[Marxism] UN Syria Commission clears YPG/J and SDF of ethnic cleansing charges

Chris Slee chris_w_slee at hotmail.com
Fri Mar 17 04:57:20 MDT 2017

Michael Karadjis says:

"Of course there was no use of "chlorine or cluster bombs" by any rebels
in this report (and the entirely false accusation in a previous Amnesty
report that chlorine was sued against Sheikh Maqsud was based on one
photo with some yellow dye smudged on it), whereas they are used on a
massive scale by the regime, alongside napalm, white phosphorus, vacuum
bombs, barrel bobs, bunker busters,  ballistic missiles etc, yet Nick
seeks to lump the rebels together with this regime."

Actually, the evidence for the use of chlorine weapons by the rebels was not just "one photo with some yellow dye".  Amnesty said:

"There are also allegations that members of armed groups attacking Sheikh Maqsoud may have used chemical weapons. A local doctor told Amnesty International that on 7 and 8 April he treated six civilians and two YPG fighters for symptoms including shortness of breath, numbness, red eyes and severe coughing fits. Several of the victims, he said, reported seeing yellow smoke as missiles impacted. A toxicologist consulted by Amnesty International, who viewed video-clips of the apparent attack and reviewed the doctor’s testimony, said the patients’ symptoms could be the effects of a chlorine attack. A subsequent statement purportedly issued by the leader of the Army of Islam armed group said that a field commander had deployed an “unauthorised weapon” on Sheikh Maqsoud and that he would be held to account".

I agree with Michael that the Assad regime has killed more people than the rebels.  A major reason for this is that the regime has a lot of high-tech weapons that the rebels don't have.  If they had similar weapons they might be doing similar things.
(The fact that one Army of Islam commander experimented with chlorine - allegedly without authorisation, which I am skeptical of - suggests this is the case).

But our attitude to the contending forces is not solely a matter of counting the number of war crimes committed by each of them.  We also have to look at their politics.

A fundamental flaw of a large part of the rebel movement is religious sectarianism.  Paragraph 70 of the UN report gives an example:
"On 27 July, a group of female detainees suffering from illnesses were released from al-Tawba prison in Douma. They had been detained since 11 December 2013, when members of armed groups including Jaysh al-Islam, Ahrar al-Sham and the terrorist group Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (then Jabhat al-Nusra) invaded the town of Adra Oumaliyah in Damascus countryside and took Alawite men, women and children hostage. While imprisoned, armed group elements separated men from women, and all detainees were periodically visited by a sheikh who encouraged them to convert to the Sunni Islam denomination. One female hostage recalled how “the sheikh used to curse Alawites and ask God to exterminate the group and their children.” In the summer of 2014, an additional group of female hostages were brought to the prison, increasing the number of female detainees to 43, along with nine children under the age of 13 years who accompanied their mothers. All female hostages were members of minority religious groups, including Alawite, Ismaili, Druze, and Christian. It is estimated that dozens of additional men, women and children remain under the custody of armed groups in eastern Ghouta. The Commission has previously identified sectarian motivations underpinning violations carried out by Jaysh al-Islam."

Religious sectarianism is reactionary.  The protestors of 2011 wanted to unite people of all religions against the Assad dictatorship.  Reactionary rebel groups want to divide people on a religious basis.

If such groups were victorious they would impose a regime equally as oppressive as Assad's, but with a  religious ideology instead of a nominally secular one.

Such sectarian practices contrast with the emphasis by the PYD and its allies on involving people of all religions in the democratic institutions of northern Syria (not to mention the differences over women's rights etc).

The PYD argues that it is continuing the spirit of the 2011 protests.  It is often criticised for being a third force, separate from both the Assad regime and the rebels.  But given that some of the main rebel groups have goals diametrically opposed to those of the PYD, this is quite reasonable.

Chris Slee

From: Marxism <marxism-bounces at lists.csbs.utah.edu> on behalf of Michael Karadjis via Marxism <marxism at lists.csbs.utah.edu>
Sent: Friday, 17 March 2017 1:14 AM
To: Chris Slee
Subject: Re: [Marxism] UN Syria Commission clears YPG/J and SDF of ethnic cleansing charges

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---Original Message-----
From: Louis Proyect via Marxism

> Frankly, human rights abuses are not uppermost on my mind in a
> situation
where violence has become so generalized. There were human rights abuses
by Sandinista soldiers against Miskitos, while the Red Army was
positively barbaric as it swept westward against Hitler in 1945 ...
one can not be exactly sure what happens on the battlefield in the fog
of war

Exactly. On the basis of what we know about the big picture, however, we
can distinguish two sides in terms of the sheer level of human rights

1. The Assad regime, responsible for some 95% of all killing in Syria,
and even higher if we talking specifics such as torturing to death etc;
and, at the same level in terms of the totalitarian nature of its
barbarity, the Islamic State, though in terms of quantity only a midget
in comparison with the regime.

2. All those forces fighting both, in which category I include the FSA,
the Islamist brigades, the YPG/SDF, and, perhaps controversially for
some, Nusra/JFS. All commit a certain level of human rights abuse, as
would be expected in such a barbaric battlefield against such violently
terroristic regimes, in the same way as does Hamas against a similarly
all-encompassing violent oppressor in the Zionist regime; and the list
could go on.

Nick on the other hand is doing great sleight of the hand stuff when,
responding to my point that the report clears the YPG/SDF of
*systematic* ethnic cleansing but does not clear it of various crimes,
he says I am "keen to imply this is of a piece with the abuses by other
forces", and Nick describes these "other forces" as "both the regime and
some rebels", ie, making Nick keen to imply the crimes of "some rebels"
are "of a piece" with the regime!!!!! He does this by talking of "the
numerous instances of torture, summary execution, bombing of civilians
including with chlorine and cluster bombs etc", by both!

Of course there was no use of "chlorine or cluster bombs" by any rebels
in this report (and the entirely false accusation in a previous Amnesty
report that chlorine was sued against Sheikh Maqsud was based on one
photo with some yellow dye smudged on it), whereas they are used on a
massive scale by the regime, alongside napalm, white phosphorus, vacuum
bombs, barrel bobs, bunker busters,  ballistic missiles etc, yet Nick
seeks to lump the rebels together with this regime. The "numerous
instances" of torture in this report by "some rebels" included, just as
with the YPG, *one* instance, allegedly in Aleppo of some one who tried
to flee west. But Nick lumps this together with the regime which has
been accused by the UN of torturing people to death in its dungeons at a
level which amounts to "extermination," and there is copious evidence of
at least tens of thousands tortured to death. Don't you think the *one*
case of rebel torture is more "of a piece" with the one case of YPG
torture?As for Nick's "summary executions", well wow! Here the report
fucks up royally, and perhaps Nick can be excused for not reading the
fine print, because the huge case of "summary execution" by "rebels" in
this report was none other than the horrific slaughter of 128 *FSA
captives* by the ISIS-aligned bandit group Liwa al-Aqsa, which the
report mistakenly puts in under rebel crimes rather than ISIS crimes
even though rebels were the victims.

So yes Nick I do put the crime of various rebel groups, including the
YPG, on a par. Especially given *context* as you are keen to discuss.
Nick notes that "The context of a militia in a poor, blockaded statelet
should be taken into account" without seeing the apparent irony of
shoving together rebels and regime - as if the Rojava statelet, free of
regime bombing for the whole war, and under the permanent protection of
the US airforce, can be compared "context-wise" with the situation of
all the areas controlled by the rebels, al of which make Gaza look like
a picnic except at the most intense moments of Zionist genocidal terror
(the various 5-6 week "operations" which are akin the the last 6 years
in Syria). Yes the context of various poor blockaded statelets being
barrel-bombed into oblivion for years on end might be expected to
produce more human rights abuse than in the relative calm and peaceful
conditions in Rojava. Yet not much more according to the report.

Actually the worst rebel abuses are the firing of "indirect fire
artillery systems, including improvised, locally manufactured “Omar”
rockets" at targets in Assad-controlled cities (eg West Aleppo etc)
which kill civilians. While virtually all pro-revolution activists and
Syrian revolutionary civil society organisations condemn these attacks,
again, what doe we expect in a brutal war in which 99% of the slaughter
of civilians in these theatres of war is by the regime's warplanes and
missiles of people in the rebel-controlled areas (eg former east
Aleppo). Yes, in a war, armies shoot back, in the same way as Hamas and
other Palestinian fighters shoot similarly improvised inaccurate rockets
at towns in southern Israel, or as Hezbollah (back in ancient history
when it was a resistance group) similarly did to Israeli civilians
during Israel's onslaught in 2006. The more interesting issue is why do
the rebels use these inaccurate improvised rockets made in back yard
workshops? I guess because they are not being provided any useful
military equipment by all the outside parties who everyone accuses of
arming them.

Is the YPG similarly accused of firing rockets which kill civilians in
ISIS-held towns which they are besieging? Well, no, because the US
air-force does it for them. So, unmentioned in the report were the 200 +
civilians slaughtered by the US air-force during the US-YPG siege of

Nick claims I am wrong that the report only covers the period since
mid-2016. Actually, a closer look suggests not really - sure, on the
question of *systematic ethnic cleansing* the report goes back and says
there is no evidence of that at any period going back several years. But
the concrete violations it notes are very specifically only this period:
all mentions of events before this period were only made when directly
relevant to this period (eg, the siege of Manbij was early 2016, but the
report discussed the issue of many displaced still not able to return
now). In this period alone, the report notes further instances of local
populations forcibly expelled under threats of violence of from towns
who are still unable to return, destruction of property of expellees,
forced conscription of minors (which it has in common with JFS), the
torture case etc. If we went back over several years, I think Nick is
well aware there would be much more.

Nick also avoids the issue of calling Gutman a "cruise missile leftist"
without evidence (he says "on Serbia", re which I assume he is referring
to Gutman's role in exposing the death camps in Bosnia in 1992, which
the Bush administration insisted didn't exist, but I'm not specifically
aware of him advocating cruise missiles) while simply brushing aside the
fact that in Syria it is the YPG above all that is allied most directly,
most massively, most systematically, with every aspect of the US
intervention, simply saying "completely irrelevant is Mike aspersions
about the PYD-led movement's
tactical alliance with the US." I don't condemn the YPG/SDF for this as
such, although I think there is a big difference between emergency
defence (as in Kobani in late 2014) and a long-term systematic alliance
between the YPG and the US for offensive operations. The US air-force is
slaughtering civilians and the ground force it is directly supporting is
the YPG/SDF. On the ground, of course I still prefer a YPG/SDF victory
when it is fighting a regime like ISIS, despite the US alliance; but
that's because I don't bend to the mechanical BS "anti-imperialist"
logic of putting a plus everywhere the US puts a minus, and using
rhetoric like "cruise missile leftist" against people you don't like for
no good reason.

But facts are facts: today, "cruise missile leftists" and
right-interventionists would be arguing for exactly what the US is doing
with the YPG/SDF and probably arguing for more of it. If that gets in
the way of some ideological obsession about being "anti-imperialist" and
ultra-pro-Rojava at the same time, well sorry facts get in the way. Not
my problem. Let's try this little test Nick and other SA comrades: If
the US was using systematically using its air-force the last 2.5 years
in support of the FSA against the Assad regime, and sending its special
forces to embed with the FSA, and setting up military bases in
FSA-controlled regions, and some leftists were supporting this, would
you call them "cruise missile leftists" and would you support the FSA or
would you condemn them as "imperialist proxies"?

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