Syria: It Is Right To Rebel!

by Patrick Muldowney on August 8, 2012

I have been prompted to write the following article by the genuinely breakthrough thinking displayed by Pham Binh (in particular) in rejecting his former stance over Libya and joining with others here to stand up for the Syrian revolution.

Leftists supporting the Syrian revolution ought to have many issues to engage over and more honestly debate.

I’m from Australia and can’t even see the North Star, but I want to join The North Star blog and contribute to the debate in the open honest and above-board manner that I always have at Kasama. The question is does a Southern-hemisphere, self-described Maoist belong as a contributor at The North Star?

While “Libya and Syria: When Anti-Imperialism Goes Wrong” speaks for itself and ought to be dealt with accordingly, nevertheless you will want to know something of me politically. To that end, I offer my full track record as a commentator at Kasama as an indication of my “Hitchens-style communism,” which is not a very good description of my communist politics but ought to indicate some of what readers might expect.

Dissent, Debate, and the Non-Disingenuous Left

“The inability to deal with dissenting opinions is a major reason why the Left is in the shape that it’s in.”

Spot on Binh!

Also, this earlier statement struck me as spot on as well: “Nothing is more difficult than re-examining everything you took for granted as the truth.”

The second statement so clearly applies to a socialist whose politically active life was essentially anti-war campaigning but who now wants to see weapons and military aid supplied to the Syrian people and could not care less if those weapons, satellite intelligence, and other material support are being supplied by the “Great Satan” or anyone else. Binh knows which side he is on. Well done, and doubly so for admitting how wrong he got it over Libya.

That first big step is the hardest and people take that step by being open, honest, and above board.

To genuinely participate in the re-establishment of any sort of functioning and recognizable left requires just that attitude and the exposure of those who have anything but that approach. The obvious problem is that those who are not open, honest, and above board take great pains to appear as though they are. To get to the truth you have to find out what they do.

Fortunately, these days its far easier to expose people who have a record of doing to others what they do not want done to themselves.

Some people who present themselves as left resort to censorship; when caught, they have all manner of explanations about how the views that they are protecting people from are really “enemy” views.  People who carry on like this are obviously anti-democratic, and one cannot be any sort of revolutionary communist without first qualifying as a revolutionary democrat!

Those (to the extent that they are confused with any type of leftist) who censor others that they cannot win a debate against discredit the genuine left.

They are to be properly understood as garden-variety rightists that present as leftists. They are the pseudo-left and ought to be identified as such. Years ago, the expression was “left in form, right in essence.” Even earlier, the phenomena was described as an infantile disorder. Clearly, the 21st century Western left is a political infant – or better yet, an overdue newborn – so we must expect such disorders and seek treatment.

Beyond the pale views are now shown to be very difficult to shut down by continuing the old and discredited practice of disappearing people whose thinking offends the dogmatists.

Revolutionary leftists ought to consider views for and against the revolutionary transformations of Syria, Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Bahrain, and indeed, the whole swamp of the Middle East as part of the legitimate and ongoing debate to be had among revolutionaries. It is a debate that ought to be had completely without gatekeepers that carry on as if they are publishing an old-style “radical” newspaper with physically limited space and thus a “legitimate” excuse for some level of exclusion.

We are now in the era of the internet and there is no legitimate excuse for sectarian carry-on or (self) censorship.

Syria and the Pseudo-Left

What is a proletarian revolutionary in the West to make of the massive warfare that has predictably broken out in Syria? In my view, Mike Ely at Kasama is gearing up to shut out the “pro-imperialists”, who, like Binh, are popping out of the woodwork.

Of course Binh knows he is not “pro-imperialist,” but ultimately that will not save him from the dogmatists of anti-imperialism. He and others will be labeled as “objectively pro-imperialist” and the dissenting opinions shut down among “serious” revolutionaries.

Leftists really ought to “let a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend.”

“Left” dogmatists essentially insist that there is no revolution unfolding in Syria (that is of concern to Western workers) and just shrug and turn away presumably to confront the outright openly pseudo-leftist defense of Assad (and all manner of tyrants in one form or another). Revolutionary lefts might also confront these pseudo-lefts if we could be bothered, but as these people really have nothing to do with anything leftist, it is not surprising to find that mostly we can not be bothered and essentially leave that ever-so profound exposure to people with nothing better to do.

It is true that one does not have to look far in the anti-war mileu – especially the one that’s been around since 2001 – to uncover plenty of examples of active defense of tyrants like Ghadafi. They are, however, an isolated subset of a minority, and if we refute the passive defense, we refute the active subset. The defense of tyrants is usually passive and Ely does just that. But Ely does more than that because, despite a first glance, if we dig a bit deeper, we find he is an active defender as well.

Since the beginning of 2011, there has been a widespread view (I would even say a broad acceptance) that there is a bourgeois-democratic revolution unfolding across the swamp of tyranny that is the Middle East. This revolution was predicted from as far back as 2002 by some Marxists in Australia.  The world’s mainstream media called it the Arab Spring and forgets to mention the bourgeois nature of this revolution. What passes for the Western left now knows that it is coming because it is already here.

Whatever it is, it is not a socialist revolution, and many Western progressives openly fear the Islamist main force fighting it and confuse those forces with the leading forces also fighting. Main and leading forces is a well-known thesis of how Mao understood the Chinese revolution through its various twists and turns. It ought to be self-evident by now that a multiplicity of forces is the reality of the revolutions that are ridding the Middle East of tyrannies and replacing them with societies where people get a meaningful vote on a regular basis on who is to form the capitalist government.


Nepalese communists have recently fought a long-ish war to bring about free and fair elections in Nepal. A constitution and election process is what the demands were all about and Kasama-style communists welcomed the elections that were held in Nepal, just as I did from just as far away and from just as ill-informed a base. The rights that were being fought for in Nepal and are now (despite the inevitable twists and turns) being implemented are nothing very special from a Western point of view (we in the West have had them for quite some time) but they are revolutionary demands that have been resisted with deadly violence in places like Libya, Nepal, Syria, and Iraq.

Being unclear befits the owning class in any country, so they do not openly speak of the requirement for a bourgeois-democratic revolution in this region or anywhere else, they just talk about democracy. Marxists from Marx to Mao have all dealt at length with the issue of revolutionaries advancing the interests of people of pre-capitalist societies and of destroying tyrannies (of any kind) by uniting the many to defeat the few, the 99% to defeat the 1%.

Effective or real revolutionaries make very basic minimum demands and then unite – just as Binh is proposing – with even the most unreliable, temporary, and treacherous of allies to achieve these demands. The last thing revolutionaries seek is a pure revolution. We do not seek the appearance of a flying-spaghetti-monster either! We simply carry-on as if neither exists and do not complain at the low stage that much of humanity is still at.

Real Revolutionaries and Syria

Who are our enemies? Who are our friends? These are questions of the first importance for the revolution.

The issue of Syria for serious revolutionaries is starkly presented as a call to encourage anyone that is able to arm and or fight with Syrians (that are opposed to living under the Assad tyranny) to do so. It is a call for states to arm and fight with the Syrian masses and overthrow the Assad tyranny and destroy his fascist army!

One such call is for the former imperial power Turkey to intervene much more than it is currently doing. The call is to do even more than what was done last year for the people from the Barbary Coast!  Ships taking arms and all manner of supplies to and from Ghadafi were stopped from doing so. Was this NATO-U.S. piracy? Ought all shipping be blockaded now with respect to Syria? Putin has made his position clear: the Russian navy will come and go and protect other ships coming and going to Assad’s Syria. Putin is preventing the act of war known as a blockade from being imposed on the Assad regime. Blockades are imposed by navies, and Ely does not want a blockade on Assad’s forces. I do, and I think I am in good company with Pham Binh on this question.

But I want more than that; I want to see urgent military action by the U.S. and NATO to dominate the skies above Syria and to kill any Assad forces that can be identified on the ground. I do not believe that the ditherer-in-chief will act, but that is what the left ought to be in the street demanding of him.

The talk of revolution has met the reality of revolution yet again and the pro-liberation left (or “cruise-missile left” to the pseudo-lefts) is clearly looking for every and any ally. The irrelevant pseudo-left that is speaking out against outside imperialist meddling in Syria (just as they irrelevantly did over Libya) is demonstrating that they are no friends of the revolutionary transformation of the Middle East. They are no friends of the Syrian revolution. They go so far as to deny that it is an anti-fascist revolution (while curiously not denying that Assad and Putin are both fascists).

Years of confusing experience since September 11, 2001 has ended with the obvious ongoing slaughter of the brave if (predictably) “impure” revolutionaries in Syria. Libya and now Syria have forced a dramatic reassessment from people like Binh. The debate that was shallow in 2011 over Libya is now far deeper due to the very practice of Libya. This direct link between theory and practice has honest and open leftists reviewing their theoretical views that led them to make what they recognize now as clear errors from as little as a few months back and leads dogmatists like Ely to jump out and republish Mao’s Combat Liberalism.

The pseudo-left and the utterly sectarian left will have to run from democratic debate as their positions implode over Syria and the rest of the Middle East and will specifically misuse works like Combat Liberalism to pretend that Mao was not serious about “a hundred flowers” and “ease of mind and liveliness” to cover their retreat.

The great revolutionary tool of democracy, combined with the new tools of the internet, means nothing to the dogmatists. Instead, they will sound the retreat from democracy and genuine debate and, in doing so, delude themselves that they are following the lead of Mao and Lenin!

{ 201 comments… read them below or add one }

Arthur August 8, 2012 at 1:48 pm

On a minor point, the concept of leftism as an “infantile disorder” meant taking a relatively benign attitude towards youthful follies that express a wrong line too far ahead of what would be more effective in promoting revolution.

This should be sharply distinguished from “left in form but right in essence” or pseudo-leftism – where people whose natural inclinations are in favour of stability and repression mouth super-militant “anti-imperialist” rhetoric to pass off their basic hostility to democracy and progress, let alone communism as though it was extremely “left”.

We do need active ideological struggle to combat both leftist and rightist errors. The struggle against pseudo-leftism however is not just against errors but against enemies.


Brian S. August 8, 2012 at 6:46 pm

What a load of pompous nonsense. Is anyone taking this dross serioiusly?


Arthur August 8, 2012 at 9:52 pm

Why is it pompous nonsense or dross?

The near unanimity with which people who side with fascist regimes against their people are identified as “left”, or even “hard left” instead of “pseudo-left” shows its vital to get that distinction clear.

Mixing it up with youthful follies such as “infantile leftism” reduces clarity.


Aaron Aarons August 9, 2012 at 2:04 am

The “pseudo-left” in this case are people who side with the dominant imperialism, and with ultra-rightist pro-imperialist regimes (e.g. the Saudi royals) against regimes that don’t do the bidding of imperialism. These people are the enemies of the left and of most of the 7,000,000,000 people in the world.


Brian S. August 9, 2012 at 8:10 am

Sorry Arthur, I should have made it clear that my comment was intended both for Patrick Muldowney’s opening post and your coda.


Arthur August 9, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Brian you still haven’t presented any actual argument against anything that either Patrick or I said.


ish August 8, 2012 at 3:47 pm

Believing that US imperialism is the main enemy of revolutionists in the US, indeed of people throughout the world, is not dogmatism. It is a principle; and one at the foundations of communism forged in the fires of the first world war.

Over and over again Binh and his cothinkers are trying to confuse the issue by (falsely) accusing Mike Ely and others who uphold this principle of being supporters of Assad. That is an utterly self-serving distortion. On the contrary it is the job of communist revolutionaries to support popular revolutions by offering communist leadership, not capitulating to some lowest common denominator of anti-regime sentiment. Communists know that not all roads lead to the same place: and turning over revolutions to the bombs of imperialism doesn’t lead to the same place as the autonomous movement of the people. It is our duty to shout out that truth.

But I want more than that; I want to see urgent military action by the U.S. and NATO to dominate the skies above Syria and to kill any Assad forces that can be identified on the ground. I do not believe that the ditherer-in-chief will act, but that is what the left ought to be in the street demanding of him.

An absolutely disgusting sentiment. Beware what you seek to unleash.



Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 8, 2012 at 4:57 pm

One does not have to be a supporter of the Assad regime to play into its hands by adopting its policy preferences here in the West. I never accused Ely of being a supporter of Assad, so that right there is your false accusation.


Aaron Aarons August 8, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Better to support the policy preferences of Assad, the petty local dictator who has run afoul of imperialism, than the policy preferences of the active clients of imperialism, like the not-so-petty dictators of Saudi-occupied Arabia and the Gulf monarchies. But it is not a matter of ‘policy preferences’, but of working to undermine and defeat imperialism, particularly the dominant imperialism, wherever and whenever it enters into a conflict.

I’m still waiting, BTW, for the Cruise-missile ‘leftists’ on this site to devote even a fraction of the verbiage that they are devoting to support imperialist actions against alleged ‘bad guys’ to attacking the many active imperialist crimes around the world, including arming and financing the mass murder and looting in the Congo that has taken millions of lives and damaged millions more.

I know that, for many of you, military attacks by the Western imperialist bloc on Syria will make you oh-so-proud to be ‘American’, Australian, British, or whatever. You’ll feel so warm and cozy with the majority of your own countrymen when you come out of the cold!


admin August 9, 2012 at 9:47 am

Don’t be lazy. Write something up and submit it.


Tom Cod August 22, 2012 at 7:38 pm

good point


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) August 8, 2012 at 4:00 pm

The great thing about seeing these revolutions against monarchies as being worth supporting is that the Internet now gives us a multitude of ways to support these struggles that you don’t even see until you see that they should be supported.

I’ve heard about a high school kid in Georgia that pulled together a group via twiiter that produced a whole series of manuals in 3 languages on everything from ak47 disasambly, to ordinance idnetification, bomb dis-mantiling, and emergency medical procedures that were used in just about every front in the Libyan war.

Anonymous activities are legendary.

And I like to think that my current attempts to create doubts about the welfare of Bashar al-Assad is a positive contribution to their struggle.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 8, 2012 at 5:09 pm

One of the remarkable things about the debate over whether it is acceptable for revolutionaries in other countries to accept military aid from imperialist powers to beat their local counter-revolutions that I really appreciated about this piece is the hysterical, anti-democratic attempts to prevent this debate from even happening. Certainly Socialist Worker would never dream of printing my response ( to Paul D’amato’s attack; many of the comments at Kasama have been along similar lines, asking Mike Ely why would he give a “platform for ‘pro-imperialism'”; and even at The North Star, the first email we received from Diana Barahona was a request that we censor and refuse to publish Clay Claiborne’s articles on Libya. The only reason she wrote a response ( to Claiborne is because of my prodding; my argument was basically: “ok, if his position is such easily refuted garbage, it shouldn’t be too hard for you to do that.”

The results of that debate speak for themselves politically.

The inability (actually, refusal) of the so-called anti-imperialist side of the debate to answer pointed questions that flow logically from their position — Why oppose airstrikes on counter-revolutionaries launched by other counter-revolutionaries? Why oppose arms shipments to the FSA? Why oppose a U.S. or British naval blockade to block Russian imperialism’s arms shipments to Assad? — has been nothing short of stunning.


Arthur August 8, 2012 at 9:59 pm

I would say “refusal, rather inability” instead of the othe way round.

The patehtic style of “debate” and general refusal to debate reflect the fact that they simply don’t have any arguments. In that situation, what else could they do?


Tony August 8, 2012 at 10:30 pm

Well, Sir Arthur, we are not ‘debating’ on Louis Proyect’s ‘marxism site’ with you pro imperialist circus clowns because Louis has this bad habit of throwing everybody with alternative views to his own right off the site, not because we ‘don’t have any arguments’ like you rather dully imagine it to be. Pham knows this, too, so he is just being dishonest with his bs about his political opponents being lacking in argument. (Louis, planning to invite me back to your site after having thrown me off of it about umpteen billion times, all for the sins of discussing each time different topics from a simple MARXIST pov not endorsed by your genius/Highness?)

And how to discuss most issues with y’all anyway? You are know nothings when it comes to general politics. I’ll give you just one small current example of this. How do we talk to a group of heads in the ground ‘marxists’ who seemingly are unaware of all the context of the attack on Assad with the war on Iran? What war on Iran??? I can hear you disconnects yelling at us. Sorry, but not once have I seen any of you ‘humanitarians’ even mention that there might… just might???… be some connection to Syria and Iran! It’s hard to bring stuff like this into debate when your crowd is just so seemingly totally out of touch with any basic political understanding of reality. It is your group of ignoramuses that is absent in argument, not those who oppose your pro European/US/Israeli imperialist attack to take out the Assad regime from power.

The level of discussion you sink it all down to is accusing us of being ‘pro dictatorship’, as if supporting the Saudi regime which you ‘marxist’ morons are doing practically is never noticed or mentioned by your genius selves.

As I said to my daughter once, who was trying to figure out this commie thing… I told her… YES, I am a commie, but I am not also a commie MORON…. and there are way far too many of those around…. especially here at NS.


Arthur August 9, 2012 at 1:54 am

Thanks for the illustration.


admin August 9, 2012 at 9:48 am

No more personal abuse. Last warning.


admin August 9, 2012 at 11:23 am

Other people (not the people you are attacking and hurling personal abuse at) are complaining about your “style” and are themselves refraining from commenting and participating here as a result or your methods.

You have been warned.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) August 9, 2012 at 2:02 pm

I don’t think anybody in the pro-revolution camp is “unaware of all the context of the attack on Assad with the war on Iran”, we just don’t make it the main thing in our analysis of the struggle there.

It is almost the 21th century and many countries are ruled by monarchies: Ben Ali, Mubarak, Gaddafi, Assad and others. The fact that so many sons were being prepared to secede their fathers is the real clue that the bourgeois democratic revolution was far from completed in those countries.

2011 kicked off with a massive new attempt to complete this democratic revolution by overthrowing these monarchies, which as it turned out, could be divided ruffly into two groups. Those sheltered under the west took on a more “democratic” garb, those in the Soviet sphere adopted some form of “socialism.”

It is also true that the US and NATO countries are more comfortable with moving from these autocratic rulers to a more “democratic” rule, and that in Egypt and Yemen they helped move the king aside so as to effect a minimum of disturbance of the underlying state, whereas imperialist Russia, which has inherited the legacy of the Soviet Union, fears that it will lose influence if the autocratic ruler is replaced and have shown that they have no qualms about spilling much blood to keep their guy in power.

Iran seems to feel the same way, and now that they have clearly cast their lot with Assad, that is a self-fulfilling prophecy. I have little doubt that Iran is up to its eyeballs in supporting Assad, including boots on the ground, supply of weapons and specialists, and spreading mis-information. Information I’ve seen indicates that the most brutal killers, and many of the snipers, are Iranian. Certainly the FSA and the revolutionaries on the ground are aware of the “Iran context.”

The NATO powers are too, but it is far from clear that they want Assad to go. Same with Israel. In point of fact, its hard to demonstrate that they are doing anything concretely to support the struggle against him, with the exception of Turkey. I saw an interview with a top FSA commander today and he complained that they have yet to see any weapons or any communications gear from anyone in spite of all the public promises by the so-called “friends of Syria.” The fact is the Syrians have been doing this entirely on their own

I would have to agree, except for the Libyan thuwar and a handful of internationalists around the world, the Syrian people have been pretty much abandoned by the world. It has created an opening for al Qaeda, just as the Iraq War did, because people in a desperate battle will accept help from anyone. The Syrians certainly have been abandoned by the “left” which would rather languish in conspiracy theory land and play old Wesley Clark videos about how this is all a western plot against Iran with out ever having to explain how thousands of Syrians have been duped into giving their lives for a false cause and how they need to view their attack on Assad primarily in the context of the war on Iran.


Tony August 9, 2012 at 5:27 pm

I find your theory about an imperialist Empire moving to somehow do away with ‘monarchies’ in the world progressively to be utterly bizarre and non marxist in analysis, Clay. For one thing, Syria, Egypt, and Libya WERE NOT monarchies in the sense of the French, Spanish, and British monarchies ala 1500-1600. Egypt under Mubarak was basically a US create military dictatorship propped up by D.C. , and continues to be so minus Mubarak. Gaddafi was not a monarch either. When did you decide that monarchies were the big political issue in the world, Clay? This certainly is not any sort of marxist theorizing I have ever before come across from anybody else. I’m surprised you didn’t include calling Saddam Hussein a monarch, too!

And this idea that the former Soviet Union has made Russia an imperialist country today is similarly bizarre and non marxist. What you are trying to conjure up for us to believe in is that the Soviet Union and China used to be ‘red imperialists’, as evil as our own US imperialists at home. That is not marxist ideology at all though, Clay. In fact, it is directly counter to the way marxists viewed post capitalist societies run by backward degenerating leaderships.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) August 9, 2012 at 6:25 pm

To talk about the remincent of feudalism under capitalism certainly is Marxist, and only you are implying that I am talking about “monarchies in the sense of the French, Spanish, and British monarchies ala 1500-1600.”

My point is that all those I mentioned, and yes, Saddam Hussien, ruled and lived like kings. They treated their citizens like subjects and they sought to make the role heritary. Qaddafi planed to put his son in charge, as side Mubarak and Ben Ali, and Assad? What can I say? They also did the whole subjects as family and they as the good or strict farther thing. All of this is a hold over from fedualism and your attempts to defeat what I am trying to say by pushing it to the point of absurdity (“monarchies in the sense of the French, Spanish, and British monarchies ala 1500-1600.) doesn’t help you understand what I am trying to say. If you want to understand the relationship of these presidents or brother leaders to their people and the struggle overthrow then in a historical contact the view of them as kings will get you a lot futher than “basically a US create military dictatorship propped up by D.C”


Tony August 9, 2012 at 7:05 pm

Next you will be telling us that Cuba is a monarchy because Fidel put Raul in charge, Clay. This is facile and YES… quite ignorant analysis, too, by you.


Arthur August 9, 2012 at 7:08 pm

The succession goes to brothers in Saudi Arabia too.


Tony August 9, 2012 at 7:21 pm

There is a lot more to Saudi Arabia than just calling it a monarchy which supposedly only needs a ‘democratic bourgeois revolution’. In reality it is MORE a theocratic military puppet state of the US imperialist empire. Talking only about the ‘monarchy’ in regard to the Saudi ruling creeps would be missing all the rest of the formula. To change much of the ME for the better, we have to destroy US and European imperialism, not support counter revolutionaries who are not really real revolutionaries in that region, such as many of you are all doing with Libya, Suria, and on to Iran no doubt.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) August 9, 2012 at 10:23 pm

I don’t consider name calling serious discussion. In fact, its a watse of time. I think it much better to spend my time writing stuff that revolutionaries find useful like this

I expect I’ll have a great deal more success bring Marxist to revoltuinaries that I will convincing certain “Marxists” to support revolutions.


Aaron Aarons August 9, 2012 at 12:43 am

“Why oppose airstrikes on counter-revolutionaries launched by other counter-revolutionaries?”
Because not all “counter-revolutionaries” are equal. The U.S. and its allies are the main enemies of human liberation and planetary survival. Justifying their bombing of one country will be used to justify their bombing of other countries.

“Why oppose arms shipments to the FSA?”
Given that arms shipments, unlike bombings, are usually done covertly, our opposition to such shipments is basically a matter of trying to expose the agendas of those shipping the arms. If there is a genuinely left armed group in Syria, I hope they can seize some of those arms from their intended recipients.

“Why oppose a U.S. or British naval blockade to block Russian imperialism’s arms shipments to Assad?”
1) As with air strikes, any precedent allowing the U.S. and the Western imperialists to get away with such a blockade strengthens that by-far-most-dangerous imperialist bloc.
2) Those arms, if they get through, will include missiles that can shoot down U.S. and allied planes. Every such plane shot down is a cause for celebration, no matter who shoots it down.
3) I’d much rather see Russia, Iran, et al. blocking shipments of arms to and between the U.S. clients in the region. As long as U.S.-centered imperialism is dominant, I don’t expect that, but a strengthening of Russia and its allies vis-a-vis the U.S., et al., would provide more room for maneuver by governments and movements opposed by the U.S., including even some that the Russians themselves will only support in order to weaken the U.S..


Arthur August 9, 2012 at 2:06 am

Ok, congratulations on actually responding directly to the issues Pham mentioned in post above. That sort of response makes debate possible.

Unfortunately the actual content of your direct response does not strike me as worth debating at the moment in this thread.

Nevertheless I think it worth mentioning that you did in fact attempt a direct response and that should be encouraged.


Brian S. August 9, 2012 at 8:14 am

While I know Richard Seymour is not your favourite person, his most recent post on Syria is a very good one (and has attracted the sort of flak you would expect):


Arthur August 9, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Its certainly better than his opponents. But it’s focus is on a basically academic discussion within the western “left”.

At most its contribution would be to make it more difficult for the pseudos to mobilize anyone for an anti-war movement to try and block western aid to the Syrian revolution.

But that really isn’t much of a contribution. There isn’t the slightest risk of the pseudos being able to mobilize an anti-war movement. They have already demonstrated that conclusively over Iraq.

The focus now should be on actually putting some pressure in support of western air strikes in support of the Syrian revolution.

That is a position that needs to be taken directly to the public. We can’t mobilize a mass movement either, but we can help discombobulate liberal Democrat opponents of air strikes and that would be a contribution out of all proportion to numbers, since they are likely to be a factor delaying action.


ish August 9, 2012 at 12:13 pm

discombobulate liberal Democrat opponents of air strikes

WOW…in the proud tradition of actual state department socialists, staking out turf to the right of the Democrats. Super creepy. Max Schachtman would be proud, as would the host of social democrats who supported the US war against Vietnam to “save it from totalitarians.” This conversation is apparently a breeding ground for the neo-neocons of tomorrow.


Arthur August 9, 2012 at 1:09 pm

Thanks for the reminder of an important aspect of pseudo-leftism.

That is their position within a milieu that they see as extending from liberal Democrats to themselves.

That is what they understand to be “left”. Since they denounce Republicans more extravagantly than a typical Democrat does, they picture themselves as far left.

By insisting that conservative Republicans are fascist monsters they sound revolutionary to themselves.

(A few also insist that the Democrats are fascist monsters but my impression is that most of the pseudos see the more liberal Democrats as weaker bretheren quite distinct from Republican monsters).

When there is a genuine left it won’t be as “partisan” as the pseudos. From a left perspective both mainstream US parties are fairly similar. Both are conservative and both are reformist. Neither are fascist.

On major issues it will be normal for leftists to be in opposition to both parties (as for example in demanding air strikes in support of democratic revolution in Syria, which neither Republicans nor Democrats support yet).

Sometimes we will find ourselves advocating something that is also advocated by Democrats, and rejected by Republicans. Sometimes we will find ourselves advocating something that is also advocated by Republicans and rejected by Democrats.

For example its certainly true that there are more Republicans (eg John McCain) advocating intensified support for the Syrian revolution than there are Democrats. Since the pseudo-left view things from a perspective that sees themselves as on the same side as the Democrats that means its to the “right” of the Democrats and therefore “weird”.

If the US does act its going to be done by a Democrat administration and liberal Democrats are either going to be apologizing for it as usual or be neutralized.

But the pseudos still won’t support it. They will take the same position as the US foreign policy establishment in gravely warning against islamists and Al Qaeda, worrying that instability could get out of control etc etc ad nauseaum.

The more obvious the parallel between their own position and the traditional position of the US foreign policy establishment in support of tyranny and stability that resulted in widespread hatred for US imperialism, the more they will shout about how anti-imperialist they are.


ish August 9, 2012 at 1:17 pm

I don’t know what you think “left” means as you toss around the phrase “pseudo-left,” but you’re not on it.

Your rationalizations and strawmen are a cover for you supporting imperialism. That you can even admit you’re on the same side as a genuine, actual bloody-handed war criminal like John McCain says it all.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) August 9, 2012 at 10:25 pm

Sounds like more name calling to me.

Do you know why the Vietnamese love John McCain?


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 10, 2012 at 2:54 pm

I’d like to know re: McCain and the Vietnamese. McCain certainly wasn’t too happy to meet the man who pulled his sorry ass out of the water after he was shot down:


Brian S. August 9, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Arthur, I note that you say “demanding air strikes in support of democratic revolution in Syria, which neither Republicans nor Democrats support YET). I presume that means you expect one or other of them to do so eventually, and that it will apply for the whole of your phrase – ie that they will be “supporting democratic revolution”. It looks as if you’re expecting it to be more likely that you’ll find your allies among Republicans.
This seems to be entirely in keeping with the views expressed earlier by patrickm on this site and over on
As I understand it, the general argument here is that the US (its not very clear about agency here but I presume it means the US STATE) shifted from being a force for global reaction to one for global progress under George W Bush. On that basis you suppported the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the ensuing developments. There’s more of course: like enthusiasm for globalisation, rejection of environmental politics, etc. but perhaps we should stick with the international issues for now, although I’m sure you’ll agree that they’re inter-connected.)
These arguments are often not fully articulated and I can only infer how fully you subscribe to them. Perhaps you could clarify.


Arthur August 9, 2012 at 3:21 pm

As I made clear in my first posting here I supported the invasion of Iraq (in fact advocated it in advance) and argued that Pham Binh was being inconsistent in still supporting similar views as his opponents on Iraq.

Sticking to international issues for now (although I agree that they are interconnected), I would not describe the US as having shifted from a force for global reaction to one for global progress under George W Bush.

I would say that (a very small group in) the Bush administration recognized that 9/11 represented the complete bankruptcy of previous US policy in the middle east which had blown up in their faces and executed a strategic retreat against the solid resistance of most of the foreign policy establishment.

I imagine it would have been pretty hard for a Democrat administration not to have noticed that their policies of funding Al Qaeda etc had blown up in their faces. (In fact Clinton’s CIA Director James Wolsey drew the lessons very publicly and clearly).

For an elaboration of this analysis see the following contemporary correspondence with Chomsky in May 2003:

Despite every prediction made by “left” opponents of the Iraq war being refuted by events there has never been any serious debate about that analysis. Perhaps it would be a suitable article to kick of a discussion on Iraq here when people here are ready to face up to the fact that their arguments against the Iraq war have an awful lot in common with the views of people who also oppose the overthrow of Baathism in Syria and are ready to debate whether they were wrong about Iraq.

There was a lot of confusion about US intentions both due to intentional deception and contradictions among different forces, but basic US policy in the region went from propping up stable autocracies to bringing them down.

That still isn’t consistent and its nowhere near being a global force for progress, buts its a vast improvement on the imperialist policies of maintaining stable tyrannies that are still defended by most of the US foreign policy establishment and the pseudo-left.

It’s not so much that I expect more allies among Republicans on Syria as that it doesn’t bother me as much either way as it bothers people who see themselves as part of the same milieu as the Democrats. It was a Democrat administration that joined Europe in bombing counter-revolutionaries in Libya and I am hoping that they will do the same in Syria. Meanwhile naturally opposition politicians (Republicas) are more likely to call for things that are not yet government policy.


Brian S. August 9, 2012 at 4:36 pm

The layout of your exchange with Chomsky makes your argument there hard to follow. You state here that you are not arguing that there has been a structural shift in the policy orientation of the US state, but merely that “a very small group in the Bush administration” engineered a policy shift in the wake of 9/11 – presumably one that led to the invasion of Iraq, which you view positively. But if this was such a narrowly-based and administration-specific shift, why should we assume that it has any relevance to the current determinants of US policy and Syria? Why should we think that any significant force in US capitalist circles will be “supporting democratic revolution” rather than simply pursuing US national interests?
You place great emphasis in the Chomsky excahnge on a speech by Bush, but you don’t actually quote from it, and I’ve not been able to locate it. But anyway, why on earth would you have so much faith in a speech that seems to be basically a PR presentation by a political leader about to embark on a war that he has been feverishly preparing on totally different grounds. As you say, “Finally, although Bush stuck rigidly to the “Saddam must disarm” line right up until the last minute, this has now taken a back seat to more or less open explanations of the new policy ” If your foreign policy analysis is based on naive acceptance of politician’s public statement at their face value, then I don’t give it much credence.


Arthur August 9, 2012 at 6:37 pm

We wouldn’t be discussing the POSSIBILITY of the US offering armed assistance to a democratic revolution in Syria if there had not already been some major shift in US policy. I said it hasn’t been consistnt and doesn’t amount to being globally a force for progress. That doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a major shift.

It was noticeably a very small and isolated group in the first Bush administration and the overwhelming consensus of the US foreign policy is STILL that their polices were awful and must never be repeated.

Nevertheless, aspects ARE being repeated. The NATO air war in Libya was not just a “humanitarian intervention” but a war for regime change in Libya. Despite thoroughly rejecting the Bush administration policies, the Obama administration also decided it was in the interests of US imperialism to support democratic revolution in Libya.

It isn’t all that unusual. The US also supported democracy in occupied Germany and Japan – and it did so entirely out of concern for US interests.

Adopting the opposite policy in Vietnam and in the middle east turned out spectacularly badly for US imperialist interests. What is surprising is how long it took for them to get the message,

There was a long period of semi-open discussion among think tanks in the US before the Iraq war. I studied that closely to reach the conclusion that the “disarm Sadaam”, WMDs stuff was just a smokescreen and the war had quite different objectives.

The anti-war movement on the other didn’t study anything at all (there were NO “teach-ins” like over Vietnam). They just assumed the war was about oil and became unshakable from that position when became clear it wasn’t about WMDs.

The test was not the speeches but the actions, The Baath party and its army was suppresed, Free elections were held. Governments led by forces that had been hostile to the US were elected and are in power. The Kurds got autonomy. Every prediction made by opponents of the war was refuted.

The key point in analysing it before seeing the results was simply the sheer absurdity of what the anti-war movement was fantasizing about. The US had lost in Vietnam and would have had to be literally insane to imagine they could establish a puppet regime and steal oil. Instead of analysis the “anti-imperialists” just proclaimed (along with much of the US foreign policy establishment) that the Bush administration literally were insane.


Aaron Aarons August 10, 2012 at 7:12 pm

The two wars against Iraq, although they had many motivations among dominant sectors of the U.S. ruling class, including strategic location and greater control over oil, were, at least in large part, wars for Israel. Regardless of the other motivations, they would not have happened if not for the weight of the Zionist lobby in determining U.S. Middle East policy. Those wars, and the intervening years of embargo and low-intensity warfare, killed several million Iraqis of all ethnicities. While the actual results of those wars have been mixed for the U.S. and for Israel, given the strengthening of pro-Iranian Shia forces in Iraq, they were crimes against humanity. Anybody who praises those wars should not be allowed to exercise his ‘free speech’ on a self-described ‘left’ forum. There are plenty of other places it can be exercised, including many journals and web sites financed by very rich people.

Brian S. August 10, 2012 at 7:28 pm

Arthur: your argument is seriously lacking in coherence. You do not need to believe in a “major shift” in US policy to see the possibility of US intervention in support of the Syrian rebels – the “anti-imperialists” see such a possibility (indeed think it has already occurred: what do you think we been arguing about?).
If I try really hard I can just about make some sense out of your post: what you could be saying is that Bush’s tiny, far-sighted team identified a major change in US national interests in the wake of (Something: 9/11, Vietnam, Iran, the kitchen sink?)which they pursued in the Iraq war. The Obama administration has not had the same level of insight, but has been forced to haltingly follow a similar course due to some sort of “objective logic”.
But if this “new reality” is so badly understood outside of a small super-annuated circle, why should we assume that it will be the guiding force for US policy in Syria? And if we can’t take that for granted what value is there in your claim that the US will be “supporting democratic revolution” in Syria?
Your attempt to fit the Libyan case into your schema is no better. US policy followed a classical iterative pattern: it was reluctant to commit itself initially ( the unacknowledged driving force for the Libyan intervention was Denmark). And it didn’t move from “civilian protection” to “regime change” because of recognition of a national interest, but because no one could get Gaddafi to stop firing long enough to discuss a ceasefire; and because military logic led to an extension of operations. You refer to the US suppression of the Baath machine in Iraq; but in Libya there was a constant stream of advice warning the Libyans not to follow what was considered the negative Iraq example.

Arthur August 11, 2012 at 2:07 am


Thanks for the serious response. This is getting buried in a long thread and we are several indentations deep with no reply button after your comment linked above so I’m not sure whether this response will appear in the right place or whether others will notice it.

Admin, could we have a new thread on “Iraq vs Syria” or “US strategy in middle east”? Could be just a single para intro inviting comments.

Meanwhile I’ll cut it short with this. Perhaps your response could open a new thread?

1. Theories about how the US is looking for opportunities to help overthrow various regimes in the middle east (and denunciations of that as imperialist) have become widespread among people claiming to be left only since the invasion of Iraq. Prior to that it was generally understood that US policy was firmly oriented towards maintaining “stability” and any US intervention would be in support of tyrants facing the threat of overthrow.

2. I don’t assume that Bush administration policies will be followed in Syria (they were retreated from to some extent already in the second term). It is quite conceivable to me that the current administration might be too reluctant to intervene without UN approval, whereas that was not such a big factor in the previous administration. Hence my belief that we should be putting active pressure on it to do so.

3. Your account of US actions in Libya takes things too much at their face value. Although Europe took the lead they had no capacity to do so without the US which did most of the work. Although the UN resolution was for protection of civilians NATO blatantly waged an air war in support of regime change. That wasn’t “mission creep”, it was the (“unauthorised”) mission.

4. Likewise in Syria joining the war is likely to be expressed in terms of providing safe havens etc, but it is obvious that the only way civilians in Syria can be safe is the same way that civilians in Libya were made safe, namely by overthrowing the regime.

5. I don’t believe the US intervened in Libya out of humanitarian concern. (They certainly didn’t in Rwanda). Defeat in Libya would have affected the whole Arab spring, strengthened reaction in Egypt etc etc. They intervened because they see defeat of the Arab spring as against their interests, just as they used to intervene against democracy in Latin America in support of gorilla regimes because they saw autocracy as in their interests but more recently they don’t. That change in attitude is basically since 9/11 and Iraq. BTW the pseudo-left “anti-imperialists” aren’t lying when they point to the extensive funding and other support being provided to “democracy activists” by US imperialism throughout the region.

6. In Syria the US administration may believe that the regime will go down with a few more tens of thousands killed so there is no need for them to intervene. But I think they are already committed to the regime going down (ie the regime remaining would be correctly perceived as a serious defeat for the US).

I would much rather the regime went down without tens of thousands more being killed (and I hope the US would also prefer without an intensified sectarian aftermath and greater takfiri/jihadi influence resulting from prolonging the war).

7. Yes there is an overwhelming consensus that the Bush administration suppressing the Baath party and its army was a major blunder. To me it was both their finest hour and the only plausible option (since otherwise they would have been trying to maintain a puppet regime against the Shia and Kurdish majority). I expect that as in Libya the old regime in Syria will be thoroughly smashed and a new one established. However in Iraq that was done with a large invasion force preventing civil war (and not doing that very well). There are real dangers of massacres of Alwai and Shia or long term civil war in Syria following regime collapse so they do need to pay attention to transition measures.

Aaron Aarons August 18, 2012 at 7:22 am

‘Arthur’ writes “the regime remaining would be correctly perceived as a serious defeat for the US”.

Which, if true, means that, in the absence of a left (anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist) force capable of replacing it, the regime remaining might be the least bad of a bunch of bad outcomes.

Aaron Aarons September 27, 2012 at 7:38 am

I’m more convinced now than I was back in mid-August that “the regime [in Syria] remaining might be the least bad of a bunch of bad [potential, rather than fanciful] outcomes. I wish that weren’t true, and maybe I’ll be proven wrong and some reasonably secular and non-sectarian alliance independent of imperialism can come to power, but I don’t see it happening.

Tadhg Ó Muiris August 10, 2012 at 9:23 am

Arthur, if I were Richard Seymour, I’d probably be saying to you: “Get off my side!”


Arthur August 10, 2012 at 5:20 pm

As mentioned above I’m not on Richard Seymour’s side. Although his opponents are much worse, when all is said and done the debate he is in is still between people who both don’t want to extend the most effective support we can to the Syrian people.

His opponents are directly enemies of the Syrian revolution so he’s certainly better than that. But he isn’t much help either yet.


ish August 10, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Yeah we know. You’re on George W. Bush’s side.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 11, 2012 at 10:27 am

Syrian revolutionaries say they miss Bush:

Assad should just exterminate these “pro imperialist” scum because they side with the “main enemy” right?


Aaron Aarons August 11, 2012 at 7:14 pm

I don’t particularly want Assad to exterminate such people, but, if they know enough English to know what the sign they are posing with says, I certainly want them to be defeated.

It’s far less bad for the planet and most of its 7,000,000,000 people to have an ‘autocracy’ in Syria that allies with Iran and Hezbollah than a ‘democracy’ that allies with the United Snakes.

Brian S. August 9, 2012 at 1:46 pm

Aren’t you being unfair to Schachtman: while he went over to the side of imperialism over Vietnam, I don’t think he placed himself to the right of the Democrats, as our friends here seem keen to do.


Arthur August 9, 2012 at 2:24 pm

It was after all the Democrats who went to war in Vietnam and Republicans who pulled out. So naturally supporting imperialist war in Vietnam didn’t require breaking with the Democrats.

On the middle east the decades of support for tyranny and stability were pretty bi-partisan (though the Democrats were usually more enthusiastic about Zionism than the Republicans).

I think the reversal of that policy has been fairly bipartisan too. Bush backpedalled a fair bit in his second term and Obama is closer to the traditional foreign policy establishment than Bush was. But fundamentally both administrations have been much more inclined towards destabilizing the region than any of their predecessors.

Meanwhile the pseudo-left has placed itself firmly to the right of the US foreign policy establishment in die hard defence of tyranny.


ish August 9, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Paul Wolfowitz is that you?


Aaron Aarons August 12, 2012 at 5:31 am

It’s not ‘defense of tyranny’, but an understanding that the ability of the United Snakes to either stabilize or destabilize countries and regions is what stabilizes the real oppression, global capitalist imperialism.

Real leftists are happy to destabilize any country when there is a reasonable likelihood of replacing its state and government with something less in accordance with the needs of imperialism. In particular, it would generally be a good thing to destabilize, including by ‘terrorist’ methods that don’t target innocent people, any country that willingly hosts a U.S. military base.


Aaron Aarons August 12, 2012 at 5:33 am

I should probably have ended that last sentence with a formulation like “any country whose regime willingly hosts a U.S. military base.”


Brian S. August 12, 2012 at 6:47 am

And how exactly do you propose to “destabilise” Germany, Spain,Portugal, Italy, , the Netherlands, and the UK ? (And why bother, the bankers are already doing such a good job)


Aaron Aarons August 12, 2012 at 7:43 am

I’ll admit that, when I wrote that, I wasn’t thinking of the imperialist junior partners of the U.S. but of the weaker countries like Bahrain, Honduras and Costa Rica, and countries in Africa, Asia and the Pacific that I will remember or look up after getting some sleep. (I don’t even remember at the moment whether Costa Rica has an official U.S. base or bases or if it just hosts U.S. warships at its ports and allows U.S. military personnel to use facilities on land. But Honduras definitely has a U.S. airbase and Bahrain hosts a very major U.S. fleet headquarters.)

Good night to all, except for the neo-cons.

Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) August 9, 2012 at 6:09 pm

Always with the name calling?

Arthur is talking about organizing support for the brave working class Syrians who have taken up arms against their fascist ruling class, and you respond by call names,

Lenin had it pegged when he called it an infantile disorder.


Brian S. August 9, 2012 at 6:37 pm

Clay, I fear the name calling is not so far off the mark in this instance.


Arthur August 9, 2012 at 6:44 pm

Nope, Lenin was talking about excessively left politics, which had little to do with name calling.

This stuff is coming from extremely right wing politics (ranging from actual support for fascism to being reluctant to fight it). The abuse and other aspects are to present a “left” form to what is far right in essence. Hence the term “pseudo-left” for people who are not left at all but try to “sound” left.


Aaron Aarons August 10, 2012 at 7:15 pm

Arthur, are you at such a low stage of development that you can’t tell when you’re looking in a mirror?


Aaron Aarons August 12, 2012 at 6:41 am

Mr. Claiborne writes:

Arthur is talking about organizing support for the brave working class Syrians who have taken up arms against their fascist ruling class, and you respond by call names

Arthur and his fellow Australian, Patrick Muldowney, also were for supporting those oh-so-brave U.S. imperialist troops who directly slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Iraqis in 1991 and again in 2003 and after. The excuses these Aussie neo-cons use regarding Syria certainly weren’t applicable to Iraq, unless you consider the Kuwaiti royals and citizen-parasites who lived off of the exploitation of non-citizen workers to also be fighting a ‘fascist ruling class’ while enjoying a rather luxurious life in temporary exile in Europe. In other words, patrickm and arthur are cheer-leaders for imperialism in a variety of situations, some with and some without any plausible left-sounding excuse.

There might still be some little room for discussion with Clay Claiborne or even Louis Proyect (if the latter could cease his stupid insults for at least a few minutes), but Muldowney and ‘arthur’ are on the other side of any barricades that might be built. They really are the class enemy, regardless of their own objective positions in the global class structure.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 9, 2012 at 11:37 pm
Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 9, 2012 at 11:38 pm

Personal feelings should never get in the way of political work and collaboration. I hold no ill will to anyone in any of these debates. Even Tony.


Aaron Aarons August 8, 2012 at 9:47 pm

Maybe left websites should allow articles advocating the raising of white mercenary armies to fight imperialist-designated ‘bad dictators’ in Africa? Or sending in the Ku Klux Klan to support Black opponents of Black racketeers in the ghettoes?

I’m all for free speech in historical and theoretical debate. For example, I wouldn’t try to stop David Irving or others from trying to prove that the accepted narrative of what happened to the Jews, et al., in WWII isn’t entirely correct. But if somebody starts arguing that it is actually true and that it was a good thing, I wouldn’t consider his ‘speech’ acceptable.


Louis Proyect August 8, 2012 at 11:05 pm

I am amazed that Tony Abdo is still upset about being removed from Marxmail 8 years ago. I was obligated to remove him because he was not a Marxist. Marxists do not say things like “First of all, Al Qaeda is a genuine anticolonial movement, and not just a group of Islamic rogue ex-CIA terrorists. Their demands are the classical demands of anticolonialism nationalism… Leave Our Territory Now. But wait, there is something new here yet!”

People like Tony Abdo can be very disruptive on a Marxism list when they are so confused. I also removed another al Qaeda apologist named Sukant Chandan. It is up to me to decide who is a Marxist or not. In poor Tony’s entire time on the list, I never heard anything remotely in line with a class analysis.


Tony August 9, 2012 at 11:15 am

Oh, and any marxist who is unable to understand that the political program of al qaeda has an anti-colonial character to it, is a complete fool.

‘I was obligated to remove him because he was not a Marxist. Marxists do not say things like “First of all, Al Qaeda is a genuine anticolonial movement, and not just a group of Islamic rogue ex-CIA terrorists. Their demands are the classical demands of anticolonialism nationalism… Leave Our Territory Now. ‘


Brian S. August 9, 2012 at 4:40 pm

Tony, you confusing me: weren’t you arguing very recently that “al Qaeda’s presence in the Libyan and Syrian opposition (as established by Pepe Escobar) was proof of, I’m not quite sure, but something fairly terrible? Or was that another Tony.


Tony August 9, 2012 at 5:45 pm

Brian, I do believe that it is relevant that SOME portions and percentages of the anti Assad groups are Muslim Far Right Wingers (jihadists, if you will?). But I continue it not to be as relevant to the fact that most of the groups are simply pretty much controlled by the Pentagon in one form or the other.

What you don’t seem to understand, is that quite a few of the world’s Middle Class ‘radicals’ love the USA, and will ally with the Pentagon in side a heartbeat. Check out he Right Wingers in Venezuela for one example of this. They’re in love with the glitter and plastic they see shining all over in places like NYC, LA, Miami, D.C. et al. They often times hate the ‘backwardness’ of their own ruling elites. You think that ‘revolutionary’? I don’t.


Brian S. August 10, 2012 at 7:36 pm

Tony, get serious, do you really think the young fighters in the FSA are laying their lives on the line and exposing themselves to Assad’s armour and firepower so that they can build a shopping mall! Go onto You Tube and see what they are going through, and hang your head in shame!


Tony August 10, 2012 at 9:31 pm

Actually, Brian, I believe that many anti Assad fighters are sincere patriots and have desires to rid their country of a dictator. However, YES, I do believe that most of them are delusional about how ‘great’ they consider we have it here in the US. They understand what the situation is here with our Empire just about as little as almost all Americans, including people like you, Brian, understand about the perhaps soon to be once again, completely dominated neo-colonies of Syria, Libya, and Iran. Many of these Syrian fighters do simply have terribly naive delusions about the US government, and don’t you know that? No- I guess you don’t…


Brian S. August 11, 2012 at 7:42 am

I think the vast majority of Syrian fighters don’t spend any time at all thinking about what life in the US is like – they’re too busy fighting to protect their families and avoid being killed by Assad’s forces. Since many of them are devout Muslims, if they ever do think about the US they probably see its as a materialist hell-hole (could have a point).


Tony August 12, 2012 at 12:07 am

I think most foreigners from countries with much more desperate and intense poverty than in the US, Brian, think about the US as a ‘materialist hell-hole they would love to immigrate to to escape what the US government has usually helped impose on their own societies. Very little of that US role is actually understood by these same people though. They simply see more personal ‘opportunity’ for US citizens, and would desperately like to participate by getting here and staying here, and will pretty much do almost anything to accomplish that.


Aaron Aarons August 13, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Actually, throughout the twentieth century, victims and even active opponents of colonial (or neo-colonial) powers would seek refuge in the colonial metropole, where they usually had both far more democratic rights than those powers allowed them in their colonized homelands and, of course, better opportunities for material survival, usually as workers. Ho Chi Minh (the name he adopted in 1940), for example, lived and was politically active in France at times in the 1920’s, as were other Vietnamese leftists. ‘Ho’ also helped found the French Communist Party while there.


Aaron Aarons August 13, 2012 at 12:43 pm

If all they were fighting for was “to protect their families and avoid being killed by Assad’s forces”, they probably would just be finding a place to hide, either where they lived or somewhere else, while waiting for the fighting to be over. They obviously have other motivation to be fighters, whatever that motivation may be in each case.


Aaron Aarons August 11, 2012 at 10:49 pm

I’m don’t think that “Right Wingers in Venezuela” can reasonably be called “Middle Class ‘radicals’”. At least, my concept of ‘middle class radicals’ is students, professionals, etc., who, if not socialists or communists, are at least sympathetic to workers, peasants, and other oppressed.

OTOH, I can understand that the phrase might also be applied by some to fascists, but not to mainstream right-wingers.


KPRP August 9, 2012 at 11:29 am

Regardless of what one thinks about Al-Assad or Gaddafi, I think that this website is spending too much time dealing with Libya and Syria. There have hardly been any articles about the uprising in Bahrain or Yemen and the brutal repression against them. I think that its out duty to the Arab Spring to report and support the revolts that CNN has not decided to put on its pity list.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) August 9, 2012 at 6:39 pm

Syria and Libya are the leading edge of the world revolutionary movement. Libya is the only place so far where the uprising known as the Arab Spring when on to a revolution that completely liquidated the old state machinery as is recreating it anew. Libya is the only country were the armed working class has been successful in otherthrowing the state. Syria will be next,

The so-called Marxist on sites like this have much more to learn form these struggle than they have to teach and I have seen almost no discussion inb site like this abouit what we ccan learn from their revolutionary war and the struggle to build a new Libya now.

The complaint that those of us that focus on these struggles should talk about anything but is the usual one from anti-intervetionists who oppose these revoltuions. I get that all the time. Why don’t you write about Bahrain? Okay here’s the big news on Barhrain from today’s blog on Syria.

Bahrain. The Information Affairs Authority has responded to this month’s report of the Physicians for Human Rights, “Weaponising Tear Gas”:

The Government of Bahrain denies and condemns the use of lethal force or unlawful means in controlling demonstrations in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Any means that have been exercised by security forces adhere to international standards of riot control. Suggestions that the use of tear gas in Bahrain is severely injurious or even lethal is simply not backed up by any research or proof.

Physicians for Human Rights had found, after more than 100 interviews, “The Bahrain government’s indiscriminate use of tear gas as a weapon has resulted in the maiming, blinding, and even killing of civilian protester.”

The IAA said, “A more detailed study will be taken before making further comments.”

You see, a lot more is happening in Syria now.


Arthur August 9, 2012 at 7:07 pm

Looks like you are doing a great job at Daily Kos.

Seems like the right place for discombobulating liberal Democrats!

How are they reacting?


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) August 9, 2012 at 10:36 pm

Sometimes they hate me and try to throw me out see The Sordid Truth about the United States Marine Corps for example.

Occasionally I make the recommended list.

In all cases I reach a much wider audience and have better discussions than here. Of course I do have 3 pro-Assad trolls dogging every blog minutes after it’s published but I take that as a sign of my effectiveness. If I published the same stuff here they probably wouldn’t have to bother.


Arthur August 10, 2012 at 2:03 am

Yeah I’m sure your work at Daily Kos is more productive than here.

Sorry I don’t have time to join in, but I certainly hope others do. (I once spent a fair bit of time at Talking Points Memo but it feels a bit artificial participating in a basically American political site as a non-American).

Meanwhile I’m spending more time than I should here because I hope this could eventually be a place for higher level theoretical discussion that isn’t necessarily specifically American, as part of rebuilding a global left. (I see Daily Kos as more for discombobulating liberal Democrats in an agitational/propaganda sort of way than for theoretical analysis).

Like you, my background is from the 1960s Vietnam movement (Australia, not US).

I’m delighted by your stand on Libya and Syria especially as I completely disagree with your position on Iraq.

Looking forward to future discussions about that (which can be conducted here by simply ignoring the trolls).


Tony August 10, 2012 at 2:31 am

Obama was in my city today, and it occurs to me why? all you pro imperialist Lefties are supporting military use by him in Syria, Libya, and Iran, too. You really are Lefties still stuck in supporting DP ‘liberalism’, since not even that orbiting the Democrats guy Ralph really is not even feigning doing anything to the slight Left of Obama and Hillary this time around. You got all this election year time on your hands because of that, so you got together and thought to yourselves, ‘Let’s advocate for freeing up the military for Obama to use in his er’ so humanitarian style! Whooppee!’

How inventive of you, Comrades!


Aaron Aarons August 14, 2012 at 7:21 pm

It’s interesting that on a site so infested with and even dominated by USian patriotic vermin as the Daily Kos, as shown by the response there to your very good exposé of the U.S. Marines, and which I should have expected from their choice of logo, you get, or so you report, generally favorable responses to what you write about Syria.


KPRP August 9, 2012 at 10:23 pm
TROTSKYISTS = ZIONISTS August 9, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Regardless of what one thinks about Al-Assad or Gaddafi, I think that this website is spending too much time dealing with Libya and Syria. There have hardly been any articles about …


The zionists are ENEMIES OF HUMANITY should exposed and wipe off the map of politics.


Brian S. August 9, 2012 at 1:48 pm

Eh – don’t we need a bit of quality control here?


Arthur August 9, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Well, one wouldn’t want to actually have to debate this stuff, but its useful to have ONE example of what Baath fascists are actually like.

A little less raving about the Jews and Trotskyists and a bit more at US imperialism and that post could pass as one end of the spectrum of pseudos.

Hard to tell whether its a deliberate paraody or an actual sample from the more extreme fringes of pseudo-left.

Either way it isn’t quite fair to non-extreme non-fringes of the pseudo-left who present much higher quality arguments against military support for democratic revolutions against fascist tyrants.


Aaron Aarons August 11, 2012 at 2:47 am

So, some anonymous nut slanders Trotskyists and anti-Zionist Jews by saying we are all really ZIonists!

No Trotskyists and no anti-Zionist Jews pushed for the wars and sanctions against Iraq or Libya, nor are pushing for war against Iran or Syria. That is primarily the work of pro-imperialist neo-cons, other Zionists, and a few imperialist goyim.


Louis Proyect August 9, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Tony, you were an apologist for al Qaeda, denying that they were terrorist, equating their struggle to the Red Army under Leon Trotsky’s command, etc. This was simply beyond the parameters of Marxist discourse. You are entitled to your point of view, but I simply could not allow it to be aired on a Marxism list. You are under the strange impression that such an analysis is compatible with Marxism when not a single Marxist publication, either party-based or scholarly, defended that perspective. Terrorism and Marxism are incompatible even if their respective agents both struggle against the Czar or the government in Washington. You never gave the slightest impression that you had read the classic articles on the Narodniks, for example. Marxmail has a certain expectation that subscribers understood and accepted the abc’s of Marxism even if they had sharp differences on how to understand the Cuban Revolution, for example. You gave no indication that you either understood or accepted those abc’s.


Tony August 9, 2012 at 5:35 pm

Baloney! Where you drag up these slanders of what I actually think I have no idea? I think merely from the dark abscesses of your own mind, Louis.

‘Tony, you were an apologist for al Qaeda, denying that they were terrorist, equating their struggle to the Red Army under Leon Trotsky’s command, etc’

Never said anything like this at all. You confuse your own misinterpretations of what others are saying with other peoples’ actual opinions. Your own doltish stupidity has you seeing reactionary non marxists all over the place. That is pretty sad. You see ‘wreckers’ when there is no such boogeyman out there, not even under your red bed.

I did say that al qaeda targeted military and governmental targets in their use of force. That’s exactly what the Pentagon and its allies do, too. Get a grip, Louis! All war is a form of terrorism in one manner or the other.


Louis Proyect August 9, 2012 at 1:30 pm

Maybe left websites should allow articles advocating the raising of white mercenary armies to fight imperialist-designated ‘bad dictators’ in Africa? Or sending in the Ku Klux Klan to support Black opponents of Black racketeers in the ghettoes?

I ultimately came to the decision to ban Aaron from my blog because it was clear to me that he did not consider me part of the left. The impression left by his words above are that he has the same attitude here and that his participation amounts to “exposing” the class enemy’s agents on the left. In my early days on the Internet back in 1991, when I began working for Columbia University and before the web existed if I remember correctly, this was common practice. The original Marxism list was constant trench warfare between dogmatic Trotskyists and dogmatic Maoists each trying to prove each others’ treachery. It was a dialog of the deaf.

When I started Marxmail in 1998 it was a deliberate attempt to cut across this kind of methodology and to accept people on their own terms. When I disagree with someone, I try to focus on the specific differences and not characterize them in class terms. In my opinion Trotsky’s “from a scratch to gangrene” approach was very harmful for our movement. As it turned out Max Shacthman’s party was as opposed to WWII as Cannon’s and did not deserve to be described as bending to imperialism.

Aaron was a member of the Spartacist League at one point and retains their bad habits, which boil down to a crude appropriation of Trotsky’s debate with Shachtman. Everything revolves around proving that someone is selling out the movement. It is a really harmful approach to building the kind of movement we need and inimical to the aims of North Star. At any rate, the moderators of this very important website has a very good handle on how to keep things focused and moving forward and trust their judgement implicitly.


Aaron Aarons August 12, 2012 at 5:16 pm

Actually, when I was a member of the Spartacist group (I was only in the League that I helped found for less than a month!), we were relatively non-sectarian, and even tried to have comradely relations with the early Progressive Labor group, which was itself very different from what it became later. We also had good relations with the Weissites in the SWP, who were also being attacked in an unprincipled manner by the leadership, which included the manipulative Peter Camejo and Barry “The working class hates gays! [snarl]” Sheppard.*

Robertson himself was already a dishonest manipulator at this point (circa 1963), but he kept it somewhat concealed because the rest of us were very different. (It would be interesting to know how Shane Mage, who is, I believe, still on Louis’ Marxism list, remembers all this.) But none of us in the group, least of all yours truly, hesitated to disagree openly with Robertson. Can Louis say the same about his relationship with Jack Barnes and other SWP leaders during his early years in that party?

Since leaving the Spartacist League, I have had comradely discussions and, at times, collaborations, with Situationists, anarchists, council communists, Maoists, ‘state caps’, radical environmentalists, etc., etc.. The only people who might want to call me ‘sectarian’ are those who conciliate with imperialism and Zionism.
* I can’t be certain that it was Barry, rather than his brother Roland, who uttered those words, so maybe one of them will come across this and correct me if I’m wrong. But it was uttered in an informal argument at the YSA office where we future Spartacists actually dared to say that it was OK for homosexuals to be members! (The leadership quietly forced out two of their young male supporters who were caught holding hands (or maybe a bit more — nobody said!) in the YSA office.


Louis Proyect August 9, 2012 at 5:56 pm

People can read Tony Abdo’s apologetics for al Qaeda here:

Truly embarrassing stuff.


Tony August 9, 2012 at 6:55 pm

Let’s see, Louis? You have a problem with me calling al qaeda gangsters? No what you have and had a gigantic problem with is simply that I mentioned that the fight from al qaeda’s pov was an anticolonial one! How damn dumb is that though to go off the deep end about such an innocuous and obvious observation? So typical of your hysterical hysterics…

And Comrade Theologian Louis, frustrated Elmer Gantry of the Trotskyist break up, wants to lecture me about my supposed lack of understanding of his theology and works of scriptures that he studies non-stop from command post Columbia University. ‘You (Tony) never gave the slightest impression that you had read the classic articles on the Narodniks’! Oh big sinner I am! Pope Louis is going to excommunicate me for this…lol… I should have spent more time mastering Gramsci and the anti-Narodnik polemics, too! That way I could find myself into becoming a ‘revolutionary cheerleader’ for allies of the Pentagon.

Honestly, did Louis graduate from some Kansas School of the Bible? I’d actually rather come across some crazed evangelical nut talking nonstop about Hittites, Canaanites, Morites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites than discuss Louis’ theologies. He fancies himself as some sort of Christian Scientist…no make that Marxian Scientist… inside deep deep deep in his computer lab at Columbia!

After reading Comrade Scully’s report about how the SWP feel apart, it is more than clear to me that the arrogance of Jack Barnes was only matched by the rude and banal obtuseness of his political thoughts. I think that Louis Proyect is fully his equal in this arena though. Imagine if a twerp like Proyect was ever to actually hold any real power in society? Can’t we see why people are scared of ‘leninists’ with people like Lou running around all crazed?


Aaron Aarons August 12, 2012 at 6:02 pm

I don’t think you’ll be surprised, Louis, to learn that I think the article you link to, while it has flaws (at least looking back at it with more than eight years’ additional experience with groups using the name ‘Qaeda’, it makes quite a few valid points.

It is indeed a tragedy that there is nobody inside the U.S. or allied imperialist countries that can and will make U.S. ruling class individuals and groups pay for their crimes against people in Colombia, Honduras, the Philippines, Congo, etc., etc.. However, I would hope that supporters of those peoples inside the imperialist countries would, when they finally act, be much more selective in choosing their targets. In particular, the rich people whose fear of retaliation might have some effect on ruling-class actions don’t use public transportation in Madrid, London, or anywhere else. It might be much harder to attack such people than random members of the public, but it’s both far more useful and far more justifiable to do so.

Moreover, it might be politically better, and still effective, to attack inanimate targets like rail lines, bridges, etc., especially those leading to or from munitions factories, that are part of the infrastructure that makes imperialist intervention possible and profitable. Doing that doesn’t create martyrs and certainly doesn’t make honest working-class people support calls for revenge by the imperialists.


Louis Proyect August 12, 2012 at 7:23 pm

Moreover, it might be politically better, and still effective, to attack inanimate targets like rail lines, bridges, etc., especially those leading to or from munitions factories, that are part of the infrastructure that makes imperialist intervention possible and profitable. Doing that doesn’t create martyrs and certainly doesn’t make honest working-class people support calls for revenge by the imperialists.

Just another confirmation that the “anti-imperialist” left is anti-Marxist as well.


Tony August 12, 2012 at 9:53 pm

Actually attacks outside of war situations, on rail lines, bridges, highways, and other infrastructure is considered a form of terrorism, Louis. Didn’t you know that? All your studies in ‘class analysis’ and you didn’t know that! Bizarre, really. Civilians always get killed when attacks on infrastructure are being carried out. Of course, even in war situations it is really an act of terrorism, too! Just more so.

Louis’s belief that attacks on infrastructure, a form of terrorism, wouldn’t create martyrs is beyond us to figure out? PEARL HARBOR seems to not ring a bell in his ‘class analyzing brain! It was an attack on infrastructure, Louis. What did you think it was?

Wow! It turns out then that Louis Proyect’s big ‘difference’ with Osama really isn’t that big at all. He just thinks that Osama’s attack on Pentagon and the White House perhaps should NOT have been done alongside also smashing into the World Trade Towers, and he finds it repugnant that Osama used civilian airliners full of innocent passengers as weapons also, which I do, too, BTW… effective though it was in causing military destruction on US soil. And al qaeda is an informal military organized by Right Wing Islamists who are waging a dirty war against the what they see as Christian AND IMPERIALIST/ NEO-COLONIALIST USA. Now let Louis scream and cry, rave and rant because I just said that…. which is just basic truth here.


Aaron Aarons August 15, 2012 at 2:44 am

Tony, are you confusing Louis’ positions with positions of mine that he is criticizing? He has a habit of quoting his opponents without using any kind of quotation marks and then responding to them below a short horizontal line. It confuses people who are not familiar with his politics and his scribblings, and, obviously, even some who are.

BTW, Louis is an anti-‘terrorist’ and an anti-anti-imperialist, while I am an anti-imperialist and an anti-anti-‘terrorist’. The ‘terrorism’ I am referring to here is that aimed at imperialist criminals and the instruments of their crimes, and not that which is aimed at actually ‘terrorizing’ ordinary human beings, which is why I put the word terrorist in quotes.


Aaron Aarons August 15, 2012 at 2:17 am

“[…] during an imperialist war there may be cases where a revolutionary party will be forced to resort to military-technical means, though they do not as yet follow directly from the revolutionary movement in their own country. Thus, if it is a question of sending arms or troops against a workers’ government or a rebellious colony, not only such methods as boycott and strike, but direct military sabotage may become entirely practical and obligatory.”

This is a direct quote from Trotsky’s 1938 essay, Learn to Think, an essay Louis and other anti-anti-imperialists ‘think’ (because they haven’t actually learned to do so!) supports their arguments. For myself, I agree with each and every concrete argument Trotsky makes therein, if not with all of his rhetorical formulations. And I don’t believe that Trotsky would argue that only a genuine revolutionary Marxist proletarian party (and not, say, an anarchist group) should carry out “direct military sabotage” against a government sending troops against a rebellious colony. In fact, he would probably be more favorable to such actions in situations where there is no revolutionary party to either suffer consequences of such actions or organize any effective non-military actions, such as strikes. Moreover, I do believe that Trotsky would have treated the sending of troops or armaments against, say, Nicaragua, El Salvador or Guatemala in the 1980’s or even Iraq more recently, as no different in this respect from sending troops against a rebellious colony.

The question is not whether it is, in general, ‘Marxist’ to advocate, defend, and/or carry out such acts, but whether they can, in a particular case, be done in a way that does more harm than good, militarily plus politically, to the imperialist enemy. And part of the harm to the imperialist enemy will always be undermined, to a greater or lesser extent, by the “anti-terrorist” whinings of the Louis Proyects of this world.


Louis Proyect August 9, 2012 at 7:16 pm

You have a problem with me calling al qaeda gangsters?


Of course not. This was my problem:

“Al Qaeda is an international nationalist resistance movement! The very first one that has arisen, at least if we are not counting the ex-communist international as such! And its fighters come from all over.”

When I saw this, I decided that unless I booted you from Marxmail, I would be failing my duties as a moderator. There was not a single other Marxist I know of that viewed al Qaeda in this fashion. There were at least two people on Marxmail who had this analysis, one was you and the other was Sukant Chandan, a British blogger and hip-hop DJ. Both of you had to be removed.


Louis Proyect August 9, 2012 at 8:46 pm

You don’t think that Muslim Right Wingers can be resisters against US imperialism?

I think that the September 11th attacks were not “resisting” imperialism. They in fact strengthened imperialism by allowing the White House to whip up an Islamophobic fervor. The same thing is true in the terror attacks on Mumbai hotels and on London buses. I don’t think I will waste much more time trying to explain this to you since you clearly can’t tell the difference between something like the National Liberation Front of Vietnam and people who kill office workers in the World Trade Center to make “some kind of statement”. You are obviously to confused to engage with on a prolonged basis but I think other people here will have a better idea of where you are coming from and why your nonstop rants against me are so misplaced.


Aaron Aarons August 15, 2012 at 5:59 am

It wasn’t mainly the White House that whipped up “Islamophobic fervor”. It was the media that, for example, traumatized people by showing the same images of burning people jumping from the WTC towers over and over again. And the media, Hollywood in particular, had been inundating the population with anti-Arab and anti-Muslim imagery long before 2001.


informally yours August 9, 2012 at 9:31 pm

I noticed the other day a photo of a banner with young smiling faces peering around it asking for western help, the final line on the banner said STOP THE MASCARA. We all laughed about how long it took for the viewers to notice the error, but the comment in the room was that this shows the group was not CIA generated and I agree. We all know they meant stop the massacre. All genuine Leftists/Marxists (Any descendants of the Enlightenment at all) must not allow the intrigue and competition between the national and international interest groups to dampen our compassion or resolve to support the masses in deposing a dictator.

The one clear demand that brings on real unity and clarity is the one for purple-stained fingers and democratic elections. Assad is shooting people for standing for this demand and he brought on the shooting back towards him. Whatever ‘impurities’ on our side are about they can only fully be dealt with after this central issue is resolved. There is no argument about what the demands are the peoples’ were in the streets for months. The issue is the gaining of bourgeois democracy. The disoriented and confused western Left has never got this but are now focussed on what will resolve a war and thus are beginning to be distinguished from the pseudo-left which is some considerable progress. What will resolve this war?

Everybody that is commenting on this thread wants this war resolved ASAP so how do they (Syrians) resolve it? Assad is resolving it by killing all those making these demands to the extent that he can and with whatever help he is getting and whatever local support he has and that is not insignificant.Yet I stand with those making the demands just as my forebears did with the Spanish civil-war and SO, I want an army sent to aid the revolution. The only army that can do any good right now is a bourgeois army and they ought to be united with and called upon to further this bourgeois revolution.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) August 9, 2012 at 10:43 pm

Here, here

The best thing the US miliyary has done since WW2 was helping, in some small way, the Libyans win the truimph they did yesterday.


Tony August 9, 2012 at 10:55 pm

This is just such stick stuff. I can’t even imagine where Clay will be in about 5 years more when we see even more the progression of US imperialist interventionism on the African continent? What the US military has done to Somalia alone is a total horror but Clay is lost lost lost in his own head now with his pretend ‘revolutions’ backed by the US bombing runs. He sees nothing in any geo-political context at all.

And what about Asia, too, Clay. You will be cheering for ‘revolutionaries’ against the government that is in place now in Iran? ‘Revolutionaries’ in your head, too, backed up by imperialist fire power?


Aaron Aarons August 11, 2012 at 7:34 pm

Maybe Clay, in a lot less than 5 years, will join ‘Arthur’ and ‘patrickm’/Patrick Muldowney/’informally yours’ in retrospectively supporting the liberation (from earthly existence) of a couple of million Iraqis. In the meantime, I call on Clay to say what he at this time thinks about the U.S./Western imperialist wars and sanctions against Iraq starting in 1990 and continuing, as a partial occupation, till now.


Aaron Aarons August 13, 2012 at 11:44 am

“The one clear demand that brings on real unity and clarity is the one for purple-stained fingers and democratic elections.”

Being more concerned with the trappings of bourgeois democracy than with the power relations in the world is a sign of cretinism, not revolutionary politics. Chomsky, who I regard as only a left-liberal and soft Zionist, nevertheless has long ago done what others have also done in other languages and with, perhaps, less literary skill: expose how Demonstration Elections are a cover for capitalist and imperialist power.

Don’t the recent coups in Honduras in 2009 and in Paraguay a few months ago show how little effect elections have in curtailing the power of imperialist-backed local elites? And haven’t we seen over the years how fraudulent elections are on many levels even in the oh-so-democratic United Snakes, where all potential winners in each election, except for a very rare local one, are loyal to the ruling class?


Tony August 9, 2012 at 10:41 pm

Your call sent out to the Pentagon could not have been any clearer, informal….

‘Yet I stand with those making the demands just as my forebears did with the Spanish civil-war and SO, I want an army sent to aid the revolution. The only army that can do any good right now is a bourgeois army and they ought to be united with and called upon to further this bourgeois revolution.’

That is why you and Louis have the label, ‘Left humanitarian imperialists’ stuck to you so clean, hard, and obvious. You are unable to see that none of the forces involved on either side resemble in the least the forces fighting in the Spanish Civil War, and you and Louis are not members of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade either. It is a different situation altogether and your analogy of seeing Syria as Spain of that time is more comical than real. It is merely apologetics for supporting the Pentagon in its goals of regional regime changes to extract more oil and keep the people in check for neo imperialism. There simply is no ‘bourgeois revolution’ being made by US imperialism here, nor by their allied grunts in the field who are not bourgeois revolutionaries even, let alone socialists like the comrades were in Spain.


informally yours August 10, 2012 at 4:34 am

Tony, I did want to make it perfectly clear that as a Marxist I want the U.S. Defence Dept. (And all the others) busy cleaning up the swamp that the ‘realist’ policies that you now support created. With regard to the Spanish civil-war comparison I made, it was in the widest possible characterisation as international solidarity in support for a fight against fascism. (In a fluctuating and competing forces united front)

In Syria, (Which Tony seems to be avoiding actually discussing) the only political policy that can be united behind by any sort of progressive is in the call for elections. Elections have happened in Libya and a bourgeois revolution has therefore taken place. It is not pure or perfect, but those resisting the call for elections must be and ought obviously be defeated, and it is therefore easy to see which side I am on. When the Syrian peoples’ basic demands have been kept in check by repression and suppression by a blood-soaked tyranny it is once again easy to know which side I am on.

When people in the streets demanded elections and they were met with the barrel of the gun and have correctly fought back as best they could. I want them to get good at fighting back. I was heartened when hearing that some of them had formed the FSA, and that there are numerous experienced soldiers involved. I want that army to have good leaders, plenty of modern weapons and to succeed in their battles. (Regardless of our differing world outlooks)

For mine, I hope they think hard about Mao’s experience in fighting for a revolutionary change in the way China was run. I genuinely hope that Syrians are reading Mao on the issue of Protracted War and how to build a People’s army to protect ‘ and further their ‘gains’. Whatever happens they will fight it as best as they can and there is not much use chatting from the side-lines about it. They have called for arms. And only political forces with arms can supply them. I unhesitatingly want them supplied and equipped to the highest possible standard. Some people lose track of the political demand and don’t want to see these rebels equipped by ‘imperialists’. What a preposterous position to take, it is a call for purity where there ought to be the broadest possible united front to achieve the political goal. Or just plain solidarity and broadest possible unity if Syria is not to be in for further years of civil-war.

But the biggest blood-soaked imposer of tyranny of all is U.S. ‘imperialism’ the Great Satan. So Tony’s comment says my position is “merely apologetics for supporting the Pentagon in its goals of regional regime changes to extract more oil and keep the people in check for neo imperialism.”

I do not believe the whole line about WW2 being the same as WW1 that ends up with the dogma that the U.S. military forces are always on the wrong side and always to be opposed and especially so if you are in the belly of the Great Satan.

I admit to getting it wrong over the original issue of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. As a university student and activist I joined with Trotskyist opposition to the Gulf war participation by Australian forces, and have eaten humble pie about it publicly ever since. I recall local ISO members discussing the issues in debate against ALP students etc.. From memory, [This also corresponds to Christopher Hitchens’ recollections] the line was; well Iraq has legitimate reasons for taking back what was once theirs; and we thought nothing about allowing these so-called secular trail-blazing societies, to blaze that trail through military conquest. It was not until a year or so later that I was shown a map from the start of the 20th century showing no Iraq marked and yet Kuwait appearing that I realised I was taken in by Trot BS. I now actively repudiate my past view. I got the Baathist aggression against Kuwait completely wrong! The war was correctly opposed by countries uniting in collective defence and throwing the aggressors out, and destroying any troops that did not throw down their weapons and surrender. Destroying fascist armies is a good thing not any bad thing.

I have changed my position. Regime change in Iraq has spurred on region change in what was the stagnant Middle East. The U.S. did the kick start and the political swamp began draining with a (Proportional Representative) democratic electoral system in the heart of the swamp.

Tony asserts that al Qaeda is basically anti-colonial and that any Marxist who doesn’t get this is a complete fool. I think the opposite is true. Al Qaeda are all about the development of the great Caliphate and so how could al Qaeda be anti-colonial in nature? They are a blatant bunch of empire builders in the era of imperialism’s ongoing and often spectacular collapses.

Syrians ought to unite and fight-back and with this fight bring on the new era of free and fair elections. The Syrian people will never re-elect puppets, any and all imperialist powers have as much chance of taking over the soon to come new and democratic Syria, as have the ghosts of the Vichy French that had to be dug out of the place in WW2. Assistance ought to be rendered to their struggle against fascists by anyone that can!


Aaron Aarons August 13, 2012 at 4:53 pm

“Tony, I did want to make it perfectly clear that as a Marxist I want the U.S. Defence Dept. (And all the others) busy cleaning up the swamp that the ‘realist’ policies that you now support created.”

I can’t speak for Tony, but I doubt that his opposition to the neo-con policies the U.S. has been more-or-less following since 2001 implies in any way his support for the ‘realist’ policies they were more-or-less following before that. As an anti-imperialist, it would be absurd for him to support any policy or, more correctly speaking, strategy of the imperialists.

However, that when one strategy of the imperialists leads them to be less active in a particular situation than they otherwise would have been, as is to some extent the case of the U.S. in Latin America in the last decade, anti-imperialists will concentrate their fire on situations (Southwest Asia, Africa) where the imperialists, directly or through their clients, are most active, and on situations where imperialist intervention is deadly but not immediately violent in the conventional sense, such as in Greece. In the latter kind of situation, U.S. imperialism is present mainly as the threat of what can be done to them if the people take revolutionary action against capital.


Pete Shield August 10, 2012 at 9:09 am

What slightly amuses me is that those who argue that the SNC are ‘merely’ exiles in the pay of imperial powers would, if we jumped into a time machine, find themselves arguing that the Tsar should be supported by the Left as Lenin and a large part of leadership of the Bolsheviks were ‘merely’ exiles in the pay of the German imperialists.


Aaron Aarons August 11, 2012 at 9:17 pm

The position of German imperialism in 1917 was in no way dominant the way U.S.-led imperialism is today. At that time, Russia and Germany were part of two roughly equal imperialist blocs. Germany was no more a threat to the world than Britain and France, which were Russia’s main allies, so it was no more wrong for Russian revolutionaries to take aid (without conditions!) from Germany than for Irish revolutionaries to take aid from Germany, which, IIRC, was prevented by the British or bad weather or something.


Pete Shield August 12, 2012 at 9:23 am

From the Wiki profile of Roger Casement.
The German weapons were never landed in Ireland. The ship transporting them, a German cargo vessel called SMS Libau, was intercepted, even though it had been thoroughly disguised as a Norwegian vessel, Aud-Norge. All the crew were German sailors, but their clothes and effects, even the charts and books on the bridge, were Norwegian. The British, however, had intercepted German communications coming from Washington and knew there was going to be an attempt to land arms, even if the Royal Navy was not precisely aware of where. The arms ship under Captain Karl Spindler was eventually apprehended by HMS Bluebell on the late afternoon of Good Friday. About to be escorted into Queenstown (now Cobh, Co. Cork) on the morning of Saturday, 22 April, after surrendering, the Aud Norge was scuttled by pre-set explosive charges. She lies at 40 metres depth.[citation needed] Her crew became prisoners of war.


Arthur August 10, 2012 at 10:05 am

I just finished reading the 46 page International Crisis Group report of 1 August:

Strongly recommend reading it (including the extensive footnotes).

Skip the Executive Summary as it doesn’t convey the flavour of the main report.


Brian S. August 11, 2012 at 7:36 pm

Re ICG report referred to in post from Arthur.
This is a really fine piece of work – part reportage, part political analysis, part ethnography. It doesn’t provide a lot of background (but that is available in earlier publications in this series) but does offer a very insightful picture of the current situation and provides a real feel for what is happening on the ground in all the key sectors (opposition, regime, minorities). Its unusual to see an ICG report being as explicit as this in its sympathies, but the author has been covering the Syrian situation for some time, and I guess what he saw and heard engaged him so much that he felt he couldn’t do ottherwise than speak his mind.
This should be “required reading” for anyone who want to take part seriously in this discussion.
I really hope that his surprising assessment that the most recent stage of militarised regime repression has actually revitalised the civilian opposition and shifted the balance back a bit away from the military groups is true.
The conclusion, where he set out the tasks facing the opposition once the regime has fallen is, I think, a bit premature: the issues he raises are legitimate, but the opposition is not going to be able to address them until the end of the regime is at least in sight.. Personally, I feel that he is a bit over-pessimistic (perhaps even inconsistent) about the short to mid-term future: the picture he presents of the regime (“The regime is mutating into
something more akin to a militia”) suggests to me that it can’t survive for very long, even allowing for the siege mentality of the Alawite community. That’s partly based on the evidence he offers, but more than anything on on my political instincts, honed by some years of observing historical processes like this.)
But again – do READ it.


Arthur August 11, 2012 at 9:59 pm

Yes it was unusually open in its hostility to the regime. Comes from knowing about it I guess.


KPRP August 10, 2012 at 4:39 pm

Who are the revolutionaries? Who are the reactionaries? I keep hearing contradictory reports. What will be the economic consequences of rebel victory? The political consequences? The geopolitical consequences? Is an Axis of Resistance with Tehran important for the region? Have we considered all the consequences of imperialist intervention? How do Syrians feel about their government and the rebels? Was the Libyan revolt progressive? Do the rebels have popular support? There are elections, but all pro-Gaddafi candidates have been barred. Are the democratic bodies even sovereign? There seems to be no actual state just rebel militias and NATO. Who controls these militias? Who is behind all these political parties? What will be the new governments relationship to the economy? Will they keep the progressive features of the old regime and just discard the authoritarian bits or will they lead a full blown neoliberal assault? The National Forces Alliance runs the new government. Do we really want people like this in power? Will Libya’s new bourgeois government be more or less subservient to the West than their old bourgeois government?


Arthur August 10, 2012 at 4:59 pm

See 46 page ICG report at 2 comments above for info relevant to a lot of your questions immediately above (and below).

More important it conveys some of the “flavour” of the movement and ways of organizing civil and military struggle in complementary ways that we can learn from.


KPRP August 10, 2012 at 5:13 pm

Thanks I’ll check it out


KPRP August 10, 2012 at 5:40 pm

While the report didn’t answer all my questions (if anything it raised more), it did deepen my understanding and I thank you for that.


Brian S. August 10, 2012 at 7:41 pm

If you perhaps try one question at a time we might be able to help you. Most of these questions have been raised and discussed at one time or another in other threads. Seek and ye shall find.


KPRP August 10, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Does anyone have any stats concerning support for Al Assad and support for rebels?


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 10, 2012 at 5:38 pm

Yes. Out of 98 Syrians in Syria who participated in this poll, 55% of them were for Assad:


KPRP August 10, 2012 at 5:47 pm

Based on the crisis group report that Arthur posted and this stat (even if the method was dubious) it seems as if society is seriously split. This is not surprising, since what is going on in Syria is a civil war


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 11, 2012 at 11:22 pm

9 times out of 10 you won’t find polls re: who supports what in revolutionary situations. You have to look at all the evidence you can find and make the best assessment you can based on what you read, feel, understand, and experience. Studying the history and development of the Syrian uprising tells me that the protest movement that began peacefully and persisted peacefully in spring of ’11 only turned to armed struggle in the past 6-12 months or so. Calls for imperialist intervention only became popular very recently as a reaction to the unbelievable brutality the of the regime (they levelled Homs Fallujah-style).

If a revolution has 49% support it doesn’t make it any less right and legitimate than if it has 51% support; that support is also fractured among the various ethnic/religious minorities as well.

Lenin’s Tomb has stuff on the ins and outs of these questions and I suggest starting there.

One thing I will say is that the FSA has not tortured children, unlike the regime. The FSA does not draft people or threaten to kill their families if they don’t fight or if they defect. To me, those are clear indicators that we are witnessing a classic case of revolution versus counter-revolution in Syria. Anyone who suggests both sides are equally bad/reactionary I think needs to have their heads examined.


KPRP August 10, 2012 at 5:05 pm

I also object to calling the Assad regime “fascist”. People throw around the word fascist very freely and have lost sight for what it means. The Assad state is nationalist, but the type of nationalism is not fascist, but Baathist. Baathism believes in the unity of the Arab world not racial superiority.


Arthur August 10, 2012 at 5:50 pm

If you read that ICG report properly you’ll understand why its called fascist.


KPRP August 10, 2012 at 5:59 pm

Apparently I read it improperly. Illuminate me.


Arthur August 10, 2012 at 6:28 pm

I told you about the report at 4:59pm

You commented about the word fascism 6 minutes later at 5:05pm

It takes more than 6 minutes to become enlightened and nobody else can do it for you.


KPRP August 10, 2012 at 7:03 pm

Perhaps you misunderstood my question. Can you present your argument that the Baath regime is fascist?


Arthur August 11, 2012 at 12:40 am

Perhaps you misunderstood my answer.


Aaron Aarons August 16, 2012 at 7:16 pm

The IGC report does not, unless Adobe Acrobat was lying to me, contain the words ‘fascism’ or ‘fascist’. So what Aussie Imperialist Arthur means is that you have to accept and assimilate his definition of ‘fascism’, whatever it is, and find things in the IGC report that will confirm its application to the country, Syria, that he and his imperialist buddies are targeting.

If you read their writings properly, which isn’t hard to do, you will understand why the anti-anti-imperialists, at least the three Australians who post and comment here, are called ‘pro-imperialists’.


Louis Proyect August 10, 2012 at 6:54 pm

I don’t think that Baathism is fascism either since fascism is a tool of big business in advanced capitalist countries. But the founder of Baathist movement was sympathetic to fascism.

Baath ideology was conceived by Michel Aflaq in the 1930s as an alternative to communism, just as Qaddafi developed “Green Socialism”, a kindred ideology. Aflaq started out as a member of the Lebanese CP but broke with the party after seeing it support French colonial rule. In coming to reject Marxism, Aflaq developed some curious tendencies. Among them was an admiration for the works of Nazi theorist Alfred Rosenberg. He also attacked Marxism as a “Western ideology, foreign to everything that is Arab” into which its founder “breathed something of his vengeful Jewish spirit.”



KPRP August 10, 2012 at 11:31 pm

Aflaq’s relationship to Nazism is discussed in Gilbert Achcar’s “The Arabs and the Holocaust”. He concludes that there is not much proof in the assertion that he was “sympathetic to fascism”. The only evidence of links to fascism was his buying a copy of Alfred Rosenberg’s “The Myth of the Twentieth Century” while in France. Achcar is my only source on this issue so I could be wrong, but my perception is that national liberation ideologies were more about the rebirth (which is what Baath literally means) of the people after colonialism than racial domination and empire building. But you are right that Baathism and Green Socialism as well as Nasserism were anti-communist (at least after taking power) with perhaps the exception of Syria where two communist parties are part of Al Assad’s “National Progressive Front” and one other, The People’s Will Party, part of the parliamentary “opposition”, although I don’t know much about the status of CPs under Hafez Al Assad.


KPRP August 11, 2012 at 12:00 am

Correction: The first he in the second sentence refers to Achcar, the second to Aflaq


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 11, 2012 at 11:31 pm

Some people use fascism loosely to refer to any murderous police state. I think Arthur does this in part because he supported the American invasion and occupation of Iraq, and against fascism, the most reactionary/counter-revolution form of capitalism, all methods are good, or so the thinking goes. The relationship of the Ba’ath movement to 1930s European fascism I think is irrelevant to any of these issues.


KPRP August 12, 2012 at 2:15 am

“all methods are good, or so the thinking goes”

Seems to me that these “anti-fascists” who support US invasion use the same kind of defunct political reasoning as the “anti-imperialists” who support repression of the opposition.

“The relationship of the Ba’ath movement to 1930s fascism I think is irrelevant to any of these issues”

Probably not but I get very particular about these things


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 12, 2012 at 12:45 pm

It’s good to get particular. Failure to carefully scrutinize the evidence presented in political debates is another big problem on the left. And so “guilt by association” — you met with a fascist once, therefore you are a fascist or a fascist sympathizer. It’s a substitute for actual Marxist analysis and is usually a smear tactic against a political opponent.


KPRP August 12, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Exactly. If we want to understand whats going on we need to understand the degeneration of the Syrian Baath Party from a progressive force in Middle Eastern politics to a excuse for authoritarian crony capitalism instead of just calling it fascist. In fact one of the opposition parties is called the Democratic Socialist Arab Baath Party which grew out of the expelled left wing of the Baath party ( If Baathism is just Arab fascism are they fascists as well?
Baathism as an ideology resembles more the progressive Jacobin nationalism of Mazzini and Pilsudski (which of course has its limitations and problems) than it does reactionary nationalism, such as fascism.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 12, 2012 at 5:51 pm

Progressive is always a question of in relation to what? The Ba’ath parties of Iraq and Syria were certainly progressive in relation to imperialism and the national (comprador) bourgeois classes but they were pretty viciously anti-communist (despite working together with them at many points). The two competed for hegemony in their respective nationalist movements, and the Ba’ath copied CP structure (cells in the military, neighborhoods, workplaces).

The CIA gave the Iraqi Ba’ath the names of communists to be wiped out in the 1963 Ba’ath coup and they did so quite willingly. Tariq Ali’s book “Bush in Babylon” has some good background on this.


Arthur August 11, 2012 at 12:48 am

Yes the Baath party in Syria and Iraq, along with the Phalange in Lebanon (named after Spain’s fascists) and the Revisionist Zionists in Palestine (now Likud) were openly aligned with fascism in the 1930s.

It wasn’t confined to advanced countries then and it isn’t now.

Open terroristic dictatorship of big business is an accurate description of Syrian regime. Far more openly terrorist than Italy or Spain (though Iraq came closer to Nazism).


KPRP August 11, 2012 at 10:43 am

Since Baathism didn’t exist in the 1930s, I doubt that they were “openly aligned with fascism”. Most of the people who would become Baathists were either communists, who were staunchly anti-fascist, or Arab nationalist, which was divided over allying with fascism. Some thought that Germany would defeat British and French imperialism, but others saw fascism and colonialism as two sides of the same coin especially since Libya was an Italian colony in the 1930s and Mussolini supported militant Zionism. We also should remember that fascism grew out of European colonial ideology and therefore would be rather unattractive to anti-colonial movements.


Arthur August 11, 2012 at 12:26 pm

The name Ba’ath (revitalization) wasn’t adopted until the 1940s (when the party supported the Axis). But it arose from those Arab nationalist circles that were pro-fascist and in particular the paramilitary “steel shirts” modeled after similar fascist paramilitaries in Europe:

Mussolini’s support for militant Zionism was fully reciprocated by Jabotinsky’s Zionist Revisionist movement (now Likud), whose youth organization Betar still wear the “Blue Shirt” uniform.


KPRP August 11, 2012 at 4:40 pm

The steel shirts were associated with the national bloc that was rival to the Baath groups since the latter was for pan arabism and had aa left wing bent. Groups associated with Baath fought against Vichy France. They were for a pro axis government in Iraq when it was resisting British imperialism, but just because someone is “pro axis” strategically doesn’t make one fascist. To the colonized Arabs they were already living under a “fascist” system


Arthur August 11, 2012 at 9:54 pm

That’s like saying the Brown Shirts were rival to the Nazis because the former were for pan-aryanism and had a left wing bent.

(They did get purged in the night of the long knives – fascists do fight each other).

Anyway I’ll leave it there as Ba’aath history isn’t all that relevant and the party once central to the regime has already become a minor aspect of a regime that is essentially organized around security services loyal to the Assad clan backed by other Alawis.


KPRP August 11, 2012 at 10:58 pm

Ok fine


Aaron Aarons August 17, 2012 at 2:44 am

Historically, it has been the imperialism of bourgeois democracies, and not fascism, that has been the main destructive force in Africa, Asia and Latin America.


Ross August 10, 2012 at 11:37 pm

Seriously, there needs to be more moderation on this site or there is absolutely no point in having a comments section. I want to know what people’s response to the article is, but I read the comments and suddenly I realize I’ve spent way too much time reading a lengthy two-person exchange between Tony and Louis that is entirely personal and has no connection to the article whatsoever, among numerous other distractions. This is simply unacceptable. Come on people, the end result of the Syrian revolution will not be determined on this website. Debate should serve the purpose of mutual enlightenment and delineation of points of view, not to promote your own ego and to destroy your enemies. I and I’m sure others who read and do not comment would like to contribute to actual debate on this site, but just reading through the comments is so painfully unfulfilling that all I feel up to doing is expressing my utter disappointment.


Ben D August 11, 2012 at 12:50 am

Here here. I’m sure if people want to get into ongoing and unrelated conversations they can do so in a way that doesn’t distract from the conversations that others want to have. Why can’t you email each other or fight it out on


Arthur August 11, 2012 at 1:10 am

I agree its a serious problem. But the site is just getting going and there’s no easy solution.

Given that the debate on issues like Syria is between positions that are literally at war with each other there won’t be a debate if we exclude people who engage in contemptible enemy behaviour.

It will be time consuming but I hope admin can deal with some of the easier problems like off topic or purely abusive posts by quickly creating new threads and directing people to them.

eg A thread on “censorship in the left” could be created and Tony required to move his complaints there. Then any replies from Louis would also go there.

A “junk” thread could be created to which posts that were merely abusive or without any serious content useful for debate would be moved without explanation or discussion. That way people could see exactly what kind of posts are acceptable with less suspicion of actual suppression.

eg Tony might find a high proportion of his posts in the junk thread and could choose either to continue complaining about that to the small audience of the junk thread or try to engage more seriously to the wider audience in the main threads.

This sort of thing does require work and take time. Meanwhile it is annoying but feasible to just skim rapidly past the distractions.

If such work does start there should also be a “Moderation” thread for discussion of how well or badly it is is being done so that maintaining accountability and supervision of moderation doesn’t either get relegated to the “junk” thread and ignored along with the rest of the junk or intrude as distractions on specific topic threads.

A series of “Open threads” could also be useful for comments that don’t fit in any current thread.


Tony August 11, 2012 at 4:16 am

These comments I just read calling for yet more ‘moderation’ ie removal of posts, longer delays of posting our comments, etc. is an all very sad, follow the leaders and show I’m ‘loyal’ mentality, that runs so rampant in marxist sects like the Jack Barnsian SWP we have discussed some on North Star, and at marxist discussion sites like the Barnsian modeled marxism list. Also, let me just say that censorship and trying to move some beyond that is stated in the entire published goals that North Star has held up as its very reason for existence. Now some of you are actually demanding this very censorship!???? Egads.

What is to be done about keeping some of you from your own so furiously strong desires to jump onto the ‘leadership team’ wherever, whatever, and WHOever they might be, and then demanding moderating exactly like done in the style of a commondreams or marxism list or marxist wombat party mindset, where ‘leader’s’ ALWAYS ‘guide’ the ‘discussion’ along the lines they want?

You are calling for list OWNERS here to dictate to who… just exactly? ‘Others’, no doubt. And some of you seem pretty much clueless about just exactly who the list owners most probably are on North Star! Who are they? You call out to them and plea for ‘more moderating’ from them, and yet who they?…. just who are you even pleading to?

This problem of censorship on Left and liberal sites AND organizations is a rather big problem, and to be calling out for more ‘moderating’ while ignoring the much bigger problem of censorship is insane IMO. Yes, much of the internet discussion traffic can be very trashy and often times tends to move towards being hard for some to take…. kind of like the public gatherings of Occupy itself, one might add. But be very carful about looking for ‘your leaders’ to act more like police, Comrades? It is not usually wise to be calling for more police on the spot, thinking that you will direct their actions by your very own decisions. That’s simply just not the way it most often works out. Though if you want to be a sycophant, there’s always a lot of hiring ofr those spots at marxists sects and their ‘discussion sites’. Just don’t think that you will be all that admired by very many, when you get your little positions in third spot praising the leaders and rebuking those seen as just rif raf by yourselves. How sad that marxian sects seem to attract so many follow the supreme leaders types of people, who usually then go on to strut around thinking themselves great leaders in their own rites, too.


Brian S. August 11, 2012 at 7:50 am

Some good suggestions from Arthur although I think they might make a lot of work for Admin. I think also that those of us engaged in serious discussion could stop replying to vacuous posts (I concede that I am as much at fault here as anyone, despite having pledged to do this some time ago: the temptation has been too great, but I promise to be more disciplined henceforward.) This could be a “bottom-up” solution.


admin August 11, 2012 at 10:20 am

There’s a fine line between moderation and censorship. It doesn’t help when people lace their political paragraphs with a couple personal insults; deleting the offending post leads to charges of censorship, letting it stand makes it appear it’s a free-for-all.

Warnings are issued and so far have proven effective.


admin August 11, 2012 at 10:23 am

Furthermore, people should refrain from commenting at those who are not interested in finding common ground or engaging in comradely debate. Don’t feed the trolls and then complain when they became gargantuan monsters.


Ross August 11, 2012 at 10:05 pm

Actually, Tony is right about al Qaeda being anticolonial in character. They are also Islamist, and largely right wing, and terrorist, and thus contrary to (although via Egyptian philosophical tradition also influenced by) marxism. It’s not that complicated, and anybody here can read their statements themselves (instead of just believing Western media). But regardless of any of that, most of what you say Tony has almost nothing to do with the original article. I mean go back and read it. Your beef with Louis Proyect has nothing whatsoever to do with Syria. It just doesn’t. And on every single article on this site that I’ve read you do the same thing, over and over. Personally I don’t want pro-Assad or anti-intervention voices of any stripe to be barred from this site at all. But it’s not a political position to want debate to actually be about a particular topic only (which should be decided solely by the content of the original article). I’m nearly certain that if you wrote an actual article criticizing Pham’s arguments, or about left website cesnorship, or really any other topic, that it would be published here and it could be discussed in its own comments. At least I hope it would. And it’s certainly not just you Tony or people who agree with you who are part of this problem. I’m only singling you out because of how consistently you do it.


Arthur August 11, 2012 at 10:52 pm

Agreed. Its also worth reading Al Qaeda stuff aimed at the western public (as opposed to their stuff directed primarily to salaafis) to understand pseudo-leftism. Osama Bin Laden did a statement recommending Blum’s “Rogue State”:

A footnote from there links to the transcript (and another links to the book which is well worth reading).

Its certainly intended to appeal to the pseudo-left.

I vaguely recall he even started talking about the environment in one broadcast.

This isn’t actually as weird as it seems. The Nazis also had lots of stuff against British imperialism – an empire on which the sun never set and the blood never dried.

However I would say anti-colonial in the same sense that the Nazis and Japanese militarists were opposed to British imperialism rather than “anti-colonial in character”. Their aims, methods and anticolonialism are distinctively imperial in character.


patrickm August 12, 2012 at 3:46 am

Ross: You are obviously serious in trying to ‘seek truth from facts’ and so you rightly focus people back to the debate where the central fact is that local Syrian progressives and others who had issues with the tyranny ruling Syria took to the streets and demonstrated for change. It is essential to remember that they did no more than make political demands to be free to form their own political parties, and contest free and fair elections, for a proportionally representative democracy. The tyranny could have said fine that’s a good thing let’s organize those elections and move on. But instead it killed some of those people and forced those remaining to arm themselves and unite with anyone they could and fight back. The subsequent suffering and deaths is ultimately the direct result of the tyranny attempting to hold those masses in bondage and we all ought to know that.

The pseudo-left (as we notably see with Mike Ely over at Kasama) must hide from this very basic fact.
I say the U.S. and other imperialist countries following realist policies were formerly the greatest obstacle to the peoples’ of the ME region achieving these basic rights. They merely talked democracy but sought stability and supported tyranny. That much ought be agreed by all western leftists.

Last year I saw a blatant example on the TV of an Israeli professor sprouting Zionist heart-break over the out-break of bourgeois democracy. Even the impending fall of the Syrian regime was lamented by him. One need not wonder what affect this democracy will have on ending the war for greater Israel. President Obama has already informed the world that a Palestinian state is coming.

Iraq / Libya / Bahrain / Egypt / Tunisia / Jordan / Syria / Yemen / Iran / Palestine are all part of this basic democratic struggle and after 9/11, U.S. interests were correctly identified by the Bush administration as requiring this revolution. The sub-stage of free and fair elections and the struggle for a constitution is long past in Iraq and still to come in Syria. As I said in 2011 ‘In a year or so the Libyan people will have caught up with the people of Iraq. The western sea, air and ground forces will have returned home from both countries, and the struggle in both countries will continue with the human materials, like it or not, that both countries have to work with.’ That is how it has worked out!
The list of governments that have fallen to the wave of bourgeois democratic revolution known in the MSM as the Arab Spring is very impressive and welcomed by every progressive across the planet. The same applies to the list of regimes that are changing to meet their peoples’ unfolding demands (like Jordan, Lebanon, and the soon to be Palestinian state).

Rather than carry on like Gaddafi who followed the path of Saddam and Assad (Who is clearly strategically stuffed) the rest of the rat-bags may stop their oppression, but to be realistic we all doubt that they will. It is up to them of course.

All the theocrats and autocrats ought to be shitting bricks as they contemplate their own future because they are facing the ultimately unstoppable, rights demanding, youth of their various countries.

The way forward without blood-shed is of course to hold free, and fair elections for proportionally representative parliaments, and then for those elected politicians to negotiate a government as happens in Iraq. (Something the pseudo-left will never forgive the criminal liberators Bush, Blair and Howard for!) The struggle across the region is of course to reach the level of Iraq!

Similar elections involving very similar political parties were the next stage goal THAT were just achieved in Egypt and Libya. The enemies of Syrian democracy do not differ markedly from the enemies to be found elsewhere in the swamp. When the bombs explode in Syrian universities, markets and mosques, those setting them will be just as responsible as are the diminishing number of thugs who set them off against the peoples’ of Iraq. These bombers will be around for some years.

Naturally the right, (Like Australian MSM Andrew Bolt) will tut tut with Zionist mates about the prospect of parties like the Muslim Brotherhood coming into positions of power. It’s all such a worry and so dangerous for the ‘peace process’. Meanwhile the rest of the world asks how goes the war for greater Israel?

The realist positions of support for stability, now so beloved of the pseudo-left as they bleat on about imperialism are gone for good. (Having been abandoned by Bush after 9/11 showed these policies up for what they were almost ten years ago) Support for the war for greater Israel is also gone for good.

Once Bush declared the West Bank and East Jerusalem as occupied territory the end of that occupation was on the agenda. Bush smashed stability. His envoy Condi Rice warned Mubarak where the U.S. was going with the new policies but like Saddam, Gaddafi and Assad he wouldn’t change. Now he is in jail, Saddam is hanged, Gaddfafi is dead, and Assad is shitting bricks. Who could imagine that the creeps in Bahrain could buck this trend for much longer?

Any genuine left demands that stability be thrown out the window. Regimes with forty and fifty years of stability, so beloved by the right are going, and governments that are not particularly well disposed to the U.S.A. are coming to the entire region. No democratic government anywhere in the Arab world could be other than exactly what the foreign policy establishment said they would be! Everyone knew that; so it is not a mistake that they are now emerging. The Great Satan will assist and still be hated for its past!

But it is perfectly clear that the U.S., IS now helping the Syrian revolution. Revolutionaries want MORE from them and from every other government able to assist. We want armed intervention to defeat Assad. That is now the issue.

Clinton is in Turkey speaking about the coming intervention. We ought to be clear that the problem is delay. All delay in MORE Turkish, US, NATO assistance will result in casualties for people on the revolutionary side, and failure to kill the forces of tyranny that the revolutionary peoples’ are uniting to overthrow. Leftists can’t just say nothing and let bourgeois forces speak up for intervention first – we must speak in favour of united front politics! Anti-imperialism died years ago and was buried in Libya a year ago.

Revolutionaries are in favour of the armed overthrow of Assad and welcome every effort directed towards that aim and we look forward to the day that we know is coming when the Syrian people will have their fingers stained in the now fully known and anticipated purple ink.


Ross August 11, 2012 at 10:12 pm

Yeah pretty much everywhere in the world people know more about US imperialism than here in the states. I think a lot of this ultimately boils down to what the revolutionaries in Syria think they’re getting themselves into by involving the US/NATO. There are most likely a significant number of middle class and aspiring bourgeois characters who would like to see more US involvement in their country. However, Syria’s recent economic reforms have created a new layer of people becoming affluent at the expense of the masses who want stability more than anything else. In any case it seems impossible to consider a majority of revolutionaries to be such opportunists. These are people who want an end to dictatorship, social justice, and democracy (i.e. self rule), and they know full well what US imperialism is capable. They are taking a gamble on utilizing NATO for their own ends without becoming NATO pawns. It will be difficult and extremely risky. The judgment call we as leftists and as people need to make is whether to back them up while they are risking everything. That is not the end of the debate but it is the beginning. I choose to support them and hope they succeed.


Brian S. August 12, 2012 at 9:12 am

@Ross I agree with your conclusions, but I think your premiss might be over-optimistic. Your view that the Syrian opposition is aware of the risks of NATO involvement may apply to a section of the urban, civilian opposition in the local coordinating committees, but I doubt that it applies to the mass of fighters, whose primary concern is to get assistance wherever they can “even from the devil”.I suspect the only clear command figure in the FSA, Riad al-Assad probably has a similar view, and has in the past called for a “zone of safety”. One thing that is alway going to prevent militants from coming too much under the influence of imperialism is the issue of Palestine.
My worry is that a combination of the western powers, through holding out various military “carrots” and the external, middle class opposition (of which there are now several variants), will steer the armed internal opposition towards a “zone of safety” solution, which I see as a political trap.


Tony August 12, 2012 at 12:00 am

Perhaps it’s way more right for Syrians to rebel against the covert war that the US and Turkey, amongst many other nations, are waging against their current government, Fellow Marxists? The majority of marxists, even in the US!, are not supporting this war by OUR OWN US capitalist imperialist government against the government of another sovereign nation…. and one that is considered Third World at that.

See the latest news about this not so very covert war now… US, Turkey mull (continued covert military) action on Syria @


Brian S. August 12, 2012 at 9:16 am

Tony, my standard reply to comments like this in future is READ THE ICG REPORT. Once you’ve done that you might be worth having a conversation with. But if you choose to remain ill-informed then I choose to ignore you.


Aaron Aarons August 12, 2012 at 4:46 am

The country that real revolutionaries most want to destabilize and break up into little pieces is the United Snakes. When that is done, and a few of the lesser imperialist powers weakened, it will be possible to have real, anti-capitalist revolutions that won’t be crushed by imperialist invasion or economic strangulation.

Right now, any real, communist revolution that could (rather hypothetically) happen in, say, Syria, would be crushed by the U.S. and/or its clients. In fact, the best way to get the U.S. to bomb and/or invade Syria would be to create the impression that leftist revolutionaries were about to take power.

Amerika delenda est!


Brian S. August 12, 2012 at 7:11 am

You don’t seem to have noticed that the US is a declining global power – still has a lot of residual capacity left, but can’t behave in the same arrogant and unilateral way that it once did, or take on too many missions at once. The debacle of Iraq sealed that. I thought at the time, the one real victor from the Iraq war was Iran: because the US was never going to repeat that sort of adventure again. It may well harass Iran (air attacks are quite possible) but a full scale assault is not going to happen in this decade.
That’s the real reason for the shift in US behaviour, not some fantasy ideological conversion to fondness for “bourgeois democracy” that Arthur & Co claim to have found.


Arthur August 12, 2012 at 8:55 am

The fact that the US is the “last superpower” in the sense of lonely decline, rather than the “only superpower” as viewed by many others, is the key that led some of us to our analysis of US strategy post 9/11.

The decline was clear from the US defeat in Vietnam. That produced a situation where the Soviet Union became more of a threat than the US. When the Soviets overeached and collapsed instead of just declining, that did not make the US any more capable of waging aggressive wars like Vietnam.

Mobilization of the American people and others around the world to stop another Vietnam war would not have taken several years as with Vietnam but would have happened almost immediately. (In fact mere suspicion of such intentions, fed by the obvious lies about the war being to “disarm Sadaam” led to instant demonstrations twice as big as the biggest Vietnam era demonstrations, which faded away within a few weeks when it became obvious that it wasn’t going to be another Vietnam war).

Nixon went to a lot of trouble for “peace with honour” so that the stark reality of US defeat could be separated by a couple of years from the US agreement to withdraw. This had the intended psychological effect of reducing the impact. But it was simply absurd to imagine, after Vietnam, that the US was proposing to invade Iraq for the purpose of maintaining a puppet regime.

Belief in that fantasy resulted from not having grasped that US imperialism was in decline, together with bizarre acceptance of triumphalist right-wing propaganda about the collapse of the Soviet Union and East European police states being a defeat for the left (despite everyone even mildly progressive having hated those regimes when there was a mass based left movement from the 1960s).

Having adopted that fantasy, the actual reality of free elections being held and governments being formed from parties that had always been hostile to US imperialism led to a further fantasy that the US aim of setting up a puppet regime had been defeated by the resistance. That absurdity required a complete shutdown of any residual capacity for thought at all, let alone serious analysis. The mass murder attacks on the Iraqi people by jihadis and other fascists were simply converted into deaths inflicted by the US forces and the defeat of the resistance by the forces now governing Iraq was converted to defeat of the US in the heads of people who had given up on even glancing at, let alone analysing reality.

The comprehensive defeat of the “resistance” and subsequent withdrawal of US troops, leaving behind the first Arab democracy was described as a defeat by the US foreign policy establishment because they (correctly) regard the whole idea of destabilizing the region and bringing down the autocracies as the opposite of everything they had worked for on behalf of US imperialism throughout their careers.

That despairing mood of the US foreign policy establishment, reflected in the media, and combined with partisan hatred of the Bush administration from liberal Democrats, has deeply affected the thinking of people on the left.

That’s my explanation for only noticing the decline of US imperialism after Iraq instead of after Vietnam.

As for the consequence of decline, certainly it makes threats of war against Iran less than credible. Its also sufficient to explain the US not continuing to intervene against democratic transitions in Latin America.

But they could have simply stopped propping up the autocracies (as in Latin America). Actually invading Iraq was a major effort for a superpower in decline and requires some explanation.

The explanation is not “fondness for bourgeois democracy” (although for obvious reasons the bourgeois democracies are in fact rather fond of it). It was a vital strategic interest to end the situation where the Middle East had become a stagnant God infested swamp in which young men had little to dream of other than waging jihad against the USA.

It would have been hard to assemble any panel of middle east experts to advise on what to do after 9/11 who would not have advised “do the opposite of the criminally stupid policies you were following in the region for the past few decades” – and move fast because police measures against terrorists aren’t going to work while the region keeps breeding more jihadis.

The US has had significantly less capacity to act in an arrogant and unilateral way since it relied on Security Council approval and a huge coalition in support of removing Iraq from Kuwait.

The NATO air war against the Gaddafi regime paid only lip service to Security Council resolutions so Russia and China view it, not unreasonably, as arrogant and unilateral (in the sense of NATO multilateral instead of UN multilateral). NATO acted because it had a vital strategic interest in the Libyan people winning (especially because of the effect on the whole region, including Egypt, if they lost).

If Russia and China persist in “punishing” the Syrian people for NATO arrogance it will be necessary for NATO (in this case, primarily the US and Turkey) to act “unilaterally” again. US imperialism and others still do have a vital interest in the Arab spring not being rolled back and have already fully committed to defeat of the Assad regime.

The US would have to be nailed to its perch rather than merely in decline, for a Russian veto to prevent military action in support of vital US interests.

But how quickly it moves depends partly on public opinion in the US. Unless shamed from all sides of the spectrum they are likely to wait until AFTER much larger scale massacres that mobilize public support for action.

PS The foreign policy establishment’s wailings about Iran benefiting from the liberation of Iraq reflects preoccupations of the Saudi and Israeli lobbies rather than any reality. The US and Iran had common interests against both the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Baath regime in Iraq, which made it necessary for both sides to shout at each more angrily while actively collaborating. The real threat to the Iranian regime comes from having a democracy in the main world center of the Shia faith right next door. That undermines the whole ideological basis of the clerical regime in Iran (and the hostile Iranian activities in Iraq were directed against undermining that threat of democracy rather than from fears of US encirclement).


Brian S. August 12, 2012 at 10:44 am

Arthur: I find this analysis to be largely fantasy – I say largely because you’re an intelligent guy and there’s sometimes a kernel of sense even in your wilder assertions. But many of your judgements simply turn the facts upside down.
There are a lot of things that could be discussed here but you make it difficult because you present much of your argument if a very vague way. So you claim that a “small circle” within the Bush administration engineered a major reversal of US foreign policy in favour of promoting “bourgeois democracy” – but you offer no names. You have talked about reading the output of a large number of think tanks which convinced you that the security arguments for the Iraq war were a “smokescreen” for the real strategy- but you offer neither details nor even hints that might allow others to assess your conclusions.
The consensus of the numerous accounts of the Bush administrations war preparations is that strategic issues were the central concerns, and planning for post-conflict “democracy”a minor theme, marginalised in the policy process and poorly resourced. Bush only switched from the strategic to the democracy theme in his rhetoric when his strategic arguments started to fall apart: that was the real “smokescreen”.
Maybe you can challenge these accounts – but it will need to be based on more than your claim to some undocumented esoteric knowledge – you’ll need to put up some chapter and verse.


patrickm August 12, 2012 at 11:03 am

Brian: The argument over bourgeois democratic elections and what is unfolding in the Middle East goes back ten years. That’s when the ‘draining the swamp’ theory was first articulated in the build up to the war that was (without any doubt now) designed to remove Saddam Hussein from power AND destroy his whole Baathist dominated society. That goal WAS doubted by some at the start. But rather than drag people back as far as the beginning of the answer I want to get people back further to the question. I did this within the following thread when I first turned up at Kasama. The point is a tiny war cabinet really did develop a war strategy in answer to the foundation question how do we win this war thats just been declared ready or not?

The following is a sample from this very detailed thread (a thread that people will undoubtedly find very challenging, but just can’t avoid, issue wise, and it is a concentrated collection of those issues) if we are now to really debate a call for war alongside extremely unreliable allies to further the interests of a revolution in Syria. I realize that this call is a HUGE leap for people who have just walked away from being anti-war activists.

patrickm said June 9, 2008 at 2:16 am

My reply is that if you cannot unite with bourgeois forces to liberate the masses from the tyranny of Baathism, Al Qaeda, and Shia death squads then you are not worth a tinkers cuss as a revolutionary democrat.

Comments Says: June 8, 2008 at 4:03 pm is just a garden variety conservative reactionary but note the leftist phrasing as he abandons all concepts of progressive politics and democracy. Years ago we use to call this junk left in form but right in essence. Today it is widespread in what parades itself around as left wing. The correct expression for it is pseudo left wafll.

“I confess that I am myself wrestling with the question of how to depict the regime technically in power in Baghdad.”
No you are not. You are just finding long winded ways to tell what amounts to lies about the Iraqi politicians. MILLIONS of people turned out to vote, and then to Vote, and then to Vote again! That’s what happens when people are liberated! And just as U.S. voters are going to turn out to vote for people who claim to believe in God, they are doing the same in Iraq, and only a racist would complain about the liberated Iraqi people being at that stage of political and philosophical development.

My argument against Chomsky remains un-refuted.

But let me go much further and attack anyone who thinks that they can claim the title of progressive or revolutionary communist, while they do not address what is to be done in the wake of 9/11.

Bush is no lefty because he is waging this war in the interests of his class, and it is only incidentally in the interests of the oppressed peoples’ in the Middle East.

He has become a progressive-right-winger because history thrust greatness upon him. He asked the big questions that had to be asked, after 9/11.

The idea that the U.S. could be acting in the interests of the oppressed (try to remember WW2) is outside of your thinking. 60 years of rotten to the core policies in the Middle East, ended in defeat on 9/11. The left always said these rotten policies would have to be junked and they now have been.

You ought to know that other people claiming to stand on the left of politics have made arguments for waging war against the Baathist tyranny in Iraq, and continuing that fight against the Jihadists, and Shia death squads, just as you are also familiar with the work of Christopher Hitchens.

So let’s try an exercise – Advise the U.S. President the day after 9/11.

This is my speculated U.S. war cabinet meeting after 9/11, a question from the President.
What more can they do to us?
…Well, Mr. President they will, if not stopped, eventually get hold of a nuke and destroy Washington or some other city.
Now this cannot be known for certain but any President dealing with the reality of 9/11 would have had to consider this worst case scenario as a distinct possibility, and would be obliged to ask the following question.

What strategy must we adopt to defeat them?
To this question I would have replied. –
Mr. President we must set down policies to turn every country in the world into a modern (bourgeois) democracy. If all countries look, and smell like Sweden and France, we will have won.

The world needs sewerage systems for the smell, and industrialization for the sewerage systems; it needs education for the industrialization, and it needs basic bourgeois political freedoms to permit the education…

We must stop doing what we have been doing for the whole post WW2 period. We must reverse all our old policies.

These mosquitoes are attacking us because we caused a swamp in the Middle East which breeds them!
We must drain that swamp, and then there will be no more mosquitoes.
Mr. President there is no other way of winning this war….
(At least that is what I would have said if I was in the war cabinet).

Note this is not saying that the U.S. must go from country to country overthrowing the local tyrants, but rather to establish policies different to the rotten ones that they were following in the past of propping up the tyrants and opposing the democratic development of the masses throughout the world.

Without a doubt there needed to be a war cabinet formed after 9/11 and all the old junk U.S. policies dumped! They have been ditched and good riddance.

Now, given that you oppose the attacks of 9/11 undertaken by Saudis; Egyptians; and others from various countries in the Middle East, what would you have told the President? (Bush)

The old policies of the U.S. were to keep the Sunni minority under Saddam in power rather than risk the Shia 60% majority and the 20% Kurds running their own lives in a federal democratic republic, where Islamists would be the largest political parties for a long time to come. So though they were encouraged to revolt, they were sold out to be slaughtered by the Baathists, when the Baathists were appropriately driven out of Kuwait.

What I am saying is that the biggest opponent of the real trend to bourgeois democratic revolution worldwide has been since WW2 the USA. Under the so called ‘realist’ policies of the likes of that untried war criminal Kissinger, they have all this time been blocking progress, and consequently built up hatred against them globally. Sadly, the honourable U.S. soldiers of WW2 gave way to the hated oppressors of Indochina and everywhere else they trampled.

So, given you claim to be some sort of leftist yourself. You tell me what’s wrong with what I have said and then I will tell you why Iraq was, and remains along with Palestine, the key to kicking off this revolution that was and is being suppressed across the whole region.

I am saying the goal is nothing less than region change and that this represents a 180 reversal of former U.S. policies that was about stability and the suppression of communists and other democrats.
Now perhaps that is clear enough for a reasoned response.

A full and serious debate is now I believe possible where it was not four years ago. my full track record as a commentator at Kasama as above (where curiously this Chomsky thread does not show up) constitutes a full argument in 2008. It’s the argument that was required last year over Libya. It’s the argument that is thrown at us from off our TV screens right now.

It is obvious that people here at TNS are just being exposed to these arguments and it would be wise to dig a bit deeper before rejecting the possibility that people like me and Arthur (who didn’t miss a beat when calling for and expecting the air-war against the forces of the Libyan tyranny last year) may have thought some issues through and got them right some time ago.

Mike Ely and co are looking SO sad and isolated over Syria precisely because they don’t know how to debate. They just don’t get it. The concept of ‘let a hundred flowers blossom, let a hundred schools of thought contend’ is in their view only to trap the enemy and close the school down. That is all wrong!

Tracking the debate back to when the issue was all about Iraq and the current developments were predicted by one side and dismissed as ludicrous by the other could well be a quick method of working through fundamental issues that confront leftists over Syria right now.


Brian S. August 12, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Patrick : this just unnderwrites my contention that your views are fantasies: I ask for details of the sources that led you to the conclusion that US policy has been oriented to the spread of “bourgeois democracy” for the last decade or so, and in response you serve up a fantasy account of you advising the US President. I’m all for a little comic relief in these otherwise sombre discussions: but you don’t offer anything more than this fantasy!
OK: you’re going to make me work to get to solid land. Here’s where I’ve got so far. “Draining the swamp” is a metaphor that’s been around a long time, and is used in a variety of ways. (Clearly Chomsky’s use is quite different to yours, but let’s leave that for another day.) In this context it seems to have been first used by Donald Rumsfeld a week after 9/11:
and is reprised by Paul Wolfowitz 10 days later when addressing NATO.So I guess we’ve identified two of your “small group” of farsighted policy makers. And by inference one of your “think tanks” in Project for a New American Century (although Arthur did promise me a long list of these, so I’m disappointed )
Let’s open the box and see what’s inside: Rumsfeld – not much mention of “democracy” (bourgeois or other wise – indeed no mention at all. His “swamp” isn’t the cluster of repressive dictatorships that you talk about, but the network of rogue states and nongovernmental organisations that make up the “swamp” in which “terrorists” live. And his “draining” doesn’t involve the sponsorship of “democracy” but the display of massive US military power to whip all these pesky foreigners back into line. And Paul Wolfowitz ? Ditto. Just bluster about American military might – not a single new note in this very old song. But maybe I’ve got the wrong two guys? Is it someone else you had in mind?


patrickm August 13, 2012 at 6:18 am

Brian: No source led me to the conclusion but rather discussions with other mere mortals and particularly questions directed at anti-war activists that revealed an inability to even contemplate the need for such questions. Nobody that I challenged seemed to even grasp that what they were saying about oil was not even possible! It stayed that way for years but probably isn’t now. Now the grab for oil failed I suppose. see this thread on oil

Quorri said
July 30, 2008 at 11:31 am

I appreciate that you post was all a lot more clearly put. Thanks.
Just a question, why do you want me to pretend to advise a president I don’t support, in charge of a political structure I want destroyed, about an act I think he either allowed to happen or specifically helped devise and enact??? Can we say Pearl Harbor, Gulf of Tonkin??

They just don’t get the whole process of working anything out so running a thought process falls at the first hurdle and they bleat like AA below; “why’. They end up as or are happy to be with truther types unable to follow reality. If you call them to order for being so foolish well…

Anyway back in 2002-3, I drew the conclusions and gave support to the liberation because of the logically inevitable strategic consequences of those real actions (set in train by another tiny group of mere mortals with all their flaws in the U.S. ruling-elite backed up other ruling-elites that just aren’t anyones puppets) and we stand where we do today reviewing the reality that unfolded. Iraq is independent and it holds regular meaningfull elections and so forth. We thought this liberation would set off a region wide revolution for the same bourgeois democratic rights and we have not been disproved by events.

But I can point to a speech later that has confirmed the original independent analysis of what was the ruling-elite were up to in the U.S ruling class interests.

The fact is that the U.S. was attacked and a war was thus off and running (Mike Ely at the time -see above- thought it was a chance to grab oil pipe lines for christs sakes). I think it was possible to work out the correct strategic response to the attack from many POV’s. Chomsky called the attacks blow-back for all the rotten policies that the U.S. had pushed in the swamp of the Middle East since WW2 and I agree that those attacks were just that. Therefore both Chomsky and people like me are in agreement. Do you disagree that the attacks were blow back?

Now Chomsky was prepared to openly say what had to be done about it, and essentially I agree with him that all the old policies brought on the hatred. If you agree with this as well do you agree that the old policies of the Kissenger style realists had to be dumped if the ruling-elite were not to make the situation even worse? Now here goes…

‘For 60 years, the United States pursued stability at the expense of democracy in the Middle East — and we achieved neither.

Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people.’

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speaking at the American University in Cairo. June 20, 2005.

That’s what we said was happening BEFORE the war of liberation was launched when we had no evidence OTHER than their actions and our analysis of what would flow from these actions at this time in history. The events (with all the tactical level ups and downs) have come to pass. Others who had complete delusions about the residual power of the last lonely superpower concluded that this was a grab for Middle Eastern oil, and now say that it failed! But look last year at the ranting over Libya.

Old policies were, we said, being dumped and Rice made that clear to Mubarak’s face!

Unless you are prepared to make an alternate argument about what is required of the strategic situation – at that level of government – you are just running from debate. Mike Ely ran from a debate on the issue of the ruling-elite of newly independent countries ‘looking for new masters’. They don’t look for new masters and that type of thinking is junk. It is also tolerated and common in the still shrinking anti-war club.

No member of the tiny U.S. ruling-elite that took the critical decisions came out with a memo at the time saying ‘Now we are taking a different course.’ But they did take a different course.

Before the war you no doubt formed a view on what would happen and placed it on record. John Pilger named the General that would be installed! He was completly wrong. Chomsky admitted that he got it wrong. BUT he still thinks Bush got it wrong and that’s why he got it wrong! (So it was never his mistake) is where you can find that issue dealt with comprehensively.

Mubarak was not the only person who was slapped in the face by this speech. Tell us what your prediction was before the war. Did you expect the free and fair elections? Didn’t you hear all the leftist attempting to deny that they were free and fair?

Just listen to her speech. I bet Mubarak wishes he had listened! The leaders of Israel were listening very hard and they did not like it one little bit!

Let us face it Leftists weren’t listening because people thought they already knew that it would be just the same old same old. But this is not the policies of Kissinger and everybody now knows seven years later that the U.S. ruling -elite changed course. There are consequences when you change a policy right at the top.

Many Leftists just heard the opening polite remarks and then switched off. They didn’t hear the speech. If you listen to or read it now, when we Left’s have the experience of Egypt and Libya fresh in our mind, the speech means something different than it would have done to Chomsky’s ears back when it was given.

Leftists who are considering how to prosecute war on the Assad tyranny must consider how to include the imperialist military forces. Obama is able to deliver AND is now delivering in a very minor way. Leftists have to consider if Rice was setting out a new direction or not. Mike Ely says she is not but has never even presented this speech for analysis. Mike tolerates endless assertion that the revolutionaries are not, and that Assad is not a tyrant etc.. But (Thankfully) no one is listening to Mike ELY. I think the masses are looking for military action. I think they are sick of watching this and want the rebels assisted. They now know that when it’s all over there will be some sort of vote; and then the next cab off the rank will see the peoples’ on the streets because this is ongoing,rolling region change.

The Syrian revolutionaries of the FSA, as was the case of the Libyan revolutionaries last year, want intervention of air-power; weapons; more training;and Turkish reinforcements; and mobile warfare capacity; and so on NOW.

Western revolutionaries ought to draw the conclusion that as in WW2 it is vital for the revolution to have the armed intervention of those that are armed and can intervene. We must not just go quiet while it is done as some would have it done perfectly. We must call loudest for it to be done! Like last year in Libya! If Leftists are not leading this call what possible communist credentials would remain- other than the discredited opposition to united front politics and the consequent utter isolation from the masses of the Trotskyists of WW2!

Those that oppose assistance for the revolution in Syria should be debated as Binh has at Kasama, but it quickly becomes a strange debate and requires constant refocus and can’t help but bring up attitudes to other wars. We will have to walk and chew gum.


Aaron Aarons August 15, 2012 at 5:41 am

You want the imperialists (the U.S. and, presumably, those allied to it) to avoid being seen to be doing things that earn the hatred of the mass of people around the world. But the U.S. and its allies are the main, though not only, bloodsuckers of the planet, and our job, as leftists, is to expose that and to increase the hatred against them, but in a communist direction.

Unfortunately, the imperialists have gotten good at allowing the creation of “democratic” governments that are so hemmed in by international finance capital that almost nothing they might actually be able to do can really hurt the imperialists, unless they are willing to go against the wishes of the more privileged portion of their own population, and, to some extent, of less privileged portions that may nevertheless be afraid of the suffering that imperialism can impose on them. That is why a government that fights imperialism where and while imperialism is powerful cannot be bourgeois-democratic. (A historical example is the 1990 election in Nicaragua that the Sandanistas wrongly failed to postpone until the end of the Contra war.)


Aaron Aarons August 13, 2012 at 2:46 am

I think Mike Ely is much too open to publishing, on his own web site, whole articles by promoters of the world-threatening cancer called imperialist capitalism. We may have to debate these poisonous weeds on their own web sites, but the discussions on Kasama and other purportedly communist or revolutionary web sites should be on how, not whether, to fight imperialism. The only kind of debate needed with supporters of U.S. imperialism now is the kind of debate needed 75 years ago with those who united with the German defenders of ‘Western Civilization’ against ‘Eastern barbarism’.


Aaron Aarons August 13, 2012 at 2:50 am

patrickm writes: “So let’s try an exercise – Advise the U.S. President the day after 9/11.”

Why in the world would anybody who claims to be a leftist or communist want to advise the chief executive of the main enemy of humanity on anything?


Aaron Aarons August 18, 2012 at 6:24 am

“Now, given that you oppose the attacks of 9/11 undertaken by Saudis; Egyptians; and others from various countries in the Middle East, what would you have told the President? (Bush)”

I know the question wasn’t directed to me, but I will answer it anyway:

1) About the only thing I would wanted to tell Bush would have been something to the effect of “What are your last words before we execute you?”

2) On the one-year anniversary of the attacks, during a patriot-dominated commemoration at U.C. Berkeley, I carried a sign that said, “Hundreds of innocent people died for what ‘America’ had coming”. (At that time, I hadn’t yet developed strong suspicions that the attacks were a false-flag operation.)

3) I would tell people who are thinking of attacking the Empire or its allies (e.g. England, Spain) on their home turf:
a) “Please choose your targets carefully, and, as much as possible, avoid harming people who are not intentionally your enemies.”

b) “Make it clear why your are attacking, so that the imperialist media don’t get to define who you are and why you did what you did.”


Arthur August 12, 2012 at 5:11 pm

Brian, I strongly urge others read the Chomsky exchange as you have and to follow the links and references from it as you haven’t.

Relax about turning the facts upside down. The facts people thiought they knew about Iraq have not turned out to be consistent with what’s been happening since with US encouragement of the Arab spring and active intervention in Libya and Syria. Its much easier for me since I don’t have to reach the conclusion that most of what I thought were facts previously were wrong. In taking this debate seriously you need to entertain that possibility without complaining about it.

I wouldn’t have thought it was controversial to say that the stuff about WMDs, which completely dominated the public discourse in the lead up to the war, was a “smokescreen” concealing the real issues. Others concluded that what lay behind it was was a plan to steal Iraq’s oil etc. That was pure fantasy not the result of trying to understand what really motivated the war.

The Bush speech I mentioned is very well known (because it announced a quite different direction immediately before the invasion) and easy to find:

The fact that the Bush adinistration policies were supported by a very narrow circle (often described as “neocons”) and resisted from the CIA, State Department (including Secretary Powell), JCS and other parts of Foreign Policy establishment as well as media and Democrats is not controversial. Identifying names is not important. Bush and Wolfowitz have already been mentioned. I agree that Rumsfeld (and Cheney) while clearly leaders of the larger war party were not closely associated with an agenda for regional transformation towards democracy (rather identified with the goal of preventing WMD use against US after 9/11 and immediate targets, leaving long term strategy to others). But “Wolfowitz of Arabia” was much central to the “region change” camp (and close to Hitchens).

Two advisors worth identifying were Fouad Amaji, a Shia academic and Reul Marc Gerecht ex-CIA from American Enterprise Institute. The Chomsky exchange also mentions and provides a link to the views of Clinton’s CIA Director, James Woolsey.

BTW the “drain the swamps” phrase traces back much earlier to the Israeli intelligence guy quoted approvingly by Chomsky in the article that exchange referred to (see both Chomsky’s original article and the reply to it linked in the correspondence).

Gerech’t (later) book “The Islamic Paradox” is particularly important for understanding the relaxed attitude now being taken towards the reality that displacing the autocrats in Sunni countries has immediately and inevitably resulted in the rise of Sunni islamists and fundamentals to power. They weren’t that relaxed about it after Hamas won Palestinian elections and its still the major basis for hostility from both foreign policy establishment and pseudo-left so its even more important background for the current situation than the ICG reports.

Study it as essential background in the same sense as the recent ICG report on Syria.

Most of what I studied was from reading between the lines in think tank reports opposing the neocons – eg Brookings Institute et al (and from independent of analysis of the background reality and what they could not be trying to do and consequently what they would have to do whether they knew or said it or not).

“The consensus of the numerous accounts of the Bush administrations war preparations is that strategic issues were the central concerns, and planning for post-conflict “democracy”a minor theme, marginalised in the policy process and poorly resourced. Bush only switched from the strategic to the democracy theme in his rhetoric when his strategic arguments started to fall apart: that was the real “smokescreen”.”

That is correct. There was virtually no support for the concept of post-conflict democracy outside a very narrow circle. Their assumption (which went together with resisting or doubting the wisdom of the war) was that it would be “business as usual” and rely heavily on the existing regime to keep things going with just Sadaam and few cronies removed from the tap. That was neatly turned into a successful disinformation campaign to the effect that the US merely wished to “disarm Sadaam”, calling on other Baath generals to assassinate him and avoid war etc. That resulted in negligible resistance and rapid surrender during the actual invasion. Only AFTER the invasion and AFTER the initial civil administration team led by Jay Garner focussed on avoiding various potential humanitarian catastrophes was Bremer sent in with order number 1 and order number 2 (dissolve Baath and dissolve its army, decapitating Iraqi state). That was a closely held secret which made other planning irrelevant since such plans inevitably had to rely on the existing bureaucracy and security services dominated by Baathists.

The point is you can’t plan a puppet regime but you can’t “plan” democracy. Although they certainly made numerous blunders, complaints about the lack of planning for post-war governance of Iraq were essentially complaints that the US correctly saw this as up to the Iraqis. (Who were less capable of stepping up to the job quickly than expected as a result of the decades of butalization under a fascist regime).

I don’t think even Tommy Franks really understood the policy, but just followed orders to invade Iraq and was then quickly replaced as CENTCOM commander by John Abizaid who I think did get it.

A key fact to grasp about both the internal and public debate is that left or liberal concerns were completely irrelevant to it. The problem was how to launch a war that went against the grain of all the wisdom of the US foreign policy establishment. There was no possibility of getting funding for a war to reverse US poliicy by destabilizing the region through Cogress (traditional Republican isolationism and conservatism alone would have stopped it, even without the inevitable hysteria from Saudi and Israeli lobbies). There was no threat from the left and pseudo-left opposition only helped sell the war to conservative Republicans who were the only people who could stop it.

So apart from that one speech immediately before the invasion. The overwhelming bulk of what Bush said was “Sadaam must disarm” combined with patriotic and religious appeals bound to appeal only to the right and actively annoy liberals. When the WMDs excuse for the war was exposed as a lie it made it easy not to bother listening to “subsequent” explanations about a strategy for region change.

Nevertheless as you see the results unfolding and face the reality that even the subsequent administration is siding with that process of region change rather than opposing it, there’s no way to coherently maintain the wrong conclusions arrived at earlier about what they were really up to in invading Iraq. The fact that Bush was lying about WMDs should not have been much of a surprise and should not inhibit analysing what actually did result from the invasion of Iraq. It certainly wasn’t stolen oil.


Arthur August 12, 2012 at 5:14 pm

PS Sorry, I intended to include the link to the Bush speech that was easy to find:


Arthur August 12, 2012 at 5:20 pm

PPS typo: Point is you CAN plan a puppet regime, but you can’t plan democracy.


Aaron Aarons August 13, 2012 at 3:12 am

The reason Bush and the neo-cons were able to push support for the war against Iraq through Congress was the power of the Israel lobby in that body and in the media. The Zionists were not the only influential people in the U.S. who wanted that war (e.g., the war-industry capitalists never met a war they didn’t like) but the war would not have happened without them. They wanted to get rid of an obstacle to expansion of Israeli power, and they did, though they strengthened another obstacle, Iran, which is why they are now clamoring for war against that country, and, until that is possible, economic strangulation.


Brian S. August 13, 2012 at 11:23 am

Its obvious why Chomsky was so mystified by your letter: his concept of “draining the swamp” is
addressing “the social, political, and economic conditions that spawned Al Qaeda”. The Bush administration’s is the use of US military might to destroy the “governments and nongovernmental organizations” that they claim are supporting terrorism. In other words, Chomsky’s is a social (and socialist) concept of how to address the problem; the Cheney/ Wolfowitz version is an imperialist and militaristic one. Strangely, you opt for the latter.
I repeat what I said before: there is no evidence that the objective of “promoting democracy” played any significant role in administration thinking or planning.The division in the administration was not between traditional US policy and the advocates of a new focus on “democracy”: it was the ubiquitous division between military “doves” and hawks”: with the neocons seeking a military destruction of the Iraqi regime on security and and national interest grounds. You yourself note Bush’s very late adoption of the “democracy” rhetoric – that’s because it had played no role in administration thinking until the war was a done deal; unfortunately by then the WMD narrative was falling apart and they had to find another fig leaf for their policy. It was the talk of “democracy” that constituted a “smokescreen”.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 13, 2012 at 11:36 am

They seem to forget that Shia clerics around Ayatollah Sistani had to push and fight the U.S. occupation for the 2005 elections that inaugurated the bastardized death-squad heavy “bourgeois democracy” they hail as some sort of great achievement. Following Hitchens, they only see the Kurdish question in Iraq (which had revolutionary aspects to it) and try to draw a straight line from their support for the U.S. government’s (failed) recolonization effort in Iraq to Libyan and Syrian revolutionaries begging the imperialist West to bomb counter-revolutionaries to avoid extermination. Those they deride as simplistic pseudo-lefts at least got it mostly right on Iraq in ’03 whereas now they are mostly wrong on Libya and Syria which is a much different and more complicated situation, seeing as it’s a mass-based revolution and all.


Arthur August 13, 2012 at 6:09 pm

You are simultaneously admitting that the elections were held, claiming that they were obtained only by fighting for them, and suggesting that they were no great achievement.

This is a leftover of the same sort of cognitive dissonance one sees these days over Syria.

The US did try to limit the elections to a form that would ensure a much larger Sunni representation than their 20% of the population and was forced to agree to full proportional representation by massive Shia protests. Subsequently the Sunnis overhwelmingly boycotted the first elections and things got very close to civil war – with mass murder bombings of Shia and death squads targeting Sunnis. I don’t know whether things would have been less bloody if Sistani had not insisted, Either way the simple fact is that holding free elections and leaving when the elected government asked them to is exactly opposite to everything claimed then by the same people who are pathetically trying to mobilize against assistance to the Syrian revolution now.

You are convinced that the pseudos “at least got it mostly right on Iraq in ’03 whereas now they are mostly wrong on Libya and Syria”.

You ought to at least find that surprising since you have understood how little connection there is between anything they say about Syria now and any actual reality.

Of course it is logically possible for people who engage in sickening apologetics for a fascist tyrant in 2012 to have got things mostly right about Iraq in 2003.

But your willingness to believe that seems more likely to be the result of you having got it wrong yourself in 2003 and not yet thought it through.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 14, 2012 at 9:45 am

“You ought to at least find that surprising since you have understood how little connection there is between anything they say about Syria now and any actual reality.”

A broken clock is right at least twice a day, so it’s no surprise the “pseudos” are right now and again. The problem is that they don’t have a solid political method underpinning their analysis and slogans beyond repeating things they have memorized.


patrickm August 14, 2012 at 8:47 am

Binh : you have made 4 points and they all deserve a full response and then we can put them to bed.

‘They seem to forget that Shia clerics around Ayatollah Sistani had to push and fight the U.S. occupation for the 2005 elections that inaugurated the bastardised death-squad heavy “bourgeois democracy” they hail as some sort of great achievement.’

I wrote the following to attempt to comprehensively address this point as it was deceptively put by “hands off Chomsky”, a sort of ‘figurehead’ leader who is I think a little quiet about Syria, but spoke out in the same old, same old way over the ‘NFZ’ war re: Libya. Here is that post;.

“Then Chomsky stoops to outright deception. He starts out agreeing that the elections are an important milestone event, then pulls a subtle word switch in order to maintain the ridiculously improbable notion that any democratic outcome was not the U.S. Government’s intention all along.

Andy Clark:…After the vote, the President has called the elections an important milestone. Professor Chomsky, how do you see the elections? Do you see them as an important milestone for Iraq?

Noam Chomsky: Actually I do, but before talking about that, I should just bring up a kind of a truism. No rational person pays the slightest attention to declarations of benign intent on the part of leaders, no matter who they are. And the reason is they’re completely predictable, including the worst monsters, Stalin, Hitler the rest.’

What he [Chomsky] would have us believe is that the U.S. ruling-elite under the leadership of such as Paul Wolfowitz were attempting in the 21st Century to;

‘…The US tried, in every possible way, to prevent elections in Iraq. They offered effort after effort to evade the danger of elections. Finally, they were compelled to accept elections by mass non-violent resistance, for which the Ayatollah Sistani was a kind of a symbol. Mass outpourings of people demanding elections. Finally, Bush and Blair had to agree to elections. The next step is to subvert them and they started immediately. They’re doing it right now. Elections mean you pay some – in a democracy at least – you pay some attention to the will of the population. Well, the crucial question for an invading army is: ‘do they want us to be here?’…

Andy Clark: But isn’t this the start of a process that could see the occupying troops from America and Britain leaving? We’ve seen an awful lot of Iraqis taking part in the elections, two thirds, we’re told. The turnout was quite high…

Noam Chomsky: But hold on a second, … Now of course, there’s a conflict, the Iraqis have forced the occupying powers to allow some kind of electoral process. What the occupying powers are doing now is perfectly clear and very familiar, very familiar. … The way they want it to work – standard procedure – you want the local forces to run their own countries, so … the US-run state terrorist forces are the military, the civilians are local, and the US is in the background. If anything goes wrong, they move in, the same with the British in India, the same with the Japanese in South Korea.

Andy Clark: So you see this is a step to set up a sort of puppet government and not something that’s really representative of ordinary Iraqis?

Noam Chomsky: That’s what they are trying to do, but there’s always a conflict about that. Many of the Western backed or Russian or Eastern or other backed tyrants rose up. However, it is as clear as a bell that the US, and Britain behind it, are doing everything they can to prevent a sovereign, more or less democratic Iraq.’

So, Chomsky is saying that the U.S. went into a country with the intention of putting puppets in place, but, presumably, forgot how. Like, they had never done it before??

This is not analysis, this is a pseudo-analysis from a Leftist that is now deeply mired in pseudo-leftism and who can no longer tell the real article from the shoddy fraud.

When you get it wrong as he admitted, you ought to pause to think; why did this error of analysis happen? But Chomsky dares not pause to genuinely analyse his errors, he rushes on with the explanation that the Bush Administration are incompetent imperialists. He is insisting that it was really the Neo-Cons that got it wrong, by not doing what all competent imperialists do; he apparently only got it wrong because they did so; and it’s not his error at all!

Anything but face up to the policy change that is now being implemented while Chomsky calls black, white. He did not spot it coming before the war unlike other analysts and he would not debate the issues when the analysis was pointed out to him. To him it was just an absurd unworthy theory. He thought he didn’t have to think about any new issues but now reality is catching up and he is forced to think about the issues.

If the U.S. imperialists did not intend to install puppets after the Baathists were overthrown, and the Iraqi army disbanded then they were left with precisely what options? To honestly pose the question is to answer it.

Contrary to the Chomsky view, the liberating Coalition wanted an election right from the start, and they could not possibly not have wanted one in this day and age. The only debate was what type of democratic election. The U.S. elite sought alternatives that empowered the other sections of the Iraqi population to a disproportionate extent, at the expense (necessarily) of the Shia majority. They were told NO, by Sistani who then called for a demonstration of resolve and the matter was thus decided.

Chomsky’s [and Binh’s] version is a fairy tale. The rest of the world would not have tolerated the U.S. preventing Iraqi elections and everybody ought to have known this. The U.S. ruling-elite most assuredly did.

The only question was what was to be the method for the election. This is why there is deliberate distortion by Chomsky, because he understands that if they did not do what he thought they would do and ‘install a stable client regime’, then the outcome would be determined by the Iraqi people’s in AN election process.

Now we can ask a question again and this time hope to get a genuine answer based on what the Iraqi people think elections mean.

‘Do you see them as an important milestone for Iraq?
Noam Chomsky: Actually I do’

Actually he does not see them as an important milestone in a genuine sense; to note the milestone properly is to take those elected seriously and to give honour to those who have enabled their election. Chomsky does neither and instead gives comfort to the enemy.

* The Iraqi election has ended the old war, irrespective of how it started and begun the new war. This war is deserving of support from all democrats, all leftists and all progressives world-wide.’

Answering that point years ago clears up the issue now when people are claiming that the U.S. was defeated! The fantasy was easy to expose because all serious analysts knew that elections would be held and that the type of political forces that were elected would be.

The exact type of election was an issue of mild political struggle. That there was to be an election was not! BUT pre-the-liberation John Pilger told us who was going to be installed and Noam Chomsky? Well let him speak from the past because as I said…

‘Chomsky then admits to having got it wrong about what the U.S. government intended for Iraq at the time of the invasion.

Andy Clark: “With the war in Iraq, it seems we are viewing the US’s engagement in some bold, in your face, strategic geopolitical chess. In your opinion, what is the US’s next likely international move?”

Noam Chomsky: My own guess frankly, was that the invasion of Iraq would be over in about three days and that the US would install a stable client regime. It should have been one of the easiest military victories in history. But they did turn it into a catastrophe. My guess back at that time was that the next place the US would move would be the Andes in the Western Hemisphere.”

This is not only admitting that he didn’t have a clue that this was not business-as-usual, but that the experienced imperialists didn’t even know how to do the old policy. (that the U.S. had been following since WW2)

Chomsky gave example after example of how it is done and then he says the Bush Administration bungled it.

Chomsky, unbelievably does not concede even the possibility that the U.S. is following a different policy he just blurts out that they blew it and turned what should have been a cake-walk, into a ‘catastrophe!’ This admission comes up about halfway through the interview after he has gone beyond mere foolishness to ‘explain’ the real reason for the war by no more than chanting the believers mantra;

‘I mean, let’s be serious. Of course it’s oil.’

Oil was at the foundation of the anti-war thinking so it was virtually a wall to wall view that puppets would be installed. Anyone who before the war said this was not possible could not get a respectful hearing within the activist movement. With the collapse of that reasoning and the desperate retreat to the failed war explanation people usually just shut up about oil. It was still the first stop argument for Libya and then disappeared at twice the speed but now over Syria the debate is off and running almost without a barrel of oil in sight.

After Libya it is becoming more widely understood that the installation of puppets is not possible and that there will be meaningful elections in the countries of the entire region because that is what the revolution is all about. That is now perfectly clear in the case of Syria! It is an issue that now MUST be avoided by the dishonest pseudo-left, but it was not avoided before Iraq was liberated. It was by most just dismissed as an unworthy argument but it still was argued at length and we have had the actual practice to confirm who won the argument.

I think that Binh now argues that elections will come to Syria earlier and less costly for the revolution provided the revolutionaries are assisted by the imperialists especially those that run Turkey and the U.S. These outsiders could not install puppets in Syria after the intervention even if they wanted too. The Euro, British, Australian ruling-elites are not U.S. puppets and neither are the Turks, and as we have seen neither are the Libyans or Egyptians. This is not the U.S. superpower in contention with the Russian almost superpower and trying to engage in the ‘recolonization’ of anywhere. They could not even bring Syria into some U.S. economic orbit etc.. The Libyans and the Syrians will be just as independent as the Egyptian and Iraqi governments and we all ought to hope that their constitutional arrangements are as good as those in Iraq because so far there is none that’s better in the region!

Binh says;
‘Following Hitchens, they only see the Kurdish question in Iraq (which had revolutionary aspects to it) and try to draw a straight line from their support for the U.S. government’s (failed) recolonization effort in Iraq to Libyan and Syrian revolutionaries begging the imperialist West to bomb counter-revolutionaries to avoid extermination.’

The obvious point is that there was no ‘ recolonization effort’ because it was not possible! So it did not fail! If they wanted to pointlessly try something they could not even achieve from the 1940-50’s effort (and that’s when it started) in Vietnam and had to have the point proved to them over 20 years of trying against an inevitable war for national liberation, then they would have done what the great Noam Chomsky thought they would do all these years later and install puppets.

Even he had to admit to getting it wrong but because he would not hound his error to the next stage it reoccurs later over Libya and finally collapses in a transparent JOKE over Syria. He is wrong now because he’s been wrong for years!

The Shia in Iraq did rise up when Bush the elder called on them to go for it! They were not going to do that again! BUT when Saddam was driven out by the COW who do people think were now able to demonstrate in vast numbers over what the type of elections would be. They did not demonstrate under Saddam for very good reasons. What is happening in Syria is only an indication of what Saddam was set up to do and fully capable of doing. He did it without hesitation in Halabja. There is a very good reason that Sistani called demonstrations of resolve to settle the negotiations over the exact type of election when he did. He never called the masses out when Saddam was around but they always wanted the same elections!

Binh about 60% of the Iraqi peoples’ are Shia Arabs. How could we have only seen the Kurdish question? Bush senior sold out these brave people when he called on them to rise up at the time of the liberation of Kuwait and when they rose were abandoned and slaughtered by the Baathists because of the deliberate abandonment of the f…ing U.S. realists and their rotten to the core policies. The Shia obviously wanted to be free of Saddam’s tyranny but were unable to (and unwilling to be slaughtered yet again). Get it clear; the Shia were liberated by having the Baathist army destroyed for them, every bit as much as the Libyans were liberated with the air war and the Syrians will be liberated with all the help that they receive.

As for the remaining 20% Sunni they have had their privileged position upset but it was overwhelmingly non existent privileges. The Sunni people face the 99% against the 1% reality. All democratically minded Sunni were also liberated! The others had to be fought in the same manner as South Africa privilege had to end. Incidentally the system of elections in Iraq are modeled on the post apartheid system in SA.

Binh; you say ‘Those they deride as simplistic pseudo-lefts at least got it mostly right on Iraq in ’03 whereas now they are mostly wrong on Libya and Syria which is a much different and more complicated situation, seeing as it’s a mass-based revolution and all.’

The mass-based revolution in Iraq is different to Syria but it’s just as massed based.

Try to imagine what it would be like if it were the Bathists in Iraq that were running their side of the struggle from the front foot of not having all their air power destroyed and all their capacity for mobile warfare etc.. That is now what you want removed from the Syrian tyranny by anyone that’s able. The hands off brigade can easily point out that that’s not going to be the end of this.

Binh, you understand that the stained finger elections will result in the end and you understand that Syrian political forces that are prepared to live under the new arrangements will come to struggle in that new Syria while others who aren’t prepared to do that will continue to blow people for years to come. Your opponents will point out that the contesting forces in Syria will be just as complicated when inaugurated and carry on for years as the bastardized death-squad heavy bourgeois democracy that I hail as some sort of great achievement in Iraq. It will be very difficult to tell the difference between the two countries.

There will come a time when the currently under siege and very impure democratic revolutionaries in Syria will have to overrun the Alawite enclave where the Assad loyalists will claim to be striking out for their independence. People will argue at that time that the enclave does not have to be defeated and can be left alone to go its own (fascist) way. It can’t be left and the battles are probably going to resemble the battle for Fallujah.

Also remember at present there are on our side some real bad elements that will take advantage and go in for their usual sect based slaughter as well – we have seen their carry on for years in Iraq so the fight will be on two fronts in Syria as well.

IMV this is only the start of a very protracted war. .


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 14, 2012 at 10:01 am

“The obvious point is that there was no ‘ recolonization effort’ because it was not possible!”

It seems you’ve forgotten about the Coalition Provisional Authority closing down al-Sadr’s newspaper, decreeing foreign contractors (Blackwater) immune to prosecution by any Iraqi authority, and things like Order 39 which abolished all of the country’s laws governing foreign investment, creating a “free market” for investors, foreign and domestic alike, with no limits or restrictions on capital flight.

You call that liberation?


patrickm August 14, 2012 at 10:19 am

The Coalition Provisional Authority took actions and then handed over to the Iraqi people that run the place NOW and (after elections). They did it in Germany, Italy and in Japan and they were not making an effort at colonization. Nobody thinks that the US tried to colonzise Japan etc because everyone knows that this is a dream beyond the ruling elites capacities. They did install and prop up puppets in Vietnam and Korea. But there are no puppets running in either country now and they never tried to do anything like that in Iraq! The election process was all that would settle who makes the laws in Iraq. The Iraqi people make the laws and everyone knows this!

Thats not how it used to be a nasty man very much like Assad used to make all the laws. YES we all know thats liberation. And we all know Provisional means.

Arthur August 14, 2012 at 7:15 pm

A characteristic feauture of US imperialism was its neocolonial use of local puppets or collaborators rather than direct colonial rule.

The Coalition Provisional Authority was a sharp break with this since it made no pretence about being anything but an occupation regime and made it obvious that it would be very temporary by being headed by an administrator on a one year contract who could not even speak Arabic.

If instead they had agreed to install a representative group of Iraqi opposition forces as a remporary government, not accepting their own responsibility as invaders. that would have been a serious interference in Iraqi politics pre-judging and influencing the results of the future elections.

Shutting down Al Sadr’s newspaper strikes me as rather mild since his militia was actively trying to launch and armed struggle. It highlights just how free a press was allowed to flourish. (In fact that open political debate between sharply hostile political forces in Iraq’s free media has been amplified across the region by Al Jazeera etc. The striking contrast with their own media has been a significant factor setting the scene for the Arab spring (even though the overwhelming majority in most Sunni countries would have as strongly negative views about Iraq as you do, they are nevertheless influenced by its example. (In seeking US military asistance they are also demonstrating that is an option that was not imaginable before Iraq and is actively sought now, despite whatever negative views they hold about it).

Brian S. August 23, 2012 at 9:38 am

Patrick – it really doesn’t help the discussion here when you post slabs of your favourite past exchanges. If you want to edit them to construct/reconstruct your own argumentthat’s fine. But do please try and keep things in proportion, otherwise the thread will get impossible to follow.
Just a few initial points in response : there is a fundamental difference between Libya /Syria and Iraq. In Libya (and Syria by extension) the revolt against the dictatorship was a popular national movement with mass support which made major gains before there was any significant external intervention. That meant that the local forces could remain in the driving seat throughout the rebellion, that they provided the base for post-conflict government, and could continue to direct the transition process, keeping internal conflict within manageable bounds through their local roots and the political capital they had acquired by leading the overthrow. Iraq was a top-down process imposed on the Iraqi people, with all of the above forces absent. This naturally led to an imposed and incompetent occupation administration that produced a social and human disaster.
Syria will be more complex than Libya and its likely that a turbulent and messy future lies ahead for it: but at least there’s a chance for a positive outcome as long as the US military machine is confined to a marginal role in the conflict.


Arthur August 23, 2012 at 10:50 am

Hopefully we won’t find out what the conflict in Syria would look like if the revolution is not successful without NATO playing a major role and if NATO fails to act as it did in Libya.

Many people on both sides are not at all optimistic about such an outcome – there could be massive ongoing violence between an Alawite regime holding one part of Syria and a Sunni fundamentalist regime in the rest (with Christians etc as refugees and perhaps a Turkish-Kurdish war in the north).

We already know what the massacres looked like when the Shia and Kurds rose as a “popular national movement with mass support” but without US assistance against the Iraqi regime two decades ago.

The social and human disaster that would have unfolded in Iraq when the regime eventually imploded would certainly have included a regional war involving most of the neighbours – Iran, Syria, Turkey, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The level of sectarian bloodshed even with non-sectarian foreign troops from completely outside the region (and the fact that regular bombing attacks are still going on in Iraq) suggests it would have been much bloodier on a regional scale. At least with the US there nobody else got sucked in on either side.

Syria will indeed be a lot more complex than Libya. It is far from clear yet whether they will be better off with the US (or NATO) playing only a marginal role. The sectarian danger is real and the fires are being avidly stoked by the Saudis. In Iraq everybody sane knew that the US would be leaving eventually and had no sectarian stake. Although Turkiey is also a non-Arab state that could not possibly rule Syria its involvement (which is the most likely source of NATO boots on the ground) is likely to be more problematic, especially given the Kurdish issues.

Also although Libya is vastly better off than as portrayed by the pseudos it isn’t all that smooth either. (Car bombs etc despite detention of thousands from the former regime).

Don’t underestimate just how badly damaged these societies are under decades of autocratic stagnation sponsored by imperialism.

Arthur August 13, 2012 at 5:48 pm

1. Changing ““the social, political, and economic conditions” requires removing the autocracies. You have notived that this requires an armed struggle in Syria and that people conducting that armed struggle are seeking US assistance. The Baathist regime in Iraq was notoriously much worse than Syria’s (chemical warfare etc). Imperialists and revolutionaries both know that the swamp was maintained by force and that force would be required to drain it.

2. There is no way that a war for regime change, let alone a war for democracy, let alone a war intended to destabilize the whole region could have been approved by Congress. The smokescreen wasn’t aimed at convincing liberals, let alone leftists, it was aimed at disorienting the foreign policy establishment who nevertheless strongly opposed the war but would have been able to just laugh at the idea if it had been presented in the language Condi Rice ended up using:

They are STILL moaning about how “stupid” and “dangerous” the idea of Arab democracies is.

3. No smokescreen was needed after the invasion. The commitment to hold free elections and then leave was made loud and clear AND THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED.


Brian S. August 23, 2012 at 10:06 am

@Arthur I’m guessing this is a belated reply to me. Certainly “Changing ““the social, political, and economic conditions” requires removing the autocracies” But it doesn’t JUST require this. And HOW (sorry about these caps but there’s no other way of emphasis here) these autocracies are removed will influence the aftermath – both the costs involved; and the character and depth of the outcome.
“The commitment to hold free elections and then leave was made loud and clear AND THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED.” Your barren formalism in this statement is extraordinary. Sure “it happened” but after NINE years and huge social cost. (Its like saying that the rise of Hitler led to deomocracy in Germany) (And has it happened? – what other US overseas diplomatic mission has 20 000+ staff?)


Arthur August 23, 2012 at 11:25 am

Brian, yes my comment at 5:48pm was a response to yours of 11:23am the same day. Hardly belated! (The threading here just doesn’t work, so I included a direct quote to reference).

Elections weren’t delayed for 9 years. They were held quite promptly (resulting in the removal of the interim Prime Minister supported by the US).

National Assembly elections to draft a Constitution were held in January 2005, a Constitutional Referendum and subsequent general elections were held the same year. Since then there have been regular governate (provincial) elections in 2009 and national in 2010.

Departure was delayed because it took years to recover from the explosion of sectarian murders in 2006.

The response to the end of minority domination through elections and referenda in 2006 was a mass murder campaign directed against the Shia majority. If the US had left then as opponents of the war wanted (instead of responding with a “surge” of sending more troops) there would have been even greater bloodshed. (In addition to US troops, Kurdish peshmerga also helped stop the bloodbath in Baghdad).

So far it looks as though the democratically elected government is able to cope without US troops – although mass murder attacks on civilians are still routine.

Removal of the other autocracies has got underway since Iraq proved it could be done. Hopefully it will now be possible at much less cost. The first is often the toughest.

There is nothing “formalistic” about all this. It was a major historic struggle. Tens of thousands of Iraqis died fighting the fascist mass murderers.


Aaron Aarons August 13, 2012 at 12:21 pm

“The decline was clear from the US defeat in Vietnam. That produced a situation where the Soviet Union became more of a threat than the US.”

To whom, exactly, was the Soviet Union a “threat” between 1975 and 1991? The CIA-armed reactionaries in Afghanistan? The Nicaraguan Contras? Polish Pope-lovers? It was rather unfortunate that the Soviet Union did not, and maybe could not, arm and otherwise aid the various leftist guerrilla movements in Central and South America. In other words, they weren’t enough of a threat!


Manuel Garcia, Jr. August 13, 2012 at 12:35 am

Uri Avnery makes a very clear case for support of the Syrian revolt in this article:

Bloody Spring

It is “clear” in the sense that if you share many of Avnery’s implicit governing assumptions (moral and political), then what he states about the Syrian revolt (and other Arab Spring revolts) is obviously correct.

People who vigorously disagree with Avnery’s view of Syrian politics are simply operating from a different set of governing assumptions (and/or learned ideas, rules and ideological limitations).

I see no value in arguments between people with permanently solidified opinions (closed minds). What uninvolved foreign observers can gain, by examining (and perhaps modifying) their beliefs about wrenching political and humanitarian tragedies like the Syrian revolt, is clarity about just what their real governing assumptions are, if they can be truthful with themselves. The last part can be tough because it can undermine who you think your are.

These reflections were prompted by the continuation of the overall debate (for or against “anti-imperialist” dictatorships at war with their subjects), not by any single comment posted here.


Tony August 13, 2012 at 1:40 am

It’s not that I would ‘vigorously disagree with Avnery’s view of Syrian politics’ as you put it, but seriously disagree that Avnery has any special insight here. In fact, I find much of what he wrote really extremely superficial. Let’s look at this portion of what he wrote for example…

‘For me, one riddle remains. I see on the internet that many well-meaning people around the world, especially on the left, support Bashar. This is a phenomenon that repeats itself. There seems to be a kind of leftist monsterphilia around. The same people who embraced Slobodan Milošević, Hosni Mubarak and Moammar Qaddafi now embrace Bashar al-Assad, again loudly protesting against American imperialist designs against this public benefactor.’

This is just absurd. What Leftist has been defending Hosni Mubarak, for example? How in the Hell did Avnery come up with this one? Did he just pull this out of the top of his head? Because I’ve never heard of such a thing as what he states.

And how many folk on the Left who oppose US manipulations in Syria really actually think very highly of Assad? Some few I guess, but not the majority of us. But a country cannot always create the ideal resistance to US and European imperialist military interventions, now can they? Should we just give up on defending a country against some imposed war because it say has a Stalin or Mao or Assad or Gaddafi in charge? I don’t think that we should, Uri and Manuel.

And, of course, we have people writing here that did seem to fall in love with Slobodan, but now hate Gaddafi and Assad so much that they have actually called for the NATO bombing runs to be made that they opposed when Nato started bombing Slobodan led Yugoslavia. This is a rather bizzarro sub sector of the Left I think. They do have to cheerlead some leader or other, or otherwise they start denouncing other people for supposedly acting like they have acted in the past with Slobodan Milosevic, who they saw as some kind of great defender of international ‘socialism’! I think these people got their concepts about antiwar politics by mainly being cheerleaders for the Cuban, Nicaraguan, and Venezuela regimes. Other than their regime cheerleading they were mainly absent out of the antiwar movement though.

And, I find that I simply do not understand how people like Avnery are so concerned that some Leftists might be somehow too concerned about US imperialism in the world today. Is he crazy? Yes, we damn sure are concerned about this to the max, as well as he should be as well. Do not dump on people who want to defend nations from US and Israeli attacks consistently, just because they are not quite feeling as lackadaisical about as you might be, seeing how you are so sure everybody but everybody JUST HAS TO hate the very ground Assad walks on. Let’s blow it up, you think? Well we rather might not want to do that in favor of Israel and the US governments, Uri. And Manuel, feeling htis way as I have just stated is not an ‘ideological limitation’ as you insinuated it was. It is just simply that I oppose our own US war machine above and beyond anything else. In fact, it is why I am a marxist, because once a upon a time, I thought that marxists consistently would oppose the Pentagon. Now, I am finding that that simply is not so very true, and feel that those who have changed their views about this to now being pro US military intervention, simply have no real good explanation to offer up as to why they have taken a new position supporting the Pentagon in the times of Obomber man being CIC? Perhaps it is Hillary batting her eyes at these commies, are is it the way she dances? I just can’t figure it out. Oppose the war on the Iraq run by Saddam Hussein, but now support it on countries that are/were run by Gaddafi, Assad, and Ahmadinejad??? Why? How easy it is to manipulate you folk when the CIA and Pentagon conjure up a group of ‘rebels’ alongside the USA troops, it does seem.


Aaron Aarons August 13, 2012 at 4:08 am

Avnery writes: “The same people who embraced Slobodan Milošević, Hosni Mubarak and Moammar Qaddafi now embrace Bashar al-Assad, again loudly protesting against American imperialist designs against this public benefactor.”

What nonsense!

How many opponents of United Snakes imperialism defended Hosni Mubarak or thought of him as a target of ‘imperialist designs’, other than the ‘design’ of ensuring a transition to another ruler or rulers favorable to imperialism when such a transition became inevitable? Very few!

How many opponents of United Snakes imperialism, even those of us most opposed to U.S. intervention in Syria, consider Bashar al-Assad to be a ‘public benefactor’. Again, very few!


Aaron Aarons August 13, 2012 at 12:37 pm

My apologies for duplicating some already-obvious points made by Tony. I hadn’t seen his post when I clicked ‘Submit’ on mine.

I certainly disagree with Tony, however, in his apparent putting of the Cuban, Venezuelan, and (1980’s-)Nicaraguan, governments, and even that of Milosevic, in the same category as the regimes of Saddam and Assad. The former could be critically supported — in the case of Serbia, very critically, while the latter two should have been/be defended against imperialism without being politically supported in any way.


Tony August 14, 2012 at 11:54 am

Aaron, I do not put all these governments in the same category at all. Still, to merely cheerlead some government or other instead of proactively working to build a real antiwar movement is totally deplorable in my opinion. For me, it was this move out of building an antiwar movement and into ‘revolutionary’ cheerleading that was most responsible for the eventual breakup of the SWP, a group that I once identified with. And this cheerleading continues to define many of the other US, Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, British socialist groupitos today, leaving us without a functioning antiwar movement today.


Louis Proyect August 13, 2012 at 1:13 pm

(posted to Marxmail and PEN-L by Michael Perelman)

Sending Lenin to Russia I had not known about where the idea arose in Germany:

Page 93: “German officials did their best to cook up plots among the German barons in the Baltic provinces and among the Finns, Poles, and Ukrainians. They brought to Berlin a Constantinople arms merchant, Alexander Helphand, who had formerly been involved, sincerely, in the Russian revolutionary socialist underground, under the name Parvus. He sold them on the idea of a social revolution in Russia. He charted the future mutiny in the Russian armies according to the model of 1904-5, citing the possibility of a mass strike that would engulf the capitals according to the theory of Rosa Luxemburg. One week after the revolution that overthrew the tsar in February 1917, Helphand got permission from the general staff to provide a train that would send Lenin and his coterie of exiled Bolshevik leaders to Russia.”

D’Agostino, Anthony. The Rise of Global Powers: International Politics in the Era of the World Wars(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).


Aaron Aarons August 14, 2012 at 4:05 am

Putin is certainly no ‘fascist’, as this Aussie flak for U.S. imperialism claims. He is rather an authoritarian, nationalist, capitalist ruler who deserves credit for at least reversing some of the damage done to Russia by a real comprador-fascist, Boris Yeltsin.


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