Iraq Elections

Polls have only just closed for the first Iraqi elections since defeat of Daesh.

Results will take 48 hours. Negotiations between parties and coalitions for formation of government could take much longer.

Preliminary reports indicate Sadrists did unexpectedly well, in coalition with the revisionist Iraqi Communist Party. Described as “patriotic” and anti-corruption because social basis among poor Shia and denounces both US and Iran. I suspect more like “Trumpist”.

Current Prime Minister Abadi said to have done “unexpectedly” badly. Actually the previous election winner “State of Law” coalition led by Shia Dawa party headed by Maliki was forced to accept compromise Prime Minister to avoid splitting under combined onslaught from US led West and Iran to facilitate unity with Sunnis against Daesh. Successfuly suppressed both Daesh and opportunist uprisings by Sadrist militia thugs and subordinated Iranian militias to national government. Ran as two coalitions in this election with Dawa members free to support either. What would be VERY surprising is if the two wings combined failed to outpoll the Sadrist/revisionist coalition and all the others.

Results will be available at wikipedia:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraqi_parliamentary_election,_2018

There really isn’t much to say before results.

I am mainly posting this to draw attention to the importance of the results and the truly remarkable phenomena of how open the genuine party contest has been despite the mass murder campaign from Baathist and Islamo-fascists. This highlights the extreme viciousness of the pseudoleft who bitterly opposed the emergence of democracy in Iraq.

Even the opportunists of the revisionist Iraqi Communist Party were not as bad the entire western pseudoleft. While nominally opposing the invasion they in fact helped setup the interim governing authority and new constitution. But for everyone pretending to be “left” and not actually living under fascist terror a clear choice was made that Iraqis should be left to deal with fascist terror by themselves.

The same choice has naturally been made for Syrians but the forces promoting that view in alliance with the rest of the far right in the west are even more discredited and even less likely to be mistaken for anything even mildly progressive.

The barbarism of Assad. No more ‘kneel or starve’!

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‘When the 2011 revolution was launched, the Assad regime had entered a new phase: It no longer hid itself behind the masque of socialism. There was no longer a need for these banners promising death to opponents under the slogan of progress and socialism, or in the name of the Baath Party. Instead, Assad’s henchmen declared a slogan summarising the dynastic essence of the regime: “Assad or we burn the country”. Here, there were no pretenses of some ideal or any form of morality. It is naked despotism, openly showing its true face. At the checkpoints set up by pro-regime militias encircling zones fleeing Assad’s supremacy, we can read another slogan: “Kneel or Starve”, a way of telling the besieged ‘either you die of hunger under the bombs or you accept the humiliation of submission.”‘

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Translation of ‘Assad ou le lion nu‘, the op-ed by the Syrian writer and poet Omar Kaddour, on the barbarism of the Assad regime (Assad means ‘lion’ in Arabic). Originally published in Le Monde – 11/05/2018.

Born in 1966, Omar Kaddour is a Syrian poet, novelist and journalist. He has published two collections of poems in the 1990s and four novels between 2002 and 2013, none of which have been translated. In 2014, he left Damascus for Lebanon and has lived in France since 2015.

Translation by Joey Ayoub. Republications allowed as long as you credit author and translator. (Thanks to Hummus for Thought) .


Towards mid March 2018, the regime-affiliated television station Al-Ikhbariya showed brief interviews with the inhabitants leaving Eastern Ghouta following the long military campaigns against the rebel enclave. The journalist, whose face did not appear on screen, was speaking to one of the evacuated in an accusatory manner: “People are saying that the inhabitants [of Eastern Ghouta] supported the armed factions” to which an elderly man responded “we are a poor and defenseless people”.

At the same time, a young man takes the initiative to tell his young girl to say that she is “Habiba, the ‘daughter’ of Bashar al-Assad”. But instead, the girl yelled out of anger, in a conclusive tone, to say that no, she is not the daughter of Bashar! Syrians would understand here that the man would only ask such a thing of his daughter to beg for aman (mercy) as he is of fighting age. We know that men his age, after leaving the besieged areas, are either arrested and tortured, or forced to join Assad’s forces to fight opposition groups. Syrians would also understand that for this public blunder the father, and perhaps even the girl, could pay the price.

The little Habiba reminds us of the famous tale of the Emperor’s New Clothes (known in Syria under the title of ‘the naked emperor’) by Hans Andersen because she has yet to become aware of fear and of the caution it demands. Except that in her case, we can imagine that this goes even further than for the child who yelled ‘the king is naked!’. After all, this girl has lived her whole life under the siege, barrel bombs, shells, and even chemical weapons. It is not unlikely that one of her friends or one of her relatives was killed by these weapons of mass destruction. In this context of death and famine, Habiba heard that the one responsible for their ordeal was Bashar al-Assad. Then came the day where her father asks her to declare that she is the daughter of Bashar. This is how the return to Assad’s supremacy works: accepting him despite all that he has made people endure and all that he will continue to make them endure.

In an Orwell novel

The case of Habiba, as with many others, elucidates this great paradox: portraits of Bashar excessively hanged over the ruins of the zones he has reconquered. In politics, we are supposed to avoid psychological interpretations – such as speaking of necrophiliacs. However, if we observe the discourse of the Assad regimes – both of the father and the son – we find this drunken language of destruction. I was a teenager when Hafez Al-Assad crushed the Muslim Brotherhood uprising. His troops had just committed a massacre in Hama, killing over 30,000 people, not to mention the destruction inflicted on the city.

At that moment, portraits of Assad senior invaded all of Syria’s roads. I also remember a banner that we’d see everywhere accompanied by a saying of the president which read: “There is no life in this country other than for progress and socialism”. For a long time, I thought of this banner covered in portraits of Hafez Al-Assad over the lifeless rubble. Before that, we would read another saying written by his men on walls or on banners: “I am the Baath [party in power in Syria since 1963], death to its enemies!” Here and there, the goal was to threaten adversaries with death, in the name of the party in one case, in the name of progress and socialism in another.

As it happens, I entered university in 1984, when the world was re-reading George Orwell’s 1984. I read the novel – Assad’s censorship allows the book to circulate while it banned its movie version, because it knew that readers were far fewer than viewers. Regardless, for people like me who read 1984 in Syria, the novel brought nothing new. We lived in a reality similar to what it was imagining, with Big Brother seeing everything, with his intelligence services interfering in every aspect of our existence.

That year, Hafez Al-Assad had finished destroying the Muslim Brotherhood. Now, he was busying himself imprisoning communists, including those who abandoned any opposition to support him in his war against the Brotherhood. Between 1984 and 1987, many of my leftwing friends were arrested and condemned to harsh sentences in front of special courts which didn’t allow them to defend themselves. Nevertheless, they were luckier than those who claimed to be with the Muslim Brotherhood because those were judged by “campaign” tribunals which generally chose the death penalty.

A distant relative connects me to two brothers who were arrested for belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood. No one in their family had heard of them since. They had children who grew up without knowing them. Their mother became hopeless for knowing nothing about them. And if there was a glimmer of hope, it was no doubt extinguished when ISIS/Daesh took control of Palmyra prison without anyone knowing what happened to its archives.

Like an Occupation Force.

Outside of prison, where we lived like the characters in Orwell’s novel, people abstained from doing anything that would remotely look political. If someone denounced you, even if out of personal vengeance, it could lead to your disappearance. All that was needed was for a simple quidam to accuse you of having insulted ‘the commanding father’ for your destiny to sink into a dark unknown. There is a word for that: “Al-istibaha” (the act of declaring the violation of human rights legal). In other words, the whole of society was at the mercy of a powerful elite and no one had dignity. There are no laws forbidding that group from degrading people, or killing them, or stealing their possessions. It’s an expression inherited from past wars, when conquerors allowed their soldiers to do whatever they wanted to do to the inhabitants of the cities they occupied.

Concretely, the power of Assad senior soon resembled an occupation force allowing itself to trample upon a whole population. The concept of istibaha implies that those who find themselves outside the circle of power have no rights. And if that circle abandons any responsibility in terms of public services, it considers it a form of generosity. This is how school students had to study about the ‘generosity’ of the ‘commanding father’: The fact that he brought electricity in certain villages, for example, as though it didn’t exists in homes in countries poorer than Syria. Also, when they increased the salaries of public officials, they announced it like it was a generous act by the president, as if he were paying for it from his own pocket, even though it was also accompanied by a higher rate of inflation which affected these employees  salaries.

“Kneel or Starve”

When the 2011 revolution was launched, the Assad regime had entered a new phase: It no longer hid itself behind the masque of socialism. There was no longer a need for these banners promising death to opponents under the slogan of progress and socialism, or in the name of the Baath Party. Instead, Assad’s henchmen declared a slogan summarising the dynastic essence of the regime: “Assad or we burn the country”. Here, there were no pretenses of some ideal or any form of morality. It is naked despotism, openly showing its true face. At the checkpoints set up by pro-regime militias encircling zones fleeing Assad’s supremacy, we can read another slogan: “Kneel or Starve”, a way of telling the besieged ‘either you die of hunger under the bombs or you accept the humiliation of submission.”

As the regime applies its scorched earth policy and starves the population to bring it to heel, it insists on showing that in the regions it controls, life follows its natural course. It’s not only an image sent abroad to prove the regime’s resilience. It’s only a way of bringing Syrians to accept the idea that there is nothing abnormal happening in their lives while thousands of others are crammed into internment camps and that, every day, security services tell new families of the death of a detained son with no explanation and without returning his corpse.

The standard for Assad is for its repressive machine to kill Syrians wherever it finds them. The world was made aware of the reports by ‘Caesar’ on the systemic usage of torture for the purpose of murder. It was also made aware, a year ago, of a report by the US state department of the existence of a crematorium next to Saydnaya prison. But all of that was just the tip of the iceberg compared to everything we know now and to what the Assad regime will continue to do. The regime isn’t seeking a one-off victory, but a permanent one, a victory that guarantees that no revolution will ever be able to exist. And this means a perpetual war against Syrian society.

We have a president whose legitimacy is still recognised by the world. And yet, in a speech given on the 20th of August, 2017, he said: “Yes, we lost our best youth and infrastructure which cost us a lot of money, we lost whole generations, but in return we gained a society that is sane and homogeneous.” Assad declared that losing thousands of combatants and millions of exiled creates a better society. His concept of homogeneity is inspired by the worst Nazi literature, where he also got his idea of a holocaust.

However, Assad’s victory doesn’t only consist of committing unimaginable crimes, but to make sure they become something banal even to the outside world. The more he kills Syrians, the less the international community is interesting in their tragedy. This is the criteria for his success. Indeed, in the foreign press, these killings do not make the headlines anymore, regardless of how much we talk about them. As for international efforts in favor of a democratic transition, they have practically stopped. Certain world powers which demanded Assad’s departure when he had made only a few thousand victims are now declaring their willingness to see him maintain power now that he has hundreds of thousands of victims.

Documented and filmed atrocities

Even the notion of going after Assad for his use of chemical weapons is a victory to him, as it is a humiliation to Syrians, because it implies that their lives are despised to promote a convention on the interdiction of chemical weapons. What more could we have hoped for? We have powers responsible for peace in the world, as permanent members of the Security Council, invoking the Russian veto when the life and the future of Syrians are at risk. And yet, these same powers act on their own, regardless of that veto, when Assad violates the accord on chemical weapons!

Assad also wins when his Mufti threatens Europe with suicide bombers ready for action and that these threats are realised, only for people to then say that Assad ‘only’ kills his people while ISIS is a threat to the planet! Assad also wins in becoming the first to commit so many documented and filmed atrocities in plain sight for the whole world to see, with no strong international reaction demanding that he be brought to justice.

But his biggest victory is that people now see us as characters in a terrifying tale, and that they may even be sincerely shocked by what is happening to us just as we are shocked when we read a horrible story or watch a tragic film – except that this stays within the realm of imaginary characters. If our story stopped with the little Habiba refusing to be Bashar’s daughter, we might see an optimistic end. Alas, Syrian children like Habiba will grow up, and the first leson that they will learn is that the wolf from the Little Red Riding Hood will eat them with the assistance of the gamekeeper. And it’s not impossible that in the Syrian version of the tale, the gamekeeper trains the children to call the wolf “daddy” before he devours them.

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See also: Occupy Syria!

 

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Cinco de Mayo – 200 years of Marx

Best known for the 1862 defeat of the French empire by Mexico, 5 May was also Karl Marx’s birthday 200 years ago in 1818.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinco_de_Mayo

This May also marks the 50th anniversary of the “May 1968 events in France” which marked the peak of a global upheaval known as “the sixties” when the world was again reminded that revolution is for advanced western capitalist countries too:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_1968_events_in_France

I don’t have much to say about any of these unrelated events, and birthday’s are not in themselves historical events. But this does seem a suitable moment to suggest some reading on Marx.

As a former “suixante-huitard” I can confirm we neither knew nor needed to know much about economics. But it is all the more our duty to help the coming next generation of rebels understand that it is no longer optional. Such work has been put off for more than a century and the coming economic crisis won’t wait another century before there are more upheavals in which rebels will be far too busy rebelling to spend time figuring out how we might actually transform the world economy when we win.

This is a continuation of my initial list for “Studying Philosophy” as preliminary reading to help understand Maksakovsky’s “The Capitalist Cycle”:

https://c21stleft.com/2017/10/19/studying-philosophy/

At present the only other short item I would add to the four main short works there is Engels on Feuerbach:

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1886/ludwig-feuerbach/

I am still working on a similar list for “Studying Economics”. Meanwhile I just came across a recent book of translations of early 20th Century “orthodox marxism” co-authored by Maksakovsky’s translator, Richard B Day with Daniel Gaido. That whole book looks very appropriate for this 200th anniversary:

Responses to Marx’s Capital: from Rudolf Hilferding to Isaak Illich Rubin

A detailed description is here, together with link for free download of the full text .pdf.

https://libcom.org/library/responses-marxs-capital-rudolf-hilferding-isaak-illich-rubin

I haven’t finished reading it but certainly intend to include on the final list the first two chapters of translations from Kaufmann and Bauer.

Marx’s “Introduction” will also need to be on the list:

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1857/grundrisse/ch01.htm

Likewise Hilferding’s 1910 “Finance Capital” was an important follow on from “Capital” needed by Maksakovsky and indicating the vast amount of work that has to be done to seriously grasp another full century of capitalist development since then.

https://www.marxists.org/archive/hilferding/1910/finkap/index.htm

Those two chapters of recent translations from Day and Gaido explain why the above two long available “classics” are important and provide a clear link between the philosophical and economic background useful for understanding Marx and Maksakovsky.

After 200 years, of not understanding Marx, “It’s Time”.

Where do correct ideas come from?

“Where do correct ideas come from? Do they drop from the skies? No. Are they innate in the mind? No. They come from social practice, and from it alone; they come from three kinds of social practice, the struggle for production, the class struggle and scientific experiment. It is man’s social being that determines his thinking”.

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(Cartoon from ‘Rabelais’, La Trobe University SRC newspaper, 1970)

“Once the correct ideas characteristic of the advanced class are grasped by the masses, these ideas turn into a material force which changes society and changes the world. In their social practice, men engage in various kinds of struggle and gain rich experience, both from their successes and from their failures. Countless phenomena of the objective external world are reflected in a man’s brain through his five sense organs  —  the organs of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch.

“At first, knowledge is perceptual. The leap to conceptual knowledge, i.e., to ideas, occurs when sufficient perceptual knowledge is accumulated. This is one process in cognition. It is the first stage in the whole process of cognition, the stage leading from objective matter to subjective consciousness from existence to ideas. Whether or not one’s consciousness or ideas (including theories, policies, plans or measures) do correctly reflect the laws of the objective external world is not yet proved at this stage, in which it is not yet possible to ascertain whether they are correct or not.

“Then comes the second stage in the process of cognition, the stage leading from consciousness back to matter, from ideas back to existence, in which the knowledge gained in the first stage is applied in social practice to ascertain whether the theories, policies, plans or measures meet with the anticipated success. Generally speaking, those that succeed are correct and those that fail are incorrect, and this is especially true of man’s struggle with nature. In social struggle, the forces representing the advanced class sometimes suffer defeat not because their ideas are incorrect ! but because, in the balance of forces engaged in struggle, they are not as powerful for the time being as the forces of reaction; they are therefore temporarily defeated, but they are bound to triumph sooner or later.

“Man’s knowledge makes another leap through the test of practice. This leap is more important than the previous one. For it is this leap alone that can prove the correctness or incorrectness of the first leap in cognition, i.e., of the ideas, theories, policies, plans or measures formulated in the course of reflecting the objective external world. There is no other way of testing truth. Furthermore, the one and only purpose of the proletariat in knowing the world is to change it. Often, correct knowledge can be arrived at only after many repetitions of the process leading from matter to consciousness and then back to matter, that is, leading from practice to knowledge and then back to practice. Such is the Marxist theory of knowledge, the dialectical materialist theory of knowledge.

“Among our comrades there are many who do not yet understand this theory of knowledge. When asked the sources of their ideas, opinions, policies, methods, plans and conclusions, eloquent speeches and long articles they consider the questions strange and cannot answer it. Nor do they comprehend that matter, can be transformed into consciousness and consciousness into matter, although such leaps are phenomena of everyday life. It is therefore necessary to educate our comrades in the dialectical materialist theory of knowledge, so that they can orientate their thinking correctly, become good at investigation and study and at summing up experience, overcome difficulties, commit fewer mistakes, do their work better, and struggle hard so as to build China into a great and powerful socialist country and help the broad masses of the oppressed and exploited throughout the world in fulfillment of our great internationalist duty”.

–   Mao Zedong

May 1963

Cultural Revolution “We’ll return admid triumphant songs and laughter”

We are coming up to the 200th anniversary of Karl Marx’s birth, 5 May 1818. That will also be the 50th anniversary of the peak month of the “sixties”, especially marked by the “events of May 1968”. China’s Cultural Revolution was a key inspiration, regarded with extreme hostility by the current regime in China as well as all “authoritative” historians.

I was struck by reading this article in “South China Morning Post” the auththoritative Hong Kong newspaper of record, now owned by Alibaba. As expected the article is totally slanted to express the regime’s hostility to rebellion. So the following excerpts are a “total distortion” of what was actually said under the headline below (especially by omitting illusions about a fake “maoist” removed from the regime’s leadership).

Why are so many Chinese nostalgic for the Cultural Revolution

Tens of thousands of Maoists marched in the Hunan hometown of late leader Mao Zedong on December 26 to mark the 122nd anniversary of his birth….

…Beyond paying their respects to the atheist revolutionary with fireworks, flowers, music and the burning of paper money, many of those in Shaoshan also expressed their nostalgia for Mao’s era, which ended with his death in 1976, and the Cultural Revolution that marked the last decade of his life.

Dai Cheng, 62, led a group of 60 people from Changzhou in Jiangsu, 800km away, to sing revolutionary songs in Shaoshan’s main square that night, as the temperature dropped to four degrees Celsius.

“We will never forget the Mao era. He made us secure throughout our lives. We didn’t need to pay for medicines, education or housing. And there was no corruption,” he said, raising his voice to be heard above the fireworks.

Dai said it was the Cultural Revolution he missed most…

…“They started a coup in 1976 immediately after the death of chairman Mao,” Dai said. “They betrayed communism. They betrayed chairman Mao. They betrayed the Chinese people.”

As he went on, criticising Deng Xiaoping, the mastermind behind China’s post-Mao market economy reforms, some in the crowd applauded and cheered.

“The Cultural Revolution was aimed at uprooting corruption,” Dai said. “Anyone who opposes it is a supporter of corruption.”

May 16 [2016] marked the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of the Cultural Revolution, which Mao reportedly hailed as one of his two biggest achievements but which the Communist Party declared more than three decades ago to have been a “catastrophe”…

While most people in China agree with the party’s verdict that the Cultural Revolution was a catastrophe, a minority nostalgic about it has been gaining influence. That nostalgia has grown beyond its usual supporters – retired or laid-off elderly people who were adversely affected by market reforms – to include younger people, some educated overseas, who were not alive when Mao was in power. That attraction mostly stems from dissatisfaction with today’s China , which they describe as a state with little welfare and a large wealth gap.

Many supporters of Mao’s political teachings call themselves believers in democracy, referring to the form of government during the Cultural Revolution, when many voices were given a say, not just bureaucrats.

“I admire the revolutionary committees during the Cultural Revolution, it was a reform of the government. There’s no more supervision now,” said Li Musen, a former Red Guard leader in Chongqing who later became a vice-director of the city’s governing revolutionary committee. He was 28 when the Cultural Revolution broke out.

A little over two years into the Cultural Revolution, and usually after bloody clashes backed by the military, all 29 provincial-level governments at the time had been replaced by revolutionary committees, with bureaucrats holding only a third of the seats.

Many political scholars have argued that the composition of the committees, where rebels held around half the seats, caused perpetual political instability. But Li disagreed.

“Representatives of the people, military, all had authority,” he said. “Representatives of cadres were endorsed by all. We supervised each other. What about now? The cadres are so paternal.”

Despite the fact that none of the committees were elected, Li, who calls himself a “dissident” who believes in democracy and freedom of speech, argued that they provided more checks and balances.

“In our revolutionary committee, we spoke what was on our minds … when we didn’t agree, we stood by our own opinions,” he said. “I think that should be the normal atmosphere. The different opinions themselves showcase supervision.

“Now the government just cooks up pretexts used to maintain political stability. There’s a complete lack of freedom of speech.”

China in the Mao era also struck Li as a much fairer society, where the most skilful technicians earned more than the factory director. “Deng said let some people get rich first,” he said. “It turned out to be letting the cadres get rich first.”

Some younger supporters of the Cultural revolution are attracted by the idealism of a movement they never experienced.

Li Beifang, 38, who holds a master’s degree in anthropology from the London School of Economics and Political Science, is considered a leading Maoist intellectual born in the post-Mao era.

Born two years after the Cultural Revolution ended following Mao’s death, and in the same year the Communist Party kicked off market reform and opening up to foreign investment, Li became a leftist while studying at Peking University.

“I realised that what’s more important than knowledge is stance and affection. Who do you place your heart closer to? The powerful and the rich, or the bullied and compromised people?” he wrote of his reasons for becoming a Maoist in a preface to a book published last year.

Like many supporters of Mao and his political teachings, Li Beifang applauded the Cultural Revolution as Mao’s attempt to create an egalitarian utopia….

“Without such an attempt, the human race’s imagination about future forms of society will be exhausted, “ Li Beifang said of the Cultural Revolution in a panel discussion in Beijing in August. “Yes, it was aimed at a utopia and its failure was no surprise. But how could the human race not have a utopia … [we] would lose direction of where to go and end up trapped in nihilism.”

Li Beifang said a vacuum of belief was to blame for widespread materialism in China, another common belief among Maoists.

“After the Cultural Revolution ended, the mental vacuity made problems generated by reform and opening up even worse,” he said, adding that the Cultural Revolution was not successful because it harmed the interests of too many senior cadres.

Li Beifang declined an interview request, citing the sensitivity of discussing the topic with media outside of mainland China.

His nostalgia for utopian Maoism is shared by Zhou Jiayu, 71, a former Red Guard leader in Chongqing who once rose to the top leadership in Sichuan province.

“Like the Paris Commune, it failed and its spirit will always be there,” Zhou said. “The spirit of the Cultural Revolution is rebelling and revolutionising towards inequality and injustice. I miss the unsparing dedication to the revolution. I miss the equality and fraternity between people.”

Each Ching Ming grave-sweeping festival, Zhou visits a cemetery where some 400 Red Guards from his faction are buried. “They gave their lives for their beliefs. They had a sublime goal,” he said. “Before they were hit, they were all chanting slogans like ‘Long live chairman Mao, long live the Cultural Revolution’.”

As Mao wrote in a poem “We’ll return amid triumphant songs and laughter”.

These ARE our issues! ‘Srebrenica’ no more! We are all one.

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There’s a very good article by Roy Gutman from The Daily Beast, published in February this year, about the moral underpinnings – or lack thereof – of the United Nations and the US and other powerful countries’ failure to take effective action against the massacres of the Assad regime.

The killings have gone on for many years now, from about 5,000 deaths in 2011 when the Syrian popular revolt broke out to many more thousands each year – around half a million killed so far.  More than 6 million have been displaced within Syria, and an additional 5 million have fled the country.

Gutman refers to the failure of the UN and US and allies to take effective action against the Assad regime as a ‘Srebrenica moment’.

He writes that, 23 years (in 1995) ago:

‘… the world sat mostly mute, watching events unfold in and around the small village of Srebrenica in a remote corner of eastern Bosnia. No government was ready to lift a finger to save the population of some 27,000, at least half of them displaced from other areas.

‘At a critical moment, the United Nations Protection Force  decided not to bomb Bosnian Serb forces marching on the town. That was taken as the all-clear for Gen. Radko Mladic to capture Srebrenica, expel the women and children, and exterminate the male population of some 8,000’.

In all, about 100,000 were killed during the Bosnian war but the killings were ultimately halted when a NATO force of 60,000 peace-keeping troops occupied the region. Prior to that, there had been NATO air strikes to enforce and defend ‘safe zones’. This is one of the interventions Syria has needed for several years, desperately. A No Fly Zone imposed by the US and NATO, and anyone else willing to help.

In 1994, a year prior to Srebrenica, more than half a million Rawandans were massacred over a hundred day period. Again, there was no effective intervention on the part of the powerful west. We just watched, deplored what was happening, a French military force established a ‘safe humanitarian zone’ in part of Rawanda which saved around 15,000 people, but we did nothing to stop the actual genocide.

In 2013, former US president Bill Clinton reflected on the failure of the US government (during his presidency) to intervene in the genocide as one of his main foreign policy failings. He estimated that 300,000 lives could have been saved by US military intervention.

Following such tragic events, it seemed that an internationalist sense of responsibility was developing – an understanding that ‘we are all one’, that we share a common humanity and that the massacre of people anywhere is an issue for all of us, that separation by oceans or continents is irrelevant. And most importantly, that when all else fails, such as diplomatic pressure and sanctions, military intervention can be the best humanitarian option.

In 1999, the NATO bombing campaign to protect Kosovor Albanians from ethnic cleansing did not have the approval of the United Nations but it averted a much greater bloodbath. The aim of the military campaign was to end the violence and ethnic cleansing policies of the Milosevic national-socialist government, the withdrawal of all military, police and paramilitary forces from Kosovo, the stationing of a UN peacekeeping presence in Kosovo, unconditional and safe return of all refugees and displaced persons, and the establishment of a political framework agreement for Kosovo in conformity with international law and the Charter of the UN.

The NATO led force is still there, with a strength of 4,600.

While the pseudo-left protested against the military action, in defence of ‘national sovereignty’ and against US imperialism (as though it was in any way an imperialist venture), the UN itself was moving ahead of such antiquated and pernicious thinking and in 2005 adopted in principle the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ or ‘R2P’.

R2P means:

‘The Responsibility to Protect – known as R2P – refers to the obligation of states toward their populations and toward all populations at risk of genocide and other mass atrocity crimes. R2P stipulates three pillars of responsibility:

‘Pillar One: Every state has the Responsibility to Protect its populations from four mass atrocity crimes: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.

‘Pillar Two: The wider international community has the responsibility to encourage and assist individual states in meeting that responsibility.

‘Pillar Three: If a state is manifestly failing to protect its populations, the international community must be prepared to take appropriate collective action, in a timely and decisive manner and in accordance with the UN Charter’.

R2P was and is a step in the right direction, as it openly challenges the previously sacred nation of ‘national sovereignty’.

Roy Gutman points out that Eastern Ghouta’s population is 15 times that of Srebrenica’s. While the people in Eastern Ghouta were being attacked by Syrian Army ground forces backed by Russian air power, the US had 2000 troops to the north-east fighting Daesh (ISIS). The result was that 1,700 civilians perished in Eastern Ghouta, and the regime again deployed chlorine gas and probably sarin gas against the rebel-stronghold. The city has become a wasteland, suffering more than a thousand aerial attacks. Hospitals, schools, markets, bakeries and mosques were targeted. (Hardly worth making the point, at it’s so obvious, that Daesh/ISIS has no air power, neither do the pro-democracy rebels).

Gutman quotes a US colonel, John Thomas, of the US Central Command’s public affairs office, as saying ‘CENTCOM has no part in anything in Syria other than the defeat of ISIS’.

That was the case in early February, when the article was written, but since then – two weeks ago – US president Trump called Assad an ‘Animal’ and called for his overthrow.

Daesh is largely defeated. It’s bizarre plans for a Caliphate, headquartered in Raqqa, shattered by military force in October last year. It is beaten in Mosul, Iraq, as well.

Call it what you may: internationalist solidarity against fascistic regimes, or R2P. Military intervention is urgently required to overthrow the Assad regime to end the slaughter, to allow the return of refugees and displaced Syrians, and to assist the Syrian people in building an inclusive democratic system.

 

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“We retain the dignity of the revolution’s early days” – Marcell Shehwaro

The following is written by Syrian writer, Marcell Shehwaro. I came across it this morning on a facebook page called ‘Ghouta’. She is a journalist and activist from Aleppo, and executive director of Kesh Malek, a group that ran schools in opposition-held areas of Aleppo.

Two things strike me about the post. First, the question of ‘surrender’. There is a view among some in what passes for ‘the left’ today that the Syrian people could never win their struggle against the Assad regime. It has even been put to me that they were wrong to challenge an ‘unbeatable’ regime. This view, logically, also opposes the entire Arab Spring – or, more precisely, the bourgeois democratic revolution occurring in the region. As with Iraq, the stability of fascism, with all its regime horrors, is regarded as preferable to the chaos of revolutionary democratic change, with its potential for liberation.

The writer makes it clear why surrender is not an option.

Secondly, a profound point is made in the following sentence:

‘I and my group of friends never imagined as we hid from the bullets that shot at our peaceful demonstration that we could defeat Russian planes all by ourselves’. 

Who, other than a US-led coalition, can provide the military support necessary to defeat the Russian (and Syrian regime) planes? Failure to confront this reality results in the absurd proposition that one should oppose both Russian/Iranian and US/UK/French military intervention; that the recent bombardment and destruction of a chemical weapons storage facility, a research centre and command post by the US/UK/France was morally equivalent to the death toll of about 500,000 and refugee toll (half the population), for which Russia/Assad are overwhelmingly responsible. Not to mention the destruction by aerial bombardment by the regime and Russia of vast areas of cities, towns and camps, schools, hospitals, markets, mosques, and bakeries.

Trump persists with his pledge to wash his hands of Syria but has targeted the regime in a way that Obama never did. The epithet ‘Animal Assad’, used by Trump in a tweet, is now used by the Syrian and Arab democrats.

Meanwhile, the overt far-Right and the pseudo-left take to the streets demanding ‘Hands of Syria!’

Where is the moral compass?

We find one in the Syrian voice in the following post.

 

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What if we accept Bashar Al Assad?

Let’s discuss “peacefully” that “elephant in the room”, as you say, what if we accept that Assad remains in power?

We are asked the question sometimes obliquely, and sometimes filtered through the closed circles that decide on Syrian affairs without the attendance of any Syrians. Sometimes it is brought up in ways that infantalize as if we are children who don’t dare to confront the “truth realistically”.

In the harshest times, this question is posed to us as a negotiation over the bodies of our children. Instead of the answer of “why we don’t accept that Assad remain in power” is obvious because he killed our children and the scars of their smiles are etched on our hearts. The blackmailing question becomes: He will kill your children and their smiles, why don’t you just accept him?

Excuse us for a moment! We need some time to understand this world’s logic, the world ruled by Trump, Putin and a bunch of politicians who only care about their 4-year period in office.

Hafez al-Assad has blocked us from the outside world. Now his son follows in his footsteps. The liberationists amongst us gazed towards the United Nations Charters and the Universal Declaration for Human Rights. Some of us believed that those charters mean something. When the revolution broke out, we discovered that those charters are ruined due to the misuse of the members in the U.N.’s Security Council.

Apologies for the digression. So: why don’t we accept Assad?

We wish you tell your people the “harsh truth”. We want to challenge your empty words and courtesy rhetoric. We know you mean nothing when you say things like: using chemical weapon is a red line, or Aleppo is a red line, or Assad lost his legitimacy.

The truth is that Assad is more your ally than the naïve group of dreamers that we are, believing like we do in democracy, justice and accountability.


Isn’t this the message of bombing in Idlib and Ghouta today? To convince us, “gently”, to accept a political solution—the only solution that you lectured us about—as we are being killed?

You say that we are defeated. Well, gentlemen, I and my group of friends never imagined as we hid from the bullets that shot at our peaceful demonstration that we could defeat Russian planes all by ourselves. We never thought that we can win the “war” while we were being tortured, or suffocated by chemical weapons, destroyed by shelling, rape and detention.


It may be true that we have lost. But this defeat made me aware of something I never wanted to know.

I know today the terminology of violence: The Golan cluster bombs, the difference between Sarin and Chlorine, and the new version of bunker blaster that can destroy our “safe” basements. I learned even how to pronounce these words in English.

You say we were defeated in Sochi! We were not even at Sochi. Sochi was the costume party that gathered the regime himself with you.

You have all our sympathy for the time you are forced to spend with them.
I keep digressing away from that nightmare, Bashar Assad’s ruling Syria, excuse me!

What if we “accept” that Bashar al-Assad stays in power? First, Who are “we”? The cities that are besieged and bombed, the people that must cross a thousand barriers to visit one another. Who are “we”? The refugees who fail to have a proper family reunion? Or need an official permission to breathe?

And if some of us actually accept Bashar al-Assad as president, what can we do with all those of us who are “rude” enough to reject giving up their dignity? What can we do with all those who still believe in their right to their homeland? What if mothers who buried their sons refused to believe that justice had died also? We have to let them die.

So the suggestion is that some of us surrender, so that others die in silence. Or maybe we can give you the names and coordinates of all those who oppose Bashar al-Assad, so that you and your Russian friends can ensure their disappearance?

What if some of us actually accepted that Bashar Al Assad stays in power, do you guarantee that the war will stop? That the brutal dictator won’t celebrate his victory with taste of our defeated blood?


You say that you want him to stay for a transitional period. Funny joke, this one. Do you logically believe in your power to pressure Russia and the regime?

We have asked you for years to stop the shelling. We then felt sorry for you so we minimized our demands and asked you to stop the shelling of hospitals and schools. You failed here too. For years we have asked you to send relief convoys to the besieged areas; to move the sick for a distance of 10 kilometers, or to guarantee the families’ right to know the fate of their disappeared sons , and you failed to do so. You repeatedly explained that you are failing to put pressure on “Damascus.”

What logic do you want to believe, that “You cannot stop a school bombing and you can guarantee Bashar Assad’s removal after a transitional period?”


So the offer, that you are in a shock that we are refusing is, that we have to surrender without restriction, guaranties or condition and preferably silently.


Even if that means killing those who do not give up, we have to accept.
Even if that means that the form of death going only to change from one form to another, we must accept.

Even if that means that he will rule us with iron and fire, and that our children, who will believe again in their own freedom, will may be killed by nuclear weapons this time, we must accept.
So the equation is
Whether

To accept Bashar Al Assad, surrender and die.
Or oppose Bashar Al Assad, resist and die.

We reject the whole equation then, and learn to resist the idea of choosing between death and death through thousands of borders that limit us every day.

And we retain all the anger caused by the killings of our people, who we were unable to grieve amidst the ongoing massacre, we retain the dignity of the revolution’s early days. We retain all of our memory and the choice of life. We retain the fragment of a beautiful dream we had one day to have a homeland.


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