[Marxism] Smoke, Mirrors and the antiwar movement | layyin1137

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Dec 19 17:03:20 MST 2013

It is one thing for the antiwar movement to, quite rightly in this 
writer’s view, critique the extremely hypocritical Western stance in the 
Middle East. It is quite another to take that same hypocrisy and fashion 
an opposing narrative that is as one-sided. In the process, left-leaning 
antiwar activists have found an unlikely partnership with an extremely 
Islamophobic American far-right–whose never-shy spokesman Sarah Palin 
blared, “Let Allah sort it out!”, and whose prize media nincompoop Brian 
Kilmeade took the common Muslim celebratory cry of “Allahu Akbar!” by 
the Syrian opposition as a sign of radicalism–that sees any sign of 
Islamic movements as an assertion of the global Creeping Shurriah. And 
in doing so adopted some of the same far-right mantras they once 
opposed. The blanket label of the entire opposition as “terrorists” is 
simply one example.

If this antiwar response to Western interventionism is meant to oppose 
the possibility of Western imperial interests in the region, it is also 
fatally self-defeating. As caustic as America and its generally 
anti-Syrian allies, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, were at the start 
of the conflict, their own inclination seems to be reverting back to 
Bashar Assad’s government rather than the potentially unpredictable 
Islamists in opposition. As noted critic of Zionism Max Blumenthal 
noted, it appears that the Zionist wing of Israel–for all their early 
hostility towards Assad as a partner of their chief opponent Iran–is 
gravitating itself towards letting the Baathist dictator stay in power; 
unlike the Islamists, he is a known quantity and has never in any case 
been particularly aggressive anywhere outside his borders save Lebanon. 
It is also something of a compromise as Israel’s chief patron, the 
United States, gravitates closer towards Assad’s chief patrons in Iran. 
Those antiwar spokespeople, such as the redoubtable Galloway, who see 
Assad’s Syria as a buffer to Zionist expansionism in the region should 
probably think again.

The other danger is a rather subtler one. It also involves the blanket 
label of the entire Syrian opposition as a homogenous breed of radical 
Islamic jihadists–Salafists is the popular term nowadays, last decade it 
was Wahhabists–who want to establish the always-dreaded global 
caliphate. There is certainly a spillover of disturbingly fanatical 
jihadists, most notably from Al-Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq and the 
Levant, into Syria; their conquest last winter of the eastern stronghold 
of Raqqa is an alarming development. that signifies their growing 
influence. Yet to assume that all factions in the opposition are as 
irredentist, fanatical and extreme as ISIL is to fundamentally 
misunderstand the situation at best, and to turn it into a 
self-fulfilment at worst. To paint the entire opposition, on political 
rather than realistic grounds, as radical fundamentalists is to 
marginalize the more inclusive, open and reconcilible elements among 
them. The same scenario has taken place time and again over the past 
twenty years–in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Algeria, Chechnya and Somalia.

Among the more surprising hosts of this viewpoint was the 
usually-excellent Boiling Frogs blog run by repeatedly-gagged former 
intelligence agent Sibel Edmonds: in an alarmingly broad-stroked screed 
last year, contributing writer William Engdahl submitted a wildly 
swinging attack on, among others, the Syrian opposition, branding them 
all as hardline Sunnis called “Salafists” and “Wahhabites” whose raison 
d’etre is to wipe out “moderate Muslim” movements, such as mystical 
Sufism, in favour of a rigid revivalist hard line. Among his examples of 
“Salafi terror” was, along with the (Deobandi, not Salafi) Taliban 
leader Mohammed Omar, Egypt’s only legitimately elected president in 
history, Mohamed Morsi, who through that same twisted, broad-stroked 
logic was deposed in Egypt this summer during a bloody coup whose 
leaders termed any opposition as “terrorists” who deserved to be 
bloodily eradicated (a line repeated by, among others, the Wahhabi 
government of Saudi Arabia–so much for that theory) (3). Another usually 
excellent website, Global Research, which has long critiqued Western 
narratives in war zones, published an article by Michael Chossudosky 
that blamed the rise of death squads in Syria solely on opposition Sunni 
jihadists, never mind that both Sunni radicals and the same 
Iran-affiliated Shia extremists who had dominated post-Baathist Iraq 
have used such tactics. I privately contacted Chossudosky to pursue this 
rather unlikely claim further but have received no response. (4)

It is the same line toed by, among others, American neoconservatives 
such as David Frum and Richard Perle, their Muslim apologists like 
Stephen Schwartz and Zuhdi Nasser, and the brutal dictatorships of 
Central Asia, who have resorted to branding any dissent as Wahhabism to 
justify a savage crackdown for the past twenty years. While criticism of 
Wahhabis and Salafis is certainly not unwarranted–and there are 
certainly some voluble Wahhabis and Salafis, including Al-Qaeda, who 
uphold an extremely rigid and exclusive interpretation of Islam and 
authorize violent persecution of Shia and other minorities–the Muslim 
Matters website points out (5) that it is a usually politically 
motivated label, used by foreigners since colonial Britain to brand any 
native Muslim opposition to imperialism without much regard to accuracy. 
Hardly a black-and-white measure, in short, of judging radicalism. The 
killer of the Pakistani governor of Punjab, for instance, was a member 
of the generally more liberal Sufi persuasion, while the West’s closest 
Arab partner, Saudi Arabia, is the birthplace of what is broady termed 
Wahhabism. In Tunisia, meanwhile, Salafist party leader Saleh Bouazizi 
has condemned violence and refused to cooperate with violent Salafis; a 
self-described “true Salafist” Marwa, offered her interpretation of a 
Salafi as any emulator of Prophet Muhammad’s followers, which would put 
most observant Muslims in the category (6).


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