Guardian Watch, latest, Syria

Is Nick Cohen “standing up” for Syria?

by Keith Egerton

Edited and revised 10/28/16

One of the most remarkable phenomenon in current liberal leaning comment in the liberal leaning Guardian group’s publications, are the often bilious attacks on the ‘left wing’ in British society, and on the current Labour Party in particular.

One such article in the Observer (16th October, 2016), titled ‘Who, on the left or right, will stand up for Syria?’, began with the statement,

The far left’s ideology is not “left wing” in any sense that a socialist from the 19th or 20th centuries would have understood.

Really? Now, I am not formally qualified to objectively examine this statement in detail. My reading list on the history of socialism includes only general histories of the reform movements of the 19th and early 20th centuries. But to anyone with even a little knowledge of the history of socialism, the author’s assertion seems counter-intuitive. Such a general statement surely needs to be challenged and debated, not least because it is presented as an absolute truth.

Following on from this opening gambit, and examining the rest of the article, the reason for this somewhat dishonest assertion becomes clear.

The author questions why the so called ‘far left’ in British politics is refusing to condemn Russia for its actions in Syria, and one of the author’s early conclusions is that

The left’s task [as the left sees it] was to oppose the West.

The article presents the author’s world-view as fact, and the conclusions and insights are arrived at with strangely twisted logic.

Thus, the author states that it is “leftwing” to support the “gangster-capitalist Russian state”. Presumably, if the author was being even-handed and was basing this observation on geopolitical facts, it would be equally true that it is “rightwing” to support the “gangster-capitalist USA”.

What is most alarming is the author’s attempt, in the following extension of his logic, to promote a divide in British society. Here are his words:

I could note that the mainstream media has not realised that British Islam is overwhelmingly Sunni, but its supposed defenders on the ‘left’ are now allied with Putin, Assad and the Iranian and Hezbollah death squads – the Shia side in the Sunni/Shia religious war, in other words.

So, the author seems to want the media to talk about the fact there is a majority of Sunnis among British Muslims, and that there is an element of British society that opposes them in their religious and presumably political objectives. This seems to be a deliberate attempt to set British Islam against the ‘left’, as the author sees it, and to ignore, or even to welcome, the already delicate state of inter-Muslim relationships within British society.

The author develops his theme further, at one point concluding that “Corbynism is not an alien ideology that appeared from the fringe, but a grotesque version of the prejudices of polite society.” Presumably a member of ‘polite society’ is anyone the author deems as having a social conscience, either on a national or international level. But surely the use of the word “grotesque” is an emotional abomination, and not worthy of a serious piece of journalism.

Another conclusion, after stating that “mainstream liberals” and “post-socialist tyrannophiles” wanted “to tell you that the west was the source of the world’s ills”, is that there were “sinister movements in the British left” … “let alone sinister movements in the rest of the world.” It seems the author’s suspicions know no bounds.

As a further example of the author’s logic, he asserts that Corbyn has sympathy for Putin (with no apparent exceptions), and thus Corbyn tacitly endorses “Marine le Pen’s National Front and the leaders of Europe’s other far-right parties”.

And is there room for statements like this in civilized comment:

When we turn off the pictures from Aleppo and look in the mirror, do we see the blandly wicked features of the Labour leader gazing back at us?.

The author’s final conclusion is a wish that the “fashionable and disgraceful ideas” [of not condemning Russia for its political stance and military action in Syria, and of condemning western intervention in Iraq], which became fashionable due to social pressure, will be changed by [opposition to] the “far left’s control of the Labour Party”.

The author’s agenda seems to be to fill the “L-shaped hole where the left should be” with another version of the left that fits in with the author’s other, non-stated agendas.

To address the author’s substantive concerns, however, he should just see that the reason for the ‘fashionable opinion’ of not condemning Russia with demonstrations is that today’s ‘polite society’ have the means to be better informed than in the past, perhaps in the days that he has nostalgia for. Days when the left followed the right in its jingoism. It doesn’t take much online research to discover that arms were being smuggled into Syria several months before the Civil war began, and it doesn’t take much more effort to find out which country was supplying those arms, and for what reasons.

The author is indeed living in the past, in a world where foreign policy went unquestioned. There are still attempts at gross manipulation of the minds of people in Britain and throughout the world, and the author obviously laments that people in ‘polite society’ are less susceptible to such manipulation. Mainstream media opinion-presented-as-fact will hopefully continue to be examined and countered by ‘fashionable opinion’. Long live ‘polite society’!


    • jasonwurtz says

      Now expose the government targeting innocent citizens with military weapons to isolate them, ruin their lives and then try to have them act out criminally. They are using mind control and directed energy weapons (V2K, remote neural monitoring, microwaving, scalar, sound) and gang stalking on innocent citizens. These technologies can’t be seen or traced and the victims are left with little recourse since the attacks can’t be proven. The victims may appear to have mental issues, however it is the technology that is violating their minds and bodies causing voices, hallucinations, time lapses, and multiple other violations. Psychiatry is a hoax, these technologies cause many mental issues.,, Jesse Ventura’s Brain Invaders youtube,, John Hall’s book Guinea Pigs, Renee Pittman’s (Anne Frank of our times) books and countless victims are trying to expose the truth. The media, politicians, and psychiatry all cover for this and are complicit for this torture taking place for decades remotely in every city. These psychopaths in government need to be exposed and the true terrorists are in government agencies remotely targeting individuals with military technology.
      These technologies violate the minds and bodies of the afflicted persons and are the most egregious violation of human rights perpetrated by the government with your tax dollars. Taxpayers should be demanding their government quit paying for these crimes against humanity on law abiding citizens. No wonder we are broke. Why pay perps sitting at computers screwing with people in their beds and living rooms, these treasonous criminals and agencies need to be exposed and jailed. EXPOSE AND END THE TORTURE AND HOLOCAUST NOW.

  1. wardropper says

    There’s no cure for what this man has…
    No point in counter-argument, because he and his supporters will never hear it.
    Reality has never hit them where it hurts, only superficial fantasyland gains access.

  2. AlphaBeta says

    If Corbyn were a woman, Nick Cohen’s pathological obsession with denigrating him would be seen for what it is; stalking. The Guardian should be prosecuted for
    its complicity. Instead of acting responsibly and suggesting he moderated his bile, they
    encourage the pathology. They protected the most demented article, referred to above, from any comment.

  3. What is it about Corbyn that so scares some Brit politicians and talking heads? Cohen neglected to mention that before the USA and its poisonous MSM ginned up hundreds of lies about Iraq, which we then invaded and smashed, that the Sunni and Shia got along fine.

    Then US and Brit special forces, dressed like Iraqi Arabs, began setting off car bombs to set the Sunnis against the Shia, like the Brit troops who were captured in Basra, dressed as Arabs carrying weapons and HE in a car. The Brits then sent in troops and tanks to rescue their ‘Allahu Akbar,’ soldiers, knocking down a Basra jail before Iraqis took revenge.

  4. Seamus Padraig says

    “L-shaped hole where the left should be”

    That’s exactly the feeling I now get whenever I read The Guardian.

    It doesn’t take much online research to discover that arms were being smuggled into Syria several months before the Civil war began …

    Probably more like years before the war. Read Seymour Hersh’s The Redirection, written in 2007.

    • chris owen says

      Notice that after two years of rebellion on the streets in Egypt, the protesters still weren’t armed. In Syria, half the country was running around the streets with guns within barely two weeks

  5. Sav says

    Cohen shares the same illness as Christopher Hitchens – Narcissistic personality disorder. It is all about them. Cohen especially likes to network Hitchens, dead and when alive – get the following and shift the books. Stick it in the bank and keep throwing out the bullshit.

  6. Nogginthenog says

    Cohen appears to have an almost pathological hatred of Corbyn that he shoehorns into any topic he writes about.

    I can’t remember ever seeing such a thing targeted at a senior politician from a supposedly serious writer in a supposedly serious newspaper in my lifetime. Thatcher never garnered this kind of visceral hatred from the Guardian when she was in power, but Corbyn does.

    When you look at what Corbyn actually is, a relatively middle of the road politician who proposes policies that were all part of British life during Ted Heath’s government (although Heath did have higher taxes for the wealthy and they did not have worker representation on corporate boards as Corbyn would like. Germany did though, still do, hasn’t done them much harm), then understanding why they hate him so much is a bit of a puzzle.

    I understand people disagreeing with Corbyn, that is part of politics and everyday life, I still cannot understand where this over the top reaction we actually see from so many journalists actually comes from though.

    • John Burgess says

      Any support for the Palestinian cause seems to be an affront to Cohen. I used to find his work interesting, but no more. I don’t mind having my views challenged, but Cohen seems to have lost the plot.

      • antirepublocrat says

        What was his last name again? Cohen?

        • Jen says

          He’s not related to Sacha Baron Cohen in case you were wondering – Cohen just happens to be a very common surname among Jewish people.

          • Bob says

            So he’s Jewish. So what? It’s beside the point, which is Zionism. By confusing Judaism and Zionism, you add strength to the lie that the zionist’s and the right are using against Corbyn: that opposition to Israel or Zionism is the same as opposition to Judaism and is therefore anti-semitic. By alluding to Cohen’s Jewish identity as an explanation for his prejudice, you are in fact being anti-semitic. Since there a numerous Jewish anti-zionists and non-Jewish zionists, Cohen’s Jewish identity is ultimately irrelevant. I suggest you read Tony Greenstein’s (ooh, I wonder where his name’s from?) excellent blog, which relentlessly defends this particular corner of truth and calls out zionism for the racist colonial settler movement that it is.

    • chris owen says

      Corbyn is not an Israeli puppet. Hence the Guardian constantly attack him. Along with the BBC, the Guardian has become Israel’s strongest media supporter in the UK

  7. BigB says

    As a Corbyn supporter, I do think the Guardian and the PLP do have a point.
    Not to produce a clear and current statement on Syria does show a lack of leadership. Frankly, I’m disappointed.
    Not that I expect him to condemn Putin or Assad, heaven forbid – but some counterpoint to the bilious bellicose Hasbaara that Cohen et al are slavering would be welcome.
    Attending Stop the War rallies is laudable – but otherwise the left is headless, directionless and has ceded the moral high ground.
    The Alt left and red tories are leading the call for an intervention, FFS.
    Seamus Milne let slip that we should blame America equally. Equally? I should think that the fact that the whole “civil uprising” cover story was created by and for American self interest would render them majorly if not wholly culpable.
    Given the response to Milnes statement, I can concede that a radical proposal is inconceivable – but just to let your adviser drop a soundbite smacks of moral cowardice.
    If at some future point there is a vote on intervention and he withdraws the whip again we’ll have another war.
    If he really stands for peace, the time to act is now.

    • Catte says

      I am having serious doubts myself about Corbyn’s ability to offer analysis of the current situation in Syria, or indeed any foreign policy issue. The recent “debate” in the Commons reflected how far the official narrative on Syria has drifted from any kind of veridical reality, and the shadow spokespeople seemed to accept this lie as implicitly as everyone else. I’m not sure the Corbynites realise how false the narrative is. They certainly make no real effort to challenge it as it needs to be challenged, preferring merely to demur weakly and hand-wave vaguely. There’s more informed comment on this issue in the alt media than can be found in the Labour Party. It’s shameful and tragic.

      • ”I’m not sure the Corbynites realise how false the narrative is. They certainly make no real effort to challenge it as it needs to be challenged, preferring merely to demur weakly and hand-wave vaguely. There’s more informed comment on this issue in the alt media than can be found in the Labour Party. It’s shameful and tragic.”

        But not entirely unexpected. Social-democratic parties have generally accommodated themselves to imperialism. The Labour party was on the wrong side in the Greek civil war (1944-49) a loyal member of NATO since its foundation, will in all probability endorse the new Submarine Trident system, is Anti-Russian, and under Blair took a very distinct turn to the right, backing the Iraq war, and the neo-con, neo-liberal agenda. And this is not restricted to the British Labour Party. Everywhere you look in Europe, Social-democratic parties have thrown in the towel and become pillars of the centrist establishment. You can name them: PASOK, PSOE, SPD, SP, the latter two, in particular, are unflinching and partisan supporters of the NATO/EU geopolitical bloc. The same drift to the extreme-centre is characteristic of the US Democratic party
        It is interesting to note the new movements like PODEMOS and SYRIZA are coming to the fore, and unfortunately extreme right-wing movements are garnering support among the white working class. But this was inevitable as social democracy left the arena of class struggle and headed for the squashy world of identity politics. Class poiticis apparently wasn’t ‘cool’ any more.

        With all due respect to the many rank-and-file, well-meaning and honest members I see and talk to, as well as its past performance in power, social-democracy doesn’t inspire confidence and is frankly becoming an historical anachronism, it can’t, and generally won’t, challenge the existing order since n a certain sense it is part of it – it doesn’t have the sufficient ideological and policy distance and desiderata to mount a serious challenge to the present dispensation. Back to Keynes”, the new mantra of most social democrats, is less an alternative than a piece of escapist nostalgia. Keynes was a great man and, in his day, a great economist. But, unlike Marx and Schumpeter, he wrote only for his own time. His theories were static, not dynamic. He wanted to reconstruct the bland and stable liberal economic order of his youth, and he did not reckon with the relentless, unpredictable waves of creative destruction which are of capitalism’s terrifying essence. The left has no hope of winning the battle of ideas if it has nothing better to offer than a spruced-up Keynesianism. To win, it will have to jump out of the Keynesian box in which it has been trapped for too long, admit that there was substance to the neoliberal critique of the postwar Keynesian order, and think new thoughts in new ways. Alas, there seems no political education taking place in the LP and they seem in policy terms stuck in a post-war Keynes-Beveridge time-warp which is wholly unrealistic in the present conjuncture.

        The Trente Glorieuses 1945-75 as the French call it, has gone, and I would argue that the same applies to traditional social-democratic policies.

      • Kathleen Lowrey says

        It’s true. I think often of the running gag in the film Men in Black where they had to read the trashy tabloid The National Enquirer to stay informed about what the aliens were up to.

        & am starting to live by Anatole Broyard’s great line: “Paranoids are the only ones who notice anything anymore”.

      • chris owen says

        There have been clear hints that Corbyn does not support the establishment perspective on Syria but lets be practical here. He is an outsider in the PLP. He is trying to bridge the impossible. He still doesn’t even have control of the party yet and you’re asking him to row further out into the fast flowing water on his own. We have to be patient and don’t believe anything you read in any media. I believe Corbyn et al are working hard beneath the surface to retake control over the party from the right wing who are very well dug in here. It will take a long time, perhaps years but they will win eventually. Then, and only then, we can enjoy the luxury of challenging the establishment on all of their monstrous policies.

        • archie says

          Well said I agree entirely Corbyn has one hell of a tough job to do removing the well entrenched right wingers , it requires us all including you CATTTE ( above comments ) to be patient and not undermine him just because Corbyn does not live up to your instant expectations.What are you doing to remove the right wingers in your own CLP and for FRANK’s comments then what exactly are your suggestions for the ” new ways of thinking ” as you put it .

  8. Nick Cohen is just a miserable, old wackjob, who views the world through jaundiced eyes. Like many others, I stopped reading him years ago because he is so self-obsessed and depressing. I think it comes from a deep-seated envy of knowing he can never feel comfortable sitting at the tables of those he foolishly regards as his betters. This leads him to attack those he regards as being beneath him. He should look down, he has reached the point where there no longer is anyone beneath him.

    • Brian Harry, Australia says

      Beautifully said, and absolutely 100% correct…

  9. Jen says

    This might be slightly off-topic but Guardian columnist George Monbiot tweeted a link to Murtaza Hussain and Marwan Hisham’s interview of Yassin al-Haj Saleh over at The Intercept (you know, the eBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar’s pet media organisation project):

    Here’s a small excerpt of what Saleh tells his interviewers:

    For us, as Syrians, let me be frank: ISIS is the lesser evil. They have killed maybe 10,000 people, whereas Bashar al-Assad has killed hundreds of thousands. Ask yourself how anyone could tolerate such a situation. Could you imagine that in 10 or 15 years, after crushing all opposition, perhaps the son of Bashar al-Assad will proceed to rule the country after him? How horrible. How criminal. If Bashar al-Assad survives, after killing hundreds of thousands of people, expatriating 5 million more, displacing 6 million within the country, inviting the Iranians and the Russians and Shia militias from around the world to invade Syria, if such an abhorrent criminal survives and maintains his political power, the world will be a much worse place for everyone.

    (Face palm.)

    • damien says

      Embedded war reporter Nir Rosen wrote in 2012:

      Every day the opposition gives a death toll, usually without any explanation of the cause of the deaths. Many of those reported killed are in fact dead opposition fighters, but the cause of their death is hidden and they are described in reports as innocent civilians killed by security forces, as if they were all merely protesting or sitting in their homes.

      The following is from Eva Bartlett (Deconstructing the NATO Narrative on Syria) who provides web link sources for her statistics:

      The UN estimates 220,000 deaths thus far in the Syrian war. But almost half are Syrian army soldiers or allied local militia fighters, and two thirds are combatants if we count opposition fighters. Either way, the ratio of civilian to military casualties is roughly 1:2, given that the opposition is also inflicting civilian casualties. Compare that to the roughly 3:1 ratio in the US war in Iraq and 4:1 in the Israeli attack on Gaza in 2008-9. (The rate of Palestinian to Israeli casualties was an astronomical 100:1.)

      The US civilian casualties in Iraq and the Israeli civilian casualties in Gaza are at least 6 times as great as those produced by the Syrian government in defending its own country. Have people forgotten about the half million Iraqi civilians who needlessly died following the US invasion? Yet nobody is suggesting that the US or Israel lack any political legitimacy on this score.

      …imagine that in 10 or 15 years, after crushing all opposition, perhaps the son of Bashar al-Assad will proceed to rule the country after him? How horrible. How criminal.

      Some people fed a steady diet of propaganda might find it “criminal” but the Syrian people have voted overwhelmingly in favor of Assad defending them from the West’s jihadist monsters.

      • bill says whilst this article does need supporting links and omits the role of MI6 as someone points out this interpretation of how the troubles started certainly confirms the many reports from independent commentators journalists and peace groups who have gone out there to find out real facts….The House Foreign Affairs Committee recently outlined how massive mainstream propaganda persuaded MPs to support a the no-fly zone over Libya which has led to such massive death and destuction,that media now happily avoids. It appears many can separate Americas Wars in the Middle East and buy each time severally into the false stories and lies learning little on the way ….Russia saved Western Syria from a complete bloodbath last Autumn /Winter being invited legally to assist the sovereign state of Syria accepted by the UN, and most Syrians are highly grateful;of course some Syrians cant themselves see the wood for the trees. In Aleppo the US has long accepted terrorist al Nusra as al Qaida but has sought to rebrand through all their media assets as rebels and moderates to try to extend their occupation of a part of the city – the rest carries on despite the shelling under army protection-to bleed the SAA and Russia and condemn Russia as the aggressor. Cohen is just part of this sickness

    • Kathleen Lowrey says

      The comments to that Intercept interview were almost uniformly scathing. It’s very much like the situation at the Guardian. In fact one Intercept columnist who produces a steady diet of “why Trump is terrible” pieces actually has comments turned off entirely on his contributions now. I think they are assuming — who knows, perhaps correctly — that lots of readers go to the Intercept and don’t read the comments but just sort of skim the headlines and figure, “okay, left consensus is what I see here, that must be right”. I don’t know why you’d be reading The Intercept if you weren’t a more critical reader than that, however.

      • Jen says

        The scary part is that George Monbiot linked to that execrable Intercept interview undertaken by two interviewers (of whom one goes by a pseudonym of Marwan Hisham) on his Twitter account. I would not have known of that interview or heard of Yassin al-Haj Saleh otherwise. I’m sort of glad though that Monbiot did highlight it because I then determined to find out something about Saleh, his wife Samira Khalil and their activism. I ended up hitting dead-ends on a website and a blog forum they were supposedly running. (I’m not even sure if Khalil is still alive.) Also Saleh’s movements during 2013 – he was in Ghouta in April 2013 and later moved to Raqqa in the latter half of the year – raised my suspicion that he may not be entirely genuine. As far as I can find, he currently lives in Istanbul.

      • Willem says

        @Kathleen: That is how I read the Intercept. And I also read the intercept because some of the comments there are really informative and sceptical, sometimes even sarcastically ‘funny’. So what I usually do is: open the intercept article, go directly to the comments. And from there there is a lot to read and learn.

        I consider it a pity though how the intercept is evolving. The drone papers were very informative and revealing. And some of the Greenwald/Fang papers are still interesting. But certainly not all. And the Mackey papers, well they read like satire when the comments were still allowed to be ‘on’. But since they are ‘off’, his articles are a lost case to me, as I don’t read them anymore.

      • antirepublocrat says

        I’ve been quite disappointed in several Intercept pieces I’ve read. There was one in particular that was a hatchet job on Tulsi Gabbard, the Hawaii MofC who has vociferously opposed US policies in Syria.

    • chris owen says

      Why is Saleh blaming Assad for the deaths of people in a war that was imposed upon him and that he clearly didn’t want. Why not blame those who deliberately started the war for political reasons to depose him? You need to stand back and look at Syria strategically to see that we cannot treat Syria like Essex. Damascus stands astride at least 4 international fault lines – USA v Russia, Israel v Arab, Saudi v Iran, Sunni v Shia. There are probably others. Any one of those would guarantee the country would be full of spies from many countries, awash with political prisoners and torture, kidnappings and terrorism, regardless of who ran the country. In fact under Assad, the country was remarkably stable despite all of the above to some degree, until Saudi, Israel, USA and UK decided to try to remove him.

      • Jen says

        If you follow Yassin al-Haj Saleh’s movements in Syria in 2013 – he was in Ghouta in April 2013, moved to Raqqa in late 2013, at a time when ISIS was consolidating its presence there, and moved out of Raqqa in early 2014, about the time when ISIS control was just about complete – you smell something very fishy about him. He lives in Istanbul now. So when he says that Assad is worse than ISIS, you should think: well of course he would say that.

    • Well – I’m sure there are many in Syria today who would take that view. But the majority of Sunni recognised early on in the war that Assad was a better option than the religious loonies supported by the West, Gulf, Saudi and the Israelis. Hence they were trapped between a rock and a hard place. Boy did that position backfire on Europe big time!!

  10. John says

    If it is Nick Cohen the article is talking about, he long ago lost all credibility.
    He is just a “rent-a-gob” zionist.
    He is just the latest in a long line of Regev lackeys.
    Just ignore him – everyone else does.
    His predictable attacks on Corbyn and the Labour Party are only to be expected.
    There can be no one who both believes The Guardian and Nick Cohen.
    No one could possibly be that stupid!

  11. damien says

    What do the following organizations and people have in common?

    The Henry Jackson Society
    Hizb ut-Tahrir
    Google Ideas
    Against Violent Extremism (AVE) network
    Global Counterterrorism Forum Countering Violent Extremism (CVE)
    Abdullah-X project
    UK Prevent Strategy
    The UK Parliament
    Michael Chertoff
    US Homeland Security
    The Tea Party
    The Koch brothers
    US and UK White Supremacist groups
    Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD)
    Human Rights Watch (HRW)

    All of these groups and movements are incestuously linked to each other in a UK-US establishment backed effort to ‘counter’ radical Islamic extremism by:

    (1) Denying the bulk of mainstream Muslims a voice.
    (2) Hyping radical Islam and promoting former terrorists as the voice of Islam.
    (3) Insisting that the only acceptable form of Islam must be a politically inactive one.
    (4) Establishing a narrative of Islamic ‘reform’ supportive of Middle East regime change.
    (5) Supporting neocon and Zionist goals.
    (6) Using UK and US security and Intelligence agencies — and State propaganda methods — to achieve these goals,

    See here and here.

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