Tag Archives | Anti-war

“Hands Off Syria” and Other Slogans of Assad’s Counter-Revolution

On August 6, Australian supporters of Bashar al-Assad’s murderous regime rallied and marched under the slogan “hands off Syria!

That the Syrian regime’s sycophants should demand a “hands off” policy from Washington, London, and Melbourne is logical. They do not want any outside force to interfere with the regime’s all-out war on its own people. They do not want Western arms for the Free Syrian Army, U.S. or British efforts to block Russian warships from bringing guns, bombs, bullets, helicopter parts, and gasoline to Assad, or Western airstrikes against the regime’s tanks, aircraft, and helicopters.

What is bizarre and disturbing is that Western progressives who are fighting for the very same freedoms and rights revolutionary Syrians are being killed for wanting are adopting the same slogans and policy preferences as Assad’s defenders, namely: “hands off Syria” and “no to Western intervention in Syria.”

I am talking about people like lifelong revolutionary socialists Tariq Ali and John Rees.

The Western left has by and large adopted the Assad counter-revolution’s preferred slogans and policies as their own because they have not asked themselves (as Lenin did) who stands to gain from them? Who stands to gain from British and American imperialisms standing idly by while an unholy alliance of Russian and Iranian imperialisms, Hezbollah, and the Assad regime tries to bury the Syrian revolution? Who stands to gain from unimpeded Russian arms shipments, unimpeded Syrian tank movements, and under-armed Free Syrian Army fighters?

The answer is blindingly obvious: the Assad regime.

When our opposition to U.S., British, or other imperialisms leads us to unwittingly assist counter-revolutions in Libya, Syria, or any where else, then it is time to rethink our anti-imperialism, or rather, how we apply anti-imperialist principles to a multi-polar world crawling with imperialists of all different shapes, sizes, strengths, and orientations, a world where every government and 1% has its own version of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and its own edition of Fox News to advance its predatory interests in every situation, at every turn.

The Russian edition of Fox News is Russia Today, the Syrian edition is SANA, and the Iranian edition is FNA (Voltairenet, on the other hand, is the French equivalent of Glenn Beck even though it is financed by the Assad regime). All three of these outlets are favorites among Western anti-imperialists even though they provide misinformation about Syria. The reality is that all three of these outlets are just as “fair and balanced” as Fox News is, meaning they all have hidden, unstated 1% agendas. This is why Occupy-style peaceful protests in Russia, Syria, and Iran get the same treatment in their media that Occupy gets in the American media.

Protesting too long, too effectively, or too loudly in any of these countries can get you killed, as the list of Russian journalists murdered proves, but it can get you killed here too.

Think I am exaggerating? Just ask a Black Panther.

We have been spared the fate of our Syrian, Libyan, Iranian, and Russian counterparts as of late only because our organizing has been mostly ineffective and not a threat to 1% power and profits. Right now, we are more likely to be killed by rampaging psycho-cops than we are by America’s secret police or other “law enforcement” agencies.

That will change if and when we become as massive, militant, and successful as the Arab Spring.

If you think Assad and Ghadafi are bad, just imagine the Assads and Ghadafis in Washington that sit at the top of the world’s food chain of repression, armed with nuclear and other nefarious weapons, who have perfected the art of divide and rule not only at home but on a truly global scale. They have armies of advisers, armies of intellectuals, armies of lawyers, armies of spies, armies of collaborators, armies of turncoats and traitors-to-be, armies of managers, armies of bureaucrats, armies of fund-raisers, armies of spokesmen and women, armies of court scribes, armies of hackers, armies of cops, and armies of armies to do their bidding against us.

On the up side, as in Syria and Libya the American armed forces have not been called on to use lethal force on a mass scale against our 99% for decades. There is no doubt in my mind that military personnel who are barely above the poverty line (and in some cases on food stamps) are not going to be gung-ho about shooting their own flesh and blood if, or rather when, that comes to pass. Most of them take the oath they swore to defend the Constitution with their lives very seriously, and orders from the Mitt Romneys and Barack Obamas of the future to dispense the rabble exercising their constitutional rights are not going to go over well.

Thinking about revolution and civil war here at home in this way ought to give us a bit of insight into what is really going on in far away lands like Syria and clue us in to what we should and should not do about it.

Peaceful protests in Syria broke out in spring of 2011 just as they did in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and everywhere else in the Middle East and North Africa where hungry people were tired of being beaten by cops, cajoled for bribes by government officials, and forced to silently endure every indignity imaginable out of fear, sheer terror, that you or your loved ones could disappear without a trace and end up in a ditch or a river somewhere without a face, I.D. card, or teeth for identification purposes.

The millions of grievances silently accumulated by millions of people over decades under the watchful eyes of murderous police states exploded in 2011 in an outpouring of festivity, celebration, and unrelenting bravery that did not line up nicely and neatly with the pro/anti-U.S. dichotomy that divides Middle Eastern and North African governments from one another. The Arab Spring’s failure to conform to this divide divided the international left into three camps: those who support smashing revolutions against “anti-imperialist” regimes, those who support revolutions smashing all the regimes pro and “anti-imperialist” alike by any means necessary, and those who seek a “middle ground” between these two camps and attach terms, conditions, fine print, asterisks, and caveats to their support for the Arab Spring’s revolutionaries over issues like non-violence, Western intervention, and sectarianism.

It is the comrades in the middle like Tariq Ali, John Reeds, and Phyllis Bennis who are doing themselves and the Syrian revolution a tremendous disservice by lining up politically with the Assad regime’s supporters by demanding “hands off Syria!” and “no to Western intervention!”

We in the West should not unite for any reason with any force that supports the murderous counter-revolution in Syria that is the literally killing the country’s best shot at political freedom, democracy, progress, and a future free of bloody, debilitating sectarianism.

To those firmly in the camp of Assad’s counter-revolution: if you can watch these videos of children in Aleppo or teenagers in Damascus without feeling like running out into those streets to join their clapping, dancing, chanting, and singing, I have to question whether you are a human being with feelings and emotions much less a so-called revolutionary.

If you think the CIA or the Israeli Mossad trained these kids and teenagers in the fine art of revolution, if you think they can conjure that defiant, rebellious, uncompromising spirit out of thin air, at will, you are either a damn fool or on some serious drugs. Cocaine is a helluva drug but it is nothing compared to whatever you are on if you think intelligence agencies staffed by professional killers, liars, and con men can engineer popular, broad-based revolutions almost overnight that are strong enough to withstand not just getting kicked out of a park but widespread torture and wave after wave of executions.

Old enough to fight but too young to die. Aleppo, Syria.

If you think the Syrian revolution was made in or is controlled by Washington then you should nod your head in agreement the next time Mayor Michael Bloomberg or Governor Scott Walker claims “outside agitators” are responsible for our street scuffles and protests because it is the same pack of lies the 1% use no matter where they rule, what language they speak, or how they measure up on the scale of “anti-imperialism.”

Whenever the 99% begin to move and make noise, the 1% try to convince us that it is outsiders and not we ourselves who are disturbing the thrones that rest on our backs.

The sad part is that these lies are largely recycled, reused throughout history, copy and pasted from one era to the next. The master classes have never been masters of invention or originality; they can buy both on the open market with their blood-stained dollars, euros, pesos, yuan, silver, or gold.

The Viet Nam generation heard this same song and dance from the likes of Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, and John F. Kennedy: nefarious outside agitators, trained in Moscow, financed by China, backed by the full weight of world communism were infiltrating poor defenseless little South Viet Nam’s fledgling democracy, stirring up trouble, wreaking havoc, and attempting to pull the country behind the Iron Curtain. Change a few words around and you have the so-called anti-imperialist view of the Syrian revolution today: nefarious outside agitators, trained in Turkey, financed by the Saudis, backed by the full weight of U.S.-Israeli imperialism are infiltrating poor defenseless little Syria’s fledgling self-reforming monarchy, stirring up trouble, wreaking havoc, and attempting to pull the country behind the curtain of American capitalism.

And what is even sadder is that men like Rees and Ali who lived through those days seemed to have forgotten the sound and rhythm of this all-too-familiar tune.

So what is the point of this lengthy diatribe?

The first point: disowning people in Libya or Syria because they got so desperate they begged a far away band of murderous crooked thieves to help them get rid of the murderous crooked thieves that were cutting their throats, torturing their kids, and doing God knows what else to them because we, as a matter of principle, are opposed to murderers and thieves is almost as criminal as it is stupid.

The second point: agitating and organizing to stop the U.S. or British governments from arming Syrian revolutionaries, blocking Russian ships filled with Assad’s weapons, or blowing his helicopters out of the sky is the single best way to stab the Syrian revolution in the back, and by stabbing them in the back, we stab ourselves in the heart because the impetus for Occupy came from the Arab Spring and not the other way around.

Occupy and the Arab Spring are one hand, and so we have a duty and an obligation to support, fight for, and aid the victory of the Syrian and all other revolutionary movements no matter how many spies the CIA sends, no matter how much Saudi money flows into the coffers of the Free Syrian Army (if they cannot afford weapons to take out Assad’s tanks and helicopters or nightvision goggles that could help them protect Syria’s nightly peaceful protests the amounts are underwhelming), no matter what political or sectarian mistakes they make, and no matter what side the U.S. decides to back in which country for whatever reason. All of that is secondary to our primary task: helping them win.

If the only thing you can focus on or see is one bunch of murderous thieves in Tel Aviv and Washington and their weaker rivals in Moscow, Tehran, and Beijing edging each other out of influence in Syria, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and Jordan you are missing the most important thing: the 99% are waking up, rising, moving, organizing, and where they have to, arming, fighting, and bombing their oppressors into the dustbin of history.

Either lead, follow, or get out of their way.

(Reposted from The North Star.)

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Nonviolence does not equal complacency

I went to a protest in Philadelphia this past Saturday, and it was more disheartening than anything else.  It was against the wars and various other injustices, with a special focus on he recent FBI raids of peace activists and Pennsylvania Homeland Security spying on innocent civilians and activists.

By the end of it, I kind of just felt like going up to the megaphone and asking, “How much moral outrage can one person muster?  There are more people handing out fliers here than not, and with this country committing so many disgusting, outrageous acts, I don’t blame you.”  I won’t lie, I handed a few out myself.  Yet the contrast between the righteous causes featured in the speeches and on the signs and on the fliers and the, as a fellow protester said to me, “complete lack of solidarity” was striking.

However, I don’t believe that we should stop protesting or that we need to find another way to be activists (although protesting is by no means the only way to be an activist).  Old fashioned protests have always worked and they will continue to work.  But what I went to Saturday – and it is similar to many other antiwar protests I’ve been to, and I’m sure it’s similar to many other demonstrations by progressives, socialists, and the like – was too lethargic, too focused on recruiting for outside groups (like the ANSWER Coalition, as Bob has focused on before), and too passive to do anything other than serve as a large meeting for peace supporters.

The only thing we shut down was part of a bike lane and half a road in the business district of Philadelphia.  No one really cared, although we got some positive honks from drivers and some of them were probably annoyed.  Maybe that could be the antiwar movement’s new slogan:  “We’ll slightly inconvenience you until the wars, the empire, the torture, the spying, the ecological destruction, and the general disrespect toward life is over!”

When I got home, I saw this video on the blog Docudharma, which just compounded my feelings:

In France, the nation is being shut down.  Why?  Because the retirement age could be raised by two years.  Even then, it would still be three years younger than what it is in America!  Not to mention, similar protests are happening all over Europe.

In the comments at Docudharma, I said something similar to what I’m saying here, and I got a good reply, from user Activist Guy.  You can read the whole thing here, but basically he said screw the permit or march at night and bang on pots and pans or go through neighborhoods where this affects people instead of the business district.  And he’s right.  The protests in Europe are, for the most part, nonviolent.  Yet they are incredibly effective because of their numbers and their tactics.

For now, the antiwar movement doesn’t have numbers.  Neither do most movements, because we’ve become a very passive nation.  So we must utilize the numbers we do have, whether through coordinated civil disobedience (not just getting arrested for show, but actually affecting others’ lives, by doing things like blocking off streets without permission) or well-organized protests that emulate groups such as  the militant Wobblies, who utilized their small numbers incredibly effectively.  In any case, we’ve got to get the energy back.  That is what will bring people into the movements, and show them that the alternative to the failure of Washington is not copping out and becoming even more passive, but taking politics into their own hands.

By the way, this is my first post on PoliZeros, and I just want to thank Bob Morris for letting me write here.  I’ve been reading his blog for a bit of time now and I’ve always enjoyed it.  It’s one of the more thoughtful and open political blogs on the web, and I’m proud to now be adding to that.

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Afghanistan: Hearts and Minds and Blood and Anger

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

Our troops in Afghanistan have some questions about the strategy in Afghanistan. Spencer Ackerman reports:

Some considered the war a distraction from broader national security challenges like Iran or China. Others thought that its costs — nearly ten years, $321 billion, 1243 U.S. deaths and counting — are too high, playing into Osama bin Laden’s “Bleed To Bankruptcy” strategy. Still others thought that it doesn’t make sense for President Obama simultaneously triple U.S. troop levels and announce that they’re going to start coming down, however slowly, in July 2011. At least one person was convinced, despite the evidence, that firing Gen. Stanley McChrystal meant the strategy was due for an overhaul, something I chalked up to the will to believe.

But if there was a common denominator to their critiques, it’s this: None understood how their day-to-day jobs actually contributed to a successful outcome. One person actually asked me if I could explain how it’s all supposed to knit together.

I’m wondering the same thing. It’s never been clear to me exactly how a massive foreign military occupation translates to a stable, secure and democratic society in Afghanistan. How does one lead to the other, how do we get from A to B? Continue Reading →

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Pakistan: Diplomacy vs Giving It All Away

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

How are we going to deal with Pakistan when they’re openly flaunting their proxy war against the United States? How should we respond when they say stuff like “we know where the [Taliban] shadow government is”? Or this:

“We picked up Baradar and the others because they were trying to make a deal without us,” said a Pakistani security official, who, like numerous people interviewed about the operation, spoke anonymously because of the delicacy of relations between Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States. “We protect the Taliban. They are dependent on us. We are not going to allow them to make a deal with Karzai and the Indians.

Again, “we protect the Taliban.” Pakistan protects the Taliban. That’s in addition to them training and equipping various Taliban militias and even funding suicide attacks and IEDs against American troops. We, as in you the American tax payer, give Pakistan billions of dollars in aid and weaponry, including directly reimbursing them for their army operations (down to paying for the bullets fired). And yet they’re killing our troops and protecting insurgents/terrorists.

Our relationship with Pakistan is deeply, deeply flawed. How do we fix this?

Spencer Ackerman suggests diplomacy, and I wholeheartedly agree. The American people are howling at the gates of congress to end these trillion dollar, decade-long wars of occupation and aggression, and there is simply no conceivable military solution to any of our problems – whether that’s Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, or even Iran. Diplomacy has to be the way to go.

Ackerman helpfully gives us his “opening gambit,” his desired/hypothetical US response to the Pakistani statement above about protecting the Taliban. Here’s his complete “diplomacy” statement:

An envoy from the administration needs to say: We’re on board with that sentiment 100 percent! Pakistan should under no circumstances be cut out of a deal. We’re happy to see that you guys talk to Hamid Karzai’s government now without the binding mechanism of our trilateral summitry. Believe us, we want you doing that, because it should convince you that Pakistan has an interlocutor in Karzai, not an obstacle to Pakistani interests in a post-conflict Afghanistan.

Look, we get it: you sponsor the Taliban because you want strategic depth on your eastern border. You can get that from Karzai; and we’re here to help you get it! Pakistan can have a role in South Asia commensurate with the great power that it is!

And because we’re so sincere about that, we want you involved in the peace talks in a very specific way. We want you to deliver the Taliban and the Haqqanis to the table, under whatever circumstances of amnesty work for you. Then we want you to guarantee that in a post-war Afghanistan, they’re not backsliding on their commitments to backsliding on al-Qaeda. We’re going to put that on you. Look at that: you get an important role in Afghanistan, and it allows us to bring the war to a steady conclusion on mutually-agreeable terms. You win, we win, Karzai wins, the Taliban… kind of win (yeah, we said it), our mutual enemies in al-Qaeda (and the Pak Taliban!) lose. Now who wants flood relief?

Oh, and in case we need to say it: if we start seeing al-Qaeda slipping back into the country, it’s wrath-of-God time.

“We’re on board 100 percent!” Boy, that should really scare the hell out of the Pakistanis. Ackerman, for whatever reason, seems to interpret “diplomacy” as “giving Pakistan everything it could possibly want.” This is incorrect. In negotiations, you start with the extreme of what you want, and then negotiate down to something like a compromise. Ackerman has done exactly the opposite.

Let’s take the statement line by line. Continue Reading →

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Forget the Generals, Americans are committed to Ending War

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan. The views expressed below are my own.

General Petraeus began his rogue propaganda tour earlier this week, and it’s caused quite a stir among policy wonks about the crisis in civilian-military relations. Bernard Finel and Jason Fritz, in particular, have had a fascinating discussion on the origins of the civ-mil crisis. I admit the crisis is deeply troubling, certainly for a President struggling against a reputation for weakness. But I took a slightly more stubborn line to the renegade Petraeus:

We’ve heard this propaganda from Petraeus before, it’s nothing new. They’ve been shoveling this garbage on us for years. Now the majority of Americans are pushing for an exit, and no matter what any rogue general says, we’re ending the war in Afghanistan.

In other words, bring it on. Well, Petraeus did bring it, and now we have our first public poll conducted (partially) after his campaigning began. As expected, he’s failing.

A majority of Americans see no end in sight in Afghanistan, and nearly six in 10 oppose the nine-year-old war as President Barack Obama sends tens of thousands more troops to the fight, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

With just over 10 weeks before nationwide elections that could define the remainder of Obama’s first term, only 38 percent say they support his expanded war effort in Afghanistan – a drop from 46 percent in March. Just 19 percent expect the situation to improve during the next year, while 29 percent think it will get worse. Some 49 percent think it will remain the same.

Even a heavy media push by Petraeus can’t deter the movement to end the war. When they sell us war, we push back. We’re done listening to this nonsense about “oil spots” or progress or breaking Taliban momentum or whatever it is they’re hocking this week. We’re ending the war, period. Continue Reading →

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