Aiding the Syrian Revolution: a Guide to Action

by Pham Binh on August 26, 2012

“Vulgar revolutionism fails to see that the word is also a deed; this proposition is indisputable when applied to history generally, or to those periods of history when no open political mass actions take place, and when they can not be replaced or artificially evoked by putsches of any sort. Khvostist (tailist) revolutionaries fail to understand that—when a revolutionary period has started, when the old ‘superstructure’ has cracked from top to bottom, when open political action on the part of the classes and masses who are creating a new superstructure for themselves has become a fact, when civil war has begun—then, to confine oneself to ‘words’ as of old, and fail to advance the direct slogan to pass to ‘deeds,’ still to try avoid deeds by pleading the need for ‘psychological conditions’ and ‘propaganda’ in general, is apathy, lifelessness, pedantry, or else betrayal of the revolution and treachery to it. The Frankfurt windbags of the democratic bourgeoisie are a memorable historical example of just such treachery, or of just such pedantic stupidity.” — V.I. Lenin, Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution

I ran across the above words as I began asking myself: how can Western (or in my case, American) activists concretely aid and abet the Syrian revolution?

Not one critic of “When Anti-Imperialism Goes Wrong” even addressed this question which was the main counterpoint to the Western left’s thoroughly academic and entirely passive approach to the Syrian revolution:

Our first duty in the West is to do whatever we can to aid, abet, and provide material support for our Syrian brothers’ and sisters’ fight against the Assad regime. … The most important thing for the Western left to do is to forge close and enduring relationships with revolutionary Syrians living abroad by demonstrating our unequivocal support for their revolution through deeds, through joint work with their communities. Only in that context and on that basis can criticisms we have about deals with U.S. imperialism or mistakes made by the SNC, FSA, and the coordinating committees gain a hearing among the people who count: revolutionary Syrians.

Instead, my critics made hysterical and unfounded allegations against me personally that ranged from the flawed to the downright idiotic, and none of which constituted a guide to action.

Now that long-awaited revolutions have broken out, it seems that many Marxists are content to sit around writing fine critiques of them in a vain attempt to strike the perfect balance between criticism and support, as if words, statements, and interpretations would do a damn thing to shape their outcomes. A revolution occurs when the patience of the masses runs out and yet all some comrades know how to do is “patiently explain.”

So much more than that is demanded of us now (hence the lengthy Lenin quote at the beginning of this piece).

So, let’s cut to the chase…


Revolutionary Syrians will march and rally on September 2 from 9 a.m. to noon in Lafayette Park in front of the White House under the slogan: “World Silence is Killing Syria.” This is being organized by the Syrian American Council, an umbrella organization of Syrians living in the U.S. and co-sponsored by the Syrian Expatriates Organization, Syrian Emergency Task Force, United for a Free Syria, and Amnesty International.

Everyone who can go should go. Here is the event’s Facebook page. Tickets to the banquet after the march can be purchased here (it’s a fund-raiser).

On September 1, there will be a local rally in New York City under the slogan “The World Has Failed Us” on 40th Street and 7th Avenue in Times Square at 4 p.m. to help build for the national march the next day.

Internationalists: Think Global, Act Local

“Forging close and enduring relationships with revolutionary Syrians living abroad … through joint work with their communities” is a much more difficult task than showing up to a one-off rally. You have to do some research, make some phone calls, email people/groups, poke around a bit, and consistently walk the walk instead of just talking the talk. There are dozens of organizations and initiatives (even small ones) that have sprung up literally overnight to support the Syrian revolution, much as Occupy Wall Street rapidly spawned occupations, protests, sit-ins, and other initiatives all over the United States (and the world).

Thus far, the revolutionary wing of the Syrian community (and there is a counter-revolutionary wing too) has been extremely isolated in its activities in solidarity with the revolution. Many of their Web sites and Facebook updates are written only in Arabic even though their organizations are based in the West. After all, why bother writing and speaking English if no English-speakers take an interest in the revolution?

As you can see from the above protest in Times Square, New York City, the ostensibly pro-Palestinian left is completely absent with out leave. So are progressives, liberals, anarchists, socialists, and Marxists. So is everyone — except the Syrians.

The groundswell of support for the 2011 Egyptian revolution (see above) dried up when the Libyans needed it last year and the Syrians need it now due to the Western left’s simplistic brand of anti-imperialism.

This belies the claim by Paul D’amato of the ISO that:

There are, however, plenty of principled anti-imperialists who have managed to walk and chew gum at the same time–to support the revolutions in Libya and Syria against dictatorial regimes, while at the same time opposing intervention by the U.S. and its imperialist allies.

“Plenty of principled anti-imperialists” were nowhere to be found walking or chewing gum at any solidarity action organized by revolutionary Libyans and Syrians in the West in 2011-2012. The only chewing they did was to chew out whomever exposed these do-nothing “principled anti-imperialists” for making common cause with the enemies of the Libyan and Syrian Springs on the basis of their shared “anti-imperialism.”

In the New York City area, there are two organizations doing work around the Syrian revolution, Syria First and Syrian-Americans for Democracy. Both have organized protests at the United Nations and in Times Square as well as raised money to distribute badly needed humanitarian aid to Syria’s swelling internal and external refugee population.

Anyone who looks down on the humanitarian/relief aspect of Syrian solidarity work and claims to be a revolutionary is really anything but. Revolutions are not made primarily by guns and bullets but by people, and people can’t struggle effectively without something to eat (the Assad regime knows this; it’s why they shell bakeries). Occupy Wall Street succeeded in mobilizing people where the conventional left failed in part because it gave people a hot meal (and a place to sleep) instead of haranguing them to buy a newspaper, “join the revolution,” or stand in a rally cage to “demand” (read: beg) 1% politicians act in our interests instead of theirs.

The fact of the matter is that the Syrian people are not just being killed at a rate of 100-200 per day, they are being forced to flee their homes, forced to make due with what little they have (which wasn’t much to begin with), and forced to survive on the charity of strangers, often in strange lands. The groups that are providing humanitarian supplies and relief are doing essential work; all friends of the Syrian people should aid, assist, and organize those efforts where ever possible.

Give them bread and give them roses — bread for the living, roses for the martyrs.

When schools come back into session, people can organize teach-ins, speak-outs, and flash mobs on campus about the Syrian revolution in conjunction with Arab/Muslim student associations (who will probably be interested in relief work as well). It’s also worth inquiring at local mosques whether they are doing any activities for Syria since many Syrian-American organizations have held prayer days, fund-raisers, and other events through them.

All of the above can be done no matter where you live.

If you are not comfortable or able to organize these types of events and activities, you can donate money to Syria Assistance or, if you’re feeling really adventurous, you can send money through Paypal to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) through its American affiliate, the Syrian Support Group (SSG). (The old-fashioned among us can write checks to SSG; see their Web site for the address and details.) SSG obtained a license for fund-raising from the U.S. Treasury Department that exempts them from U.S. sanctions on Syria.

Those who profess to support the Syrian revolution now have the opportunity to put their money where their mouths are.

Winning the Information War

The Russian and Iranian governments (through their respective Fox News equivalents, Russia Today and PressTV) are hard at work spreading lies and misinformation about Syria 24/7 among the gullible and the cynical. The lie that the FSA was responsible for a massacre in Houla spread like wildfire on the Western left, but when the truth came out, few if any of them could be bothered for a thorough follow-up much less a retraction.

This is strikingly similar to the behavior of the neocons in the run up to the 2003 war on Iraq. They played up every hint (true or false) of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and ties to Al-Qaeda while ignoring, dismissing, or downplaying all of the hard evidence to the contrary because it conflicted with their preconceived notion of reality and their fixed policy prescriptions.

Now the shoe is on the other foot.

The Western left’s dire predictions about post-NATO Libya turned to be just as wrong as neocon fantasies about post-invasion Iraq were. Both remain stuck in denial to this day and wonder why no one takes them seriously when it comes to understanding events in the Middle East.

There is a lot of first-hand reporting going on in Syria, almost exclusively by pro-revolution sources (although Robert Fisk has chosen to embed himself with Assad’s military a la Fox News in 2003). The Syrian Freedom tumblr posts photos, videos, and generally reliable information about moves on the battlefield and defections. Their livestream channel is the best English-language source that compiles live video of street protests/fighting in Aleppo, Damascus, Daraa, and other places with live tweets by the Local Coordinating Committees and other Syrian activists, breaking news items, regime atrocities, and the daily body count.

Brown Moses, a blog by Elliot Higgins, focuses on the military-technical challenges the FSA is grappling with as they fight a 21st century people’s war. Stephanie Lamy, a French photographer-turned-Libyan-revolutionary-(h)activist, compiled a very extensive listing of YouTube channels and Facebook pages correlated with a map of Syria so people can look into and investigate for themselves the demonstrations and all-out battles in various parts of the country.

Never in the history of revolutionary warfare has it been possible to see what is actually going on on the ground the way it is today. All you have to do is dig if you want to access the unfiltered, unembedded truth.

What to Read

For people who are still on the fence about what is going on in Syria, I recommend reading and thinking about the following articles:

  1. Nir Rosen — who hung out with the Sunni resistance in Iraq and told Joe Biden to his face that he would not help U.S. imperialism — traveled to Syria and wrote about what he saw of the revolution. He also did a five-part interview with Al-Jazeera that is worth reading in its entirety.
  2. Anand Gopal, an anti-imperialist reporter who spent time in Afghanistan and Libya, wrote what is probably the only on-the-ground class analysis of the revolution’s social forces, specifically the town councils that govern post-Assad areas of Syria. You can also listen to his interview on Democracy Now where he first discusses U.S. war crimes against Afghans before moving onto Assad’s war crimes against Syrians.
  3. The Battle for Syria,” a Frontline documentary is a hard look at the FSA. The second part of it details the beginning of the revolution and the regime’s brutal reaction.
  4. Joshua Landis, Director of the Center for Middle East Studies and Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Oklahoma, wrote a good piece in 2006 about the class divide in Syria that underpins the revolution. He has a new blog that combines rigorous, factual analysis with historical perspective.
  5. An inside look into the Assad regime’s propaganda apparatus by McClatchy, a news outlet that distinguished itself during the Iraq war and occupation for its independent reporting. The first few sentences of this piece are the starting point for understanding of what is happening in Syria today.
  6. “Life With Syria’s Rebels in a Cold and Cunning War” is a New York Times report about FSA units fighting in Aleppo that discloses an incident where a prisoner of the FSA was used in a failed suicide bombing attempt (if the armed opposition in Syria was overflowing with Islamic extremist suicide bombers, these fighters would not have resorted to this tactic and gladly sacrificed themselves). The honest disclosure of the ugly reality of the FSA stands in stark contrast to the Syrian state’s propaganda which never discloses how the regime targets children for torture and mutilation and shells hospitals.  The article gives a good sense of how Syria’s peaceful protests in early 2011 were forced to take up arms to survive the Assad regime’s murderous onslaught.

My other writings on the Arab Spring:

{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

Arthur August 26, 2012 at 12:17 pm

Excellent article!

I haven’t followed the links yet, but was struck by:

“Many of their Web sites and Facebook updates are written only in Arabic even though their organizations are based in the West. After all, why bother writing and speaking English if no English-speakers take an interest in the revolution?”

Perhaps “translation polishing” could be a useful form of direct assistance?

Presumably organizations based in the english speaking West are capable of providing basic rough translations from arabic to english (also assisted by online machine translation). Volunteers with no Arabic could provide polished versions (which should then be checked against the original Arabic by Arabic speakers).

BTW (free software movement has facilities for organizing translations that make it easier for people to casually contribute translations and corrections to translations for internationalized software and related documentation).

Also of course we can help with articles aimed at the mainstream (rather than “the left”).

Concretely, lets post important op-eds (or very short intros and links) for people here to respond to.

Then we can link to the comments here from online comments to those op-eds (and other places).

This should be kept quite separate from debate with “the left”.

The online comments here could then be further developed into full articles and re-posted as such.

The rally promo and flash mobs clearly show a sophisticated understanding of what message needs to be delivered to western public opinion in order to speedup support from western governments. Lets learn from them and orient towards the general public mainstream instead of remaining bogged down arguing with pseudos.

Here again is an example of the sort of mainstream op-ed that we should have a post here to develop replies to.

Please start a thread on it or on something similar.

Note that developing responses to this stuff will actually hit the “anti-imperialists” harder than direct replies since it hammers home that they are on the same side as conservatives who don’t give a damn.

If others agree, please post replies in this thread with other examples of current op-eds that would be worth having a post about. (I’ll do the same).


Arthur August 26, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Here’s another sample op-ed (with several hundred comments) – Fareed Zakaraia (Time/CNN) “The Case Against Intervention in Syria”


Arthur August 26, 2012 at 12:45 pm
Brian S. August 26, 2012 at 6:57 pm

@Arthur. I can’t see any comments. Are they behind a pay wall?


Arthur August 26, 2012 at 10:25 pm

No paywall. Sorry, I should have added following.

Pham’s link for “deeds” leads on to inspiring CNN story “Former US Soldier Aids Syrian Wounded”: for whole story (with video).

At bottom there is a link for “Your take: Intervene or Not”:

This summarizes (and links to via the words “we opened up a debate”):

an online comments debate about Zakaria’s article with 395 comments.


Arthur August 29, 2012 at 10:53 am

Here’s a more current op-ed from Daniel Pipes:

Published in various newspapers, including today’s “The Australian”:

Reflects the more cynically extremist opposition to intervention rather than the more important “mainstream”. But still worth responding to as highlighting who the pseudos are lined up with and what some people hope the outcome of non-intervention would be.

BTW although Daniel Pipes enjoys being openly malevolent he isn’t ignorant.

This article provides quite useful historical background:


Arthur August 29, 2012 at 11:18 am

Re “translation polishing”. Seems there’s a well organized network for translations:


Brian S. August 29, 2012 at 6:24 pm

Pipes may or may not be ignorant. But this article says nothing.


Brian S. August 26, 2012 at 7:31 pm

Great work Pham: Good to get the word out beyond the Syrian-American community about these solidarity actions and a very useful set of links. I had seen a couple of Robert Fisk’s articles, but I hadn’t realised he was doing this in such a systematic way. Its actually quite useful. I think its important to monitor the Syrian government’s line – if possible directly rather than through hacks like Meyssan.
Something along the lines of Arthur’s suggestion would be good.It would be excellent to try and establish some kind of conduit so that announcements and reports from within Syria could reach a western audience (general and left).
I don’t know what’s possible with the architecture of this site. Would it be possible to create a major division (along the lines of the Debate /Analysis categories – but more prominent) called something like “The Syrian Revolution”: we could then create posts and threads within that around e.g. Solidarity actions, Analysis, Voices of the Struggle etc?


byork August 27, 2012 at 6:34 am

Yes, thanks Pham for this uplifting article. I agree with Arthur and Brian S, too. I like the poster with the slogan ‘World silence is killing Syria’ and it brought to mind anti-fascist slogans from the Spanish civil war. I think there’s a parallel: ‘Anti-fascists! Think of those who are fighting!’, ‘What are you doing to prevent this?’ and, of course, ‘No Pasaran! Pasaremos!’ These would work well on posters depicting the struggle in Syria.

The Vietnam solidarity movement in the 1960s – also supporting the people against a fascistic regime – began very small but built itself into an international solidarity movement. I wonder what the prospects are for a ‘day of rage’ – protests demanding intervention on the side of the people co-ordinated internationally. At the moment, it seems to be prinicpally an activist movement based on the Syrian communities.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 28, 2012 at 10:22 am

It’s a great idea, but the bulk of the left is content to sit this one out, preferring instead to babble about non-existent U.S. airstrikes and non-existent arms shipments to the FSA from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the Central Intelligence Agency. The Syrians have already created this infrastructure through the Facebook pages of the aforementioned groups, and when campuses return, Muslim/Arab student associations are probably going to be open to and busy with solidarity work since they are not bogged down with the left’s ideological baggage. Solidarity work with the Syrian revolution is about as popular as Palestinian solidarity work was on September 12, 2001. There is a long road ahead of us. Hopefully there will be some Syrians left to save at the end of it.


Arthur August 28, 2012 at 11:18 am

Don’t worry so much about “the bulk of the left”. They don’t amount to much anyway.

BTW that was also true for Vietnam solidarity. The previous “left” had completely degenerated into a “peace movement” that merely called for negotiations. The solidarity movement grew from nothing, in active opposition to the previous “left”, which was extremely hostile. It only took a couple of years to completely dwarf the previous “left”.

There is a long road ahead, but the general public is vastly more aware than it was in the 1960s.

Don’t forget that one of the things upsetting the “left” is extremely positive – CNN et al are helping get the word out! I was quite struck by the extent of that when following your “deeds” link. They were using the example of the former US soldier aiding Syrian wounded to actively organze debate about solidarity. We certainly weren’t getting that sort of help in the 1960s.

The Syrian led publicity looks very professional too.


Diana Barahona August 27, 2012 at 2:34 pm

By the way, congratulations, Pham and Brian S., for getting Amnesty International on your side. That is major coup for global capitalism and imperialism. It just goes to show that persistence in infiltrating civil society pays off.


admin August 27, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Don’t cut and paste other people’s words as if they were your own and don’t comment unless you are going to write a substantive reply to the article in question or to someone’s particular comment.

Consider yourself warned.


Brian S. August 28, 2012 at 8:01 am

Hi Diana, I can see that you’ve been attending the Thierry Meyssan school of journalism again. You method is typical conspiracy theory: you take one element is a situation, blow it up out of proportion, and deploy it like it a paintbrush (with very broad strokes) to colour in a subject in your preferred shade. You don’t bother to tell us exactly what your case against AI is. I know that they put up this incredibly stupid advert in the US about Afghanistan (but the world is not centred in New York, and AI is a diverse international organisation) And I had some disagreements with them over their precise stance in Libya – where I imagine you were enthusiastically quoting their reports all over the place. An organisation like AI whose remit is defence of human rights is not going to appreciate the complexities of a revolutionary upheaval, or share the take that (some) people on the left might have of a particular situation. But overall their work is necessary and positive. Certainly their staff are for the most part highly professional and their reports (if you read them rather than dismiss them because they don’t fit in with your preconceptions or Thierry’s fantasies) strive to be both accurate and balanced – although evidence is often difficult to get and assess in the sort of situations they operate. Personally I find that HRW blances its human rights role with understanding of particular local situations better – but I’m sure you regard them too as another spawn of the devil.


Brian S. August 30, 2012 at 7:34 am

I don’t know if its just me, but I’ve only just realised that since 17 August “Occupied Kafranbel” has become “Liberated Kafranbel” (meaning that there’s no Syrian army presence in the town). Here they are celebrating their liberation:


Arthur August 30, 2012 at 7:50 am

Given their slogans oriented to english speaking audience I thought “Occupied Kafranbel” was a clever appeal to the “Occupy” movement. Apparently not.


Arthur August 31, 2012 at 1:01 pm

I just watched the Nir Rosen testimony, which was quite interesting. ” told Joe Biden to his face that he would not help U.S. imperialism”.

That’s a major distortion. In part 3 at 3′:50″ he was asked by Biden to confirm that what he had said meant there was nothing positive the US could do and they should just get out. He replied that he felt embarassed to be advising US imperialism but that his Sunni friends in the resistance felt vulnerable and that there would be more violence if the US pulled out. (He had testified, accurately enough, that the Sunnis knew they had lost the civil war).

This is pretty much the opposite of the impression created above.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp August 31, 2012 at 2:06 pm

“As a journalist, I’m uncomfortable advising an imperialist power about how to be a more efficient imperialist power. I don’t think we’re there for the interests of the Iraqi people. I don’t think that’s ever been a motivation.” — Nir Rosen

Repeating what his Sunni friends said is not “advising an imperialist power”.


Arthur August 31, 2012 at 6:39 pm

Watch the video. He was uncomfortable about advising the imperialist power NOT to withdraw its troops from Iraq.


Arthur September 1, 2012 at 7:12 am

Being curious as to how Pham Binh could quote the exact words used by Rosen without having seen from the video that his description of the context was completely misleading, I googled the quote text and found it in Nir Rosen’s Wikipedia entry and numerous blogs.

NONE of the pages that quoted that phrase I looked at (including the source for the Wikipedia entry) quoted the actual context that Nir Rosen was uncomfortable because he was IN FACT offering advice to US imperialism (testifying to a Congressional Committee presided over by Joe Biden) and that the advice he gave (despite his opposition to the war and to US imperialism) was that the US should NOT withdraw its troops at that time because it would result in an increase in violence.

This is quite typical of the sheer dishonesty of pseudo-left reports about Iraq.

I hope Pham Binh will acknowledge that his report WAS misleading.


Brian S. September 1, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Pham’s description of Rosen’s remark was not precise, but there was nothing misleading about it. Rosen’s words were “I’m uncomfortable in advising an imperialist power about how to be a more efficient imperialist
There’s nothing in the context – either of the videos or the transcript – that modifies that.The relevant “context” is Rosen’s detailed indictment of the condition of Iraq at that point in time and the role of US forces.
Testifying to a Congressional Committe may or may not entail “offering advice”: In Rosen’s case it didn’t. Biden tries to draw Rosen out to make judgements based on his observations – hence the exchange that Pham refers to. But Rosen is very scrupulous in observing the boundaries he has drawn – he doesn’t go beyond description to make any prescriptive statements. And Nowhere does he say that the US should not withdraw its forces.
What he DOES say is: “the American military is not a benign presence in Iraq. While the occupation isn’t as brutal as it once was, it’s still very brutal. And a foreign military occupation is a systematic position of violence and terror on an entire people. American soldiers are not in Iraq as peacekeepers or policemen, and they’re also not helping the Iraqi people. The numerous and routine raids that Americans engage in, terrorize an entire population.”
It is Arthur who owes us an apology for his misleading account of what Rosen had to say.


patrickm September 1, 2012 at 5:00 pm

I also took the trouble to check out NO1. on Binh’s list Nir.

Bihn; the very next word was ‘however’ and he then went on to say in a typically mealy mouthed way words to the effect that troops out now would have been a disaster for the Sunni in particular and that the policies of the surge as applied were working. The line he had followed was by then shown wrong in his view.

But anyway; following Binh’s links eventually led me to this clip that I found very interesting when reflecting on Nir Rosen No wonder Nir was compelled to resign! Western revolutionaries must think about what this revolution is all about when this behavior is being ‘unleashed’. There are within the ranks of the revolutionaries real shockers and when troops of the regime being overthrown must come to the assistance of a female journalist there can’t be any rose colored glasses still on. It is the very revolution that will transform the peoples of the ME and that is well overdue. Just as revolution in the west will transform us.

That Biden vid was itself a peculiarly useless video other than confirmation that the Surge was correct, but is presented presumably to give some sort of credibility to 35yr old Nir as an anti imperialist who has no-doubt attended many a ‘No blood for oil’ march until they finally collapsed quite some years ago.

I mention Nir’s age to remind people of his experience in 2002 when as a 25yr old he opposed the war to smash fascism in Iraq and set off the process to liberate the peoples of the whole swamp. He didn’t oppose that war but opposed what he mistook to be quite another type of war altogether I bet he never even thought that there was another viewpoint that he had missed entirely. I guess that people won’t find any of his work that is a debate or attempt to refute any left-wing support of the liberation of the Iraqi peoples. Those debates never really happened.

Mind you Nir knows it’s a real swamp that has to be transformed – after all he even knows what large numbers of men on the revolutionary side will and do get up to at a large scale public occupation / demonstration in the heart of the revolutionary square in Egypt.

There is a very good reason why the Middle East is described as a political and cultural swamp that has to be drained of tyranny. Imagine a revolutionary square where conduct within the square is so bad that the revolutionary peoples have to have the tyrants soldiers pull women away from being dealt with in such an utterly shameful manner!

There is a very good reason why Nir has stopped writing about Iraq and moved on years ago. As the following long quote from the end of his most widely known piece shows he sounds a lot like the people from that milieu who are now making zero sense from a revolutionary democrats POV over Syria. He was just wrong and was contributing nothing to understanding what was the way forward.

The Myth of the Surge
Hoping to Turn Enemies into Allies, U.S. Forces are Arming Iraqis who Fought with the Insurgents. But it’s Already Starting to Backfire By Nir Rosen, New America Foundation March 6, 2008 | Rolling Stone ….”Before the war, it was just one party,” Arkan tells me. “Now we have 100,000 parties. …
…”The situation won’t get better,” he says softly. An officer of the Iraqi National Police, a man charged with bringing peace to his country, he has been reduced to hiding in his van, unable to speak openly in the very neighborhood he patrols. Thanks to the surge, both the Shiites and the Sunnis now have weapons and legitimacy. And what can come of that, Arkan asks, except more fighting? “Many people in Sahwa work for Al Qaeda,” he says. “The national police are all loyal to the Mahdi Army.” He shakes his head. “You work hard to build a house, and somebody blows up your house. Will they accept Sunnis back to Shiite areas and Shiites back to Sunni areas? If someone kills your brother, can you forget his killer?”

It didn’t backfire! The whole article is an apologetic shocker. The Shia were an oppressed majority and Iraq was run as a Sunni privileged abomination of South African scale!

The Syrian revolutionaries require weapons and all manner of supplies AND outside air power etc. They do not require ‘never’ talk and the repetition of those previous errors that simply gives one credibility in Neverland but are going nowhere in the real world.

Is Biden pushing to intervene in the manner that the bad old tweedle dum McCain did over Libya and Syria and the surge in Iraq? I hope so.

Naturally there were other people that thought about the Surge and came to a different conclusion to Neverland people who had already called for ‘troops out now’ and stuck with that view from before the Surge during the Surge and after the Surge all the way to today despite the fact that all their efforts did not result in one soldier leaving one day sooner than the Iraqi government required!

There is a bourgeois democracy being established in Syria via a bloody revolution against tyranny that is responsible for the killing and when it is established it will be an end achievement no different to the system that the people of Iraq have managed to win with a different start and a different middle.


Arthur September 1, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Part 3 at 2′:30″:

Joe Biden: “Based on what you said there’s there’s really no hope, we should just get the hell out of there, right now, right. I mean there’s nothing to do. Nothing.

The fantasy Nir Rosen, as anyone reading the claims about what he told Joe Biden to his face would assume:

Fantasy Nir Rosen: That’s right. Just get the hell out of there.

The actual Nir Rosen giving (correct) advice that there are no good solutions and troops should not be withdrawn at that time because it would lead to Rwanda syle massacres:

Nir Rosen: “As a journalist, I’m uncomfortable advising an imperialist power about how to be a more efficient imperialist power. I don’t think we’re there for the interests of the Iraqi people. I don’t think that’s ever been a motivation. HOWEVER, I have mixed emotions on that issue. Many of my Sunni friends beginning about a year ago, many of them who are opposed to the Americans, who supported attacking American troops in Iraq, began to go really nervous at the idea of the Americans leaving Iraq because they knew that they would be massacred. It could be a Rwanda on the day the Americans leave. Now the creation of these Sunni militias, “The Awakening” groups militants against that kind of massacre developing because now there are actually Sunni safe zone and thousands of Sunnis from outside the Sunni areas are inhabiting territories controlled by the Sunni militias but I do believe that if the Americans were to withdraw then you would see an increase in violence at least until some equilibrium was reached.”


Brian S. September 1, 2012 at 6:59 pm

Arthur I am trying to remain polite here: but you are dissembling.You guys seem to slide into this wierd “fantasy” dialogue mode when your arguments are disintegrating – and its not only infantile but very confusing (perhaps deliberately so)
You say “The actual Nir Rosen giving (correct) advice that there are no good solutions and troops should not be withdrawn at that time because it would lead to Rwanda syle massacres:” Anyone reading this would think that this was a quote or at least a close precis of his words. But its not – its just another of Arthur’s fantasies. The only thing you have been correct about in this discussion is that the meaning of any statement can only be determined by looking at it in context. But, as I’ve pointed out above, you ignore the real context, which is Rosen’s lengthy and scathing indictment of the state of Iraq under US occupation and the behaviour and impact of the US forces.


Brian S. September 1, 2012 at 7:30 pm

@Arthur Sorry, I hadn’t noticed that you’d included the quote from Rosen at the end of your post (old age, again, I fear) Thanks,saves me the need to do so. But you don’t seem to have read it:
* It contains no “advice” – just a description of what his “Sunni friends” believed (and in the in the past)
* It states that the prospect of a “Rwanda” no longer exists (or is much less likely) because of the emergence of Sunni militia and safe zones: “Now the creation of these Sunni … groups militates (not “militants” as you have it) against that kind of a massacre of civilians occurring.”
A factual statement that violence would increase if the Americans withdrew “temporarily—until some sort of equilibrium is reached”
NO call for the US to stay (consistent with his refusal to offer advice )
Looking at this statement in context the obvious question is: would the avoidance of the “temporary ” increase in violence that would result from American withdrawal be sufficient to offset the gain of an end to a “systematic position of violence and terror on an entire people.” ?
The answer: No idea. Nir Rosen doesn’t say. What the structure of his statements do seem to be saying is “here are the facts, sorting this out is your problem.” Bide, at least, seemed to understand that very clearly.


Arthur September 2, 2012 at 1:37 am

Brian, you (unsuccessful) attempt “to remain polite” and subsequent apology are both noted.

“Rosen’s lengthy and scathing indictment of the state of Iraq under US occupation and the behaviour and impact of the US forces.”

That is certainly the context, which nobody who has heard of Nir Rosen could be unaware of.

In that context Joe Biden invited him to confirm that he was saying:

” we should just get the hell out of there, right now, right. I mean there’s nothing to do. Nothing.”

To which Nir Rosen replied that he was uncomfortable giving advice because the Americans are not in Iraq for the benefit of the Iraqi people, however if the Americans were to withdraw then you would see an increase in violence.

He was rejecting Joe Biden’s invitation to confirm that the US should get the hell out. This is completely obvious and remains so after correction of the typo so that “militant” should read “militates”.

BTW Joe Biden was opposed to the surge and said it would have zero chance of success. He wanted a rapid withdrawal of troops to get the hell out.

Instead of being reported correctly as Nir Rosen, despite his well known opposition to the war says US withdrawal would lead to increased violence. It gets reported in a way that completely suppresses the actual answer he was giving – the exact opposite answer to the one his fans shouting “troops out now” wanted to hear.

Attempting to be polite, your reply before even noticing my quotation of what was said and your interpretation after reading are both consistent with your preconceptions about Iraq and completely uninfluenced by the facts in front of your eyes. This is exactly the same approach that you have (largely) seen through when coming from the same people over Syria. I agree with you that their approach is contemptible.


patrickm September 2, 2012 at 9:08 am

This very day we have material like the following over at Kasama.

Tom Watts said September 1, 2012 at 2:47 am
‘Anti-Imperialism has not failed, Pham Binh has, failed to recognize that a qualitative change in the character of the Syrian Revolution occurred when it embraced US imperialist aid. It became co-opted, date-raped and engaged to be married all at once. The anti-imperialist duty of people everywhere hasn’t changed. But your “revolution” just became a client of the CIA and the mad drive to consolidate US imperialist global hegemony. It’s called selling-out. You don’t ask the wolf to help you with your fox problem. You don’t invite the vampires to come in.’

Tom Watts purported qualitative change has taken place not because the goals (the political demands) of the revolution have changed but because the quantity of imperialist help to the revolutionaries to ensure the Syrian peoples achieve those goals has changed. The quantity of arms supplied has more than tainted the armed struggle, it’s risen to the point where that new level has changed its quality! Apparently the imperialist assist is really to ensure the revolutionaries do not achieve those goals! Where once there was a supportable revolutionary struggle that all good anti-imperialist western leftists could perhaps send a donation to, an imperialist assist came along and the dogma says such assists come at the cost of the revolution itself. An imperial assist only goes to sell outs so the dogma goes, so no more revolution to worry us, it’s gone, vanished with only the political demands and the fight for them remaining?!?

I can remember when there was a revolution in Syria, even seen on the MSM but I never dreamed that it was defind by unarmed, unassisted Syrian peoples in the streets confronting the massively armed Syrian regime and thus could be cheered on by Ely and his anti-imperialist mates! I was foolish enough to think that revolutions had political demands and were extremely messy undertakings.

Now the revolution is gone anyone that supports what is going on directed at removing the Assad regime and implementing the goals (that haven’t changed mind) are supporters of imperialism! We are supposed to know all that because that is what the Great Satan does as it’s never varying operating procedure; and the U.S. elite do this via dissembling! Well it’s true enough that lying is part of their job descriptions.

Anyway the junk from Tom Watts is not dissembling it is idiocy. Any good Catholic can tell you that the truly idiotic person is not guilty of sin, but the disembler is capable and most assuredly is guilty. People also sin by omission which seems a common sin in periods of political transition, and from where I stand that looks like the sin we could begin to look at.

The real debate here at TNS is not over the question of IF there is a bourgeois democratic revolution in Syria worth supporting but over how to support it. I make it perfectly clear that I want to see the U.S. /Turkey and so on increase their current pathetic levels of support. I don’t dissemble.
This mad Kasama style comment is embarrassing for you Brian because you have been associated with these types that are abundant and openly tolerated at not just Kasama (that I choose as my example of the genre) but right across the anti-war / green milieu and have been tolerated for years. You have ommitted to deal systematically with them.

Only lately they have become intolerable because people like you and Bihn know that they stand on the other side, as you cheered on the ‘imperialist’ intervention that put a stop to the tyrant killing the revolutionaries in Libya, while they called for hands-off! Libya broke the silence and has unleashed all manner of issues to debate. No surprise that people who think like Tom Watts are as easy to refute as they have always been. They didn’t start ‘thinking’ like this just last year! People like Watts have been left alone to talk this crap to their shrinking milieu as every milestone event split the anti-war movement since its peak at the start of the war that produced a bourgeois democracy in place of a vicious tyranny and thus liberated the peoples’ of Iraq.

Like Brian and Binh, Nir Rosen had trouble dumping his old position but he dumped it, and then went silent. Binh dug him up as having good credentials over Iraq. Turns out on investigation he was not much cop anyway one looks at his politics.

Now people are being accused of dissembling over what he was saying to the ruling-elite of the U.S. yet the whole point is that he hung out with the Sunni. They changed their mind from fighting and feared an early U.S. pullout. They abandoned troops out now even if Binh and Brian never noticed. Nir clearly noticed what his mates were up to, and the casualties and subsequent history tell the story if people are tone deaf to the sweet sound of Nir’s good advice! Sure there is something the U.S can do and that’s don’t go too quickly! That’s what he was relaying as the message from his mates that he hung out with.

The last thing that people accuse me of is dissembling.

BTW up the thread a bit from Tom Watts is this shocker

chegitz guevara said July 20, 2012 at 10:08 pm
‘When the Titanic sank, those in the lifeboats heard the screams of those dying in the water, begging to be saved, though such screams were short lived. Had those in the boats gone to rescue those in the water, the boats would have overturned, killing those inside. No matter how much they loved those dying, no matter how much they wanted to save them, they had no power to do anything but get themselves killed also…..’

And then it just gets worse! Why would anyone take this crap seriously?

It’s time to take a new stand because the ‘troops out now line’ was not only a waste of effort for anyone involved, it was wrong thinking all along and the whole point now is that it’s in the past. The troops are out now from Iraq and the real goal of why they were sent in the first place has been achieved. The U.S. is continuing the long term retreat from the region as predicted and is continuing to implement the new policies. I want some revolutionary violence sent to Syria (even more than went to Libya). The result of dithering can be predicted as greater casualties for the revolutionary forces in Syria. I want the Assad forces stopped and so do others but there is a peculiar reluctance to unite with real forces that can do what must be done.

Your understanding of what the U.S. has been up to from the start in Iraq has been wrong. BUT it no longer matters. The point is now that Nir no longer writes about Iraq. The U.S. and COW have gone home and left something behind. The imperialists did the same over the same number of months in Libya as took years in Iraq. They will go home from Syria as well, but first we have to help get them in there!


ish September 1, 2012 at 1:20 pm

This is the season. There is a myth of a “revolution” in Syria and the myth requires stories, tales, fabrications and distortions, especially when the revolutionaries are none other than the armed gang members of the Free Syrian Army and the various Jihadis who flocked to Syria. To claim that the conflict in Syria is now a revolution is one thing, but to claim that it is a leftist revolution requires more effort and fabrications and distortions, even if the effort is well-intentioned.

Don’t get me wrong. There was at one point a popular uprising in Syria which constituted demonstrations and protests in some parts of the country, especially in rural areas where the cruel neo-liberal policies (that please Western governments and money lending institutions) prevailed in the country. But the promising popular uprising was killed many months ago, stolen by Qatar and Saudi Arabia and their fundamentalist clients.

Now Jamie Allinson is trying to hard to convince us not to believe our own eyes and to pretend that leftist revolutionaries are leading the “revolution” in Syria.

To make his argument, Allinson had to create characters that don’t exist. He begins his long article by claiming that “prominent figures on the Anglophone Left are hurrying to “defend the Syrian regime,” and then adds they otherwise they are trying to “oppose its opponents.” Notice how he polemically mixes the two stances together so that in his mind, any opposition to the opposition – even opposition to al-Qaeda and Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood) in Syria, is equal to defense of the regime. This trick is as old and as vulgar as polemics of the Baath itself.

Allinson then belittles or dismisses the notion of an international reactionary-Zionist conspiracy in Syria. But it is not really a conspiracy. How could it be a conspiracy when the parties involved (US, France, UK, Germany, UAE, Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan) through their media and official pronouncements publicly make their intentions and objectives clear? It is now more like an official regional-global war of proxy (where the Syrian regime is also is a member of a counter regional-international camp).

This dismissal by Allison can only imply that he believes that American and Western Zionists who are calling daily for more arms and NATO intervention to help the FSA gangs is motivated by real love for a real…revolution? By Allinson’s logic, Zionists and Salafis and Ikhwans are all part of a glorious revolution, which he believes has leftist features and objectives.

He ridicules the idea that the armed movement in Syria is an extension of US imperial policies, despite the fact that the US Congress has been dispensing millions upon millions of dollars to that movement. Does Allinson think that the US is merely charitably aiding a leftist revolution, without even knowing it? Does John McCain call for more arms for the Syrian revolution without knowing what Allinson knows: that it really is a leftist movement?

–As’ad AbuKhalil



Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp September 1, 2012 at 1:58 pm

1. No one claimed it was a “leftist revolution.”

2. “the promising popular uprising was killed many months ago, stolen by Qatar and Saudi Arabia and their fundamentalist clients.” Stolen how? With some money and machine guns?

3. “Jamie Allinson is trying to hard to convince us not to believe our own eyes and to pretend that leftist revolutionaries are leading the ‘revolution’ in Syria.”


4. “How could it be a conspiracy when the parties involved (US, France, UK, Germany, UAE, Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan) through their media and official pronouncements publicly make their intentions and objectives clear?”

Not a word about the thoughts, feelings, and organizations created by the Syrian people. The Vietnamese revolution was also a plot hatched in Beijing and Moscow according to the U.S. State Department.

5. “This dismissal by Allison can only imply that he believes that American and Western Zionists who are calling daily for more arms and NATO intervention to help the FSA gangs is motivated by real love for a real…revolution?”

The CIA is blocking heavy weapons from reaching the FSA.

Ish, don’t bother spreading fact-free bullshit here, especially when it’s someone else’s words. Diana Barahona has already been warned. Your turn.


Brian S. September 1, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Hi Pham – I don’t know if you realised that ish was posting an article written by As’ad AbuKhalil (aka “Angry Arab” ). See my comment. Its very confusing when people do this: it takes up a lot of unecessary space (a summary and link would be better all round) And its easy to mistake who the actual author is.


Brian S. September 1, 2012 at 4:37 pm

PS: Sorry Pham, just noticed that you did realise this.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp September 1, 2012 at 9:17 pm

Ish didn’t even post that trash in the right thread. Allinson’s article is posted elsewhere on this site.


Brian S. September 1, 2012 at 4:31 pm

I’ll wait until this multi-part diatribe is complete (I gather there may be as many as 4 parts in the pipeline) before commenting. But so far it doesn’t look promising – there appear to be no tangible facts, anda great deal of defective logic. Perhaps it will improve – but I’m not holding my breath.


ish September 1, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Ish, don’t bother spreading fact-free bullshit here, especially when it’s someone else’s words. Diana Barahona has already been warned. Your turn.

Just wow. If only you had those kind of harsh words for your pro-imperialist friends here. Sad.
And it is almost hilarious that you’re calling Asad Abukhalil’s point of view “fact-free.”

And I agree with very little of Dana Barahona’s point of view (Speaking of old and vulgar tricks, nice try at tying us together, BTW) but on Amnesty International she has you nailed.
NATO, Keep the progress going, right?


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp September 1, 2012 at 2:46 pm

You claimed that The North Star is a new National Journal and now you complain about my harsh words?

What’s sad is you not only cut and pasted some other idiot’s commentary that had zero facts (if I’m wrong, go ahead an point to one from your little excerpt) but you seem to be incapable of realizing that AA’s argument is based on strawmen.

That you and Barahona resort to the same tactics is no trick. It’s a fact. Neither of you have been able to mount a substantive counter argument over the course of the past 2-3 months.

Instead, you just post unrelated things about Amnesty International’s take on Afghanistan. Talk about politically bankrupt.


ish September 1, 2012 at 3:24 pm

That you think that Amnesty International poster lauding NATO is unrelated kind of says it all, as far as I’m concerned. This is part of the problem with your entire point of view here.

Do you think it is a different imperialism that bombed Libya? That repressed Bahrain? That murdered hundreds of thousands of Iraqis? That kills innocent Afghans, Pakistanis and Yemenis at will? That is gearing up for war with Iran? That will do anything in its power to insure that events in Syria end up in its favor? That is preparing as yet untold misery for the people of the world? That’s looking for leverage worldwide in a struggle for world domination?

The emancipation of the working class will be the work of the working class itself. Wanna help the Syrian revolution? Be honest and tell them that US imperialism means nothing but death and further enslavement for them and the people of the world.


Brian S. September 1, 2012 at 6:29 pm

@ish re: Amnesty: You seem to be confusing Pham and me, ish. If you bother to read the posts you’ll see that we have our own views about things. The problem with “your entire point of view” is that you right off an entire, diverse international organisation who carry out very valuable work around the world (the UK website currently features their campaign to save someone on death row in Missouri. ) because of one stupid mistake made by their New York office (and which they have apologised for). They are essentially a liberal organisation with a very intense focus on human rights – that’s their strength and also often their weakness. Radicals will for that reason often have differences with them, but to dismiss them as simply some sort of tool of imperialism is kindergarten politics. And I wonder if that was what you had to say about them during the Libyan conflict, when they were at the forefront of highlighting abuses by the anti-Gaddafi forces?


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp September 1, 2012 at 9:10 pm

Ish is so “anti-imperialist” he’d denounce the Allies for bombing the rail lines to Auschwitz had they done so on the grounds that the Allies did horrible things during WWI.


byork September 1, 2012 at 9:26 pm

Pham, I like this analogy and have used similar myself – it’s a strange Left that sides with oppressive (I would say fascistic) regimes when the people are rising up against them, in the name of “anti-US imperialism”. Mind you, I think the same logic applied to the Ba’ath (fascistic) regime in Iraq too. It’s really more than a ‘strange Left’, as this would suggest its content is a variant of left-wing thinking – a ‘strange’ version. The best concept to describe this phenomenon is ‘pseudo-leftism’ which cuts to the essence of the situation; namely, that it is not left-wing at all.


byork September 1, 2012 at 9:38 pm

Brian, I share your view of Amnesty International and despite its liberalism I became a Life Member some years ago. It exposes oppression, torture and cruel punishments wherever they happen – Cuba, China, the USA, Syria, etc. Human Rights Watch is another good one, and then there are groups like Reporters without Borders. who monitor the freedom of the press. Recently liberated places like Iraq, Tunisia, Egypt and Libya will continue to attract their attention as revolutions/regime change does not turn everything into ‘milk and roses’ overnight. But the overthrow of dictators and the establishment of basic parliamentary democracy – the right to elect one’s govenrment and to toss it out – is a qualitative step forward over the old order. And it is a far better basis for struggle for future improvements than ever existed previously.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp September 1, 2012 at 9:07 pm

You’ve traded the Marxist method for conspiracy theories to explain the Syrian revolution because you started with an “anti-imperialist” conclusion and worked backwards from there. I’m not going to waste my time arguing with a Syrian truther.


Christian September 1, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Good article and suggestions!


Arthur September 2, 2012 at 8:12 am

This 10 minute video is the best short intro I’ve seen. Covers flash mobs in US, mass demonstrations in, armed resistance.
“Siege On Syria”:

On a lighter note, FSA kittens!:


Arthur September 2, 2012 at 11:18 am

Important reading, long awaited Syrian/Western transition program “The Day After”:

Its 133 pages and I’ve only quickly skimmed through it. Didn’t notice anything to refute my prejudice that it would be full of high-minded NGO speak of little relevance to the actual transition.

Actually worse than I expected. Simultaneously assumes abolition of the regime and its intelligence services (the core of the state) and a smooth lawyerly maintenance of the existing armed forces and bureaucracy and disarmament and demobilization of the revolutionary forces. Relevant only in the event of a South Africa like negotiated regime exit or a UN mandate like Bosnia, neither of which seems plausible.


Brian S. September 2, 2012 at 7:12 pm

Thanks for the link. I remember reading about this project a while ago, but it slipped off my radar. Does anyone recall the back story?
In a document like this, its contents are less important that what it represents: and I think the quick answer is – not much. It was sponsored by the United States Institute for Peace – so I guess it has some sort of US official imprimatur: Its composition seems to be predominantly (but not entirely) expat secular SNC supporters. The two principal western representatives of the SNC – Radwan Ziadeh and Bassma Kodmani – were associated with it, but only as “participants, ( although it looks their sort of project). The “Executive” includes someone who is described as the “English language representative of the Local Coordinating Committees” – Rafif Jouejati (but I’ve never heard of her before).
Interestingly, Bassma Kodmani resigned from the SNC a few days ago to concentrate on “humanitarian aid and projects for the future”. So it looks unlikely that the SNC will be endorsing this document. I suspect it will become a sort of travelling text that various people will tout around and try to use to create new configurations in the opposition (perhaps linked to France’s call for the formation of a “provisional government”)
One think I notice about the text, apart from the complete absence of anything to do with actually bringing the regime down, is that on the two most important and urgent issues of “the day after” – relations with the armed resistance, and the framework for establishing transitional political authority – they couldn’t agree.
“The Day After project could not come to a shared expectation regarding revolutionary groups, including the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and other armed opposition groups. A minority of members expect armed revolutionary groups to lay down their weapons and abide by the administration of justice as practiced by the transitional government. However, the majority of members anticipate that armed revolutionary groups will remain active and assume some role in the provision of security and administration of justice.”
On the other hand, they do great organisational charts.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp September 20, 2012 at 10:24 am

This is very disappointing despite its strong points:

Nothing about what can be done to help the revolution. Nothing about the recent demonstrations in New York City and Washington, D.C. Nothing about the Syrian Support Group. Nothing about organizing teach-ins or pushing within the Palestinian solidarity movement to support the Syrian revolution.

Once again, the Western left is abandoning its duty and obligation to aid the Syrian people and telling them, “you’re on your own.” And we don’t have the excuse of Western imperialist intervention this time unlike Libya. What a disgrace.


Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp October 26, 2012 at 1:26 pm

Here’s another group worth donating to: Syrian American Medical Society (

They help run an underground health care system since the Assad regime kills the injured who go to hospitals:

Here’s a video with the grisly details of what health care looks like in a revolutionary war zone:


Leave a Comment

{ 7 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: