[Marxism] A Syrian responds to Lindsey German

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Sep 8 09:19:22 MDT 2013

(From Shiar Neyo's FB page)

The schizophrenic delusions of the Western anti-war movement: A response 
to Lindsey German
May 10, 2013 at 8:58pm

I am a Syrian living in London. I have many friends and family members 
who have, over the past two years, fled Syria and become refugees, or 
been killed, arrested, tortured or disappeared. The ongoing Syrian 
Revolution has thus been a personal as much as political fixture of my 
life ever since it started in March 2011.

I am not saying this as a cheap attempt to assert my legitimacy or 
'authentic voice' in the toxic 'debate' over the Syrian revolution in 
the West. It is simply to highlight the fact that, for over two years, I 
have been following the developments in Syria very closely, mostly 
through independent media reports and social networking sites in Arabic, 
as well as through personal accounts from people on the ground.

Like many Syrians living abroad, I have long given up on the Western 
media's coverage of the revolution, both mainstream and alternative. 
Even more so when it comes to what so-called Leftists in the West have 
to say about it. They are, after all, so irrelevant to the majority of 
the population here, let alone in Syria.

But every now and then I come across – often by mistake – an article or 
a commentary piece by some Leftist politician or activist that makes my 
blood boil. This time it was an article by the British Stop the War 
leader Lindsey German, published on the coalition's website on 26 April 
2013. The piece made me so angry that I decided to waste a few hours of 
my life and respond to it. So here you go.

Dear Lindsey German (and many others in the Western anti-war 'movement'),

I have no idea where you get your news about Syria from, but it strikes 
me that it's probably mostly from the Guardian, BBC and other 
establishment mouthpieces (when it comes to foreign policy anyway). For 
how else can one explain your sudden realisation that Syria is only now 
“descending into hell”? Really?! All this death and destruction over the 
past 26 months has not been hellish enough for you? Only now, when your 
beloved mainstream media start to recycle some state propaganda nonsense 
about the conflict in Syria taking (yet another) dangerous turn or 
crossing some 'red line', do your alarm bells start to ring?

You see, information sources are not just about information; they also 
shape your perspective. As a Leftist activist, one would have thought 
you would mention – at least once, in passing – the popular uprising or 
the revolution, what Syrians think and want, or anything remotely 
related to people. Instead, all you obsess about is big politics from a 
statist perspective: regime change, foreign intervention, regional war, 
Israel, Iran, bla bla bla.

If you'd argued that, after Tunisia, the prospect of mass, popular 
uprisings bringing regimes down seemed too frightening for Western and 
regional powers, so they opted for pushing the revolutions into 
prolonged armed conflicts or wars (mainly by not intervening when they 
could), I might have paused and thought a bit about your argument. If 
you'd said that the prospects of progressive governments emerging from 
mass uprisings demanding freedom and social justice seemed too 
frightening for the conservative, neoliberal forces, both regionally and 
internationally, so they converged to divert the revolutions and paint 
them as something else, I might have listened to you. But dismissing 
everything people have been fighting for because of some archaic 
geo-strategic equations... that's just too much to swallow.

The only time you seem to remotely allude to people's agency is when you 
fall into the trap of Western media's obsession with Middle Eastern 
sectarianism, reducing complex political dynamics to a savage 'civil 
war' between religious sects: “Syria, locked into a bitter civil war 
between the government of Bashir [sic] Assad and the various opposition 
forces...” Here is what a friend posted on Facebook a while ago:

“Dear friends everywhere,

We, Syrians, or a vast majority of us, do not accept using the term 
'civil war' when talking about our revolution. We hope that you can take 
serious note of that. It is a popular revolution against a 
mass-murdering dictatorship. Calling it a civil war is unacceptable to 
us. Thanks.”

Your misinformed, or disinformed, sources of information may also 
explain your simplistic analysis of the political games unravelling in 
Syria, such as your talk about the imaginary “alliance of Saudi Arabia, 
Qatar, Israel, Jordan and the Western powers.” Had you bothered to look 
a bit closer, check some more informed and reliable sources, or even 
talk to some Syrians, you would have realised that this 'alliance' is 
riddled with power struggles, with different regional and international 
powers supporting different factions fighting in Syria, with very 
different agendas and strategies. The only thing that seems to unite 
them is their opposition to the regime.

But even this does not mean that 'the Syrian people' are united in their 
position regarding these factions. Had you bothered to look or ask, you 
would have discovered that many Syrian Leftists are fighting alongside 
members of the Muslim Brothers, that there have been numerous protests 
inside Syria against Jabhat al-Nusra when its members have gone too far 
in their authoritarian or sectarian practices, and so on and so forth. 
Instead, you chose to quote Robert Fisk – who has long lost it, as far 
as I'm concerned – saying: “The rebels so beloved of NATO nations are 
losing their hold of Damascus... This war – beware – may last another 
two, three or more years. Nobody will win.”

The same can be said of your eye-opening revelation that the sole aim of 
the Syrian revolution, as a Western conspiracy, is “a transformation of 
the Middle East aimed at permanently weakening Iran and its allies.” I 
do not want to comment on this any further but you might want to 
commission one of your coalition members to investigate the complex and 
changing attitudes of Syrians towards Hizbullah and Iran. A cursory look 
at recent images posted on Facebook of Syrian banners and placards 
ridiculing Hasan Nasrallah and Hizbullah might be a good start.

My point is that your objections to a military intervention in Syria 
seem to stem from the same place as the intervention: that 'we' 
(Europeans, Westerners, whatever) know better than Syrians what should 
be done about Syria. Had you bothered to talk to some Syrians, they 
might have told you how complex and nuanced the issue of foreign 
intervention is for most Syrians (I'm obviously not talking about a few 
sell-outs or parasites who are capitalising on the events for their own 
advantage). Their angry responses to the Israeli air strike on Damascus 
last week are just one example.

Did it not cross your mind, for instance, that 'those people' have 
already experienced Western colonialism and have grown up with strong 
anti-imperialist discourses (Leftist, pan-Arab nationalist and 
Islamist)? That they too might have learnt something from the Iraq war 
like you? (even though I would object to equating the invasion of Iraq 
with the recent popular revolutions in the region, but that's another 

I doubt any of this has ever crossed your mind. Because had it done so, 
you might have paused for a moment and thought: what is that pushes 
these people to resort to the support of antagonistic regional and 
Western powers, knowing full well that the conditions of this support or 
the price they would have to pay is very high? I can tell you what I 
think the main reason is.

If you and your comrades had shown the Syrians who started the 
revolution any sort of support from the beginning – I mean serious, 
material support, not conditional solidarity and empty, confused slogans 
– they might not have had to resort to the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and 
other powers, and to form coalitions with 'backward' forces. Instead, 
all you and your comrades have been obsessing about is an imaginary 
peaceful or civil society movement that would mysteriously succeed in 
bringing down a blood-thirsty regime just like that. Then you turn to 
slag off those who join the Islamists or whoever is actually fighting 
the regime. This is not only delusional, allow me to say, it also does 
not exactly strike a chord with the majority of Syrians at the moment, 
given the context of extreme violence.

Every time I hear people here talking about a peaceful uprising being 
hijacked by militant Islamists or great Western powers or whatever, I 
cannot help thinking that it is not just their ignorant arrogance that 
is making them so blind to what is actually happening on the ground; it 
is, rather, an ideologically driven habit of twisting facts so that they 
conveniently fit into a pre-constructed narrative about 'those people' 
and how they do things. It is, in other words, Orientalism.

Here is another example from your article: “The impact of Western 
intervention in Syria is becoming more destructive as time goes on. 
[...] Syria... is continuing its descent into hell, aided and abetted by 
outside powers whose concern is not humanitarian nor democratic, but is 
about reshaping the region and especially destroying Syria’s ally in Iran.”

To me, the position of Western anti-war activists and politicians 
vis-a-vis the Arab revolutions can be best descried as 'schizophrenic 
delusion'. On the one hand, they stand against 'the war'; on the other, 
they find themselves not only supporting repressive regimes but also 
supporting the wars waged by these regimes against their peoples. The 
reason: because they are stuck in an archaic anti-imperialist discourse.

Being anti-imperialist yet West-centric just does not work: it is still 
Orientalism. This Orientalist (and statist) world view is so dominant 
within the Western Left that even a mass, popular uprising is reduced to 
a Western-manufactured conspiracy (which is, incidentally, the same line 
as that the Syrian regime has been repeating). It not only ignores facts 
on the ground and the complex political dynamics at play in those 
countries, but also overlooks those people's agency and reduces them to 
either some inferior and stupid stereotype (Islamist terrorists) or some 
romanticised mythical version that is compatible with the dominant 
Western values (pro-democracy, peaceful, etc.).

Regional and Western powers will, of course, try to capitalise on the 
Syrian revolution and attempt to hijack or utilise it for their own ends 
(they've always done so; that's politics.). But by imposing your own 
values and political agendas on the revolution, instead of showing real, 
unconditional solidarity with the people living it, you do exactly the 
same, dear comrade: you use it to feel better about yourself; to feel 
you're still relevant, superior and intelligent.


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