Syria and progressives

Wikimedia Commons/Corporal Christopher R. Rye

Earlier this year, scholar and journalist Idrees Ahmad penned a scathing piece on entitled “Aleppo is our Guernica  —  and some are cheering on the Luftwaffe.” Aleppo is a crucial rebel stronghold in Syria and it is under relentless assault by Russian bombers taking off from Iran as well as troops of the Syrian army, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Lebanese Hezbollah.

Ahmad was comparing the fate of Aleppo to that of Guernica, a Basque town bombed in 1937 by Hitler’s Luftwaffe for three hours in support of Francisco Franco’s fascist forces in Spain. Over 1,600 people were killed. Pablo Picasso immortalized this episode of the Spanish Civil War in a painting and Pablo Neruda wrote poems about it.

“Now imagine a different response to Guernica,” Amad said. “Imagine people applauding the bombings, reproaching the victims, and slandering the witnesses. If you can imagine that, then you know Aleppo.”

He wasn’t referring to the neo-Nazis and far right parties of Europe or the American hipster “alt-right” white supremacist fans of Donald Trump. Those people do indeed support the devastation of Aleppo. They are allies of Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad and Russian president Vladimir Putin.

No, he was referring to prominent liberals and leftists who consider Assad to be the lesser evil in a conflict with opposition rebels who they believe are all Islamist fanatics. That is how Assad has portrayed the war from the beginning. This is a lie.

In 2011, an Arab Spring rebellion began in Syria as a non-violent movement involving people of diverse political, ethnic and religious backgrounds. They called for political freedom, social justice and dignity. This was after the Assad regime introduced severe “free market” reforms, which produced widespread economic misery with 48 percent youth unemployment in 2011. Sixty percent of the population was below the age of 24.

When people went into the streets demanding a better life, the regime denounced all of the protesters as Al Qaeda terrorists and responded with horrific violence. In a Machiaveillian move, the regime released the worst Islamist extremists from jail while going after the non-violent and non-sectarian protesters with ferocity. Later, a study showed that the regime and ISIS avoided fighting each other. Recently, Britain’s Sky News published leaked ISIS documents that show that ISIS is closely collaborating with the Assad regime.

The notion that Assad is the lesser evil is an obscenity. This is a brutal dictatorship which, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, is responsible for 95 percent of the civilian deaths, and which the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria has indicted for “the crimes against humanity of extermination, murder, rape or other forms of sexual violence, torture, imprisonment, enforced disappearance and other inhuman acts.” The regime uses rape systematically as policy; and a report by a team of war crimes investigators documented “industrial scale killing,” with up to 11,000 killed “systematically” in detention.

The regime’s main ally, Russia, has been accused by Amnesty International of “egregious” war crimes, including the deliberate targeting of civilians and aid workers. The UN Commission of Inquiry has also accused the regime of using starvation as a weapon of war and for the “deliberate destruction of health care infrastructure.”

The Berlin Social Science Center conducted a survey of Syrian refugees who have fled to Europe. A majority of the Syrians think Assad is a greater threat than ISIS and said they won’t go back to Syria while Assad is still in power.

A majority said a no-fly zone would allow more people to stay in the country. The vast majority said they feared Assad’s barrel bombs (improvised metal barrels packed with explosives and scrap metal), which Amnesty International has said are responsible for large numbers of civilian deaths.

The majority of Syrians said Assad’s military response to peaceful demonstrations was the leading cause of the conflict.
Isn’t it time we listened to the people of Syria? The revolutionaries haven’t given up within Syria. Ahmad writes — in an article in Dissent magazine — that in Syria, “society has shown remarkable resilience, despite the constant attrition of barrel bombs, starvation sieges, mass detention, torture, and rape. In liberated areas across the country (and, secretly, in regime and Islamic State–controlled areas) close to 400 local councils have been established, appointed through a form of direct democracy, functioning in practical, non-ideological terms, catering to basic needs such as water, electricity, waste disposal, and healthcare.”

Meanwhile, the United States and Russia are drafting a new constitution for Syria, in consultation with the Assad regime. The Syrian people aren’t at the table. This seems reminiscent of the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement by the British and French imperialists to divide up the newly defunct Ottoman Empire.

Where is the U.S. left and the peace movement? Strangely enough, some people are actually giving tacit (even overt) support to the Assad regime. Fortunately, there is a growing movement to support the Syrian people’s struggle. The Committee in Solidarity with the People of Syria helped organize the “International Solidarity Hunger Strike” for Syria’ to pressure the U.N. to allow humanitarian groups to bring food to besieged areas. Solidarity activists in the U.K. and Code Pink in the U.S. gathered thousands of signatures on petitions to “Drop Food, Not Bombs.”

We need a movement for a peaceful and just end to the conflict.

This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.

  • ernie_oertle

    Did DA just call BO an imperialist?

  • ernie_oertle

    I just think this is a slap-the-old-knee funny here, where liberals from the ‘burbs & campus-`pigrezzives’ put up Syrian farmers & rural-people into a ..non-violent movement..(!!) As-if, Western-sinistral soft protest-tactics would confront Baathist-gangsters & bat-crap-crazy Satanist-agent muslim-psychotics. The islamists are a special ebola-grade of Evil in this world — & the leftwingers, who are famous for thinking themselves `future-oriented’ but they are ulcerously short in being experience-oriented, are unaware(thanx marxist-professors) of the `Hama model’. …. The `Hama model’ refers to what Bashir al-Assad’s old man did to suppress an earlier peasant-uprising. .. In 1982, daddyHafez killed a rebellion by surrounding the Syrian city of Hama w/ army & artillery – & then leveling it. It was believed 25000 were sacrificed to keep the al-Assad/SaddamHussein Baathists as top-dogs.
    This sez nothing about Obama’s profound leadership failures that have allowed ISIS/al-Qaeda to come to the fore thru-out Earth’s IslamBelt. Far far far be it, for the left to fault TheHistoric for ransom-paying or gun-running or ambassador-abandoning or red-line abandoning or ArabSpring abandoning, or other dearly-thought-out lead-from-behind brilliantcies.

    • ernie_oertle

      Now, remember who it was who opposed GWB’s foray into Iraq in ’03. Despite the Hama atrocity being only 2decades prior, it .. was .. theLeft!! .. who advocated leaving al-Assad ally BaathistSaddam & his psychotic sons in control there in Iraq, That the suffering Iraqi-people weren’t worthy of rescue.

      • Oh ern, reality is a-calling…

        • ernie_oertle

          libweasel diplomacy

        • ernie_oertle

          libweasel diplomacy

          • Fabricated for a Photoshop contest.

            Alas, the picture of Rummy and Saddam is quite real.

            Must suck for you to have to lie to defend your dogma, ern.

          • ernie_oertle

            Must suck for me to merely bait you w/ a foto but you to gruesomely have the actual fabricated story. For your concocted imply is what is fabricated & fabulistic, trying to hoodwink us w/ a perversion about conspiracy by theRepubs. Just the sort of sewage alinskyites don’t stand above.

          • You can’t counter fact with your fantasies, ern.

            Sucks for you, to be sure.

          • ernie_oertle

            You seem able to hold GWB personally for every act any one of his bureaucrats ever committed, yet unable to do the same for BHusseinO’s gubmit. How is that? Should not government officials be MORE accountable to the citizenry?

          • You mentioned
            theLeft!! .. who advocated leaving al-Assad ally BaathistSaddam & his psychotic sons in control there in Iraq, That the suffering Iraqi-people weren’t worthy of rescue.

            Now why would Reagan (and Dubya) pal Rummy be so chummy-chum with Saddam if he was as evil as you insist?

          • Photoshop fake, ern. Reality bites you every time:


  • ernie_oertle

    What I sense in this article is – the left making another micrometer of advance in its acquiescence to eventual collaboration & allyship w/ radical islam. The left believes its Wonderful Smarts can dominiate islam, & an axis of World Leftism allied w/ World Muhammedanism can bring forth the long dreamt-of total defeat & mashing down of theRepublican opponent. Glory be & ululating to the ultimate SocialJustice of smashing whiteAmerica & jewIsrael.

    • Who was it that sold arms to the mullahs in Iran? Can you remind me?

      Are you an “alt-right” fella?

      • ernie_oertle

        Answer to question is irrelevant. A few items traded to blood-enemies seeking to publically-influence diplomatically 30+yrs ago, is not a Gotcha. Are you altrite? Yes, you have displayed yourself as always trite & a hackneyed ideologist.

        Am I all right? No, I am heart-sick that in the mere 2nd-half of my life my fellow Americans have chosen to poison their republic & go in the direction of the cess-pits of totalitarianism. I can’t comprehend this madness. I’m like the Jew in BadNauheim in 1938.

        • You should ask your Jewish friends (of whom you have many, no doubt) if they appreciate that simile.

  • Stanley_Heller

    A fine article. Pressure should be put on the candidates running for president to demand action NOW to help Syrians from the Obama Administration. Not a one mentioned in their acceptance speeches what was happening to Syrians nor have I heard that they mentioned it since (too busy hurling insults). There are things that should be done right now including airdrops of food to besieged areas, convoys of vehicles to bring help to Aleppo and other areas, support to Syrian groups who dig people out of the rubble, and efforts to identify war criminals for eventual prosecution. #DropFoodNotBombs That’s the position of the 64 year old peace organization, Promoting Enduring Peace, for which I am the administrator – Stanley Heller

  • james chen

    An article serving as a propaganda for the interests of the oligarchs of the American-Anglo-Ottoman axis.

  • Kiev500

    I’ll give you some support for regime change in Syria ONLY AFTER YOU HELP THE WORLD FORCE A JUST AND FAIR PEACE AGREEMENT ON ISRAEL THAT PRODUCES TWO VIABLE STATES FOR TWO PEOPLES. The war between Israel and the Palestinians has been going on for 70 years, and the illegitimate Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem for almost 50 years. Your demand for action in Syria is laughable considering your utter silence regarding the Israeli occupation of territory reserved for a Palestinian state. So kiss off.

  • Kiev500

    “Close to 400 local councils have been established, appointed through a form of direct democracy, functioning in practical, non-ideological terms, catering to basic needs such as water, electricity, waste disposal, and healthcare.”

    Yea, Muammar Gaddafi did all that stuff in Libya too. (In fact, you can Google it). -And see how we treated him? Gaddafi also agreed to work with the USA to provide free and open WMD inspections. The USA dishonestly used those inspections to produce a list of Libyan weapons to commandeer and send to it’s proxy militias seeking to overthrow the government of Syria. Of course, taking those Libyan weapons required removal of Gaddafi, so the USA supported insurgents in Libya to depose Gaddafi and had him killed. Then we took those free weapons to try to depose Syrian president Assad. Do you see a bad, evil, and dishonest actor in this picture? I have met the enemy, and he is us. The ugly truth is the USA wishes to divide and conquer every other union of states, including the EU and the UN. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was targeted partly because he wanted to create a pan-African union similar to the EU. Syrian President Assad is targeted because Israel wants him gone. We have now created a world in which there is no truth in TV and radio news reports, no editorial guidance for journalism, no fundamental morality, no moral compass, and sadly a world where people don’t know who to believe or what politicians they can trust. I blame neocons for this tragic political train-wreck. Why? -Because they are the only ones smiling.