28 May 2021 **** (new link added 1 July 2021) **** Front page
By Tapani Lausti
A debate about Syria has been raging on the internet. It started with an Open Letter under the headline Erasing People through Disinformation: Syria and the “Anti-Imperialism” of Fools, Jewish Voice for Labour, 3 April 2021. (Originally in New Politics, 27 March 2021.)
It started with this explanation: "The following Open Letter was a collaborative effort of a group of Syrian writers and intellectuals and others who stand in solidarity with them. It is signed by activists, writers, artists, and academics from Syria and more than forty other countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, North America, Oceania, and South America, and appears in multiple languages: English, Arabic, French, Spanish, Greek, Italian, Russian, and Portuguese."
The Open Letter starts with this accusation:
Disreputable writers and outlets, often operating under the aegis of “independent journalism” with purportedly “leftwing” views, are spreading corrosive propaganda and disinformation that aims to strip Syrians of political agency.
And who are these “disreputable writers and outlets”? Information started to appear that names of writers and outlets had been dropped in order to have Noam Chomsky sign the letter. The original version condemned numerous American peace organisations.
Paris-based American journalist Diana Johnstone published a list of some of the names. Johnstone commented that the letter is “a diatribe targeting many of the most principled and informative critics of U.S. war policy. The initial text cited by name investigative journalists Max Blumenthal, Aaron Maté, Ben Norton, Rania Khalek, as well as Caitlin Johnstone, Jimmy Dore, Antiwar.com, Kim Iversen, Mint Press News, Consortium News, and many others.
Johnstone continued: “Throughout, this letter claims that critics of U.S. involvement in Syria are (1) motivated by “support for Assad” and (2) influenced in some way by alignment with Russia and China. No evidence or examples are provided to back these totally improbable assertions. There is no mention of Turkey, Saudi Arabia or Qatar, and U.S. involvement is played down…”
In the ensuing debate a claim was made that the overwhelming majority of the hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths have been caused by the government side.
The Danish peace researcher Jan Oberg agrees that the Syrian government, its military forces, president, security services are surely responsible for a proportion of the mass killings. But he asks:
“What would have happened if no single NATO and allied countries had poured in money, weapons, trainers, special forces, etc. to support each and every anti-Assad man and woman they could find? How much longer did the “civil war” take because these forces were supported from the outside – and how many lives would have been saved and how many fewer refugees would there be today if genuine mediation attempts, such as Kofi Annan's, had not been systematically undercut by Western/NATO states?”
Here are sources to follow the debate (new link added 1 July 2021):
Syria war: Who are the real anti-imperialists? by Joseph Massad, Middle East Eye, 1 April 2021
Syrians decry the “dehumanizing propaganda and disinformation” of pro-Assad leftists by Josph Lyttleton, The Millenial Source, 4 April 2021
The U.S. War In Syria – Where is the U.S. peace movement? Why has it – in large measure – swallowed the mainstream narrative kool aid? Rob Prince's Blog, 4 April 2021'
How to Avoid the Anti-Imperialism of Fools by Gilbert Achcar, The Nation, 6 April 2021
The Imperialism of Foolery by Diana Johnstone, Consortium News, 7 April 2021
Statement supporting the Syrian people by Workers World, 21 April 2021
Some activists have lost their moral compass with respect to Syria by Maher Arar, Hummunforthought, 22 April 2018
Anti-imperialism of fools? by Daniel Lazare, Weekly Worker, 13 May 2021
“The Most Unkindest Cut of All”: A rejoinder to “Syria and the ‘anti-imperialism' of fools” by Jeff Mackler, Socialist Action, 15 May 2021
Letters: No evidence by Hannu Reime, Weekly Worker, 20 May 2021
Presidential Election drives home Syrian sovereignty and Western irrelevance by Vanessa Beeley, off-Guardian, 28 May 2021
Reflections of an Anti-Imperialist after Ten Years of Debate by Gilbert Achcar, New Politics, 31 May 2021
Anti-Anti-Imperialism: Gilbert Achcar's Leftist Imperialism with Caveats by Roger D. Harris, Mint Press News, 1 June 2021
Trying to Clear Up Confusion About Syria by Jeff Klein, CounterPunch, 11 June 2021
Uncle Sam by Gerry Downing, Weekly Worker, 17 June 2012
Strange logic by Hannu Reime, Weekly Worker, 1 July 2012
Elite UK military unit secretly trained by leftist regime-change advocate Gilbert Achcar and other academics by Ben Norton, The Grayzone, 3 October 2019'
On Gutter Journalism and Purported “Anti-Imperialism by Gilbert Achcar, New Politics, 19 October 2019
Western moral decay: Syria – the war, the loss and the silence by Jan Oberg, The Transnational, 20 December 2019
Ten years on, Syria is almost destroyed. Who's to blame? by M. K. Bhadrakumar, MR Online, 22 March 2021
US, British and French Covert Operations in Syria by Shane Quinn, Global Research, 8 April 2021
Archive: Syria, Middle East, Diana Johnstone, Ramzy Baroud, Patrick Cockburn, Moshé Machover, Hannu Reime