Thursday, 8 December 2016

Syria: White Helmet Whitewash

The conflict in Syria is a tragedy with many dimensions. One of the most scurrilous has been the western media's promotion of the so-called 'white helmet aid workers' in East Aleppo, when these are reactionary forces who would otherwise be labelled as terrorists, were it not for their opposition to Syria's government. A convincing characterisation of their real role is given in the interview here by Vanessa Beeley, a British investigative journalist. She notes that they have received some $100 million in aid from western powers, which is better explained as a cover for military equipment and support rather than for medical and aid supplies.

Listen to the full interview. Although made at end-September, it gives an interesting angle on the degree to which western media have no shame in persistently lying when this suits imperial strategy. Developments in Syria have not gone as they hoped, so the rhetoric is now being wound down, if only to cover up the embarrassment for the major powers delivered by Russia's actions.

If the Beeley interview does not enlighten you, then just consider the desperation of the British government in trying to disown the latest statements from its own Foreign Secretary, one Boris Johnson. He happened to be clumsy and truthful in noting some aspects of the role of Saudi Arabia in the many Middle East conflicts, when the demands of his position mean that he should have kept his mouth shut. At least he didn't make the mistake of referring to the 'Saudi regime', or suggest that regime change might be a good idea.

Tony Norfield, 8 December 2016


Anonymous said...

Regime change was never seriously on the cards. Where is the evidence for that - apart from empty rhetoric. No shame? Who all should be shamed? Attacking the poor, instituting sweeping privatisation policies of agricultural land is what brought about the opposition to Bashar Al Assad -- whatever the glories of modern Damascus. It is sad that so many on the Left have failed to look beyond the geopolitics at play in Syria and even sadder to see -- put up as a shining light of investigative journalism -- someone who collaborates with an admirer of Ayn Rand and verges on adoring sycophancy: "Meeting President Bashar Al Assad and listening to his wise and pertinent analysis of events in Syria and globally were a wake up call for us, living under true tyrants and oligarchs whose intent is mass murder, theft and rape of sovereign nations in order to feed their inhumane and ravenous hegemony. Henry and I both struggled to keep emotions under control during the interview. ..."
Attack western imperialism for [where to start?] Iraq...Fallujah...Yemen...Mosul. The list is endless. But global capitalism and butchering populations who oppose you bears many hues and colours and includes Iran, Hesbollah and Russia among the bearers of great shame. If you can't 'walk and chew gum' at the same time; if you don't have the temerity to denounce depredations where you find them; if it is inconvenient to not be able to put those you would denounce in one basket [although actually the reforms the Assad regime brought about in Syria are part in parcel of the globalised capitalist world], then there is plenty of shame to own for that omission, for that failure of the Left to condemn a modern Guernica, to condemn yet another Fallujah, which is what has taken place in Aleppo, simply because the horrors inflicted are chiefly the responsibility of Syria, Iran and Russia. The rebels don't have an airforce and anti-aircraft missiles were thin on the ground, deliberately held back by the United States. There has been a deliberate policy of keeping out anti-aircraft missiles. [Nour Malas reports]

SteveH said...

I think any national government when faced with an armed revolt in one of its major cities, in this case an armed revolt sponsored by imperialism and its regional allies, an armed revolt that plants car bombs in town centres and hacks the limbs off non believers, will use all the force at its command to restore order.

If it happened in the UK they would do the same here, I mean after the London riots, kids play compared to the rebellion in Syria, they started locking up peole for stealing water!

So this is not about the morality of a government army taking back a city by all means necessary but is about the specific character of the rebellion.

I do not see how any leftist could support such a reactionary rebellion, with the dark hand of imperialism pulling the strings.

It should also be noted that Assad, butcher or no butcher, won a landslide victory among the people of Syria.

When is that inconvenient truth going to be recognised by the leftist supporters of the rebels?

Walter Daum said...

It is difficult to respond to a post that reflects an alternate universe. A few points:

1. The “all means necessary” employed by Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies included the barrel-bombing of civilian neighborhoods and hospitals. The U.S. of course has no standing to object, since it did similar monstrous acts in Fallujah a few years back as well as in other places, and of course supports the Saudis doing likewise in Yemen, and the Israelis several times in Gaza, etc.

2. The rebellion was not reactionary. Assad is a dictator who adopted neo-liberal policies and collaborated with the CIA’s rendition program. The rebellion was *against* reaction, and any leftist should solidarize with it. The fact that Islamist forces backed by the Saudis etc. intervened against Assad does not refute the democratic character of the rebellion; the Islamists were a counterrevolution in their own right.

3. Imperialism did not pull the strings, just as it did not instigate the democratic rebellions in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrein, etc. The U.S. has a long record of backing the rulers against whom the rebels rose up. In Syria

4. Assad’s “landslide victory” in elections is as indicative of his popularity as similar landslides by Ceausescu, Honecker and all the rulers of Stalinist East Europe. It’s hard to believe that someone calling himself a leftists doesn’t see through such facades.

For views of the world as it really is, and where leftists should stand, there are many sources. Just three, from different political currents:

“The Tragedy of the Syrian Revolution and the Responsibilities of Socialists”;
(although I don’t share the writer’s view that Iran and China are imperialist powers)”

“Interview: Lessons of the Syrian Revolution”;

“Defend the Syrian Revolution Against All its Enemies – Imperialism, Assad and Reactionary Islamists!”;

Tony Norfield said...

My remarks on the western media and the White Helmets in Syria have prompted comments from Anonymous and Walter Daum that are, at best, irrelevant to the points I raised. I can only presume that their comments reflect some deep seated frustrations that emerge whenever the word Syria is mentioned. Not being a psychoanalyst, I plan to offer no remedy.

SteveH said...

"The “all means necessary” employed by Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies included the barrel-bombing of civilian neighborhoods and hospitals"

Yes and and? Obviously by all means necessary is not a judgement by myself on the rights and wrongs of the situation, just the acknowledgment that to beat an heavily armed and financed revolt a government needs to use more than firing machine guns to win its objectives. I have sympathy with the rebels, but they are rebels who overwhelmingly follow a reactionary religious ideology and moreover have been armed to the teeth by the dark hand of imperialism.

"The U.S. of course has no standing to object, since it did similar monstrous acts in Fallujah"

The difference there of course is that the US had just destroyed the country and were clearing up the mess they made by all means necessary, whereas Russia have been dragged into this conflict very much as a last resort. Clearly the invasion and destruction of Iraq was something the US and its allies actively wanted to do and they made up numerous lies to justify it. I would argue the aftermath of the Iraq conflict, which caused a mass exodus of people from Iraq to Syria was a major cause of the problems.

"The U.S. has a long record of backing the rulers against whom the rebels rose up. In Syria"

So what. The US has a long record of destabilising governments it doesn't like and the Assad regime was very near the top of the list. So given past experiences we should expect that the US would do everything it could to destabilise Syria to further its interests. i would argue that for the US the Syrian people were the price worth paying was bringing down Assad. And clearly the US and its proxies have opportunistically used the Arab Spring to try to bring down a foe. We should remember that in Egypt the Arab Spring ended in the democratically elected government being brought down by a secular military Junta using all means necessary, including mass murder of protesters. Such is the nature of elections and democracy outside the imperialist core.

This is the biggest mistake leftists make in relation to the periphery, they view everything through the prism of living in the imperialist core. This is actually why I have some sympathy with the Syrian rebels, and why I personally refuse to condemn the groups like ISIS. What is the point of condemning? Understanding is more important. But I understand why faced with this mass heavily armed revolt Assad had to act.

"Assad’s “landslide victory” in elections is as indicative of his popularity as similar landslides by Ceausescu, Honecker and all the rulers of Stalinist East Europe."

You have no proof that the election did not reflect the will of the Syrian people and instead point to other elections, as if one that proves anything. The least it should do for anyone who isn't a lunatic is make them stop and pause to think, actually what if Assad does carry some degree of popular support among the population, what will happen to those Assad supporters if these limb chopping rebels win the battle? Surely those questions are merited, rather than this idiotic let us support the limb choppers because they are fighting a dictator!

The only place leftists should stand is to take up full opposition to US imperialism and for British leftists they should call for the immediate arrest of Tony Blair and his cabinet on war crimes charges. To be honest until the British public do this the British have zero right to lecture anyone about anything.

EPThompson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...
"...In 2003 The US was marshaling its forces, based on concocted false claims to invade a sovereign country ruled by a tyrant. A global antiwar movement opposed the coming destruction of Iraq without necessarily siding with the Iraqi regime. In Syria, on the other hand, a grassroots movement for emancipation against the brutal post-colonial authoritarian regime emerged in 2011 in the wake of the Arab uprisings. The Syrian revolution shifts the location of political practice from an oppositional movement in the West to an emancipatory movement in Syria itself, reopening in the process the question of internationalist solidarity. The Left’s recasting of the Syrian revolution, despite its entanglements in competing geopolitical agendas, as being defined by potential Western intervention, is a move that re-inscribes politics as the monopoly of imperial centers. It imagines politics only in relation to, and as practiced by, Empire, obliterating in the process the Syrian people’s attempts to make their own history reinstating in the process the West as the main subject and agent of History..."