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Syria: *The* Issue for the International Left.

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Syria: The World’s War.

At the end of last week BBC 2 showed a thorough, moving, pair of documentaries on Syria.

Syria: The World’s War

Lyse Doucet tells the story of one of the biggest humanitarian crisis of our age, the Syrian civil war – seven years of brutal conflict, surpassing the length of World War II. In this two-part series, Lyse Doucet, who has reported on the conflict from the start, explores how peaceful protest for change spiralled into unspeakable savagery – half a million people killed, millions of lives shattered and so much of Syria in utter ruins.

The series tells the inside story of the war from multiple perspectives. It hears accounts of the experiences of Syrian people from different sides – civilians and fighters who stayed loyal to the government of President Assad as well as those who rebelled.

This second film in the series picks up the action as Raqqa falls to a mixture of Islamist and moderate forces. The story of the extraordinary events of the following months is told by two characters. One is a protester who aims to build a new civil society based on democracy, the other is a torture victim who joins the Islamists as a hired assassin. Within a few weeks of the fall of Raqqa, a new, even more extreme Islamist group arrive – ISIS. The civil society activists ends up being tortured in an ISIS jail, the other ends up joining ISIS and working his way through a kill list they have given him. Each tell their story with extraordinary candour.

As Raqqa descends into chaos, arguably the most important battle of the war is entering its second year – Aleppo. Lyse meets the militia leader who was a key player in the government fightback against the rebels who had occupied a large part of the city. On the other side we meet the bomb-maker who takes us inside the Islamist forces as they dig tunnels underground to blow up government buildings on the other side of the frontline. To gain greater understanding of how this catastrophe unfolded, Lyse also speaks to politicians and soldiers from within Syria and also from western and regional powers. She asks difficult questions of the foreign minister of Syria itself, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, concerning their involvement in the decisions that shaped the conflict. She also gains candid interviews with the key Western leaders from the time, such as the then foreign secretary William Hague and US Secretary of State John Kerry. They tell the story of how the US and then the UK finally enter the war – not against Assad, but against ISIS.

By 2015, four years since the start of the war, the Assad government is under real pressure. The crucial battle is Aleppo. We talk to the fighters on both sides who felt that the city could have been lost to rebels – something that might have proven a mortal blow to the regime. Through interviews with politicians close to the action, Lyse tells the story of how Russian intervention turned the war in President Assad’s favour. In the final terrible months of the siege of Aleppo, we see the suffering of civilians under the massive bombardment through the eyes of a doctor whose hospital is repeatedly hit. Lyse interviews a local politician who claims the hospital is an Al Qaeda base – something denied by those who worked there.

The recapture of Aleppo by Government forces in late 2016 arguably marked the point at which President Assad could no longer be removed by force. The film tracks the most recent year of the war ending with the recent events in Eastern Ghouta and Douma – incidents which mark Assad’s gradual re-assertion of control of the areas around Damascus.

This two-hour series provides the most comprehensive account to date of how the tragedy of Syria unfolded. Importantly, it gets as close to a 360-degree account of some of the key moments in a war that by now has drawn in 75 countries and counting.

I realise that we in the UK have other pressing issues on our minds than the deaths of hundreds of thousands and the millions of refugees.

But perhaps this indicates the gravity of what is happening,

The worst humanitarian crisis of the century. A conflict that has gone on longer than the second world war, drawing in 75 countries and counting. Half a million killed. Millions displaced. A country in utter ruins. And still, seven years on, no military solution, no prospect of a diplomatic answer and no end in sight. This tremendous – and necessarily distressing – documentary (part two is on Friday), fronted by the veteran correspondent Lyse Doucet, begins with the now stock phrases and statistics that trick us into thinking we know this war. Then it tells the story of what actually happened. The facts, as they used to be known.

And we need to be reminded. The appalling truth of a war so long and entangled in world politics is that you become confused, disengaged and desensitised. Despair blots out the need to know and keep knowing. This is how we begin to forget why wars started in the first place.

But those on the left in other lands have been writing on the issue.

This, from the excellent site Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières, (there is much more in the French language section).

How Assad chases, tortures and kills the best of Syria’s young pacifist leftists – For Syria’s disappeared. For Syria’s future  by WESSELS Joshka

Last week Rami Hennawi’s family received the news from Syrian authorities that their son and partner died in prison and they can collect his body. Rami was a pacifist leftist young activist who was detained in 2012. Five years he spent in the most inhumane conditions in one of Assad’s torture houses. Rami came from Sweida, a majority Druze city under regime control and considered in general pro-Assad. But in fact, the underground resistance against Assad in Sweida is strong. If anything, local people in Sweida remembered the anti-colonial hero Sultan Basha al-Atrash, leader of the 1925 Great Syrian Revolt, and took the opportunity several time to congregate in front of his statue to voice their opposition against Assad. This is why the Syrian regime is very wary of the underground opposition from Sweida.

According to one of my sources from the area, at the moment, Sweida inhabitants are under repression by many different factions of pro-Assad shabiha, who kill to steal motorbikes, teenagers get killed because of fights at the schoolground and Assadist shabiha rape at random, terrorizing the local girls and women. There is a sense of lawlessness, and those who are supportive of the regime benefit from this situation. Those who now legally carry weapons in Sweida, have a history of violence and can do all illegal activities they aspire because no one is stopping them.

“The war in Syria only benefits the counter-revolutionary forces” – A comprehensive outlook  DAHER JosephFARAS AntonisTHEODOROU Lina

The issue of Syria is a burning one for the international left.

The founder of the Marxism List, which links to many valuable articles in the same vein, Louis Proyect has engaged in a furious war for the truth against ‘red brown’ (a ‘left’ admirer of Marine Le Pen) conspis like Diana Johnstone on the issue of Syria.

Johnstone now puts Assad in the ‘axis of resistance’

This is his latest bulletin.

Diana Johnstone’s attack on Tony McKenna.

Like a lot of people who were radicalized in the 60s, Johnstone developed a reverence for Stalinist strong men as a way of overcompensating for LBJ, Nixon, et al. Totally alienated by American society, she became infatuated with men like Assad, Putin, Gaddafi and anybody else who was pilloried in the bourgeois press. Like the fraternity boys who kept posters of Ronald Reagan chopping wood on dorm room walls, her heart flutters for Vladimir Putin and anybody else who embodies her romantic idealization of men and women on horseback.

This would include Marine Le Pen, the ultraright Islamophobe that she described once as “basically on the left”. When people came out to protest Donald Trump’s viciously racist immigration crackdown, Johnstone described them with as much malice as Ann Coulter: “Whatever they think or feel, the largely youthful anti-Trump protesters in the streets create an image of hedonistic consumer society’s spoiled brats who throw tantrums when they don’t get what they want.”

Most people with their head screwed on right understand that Le Pen is a nativist just like all the other scum that are rising to the surface in Europe, from Viktor Orban in Hungary to Nigel Farage in England. In 2017, Johnstone decided that the real issue in the French election was national sovereignty and who better to defend it than Marine Le Pen? After all, Johnstone states that “Le Pen insists that all French citizens deserve equal treatment regardless of their origins, race or religion.” Oh, how nice. This politician said that if she was elected, she’d stop all immigration to France.

 

 

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Written by Andrew Coates

May 9, 2018 at 5:36 pm

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