Syria and the will of God

Kevin Smith

In my lifetime, there has never been a greater force of evil than the terror rained down on Syria by foreign nations. Its cruelty and savagery have had no bounds. Nonetheless, Syria has defended itself against the economic might of 2/3 of the world’s great powers and has beaten them all. As a career military officer and student of military affairs, I cannot explain how Syria could accomplish this if it were not the will of God.”

These were words spoken by US Virginia state senator Richard Black during a recent visit to Syria. Here is a link to more of what he said.

For me, these words are the most profound and thought-provoking I’ve read about Syria. I read them every day. I’ve been observing and researching events in Syria and western government’s role in the chaos for some years now.

I have also been thinking about faith and wondering if a god plays a role in world events.

Evil versus Syria

I think all people, religious or not, who care about humanity will take strength from the resilience of the Syrian people in the face of overwhelming odds.

If you look back to the start of the conflict and subsequent years, Qatar and Saudi Arabia funded ISIS and Al Qaeda in Syria and many parts of the country were under terrorist control. At one point it looked as if they might succeed and possibly result in over 15 million Syrians fleeing the country.

The US, UK and France (who were also more covertly involved from the start) revealed their hand. These countries bombed Syria and set up illegal bases which provide ISIS and Al Qaeda a free pass to commit atrocities in the remaining areas they control. Turkey and Israel have also been active in the war, Israel almost on a daily basis bombing the Syrian army and arming the extremists.

Russia, Iran and Hezbollah helped turned back the tide but the bravery and unity of the diverse Syrian army and people is what’s determined the outcome of the conflict. Senator Black is right – in a military sense you can’t explain how Syria has prevailed over this combined evil using bombs and ethnic and religious intolerance as tools of regime change.

A faith from somewhere

In recent years I’ve sensed something has changed within me and I link this partly to events in Syria and the war crimes being committed by the West and support for terrorism masquerading as ‘humanitarian’ intervention. Rather than be consumed by outrage and burdened by the disturbing knowledge I now possess, I seem to have acquired some kind of ‘faith’. I’m not sure if this faith is spiritual or based on what I’ve observed over the years – or both.

This faith is centred on a belief that good eventually prevails over evil. Nowadays I go out of my way to help others who are vulnerable. I have a confidence in my abilities which was never there before. It’s hard to explain but I feel I’ve had a ‘helping hand’ to work through some personal mental health issues and put things into perspective.

I believe this renewed strength has come about much through observing the resilience of the Syrian people fighting heroically to protect the unity of the many ethnic groups and religious faiths living side by side. I feel privileged to use my knowledge and ideas to spread this inspiring message through my writing.

Religious learning

At the moment I’m also spending time learning about religion particularly in the context of what’s going on in the world. I guess in my younger years I would’ve described myself as agnostic but more tending towards atheism. But I hadn’t really studied religion and kept an open mind on the subject until I had more time to explore it and think.

Senator Black’s mention of god reminds me of a book I read recently. It is called The Divine Reality and is a good starting point for those who wish to understand the main arguments in favour of theism and atheism.

The book is more focused on Islam. For a book promoting theism, as a relative learner, I was surprised to find it had some very rational arguments, about the precision of the universe, and for example the position of the planets and sun seems too perfect to happen by chance.

The author of the book argued that science has not provided adequate explanations for our existence and in their absence theism has to be considered.

One of the common reasons for believing there can be no god is that otherwise suffering in the world would be prevented

The author confronts this common objection. He explains that god gives us the tools to be good people and do good things. Worshipping god is not just about praying but doing good deeds in our everyday life. In a way, life is like a test to see how we get on and use the tools. He states that people who pass the test will be rewarded in this or the next life but those who do bad consistently and don’t change will suffer. The author adds that those who suffer injustice or die at the hands of evil are also recognised.

So the view seems to be if there’s a god, intervention to prevent injustices on a day to day basis is not how it works and it’s largely up to us to live up to decent values. But looking at history you can see a pattern where wholesale injustice inflicted on many were finally corrected one way or another. For example the Nazis were allowed to destroy much of Europe but is there a god that decided in around 1942, that enough was enough and an intervention of a godly kind was the only way to defeat the tyranny?

The arguments in the book are well written and comprehensive and I tend towards the side of theism. But I’m still studying this with the combined mind-set of the rational arguments and the ‘faith’ I’ve acquired recently.

The future of our planet

Looking back at 50 years of destruction in Vietnam, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and countless other states, could it be that if there is a god, it’s been decided enough is enough and the red line is over Syria? The victors and victims on the right side of history during World War Two such as US, Britain, Israel and France, today have become so utterly depraved and corrupt that they resemble the forces of darkness that they were fighting in 1942.

Although Syria is recovering there is still a grave danger. This conflict is a proxy war being fought by the major world powers. Fault lines are opening up all over the Middle East between these powers. The trade war with China and aggressive rhetoric and disturbing anti-Russian narratives in the West is unprecedented. Any historian or geo-political expert studying these conflicts and recent events would be hard pressed to see how global conflict can be avoided. The signs are a major conflict could be soon.

So perhaps we should take heart from the miracle in Syria and hope that a kind of godly intervention played a part. If so, perhaps there is some hope for the wider world and we can avoid global conflict by removing the criminals and lunatics in our governments and media who keep pushing for more war.

Maybe we are at a crucial tipping point and there is a god providing us with the tools to remove the enemy from within – and we should use them. Perhaps god is testing us again, watching if we wake up and confront these issues or carry on as we are, remaining oblivious to the suffering our governments are causing in our name.

Will we be given further chances to change our ways? God or no god, somehow I doubt that. So maybe it is time for more of us to step up to show we are worthy of existence on this planet

And whether as individuals we are active in taking up the tools against the enemy within our elites, all citizens should consider re-setting our basic values and priorities towards an awareness and respect for humanity beyond our shores. Above all we should all show solidarity and respect to the true heroes of the day – the Syrian people.

A final thought

This is not lecture to the many wise readers. I’m sure everyone here are pillars of their own community.

But this year, I’ve particularly noticed that many people are distracted and stressed by Christmas – and not in a good way. Going to work this week I’ve nearly been run over by impatient traffic and pushed back on to London tube trains (more than usual) when trying to get off.

One suggestion I would have for all is to consider my positive experience, take some time out to be more self-aware and tolerant towards all. Help someone – perhaps a vulnerable neighbour and make an effort for one act of kindness towards someone outside of your immediate family or circle.

Once you’ve done that, see if any negative energy triggered by the stresses of Christmas – or the burden knowing the true state of the world reduces.

It did for me and I’ve not looked back.

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Zain Ul Hassan
Norman Pilon

For those who may be serious about wanting to find out about the social, political, historical, and economic details of Syria, to actually acquaint themselves with some substantive research and maybe learn something about Sryria, Ramond Hinnebusch, who happens to be a prominent scholar on Syria, has put this ‘essential readings’ list or bibliography together:

Essential Readings: The Syrian Uprising (by Raymond Hinnebusch) By : Raymond Hinnebusch and Middle East Studies Pedagogy Initiative (MESPI)

Unfortunately, unless you’ve got money to spend or have access to a university library, you might not be able to access these references.

Of course, I post this here because I was asked to provided links to ‘evidence’ that a popular uprising had in fact occurred in Syria in 2011, and that Assadist Syria is nothing at all like what the articles Off-Guardian has thus far chosen to promote, an image or depiction of which one cannot become enamored if all that one reads are one sided paeans to the rule of the Assad dynasty.

And although I’ve only just come across http://jadaliyya.com , it at first blush appears to be an important source of references to academic woks pertaining to the Middle East.

Norman Pilon

Of course, what I mean’t to write was: “an image or depiction of which one cannot BUT become enamored if all that one reads are one sided paeans to the rule of the Assad dynasty.

Norman Pilon

Off-Guardian has made the claim that it does not hold to single perspective on Syria. But every article that it has ever published on the matter, so far as I know, has never called into question the line of argument that the so-called “civil war” in Syria has never been anything but a “war” perpetrated on Syria from without by Western powers and its Middle East regional allies.

On the assumption that Off-Guardian is open to other substantive perspectives, for publication, because “facts” should indeed be sacred, I highly recommend this masterful essay by Syrian dissident Yassin al-Haj Saleh: How the Anti-imperialist Western Left Misappropriates the Syrian Cause — Yassin al-Haj Saleh

Do the right thing. Publish it. Broaden the discussion, as it needs to be.

Jim Scott
Jim Scott

Norman in the West there is no lack of Anti Syrian claims as we have been buried under massive amounts of anti Assad “Regime” propaganda that is demonstrably false given that Operation Timber Sycamore is a documented proof that the West had no interest in helping the Syrian people whom they claimed were being murdered by their leader. The operation was all to do with NATO controlling the region and its oil reserves. It also aimed to isolate Iran and shut the Russian navy off from their base in Syria and the Mediterranean. The US Special Forces Unconventional Warfare Manual 2010 spelled out exactly the invasion model using proxy ground troops and guided by Special forces operatives and equipment and training provided by the West. The British had Special Forces in Syria prior to Assad being comfortably elected.
The Western Media made the same “he is killing his own people” claims against Gaddafi and later admitted it was a mistake. We know well the history of Western Imperialism and the lies of our Military and of the relentless propaganda that made invasions possible. When are you going to wake up Norman the USA has destroyed the lives of millions around the world to line the pockets of the military industrial estate and the avaricious oil companies. I have had quite enough propaganda against Syria.
PS. Norman you wouldn’t happen to be the same guy trying to tell us that climate change is a hoax and not an established reality despite admitting you have no qualifications. You also claim there are truth’s on the denial side of the debate even though there has been no peer reviewed studies by a denialist.
The people and firefighters in Paradise California like the flooded people in Florida may wish to disavow you..

Norman Pilon

Clearly you took the time to read Saleh’s piece, and immediately understood that Saleh has been brainwashed and captured by Western propaganda. Why it’s almost as if you make his case for him.

As for global warming — yawn. Now if you don’t mind, I’d like to go back to sleep.


@ Jim: you see, our friend prefers to stay in the dark.

Norman Pilon

@ Jen: you see, you never have anything with which to counter arguments except adolescent contempt. Wake me up when you actually have something of substance to say.

Norman Pilon



I’m not expert on climate, Jim. But unless you yourself are an expert, if at your urging I should abandon my position for leaning on the demonstrated expertise of others, shouldn’t you do the same? After all, if one is to be consistent in one’s thinking . . .

As for peer review, you are simply mistaken in your assertion that the likes of Shaviv, Svensmark,Curry, Lindsen and many others have not been scrutinized by their peers.

On the other hand, peer review may not be the be all and end all that you quiet imagine that it is.

Consider this:

In peer review we (don’t) trust: How peer review’s filtering poses a systemic risk to science

(I’ll now brace myself for more potential and vacuous flak from your friend).

Norman Pilon

On the off chance that anyone might be interested, a link to Al-Jumhuriya, a website co-founded by Yassin al-Haj Saleh and where he apparently continues to contribute regularly:

Yassin al-Haj Saleh

Norman Pilon

And finally, for the time being, this:

Quote begins:

Saleh represents one of the major intellectual influences on Arabophone democracy thinkers and activists, and through them on contemporary Arab critical thought. He stands out as the Syrian “with a Leftist passion” (Al-Zoubi 2013: 31)who is most conspicuously involved in the cultural politics of the anti-Assad movement, both in terms of a developing preoccupation with resistance to the regime in his work and in his own personal political activism. He writes, “No Left, worthy of its name, will flourish unless it sides with the uprising and works on linking it to the values of equality and freedom” (Saleh2011b). Yet he has long abandoned communism in its party-politics form and does not consider himself a Marxist, though he stresses the importance of the Marxist tradition to his historical analysis. He tells us,

I am not prepared to repeat the common trope: the theory is true while the problem lies in praxis… Praxis is a relationship that theory has to history, and communism in the 20th century embodies the bad ways in which this relationship was articulated. What is more accurate is that praxis reveals the theory’s contradictions and limitations, and it is these contradictions and limitations that represent the engine for intellectual development.

Saleh, quoted in Al-Zoubi 2013: 32

It is worth pointing out at the outset that Saleh does not see himself as a ‘political activist.’ Saleh resisted the temptation to become involved in any of the myriad oppositional political formations that emerged since 2011, such as the Syrian National Council, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, or the National Coordination Committee for the Forces of Democratic Change. And,while he aligns himself with prominent human rights activist and lawyer Razan Zaitouneh, Salehhas consistently downplayed his role within the ranks of the Local Coordination Committees, an organisation in which Zaitouneh is a key figure. It is clear that Saleh is not interested in obscuring the power of his writing practice in the rhetoric of political activism. He plays the role of a “critical social scientist” –to use a typology proposed by Ghassan Hage –in that he is invested in carving “a space that is free from what the French call ‘la politique politicienne’,the politics of those for whom politics is a vocation”(Hage 2015: 80).This, Hage tells us, “does not mean being non-political”(Hage 2015: 79);rather, it means refusing to be enslaved by the politics of politicians and their frameworks. As Sune Haugbolle(2015)argues, Saleh emerges not as “the embodiment of power or the face of a political leader, but [as] the essence of revolution”(Haugbolle 2015: 30). It is perhaps for these reasons that, as Haugbolle shows in interviews he conducted with Syrian activists, many Syrians, young and old, “have constructed Saleh as an iconic figure for their own struggle to construct a new political culture in Syria and in the wider Arab world”(Haugbolle 2015: 15).On the other hand, emerging Syrian writers, such as Odai Al-Zoubi, reject such iconisation. For Al-Zoubi, revolutionary action cannot be consumed with the search for “essences”; for him, Saleh simply embodies “one of the ways in which the revolution articulates itself” (Al-Zoubi 2014: 29)But Saleh takes up a Foucauldian line in that he does not have time for essences either. At a time when so many commentators mourn for Syria’s political stability and civilisational legacy, pontificating endlessly at the expense of openness to change, Saleh has no recourse but to pose a very political question:

Are there any signs that a new kind of intellectual is about to emerge –one who resists the discrimination, oppression and marginalization occurring here and now –instead of the one who croons about nothingness and “beautiful ruin”, the prophetic savant who is only concerned with eventualities and true essences?

Saleh 2014b

To be sure, Saleh’s writings are highly political. In his critique of intellectual poverty in Syria, Saleh stresses the responsibility of the intellectual to defy the rules, restrictions, and logics of the regime for the sake of a politics of “truth”. He writes,

The truth is always political and it is political everywhere, but it is twice as political in Syria given that the political system is premised on the negation of independent investigative efforts and an unfettered examination of the political apparatuses: their structure, their history, their acts and functions.

Saleh 2014b

Quote ends.

Source: PDF] Searching for Salvation: Yassin al-Haj Saleh and the Writing of Modern Syria

By Firas Massouh, a thesis submitted to the School of Social and Political Sciences, The University of Melbourne Australia, October 2015


Hmm … Yassin al-Haj Saleh, writing an article “Living Under Assad’s Siege” for The New York Times, has this to say about the time he spent in Douma, in East Ghouta, in 2013 and the people he stayed with for some of that time:

“… I arrived in the Douma district in April 2013 and lived with a civil defense unit that came to be known as the White Helmets. Regime planes bombed the region daily. I saw the bodies of the dead being brought to the civil defense unit every day for registration. One day there were nine bodies. Another day, 26 …”


What’s that saying again? … Birds of a feather flock together?

Norman Pilon

You do not prove anything about what Saleh has to reveal about the reality of Assadist rule in Syria.

Your strategy is merely to condemn by association, rather than addressing the “content” of the man’s analyses and critiques of Syrian society.

Here is a mere example of just how far (or not) you and Saleh are on Syria:

Quote begins:

Saleh’s intellectual project rests on the radicalisation of critique: a strategy for maintaining the struggle to keep open intellectual possibilities in danger of being irretrievably closed. He characterises Assadist authoritarianism, Islamist dogmatism, and Western imperialism as “three monsters” laying siege to Syria (Postel 2014). These monsters have very real material, discursive and ideological effects, which serve to limit the gamut of political possibilities that individuals are able to envision and realise. For Saleh, the field of ‘culture’ is where the above mentioned monsters can be tamed; this is “a struggle of mythical proportions; it is irrational and may be impossible”(Al-Hallaq 2015).In his remembrance of Samir Kassir, the celebrated Lebanese historian who many believe to have been assassinated by the Syrian-Lebanese security apparatus in 2005, and whom Saleh regards as the first martyr of the Syrian cause, Saleh writes, “one can lose his life in this struggle. Samir Kassir did.” Nonetheless, he continues, “I see the intellectual as a tamer of these monsters, and as a maker of human ideas” (Al-Hallaq 2015). For Saleh, this is the good fight.

Quote Ends.

Source: Massouh, 2015, p.24. See the link to Massouh’s work that I have already provided.

You have not read Saleh and know nothing at all of his politics, or his values, or of his life. But you presume that you do. The pride of an outsized and arrogant ignorance, I guess.


I think we should allow Yassin al-Haj Saleh to speak for his politics, for his values and for his life, living under siege from Assad’s authoritarianism, Islamism and Western imperialism.

His actions during part of 2013, when he went to live in East Ghouta, speak quite eloquently of his politics and his values.

Norman Pilon

“His actions during part of 2013, when he went to live in East Ghouta, speak quite eloquently of his politics and his values.”

Oh, do enlighten us. What were these vaguely intimated “actions” of which you speak?

Norman Pilon

BTW, while I wait for your next reply, permit me this confession: I’d really like to agree with the tenor of your emoting over Syria.

Unfortunately, what inhibits me is that I very much doubt that you or anyone else can point me to any vetted, competent, and verifiable academic research on the Middle East, and in particular on Syria, that flat out contradicts this brief if harsh summation about the actual nature of Assadist rule, that is to say, that there is nothing “ . . . popular, liberatory, nationalist, or third-worldly in the Syrian regime . . . [but rather, to the contrary, that there] . . . is only a fascistic dynastic rule, whose history, which goes back to the 1970s, can be summed up as the formation of an obscenely wealthy and atrociously brutal neo-bourgeoisie[.]”

Find only ONE such source that discredits that assessment, and do get back to me.

Take your time. Though I shouldn’t have to wait too long. As I only want a single instance corroborating the objective and rather public nature of Assadist Syria as you see it.

But please, you know, make it someone whose doctoral level research is focused specifically either on the Middle East or Syria. The journalistic dilettantism of the likes of Andre Vltchek, as emotionally compelling as it may be, doesn’t cut it.

Like global warming, there appears to be something of a “consensus” among experts in the social and political sciences specializing in this particular field of study.

Indeed, my guess is that it must be in percentages even better than what it is on global warming. Now that should occasion a bit of a pause, shouldn’t it?



Doctoral level and above research? Professors Hayward, McKeigue, and Robinson have formed the ‘Working group on Syria’ to collate exactly the sort of research you require. However, this takes time, and technically the Syrian War is not yet over. Interim commentary is available on Tim Hayward and Piers Robinson’s blogs. Also, both have given presentations to such events as the ‘Media in Action’ which can be viewed online via 21 Wire and UK Column websites.

Professor Tim Anderson has covered the war from the start. He can be found via Global Research, which will link to his book on the origins of the war …or can I say NATO invasion?

It should be no surprise that there is an authoritarian pushback on academic research contra NATO policy, such as the recent HuffPo smear of Professor Robinson: and attempts to curb Professor Anderson.

There is also Professor Marcello Ferrada de Noli: chairman of SWEDHR and editor of ‘The Indicter’ magazine. He (with others) is collating evidence for future war crimes prosecutions – not against the Assad ‘regime’, but against NATO’s proxies and allies …such as the notorious White Helmets. Not surprisingly, he has been widely smeared too.

Non-academic, but thoroughly researched evidence can be found via Robert Stuart’s blog – which has concentrated on the propagandic ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ Panorama fiction. Also, the Geneva Press Club of Guy Mettan should be mentioned for trying to bring the truth to a wider audience. Guess what, he got smeared too.

All of this has been covered in full by our excellent host; OffG …so you can just research without leaving the current site.

I can see where you are coming from: but a five minute scan of the above sources should convince that whoever one assumes Assad is – the forces aligned against are far worse. Nothing short of evil, in fact. For this I would cite the White Helmets fake resuscitation of dead or dying babies – for propaganda. There is a whole host of evidence that the whole ‘Gassad’ regime chemical warfare has a much more sinister implication – namely the abduction and mass murder of innocent women and children for NATO propagandic purposes. If you research OffG: may I humbly suggest you read some of my own comments detailing this? If not: Professor McKeigue has raised the intriguing question: why did one of the victims of Ghouta 2013 slit his own throat having survived the initial gassing?

This, and the Khan Sheikhoun gas attack that did not happen (here I can cite MIT Professor Theodore Postol: for forensic deconstruction of Khan Sheikhoun and Ghouta CW attacks) plus much more should be enough to question the ‘Monster Assad’ narrative. A nadir in my own witnessing of the evil that we, the anti-Assad Coalition, have perpetrated was the ‘Murder of Innocence’ at Rashidin.

Personally, I am perfectly happy that the narrative put forward by Vanessa, Eva, and other “dilettante” journalists, can be, and will be backed up academically. I might add Dilyana Gaytandzhieva, who was an actual journalist: until she reported on the largest airlift of weaponry in history, aka Operation Timber Sycamore – for which she got fired. I am confident that you may cite plenty who toe the NATO party ‘demonise Assad’ line …but the actual evidence points to a far more sinister propagandic narrative ,…created from the murder of innocents. Whoever Dr Assad may be (and I am not attempting a whitewash) – the forces of evil aligned against him are much, much, worse. And they claim that they are the good guys?

Anyway, there is a little light reading, of doctoral level or above, which may or may not convince which is the far lesser of two evils. As said, I have heard plenty of talk that Assad is evil, much less have I seen any actual evidence.


BTW Norm

Perhaps Mr Saleh should consult Professor McKeigue and Postol’s account of Ghouta 2013: which he refers to as breaking Obama’s red line and a “chemical massacre”. I am confidant in my own assessment that the ‘Assadist junta’ did no such thing: which begs the question “Which NATO proxies did”? Why did that victim slit his own throat – to cross Obama’s red line?

Saleh’s analysis seems modish, outdated, and poorly informed (the ‘Caesar photos’ have been widely debunked too – the link is dead, but I presume that is what he refers to as “Assad’s Killing Machine”). It is also a contrived “neo-bourgeoisie” narrative: especially when stripped of “chemical massacres”. I also notice a lack of academic links on Saleh’s part too.

As such, we are not talking of an authentic and genuine people’s “revolution”. Saleh’s narrative is as contrived as NATO’s in this respect. The outcome of the “revolution” would not be a workers utopia: but a Jihadist Caliphate. The oppressed would be doubly oppressed; and the minorities dead under NATO/Salafist-proxy neoliberal control. The people’s resources would be wholly owned by the imperialist oppressor. The imperialist/anti-imperialist bent becomes irrelevant in such a scenario.

Those who stand to gain are not the people: but the imperialists murderers who think nothing of killing children to gain control (I suggest Mother Agnes Mariam’s expose of the reuse of childrens bodies as props at Ghouta – and who was deplatformed by the ‘journalists’ Owen Jones and Scahill of the Graun in return).

If Saleh alleges Ghouta 2013 was a “chemical massacre”: where is his academic evidence?

Norman Pilon

You write:

“Perhaps Mr Saleh should consult Professor McKeigue and Postol’s account of Ghouta 2013: which he refers to as breaking Obama’s red line and a “chemical massacre”. I am confidant in my own assessment that the ‘Assadist junta’ did no such thing: which begs the question “Which NATO proxies did”? Why did that victim slit his own throat – to cross Obama’s red line?”

You are confident in your assessment. But no adequate investigation of the “crime” was ever conducted or concluded.

So much for anyone, then, other than those who committed the atrocity, ‘knowing’ the identity of those responsible.

What we do know is that an atrocity happened. We also know that the U.S. characterized it as the crossing of a red line and blamed the Assadists.

In terms of how the U.S. then reacted, Saleh is actually correct: nothing that it did altered the balance of forces in favor the Syrian opposition — or are you also confident that no such opposition then or even ever existed?

Pertaining to Ghouta as such, you have your reasons for believing that Saleh is wrong, and he has his reasons for believing what you do not. I, too, have my reasons for believing that neither of you are on this matter warranted in your conclusions as to whom was responsible. You think you know, but you do not.

Does any of this invalidate the thrust of the argument being made by Saleh in invoking the Ghouta incident? No. Not at all. The U.S. acted as he asserts it did, and the consequences for the ‘opposition’ were as he claims they were.

You also write:

“Those who stand to gain are not the people: but the imperialists murderers who think nothing of killing children to gain control (I suggest Mother Agnes Mariam’s expose of the reuse of childrens bodies as props at Ghouta – and who was deplatformed by the ‘journalists’ Owen Jones and Scahill of the Graun in return).”

Indeed. But how certain are you that “the imperrialist murderers” is not a category inclusive of the Syrian neo-bourgeoisie? Are you so sure that such crimes are beneath the Syrian military and intelligence, or that they could not be turned to account by them? I’m not. For lets get serious: their business is murder and precisely the murder of innocents. That’s not something peculiar only to the Syrian security establishment, but to all such establishments.

In my opinion, regardless of who committed this unspeakable crime, the ultimate target was the general population, to terrorize it into submission.


Ok, Norm

I do not ‘know’ who did it. But if you want to make that epistemological point: none of us know anything. We sit in our self-contained sensory reality while the bad guys rule the world. None of these crimes will ever be investigated. I do not know that 9/11 was an inside job; this conversation is null and void; and this site should shut down …we all know nothing.

I do know who did not do it, even if it is by reason and inference. Which makes them worse than the ‘Assadist regime’. Yes, the wider target was the population …by NATO trying to terrorise them into submission: not Assad. None of these attacks make the slightest sense as being perpetrated by Assad. I could include Douma; where innocents were also murdered by NATO proxies: identity unknown. But people really died for imperialism’s cause. Shall I turn an epistemic blind eye to that? I know in as certain terms as I need to know.

I just read the whole thread on Tim’s site. You had this conversation in 2017. I would broadly side with Tim and David Macilwain – against tettodoro.

Whatever the origins of the invasion, any legitimacy was hijacked by NATO and the yankee imperialist. Regime change only favours them. If you believe otherwise, then we will have to disagree. What outcome do you assume would benefit the Syrian people the best: an Assad government or a Jihadist theocracy? Because no third option is or was available. Assad or Jihad? I’m perfectly happy my assessment is rational and conscience led. If Saleh or Karadij had their way: a NATO imposter would be sitting in Damascus. How would that help the revolution? Any legitimate opposition would already be dead. Why are we even debating this self-evident fact?

Norman Pilon

You write:

“If Saleh or Karadij had their way: a NATO imposter would be sitting in Damascus.”

No. This is a complete misreading of Saleh’s and Karadjis’s stance. Their aim and their hope is no more than to assess the reality of Syria for what it actually was and is, in the hope of raising the level of culture and awareness among progressives everywhere.

They have and had no illusions about the likely outcome of the popular upsurge in Syria. They understood that in the current historical conjunctures, this upsurge might only and most probably would lead to tragic results from beginning to end, and that therefore the most that they can strive for as intellectuals is to try to understand and document the course of that rebellion as it unfolded. But that it might only and most probably would go nowhere did not mean that the Assadists were in any way a lesser evil to be embraced, that Syrians ought to have been encouraged to remain subjugated to it.

What separates them from the Western anti-imperialist left is this: the recognition that the majority of Syrians, as Amin puts it, didn’t and do not want to join the so-called “Islamic resistance” against Bashar Assad, but that they also didn’t and do not want to remain under the brutal and repressive rule of what he represents, and that they had every right to.

To borrow an image from Saleh, if the Western anti-imperialist left recognize the two entangled monstrosities of Western imperialism and political Islam in Syria, in the perspectives of Saleh and Karadjis, they fail to perceive the reality of a third and equally real monstrous entanglement: the dynastic, autocratic and brutal nature of Assadist rule.


I get what Saleh was saying: only I find it an abstruse, semanticised point of view that caused him to distort reality in the telling. That is my point. How do we convey a nuanced view without transferring atrocities from one side to the other? That is where Saleh and Karadjis are epic fails. Not in the point you keep making – I get it: only to lose it again in the distortion of atrocities to the benefit of NATO. If he could make his subtle point AND attribute the chemical massacres to NATO’s Jihadists – fine. But he can’t. He uses chemical massacres as ideological weight to his argument: which dehumanises everyone involved …not least the victims who become ideological Unpeople. Let’s start with the Unpeople and work back: the ideologies fall away and make description more difficult – but not impossible. I’ve seen plenty of evidence (that I did not want to see) of dead innocence, re-arranged as propaganda props for the camera. For CW attacks we know did not happen. I’m sick of propaganda; including some guy telling me Assad did it: when I know he did not. Whatever else he is trying to say by perverting innocence does not matter. His ideological frame is logically flawed, simple as. When he replaces his distorted ideology with humanism, I may listen to what he has to say.

Norman Pilon

Big B,

You mention Professor Hayward and company. Professor Hayward is NOT a Middle East specialist. In fact, he himself ‘QUOTES’ the work of Raymond Hinnebusch, who IS a Middle East scholar, not to critique Hinnesbusch, not on the basis of any disagreement, but in support of the conclusion that perhaps the so-called revolution in Syria came too early. The piece that Hayward quotes is Syria: from ‘authoritarian upgrading’ to revolution? — Raymond Hinnebusch (11/01/2012) | International Affairs And in fact, the manner in which Hayward tries to leverage Hinnesbusch in favor of his argument is actually questionable, in being a slight misreading contextually speaking.

Tim Anderson is also NOT a Middle East specialist, and see this piece by Karadjis critiquing Anderson’s take on Syria: My debate with Tim Anderson on Syria: Reflections on the collapse of solidarity — Michael Karadjis | Syrian Revolution Commentary and Analysis

As for the others you mention, what you say they are investigating is completely irrelevant to my point. No one, not me or Saleh or the people I’m trying to get you to read,or indeed any Middle East or Syria specialist that I’ve managed to dig up, question Western aggression against the people of Syria. That’s not the issue. The issue is whether the Assadist regime is as it is being portrayed by the likes of Anderson, Bartlett, Beeley, Gowans, Vltchek and on, and on . . . Top believe that the Assad regime represents something other than “an obscenely wealthy and atrociously brutal neo-bourgeoisie” is sheer delusion, based on the “facts” of the matter.

Again, a quote from Samir Amin, who IS a Middle East specialist:

Quote begins:

Samir Amin: You see, the US establishment — and behind the US establishment its allies, the Europeans and others, Turkey as a member of NATO — derived their lesson from their having been surprised in Tunisia and Egypt: prevent similar movements elsewhere in the Arab countries, preempt them by taking the initiative of, initiating, the movements. They have tested their experience in Libya, and they have tested it in Libya with success, in the sense that, in Libya, at the start we had no [broad popular] movement . . . against Gaddafi. We had small armed groups, and one has to question immediately . . . where those arms were coming from. They were — we know it — from the beginning, from the Gulf, with the support of Western powers, and the US. And attacking the army, police, and so on. And the same day, not even the next day, those very people who qualified themselves as “liberation forces,” “democratic liberation forces,” called upon NATO — the French and then NATO — to come to the rescue, and that allowed for the intervention. That intervention has succeeded in the sense that it destroyed the regime of Gaddafi. But what is the result of the success? Is it democratic Libya? Well, one should laugh at that when one knows that the president of the new regime is nobody else than the very judge who condemned to death the Bulgarian nurses. What a curious democracy it is! But it has also led to the dislocation of the country on a Somalian pattern: that is, local powers — all of them in the name of so-called “Islam,” but local warlords — with the destruction of the country. One can raise the question: was this the target of the intervention — that is, the destruction of the country?

I’ll come back to this main question, because they tried to implement the same strategy immediately afterward on Syria — that is, introducing armed groups from the very beginning. From the north through Turkey, Hatay particularly. The so-called “refugee camps” in Hatay are not refugee camps — there are very few refugees — they are camps for training mercenaries to intervene in Syria. This is well documented by our Turkish friends. And Turkey as a NATO power is part of the conspiracy in that case. And similarly with Jordan, introducing from the south, with the support — not only neutrality but, I think, active support — of Israel, through Daraa, southern armed groups.

Facing that in Syria we have objectively a situation similar to the one of Egypt: that is, a regime which a long, long time ago had legitimacy, for the same reasons, when it was a national-popular regime but lost it in the time of Hafez Assad already — it moved to align itself with neoliberalism, privatization, etc., leading to the same social disaster. So, there is an objective ground for a wide, popular, social-oriented uprising. But by preempting this movement, through the military intervention of armed groups, the Western imperialist powers have created a situation where the popular democratic movement is . . . hesitating. They don’t want to join the so-called “resistance” against Bashar Assad; but they don’t want to support the regime of Bashar Assad either. That has allowed Bashar Assad to successfully put an end, or limits, to external intervention, in Homs and on the boundary of Turkey in the north. But opposing state terror to the real terrorism of armed groups supported by foreign powers is not the answer to the question. The answer to the question is really changing the system to the benefit of, through negotiations with, the real popular democratic movement. This is the challenge. And this is the question which is raised. We don’t know, I don’t know, I think nobody knows how things will move on: whether the regime, or people within the regime, will understand that and move towards real reform by opening, more than negotiations, a re-distribution of the power system with the popular democratic movement, or will stick to the way of meeting explosions just brutally as they have done until today. If they continue in that direction, finally they will be defeated, but they will be defeated to the benefit of imperialist powers.

Now, what is the real target of imperialism, in Syria and in the region? It is not at all bringing democracy. It is destroying societies just as they have destroyed the society of Libya. If you take the example of Iraq, what have they done? They have replaced the real dictatorship of Saddam Hussein by three uglier dictatorships: two in the name of religion, Shia and Sunni, one in the name of so-called “ethnicity,” Kurds, which are uglier even than Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. They have destroyed the country by systematic assassination — I have no other word for that. In addition to hundreds of thousands of people who were bombed in humanitarian bombings and so on, the systematic assassination of the cadres of the regime: scientists, doctors, engineers, professors of universities, even poets, and so on — all the real elite of the nation. That is destroying the country. This is the target of imperialism in Syria. What does the so-called “Liberation Army of Syria” claim to have as its program? That we should eradicate the Alawis, the Druzes, the Christians, the Shia. When you add those four “minorities,” you come to 45% of the population of Syria. What does it mean? It means democracy? It means the ugliest possible dictatorship and the destruction of the country.

Now, who has interest in that? This is the common interest of three intimate allies: the US, Israel, and the Gulf countries. The US. Why? Because the destruction of the societies of the region is the best way to prepare the next stage, which is the destruction of Iran, with a view of the containment and possibly rolling back of major “emerging” countries, the dangerous ones, China and Russia (and potentially, if India is naughty, India — but India is not naughty, for the time being). That is the target. It implies the destruction of the societies of the Middle East, including that of Iran, as a major target. This project of destruction of societies, accompanied with the continuation of lumpen-development, is also the target of Israel. Because, if Syria is split into four or five insignificant, confessional, small states, it allows for further easy expansion of the process of Israel’s colonization. It is also the target of the Gulf. Well, it is almost a farce to see today the Emir of Qatar and the King of Saudi Arabia, standing with the Westerners Obama, Sarkozy, and Cameron, as the leaders of the struggle for democracy. One can only laugh. But their hegemony in the region in the name of Islam — in the “name,” because there are different possible understandings of Islam of course — implies the destruction of countries like Egypt basically, because, if Egypt is standing on her feet, then the hegemony of the Gulf is, you know, what was the Gulf in the time of Nasser, in the days of Nasser? So they have this in common.

And they are supported, within the societies, by the Muslim Brotherhood. Therefore, I would conclude by that. We should look at the Muslim Brotherhood not as an “Islamic” party. The criterion for qualifying and judging organizations, parties, is not whether they are “Islamic” or whether they are “secular,” but whether they are reactionary or progressive. And when we look at the Muslim Brotherhood, on all real issues, they are against the strikes of the working class, they are against the resistance of poor peasants, they are for privatization, they are in favor of the dismantling of public service, which means that they are fully aligned with the most reactionary forces. This is a reactionary party using Islam as a front. This is the real criterion.

This is the global picture of what are the strategic targets of imperialists and their internal allies, reactionary forces, within the societies of the Middle East.

Quote Ends.

Everything in bold is my emphasis. Read it again and let that sink in. Amin is telling you that the uprising in Syria was ON A POPULAR BASIS. Okay?

Norman Pilon

I’m acquainted with the issue in Khan Sheikhoun. You can find all of that information on my blog and more. Who done it? Who knows. Anyone who claims to know in the absence of an appropriate forensic investigation is claiming to know more than is known. What does any of this have to do with the point that I’m driving at?



What is the point you are driving at: in plain language? Because two of the sources you are leveraging to make that point – Karadjis and Saleh – both cite Khan Sheikhoun and Ghouta 2013 as CW attacks – murdering predominantly children – by the Assadist regime. There was no sarin attack at Khan Sheikhoun. There was a CW attack at Ghouta – one of the victims even murdered himself. Multiple people were also murdered in a quarry, by or for the White Helmets: outside KS – for purely propagandic purposes. The narrative that Gassad did it is all lies. I went into this in depth at the time, I have no doubt. Yet people were murdered none the less. Now you are citing Karadjis legitimating NATO’s murders? Because it was not my “fascistic idol” Assad who was responsible.

He compounds his lies by legitimating the revenge attack on Ash Shayrat; telling me that the FSA and the Yankee imperialists are the good guys …the only ones bombing ISIS. How deluded a NATO apologist is he? And why are you citing his mendacious lies?

Any legitimate point you might think you are making is shredded by the sources you choose. Which has everything to do with the point you are driving at. What point?

In the realpolitik situation, as it occurred, the alternative to Assad was never a progressive revolutionary peoples party. The yankee imperialists were never going to defeat ISIS or anyone else. The alternative to Assad is Jihad and untold suffering for the people. Amin said as much if you read him carefully. Sorry Norm, I’ve read your links: I’m not convinced. If Karadjis/Saleh think that outcome would be anything other than a Jihadist council as a NATO compradorist regime: they are severely deluded. Any obscure point about Assad not being anti-imperialist is lost among their delusion.

Do you have any rational sources?

Norman Pilon

“What is the point you are driving at: in plain language?”

A) The ‘war’ in Syria isn’t only a Western imperialist operation being conducted against the Assad government.

B) The Assad government is a dynastic autocracy and has always been brutally repressive.

C) In 2011, there was a broad based popular democratic uprising. Initially, it manifested as protests. Subsequently, the shooting started. The Syrian establishment is not an innocent party to this conflict.

D) Syria is not anti-imperialist and demonstrably so.

E) Saleh’s output is an important primary source of information and analysis.


Broadly agreed; apart from the proviso that any legitimate popular uprising was hijacked from the start. Any legitimacy versus illegitimacy of the opposition to Assad became moot after that point. A positive outcome for any legitimate opposition was never an option. There is and was no black and white narrative; only shades of grey. There was plenty of side swapping from the beginning. For the greater part: the myth of a ‘moderate opposition’ was only ever a myth. The FSA are Jihadis: despite what Karadjis maintains. Of the choice of Assad or Jihad: there is only one rational choice. Assad has never, to my knowledge, gassed his own people. If Saleh maintains he did: he is not a valid source of impartial information as far as I am concerned.

Norman Pilon

Whether Assad ever gassed or did not gas anyone is not the factor on which his legitimacy depends. Nor is it whether he represents a lesser evil as compared to another competing and even more reactionary species of rule.

If the popular uprising had any legitimacy at its outset, by that very fact Assad himself did not then have any legitimacy, and in that respect, he effectively remains illegitimate.

It is true, however, that stability does count for something: it is to be preferred to the atrocities of war.

But there is a limit set to the value of such a stability by the level of violence a government needs to keep itself in power, that is to say, by how much abuse a population can and will tolerate.

Not all uprisings will be the results of geopolitical conspiracies, though they may in every case be the targets of attempted co-optations, even from their very outset.

Consequently, you cannot judge the legitimacy or illegitimacy of any uprising by its subsequent outcomes, or even its probable outcomes, if the people at any time rise en masse.

In any case, the odds that subjugated and initially disorganized masses will prevail against their oppressors simply cannot be known.

The only thing that can be known is whether the oppressed masses have begun to stir in defiance of what no longer can be tolerated.

In such circumstances, because the chances of success will not be known until after the people have either prevailed or been defeated, any and all mass uprisings are always to be adjudged legitimate from start to finish.

It may better for Syrians to fall into the clutches of Assad than those of the Jihadis, but that doesn’t make his rule legitimate, and if the masses did end up in the clutches of the Jihadis, for all that, their rebellion would still have been legitimate.


Well Norman it’s certainly true that if Assad’s rule is illegitimate then it’s illegitimate and if it’s legitimate then it’s legitimate.

Norman Pilon

Okay, Mr. Mkropulos. Lets walk thourgh this one more time, but in BigB’s own words:

He writes: “Any legitimacy versus illegitimacy of the opposition to Assad became moot after that point.”

In other words: if the popular explosion initially had any legitimacy, the implication is that Assad’s rule was not at the rebellion’s inception legitimate, eh. But by the time it became obvious that it would be drowned in blood by both Assad and the Jihadis and the Russians and the Iranian proxies, the legitimate rebellion became retroactively illegitimate, while Assad was somehow thereby legitimized.

I don’t know, but to my mind, either the oppressed have a right to attempt to escape the clutches of their oppressors or they don’t. No attempt is guaranteed in its outcome. The outcome therefore does not and can’t justify the gamble for freedom.

Is that a bit more comprehensible for you? Probably not.


But conversely here’s another way of seeing it: how better to sell Western imperialist ventures to those with “leftist” leanings than to phrase these ventures in a lot of Marxist sounding jargon about the masses uprising?



I don’t really agree with Makropulos: but we are entering into the realm of semanticism – ALL hierarchical statist rule is illegitimate. I would go further: so long as humanity is under the epoche of dominance and subjugation – there can be no humanity. I’d take that right down to the pseudo-individual psycho-cognitive level. As long as we have societies of individuation – of self and Other – there can be no humanity. It inheres that such a humanity is built on inhumanity: its humanism is predicated on dehumanism of the Other. Our very mind (where mind is the socius of ‘dichotomic dyadics’) is now capital: cognitive capitalism.

However, I would be the first to admit such a POV has only aspirational real world analytic potential. Literally everything we do and think is due to epochal dualism: and late Empire capitalism is the expression of that. A crude representation of ‘dichotomic dyadics’ (my own term for simplistic, unnuanced binary logic) is that imperialism can only be met by anti-imperialism. I find it vaguely amusing that we ended up in this discussion, as we are about the only two locally who agreed on the terminology of ‘sub-imperialism’ to replace ‘anti-imperialism’. There is no anti-imperialism: it is a linguistic and flawed logical fictive assumption (a simplistic ‘dichotomic dyadic’ – a Disneyfication of good v bad; black v white; hero v villain). An assumption promulgated by dilettante crypto-capitalist journalists like Vltchek. (Although I still read them, I would have to add Escobar and F W Engdahl to the list – though Engdahl would excused the ‘dilletante’ IMHO. Even Samir Amin posited China as an alternative: only, I’m not sure why).

We have an International World Capitalism (IWC: to borrow Guattari’s term) with intra-capitalist, intra-imperialist (imperialist v sub-imperialist) rivalries – but no alternative. I would have to broaden my analysis, for those who hold out for the pseudo-socialist alternative (another crude linguistic fiction – or ‘mirror capitalism’) – that is to include ‘hydrocarbonism’. That is the capitalist mode, means and relations of production grafted onto a hydrocarbon economy. [Oil = cognitive capital = dichotomic dyadic mind (this is not a personalisation but the analysis of the emergent systemic mass-mind (group psychology) that benefits only the few)] So perhaps International World Carbonism? To whit – TINA: there is currently no alternative.

Positing intra-IWC factions, such as the BRICS, as ‘alternative’ or ‘anti-imperial’ is a crude, almost risible (if the consequences were not so serious) predicate. About Syria: if Saleh had said that, without grafting on Ghouta 2013 (which is a cognitive sub-imperialism itself: inadvertently promulgating NATO lies) I would be more inclined to agree with him. [You can keep Karadjis: his smear of Anderson was nothing more than a rant. I too would expect someone who claimed to be informed about Syria should know the CW fabrications were false flags. Anderson v Karadjis = Anderson by a mile for me].

My point is that labelling Assad as neo-bourgeois – even though it may be correct – can itself be a semantic cover for greater bourgeois crimes. Both Saleh and especially Karadjis fail in their analysis for me by further demonising Assad with crimes he did not commit. You say this does not matter, it very much does. If Assad is Gassad, NATO and its proxies are exonerated. Saleh and especially Karadjis become adjunct NATO propagandists (aligning with the loathsome Proyect). Their analysis is as corrupt as is the NATO propaganda it mirrors. Their pseudo-analysis is de facto Jihadist: such is the distortion of their ideological lens.

The main issue for me: innocent people are being kidnapped and murdered for ideological propagandic purposes. Distorting this is not an option for me. Like him, loathe him, call him anything you like: but an Assad victory is still the only viable humanist outcome. He has stopped the Jihadists of NATO turning their Salafist ‘apostate’ murder regime on the entire country. You can stop short of praise: but does Assad not deserve some slack for that?

The issue becomes semantic: in that how do we appraise a ‘Dirty War’ – where no one is ‘right’ – without further distorting the facts with ideological structures of appraisal? Saleh, and moreover Karadjis, fair no better than Vltchek – everyones favourite dilletante crypto-capitalist. I see their pseudo-analysis as no real difference to the NATO narrative. One that re-appropriates the crimes of NATO by transfering them onto Assad. He may not be wholly innocent: but he is certainly not wholly guilty of CW attrocities he did not commit. What turns me away from Karadjis’ distortion is that the victims become Unpeople to smear Anderson with. Fuck that, Norm. I’m done with that. Those are NATO crimes: and that is what Anderson, Beeley, Robinson et al get right. Which is why I will continue to follow them and not Saleh. Is their analysis perfectly ideologically correct, semantically accurate, academically collated? Are they experts in their field? No: they maybe flawed, but their attribution of criminality is correct …and their humanism shines through.

I don’t know Saleh: I read him, I may read more. Karadjis is on my avoid list in favour of Anderson. If I’d been at that meeting, I’d have been whincing at him too. If that makes Assad my “fascistic idol” in his eyes: so be it. I won’t be reading him again to find out.

Norman Pilon

We are on the same page, I think, and if not, certainly in the same book. But there is one item of disagreement at hand that I’d like to underscore:

You accuse Karadjis of smearing Anderson, but the fact is that Karadjis doesn’t actually misconstrue or mischaracterize any of Anderson’s arguments. What he does, however, is to wear his disdain for Anderson’s mode of argumentation on his sleeve, but he has understood Anderson and does not misstate the man’s purports.

Furthermore, Karadjis actually avows a deep and abiding respect for Anderson as a person. See a post on his blog that he entitled: “Reluctant critique of leading Australian academic on Syria — Michael Karadjis | Syrian Revolution Commentary and Analysis.” There is a difference between slandering a person and openly expressing one’s disdain, not for the person, but for the arguments or perspectives being put forth by that person.

On the other hand, for an example of a piece that comes off to me as an atrocious and scurrilous hatchet job, see this by Anderson did on Saleh: EXPOSED: The ‘Walter Mitty’ of Syria’s Fictional ‘Revolution’ — Prof. Tim Anderson | Global Research

Personally, as it is with yourself, I don’t have much respect for this kind of mudslinging.

Likewise, Karadjis is often misrepresented and slandered.

For an example of what I have in mind, see THIS.


Nah Norman. Total gobbledegook there. I just get ever so slightly suspicious about any alleged popular uprising that just so happens to coincide with Western imperial interests.


I get the impression that I’m probably on BigB’s side here but if you’re going to start talking about “the socius of ‘dichotomic dyadics’” then I’ll just leave you to it. Let me know who wins.



As always, we are on the same page. I was only going on the text’s you linked to: and Karadjis definitely veers from objectivity in the text I was commenting on (from which I pulled the quote “fascistic idol”: or alternatively “favourite oligarchic tyrant” – which definitely exposes his real contempt for those who support Assad – the “Assadists”). He suffers from his own rhetoric: I consider myself not an Assadist, but a humanist. Which is a more subtle and nuanced belief than Karadjis can cater for.

BTW: you give Karadjis too much credit. You say that I got it wrong that his proposal would not result in a Jihadi in Damuscus. Read again his “How to Achieve Peace” proposal. I can summarise it as an HNC/FSA “Transition Process”. That is the Riyadh/NATO Front the HNC (championed by Boris Johnson as I remember): allied with the FSA (New Syrian Army – NSA: Revolutionary Commando Army – RCA) trained by USUK SOF at al-Tanf. If Karadjis wants to smear people (by extension, including me) who think the FSA are nothing but NATO’s ‘cuddly headchoppers’ – he better get his ideologically misaligned facts straight. I really hope that you are not taken in by Karadjis’ distortions. The HNC/FSA transition do not represent a ‘Peoples Revolution’ – never did and never will. Karadjis is ideologically misaligned with NATO – only he is too conceptually blinkered to see it. I would respectfully advise you to find a new source of information.

Norman Pilon

Well, I won’t defend what is admittedly Karadjis’ shrill and off-putting style of argumentation. Entirely agree: he certainly does suffer from his own rhetoric.

Okay, I’ll have a second look at the “final question of the evening.”

Norman Pilon

I have reread the last section of Karadjis’s piece, as you asked me to, in light of the points you make. I’m not sure what the problem is, but you again seem to miss the essential points that Karadjis makes. Certainly, there is nothing in what he writes that can be construed as evidence that he is ideologically misaligned with NATO. Otherwise, he’d be calling for the US to intervene on behalf of the opposition, which he most emphatically does not. Really, I think you are projecting your own ideological phantoms into your reading of Karadjis. What is certain is that whereas you conflate the FSA with the Jihadis, he maintains a distinction. Given everything that I’ve read so far about Syria, hither and yon, I accept that there is a distinction to be made.

Here is my boiled down version of each paragraph, sequenced in the order that it appears, the lot itemized a) through k):

a) Ending the war is the most crucial issue.

b) In the current conjuncture, no peace is in fact possible, for the conflict is yet at a stalemate, (at the time of writing); but even if one ‘side’ or the other could prevail, the result would yet be anything but democratic.

c) In reality, it is clear that the factions that comprise the so-called ‘opposition’ will never be able to muster sufficient military ascendancy to force the Assadists to negotiate a peace; it is possible, however, that the Assadists, with the help of their “partners,” will eventually totally prevail. In that case, things will go back to a semblance of what they were, with the Assadists in complete control, but with “the most brutally dispossessed part of the Sunni population potentially [again and in time likely]turning to jihadism and/or guerrilla struggle, [with] millions of refugees (a quarter of the population) [remaining] stranded in exile, while the regime continues to lose all semblance of independence to the various powers [now] keeping it afloat.”

d) As for why no military solution could currently move things in a more democratic direction regardless of which side might win: i) the Assadists are simply not democrats, but authoritarians; and ii) “sharp divisions among Syrians, in particular the alienation of many people among the religious minorities, and the majority of Alawites, along with many of the middle classes in the big cities, from the plebeian-based revolution” would most likely subvert the terms of any total victory imposed by the ‘rebels,’ even assuming that the terms were democratic.

e) Only a balance of military force compelling the Assadists into a negotiated peace that would exclude the “uncompromising” jihadist fringes while conceding “a transitional political arrangement, following a genuine ceasefire, involving delegates from both the opposition and from the regime (but not Assad’s immediate circle) [might] pave the way for elections.

f) The former arrangement — but for an unfavorable balance of force — is conceivable because in fact, if the jihadis fringe is excluded, the overwhelming majority of the ‘opposition’ have already made calls “for a civil state and a democratic, pluralistic society with full and equal rights for all religious and ethnic communities.”

g) “[E]ven those Islamist groups usually considered more hard-line (eg Ahrar al-Sham, Jaysh al-Islam) have supported [those] transition plans.

h) Unfortunately, the opposition doesn’t have the military wherewithal to force a negotiated settlement, and the Assadists demonstrate no appetite for anything less than a complete military victory.

i) “Ceasefires” have seen “the masses return to the streets around the country with the flag and slogans of the 2011 revolution.” People still want change. The resumption of fighting, however, only favors the jihadists, since they “are able to present themselves as the only true ongoing resistance, presenting a genuine dilemma for the FSA and allied rebels.”

j) The “military balance on the ground remains a decisive factor.” For if the Assadists do prevail, democratic governance everywhere in Syria will be quashed.

k) “There is no more of a “political solution” with the regime than there is a military solution; the only solution is revolutionary.” The “ceasefire and political arrangements I have just outlined, based on different military balances, represent the difference between a ceasefire that leaves the door open to a renewal of the civil mass struggle and thus to non-military revolutionary possibilities, and one that slams the door fully shut.” (It doesn’t look good.)

Norman Pilon

@ BigB,

BTW: the penny began to drop in earnest for me, so to speak, HERE, upon reading that post in which Prof. Hayward quotes Ray Hinnebusch. See the discussion BTL.

And in hindsight, a more appropriate response to Hayward on the purported legitimacy of the Assad regime in light of the “election” results in 2014 — on behalf of the commenter ‘Tettodoro’ — could have run along the lines of a critique Karadjis makes of Anderson:

Quote begins:

Anderson also claimed that Assad had been “elected” at an “election” held in 2014, and from memory one of the questioners even asked why we shouldn’t accept the results of a free election. This is indeed a unique occasion in leftist history when people who have rejected oppression and repression all their lives, and made great efforts at understanding how even our own bourgeois democracy is deeply flawed, uphold an “election” farce run by a murderous dictatorship. Aside from the fact that the only candidates allowed to stand against Assad were two nobodies, allowed precisely because they were Assad clones (to be allowed to stand, the first condition was that a candidate must have the support of at least 35 members of the existing Baathist-dominated parliament, and so 21 of 23 were rejected); aside from the fact that “voters” had to bloody their thumb to stamp the electoral roll, and thus could be spotted at workplaces the following day if the evidence was absent (a possible death or disappearance certificate); aside from large parts of the country being outside regime control; aside from 5 million Syrians being in exile; aside from all of this and more, why would anyone assume that the figures released by the State Ministry of Truth (ie, the 73.4 percent participation rate and the 88.7 percent vote for Assad) mean anything at all? Is anyone able to check?

If we assume these figures are “true” (even taking into account the manipulation and other factors), then do we also accept that in every other “election” that Assad has called since 1971, he has received 99 percent of the vote? Why would anyone with a brain accept that? And if so, do you also accept that Zairean tyrant Mobutu received 99 percent in his 1970 election? That Saddam Hussein got 99 percent and 100 percent in his last two elections? That Mubarak always got 97 percent? That Enver Hoxha usually got around 100 percent?

Anderson claimed large numbers of Syrian refugees voted in Lebanon, though outside Assad state control, thus proving that participation was genuine. However, every media report referred to “tens of thousands” rushing the embassy in Lebanon to vote. Yes, that is a great many. But there are 1.1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, so do the maths – the “tens of thousands” probably do represent the actual level of support for Assad among Syrians in Lebanon. But in any case, the great majority were barred from voting even if they had wanted to: a law was passed that refugees who had fled Syria at checkpoints not controlled by the regime were not eligible to vote. I wonder which groups of refugees fled at regime-controlled checkpoints?

What a sad day for the left that it is even necessary for me to explain this.

Quote ends.


Norman Pilon

What about Norman Finkelstein, what did he think in 2011?


Norman Pilon

You want to start viewing @ the 8 minute mark in that video . . .


I see Syrian Non-Violence Movement’s former President (2012 – 2016) was Ibrahim al-Assil who is a fellow of the Middle East Institute (of which the current Board Chairman is Richard A Clarke who worked for Presidents George H W Bush and Bill Clinton) and is also a non-fellow of the Orient Research Centre in Dubai.

Ibrahim al-Assil’s Facebook page

Middle East Institute’s website

Curious that this organisation and its former head seem quite close to the US government.

Norman Pilon

Reminder: you wrote, “His actions during part of 2013, when he went to live in East Ghouta, speak quite eloquently of his politics and his values.”

Again: What were these vaguely intimated “actions” that so eloquently speak of his politics and his values?

Norman Pilon

And pertaining to the video, since you appear to be commenting on it, does it mischaracterize what Norman Finkelstein’s position on Syria clearly was in 2011 and in fact continues to be?


Another view of Yassin al-Haj Saleh:


Norman Pilon

Oh, no! More discrediting associations between a man and Western imperial institutions! Please stay away from Saleh. Do not read him. He has been compromised and co-opted. Why, he makes a living as an intellectual in much the same way that any intellectual in the West does: by having made a niche for himself as a fellow in an institute. Whatever he may therefore have to say about the Syrian “revolution,” it’s all a Western imperial whitewash.

But to speak to the crux of Kishore’s piece: it is another take on Yassin Al-Haj Saleh that mischaracterizes his analysis.

Saleh’s perspective is that of a Syrian in Syria observing what is happening around him.

Naturally, his perspective will appear to be bracketed off from the geopolitical context.

By the same token, Kishore’s perspective is from the geopolitical standpoint — apparently the only political dynamic that truly exists and that consequently matters — and thus is also bracketed off, but from the lived experienced of actual flesh and blood Syrians in Syria.

It is simply asinine to claim that Saleh, because he is coming at things from the perspective of ordinary Syrians as they themselves experience the destabilization of their society, is both wrong and to be dismissed.

Furthermore, just because an uprising may represent an opening for Western imperialism doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be wagered. In a world where the West is the imperial hegemon, any uprising anywhere runs the risk of playing itself out in a manner that in the end will only further entrench the dominance of the West. But in that case, as seems to be Kishore’s logic, I guess that the best course of action is for the masses never to risk what little they have, as there is always the chance that everything may be lost.

Best, then, to be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to whomever may be your God.

In any case, however, the fact of the matter is that no one can make a revolution. Revolutions happen. They aren’t planned and don’t wait for a Lenin or a Trotsky with a plan to give everyone the go-ahead. You might as well try to advise the weather as to when it should and shouldn’t rain as to have people rebel only at those moments when revolutions “ought” to happen. Uprisings happen — when they happen –when the dominant social relations of a society begin to break down, when large numbers of people begin to suffer acutely from not having their basic needs and expectations satisfied in customary ways. End of story.


Your first paragraph is on the money. “Why, he makes a living as an intellectual in much the same way that any intellectual in the West does: by having made a niche for himself as a fellow in an institute.” Exactly. And that is precisely what you have to watch out for.

Norman Pilon

No, Makropulos. What you have to consider is the quality of the analysis together with the statements of fact. And the facts are established through a process of triangulation: you must read broadly from many different, independent, and even contending sources, but sources that have a proven track record of social and political scientific expertise focused on the part of the Middle East under consideration, people like Raymond Hinnebusch, Samir Amin, Thomas Pierret (with whose interventionist stance I disagree), Joseph Daher, or Firas Massouh — because if all of these social and political scientists together agree on an essential cluster of assertions about Syria, then it is more than likely that you can take the content of that cluster as a given and use it as a metric by which to gauge all other testimonies provided by ‘journalists’ or non-expert, testimonies that will either cohere or contrast with that content, and those that contrast will most likely do so because either a) they will be factually inaccurate or b) in need of further triangulation, that is to say, in need of being corroborated by at least another independent and hopefully expert account, but the more, the better.

If you haven’t read Hinnebusch yet, maybe it’s time that you did:

Syria: from ‘authoritarian upgrading’ to revolution? — Raymond Hinnebusch (11/01/2012) | International Affairs

Not even the WSWS would or could find fault with Hinnebusch.


Dear Makropoulos,

I think you will like this view of Yassin al-Haj Saleh if you haven’t seen it already, as it is his own admission.

Yassin al-Haj Saleh, “Living Under Assad’s Siege”, The New York Times, February 7, 2018

“… In October and November 2012, the rebels drove out regime forces from Eastern Ghouta. In the beginning of 2013, the regime, supported by Iran and Hezbollah, regained the military initiative and imposed the siege.

I arrived in the Douma district in April 2013 and lived with a civil defense unit that came to be known as the White Helmets. Regime planes bombed the region daily. I saw the bodies of the dead being brought to the civil defense unit every day for registration. One day there were nine bodies. Another day, 26 …”

If the Assad government imposed a siege on East Ghouta in early 2013, how was Saleh able to enter it and stay with a civil defence group calling itself the White Helmets?

As he says in the article, Saleh later left Douma in the summer of 2013 and went to Raqqa. A Wikipedia article on the Battle of Raqqa (March 2013) says this:

“… On 4 April 2013, it was reported that rebels of the Free Syrian Army and allied Islamist groups besieging the 17th Division base outside Raqqa city were in control of three quarters of the base with the Syrian Army holding the command centre. A Syrian Army source at the base reported that 80 soldiers had been killed and 250 injured in the fighting, and that many injured troops had died of gangrene …

… As of 28 May, air raids and artillery strikes continued against rebel lines on the outskirts of the city, but government forces were still unable to break through the lines …

In mid-August, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) announced that they would stop participating in the siege of the 17th Division, one of the two last remaining loyalist bases in Raqqa. They wanted to focus on civil administration instead, in building an Islamic state, and so they would withdraw fighters from the most urgent battlefields …

By early November 2013, ISIL was in full control of the town …”

So Saleh goes to Raqqa while it’s being held by the FSA and Islamist groups allied with it. ISIS is in town by mid-August of the same year and is in full control by November. Saleh is in Turkey in late November and has been living there since. His wife Samira Khalil is kidnapped in Douma in December 2013 and nothing’s been heard of her since then.

Do you wonder, as I do, that Saleh has been palling around with the FSA and other “moderate” Islamist rebel groups?


Oops, forgot to provide a link to the Battle of Raqqa (2013):

Norman Pilon

Dear Jen,

It’s late here in Ottawa. But I just caught a glimpse of your latest comment, or should I say, your latest effort at discrediting and defaming yet another man.

Always the same rehash, eh: the target is made out to appear to be the friend of very bad people; ergo, he himself must be a bad person with evil intent. I don’t trust him. Should you?

By the way, when are you going to answer my question, you know, the one about Saleh’s mysterious “actions” that so eloquently speak about his politics and values?

And what did you think about what Norman Finkelstein had to say about Syria? Or is Finkelstein now working for the Jihadis? Or maybe the State Department? Or maybe the CIA? Or maybe he’s been hanging around Chomsky to much. Yeah, that’s it. Chomsky’s evil has probably rubbed off on him.

I’ll catch up later . . . nighty night.


Dear Norman,

If you speak of discredit and defamation, Yassin al-Haj Saleh does a good job of it to himself when he says he lived with the White Helmets, and his own actions when he moves to East Ghouta at a time when so-called “rebels” are in control (April 2013)l, moves to Raqqa in mid-summerwhen the FSA and its allies are in control there and later moves out when ISIS arrives there. I’m only quoting what he said in the New York Times article. You can read it for yourself if you haven’t done so already:

His actions and how they seem to co-ordinate with changes in whichever rebel faction is control of East Ghouta and Raqqa in 2013 are not so mysterious after all.

Perhaps the real mystery is why his wife remains in Douma while he goes off to Raqqa and she ends up being kidnapped in Douma in December 2013, by that month ISIS-controlled, never to be seen again, while Saleh is in Turkey by then. Did Saleh not foresee the danger of leaving his wife behind when he travelled to Raqqa?

I am not obliged to answer your questions about Noam Chomsky or Norman Finkelstein. If they choose to believe what they believe, they will have to answer for their beliefs eventually.

Norman Pilon

Well, at least you’re consistent in your method of argumentation: never address the analysis or the arguments of someone who doesn’t see things as you do, but impugn the person’s character, even if it means stooping to the level of the most disgusting, heartless and baseless insinuations imaginable. But I’m sure you do what you do with a great deal of pride and never a twinge of remorse..

For the record, for those unfamiliar with Saleh’s background,

“[Saleh] has a long history of activism in the country. Arrested by the Syrian regime in 1980 for the crime of political activism and membership of the Syrian Communist Party (Political Bureau) while in medical school at the age of 20, he spent the next 16 years in jail, including a final year in the infamous prison Tadmor, which the poet Faraj Bayradqdar called “the kingdom of death and madness.”

Released from prison in 1996, Saleh finished his interrupted medical studies, after which he became a political journalist and independent activist unaffiliated to any political party. Upon the outbreak of the Syrian Revolution, he went into hiding so he could tell the story of the revolution in newspapers and on a website he cofounded on the first anniversary of the Syrian Revolution: al-Jumhuriya (https://www.aljumhuriya.net/en).

Samira Khalil along with Razan Zeitouneh, Wael Hamada, and Nazem Hamadi were abducted in 2013 and have not been heard from since. Saleh, who had moved from Eastern Ghouta to Raqqa, his native city, where he lived for two and a half months, again went into hiding, this time not from the regime, but from Daesh.

The group abducted two of his brothers. Nothing is known about Feras, his youngest brother who was abducted in July 2013. Two months before Samira, Razan, Wael, and Nazem were abducted, Saleh was forced to flee the country for Turkey.”

But a series of events such as these are what Jen is able to unconscionably weave into the libel that she concocted.

But then let us suppose for the moment that things happened as Jen would want us to believe, in what possible way would Saleh’s purported cowardice or loss of nerve be discrediting to his project of documenting and analyzing the catastrophe and tragedy that has befallen Syria?

But I’ll say this: anyone who stoops to manufacturing these kinds of baseless and revolting libels instead of engaging with the content of a perspective being put forth by someone, is either deranged or simply unscrupulous.


I must say, Norman, you’ll have to do better than give away important information like Yassin al-Haj Saleh being a co-founder of Al Jumhuriya.

I’ve found that Al Jumhuriya receives (or has received in the past) funding from the European Endowment for Democracy (EED).

The Board Chairman of the Governors of EED is Elmar Brok, a German politician from the centre-right political party Christian Democratic Union, of which Angela Merkel was formerly the head.

Al Jumhuriya is also supported by the Asfari Foundation.

About one of Asfari Foundation’s trustees:
“Ayman Asfari is Group Chief Executive of Petrofac Limited. He has led the growth of Petrofac from a small US-based engineering business to a FTSE 250 multinational company employing more than 18,000 employees worldwide. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the American University of Beirut, and sits on advisory boards of Chatham House and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.”

Oh dear … the more one looks, the more one finds various roads leading to Washington DC, Brussels or London.

Norman Pilon

Well, that’s a revelation isn’t it. A radical intellectual from Syria, from some other trouble spot on the planet, is being touted by publishing houses and institutes nestled in the heart of empire. Who would’ve thought. But yes, do continue engaging with anything but the content of Saleh’s work, most of which was produced while he was in Syria, quite independently. Or do you deny that even people working for the CIA can thing for themselves and be partial to the truth as they see? What about William Blum, for instance. Or Ray McGovern. You see, Jen, the truth, just as much the lie, can be enlisted on behalf of the most reactionary cause. Why, exactly as you are doing . . .

Norman Pilon

Ssh. Listen! Do you hear that? What else could that be but a Western imperial hegemonic narrative:

“the West increasingly appears as a Huntingtonian “civilisation,” not as an open horizon for a humanity that aspires towards “liberty, equality, fraternity” for all; meanwhile, religion is becoming more politicised, gradually forfeiting its role as faith and as social connecter; and the state is merely an apparatus for political elites, not a nation-state for the commons.” (Saleh, 2010, The Three Monsters and the Crisis of Arab Culture: a Non-Rationalist Article)

How dare this man object to foreigners bombing his fellow countrymen without making a crucial distinction between Russian anti-imperialist bombs and American imperialist bombs.

Norman Pilon

Merely as point of emphasis, to underscore Jen’s simple minded approach to any valid critique of the thesis that before Western progressives — a category from which Jen’s unprincipled mode of argumentation categorically excludes her — can make a rational choice about which “sides” — there are more than two — in the “conflicts” playing themselves out in Syria, they must at least have an elementary grasp of the actual cultural, social, economic and political imperatives dominating Syrian society, and to approach to such an elementary grasp, they need to engage with Syrian intellectuals who actually have a highly sophisticated understanding of their own society and the place that it occupies in the world.

Here, for example, is apparently the sort of reading of Saleh — (I’m quoting Fira Massouh on Saleh) — that Jen, who knows nothing at all about Syrian society and even less about Yassin al-Haj Saleh’s penetrating insights into and analyses of socio-political issues as such, doesn’t want you to read:

Quote begins:

Saleh identifies culture as a field of struggles, at once receptive and resistant to change. He is interested in exploring the interplay between rigid social structures, values and norms, and the cultural dynamism in the context of the revolution. The elements of culture (symbols, language, values, beliefs, and norms) require relentless theoretical interrogation in new contexts.

Accordingly, he adapts his examination of authoritarian culture, and extends his problematisation of thaqafah to the contexts of revolutionary and post-revolutionary Syria. Since 2011, he has become interested in the ways that a new revolutionary culture has usurped the culture of the Assad regime. As an intellectual of change, Saleh recognises tha the has a responsibility to be responsive to the way the cultural field, which is colonised, sutured, and impregnated with reactionary ideas about modernity, Islam, language, identity, and so on. He is also aware of the need to cement a new position in the cultural field and to introduce a new set of discursive and symbolic instruments. For Saleh, this is the meaning of struggle. In an interview in 2014, Saleh admits he is concerned about the cultural trajectory the revolution had taken. He fears that anti-Assad politics may become just as dogmatic as its predecessor, and stifle new forms of independent cultural production: “I think it’s entirely possible that culture could be used again in the name of the revolution, in the name of Islam or in the name of both together”(Saleh 2014f).

How does the cultural field gain autonomy when, in the words of W. H. Auden, “we would rather be ruined than changed” is the maxim that rules the day –when revolutionary culture, increasingly dominated by Jihadism, threatens to replace the old regime with an equally authoritarian one? Faced with what is often referred to as a culture of “violence,” “anxiety,“ “fear,” “political poverty,” and the legacy of what celebrated Marxist activist Riad al-Turk calls a “kingdom of silence”(al-Atassi2011),how do we find avenues for constructing spaces of hope, a culture of dialogue, of emancipation? Saleh asserts that the regime has managed to empty out all substance from an autonomous field of cultural production. This was possible not only through a set of political policies and practices, but also through the production of discursive and symbolic tropes for imagining and conceptualising the world in particular ways. He fears that new revolutionary powers will repeat this process under the guise of resistance and renewal, although he maintains the hope that “new culture will take shape around the experience of resistance to the Assads’ tyranny, but also around experiences of resistance to emerging forms of domination”(Saleh 2014f).

The revolution is marked by public contestation of dominant tropes, and signalled the desire of a population to dismantle the regime’s symbol-producing machine. Indeed, in the revolution’s early, peaceful stages, the most visible effects of public contestation were the burning and destruction of posters and statues of regime figureheads, coupled with increasingly daring popular phrases such as ‘yil’an ruhak ya Hafez’ (‘curse your soul, oh Hafez’). As revolutionaries celebrated the liberation of culture from the shackles of state control, such acts of damnatio memoriae were predictably deemed by the regime to be “degrading the haybah (‘prestige’) of the state.” The regime retaliated accordingly through the most heinous acts of violence aimed at humiliating and making an example out of anyone who spoke against it.34

But for Saleh, the Syrian experience has been, for the most part, expressed monologically, especially by activists who have participated in forming the various oppositionary groups and coalitions that emerged in exile since 2011. Instead of translating the struggle into a dynamic and relational language, constantly engaged in a process of dialogue with the world, the Syrian opposition “has failed in translating Syria’s dreadful suffering into universal meaning”; Saleh attributes this failure to the fact that Syrians “have really livedfor half a century in solitude”(Saleh, quoted in Hashemi and Postel 2014).Coupled with the escalation of violence on the ground, the opposition, both in its pacifist and militant articulations, became more fragmented,and to a great extent Islamicised. Salehsees this as especially dangerous to the process of emancipating the field of cultural production. Nonetheless, he remains hopeful that “an increasing number of Syrians have begun to think that their cause, the Syrian cause, is a global one that requires them to think in global terms, to be interpreted in the same context of the liberatory struggles of the peoples of Eastern Europe or of South Africa”(Saleh, quoted in Hashemi and Postel 2014).

Quote ends.

(Quoted from Searching for SalvationYassin al-Haj Saleh and the Writing of Modern Syria, Fira Massouh (2015), pp.91-92.)

A person can actually choose to remain comfortably ensconced in an overweening ignorance, in the way that Jen does, or chance a broadening of his or her existing intellectual horizons.


Dear Norman,

I see you are unable to counter the information I have brought here at Off-Guardian about Yassin al-Haj Saleh’s activities and associations in Syria in 2013 and about the nature of the financial and other support that his blog Al Jumhuriya requires to survive. I see you have resorted to slander, denial, projection and repetition of previous comments of yours. In short, all you are able to do now is bully commenters such as myself, manipulate and twist other people’s comments to confuse them, and flood the comments forum with empty rubbish about Saleh and what he supposedly does.

If you have any self-respect at all, or are receptive to any advice the Off-Guardian community might offer, you will go back to your own blog and stay there.

But I suppose if you don’t, you will continue doing what you have been doing here and on comments forums attached to previous Off-G posts.

Norman Pilon

While you exert yourself to sully the reputations of honorable people, Jen, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we can see in this thread of comments, as in so many others, just what it is that you are about, and rather conspicuously.

But do keep up your efforts, because your guileless self-revelation is truly a sight to behold. Although it seems to me that there must now be very little left of you to reveal. But I’m more than willing to continue hanging around to see if perhaps there isn’t a little more to come.

By the way: slander is to accuse someone of doing something unethical that they did in fact not do, What I accuse you have is in plain sight.

Norman Pilon

Here you go Jen, another person for you to defame, because we all know that there never was a popular uprising in Syria in 2011 and that those pursuing Doctorate level accreditation by focusing their efforts on Syria as such, are only doing so as part of a propaganda operation: Juliette D. Harkin. Do let us know what dirt you manage to unearth about this obvious shill for Western imperialism, but of course not that you need any encouragement from me to do so . . .

For the rest of us:

[PDF] Ideological Contest in Syria’s Revolutionary Moment: The Concept of Dignity, Juliette D. Harkin, Degree of Doctor of Philosophy University of East Anglia School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies, Submitted: March, 2017

By the way, I haven’t really delved into this just yet, but it’s on my reading list. But I’m posting the link here, now, in support of my assertion that among Doctoral level researchers whose specialty is the Middle East, and especially Syria, it is a GIVEN that 2011 was a broad based revolutionary moment in Syria.

Maybe ADMIN will take notice of the ‘mounting evidence,’ too, and if not the evidence that may be presumed to derive from a multitude of independent and reliable witnesses, than of the consensus among such witnesses.


Norman for God’s sake ,give it up already.You are starting to sound like the resident troll already .It does not matter how many studies,sites ,enlightened comments ,etc. etc.one states . One can always find alternative information on anyone eles’s information to denigrate them .Leave it alone and move on. Needing to have the last word all the time on a conversation in and of itself is a sign of a certain level of insecurity .Chill out and give it a rest !

Norman Pilon

I was told that ‘evidence’ was the thing. ‘Evidence’ is what I’m providing, no? If you don’t like the ‘evidence’ that I’m providing, don’t read my comments and don’t attend to the ‘evidence.’ There are plenty of other comments to attend to.

Furthermore, this isn’t a game. People’s lives are being destroyed. And you ask me to ‘chill out and give it a rest?’ You’re kidding, right?


Some on the ground evidence regarding the start of the Syrian war in Dara’a .

Norman Pilon

Some primary evidence gathered about one year prior to the ‘uprising’ by a Syrian presidential advisory committee corroborating that the Assad regime knew what was coming in terms of popular dissent; that is was anything but socialist in the reforms it was pursuing; and that it was, without doubt, repressive:

Quote begins:

“[…]the memorandum in the annex, prepared in 2010, had been commissioned by the Syrian president’s office but later been ignored by it. While the short-timed and ineffectual nature of advisory committees and their reports was rather common under Bashar al-Asad –their recommendations were regularly sought but seldom implemented–the frankness and urgency demonstrated by this particular report are striking. It shows that ‘insiders’ of the system were well aware of the headwinds al-Asad’s politics and, particularly, his polarizing political economy faced. Despite due adulation of its recipient, the memorandum to the president spells out that “difficulties […]have escalated, neglect and mismanagement, into a socio-economic crisis” and thus led to “a great deal of dissatisfaction among the citizens as well as the elite.” For instance, the memorandum points towards the lack of direction and clear decision-making, rising poverty and social imbalance, corruption and mismanagement and, even, towards the limits of using police, security services and the military for controlling social unrest. It prefigures the outbreak of the popular uprising less than a year later and, notably, it is a far cry from the self-assured public speeches of Bashar al-Asad. As late as end-January 2011 he claimed in a, by now infamous, interview with the Wall Street Journal that “[i]f you want to talk about Tunisia and Egypt, we are outside of this” since he believed himself to be “very closely linked to the beliefs of the [Syrian] people”.1Thus, the memorandum presents a highly interesting primary source that not only confirms Carsten Wieland’s point that Bashar al-Asad could have taken different decisions and possibly even have warded off the uprising, but that also demonstrates that the Syrian president was informed by his advisors about the most pressing problems and the alternatives available to him.”

Quote ends.

Source: The Syrian Uprising: Dynamics of an Insurgency pp.4-5.

Some highlights from the memorandum (everything in bold is my emphasis):


•On the other hand, the Syrian private sector has demonstrated a lack of social responsibility and, at the same time, suffers from structural deficits that render it incapable of replacing the role of the state vis-à-vis the workers. Subsequently the private sector has been unable to fill the vacuum created by the retreat of the state

[…] most people only are seeing the regression of social support and the raising of prices. It seems to many that the state is abandoning the poor for the sake of the rich.


Furthermore, the negative results of this policy are apparent in the decrease in living standards and increased poverty rates. Figures in 2009 were higher than in 2004.

Parallel to this, a drastic collapse in health services, education and transport has continued, in addition to growing corruption and bureaucracy, which have made people’s quality of life unbearable.


Such a decline has also impacted on the security services and their ability to deal with the society with tools other than violence.


It should be noted that the potential use of hard power (police, security and military) in managing social problems is limited and risks inciting an international intervention in the internal affairs of the Syria state.


The ministries have kept their old habits, without daring to take any decisions, preferring to evade responsibility, waiting, as they say, for instructions from above.


The new economic approach, […] has created dissatisfaction in many fields. It seems to us, that there is a need to address the reform in the processes of decision making.

The reason for this difficulty is due to the lack of definite orientation towards a social market economy. The currently chosen track for reform simply ignores the needs of the less fortunate classes in our society, in spite of the fact that there are many other forms of reform and many alternatives which could differ in their socio-economic outcome.


Furthermore, the decline in social services, the shortage in electricity, the increasing numbers of people with no access to potable water, and the continued transport crisis all over the country have exacerbated popular disaffection. This has been compounded by the decline in health services and public hospitals infected by sluggishness and corruption, the extremely overcrowded public universities, the rise in organized crime and corruption, which remains widespread without any level of auditing or follow-up. ..


Further, the pace of trade liberalization has been harmful to the productive sectors, such as industry. This seems to be an approach based on the recommendations of the International Monetary Fund, which is a recipe with known results at the social and economic level.


The private sector does not comply with its moral and social responsibilities which guide the business sectors in developed countries. Its commitment to the rule of law is very weak, it continues to evade taxes and to avoid payment of customs duties and social security duties through bribes. It does not care about the environment or for workers’ rights, and pays no attention to improving the working conditions or the conditions of residence of workers and their families. Nor does it understand the importance of the company as a social institution, rather than being the property of an individual acting out his desires.


Furthermore, the overall economic policy applied in favour of traders at the expense of industrialists has led many of them to shift from productive activities to commercial activities and rent. This has been at the expense of the productive capacity of the Syrian economy.


An increasing concentration of power in the hands of the crony bureaucracy classes is notable, while the popular classes have lost power.


Such a phenomenon has its risks, especially in a country like Syria, which is exposed to various pressures. The need to ensure the loyalty of the population is of utmost importance.


If we add this to the decline in state capacity and the lack of willingness to support free education, medical care and subsidies, this will lead to further polarization of the community, something which threatens social stability. This will also lead to the erosion of the middle class and reverse its role as a dynamo in the society.

If we add this polarization to the cultural polarization, the risks appear doubled. The Syrian community is witnessing the growth of cultural division, including those among youth groups. In light of the significant decline of the identity and ideology of the state, and the Baath Party as a secular nationalist party, more and more splits will occur. The community will be torn apart between the Salafist groups and the forces of modernization. This division is further amplified by the new cyberspace. With the growing sentiments of tribalism and sectarianism the new generation is fragmented and desperate.

Quote ends.

Ibid. pp.103-110.

Norman Pilon

correction: the sections from the executive summary that I highlight are between pp.100-110.

kevin morris
kevin morris

I remember a short account of life on a Pennine hill farm, written by the mother of one of my workmates. She wrote,
‘They say God helps those who help themselves, but I believe that God helps those who help each other’.


That’s Kropotkin in a nutshell. The great Russian evolutionary biologist got his ideas by watching how reindeer survive the Siberian winter. He concluded that in a hostile environment Cooperation is the best survival strategy. The Selfish Gene couldn’t exist without cooperation from the other genes. (By the way, which gene is the Selfish one — has it been mapped?).

kevin morris
kevin morris

As I remember it, Vexarb, the Selfish Gene was simply a justification for what Milton Friedman and the Chicago School put an economic gloss on back in the seventies and eighties. They unpicked the tapestry and it’s going to be a hell of a job reweaving it but we’re really going to have to relearn all those skills that we so wantonly squandered between 1979 and the current day.


[God works through Good people, whether they believe in God or not. Here are tributes to a good English Lady who married an English trained Syrian eye surgeon and has stood by his side during the Syrian war. She is a Lady and he is a gentleman; they held together and they kept their country together. Smiling the same radiant smile while under chemotherapy for breast cancer as she smiled at the children in her cancer ward, and on her rounds of good works. England used to have Ladies and Gentlemen in power. Now Syria has Asme and Bashar Assad, thanks be to Allah!]

from Daniel Rich BTL SyrPer #282320

Get well soon!
comment image

Your family and your country need you.

from Thucydides BTL SyrPer #282342
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She was so brave all these years!
She never wavered, never the easy way out. Never a pawn of foreign powers.


Quneitra, Syria – Christmas mass was held and a Christmas tree was lit up in the Greek Orthodox Church of _St. George_ in Quneitra city. Greek Orthodox Bishop of Damascus said the mass is being held for the first time in 44 years at _St. George Church_, the first such mass since 1974 following the liberation of Quneitra, which was destroyed by the Israeli occupation.

MP Janseit Qazan affirmed that the Syrians’ determination, particularly citizens of Quneitra, to bring life back to the city through holding religious and political activities affirms their keenness to liberate the Israeli occupied Syrian Golan as a national priority.
comment image


Bad influences are also part of “God”; the just need to be reformed. Denying this diminishes your “God”.
Luckily a lot of Syrians – secular and believers – had sufficient will power to defend their home turf from ultra negative forces.
They want a better life now, not “after” (after = without guarantees!!! – which dummies and sociopaths joining ISIS, El Qaida, etc. never understood)


We do get sunlight and rain –life sustaining energies– from the sky. Good thoughts from above!

But every now and then, we get other things as well. Things you wouldn’t call life essentials, i.e.:
– hail as big as a tennis ball
– depleted uranium explosives and agent orange
– the mother of all bombs
– beautiful Tomahawks
– and drones … the future looks like every person will have a dedicated drone hovering above their shoulders; making sure everyone is doing ‘the right thing’

And then, there are people who thank God for being kind enough not to send hail as big as a washing machine.


For what it’s worth, I consider myself to be a man of faith, but intervening directly in the affairs of corrupt governments worldwide doesn’t strike me as something that any traditional god could be bothered with today, much as I like the idea.
What I like is not the major issue at stake here, however, and perhaps that’s ultimately just as well.

My faith has certainly not prevented me from viewing all politics with a generous helping of suspicion and cynicism, and I still find myself constantly asking who will benefit the most from this, or that, scenario.

Washington is excruciatingly beyond the pale these days, but Westminster is currently running neck and neck with it, and all kinds of remote regimes, such as those in Turkey or Hungary, carry enough of their own baggage to make the ultimate aims of Washminster, and those behind that corrupt monstrosity, a very complicated and foggy thing.

Whatever happens, I believe the enemies of the human race – and they have certainly shown their hand during recent decades – will always have a Plan B, a Plan C and a Plan D, and they well know how to benefit from all of those plans – of course at our expense.

What would convince me of some sort of divine intervention would be the cessation of warmongering politics altogether, and that still seems to be a very remote possibility indeed. All the same, it would be very encouraging to be able to trust that this relatively small setback to the US/EU war agenda might be a real first step. I am quite happy to pray that it will be.


@War Dropper: “What would convince me of some sort of divine intervention would be the cessation of warmongering politics altogether, and that still seems to be a very remote possibility indeed.”

That’s my understanding of Divine Intervention. God spares nobody in this world, not even his only begotten Son when He walked our Earth as a human being. All that is left to us, the record of a Life spent in Charity, Compassion, Healing both physical and spiritual, Gaiety, Wit, Steadfastness, Gentleness, and proclamation of The Good News, “to do in this world as it is done in Heaven”. Which, as you say, is a very long term process. I believe that we humans are judged twice: in our days we are judged by History, and at the End of Days we are judged — each and every one of us — by Eternity.


If you are reading the responses in the comment section Kevin , know that many have traveled the same footsteps.
Different roads to be sure but the same steps . I also researched many religious affiliations , cults and mainstream religions initiated by Prophets and Christed ones . We are indeed being led by a benevolent entity/enteties .Some call him/her God , others Allah , and by different names as unknowable .
As for myself , I have always felt an attachment ,empathy if you will , for the oppressed of this world .Wherever there is oppression , I will side with the oppressed .
Know that you are loved and that you have stepped on the path . No one ever said it was easy but the rewards are immeasurable .

Humberto Mafra
Humberto Mafra

Beautiful, pertinent and very relevant article by Kevin Smith. Very glad to see it here.

David Eire
David Eire

I am not an atheist nor a religionist. There is no will of god involved in the Syrian war. The war is being won by the will and actions of the Syrian people with the help of the Russians and other. Hitler was defeated by the Russians and the Western Allies not by the will of god. God is not directly involved in the good or evil acts of human beings.

harry stotle
harry stotle

This is not the first time god has been put on trial.


I hadn’t seen this. An interesting topic.
My own view is that putting man’s arguments into God’s mind is not logically justifiable, with the greatest respect and sympathy for all who have lost everything in man-made catastrophes of all kinds.
We are all free not to believe in God, but if we do believe, then we must also accept that it is not reasonable to expect Him to think as we do.
We are earthbound, and He is not.
Criticizing Him for not thinking in the same way that we do makes as much sense as criticizing a tree for not behaving like a cat. They are not at all the same thing, nor do we expect them to be.


Elie Wiesel confirms that Jewish prisoners really did put God on trial. He himself wrote a play, The Trial of God, but set it in 1649 during Purim.

Norman Pilon

Because I know that the people who come to Off-Guardian for news and analysis are open minded, that they always only accept a given perspective tentatively, even and especially when it happens to be their own, because they know that they may be wrong about what they most fervently believe and hope to be true, and are thus able to dispassionately assess arguments on the basis of purported information that may challenge their presuppositions and opinions, a link for you:

Thomas Pierret on the Syrian Revolution

As for God, if there is a God, if He has perhaps finally decided that enough is enough, why did He ever allow the catastrophes to happen in the first place? If your God is all knowing and all powerful, He is anything but all loving. And since He had the foresight of the manner in which His creation was to unfold, and He created it regardless, then He, and He alone, bears the full and utter responsibility of all the miseries and suffering of which, apparently, He may now have had his fill.

Humberto Mafra
Humberto Mafra

Have you ever heard that God created the humans and gave them something called Free Will ? And guided by this free will, humans have gone about living their lives, making decisions/choices and, of course, having to live with the consequences of their actions at the individual level as level as well as at the collective one. If you don’t believe in that you don’t believe in some measure of human freedom, and consequent reponsibilities, that spiritual people do, and also most agnostics or atheists.

God doesn’t do deterministic, mechanical micromanagement of the world he/she/it created. That’d be unworthy of God, and meaningless vis-a-vis the purpose for which the whole enchilada was created. Yes. people who embrace spirituality do believe they know what Life’s purpose, God’s purpose, his/her individual purpose in life is. which is to go through the experiences of life, at all stages, and learn to discern good from evil, ugly from beautiful, wise from unwise, to understand the meaning of suffering and learn from it the significance and overriding importance of love and compassion – in a word, go through the process of Consciousness Evolution, at the end of which the Creature will be ready and prepared to merge with its Creator, through realisation of love and wisdom and justice. in oneself, but with some ramifications at the social level, too, the “love thy neighbour as you love thyself”, and the “do unto others as you would like to be done to yourself, kind of thing.

Norman Pilon

Certainly there are good theological arguments to be made for the world being the way that it is and at the same time having been created by a Deity enamored of the ‘good.’ For unless man is free to choose between evil and good, his choice in favor of the latter can not be ‘genuinely’ ethical. That’s an idea I can subscribe to: that I can ‘choose’ a moral course of action over an immoral one, and that my choice in such a context, unmotivated save for wanting to do good for the sake only of doing good, is in and of itself genuinely ethical, and in that respect steeped in the Spirit of Divine Goodness.

That condition, however, of being able to genuinely choose between doing the right or the wrong thing, doesn’t require the existence of God, but the mere awareness that one’s actions can cause another sentient being unnecessary harm, and that I can inhibit that action, or by the same token, choose to act in a way that may be beneficial to the well-being of another person or creature.

But I don’t believe in God. And if God does exist, He created the world, the world is his creation, and He is therefore entirely responsible for it and all of the suffering experienced in it, including, and not least, agonies that do not originate from the ‘evil’ intents of anyone as such, but from things like natural catastrophes or diseases.

There is something repulsive and grotesque to me in the notion that children (and men and women and other sentient beings), whom God apparently loves and brought into the world, should have to suffer the most appalling physical and mental agonies imaginable, and for absolutely nothing that they or anyone else may have done.

To my mind, such things are simply unjustifiable and irredeemable, theologically or otherwise, and to assert the existence of a munificent God in the face of such horrors is to diminish the reality of that unwarranted suffering, suffering for which there cannot be any consolation, to which no one could ever be or ought to be reconciled, but that alas can only and must be endured.

Humberto Mafra
Humberto Mafra

I’m familiar with your arguments and have great respect for the place of reflexion in which you find yourself. People can be atheistic, or agnostic, and, yet, be very generous, very other-regarding in the most positive way, and very loving and caring with our “neighbour”; I have many friends like that, with a wonderful open heart. The left is full of people like that, and they are the Salt of the Earth, too. And this is the essence of spirituality and alignment with God, regardless of what your rational mind may be telling you.


@Humberto Mafra: “I have many friends like that, with a wonderful open heart. The left is full of people like that, and they are the Salt of the Earth, too. ”

Yes, I know some Christians and Muslims who are every bit as caring and honest as my Atheist Communist friends.

Humberto Mafra
Humberto Mafra

Additionally, before I embraced God in my life, after years of Marxism, I strongly believed, as you do, that a Loving and Just God would never create suffering on the scale we see on this planet. That was until I engaged with and understood the oriental twin concepts of Karma and reincarnation, and evolution of the Soul, or Spirit, through different life times in which justice and personal responsibility are addressed at the individual level. Without karma accounting for the kosmic Justice System, it’s hard to see God a just and loving, i agree with you on that.


Humberto, even mathematical physicists seem to have discovered a sort of Cosmic Justice in our apparently random world. Buddhists believe that Samsara (our chaotic, apparently unjust world) and Nirvana (the Peace that passeth understanding) are One. And physicists are discovering that the apparently random order of electron shells in Matter is related to the most perfect construction of Mind — the Prime Numbers. A rational order seems to lurk behind apparently irrational distribution.


Humberto Mafra

You come across as very respectful, with a beautiful tolerance, which is rare. So it is with great respect that I say that the version of karma you have come across seems to be the Westernised internet meme version. To be fair, the ‘retribution and cyclical expiatory rebirth’ version is becoming ubiquitous – East and West. However, it has nothing to do with karma in the Budhhist (Abhidharmic; Yogacaran; Madhyamakan; Mahayanan) sense. It amounts to a quasi-Christianised cultural appropriation and misrepresentation as a Law of ‘kosmic justice’: one which I for one would like to see rectified.

First of all (even though you personally did not say it was): Karma is NOT a ‘Law’ – of cosmic justice or otherwise. That is another cultural misrepresentation that presents karma as an extension of the Natural Sciences: as a pre-given universalised quasi-absolute. Karma literally means ‘action’ in Sanskrit: so immediately the primary focus is on the activity (mental and physical; psychophysical; psychosomatic) – not the repercussion of the activity (which is secondary, if not tertiary). More specifically, it is not the actual doing (the psychophysical act): but the urge, drive or compulsive desire (samskara; chetana) to act in a determined way that is the focus. As such, karma is psychcognitive and mutable: cognition = action; or the enaction of desire. In short. Karma is the dualistic discrimination (self/other (atma/dharma) cognition) and self-reinforced propensity to act out a self-view (atma drsti) ..to be or become more (bhavasava; samsara; bhavacakra; etc). As much as anything: karma is a remedially-focused diagnostic psychology of cognitive enaction and a praxis of liberation. Much less a meta-morality.

In order to understand karma: it is important to realise that the present lived experience is karmically neutral. That is – whether it is realised or not – it is pure; or at the very least ‘purifiable’ and ‘perfectable’ (when cleansed of vestigial karmic traces). Thus, the present lived experience can be ‘consummated’ – i.e. fully embodied – as ‘really real’ or parinispanna (‘Absolute’; ‘Ultimate’; ‘Truth’ – and even ‘Nirvana’ – entail cross-cultural misinterpretations of their own).

The lived (Zen) experience is a ‘symbiogenesis’ (pratitya samutpada) of the faculties of consciousness of the five ordinary senses: plus their integrative ‘sense-mind’ – the sixth consciousness – of mano-vijnana (the reflexivity and reciprocity of the sense-aware mental process. NB: the Western concept ‘mind’ is not a cognate for this. Nor is ‘self-awareness’. Indeed, it is such misconceptions that are the root of the root of the problem of misinterpretation: which I will do well not compound). In its totality, these six consciousnesses (six vijnana) – integrative of the lived experience – are the ‘Root Consciousness’ of the All (Sabba – see the Sabba Sutta). There is no other All but the lived experiential. Thus, the lived experience is the Arche and Telos of Becoming.


The transformation (vijnana-parinamo) of the Root Consciousness is the ‘linguistic turn’ of conception. This is dualistic discrimination (self/other cognition) and psycholinguistic construction (reflective overthinking; metaphoric conceptualisation). Being imagination/imaginary (vikalpa): all conception is not ‘really real’ (imaginal; parakalpita). All mental formations (samskaras: which feed chetana (karma-forming – self-motivated volition)) are cognitive linguistic representations (vijnapti-matrata) – appearances only.

“That which appears (yat khtati) is one of the other-dependent (paratantra),
And how it appears (yatha kyati) is of the imaginary (parakalpita),
Because the former originates in dependence on conditions,
And because the later exists as imagination.
The state where the “appearer” (khyati) is devoid of “appearance” (yatha khyanam),
Is to be comprehended as the consummated because of its immutability. (parinispanna)”
Vasubhandu: Trisvabhavanirdesa.

In brief, karma is the action that transforms the lived experience into an ‘imaginal’ – i.e. not really real; but neither wholly false. The process is an ‘Otherisation’: a dualistic discrimination and differentiation between self and other (atma/dharma). All dharmas are ‘consciousness only’ and thus paratantra (other-dependent). Discrimination is a linguistic fictionalisation that creates an imaginal: the ‘Otherisation’ (objectification) of the really real.

The “oriental twin concepts of Karma and reincarnation” presented are samskaras/chetanas: part of the self-structure (atma drsti) that drives the karmic enaction. I’m not trying to psychologise: but I’d like to point out that our mental constructs are not merely ‘imaginary’ – that is quite a crude representation. Our samskara/chetanas are causally efficacious and highly psycho-active …to an almost Freudian unconscious (‘Id’) psychic drive level. Though this can be refined with positive karma – such as a desire for higher being, knowledge, beauty, art etc – we are basically dealing with a (vedanic) ‘pleasure principle’. This is much stronger the ‘intention’; ‘volitional’, and ‘will’ representation of karma that gets disseminated.

OK, I guess you are none the wiser. Karma is subtle and can’t be explained in a comment. So, get a good teacher, one who understands karma. Failing that: read Dan Lusthaus’ ‘Buddhist Phenomenology’ for an authentic East/West comparative study. It might save you a few trips round the Wheel of Becoming: through the Bardo; dodging asura-devas and naked dakinis; in search of a lokha to call home. If you are looking for home: why leave home to transmigrate to find home? It was right here where you left it.

And if we want to understand the creation of “suffering on the scale we see on this planet”: it’s not ‘God’ (supernatural agency – or lack of it) we need to understand – but karma-formation. The parakalpita (dualistic imaginal) is not a personal, but a trans-personal construction (sociolinguistically mediated). Parakalpita is a universalised, pan-historic, pan-geographic shared consciousness construction. We live in it, interact and re-inforce it every day. One that could be perfected as parinispanna: once we understand the psychodynamics of its appearance. All dharmas are vijnapti matra: (linguistically mediated) appearance-only. We live in a pure world only to think and transform it Otherwise. And for lack of understanding: look at the fucking mess we make of it …for appearance-sake-only.



I hope and prey a tipping point has come. People awakening from the spell that has enabled the wicked to inflict so much pain and suffering on to the world. This track came into my head as I was reading the piece above.


I am not really sure what happened there.
This was not the track I had meant to post. There is I think some merit. Though not what I had intended. The track intended was ;puscifer,s Humbling river;. It for me sums up the unity of spirit and heart that helps us all across the river to freedom. I am posting below and hope that this time it works. Apologies if I mess up again.


Religion is a construct using a fear of consequences after death which can be neither proven nor discounted.

Doing good deeds does not actually require religion, it requires either an experience handed down by others, namely decency for the sake of decency, or experiences requiring a choice between an eye for an eye or human forgiveness.

Children are expert at detecting the difference between true decency and posturing. They may not conceptualise this but their behavioural responses always tell the truth….

Each human can decide on what basis they impart decency. It can be fear of some unknown deity or it can simply be an expression of their own humanity.

Jerry Alatalo


“…a fear of consequences after death which can be neither proven nor discounted.”

Personal accounts of people who’ve come back with their amazing descriptions after having near death experiences (NDE) seem very convincing proof. The Near Death Experience Research Foundation’s website (the largest NDE-focused platform on the internet) features 1,000s of awe-inspiring accounts from men, women and children the world over.




Kevin – I applaud the rediscovered sense of spiritualty, it is to do with evolved ‘natural instinct’ and problem solving skills, selected through evolutionary sucess, just like opposable thumbs!
It is what I consider to be the god-shaped hole that every human is born with. There are a multiplicity of beliefs that have filled that hole – a monotheistic God, amongst them.

However, I think you need to consider further on some of the issues you raise, for example:
“The victors and victims on the right side of history during World War Two such as US, Britain, Israel and France, today have become so utterly depraved and corrupt that they resemble the forces of darkness that they were fighting in 1942.”
Just a quick parse:
What was or were the ‘right side’ of who’s ‘history’? Therefore who and what were the wrong side/s? ‘Such as US…’ – what no Russia? They actually were the biggest ‘victors and victims’? in the nazi war. What of China, Africa, India, SE Asia? A bit more relevant than the minority Anglo-Saxon settlers of the planet i suggest. They were already ‘depraved and corrupt’, they ARE the ‘forces of darkness’ and they created the fighting.

Another issue is I think that the concept of science being a failure because it hasn’t postulated, theorised, predicted and experimentally tested to prove or disprove the hypothesis of God – is not valid ot scientific😉

I do applaud your desire to spread the re-found spirituality and hope that the Fukus Empire has hit its high water mark after centuries of dispoilment of this planet and destruction of its living system. Using the mental disconnection from nature, imposed upon its citizens by the imperialist racist despots, who rule them. Using God and Gods human representatives – Autocratic institutional religion – as the means of thought control. The ‘evil’ system of control has a name, it is called a PATHOCRACY it employs psychopaths to serve its few aristocrats.

Seasonal greetings at this solstice to all.


@Dungronin “Pathocracy”. Cometh the moment, cometh a new Greek word. To supplement Democracy, Aristocracy, Plutocracy, Kleptocracy, Oligarchy and Tyranny. Created under pressure of events because the Western regimes confederate in NATZO, which have committed most of the mass atrocities of the past 30 years — against Serbia, against Afghanistan, Iran, Somalia, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen — are a composite political monster that can be described by none of those old Greek words, though sharing the characteristics of all of them; except Aristocracy. The “Aristocrats” (the Best people) have been replaced in modern Western Politics by the “Elite” (the Chosen people).


Vexarb – i did not invent the concept and can’t take credit for it.

Political Ponerology:
A Science on the Nature of Evil Adjusted for Political Purposes
by Andrew M. Lobaczewski
‘The original manuscript of this book went into the furnace minutes before a secret police raid in Communist Poland. The second copy, painfully reassembled by scientists working under impossible conditions of violence and repression, was sent via courier to the Vatican. Its receipt was never acknowledged – the manuscript and all valuable data lost. In 1984, the third and final copy was written from memory by the last survivor of the original researchers: Andrew Lobaczewski. Zbigniew Brzezinski blocked its publication.’

I came across Lobaczweski via http://www.systemsthinker.com/interests/ponerology/

An eye and mind opener.


I agree with DunGroanin, that the US, Britain and France, for reasons specific to these nations, can’t be said to have been on the “right” side of history during WWII. France itself was a willing collaborator with Nazi Germany for part of the war. The British and Americans carried out indiscriminate aerial bombing raids over Germany that targeted civilians as well as military targets – but curiously did not and would not target the concentration camp complex in Auschwitz even when they knew of its existence and location.

Moreover, those nations’ treatment of Germany between World Wars I and II, as set down and allowed by the Treaty of Versalles (which they themselves wrote) and the political, economic and social instability that resulted from that treatment in Germany, laid the foundation for the rise of Nazism. In addition, not all American firms discontinued trading or working with German firms (some of them suppliers for the German government) during the war. The Bush family (who supplied two US Presidents) has become notorious for its link to a bank owned by a firm that supplied steel and munitions to Berlin during the war.

How can those who assisted as midwives to the birth and ascendancy of depraved forces that cannibalised and destroyed hundreds of years of German culture and history for their own ends be considered different from the darkness they created? The so-called “victors” in western Europe have never been less than depraved.


Damascus, SANA – Patriarch of Antioch said that the return of peace and security to Syria thanks to the sacrifices of the Syrian Arab Amy have granted the opportunity for people this year to express happiness and joy on Christmas and the New Year.

The Patriarch’s remarks came while presiding over mass at _St. Georges_ Patriarchal Cathedral, Damascus.

His holiness added that celebrating the Christmas and the New Year come in coincidence with celebrating the 2nd anniversary of liberating Aleppo from terrorism.

He affirmed that the Syrian people who have remained steadfast in the face of terrorist organizations will soon celebrate the return of peace and stability to every inch of the Syrian territories.


[St. George is the patron saint of England; let us pray that England will renounce its connection with terrorist organizations. To the sincere penitent the way to Grace lies always open.]

Paul Carline
Paul Carline

I would not be too confident in claiming that in either of the world wars the Allies were “on the right side of history”. The “sole guilt of Germany” is no longer credible in the light of what we now know about the machinations of especially the British and American leaders and hidden so-called ‘elites’.

But on the question of ‘good and evil’ and the necessary existence of supernatural beings, forces and events in the universe I’m definitely with the writer. If there’s nothing but matter and energy and space there can be no morality and thus no ‘evil’ – no binding obligation to behave in any other way than out of purely selfish interests. Atheists shouldn’t complain. Carnivores don’t have consciences. If we are just highly evolved animals (even majority carnivores) who is to say that we shouldn’t maim and rape and kill?

One of the big problems has been and remains the almost total failure – especially of Christians, and more especially of their ministers and academic teachers (because they really ought to know better), but also of those other followers of ‘the Book’, i.e. observant Jews – to understand the true meaning of the first chapters of Genesis. This was partly due to the mistranslation of key words and concepts when the Old Testament was translated into Greek between 3BC and 1BC, but also to the mistaken subsequent amalgamation of the Old and New Testaments into a single ‘Christian Bible’, resulting in a gross distortion of the ‘positive’ Christian message of love and forgiveness in favour of a crude ‘hellfire and damnation’, Ten Commandment regime of “Thou shalt nots” – or else!

A further error crept into Christian theology when, in one of its councils, the early Church reduced the human being to only body and soul – denying the existence of the eternal human spirit, which logically leads to the truth and necessity of individual reincarnation and karma.

Chesterton had it right when he stated that “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and not tried”. George Bernard Shaw seems to have agreed with him. (We might say the same about democracy!).

The fundamental misunderstanding of the so-called “Fall” (the “sin” of Adam and Eve) and the continued teaching of the error over centuries has meant that even today much of Christianity simply does not understand why we are here and what our task is in relation to the Earth that is our temporary home.

The fruit in the Garden of Eden story that has come down to us as the (in)famous “apple” was not named as such. The whole story has been trivialised and its essential meaning lost. The tree from which Eve is said to have plucked the fruit was not an apple tree (nor was it the “tree of life” as is sometimes wrongly stated), but the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. The “Fall” was the ‘falling into’ self-awareness (“they were naked and ashamed”) – a process which still occurs in every normal human child!

The “original sin” was, if you like, a very necessary ‘crime’. ‘Sin’ means ‘separation’ (clear from its German equivalent “Suende” – cognate with English “sunder” – to break apart). This was the necessary separation from the original state of oneness with the natural world, without which there could have been no development towards independent consciousness – which then necessarily brings with it the (uniquely human) possibility of acting morally – or immorally.

The “Fall” was – and continues to be – necessary for us to become truly human, which also implies coming to an understanding of what our task – our ‘mission’ on earth (the reason why we were sent) is. It would take too long to go further into this aspect. In a nutshell, the task is to transform our planet from a ‘planet of manifest wisdom’ into a ‘planet of incarnated Love’. This task necessitates a radical transformation in our understanding of so-called ‘matter’ – something already revealed by science in the late 1920s and early ’30s, but essentially suppressed, at least in its ramifications for our understanding of the visible world. Philosopher Owen Barfield explored the mystery of our ‘participation’ in the creation of the visible world in his wonderful book: “Saving the Appearances”.

In this modern understanding, the Biblical “Fall” was the necessary separation from “original participation” – leaving open the possibility of a return to full participation. The German poet and dramatist Bernd Heinrich Wilhelm von Kleist (18.10.1877 – 21.11.1811) expressed this mystery in his astonishing 6-page jewel of a parable: “On The Marionette Theatre”, which ends thus:

“Now, my excellent friend”, said my companion, “you are in possession of all you need to follow my argument. We see that in the organic world, as thought grows dimmer and dimmer, grace emerges more brilliantly and decisively. But just as a section drawn through two lines suddenly reappears on the other side after passing through infinity, or as the image in a concave mirror turns up again right in front of us after dwindling into the distance, so grace itself returns when knowledge has, as it were, gone through an infinity.

Grace appears most purely in that human form which either has no consciousness or an infinite consciousness. That is, in the puppet or in the god”.

“Does that mean”, I said in some bewilderment, “that we must eat again of the tree of knowledge in order to return to the state of innocence?”.

“Of course”, he said, “but that’s the final chapter in the history of the world”.

A final word on the question of the possible ‘purpose’ of evil comes from another great German, Wolfgang von Goethe. In the first part of his magnificent “Faust” drama (in the ‘Prologue in Heaven’), he pictures the devil Mephistopheles paying God a visit and complaining about us humans, of whom he says that we would be better off if God had not given us a glimpse of the light of heaven – which, Mephisto says, we call “reason” and which we only use to be more ‘animalistic’ than the animals.

God gives Mephisto free rein to torment us humans, in the knowledge that “humans can all too easily become lazy, because they love undisturbed rest” – which is precisely why He allows the devil to torment us and wake us up.
Mephisto later complains that he is “a part of that force that always seeks evil, but which always creates good”.

Only roughly 4% of animals are carnivores. Probably far fewer than 4% of humans are their equivalent – the ones who appear to be siding with Mephisto and cause most of the pain and destruction. They will not win.


There always seems to be this prejudice that human evil can be referred back to animals. But animals – even carnivores – are not evil. Animals maim and murder to feed or to defend themselves. And as for rape – can it be said to exist in the animal realm? They follow mating patters which are obviously not comparable to human behaviour. Only humans carry out activities that involve murder, maiming etc. in the knowledge that they do so. Why? Either because they have a sadistic delight in the misery caused or because the misery caused is of no concern in the drive towards something else – usually power.


Indeed animals are not evil.
They are, at worst, a reminder of what we can become if we do not use our gifts – especially that of self-consciousness – wisely.
How can a lioness, or a wolf, be expected to act like us, even if it could perceive anything in us which might inspire it to act differently?
A wolf MUST be a wolf, and do wolfish things. It cannot do otherwise. The choices are not there.
A wolf which tries to be kind to its prey is an ineffective wolf. A bad wolf. A sub-wolf, in fact.
Just as a human being who ignores the faculties which raise him above mere animal survival (particularly the faculty of recognizing choice) is an ineffective human. A bad human. Yes, a sub-human.


I think it was the “gift” of self-consciousness that created the potential for evil. This may be the great truth behind the story of the Garden of Eden. Indeed – this story even hints at the theory of evolution. Adam and Eve are naked and unashamed i.e. unaware of themselves. They are like animals. But then comes the Fall and they develope a sense of shame which necessarily comes from self-awareness. Thus human consciousness dawns. And it is to humans that the words good and evil apply.


The more I think about the story of the Garden of Eden, the more curious it seems. It’s fascinating that the dawn of human consciousness is seen as a “Fall” and that it is initiated by the serpent who is indicative of a force or entity that seems to be working against God or, at least, against God’s stated word. Human consciousness thus appears as something highly ambivalent. It’s a blessing and a curse at the same time.

Humberto Mafra
Humberto Mafra

Beautiful comment, I couldn’t agree more. Glad to see it, and others, here on Off-Guardian. This is a very relevant conversation for the left, going through a deep crisis at the moment, need to have, if the job of “mending, healing the world” is to continue to be carried out.


I could not have found the words to say what you have presented so succinctly .
May the forces of light visit upon all of us so we finally become truly human .

Francis Lee
Francis Lee

I don’t want to start a big theological disputation, I did all that when I was at University and never came to any firm conclusions. All those seminars involving the views of Bertrand Russell, David Hume on one side and St.Thomas Aquinas and St.Augustine on the other. Does God exist? Being agnostic I haven’t the remotest idea. When I have managed to learn, however, is that man has the capacity to do good or evil. And good and evil are, and probably always will be, a fact of life. Let’s just give a cheer when evil is occasionally vanquished. Bravo Martin Luther King, Mahama Gandhi, Bravo Julian Assange Bravo Syria.