Chomsky: Israel and US enjoying the spectacle as Syria descends into suicide

Israel/PalestineMiddle EastUS Politics
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Sign showing the distance to Damascus and a cut out of a soldier at Mt. Bental in the occupied Golan Heights, overlooking Syria. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov via Oxfam)

Sign showing the distance to Damascus and a cut out of a soldier at Mt. Bental in the occupied Golan Heights, overlooking Syria. (Photo: AP/Tsafrir Abayov via Oxfam)

Frank Barat conducted the following interview with Professor Noam Chomsky on Friday, September 6th by phone. It was first published by Ceasefire Magazine and you can listen to the audio here

FB: What is the definition of negotiations in Israel-US language and why is the Palestinian Authority playing along?

NC: From the U.S. point of view, negotiations are, in effect, a way for Israel to continue its policies of systematically taking over whatever it wants in the West Bank, maintaining the brutal siege on Gaza, separating Gaza from the West Bank and, of course, occupying the Syrian Golan heights, all with full US support. And the framework of negotiations, as in the past twenty years of the Oslo experience, has simply provided a cover for this.

FB: Why is the PA playing along with this and going to negotiations time after time?

NC: It’s probably partly out of desperation. You can ask whether it’s the right choice or not but they don’t have many alternatives.

FB: So in your opinion it’s pretty much to survive that they indeed accept the framework?

NC: If they were refuse to join the US-run negotiations, their basis for support would collapse. They survive on donations essentially. Israel has made sure that it’s not a productive economy. They’re a kind of what would be called in Yiddish a “Schnorrer Society”: you just borrow and live on what you can get.

Whether they have an alternative to that is not so clear, but if they were to refuse the US demand for negotiations on completely unacceptable terms, their basis for support would erode. And they do have support – external support – enough so that the Palestinian elite can live in a fairly decent – often lavish – lifestyle, while the society around them collapses

FB: So would the crumbling and disappearance of the PA be a bad thing after all?

NC: It depends on what would replace it. If, say, Marwan Barghouti were permitted to join the society the way, say, Nelson Mandela was finally, that could have a revitalising effect in organising a Palestinian society that might press for more substantial demands. But remember: they don’t have a lot of choices.

In fact, go back to the beginning of the Oslo Agreements, now twenty years old. There were negotiations under way, the Madrid negotiations, at which the Palestinian delegation was led by Haider Abdel-Shafi, a highly respected, Left-Nationalist figure in Palestine. He was refusing to agree to the US-Israel terms, which required crucially that settlement expansion was allowed to continue. He refused, and therefore the negotiations stalled and got nowhere.

Meanwhile Arafat and the external Palestinians went on the side-track through Oslo, gained control and Haider Abdel-Shafi was so opposed to this he didn’t even show up to the dramatic and meaningless ceremony where Clinton beamed while Arafat and Rabin shook hands. He didn’t show up because he realised it was a total sell-out. But he was principled and therefore could get nowhere, and we’ll get nowhere unless there’s substantial support from the European Union, the Gulf States and ultimately, from the United States.

FB: In your opinion what is really at stake in what’s unravelling in Syria at the moment, and what does it mean for the broader region?

NC: Well, Syria is descending into suicide. It’s a horror story and getting worse and worse. There’s no bright spot on the horizon. What will probably happen, if this continues, is that Syria will be partitioned into probably three regions; a Kurdish region – which is already forming – that could pull out and join in some fashion the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, maybe with some kind of deal with Turkey.

The rest of the country will be divided between a region dominated by the Assad regime – a brutal horrifying regime – and another section dominated by the various militias, which range from the extremely malicious and violent to the secular and democratic. Meanwhile, Israel is looking by and enjoying the spectacle. If you look at the New York Times this morning there’s a quote by an Israeli official essentially expressing their joy at watching Arabs slaughter each other.

FB: Yes, I read that

NC: For the United States, that’s fine, they don’t want an outcome either. If the US and Israel wanted to assist the rebels – which they do not – they can do it, even without military intervention. For example, if Israel were to mobilise forces on the Golan Heights (of course, it’s the Syrian Golan heights, but by now the world more or less tolerates or accepts Israel’s illegal occupation,) If they would just do that, It would compel Assad to move forces to the South which would relieve pressure against the rebels. But there’s no hint even of that. They’re also not giving humanitarian aid to the huge number of suffering refugees, not doing all kinds of simple things that they could do.

All of which suggests that both Israel and the United States prefer exactly what is happening today, just as reported in that NYT story this morning. Meanwhile, Israel can celebrate, and its status as what they call a “Villa in the Jungle”. There was an interesting article by the editor of Haaretz, Aluf Benn, who wrote about how Israelis are going to the beach and enjoying themselves, and congratulating themselves as being a “Villa in the jungle” while the wild beasts out there tear each other to shreds. And, of course, Israel under this picture is doing nothing except defending itself. They like that picture and the US doesn’t seem too dissatisfied with it either. The rest is shadowboxing.

FB: What about talk of a US strike then, do you think it’s going to happen?

NC: A bombing?

FB: Yes

NC: Well, it’s kind of an interesting debate in the United States. The Ultra-Right, the Right wing extremists who are kind of off the international spectrum, they’re opposing it, though not for reasons I like. They’re opposing it because “Why should we dedicate ourselves to solving other people’s problems and waste our own resources?” They’re literally asking “Who’s going to defend us when we’re attacked, because we’re devoting ourselves to helping people overseas?” That’s the Ultra-Right. If you look at the ‘moderate’ Right, people like, say, David brooks of the New York Times, considered an intellectual commentator on the right. His view is that the US effort to withdraw its forces from the region is not having a “moderating effect”. According to Brooks, when US forces are in the region, that has a moderating effect; it improves the situation, as you can see in Iraq, for example. But if we’re withdrawing our forces then we’re no longer able to moderate the situation and make it better.

That’s the Standard view from the intellectual right over to the mainstream, the liberal democrats and so on. So there’s a lot of talk about “Should we exercise our ‘Responsibility to Protect’?”  Well, just take a look at the US record on ‘Responsibility to Protect’. The fact that these words can even be spoken reveals something quite extraordinary about the US – and, in fact, Western – moral and intellectual culture.

This is quite apart from the fact that it’s a gross violation of international law. Obama’s latest line is that he didn’t establish a “red line” but the world did through its conventions on chemical warfare. Well, actually, the world does have a treaty, which Israel didn’t sign and which the US has totally neglected, for example when it supported Saddam Hussein’s really horrifying use of chemical weapons. Today, this is used to denounce Saddam Hussein, overlooking the fact that it was not only tolerated but basically supported by the Reagan administration. And, of course, the convention has no enforcement mechanisms.

There’s also no such thing as “Responsibility to Protect”, that’s a fraud perpetrated in Western intellectual culture. There is a notion, in fact two notions: there’s one passed by the UN General Assembly, which does talk about “Responsibility to Protect,” but it offers no authorisation for any kind of intervention except under conditions of the United Nations charter. There is another version, which is adopted only by the West, the US and its allies, which is unilateral and says R2P permits “military intervention by regional organisations in the region of their authority without Security Council authorisation”.

Well, translating that into English, this means that it provides authorisation for the US and NATO to use violence wherever they choose without Security Council authorisation. That’s what’s called “Responsibility to Protect” in Western discourse. If it weren’t so tragic it would be farcical.

FB: Thank you Professor Chomsky. Great talking to you.

 

About Frank Barat

Frank Barat is a Human Rights activist based in London. He is one of the coordinators of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, a popular tribunal created in 2009 to expose and examine Israel's impunity in regards to its treatment of the Palestinian People. He has edited two books; 'Gaza in Crisis' with Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappe, and 'Corporate Complicity in Israel's Occupation' with Asa Winstanley. He has also participated in the book 'Is there a court for Gaza?' with Daniel Machover.

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  1. hophmi
    September 9, 2013, 10:20 am

    So the US and Israel are supposedly “enjoying the spectacle,” but Noam Chomsky doesn’t really care to do anything about it except drone on about the US and Israel.

    Yawn.

  2. Obsidian
    September 9, 2013, 10:26 am

    “They’re also not giving humanitarian aid to the huge number of suffering refugees..”

    Not quite Noam.

    link to jpost.com

    And I would add that Israeli hospitals are treating war wounded Syrians.

    • seafoid
      September 9, 2013, 5:41 pm

      Obsidian

      How come Israel has so few Gaza war wounded in its hospitals ?
      Anything to do with PR?

  3. Dan Crowther
    September 9, 2013, 10:50 am

    When he describes Syria’s government as the “brutal, horrifying assad regime” I get a little pissed off at my man Noam – the war in Iraq sent over a million people into Syria and the border regions, and it’s part of the reason for the civil war there, in other words, this was started by “us” and therefore, to call the guy a brutal, horrifying dictator is a bit extreme, they’re literally fighting for the country’s survival as a somewhat normal secular society. And for this to come from a guy who still calls himself a cultural zionist even after all the hell and murder all forms of zionism have wrought, my message to Noam is this: Piss Off.

    • Citizen
      September 9, 2013, 12:16 pm

      @ Dan Crowther
      Point taken. Noam is pretty cavalier about it all. Perhaps he’s just depressed. Me too.

    • Kathleen
      September 9, 2013, 1:43 pm

      “the war in Iraq sent over a million people into Syria” And the MSNBC talking heads like Melissa Harris Perry,Rachel Maddow etc will spend lots of time covering Syrian refugees but have never heard any of these folks(even when Melissa was a guest on shows) talking about the people of Iraq being internally displaced or desperate enough to have to leave and become refugees. No our MSM spending hours pointing at Assad and the civil war…but no time taking that outstretched finger and turning it back on our nation. Hey Assad look at all of the killing of innocent people but don’t look at the hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqi people that are a direct consequence of our invasion. So f—king absurd. The height of hypocrisy.

      Tonight on Charlie Rose his interview with Assad.

    • W.Jones
      September 9, 2013, 2:18 pm

      Dan, i have to admit that Chomsky’s nonstate Zionism (past or continuing?), along with his rejection of the idea that the Israeli State plays a leading role in Near East policy has disillusioned me somewhat when he talks about MidEast issues. I admit he is a kind man, and compassionate, that he is intelligent and articulate, as well as insightful, and that I agree or sympathize with his general left wing philosophy.

      The thing is, helping fundamentalist “rebels” makes more sense when you take a look at the Clean Break document from 1996 and what it had in store for Iraq (2003) and Syria. You are forced to come to the realization that Mideast policy regarding Syria is not about fighting terrorism, (since it is helping the latter), nor is it about getting oil (since Syria’s role with it is minimal), nor is it about WMDs or humanitarianism (just as neither was the case in Iraq), nor is it about using the territory for U.S. economic or military bases (since it is too volatile).

      Chomsky doesn’t get into it, but why is it such an interest of the US to chop up a secular, non-extremist Syria, as opposed to, say, Nepal, Swaziland, or the Mauritanes, when the most common opinion of Americans is against US intervention. Terrorism? Oil? WMDs? “Right to Protect?”

    • Walid
      September 9, 2013, 4:32 pm

      Dan, there’s no doubt about the fundamentalists/terrorists running all over the place executing people and eating their livers and all that. But don’t be too hasty in starting the process of beatification of the regime. When the dust settles, you’re going to be surprised at all those things in the closet.

      • Dan Crowther
        September 9, 2013, 6:23 pm

        Walid – hey I’m no Assad supporter, believe me. I’m simply objecting to Chomsky’s characterization – I’ve read him and heard him speak enough to pick up on these subtleties; when he talks about western governments’ crimes and aggressions he often says they “act” like savages, or brutes or what have you. Middle Eastern, South American and Asian dictators “are” just brutal and so on. There’s a difference.

        • Keith
          September 9, 2013, 10:41 pm

          DAN CROWTHER- When I first read the interview over at Znet (Michael Albert has fashioned his whole career riding Chomsky’s coattails, but that is another story), I didn’t think much of it. Surely not Chomsky at his best, but an interview so what the hell. I was rather surprised to see it featured on Mondoweiss as it adds little to the discussion and Phil has previously argued against Chomsky’s “materialist” analysis, imperial strategy versus the Lobby, etc. I can only wonder how this came about. I have a theory, however, it would be imprudent of me to share.

        • W.Jones
          September 9, 2013, 10:45 pm

          Good point. It’s much easier to use the harshest terms and depictions when talking about foreigners.

        • Donald
          September 9, 2013, 10:47 pm

          “when he talks about western governments’ crimes and aggressions he often says they “act” like savages, or brutes or what have you. ”

          I’m not sure the distinction you make is real–Chomsky got his start as a political writer talking about how the US needed something like the Nuremberg trials for the Americans responsible for the Vietnam War. He sometimes cites the historian of colonial America Francis Jennings in saying that (I paraphrase since I can’t remember the exact quote) that “civilized” people rise above the gore and atrocities conducted by their “savage” underlings–the point being that the “civilized” people are not only just as guilty, but hypocrites as well.

          And anyway, the Syrian regime was torturing people before this uprising took place. The fact that some of their rebel opponents would be worse if they took power doesn’t mean the Assad regime isn’t every bit as bad as Chomsky says.

        • Rusty Pipes
          September 10, 2013, 3:40 pm

          Where is Jeffrey Blankfort when you need him?

    • Hostage
      September 9, 2013, 6:52 pm

      When he describes Syria’s government as the “brutal, horrifying assad regime” I get a little pissed off at my man Noam – the war in Iraq sent over a million people into Syria and the border regions, and it’s part of the reason for the civil war there, in other words, this was started by “us”

      Chomsky hasn’t been silent about the subject of responsibility for refugees. For example:

      Noam Chomsky Voices Support for the Responsibility to Iraqi Refugees Act of 2007: House Resolution 2265 would allow more Iraqis into the United States, including religious minorities suffering from persecution. . . . “I would like to express my strong support for H.R. 2265, the very least we can do for the people of Iraq who are suffering so bitterly from the consequences of the US-UK invasion and earlier actions, including their strong support for Saddam Hussein through his worst atrocities and well beyond, ” said Professor Chomsky.

      link to prweb.com

      I don’t think he misses the mark in describing the regime or the origins of the conflict:

      What happened in Syria is not outside our understanding: it began as a popular and democratic protest movement demanding democratic reforms, but instead of responding to it in a constructive, positive manner, Assad reacted with violent repression. The usual outcome of such a course of action is either a successful crushing of the protests or otherwise, to see them evolve and militarize, and this is what took place in Syria.

      – See more at: link to warincontext.org

      • Dan Crowther
        September 10, 2013, 10:53 am

        “I don’t think he misses the mark in describing the regime or the origins of the conflict”

        I do. It wasn’t a “popular and democratic” protest movement – that’s simply absurd, and everyone knows it. Also, almost from the beginning, Assad was offering reforms, the Arab League and the UN reports from early on both say so, it was the “protesters” that didn’t want to negotiate. This was an outside intervention from jump. Chomsky is wrong, and so are you Hostage. For every Syrian citizen out in the street in the early days wanting reform, there were ten foreigners and their syrian collaborationists that wanted a full fledged coup. It was as plain as day, and again, everybody knows it.

        I’m not bashing Noam, most of the time I agree with – except when he condescendingly mocks athletics and sport in general, a weird thing coming from a so called champion of the working masses, who fucking love sport- but there are times when his western bias shows through and this is an example.

        • Hostage
          September 10, 2013, 11:08 am

          It wasn’t a “popular and democratic” protest movement – that’s simply absurd, and everyone knows it.

          “Everyone knows it” is a poor argument. What we do know perfectly well is that President Assad spoke to the Syrian Parliament in 2011 and publicly admitted the need for political reforms. link to c-spanvideo.org

          He had been criticized for years over the imprisonment, torture, and assassination of political adversaries and for oppressing the country’s ethnic majority. His father’s regime killed 20,000 people in Hama back in 1982 in the course of just a few weeks, while crushing a popular rebellion there which began much like the current one did.

        • Tuyzentfloot
          September 10, 2013, 11:11 am

          and everyone knows it

          I don’t know it. Which confirms that I’m not everyone. I’m sure the Saudis and Qatar were ready to pounce though, and that the regime anticipated that and reacted violently because of the external interference that they thought was already there or would be there soon enough.
          But I don’t like to dismiss the sincerity of people inside Syria wanting serious reform. I remember this video at JSF a year and a half ago and thought Simon Assaf was pretty sharp link to jewssansfrontieres.blogspot.be

        • Hostage
          September 10, 2013, 11:27 am

          I don’t know it. Which confirms that I’m not everyone. I’m sure the Saudis and Qatar were ready to pounce though, and that the regime anticipated that and reacted violently because of the external interference that they thought was already there or would be there soon enough.

          That would only parallel the foreign assistance from Iran that the Assad regime encourages and relies upon to keep its domestic opposition in check. The fact that the partisans had age-old or modern-day alliances with people living elsewhere in the region doesn’t mean that the conflict had foreign origins.

        • James Canning
          September 10, 2013, 7:01 pm

          I am not so sure Bashar al-Assad foresaw the amount of effort the Saudis and Qataris would put into seeking his overthrow. Billions of dollars spent on the programme, apparently.

        • Antidote
          September 11, 2013, 3:18 pm

          other perspectives re origin of the conflict:

          link to washingtonpost.com

          too ‘materialist’?

  4. OlegR
    September 9, 2013, 11:45 am

    100000 dead in about 2 years
    is apparently a sign of ” as a somewhat normal secular society”

    less then 50000 over more then a 100 years is “hell and murder all forms of zionism have wrought”.

    Oh well…

    • W.Jones
      September 9, 2013, 1:49 pm

      What if it is actually responsible for backing the 100000 deaths? Is it curious that much of the foreign “rebel” held areas are along the Israeli border?

      • Obsidian
        September 10, 2013, 12:13 am

        Your claim is BS. Syria shortest border is alongside Israel. Syria’s longest border is with Turkey. The only ‘rebels’ that Israel assists are Druze and Kurds, neither group being heavily involved in the fighting.

        Look at a map.

        • W.Jones
          September 10, 2013, 2:45 pm

          Yes, on the map the foreign “rebel” land runs along the Israeli border, although along the Turkish one as well. The Israelis and Turks are both helping the foreign “rebel” extremists.

          A picture of the Israeli vehicle that was seized in the City of Al-Qaseir by the Syrian Arab Army, bearing Israeli markings and writing in Hebrew.
          link to friendsofsyria.co

          There are few Kurds on Israeli territory, so it is hard for the Isr. State to help them without going across Syria. Meanwhile, as I reported, al-qaeda is along the Israeli border, and you have to ask why:

          IDF faces oncoming Al Qaeda tide on three Israeli borders – DEBKAfile
          link to debka.com

        • Obsidian
          September 12, 2013, 12:02 am

          Israel aids the Kurds in Iraq, etc., which is even further away from Israel than Syria.

          The IDF jeep was from a Hezbollah war museum.

          You don’t have to ask why, because it’s not true.

    • Dan Crowther
      September 9, 2013, 2:02 pm

      Oleg the friendly neighborhood fascist,

      That’s actually pretty light as far as Civil Wars go – the American Civil War was over 500k, it took longer than two years, but that’s when you literally stopped fighting all together for months a year. With modern weapons, the American Civil War would have killed millions and millions. Does that disqualify the US from the “somewhat normal secular society” club? I think not.

      If Christian Dominionist Fascists ever tried to overthrow the US government and install a RJ Rushdooney-esque theocracy, you can bet your bottom dollar a whole lot more than a 100k would be killed.

      As for “hell and murder” – add the millions of refugees Israel has created, all the disappearings and all the peoples of the region that have had to live under autocrats because the US and Israel find the autocrats “useful.” I can certainly continue – you’ve read the “Transfer Agreement” right Oleg? Clown.

    • Taxi
      September 9, 2013, 2:36 pm

      Oleg,

      You were still living in Russia as a Russian citizen, and not as a fake middle easterner living in occupied Palestine, when the bastard (literally) israel massacred 23 thousand Lebanese in under two months in the 1982 occupation. So let’s not get into how many people israel has killed, maimed, dispalced, etc – you’ll lose out on this one. And isn’t it odd how israel ‘s behavior is consistently sooooo, erm, what’s the word I’m looking for here… erm…. aaah yeah: DICTATORIAL!

      Remember: while you’re smirking and watching Syria, someone too is watching you. How’d you and your thug idf unit like hizbollah’s coiled silence?

    • Cliff
      September 9, 2013, 2:56 pm

      Yes, OlegR – Jewish colonists like you (well not you personally since you’re just a Russian fake) have butchered thousands and thousands of Palestinian civilians.

      And meanwhile the Palestinian resistance as well as terrorists have killed a fraction of Jewish civilians in this conflict.

      So stop complaining about worthless rockets in S’Derot whilst 100,000 have died in 2 years over in Syria.

      So stop complaining about the phantom Iranian nuclear threat whilst Israel has plenty of nukes and isn’t a signer of the NPT.

      So stop complaining about BDS while Israel holds the PA hostage and blockades Gaza and de-develops the Gazan economy (Sara Roy).

      Etc. etc.

      So yes, the Israel/Palestine conflict has less bloodshed than a lot of conflicts but the amount of bloodshed is not the measure.

      The measure is the ethnic cleansing and destruction of Palestinian society. This has been done for decades and is done slowly over that time.

      If Israel needed to kill large-scale to achieve the aims of Jewish colonialism, it would do so.

      It just so happens that the facts on the ground go unnoticed and do not require massive slaughter on a Syrian scale because the Palestinian people are very peaceful and passive.

      You should thank your fake Russian stars that you aren’t neighbors with the Irish.

      Pick on someone your own size instead of kids with rocks.

    • eljay
      September 9, 2013, 2:56 pm

      >> 100000 dead in about 2 years
      >> is apparently a sign of ” as a somewhat normal secular society”

      It’s more like a sign of Western-backed insurgency, which is responsible for as much as half of the deaths.

      What were the # of deaths in the 2 years preceding the “civil war”? I suspect the # is considerably less.

      Does that absolve Assad of responsibility for any of his regime’s crimes? No, it doesn’t.

      Do the events in Syria in any way absolve the supremacist “Jewish State” of Israel of any of its past and ON-GOING (war) crimes? No, they don’t.

    • ddi
      September 9, 2013, 3:10 pm

      “100000 dead in about 2 years
      is apparently a sign of ” as a somewhat normal secular society”

      less then 50000 over more then a 100 years is “hell and murder all forms of zionism have wrought”.

      Oh well…

      That number includes government forces which make up almost half the number of deaths if we are to believe Wikipedia, that’s more soldiers than Israel lost in all its wars combined.

      link to en.wikipedia.org

    • marc b.
      September 9, 2013, 3:46 pm

      olerg, try reading the US Dept. of State and others’ country reports on Syria before the ‘revolution’ and funding of death squads in that country by SA/Turkey/US. periodic death and injuries to dissidents while in the custody of police/military intelligence; military/police suppression of opponents to regime; imprisonment of dissidents/opponents of regime without due process; centralization of political and economic power in hands of favored religious/ethnic group. what other state in the Levant does that sound like? do you need a hint?

      • Obsidian
        September 10, 2013, 12:20 am

        Egypt? Lebanon? Turkey? Jordan?

        • Taxi
          September 10, 2013, 3:02 am

          But isreal takes the biscuit, obsidian. No other country in the Levant, or the world, has special prisons built for underage minors; bursting with underage Palestinian minors. No other national army raids the homes of ten year old boys at 2a.m., dragging children out of their beds at gunpoint.

        • marc b.
          September 10, 2013, 8:29 am

          Egypt? Lebanon? Turkey? Jordan?

          interesting list. which category of conduct, exactly, doesn’t apply to Israel? (keep wearing your ignorance on your sleeve, obsidoleg. it suits you perfectly.)

  5. Egbert
    September 9, 2013, 12:09 pm

    Assad is the leader of a ‘brutal horrifying regime’? What does that make the US, where Albright said the deaths of 500,000 Iraqis was a price worth paying? Where does that fit on the scale of brutality and horror?

    • Taxi
      September 9, 2013, 2:16 pm

      It was actually 500,000 Iraqi children, Egbert. So unbearably sad.

      From the horse’s mouth:

    • yrn
      September 9, 2013, 3:26 pm

      Assad is the leader of a ‘brutal horrifying regime’?
      That Butchered thousands of his OWN NATION.
      The Arab Muslims (Asad + the rebels) are responsible for butchering 100,000 Syrians and causing millions of Refugees.
      Get it into your heads.
      The Arab Muslims Butchered those thousands of people, no one else.
      You can all try and blame anyone you want, but this is the truth and you can’t hide it.

      • Donald
        September 9, 2013, 4:22 pm

        “The Arab Muslims (Asad + the rebels) are responsible for butchering 100,000 Syrians and causing millions of Refugees”

        True. I don’t have any problem absorbing this. Civil wars often bring out the absolute worst in people.

        By the way, I can’t prove this, but if the Palestinians ever actually posed a real threat to the existence of the Israeli state (not the people, but the state), I suspect Israel would react in a way that would teach Assad a thing or two about brutality. The fact is that Assad is fighting his war the way Israel fought in Lebanon in the summer of 1982–the difference is that since it is a civil war and Assad has to fight or die and neither side seems able to win, the fighting just goes on and on and the bodycount rises. Israel killed tens of thousands in the space of a summer and not for any survival reason. Imagine what Israel would do if Israeli Palestinians and West Bank Palestinians and Gaza Palestinians all revolted and had the firepower to inflict massive casualties on the IDF. It can’t happen, but if it could then Syria would look like a picnic compared to what Israel would do.

        • yrn
          September 9, 2013, 4:47 pm

          Donald
          As Usual your empty speculation.
          But on the other hand.
          Just Imagine.
          If Asad butchered his own Nation.
          What would he do if he won the war against Israel.
          Can you Imagine, if he butchers his people the Syrians, what would he do to his Enemy’s Israel.

          Never came into your mind did it.
          Of course not, Only Israel is on your bloody mind.

        • W.Jones
          September 9, 2013, 10:48 pm

          Good point, Donald. Sadly true.

        • Donald
          September 10, 2013, 4:11 pm

          Why would it enter my mind, yrn? Is there any chance Syria is going to conquer Israel? No. If there were I’d worry about what would happen.

        • Donald
          September 10, 2013, 4:49 pm

          Yrn, I decided to give a more serious response, not because you deserve it, but just to clarify.

          If Syria conquered Israel, I would expect massive atrocities, because that’s the record of the Syrian military. Similarly, if Israel faced a Palestinian uprising that genuinely threatened their state, I would expect massive atrocities, because Israel killed tens of thousands of people, the majority civilian, in a three month span in Lebanon in 1982 when there really wasn’t any good reason for it.

      • Cliff
        September 9, 2013, 4:39 pm

        yrn

        Israel butchered 30,000 Lebanese and Palestinian civilians during the first Lebanon War

        if push comes to shove and Israel has to do the butchering, people like you will gladly do it

        but since the Palestinians are by and large a peaceful/passive people (to their detriment), you have been able to abuse them endlessly without getting your dues

      • seafoid
        September 9, 2013, 5:40 pm

        YRN

        You forgot to mention that the so called Palestinians all came from Syria in 1882 after that factory opened in Bat Yam.

        BTW Assad and the Alawis are not “Arab Muslims”. They are Shia infidels. Ask your local Sunni dealer.

        • W.Jones
          September 9, 2013, 10:49 pm

          Your local Sunni dealer? Ah Seafoid, you always manage to point a smile on my face or a thoughtful pause.

  6. W.Jones
    September 9, 2013, 1:46 pm

    Chomsky severely mischaracterizes the Right Wing criticism of intervening in Syria. I understand the tendency to think in easy terms: left- good and peacenik, right -bad and warlike, but it’s counterproductive in building a broad antiwar movement. It’s especially important when “peaceniks” like Obama and Kerry are driving the war effort.

    Chomsky writes:

    The Ultra-Right, the Right wing extremists who are kind of off the international spectrum, they’re opposing it, though not for reasons I like. They’re opposing it because “Why should we dedicate ourselves to solving other people’s problems and waste our own resources?” They’re literally asking “Who’s going to defend us when we’re attacked, because we’re devoting ourselves to helping people overseas?” That’s the Ultra-Right.

    As I understand it, libertarians do take a non-interventionist stance worldwide, thinking that we have enough problems of our own, we should be defending America, not getting involved in other countries, period. Chomsky miscasts this first as an avoidance of wanting to help others, and second as an essentially pragmatic militaristic view of the best defense. A good example of people with the view Chomsky describes is the soldiers saying we don’t want to help Al Qaeda in a Syrian civil war.

    While I may philosophically differ on whether a country could use force to help others in some situations, aren’t those ultra-right reasons perfectly good ones? Isn’t part of the theory of Just War a belief that would should be for Defense, and it’s bad morally and practically to attack others? And isn’t it also true that pointless and detrimental foreign invasions like Iraq are hurtful to a country too, in a practical way?

    If you want to build a coalition around an issue and advocate for it, it does not mean you have to have the same philosophical construct to address issues. Some people argue we should not have the death penalty because it is actually a more costly use of government resources. That’s a personally good reason, and no strong anti-death penalty activist should come in and say Libertarians oppose the death penalty for reasons I don’t like -they oppose costly government spending.

    In fact, Chomsky, an avowed anarchist, has something in common with the ultra right that intersects with them philosophically here- anarchists and libertarians both demand minimal government. I would expect that one could say that the “ultra right” have a good reason acceptable to anarchists- that foreign interventions are a use of “big government” that wastes resources.

    I would say that “Humanitarian wars” are oxymorons, and so at best they would be an exception to the general rule that “War is Hell”. And while the ultra-right has isolationist reasons to oppose the war that I might not always agree with in every situation imaginable due to those exceptions, isolationist aversion to war is a perfectly good reason reason to oppose it in this case, where there is neither national interest nor a proven humanitarian basis.

    But what does anyone care? I’m not a famous anarchist antiwar MIT professor.

    • W.Jones
      September 9, 2013, 2:05 pm

      BTW, I am confused what he means when he says the ultra-right are off the international spectrum. I assure you there are huge portions of the world’s population that really want the US to highly favor isolationism and do not want the US to be the world’s policeman. They highly sympathize with the idea that the US should not “solve other people’s problems”. I am not saying everyone feels that way. But take Ossetia. The Ossetians and Russians would not want the US to intervene, while Georgia would. Same thing with Russia and Serbia regarding Kosovo, which would be trumped up as a prime example of a “humanitarian war”.

      My guess is that Chomsky sees NATO’s bombing of Serbia as being part of the “international spectrum”, and that ring wing isolationists are off the spectrum. In fact, anarchists, Russians, and Chinese would not typically want NATo to have performed “humanitarian war” there either, despite whatever “humanitarian” justifications were made. The truth is that pacifism, strong aversion to “humanitarian war”, and isolationism might not be the primary norm, but they are not off the “international spectrum” either, especially if you are talking about the “International Workers of the World”, if you know what I mean.

    • Donald
      September 9, 2013, 4:10 pm

      “Chomsky severely mischaracterizes the Right Wing criticism of intervening in Syria. I understand the tendency to think in easy terms: left- good and peacenik, right -bad and warlike, but it’s counterproductive in building a broad antiwar movement”

      I agree with this. It’s a blindspot with Noam and if antiwar views are going to have any traction in the US then the far left has to build coalitions with the right and the libertarians on some issues. We don’t have to agree on everything.

      I disagree with some of the other criticisms of Noam–for instance, people complain that he called the Assad regime “horrifying”. But they are. Some point to the number of people the US has killed. Well, we’re pretty horrifying too.

    • American
      September 9, 2013, 8:44 pm

      Chomsky has one song….’I am so moral, watch me condemn the evildoers.”
      Made a nice career out of playing the same record over and over and over.
      No one needs Norm to tell them about all the bad guys.
      Boring.

    • kalithea
      September 10, 2013, 4:11 pm

      I don’t trust any Zionist and especially one who naively pretends to believe in a more redeeming sort of Zionism that never existed and never will exist, a Zionism that one could define as anti-Zionist. There is no such Zionism. In fact, the only Zionism that ever existed in REALITY is the one that robbed Palestinians of their land, and everyone who believed in some utopic Zionism, allowed this crime to happen while they afforded themselves the luxury of chasing non-existant windmills.

      In a REALITY-based society you set aside philosophical and ideological differences for a common good and to defeat evil, like WAR. War is evil and BARBARIC on every level and it must be avoided at all cost, like the plague must be avoided with good hygiene, clean water, etc… It doesn’t matter what reasons you have for opposing war, what matters is that you oppose it with UNWAVERING CONVICTION.

  7. James Canning
    September 9, 2013, 2:25 pm

    The “US” surely is not enjoying the spectacle. Some neocon (and “liberal interventionist”) warmongers are enjoying it. Sadly.

  8. James Canning
    September 9, 2013, 2:27 pm

    NATO is staying out of the civil war in Syria. Thank goodness. Afghanistan fiasco was bad enough for the alliance.

  9. gingershot
    September 9, 2013, 2:41 pm

    Lot’s of momentum in the press right now for a Kerry/Russian negotiated deal to transfer Syrian chemical weapons to international control and eventually be destroyed. Good.

    Predictions:

    Israel and all her Neocons/Israeli Lobby will be fuming over a brokered deal for international control/eventual destruction of Syrian CW – this doesn’t give them what they need, which is a war in Syria in order to eventually get a war with Iran.

    This is a catastrophe for decades of Israeli planning and grand strategy for war with Iran and a torn apart Syria in order to give a few more years of breathing space for Apartheid

    Israeli sources notes such a solution would be in everyone’s best interest – including Israel’s
    link to ynetnews.com

    • Citizen
      September 9, 2013, 3:45 pm

      Congress is reading The Hill now, re Syrian offer to give up its chemical weapons:
      link to thehill.com

      Kerry, frustrated, is saying we can’t trust Assad to do so.
      He says Assad is all rhetoric.

      How about Kerry’s all rhetoric when it comes to him justifying a strike for his boss, Obama?

      • Tuyzentfloot
        September 9, 2013, 5:04 pm

        Congress is reading The Hill now, re Syrian offer to give up its chemical weapons: link to thehill.com

        The Russians proposed it, and it might actually be a russian idea.

        The attractive thing about that offer is, the US needs a way out, and this offer would give them that. The alternative way out would be a very brief attack.

    • kalithea
      September 9, 2013, 7:39 pm

      Kerry didn’t come up with the idea. It was an unintended blunder which the Russians picked up on and used to their advantage.

      • aiman
        September 10, 2013, 8:05 am

        So good it’s almost surreal. Hand it to Russia for preventing a catastrophe.

    • kalithea
      September 10, 2013, 2:27 am

      “a Kerry/Russian negotiated deal to transfer Syrian chemical weapons to international control and eventually be destroyed.”

      Kerry never planned to negotiate anything. John King on CNN stated categorically that Kerry’s own staff called the comment that the Russians picked up on “A GAFFE”, a mistake, purely rhetorical. Kerry no doubt never imagined that the Russians would run with it like they did, and neither did Obama or his Administration. This has dumbfounded Obama and he no longer knows if he’s coming or going. This is hillarious! Priceless! Obama deserves every bit of flack coming his way at the hands of Republicans. To think he was on the brink of triggering war – the man is clueless.

  10. ivri
    September 9, 2013, 4:48 pm

    I think most people overlook an interesting development here – the beginning of cooperation between the US and Russia. They are now, with the recent idea from Russia to put chemicals under intl. control, in a classical “good cop bad cop” arrangement. If Assad gives up the chemicals the US will have a good excuse not to bomb and since a big potential threat have been averted the US will be seen vindicated in its tough stance gambit.

    • marc b.
      September 9, 2013, 6:05 pm

      don’t get too optimistic. it also wouldn’t be the first time that the US had ignored or undermined diplomatic initiatives in favor of the use of military force in the ME. if there is any cooperation I would assume that it’s because of the overwhelming unpopularity of ‘the strike’ in the US rather than any conscious prior interest in disarming Assad through diplomacy. so, in other words, Kerry will be looking for an excuse not to negotiate in good faith. and I can’t imagine that the arms and logistical support for the rebels will be interrupted even if assad agrees to turn over his chemical weapons. this is still about iran. (can you imagine if the shoe was on the other foot? the Russian duma debating bombing Israel to send a message to the US about its meddling in Syria? that has to be one of the more insane, bloodthirsty arguments I’ve heard in years. US forces killing Syrians to send a message to Iran not to bomb Israel. bucking frilliant.)

    • RoHa
      September 9, 2013, 9:16 pm

      And Assad seems willing to go along with that idea.

      The US should quietly urge the Russians to push that along.

      Unless the US Govt. is even more stupid than most of us think (a possibility not to be discounted) the top brass must be feeling a bit nervous about actually taking any military action. Right now there is hardly any room for water in the Eastern Med. The US Navy, the Russian Navy, the Chinese Navy, the Royal Navy, the French Navy, and the Italian Navy have all got ships there. The regional navies (Greece, Turkey, Israel, Egypt, Syria, Bulgaria, etc.) are probably also active.

      It the US attacks, and if Syria responds* with (e.g.) anti-ship missiles, things could get very sticky very quickly.

      (*I know it isn’t fair for people to shoot back at Americans, but sometimes they do.)

      • eljay
        September 10, 2013, 7:56 am

        >> (*I know it isn’t fair for people to shoot back at Americans, but sometimes they do.)

        When they do do it, it’s because “They Hate America’s Freedoms”™. It never has anything to do with the fact that America is assaulting their countries, their cities, their homes and lands, and/or their persons.

      • Hostage
        September 10, 2013, 8:20 am

        Unless the US Govt. is even more stupid than most of us think (a possibility not to be discounted)

        Yes, there are vast reserves of untapped stupidity on hand here in the US. Worse still, when we finally run low enough for a glimmer of intelligence to breakthrough the fog, it only encourages our friends down under, like Martin Indyk, to come to our rescue and step in to fill-up the breach.

        • RoHa
          September 10, 2013, 7:26 pm

          There is a steady stream of migrants from New Zealand to Australia. New Zealanders say this raises the average IQ of both countries. Can I say the same about Martin Indyk?

  11. gamal
    September 9, 2013, 6:42 pm

    Syrian chemical weapons are a threat to whom? The USA? The world as a whole?

  12. kalithea
    September 9, 2013, 7:46 pm

    A monumental shift is happening at this moment on the issue of Syria: Russia has come up with a brilliant move on the CWs debacle based on a Kerry blunder. Seems like the Russians are the only party on the ball in the midst of total insanity!
    Syria is welcoming a proposal launched by the Russians to have their CWs put under UN “quarantine” and eventually disposed of. But the best part of this is that this move can become a pivotal moment for ridding the world of the threat of CWs IF this opportunity is seized and shaped correctly by the Russians and IF Israel doesn’t become the lawless bummer and hypocrite it is placing itself above the rest of the world. All parties not signatories to the CWC i.e. Angola, Egypt, Israel, Myanmar, North Korea and South Sudan should be made part of the deal and forced to sign the Convention once and for all, or become sanctioned pariahs. Equal justice should be enforced, already!

    All I can say is: there’s nothing sweeter than Russia sabotaging Israel’s plan for war. I’m sure there’s blubbering going on all over the Knesset floor. Someone needs to mop up the mess!

    Anyway you look at it, this checkmate by Russia is PRICELESS. Now let’s see how the war-mongering Obama and his AIPAC friends try justifying war with this deal about to be brought to the table…lov-ing-it!

  13. dbroncos
    September 9, 2013, 8:48 pm

    So many eerie parrallels to run up to Iraq war starting with the lack of proof that Assad ws behind the chemical attacks. Echoes of W throughout the rationale for bombing Syria.

  14. kalithea
    September 10, 2013, 3:35 am

    “The intercepted communications suggested Assad, who is accused of war crimes by the west, including foreign secretary William Hague, was not himself involved in last month’s attack or in other instances when government forces have allegedly used chemical weapons.”

    link to theguardian.com

    Belgian teacher and journalist kidnapped in Syria stated upon his release: “This is not Assad’s government who used sarin gas or any other combat gas in the Damascus area. We are sure about this after we accidently heard a conversation between rebels”.

    Read more at link to liveleak.com

    • Tuyzentfloot
      September 10, 2013, 3:58 am

      @Kalithea : the picture is actually already much clearer than that. The intel people are leaking information through different channels. The CIA is fairly certain Assad did nothing because they monitor the CW and nothing had been moved to their knowledge. It’s always possible, but there is lack of motive and there are no indications. Therefore there’s no real reason for suspicion.
      The thing that is very doubtful however is whether sarin was used. If it was used, it was only a small part of the gas attack. 10% of the people with symptoms died. With sarin either you don’t have symptoms or you’re dead.
      Gareth Porter has a good report at antiwar. link to scotthorton.org and link to original.antiwar.com

      • kalithea
        September 10, 2013, 4:38 am

        Yes, I especially like this part:

        “In essence, the White House selected those elements of the intelligence community assessments that supported the administration’s policy of planning a strike against the Syrian government force and omitted those that didn’t.

        The document further indicates that the administration “decided on a position and cherry-picked the intelligence to fit it,” he said. “The result is not a balanced assessment of the intelligence.””

        I like it because it reminds me of how the Bush Administration operated when they fabricated intelligence for bombing Iraq. Bush refused to take no credible intelligence for an answer and insisted his people come up with something, anything to give him his war.

  15. kalithea
    September 10, 2013, 4:18 am

    Evidence mounting that Assad did not order the chemical weapons attack, which begs the question: Was he set up? And if he in fact tried to discourage his military from using CWs as German intelligence revealed, doesn’t that completely invalidate the use of force to punish him?

    link to news.firedoglake.com

    So now I’m thinking. Now that the Administration’s “intelligence” is looking less credible, maybe Kerry dropped that statement deliberately to give the Administration a way out of the mess they created with this ill-thought rush to bomb Syria while at the same time providing Israelis with the reassurance that Syria’s CWs will be locked away and subsequently disposed of? (Even tho’ what Israelis really wanted was WAR.)

    I know-I know. This is way too ingenuous an escape for Obama and this Administration to devise. But maybe Putin looked into Obama’s eyes, saw the desperation therein and dropped him a life saver…uh, I mean a hint.