A minor cannibalism: A new “left” appeal for imperialist intervention in Syria

by Bill Van Auken, 2 March 2018, via WSWS

On February 27, the New York Review of Books published an open letter signed by some 200 people, many of them identifying themselves as activists, academics, writers and journalists. Originally titled “Stop pretending that you can’t do anything to save Syrians,” the headline was subsequently changed to “The World Must Act Now on Syria.”
The letter was published with no introduction. Who wrote the text of the letter, who changed its title, how the signatures were gathered and indeed all other information about the document is left in the dark.
Its purpose, however, is crystal clear. Issued in the midst of a massive war propaganda campaign in the Western media over the Russian and Syrian government assault on the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta, one of the last strongholds of the Islamist militias backed by Washington and its regional allies, the letter constitutes an open appeal to the US and the other imperialist powers to launch a full-scale military intervention.
Like the media propaganda campaign of which it is an integral part, the “open letter” constitutes a thoroughly one-sided, false and deeply hypocritical portrayal of the Syrian developments.
It protests solely “the crimes that the Assad regime has committed against Syrians, aided by local and foreign militias, by Iranian strategic and financial aid, by Russian airpower and mercenaries.”
Noticeably absent from its concerns are the crimes carried out by US and the other imperialist powers in Syria, not to mention the broader region. The authors of the open letter and its signatories were not motivated to make any such appeal as US airstrikes and artillery bombardments razed the cities of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria to the ground, burying tens of thousands of their inhabitants in the rubble.
Just days after the issuance of the letter, it was reported that the Pentagon had deployed another 600 special forces troops, backed by armor, to the strategically vital area of El Tanf on the Iraqi border. Far from protesting such an intervention, those who drafted the open letter want more—much more—of the same.
Chiding the imperialist governments, the letter declares: “Those with the power to act have been generous with expressions of sympathy but have offered nothing beyond the wish that this war on civilians—which they grotesquely call a ‘civil war’—would end. They call on ‘all parties’ to show restraint, even though one side alone has a virtual monopoly on violence.”
The imperialists have “offered nothing”? The Assad government maintains a “monopoly on violence”? Who do they think they are kidding? The CIA, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the other reactionary Sunni oil sheikdoms poured tens of thousands of tons of arms and ammunition and billions of dollars into Syria to arm Al Qaeda-linked Islamist militias that carried out a reign of terror across Syria. Tens of thousands of foreign fighters were funneled into the country and paid to serve as proxy ground forces in the US-orchestrated war for regime change aimed at toppling the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Somewhere between 130,000 and 170,000 government troops and militia members supporting the Assad regime have been killed fighting these CIA-backed forces.
The letter writes off the United Nations as “ineffectual,” adding, “While there are no longer any illusions about the role of the Security Council, every member state has nevertheless adopted and pledged to uphold the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine…”
“For the agony of the people of Syria to come to an end, it must be forcibly stopped,” the document continues, adding that there “are myriad geopolitical reasons why this is an imperative, but none as immediate and important as the sanctity of life and the exercise of free will.”
The message is clear: world imperialism must take action! Military intervention is required. The “myriad geopolitical reasons” for such action go unstated, but are nonetheless clear to anyone familiar with the complex struggle in Syria. US imperialism sees both Russia’s and Iran’s influence in the country as an obstacle to its own bloody and protracted struggle for hegemony over the oil-rich Middle East, a struggle that has left literally millions of victims in its wake. With their talk about the “sanctity of life,” the authors of the letter not only mock these victims, but offer their services in providing window dressing for Washington’s bloody operations.
The signatories to this reactionary document represent a disparate and dubious group that includes no small number of direct imperialist agents, emigre “assets” of one or another Western intelligence agency and, no doubt, some roped in on false pretenses and by means of a hollow appeal to “human rights” sentiments.
Among those signing the document are individuals who have a long and direct experience in imperialism’s operations in the region. One such person is Burhan Ghalioun, the former head of the Syrian National Council, who served as a conduit for the money and arms poured into the Syrian Islamist militias by the CIA and the reactionary Sunni monarchies.
There are others, such as Moncef Marzouki, the former Tunisian president who played a key role in strangling the revolutionary uprising of the working class in that country and aligning Tunisia with the reactionary wars that Washington and its European allies have waged in Libya and Syria.
Also putting his name on the list was Saad Bin Tefla, a former Kuwaiti government minister and media tycoon.
Joining such figures—and no doubt playing the key role in fashioning the letter’s phony human rights rhetoric, which echoes the propaganda used to justify every major imperialist intervention from the Balkans to Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and beyond—is a collection of of self-described “socialists” and “leftists”.
These include Gilbert Achcar, a professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies of the University of London and the principal spokesman on the Middle East for the Pabloite United Secretariat and its website International Viewpoint. Having backed the imperialist interventions in both Libya and Syria, Achcar has gone beyond mere propagandizing for war, meeting with Syrian National Council (SNC) officials, a collection of US and French intelligence assets, to advise them on the best strategy to bring about direct imperialist intervention.
Also among the signatories is Eric Ruder, a prominent member of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) in the US and writer for its publication Socialist Worker. Like Achcar and International Viewpoint, the ISO has supported the imperialist intervention in Syria from its outset, providing reporting and analysis that are, in all essentials, indistinguishable from State Department propaganda.
Dan La Botz, co-editor of New Politics and a leading member of Solidarity who recently joined the Democratic Socialists of America, also signed the letter. Like the ISO, New Politics has its roots in the political tendency founded by Max Shachtman, who broke with the Trotskyist movement in 1940 and later became a champion of US imperialist intervention in Korea and Vietnam.
Also signing the letter is Michael Karadjis, a member of the Australian pseudo-left organization, Socialist Alliance, with a long and filthy record of promoting imperialist interventions around the world in the name of “human rights,” from Kosovo to Timor, Libya and Syria. On Syria, he has authored pieces justifying a Syrian “rebel” commander eating the organs from the body of a slain soldier as only “minor cannibalism” [link added by OffG] and praising both the 2015 Turkish shoot-down of a Russian warplane and the Trump administration’s firing of 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase last April. [….]
Achcar gives their game away in a recent interview with International Viewpoint. Pointing to the Pentagon’s use of the Syrian Kurdish militia as its principal proxy ground force, he dismisses “anti-imperialism”—which he placed in quotes—as a perspective that “does not fit the situation” in Syria, where “the United States supports … a progressive force in its fight against a reactionary enemy.”
All of these pseudo-left elements are aligning their politics directly with those of US imperialism and in particular with those sections of the US military and intelligence apparatus that are demanding a more aggressive confrontation with Russia. Not only are they functioning as direct accessories to the crimes committed against the masses of Syria, but they are helping to pave the way to world war.


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Willem
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Willem

A similar letter was written when Aleppo ‘fell’. Did not work then, will not work now…
http://www.aleppo-appeal.org
One can also ask him or herself how many signatures are needed below a letter. If the letter would be truthful, one (i.e. the one who wrote the letter) would be enough.
Now (and with Aleppo too) we do not even know who wrote the letter. That tells me enough.

Mikalina
Reader
Mikalina

Once again, it masks the real in its imitation.
This form of protest has now become de-toothed – lost in the nebulous miasma of ‘there are only opinions not facts’.

mohandeer
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Reblogged this on Worldtruth.

Harry Stotle
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Harry Stotle

There are a number of ironies here not least the fact al-Assad had been influenced by the west (during medical training in England) so was actually quite keen to import economic changes that were essentially neoliberal in complexion (in order to ‘modernise’ Syria). Unfortunately these economic changes did little to improve the lot of most Syrians leading to a mood of discontent that became magnified tenfold by the Arab Spring. Arab Spring protests fed perceptions of Assad as a cruel leader – but amongst the pantheon of oppressive rulers in the region was he really very different? Even his most… Read more »

Mikalina
Reader
Mikalina

This isn’t a war IN Syria, Harry, it’s a war ON Syria. The great powers which decided to move in, create discord, sow discontent and fund opposition (business as usual) have created, and will use, the ‘rebel’, ‘terrorist’ groups until everyone is exhausted and compliant. A decision will be made and they will disappear (like IS). They will then divide the country up between them. Assad could do absolutely nothing to prevent this as neither could Allende, Sukarno, Gaddafi, Saddam, Habyariman, Lumumba, need I go on? What group could cause more death, destruction, violence and misery than the EU/US and… Read more »

intergenerationaltrauma
Reader

In the U.S. once credible “progressive” outlets like “Democracy Now” and “Counterpunch” have both promoted voices supporting the regime change propaganda coming right out of the CIA & NATO & and other Western oligarchic structures like MSM. The list of truly anti-imperialist alternative media voices is indeed considerably smaller than it appeared to be even a few years ago.

milosevic
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milosevic

BigB
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And truly anti-imperialist political representation. Peace is politically homeless and destitute in binary British imperial politics.

vexarb
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Mailman here. The reasons behind MSM’s present propaganda overdrive, according to analyst Canthama on SyrPer: ” ..there are many Special Operatives in East Ghouta — both UK, France, Jordan, KSA and Israeli. Direct CIA/Mossad/MI6 type of criminals helping al Qaeda with satellite images and guidance systems, which is why al Qaeda can hit the Russian Embassy far away with precision; and there a lot more Spets disguised as Medicins Sans Frontières, one of those partially criminal organizations like HRW which are totally infiltrated by terrorists-supporting countries. Keep in mind these countries supporting terror do not want Damascus to be safe.… Read more »

mog
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mog

Interesting. It made me read a little about the International Socialists, which brought me to Paul Mason and Workers Power. The pseudo Left seem to have traveled as one bloc to the position of imperialist Right once the USSR crumbled. I understand now why Mason refers to those criticising the Syrian narrative as ‘the new Stalinist Left’. I think it is noteworthy today, as I keep trying to draw critical attention to Novaramedia -where Mason now works, and where he eagerly spreads his Russophobia. Novara journalists are now getting increasing access to the corporate media and BBC, and are becoming… Read more »

Manda
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Manda

“Mason’s latest Novara video about fake news and the alt-Right is rather bizarre to me.”
I go further than bizarre, nonsensical and even embarrassing, I couldn’t even watch it all.. A childishly simplistic contruct.

mog
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mog

It is a shocking shower of shit.
Someone should write a Phd about how wrong it is.

writerroddis
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writerroddis

I agree with your sentiment Mog, but if Workers Power moved “as one bloc” to imperialist cheerleading, it didn’t take me (WP member in the 80s) with it! As it happens I’ve just emailed a pal who alerted me to the WSWS piece you link. An OffG reader himself, he likely got it from your comment. I replied: “For ​long time I exempted Paul Mason from my criticisms – themselves full of pulled punches – of Owen Jones and George Monbiot. The last straw for me was his description of a Graun hatchet piece – all who doubt White Helmets… Read more »

Big B
Reader
Big B

Mog; Phillip: I briefly rejoined Labour specifically to get Corbyn elected. As you well know, that made me a “Trotskyist Entryist”: an epithet I always wore as a badge of honour. After all, did that not make the NEC a Central Committee or Politburo? I always assumed that Watson was the Stalinist authoritarian figurehead, now I’m not so sure. The grassroots were unwittingly, for most, engaged in making a “New Kind Of Politics” …same as the old kind of politics? When along came the de-democratisation by e-mail. The point of note, not made clear in the Clarion article (except in… Read more »

mog
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mog

I can say that it was by far the most tense political meeting I have attended when our local Momentum group took votes on accepting/ rejecting the new ‘constitution’. Down the line a year, it becomes clear how significant that all was. As ever, it is instructive to note what the hacks are not mentioning, this being a textbook example. (e.g.Owen Jones at Graun today). If Netanyahu feels cornered enough to release the hellbeast of the Israeli military -to try and save his arse, things will get even more interesting in the New Left (read ‘co-opted and revamped Left’). The… Read more »

milosevic
Reader
milosevic

public perception of the anti-Zionism / anti-Semitism conflation
It’s well past time to stop being defensive about the standard “anti-zionism is the same thing as anti-semitism” slur, and start replying, “OK, if you say so.”
If the zionists wish to spread the idea that Jewish identity is a right-wing, ethnic supremacist cult, let them do so. The more successful they are, the less public sympathy they will attract.
And if one were to judge the “anti-zionist = anti-Jewish” claim by the attitude of the large majority of people who self-identify as such, you would have to conclude that it’s not wrong.

mog
Reader
mog

If the zionists wish to spread the idea that Jewish identity is a right-wing, ethnic supremacist cult, let them do so.
…erm, because it’s not.
There is a principle at stake here. Why resign to their racism ?

milosevic
Reader
milosevic

If a large majority of people who self-identify as “X”, affirm that racism is an essential part of that identity, on what basis would one presume to contradict them?
Is it reasonable to say, “5% of people who identify as ‘X’ are not racists, so the other 95% are just wrong”?
That seems rather implausible; the obvious conclusion is that it’s the 5% minority of non-racists who have misunderstood the content of the identity that they are claiming.
Gilad Atzmon has a lot to say on this subject.

mog
Reader
mog

Jews’ interpretation of ‘Jewish identity’ is a pretty slippery fish to hold. For many in the US, it means little more than a nod to certain cultural artifacts; to a West Bank settler it might well mean God given membership of ‘a right-wing, ethnic supremacist cult’. To the extent that people’s interpretation of identity is shaped by political arguments about pluralism, universalism, equality etc. – it seems worth fighting for principles that de-emphasise racial arguments, to my mind. I am no expert, but I do read some who would emphasise the ‘If’ at the start of your hypothesis. If the… Read more »

milosevic
Reader
milosevic

If the numbers were, say 50/50, would that not give cause to fight against the fascists’ claim that they speak for all? On the basis of direct personal observation, I would emphasise the ‘If’ at the start of your hypothesis. In the medium-sized city where I live, whenever the fascist terror state of Israel engages in one of its periodic Gaza massacres, the local zionists have a party at one of the large synagogues. A thousand or more people show up to celebrate their supremacism. Usually, when this happens, a counter-demonstration is organized outside. It is clear that a large… Read more »

milosevic
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milosevic

the attitude of the large majority of people who self-identify as such
That was unclear. I meant “the large majority of people who self-identify as ‘Jewish'”.

Big B
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Big B

Apologies: that should read …Mog; Phillip; and Manda. I didn’t realise you had left a comment.

Manda
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Manda

Thanks, I am a latecomer to this thread. Off to read the article you link.

Admin
Reader

The coding on the hyperlink was corrupted – I fixed it & deleted the duplicates etc 🙂

mog
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mog

I cannot see the link.
Ah, the suspense !

Admin
Reader

It’s definitely there!

Manda
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Manda

It is there and working, I just used it. Thanks for it and for the link to Chessum’s piece Mog.
I have renewed faith in my non scientific gut instinct. Mason, Monbiot and Jones were flagged up by my gut and later brain some time ago, Lansman my gut flagged but I ignored it until fairly recently… when I started looking behind the scenes.

mog
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mog

OK, got it now, thanks.
It must’ve been the re-route to 5 eyes that caused a delay.

mog
Reader
mog

Sorry for the generaliisation writerroddis.
Try that link one more time ?

Francis Lee
Reader
Francis Lee

The recruitment of NATO socialists to the imperial cause goes way back to 1945. Since 1945, American and British propaganda services have been recruiting intellectuals, usually from Trotskyite media, to invent and promote an “ideology capable of competing with communism”. The New York Intellectuals, headed by Sidney Hook, efficiently and zealously complied with several missions entrusted to them by the CIA, thus becoming first-class agents of the cultural Cold War. Key theoreticians of this movement, like James Burnham and Irving Kristol, devised the neoconservative rhetoric used nowadays by Washington “hawks” as their foundation. The distinction has to be made between… Read more »

milosevic
Reader
milosevic

the Socialist Workers Party in both the US and UK who took an equidistant position arguing that, if anything, Soviet ‘state-capitalism’ was actually worse than the capitalism of the west. The US organization may have said that, but the UK one didn’t. For anybody paying attention, “the capitalism of the west” must include not only the fake “democracy” and pseudo “human rights” found in the imperial core, but the abject poverty and starvation, mass murder, and fascist terrorism imposed on the third-world colonies. Taking all that into account, as the UK SWP usually did, North American / Western European “free… Read more »

BigB
Reader

At what point, at least ideologically, do we add Corbyn to that pseudo-left bloc …as he moves steadily right in aligning with the imperial defense of capital? For me, if not before, that would be from his pro-business, pro-EU, pro-imperial sellout speech on Monday.

Manda
Reader
Manda

I am getting ever more cynical and reading such things as your quote below, in more than one article now, only adds to my disillusion with the parliamentary ‘democracy’ route for real systemic and lasting change. “The point of note, not made clear in the Clarion article (except in the first comment) is the the millionaire Lansman’s ‘coup’ was fully backed by Corbyn. “Corbyn, and those close to him, including Seumas Milne, Andrew Murray and Momentum spokesman James Schneider (on Corbyn’s strategic communications team) were all intimately involved.” If the above, which I also read in a very long article… Read more »

mog
Reader
mog

I for one will be watching the GS appointment closely (even though I left the party). There’s not much in the way of reference to Lansman’s coup at the helm of Momentum a year ago, something that might have a baring on his role as GS: https://theclarionmag.org/2018/01/10/the-momentum-coup-one-year-on/ The people I was around at the time – who had a much much longer history on the Left than me, said things like, “here we go again”. I don’t think Tony Benn would have approved. Aaron Bastani : “I want the Labour NEC to be run like Momentum”. Does that include constitutional… Read more »

Richard Wicks
Reader
Richard Wicks

I trust everybody here is fully aware that Assad isn’t gassing his own people, and has been framed for this? Just in case anybody here can’t add 1 and 1 together: Assad has a military and an airforce under his command. Assad has no political or military reason to murder civilians. Even if Assad wanted to murder civilians, he’s got a military and an airforce that can do this conventionally. The only excuse the US has to be in Syria is because supposedly Assad used chemical weapons. The “new left”, by the way are better identified as Neocons who pretend… Read more »

milosevic
Reader
milosevic

The “new left”, by the way are better identified as Neocons who pretend to be “left”.
I think it’s considerably more likely that they’re just self-serving a**holes, who will say whatever they think will be most advantageous for their academic/media/NGO careers and social lives.
How long would Amy Goodman remain on the air, if she stopped shilling for Imperialism, and started telling the truth?

dave
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dave
EggMcMullah
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EggMcMullah

I wonder which PR company handled our corporate warmongers account this time

Benjamin Goldstein
Reader

I my g-d, I almost forgot about the cannibal rebel. That dude was so daft. There is a reason why the human being is sometimes refer to as the cooking animal.

milosevic
Reader
milosevic

That dude was so daft.
As opposed to his puppetmasters in Washington, London, and Jerusalem, who are all completely sane people. You can tell that, just by watching them on TV.

Benjamin Goldstein
Reader

Just say ‘Jew’ instead of puppetmaker. It’s not like we wouldn’t know anyway where you come from.

milosevic
Reader
milosevic

Just say ‘Jew’ instead of puppetmaker.
OK, if you say so.
In other words, you can keep your hasbara. Nobody’s buying it, anymore. The goyim know.

Benjamin Goldstein
Reader

No matter if one looks at socialist or conservative websites your kind is everywhere. The left and the right have the same problem at the same measure.

milosevic
Reader
milosevic

No matter if one looks at socialist or conservative websites your kind is everywhere. If people who disagree about everything else tend to arrive at similar conclusions about the content of Jewish identity, that surely suggests that those conclusions are based on real-world observation and evidence, rather than any pre-conceived bias. The left and the right have the same problem at the same measure. It’s only a problem for those who have some vested interest in discrediting what even you concede is a very commonly-observed tendency among a self-identified ethnic group. If they stopped being ethnic supremacists, then eventually other… Read more »

Benjamin Goldstein
Reader

Honey, your Führer has lost the war. Get over it!

milosevic
Reader
milosevic

hasbara: “anti-zionism is the same thing as anti-semitism.”
response: “OK, if you say so.”

Benjamin Goldstein
Reader

It doesn’t help you if you replace the word Jew with zionist. You spoke about puppet masters in London and so on. So you don’t even bother with Israel. Your problem are the Jews. And you have lost the war.

milosevic
Reader
milosevic

they secretly fear that a greatly disproportionate number of such people are actually Jewish, so they seek to discredit this idea in advancecomment image

milosevic
Reader
milosevic

When people insist that references to “puppetmasters”, “bankers”, “oligarchs”, etc, must necessarily be coded references to Jews, rather than to actual politicians, spooks, bankers, and oligarchs, it would be reasonable to assume one of two things: — that their real purpose is to discredit opposition to such people and their system, by slandering their critics as “racists” or — that they secretly fear that a greatly disproportionate number of such people are actually Jewish, so they seek to discredit this idea in advance, again by attributing it to the allegedly “racist” anti-oligarchic opposition or both. I suppose next, you’ll bring… Read more »