“Hands Off Syria” and Other Slogans of Assad’s Counter-Revolution

by Pham Binh on August 13, 2012

On August 6, Australian supporters of Bashar al-Assad’s murderous regime rallied and marched under the slogan “hands off Syria!

That the Syrian regime’s sycophants should demand a “hands off” policy from Washington, London, and Melbourne is logical. They do not want any outside force to interfere with the regime’s all-out war on its own people. They do not want Western arms for the Free Syrian Army, U.S. or British efforts to block Russian warships from bringing guns, bombs, bullets, helicopter parts, and gasoline to Assad, or Western airstrikes against the regime’s tanks, aircraft, and helicopters.

What is bizarre and disturbing is that Western progressives who are fighting for the very same freedoms and rights revolutionary Syrians are being killed for wanting are adopting the same slogans and policy preferences as Assad’s defenders, namely: “hands off Syria” and “no to Western intervention in Syria.”

I am talking about people like lifelong revolutionary socialists Tariq Ali and John Rees.

The Western left has by and large adopted the Assad counter-revolution’s preferred slogans and policies as their own because they have not asked themselves (as Lenin did) who stands to gain from them? Who stands to gain from British and American imperialisms standing idly by while an unholy alliance of Russian and Iranian imperialisms, Hezbollah, and the Assad regime tries to bury the Syrian revolution? Who stands to gain from unimpeded Russian arms shipments, unimpeded Syrian tank movements, and under-armed Free Syrian Army fighters?

The answer is blindingly obvious: the Assad regime.

When our opposition to U.S., British, or other imperialisms leads us to unwittingly assist counter-revolutions in Libya, Syria, or any where else, then it is time to rethink our anti-imperialism, or rather, how we apply anti-imperialist principles to a multi-polar world crawling with imperialists of all different shapes, sizes, strengths, and orientations, a world where every government and 1% has its own version of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and its own edition of Fox News to advance its predatory interests in every situation, at every turn.

The Russian edition of Fox News is Russia Today, the Syrian edition is SANA, and the Iranian edition is Press TV (Voltairenet, on the other hand, is the French equivalent of Glenn Beck even though it is financed by the Assad regime). All three of these outlets are favorites among Western anti-imperialists even though they provide misinformation about Syria. The reality is that  all three of these outlets are just as “fair and balanced” as Fox News is, meaning they all have hidden, unstated 1% agendas. This is why Occupy-style peaceful protests in Russia, Syria, and Iran get the same treatment in their media that Occupy gets in the American media.

Protesting too long, too effectively, or too loudly in any of these countries can get you killed, as the list of Russian journalists murdered proves, but it can get you killed here too.

Think I am exaggerating? Just ask a Black Panther.

We have been spared the fate of our Syrian, Libyan, Iranian, and Russian counterparts as of late only because our organizing has been mostly ineffective and not a threat to 1% power and profits. Right now, we are more likely to be killed by rampaging psycho-cops than we are by America’s secret police or other “law enforcement” agencies.

That will change if and when we become as massive, militant, and successful as the Arab Spring.

If you think Assad and Ghadafi are bad, just imagine the Assads and Ghadafis in Washington that sit at the top of the world’s food chain of repression, armed with nuclear and other nefarious weapons, who have perfected the art of divide and rule not only at home but on a truly global scale. They have armies of advisers, armies of intellectuals, armies of lawyers, armies of spies, armies of collaborators, armies of turncoats and traitors-to-be, armies of managers, armies of bureaucrats, armies of fund-raisers, armies of spokesmen and women, armies of court scribes, armies of hackers, armies of cops, and armies of armies to do their bidding against us.

On the up side, as in Syria and Libya, the American armed forces have not been called on to use lethal force on a mass scale against our 99% for decades. There is no doubt in my mind that military personnel who are barely above the poverty line (and in some cases on food stamps) are not going to be gung-ho about shooting their own flesh and blood if, or rather when, that comes to pass. Most of them take the oath they swore to defend the Constitution with their lives very seriously, and orders from the Mitt Romneys and Barack Obamas of the future to dispense the rabble exercising their constitutional rights are not going to go over well.

Thinking about revolution and civil war here at home in this way ought to give us a bit of insight into what is really going on in far away lands like Syria and clue us in to what we should and should not do about it.

Peaceful protests in Syria broke out in spring of 2011 just as they did in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and everywhere else in the Middle East and North Africa where hungry people were tired of being beaten by cops, cajoled for bribes by government officials, and forced to silently endure every indignity imaginable out of fear, sheer terror, that you or your loved ones could disappear without a trace and end up in a ditch or a river somewhere without a face, I.D. card, or teeth for identification purposes.

The millions of grievances silently accumulated by millions of people over decades under the watchful eyes of murderous police states exploded in 2011 in an outpouring of festivity, celebration, and unrelenting bravery that did not line up nicely and neatly with the pro/anti-U.S. dichotomy that divides Middle Eastern and North African governments from one another. The Arab Spring’s failure to conform to this divide divided the international left into three camps: those who support smashing revolutions against “anti-imperialist” regimes, those who support revolutions smashing all the regimes pro and “anti-imperialist” alike by any means necessary, and those who seek a “middle ground” between these two camps and attach terms, conditions, fine print, asterisks, and caveats to their support for the Arab Spring’s revolutionaries over issues like non-violence, Western intervention, and sectarianism.

It is the comrades in the middle like Tariq Ali, John Reeds, and Phyllis Bennis who are doing themselves and the Syrian revolution a tremendous disservice by lining up politically with the Assad regime’s supporters by demanding “hands off Syria!” and “no to Western intervention!”

We in the West should not unite for any reason with any force that supports the murderous counter-revolution in Syria that is the literally killing the country’s best shot at political freedom, democracy, progress, and a future free of bloody, debilitating sectarianism.

To those firmly in the camp of Assad’s counter-revolution: if you can watch these videos of children in Aleppo or teenagers in Damascus without feeling like running out into those streets to join their clapping, dancing, chanting, and singing, I have to question whether you are a human being with feelings and emotions much less a so-called revolutionary.

If you think the CIA or the Israeli Mossad trained these kids and teenagers in the fine art of revolution, if you think they can conjure this defiant, rebellious, uncompromising spirit out of thin air, at will, you are either a damn fool or on some serious drugs. Cocaine is a helluva drug but it is nothing compared to whatever you are on if you think intelligence agencies staffed by professional killers, liars, and con men can engineer popular, broad-based revolutions almost overnight that are strong enough to withstand not just getting kicked out of a park but widespread torture and wave after wave of executions.

Old enough to fight but too young to die. Aleppo, Syria.

If you think the Syrian revolution was made in or is controlled by Washington then you should nod your head in agreement the next time Mayor Michael Bloomberg or Governor Scott Walker claims “outside agitators” are responsible for our street scuffles and protests because it is the same pack of lies the 1% use no matter where they rule, what language they speak, or how they measure up on the scale of “anti-imperialism.”

Whenever the 99% begin to move and make noise, the 1% try to convince us that it is outsiders and not we ourselves who are disturbing the thrones that rest on our backs.

The sad part is that these lies are largely recycled, reused throughout history, copy and pasted from one era to the next. The master classes have never been masters of invention or originality; they can buy both on the open market with their blood-stained dollars, euros, pesos, yuan, silver, or gold.

The Viet Nam generation heard this same song and dance from the likes of Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, and John F. Kennedy: nefarious outside agitators, trained in Moscow, financed by China, backed by the full weight of world communism were infiltrating poor defenseless little South Viet Nam’s fledgling democracy, stirring up trouble, wreaking havoc, and attempting to pull the country behind the Iron Curtain. Change a few words around and you have the so-called anti-imperialist view of the Syrian revolution today: nefarious outside agitators, trained in Turkey, financed by the Saudis, backed by the full weight of U.S.-Israeli imperialism are infiltrating poor defenseless little Syria’s fledgling self-reforming monarchy, stirring up trouble, wreaking havoc, and attempting to pull the country behind the curtain of American capitalism.

And what is even sadder is that men like Rees and Ali who lived through those days seemed to have forgotten the sound and rhythm of this all-too-familiar tune.

So what is the point of this lengthy diatribe?

The first point: disowning people in Libya or Syria because they got so desperate they begged a far away band of murderous crooked thieves to help them get rid of the murderous crooked thieves that were cutting their throats, torturing their kids, and doing God knows what else to them because we, as a matter of principle, are opposed to murderers and thieves is almost as criminal as it is stupid.

The second point: agitating and organizing to stop the U.S. or British governments from arming Syrian revolutionaries, blocking Russian ships filled with Assad’s weapons, or blowing his helicopters out of the sky is the single best way to stab the Syrian revolution in the back. By stabbing them in the back, we stab ourselves in the heart because the impetus for Occupy came from the Arab Spring and not the other way around.

Occupy and the Arab Spring are one hand and so we have a duty and an obligation to support, fight for, and aid the victory of the Syrian and all other revolutionary movements no matter how many spies the CIA sends, no matter how much Saudi money flows into the coffers of the Free Syrian Army (if they cannot afford weapons to take out Assad’s tanks and helicopters or nightvision goggles that could help them protect Syria’s nightly peaceful protests the amounts are underwhelming), no matter what political or sectarian mistakes they make, and no matter what side the U.S. decides to back in which country for whatever reason. All of that is secondary to our primary task: helping them win.

If the only thing you can focus on or see is one bunch of murderous thieves in Tel Aviv and Washington and their weaker rivals in Moscow, Tehran, and Beijing edging each other out of influence in Syria, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and Jordan you are missing the most important thing: the 99% are waking up, rising, moving, organizing, and where they have to, arming, fighting, and bombing their oppressors into the dustbin of history.

Either lead, follow, or get out of their way.

My other writings on the Arab Spring:


{ 174 comments… read them below or add one }

KPRP August 13, 2012 at 4:25 pm

I wouldn’t dismiss Russia Today so quickly since they do present a more accurate picture of the world than western sources and allow more left wing views on their shows, but its true they often put a pro-Putin slant on things

Perhaps a good slogan would be “Get our tanks out of Afghanistan and put them at the service of the Syrian rebels”.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 13, 2012 at 4:35 pm

It’s like reading any bourgeois newspaper, whether it’s Russian, American, or Chinese. The problem is when “Marxists” start running around quoting Russia Today as if it was Pravda circa 1912.

“Hands off Syria” is an appropriate slogan only if you are in Russia, Iran, or Lebanon. Period.


KPRP August 13, 2012 at 4:42 pm

“”Hands off Syria” is an appropriate slogan only if you are in Russia, Iran, or Lebanon. Period.”

Obviously, but the one propose is “Get our tanks out of Afghanistan and put them at the service of the Syrian rebels”.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 13, 2012 at 5:19 pm

Meaning a U.S. invasion? Or giving the FSA tanks? Either way, that’s not what the FSA and others on the ground want.

The problem they are confronting now is taking out jets, helicopters, and regime artillery against which tanks would be of limited use. See: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2012/08/2012812233833353319.html


KPRP August 13, 2012 at 5:23 pm

No assisting the FSA. the phrasing doesn’t matter. It can be tanks, weapons or whatever


KPRP August 13, 2012 at 8:54 pm

I was actually basing my slogan on one used by the new left during the Prague Spring: “Soviets out of Czechoslovakia, give the tanks to the Vietnamese!” The point is to pressure states into assisting revolutions. Leftists having been criticizing our governments for not helping revolutions in peril forever and now that the opportunity presents itself many don’t know what to do.

Mind you I’m not naive. I know that revolutions dependent on foreign militaries rarely succeed or sustain themselves and often development massive contradictions in their development. Just look at socialism in Eastern Europe. I’m not even that sure that arming the rebels or foreign intervention is a good idea in Syria considering the internal and international consequences. The position of one of the opposition factions on this issue, National Coordination Body for Democratic Change (http://carnegie-mec.org/publications/?fa=48369), is pretty clear: “No” to foreign military intervention, “No” to religious and sectarian instigation, and “No” to violence and the militarization of the revolution. Seeing as this group is comprised of leftist parties I actually think we, as leftists, benefit to listening from what they’re saying along with the positions of the rest of the Arab left (http://mondediplo.com/2012/08/04syrialeft).

The clear positions I have on the issue of Syria are these:

1) Al Assad and his regime are reactionary
2) Imperialism is reactionary
3) Rebels have legitimate reason to ask for foreign assistance
4) The more peaceful the resolution the better


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 14, 2012 at 9:41 am

I’ve run into statements by this group before. The problem is that all of that is basically idealist. It would be like issuing a statement that said “no to modified consensus” within Occupy. The Syrian revolution has become militarized and there is no way back on that except through victory.

The other problem is that this group does not even support the ouster of Assad, which is the single most popular and deeply felt demand among revolutionary Syrians. After 20,000 people have been slaughtered by the regime, it’s not hard to figure out why they feel that way. Refusing to demand that Assad leave is a bit like refusing to demand that the Tsar step down in Russia — it’s a dead end, a guarantee the revolutionary masses will ignore them (or worse, scorn them), especially given that the whole point of these revolutions is to get rid of autocrats and dictators.


Brian S. August 14, 2012 at 12:57 pm

@KPRP: With regard to the National Coordination Body. This is a body which includes several organisations and individuals from the left wing of the Syrian opposition. Its leading figures arerather old and it played no significant role in the recent, youth-led upsurge, In some quarters it is discredited because (as Pham has noted) of its willingness to negotiate with Assad, and by the fact that it was tolerated by the regime. I don’t see any collective statements issued by it recently, but Its two key leaders- Michel Kilo and Heytham Manna – have been active, but moving in different directions. Kilo’s main hope seems to be persuading Russia to rein in Assad: but after a visit to Moscow last month, he announced that while the opposition is prepared to negotiate with anyone in the regime who is in favour of democracy, that did not include Assad. In an interview with L’Humanite 3 days ago Kilo seems to come out in favour of the armed struggle (although wary of foreign intervention): “if the FSA loses all layers of the population, all political currents will lose. That will mean the the crushing of the popular struggle.The solution now is for the Syrians to defeat the regime with arms”. He goes on to oppose foreign – especially US – intervention (but I think he means by that direct military intervention) saying that the US is interested in the destruction of Syria. Manna on the other hand continues to argue the case for a negotiated solution, but in the absence of anyone to negotiate with has become bitter and pessimistic about the whole situation: “the armed groups and the regime have destroyed the civilian opposition”. (L’Humanite last week)
If you want to follow this up:
For Kilo’s Moscow trip: http://www.rt.com/news/assad-syria-russia-kilo-942/
For Manna’s views http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/22/syria-opposition-led-astray-by-violence
And for a rather moving paen to Syria’s youth by kilo see: http://english.the-syrian.com/2012/06/25/syrias-youth-michel-kilo/


KPRP August 14, 2012 at 3:32 pm

I think Heytham Manna feels bitter that many of the Syrian youth have abandoned his project of civil resistance and turned to armed struggle. He thinks that if they had continued his strategy they would have overthrown Assad with less destruction. The Iranian Revolution is certainly a testament to the effectiveness of that strategy. The obvious complication in this situation is that unlike the Shah, Assad resorted to bombardment and more murderous tactics, plus Iranian society was much more unilaterally anti-Shah. Armed struggle makes a lot of sense in this situation. Still, we don’t want to rule out the possibility that Manna is right because he has a ton experience building the anti-Assad movement.


Brian S. August 14, 2012 at 7:10 pm

@KPRP Re: Haytham Manna. Perhaps. But I think Manna has always had a “reformist” approach to changing the regime, and unrealistic illusions about how possible that was. It was an effort worth giving a shot, especially when the new opposition was just emerging. But there has to be a certain social coherence to an authoritarian regime (ie links to broad elites and social classes who have influence over its decisions) for any sort of reform dynamic to take root. The Assad regime seems not to have that: it seems built around the dual axes of communalism (the Alawite connection) and familism. To the extent that there was any broader social linkage it was a subordinate feature of the regime, and the narrow regime core has been prepared to override it in the fight for survival. There’s a very long set of interviews with Mana over on Jaddaliya, and at some point I’m going to take a closer look at it to get a clearer picture of his views. But at the moment he just looks to me like someone overtaken by history.


KPRP August 15, 2012 at 10:33 am

Can you post a link to those interviews?

Arthur August 15, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Thanks for link’s. Michel Kilo’s paen to the youth is really great!

This “Letter from Taftanaz: Welcome to Free Syria” in a comment is also rather moving:



Brian S. August 15, 2012 at 7:31 pm

Thanks for the link: Pham has mentioned this guy, but I hadn’t seen this piece. Another useful article of his is:


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 16, 2012 at 11:23 am

This article by the CPGB has useful information which outweighs its political uselessness:


Arthur August 16, 2012 at 11:09 pm

True enough but it also has some spectacularly useless information that suggests factual as well as political cluelessness eg:

“the FSA’s rank and file appear to be largely Sunni, while its leadership seems mainly Alawite”


Brian S. August 17, 2012 at 10:38 am

Re CPGB article. Another strange article in the “Link” mold: a handy pulling together of info on the Syrian opposition (although with errors that might raise questions about its reliability: the “Alawite” blooper that Arthur picked up, but others too.) The first part of its headline proclaims “Syria’s opposition is increasingly dominated by Islamists” but the body of the article argues that the Muslim Brotherhood is dominant in the SNC (but with strange reasoning like “some claim more than half of the SNC’s leadership are Islamists. In response … a high-ranking member of both the MB and the SNC, said only 30% of the body was Islamist – including two members of the executive committee. Either way it is MB which is in the driving seat. ” – eh?!) but at the same time suggests that the SNC is being by-passed by the FSA – so what does that add up to?
Like Link, the proof is in the conclusion. Again, the author invokes the “highly complex” Syrian situation but instead of Link’s retreat to “hands off” we get shown the apocalypse. I guess this is better than a hasty and simplistic conclusion, isn’t it?.


Brian S. August 14, 2012 at 10:58 am

RT News is a bad joke.Their perspective is that of the worst bits of the Putin regme (its very likely directly run by the FSB).The western “leftists” that they give space to are a combination of conspiracy theorists (like Escobar) and simple nutcases, like the guy that they presented as a specialist in “deep geopolitics” who it turns out spends most of his time trying to contact beings from outerspace. They exert no quality control over their presentations, and its obvious that the whole thing is just a black propaganda operation directed at sowing confusion and exciting the gullible.
Having said that, some of their correspondents (mostly young people prepared to work for anyone to get into the media) try to exercise some journalistic integrity, although this only appears on their blogs (Sarah Firth, their Damascus correspondent posted some good material back in May)
If you want to balance your media diet then I’d recommend Iran’s PressTV: their reporting is often suprisingly objective (e.g. positive coverage of the Libyan elections) and even when presenting the government side they do so in a straightforward way without RT’s black propaganda fireworks. A much more professional operation.


Brian S. August 14, 2012 at 11:00 am

@KPRP “Get our tanks out of Afghanistan and put them at the service of the Syrian rebels”. This is one of those slogans that has a justifiable political appeal, but shows the left’s rather poor command of real-world logistics.


Tony August 14, 2012 at 11:15 am

Why would such an obscenely reactionary slogan appeal to you like this, Brian? It’s almost like having to go over the A, B, Cs here with you. Those are not ‘our’ tanks. They are tanks paid for by a US imperialist government that has largely erased any semblance of democracy in the US. That use of the ‘our’ troops, tanks, et al is the sure mark of political reactionaries in the US. Why are you and KPRP so firmly in those ranks along with the other Lefty imperialist online here? Didn’t all that education in marxist theory leave you with better tools of analysis than to call them ‘our tanks’/ our troops?


KPRP August 14, 2012 at 12:54 pm

Have you ever heard of something called a “Transitional demand”?



Aaron Aarons August 16, 2012 at 1:34 am

The essence of a transitional demand is that it is both formally compatible with capitalist legality and objectively incompatible with the interests of the capitalist class, thereby forcing the working class to go beyond capitalist legality in order to achieve such a demand or to otherwise solve the problem the demand was designed to address. Neither the withdrawal of part of their military resources from Afghanistan nor the placing of such resources in the hands of anti-government forces in Syria meets the second criterion.


KPRP August 13, 2012 at 4:26 pm

“Hands off Bahrain” would also be an appropriate slogan since there the counter revolution took the form of a Saudi invasion


Arthur August 13, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Excellent article!

Yes, it’s blindingly obvious who stands to gain.

So let’s take it further. Since it is blindingly obvious, both those who openly advocate smashing the revolution and those who “merely” want NATO to stand idly by can see who stands to gain.

So they are not progressive at all, let alone revolutionary leftist.

They may be very sincerely opposed to US imperialism, but they side with oppression against rebellion.

Whatever their past records, these people are not comrades and should be not be called comrades.

They should be clearly identified as a pseudo-left.

This also requires thinking deeply about what it was that resulted in them being thought of as left when it is now so blindingly obvious that they are not.

An awful lot of utterly bankrupt bullshit has been passed off as leftist in the name of being “anti-imperialist”. It didn’t just suddenly happen over Syria.


ish August 13, 2012 at 5:30 pm

If you think Assad and Ghadafi are bad, just imagine the Assads and Ghadafis in Washington that sit at the top of the world’s food chain of repression, armed with nuclear and other nefarious weapons, who have perfected the art of divide and rule not only at home but on a truly global scale.

And yet, these are the forces you want to intervene in Syria. These are the forces you want to empower. You can’t have it both ways.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 13, 2012 at 5:54 pm

The Libyans did it.


ish August 13, 2012 at 6:12 pm

Do you not understand that US imperialism and its allies were just empowered to do whatever the fuck they want wherever the fuck they want to? This is not about the rightness of the Syrian or Libyan revolutions. You are willfully mucking up the issue. And you are disarming the movement in this country and completely clouding the issues for future anti-war movements.

PS Prime Minister Netanyahu and the King of Bahrain thank you for your assistance. It will come in hand shortly in Iran.


Tony August 13, 2012 at 8:27 pm

Ish, Pham, Louis, and all the other lovers of Obama intervening against Syria and Iran, too (one can’t even imagine for a second that they don’t want the US and Israel to continue on…) are not into building antiwar movements against the US government and its militaries at all. Instead, they got their training as ‘revolutionary tourists and cheerleaders who spent their life not building antiwar movements, but instead building ‘support groups’ for the Cuban and Nicaraguan governments. Now they are hallucinating revolutionary movements in their smarxist minds having studied theory so very stringently as they have. It is quite impressive.


Aaron Aarons August 14, 2012 at 4:56 am

There was nothing wrong with building support for the governments of Nicaragua (1979-1990) and Cuba against the imperialist enemy, including by organizing revolutionary tourism to those countries, provided one did not subordinate one’s politics to the diplomatic, real-politic needs of those governments.


Tony August 14, 2012 at 10:47 am

Still, Aaron, don’t you get it? Building ‘support’ (cheerleading) for the governments of Cuba and Sandinista Nicaragua has little to do with building an antiwar movement per se in the US. Those comrades who think it is one and the same thing are merely fooling themselves about this. The movement to stop the militarization of the US and the imperialism of our government is much broader than building ‘support’ for who you or I might think of as being radical governments. You either do the work of building an antiwar movement or you go about trying to substitute cheerleading for that instead?


Aaron Aarons August 15, 2012 at 6:32 pm

It’s not either-or. I do want, as much as possible, to help build a broad anti-imperialist movement in the U.S., but I also want to promote socialist consciousness, which includes showing what is positive in left governments, especially in places where the old capitalist state has been smashed and, at least in Cuba, replaced by a workers’ state. (The proletarian character of the Nicaraguan state in the 1980’s is more debatable.)


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 14, 2012 at 9:35 am

I understand that you are mad that you cannot offer a good counterargument to my point that the Libyans did it so raise yet another bogus accusation.

You need to explain: 1) how is NATO now empowered in Libya? 2) why is it bad if imperialists attack counter-revolutionaries, if one Assad wipes out another? 3) How does your Netanyahu comment square with Israel recruiting mercenaries for Ghadafi (http://mondoweiss.net/2011/03/report-israel-company-recruiting-gadhafi-mercenaries.html)?


Arthur August 13, 2012 at 6:17 pm

Yes, the Libyans did it.

and so did the Iraqis ;-)


Aaron Aarons August 14, 2012 at 4:33 am

The Iraqis ‘did it’. Like the hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, either killed directly by the imperialists as, e.g., in Falluja and many lesser-known places, or by Sunni and Shia sectarians unleashed, and often directly aided, by the divide-and-rule strategy of the invaders.

Arthur and his senior partner on this site, Patrick Muldowney, are way beyond reprehensible. And, as far as I’ve seen — apologies if I missed something — neither Pham Binh, Clay Claiborne, nor Louis Proyect, have bothered to denounce these blatant imperialist cheer-leaders.


ish August 14, 2012 at 7:39 am

neither Pham Binh, Clay Claiborne, nor Louis Proyect, have bothered to denounce these blatant imperialist cheer-leaders.

I find that quite disappointing also, and unfortunately revealing.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 14, 2012 at 9:28 am

Anyone can denounce imperialism. Co-opting it for revolutionary ends the way the Libyans did is the real task.


Tony August 14, 2012 at 7:02 pm

Pham, just who ‘coopted’ whom? As usual, your analysis has it ass backwards. The US government has coopted both you and any poor Libyan who thinks that his country is now somehow independent.


Aaron Aarons August 20, 2012 at 8:47 pm

In this particular sub-thread, I was talking about denouncing (or at least repudiating) those, like Patrick Muldowney, ‘arthur’ and ‘informally yours’ who come onto this web site — in one case, at least, a the featured author — and support your position on Syria and Libya while boasting of their own support of both imperialist wars against Iraq and arguing that the logic of your position on Syria and Libya should lead you to their position on Iraq.
It’s revealing that any differentiation you may have made between yourself and them is so muted that I’m not even sure I’ve seen any, while your denunciation of those who consistently oppose the Western imperialists is rather loud, vitriolic, and repetitive.


Brian S. August 14, 2012 at 11:07 am

@Aaron Aarons: I know I know I’m only a humble peon labouring in the fields of this site, but please give me the credit of having raised my voice against the neocons in our midst. (Indeed I’ve said far more to challenge them than you have)


Aaron Aarons August 14, 2012 at 3:30 pm

I’m sorry I only mentioned the people I was trying to put on the spot, rather than doing a review of all the comments.


Aaron Aarons August 15, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Unlike some other posters and commenters on North Star, Unrepentant, Tomb, etc., I don’t share any of the assumptions or values of the Australian fans of democratic imperialism. My opposition to imperialist intervention is not based on the belief that it is actually going to work out for them in any particular situation. (If they, with their multi-billion-dollar intelligence agencies can’t always know, how can I?)

What I do know is that, the more opposition there is to imperialist intervention from the start, the less room for maneuver they have when problems arise for them. Who knows how much more they would have been able to shape the outcome in Iraq if they hadn’t had to consider the global opposition to every military action and every act of looting that they undertook?


Arthur August 14, 2012 at 6:43 pm

I guess by “doing far more” you mean that you actually tried to refute our views instead of just joining in the abuse.

I doubt that will win you much kudos from the pseudo-left trolls,

Experience has taught them that people who engage in actual debae are not to be trusted,

PS why on earth would you WANT “credit” from the trolls?


KPRP August 14, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Arthur, your logic is simply the flip side of the “anti-imperialist” logic, supporting oppression in the name of the “lesser evil”. There was absolutely nothing liberating about the war in Iraq. It was clean and simple war of conquest and pillage. Nothing more, nothing less.


KPRP August 14, 2012 at 3:36 pm

correction: It was a clean and simple….


Arthur August 14, 2012 at 6:54 pm

I’m happy to argue with you but an “argument is a connected series of statements to establish a definate proposition”. For mere assertion or simple contradiction you will have to try others:



KPRP August 14, 2012 at 8:39 pm

Since you did not provide an argument I just assumed we were engaging in an exchange of assertions


Arthur August 15, 2012 at 12:14 am

Cyrl, Point taken. Arguments on the subject of Iraq have been proceeding, mainly between Brian and Pham v. and patrickm, informally and myself. My response was as if you had joined it without actually adding anything, when in fact this particular thread was indeed just a passing exchange of assertions.


Ben D August 13, 2012 at 7:37 pm

I’m curious about something. I don’t know how much of the Syrian revolutionary movement supports Nato being involved in their revolution but I think it is a sizable amount. Hypothetically what if the entire Syrian Revolutionary movement supported intervention. Would the ‘hands off’ crowd still oppose it then? What if it was a socialist revolution that wanted help destroying the military forces of the counterrevolution and who knew exactly what they were getting into by inviting in the US(hell iraq is next door), would you still find people who were socialists opposing this demand of the Syrian revolutionary movement?


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 14, 2012 at 10:33 am

Based on what happened over Libya, I think the answer to your question is undoubtedly and unreservedly YES. There was zero opposition by any revolutionary force in Libya that anyone on the Western left knows of to NATO’s airstrikes on Ghadafi. No group, no tribal leader, no council, no political party or other organization in Libya has turned up in the year since then that said “no” to NATO’s airstrikes, military training, and logistical support — outside of the Ghadafi regime and its supporters, anyway.

Both Richard Seymour and John Rees spend a lot of time discussing who among Syria’s revolutionaries agrees with their “no to intervention” position precisely because they condition their support on the basis of agreement on that issue. Imagine saying “well, I’ll only support your strike if you agree to vote for someone to the left of Obama,” and you start to see what is wrong with that line of thinking.

The reality is that the “hands off” crowd supports “hands off” no matter what any body thinks, Syrian or not, and no matter what it would actually mean in the real world for real, living, breathing people and their movements because for them it’s a “matter of principle,” a non-negotiable, something to be defended come hell or high water.

And by doing so they put themselves at odds with the vast majority of the revolutionaries in Libya and Syria by standing for policies that would benefit the counter-revolution and then can’t figure out why they exert zero influence on the live debates happening in those revolutionary movements. The “hands off” crowd is viewed by them either as enemies at worst or frenemies at best.


Tony August 14, 2012 at 10:59 am

Pham, has it ever occurred to you that the more revolutionary Syrian forces support Assad instead of backing NATO applied bombings of their own country? It’s a tough choice no doubt, but better ones own demon than some imperialist imposed demon. Because you and I don’t like the Democrats and Republicans hardly means we should be called revolutionaries if we were to start calling for Chinese bombing of the US after having studied in some Chinese university or other and then being politically coopted by the Chinese military/government. That is the analogous situation to that of many of the Libyan and Syrian ‘rebels’ that you call revolutionaries.


Brian S. August 14, 2012 at 11:08 am



Tony August 14, 2012 at 6:18 pm

What is in the ICG report that yo want us to read, Brian? Why cannot you simply summarize what it is and tell us its importance to you? Simply telling us to just go and read something is rather insulting.


Arthur August 14, 2012 at 6:32 pm

I can’t speak for Brian but I expect he assumes that you are capable of reading it.

I made that assumption with Brian based on the fact that he actually is trying to persuade other people through directly engaging with views he disagrees with in debate and therefore would want to be better informed.

I have no idea why he made that assumption in your case.


Brian S. August 14, 2012 at 7:23 pm

Tony: this just goes to show how little attention you pay to what is being said on this site. After following Arthur’s lead to this document and reading it myself, I posted a brief comment on it, highlighting some key points, pointing out its considerable merits,and urging everyone to read it. I also stated that I woud not engage with critics of my position who could not be bothered to read it. To do so is simply laziness and a willful insistence on remaining ignorant. You have a perfect right to remain in the dark, And I have a perfect right to ignore people who prefer to argue from ignorance than from knowledge.


Aaron Aarons August 16, 2012 at 2:55 am

I did try to read the ICG report, and I think I managed to read all or most of the main body thereof, but the format it’s in, two columns on each page with footnotes in each column, makes it very difficult to follow on a screen, as opposed, perhaps, to on paper. Maybe somebody who is convinced of its great value can format it for computer, with one continuous column and all footnotes at the end, with actual links to the footnotes in the body of the text. Otherwise, an ordinary human being can go nuts jumping back and forth between text and footnotes. (It was difficult enough just skipping the footnotes and following the text, and it would be almost impossible, for me at least, to go back and forth between different parts of the text, as I usually do when I read a long political document.


Brian S. August 16, 2012 at 10:34 am

You’re right Aaron, the layout is rather complex for screen reading – but if you persist it is quite possible to do, and well worth it.Check around to see if anyone you know has a pdf-Word convertor.


Tony August 16, 2012 at 6:24 am

I have read the report and posted twice in reply to Brian about it. Both times my posts were removed by ‘moderators’ though, leaving the false impression for Brian (and others perhaps?) that Tony just doesn’t read material put online by people he disagrees with.

‘You have a perfect right to remain in the dark, And I have a perfect right to ignore people who prefer to argue from ignorance than from knowledge.’

Here is the effect that censorship has on a discussion. Leave replies online, Moderators! Nobody is getting the idea that you are a neutral in this discussion about Syria and Libya when this is the standard being applied by the ‘moderator’. This is the type of shenanigans marxism list is now rather well known for. One gets the distinct impression that the same people are behind RUNNING both sites.


Aaron Aarons August 15, 2012 at 9:28 pm

Personally, I’d cheer if the Chinese (or almost anybody else) were able and willing to act against the U.S. military machine and the economic institutions that enable it. I don’t support any kind of ‘self-determination’ for the world’s leading imperialist power.


Aaron Aarons August 16, 2012 at 3:38 am

Pham Binh writes:

Imagine saying “well, I’ll only support your strike if you agree to vote for someone to the left of Obama,” and you start to see what is wrong with that line of thinking.

Perhaps it’s more like telling a group of white workers that we won’t support your strike if you accept help form the Ku Klux Klan in stopping Blacks from crossing your picket lines. Or, perhaps it’s like something I’m told the Bolsheviks did at least once in pre-revolutionary Russia: Opposed a strike that they had been supporting when the strikers started working with the Black Hundreds in an anti-Jewish campaign against their Jewish employer.


Arthur August 14, 2012 at 6:36 pm

If it was a “socialist” revolution they would be even more fanatically hostile.

People who hate democratic revolution REALLY hate communist revolution.


Aaron Aarons August 15, 2012 at 6:37 am

People like me who oppose the installation of formally bourgeois-democratic governments by imperialism do so in part because such governments and, even more, the ability of imperialism to install such governments, are obstacles to communist revolution.

The struggle for bourgeois-democratic rights can be an important part of the struggle to overthrow capitalist domination, but the struggle to create bourgeois-democratic governments is counter-revolutionary.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 15, 2012 at 10:13 am

Another point: when the entire Libyan revolutionary movement demanded NATO airstrikes on got what they asked for (for the most part), the “revolution yes, intervention no” segment of the “hands off crowd” declared the Libyan revolution dead, over, done with, and hijacked. So it’s only a revolution if we agree with its positions on tactical issues you see.

These are the folks Lenin was talking about who will never live to see a “pure” revolution way back in 1914.


Aaron Aarons August 15, 2012 at 9:46 pm

You’re probably referring to Lenin’s critique of Radek’s critique of the Irish Easter Uprising of 1916. That rebellion was largely the work of socialist and working-class forces, although the explicit politics of the uprising were nationalist and it involved many petty-bourgeois elements. But it was, in any case, a rebellion, however impure, against the leading imperialism of the day, and the only people who called on that leading imperialism to intervene were counter-revolutionaries.


Tony August 14, 2012 at 3:13 am

Since I now seem to be on the roll with the dice, here I will try to post the main thoughts from antiwar.comm’s lead commentary today. First let me pray to Marx, and Lenin, Groucho and John…

For a textbook example of how Western meddling in other states’ affairs makes bad situations worse, look no further than Syria.

‘In a country that was already being rocked by violent clashes, Western grandstanding has had the effect of upping the ante and intensifying the violence. In the name of scoring some cheap PR points and giving vent to their ‘moral impulse’, a motley crew of immature foreign-policy wonks and narcissistic commentators have backed, with both words and weapons, Syria’s rebels. In the process, they have effectively sanctioned sectarianism, given their blessing to the Balkanisation of Syria, through boosting one side and isolating the other in what is an increasingly ugly ethnic conflict….

…Recent history – stretching from Kosovo in 1999 to Darfur in 2006 – suggests we should be very sceptical when Western observers seek to convince us that complex conflicts overseas are in fact fantastically clear-cut stand-offs between, as one commentator characterises it in relation to Syria, ‘an evil dictator and noble freedom fighters’. Such infantile moralism is almost always a prelude to either direct or indirect Western intervention, allowing for the casual demonisation of one group of people and the blinkered elevation of another….

…Indeed, the first deeply problematic instance of Western meddling in Syria was its adoption of various of Syria’s elite elements and defectors from Assad’s military apparatus as legitimate liberators. The West effectively handpicked who were Syria’s ‘legitimate representatives’, which is, of course, a profound contradiction in terms….

…The conflict in Syria is taking on an increasingly sectarian character. The ruling regime is made up mainly of Alawites, a branch of Shia Islam; the opposition consists largely of Sunni Muslims. Syria’s Christians, who make up 10 per cent of the population, largely back Assad because they fear for their future in a potentially more Islamicised Syria. Some Christians have reported being burned out of their homes by ‘Arabs from different countries’ who ‘accuse Christians of blasphemy’. By intervening into this conflict on one side, legitimising it and arming it, Western actors are deepening the ethnic divide and inflaming the violence….’

This was taken from the commentary by Brendan O’Neill titled ‘Syria: how the West is sanctioning sectarianism
In the name of making a PR performance of their moral resolve, Western governments are meddling in Syria in an ever-more lethal way.’ It is also published by Spike.

Moralists in the US government and ‘marxist’ moralists here at North Star? I wonder why?


Brian S. August 16, 2012 at 11:10 am

“the rock-throwing rabble inside Syria ” – that’s Brendan O’Neill being sophisticated and well-informed. I think you should have a look at this profile over on Wikipedia before you adopt him as a reliable source.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 16, 2012 at 3:47 pm

Nice to see the anti-imperialists siding with folks who talk about the Syrians the way the Israelis refer to the Palestinians. Very principled indeed.


Shawn Redden August 16, 2012 at 6:22 pm

If the Palestinians were backed by the “international community” at the UN, provided with machine guns, RPGs, C4 and surface-to-air missiles, the campaign for their erasure would end. If Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar provided propaganda, logistical support, training and money, it would end faster.

Gee. I wonder why they don’t do that?

In this scenario, the Palestinians would become formidable very quickly, since the politically conscious people living there–real people, not “activists” we’re told exist by someone at the NY Times who heard it from someone in an NGO in London–have already committed themselves to fight for their freedom.

The Palestinian struggle is genuine, not dependent on a bunch of terroristic zealots, armed to the teeth and shipped in from abroad for imperial ends.


Brian S. August 14, 2012 at 10:16 am

I’ve just done a post over on the “The Free Syrian Army: Short on Weapons, Long on Hope” thread with links to two important Guardian articles from today, and some brief comments. Just thought I’d mention it here as this seems to be where the action is at the moment.


David Thorstad August 14, 2012 at 10:41 am

It is telling that puerile rants like this one are paid any attention insofar as it represents a rejection of elementary revolutionary principle and intelligence by failing even to tell the difference between a revolt (however justified at the outset) for increased democratic rights and the increasingly influential role played in it by religious fanatics and sectarians, as well as the clearly documented meddling of imperialism and its reactionary acolytes like Saudi Arabia. Personally, I favor the overthrow of almost all governments, including those “democratically elected” in bourgeois states, as well as those in the so-called socialist countries, whose regimes are no more democratic than, say, Assad’s regime. One can reasonably assume that anti-anti-imperialists like Pham Binh, whose recent writing comes close to giving support to imperialism, would not follow their own line if, say, the masses in Cuba rose up to demand the same democratic rights some rebels in Syria are demanding, or that bourgeois democracies provide (however inadequately). This is pick-and-choose politics. This latest polemical rant is puerile, facile, and runs counter to the most elementary revolutionary principles. So, “Hands Off Syria!” is an incorrect slogan? But “Hands Off Cuba!” would still be correct? Can Pham Binh and his cohort point to a revolutionary working-class in revolt in Syria, or in any of the Arab Spring rebellions? For that matter, since there is no hint of rebellion among the American working class, and the American left is increasingly irrelevant, and its views of no consequence whatever to those rebelling in Syria, this kind of polemical rant strikes me as navel-gazing and masturbatory and smug.


Tony August 14, 2012 at 11:27 am

Here! Here! David Thorstad comes in here with one more voice of sanity!

‘Can Pham Binh and his cohort point to a revolutionary working-class in revolt in Syria, or in any of the Arab Spring rebellions? For that matter, since there is no hint of rebellion among the American working class, and the American left is increasingly irrelevant, and its views of no consequence whatever to those rebelling in Syria, this kind of polemical rant strikes me as navel-gazing and masturbatory and smug.’

Pham is the type of person, who when he sees Tea Party types in other countries than his own, finds them ALL to be revolutionaries though, especially if the US government and its military is in addition helping them out to boot! What is more disturbing than just Pham Binh and his own rather silly personal views, is that so many of the older comrades around are actually helping give them credence as being somehow mainstream marxism, instead of being a totally reactionary idiocy that is promoting policies of a war mongering government here at home.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 14, 2012 at 11:51 am
Tony August 14, 2012 at 12:02 pm

I’d much rather ‘parrot’ Becker and the PSL than parrot Hillary Clinton, as you do, Pham Binh.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 14, 2012 at 3:05 pm

I take my lead from the Syrians, not Clinton. If you actually read anything I’ve written, you would know that.


Tony August 14, 2012 at 6:19 pm

No, I think that you take your lead from Hillary, Pham. You are not some great Syrian diviner, stick in hand.


Shawn Redden August 15, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Who? Who are these imaginative ‘revolutionaries’ you support?

Who’s using all those anti-aircraft rockets? Who are the guys throwing people from buildings?

Today it’s about the wave of mass kidnappings. Yesterday a health minister gets whacked?

Who are the brilliant guys fighting such a just, moral peoples war?


Brian S. August 16, 2012 at 6:19 pm

Shawn, the thread structure here is a bit difficult to follow at the best of times, and impossible if you insist on communicating in semaphore. I have no idea who you’re responding to, or what country your referring to. I kind of get the thing about throwing people from buildings (they were dead people – not very nice, but the other side doesn’t wait until you’re dead before doing this sort of thing, so I guess you can understand the rebels being a bit irritable). What anti-aircraft rockets? I saw one mig being shot down with what looked like ancient anti-aircraft artillery. If the SFA has effective anti-aircraft missiles then please send me the link, and I’ll organise a party to celebrate.
Mass kidnappings? I thought they were in Lebanon and organised by your side?
Death of deputy health minister: I guess you’re assuming that this was a nice guy who went around delivering babies. I don’t know enough to say one way or another, but he was a member of a very brutal regime, and in a sensitive place: town where the opposition was born after 15 kids were arrested and tortured for writing slogans on the wall, and 4 people killed for protesting about it. That would certainly be enought for me to lose any sympathy for my health minister.


Shawn Redden August 16, 2012 at 6:43 pm

Umm, I was replying to the post, written by Pham Binh, immediately above where mine is posted. In it I asked him about the people he supports. I’d like to know more concrete information about them beyond what I’ve tracked down. Especially given his self-assurance.

I’m not at all interested in a debate about the virtues of summarily executing postal workers, bombing the UN, burning down churches, or murdering scientists. If we’re talking about war, we ought be discussing operations and logistics. If we’re talking ‘revolution’, we should talk program and logistics.


Shawn Redden August 16, 2012 at 6:44 pm

Oh, and what’s the source for your tortured children story?


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 17, 2012 at 9:41 am
Shawn Redden August 17, 2012 at 5:46 pm

I’ll take a look at the UN report from last year (I may have read that at the time, but don’t remember–there’s probably a reason that your FSA comrades bombed the hotel out of which they operated.

HRW is another story, with their track record on Cuba, Palestine, Venezuela, etc. I find them repulsive, but I’ll take a quick look at the report from April of last year. The abstract helpfully reminded me of the role played by Dar’aa, a small city bordering Jordan.

I’ll take your ‘activists say’ 3rd article for what it is–hearsay. The writer cribbed the article straight from the WeLoveSyria Yahoogroup 16 months ago.

Shawn Redden August 17, 2012 at 5:48 pm

Correction: the UN report from a few months ago.

Brian S. August 17, 2012 at 9:43 am

@Shawn Redden: As I’ve tried to explain, when you communicate by semaphor (giving no indication who you are replying to or what you are referring to) things get lost: I do have a life to live and don’t just sit in front of my terminal waiting for your posts to appear. So I had no idea you sent me a request for information. You ask about sources for the torture of children in Dera’a.
You could start with The World Socialist Website:
it doesn’t mention the torture explicitly , but does refer to the arrest of the school children and has extensive details on the brutal repression that followed, including the shooting of 30 mourners at a funeral.
The main source for the torture allegation is the Human Rights Watch report which was compiled after a detailed investigation in the area
http://www.hrw.org/node/99345/section/2 (which also has details on other repression in the region.)
Two further reports which include the torture allegation are
Another incident in which a 13-year old boy was not only tortured but killed by security forces is reported by: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/730f7f62-8a25-11e0-beff-00144feab49a.html#axzz23nzb30LW


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 17, 2012 at 9:45 am

No one is more blind than those who refuse to see and no one is more deaf than those who refuse to hear.

It should be obvious by now who in these comment threads is willfully disengaged with reality.


Shawn Redden August 17, 2012 at 5:53 pm

Some of us get hypnotized by words; some of us study the maps.

That’s Ground Zero to this discussion.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 14, 2012 at 5:11 pm

Thorstad is sane enough to see that I don’t support imperialism. You on the other hand cannot see that.


Tony August 14, 2012 at 6:20 pm

What you think that you stand for and what you actually do are two separate things, Pham.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 14, 2012 at 11:48 am

Fans of Cuba would say that the system there is democratic which is why they are not rising up to demand the same rights Syrians are. The only thing that matters to me regarding Cuba is ending the American blockade. Whether the Cuban government is state capitalism, capitalist state-ism, or a degenerated/deformed/mutated/discombobulated/perfect workers’ state is not relevant for me, nor is the hypothetical character of a hypothetical uprising on the island.

Just because you are sitting on your hands doing nothing about Syria while accusing others of being navel-gazers doesn’t mean all of us are. The American left’s do-nothing policy is the #1 reason for its growing irrelevance and there is nothing in your comment that indicates what you would have us do instead of reaching out to, building links with, and acting in solidarity with revolutionary Syrians. You may be comfortable sitting and sneering on the sidelines. I’m not.


Tony August 14, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Pham Binh, do you speak Arabic at all?

‘The American left’s do-nothing policy is the #1 reason for its growing irrelevance and there is nothing in your comment that indicates what you would have us do instead of reaching out to, building links with, and acting in solidarity with revolutionary Syrians. You may be comfortable sitting and sneering on the sidelines. I’m not.’

I hardly think that you or too many other of you pro imperialist Lefties are capable of ‘reaching out’ to any Arab comrades. Who is capable of reaching out to them though, are the Israelis who can speak Arabic with their many allies in the Arab World, as well as the Pentagon, which also has many Arab government allies.

There is one way for anti- do nothingism self-described types such as yourself though to effect that connection with Arab socialists even without any knowledge of the Arabic language, and that is through effectively building an American based antiwar movement, a thing which you seem singularly dedicated to not trying really to do. I think that very sad.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 14, 2012 at 12:58 pm

Plenty of Arabs speak English. A lot of their signs are written in English because they are trying to appeal to the world for help. Instead they get the cold shoulder from friends of Assad such as yourself who are willing to fight to the last drop of Syrian blood for your so-called anti-imperialism. How very brave of you!


ish August 14, 2012 at 1:07 pm

It’s apparent you didn’t follow this controversy over some of those signs in English last year which you, and the neocon Weekly Standard, seem so enamored of.


“One article about Kafranbel on a Syrian-Kurdish website is entitled, “Kafranabel: the Syrian city most famous for its sarcastic signs.” The article states, “Kafranabel…has become famous for its signs that have been circulating among Syrians on the pages of the social network Facebook, through which they express with a sarcastic style the misery that the Syrians suffer and the daily killings that they face.”

via Angry Arab


Tony August 14, 2012 at 1:33 pm

So we are now led to believe that Pham Binh is actively communicating in English with the Syrian people? That he has his finger on the pulse of it all over there?

My personal feel is that the know it all imperialist Lefty know nothings know as little about Libya and Syria as the US ‘Save Darfur’ liberals knew or know about Darfur, or any other area of Sudan or North Africa, and cannot communicate with the people there or even most oftentimes know little to nothing about what languages they speak.

Is Manuel Barrera communicating with Syrians as he ‘prays for a wind’? What about Louis Proyect? Do any of you know the slightest anything about Syrian society? I don’t think so! What evidence is there to prove me wrong about this? I certainly haven’t seen it here on North Star in the comments by these folk.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 14, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Syrians don’t just live in Syria. Just a little FYI from the real world.


Aaron Aarons August 14, 2012 at 3:47 pm

No, Syrians don’t just live in Syria. As the video at the top of this page shows, some of them even live in Australia, the home of hyper-imperialist cheer-leaders Patrick Muldowney/’patrickm’ and ‘arthur’. But they are pro-Assad Syrians, so their views don’t count.

BTW, patrick and arthur seem to be so intent on using the ambiguities of the Syrian situation to win ‘leftist’ support for their more general pro-imperialist viewpoint that they are actually undermining the attempt by people like Pham Binh, Clay C., and Louis P. to argue that Syria and Libya are somehow so special that imperialist intervention should be supported in those particular cases. Which may explain why Pham Binh, et al., are trying to carry on this debate here as if the Australian white elephants weren’t in the room.


Tony August 14, 2012 at 6:25 pm

You got some real characters in Australia, Aaron. What with the decades long, junior neo-Barnsian dominance through the GLW and DSP in Australia. At least here in the US, the neo-Barnsian crowd split asunder into a jillion and one splinters, though many seem to be finding a home via marxism list onto North Star. The old SWP thrown out crowd really is now in a total Alzheimers melt down.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 14, 2012 at 2:24 pm

It’s apparent you didn’t read the article you linked:
“By sarcastically contrasting the ‘procrastinating’ Obama with the hyper-bellicose Republicans, the town’s residents were simply expressing their frustration at the silence of the international community and NATO’s inaction. In fact, another Kafranbel banner reflects a common view in the region: Bush and Obama share equally cynical foreign policy priorities. ‘If We Don’t Have Oil Like Iraq Or Libya, Don’t We Deserve To Live?!!’ the sign reads.”

Please double-check your evidence to see if it actually supports your case and not mine.


Aaron Aarons August 14, 2012 at 3:54 pm

That sign should read, ‘If We Don’t Have Oil Like Iraq Or Libya, Don’t We Deserve To have our country destroyed and, like Iraq, have two or three or four percent of out population killed?!!’


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 14, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Unfortunately Syrian revolutionaries don’t take their cues from troll-refugees from Lenin’s Tomb. Things also turned out very well in Libya if you ask the Libyans.


Tony August 14, 2012 at 6:27 pm

Yeah? They must just love the new neo Roman Empire ruins that have been created. It’ll be real good for the new tourism that they are banking on, Pham.


Shawn Redden August 14, 2012 at 9:39 pm

I’d hardly call the situation settled. The IMF has become much more heavily involved in Libyan affairs, though. So that’s wonderful news for those who love freedom.

I did read a report in the Financial Times that Cinnabon is now open for business. If that doesn’t justify tag-teaming with religious fundamentalists to carpet bombing the country and put a bullet in the head of the president, what does?


Arthur August 14, 2012 at 11:59 pm

It wasn’t a bullet, it wasn’t his head and he wasn’t the President.

(Sorry, I couldn’t resist)

Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 15, 2012 at 10:01 am

The end of a police state and the outpouring of strikes, demonstrations, and new political parties are wonderful news for those who love freedom. Now they have the freedom to resist the dreaded IMF and Cinnabon.

The situation is becoming more settled by the day. Read a newspaper.

Shawn Redden August 15, 2012 at 5:58 pm

So you say–history takes time. I fear that the country will be broken into three–de facto or de jure–as in Roman times?

Did you know Libya had no debt? Wonder how long that will remain true when the country starts privatizing everything.

Anyway, you asked me to look and I did. This was in today’s paper:

Red Cross intensifies outreach after Libya attacks

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — The International Committee of the Red Cross says it is reaching out to Libyans to counter suspicions about the relief agency’s work in eastern and central Libya, following attacks there.

The ICRC suspended its activities in the eastern city of Benghazi and the central city of Misrata earlier this month after assailants launched five attacks in less than three months on the agency’s offices and residence. . . .

Brian S. August 15, 2012 at 7:56 pm

@ Shawn Redden: Well, the IMF has written a report, if that’s what you call “heavily involved”. As for the”much more”:
“The government of the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya has notified the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that it has accepted the obligations of Article VIII, Sections 2, 3, and 4 of the IMF Articles of Agreement, with effect from June 21, 2003.”

Brian S. August 14, 2012 at 7:39 pm

@ish: Either you haven’t read your source properly (a commonenough failing in these discussions), or you’re making a point whose subtlety has escaped my simple mind. When I saw the Kafranbel reference to Bush I just thought this was an increasingly desparate people (or one sign-painter among them) suffering from some political illusions. But the source you’ve referred us to suggest this may not be the case:
“Kafranbel residents make no secret of their opinion of George W. Bush. In the Kafranabel public online forum, several discussions of Bush dating back to 2008 refer to him with flattering titles like, “The Criminal Bush,” “The Tyrant President Bush,” “The Dog of the Imperialist United States,” and “The Idiot Bush.” Meanwhile, the US military is referred to as “The Imperial Forces,” while any reference to the liberation of Iraq is placed between sarcastic quotation marks. A lengthy joke about the stupidity of Bush and his inner circle is featured in another thread at the Kafranabel forum.”
So you’re point is?


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 15, 2012 at 10:03 am

He has made a habit not to respond when people raise compelling and valid points about his arguments. Like all the other “anti-imperialists” attempts to rebut the arguments I’ve raised, their case continually collapses the more evidence and facts they dig up.


ish August 15, 2012 at 11:12 am

My failure to respond is not because of your compelling arguments it’s because of my disgust at this cesspit of proimperialism that I’m really not sure I want to give any creedence to it.

My point about the Kafranbel signage is that it is complicated. It doesn’t change my advice in the highly unlikely event that Syrian revolutionaries might ask me for it, which would be that asking help from imperialism is a bad idea. And it certainly doesn’t change highly likely position that the best thing we can do in this country for Syrian revolutionaries who want a free and egalitarian socialist society is fight US imperialism from the belly of the best.

Every time you put antiimperialist in scarequotes you take a step closer to Hillary Clinton and the massive machinations toward war against Iran. Or maybe that’s something you actually want?

Done here. I have no interest in a new National Review.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 15, 2012 at 11:52 am

You have yet to demonstrate where or how I lapsed into “supporting imperialism.”

I put anti-imperialism in quotes not to scare anyone but because the whole point of opposing imperialism is supposed to be a demonstration of one’s internationalism and solidarity with people in the Third World who are its principal victims. When those victims clearly and explicitly ask for imperialist powers to take military action against counter-revolutionary governments because they lack an air force, tanks, or a USSR to turn to for as an alternate source for military aid against a murderous counter-revolution and we in the imperialist countries say “NO” to what they are asking for, we are scabbing on them, we are renegades, we are betraying our duties as internationalists.

If you want to willfully misconstrue that as a “pro imperialist” position, there’s nothing I can do to help you untangle the web of lies you yourself have spun about my stance.

Principles almost never translate directly into tactics and slogans, something I’m sure even the National Review understands. Examples: we oppose the bourgeois state, but would we tell women not to call the strike-breaking cops if they’re raped? We oppose the federal government, but was the civil rights movement wrong (or “pro imperialist” or “pro capitalist state”) for calling on that government to send troops to the South to enforce desegregation, even though it was the Feds who were spying on Malcolm and Martin and plotting to destroy them all via COINTELPRO? We oppose the police, but does that mean we fight them if the attack a fascist demonstration or a Klan rally? Does refusing to fight the cops in that context make us “pro cop” or “pro bourgeois law and order”? We oppose the U.S. military, but does that mean we oppose the U.S. military handing out bags of rice to Tsunami victims in Indonesia and other countries?

People who are holding their breath waiting for me to come out in support of a U.S./Israeli attack on Iran are going to die of asphyxiation because there is no “slippery slope” here. Unlike so-called anti-imperialists, I don’t mechanically repeat time-worn phrases regardless of time, place, circumstances, and context. Iran is not Libya nor Syria, Libya and Syria are not Iraq, nor is it Viet Nam, nor Afghanistan. You may lump them all together as one big “Foreignstan” oppressed by U.S. imperialism, but I don’t. The world is more complicated than that and as a result, the world’s oppressed and exploited have more than one enemy to worry about; who their main enemy is that needs to be combated and defeated at any given point depends on what is actually going on in their struggles.

If that simple idea is too complex for you to grasp then I can understand how and why you would mistake The North Star for the National Review and the position of revolutionary internationalism with that of Hillary Clinton. The same goes for Tony.


Tony August 15, 2012 at 11:56 am

Pham Binh’s support for NATO/US bombing of Syria is truly disgusting, and I , too, don’t know whether I should be ‘giving credence’ to this site by posting my heavily…uh..’moderated’ comments, that occasionally seem to go astray and are never even seen online.


KPRP August 14, 2012 at 12:51 pm

” Can Pham Binh and his cohort point to a revolutionary working-class in revolt in Syria, or in any of the Arab Spring rebellions?”

The majority of the opposition to the regimes in all countries involved in the Arab Spring has come from the working class. Read Vijay Prashad’s (who is an anti-interventionist, pro-revolution type) “Arab Spring, Libyan Winter” for a detailed description of the social forces involved.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 14, 2012 at 1:00 pm

These people are blissfully unaware of the strikes and other actions by workers in these countries against their regimes. I thought everyone knew that a national general strike in Egypt is what pushed the military to drop its support for Mubarak. Apparently the anti-imperialists have been fast asleep for the past two years. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at their ignorance given their stupidity.


Shawn Redden August 15, 2012 at 6:02 pm

And a handful of strikes and demonstrations (in Syria?) transitions, obviously and easily, into sniper attacks, RPG ambushes, kidnappings, and surface-to-air missiles deployed (by whom?) against the national army.


Brian S. August 14, 2012 at 1:06 pm

And as most accounts of the Syrian struggle that address this issue testify, support for the Syrian revolt has been strongest among the popular layers, workers, peasants, and petty traders.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 14, 2012 at 2:25 pm
Shawn Redden August 14, 2012 at 1:12 pm

i appreciate the rhetorical style of this piece and ‘Sycophant’ is one of my favorite words.

What I find far more bizarre and far more disturbing than these people protesting is the sizable part of the left–from the Obama administration to HuffPo to Democracy Now/Pacifica to unrepentant marxists everywhere–aligning itself with their government’s proxy war in Syria.

The word ‘counter-revolution’ pre-supposes a revolution. And, however much one desires it, this has not happened simply because the NY Times and CNN say that activists say that it has. Sycophants for proxy war accept, as truth, the revolutionary character of the brand known as the ‘Syrian Revolution’ in spite of all available evidence. They divert their eyes or explain away (“Russia Today is poopy”) when the real invasion Syria reveals itself.

This is their original sin.

No matter the total absence of political program in this ‘rebellion’ (I guess nothing speaks as clearly as people thrown from tall buildings). Furthermore, what little political program the ‘rebellion’ can articulate gets stovepiped through a propaganda firm in the US, Iraqi incubator style and spit out by the Chalabis, Hariris, and Jabrils of the world.

(Did you know that you, too, can fund the armies of alCIAda: http://www.syriansupportgroup.org)?

Moreover, NATOs sycophants disregard what we concretely know about the so-called Free Syrian Army. We know the source of the FSA’s money, we know the site of its bases, we know the (mostly Libyan) alCIAda that run around assassinating people and chucking postal workers from buildings!

Finally and most importantly, they disregard the long discussed, long-term foreign policy objectives in the Caucuses, Near East, and Central Asia (dressed up as the fictive “War on Terror”) going back to the Gates/Zbig/Casey creation of alCIAda in the 80s. That is, in preserving unipolarity.

The word ‘revolution’, removed from all meaning and significance, apparently contains within it the power of hypnosis for those still doped on hope.

No matter how inadequate you felt the Sandanista government, supporting the Contras was never a serious prospect. Just as proxy government like Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, and El Salvador launched the ‘freedom fighters’ into Nicaragua three decades ago, today we have young men from all over the Gulf, filled with propaganda and armed to the hilt, flowing into Syria.

Meanwhile, we get “activists say” journalism in the NY Times or Liz Sly of the Post. “Activists say at least two-dozen Russian MIGs just dropped nuclear bombs on Damascus” proves sufficient to fool the right people. For reasons unexplained, concerning Syria the paragons of propaganda get a free pass.

You ask who gains by the defeat of the NATO proxy war, and that’s a legitimate question: is a unified, military alliance by the SCO a good thing for the world. By the inertia of this escalating conflict, that continues to happen.

Now, flip the question around: what happens if the FSA overthrows Assad with “Peace” placards and shoulder-fired Stinger missiles?

For Mr. Assad, NATOs desired outcome of regime change will likely find him hurled from a building. For Syrians, warlordism with an eventual breakup of the nation-state.

And to the rest of us, regime change in Syria means: “onto Iran.”

I know unrepentant marxists who have wanted that for a decade.


Shawn Redden August 14, 2012 at 1:20 pm

The end should refer to the Syrian ‘state’, not ‘nation-state’.


Brian S. August 14, 2012 at 7:58 pm

We are slowly evolving a culture on this site, which, if I may be so bold as to summarise it, says that you can say pretty much anything you want, but it should be expressed in comradely terms and have at least one fact attached to if it is intended to be taken seriously. We allow some latitude on the former criterion, but you clearly fail on the second. Your post is full of bluster, “proxy war” , “all the available evidence”, “young men from all over the Gulf armed to the hilt” (the Gulf? and why are they running out of ammunition?) “we know where the bases are” (you should stay in more and watch television – the “bases” are in Aleppo and Idlib) .but not a single tangible fact. Come back when you can find yourself a fact to share with us and then maybe we can have a discussion.


Tony August 15, 2012 at 12:08 pm

One fact, that I have yet to see you address much other than below, Brian, is that when it is not considered a convenient pov for the makers of North Star, they just remove the comments! Bang! Gone.

‘We are slowly evolving a culture on this site, which, if I may be so bold as to summarize it, says that you can say pretty much anything you want, but it should be expressed in comradely terms and have at least one fact attached to if it is intended to be taken seriously.’

But that simply is not what North Star has been doing, Brian. It is the same old culture of ‘leaders’ censoring and standing against any opposition coming their way, that is prevalent on the Left, as elsewhere. I have made many reposts of my comments on multiple matters, just to see the 2nd post by me removed by the ‘moderators’. Do you think that we are stupid, me and others, not to notice that and accept what you said as being true, when it clearly is not? It is like being in a boxing match with one arm tied behind your back here.


KPRP August 14, 2012 at 3:06 pm

Are you simply incapable of providing constructive commentary?


Arthur August 14, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Can we move on?

Recent news from Clinton mentions operational planning between US and Turkey underway with buffer zones and no-fly not ruled out. Presumably contingentcy planning has actually been going on for quite a while so drawing attention to it is intended to prepare public opinion for reasonably imminent action.

Main concern of the pseudos seems to be that their opponents are making it more difficult for “the antiwar movement” to mobilize. My impression is that they are looking for scapegoats as in fact they have zero capacity for mobilizing anything and have been reduced to internet trolling.

On the other hand focus of the article seems to be on countering any such attempt to mobilize an antiwar movement by exposing it as support for counter-revolution. That’s fine, but aren’t they already thoroughly exposed and completely ineffectual?

I gather Clay is already actively working to mobilize public opinion at DailyKos to support the Syrian revolution, not just to refrain from opposing it.

Presumably demonstrations would be as tiny and pointless as the “anti-war movement”. (Though if enough for a respectable group photo with banners it could at least provide a morale boosting response to occupied Kafranbel!)

What other practical measures for helping to mobilize public opinion are practical with the limited forces available.

Can you get op-eds into the mainstream media? By line from activists who they expect to take opposite view has news value in itself.

Also, my guess would be that there are far more people who have dropped out of the “anti-war movement” feeling uncomfortable with the bullshit than there are either still in it or actively debating with it. Most would probably just feel distanced rather than able to reach independent conclusions themselves. Is there any way to reach them? As events move on they should be more open to drawing conclusions and resuming active solidarity strugles with people fighting oppression – this time in opposition to the people spouting bullshit.


Shawn Redden August 14, 2012 at 11:53 pm


Before writing anything else, I would strongly encourage you to re-examine Seymour Hersch’s 2007 article entitled ‘The Redirection’. It’s important for those supporting the policy of intervention and proxy war know the history–even the recent history–of the policy. “Revolution” in Syria isn’t something thought of by the Gay Girl in Damascus or any other flak for NATO.

I would hardly call the use of the term “proxy war” bluster. A quick search using the terms “Syria” and ‘proxy war’ yields a huge number of articles using the term, many in the headline. Further, it’s certainly more honest than the use of the term ‘revolution’ considering the notable absence of revolutionaries.

The fact of heavily armed men coming from all over the region is hardly subject to debate. Here are a few examples from ‘approved’ sources (i.e., they support regime change):

From last week in the BBC: Turkey training rebels, says FSA fighter . But where are they doing it, you may ask? A Saudi defense site reported in English: Saudi Arabia sets up military base in Adana along with Qatar and Turkey, to help the Syrian rebels. The Adana base in Turkey, along with their outpost in Iskanderun, are (according to Reuters) the “nerve center” of the ‘revolution’.

The NY Times reported a couple weeks ago that ‘C.I.A. Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Opposition’. From the Independent in June: Arab states arm rebels as UN talks of Syrian civil war .

So just who is it they’re arming (with things like surface to air missiles)? We all know that: ‘Libyan fighters join Syrian revolt’ (Reuters) and ‘The Syrian Rebels’ Libyan Weapon’ (Foreign Policy).

The Libyan angle is well covered in the mainstream press, as is the alCIAda angle: Al-Qaida turns tide for rebels in battle for eastern Syria (Guardian). Meanwhile, the CFR writes about Al-Qaeda’s Specter in Syria and the BBC explains that the “Jihadist Role is Growing”

On Qatar’s role as paymaster: Qatar crosses the Syrian Rubicon: £63m to buy weapons for the rebels
Back in March, Business Insider reported: The US Government Sent Blackwater Veteran To Fight With Rebels In Libya And Syria. I’m sure they’ve all gone home now, though.


Brian S. August 15, 2012 at 9:02 am

Thank you for your considered response Shawn. Just a quick initial response: I’ll try and come back later for a fuller discussion.
1. The term “proxy war” is a catch-all expression that can mean many things, from seeing the means that you see the whole conflict as initiated and orchestrated by imperialist powers (complete counter-factual nonsense);to noting that means that external actors getting involved in the struggle at a later stage and now imposing their own agendas (within the realm of the sane, but leaves open lots of questions:how extensive is their involvement, is anyone listening to them in Syria?) I’m glad to see that your follow the BBC and the Guardian. If you followed this site you would know that I have already posted and commented positively on several of these stories.
What they demonstrate is that as the struggle has become more militarised external actors have started to get involved. That was inevitable. But is there any evidence that they have significantly transformed the essence of the revolt? NO.
“Jihadist role is growing” . Indeed – but from what? From 0. Reports from news sources on the ground indicate that the total number of foreign fighters is 300-500: less than 1-2% of the total. If you read Ghaith Abdul-Ahad’s report (as opposed to the headline a sub-editor stuck on it) you’ll see that the units that identify as “al Qaeda” are in a subordinate role, and often contested politically by other FSA fighters.
You’ll notice that your stories about external finance and weaponry are mostly quite recent – so this is a new phenomena. Most of them are very vague and report at most recent supplies of light weapons. There is lots of TALK about providing assistance, but where is it? If there has been a supply of effective anti-aircraft weapons why are the Aleppo fighters hunkered down in half-ruined builidings while Assad’s planes bomb them? All the reports from the battlefield show that the fighters are desparately short of arms (in some cases running out of ammunition) have nothing heavier than rpg’s, and are reduced to to trying to manufacture home-made mortars.
But the bottom line is, why shouldn’t the Syrian fighters accept foreign assistance.
As the 23 June Independent article you link to states: ” Opposition fighters in Syria have hitherto been handicapped by a reliance on an old and inadequate arsenal, while the regime in Damascus has been able to rely on a supply of arms from Russia and Iran.
Being highly principled and dead is of benefit to no one except Assad.

Information in a situation like this is very murky and you need to quality control your sources: the Blackwater story you quote has been shown to be the work of a fantasist con-artist (details on request: but you can easily google it); the story about a female FSA fighter being trained in Turkey was highly suspect just on internal evidence – and there are reports that she has been sent packing by the FSA as a suspected Israeli agent)


Brian S. August 15, 2012 at 9:06 am

Sorry: my previous post is a bit of a mess as i got distracted and clicked the Submit button before I had finished editing it properly. I don’t want to take up space reposting it, so I hope its compehensible if a bit grbled in places.


Arthur August 15, 2012 at 9:44 am

1. I read the 2007 article (again) as requested. You haven’t explained the relevance but I’ve noticed a theme (elsewhere) suggesting the Syrian revolution is a result of US preparations to attack Iran. Analysis of Iran and US policy/intentions towards Iran would be an interesting separate post. Seymours article is was very confusing – partly because the situation then was very confused with contradictory information from different sources and a lot of disinformation and partly because he was confused about it. Five years later, it sheds even less light on what’s going on than it did then. Certainly it doesn’t support any theory that the Syrian revolution is preparation for an attack on Iran.

2. Lets take it for granted that the US, Turkey and others are supporting the overthrow of Assad and that jihadis are also involved. The proposition being put here is that the US should be supporting the revolution more vigorously. Among the many reasons, one is that failing to do so will increase the potentially very harmful role of jihadis. Pointing out that, shock, horror, the US, Turkey, and others are supporting the overthrow of Assad and that jihadis are involved is not even an ATTEMPT at responding to the proposition being put here. Read the various posts.


Shawn Redden August 15, 2012 at 6:12 pm

I disagree with your assessment of the Hersch article, I suppose, but the root of our disagreement resides in your separation of the current war in Syria from the pending war with Iran. To do so in the present context is, quite frankly, incredible.

To your second point, the ‘proposition’–aiding the ‘revolution’–is advocacy for alCIAda. So yes, the obvious link, and the obvious truth of what this ‘revolution’ really consists, has obvious relevance to the proposition.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 15, 2012 at 9:59 am

By your logic the American revolution was a proxy war between England and France and the Vietnamese struggle for independence a proxy war between the Russians and Chinese on the one side and the Americans and French on the other.

Conspiracy theories are a poor guide to the Arab Spring.


Aaron Aarons August 16, 2012 at 4:06 am

The so-called ‘American Revolution’ was many things, but primarily a preemptive move by slaveholders in the Southern colonies against the anticipated abolition of slavery throughout the empire by the British Parliament. It was also a move by Northern merchants against British restrictions on their trade and a move by Northern and Southern colonists against restrictions on seizure of land from indigenous nations to the West. France, which was at war with Britain in that period, supported the rebellion for obvious reasons.


Terry Townsend August 15, 2012 at 9:21 am

By Michael Karadjis

August 13, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal — The continuing mass uprising against Syria’s Bashar Assad dictatorship on the one hand, and the growing intervention by the reactionary Gulf monarchies of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, along with Turkey, on the side of the growing armed insurgency on the other, has led to a situation where many on the left are sharply divided over who to “support”.

Some claim the Saudi-led covert intervention requires support for Assad’s bloody regime as a lesser evil “secular” alternative to what they believe is an inevitable “jihadi” regime, given the rise of a vicious Sunni sectarian aspect to the civil war and the Saudi-led backing of such forces. Also, given the largely verbal (until recently) support given to the Gulf states’ intervention by the US and other imperialist states, support for Assad against this allegedly “imperialist-backed” assault on Syria is necessary to prevent the destruction of the Syrian state, which they allege imperialism desires due to Assad’s alleged anti-imperialist credentials (which even most of these writers, however, admit is very tenuous at best).

As an aside, it should be emphasised that these two potentially reactionary aspects – the extent to which the opposition has become a “jihadi” Sunni sectarian force, and the extent of imperialist intervention, are not one and the same thing; as will be shown below, while there is some overlap, they also somewhat operate at cross-purposes.

Meanwhile, others erect virtual soap boxes from which they piously denounce anyone even raising these valid issues of the extent of the Saudi/reactionary intervention as sycophants for Assad and as “counter-revolutionaries”. While partially correct that the Saudi-led counterrevolution has probably not utterly extinguished the genuine uprising, they tend to exaggerate in the other direction, refusing to see the extent of reactionary and sectarian counterrevolutionary intervention; some go so far as to denounce opposition to imperialist intervention as … counterrevolutionary.
Full article at http://links.org.au/node/2991


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 15, 2012 at 9:57 am

“some go so far as to denounce opposition to imperialist intervention as … counterrevolutionary.”

Is there any other way to accurately characterize opposition among Western leftists to the U.S. and Britain arming/aiding the FSA and blocking Russian arms shipments to the Assad regime? If both of those things stopped, would that help the Syrian revolution?

This is one of the more well-rounded pieces to come from the centrist camp. Thanks for posting it.


Aaron Aarons August 16, 2012 at 4:14 am

What ‘Syrian “revolution”‘? I still haven’t found any evidence that such a thing exists. Maybe that’s because I don’t call the fight to replace a reactionary secular capitalist regime with a reactionary Islamist-dominated capitalist regime a “revolution”.


Louis Proyect August 15, 2012 at 10:16 am

It is of course worth noting that the Green Left comrades campaigned for Australian intervention in East Timor.


Tony August 15, 2012 at 10:54 am

Yes, and doing so was a disgrace, too, Louis. The marxist Australian Green Left people campaigned in favor of their own imperialist capitalist Australian government so that the capitalist imperialist world which Australia is a key component of could get better control over the oil resources of East Timor and take that resource out of the control of the government of Indonesia. The idea that East Timor could ever become anything much more than another mini version of a Kuwait style imperialist dependency split off from Iraq by Britain type of mess is rather bizarre in and of itself even, though this is exactly what Green Left pushed for. East Timor is way too tiny to be an economically or politically independent nation on its own. It is now a completely captured satellite dependency of Canberra.

Pham and Louis would have us now be denounced for being ‘counterrevolutionary; even as he and Louis campaign for NATO/US imperialist military interventions and regime changes in the MIddle East, using the reactionary pro imperialist Green Left Weekly people as his solid foundation for doing so. Pro imperialist Australian socialists have now bred a similar group of folk similar to themselves inside the US.


Tony August 15, 2012 at 11:08 am

Karadjis articulates the standard ‘We’ll take the Third Road’ position of the pro imperialist socialist crowd. Of course, there really never is any third road in these type of political situations. Can one imagine socialists in Stalingrad having said in that situation, we’ll support neither Stalin nor Hitler in this battle? The posturing by Karadjis is utterly ludicrous.

Here it is from Karadjis himself…
It is clear that there are any number of aims and strategies being pushed by various imperialist powers and regional “sub-imperialisms”, in many cases completely contradictory with one another. The left’s sympathies ought to remain with the Syrian people confronting a vicious regime. However, given that the Saudi-Gulf counterrevolution is also active in trying to hijack the revolution, and that this includes a rising tide of viciousness often directed against non-Sunni communities – and that a significant part of these communities is sticking to Assad precisely because of this increasing sectarian threat – there seems little one can do from the outside to give concrete “support” to whoever is under attack at any time, or even really figure out exactly the relationship of forces between revolution and concurrent counterrevolution. As such, the only thing that must be done is to maintain and step up total opposition to any deeper imperialist intervention for allegedly “humanitarian” purposes, which would in fact be catastrophic, while not giving an inch to the view that one must become a cheer squad for the murderous Assad regime.’


Brian S. August 15, 2012 at 12:05 pm

A strange piece: suggests to me that too much analysis can be bad for the brain. It provides a very useful review of a lot of material about the geopolitical dynamics of the region and the intentions of various players, (much of it speculative). The balance sheet they draw of this array of forces is, I think, spot on: ” It is clear that there are any number of aims and strategies being pushed by various imperialist powers and regional “sub-imperialisms”, in many cases completely contradictory with one another.” So what political conclusion would logically follow? Mine would be: while this is a situation with some dangerous possibilities, the complex interplay of competing interests and forces acts as a severe constraining factor on the US, and creates multiple opportunities to exploit the contradictions in the interests of the Syrian revolution (to what extent the popular opposition has the capacity to do this is another question).
However for their conclusion they abandon all this sophisticated analysis and end up back at square one:, “there are some bad guys at work here, there are some nasty things being done, we can’t figure out who is who, so let’s just oppose whatever imperialism seems to be up to.” A missed opportunity.


Arthur August 15, 2012 at 1:42 pm

A very strange piece indeed. It does start with some plausible survey of complexities but then trails off into speculations from Asia Times and even Israel Shamir that are distinctly “nutty”.

There is no attempt to actually argue the conclusion:

“…the only thing that must be done is to maintain and step up total opposition to any deeper imperialist intervention for allegedly “humanitarian” purposes, which would in fact be catastrophic, ….”

That isn’t “centrist” it firmly places them on the side of “Hands Off Syria”.

The rest of the sentence, is simply a denial of the obvious reality that this means support for Assad’s counter revolution:

“while not giving an inch to the view that one must become a cheer squad for the murderous Assad regime.”

My guess is that the conclusion was written first, reflecting the only position they COULD take while being what they are. The “strange” meandering was filler to convey the impression that things are really confusing so shouting “Hands Off Syria” alongside the murderous regime while denying that you are helping them is a nice “compromise” in a “difficult situation”,

But that doesn’t explain trailing off into Israel Shamir land. It really does get stranger and stranger as it heads towards that vicious conclusion.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 15, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Centrism is notorious for vacillating, oscillating, and drawing neither-here-nor-there conclusions on the burning questions of the day. “Oppose imperialism” is their default position and is woefully inadequate. The answer to the always-important question, “what is to be done?” seems to be: not much of anything. We’ll just fold our hands while Syrians die and beg us to do something other than nothing.


Aaron Aarons August 16, 2012 at 6:32 pm

And your answer to the far-more-important question, “what is to be done?” about the tens of thousands of children dying from imperialist-imposed deprivation every day seems to be: not much of anything. Or are you somehow quietly solving that problem while modestly failing to mention the fact?


Ross August 15, 2012 at 11:36 am

I support the Syrian revolution, and I will not actively oppose outside assistance for two reasons:

1) I, and the whole Left in concert, could not stop the US or NATO from getting involved, if that is what they decide to do. On the other hand, and I think Pham might be missing this point at times, they are not waiting for the go-ahead from the Left. If their strategy for salvaging their dominance of the Middle East after the Arab Spring shook it to its foundations (and let nobody here delude themselves that they have any other objective) is to assist the rebels against a moderately anti-US regime, they will do so. Likewise, if their strategy is to have the Saudis invade a country to put down a rebellion in Bahrain, they will do so. Imperialists do not need our active support either, so I am not about to give it to them. This is not to say that we should not mobilize against wars of aggression and imperialism in general, just because we can’t stop them. Honestly, I think last year the Left could have done a lot less gushing about Egypt and a lot more mobilizing against US interference against the Bahrain revolution. What is too often ignored is the effect of the crushing of revolution in Bahrain on the Arab Spring, not least of which was the lesson that nonviolent resistance has its limits against overwhelming force. Having largely abstained from mobilizing for Bahrain, I think we also have forfeited some moral ground (if we had any to begin with) in telling the Syrians that they can’t take weapons from whomever they deem it necessary. My main point is that imperialism exists, and it is a known quantity. We know what it is capable of and what it is likely to do, and we should use that knowledge to our advantage rather than allowing it to cripple us.
2) The lesson of Libya has placed rare doubt in the assertion that revolutions will always be co-opted when imperialists get involved. While the outcome of the Libyan revolution, or the Egyptian or the Tunisian for that matter, is far from certain at this point (and history of geopolitics tells us it won’t be years), what we do know can only point to the conclusion that Libyans today are in a much better position to improve their own lives and their society than they have been in decades. There are reactionary elements in every revolution (including the beloved 1917 Russian one!), but what matters is whether there is hope for defeating them. Qaddafi’s regime was reactionary to it’s core (those who don’t see this will not learn any lessons from that country, ever), and it’s brutal repression of all opposition made any amount of progress impossible, beyond hope, until revolution could end the regime. And revolution did end the regime, not NATO bombs. NATO bombs were a tool used by the revolutionaries, and however much that assistance might have undermined the progressive nature of the revolution, it did not, it could not have undermined it as much as if all the revolutionaries were dead, and Qaddafi victorious.
NATO’s involvement in Libya was a case of empire caught with its pants down. The loss of Ben Ali alone would have been a regrettable but manageable setback for Washington. Mubarak was enough to nearly kill a half century of strategy regarding Israel and Palestine. The entire Arab world aflame, where even the Saudi monarchy is not entirely safe, literally threatens the existence of US empire. Intervention in Libya was a mad scramble to put this process into terms that US imperialists can understand and control. Yet all they managed to do was to scrape up a minimal amount of prestige (or rather wipe some of the egg off their faces), and secure a Libyan state that at least will not be openly hostile to the US at this time, which, if anyone will care to remember, they were able to do in Egypt without sanctions or airstrikes.

As an important caveat, two things have changed since Libya. One, the empire has got much of its footing back. It has much more leisure to plot its strategy in Syria than it did in Libya. It might ultimately decide that it doesn’t have to intervene much at all, but if it does, it will certainly have thought through much better how to win its own interests than it was able to in Libya. Two, regimes now know that there is no option but severe and uncompromising repression right at the outset. Again, it was Bahrain and not Libya where this was first proven. This means that in Syria, Jordan, Iran, Iraq or anywhere else revolutionaries will have little choice but to engage in armed insurrection. The internal politics of countries like Jordan (the regime is not nearly unpopular or repressive enough) and Iraq (which has been destroyed by fighting for the last decade) mean that revolution is virtually off the table for this reason, while in other countries it means that revolutions that get off the ground will almost certainly need to call on outside forces rather than relying on class dynamics. This is an unfortunate setback, but not enough where we should disown the Syrian revolution, which began as a peaceful uprising before these dynamics became solidified.

All of that aside, I must say that Arthur’s “analysis” of Bush’s foreign policy is so repellant that I feel it necessary to call it out. It is rather disgusting to find unabashed neocon apologists like Arthur finding cover here under the Arab Spring to justify the murderous invasion and occupation of Iraq. Do not say “the Iraqis did it.” The Iraqis did not destroy their own country. There was not a mass movement against a dictator prior to invasion. There was no popular mobilization even to be exploited by opportunistic imperialists. It was pure, unadulterated aggression, and the people there are still suffering for it. They are still dying for it. And unlike in Syria or any other Arab country that is in the process of regime change, the Iraqis see no light of freedom at the end of their tunnel of misery. I can only imagine that you are abhorrently ignorant about Iraq and the Middle East in general for you to even give the tiniest bit of credit for the Arab Spring to the mass murderers of the Bush regime. There is no similarity between regime change by revolution and that by invasion except in only the coldest, darkest corners of imperial realist philosophy.


Tony August 15, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Ross, with a defeatist attitude such as yours, why even be politically active at all?

‘I support the Syrian revolution, and I will not actively oppose outside assistance for two reasons: 1) I, and the whole Left in concert, could not stop the US or NATO from getting involved, if that is what they decide to do….’

So how do you support any pretend ‘revolutions’ or even REAL revolutions anywhere, if you simply think that US and NATO imperialism cannot be stopped from doing what they will do? You have to make the effort to build a SUCCESSFUL antiwar movement in the US to support revolution, not merely be a cheerleader for some other peoples actions.


Ross August 15, 2012 at 1:20 pm

I tried to explain that. I don’t think on principle that the Left should refrain from opposing war or any other policy merely because we don’t have the institutional capacity nor the influence to actually affect the outcome. I use that reasoning only in this case because of reason 2) which is basically that the situation on the ground is different and challenging enough that I am not actually sure the US should not give weapons to the revolution. My first priority is that the Syrians overthrow the regime. If getting weapons etc. helps them do that, then they should get weapons.

The thing is, I made an argument that was predicated on two points, and to make that as clear as possible, I even numbered and labeled them. So I’m not really sure you made an attempt to understand my point since you responded to only part of one point, while ignoring the rest. I agree with Pham that Libya and now Syria are different, and that the old ideas about anti-imperialism need to be rethought, although not abandoned. And yes I am aware that this argument has been made before, in Yugoslavia, and even in Iraq. I see a difference between now and those cases. That difference is revolution. If the US were to invade or some such extreme intervention, however, as did not happen in Libya, I would change my mind again, to say that Libya was different, but not Syria. You see, I am willing to change my opinion when what actually happens contradicts whatever assumptions I had in making my old opinion. I don’t see that as problematic, but rather as necessary to coming as close as possible to the right conclusion. I’ve read enough of your posts here to know that you disagree.


Tony August 15, 2012 at 6:21 pm

You just illustrated my point about you being a cheerleader and not an antiwar activist though, Ross…

‘My first priority is that the Syrians overthrow the regime…’

But why in the Hell is that your first priority? It’s not mine, Ross. My first priority is getting the American people to stop supporting bombings and wars against other countries. It is to get the American people to stop supporting the capitalist government in enforcing regime changes in foreign countries. Why is your first priority as a Leftist not these things instead of what you just told us it is for you? And in fact, I think that you are lying, too. In 5 years from now, I’ll be willing to bet that you won’t think about Syria even a jot, Dude. You’ll be cheerleading some group in another part of the world instead, no doubt.


Arthur August 15, 2012 at 1:04 pm


The first paragraph of your second reason makes perfect sense and complements your initial statement “I support the Syrian revolution, and I will not actively oppose outside assistance for two reasons.”

Your concluding diatribe on Iraq needs no response. But given the full agreent between us on the above, I’m interested in tracing the roots of what becomes completely opposite positions on other matters at the end.

“1. I, and the whole Left in concert, could not stop the US or NATO from getting involved, if that is what they decide to do. On the other hand, and I think Pham might be missing this point at times, they are not waiting for the go-ahead from the Left.”

That kind of reasoning is a rather pathetic excuse for not thinking and not acting. I would say there is currently no Left, rather than that the whole Left in concert is incapable of doing anything. But our different ways of expressing it amount to the same thing. Things got that way because of refusing to think and consequently being unable to act. In the 1960s movement there was lots of bullshit but nevertheless there was a Left in western countries which, was a significant factor assisting in the defeat of US aggression against Vietnam. That left grew from virtually nothing within a couple of years. The remnants of the “old left” thought as you do, that there was nothing much they could do, so they just held candle light processions for “peace”. Others learned how to think and act.

It took a couple of years but it really wasn’t that hard and it was rather joyous building the Vietnam solidarity movement. We knew what we were talking about and our cause was just, so we grew. It started with rather low level “teach-ins” where opponents of the aggression demonstrated that we knew a lot more about what was going on and could argue a lot more coherently than supporters. Eventually we convinced quite a lot of people to side with the Vietnamese and that US imperialism is their enemy. But we certainly didn’t do that by telling them that they had to oppose the war because the US was waging it and the US was the enemy. We had to be able to understand what they were thinking and what was actually going on.

There has been no similar antiwar movement since because there have been no similar wars since. Its as simple as that. When you claim there’s a war of aggression going on and you don’t actually know what you are talking about, there’s no way to build a mass movement around bullshit.

On Bahrain, certainly more should have been done and more should be done. But its obvious it was the Saudis rather than the US that decided to invade Bahrain. The only mobilization that could have been undertaken if there was a Left would have been to pressure the US into acting against the Saudi invasion. Something a bit like that was done in Australia in support of the East Timorese against Indonesian massacres. But there is no such possibility at present without first smashing the current pseudo-left that actually opposes action against counter-revolutionary massacres.

What other mobilization did you have in mind over Bahrain?

The paragraphs after the entirely sensible paragraph for reason 2 present a rather incoherent account of NATO supporting the Libyan revolution because it failed to prevent revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. Sorry, I’m probably distorting what you actually mean to say. But whatever it is you actually mean to say it isin’t an account of what’s really going on that you have been able to express coherently and I seriously doubt that you could make it clear no matter how carefully you re-wrote it.

The problem is your faced with something cognitively dissonant. You know you support the Syrian revolution and you know that you could not oppose US support for the Libyan revolution because it is obvious that this is better than ” if all the revolutionaries were dead, and Qaddafi victorious.”.

Yet at the same time, you believe that the US is following the same counter-revolutionary policy in the region for the past decade that it followed for the previous half century. The two things don’t fit together very well. Others resolve that by pretending the revolutionaries are counter-revolutionaries and/or would be better off dead. You know better than that, but you are still stuck on how to resolve the contradiction between what you have believed for the past decade and what you know now. Hence the incoherence building up to a climactic reaffirmation of your view on Iraq.


Brian S. August 15, 2012 at 7:45 pm

“There has been no similar antiwar movement since” – you, of course, overlook the Iraq anti-war movement, which in many countries was considerably large, and certainly far broader, than the Vietnam anti-war movement. I guess for you the operative word will be “similar” – but it was sure similar for me.


Arthur August 15, 2012 at 11:55 pm

Elsewhere I mentioned that the Iraq anti-war movement started with demonstrations twice as big as the biggest Vietnam demonstrations (based on mere suspicion that the war would be something similar). I predicted then that it would fade away rapidly and it did, almost immediately. The biggest demonstrations were the first ones. There was nothing similar about either the war or the movement against it.


Aaron Aarons August 16, 2012 at 2:02 am

It would be useful to see that prediction of yours if you want to be believed.

But one of the biggest reasons the demonstrations faded away was that, despite their size, they couldn’t deter the imperialists from their aggression, thus leading to the (correct) understanding that the imperialists would ignore such peaceful opposition.

Another big reason is that, for many reasons, there were way too few USians or other imperialist troops coming home in body bags. Those who came back with permanent disabling injuries, especially brain injuries, were not as easily noticed and therefore had much less effect on public opinion.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 15, 2012 at 3:06 pm

“I, and the whole Left in concert, could not stop the US or NATO from getting involved, if that is what they decide to do. On the other hand, and I think Pham might be missing this point at times, they are not waiting for the go-ahead from the Left.”

My point was never that NATO and other imperialists are somehow waiting for our go-ahead. What I said in the essay that managed to unite Mike Ely, PSL, and Paul D’amato in attacking me was that the Libyans benefited from the Western left’s weakness and irrelevance because if we had triumphed they would have been crushed by Ghadafi.

The second point that I made and that I continue to reiterate is that what we, the left, says and does regarding the Arab Spring does matter. It matters to Libyans if they see people in the West flying Ghadafi’s green flag and shouting “hands off Libya!” or shouting “hands off Libya!” without that flag; they will take that to mean that we are against them, and they will be dead right. The same with Syria. The main theme of all of the recent protests in Syria and abroad (besides begging imperialist powers to take Libya-style action against Assad, i.e. “do something Pres. Obama,” etc.) is breaking the silence over Syria. Syrians do not see us speaking out, organizing solidarity marches on the Russian consulate, organizing teach-ins, or any of the things we did in early 2011 for Egypt because we aren’t.

The left is entirely absent from protests like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0Z3Bcht734 (This was before Occupy, so we don’t have that excuse.)

Every march, teach-in, or donation to a Syrian organization in the West that is sending humanitarian supplies over there is an act of solidarity that is greatly appreciated by a people under counter-revolutionary siege. The International Brigades in Spain were worthless as a military force on the battlefield, but seeing 5,000 or 10,000 foreign workers/leftists marching clumsily, arms in hand, willing to lay down their lives against Franco was a tremendous morale boost, and in revolutionary war, morale is almost everything.

This debate isn’t about what position you take on Syria or what policy you favor (arms, not airstrikes, sanctions not arms), it’s about what are we doing to further struggles abroad? So far, the only thing anti-imperialists have contributed is verbal and hysterical denunciations of U.S. imperialism. They have done nothing to actually aid these revolutions and their irrelevance to the revolutionary process unfolding in the Middle East and North Africa is well-deserved.


Ross August 15, 2012 at 5:10 pm

I’m sorry but a debate on a left blog is very much about what position to take. Or are we actually trying to debate concrete proposals? Do you have some knowledge about where to send money? What would the content of a march or teach in be, especially when we don’t have a common position?

I remember in Wisconsin how much it meant to know that there were solidarity protests in all 50 states, but what we also knew was that those protests were primarily aimed at their own state governments to warn them about what to expect if they attacked unions to the same extent. It gave us a morale boost because it told us that even if we lost our fight the others would take it up at home. Unlike us, the Syrians are fighting for their lives, but nonetheless, when you’re putting your life on the line, morale means knowing you will not die in vain. Likewise, the protests in solidarity with Egypt were specifically aimed at the massive military aid to the Mubarak regime. Protests that have no root in your own political situation are virtually meaningless. They are like the pro-Palestinian protests that happened in the oppressive regimes now being brought down, or the anti-Japan protests in China: state-sanctioned protest which at best build networks and gain experience for when the real movement, the illegal protests and and marches against the regime, begins, at worst prop up the regime with a veneer of popular support.

To be completely honest I don’t think this debate on here is contributing much either except verbal and increasingly hysterical denunciations of anti-imperialism.

What we should be figuring out is how to use the Arab Spring to attack our own imperialism in the US. Why are there no more solidarity marches with Egypt even though the US is still aiding the military government and retarding revolutionary progress? Where are the marches against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? We should be opposing the things our government actually does to oppress people in the Middle East. We should be protesting the US’ entire policy in the Middle East. At the moment that policy includes not giving significant support to the people of Syria, even though it can provide high-tech militaries to Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and elsewhere. The Bahrain uprising was put down precisely because of US military support to the Saudis. Our slogan should be “Help the people or get out!” But to just give them a pass on all the evil they have committed and perpetuate in the region while calling on them to “do something” does have more of an effect of endorsing your own ruling class than it does of giving morale boosts to the people fighting.

I would actually really like a discussion about what we can do to help Syrians in their immediate need. Aside from blanket approval of US intervention, I have yet to see any concrete ideas. Such a discussion would be much more useful than the current debate about why anti-imperialism is stupid (good luck trying to build a movement around that!). I’m being serious here, by the way, if there is anything specific, I missed it, and I haven’t thought of anything myself.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 15, 2012 at 5:43 pm

“I’m sorry but a debate on a left blog is very much about what position to take. Or are we actually trying to debate concrete proposals? Do you have some knowledge about where to send money? What would the content of a march or teach in be, especially when we don’t have a common position?”

I’m actually working on a piece that discusses this, names organizations, events, etc. I have been looking into these questions since my first Libya/Syria piece. The first thing I would say is look up local mosques and Syrian-American organizations to start with. A lot of stuff has gone on under our radar because we have not really been looking for it.

“Protests that have no root in your own political situation are virtually meaningless.”

I strongly disagree. There were huge protests in Britain against the Viet Nam war even though Britain was not part of the war effort. Actually this was true for many, many countries during that time.

Occupy showed us that not every protest has to have a set of concrete demands we are making of an actor that is involved in X situation. In Egypt, they stormed the Syrian embassy and raised the revolution’s flag over it, sans demands.

If the Syrians saw and felt the whole world behind them in the form of rallies, resolutions passed by various bodies, and so on it would give them even more courage than they already have (which is a lot).


Brian S. August 15, 2012 at 7:40 pm

I think the debate here has been important, because it has helped us sharpen up our ideas and understanding of the Syrian revolution. But it probably is time to at least widen the range of things we are discussing to include practical stuff.


Shawn Redden August 15, 2012 at 8:02 pm

I posted elsewhere that you can send money directly (via PayPal) to the Free Syrian Army, the group NATO operative turned lobbyist Brian Sayers calls “freedom fighters“.

They have a website and their own public relations firm.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 16, 2012 at 9:55 am

“What we should be figuring out is how to use the Arab Spring to attack our own imperialism in the US.”

Victory for the Syrian revolution is going to cause U.S. and Israeli imperialism major problems, hence why they have been reluctant to do much about it. They are afraid of a popular, democratic, pro-Palestinian regime and so their support for the FSA has been underwhelming. For all this talk of millions of dollars in imperialist aid, the FSA sees precious little of it:

The proponents of the proxy war narrative in Syria don’t seem to understand that the FSA is mostly a self-financed group and that they have a hard time blowing up tanks and can’t even touch Assad’s planes and helicopters. If they had all this high-tech gear from the Pentagon this wouldn’t be the case.


Shawn Redden August 16, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Oh, yes. I wept upon reading this piece a few days ago. The FSA is so broke that they have a PR firm in Washington DC talking about babies in incubators, right?

Given your refusal to even contemplate its existence, you have no idea what the outside operation has cost. Nor do you know who is funding whom, or how much they’re getting. Instead, you make believe it isn’t happening and ignore that without it your ‘revolution’ vanishes into the ether.

I’ll tell you one thing: it’s not cheap to ship soldiers from the whole region, train them in bases offered up (for free?) by docile allies, arm them for a military campaign for more than a year, and fight a full-scale propaganda war on behalf of alCIAda and human rights, simultaneously.

The Hillary 2016 Slush Fund must have spent millions all by itself . . .


Brian S. August 17, 2012 at 6:09 am

@ Shawn Redden. Your approach to this discussion is rendering any engagement with you pointless. I try to look critically at every source I am using,try to triangulate every fact I am citing, and if I am not confident about the accuracy of something I will tell people, and refer to evidence that may point in the other direction.
You don’t read the posts of the other side, you toss out cherry-picked facts from sources that appeal to your prejudices, and when people point out the absurdity of your claims you just throw in another pot of dross.
Apart from the existence of a lobbyist who has been taken on by some Syrian-Canadian/American sympathisers of th FSA (and who seems to have a low budget – nothing morethan a few press interviews that I can see), there is not a single coherent fact in your post:
“Given your refusal to even contemplate its existence” – my posts have regularily discussed the evidence for, scale, and implications of external intervention in Syria. They just don’t take the Iranian government as a source of indisputable wisdom.
“Nor do you know who is funding whom, or how much they’re getting.” Nor do you – but I can cite credible estimates.
“it’s not cheap to ship soldiers from the whole region, train them in bases offered up … by docile allies, arm them for a military campaign for more than a year, and fight a full-scale propaganda war.”
There are about 300 foreign fighters in Syria. Most have come overland from neighbouring states. Maybe 20 or so have come from Libya, and there are 2 confirmed fighters from Saudi Arabia (the only “shipping” going on). They have arrived in the last few months, and none of them are in Turkish bases or being trained (they don’t need training that’s why they’re valuable to the FSA: read my posts). The only people who have been trained for more than a year are the defecting soldiers who received their training – and their weapons – from the Syrian army. The other half of the FSA are civilian oppositionists who have taken up the armed struggle in the last 3 months: they may currently being trained somewhere (I certainly hope so: I don’t fnd anything positive in untrained soldiers).
The “full-scale propaganda war” is of course being fought by both sides: on your side its being waged by the Syrian, Russian, and Iranian governments (who are your chosen sources); on the opposition side its being waged by media volunteers from the civilian opposition and the expatriate Syrian community.
When you provide a post that actually contains a credible fact challenging my account I’ll happily discuss with you. But until then I’ve got better things to do.

y they are valuable to the FSA: they. The only people who have ben


Shawn Redden August 17, 2012 at 7:22 am

This is pretty disingenuous, Brian: do you remember, 2 days ago, thanking me for my thoughtful response which included about a dozen links to information from ‘reputable’ (Western) sources?

Do you remember, yesterday, when I asked you for a source on the child torturer story? As I’ve said elsewhere, I’m interested to learn more about these virtuous ‘revolutionaries’. Some who aren’t children would be great, too, since kids haven’t had a chance to read their Marx!

Finally, my ‘side’ hopes to avert a world war and feels that the ongoing ones in Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan don’t need more kindling.

Words can deceive. The word ‘revolution’ does not a revolution make. Take a good long look at a map.


Arthur August 15, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Very true!

Given the abysmal situation I’d suggest starting at the level of teach-ins to educate people (including ourselves). Debate between opposing views is the best form of teach-in.

Debate for and against military support for the Syrian revolution should be taken to the public, not in the context of a debate “among leftists” or “among anti-imperialists”.

Here’s full video of an example of a debate at a small public meeting (only about 50-100 people) in Australia:

(part 1 with panel is on the right, part 2 with audience discussion on the left)

We didn’t bother inviting the pseudos because they aren’t capable of public debate. Their side was represented much more coherently by two open apologists for the regime on the panel of 5 (who were allowed to go on and on but were stuck with the fact that the only Syrians in the room were all against them).

It wasn’t any sort of breakthrough but it did influence the audience and didn’t feel as pointless as arguing with pseudo-leftists.

The level of discussion was rather depressing – but that’s the level we have to work from.


Brian S. August 15, 2012 at 6:59 pm

@Ross: I pretty much completely agree with you. I see no reason to change the “default” view of the left as opposition to imperialist intervention and other efforts to project its power.globally . But we need to recognise that general principles are not universal truths that can be mechanically applied whatever the circumstances.
I agree with you that the only case where I would contemplate a departure from this default stance is where there is a popular mass movement challenging an authoritarian regime, as in Libya and Syria. Under those circumstances, the protection and fostering of that movement becomes the priority, and its presence means that the process of political and social change can be shaped (partly or in whole) by popular forces in their own interests.We can also respond with a double strategy of solidarity – tolerating or supporting those measures which benefit the revolution (whoever provides them) while criticising or opposing those measures that threaten to subordinate the popular movement to external control.
I accept that we have very little influence over these events, but I wouldn’t totally discount it: Western Governments in situations where they are subject to cross pressures, internally divided about which course to adopt, and where there are domestic issues like elections to consider, can be sensitive to public pressures. Even the absence of significant opposition to measures they are contemplating can influence their calculus.


Shawn Redden August 16, 2012 at 7:10 am

‘Proxy war’ characterizes better what’s taking place in Syria than the term ‘revolution’ does, no matter the historical analogies offered up.

Proxy war did take place between France and England throughout most of the 18th century, but personally I wouldn’t characterize the so-called ‘American Revolution’ as you have. Nor do I see much similarity behind what’s taking place now in Syria to Vietnam in the mid-20th century (other than the US involvement in fracturing the country, arming a fake opposition, and ransacking the place).

Here’s what I do see: In the last 24 hours, your the noteworthy actions of your fearless ‘revolutionaries’ included the bombing of the hotel out of which the UN Observeration (and an Russia Today crew) operated and the kidnapping of a bunch of journalists they don’t like.

I could just see Trotsky ordering those things himself . . .

How do you respond when A NUN (superior at a Syrian monastery for 18 years) calls the media coverage “partial and untrue,” and “a fake which hides atrocities committed in the name of liberty and democracy”.

There’s a great Dylan lyric: “the got him on conspiracy; they would never say who with”. In a few minutes time and without really trying very hard, I managed to pull up about a dozen contemporary pieces of relevant information concerning the nature of your ‘revolution’–their source of funding, its sources of weapons, and and sources of cannon fodder–starkly opposed to your own.

Your response consisted of two historical connections, neither of which make a lot of sense to me, and a flippant remark about conspiracy, seemingly from nowhere.


Arthur August 16, 2012 at 11:13 pm

(my last comment was intended as a reply to the CPGB link from Pham Binh, but the reply button immediately below it sill put the comment at end)

PS I have found placement or threading of replies confusing on other occasions too. Often thought maybe I (or another writer) clicked the wrong reply button. This time I am certain I clicked the one immediately below Pham’s comment but the reply still went elsewhere.


Arthur August 16, 2012 at 11:16 pm

PPS and the 11:13 comment concerning placement of my 11:09 comment popped into some totally unrelated position – not just at the end. God knows where this immediately reply to 11:13 pm will end up. Threading is definately broken.


Pete Shield August 17, 2012 at 8:47 am

Two more good reports from Next Century Foundation’s Syria and Lebanon Working Group. (http://ncfsyria.blogspot.fr/)

The first on foreign intervention in Syria

The second I have copied and formated for an easier read is on the state of play with the Kurdish forces


Brian S. August 17, 2012 at 10:48 am

A thought that was stimulated by reading another article on the cpgb site – I wonder what is happening politically in the refugee camps? I hadn’t been aware untiI I started checking this out that there have been major protests in both the Jordanian and Turkish camps – two killed by Turkish police in the latter. In the Turkish case the protestors apparently crossed the border, fetched a Syrian flag and returned to hoist it in place of the Turkish flag over the camp (not quite sure which Syrian flag is was.) In the Jordanian camp they chanted the slogan “the people demand the downfall of the camp”. So it looks as if the rebel spirit lives on. Could have interesting consequences.


Aaron Aarons August 20, 2012 at 7:17 pm

“To those firmly in the camp of Assad’s counter-revolution: if you can watch these videos of children in Aleppo or teenagers in Damascus without feeling like running out into those streets to join their clapping, dancing, chanting, and singing, I have to question whether you are a human being with feelings and emotions much less a so-called revolutionary.”

What kind of idiot would want to run out into the streets to join with children, or anybody, “clapping, dancing, chanting, and singing”, especially in a clearly political situation, without knowing what they were for, what they were against, and whether they had a clue as to what was actually going on? While the older youths in the short video were apparently acting in some consciously political manner, I’d still want to know what they were for or against, and why.

I am not, BTW, “firmly in the camp of Assad’s counter-revolution” nor in any other Syrian camp I have knowledge of. I do believe, however, that, in the absence of a leftist revolutionary alternative, it may turn out that a victory for Assad is the lesser evil in that situation.

And, as to whether or not I’m “a human being with feelings and emotions”, I will have to admit I spend a lot of time these days with Androids . OTOH, I have never, as far as I can remember, dreamed of electric sheep.


Bob October 29, 2014 at 2:17 am

Al Assad is not…’at war with own people…’ the Syrian state is at war with a proxy foreign army, made up of mostly Saudis/Tunisians/Pakistanis/Libyans/Jordanians/Chechens and assorted others, who are mercenaries under the control of Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s financing. These foreign fighters are not Syrian, they entered Syrian sovereign territory via Turkey, where the Turkish government has allowed base and transit camps for foreigners. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Israel and USA all want regime change in Damascus, the only state in the arab levant besides Iran currently outside western control, and are supporting and facilitating the rampant violence that is now completely out of control against the Syrian population. Close Turkey’s border with Syria, with UN troops, and the Syrian ‘revolt would cease quickly as no new foreigner fighters could enter and it would cut off the current flow of Saudi financed arms shipments to the ‘rebels’ who are clearly takfiri foreigners.


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