Pilger’s denial of Syrian people’s agency

Posted: 09/19/2013 by editormary in Internet and Communication, Middle East Issues, Palestine, Syria, War, Zionism

pilgerWRITTEN BY SAM CHARLES HAMAD    For people like Pilger, Arabs have absolutely no agency – they either have to be the passive masses living under an ‘anti-western’ strongman like Assad, wherein their very real suffering is even reduced by Pilger and his ilk to a ‘western conspiracy’ (or it’s just ignored), or they are these seemingly mindless ‘proxies’ being manipulated by all and sundry. 

In the recent piece by John Pilger  he writes:  “Syria is the current project. Outflanked by Russia and public opinion, Obama has now embraced the “path of diplomacy”. Has he? As Russian and US negotiators arrived in Geneva on 12 September, the US increased its support for the Al-Qaeda affiliated militias with weapons sent clandestinely through Turkey, Eastern Europe and the Gulf. The Godfather has no intention of deserting his proxies in Syria. Al Qaeda was all but created by the CIA’s Operation Cyclone that armed the mujahedin in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan. Since then, jihadists have been used to divide and Arab societies and in eliminating the threat of pan-Arab nationalism to western “interests” and Israel’s lawless colonial expansion. This is Kissinger-style “realism”.”

Let me just make something very clear: John Pilger is basically saying here that the Syrian rebels are ‘jihadists’ being used to destroy the regime of Bashar al-Assad because it somehow represents a threat to ‘western interests’. It’s not just that Pilger’s understanding of the conflict is so utterly stupid and bereft of any logic or historical fact, but it is also is in its content a very definite form of apologia for the regime’s crimes. Unlike most of the other witting and unwitting apologists for Bashar al-Assad on the left, Pilger doesn’t even bother paying lip service to Assad’s crimes (or the wider crimes of the Assad dynasty), but instead ‘treats’ us to the now familiar narrative of the conflict, wherein Assad is cast as the righteous protagonist, who was presumably just keeping on keeping on, when these vicious antagonists, the jihadist Al-Qaeda proxies, appeared from nowhere and started causing all kinds of fitna. Basically, it’s all a US plot and Assad’s ‘war on terrorism’ is very real and very righteous (unlike the west’s ‘war on terrorism’, every aspect of which Pilger was, as you might expect, dead against).

For people like Pilger, Arabs have absolutely no agency – they either have to be the passive masses living under an ‘anti-western’ strongman like Assad, wherein their very real suffering is even reduced by Pilger and his ilk to a ‘western conspiracy’ (or it’s just ignored), or they are these seemingly mindless ‘proxies’ being manipulated by all and sundry. The only time that somebody such as Pilger would ever comment on, let alone turn up with a camera to document, the suffering or resistance of the Arab peoples is if they are ‘victims’ of what he perceives to be the West, or, in other words, if they are Palestinians living under and resisting the Israeli occupation or Iraqis being ravaged by US sanctions or fighting against the imperialist occupation forces. However, if you are a Syrian who has been living under the cruel tyranny of the Assad dynasty, Pilger will not merely ignore your suffering or apologise for it, but if you resist such tyranny, he will actively essentialise you as being an ‘Al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist’ or a mere proxy for the West. His entire worldview is in essence the mirror image of the worldview of the defenders of US power and hegemony, who, for example, care only about the very few Israeli victims of rockets fired on Sderot from Gaza, while they actively deny the suffering of the Palestinian victims of Israeli state terror – or, as Pilger implies with Syria, they actually justify the death and destruction inflicted upon Gaza by Israel as being necessary in a ‘war on terror’.

To various different degrees (some more subtle than others), events in Syria have allowed this kind of facile ‘anti-imperialism’ to come to the fore among significant sections and individuals of the left, and you’ll notice that there has been – over the past two-and-a-half years – a gradual coalescence of not just the type of language used by some on the ‘anti-imperialist left’ and that of the pro-imperialists, but the actual substance of the arguments are basically the same, albeit with different ‘sides’ corresponding to the similar content and form of the arguments. This is not a type of leftism that I could ever accept or be a part of.

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Comments
  1. Dada says:

    “Let me make something very clear …” “…not a type of leftism I could ever accept ..” Ha ha. John Pilger has forgotten more about history than you’ll ever know, son.

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