The focus and emphasis of the SWP motion – and its action points – have broad support.

    End of.

  92. stuart on said:

    Kevin. Is there a difference between what Simon Assaf says in the link posted and what so-called ‘friends’ of SWP are arguing in these threads?

  93. Karl Stewart on said:

    Thanks for your post at (105) Kevin – excellent to hear that the SWP motion to StWC was passed.

    Reassuring to receive confirmation that pro-imperialist lunatics like JohnG do not speak for the SWP.

    Let’s hope the successful passing of the resolution leads to some serious anti-intervention activity.

    JohnG – good luck in the AWL!

  94. The US and other Western governments have established a coalition, Friends of Syria, to coordinate an intervention in Syria. Plans to intervene are being described as “humanitarian”.
    Conference believes: Those Western governments are not motivated by the interests of the Syrian people or those suffering in Homs but by their own interests in the region.

    The resolution is kinda silly. The west is not planning an intervention in Syria. The US was dragged into Libya only with UN backing, there is no chance of them doing anything unilaterially, nor anybody else.

    It’s also somewhat silly to suggest the west has no humanitarian interest. Of course they have wider interests, just as you guys do, but to say they are not moved by pictures of civilians being masscared, especially after Libya, is idiotic. I wouldn’t suggest because your prime concern is whether or not Syria will continue to aid Hezbollah and be an allie of the Palestinians, and also hoping any type of government does not have friendly relations with the world, doesn’t mean you care nothing at all for the civilians. They’re just one of other competing factors that you see as more important than them.

  95. Karl Stewart on said:

    Ryan, the resolution is eminently sensible. It draws on the tragic experience of Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan and concludes – based on that evidence – that overt UK/US/French military intervention in Syria today is far more likely than not to create yet another disaster, essentially, the people of Syria would be far worse off.

    Almost everyone on either side of this argument here agrees with that notion and therefore the resolution is – as well as being utterly correct – potentially a powerful unifying tool with which all of us can strive to build a strong anti-intervention movement.

    The main argument we’re having here is one within that constituency of opinion and, no doubt, will run and run. But make no mistake, we are united around this motion.

  96. Vanya on said:

    #117 ‘The US was dragged into Libya only with UN backing, there is no chance of them doing anything unilaterially, nor anybody else.’

    The US is the most powerful of a number of imperialist powers with their own governments and separate ruling classes. Yes,some of the Europeans were in ths case of Libya more gung ho about intervention than the current US administration, as was the case in Kosovo where the action was also carried out under a NATO flag.

    The idea that lack of UN cover is in itself a bar to intervention is clearly ‘silly’ to use your own word as Iraq shows.

    Moreover the action in Libya greatly exceeded what was permitted by the UN resolution.

    Lack of a UN mandate of any sort may be one of several factors making intervention less likely, which is why the Russian and Chinese governments have taken the stand they have, but I wouldn’t believe for one minute that it is ultimately decisive.

    As for humanitarianism, I think the point is that this will not in itself be a motive for intervention. There may well be those who will be fired with a feeling of moral righteousness, no less genuine for being selective.

  97. Vanya on said:

    #117 ‘The US was dragged into Libya only with UN backing, there is no chance of them doing anything unilaterially, nor anybody else.’

    The US is the most powerful of a number of imperialist powers with their own governments and separate ruling classes. Yes,some of the Europeans were in ths case of Libya more gung ho about intervention than the current US administration, as was the case in Kosovo where the action was also carried out under a NATO flag.

    The idea that lack of UN cover is in itself a bar to intervention is clearly ‘silly’ to use your own word as Iraq shows.

    Moreover the action in Libya greatly exceeded what was permitted by the UN resolution.

    Lack of a UN mandate of any sort may be one of several factors making intervention less likely, which is why the Russian and Chinese governments have taken the stand they have, but I wouldn’t believe for one minute that it is ultimately decisive.

  98. prianikoff on said:

    #111 “If any side needs to take anything to heart it those who have the the idea that supporting the uprising in Syria makes you a Pro-imperialist”

    Direct intervention by NATO forces, as in Libya, is unlikely to happen.
    Arms are more likely to be channelled through the SNC and FSA, from the Gulf States, Turkey and the West.

    If you’re against intervention in Syria, then you need to clearly dissociate yourselves from the Syrian National Council and Free Syrian Army.

    If you don’t do that and use a “solidarity with the uprising” position to speak on joint platforms with their representatives, that undermines the StWC motion.

    #112 “A popular uprising of the people needs no justification- Trotsky”

    At the Congress of Soviets at the Smolny Institute, October 25th 1917, in answer to the Mensheviks who opposed the October revolution
    What’s happening in Syria at the moment is nothing like that.
    Suggesting that it is prevents a serious analysis of the forces involved.

    There were major parties in Russia that supported both Revolution and Imperialist War.
    What happened in October 1917 would have been impossible without exposing their politics.

  99. What a load of nonsense. Oppose overthrowing Assad from the right. Have you ever heard such a load of rubbish? Tankies love a blood bath. Not for the first time.

  100. prianikoff on said:

    BEIRUT: Around 13 French officers are being held by Syrian authorities in Syria, sources have confirmed to The Daily Star.
    The group is in custody in the central city of Homs, a Damascus-based pro-Syrian Palestinian source in Beirut said. Sources said the group is being held in a field hospital in the city.
    It was not clear why the officers were in Syria, when they had arrived or whether they were part of a larger contingent in the city.

    (The Daily Star Lebanon News http://www.dailystar.com.lb)

    According to Debkafile:
    “one of them is reportedly a Colonel working for the French intelligence DGSE transmission service. This report is not confirmed by French officials.”

  101. Arron on said:

    I have followed this debate with both interset and at times incredulity
    The attempt by Andy to equate the SWP’s position to that of the AWL was plain silly and reflected very badly on him I think, especialy in light of the motion put to the STWC by Judith Orr. More to the point I think Andy’s position and a number of other posters was in my view effectively supportive of the massacre taking place in Homs or at least very close to it. I would have more respect for say Andy’s position if he could show us a motion along the lines of his position that he took to his GMB or Labour Party branch.
    Likewise for Karl, being a CP member I’m afraid does not qualify you to be all full of righteous indignation given the history of that organisation.

    Thankfully though common sense seems to have prevailed and a consenus around Orrs SWP resolution seems to have been formed and rightly so as like Kevin I think it strikes exactly the right balance. Only a complete fool would stand with a murderous tyrant like Assad but only an idiot would beleive that the Hagues of this world give two hoots about the humanitarian needs of the people of Homs,a concern that was somewhat missing when it came to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan .
    I had the pleasure of being at a meeting with a number of Syrians last week who have been involved in raising genuine humanitarian aid of the besiged people of Homs ,they were all vehemently opposed to Western Intervention. As they said having spent large parts of their life living with part of their country occupied by Israel and seeing what Western Intervention in Iraq has done the last thing they want is for their uprising ( which they see as being part of the whole Arab Spring )to become as the uprising in Libya did an excuse for Western Imperialism to try to regain a toe hold in the region.

  102. Arron: I think Andy’s position and a number of other posters was in my view effectively supportive of the massacre taking place in Homs or at least very close to it.

    ‘This is crass ignorance. Andy and others have consistently called for an end to the violence. It is those who wish to burnish their revolutionary credentials by calling for an end to the Assad regime, while knowing full well that this outcome won’t be possible without western intervention, who indirectly support the violence continuing.

  103. stuart on said:

    Kevin Ovenden: Well that’s all good. The focus and emphasis of the SWP motion – and its action points – have broad support. End of.

    It’s not ‘simples’if you keep making sneaky references to SWP ‘friends’ whilst they are trying to have a serious debate with what the SWP call ‘tankies’.

  104. Vanya on said:

    Arron: think Andy’s position and a number of other posters was in my view effectively supportive of the massacre taking place in Homs

    So equating the SWP’s position and that of the AWL is silly, but it’s reasonable to suggest that because people question the politics of the rebels and oppose western intervention they are supporting a massacre?

    #112 Quoting Trotsky or any of the other leaders of the Soviet state out of context about peoples’ uprisings is a joke of the highest order.

    #122 Presumably then you would like to see Assad overthrown by right wing forces? If not I think your comment requires a bit of development. Or was it just another of your Louis Proyect-style smart arse one-liners?

  105. Vanya: So equating the SWP’s position and that of the AWL is silly

    You say “silly”, I say “cheap and mendacious”.

    Let’s call the whole thing off.

  106. MRD: Karl Stewart, I was about to ask the same question about Johng saying ‘God save the queen’. He didn’t obviously, nor did he imply it. What happened was you demanded that he wished Liz a ‘bitter death’ or whatever phrase you’re fixated on.
    Now you may decide that because he didn’t succumb to your proposition that he definitely is ‘pro-imperialist scum’. I know there are some deep arguments re:Assad but if you honestly think Johng or the SWP are ‘pro-imperialist’ (I’ll take the word scum as an angry/frustrated error on your part) then I think you may have lost the plot a little.

    Perhaps Karl did not express himself as eloquently as he often does, but his point is a very valid one.

    There are many on the British left who, in an abstract way, proclaim opposition to imperialism and to their own ruling classes – but who, when it comes to the crunch, consistently direct their most bitter and visceral anger at those whom imperialism happens to be targetting or demonising. At those times, imperialism is shrugged off as not being very important compared to opposing the latest “tyrant”.

    The lurid fantasies – salivating anticipation of painful deaths for leaders who, whatever their deficiencies, have a history of being at some point thorns in the side of imperialism – are truly disturbing. It is also worth noting that these types will regularly use a kind of derogatory terminology to describe leaders and governments to which imperialism is hostile, which they would never use to describe imperialist governments and politicians. Nobody, for example, would refer even to “Cameron’s regime”, let alone “the monster Brown”. But such descriptions are par for the course for describing governments to which the West is hostile.

    Through seeing these kind of contributions, we gain a valuable insight into how the Second International collapsed at the onset of imperialist war. I guess seeing that historical episode being played out in microcosm is what provoked the nausea which led Karl to using the language he did.

    However, it’s refreshing to see some excellent contributions from Calvin, Noah, John Haylett and various others.

  107. Kevin Ovenden on said:

    Prianikoff – yes, and there are officers and men from other countries apparently captured in Syria. It’s been an open secret for some time. It partly accounts for the distinct cooling of the rhetoric from London, Paris and Ankara.

    More stories are likely to come out soon. (None of this should be taken as some kind of definitive position on the struggle in Syria; these are simply political realities that people know about in the region. And everyone, whatever their point of view, should be aware of them.)

  108. stuart on said:

    Zaid: Nobody, for example, would refer even to “Cameron’s regime”, let alone “the monster Brown”. But such descriptions are par for the course for describing governments to which the West is hostile.

    Surely you are so factually wrong in the context of this specific debate that your entire argument falls down.

  109. Arron: Only a complete fool would stand with a murderous tyrant like Assad but only an idiot would beleive that the Hagues of this world give two hoots about the humanitarian needs of the people of Homs

    Note the descriptions of the two individuals mentioned and my point about terminology in #129 above.

  110. Zaid’s reference to the collapse of the Second International is well received when it comes to the position taken by a some in the course of this debate.

    Johng’s earlier adoption of a quote from Trotsky – ‘a popular uprising of the people needs no justification’ – taken out of all context, was unfortunate to say the least. Missing completely was anything like a concrete analysis of the social forces involved. The anti-Chavez movement in Venezuela attracted large numbers both before and after the attempted coup. Was this progressive? Or how about the anti-Allende movement of middle class Chileans prior to his removal by the military?

    So throwing around quotes is useless without attaching or locating them in the specific time, place, and political terrain concerned.

    The huge weight of propaganda being carried in the news, demonising the Syrian government, ignoring the millions of Syrians who support the it, is easy to succumb to. Here, Noah’s repeated warnings are essential.

    This is not a game.

  111. Karl Stewart on said:

    billj:

    Tankies love a blood bath. Not for the first time.

    stuart: trying to have a serious debate with what the SWP call ‘tankies’.

    Love this “tankies” phrase guys – is it rhyming slang?

  112. Arron: only an idiot would beleive that the Hagues of this world give two hoots about the humanitarian needs of the people of Homs

    The issue is not Hague’s ‘humanitarian’ impulses – which may or may not exist – but the objective character of his policy which is to lever apart the Syria/Iran axis, weaken the regional forces opposed to zionism and simultaneously resolve some of the inter imperialist contradictions that exist between the main states of the EU imperium and between them and the USA.

    ‘…what means other than war could there be under capitalism to overcome the disparity between the development of productive forces and the accumulation of capital on the one side, and the division of colonies and spheres of influence for finance capital on the other?’

  113. stuart on said:

    John: Zaid’s reference to the collapse of the Second International is well received when it comes to the position taken by a some in the course of this debate.

    The Second International collapsed when the German SPD deputies voted for war. The SWP have just sponsored an anti-intervention resolution.

  114. stuart on said:

    Karl Stewart: Love this “tankies” phrase guys – is it rhyming slang?

    As you will know, it is a reference to those who would justify (as socialists) the crushing of the 1956 Hungarian revolt on the grounds that its success would strengthen western imperialism.

  115. Vanya on said:

    “The anti-Chavez movement in Venezuela attracted large numbers both before and after the attempted coup. Was this progressive? Or how about the anti-Allende movement of middle class Chileans prior to his removal by the military?”

    Yes, I quoted both examples at (I think) John G previously either in this or another thread about Syria, not to suggest that they are similar to the movement in Syria but precisely to decry this lack of a political/ class analysis, and don’t recall getting a response.

    Surely an even mpre pertinent “whatabout” would be Kronstadt, given the quote from Trotsky, who was a leading member of the “Lenin regime” and C in C of the troops responsible for the “murderous bloodbath”.

    (As an aside, I’m sure many of those on the receiving end probably wished Lenin, Trotsky etc a hard and painful death as well).

  116. John on said:

    #136

    stuart: The Second International collapsed when the German SPD deputies voted for war. The SWP have just sponsored an anti-intervention resolution.

    Nowhere in my post did I mention the SWP. For all I know, those I referred to could be members of the AWL, such is their focus on seeing the current regime fall. There has been an inordinate emphasis on this objective compared to resisting the prospect of western intervention and discussing ways to organise around the principle outlined in the SWP’s excellent resolution to the Stop the War Conference.

    The lapse into supporting the strategic aims of their respective ruling classes is the basis upon which the comparison between the degeneration and collapse of the Second International and those calling for the fall of first Gaddafi and now Assad is relevant.

    While it may not be a conscious position taken by some in the course of this debate to line up with their own ruling class when it comes to supporting the fall of oppositional regimes in the Middle East, this is certainly what it amounts to.

  117. Vanya on said:

    #139 And the reasons for siding with their own ruling class was not necessarally motivated by pure and simple national chauvinism.

    In Germany Russia had been seen by Marxists as the chief bastion of reaction in Europe since the time of KM himself. The British and French empires were hardly shining examples of progress in the world, and Brave Little Belgium’s empire contained the vilest amd most oppressive colony in Africa.

    And some of the better socialists who fell by the wayside did pull back when they saw the error of their ways, such as Kautsky.

    It’s the better motives which are sometimes the bigger danger.

  118. stuart on said:

    Vanya: “The anti-Chavez movement in Venezuela attracted large numbers both before and after the attempted coup. Was this progressive? Or how about the anti-Allende movement of middle class Chileans prior to his removal by the military?”

    These examples give rise to little debate on the left. Even so, it is important for those on the left to criticise Chavez/Allende where it may be felt necessary.

    Surely an even mpre pertinent “whatabout” would be Kronstadt, given the quote from Trotsky, who was a leading member of the “Lenin regime” and C in C of the troops responsible for the “murderous bloodbath”.

    The crushing was I would argue defensible on the grounds that a successful rising would open the door to imperialist intervention. A poor example in that the Bolsheviks (at that time) stood for international revolution in a way that Assad most certainly does not.

  119. Nadia Chern on said:

    The position of those that call for violent and bitter death reminds me of the Marxism event where year after year, some middle aged revolutionary with a goatee and moustache would get up in a meeting on Russia and make lurid threats about how we must have a Red Terror and be ruthless with all opponents of the revolution without the slightest regard to context or even human values. Year after year, the ‘leading’ comrades would sit with their heads in their hands at such remarks wondering why someone would say such a thing in public not to mention think it.

    If a popular uprising of the people needs no justification, why are you still trying to deliver one a century on? Oh yes, phraseology is not substitute for real forces in the world. So dies Johng’s idealism.

  120. Brian O. on said:

    John,

    “This is not a game.” Indeed it isn’t, which is why so much of the reasoning in this discussion is painful to see. Of course simply being a “mass movement” doesn’t automatically make a political cause an emancipatory one. But to assess it you at least need to look at both sides of the coin. The Syrian uprising is against a long-established, authoritarian, regime, that is using brutal repression to block any challenge to its power.It is futile to try and apply political tests of class and ideology to movements like this which erupt after long periods in which political life in a country has been stifled – there will be all sorts of political currents within them, the most numerous of which will be “don’t know, don’t care, just want a better life.” And there can be no guarantees of how a movement like this will develop: that can only be determined once people have achieved at least basic political freedoms, and that in turn requires the end of the current regime.

  121. just passing on said:

    Good lord
    What a pathetic contribution, Nadia. Have you got any useful or interesting to offer the debate? Or do you just want to continue with your obssesive, sectarian,jibes. I don’t know what horrible thing the SWP did to you in the past but for your own sake you have to let it go!

  122. Vanya on said:

    #142

    ‘These examples give rise to little debate on the left. Even so, it is important for those on the left to criticise Chavez/Allende where it may be felt necessary.’

    Utterly bizarre comment.

    Of course there is always room for criticism but we are talking about a clearly right-wing opposition which in one case may well have and in the other did crush and murder the members of a progressive government and thousands of its supporters.

    I have met plenty of people on the left who think that Allende should have armed the workers or had a more radical programme, but sympathy for the middle class oppostion??

    “The crushing was I would argue defensible on the grounds that a successful rising would open the door to imperialist intervention. A poor example in that the Bolsheviks (at that time) stood for international revolution in a way that Assad most certainly does not. ”

    Well that was the coherent argument put forward at the time and since by the Bolsheviks and their supporters, whereas the anarchists at the time and since put forward a coherent argument to refute it.

    What is completely lacking from the left supporters of the Syrian armed opposition is a similarly coherent argument.

    The fact that the rebels are not Assad is hardly convincing.

    And it seems to make the atrocity stories a little beside the point. I mean, would all these alleged and / or actual horrors be somehow okay if they were being done in the name of international revolution?

  123. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    The wording of the SPD’s resolution voting for war credits is interesting. It starts off with regret that attempts to avert war through discussions with “our French brothers” are in vain, then goes on to state that “for our people and its future in freedom, much, if not everything, is at stake in the event of a victory of Russian despotism, which has stained itself with the blood of the best among its own people… We do not leave our own fatherland in the lurch in the time of danger.”

    The resolution is rather drily worded (it was apparently a compromise between different wings of the SPD) but its one lurch into purple prose is that image of blood-stained Russian despotism, even though that was quite an accurate description. That bit of emotiveness was needed to give a pretext for why the SPD had rediscovered its “own fatherland” in time of war.

    When Lenin read of the resolution, he at first thought it was a forgery designed to promote the war agenda, though his own loathing of the Tsarist state was second to none.

  124. stuart on said:

    John: #136The lapse into supporting the strategic aims of their respective ruling classes is the basis upon which the comparison between the degeneration and collapse of the Second International and those calling for the fall of first Gaddafi and now Assad is relevant.

    Saying that ‘the main enemy is at home’ does not mean that the other side is ok. Surely the best course of action for the left is to reserve the right to criticise both the regime (whether Egypt, Libya, Syria) and the opposition leadership and seek to pursue an independent strategy based on greater rights (political, social, economic) for workers and poor. This approach should be valid in 1914 or today.

  125. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    Kevin Ovenden: Prianikoff – yes, and there are officers and men from other countries apparently captured in Syria. It’s been an open secret for some time. It partly accounts for the distinct cooling of the rhetoric from London, Paris and Ankara.

    About two weeks ago, it was reported in some sections of the Turkish media that 50 MIT agents (MIT is “National Intelligence Organisation”, the intelligence service of Turkey) had been captured in Syria. I have not heard any more of this story since. Either it is untrue or there is some quiet horse-trading going on, but the “let’s go down and intervene” bandwagon seems to have halted in the Turkish media at least.

  126. John on said:

    Brian O.: The Syrian uprising is against a long-established, authoritarian, regime, that is using brutal repression to block any challenge to its power.It is futile to try and apply political tests of class and ideology to movements like this which erupt after long periods in which political life in a country has been stifled – there will be all sorts of political currents within them, the most numerous of which will be “don’t know, don’t care, just want a better life.” And there can be no guarantees of how a movement like this will develop: that can only be determined once people have achieved at least basic political freedoms, and that in turn requires the end of the current regime.

    But here again we see the distinct lack of any wider context to what is taking place. Abstracted from your comment is any acknowledgement of the objectives of Western governments when it comes to maintaining and increasing their control over the region.

    The external pressure this has produced cannot be divorced from the internal contradictions and convulsions that are currently being played out in Syria.

    Political freedoms can’t be detached from the economic system that underpins them? You think the Iraqi and Libyan people are now living better lives as a result of the toppling of their respective prior regimes? To ask the question is to answer it, surely.

    The point remains: calling for a cessation of hostilities and no intervention on the part of our own government must be the locus of our intervention at this stage. As it stands the Syrian opposition remains too weak and fractured to be able to topple Assad. This is fact. So based on that the only realistic and relevant position is an end to hostilities, unless that is we support intervention.

    Btw, we should bear in mind during these discussions that whatever position we take, it won’t have any bearing on what the eventual outcome is.

  127. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    stuart: Surely the best course of action for the left is to reserve the right to criticise both the regime (whether Egypt, Libya, Syria) and the opposition leadership and seek to pursue an independent strategy based on greater rights (political, social, economic) for workers and poor. This approach should be valid in 1914 or today.

    When johng rhapsodised over the death of Gaddafi (like the front page of the Sun, by the way) and wished the same to Assad, how was this an “independent strategy”?

  128. Just by the by the by – or is it bye the bye? Why no SU coverage of the rigged Czar Putin re-election in Russia and the burgeoning democracy movement there? Because nothing has come in suitable to be posted? Or because the Russian Putin regime – corrupt, brutal and despotic though it is, presiding over one of the most unequal societies in the world – are considered an anti imperialist counter weight to the West in the ME, especially Syria.

    Russian and Chinese leaders are doing the sensible thing in calling for a cease fire right now, so we shouldn’t say anything nasty about their ruling classes, is this how the logic goes John?

    Or is it really that there’s no relevant material to hand?

  129. Vanya on said:

    #152 I demand to know why there isn’t anything about the death of Paul McBride QC in Pakistan.

    Is that because John Wight isn’t interested in the issue of sectarianism in Scotland?

    In fact I demand to know why this blog doesn’t cover every political story in the world as soon as it happens.

  130. skidmarx on said:

    Just saw a BBC reporter saying:

    “People here are irritated at being paraded as a bunch of torturers.”

    But he was in Jordan, not Iraq, so it’s OK to point out the hypocrisy of his words.Further al-Qaeda propaganda from the BBC.

    here again we see the distinct lack of any wider context to what is taking place. Abstracted from your comment is any acknowledgement of the objectives of Western governments when it comes to maintaining and increasing their control over the region.
    This could easily be turned round. Abstracted from the “The SWP is the AWL unless it can be saved from itself/its ‘friends’ by getting it to focus on its StWC motion” meme is any acknowledgement that the argument it puts forward is simultaneously against intervention and in favour of success for the anti-Assad movement, because those have been declared by the tankies (or perhaps their ‘friends’ have led them astray) to be fundamentally incompatible objectives.

  131. Just a little query Vanya.

    Obviously SU can’t cover every story in the world, the question was a genuine one. Now I would thought that a rigged presidential election in one of the biggest, most important countries in the world – with obvious especial historic importance for the political left – with, as we speak, an opposition movement of 10s of 1000s taking to the streets, is worthy of an article on 2. I check SU regularly and can’t remember when there last was one – although it’s possible that there was one. So maybe there is little conspiracy of silence going on.

    Don’t you think the Russian election is worthy of an article? To say ‘debate’ about Syria has become tedious and repetitive is an understatement.

  132. stuart on said:

    Mark Victorystooge: When johng rhapsodised over the death of Gaddafi (like the front page of the Sun, by the way) and wished the same to Assad, how was this an “independent strategy”?

    Why the continual fuss over this? Did Karl Liebknecht worry about comrades celebrating the death of the tsar?

  133. Sam64: I would thought that a rigged presidential election in one of the biggest, most important countries in the world

    Hmmm. So, according to the Western media, the story is the ‘rigging’, though both opinion polls & exit polls gave Putin a massive majority. Now, what was somebody saying about people ostensibly on the left lining up with the strategy of their own imperialist ruling class?

  134. Stop press. The Western media say that the earth rotates the sun. The opposite must obviously be the case. Anyone who says otherwise is clearly lining up with their own capitalist, imperialist ruling class and is a traitor to, er, the proletariat!

    Actually Russia election monitors say that there was mass, systematic fraud both yesterday and in the earlier parliamentary elections. That’s what prompted the demonstrations. Not that this fact would make difference to your argument.

  135. Vanya on said:

    “Don’t you think the Russian election is worthy of an article?”

    As a matter of fact yes I do.

    My point was that you have chosen to assume that the fact one has not been posted yet is politically motivated.

    It may not be, as may the fact that there are other issues in the world, such as:

    the scandal about the death of an Irish republican in 1990 that’s just broken out, the attacks on the government in the Lords over the cuts in Legal Aid which will affect asbestos victims, the attack on Gay marriage by the head of the RC church in Scotland, the creation of a new party by the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya, the setting up of a protest referendum in Madrid against privatisation, ethnic fighting in Burkina Faso,

    none of which as I write have been the subject of a post on SU.

    It’s a lazy and easy way of attacking the admin of the blog.

  136. prianikoff on said:

    re. Kevin ) #130, Mark VS #149

    Since early this morning, the story of the alleged detention of 13 French officers in Homs has been repeated by numerous news agencies.
    All of them simply repeat the original version in the Lebanon “Daily Star” and nothing has been verified.
    Even if it’s true, it wouldn’t prove anything about the politics of the opposition as a whole.

    re. Western Press concerns: I haven’t seen too much about this story in the British press.

    http://www.tunisia-live.net/2012/02/27/tawergha-the-town-destroyed-by-libyas-revolution/

  137. Unbelievable

    Who is this sam 64 character?

    Some people have noticed I am in the middle of organising a major industrial dispute. Hence less time on blog

    It even took me several days to write about the death of davy jones, more interesting to me than putin

  138. No Vanya, attacking me for allegedly attacking SU – the organisers of which I admire for the quality of their blog, regardless of what I think about their politics – is not just lazy but frankly childish. The point wasn’t a rhetorical question, but a genuine one. Read it again. It may be that there has been no suitable external material or that the editors don’t have the time to cover this issue. I’m constantly impressed by how work goes into SU. A few years ago Andy told me that they hadn’t had an alternative take on a hospital care scandal in Stafford from the pro-Labour govt line in the article they put up. I believed him. End of.

    However, given the importance of the Russian election – it is the number one news story in the world right now – I am surprised that there hasn’t been some coverage of the Russian election and the return (as I put it) of Czar Putin to power. There is, frankly, an editorial obsession – and an editorial direction does seem stronger than when I first staring looking at the blog – on the part of John Wright with maintaining a certain line on Syria right now on SU. Drawing critical attention to the Putin regime, given that he has been pivotal to thwarting Western intervention, would, obviously, complicate that. He can speak for himself. But the question is/was a genuine one.

    There’s enough polemic on SU without you stirring it up on a false premise.

  139. skidmarx on said:

    #161 Like this:

    Simon Assaf does, here:
    ” Misrata fighters became renowned for the “racial cleansing” of black Africans and dark-skinned Libyans they say supported the regime. Misratans drove out black Africans (many of whom who played no part in the war) from their neighbourhoods and the nearby town of Tawergha. In contrast the inhabitants of the Arab town of Zlitan, which also failed to rise against the regime, have been encouraged to return home.

    This racial cleansing has spread to the Western Mountains. The Arab and Berber villages that fought an effective guerrilla war have now turned on the Tuareg tribes, some of whom fought for the regime. These purges are a grim parallel with Gaddafi’s notorious racist pogroms of some 300 black Africans in 2000. The fall of the regime, seen as an act of liberation, has become for many a reaffirmation of old repression and racism.”

    Posted by skidmarx 28 February, 2012 at 3:07 pm?

  140. Written before your post Andy. The point stands. I’ll only note that you’ve reverted to type in this particular posting with a manufactured digs at Louis Proyect – whoever he is – and the SWP. And contributed to making the stream of comments largely repetitive crap. But I won’t get personal. As might be ssng, ‘Cheer up Andy Newman, oh can it be to a left wing blogger who has to make the kids tea’.

  141. Brian O. on said:

    John,
    “Abstracted from your comment is any acknowledgement of the objectives of Western governments when it comes to maintaining and increasing their control over the region.” So we should base our attitude towards the Syrian conflict on”the objectives of Western governments”? That sounds to me like letting imperialism determine your agenda. And extraordinarily short sided – you won’t build a meaningful anti-imperialist movement on the bones of those crushed by self-proclaimed “anti-imperialist” dictators.
    You really should stop looking at issues like this through the single lense of Iraq. Libya is not and never was Iraq. Its not me who thinks that the “the Libyan people are now living better lives as a result of the toppling of their respective prior regime” its some 80% of the Libyan people. If the left can’t draw up an honest balance sheet of the Libyan experience then it will never be able to deal with the complexities of Syria. I can appreciate the need at the moment to focus on the real danger of military action against Iran, but it would be nice to have a little tangible display of solidarity with the Syrian struggle, rather than the fixation on the limited danger of western military intervention there. (By the way, I don’t know if the opposition to “intervention” includes diplomatic intervention: in which case your statement that we can have no influence over the situation becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy).

  142. Sam 64

    Fair enough.
    Coverage of russian election is about prioritisation. And limited resource.

    Topicality is very time consuming.
    I have thought about posting the russian communist party’s statement but haven’t even had time to read it myself.
    Although very busy I am doing background reading for an article on the origins of the Atlanticist right, that some people may find surprisingly non condemnattory of the position of Healey and Crosland.

  143. Karl Stewart on said:

    Brian O.: John,It’s not me who thinks the Libyan people are now living better lives as a result of the toppling of their respective prior regime” its some 80% of the Libyan people.

    What evidence is there to support this assertion Brian?

  144. Where forms Brian O get the static that 80% of Libyans are better off?

    Even if it were accurate wouldn’t the balance sheet also need to reflect the lynchings of black Libyans etc.

  145. skidmarx on said:

    some people may find surprisingly non condemnatory of the position of Healey and Crosland.
    Bracing ourselves.

  146. John on said:

    Sam64: There is, frankly, an editorial obsession – and an editorial direction does seem stronger than when I first staring looking at the blog – on the part of John Wright

    Not true. I’ve hardly commented on this thread until today. The people who contribute to SU are volunteers, who can’t possibly post articles on every single issue. Today I’ve been working on amending the final draft of a book I have coming out in a few months time, writing a boxing piece for the Morning Star, and trying to find somewhere else to live. I managed to comment on this thread in-between. But there’s a world of difference between commenting and writing articles.

    In terms of the Russian elections, I haven’t been following them close enough to arrive at an informed opinion.

  147. #171

    skidmarx: some people may find surprisingly non condemnatory of the position of Healey and Crosland.
    Bracing ourselves.

    Well my personal broadly sympathic approach to the the USSR is well known, so I am seeking to contextualise the way the cold war poalrised the British labour movement in such a way that forced people to adopt either a pro-Washington or a pro-Moscow position, and that this was the detriment to the interests of the labour movement.

    I would have thought that the slogan of “neither washington nor moscow but social democractic reform through parliament broadly in line with the values of the trade union movement” might be a catchy slogan

  148. 172 Fair enough. Like I say John, it was a genuine question. Perhaps the term obsession is pejorative. But I would imagine your combined wordage on Syria (please nobody count!) is, well, up there.

  149. Jellytot on said:

    @174Healey

    Favourite Healey quote, from 1983:

    “[Margaret Thatcher is] wrapping herself in a Union Jack and exploiting the services of our soldiers, sailors and airmen and hoping to get away with it. The Prime Minister who glories in slaughter…is at this very moment lending the military dictatorship in Buenos Aires millions of pounds to buy weapons, including weapons made in Britain, to kill British servicemen with, and that is an act of stupefying hypocrisy.”

    @176

    Why are you posting that?

  150. Sam64: Russia election monitors say that there was mass, systematic fraud both yesterday and in the earlier parliamentary elections. That’s what prompted the demonstrations. Not that this fact would make difference to your argument.

    Actually, the demonstrations were planned before election day. And no, it makes no difference to my argument, given that the opinion polls predicted a result of between 58% and 66% for Putin. So no doubt there was fraud here & there, but I don’t think there’s any case that it made a significant difference to the final result.

    BTW, the Communist Party’s result was a couple of points better than polls predicted.

  151. skidmarx on said:

    @176
    Why are you posting that?

    Because it’s important that people see through the machinations of the Saudi-GCC-alQaeda sectarian criminal conspiracy against the Lion of the Golan and the Arab Revolution.

    @174 A social-democrat agreeing with social-democrats never ceases to astonish me.

    @Hukkalaka Meshabob – Good post.

  152. stuart on said:

    Vanya: Of course there is always room for criticism but we are talking about a clearly right-wing opposition which in one case may well have and in the other did crush and murder the members of a progressive government and thousands of its supporters.

    And it seems to make the atrocity stories a little beside the point. I mean, would all these alleged and / or actual horrors be somehow okay if they were being done in the name of international revolution?

    Yes I agree with the first sentence, hence I said there isn’t too much of a debate on that. Regarding the second point, I wouldn’t accept violence simply on the basis of it being ‘in the name of…’. A clear judgement would have to be formed.

  153. #179

    skidmarx: A social-democrat agreeing with social-democrats never ceases to astonish me.

    So you suggest that, for example, the disagreements between say Hugh gaitskell and Nye Bevan were trivial?

  154. Sam64: The Western media say that the earth rotates the sun. The opposite must obviously be the case.

    On issues where _the facts_ are not only in dispute but are relevant to matters of strategic importance to the imperialists, don’t you think it might be wise to question some of what is served to you by the media?

    And I’m sure I recall someone remarking once along the lines that the ruling ideas of each age are the ideas of its ruling class.

  155. Do your implication that social democratic agree with each other is facile.

    And don’t get hung up on the words socialism and social democracy. Remember the mainstay of the pro empire right in the party who published Socialist Commentary were a group called Socialist Vanguard. While in Bevan s In Place of Fear he is sca thing about revolution.

  156. On the subject of Louis Proyect, we perhaps do him a disservice. It is no mean achievement to write a parody of a left wing blog without once slipping out if the assumed character of Charles Pooter.

    When understood as an homage to George and weedon Grossmith his website is actually quite good

  157. Brian O. on said:

    Andy Newman,
    I didn’t say they were better off (who am I to judge that) I said that 80% regard themselves as better off. I must make a self-criticism: I inadvertently exaggerated the figure: its 76% (although perhaps I can make up for that with the figure that 82% say that the revolution was “absolutely right”.)This picture comes consistently through the three large scale opinion polls that have been carried out over the last 4 months: the most recent and comprehensive the Oxford/U of Benghazi poll carried out in late December. Overall a fairly upbeat picture: high levels of optimism for the future (79% expect things to be “much better” in a year’s time); high levels of confidence in the NTC (c.80%); an emerging civic culture (83% say they discuss politics; 62% that they can influence politics at local and national level; 45% that they might join a political party or citizen’s group). And of course the balance sheet would need to include the abuses and negative things that have happened – that’ what would make it a balance Sheet. But it should be an honest balance sheet – based on accurate facts and not rumours and half-truths. The latter would show that the scale of human rights abuses in Libya is low (mark my words, low – not absent) in comparison with almost any other comparable upheaval.
    Happy to debate that one any time you like.

  158. Omar on said:

    #187
    Wouldn’t the involvement of the U of Benghazi raise some eyebrows,considering Benghazi was the main base of the NTC during the uprising?

    Is there a link to this poll,Brian?

  159. skidmarx on said:

    Do your implication that social democratic agree with each other is facile.
    Do what?

    The obvious implication is that I would dream of comparing Hugh Gaitskell and…

    Now I’ve got to go before I ask Noah if because I learned to believe in evolution in this capitalist society, I should seriously consider the possibility that the animals went in two by two…[Flat Earth!Flat Earth!]…

  160. redhand on said:

    “Wouldn’t the involvement of the U of Benghazi raise some eyebrows,considering Benghazi was the main base of the NTC during the uprising?”

    Fair point, although one would hope any potential bias or skew in the outcome would have been pre-empted by those conducting the survey. When the poll becomes publicly available, I suppose we’ll be able to make a more considered judgement in that regard. That said, I’d be astonished if it were any less reliable than the Qatari online poll referred to earlier and used by some on here, rather desperately, as evidence for mass support for the Assad hereditary dictatorship.

  161. jock mctrousers on said:

    #187

    ” …83% say they discuss politics; 62% that they can influence politics at local and national level”

    LOL! (at least it would be funny if it wasn’t vile)

    #181

    The point of Proyect’s article seems to be: ” In my view, the only sensible position for the left to take is total opposition to military intervention”

    Thanks Louis – it’s clear now.

    Then, tagged on it seems, there’s a gratuitous attack on Stephen Gowans (who’s one of the few consistently worthwhile writers, like his other favourite target Ed Herman – envy, Louis?), followed by a tirade against those who equate state ownership with socialism, which reads suspiciously (but predictably) like the usual apologetics for US imperialism – the Soviet Bloc, Yugoslavia, Libya, Iraq…they had health-care, housing, education, jobs, but they didn’t have DEMOCRACY!

    I shouldn’t have to spell this out, but there might be 12 year olds reading the blog for the first time: collaborating with US imperialism doesn’t get you democracy; the good things go (jobs, healthcare, education, welfare) and the bad things get worse.

    Louis’ heart is with the Tea Party now, really.

  162. Louis’ heart is with the Tea Party now, really.

    I guess that’s the only thing you can say when an article makes a good case that the Arab League report, which the article Andy posted above relies on in part, is full of crap. Here’s the relevant part that drooling imbeciles like you cannot rebut:

    he Arab League’s mission to monitor the bloodshed in Syria was doomed from the start, with some observers seemingly oblivious to the gravity of their assignment and others lacking the expertise to do the job, according to a leaked internal report.

    The Arab observers also faced serious dangers, a scarcity of equipment and a fierce Syrian media campaign against them, obstacles that all but assured their inability to get a deep understanding of the crisis that’s on track to becoming the Middle East’s next civil war. The mission was suspended Saturday amid escalating violence.

    “Regrettably, some observers thought that their visit to Syria was for pleasure,” wrote the mission chief, Gen. Mohammed Ahmed al Dabi, according to the report posted online. “In some instances, experts who were nominated were not qualified for the job, did not have prior experience and were not able to shoulder the responsibility.”

    The mission’s problems began upon its arrival in Syria on Dec. 24. Syrian officials immediately confiscated the communications gear of the 166 monitors at the Jordanian border, according to the leaked report. They were left with just 10 satellite phones until the Chinese Embassy intervened with 10 walkie-talkies to help the monitors communicate with one another and their command.

    The observers were posted in 15 areas of the country, some of them dangerous conflict zones, but they didn’t have enough body armor or reinforced vehicles. Rental agencies refused to rent vehicles to the monitors, who sometimes ended up overwhelmed among rioting crowds in the mission’s first days, according to the report.

  163. Red Robbo2 on said:

    BY, (57) The Morning Star opposed the Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia in 1968. But don’t let facts deflect you from a little bit of sectarian lying.

  164. Hukkalaka Meshabob: The Arab observers also faced […] a fierce Syrian media campaign against them

    It looks like you haven’t read the report, Louis, therefore you are quoting from an article by someone who has (deliberately?) misunderstood parts of the report, and cherry-picked from the self-criticisms in the report in order to distract from, & avoid the issue of, what the mission actually observed- which was contrary to the Western & Gulf media reports.

    The fierce media campaign against the mission was carried out, not by the Syrian media, but by the media in the West and the GCC.

    The list of requirements for better equipment & more resources etc resulted in an Arab League decision to provide more & better equipment & resources. However, prompted by Hilary Clinton, the Saudis & the rest of the GCC pulled out of the mission, ensuring the mission was suspended and then terminated.

    Presumably, Louis, you are happy that the USA and the GCC got their way on this?

  165. I have indeed read the report that the chief of the fact-finding mission described in the following terms: “Regrettably, some observers thought that their visit to Syria was for pleasure. In some instances, experts who were nominated were not qualified for the job, did not have prior experience and were not able to shoulder the responsibility.”

    And of course I am “happy” that the USA got its way. I am also digging a hole into Venezuela from Colombia that CIA agents will use to penetrate the country. Not only that, I am a dirty Zionist and a Trotskyite devil.

  166. Hukkalaka Meshabob: Prianikoff told me […] a block away.

    Hmmm. Is this is an actual post by Louis Proyect (as distinct from someone impersonating him)? If it’s genuine, it raises some concern about him.

  167. Hukkalaka Meshabob: I have indeed read the report

    Odd then, that you claimed that the Observers faced a Syrian media campaign against them, whereas in fact the report says nothing of the kind.

    Hukkalaka Meshabob: I am also digging a hole…

    Well, you are certainly digging a hole for yourself.

  168. Noah, you are confused. I am referring to an *internal* report, not the public one that Andy’s crossposting referred to. My post referred to a McClatchy newspaper article on the internal report. I hope that clears things up.

  169. Clive on said:

    After demanding that we support the snuffing out of the Syrian revolution, John Wight offers this reassuring piece of advice for those who are still troubled by their conscience.

    Btw, we should bear in mind during these discussions that whatever position we take, it won’t have any bearing on what the eventual outcome is.

    Could we have a better example of the cynicism of the anti revolutionary position?

  170. Hukkalaka Meshabob: I am referring to an *internal* report, not the public one that Andy’s crossposting referred to

    Louis, why don’t you admit that you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.

    You have done no research, and having had a look it’s clear that the source you are relying on, an article published by McClatchy, is not even a secondary source. It was written by someone whose ‘information’ was gained by reading another (very biased) article, published the previous day on the ‘Turtle Bay’ blog in the ‘Foreign Policy’ magazine website.

    As for this ‘internal report’ you claim to refer to- what utter drivel. It is all in public.

    All the quotes you cite (misinterpreted, cherry-picked etc as they are), are from the full Report, presented to the Arab League on 23rd January, and which appeared in Arabic on the Web on 28th January:

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/79663397/Dabi-Report-تقرير-الدابي

    A couple of days later, a few English translations appeared. The most accurate is the one we have published on 21st Century Socialism:

    http://21stcenturysocialism.com/article/text_of_the_arab_league_monitors_report_on_syria_02089.html

    It’s all there. You have no separate ‘internal report’ to refer to.

    Louis, I doubt that you deliberately set out to deceive. But it is troubling that you seem to be able to invent or reproduce (supposed) ‘facts’ when it suits the ‘humanitarian’ imperialist agenda.

  171. paul fauvet on said:

    Since this thread is about “perceptions and reality”, here’s a bit more reality, taken from the BBC’s excellent correspondent in Syria, Paul Wood, who is just outside Homs.

    “A terrible fear has seized people here about what the government forces are doing now that they are back in control.

    In a nearby house we sat with six women and their 17 children. They had arrived that day. There were no men.

    “We were walking out altogether until we reached the checkpoint,” said one of the women, Um Abdo.

    “Then they separated us from the men. They put hoods on their heads and took them away.”

    Where do you think they are now, I asked? The women replied all at once: “They will be slaughtered.”

    We met the Ibrahim family by chance while filming an aid delivery of cooking oil. They told us that on Friday, in the Jobar district of Homs, they had witnessed a massacre.

    Ahmed Ibrahim told me that 36 men and boys were taken away. Among them were four members of his own family including his 12-year-old son, Hozaifa. All were dead now, he said.

    He said he had seen everything, laying flat behind some trees.

    He told me: “There is a major checkpoint near our house. Reinforcements arrived there. They brought Shabiha (the “ghosts” or paramilitaries). They began arresting all the men in the area so I crouched down in the orchards just beside my house.

    “They started beating them up. Then they moved them into a street next to a school. They killed them all. I saw it. I was 50 to 100 metres away. Their hands were tied behind their backs. A soldier held each one still on the ground with his boot; another soldier came to cut their throats. I could hear their screams.”

    No doubt there are people contributing to this thread who will dismiss everything the BBC reports, and who will scorn refugee testimony as the work of imperialist stooges. Just as they rejected as imperialist propaganda the stories told by refugees fleeing from the Khmer Rouge after the fall of Phnom Penh n 1975.

    For me, the reports of men separated from women and taken away has chilling echoes of Srebrenica. But there are some on the left who didn’t believe that atrocity happened either.

  172. John on said:

    Clive: After demanding that we support the snuffing out of the Syrian revolution, John Wight offers this reassuring piece of advice for those who are still troubled by their conscience.

    Btw, we should bear in mind during these discussions that whatever position we take, it won’t have any bearing on what the eventual outcome is.

    Could we have a better example of the cynicism of the anti revolutionary position?

    Actually, Clive, I was just making a statement of fact. My conscience is clear. I support ending the violence. You seem to support continuing it, even though the opposition lacks both the arms and strength to prevail at this stage without western intervention a la Libya, where as we know by now atrocities are still taking place.

    I think you should take a look in the mirror before you start talking about consciences.

  173. prianikoff on said:

    “Arming of Syria’s opposition stepped up as demand for safe havens grows”
    by Chris Marsden, World Socialist Web Site
    6 March 2012 (extract)

    “The hundreds of millions now being spoken of publicly will be used to provide heavy military equipment, with the aim of facilitating the FSA’s stated intention of carving out a “safe haven” near the Turkish border that would then require military protection along the lines of similar initiatives preparatory to wars in Libya, Iraq and the former Yugoslavia.
    A key role would have to be played by Turkey, which is home to both the SNC and the as yet somewhat nominal command of the FSA, led by Colonel Riad al-Assad. Col. Assad told the Financial Times, “If we had anti-tank missiles, then we could impose a safe haven and take over an area.” ”

    see:-
    http://wsws.org/articles/2012/mar2012/syri-m06.shtml

    “McCain calls for strikes on Syria”
    Irish Times, Tuesday, March 6, 2012
    (extract)

    “The US should lead an international effort to protect key population centres in Syria through air strikes on president Bashar al-Assad’s forces, US senator John McCain said last night.
    “The ultimate goal of air strikes should be to establish and defend safe havens in Syria, especially in the north, in which opposition forces can organize and plan their political and military activities against Assad,”
    Time is running out. Assad’s forces are on the march,” Mr McCain said.
    The only realistic way to stop them, he said, was with foreign airpower, adding that this would require the US to “suppress” Syrian air defences in at least part of the country.”

    see:-
    http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2012/0306/breaking1.html

  174. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    stuart: Why the continual fuss over this? Did Karl Liebknecht worry about comrades celebrating the death of the tsar?

    Liebknecht was in jail at the time of the Tsar’s death, probably with restricted access to newspapers or mail about events in the outside world. He does not seem to me to have been particularly prone to Schadenfreude, though.

    But mentioning him in connection with Gaddafi is interesting. After all, both men were lynched, and in a somewhat prolonged manner, by hostile soldiery (Freikorps reportedly under SPD orders in Liebknecht’s case, NATO-directed militia in Gaddafi’s.) Both were subjected to media demonisation campaigns, which prepared the ground for their lynching (in Liebknecht and Luxemburg’s case, they were blamed for the January 1919 Berlin fighting which had at that point cost approx. 200 lives).

    Incidentally, right-wing and even liberal German historians expressed approval for the deaths of Liebknecht and Luxemburg. Erich Eyck even blamed them for events that happened after they were killed, or at least adduced it as a reason not to be too upset about their deaths.

    Anyway, the gratuitous gloating of johng has interesting parallels.

  175. Louis, I doubt that you deliberately set out to deceive.

    You are right. I was mistaken in assuming that there were two reports. It turns out that there was only one that was supposed to be “internal” but got disseminated. If you want to read an English-language version, use this link:

    http://foreignpolicy.com/files/fp_uploaded_documents/120131_1306_001.pdf

    The section dealing with the mission’s failings is on page 11. Here’s one of the items:

    “In some instances, experts who were nominated were not qualified
    for the job, did not have prior experience and were not able to shoulder the responsibility.”

    It is also important to read the media coverage on the mission beyond the report. For example:

    http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/middle-east/anwar-malek-i-saw-sniper-kill-child

    A former Algerian army officer who resigned in disgust and fear from the Arab League mission to monitor events in Syria accused the regime of Bashar Al Assad yesterday of committing crimes against humanity.

    Anwar Malek said he saw snipers kill at least two people, one of them a child, was shown corpses, witnessed brutal beatings and arrests by soldiers and militiamen and escaped an attempt on his own life during a 15-day stay in the city of Homs.

    Speaking from an undisclosed location in France, he alleged that the Syrian authorities had placed him and other monitors under constant surveillance and brushed aside any criticism of tactics used to crush popular revolt. Everything possible was done, he said, to undermine attempts to produce an independent assessment.

  176. stuart on said:

    #209,

    I mentioned Liebknecht because he famously said ‘the main enemy is at home’, and rightly so, so for him it would be the Kaiser not the Czar. However, I would not expect him to mourn the Czar’s death. And so for ourselves, it would be true that our own government is the main enemy, not Gaddafi. But equally, I cannot see why socialists would worry about Gaddafi’s death, after all he was hardly any kind of ally. He threw his lot in with western imperialism when western imperialism was occupying Iraq and Afghanistan.

  177. Hukkalaka Meshabob: Anwar Malek said he saw snipers kill at least two people

    Louis, as it’s fairly clear your information on this whole issue comes from a credulous and superficial reading of Western media reports, I assume you don’t know that Anwar Malek is the observer who, according to the head of the mission, stayed in his hotel room and declined to go out on his allocated field trips in Homs, claiming that he was ill.

    http://www.nna-leb.gov.lb/newsDetailE.aspx?Id=376057

    It seems that he was one of those who, as per the text of the Report, “were not able to shoulder the responsibility.”

  178. John on said:

    stuart: I mentioned Liebknecht because he famously said ‘the main enemy is at home’, and rightly so, so for him it would be the Kaiser not the Czar. However, I would not expect him to mourn the Czar’s death. And so for ourselves, it would be true that our own government is the main enemy, not Gaddafi. But equally, I cannot see why socialists would worry about Gaddafi’s death, after all he was hardly any kind of ally. He threw his lot in with western imperialism when western imperialism was occupying Iraq and Afghanistan.

    There’s a rather massive difference between the Czar and Gaddafi’s death, I would have thought. The Czar was executed by the Bolsheviks in the midst of a revolutionary struggle against the forces of reaction, which included the Western powers. Gadaffi was tortured and executed by forces supported by Western powers, who were intent on directing the uprising in their own interests, namely huge investments in Libyan oil.

  179. Hukkalaka Meshabob on said:

    It seems that he was one of those who, as per the text of the Report, “were not able to shoulder the responsibility.”

    Well, if you prefer to accept the word of the head of Sudan’s intelligence agency, who am I to stand in the way.

  180. Hukkalaka Meshabob on said:

    Anwar Malek doing his job as an observer:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQVj-Hw9FCs

    http://blogs.aljazeera.net/liveblog/Anwar-Malek

    Malek responded to the remarks in this statement in an interview with Al Jazeera, saying:

    “This is all lies and a kind of tactic because in fact I appeared quite a lot in videos that appeared on the internet and were broadcast by satellite channels even Syrian TV aired about 20 packages that had me in them when I was visiting hospitals, prisons, schools and out on the streets talking to people. I am clearly shown meeting and talking to people in these videos.

    So these allegations are all baseless. However what they say about me not leaving my rooms for 4 days is true. I only left to eat but it was at the end of my mission when I decided to quit but this was after I’d spent about 15 days on the field but then I decided to stop work so I stayed in my room for 4 days then I left Homs for Damascus.

    I did not send any letter to the head of the mission saying I was unwell and was going to stay in my room. If this is true let them produce the letter. In fact I went to see him to talk to him about my reasons to stop work but he refused to listen to me and gave me only 2 minutes to leave without even listening to me.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQVj-Hw9FCs

  181. Mark Victorystooge,

    I hope this marks rock-bottom for the tankies on this thread who think ‘anti-imperialism’ means glorifying tyrants. Once somebody has compared Gaddafi to Karl Liebknecht, there is no lower point to which anybody else can stoop. No matter how hard the other tankies try (and I have no doubt they will try very hard), there will be nothing quite as nauseating as this.

  182. Hukkalaka Meshabob: I was mistaken in assuming that there were two reports. It turns out that there was only one that was supposed to be “internal” but got disseminated.

    Louis, your ignorance would be totally forgiveable were it not accompanied by such arrogance. And why did you pretend you had read the report when clearly you hadn’t?

    To clarify on the matter of being ‘internal’ and then being ‘disseminated’, the Arab League Observer Mission Report was obviously available to all the countries of the Arab League and, quite clearly, also to the governments of other ‘major’ countries. The Syrian government news agency published (selectively but accurately) key findings of the report, and the GGC media (in their Arabic language versions) vitriolically attacked the report (while managing not to reveal what the report actually said!).

    The Western media simply ignored the report, until the Russian delegation at the UN Security Council insisted that it be taken into account in the UNSC’s deliberations on Syria. Western governments & media could no longer simply act as if the report didn’t exist, and the story then became almost purely that of the ‘failings’ of the mission.

  183. Hukkalaka Meshabob: Malek responded to the remarks in this statement in an interview with Al Jazeera

    Well, the allegation is clearly not totally baseless, as Malek himself states he did not leave his hotel room for a 4 day period.

  184. Hukkalaka Meshabob on said:

    Well, the allegation is clearly not totally baseless, as Malek himself states he did not leave his hotel room for a 4 day period.

    You really have a tendency to twist words around, don’t you? Here are Malek’s words:

    “However what they say about me not leaving my rooms for 4 days is true. I only left to eat but it was at the end of my mission when I decided to quit but this was after I’d spent about 15 days on the field but then I decided to stop work so I stayed in my room for 4 days then I left Homs for Damascus.”

  185. Hukkalaka Meshabob: if you prefer to accept the word of the head of Sudan’s intelligence agency

    As I think I’ve pointed out before, Al-Dabi was given the job of heading the Observer Mission by one of the West’s 2 most active Arab allies, Qatar.

  186. stuart on said:

    John: There’s a rather massive difference between the Czar and Gaddafi’s death, I would have thought. The Czar was executed by the Bolsheviks in the midst of a revolutionary struggle against the forces of reaction, which included the Western powers. Gadaffi was tortured and executed by forces supported by Western powers, who were intent on directing the uprising in their own interests, namely huge investments in Libyan oil.

    The examples are far from identical of course but I would add that German imperialism did facilitate Lenin’s passage to Russia as a means of pursuing its own expansionary aims, at least that was the intention.

  187. Hukkalaka Meshabob on said:

    As I think I’ve pointed out before, Al-Dabi was given the job of heading the Observer Mission by one of the West’s 2 most active Arab allies, Qatar.

    And he was universally rejected by the opposition groups in Syria.

  188. Pingback: Once again on that Arab League report « Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

  189. Hukkalaka Meshabob: he was universally rejected by the opposition groups in Syria.

    Actually, Syrian opposition spokesmen started giving interviews and statements against the Observer Mission as soon as the Syrian government agreed to its deployment in Syria. These first responses did not mention Al-Dabi, and it seems likely that the opposition representatives had not yet considered (or been prompted to consider) Al-Dabi’s previous role as a stick to beat the Mission with.

    But without any doubt, had the Mission arrived in Syria and immediately started demonstrating that it was ‘on message’ with the opposition version of events, the Western media would have been describing Al-Dabi’s past as that of the humanitarian who worked, as the liaison officer between the UN, the OAU and the Sudanese government, to bring peace to that troubled part of Africa.

  190. @ #223. Louis, do you mention in your blog article that you pretended you had read the Arab League Monitors’ report, when you had not?

  191. skidmarx on said:

    Actually, Syrian opposition spokesmen started giving interviews and statements against the Observer Mission as soon as the Syrian government agreed to its deployment in Syria. These first responses did not mention Al-Dabi, and it seems likely that the opposition representatives had not yet considered (or been prompted to consider)
    This is quite a stupid response. Leave alone the implication of “been prompted to consider” (oh,yes,they’re all Western stooges), that the first responses to the observer mission being proposed might not have mentioned al-Dabi is likely because nobody knew who the observers would be at that stage.
    Here’s a strong doubt before the observers began their mission:
    The day that the Arab League observers (very worryingly led by Muhammad ad-Dabi, who was Sudan’s intelligence chief during the massacres in Darfur) arrive in Syria.
    http://pulsemedia.org/2011/12/23/now-the-bombs/

    @216 I was expecting comparisons to Che, Spartacus or Jesus F.Christ to come next.

  192. prianikoff on said:

    An exchange on “Unrepentant Marxist”:-

    Proyect: “In my view, the only sensible position for the left to take is total opposition to military intervention.”

    Binh ”And what if the Syrian revolutionaries ask for some form of aid as the Libyans did (airstrikes, no-fly zone)?

    Proyect “Good question, Binh. I have the feeling, however, that it is almost academic since the West shows little inclination to get involved.”

    Good question; wrong answer.

    1- The West has shown *every inclination* to get involved.
    The SNC has already been recognised as the”legitimate representative” of the Syrian people by the USA, Britain and France.
    They haven’t said *the* legitimate representative, because it has almost no support within the country!
    This is a clear statement of intent.

    2- The West has many ways to intervene besides sending in ground-troops.
    John McCain has called for US bombing to create a “Safe Zone” near the Turkish border for the FSA.
    The “Guardian” even has a poll on this question today.

    This is reminiscent of the way that the question of the Libyan no-fly zone was floated last year.
    Arms can be delivered by the West’s proxies, Saudi Arabia, Qatar & Turkey.

    3- The “Syrian revolutionaries” include people who have genuine grievances and want to end the autocratic rule of Assad family.
    But it’s well known that one section of the opposition, the Syrian National Congress is linked to imperialism.
    They may have “revolutionary” methods, but reactionary aims.

    The SNC is a coalition between borgeois exiles and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood.
    They, in turn, are linked to the Free Syrian Army leadership, based in Turkey.

    It’s these forces who will be provided with more arms, not anyone seen who’s seen as a threat to the West.
    If they get them, they’ll do what the “Libyan revolutionaries” did to Tawergha and Sirte.

    No Marxist would give these people any support.

  193. skidmarx: Here’s a strong doubt before the observers began their mission:

    Oh really? That article appeared several days after the Syrian opposition began briefing against the Observer mission.

    Consider this, for example:

    “Although an Arab League observer mission to Damascus, due to land on Thursday, has been welcomed by Syria, the opposition has been critical and called instead for the issue to be taken to the UN.

    “Launched in the hopes of ending months of unrest and quelling the regime’s violent crackdown on dissent, the mission will see an initial group of 30 to 50 observers, accompanied by administrative and security staff, begin work on Thursday.

    “But the Arab League mission, which will be led by Samir Seif al-Yazal, assistant to League Secretary-General Nabil El-Arabi, has been dismissed by Syrian opposition leaders as a mere “ploy” by the Damascus regime.”

    http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/2/8/29930/World/Region/Arab-observer-mission-due-in-Syria-but-opposition-.aspx

    So the Syrian opposition was opposed to the mission before it emerged that Al-Dabi had been appointed as its head, and when it was thought that it would be led by Seif al-Yazal.

  194. skidmarx: the first responses to the observer mission being proposed might not have mentioned al-Dabi is likely because nobody knew who the observers would be at that stage.

    OK, and that reinforces the point that the Syrian opposition did not want an observer mission in Syria, almost no matter who would be the head of it.

    Why? It suggests that they were worried that the observers were going to see things on the ground that did not accord with the version of events that the opposition was feeding to the Western & GCC media.

  195. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    Ed: Mark Victorystooge, I hope this marks rock-bottom for the tankies on this thread who think ‘anti-imperialism’ means glorifying tyrants. Once somebody has compared Gaddafi to Karl Liebknecht, there is no lower point to which anybody else can stoop. No matter how hard the other tankies try (and I have no doubt they will try very hard), there will be nothing quite as nauseating as this.

    I wasn’t the first to mention Karl Liebknecht, but there were similarities in how both died, and in the media build-up in each case, whether you are annoyed by the fact or not. Obviously you prefer Callinicos’ version, ie. comparing Gaddafi’s end to Mussolini’s, which plumbed a certain depth as far as I was concerned. As to “tyrants”, that for me is the liberal Guardian reader slumbering within many a supposed Western “revolutionary” coming to the surface.

  196. skidmarx: Leave alone the implication of “been prompted to consider” (oh,yes,they’re all Western stooges)

    Are you proposing that the Syrian opposition are not at all Western media ‘savvy’, or would on principle refuse advise or hints from Western media sources?

  197. jock mctrousers on said:

    Talking of horrible deaths, I wonder what’s happened to Ghadaffi’s son, Saif Al-Islam.

  198. Gadaffi was tortured and executed by forces supported by Western powers, who were intent on directing the uprising in their own interests, namely huge investments in Libyan oil.

    I don’t buy that you believe that for a second. You know very well there was already a relationship with Gaddafi and it was rather embarrassing and inconvient for the companies involved to wage an uncertain war, especially for the Europeans. The Americans were dragged into it, and most of the republicans opposed it. You have to be honest about this.

    Just because democratic government have important interests, just like we as individuals do in our lives when we buy food or our energy bills, doesn’t mean they cannot have any humanitarian interest. It’s time to grow up a bit.

  199. 1- The West has shown *every inclination* to get involved.”

    No, you’re wrong. The violence has been going on for six months and the international community has been very slow to act. I appreciate you dislike the Islamist nature of some of the opposition, but this always happens in countries where Islam is the only oposition to the state. I don’t think we should support an opressive totalitarian government on the basis scary Muslims might take over. Let them overthrow the government, as most Syrians want, and then start the process of working it out in a democratic fashion. This could involve an initial Islamist outpouring, but the same happened in Iraq yet now Allawi’s secular nationalist party is the most popular in the country.

    I won’t rise to the bait on the international communities tacit support for the freedom fighters.

  200. prianikoff on said:

    #234 I argue from a position of supporting socialism, not one of bourgeois secularism.

    I’m opposed to the SNC because it’s pro-capitalist not because it’s an alliance which includes the Syrian MB.

    The imperialist governments have moved to support the SNC because they see it as a way to pursue a wider war against Iran and its allies in the region.

  201. stuart on said:

    Sam: Just because democratic government have important interests, just like we as individuals do in our lives when we buy food or our energy bills, doesn’t mean they cannot have any humanitarian interest. It’s time to grow up a bit.

    I would not concede for one second that the west have humantarian interests, far too often have we seen the opposite demonstrated. Whilst we can understand that those fighting against an oppressive regime may want outside help I believe that socialists should argue against this and should also make clear our opposition to western intervention.

  202. John Grimshaw on said:

    #234 Yes the violence has been going on for a long time. However just because their hasn’t been a conventional western military intervention doesn’t mean there hasn’t been an intervention. There are tactical and economic reasons why we have not yet seen such intervention, although as has already been pointed out, Senator McCain is on the job. In the case of Britain who as I speak have just lost a further 6 soldiers in Helmand on some unspecified mission there is fear of being totally overstretched and even more mission creap/blow-back. Especially if another conflict in the south Atlantic is in the offing (unlikly but not impossible). In any case why commit troops if you can get someone else to do it for you? I think we can be convinced that there has been intervention already and that its going on, which is Prianikoff’s point. But the west is only interested in intervening where there are likely to be obvious gains for its own interests, not to simply save lives or some superior moral guide.

    If as others have said the SNC/JSA etc. are simply cyphers for western imperialism why would socialists offer them any support? Its not as if we should stand on the same platform as the western generals is it? Or would some people who post here?

    Yes of course the Syrian government is despotic and it should be replaced and I am less concerned about the socialist purity of the replacers than Prianikoff, but the uprising should be of the people itself like Egypt not a western imposition. In any case we have to be mindful of Syria’s complex history. The current regime is supported by a lot of Alawites who are afraid of a Sunni majority regime. Before the Alawite military ascendency Alawites were treated as second class by the Sunni middle-class. Equally many Christians are afraid of what a Sunni majority regime would bring. And Syria itself was created by western (specifically French and British) intervention into the Ottoman Empire in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. History has a habit of repeating itself.

  203. John Grimshaw on said:

    http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/1141604–libya-s-militias-raise-breakup-fears-by-declaring-oil-rich-region-semiautonomous

    On this story assuming its true, but I wouldn’t be surprised. First hardly revolutionary behaviour. Secondly on history repeating itself. Benghazi is in what used to be called Cyrenaica founded by Greek settlers in the seventh century BC. This was a separate area to that of Tripoli which was in the Carthaginian and then Roman sphere of influence. Even when the Roman Empire expanded they were administrated separately.

  204. prianikoff on said:

    re. 239
    More about this story here:-

    Leaders in eastern Libya declare their region semiautonomous
    March 6, 2012

    “About 3,000 tribal, political and militia leaders attended a ceremony in Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city and the symbolic heart of last year’s insurgency, and called for a return to a federal system of governance. Sheik Ahmed Senussi, a member of the transitional council and relative of the former monarch, was declared leader of the eastern council.”

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/world_now/2012/03/eastern-libya-semiautonomous-state.html

    “Libyan leader Mustapha Abdel Jalil on Wednesday said he would defend national unity “with force” if necessary.
    “We are not prepared to divide Libya,” Abdel Jalil said.

    http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/32527-libya-leader-threatens-force-to-foil-east-autonomy-bid

  205. stephen marks on said:

    The Battle for the Moral High Ground

    Well, it seems that the situation in Syria is complex. It is certainly complex enough to create some bitter disputes in the left. But, Iran it is hoped, is clear and simple. Or should be.

    The US and Israel are threatening Iran with aggression. With no basis in international law, and in complete violation of the principles of national sovereignty and basing themselves on a flagrant disregard for the truth of the matter, the US and Israel are pushing the region into dangerous, mounting tension.

    One must fear that some one in the left will come up with the preposterous idea that between Netanyahu and Obama, the latter represents the “lesser evil.” Though every effort is made to convince us that Netanyahu is exploiting and manipulating the poor Mr. President, Obama has the wherewithal to stop this crazy plunge in dark death and destruction. Nothing is more disgusting than the probability that Obama is only conforming to the requirements of a stiff electoral challenge down the road. Can one balance the danger to the lives of millions with a highly questionable argument for sucking up to the US electorate.

    Iran and Syria
    Meanwhile, Netanyahu demands that Obama expand and extend sanctions against both countries. These sanctions presented as the “humanist alternative” to military aggression are actually acts of brutal class murder. It is clear that it is the poorer section of the population that will undergo disproportionate suffering and deprivation. While no proof is adduced that the sanctions will bring about desired changes in policy, no one can deny that for the poor and the mass of people this means real misery, here and now. This means malnutrition especially among children. Starving children on a massive scale must be some sort of a crime against humanity.

    These days, a virtual storm of denunciations is leveled against Bashar Asad. According to these denunciations, Asad must be considered a despot and a war criminal. I tend to believe that the gentleman may well have earned this kind of accusation. But why is it so difficult and complicated to add that Obama and Netanyahu are also despots of the region and war criminals. It appears that this is not the kind of language used in cultured circles. Someone may pop up and explain that Bibi and Obama are democratically elected leaders. Even if this is true, they were not elected by Syrians or Iranians. Moreover, Syrians and Iranians have the same kind of right to attack the US and Israel as the US and Israel have the right to attack Syria and Iran. If it is true that all those involved in the decision making process are morally corrupt, then Asad’s despotism must be analyzed in the context of Obama’s and Netanyahu’s regional despotism.

    Many right thinking people are convinced of Asad’s crimes. But is he the only or even main culprit? On the left, the real left, everything should be done to emphasize the fact that Obama and Netanyahu deserve equal condemnation regarding all major developments in the region.

    Now it has come to my attention that it is not particularly effective to go around calling “our” leaders despots and war criminals. Criticism of the establishment’s key figures is usually couched in terms designed to facilitate participation in the dominant discourse. Using strong words entails long and furious disputes regarding the style of language used and is often counterproductive in attempts to convince liberal opinion regarding the specifics of the case under discussion. So, I do not advise the standard usage of extreme appellations. But there are exceptions. When a crisis involving violence appears, one important element in the ensuing struggle is the fight over definitions and symbols. Speaking in exact, shall we say scientific terminology, Bashar Asad is a despot guilty of war crimes and in this region Barack Obama and Benyamin Netanyahu are no different. I do not have the time here to fully explain this simple and obvious truth. I can only say in telegraphic terms that the entire region’s axis of oppression and expropriation is a long term project of the United States which has picked up Israel as a junior partner in its nefarious project. This is the mainspring of events in this region.

    At the moment, the entire West is involved in one of the intensive branding campaigns that heats up when it has to convince itself that it is worth its while to mount armed intervention. The by product, if not the main goal, of these campaigns is to convey the sense that Washington and NATO occupy the moral high ground. It is the conscious or unconscious belief in the moral superiority of Obama and Netanyahu that guarantees the desired response of public opinion.

    In order to keep the present crises in the region in some sort of reasonable perspective it is necessary to deny the moral high ground to the US and its accomplices. It is also necessary to keep in mind the relative strength of the forces involved. The US and Israel threaten Syria and Iran. Syria and Iran do not threaten the US and Israel. Asad’s actions should not obscure the main sources of tension in the region.

    Being Palestinian

    I am an Israeli Jew. My personal circumstances are quite comfortable, thank you. But I have been around long enough to figure out that the indigenous Palestinian society and the people of this land have been rendered stateless and homeless by virtue of the policies and acts implemented by the sovereign state of Israel. The sponsor and endorser of this state of affairs is the United States. It is of course no easy task explaining to the Israeli populace that the advantages to it that have accrued from this situation might turn out to be a very slippery affair. Can the crimes against Palestine and its people be explained without knocking the US and Israel off their liberal pedestal? Is the repression and the expulsion of the Palestinian people less of a war crime because it continues for decades, because it has been, for the time, relatively successful in grounding down the resistance of the Palestinian people? How can Obama and Netanyahu, responsible for the ongoing tragedy in Palestine, strut around the Arab world as the protectors of human rights, as a force for peace and democracy in Syria or in Iraq? So: End All Violence and Intervention in Syria; Stop Aggression Against Iran;

    Freedom and Justice for Palestine!


    Reuven Kaminer
    POBox 9013
    Jerusalem 91090
    Israel 972 2 6414632

  206. John Grimshaw on said:

    I am confused here. Both myself and Prianikoff seem to have responded to #234 who doesn’t exist anymore.?

  207. John on said:

    #240

    Despite what the troll posting under the name Des said, I haven’t touched or deleted the comment #234 you’re referring to.

    I’ll check the spam filter to see if it’s been caught up there somewhere. Failing that perhaps one of the other moderators will be able to shed some light on it.

  208. Brian O. on said:

    Omar,

    Well, it doesn’t raise my eyebrows particularly – somebody had to do the work on the ground, and there aren’t really any neutrals in Libya at present. But I haven’t treated it uncritically. It isn’t directly available on line but you can find a press release for it at http://www.ox.ac.uk/media/news_releases_for_journalists/120215.html
    Take this release with a pinch of salt (especially the headline): they went for a sensationalist approach to try and get some publicity, and many of their claims in the release are not supported by the results of the survey. But the data i reported above are very clear. As I say, they are consistent with the findings of two other more limited surveys. If you want to know more contact them as suggested on http://www.oxfordresearch.com/1.html and they should send you a copy

  209. The spam filter acts retrospectively, although I can see why it’s marked “Sam” as spam, given who it is.

    I’ve unmarked the posts, but let’s drop this victim nonsense from trolls who post under multiple names. This was nothing to do with John and everything to do with the spam filter.

  210. Brian O. on said:

    redhand,
    Quite. Assuming that we are talking about the Qatar foundation /YouGov poll, the claims about this are totally distorted. This was not a poll of Syrian opinion: it was a survey of opinion across the Arab world,conducted over the internet. The number of respondents from Syria was 97 – nothing like enough to constitute a representative sample. As a rule these surveys don’t report national level results (for exactly this reason)and the data in this one is not analysed below the sub-regional level (the Levant for Syria). But because of the importance of this issue they did mention in passing the views of the small Syrian group. The bottom line is that this survey simply tells us nothing about the state of Syrian opinion. There are many things in this survey which could support the views of those against intervention in Syria – but evidence of support for Assad is not one of them.

  211. Brian O. on said:

    John Grimshaw,

    #239 – 240
    Like most stories about Libya today its 50-75% true. The Congress certainly took place ; its less clear what it actually decided (to “declare” autonomy or call for it – one of its spokesmen seems to be calling for negotiations); and less clear again what it actually represents (polls show negligible levels of support for a federal system). Jalil for the NTC is handling it badly.There seem to have been large demonstrations for national unity in Benghazi even before the Congress took place, and calls have gone out over the social media for a similar demonstration in Tripoli tomorrow. My feeling is that this marks the start of serious political debate in Libya prior to the forthcoming elections, and overall that could prove to be a good thing, in that it will draw people into the civic arena and start to draw up some meaningful political lines. But, again, like most things in Libya – have to wait and see.

  212. Resistor on said:

    For lumpen ‘Marxists’ who call for – and glory in – the death of another human being.

    ‘Some years ago I was to speak at Warren in this state. It happened to be at the time that President McKinley was assassinated. In common with all others I deplored that tragic event. There is not a Socialist who would have been guilty of that crime. We do not attack individuals. We do not seek to avenge ourselves upon those opposed to our faith. We have no fight with individuals as such. We are capable of pitying those who hate us. We do not hate them; we know better; we would freely give them a cup of water if they needed it. There is no room in our hearts for hate, except for the system, the social system in which it is possible for one man to amass a stupendous fortune doing nothing, while millions of others suffer and struggle and agonize and die for the bare necessities of existence.’

    Eugene Debs

  213. John Grimshaw on said:

    #242 and #245 Thank you. And now the original 243 has come back. Sorry I don’t have an axe to grind on these posting matters and nor was I accusing anyone of anything. I tend not to believe in conspiracy theories. Its just I wanted to refer back to #243 to make sure I had my facts right and then it was gone.

    I used to really like spam fritters as a child.

  214. skidmarx on said:

    Syrian Red Crescent aid workers who visited Bab Amr have reported back that “most inhabitants had left” the neighbourhood, an ICRC spokesperson has told the Reuters news agency.

    I wonder what reality they perceived.

  215. #248- Resistor I think Debbs would agree that there is a difference between the death of a dictator through a lone assassination and that of a death of a dictator after a mass uprising, one does not equal the other.

  216. John on said:

    #253

    stephen: I think Debbs would agree that there is a difference between the death of a dictator through a lone assassination and that of a death of a dictator after a mass uprising, one does not equal the other.

    A ‘mass uprising’ that had the forces of the very social system Debs was on about on its side.

    You think a gang of animals sticking knives up Gaddafi’s anal passage before murdering him is something to be proud of?

  217. Darkness at Noon on said:

    John: You think a gang of animals sticking knives up Gaddafi’s anal passage before murdering him is something to be proud of?

    Sounds like the Red Terror eh

  218. Resistor on said:

    stephen:
    #248- Resistor I think Debbs would agree that there is a difference between the death of a dictator through a lone assassination and that of a death of a dictator after a mass uprising, one does not equal the other.

    Unlike you, Eugene Debs had a belief in Socialist morality. He would not lower himself to the level of a lynch mob.

  219. Mark Victorystooge,

    I’ll take the analogy given by Callinicos any day before I degrade the memory of Karl Liebknecht by comparing him to Gaddafi. We can be sure that if Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg had lived longer and found themselves in Stalin’s Moscow or the DDR, they would have ended up in the Gulag, with a bullet in the back of their head or in a Stasi prison, while people of your ilk assured everyone that they were western imperialist agents and deserved everything they got.

    Your squeamishness about the word ‘tyrant’ merely reflects the comfortable complacency of the western armchair pundit who likes to talk about situations remote from their own experience: they can be conservatives sanitising Pinochet, Stalinists sanitising Kim Il Sung, the mentality is the same, they are merely two sides of the same coin (hence the ease with which so many former Stalinists have shifted to an aggressive neo-con position – once you’ve developed the habit of bending the knee to power and swooning over displays of ruthless violence, it’s hard to break). An Olympian detachment from reality which is, of course, made possible by imperialism.

    A far more sensible view of Syria:

    “The Russian, Chinese and Iranian powers have scandalously taken the side of Bachar al-Assad, and Putin is ensuring military support to the regime. But faced with the parallel manoeuvres of the US and European governments, and those of Turkey, the kingdoms of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the Fourth International affirms its opposition to any type of military intervention in Syria, which would aim to strengthen the self-interests of these world or regional powers and amount to a further catastrophe for the Syrian people.

    “In this heroic process, the insurgent Syrian people are organizing from below, coordinating their efforts and developing the means of waging their struggle to the end for freedom and social justice. They are also refusing all the confessional division manoeuvres carried out by the regime and some Gulf countries.

    “Faced with the terrible massacre the Syrian people are enduring, peoples of the entire world must affirm their solidarity with their struggle to definitively dismantle this bloody regime. We can have no trust in governments’ diplomatic manoeuvres. It is up to the workers’ and democratic movement, which has done too little to answer the Syrian people’s calls for help, to absolutely make this solidarity real.”

    http://internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article2508

  220. Vanya on said:

    Ed

    I suspect that Rosa Luxembourg could well have found herself in trouble in Moscow a fair while before Stalin took over.

    As for some stalinists becoming neo-cons, I think you should look at the number of trots who ended up as cold warriors in the USA in the 40s and 50s, at least one who ended up leading a dodgy ‘national bolshevik’ type formation in Germany, and those who ended up in Blair’s cabinet.

    Sadly, IV, a publication I used to sell at one time, has a tendency towards wishful thinking- as demonstrated back in 1990 in respect of events in E Europe and the USSR.

    If what the USFI were saying was actually grounded in an accurate assesment of the anti-Assad forces I would be happy to agree with the approach.

    Importantly they are clear about opposition to military intervention which shows they are still on the right side.

    Although the USFI is of course a broad church (in a good way). During the Kuwait war some sections were calling for Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait while others (such as their Tunisian group) particpated in demos celebrating Saddam’s “anti-imperialist liberation” of the place (a similar approach to the British SWP before they got involved in the broader anti-war movement- anyone remember “That’s why I fell for, the leader of Iraq?”).

  221. Vanya on said:

    Ed

    I just saw this,

    “swooning over displays of ruthless violence…”.

    Lenin and Trotsky were a couple of harmless hippies of course?

  222. Omar on said:

    Oh FFS, lets not get bogged down in immature discussions about which sect are more likely to end up as right-wingers. My dad was CPGB in the 60’s and he told me quite a few former comrades had crossed over to the dark side, usually when they’d entered a higher tax bracket. And wasn’t Rod Liddle a former Trot? It happens…

  223. Vanya on said:

    # 264.

    “Oh FFS, lets not get bogged down in immature discussions about which sect are more likely to end up as right-wingers.”

    Tell Ed, he started it (and he probably smells.)

  224. Vanya on said:

    #263 Sorry, but the link to IV and a quote from the Fourth International made me assume you were.

    I made an ass out of u and me.

    Btw #266 was a joke for the avoidance of doubt, funny or not.

  225. prianikoff on said:

    #260 “Importantly they are clear about opposition to military intervention which shows they are still on the right side.”

    Not according to the World Socialist Web Site:-

    “Gilbert Achcar attended a conference organized by the Syrian National Council (SNC) last October in Sweden, pressing the SNC to issue demands for the Western powers to intervene in Syria.
    Achcar told the SNC that, under the correct conditions, it could arrange for foreign intervention in Syria:

    “The reluctance regarding direct intervention that we see today on the part of Western and regional states might change tomorrow, if intervention requests made on behalf of the Syrian opposition were to increase.”
    ….Achcar’s ability to move seamlessly from meetings with right-wing, pro-imperialist operatives like the SNC to meetings with the NPA leadership reflects the deep political integration of the petty-bourgeois “left” into the camp of imperialism. It is not accidental that the NPA’s February 24 communiqué appeals for these layers—the bourgeois “left” parties, the union bureaucracy, and French NGOs—to back the Syrian pro-imperialist “opposition.” ”

    http://wsws.org/articles/2012/mar2012/npas-m08.shtml

    Although I wouldn’t endorse everything that they say, it’s quite true that Achcar supported the Libyan no-fly zone.

  226. Mark Victorystooge on said:

    Ed: Your squeamishness about the word ‘tyrant’ merely reflects the comfortable complacency of the western armchair pundit who likes to talk about situations remote from their own experience:

    Syria’s northern neighbour Turkey is not at all remote from my own experience. As it happens, I have known a number of people who were killed by the Ankara regime, particularly in the 1990s. On the surface, Turkey was then and is now a multi-party democracy, NATO member etc. Yet it operated the full panoply of dirty state tactics against opposition, armed or not, and in a more muted form continues under Erdogan many of these same practices today.

    Actually, I am not “squeamish” about the word tyrant – IMO genuine revolutionaries, as opposed to what passes for it in imperialist countries, are very likely to be considered tyrants by their opponents. Especially those rare revolutionaries who actually make it to power.

    Our own imperial governments have actually been sliding towards ever more tyrannous practices in recent years. I was interested by the very recent news item about cyber hackers connected to Anonymous being arrested (and there has just been a report about a similar group in Turkey called “red hackers” being arrested at the same time – were the police working together on an international scale?) In the former case, the FBI arrested the leader last year, it seems, and got him to inform on the others, perhaps encouraging them so they would commit a crime or two that might stand up in court, in the best agent provocateur manner. They seem to have been a semi-serious bunch of geeks but the state turned on the full force of repression and surveillance. I don’t have to leave my armchair to know that the main enemy is at home.

    Still, as long as the left in imperialist countries gives propaganda cover to its “own” ruling class, I am sure it has nothing to worry about.

  227. Harsanyi_Janos on said:

    Ed: . But faced with the parallel manoeuvres of the US and European governments, and those of Turkey, the kingdoms of Qatar and Saudi Arabia

    I recall our friend George Galloway being a very keen supporter of the Turkish government. Has he nothing to say one way or another now? I suppose he is more concerned with getting back into parliament in any seat that he can find open.

  228. stephen marks on said:

    In view of the information in ‘Angry Arab’s article I linked to above, and in many other places too, about the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist influence within the Syrian National Council. isn’t it surprising that there has been nothing on the subject from the normally vigilant ‘defenders of democratic and enlightenment values against Islamofascism’ over at Harry’s Place’? I mean they are normally so quick off the mark on these matters…

    And what happened to their razor-sharp ‘x degrees of seperation’ methodology? Time was that you couldn’t appear on the same platform as someone whose second cousin three times removed had once made a favourable remark about a member of Hamas, or whose blog had linked to a website that once carried an article by someone who had written for the same issue of Counterpunch as Israel Shamir, without being denounced as a fundamentalist Jew-hating terrorist sympathiser, and quite right too.

    But now we find David Cameron, Hilary Clinton and other pillars of decency supporting the SNC and the Free Syrian Army, which contain Saudi-financed Salafists and Muslim Brothers. Never mind donating to relief and welfare organisations run by these guys or sharing platforms with them or going on the same marches – Western leaders are now discussing openly how to send them arms!

    Poor George Galloway used to be denounced regularly for ‘funding Hamas’ because he was photographed handing over a cheque to a leading member of the Hamas government in Gaza. But when Western leaders talk of recognising the SNC, Harry’s Place is strangely quiet. I thought it was wrong to have any dealings with these guys until they gave up violence.

    Of course if you really buy the bullshit about defending secularism against ‘Islamofascism’ you might be really surprised to find them lining up with ‘Islamofascists’ against the only openly secular government in the Midddle East [the only good thing I could possibly find to say about the wretched Assad regime mind you…] However once you realise that what it is actually about is loyally echoing US foreign policy then it all falls into place.

  229. John on said:

    Harsanyi_Janos: I recall our friend George Galloway being a very keen supporter of the Turkish government. Has he nothing to say one way or another now? I suppose he is more concerned with getting back into parliament in any seat that he can find open.

    Perhaps he’s taken the materialist view – namely that when the facts change so must the conclusions.

  230. Calvin (not Tucker) on said:

    stephen marks, I don’t see a strong direction at HP these days, but I think they did support the Libya operation so this is not new. Just because Islamists make up a part of a revolution doesn’t mean they are leading it. This is unlike the Palestinians who are led by Hamas, or Iraq or Afghanistan where Al Qaeda played a pivitol role.

    But we can turn this around. These days you guys sound more like the Islamphobes holding up scary Islamists as a reason why we have to should support Gaddafi or Assad.

  231. Harsanyi_Janos on said:

    John: Perhaps he’s taken the materialist view– namely that when the facts change so must the conclusions.

    A devout Roman Catholic cleaving to the “materialist view”? Whatever next?

  232. Calvin (not Tucker) on said:

    Did you see Galloway on the This Week programme last week? His main argument for handing over the Fawkland Islands to Argentina was it might indirectly effect our relations with Brazil in the future if we don’t. That was it. That was his main point.

    You guys must be so embarrassed when you think back to how you used to treat this guy like the second coming.

  233. Harsanyi_Janos on said:

    Calvin (not Tucker):
    Did you see Galloway on the This Week programme last week? His main argument for handing over the Fawkland Islands to Argentina was it might indirectly effect our relations with Brazil in the future if we don’t. That was it. That was his main point.

    You guys must be so embarrassed when you think back to how you used to treat this guy like the second coming.

    That is at least an honest — if cynical — reason. The UK government had no problem abusing another group of island dwelling British subjects in the Chagos Archipelago for similar reasons. Of course, the whole thing is political theatre for the benefits of the British and Argentine governments which are pleased to be able distract people from their countries’ sluggish economic performance.

  234. Not surprised at Harry's Place on said:

    Speaking of Harry’s Place, I noticed that they are running a featured advert at the bottom of the page, for a site called “notkenagain.com”. The site is run on behalf of Boris Johnson’s election campaign (the bottom of the site says it’s produced by “BackBoris 2012… at Ruislip Northwood & Pinner Conservative Association”).

    I know we can’t really think of Harry’s Place as being on the left, but isn’t it a bit surprising that they are actually running adverts trying to get Boris Johnson re-elected? It’s not just a random google ad that they have no control over, the ad has specifically been placed on their website and they have specifically accepted it and decided to show it on their front page.

  235. Ad truth teller on said:

    The ads reflect anything you’ve been watching on the internet. My ads on HP are all Vauxhall astras at the moment.

  236. Vanya on said:

    #269 Didn’t Achar also support the intervention in Libya? And was that view supported by the rest of the USFI?

    Do you think Joe Hanson was part of the plot to kill Trotsky just out of interest? :)

  237. Not surprised at Harry's Place on said:

    Thats a ridiculous thing to say, these ads don’t just magically appear based on what you’ve looked at on the internet – some ads may be the result of targeting, but this is a fixed ad at the bottom of the screen. Harry’s Place has accepted advertising from Boris Johnson’s election campaign. Even if this was targetted by using tracking data (how nice of Harry’s Place to track where its users have been), the site would still have to agree to put the site’s advert in. As I said, this wasn’t a google or networked ad that they had no control over (you ignored that bit of my post).

    Aside from you not knowing how cookies or targetted advertising work, I went to the website on a fresh install of Chrome, without having imported any settings. So it had no information to go on. I suspect you didn’t even bother to look at the bottom of the page, which is where the advert is placed.

    Why is it that whenever anyone puts the word “truth” in the name, you know they’re going to lie?

  238. Ad truth teller on said:

    Thats a ridiculous thing to say, these ads don’t just magically appear based on what you’ve looked at on the internet – some ads may be the result of targeting, but this is a fixed ad at the bottom of the screen.

    If it’s a ridiculous thing to say, why is this “fixed ad” for me a Vauxhall astra or a credit card company? It’s clearly not a fixed ad, you liar.

    It’s targeted with lots of political ads because it’s a political site. You regularly see Conservative home, Guildo fawkes and any other site that is on the list of adverts. You’ll get the hang of how it works.

  239. Harsanyi_Janos on said:

    Not surprised at Harry's Place:

    Aside from you not knowing how cookies or targetted advertising work, I went to the website on a fresh install of Chrome, without having imported any settings. So it had no information to go on. I suspect you didn’t even bother to look at the bottom of the page, which is where the advert is placed.

    To test this, I just went to the site; it tried to interest me in a Nikon camera. No ad for Boris Johnson.

  240. jim mclean on said:

    There is a nice free little gadget available on Mozilla Firefox called Collusion. If I hold the pointer over SU it shows links between Twitter, Facebook and SU. Most targeted ads I receive are about records.

  241. Not surprised at Harry's Place on said:

    I think you people aren’t even looking at the right part of the website. There are google ads, box ads and another network of ads, all of which change – and indeed which try to sell me cameras and cars.

    The ad is a separate one, at the bottom of the site. I’ve now had people view it on several different browsers, different computers etc. It’s an ad for Boris. It isn’t changing for most people.

    But even if by some miracle you are right, not really the point is it? You shouldn’t be a left-wing site advertising a Tory election campaign. By Harry’s Place’s own standards, they are guilty here because they are not vetting their advertising partners. It’s trivial to exclude adverts from people you don’t like.

  242. Vanya on said:

    I don’t know what the fuss is about. Surely it’s only logical that they support Boris whether they actually are or aren’t.

    Ken supports the Palestinian cause and has taken a strong stand against islamaphobia, arousing the hatred of HP types.

    And I’m sure Boris will feel happier with their endorsement than he would have been with the BNP calling for him to get their second preferences.

  243. prianikoff on said:

    #281 “Do you think Joe Hanson[sic] was part of the plot to kill Trotsky just out of interest?”

    No. I obviously don’t think that about Hansen, who I have respect for.

    The whole “Security and the 4th International” episode was launched by Gerry Healy as an excuse for the political failures caused by his own sectarianism.

    The Northites tend to repeat the most lurid Healyite slanders, which shows that they sufffer from the same problem. Their views on trade unions being the most obvious example.

    However, that doesn’t mean that there was no infiltration of the Trotskyist movement.
    There obviously was. In fact, it was widespread and practiced by both the GPU-KGB and the FBI.

    For instance, James Cannon’s secretary, Sylvia Callen Franklyn, was a GPU informant.

    Mark Zborowski (Etienne) was a Stalinist agent, who was involved in the network that committed the murders of Rudolf Klement, Trotsky and possibly his son Leon Sedov.

    It wasn’t wrong to confront Zborowski when he became a succesful academic in the USA.
    He was tolerated there because the US authorities didn’t care about people who’d murdered Trotskyists.
    Many former Soviet assets like him were turned and, after the execution of the Rosenberg’s, they were very intimidated. So they were a useful source of information to the FBI.

    Of course the Bolsheviks had Okhrana agents working inside them, such as the Duma Deputy and Trade Union leader Roman Malinovsky.
    Using Healy’s methodology, Lenin would have been denounced for being too lenient towards him.
    Accusations that he was working for the Okhrana surfaced long before the Revolution, particularly from Bukharin. Lenin’s view was that launching an “agent-hunt” would be even more disruptive to the party than their subversive activities.

    Like the the police informant Mark Kennedy, Malinowski was a troubled and ambiguous figure, who did as much to build the party as betray it.
    Ultimately, he came back to Russia of his own accord. after the Revolution (not that it saved him from being shot!)

    Note however, that the World Socialist Website’s criticisms of the USFI position on Syria and Libya is based on socio-political considerations, not “agent baiting”.

  244. redhand on said:

    “Ken supports the Palestinian cause and has taken a strong stand against islamaphobia, arousing the hatred of HP types”

    Strange then that the second article down ends with the following:

    “Even if Livingstone did come clean about tax as Hasan advises does anyone think it will make any difference?

    I should maybe add that I will still vote for him as there isn’t an alternative, but his (sic) is an almightly disappointment”

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