Tendance Coatesy

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Posts Tagged ‘Syria

Is George Monbiot a Fascist Fellow-Traveller?

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File:George Monbiot (cropped).jpg

Is George Monbiot a Fascist Fellow-Traveller? 

Citing George Orwell is a venerable tradition in political debate.

Often it’s simply to score points, usually against the left. Sometimes it is – still – used to great effect. Jean-Claude Michea, deeply inspired by Orwell, wrote  in 2008, a polemic which uncovered the “doublethink’ of contemporary economic liberalism. (La double pensée : Retour sur la question libérale).

One would have expected George Monbiot, whose writing including debunking climate-change deniers, and the way free-market economics have made the State “captive”, to have followed in Michea’s line and kept writing about subjects he knows something about.

Not so.

He has gone beyond quoting Orwell to using the man’s – heroic – decision in the 1930s to fight to defend the elected Spanish republic to endorse his sympathetic stand on  those fighting jihad in Syria. This takes some gumption. But, as an apparent authority on the ramifications of this conflict, he has been given prominent space to expound his opinions.

Monbiot’s column appears under this headline,

Orwell was hailed a hero for fighting in Spain. Today he’d be guilty of terrorism Guardian.

The International Brigades are acclaimed for bravery. But British citizens who fight in Syria are damned. If only they did it for the money.

Monbiot’s main gripe is with the anti-terrorism laws.

He writes,

If George Orwell and Laurie Lee were to return from the Spanish civil war today, they would be arrested under section five of the Terrorism Act 2006. If convicted of fighting abroad with a “political, ideological, religious or racial motive” – a charge they would find hard to contest – they would face a maximum sentence of life in prison. That they were fighting to defend an elected government against a fascist rebellion would have no bearing on the case. They would go down as terrorists.

People fighting against forces that run a system of industrialised torture and murder and are systematically destroying entire communities could be banged up for life for their pains. Is this any fairer than imprisoning Orwell would have been?

Mobiot expresses some reservations,

I accept that some British fighters in Syria could be changed by their experience. I also accept that some are already motivated by the prospect of fighting a borderless jihad, and could return to Britain with the skills required to pursue it. But this is guilt by association.

But the war, the holy jihad in Syria,  itself appears just.

To prove this he  cites this – single –  case,

Last week a British man who called himself Abu Suleiman al-Britani drove a truck full of explosives into the gate of Halab prison in Aleppo. The explosion, in which he died, allowed rebel fighters to swarm into the jail and release 300 prisoners. Was it terrorism or was it heroism? Terrorism, according to many commentators.

It’s true that he carried out this act in the name of the al-Nusra Front, which the British government treats as synonymous with al-Qaida. But can anyone claim that liberating the inmates of Syrian government prisons is not a good thing? We now know that at least 11,000 people have been killed in these places, and that many were tortured to death.

Last week we referred to the case of British Muslim Iftikhar Jaman. He was a member of ISIS and was killed by Kurdish freedom-fighters.

Who are ISIS?

Torture, flogging, and summary killings are rife in secret prisons run by the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), an armed group that controls large areas of northern Syria , said Amnesty International in a briefing published today.ISIS , which claims to apply strict Shari’a (Islamic law) in areas it controls, has ruthlessly flouted the rights of local people. In the 18-page briefing, Rule of fear: ISIS abuses in detention in northern Syria , Amnesty International identifies seven detention facilities that ISIS uses in al-Raqqa governorate and Aleppo .

Let’s forget what harm these jihadists may do if and when they return to Europe.What of the above?

They are now slaughtering innocents – though perhaps Syrians do not count for Monbiot.

Monbiot has responded to critics by writing,

First, it would be wrong to assume that all British fighters going to Syria are affiliated with the ANF, which is part of the point I’m making. Secondly that just because someone is doesn’t mean that what their subsequent actions are necessarily wrong. I find it hard to see al-Britani’s action in seeking to liberate a prison as an act of terrorism. If there is such a thing as a legitimate act of war, that, I believe, is an example.

We can debate the issue of the anti-terrorism laws.

But a “legitimate act of war”?

The jihadists, including the Al-Nusra Front, are  equally accused of tortures and the murder of civilians.

They are not fighting against the Baathists in the name of  a democratic state. Their aim is the caliphate: a theocracy in which human rights have no place.

It is hard to see how exactly they resemble any of the  political forces in the Spanish civil war. But certainly their practice and ideology has something in common with fascism.

Orwell always emphasised the need to use political language with precision.

So we ask, and do not answer, the question: by giving credibility to the Syrian jihadists is George Monbiot a fascist fellow-traveller?

Written by Andrew Coates

February 12, 2014 at 10:52 am

Jihadists in Syria: Little in Common with the Spanish Civil War.

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More in common with the Condor Legion that Spanish republicans.

A couple of days ago Channel Four had this report,

British Muslim Iftikhar Jaman died fighting in Syria. He has gained a cult following and his death is being eulogised by some in his community.

Last summer, Jaman left his job in a call centre and signed up with the deadliest rebel group in Syria. Isis are accused of savage atrocities – and yet, Jaman’s death is now being eologised by some British Muslims. For the first time since he was killed, Channel 4 News has spoken exclusively to his family.

His brother Mustakim told us: “He died protecting the people. He fought for his God and the people itself. In our religion, there’s nothing better you can do than to fight in the path of Allah. His martyrdom is such a noble way to go out and just the best way someone can go out.”

Isis has been accused of carrying out savage attacks of civillians and on other rebel fighters. The group have posted hundreds of videos online. The images are used by recruiting sergeants, to lure foreign fighters to their ideological cause.

Jaman’s family admit he did spend hours online, but they deny he was brainwashed. In fact, they say he made an informed decision to help the oppressed. It is an argument that some in the commuuity will have sympathy with and presents a huge challenge for the security services.

His brother Tuhin said: “I would say that he’s done an honourable thing … he’s sacrificed his life, he’s done something for the oppressed people.”

A common refrain is that Syria is a present-day Spanish Civil War, attracting to idealistic Muslims, or as    says, “Just like the Spanish civil war in the Thirties, the Syrian conflict has all the makings of an international cause célèbre, with well-intentioned volunteers willing to risk their lives fighting to defeat a dictator.”

There is not the slightest doubt that Assad and his regime are murderous thugs.

It is a bloodthirsty tyranny, that the Syrian people tried to change by democratic means.

But, as the war has developed, the battle lines have become increasingly  religious and sectarian and Jihadists and the Islamist far-right have taken the lead in the clashes.

The sectarian element gets ignored by those praising, or condemning, Jihadists.

It is doubtful if Channel Four would give a similar sympathetic airing  to, say, the family of a member of Hezbollah, or the Shiites who have gone to Syria to fight Iftikhar Jaman, and, amongst others, Isis.

ISIS is so vile that  Al-Qaeda has disowned it, states the BBC.

This is the group,

Torture, flogging, and summary killings are rife in secret prisons run by the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), an armed group that controls large areas of northern Syria , said Amnesty International in a briefing published today.

ISIS , which claims to apply strict Shari’a (Islamic law) in areas it controls, has ruthlessly flouted the rights of local people. In the 18-page briefing, Rule of fear: ISIS abuses in detention in northern Syria , Amnesty International identifies seven detention facilities that ISIS uses in al-Raqqa governorate and Aleppo .

“Those abducted and detained by ISIS include children as young as eight who are held together with adults in the same cruel and inhuman conditions,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa .

Some of those held by ISIS are suspected of theft or other crimes; others are accused of “crimes” against Islam, such as smoking cigarettes or zina, sex outside marriage. Others were seized for challenging ISIS ‘s rule or because they belonged to rival armed groups opposed to the Syrian government. ISIS is also suspected of abducting and detaining foreign nationals, including journalists covering the fighting in Syria .

Several children were among detainees who received severe floggings, according to testimonies obtained by Amnesty International. On one occasion, an anguished father had to endure screams of pain as ISIS captors tormented his son in a nearby room. Two detainees related how they witnessed a child of about 14 receive a flogging of more than 90 lashes during interrogation at Sadd al-Ba’ath, an ISIS prison in al-Raqqa governorate. Another child of about 14 who ISIS accused of stealing a motorbike was repeatedly flogged over several days.

We learn today that Jubhat al-Nusr group (also known as Al-Nusra)  member has become the first Briton to kill himself in a suicide attack,

A British man fighting in Syria is thought to have become the first to be killed in a suicide attack after he blew himself up during a raid on a prison.

Known only by his nom de guerre, Abu Suleiman al-Britani, who belonged to the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Jubhat al-Nusr group, died yesterday during the storming of Aleppo’s central prison.

This group has also been accused of atrocities, against Alawites, Shiites, Kurds and Christians.

The BBC states,

Although the group may prefer to downplay its true ambitions, the message is clear: this is not a fight for democracy, but for the creation of Syria as an Islamic state ruled under Sharia.

Alleged members of al-Nusra usually display the black flag that is associated with global jihadist groups, particularly al-Qaeda in Iraq.

From this it can be seem there is a little to compare Syria with the Spanish Civil War.

The elected Republican government, backed by the left, fought a military uprising supported by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

Syria is not ruled by a democratic government, and nor are the Jihadists, which European Muslims are joining, democrats.

It is an insult to the beloved Republican Martyrs of the Spanish Civil war even to mention these people in the same breath.

If ISIS can be compared to anything it is to the  Condor Legion.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 7, 2014 at 11:47 am

Galloway: Mr Khan killed “to defy President Assad’s decision to release him.”

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The BBC announces,

Respect MP George Galloway, who has liaised with the Syrian authorities and was due to collect Mr Khan on Friday, said the death was “murder most foul” and it was “inconceivable that he committed suicide”.

The MP for Bradford West said he believed somebody within the regime had killed Mr Khan to defy President Assad’s decision to release him.

Latest Galloway tweet on this,


 nobody is saying President Assad was responsible. He is not. But someone is…

Galloway on Radio here.

Yesterday Galloway found this death “inexplicable”.

Now he has other ideas….

Written by Andrew Coates

December 19, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Thierry Meyssan and Syria: The Far-right and Assad.

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Far Right Tries to Attract Anti-Imperialists.

On Voltaire Net we read, “Thierry Meyssan French intellectual, founder and chairman of Voltaire Network and the Axis for Peace Conference. His columns specializing in international relations feature in daily newspapers and weekly magazines in Arabic, Spanish and Russian. His last two books published in English : 9/11 the Big Lie and Pentagate.

He is not content with conspiracy theories about 9/11 in New York and the claim that the  “Pentagon was the target of a guided missile, fired on as the result of a right-wing conspiracy within the United States.”

Currently Meyssan’s defence of the Syrian regime is being widely broadcast.

On Meyssan’s own site he has taken upon himself to defend the Syrian regime.

What has been happening in Syria for the past three years? According to NATO and GCC* media reports, the “regime” has shed blood to suppress a democratic revolution. However this version is contradicted by the current support for the government estimated at, according to sources, between 60 and 90 % of the population. The truth is quite different: NATO and the GCC have successively lost a war of succession and a fourth generation Nicaraguan-type war. It is they, and they alone, who organized and financed the death of 120,000 Syrians.

Meyssan is currently (according to the weekly Le Point) cited on Wikipedia) , “professeur de relations internationales au Centre d’études stratégiques de Damas », qu’il « signe des éditos dans al-Watan » et qu’il est « conseiller particulier de Bachar el-Assad »” – Professor of international relations at the Strategic Studies Centre of Damas, and a special adviser of Assad.

In October Le Monde Diplomatique published an article, Les embrouilles idéologiques de l’extrême droite, (the deliberate confusions of the far-right) largely about Alain Soral. (1)

It drew attention to the mixture of “anti-imperialism”, conspiracy theory, and (barely disguised) anti-Semitism peddled by a fringe of extreme-right ideologists.

They are designed to attract a ‘left’ audience, with anti-globalisation, anti-imperialist themes, and the ‘right’ with an appeal to (French) nationalism.

Meyssan participates the site Egalite et Réconciliation founded by Soral. (2)

It does just that.

It is devoted to promoting this ideology.

Equality and Reconciliation advocates the union of the “Labour left” (Marxist) and the “Moral Right” (Nationalism and Patriotism) in response to capitalist globalisation Many consider that it takes as its model the pre-great War Proudhon Circle, which brought together syndicalists (not, despite the legend, Georges Sorel himself) , and Maurrassians (followers of the Action Française, the French ‘Royalist’ party of the extreme right).

It would be a great mistake if the left, in its justified hatred of the jihadist killers in Syria,  their international recruits and backers, working in Syria, forgets that Assad has attracted people of Meyssan’s stripe.

(* GCC: Cooperation Council of Arab States in the Gulf)
(1) Wikipedia.

 Soral defined himself as a Marxist, and was a member of the French Communist Party in the early 90′s. He left the PCF because of his opposition to the party’s renunciation of revolutionary content[citation needed]. Soral supported left-wing dissident candidate Jean-Pierre Chevènement during the 2002 presidential election[citation needed].

In 2005, Soral turned to the far-right, joining the National Front‘s campaign committee; he was given responsibility for social issues and for the suburbs under the authority of Marine Le Pen. Soral’s personal journey has led some to compare him with Jacques Doriot, one of the neo-socialists in the early 1930s and Collaborationist under Pétain.[8] He supported the Bloc identitaire‘s distribution of food in January 2006.[8]

Since 18 November 2007, Soral has been a member of the central committee of the National Front which he left in early 2009 because of some ideas he was in conflict with (especially the menace of Islam which is not an actual threat for him).

In 2007, he founded the group “Egalité et Réconciliation”,[9] a think tank led by the ideas he developed in his books and his several interviews (an innovative mix between social and economic ideas from Left, and Values like Nation or morality from Right).

(2) Interestingly Meyssan is described as a “personal friend” of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a recent post on this site, criticising Iran for giving way to the West over its nuclear programme.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 7, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Mother Agnès, Withdraws from StWC International Conference, Defended by Socialist Unity.

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Mother Agnès-Mariam de la Croix will not be attending the Stop the War Coalition’s International Anti-War Conference on the 30th of November.

It seems that two speakers due to speak at the event – Owen Jones and Jeremy Scahill – threatened not to come unless her invitation was withdrawn.

The Stop the War Coalition announced on Saturday,

Over the last few days a campaign has developed over the invitation we extended to Mother Agnes — a nun from Syria, who leads a campaign called Mussalaha (Reconciliation) — to speak in London at the International Anti-War Conference on 30 November organised by Stop the War Coalition.

Mother Agnes has now withdrawn from speaking at the conference.

In inviting speakers to participate in its events, Stop the War has never sought to endorse all their views. We have always provided a platform for a diversity of opinions within a broad anti-war perspective.

John Wight of Socialist Unity writes today,

She has been demonised by her detractors as a ‘pro regime stooge’ due to her support for Assad and his government. But why wouldn’t she? As with the majority of Syrians who support their government – and none more so than Syria’s various minority communities – she understands that the only force capable of preventing her country being turned into a killing field by western and Saudi backed savages is the Syrian Government, the Syrian Arab Army and its allies.

The BBC reports on Mother Agnès-Mariam (Extracts)

In recent weeks she has become the focus of media attention because of her attempt to prove to the world that Syrian opposition activists fabricated the videos showing victims of the Damascus chemical attack.

She argues the horrifying scenes – of men, women and children either dead or dying from inhaling sarin gas – which caused such international outrage were stage-managed.

The BBC’s Richard Galpin  spoke to Mother Agnes.

Mother Superior Agnes Mariam de la Croix sprinkles blessings liberally over our conversation.

I’ve phoned her to request an interview about her strange role as an analyst of the chemical weapons attack in Damascus.

In her most startling conclusion she alleges some of the people seen in the videos are in fact women and children abducted by rebels from minority Alawite areas of the country. President Bashar al-Assad and his family belong to this community.

The BBC asks, “So how credible are the claims made by Mother Agnes which have been so eagerly seized upon by Moscow as it still tries to save the Assad regime?”

There’s just no basis for the claims advanced by Mother Agnes,” says Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director of Human Rights Watch, which has produced many detailed reports on Syria.

“She is not a professional video forensic analyst… we have found no evidence to indicate any of the videos were fabricated.”

One by one, Mr Bouckaert rejected the claims, saying:

  • There were tens of thousands of civilians trapped in the Ghouta area of Damascus, according to very regular reports received by Human Rights Watch
  • Children were often sleeping in the basements of buildings in significant concentrations because of the intense shelling and that is why so many died (Sarin gas accumulates at low levels)
  • The dead and those injured in the chemical attack were moved from place to place and room to room both at the clinics and ultimately for burial
  • There were many men and women who were victims of the attacks. But there were separate rooms for the bodies of children, men and women so they could be washed for burial
  • Almost all of the victims have been buried

Human rights researchers have spoken to the relatives of Alawite women and children abducted by rebels. None of them said they had recognised their loved ones in the gas attack videos

It is perhaps not a coincidence that arch-conspiracy theorist lunatics  Lyndon LaRouche’s group have diffused (November the 14th) a video of an interview with Mother Agnès-Mariam.

Bob from Brockley has been following this controversy closely.

He comments (yesterday),

Her invitation provoked outrage from Syrians and supporters of the Syrian revolution, as “Mother Agnes” has been a widely disseminated mouthpiece for the Assad regime’s propaganda, including vigorously denying some of Assad’s war crimes. (Of pictures of dead children in Ghouta, for example, she claims they are only sleeping.) Her lies are widely promoted by Russian media sources, by Christian news agencies, and by the LaRouche network. There are also live allegations about her own involvement in war crimes, and in the regime murder of journalists. Below the fold, I have pasted some information about her, but some good starting points are Linux BeachDemocratic Revolution, and Pulse.

The Stop the War Coalition could do without this kind of “opinion” amongst its “diversity”.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 18, 2013 at 11:48 am