Often, the Socialist Party message during times of warfare of a plague on both houses is not well-received by members of anti-war campaigns. Where these activists appear to take sides, the Socialist Party desists from showing support for either protagonist in conflicts. So it was with some gratification that the blog encountered two articles that offered a more nuanced interpretation of the Syrian Civil War. Syrian authors Mohja Kahf, Robin Yassin-Kassab and Leila Al Shami have thoroughly documented the beginnings of the conflict—months of non-violent protest that were met by brutal repression, snipers, military actions from the Assad regime which this blog also reported upon back in 2011 and 2012 .
Terry Burke, a long-time peace activist who has been involved with the Pledge of Resistance and the Nicaragua Solidarity Committee in Chicago and active with the Committee in Solidarity with the People of Syria (CISPOS) in Minneapolis, has written an article for “In These Times” where she explains that the peace movement has ‘largely ignored anti-Assad progressive Syrian voices…They know little to nothing of the remarkable ongoing successes and organizing efforts of grassroots groups in liberated areas’
She says that ‘The results have been Orwellian—a dictator accused of monstrous war crimes is being given tacit support by major organizations in the peace movement…A major reason for the support of Assad is that some organizations believe “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” For them it is a simple knee jerk analysis. If the United States opposes Assad, they support him.’
She describes it as ‘an arrogant first world attitude that we know more than the rest of the planet…’ and that ‘…respect for anti-Assad progressive Syrians appears to be lacking in many of today’s “anti-imperialist” leaders.’ She continues, ‘[Progressive anti-Assadists] are reactionaries who want to overthrow Assad’s “socialist” government. Never mind that many of the anti-Assad Syrians are strong anti-imperialists: They identify as nonviolent activists, socialists or anarchists, or have other progressive political orientations. Regardless, they are all too often lumped together and dismissed.’
Burke points out that the so-called “anti-imperialist” organizations ‘rightly condemn the U.S. role while saying nothing on Assad’s crimes or the rampant bombing by Putin’s Russia.’ They present ‘… a narrative in which the U.S., its allies and its regime change proxies are the primary problem, and Assad is merely protecting his sovereign country—a narrative with little room for anti-Assad civilian activists...’ Burke goes on to conclude that ‘The “anti-imperialist” leaders of the peace movement have increased Syrians’ suffering with their direct and de facto support of Assad. It is unconscionable.’
On the Common Dreams website Stephen Zunes, Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco, where he serves as coordinator of the program in Middle Eastern Studies, approvingly echoed Terry Burke’s sentiments. He cites Syrian writer Mohja Kahf, a supporter of the nonviolent Syrian pro-democracy struggle, who has noted how Syria's constitution requires subservience of any legal political party to the ruling Baathists and provides the president unchecked power over the legislature and judiciary. She has described how the Damascus government's crony capitalism and neoliberal economic agenda has enriched the regime of Bashar Assad and allied elites while subjecting the majority of Syrians to increasing poverty. Yet groups like the U.S. Peace Council nevertheless insists that Syria is governed by "socialist-democratic principles."
Zunes exposes the hypocrisy where when ‘reputable independent human rights organizations as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Médecins San Frontières, and Physicians for Human Rights have documented Israeli war crimes in Gaza, they have received bipartisan criticism in Washington for a supposed anti-Israel bias. In a mirror image of such false charges, however, some Western anti-war activists are denouncing these same organizations as supposedly having links to the U.S. State Department and "propagating anti-Syria war rhetoric and false allegations against the Syrian government and Syrian Arab Army.’ He explains that ‘…rather than recognizing that it was the brutal government repression against the popular nonviolent pro-democracy movement in 2011 that led many Syrians, in desperation, to take up arms (some elements of which the United States belatedly began supporting), they are claiming that it was U.S. backing of oppositionists that led Assad to fight back. While there were efforts during the administration of George W. Bush to destabilize the Syrian government through a number of diplomatic and economic initiatives, they had no relation to the popular uprising that later emerged…’
As SOYMB blog observed it was a fateful turn for the worse when the anti-Assad protesters took to armed struggle which permitted the arrival of Jihadist terrorists and facilitated foreign intervention, particularly from Wahabi or Sunni Arab neighbours.
Zumes concludes ‘It behooves those of us in the peace movement to recognize the complexities of the Syrian conflict and to listen to the voices of the millions of Syrians who desire freedom from both Islamist extremists and the Assad dictatorship.’