[Marxism] Syria’s Assad has become an unexpected icon of the far right in America

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Aug 13 11:19:28 MDT 2017

(Unexpected? Not by me.)

Washington Post, August 13 2017
Syria’s Assad has become an unexpected icon of the far right in America
By Liz Sly and Rick Noack

BEIRUT — Among the postings on what might have been the Facebook page of 
James Alex Fields Jr., the driver of the car that killed a 
counterprotester at the right-wing demonstrations in Charlottesville, 
Va. on Saturday, were images of far-right favorite Pepe the Frog, 
swastikas and a baby portrait of Adolf Hitler, according to BuzzFeed.

Perhaps more surprisingly, there was also reportedly a picture of 
Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, in full military uniform, inscribed 
underneath with the word “undefeated.”

Screenshots of the now-inaccessible profile were widely circulated on 
social media on Saturday and Sunday, although the account's authenticity 
could not be confirmed. But the apparent fascination with Assad would 
fit a more general link between the far right and the Syrian regime that 
has grown increasingly pronounced in recent months and played a role 
throughout this weekend’s white nationalist rally in Virginia.

Assad’s politics — and those of his father before him — have 
historically been associated more with the left than the right. His late 
father, President Hafez al-Assad, was the closest Middle East ally of 
the Soviet Union throughout the Cold War. The son has enjoyed the 
stalwart support of international leftists throughout his attempt to 
crush the six-year-old rebellion against his rule.

In recent months, however, Assad has become an icon also for the far 
right, whose leaders and spokesman have heaped praise on the ferocity 
with which he has prosecuted the war, his role in fighting the Islamic 
State and his perceived stance against Muslims and Jews.

That Assad’s harsh methods have resulted in tens of thousands of 
civilian casualties seems only to have enhanced his stature. In a video 
posted on Twitter, three men who participated in the Charlottesville 
protests hailed Assad’s use of barrel bombs to subdue communities that 
turned against him. One is wearing a T-shirt that says: “Bashar’s Barrel 
Delivery Co.”

Barrel bombs are crude, cheaply made explosive devices that are tipped 
out of aircraft without any form of targeting, and their use has killed 
thousands of civilians in Syria. In the streamed live video, the men 
defend Assad.

“Assad did nothing wrong,” said alt-right social-media activist Tim 
Gionet, who is also known as “Baked Alaska” on Twitter and YouTube.

“Barrel bombs, hell yeah,” he can be heard saying in the same video.

Assad’s emergence as a popular hero for the right appears to have 
followed a series of tweets in March by the former Ku Klux Klan leader 
David Duke, in which he lavished praise on the Syrian president, 
describing him as an “amazing leader” — and more.

Other right-wing leaders have long expressed their support for the 
Syrian president and clearly hoped that President Trump, who made 
flattering comments about Assad on the campaign trail, would strike up 
an alliance with him. Such hopes were also based on the backing Assad 
had received from some far-right politicians in Europe. France’s Marine 
Le Pen, for example, has said that keeping Assad in power is “the most 
reassuring solution.”

After Trump ordered the U.S. military to bomb a Syrian airfield in 
response to a chemical attack in northern Syria, numerous right-wing 
commentators expressed their dismay on Twitter. Shortly after the 
attack, right-wing protesters opposed to the military intervention, led 
by white nationalist Richard B. Spencer, faced off against a group of 
antifascist protesters outside the White House.

Although Trump has continued to refuse to directly back Assad, even 
calling him “truly an evil person” in an April TV interview, the far 
right’s apparent fascination with seeing the Syrian president hold on to 
power has persisted.

The far right's love affair with Assad also might not be entirely 
unexpected. His Ba'ath Party is fiercely nationalist and ethnocentric, 
focused on the promotion of Arab identity. One of the few political 
parties permitted by his regime and one of his staunchest supporters in 
the war is the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, which drew the 
inspiration for its logo from the swastika.

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