Yes the Qusayr battle is strategic because it links Damascus to the Mediterranean coast, lies adjacent to Hizbullah strongholds in Lebanon and serves as a crucial supply route, but it is also important because once fully overtaken (which should be a matter of hours from now) it will lead to the fall of Homs and hopefully, other areas soon where we will witness this: “When we reached the town’s main square, we removed the [French] mandate flag and planted the Syrian flag,” a Syrian Army general speaking to al-Mayadeen in the strategic town of Qusayr.
When the same resistance that fought and defeated the Zionist enemy in 2006 becomes militarily engaged in Syria, this only confirms the fact that this is not a “revolution” against the Syrian “regime” but a war on the Syrian Arab Republic and the Resistance Axis of which it is part. This war is an extension of the July War, and it is no coincidence that it is backed by the same Arab and Western powers which backed Israel’s onslaught against Lebanon. Just as Hizbullah was accused of neglecting its resistance priority in May 2008 when it was dragged into clashes with Lebanese Sunnis, it is being similarly accused today of turning its guns against fellow Muslims. What many fail to understand however, is that as in 2008 when March 14 tried to dismantle Hizbullah’s telecom network and drag it into a civil war, the movement’s involvement in Syria today IS a defense of its resistance and not merely a defense of its Syrian ally. Protecting Lebanese and Syrians in neighbouring villages, assisting the Syrian army in liberating areas occupied by takfiri jihadis which border Lebanese villages — and hence pose a strategic threat to its resistance— and training the government backed Popular Committees in guerilla warfare are all part and parcel of Hizbullah’s defense of the resistance which will be the first casualty of any regime change in Syria, as opposition forces have been promising for two years now. While this may seem distasteful to many Arabs who pay lip service to supporting Palestine, such are the sacrifices that must be made for the liberation of Palestine and the region from the Zionist entity. It is also the price that must be paid for preserving Syria’s territorial intergrity and holding in check those who seek to annihilate Christians, Shias and mainstream Sunnis. To prevent a regional sectarian war, Hizbullah has no choice but to help defend Syria from those whose primary agenda is precisely that. And for those who believe western and Arab media’s exaggerated reports about the scope of Hizbullah’s military activity in Syria, one need only point to the limited number of martyrs Hizbullah has lost (around 35) and remind them that if Hizbullah did indeed deploy large numbers of fighters to Syria, much of Syria would have been liberated by now.
I am trying to refrain from using any expletives in my reaction to this petition on Syria signed by comprador intellectuals, colonized Arabs, and of course intellectuals of the western liberal, saviour-complex ilk. So instead, I am simply going to confine myself to my favourite Liz Lemmon, from 30 Rock, line—“I want to go to there”. Indeed, I want to go to this revolutionary utopia where despite those rebel groups which represent “the negation of the Other politically, socially and culturally”, the “revolution for freedom and dignity remains steadfast,” where there remains a huge space space occupied by “people and organizations on the ground that still uphold the ideals for a free and democratic Syria.” And it is these guys who are calling the shots and resisting, not the takfiri terrorists of al-Nusra. Nuh uh. It is a place where there is a revolution that “is connected to the Palestinians’ struggle for freedom, dignity and equality.” More than this, it is “an extension of the Zapatista revolt in Mexico, the landless movement in Brazil, the European and North American revolts against neoliberal exploitation.” Wow. It is an anti-imperialist revolution which rejects the intervention of “states that never supported democracy or independence, especially the US and their Gulf allies”, who have “tried to crush and subvert the uprising, while selling illusions and deceptive lies.” See, this revolutionary utopia rejects that intervention although it is calling on “global civil society” i.e. Western NGOs, to do precisely that. You see, this revolution has no support in mainstream corporate or Arab media or among the completely brainwashed western and Arab publics. Its a poor little revolution that has been “left alone” by the “regional and world powers.” I really want to go to there, to that Marxist revolutionary utopia where everyone wears a Kuffieh and a Che Guevara t-shirt and looks like Will Smith; a place where those who delight in posing for the cameras while barbecuing the heads of captured helicopter pilots are but anomaly of an otherwise progressive, popular revolution which will usher in freedom, love, peace and harmony if only it would get more western support.
Reports like this just make me want to face palm myself until I turn blue. So apparently, this entire war has been one big false flag op launched by the Syrian govt. When massacres are committed in Alawite areas, they are committed by the regime to discredit the rebels. When pro-regime figures like Sheikh al-Bouti are assassinated, the culprit is always the regime, which is trying to incriminate the rebels. When universities in government strongholds are shelled, (first Aleppo and now Damascus) it is clearly the work of the regime which is desperately trying to turn the population against the rebels, because it is only logical to assume that the terrorists and thugs are popular in government strongholds like Damascus and areas in Aleppo. The regime is forced to adopt the false flag op as its main modus operandi, a la Mossad and the CIA, because the rebels have been so peaceful and popular among the Syrian people that atrocities must be created to tarnish their otherwise unsullied reputations. And if it was the rebels, then it was surely a “misfire” because all their terrorists attacks and executions which they proudly brandish before the cameras are mere accidents.
Of course this begs the question: if all casualties in Syrian government strongholds were killed by the regime itself, and all regime supporters were assassinated and massacred by the regime, and every atrocity against the regime’s supporters has been a false flag op, then who exactly have the rebels been fighting? It seems the Syrian government has been at war with itself this whole time.
Excerpts from the piece: “Anti-regime activists accused the regime of launching the attack to tarnish the opposition’s image. Elizabeth O’Bagy, who studies the Syrian rebels at the Institute for the Study of War, said it was not possible to determine who was behind the attack, but it appeared to fit the regime’s pattern of escalation. In other aspects of the war, such as the use of airstrikes or Scud missiles, the regime has gone from trying to target rebels to more indiscriminate attacks on civilians, she said. “Because of the fact that it does follow regime behavior, it is more likely to be a regime attack,” she said, while acknowledging it could also have been a rebel misfire.”
Bet you didn’t know that sectarianism is the new moderation. Note how neither AP nor media which carried this story put quotation marks around the word “moderates”, but are all too eager to do so when referring to “terrorists”. Apparently, when suicide bombs, car bombs, summary executions, beheadings and rape are systematically perpetrated by the rebels against Syrians who don’t support them , then that violence is merely so-called terrorism and warrants quotation marks, especially since the Syrian government refers to it as such. But when the US specifies it is training “largely…Sunnis” to “bolster” the rebels then we must take their secularism and moderation as a given because the US said so. We must cast aside any apprehensions about how fighters selected exclusively from one sect can avoid being sectarian, and ignore the fact that sectarianism and religiosity are not synonymous considering that sectarianism characterizes many non-religious and non-jihadi types too, as the ‘75-‘90 civil war in Lebanon readily demonstrates .
In any case, I am sure the Syrian people will prefer to have their wives raped, their homes looted and their relatives killed at the hands of secular moderate rebels rather than al-Qaeda ones. So nice to have that option now.
Another pervasive tendency in mainstream media is to call Syrian opposition supporters “anti-regime activists”, while calling their counterparts “regime supporters”. This labelling misrepresents the much broader political ambitions of the “regime supporters” who may or may not support the government per se, but are united by a fear for their lives, the territorial integrity of their country, communal coexistence and the state’s secular character, among other concerns . By referring to them to as “regime supporters” they are stripped of agency and a political cause and reduced to sectarian Assad groupies. By this logic, the Syrian “anti-regime activists” should be called “Jabhit al-Nusra supporters”, since that is the side they have aligned with. Otherwise, those who support the Syrian Arab Republic should be called precisely that or at the very least be referred to as “anti-terrorist activists” or “anti-sectarianism activists”. And if the objection is that they are government sponsored or supported (which would be an overgeneralization) then I challenge them to show me one opposition activist NGO that is not funded by a foreign government. But balance, accuracy and fairness is as alien to western media as humanity is to the “opposition”.
Nothing is sillier than when Syrian opposition activists declare that intellectuals in our anti-imperialist camp have “lost credibility” or are “pseudo-intellectual” or “shabiha” or “Hizbullah groupie” or whatever other label that suggests we are not neutral, expecting us to be insulted. When will they ever learn that when we lose the approval of the oppressors of this world, which they call “credibility”, this is a badge of honour for us? When will they learn that if the only genuine intellectuals are those that belong to the establishment and/or are on the Saudi-Qatari payroll, then we are proud to be pseudo-intellectuals? When will they learn that we do not make pretenses at neutrality like they do but loudly assert our bias towards real freedom, independence and dignity?
When our camp judges their intellectuals, we do not use the White Man’s benchmarks like credibility or neutrality. Arab anti-imperialists merely describe their kind as having been “exposed” [in Arabic, فضح] because in our minds, the only meaningful and morally just criterion is integrity. For when one positions oneself on the same side as America and Saudi Arabia and Israel, what else can this signal but the loss of integrity?
Nothing is more absurd, disturbing and disillusioning as marking as “the anniversary of the Syrian revolution” the same date which signaled the wholesale destruction of the Syrian state; the fratricide that has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people; the rise of Salafi-Takfiri terrorist groups and sectarian militias; the end of communal coexistence; the violation of a once powerful nation’s sovereignty by the US-NATO-Arab alliance and the influx of foreign fighters they have trained and dispatched; the substitution of a secular, anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist political culture with its antithesis— the culture of blind sectarian hatred which looks to reactionary Gulf monarchies as its point of reference, a culture whose leading figures, activists and intellectuals beg imperialist powers to invade their country whether directly or by proxy while assuring Israel of their pacific intentions. March 15 marks the day that made March 14 [i.e. the day that launched Lebanon’s own US-Wahhabi backed movement whose raison d’etre is the destruction of the Resistance] pale in comparison. No matter what the outcome of this ugly conflict is, March 15 will forever be remembered by the free world as the day that signaled the loss of Syria as we know it. And shame on every Arab and leftist who commemorates this day as anything less.
The old colonial powers stage a comeback: the UK and France, whose sovereignty doesn’t rely on the approval of other nations, according to its FM (in contradistinction to anti-imperialist nations’ like Syria whose sovereignty can only be determined by western powers it seems) are in a huge rush to arm Salafi Takfiri and Wahhabi terrorists and just plain old sectarian executioners. You see, even if they end up in these “wrong hands” as Hague admitted recently, its well worth the “balance of risks”. This balance is so lopsided, that these same groups which the respected British charity, Save the Children, has accused of using children as human shields, soldiers and informers, are now lauded as “resistance fighters” by Hague and Fabius. Apparently the only way to stem the bloodshed and defuse the regional sectarian war that Hague brazenly warned of last week, is to arm sectarian child killers, executioners and terrorists. Way to go leaders of the “civilized” liberal western democratic world! Abu Qatada is surely beaming at you with pride.
Third Wayer par excellence, As’ad Abu Khalil writes “It is important for Arabs to remember that Chavez supported the Ba`thist tyrants of Syria and Iraq.” I say it is important for Angry Arab to remember that those of us he is reminding, support Chavez BECAUSE of his strategic alliance with Bashar al-Assad et al, rather than in spite of them. What is lost on the Western liberal and colonized [Angry] Arab minds, is that unlike them, we do not neatly extricate Chavez’s domestic policies from his foreign policies but see them as part and parcel of the Chavismo doctrine and practice. Chavez’s principled stands in the Arab and Islamic world, whether Palestine, Syria, Libya, Iraq, Lebanon or Iran are merely an extension of the socio-economic justice that he instituted within Venezuela, the participatory democracy he helped nurture there, and the regional independence and integration he helped foster among Latin American countries. Both Chavez’s internationalism and his domestic socialist program were driven by his wider pursuit of justice. It will never cease to surprise and disgust me, how self-styled Marxists like Angry Arab fail to see that and continue to view reality through the White Man’s liberal lens.
No matter how much they try to distort reality by normalizing a new discourse where terrorists, mercenaries and criminals become “rebels” and/or “the resistance”, where servile traitors who beg the US for arms become “opposition activists”, where intellectuals on Qatar’s payroll become the “legitimate representatives” of the Syrian people, their media still refers to him as “Syria’s President Assad” because that’s who he is — Syria’s leader, and the “regime” he leads is in fact “Syria”. As the Economist’s style guide stipulates on the issue of titles: “The overriding principle is to treat people with respect. That usually means giving them the title they themselves adopt.” So the opposition and its hysterical supporters who are still in shock over the Sunday Times interview can go grind their teeth on that.
One of the strategies in the information warfare against Syria is the psycho-pathologization and infantilization of Assad as detached from reality/delusional, irrational and irresponsible. There are abundant examples of the employment of this strategy, not only against the Syrian president, but against all members of the resistance axis (I will be writing a series of articles on this soon). It was therefore encouraging to see how Assad detected this strategy by launching his own counter-attack in his interview with the Sunday Times.
Here for example, Assad not only responds to the “detached from reality” charge, but turns it on its head and deflects it back to its source:
“Firstly, detached from reality: Syria has been fighting adversaries and foes for two years; you cannot do that if you do not have public support. People will not support you if you are detached from their reality. A recent survey in the UK shows that a good proportion British people want “to keep out of Syria” and they do not believe that the British government should send military supplies to the rebels in Syria. In spite of this, the British government continues to push the EU to lift its arms embargo on Syria to start arming militants with heavy weapons. That is what I call detached from reality–when you are detached from your own public opinion!”
And here he uses the same infantilizing terminology as Syria’s enemies when he calls out the British government for being “immature”, “naïve” and for failing to behave “responsibly”. He also depicts it as acting irrationally and against its own interests—using the same western psycho-pathologizing discourse which is typically reserved for defiant states like Syria and Iran:
“The problem with this government is that their shallow and immature rhetoric only highlight this tradition of bullying and hegemony. I am being frank. How can we expect to ask Britain to play a role while it is determined to militarize the problem? … This is not logical. I think that they are working against us and working against the interest of the UK itself. This government is acting in a naïve, confused and unrealistic manner. If they want to play a role, they have to change this; they have to act in a more reasonable and responsible way.”
In an interview on the BBC today, Britain’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague did everything to confirm Assad’s portrayal of the British government as living in la la land. In the context of the Assad interview, Hague elaborated on his efforts to expand the scope of “non-lethal” military aid [an oxymoron not lost on Assad], and boldly declared that he would “not rule out” providing lethal military assistance to the Syrian rebels in the future: “I do not rule out anything for the future. If this is going to go on for months or years—it’s gone on for two years already—and tens of thousands of people are going to die and countries like Iraq and Lebanon and Jordan are going to be destabilised it is not something we can ignore.” So essentially, Hague’s logic is that by providing sectarian groups and Salafi-Takfiri militants and terrorists with more weapons, sectarian tensions in countries like Lebanon and Iraq will actually diminish and stability will return to Syria’s neighbours. I can’t believe Assad couldn’t preempt such airtight logic when he accused Britain of fanning the flames of sectarian war.
Then, as if afflicted with severe case of Anterograde Amnesia, Hague seemed to suggest Britain had no interest in military assistance and was merely donating blankets. When asked to respond to Assad’s question “how can we expect them to make the violence less while they want to send military supplies to the terrorists?” Hague replied: “We Britain, are the people sending food and shelter and blankets to help people driven from their homes in his name…” completely ignoring what he had just said seconds earlier.
And then, moments later, Hague insinuates that Britain would in fact be willing to shift the nature of its aid from blankets to weapons even if they “got into the wrong hands”, i.e. the al-Qaeda type whose now commonplace terrorist attacks have claimed thousands of innocent civilian lives. This is the “balance of risks” that the British government would be willing to take: “You can reach the point eventually where humanitarian need is so great… that you have to do something new in order to save lives. That’s why I don’t rule it out in the future.” Apparently, when the world is faced with a major humanitarian crisis involving tens of thousands of casualties, the best way to solve it is to further militarize the crisis and arm the very groups who are at least partly responsible for the crisis in the first place. Makes perfect sense.
Such logic, or complete lack thereof, was all the more evident in Hague’s response to the interviewer when she wondered out loud “but he [Assad] has a point….there is no guarantee arming the rebels would end the conflict at all”. Hague merely repeated that “we have to do what we can to save lives…he [Assad] has had two years of opportunities to sit down in real dialogue and has refused every opportunity to do so.” Right, Assad was truly insane to squander “opportunities” that could have saved Syria like Western diktat to surrender, or the rebels’ refusal to enter any of the dialogue initiatives proposed by the Syrian government unless Assad immediately step down. Pure madness.
And to conclude his self-contradictory, irrational and self-delusional series of insults to viewers’ intelligence, Hague asserts: “Like Lakhdar Ibrahimi… said this week that Assad thinks and is told by his inner circle that all of this is an international conspiracy not the actual rebellion and revolt of his own people. I think this will go down as one of the most delusional interviews that any national leader has given in modern times.”
And everyone else who misconstrued what the agreeable White Man with the posh British accent said about Britain’s current and future military intervention in Syria as constituting an “international conspiracy”, is clearly partaking in a mass delusion.
An op-ed today in al-Akhbar referred to Israel as “the enemy” in Arabic. Although use of this term to describe Israel was once very common in Arab popular parlance and in local media, its use in this context has significantly decreased since the Syrian uprising. Once a term reserved almost exclusively to Israel, the concept of the enemy from without has been fast replaced by the enemy from within in both pro-government and opposition circles. While government supporters can hardly be faulted for depicting the Zionist-normalizing, NATO-loving FSA as an “enemy” force, especially given its proxy status and military links with Syria’s strategic enemies, as well as its intent to destroy Syria as a state, it is both morally inexcusable and intellectually indefensible for Syrians and Arabs who profess enmity towards Israel, to use this term to describe the Assad government or Hizbullah or Iran, all of whom have paid a high price for confronting the Israeli enemy both politically and militarily.
The danger of such labeling can hardly be overstated in this case; the link between power and language has been well documented by the likes of Michel Foucault and Edward Said. As these thinkers have noted, language creates not only knowledge, but reality itself. The resulting discourse, which becomes internalized by its subjects shapes their assumptions, values and cultural habits. In short, it changes and re-fashions their political identity and beliefs.
To be more accurate, this discursive onslaught began in 2005 when the Lebanese became divided over whether Syria or Israel was their real enemy, with some March 14 politicians referring to the Zionist entity as “our neighbor”. But irrespective of this semantic divide and March 14’s collaboration with Israel during the July war as Wikileaks documents later revealed, not once did Hizbullah refer to the opposing camp as “the enemy”,” and settled on terms like “ our opponents/rivals” and “the other camp”. Compare this to the Syrian opposition camp today, whose leading “intellectuals” and activists in the Arab world have no qualms about speaking of the “Shia enemy” or the “Iranian enemy”, or cheering on the FSA who issue empty threats to attack Hizbullah and assassinate Seyyid Hassan Nasrallah.
By redefining the concept of the “enemy”, both the Syrian uprising and to a lesser extent, its US- engineered counterpart in Lebanon, have succeeded in reversing decades of Arab political socialization, whereby those who prioritize resistance to Israel and the US are mocked and dismissed as old-school anti-imperialists, or more disparagingly by Third Wayers like Bassam Haddad, as “Fumigating Anti-Imperialists”.
The Arab Spring may not be a revolution in the economic or political sense of the term, but it has achieved a semantic revolution which, if left unchecked by counter-hegemonic forces, will lead to the full intellectual and political colonization of the Arab mind and the Arab identity.
I really like the “Palestine’s Day” (playing on Valentine’s Day) meme circulating on social media, but it does give some pause for thought: all too many Arabs and western leftists have come to *love* Palestine in the same capitalist-driven, commodified, Hollywood-ized and ultimately meaningless way that people *love* other people. This has become all too apparent in the wake of the counter-revolution in Syria whereby those who call for the overthrow of the “Assad regime” and attack Hizbullah for supporting it, audaciously (and somewhat schizophrenically) profess a deep love and commitment to Palestine, no less stomach-churning and empty than the concept of Valentine’s itself. For these Arabs, and many western pseudo-leftists like them, Palestine has been reduced to a popular brand image and hence, a tool of self-legitimation, in much the same way that people seek romantic love for self-validation; if I love Palestine then I am politically correct, and if I am politically correct then I belong [to the post-Arab Spring regional order]. As with physical attraction that is often mistaken for love, Intifada Chic is often confused with a deep emotional connection and strong commitment to Palestine by the #IlovePalestine consumers.
While we are all hegemonized by the neo-liberal, consumerist concept of *love*, we have no excuses for being colonized on the question of Palestine. We can fake-love all the people we want, but Palestine is sacred and requires risks, sacrifice, deep and unwavering commitment, lack of ego, being unpopular and generally being uncomfortable. To love Palestine one has to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. That is love.
I have noticed a disturbing tendency among all too many Arabs and Arab pundits to reduce the war in Syria to an internal and/or external power struggle involving the Syrian state and other parties. This is not merely an analytic flaw but a moral one as it overlooks the extent to which Syria has become a NATIONAL cause in its own right. Given that unified and cohesive nations are the socially and politically constructed outgrowths of strong centralized states, the destruction of the Syrian state necessarily entails the destruction of the Syrian nation both as a physically real community and as an imagined community and identity. As has become readily apparent, the ultimate objective of the Empire and its Arab and Zionist tools in the region, is not merely the overthrow of the Syrian “regime” but the destruction of the Syrian state. Considering Empire’s inability to exercise direct colonization as was the case in Palestine, or political control as is the case in the Gulf and Arab monarchies and the low-intensity democracies governed by House-Islamists, the only means of dominating recalcitrant nations like Syria, is to fragment the state and destroy “the “only remaining strong Arab army”, to borrow Seyyid Hassan Nasrallah’s phrase, and replace it with the “tribes with flags” template; or more specifically, the sects with [colonial and black al-Qaeda] flags template. The result that is sought is the eradication of the Syrian Arab Republic, and with it the erasure of the Syrian nation and the political identity that characterized it. And that is why Syria is not merely a state in crisis or a bloody civil war but a national cause that we must all fight to defend as we do with Palestine, for without Syria there can be no Palestine and no Lebanon and no nation, Syrian or otherwise.