blackcatte, Catte, Essays, featured, Syria, terrorism, United States
Comments 123

Selling imperialist propaganda in an anti-imperialist wrapper

any resemblance to persons living or dead or quoted in this article is entirely coincidental

any resemblance to persons living or dead or quoted in this article is entirely coincidental


edited 02/08/16

As we predicted a few weeks ago, the Washington war party seems to have seized the initiative from the “lame duck” Obama administration over Syria and is currently pushing hard for a direct confrontation with the Syrian Arab Army, and possibly with Russia. Extreme anti-Assad hate porn has been saturating the press in what looks very much like a bid to “normalise the unthinkable” and prep us for a major war.

So, why are Counterpunch and the Socialist Worker choosing such a time to present a piece on Syria by Ashley Smith that reads like a briefing from the Clinton campaign or Kagan’s Foreign Policy Initiative?

We aren’t going to leap on a bandwagon and accuse Counterpunch or the SW of discreditable intentions. Counterpunch in particular has been a source of hugely valuable anti-imperialist commentary for very many years and it would be incredibly arrogant for we newcomers not to give it every respect for that. But what are they thinking here?

Smith tries to present this piece as a condemnation of the “campist” left for its kneejerk siding with a “brutal dictator”( Assad), simply because he is being attacked by the US imperialists. Maybe the Counterpunch co-editor (Jeffrey St. Clair) who defended the piece was convinced by this?  And it might  be fair enough, if that was really Smith’s point. We’re the first to agree Assad isn’t beyond criticism and shouldn’t be sanctified by the “enemy of my enemy” syndrome. We’re the first to acknowledge he should be named a tyrant – if that is what he is. But Smith’s article doesn’t come close to producing any evidence that Assad is a tyrant or a “brutal dictator.” It doesn’t even try. It just settles for a lot of familiar misdirection, such as this:

The regime carried out a chemical weapons attack in a suburb of Damascus in 2013…

Why would such a gratuitous lie by omission be perpetrated by any author trying to bring honest analysis to bear? Why does Smith offer no balancing mention that even the corporate media has admitted there is no proof who perpetrated the Ghouta attack? Or that investigative journalists and people on the ground have amassed considerable amounts of data (see also here and here and here) pointing to it being perpetrated by the Turkish and US(imperial)-backed rebels?

But in case you’re thinking this is just an isolated slip of judgement on Smith’s part, do please read his entire article, and take note of these selected highlights:

“..The Syrian Revolution has tested the left internationally by posing a blunt question: Which side are you on? Do you support the popular struggle against dictatorship and for democracy? Or are you with Bashar al-Assad’s brutal regime, his imperial backer Russia, his regional ally Iran and Iran’s proxies like Hezbollah from Lebanon?..”

“…Since then, they [the US] have turned a blind eye to Assad’s massacre of some 400,000 Syrians, and his regime’s use of barrel bombs, chemical weapons and barbaric sieges of cities like Aleppo. Today, 11 million people–half the country’s population–have been displaced, with the Assad regime responsible for the lion’s share of the death and destruction…”

“..In reality, the U.S. retreated in general from outright regime change as its strategy in the Middle East after the failure of its invasion and occupation of Iraq. The main priority behind the alternative direction for U.S. imperialism pursued by Barack Obama is that the U.S. should avoid destabilizing regimes for fear of the chaos that ensues in the aftermath…”

“…The campist misreadings, however, have led them to the conclusion that the U.S. government is pulling the strings in the rebellion in Syria. Some have gone so far as to argue–absurdly–that the U.S. backs ISIS against Assad. Ironically, this puts the campists in agreement with Donald Trump, who, in his latest ravings, claims that Obama and Clinton were “founders” of ISIS.

“…In Syria, however, Washington’s goal is obvious, and has been for some time: It doesn’t want regime change. Perhaps the hated figurehead of Assad will be pushed aside, but U.S. policy from the beginning has been to preserve the core of Assad’s state….. Why? Above all, the U.S. fears an unpredictable outcome, whether as a result of the advance of the Nusra Front or ISIS–but especially in the form of a popular revolution…”

“…In its initial stages, the uprising in Syria had a nonviolent and mass character, but the savage repression and violence carried out by the regime militarized the conflict. The U.S. blocked the shipment of heavy weaponry, such as anti-aircraft systems, that would have strengthened secular and democratic forces that have borne the brunt of the Assad regime’s terror…”

“…Today, Washington’s goals are to wipe out ISIS and to secure a negotiated settlement in Syria that preserves the regime, if not Assad himself. In America’s camp, regional powers like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey have tried to push the envelope even further, backing various jihadist forces to strengthen their position in region and weaken their opponents, from Assad to Iran, as well as challengers from below such as the Kurds…”

“…On the other side of the international geopolitical rivalry, Russia–profoundly weakened since its defeat in the Cold War a quarter century ago–is reasserting its imperial power through its all-out support for the Assad regime in Syria…”

So, how many approved mainstream Syria-tropes has Smith managed to crowbar into his piece in the guise of telling it like it is to the comrades? Let’s run through the checklist :

  • The a priori demonisation of the “brutal” Assad regime (“responsible for the lion’s share of the destruction”)and its allegedly “imperial” territorially ambitious Russian backers, together with the sanctification of the allegedly “populist” alleged “rebels” without qualification, substantiation or historical perspective? Check…
  • Promotion of the myth that Assad is known beyond doubt to have committed the Ghouta atrocity, and total suppression of any contesting possibility? Check…
  • Promotion of the myth that “barrel bombs” are a form of terror weapon worse than conventional bombs or shells, and that they are being used by, and exclusively by, the Syrian regime? Check
  • Promotion of the myth the US is a helpless bystander to the chaos, regardless of the mountain of evidence to the contrary? Check
  • Promotion of the myth the US “fears” unpredictable outcomes, even though it routinely induces them wherever it goes (Libya, Somalia, Iraq, Ukraine)?Check…
  • Promotion of the myth the US only went into Syria to “stabilise” the situation and/or to “fight ISIS”? Check…
  • Promotion of the myth that Assad is directly responsible for the “400,000 dead”, when even the UN rep who estimated this figure was making a guess at the number killed in the five years of civil war as a whole? Check.
  • Promotion of the myth that Assad is “hated” in Syria and refusal to acknowledge the evidence to the contrary? Check.
  • Promotion of the myth that Aleppo, as a whole, is under siege by the SAA, and the denial by omission of the truth that the city is split in two or that al Nusra is shelling and killing civilians in the west of the city? Check
  • Denial by omission of the entire question of legality or the requirement to abide by international law, and framing the debate instead as one of who “we” want to see running Syria? Check
  • The concomitant assumption by implication that “we” have some sort of moral obligation to overthrow governments we don’t like and to supply weaponry to anyone who opposes them? Check.
  • The ridiculing of the mere idea the US backed ISIS to overthrow Assad, and the omission of evidence that shows this is exactly what they did? Check…

Impressive, no? If a paid government stenographer at the Guardian had written this they couldn’t have hoped to hit more approved talking points. Just like the US imperialists he claims to loath Smith tries to sell the idea Assad spontaneously started “assaulting” the “rebels” for no reason apart from evil (just like Yanukovich in Ukraine), and not as a response to the western-funded attempts at yet another phoney color revolution. He tries, just like the US imperialists, to make us see these poorly-defined “rebels” not as al Qaeda or ISIS or bands of mercenaries, but valiant heroes, struggling to fend off tyranny. He hopes we’ll be as dyslexic about the real legal and moral issue as he and his Washington friends are, and simply accept a priori our right/obligation to decide who gets to run Syria based on how much we like them.

But Smith doesn’t just sell on used mainstream lies,he also adds a few deceptions and reinventions of his own, aimed exclusively at getting his left wing audience to see regime change and armed intervention as the New Anti-Imperialism.

He starts by boldly reversing reality and presenting the “rebels”, not Assad as the target of US aggression. He tells us Obama doesn’t really oppose the Syrian government and that he “denied” the “rebels” the “heavy weaponry they pleaded for to stop the regime’s assault.” Given these “rebels” are currently bombarding western Aleppo (you know that place he doesn’t want to talk about) with US-donated mortars, rockets and sniper fire, this claim is about as stupid as it gets, and he ends up tying himself in knots of contradictions trying simultaneously to say Obama supports everything Assad stands for but also wants him – inexplicably – to go. He is so blatantly trying to weasel us into calling on Obama to send Tomahawks to the terrorist mercs (oops,sorry, “those who rose up for democracy and justice”) that it’s embarrassing. He thinks his audience are morons with short term memory loss and no idea how to use search engines, and by underestimating them only succeeds in making himself look a fool.

His phoney left, phoney social-justice warrior, phoney righteous indignation and general incompetence at creating a plausible alternative narrative only makes the lies he tells more repulsive. It’s a horrible display. As morally bankrupt as it is idiotic. It’s the Establishment-sanctioned war narrative in a red-painted, rainbow-tinged box.

Everyone sing along with Ashley now…


  1. Great article! An excellent deconstruction of how Western propaganda in “progressive media” works. Although I will still read Counterpunch to follow writers like Andre Vitcheck and Diana Johnstone, I’ve come to the conclusion that the presence of such honest voices is in part to lend an air of legitimacy to the the type of reporting documented in this article. This would include St. Clair and others rather childish rejections of any examination of the deep state as associated with JFK’s assassination, 9/11, etc. In a similar view Democracy Now’s reporting from Standing Rock, while much appreciated, helps to lend it badly needed credibility after its shameless repletion of State Department disinformation on by Libya and Syria. The danger posed by gatekeeper phenomenon is that too many in our culture seem smitten with the cult of personality and therefore have a hard time imagining a Chomsky, an Amy Goodman or a Jeffry St. Clair might have at best serious blind spots, and at worst, deceptive agendas. Again, this article is excellent work that is indeed appreciated by those of us not willing to let “progressive” sites or personalities set the boundaries of our own thought, research and actions.

  2. BALDEAGLE11 says

    Well Julian in my humble opinion visiting Spain at least twice a month for ” shopping ” and personal visiting with other non-Espanish nationals “, the economically priced, and the wide range of fresh produce is better than anywhere in Northern Europe.

    And, among the British permanent residents they still feel, ‘post-brexit ‘ that they sense that they will not be materially disadvantaged, and, yes for the Nation of Spain they are being subjected to all of the right-wing policies of exclusion and austerity as to comply with the IMF and EU ” masters of the free world “.

  3. Let’s send in 400 or so Tomahawk cruise missiles along with thousands of ‘smart bombs’ to liberate Syrians from Bashar and life itself, using the Iraqi and Libyan model!!

    Yes, there’s no true freedom until one sheds their mortal coil and enjoys the good hereafter life!

  4. Admin says

    We take note that this article has been criticised for being

    1) too critical of Assad and
    2) not critical enough.

    We’ve been told we are

    a) selling the same anti-Syrian line as the MSM and
    b) “indistinguishable” from the Syrian News Agency.

    We also note none of the critics on either side has pointed out any actual errors of fact.

    • Daniel Wirt says

      Actually, Ms. Catte, 2) “Not critical enough” and b) ” ‘indistinguishable’ from the Syrian News Agency” come entirely from the mouth of ProyectileVomiting, and can thus be summarily dismissed.

      And you say, “We also note none of the critics on either side has pointed out any actual errors of fact.”

      Except that you provided no facts (Ed: better: “evidence”) to support your contention that “We’re the first to acknowledge he may entirely deserve to be called a tyrant. But Smith’s article doesn’t come close to exposing Assad’s real crimes…”

      But you have now edited that out of your piece. (You’re welcome.)

      “Just the facts, ma’am.”

      • Catte says

        No idea what you’re on about Daniel. As I said I would in my reply to your comment, I edited the piece for clarity since you and other people were continually assuming I was suggesting I had a list of Assad’s “real crimes”, and the wording was loose enough to allow for such a misreading. I haven’t changed any factual statements at all.

        “You’re welcome”? For what? Curb your passive aggressive demands for author recognition please. 🙂 I did link to your comment at the top of the piece as my reason for the small change of wording. If that’s not enough for you then well…write your own article.

        And I didn’t make the Admin post you’re replying to – so…??

      • Seamus Padraig says

        “ProyectileVomiting” — I love it! 😀 😀 😀

      • Joseph Habbib says

        Daniel Wirt MD of Humble, Texas employee of Memorial Hermann Northeastern Hospital has no credible on the subject of Syria., he has never been to Syria nor will he dare step foot into our country. He has spewed lies and anger toward Syrian people because they don’t believe as he does. Wirt should get over himself he is unimportant and unintelligent. Anyone that would follow Andrew, Samer, Afraa, Meri Wood, Jan Fearing (Janice Kortkamp) and other non Syrians about Syrian business is a huge fool. Wirt is sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong and doesn’t have a say about Texas much less the Syrian Arab Republic . Last I check this crazy whackjob is no expert on Syria. He should mind his own business, take care of his issues he has in Texas and leave Syrian business for Syrians. Not a lynch mob of wanna be losers that live miles away from Syria but make occasional trips promoting themselves on social media more than they are accomplishing a dam thing for our country. Daniel Wirt piss off you are unimportant.

    • I don’t have the time to explain why your attack on Smith’s article is flawed, except for the correct observation that obviously Assad is not responsible for all the 400,000 deaths (but surely most of them). However, this business is absurd:

      The ridiculing of the mere idea the US backed ISIS to overthrow Assad, and the omission of evidence that shows this is exactly what they did? Check…

      This is linked to an article by Nafeez Ahmed that references the 2012 Judicial Watch item that has been cited a thousand times, including by Seumas Milne, to make the case that the USA fostered the growth of Daesh. Like Milne, Ahmed omits the conclusion of the report:



      What could possibly have allowed Milne or Ahmed to describe anything like this as the USA being pro- ISIS? Do the words “Dire Consequences” and “Grave Danger” mean something different to him than they do to the average person? Where is George Orwell when we need him to unravel such doublethink when “effectively welcome” and “a grave danger” go together?

      Ahmed’s article also refers to the RAND corporation dated 2008 that supposedly advocates backing a Sunni revolt against Assad. However, you need to go the RAND report that was filed AFTER 2011 when an actual uprising began. That report states “Regime collapse, while not considered a likely outcome, was perceived to be the worst possible outcome for U.S. strategic interests.” Let me repeat this with emphasis:


      • Jen says

        You did find the time to make five other comments in this comments forum.

      • Catte says

        This part of the conclusion of the report has no bearing on the facts made clear throughout that the US did enable ISIS.

        So, you acknowledge we are right about the “400,000” alleged deaths. That’s a start. Let’s keep working those facts and staying away from the empty windbaggery that is your signature dish.

        How about our claim Smith lies by omission when he describes Aleppo as being under siege by the Syrian army and ignores the fact western Aleppo is under attack by al Nusra “rebels”? Is that right or wrong?

        And the Ghouta chemical attacks. Are we right or wrong to say Smith lies by omission in ignoring the evidence the “rebels” may have perpetrated these attacks?

      • Luis says

        “I don’t have the time to explain why your attack on Smith’s article is flawed, except for the correct observation that obviously Assad is not responsible for all the 400,000 deaths (but surely most of them).”

        “Surely”…because the regime-change narrative requires it. Nothing more.

  5. Hugh O'Neill says

    Excellent article provoking much wise commentary. The collective ‘enemy’ of all truth is “The Unspeakable” as made perfectly clear in James Douglass “JFK & The Unspeakable. Why he died & Why it matters”. Reading this book lifts the veil of deceit deliberately cast by the Corporatocracy; think the CIA’s Operation Mockingbird which explains how every seemingly trustworthy organ (like The Guardian, CounterPunch, New Statesman) all become assets of disinformation and propaganda. If you want to see how far the press have been prostituted, listen the JFK’s speech to the Press and his quoting Marx’s letter to his NY editor:
    Try and overcome the engineered bias against President Kennedy and read Douglass book. The assassination of JFK is the litmus test of Truth. Understand that one truth, and suddenly the veil is lifted and the last 53 years make sense. Someone once said; The truth shall set you free. You have nothing to lose but your chains.

  6. Seamus Padraig says

    By the way, Off-Graun, thanks for adding the new ‘Rate This’ feature. That’s just what this already excellent site needed.

  7. Jane says

    Counterpunch is confusing. On the same day (or maybe it was the same week) as Smith’s article they also published an article by Rick Sterling of the Syria Solidarity Movement (the original one) whose point of view, obviously, is diametrically opposed to that of Smith. Now, a few months ago they had published an article by a certain Martin Boothroyd, another Assad-is-evil type, which horrified me so much that I asked Rick Sterling to contact Counterpunch (since he knows them better than I do) to find out how such an article had made it onto their site. Rick Sterling told me that these mistakes happen when Jeffrey St Clair, the main editor, is out. Fair enough. Then, a few weeks later an Assad-is-evil article by Joshua Frank appeared. Since Joshua Frank is one of the editors, that article could not have been something that got through when nobody was looking, but expressed the editorial line. Yet they still give room to Rick Sterling and others. As I say, I’m confused and so, it would seem, is Counterpunch.

      • Joseph Habbib says

        Daniel Yes, you need to get a life and stop sticking your ugly white nose where it’s not wanted.

    • Counterpunch is confusing. On the same day (or maybe it was the same week) as Smith’s article they also published an article by Rick Sterling of the Syria Solidarity Movement (the original one) whose point of view, obviously, is diametrically opposed to that of Smith.

      What’s so confusing? Counterpunch has published over ONE HUNDRED articles by Rick Sterling promoting Assad and exactly ONE from Ashley Smith. Don’t you people realize how crazy you appear getting bent out of shape by ONE article that goes against the Baathist consensus? It would be identical to going nuts over pro-Assad articles appearing in the Guardian. Oh, gosh. I forgot about Jonathan Steele. Sorry…

      • Hey, Louis,

        What’s crazier? Pushing the imperialist line, in whole or in part, thereby justifying both direct and indirect U.S. intervention in Syria, which if successful at the cost of the utter dislocation of yet even more lives in countless numbers, would then result in a political, social and economic order far worse than that alleged to hold under the current one, or calling out the propaganda wherever and whenever it appears, so as to erode public support for the intended enslavement by means of murder and terror of yet another recalcitrant nation of the Middle East?

        The U.S. establishment always, but always intervenes militarily on the side of autocracy and reaction, ultimately generating more misery than it claims to alleviate. If it didn’t, shrinking profit margins would soon beset corporate America. For the periphery must feed the center, always and no matter the cost.

        So another question for you, Proyect: don’t you realize how pathological you sound when you accuse others of being Baathist shills for exposing the brainwashing that is the cover for the horrendous misery and misfortune of war inflicted upon the poorest of the poor by the richest of the rich?

  8. Next time someone criticizes a dumb line like this..

    “We’re the first to agree Assad isn’t beyond criticism and shouldn’t be sanctified by the “enemy of my enemy” syndrome. We’re the first to acknowledge he may entirely deserve to be called a tyrant.”

    You should thank them and acknowledge them when you edit it out.

  9. Al Sordi says

    These older socialist publications always had a strong jewish presence. Its amazing how many of these intellectuals commenting here will refuse to see the elephant in the room, when it comes to how the anti-war movement was hijacked by zioinists from the get go, and continue to be mislead while the US does Israel’s bidding.

    • elenits says

      Agreed. Their breeding ground in fact.

      Counterpunch is a very mixed bag: it still toes the US gov 911 line – you know, the eleven-box-cutters & wonderful NIST report.
      For example…one person I never bother reading on the Middle East is Cockburn, who is too dependent on the Israeli POV.

      • BALDEAGLE11 says

        Perhaps it would possible that you could appreciate that the ” multi- Murdering-Gangsters ” who carried out the 9/11 attacks and outrage were certainly not those actors as accused, like Bin Laden and a collection of passport-holding Saudi’s persons ” .

        But more likely it was financed by the Saudi
        Arabian Monarchy, a small price for them to remove the ” islamic co-existing secular state of the hated Iranian regime “. Obviously, without getting directly involved directly in the destruction of the President Saadam and his government.

    • “These older socialist publications always had a strong jewish presence.”

      This is the second time I have seen this sort of thing here. I understand that both Off-Guardian and Moon of Alabama, have a policy of not censoring comments–which is commendable–but this sort of Jew-baiting is quite troubling. It is just a reminder that the “anti-imperialism” that the two websites traffic in lacks a class basis. When Golden Dawn and David Duke issues statements on behalf of Assad, that’s a sign of a diseased organism.

      • Laguerre says

        So we’re into instant accusations of anti-semitism, are we, as the hasbara recommends?

      • Daniel Wirt says

        Protect invokes “a diseased organism”. Now THERE is a classic case of projection.

        • Joseph Habbib says

          Yawn another stupid Wirtism. Everyone lock up sharp items Wirt is in the room.

      • Jen says

        Louis Proyect, it is you who are obsessed with Jew-baiting and anti-Semitism and smearing this website, Moon of Alabama and various other websites that happen to be critical of US and NATO actions in Iraq, Libya and Syria and their role and consequences in fomenting terrorist activity in those countries and beyond.

        Whenever a commenter, over whom Off-Guardian has no control, happens to suggest that certain websites or publications have Jewish writers who might try to steer discussion away from critically analysing US foreign policy in the Middle East / North Africa region, you immediately jump in and try to sully the whole comments thread with accusations of prejudice and racism, and to besmirch the whole website as racist.

        In short you are and have always been trying to do here what Al Sordi has said about the anti-war movement in the US: you are trying to stifle discussion here and to direct it and the posts put up by Off-Guardian writers onto a path more to your liking and agenda.

        Just as you are doing and have done with Counterpunch.

        So, now that you and your co-editors are making over Counterpunch into your little pet obsessed with false Marxist analysis and identity politics issues, you are not content to work on that pet project and to leave us alone? You have to remake Off-Guardian, MoA, Saker and other websites into Counterpunch clones? What does that say about your reconstruction efforts once they are done, that they turn out to be failures?

  10. the pair says

    awesome stuff. i thought it might have been “just me” when i saw that article but thankfully not. it reads like a washington post or NYT editorial…but then the cockburns have had some odd opinions vis a vis “conspiracy theories” in the past so i guess even relatively smart and well-meaning journalists/webmasters can have their dumb moments.

    • Me says

      Aye pretty weird stuff.
      scary too.
      Like finding out your dad is an alien robot one morning

  11. Vertice_ulularunt_nymphae says

    Assads govt is secular and diverse as can be plainly seen in photos of him addressing parliament. Precisely the sort of leader the West never ceases crowing that they approve. Go look watch his interviews. For a man a heartbeat away from being anally raped by bayonet, he’s one cool customer. Just the sort of leadership a nation imperilled, as his so obviously is, requires.

  12. Daniel Wirt says

    Problems with this article:

    1) “We aren’t going to leap on a bandwagon and accuse Counterpunch or the SW of discreditable intentions. Counterpunch in particular has been a source of hugely valuable anti-imperialist commentary for very many years and it would be incredibly arrogant for we newcomers not to give it every respect for that. But what are they thinking here?”

    No, fake-left imperialism has infected Counterpunch for years now. Cockburn’s body was hardly cold when it started.

    2) “We’re the first to agree Assad isn’t beyond criticism and shouldn’t be sanctified by the “enemy of my enemy” syndrome. We’re the first to acknowledge he may entirely deserve to be called a tyrant. But Smith’s article doesn’t come close to exposing Assad’s real crimes…”

    This is very close to the western war propaganda demonization M.O.

    • Look, Assad is not beyond criticism because no one is. We aren’t interested in being Apologists for any regime. This isn’t the Trotskyite “neither X or Y”, it’s just simple rational common sense. Our caveat is ensuring these faux anti-imperialist can’t dismiss this critique as being the very “defense of Assad’s regime” they are claiming to deplore! They want to construct a faux debate along those lines, where they are the virtuous crusaders for objective truth and the rest of us are endorsers of tyranny. We are calling that premise by saying we’d have no problem with a reality-based critique of Assad but that Smith is not offering one.

      Tu nous comprends maintenant?

      • Daniel Wirt says

        -“Look, Assad is not beyond criticism because no one is.” Useless generalization (in which I presume you include yourself…)

        -“We aren’t interested in being Apologists for any regime.” It is not the “Syrian regime” — it is the Syrian government, supported by about 80% of Syrians.

        -“We are calling that premise by saying we’d have no problem with a reality-based critique of Assad but that Smith is not offering one.” That is OK, but that is NOT what you said.

        You said, “We’re the first to acknowledge he may entirely deserve to be called a tyrant. But Smith’s article doesn’t come close to exposing Assad’s real crimes…”

        If you can’t see the difference between these, then you (like Counterpunch) need a good editor.

        Your statement poisons the well in the service of (false) “balance” rather than evidence (or as your own banner says, “Because facts really should be sacred”).

        “Bias” is not a perjoritive term — one must go wherever the evidence leads. If you want to reserve judgment, you can say “we’d have no problem with a reality-based (Ed: better, evidence-based) critique of Assad, but Smith is not offering one”.

        No, without offering any evidence you say, “We’re the first to acknowledge he may entirely deserve to be called a tyrant. But Smith’s article doesn’t come close to exposing Assad’s real crimes…” The latter sentence is reasonably read as you believe that Assad has committed “real crimes”.

        • Catte says

          You probably have a fair point about the wording there. I might edit it in the interests of clarity.

          • elenits says

            Frankly, from the viewpoint of living in the eastern Mediterranean, and going in and out of Syria and working with Syrians to help the resistance / battle for survival, we think Assad is an absolute hero. And a decent and brave man, with a lovely hard-working wife.
            IMHO the UK, France, Greece (you name the country) would be incredibly lucky to have such a leader.

            • Catte says

              Well that’s definitely a POV that could get more airing in the West.

        • Joseph Habbib says

          Shut up Wirt, you have done enough damage for Syria harassing and spewing your silly immature and amateur remarks and false news about Syrian people. Just mind your own business you don’t know our President you only read the words of a few non Syrians that have been to syria 3-4 times big deal. You on the other hand will NEVER get a visa into our country. You have no knowledge of what Syrian secret police / military does or doesn’t do. You Texans have enough issues without playing guessing games about Syria. Don’t you have something better to do like bail your house out of 5 ft of water. Get a life and leave Syria for us Syrians to manage.

      • But your website repeats every single defense of Assad as an atrocity takes place alongside the rest of the Baathist left, from Moon of Alabama to Global Research. Taking up the Russian/Syrian/Iranian talking points in such a mechanical fashion betrays the kind of bad faith that destroyed the Communist movement. I have no idea whether any of the people who work on this website have ever been activists in a left group but you cannot build a solid movement based on this kind of cynical propagandism.

        • Catte says

          Stop reducing everything to a question of allegiance and dogma. This isn’t about taking sides, it’s about trying to tell the truth. Do you get that? Smith’s article lies directly and by omission. We try to put the record straight. It’s not ok to pretend Assad is provably responsible for the Ghouta chemical attack just because your personal set of slogans demand it

          • But you are not trying to “tell the truth”. You are simply repeating arguments that originate in the Syrian/Iranian/Russian news media. I genuinely feel sorry if you can’t recognize that. In fact, the Guardian just like every other bourgeois newspaper needs correction but just lazily trawling et al for ammunition compromises you.

  13. Julian "Alienated Murrican" says

    I read Counterpunch from time to time. It seems to have wandered from some of its original viewpoints with the installation of a new editor. I wish I could find the source, but I read somewhere that a german woman writer lambasted the “new” counterpunch editorial oulook for having a perponderance of articles representing right wing ideology! Any help here securing that source would be appreciated. As an oblique aside
    would anyone that reads this site have any insight as to expat life these days in Spain?

     "Alienated  Murrican" confounded by his lack of electoral choices

    For you Brits in the audience the following may be amusing from the Intercept:

  14. Ashley Smith has produced a great list of unsubstantiated allegations, false analyses and outright lies. I have no idea what credentials Mr Smith has but he has to be the most uninformed writer this side of the BBC. His list of accusations will not stand up to the most rudimentary examination and wouldn’t look out of place on a Daesh notice board. Do these types of people expect to be taken seriously when they have clearly put such little effort into an article? I hope they don’t get paid for this drivel on CounterPunch.

  15. Lumpy Gravy says

    Socialist Worker (.org) is a publication of ISO (international socialist organisation) in Chicago which, according to Jeffrey St. Clair, is an organization that is going nowhere by design. A while back he wrote a hilarious piece about the faux Marxists at ISO …

    The Merchants of Shame

    … which touches on a number of subjects and ends on a beautiful, almost wistful note. Very recommended reading.

    It is beyond me why CounterPunch is re-publishing such trotskyite junk. In my experience all trots publications, from SWP papers and magazines to WSWS, are prone to taking the corporatist, globalist, imperialist side when these interests are at stake while dressing the whole thing up with nice articles about the suffering in Afghanistan, Haiti or austerity ravaged EU/US.

    Something similar to the ‘CounterPunch incident’ seems to have happened a couple of days ago on the web site of the Delphi Initiative where one Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, argued that the destruction of ISIL was a strategic mistake. I haven’t read such appeasing, defeatist rubbish in a long time. The piece has now disappeared from the first page of the web site but it can still be accessed here. I wonder if the editors, people like Radhika Desai and Michael Hudson, were aware of this publication?

    • Seamus Padraig says

      So true. I, too, have learned to be wary of the Trotskyites. They have always talked a good game about opposing imperialism and capitalism, but if it ever actually comes to a fight, they’re usually just not there.

      If the country or movement opposing The Empire is not avowedly socialist, they’ll call it ‘fascist’; and if it is socialist, they’ll usually whine that it’s socialism is not pure enough. You just can’t win with these people! Either they are incurable defeatists, or else they are really devious gatekeepers.

      And then they grow up and become neo-conservatives! It makes me think of that old movie Gremlins.

      • elenits says

        Trotskyites are the ‘permanent revolution’ advocates – an aim which is 100% identical with the supposedly ex-Trot US neocons. We have seen the results over the last 15 years in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Yemen, Sudan, CAR – across much of Africa in fact.

        Trotsky himself (Lev Bronstein) was funded by New York bankers (Jacob Schiff in charge) and given 300 paid non-Russian aides to enter Russia and start the revolution. For the same reasons as today and 1989.

        When not waging hot war Trotskyists are dedicated to transforming and shattering societies through Frankfurt School ID politics, PC, weaponised migration, multiculturalism, atheism etc. etc.

        Ask yourself whom they serve. Cui bono?

        • Trotsky himself (Lev Bronstein) was funded by New York bankers (Jacob Schiff in charge) and given 300 paid non-Russian aides to enter Russia and start the revolution. For the same reasons as today and 1989.

          This is fascinating. The Russian counter-revolution backed by the West in the period immediately following the Bolshevik Revolution made the same argument about Jewish-Wall Street backing. When your “anti-imperialism” lacks a class basis, this is exactly what you can expect.

          • Daniel Wirt says

            ProyectileDysfunction, the prototypical Left Boot Of NATO, celebrates the working class paradise that the “revolution” produced in Libya. He wishes for the same outcome in Syria.

            • Yeah, well. There have been only 906 deaths as a result of gun battles in Libya this year. I think the average Syrian would feel like they have entered heaven if the same conditions existed in Syria.

              • LOL – are you actually justifying the destruction of Libya by the western imperialists? Is that what a “class-based” analysis means for you? You’re such a bad troll Louis.

              • Daniel Wirt says

                Ms. Catte, in fact ProyectileDysfunction and his fake-left imperialist friends ROUTINELY and repetitively attempt to justify and rationalize the outcome in Libya as positive. ProyectileVomiting clearly has no idea of the morbidity and mortality resulting from the public health disaster associated with transforming the African country with the highest human development index into a Takfiri terrorist hellhole (sorry that, I meant a “working class paradise”). Of course, the former Goldman Sachs employee and Columbia IT tech, now retired in comfort in NYC, knows all about working class paradises.

              • Jen says

                “Yeah, well. There have been only 906 deaths as a result of gun battles in Libya this year. I think the average Syrian would feel like they have entered heaven if the same conditions existed in Syria.”

                A classic case of foot-in-mouth disease. The only other person I can think of who’d think and say something like this about Syria and Libya in such a breezy way would be Hillary Clinton.

                I never thought Louis Proyectile would say something so disgusting. This is beyond trolling.

                • But Jen, really, it was “only” 906. “Surely” that’s a whole lot less than in Syria, and of these 906, “surely” Assad is also responsible for most of them, for Gaddafi is gone, and if not Assad, then his extremist Baathist proxies in Libya. Call it a gut feeling grounded in a class analysis, without the slightest equivocation between Jeeeeeeews and an unmentionable supremacist ideology that takes itself to be the all encompassing essence of Jewry.

            • Joseph Habbib says

              Wirt you are 180 degrees away from the truth about Syria and know nothing except what you read from your selected few …who are non Syrian as well and clueless and classless just like you. Step back from Syrian business and fix your issues in Texas. You are no expert on Syria just a crazy “zealot”

        • Luis says

          “We have seen the results over the last 15 years in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Yemen, Sudan, CAR – across much of Africa in fact.
          Trotsky himself (Lev Bronstein) was funded by New York bankers (Jacob Schiff in charge) and given 300 paid non-Russian aides to enter Russia and start the revolution. For the same reasons as today and 1989.
          When not waging hot war Trotskyists are dedicated to transforming and shattering societies through Frankfurt School ID politics, PC, weaponised migration, multiculturalism, atheism etc. etc.”

          “atheism” Oh yes, there’s so much atheism being promoted by the Western-backed jihadis in Syria. You really are a clown. And please explain how “PC” and “atheism” have “shattered” societies.

          What an utterly stupid and vapid analysis. I think you’re in the wrong crowd here, elenits. This is an article written from a LEFT-WING perspective offering a LEFT-WING critique against those who allow themselves to be turned into playthings of capitalist-imperialism. This isn’t an echo chamber for fascist goons seeking to strip back women’s rights and scientific reason. Please take your reactionary filth and aggrieved white male entitlement syndrome elsewhere.

  16. deschutes says

    Since Alexander Cockburn died, CounterPunch has changed (in my mind not for the better). I have had some ugly exchanges with Josh Frank, the new editor of CP. It was regarding a CP ‘media of the day’ Politico article CP put on their website: it was an article demonizing Russia Today media outlet, not unlike what you would read in the Guardian demonizing Putin, Russia, etc. When I emailed Frank about the seemingly out of character link, he told me to “grow up” and arguing “Could you imagine a similar US propaganda “news” outlet airing unfiltered Putin’s Russia (in Russian)? Not a chance”. It was an ugly exchange, Josh Frank is an arrogant twat.

    • Al Sordi says

      Why is anyone surprised. Many of these socialists and marxists are also zionists, like Frank. BTW Russia Today is the best and honest news and analysis one can find aired anywhere in the US. In comparison with RT, NPR looks like Stalinist propaganda, with its fluff, obfuscation, obvious bias and warm and fuzzy warm mongering.

      • elenits says

        RT is no longer what it was following the unsolved murder, ahem, of its US chief of staff.

      • I imagine that when Sordi refers to Frank as a “zionist”, he means that he is a Jew. Honestly, I have no idea what Joshua’s ethnicity is. Unlike me, he has never once identified as a Jew. But if being Jewish is the same thing as being a Zionist, that is rather hard to square with the late Israel Shahak’s books such as “Israel’s Global Role: Weapons for Repression”. Shahak, btw, was in Bergen-Belsen during WWII.

  17. mikael says

    Amen to it all.

    What did you expect.
    I am not a bit supriced by this sites newest relevations of their agenda, in the end they always comes forth, sooner or later, they expose them selfs.

    The same goes for Syrian theater, an copy of the Libyan theater, no expetions, and tyrants, huh, yea, that sort of definitions is intresting, but an waist of time since its the west whom sets the premisses for whatever perseptions we should have, they create the “reality” and we must follow.
    I know what it is to be alone, all my friends watch BBC various shit channels, History channel and Discovery, witch is even wurser, if you dont watch TV as I do, I do recommend an day of just to watch the TV (the idiot tube) and I recommend the named channels and be stunned.
    All the nonsense we have just read from those sites, is hammered 24/7 on the Tube, and hitler this and hitler that, and hitler in space, and they point at us an drool something about “insane conspiracys nuts”.
    I even read in our MSM that Hitler was “nuts” because He lacked a Nut, hehe, and they whine about “fake moonlandings” and so on and screams about quasi-science/knowledge/history, etc, etc.
    Its then you see it, the propaganda is all ecompasing in all directions 24/7, and thats why this shit channels are for free, even an knuckle dragging chimp in Africa have the same TV channels, gets the same propagannda, and gess what, to then penetrate the wall of bullshit is hard, and to kick their minds into another perseption is even harder.

    I dont know what happened, but this downfall begun an decade ago, it all initated with the scam called AGW, and since then, their scams have just increased to be about virtually everything.
    But I gess that the money power eats up whats left of the so called alternative sites, an word almost true.
    And then to exposed them is good, never doubt that, no matter how painful it may be, its always the right thing to do.
    And They arent alone, Antiwar is one of the bad ones, really bad one.
    The AJ, well, shit in, shit out, and all about how evil Islam is, of course.
    BreitFart is somehwere in the same leauge of drooling, and of course, islam is The enemy.
    I dont know how may times I have debunked their hysterical and intended lies about Islam, when everything they say is an lie, cut and paist, the tools of dumb f….. to convince even dumber f…. about Islam and religion is general.
    One of the reasons I dont trust the Poop for an split second.

    I feel people dont wana or will, fully understands how critical the present is, its downright scary, and some of us have been warning about this for deacdes, and even now, when their full spectrum dominance is right infront of them, the Imperial banana republic UssA will never ever let that momentum halt, and people belive this chaos is unintended and an consequence of bad politics, that, people is an flatout lie.
    They feed upon this chaos, that is their goal.
    That is what creates money, the rest is bonus aka resouces.

    I know everything will be desided the coming weeks, it ALL depends upon the Syrian war.
    The last chance to stop the insane UssA.
    The culimination of all that have been ongoing now for decades since the Afgan war and now, Russia and China.

    You think the UssA will back down, huh, I know they never will do that, simply because they have no other options left.
    And the war isnt going on in the UssA, and I also know the Yankees dont give an rats ass about europa, the europeans are blind and dumbed down to meer sheeps (pardon sheeps its just an stupid analogy) and will walk into a new slaughter house where millions more will die, and countrys layed bare, all to satisfy the blood thirsty Yankees.
    I know it will happened, the war is coming.


    • Seamus Padraig says

      I even read in our MSM that Hitler was “nuts” because He lacked a Nut, hehe …

      I don’t know if there’s any truth to the legend, but it’s an old one. During WW2, the US soldiers sometimes sang a cadence song:

      Hitler has only got one ball
      Goering has two, but they’re very, very small!
      Himmler has something similar
      And Dr. Goebels has no balls at all!

      It’s funny the sh*t you remember from your grandparents, isn’t it!

  18. Willem says

    If the editors of counterpunch are truly honest (I think they are), they could publish this article on their website as counterpoint. We all make mistakes. I mailed counterpunch to mention to them that this article is published on your website.

  19. Marko says

    I’m pleased , and somewhat relieved , to see this dissection of Smith’s article here. I must admit , I’m getting to the point where I wonder if any trustworthy alt-media sites , particularly those that aggregate many authors , can be expected to remain trustworthy for much longer. The establishment is well aware of the threat these sites represent , and the truism that “everyone has their price” maintains , if not absolutely , at least nearly so. The contamination by propaganda may start at only a percent or two as the buyout or infiltration begins , then rises inexorably to become a significant fraction of the total content , rendering the site virtually worthless , trust-wise. We end up a web full of Truthdigs , or worse , Mother Jones.

    Of course , if Hillary gets in , the process may be less incremental. She says she wants to rid the web of conspiracy sites ,by which she means , I suspect , any sites that try to peddle the truth. I don’t know where we go then. Carrier pigeons , perhaps.

    • elenits says

      Counterpunch has been a site to use but not trust for a very long time.

  20. The idea of allowing journalists to express opinions that may run counter to the general tone of a publication is admirable, and vital to a healthy democracy. Bt expressing opinions that deny well-established facts is nothing more than propaganda or outright lying.

    Counterpunch should remember that it is not only the corporate media that peddles disinformation and lies. Next it’ll be pinching stuff from the Daily Mail. Actually, as long as it’s only the occasional piece by Peter Oborne, that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

    • ”Actually, as long as it’s only the occasional piece by Peter Oborne, that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.” Or Peter Hitchens or Patrick Buchanan – conservative geopolitical realists.

  21. Read the article in SW and immediately replied condemning the piece. Unfortunately SW are worse than The Guardian for censoring comments as they only choose to show just a few handpicked replies.

  22. Do you not think reproducing imperial propaganda of your own isn’t significantly different than Counterpunch? I mean, Ashley Smith’s agitprop is highly murderous but whether or not Assad is a “tyrant” is irrelevant given this isn’t why US/NATO is currently destroying the country. As with Saddam, who was also labelled a ‘brutal dictator” – the US & NATO were more concerned with raping, looting and plundering Iraq for profit and hegemony than concern for Iraqi people, obviously. Curious to why you parrot their war drumming.

    • Admin says

      Explain where you find us “reproducing imperial war propaganda.”

    • Janey says

      @karen Just checked your profile and notice you’re a friend of Jeffrey St. Claire’s on Facebook. Explains a lot.

    • Catte says

      LOL – maybe you mixed up the quotes from Smith’s article with my writing?

      • i actually should have added a more positive note. I don’t disagree with this, i just take issue with the unnecessary agitprop given US/NATO plundering and looting Syria has little to do with Assad’s “behaviour” and everything to do with imperialism. Other than that, i have little issue with your piece

        “We’re the first to agree Assad isn’t beyond criticism and shouldn’t be sanctified by the “enemy of my enemy” syndrome. We’re the first to acknowledge he may entirely deserve to be called a tyrant. But Smith’s article doesn’t come close to exposing Assad’s real crimes”

        • In other words…who gives a shit. They didn’t attack Iraq because of Saddam…his “crimes” were the propaganda, not the reason. Its the same with Syria and Assad.

          • Catte says

            I’m not suggesting Smith should expose Assad’s crimes. I’m not even suggesting Assad has definitively committed crimes. I’m saying Smith pretends he’s exposing Assad’s crimes when he’s really just repeating western war propaganda.

            In fact your point is exactly the point of the article.

            • I’m saying stop legitimizing Smith’s idiocy! Here’s lets try this again.

              Smith is attacking Assad, you repeat it here. Get it? Assad isn’t the point. He is TOTALLY irrelevant. No need to even SAY this. Its propaganda. Their propaganda. Imperial propaganda. Why do you need to agree at all? What for if none of this is the point?

              “We’re the first to agree Assad isn’t beyond criticism and shouldn’t be sanctified by the “enemy of my enemy” syndrome. We’re the first to acknowledge he may entirely deserve to be called a tyrant.”

              • Jen says

                Erm, sometimes to combat propaganda, you have to know what it looks like, how it works and how it continually demonises certain individuals, groups or entire nations. That means exposing it.

                If we don’t expose examples of propaganda when and where they appear, how can we fight propaganda and the people who continually repeat and spread it? If Off-Guardian said nothing about Ashley Smith’s article and had not dissected and exposed its falsehoods, how would readers here, apart from yourself, be aware that Smith (and by implication, Counterpunch because Counterpunch should have known better) is repeating the same old lies?

                Too often all that’s needed to brainwash people is the sheer mass and banal scale of repetition to exhaust them.

              • Jen says

                I just re-read the chain of emails and the article again and see what you’re driving at.

                The real issue is why the West (and the Western MSM) reduces entire nations down to their leaders: Bashar al Assad = Syria, Vladimir Putin = Russia, Kim Jong Un = North Korea and so on and so forth. Aside from the fact that by reducing a nation’s complex politics to its leader, readers are led to assume that that leader’s overthrow will be easy and will instantly lead to “democracy”, and all that’s needed is will and determination (and no worrying about the hard work that will have to be done after the “tyrant” is removed), this constant stereotyping probably says something fundamental about the thinking of Washington, London et al and the elites that control them, and about the nature of Western political systems and their cultures.

                President Assad becomes a convenient scapegoat for whatever the West wants to hang on him, regardless of his past and whether he personally has committed or ordered others to commit crimes. The actual person Assad has become irrelevant but what he is made to represent is relevant to people like Smith. He’s a convenient excuse and the means by which the West is trying to make a case for invading Syria, so he has to be continually flayed. The fact that increasingly the public can see through all this is neither here nor there because if there’s one thing the TPTB is incapable of, it’s connecting with the public in an intelligent way.

              • Your suggestion we should simply ignore these lies and propaganda because they “aren’t the point” seems as idiotically purist and self-defeaing as Smith’s article. The war machine is selling war with lies. We are countering those lies. That is very much the point.

                • Peter says

                  I don’t think Jen is saying off-guardian should ignore the lies and propaganda about the war in Syria, she’s just saying they are being used in an effort to fool Western public opinion about the real geopolitical (imperial) reasons for the conflict. If you like, she’s taking Catte’s arguments a bit further.

                  We hear much the same views as Smith’s in the MSM here in France, relying on the fact that most of the public don’t actually know anything about Syria.

                  CounterPunch seems to be going the same way as the Graun.

                • Jen says

                  @ Peter: Thanks for backing me but Admin’s comment was actually directed to Karen McRae.

  23. writerroddis says

    I saw it in Socialist Worker and, like others, was irked but unsurprised. Twas ever thus with an SW capable of sweeping from sectarianism to opportunism and back within a single paragraph. As for CounterPunch, I’ve seen other eyebrow raising pieces on Syria but don’t fret much. It’s a good source and the odd reactionary article no more damns it than the odd decent Graun piece by Gary or George redeems that now woeful organ.

    • The relatively benign self-constraining pseudo-leftism of SW belongs to an altogether different era when MAD prevailed and there was a relative stability even between the major power blocs, with everyone tacitly understanding the checks and balances. Today SW’s abdication and undermining of the antiwar perspective can’t be viewed in the same way. Smith is not just a pontificating deluded lefty, he’s a shill for war. We already have too many of them in the mainstream.

      • writerroddis says

        I don’t think it was ever benign, Catte. I agree on the even greater dangers today, but there’s plenty of continuity here. SWP’s opportunist “neither Washington nor Moscow” slogan, at height of the old cold war, was seen by many on the left, me included, as craven abandonment of unconditional but critical defence of the Soviet Union (its property relations NOT its hideous bureacracy) even as Reagan – his Star Wars driven by desire to negate MAD – made speech after chilling speech on the ‘Empire of Evil’.

        Critical but unconditional defence – with context determining which way and how far the stick needs to be bent in either direction – still resonates today. Usually there’s at least a grain of substance to charges leveled at imperialism’s latest bogeymen but, as you and others imply here, the accuracy or otherwise of such charges is secondary, as is the hypocrisy of those making them. Such charges are never what the hostility is about and that’s why the slogan has cutting edge – connecting soundbyte to deep truth. Critical but unconditional defence, alas, is something SWP never did get; now, or back in the day. Its failures today on Syria are of a piece with its failures of four decades ago – on Ireland even more than the USSR – to stand up to the tide of a ‘public opinion’ manufactured by and for billionaires.

        • writerroddis says

          Speaking of opportunists, and at risk of going off-topic, I meant to add this extract from an open letter to Owen Jones I wrote back in January. (A reader’s response to which informed me of the existence of Off-Guardian.)

          “You protest: Putin’s Russia isn’t the Soviet Union. No, but the cold war never ended. Why? Because as Naomi Klein so brilliantly showed in Shock Doctrine, Chapters 10-11, capitalism’s victory in that cold war did not deliver – as it had in Poland – the anticipated goodies. The fruits of privatisation, always intended to flow west, were pocketed by ex KGB: that semi-feudal oligarchy of overnight billionaires you and I loathe. You have to agree though; their robbing of the arch-robbers is funny if you’re in a good mood. The old cold war was about releasing immense Soviet assets to Wall and Threadneedle Streets, while opening up its markets to the same. So is the new one.”

          • Catte says

            I read that piece of yours and like it very much, though I do demur on that point. The flow of riches did flow west very satisfactorily in the Yeltsin years, when Russia was basically becoming one giant US-backed NGO. The flow stopped when Putin took over and replaced many of the robber-barons (like Khodorkovsky) with siloviki and statist types that favoured some sort of nationalism and national control over resources.

            • writerroddis says

              Maybe I’m too cynical in my old age Catte but I always felt the “Not W. Not M.” line got SWP off the hook. It’s easier to see now what a disaster for the 99% the fall of the USSR has been, in spite of all its repressive apparatus.

              Theoretic cover for SWP’s strap-line was Tony Cliffe depicting the USSR as state capitalist, an issue that would further split the 4th International as other splinters insisted it was a “degenerate workers’ state”. Philistines as well as the sincerely bewildered mocked that dispute as arcane but I say it was important. Not as important, however, as the fact that even if Cliffe was right, state capitalism – IMO an important driver of the wars on Saddam, Gaddafi and Assad – is anathema to neoliberalism and on that basis alone the USSR should still have been defended. As should Assad now.

            • elenits says

              Exactly right Catte. The unknown Putin quietly staunched the bleeding wound. And that’s why they hate him.

        • Catte says

          Really well put and absolutely true! . By “benign” I didn’t mean to describe the intent but the limited nature of its potential impact due the massive containing infrastructure of the MAD doctrine that largely prevented small bands of lunatics from hijacking war policy.

          And maybe I’m wrong, because I was too young to understand the Vietnam war and its propaganda from an adult perspective, but wasn’t the traditional take of “neither Washington nor Moscow” at least trying to be a tad more evenhanded, and aiming at a would-be socialist critique of both sides? The likes of Smith and Proyect seem to have abandoned even this pretence and are simply and blatantly another outlet for the Western propaganda narrative.

          • writerroddis says

            “[Wasn’t it] the massive containing infrastructure of the MAD doctrine that largely prevented small bands of lunatics from hijacking war policy?”

            Agreed, and put with beautiful concision. Might have to nick it for my own use!

  24. Seamus Padraig says

    Yes, I saw this article at CounterPunch and read it with shock as well. I just couldn’t believe my eyes. For a moment, I thought I was reading the New York Times! Very depressing …

    I have been reading CounterPunch for nearly 15 years now, and I’ve even donated money to them. I hope this isn’t a harbinger of things to come. A ‘Guardianization’ of CounterPuch would be a really tragic occurrence. Sometimes I wonder if the late, great Alexander Cockburn was the one who kept them honest. I hope Joshua Frank and Jeffrey St. Clair don’t tinker with the content too much.

    • Alexander Cockburn: There is no doubt that Assad’s police state is corrupt and brutal. There is every reason to press Assad towards reform.

      • Daniel Wirt says

        Says ProyectileDysfunction, the prototypical Left Boot of NATO (who thinks that Libya turned out just fine and dandy, a veritable working class paradise). No, Alexander Cockburn was not perfect and was variably prone to clinkers himself, but at least he had the good sense to keep Proyect on a very short leash — including stifling Proyect’s support for the imperialistic destruction of Libya.

        • I started writing for CounterPunch after Cockburn died actually. Furthermore, my intention was only to write film reviews, not the sort of thing I write on my blog. Unlike you people, I have varied interests rather than obsessively defending every barrel bomb attack as if failing to defend Assad will cause WWIII.

          • Daniel Wirt says

            Exactly, Proyect. Your bullshit started appearing on Counterpunch before Cockburn’s body was cold. He obviously couldn’t stomach your crap. And what was about your first turd out of the gate? A piece celebrating Pussy Riot as revolutionaries.

        • Joseph Habbib says

          You repeat copy and paste the same nonsense Wirt. You type really well with 1 hand. Get a life and actually learn something about Syria by Syrians instead of non Syrian ‘co called activists” that love their moment of fame and adoration. Look at what they have accomplished which is ZERO, and you …? Lets just say Syria will never be on your itinerary to travel to for the next 10 years . Judging by your appearance and your offensive behavior toward Syrians I doubt if you would make it another 10 years. I would invest in a good review mirror and strap it on your silly hat if I was you.

  25. Sav says

    Smith sounds like another Christopher Hitchens. Anyone who deals in sophistry and lies is a fraud, whether they consider themselves Left or Right or whatever. All these organisations are full of some very dubious people. A lot of narcissistic personalities for whom politics is no more than a cloak.

  26. I agree with you. I was indeed quite surprised but It is true that counterpunch does publish sometimes also articles that seems not to stick with their credo… It was the case often during the US election nomination campaign… but it was weird indeed and I agree with your disdain. This article has been (if I am not wrong) re published by others “alternative” media anyway…

  27. It doesn’t really surprise me that this piece was first published in Socialist Worker. Socialist Worker is the house mag of the Socialist Workers’ Party, formerly known as IS (International Socialists). They were Trotskyists of a sui generis variety. This insofar as they believed that the Soviet Union was a capitalist-imperialist country and was essentially no better than United States imperialism. We used to call them ‘State Caps’. Of course the USSR whatever its sins was not a capitalist imperialist country no more than Russia, although capitalist, is not an imperialist country. Imperialism has got a specific economic and geopolitical meaning and a set of characteristics which are not congruent with classical and neo-imperialism. But our state-cap friends saw no difference and argued for a plague on both houses. The fact that the existence of the USSR was a serious constraint on US imperialism meant that the dangerous neo-con fantasies could not be contemplated, and the US was losing ground in contested areas in Africa with left-revolutions in Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, not to mention East Asia. Both the US and USSR had their respective and respected spheres of influence and there was no question of the type of brinkmanship provocations so much in vogue at the present time.

    Moreover the existence of the USSR made possible substantial gains by the working class in Europe and put some backbone into social democratic parties. The collapse of soviet communism had the knock-on effect of the collapse of European social-democracy, and this was not accidental. The USSR stood as an alternative, maybe not much of an alternative, but an alternative nonetheless. In the absence of the USSR, however, arab nationalism has been virtually wiped out and Anglo-zionist imperialism is rampant everywhere. Neo-liberalism and TINA now rule the day as the gains of the working class have been rolled back decades. I think that is what Putin meant when he said that the break-up of the USSR was a tragedy. A real capitalist/ imperialist monster arose to fill the geopolitical vacuum and it wasn’t Russia.

    The article in question has all the characteristics of this equidistant purist approach. For example, Paul Mason, the Guardian’s out and out firebrand, and current cold warrior, was a member of an offshoot on the SWP – Workers Power – and he very much typifies this political phenomenon. The notion that Russia is as dangerous in the contemporary geopolitical situation as the United States/NATO, is frankly bizarre.

    • Seamus Padraig says

      Beware of Trotskyites. No matter how socialist a country is, if it’s an enemy of the west, it’s never socialist enough for them! They mean to smother us all with ideological purity.

    • elenits says

      Excellent Frank, spot on with every point.

      BTW the not-terribly-bright Paul Mason turned into a Col. Bufton-Tufton when anarchists interrupted his restaurant dinner in Exarchiea, Athens, last year. Outraged fuming caught on camera. Hugely enjoyable 🙂

  28. bevin says

    It was, indeed, an amazing piece of imperialist propaganda, right down to the ‘Russian empire’ nonsense and that is the clue.
    It is the old Tony Cliff slogan “Neither Washington nor Moscow but International Socialism…” behind which the IS tendency has cowered since the war in Korea. I recollect the incredible difficulty of getting them ‘on board’ during the Vietnam war: at first Cliff et al were inclined, again, to view the idea of taking on imperialism, head on, as politically dangerous, likely to lose supporters, particularly in Academe, which is so vulnerable to McCarthyism.
    The same attitude was displayed to Libya (down with the tyrant Ghadaffi, long live the proletarian revolution etc etc). It is the default position of a very influential and fashionable part of the ‘marxist’ left.
    But then there has always been a tendency among those intrigued by the theoretical tools of Marxism to use casuistry to seek refuge among the imperialists. Most of the warmongers in Washington are former dabblers in marxism, ‘mugged’ as Irving Kristol remarked-and Chris Hitchens could have echoed- by the reality that the pickin’s are slim for anti-imperialists in Washington’s world but, for former anti-imperialists who can mimic the language of the left, the world is an oyster waking to be skewered and swallowed.

    • Yes, these guys have always been the worst kind of poseurs. Usually though these faux anti-imperialists at least try to use enough evasive language to avoid blatantly shilling for the West. Not Smith though.

    • John says

      I think you are absolutely right about the ex-Marxists. This was brought home to me recently when I was watching a video of a 2003 edition of Panorama entitled “The War Party”, which featured all the leading lights of the neo-conservative lobbyists surrounding the Bush administration at the time of their illegal invasion of Iraq.
      During the programme, it was explained that most of the people involved in the pro-war movement were formerly activists on the American “Left”, who had switched to the “Right” and set up institutions like the American Enterprise Institute, and who had also become inveterate supporters of the fascist state of Israel, along with other fascist regimes.
      Their Damascene (to use a phrase!) conversion to full-blown capitalism was marked by applying the label neo- to their conversion to conservatism. Thus, they were considered to be nouveau conservatives – a label they happily wore.
      We have – I believe – seen something similar taking place in the UK too.
      One example of this is the ex-Revolutionary Communist Party member Claire Regina Fox, now self-styled Director of the so-called Institute of Ideas – Britain’s version of the US American Enterprise Institute?
      In both cases – it seems to me – they appear intent on currying favour with the established centres of power and wealth.
      Maybe they were led to a realisation that that is more rewarding for them than flogging away for years on the Left?
      In Fox’s case, there appears to be an additional element of contrarianism too which informs her strategy.
      However, I think their day is drawing rapidly to a close.
      The rise of Sanders in the US and Corbyn in the UK suggests a paradigm shift is taking place, in which the previously influential role of the mass media is coming to an end too. Put simply, most readers no longer trust them.
      Maybe that is why writers like Ashley Smith are now submitting pieces for publication to smaller publications?
      Maybe they think they are more acceptable to a smaller more influential Establishment grouping that way?

  29. The aim remains to Balkanise Syria (and other Arab neighbours) into feeble statelets that the west can easily dominate and that will pose no threat to Israel. It ain’t rocket science. All lies and humanitarian mass slaughter serve this Satanic purpose.

Please note the opinions expressed in the comments do not necessarily reflect those of the editors or of OffG as a whole