“Red Line” or Empty Threat? How the Left Gasses Itself on #Syria

by Pham Binh on December 6, 2012

Every year for straight nine years since 2003, Western anti-interventionists have seen another Iraq-style war on the horizon with Iran, with North Korea, with Libya, and now with Syria as rumors spread that Assad is readying chemical weapons to crush the revolution.

Dictator? Check. U.S. charges of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) stockpiles? Check. Geostrategically located country in an oil-rich region? Check. U.S. talk about “human rights” concerns? Check. NATO military hardware being deployed along the Turkish border? Check. Bush administration plans for “regime change” in Syria? Check.

The anti-interventionists add all these check marks together and find a startling sum: it’s Iraq all over again!

For this crowd, American imperialism is a one-trick pony, and they’re wise to the tricks of the empire-building trade.

If only!

A closer, deeper comparison of U.S. policy toward Iraq in 2002-2003 and Syria in 2011-2012 reveals quite the opposite of what the so-called anti-imperialists think is going on. Consider the following:

  • The Bush administration began a conspicuous U.S. military buildup surrounding Iraq in fall of 2002. U.S. and British airstrikes on Iraq under the legal cover of a United Nations no-fly zone intensified in late 2002 to early 2003. By contrast, nothing of the kind has been done with regard to Syria by the Obama administration. There is no no-fly zone, there are no airstrikes, and there is no build up of U.S. troops in Turkey, Jordan, Israel, nor any neighboring country.
  • Syria has attacked Turkey, a NATO member, over and over again in the past 21 months. Syria shot down a Turkish plane and has repeatedly shelled Turkish territory. Turkey has steadfastly refused to invoke article 5 of the NATO treaty which would trigger the alliance to take military action in response. Does anyone seriously think Saddam Hussein could have shelled Turkey without triggering a U.S./Turkish military assault in 2002-2003? Of course not, but thinking is not the strong suit of the anti-interventionists.
  • The military hardware deployed on the Turkish border are Patriot missiles, i.e. defensive weapons. An invasion cannot be launched with Patriot missiles any more than a bank can be robbed with bullet proof vests.

The bottom line: the U.S. does not want to step in militarily to facilitate “regime change” in Syria. It has had plenty of opportunity to do so from the standpoint of pretexts and declined for 20 months in a row.

So what do we make of the Obama administration’s talk of a “red line” in Syria?

Very concerned about human rights and chemical weapons in foreign countries… right.

It’s not a pretext for a pre-planned invasion because the U.S. does not have the 75,000 troops next door necessary for such an operation and is not moving any divisions nearby either. There will be no American invasion nor occupation of Syria. Period. No doubt this will be a major disappointment to anti-interventionists who have nothing better to do than cry wolf over non-existent grievances, but facts are stubborn things.

It’s also not a pretext for airstrikes under the cover of a no-fly zone; the U.S. Senate voted to order the administration to study the feasibility of a no-fly zone since the administration has insisted for almost two years that “each of these situations [Libya and Syria] is unique” and that a Libya-style military operation is not appropriate.

The “red line” is an empty threat, political posturing. No more, no less.

The reality is that, from the standpoint of the U.S.-Israeli alliance, there are no good options or outcomes as a result of the Syrian revolution. Why? Because the revolution is not only popular and democratic but also stridently pro-Palestinian.

The image above is one of thousands of cartoons, photos, and statements that emerged out of Syria during Israel’s recent attack on the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian diaspora, spread across Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria enjoys solidarity and support at the grassroots level among all nationalities, religious communities, and social classes. One of the major charges of the Syrian opposition (see the cartoon below for example) against Assad is that his militant, anti-Israel rhetoric was never matched by deeds since the regime kept its guns on the Golan Heights silent for decades, allowing Israel to crush and ethnically cleanse the Palestinians and attack Lebanon in 2006 without fear of reprisal on its Syrian border.

The Dad: Hafez Al-Assad sold the Golan to the Israelis
The Son: Bashar Al-Assad sold Syria to the Iranians
The Grandpa: Suleiman Al-Assad sold Syria to the French

The Palestinians, in turn, support the Syrian revolution. This is in no small part because hundreds of Palestinians in Syria have been slaughtered by Assad’s relentless shelling of hospitals, refugee camps, and bread lines. Hamas, the governing party in the Gaza Strip, even broke off relations with Assad’s government and came out in support of the Syrian revolution.

Washington, D.C. is not looking forward to seeing the end of Assad’s brutal state machine, a machine that lent its services to Bush by torturing Maher Arar (anti-imperialists, take note). Secretary of Defense Leon Pannetta even admitted he’d hate to see Syria’s uniformed torturers and rapists disband: “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.”

Assad’s tyrannical police state apparatus is essential to keeping the Syrian and Palestinian peoples divided and oppressed, too weak to resist Israel, and unable to organize freely, openly, and effectively for their political and social emancipation.

The use of chemical weapons won’t change that calculus for Washington.

My other writings on the Arab Spring:

  • Anthony Abdo

    Pham has a phenomenal ability to never write anything about the coming US and Israeli attack on Iran, which its current attack on the Assad regime is just precursor for. Also, he on another thread, was just a second ago gloating about how the International Left was unable to stop Nato’s bombings against the Gaddafi government of Libya, though now he claims The bottom line: the U.S. does not want to step in militarily to facilitate “regime change” in Syria. It has had plenty of opportunity to do so from the standpoint of pretexts and declined for 20 months in a row.’ which is an incredibly false, and dare I say so? (here at North Star?) idiotic reading of what has been happening? Next he will be telling us that the US has done nothing to try to overthrow the government of Iran as well, without doubt, just when the fighting of that other battlefront created by US imperialism heats up.

    All of Pham’s reporting about the Syrian conflict is so false and bizarre that one would think that all nominally sane Leftists would completely try to disassociate themselves from it. For example, he states that ‘Syria has attacked Turkey, a NATO member, over and over again in the past 21 months. Syria shot down a Turkish plane and has repeatedly shelled Turkish territory. ‘, leaving aside all mention that Turkey has allowed its territory to be used as Nato’s, and their Syrian allies’, launching ground for their terrorist attacks inside Syria! However, all people who even follow current events in most cursory form know this, even if Pham acts as if he doesn’t.

    Here is more of Pham’s utterly reactionary take on Syrian events, as he posits bizarrely that Obama wants Assad to stay in power… . ‘Secretary of Defense Leon Pannetta even admitted he’d be sad to Syria’s uniformed torturers and rapists disband: “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.”’ This simply is an expression of a belief that though the US military is going to overthrow Assad, that they want to leave some of the old guard in, and not make the mistake from the imperialists’ pov that they did in Iraq, when Hussein’s policing and military forces were completely bypassed in structuring by the US after the overthrow of Hussein was obtained. Pham draws the absurd conclusion from Pannetta though, that the US government wants Assad to remain in power!

    Quite simply all parts of Pham’s theorizing about Syria show a completely nonsensical approach to analyzing what is the US game plan in obtaining its desired multiple country regime changes. Pham never even begins to discuss that this is what D.C. is actually gunning for. The US imperialists are going for restructuring of the entire Middle East with future regimes becoming then part of the US military apparatus, in a way that Turkey, Qatar, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia currently are, not to mention others. For Pham this is all to be left unmentioned.

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp

      You claim that Assad shelled Turkey in response to “terrorist attacks” being launched from Turkish soil. Do you have any proof? SANA as far as I can tell is not even claiming Syria’s shelling was in response to this.

      “The coming US and Israeli attack on Iran” — I’ve been hearing about it since 2003 from the pseudo left and the Ron Paul crowd and it has yet to happen. But being wrong has never stopped you, now has it?

      • Anthony Abdo

        Pham, with eyes and ears thoroughly closed off to any data, now demands ‘proof’ that Syrian rebels against Assad have used Turkish territory as launching pad for their attacks against people inside Syria! And we all were thinking that you were a marxist specialist on current events, too????

        See then Reuters from way back in July, Pham. ‘Exclusive: Secret Turkish nerve center leads aid to Syria rebels’ @ http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/07/27/us-syria-crisis-centre-idUSBRE86Q0JM20120727

        Pham, may I ask you a personal question? What is the use for you when you pretend to not know about material like this before now? I mean… any informed person (let alone a marxist!) has read these sources already and so have you, too, Pham. So what’s the game?

        ‘You (Tony) claim that Assad shelled Turkey in response to “terrorist attacks” being launched from Turkish soil. Do you have any proof?’

        What a silly man you are being here with this request for ‘proof’, Pham. Where did you learn your debating style from? Some debate club at a US based university? You know this stuff already!

        • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp

          That’s not what I demanded. Please read what I write before you respond.

          • Anthony Abdo

            I don’t know a country in the world that would not consider assisting armed forces from their soil to attack another as anything other than assisting in acts of terrorism being carried out, Pham. Instead of encouraging this use of terrorism, perhaps your personal time should be spent in opposing the covert use of such terrorism by US backed forces? What say?

            ‘You (Tony) claim that Assad shelled Turkey in response to “terrorist attacks” being launched from Turkish soil. Do you have any proof?’

            And actually, I never ever claimed that Assad was having Turkish soil DELIBERATELY shelled by Syrian military anyway, as you insinuate here that I did. The fighting that Turkey helped others to send into Syria simply spilled over as the forces that Nato (from Turkey) is supporting both advanced and retreated (back onto Turkish territory). That is an act of war by Turkey itself though, Pham.

            Pham, perhaps a career in American law would be very attractive to you? You seem to have a knack of using nuances of meaning to argue endlessly with others, and if you billed this out at corporate funded legal hours you might get rich quite quick!

            • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

              “I don’t know a country in the world that would not consider assisting armed forces from their soil to attack another as anything other than assisting in acts of terrorism being carried out”

              Oh so now we’re playing “who fired the first shot” rather than looking at war as politics by other means? That explains a lot.

    • byork

      Anthony, perhaps Pham has not written about the pseudo-left’s assurances that the US and Israel will launch a military attack on Iran because, like me, he has become bored with regularly hearing about its ‘imminence’ over the past nine years. What might be worth considering is why it hasn’t happened and what this says about the pseudo’s level of analysis during those years. I doubt whether the US admin would be pleased with Israel were it to launch such an attack.

      • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

        Iran is a bridge too far. There is no military option for the Israelis (short of nuclear weapons) and no good one for the U.S. either. Instead, they’ll keep up the sanctions to squeeze Iran economically and engage in covert operations. An overt/all-out war would be a complete disaster for U.S.-Israeli imperialism.

        • Anthony Abdo

          What you and byork call the ‘pseudo-left’ would be most assuredly yourselves and not any others out there. To see why you two yourselves should be called ‘pseudo-left’, we could take byork’s bizarre comments here that you obviously endorse and share, Pham, that supposedly the US and Israel have not launched any military attacks against Iran over the past 9 years! Absolute preposterous nonsense by both of you!

          In fact the US has severe economic sanctions in place now, which is precisely how the pre-invasion and subsequent of Iraq was launched. You two simply lack memory evidently. In addition, Israel and the US have also launched various terrorist attacks against Iran, including multiple assassinations of their top scientists. These are all acts of war as even marxists of such class as yourselves should be able to comprehend, but do not.

          Then we go on to how Israel invaded Lebanon in 2006 with attacks against many Iranian and Syrian government allies there as being the most principle reason for the US and Israel launching that attack. You two simply lack the imagination to see how any of this connects. In short, you two don’t recognize war even when it smacks Iran right in the jaw. You apparently both are too busy talking up ‘class’ instead and how Nato supposedly helped ‘The Revolution’ out in Libya and such nonsense , with yourselves and other ‘humanitarian’ Lefty cheerleaders that share such equal blindness to the world around them.

          You both seem to lack the intelligence level of a Barack Obama here, where he and the Democratic Party top hacks all believe that war is best accomplished and won by weakening one’s enemies first, instead of smashing against a unified and fortified resistance to imperialism. In short, you understand no geopolitical contexts at all in any of this, and have gone so far as to claiming that Russia is the imperialist big bully aggressor in the Middle East, and not really the Nato bloc or the US.

          @ Pham… ‘An overt/all-out war would be a complete disaster for U.S.-Israeli imperialism.’

          Perhaps that being only partially so, is the principle reason that US and Israeli war plans have been to go and weaken their opposition in multiple forms FIRST, Pham. Israeli and the US ruling classes are not stupid and prefer a push over instead of a harder rock to annihilate, so that’s the reason for all the smokescreens and dancing by their generals and politicians around what they demand of the governments of Syria and Iran. Is it all too subtle, incredible as that seems, for you to figure any of this out for yourself?

          Why go to an ‘overt/all-out war’ if can make the enemy crumble through multiple battle losses beforehand. That’s why regime change in Syria achieved by D.C.- Tel Aviv has become so very crucial to the US and ALL its imperialist camp allies. Put your thinking cap on, Pham.

          Further, the US, just like Iran, has multiple weak spots in their rule, from Egypt to Iraq to Afghanistan. Why directly go bashing into Iran when slowly wearing the Iranian mullahs down is so much more easier? The US could easily erase Iran off the map tomorrow, but why pay such a price for doing that, when one can snap at Iran like a swarm of mosquitoes instead? That still is WAR though, Pham. Work on it some, Comrade. It’s not really that hard to see the imperialist war strategies currently at work in Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Iran, and YES…Iraq, too.

          • byork

            Anthony, The Left always has and always will side with the oppressed. That is one of the qualities that defines it. The pseudo-left sides with the oppressors – in this case, Assad’s regime. Like other far-Right outlooks, the pseudo-left rationalizes its defence of indefensible regimes via “anti-imperialism”. It just doesn’t wash – the pseudo-left can’t mobilize a chimpanzee – and it’s good to see people seeing through it, at this site, even though they have a continuing blind spot over Iraq.

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  • Arthur

    “The bottom line: the U.S. does not want to step in militarily to facilitate “regime change” in Syria. It has had plenty of opportunity to do so from the standpoint of pretexts and declined for 20 months in a row.”

    Not wanting to and not preparing to and having to are two different things.

    The Bush administration clearly wanted to go to war in Iraq and prepared accordingly.

    The Obama adminstration does not want to go to war in Syria but is also preparing for having to do so.

    A lot of the confusion about that traces back to the same confusion as the pseudo-left about Iraq. It sounds as though since you (wrongly) opposed the invasion of Iraq then if you thought the evidence indicated an intention to intervene in Syria you would have to oppose that, but fortunately you can still denounce US imperialism since it isn’t going to act.

    It took quite a while from the Bush administration forming an inention to invade Iraq (and even longer from the Clinton administration’s empty Iraq Liberation legislation) before action.

    More people are being killed during the present inaction. We can denounce US imperialism for that without having to draw conclusions that they won’t do anything eventually.

    Churchill said something like “You can rely on the Americans to do the right thing – after exhausting all other alternatives”.

    • Aaron Aarons

      Yes, you can count on the United Snakes to do what arch imperialist Winston Churchill would have considered “the right thing” as soon as it can, with a little help from pseudo-leftists like Arthur, mobilize enough of its own population and that of needed allies to support or at least go along with it.

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

      I think you should call your lawyer and sue these guys for using your favorite designation — pseudo-left — on us:
      http://wsws.org/articles/2012/dec2012/syri-d14.shtml

      David North is loaded:
      http://www.bolshevik.org/1917/no30/no30-GRPI-WSWS.html

      • Arthur

        I’ve noticed that Aaron Aarons makes a point of using it that way and although it could be a coincidence I suspect WSWS and others of that ilk also picked it up from here (your usage as well as mine) for similar reasons. Its really damaging to them for pseudo-left to become generally understood as the appropriate label instead of “hard left”, “anti-imperialist” etc so a natural tactic is to try and just make it a general term of abuse.

        PS I don’t understand your reference to David North. Glancing through the article my eyes glazed over too quickly for me to discern any connection.

        • Aaron Aarons

          No, Arthur, I would not use ‘pseudo-left’ as “a general term of abuse”. I have enormous differences with many people and groups that are actually on the left, but I don’t describe them as ‘pseudo-left’, although I might describe them as ‘soft left’, ‘reformist’, etc., or, occasionally, as ‘ultra-left’. I would reserve the term ‘pseudo-left’ for those who proclaim themselves to be ‘leftist’ but who take positions that are not only soft on the capitalist class, as Pham Binh and Clay Claiborne are, but unambiguously pro-capitalist and/or pro-imperialist. You and Patrick Muldowney are the clearest cases I have come across.

          Incidentally, in verifying Patrick M’s name, I came across these words from ‘Anita’, who has posted here at least once and is apparently personally associated with Mr. Muldowney:

          …there is however still a very long way to go before a majority of the people of the world can begin to realise their personal and social potential. This is why I support modern countries sending their troops to assist in the emancipation of the oppressed.

          This restatement of the ‘White Man’s Burden’ rationale for imperialism seems to be your position as well.

          • Aaron Aarons

            Due to my problem with short-term memory and/or ability to keep focused, I left out a reference I had intended to make to the most important pseudo-left milieu: the Zionist ‘left’. Except perhaps in a few places like Australia, they are much more important enemies of the left than are Arthur and his friends.

        • Aaron Aarons

          I did a google search of wsws.org for use of the term ‘pseudo-left’ and there were “About 48,400 results”. There was certainly a lot of duplication to get that number, and most of them were from 2011 and 2012, but I did find one that was dated 2 November 2009 — over three years ago — that must have been directed at your associates, and perhaps including you personally:

          Australian imperialism, the 1999 East Timor intervention and the pseudo-left

          • Arthur

            The 2009 date suggests WSWS did not pickup the term pseudo-left from here. The Australian source could be a coincidence but could suggest that it was picked up as a counter to Australian usage going back to 1993 with a campaign to popularize the term at least as early as 2006:

            http://archive.lastsuperpower.net/members/+disc+members+568578247191.htm

            The article is clearly directed at the DSP, which joined with almost everybody claiming to be left or progressive in mobilizing a strong groundswell of public opinion demanding military intervention to stop massacres in East Timor.

            Any suggestion that they were the leading force or that the Australian government was forced to act by the protests are the usual Trot hallucinations. But it is certainly true that the popular mobilization made it easier for the Australian and US governments to act and helped it happen quicker, saving more lives from the fascist mass murderers. Opposition to intervening at that time came only from the far right (hardly distinguishable from the present pseudo-left that continues to defend fascist mass murder).

  • http://redrave.blogspot.co.nz/ dave brown

    Basically Pham is right and wrong. The US doesnt want to militarily intervene in Syria. It just wants to step in with a transitional regime that will not rock the MENA boat. But it may see it a limited military intervention as necessary if Assad crosses the ‘red line’ of chemical weapons of only to uphold the myth that it stands for a democratic transition in the region. Essentially while it can define democracy as the right of the people to overthrow dysfunctional ‘dictators’, then it needs to use the ‘red line’ argument to pressure the ‘international community’ to get Assad to stand down. The Democratic Transition was always a pipe dream for imperialism facing potentially terminal crisis. Once the people have some power and are armed, they are not going to go back to being serfs and beggars. As Libya shows, a victorious revolution (even with NATO help) creates preconditions for national independence. Morsi is taking Islam to the right to serve imperialism and that has opened the revolution again. The Egyptian revolutionaries can see what is happening in Libya, Syria and Palestine where the revolution is armed and a leading layer is anti-imperialist. The Syrian opposition is protesting today against any UN deployment. This shows that the rebels will not settle for a truce now after all this sacrifice. So the real ‘red line’ is not how many Syrians get killed but the threat of revolution against imperialism and its national stooges. If the Syrian fighters pursue this goal then the US will find some lie to use to invoke a ‘red line’. Then everything depends on the fighters maintaining their armed independence.

    • Anthony Abdo

      Such baloney, Dave!

      ‘Basically Pham is right and wrong. The US doesnt want to militarily intervene in Syria. It just wants to step in with a transitional regime that will not rock the MENA boat.’

      Sure, the US prefers that the Assad government fall with the US role in that fall kept as hidden away from public view as possible. But the US ruling class has only talked about its desire and need to remove the Iranian government AND ITS ALLIES since, what???? …Jimmy Carter’s time in the WH? You, Arthur, and Pham don’t seem able to talk about that though. It’s as if you don’t understand any of the long term regional alliances in the Middle East at all, despite all of you pretending to be some sort of grand coterie of experts about Syrian society, and all the world elsewhere, too.

      ‘The Democratic Transition was always a pipe dream for imperialism facing potentially terminal crisis. Once the people have some power and are armed, they are not going to go back to being serfs and beggars. As Libya shows, a victorious revolution (even with NATO help) creates preconditions for national independence.’

      Oh brother! Libya has lost what small amount of national independence that Gaddafi once etched out for it, and is now sunk deep into a new longterm DEPENDENCE on the neo-colonial imperialist governments it has now become a subservient client to. No independence newly found there at all, Dave. I have not seen such utter Left confusion since so many comrades were once cheering on the Solidarity crew of Poland thinking it was all leading up to a new rebirth of socialism, etc. Remember those times? Gorbachev, the lover of Margaret Thatcher and Ronnie Reagan seen as socialist liberator back then…. by so many foolish ‘marxism’-disoriented bumpkins?

      • Brian S.

        @Anthony Abdo: Tony, as you are aware Libya is a particular pet concern of mine, so I cannot allow these slurs on your part to pass without objection. “Libya has lost what small amount of national independence that Gaddafi once etched out for it, and is now sunk deep into a new long term DEPENDENCE on the neo-colonial imperialist governments it has now become a subservient client to. ” This is a sentence so vague that I truly cannot deduce what you are talking about (or indeed if you are talking about anything material at all.) Could you please spell out what you are refferring to here – some citation of sources would be impressive, but even just reference to concrete events would allow us to move onto the terrain of rational discussion.

        • Anthony Abdo

          Come now, Brian. What personal ties do you have that would make the situation in Libya such a ‘particular concern’ of yours? Any, or none at all? You are perhaps able to find Libya on a map and what else besides that, if anything at all?

          Libya has imperialism’s chains around it now post Gaddafi and if that is too ‘vague’ for you to figure out the meaning of, then tough. I’ll try to spell it out some for you though one should be able to figure out that the US involvement in making your ‘Libyan revolution’ certainly should not make it so very difficult to piece these matters together. So see below to help you out some…

          ——–
          The Size of the Prize

          ‘Libya’s petroleum resources include significant discovered but undeveloped reserves. Iraq found itself in a similar position after the regime of Saddam Hussein was deposed; it has now embarked on one of the greatest petroleum development initiatives in the history of the world, with petroleum production projected to escalate from 3 mmbbl/day to 6 mmbbl/day or more, possibly even as high as 12 mmbbl/day. This has been initiated by means of the award of petroleum contracts by the government of Iraq to more than fifty international oil companies….Libya’s discovered but undeveloped reservoirs are not as prolific as in Iraq. However, the opportunity exists for Libya to follow the example of Iraq by taking a similar approach to development. In order to do so, it needs to create a suitable and attractive petroleum regime, and embark on a petroleum contract award process that will seize these petroleum opportunities and harness them for the benefit of Libyans.’

          And thus spoke who, a Libyan? No that was Jay Park, a partner at Norton Rose, and a contributing author of “Oil Contracts- How to read and understand them”.

          Yes, how to understand them, Brian? You seem to be having trouble here but corporate legal expert Jay Park is not. See OpenOil.net’s ‘Petroleum Development Opportunities in Libya after the Arab Spring’ published less than 3 weeks ago @ http://openoil.net/2012/11/21/petroleum-development-opportunities-in-libya-after-the-arab-spring/ and background of Jay Park @ http://www.nortonrose.com/people/58485/j-jay-park

          • Brian S.

            @Anthony Abdo: Ah, Tony, now you’re venturing into TWO of my pet concerns – Libya AND oil.
            Jay Rose may well be “a contributing author of “Oil Contracts- How to read and understand them”. But that isn’t very relevant here because there aren’t any contracts to read – that is no new oil exploration contracts signed since the fall of Gaddafi..Indeed, there is NOTHING in his piece which supports your claim that “Libya has imperialism’s chains around it now post Gaddafi ” Note Mr Rose’s “five previous missions to Libya”( guess who he was doing business with then). Try reading the quote in your post – all it says is that Libya has considerable oil resources (now who would have guessed?) Rose’s piece is a reflection of the current international oil campaign to secure a renegotiation of the existing Libyan contracts. And what success are they meeting with? Try the passage in Rose’s article you didn’t quote: “when will Libyan interest in seeing exploration and development marry up with a contracting process that will permit IOCs to do so. The short answer is, not this year…” So where exactly are your “imperialist chains” ?

            • Anthony Abdo

              Chaos still reins supreme, Brian, THIS YEAR. ‘Next’ year is in 3 weeks and Jay Rose is obviously bullish about prospects now that Gaddafi is out for the petro internationals he is lawyer working for.

              ‘So where exactly are your “imperialist chains” ?’

              If you are unable to see what Rose can, it is probably due to your ‘marxist’ blinders being on. Try taking them off, Brian.

              • Brian S.

                @Anthony Abdo. Tony, please read my posts before you reply to them . “If you are unable to see what Rose can” – but what I point out is that Rose doesn’t “see” anything relevant to your argument – indeed his assessment appears to CONTRADICT your assertion. What he “sees” is that there is considerable potential for Libyan oil exploration; but he argues (in line with the IOC’s that he probably represents) that the IOCs won’t be interested unless they can get some sweet deals. He confirms that so far the Libyan authorities show no signs of offering those sort of deals.
                Since this non-evidence from Rose seems to be the best you can come up with, I take it that you have no evidence for your assertions.

                • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp

                  Facts, evidence, and rigorous research are beyond his ability. There are months of comments on this site that prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. I only bother responding to him occasionally to point out the obvious flaws in his reasoning and the holes in the evidence he presents.

                  • Anthony Abdo

                    Well, the US lawyer for the petroleum has this gleeful appraisal below of the situation but apparently you and Brian can’t make sense out of what almost all others can. Why that is so is no mystery since it is evident that you both simply want to see ‘revolution when there is actually counter-revolution in process. The imperialists now feel themselves pretty firmly in control with just a quick and small job of cleaning up some rubble and rabble remaining in their eyes. And why shouldn’t they feel in control since it was their US military that basically did the job? Have you two comrades forgotten already that it was Nato’s bombing that was what was effective here? You call for the same to be done now in Syria so how can you forget?

                    ‘Libya’s petroleum resources include significant discovered but undeveloped reserves. Iraq found itself in a similar position after the regime of Saddam Hussein was deposed; it (Iraq) has now embarked on one of the greatest petroleum development initiatives in the history of the world’ (and hence Libya can now follow in Iraq’s footsteps!!!!!)

                    Not too hard to figure out but it’s your ideology that makes you willfully blind, deaf, and dumb here The corporate petroleum lawyer gloats about the grand opening for petroleum corporations now that Gaddafi is out of the picture and in so many words, BUT some comrades simply want to remain blind to it all.

                    • byork

                      Good grief! Anthony is an example of what we’re up against – those of us who prefer bourgeois democracy to autocracy and fascism. Do you realize, Anthony, that the evidence you presented above for your assertion about Libya and oil does not substantiate your claim in any way? You then try another tact by referring to Iraq. Yet as I and others have pointed out previously on this site, Iraq’s oil remains nationalized. So, Libya will follow in Iraq’s footsteps with a nationalized oil industry? And please don’t tell me that technical service agreements are a form of neo-colonialism! In Australia we have a colloquial term “drongo”. It rolls off the tongue so nicely when directed at those who think like you; those whose anti-imperialist chest-beating would leave the Syrian people to the bombardments of the regime there.

                    • Aaron Aarons

                      Yes, ‘byork’, Iraqi oil is still nationalized, as is that of Saudi-ruled Arabia and almost every oil-producing country in the world. But if you want to understand the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, you have to analyze the Bremer Orders which, among other things, left the Iraqis with little defense against imperialist penetration and control of their economy.

                      I’m not, BTW, making any statements about the Libyan oil industry, since I haven’t found the time yet, given my priorities and personal limitations, to look into the matter.

                    • Aaron Aarons

                      ‘byork’ refers to “those of us who prefer bourgeois democracy to autocracy and fascism.” I think that all of us here prefer, other things being equal, more democratic rights and less autocracy in any country we are talking about. What we don’t support is the use of formal bourgeois democracy as a cover for greater control of the world by the imperialist “democracies”, who are by far the greatest threat to humanity and the planet.

                      Maybe you haven’t noticed, BTW, that most imperialist rapine and mass murder in the last century and more has been carried out by bourgeois-democratic governments. In fact, what is perhaps the worst such mass murder is that which is still going on in the Eastern Congo, where way over 5 million people have died since 1996 as a result of the repeated invasions and looting of that region by the formally democratic, U.S.-backed governments of Rwanda and Uganda.

    • Aaron Aarons

      If it turns out that you are correct and that there is a genuine and significant social-revolutionary component among the Syrian rebels, you’ll all be sorry you called for imperialist intervention.

      Incidentally, most anti-interventionists do not think Syria is like Iraq. Rather, we think that imperialism is like imperialism, in the sense that imperialists may use different strategies and tactics in different situations, but that anything they do is, at least if it doesn’t blow up in their faces, in the interest of the imperialists and therefore against the interests of the human and other species.

      Of course, I’m talking about a situation like the present where there is one dominant imperialist bloc, and leaving out of consideration for now the question of how to intervene in a situation of genuine conflict between imperialist blocs, with no bloc dominant, such as existed much of the time before 1945.

      • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp

        The social-revolutionary component of the Syrian revolution has been established long ago:
        http://harpers.org/archive/2012/08/welcome-to-free-syria/

        Please, pay attention.

        • Anthony Abdo

          You are the one who needs to pay some attention to news, Pham, and not others who you want to criticize. Here is a report from one hour ago and it totally contradicts what you were saying to us as if we were clueless and not yourself…

          ‘BEIRUT (Reuters) – Syrian rebels backed by radical Islamists captured a northern regimental command centre of President Bashar al-Assad’s army, activists said on Sunday…
          …The rebels’ capture of the regimental command centre in the Sheikh Suleiman region of Aleppo province, however, shows growing cooperation and even allegiance to radical Islamists who have proven to be some of the most effective fighters.

          It is unclear how much Jabhat al-Nusra’s exclusion from the newly-formed rebel military command in Syria, an effort backed by Western, Turkish and Arab security officials, will affect efforts to unify rebel ranks and increase financial support.

          Led by Brigadier Selim Idris, the new command structure itself is also Islamist-dominated, though it has the backing of many Western states which have expressed reluctance to support the rebels due to the presence of radicals.

          Radical groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra are small compared with other factions but their influence has grown in recent months, partly due to their successful operations. Some residents and rebels also believe the hardliners are more disciplined than some rebels who have been accused of looting and kidnapping.’

          from ‘Jihadist-backed rebels take Syrian army command post’ @ http://www.euronews.com/newswires/1753830-jihadist-backed-rebels-take-syrian-army-command-post/

          • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp

            This doesn’t contradict anything I said. Again, you are not reading.

            http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/la-fg-us-syria-20121208,0,6941139.story

            • Aaron Aarons

              The article you link to begins with these subheads:

              U.S. now hindered by distance it kept on Syria conflict
              Washington’s influence in the strategic nation is limited by its weak ties to Syrian rebel commanders who will have a major say in what happens if Bashar Assad is toppled.

              So, if these assertions are true, it’s a good thing the U.S. did not intervene more directly! Or do you, Pham Binh, want ‘Washington’ (and we’re obviously not talking about the majority-Black population of that city) to have more influence?

              • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp

                So it’s a good thing revolutionaries in Syria have no weapons to fight Assad’s planes, tanks, and helicopters? That’s pacifism, not Marxism.

                And it’s never a good idea to only read the headlines.

                • Aaron Aarons

                  Where in my comment that you are responding to here did I say anything one way or the other about arms. I was talking about the purported lack of U.S. influence in Syria, and expressing my pleasure at the possible truth of that assertion.

                  In any case, to whatever extent the U.S. and its ultra-reactionary Gulf monarchist partners arm anybody, they won’t be arming anybody that genuine leftists would call ‘revolutionaries’. ‘Rebels’, maybe, ‘Insurrectionists’, maybe, but not revolutionaries.

  • Brian S.

    I agree with the broad political sweep of Binh’s piece, and I can sympathise with the “stick bending” ( a la Lenin) that it engages in in order to correct the nonsense of the hysterical “anti-interventionists”. But I continue to believe that a political case is best made through strict respect for factual accuracy: so in that vein, I note the following:
    As far as I am aware, Syrian military attacks on Turkish territory have only taken place over a period of 8 months (since April 2012) and I can only tally 5 such incidents (plus the July shooting down of a Turkish military plane in contested airspace). All of these have involved artillery ordnance falling over the border (some with deadly repercussions). Turkey has made a vigorous military response to each of these incidents (apart from the shooting down of their jet) and even in aggregate they have not been serious enough to allow Turkey to seriously invoke Article 5 of the NATO treaty.
    Nevertheless I agree with Binh’s conclusion that neither Turkey nor the US nor NATO are preparing a major military inteventionin Syria (indeed to suggest otherwise in the context of the Iraq/Afghanistan experiences is absurd: this is one of the characteristic features of the “conspiracy left” – they portray western states as all-seeing and all-controlling,; and at the same time as completely stupid and unable to learn from experience)
    Where I disagree with Binh is in his assessment of what constitutes the real calculus behind US policy: “The “red line” is an empty threat, political posturing. No more, no less.”
    True the bluster over chemical weapons and the deployment of of Patriot batteries is “posturing” – but its posturing with a purpose, and is therefore a lot “more”. Its first of all an attempt to send a signal to the Assad regime (and perhaps even more to their Russian patrons) that the situation could escalate beyond their control. Secondly it expresses the fact that for a series of reasons the US could not tolerate the actual deployment of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime. That would very much “change the calculus” for Washington – and in a way it desperately wants to avoid. So the the current manoeuvres are an attempt to forestall the need for direct intervention. But we should recognise that there are some real teeth behind this posturing (although I doubt that even Washington knows quite what they are at this point).
    Panetta’s comments are appalling – but also extraordinarily ignorant, so we should’t read too much into them. This has been the received wisdom in US policy circles since Iraq: they tried to peddle it vigorously at various stages in the Libyan revolution but with no success. Its articulation in this context just shows how at sea US policy makers are: if they could persuade anyone in the Syrian opposition to accept this view (highly doubtful) its only consequence would be to shatter their political credibility.

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp

      So what can the U.S. actually do about the deployment of chemical weapons? Ground troops are off the table; airstrikes wouldn’t help and might actually make the problem worse by releasing toxins into the air. All they’ve got left is a hope and a prayer that working with some elements of the regime and the revolution simultaneously will do the job: http://alpha.syriadeeply.org/2012/12/to-secure-chemical-weapons-us-trains-rebels-brigades/#.UMIZTneykr4

      My take is that the reason they are getting so loud about the “red line” is precisely because their options are so limited. They really don’t want to go down that road.

      Here’s additional evidence re: my argument that the main goal of the U.S. with Syria is to retain as much of the existing regime in its existing form as possible:
      http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArchiveDetails.aspx?ID=464298#ixzz2EKuBxNhR

      The U.S. wants an Egypt-style outcome in Syria, not a Libya-style outcome.

      • Anthony Abdo

        The Egypt revolution continues and is trying to make gains that would put it far in advance of what the Libyan counter-revolution has done, yet Pham is personally moving counterclockwise and reaches the total opposite conclusion to what any marxist should be able to read out these current events. That’s because Pham liked the NATO bombing entrance into Libyan affairs and Nato still has not entered DIRECTLY into the affairs of Egypt by bombing the country. When and if Nato were eventually to come to do so, the bombings will then certainly have ‘marxist’ Pham cheering for it and celebrating! Bizarro World!

        • Aaron Aarons

          “The Egypt revolution continues and is trying to make gains [...]”

          Treating a contradictory phenomenon like “The Egypt[ian] revolution” as if it were a subject, i.e., an actor, rather than an ‘object’ or ‘process’ is a mystification that does not help to understand its past, present or future. There are different actors in what is happening in Egypt that are trying to do often-opposing things, as is evident from what has been happening in the streets there for the last couple of weeks, at least.

          It would be useful to know what various proletarian and left forces are doing or trying to do in Egypt. Please provide links to such info, preferably in English, Spanish or French, if you have any. (Perhaps other readers of this site would also find information in Arabic, German, or other languages useful as well.)

          • Anthony Abdo

            Aaron, it’s already clear to all that much of the Egyptian population to the Left of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian military crew that propped up the Mubarak dictatorship are still quite mobilized at this point. So just what more do you need to know?

            ‘It would be useful to know what various proletarian and left forces are doing or trying to do in Egypt.’

            The protestors (as they say themselves) are trying to block the Muslim Brotherhood from setting up themselves as the new US backed replacement regime for Mubarak’s old one. Contrast that to the work of those Syrian ‘rebels’ and Libyan ‘revolutionaries’ having asked for military interventionism and more WAR from the Nato bloc and US. And I have also yet to hear anybody in Bahrain demanding that Nato and the US come bomb their current government either. Nor in Yemen either. Are the revolutionaries in Somalia calling for the US and Nato to bomb their country to remove their dictatorship? Go figure?

            • Aaron Aarons

              I probably didn’t make it clear that my main objection was to the assertion that “The Egypt revolution … is trying …”, since the Egyptian revolution, as a phenomenon rather than a conscious entity, can’t ‘try’ to do anything.

          • Brian S.

            @AaronAarons. I’m not clear if you are looking for info on the role of the left in the current situation, or more generally in the Egyptian “Spring”. The western left group with the closest links to Egyptian far left forces is the British SWP, who are connected with the Egyptian Revolutionary Socialists. You can find more or less weekly reports from their perspective in Socialist Worker. Quite an interesting recent report is http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=30176
            The SWP’s theoretical journal. Socialist Review, has carried regular overview/analytic pieces for several years. See http://www.socialistreview.org.uk/article.php?articlenumber=12112
            for the most recent.
            Anyone who can read Arabic (that excludes me) can get their views directly from http://revsoc.me/

      • Brian S.

        @Pham Binh. I agree that the management of the chemical weapons issue is a very difficult one for the US and that that explains why there is all the current bluster about “red lines” What they are probably considering is committing a small number of US/allied special forces coordinating with FSA forces, backed by NATO air support. The report that you link to on the training of anti-Assad forces is either a preliminary to this or another stage in the diplomatic bluff. But there is still a big problem with the composition and political reliability (from a US standpoint) of the FSA.
        Your suggestion that they might seek to to work concurrently with some elements of the regime is quite possible – the general who was supposed to be in charge of the chemical warfare programme has already defected, and they may be hoping that any further moves to operationalise these weapons would provoke more defections. But juggling those two particular balls will be tricky.
        I’m not quite sure what you mean when you say that the US wants an “Egyptian rather than Libyan” solution. If you mean leaving a large part of the current REGIME (analogous to the Egyptian military) in place, then I doubt that they are that stupid. If you mean ensuring a transfer of power to conservative social forces who will keep a large part of the regime’s administrative apparatus in place, then you are undoubtedly right. From their point of view Riad Hijab / Manaf Tlass would constitute a “dream team” – but remember that’s what they tried to engineer after dumping the SNC, and instead had to settle for the cumbersome National Coalition. And one of the reasons why Hijab/Tlass are so attractive is that they broke with the regime early enough to be at least partially freed of the taint – anyone coming over only as part of a last-ditch settlement would not be so fragrant.
        By the way, there are reports by a prominent Syrian opposition blogger, via Le Monde in France, that there may have been a trial deployment of chemical weapons in Daraya a week ago.

        • Aaron Aarons

          That last sentence:

          By the way, there are reports by a prominent Syrian opposition blogger, via Le Monde in France, that there may have been a trial deployment of chemical weapons in Daraya a week ago.

          with formulations like “there are reports” and “there may have been” is totally useless as information but useful to those who want to create the impression that the Syrian government is threatening to use chemical weapons. It’s propaganda in the worst sense of the word.

          • Brian S.

            @AaronAarons: I mentioned this, in the very cautious way you have acknowledged, as a coda to my discussion with Binh because it related to the matters we were discussing. I became aware of this report two days ago and if I had wanted “to make propaganda” and “create an impression” I’d have made a big splash of it then, reported it as fact, and provided a link to a set of rather graphic photographs that are on line. I didn’t because, some things were unclear in the story. What I did say is entirely true: there is a report by a (highly regarded) Syrian opposition blogger; it is based on detailed visual records that he has on the deaths of two relatives and a friend who died after a Syrian army attack in Daraya; and they are are strongly suggestive of exposure to chemical agents (intense thirst, burning around the mouth and face). One of the reasons I was cautious is that he is:
            “I have no explanation of the preceding facts. I am not sure about the nature of the weapon used in this dramatic event. But it is certain that it was not ordinary bombs that were used that day. ” (He accompanies it with a photo of an odd piece of ordinance that appears to have a concrete base.)
            Make of this what you will.

  • Brian S.

    There’s something of an emerging consensus that Syria is moving into the end game,, although exactly how and in what time frame that will play out remains uncertain. One important factor will be whether or not Russia decides to dump Assad.
    Inevitably this means that everyone’s thoughts are starting to turn to the question of what after Assad? There are some useful thoughts from the Guardian’s Syria correspondent Martin Chulov today: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/dec/09/syria-fall-of-damascus-aftermath
    I may try to collate some material on this over the next few days and offer it as a thread. But, as usual, if anyone wants to get their ahead of me, please feel free.

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp

      Assad’s wife will dump him before Russia does. Mark my words.

  • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

    I found a new blog where Tony and Aaron Aarons can post all of their denunciations of me, totally uncensored:
    http://return2source.wordpress.com/

    Have at it! :)

    • Anthony Abdo

      Pham, are you developing a persecution complex now? This comment by you is completely without substance nor cause to have even posted it.

    • Aaron Aarons

      Thanks for the link, P.B.!

      I think they do a good enough job of exposing the denouncing the pro-imperialist “degenerate left” without my help. It’s a bit frustrating, however, since their flaws, and there are some, are way more subtle than yours and would require a lot more work to elaborate on.

      I do like the Trotsky quote they, who are not generally admirers of the man, provide:

      Truly, one must have an empty head to reduce world antagonisms and military conflicts to the struggle between fascism and democracy. Under all masks one must know how to distinguish exploiters, slave-owners, and robbers!

      • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

        It’s a bit frustrating, however, since their flaws, and there are some, are way more subtle than yours and would require a lot more work to elaborate on.

        I know. The Assad photos and the declarations of undying loyalty to his dictatorship make my scribbling look positively obtuse.

  • Louis Proyect

    I don’t think that Tony and Aaron would enjoy being a “regular” at a blog whose views they shared. As most of us understand, they are simply trolling here. For some people, trolling gives them a purpose to an otherwise empty life. Take Aaron, who is now in his 70s, and rather unconnected to any organized political activity in the real world. Getting up in the morning and going to this website and “exposing” the traitors makes him feel kind of the same way I felt when I was organizing volunteers to go to Nicaragua in the 1980s: vindicated. Of course, only a psychologist could explain why such a sterile act is capable of making a human being feel fulfilled. Peter Camejo gave a talk at the Brecht Forum about 15 years ago where he spoke about the subculture that “Leninism” has bequeathed. Decades from now, he said, people will look back to this period to try to figure out how so many sincere and idealistic people could have ended up so crazed.

    • Ben Campbell

      This reminds me, on my to-do list is to add a “like” feature for comments.

    • Brian S.

      Hmm, Louis. If we are speaking in generic rather than personal terms, I think this description fits me rather well too – albeit with somewhat different content, and I haven’t quite made it to the 70 mark yet. Just hope that when I do that I have a similar level of energy. Perhaps that’s why I tend to be a bit more tolerant vis-a-vis Tony and Aaron: I can’t help but have a “there but for the grace of (something or other) go I” moment when I read them.

    • Aaron Aarons

      And how do all your often-vicious attacks on various anti-imperialists over the last couple of years make you feel, Louis? Vindicated? Or are only the motivations of those who disagree with your anti-anti-imperialist stance to be subjected to psychological analysis?

      • Louis Proyect

        Actually, Aaron, I don’t troll websites whose owners I consider traitors to the cause. You know and I know that nothing you or Tony say here amounts to anything more than pissing into a strong wind. And as far as my “often-vicious” attacks are concerned, I would estimate that maybe 1 out of 25 posts on my blog are replies to Global Research type crypto-Stalinists like you. Mostly I write about films, American history, the problems of “Leninism”, the Obama administration, etc. Your obsessive trolling of websites like mine, this one, Richard Seymour’s, etc. is rather pathological in my view but one thing I’ve learned in my study of the subculture of the ultraleft over the years is that those who are mired in it are hopeless cases. That is why I eventually banned you from my blog. It took me a while to figure out that your posting on Libya, etc. was in the same vein as someone washing their hands 25 times a day to get rid of the germs. Sad really.

        • Aaron Aarons

          (1) During the time you, Louis Proyect, still allowed me to post under my own name, you were posting constant attacks on what you called “the anti-anti-Qaddafi left”, which prompted me to label you “the anti-anti-imperialist left”.

          (2) My comments that got you to go nuts in responding to me were the ones that suggested that violence in response to imperialist violence need not take place only within the countries targeted by imperialism but, perhaps, inside the imperialist countries themselves. In particular, the last comment of mine that you left on your blog and the one following it that you immediately erased were both criticisms of Michel Chossudovsky, the original “Global Research type crypto-Stalinist”, for his parenthetical remark in the following quote from him:

          “The protest movement should focus on the real seat of political authority; it should target (in a peaceful, orderly and nonviolent fashion) the US embassy, the delegation of the European Union, the national missions of the IMF and the World Bank.”

          It was the sentence I followed that quote with, “Can anybody other than a devout pacifist say why those criminal agencies and agents should be targeted only in a peaceful and non-violent fashion?”, that provoked the following response from you:

          “I don’t know how this schmuck got through my asshole filter. Will investigate promptly.”

          In other words, you didn’t see fit to defend the remark that I was criticizing, but to call me names (‘schmuck’ and ‘asshole’) and to ban me.

          P.S. I hope the moderators of this site, having allowed you to attack me several times in a personal, non-political manner, won’t feel a need to rebuke me for responding here (in a political, not personal, manner) to those attacks.

  • Pingback: Whose Revolution? Syria and the Imperialist Left | exval

  • Louis Proyect

    Aaron, I apologize for calling you a schmuck and an asshole. But I still maintain that you are a troll and that it was both in your interest and mine to ban you from my blog. I will not allow anybody, including you, to hang out at my blog accusing me of supporting imperialism. North Star has broader ambitions than my blog so I can understand why they would tolerate you and Tony.

    But the more important question you evade is what benefit you derive from making the same points over and over again in a forum that you regard as hopelessly compromised. I would not post comments on a daily basis at Harry’s Place or Norm Geras’s blog. I have better things to do with my time.

    Politics is essentially about seeking out allies. North Star was created to serve as a pole of attraction for people critical of “Leninism” and supporting an analysis of the Arab Spring that you view as reactionary. If you had the courage of your convictions, you’d set up a blog to promote your own views. Or you would spend more time at places that were closer philosophically to your own views.

    But you won’t because you are essentially a troll, just like somebody who is anti-abortion joining a feminist listserv, etc. When I first discovered the Internet in 1992 at Columbia University, trolling was a lot more prevalent. People have learned to eschew this kind of behavior even if you haven’t.

    • Aaron Aarons

      Thanks for your apology regarding your use of name-calling. On to more substantial matters:

      You write, “Politics is essentially about seeking out allies. North Star was created to serve as a pole of attraction for people critical of “Leninism” and supporting an analysis of the Arab Spring that you view as reactionary.”

      (1) Left politics is just as much about confronting and deconstructing pro-capitalist and pro-imperialist ideology, such as that expressed openly by Arthur and the Australians and, more ambiguously, by most of the other posters here, as it is about seeking out allies. It is also about clarifying political differences with those, including you, Brian S., and others, perhaps including Pham Binh, with whom consistent anti-imperialists might well make united-front-style alliances in certain situations, such as in opposition to U.S. aggression in places like Haiti or elsewhere in Latin America. But the possibility of such alliances is reason for more, rather than less, debate among us.

      (2) I am certainly critical of aspects of what some self-styled ‘Leninists’ and some ‘anti-Leninists’ label “Leninism”, and of some of Lenin’s own practice. But I am not against (or for) “Leninism” as an abstraction.

      (3) Where is The North Star’s agreed-upon analysis of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’, so I can decide whether or not that analysis is ‘reactionary’? Or am to suppose, without its being stated explicitly, that the writings of Claiborne, Binh, and some others here represent such an agreed-upon analysis?

      P.S. If bringing my views into fora where they might otherwise not be heard makes me a “troll”, I can live with that.

      • Louis Proyect

        Or am to suppose, without its being stated explicitly, that the writings of Claiborne, Binh, and some others here represent such an agreed-upon analysis?

        As much as the writings of Thomas Mountain, Shamus Cooke, and Jean Bricmont do on Counterpunch. But of course you know that as well as I do. CP does not allow comments so there’s not opportunity for those who disagree with them to express themselves. But even there was, I don’t think it’s a good idea for people who are so far apart as I am with Thomas Mountain to fight with him on a blog or mailing list. As I tried to explain to you Marxist debate is much more productive when there is mutual respect for your adversary’s credentials on the left. For example, there are members of both the Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative on Marxmail. They have major differences on Cuba but are working to narrow their differences on Australian questions so as to work toward some practical working relationships.

        Of course nothing like that has anything to do with what you and Tony are doing here. You are here just to play True Revolutionary Exposing the Pro-Imperialist Traitors, the same sort of behavior that you can see at Left Forums in NYC when Spartacist League members “intervene” at a workshop and begin haranguing the speakers and the audience. I doubt that a single person has come closer to them in the 20 years or more that they have been doing this. But then again their goal is not to draw people nearer but to antagonize them. There is a deep psychological dysfunction at work here that is related to Trotskyism in its dotage. Thank goodness young people coming up today are fairly immune to it.

        • Aaron Aarons

          While I have taken flak at times for defending the right of Spartacist League members to speak during discussion periods (provided they stay within the same time limits that apply to everyone else from the “public”), I have little sympathy for their way of “intervening” in most cases, even when I agree with their ‘line’ on a particular issue. Unlike the S.L., I try to make my own remarks responsive to the discussion and not a stand-alone proclamation of my own ‘line’.

          Even when I am hostile to the speaker(s), or become hostile in response to their reply to something I say, I don’t just harangue them but deal with what they are saying, or avoiding, about a topic. This has happened, for example, with Norman “two-state/no-to-BDS” Finkelstein, and with Eva Golinger when she defended the action of the Chavez government in rendering a Colombian exile revolutionary journalist to the Colombian state. But generally my ‘interventions’ in left discussions, including with anarchists, Trotskyists, Maoists, et al., result in civil interactions.

          BTW, you write, “As I tried to explain to you Marxist debate is much more productive when there is mutual respect for your adversary’s credentials on the left.” But, unless I get involved in whatever area of software engineering you specialized in, there is little I would consider you qualified to “explain” to me. And there will be times when my adversary, whatever their credentials, does not deserve respect, and my goal will be to demolish my adversary’s arguments in front of an audience of people who might be swayed against the adversary.

          • Louis Proyect

            But generally my ‘interventions’ in left discussions, including with anarchists, Trotskyists, Maoists, et al., result in civil interactions.

            When you tell someone that they are cheerleaders for American imperialism, it does not matter if you say it “civilly”. For example, if subscribed to a DSA mailing list and wrote 3 posts a day telling them that they were helping the bourgeoisie exploit the working class, they would probably remove me within a few days. As Binh pointed out anybody can say anything they want here as long as it is “civil” so I imagine that you can continue to equate other people here to Karl Kautsky or Christopher Hitchens to your heart’s delight. I obviously wasn’t asking for your removal, only pointing out that your participation here is a waste of your time and ours. Over the 20 years I have been on the Internet, I have tried to get people to agree with me not to “expose” them. It is not too hard to figure out whether you are making progress. You look for remarks like “That makes sense” or “I had not considered that”. It is clear that this is not your goal. Perhaps this is an implicit recognition on your part that you are incapable or persuading anybody that your ideas make sense.

            • Aaron Aarons

              Louis Proyect writes:

              You look for remarks like “That makes sense” or “I had not considered that”. It is clear that this is not your goal. Perhaps this is an implicit recognition on your part that you are incapable or persuading anybody that your ideas make sense.

              How about applying that same standard to your own writings, Louis? You have certainly written a lot more on the Web than I have, so you should be able to point to a number of instances where somebody who previously disagreed with you gave one of those responses, or something similar, to something you wrote.

              And, BTW, I am quite happy with the amount of positive feedback over the years for my remarks at meetings, in call-ins to KPFA-Pacifica and other radio stations, and to my writings on the Internet. Nevertheless, I constantly try to improve my speaking and writing, so as to be more clear in what I am trying to get across.

      • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

        I don’t agree with Claiborne’s view that Libya under Ghadafi was in any way, shape, or form feudal; Ben Campbell doesn’t agree with how I and Claiborne describe the evolution of U.S. policy towards Syria in 2011-2012; Tony (who wrote this: http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=1160) doesn’t seem to agree with practically anyone or even himself at times.

        There is no party line here on anything. This is what makes all “anti-imperialist” hoopla over the “pro-imperialist” North Star unpardonable idiocy. People here speak for themselves and no one else; the point is to have the debate and air whatever differences we have out in a comradely fashion.

        • Aaron Aarons

          It takes a great deal of restraint to air one’s differences with someone like ‘Arthur’ or ‘Anita’ “in a comradely fashion”. (I put their handles in quotes because those are not names that actually identify them.) I’m sure that Lenin, Trotsky and lesser (i.e., like me) anti-war leftists had the same difficulty in restraining themselves in dealing with their pro-war opponents in 1914. But I will continue trying to be civil even with them.

          • Aaron Aarons

            Now that I know, thanks to Anita, that ‘Arthur’ is, in fact, Albert Langer, a.k.a Arthur Dent, is so well-known that he has his own Wikipedia page, and doesn’t seem to be saying anything here that he doesn’t say elsewhere, I wonder why he has been using the rather ambiguous identifier, ‘Arthur’, on this site.

          • byork

            Such is the right-wing nature of Aaron Aarons’ political outlook that he regards himself as “anti-war”. The left has never been anti-war in such a generalised way but has distinguished between just and unjust wars. We opposed the inter-imperialist First World War, preferring that the workers turned their guns on their commanders rather than put their weapons down. The paucity of Aarons’ position is found in his attempt to suggest that that Arthur and Anita somehow would have supported involvement in the First War. This is wrong – and fairly stupid on his part, as it is so clear they are not part of that tradition.

            I first became aware of Arthur in the the 1960s and supported the leftists who, despite opposition from other ‘leftists’, supported the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam in its military war against the fascist regime in the South that was backed by US imperialism. For me, back then, this issue shook me out of any pacifistic feelings. And just as I had supported armed struggle against the regime in South Vietnam, so too the same values led me to support those who struggled against the repressive (I would say fascist) regime in Iraq in the 1990s. When the Iraqis rose up against the regime in 1991, and the US backed down on its initial offer of support, leaving them to be massacred, I would have happily marched in protest against the US betrayal. The Saddam regime too had been propped up militarily by the US – until 2003 when things changed fundamentally and US imperialism actually helped the Iraqi people overthrow their oppressor. I opposed the ‘anti-war’ movement of 2003 because I see no basis for protesting against US imperialism when it supports oppressed people (yes, for its own reasons based on a changed understanding of national interest) against oppressors whom it previously kept in power. Not surprisingly, this anti-war movement died in the arse when elections were held in Iraq and, surprise surprise, the people voted for a range of parties and groups who ruled in coalition.

            Like Arthur and Anita, I have remained pro-war when it comes to assisting people who are downtrodden to overthrow their oppressors in recent situations, such as Libya and Syria, where such support is necessary to stop or reduce the slaughter and/or to provide weaponry to the out-gunned populace. There is nothing ‘anti-war’ in this and I do wish the historians would start referring to the Vietnam period as the ‘Vietnam solidarity movement’ rather than the ‘anti-war’ movement. There is somehting gutless about those who marched with NLF flags back then who now claim to have been ‘anti-war’. We were hawks (on the side of the Vietnamese).

            • Aaron Aarons

              “We opposed the inter-imperialist First World War, preferring that the workers turned their guns on their commanders rather than put their weapons down. The paucity of Aarons’ position is found in his attempt to suggest that that Arthur and Anita somehow would have supported involvement in the First War. This is wrong – and fairly stupid on his part, as it is so clear they are not part of that tradition.”

              No, you don’t support wars by one group of imperialist powers against another. But you do support wars by one or more imperialist powers against states that are only powerful enough to oppress “their own people”, and not those powerful enough to commit rapine and murder around the world.

            • Aaron Aarons

              Obviously, I was referring to being “anti-war” in relation to imperialist wars. One doesn’t have to look hard to places where I have expressed support for all kinds of war against imperialists and, depending on the situation, other oppressors. For example, I have often expressed support for the FARC in Colombia, the NPA in the Philippines, Maoists (and those incorrectly labelled as ‘Maoists’) in India, Hezbollah, various armed Palestinian groups, etc., etc., as well as those (like the Red Brigades and Red Army Faction) who have, even if sometimes with bad tactical and strategic judgment, engaged in irregular armed actions against agents of the enemy. And one of my heroes of the struggle against U.S. imperialism is Hasan Akbar, who is now on death row for killing two officers (not ordinary soldiers!) of the U.S. army in Kuwait while they were preparing for the invasion of Iraq.

              So, as you can see, I am not a pacifist.

          • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

            “I’m sure that Lenin, Trotsky and lesser (i.e., like me) anti-war leftists had the same difficulty in restraining themselves in dealing with their pro-war opponents in 1914.”

            You sure are wrong.

            “‘The first part of the lecture in which Plekhanov attacked the Germans had his approval, and he applauded it. In the second part, however, Plekhanov set forth his ‘defence-of-the-country’ views. There was no room for doubt any more. Ilyich asked for the floor – he was the only one to do so. He went up to the speaker’s table with a pot of beer in his hand. He spoke calmly, and only the pallor of his face betraved his agitation. He said in effect that the war was not an accidental occurrence, that the way for it had been paved by the whole nature of the development of bourgeois society. The international congresses at Stuttgart, Copenhagen and Basle had defined what the attitude of the Socialists should be towards the impending war. Only by combatting the chauvinist intoxication in their countries would the Social-Democrats be fulfilling their duty. The war, which had just begun, ought to be converted into a decisive fight against the ruling classes on the part of the proletariat.

            “Ilyich had only ten minutes. He could only deal with the bare essentials.'”
            – Krupskaya, Reminiscences of Lenin
            http://www.marxists.org/archive/krupskaya/works/rol/rol19.htm

            Lenin did not have a problem avoiding hysterics in debating even defencists even as millions of workers were being slaughtered by imperialist powers. There’s no excuse for anyone to behave that way when the stakes are so much lower.

            • Aaron Aarons

              “He went up to the speaker’s table with a pot of beer in his hand. He spoke calmly, and only the pallor of his face betraved his agitation.”

              This description of Lenin’s behavior and appearance indicates to me that he had difficulty, or had to put great effort into, restraining himself.

  • http://strangetimeslastsuperpower.com informally yours

    Well I have tried to refrain from commenting here lest my words again be used against others and it remain unmoderated. For those readers not in the know the Australians under discussion here are – pesky with a capital P and A. The Australians of this thread being of the good Australians Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative and the bad Australians; Arthur aka Albert Langer, PatrickM, myself, Anita/Informally Yours, and Byork. Without the apostrophe marks please moderator. I am thinking it a deliberate attempt at questioning the credibility of individuals rather than what they are saying.

    Particular mention of Aaron Aarons nasty name-calling and outing of the so-called “crypto Stalinists”. Another dose of Commie-bashing if ever there was it. In reality pesky as we are the Australian left has always been something of a mine-field in the international sense, as we are now as the so-called anti-anti-imperialists. We waited a long time in Australia before the introduction of Trotskyite parties and it’s been all down hill since. (So Louis Proyect I cannot share the enthusiasm for Australian Socialist grouplets.) Until then the history of the left was based in the Communist and Labor party’s. In Australia people have rejected the SWP (Founded by the Percy brothers under the name Resistance some time after 1968.) A short lived group who adopted a strategy of participating in Student organisation elections etc. and who adopted so-called green left philosophy and approach in the early 1990s- much to the chagrin of Marxist thinkers in the party. These are the issues debated in the student movement when I was most active.

    Personally I have never been a member of a party (Only various student caucuses) coming as I did to activism after the dissolution of the Communist Party Australia in the early 1980s, and Marxism in the philosophical sense since the CPA dissolution – when international socialist groups have attempted to build and recruit (With little success) in Australia, producing among others, such ‘luminaries’ as Jill and Jeff Sparrow, and Clive Hamilton supporter of Internet censorship and morals computer filters. FRI (for Readers Information) This is the Australian history of the groups being mentioned here, from afar, as prospective viable Australian tendencies/groups. Really got to say it’s not going to happen. Soc. All. and Alternative are both associated tendencies growing from splits within the ISO Australia in the 1990s who are pursuing wrong electoral strategies if given the opportunity, and where they can and do run to capture positions under the current abomination of an electoral system they do so on its terms rather than demanding Proportional Representation in Multi-Member electorates.
    PS Aaron Aarons I am happy that you are happy that Louis P apologised for calling you a schmuck and asshole. “Incidentally, in verifying Patrick M’s name, I came across these words from ‘Anita’, who has posted here at least once and is apparently personally associated with Mr. Muldowney:” So you might say if the cap fits… But of course women associated with left men can’t possibly think and speak for themselves and need to be dragged in when they are irrelevant/not taking part in the discussion at hand. I understand that world completely and hope to avoid it like the Bubonic Plague as do most interested persons that are burnt off as horizontal recruitments or paper sellers and foot soldiers in these tragic grouplets. This is how the left gasses itself. Good title btw.

    • Aaron Aarons

      It’s a bit hard to understand you here, but it appears that you are identifying yourself as the ‘Anita’ I was quoting, although you are using a different handle for this particular post. (Both handles have been used on this site in the past, presumably by you.)

      The page of yours from which I took the quote is at http://www.lastsuperpower.net/Members/anita and certainly gives the impression that you are closely associated with Patrick Muldowney. In particular, there is this paragraph:

      The reason i am writing here today can be directly attributed to the Gulf war MK1 because it was through a discussion in the tavern at Uni that i met Patrick. It was Patrick who explained that my beliefs about Kuwait and Iraq were quite wrong. As it was a brief conversation at the bar while on my way to a very important meeting (i’m trying to make fun of myself) I decided to check it out. Lo and behold Kuwait existed prior to Iraq and so i realised that my opposition to that war was ill-founded. Some time later, i again saw Patrick in the tavern and informed him that i had taken his comments on board and realised that it was wrong to oppose the Australian involvement in the Gulf war MK1. (I think he decided he wanted to give me babies at the very moment)

      So I don’t think it was unreasonable of me to provisionally infer, pending their possible disassociation of themselves from it, that your statement that I quoted — and that most leftists would consider to be a blatant manifestation of oppressor-nation arrogance towards people of oppressed nations — was a rather blunt expression of the politics of your informal grouping, even if, as seems likely, the exact formulation is yours and not Patrick’s or Arthur’s.

      BTW, the apparent fact that Kuwait became a British protectorate decades before the large area around it was separated from the Ottoman Empire and called “Iraq” doesn’t diminish my support for the forcible incorporation of “Kuwait” into Iraq, with the expropriation of its extended royal family, in 1990 or in 2020.

    • Aaron Aarons

      BTW, what are referring to when you write ‘Aaron Aarons nasty name-calling and outing of the so-called “crypto Stalinists”’? It was Louis Proyect who used the term “crypto Stalinists” here, when he refers to “Global Research type crypto-Stalinists like you [i.e., like me, Aaron Aarons!]” and I quoted its use by him somewhat ironically. And, since Michel Chossudovsky is, AFAIK, the main person at Global Research, I could hardly be accused of “outing” him.

      In fact, while I do think that aspects of ‘Stalinism’, particularly the promotion of variants of the Popular Front, are still a problem on the left, I don’t think my notion of ‘Stalinism’ and what is wrong with it is very close to Proyect’s.

      Aside from my alleged ‘outing of the so-called “crypto Stalinists”’, which I clearly did not do, what other “name-calling” are you accusing me of?

  • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

    The Russian government agrees with the thrust of my analysis:
    http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2012/12/23/279624/west-losing-influence-in-syria-russia/

    No doubt Russia’s claim that the West has little influence over the Syrian opposition will disappoint Tony and other opponents of the revolution.

    • Aaron Aarons

      The alleged fact that the Western imperialists have, at this time, little influence over the Syrian opposition is not, by any stretch of the imagination, an excuse for asking for more Western imperialist intervention, unless one thinks that more Western imperialist influence over the Syrian opposition would be a good thing for the global struggle against imperialist capitalism.

      • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

        No one is asking for such influence, except the West. You must have me confused with Barack Obama.

        • Aaron Aarons

          I didn’t imply that you were asking for more Western imperialist influence over the Syrian opposition. But it’s clear from the article you linked to and which you claimed supports your analysis that for the Western imperialists to do what you have called for would strengthen Western imperialist influence there.

      • Brian S.

        @AaronAarons: You are confusing “intervention” with “influence”; and, like so many “anti-interventionists” relying on the ambiguity of the term “intervention”. There are interventions and interventions – the main distinguishing factor being the degree of “influence” that accompanies them. A full scale western invasion of Syria (a la Iraq) would bring a great deal of “influence” (but fortunately, pace Arthur et al, will not happen); the provision of strategic weaponry would be a form of “intervention” but one without much guarantee of “influence” ( which is why the western governments aren’t doing it).

        • Aaron Aarons

          I am against all intervention by the Western imperialists in Syria. By ‘intervention’ I mean any action meant to affect the outcome of the conflicts there.

          Aside from opposing such intervention, I would also support making concrete demands on the imperialists that they provide food, shelter, etc. to refugees from the Syrian conflict (including Palestinians, Iraqis, et al.) who are now in camps, or otherwise in need, in Jordan and elsewhere. I would also want to demand that such aid be transparent, and not a cover for aid to any military or political forces.

          • Brian S.

            @Aaron Aarons. Exactly. And logically that includes diplomatic intervention – ie you would be opposed to imperialist initiated efforts to promote a “negotiated” solution. But if all forms of “intervention” are excluded that means that Syria (and by extension the rest of the world) is reduced to the dominance of the powerful – ie those who have power (the regime) hold on to it. A logical position, I accept: but that of bourgeois “realism”, with nothing in common with revolutionary politics- bourgeois, liberal, marxist, or socialist.

            • Aaron Aarons

              I don’t understand your logic at all, Brian. How does exclusion (if we had the power to enforce it!) of the influence in any situation of those who hold the greatest military and economic power in the world, the Western imperialists, help maintain “the dominance of the powerful” in the world? Wouldn’t the weakening of the ability of the Western Axis to affect the outcomes of conflicts greatly increase the possibility of successful local and regional struggles against capitalist domination, maybe even opening the way to eventual socialist revolutions in the imperialist countries?

  • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh
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