“Leaked” Memo Signals Danger of Stepped Up U.S. Aggression

Syria Needs a Real Revolution—Not an Even Worse Reactionary Bloodbath

June 20, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


If any country on the planet cries out for a real revolution, it is Syria. Instead, for the past five years, this country at the epicenter of the Middle East has been ripped apart by a bloody horror of a reactionary civil war, courtesy of the U.S., Russia, and a host of other predatory powers and Dark Ages Islamic jihadists.

Buildings destroyed by U.S. airstrike in Kfar Derian, Syria, September 2014
Buildings destroyed by U.S. airstrike in Kfar Derian, Syria, September 2014. AP photo

This turf war between gangsters big and small has led to death and destruction on a mind-numbing scale: between 400,000 and 500,000 Syrians have been killed. More than one in three Syrians have been forced from their homes. 4.5 million people have fled Syria, most ending up in crowded, squalid refugee camps or perhaps watching their children drown trying to cross the sea to Europe. Another 6.5 million have been turned into refugees inside Syria. Massive swaths of cities have been pulverized—markets, homes, apartment buildings, hospitals reduced to piles of brick and stone. Irreplaceable historical sites have been smashed to rubble. The bloodletting and destruction in Syria makes Mad Max look like family entertainment.

And now powerful forces in the U.S. ruling class want to make things even worse... in the name of “humanitarianism.”

On June 17, a major dispute among the U.S. rulers over what to do about Syria broke into the open. Fifty-one State Department officials—an unprecedented number—signed an internal protest letter, against Obama’s Syria policy. The letter, which was leaked to the press, called for stepped-up U.S. military attacks on the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. The writers claimed the U.S. has a “moral” and “humanitarian” responsibility to bomb Assad to force him to negotiate an end to the Syrian civil war on U.S. terms. They argued that Obama’s strategy, focused on bombing and assaulting ISIS, isn’t enough and that U.S. interests are being damaged, perhaps gravely. Other ruling class figures have been blasting Obama on similar grounds for some time, and several top Obama officials have previously resigned over Syria policy. Donald Trump and especially Hillary Clinton have both called for more aggressive action against Assad. Obama’s own secretary of state, John Kerry, has expressed sympathy with the critics’ arguments.

Map of Middle East focused on Syria

How—and Why—Have Things Gotten to This Point?

Imperialist powers have been driven to dominate Syria for some 100 years, since Britain and France forged modern Syria from the collapsed Ottoman Empire in the decades after World War 1. Syria sits in a strategic location in the Middle East, which is home to over half the world's petroleum reserves and a global crossroads for trade and transit. A succession of imperialist powers—France, the U.S., later the capitalist-imperialist Soviet Union—have dominated Syria through repressive tyrannies, crippling and distorting the country’s development and subjecting the Syrian people to bitter oppression and, often, naked terror.

In the spring of 2011, rays of hope pierced this decades-long darkness. Tens of thousands of people—from middle class and urban youth, to farmers, intellectuals, and Syria’s marginalized Sunnis—courageously rose up against the hated regime of Bashar al-Assad, whose family had ruled with a bloody fist since 1970. This uprising revealed the profound contradictions roiling the oppressive order in Syria and the region, and the real potential for things to develop in an even more positive, revolutionary direction.

But that would have required what has so far been missing in Syria (as well as in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and elsewhere in the region): revolutionary leadership with the scientific understanding and approach which could enable it, even if it started small, to organize and lead growing numbers through the complex, fierce tumult of events toward a real revolution aimed at uprooting imperialism and all forms of oppression as part of the worldwide communist revolution to emancipate humanity. This road, and only this road, can liberate people in Syria, and plant a whole different pole across the region and world.

Vicious Predators—Global, Regional & Local—Plunge Syria into Hellish Depths

In the absence of such a revolutionary trend, events have been shaped by vicious predators—global, regional, and local—all operating against the backdrop of the global clash between reactionary imperialism and reactionary Islamic fundamentalism, a clash which is currently deeply and horrifically shaping the world’s military, political, and ideological terrain. Syria’s mass uprising fairly quickly turned into a savage and reactionary civil war. Within a couple of years, reactionary Islamic jihadist forces like ISIS and Al-Nusra, backed in various ways by regional and global powers, controlled large swaths of Syria.

Syrian refugees waiting to cross the border into Turkey, June 15, 2014.
Syrian refugees waiting to cross the border into Turkey, June 15, 2014. (AP photo)

The utterly reactionary Assad regime responded to the uprising and aftermath with bullets, bombs, and war crimes. Teetering toward defeat, the regime targeted everyone in areas held by anti-regime forces, including civilians. It killed hundreds of thousands and forced millions to flee by dropping barrel bombs—metal barrels filled with high explosives and sometimes shrapnel, oil, or chemicals—on residential neighborhoods, and blockading and starving whole cities. Iran, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and Russia stepped in militarily, desperate to ensure Assad’s survival. Iran and Hezbollah put troops on the ground and Russia supplied the indiscriminate bombing campaigns.

The U.S. & Its Allies: Neck Deep in Syrian Blood

The U.S. blames everything on Assad, and acts as if it’s a benign, well-intentioned bystander to Syria’s hellish nightmare. In fact, the U.S. has fanned and fueled this bloodbath from the jump. Obama and the U.S. rulers sniffed a big opportunity to take down the “troublesome” Assad regime and replace it with one more friendly to U.S. and Israeli objectives. In doing so, they aimed to cut down Iran’s regional influence and to ice Russia from the Middle East action. So they demanded Assad step down and began trying to cobble together a “democratic” opposition of various flunkeys and wannabe pro-U.S. frontmen.

Meanwhile, U.S. allies including Turkey and Saudi Arabia also smelled blood—and the opportunity to undercut their regional rival, Iran, and boost their regional reach. Mostly—but not always—in concert with U.S. moves, they aggressively funneled hundreds of millions in funds and weapons into the hands of barbaric Islamic jihadists including Al-Nusra, al Qaeda’s arm in Syria. It’s widely reported that Turkey has provided ISIS critical logistical support. (While formally neutral in the Syrian civil war, Israel is reportedly more actively supporting anti-Assad forces, including jihadists.)

All of this has unleashed, emboldened, and strengthened reactionary, anti-Assad Sunni jihadists, who began flooding into Syria from war-torn, U.S.-destabilized Iraq. Would-be jihadists from around the world poured through Turkey into Syria. By 2013-2014, ISIS controlled large swaths of Syria, Al-Nusra controlled other areas, and other forces controlled still other turf, with all of them fighting for reactionary ends. The Syrian civil war was spinning out of the control of any of the combatants, including the U.S.

The U.S. has attempted to navigate these turbulent waters by weakening both sides and preventing either from prevailing. It has supported various anti-Assad forces, including Islamic jihadists, often in covert collaboration with the Saudis. For instance, $500 million in U.S. arms supposedly intended for the “moderate” Free Syrian Army—which at this point is basically used as a fig leaf for Western audiences to cover up arms transfers to anti-Assad Islamists—ended up in the hands of Al-Nusra (which some now call the “moderate” opposition).

Meanwhile, the U.S. is also attacking ISIS. It conducted nearly 3,800 bombing runs in Syria during the last two years, and now has at least 250 of its own “special operations advisor” soldiers on the ground (and on the front lines). All this has fueled and drawn out this slaughter, and there’s no end in sight. (U.S. support of Al-Nusra may be aimed at weakening ISIS as well.)

Both Sides in the Ruling Class Debate Are Worse

The fierce clash that’s broken out within the U.S. establishment over Syria has not been triggered by moral concerns about mangled civilian bodies or images of drowning children. The clash has “come to a head”—as one imperialist official baldly put it—because Assad and Russia are no longer negotiating with the U.S. In other words, these officials are freaked out because Russia, Iran, and Assad may be getting the upper hand in Syria (Assad recently vowed to retake every inch of Syria), and tilting the regional power balance their way. And more than that, they don’t think the U.S. can remain the world’s dominant imperialist superpower unless it takes bold, aggressive action whenever its interests or perceived standing are seriously challenged.

Obama has the same overall objectives, he just calculates that the empire’s biggest problem in the region right now is ISIS, and that he can deal with Assad later. And Obama worries that the U.S.’s ability to stay on top of the capitalist-imperialist dung heap would be hurt by getting yet more deeply embroiled in the Middle East when it needs to focus on bigger global rivals—like China.

So this is an argument among gangsters, over gangster objectives. Think about it. The U.S. has been waging war in the Middle East going on 15 years—justified with lies about “freedom,” “democracy,” ending terrorism, helping countries chart their own futures, etc. What’s the reality?

The reality is that no one is MORE responsible for the death, destruction, and suffering visited upon Syriaand the peoples of the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asiathan the U.S. Literally millions upon millions have been forced from their homes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, and Yemen by U.S. wars, invasions, occupations, drone strikes, covert operations, and other aggressions. All this has fueled the growth of the oppressive nightmare of fundamentalist Islamic jihad across the region, including in Iraq, which has directly stoked the bloodbath in Syria.

Stop the Bullshit, Please

People have to confront this horrendous, criminal reality. And please, no more of this “I don’t like U.S. wars, but we have to do something about ISIS” bullshit. As Bob Avakian has analyzed, outmoded imperialism and outmoded Islamic jihadism reinforce each other—even as they clash. And supporting either one strengthens both. Haven’t the last 15 years proved this time and again? That, too, needs to be confronted. (And tell us, how has passively accepting U.S. moves in Syria—including supporting reactionary Islamic jihadists—helped the people of Syria?)

Having confronted reality, can anyone seriously justify refusing to actively oppose the crimes of this empire, as well as the crimes of the reactionary jihadists? This understanding and stance is the only solid foundation for a real determined, mass antiwar resistance in today’s world.

The people of the world have no interest in the U.S. pouring more fuel on the reactionary firestorm burning in Syria, and more fundamentally, they have no interest in siding with and strengthening the power most responsible, on many fronts, for the horrendous state of the world today—the U.S. of A.

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Those of us who happen to live within its borders not only have the responsibility to oppose any new attack in Syria—or anywhere else—but to seize on their difficulties, including fissures within their own ranks, and work for the defeat of any such aggression. Such defeats weaken the ability of these predators to carry out their crimes, and call into question the legitimacy of their system and their right to rule. This is a critical component of hastening the advent of a revolutionary opening, the time when millions can be led to go for a revolution, all-out, with a real chance to win.

Finally, the Syrian civil war highlights a terrible problem: that as it, and many other societies (and the world!) spiral into crisis and upheaval, the only cohesive and strong poles internationally are outmoded imperialism and outmoded fundamentalist Islamic jihad. That must and can change—urgently. We have a huge responsibility to spread and plant the pole of genuine revolutionary communism, embodied in the leadership and work of Bob Avakian, all over the world.

The world as we have known it is flying apart. None of the powers that be have all this under control. Each is facing myriad intractable contradictions, including the fracturing of Syria and the Middle East. This is a situation fraught with danger, but also with the potential for the revolutionary communist pole to spread and take root—rapidly.



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