Ever since Nick Cohen, supporter of imperialist wars and Israel, lectured in the New Statesman to the ‘Left’ about what direction it should take, I have been deeply suspicious of people who follow suit (and unsubscribed from the New Statesman).  This latest article from Eric Draitser only confirms my prejudices.

Eric Draitser has taken it upon himself to lead the ‘Left’ back on to the right path in his article Syria and the Left: Time to Break the Silence.

The cold, hard reality of the war in Syria is that the violence, bloodshed, and chaos continues unabated while the Left, such as it is, continues on in a state of schizophrenic madness. Different points of view, conflicting ideological tendencies [etc, etc …]. But those issues are not the urgent task of this article; the Left does need to seriously self-reflect though about just how it responds to crises of imperialism and issues of war and peace.

The ‘on the pro-Assad side of the argument’ who have spent years studying, researching and sharing facts on the Syrian conflict and the role of external powers will be somewhat bemused to be told, only now, that they need to start thinking about how to respond to crises of imperialism and issues of war and peace.

Those same ‘Assad supporters’, who have been sharing the facts both about the human cost of the war, and the long-term implications for Syria, will also be taken aback to find that they have apparently forgotten their humanity:

It seems that many, myself included up to a point, have gotten so enveloped in the embrace of partisanship in this war that we have forgotten that our responsibility is to the people of Syria and to peace and justice …

However, the real problem is that we don’t have a strategy in the case of WWIII

it is only a matter of time before she ratchets up US military involvement in Syria, with a full US war, and attempted regime change, becoming all but a certainty.

And where will the Left be then?

I have no idea where the ‘Left’ will be, but if Hillary goes to war with Russia, I’ll be at home digging my bunker.

Draiters is confident that he can see where the problem lies:  ‘the Left, such as it is, continues on in a state of schizophrenic madness ….  civility and reasoned debate in short supply …the Left does need to seriously self-reflect … And where will the Left be then?’  Will you continue to delude yourselves …?   Will you allow yourselves to be the useful idiots…?’

Let us examine Draitser’s warnings for what he terms the ‘pro-Assad Syria fetishists’.

To the pro-Assad Syria fetishists, I ask: Will you continue to pretend that the only crimes and atrocities being committed are those veiled behind Old Glory? Are you comfortable in the knowledge that this war will continue on indefinitely so long as all outside actors continue to use Syria as merely a square on their respective geopolitical chessboards? Will you continue to delude yourselves by refusing to accept the plainly obvious truth that no state or group has the best interests of Syrians at heart? Will you allow yourselves to be the useful idiots of carefully calculated political maneuvering?

Pro-Assad Syria fetishists:

Excuse me for pointing out the obvious, but it is clearly necessary.  There is a move to weaken, destabilise and probably partition Syria, and change its status as independent state that supports Palestine.  The agents for this are barbaric extremists – if they prevail the fabric of Syrian society and the lives of all Syrians will be changed dramatically for the worse.  The NATO alliance will then move on to Iran.  In the meantime, people are dying in Syria, soldiers and civilians; many others are being displaced.  Either you get excited about criminality, murder and dispossession or you don’t.

Will you continue to pretend that the only crimes and atrocities being committed are those veiled behind Old Glory? 

Draitser is claiming, therefore, that there are crimes that ‘pro-Assad’ types are deliberately closing their eyes to.  It is unfortunate that he references reports from the corporate media, relying in turn on discredited sources.  Again I will point out the obvious.  There is an enormous media campaign against Syria and Russia, with allegations that ‘Assad’ and the Russians are homicidal maniacs who bomb, gas, starve, targeting hospitals, schools, children, and probably kittens.   Allegations of war crimes by Syrian and Russian forces are unproven or shown to be false, e.g. the massacres of Houla, Ghouta, Russian bombing of hospitals.  No-one is saying that all Syrian soldiers, and  all Russian pilots are angels.  We do contest the totally unsubstantiated claims of a campaign of terror through the deliberate targeting of civilians.  If Russia and Syria were carpet-bombing eastern Aleppo, it would have fallen long ago.  And actually, where would you rather be, in Aleppo being bombed by Russia, or in Mosul being bombed by the US?

Are you comfortable

comfortable …

in the knowledge that this war will continue on indefinitely so long as all outside actors continue to use Syria as merely a square on their respective geopolitical chessboards.

The Syrian war is a war of defence against NATO and its allies.   With the invited intervention of Russia, Iran and other players, there is a chance that the extremist groups backed by the Western alliance will be defeated and Syria will stay intact and independent.  If Putin is indeed just using Syria as a square on a geopolitical chessboard, who cares, as long as he takes the square for Syria?  Has Draitser evidence of Machiavellian intentions by Putin? – if so, he should spell it out.

To accuse Iran, who is the next intended victim after Syria, and Hezbollah, who views the war on Syria as the West’s way of breaking the back of the Axis of Resistance, of playing some cynical geopolitical chess game is beyond all belief.

Will you continue to delude yourselves by refusing to accept the plainly obvious truth that no state or group has the best interests of Syrians at heart?

It’s a war.  Syria, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah are working together to defeat the Western alliance.  All foreign players are obliged to put their own constituents first; prevailing in Syria is probably in those interests.  People argue all the time about Russian intentions and diplomatic manoevres, but in any case if the alternative is ISIS/ALQaeda…  Again, what does Draitser actually mean?  What are the preferred alternatives?

Will you allow yourselves to be the useful idiots of carefully calculated political maneuvering?

What carefully calculated political manoevring?   Are we being manipulated into supporting something that we should oppose on moral or intellectual ground?  If so, what?

[a] white supremacist, fascist ideology … underlies a significant amount of the support base for Assad and his allies (see David Duke, David Icke, Alexander Dugin, Brother Nathanel, Alex Jones, Mimi al-Laham, Ken O’Keefe, and on and on and on)

This red herring is truly desperate.  There are people at the forefront of research on Syria, such as Tim Anderson, Eva Bartlett, Vanessa Beeley, Sharmine Narwani and Rick Sterling.  Their work is published, reblogged, quoted and shared widely (but not as far as I know by white supremacists).  Andersons’ book The Dirty War on Syria has been translated into several languages. Eric Draitser’s own work is often shared.  None of the people mentioned by Draitser are anything like in the same league, although al-Laham has done some videos that are often viewed.

I don’t know enough about the people listed by Draitser to say whether they are in fact ‘fascists’ and ‘white supremacists’, and most of them would be unknown to the majority of ‘Assad’ supporters.  Dropping a few names of people, some of whom have very tenuous links with the Syrian movement, is hardly enough to substantiate Draitser’s claim that fascism underlies ‘a significant amount of the support base’ for Assad and his allies.

  *              *            *

With this article  Draitser has spent so much time patronising Syria watchers he has forgotten to explain what his point is.  Really, it is hard to wake up to all these traps Draitser is warning us of, if we don’t know what he is actually referring to, and if all his claims are unsubstantiated.  The purpose of the article seems to be staking a claim to a neutral position, a ‘third way’, which holds that all actors in the Syrian conflict are blameworthy, and all activists are blind, intellectually dishonest or deluded .  Ultimately Draitser has no rational advice for Syrian activists, no argument for doing anything other than what we are doing.

No Eric Draitser, we are not going to ‘self-reflect’ on the mission of the ‘Left’.  We are going to carry on researching and sharing facts about the war on Syria, as honestly as we can.  And if that means we are not really ‘Left’ at all, as you define it, too bad.

See also

Danny Haiphong has also  responded to Draitser’s article, with much useful information for those unfamiliar with the background to the Syrian conflict:
Break the Silence or Support Self-Determination? In Syria, the Answer Should be Obvious

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