Syria Once More

Guest writer Steven Katsineris with a piece written in April 2012 on the then mushrooming conflict in Syria. While the situation on the ground in the country has certainly changed from the time when the article was written, the general point of Left strategic orientation remains a source of debate amongst those subscribing to a Left perspective. Steven Katsineris is an Australian free-lance writer of articles on Palestine, Cyprus and the rest of the Middle East region, political prisoners and human rights, environmental and social issues. He has been actively involved in the Palestine solidarity movement for over forty years. Steven lives with his family in Melbourne, Australia.


I regularly criticize and campaign against the USA, and the rest of the gang of four, Britain, Australia and Israel, as well as other western powers, France, etc, over their invasions, interventions and human and political rights abuses in many countries around the world and also the actions of their oppressive allies such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Turkey, among others. In addition I vigorously condemn the USA and countries for their blatant hypocrisy in attacking other countries’ lack of respect for human and other rights and their repressive actions while ignoring their own and that of their allies.

At the same time I also denounce the brutal oppression that Syria, Iran and China among others carry out against their people. It seems to me clearly that some socialists practice the same hypocrisy, condemning the western powers cruelty and oppression and saying nothing about the appalling human and political rights abuses of the regimes in Syria, Iran and China amongst others. We must be consistent and stand up for the political, social and human rights of people everywhere. You can’t have it both ways, supporting democracy, human rights and justice in same places and supporting injustice and inequality in others.

We should equally denounce the repression of different peoples and nations by the USA, the Palestinians by Israel, Kurds by Turkey, West Papuans by Indonesia, etc, but as well the reactionary regimes that oppose the west and indiscriminately kill their own. Socialists cannot stand up for the common, struggling people of Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Bahrain, Palestine, Sahara, Chile and elsewhere and then stand against the people of Syria, Iran and China. Their opposition to the USA or the other Western powers does not make them virtuous and worthy of support. Reality and facts are good levelers in understanding the world and understanding history is vital in seeing the real nature of things clearly.

The Syrian government is not an imperfect revolution, its not at all revolutionary, in any sense of the word. It is in reality a crony capitalist, militarist, sectarian regime. Many of the real socialist revolutionaries in Syria have been killed or jailed by the regime. I believe it is morally and politically wrong to support such regimes, and really can’t understand why some leftists and socialist groups have gone down this track. And it’s certainly no way to gain any measure popular mass support in Australia or elsewhere in the world, except for the approval of the leadership of the barbaric Syrian regime. It’s just a disastrous dead end for promoting of the concept of socialism. I think Lenin wouldn’t be advocating that workers, peasants or any revolutionary socialists join the Syrian army to fight a war against the imperialist armies, but instead he’d advocate insurrection and civil war by Syrians against the reactionary regime in power in Syria. This is even if the Syrian army/regime were fighting against an imperialist power, which they are not; they are in fact fighting and slaughtering their own people. If Syria is at the forefront of the anti-imperialist struggle, (perhaps along with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda who are fighting imperialist armies in Afghanistan) then the socialist movement is in more trouble than I thought.

It is vital socialists look beyond the anti-imperialist sounding rhetoric of governments like that in Syria and see the substance of the regime. In my view, socialists should not be supporting or defending these backward capitalist regimes, but stand with the people who struggle for freedom, democracy, equality, dignity and a decent life against corrupt and vicious regimes. And respect for human (and other) rights is I think fundamental to socialist ideals. That’s what socialism means to me anyway.

Steven Katsineris, April 2012.

70 comments:

  1. Lenin... He's having a laugh! The same man who constructed the Soviet Gulag forced labour system? If this man wants to question the track record of the Assad regime he might at least compare it to a more noble example than the mass-murdering Russian Bolsheviks. And as for Australia the crimes of Bashar Al-Assad are minimal compared to those inflicted on the native population there - yes even to this day. You want to challenge hypocrisy and injustice Stephen look no further than home before bringing into dispute the legitimate right of Syria to defend itself from external, imperialist intervention in the form of the most extreme violence imaginable. International solidarity yeah right

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  2. Sean,

    but there are more enough on the left willing to say that Lenin and the Bolsheviks were great anti-imperialists and all the criticism just Western propaganda: pick your side and all that.

    I happen to agree with you that they were everything you say they were: one reason I have no affinity with vanguard Marxism. As with the Syrian regime the first question I usually ask is what rights did people have against them? In the case of the Bolsheviks, very few it seems, and even fewer under Bolshevism in its Stalinist form.

    I smiled when putting this out because I said 'For sure, I know somebody it will upset.' !!

    Even if we set the Syrian example aside the questions raised of the Left are right and I think you have dovetailed with them in this regard by asking serious questions of the Bolsheviks.

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  3. I think he negates his argument by using Lenin as an inspiration. international socialism is fine in theory but never forget the atrocities that was done in its name. Regarding Syria I think the reason why there is not support for the rebels is simple they are yankee proxys capable of as much violence against dissenters as Assad.

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  4. There are issues to do with the application of force and the repressive function of the state in relation to the internal workings of all political regimes Anthony, even the much lauded Western-style liberal democracies. So just to be clear, never have I said the Syrian regime was spotless. My position on this blog has always been that the Syrian revolution moved sideways when Hafez assumed power because of the perceived need to guard against outside attempts to bring about a further military coup. This was necessitated by the behaviour of imperialism in places like Mossadegh's Iran, Allende's Chile and Sandinista Nicaragua. As I've stated before the aim was to make the regime 'coup-proof' by entrenching the Ba'ath - a process not exclusive to Syria and with good reason given the history of colonialism in the Middle East. Bashar Al-Assad and his regime is a product of that history. Do I support democratic reform in Syria? Of course. At the expense of the Syrian people themselves? No. In who's interest is the current attempt to oust the regime? Imperialism's. Imperialism over the rights and sovereignty of Syria and its people? Not for me

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  5. I should also have added there's a world of difference between putting in place a system of patronage to maintain your position, however corrupt that system may be, and setting up what effectively was a slave-labour system as bad as and indeed probably worse than that of the US in times of slavery

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  6. Sean,

    a useful historicist take.

    Yet the question being asked by the writer is basically: should radicals support the democratic rights of Syrians aginst the crimes of the regime? I thing it has to be a clear yes otherwise the error of defending Leninism and not those abused by it is repeated.

    The opposition is made up of the most unsavoury characters including religious fundamentalists intent on destroying secular Syria and imposing a religious dictatorship. But that has grown in momentum from the outset and should not mask the origins of the conflict.

    Because US foreign policy is woeful (not only its foreign policy but its domestic one also - there are people in the US Republican Party and business class who view the poor and deprived as the Nazis did the Jews) it does not follow that everything opposed to it is good. As Napoleon once observed there are many among the oppressed who like to oppress.

    The way of the world, unfortunately.

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  7. Sean,

    one of the worst war criminals of the 20th Century was Henry Kissinger. The big thieves hang the little thieves as the Czech proverb has it. But in the binary world or war criminals and non war criminals all the former fit into the one camp, whatever else divides them. But the world is not just reduced to that demarcation line. It would be easy if it were.

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  8. We need to account for the legacy of colonial interference in the region to gain a proper understanding of the situation vis-a-vis rights and democratic norms (or lack of) and how this history of manipulation, division and interference helped shape the ideas and behaviour of the Syrian Ba’ath in the 1960s and by Hafez al-Assad following the coup which brought him to power in 1970. The perceived need to embed the regime in all aspects of the society to avoid being thrown from power explains the suppression of struggles from below. We might not like this but let's not pretend it was because Hafez was simply a brutal dictator, it was necessitated by the historical example of other nation-states who divorced themselves from the orbit of Western-imperialism to pursue independent development. And let's not kid ourselves that this is some sort of out-of-date analysis without relevance to the workings of the world in the new millennium. A quick look at the attempted coup in Venezuela in 2002 tells us nothing has changed. Indeed the illegal invasion of sovereign Libya by NATO and the ongoing interference in Syria itself demonstrates the same thing yet further

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  9. Sean,

    context is alibi. In this case it seems it gives licence to brutal dictators and allows us to say they were not brutal dicators.

    Every historicist explanation can excuse these thugs: it is used to excuse Kissinger/Nixon, Videla, Sharon, even Bagosora.

    People either have rights or they don't.

    We all historicise. But every thug can write their own history. We need go no further than our own struggle to see that.

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  10. As for the origins of the conflict I find it difficult to believe you still can't see the role of outside forces in stoking all this up after all the discussion we've had on this. The amount of information in the public domain on this is now gargantuan.

    "We’re going to take out seven countries in 5 years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran" - General Wesley Clarke

    Sounds like a people's revolution alright. Your analysis of the origins of conflict totally ignores the Libyan precedent and the arming, funding and putting into place of Al Qaeda brigades under the control of British and American intelligence long, long before the events in Da'araa. Assad's biggest mistake was that he didn't prepare himself better for what he should have known was coming after what happened with Qadaffi

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  11. How can you seriously compare Bashar al-Assad to the likes of Kissinger, Nixon and Sharon? It's ridiculous

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  12. Sean,

    it means we don't see things the same way. Just as I can't see how you can seriously view Assad as you do, you can't see how I can seriously view him differently from you. It is called intellectual pluralism. I can live with that. You have failed to persuade me and I you! I am persuaded by some sources I believe to be tried and tested, and you by others. It makes for discussion and complexity rather than stifling conformity.

    C'est la vie.

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  13. I see Assad in the historical context of how the current Syrian regime emerged from Sykes-Picot and all that flowed since, including perpetual instability and regime change until the emergence of the corrective revolution. I see him in the context that 50 mile to the south of Damascus the Golan remains under Israeli occupation. I see that he refused to submit to the opening up of Syria's economy to international capital in an effort to preserve the independence of his country. I see him as a local barrier to the poisonous sectarianism being propounded regionally by the Saudi regime backed by their US master. I see his support for the legitimate resistance to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. I also see of course that he has mobilised the repressive apparatus of the state to suppress insubordination from below and don't dispute that - I'm not blind. But most importantly what I see is that at all times his actions have been to preserve the sovereignty of Syria and stability in the country. How can that be compared to the war-mongering of Kissinger, Nixon or Sharon?

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  14. Has the Syrian regime the right to self-defence from external attack and external efforts to manipulate Syria's society? That's the issue here. You've made a lot of vague allegations against Assad without ever defining what it is you say he's done but leaving that aside if you answer the above question in the positive and you take account of the fact Syria has been manipulated by imperialist powers from the get-go then you have to admit the position that Assad is defending his country, his people and their sovereignty and as such needs our support. That any genuine democratic currents that exist in Syria will be addressed in any peace process I have no doubt

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  15. Sean,

    seems you either forget the previous answers or have chosen to ignore them.

    There is no question that Syria has the right to self defence against external attack; as do the citizens of syria to self defence against the crimes of the regime.

    How more simple can it get?

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  16. peace process - are you for real?

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  17. Explain to me these crimes of the regime and I'll address them

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  18. Sean,

    torture, murder of civilians, rape of women - unless of course this didn't happen and it was all the work of the oposition. But who would believe that?

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  19. Those who perpetrated any such crimes should face justice, I've no issue with that and have never separated it from my opinion on Syria

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  20. which seems to mean that you stand with those raped, murdered and tortured by the regime and not with the regime that raped, murdered and tortured them. That you also stand with them when they are subect to the same thing at the hands of the opposition. That you also stand with Syrian society which includes the regime against the external attempt to breach its sovereignty against US aggression and the war mongers.

    How then does that make you different from Steven or Mick at Organised Rage when they are saying much the same?

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  21. Let's take the post from Ed about that poor kid Paddy Joe Crawford, a heinous act. Does that make the Provisional IRA criminal as an organisation and in its entirety?

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  22. Sean,

    if it was systemic rather than iolated, widespread rather than localised, defines the regime rather than defies it, then I would say it would.

    The IRA had its war criminals as we now know.

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  23. Well there's a lot more that defines the Assad regime than the charges you level against it, particularly in the period prior to the current crisis. Torture, rape and murder are not the defining characteristics of Bashar al-Assad or the regime he heads just as the hanging of that young fella is not definitive of the Provisional IRA

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  24. Do you remember the car bombs, destruction, snipers and religious persecution under Assad before the FSA came into existence? Neither do I

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  25. from sean bres


    Do you remember the car bombs, destruction, snipers and religious
    persecution under Assad before the FSA came into existence? Neither do I

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  26. Hitler built good roads and disappearing, murdering and torture didn't define Pinochet or Videla - they had economic strategies as well.

    You can carry on defending the tyrant forever and a day Sean, unfortunately, but people will have their say in disagreement and their stuff will be published. And they seem to know exactly what side they are on without exception in every power relationship: always those who are abused and never the abuser.

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  27. I'm not defending anyone but questioning the logic of comparing Assad as a like-for-like with the others you have mentioned. It's simply untenable

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  28. the logic of comparing Assad with say Videla is simple - both led/lead regimes that murder civilians, torture opponents, indulge in rape as a punitive weapon of control and subjugation. We are comparing like with like.

    In terms of comparing Assad with Kissinger it is a comparison of kind rather than degree. Both are war criminals and Kissinger is by far the worse. As I said either the big thieves hang the little thieves.

    Despite attacking Marxism in its Leninist form you embrace a very Marxist position - protect the revolution and play down the costs.

    I, not being a revolutionary, take a different view. It is probably rooted in being influenced by the debates from French politics in the 70s between the Marxists who took the position of defending the ideology, and the new philosophers, who more or less said bollix to the ideology, the best position is to defend human rights. And that means defending human rights against the revolution.

    Ultimately, after much reflection I have come to the conclusion that the Left will eventually take up even for strategic reasons the human rights first position. The contest will take the form of trying to broaden the scope of human rights against those trying to limit the scope. We see this in areas like the US open use of torture. Until recently there were three rights people had that were viewed as inviolable (and violations had for the most part to be denied or carried out in secret); the right not to be raped, tortured or enslaved. The open advocacy and use of waterboarding has shown what has happened in terms of rolling back one of those rights.

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  29. The Syrian government does not murder its own people though as you're suggesting

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  30. It, along with the opposition, has murdered, raped and tortured its own people. The only people who deny it are regime apologists. No different from the apologists who defended the Bolsheviks. The latter at one time denied that Soviet troops committed massive war crimes in 1945 when they crossed the German border.

    You would need to live in cloud cuckoo land to think that all the murder, torture, rape in Syria was carried out by everybody but the government. I don't inhabit that world and hopefully never will.

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  31. I'm surprised that you call it this way. The suggestion that the regime sets about murdering its own people is preposterous

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  32. There are people who find the suggestion preposterous that Israel sets about murdering Palestinians. I can't be responsible for what people believe. They are free to believe what they want as far as I am concerned. I just don't have to buy into it.

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  33. Sean,

    is it any more preposterous than the RM committing crimes against our own people?
    The disappeared for example can the RM justify the horrific manner in the way these people were treated can it offer any reason as to why the families of the victims had to endure the psychological torture imposed on them.

    Both sides in the Syrian war enjoy finger pointing but both sides are notoriously involved in decimating one and other.
    It would be difficult to concede one side is playing by the rules and the other is not.
    Our own dirty war might be a better indicator than the anti or for news reports what is certain people on both sides are not immune to the conflict and fall victim in war nothing is preposterous.

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  34. I don't take issue that there's wrong being done on all sides in the Syrian war, what I do take issue with is the notion that Assad is just a brutal tyrant who kills his own people at will and has always done so. None of this was happening before the US and its allies began manipulating the situation inside Syria, the country was broadly peaceful.

    This is a war and terrible things sadly happen during war but let's not suggest the Syrian Army behaves similar to the opposition, because quite simply it doesn't. The Syrian government has the right to defend itself, surely there can be no disagreement with that? If we're suggesting that the Syrian regime is wantonly attacking its own civilians then that is just wrong. What government would do that unless it was being run by a lunatic? Bashar al-Assad is no lunatic. The Syrian government is involved in a viscous conflict with outside proxies directed by the CIA and other Western Intelligence agencies - not least among them MI6. Paul Conroy's name appeared attached to a letter carried on this site to curry favour for the imperialist position, I suggest you waken up to the fact who Conroy and his ilk represent. He is not as he claims to be a journalist, that's as far as I'm willing to go online.

    Do you accept that the regime change in Libya was orchestrated by the US, and its allies Britain and France, using Intelligence Operatives to stoke up violence, the media to portray an unbalanced account and terrorist proxies to worsen the situation to a point were they could claim 'humanitarian intervention' in the form of massive NATO bombing raids under the pretext of a no-fly zone? And if you accept this then are you trying to say there is no correlation between the Western-orchestrated regime change we just witnessed in Libya and what has been happening in Syria since? Because this is the crux of the issue. Like the Provisional IRA was entitled to defend the sovereignty of the Irish people and in doing so often used extreme methods that would never have been considered only for the situation it and its Volunteers found themselves in so too the Syrian government has done likewise.

    Back in August we argued round a lot of this and the idea that it was anyone other than the regime who perpetrated the chemical attack was perceived as wishful thinking. Yet that's now the position of almost everyone bar the US - who won't give a position beyond chemical weapons were used because they can't say who used them as that would involve admitting it was those that they supply and fund. If they could do that to blame the government then what else have they not done? Just think about what happened in Libya and you might get your answer

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  35. Sean,

    the torture of children painting slogans by the Assad distatorship was the catalyst for the opposition whatever it has become since. Tyrants invariably attack their own people. Videla did it. Pinochet did it, Assad did it.

    Nothing untoward happening before the current unrest. I'll let Fisk comment on that - unless of course he is a stooge of US Imperialism and Israeli expansionism and made it up:

    But what US administration would really want to see Bashar's atrocious archives of torture opened to our gaze? Why, only a few years ago, the Bush administration was sending Muslims to Damascus for Bashar's torturers to tear their fingernails out for information, imprisoned at the US government's request in the very hell-hole which Syrian rebels blew to bits last week. Western embassies dutifully supplied the prisoners' tormentors with questions for the victims. Bashar, you see, was our baby.


    People have a right to defend themselves agaisnt government attack, just as the Argentinian Left had the right to against the Videla dictatorship. The Syrian army had the right to self defence in the same way the Argentine military did. Dictatorships in my view don't have any right to exist so self defence of a dictatorship is hardly going to appeal to me.

    The opposition has been taken over by a shower of malevolent thugs which make it not much different from the government. I don't really hear people defend the opposition: in fact there is no hesitancy to describe their war crimes as exactly that.

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  36. The malevolent thugs you speak of have been the opposition from the start

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  37. Once they had achieved their purpose in Libya they were transferred by their handlers to Syria to coordinate with the intelligence assets already there on the ground. You might not like Bashar al-Assad but let's get the story straight

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  38. Sean,

    so the tortured teenagers of Dara’a were transferred to from Libya to Syria where they pretended to be tortured just to cause problems for the leading human rights activist in the rigion who had not previously been torturing people for the Americans?

    I just don't buy it.

    Are we supposed to believe that during rendition the opposition were really torturing for the CIA and MI5 just to damage the anti-Imperialist and human rights credentials of Assad? He didn't know about it.

    Whatever the merits of your critique of the US, this type of thing, while I caricature, doesn't cut the mustard.

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  39. Sean,

    I am not really sure how people protesting against the torture of their children, or the tortured children, were the malevolent thugs from the outset. Most people, I imagine, would regard those who tortured them as the thugs. Torturers are always thugs: they are never anything else no matter who they torture or what they torture for.

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  40. Sean,

    why do you think Chomsky made this up? Was he a stooge of Yankee Imperialism? If so when did he become one?

    What happened in Syria is not outside our understanding: it began as a popular and democratic protest movement demanding democratic reforms, but instead of responding to it in a constructive, positive manner, Assad reacted with violent repression. The usual outcome of such a course of action is either a successful crushing of the protests or otherwise, to see them evolve and militarize, and this is what took place in Syria. When a protest movement enters this phase we see new dynamics at play: usually, the rise of the most extremist and brutal elements to the front ranks.

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  41. Are you seriously saying that the 'uprising' was an organic event that took place in its own environment and of its own accord? Robert Ford was sent into Syria by the Pentagon in January 2011 - two months before the outbreak of the conflict - to coordinate the very events you're referring to in what insiders to the conflict refer to as 'Syria's Salvador Option' - the follow-on from what transpired in Libya and prior to that in Iraq under the auspices of the same man. This consisted of supporting death squads and paramilitary forces modelled on the experience of Central America to commit extreme human rights violations including torture and murder to undermine the government and destabilise society. Ford implemented an identical policy of mass killings by US-sponsored death squads under the guidance of John Negroponte while serving in Baghdad - Negroponte ran the death squads from Honduras during the CIA attack on the Sandinista's in Nicaragua. Are we to take this as coincidence? I don't think so.

    I'm not here to endorse torture but to question the presentation on your blog of the causes of the conflict in Syria which I view as completely coloured by your inability to see past the notion that Bashar al-Assad is nothing but a violent thug in the mould of Pinochet or his like. There's far, far more going on here. Furthermore your logic leads to the inescapable conclusion that you charge the IRA as thugs and torturers 'and never anything else' - and all that by just accepting as given that children were in fact tortured. No doubt those babies in Kuwait were thrown from the incubators as we were all told back then too.

    I've never said Assad was spotless and have always been clear on that but you simply twist and twist and twist this point without ever addressing the true dynamic of the war in Syria. It is not a civil war and never has been. The regime may well have been repressive but you're suggesting it was in the business of murdering its own people wantonly and that's simply not been the case. Authoritarian regimes or organisations such as the Provisionals behave often in ways we would not encourage or support but that doesn't mean we write them off as criminal - especially when they're legitimately defending themselves from external aggression.

    That fingernails were pulled out as a method of extraction I do not condone, but I can understand why it might have happened - just as was done by the Provo nutting squad. I don't condemn the Provisional IRA Army Council for endorsing this or label them as criminals so I certainly won't be doing the same with Assad. He's the President of the legitimate government of a sovereign country under attack and as such needs our support

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  42. Sean,

    I think Chomsky called it right. Dictatorships invariably give rise to indigenous reaction which is invariably aided by some external force for some self serving purpose.

    I don't know enough to call it with any degree of exactitude so unless the tried and tested reliables of reporting from the region are disproved or change their minds due to the emergence of new evidence, I rely on them for interpretation. I don't really see why Falk, Chomsky, Fisk would suddenyl start conning us. It would not make sense. I guess it is much like making a choice between relying on Ed Moloney for an account of what was happening within the Provos or Danny Morrison back in the day. We go for the balance of probability. Setting everything else aside it is highly improbable that the people of Dara’a would not protest against torture of children.

    We know what the US has done throughout the world. We know that it used despots like Assad to torture through rendition. We know they have plans to destabilise and have regimes conducive to their interests. Their malign intent is never in doubt.

    We also know that people will take to the streets in protest against state torture. We saw it here even when the state apologists pretended we were torturing ourselves.

    The people of any society will rise up against torture, without external prompting. Are the Syrians any different?

    Who do you support - the tortured children and those who protested on their behalf or the regime that tortured them? It is a simple question. Or are you going to try the old one that they tortured themselves?

    Now you seem to be implying that the children weren't tortured? You know who you sound like there I presume. I suppose nobody was tortured under rendition either - another Kuwait babies. Sean, if that is what you really believe, the gulf that separates us is chasm that is simply not bridgeable.

    You don't condemn IRA leaders who ordered torture? So torture is only to be condemned on the basis of who does it, torture per se is no longer wrong just some torturers? Rape too - how does that figure? Some rapists okay if they rape for our side?

    If anybody in the IRA leadership ordered fingernails extracted they were criminals, no ifs or buts, just like the RUC in Castlereagh. I can understand why George Bush might want to torture people and why he got Assad to do it for him. But it does not prevent me from labelling him a war criminal.

    I don't think I twist anything at all. I restate the case time and time again: Assad is a brutal tyrant who should face trial for his crimes. I have never really said anything else. Why would I wish long life to the US go-to torture guy rather than long life imprisonment?

    Why bother endorsing despots?

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  43. I'm out of this conversation before I blow my lid. As for Chomsky he can go back to the Israeli kibbutz he came from and take his Zionist disinformation with him - he might have you and half the world fooled by his perceived anti-imperialist stance but when it comes down to it and on the big issues such as the Federal Reserve, the occupation of Palestine and the true nature of the world order he is a total fraud and there to promote what we already know, become the authority on it, so we accept his authority over the things they DON'T want us to know about which he helps them disguise. He is very clever at what he does. The IRA leadership ordered a hell of a lot worse than a bit of good old fashioned torture. Was it wrong? Some of it yes. Was there a context? Yes. Did it criminalise the entire apparatus and raison d'ĂȘtre of the movement? No. Is Assad guilty of ordering repression? Yes. Was there a context? Yes. Does it criminalise the Syrian government and mean we turn our back on their legitimate defence of the people? Not in my book. You can't have it both ways

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  44. I would feel like blowing my lid too if I was handling the matter as you are. Your failure to persuade ahould not be a cause of frustration but a spur to get your case in order.

    The readers can decide who was fooled, you by Bush's Syrian torture guy or me by the Zionist Kibbutz Chomsky guy. Maybe Fisk, Falk et al have all been out to con us as well, along with the kids who were sent from Libya to pretend they were tortured and the Syrian army people who are fiercely critical of the Intelligence services for torturing children in the first place and which led to them taking the hit .... but who is going to sign up to that?

    Now, we have actually got to it - Assad is the author of repression. But he always was, like his father before him, like most dictators eager to hold onto their power. Part of that repression was torturing on behalf of the US. You can offer him the alibi of context for that but I guess it is an alibi that will not stand up. The great liberator, anti imperialist, hero of the resistance was a two bit torture man for the US, like Pinochet, Videla, Viola, D'Aubisson, Montt et al.

    No, we should not turn our back on the legitimate defence of Syrian sovereignty nor turn it on the victims of Assad's repression. That was all you were ever asked to do, express solidarity of some sort with the victims of the regime against the dictator.

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  45. Where we differ here as far as I can see is that you identify the origin of the conflict as a response to the regime's use of torture, abhorrent as that may be, whereas my reading of it is any such torture was a response to a situation already in existence and being controlled for malign purposes by an outside power - as I've said above under the direction of Robert Ford and other psychopaths such as Jeffrey Feltman and David Petraeus, all of whom used their intelligence connections and assets to lay the groundwork for the launching of an armed insurgency in order to orchestrate regime change. This stuff is now in the public domain - don't take my word for it. Who do you think was behind the chemical attack in Damascus back in the summer after all we've learned since? If you believe as most now do that there was a US hand in a bid to justify regime change then surely you can see they are more than capable of starting this whole thing off. They've been planning it for years and recent history in Libya shows us they've done it before. The so-called 'Arab Spring' is currently one of the most powerful weapons in imperialism's arsenal. Was Assad right to endorse torturing people in response to this situation? If you ask me to be honest it depends on just who they are. Was the Syrian 'uprising' an organic response to the repressive Assad regime? Not in a thousand years. Is the root cause of the Syrian conflict the violent interference of the neo-con's still in power in the US and their imperialist allies in London and Paris? Absolutely. Are we justified in supporting Assad in his fight against this? One hundred percent

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  46. Ask yourself why the protests were located in Da'raa, a relatively small town near the Jordanian border, as opposed to the capital Damascus or in Aleppo where most political organisation is housed. Ask yourself why police casualties accounted for two-thirds of the death-toll when hostilities broke out - a fact the western media including your Fisk and your Falk conveniently left out as it demonstrates this was not simply regime repression but an armed conflict from the get-go.

    Ask yourself why 'peaceful protesters' were equipped with anti-vehicle rockets and machine-guns to begin with, why they had roof-top snipers among their number, snipers who shot at both the police and protesters. Were the security forces on the ground not entitled to defend themselves? It seems pretty clear to me the armed forces were deployed against an organised and armed insurrection and not peaceful protesters as we were initially led to believe.

    What we are actually dealing with is a staged protest movement based on the Libyan model to destabilise society that was further manipulated by Contra-style death-squads and agent provocateurs handled by MI6 and the CIA with the goal of bringing about regime change and the Balkanisation of Syria to satisfy Anglo-American oil interests and the energy strategies of their Israeli and Ottoman proxies.

    The Syrian regime is no doubt autocratic with a huge democratic deficit and problems with civil rights but that does not make it criminal. It remains the legitimate government of that country. There are many legitimate reasons to protest the regime of Bashar al-Assad, none of which I've ever denied, but that's not what brought this situation about. That's all I've ever tried to say on here and that because of what has actually gone on the Syrian regime should be supported - Bashar and all. Of course we also support the broad Syrian society's objective of a more open regime but we should also acknowledge that Assad has pledged to make this a reality once the insurgency has been defeated - if it can be defeated. Something that remains elusive while those in Washington persist with their criminal interference. Good night Anthony, no hard feelings

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  47. I thought you had gone? I went to bed thinking you had been struck down by a bout of reason!

    This is not the source of the dispute. Too long a cynic about US foreign policy, having observed the career of Kissinger and the string of Assads he promoted, I don't doubt its malign intent.

    What has always been at dispute is the nature of Assad, not the nature of the US, not the nature of Syrian sovereign rights.

    Was Assad right to endorse torturing people in response to this situation? If you ask me to be honest it depends on just who they are.

    As I said earlier, for you, torture is okay as long as the people you don't like are being tortured.

    So Assad was torturing people for Bush in response to a rebellion that had not yet occured?

    Go figure.

    The one positive thing to come out of this exchange is the veeneer behind which the essence of Assad is concealed is being stripped away as you come to terms with the fact that he is a torturer. I imagine in time to come you might reflect back and come to the conclusion that you bought into the line not because it was right but because you wanted to buy into it because of some worldview you subscribe to in the same sense that people thought Lenin and the Bolsheviks were sound progressives and not mass murderers. And you might well have the same sense of embarrassment that you have for buying into the Gibney bull.

    But we all buy into bull at some point, just different bull, so no point in getting on a high horse and hectoring you for it.

    But you attitude to torture has to be alarming. It echoes all those great and the good who tried to justify Bush and waterboarding. Your opposition to Bush torture is no longer normative and merely instrumental. A most dangerous marker to set down.

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  48. Sean,

    nail bombs in the pockets of the Bloody Sunday dead .... mmmm

    Always the same defence for war crimes isn't it?

    Here was a guy who tortured for the US and you wish him long life. Beyond my ken.

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  49. He was offered long life in the context that he is the legitimate President of Syria and requires our support because his country is being attacked, has been under an orchestrated armed attack from the very beginning and because the fate of the entire region hangs in the balance - that's all there ever was to it. I said long ago that I accepted your broad position and rejected the right of Assad to repress his people. But I also tried to demonstrate that this is not the dynamic behind the conflict and never has been and it's for that reason we must respect the right of the Assad regime to defend itself and indeed we should give it our active support. When all is said and done we support those in Syria who wish for a more open polity and society but that's not the issue right now, the issue is Syria itself and its basic survival. Torture is always wrong yeah, I shouldn't have been ambivalent on that but when I think of what the opposition has done to that country I can understand why some might take it upon themselves to carry it out. So I take that back. Do you accept that Bashar al-Assad has the right to defend his country if it is subject to imperialist-driven attack?

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  50. Sean,

    fine on torture. We all have a rush of blood to the head and I don't believe in holding anybody to account for what they say in a rapid fire exchange in the comments section of a blog: I regard it as a draft of what they are trying to think rather than a definitive statement of what they do think.

    Galtieri, I suppose had the right to defend the Malvinas from Thatcher but we never lost sight of the fact that he was a war criminal who it would never have occured to me to wish long life to unless life was followed by the word imprisonment which he eventually got and which Assad should get.

    In 2010 Assad told Seymour Hersh (who incidentlly in the December London Review of Books wrote the best account to date that I have seen of the sarin attacks) that the problem in the world was that the US did not have enough power. He thought it should be stronger so that it could impose more world order.

    This guy is no more anti imperialist than any other strongman thug in the region. They are people who seek to curb a liberationist impulse and bandwagon on anything that might keep them in power. A dictator who never ran a democratic state and who long suppressed the opposition before 2011.
    My problem is that you seemed to set this guy up as something to be emulated, a heroic figure of resistance. No different from Galtieri in my view. He is not concerned with opposing the US world order, merely getting a suitable spot in it. A despicable despot, the smell of which we should at least acknowledge by holding our noses when figuratively near his company.

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  51. So are you saying the August chemical attack was the likely work of agent provocateur's to facilitate a pre-planned military invasion under the guise of R2P?

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  52. Also, when he spoke with Hersh about the need for a strong United States he qualified it by saying it needed 'good politics' to go with it and delivered it in the context of the need for strategic balance between the many and varied forces involved in the power play that's international politics

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  53. It is a strong possibility. Both sides are malevolent enough to use that type of weapon. Hersh is a tried and tested analyst who destroyed the Kissinger narrative and in part prompted the strange defence of Kissinger proffered by Jussi Hanhimaki. The US used napalm and didn't give one toss about Saddam gassing the Kurds. It perpetrated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, so a few chemicals here and there is not going to bother it to much. The point is, Hersh rips through the official narrative of who knew what and when. And the response to Hersh from the conservative right is weak to say the least.

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  54. Have you met a politican yet who says 'bad' politics are needed for something? That was merely to say that what he eventually agreed to would be good. If he was soconcerned about the US having good policts why was he a torturer for Bush? Doesn't add up Sean. He was willing to facilitate US foreign policy, and there is no escaping it.

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  55. I never once set him up as the arch anti-imperialist for the record but stated that the Ba'ath in Syria was the last remaining independent, secular, Arab regime in the region, the only one still refusing to normalise with Israel under existing territorial realities and that these were the true motives behind the attack on it and the genesis of the armed insurgency. From recollection I said there were grave issues of concern in terms of the civil rights record of the Assad regime - and indeed that these required redress - but that any understanding of them, however abhorrent we may find them, needs considered in the historical context of a process of state formation born out of a colonial history of interference and manipulation not only in Syria but in the Middle East region as a whole. The most critical comparative factor involving Bashar and the likes of Pinochet is that he assumed power through the constitutional process and not by violently overthrowing the state and in the process killing thousands. The war going on at the minute is not of his or the Syrian people's making, as I've tried to show we're not dealing with a campaign for rights that was crushed and resulted in a politically motivated armed struggle - and you've agreed he has the right to defend his country under these circumstances. That is the reason I express solidarity with the Assad regime, that's why I wish Bashar every success and extend my full support. I stand with Assad, I stand with Syria and as I've stated all along when the time comes for a process of creating a more open polity and society I will stand with those who seek to acquire such in a stable process of transformation

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  56. Like yourself, going from memory my recollection is that you portrayed him as a leader frustrating the US World Order and that is why they wanted him overthrown. Which he wasn't. He tortured on behalf of that world order.

    In my view - and I think it is implict from Hersh - that Assad will betray the Palestinians to curry favour with the US. His first objective prior to all this starting was to have the US look at him more favourably. Probably why he tortured for them.

    Nor have you shown that the uprising was not a campaign for rights - you have made the claim, even disputing the narratives of tortured children, that it wasn't in a bid to sanitise a tyrant. Given the degree of repression in the country, the fact that it was not a democracy, the suppression of the opposition, the most natural thing in the world would be to protest for rights. The history of Assad was always one of suppressing those rights. We know what it has become since then. But to suggest that Syrian people were happy to let the torture and suppression of rights to continue really challenges credulity. It is like telling us that in Syrian the law of gravity makes apples go up rather than down.

    Both Pinochet and Assad were pro US men, both achieved power undemocratically, both were dictators, both suppresssed the opposition, both tortured for the US.

    So why would I ever wish a US torturer well?

    In the dispute between the tortured and the torturers, who do you stand with - those applying the electric shocks or those getting them?

    There really can only be one answer.

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  57. As usual you simply ignore everything I say. Your questions have already been answered months ago - as far back as March of last year if I'm correct as to how long this discussion has been going on. Indeed I've addressed them again in my latest comments. My presentation of Assad has been consistent with what I said above all the way through, as has my analysis of the genesis of the conflict. Time will tell - just as it did in every other theatre where the US has pulled these moves. At the time of the chemical attack the initial reaction of yourself and Mick appeared as though you thought it was Assad or his brother as far as I recall. I argued otherwise at a time when it must have seemed my analysis was the ravings of a nutball lunatic. Then you adapted your position once that woman from the UN questioned the narrative. Yet how I called it is generally now the accepted position, even by the likes of Hersh who you cited. Is it really such a stretch to view how I've indicated it began as something approaching reality given this context as well as the history of Libya, Iraq and Central America with the cast of characters involved thrown into the mix? How could police have made up the great majority of initial casualties with their deaths caused by gunfire if this were the peaceful opposition our media would have us believe? I feel comfortable in my overall analysis of the origins and the escalation of this conflict and believe that when we eventually get to the truth all that will be borne out

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  58. Sean,

    go back and check my comments about the chemical attack. As I recall i said nothing anything about it. Knowing Assad would do it didn't lead to a belief that he had. I never trust US statements about anything. At the same time I don't believe dictators either. So I am still uncertain as to who carried out the attack. I just am very suspicious of the US narrative. At the time I linked to articles querying the US view. That's how I rememebr it anyway but I am not going to go trawling it to prove it!

    You still have not told me anything about who you stand with, the torturers of the tortured. Was Syrian torture through rendition on behalf of the US a war crime?

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  59. I'm not gonna go trawling either but that's still how I recall it. Nor am I going to play your game when I've answered that question definitively several times. Your dogged refusal to address the issues that bring into question the mainstream narrative around Da'raa that you adhere to suggests you fear getting sucked into something you can't control without admitting that sophisticated covert operations and dirty tricks were the real instigator of the conflict as I've said from the start and thus the right of Assad to resist such interference would have to be admitted. But if that's really how you perceive the conflict in Syria, both in terms of its origins and its escalation, then you are naive to the geo-political strategies of the various parties involved in this power-play and the length of time it's been going on. When will you realise the whole world system is a manipulated farce from start to finish in all its detail, in every aspect - from the international law, to the banking system, to the UN. Pure lies and deceit and all of it controlled to one degree or another by the Mossad, by the CIA, by MI6. Farce all of it. Remember the mysterious dropping of the Universal Competence Law in Belgium after Tommy Franks, Colin Powell, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were charged by Belgian legislators with war crimes in Iraq? This is the type of foe we are up against. We need change on a global level and the real enemy here is the one Bashar al-Assad is currently involved in a death struggle with - whether of his choosing or not. These people control everything and manipulate everything, yes even the Assad's of this world, in fact all of us to some extent or other are manipulated into doing their bidding. That is how this filthy world works and that is what we challenge and that is why we stand with Syria. Take from that what you will

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  60. Are there civil rights issues in Syria? Yes. Do we support a process of transforming this area of Syria's polity and society? Yes. Do we condemn government repressive of efforts to achieve reform in this regard? Of course. But is Syria the enemy? Most definitely not

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  61. who do you support Sean, the regime who tortured on behalf of the US or the tortured?

    So simple.

    If you don't want to answer the question we will leave it at that.

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  62. And why would I support those who were tortured? Just because I do not condone the torture does not automatically require that I support those on the receiving end. Now if that doesn't satisfy your promptings I don't know what will but just to be totally clear and for the final time I do not condone the torture you speak of or any torture regardless of who was on the receiving end. I condemn the regime for perpetrating it and suggest it stop this heinous practice

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  63. It was like pulling hen's teeth but we got there!

    No, Syria is not the enemy but US sponsored torture and the regime that tortured on behalf of the US has to be.

    You don't have to support those who were tortured in anything but their right not to be tortured. And that puts you in opposition to those who tortured them.

    Which makes your position more nuanced than you initially presented it.

    I can fully understand someone taking the view that strategic necessity compels them to be in some sort of alliance with a war criminal - if we were burning in a house fire and Henry Kissinger came along with a fire extinguisher we would be fools to say 'no, on principle we shall burn.' But it would make him no less a war criminal who outside of strategic necessity we would want to see tried rather than have a long life.

    My issue like that of so many opposed to the US is the manner in which the very things we oppose in US foreign policy are present in the regimes the US is trying to undermine. Assad like Saddam was good for the US: Saddam didn't change once the US invaded. He remained a war criminal. And Assad is no less egregious because he is now in dispute with the people on whose behalf he tortured.

    So rather than get annoyed and express dismay at articles appearing from opponents of the US interventionism, you should perhaps welcome the fact that they challenge Syrian war criminals as well and encourage more pieces that challenge war criminals and torturers.

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  64. My problem is they distort the reality of what's going on by presenting the conflict as a murderous assault on civil liberties by Assad when that is not the case - regardless of the accuracy of the charges you level at him regarding his tenure in power. That's where I differ from you and Mick and Steven. Beyond that I think the narrative presented, whether deliberately or not, serves the interests of the imperial war machine and its efforts to disguise the complex, manipulative web it has spun through its intelligence assets both on the ground and in the media - that Anthony is why I steadfastly oppose it. Nowhere was this more evident than in the carrying of a letter undersigned by the aforementioned slimeball Paul Conroy. Maybe now you can understand my position, I hope so. And I hope at least some of the information I've brought to the table encourages anyone who happened to follow this discussion to delve deeper. If we've reached the end of this particular sojourn then I'm glad we've managed to pack all that we have in, all of it was worthwhile from my perspective and a learning experience from start to finish

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  65. I don't think they present it that way at all. They give a more rounded interpretation of what goes on. I have never seen any of them reduce the Syrian conflict to an Assad assault on human rights. They have referenced his assault on human rights as a a causal factor in the process that led to the totality of the conflict but do not argue that such an assault is what causes the US to up the ante.

    While resolutely opposing US intervention they seek to show that a carte blanch endorsement of the regime creates more problems than it solves. They don't take the line of Fred Halliday or Christopher Hitchens that intervention is a positive.

    And as a means to discourage any argument somebody will always step forward to say it helps the enemy. I faced it with every critique I ever made of the Shinners.

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  66. And that's it from me - burnt out by it all.

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  67. Surely to christ, you just cant leave it there. lol

    It certainly increased my limited understanding of the conflict.

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  68. James,

    I wonder would you go and fuck LOL

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  69. Anthony even a reading of the article we're commenting on shows that's not entirely correct - far from it in fact. But as you say that's it from me too, my wife's going crazy at me for the amount of time I've spent on this. A poignant point at the finish is that someone else who'd no doubt have loved the opportunity to have his say here, even just to follow the two of us going at it, is unfortunately not able to do so. I bet he'd have been willing me on! Throughout this marathon exchange I've thought of our friend a good few times, I hope he's keeping well

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  70. And James... I second that from Mackers lol, for once we're in agreement!

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