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On the Left and Violence in Syria


The imperialist Violence in Syria, Part 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 -7

By Kim Petersen and B. J. Sabri

"You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war."

- Albert Einstein1

January 17, 2016 "Information Clearing House" - When we talk about violence in the context of mortal struggle between or inside nation states, we have to consider the factors that generated it. It is a given that every decent person in the world should decry the killing of kids, women, elderly, and civilians of all ages anywhere. However, our rage, analysis, and criticism should be directed primarily on all those governments whose involvement in imperialism, warring, and killing make tragedies and consume their course. Can we all work to end the bloodshed in Syria and elsewhere? Will humanity have a chance of stopping what our national governments are doing in our name?

In the end, rather than resorting exclusively to meaningless leftist rhetoric, however much one is in agreement with the tenor of the words, bold action is called upon to stop the murderous onslaught of the US hyper-empire, and Russia should be applauded for having the fortitude to stand up to this empire.

First, in addressing the Syrian situation, we do not think it is possible to ignore the geo-political situation of Syria (and the region) even if we want to. Simply put, the complex issue besieging the Arab states cannot allow us to ignore other related realities: Israel and its machinations in the Arab world, for example. Second, theoretically, a nation-state is predicated on doing what is best for that state and its people; i.e., pursuing trade relations that benefit the state and its people, providing jobs and a high quality of life in the state, seeking alliances that provide security for the state, etc. Should that state not pursue objectives that are of benefit to its people and security? Or is the so-called national interest only for the benefit of imperialism, colonialism, corporations, capitalists, and elitists?

To expand on the issue of violence, we propose a new argument. Even if violence among some nations could be prevented through diplomacy and dialogue, and even if violence in and against Syria would end one way or another, there remains in the making a potentially tsunamic violence that US hyper-imperialism, Israel, and lackeys plan to unleash against a world that does not want to be subjugated.2

Leftist Solidarity against War

Progressivism is rooted in principles. However, to view complex geo-political machinations as black-and-white scenarios and pose this to the Left—a complex grouping itself—is superficial analysis.

Clearly, for progressivists war is anathema, and it behooves progressivists to agitate to the utmost so that war may be avoided. In the present case of Syria, warring was already underway before Russia was asked to assist the Syrian government to dispel the mercenaries and terrorists wreaking devastation within Syria (and next door in Iraq as well). Russia did not initiate violence or war in Syria. Russia is there to end the violence and warring. Russia is using violence as a means to end the violence. In so doing, and if effective, Russia will ultimately wind up saving many lives--many more lives saved than the unfortunate civilians who end up killed from being in wrong place at the wrong time. That is the nature of war, violence winds up killing people: combatants and non-combatants. The sad fact is that the best one can hope for in war is to minimize the killing of civilians.

Progressivist principles hold that during a period of non-hostility or relative peace--that is, when there is no state-on-state violence—the initiation of violence, be it militaristic or coercive, is opposed on all levels.

However, once violence has been unleashed by one state actor (de jure or pseudo) against another state, the aggrieved state has a legitimate right to defend itself-- a right anchored in international law by United Nations Charter Article 51.

Indisputably, Syria is a state under attack from mercenaries backed by foreign states. In fact, this constitutes a not-so-stealthy aggression. Consequently, the Syrian state has the right granted under international law to defend itself. Since Syria is under attack by a multitude of hostile state-backed actors, it is entirely understandable and justified that the Syrian government would seek assistance from other friendly state actors, like Russia, to aid in its self-defense. Russia is beyond reproach by leftists, and other critics, because it is engaged in self-defense of an allied state. Russia has not initiated violence; its violence is borne out of a request from a sovereign UN state engaged in self-defense.

It is understandable that progressivists would call for an immediate cessation of violence, but such a call must not be issued in a vacuum. The end of violence does not signal an end for the moral Left. Progressivists must not issue calls upon state actors based in ignorance. In the present case of Syria and assorted state actors, any call must be issued to all belligerent states and their proxies that have harmed another state through initiating violence to cease and desist followed by making restitution and paying reparations to Syria for the crime of war. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Turkey, the US and involved western states, along with Israel must be summoned to the docket of a modern-day Nuremberg Tribunal and prosecuted according to Nuremberg Law.

Aggression being the embodiment of evil must not be permitted to coyly disappear into the pages of time unprosecuted and unpunished. That would be a horrible precedent, and already too many such precedents exist. Existing law must be upheld if initiating wars of aggression is to be prevented; otherwise, any deterrence effect for the future launching of wars is damaged. The result of non-prosecution is easily inferred and discernible: increased lawlessness, the persistence of warring and violence to impose hegemonic will on smaller states, and continued mass murder of civilians.

Thus, it is important that leftists not make well-intentioned but flippant statements painting all actors in a violent conflict with the same brush. It is also important to parse disinformation and propaganda from media and state narratives. Usually in a violent conflict, one actor has first resorted to violence. Some leftists point a finger at Bashar al Assad and an alleged heavy-handed response to protests (the western corporate/state media framing of which brought to mind the US-orchestrated and failed right-wing coup in Venezuela in 2002). But as Eva Bartlett pointed out in a brilliant article, that is disinformation and Assad has the backing of the masses of Syrian people.3

However, even if Assad were behind the shooting of protestors, that would no more have granted legitimacy to sending mercenaries and terrorists to shoot up Syria and bring about regime change that it would have granted legitimacy to sending mercenaries and terrorists to shoot up the United States to bring about regime change following the US regime's shooting of Kent State University students protesting the US war against Viet Nam or the shooting of people protesting racial segregation at South Carolina State University.

Can we, the people, stop the violence in Syria and give hope to its people? That will depend on future developments. The Vienna Conference on Syria (October 2015) and follow up in November did not mean that much. It is preposterous that the US and Saudi Arabia define who is a moderate resistance and who is not. It is preposterous that Saudi Arabia hosts the discussion on who represents the "Syrian Opposition." And it is preposterous that a few voices call on the ultra-terrorist Wahhabi al-Nusra front to drop its "al-Qaeda" connections so it can participate in the peace talks. The Turkish downing of a Russian jet fighter allegedly flying in Syrian airspace, perhaps having penetrated for a few seconds in Turkey's airspace, is poised as a harbinger for a major conflagration. Some speak of a World War III. That must be avoided.

History is replete with examples that power resides with the masses. Despite all the differences and embracing all the diversity among peoples, there is an undeniable unifying fact that underneath everything we are all one humanity. Since divide and conquer does not serve the interests of the masses but serves to enrich the capitalists, imperialists, and elitists through immiseration of the masses, the only moral and logical option is for the masses to solidarize and resist. To effectively resist, it is incumbent that people make an effort to know and understand what is happening and why. With epistemological empowerment, humanity can recognize and reject propaganda and disinformation. For the purposes of an effective resistance to warmongers, the Left bears a great responsibility to be informed and make prudent, well thought-out and enlightened statements based in morality that serve the masses of humanity. Then perhaps, most importantly, the enlightened masses can stand together to reject the scourge which has for too long plagued humanity, the scourge of initiating violence and war.

In other words, a revolution. A revolution to tear down the military-industrial conglomerates, to disarm all states, and to rid the world from profiteering through the death and destruction of war.

Idealistic? Perhaps so, but some ideals, some principles, are worth striving for and fighting for.

Kim Petersen is a former editor of the Dissident Voice newsletter. He can be reached at kimohp@inbox.com

B. J. Sabri is an observer of the politics of modern colonialism, imperialism, Zionism, and of contemporary Arab issues. He can be reached at b.j.sabri@aol.com


1. In Einstein: A Portrait (Corte Madera, CA: Pomegranate Artbooks, 1984).

2. The following are just a few examples of what has been simmering in the criminal minds of US imperialists and Zionists.

3. See Eva Bartlett, “Deconstructing the NATO Narrative on Syria,” Dissident Voice, 10 October 2015.

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