Religion and Revolution: from Civil Rights to Syria

by Clay Claiborne on April 19, 2013

First published by Linux Beach. Republished with the author’s permission.

Islamophobia and the Left

My first mass protest took place on 28 August 1963 and it had a lot of religious overtones. A Baptist preacher gave the most-remembered speech of the event. His organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, played a leading role not only in getting a quarter million people to the mall in Washington, D.C. but in the whole civil rights struggle that had such a progressive impact on this country and the world.

I was born in 1948 and raised Presbyterian, which is already Christianity-lite. By the time Dr. King was telling us his dreams and long before I became a communist, I was already an atheist and philosophically opposed to all religions. After I left Atlantic City for college, I didn’t attend any regular religious services until I started attending chapel in St. Louis County jail while I served four months for protesting the war in Vietnam.

In the county jail, I learned what oppressed people living in a totalitarian environment have learned throughout the ages: that religious institutions and the freedom allowed to indulge in them may afford the best and perhaps the only opportunity for social and political organization against  oppression. With the connivance of a sympathetic chaplain, we got a lot done in those meetings — I mean “services” — in the St. Louis County jail.

When I moved to Los Angeles in 1976, I was a member of the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) and yet I found that much of my best political work was done in churches and with Black ministers. For example, when Eula Love was murdered by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) in 1979, we organized the Southwest Communities United for Justice (SCUJ) out of Reverend Merriweather’s church and led protests across the city that culminated in a march of more than 5,000 on City Hall. The RAP SHEET, April 1979, published by the Citizen’s Commission on Police Repression wrote:

Black Ministers Blast LAPD

In a public hearing before the City Council’s Police, Fire and Public Safety Committee on March 29th, more than a dozen prominent black ministers offered a scathing critique of the LAPD’s activities in the black community. The ministers, including Rev. Milton M. Merriweather, Bishop H.H. Brookins and Rev. James Lawson, charged the LAPD with brutality, racism, and improper tactics in the city’s predominantly black south central area. More,,,

I know I don’t have to belabor the importance of the Black church and the Black clergy in the social justice movement with progressives in the U.S. I just wanted to remember those times because, although Rev. Merriweather was the real powerhouse behind the SCUJ and bringing in the Black ministers allowed us to mobilize widely, I was the chief organizer of the SCUJ.

Or perhaps I do need to belabor that importance, because it seems that the moment you replace shouts of “Hallelujah” with cries of “Allahu Akbar,” the Left’s tolerance for religion in the people’s struggle goes way down. Many on the Left see popular support for Islam among the revolutionary forces in Syria, in their time of struggle and need, as reason to disavow support for their fight.

The Role of Religion in the Lives of the Oppressed

When Africans were first brought to the American continents in chains, they had religions taken away and religions given. Any native, non-Christian religion, including Islam, was completely suppressed, and the masters’ favorite variety of the Christianity given in its place. Religion was crucial to slavery in two ways: it allowed the master to live with himself, and it allowed the slaves to live with themselves.

A characteristic of most religions is that they counsel the downtrodden to put up with the present using the promise of a better life later on, at a time in the future where rich men and their camels can’t come. Christianity excels at that which is why it became the chosen religion of kings, capitalists, and slave-holders alike.

The slaves were bound to accept anything that gave them a weekly respite from their toils, an opportunity to learn something new, and the chance for a social gathering. The words of the preacher sounded soothing to the slave. It is often noted that Marx called religion “the opium of the people,” but his full meaning is rarely quoted:

“Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”
— Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, 1843

Marx understood very well the role of religion in the lives of the oppressed.

Is it any wonder that African slaves, newly planted on colonial shores, should turn so strongly to it? Or that Syrians today, in their hours of travail, should fall back on it? And yet there are those on the Left that diss them for it!

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The slave-owner promoted religion among the slaves because of its opium-like qualities, it helped to sooth the slave into accepting slavery. But as Marx noted, religion is a double-edged sword. It was taken up by the slave as a form of protest.

The promotion of Christianity to the slave was also central to the slave-owner’s mythology that the savage institution had some kind of redeeming quality. The belief that the slave-owner was somehow saving souls while he was breaking bodies was just about the only thing keeping the mirrors on the walls of the big house. So Christianity prospered in the Antebellum South.

That great Marxist historian of American slavery, Eugene Genovese, died on 26 September 2012, but he wrote Roll Jordan Roll: The World the Slaves Made in 1976. I think this excerpt captures something important about the relationship between religion and politics and helps to explain why the political struggles of the oppressed so often come dressed in religious garb:

In this secular, not to say cynical, age few tasks present greater difficulty than that of compelling the well educated to take religious matters seriously. Yet, for all except the most recent phase of the history of a minority of the world’s peoples, religion has been embedded in the core of human life, material as well as spiritual. Bishop Berkeley spoke a simple truth: “Whatever the world thinks, he who hath not much mediated upon God, the human mind, and the summum bonum may possibly make a thriving earthworm, but will most indubitably make a sorry patriot and a sorry statesman.”

The philosophical problem of religion, its truth and falsehood, represents a domain only partially separate from that of politics. Since religion expresses the antagonisms between the life of the individual and that of society and between the life of civil society and that of political society, it cannot escape being profoundly political. The truth of religion comes from its symbolic rendering of man’s moral experience; it proceeds intuitively and imaginatively. Its falsehood comes from its attempt to substitute itself for science and to pretend that its poetic statements are information about reality.

No student of history should be surprised that people involved in struggle should turn to their religion or that activists with the most noble of motivations, grounded in their religion, should be in the front ranks of the fight for justice.

Islam and the Black Liberation Movement

History reports that in 1819, Francis Scott Key, the composer of The Star Spangled Banner, supplied an Arabic translation of the Bible to Omar Ibn Said, a Muslim scholar from what is now Senegal who had been enslaved in the U.S. By some estimates, as many as 10% of the African slaves were Muslim. Islam was stamped out and they were converted because, as slaves, they had little say in the matter.

After the turn of the 20th century, a kind of Islam started to make a comeback among northern urban blacks that were looking to express their nationalism through the practice of a religion that had not been forced on them by the slave-owners. The Moorish Science Temple was established in Newark, NJ in 1913 as a black nationalist Islamic community by Noble Drew Ali. After he died in 1929, part of his group joined the Nation of Islam (NOI) which was founded in Detroit in 1930 by the mysterious Wallace D. Fard. Elijah Muhammed took over after Fard’s unexplained disappearance in 1934.

Because it so completely rejected the slave-owner’s religion without rejecting religion altogether, many of the most militant blacks were drawn to it, not the least of whom was Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little and also known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Arabic: الحاجّ مالك الشباز‎), an African-American Muslim minister and human rights activist.

When Cassius Clay converted to Islam and changed his name to Muhammed Ali, the media howled with outrage. When he very publicly refused to fight in Vietnam, he did so because of his Muslim convictions. Even though he expressed his motivations in terms of backwards religious beliefs, his actions gave a powerful impulse to the anti-imperialist movement against the war.

The role of Christianity in the civil rights struggle was met with a much higher level of acceptance than the role of any sort of Islam because Christianity is the dominant religion and already familiar. No one on the Left would brand the national liberation movement we know today as the civil rights movement as reactionary because of the prominent role the Christian religion and its clergy played in leading it, but Islam is somehow different because it has been so demonized in the West and therefore different standards are applied.

Back then, the U.S. government attempted to use these differences to drive a wedge into the Black liberation movement by branding the Nation of Islam as too radical or too Islamic to be accepted as a legitimate part of it just as the Obama administration is today branding Jabhat al-Nusra a “terrorist organization” and therefore unacceptable as part of the Syrian opposition.

Islamaphobia and the Syrian Revolution

I have gone into this history to provide a bit of perspective about the role of religion in political struggle in general and national liberation struggles in particular since we are hearing some people belittling the Syrian revolution because of an alleged Islamic takeover that makes the revolution reactionary.

To give one example of this, the tiny Left group the Alliance for Workers Liberty (AWL) recently took a position withdrawing support for the Syrian Revolution because of what they perceive as the domination of Islamists in the movement. One of the principles of their new position is:

3. We oppose all manifestations of Islamism amongst the Syrian political opposition and rebel militias.

Can anyone imagine a Left group taking a parallel position about Christian activism in the civil rights movement?

Pham Binh critiques this position in a very good piece on The North Star:

Have Islamists Hijacked Syria’s Democratic Revolution?
As the Syrian revolution progresses, support for it abroad among Marxists recedes.

The Alliance for Workers Liberty (AWL) is not alone in trading its support for the revolution for “a plague on both your houses” neutrality. The Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) made an almost identical shift, albeit theirs seems to be based on smears and falsehoods about the Free Syrian Army (FSA) rather than an all-sided assessment of the contradictions of the Syrian opposition. Although neither group is terribly influential, the essentials of the narrative both have adopted about Syria is the predominant one among progressives in the West thanks to outlets like The NationCounterpunchDissident VoiceMRZine OnlineMondoweissGlobal ResearchBlack Agenda ReportJacobin, among many others. More…

These are the same Left elements that were slow to show support for the Arab Spring, showed up at Occupy only after it began, have done what little they could to undermine the Libyan people’s struggle to replace the Ghadafi regime and have denigrated their successes since. They have largely abandoned the Syrian revolution and are now using the fact that right-wing religious elements have come to aid the Syrian people as the chief excuse for their refusal to do the same. How ironic.

In addition to the usual fall back on religion in times of great danger and struggle — what might be called the “no atheists in foxholes” syndrome — it must be remembered that the Syrian people have every reason to believe that they have been abandoned by the international secular Left. If the imperialist stand on the Syrian revolution has been No MANPADS for You!, the Left stand has been “No Lincoln Brigades for You!” The bulk of the foreigners that have come to Syria to join the fight against Assad have done so for religious reasons that were humanitarian, not opportunistic.

The Missing Left leadership

In the wake of World War Two, many people in Asia, Africa, and Latin America were able to win their independence. This was no less true in North Africa and the Middle East. There was also a Cold War going on.

The imperialists correctly saw that the left-wing influences in these movements, those that counselled non-alignment, alignment with the Soviet bloc, or socialism, were most dangerous to their interests, and so they worked very hard at suppressing the Left everywhere, including in the North African and Middle Eastern regions. This had direct and indirect effects that strengthened the influence of both right-wing religious leaders and fascists.

If this wasn’t bad enough, much of the Left abandoned the people to fight on their own by tailing after Soviet interests that called for support of so-called “anti-imperialist” dictators. In Syria, the two so-called communist parties support the fascist Assad regime as do thousands of so-called communists around the globe who still tail after a non-existent Soviet Union.

As a result, the Left really has nobody to blame for the lack of Left leadership in the Arab Spring in general or the Syrian revolution in particular except itself.

Islam and the Syrian Revolution

In many Arab Spring uprisings, conservative Muslim organizations along the lines of the Muslim Brotherhood have been able to use the new freedoms together with their head start their already-existing organizations, base, and political experience to grab political power quickly. They did that in Tunisia and Egypt but not in Libya. In Syria, they will definitely be a player whose precise post-revolutionary role is yet to be determined.


In the environment of the general rise in religiosity generated by the hardship and bloody struggle of the Syrian revolution, religious players including Islamists and jhadists have come to the fore politically. Many of these groups have a legitimate role to play in a future democratic Syria in spite of their reactionary views.

Nor are jihadist groups like Jabhat al -Nusra and Islamic groups like Ahrar al-Sham to be confused, although Western governments and Western leftists often do just that. “Conflating the two groups is like mixing Christian fundamentalists with the Amish,” writes Adnan Khan in the Globe and Mail.

Regardless of the reactionary and opportunistic motives of the leadership of either the Islamists or the jihadists, it must be remembered that the majority of those that join these groups do so because of humanitarian, internationalist, or patriotic reasons.

While many on the Left may use the presence of jihadists and Islamist fractions as reason to deny support for the revolution, the imperialists attempt to mobilize Islamaphobia as a wedge to divide and defeat the revolution. Here again, an example from history may prove useful.

Government and Media attacks on NOI Then

In the early 1960s, the Los Angeles Herald Examiner ran the following article:

Black Muslim Founder Exposed as a White
Ed Montgomery
July 28, 1963
Black Muslims by the thousands pay homage to Wallace Farad, their “Prophet From Mecca,”in the mistaken belief that as founder of the black supremacy cult he is one of their own…Yet Wallace Fard is, admittedly, an enterprising, racketeering fake. He is not a Negro. He is a white man masquerading as a Negro.

His true name is Wallace Dodd. He was born in New Zealand, on February 26, 1891. His father was British – arriving in New Zealand via Australia on a sailing schooner. His mother was a Polynesian native.

Dodd’s police ‘rap sheet’ includes conviction for bootlegging and a San Quentin Prison term for the sale of narcotics.

This story was syndicated and became part of the media “legend” of NOI. It was a lie. It was planted as part of the FBI’s infamous COINTELPRO which is accurately described on the NOI website dedicated to it:

COINTELPRO (an acronym for Counter Intelligence Program) was a series of covert, and often illegal, projects conducted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) aimed at surveilling, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting domestic organizations deemed “subversive”.

COINTELPRO tactics included discrediting targets through psychological warfare, planting false reports in the media, smearing through forged letters, harassment, wrongful imprisonment, extralegal violence and assassination. Covert operations under COINTELPRO took place between 1956 and 1971, however the FBI has used covert operations against domestic political groups since its inception.

COINTELPRO became public when a group of anonymous activists, calling themselves the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI, started sending a stolen collection of over 1,000 FBI files on the program to media outlets. This was almost four decades before WikiLeaks or Anonymous. The virtual world was virtually non-existent in 1971. The files they stole were from file cabinets. The folders they were in were made of paper. Computers were in short supply back then, so they had to steal the files the old-fashioned way. Crowbar in hand, they broken into the tiny two-man FBI office in Media, PA on the night of 8 March 1971 while the whole world was distracted by the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fight.

COINTELPRO was used against many groups in the social justice movements at the time including the Weatherman and the Black Panthers, but the FBI waged an especially fierce campaign against the NOI that predated COINTELRO by a long shot. The FBI was raiding NOI offices as early as 1942 and most likely continues its campaign in some form to this day.

Anyone familiar with the NOI and its activists, such as Malcolm X, and certainly anyone who has ever worked with them in the movement, knows that they have a very dedicated and ethical membership and can be a very positive force for change in spite of holding certain reactionary religious views that put them at odds with both secularists and Christians in the movement. All smart activists see these differences as contradictions among the people, recognize that they are on the right side of the struggle, and deal with those differences accordingly.

The FBI plan with regards to the NOI have always been to leverage Islamophobia, even among Black activists, and to focus on some of the more extreme views of the NOI to drive a wedge between them and the rest of the Afro-American liberation movement. The goal is to weaken the movement as a whole by precipitating splits among its parts. It was no accident that COINTELPRO kicked off in 1956 with a renewed investigation into the NOI after the Chicago field office started receiving reports of an “explosion in the Nation of Islam membership.”

Government and Media Attacks on Jabhat al-Nusra Now

The U.S. government, again with the help of its media allies, has been targeting Jabhat al-Nusra with a COINTELPRO-type campaign and the reason is essentially the same as the reason the NOI was targeted when it was. Jabhat al-Nusra has seen explosive growth in the past few months and it has also been winning many military victories against Assad’s forces. This is why it is being targeted now and not because of its alleged al-Qaeda affiliations.

It is true that Jabhat al-Nusra is led by an Islamic fundamentalist and has a jihadist outlook that believes in establishing a new Caliphate and a bunch of other reactionary right-wing mythology, just as some Jews believe in the establishment of a Greater Israel that extends from the Nile to Euphrates and some Christians believe the Earth is only 6,000 years old, was created in seven days, and that all non-Christians will rot in hell. History has shown that a fantastical view of the past or a reactionary outlook on the future does not, all by itself, prelude a group from serving a progressive cause in the present.

Presently, Jabhat al-Nusra is playing an important part in the united front of Syrian organizations carrying out armed resistance to the Assad regime. They were founded in Syria and claim to be an organization of mainly Syrian fighters, although they have recruited many fighters from outside the country and have reportedly received both weapons and other support from Arab forces outside of Syria. Because they are organized, experienced, disciplined, and well-supplied, they have been winning battles. Because they have been winning battles, they have been winning popular support. The young Arabs that are joining their ranks now are not joining because they are impressed by their vision of a new Caliphate, they are joining because they are impressed with their success in the fight the common enemy.

While the main forces fighting under the secular banner of the Free Syrian Army and other more moderate Islamist elements have very important differences with jihadists like Jabhat al-Nusra as to what kind of Syria should be built after Assad, they know that the job at hand is to get rid of Assad.

Jabhat Al-Nusra has long maintained that it is an independent jihadist organization and not a branch of Al-Qaeda in Syria, but the media will not allow these declarations to get in the way of a good story, especially since the latest reason for not doing anything to stay Assad’s bombs or provide more support for the opposition revolves around these supposed Al-Qaeda connections.

Jabhat Al-Nusra has never attacked U.S. citizens, conducted operations outside of Syria, nor targeted civilians in Syria, and still Obama put them on the terrorist blacklist in November 2011 as an Al-Qaeda affiliate. Last week they claimed they had the proof of this affiliation via a pair of statements from the leaders of Al-Qaeda in Iraq and Jabhat al-Nusra.

On 8 April 2013, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) made a bold assertion in which ISI took credit for creating Jabhat al-Nusra and said the two groups were merging under the new name of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, according to the SITE Intelligence Group. ISI is actually a much more important group than Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), but it lacks the branding that the U.S. audience needs, so al-Baghdadi was recast as the head of AQI for the news reports. Even before Jabhat Al-Nusra responded, the Long War Journal was saying that it confirmed Obama’s definition of the group as an Al-Qaeda affiliate.

On 10 April 2013, Abu Mohammad al-Golani, a leading figure in Jabhat al-Nusra, responded by saying that Jabhat al-Nusra was an independent Syrian group and would continue to operate under its own name. While the whole point of al-Golani’s response was to say that Jabhat al-Nusra remained a local group and not part of ISI, he made a serious public relations blunder when he praised the ideas of Al-Qaeda leader al-Zawahiri in such Arabic that a bad translation could claim he pledged “allegiance” to the Al-Qaeda chief. The media had the story they were looking for, an Al-Qaeda connection to the Syrian rebels, and they weren’t going to let the facts in in the way.

EAWorldView did a very good job of dissecting and exposing the media’s branding campaign:

Syria Special: The Media Creates the “Al Qa’eda Myth”

The facts are that a local Syrian faction, albeit one of the most important in the insurgency, has responded to pressure from a powerful foreign group by insisting on its independence. It has made clear that its operations, and its approach to politics and society during and after the conflict, are driven by its concerns in Syria.

This is a difficult story to understand, however, given the ground-level complexities of a rapidly-changing conflct with multiple actors. So the Western media, and analysts like Fishman, choose the easier if false construction of Al Qa’eda inserting itself into part of the insurgency, exploiting the common short-hand in popular consciousness of Us v. Them.

Scott Lucas did a video that talks about this in more detail:

Scott Lucas can shout the truth from the treetops. It doesn’t matter. The myth has already been repeated enough in the English-language media that it has become the reality. Now the myth is threatening to turn into a United Nations resolution that will hand the Syrian people another setback. Reuters is reporting:

France says U.N. talks begin on Qaeda-linked Syria rebels
7:48 am, April 12, 2013
PARIS – The U.N. Security Council has begun informal talks on whether to impose sanctions on Syria’s rebel al-Nusra Front after it pledged allegiance to al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri this week, France said on Friday. More…

As I have reported earlier, Obama’s CIA has already been planning for armed drone strikes against Jabhat Al-Nusra. Yes, there is a serious possibility that Obama will intervene militarily in the Syrian conflict after all, but on the side of Bashar Al-Assad. With the rising chorus of myth-making we saw last week around Jabhat Al-Nusra as Al-Qaeda, it sounds like those drones may soon be on their way.

Click here for a list of my other articles on Syria

{ 248 comments… read them below or add one }

David Berger April 19, 2013 at 5:12 pm

Just for openers, the description here of the role of the NOI in the Civil Rights Movement is highly distorted. In fact, the NOI did not participate in the Movement to any significant degree.

In fact, in places like Harlem, civil rights groups such as CORE had to compete with the NOI who stance of non-involvement was a significant break to large-scale organizing. Having been born even before 1948, I have he luxury of having been here and having dealt with the NOI first hand.

The role of religion in “social movements” is complex and contradictory. Each situation has to be analyzed individually. And given the course of the Iranian Revolution and the Egyptian Revolution, the involvement of Islamic leaders is a source of real worry.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) April 19, 2013 at 10:18 pm

Perhaps I should have made “civil rights movement” lowercase my point of reference if that allows you uppercase it with enough specificity to exclude the contributions of such NOI members as Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, also their institution and organization in building strength in the black community.

Especially since Civil Right Movement [upper case] involved approaches to black liberation which they specifically rejected.

A better frame of reference may be the black liberation movement or black freedom movement.

I know of their contributions from my own experiences. The NOI has shown such staying power that it has been possible, even for those born after 1948, to have dealt with the NOI first hand.


David Berger April 19, 2013 at 11:46 pm

CLAY CLAIBORNE: Perhaps I should have made “civil rights movement” lowercase my point of reference if that allows you uppercase it with enough specificity to exclude the contributions of such NOI members as Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, also their institution and organization in building strength in the black community.

DAVID BERGER: Malcolm X made no real contributions to the Civil Rights Movement until after he broke with the NOI. The NOI, with its reactionary program of male supremacy and building small businesses, had nothing to do with the Civil Rights Movement. Muhammad Ali’s great contribution was to the antiwar movement, not as a participant but as an example when he refused induction into the army. And, by the way, as a member of the NOI, Ali rejected Malcolm. In addition, of course, the NOI killed Malcolm.

CLAY CLAIBORNE: Especially since Civil Right Movement [upper case] involved approaches to black liberation which they specifically rejected.

DAVID BERGER: Yes, the Movement rejected, by and large, the explicit demand for Black capitalism, which was he economic keystone of the NOI program. The Civil Rights Movement, in spite of its petty-bourgeois leadership nationally, was based in the working class and had a working class program. (The actual name for the March on Washington, was the “The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” Malcolm, as an NOI member, criticized the March from the left but was unable to come up with any alternative.

CLAY CLAIBORNE: A better frame of reference may be the black liberation movement or black freedom movement.

DAVID BERGER: Organizationally, the NOI had nothing to do with the Black Liberation Movement that I know of. My memory may be playing tricks with me, but I know of no collaboration between the NOI and the Panthers, etc. It may be that some of the leaders of the Black Liberation Movement came out of the NOI, but I know of none of them except for Malcolm who, as I said, the NOI murdered.

CLAY CLAIBORNE: I know of their contributions from my own experiences.

DAVID BERGER: What contributions, specifically? Are you talking about the Million Man March. Above and beyond the overt male chauvinism of its program, do you know of any lasting effects of the March? And, by the way, would you like to deal with the antisemitism of the NOI. Or are you going to deny it?

CLAY CLAIBORNE: The NOI has shown such staying power that it has been possible, even for those born after 1948, to have dealt with the NOI first hand.

DAVID BERGER: The entire Black church has shown such staying power and elements of it have been a hell of a lot more progressive than the NOI.


Clay Claiborne April 20, 2013 at 3:52 pm

@Berger You miss so much and I have so little time, that I can only respond to your first sentence:

Malcolm X made no real contributions to the Civil Rights Movement until after he broke with the NOI.

Please take a look at Message to the Grass Roots [October 10, 1963] which was given before he left the NOI. [March 8, 1964]

From your narrow, parochial, outlook you may consider that speech “no real contributions to the Civil Rights Movement,” but from within the black liberation movement it was considered a major contribution to the critique of the Civil Rights Movement[upper case]

If you want to know what I’ll be doing this weekend instead of commenting extensively here, take a look at:

#WestTX Fertilizer Explosion: Who planted a bomb next to a high school?
Is the media playing games with the dead in #WestTX?

Now I have a hunch that Donald Adair, owner of West Fertilizer, soon the land that the schools sit on, so I’m trying to scratch that itch.


David Berger April 20, 2013 at 5:50 pm

CLAY CLAIBORNE: @Berger You miss so much and I have so little time, that I can only respond to your first sentence:

DAVID BERGER: That’s unfortunate and means that, basically, your response is not particularly serious as it fails to grapple with the political issues I’ve raised. Instead, you have chosen to deal with one small point. Even if you’re right, and you’re not, you have failed to deal with my points vis-a-vis the NOI.

DAVID BERGER: Malcolm X made no real contributions to the Civil Rights Movement until after he broke with the NOI.

CLAY CLAIBORNE: Please take a look at Message to the Grass Roots [October 10, 1963] which was given before he left the NOI. [March 8, 1964]

From your narrow, parochial, outlook you may consider that speech “no real contributions to the Civil Rights Movement,” but from within the black liberation movement it was considered a major contribution to the critique of the Civil Rights Movement[upper case]

DAVID BERGER: Several points. As an active member of the Civil Rights Movement, and a colaborator with the Panthers and the Welfare Right Organization, I think I have a fairly good take on the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Liberation Movement. You are going to have to prove that Malcolm’s speech “was considered a major contribution to the critique of the Civil Rights Movement[upper case].”

It’s interesting that this speech was given less than two months before Malcolm was suspended from the NOI, on December 4, 1963. So, even if the speech did have a major effect, the window of time that makes it part of Malcolm’s work in the NOI is awfully narrow. And, it was well know at the time, that, in fact, Malcolm was on his way out of the NOI, which, as you pointed out, took place five months later.

CLAY CLAIBORNE: If you want to know what I’ll be doing this weekend instead of commenting extensively here, take a look at:

#WestTX Fertilizer Explosion: Who planted a bomb next to a high school?
Is the media playing games with the dead in #WestTX?

Now I have a hunch that Donald Adair, owner of West Fertilizer, soon the land that the schools sit on, so I’m trying to scratch that itch.

DAVID BERGER: Good luck with your work on West Fertilizer. I myself am helping to coordinate the work of the Labor Outreach Committee of Occupy Wall Street and, in general, the work of all Occupy groups in New York, on May Day.


Carl Davidson April 19, 2013 at 5:20 pm

If Clay thinks our left is in any position to send the equivalent of the Lincoln Brigade off to Syria, his assessment of our reality, to use a kind term, is way off base.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) April 21, 2013 at 3:28 pm

To set a context for all of the comments today, I would like to first reference two reports just posted to facebook by Assad’s opposition. First from New Syria [8:40am pst 21 April 2013]:

EXTREMELY URGENT | 400 people were slaughtered by the #Assad regime today in the #Damascus Suburb of Jadeedit Artooz in one of the WORST MASSACRES TO DATE. HUNDREDS of innocent children and woman were killed by knives and had their bodies BURNED. The official count is rising by the second and many of the bodies can’t be identified. La Halwa Wala Quwit Illa Billah. My Lord, destroy these khanazeer and kufar and throw them in the pits of Hell. Please defend our families. Ya Allah, the Most Powerful, the Most Merciful, please help us.

من صور مجازر جديدة عرطوز الفضل في الريف الدمشقي ..
المجزرة راح ضحيتها 400 شهيد من نساء و أطفال و شيوخ و جرحى تم ذبحهم و حرقهم و الرقص على جثثهم من قبل عصابات الأسد.

اللهم عليك ببشار و جنوده فإنهم لا يعجزونك ..

and from the Local Coordination Committees in Syria [9:53am pst 21 April 2013]:

The number of martyrs in Syria has risen to 521 thus far, including tens of women and children: 474 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its suburbs most of them were killed in Jdaidet Artouz massacre; 19 in Idlib, among them 14 in Maghara village; 10 in Homs; 5 in Deir Ezzor; 5 in Hama; 5 in Aleppo; and 3 in Daraa

Does the CCDS continue to oppose any type of no-fly zone over Syria that would curtain the use of the Syrian air force against the Syrian people? Does the CCDS still oppose any military intervention by any international force to stop the slaughter of Syrians that oppose their government by their government? Has the CCDS ever spoken out against the seemingly endless supply of Scud’s Assad is receiving from Russia, or against military intervention on the side of the Assad dictatorship by Russia, Iran and Hezbullah? Do you support the demands of the Syrian opposition that Obama use the US military to take out Assad’s Scud launch sites?

As submitted to you in the beginning of August 2011, my critique of the CCDS Statement on Libya started with Syria. The first paragraph said:

This Sunday I am told that 142 Syrians in Hama were slaughtered by Assad’s tanks. It is estimated that as many as 1700 peaceful protesters have been massacred by Assad since the Syrian people welcomed the Arab Spring. I find it absolutely shameful that much of the left, including CCDS remain silent in the face of the Syrian people’s cries for international support. I think we can do a lot better than that.

You deleted that from my critique before you published it, telling me via email [Tue, Aug 2, 2011 at 6:42 AM]

Any day of the week, there are probably tens of thousands of outrages going on in every country in the world. ‘Silence’ about them from CCDS, which has no newspaper, only a weekly e-letter with eight articles, means exactly nothing in regard to them.

Well, I have just reviewed the handful of articles you have republished about Syria in the CCDS Newsletter in the 20 months [Example, providing Left cover & support for Obama’s real plans:

July 26, 2012 – After several months of talking diplomacy while simultaneously strengthening rebel forces in Syria and demonizing the Damascus government, the Obama Administration has openly decided to go for the kill. Violent regime change will not happen immediately, but it is obviously President Obama’s goal.

] and 70,000 Syrian lives since then, and just looking at the paltry number and not looking at the slant. which is another matter entirely, I still stand by my statement:

I find it absolutely shameful that much of the left, including CCDS remain silent in the face of the Syrian people’s cries for international support.

Of course the Left is in no position to mount the kind of international support effort for the Syrian Revolution that the Abraham Lincoln Brigade represented for the Spanish Revolution, but the question doesn’t even come up as long as the dominate trends on Syria on the Left are to either support the Assad Regime or duck the issue.

Once the US Left decides that it should support the Syrian people’s struggle against the murderous, fascist Assad regime, they will find a thousand different ways to support that struggle, including direct tactical and military support that was inconceivable 75 years ago.

Massacres like the one above don’t get notice in the main stream press for good imperialist reasons. They receive little attention from CCDS and most of the Left for other reasons. Once the Left decides that these are tragedies of note, and the Syrian people’s struggle is one that we should adopt as our own, we will find a thousand and one ways to support their struggle that will make the Lincoln Brigade part of the pre-history of internationalist support.


Carln Davidson April 21, 2013 at 3:48 pm

Clay, CCDS has made no statements on Syria, one way or the other. We published an article by one of our members, Mark Solomon, early on, urging negotiation and a peaceful resolution, but he doubted it was likely. We have no desire to be ‘generals from afar’, and I don’t expect much by way of position taking other than our general approach to foreign invasions, interventions and interference, demanding ‘hands off!’ by our own government. So you are welcome to find that inadequate, but don’t put words in our mouth claiming we are supporting any party to this conflict. We are not. Any extrapolations you make about us belong entirely to you, and we see no need to engage in polemics about it at this point. You’ve already lost all credibility in my book by claiming that Tim Carpenter and PDA were supporters of Gadaffi. Finally, my point about the Lincoln Brigades, was not about any need by any forces in Syria but my estimation that the US left is in no position to do any such thing, even if it wanted to.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) April 21, 2013 at 8:09 pm

For the record, I never said anything about Tim Carpenter and Qaddafi

Carl Davidson says:

You’ve already lost all credibility in my book by claiming that Tim Carpenter and PDA were supporters of Gadaffi.

As AFAIK Davidson is is referring to this:

Does PDA Support Qaddafi?
Monday, August 22, 2011

What’s wrong with this picture? While Mummar Qaddafi was shelling unarmed protesters in the Tajoura neighborhood of Tripoli, Progressive Democrats of America was giving his chief American supporter, Cynthia McKinney, an award in the Santa Monica mountains.

This Saturday, August 20, 2011, the Progressive Democrats of the Santa Monica Mountains held their 6th Annual PDA Birthday Party and Fundraiser. The event was organized by Dorothy Reik and was billed as “an afternoon and evening of politics, food and music atop beautiful Topanga Canyon.” The requested donation was $50, which is one of the reasons I did not attend.

The centerpiece of the event was the Teddi Winograd Courage Award recipients for Activism in the Pursuit of Peace and Justice. This was given to Ron Kovic and Cynthia McKinney.

Ron Kovic, who fought in Vietnam and wrote “Born on the 4th of July” certainly deserved the award. Ron is a good friend and also honorary co-chair, together with Martin Sheen, of the fundraising committee for my current film project, Vietnam: People’s Victory. Ron, like me, was an early supporter of the Arab Spring and an avid viewer of Al Jazzeera/English.

Cynthia McKinney, on the other hand, is a different matter. While she has certainly supported progressive causes in the past, and I strongly supported her, even joining her group Dignity, what she has been doing lately is shilling for Mummar Qaddafi. She had taken a Dignity delegation to Tripoli to support Qaddafi, had just completed a nationwide ANSWER Coalition sponsored speaking tour “Eyewitness Libya” and was in the middle of another 21 city Libya tour sponsored by International Action Committee.

She had just flown into L.A. for the award on Saturday after speaking on behalf of the one she calls “Brother Qaddafi” on Friday in St. Louis and had to fly right back out again to speak in support of Qaddafi again on Sunday in Pittsburgh. More…

As far as I was concerned, honoring McKinney while she was in the midst of defending Qaddafi could not help but give creditability to that defense which was itself based on lies and designed to help Qaddafi in his struggle against the Revolution.

Carl Davidson will have none of that. How dare I call Tim Carpenter a Qaddafi supporter without ever mentioning him!

Carl and I differed about that then and we can see that it continues still today.

Anyway, given that I never dragged Tim Carpenter into this discussion, the find Carl’s warning to “don’t put words in our mouth” ironic.


Carl Davidson April 24, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Clay, since Tim is the head of PDA, and PDA would not ‘support’ Gadaffi without his approval, which never happened, your point is rather moot either way.


ISH April 21, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Clay are you calling for US imperialism to set up a no fly zone over Syria? And you’re calling that “internationalist support”? Did you support the “no fly zone” over Iraq?

That’s really disgusting.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) April 21, 2013 at 8:31 pm

I am supporting the call by the Syrian civilians being bombed for a no-fly zone.

I also support this demand of the opposition:

Syria Opposition Seeks Airstrikes Against Military
April 20, 2013, 8:12 p.m. ET
ISTANBUL—Syria’s main opposition coalition called Saturday for strategic airstrikes against the country’s military and a no-fly zone over rebel-held territory in northern Syria, seeking to build momentum for military aid after reports that the embattled regime in Damascus may have used chemical weapons.

At the Istanbul meeting, which follows a Feb. 28 gathering in Rome, the opposition made requests of its international backers—including North Atlantic Treaty Organization members Germany and Turkey, as well as Qatar and Saudi Arabia. It asked for assaults on the Syrian regime’s Scud rocket launchers, a no-fly zone that would enable setting up an interim government in the war-torn country and additional aid to help the opposition coalition set up on the ground, said Yaser Tabbara, spokesman for Ghassan Hitto, prime minister for the internationally backed Syrian National Coalition that seeks broader recognition.

“We’re asking a coalition of the willing countries to conduct surgical strikes on behalf of the international community…. The international community is moving slowly in the right direction; we hope that process is expedited,” Mr. Tabbara told reporters on the sidelines of the first gathering here since the Rome summit.

Also this from How a Ballistic Missile Wiped Out Two Families in Rural Aleppo:

The vast devastation of Scud attacks has been repeatedly raised by opposition leaders, most recently by Moaz al-Khatib, the president of the National Coalition, who called on NATO to extend the range of Patriot batteries in Turkey to cover northern Syria and was immediately rebuffed.

What’s your stand? Do you support the oppositions demand or Assad’s demand (that he not be stopped) in this case?


Arthur April 22, 2013 at 5:59 am

Hope we can have more threads specifically on mobilizing support for arms, no fly zone and air strikes against the reluctance of mainstream to do anything much.


Pham Binh May 9, 2013 at 4:58 pm

Louay Sakka and Mouaz Moustafa of the Syrian Emergency Task Force say heavy weapons aren’t the key thing the fighters on the ground want and need but medium weapons such as 120mm cannons (artillery).


Michael Pugliese April 22, 2013 at 3:07 am

In the ongoing series of brutal massacres committed by the Syrian regime against civilians, on Sunday, April 21, 2013 the regime’s forces committed a new massacre in Artouz at dawn, killing 350 martyrs. This was preceded, just three days ago, by a massacre in which 100 people were martyred. This brings the verified number of martyrs during the last six days to 450. The total number of martyrs from this city, over the past two years of our Revolution, has reached 721.
Statmenet Regarding Jdaidet Artouz Massacre
by ‎لجان التنسيق المحلية في سوريا‎ (Notes) on Sunday, April 21, 2013 at 11:12pm 54 minutes ago


David Berger April 19, 2013 at 6:15 pm

In the wake of the Iranian Revolution, remarks like this are disingenuous:

CLAY CLAIBORNE: Presently, Jabhat al-Nusra is playing an important part in the united front of Syrian organizations carrying out armed resistance to the Assad regime. They were founded in Syria and claim to be an organization of mainly Syrian fighters, although they have recruited many fighters from outside the country and have reportedly received both weapons and other support from Arab forces outside of Syria. Because they are organized, experienced, disciplined, and well-supplied, they have been winning battles. Because they have been winning battles, they have been winning popular support. The young Arabs that are joining their ranks now are not joining because they are impressed by their vision of a new Caliphate, they are joining because they are impressed with their success in the fight the common enemy.

While the main forces fighting under the secular banner of the Free Syrian Army and other more moderate Islamist elements have very important differences with jihadists like Jabhat al-Nusra as to what kind of Syria should be built after Assad, they know that the job at hand is to get rid of Assad.

DAVID BERGER: It completely ignores the very obvious fact that the politics that are used to “get rid of Assad” are extraordinarily important. The point is not just to “get rid of Assad.” The point is to replace his regime with, to use a very weak term, something “better.”

It is quite possible that a victory of Assad’s regime led by Jabhat al-Nusra could lead to an Islamic republic as in Pakistan, and where are we then?


Brian S. April 20, 2013 at 5:45 pm

Pakistan is not an “Islamic republic”.


David Berger April 20, 2013 at 5:56 pm

The actual name of Pakistan is the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

If you want to argue about the actual name of Pakistan vs. its political reality, that is another issue.


Brian S. April 20, 2013 at 6:55 pm

@David B. It didn’t look to me like your previous point about the implications of a JN victory was solely concerned with the nomenclature of the constitution .”In cases of Pakistan and Mauritania, it is merely a symbol of Muslim cultural identity. In fact many argue that an Islamic Republic strikes a middle path between a completely secular and a theocratic (and/or Orthodox Islamic) system of government.”


David Berger April 21, 2013 at 12:06 am

i think you are qubbling on the term “Islamic Republic” to cover up the fact that a society set up by the JN would be a reactionary political nightmare, like the regimes in Pakistan, Iran, etc.


Brian S. April 21, 2013 at 10:50 am

No: I’m quibbling because your formula failed to distinguish between an “Islamic state” ( which is what JN might want to establish in its dreams) and an “Islamic Republic” which is a very different entity. Pakistan has a democratic constitution and is currently in the midst of a more or less free election.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) April 21, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Reality seems always to be not as good as the dreams but also not as bad as the nightmares. This also holds true with regards to what most political organizations think their ideal outcome will be.

~200 people a day are being slaughtered by the Assad forces, increasingly from the air.

That is the main fact of life in Syria right now.

So what is JAN’s relationship to that question right now!

They are defeating Assad’s forces and they are being particularly effective at taking Assad’s air bases.

These are JAN victories that are saving Syrian lives. therefore these are JAN victories I applaud and I will struggle with their “vision of the future” when that time comes.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) April 21, 2013 at 3:37 pm

The point, for the people on the ground in Syria, that is “extraordianrily” important at this point is to stop the slaugther. That means stopping the Scud air attacks. That means defeating Assad and his allies militarily.

Nothing else is more important at this point and nothing may be used as an excuse to delay this.

If 600 people were massacred today, that’s what needs to be stopped before tomorrow.


Arthur April 21, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Unfortunately the major imperialist powers don’t care much about 600 people being massacred per day.

On the other hand Al Qaeda and similar forces gaining a new lease of life as a result of Western callousness towards the Syrian people does worry them. So the British government and others are strongly arguing for more support to the revolutionary forces that have nothing to do wih Al Qaeda to bring down the Assad regime quicker and before Al Qaeda gets more support.

Apologetics for Jabhat Al Nusra only undermine that and help reinforce the inclination to do nothing.

PS One of your comments appears to be addressed to “CCDS”. I have no idea what that is.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) April 21, 2013 at 4:02 pm
Brian S. April 22, 2013 at 6:11 am

This makes no sense Arthur – logically how can “apologetics for JN” undermine western fear of al-Qaeda? (Even leaving aside the fantasy that our debates have any impact on policy makers). Looks to me like your just thrashing around to smear views that you disagree with.


Arthur April 22, 2013 at 8:26 am

Debates here have no direct impact.

Unfortunately a significant section of Syrian revolutionaries do have similar attitudes about this to those you and Clay are expressing. I am simply pointing out that as well as future dangers this creates immediate obstacles to mobilizing the military support they need and to whatever extent they are aware of the existence of leftist support they should not be given the impression this atitude is helpful. In addition of course it only makes advocacy for the Syrian revolution less credible.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) April 21, 2013 at 8:39 pm

I think the task at hand is to stop Assad from killing ~200 people a day. “Replacing” his Scud attacks with nothing is already “better.”
“the politics that are used to “get rid of Assad” are extraordinarily important” – does that mean Stalin should have refused support from FDR in his fight against Hitler?


Arthur April 19, 2013 at 6:23 pm

The introductory part of the article on the role of religion including in various progressive movements and the islamophobic reactions from the pseudoleft is really excellent.

But the section on Jabhat Al Nusra is dangerously wrong. Their training and experience comes from the mass murder campaign against “Persians” (the Shia majority of Iraqis) they waged as part of Al Qaeda in Iraq – now using the name Islamic State of Iraq or perhaps changing again to Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (greater Syria). They are in fact terrorists who do the greatest possible damage to the revolution, despite any military contribution they may make in fighting the regime.

Also, only the Assad supporters and the pseudoleft are using them as an excuse for not supporting the revoution. The media hype about them has more impact in supporting the British argument that it is important for the West to support the revolution, including arming others, in order to avoid these terrorists gaining more influence


PatrickSMcNally April 19, 2013 at 7:47 pm

I scanned this item several times to check if the author mentions that Malcolm X broke from the Nation of Islam, was very clearly threatened by them at the end of his life, and appears to have been likely murdered by them. Did I miss it in there somewhere? It’s really absurd to speak about the “ethical membership” of the NOI in a sentence that mentions Malcolm X without bringing up these facts. I can agree that there will be times when socialists organizing a demonstration will do better to cooperate with the NOI on some specific points instead of always maintaining a sectarian distance, but that’s as far it goes. There’s no need to butter the NOI up any more than that.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) April 19, 2013 at 9:52 pm

I’m not required to raise the points you want raised the way you want them raised. The NOI took Malcolm X from a criminal to even beyond them and my point that he stands as an example of the NOI’s contribution, certainly up until the break, if you won’t allow them any credit for his contributions after.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) April 19, 2013 at 9:46 pm

Like I was saying:

A full church tonight in #WestTX, 48 hrs after the explosion…— Jason Allen (@CBS11JasonAllen) April 19, 2013


Reza Lustig April 19, 2013 at 11:58 pm

So much here to contest, so little patience.

1. I wonder how important it is how “far” the NOI took Malcolm X, in light of their leader’s decision to have him killed. How efficient an organization is does not make up for rotten ideology, or the fact that the NOI was (at its core) a totalitarian personality cult centered around a narcissistic old man (Elijah Muhammad) who demanded his followers adhere to principles he himself did not see fit to personally uphold (he was a womanizer). The only thing they ever did for Malcolm was convincing him to keep his nose clean; the rest was on his own merits.

2. Following that, as I mentioned before, does the “discipline” or “loyalty” members of Salafist/Jihadi groups demonstrate make up for rotten beliefs, or simply pointing out who they are fighting against? UK Socialist Worker thought so, when they said that the Taliban were “revolutionaries”; the Healyites thought so too, when they supported the Iranian mullahs execution of striking oil workers near the Iran-Iraq War. By your reasoning, we should all have embraced both movements solely on the basis of who they were in opposition to (Stalinist dictatorship and Monarchism respectively).

3. Again, on the same note, our problem isn’t with revolutionaries saying “Allahu Akbar,” it’s with the ideologies promoted by a lot of the salafist/jihadi groups. Moderate Islamism (and there are a lot of moderate muslims involved in the revolution) isn’t a threat, but the radicals uphold a belief system which rejects democracy (let alone secularism); they may “participate” in the post-Assad democracy, but only so they can undermine it. The Bolsheviks banned the Black Hundreds Party after the 1917 revolution, and the FSA (if it triumphs) should do the same to any group which does not publicly disavow the aim of establishing an “Islamic State”. You compare Ahrar al-Sham with the American Amish, but here’s Wikipedia on them:

“In its first audio address, Ahrar al-Sham stated its goal was to replace the Assad government with an Islamic state… It also described the uprising as a jihad against a Safawi plot to spread Shiism and establish a Shiite state from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon and Palestine.”

Yeah, just like the Amish. Bunch of bearded pacifist farmers who just want to get on with their affairs, not at all interested in enforcing their particular sect on an entire nation.

4. You: “History has shown that a fantastical view of the past or a reactionary outlook on the future does not, all by itself, prelude a group from serving a progressive cause in the present.”

Examples, please. And they have to be dated as LESS than a century old.

I actually found Pham Binh’s article fascinating, because it simply sought to provide a realistic assessment of the different forces in opposition to Assad, rather than paint the jihadists/salafist in rosy shades. Which is what you have attempted to do. Comparing jihadists (and the NOI) with the American Civil Rights activists who happened to also be religious, IMHO, is disrespectful.


Brian S. April 20, 2013 at 6:47 pm

@ Reza. The ellipsis in your quotation from Wikipedia concerning Ahrar al-Sham omits a rather important qualification: “however it acknowledged the need to take into account the population’s current state of mind”.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) April 21, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Thank you Brian,

As Rezy said “So much here to contest, so little patience.”


Brian S. April 20, 2013 at 6:42 pm

This is a good discussion by Clay of the complex relationship between religious ideas and the movements of the oppressed. Unlike other commenters here, I have some sympathy with his views on Jabhat al-Nusra: in particular I agree with his challenging of the media /state department narrative that the prime significance of the al-Baghdadi / al-Goliani exchange is that it “reveals” JN as an “al-Qaeda affiliate”: considerably more important is the fact that it demonstrates serious tensions between JN and Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
But we also need to retain a critical perspective when evaluating a group like JN. All major religious currents contain groupings that are progressive, others that are clearly reactionary, and many that are ambiguous (their character shifting both in the course of their development and according to specific contexts.) Where we place JN at a particular moment will depend on its intrinsic features and a combination of these factors. JN’s origins and its ideology give it a definite reactionary stamp. But the important role it has played in the anti-Asad conflict has made it at least a temporary ally of the revolution. Moreover, just as it has had an impact on the revolution so the revolution had an impact on JN: both its compostion and, it would appear, its political ideas have been affected by the processes it has participated in and the alliances it has had to enter into. JN, in several important respects, does not conduct itself like “AQ affiliates”; its apparent rejection of al-Baghdadi’s order to merge into his organisation looks like a further expression of that fact. As with many events in the real world, we need to wait to see how this plays out. JN might fall in with the wishes of its original patron and return to type or it may move in the opposite direction. This is a fluid situation and I see no basis for predetermining the outcome.


Reza Lustig April 20, 2013 at 8:31 pm

As to your reply to my above coment: so sue me, I left out a little of the article. Does it disprove that the group seeks to ultimately create a theocracy, and would probably be disposed to promote sectarian (i.e. anti-Shia) violence (under the guise of combating “Safawi Imperialism”) if it ever came into political influence?

Nobody on the left should have any use for this philistine “search for progressive Jihadists” you promote: whether or not JN is part of AQ, they declared that they follow the same ideology, thus the teachings of Qutb (and thus violently anti-modern and anti-democratic). To you, it seems, these groups are basically Islamic versions of the South American liberation theology movement. To date, however, only two Islamist movements can claim even a shred of congruence: The followers of Ayatollah Khomeini, and the Peoples Mujahedin of Iran, and now look where they both are. One presides over a corrupt oligarchy, and the other has degenerated into a totalitarian personality cult.

JN will never change, because their founding doctrine is based on the denial of the historical process, in favor of an idealized static “volksgemeinschaft” of true believers living a simple life based on stories from the Quran. Unlike the liberation theologists (and Christians in the Civil Rights movement), they are not driven to enact progressive social change by their beliefs; they simply wish to enforce religious order on all. If the FSA and other non-radical Islamist groups do not use the opportunity to rid themselves of these rivals now, they will find themselves wishing they had later on. A victory over Assad by the opposition will find them much the same as they are now.


Brian S. April 21, 2013 at 11:23 am

@Reza No, I don’t want to sue you: I’m content to simply note the self-serving way in which you handle your sources.
I was going to say that this is not about ” search for progressive Jihadists” but on reflection, looked at through from your perspective, I suppose it could be described that way. I however would describe it as an attempt to understand the various groups involved in the Syrian conflict in concrete terms and with some evaluation of their possible (but as yet undetermined) dynamics; as oppposed to your approach, which is to dissolve a complex reality into a set of fixed, unexplicated categories. I’m glad to see you acknowledging the existence of “non-radical Islamist groups”, but what is your criteria for assigning groups to that category, and who do you place in it?


Arthur April 21, 2013 at 8:59 am

A thorough study of Nazism reveals significant differents between for example brownshirts and others. The knight of the long knives showed that those differences were not minor.

The fact that JN has learned something from their defeat in Iraq makes them more dangerous. Their distancing from Al Baghdadi’s announcement reflects the fact that it thoroughly discredits them among Salari jihadi formations that aren’t as bizarrely committed to apologetics for them as Bian is.

Describing them as a “religious current” and hinting that they might include groupings that are progressive goes way beyond stupidity.


Brian S. April 21, 2013 at 11:58 am

@Arthur. I was not referring to JN as a “religious current” – the expression I deliberately used was “major religious current” and it would have been absurd to refer to JN in that way. My objective, as I stated, was to adopt “a critical perspective” for “evaluating a group like JN”, based on the observation that “major religious currents” (ie “religions” or sects) could foster groups with varied colourations – broadly, reactionary, progressive, or ambiguous. My position is that JN at the moment falls into the “ambiguous” category, based on its objective role in the Syrian conflict, and a number of shifts in its position on the ground (for example its emphasis on social work and the cautious way it has handled political differences in the liberated areas).
I’m glad that you now acknowledge that al-Goliani’s statement was a rejection of al-Baghdadi’s decree. So what if it was conditioned by “the fact that it thoroughly discredits them among Salifi jihadi formations” – that is exactly my point: JN is subject to influences that arise from the struggle, not simply those that stem from its al-Qaedalinks. I’m not making any definitive forecasts about how far that process will go – I’m simply not prepared to bolt the stable door while the horse is still in the pasture.


Arthur April 21, 2013 at 12:27 pm

Its a wolf.


Brian S. April 21, 2013 at 1:21 pm



Reza Lustig April 21, 2013 at 1:03 pm

“I’m simply not prepared to bolt the stable door while the horse is still in the pasture.”

Well, you should be. There’s nothing wrong with evaluating groups like JN, as long as you don’t specifically go in assuming that you can make friends or long-term allies; you can’t. As I said, we’ve established that JN isn’t PART of Al Qaeda per se, but it follows the same Qutbist ideology, which would make them categorically opposed to a secular democratic government as with other radical Islamist groups. In the end, they will simply be new enemies to be dealt with as expediently as possible.

As for your question on what constituted “non-radical Islamist groups,” I classify it as any Islamic group which does not have the ultimate goal of the establishment of an Islamic State or Ummah. I also differentiate between conservative/moderate muslims, and Salafists.


Brian S. April 21, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Well, of course JN isn’t a “long term” ally – once the regime has fallen or its fall is imminent JN will move towards being a counter-revolutionary force (clearly so in political terms, possibly in military terms). But that will be a period when the whole political spectrum will be thrown up in the air and no one can predict how the pieces will come down.
On the key dividing line, I would draw it a bit differently from you – I don’t think the key issue is whether a particular current favours an “Islamic state” but how they propose to go about promoting that option. If its by imposing that goal on others (including the minorities) then they are beyond the pale; if its by persuasion then I think its a different matter. There are many groups who espouse a vision of an Islamic state but one that remains democratic and tolerant. They are “salafist” in the same sense as most of the Egyptian salafists. Should they be treated as political outcasts?
By the way, I doubt that the young men who have joined JN to fight the regime are spending their time sitting around reading the collected works of Sayyid Qutb.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) April 21, 2013 at 4:25 pm

A most important point, they aren’t reading Syyid Qutb and JAN isn’t growing because those ideas are winning the debates, they are joining because JAN is winning battles, whether thay stay with JAN after the battles are won is TBD.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) April 21, 2013 at 4:20 pm

In the end, they will simply be new enemies to be dealt with as expediently as possible.

No you don’t!

Where is your head Reza? In the clouds? Not on the ground in Syria were the Assad regime killed ~ 500 today.

If you are at all smart, you don’t take on every enemy “expediently as possible.” You take them on one at a time, and you take on your main enemy first.

And you especially don’t take on tomorrow’s enemy “expediently as possible” today while they are vigorously fighting not you, but your main enemy!

Really, where’s your head?


Arthur April 21, 2013 at 4:48 pm

They are also fighting the Kurds and helping keep the Alawis and other minorities in Assad’s camp for fear of what may come after.

Assad’s camp might have collapsed long ago if not for that very real fear.

Smashing takfiri elements like Jabhat Al Nusra is critically important for defeating Assad.


Brian S. April 22, 2013 at 6:31 am

@Arthur. I agree with you about relations with the Kurds – but the problem here is not just with JN (nor even just with Islamists -its also caught up with factional differerences among the Kurds). But if you think the coherence of the Alawite community is primarily determined by JN’s presence in the conflict you are off the mark. The official state media labels the entire opposition (including peaceful as “terrorist groups” and they would be doing that with or without JN. The structure of sectarian mentalities is not grounded in logic.


Arthur April 22, 2013 at 8:31 am

Sure. But the fact that there really is quite widespread Sunni sectarianism and Arab chauvinism among the revolutionary ranks, and especially its alliance with JN makes life easier for Assad and easier for Kurdish chauvinists.

Whatever the negative immediate military impact of breaking with JN, the political impact of doing so would be immense. The apologetics are actively assisting the state media.


Joe Vaughan April 21, 2013 at 5:16 pm

That’s “night” of the long knives, genius.

And the “difference” between the Brown Shirts and the SA had virtually nothing to do with political differences as Western leftists experience them; it was a question of eliminating potential challenges to Hitler’s leadership from the likes of Roehm and other leaders with independent constituencies and of consolidating his personal control of the Nazi party and the German state through the SS and the SD.

Your “thorough study” is an out-and-out fraud. Why is one not surprised?


Arthur April 21, 2013 at 5:43 pm

Thanks for the spelling correction.

Actually independent constituencies and leadership are generally connected to different political trends and Strasserism still has a distinct political position among neo-Nazis just as there are significant differences and struggles for power among Al Qaeda affiliates.

There is also a spectrum of overlap between such tendencies through the “national bolsheviks” in Russia to aspects of the pseudoleft in the West.


Arthur April 21, 2013 at 5:44 pm
Michael Pugliese April 22, 2013 at 12:54 pm

1550 GMT: George Sabra to Lead Opposition. Following the finalized resignation of Moaz al Khatib, the Syrian National Coalition has named George Sabra as the temporary leader of the opposition’s main leadership body:

Sabra “was assigned today to carry out the functions of the head of the Coalition until elections for a new president,” one of the Coalition’s main constituent groups, the Syrian National Council, said in a statement on Monday.

Sabra, a Christian from rural Damascus, is described as a “”leftist, pro-Arab, secular opposition figure,” by the The Carnegie Endowment which provides this bio:

Sabra was a co-founder of the Damascus Declaration opposition coalition in 2005, and in the same year, the Syrian Communist Party (Political Bureau) changed its name to the Syrian Democratic People’s Party. He remained in Syria after the uprising began in March 2011 and was imprisoned in July for two months on charges of inciting dissent. In October he went into exile in order to escape rearrest and joined the Syrian National Council as the representative of the Democratic People’s Party. Sabra presented himself as a candidate when the term of Syrian National Council chairman Burhan Ghalioun ended in May 2012, but he lost the nomination to Abdul Basit Sida.
Cf. On Ghassan Hitto, see Franklin Lamb, ‘A Draft-Dodging, Zionist Friendly, Right-wing Texan Islamist to lead Syria?’, CounterPunch, 22–24 March 2013. Via , which is a reply to Asef Bayat: Revolution in Bad Times
Euphoric celebrations of the Arab uprisings have skated over their profoundly ambiguous character. Asef Bayat explains the failure to make a clean sweep of the old order in terms of a self-limiting programme that stems from the discredit of traditional revolutionary models.


Brian S. April 24, 2013 at 11:46 am

Thanks for these informative links Michael. Useful bio of Sabra. Franklin Lamb is not a credible source: he’s right about Hitto’s MB links (and I suspect this had something to do with al-Khatib’s departure) the rest of it looks as if he just made it up.
Thanks also for leading me to this NLR article by Tariq Ali. I haven’t had time to take it all in, but I thought that his taking Lamb seriously would be a low point. However his discussion of Syria and Libya manages to sink even further. Unfortunately, this is a print article – so no facility for replying.


Clay Claiborne April 24, 2013 at 11:59 am

Unfortunately, this is a print article – so no facility for replying.

So what’s Counterpunch’s excuse?


Bill Weinberg April 27, 2013 at 10:38 pm

Leftist naivete about or apologias for either Assad or the Nusra Front are equally abhorrent. And “Islamism” is not Islam. I prefer the term “political Islam,” and I oppose it, just as I oppose Christian nationalism in the US or Zionism in Israel/Palestine. And the Nusra Front indeed has recently become a franchise of al-Qaeda; they announced this publicly.

We (meaning progressives in the West) owe active, vigorous solidarity to the progressive, secular, democratic and anti-imperialist elements within the Syrian revolution. Not to Assad, nor to the US-backed opportunists or Saudi-back jihadists who would hijack that revolution. I don’t understand why nobody seems to get this.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) April 27, 2013 at 11:52 pm

We (meaning progressives in the West) owe active, vigorous solidarity to the progressive, secular, democratic and anti-imperialist elements within the Syrian revolution. Not to Assad, nor to the US-backed opportunists or Saudi-back jihadists who would hijack that revolution.

Which still begs the question of who “the progressive, secular, democratic and anti-imperialist elements within the Syrian revolution” should be willing to make a “united front” with under current conditions, and whether we (meaning progressives in the West) should support them ( meaning the progressive, secular, democratic and anti-imperialist elements within the Syrian revolution ) in doing that.

I don’t understand why nobody seems to get this.

Maybe because they are fighting a civil war and you are not?


Bill Weinberg April 28, 2013 at 1:54 am

My “they” who do not get this was not the Syrians. It is gringo lefties. You seem to have misunderstood me rather completely.

A part of our responsibility is to find out who the progressive elements in Syria are. There has been very little effort to even do this. I have made a few stabs at it.


Brian S. April 28, 2013 at 3:04 pm

@Bill Weinberg. I accept that the pieces you provide links to are serious efforts to get to grips with this complex situation. But you share a widespread tendency on the left to avoid the really difficult questions by invoking the “National Coordinating Committee for Democratic Change”. I have no doubt that these are nice people who I would quite like to be running the Syrian opposition – but the fact is they are not. They are a marginalised and fragmented group with no serious influence inside the country. They played no role in the initial mass civil opposition (largely because of their preoccupation with finding someone to negotiate with in the regime); and once the armed struggle broke out drifted into even further obscurity. Their most important historic figure is probably Michel Kilo, who has recently played a positive role in brokering a peace agreement between the FSA and Kurdish forces; his heart is always in the right place but his head is not so constant. He has made a passionate declaration in support of the FSA; and a few days later called for negotiations (with some one or other).
The problem I suspect Clay is pointing to (and I certainly would) is that the search for “progressive elements” involves imposing categories that are external to the struggle (I don’t say “western categorie”s because this is not just about culture but also about context – in Clay’s words “they are fighting a civil war and you (we) are not”.)
Let’s say you find a “progressive element” and the next day they enter into an alliance with a not-very-progessive element because the latter is better at stopping regime tanks; or the members of your “progressive element” start shouting “allahu akhbar” because it stops them trembling when the regime bombs fall; or they start flying a black Islamic flag because it qualifies them for more ammunition. What attitude do you then adopt to them?
I prefer to think in terms of achieving “progressive outcomes” – and the first of these is the downfall of this bloodstained regime. As the leading candidate for being an “apologist” for Jabhat al Nusra on this site, let me say that I accept that we have to give some weight to the possible longer-term reactionary role of particular forces. But that needs to be based on sobre assessments and not western media stereotypes. All of this leads us into the world of uncertainty, which the left is not good at dealing with. But that’s where the Syrian people live – and we need to deal with it..


Bill Weinberg April 28, 2013 at 6:18 pm

The fact that the National Coordinating Committee for Democratic Change (why the scare quotes?) or the Syrian Nonviolence Movement are marginalized and under siege means they demand our solidarity MORE, not less. I see no evidence that they have blocked with the Nusra Front, despite your hypotheticals. The notion that “we” shouldn’t impose “our” values is precisely that used by apologists for Assad and his ilk, so I am rather surprised to hear it coming from you.


Pham Binh April 28, 2013 at 6:37 pm

Why are these elements the ones you deem to be preferred? Why not George Sabra, the communist Christian of the SNC? Or Moaz al-Khatib, who I would probably vote for myself if given the chance?

The search for forces in Syria with ideological preferences similar to our own strikes me as idealist given our vastly different contexts. Even if there were zero leftists in Syria, I would support the revolution against the counter-revolution.


Reza Lustig April 28, 2013 at 8:38 pm

Funny that you would vote for Moaz Khatib (who has been known for talking about religious co-existence and friendship when addressing gullible European liberals, while simultaneously calling Shia and Alawites “rejectionists” and “liars” when speaking to Arabic audiences) over George Sabra (who you acknowledge to be left-leaning).

And as legit as George Sabra’s “leftist” credentials seem, we’ve seen this before: Meles Zenawi overthrew the Derg regime in Ethiopia and had “social democratic” credentials, but became one of the most crooked plutocrats in modern African history.

Maybe you should renounce socialism and attend a madrassa, if you have so much sympathy and respect for Islamists.


Pham Binh April 28, 2013 at 9:52 pm

Lies won’t be tolerated here, although I found a few in Mark Osborn’s response on behalf of AWL. If you have evidence that Khatib did such things, let’s see it. His statement to Hassan Nasrallah was anything but sectarian:


Reza Lustig April 29, 2013 at 12:36 am

I found a piece by Foreign Policy which I found pretty illuminating. Here’s the paragraph I paraphrased:

“While Khatib used his post-election speech to call for equal rights for “all parts of the harmonious Syrian people,” his previous rhetoric toward his country’s minorities has been nothing short of virulent. One of his articles describes Shiite using the slur rawafid, or “rejectionists”; he even goes further, criticizing Shiites’ ability to “establish lies and follow them.” Such language, needless to say, will hardly reassure the country’s Alawite community, a Shiite offshoot to which Assad belongs.”

Middle Eastern politicians who make a program of their “faith” (especially Sunnis) tend to talk a lot about tolerance while being inveterate bigots towards peoples of other faiths or sects (or even ideologies for that matter), as we have all seen with the MB in Egypt and Ennahda in Tunisia.

My question still remains, by the way: Why did you say you would rather vote for Khatib over Sabra, knowing that the latter is closer to your own views than the former? Maybe you should consider converting to Islam and taking a trip to Mecca.


Pham Binh April 29, 2013 at 3:24 am

Ah, so you’re claiming Khatib is a sectarian based on remarks made prior to the uprising and before he became political leader of the opposition? That’s about as intelligent as judging Malcolm X in 1964 based on things he said in 1959 (the remarks in question are from 2007). This is another indication that AWL can’t reason it’s way out of a paper bag.

If you gave a damn about what’s going on in Syria or what will go on, you’d laud Khatib for trying to prevent sectarian violence from getting worse and spreading into Lebanon. Instead you engage in petty point-scoring (although by anyone’s count you”re losing on that front too).

Also never said I’d vote for Kahtib over Sabra, but hey, why let facts get in the way of a good argument? I also don’t understand why you keep telling me to convert to Islam or go to a madrassa. Are you angry the Islamists by and large are more correct on Syria than AWL?


Pham Binh May 1, 2013 at 11:59 am

The Foreign Policy article you found “illuminating” contains gross falsehoods about Khatib’s views. The two hyperlinks (غفرانك-اللهم-فالحسين-لا-يشرب-الدماء-2007- 01-03/ andفيصل-التفرقة-بين-الإسلام-والزندقة-في-م/) it contains to Khatib’s remarks about Shia reveals the following:

– He condemns the execution of Moqtada al-Sadr’s father by Saddam Hussein.
– Condemns Saddam Hussein for shedding Shia and Sunni blood needlessly in the Iran-Iraq war.
-Praises Hezbollah (Shia) for fighting Israel (in 2006) unlike Arab rulers.
-Condemns Iran for putting Hussein-Ali Montazeri, an Islamist who had a falling out with Khomeini over the Islamic Republic’s repressive, anti-democratic policies.
– Refers repeatedly to Shias as “brothers.”

Turns out the only gullible one here is you.


Reza Lustig April 29, 2013 at 12:37 am
Brian S. April 29, 2013 at 5:59 am

Are you saying that Islamists are unworthy of respect simply because of their beliefs?


Brian S. April 29, 2013 at 5:42 am

My apologies – I’m not sure why I used quotes there, but there certainly wasn’t an intention to scare anyone. My point about the NCCDC was not that they were unworthy of support (I believe I clearly stated the opposite – and I have considerable admiration for Michel Kilo). My point was that holding them up as an alternative to the forces that were actually engaged in the struggle on the ground is an empty gesture because of their marginality.
I don’t see anything in my post suggesting that the NCCDC had blocked with Jabhat al Nusra: my “hypotheticals” were in relation to your more general comment about searching for “progressive elements”. I assumed that you – like most people who approach the issue from this perspective – accepted that there were at least some “progressive elements” within the FSA, and the hypotheticals were directed to that scenario.
If you’d bothered to read my comments about not imposing “categories (not values) that are external to the struggle” it would have been clear that I wasn’t arguing some general “cultural relativist” position but suggesting that before we passed sweeping judgements on groups and actions on the ground in Syria we needed to make some effort to understand the context in which they were living and fighting. What criteria are you using to make your pronouncments?


Bill Weinberg April 28, 2013 at 6:43 pm

I’ve been called way, way worse things than an “idealist.” But if you have more pieces of the puzzle as to who are our natural allies in Syria, I welcome this information. Thank you.


Pham Binh April 28, 2013 at 9:54 pm

There’s a difference between labelling people (“idealist”) and characterizing their political method (“idealism”). Ideological litmus tests are a big reason why the left has been so wrong on the Arab Spring, and the search for forces whose formal politics match our own to me is just another form of this problem.

I’m not sure why you’ve chosen not to answer why you believe the NCCDC is worthy of our support/solidarity (as opposed to George Sabra or other forces).

The leftist elements in Syria as far as I know are clustered around the Local Coordinating Committees which are to a certain extent the brainchild of anarchist Omar Aziz ( There’s supposedly a Fourth International group in Dera’a ( which is probably just a paper group rather than a significant player in the local opposition. Then there are individuals like “Guevara,” a woman sniper in Aleppo ( operating on their own and the individual who runs the Arab Maoists blog ( who is based in Damascus.

The reality is that in a fascist state like Syria, civil society, left organizations, and unions were mercilessly stamped out for decades, so we shouldn’t be terribly disappointed that our ideological counterparts don’t really exist there, at least in any organized form. I expect left currents to emerge in stage two of the revolution when the battle in Syria is over the content and limits of bourgeois democracy, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they emulate and link up with the March 14 movement in Lebanon which is made up of “ex” communists, many of whom paid with their lives for rejecting Syrian fascism’s invasion, occupation, and meddling in Lebanon.


Reza Lustig April 29, 2013 at 1:01 am

1. Nothing in the article about “Guevara” makes the woman in question look inclined to her namesake’s ideological proclivities. I could go form a resistance group, and tell all my comrades to refer to me as “Attila the Hun,” or “The Scorpion,” and what in the heck would that tell you about my beliefs?

2. I find it funny that you consider the March 14 Alliance to be “leftist,” considering it’s dominated by the late Rafik Hariri’s neoliberal “Future Movement,” and the conservative Christian Phalange Party (responsible for the Sabra and Shatila Massacres).

3. I fail to see George Sabra’s use to us Western leftists, if he exists as the token leftist in an organization that is mostly made up of MB members. That’s like saying we should vote Democrat because of Bernie Sanders. The SNC doesn’t represent the Syrian people, which is why the FSA and other resistance groups don’t acknowledge it.

Does ideology, or even a vague plan of what the future SHOULD look like, enter into anything for you? Or is everything a matter of what is happening at this second? Or are you hiding something with regards to your beliefs?


Brian S. April 29, 2013 at 5:53 am

@Bill Weinberg. The people I would first and foremost consider myself “allied” with are the civilian oppositionists who launched the struggle in 2011 and are currently organised in networks of citizens committees, the Local Coordinating Committees, the Syrian Revolution General Commission, etc. they of course have alliances with sections of the FSA; who in turn have pragmatic alliances with islamist groups outside or on the fringes of the FSA (following the lines of my “hypotheticals”)
If you are really interested in finding “pieces of the puzzle” you could do worse than reading the back posts on this site, which contain a lot of detailed information.


Pham Binh April 29, 2013 at 10:20 am

Whoops, I got the March 14 alliance in Lebanon confused with its left component:


Reza Lustig April 29, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Well, that makes more sense. I’m still not impressed, though; they have been able to hold only ONE seat since 2005, and seen both major party leaders car bombed. And their decision to work within an overhelmingly right-wing neoliberal electoral alliance is very dubious. Honestly, if we were looking for a left-wing analog for the future Syrian left, I would pick the Progressive Socialist Party; not only have they come out against the Assad regime, but they have a history of armed resistance.

I’m still curious as to why you would vote for Moaz al-Khatib over George Sabra, though, in light of the information I provided about his bigoted stance towards religious minorities.


Reza Lustig April 29, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Also, you said you’d rather vote for Khatib here:

“Why not George Sabra, the communist Christian of the SNC? Or Moaz al-Khatib, who I would probably vote for myself if given the chance?”


Pham Binh April 29, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Saying I would vote for X is not the same thing as saying I would vote for X over Y. Common sense.


Reza Lustig April 29, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Fair enough, but I’m curious why you didn’t say you’d vote for Sabra, who you admit is ideologically closer to your own positions.


Pham Binh April 29, 2013 at 2:13 pm

I would love be a Syrian voting in a runoff between Khatib and Sabra. When that situation arises (if it ever does), I’d vote Sabra most likely. The main thing now is getting rid of the regime so that choices like that could actually emerge.


Pham Binh May 1, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Interview with Syrian Marxist and legendary intellectual Dr. Sadiq Jalal Al-Azm:


Carl Davidson April 29, 2013 at 1:35 pm

I’m curious about something. How do people here think they have the capability to figure out the politics and relations of forces, as well as the line of march, for Syria, when they can’t or haven’t bothered to do so for this country, at least in any effective way?

I’m fairly experienced, but I honestly have no idea who are the ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ in Syria. I know I don’t like the Salafists, and their mixture of feudalism, fascism and theocracy–but that’s about it.

I spend the bulk of my time trying to figure out all the forcer and their balance and inter-relation for here, inside the USA.

Given the state of our socialist forces, if the Syrians had $2 plus our solidarity, they could get a subway ticket. Our efforts count a little more in places like Afghanistan, where we have troops still deployed.

A little modest is in order.


Arthur April 29, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Its a real problem that bothers me too.

I don’t believe we can have a good understanding of the forces in countries like Syria whether or not we have a reasonable understanding of our own countries. The Comintern was dissolved for good reasons.

I don’t claim to have a “line of march” for countries like Australia or the US (and I disagree that you have one for the USA although I agree that yours is no worse than others and different paths should be tried).

In principle I agree that priority should go to figuring out what to do in our own countries (while doing it).

Nevertheless, we haven’t and yet some things are clear about the world even though we aren’t clear about what to do in our own countries. Things are murky for the left in countries like Australia and the USA because life in those countries is a lot easier than in other places. Where oppression is more stark it is also easier to see broadly what side you want to be on, even though you cannot know the details.

For example we didn’t really have much of a clue about what to do in Australia and the USA when we opposed the Vietnam war. But we didn’t need a good understanding of the forces in Vietnam to correctly decide to take a stand against US aggression.

Likewise the communist movement in the 1930s never actually did work out a line that made much sense in Western countries. But supporting a united front against fascism was a no brainer.

Likewise, suppoting armed assistance to bringing down the fascist regime in Syria and preferring non-Salafi forces in the opposition is easy enough to get right, even though we have not figured out what to do at home and cannot have a much more detailed picture of Syrian politics than that.

BTW I assume your reference to Afghanistan means you support efforts to get US troops withdrawn. I would favour opposite efforts to not leave the Afghans to suffer from the Taliban rule and civil and regioal war that are likely to follow withdrawal.


Aaron Aarons May 2, 2013 at 8:57 pm

Arthur Dent writes: “The Comintern was dissolved for good reasons.”

The Comintern was dissolved in 1943 because, in the words of Wikipedia, “Stalin wished to calm his World War II allies (particularly Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill) and keep them from suspecting the Soviet Union of pursuing a policy of trying to foment revolution in other countries.” The excuse given for that sudden, bureaucratic action, that

But long before the war it became increasingly clear that, to the extent that the internal as well as the international situation of individual countries became more complicated, the solution of the problems of the labor movement of each individual country through the medium of some international centre would meet with insuperable obstacles.

was complete bullshit. Even if it was a valid statement, it was not the reason.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) April 30, 2013 at 6:33 pm

I’m fairly experienced, but I honestly have no idea who are the ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ in Syria.

Honestly? Is that because you haven’t followed events in Syria or because your experience hasn’t taught you how to alert to a people’s movement and a revolutionary situation? If it is the former, I can suggest a few sources including this site, my own blog and EAWorldView. If it is the latter, I guess you just need more experience.

I first got that feeling back in the 60’s and I knew, almost before I knew anything else, who the ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ were. The 1964 DNC took place in my home town, I was 15 and already I knew the Miss. Freedom delegation were the ‘good guys.’ I knew the Viet Cong were the ‘good guys’ long before a became a communist and I knew we in the anti-war movement were the ‘good guys.’ And I knew that period was the closest this country has come to a revolutionary situation since the ’30’s or since.

January 2011, when news first hit me about what was happening in Tunisia, I figured out two things real quick: 1) We were looking at revolutionary situation [ when HuffPost published “What happened in Tunisia most likely will stay in Tunisia”, I publicly laughed in their face | 23 Jan 2011 ]
2) The masses in the streets fighting to overthrow the regime were the ‘good guys’

I saw it developing next in Libya, yes Libya & Algeria, then Egypt and Bahrain, Syria, Jordan. Sizing up individual players, groups, trends is always a problem for me but knowing who the good guys are is not.

Take Syria for example. You have one side that supports a fascist police state that has been in power for 40 years. They are using mass murder and state terror in a desperate attempt to maintain their power. They use rape and sectarian violence as tools. They are pioneering the used of ballistic missiles and cluster bombs on civilian targets on ones own population and they are currently leading a program to re-introduce poison gas as a tool for rebellion suppression.

Those would be the ‘bad guys.’


Carl Davidson April 30, 2013 at 7:55 pm

In the 1960s, things were a lot clearer. We could go to Mississippi for ourselves. The Vietnamese and many other national liberation movements in those days were led by Marxist and other progressive-minded revolutionaries. Later, things changed. My organization in the 1970s, for example, backed Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, as well as the Mujahedin (including bin Laden) who were fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. We thought we knew a lot more than we actually did. and learned the hard way about our delusions. I have no intention of returning to that path again.


Arthur May 1, 2013 at 1:00 pm

Yes, things were a lot clearer in the 1960s, and yes they were a lot less clear than we thought at the time.

But it really isn’t hard to see that in Syria the Assad regime are bad guys and that refusing to side against it only helps other bad guys among the opposition and cannot possibly be helpful to the Syrian people determining their own future.

I suspect the reason its hard for you to see it has far more to do with the fact that US imperialism was so clearly the number one enemy of the people’s of the world in the 1960s that our whole generation of activists was inclined to hardly notice that it was actually defeated in Vietnam and simply doesn’t have the capability to attempt imperial conquest in places like Syria.

Its kind of like the generation that joined the movement in the 1930s and 1940s still seeing German fascism as the main danger, or more precisely, seeing the Soviet Union as the main force for peace.

Clay and I are both from the same generation as you and only slightly younger. Just because you are seventy and got many things wrong when you were younger shouldn’t mean you have to give up on the very possibility of there being other bad guys worth fighting.

Sure we can’t do much when we don’t even know how to build a local mass base and win a union fight or an election. But that was true before things got going in the 1960s too. People learn how to fight. But they can’t learn to fight if they become convinced there is no way to tell good guys from bad guys.

Frankly I think you would find it much easier to see who the bad guys in Syria are, and what needs to be done about them, if that did not require going against the desparate desire of most of your liberal friends to not actually have to do anything.

Remember Phil Ochs? “Ah but I’ve grown older and wiser…”,_I%27m_a_Liberal


Carl Davidson May 1, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Is there any government in the world that, for you, isn’t run by ‘bad guys’? In the Middle East?

My suggestion is that ‘regime change begins at home.’ Start working on strategy–distinguishing friends and adversaries, progressive, middle and back ward forces, long term and short term allies–right here in the USA. Oppose all US instigated wars and occupations–that’s your internationalist duty– and figure out a line of march to get us stronger and on the road to socialism.

You’ll contribute a lot more to the ‘good guys’ of the world that way than any other. As we make some progress there, we can assign some folks to study and become experts on all the other battlegrounds across the world.


Pham Binh May 1, 2013 at 1:58 pm

The Iraqi government.


Carl Davidson May 1, 2013 at 2:09 pm

So who are the mujahedin waging war against the Iraqis? And what about the three-way tensions in Iraq between Sunni, Shia and Kurds. I’m of the opinion that the main winner in Iraq was Iran, for better or worse.


Pham Binh May 1, 2013 at 2:11 pm

That’s his opinion, not mine. I agree with you that Iran won the Iraq war.


Arthur May 1, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Not exactly. I think the mass murdering “mujahedin” are VERY bad guys and the Iraqi government relatively good (and possibly better than is likely to emerge when the VERY bad guys get defeated in Syria) but not exactly “good guys” either. The Kurdish regional government strikes me as somewhat better, but still pretty tribal and authoritarian.

These are the first more or less democratic Arab states (Tunisia, Egypt and Libya joining them and more to come). I think it will be quite a while before any of them don’t look bad relative to Europe, North America etc, which are also a LOOONG way from my concept of “good guys”.

If I had a choice I’d pick some non-homid species on a more congenial planet to be politically active in. But we still have to fight the really bad guys among this species on this planet as it is (including your murderous “mujahedin”) even if we aren’t all that impressed with their opponents.

BTW the “good guys” we sided with in Vietnam ended up with an extremely corrupt dictatorship that will also have to be overthrown by revolution.

As for both your opinions that Iran won the Iraq war, it shows how much you are still influenced by the US foreign policy establishment on the one hand, and the Baathist “mujahedin” on the other hand, who both hold that view.

Iran is already viewed almost as unfavourably as the USA in Iraq (including by a majority of Shia) and despite the enormous language barrier the existence of a democracy next door in the center of the Shia world is a major threat to the clericalist dictatorship in Iran which made major efforts to impose similar clericalism in Iraq, but failed. Iraq’s Ayatollah Sistani is far more popular among Shia worldwide, including Iran, than any of the regime leaders in Iran.

PS Carl “Oppose all US instigated wars and occupations–that’s your internationalist duty”. That’s a very 1960s line. Just two decades earlier it would mean you opposed the war against fascism and the occuation of Germany and Japan. Five decades later it means you oppose taking down a fascist regime in Syria and accept a far more violent assault on the Syrian people than that which the 1930s generation of American leftists joined international brigades to fight.


Carl Davidson May 1, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Again, don;t put words in my mouth. I neither oppose the WW2 anti-fascist front nor do I ‘accept’ any violence visited upon Syrians or anyone else. If I were in charge, all countries and peoples would adhere to Chou En-Lai’s 5 Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, and the workers in each country would make proletarian revolution as best as they could.

Arthur May 1, 2013 at 3:56 pm

I didn’t put words in your mouth. I quoted your “1960s” words which you asserted as some kind of universal priciple applicable to attitudes concerning Syria 5 decades later in 2013 and pointed out that those words would be understood as opposition to the war against fascism and the internaional brigades a couple of decades earlier.

Simply repeating old lines under new circumstances is not standing by Marxist principle but lying down on it.

The people of Syria are demanding NATO military assistance to cope with mass murder attacks on them by their government, now also including chemicals. Britain and France want to act but cannot do much without the USA. This is not some armchair chess playing. It is a live political issue right now as your liberal friends look desperately for a way to avoid getting involved.

Given your contacts in those circles you could actually help make a difference if you took a principled stand and did not in fact join them in accepting the violence visited on Syria.

Carl Davidson April 29, 2013 at 3:29 pm

I’m for the US getting out of Afghanistan, period. Now. The sooner the better. Then we can pay reparations.


Arthur April 29, 2013 at 3:34 pm

So whats your understanding of the Taliban? If you “don’t like the Salafists, and their mixture of feudalism, fascism and theocracy” are you going to pay reparatins to a Taliban government while they close down the girls schools and go to war with Hazara, Tajiks, Uzbeks and Turkomen?


Carl Davidson April 29, 2013 at 3:41 pm

The Taliban are different from the Arab Salafists. Lots of Pashtun nationalism and their own brand of Islam. Not that they aren’t backward in their own way and haven’t cooperated with al-Quaeda, but there’s always been conflict between them. In any case, progressive change in that country will come from within. No outside power has ever dominated it from without for very long.


Arthur April 30, 2013 at 8:08 am

Actually the Taliban’s Deobandi school of islam, although deriving from a different fiqh to the Salafis has rather similar characteristics to those you described as a (Salafi) “mixture of feudalism, fascism and theocracy”. In particular they are both virulently anti-Shia which made them natural allies.

But Salafi and Deobandi just designate extremely reactionary religious outlooks whereas Taliban, like Al Qaeda designate more specific political movements with a strong “takfiri” orientation to kiling their opponents as infidels.

Its true that the Taliban are also Pashtun nationalists. That only adds to the problem as they go to war with the other minority nationalities that inhabit Afghanistan – including Sunni Uzbeks, Turkomen and Tajiks as well as Shia Hazara. Most of the people of Afghanistan are NOT Pashtun (although Pashtun are the largest minority).

No outside power can dominate but Pakistan isn’t entirely “outside” and has successfully used the Taliban.

The problem isn’t a US attempt at domination but that the US only really cared about eliminating Al Qaeda and thus sided with various corrupt warlords instead of supporting a major social upheaval as in Iraq.

The sort of casual indifference you display (along with the most of the US ruling class) to the likely fate of women, natonal minorities and the people generally in Afghanistan inevitably reflects attitudes that prevent establishing a reasonable “line of march” domestically as well.

As well as makin nonsense of any concern with domestic gender oppression your basic lack of interationalism results in actually supporting the most parochial US trade union demands for “protection” against “foreign” workers taking “our” jobs, (plus fantasy schemes for “green jobs” perhaps to down play the former).

Likewise by stressing your hostility to Salafis in Syria rather than to the fascist regime that is oppressing both Salafis and others, you reinforce your general orientation towards lining up with liberal democrats who desperately want to avoid having to do anything about the regime.

If you had a more internationalist outlook about Syria and Afghanistan it would also improve your domestic line.

I still agree with your initial point that attention to international issues should not substitute for understanding the forces at work in our own societies but your failure to think through international issue actually results in you being on the wrong side on domestic issues too.


Carl Davidson April 30, 2013 at 8:26 am

My international places its first demand on ‘my own’ bourgeoisie: Withdraw your troops from Afghanistan and elsewhere. Stop meddling in other countries and respect self-determination in the oppressed nations of the world.

Nor am I indifferent to the plight of women anywhere, including Afghanistan. But I do think that the notion that they are to be liberated via US military occupation is rather naive, to use a kind word.

Nor am I a ‘protectionist’ of any sort. Trade agreements should be bilateral and to the mutual benefit of both sides.

Finally, I find the ‘debates’ consisting of playing a kind of global chess with paper armies among leftists who can’t even lead a union or win a seat on a local city council amusing, if it weren’t so diversionary.

Let’s just say I order my priorities differently. Once you reach the age of 70, you tend to focus your energies on matters where you can make a difference. In these discussions, I’m trying to learn a few things from the younger generation, as well as pass on a few lessons I’ve learned the hard way.


Pham Binh April 30, 2013 at 1:17 pm

“My international places its first demand on ‘my own’ bourgeoisie: Withdraw your troops from Afghanistan and elsewhere. Stop meddling in other countries and respect self-determination in the oppressed nations of the world.”

And when “your” bourgeoisie is blocking heavy weapons from the hands of freedom fighters defending themselves from fascists, you…?


Carl Davidson April 30, 2013 at 1:26 pm

….tell them to keep their hands off Syria, and not intervene in any way with any of the Syrian parties concerned. Let the people of Syria determine their own future–for better, for worse or somewhere in between.


Arthur April 30, 2013 at 1:45 pm

“… a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing…”


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) April 30, 2013 at 6:45 pm

So basically fuck Syria [ because I think “my own” bourgeoisie is not backing them (even black sites?) and foreign intervention in support of the regime from Russia and Iran is not from ‘my own’ bourgeoisie, and therefore not my concern?]

Is that how it goes?


Carl Davidson April 30, 2013 at 7:45 pm

Don’t put words in my mouth Clay. The countries and peoples of the world are not the chess pieces or paper toys of our masters or of us. We would do well to get rid of the superpower mentality wherein we regard ourselves as the central or decisive factor in how revolutions turn out, especially when we’re not doing so well with our own. My view is that all peoples, including Syrians, should determine their own futures. ‘Fucking’ other countries is what superpowers and their subaltern clients do, not me. As for the overblown conception a number of folks on this thread seem to have of themselves and their impact, they’re welcome to it. I want no part of it. I’ve been there, done that, and have learned that little good comes of it.


Brian S. May 1, 2013 at 1:41 pm

Of course, they should be able to determine their own futures. But what is the main force preventing them from doing that? Is it the regime that is pouring bombs, shells, and missiles, on them. Or is it the US administration which is doing – what exactly?
I respect your self-critique of your youthful self (a lot of us can benefit from that sort of exercise) but the point of that should be to learn something, not just turn previous fixed conceptions upside down.


Carl Davidson May 1, 2013 at 2:04 pm

We know what the US imperialists have in mind–regime change in Syria, favorable to them, as a stepping stone to regime change in Iran, also favorable to them.

I think they (the US imperialists) are rather deluded, and opening a Pandora’s box. If the people of Syria can replace Assad with a democratic and independent regime, then very good for them. But you know as well as I do that much more is in play than a national and democratic revolution. There are religious wars being waged, with all sorts of proxies, and that’s only the beginning.

Our task is to oppose the US efforts to intervene and hijack this, especially opposing the NeoCons efforts to make it into a wide war of Iran. We have next-to-zero influence on the battlefields of Syria, but we might be able to mobilize some against the War Party inside the Beltway. The latter is what internationalism mean in practice.


Arthur May 2, 2013 at 6:33 am

Carl you claim to “know” various things about US plans for Syria and Iran but this echange started with your acknowledgent that you “honestly have no idea who are the ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ in Syria” (in support of your doubt that others do).

How about taking seriously the possibility that others who have studied it more do know more about it than you do. Like it or not there is now going to be a mainstream debate on US policy concerning use of chemical weapons against the people by Assad regime. Its worth taking the time to think and argue carefully before finding yourself lined up with the likes of ANSWER arguing that it really doesn’t matter. and the US is a bigger danger to the Syrians than the people gassing them.

Take this as an opportunity to seriously check out the facts about Syria and the arguments you will be having with and between forces you care about in your daily political work. Have a serious exchange here on the policy and theoretical issues involved. Bring along some of the colleagues you work out ideas together with to join in.

Start with respoding to Clay’s challenge over Libya. Did you get that right? Did the bad consequences you expected to happen occur? Did anything good come out of it that you didn’t expect. Did your stand help orient and unite people for future struggles? Or was it completely ineffectual?

Pham Binh initially took the same stand as you on Libya, but saw the outcome entirely different from what he had expected and had to reverse his position. Can you do that? If not can you explain to others here how the outcome in Libya confirms that it wold be a good idea to do nothing about Syria?


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) May 2, 2013 at 1:07 pm

We know what the US imperialists have in mind–regime change in Syria

“We” don’t know that even though most Left and anti-war forces have reflexively said that even before taking much time to study the Syrian specifics.

When they started saying that, they were also predicting a NATO occupation of Libya and a NATO installed puppet government. It never happened. PDA award winner Cynthia McKinney may still be waiting for 12,000 US troops to drop in from Malta and many others try their best to trash the Libya revolution (mostly for being a revolution) rather than re-adjust their understanding of the world to reality.

Now back to Syria. Anyone who has read my extensive writings on Syria already knows that I don’t think the Obama admin wants “regime change” in Syria and why. The Israelis don’t want that either.

The imperialist and Zionists don’t operate in the fantasy world of the Left. They are pragmatics and looking at realistic options, they have been quite happy with the Assad regime. They would like to pry it away from Iran, that’s why the Saudi’s gave Assad $14B & other games were played, but they were not looking to pry Syria away from him. Assad supported Bush in the Iraq War, worked with the CIA, and made no trouble for Israel. The idea that the US imperialists are behind regime change in Syria is a Left fantasy AFAIK.

Regime change in Syria is the demand of the Syria people, yes the Syria people, because I believe those millions that took to the streets and joined the revolution represented the interest and future of all Syrians and I don’t make they concessions to counter revolution involved in saying while some slaves demanded their freedom other slaves preferred slavery. I support the people’s demand for regime change regardless of whether the imperialist support it or not. That’s how I maintain a consistent policy from Libya to Syria.

I think what the US imperialist have in mind is using the Syrian revolution and the Syrian opposition to weaken the Assad regime, and some time ago they determined that the man would have to go, the man, not the regime. Their “support” for the opposition is designed to provide enough to insure that they don’t lose (which really hasn’t been necessary) but below a level that would allow them to win. This is not how a superpower hell bent on regime change supports its proxies.

I also think what has happened in the past two years in Syria supports my analysis.

Would you please explain why you think US is carrying out of regime change in Syria and could you square that with the fact that even though the US could easily exercise air supremacy over Syria, it has allowed the Assad forces unbridled use of the air to pound the would-be regime changers into the dust.

To me, it just doesn’t compute.


Carl Davidson May 2, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Why do I think the US was to see the Assad regime go? Because every statement, from Obama and others, says so, right up to his press conference a few days ago. None on top want to defend him that I can see. They differ only over what means should be used and when to use what means. What ‘doesn’t compute’ so well is your assertion that they want to keep Assad in power. What they worry about, as should we all, is who will replace Assad.


Arthur May 2, 2013 at 3:31 pm

Well, unlike Clay I do think the US now wants full regime change, even if they earlier they didn’t. I also think they are moving towards more action.

But when Clay found the US and NATO acting against Gaddafi that didn’t stop him supporting the Libyan rebels.

You are automatically opposing anything the US supports. That made sense in the 1960s but it didn’t make sense in the 1940s and it doesn’t make sense in Syria today.

You are still dealing in general abstractions. Worse your abstraction puts you against the revolution in any country where the government is not on friendly relations with the US. That is a direct repudiation of proletarian nationalism, substituting simple anti-Americanism.

Anybody even mildly progressive willl naturally be hostile to a government bombarding its own cities, let alone using nerve gas. Naturally they will aso be hostile to left politics if you manage to convince them that leftists care more about opposing whatever the US supports than they do about that.

Pham Binh May 2, 2013 at 5:40 pm

No. They want Assad to go but the regime to stay. SecDef Pannetta admitted this, saying, “The best way to preserve … stability is to maintain as much of the military and police as you can, along with security forces, and hope that they will transition to a democratic form of government.” (

The U.S. wants an Egypt-style solution, not a Libya-style solution, and so the CIA blocks heavy weapons from reaching the FSA because such weapons would help the FSA finish destroying the state machine they want to save.

Brian S. May 2, 2013 at 5:54 pm

I’m sure the US wants the Asad regime to go. The question is, are they prepared to do anything about it. Lokks to me like continuing paralysis.
There has been n interesting recent article by Robert Fisk who has suggested there is deep discontent inside the Syrian army and that some sort of move could emerge from them soon. I’m not so sure – but its quite possible Fisk has his finger on the pulse of the military, and also possible that some connections could be forged with the US if a “military opposition” develops.
My worry is not about “who” replaces Asad (hopefully no one – Syria’s had enough personalist regimes) but what the process is and how much say the Syrian people have in it.

Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) May 2, 2013 at 7:25 pm

Since you seem to naively mistake public proclamations for policy I have Washington’s long standing support for a Palestinian state I’d like to sell you.

And I agree, they now want to see Bashar al-Assad go, they gave up on keeping him sometime in 2012 and now clearly see they will have to throw him under the bus if they are to have any hope of preserving the regime.

Assad is killing ~200 Syrians a day. I don’t want to see his demise delayed by even a single day by worry over what will replace him.

Carl Davidson May 2, 2013 at 3:39 pm

I am not ‘automatically’ arguing against anything a priori that the US supports. I was glad to see bin Laden, for instance, put out of business, even if I opposed the bombing, occupation, and invasion of Afghanistan as the proper way to go about it. Again, don’t put words in my mouth or tag your conclusions or extrapolations as mine.


Arthur May 2, 2013 at 4:19 pm

So if it isn’t automatic (as it appears to be). What are your criteria. What is there about the situation in Syria that makes you oppose the US helping to take down Asssad whereas you supported taking down bin Laden?

Carl Davidson May 2, 2013 at 4:32 pm

Syria is no threat to the US, and bin Laden was, not only to the empire, which I’m not concerned about, but to the American people themselves, as well as to the peoples of dozens of other countries in Africa and elsewhere.

Moreover, I also understand that the US doesn’t really give a damn about the Syria people, but is looking for a stepping stone to attack and invade Iran, together with the Israelis. I think that is madness, but there are people of influence in the US upper crust working overtime to bring it about, and US bombing and ‘boots on the ground’ in Syria is only the first chess move of theirs in a much deeper game–one with no winners, and one I’d rather not see it played at all.

Arthur May 2, 2013 at 5:24 pm

So your criteria is that bin Laden was a threat to US people while Assad is only a threat to the people of Syria? Interesting concept of internationalism!

Also you blieve that Syria is somehow a stepping stone to invade Iran despite:

1. Having no border with Iran.
2. Your own belief that it would be insane from their point of view to attack Iran.
3. Why because people have been predicting a US attack for 10 years without the slightest sign of it?

Carl Davidson May 2, 2013 at 6:05 pm

No, Arthur, read it again. I said bin Laden was a threat to the American people, and many other countries as well, including some in Africa. If you like, call it a call for collective security vs Salafist fascism.

Carl Davidson May 2, 2013 at 6:10 pm

As for Syria having no border with Iran, that’s not the point. They are close allies against the Sunni, the US and Israel.

I also think it’s a good thing the War Party has been blocked thus far on Iran (frankly, by cooler heads in the Pentagon), but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still pushing. Just follow Kristol and his crew at the Weekly Standard.

Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) May 3, 2013 at 7:42 pm

Since Carl seems to know all about what the NeoCons want in Syria, I’ thought I’d interject this into the conversation:

The Case for Supporting Assad
by Daniel Pipes
16 April 2013
Analysts agree that “the erosion of the Syrian regime’s capabilities is accelerating,” that it continues to retreat step-by-step, making a rebel breakthrough and an Islamist victory increasingly likely. In response, I am changing my policy recommendation from neutrality to something that causes me, as a humanitarian and decades-long foe of the Assad dynasty, to pause before writing: Western governments should support the malign dictatorship of Bashar Assad. More…


Carl Davidson May 3, 2013 at 9:37 pm

Yes, Pipes is the outlier. But here’ s Kristol in the current issue:

“So what is to be done? The options are far worse than they were two years ago. But Barack Obama must know that in the rough world of Middle East politics, as in the rough world of NBA basketball with which he seems more familiar, a game-changer unresponded-to results in a changed game. It results in defeat.

“We’re already far down the path to a defeat for American interests and principles in Syria, having failed to respond promptly and strongly. Still, a strong if late response would be better than none. A half-hearted late response—such as arming some of the rebels—might not be. It could well be too little, too late. So the American response to the game-changer has to be itself game-changing, i.e., serious. It’s hard to see what a serious response would be short of direct American engagement—perhaps a combination of enforcement of a no-fly zone and aerial attacks. And no serious president would rule out a few boots on the ground (it’s pretty hard to secure chemical weapons by air).”

So what are your demands on Obama, Clay? What areas in Syria do you want him to bomb for a ‘no fly’ zone? All of it? Are you willing to accept all the ‘collateral damage,’ since these things are never ‘surgical?’ How much? Who do you what him to arm? What specific groups are your ‘good guys’? Any if they then use those arms to massacre an Alewite village, is that a responsibility you will accept too? Once you go down this slippery slope, who know what swamp you’ll find yourself in…


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) May 4, 2013 at 1:04 am

My thesis, and here I differ wildly from the run of the mill Left opinion, is that as a practical matter Obama has been in Assad’s corner. While you somehow see the conquest of Syria as a stepping stone to Iran [Wasn’t that what Iraq was suppose to be? Its closer.] I see, as I outline in 17k words of detail, a policy from Obama designed to pry Syria, meaning Assad, away from Iran, and bring him in from the cold vis the West. IFor example I released this WikiLeaks document when I published Barack Obama’s Courtship of Bashar al-Assad:

Re: discussion3 – US/SYRIA – US sends military team back to Damascus for talks

Reva Bhalla wrote:

Syria offering intel cooperation on AQ, Iran, HZ
Syria facilitating March 14 win in Lebanon
Saudi pouring money into Syrian coffers
US and Saudi rewarding Syria with diplomatic recognition (notice how
quiet everyone is about Lebanon)
Signs that Syria is moving forward — big Syrian military/intel
reshuffles; Iran threatening to destabilize the Syrian regime; HZ
this is all covered in our analysis
On Aug 12, 2009, at 7:50 AM, Peter Zeihan wrote:

what’s the progress?

Reva Bhalla wrote:

Yes , we’ve been writing on this a lot. There has been real progress
in the negotiations, US and Saudi are sending their ambassadors
back, US has sent other diplomatic emissaries like Mitchell. This
obviously makes HZ and Iran nervous

Sent from my iPhone
On Aug 12, 2009, at 7:17 AM, Peter Zeihan

the US doesn’t visit countries like this openly very often — has
there been some sort of crack in the logjam?

—– Original Message —–
From: “Lauren Goodrich”
To: “Analyst List”
Sent: Wednesday, August 12, 2009 7:33:35 PM GMT +08:00 Beijing /
Chongqing / Hong Kong / Urumqi
Subject: Re: G3 – US/SYRIA – US sends military team back to
Damascus for talks

Do we know who is on this team?

Zac Colvin wrote:

US sends military team back to Damascus for talks
Published: 08.12.09, 07:55 / Israel News,7340,L-3760710,00.html

A US security delegation will visit Syria on Wednesday in a
sign of growing cooperation between the two countries since US
President Barack Obama started talking with the Damascus
government, diplomats said.

You, see while you and most others on the Left think Obama has been hell bent on regime change in Syria, I think he has been playing “good cop” to Putin’s “bad cop” so to answer your question

So what are your demands on Obama, Clay?

They have largely been demands that he stop supporting Assad.

For example, most recently I published Obama planning drone strikes against Assad’s opposition in Syria
in which I wrote:

While drone strikes against Islamist militants fighting Assad may be taken in the name of saving US lives in some hypothetical future, they won’t save any Syrian lives now or hinder Assad’s massive “Death from Above” campaign against Syrian civilians. Actually, since al-Nustra has been most effective in relieving Assad of bases for his air operations and are attempting to implement a “no-fly zone” over Syria, any Obama attack against al-Nusra would certainly be most welcomed by the embattled Assad regime.

If Obama has the CIA seeking out new targets for his killer drones simply as an extension of his war against al Qaeda, rather than to help the out Assad regime, it’s a wonder he doesn’t have them looking somewhere else, say Northern Mali, where al Qaeda actually is, and where he would be in sync with other NATO allies, rather than in Syria. More…

So I guess you could say I demanding he not make drone strikes on JAN. What’s your stand on that and BTW, the thing that selection also speaks to your “disdain for the victims of Salafist terror in Africa” comment as well,

With Obama: Did the CIA betray Assad’s opposition in Syria?
when I wrote ” the fact that a growing number of Syrians, and a growing mindset on the Arab Street, is of the opinion that the United States has really been supporting the murderous Assad dictatorship and not the people in this struggle, is something that should be of great concern to all Americans” I was demanding at Obama not renege on promises made to the Syrian opposition. Anyway it was any exposure of the fact that he had done just that.

In February I said in Barack Obama’s Courtship of Bashar Assad Exposed!!! in Syria

Bashar al-Assad claims that he is justified in taking civilian lives and causing this destruction because his real targets are “terrorists.” Practice has shown that he regards anyone who poses a threat to the Syrian state as a terrorist.

This is capability and rational will only grow in importance to those in power as the world is increasingly divided between rich and poor. This may be the real reason no power in the world has seen fit to put brakes on Assad’s wanton slaughter of those who oppose him short of his use of “a whole bunch of chemical weapons.”

Almost certainly, the award for first runner-up in the “Death from Above” category for 2012 should go to US President Barack Obama, who, thanks to having more advanced technology than Assad, doesn’t even have to put pilots in harm’s way to kill children on the ground.

Like Assad, Obama regrets these child deaths as necessary collateral damage in the war against terrorism and like Assad, Obama makes his decisions as to who will be visited by “Death from Above” without anything recognized as “due process” in the civilized world. Both presidents claim the right to use this “license to kill” against their own citizens. Obama claims “world rights” for his “license to kill.”

Is it any wonder then that President Obama has been hesitate to do anything that would put real restrictions on John Kerry’s “dear friend” Bashar Assad’s “license?”

There I guess you could say I was demanding that he stop supporting Assad and stop his own program.

But generally speaking I don’t make “demands” of Obama. I just don’t think I have that much clout. Where I can, I make exposures.

Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) May 2, 2013 at 12:06 am

I don’t think anyone here is claiming to have much impact at all, but I do think that whatever little impact we have, we would like to have it on the right side.

And since we are not doing so well with out own revolution it might do us a service to learn something from the revolutions of the 21st Century.

This is hard to do when you hold them in disdain. Tell me does CCDS still stand by the “Statement on Libya” I critiqued in august 2011?

“We strongly urge others in Congress to open debate on this matter, and cut off the funds supplying it.” [the no fly zone]

” We urge the formation of ‘Jobs Not Wars’ contingents to join them, raising the banner of ‘Hands off Libya, Stop the Bombing Now!’, ‘Let Libyans Shape Their Own Future!’ and ‘Bring ALL Our Troops Home Now!’”

You opposed the no fly zone. As Qaddafi tanks were approaching Benghazi, you were demanding the “Stop the bombing” of Qaddafi’s tanks so the “Libyans can Shape Their Own Future!” not as they have been doing with free elections, a free press and a multitude of political parties since Qaddafi was defeated but as the Syrians are doing now where a fascist regime is allowed allowed to exercise unbridled “Death from Above.”

Libya is at relative peace today [murder rate 1/10 Venezuela in 2013] because your anti-interventionist policies weren’t heeded. Syria today is your success story.


Pham Binh May 10, 2013 at 1:19 pm

So you oppose the U.S. sending meals ready to eat to Syrians, yes?

These food shipments by Uncle Sam to Aleppo are what “anti imperialists” oppose happening in Syria?

Do “anti imperialists” also want the U.S. to withdraw from the United Nations and stop sending money to various humanitarian agencies and NGOs around the world?


Carl Davidson May 10, 2013 at 2:13 pm

By sending supplies, including MREs, to some groups while trying to starve others, is not something I’d support.

Genuine humanitarian aide is best delivered to all who need it by NGOs that don’t have a dog in this fight. If the US want to give funds to the UN to back these sorts of efforts, I wouldn’t have a problem. But that is not what’s going on here.

The only just solution I’d support would be a negotiated ceasefire and political deal among all parties–but that is not in the cards at the moment, and hence a moot point.

The whole thing reminds me that revolution is not a game or a tea party, especially in a situation with a nest of nefarious and bloody contradictions–Sunni vs Shia, Salafists vs everyone else, Kurd vs Arabs vs Persians, etc–ready to be unleashed. Groups may try it anyway, but hopefully they’re wise enough not to be lighting matches in a room full of petrol fumes. In any case, I’m not in the business of judging from afar, and we need to demand that Obama get out of it and stay out of it militarily. It will only make matters worse, for him, for us and for Syria.

The US working class does not need to be sending its sons and daughters to kill and be killed in another war on Muslims of various sorts in the Middle East.


Arthur May 10, 2013 at 3:13 pm

“The only just solution I’d support would be … a moot point.”

“with a nest of nefarious and bloody contradictions–Sunni vs Shia, Salafists vs everyone else, Kurd vs Arabs vs Persians, etc–ready to be unleashed … I’m not in the business of judging from afar”

Is this some sort of caricature, pretending to be Carl Davidson to lampoon the level of absurdity one gets reduced to in efforts to avoid fighting fascist mass murderers?


Carl Davidson May 10, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Arthur, what you are calling ‘fascist mass murders’ are going on all over the world. How many do you want Obama and the US military to intervene in and send armies of occupation? Or do you just want to cherry pick those that will help in US-Israel plans against their rivals?

I’m no expert on any of these conflicts, as I readily admit, but the degree of moralistic naivete, a priorism and arguments by analogy on this thread never cease to amaze me.

But to indulge along those lines for a moment, I’d be interested to hear exactly what you think was wrong with Chris Hitchens joining with the NeoCons to overthrow the fascist Saddam? Or perhaps you think he was right?. You’re welcome to slide down that slippery slope, but I want no part of it.


Arthur May 10, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Yes I’m consistent. I supported overthrowing the fascist Sadaam just as I support overthrowing the fascist Assad. Unlike Obama I also think the millions killed in the various Congo wars were grounds for intervention.

You are consistent too, except on the second world war. But your stand is now consistently pretending the US is still the main problem when its quite obvious that others are currently doing the counter-revolutionary massacres that the US was doing in the period when your views were more closely connected wih actual reality.

You didn’t find your self insisting that the only solution you could suport would be a moot point then. Nor were you afraid to judge from afar.

The government of Syria is openly at war with the people of Syria. Its very concrete and your attitude is the opposite of the attitude of communists who were organizing international brigades in such situations.

Your argument is purely by analogy. Because US interventions were generally criminal in the 1960s and that’s when you learned to think, therefore that’s still the way things are now that you no longer think (or to use your expression “judge from afar”)


Carl Davidson May 10, 2013 at 4:37 pm

So it’s ‘the people of Syria’ vs ‘the government of Syria’. If you believe that’s all there is to it, you’ve got a rather odd Manichean view of the world. I’m not all that well-informed, but even I know there much more to it, and its more of a civil war.

But thanks for clarifying where you stood on Iraq. I was in the streets with the hundreds of thousands here who opposed the US invasion. Silly us, not realizing Bush, PNAC and Hitchens were the real revolutionaries. You’re welcome to that swamp.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) May 10, 2013 at 5:49 pm

You seem to make a distinction between civil war and revolution that Marx didn’t make. See Civil War in France

Not all civil wars are revolutionary but revolutions that become violent, as most do, are also civil wars.

Arthur May 11, 2013 at 3:47 pm

The hundreds of thousands you stood with on Iraq faded away within a few weeks as soon as it became obvious the anti-war movement was also lying. If you want to discuss that, there is a separate thread:

Likewise if you want to discuss the war in Iraq:

Meanwhile you know perfectly well you could not mobilize anybody in opposition to NATO on Libya and will have no better success on Syria. Ever wondered why?

Now turning your question around. As I understand it, others here, who disagree with me on Iraq distinguish it on the basis that there is an ongoing revolution in Syria actively demanding international assistance against a government that is destroying its own cities with heavy armour, air strikes and ballistic missiles, whereas that was not happening (at the time) in Iraq.

Why doesn’t that make any difference to you?

Are you saying it isn’t happening? Or that a government that does that should be allowed to remain in power?

What you seem to be saying is that you just don’t care and are determined NOT to get better informed about Syria in case it forces you into a position you instinctively don’t want to be in (a “slippery slope”).

But its a live issue now and its going to get more so. You’ll have to engage with the facts at some point. Better to do the research BEFORE throwing your lot in with the likes of ANSWER. Are you sure that isn’t a slippery slope too?

Carl Davidson May 11, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Faded away in a few weeks? You’re living in an alternate universe. From 2002 to 2007, our demos grew in scale, until, among other things, we helped elected a POTUS who began drawing them down. Or was your team McCain-Palin? And as for lying, it’s become clearer and clearer every day to the masses in their millions that Bush and Cheney were lying, and we were telling the truth. Or do you still think there are hidden WMDs in Iraq, and that in any case, it was a useful lie to start a war?

This is the swamp you’re now stuck in. You’re welcome to it.

patrickm May 11, 2013 at 5:25 pm

The younger generation that Carl is addressing will note that there was a mighty U.S. peace movement about the time Carl was born and given the history of the first 4 decades of the 20thC it had very good cause to have been built.

Admittedly everyone involved in U.S. peace activities then were under great stress particularly after the surprising events of August 1939 and not many knew then or now of In short a world war had already broken out and what’s more in a totally surprising manner. A war designed to be against the hated Reds having been slowly structured over the previous decade of world wide capitalist depression and soviet economic expansion. A war planned by the appeasers that backfired thanks to J V Stalin’s refusal to have the USSR play the required role. Who’s to say that when future generations look back at our time of spreading capitalist unemployment and various seemingly intractable economic woes of junk government bonds and dodgy currencies, they won’t speak of the slow descent into a WW3 that we were blindly witness to.

Perhaps Carl’s movement is also confidently sailing onwards as they were on May Day 1941. That generation did so without a coherent plan of how to destroy their crop of fascists and the following Mayday their ship was gone and the crew completely scattered. Some people just insist that they have no dog in the fight and want no part of foreign entanglements.

That older model peace movement had lost its always faulty rudder on June 22nd, 4.15am, Eastern European time when operation Barbarossa was launched. The big communist section of the crew – that had not really thought for itself despite the Marxist-Leninist branding for years, and had essentially placed themselves under Comintern direction and just followed orders – immediately back-flipped into the life boats and rowed away to join any pro-war anti-fascists who for some years had been advocating for war, or preparation for war against fascism.

What remained was a more coherent peace movement and was overwhelmingly America First. They sailed on under even more right wing sail but were doomed all the same and the movement was smashed to bits on December 7th 7.55am Hawaii time.

72 yrs later Carl is stuck in a rudderless-ship being blown onto a lee-shore and the whole incoherent anti-war crew are going to be shipwrecked, so no one now gets on; and there are plenty jumping off. Carl can fight the fruit-cake brigade from Neverland proper – for control of the tiller – all he likes but there is no rudder.

The truth is the 21st C vessel Carl is still on never had a rudder. It wasn’t faulty it just wasn’t there! The organizations are not able to change direction – no matter what happens so when the destruction of a fascist air force, or the silencing of his artillery comes up as the issue, they can only be irrelevant and consequently lose members. Those that remain carry on like zombies unable to deal with the complexity of a war that has arisen over the Syrian peoples’ right to have a meaningful vote on how they ought to be governed.

Carl’s peace ship was doomed from the day it was launched days after 9/11. It was doomed because it would not debate the issues properly and deal with errors. As time went on it continually banged up against period defining events that concluded the period under actual debate in the real world. Carl always says he wants to be connected to and influence the real world, yet he has just spent ten years of worthless activity that achieved nothing as far as ending the rule of fascism in Iraq was concerned, any more than achieving the end of the required occupation by as much as one hour.

Naturally, Carl’s movement knew debate was happening but they were just too busy or intolerant to really engage within their own ranks. Enter the censorship and the shame and discredit that this movement dragged the name of left politics through and that required a humble declaration of difference on the part of TNS. This site only exists because the owners jumped off the rudderless vessel with the one direction of ‘hands off’ everything’… ‘No to foreign entanglements in distant lands’.

Without the type of debate now valued and struggled with at TNS the 21st C peace movement was rushed into service without even fair weather sea trials. Ken Loach style cowardice see Anita’s review of ‘The wind that shakes the Barley’ was what the anti war youth got fed after the initial liberation.

There is even now after the occupation is long past, blatant intellectual flight from the issues resorted to as the general method (avoid the embarrassing WW2 comparison of British troops liberating Belsen from the Nazis, and run back to WW1 era British brutality in attempting and failing to hold its first colony in Ireland) when we all ought to know the messy fight against fascism is the fight in Syria right now ).

As the disoriented convinced themselves that they were powerless, rather than wrong and abandoned the sects to do something – actually anything – other than keep attending StWC meetings, more war developed and Libya and now Syria has convinced one section after another to jump and swim away. Only the fanatics will stay aboard when the rocks get this close. Carl is stuck with the intellectual giants that inhabit Neverland who usually disagree with him and especially so over WW2. The Barbary coast has already ripped away the anchors so there is nothing left to hold Carl’s vessel off the Syrian rocks.
The 100’s of thousands in the streets became 10’s of thousands and so on down in the complete reversal of what is the magnificent history of the Vietnam era struggle.

Curiously for a 21st C peace-monger, Carl doesn’t mind air line crews and seafarers hunting down Al Qaeda and individuals like Bin Laden and shooting it out with them, or capturing them and handing them over to more clearly bourgeois elements of their current states and seeing them put through a legal process and appropriately dealt with in prisons. Carl accepts the state functioning in the manner of the Iraqi state now and can on a fair day explain to anyone just how damaging activities of the right – in carrying on with torture and degradation of prisoners in places like Abu Ghraib – can be to any ‘just war’ effort that Carl accepts.

2/3rds of this world is blue and Carl accepts navies of the world suppressing criminal conduct of all manner, from mafia illegally dumping toxic waste; to gangsters shipping drugs around; to kidnapping for ransom; or any other extortion. One must be pretty far removed from anything to do with the working classes not to accept that other workers have a right to unite with all bourgeois states to deal with criminal elements that come into their work place to prey on them.

Unlike the usual Neverland suspects who are quite simply unable to come aboard any cargo ship in any port and successfully make their arguments, Carl can come aboard and make his. Carl may find himself united with the loony pseudoleft and even troubled by that association but he will not descend to their childish level and defend piracy. Not any metaphor mind but actual piracy!

Neverland can’t make the argument up the supply chain either, so they are obliged to remain silent on the issues and only talk to themselves. That is the definition of politically bankrupt. If Binh were to start a thread about piracy I bet Carl would not join with Mike Ely, but rely on his underlying WW2 united front theories that Nando/Mike and most legacy sects – that still exist in their now zombie like form – rejects. These legacy sects and cults – are now all that the owners of TNS due to their age could be expected to have any experience with. No organized radical left remains from the period of more than three decades ago when a left really did exist and the older contributors here were part of it.

Carl will justify tactically working with imperialist forces armed as they are these days with cruise missiles and remote controlled ‘drones’ because he knows that he descends from a tradition that demonstrated with it’s strategic stance in WW2 that not only could it fight but also win against an isolated anti war movement that had no third way to go.

The 21stC anti-war movement has since 2003 always split at every major event and thus shrinks and is now barely floating but the anti-war – anti-imperialist ship goes on… it’s just that the owners of TNS have IMV taken to the life boats and Carl hasn’t.

Despite in theory rejecting that Neverland thinking over the primary issue of WW2 where the ‘modern’ extremely isolated trot style variety of this ‘anti-Stalinist’ line goes back to Carl is nevertheless always caught opposing the required war making now. But with an ethnic cleansing conflict underway Carl probably guesses that no one else is coming aboard (they haven’t for many years) and more will jump ship soon.

‘Bizarre…All this to urge ‘our own’ imperialists to intervene on the side in a civil war it or we deem appropriate to overthrow the government of a sovereign state in the that is no threat to us. When the Shachtmanites did this vis-a-vis Vietnam and Hitchens did it regard the tyrant Saddam, it was roundly denounced as social-imperialist. But I guess every generation has to learn certain lessons anew the hard way.’

Carl would like TNS owners generation ‘to learn certain lessons’ but fears they won’t listen to him and will have to learn the hard way. They on the other hand say they rediscovered a WW2 lesson in the deserts of Libya that Carl forgot all about.

Are revolutionary leftists going to stand back and advocate that western countries do nothing as two armies start yet another stage of another drawn out ethnic cleansing slaughter? It didn’t work out well in Rwanda, and nor did it work out well when Yugoslavia broke apart.

All sides have been and they are now working to a fluid plan and both sides have good supply lines for weapons that have kept this asymmetrical war going. It is a war of a heavily armed fascist minority against a lightly armed vast majority of peoples’. The people are defined by those who will be agreeing to live in a country that has votes that actually mean something.

This is a war designed to preserve a tyranny that is united with other large and poisonous tyrannies that do not permit their peoples’ to have a meaningful vote and run their societies as would any garden variety gangster. The Assad tyranny is establishing an ethnically cleansed enclave just like the Zionists did with their terror attacks on Deir Yassin etc..

Carl says; ‘Once you go down this road, it’s not so easy turning back, even if you want to…’

The war for the revolutionary transformation of the Middle East is going to be very big no matter what is attempted. That war has been going on for a decade not just the last 2 years. The revolution in Syria is to end tyranny and deliver rights and duties currently unknown in this country that borders Iraq, and is full of god- bothering believers, and that has harbored the most vicious killers that have continually shown themselves willing to blow up people in universities and market places in Iraq – who are different in their Islamic god-bothering – for many years.

I say it is clear that the FSA will come to dominate the revolution and will win the eventual victory (not in sight by any means yet) and introduce democracy to all of Syria that will by definition have to be bourgeois democracy.

True the Syrian revolutionaries are not historically advanced, broad-minded, western liberals, that are attempting to get legislation passed that will permit the lesbian soldiers in their army to get married! But then we never expected this revolution to be anything other than a bourgeois democratic revolution led by Islamist parties. The Syrian people are struggling for a rule of law type revolution that will for example forbid rather than tolerate or excuse the ‘honour killing’ that is common in this region. That’s the pathetic level folks!

Carl ignores the lessons of WW2 – just like Ken Loach and both are going nowhere but on the rocks.

Carl Davidson May 11, 2013 at 7:56 pm

This is just a lot of silliness, Patrick. You’re arguing like a Platonist, using analogies of ideal forms, and putting words into my mouth to boot. It’s not worthy of a reply.

Pham Binh May 10, 2013 at 4:25 pm

In the future, no suggestions of impersonation please. The IP addresses tell all and anything along those lines will be deleted.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) May 10, 2013 at 4:29 pm

I think he was trying to do Carl a kindness.


Pham Binh May 10, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Who is U.S. imperialism trying to starve in Syria by sending food to Aleppo?

The same argument — U.S. imperialism will only make matters worse — was raised with regards to Libya. And it was wrong, unless you look at things from the point of view of the Ghadafi/Assad regimes, which I don’t think you do because you support a ceasefire which hasn’t been Assad’s line since the first demonstrations were fired upon and the first children arrested and tortured back in early 2011.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) May 10, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Carl Davidson support the Assad regime. That is the simple truth of his position no matter how much he claims neutrality.

He wants supplies send to the killers and their victims alike. He wants NGO not to take sides as they treat Assad’s cluster bomb victims. He says:

If the US want to give funds to the UN to back these sorts of efforts, I wouldn’t have a problem. But that is not what’s going on here.

This is what is going on here:
UN reveals its real stand on Syria, giving Assad $500 million | #UNPaysAssad It has been a boon to the Assad regime and very little of it goes the liberated areas. CD doesn’t know that because he doesn’t really know what he is talking about. He just makes up ‘facts’ to suit his agenda.

On the otherhand, HRW deals in facts. Here are some:
Syria: New Air, Missile Strikes Kill Civilians
Syria: Aerial Attacks Strike Civilians
Syria: Mounting Casualties from Cluster Munitions
Syria: Missiles Kill More Than 140
Syria: Incendiary Weapons Used in Populated Areas

This is how the Assad regime treats its own people. Currently it is involved in a ethnic cleansing campaign in Banias and other areas near Damascus that is costing thousands of lives, mainly women and children, in areas with no opposition fighters. (which makes it especially easy.)

Yet he says:

The only just solution I’d support would be a negotiated ceasefire and political deal among all parties

That is another way of saying that he is opposed to the complete overthrow of the Assad regime. He wants to keep it or parts of it around. Carl Davidson is a proponent of the Putin-Obama solution to the Syrian Revolution.

Having just proclaimed what outcome he’d support, he then contradicts himself by saying:

I’m not in the business of judging from afar

He seeks to make distance and not lack of information, the basis for disqualifying other opinions.

It is clear that he has not made a serious study of the Syrian situation, as I have done, but we are both many miles from MENA so that equalizes the legitimacy of our differing options according to the metrics he thinks are significant.

He doesn’t command a lot of facts but he is full of opinions. For example by saying:

we need to demand that Obama get out of it and stay out of it militarily

He implies that Obama is already in it militarily without offering something like a shred of evidence.

He also seems to oppose revolution on principle “in a situation with a nest of nefarious and bloody contradictions” and since it must be said that revolutions are almost never free of these contradictions, I think he is opposed to revolution in general. If he is not a revolutionary, can he still be considered a Marxist?

Also today I received the CCDS newsletter from Carl. It contains two pro-Assad pieces, nothing that could be said to support Assad’s opposition. Carl’s so-called neutrality is just a cover for his support for the fascist dictatorship.

I am reminded of a quote from Desmond Tutu:

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.

My blog this morning: Obama’s “Red-Line” was nothing but a Green Light for Assad’s Slaughter of 70,000


Brian S. May 10, 2013 at 5:35 pm

@Carl Davidson. I don’t know why you are concerned about food supplies to government-controlled regions – there are no or very few displaced persons there, no one is bombing their bakeries, and what we are constantly hearing from people like Robert Fisk is how “normal” things are in Damascus, with cafes doing a good trade.
On the other hand the the UN is clearly concerned that the regime has insisted on international food aid being handled by the Syrian Red Crescent, which is headed by an Asad ally and whose evenhandedness has been questioned (although it appears that its volunteers do some decent work).


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) April 30, 2013 at 6:38 pm

My international places its first demand on ‘my own’ bourgeoisie: Withdraw your troops from Afghanistan and elsewhere. Stop meddling in other countries and respect self-determination in the oppressed nations of the world.

I can refer to “‘my own’ bourgeoisie” only as the slave might refer to his owner. His special status as “my owner” will probably mean the contradiction between him and I will be very sharp and personal. It will likely given me special leverage in effecting his activities in the world at large.

But the fact that he is my owner puts me under no particular obligation to focus my fight against his wrongs because I have no part in them.

I do hope we are all clear on that, Carl, because sometimes when I hear you speak of “‘my own’ bourgeoisie” I wonder if you think we are under some special obligation to make him behave.

He must be overthrown!


Carl Davidson April 30, 2013 at 7:34 pm

We do indeed have a special obligation in relation to ‘our own’ bourgeoisie. When they are waging wars and seeking hegemony and plunder, we have a special responsibility to stop them and, in the longer run, put them out of business entirely. That is the ABC of proletarian internationalism.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) May 2, 2013 at 1:15 pm

If we have the power to stop them why wait for “the longer run” to put them out of business entirely?

Honestly, I don’t understand where you are coming from.

To me the ABC of proletarian internationalism requires putting them out of business ASAP.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) May 2, 2013 at 1:28 pm

Carl, I think your “proletarian internationalism” is really a kinda reverse nationalism since it is most concerned with what ones own national bourgeoisie is doing, i.e. support the Egypt uprising because it is against a national bourgeoisie more or less supported by “my own” bourgeoisie, oppose uprisings in Libya & Syria because they are against regimes that “oppose” “my own” bourgeoisie.

I think proletarian internationalism means we support the struggles of the working class everywhere against their oppression with to our national interest.


Carl Davidson May 2, 2013 at 2:32 pm

When ‘our own’ bourgeoisie has more military might than the rest of the world combined, not too mention military bases throughout the Middle East and the rest of the world, the nefarious far-flung operations of the CIA and the ‘normal’ operations of US multinationals, I would think that our duty to give them some special attention above the bourgeoisie’s of other smaller countries is rather obvious.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) May 2, 2013 at 7:10 pm

They still don’t have military bases in Libya do they? And you were expecting it to be the new AFRICOM headquarters.


Carl Davidson May 2, 2013 at 7:23 pm

Clay, once again, don’t put words in my mouth. I expect and have not expected any such thing about AFRICOM.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) May 2, 2013 at 7:41 pm

You’re right, you didn’t exactly say it, but you strongly implied it:

AFRICOM is spearheading the military intervention in Libya for the U.S. But it is located in Germany because African countries have refused to host the command center. The war on Libya offers the justification for placing this new imperial command center in an African nation.

Are we there yet?


Carl Davidson May 2, 2013 at 7:47 pm

First, you’re quoting from a CCDS statement, not me. Second, no, it doesn’t imply that Libya should be the headquarters of AFRICOM. That interpretation belongs to you.


Carl Davidson April 30, 2013 at 1:53 pm

It doesn’t matter if they’re near or far, or know a lot or know little.


Carl Davidson May 1, 2013 at 9:39 pm

“The people of Syria are demanding” NATO intervention?’

Shouldn’t that be some are and some aren’t? Who is the voice that speaks for them all? You’re engaging in what’s called ‘begging the question.’ Doesn’t get very far, save to resurrect the ghost of Hitchens


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) May 2, 2013 at 12:22 am

Well I guess we can never say the people are demanding anything can we?

I see. Tahrir Sq. a hundred thousand people chant “The People demand the End of the Regime!” Then revolutionary Marxist of long experience Carl Davidson takes to the stage to correct them. “Shouldn’t we say that some are demanding it and some aren’t?”

Them he laments the lack of left leadership and dumps on those who are involved.

But don’t dare call him counter-revolutionary. How dare you!


Carl Davidson May 2, 2013 at 7:27 am

If you took a sober-minded approach to Egypt, Clay, you would have indeed looked beyond the people in Tahir Square (who I don’t doubt were in favor of revolution) and taken stock of all the views of the Egyptian people as a whole, all the trends, and the relative balance of forces. You would likely have gotten a different picture that would explain why Mubarak has been removed but the Egyptian military and old ruling classes are still very much on top and in command. The balance of forces has shifted toward the Muslim Brotherhood in the legislative arena, but there is still no socialism or even consistent anti-imperialism or democracy in power in Egypt. I wish the Egyptian revolutionaries well, and hold no disdain for the Libyan masses. But you and I simply differ on the role of the US military in bringing revolution and positive change to the third world. It’s the same reason I parted company with Chris Hitchens, rest his soul, and in doing so, I don’t think I was the one being a counter-revolutionary. You’re on the same slippery slope that may find you making an entrance into the camp of the NeoCons, who for their own reasons, hold similar tactical views. There is a War Party inside the Beltway these days, and I want no part of it.


Arthur May 2, 2013 at 9:23 am

Above comment seems incoherent. The only role of the US military in Egyptian events was using their contacts to strongly encourage Egyptian military NOT to behave like Assad.

How does you wanting the military out of power and more democracy in Egypt connect in any way with allowing the Syrian military to attempt to bombard and gas its people into submission??

The only way I could connect these two thoughts would be if you object to the US “interference” in encouraging the Egyptian military to not follow Assad’s example, but I cannot imagine that is what you meant.

The incoherent disconnected thought seems to just be a preliminary to the real point – that you cannot bear the thought of finding yourself on the same side as the Beltway “War Party” including neocons.

Fine, recognize that is what is influencing your position rather than an actual analysis of the positive and negative consequences of a No Fly Zone and/or arms supplies to the Syrians. Then do the analysis so you aren’t being ruled by emotions and gut reactions.

You’ve said you would be with the “War Party” on the world war II fight against fascism. So you cannot justify a position on some principle of NEVER being with the “War Party”. That’s Kasama’s principle, but not yours, surely? Or have you also rejected the entire anti-fascist tradition of the communist movement?


Carl Davidson May 2, 2013 at 9:53 am

First, Arthur, neither I nor you are in any position to ‘allow’ anything in Syria, one way or another. That you talk this way reveals a bit of the superpower mentality we imbibe with our mother’s milk in this country.

Second, no, I haven’t rejected the united and popular front vs fascism of the 30s and 40s. But you would do well to look at the differences. WW2 was five wars in one–inter-imperialist war, war vs fascist aggression on smaller capitalist countries, war between socialism and fascism, war between democratic forces (real ones) and fascism, and national liberation wars (China, etc) against militarism, fascism and imperialism. The communists who did best in these complex circumstances, most of which do not apply today, were those who had their own independent line, organization and independent armed forces in the struggle.

I am simply not convinced that the ‘humanitarian interventionism’ of the US, especially as argued by the NeoCons, in today’s conflicts is one we should be calling for or supporting. In the end, it usually spills more blood than it claims that it’s preventing from being spilled, not even to mention other gains that it makes Geo-strategically for its wider aims. It may happen in any case, and then you’ll own the outcomes–good, bad, or in between–even though your ‘position-taking’ had little impact one way or another. If we had a socialist party with a million members and 100 seats in Congress, we might have to treat this differently. But we don’t, even though it would be a problem I would love to have.

It seems likely that Assad will fall. Have you given much thought to what happens next? Do you favor US intervention in helping bring about ‘regime change’ in Iran too? The world is a complex and chaotic place. ‘Just So Stories’ don’t help much. And I’m curious as to why everyone here ignores the role of the UN or the views of a country like China? Is it the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence–more recent and relevant today than the popular front vs fascism–that you want to reject or ignore?


Arthur May 2, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Ok, you have now moved from an “absolute” position that precludes the very possibility of action to presenting actual arguments.

There is certainly no way to grow from having no influence to speaking for a socialist party with a million members unless one is able to argue for and against concrete policies rather than speak in absolute abstractions.

But do you think the sort of arguments you have presented are anywhere near a concrete anlysis of the actual concrete situation? That’s what’s required in forming policies for a mass party.

1. “In the end, it usually spills more blood than it claims that it’s preventing from being spilled, not even to mention other gains that it makes Geo-strategically for its wider aims.”

That is a vague generalization. In the concrete situation where a fascist regime has already killed 70,000 and displaced a couple of million, how could depriving it of its air power, assisting its opponents to destroy its armour and preventing it from using nerve gas end up spilling more blood than it prevents? What are the concrete circumstance you can envisage happening with that result?

In answering please also explain why that “usual” result did NOT occur in Libya (as requested in another part of this thread).

2. “It may happen in any case, and then you’ll own the outcomes–good, bad, or in between–even though your ‘position-taking’ had little impact one way or another.”

Plainly that is not an argument that could occur to anyone serious about becoming a mass party. Of course we have to take responsibility for the positions we take and fail to take. You do not have to take responsibility for a massacre in Benghazi because your opposition was completely ineffective. It is likely your oppositon will be completely ineffective in allowing mass murder of Syrians with nerve gas. But you will certainly have to take responsbility for having tried to just let it happen.

3. “It seems likely that Assad will fall. Have you given much thought to what happens next?”

Yes. Quite possibly an armed confrontation between Al Qaeda and other forces in the opposition. Do you have any doubt that the US arming elements it prefers to Al Qaeda would also be arming elements that we prefer to Al Qaeda? What outcome do you fear might be made worse by the US helping to end it sooner?

4. “Do you favor US intervention in helping bring about ‘regime change’ in Iran too?”

No. Nobody asking for such help and US intervention in Iran would help the regime rally people around it. In Syria large numbers of people are demanding military help..

5. “The world is a complex and chaotic place. ‘Just So Stories’ don’t help much.”


6. “And I’m curious as to why everyone here ignores the role of the UN or the views of a country like China?”

Because the world is a complex and chaotic place and “Just So Stories’ don’t help much”.

Although you moved from absolute abstractions to an attempt at argument you are clearly out of practice. You say literally nothing about the actual concrete situation but speak in vague generalities.

Do you remember arguing in favor of the Vietnamese war of liberation? Did you know and say as little about Vietnam in supporting the Vietnaese revolution as you do about Syria in not supportin theirs? Would you have resorted to such vague, abstract “arguments” then?


Carl Davidson May 2, 2013 at 4:24 pm

As I said, Clay, I wish the Syrians and Libyas well, but I’m not ‘taking ownership’ of any of their outcomes, one way or another. That’s been my point all along here. The best I’ll do is take a very small piece of the credit of helping to get US troops out of Iraq–and going back a few decades, Vietnam as well.


Arthur May 2, 2013 at 5:31 pm

Don’t kid yourself. You are taking ownership of the outcome if the US does not intervene and the more people get killed. But you certainly won’t get credit if the US does intervene and less people are killed.

Your only hope of coming out of this unscathed is if the US does intervene and that somehow makes things worse. But you haven’t offered any concrete scenario or even any wild speculation as to how that might happen.

Iran doesn’t even count as a wild speculation. Obviously there is no need to remove Assad in order to attack Iran and you have said yourself that they would have to be insane.

Assuming insanity means you have given up on trying to understand the world, let alonechange it.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) May 2, 2013 at 4:14 pm

and then you’ll own the outcomes–good, bad, or in between–even though your ‘position-taking’ had little impact one way or another.

I’m so glad you hear you say that because I will happily accept any responsibility you are willing to award me for the outcome in Libya. From today’s Libya Herald:

Backlash against militias gains momentum
Tripoli, 2 May 2013

The backlash against militiamen currently besieging ministries in Tripoli is gaining momentum, with people from neighbouring towns heading to Tripoli to protest against the use of arms to try and force the General National Congress (GNC) to vote in favour of the Political Isolation Law.

Today, some 200 people from Zawia joined a protest in Tripoli’s Martyrs’ Square, taking a stand against the militiamen who have closed and surrounded the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Justice Ministry. They marched from Martyrs’ Square to Algeria Square and back again.

One protestor, a Tripoli-based journalist, told the Libya Herald that the protest was: “Against the use of arms by militias to impose their opinions and threaten the legitimacy of the government.”

He added: “We want people in the militias to join the police and the army.”

This evening there are still protestors in both Algeria Square and Martyrs’ Square.

Some of the protestors have also been voicing their support for the elected GNC and the government, according to the Libyan news agency LANA.

Social media networks are saying that more people from other neighbouring cities are planning to come to Tripoli to join the protest against the militias in and around Martyrs’ Square.

if you’ll take ownership of the Syrian corpses that have piled up since Syrians started demanding the intervention you oppose.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) May 2, 2013 at 6:53 pm

Further notes on the Libya Herald article I posted earlier. I think the struggle its about speaks to two important contradictions being played out in Libya that should be the subjects of intense study and discussion among Marxist-Leninists because they are fundamental contradictions which will be seen in just about any revolution.

From what I understand, several hundred members of armed militiamen have surrounded a number of government buildings because they think there are too many Qaddafi regime people in the government and they want something done about it. No one has been shot yet but the threat of violence is implicit in the brandishing of arms. Now a popular non-violent backlash is developing against the methods of the armed militias and also to their continued existence.

1) One of the principle contradicts every successful revolution has to grapple with is how to/ to what extent/ do you integrate functionaries of the old regime into the revolutionary government. It is a very tricky balance. On the one hand, if the revolutionary state is to succeed, i.e. itself not be “overthrown”, it has to be able to effectively deliver basic state services to its nation [take note Venezuela – that last one was very close considering] and to do that it will probably be forced to make use of some of the same people that where doing it before, functionaries of the old regime. But you get too greater concentration of old regime elements, operating in the old ways and well, there goes your revolution again.

I have no clue how matters currently stand within the GNC or Libya generally so I take no position on the militiamen’s complaint but I do recognize that it speaks to one of the core contradictions that the Libyan revolution, like every revolution, has to get right.

As to the militiamen’s methods, here too we are looking at an extremely important contradiction for the current crop of violent revolutions, and will be going forward. Let me digress to explain.

The violent revolutions Carl and I grew up on were like the Russia Revolution with the Party and the Red Army providing unified leadership to the struggle, one iconic leader pointing the way. And so it was in China, Korea, Cuba, Vietnam etc. And many things are simpler, particularly after the old regime is overthrown, if there is that unified leadership and military command.

But, largely because of the failure of this Left model, the armed struggles have developed differently lately in the revolutions where the regimes resisted with military violence. In both Libya and Syria, we saw armed resistance develop first on a very local or community level, in Egypt also to the extent it did develop. Half a dozen guys would get together and start fighting, soon become a dozen. Start co-ordinating with other local groups and forming up brigades. The kind of thing General Giap found Viet Minh were already doing on their own in 1946 with the self-guard units in Bac Ninh that refused to be withdrawn and could never be annihilated.

Anyway you have that, brigades that form up generally on territorial lines but also could be political, including secretarial or religious, and you have sections of the regime forces that break off in various sizes. These were the revolutionary forces that became the armed response to the regime violence. Much like the occupy movement came together, but with arms.

This is very likely to be what people’s war will look like going forward and that is another contradiction the revolution will have to deal with. A country “awash” with arms [in the hands of the people] after a successful armed struggle to overthrow a military dictatorship is not a specifically Libyan problem. It will be a problem faced by every people’s war that is successful.

The development of a unified military strategy and a unified military command will be the focus of a great amount of attention while the struggle to overthrow the state is being carried out.

After the revolution and in building revolutionary state power it will also be necessary to forge many armed groups into a monopoly of violence by the new state but here again the speed at which, and the way in which this new state takes back its monopoly of violence from the people is a question of delicate balance and a most important contradiction in the study of revolution generally.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) May 2, 2013 at 3:48 pm

Carl said:

If you took a sober-minded approach to Egypt, Clay, you would have indeed looked beyond the people in Tahir Square (who I don’t doubt were in favor of revolution) and taken stock of all the views of the Egyptian people as a whole

Since we brought up the subject of Egypt, and especially since you have made it so clear time and again that you think foreign (western?) activists can bring no value to these struggles,

if the Syrians had $2 plus our solidarity, they could get a subway ticket.

, allow me to reminisce a bit and and hopefully at the same time give you a clue as to the range of possibilities for activists in what some might call the WikiLeaks era.

I will tell you about a story about my, apparently not sober-minded, approach to Egypt, when Mubarak appointed Suleiman his new veep and I was leading the Egypt work of WLCentral.

The plan was for Mubarak to step down and not only maintain the military in power but the regime as well and with the old head of security acting also as the new head of state. The White House also favored this scheme.

We at WLC decided to “hit Suleiman” everyday, and we did for about a week. Our ammunition was material from the leaked cables and other sources. WLC was in the rather unique position at the time of having the ear both of the MSM and the Arab press, our exposures on Suleiman, especially his dealings with the US and Israel, quickly became common knowledge, at least with the people in the “Tahrir Sqs” all over Egypt.

I like to think that the solidarity expressed by everybody from the people that leaked that state department cables and other documents, down to the researchers who combed that material for nuggets on Suleiman, to those who hammered it into some form for publication, played some small role in the fact that not long after Suleiman was promoted as Mubarak’s successor, he was totally exposed and no longer a viable option for maintaining the regime in power.

You would likely have gotten a different picture that would explain why Mubarak has been removed but the Egyptian military and old ruling classes are still very much on top and in command.

You seem to think you know what I knew about Egypt at the time. Forgive me, but I think you are wrong! We knew very well that the military was the real power and the real issue.

When the army first went back on its word and attacked the protesters in Tahrir Sq. WLC broke the story hours before Al Jareeza. I led the team that broke it. I also know that my 2011-02-14 Senior Egyptian army officers ordered massacre was taken as it was meant, a serious warning about the real role and intent of the army, and was discussed as such in revolutionary circles in Egypt.

I have not touched upon the domain of Anonymous, the role of Google activists or the significance of keeping the Internet up when the Mubarak wanted it down. Those groupings were only loosely connected to WLC/WikiLeaks activists.

Let’s just say there were activists around the world that rallied in support of the people shouting “The people demand and end to the regime” in Tahrir Sq. that I think did make a contribution, perhaps because they weren’t “socialists” of fair experience like you and didn’t yet know that they couldn’t make a difference.


Carl Davidson May 2, 2013 at 4:05 pm

I don’t see how any of that changes my basic point. The revolution, ie, not just taking down a leader, remains to be done in Egypt. And the making of it will require far more forces than those who rallied in the Square. You and Wikileaks can carry on, making some small advantages in agitation and propaganda, just as you do here in the US. I would suggest, however, that you don’t over inflate your own role.


Aaron Aarons May 2, 2013 at 5:02 pm

Even if Assad were guilty of killing 70,000 people in the last two years, that would still be a fraction of one percent of the number killed by capitalism in that time. The mass slaughter of garment workers in Bangladesh is just a tiny tip of one of the icebergs of that slaughter.

Our positions on situations around the world should NOT be based on what is good for one group of people somewhere, or what that one group wants, but on what advances the world struggle against capitalism — or, in the present conjuncture, what hinders the war of imperialist capital against the planet and its inhabitants. I can’t see how advocacy by people seen as “leftists” of imperialist intervention in Syria or anywhere else serves those purposes rather than the opposite.


Brian S. May 3, 2013 at 12:25 pm

@AaronArons: So what will “advance the struggle against world capitalism” in Syria today?


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) May 2, 2013 at 7:33 pm

Carl Davidson said:

Syria is no threat to the US, and bin Laden was, not only to the empire, which I’m not concerned about, but to the American people themselves.

So because bin Laden killed people who have appropriated the name of two continents all to themselves, and al Assad only kills Syrians, you support killing bin Laden but not al Assad?

You call that proletarian internationalism?


Carl Davidson May 2, 2013 at 7:43 pm

‘….who have appropriated the name of two continents all to themselves.’ I’m clear about one thing, Clay. That kind of disdain for the victims of Salafist terror in Africa has nothing in common with internationalism of any sort, proletarian or otherwise.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) May 3, 2013 at 11:57 pm

Carl you lost me here. When I said ‘….who have appropriated the name of two continents all to themselves.’ I was referring to your “American people themselves” and I can’t imagine you include “the victims of Salafist terror in Africa” in that group.

I learned, mainly through my work at WLC that some people from the rest of the Americas can resent our arrogate and chauvinistic use of the term American to exclusively describe citizens of the United States, so I generally try to avoid the use of the term when it might be deemed inappropriate by, say, my Canadian editor.

That is one small practical lesson I learned about internationalism while contributing whatever I could, working with other activist from around the world, in support of the revolutionary uprising often referred to as the Arab Spring.

If on the other hand you were just dragging “the victims of Salafist terror in Africa” into this discussion just to bait me, I need you explain how you got that from anything I said.


Carl Davidson May 4, 2013 at 7:16 am

You accused me of being concerned simply with the US victims of the Salaafists, when I indicated that I was also concerned with their victims elsewhere. If you’ll recall, there were quite a few African victims of their nefarious operations, which I also noted, pointing to the needed policy of collective security for many countries regarding them. You were baiting me as an American nationalist, to which I simply responded.

I’m actually finding the discussion tiresome and useless–neither of us are saying anything new, and our positions have been clarified, at least for those interested in hearing them out. You’re demanding military action from Obama in regard to Syria and I’m not. Military escalation is more likely, I think, to lead to the common ruin of all concerned. You can put whatever frills on it you like, but that’s what it boils down to, IMHO. I’d just as soon leave it at that as far as you and I are concerned. Others can carry on if they like.


Arthur May 4, 2013 at 8:11 am

Its true the discussion isn’t going anywhere much.

But didn’t you just express support for collective security against Al Qaeda’s Salafist facism in Africa?

To me that means you supporting French imperialism’s action in Mali. I certainly do.

In supporting that, is there any principle on which you should oppose the US likewise assisting against Al Qaeda’s Salafi fascism in Mali or elsewhere in Africa?

What is the objection to collective security against other forms of facism. If we are agreed on collective security against the 1930s fascim of Germany, Italy and Japan and the current fascism of Al Qaeda what is the principle on the basis of which you cannot stomache the US participating in collective security against a fascist regime in Syia engaged in the sort of crimes against its people that mobilized international brigades for Spain in the 1930s?


Carl Davidson May 4, 2013 at 8:36 am

In regard to Mali, I supported ‘collective security’ by the African countries. I can understand why the people of Mali welcomed the French in the short run, but in the longer run, the price is likely to be too high. The US does best to stay out of it. US presence is usually a magnet for the Salaafists, not a deterrent. The imperialist powers, especially in this day and age, need to be held to the 5 Principles of Peaceful Coexistence than Zhou En-lai put out at the Bandung conference a few decades back . All countries should abide by them, actually. The UN also needs a wider and more independent role. Not an easy task, but a just one. People can still make revolution in their own countries, as in Venezuela, and our task there is to demand of the US, ‘Hands Off!’


Arthur May 4, 2013 at 1:58 pm

Fine, I agree that it was better for the French to respond than the US, for the reason you mention, and others. Also the US should stay out of Venezuela and there should be a wider role for the UN.

So it is possibe to agree on related matters while disagreeing in Syria. The situation in Syria is far more serious than in Mali both in the numbers killed by the Assad regime compared with the number in Mali and in the extent to which that is providing a base for Al Qaeda.

The UN cannot act while the Russian veto remains. France and Britain are willing to act but do not have the capability to take down the extensive Syrian air defense without US participation (US support was even necessary in Libya which had no significant air defense). The people being slaughtered have repeated called for a No Fly Zone as well as heavy weapons. Callous indifference to that call is resulting in increase strength for Al Qaeda.

Logic points to wanting the US to act in Syria (for as short a period as possible). What inhibits that seems to be just a gut reaction based on different situations in earlier decades.


Pham Binh May 4, 2013 at 2:13 pm

No, what inhibits the U.S. is its interest in keeping the regime sans Assad intact (see the Panetta quote in this thread). A Libya-style, radically democratic state in Syria is just about the last thing U.S. imperialism wants. Keeping the Golan quiet and the Palestinians in check is going to be much harder without a fascist state to bargain with and/or bully.


Reza Lustig May 4, 2013 at 4:30 pm

Some “radical democratic” state. What’s the point of a “radical democracy” if the people vote for centrist bureaucrats like Mahmoud Jibril: Saif al Islam’s former right hand, and the man primarily responsible for the crushing austerity policies that largely sparked off the revolution in the first place. Economically speaking, the Libyan people have apparently voted for more of the same.

Where are the “radical democratic” Peoples Executive Committees? Where are is the Peoples Militia? What about the Workers Councils, free public services, etc. etc.? Libya is a neoliberal state in the making.


Pham Binh May 4, 2013 at 5:37 pm

What’s the point of democracy if people make political choices you disagree with? What a strange question. It’s a dilemma many Islamists wrestle with for sure.

Not sure how your claim that Libya is becoming a neoliberal state when they just doubled state aid to the disabled, widows, and divorcees:

Then again, facts aren’t really AWL’s strong suit any way.

Carl Davidson May 4, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Don’t kid yourself. Given the advanced nature of Syrian air defense, creating a ‘no fly zone’ will require its own slaughter of many Syrian civilians as ‘collateral damage’, not to mention the toll on US pilots.

Are you ready to own those outcomes? And if downed pilots are held captive, there will be immense pressure for US ‘boots on the ground’ to ‘rescue’ them. Are you ready to own that too?

As for the UN, both China and Russia, appropriately for them, are open to a brokered compromise deal. But none of those involved on the ground are yet willing. So the blood will flow for a while, unfortunately.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) May 4, 2013 at 4:40 pm

That certainly wasn’t the experience with NATO over Libya. I know CCDS said the same thing about the no-fly zone over Libra:

It means the usual ‘collateral damage’ of widespread civilian death and destruction—all done in the name of preventing civilian deaths. And as in Iraq, the US is dropping bombs containing depleted uranium, which will destroy Libyan lives for generations.

That’s not what happen. NATO used smart weapons exclusively. Given a decision to go to war, their targeting was an example of how to do it right. There was very little damage to non-military infrastructure [ no damage to power grid or oil production for example] and about ~ 70 people killed by accident.

Russia and China want any deal that keeps Assad in power, but the people on the ground have not yet given up on their goal of overthrowing the regime.

Surprise, surprise.

They may suspect another bloodbath will be in the offing if Assad is left standing, as you wish.

Are you ready to own that outcome?


Arthur May 11, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Yes, in advocating air support for the Syrian revolution I have to take responsibility for the fact that it will certainly involve significant civilian casualties and possibly some US air force casualties (unlike Libya, because Syria does have serious air defences while Libya did not).

However the Syrian opposition has also taken full responsibility and called for it, knowing that, because it will save many more lives.

Now are you willing to take responsibility for the larger numbers of lives that will be lost as a result of not providing air support?


Pham Binh May 11, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Assigning people moral responsibility for this or that is an attempt at emotional manipulation, a cheap trick to avoid arguing out the political issues in a thoroughgoing way. I don’t hold Davidson responsible for what happens in Syria even though he seems happy to hold me responsible for NATO’s action in Libya and Uncle Sam’s shipment of non-lethal aid to the Syrian opposition. Underlying Davidson’s approach to Syria is the kind of thing that Mao railed against in “Oppose Bookworship” and “Combat Liberalism.”

Carl Davidson May 11, 2013 at 4:50 pm

No, I do not and will not. If we’re at all successful to blocking US intervention, I’ll take some responsibility for the US ‘collateral damage’ that didn’t happen. But the responsibility for the slaughter in Syria is that of the parties concerned with carrying the atrocities and those directly aiding them. And I’m not among any of them.

Arthur May 11, 2013 at 4:53 pm

I would have thought that Combat Liberalism advocates taking responsibility seriously and Oppose Bookshop advocates studying issues seriously.

The emotional manipulation by Carl is precisely that he refuses to take responsibility or study issues seriously and naturally assumes that others do the same.

“To see someone harming the interests of the masses and yet not feel indignant, or dissuade or stop him or reason with him, but to allow him to continue. This is an eighth type. “

Arthur May 11, 2013 at 5:01 pm

“…responsibility for the slaughter in Syria is that of the parties concerned with carrying the atrocities and those directly aiding them. And I’m not among any of them….”

But you didn’t feel that way about Vietnam. You felt solidarity and took responsibility to do something about the atrocities and those directly aiding them.

Likewise leftists in the 1930s took responsibility to aid the Spanish people fighting fascism.

There was a different slippery slope, which you didn’t avoid.

Carl Davidson May 11, 2013 at 7:48 pm

Arthur, it is precisely those wanting to take us into a new war in the Middle East that are ‘harming the interests of the masses,’ and the interests of US left as well, which is why I’m speaking up. I assumed everyone had learned the errors of the Hitchens path earlier, but apparently not. It’s a bizarre corner of the left here. Watch what you’re wishing for, you may very well get it. Then you’ll have the counter-picket us, along with the NeoCons, once the antiwar forces start hitting the streets against the US bombing and worse in the Syrian civil war, and the wider wars likely to follow.

Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) May 4, 2013 at 4:18 pm

You accused me of being concerned simply with the US victims of the Salaafists, when I indicated that I was also concerned with their victims elsewhere.

No. I accused you of justifying US military action against al Qaeda but not Assad, because al Qaeda had killed US citizens.

Syria is no threat to the US, and bin Laden was, not only to the empire, which I’m not concerned about, but to the American people themselves.

Am I now to understand you to mean you were “glad to see bin Laden, for instance, put out of business” because he was a threat to the US & Africa but oppose support for Assad’s opposition because he is not?

Even if “Syria is no threat to the US,” an assessment which I would dispute, it clearly is a threat to the entire region, and with Syrian refugees now reaching even Egypt, Africa, so I don’t understand how your dragging Africa into this discussion helps me understand your position. Would your position be the same if bin Laden was no threat to the US, but still a threat to Africa? Would you still be glad to see him put out of business by the US military? And if “threat to the US” is not the essential ingredient in your formula, why are you so opposed to any military support for Assad’s opposition?

You’re demanding military action from Obama in regard to Syria and I’m not. Military escalation is more likely, I think, to lead to the common ruin of all concerned.

Military escalation comes exclusively from the Assad regime because the Assad regime has chosen mass murder and civilian destruction as it main tools in crushing any opposition. This military escalation is being enabled by Russia and Iran. That is why Assad is able to rain a seemingly endless supply of Russian Scuds on Syrian cities.

You don’t oppose the supply of Russian Scuds to the Assad regime, do you?

This most recent massacre in Bayada gives us yet another example of how Assad fights this war. Opposition fighters attacked a bus of his thugs and killed 6, injured 20. The next two days Thursday and yesterday Assad’s thugs came back, not to attack fighters but to slit the throats of children. Estimates are running as high as 200-300 civilians killed and you would deny these people access to arms for their own self-defense because that would be a “military escalation?”

So please note that I take exception to your characterization of my position. I have quite loudly opposed Obama’s attempts to embargo Russian aid defense systems, available in Libya, from reaching people that are having Russian made cluster bombs rained down on them.

You don’t oppose the supply of Russian cluster bombs to the Assad regime. do you?

I also quite loudly called Obama’s so-called “red-line” a joke from the beginning and nothing more than a green light to Assad’s continued slaughter by conventional means.

Did you also support UN/NATO inaction when Saddam Hussein killed 5,000 Kurds with sarin & mustard?

I’d just as soon leave it at that as far as you and I are concerned. Others can carry on if they like.

Go in peace then brother.

Am I to take it then that you still stand by every world of the CCDS March 2011 “Statement on Libya?” Have you learned nothing from a people’s historical experience in two years?


Carl Davidson May 4, 2013 at 5:40 pm

As I said, Clay, we have nothing new to say to each other on this matter.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) May 2, 2013 at 9:24 pm

The Isolation Law will last for 10 years instead of 5 years only & there will be no exceptions whatsoever. #Libya #GNC #pt— Mohamed Eljarh (@Eljarh) May 3, 2013

Confirmed: The final version of the Isolation Law has been completely agreed now & will be approved on Sunday. #Libya #GNC— Mohamed Eljarh (@Eljarh) May 3, 2013


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) May 2, 2013 at 11:24 pm

Today in Syria: Assad’s thugs slaughter over 300 in Banias & Bayda, 100 of them women/children & the world continues to watch. First photos are coming in now/

Brahimi to quit as Syria peace envoy,

HUGE fires surrounding Damascus Airport after being shaken by VERY loud explosions!

@whitehouse Mr. #Obama, #Assad didn’t cross any red lines in #BaydaMassacre, just used knives. Guess that’s OK –


Pham Binh May 3, 2013 at 10:58 am
Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) May 4, 2013 at 12:11 am

This is important. Thanks for posting it. Its important because there is this massive imperialist PR campaign to tar JAN with the al Qaeda brand. That is being done for political reason by NATO because they wish to split Assad’s opposition and possibly even justify military ops against a part of it. While clearly JAN shares a lot of reactionary ideology with ISI & AQI they are not units in a ben Laden army.

This is imperialist warmongering. They need something to replace “communism” as the central threat to Western civil and Islamic terrorist is that threat and al Qaeda is the brand. You don’t have to explain why they are a threat, just shout al Qaeda and put them on the kill list. After all, as Carl pointed out bin Laden=al Qaeda kills”Americans” so no need to slow JAN ever hurt a single hair on a US head.

Unfortunately, many on the left seem all to willing to back the imperialist PR campaign here.


Arthur May 4, 2013 at 8:23 am

EA’s translation inludes the pledge of allegiance to the leader of Al Qaeda EXACTLY as claimed by the bourgeois media.

It is unambiguously an Al Qaeda document reflecting certain differences of opinion within Al Qaeda.

Pretending otherwise is quite simply absurd. All EA achieves by doing so is discrediting itself. Read their translation carefully and think independently about whether you really want to be defending this stuff.


Brian S. May 4, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Quite agree, Clay. I haven’t had the chance to study this new translation closely, buta quick glance suggests its not very significantly different from the earlier ones, which I have already expressed a view on. The main points on this issue are made by Scott Lucas in the piece that Binh provides the link to. That is especially useful as it locates the al-Golani text clearly in its Quranic scriptural contexts (something no one else has done). For me that indicated that the pledge of allegiance to al-Zawahiri was stronger than I had thought, but so was the degree of insubordination towards al-Baghdadi.
I’ve been engaged in an exchange on EA on this issue (as “Tettodoro”) and this is from the last post I made there (the phrase in quote marks is from the person I was responding to):
We now agree that we have “an extremist warlord who appears to have gone renegade from his previous master.” So we are in accord on the first part of Scott Lucas’ argument – that this is a statement of insubordination rather than one of “allegiance” (at least to al-Baghdadi). His more intricate linguistic analysis helps reinforce this (although perhaps suggests that it involves a deeper subordination to al-Zawahiri than I had thought).
The second question is does this matter? Our co-commenters below seem to think not. I’m not so sure. First, I think its better to understand JaN, who are in important force in the Syrian situation, than to misunderstand them, even if we don’t like them very much. Secondly, post-Asad Syria will be a very fluid place with all organisations subject to entripetal influences. If JaN is firmly anchored to AQI it may escape this; if its not then there are other possibilities.


Reza Lustig May 4, 2013 at 6:36 pm

@Pham Binh
I merely contested your use of the term “radical” democracy. I assume that a democracy is “radical” if it takes on a socioeconomically “left wing” orientation. Otherwise it is just a garden variety liberal democracy; as Libya is trying to be.

Also, I defy you to name me ONE other national government (except maybe North Korea or Turkmenistan) who would NOT take measures to deal with the massive influx of orphans and widows that normally comes with bloody civil wars. This isn’t the mark of an egalitarian government of the people; it’s just the smart thing to do, if you want to prevent large swathes of the population from becoming hungry. Remember, a hungry population is a population more given to protest.

A better indicator of the new regime’s character is their policy towards economics: specifically, do they plan on keeping the commanding heights of the economy (i.e. electricity, transportation, petroleum, armaments, etc.) under public ownership? And if they do, do they have plans to “open up” these sectors to foreign ownership in the future? Remember, if you please, that it is made up of technocrats like Jibril, who (I must stress) was a chief architect of the austerity policies which sparked off the revolution.

Also, I am not affiliated with the AWL, so cease to accuse me of being a member/sympathizer.


Pham Binh May 4, 2013 at 6:52 pm

That is fortunate for AWL then. Apologies.

Libya is not a garden variety liberal democracy because it lacked a functional state machine for almost two years making it one of the most radical bourgeois-democratic revolutions of the last century. A fuller discussion can be found here:


Reza Lustig May 4, 2013 at 7:36 pm

Read your piece. Interesting, but it failed to answer the charges I made towards the new government in Libya today. I.e., that it is a democracy, but hardly “radical.”

The existence of other political parties is not that radical a policy. Look at Iran: loads of political parties, virtually all of them indistinguishable from the other. Back when the Shah was in power, Iranians had a joke where they said they would vote for either a “Yes Party” or an “Of Course Party”: I’ve looked up all the political parties in Libya right now, and can find very little to distinguish one from the other in all the ways that count (i.e. economics; all of them are neoliberal, some with an Islamist stripe).

I was actually pretty optimistic about the Libyan revolution, about a year ago. I remember writing a column, where I said that the fall of the Gaddafi regime was a net positive, since it would give workers and students breathing space to set up progressive organizations (i.e. political parties, trade unions, student societies) of their own. Well, it’s been almost a year, and so far I am thoroughly underwhelmed. Thanks to their willingness to be voters for the grey-haired former regime technocrats who make up the new government, they have signalled their approval for them to keep Gaddafi’s liberalization and austerity policies.

You accuse the PSL of a double standard in comparing the Libyan and Egyptian revolutions. In under two years, look at all the organizations that have sprung up in Egypt, and can throw their weight around: politicians like Hamdeen Sabahi; parties like the Revolutionary Socialists (their stance towards the previous elections notwithstanding) and the Socialist Popular Alliance Party; not the least, the independent labor union federations. In Libya, neoliberalism is still unopposed.

What’s worse, the Islamists have the opportunity to paint themselves as the opponents of foreign influence and neoliberalism; the Libyan people are fairly conservative, so such a movement could find ready support.

Within the context of the Syrian revolution, I find the situation to be fairly similar, and thus problematic in the long run. You seem to be convinced that the existence of a multiparty system with comparatively little “repression” means that victory has been achieved, and progressive forces will naturally spring into existence to push for more change. I am unconvinced.


Pham Binh May 4, 2013 at 7:43 pm

This is not the thread for comments on the Libya article I wrote.

You’re using the Egyptian yardstick to measure progress in Libya and that is where you fail analytically.


Red Blob May 4, 2013 at 6:57 pm

I support the Syrian oppositions call for a no fly zone over Syria to both stop the regimens slaughter of its own people and to hasten the downfall of the regimen. If this cant be achieved there was the earlier call for no fly zones to be established in a corridor along the Syrian borders for the protection of refugees.


Brian S. May 6, 2013 at 7:43 am

I’m not sure where the Syrian National Coalition stands on this at the moment – this is an old appeal. And I’m even less sure where the military opposition would stand.
The idea of “protected zones” is I think wrong- it would mainly be an excuse for the current host countries (Turkey and Jordan) to move refugees into dependent camps inside Syria. I also have deep doubts about a “no fly zone” over the whole country, because it would pass the initiative from the internal forces to external ones. I remain convinced that the military balance could be qualitatively shifted by the provision of effective anti-aircraft weaponry to the rebel forces. But given the high humanitarian costs being sustained I wouldn’t oppose anything that external powers decided to do that saved civilian lines.


Arthur May 6, 2013 at 9:40 am

Anti-aircraft weaponry could at most be 100% successful against aircraft, which would still leave 90% of regime capability (mainly artillery). “No Fly Zone” over whole country really means air campaign destroying enemy ground forces as in Libya.

That still leaves initiative in rebel hands, as in Libya.

Don’t cast doubt on the repeated, insistent and official demands from both SNC and FSA leadership for air support unless you can actually link to an authoritative statement repudiating that. Brian’s “deep doubts” should not be confused with a purely hypothetical change in position by FSA.


Brian S. May 6, 2013 at 11:14 am

I take your point about artillery – although the rebel forces have had some success in dealing with that even with existing weaponry. When I said I “didn’t know” where the Syrian National Coalition stood, I meant I didn’t know (I speak as I intend) – the link provided by Red Blob is 9 months old, and refers to someone who is no longer the head of a body that is no longer the principal representative of the Syrian opposition in exile. I said nothing about the FSA – I referred to “the military opposition”. The most recent statement by Salim Idriss, who is the alleged Chief of Staff of the FSA, focuses on the call for weaponry: “What Syrians need today to bring an end to the conflict are anti-aircraft weapons systems, not more words.”
I could have adopted your methods and simply claimed that the “FSA” supports my position. I didn’t because I don’t think Idriss is representative of the fighters on the ground. But I doubt that you will find much more support for your views among the Syrian Islamic Front.


Arthur May 6, 2013 at 11:54 am

Here’s a recent (April 24) statement from SNC condemning NATO’s failure to intervene:
“NATO has stated that it will only monitor the activity of scud missiles being launched from the Assad camps near Damascus to neighboring towns and villages to the north. NATO’s radars will ensure that those missiles fall within the borders of Syria. However, the fact that these missiles will fall over the heads of innocent civilians and children seems to be of no concern to NATO, even though NATO has the forces and preventive tools to stop these missiles. The Syrian Coalition finds it tragic that NATO has the power to stop further loss of life in Syria, but chooses not to take that course of action.

We do not expect the murderous behaviour of Assad’s regime to change in the near future, and thus we are certain that tomorrow will bring news of more innocent civilians dead in Syria. Therefore, it is our duty to remind the international community once more of the grave dangers facing civilians in all regions of Syria. The international community must rise to its great moral and ethical responsibilities and put an end to this bloodshed. History will not only condemn the murderous criminals, but also those who had the power to intervene but chose to be idle.”

So now you do know where the SNC stands.


Arthur May 6, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Here’s the formal demands presented to “Friends of Syria” April 20, including immediate strikes on missile launch sites and no fly zones:

My “method” is simply to lookup their website, as opposed to your method of introspective speculation.


Brian S. May 6, 2013 at 2:25 pm

As I said, I didn’t know – now I do. Thank you. I don’t know where “speculation” introspective or otherwise came in. You might do me the equal courtesy of correcting your erroneous statement re the FSA (sorry for providing a broken link):


Arthur May 6, 2013 at 4:08 pm

I’ll confirm that I haven’t found a similar recent statement from FSA. The FP article by FSA Chief of Staff does focus on the call for weaponry. Contrast is with mere words, no contrast with doing more than providing weapons.

Saying “I’m not sure where the Syrian National Coalition stands on this at the moment – this is an old appeal.” had the effect of casting doubt, based on mere speculation. That tended to undermine what they clearly attach a great deal of urgency and importance to and indeed what they suggest history will condemn people for not doing.

Anyway, we are now agreed they do want it, so lets move on.

Looks to me like weapons is the least Obama could do. Pressure should be for doing more, which automatically includes pressure for weapons.


Pham Binh May 6, 2013 at 12:25 am

So much for Assad’s formidable air defense capabilities:


Arthur May 6, 2013 at 2:17 am

Yes, it’ a paper tiger that will certainly be defeated and should be strategically despised. There’s no doubt a no-fly zone ending the regime’s air offensive capability could and should be established immediately. But that would only affect about 10% of the regime’s destructive potential. Most of it is artillery.

A No Fly Zone is an inadequate response in itself and should be clearly understood as a euphemism for a full scale air campaign giving ground support to rebel forces and destroying enemy forces. That first requires more than air superiority – NATO’s extreme aversion to casualties means they won’t offer much ground support or other offensive sorties until they have COMPLETELY suppressed ALL air defense.

Tactically that has to be taken seriously. Mao’s reference to “paper tiger’s” should be understood in its full context:

” When we say U.S. imperialism is a paper tiger, we are speaking in terms of strategy. Regarding it as a whole, we must despise it. But regarding each part, we must take it seriously. It has claws and fangs. We have to destroy it piecemeal. For instance, if it has ten fangs, knock off one the first time, and there will be nine left, knock off another, and there will be eight left. When all the fangs are gone, it will still have claws. If we deal with it step by step and in earnest, we will certainly succeed in the end.

Strategically, we must utterly despise U.S. imperialism. Tactically, we must take it seriously. In struggling against it, we must take each battle, each encounter, seriously. At present, the United States is powerful, but when looked at in a broader perspective, as a whole and from a long-term viewpoint, it has no popular support, its policies are disliked by the people, because it oppresses and exploits them. For this reason, the tiger is doomed. Therefore, it is nothing to be afraid of and can be despised. But today the United States still has strength, turning out more than 100 million tons of steel a year and hitting out everywhere. That is why we must continue to wage struggles against it, fight it with all our might and wrest one position after another from it. And that takes time. ”

(BTW it should be remembered that this diagnosis was confirmed by the historic US defeat in Vietnam, following which Mao concluded that US imperialism had been significantly weakened and Soviet imperialism had become the main enemy, which would also prove to be a paper tiger and was eventually defeated, even more conclusively than US imperialism. The pseudoleft collaborated supported the bourgeois lie that the defeat of Soviet imperialism was a defeat for the people and made US imperialism all powerful. In fact the strategic weakness of US imperialism is vividly confirmed by its hesitation to take on even a puny dwarf like the Assad regime).


Red Blob May 6, 2013 at 7:16 am

I think you make a good point


Pham Binh May 6, 2013 at 11:55 am

While the pseudoleft jumps up and down at the prospect of “inevitable” U.S. military action in Syria, what’s going on in the real world indicates just the opposite:


Pham Binh May 8, 2013 at 12:12 pm

“… it’s disingenuous to argue that the U.S. is ‘doing nothing.’ CIA operatives have been vetting rebel groups to decide which ones should get weapons–and it’s a foregone conclusion that the ‘approved groups’ don’t include genuine popular and revolutionary forces, which have issued repeated statements that they don’t want the U.S. or other outside powers to dictate Syria’s future.”

Yes, it’s a “foregone conclusion” — no need to investigate the facts or what’s actually going on! A priori politics are so full of fail.


Pham Binh May 9, 2013 at 3:37 pm

More evidence supporting Claiborne’s thesis that U.S. imperialism is far more interested in offing Jabhat al-Nusrah than Assad’s regime:


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) May 9, 2013 at 4:19 pm

In the Syria Revolution the war of words is probably as important as the armed struggle, While I can’t be on the field of battle with my brothers and sisters, I consider myself a partisan in this revolution and only hope that my contributions can aid those shedding their blood.

For those who don’t follow my blog, here are my offerings of the last few days. You will notice that my blogs have a strategic focus and are designed to directly aid the struggle. That’s why they aren’t written for Marxist, they are written for the world and the revolution:

Syria Sarin Blame Game: Is Carla Del Ponte at it again? — this has been my most successful blog at my new home so far with over 800 views in 2 days and 160 shares – I think that it may have an effect on this debate.
John Kerry: US agrees with Russia on Syria, Assad stays
Syria falls off Internet, electricity cut in Damascus, as Assad massacres continue
Carla Del Ponte in the WikiLeaks Cablegate files -original research to enhance the discussion, she has lied before [Surprise. Surprise!)
The Assad Regime Sniper, the Old Man and the Hero – in this one I talk about Carl Davidson’s position.
And this morning, I covered the piece Binh gave a link to and a great critique of the BBC recent promotion of the Assad line.
How Obama helps Assad: US tried to start war between FSA & al Nusra Front

Coming soon:
كاونتربانش : الخطأ الكبير في سوريا
[Counterpunch: So Wrong on Syria – in Arabic]


Pham Binh May 9, 2013 at 4:36 pm

Counterpunching Counterpunch in Arabic? Nice.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) May 9, 2013 at 4:38 pm

It’s become a very popular piece.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) May 11, 2013 at 8:22 pm

Very interesting discussion today on TNS. I look forward to joining the “silliness” so I can be accused of putting more words in CD mouth, but first I have to finish today’s blog post:

“UNAC Demands “US out of Libya” ????

I remember when the anti-war movement in this country was great, but now it has devolved to the point that it can be bothered by fascism, genocide and ethnic cleansing so long as it doesn’t effect them personally.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) May 12, 2013 at 6:39 pm

Just because Christopher Hitchens called himself a socialist or a Marxist but not a socialist, or you considered him a socialist, that doesn’t mean he was one. My ex-wife was on the central committee of the CPML when you were on the standing committee and now she is doing Christian missionary work in Indonesia and wants nothing to do with communism. The movement will all to often pick up such politically unstable types but they tend to sort themselves out with time.

I’m not at all impressed by the fact that Hitchens was paid to represent Marxism in The Nation or Vanity Fair. Personally I think Forbes magazine got it right when they called him one of the “25 most influential liberals in the U.S. media”.

Was this guy ever an activist? Was he ever on the front-lines of a struggle? Was he ever in the leadership of a mass organization? Did he ever do time on the picket line or in jail or did he just share his “left wing” opinions and get well paid for doing that?

I really don’t care. My point is that I was born 5 years after you and 1 year before your buddy Hitchens and I was president of my SDS chapter in 1968 and a leader in Occupy LA when the LA chapter of your current group CCDS was MIA and in 2013, I am still on the side of the revolution in Libya and Syria, while you have turned your back on them.

So I don’t think you are moving this discussion forward one millimeter by waving the ghost of the liberal Hitchens around like its suppose to frighten people into being complacent with regards to fascism in MENA.


Carl Davidson May 12, 2013 at 8:27 pm

Brian, you and your friends can support whoever you want in Syria. You can ask the US working class to do the same, and take up a collection for material aide if you like.

That’s not the point here. Many here are not asking you or me to support this or that group, but instead they’re asking the US government, first, to bomb and destroy Syria’s air defenses, which involves bombing and attacking the entire country, then second, rendering whatever other military assistance may be asked of them by whatever set of groups they deem appropriate. In short, they are demanding that our government, an imperialist power, wage war with the government of Syria, when Syria has done nothing to threaten the U.S. in any critical way. Others in our ruling class would like to see this too, mainly as a stepping stone to war on Iran.

Some folks here, being consistent in their own way, are even now declaring that the US invasion of Iraq was just and proper to get rid of the tyrant Saddam, and those of us who resisted that war were wrong. We all see how that has turned out.

In any case, demanding that our government intervene in a civil war in another country, without regard to the UN or international law, or even our own Constitution, is not a precedent we should want to set. A peace movement should be for peace, and not expanded warfare. And I see hardly any analogies with WW2 that make any sense here at all. You are being urged into the swamp of social-imperialism. It’s not a place you want to be. Others have done it before you, and frequently it’s their first step out of the left altogether, with the final stop being ensconced in some NeoCon rightwing think tank. You can already hear that siren song in the contemptuous way they speak of the rest of the left and the broader peace movement.


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) May 12, 2013 at 8:57 pm

They spoke of Libya and included in in their list of “US Out of …” It has been distributed via email, its not on their site yet, but its on the WWP site and the link is in my blog.


Arthur May 13, 2013 at 6:44 am

Tactically, I probably should not rub it in…

But isn’t it strikingly obvious that not only UNAC but pretty well all of the parade of well known individuals and groups claiming to be on the left who openly oppose revolutions in Libya and Syria with completely bankrupt arguments based on abstract claims about US aims that included no accurate concrete analysis whatsoever DID EXACTLY THE SAME over Iraq.

Whatever his flaws Christopher Hitchens accurately diagnosed what a disgrace they were.

People here who still think they got it right about Iraq would need to develop an independent analysis untainted by relying on information and arguments from such demonstrably ignorant and clueless sources.


Brian S. May 13, 2013 at 8:31 am

An interesting article which indicates the shifting composition of Asad’s military forces:


Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) May 13, 2013 at 5:06 pm

My Counterpunch: So Wrong on Syria is now up in Arabic كاونتربانش : الخطأ الكبير في سوريا

This is my first major piece to translated into Arabic. It was translated by Basel Watfa, a Syrian activist living in Egypt. It took a month for him to get it done, largely because his laptop failed in the process.

Putting the links in and making Blogger behave with Arabic also was a challenge. Hopefully, the Syrian revolutionaries will find it useful. Basel thinks so, which is why he made the effort.

I’d rather do whatever I can to inject some Marxist analysis into their struggle than sit around and carp about the influence of Islamists.


Michael Pugliese May 13, 2013 at 5:56 pm

Clay , in one of his Daily Kos diaries before being purged by the Kossacks, noted the claim of responsibility by the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party, or DHKP-C, for a suicide bombing attack on a U.S. Embassy in Ankara back in Feb. Mihrac Ural aka Ali Kyali , a leading cadre in Acilciler (“Urgent Ones”), a splinter faction of the Turkish People’s Liberation Party/Front (THKP/C) , carried out the recent Banias massacre in Syria, killing hundreds. According to , the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) is a splinter group from the THKP/C . Mihrac Ural , married to a former secretary of Rifaat al-Assad , brother of the late Hafez al-Assad , by the photos on his Facebook pg. has long connections with Syrian intelligence and the PKK through Ocalan. His combat unit, posing with graphics of Che, .


Brian S. May 14, 2013 at 7:54 am

Thanks for the info, Michael. There’s a translation into French of a chilling eyewitness account of the Banias massacre in the Swiss FI journal Alencontre:
I’ll try to do at least a partial translation over the next couple of days, but if someone wants to start without me, feel free.


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Pham Binh May 11, 2013 at 8:09 pm

Counterpicketing the likes of PSL as they call for hands off Assad, hands off fascism as the regime wages war on the Syrian people would be a pleasure, nay an honor, since it would mean standing physically alongside revolutionary Syrian-Americans, many of whom have relatives in-country whose lives are at risk every day the regime persists.


Carl Davidson May 11, 2013 at 8:30 pm

If you think PSL is going to be the main force opposing US bombing and widening the war in the Middle East, you’re going to be a bit shocked, should US ‘kinetic intervention’ come to pass–and I hope it doesn’t. You need to make use of a wider picture here. The vast majority of the American people are opposed to getting into another war in the Mideast, along with the large majority of the left, the peace coalitions, and other progressive forces. To reduce this to ‘PSL’ only reveals the narrow and sectarian blinders warping the thought processes here. As for the Syrians and other Muslims in the US, I suspect they would be more likely to divide along Shia/Sunni lines as well. If you want to push the country into a new and wider war, you have a very tough row to hoe indeed.


Pham Binh May 11, 2013 at 8:57 pm

PSL and WWP were the two leading forces behind the anti-Libya marches were they not? The turnouts indicate those mobilizations were miserable failures and the Libyan people were better off for it, judging by the revolution’s aftermath. Funny how no anti-war forces have been able to dig up any Libyans for speaking tours here about the horrible evils of NATO’s air campaign and war crimes — there simply aren’t any Libyans who think that, and that’s because NATO this time arounddid not attack hospitals, orphanages, sewer treatment plants, refugee convoys, civilian bridges, and residential neighborhoods.

Progressive forces cease to be progressive when they aid anti-communist reactionaries abroad and betray their natural allies who want to organize labor unions, student organizations, and leftist political parties.

What worries me more than alienating the aging irrelevant peacenik demographic here in America is the fact that we are blowing a huge opportunity to link up with and help foster the rebirth of a militant left in the Arab world free of both Stalinist and bourgeois nationalist distortions. The masses are taking their freedom by force and all we can tell them is that we oppose “our” government helping them do it. Instead retarding the development of left forces in these countries we should lend them a helping hand. The Islamists are eating our lunch.


patrickm May 11, 2013 at 10:41 pm

If I were you Carl I’d be getting very busy dusting off the give peace a chance placards.

This coming Thursday the Turkish PM will visit the ditherer in chief and given that the Turkish government has just pointed the finger at the Syrian regime for the latest very big attack on Turkish soil and that they have already declared that the Obama red line has been crossed, we can be confident that he will be seeking to stiffen Obama’s spine as the latest lurch towards NATO intervention unfolds.

People know that Obama was trying to back track from his red line but events are moving and the US via an international conference in concert with Putin is just not central.

War means that all options are bad news but attempts to maintain a fascist ‘peace’ or more accurately Assad’s dominance in his small war to prevent democracy as the Syrian peoples’ slowly and at great human cost wrest control of more parts of the country is the worst possible war for democratic revolutionaries in this ethnically cleansing situation.

Israel just bombed a major Syrian Military base and then…

‘Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah said Thursday Syria would supply his party with “game-changing” weapons in response to last week’s Israeli airstrikes on Damascus that reportedly targeted shipments of sophisticated Iranian arms destined for the group.

In a fiery televised speech devoted mostly to responding to the Israeli air raids in Syria, Nasrallah said Hezbollah would assist other resistance groups seeking to liberate the Syrian Golan Heights from Israeli occupation.

Read more:
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: ‘

‘According to a diplomatic source, Netanyahu will meet Putin at his residence in Sochi on the Black Sea coast’ (what a surprise that Putin has a residence in Sochi – everyone ought to get the message right down there opposite Turkey and not far from his troops stationed in Georgian territory). Netanyahu is going for frank talks with Putin about war material supplies and Putin will no doubt be issuing his usual menacing threats and warnings.

But this war grinds on and the NATO forces are upping the supply of arms to the FSA and others just as the Arab governments and mega wealthy are escalating their support to various forces. Putin will eventually be ignored and that will infuriate him and diminish the Russian thug ‘prestige’ that his politics are all about. So we can expect him to be up to no good.

As I recall the Jordanian king was in Washington a few days back.

This war is rolling and the U.S. forces are scrambling because the POTUS is not much good for the job.


Arthur May 12, 2013 at 8:12 am

Carl, I’ve responded to this and other recent comments of your in the thread on “Refections on the Anti-war movement”.

Please read and think about the original article starting off that thread and its implications for any prospects of a movement against US intervention in Syria and respond there.


Carl Davidson May 12, 2013 at 7:04 am

I wouldn’t compare Libya with Syria, Pham. It will be more like Iraq. And ‘aging irrelevant peacenik demographic’ is a term that tells us more about your outlook than anything else. It’s laced with sectarianism and contempt for the sector of the population that has stood up and resisted the encroachments of Empire from within. They are allies, not adversaries. You need to break from this path and its contempt, which will lead you, Hitchens-like, into making allies among the Neocons. Remember, their founders started out as Trotskyists and ‘men of the left’, too. I wouldn’t go there.


Brian S. May 12, 2013 at 9:19 am

@Carl Davidson. I don’t think the problem is that you rely on a “peacenik demographic” which is small, has a honourable past, and is at least good intentioned; its that you (and your counterparts in the UK) rely on the parochialism and xenophobic stereotypes that permeate mass political opinion. That is what underpins all these polls that report majorities for the notion that “we” should stay out of conflicts where “we” don’t have any interests at stake.
You claim that “Syria will be more like Iraq” without bothering to adduce any evidence for that contention. If you take the evidence into account (particularly the existence of important civil opposition forces and a legacy of anti-sectarianism) , then the likelihood is that it will be somewhere in between: precisely where in that spectrum it will end up will be influenced by how much blood the regime is allowed to spill before the conflict is brought to an end.


Pham Binh May 12, 2013 at 9:31 am

They’re not allies when they side with reactionaries and rightists abroad, no. On this issue, their politics are “left in form, right in essence” as you so poignantly wrote long ago.

Hezbollah is no ally of the Syrian people and neither is the misnamed anti-war movement in the States which tries to block U.S. government interference with the Syrian regime’s war on its own people. I’m not afraid to stand alongside of neocons, the CIA, and Islamists as long as I’m standing alongside revolutionary forces in Syria and their relatives and friends here.

If and when Obama uses drones to attack Jabhat al-Nusrah, we’ll all be on the same side of this question, but something tells me your “progressive forces” (especially PSL) won’t be doing much mobilizing if that happens since so many of them are Assad apologists and Ghadafi lovers.


Carl Davidson May 12, 2013 at 9:39 am

Our ‘peaceniks’ came to include a majority of the population, so I wouldn’t be too quick to assign a ‘small minority’ status–although I note this is a persistent meme of the Neocons about us that you seem to share.

Part of the ‘superpower mentality’ bred into us with our mother’s milk is that our country especially has the right and even the duty to be ‘the cop of the world.’ If fighting that outlook is ‘parochial,’ I’ll just plead guilty. Better to look to Chou En-lai’s 5 principles of peaceful co-existence, and collective security via UN agencies or non-imperialist regional collective security arrangements instead. While obviously limited, these will serve humanity much better these days than ‘humanitarian interventionism’ on the part of US imperialism and other powers like it.

But this is getting tiresome. We’re just repeating ourselves. You want to urge Obama to wage revolutionary war in Syria and I don’t, considering that prospect a rather grandiose delusion on your part. You can have the last word, if you like.


Brian S. May 12, 2013 at 12:11 pm

@Carl Davidson: Your refusal to understand what other people aresaying is beginning to look like denial. As someone from the same generation as you , I am aware of the strength and nature of “peacenik” views: and they were never a majority (you shouldn’t conflate opposition to particular imperialist ventures – like Vietnam and Iraq – with a society-wide awareness and set of values ). The predominant factor in current mass opinion is a lack of concern with anything that doesn’t directly impact on national interests; and various semi-racist views that Arabs are incapable of democracy, are hostile to “us” and “our” values; that “we” shouldn’t involve ourselves in “foreigners” conflicts but should just let them fight it out among themselves. If you are happy to surf that wave you are welcome to it. I still hold to the internationalist beliefs of my youth.
I have considerable sympathy with your argument about the need for international institutions to address these issues: but there are no such structures operative in this situation – and I am not willing to tell the Syrian people that we’ll stop the slaughter if they can just hang on for a couple of decades while we put the right arrangments in place.
I have never advocated “revolutionary war” by the US – the notion is absurd. But what I would support is any punctual action by anyone that could slow down the killing and hasten the end of the regime that is carrying it out.
What, concretely, do you support?


Arthur May 12, 2013 at 1:31 pm

Just to add to the awkwardness of Carl’s efforts to bow out of a “tiresome” debate, I’ll “put some words in his mouth” for him to indignantly deny.

What concretely does he support?

1. He supports the predominant “lack of concern with anything that doesn’t directly impact on national interests; and various semi-racist views that Arabs are incapable of democracy, are hostile to “us” and “our” values; that “we” shouldn’t involve ourselves in “foreigners” conflicts but should just let them fight it out among themselves.”

2. But its important (to him) for us to understand that he wouldn’t express himself in that way. In particular he would say “Salafis” rather than “Arabs” and his opinion that they are incapable of democracy is cultural rather than racially based. Also he’d rather say he was opposing imperialist intervention to “…overthrow the government of a sovereign state (that) is no threat to us…” rather than expressing “lack of concern”.

3. Concretely he supports the inalienable rght of sovereign states to massacre their people with impunity, with pretty much the same sort of fervour as any dixiecrat upheld states right to maintain the institution of slavery.

4. But its important (to him) to understand that he wouldn’t express himself that way. The way he would express it is in terms of “principles of peaceful co-existence, and collective security via UN agencies”. It amounts to exactly the same result of Assad being free to bomb and gas his people, but it sounds much better.

5. Most importantly he concretely supports not finding out what’s actually happening in Syria. There won’t be any teach-ins in any anti-war movement Carl tries to organize because he knows there’s a dangerous slippery slope out there and the only way to preserve his principles is to be able to proudly proclaim that he does not know what’s happening there and will not even follow links to find out because, then he might find himself sliding down that slippery slope.

6. But it’s important (to him) to understand that he wouldn’t express himself that way. He doesn’t need to find out about foreigner’s conflicts for entirely different reasons from those of an average American parochialist who simply doesn’t care. Unfortunately I have no idea how he would express those entirely different reasons, but I am sure he will remain convinced they are entirely different from the reasons of anybody else that simply WILL NOT take a look at what is actually happening in Syria.


Carl Davidson May 12, 2013 at 1:34 pm

I’m not refusing to understand them. I understand them quite well. And like with Hitchens, who was a friend of mine, I simply flat out disagree with them, as I did with him.

The peace forces always begin as a militant minority. But as they persist, they gradually win the battle for public opinion, and their view becomes that of a majority. This was true in the Vietnam era, and the shift took place soon after the VVAW guys threw their medals back at Congress.

On Iraq, in 2002, we were a militant minority, and our first demo, the one where we got a little-known Obama to speak, had only 2000 people. But soon we got the Chicago City Council to vote twice against the war, and by 2006, I headed up an effort to get ‘Out Now’ on the ballot. In Illinois as a whole, we won two to one. In Chicago, we one 81 to 19, gather over 800,000 votes. We had become an antiwar majority.

So of course it’s a process–but I’d hard sum it up as an ‘irrelevant minority’, as was done here.

What I support in Syria–a ceasefire and a brokered deal among those directly concerned–is not in the cards at the moment. Perhaps this will change, I don’t know. One side or another might get the upper hand, or it might end in the common ruin of all. But I’m not ‘supporting’ any particular Syrian group on any side. I wish the masses desirous of national, democratic and socialist change well, but that prospect is not too bright either. I do believe more military intervention by outside powers, especially US imperialism, Israel and other backward regimes and forces, will likely make matters worse.

I am very much an internationalist. And I’m of the view that the key responsibility of internationalists within the ‘Great Nations’ starts with fighting the war aims and other imperialist venture of ‘their ‘own’ bourgeoisie. That’s the way them render aid to the oppressed on the world, by weakening and then getting rid on the empire and defeating chauvinist and war-mongering views within the workers’ and popular movements. That’s hardly original with me, but the ABC of Marxism and Leninism. It might be adjusted in different periods in various ways, as in WW2, but the core viewpoint carries on, at least in my view of it.


Carl Davidson May 12, 2013 at 1:58 pm

Now you’re being silly, Arthur. And I’m more amused at your huffing and puffing here than ‘outraged.’ I’ve been fairly cleat about what I think here. Readers can go through it as they wish. You guys are welcome to adapt yourself to the view that the US Air Force or the Marines are going to aid in bringing a national and democratic revolution anywhere, especially the Middle East. I know better, and you should too.

But you don’t so we disagree. I actually don’t think your views matter all that much. My main concern is that you’ll end up leaving the left altogether, much as Hitchens did.

Finally, I use the term Salaafist for very particular reasons, namely to be accurate about who are the reactionary, theocratic and fascist forces in the Arab world, and who are not. They are a teeny reactionary minority in the overall scope of the Islamic world, much like our armed ‘Christian Identity’ Militias and Westboro Bapitist church outfits have in in relation to a far wider world of Christians. I use the term to narrow the target, not to serve as a substitute to attack a far wider group of decent Islamic peoples, even Islamists, of various views.


Arthur May 12, 2013 at 4:51 pm

Its only a few months since the US air force DID join with other NATO air forces in assisting a national democratic revolution in Libya.

Carl insisted it couldn’t happen then, therefore it didn’t happen then. As with Syria there is no need for Carl to refer to any actual facts about what happened in Libya. All Carl needs to know about the world is what he learned about US imperialism in the 1960s.

From 1963 to 2013 is 50 years. If Carl had been frozen in that sort of time warp in 1963 he would have been basing his views on an analysis from 1913. A central concern would have been the machinations of the Ottoman empire.

BTW although Salafis certainly are a reactionary minority they are far from tiny (eg a quarter of the vote in Egypt) and only a tiny minority of them are Takfiri or fascist types. But that’s the sort of detail that simply doesn’t matter when ones analysis is not based on any interest whatever in the concrete conditions of the world today.


Clay Claiborne May 12, 2013 at 8:33 pm

I just posted a blog that speaks tp some of this UNAC demands “US Out of #Libya!”???
part of what I said in it is

After NATO formally took over the air campaign over Libya, the US continued to fly the majority of the supply and refueling missions and even carried out another 60 strike sorties and 30 drone strikes as of 20 June 2011, but the majority of the strike sorties were done by the US European allies. While the US flew 25% of all sorties, they were heavily weighted towards support and refueling missions rather than strike sorties.

France did the most by flying 35% of the strike sorties. Britain was also a leader. Tiny Denmark “bombed approximately 17 percent of all targets in Libya and together with Norwegian flights have been the most efficient in proportion to the number of flights involved” according to Wikipedia. This is a reference to the fact that a great many US “strike sorties” never dropped any ordinance. According to Human Rights Watch this air campaign killed 72 civilians unlawfully.

The illusion that the Libyan Revolution was largely a US instigated “regime change” operation or even that the bombing of Libya was mainly a US affair is one that Leftist like those represented in UNAC must cling to because it serves their US centric narrative that the Libya conflict was basically a repeat of what happened in Iraq, but for them to still be raising the slogan “US Out of Libya” in 2013 only shows how far from reality these folks have wandered.


Pham Binh May 12, 2013 at 8:47 pm

UNAC issued a 2013 statement/slogan on Libya?


Brian S. May 13, 2013 at 8:22 am

@Clay. The role of Denmark in this story is one the historians need to look at. While the UN was still debating the issue and the Gaddafi forces were homing in on Benghazi, the Danish parliament passed a resolution instructing the Danish airforce to implement a no-fly zone, on their own if necessary. The vote on this was supported by the Red-Green alliance MPs (although I think they were later disowned by their organisation). In my view, this played a major role in preciptating the no fly zone.


Brian S. May 12, 2013 at 6:31 pm

OK Carl, I appreciate that you are trying to engage with several people at the same time, so your responses have a certain generic quality to them. But it would help if you indicated the person/s you were responding to and refrain from ascribing to them positions which they do not hold. You should be aware by now that there is a range of views on this site.
You appear to acknowledge that you don’t support anything concrete in Syria – since the only thing you might support “is not in the cards at the moment”. That’s a luxury you can afford, but the people of Syria cannot. I’m not an enthusiast for external intervention, and I would prefer the form of intervention that detracts least from Syrian control of the situation. But there comes a point where the cardinal concern must be to stop the killing and suffering.
You say that our main task should be to fight our own bourgeoisie – but how does supporting the popular revolt in Syria contradict that? And how can supporting the Syrian opposition “make things worse”?


Carl Davidson May 12, 2013 at 9:56 am

I’m not taking any group’s ‘side’ in this fight, Pham Binh. Just as in Afghanistan, I’m urging Obama to get out and stay out.

But we’re tiresomely repeating ourselves. There’s nothing new being said. You want to urge Obama to wage revolutionary warfare in Syria (a grand delusion on your part, IMHO) and I don’t; I’m opposing the urgings of the Neocons and others in the ruling class for him to do so. You’re welcome to the last word, if you like.


Pham Binh May 12, 2013 at 10:40 am

Refusing to take sides in other people’s fights and discouraging others from doing so when the people in those fights ask us to side with and help them is a reflection of the America-centered/America-first/America-mostly/only parochial outlook and national narrow-mindedness promoted by our bourgeoisie.

Peace movements should be internationalist, not isolationist. That’s the last word.


Pham Binh May 11, 2013 at 11:46 pm

Upping the supply of arms? The FSA couldn’t get resupplied for 30 days and lost control of Khirbet Ghazaleh as a result.

You and Carl seem to agree that U.S. military intervention is coming ever-closer but all the evidence continues to point in the opposite direction. Obama’s “red line” has been crossed and exposed as an empty threat (as I said months ago) by his decision to send Aleppo some sandwiches in response.

The bottom line is that Claiborne is right that we are more likely to see U.S. military action against Jabhat al-Nusrah than the regime because the U.S. would prefer to save Assad’s state machine than see it smashed to pieces and replaced by popular militias that range from being stridently nationalist to virulently Islamist, all of which is big trouble for Israel.


Arthur May 12, 2013 at 8:17 am

There’s evidence in both directions.

I think if the US still hopes to stay out then almost all the evidence would have to point in that direction.

It would be extremely odd to draw attention to a failure to act , yet that is precisely what the evidence the US intends not to act amounts to.

Establishing logistics channels, forward headquarters etc are certainly evidence of an intention to do more than just watch.


Brian S. May 12, 2013 at 9:21 am

Or are a classsical case of “symbolic policy” – ie marching your troops up hill and down dale to pretend to concerned parties that you are doing something.


Pham Binh May 13, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Some people are just too easy to fool.


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