FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Monster in the Mirror

by AFSHIN RATTANSI

A sizeable minority has opposed the “government” – actually representatives of a crony corrupt elite – for decades, now. Members of that minority have been imprisoned in per capita numbers higher than Stalin’s Soviet Union or Mao’s China. The government sanctions torture. The government kills them by stealth or by the gun. It subjects its people to surveillance. And the very same government sponsors external militias. It is surely time to covertly arm that minority to remove the head of the snake. Nothing made it clearer than the killing of journalists, targeted in the heart of the Middle East. Time and again, the government says it will reform. Even politicians, usually so beholden, say that never before has the nation been so threatened by its government. Even in the corridors of power, nervous advisors from all sides say the same thing.

The nation is, of course, the U.S.A. Except that if one listens to pundits, politicians and the commentariat, the nation is Syria. You would have guessed I was talking about America, if I had said that the nation sponsors militia states or the nuclear arms programs of militia states instead of “external militias.” However, the U.S.’s  toy poodle, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague couldn’t even bring himself to mention Israel’s nuclear weapons when he warned the world of a nuclear cold war in the Middle East.

How we came to a point at which NATO states oppose most of the world and want to arm the rebels of Syria is a tragic tale of disinformation. It hardly needs saying that there is no excusing the brutal crackdown on civilians by the Syrian government, but then in our Manichean media, any call for dialogue or investigation is greeted with hysteria. “You’re an apologist!” they say.

Leaders in the developing world, anxious not to incur the wrath of the de facto überpower and its EU lackeys may be grimly perturbed and amused. At this rate, the Obama administration could arm any rebellious minority (and I am not talking about minority by religious sect) to overthrow its government and the 24/7 media will go along with it. At least the Soviet Union supported armed liberation struggles like those fighting U.S.-backed Apartheid in South Africa. But, here the USA is supporting rebels, organizing unilateral conferences, shooting its mouth off and all in support of a rag-tag “coalition.” Does anyone think members of the Syrian National Council get on with each other, let alone any of them get on with the soi-disant Free Syria Army command in Turkey?

As a matter of indisputable record, U.S. and Israeli policy is aimed at destroying the Iranian government and any formation of a Palestinian state even if it means the grievous self-sacrifice of economic and cultural wealth at home or respect abroad. Iran and Syria have an uneasy alliance. Now, the horrific legacies of post-colonial map drawing are excuses to further those a priori aims. How Moscow and Beijing can be blamed for not appearing at the farcical conference in Tunisia on the grounds that both sides should be invited to discuss the war in Syria is another sign of the times. Even more depressing for those of us who knew her was Marie Colvin being claimed by Paul Wolfowitz as one of his own. Similarly at U.S. State Department press conferences, the deaths of the world’s bravest journalists are being used to further policies that can only impoverish the many.

Syria has taken in the impoverished. There is, of course, the half a million refugees whose homes have been stolen by Israel. But, imagine the U.S. taking in 20 million refugees. That is the equivalent of what Syria did after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. During this time, British politicians and media moaned about scrounging asylum-seekers. In the U.S., the talk is of fences and guns.

I went to Syria a couple of times before all this latest, terrible violence started. I loved Damascus and found it cosmopolitan. But friends tell me that I have lived too long in cities outside the orbit of globalization and so am not so easily disturbed by the lack of ubiquitous brand-named simulacra. At some places in Aleppo, I thought I was in Los Angeles except their version of Chateau Marmont was considerably older (people lived in the Aleppo citadel in the middle of the 3rd millennium BC). On the way between the two main cities, though, Homs and Hama were different. They had to be. It was convenient for Western powers to look away from the 1982 Hama Massacre. There is a hotel bar in Hama that does martinis on the graves of many thousands killed. Western powers did the same in 1990’s Algeria, when perhaps 200,000 were killed after Salafists were democratically elected. In Hama, Bashar Al-Assad’s father crushed Salafist insurrection.

How did the poorer areas of Homs and Hama keep together? However efficient the civil service and secret police structures of Homs and Hama were going to be, the present, fragile Arabesque of communities was always going to be temporary in world history. Western sanctions and bureaucratic corruption sped things up. But the great catalyst was widening inequality catalysed by neoliberal “reformist” elements in Bashar Al-Assad’s government, often with the best intentions. Returning Syrian students who have studied business management and economics in the West are not exactly what you want when it comes to transforming the Syrian economy. They looked at me like I was a Breshnev dinosaur when I expressed even a doubt about privatization as a panacea. It is one of the profoundest questions of our time and in the context of international capitalism’s worst crises has greater torque: how do developing nations reform their bureaucratic state systems without unleashing apocalyptic forces born of increased inequality?

But NGOs tend not to get funding to answer questions like this. And so poverty and Salafism proliferate. As for those manufacturing the bamboozled main narrative in the West, they concentrate on supposed existential, external, threats. One day it is that nation, the next it is this. One day it is this whistleblower, the next it is that. But external threats to U.S. interests (the interests of U.S. citizens) may well come from asymmetric Salafists, as they did on 9/11. Some of them populate the ranks of Syria’s insurgents.

Real change within the U.S. – as in Syria – will come from gruesome strategic errors in their capitals combined with the will of the people. If policymakers in NATO countries are really itchy to intervene somewhere, maybe they should covertly support anti-Salafist rebels. How about funding the ones struggling against the governments of the Arab League, the organization that sponsored the anti-Syrian UN resolution? But you’ll never hear them considering covert aid for the resistance movement in Bahrain – or coming to the aid of the peaceful protestors that are currently being gunned down amidst the oil-rich fields of Eastern Saudi Arabia.

AFSHIN RATTANSI runs Alternate Reality Productions Ltd. One of its commissions is Double Standards, a political satire show for Press TV, broadcast every Saturday at 2230 GMT. Shows can be accessed via www.doublestandardstv.com. He can be reached via afshinrattansi@hotmail.com.

Afshin Rattansi is host of RT’s award-winning Going Underground news and current affairs show broadcast around the world. He will be joining Julian Assange on the eve of the referendum for a live webcast from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London as well as a special edition of Going Underground on Saturday.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 24, 2017
Anthony DiMaggio
Reflections on DC: Promises and Pitfalls in the Anti-Trump Uprising
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Developer Welfare: Trump’s Infrastructure Plan
Melvin Goodman
Trump at the CIA: the Orwellian World of Alternative Facts
Sam Mitrani – Chad Pearson
A Short History of Liberal Myths and Anti-Labor Politics
Kristine Mattis
Democracy is Not a Team Sport
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Mexico, Neo-Nationalism and the Capitalist World-System
Ted Rall
The Women’s March Was a Dismal Failure and a Hopeful Sign
Norman Pollack
Woman’s March: Halt at the Water’s Edge
Pepe Escobar
Will Trump Hop on an American Silk Road?
Franklin Lamb
Trump’s “Syria “Minus Iran” Overture to Putin and Assad May Restore Washington-Damascus Relations
Kenneth R. Culton
Violence By Any Other Name
David Swanson
Why Impeach Donald Trump
Christopher Brauchli
Trump’s Contempt
January 23, 2017
John Wight
Trump’s Inauguration: Hail Caesar!
Mark Schuller
So What am I Doing Here? Reflections on the Inauguration Day Protests
Patrick Cockburn
The Rise of Trump and Isis Have More in Common Than You Might Think
Binoy Kampmark
Ignored Ironies: Women, Protest and Donald Trump
Gregory Barrett
Flag, Cap and Screen: Hollywood’s Propaganda Machine
Gareth Porter
US Intervention in Syria? Not Under Trump
L. Ali Khan
Trump’s Holy War against Islam
Gary Leupp
An Al-Qaeda Attack in Mali:  Just Another Ripple of the Endless, Bogus “War on Terror”
Norman Pollack
America: Banana Republic? Far Worse
Bob Fitrakis - Harvey Wasserman
We Mourn, But We March!
Kim Nicolini
Trump Dump: One Woman March and Personal Shit as Political
William Hawes
We Are on Our Own Now
Martin Billheimer
Last Tango in Moscow
Colin Todhunter
Development and India: Why GM Mustard Really Matters
Mel Gurtov
Trump’s America—and Ours
David Mattson
Fog of Science II: Apples, Oranges and Grizzly Bear Numbers
Clancy Sigal
Who’s Up for This Long War?
Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail