March 9, 2012

United to stop the growing war against Syria

Bombing Syria would be genocidal, not 'humanitarian'

By Darrell Rankin, People’s Voice, March 1, 2012

Events continue to move quickly towards very dangerous, destabilizing wars of occupation in the Middle East, wars that will trample democracy and conditions for working people in all countries that take part. Imperialist and reactionary countries are pushing ahead with an onslaught of deception and justifications, bringing armed groups to life, and making sure to involve as many countries as they can.

Western-backed armed groups and weapons are flooding into Syria, with the aim of creating conditions where a political solution to the civil war is impossible. Imperialist countries would rather drown Syria in blood than allow democratic elections to take place.

The former colonial powers in the Middle East such as France and Britain, the United States, Israel and the most reactionary members of the League of Arab States, are making every effort to de-legitimize the Syrian government, saying it is incapable of reform and that bloody regime change and foreign “help” are the only options.

These countries will be at the core of the pro-war “Friends of Syria” coalition, to be unveiled in Tunisia on February 24. Pouring gasoline on the flames, these countries reject pressuring all sides of Syria’s internal conflict to hold talks and decide Syria’s future with ballots not guns.

They make unbalanced demands on the Syrian government, such as to remove its military from urban areas and allow other armed groups to take over, creating a situation for a dual government and invited foreign armies. They vilify the Syrian government, but make no promise that the armed groups they equip and help are better than the regime they aim to overthrow.

The outcome of NATO’s imposed regime change in Libya should dash any easy illusions that the armed groups trying to topple the Syrian government are all freedom fighters with a broad humanitarian agenda. In fact, the U.S., Canada and other pro-war governments are dismissing evidence to the contrary, such as the co-operation of the Al-Qaeda terrorist group, Libyan armed groups, and Syrian insurgents.

Imperialism’s dangerous plans go far beyond Syria. They include the take-over of Iran and the suppression of all democratic revolutionary movements in the Arab world. The accelerating spread of war is the direst threat to working people everywhere, to life and humanity’s future. It is essential to unite against the war danger.

Massacre or civil war?

One of the key disputes over Syria is if the government is committing a large massacre against its own people, or if the Syrian armed forces are engaged in a serious conflict where they are also suffering casualties. Objective observers estimate that close to 7,000 people have died in the Syrian civil conflict, including between 2,000 and 2,800 members of the Syrian armed forces.

The estimates strongly indicate a very serious engagement with non-government armed groups, not a massacre. The Arab League monitoring group’s report states that according to its teams in the field, “the media exaggerated the nature of the incidents and the number of persons killed in incidents and protests in certain towns.” The report was accepted by all the AL executive members except Qatar, a country leading the effort to overthrow the Syrian government.

“Modern” armed conflict has a far higher civilian casualty rate compared to military losses; for example, the civilian rate was 90% in Vietnam and 80% in World War Two. Considering that Syrian soldiers make up one-third to nearly half of the casualties, and not even counting deaths among the other armed groups, it is clear that the civilian casualty rate is far lower than other contemporary wars. This is convincing evidence that the Syrian armed forces are not targeting civilians to be massacred, but are engaged in a conflict with other armed groups.

The peace movement – all anti-war groups and people – must force governments to recognize this reality: There is a civil war, fueled in no small measure by outside intervention, which needs a ceasefire, not a massacre whose “only” solution is foreign military intervention. This truth is a necessary precondition for real diplomacy to occur; for example, demanding a ceasefire and talks that produce a democratic outcome.

War and working people in Syria

The biggest danger for the Syrian people is that the civil war will change into an international conflict, and this is exactly the aim of imperialism and the reactionary forces in the Arab League. It is still a largely civil conflict, like the early part of the Spanish civil war in the 1930s. But like the Spanish conflict which saw fascist German and Italian involvement, it holds the danger of increasing foreign intervention, which is already taking place with sophisticated weapons, intelligence (possibly satellite intelligence), and special forces units backing the insurgents.

Fascist imperialism tipped the scale in favour of Franco in Spain. NATO tipped the scale against Gaddafi, and there is now a social and human rights catastrophe in Libya. The same danger for working people exists if the most powerful countries enter against Syria’s Assad government.

Unpopular groups that have no confidence in the masses use terrorism and launch wars with no consideration for the interests of the broad working masses. The armed struggle in Syria was not started by working class parties, but by all credible accounts reactionary groups bolstered by international terrorists and, to a lesser extent, defecting soldiers and officers of the Syrian army. The communists and other patriotic forces of Syria condemn foreign intervention which is creating a disaster for all working people.

Unless pressure mounts for a ceasefire and talks, Syria’s working people will pay a high price for being caught in the middle of this conflict. The longer it lasts, the higher the price. Like in all countries, the Syrian army itself comes from the working class, and the soldiers are paying a high price in this civil war.

The conflict in Syria is led by two sections of the national bourgeoisie. One part would move Syria into the camp of Qatar, Bahrain and other Arab League states whose obedience is to Washington and whose aim is the complete end of the Arab revolution. The other section, led by Assad, is a compromised, anti-popular bourgeoisie. The Assad government for years followed a neo-liberal agenda, but it is now being forced into a choice of giving concessions to the working class or losing its leadership of the nation.

This fact is confirmed by the defiant or outright hostile position of most Syrians towards the misnamed “revolution” despite a massive disinformation and agitation campaign by the major international media. The reactionaries are straining to break the unity of Syria’s working people along sectarian lines and turn sections of them into active participants in a conflict that they do not lead and cannot win no matter what the outcome.

Both sides in the civil conflict have or have had an unpopular agenda and thus are prone to the use of terror. One side has the possibility of saving itself through concessions to the working class. The other side has only a future of bloody sectarian division and bowing to imperialism, which will plunder the country.

The Assad regime is objectively and consciously in the position of defending the Syrian state and the unity of the country. The goal of the imperialist assault is to destroy the state and possibly divide the country, weakening Syria’s ability to resist plunder and domination and undermine its rightful claim to the Golan Heights now occupied by Israel.

Now is the time for concessions by the Assad regime, not to the U.S. whose appetite has no end, but to the working people in order to build a strong national front. It is a duty of progressives everywhere to stand in solidarity with the Syrian people, for genuine democratic and economic reform, and against imperialist aggression.

The U.N. General Assembly and Syria

Imperialism’s lies are having some effect on world opinion, or the February 16 non-binding vote in the U.N. General Assembly would not have been so weighted against the Syrian people. The vote was 137 in favour, 12 opposed, 17 abstentions and 27 not voting. The Palestinian territories could not vote.

Why would a large majority of states vote in support of Saudi Arabia’s resolution urging, among other demands, that the Syrian government withdraw its military from urban areas? This demand alone shows how unbalanced the resolution was in favour of one side of the civil conflict, because the armed insurgent groups remaining in urban areas could then form a provisional government and invite foreign military forces into the country.

There have been few similar occasions when imperialism has been able to lead its former colonies to vote for solutions that undermine their sovereignty, like when most voted in 1994 to form and join the World Trade Organization, soon after the setbacks to socialism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Capitalism’s global problems and imperialism’s efforts to erase national sovereignty through economic diktat and war have since produced a growing and uneven reappraisal. Adding more wars will make the situation worse.

The majority support of world governments for the unbalanced resolution on Syria (71%) helps hide the fact that 33.4% of the world’s people live in the 56 countries that did not support the resolution. About 24.2% of the world’s people live in the 12 countries that opposed the resolution (6% of 193 member states of the United Nations).

It is important to understand why several important countries spoke against a war of forced regime change in Syria, though they supported the resolution – either through conscious betrayal or because of promises and threats like those used to create the U.S.-led “coalition of the willing” in 2003 that occupied Iraq.

India: “Explaining India’s vote on the UNGA resolution, India’s Permanent Representative Hardeep Singh Puri underlined that while India condemned violence, it opposed any use of force by a third country and advocated a Syrian-led political reconciliation.” (Hindustan Times, February 17, 2012)

Pakistan: “The representative of Pakistan said he supported the Arab League position and had voted in favour of the resolution, but condemned the use of violence on all sides. An immediate end to violence and killing, as well as a peaceful resolution were aims upon which all Member States agreed. In that light, Pakistan had been stressing the need for consensus… noting that there could have been better efforts… to fully assure delegations that there was no intention to carry out a hostile intervention. Reiterating his call for the Syrian people to be respected, he said they must be allowed to resolve their crisis, and he reaffirmed the absolute importance of respecting the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of all States” (U.N. Public Information Department, Feb. 16, 2012.)

Ukraine: “Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had issued a statement last week in which it had expressed grave concern at the escalating violence in Syria, “which threatens to grow into a full-scale civil war, with unpredictable consequences in the entire Middle East”. Ukraine urged all parties in Syria to cease the violence and begin a dialogue, with the aim of finding a mutually acceptable and effective way to resolve their differences.” (Same source.)

So why is the expressed view of India, Pakistan and Ukraine at complete odds with the actual, unbalanced and pro-war intention of Saudi Arabia’s resolution? The comments of these diplomats are a deception for the people of their countries who comprise 21.2% of the world’s total; they are proclaiming “peace” but voting for war.

World opinion does not support a war of regime change and occupation against Syria. Some governments are being forced to cover their tracks.

Emboldened by the UN vote, imperialism is moving quickly to stoke violent regime change and launch new, destabilizing adventures. The danger has only increased.

The Iranian people have every reason to fear they will be imperialism’s next target. It is urgent to unite Labour and all other popular movements to oppose the growing war against Syria.

I would like to acknowledge important contributions from the progressive Syrian community in Canada. – DR

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