Who gassed 1,300 civilians in a suburb of Damascus one Summer morning?
The United States government says it was the government of Bashar al-Assad. The rebels fighting to overthrow Assad, and I heard an estimate this morning that there are as many as a thousand different rebel groups and factions, agree. The Russian government, which backs Assad, says it was done by the rebels, whom it calls terrorists. Others say it was done by Israeli intelligence agents waving the impossible to prove or disprove “false flag” that ends all arguments. Still others say nothing happened at all, a bunch of faked pictures and staged news reports. (A report this morning, as plausible or questionable as any other, claims the gas was Saudi-supplied and accidentally set off by inept rebel mishandling). The United Nations says it is investigating! The United States says it doesn’t really care what the UN says, it’s too late for facts.
President Obama says the U.S. must respond to what happened with as-yet-undefined military force. As he beats the drum for an attack on Syria, the American people don’t seem particularly interested in supporting a new war. And yet, for those voices that are beginning to speak out against the idea of a new war, there seems to be a lot more silence. I think we need to look into what is going on.
If anything is clear in the midst of this muddle (besides the fact that a lot of people seem to be dying), it’s that the reputation of the U.S. government for telling anything resembling the truth is completely in the shitter.
President Obama’s sudden drive for military retaliation against Assad can’t be heard without the reverberation of deafening echoes of the propaganda and disinformation campaign waged by President Bush and his neocon allies in their drive to attack Iraq just over a decade ago. Everyone knows, now, that Bush and his cronies were lying, and most people assume that Obama and his cronies are lying now.
This is a photo of Obama’s current secretary of state, John Kerry — then a Senator — and his billionaire wife having an intimate dinner for four with Mr. and Mrs. Assad at a classy Damascus restaurant a couple years ago. Secretary Kerry has just called the alleged chemical weapon attacks “a moral obscenity.” He went on to claim, “Our sense of basic humanity is offended.”
As happens so often lately, one doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry at this imperialist politician’s words.
Basic sense of humanity? Is this the same basic sense of humanity that caused the U.S. to starve untold thousands in a decade-long blockade of Iraq, and when that didn’t seem to advance their agenda, to invade that country, unprovoked, causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands? The basic sense of humanity that sends drones to assassinate thousands of people on all corners of the globe without trial or evidence, or apparently, even very good aim? Many avert their eyes and ears from the monstrous claims of these politicians, but few actually believe them.
But even as the politicians were crying “But, chemical weapons!,” long suspected news was confirmed that the CIA had no problem assisting Saddam Hussein back in the days when he was fighting U.S. Enemy Number One, Iran. Let’s quote the headline: “Exclusive: CIA Files Prove America Helped Saddam as He Gassed Iran. The U.S. knew Hussein was launching some of the worst chemical attacks in history — and still gave him a hand.” That water under the bridge is experiencing a bit of a backflow.
And, speaking of WMDs, chemical weapons and moral obscenities, a little bit of cursory historical research reminds us that it was the U.S. that was the first and only nation to use nukes against civilians. The U.S. blanketed Vietnam with the chemical defoliant Agent Orange, still causing birth defects generations later. The U.S. used depleted uranium weapons in both its wars against Iraq, again leaving a multi-generational legacy of of horrible birth defects. Then there’s white phosphorus munitions, shared with its Israeli client state, that turn mere explosives into toxic explosives. Or how about that tear gas used by repressive governments across the Mediterranean, made in U.S.A.? Or closer to home, is not the pepper spray that drenched the Occupy movement a chemical weapon? Indeed let’s discuss moral obscenities, shall we?
Occupy Wall Street veteran Mickey Z., in a great article detailing some of the government and media hypocrisy over Syria, wagged, “When I first read about a dictator unleashing chemical warfare upon “his own people,” I thought the media was finally discussing how President Obama appointed Michael Taylor (vice president for public policy at Monsanto) to the position of deputy commissioner for Foods at the FDA.” Mickey’s joke makes a serious point: who the fuck are these people to be lecturing anyone? They don’t actually care aboutpeople at all: they care about money, votes, power.
This is a picture of U.S. marines walking the streets of Fallujah, Iraq. Fallujah was levelled after its rebellious inhabitants killed and strung up some hired American mercenaries. You’ll need a strong stomach to follow up links on what vengeful Americans did to the people of that city. Now, these same masters of outrage say that Assad must be punished for using gas “against his own people.” They say they don’t want to invade Syria, they don’t want to take sides in the civil war, they don’t want regime change, they just want to lob a few missiles on the country to teach them a lesson. Would could possibly go wrong?
Remarkably, at least for now, the British parliament just voted down a motion by the Prime Minister to join the U.S. in retaliatory strikes against Syria. (Unsurprisingly for anyone who knows anything about the party obscenely calling itself “socialist” in France, the French President, Socialist Party leader Françoise Hollande has pledged full support to any U.S. attack. France is always eager to remind its former colonies, like Syria, who still wields the stick of imperialism.)
What is less good news is the apparent broad cynicism, apathy or resignation of the U.S. population.
A handful of demonstrations against the threat of a U.S. attack on Syria have already taken place, but they’ve been small, nothing like the huge demonstrations that met Bush’s drive to war. A call went out for local demonstrations at noontime on Saturday, August 31, but I expect these to attract mostly core activists and suspect they will be widely ignored by the media.
The liberal establishment and its media have fallen in lockstop behind the Democratic president Obama. It’s a subject for its own discussion elsewhere, but the repulsive liberal vilification of military and NSA whistleblowers Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden and heroic journalists like Glenn Greenwald, is a sad spectacle to behold. The New York Times, which shilled endlessly for the Iraq war, losing quite a bit of journalistic prestige and integrity in the process, has already run one grotesque OpEd piece entitled “Bomb Syria, Even If It Is Illegal.” Another creepy OpEd piece suggested that the best scenario for the U.S. and Israel (always the first concern of Times journalists) would be an extended civil war that drains the resources of all sides.
Vocal opposition to a strike on Syria seems to be coming more from the right wing of American politics. Republicans and Libertarians, ever eager to condemn Obama for anything at all, have seized the moment. Of course it helps these posers that they’re on summer break right now. I would be surprised, in the end, if the U.S. congress doesn’t acquiesce to whatever Obama chooses to actually do. He hasn’t yet formally asked Congress for authorization, and in any case he refused to do so when “backing” the NATO attack on Libya.
We were treated to the spectacle this week of watching President Obama interrupt his plans against Syria to make a speech lauding the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr on the 50th anniversary of the civil rights March on Washington. While plenty of people in attendance remembered that Dr. King was vehemently opposed to the Vietnam War, suffice it to say that the liberal politicians speaking from the podium didn’t call out this dramatic contradiction. Obama’s speech seemed wooden and full of empty platitudes, and even liberals in the African-American community took notice: “Dr. King was a pacifist and anti-militarist who believed that America was the greatest single cause of violence in the world. Barack Obama, while giving his own March on Washington anniversary speech, has already, or soon will, order the United States military to attack Syria….In his soaring rhetoric, Barack Obama chose to return to an old trope, and what is for him, a comfortable narrative. He would speak about his dream of a post-racial America, one that is still a work in progress…..That Barack Obama would decide to lecture and scold Black America on the 50th Anniversary of Dr. King’s speech and the March on Washington is disturbing.” (Chauncey De Vega)
In the face of all of this it’s not surprising that people feel overwhelmed and anxious. People are worried and concerned about a new war, but disgusted at self-evident hypocrisy and politicians with a long history of lying. That doesn’t seem to be enough to coalesce an antiwar movement. The rampant spread of demoralizing conspiracy theories among young people disaffected with liberalism is not helping. Why bother protesting if there is always a hidden hand manipulating reality?
Frankly I think the fact that some remnants of the old anti-war movement have now tied themselves to support for Assad in the Syrian civil war doesn’t help, either. The Workers World Party’s International Action Center seems to have furnished an antiwar demo I attended in New York with Syrian government flags and portraits of Assad; the PSL’s ANSWER coalition seems to take a soft-peddled but similar approach.
There needs to be a real anti-war movement. People should be out in the street, angry and pissed off. It is absolutely incredible that this frayed worn script is being used to rationalize another war. It’s outrageous that there are so few strong public voices against it.
As a communist, as an activist in my community, I’m gonna go out on the street with folks I met during the Occupy movement and we’re gonna make some noise. I think there will be few of us. I think most people will pass us by. And the depravity of this situation is so horrible, so exhausting, I get that. If we don’t look, maybe what’s happening a million miles away won’t get closer. But I think we should talk for a minute about what we’re doing this for: what do we care?
For a hot minute Obama and Qaddafi, the Libyan dictator he eventually helped depose, were buds. In that same rarified world, the Kerrys and Assads can sit down to a gentile dinner or, as shown in another now classic photo, Donald Rumsfield and Saddam Hussein can share a hearty handshake. These photos reveal something profound about the world, the world that communists want to overturn.
It’s just not true that for every bad guy there’s a good guy. One of the great pieces of wisdom in Marxism is that people do things for material reasons: the world is not turned by a war between good and evil, or by black and white, but by material self interest. The actions of people with different class interests become predictable; and the key to changing the injustices of the world is understanding where the leverage lies, where the sources of power are.
Communists should oppose imperialism, this is absolutely true, and so very important.
The best thing we communists in the U.S. can do for all those who struggle around the world is to do what we can to defeat the monster in whose belly we live. But communists should also support the struggles of the people worldwide for liberation, for self-determination, for freedom. This means that while the Bushes and the Obamas and the Rumsfields and the Kerrys of this world are our enemies, the Qaddafis, the Saddams, the Assads, the Putins of this world, they are not our friends. That is not how the world is divided, not now. These are all, every last one of them, depraved, hypocritical, corrupt, capitalist politicians with a taste for the blood of the people.
Regardless of what the currently unknowable truth is behind the tragedy in that Damascus suburb, Assad and many of the rebel factions have committed easily documentable atrocities against regular people who want nothing more than their own right of self-determination. The western nations falsely posing as humanitarians have a documentable record of even worse atrocity. Communists must point to the horizon and say it doesn’t have to be like this. We can win the world for ourselves, for the global majority.
Oh it’s an idea not an exact number, but you remember, to coin a phrase, the 99%.
We must sweep away the clutter. Out with the bombs and missiles of imperialism. Out with the duplicitous false parties of capitalist politics. Out with the armies of sectarianism and division. Out with the self-serving, lying murderers who rule the nations of the world. Out with the lying mouthpieces of the mainstream media.
Stopping the war on Syria would be a very good start to making those things happen. Are you with us?
STOP THE ATTACK ON SYRIA!