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The false analogy of Syria and Palestine

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As with many of those who express a view in the continuing debate about the wisdom of launching yet another “humanitarian intervention” in Syria, I have found myself under attack from those calling for more war. The charge against me and many like me is one of hypocrisy.

So where are my double standards? I have consistently objected to all western efforts to interfere militarily in the Middle East over the past decade. I have argued that all states in the Middle East, including Syria, are seen by western governments simply as chess pieces in a great game called the Battle for Oil.

But critics want to use a different stick to beat me and others who resist their on fervour for intervention. Here is how Louis Proyect, a diehard interventionist who blogs under the title “The Unrepentant Marxist”, sets out the accusation:

With his long time commitment to the Palestinian cause, [Cook] seems to have trouble understanding that those under attack in Homs or Aleppo have much in common with those living in Gaza. While he is obviously trained enough to understand and communicate the plight of one group of Arabs, another group gets short shrift because it is perceived as inimical to the interests of peace.

In other words, I and many other supporters of the Palestinian cause are not being consistent in denying to the people of Syria the support we wish extended to the people of Gaza. This is an argument I hear being used with increasing frequency by the interventionists, in an effort to recruit to their cause the large numbers who back the rights of the Palestinians against decades of occupation and oppression.

But Syria and Gaza are not alike on many levels, making the comparison deeply unhelpful. And in so far as there may be similarities in their situations, I actually hold a consistent position that differs markedly from the interventionists.

First, Gaza is not like Syria because Palestinians live under a belligerent occupation, not in a unified, if failing state run by a dictator. There are very few decades-long occupations, but there are lots of dictators the world would be better off without.

Occupations are regulated by international law, which in Gaza’s case is almost entirely ignored, whereas states have the luxury of being largely ringfenced from such accountability within their own domestic spheres. International law is mostly there to regulate the relations between states, not what goes on inside them. I may wish it were otherwise but I have to live with the reality that this is the current world order, and that such law exists precisely to prevent powerful states, either on spurious or selfish grounds, from destroying smaller states.

The comparison with Gaza is also unhelpful because it is possible to be in favour of external efforts to remove the occupation in Gaza without that also requiring us to be in favour of external efforts to overthrow the state apparatus in Syria. Doing the first may lead – potentially – to liberation; doing the second leads – inevitably – to chaos, as we saw in Iraq and Libya.

Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem need help in freeing themselves from the rule of a belligerent foreign state, one in which they have no stake or voice. The people of Syria – if Syria is to survive and not end up as a series of feuding ethnic cantons – need to find a common cause, a sense of nationhood they can agree on. That, by the way, was a long and painful path Egypt was just beginning on when the Egyptian military – backed by decades of US money and armaments – decided to halt it.

The only thing that changes in Syria by intervening or by arming either side is that each is able to inflict more bloodshed on the other. Ordinary civilians are dying on both sides of the civil war in greater numbers because we have fed an industry of fighting and death by providing factions with guns and rockets.

The only hope for Syria – as what remains of a rapidly collapsing state – is through bringing those sides willing to talk to negotiations to create a new order in Syria. It will not be Sweden.

Also to be addressed is the paradox that for the Syrian government to negotiate safely it needs to ensure its strength within the global system of nation-states; but with such strength it has less interest in making concessions to the rebels. This is a paradox that relates to the current world order. We may not like that order, but it is the only one that exists at the moment.

The implication of critics like Proyect is that the Palestinians are in a civil war themselves and that doubtless I would be in favour of intervention to help them. Again, the situations are different. The civil war between Palestinians is being fed and manipulated by Israel to keep the Palestinians weak and divided so that the occupation can entrench. It is part of a familiar colonial settler project.

The Syrians are in a civil war because there is bitter competition between sectarian groups for dominance of the state apparatus. In short, there is not enough sense of Syrian-ness. If there were, one of two situations would have arisen: Assad would have mass support still, or the rebels would have been able to tip the balance in their favour and take over through a popular revolution. That revolution might have been bloody but it would have been liberating. Instead we are in a protracted civil war, which each side sees as a zero-sum game.

Exacerbating this problem is the exploitation by other states of the Syrian state’s current relative weakness. Those states, chiefly Saudi Arabia, are feeding the conflict and trying to distort its nature. They are further damaging the fragile sense of Syrian-ness. On the other side, Iran and Hizbullah in Lebanon are playing their part in interfering in favour of the Syrian government, propping it up with military support.

These last factors point to a more realistic way of interpreting events in Syria. Syria is caught in a power game, with the US and Saudi Arabia trying to keep Iran and its ally Syria weak on one side, and Iran desperately trying to keep its few remaining allies, among them Syria, as strong as possible in its battle against efforts by Israel and the west to undermine its sovereign integrity. Ignoring this as the main framework for understanding what is happening in Syria inevitably leads to erroneous analysis and faulty solutions.

What is needed now in Syria to lessen the bloodshed is reduced negative western intervention in Syria and much greater western positive engagement with Iran (certainly much more positive than the measly deal struck at the weekend). Syria’s best hope of a solution is through the west coming to a respectful accommodation with Iran.

A last point about the Palestine and Syria comparison. In so far as there may be some similarity in their respective situations, I certainly do not favour western military intervention on behalf of the Palestinians. This is not related to what is allowable in international law, which, as I noted earlier, treats these two situations differently; I am talking only about what I personally believe makes most sense.

I have never argued for the US and Europe to start arming Palestinian militants in the hope that the Palestinians can end the occupation by slaughtering settlers and soldiers. The level of military support the Palestinians would need to challenge or defeat Israel militarily would result in only one outcome: a sustained bloodbath that would lead to large numbers of dead both among Palestinians and Israelis. Something less than massive military support for the Palestinians would lead to a bloodbath chiefly on the Palestinian side. I favour neither outcome.

More useful and ethical would be a drastic reduction in, or better still an end to, military support to Israel from the US and economic support from the EU, or at least tying continuing support to genuine concessions from Israel to the Palestinians. Making Israel more militarily vulnerable to its neighbours, for example, would be an effective way to get it to the negotiating table and force it to make meaningful compromises.

So, in short, I and most other supporters of the Palestinians wish nothing less for the Syrians than we do for the Palestinians.

A final, related point about the revolutionary fervour of many of the supporters of greater western intervention in Syria. People who have monikers like the “Unrepentant Marxist” doubtless believe in a global workers’ revolution, but they are deeply misguided if they believe it will or can start in Syria.

The real hypocrisy lies with these armchair revolutionaries. Eager to foment a revolution, they want to build it on the bodies of Syrians, a people who have little hope of liberating themselves in a world where their tiny state is no more than a pawn being shuffled around a board controlled by other, much stronger states. If the revolutionaries really want to effect change, they would be wiser – and far more ethical – concentrating on the revolution needed first in their back yards.

Jonathan Cook

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His new website is

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67 Responses

  1. lproyect on November 25, 2013, 12:36 pm

    This a brief reply to a short part of Cook’s latest post that mostly tries to prove that the Palestinians and Syrians are unalike. I only wish he had devoted half of his attention and energy to the question of Mother Agnes and the “false flag” narratives that were really at the heart of the STWC conference dispute. Until he begins to realize that taking a skeptic’s position on the Sarin attack in Ghouta flies in the face of the evidence and humanitarian/pacifist principles, he will remain terribly compromised. He must understand that the Baathists have a powerful public relations machinery, much of it on a pro bono basis from places as diverse as Global Research to the London Review of Books, and that Mother Agnes and many others help the war aims of Bashar al-Assad by blaming the rebels for the killing of their supporters.


    • W.Jones on November 25, 2013, 2:28 pm

      Hello Louis. It is a pleasure to see you writing on Mondoweiss. Yes, I think it is helpful if Jonathan Cook would talk some more about Mother Agnes’s views on the attack, especially because it has played such a role in your discussions.

      On the other hand, I can understand why he would take the skeptics’ position, because a previous administration used chemical weapons and WMDs as a justification to invade. I understand your point that Obama is not the same as Bush, but you would probably agree that there is a crossover in the ruling forces that have been pushing for war. in Iraq, Syria, and Iran. So while the attack may have occurred, I can understand the peaceniks’ skepticism over it.

      Take care.

      • W.Jones on November 26, 2013, 2:51 pm

        To add to the above, one of the dicey things if a Marxist were to take an absolute position in favor of toppling Assad at this point is the way the crisis has fit into the plan to conquer the Middle East. Wesley Clark mentioned how he saw a memo, and that Wolfowitz also told him, that 7 Middle East countries were going to be ruined.

        Richard Perle and Doug Feith, who served in defense positions under Bush, authored the Clean Break Document. It said that Israel should establish

        the precedent that Syrian territory is not immune to attacks emanating from Lebanon by Israeli proxy forces… Israel has an interest supporting diplomatically, militarily and operationally Turkey’s and Jordan’s actions against Syria, such as securing tribal alliances with Arab tribes that cross into Syrian territory and are hostile to the Syrian ruling elite.

        In other words, it was intended long before to have “proxy” rebels in Syria to ruin their country.

        Were the protestors sincere and is it a good goal to have democratic change in Syria? Yes. And does the current rebellion also look like part of a plan to destroy their country?

  2. W.Jones on November 25, 2013, 12:44 pm

    My first reaction is not to get too worried. Louis Proyect is certainly an anti-imperialist, socialist and non- or anti- Zionist, and probably a Trotskyist. He and others with his branch of politics were against the US attacking of Yugoslavia. So his branch or “school of throught, as yo may call it does not have a major amount of disagreement with your opposition to US intervention in Syria, an intervention that has so far often been supportive of Muslim extremists.

    • W.Jones on November 25, 2013, 1:58 pm

      I generally sympathize with your position on the Syria issue.
      However, I will note that Louis Proyect did not say that he supported intervention either.

      Thus I disagree that: “But critics want to use a different stick to beat me and others who resist their on fervour for intervention. Here is how Louis Proyect, a diehard interventionist”…

      • W.Jones on November 25, 2013, 2:19 pm

        “If the revolutionaries really want to effect change, they would be wiser – and far more ethical – concentrating on the revolution needed first in their back yards.”

        I do not completely agree with this. The Arab spring had a positive element. When people in Wisconsin went on strike after the Spring in the Middle East, they carried signs commemorating it, and tying their experience to what happened there.

        I would say you and Louis do not really have opposite views. Like you, Proyect’s article does not support intervention, while like Proyect, you correctly stated that you do not agree with Syria having a dictatorship either. You also share a positive view of the democratic parts of the Arab Spring, which began for a long time quite hopefully.

        The main difference is that you come at it from opposite directions- you want to avoid intervention and the rebels’ widespread extremism and brutality, while Proyect wants to see a reinvigoration of the Arab Spring’s democratic momentum.

      • LeaNder on November 26, 2013, 9:08 am

        W.Jones, without going too deeply into this, I checked one thing. Did Proyect support the Euston Manifesto? Turned out he didn’t, he in fact criticized it. Which admittedly leaves me at a loss what could be the underlying reasons for the clash between Cook and Proyect. No to the larger “left” regime change ideology but yes to this one?

        As far as I am concerned, I was mesmerized by the Arab spring, especially the one in Egypt. In hindsight I had to admit though that Arabists with much more knowledge about the countries or the specific facts were right. Which this reminds me of:

        Again, the situations are different.

        So any type of universal theory may not work, due to the apparently very different realities on the ground.

        Concerning Egypt the wisdom in a nutshell was: Far too many badly educated Egyptians which are easily led by the Muslim Brotherhood. For the reasons we know, lots of work in the humanitarian sectors. But apparently that is coupled with political aims. Result: a functioning network that other parties participating in the election didn’t have. But yes, I didn’t want to listen to it. I remained glued to AlJazeera.

        Now of course in this context Israel is an even more specific case, and no levels of eduction may not be the only aspect one should consider. Just as our Western fascination with the Arab spring ultimately may well have merged with suspicions heightened in the post 911 universe concerning our own democracies, emotionally comparing what cannot be completely compared. …

        If the supposed poison attack in Syria is the point where they beg to differ. I have not been convinced so far either way. Fact seems to be that the handling of evidence by the WH was slightly reminiscent of the manipulation of intelligence concerning Iraq. Why did the American intelligence community denied to sign the report? Apparently quite a few analysts threatened to resign if that would happen. So consider me skeptical.

        I am with Cook on the issue as far as I understand his position. Apparently the Syrian “civil war” seemingly has quite a few non-Syrian supporters on the ground, reminiscent of Afghanistan. Maybe I am reading the wrong blog in this context. In any case there was another red line, and it could have inspired just as easily the side that supposedly was attacked. The social network evidence in any case looked enormously well prepared for a surprise attack in the night.

      • W.Jones on November 26, 2013, 1:55 pm

        Which admittedly leaves me at a loss what could be the underlying reasons for the clash between Cook and Proyect. No to the larger “left” regime change ideology but yes to this one?
        Yes, it is confusing for me too, Leander, and I think you are right that the latter is the viewpoint he holds.
        Basically Cook and Proyect I assume both support the democratic faction of the Arab Spring, but where they differ is on Mother Agnes and the gas attack. Proyect accepts the western media story that it was performed by the Syrian government.

        For Proyect the main thing of importance is the Spring, and he apparently believes the democratic groups are still a major faction of the uprising. I do not know how much popular support the rebels have or how much the rebel held areas are administered moderately and democratically. But in noteable cases they certainly have not been, as shown by the kidnapping of bishops, killing of priests, beheadings, etc.

        Personally, I think if you look at Iraq and Libya, sectarian fighting forces are not really so secular. Even the Muslim Brotherhood, the winner in Egypt of the Arab Spring’s elections, was conservative religious. I am not painting the peaceful protests that way, but the context shows that conservative religious forces are a key, if not major player when it comes to military fighting. At the end of the day, with things like they are, Syria in reality would get a “Libya outcome” if the western-backed “revolt” succeeded.

        Pulse has gotten 55 activists, many Syrian, to condemn Mother Agnes. So it is messy when it comes to drawing hard lines on the left over this issue. Mother Agnes is basically a supporter of the Syrian government’s side in the war, and she also promotes the idea that it did not cause the gas attack. She has criticized the government about some things, and claims that she does not decide who is innocent or guilty of the attack in her report.

        I also sympathize with the Egyptian Arab Spring like you did, and still like whatever remains of it. I do not think the M.Brotherhood victory in Egypt debunked the Arab Spring. Rather it was positive because it was a real election.

        Proyect takes the right position of non-intervention, but it is worth noting that others in the Pulse group do not: Achar wrote in a Trot. magazine in support of a no fly zone, the Pulse owner wants an “imposed solution”, and Pulse has linked to an article supporting military intervention. This all makes me skeptical of how correct the “anti-Assad Left” position is, when the main threat for the Middle East is the plan to destroy it that Gen. Wesley Clark mentioned.

  3. HarryLaw on November 25, 2013, 1:11 pm

    Louis Proyect say’s “another group gets short shrift because it is perceived as inimical to the interests of peace.” These groups are inimical to the interests of peace, that is why they will not negotiate with anybody. Assad has offered negotiations with other Syrian groups so long as the Syrian people as a whole get to define by who, and how, they are governed. The only opposition which counts at the moment are radical head chopping jihadis of the Al Nusra front, who parade around the places under their control with swords, enforcing Sharia law, give me a break. Because they will not negotiate, these animals have to be defeated, the sooner the Syrian army does so the better, only Syrians have the right to define their future, not sectarian bigots from other countries.

  4. W.Jones on November 25, 2013, 1:38 pm

    Cook began by portraying you sympathetically: “Jonathan Cook is a very well-meaning and dedicated activist/author”. That should count for something, so you can feel positive about Proyect too personally.

    I think you touched on this above, but note that Proyect says that Mr. Jones “has stated in the past that jihadists have hijacked the revolution for all practical purposes”.

    Notice the word “revolution.” Proyect would correctly take the view that in many capitalist countries we find a dictatorial system oppressors the people, especially the workers. He would like to see a political change (that means revolution) into democracy. There are forces in Syria as well as other countries, like Iran, that want real democracy and sometimes socialism too.

    Proyect sees the answer to the problems of dictatorship and capitalism in opposing those regimes and systems. So when a major event of opposition happens, like in Syria, he is partial to those events and oppositions.

    Let me give you a good test case, Jonathan, about a topic I and others discussed on Proyect’s worthwhile Marxist listserv. Remember the Hungarian Revolt of 1956 against the Stalinist regime there? Part of the revolutionaries wanted democracy and a subcategory wanted democratic socialism, while another part of the rebels wanted a return to fascism. Meanwhile their opponents the Soviets wanted socialism, some democratic reforms (Khrushchev disagreed with Hungary’s regime’s brutal style), and definitely were against fascism there.

    Ask yourself what position a democratic socialist in America should take? I believe that for the left across the world there were really different answers to that question because of the strange combination of forces above. Personally I would have to say that both sides were right and wrong in a way. Both the Hungarian rebels and the victors were brutal, and that is a major fact.

    American Trotskyists generally sided with the rebels, who got limited western support, because they saw that one rebel faction shared their ideology (democratic socialism). In my opinion they were too ideological about this. And Proyect takes a dim view of how Trotskyist groups in the US split up into tiny groups over their different views on this question.

    Fast forward to Syria. I can understand how people can take different views on Syria’s crisis/rebellion because of the many forces at work. But like in the example above, I would say that you do not have a situation where one side is pure “good” and the other is pure “bad”. Plus, I can understand the view that a democratic change should happen compared to Syria’s current government. I will note that Palestinians themselves are often split on this question.

    A major difference with Syria is that there is a major religious and foreign component to it. Very few Christians in Syria are siding with the rebels, many of whom are getting outside support from the region’s superpowers, are foreign Muslim extremists or actual criminals released for the purpose, and are very violent. Then you have the fact that many Syrians in opposition do not want US intervention. I think that to say this is a “people’s revolt” like in Egypt is at best only a small piece of the real picture, even when it has a grain of truth.

    • W.Jones on November 25, 2013, 2:43 pm

      I meant to say: Louis Proyect began by portraying you sympathetically: “Jonathan Cook is a very well-meaning and dedicated activist/author”.

      • Rusty Pipes on November 25, 2013, 7:41 pm

        Proyect may have tossed off a compliment initially, but he soon started smearing Cook — and by extension, Robert Fisk:

        Surely, there is no need to see any documents when the word of the Kremlin is so trustworthy and since it has no vested interest in the outcome in Syria. Any fool can see that to question the sincerity of Vladimir Putin automatically lines you up with Rush Limbaugh. Did I say Rush Limbaugh? Oh, excuse me. I forgot that he has touted the famous pacifist website Global Research that also denies any Baathist involvement with the attack on Ghouta, the very same website that Jonathan Cook’s peevish article on Mother Agnes’s withdrawal from the Stop the War Coalition conference appears. Speaking for myself, I’d rather wash my hands in a Grand Central toilet bowl than write for Global Research but—hey—that’s just me.

        Turning to Cook’s latest (Bowing before the Inquisitors), he states: “Mother Agnes is supposedly a supporter of Bashar Assad, though no one seems to be able to offer any definitive proof.” I suppose this is true insofar as she has never quite said something like “I support President Bashar” but, on the other hand, she has written a 50 page dossier on the Ghouta massacre that tries to obfuscate who is responsible. Say, isn’t that what Robert Fisk and Cook are up to as well?

        Well, the least you can say is that neither Fisk nor Cook reach the dizzying heights of the mad nun who concluded that the dead children in East Ghouta were actually not those of local residents but Alawite children from Latakia, the victims of jihadists, who were trucked in to fool the world. This is the kind of Big Lie that Goebbels specialized in and it is really quite sad that a trained journalist did not take the trouble to investigate the nun’s trail of slime, as Galloway once referred to Hitchens, before sticking his nose into this controversy.

        In an update, there are signs that Cook might be coming to his senses. He writes: “If there is clear evidence that Mother Agnes is a malign influence in Syria, then the duty was on Scahill and Jones to marshall [sic] that evidence and set it out to the conference organisers.” Actually, the burden would seem to rest on Cook who having taken the trouble to comment on these issues should at least spend a half-hour getting up to speed on the satanic nun. That’s all it takes, really.

        One of the gravest side effects of the war in Syria for those living outside its borders has been a decline in journalistic standards. For people like Fisk and Cook, who would certainly count Judith Miller as a symbol of everything that is rotten about the mainstream media, there is absolutely no recognition that a dry rot has penetrated their own prose, most visible in their “analysis” of the chemical attack in Ghouta but beyond that a failure to come to terms with the fact that the Syrian revolution is part and parcel of the revolution taking place across the Middle East and North Africa. If they can’t rise to the occasion and write truthfully about Syria, then you can be damned sure that people with more intellectual and moral integrity will do the job for them.

      • W.Jones on November 25, 2013, 8:34 pm


        That is funny. Go have a look at the Saxaphonist’s review of Blumenthal’s book. He really likes the book and encourages people to get it, but much of his review is an attack on it for failing to get into all the ideological issues.

        Personally though I discourage a harsh writing style when it comes to people who are ‘dedicated activists.’ But to each his own. ;)


      • W.Jones on November 25, 2013, 8:45 pm

        Fortunately his follow-up article was more diplomatic:


  5. HarryLaw on November 25, 2013, 2:23 pm

    Iproyect say’s Mother Agnes had a skeptic’s position on who was responsible for the chemicals weapons use in Syria, she was not alone, the reason the Executive gave it’s own assessment on chemicals weapons use was because they could not get the intelligence professionals to sign off on it see

    • W.Jones on November 25, 2013, 5:13 pm


    • lproyect on November 25, 2013, 5:54 pm

      This article states: “These concerns were reinforced by subsequent UN reports suggesting that the rebels might have access to their own chemical weapons.” I have no idea what reports this is alluding to. There was a report presented on September 18th that found evidence of surface-to-surface missiles but stopped short of pinning them to either side–something that was impossible to do short of having an eyewitness to the attack.

      That being said, this has nothing to do with Mother Agnes’s wild stories about the videos of dead children being fabricated to make it appear as if they were from Ghouta when they were actually from Latakia. In other words, she simply denied that there were casualties in Ghouta, a stronghold of anti-Baathist resistance.

      This version of what took place is so preposterous that most people in possession of their senses would understand that Mother Agnes is a lying tool of the Syrian government. It reflected poorly on Jonathan Cook that he would stick his nose into this controversy without spending a few minutes to check the record on her. And then he follows up by labeling me an “interventionist” when I am on record as being opposed to American attacks on Syria. This is what happens when you get caught up in the kind of Manichean mindset that will be on display at the STWC conference on Nov. 30th. In their laudable aim to stop imperialist intervention, they made the mistake of inviting a truly ghastly figure to speak. Thank goodness Jones and Scahill took a stand.

      • W.Jones on November 25, 2013, 7:30 pm

        Hello again, Louis.

        The NY Times said she “pointed out what she considered inconsistencies in the videos, and asked why there were few images of women and burials.” Like you said, she claimed the children “seemed” mostly sleeping and under anaesthesia. The latter claim sounds weird. Her claims are intended to put in doubt that there was a gas attack in Ghouta. But Louis, did she directly deny that it happened at all?

        Actually I do not know if there was an attack at Ghouta, and the link above mentions that even US analysts were not sure what happened.

        Let’s say Bad secular government Y allegedly attacks Anti-Government village X. Empire Z threatens to use it as a pretext to attack Country Y. Person Y from minority Y that Bad government Y protects disputes the claim that the attack happened.

        If it really is unclear what happened, then is Person Y’s claim that it did or did not a reason to reject her from an antiwar conference? I would say it is not, but perhaps others may disagree.

        Yes, it was ridiculous that Cook was “labeling [you] an “interventionist” when I am on record as being opposed to American attacks on Syria.”
        Regarding your conclusion, I would say that if Mother Agnes believed it was a government gas attack, but said it was not, then it would make sense to disinvite her. I read a few articles criticizing her but did not see anything that showed she believed that. She might not really believe her weird perception that kids were “anaesthetized”, but she still might not positively believe the government did it either and may be fishing for possible explanations. With so many pro-war lies (think Bay of Tonkin) I am pretty open-minded to considering the possibilities.

      • W.Jones on November 26, 2013, 1:40 am

        Dear Louis,

        You commented about Cook’s mislabeling of you: This is what happens when you get caught up in the kind of Manichean mindset that will be on display at the STWC conference on Nov. 30th.

        Was your main criticism of the Stop the War Conference the presence of Mother Agnes? She has withdrawn, as she announced in a statement:

  6. Walid on November 25, 2013, 2:28 pm

    This here looks like a personal rumble between Cook and Jones, both of them going all over the countryside with 101 arguments involving Stalinists, Marxists, Hungarians, socialists, Trostkyites, Syrian Christians and Syrian Muslims, Palestininians of one kind and Palestinians of another and a guy called Proyect.

    • ritzl on November 25, 2013, 2:40 pm

      Thanks Walid. I didn’t get it either. So much defensiveness about an issue that is already and mostly settled in Cook’s favor. Settled by overwhelming popular consensus in the US anyway. And rightly settled, imho.

      This is more of an arcane-ish, Moon of Alabama, comment-based, movement-theory argument.

      • W.Jones on November 25, 2013, 3:33 pm

        It is very arcane. Proyect is a prolific writer on Marxist issues. He supports the Arab spring and a democratic revolt. “Ideologically” that is fine.

        He also says he opposes intervention, the right wing Jihadi factions, and US drone strikes. So in practice his position is fine too for people who want to see democracy there.

        Cook says incorrectly that Proyect is a “diehard interventionist”. The goal in Proyect’s article is to rebut Proyect’s idea that Syrians under Assad bear resemblance to Gazans under occupation (and under Hamas). Obviously there are both similarities and differences between the ruler-ruled relationship in both cases. So yes, it is a very arcane debate with 101 arguments.

        In reality, I would have to agree more with Cook’s “side” because the masses there are not in a position for a democratic revolt against their secular government. But Proyect’s side is not fully wrong either because Assad’s government is more likely to make democratic concessions at this point, and the democratic forces can negotiate for them.

      • ritzl on November 25, 2013, 6:55 pm

        @W. Jones This seems like a debate about what should/might be, more than what is. From that perspective, I agree with you the initial armed revolt in Syria focused attention on Assad as a repressive dictator within the context of democratization in the Arab world. It did point to what needed to be done to remedy that. It did force Assad to publicly move toward democratizing concessions. But now the revolt there has clearly radicalized to the point of leading to a worse outcome than continued Assad rule, imo.

        Proyect seems to looking for wrongs to revolt against. I think that’s why he’s looking for similarities between Syria and Gaza. Well, great. Plenty of wrongs out there to make right. But revolts, if recent history is any indication, seem to lead to outside intervention and violent (small-war) western imposition of a result. That violent imposition process takes place in a situational or non-consistent context and seems (sorry for using that word so much) to lead to unstable and/or other-interested (non-indigenous) results. Endless cycle. I think that’s what Cook is resisting in Proyect’s desire to find similarities between Gaza and Syria.

        It seems to me, perhaps oversimplifying, that the general conflict in the Arab world is one between fundies and liberalizers, with despot- and/or Israeli-backed opportunists waiting in the wings to take advantage of the resulting [engineered, imho] perpetual chaos. In that situation, stability would want to be the first principle, such that no new hatreds would be developed/deepened and people would get a chance to breathe some sense of what might be without killing each other so passionately, perchance to work it out themselves. Everyone in MENA knows what the objective is at this point. Tunis and even Egypt’s brief experiment show glimmers of what might be if people work together.

        The perpetual violent chaos kills any hope of change in MENA. Proyect seems to be straining to look for entry points into new rounds of chaos, so I too would have to “side” with Cook.

        Heck, if someone wants revolt/chaos, they should start with KSA. That way the kingdom is not exporting it, or exporting less of it.

        Edit: Sorry to hyperventilate. I should have read down a little further. Appreciate your comments, W. Jones.

      • W.Jones on November 25, 2013, 8:21 pm

        Hi Ritzl,

        I pretty much liked what you had to say. Naturally there are lots of “sides”, as you pointed out. This creates a similarity between Gaza and Syria, but also differences so that neither Cook nor Proyect are wrong. In both cases we can find liberals, religious extremists, religious minorities, secular forces, authoritarian government types, outside interventionists and powers, etc. The relative power of each of those factions is different between Gaza and Syria though. In Gaza the interventionists and religious right have the most power. In Syria the most power is divided between secular, authoritarian forces and the foreign-backed religious extremists.

        The criticisms you have of popular resistance/movements are correct. However if you believed that absolutely, you would not feel supportive of the change that occurred in Egypt or Tunisia either. Plus, you yourself spoke positively about change in KSA.

        Proyect may be straining to hope for a new round of the Arab Spring in Syria, and that might not mean he knowingly wants Chaos. But you and I would agree that due to the predominance of Jihadis and intervention, more people joining the revolt based on ideas of popular revolt are mindless. Those “popular masses” would not have foreign backing and that would put them at a major disadvantage in opposing the numerous Jihadis. Second of all, popular resistance does NOT have to mean armed revolt. The regime is in a position where it is offering concessions. To be consistent, the “popular masses” would have to fight both their own army and the Jihadis. And where would they come from? Will the western forces really let their rebels be independent of them? Will the popular masses be able to preserve the defeated army’s power to oppose the Jihadis?

        My own view is that at this stage the forces actually doing the revolting are made up to such a big extent of Jihadis and are backed enough by powers that if you look at what happened in Libya it is a big mistake to “side” with armed revolt. The best thing then is to push for the government to make democratic reforms and cease abuses. The opposite end of the spectrum- full, uncritical support of Assad’s government is also a mistake.

        It would be more helpful if Cook had tried to fit the Arab spring’s positive side into ideas about reforms, while instead he seems to see a zero sum game (“paradox”) accepting that improving the army’s position means making less motive for reform. That is not necessarily the case. If the army has a better position, it may feel secure enough that it does not feel it has to crack down as much.

        So as you can see, there are many sides to this discussion with non-intervention leftists sharing similar goals.

      • ritzl on November 26, 2013, 1:10 am

        @WJ Yes. Many “sides” with varying merits and similar objectives. Thanks for fleshing it out some.

        I’m still at a loss as to why the intensity of the debate between these two. And Scahill for that matter, wrt Mother Agnes.

        But, meanwhile, center stage, war/intervention in Syria averted and war in Iran averted for now. It’s been a good couple of months.


      • W.Jones on November 26, 2013, 3:05 am

        Hey Ritzl.
        Good question. It’s a mess.

        On one hand, you have Mother Agnes, who some claim is a complicit regime apologist and others claim is a debunker of invasion-ist lies. On the other you have Pulse, a pro-Spring group with Syrian members denouncing her in an open letter (including Proyect):

        Tariq Ali is a famous Marxist thinker out of Proyect’s school of thought, and writes:I have openly and publicly supported the popular uprising against the family-run Baathist outfit that rules Damascus. But he supports a negotiated settlement. He also wrote:

        “The notion that the SNC is the carrier of a Syrian revolution is as risible as the idea that the Brotherhood was doing the same in Egypt. The idea that Saudi, Qatar, Turkey backed by NATO are going to create… a democrat[ic] set-up is challenged by what is happening elsewhere in the Arab world.”

        Pulse reposts an article from “Democratic Revolution Syria” calling out Tariq Ali on this, saying:

        For Ali, the civilian activists, brigade members, and community leaders who are struggling against airstrikes (and each other) to create their own makeshift institutions of governance in Aleppo simply do not exist. If they did exist, that would up-end his patently false “fundamental change,” no “transfer of power from one social class (or even a layer) to another” narrative of events in Syria.
        That’s certainly nice. But is that the real situation in Aleppo? I have no idea.

        Cook’s idea is that the folks at Pulse campaigned against Mother Agnes’s participation in the STWC out of pro-interventionist views. I sympathize with him a bit because Pulse’s own has favored an “externally imposed solution” to the conflict. It seems like articles discussing M.Agnes from a leftist perspective (like that of Stephen Lendman) more often trust her than those leftists who don’t.

        Thus the “spark” behind the debate is the issue with Mother Agnes, and the real underlying issue is how one relates to the “Arab Spring” in Syria. Actually I am a bit surprised that L.Proyect used vitriol in disagreeing with Cook and saying that Mother Agnes’ views about the gas attack were preposterous, since people are pretty skeptical about it. Whatever.

    • HarryLaw on November 25, 2013, 3:07 pm

      The trouble with these small left wing groups, is exemplified by the sketch in Monty Pythons Life of Brian PFJ Splitters, “Are you the Judaean Peoples Front” F— off, we are the Peoples Front of Judaea” The only people we hate more than the Romans are the Judaean Peoples Front. Whatever happened to the Popular Peoples Front? He’s over there. all shout, SPLITTER.

      • W.Jones on November 25, 2013, 5:14 pm

        A Thousand Points of Fight. 8D

    • Rusty Pipes on November 25, 2013, 5:44 pm

      It’s not a personal rumble. Cook had challenged a pillar of the neocon/neolib narrative about the Arab Spring and Syria when he questioned the facts of the August Ghouta events (the basis for America’s barely averted intervention in Syria). While the crisis in Syria has been fomented by neocon/neolib policy for over a decade, its eruption in 2011 was championed by many on the left because of the carefully cultivated image of the protesters as united by nonviolence and freedom (who can forget the “gay girl in Damascus” and other scams?). Many on the left continued to support this narrative for the first two years of the conflict, only finally opposing Western intervention sometime in 2013.

      The Obama administration was not even able to get its intelligence agencies to agree that the evidence for Ghouta was conclusive. Yet, because a nun in Syria, Mother Agnes-Mariam, has put together information that questions details about Ghouta, she has been defined as an “Assad apologist” and disinvited from a major leftist conference in England.

      Jonathan Cook is an independent journalist based in Nazareth who has covered Palestinian issues in depth for many years. It was only when he wrote a previous article about Syria, Mother Agnes Mariam and Ghouta that leftists, like Proyect, started attacking him. I never cease to be amazed at how some leftists who are totally opposed to American imperialism have no problems with the CIA and State Department’s Color Revolutions which are fomented under right-wing NGOs like Freedom House (but only deployed against those regimes who are not friendly to our imperial interests).

      Cook has every right to defend himself against such smear tactics.

      • W.Jones on November 25, 2013, 6:30 pm

        Hello Rusty,

        It is admirable that Cook spoke out against the gas attack being used for the war drumbeat and questioned the story about it. I also like Louis Proyect, however, and do not think their perspectives are necessarily opposite.

        the carefully cultivated image of the protesters as united by nonviolence and freedom (who can forget the “gay girl in Damascus” and other scams?). Many on the left continued to support this narrative for the first two years of the conflict, only finally opposing Western intervention sometime in 2013.

        The empire and its media did cultivate this incorrect image of the “rebels”. However Louis Proyect did not see the rebels as a united nonviolent team and he has not supported Western Intervention.

        lproyect left this comment earlier on Mondoweiss: “I certainly agree that there are no “moderates” in the Syrian opposition as understood by Kerry. In fact he is making this outlandish claim in order to line up votes for an American attack.”

        Rusty, you added:

        because a nun in Syria, Mother Agnes-Mariam, has put together information that questions details about Ghouta, she has been defined as an “Assad apologist” and disinvited from a major leftist conference in England.

        I sympathize with what you are saying. Her video does not just question Ghouta, she rejects those details about it, as quoted in The Spectator. There she says the kids are “seem mostly sleeping” and “under anaesthesia.”

        ‘Vidéos no. 1-6-11-13 and others related are fake, staged and prefabricated… in the videos that are proposed to our visioning I have detected sufficient evidences, especially that some victims are children abducted from the Lattakia mountains.’

        However, there is another very interesting fact about Mother Agnes as reported in the New York Times:

        This year, rebels near the monastery warned her that extremist fighters wanted to abduct her, and helped her flee, she said. She had not returned.
        How could she be such a bad regime apologist when the rebels are helping her flee from the Jihadis?

      • RudyM on November 25, 2013, 8:57 pm

        Thanks you. This is some of what I wanted to say (and more). I find the official U.S. account of the chemical weapons attack unconvincing, and while I can’t claim to have mastery of all the details, I’m sure I’ve looked into a lot more than the average American citizen.

      • W.Jones on November 25, 2013, 9:56 pm

        I am sure you have. Months ago I overheard the news spouting it with no real details. Then I overheard a group of old men talking, saying that Syria had used chemical weapons, and that Obama would have a surgical strike to destroy them. It sounded like they were OK with it. All so clear, the news makes a few announcements that the attack happened, that Obama will make a nice limited attack, and it all makes sense. Just some soundbites and news videos, and then head nods from the Populus.

        That is not how it worked out in the end, because actually the Populus did not agree with a US attack, even though interestingly they seemed to assume the corporate media was feeding them the truth. You see, being a thinking antiwar skeptic is so much more fun.

      • Walid on November 26, 2013, 3:28 am

        “It’s not a personal rumble. ”

        Rusty, Cooke made it into one when he decided to answer him, but as I felt, it must have been a slow day for Cook. He never had to explain any of his views in the past and some of those were much more electrifying than the ones he expressed about Syria.

        As to Mother or Sister Agnes who by the way is a Lebanese-Palestinian is a 1-nun traveling road show that’s drifted way off the beaten path of speaking up for the Syrian Christians being pushed out of Syria by the throat-cutting rebels. She is seen more often on Arabic television peddling her message in favour of the regime than Bouthaina Chaaban that’s responsible for the Syrian regime’s public image.

        There was another cleric that no one talked about, the Italian Jesuit Father Paolo Dall’Oglio, that had spent 30 years in Syria. He was expelled from Syria in 2012 for rooting for the rebels. After a speaking tour of American cities to bad-mouth the Syrian regime more or less sponsored by the UN, he made his way back to Syria where the rebels, that he had been rooting for, allegedly took him and may have killed him.

      • W.Jones on November 26, 2013, 3:46 am

        Thanks for sharing. It is curious thinking about what the real story about many of these things might be.

        For example, is Mother Agnes a cynical accomplice to repression? Or is she a sincere person driven by human rights who just does not want her country to be attacked by foreign “rebels”? Perhaps she is in category number two, but based on her preference for the government has decided to make an accommodation for it? I would guess that like alot of Christians in Syria she sees the secular dictatorship as providing safety and thus sympathizes alot with it. However you can find instances where she has spoken against the government too, like in her letter about hospital needs.

    • Donald on November 25, 2013, 5:33 pm

      I thought Cook’s comments here were pretty reasonable, even if it is part of some personal quarrel with Proyect. As for pointless ideological quarrels between people with no real power, well, if they do it here they should fit right in.

    • Walid on November 26, 2013, 12:09 am

      W.Jones, I’m a huge fan of Jonathan Cook for his relentless reporting on the injustices inflicted on the Palestinians and for his reports on the 2006 war and the false Israeli claims about its civilians having being targetted by Hizbullah. This is why I got lost on this article of Cook defending himself against accusations supposedly by many but what turned out to be only Proyect. He didn’t have to defend himself. Probably why I found his reply article tortuous. He’s still one of the good guys in my book.

      You seldom see here or elsewhere Arabs joining in any of the discussions on the erroneously-termed “Arab Spring”. Everywhere in the Arab world, except in one country where it’s still ongoing and in another where it lasted 20 minutes, the bogus “springs” were foreign instigated, fueled and financed uprisings against dictatorships. The 2 exceptions involving a true “Arab Spring” were in Bahrain, where a non-violent uprising by the majority of the population is being quashed by the self-proclaimed king with the help of other GCC countries’ armies led by the Saudis, but you’d never hear about it because it’s the base of the US 5th Fleet. The other was by the people of Oman that lasted only a few days after it was quickly diffused by Sultan Qaboos that promised his people improved living and working conditions.

      Must have been a slow day at the office for Cook to have taken Proyect on.

      • W.Jones on November 26, 2013, 1:20 am

        Salaam, Walid.
        Cook’s name is a familiar for his human rights articles as you pointed out, and Proyect himself called him a dedicated activist.

        You made a good point too when you said that it “turned out to be only Proyect.” Proyect himself wrote in his article “I came across an article of Cook”, and points to Cook’s blog. It sounds rather random. And anyway, Proyect wrote humorously that he is not particularly bothered by Cook’s article:

        “I really can’t get very bothered by that since I know what I stand for and what my readers stand for—at least those who don’t send me hate mail once or twice a week about being a ZioNazi.

        (I thought that was funny.)

        You also made an interesting point:“You seldom see here or elsewhere Arabs joining in any of the discussions” on the Arab Spring.
        I would say first, that they do have opinions on it. But the voice of what Middle Easterners actually think is not really a big part of American social discourse. I remember hearing young Middle Eastern members of a panel talking about the Arab Spring in a positive, hopeful way in 2011. It was not dreamy, or robotic. And I talked with a girl from Egyptian background who majored in politics in America and her view also was aware of the many complexities, such as Morsi, his decisions, his mistakes, etc., that we occasionally discuss here on Mondoweiss.

        I think the real Arab Spring of civil disobedience as it was presented to the West did exist in a partial form, especially in Tunisia and Egypt, and also in some early stages in Syria and Bahrain, etc. But it was coopted in Syria and I am not sure if it ever really existed in Libya or if Libya’s experience was just a rebellion/intervention. In some form, the Arab Spring came to America as the Occupy movement.

        When it comes to counterproductive infighting, there’s different levels of concern. When a long list of people sign a declaration or disinvite you, there is reason for concern. That happened to Mother Agnes for her opposition to the official story, and so I sympathize with Cook’s defense of her.

        Thanks for your comments on MW, BTW.

  7. HarryLaw on November 25, 2013, 7:37 pm

    The group of Arabs in Syria who share IProyect’s views is very small, in fact the major fighting forces in Syria on the ground are the Islamists of Al Nusra front who are affiliated to those well known humanists [who regard anyone not like them as worthy of death] Al Qaeda, fighting for an Islamist state, or should I say caliphate, with the financial support of the most reactionary, medieval and backward state in the world Saudi Arabia. Many polls taken in Syria think that Assad has a great deal of popular support, a CIA survey said he had over 70% support, especially those of the minority religions and a large segment of the majority Sunni community, indeed he could not have survived for so long without it, Assad is no saint, but given the choice between him and the organ eating, head chopping animals, I go for Assad every time.

    • W.Jones on November 25, 2013, 10:03 pm

      The group of Arabs in Syria who share IProyect’s views is very small,
      I would like to see LProyect write an article for Mondoweiss explaining better what his views are, since he has said “I certainly agree that there are no “moderates” in the Syrian opposition as understood by Kerry.”
      I liked the rest of what you said and appreciate the touch of humor.

    • Walid on November 26, 2013, 12:20 am

      “Assad is no saint, but given the choice between him and the organ eating, head chopping animals, I go for Assad every time.”

      Assad certainly isn’t and in retrospect, the same could apply to Gaddafi and even to Saddam. I think that other than for a few people in each of these now fractured countries, they must all yearn for the good old days when these dictators were still around. American-imposed democracy did not turn out at all what was promised to the people. Good for America and/or Israel doesn’t necessarily mean good for other countries.

  8. lproyect on November 25, 2013, 10:40 pm

    a CIA survey said he had over 70% support

    Made up out of whole cloth.

    The only 70 percent that occurs to me is that this is the number of pro-Assad talking points I hear on the Internet that are bogus.

    • HarryLaw on November 26, 2013, 6:40 am

      Iproyect @ “a CIA survey said he had over 70% support
      Made up out of whole cloth”. NATO Study: 70% of Syrians Favor Assad According to a NATO study of the current on-the-ground situation in Syria, the breakdown of opinion is thus:
      70% support the Assad regime,
      20% take a neutral position vis-a-vis the nation’s civil war, and…
      10% support the rebels. link

      • lproyect on November 26, 2013, 9:28 am

        The article you linked to states: “They said the data came from a range of activists and independent organizations that were working in Syria, particularly in relief efforts.”

        Really? More disinformation I’m afraid. I have no idea why supporters of the Baathist dictatorship are so intent on making themselves look so credulous. First we hear that the 70 percent support came from the CIA. Now it comes from a “NATO study”. But when you go a bit deeper, the poll was taken by unnamed activists and organizations. If there’s one thing I am about, it is debunking crapola. That is why I was so amazed that a serious journalist like Cook would have given backhanded support for Mother Agnes.

      • W.Jones on November 26, 2013, 12:05 pm

        Hi Louis.

        Offhand, 10% seems too low for support for the rebels. Perhaps more information about the survey would be helpful. For example, in what way was it a NATO survey? What was the question posed? eg. “Do you side with the government or with the rebels?”

        I suppose alot of people might pick the government in that question. I have seen mention in our western mass media that “middle class” Syrians do not agree with the rebels because they feel endangered. I also talked to a Syrian-American priest who said that Syria would not end up like Libya or Iraq because there were many Syrians who like Assad. I felt he was sincere, but perhaps being too overconfident about Assad because of how much ground the rebels/Jihadis gained. If I were to guess, the general feeling would be to avoid picking sides, as Palestinians have wanted to stay out of it, or leaning in favor of Assad because of what the Jihadi faction is like.

        I am aware that your strong support for the fight against Assad comes from your inspiration for the Arab Spring. And this is a correct motive and analysis. But perhaps this is not even the main thing to consider. Trotsky’s position on Ukraine and Finland in the 1930’s was to support the USSR over those countries’ independence, because he believed the main battle then was between empires and the USSR. Finland sided with the Nazis.

        Likewise, Louis, wouldn’t you agree that one of the main battles in the Middle East is actually western superpowers trying to crush the region? Further, socialists supported the anti-colonialism of Arab nationalists like Nasser, even if they were authoritarian (I don’t know if he was).
        Without extolling the pseduo-socialist virtues of Gaddafi, et al, one can note that they did take an Arab nationalist and independent stand against the ruling powers and this was why they were crushed.

        Perhaps this can provide a larger frame of reference. Instead of merely thinking in terms of “the people vs. Assad” or “the Arab spring vs. dictators”, perhaps the larger context is “the empires, and the Jihadis vs. independent secular leaders”?

      • HarryLaw on November 26, 2013, 2:37 pm

        Iproyect, Whatever his true support, and I think it is substantial, he has committed to elections, the so called Free Syrian Army has also said they are in favor of elections, if that is the case ,what are they fighting about? Could it be that they, just like the Jihardis are afraid of the results of those elections, what self respecting freedom fighters call on other countries especially the US and Saudi Arabia, to arm, fund and bomb their own country, anyone with half a brain should ask themselves why Saudi Arabia wants Regime change in Syria, I can assure you it is not to install a democratic pluralist state.

      • W.Jones on November 26, 2013, 5:01 pm

        One answer to your question could be that the FSA (by the way it is perhaps more like an alliance) does not trust the government to run free elections.
        I think it is a tough situation for leftist/pro-democracy groups who joined the momentum of the Arab Spring and wanted a democratic revolt in their country when now it has become hijacked.
        The rulers of empire planned for the country’s ruin “by proxy”, hundreds of thousands have been killed, and the “plan” is for the slaughter to continue. Realistic analogies to a “rebel” victor are the current day ruined Libya or Iraq. I have to agree with you, Harry, even if reluctantly.

  9. Sammar on November 26, 2013, 1:27 am

    Walid –

    I am not even sure that wars and instigating uprisings in Arab countries were good for the US – and might not turn out to be so good for Israel either in the long run. The “dictators” were kept quiet and served US/Israeli interests ( often against the interests of their own people) by getting hefty payments for their services. Now neither the US nor Israel are sure anymore whom they can bribe, there are too many players on the scene now. Every Arab country where the West has meddled is in shambles – probably thought to be a good thing to ensure Israeli hegemony in the ME. I am not so sure in the long run it’s gonna work out that way and the US and Israel should have been more careful what they wished for……

    • W.Jones on November 26, 2013, 3:18 am

      Oh yeah, it was idiotic. The powers that be knew that Iraq would be a walk in the park when it came to beating their army. 10 years later now what?

      I remember a Kurdish professor telling our assembly of students back in 2003 that invading Iraq was the right thing to do in order to liberate the Kurds. I hink Hitchens the semi-lefty supported the war because of the Kurds, didn’t he? Yes, Sadaam really was a bad dude. But for the most part the war in Iraq has been retarded and based on lies. Is Iraq safe for Christians? For Americans?

  10. ToivoS on November 26, 2013, 2:18 am

    Now this is an interesting thread. I had thought that the Trotskyids had disappeared for good decades ago, but no their little cults seem to persist.

    Amazing history. Of course Leon Trotsky was one of the great revolutionary figures in the first decades of the 20th century but he lost out in a power struggle with Stalin. He was very charismatic and left behind many followers. His followers have an interesting history. The first generation morphed into what is now known as neocons and their disciples gave us the Iraq war. Chris Hitchens started out as a Trotskyid and turned into a major proponent of the Iraq war. During the Libyan war the European Trotskyids decided to follow a Nato led war against Ghadaffi. Now those idiots have allied themselves with Saudi Arabia and the Salafis as being part of the Syrian peoples revolutionary struggle against Assad — like that is some kind of anti-imperialist movement.

    What is weird is that they seem to hate Catholic nuns. Hitchens of course spent much effort denouncing Mother Teresa. This latest batch seem to on a campaign against Sister Agnes. Why do the Trots hate Catholic women? That I do not understand.

    Too bad Jonathan Cook opened the door for these fools to join Mondoweiss. Whatever ideology guides them we can see fairly clearly that it ends up supporting the former colonial powers in their wars against the former colonials.

    Hopefully they will just go away — they have absolutely nothing to add to any discussion of liberation struggles.

    • lproyect on November 26, 2013, 9:30 am

      Why do the Trots hate Catholic women? That I do not understand.

      Well, Pope Pius XII was soft on Hitler. I hate him but that does not mean that I hate all Catholic clerics. In fact the present pope seems okay.

    • W.Jones on November 26, 2013, 11:26 am

      You are right that Trotsky was an interesting figure, and it is also curious how you say: “The first generation morphed into what is now known as neocons and their disciples gave us the Iraq war. Chris Hitchens started out as a Trotskyid and turned into a major proponent of the Iraq war.” Even better examples are David Horowitz, Norman Podhoretz, and Irving Kristol.

      However, Toivo, this only concerns a part of their generation. Those who continued to consider themselves Trotskyist oppose neoconservatism. You may find it interesting how their small groups are some of the strongest non-Zionists in Israeli society.

      I have seen several articles focusing on how offensive the State’s supporters find them:

      Trotskyite Trash in Israel
      by Steven Plaut
      …Dahan argues that this is what makes him so attractive to the leftist chattering classes in Israel today. Trotsky showed his “progressiveness” by displaying self-hatred… Dahan then goes on to list the many examples of activist organization on the Israeli Left that are driven by little more than Trotsky-like Jewish anti-Semitism, or what Dahan calls Beilinite Trotskyism. The far-Leftist pseudo-academics in Israeli universities are no better.

      The ADL criticized “Lenni Brenner, a self-described “Trotskyist” and longtime anti-Israel activist” for his political views.,DB7611A2-02CD-43AF-8147-649E26813571,frameless.htm

      You may note L.Proyect is himself pro-Palestinian:

      See also:

      Hysteria in overdrive
      by Doron Rosenblum, Haaretz
      It’s unbelievable how the nihilistic left is able to fill streets and squares in Tel Aviv, even though this is really a demonstration of no more than 1,700 trotskyites.

      Likewise, while I would be curious to hear about European Trotskyists supporting the Libya war, that is not generally the case. The biggest Trot group is the USFI and their largest base now is in Europe. As Wikipedia notes: “In March 2011, the International opposed the Western military intervention in Libya.”

      The USFI opposed the position of Gilbert Achar, at the top of the list of signatories against Mother Agnes, in his support for the no-fly zone over Libya.


  11. Walid on November 26, 2013, 3:46 am

    The Geneva II jamboree to be convened on January 22nd next year for Syria is already a running joke. There are dozens of independant rebel groups with no common leader to speak for them. Some of the Salafist groups have already said they will not be joining the talks. So it will be of little consequence what is discussed or agreed-to at Geneva if some of the rebels refuse to abide by whatever agreed conditions. The official West-backed SNC is refusing to attend unless Assad confirms his departure date and the Saudis want no part of Iran at these talks. Not looking at all promising.

  12. piotr on November 26, 2013, 3:51 am

    Concerning what happened in Ghuta, if one side is instructed and supplied by one of the richest intelligence agencies in the world, all conventional methods of analyzing indirect proofs are off base. Additionally, if there was a cruel hoax, the putative perpetrators proven again and again that they are cruel and fanatical enough to do something like that.

    The most recent story was cruelty on retail level: jihadists in Aleppo dragged a wounded soldier from the opposite side from his hospital bed, chopped his head off and profusely apologized once they realized that the soldier was actually one of their own. On a larger level, entire villages were being taken hostage (Christian, Shia and Kurd) by the rebels, and Alawite villages were slaughtered.

    The bottom line is that someone will win in that civil (or not so civil) war and whoever will, the new (or old) rulers will hate the West with passion.

    War is madness, war breeds madness. Supporting insane wars is insane. And the new axis of evil, Zionists, neo-cons and Gulf monarchs (incorrectly labelled “Sunni Arabs”, as other Sunni Arabs could not care less, as you can check in official Egyptian press) and Turkey do exactly that. Except that Muslim part of that axis supports their boys so they would win, which at least makes some tortured sense, while Zionist and neo-cons are writing articles that “we must prevent either side to win”. Whah? Insane war forever? This is the best doctrine you could came up with?

    Shamefully, this doctrine seemingly took over “bi-partisan Washington consensus” for a short while, and a “humanitarian intervention” was designed, calibrated finely so neither side would have a decisive advantage in the aftermath and thus bloodshed would continue, if more conventionally than before. That was too much for the more simple minded members of Congress (and British parliament).

    • W.Jones on November 26, 2013, 11:29 am

      You made a good point, saying:

      Zionist and neo-cons are writing articles that “we must prevent either side to win”. Whah? Insane war forever? Shamefully, this doctrine seemingly took over “bi-partisan Washington consensus” for a short while, and a “humanitarian intervention” was designed, calibrated finely so neither side would have a decisive advantage in the aftermath and thus bloodshed would continue, if more conventionally than before…

  13. lproyect on November 26, 2013, 9:35 am

    Additionally, if there was a cruel hoax, the putative perpetrators proven again and again that they are cruel and fanatical enough to do something like that.

    I always got a chuckle out of the “false flag” narratives out there that attribute the Ghouta massacre to jihadists. You’d think that if they had the means, they would have gladly put 1000 Syrian troops to their death with Sarin-laden missiles, wouldn’t you? This thought never pops into the head of people like piotr, just as it never occurs to them that most Syrians who oppose al-Assad also oppose the jihadists.

    • W.Jones on November 26, 2013, 12:42 pm

      Video shows rebels launching chemical attacks

      There is a video that was posted on WND allegedly shows the FSA targeting a bus that drives by. Another video posted on Facebook shows rebels loading a blue canister onto a rocket, supposedly nerve gas, to be used against Assad’s forces. Once attached it’s fired off in the direction of the Syrian Army.

      A video posted on Youtube shows the Syrian government finding what is allegedly FSA’s chemical laboratory. The Syrian army discovered the rebel’s storehouse in Jobar shortly after the chemical attack last week.

      SyriaWarNews FSA Cannon attack on Syrian Soldiers‎

      • Walid on November 27, 2013, 3:04 am

        W. Jones, it’s bad enough the rebels are posting videos all over the place, most of them bogus, but for the Syrian regime to start posting Youtubes too, something is not right. One is just as incredible as the other. I still don’t believe the regime did any gassing but this showbusiness stuff is getting absurd.

      • W.Jones on November 27, 2013, 4:03 am


        Oh come now, the posting of videos must be for public consumption and is therefore a kind of “info war” of its own. :)
        5 Lies Invented to Spin UN Report on Syrian Chemical Weapons Attack

        On another note, I am curious what may be your particular motivation for doubting the story about the attack.

  14. Mayhem on November 26, 2013, 5:37 pm

    Hamas, the regime that rules Gaza with an Islamic fist, does not even
    warrant mention in Jonathan Cook’s discussion and therein lies the
    deep fallacy of his analysis. To not even be considering the Hamas
    government as bearing any responsibility for the demise of the
    population in Gaza is nothing short of ludicrous.

    Gaza is not like Syria because Palestinians live under a
    belligerent occupation, not in a unified, if failing state run by a

    There mightn’t be a sole dictator running the show in Gaza but it is
    pretty apparent who is in absolute control. Where are those defenders
    of Hamas who kept on trumpeting the validity of Hamas, because they
    won power in ‘democratic’ elections. How long ago was that? January 2006 – nearly 8 years ago!

    • W.Jones on November 26, 2013, 8:50 pm

      Hi Mayhem,

      You are not so incorrect, although somehow I think you like to create “Mayhem” on Mondoweiss (joke). You are not so incorrect, because Syria’s government and the Hamas government are both authoritarian and opposed by the Israeli government and “powers that be” on one hand, and extremist Salafi groups on the other.

      One who demands that people rise up against Assad’s regime may make a similar demand about Gazans. I expect the reply would: “No, Gaza is under blockade and external repression, so Hamas is not the enemy now.” But the same response could be given to those who demand rebellion against the secular Assad, because outside forces are also in the process of crushing Syrian society.

      I would agree with you that this is a similarity between Syria and Gaza, and it is one that actually puts into question whether an anti-regime rebellion is the best thing for their beleaguered society, or whether it is actually better for their society to focus on defending against the external forces and Salafis that have them in the cross-hairs.

      This noteworthy similarity though does not disprove Cook’s contention that there is a difference in the situations too.


    • Rusty Pipes on November 26, 2013, 11:26 pm

      “To not even be considering the Hamas [leadership] as bearing any responsibility” for the deterioration of Syria is an oversight, to be sure. Even so, the two-faced behavior of Khaled Meshal, the opportunistic alignment with the broader Muslim Brotherhood when their fortunes appeared on the rise (including accepting funding from the MB’s backer, Qatar), the contribution to the destruction of Palestinian refugees camps in Syria, beginning with Yarmouk, by rejecting neutrality, as well as the printing of any claims by the Syrian MB in Hamas-related publications as unvarnished fact are complex issues deserving an article of their own.

    • Walid on November 27, 2013, 2:55 am

      “… (Gaza) does not even warrant mention in Jonathan Cook’s discussion…”

      Mayhem, this piece is about Syria.

  15. lproyect on November 27, 2013, 9:47 pm

    The perfect rebuttal to Jonathan Cook:

    • W.Jones on November 28, 2013, 2:53 pm

      Dear Louis,

      Thank you for posting the video. I sympathize with what Max is saying and do not think you, he, or Cook are really in disagreement in your basic ideas. You all are anti-intervention, want to see the Arab Spring and democratization succeed, and disagree with Assad’s government.

      Let me say some things about the video. Max focuses on the Syrian suppression of revolts in Palestinian camps. They are real and are bad. Unfortunately conflict between Syria and the refugees is one natural outcome of their main problem, Louis.
      The Israeli plan was and is to kick out the “Arab” mass, which they claim do not “belong” in Palestine, and make them assimilate into Syria, since they are all “Arabs” anyway. In fact, even Slater and some other “liberals” want this outcome of a permanent refugee problem. Meanwhile, Syria, which lacks its neighbor’s wealthy “welfare” status, gets the refugee problem foisted on them. And this problem leads to conflict, with the unfortunate “host” country having the upper hand.

      The answer to this natural, major problem is the Palestinians’ right of return. Look at the other neighboring countries where the refugees are: Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan. It is a refugee “problem”. The Israeli supporters’ response though is to blame those countries’ governments for the problem.

      Max expresses strong support for rebellion of the Syrian people.
      While this position is correct, so is the idea of negotiation instead of rebellion. At the end of the day in an ideal situation the socialist Alawites must have a role in the parliament as other groups must. And in that role they would have to get along. This is why it may be possible to advance through peace to democracy. It has occurred in other countries as well that have bad dictatorships.

      Despite Max’s support for rebellions in principle, perhaps not every moment is the best time to have one? What portion of the rebels are leftists or “moderate”? You yourself have posted that there aren’t any. And in Egypt what percent of people voted for liberals? So in Syria if the battles on the ground are generally between foreign Jihadi proxy forces and a secular national army, perhaps this is not the best moment for the minority democratic activists to rise up?

      Also, you both agree on nonintervention.
      However, the interviewer says that an anti-intervention position is not good anymore because intervention is not a threat. I disagree strongly. Max and the questioner think that there is a US position of mutual destruction within Syria. That means if Syria starts winning, the rebels will get more support by the US to continue the slaughter. In fact, then, Louis, the forces against Intervention have to keep up their confident opposition to intervention- and in fact US support of the crisis situation has not stopped as the interviewer claims.

      What do you think?


      • W.Jones on November 28, 2013, 3:16 pm

        To summarize: While rebellion can be a good idea, so can negotiating an arrangement. Max says he supports Palestinian revolt too, yet I am sure he would prefer an agreement on the South African model in Palestine. Syria’s government offers negotiations (although you may guess they would return to their old ways), and I question whether the Syrian democratic activists, who you said are not a major force in the revolt, should join what is in strategic terms a Jihadi proxy war.
        We all agree on non-intervention, however I believe its important to keep pushing against it, because one of the policy goals remains Syria’s destruction.
        Max is right about Syria’s suppression of discontent/trouble/uprisings in Palestinian camps. However the main, and natural, cause of conflict there is the massive refugee problem and the denial of the right of return to their homeland.

      • W.Jones on November 28, 2013, 3:36 pm

        I think it’s important to consider the situation:
        Syria’s government has chosen to be secular and nationalist/independent.
        Syria is not a rich country and it has rival religions, ethnic groups, and is burdened by a massive refugee crisis.
        It is targeted by major foreign powers (KSA, Isr., US, NATO, Turkey) and head-cutting Jihadis that want to ruin their country and turn it into a theocracy, respectively.
        Wouldn’t it be a major challenge to deal with these problems in a fully democratic way?
        We oppose that Syria’s government has chosen repression and want an Arab Spring there.
        Max and the interviewer say they do not really have an “answer.”

        What do you think?

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