Trending Topics:

New York panel highlights fissures on the left over Syria

on 65 Comments

The expectation was that Tuesday evening’s debate on “Syria and the Left,” held at the Brooklyn office of Verso Books, would be contentious. Online, discussion had become hopelessly vitriolic. Emotions were rising as the carnage in Aleppo seemed to approach an apex. “Eight hundred people were interested in the Facebook event,” I heard a Verso employee say as the audience filtered in.

And it was contentious, as well as packed, though moderator Maryam Jamshidi of Muftah Magazine worked strenuously to keep things civil, and largely succeeded. The panel consisted of three journalists and one academic: Murtaza Hussain of The Intercept, Max Blumenthal of AlterNet, Loubna Mrie of Quartz, and Zein El-Amine of the University of Maryland. Blumenthal and El-Amine represented skepticism of the opposition and emphasized the threat of regime change; Hussain and Mrie, a Syrian exile who participated in the uprising’s early demonstrations, argued that Assad must go.

The crowd was occasionally vocal, despite Jamshidi’s insisting the event would be shut down if we got out of hand. There was some #HandsOffSyria sentiment, but for the most part the energized audience members had come to challenge the notion of Assad’s persistence in power being the lesser evil. Blumenthal faced the most pushback, particularly for interjecting when Mrie was speaking.

El-Amine, a poet and activist originally from Lebanon, spoke against the “binary formulation” whereby “anybody criticizing intervention is framed as Assadist,” and those who denounce the regime are accused of supporting Al Qaeda and other jihadists. This is “ahistorical,” he said, detached from any analysis of the Arab Spring and the Iraq War. Throughout his remarks, El-Amine attempted to advance a regional understanding of the Syrian conflict, bringing up Yemen and Libya and Saudi Arabia’s desire to wrest control of the revolutionary wave from democratic forces. (Jamshidi implicitly criticized this approach as evasive—”So is Syria about Syria, or is Syria about Yemen?”—and Hussain complained, “The suffering of Yemenis should not be used to distract from the suffering of Syrians.”) El-Amine’s prescription was to “reframe the discussion to talk about deescalation.”

Mrie said the left’s main problem was “denying Syrian voices and the agency of the Syrian people.” Why is regime change a bad idea, she asked, if it comes from them? Analysis has tended to treat Syrians as puppets, and intervention in any case is already happening, by Russia on the side of Assad. It’s a mistake, Mrie argued, to “focus on the last fragment of the conflict without really understanding the timeline,” how the uprising began. (An Alawite, Mrie left her home in Latakia to join the opposition in 2011.) She called on the left to show “solidarity with the Syrian people by insisting on accountability for all war crimes”—in other words, don’t let Assad off the hook.

Blumenthal recalled how he resigned in 2012 from the Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar over its pro-Assad coverage but insisted that “change can’t come from the outside.” Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United States have spent “hundreds of millions of dollars, maybe billions” funding fighters in Syria. “The war is the root of all evil,” he said. Yes, East Aleppo has been “turned into a kill box” by Assad and Putin, but this is presented in “a narrative that erases West Aleppo,” the government-held area subjected to rebel rocket attacks. It’s an “escalationist narrative pumped out of Saudi-funded think tanks inside the Beltway.” The choice is “between more war and less war,” not Assad or the opposition.

Hussein, recently returned from Turkey’s border with Syria, said Assad’s war amounts to “the eradication of poor people in Syria.” Non-intervention is “a perfectly defensible position” but “insufficient in itself.” The refugees don’t want to go back to a country ruled by Assad. If the war ends with the regime still in power, after five years of such appalling state terror, “that’s an affront to humanity, that’s disgusting, there’s no way we can countenance that.” It would be like telling a child to keep quiet after having been raped by a priest, for the good of the church. And far from shoring up regional stability, such a non-resolution would lead to a U.S. invasion in fifteen years. What’s needed instead is a “managed transition” to democracy. But this is not the current trajectory: there was agreement that Assad is now winning.

Blumenthal complained of being harassed and vilified, “subjected to McCarthyite attacks,” for writing about moneyed interests pushing for regime change and their connections to the White Helmets, Syrian volunteers “who rush into freshly bombed building to extract survivors—while filming themselves,” as he put it. Hussain likened Blumenthal’s journalistic methods to searching the Facebook page of a black teen shot by police, perhaps goaded by Blumenthal’s taunt that he was “spoon-fed” White Helmets PR for a recent article.

“It’s not surprising,” Hussain said of some Syrians’ hope for a no-fly zone, “it’s out in the open. We can disagree with it.” But Blumenthal had crossed a line, he suggested, by making an argument “dripping with contempt” for their position.

Mrie also defended the White Helmets, who Blumenthal pointed out are funded in part by USAID’s Office of Transitional Initiatives. She described rescuers unable to reach victims “choking in the dust” in 2013, for want of equipment. To criticize them for accepting hammers from the U.S. government, “who does that?” Along similar lines, she acknowledged that foreign funders of the opposition have “an agenda in the country,” but suggested their assistance is accepted out of desperation.

What the debate lacked was a serious discussion of the U.S. role in Syria. We heard the contestable claim, from Blumenthal and El-Amine, that Hillary Clinton’s no-fly zone rhetoric has pushed Assad and Putin to ramp up their atrocities ahead of the election. But for all the talk of regime change, there was virtually no acknowledgment of the “counterterrorism” bombing campaign carried out since September 2014, which has reportedly killed hundreds of Syrians in the name of fighting ISIS, not Assad. Even Mrie, who seemed to favor a no-fly zone, admitted that it seems unlikely to happen. A stronger focus on developing realistic options for the future might have been more productive than so much recrimination about the past.

Eamon Murphy

Eamon Murphy is a journalist in New York City. Follow him on Twitter @epmurph.

Other posts by .

Posted In:

65 Responses

  1. mlake9 on November 4, 2016, 6:20 pm

    I’m surprised by Blumenthal’s hostility to USAid since they’ve been praised by Palestinians for doing great work on the ground in Gaza.

    • Rusty Pipes on November 4, 2016, 8:44 pm

      Blumenthal covers the work of USAID’s Office of Transitional Initiatives (OTI) in his recent Alternet articles:

      Back in July 2012, a year after the Syrian conflict began, USAID began to lay the groundwork for its Syrian Regional Option. With American analysts excitedly proclaiming the imminent downfall of Bashar Al-Assad and his government, USAID rushed to “provide support to emerging civil authorities to build the foundation for a peaceful and democratic Syria,” according to a USAlD executive report from that year.

      The grants were authorized by USAID’s Office of Transitional Initiatives (OTI), spearheading efforts to encourage what proponents like to call “democracy promotion” in countries like Cuba and Venezuela, but which amount to failed attempts at regime change. In Cuba, USAID’s OTI caused an embarrassing diplomatic incident in 2014 when it was exposed for funding a program aimed at spawning instability and undermining the government through a Twitter-like social network called Zunzuneo.

      Following a series of pilot programs carried out by a for-profit, Washington DC-based contractor called Development Alternatives International (DAI) at a cost of $290,756 to U.S. taxpayers, the OTI began setting up local councils in rebel-held territory in Syria. The idea was to establish a parallel governing structure in insurgent-held areas that could one day supplant the current government in Damascus. According to its 2012 USAID executive summary on the Syria Regional Option (PDF), “foreign extremist entities” already held sway across the country.

      In addition, Palestinians are not all of one mind about either USAID or about Syria. There is a variety of opinion among Palestinians about the role of NGOs — especially government-linked NGOs like USAID — in sustaining the occupation as well as differences of opinion about the various actors in Syria (such as Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the US and Israel) and the Syrian government — including about their historic and promised levels of physical and monetary support for Palestine.

    • echinococcus on November 4, 2016, 11:30 pm

      Great work on the ground, eh, financing and arming and feeding their murderers. If you believe that that “US” in USAID is any different from the US written on the bombs pouring over Gaza, there’s a bargain bridge here with your name on it. Speaking of the name on it, do you know if your praising Palestinians are marked with the same “US”?

      • Egbert on November 5, 2016, 9:33 am

        USAID is also a longtime cover (since its predecessor in Vietnam) for CIA agents.

      • echinococcus on November 5, 2016, 1:08 pm


        Historic tidbit, yet to be double-verified:
        The well-known ancient saying “Yankee go home!” was originated expressly for USAID.

  2. Bandolero on November 4, 2016, 7:59 pm

    What I miss here is an acknowledgement of the fact that there exists only one path o end the war in Syria. Basically all world powers tacitly agree on that. The path has basically two components:

    1st) Having fair elections where every Syrian can run and vote. That includes Bashar al Assad or other government people as well as opposition leaders seen as terrorists by the government.

    2nd) Crushing irreconcilable terrorists, who do not want any democratic solution and carry on fighting their war no matter what. That includes basically structures of Al Qaeda and it’s spin-offs, IS, Jabhat al Fatah al Sham, Jund al Aqsa, Turkistan Islamic Party, but also all those, who behave the same as Al Qaeda, reject all-inclusive elections and carry on fighting and terror no matter what. Whereever possible local peace deals shall be done, but where that’s impossible, because opposition groups reject peace, military force of the government and it’s partners must be used to crush those who insist on fighting and terror until they grab power militarily.

    The Syrian government agrees to that, but the armed groups and their opposition in exile are shocked by that proposal, or order, made to them by John Kerry recently, as was leaked a couple of weeks ago.

    Why doesn’t the opposition want to grab power via all inclusive elections instead of fighting? My explanation is: the armed groups and the opposition know they don’t have the popular support needed to win competitive elections.

    • Rusty Pipes on November 4, 2016, 9:12 pm

      The only woman on the panel, wearing a miniskirt and plunging neckline, was arguing that she was active in a secular democracy-loving contingency of the insurgency through 2013 and that there are still such members active in Syria (which is why she demanded that the American Left should accept her narrative and support the “revolution”). I’m interested in finding out about where in “liberated” Syria, women can comfortably choose to wear miniskirts.

      • Bandolero on November 4, 2016, 10:48 pm

        Rusty Pipes

        I won’t deny that there still members of a “secular democracy-loving contingency” in the insurgency in Syria, what may be especially true for the Kurdish YPG. However, it’s impossible to miss for any close observer, that – besides of the YPG – these “members” are powerless. And that is the reason, why people like Loubna Mrie are not in Syria, but in exile, playing face for terrorists. Loubna Mrie (Alawite girl from Latakia) seems to have a really ugly family/father story behind her, so no wonder she left. But generally, Syria is quite different and not many people have such a bad luck there as Loubna Mrie, which is, why they are almost all on the other side of the struggle.

        Syrians understand that, but in the West, some people still don’t get it.

      • echinococcus on November 4, 2016, 11:19 pm


        1. Twenty years ago, or even fifteen, it was no problem at all. Wouldn’t attract attention.
        2. What kind of “liberated” it would be today is, like, iffy. It would be very suspect as a demonstration of extreme Americanolatry. Personal opinion, of course.

      • Phil Perspective on November 5, 2016, 2:19 am

        Stop being a sexist pig!!

      • Mooser on November 5, 2016, 7:52 pm

        “The only woman on the panel, wearing a miniskirt and plunging neckline,”

        The other woman looks to be wearing pants and a long-sleeved jersey with horizontal white stripes. Oh, but I see, she was the moderator.

      • Kathleen on November 6, 2016, 1:07 pm

        Syrian exile: ‘My mother is dead. And it was my father who killed her’

  3. Kay24 on November 5, 2016, 6:49 am

    They dish out but cannot take it.

    “Study on incitement in Israeli society shows troubling results
    Following a report released by the Berl Katznelson Foundation on expressions of hate and incitement on the internet, results detail a 50 percent rise over the past year against gov’t institutions and public figures.”,7340,L-4874594,00.html

  4. Donald on November 5, 2016, 8:53 am

    Anne Barnard did a decent job with this story–we finally get to hear from Syrians who hate the rebels and suffer under their indiscriminate attacks and not only those suffering at the hands of the Russians and the Syrian government.

    Most of the time Patrick Cockburn had balanced coverage all to himself.

    • Egbert on November 5, 2016, 9:43 am

      Whadya mean – Assad doesn’t steal incubators from hospitals? No wait, wrong ‘evil dictator’. He doesn’t have weapons of mass destruction? Darn wrong ‘evil dictator’ again. I know, he wants to wipe Israel off the map? Darn, wrong again. I know, I know, he feeds his troops viagra so they can go on rapeing sprees. It’s gotta be that. That’s sure to be him, real ‘evil dictator’ that he is.

      Comments from one of the few real journalists left:

      Executive summary: If you plan to go to war with a country, it is necessary to demonise the leader in order to get your people to go along with barbarous slaughter of innocents.

      • lproyect on November 5, 2016, 9:59 am

        In 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, Assad overcame his instinctive reluctance to support a campaign which risked increasing American power in the Middle East, and agreed to contribute ground troops to the alliance against Saddam Hussain. He had his reward: not only did the Saudis forgive billions of dollars of debt, but in October 1991 Syria was invited to the peace conference at Madrid. Assad announced that he had made “a strategic choice for peace with Israel”.

      • ritzl on November 5, 2016, 11:10 am

        Thanks Egbert. Good article.

  5. lproyect on November 5, 2016, 9:29 am

    Most of the time Patrick Cockburn had balanced coverage all to himself.


    The introduction of the free market and privatisation in countries where political power was monopolised by the ruling family and those around it was invariably a recipe for plundering the state and taking over profitable enterprises. In Syria, a great many people – from farmers to the urban poor – had once benefited from jobs in state enterprises and low prices. But by 2011 Syria was an expensive place to live. Millions of young men had no work and even members of the Mukhabarat in Damascus were trying to survive on salaries of less than $300 a month. When the civil war began it was the poor rural and suburban areas – places where the ruling Baath party once found its support – that became rebel strongholds.

    Patrick Cockburn, LRB, June 2 2016

    • Donald on November 5, 2016, 11:59 am

      That’s what I meant– if you want coverage of Syria from someone not trying to propagandize for one faction or the other, pickings are slim. There’s Cockburn. He may or may not always be right, but I don’t get the sense he tries to whitewash anything.

      • straightline on November 5, 2016, 7:24 pm

        Agree on Cockburn but the most balanced coverage of Syria I’ve found is this:

        It takes news and views from a wide range of sources and tries to come to a rational conclusion. None of the Western media “It was Putin (or Asssad) what did it!” reaction.

    • Donald on November 5, 2016, 12:01 pm

      Unfortunately that piece is subscribers only.

    • Keith on November 5, 2016, 5:41 pm

      LPROYECT- “The introduction of the free market and privatisation in countries where political power was monopolised by the ruling family and those around it was invariably a recipe for plundering the state and taking over profitable enterprises.”

      Yes, imperial neoliberal globalization has worsened the conditions in countless Third World countries, contributing to discontent later harnessed by empire to destabilize the country. As you should be aware, it is extremely difficult for any weak Third World country to resist these neoliberal forces. Are we then to blame the county’s leadership for the conditions caused by yielding to the powerful forces of empire? How much policy discretion do any of these countries have anyway? Although not Third World, Greece is highly instructive in this regard. In view of all of this Western interference, what constitutes reasonable government? And in view of an invasion by an Islamist mercenary army of destabilization, what constitutes reasonable defensive action? I hold the empire as the prime culprit in all of this as Uncle Sam seeks to remake the Middle East. You, consistent with your background and loyalties, seek to demonize Assad. You, Hillary Clinton, Samantha Power, Robert Kagan, et al. Birds of a feather?

      • lproyect on November 5, 2016, 8:18 pm

        Are we then to blame the county’s leadership for the conditions caused by yielding to the powerful forces of empire?

        This argument would have more merit if the Syrian kleptocracy wasn’t so much like every other lumpen bourgeoisie in the 3rd world from Nicaragua’s Somoza to Marcos in the Philippines.

      • Keith on November 5, 2016, 10:01 pm

        LPROYECT- “This argument would have more merit if the Syrian kleptocracy wasn’t so much like every other lumpen bourgeoisie in the 3rd world from Nicaragua’s Somoza to Marcos in the Philippines.”

        Surely you must be aware that the empire was instrumental in assisting and supporting both Somoza and Marcos? One would think that this would be seen as evidence of the validity of my observation of the impact of “Western interference” on the political economy of Third World countries rather than as a refutation of Western imperialism as a hindrance to anything even approaching normal development? But your current niche in life seems to be to carry water for empire.

        As an aside, you seem to be something of an anomaly writing for CounterPunch, even if only as a film critic. Wouldn’t you fit in better at Znet?

  6. lproyect on November 5, 2016, 9:31 am

    The Hamas Movement has strongly denounced the “heinous massacres” that are being committed by the Syrian and Russian regimes against the civilians in Aleppo city.

    “We strongly condemn the massacres which the Syrian city of Aleppo is being exposed to and have claimed the lives of dozens of civilians and wounded many others,” member of Hamas’s political bureau Ezzat al-Resheq stated on his Facebook page on Saturday.

    “It hurts us to see the blood of the Syrian people being shed incessantly,” Resheq added.

    Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri also expressed his Movement’s condemnation of the aerial attacks that massacred and wounded recently dozens of civilians in Aleppo city.

    @Copyright The Palestinian Information Center

    • echinococcus on November 5, 2016, 1:02 pm

      Self-censored/withdrawn. I can’t keep polite with Louie.

      • lproyect on November 5, 2016, 8:20 pm

        You don’t need be polite. Come to and you can flame me to your heart’s content. I am sure you won’t because I can slice you from head to toe intellectually.

      • echinococcus on November 5, 2016, 9:53 pm

        Is that what they call that on your planet now, “intellect”?

      • Keith on November 5, 2016, 10:19 pm

        LPROYECT- “I am sure you won’t because I can slice you from head to toe intellectually.”

        I would expect nothing less from an unrepentant member of the vanguard of the elite!

      • Mooser on November 6, 2016, 2:20 pm

        “Come to and you can flame me to your heart’s content”

        Now, that’s what I call good netiquette! “lproyect” could, no doubt, deal with him here, and in a few, well-chosen words of few syllables, but too many letters. ,But rather than subject us to the ugly sight of intellectual bloodletting, he challenges his opponent to a duel in a more private, neutral ground.

    • RoHa on November 5, 2016, 10:09 pm

      I read more there.

      The quotation from Resheq does not mention the Russians and the Syrian regime. He could just as well be condemning the anti-Assad rebels for the massacres they are carrying out.

      The quotation from Zuhri expresses sorrow, but no condemnation. No mention of aerial attacks, no mention of Russians or the Syran regime.

      So I would need a more detailed report before I imputed strong denunciation to Hamas as a whole. Not that it matters much. Being wrongheaded is not a flaw reserved solely for Americans.

      • echinococcus on November 5, 2016, 11:37 pm

        I wouldn’t worry, RoHa. As a normally constituted member of the humans, you expect the content of the reference to be consistent with the cover letter. Such consistency is not usual or required in some circles.

    • annie on November 5, 2016, 11:06 pm

      Come to and you can flame me to your heart’s content.

      recruiting for commenters from mondoweiss eh? things must be slow at l-project central.

      and thanks for your 6 mo old link timely hamas link. so helpful.

      • annie on November 5, 2016, 11:39 pm

        and this is fun:

      • Bandolero on November 6, 2016, 1:25 am


        Great video! Let’s hope Saudi Arabia becomes a topic in the U.S.

        Regarding HRC I find the scariest parts that HRC knows very well the perils of strengthening the “wahhabi brand of Islam” but she does it anyway:

        And she seems to be even happy about the most horrific crimes while doing so:

      • annie on November 6, 2016, 10:44 am

        Bandolero, yes let’s hope — but we’d probably suffocate if we held our breath waiting in anticipation.

    • oldgeezer on November 6, 2016, 12:08 am


      Cool. I don’t support hamas. Fatah . Zionists of the likud variety or otherwise.

      I do support Palestinians. I do support Syrians

      There maybe a split in the left as to how to best show and provide support for the Syrians (in particular) but that is a reasonable disagreement amongst reasonable people.

      I do not support the rebels. I don’t support the view that civilians in east aleppo are worth more than those in west aleppo. I dont support vile radical Islamists any more than I support vile radical Zionists.

      Humanity is better off without both.

  7. Donald on November 5, 2016, 12:09 pm

    Ali Abunimah also describes the debate, with some added discussion at the end about the claims regarding death tolls.

  8. HarryLaw on November 6, 2016, 9:28 am

    The opposition in Syria comprises Jihadis of various stripes Al Nusra front and the Islamic State [Wahhabi’s] supported by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey with ‘the West’ backing the almost non existent ‘moderate Jihadis’. Regime change is the name of the game by any means necessary. Assad has the support of the majority of Syrians of every political and religious persuasion, years ago during the Doha debates polls indicated Assad’s popularity, since overwhelmingly confirmed in both the Presidential and parliamentary elections in the past couple of years [declared free and fair by observers of over 30 countries]. Who is to decide the fate of a nation, the people in Syria, or outsiders like the “democratic” entities like Saudi Arabia and Qatar who pay thousands of head choppers to go to Syria from all parts of the world to wreak havoc? Every Syrian knows what would happen to the minorities should these Jihadi perverts achieve power, they would be slaughtered, that is why the army, which is 80% Sunni [as is the population] wholly back Assad.

  9. lproyect on November 6, 2016, 9:36 am

    As an aside, you seem to be something of an anomaly writing for CounterPunch, even if only as a film critic. Wouldn’t you fit in better at Znet?


    Znet is not much different than Counterpunch, nor is The Nation, Salon or Truthout. In fact, the Assad worship on display in these comments is pervasive on the left. It is a reflection of the decline of Marxism and the rise of conspiracy theory. For most of the left, it is a Wikileaks release rather than an examination of class relations in Syria that matters. You can’t blame the left for this. It is much easier to read a Hillary Clinton letter than a scholarly work like Bassam Haddad’s “Business Networks in Syria”. It has a lot to do with the declining literacy of the population as a whole. They say that something like 90 percent of college students never read a book after graduating. Just look at Donald Trump.

    • annie on November 6, 2016, 10:49 am

      the Assad worship on display

      zzzz, hey, have you read fredrik deboer’s SYRIA AND THE REEMERGENCE OF MCCARTHYISM


      • lproyect on November 6, 2016, 7:52 pm

        Yes, I have. DeBoer is a joke, trying to appear as a neutral judge on the controversy.

        And what exactly have you read outside your comfort zone on Syria, Annie? Or do you feel more secure trawling the Moon of Alabama?

      • annie on November 6, 2016, 8:46 pm

        i read a range of stuff and shift around. generally i start at a hashtag (today raqqa and homs) and then start opening the news links. when i am interested in a story or a battle i tend to read many different takes on it. there is no comfort zone when reading about syria. but i like Al-Masdar News. sometimes i start there.

      • annie on November 6, 2016, 9:45 pm

        if you think he’s a joke why do you read him? and he didn’t appear as neutral to me. he’s clearly a non interventionist. maybe you didn’t like what he had to say about bullies, too close to home?

      • Mooser on November 7, 2016, 11:53 am

        ” Or do you feel more secure trawling the Moon of Alabama?”

        “Iproyect”, I feel, as a long time reader, it is only fair to warn you about the Moderators here. You can’t depend on them! They will probably let you make an donkey (ane) out of yourself for as long as you want.

    • Mooser on November 6, 2016, 2:36 pm

      “It is a reflection of the decline of Marxism and the rise of conspiracy theory…/…Just look at Donald Trump”

      But my dear sir, be reasonable. We all can’t be an “Iproyect”, now, can we?

    • Keith on November 6, 2016, 4:44 pm

      LPROYECT- “…the Assad worship on display in these comments is pervasive on the left.”

      Fortunately, there is an unrepentant Marxist to cut through all of the Wikileaks crapola and expose our “Assad worship” for all to see! And before that? Gaddafi worship? Lucky you were able to convince the neocons, Wall Street, the MIC and the MSM that a human rights oriented empire needs to arm, train and support Islamist mercenaries to set things to rights. A New American Century? Karl would be so proud!

      LPROYECT- “It is a reflection of the decline of Marxism….”

      Damn right it is! Where is Karl when you need him? Keep the faith, Louis. And for Marx sake, try not to descend into self-parody.

      • Mooser on November 6, 2016, 7:01 pm

        “And for Marx sake, try not to descend into self-parody.”

        I just don’t understand how you can say that, “Keith”. It seems to me you miss one of the most salient points of the man’s oeuvre, namely a relentless, unsparing, self-parody.

      • Keith on November 7, 2016, 12:30 am

        MOOSER- “It seems to me you miss one of the most salient points of the man’s oeuvre, namely a relentless, unsparing, self-parody.”

        You are quite right, of course. I have been influenced by his pathetic persona to be insufficiently critical of his role in supporting imperial aggression and mass murder. It is what Marxists have become – apologists and justifiers of imperial mass murder. The neocons are ex-Trotskyists who at least let you know where the stand. Unrepentant Marxists, on the other hand, perform essentially the same function while pretending otherwise. It is one reason I suggested that our unrepentant Marxist was more compatible with Znet which has devolved into a rather obvious symbiotic relationship with empire. For quite some time now, Marxists have been an impediment to progressive change, earning their livelihood as a bogus alternative to empire. “Assad worshipers?” How about imperial spear carriers?

      • Mooser on November 7, 2016, 11:32 am

        I’m with you, “Keith”. As far as I’m concerned, Marx was a man who only came to say he must be going.

  10. Kathleen on November 6, 2016, 11:19 am

    “Mrie said the left’s main problem was “denying Syrian voices and the agency of the Syrian people.” Why is regime change a bad idea, she asked, if it comes from them”

    Middle east experts Flynt and Hillary Mann Leveret wrote and spoke extensively about the situation in Syria. They wrote six years ago that 50% or more of the Syrian people supported Assad. That it would be a wise and life saying approach for the Obama administration (HRC) to negotiate with Assad about a power sharing deal that he was offering then.

    Clearly Mrie was able to leave Syria due to wealth or connections. Not the case for millions of other Syrians

  11. Kathleen on November 6, 2016, 11:28 am

    ‘It’s a mistake, Mrie argued, to “focus on the last fragment of the conflict without really understanding the timeline,” how the uprising began.”

    The story of this disastrous programme dates back to the early days of the uprising in the Middle East. Robert Ford, the former US ambassador to Syria, had a front-row seat to the drama.
    Image copyright AFP
    Image caption Amabassador Ford with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2011

    In early 2011 he met with Assad. Governments were being overthrown in Tunisia and Egypt, but things were still quiet in Syria. They discussed diplomacy in a polite manner. Then Ford asked about human rights. Assad “hit red real quick,” Ford said.

    “He raised his voice, and it was very clipped, short,” Ford said, twisting his face and karate-chopping a desk.

    After serving as ambassador to Algeria and working as a diplomat in the Middle East, Ford was the State Department’s go-to Syria expert for years.

    He was faced with the challenges of managing the department’s portfolio for Syria, a lovely country with olive groves and rolling plains that’s “not of any particular strategic interest to anybody who doesn’t live there,” as Anthony Cordesman, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said.

    Even worse, Ford had taken on a seemingly hopeless task – arming the opposition in Syria with US weapons.

    Because of the uprising, Syria was in the news. But despite the changes within the country, Syria still wasn’t vital to the strategic interests of the US.For that reason it remained a low priority for administration officials.

    When the Assad regime started to falter in 2012, Ford believed the US should get involved in the conflict by supporting the rebels. Otherwise Syria could slide into anarchy and become “another Somalia/Yemen”, he said, using state department code for Failed State.

    Virtually everyone in the US, including Obama, wanted to support the opposition in Syria. But the question was whether the US should send Stinger missiles and rocket-propelled grenades, or offer moral support and humanitarian aid and stay out of the conflict.

    Ford told administration officials years ago they should arm the rebels. If the US doesn’t help, he said at the time, extremists will give them money and lure them into their organisations.’

  12. Kathleen on November 6, 2016, 11:38 am

    “It’s a mistake, Mrie argued, to “focus on the last fragment of the conflict without really understanding the timeline,” how the uprising began. -”

    A Clean Break:
    A New Strategy for Securing the Realm

    What role Israeli firsters here in the U.S. representing Israel’s believed interest have played in the build up to this intervention and conflict is critical also. Syria has been on the Wurmsers, Feith, etc hit list for years.

    “Securing the Northern Border

    Syria challenges Israel on Lebanese soil. An effective approach, and one with which American can sympathize, would be if Israel seized the strategic initiative along its northern borders by engaging Hizballah, Syria, and Iran, as the principal agents of aggression in Lebanon, including by:

    striking Syria’s drug-money and counterfeiting infrastructure in Lebanon, all of which focuses on Razi Qanan.

    paralleling Syria’s behavior by establishing the precedent that Syrian territory is not immune to attacks emanating from Lebanon by Israeli proxy forces.

    striking Syrian military targets in Lebanon, and should that prove insufficient, striking at select targets in Syria proper.

    Israel also can take this opportunity to remind the world of the nature of the Syrian regime. Syria repeatedly breaks its word. It violated numerous agreements with the Turks, and has betrayed the United States by continuing to occupy Lebanon in violation of the Taef agreement in 1989. Instead, Syria staged a sham election, installed a quisling regime, and forced Lebanon to sign a “Brotherhood Agreement” in 1991, that terminated Lebanese sovereignty. And Syria has begun colonizing Lebanon with hundreds of thousands of Syrians, while killing tens of thousands of its own citizens at a time, as it did in only three days in 1983 in Hama.

    Under Syrian tutelage, the Lebanese drug trade, for which local Syrian military officers receive protection payments, flourishes. Syria’s regime supports the terrorist groups operationally and financially in Lebanon and on its soil. Indeed, the Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley in Lebanon has become for terror what the Silicon Valley has become for computers. The Bekaa Valley has become one of the main distribution sources, if not production points, of the “supernote” — counterfeit US currency so well done that it is impossible to detect.


    Negotiations with repressive regimes like Syria’s require cautious realism. One cannot sensibly assume the other side’s good faith. It is dangerous for Israel to deal naively with a regime murderous of its own people, openly aggressive toward its neighbors, criminally involved with international drug traffickers and counterfeiters, and supportive of the most deadly terrorist organizations. “

  13. Kathleen on November 6, 2016, 11:41 am

    Syria was also on the PNAC’s hit list. More “creative destruction” based on “noble lies”

    PNAC Rebuilding American’s Defenses” Whose defenses?

  14. Kathleen on November 6, 2016, 12:46 pm

    Mrie said that arms being supplied to rebels was started six months after the civil rights protest in Syria. Is this accurate, I know former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford recommending providing arms years ago. Before the 2011 civil unrest in Syria.

    Also conveniently ignored by Congress and those advocating for arming the rebels was a classified study the CIA did at the time showing that arming rebel factions against sitting governments almost always ends in disaster or tragedy.

    You’d think whether or not the current weapons-running program was effective – or whether any similar program ever was – would have been a key factor in the debate. But alas, the CIA program is never mentioned, not by politicians, and not by journalists. It’s just been conveniently forgotten.

    It is true that perhaps the best advocate for why we never should’ve armed the Syrian rebels to begin with came from President Obama himself. He told the New Yorker in early 2014 that “you have an opposition that is disorganized, ill-equipped, ill-trained and is self-divided. All of that is on top of some of the sectarian divisions.” Critically, he cited that same above-mentioned classified study:

    Very early in this process, I actually asked the CIA to analyze examples of America financing and supplying arms to an insurgency in a country that actually worked out well. And they couldn’t come up with much.

    He didn’t mention the CIA’s already-active weapons-running program. Why he didn’t stick to his guns since he supposedly was weary of getting the US military involved in yet another quagmire it could not get out of is beyond anyone’s comprehension. Instead, he supported Congress’s measure to create yet another program that sent even more weapons to the war-torn region”

  15. Kathleen on November 6, 2016, 2:38 pm

    A great deal of talk about holding those accountable for crimes committed from the air, on the ground…Syrian government, rebels, Russians, IS, etc etc.

    One of the questions is will those responsible for the actual violence, death and destruction including the Obama/Clinton administration that provided arms for unknown rebels, and U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford for fueling the violence be held accountable before an international body?

    The panel also kept bring up the American view or prism on the Syrian conflict. Our MSM outlets including Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes, Joy Reid, Chris Matthews etc have been complicit in keeping Americans eyes closed on this critical issue.

    Mrie ended her views with total misrepresentation of the other panel guest Max and Zein. She strongly inferred that they both felt solidarity with the Assad government. Total bullshit. Mrie “as much as you show solidarity on the government side” What a crock.

    Earlier she asked Max why he quotes war pushers here in the U.S. instead of talking to the Syrian (her) at the table. Myre “I don’t care about people in D.C.” Hello Myre some Americans are deeply concerned about how our government continues to fuel and fund civil wars, coups etc around the world including Syria, How our taxes are being used ultimately to kill innocent people.

    You may not care “about people in D.C.” Many anti war activist here in the states do.

  16. HarryLaw on November 6, 2016, 2:46 pm

    Kathleen. Thanks for those informative comments and links.

    • Kathleen on November 6, 2016, 3:40 pm

      Will do. Tried to keep up on the Syrian crisis on the internet as it unfolded. The Leverett’s brilliance, clarity and commitment to the facts sure helped a great deal.

      When you roll back so logical to wonder with the warnings early on from the Leveretts of horrific death and destruction likely to take place if the U.S. continued to intervene if the goal sort of spelled out in convoluted language in Securing the Realm and the Project for a New American Century’s stated agendas if complete chaos without concern at all for the death and destruction was the goal. You have to wonder.

      Also Seymour Hersch.

      Jeffrey Sachs did not hold back

      Either did former head of the IAEA inspections teams in Iraq during the 90’s Scott Ritter

      • Bandolero on November 6, 2016, 5:59 pm


        What I find important to add to this list to understand what’s going on in Syria is Pilger’s recent interview with Assange regarding the Podesta emails:

        Assange: Clinton is a cog for Goldman Sachs & the Saudis

        Assange: There’s an early 2014 email from Hillary Clinton, not so long after she left the State Department, to her campaign manager John Podesta that states ISIL is funded by the governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Now this is the most significant email in the whole collection, and perhaps because Saudi and Qatari money is spread all over the Clinton Foundation. Even the U.S. government agrees that some Saudi figures have been supporting ISIL, or ISIS. But the dodge has always been that, well it’s just some rogue Princes, using their cut of the oil money to do whatever they like, but actually the government disapproves.

        But that email says that no, it is the governments of Saudi and Qatar that have been funding ISIS. …
        Pilger: Of course the consequence of that is that the notorious terrorist group called ISIl or ISIS is created largely with money from the very people who are giving money to the Clinton Foundation.

        Assange: Yes.

        Pilger:That’s extraordinary.

        Now, put that in relation of talk of DIA head Michael Flynn about a DIA memo from 2012 – known to the public because it was released to a FOIA request – which warned of the creation of a jihadi principality in Eastern Syria and Western Iraq if the US doesn’t change policy regarding the support of the insurgency in Syria. So, DIA head lieutenant general Michael Flynn said, the memo was well known to everyone important in US government, because he had pushed it to everyone, even when they were annoyed, but the US government took a willful decision to create something like ISIS in Syria: Former DIA Chief Michael Flynn Says Rise of Islamic State was “a willful decision” and Defends Accuracy of 2012 Memo.

        Hasan: You are basically saying that even in government at the time you knew these groups were around, you saw this analysis, and you were arguing against it, but who wasn’t listening?
        Flynn: I think the administration.
        Hasan: So the administration turned a blind eye to your analysis?
        Flynn: I don’t know that they turned a blind eye, I think it was a decision. I think it was a willful decision.
        Hasan: A willful decision to support an insurgency that had Salafists, Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood?
        Flynn: It was a willful decision to do what they’re doing.

        So, the Clintion foundation took a lot of money from governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who funded ISIS and Al Qaeda, while Clinton was Secretary of State, and Clinton and her buddies took a willful decision to let ISIS and Al Qaeda grow in Syria, and that despite a strongly worded warning from the US military intelligence service DIA.

        It smells like taking a willful decision to let Al Qaeda & ISIS grow might have been a result of Clintonian pay to play. I think, to quote Pilger, that’s extraordinary.

      • RoHa on November 6, 2016, 7:03 pm

        “So, the Clintion foundation took a lot of money from governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, ”

        The CF took money from anyone. It accepted $88m from Australia.

        If that isn’t enough to send HRC to prison, I don’t know what would be.

Leave a Reply