Archive for August, 2016

proudest momentWRITTEN BY DAVID A TURPIN, JR.
Ms. Terry Burke has ruffled some feathers at the United National Antiwar Coalition. The veteran antiwar and international solidarity activist has written an outstanding criticism of UNAC’s hypocritical silence in regards Assad’s war crimes. Her critique is a welcome breath of fresh air in a moribund antiwar movement. US antiwar opposition is in a profound crisis, and the crisis is a direct result of the hypocrisy of UNAC’s line on Syria. The facts about the Assad regime’s murderous policies can no longer be denied, and UNAC’s leadership is engaging in damage control, abruptly changing tactics from arrogantly ignoring critical voices, to pedantry and warning against following Ms. Burke’s example as this will “weaken and divide” the antiwar coalition. Indeed.

Lecturing Ms. Burke about US imperialism and ominous warnings about divisions, however, will not make the crisis go away. UNAC’s leadership needs to assume responsibility for the crisis of our movement: their cover ups of Assad’s chemical attacks, their denials, and their apologies for the regime’s campaign of terror from the skies have completely undermined UNAC’s moral authority.

The United National Antiwar Coalition’s refusal to condemn the Assad regime’s war crimes actually facilitates the ongoing, expanding, militarist, terrorist and misnamed US-led “War on Terror”. The moral basis for opposition to the “War on Terror” rests on condemnation of the use of modern weapons of war in indiscriminate violence against civilians, but UNAC’s leaders have betrayed principle and corrupted the purpose of building an antiwar opposition by becoming apologists for the bloodiest agents of terror in Syria: Assad, and his backers in Russia and Iran.

Assad cannot govern Syria; his regime relies on a policy of collective punishment through sieges and the indiscriminate use of air power against civilian populations in areas liberated from regime control. Assad and his supporters’ crimes against humanity are widely documented by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Doctors Without Borders. Denying overwhelming evidence, UNAC publicly laments the “demonization” of Assad, all the while demonizing the democratic opposition as “Islamic extremists” and “foreign financed terrorists”.

By repeating the Assad regime’s lies, the leadership has converted the antiwar coalition into an “antiwar” propaganda machine for a war criminal. This is why UNAC is unable to offer a serious challenge to the US “War on Terror”. The leaders of UNAC cheerlead for Assad as he murders and maims indiscriminately, in the name of fighting “terrorism”; what then are their objections to US airstrikes?

UNAC’s leadership seems oblivious to how well Assad has played them. Assad has proven himself to be an excellent, if cynical, student of US propaganda. The dictator has purposefully crafted his image to present his regime as potentially the most reliable ally of the US Coalition’s “War on Terror”. UNAC’s slavish repetition of Assad’s line leaves the “antiwar” coalition unable to mount serious opposition to the ongoing expansion of the direct US military intervention in Syria, which contrary to UNAC’s claims is not aimed at regime change, but specifically at targeting Daesh.

US jets already share Syrian air space with Assad’s and Russia’s air force, so the accommodation of the US, and Assad and Russia, is a consummated and objective fact. Whatever lip service the Obama administration payed to democracy and human rights in Syria has long been forgotten; anymore, Obama doesn’t even bother to mumble. Moreover, Kerry and Lavrov are working hard for an agreement on formal collaboration between Russia and the US. In all likelihood, this agreement will leave the Assad regime in place, ostensibly during a “transition period”. Once the goal of regime change has been taken off the table, and the US has never seriously pursued this goal, how will UNAC oppose the “War on Terror”? Will UNAC demand Assad be made a full partner in the US-led Coalition, because he can use his barrel bombs and poison gas without political repercussions? Do the leaders of UNAC, who loudly boast of their experience and knowledge of history, recall that papa Assad joined Bush’s US coalition in an earlier episode of the never-ending “War on Terror”?

Madelyn Hoffman being briefed before the "spontaneous" objective conference for the press!

Madelyn Hoffman being briefed before the “spontaneous” objective conference for the press!

UNAC’s leadership has been played for fools by the Assad regime. They’ve also foolishly fallen for US imperialism’s feigned support for the opposition. It is obvious from UNAC’s statements that the leadership sees the US playing homologous strategies in Afghanistan in the 80s and Syria today, but the trickle of small arms once supplied to the Syrian opposition, and always with strings attached, contrasts sharply to the flood of weaponry the US channeled through Pakistan to the Mujahideen, weapons which included ground to air missiles. In Syria, the US has imposed an embargo specifically preventing the opposition from acquiring air defense systems, and the US attempts to control the supply of heavy weapons, precisely because it wants to control the struggle against Assad. If regime change were the real objective of US imperialism, why does it dither? The pitiable US antiwar movement has certainly not been a factor even worthy of consideration.

UNAC’s tiresome and repetitious lectures about the savage history of US imperialism miss the point: in Syria the US is just as opposed to democracy as it is anywhere else, but in Syria it leaves the dirty work of butchering people to the Assad regime, Russia and Iran. UNAC presents apologies for the war criminal regime as defense of Syria’s right to self determination; Assad may be a war criminal, but UNAC’s leaders tell us he is an “anti-imperialist” war criminal. All the better for US imperialism, the dirty deeds are done for free by a “sovereign” power.

DelegationAssad-1024x511United States antiwar opposition cannot regain momentum without fully recognizing that Assad is first and foremost responsible for the humanitarian crisis in Syria. No other conclusion can be drawn from any serious assessment of the destruction and casualties attributable to the regime’s and Russia’s use of such weapons as barrel bombs, chemical gas, cruise missiles, napalm, phosphorus and cluster munitions, and vacuum bombs, against urban populations, and even against emergency, and medical personnel and hospitals. The tragic and inexcusable casualties resulting from the reprehensible US Coalition airstrikes in Syria, and the damage done to infrastructure by these attacks, simply cannot be compared to the half a million and counting Syrians who have perished, primarily due to the regime’s and Russia’s air strikes in densely populated urban areas. Relentless bombing is the primary reason why half of the country has been displaced, with many millions driven into refugee camps or into desperate and dangerous journeys to Europe.

As for how to defeat Daesh without US Coalition airstrikes, it should be obvious upon reflection, that the only alternative to sectarian violence is a united, democratic Syria. Opposition to the bombing campaign, both by the regime against the people and by the US Coalition is how our antiwar movement can immediately take a stand in support of this alternative. UNAC, however, has chosen to lead the US antiwar movement behind the Assad regime, presenting the monstrous Assad as the most effective gendarme for crushing terrorists. This position is not only morally repugnant and clearly a betrayal of antiwar principles, it actually paves the way for the US “War on Terror”.

It is essential the US antiwar movement take a principled stand against Assad and Putin’s relentless bombing campaign. It is essential that we stand with the oppressed in their struggle against a regime that rules through incarceration, torture and terror. Our antiwar movement must reach out to the Syrian people, and stand in solidarity with their struggle. This was Ms. Burke’s simple message, which sadly has fallen upon deaf ears and hard hearts.

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Some “anti-imperialists” who think that the US Empire is the cause of the war in Syria. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

WRITTEN BY DAVID A TURPIN, JR.

Putin cynically offers humanitarian corridors to Aleppo. The cynicism of his proposal is so obvious that even the spineless United Nations must insist on control of the corridors, so as to offer the proposal a fig leaf of “legitimacy”.

Putin’s offer must be understood for what it is: 1) He is responding to international pressure to end the siege of Aleppo, 2) He is preparing a “justification” for new massacres.

Just as the Assad regime only “negotiated” while preparing military offensives, the “humanitarian corridors” offered by Putin are only intended to deflect international criticism as Putin and Assad starve 300,000 people and bury them with air and artillery strikes.

The “terrorists” are using the people as shields, we are told by the apologists for the war criminal Assad regime. A casual comparison of the relatively easy military victory over Daesh (IS) at Fallujah with the titanic struggle over Aleppo gives instant lie to this infamy.

The relatively quick collapse of IS at Fallujah compares nothing to the titanic struggle taking place in Aleppo, and the reason is obvious: Assad and his backers are fighting the forces of a popular democratic revolution.

The revolutionaries are fighting to the death because they know Assad can only offer death. There is nothing to negotiate.

Yes, indeed, the “Terrorists” are using the people as shields: but the terrorists in the battle of Aleppo are Assad, Putin and Tehran’s thugs.

In attempting to understand the course of the Syrian democratic revolution and how it is that the Assad regime has gone from near collapse to its current position of strength, we cannot avoid the conclusion that the Syrian democratic revolution has been abandoned by the US and European left. To say this does not ignore the role played by the US arms embargo placed upon the opposition to Assad, or the intentional effort by the US and its Gulf State allies to prevent the formation of a cohesively united military command for the struggle against Assad–the fracturing of the opposition was engineered because the Obama administration has never supported the formation of a strong democratic Syria. Yet, these factors are givens: international solidarity movements for the democratic struggles in Latin America were always built as movements in opposition to US policy; the solidarity movement with Syria has also always objectively been opposed to the actual course followed by the Obama administration–his lip service to democracy notwithstanding.

It is an inescapable fact that the leaderships of our antiwar coalitions consciously decided against building solidarity with the Syrian people. The decision to abandon the Syrian people to Assad, Putin and Tehran’s thugs was led by pro-Baathist and Stalinist forces, which openly apologize for the war-criminal Assad regime and defend their treachery with claims of “anti-imperialism”, but these usurpers of our antiwar opposition were only able to triumph by cynically appealing to “unity”. Fears of splitting our antiwar coalitions allowed the apologists for the war criminal Assad regime to dictate our movement’s political orientation.

In the UK, it's clear that the support is for the regime.

The pro-Baathist traitors within our antiwar opposition have completely demobilized our movement.

The antiwar movement is dead. It’s last action was to stand in solidarity with the Assad regime!

We should never, ever, let this ignominious demise be forgotten.

Attempts to get around the defeat and demise of our antiwar opposition by ignoring it will gain nothing. There cannot be any serious proposal for the victory of progressive forces that ignores the terrible dangers of a military triumph by the Assad regime. The reasons are becoming increasingly obvious, no matter how hard they are ignored by the US and European left.

Even if Assad triumphs militarily, his regime cannot rebuild and stabilize Syria. Assad can only burn Syria; he has no other power; he cannot inspire and mobilize–he can only terrorize. Crushing popular revolutionary movements does not advance national development; crushing the energy of these movements destroys the very spirit that builds nations.

In the context of a burning Syria, despair and demoralization will only feed the growth of violent extremism. The centrifugal forces unleashed in Iraq will gain momentum in Syria. Daesh may be defeated in Raqqa and Mosul, but the anger and despair that feed the plague of sectarian violence can only deepen with the bitter divisions fomented by the Assad regime and by Tehran’s sectarian policies in Iraq and Lebanon. The alternative to violently sectarian forces has always only ever been solidarity with the struggles for democracy and self determination.

The alternative to violent sectarianism, building international solidarity with the democratic struggles–and centrally with the struggle in Syria, is also the only alternative to the never-ending “War on Terror” and to the imposition of permanent states of siege and the targeted repression of Muslims and immigrants in the West.

Daesh can be militarily defeated in Raqqa and Mosul, as it was in Fallujah, but the fight that must be won is to build a political alternative to the despair and alienation that allows Daesh, or any such nihilistic forces, to recruit. Walls, spies, permanent occupation forces in far away lands, and never-ending military operations cannot bring safety and security to the citizenry in the West. Demagogic proponents of a strategy to “follow Israel’s example” fail to recognize that much of the high command of the Israeli military is gripped by a sense of despair at the impossibility of maintaining a permanent occupation in the West Bank and a never-ending siege on Gaza. The Apartheid system of permanent repression could not hold in South Africa; it cannot hold in the occupied territories of Palestine and it cannot work as a strategy to contain the democratic aspirations of the peoples of the Middle East.

The leaderships of our antiwar coalitions want to ignore Syria, but by doing so they ignore the reality that the victory of the democratic struggle in Syria is the only alternative to the never-ending “War on Terror”, and by ignoring this reality, these leaderships have completely paralyzed our movement. It is no accident that there have been no mobilizations against the growing presence of US troops in northern Syria, against Obama’s decision to reverse one of the central campaign issues that brought him electoral victories–a US withdrawal from Afghanistan. It is no accident that even when US air strikes result in documented large numbers of civilian casualties in Syria, there are no mobilizations. The US antiwar “movement” is dead; it died when it mobilized in solidarity with the Assad regime. It was betrayed and murdered by the apologists for the Assad regime. The pieces that make up our antiwar coalitions may be able to regroup and rebuild, but only if they embrace solidarity with the democratic struggles.