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Standing by Syria

American and NATO aggressions must be opposed wherever they surface in the world. That statement ought to be the starting point for anyone calling themselves left, progressive, or anti-war. Of course the aggressors always use a ruse to diminish resistance to their wars of terror. In Syria and elsewhere they claim to support freedom fighters, the moderate opposition and any other designation that helps hide imperialist intervention. They label their target as a tyrant, a butcher, or a modern day Hitler who commits unspeakable acts against his own populace. The need to silence opposition is obvious and creating the image of a monster is the most reliable means of securing that result.

The anti-war movement thus finds itself confused and rendered immobile by this predictable propaganda. It is all too easily manipulated into being at best ineffectual and at worst supporters of American state sponsored terror.

For five years the United States, NATO, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Qatar and Turkey have given arms and money to terrorist groups in an effort to topple Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Some of those bad actors felt flush with success after overthrowing and killing Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. They had high hopes of picking off another secular Arab government. Fortunately, Assad was hard to defeat and the barbarians cannot storm the gates. Most importantly, Russia stopped giving lip service to Assad and finally provided military support to the Syrian government in 2015.

The United States government is responsible for the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria. The so-called barrel bomb doesn’t kill more people than conventional weapons provided by the United States and its puppets. There would not be bombs of any kind, sieges, starving children, or refugees if the Obama administration had not given the green light to the rogues gallery.

Whatever their political beliefs or feelings about Assad, Syrians did not ask the United States to turn their country into a ruin. They don’t want ISIS to behead children, as they infamously did on camera. American presidents, beginning with Jimmy Carter, have all used jihadists at opportune moments when they want regime change. The name of the country under attack changes but the story ends with massive human suffering.

Instead of siding unequivocally with America’s victims some in the anti-war movement instead live in greater fear of being labeled “pro Assad.” Assad didn’t invade Iraq and kill one million people. George W. Bush did that. Assad did not give support to jihadists to destroy Libya, kill 50,000 people, ignite a race war and create another refugee crisis. Barack Obama did that. The list of human rights abuses carried out by the American government is a long one indeed. There is torture in the United States prison system, the largest in the world. American police are given tacit permission to kill three people every day. Yet the fear of being thought of as an Assad supporter is so powerful that it silences people and organizations who should be in the forefront of confronting their country domestically and internationally.

Of course American propaganda is ratcheted up at the very moment that sides must be chosen. Any discussion or debate regarding Syria’s political system was rendered moot as soon as the United States targeted that country for destruction. There is only one question now: when will America tell its minions to stop fighting?

Obama didn’t start a proxy war with an expectation of losing, and Hillary Clinton makes clear her allegiance to regime change. The United States will only leave if Syria and its allies gain enough ground to force a retreat. They will call defeat something else at a negotiating table but Assad must win in order for justice and reconciliation to begin.

Focusing on Assad’s government and treatment of his people may seem like a reasonable thing to do. Most people who call themselves anti-war are serious in their concern for humanity. But the most basic human right, the right to survive, was taken from 400,000 people because the American president decided to add one more notch on his gun. Whether intended or not, criticism of the victimized government makes the case for further aggression.

The al-Nusra Front may change its name in a public relations effort, but it is still al Qaeda and still an ally of the United States. The unpredictable Donald Trump may not be able to explain that he spoke the truth when he accused Obama and Clinton of being ISIS supporters, but the anti-war movement should be able to explain without any problem. Cessations of hostilities are a sham meant to protect American assets whenever Assad is winning. If concern for the wellbeing of Syrians is a paramount concern, then the American anti-war movement must be united in condemning their own government without reservation or hesitation.

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Margaret Kimberley writes the Freedom Rider column for Black Agenda Report, where this essay originally appeared. 

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