No to imperialist intervention – yes to the Syrian people’s revolution

dontby Marcus Halaby, Hackney Left Unity

On 21 August, reports emerged that hundreds of people had been killed in a chemical
weapons attack in Eastern Ghouta, a rebel-held agricultural region just outside of
the Syrian capital Damascus. With reports of up to 1,700 dead, this atrocity is just
the latest in a long series of crimes committed by the dictatorial Ba’athist regime
of Bashar al-Assad, which has shot, clubbed, stabbed, shelled, strangled, tortured,
dropped bombs on and fired missiles from fighter jets at an average of about 110
people per day since the outbreak of a popular democratic revolution against it in
March 2011. Over 100,000 people have died since then, and one million Syrian
children have become refugees.

It did not take long, however, for people to cast doubt on the Assad regime’s
culpability. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich suggested
within hours that the chemical attack was a “planned provocation” by the Syrian
rebels. Nor has this scepticism been confined to the Assad regime’s habitual
apologists like Respect MP George Galloway, who suggested that Israel had given
chemical weapons to “al-Qaeda” in Syria, and that the Eastern Ghouta atrocity was a
“false flag” operation to discredit Assad and bring about a Western military

Left Labour media figure Owen Jones, in a 25 August article for The Independent
opposing Western intervention, said that we could not be sure “who fired the
chemical weapons at eastern Damascus”, and that “initial doubt that Assad’s thugs
could be responsible were hardly the preserve of conspiracy theorists”, going on to
ask why the regime would use nerve gas on its population while United Nations
inspectors were present in the country, while it had the “upper hand” in the civil
war, and while the threat of Western involvement had apparently waned.

In fact, this scepticism is far wide of the mark. Coming almost a year to the day
after US President Barack Obama declared that the use of chemical weapons in Syria
would constitute a “red line” that would “change his calculus” if crossed, and
almost two years to the day since Obama called upon Assad to step down from power,
this act looks almost like a calculated blow to the credibility of the United
States, already weakened by its failure to manage or encourage a “peaceful” transfer
of power in Syria, such as those that took place in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen after
the popular uprisings in those countries in the “Arab Spring” of early 2011.

Knowing that the continued support of Russia, China and Iran is secure, and that the
West is more troubled by the apparently unpredictable consequences of a rebel
victory in Syria than by popular revulsion at the Assad regime’s mass slaughter, the
Syrian regime has calculated that it can strike a blow like this in broad daylight,
in full view of the world and its own people, and get away with it. Bashar al-Assad
has called Barack Obama’s bluff.

Socialists should always condemn attacks on civilians, but we should choose sides in
revolutions and civil wars according to the declared goals of the revolutionaries,
and not according to the methods that they use to fight for those goals. In Syria, a
popular movement for democracy confronted the tanks and bombs of Assad’s
dictatorship. A large section of the people took up arms to defend themselves, and
parts of the army broke with the regime to join the popular uprising.

In any civil war there will be progressive and reactionary elements; there never was
nor ever will be a “pure” revolution. Should we abandon the Syrian people’s struggle
for democracy because some Islamist reactionaries have carried out atrocities of
their own in the name of the revolution, albeit on much a smaller scale than the
regime’s? No: we should stand shoulder to shoulder with all those fighting for the
downfall of a brutal and tyrannical regime, a progressive goal in itself. The
military defeat of Assad and the victory of the revolution are inseparable.

Having spent the last two and a half years exploiting Syria’s revolutionary civil
war to shore up Obama’s “democratic credentials”, and to embarrass his Russian and
Chinese rivals in the Arab world without giving any serious aid to the Syrian
revolutionaries, the United States is now apparently preparing for a military strike
on Syria to recover its lost prestige and deterrent power.

Britain’s prime minister David Cameron, predictably trying to follow Obama’s lead,
was defeated in parliament on his government’s support for intervention, although
the French parliament voted in favour of President François Hollande’s calls for
military action.

Socialists are perfectly right to oppose the preparations for Western military
action now underway. The Western powers have absolutely no intention of aiding the
Syrian people in their struggle to overthrow a vile dictatorship. Indeed, as US
academic Edward N. Luttwak pointed out in an article in The New York Times, Obama’s
real policy in Syria – one that he fully supports – has effectively been based on
the premise that “America loses if either side wins”.

Only two days before the Ghouta atrocity, US General Martin Dempsey said in a letter
to a congressman that while the United States was easily capable of destroying
Assad’s air force, this would fail to secure US interests without troops on the
ground. Citing the usual bogeys around “ethnic rivalries”, he argued that “the side
we choose must be ready to promote” US interests if the balance shifts in their
favour, and that the currently diverse and fragmented Syrian opposition did not fit
that bill.

Israel’s rulers in particular are far happier with the manageable situation of a
weakened Assad, who has not once fired a shot in anger at Israel to recover the
Syrian Golan Heights, under Israeli occupation since 1967. A democratic Syria,
liberated from the Ba’athist dictatorship, would inevitably become a centre of
solidarity with Palestinians, Lebanese and others engaged in resistance to Israel’s
on-going occupation and colonisation of Arab lands.

As with the bombing of Libya during that country’s revolution and civil war in 2011,
and indeed the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, any Western-led
bombing of Syria will involve civilian casualties, and will only serve the interests
of the same rulers who support dictatorships elsewhere in the Arab world, including
in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

However, to oppose Western military intervention in Syria without also showing
solidarity with the Syrian revolution, and without equally opposing the actual
“external intervention” by Russia and China that has been taking place in Syria for
the last two and a half years, is to abandon the Syrian people. Why? Because the
Syrian people, who have risen against a dictatorship, and who still maintain a mass
democratic movement against it despite its attempts to divert their entirely
justified struggle into an armed inter-communal conflict, have every right to expect
international solidarity, no less so than the Palestinians or the people of Tunisia,
Egypt, Libya, Bahrain or Yemen.

For this reason, we should not restrict ourselves to the Stop the War Coalition’s
official slogan “Hands Off Syria”, a slogan that could be and will be supported by
any pro-Assadist, and by any closet Islamophobe for whom Assad is either a “lesser
evil”, or for whom there is “nothing to choose” between the regime and the diverse
range of popular forces arrayed against it.

Rather, we should be demanding aid without strings to the Syrian people against the
Assad regime: not just food, shelter and medical aid for Syrian civilians (almost a
half of the country’s population has required life-saving medical attention in this
conflict), but the sort of heavy weaponry the fighters need to protect themselves
and their communities from their own government’s blood-stained air force, militias
and conscript army, weaponry that could turn the war around in their favour. We
should demand that the countries of the European Union open their borders to all
Syrian refugees who wish to come here, and lift the current regime of travel
restrictions on Syrian nationals intended to prevent them from claiming asylum.

Most importantly, we should open up a campaign within the British and European
labour movements in solidarity with the Syrian resistance to the Assad regime, along
the same lines as the long-established campaigns of solidarity with the Palestinian
people, and the more recent campaigns in defence of the emerging labour movements
and democratic struggles in Egypt and Tunisia.

Doing this will mean doing a far greater service for the Syrians than Obama, Cameron
and company ever could by bombing their country, and far greater than could ever be
achieved merely by opposing our own governments’ war preparations while washing our
hands of our internationalist obligations.


20 responses to “No to imperialist intervention – yes to the Syrian people’s revolution”

  1. Apfelbaum says:

    This is a dreadful, and one wonders what is doing on Left Unity at all.

    Stripped bare of all the leftist verbiage, it is an argument for arming the ‘rebels’. The author seems to be unaware that this is already happening, the feudal monarchies of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf are pouring billions into the conflict, arming ‘their’ side- the most reactionary, obscurantist and Al Qaeda-linked forces.

    They are not mentioned in the piece because it would spoil the puerile narrative about ‘us’ arming the rebels. I am not aware that that socialists have seized control of the means of production and transportation of heavy weaponry in any Western country. Failing that this, then, is nothing more than a call on ‘our’ Western governments, imperialists all, to join the Saudi autocrats in their weapons spree.

    This is would be promoting the imperialist-linked SNC, the fictitious fighters of the FSA and in reality the real forces fighting Assad, Al Qaeda in Syria.

  2. Southpawpunch says:

    I think there is a inconsistency here in what Marcus is arguing.

    He calls for the West to supply “heavy weaponry the (rebel) fighters need to protect themselves and their communities from their own government’s blood-stained air force, militias and conscript army, weaponry that could turn the war around in their favour.” Yet he opposes Western military intervention.

    What difference would it make if the Cruise missiles destroying Assad chemical weapon stores were fired by rebels (i.e. heavy weaponry…turn the war around in their favour) or by the USA?

    The first is clearly a fantasy so personally I hope the USA does attack Syrian military targets to greater assist the rebels in overthrowing the Assad dictatorship.

    I’m not talking about invading and occupying the country and slaughtering many (as per Iraq) or invading and massaging in a puppet regime and slaughtering many (e.g. Afghanistan) but providing a short boost to the revolution by destroying some of the military capabilities of the oppressor.

    Go USA!

  3. Rebecca A says:

    If the US or Britain etc intervene themselves then there is no cha.ce they will be doing it for the benefit of the Syrian people – they would be doing it for their own interests. If they really wanted the Syrian people then they would give those people the weapons so they could liberate themselves, that fact that they don’t want to do this shows that they aren’t really interested in liberation.

  4. Henry Lowi says:

    Western labour movements can purchase and deliver huge amounts of humanitarian aid, as they have done in many disaster situations. The aid would have to be delivered to the grassroots coordinating committees and worker-farmer militias. This aid can and must include gas masks, atropine Epi-pens, and other protective devices, water purification, tents,etc. Twinning of local organizations with local organizations will establish the dialogue necessary to make the practical solidarity more effective. Weapons and ammunition will have to come from sympathetic soldiers in the armies of US, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, Russia, and Syria. Fanciful? That is the only way revolutions win.

  5. Southpawpunch, it makes a big difference if it’s the rebels or US imperialism who are hitting Assad’s forces with heavy weaponry. In the former case, the Syrian rebels still retain their freedom of action, including their ability to resist the inclination of some pro-US and pro-Gulf state elements amongst the Syrian opposition exiles to arrive at a deal with the Assad regime via a US-Russian-Chinese sponsored transition a la what the Geneva talks are supposed to be about.

    In the latter case, it’s the Americans and their allies who will decide the form and the pace of military and political events, as in fact they are doing now, with the political objective of avoiding a complete rebel victory and keeping Assad’s machinery of repression in place (albeit, from their point of view, ideally without Assad himself).

    The first means aid to the revolution, the second means conducting a proxy war on Syrian soil.

  6. Neil Williams says:

    As an antidote to the Marcus Halaby appalling article and the Lambeth Left Unity very bad motion i reproduce an article today by Robert Fisk in the Independent which adds some clarity to the situation.
    On a day when the Left and the Stop The War Coalition/CND movement should be congratulated that for the first time in 50 years a UK parliament has voted against an imperial war due to the years of work by the anti war movement we get these two awful articles by MH and Lambeth that really do not represent Left Unity opinion. Now onto the Robert Frisk article:
    Robert Frisk in The Independent today:
    “Iran, not Syria, is the West’s real target
    Iran is ever more deeply involved in protecting the Syrian government. Thus a victory for Bashar is a victory for Iran. And Iranian victories cannot be tolerated by the West.
    Before the stupidest Western war in the history of the modern world begins – I am, of course, referring to the attack on Syria that we all yet have to swallow – it might be as well to say that the cruise missiles which we confidently expect to sweep onto one of mankind’s oldest cities have absolutely nothing to do with Syria.
    They are intended to harm Iran. They are intended to strike at the Islamic republic now that it has a new and vibrant president – as opposed to the crackpot Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – and when it just might be a little more stable.

    Iran is Israel’s enemy. Iran is therefore, naturally, America’s enemy. So fire the missiles at Iran’s only Arab ally.

    There is nothing pleasant about the regime in Damascus. Nor do these comments let the regime off the hook when it comes to mass gassing. But I am old enough to remember that when Iraq – then America’s ally – used gas against the Kurds of Hallabjah in 1988, we did not assault Baghdad. Indeed, that attack would have to wait until 2003, when Saddam no longer had any gas or any of the other weapons we had nightmares over.

    And I also happen to remember that the CIA put it about in 1988 that Iran was responsible for the Hallabjah gassings, a palpable lie that focused on America’s enemy whom Saddam was then fighting on our behalf. And thousands – not hundreds – died in Hallabjah. But there you go. Different days, different standards.

    And I suppose it’s worth noting that when Israel killed up to 17,000 men, women and children in Lebanon in 1982, in an invasion supposedly provoked by the attempted PLO murder of the Israeli ambassador in London – it was Saddam’s mate Abu Nidal who arranged the killing, not the PLO, but that doesn’t matter now – America merely called for both sides to exercise “restraint”. And when, a few months before that invasion, Hafez al-Assad – father of Bashar – sent his brother up to Hama to wipe out thousands of Muslim Brotherhood rebels, nobody muttered a word of condemnation. “Hama Rules” is how my old mate Tom Friedman cynically styled this bloodbath.

    Anyway, there’s a different Brotherhood around these days – and Obama couldn’t even bring himself to say “boo” when their elected president got deposed.

    But hold on. Didn’t Iraq – when it was “our” ally against Iran – also use gas on the Iranian army? It did. I saw the Ypres-like wounded of this foul attack by Saddam – US officers, I should add, toured the battlefield later and reported back to Washington – and we didn’t care a tinker’s curse about it. Thousands of Iranian soldiers in the 1980-88 war were poisoned to death by this vile weapon.

    I travelled back to Tehran overnight on a train of military wounded and actually smelled the stuff, opening the windows in the corridors to release the stench of the gas. These young men had wounds upon wounds – quite literally. They had horrible sores wherein floated even more painful sores that were close to indescribable. Yet when the soldiers were sent to Western hospitals for treatment, we journos called these wounded – after evidence from the UN infinitely more convincing than what we’re likely to get from outside Damascus – “alleged” gas victims.

    So what in heaven’s name are we doing? After countless thousands have died in Syria’s awesome tragedy, suddenly – now, after months and years of prevarication – we are getting upset about a few hundred deaths. Terrible. Unconscionable. Yes, that is true. But we should have been traumatised into action by this war in 2011. And 2012. But why now?

    I suspect I know the reason. I think that Bashar al-Assad’s ruthless army might just be winning against the rebels whom we secretly arm. With the assistance of the Lebanese Hezbollah – Iran’s ally in Lebanon – the Damascus regime broke the rebels in Qusayr and may be in the process of breaking them north of Homs. Iran is ever more deeply involved in protecting the Syrian government. Thus a victory for Bashar is a victory for Iran. And Iranian victories cannot be tolerated by the West.

    And while we’re on the subject of war, what happened to those magnificent Palestinian-Israeli negotiations that John Kerry was boasting about? While we express our anguish at the hideous gassings in Syria, the land of Palestine continues to be gobbled up. Israel’s Likudist policy – to negotiate for peace until there is no Palestine left – continues apace, which is why King Abdullah of Jordan’s nightmare (a much more potent one than the “weapons of mass destruction” we dreamed up in 2003) grows larger: that “Palestine” will be in Jordan, not in Palestine.

    But if we are to believe the nonsense coming out of Washington, London, Paris and the rest of the “civilised” world, it’s only a matter of time before our swift and avenging sword smiteth the Damascenes. To observe the leadership of the rest of the Arab world applauding this destruction is perhaps the most painful historical experience for the region to endure. And the most shameful. Save for the fact that we will be attacking Shia Muslims and their allies to the handclapping of Sunni Muslims. And that’s what civil war is made of.

  7. peteb says:

    whilst i agree that to expose imperialisms real motivation an arms to the people of syria – with no strings position is correct, i think we have to have no illusions that this will happen. even left unity bloggers dont seem to see that an exposure demand is not support for imperialist intervention.
    we oppose the us intervention but build solidarity with the popular forces, yes especially with workers and far@ers organisations in syria.

  8. kevin o'connor says:

    A few points
    1.The so called Syrian rebels are mainly jihadists fascists carrying out mass killing of Syrian Christians.
    Secondly I want to see a democratic Syria, the best hope is an international peace conference between the Syrian government and peaceful elements of the Syrian opposition.
    Thirdly a recent poll from qatar showed that 55% of Syrian people support Assad.Now I do not believe these figures but a lot of Syrians do support assad,almost all Christians and most alawites.
    Fourthly the real game of the neo conservatives and Zionists is to use Syria as a springboard to attack iran and possibly unleash world war three.So beware
    Kevin O’Connor
    Islington left unity.

  9. David says:

    I doubt if there is a majority in Syria in favour of overthrowing the Assad regime by force. Most Syrian people just want to get on with their lives. Western interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya have been disastrous for all concerned and my guess is that an intervention in Syria will have an unpredictable outcome at best.

  10. Richard Brenner says:

    Do people really believe what Apfelbaum suggests above, that the anti-Assad forces are either Al Qaeda, Western backed capitalists, religious sectarians, or ‘non-existent’?

    Have we forgotten the Arab Spring and how the people’s revolution in Syria began?

    The millions who rose up against this brutal dictator want democratic rights, freedom of assembly, an elected government. Should Left Unity not support them?

    Yes reactionaries are trying to come to the head of the movement, but we should not forget that in most areas the resistance is being run by popular committees.

    Please have a look at the website attached, by the Syrian Revolutionary Left, for a more balanced view of the situation. And just as we oppose Britain and America firing missiles and dropping bombs on Syria, so we should back the Syrian people who are fighting a vicious fascist regime.

    If only we the Electorate knew that Cameron & Blair were in Collusion before the Election the outcome might have been a different matter.As I have stated previously Blairs designs on Syria were thwarted by Assad eventually hence the latest excuse for involvement.” Cameron had backed Blair’s decision to block the publication of some damming letters in return for his ‘neutrality or tacit support’ at the Last general election”.Blair did carry on Thatchers Policies after hijacking the Labour Party and Cameron has implemented them.Now we know why Miliband becoming Labour Leader was so ‘Tied ‘to Tory Principal.Blair’s 100 years gag on his term in Office,his repealing of the Treason Act,now we face a new Bill in the form of a Gagging Act to stop us from using our own voices against the whole Corrupt System.Its reading takes place on Fri 6th Sept.It was no joke “We are all in it Together” BSB.

  12. Ian Donovan says:

    Here is a story that, if it is true, will be sensational and raise questions about what an American ally is doing supplying chemical weapons to Al Qaeda:

  13. Ray G says:

    Isn’t the sad truth that it actually doesn’t matter what we say, bacause the left in Britain and internationally is too weak to be of any consequence whatsoever.

    That said, we simply have to acknowledge that the picture is extraordinarily complex, with no absolutely clear good guys and bad guys. To just say ‘my enemies enemy is my friend’ doesn’t cut it either.

    I can be against Assad, a monstrous tyrant, without supporting US imperialism’s attempt, purely for their own reasons, to bring him down as part of their larger plan for imperial domination of the whole region.

    I can support the secular, human-rights based or even socialist forces fighting against Assad in Syria (although how practically to do this as a weak group of socialists is another question) without lending my support to crazed jihadist lunatics, funded by Saudi Arabia as part of a holy war against Shia Islam, and as part of their attempt to gain regional hegemony at the expense of Iran.

    I can be a consistent opponent of Western imperialism without lining up as a cheerleader for Iran, or the imperialism of Putin’s Russia.

    The defeat of of vote in Parliament is a reflection that the ruling class is split and indecisive on the issue. They want to get rid of Assad, ideally, but are nervous, to say the least about who might replace him. Yes, they have in the past funded extreme anti-democratic jihadist elements, most obviously in Afghanistan, and they may be up to that game again to some extent, but even they must surely recognise that it is a very dangerous game to play.

    The tragedy in Syria, as in most of the world, is that the global defeat of ‘the Left’ has sent off the mass of people into all sorts of reactionary deadends, such as more moderate Islam-based parties or the lunatic desperation of the jihadists, or extreme nationalistic or xenophobic parties in Europe.

    The Left in Britain is powerless to find or to help the good guys in the short term. Saying we should only support ‘peaceful’ opponents of Assad is, I am sorry, just trite, pacifist liberalism. But talk of arming the ‘good’ rebels is just empty words if we have no weapons to send them, or ways to get there. We just have to do what we can. At least stopping the US/France/UK attack is partly within our ability, so I am glad we helped to do it in the UK at least.

  14. Baton Rouge says:

    The Stalinised and poisoned British Left is once again collaborating with fascistic elements, even to the point of marching shoulder to shoulder with them outside embassys, in the brutal dismemberment of a nation. It happened when the Serbian Stalinist Milosovic recruited the fascist irregulars of the Bosnian Serbs to enact a brutal land grab from Bosnia as they broke up Yugoslavia and of course it happened when Stalin signed his pact with Hitler and the two of them each took a slice of Poland and Hitler’s concentration camps got a little closer to their intended destination.

    Unfortunately mealy mouthed resolutions such as this and previous examples are not themselves principled just because they claim to support the Syrian Revolution but are actually designed to appease the Stalinist appeasers by welcoming the Parliamentary vote to abandon the Syrians to Assad’s gasses.

    If we are sincere supporters of the Syrian Revolution, and clearly there are a good number of people in Left Unity who would rather be carrying a garlanded Assad through the streets for a heros welcome than be that, then how in all good consciense can we welcome the outcome of this vote? We support your revolution Syrian people but you must be martyred to our ideological purity because the British Left, whilst it abhors the use of poison gas, cannot under any circumstances sully its hands by supporting any action against it especially imperialist action. Hypocrisy.

    If a limited strike is ordered that degrades the military instrument that is being used to smash the revolution and commit genocide then how can we possibly protest that? No, of course we cannot, not without shouldering the blame for Assad’s next atrocity and the next and the next as the foolish New Labour Milliband must surely now do. The British Parliament voted against action not because it is anti-imperialist, the notion is absurd, but because it sees no strategic interest for the UK in Syria unlike Libya where there is plenty of oil and they were happy to stop the lunatic Gadaffi from flattening Benghazi. Far from being an anti-imperialist vote it was in reality racist and backed by the Tory far right and UKIP as well as notorious New Labourites albeit from the Brown wing who have supported every other imperialist intervention since the year dot and are usually inveterate cheer leaders for the Cruise Missile Left.

    Our position or the position of principled socialists should have been all along that the imperialist intervention we oppose is the vicious arms embargo of the US/EU that is preventing the Syrian from defending themselves whilst the crypto fascist Russian imperialist oligarchs arm Putin and the Gulf states arm the Islamists and Jihadis. We should have been warning the Syrians people not to expect any help from the imperialists, and we would have been correct given Friday’s vote, as they have very little interest in the fate of Arabs. We should have advised them to rely on their own strength, the support of their Arab brothers and of the international working class or at least that part of it that is not rotten with the cancer of Stalinism or rotten pacifism. Even now Obama has opened the possibility for Congress to block any action and if he can he will take it. The republic far right will ask for a ridiculous and impossible full scale invasion but only as an excuse not to vote for Obama’s proposed surgical strikes. They are far more interested in embarassing a `liberal’ president than saving Syrians.

    In the very unlikely event that there is a limited intervention the left’s position should be not to protest it but to advise the Syrian people to take advantage and up their struggle to oust Assad whilst bewaring false friends who have stood by whilst 100,000 have been killed and millions turned into refugees.

    Left Unity: reject the Stalinised Putin-appeasing Poison Gas Left but also reject the appeasers of these appeasers. Give your unconditional support to the Arab Spring and the National Democratic Syrian Revolution. Demand the lifting of the arms embargo, organise political and physical solidarity and don’t protest alongside Assad’s fans and Putin’s thugs on any more anti-intervention `protests’ or celebrations. Let us continuously point out the hypocrisy and self-serving nature of imperialism of course but the fact that growing contradictions have forced a thoroughly reactionary social force for strategic reasons to do something mildly progressive for once should not turn us into unthinking ideologues who oppose it for the sake of their own saintly purity.

  15. I’m amused that no-one so far has spotted my huge clanger in saying that “the French parliament voted in favour of President François Hollande’s calls for military action”, only I’m afraid that was just the information that I had at the time. But to those of you who have responded negatively to this article: please do keep on slandering the majority of the Syrian people as somehow being in thrall to an Israeli-sponsored insurgency. I’m sure they’ll be grateful to you for your help in keeping them on the straight and narrow path of maintaining their national independence from themselves. Fortunately, there are people on the left (including in Left Unity) who think differently.

  16. Ian Donovan says:

    “If a limited strike is ordered that degrades the military instrument that is being used to smash the revolution and commit genocide then how can we possibly protest that? No, of course we cannot, not without shouldering the blame for Assad’s next atrocity and the next and the next as the foolish New Labour Milliband must surely now do.”

    Surely with this logic you must condemn the position of the Trotskyist movement in the Second World War, of refusing to support endorse even critically one imperialist camp against the other. Surely the position of the then Labour leadership – of straightforwardly waging war against Nazi Germany – and of the Stalinised Comintern after June 1941 – is more in tune with what is being argued here.

    After all, Hitler was a good deal more dangerous – and much more capable of mass killing – that Bashir Assad. Germany was a mighty imperialist power striving for European and world hegemony. Syria is still a backward and oppressed country: Assad for all his radicalism and his bloody crimes is an instrument and expression of that oppression. But so is the threat of attack from imperialism. Attack from imperialism takes such oppression a stage further.

    David Ellis is coming from a honourable standpoint in some ways, of genuine sympathy for the Arab people being massacred by some pretty nasty bourgeois nationalist regimes. He is no Zionist or anything like that. His views undoubtedly reflect a strand of those to be found on the Syrian left.

    But the road to hell is paved with good intentions. US imperialism has not changed, and nor have Assad’s crimes changed the position of Syria in the world capitalist order. An attack by the USA and France on Syria would still be an imperialist attack on a non-imperialist, oppressed country, and still a crime that as socialist and Marxists, we have to oppose as a matter of principle. And we have to defend any semi-colonial country that is threatened with imperialist attack.

    That implies no support for the bloody counterrevolutionary regime that leads it, and never did. Its just a basic anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist position.

    The US and European ruling classes is enormously more powerful and dangerous to the working class of the entire globe than Assad could ever dream of. Any successful armed action by them will strengthen them and could lay the basis for aggression in Latin America, or the Far East, for example.

    In any case, the link I gave may actually be the truth. And I certainly don’t believe that Syrian revolution is an Israeli plot. There actually appear to be three forces involved in this – the forces of the genuine popular revolt that erupted against Assad 2 years ago. This includes both secular and native Islamic forces such as the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood who have deep roots in Syria as they do in Egypt. There are the forces of the Assad regime. And there are hardened, extreme Islamist types, Al Qaed’ists, who are the agents of imperialism in seeking to turn the revolution into a sectarian conflict, and are mainly funded by Saudi Arabia, a strategic US ally.

    The link I gave attributes the use of chemical weapons to these forces. I have to say that I do think it is plausible that they may have done it, from the point of view of motive. That being to draw the US into a conflict where they can do severe military damage to Assad and make things easier for them to prevail over both Assad and the popular forces.

    And the US has form for backing such forces, knowing full well their nature and being quite prepared to risk damage from them if it can make use of them for wider strategic goals. Syria was on Bush’s hit list long before the Arab Spring, and that has evidently not changed with Obama even now.

  17. BrentB says:

    The author goes through some mental flips starting with “the Syrian regime has calculated that it can strike a blow like this in broad daylight, in full view of the world and its own people, and get away with it.” So, it decided to do this in broad daylight.

    However, there is no proof of the source of the attack. If you do something in broad daylight, surely there is evidence of the perpetrator.

    Once this explanation for accusing Assad of using chemical weapons disappears, the entire article disappears.

    Came hoping for enlightenment, left empty handed.

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