• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

SPRING FUNDRAISER

Is it time for our Spring fundraiser already? If you enjoy what we offer, and have the means, please consider donating. The sooner we reach our modest goal, the faster we can get back to business as (un)usual. Please, stay safe and we’ll see you down the road.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Betrayal in the Levant

Photograph Source: Kurdishstruggle – Kurdish YPG Fighters – CC BY 2.0

Confusion reigns in certain left-leaning and anarchist circles. Pat Robertson tells Trump he will lose his mandate of heaven if he really does pull the US troops occupying northern Syria from their positions. Democrats, Republicans, neocons and neoliberals join the Pentagon and the mainstream US media to decry this possible troop redeployment.  Turkey assembles its military forces and moves into northern Syria.  Some of its politicians tell their supporters that they will bury the Kurds in ditches along the roadside.  US anarchist Noam Chomsky supports the US troops remaining in the area. What the hell is going on?

What the Kurds in Rojava are attempting to do is a noble, if incredibly utopian attempt to create what their major theorist Abdullah Ocalan calls democratic confederalism. In his 2017 text The Political Thought of Abdullah Ocalan, he describes this theory as a “non-state social paradigm…not controlled by a state.”  Decrying nationalism and nation-states as creations and essential elements of capitalism, he calls instead for democratic autonomy. This situation is “one that does not rely on separatism and violence” and does not desire either the maximum power or capitalist economy that modern nation states require to exist. The text itself is a concise summary of Ocalan’s political thought and its development, the history of the PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s Party)—the organization he previously led, and the history of the Kurdish people.

One key to this concept of democratic confederalism is that it rejects the duplication of existing hierarchies, whether those structures are of the state or the economy. Consequently, it rejects capitalism, nationalism in its currently understood sense, and the domination of the military.  The implementation of this approach to governance is, as Ocalan writes, “predicated on finding a compromise with (existing) nation states.” One assumes this is the arrangement that exist(ed) in northern Syria with both the Syrian government and the US military.  It is this understanding that most of the rest of the world either ignores or rejects.  That misunderstanding causes Pat Robertson, Lindsey Graham, most Democrat and Republican legislators, and the Pentagon to see Trump’s calls to move the US troops out of the area as some kind of surrender to the desires of the government in Ankara.  In actuality, it seems like Trump and the trumpists believe others can take care of whatever business their vision of the US needs to take care of in the region. Most likely, those others will be led by Israel and Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, US forces will remain throughout the rest of the region; it’s not like they are packing up, going home and destroying their weapons. Unfortunately, they can always be back to their dirty business in a moment’s notice.

As for the idea floated by some who consider this troop reassignment (if it actually occurs, that is) to be a victory against imperialism, if only it were so. All that is required to reject this notion is to widen one’s lens and look at the greater picture. Right now, a US Navy strike group is stationed in the Persian Gulf, at least a hundred US Air Force warplanes are in the immediate region, and several thousand US troops are bivouacked in different countries nearby. If one pulls that lens even further back, they would see that thousands of troops, sailors and Marines are within a few hours or days from Syria and any other part of the Middle East. Considering this, it seems difficult to see this minor reassignment as a victory.  However, that doesn’t mean those US forces should remain there.  In fact, it still means all US forces should be pulled from the Middle East. Their presence is the cause of much of the current violence and human dislocation that defines the lives of way too many residents of the region. The other primary cause is the ongoing attempts of Israel to expand its borders and Washington’s support of those attempts. While Trump has done little to convince mainstream pundits that he and his coterie of trumpist advisers have an actual policy plan, anyone seeing this as an antiwar move must look at the big picture first.

I wrote a piece back in 2004 titled “Are the Kurds in the Way?”  I am reprinting some of it here.

During the last week of January 2004, Paul Bremer (Colonial Overseer in Iraq), gave notice to another group of Kurds that the United States would begin military operations against the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), a formerly Marxist-Leninist organization dedicated to armed struggle in the name of Kurdish independence. In terms of the public mission of the US military in Iraq, there is no real reason for this move. Instead, this decision by the US reflects a deal that Washington worked out with the government of Turkey, which has fought this organization and Kurdish independence since time immemorial.

For those who are not familiar with the PKK, let me briefly surmise their history and political philosophy. In their over quarter century of existence, this group has waged a consistent struggle for a Kurdish homeland. Unlike the other two Kurdish parties, they are not on the CIA payroll and consider Turkey to be as great of an enemy of the Kurds as Iraq. Consequently, their primary struggle has been against the Turkish government—a government which until recently forbid the teaching of the Kurdish language in predominantly Kurdish schools and has fostered an ultimately racist attitude on the part of the Turkish people against the Kurds. Originally of a Marxist-Leninist economic and philosophical nature, the PKK has modified its approach towards Kurdish liberation over the years. It continues to proclaim its desire for a just and democratic Kurdish land—either via some type of autonomous arrangement with other governments or through a true independent nation.

As noted previously, the Kurds being discussed in this piece are the political descendants of the PKK.  The US was presumably aware of this history and the potential issues involved when it made the deal with the Kurds in northern Syria.  Like Turkey (albeit on a different and lesser scale), Washington has no lasting interest in the survival of an autonomous independent and anti-capitalist district in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world. Likewise, the Rojava rebels must have understood this when they agreed to the arrangement, they made with the US forces occupying northern Syria.  Like many marriages of convenience, neither party could have honestly thought it would be forever.  Any organization born in struggle enters any agreement with greater powers knowing that wariness is a key element in its implementation.

Given this, the projected removal of US troops from northern Syria is not the end of the Kurdish struggle.  It is a betrayal, but is no different from any other betrayal in Washington’s long history of betrayal.  Why do you think the line “White man speak with forked tongue” –supposedly said in relation to another broken treaty between Washington and a betrayed indigenous nation–exists?  Whether or not this was ever spoken by the Native American it was attributed to, the fact that it is part of the common parlance makes it clear that Washington’s policy has always included betrayal.  Furthermore, those who demand that the troops remain, demand a no-fly zone or some other type of military intervention are not only supporting US imperial policy, they are ultimately denying the Kurds their own agency and, by portraying them as victims who need US support, they are diminishing their struggle.  To be blunt, it reeks of arrogance and paternalism.

More articles by:

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

June 03, 2020
Anthony DiMaggio
Revolution, Not Riots: Prospects for Radical Transformation in the Covid-19 Era
Jennifer Loewenstein
From Mississippi to Minneapolis: Leaving the ‘Abyss of Despair’
Kenneth Surin
The UK Compared With Other Countries on the Pandemic
Paul Street
“Total Domination”: Popular Rebellion in the Shadow of Trumpism-Fascism
Kenn Orphan
The Sadism of American Power
John Pilger
The Coup Against ‘The Most Loyal Ally’
Eric Murphy
The Police Are The Out-Of-Towners Provoking Violence
Melvin Goodman
How the Washington Post Accommodates Disinformation
Rev. William Alberts
It’s the Worshippers Who Are “Essential”
Georgina Downs
No, the Public Fury Will Not “Move On” Prime Minister!
George V. Wright
It is Happening Here
M. G. Piety
Tales from the Dark Side of Customer Service, or “Christians” Giving Christians a Bad Name
Chandra Muzaffar
A Superpower in Chaos
Thomas Knapp
Time to Stop Messing Around and Strike at the Root of Police Violence
Thomas M. Hanna
The Oligopoly That Controls Our Digital Infrastructure Has Deepened Economic and Racial Divides
Andrew Stewart
The Ethics of Police Murder Video Exhibition: Democratizing The News Feed, Re-Traumatizing The Survivors, Or Both?
Binoy Kampmark
Death, Protest and George Floyd
David Rovics
Who’s Trashing Downtown Every Night and Why?
Harvey Wasserman
Trump Is No Accident
Behrooz Ghamari Tabrizi
Biden and the Common Sense Voter
Timothy Ingalsbee
Ecosystems, Logging and the Definition of Insanity
Elliot Sperber
The Birds of Brooklyn
June 02, 2020
Zoltan Grossman
Deploying Federal Troops in a War at Home Would Make a Bad Situation Worse
Nicholas Buccola
Amy Cooper is Christian Cooper’s Lost, Younger Sister 
Manuel García, Jr.
Global Warming is Nuclear War
Patrick Cockburn
An Unavoidable Recognition of Failure: Trump’s Withdrawal From Afghanistan
John Feffer
Is It Time to Boycott the USA?
Kathy Kelly
Beating Swords to Plowshares
Lawrence Davidson
U.S. Urban Riots Revisited
Sam Pizzigati
“Failed State” Status Here We Come
Ron Jacobs
In Defense of Antifa
Cesar Chelala
Bolsonaro and Trump: Separated at Birth
George Wuerthner
The BLM’s License to Destroy Sagebrush Ecosystems
Danny Antonelli
The Absurdity of Hope
Binoy Kampmark
Sinister Flatulence: Trump Versus Twitter
John Stanton
How Much Violence and Destruction is Enough for Depraved American Leaders and Their Subjects?
Richard C. Gross
The Enemy Within
Thomas Knapp
Trump’s “Free Speech:” Doctrine: Never, Ever, Ever Mention He’s a Liar
John W. Whitehead
This Is Not a Revolution. It’s a Blueprint for Locking Down the Nation
June 01, 2020
Joshua Frank
It’s a Class War Now Too
Richard D. Wolff
Why the Neoliberal Agenda is a Failure at Fighting Coronavirus
Henry Giroux
Racial Domestic Terrorism and the Legacy of State Violence
Ron Jacobs
The Second Longest War in the United States
Kanishka Chowdhury
The Return of the “Outside Agitator”
Lee Hall
“You Loot; We Shoot”
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail