[Marxism] George Galloway on Syria
lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Aug 15 07:01:34 MDT 2011
The news this morning that the Syrian navy were shelling the
water-front of Latakia - including the Palestinian refugee camp
there - shook me to the core.
Not just because I lived in that camp last year, on that
water-front, when the then dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak was
stalling about letting the Viva Palestina 5 convoy sail for Gaza
(after more than a fortnight of Syrian hospitality the convoy
sailed though I was banned). The people of Latakia, a beautiful
seaside holiday resort, were good to me. I cannot be silent about
their suffering now.
More importantly the news was shocking insofar as it calibrated
how close we now are to a full-scale civil war in “the last Arab
country” as I described Syria in a speech in the Assad library
five years ago, just after the Israeli attack on Lebanon was
repulsed by the Syrian backed resistance led by Hezbollah.
Historically, I was never close to the Syrian regime, I’m writing
this from my house which I called Tal-al-Zattar after the
Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon which suffered a massacre
facilitated by another Assad more than thirty years ago and
carried out by his then Phalangist allies.
I was with Yasser Arafat in his long struggle to keep the PLO free
from the dead hand of the Syrian Ba’ath Party. I stood with Iraq
when 29 countries tried to destroy it in the first Iraq war in
1991. One of those countries was Assad’s Syria.
But in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king and by 2006
Bashar al Assad was the last Arab leader standing. Syria was hated
I said that night in the library not because of the bad things it
has done but because of the good. I adumbrated them thus. Syria
has refused to sign a surrender peace with Israel, refused to
abandon its territory on the Golan to the illegal occupiers. Syria
has refused to abandon the Palestinian resistance, continuing to
give safe haven for the leaders, and fighters, of virtually the
whole gamut of resistance organisations. Syria has insisted on
supporting the Lebanese resistance, has refused to allow its
territory to be used as a base against the resistance in Iraq and
so forth. It was all true of course but it was not the whole truth.
The dark side of the Syrian regime, its authoritarian character,
its police state mentality above all its deep-seated corruption
fantastically exacerbated by the regimes neo-liberal turn with its
attendant privatisations, substituting state property for private
ownership by the regime’s comprador, by and large. This was
another part of the truth though partly concealed by the Arab
nationalist anti-Imperialist character of the Syrian people and
their government. This has been the lived experience of most
Syrians for over forty years. That’s a lot of darkness.
It was possible to judge Syria by the nature of its enemies -
Israel, US, British and French imperialism, the Arab
reactionaries, the Salafist sectarian fanatics - for as long as
the Syrian people remained either supported or were largely
quiescent behind the regime even if only for fear of something
worse. And as long as the President, Bashar al -Assad, held out
hope for real reform towards democracy open government and an end
to rampant corruption, much of it concentrated around his own
family and close cronies. That hope now dangles by a thread.
To describe the mass uprising in Syria, day after day for months
and undaunted by the steadily rising price in blood being paid by
the protestors, as the actions of “terrorists” and “gunmen” is a
gross distortion. In fact the regime itself looks more and more
like the terrorist, certainly the gunmen, in this picture. This is
a genuine popular uprising taking place in Syria even if it is
heavily infiltrated by all of Syria’s enemies - the enemies of all
the Arabs in my view.
The biggest problem is that the longer fighting on this scale
continues on the greater the scope for these enemies to engineer
an outcome favourable to them. An outcome which takes Syria out of
the traditional national camp and into the camp of collapse,
surrender, sectarianism and indignity.
That’s why I must say it looks like five minutes to midnight in
Syria for me. For years the President has talked of reform. But
the more he talked the faster his relatives counted their
He has talked about the lifting of states of emergency whilst
presiding (one assumes he’s still presiding) over the mother of
all emergencies in his country. He has talked about ending the
Ba’ath’s constitutional monopoly as the “leading force” in the
country but it still exists, at least on paper if not on the
streets. He has talked about elections but of those there is no
sign and how could there be amidst the carnage?
The risk of open imperialist intervention in this situation
increases almost by the hour. The enemies of the Palestinians and
all the Arabs are rattling their sabres. The Syrian people, always
the heart of Arab nationalism cry out in their slogans even as
they are shot down against any such foreign interventions, but the
vultures circle nonetheless. Such a fate for the great Syria, must
be avoided at all costs. At all costs.
Unless the Syrian regime can conclude an urgent agreement to
proceed to elections, a free media, legal political opposition and
an end to what has now become a massacre, the state is going to be
invaded or is going to collapse under the weight of the bloodshed.
And amidst the ruins of that, the rats of reaction, sectarian
hatred and treason will certainly run free.
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