What the Western Left should really be saying about war on Syria

Abbott has now taken Australia to (yet another) illegal war on Syria. We should be implacably opposed to this.

We must counter the dominant narrative

The dominant narrative on Syria depicts the conflict as a ‘civil war’ sparked by a brutal dictator cracking down on a popular movement. While it is true that there was, from the beginning, anti-government protests and calls for reform, the evidence suggest, as Tim Anderson has persuasively argued, the military conflict in Syria was/is ‘between a pluralist and popularly supported state, against armed sectarian islamists, backed by western and regional powers.”

But if ‘we’ do ‘nothing,’ what about ISIS?

It’s a myth that the western governments have done ‘nothing’ for the last 4 years. In fact they have been heavily implicated in the war on Syria. To help stop ISIS, and other groups like them, the anti-war movement should demand, as outlined by Hands Off Syria, that Western governments (including Australia):

  1. cease arming, financing, training the so-called ‘moderate’ opposition, most of whom share the same or similar Islamist ideology to ISIS, and many of whom end up fighting alongside them.
  2. cease all military bombings and ‘no fly zones’.
  3. assist Syria/Iraq etc to secure the Syrian borders to prevent the aformentioned groups entering Syria, often ending up assisting ISIS et al
  4. end sanctions on Syria, so they are better able to deal with these terrorist groups.

All the above will enable the (popularly supported) Syrian Arab Army, in coalition with its own allies, to successfully fight off the unpopular foreign backed Islamist militants.

What if the Syrian people want to replace their authoritarian state (though see below myths about Syria & Assad!) and institute a new socialist/democratic order?

In his essay on the similar case of Libya, Libertarian philosopher Takis Fotopoulos set out the following principles, for both national and social liberation, which directly apply to Syria:

  1. We must always remember a basic libertarian principle: it is only the Syrian people who can determine their own domestic and international policies.
  2. Although it is true that states are not sacred, and social liberation is impossible unless peoples live in free confederations of their own communities securing the equal distribution of political and economic power among all citizens, still, national liberation is a precondition for any social liberation.
  3. Neither national nor social liberation can ever be achieved with the help of the very elites against whom both types of struggle are fought. This is why any direct or indirect cooperation of the struggling peoples (and the Left in general) with the transnational elite and its client regimes, in order to overthrow a domestic authoritarian regime, is inconceivable. Historically, there have been cases where peoples who have resisted against an occupying power have asked for the help of other powers in securing their national liberation (e.g. during the national liberation wars against the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century, or against the fascist axis in the 20th century). However, the Libyan “revolution” was never part of a national liberation struggle against a foreign occupying power, but a civil war, which can, in fact, be shown that it was instigated by the transnational elite!
  4. It is always up to the peoples themselves to fight for their own liberation, and the only international help they can ever count on is the solidarity of other peoples (never their elites!), which could be expressed, for example, through the formation of international brigades of volunteers to help the suppressed peoples (as in the classic example of the Spanish Civil War).
  5. Therefore, siding with the Syrian “revolutionaries” (who are voluntarily financed, armed and militarily supported by the transnational elite and their client regimes) against the Assad regime (like Gaddafi before it), as suggested by most of the “Left” today, is a blatant betrayal of the above principles.

Debunking the myths about Syria & Assad ….

Myth 1: Bashar Assad presides over a ‘brutal’ dictatorship.

Fact: In response to popular pressure Assad initiated a constitutional referendum which removed the Baath Party’s monopoly and, for the first time, established competitive elections. These were held in June 2014.

Bashar won with 88% of the vote. Moreover the election was legitimate. The world media recognised the massive turnout, both in Syria and from refugees in Lebanon (77.4%). Election observers came from India, Brazil, Russia, China, South Africa, Iran and Latin America, along with non-official observers from the USA and Canada (KNN 2014). The participation rate in Syria’s 2014 wartime election (73.4%) was far higher than any presidential election in the USA(between 52% and 60%)

Myth 2: Bashar Al Assad leads a sectarian ‘Alawi regime’, where a 12% minority represses a Sunni Muslim majority

Fact: Syria maintains a secular administration, with widely popular multi religious support, which has guaranteed religious freedom in what remains to this day a Muslim-majority country. Syria is a common home to many ethnicities and 23 different religious groups, and has always been a place where all were free to believe and live out their creed, all relationships were characterized by mutual respect.

Myth 3: Bashar Assad has no popular support.

Fact: The Syrian state is far from perfect. Many Syrians want change, because of poverty, corruption and the political police. But evidence suggests the majority of Syrians liked Assad and support the secular state. As Assad himself points out, how could he have maintained power for over four years, if he did not have a substantial base of popular support? Evidence from several sources suggests he does:

  • A poll in late 2011 by Qatar showed that a 51% majority of Syrians wanted Assad to stay
  • Three Free Syrian Army leaders (all of whom collaborated with al Qaeda groups) in Aleppo, said the Syrian President had at least ‘70 percent’ support in that city
  • An internal NATO study in 2013 estimated that 70% of Syrians supported the President, 20% were neutral and 10% supported the ‘rebels’







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