[Marxism] An iranian leftist's perspective on Syria

Michael Karadjis mkaradjis at gmail.com
Tue Dec 6 22:38:14 MST 2016

The article is indeed a complete pack of lies, Andy's outburst was fully 
justified. Just on this:

>  He would
> argue that being against ISIS and the other fundamentalist groups, 
> which
> are the main alternative to the Assad dictatorship, is just sensible.

Louis already responded to this adequately. That "ISIS and the other 
fundamentalist groups" is the typical sleight of hand engaged in by 
every apologist for tyranny. There is simply no comparison between ISIS 
and absolutely any other group (including Nusra, which itself accounts 
for not more than 10% of the cadres of the insurgency), quite apart from 
the fact that they fight on *opposite* sides.

But so if we get rid of the loaded "and the other fundamentalist 
groups", we are left with the assertion that ISIS is "the main 
alternative to the Assad dictatorship." Anyone with more than a mere 
passing interest in Syria would know very well that ISIS has never been 
even remotely posed to take Damascus or Aleppo, has never even remotely 
been posed as an "alternative" to Assad. All one needs to do is look at 
a map. And the couple of times some wild strands, some outreach parties, 
of ISIS have ventured closer to Damascus (never even remotely with the 
forces to take Damascus), it has been none other than the Syrian rebels 
that have driven them away.

As for the idea that it is "sensible" that there can be a worse 
alternative than Assad, I'll just quote Michael Neumann, someone who has 
consistently written good stuff on Syria 

"The very same people who cannot believe that the world just throws up 
its hands over Syria belong to those who enable that reaction.  They cry 
out about human rights and war crimes, legitimating ridiculously broad 
categories that level out all choices into exercises in futility.  Human 
rights discourse sets you up to say, there are no good options.  And 
that indeed is how people react.

"Well, what's wrong with that?  Drop the refusal to compare and the 
problem becomes apparent.  The situation in Syria presents far more than 
a choice between alleged evils.  Comparison would show the crucial fact 
whose neglect affects all the West's reactions and policy decisions 
about Syria:  that Assad represents an evil orders of magnitude greater 
than what is normally encountered in this world.

"Imagine that people did actually examine and compare the record of the 
various parties to the Syrian conflict.  They might find reasons why it 
is not only morally permissible but morally obligatory, at times, to 
give full military support to people who commit war crimes and violate 
human rights.  That realization can occur only when people stop saying 
it's all the same and really look at the details of atrocities.

"The worst atrocities are almost never reported.  Incredibly, the latest 
Amnesty International account of torture in Syrian jails specifies the 
details of only of cases which are mild by Assad's standards.  Perhaps 
here again, to report worse is thought merely prurient by an agency 
known for its 'even-handedness', that is, its refusal to compare.

"But the details say something otherwise impossible to convey:  that the 
Assad régime, even in the face of all the other horrible régimes around 
the world, introduces a level of barbarism scarcely conceivable.  How 
typical for the world to focus on Assad's bombing, as if this was his 
worst, as if some fancy American fighter jets could do some flyovers and 
make all well.  There are two reasons this won't do.

"First, the focus won't overcome the refusal to compare: think how many 
will say, "but doesn't the West bomb civilians too?  Didn't the US and 
Britain do this, deliberately, in the Second World War?  Isn't bombing 
civilians, whether or not it is fully expected 'collateral damage', a 
terrible thing?  What, are we going to compare atrocities now?"  Second, 
the focus on barrel bombs is oblivious to Syria's realities.  For Assad, 
barrel bombs are a mere convenience.  Before the barrel bombs, his 
forces didn't kill children from the sky.  They took knives and slit the 
throats of babies and toddlers.  There are photographs and 
well-confirmed reports of this for anyone who takes the trouble to find 

"The refusal to compare and its consequent avoidance of details conceals 
uncomfortable facts.  ISIS' beheadings that so shock the world take 
moments; they are humane compared to the slow deaths Assad's torturers 
have inflicted on victims as young as 11.  Bombing hospitals is indeed 
terrible:  before the bombings, régime troops invaded the hospitals on 
foot and tortured people in their hospital beds.  And the tortures of 
Abu Ghraib are love pats compared to what Assad inflicts on human flesh.

"To these qualitative comparisons must be added quantitative ones. 
Assad murders and tortures many times more people than any other 
participant in the conflict.  To first preach about the awfulness of 
atrocities, and then assign no weight to how many human beings suffer 
them, is nothing short of bizarre.

"It's hardly a surprise that honest comparisons are avoided: the 
conclusions they compel are so unwelcome.  But they loom large because 
they point to a crossroads of morality and political realism.  The 
fact - it is a fact - is that ISIS, which conducts massacres, beheads 
people, blows up civilians, executes by burning alive and throws 
homosexuals off buildings - is, according to all reports on the scale 
and nature of the atrocities, much less brutal than the Syrian 

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