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The Need to Oppose All Foreign Intervention in Syria

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Two bullshit talks at the UN, one from the leader of the “Free World”, the other from the head of the Russian Federation, and we now have more bombs falling on Syria while refugees continue to scramble across international borders in search of safety. The innocents be damned.

Russia’s latest involvement in the ever-worsening Syrian catastrophe — which has no doubt been fueled by the U.S. and its regional allies — is being embraced by much of the anti-imperialist Left as a direct confrontation to U.S. intentions in the region. If one is to buy Russia’s propaganda more than Western disinformation, we’d have to believe that Vladimir Putin’s invitation to drop bombs in Syria is solely meant to aid the Syrian Army against the growing threat of the Islamic State. That’s it. It’s a pseudo-peace mission. Get it? Indeed, the Syrian Army is in retreat in much of the country and any help they can get is being welcomed by President Bashar al-Assad, who only controls 20% of the country. Assad needs victories, and he needs them fast. Yet, there is most certainly other geopolitical issues at play that shouldn’t be ignored.

News is already traveling out of Syria that Russia’s outdated and inaccurate missiles aren’t only targeting IS, but also rebels associated with the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Many of these rag-tag fighters have received CIA training and U.S. military aid. The Obama administration has labeled FSA as the “moderates” fighting Assad. As such, some on the Left view FSA as pawns of the U.S., and therefore have few qualms with them being a target of Russian warplanes. It doesn’t matter where these rebels came from, what their motivations were for joining FSA or the fact they may have had revolutionary leanings at one point — if the U.S. is using them we may as well let the Russians kill ’em off. Certainly the weakened FSA has extremist elements who have fought along IS against Assad’s forces, but FSA is an umbrella organization made up of multiple groups, many of whom have different goals and quarreling leaderships. For example, not all would join the Kurds to fight IS, but some have. Still, Putin describes the whole of FSA as a bunch of cannibal terrorist hooligans.

Certainly we ought to oppose all U.S. actions in Syria, whether it’s backing the rebels or President Obama’s own bloody airstrikes, but pressing the U.S. to drop its support of the FSA, for example, is only hindered by the new Russian fighter planes swooping in. Additionally, it would be disingenuous to ignore the grievances certain rebels have with Assad’s regime, many of whom were taking up arms against the Syrian Army long before the U.S.’s assistance. In fact, some were even attempting to build a grassroots democracy that had much in common with the Kurdish experiment in Syria, but was smashed in its infancy through a combination of Assadist and jihadist terror. Does this mean FSA hasn’t also committed horrific, bloody war crimes? Certainly not, and that’s exactly why we ought to oppose all U.S. (read: Saudi/Mossad/CIA) meddling. But let’s not stop there.

While we are at it, we better not ignore that Assad has never really given a shit about the majority of the Syrian people (democracy farce aside). The list is long: whether it’s his brutal economic policies, his violent crackdown on dissidents, his use of cluster bombs, or that very serious accusation his military dropped cylinders of chlorine bombs on townships in Northern Syria. It seems to me that the pro-Russian element of the Left also wants us to forget about all those cases of Palestinians being tortured and killed in regime prisons in Damascus and elsewhere.

He may not be as ruthless as IS murderers, but if only half of this is true, Assad is still one mean motherfucker.

But alas, Assad is taking on rebels that are supported by the United States, so we may as well forget about how awful the guy is and embrace his efforts to keep control of his splintered country. We don’t want a situation like Libya, do we? Sorry to say, Russian bombs are only going to make matters worse and prolong the suffering of innocent Syrians caught in the crossfire. With or without Assad at the helm, Syria could well sink deeper than Libya has. Assad would like us to think the refugee crisis is solely the West’s fault. It’s only IS and those FSA thugs that are responsible — not the killer regime cops or the Syrian Army who are to blame as well. Russia’s involvement will make the situation better, not worse. Or, so Putin and many on the Left would have us to believe.

It’s all a myopic way to view the horrific situation. Imperialists and IS are bad. Assad and Russia, less bad. So let’s go with less bad. Where’s the principled opposition to war when you need it? Principled, meaning, opposition to all foreign interventions that come in the form of guns, bombs and money. Will those on the Left that support Russia’s campaign continue cheering if they begin to target anti-Assad, left-leaning Kurds in Rojava? What if Russia’s bombs kill innocent women and children? Reports are they already have, and there will likely be more as Russian officials claim their operations will escalate in the months ahead. Point is, backing Putin is a very slippery slope.

Are civilian deaths at the hands of the Russians somehow worth it in the effort to defeat the Americans, whose actual goal may have a lot to do with a proposed Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline that could radically alter Europe’s energy supplies, diminishing Russia’s fossil fueled prowess in Europe? Assad, of course, opposes the mammoth pipeline project. Could this also be why Russia wants to keep Assad in power? Or are we to ignore the geopolitical situation and just back Russia’s bombings because IS is so damn evil, even if Russia takes out a few innocent Syrian kids along the way?

Those are a few of the questions we should be asking while we oppose all international military involvement in Syria as well as Assad’s murderous human rights violations. It’s time to demand the impossible. It’s time to demand the U.S. and Russia get out of Syria. If the anti-imperialist Left doesn’t do it, who will?

JOSHUA FRANK is managing editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book is Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, co-edited with Jeffrey St. Clair and published by AK Press. He can be reached at brickburner@gmail.com. You can follow him on Twitter @brickburner

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