Category Archives: NATO

Should the US bomb Syria?

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By Stephen Gowans

There is no compelling evidence that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against the rebel forces which seek its overthrow. But even if chemical weapons have been used, a military intervention by the United States, its NATO allies, or its regional proxies, would fail the test of humanitarian intervention. First, it would exacerbate, not reduce, the suffering of Syrians. Second, it would be undertaken for concealed reasons of economic and geostrategic gain, not to protect Syrians from chemical weapons, not for the promotion of multi-party representative democracy, and not to encourage tolerance of dissent, as the promoters of intervention would have us believe.

Moreover, a successful US-led intervention would eliminate a pro-Palestinian, anti-Zionist, anti-colonialist, anti-imperialist state committed to secularism, non-sectarianism, and public ownership of the commanding heights of its economy, and would, install, in its place, a US-client regime that would adopt a pro-US foreign policy, abandon the Palestinians, capitulate to Israel, and cater to Western investors and corporations. “Syria,” remarked president Bashar al-Assad, not without substance, “is an independent state working for the interests of its people, rather than making the Syrian people work for the interests of the West.” [1] This orientation would be completely reversed if a US intervention succeeded.

Three reasons the chemical weapons case against the Syrian government is weak at best

1. Britain and Israel claim to have evidence that the Syrian army used chemical agents against armed rebels. The British evidence is based on tissue samples taken from armed rebels who claim to have been gassed by loyalist forces. To concretely make the case that the Syrian army used chemical weapons:

• The tissue samples would have to test positive for chemical agents.
• There could be no possibility the samples were tampered with.
• A direct link between the contaminated tissue and an attack by Syrian forces would need to be established.

Concerning the first point, we have nothing to rely on but the word of British authorities. Should we believe them? Britain has been implicated in attempts to concoct pretexts for military intervention with phony evidence before (see the bogus WMD claims used to justify the war on Iraq and the genocide fear-mongering pressed into service to justify NATO’s 1999 air war on Yugoslavia.)

What’s more, Britain is hardly a neutral party to the conflict in Syria, and therefore has an interest in manufacturing justifications for more open and direct meddling. That’s not to say that the tissue sample didn’t test positive, only that it would be foolhardy to suppose that a country that “sexed up” evidence to justify a war on Iraq can be trusted.

Secondly, “the samples collected by Britain may have been tainted by rebels who want to draw the West into the conflict on their side” [2], a point made by US officials.

Third, “the detection of chemical agents doesn’t necessarily mean they were used in an attack by the Syrian” army. [3] Rebels, for example, may have been accidentally exposed to chemical agents they, themselves, had in their possession.

The key point is that evidence of tissue contamination (if indeed such evidence exists) is not evidence that the Syrian army used chemical agents, since there are multiple possible ways in which the tissue could have become contaminated.

2. Once US president Barack Obama declared that the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government was a red line that would trigger a more muscular US intervention, the Syrian calculus turned decidedly against their use. Using chemical agents against rebels would play directly into Washington’s hands, giving the bellicose superpower a pretext to intervene militarily in an open and direct fashion. This would be a disadvantage that would grossly outweigh any advantage that accrued from the weapons’ use. On the other hand, once Obama announced his red line, it made a ton of sense for the rebels to falsely claim they were gassed.

3. While an investigation by the United Nations independent commission of inquiry on Syria has found evidence that the rebels used sarin gas, no evidence has been found that the Syrian government has done the same. Commission member Carla Del Ponte reported that, “We collected some witness testimony that made it appear that some chemical weapons were used, in particular, nerve gas. What appeared to our investigation was that was used by the opponents, by the rebels. We have no, no indication at all that the government, the authorities of the Syrian government, had used chemical weapons.” (Emphasis added.) [4]

An intervention would create harm

To reduce suffering, a military intervention would need to reduce harm to a greater degree than the military intervention itself would produce. Judging by previous US-led interventions undertaken for professedly humanitarian reasons, a military intervention in Syria would likely involve air strikes on Syrian military, government and even civilian facilities, with attendant civilian casualties, disruption of essential services, and massive displacement of non-combatants. According to The New York Times’ Elisabeth Bummiler, senior Pentagon officials have warned that “military intervention would be a daunting and protracted operation, requiring at least weeks of exclusively American airstrikes, with the potential for killing vast numbers of civilians.” (Emphasis added.) [5]

To be sure, an open and direct military intervention would be ardently welcomed by Syrian rebels, and their co-sectarian arms suppliers, the Turks, Saudis and Qataris. But it would kill many and make life even more miserable and uncertain for Syrians, especially those living in areas under loyalist control.

Far better to reach a political solution. But one of the reasons the Syrian civil war carries on is because the United States refuses to back a political resolution that would fall short of achieving its chief Syria foreign policy goal, namely, the ouster of Assad and his replacement by a pliant, pro-US government. A genuinely humanitarian intervention would set as its goal an end to hostilities, not the absorption of Syria into the US-Israeli camp.

Intervention would not be based on humanitarian concern

There is no reason to believe that the United States has any genuine interest in protecting Syrians from chemical weapons attacks. Washington dismissed out of hand evidence presented by the United Nations that the rebels used sarin gas, which is hardly what a government would do were it genuinely keen on protecting all Syrians from chemical attack, no matter which side of the conflict they’re on.

Significantly, US regime change policy in Syria antedates Syria’s civil war. The outbreak of the “Arab Spring” in Syria, and Damascus’s response to it, didn’t start the ball rolling on US efforts to force Assad from power. US regime change policy, linked to Damascus’s refusal to become a “peace-partner” with Israel, its alliance with Iran and Hezbollah, and its refusal to fully open its economy to US capital, existed long before the Syrian government cracked down on opposition forces. In fact, one element of US foreign policy was to encourage opposition to the Assad government, [6] that is, to foment the kind of civil unrest that eventually morphed into a full blown civil war.

Multi-party representative democracy, a tolerant attitude to dissent, and eschewal of chemical weapons, have not been relevant components of US foreign policy decision making. Indeed, Washington has shown itself willing to overlook the absence of multi-party representative democracy, to ignore an intolerant attitude to dissent, and to turn a blind eye to the deployment of chemical weapons, where US corporate interests are promoted, either directly, or indirectly through the strengthening of United States’ geostrategic position. For example, Washington and its NATO allies have adopted a tolerant attitude to the violent suppression (aided by Saudi tanks) of a Shiite rebellion in Bahrain against an absolutist Sunni monarchy, while at the same time casually dismissing the UN’s concrete suspicions that the Syrian rebels used sarin gas. Significantly, Bahrain, a paragon of free-markets and free-enterprise, is home to the US Fifth Fleet; Saudi Arabia is a source of generous profits for US oil majors and New York investment banks; and the Syrian rebels are instruments through which US foreign policy goals of regime change in Damascus are to be achieved. If US foreign policy was indeed driven by democracy-promotion, human rights objectives, and non-proliferation goals, its attitude toward Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, Jordan and the possibility of sarin gas use by Syrian rebels, would be very different.

Conclusion

There are sound strategic reasons for the Syrian army to leave chemical weapons in storage. Deploying them would play into Washington’s hands by providing the United States with a pretext to escalate its intervention in the Syrian civil war. On the other hand, any force that would benefit from a more muscular US intervention on the rebels’ behalf has an interest in manufacturing evidence of the use of chemical agents by Syrian forces. This would include the rebels themselves and those of the United States’ allies that would like Washington to refashion Syria in their political or sectarian interests.

Much as intervention by the United States is sold as a humanitarian exercise, it fails the humanitarian test on two levels. First, it would create substantial harm. US military officials have warned that direct military intervention—which would take the form of US air strikes—would create massive civilian casualties. Second, US foreign policy is based on commercial, financial, and geostrategic goals, not the promotion of multi-party representative democracy, tolerance of dissent, and anti-proliferation. This is clear from a simple examination of the countries Washington supports: those with a congenial attitude to US free enterprise and a willingness to submit to US domination, regardless of their practices in connection with multiparty representative democracy, civil liberties and weapons of mass destruction.

For all these reasons the United States should not bomb Syria, and nor should it provide military, diplomatic, or any other kind of assistance to the Syrian rebels. Of course, what it should do and what it will do are very different matters, but all the same we should be clear that the chemical weapons case against Syria is a fraud, as is the idea that direct US military intervention in the Syrian conflict would have either a humanitarian basis or humanitarian outcome.

1. Bashar al-Assad May 19, 2013 interview with Clarin newspaper and Telam news agency.

2. Adam Entous, Joshua Mitnick and Stephen Fidler, “Syria used chemical arms, Israel says”, The Wall Street Journal, April 23, 2013.

3. Ibid.

4. Alex Lantier, “UN says US-backed opposition, not Syrian regime, used poison gas”, World Socialist Web Site, May 7, 2013

5. Elisabeth Bummiler, “Military points to risks of Syrian intervention”, The New York Times, March 11, 2012.

6. Craig Whitlock, “U.S. secretly backed Syrian opposition groups, cables released by Wikileaks show”, The Washington Post, April 17, 2011.

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The Siege and Terrorism

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By Stephen Gowans
March 18, 2013

In his 2011 book Crisis in Korea: America, China and the Risk of War, Tim Beal writes,

The Americans, and their friends and allies, tend to have a disengaged attitude toward sanctions—disengaged both ethically and in terms of causality. Sanctions are, after all, but the modern version of the age-old military tactic of the siege. The aim of the siege is to reduce the enemy to such a state of starvation and deprivation that they open the gates, perhaps killing their leaders in the process, and throw themselves on the mercy of the besiegers.”

Later, Beal adds, “There are strong parallels between sanctions/sieges and terrorism: both inflict pain on ordinary, vulnerable people in order to turn them against their leaders…”

While Beal writes in connection with North Korea, Washington’s use of the modern-day siege extends to other countries, as well. Like North Korea, Iran is despised by Washington for its insistence on using its labor, markets and natural resources, not for Wall Street’s profits, but for self-directed development. And like North Korea, Iran is menaced by a campaign of sanctions. These sanctions, too, aim, as terrorism does, to make ordinary people suffer so they’ll pressure their government to change its policies to accommodate the interests of the besieger/terrorist (in this case, to replace the current economically nationalist government with one that will open the Iranian economy to ownership by foreigners and create business conditions favorable to foreign investors reaping handsome returns, albeit under the guise of building “democracy” and relinquishing an independent nuclear energy industry.)

The accustomed practice in mainstream journalism is to gloss over the effects of sanctions on besieged countries, or to insist that they’re targeted at a country’s leadership and therefore do no harm to ordinary people.

But in a March 17 Washington Post article, reporters Joby Warrick and Anne Gearan acknowledge that the sanctions on Iran are aimed at hurting ordinary people.

Warrick and Gearan write,

Harsh economic sanctions have taken a serious toll on Iran’s economy, but U.S. and European officials acknowledge that the measures have not yet produced the kind of public unrest that could force Iranian leaders to change their nuclear policies.

Nine months after Iran was hit with the toughest restrictions in its history, the nation’s economy appears to have settled into a slow, downward glide, hemorrhaging jobs and hard currency but appearing to be in no immediate danger of collapse, Western diplomats and analysts say.

At the same time, the hardships have not triggered significant domestic protests or produced a single concession by Iran on its nuclear program.

They continue,

The impact has been hardest on the middle and working classes, which have seen savings evaporate and purchasing power dry up. Yet, in recent months, Iran’s fiscal crisis appears to have eased, and economists say neither complete collapse nor widespread rioting appears likely in the near term.

So, sanctions aren’t working because they haven’t inflicted enough suffering to engender widespread unrest and rioting.

If sanctions do produce their desired effect, and wide-spread rioting does break out, the public unrest most assuredly will not be blamed by Western reporters on the suffering produced by sanctions, but dishonestly on Tehran’s “economic mismanagement.” And aid will continue to flow to opposition forces in Iran, who will be presented as “thirsting for democracy” (rather than relief from the suffering inflicted by the United States and European Union) to help them topple their government (which is to say, open the gate to let the besiegers in.)

The Warrick and Gearan article’s emphasis on the sanctions’ failure to promote rioting, may signal that policy-makers are coming to the conclusion that Washington’s goals for Iran cannot be achieved by sanctions alone, and that military intervention is also required.

Military intervention, however, may not be an alternative to the siege, but its complement. US Air Force Lt. General Michael Short’s explanation of the objectives of the 1999 US-led NATO air war on the former Yugoslavia resonates with the aim of the besieger/terrorist. Explained Short,

“If you wake up in the morning and you have no power to your house and no gas to your stove and the bridge you take to work is down and will be lying in the Danube for the next 20 years, I think you begin to ask, ‘Hey, Slobo, what’s this all about? How much more of this do we have to withstand?’” (“What this war is really about,” The Globe and Mail (Toronto), May 26, 1999.)

The modus operandi, then, of US foreign policy is to inflict pain on ordinary people who live in countries whose governments resist integration into the US-superintended system of global capitalist exploitation, in order to create public unrest that will either force the country’s leaders to change their policies, or step down and yield power to local representatives of global capitalist interests (deceptively labeled by Western state officials and establishment journalists as “pro-democracy” or “democratic” forces.)

The only thing “democratic” about US foreign policy is its insistence on democratizing suffering.

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Hacked e-mails reveal ‘Washington approved’ plan to stage Syria chemical attack

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January 30, 2013

On Saturday, Cyber War News released a cache of e-mails allegedly hacked by someone in Malaysia from a British private defense contractor called Britam Defence.

One of the e-mails contains a discussion between Britam’s Business Development Director David Goulding and Philip Doughty, company founder. In the exchange, it’s revealed that there is a plan to unleash chemical weapons in Syria in order to blame it on the Bashar Al Assad regime to justify a direct intervention by U.S. and NATO forces in the country’s civil war. The plan, thought up by the government of Qatar according to the e-mail, is “approved by Washington.”

Phil

We’ve got a new offer. It’s about Syria again. Qataris propose an attractive deal and swear that the idea is approved by Washington.

We’ll have to deliver a CW (chemical weapon) to Homs, a Soviet origin g-shell from Libya similar to those that Assad should have.

They want us to deploy our Ukrainian personnel that should speak Russian and make a video record.

Frankly, I don’t think it’s a good idea but the sums proposed are enormous. Your opinion?

Kind regards

David

If this e-mail is authentic, it would confirm what has been reported in the past: that the al-Qaida connected Syrian rebels are planning to unleash chemical weapons as a false flag.

In June, Russia Today reported that Syrian rebels had acquired gas masks and chemical weapons from Libya and “allegedly plan to use it against civilians and pin the atrocity on the Bashar al-Assad regime.”

A Saudi company had further allegedly fitted 1,400 ambulances with a filtering system to protect passengers from gas and chemicals after Syrian rebels launch a chemical weapons attack using mortar rounds, all at the cost of $97,000 each. These ambulances, labeled with “Syrian People’s Relief,” would actually be carrying U.S. and NATO troops. According to Paul Joseph Watson:

The attack, which will involve the use of white phosphorus, sarin and mustard gas, will be launched on a heavily populated town near the Syria/Jordan border, possibly Daraa, after which the vehicles will pour in under the cover of humanitarian aid.

The ambulances…will operate under the guise of an aid mission to help the victims of the chemical weapons attack, but in reality are nothing short of armored personnel carriers.

A buffer zone will be created “that will lead to a NATO military intervention under the pretext of punishing Assad’s regime for the atrocity.”

In December, a video was posted online showing a member of the Syrian rebels testing chemicals on rabbits while jihadist chants go on in the background. In the video, containers labeled Tekkim are shown, which is a Turkish chemicals company. On the wall is a poster with Arabic writing on it that reads “The Almighty Wind Brigade (Kateebat A Reeh Al Sarsar),” according to the Syria Tribune.

A person wearing a lab mask then mixes chemicals in a beaker in the glass box, and we see some gas emitting from the beaker. About a minute later, the rabbits start to have random convulsions and then die. The person says: You saw what happened? This will be your fate, you infidel Alawites, I swear by ALLAH to make you die like these rabbits, one minute only after you inhale the gas.

Assad has maintained that he will not use chemical weapons in Syria’s ongoing war. It would seem unlikely that he would, considering that it would put the militaries of most of the world’s powers against him. Further, an official from within the Pentagon told NBC News that there was no evidence that Assad was planning such attacks.

Intervention in Syria is not about protecting civilians. The Assad regime is allied with the Iranian government, and by overthrowing it, the West has an advantage in an attack on the Islamic Republic.

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By Design: French Mali Invasion Spills into Algeria

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By Tony Cartalucci
January 17, 2013

Exactly as predicted, the ongoing French “intervention” in the North African nation of Mali has spilled into Algeria – the next most likely objective of Western geopolitical interests in the region since the successful destabilization of Libya in 2011.

In last week’s “France Displays Unhinged Hypocrisy as Bombs Fall on Mali” report, it was stated specifically that:

“As far back as August of 2011, Bruce Riedel out of the corporate-financier funded think-tank, the Brookings Institution, wrote “Algeria will be next to fall,” where he gleefully predicted success in Libya would embolden radical elements in Algeria, in particular AQIM. Between extremist violence and the prospect of French airstrikes, Riedel hoped to see the fall of the Algerian government. Ironically Riedel noted:

Algeria has expressed particular concern that the unrest in Libya could lead to the development of a major safe haven and sanctuary for al-Qaeda and other extremist jihadis.

And thanks to NATO, that is exactly what Libya has become – a Western sponsored sanctuary for Al-Qaeda. AQIM’s headway in northern Mali and now French involvement will see the conflict inevitably spill over into Algeria. It should be noted that Riedel is a co-author of “Which Path to Persia?” which openly conspires to arm yet another US State Department-listed terrorist organization (list as #28), the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) to wreak havoc across Iran and help collapse the government there – illustrating a pattern of using clearly terroristic organizations, even those listed as so by the US State Department, to carry out US foreign policy.”

Now, it is reported that “Al Qaeda-linked” terrorists have seized American hostages in Algeria in what is being described by the Western press as “spill over” from France’s Mali operations.

The Washington Post, in their article, “Al-Qaida-linked militants seize BP complex in Algeria, take hostages in revenge for Mali,” claims:

“As Algerian army helicopters clattered overhead deep in the Sahara desert, Islamist militants hunkered down for the night in a natural gas complex they had assaulted Wednesday morning, killing two people and taking dozens of foreigners hostage in what could be the first spillover from France’s intervention in Mali.”

The Wall Street Journal, in its article, “Militants Grab U.S. Hostages in Algeria,” reports that:

“Militants with possible links to al Qaeda seized about 40 foreign hostages, including several Americans, at a natural-gas field in Algeria, posing a new level of threat to nations trying to blunt the growing influence of Islamist extremists in Africa.As security officials in the U.S. and Europe assessed options to reach the captives from distant bases, Algerian security forces failed in an attempt late Wednesday to storm the facility.”

The WSJ also added:

“Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the U.S. would take “necessary and proper steps” in the hostage situation, and didn’t rule out military action. He said the Algeria attack could represent a spillover from Mali.”

And it is military action, both covert and incrementally more overt, that will see the West’s extremist proxies and the West’s faux efforts to stem them, increasingly creep over the Mali-Algerian border, as the old imperial maps of Europe are redrawn right before our eyes.

Image: The French Empire at its height right before the World Wars. The regions that are now Libya, Algeria, Mali, and the Ivory Coast all face reconquest by the French and Anglo-Americans, with French troops literally occupying the region and playing a pivotal role in installing Western-friendly client regimes. Also notice Syria too, was a French holding – now under attack by US-British-French funded, armed, and backed terrorists – the same terrorists allegedly being fought in Mali and now Algeria.

Meanwhile, these very same terrorist forces continue to receive funding, arms, covert military support, and diplomatic recognition in Syria, by NATO, and specifically the US and France who are both claiming to fight the “Free Syrian Army’s” ideological and very literal allies in North Africa.

In reality, Al Qaeda is allowing the US and France to intervene and interfere in Algeria, after attempts in 2011 to trigger political subversion was soundly defeated by the Algerian government. Al Qaeda is essentially both a casus belli and mercenary force, deployed by the West against targeted nations. It is clear that French operations seek to trigger armed conflict in Algeria as well as a possible Western military intervention there as well, with the Mali conflict serving only as a pretense.

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The Tragedy-Cum-Farce in Algeria

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What If David Cameron was Lying? How Would We Know?

By Afshin Rattansi
January 19, 2013

The end of the Gaddafi regime in Libya was celebrated with breath-taking idiocy by European leaders and a genuflecting corporate media. Fifteen months later, the media is reporting on neighbouring Algeria, the largest country in Africa – and one where a hostage-rescue mission has ended in carnage.

Either the UK Prime Minister David Cameron is telling the truth and wasn’t even notified by French-proxy President Bouteflika of Algeria or he is lying when it comes to what happened at the heavily fortified BP-Statoil plant near Tigantourine, deep in the Sahara desert. If Cameron is telling the truth, then why should it seem so insolent for a sovereign leader to react to mission-critical information on the ground and initiate an attack? Would Obama, Hollande or Cameron inform Algiers if they had received a call from their special forces on the ground on an imminent attack on the hostages? Algeria isn’t really a sovereign country and there might as well never have been the Battle of Algiers, what with the appalling redistribution of wealth accruing from the energy sector and all the foreign private and state actors on the ground.

But what if Cameron was lying – how would we know? And why are journalists so unquestioning when they receive information from their political leaders? How many years has it been since Iraq when UK journalists were supposed to get the hang of the idea that those in power don’t always tell the truth? Today, Libya is a catastrophe with no corporate journalists to cover it. Meanwhile, NATO’s attempts at destroying Assad’s secular government by funding Al Qaeda has led only to strengthening Wahabism. No wonder it’s difficult to work out what is going on if individual journalists take power at face value.

More pertinently, the whole tragedy-cum-farce at the Ain Amenas energy facility is a grim reminder of how pointless and misguided is NATO in their trans-global attempts at securing energy resources and playing off different sides. This isn’t the nineteenth century any more.

NATO weapons were poured in before French and British premiers could proudly declare victory in Libya – that energy rich land on the Mediterranean with some of the sweetest oil in the world. Britain, in particular, chose to back exactly the kind of people that cheered the September 11th 2001 attacks on Washington and New York. Why did they do this? To a large part, because government drew on an entire echelon of academic and intelligence analysts who have completely misunderstood the world since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

While U.S. President Bill Clinton sowed the seeds of the economic destruction of the United States with the abolition of Glass–Steagall, a concurrent suicidal foreign policy was well underway. In its own hemisphere, the U.S. made useless attempts at supressing Latin and Central American rage against U.S. power as the tide turned against American death squads, assassinations and terrorism.

There was continuing massive American support for that terrorist entity in the heart of the Middle East – Israel. The Zionists rewarded the U.S. in return by backing Salafists who despised everything the United States ever stood for.

And, all the way, Europe with its absurd EU institutions and crazy European currency, followed U.S. policy because of assumptions about the future of capitalism, markets and a neoliberal version of what Enlightenment thinking was actually about. Like levers, each intricately pulled to reach this outcome, we have a conjunction of Europe on its knees trying to clamber out of economic catastrophe and a new guerrilla warfare that even Che Guevara might never have imagined.

The faintly ridiculous anti-Marxist trend of identity politics without attendant superstructural contexts of class has reached a stage long predicted by its detractors. We have the sighs of the oppressed amplified around the world and only those powers who negotiate with it can progress – take a look at BRICS GDP figures. China’s come out today so expect earnest downplaying from Western media.

NATO as an organisation might as well be a Wahabi Loya Jurga in the Hindu Kush for all it has done to spread the toxic views of Osama bin Laden and his “evil-doers”. Meanwhile, the world’s next superpowers negotiate with multivariate parties, gaining an economic foothold here, a strategic partnership there.

As France’s Francois Hollande tries desperately to cling on to Uranium resources in pan-national, Tuareg West Africa to manufacture ever more nuclear weapons, it should be obvious that his mission will end in failure. As late as 11 December 2012, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon was saying that the UN Security Council should not approve any UN financial support for war in Mali. The Chapter VII UN resolution 2085 talks about an “Africa-led” force to foster peace – though EU corporate media say French airstrikes are covered by that resolution. But, in any case, weren’t the UK SAS, France’s GIGN and U.S. Deltas already on the ground in Mali? There are now European ground troops. And there will be asymmetric warfare in civilian areas of European cities in the years to come.

A quarter of a millennium before the creation of the United States, Sunni Ali, made Gao (today in Mali) the capital of the Songhay Empire. It is currently enduring airstrikes from French Rafale planes using ordnance that costs unimaginable multiples of the average wage in Uranium-rich Mali. Ali was succeeded by Askia Muhammad the Great and the 16th-century Moroccan explorer Leo Africanus said of Africa’s Songhay Empire that “more profit [was] made from the book trade than from any other line of business.” NATO leaders could do worse than read a few books before they sacrifice everything for access to Uranium to proliferate nuclear weapons of mass destruction. And while they’re about it, they can stop funding “Al Qaeda”.

AFSHIN RATTANSI is the author of “The London Novels: The Dream of the Decade” and runs Alternate Reality Productions Ltd. One of its commissions is Double Standards, a political satire show for Press TV, broadcast every Saturday at 2230 GMT. Shows can be accessed via www.doublestandardstv.com. He can be reached via afshinrattansi@hotmail.com

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Statement of the Syrian Communist Youth Union on Syria’s struggle against imperialism

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The following statement below was originally published by Red Youth, the youth organization of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist)

Dear comrades and friends:

Nowadays, Syria is facing one of the most serious position in its modern history, when the world imperialist attack is increased using most reactionary forces with full support and funding of the Arab reactionary regimes who they are Imperialist agents.

Today the Syrian people and youth are facing the terrorist operations, massacres and incitement on the various components of the Syrian people, where the terrorist operations targeting civilians, soldiers, academics and active youth. These operations are carried out by terrorist groups and extremist reactionary forces especially its obscurantist Muslim Brotherhood organization with direct support by weapons and through media campaigns which are led, funded and fabricated by treason and reactionary Arab regimes especially oil Arab Gulf countries in addition to NATO interference in the region by Turkey. The treason forces who are called themselves ″The Syrian opposition″ are asking for external intervention on Syria by NATO, which means to invade our country depending upon the criminal imperialist model that we witnessed in Libya and Iraq, which means to allow NATO to invade and occupy Syria, this what the Syrian people and youth are against it and will fight it by all means and forms. In this occasion, the Syrian Communist Party and Syrian Communist Youth Union – Khaled Bagdash Youth have organized many demonstrations and sit-ins in various parts of Syria rejecting the imperialist interventions in the country affairs and supporting the Syrian national steadfastness, and our comrades is working in many region to relief and help the refugees.

Despite everything that is happening, the Syrian national steadfastness continues to face the Zionist and imperialist pressures and blackmails and still insists to restore the occupied Syrian Golan and rejecting imperialist domination plans such as the imperialist plan that so called “the new greater middle east”. This national steadfastness is the cornerstone in the victories which achieved by the national resistance in the East Mediterranean region. Syria is the stronghold facing the imperialist plans and projects in the region, and it is the main supporter to national resistance in the region, this caused it to won the hostility of imperialists, Zionists, reactionaries and their traitors.

But the neoliberal economic policies that have been applied in recent years led to impoverish the masses of people and led to increasing the unemployment status among young people and gave a strong blow to the national production, which create a breeding ground for the work and activities of reactionary forces, and established for the unfortunate events that taking place in the country. This is what Syrian communists have warned and struggled against everywhere and with various shapes.

Syrian Communist Youth Union – Khaled Bagdash Youth confirms the full commitment with the policy of Syrian Communist Party, which was adopted in his 11th Congress, and the essential orientations of the struggle of the Party in the current stage which was adopted in the last meeting of the Central Committee of the Party. As following:

1. Defending for the national independence and sovereignty, keeping back the imperialist plots and the attempts of Arab and local reactionary forces , and mobilizing the people mass under the great national slogan: “Syria will not Kneel down! “.
2. Struggling against the neo-liberal economic policies, with all its shapes and characters, defending for the national production and interests of producers, and proposing the tangible alternatives with confirming the general orientation, that adopted by th 11th congress of SCP about reinforcing the public sector and the interfering role of the state in the frame of national state capitalism that has a social character and tasks.
3. Defending firmly for the toiling popular mass and escalation the class struggle.

Dear comrades and friends:

The Syrian communist youth union – Khaled Bagdash youth struggles through the direct mass activity, demand petitions, trade unions, students union and through all fields of work and study to maintain the Syrian national steadfastness against the plans and conspiracies of imperialism, Zionism and reactionary Forces. And also against the neoliberal economic policies, to support the national production and to maintain the social rights of Syrian people and youth especially free education, free health care, and to find work opportunities, adequate housing of youth, to widen the democratic freedoms, and to achieve the students and workers youth demands.

Dear comrades:

Nowadays, when we are confronting the terrorist groups, massacres and sabotage actions that are organized by the mercenaries and supported by imperialism, we confirm our firm position:

No revolution with world imperialism. No revolution with NATO. No revolution with the reactionary regimes of mercenary and national treachery of rulers of gulf who steal the wealth of the people of Arab peninsula. No revolution with reactionary and treachery forces. Because a revolution that its first slogan is not the liberation of the land and face the imperialism and Zionism is not a revolution. A revolution who does not raise the banner of national independence and prevent external intervention is not a revolution.

We shall struggle against the terrorist groups and imperialist death machines, for independence and sovereignty, for the freedom of homeland and good life of people.

Our battle is long and hard, but we progress in the path of honorable struggle and we’ll win..
Homeland or Death!

Syrian Communist Youth Union
– Khaled Bagdash Youth-

 

For whom the Syrian bell tolls

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The following article below was originally published by Asia Times Online

By Pepe Escobar
December 22, 2012

The top geopolitical tragedy in 2012 is bound to remain the top geopolitical tragedy in 2013: the rape of Syria.

Just as once in a while I go back to my favorite Hemingway passages, lately I’ve been going back to some footage I shot years ago of the Aleppo souk – the most extraordinary of all Middle Eastern souks. It’s like being shot in the back; I was as fond of the souk’s architecture as of its people and traders. Weeks ago, most of the souk – the living pulse of Aleppo for centuries – was set on fire and destroyed by the “rebels” of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA).

In this Syrian tragedy, there is no Hemingway young hero, no Robert Jordan in the International Brigades fighting alongside Republican guerrillas against the fascists during the Spanish Civil War. In the Syrian civil war, the international brigades are mostly of the mercenary, Salafi-jihadi, beheading and car-bombing type. And the (few) young Americans in place are basically high-tech pawns in a game played by the rapacious NATOGCC club (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and its Arab puppets of the Gulf Cooperation Council).

The tragedy continues. The Syrian state, political and military security apparatus will maintain its mini-blitzkriegs – with no second thoughts for “collateral damage”. On the opposing side, “rebel” commanders will be betting on a new Saudi-Qatari-encouraged Supreme Military Council.

The Salafis and Salafi-jihadis of the al-Nusrah Front – 7th century fanatics, beheading enthusiasts and car-bombing operatives who do the bulk of the fighting – were not invited. After all, the al-Nusrah Front has been branded a “terrorist organization” by Washington.

Now check the reaction of a Muslim Brotherhood (MB) bigwig, Hama-born deputy comptroller general Mohammed Farouk Tayfour; he said the decision was “too hasty”. And check the reaction of the new Syrian opposition leader, Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, at a “Friends of Syria” meeting in Morocco; the decision must be “reexamined”. Virtually all “rebel” outfits publicly declared their undying love for the hardcore al-Nusrah.

So with the al-Nusrah fanatics probably disguising their Islamically correct beards under a prosaic hoodie, expect plenty more “rebel” advances on Damascus – despite two major beatings (last July and then this month), courtesy of Syrian government counter-offensives. After all, that lavish training by US, British and Jordanian Special Forces has got to yield some results, not to mention the loads of extra lethal weapons provided by those paragons of democracy in the Persian Gulf. By the way, the al-Nusrah Front controls sections of devastated Aleppo.

Sectarian hatred rules 

Then there’s the Orwellian, brand new National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces – a Washington-Doha co-production. Meet the new boss, same as the old (lousy) boss, which was the Syrian National Council (SNC). It’s just rhetoric; the only thing that matters for the “National Coalition” is to get more lethal weapons. And they love al-Nusrah, even if Washington doesn’t.

Qatar unloaded tons of weapons “like candy” (according to a US arms dealer) in “liberated” Libya. Only after the Benghazi blowback did the Pentagon and the State Department wake up to the fact that weaponizing the Syrian rebels may be, well, the road to more blowback. Translation: Qatar will keep unloading tons of weapons in Syria. The US will keep “leading from behind”.

Expect more horrible sectarian massacres as the one in Aqrab. Here is the most authoritative version of what may have really happened. This proves once again that what the NATOGCC “rebels” are actually winning is the YouTube war. So expect more massive, relentless waves of spin and propaganda – with Western corporate media cheerleading of the Syrian “freedom fighters” putting to shame the 1980s jihad in Afghanistan.

Expect more major distortions of context, as when Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said, “The fighting will become even more intense, and [Syria] will lose tens of thousands and, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of civilians… If such a price for the removal of the president seems acceptable to you, what can we do? We, of course, consider it absolutely unacceptable.”

Ergo, Russia is trying to do everything to prevent this from happening. And if NATOGCC “rebels” carry out their threats to attack the Russian and Ukrainian embassies in Damascus, they had better trim their beards and run for cover from the no-nonsense Spetnatz – Russian Special Forces.

Expect more sectarian hatred, as in Sunni Sheikh and al-Jazeera star Yusuf al-Qaradawi casually issuing a fatwa legitimizing the killing of millions of Syrians, be they military or civilian, as long as they are Alawites or Shi’ites.

Sectarian hatred will rule, with Qatar in the lead, followed by Saudis with large pocketbooks and assorted hardcore Islamists. Agenda; war against Shi’ites, against Alawites, against secularists, even against moderates, not only in Syria but all across the Middle East.

A Patriot vs Iskander face-off

The new Syrian Army strategy boils down to a major pull back from countryside backwaters and bases, concentrating their troops in cities and towns.

Expect the overall strategy of the NATOGCC club to remain more or less the same; bog down the Syrian Army in as many areas as possible; demoralize them; and keep oiling the terrain for a possible North Atlantic Treaty Organization intervention (the chemical weapons hype and the relentless carping over a “humanitarian catastrophe” are part of the extensive psy ops package).

The Syrian Army may have the heavy weapons; but when confronting a tsunami of mercenaries and Salafi-jihadists fully trained and weaponized by the NATOGCC club, the whole thing may take years, Lebanon civil war-style. That leads us to the next “best” option – which is in fact a spin-off; the death of the Syrian state by a thousand, make it a million, cuts.

What’s certain is that the “coalition of the willing” against Syria will have no trouble unraveling once the endgame is reached. Washington bets on a post-Assad regime run by the MB. No wonder King Playstation in Jordan is freaking out; he knows the MB will also take over Jordan and expel him to permanently shop at Harrods.

Those paragons of democracy – the medieval petro-monarchies in the Persian Gulf – are also freaking out; they fear the popular appeal of the MB like the plague. Syrian Kurdistan – now definitely on its way to total autonomy and eventually freedom – already keeps Ankara freaking out. Not to mention the future prospect of a tsunami of unemployed Salafi-jihadis merrily ensconced in the Syria-Turkish border and ready to run amok.

And then there’s the complex Turkey-Iran relationship. Tehran has already warned Ankara in no uncertain terms about the just-to-be-deployed NATO missile defense system.

That’s got to be the newspeak masterpiece of late 2012. Pentagon spokesman George Little has been adamant that “the United States has been supporting Turkey in its efforts to defend itself… [against Syria].”

Thus the deployment of 400 US troops to Turkey to run two Patriot missile batteries, to “defend” Turkey from “potential threats emanating from Syria”.

Translation; this has nothing to do with Turkey, it’s all about the Russian military in Syria. Moscow has given Damascus not only very effective, hypersonic Iskander surface-to-surface missiles (virtually immune to missile defense systems) but the ground-to-air, multiple target defense system Pechora 2M, a nightmare to the Pentagon if ever a no-fly zone is imposed over Syria.

Welcome to the Patriot vs Iskander face-off. And right in the line of fire, we find Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan – an outsized egomaniac harboring a deep inferiority complex in relation to the Europeans – left in the cold under NATO’s master plan.

Turkey’s Achilles heel (apart from the Kurds) is its self-promoted role of being a crossroads of energy between East and West. The problem is Turkey depends on energy supplies from both Iran and Russia; unwisely, it is antagonizing both, at the same time, with its muddled Syrian policy.

All I hear is doom and gloom

How to solve this tragedy? No one seems to be listening to Syrian Vice President Farouk Al-Sharaa. In this interview with Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar, he stresses “the threat of the current campaign to destroy Syria, its history, civilization, and people… With every passing day, the solution gets further away, militarily and politically. We must be in the position of defending Syria’s existence.”

He does not have “a clear answer to what the solution may be”. But he has a road map:

Any settlement, whether starting with talks or agreements between Arab, regional, or foreign capitals, cannot exist without a solid Syrian foundation. The solution has to be Syrian, but through a historic settlement, which would include the main regional countries, and the members of UN Security Council. This settlement must include stopping all shapes of violence, and the creation of a national unity government with wide powers. This should be accompanied by the resolution of sensitive dossiers related to the lives of people and their legitimate demands.

This is not what the NATOGCC compound wants – even as the US, Britain, France, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are all engaged in their own divergent agendas. What the NATOGCC war has already accomplished is one objective – very similar, by the way, to Iraq in 2003; it has completely torn the fragile Syrian social fabric to shreds.

That is disaster capitalism in action, phase I; the terrain is already prepared for a profitable “reconstruction” of Syria once a pliable, pro-Western turbo-capitalism government is installed.

Yet in parallel, blowback also works its mysterious ways; millions of Syrians who initially supported the idea of a pro-democracy movement – from the business classes in Damascus to traders in Aleppo – now have swelled the government support base as a counterpunch against the gruesome ethnic-religious cleansing promoted by the “rebels” of the al-Nusrah kind.

Yet with NATOGCC on one side and Iran-Russia on the other side, ordinary Syrians caught in the crossfire have nowhere to go. NATOGCC will stop at nothing to carve – in blood – any dubious entity ranging from a pro-US emirate to a pro-US “democracy” run by the MB. It’s not hard to see for whom the bell tolls in Syria; it tolls not for thee, as in John Donne, but for doom, gloom, death and destruction.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His most recent book is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009). He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com

Libya: Green resistance on the rise

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The following article below was originally published by the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist)

Rise of the Green Jamahiriya!

Libya: Green resistance on the rise

The people of Libya struggle to regain what they have lost

In October 2011 the leader of the green revolution in Libya, Colonel Gaddafi, was brutally murdered by mercenary thugs backed by the West, after an eight-month Nato bombing campaign that devastated the country. A year on, that ‘victory’ for imperialism is looking increasingly hollow, with the puppets in Tripoli barely able to hold a government together for a week at a time or exercise any authority in the country, and the puppet army increasingly sidelined by rival warring militia.

Meanwhile, the green resistance, supposedly defunct, is making itself felt in ways that the media strive to ignore but Washington dares not.

The bitter truth for imperialism is that memories of Libya’s four decades of economic and social progress remain evergreen in the minds of millions of her citizens, despite all the lies pumped out about ‘Gaddafi the monster’. This means that the resistance fighters have been able to regroup and build up their attacks, strong in the knowledge of the widespread popular sympathy for their actions.

The inconvenient truth for the West is that the resistance, for which the last rites were read a full year ago, never really went away, and is now back with a vengeance.

Bani Walid: hero city of the green revolution

Symptomatic of the enduring loyalty and patriotism of most Libyans has been the refusal of the citizens of the northern city of Bani Walid to bow the head before the quisling government in Tripoli, instead preserving their town as a bastion of sanity whilst much of the country is torn apart by imperialist subversion and tribal conflicts. When the country’s legitimate leadership was brutally ousted by Nato, the citizens formed a Council of Elders to conduct the city’s affairs.

Desperate to reassert their own waning political authority, the puppets decided to make an example of the unacceptably loyal citizens of Bani Walid. The pretext for what was clearly intended as punitive expedition by the puppet army against its own citizens (the very act of which Colonel Gaddafi was so falsely accused) was the demise of one Omran Shaaban, the traitor ‘credited’ with having apprehended Colonel Gaddafi, delivering him at once into the hands of his psychopathic murderers.

Shaaban met his own richly-deserved end in disputed circumstances, after suffering injury when refusing to stop at a city checkpoint in Bani Walid. Even though this imperialist hireling fittingly expired in a Parisian hospital bed, his ‘martyrdom’ was deemed a sufficient pretext for the puppets to issue a decree, Resolution 7, giving the puppet army exceptional powers to use all and any means necessary to take full control of the city.

Even within the puppet General National Council (GNC) itself, voices were raised to protest that such a decree provides carte blanche for genocide. In vain did Bani Walid’s Council of Elders protest that the decree was illegitimate and unconstitutional. Indeed, one of the council’s own members was subsequently kidnapped by rats and taken off to their hole in Misrata to face an uncertain fate.

For weeks the puppet army, flanked and frequently outpaced by the ‘unofficial’ militias which led the assault on Bani Walid, combined indiscriminate shelling of civilians with kidnapping, assassination and massacre, terrorising the population and blocking supplies of food, medicine and other essentials. Doctors complained that militias were stopping vehicles carrying medical supplies, personnel and oxygen from getting through.

Yet despite weeks of heavy pounding by mortars, supplemented by gas bombs and white phosphorous, many of the inhabitants of Bani Walid refused to abandon their homes. One eye witness told Russia Today that “Many armed groups came to the main entrance of Bani Walid and they asked the people to get out of the city. We have decided not to go because we want to defend our rights, our homes, and our families.” (7 October 2012)

Those who could endure no more and were obliged to flee then found their return blocked by armed gangs. Many families found themselves stranded on desert roads with no nourishment or protection. Yet Bani Walid still fights on.

Uncle Sam cuts out the middle man

Having failed to fashion itself a puppet government and army capable of implementing the imperialist agenda, imperialism is putting increasing reliance on going direct to the militias to do their dirty work. And it is notable that one of the militia bands most prominent in the counter-revolutionary violence, Libya Shield, has been publicly courted by the White House since it helped rescue the surviving members of the US mission when it came under attack in Benghazi.

The Independent reported that a CIA-led embassy delegation “travelled to Benghazi to meet and recruit fighters directly from the Libyan Shield, a powerful umbrella organisation of militiasGiven complaints from the acting defence minister in the puppet government that “his ministry had no control over Libyan Shield forces from Misrata that had seized Bani Walid, a former Gaddafi loyalist town, and were blocking displaced residents from returning”, it is clear that Washington has only contempt for the government and its ‘official’ army, hoping instead to combat the resistance forces with hired guns. (11 November 2012)

It is equally clear that, for all the pious talk about overcoming tribal divisions and taking the gun out of politics, the US is doing all it can to play on those divisions, hoping thereby to suppress the patriotic resistance forces. When Russia tried to get a draft statement through the UN calling for a peaceful end to the Bani Walid siege, the US blocked the move.

Washington is deluded in its hope that hired militia guns will do any better than the ‘official’ government puppets when it comes to burying the resistance. Despite the near-total blackout on the massive war crimes being committed daily in Bani Walid, and the umpteenth triumphal announcement of the death of Colonel Gaddafi’s son Khamis (again) and capture of his information minister (again), there is no hiding the confusion and panic now besetting imperialism as yet another ‘easy’ warmongering adventure goes so badly wrong.

If it can’t beat Libya’s tiny population into subservience, the Pentagon must be anguishing, how the hell can it prevail against Syria and Iran?

Resistance on the rise

Over the summer, the number of attacks which may reasonably be attributed to the resistance forces kept multiplying despite the severest repression, giving the lie to media accounts which present all the violence as simply tribal squabbling (with the colonial overlord just there to help ‘keep the peace’).

On 10 August, eight resistance fighters were sprung from the Al Fornaj prison in Tripoli after a coordinated attack, the third such attack since Gaddafi’s overthrow. On 18 August, the resistance detonated a car bomb outside a hotel in Tripoli, targeting a vehicle being used by Benghazi security personnel. On 19 August, there were more car bombs in Tripoli, targeting the interior ministry and an interrogation centre.

On 23 August, in a development reminiscent of the escalating ‘green on blue’ violence which is currently warming the tails of the imperialist soldiery in Afghanistan, Abdelmenom Al Hur, spokesman for the Supreme Security Committee told journalists that the resistance had infiltrated many official security units and secured a whole barracks full of heavy armaments.

In September, the airport in Benghazi, which the US had been using as a drone base, had to close after the resistance kept shooting at the drones.

One website reported some more recent activities, including a near-miss assassination attempt against the military leader of the so-called ‘Transitional Council of Cyrenaica’, Hamid al-Hassi, an escape attempt from Koufiya prison in Benghazi and an RPG attack on the Supreme Security Committee in Tripoli. (libyaagainstsuperpowermedia.com, 8 November 2012)

Most damaging of all to imperialist prestige so far has been the attack on the US mission in Benghazi on 11 September, taking the lives of ambassador Stevens and three other colonial overlords.

At first, the Obama line was that the attack was a spontaneous protest sparked by the dissemination of the crassly islamophobic film Innocence of Muslims – a protest that got out of hand! However, the line then switched: it had been a terrorist attack put together by al Qaeda. This seemed, if anything, still lesscredible, given the sterling service that group so recently rendered to US imperialism by mobilising the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group against Gaddafi. Similar objections can be raised against the candidacy of the salafists, no less fervent opponents of the green revolution.

The simplest explanation might turn out to also be the truest: that the attack was carried out by the resistance itself. It certainly sounds like a professional job. An eye witness wounded in the attack reported that about 125 men moved in with machine guns, RPGs, anti-aircraft weapons and grenades, moving systematically through the complex.

And whilst Obama struggled to get his story straight for the rest of the world, the hapless puppets told a plainer tale. Libya’s ‘president’ el-Megariaf, Libya’s ambassadors to the UN and Washington, and the then ‘prime minister’ Abdurrahim El Keib, all began by blaming Gaddafi loyalists for the attack, only subsequently scrambling to tuck in behind the Nato line.

Whether the resistance can add this to their heroic record of anti-imperialist achievements or whether it turns out to be another spectacular own-goal, the end result is the same: a slap in the face for US imperialism, leaving it confused, humiliated and increasingly divided in its counsels.

The same is true for many other anti-puppet actions, which it is not possible at this stage to ascribe with certainty to the resistance. If imperialism’s own puppets fall prey to the chaotic tribal divisions which their masters have themselves sown, then so be it. The imperialists yet again lift a rock to crush their enemies, only to drop it on their own feet.

Thieves fall out

When, on 26 October, General Petraeus’s girlfriend chose to regale the public with gems from her pillow talk with the now disgraced head of the CIA, she kicked a hornets’ nest, revealing sharp conflicts within imperialist ruling circles.

“Now, I don’t know if a lot of you have heard this but the CIA annex had actually taken a couple of Libyan militia members prisoner, and they think that the attack on the consulate was an effort to try get these prisoners back, so that’s still being vetted … The facts that came out today is that the ground forces there at the CIA annex, which is different from the consulate, were requesting reinforcements. They were requesting the – it’s called the CINC’s (Commander-in-Chief’s) In Extremis Force – a group of Delta Force operators, our very, most talented guys we have in the military. They could have come and reinforced the consulate and the CIA annex that were under attack …

“It is a tragedy that we lost an ambassador and two other government officials, and there was a failure in the system because there was additional security requested … It’s frustrating to see the sort of political aspect of what’s going on with this whole investigation … the challenge has been the fog of war, and the greater challenge is that it’s political hunting season, and so this whole thing has been politicised.”

Standing by her man in a declaration that her man might have preferred to have remained unsaid, Paula Broadwell babbled that the “challenging thing” for Petraeus was having to keep quiet about what was really going on: “So he’s known all of this – they had correspondence with the CIA station chief in Libya, within 24 hours they kind of knew what was happening.”

Yes, it must be hell having to run the CIA and tell ever-taller tales on behalf of a system of global exploitation and domination that is going so spectacularly wrong. Ms Broadwell’s guileless exposure of the warm fraternal relations in place between the Oval office, the Pentagon and Foggy Bottom affords us a welcome glimpse of the stresses and strains obtaining within ruling circles as crisis-stricken imperialism wades deeper into yet another swamp of its own making. May it sink without trace.

Victory to the green resistance!
Death to the rats! 
Death to the king rat: imperialism!

China-Bashing, Syria & The “Degenerate Left”

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The following article below was originally published by the Return to the Source news blog:

By Vince Sherman
December 12, 2012

The Syrian Armed Forces defending national sovereignty from foreign-backed terrorists.

The US State Department’s formal recognition of the Syrian Opposition Coalition (SOC) is no small occurrence in the imperialist world’s campaign to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. To pretend, as many on the US left do, that the US and France have not actively struggled against Assad by materially supporting the rebels is no longer possible, even from a standpoint of technicalities. Arms and ammunition continue to flow to the rebels in Syria, and whether this lethal aid is delivered by the Central Intelligence Agency or puppet regimes in the Persian Gulf makes no difference to the fundamental imperialist mission afoot in Syria.

The US may not launch a military strike in Syria – no small thanks would go to China and Russia for providing material solidarity in the form of military deterrence - but the cruise-missile leftists at The North Star cannot continue to claim that “that, from the standpoint of the U.S.-Israeli alliance, there are no good options or outcomes as a result of the Syrian revolution.” (1)

In response to the chemical weapons allegations that emerged last week from Washington, Pham Binh – the author of “Lybia and Syria: When Anti-Imperialism Goes Wrong” – penned another screed denouncing the anti-imperialist left in favor of the rebellion. Binh claims that the threat of military intervention against Syria is empty, but he goes further in his denunciation of anti-imperialism by asserting that the US and Western Europe have a vested interest in seeing Assad remain in power.

Identifying, examining and combating the basic premises of what Takis Fotopoulos calls the “degenerate left” is important in light of the left’s disunity on the question of Syria. Most leftists do not take positions as horrifying as The North Star has, but the rejection of Marxism-Leninism as a means of understanding imperialism has put many on the US left in the camp of the imperialists themselves.

One of the principle reasons for the abandonment of anti-imperialism is the US left’s willingness to engage in China-bashing and not acknowledge China’s important role in world politics. As the second largest economic power in the world, China’s rise has effectively changed the way US imperialism operates and today functions as a counter-weight for aggression in Syria. Though their role is rife with contradictions, identifying China as an enemy, rather than a very important friend, of the global anti-imperialist movement is a dangerous starting point that leads to equally dangerous – and degenerate – conclusions.

China-Bashing & the “Degenerate Left”

There is an incredibly small section of the left in the United States and Western Europe that upholds China as a socialist country (Workers World Party, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, and the Party for Socialism & Liberation are the three Marxist groups of note). There is a slightly larger section of the left that has a positive to ambivalent view of China and Chinese influence, including but not limited to the revisionist Communist Party USA and the left-refoundationist Committee for Correspondence on Democracy and Socialism.

However, the majority of the left in the US holds a partially to wholly negative view of China. Groups like the International Socialist Organization (ISO) and the International Marxist Tendency share the same view of China with the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and the Economist; the view that it is a state capitalist country.

The ISO takes this position even further in labeling China an imperialist power on par with the United States. Even US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could find common ground with this stance, given her comment at a summit in Tanzania last year that China pursues a policy of “new colonialism” in Africa. Clinton made these comments without a hint of irony, just as there is no irony to be found in “China’s Record of Imperialism,” an article that appeared in Socialist Worker in 2009.

This is unsurprisingly a view shared by The North Star, which calls China “an essential support – perhaps the essential support – for capitalist domination internationally.” (2) This is important starting point for understanding the theoretical basis for the “degenerate left,” of which The North Star is a part.

Tellingly, Binh’s latest piece is devoid of any mention of the military or political deterrence provided by China and Russia in Syria. In the original piece defending NATO intervention in Libya and Syria, Binh makes mention of China and Russia’s opposition to a Libya-style intervention, saying:

Paradoxically, NATO’s successful campaign in Libya made a future U.S./NATO campaign in Syria less likely. Russia and China are now determined to block any attempt to apply the Libyan model to Syria at the United Nations Security Council and the Obama administration is not willing to defy either of them by taking Bush-style unilateral military action for the time being.

Five months later, the role of China and Russia are worth nary a mention, even as Binh ridicules the anti-imperialist left for responding to new signs of aggression. Instead, the explanation for Washington’s reluctance to directly intervene on behalf of the rebels is reduced to three major points: (1) Washington does not have the troops necessary to invade and occupy Syria, (2) the US Senate is restricting Obama’s ability to launch a no-fly zone, and (3) the US fundamentally does not want to see Assad toppled because the rebellion is pro-Palestinian and Palestinians support the rebellion.

China and Russia’s Role as Counter-Weights to Imperialism

China and Russia veto the UN’s no-fly zone resolution.

Let’s begin with the second argument about the lack of domestic political support in the US Senate for a no-fly zone. Binh’s argument is laughable given the US, France, and the other imperialist powers already pushed for a no-fly zone through the UN – just as they did a year ago to launch the Libya assault – in June. Had they faced the same abstentions from China and Russia as they did with the Libyan no-fly zone, there is no reason to believe that military intervention would not have occurred already.

However, China and Russia did, in fact, veto the UN Security Council no-fly zone, greatly reducing any perceived international consensus around foreign military operations in Syria. In August, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov “warned the West not to take unilateral action on Syria, saying that Russia and China agree that violations of international law and the United Nations charter are impermissible.” (3) Both China and Russia continue to trade with Syria and break the West’s sanctions on Assad’s government, with Russia going further to actually aid the Syrian government in the conflict. Both China and Russia continue to call for a political solution to the Syrian crisis and explicitly disavow the Free Syrian Army strategy of seizing power through continued warfare. And both China and Russia have opposed US escalation, including the recent placement of Patriot missiles on the Turkish-Syrian border.

Would China and Russia respond militarily if the West unilaterally intervened in Syria? It’s hard to say, although Russia is far more poised to launch a counter-attack to defend Assad’s government. The most salient point is that China and Russia have exerted their influence as a counter-balance to Western imperialism in Syria. The Western imperialist powers may still militarily intervene in Syria, but rest assured that one of the largest obstacles that has kept them at bay to this date is China and Russia.

What should we make of China and Russia’s abstention during the Libyan no-fly zone debate at the UN in 2011, which facilitated NATO’s barbaric assault on the Libyan people and the ouster of Muammar Qaddafi? I would propose that both China and Russia sum it up as a failure; a passive ‘buyer’s remorse’. Martin Beckford of the Telegraph reported this in the early weeks of NATO’s attack:

China, which frequently faces criticism over its own suppression of democracy movements, said it “regretted” the military action and respected Libya’s sovereignty.

A foreign ministry statement said: “China has noted the latest developments in Libya and expresses regret over the military attacks on Libya.

“We hope Libya can restore stability as soon as possible and avoid further civilian casualties due to an escalation of armed conflict,” it added. (4)

Russia’s reaction was similar. China has rarely used its veto power on the Security Council, and post-1991 Russia has followed that path as well, despite both quietly supporting independent nations like Syria. However, the scale and ferocity of the assault on Libya came to change the position of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), who summed up their inaction as a failure which they “regret.”

Dumb & Dumber: China-Bashing and Misplaced Cynicism of the Degenerate Left

Binh and those at The North Star will be quick to point to China and Russia’s commercial interests in Syria, along with their close economic relationship with Iran. Yusef Khalil of the ISO described China and Russia’s veto of a no-fly zone over Syria as “[moving] in to protect their own imperialist interests in the region.” (5)

The question of Russia is an equally important topic but one we will have to reserve for another time.

Admittedly, China is Syria’s top trading partner and largest foreign stake-holder in Syrian oil. (6) After the crippling embargoes set by the West, China has continued purchasing Syrian oil and severely undermines the success of ‘sanction warfare’. (6)

However, this inevitable counter-argument is as faulty and ridiculous as the entire premise that China is an imperialist country. Adel al-Toraifi, the Editor-in-Chief of al-Majalla news, unravels the arguments of anyone claiming that China’s stance on Syria is based on economic considerations:

…China has had strong trade relations with Syria, and strong economic cooperation with the Bashar al-Assad regime since 2001, after both parties signed an agreement on economic and technical cooperation; this means that China is Syria’s third most important trading partner. However the volume of trade between the two countries, which amounted to $2.2 billion in 2010, is nothing in comparison to the commercial exchange between China and the Gulf States, which exceeds more than $90 billion per year. Therefore China is not too concerned about the loss of Syria as an economic partner, however the issue is not one of profit or loss or business considerations, particularly as many Chinese interests are served by opposing the US and European movement to bring about regime change in the Middle East. (7)

Claiming that China, a country that by and large has not exercised its veto power on the Security Council, would suddenly go out on a whim and stand by a minor trading partner like Syria defies logic. Just a crude analysis of the basic numbers reveals that China had more than $20 billion in investments with Libya under Qaddafi’s government, almost ten times the amount of investments in Syria. (8)

Is oil a determinant factor for China’s different line on Syria versus Libya? Not even close. Syria is already a very minor oil producing country by Middle Eastern standards, but less than 1% of Syrian oil exports go to China (less than 4,000 barrels per day). (9) China imported more than 150,00 barrels of Libyan oil per day under Qaddafi, or about 37.5 times the amount imported from Syria. (10)

We could continue unraveling the argument of China’s economic self-interest through economic comparisons. For the sake of the reader, though, let’s cut to the chase: China has considerably less of a stake in defending Syria from Western aggression than it did with Libya, and yet the two questions elicited different responses.

The degenerate left and the right-wing in the US both share a common cynicism for Chinese actions in world affairs. However, the right-wing cynically uses China-bashing as a naked propaganda tactic designed to stir up nativism in the US. The degenerate left, on the other hand, actually seems to believe this farce and repeat the same lies to the detriment of the world anti-imperialist movement.

China-bashing puts the degenerate left just a hop, skip, and a jump from neo-conservatism

China’s foreign policy is a far cry from the critical support given by the Soviet Union to national liberation struggles around the world. In fact, it’s important for anti-imperialists to note and be critical of the foreign policy errors committed by Beijing during the Sino-Soviet Split, which far too many US groups in the New Communist Movement embraced uncritically.

However, the degenerate left lumps China in with the US as a competing imperialist interest in the world with a total neglect of the actual dynamics at play. Because most Western leftists have only witnessed global trade as an affair directed by trans-national corporations, they view China’s role in the world market as part of the same imperialist machine they protest in their own countries. An element of political opportunism plays into this analysis as well when looking at the patently anti-China flames fanned by many trade unions in the US.

The degenerate left’s cynical attitude towards China, even when it does something incredibly laudable like vetoing the no-fly zone resolution, comes primarily from its embrace of anti-China propaganda. The North Star, along with other blogs like Politics in the Zeroes, continue bashing China for the Tiananmen Square “massacre” that even the US admits did not happen. (11) Of course China is always falsely implicated as an imperialist power for their relationship with Tibet, despite the thoroughly feudal and imperialist interests fueling the Free Tibet movement. (12)

For all of its contradictions, China remains a socialist country. The commanding heights of the economy are still controlled by the state, which itself is controlled by the Communist Party and oriented towards working people and peasants. A capitalist sector has developed in China since Deng Xiaoping’s reforms that mirrored Lenin’s own New Economic Policy, but this sector is wholly dependent on the socialist state. And although China is no longer a vocal advocate for world revolution – many would call this revisionism – their line on the Syrian question demonstrates the CCP’s continued commitment to anti-imperialism and independent development.

By rejecting China and the entire socialist experience in the 20th century, the degenerate left already accepts the basic premises of the right-wing and bourgeois elite in the US. Of course it does not stop with just China. If one rejects China as a state capitalist, or even an imperialist state, then one must go further by rejecting bourgeois nationalist states like Assad’s government in Syria or Qaddafi’s government in Libya. Any attempt to support these governments from Western aggression by China, or even Russia, is seen as an inter-imperialist struggle, according to the degenerate left.

With that, the so-called Marxists in the motley crew can dust off Lenin, cite some out-of-context quotes denouncing the Second International, and call it a day. Some, like Binh, skip the Lenin and go straight for Malcolm X, ripping “by any means necessary” so grossly out of context that they use one of the most revolutionary national liberation leaders to justify the very imperialism he fought against. All are smug in their satisfaction that they are opposing tyranny – not even capitalism anymore, but the metaphysical concept of tyranny – on behalf of some imaginary workers movement ‘from below’.

That last point regarding the simplistic and thoroughly anti-dialectical worldview of the degenerate left is very important in understanding its relationship to neo-conservatism. Because Syria is a bourgeois state with a capitalist economy, the degenerate left views Assad’s government and its actions in a political vacuum. There is no dialectical understanding of primary and secondary contradictions, which would reveal that the struggle of oppressed nations against oppressor nations is the principle contradiction facing the Syrian people. Instead, Assad is viewed by the degenerate left the same way Saddam was by the Bush administration: a tyrant who denies his own people freedom and democracy. 

According to this worldview, Assad cannot possibly be progressive in any context because he leads a bourgeois state. Nevermind that he is a nationalist at odds with Western imperialism! Nevermind that the Syrian economy is still largely controlled by the state! Nevermind that he supports national liberation struggles in Palestine and Lebanon! He oppresses his people; a particularly condescending phrase towards whatever people happen to be talked about. And of course there is no discussion or differentiation on the sector of people facing repression by the Syrian state (collaborators, imperialist-sympathizers, terrorists).

China also factors into this tautological worldview. For the degenerate left, international solidarity by a state – any state – is categorically impossible because they consider either most or every state to be capitalist.

Consider the tautology at work here: When China vetoes a no-fly zone resolution, it’s tyrannysupporting tyranny. When China doesn’t veto a no-fly zone resolution in Libya, they are providing “essential support – perhaps the essential support – for capitalist domination internationally.” (2) When Russia positions ships to offset the US’s Patriot missiles in Turkey, it’s an imperialist power looking out for its strategic and commercial interests. If Russia doesn’t oppose Western intervention in Libya, they are silent partners in the imperialist project.

…Or perhaps we have to approach China, and Russia, dialectically by considering their place in relation to imperialism at a given moment in history!

Is it any surprise that several of the Trotskyites from the 20th century, who built their measly political ‘careers’ denouncing every instance of socialism as state capitalism, became neo-conservatives in the Reagan era?* We begin to understand Christopher Hitchens’ disgraceful pro-war line on Iraq when we realize his hatred for all existing socialist countries, which he viewed as capitalist and imperialist powers no better than the US.

Syria, China & the US Left

Military intervention in Syria seems more likely every day. Tragically, the response from the US left seems to grow smaller with every war or military action launched by the Obama administration.

With its significant economic ties to the US and world markets, China could take a more active role in economically pressuring the imperialist powers to not intervene. Ultimately if NATO is dissuaded from a Libya-style intervention over the issue of chemical weapons, Russia’s military presence in the Gulf will probably have more to do with it.

The most salient point is that the degenerate left continues to side with the imperialist powers, whether in word (The North Star) or in deed (the ISO). The US left must discard these bankrupt theories and embrace anti-imperialism if it hopes to build a militant resistance to these criminal attacks; an anti-imperialism that sends a unified message supporting Assad and Syrian self-determination in this period of crisis, as we wrote about this past weekend.

However, the China-bashing of the degenerate left will continue to haunt movements in the US, which find themselves unable to distinguish friend from foe. Russia-bashing, a related topic for another time, also feeds into a simplistic world view alien from the Leninist theory of imperialism. Most assuredly capitalist, Russia is still not an imperialist power and, most importantly, functions as a counterweight to imperialism along with China. Both China and Russia’s involvement in the Syrian crisis have different contradictions, but anti-imperialists would recognize that these two countries have made the subjugation of the Syrian people to Western finance capital more difficult.

Neither China nor Russia are the leaders of the world anti-imperialist movement. That distinction belongs to the masses fighting battling for self-determination and revolution in Colombia, India, Palestine, the Philippines, and all over the world. But the US left must recognize that China is a friend, not an enemy, of the anti-imperialist movement, and it will begin to see questions like Syria much more clearly.

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Return to the Source has defended China’s socialist orientation and its role in global trade before, and those interested in a more thorough examination should refer to China & Market Socialism: A Question of State and Revolution.

* By no means should this statement be taken as an indictment on all groups professing ideological heritage to Leon Trotsky. As flawed as we believe many of these groups’ lines and organizing strategies are, there are groups like the Socialist Equality Party have overwhelmingly upheld an anti-imperialist position on Syria.

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(1) Pham Binh, The North Star, ““Red Line” or Empty Threat? How the Left Gasses Itself on #Syria,” December 6, 2012, http://bit.ly/RFo9ec

(2) Gabriel Levy, The North Star, “The Trouble With Economic Growth,” October 2, 2012, http://bit.ly/U8zzb7

(3) Reuters, “Russia, China warn West against Syria intervention,” August 21, 2012, http://bit.ly/NhpwI2

(4) Martin Beckford, The Telegraph, “Libya attacks criticised by Arab League, China, Russia and India,” March 21, 2011, http://bit.ly/gS9sHO

(5) Yusef Khalil, Socialist Worker, “A Turning Point in Syria,” May 31, 2012, http://bit.ly/LIFJ7w

(6) Joel Wuthnow, The National Interest, “Why China would intervene in Syria,” July 16, 2012, http://bit.ly/Mzuyjb

(7)Adel al-Toraifi, al-Majalla, “Does China truly support Bashar al-Assad?” February 16, 2012, http://bit.ly/wZsVih

(8) Michael Kan, The African Business Journal, “China’s Investments in Libya,” http://bit.ly/TTv0js

(9) Energy Information Administration, “Country Analysis Briefs: Syria,” Updated August 2011, http://www.eia.gov/cabs/Syria/pdf.pdf

(10) Deborah Brautigam, China in Africa: The Real Story, “China’s Oil Imports From Libya,” March 23, 2011, http://bit.ly/eoRojH

(11) Malcolm Moore, The Telegraph, “Wikileaks: No Bloodshead Inside Tianamen Square, cables claim,” June 4, 2011, http://bit.ly/mxFf3m

(12) Michael Parenti, “Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth,” January 2007, http://www.michaelparenti.org/Tibet.html