An exchange with Glenn Greenwald – on his piece “Why is the Daily Beast’s Russia Critic silent about so many hideous abuses?”

(Rant copied and pasted from comments section)
Omar Sabbour

Complete fallacies on display here by Glennwald. The issue is not one of selective criticism or focus, it is the active and tacit support and apologism of the bulk of the Western left (especially US where Glennwald’s from) for the Syrian regime and its backers, and the hypocritical treacherisation of those fighting it in the name of a shallow, disgusting Western-centred version of “anti-imperialism” which was inifinitely about identity politics than it was about anti-imperialist solidarity. About establishing anti-establishment “street cred” in the most shallow and “consumerised” of ways, without even examining whatsoever the establishment’s real underlying policies. That they do not of course reserve that treatment for their socialist comrades who’ve received the most “imperialist” help in Syria (the YPG), because they happen to be socialists and “one of us”.

Right after the US withdrawing from Iraq and a short honeymoon of retrenchment of the War on Terror language, lo and behold who brings it back, the Western left to defend a fascist government because the West “is on the other side”. The Western left, with honourable exceptions, became the new war on terror hawks and their idiocy and completely false reading of the situation (which we continuously tried to warn them about) left them with such hypocritical contradictions they couldn’t explain that they became simply outright hypocrites: like why the US started bombing its rebel “puppets” long before Russia did killing hundreds of them, or why every ex- Western “puppet” tyrant in the region supported Assad, from Maliki to Sisi to Ali Abdullah Saleh, or why Iran and its allies who the “conspiracy” in Syria was supposedly targeting got sanctions relief and rapproachment for the first time in 4 decades with *thousands* of its troops stationed in Syria, whilst its proxies were taken off the terrorist list (Hezbollah) for the first time *after* they invaded another country. Or how from all the myriad of non-state groups on the ground in Syria, the *only* ones not to have gotten targeted by the US have been Hezbollah, the Iranian revolutionary guards and the various other sectarian loyalist militias, and the YPG, whilst all the main insurgent anti-Assad coalitions were bombed by it.

Perhaps most crucially their inability to explain why a disposed of puppet would cite a foreign conspiracy to remove him, like Saleh did who called it the “Western-Zionist Spring”, the same Saleh who for years did America’s bidding, or Mubarak who was recorded saying the US always planned to overthrow him since when they “asked me for elections in 2005″, was the height of either (or both) intellectual amateurness and/or active cowardice (for wanting to construct a narrative centred on the West to the advantage of those traitors).

Their agenda in defence of the regime (putting them completely on the same side as the entire Western far-right) and against the Syrian revolution was to such an extent that they constructed the absolutely disgusting lie of a narrative that it is “support” for the revolution that created ISIS – their lining up with “defending” poor Iran at the precise moment it became an aggressor and enemy of the Arab masses that once defended it was to such an extent that they completely refused to mention the sheer monumental and clearly conspicuous withdrawal of the *US CREATED* Iraqi Army which left its bases and MASSIVE amount of equipment for ISIS in the narrative for how ISIS rose, despite the fact that that amounted for probably 95% of its strength (it expanded from Iraq into Syria, not vice versa). Apparently even having trained an army for 10 years and sponsoring the same guy for another 10 after a military occupation being the main reason for the rise of ISIS got an ‘anti-imperialist pass’ because of Iran’s support for Iraq. Instead lets blame those guys in Syria, the “rebels”, they’re the fall guys for everything, even though those revolutionaries (not rebels) fought ISIS a year before the regime decided to at a time when the smartasses here didn’t listen to Syrian activists warning about it, and “alternative” media platforms actively no-platformed them. So subservient was your shallow anti-imperialism because it posed an inconvenient narrative vis a vis Iran, and its unmentioned role in both fuelling extremism through its sectarian proxies and in acting as the West’s main War on Terror ally on the ground, especially in Iraq where they even shared bases with the US, that you could not be consistent even with the shallow paradigm.

Of course they would never mention the repeated US statements that there is “no military solution” for the rebels, or Obama’s idea that arming the rebels to defeat the regime “has always been a fantasy”, or him disparaging the civilian army of the FSA as “merely farmers, teachers and pharmacists”, or the repeated assertions that “we do not want the regime to collapse, just for Assad to step down”, which has been reinforced by every practical aspect of their policy since 2011 – including most importantly the limiting of weaponry and ammunition provided by Arab states and the embargo on the most effective ones, thereby enlengthening the conflict and creating a nice pool for a sectarian bloodbath whilst always ensuring the survival of a (weakened but viable) regime. This was the policy as with every other Arab spring country, to change the faces at the top to calm popular anger and maintain as much as the same structures as possible.

But that’s not an easy sell is it, we want something quick and catchy and sounds radical for our parties: this is because the US invaded Syria in 2011 under the pretence of a “revolution”, its just another Iraq! Of course the people who fought in Iraq against the US supported Maliki regime became the “terrorists” after the US withdrew its forces and the Arab spring pitted them against both Maliki and Bashar, but its another Iraq. Of course Maliki supports Assad and also cites a Western conspiracy against him (the same guy who came to power on the back of an American invasion), but its another Iraq. Of course Iraq and Syria were historical enemies who despised one another, and so how the Syrian regime was viewed in the West (a strategic partner that helped the US in the Lebanese Civil War, the Gulf War and the War on Terror) was nothing at all like how the Iraqi regime was (who viewed the Assads as traitors and would have been their foremost opponents), but its another Iraq.

Of course the West isn’t supporting the people, its bluffing support for the people as it always has done, but because this time there is *actually* a local movement where those helpless feckless people who you only use as pawns in your anti-establishment politics (best seen in how there’s a complete blockade on reporting the situation of Palestinians in Syria, at best – at worst the same “anti-zionists” come out and say things like ‘the siege of Palestinian camps is due to “terrorists taking human shields”’) actually fight instead of remaining the “please save me” subjects waiting for guidance from the great intellectual Western left (who will only support those who take their model, like the YPG) who will teach them about an imperialism the process of which they are directly suffering and of its fruits from which the lecturers directly enjoy. If Assad’s opponents did not fight back and the rebellion crushed, then it would have been fine – great even, we can put that as another example of the West staying silent during genocidal situations, a la Rwanda, or the West’s betrayal of a popular movement, a la Iraq in 1991. If the Egyptian military decided not to sacrifice Mubarak and fight back, subsequently meaning his opponents in turn fought back and in turn eventually received American “support” when they abandoned him, they would’ve been made “puppets” as well.

They’ve recycled the lies of our establishments, the post-colonial puppets when the people are silent and warriors when they rise up regimes. When those fight against horrific formerly Western-allied (and as always abandoned when it becomes embarrassing) post-colonial regimes, we take the side of the former Western puppets BECAUSE the former Western masters have abandoned them, and become replicas of the Western masters with the repetition of the War on Terrorism lingo which was adopted wholesale by *every* Middle Eastern regime facing trouble.

Their absolute cowardice to point out the ‘uncool’ fact that the West supported all the uprisings “in theory”, because it didn’t really have a choice, in a region which it’s long intervened in under the guise of “promoting democracy” now having people going out demanding just that in the 21st century – they cite Assad as a special case when the West also let go of Mubarak (after just a month, it took 6 for Obama to let go of Assad), Saleh etc. Instead of having the fucking bravery of examining how the West would orchestrate with this bluff and seeing how they would try to get out of their commitment, instead of us now talking about how the West has somehow managed to wiggle its way out of supporting democracy in the biggest regional mass movement in a century and somehow transformed the issue into a new “War on Terror” (with direct inspiration from the narratives of so many within the Western left), the narrative is AGAIN ABOUT WHETHER THE ARABS CAN ONLY SURVIVE WITH DICTATORS BECAUSE THEY DO EXTREMISM WHEN THEY CHALLENGE THEIR REGIMES. History will remember that it isn’t only Western establishments who betrayed the Arab masses when they rose up, but their self-centred Western-narcissist “anti-establishments” as well.

You aligned yourself with Iran’s counter-revolutions in Syria, Iraq and Yemen which are the *direct* reason why there has been a change in policy towards it (something which Iranian leaders refer to as the “only stable country” in the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Spring), because it proved itself to be a status quo power. I don’t think you fully are fully aware of the scale of the narratives you’ve helped construct and the sheer destructive potential of them. In exchange you became scabs, and lost any future legitimacy to think you can be a “mentor” for your comrades in that region. Of how an “only good Muslim is a secular Muslim”, from Syria – Assad’s a tyrant, but “at least” he’s secular. Never mind that this secularism is purely in the sense of being “non-religious” (and that being because he comes from a sect that is famously non-religious, which did not historically identify as Muslim and which was only recognised as legitimate Shias by Iran 2 decades ago – I only mention this for later), never mind that that secularism has been a highly sectarian one rendering it null as a concept, never mind that that secularism has actually *fuelled* religious extremism both directly and indirectly, never mind that the first ones who fought ISIS were politically-identifying Muslims who did not accept their hijacking of the thing they held dear. The only good Muslim is a “secular” non-identifying one. “Moderate” politically-identifying ones? Don’t make me laugh. You made “moderate Muslim” a sarcastic word. You don’t know it, but you did. And you responded that you can’t be Islamophobic, because the “secular” side you support (who in this case hate religion and curse God and the mainstream Muslim beliefs) still technically identifies as a Muslim.

All this, all this is actually a nutshell of the shit Hamad refers to, which Glennwald is simply a cog in. History will not forget the role of the majority of the Western Left in Syria and post-occupation Iraq, and how you rather sided with Iran’s repositioning of itself as a strong regional partner for the West than the Arab masses who rose up against both Sunni and Shia regimes.

active and tacit support and apologism of the bulk of the Western left (especially US where Glennwald’s from) for the Syrian regime and its backers,

Provide links showing “active and tacit support” for “the Syrian regime.”

Because you just completely fabricated that.

*active tacit support *and* apologism – was careful to put that in. The majority of the left have probably shown more of the latter (including yourself) than the former. Its quite ironic criticising Hamad’s “whataboutism” when this has essentially been practically the exclusive line informing what you have had to say about Syria for the past 3 years (see below).

https://theintercept.com/2015/04/16/nbcs-conduct-richard-engel-kidnapping-serious-brian-williams-scandal
“As it turns out, the “moderate” “Free Syrian Army” was largely a myth. By far, the most effective fighting forces against Assad were anything but “moderate,” composed instead of various Al Qaeda manifestations and even more extreme elements…
“This is a culture: they all were part of a charade to promote and champion the Free Syrian Army when that very army was kidnapping innocent Lebanese Shi’ites and killing people on sectarian grounds. They didn’t want to believe it.”

Again with the serial repeated lie (going back from 2012 when the FSA was practically the only coalition around) that the FSA doesn’t exist. The FSA is the dominant actor in the South of Syria (Southern Front), is the dominant actor in the besieged enclaves in Homs and Hama (they are the factions which Russia has been bombing more than Jaish al-Fatah) and is strongly present (although not dominant) throughout North Syria as well, with the Levant Front, Victory Army (Jaish al-Nasr), Revolutionaries Army (Jaish al-Thuwar), 1st Regiment, 1st Coastal Division, 101st Infantry, Division 13, Thuwar al Sham Brigades, Knights of Justice, Sultan Murad Brigades, Falcons of Al-Ghab, Farouq Brigades, Dignity Gathering, Falcons of the Mountain, etc, etc, etc (I could mention 20 more if you want if they will mean anything) – not to mention very strong independent brigades like Jaish al-Mujahedeen, Jaish al-Sunna (which was bombed by the US), Sham Legion and Nur al-Deen al Zangi who are often described in reportage as “FSA-affiliates” – they are essentially separate from the FSA organisationally but essentially believe the same thing. People have intentionally conflated the fact that the FSA is a decentred movement which bases itself on the structures of a guerrilla irregular army than a regimented regular one to make the bullshit claim that “it’s a myth”. If the FSA is a myth then the Syrian Arab Army which has bought militias from all over West and Central Asia to fight for it is a fantasy.

https://theintercept.com/2015/10/26/bbc-protects-uks-close-ally-saudi-arabia-with-incredibly-dishonest-and-biased-editing/
“It’s not a stretch to say that the faction that provides the greatest material support to Al Qaeda at this point is the U.S. and its closest allies.”
Its not just a stretch, it’s a nullification of the people who’ve been killed by US airstrikes on Nusra, the silliness of this claim particularly struck me when a Muslim from the city I currently live in was killed by such an airstrike, showing how far off from reality these narratives are. Many of these who joined did so not out of ideological alignment but because of its discipline and strength.

https://theintercept.com/2014/08/26/fun-empire-fighting-sides-war/
“It was not even a year ago when we were bombarded with messaging that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is a Supreme Evil and Grave Threat, and that military action against his regime was both a moral and strategic imperative. The standard cast of “liberal interventionists” – Tony Blair, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Nicholas Kristof and Samantha Power – issued stirring sermons on the duties of war against Assad. Secretary of State John Kerry actually compared Assad to (guess who?) Hitler, instructing the nation that “this is our Munich moment.” Striking Assad, he argued, “is a matter of national security. It’s a matter of the credibility of the United States of America. It’s a matter of upholding the interests of our allies and friends in the region.”

No comment, just disgusting. What do you think a Syrian thinks when they read that disgustingly insensitive use of “rhetoric” and “sarcasm”? The way you talked here is a microcosm of the wider issue, that in wanting to focus only on the West and its role in the conflict the issue of the local agents are inevitably neglected (at best) and end up being “collateral damage”.

Tony Blair’s since changed his opinion btw, and its good that you stand on the standard cast of “War on Terror shrills” who were against intervention, support for the rebels and/or pro-Assad: Pamela Gellar, Peter Hitchens, Michelle Bachmann, Marine Le Pen, Ann Coulter, Nick Griffin, Nigel Farage, Bill Maher, Sean Hannity etc etc.. Maybe you prefer the bullshit neocons who use regime change only when they want to kill Muslims above the “genuine” ones are at least are consistent with the declared motives for their imperialism.

– “U.S. military action against the Assad regime was thwarted only by overwhelming American public opinion which opposed it and by a resounding rejection by the UK Parliament of Prime Minister David Cameron’s desire to assume the usual subservient British role in support of American wars.

Bullshit btw, neither public opinion nor congress had absolutely anything to do with it, something we conspiratorial Arabs said at the time and something that has been proven since. The UK has been found to be secretly bombing in Syria for the past 2 years despite the loss of their parliamentary vote, whilst the US did not need a congress vote to go into Libya. Lo and behold, it is not a coincidence that is why Youtube is filled with interviews of Syrians at the time saying that it wasn’t going to happen, because they knew from the entire US policy (and statements) up to that point that the US did not want to help them. They intervene when they want to intervene, no ifs, no buts. The “threat” in summer 2013 was never about overthrowing the regime, it was about scaring it into giving up its chemical weapons which it was worried it could not be relied on to control anymore, and the threat that would pose to a certain southern neighbour]

– “Now the Obama administration and American political class is celebrating the one-year anniversary of the failed “Bomb Assad!” campaign by starting a new campaign to bomb those fighting against Assad – the very same side the U.S. has been arming over the last two years.”
Same inaccurate stuff which I was citing – the US never armed the Islamic Front which it routinely blockaded and pressured the Gulf countries to stop backing them despite their strength, and then bombed – it never supported the Nusra Front which it listed as a terrorist organisation before it was part of al-Qaeda and then bombed. The US policy with regards to rebels has been to sow division amongst them between an arbitrary description of “moderates” vs “extremists”, this is why it routinely pressured Qatar to stop backing the Islamic Front and why there are loads of rebel commanders “favoured” by the US on record stating that it wanted them to fight Islamists, not the regime.

Those rebel brigades who have received US-made weapons (generally through Arab countries) have been routinely thrown under the bus by the US even after they agreed to fight groups like ISIS and Nusra. What happened to the now defunct FSA’s Hazzm movement in the North is a good example, when in 2014 the US cut the already piss aid going to them in half *right in the middle* of a fight with Nusra (who the Americans were initially encouraging to fight). These guys were saying “forget giving us enough to fight the regime, why aren’t you even giving us enough to defend ourselves from the extremists who you were telling us to fight?”. I’ve read enough examples of FSA leaders saying things like “the US has put a massive target sign on our backs and isn’t giving us enough to fend for ourselves”, and others who state that the “help” they received amounted to 10 bullets per fighter (www.wsj.com/articles/covert-cia-mission-to-arm-syrian-rebels-goes-awry-1422329582).
The US policy towards the rebels has been the height of duplicity, the question was NEVER about there not being enough moderates on the ground, that’s become a joke which Syrians say to refer to the bullshit excuses the US has been giving since 2012, they know the people fighting and they know that the idea that even the majority of them are “extremists” is bullshit – it was always a pretence of giving entirely insufficient support for moderates, watch as everything gets radicalised and more and more groups join anti-American groups, and then having a reason to intervene and bomb those same people (as they did a few months ago) in the name of “fighting extremism”. The US policy has been to create “Sahwas” in Syria like the ones they had in Iraq, who fought not the state but “extremists”. Once they found that didn’t have anyone willing to do with that they came out saying “this plan was never going to work” and “we need a political solution which preserves the Syrian state”. Russia is not doing anything the US has not done, Russia’s killed 300 rebels, the US had killed 150. Russia’s just bombed more groups than the US.

You’ve made the mistake of claiming that there have been “American puppets” on the ground in Syria a la contras, because there have been those who have received American-made weapons (perhaps you were expecting they’d get Russian ones). Overall there aren’t. The closest that come to that is the YPG which is fetishised by the Western left. The Syrian ones who were prepared to accept American conditions in the recently scrapped Train and Equip programme, to act purely as Sahwas and sign a declaration not to fight the regime, were the “54” type numbers, who in a further perversion the media used to claim that there were no moderates on the ground, never mentioning that a specific condition was not to fight Assad which is why there were so few willing to sign up.

https://twitter.com/ggreenwald/status/640862357871312896
“What inaction? The US has been bombing inside Syria, arming & funding groups, all sorts of covert actions.”
Bit of agreement there. I dispute the argument that the reason the US has been “half-arsed” to act in Syria against the regime has been due to “a general policy of disengagement” by the Obama Administration and trying to pursue a policy of regional retreat and “non-intervention”. That’s bullshit, because the US intervention has been constant in the Syrian conflict. It’s not as if the US withdrew from the arena and was taking a back seat in Syria, it hasn’t. Obama’s resurrected the War on Terror, US intervention is as big as always not least in Iraq.

But unlike you its determinant intervention has not been about to conspicuously “covertly fund” dangerous groups for regime change, its been to control the supplies of regional weaponry going to them. If the US was not there to impose restrictions on the aid allowed by Qatar, Turkey and (only since Salman’s ascension) Saudi, the Syrian regime would have long collapsed, 100%. The determinant US intervention in this conflict has been to monitor, control and limit the quantity and quality of supplies going to the Syrian revolutionaries.

Thus you acknowledge that the US was always going to play some certain role in Syria, the problem is that you demonised those who accepted whatever they could get.

https://twitter.com/ggreenwald/status/640859688901476353
“Marvel at the US effort to arm and fund “moderate” forces in Syria: has to be read to be believed”

https://twitter.com/ggreenwald/status/640907920037834752
“It’s beyond dispute that *some* of the people fighting Assad are ordinary Syrians fighting tyranny.”

https://twitter.com/ggreenwald/status/609367931177320448
“War on Terror comes full circle: talk of “wooing” Al Qaeda as a key ally is now made explicit”

https://twitter.com/ggreenwald/status/585787774508244995
“After Libya and Syria, Yemen is the 3rd country where the US & Al Qaeda are on the same side”

https://twitter.com/ggreenwald/status/375947591210377216
“Would a House vote against a Syria strike be AIPAC’s biggest defeat in Congress in at least a decade?”
Same country that actually turned out to be the proposer of the plan which prevented the “limited targeted strike” against Assad: http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-06-15/israel-helped-obama-skirt-red-line-on-syria

https://twitter.com/ggreenwald/status/621662760682823681
Which “US backed” brigade committed atrocities in Syria? Name names. Not ideological perceptions, names. Feel free to take some from the ones I’ve provided above.

– Posting such articles: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/opinion/2012-02/20/content_14643422.htmhttp://edition.cnn.com/2012/07/10/world/meast/syria-russia/index.html?hpt=hp_c1, as well as reposting things by “Assad Girl”, Sharmine Narwani, and the apparently “brilliant” disgusting excuse for a human being, As’ad Abu Khalil.

https://twitter.com/ggreenwald/status/250607251088359424
“And Bahrain, UAE, etc: RT @AliAbunimah “Lol at Obama complaining about lack of democracy in Iran or Syria. How about US ally Saudi Arabia?”
I cite this just as an example, that its funny that you make fun of “whatboutism” when this has been 95% of what you have had to say about Syria in the last 3 years.

Conclusion: In being concerned only with the West (a reverse form of orientalism) at the expense of the agency of the Syrians dying and struggling on the ground, you have simply aligned with the narrative of the regime which does the same thing, putting attention on the foreign malice. You may say “that is the area of my concern, what the West is doing”, but because everything is interlinked you inevitably reduced the Syrians fighting as either proxies, Al-Qaeda or generously, the “some who are genuinely fighting tyranny” according to you.
For years the Left has succeeded in creating an “equivalence” of “both sides are as bad as each other” in Syria, despite the pure injustice of that statement not backed by any empirical or non-empirical reality, and now it is actively pushing the line of “the regime may be better than the alternative”.
Apologism is not saying I LOVE ASSAD, it is placing the negative onus on the weaker side than the stronger one. It is constantly deflecting attention from the main matter and main culprit. It is constantly saying “what about”, or “look at them”. This self-serving “drug” is completely irrelevant to the realities of Syria and all to do with how the people who say this feel about themselves. You are not the worst and at least have criticised the regime, but your slant on Syria is still in my opinion condemnable. What this slant has done has been a replica of what Israel does in its PR war vis a vis Palestinians: why don’t you talk about Hamas rockets? Why don’t you talk about Islamic extremists? Why don’t you talk about blah blah blah. This is the problem with thinking you can get away with Western-centricisim, in this case the regime has also in a sense been “Western-centric”, and this is the problematic overlap that is created.

I do not think you are a supporter of Assad, you simply have written in a way that aligns with the same narrative (with a few sweeteners every now and then) of his and his loyalists. I think someone summarised the view pretty well: You (not just you but generally) do a lot to make sure you do not appear to be pro-regime, but you also do a lot to make sure you do not appear to be in solidarity with the uprising either.

P.S. It is brought to my attention that you wrote an article 3 days ago stating that support for the rebels is legitimate even if al-Qaeda is involved. Fair enough and good for you, but this does not ignore everything that happened before that.

Peace

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