Response to John Pilger on Syria
[This is a response to the article by Pilger: ‘This time it’s Syria, last time it was Iraq’, which appeared on the Stopthewar.uk.org website]
In this article by Pilger, he discusses everything else except what is really happening on the ground in Syria. He makes sweeping generalizations which are out of context. We attempt to deal with his main arguments:
He compares Syria today to Iraq 2003. In 2003 the US military invaded Iraq with over 50 000 troops and toppled the Saddam regime. In Syria, the US has sent 500 troops to assist the Kurdish YPG and KDF (Kurdish Democratic Forces). In Syria, the US troops have concentrated on supposedly fighting Isis, NOT the Assad regime. It is true that US proxies, the Saudi and Turkish regimes have been supplying weapons to the forces fighting against the Assad regime. However these weapons have been pea shooters and the supply of these arms have been with conditions, namely that the fight be waged against Isis.
This supply of weapons was to buy control so that the struggle against Assad could be contained and diverted from an overthrow of the entire regime. Each time that Assad has bombed the rebel forces, the US imperialist did not defend the rebels nor even fire one shot on Assad’s forces. When Russia entered the bombing campaign against the rebel forces, imperialism signed a co-operation agreement with them to exchange information and to co-ordinate their fight against Isis and al Nusrah (not the Assad regime). Thus it is totally false to compare Iraq to Syria. In Iraq imperialism executed regime change; in Syria, imperialism acts to defend the regime, despite their rhetoric from time to time that they ‘oppose Assad’. This rhetoric has been to hide their real role, namely the destruction of the Syrian revolutionary masses, at any cost. Today US and the Russian forces are bombing the rebel masses in Idlib. Regime change? They are protecting the butcher regime of Assad.
He claims that Syria and Iran are ‘independent’ of imperialism: The Assad dynasty rose to power through a military coup. When ‘elections’ are held from time to time, the candidates have to come from parliament, which Assad controls. The report on torture lists Syria as destination of the CIA rendition prisons. This is supported by the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian, who was kidnapped by the CIA and sent to Syria to be tortured. Syrian troops fought alongside US troops in Kuwait , when Bush senior was in office. Assad was rewarded with arms supplies in return. How is Syria ‘independent? We spell out in our document http://www.workersinternational.org.za/index.php/2-uncategorised/31-syria-programme-2011 in detail why Syria is not independent. Syria used to be a French colony. Did the French just give up their control or did they use the military dictatorship as a front to continue their control, just as they have done in their neo-colonies in Africa?Pilger has nothing to say about that. In the case of both Iran and Syria, they have low oil refining capacity and have to import refined petroleum/gasoline. This shows a great dependency on imperialism, not independence. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-06-12/iran-to-cut-gasoline-imports-with-14-billion-refinery-expansion . Having nationalised oil and gas-producing sectors, does not mean independence from imperialism. Britain nationalised the coal sector but that did not make it Socialist. Capitalist nationalization helps to reduce input costs and increase profits in imperialist industry. Such nationalization also helps to neutralise working class pressure but does not mean independence from imperialism. In 1979 it was French imperialism that sent Ayatolla Khomeini to Iran to literally behead the revolution. Once the mullas consolidated their grip they killed off more than 30 000 of the revolutionary workers. Both Iran and Syria are capitalist dictatorships that are riding on the backs of attempts by workers to overthrow capitalist relations.
Pilger supports the big man theory of history as if the masses have no role: Pilger quotes the various capitalist leaders but not once does he even consider the actions of the masses who have long been suffering under the Assad dictatorship. He does not bother to follow the actual events. This is a bourgeois view of history. Pilger is not concerned that Assad may have used chemical weapons on the masses. He childishly asserts, as a distractor, that the biggest user of chemical weapons is US imperialism. Has US imperialism used chemical weapons or any weapons against the Assad forces? NO. This fine detail is not important to Pilger. Through his superficial approach he lands up on the same side as imperialism by isolating the masses who are fighting the Assad regime. He raises the vague rumour, similar to fake news specialists Beeley and co, that imperialism had long planned to overthrow the regime. He completely conflates the imperialist strategy that they always prepare alternative forces within the masses just in case their current puppet is unable to control the masses any longer. This is not regime change. Imperialism prepares reserve forces so that if the leader is changed, the same capitalist regime remains in place. Yes, from time to time imperialism uses the excuse ‘Responsibility to protect’ to justify putting another in place by force. This has not been the case in Syria. How come imperialism never provided air defence for the rebels at any time? This is because imperialism never intended the masses to win. In fact the entire conduct of imperialism and their allies Russia, has been to stop the wave of the masses toppling capitalist dictators. This is what the past 6 years in Syria shows. They would rather carpet bomb the masses, displace half the population, as long as the capitalist regime remains intact. If the masses win, all the other imperialist puppets in the region and around the world would immediately be threatened. Yes, US imperialism may want to gain further control over Syria and Iran, but this would be displacing indirect control of French imperialism, not ‘independent’ regimes. Syria shows that all of imperialism will work together against the masses. Pilger prefers the Ayatollas and Assad dynasty instead of real workers’ control.
Obama coming to office was a military coup, according to Pilger: This is historically inaccurate and superficial. Obama was forced to pose as anti-establishment and antwar, in order to gain control over the masses. He had to make concessions such as the mass withdrawal of troops from Iraq. This was under threat of revolt from the armed forces and not the wishes of Obama. As soon as the wave of revolt from the masses weakened, the true role of Obama emerged, namely to continue the war policy of the imperialist regime. This was no coup but a continuation of the imperialist policy that the Bush regime had set out on. Internationally, as the traditional leaders of capitalism lost control it was necessary to create more repressive measures to deal with the masses. This was not Obama’s idea but the policy of the different imperialists around the world, to retain absolute control.
Pilger promotes the ‘Nuremberg’ principles: The Nuremberg show trials were an exercise to whitewash the role of imperialism in the World War II. A few key individuals went on trial but the capitalists who supported the Nazi regime were absolved. Thyssen Krupp, the biggest arms producer in Germany and supporter of the Nazis, not only still exists but is still today one of the main players in the world. He ends his article:
‘The judges at Nuremberg were succinct: "Individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity."’
This is exactly what the Syrian masses have been doing; they have been standing up against the unjust laws and military dictatorship of Assad. Pilger aligns himself with the true meaning of the Nuremberg judges: He means that the masses should speak out against the capitalist regime but please don’t dare challenge the capitalist system. Pilger supports a capitalist ‘peace’, in other words, a continued war against the masses.
Pilger has embedded himself with imperialism. So has the ‘Stop the War’ Coalition. It is long overdue to build a new movement for Socialism; in fact it has to be built against the pro-imperialist left that has supported Assad. Crucially we have to draw the lessons from Syria to build a new revolutionary working class party on an international scale.