[Marxism] Baathists sell Islamophobic message to White House

Jeff meisner at xs4all.nl
Thu Apr 25 08:45:02 MDT 2013

On Thu, April 25, 2013 14:29, Louis Proyect wrote:
> NY Times April 24, 2013
> .... President Bashar al-Assad is waging an energized campaign to
> persuade the United States that it is on the wrong side of the civil
> war......
> “We are partners in fighting terrorism,” Syria’s prime minister, Wael
> Nader al-Halqi, said.

Of course there is nothing at all new in this message; the Assad regime
has always described the opposition (including the initial demonstrations
which did not even vaguely call for the overthrow of the government) as
"terrorism" and its repression as part of the global "war on terrorism."
No different was, for instance, Saif Islam (the Westernized son of
Gaddafi) at the beginning of the Libyan uprising expressing his surprise
(genuinely, I believe) that the West wouldn't be supporting (quietly, if
not openly) the Libyan government's crackdown on "terrorism," and
sincerely calling for them to rethink that "mistake." He surely saw (and
rightly so) the NATO operation as a betrayal of the good relations that
had become well established. In the case of Syria, the betrayal had
occurred years earlier when Bush pronounced them as part of the "axis of
evil," but there had never been an actual threat against the Syrian state

Anyone familiar with the "democracy and human rights" narrative of the
Western capitalists could have predicted that when a regime they are not
particularly friendly to (or having interests defended by) engages in mass
repression, there would be a verbal outcry. What was different was that
after Libya, many believed (from the right to the left) that such talk
would actually result in action. Of course we know now that this belief
was mistaken, and that Libya was an aberration rather than the first
instance of a new bold interventionism. But the verbal threats alone were
enough for Assad to claim that the uprising was the beginning of a Libya
type of revolution that had been inspired and covertly instigated by
Western governments, and this narrative of course found willing ears among
colonial and anti-imperialist populations, unfortunately including many
Marxists who should have done their own observation of reality rather than
just reading the pronouncements of rival governments.

So really, the main thing that is new is that al-Assad sees the Boston
bombing and increased hysteria about "Islamic terrorism" as an opportunity
to repeat his narrative, perhaps now falling upon more receptive ears
among the Western governments. Which makes even less likely the rebels
receiving substantial support from them (which is separate from the issue
of intervention, which I see as very likely at the point that the Assad
regime actually loses power). And that the NYT in turn would go so far as
to write such an article, whereas the earlier boasting by Gaddafi or Assad
that they were engaged in the global war against terrorism would only be
mentioned in passing.

The danger of the revolution bringing a radical Islamic current to power
was there from the beginning in each of the Arab uprisings, but in the
case of the protracted Syrian conflict has been displayed prior to the
revolution's victory in terms of those forces' increasing military role
while the more democratic and left forces are starved for external
support. By all accounts, radical Islam in Syria is traditionally weaker
than it was in Libya, and I therefore expect that in the long run there is
no more basis for them to dominate the Syrian state than in Libya where
they remain a small minority. And that "moderate" Islamists such as the
Muslim Brotherhood will have a very substantial but still minority backing
there, as in the other Arab revolutions. And it is impossible to predict
(as it was for the other Arab revolutions) exactly what combination of
forces will manage to form a government (or otherwise compete for power)
following the revolution's victory. What is important is that we don't let
these endless possibilities scare us away from supporting popular
revolution; that the left doesn't buy into the "Radical Islamic Terrorism"
narrative, whether advanced by the West or by Arab dictators.

- Jeff

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