The world has suddenly realised that there is a “refugee crisis”. There are more refugees now than at any time since World War II. The number has grown three-fold since the end of 2001. The problem is treated as if it arose just recently, but it has been a long time coming. The pressure has been building and building until it has burst the dams of wilful ignorance.
Death and despair has migrated to the doorsteps of Europe. But tens of millions of people do not simply abandon home and native land for an insecure dangerous future of desperate struggle. The forces that have created this crisis are massive and historic in scale. People are now confronted with a tiny fraction of the horrors that have been visited upon millions and millions in the last 14 years. The refugee crisis is merely a symptom of the far greater and far more brutal reality. This is not just a “current crisis” to last a dozen news cycles, and it will not be resolved by humanitarian support.
The current crisis is similar in magnitude to that of World War II because the events causing it are nearly as epochal and momentous as a World War. Those who leave their homelands now face much greater peril of death than asylum seekers faced 20 years ago, yet despite this their numbers have swollen to the tens of millions.
The crisis has been caused by a new Holocaust, but it is one we refuse to acknowledge. The facts of the mass violence and mass destruction are not hidden. We can see the destruction and death that follows Western intervention, but we have been living in wilful ignorance and denial, just as the Germans denied the obvious fact and nature of German genocide. We don’t want to understand. However, like the Germans under Nazism, our self-serving ignorance is nurtured and magnified by a propaganda discourse that is in our news and entertainment media, and also in our halls of education and the halls of power.
We do not understand the genocidal nature of US-led Western interventions because we do not understand the nature of genocide. We have allowed Zionist and US imperialist elites to dictate that genocide be understood through a lens of Holocaust exceptionalism, Nazi exceptionalism, and Judeocide exceptionalism. But genocide was never meant to be specifically Nazi nor anti-Semitic in nature. The word “genocide” was coined by a Jew, Raphael Lemkin, but was never intended to apply specifically to Jews. It was meant to describe a strategy of deliberately visiting violence and destruction on “nations and peoples” as opposed to visiting it on armies. Lemkin wrote a great deal about genocide against the native people’s of the Americas, but that work went unpublished.
The truth is that there is widespread genocide in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia. A new Holocaust is upon us and the refugee numbers are the just tip of a genocidal iceberg. By bombing, invading, destabilising, subverting, Balkanising, sanctioning, corrupting, indebting, debasing, destroying, assassinating, immiserating and even enraging, the US has led “a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups….” That is where tens of millions of refugees have come from, but we refuse to see the fact of coordination. We blind ourselves to clear indications of Western agency and intentionality. We twist ourselves in knots to avoid seeing coherence or any pattern in US foreign policy. We are blinded by nonsense from pundits about party-political rhetoric and power struggles in DC, and we ignore the monolithic elephant of coherent imperial strategy that is threatening to crash through the floor and destroy the room altogether.
Westerners don’t want to face the truth of what their governments are doing – particularly NATO governments, and the US government most of all. The millions who died in Iraq were victims of a genocide that was intended to kill Iraqis in such numbers. The victims were not incidental to some other project. The same was true in Korea and Viet Nam, but it is also true in Syria, in Libya, in Yemen, in Somalia, in the DR Congo, and in many other places. The destruction, the death, the misery and the chaos are not “failures” of “ill-advised” policy. This is not even some sort of “Plan-B” where the US creates failed states when it cannot install the regime it wants. This is Plan-A and it is becoming harder and harder to deny the fact.
Wars no longer end. We cannot simply pretend that there is no reason for that. Wars no longer end because instability and conflict are the deliberate means of attacking the people – the means of destroying their nations as such. That is what “genocide” means, and that is why we avoid the knowledge. This knowledge will destroy comforting delusions and reveal the cowardly false critiques of those who think that the US government is “misguided” in its attempts to bring stability. The US doesn’t bring stability, it doesn’t seek to bring stability. It destabilises one country after another. It infects entire regions with a disease of acute or chronic destruction, dysfunction and death.
This is a Neo-Holocaust. It slowly builds and grinds. It is the gradual, frog-boiling way to commit genocide. And, like the dullard masses of a dystopian satire, we keep adjusting every time it presents us with a new “normal”. It is a postmodern, neocolonial Holocaust of mass death and mass deprivation. It rises and falls in intensity, but will not end until the entire world awakes and ends it in revulsion.
There are now more refugees than at any time since World War II. It bears repeating. The numbers have tripled since 9/11 and the launch of what has been labelled the “Global War on Terror” and the “Long War”. The situation has become akin to that in World War II, but we seem to be quite comfortable treating it as if it wasn’t a response to a single phenomenon. In WWII it was self-evident that people were fleeing war and genocide, but we apparently accept the tripling of refugee numbers now as resulting from all sorts of different causes. The only factor we are supposed to perceive as linking these crises appears to be Islamist terrorism, even though in the most prominent cases the terrorism arrives after the Western intervention and conflict.
We can no longer excuse the habit of treating each victim of US/NATO intervention as having separate endogenous sources of conflict. Yes, there are ethnic and religious fissures in countries, and yes there are economic and environmental crises which create instability. But, when the opportunity arises weapons flood into these hotspots. There is always an influx of arms. It is the great constant. But many other thing might also happen, particularly economic destabilisation and “democracy promotion”. There is no single playbook from which the US and its partners are making all their moves. There are major direct interventions, such as the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the bombing of Libya, and the creation of South Sudan. There are proxy interventions such as the bombing of Yemen, incursions into DR Congo, and fomenting civil war in Syria. Add into this the continuous covert interventions, economic interventions, destabilisations, sanctions, coups, debt crises then you can see a differentiated complex of systematic genocide that very closely resembles the differentiated complex of systematic genocide initially described by Raphael Lemkin in 1944.
The tempo of violence that exists now does not even match that of the bombing during the Korean War, let alone the enormous scale of violence of World War II. However, the difference is that this violence never ends. It seems destined to continue for eternity and the scale of death continues to creep upwards. I cannot shake the feeling that if Germany had not been at war, Nazi genocide policies would have been enacted at the same slowly accumulating pace. The destruction and the violence are often meted out by enemies of the United States, but I think people are beginning to grasp that to some extent the US is often the creator and sponsor of these enemies. Moreover these enemies are often materially dependent on the US either directly or through allied regimes.
Cumulatively, this has still become an historic era of mass death that in some respects resembles the “hyperexploitation” and socio-economic destruction of “Scramble for Africa” and in other respects resembles German genocide policies in occupied Europe. In future, when people come to add up the human cost of this new Holocaust they won’t be trying to prove their credibility by being conservative. Conservatism in such matters is nothing but purposeful inaccuracy and bias. When they calculate all of the excess mortality that has resulted from military, proxy, covert and economic intervention by the West in the post-9/11 era it will be in the tens of millions. It is already of the same order of magnitude as the Nazi Holocaust, and it is far from over.
We see a drowned boy in on a beach and the suffering strikes home. That is a tragedy, but the obscenity is not in the death of a small child. The obscenity is in the fact that it was an act of murder by Western states. Now try to picture what that obscenity looks like multiplied, and multiplied, and multiplied until the boy, Aylan Kurdi, is just a grain of sand on that beach. It seems almost serene, but that is an illusion. We are socialised to lack what is called “statistical empathy” and that lack makes us irrational. Whenever we face the statistics of human pain and loss we must learn to counter this unnatural detachment by making ourselves face the full individual humanity of victims. The key to understanding the Holocaust is not to obsess about the evil Nazi race hatred and cruel machinery of death, it is to picture a child dying in agony in the dark of a crowded gas chamber and to juxtapose that with the callous indifference of Germans, of French, of English and of many others to the fate of that child at the time.
Without compassion, we are intellectually as well as morally stunted. Understanding the ongoing holocaust means you must picture a burned child dying slowly, crying for help that will never come, in the dark rubble of a shelled home next to the corpses of her mother and father. Now juxtapose that with the callous indifference we are induced to feel until we are told that it is officially a crime committed by villains rather than regrettable collateral damage stemming from benignly intended Western acts. After the fact we care, but at that time of the Judeocide almost every country sent Jewish refugees back to certain death. People reacted with callousness and also vile contempt to Jewish refugees, almost exactly like the British tourists who have recently wished mass death on the “tides of filth” that are ruining their playground on the Greek isle of Kos.
To avoid the truth, we select only certain victims as being worthy and fully human. When it becomes officially correct to feel compassion, we create cartoon villains to blame who, by their very conception, are aberrations and departures from a systemic norm. It might be the Zionist lobby, or Netanyahu or Trump or the Kochs or the military-industrial complex, but it must be something other than business as usual. This thinking is cowardice. It is stupidity. It is self-serving. It is morally and intellectually bankrupt. There is a new Holocaust happening now and it is the logical outcome of US imperialism.
In the final analysis, the refugees are the result of years of conflict, destruction and suffering. The scariest thing is that we are incapable of stopping the progress of this plague because we will not face up to the principles behind it. It has become a one-way street. Areas that are lost to civil strife can never find peace. Cities reduced to rubble can never be rebuilt. Communities that are torn apart can never again knit together. Worse will come and it will not end until the US empire is destroyed. Please let us find a way to do that without another World War.
27 thoughts on “The Refugee Crisis and the New Holocaust”
Reblogged this on Workers of the World Unite!.
This piece is brilliant and thank you. The US/West remain in denial, they respond to the soundbites and the images (now that they are being shown them, however limited) but do not understand basic geopolitics, the results of ’cause and effect’ and beyond that ‘complicity’ of Western governments with regard to any of this crisis… And further, they do not understand, in mass, at all: NATO and what it means to the world, in terms of human suffering, despair and displacement nor do they understand, the larger war that looms…
Thank you again, for this astute piece.
Thank you for your generous comment.
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Not ONE fucking mention of the neoliberal thug Assad and support for his mass murder and “genocide” by Russian/Iranian/Hezbollah interventionism!!! This is what you call leftism? Your childishly simplistic “analysis” is nothing more than “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” or in other words, “wherever the enemy places a minus, I will place a plus.” Sorry, but sometimes politics is a little more complicated than black OR white. US imperialism is not the only source of destruction and reaction in the world. Leftists who support this fascist can never regain credibility! http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/20/evidence-industrial-scale-killing-syria-war-crimes
Thank you for correcting me. I now realise that I should not have omitted Assad. He is clearly the bad guy and I will now support bombing Syria to get rid of him. That will end the problems in Syria and end the refugee crisis, which can now see is caused by Assad. I feel so silly for having had a “childishly simplistic” analysis.
Kieran – I have appreciated your writings in the past and circulated them, but you are displaying rank dishonesty in your response to me. You set up a straw argument that I NEVER MADE – “the US should bomb Syria” – and then proceed to take that argument apart. I do NOT call for US bombing or sending in troops. As long as the fascist Assad regime allows intervention on the part of Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia to give it the power to drop barrel bombs on civilians shopping at a vegetable market, as long as they have tanks and Migs to blow apart residential neighborhoods, I call for arming the rebels SO THAT THEY CAN FIGHT BACK, just as the left demanded that the US do in supplying the USSR in its fight against Germany in WW2. Did that make the Soviets an imperialist proxy?
I was sickened by your failure to mention the singularly accountable party for the unfolding Syrian catastrophe that is Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Marshal Bashar Assad, the Syrian dictator well into the fifth decade of his dynasty’s reign of the Syrian “Republic,” and the Commander-in-Chief of the Syrian Armed Forces, has used every last weapon at his disposal to suppress the Syrian people, including industrial-scale torture, mass rape, ballistic missiles, chemical weapons, and more than 11,000 barrel bombs designed to indiscriminately and collectively terrorize civilians. He has systematically and deliberately targeted bakery lines, hospitals, gas stations, schools and vegetable markets. He has kidnapped and tortured to death artists, doctors, university professors and human rights activists. He has killed SEVEN times more Syrians than ISIS has. The outcome is the death of 300,000 Syrians and a massive displacement of the population, likely amounting to ethnic cleansing in many occasions. More than 10% of children joining Jordanian schools this September are Syrian and almost one third of the population of neighboring Lebanon is now made of Syrian refugees. The total number of Syrians displaced, internally and externally, is more than 12 million people–that is more than the whole populations of Macedonia and Hungary COMBINED.
For Aylan Kurdi, his brother, and the 12,000 children over whose pointless murder presided Assad, let us not shy away from calling out the criminal, lest we become partners in his crime. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/20/evidence-industrial-scale-killing-syria-war-crimes
How can leftists write articles that have absolutely nothing to say about the socio-economic conditions of the poor in Syria? When Tunisia and Egypt erupted in 2011, most people understood that economic misery was largely to blame. What the pro-Baathist left has failed to account for is the fact that Syria was four notches below Egypt in the UN HDI report for 2010. Unemployment is widespread, especially among young people who feel that they have no future, wealth is concentrated in the hands of Assad’s family, and the regime has vigorously enacted neoliberal “reforms”. This is the starting place for an analysis, not the fact that some Syrians once went to a workshop run by George Soros!
The neo-liberal policies that have started with Sadat in Egypt reaching Syria in 2000 after the ascension of Bashar Al Assad to power have clearly been beneficial for the ruling class and those around them; however this has happened at the expense of the big majority of the population that suffered from increasing inflation, rising costs of living, high unemployment rates (especially among the youth) and extreme poverty. In Syria for example, the percentage of those living under the poverty line rose from 11% in 2000 to 33% in 2010.
The social and economic background is similar to others in the region: after 40 years of the Assad family in power there is massive unemployment, poverty and corruption. Extensive nationalizations took place in the 1960s, but since the 1990s there has been economic liberalization and privatization. This has led to dramatic wealth inequality and impoverishment of the population. At the outset of the uprising, growth and development had stagnated, inflation had soared to over 100% per annum, and unemployment was probably 30%. Half of the unemployed are educated and skilled youth under 24 with aspirations to a better life.
A class analysis of regime and war – http://www.yassinhs.com/2015/01/19/forty-four-months-and-forty-four-years-5-confiscation-a-class-portrait/
The neoliberal transformation of the Syrian economy and the revolution – how Marxists analyze the situation –
If the USA was bent on regime change, the first thing it would have done is arm the rebels with MANPADS – http://louisproyect.org/2015/09/07/syrian-refugees-and-the-amen-corner/
Chomsky on Syria –
Israel has done nothing to indicate that it is trying to bring down the Assad regime. There are growing claims that the West intends to supply the opposition with arms. I believe this is quite misleading. The fact of the matter is, that were the United States and Israel interested in bringing down the Syrian regime there is a whole package of measures they could take before they came to the arms-supply option. America could encourage Israel to mobilize its forces along the northern border, a move that would not produce any objections from the international community and which would compel Assad to withdraw his forces from a number of frontline positions, greatly relieving the pressure on the rebels. But this has not happened, nor will it, so long as America and Israel remain unwilling to bring down Assad regime. They may not like the regime, but it is nevertheless a regime that is well practiced in accommodating their demands and any unknown alternative might prove worse in this respect. Much better, then, to watch the Syrians fight and destroy each other.
Leftist circles in Europe the US and the Arab world see an American/Israeli/imperialist plot. For some people, the revolution in Syria has been a conspiracy from the outset. For others it was hijacked by the conspiracy.
For a long time, the Arab world and other places beside have played host to stories and illusions about the supernatural power of the United States, which controls everything through complex conspiracies and plots. In this worldview, everything that takes place can be explained in terms of imperialist conspiracies. This is an error. Without a doubt, the US is still a great power and capable of influencing events, but it’s not always able to manipulate them by means of complex conspiracies: this really is beyond their capacities. Of course the Americans do sometimes try to do this, but they fail, too. What happened in Syria is not outside our understanding: it began as a popular and democratic protest movement demanding democratic reforms, but instead of responding to it in a constructive, positive manner, Assad reacted with violent repression. The usual outcome of such a course of action is either a successful crushing of the protests or otherwise, to see them evolve and militarize, and this is what took place in Syria. When a protest movement enters this phase we see new dynamics at play: usually, the rise of the most extremist and brutal elements to the front ranks.
For these renowned pro-Assad commentators, the entire Middle East is reducible to geopolitical intrigue. There are no people; there is no class struggle and fight against neoliberal “reforms”; there is no fight against brutal dictatorship – there is only the White House, the CIA, the British Government, Erdogan, the Emir of Qatar, the Iranian regime, Israel, and of course Assad and the jihadis.
As for those who believe that the Syrian regime is ‘anti-imperialist’, they just ignore the history of this regime and the sheer opportunism on which it bases its foreign policy. Assad’s Syria intervened in 1976 to crush the Palestinian resistance and the Lebanese left in Lebanon and prevent their victory over the Lebanese far right. In the 1983-5, it waged or backed wars against the Palestinian camps in Lebanon. In 1991, the Syrian regime fought the war against Iraq under US command; it was part of the US-led coalition; from the 1990s until 2004, the Syrian regime was the protector of the neoliberal pro-US Hariri government in Lebanon; and during all these years, the Syrian border has been the quietest and safest of all Israel’s borders. So there is no sense in which the Syrian regime can be described as ‘anti-imperialist’: it is a very opportunist regime which does not hesitate to switch sides and alliances in order to further its own interests.
A page from history: Syrian-Phalangist massacre of Palestinians in Tal al Zaatar http://www.newjerseysolidarity.org/resources/roots/chapter18.html
The US has been bombing Syria for a year. It is not however bombing the Assad regime – it is bombing ISIS, but also Nusra, and also the Islamic Front sometimes, and also the FSA sometimes, but never the Assad regime. https://mkaradjis.wordpress.com/2015/09/03/who-has-the-us-bombed-for-in-syria/
Assad, not ISIS responsible for Syrian refugee crisis – http://ottawacitizen.com/opinion/columnists/glavin-this-is-what-its-come-to-letting-syria-die-watching-syrians-drown
It is difficult for me to deal with the “anti-imperialist” left that is now rallying around someone who would make Pinochet blanch. Here is the video of the barrel bombing in Aleppo.
There is no solution to the Syrian refugee crisis that does not involve “regime change” for two basic reasons: 1) Syrians will continue to flood out of the country as long as Assad is bombing them, and 2) most Syrian refugees will refuse to go back to Syria so long as Assad is in power.
The “Left” has ignored the real plight of the Syrian people and used them as pawns in their own games by taking self-centered positions that oppose all “western backed,” “foreign intervention” and producing a string of “statements on Syria” like “The U.S. is largely responsible for the prolonged war in Syria,” while excusing those who are actually doing the bulk of the killing, the Assad regime and it supporters in Moscow and Tehran. Now they are coming out to oppose doing anything meaningful about the greatest humanitarian crisis of the 21st century, a catastrophe that can be called Assad’s holocaust.
If it wasn’t such a tragic situation, the stand taken by the “Left” on Syria would be a joke. It is a double-tragedy really because this stand hasn’t only contributed to the slaughter in Syria, it has discredited the Left in the eyes of the world’s people to an extent that only the Left could do to itself when only a true socialist course, and not the caricature of Marxism being promoted by this Mock Left, can save humanity.
Thank you for correcting me. I now realise that I should not have omitted Assad. He is clearly the bad guy and I will now support
bombing Syriaarming the rebels SO THAT THEY CAN FIGHT BACK to get rid of him. That will end the problems in Syria and end the refugee crisis, which can now see is caused by Assad. I feel so silly for having had a “childishly simplistic” analysis.
Look, I don’t want to belittle you. You are clearly in the grips of powerful feelings, and I am the last person to say that is necessarily a bad thing, but you accused me of constructing a straw man when your own comments are not at all relevant to my article. If you took out both mentions of Syria from the article it would still make exactly the same sense – yet where would that leave your comments?
The fact that you are projecting on me a complex set of beliefs that I don’t hold and never expressed suggests to me that you are irrationally fixated. In that sense you are showing that I was correct to highlight the dangers of narrative involving villains.
We have been through all of this before with Saddam Hussein. My sympathies and support lie with the real insurgency against the Ba’ath in 1991 – the real left-wing in Kurdistan and Basra and the mutineers in the fleeing army that the US massacred on the Mutla ridge. But we in the West did not control how criticism of Saddam was weaponised and turned against the people. It also turned out that the people who took the same stance towards Hussein that you have with regard to Assad were completely credulous when it came to atrocity propaganda and were effective assets for warmongers. That doesn’t mean that their prior accusations against Hussein were wrong, but it should be a warning to you. When you put something out there you will not control the way it is used.
You really should read my article again. Don’t think about why you think I should have said this here or that there. Don’t assume that because I am not pushing your barrow that I must be some sort of apologist for Assad. Read it for what it actually says. Then ask yourself how it fits with what you already know. If you do that you will understand why it is appropriate to omit Assad’s crimes. If you can’t get that then get this: 55-60 million refugees – how the fuck can you say that that is all down to Assad? And how can you say that it is just a coincidence that Western intervention precedes all of the other refugee crises, but is not implicated in the Syrian refugee crisis?
Just continue to read the Guardian! Enjoy the “truth” in media. Maybe one day you will find in the Guardian and one article on mote that one million refugees from EuroUkraine in Russia
“Westerners don’t want to face the truth of what their governments are doing – particularly NATO governments, and the US government most of all.”
I’m sorry but this is pure garbage. Syria has been the victim of Baathist state-sponsored terrorism, not American military intervention. Nobody is advocating US bombing except maybe the Kurds who thanked the USA for dropping bombs in ISIS during the battle for Kobane. In fact the Kurds supplied GPS coordinates so that American jets could be more effective. Frankly I am surprised to see a blog devoted to the topic of genocide being so utterly clueless about what has been happening in Syria for the past four years. But the author is probably not much worse than the average Baathist tool, to give him some credit.
I’m just going to refer you to my reply to Dennis Brasky. I also want to give a friendly warning that any further replies had better be very intelligent and well crafted. I don’t have enough time to answer stupid comments and I will happily trash them if I feel that leaving them up is harmful to the collective intellect.
vsotirovic – I love clowns like you who will cite the bourgeois press when it supports your argument but denounce it as imperialist propaganda when it doesn’t.
One warning – no name calling or you will be banned. You can call me names if you want, but not other commenters.
from a facebook post – Much of the left has counterposed the struggle for democratic rights to that of struggling against imperialism. This has produced a situation where the “anti-imperialist” position has become associated with people who decry the revolutionary movements in the region as little more than CIA conspiracies and wind up with them giving backhanded support for dictatorships (Iran, Syria, and Zimbabwe). Thus, a new generation of activists thrown up by these mass struggles sees little but lies and hypocrisy when they look at what officially counts as the ‘left’ and given this, they see no reason to listen to any left wing arguments at all. It has reduced what was once a global movement with enormous potential to the status of a bunch of truthers.
If you read my stuff you will know that I oppose oligarchic ethnocrats regardless of whether they claim to be friends or enemies of the US. However, I see a supervening reality that makes it more important to critique empire than to pick on a given authoritarian regime in this article at this time. You don’t, apparently, but you have yet to explain how you justify your emphasis in the face of the much greater scale of the current problem [of which Syria is only a part].
The difference between me and Proyect is that when I see that the Kurds think the US are benefactors it makes me want to weep. It makes me think of the Hmong and it makes me think of the Kurds in 1972. So I would also like to hear how you justify your emphasis on Assad in terms of historical analogy both with respect to the betrayal of the Iraq left in 1991, the betrayal of the Kurds in 1972, and the betrayal of the Hmong and Montagnards in the 2nd Indochina War. Then I want to see why I shouldn’t treat Assad and his atrocities as I would have treated Saddam Hussein’s atrocities during his rule – which means acknowledging them when appropriate but not hypocritically and disproportionately foregrounding them when regimes closer to home have even more blood on their hands. I want these answers because at the moment you just strike me as being determined to be warmongers despite yourselves.
Brasky – The crucial thing is that you are not mediocre from Texas
I’ll give you the same warning I gave Brasky. No more personal insults, please.
Vsotirovic is correct – I am not from Texas, and I am certainly not mediocre! Thank you!
Here’s what it is coming down to – Patrick Cockburn calls for a coordinated bombing campaign with Assad – apparently the lesser evil, although he has killed 7-10 times as many people as ISIS https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7grl9IieGNE&feature=youtu.be
Possibly, but that changes nothing. The interesting thing about this seemingly weak PR position of vilifying two enemies [IS and Assad] is that it could let them pull off the stunt you are suggesting. They could build and build anxiety about war with Syria and have a road to Damascus realisation and anoint him as the lesser evil. That would completely wrong-foot the antiwar people. It is a cunning plan, but there is no reason that they couldn’t have two equal plans: that one and another of simply pushing the atrocity propaganda about the Syrian govt until they can create enough assent, confusion and apathy to bomb.
I don’t necessarily agree with all of Joseph Daher’s formulations – in particular, he tends to push too many different kinds of groups together as “reactionary Islamists”, barely distinguishing Daesh from Nusra, and even worse, barely distinguishing Nusra from mainstream Islamists. That said, however, he has assembled the real evidence here for the fact that the Syrian refugee crisis has been overwhelmingly created by Assad, not by Daesh as the entirety of the imperialist media and imperialist politicians (and their leftist echo) are telling us.
The Islamic State, or the main reason for the millions of refugees from Syria?
Posted on September 9, 2015
[The comment I responded too here has disappeared] I agreed right up to the point where you said I was like a 1930s apologist for Stalin. Assad does not have the significance of Stalin globally. Your stance is ultimately no different than making the same criticism if I had published a recipe for kale smoothies that did not demand regime change in Syria.
Even while accusing others of peddling “garbage”, Louis Proyect tries to sneak this in: “Syria has been the victim of Baathist state-sponsored terrorism, not American military intervention.” Proyect apparently thinks that US CIA and political intervention (same difference), in support of jihadis (sorry, “democratic rebels” with secular, feminist ideology), hasn’t victimised Syria. Really? 1 billion dollars through a CIA program to arm and train thousands of these guys doesn’t count as contributing to significant harm? How about that the leader of ISIS may very well have been trained under US-auspices in the country of Georgia (but I suppose the US was doing the “right thing” there as well because it went against Russia) and that ISIS has benefitted from that training? I find it appalling that Proyect and Brasky, who wait with baited breath to see if the US “will do the right thing” in a region where its cumulative actions have led to death counts that easily dwarf anything done under Assad, and where it has tried to co-opt EVERYONE, can offer such platitudes. You guys apparently think that the US doesn’t engage in imperialist follow-through when it dons its humanitarian cap. Where does the trust for US imperialism end, guys? I’m getting the sinking feeling that when Gordon Brown intoned a few years ago that the Iranian people “do not have to choose war” (translation: “overthrow the regime or we’ll bomb you”), Proyect and Basky would have been standing shoulder to shoulder with him, nodding thoughtfully in lock-step at this “democratic” instigation for civil war on the basis that the US and UK would have been “helping to overthrow dictatorships”. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m really starting to doubt it. Did US imperialism just “get it wrong” when it overthrew the bourgeois-democratic government in 1953? Maybe your hope is that it’ll “get it right” this time – in other words, to stop being imperialism because you want it to stop being imperialism.
Oh, sure: Israel hasn’t done anything of note to topple Assad. Other than the fact that it strikes exclusively against regime targets, and mends and patches up jihadis (sorry, “democratic rebels”! I keep forgetting), sending them back into Syria. I suppose that could be construed as evidence of Israel’s “great humanity”, or something.
By the way, guys: how did that all that “fighting against neo-liberal dictators” (technically correct, of course) go in Iraq and Libya? Was it, like the UN sanctions and its effects on Iraqi children were for Albright, “worth it”? This is kind of important. All the above might be excused by acknowledging that even imperialist powers (e.g. Britain and France against Germany in WW2) can be overall in the right, even if they commit plenty of atrocities themselves. But what’s the actual US record in the Middle East on that score? The US deposed dictators there as well, so no whining by you on that score, at least. But they weren’t replaced by anything even arguably better, and the reason, for a Marxist, should be simple: because the US remained an imperialist power, which meant that whatever “good” it was doing, it was also going against the fundamental interests of the masses of people. Brasky sounds like he might just have a hernia screaming about how bad Assad is (which no serious person denies; he’s a bad guy, but how does that make him any to different to US imperialism’s bedrocks in the region? You know, the US imperialism that you apparently trust to do the “right thing”? Sure, the US “should” support democracy, secularism and women’s rights, but how do you think that might go without the US not ceasing to be an imperialist power first? Sheesh, talk about an historical idealist take on things. Please don’t invoke Marx if you’re going to go off on these miserable flights of fancy).
I’ve learned from decades of revolutionary politics and teaching history, that it’s a waste of time arguing with people who set up straw arguments so that they can puff up their ego when they demolish them. “CIA support to train thousands of anti-Assad rebels” when just recently they admitted that they’ve trained a total of FIVE – you seriously call that the best that US imperialism can do in terms of “support”?? I’m “waiting to see if the US does the right thing” – how can one argue with such falsification – one doesn’t.
Name ONE Assad military target bombed by the US. Tell me how many anti-aircraft Manpads the US has supplied to the rebels to shoot down Assad’s air force dropping its barrel and cluster bombs on residential neighborhoods. Tell me how many anti-tank weapons have been delivered to the rebels. Explain why Israel hasn’t moved 50,000 troops to the Golan/Syria border which would force the butcher to meet the challenge by pulling an equal number of his troops away from fighting the rebels. And tell me why Israel is now cooperating with Assad’s protector/supplier, Putin?
You make the same mistake that other “anti-imperialists” make – you obsess with everyone EXCEPT the Syrian people and their economic and political struggle as a factor. This should be revolutionary politics 101.
I’m sorry to have to point this out, but the fact that the US will only claim 5 effective secular rebels after spending tens of millions of dollars really does not support your case. If it shows anything it shows the degree of contempt they have for the public and for their own officials. It is such a blatant evasion that it only works because of the serious diminished mental capacities of 99% of Western critics of US foreign policy. It is utter nonsense and numerically impossible, but it fits within the comforting tropes of “blowback” and unintentionality.
As for the rest, you didn’t address the aid that Israel has given to al-Nusra as mentioned by Sam. The fact is that both the US and Israel have acted against the Assad regime and against the Syrian people. Could they have done a lot more against the Baath government? Yes, but why would they? You ask about why they don’t supply anti-aircraft and antitank weapons – it is for the same reason that they didn’t give antitank weapons to the ROK in 1949-50, or the same reason they supplied both sides in the Iran-Iraq War, they don’t want either side getting too much of an upper hand.
Now they have changed tack in response to Russia and Iran calling their bluff and they will now denominate Assad as the lesser evil. But they will still keep him on the books as an official “bad guy” and there will be constant pressure to impose sanctions, impose no-fly zones, conduct airstrikes etc. There will be a schism in foreign policy elites between “neocons” who support “moderate al Qaeda” and “realists” who support Assad, or it could be the other way around. Syrians are faced with becoming like Libya or living under Assad and under US siege. The priority in helping them must be to attack the US empire because otherwise they will never be allowed to have peace and security. We all want a real democratic left-wing alternative in Syria, but you are being very naive about the nature of US involvement. It is multidimensional; US hegemony allows it to play all sides of the game and benefit from conflict without having to achieve particular tactical goals; and it is a greater barrier to the wellbeing of the Syrian people than the Baath regime.
“CIA support to train thousands of anti-Assad rebels” when just recently they admitted that they’ve trained a total of FIVE”
Ummmm…you didn’t look at the article I posted, did you? Or even what it said in the URL, did you? The article mentions a 1 billion dollar CIA program for “arming, funding and training anti-Assad forces”. Let’s grant that they weren’t personally trained by the CIA itself. So what? Imperialism outsources its operations. Surely, this stuff should be well known to someone who professes “years of teaching revolutionary politics”? As an imperialist mouthpiece, the NYT might be forgiven for trying to airbrush the CIA’s activities and presenting the Pentagon’s program as the “only” American program for assisting armed anti-Assad forces. What’s less easy to excuse is that YOU’RE reducing a 1 billion dollar program to arm, train and equip thousands of rebels to a “straw man” that some leftist apparently invented. Why?
Here, from the FAIR article:
“Based on multiple reports over the past three-and-a-half years, we know that the Central Intelligence Agency set up a secret program of arming, funding and training anti-Assad forces. This has been reported by major outlets, including the New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel and, most recently, the Washington Post, which—partly thanks to the Snowden revelations—detailed a program that trained approximately 10,000 rebel fighters at a cost of $1 billion a year, or roughly 1/15th of the CIA’s official annual budget.”
“In addition to the CIA’s efforts, there is a much more scrutinized and far more publicized program by the Department of Defense to train “moderate rebels,” of which only a few dozen actually saw battle. The Pentagon program, which began earlier this year and is charged with fighting ISIS (rather than Syrian government forces), is separate from the covert CIA operation. It has, by all accounts, been an abysmal failure.”
“…Notice the sleight-of-hand [in the NYT article being critiqued]. There may only be “four or five American-trained fighters…fighting” expressly against ISIS, but there is no doubt thousands more American-trained fighters are fighting in Syria. The DoD’s statement is manifestly false, but because the New York Times is simply quoting “the military”—which, again, cannot not legally acknowledge the CIA program—it is left entirely unchallenged.”
“This is the worst type of “officials say” journalism. The premise, while ostensibly critical of US foreign policy, is actually helping advance its larger goal of rewriting US involvement in the Syrian civil war. A four-year-long deliberate strategy of backing anti-Assad forces–which has helped fuel the bloody civil war and paved the way for the rise of ISIS–is reduced to a cheesy “bumbling bureaucrat” narrative.”
That’s the narrative you’re adopting, Dennis.
“Name ONE Assad military target bombed by the US.”
You keep letting the “US” off the hook by ignoring its rebel and Israeli allies/de facto mercenaries. Surely you don’t deny that THEY’VE bombed Assad military targets?
“Tell me how many anti-aircraft Manpads the US has supplied to the rebels to shoot down Assad’s air force dropping its barrel and cluster bombs on residential neighborhoods.”
I would say none, probably because the US knows that most of the people it’s supporting are in some way affiliated with Al Qaeda, and that it isn’t therefore a good idea to allow advanced ground-to-air weapons getting into the hands of terrorists who might later use them against Western airliners.
“Tell me how many anti-tank weapons have been delivered to the rebels.”
Well, the porous border with Iraq, ruled by a corrupt comprador regime, might have something to do with that. What can be used in Syria can also be used against the Iraqi regime’s tanks. Anti-tank weapons don’t respect national jurisdictions just because the operator crosses a border.
“Explain why Israel hasn’t moved 50,000 troops to the Golan/Syria border which would force the butcher to meet the challenge by pulling an equal number of his troops away from fighting the rebels.”
Because they know that Assad would see this as a bluff, and thus wouldn’t “force” anything. Invading Syria with 50,000 Israeli troops would send a clear and grotesque signal to the world that Israel had been coordinating with jihadis (yes, the whole world has gotten the clue now, even if there are “socialists” who think that the Syrian armed opposition consists of secular democratic feminists). That would single-handedly destroy its claim to be a bulwark of the “civilized world” against “barbarism”, which would destroy its claim to be “threatened” by Iran. It’s cheaper and more discrete to just bomb from the air and let Syrians (and foreign jihadis) kill each other. Of course, it’s possible that Israel DOESN’T want Assad to go, DOES wants him to stay (“better the devil you know” sort of thing), but wants him to be severely weakened by using the jihadis as de facto mercenaries for the softening up process, thus making Assad more pliable to Western and Israeli demands. The US seems dedicated to a maximalist position, though. Given the facts (see the FAIR article) about US involvement, if one is to assert that the US doesn’t want Assad to leave, this is to admit that they knowingly been bleeding Syria, which means that the US HAS victimized the country, which is utterly contrary to Proyect’s assertions, which also means that Proyect shouldn’t presume not to be seen as an apologist for imperialism.
“And tell me why Israel is now cooperating with Assad’s protector/supplier, Putin?”
In what context? That question has no meaning since you don’t specify what you mean. Russian and Israel have long “cooperated”.
“You make the same mistake that other “anti-imperialists” make – you obsess with everyone EXCEPT the Syrian people and their economic and political struggle as a factor.”
I’m talking about the jihadis that you deny were in any significant way aided by the United States. You appear to be in lock-step with the Newspaper of Omission, not me, changing gears seamlessly as the canonical demands of US power demand. The Syrian people are something else. You know, it would be one thing if you ADMITTED what’s already known about the Syrian civil war while you criticized Assad and his lousy regime. But you don’t do this. You DENY any substantial culpability by the US, which makes your stance against Assad, in effect, war propaganda.
Earlier in the war, the US rejected a Russian proposal for a transitional process whereby Assad would step down, because it was driven by the maximalist goal of “Assad has to go now” (and the belief that Assad would fall quickly anyway, so no need for negotiation or compromise) – thus precluding anything approaching a relatively peaceful resolution, and thus dooming thousands of Syrians to death and millions more to misery. Obviously, a peaceful resolution hasn’t happened, the war has dragged on, and tens of thousands of civilians have died on the altar of America’s “Assad has to go” maximalist mantra – a mantra backed up not just by words, as you seem to believe, but by weapons, training, money, and coordination with its allies Turkey, Israel and the GCC. But, like the “socialist” Sanders wants of Saudi Arabia in Yemen, you want the US to “get its hands a bit dirty” in Syria, because evidently it hasn’t gotten them dirty enough (which is a plausible position if you adopt the NYT’s intentional amnesia, but only if you do that).
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