‘Anti-war’ left abets Syria genocide

The latest in continuing reports of chemical weapons attacks by the Bashar Assad regime comes from besieged Aleppo Aug. 11. The UN is investigating evidence of an apparent chlorine attack on a rebel-held area of the city, which reportedly left several dead and many injured. The UN special envoy for Syria said a chlorine attack, if confirmed, would amount to a "war crime." Footage obtained by the BBC shows people with breathing difficulties being treated at a hospital. Men, women and children are shown being fitted with oxygen masks by medical staff. This at one of the few hospitals still functioning in Aleppo following the vicious campaign of bombing hospitals by the Assad regime and its Russian partners.

Just days earlier, at least 12 people were killed, including four children, and more than a dozen injured when a regime air-strike hit a hospital in the rebel-held town of Meles in Idlib governorate. (ARA News)

In an open letter addressed to President Obama, 15 physicians left in the bombed-out eastern areas of Aleppo on the day of the apparent chlorine attack made an urgent call for help in getting humanitarian aid to 300,000 civilians trapped in the city. The letter counted 42 air attacks on medical facilities in Syria just over the past month. The doctors called on the US to establish a no-fly zone: "Continued US inaction to protect the civilians of Syria means that our plight is being willfully tolerated by those in the international corridors of power… We do not need tears or sympathy or even prayers, we need your action."  (WP)

Moscow meanwhile announced a daily three-hour halt to the bombing of Aleppo to allow humanitarian convoys to enter the city—a move of course rejected as an insult by those under bombardment. Said Abd al-Salaam Abd al-Razzaq, military spokesman for the Nour al-Din al-Zinki rebel militia: "Is this publicity that Russia is a neutral party? What is three hours? In those three hours they will just be bombing Idlib!" (Reuters)

How does the "anti-war" (sic) left in the United States respond to all this? The (always predictableANSWER Coalition issues an "action alert" entitled "Hands off Syria! Defeat H.R. 5732!" It reads: "Congress is currently debating an extremely dangerous, pro-war bill called House Resolution 5732, misleadingly titled the 'Syrian Civilian Protection Act.' It is essentially a war cry for intervention in Syria. Not only would it tighten the sanctions that have been a centerpiece of US regime change efforts, but it would require the president to assess the possibility of enforcing a 'no-fly zone' over the country."

Right, never mind what the Syrians themselves are desperately demanding—a no-fly zone can only be a charade to mask "US regime change efforts." This is once again what we call imperial narcissism.

Even less openly pro-Assad formations than ANSWER react similarly. World Without War issues a statement on Facebook at least calling for "humanitarian access to Syria's second largest city"—but rejecting a no-fly zone, leaving cluelessly open the question of how such "humanitarian access" can be brought about.

In a response to World Without War on Facebook, Syrian activist Kenan Rahmani writes: "While Assad is bombing hospitals and preventing humanitarian access from reaching besieged civilians, the 'anti-war' folks are urging Obama to reject protection and instead to send humanitarian aid that can never be delivered. How is that different than Bashar al-Assad's advocacy work?"

Damn good question. The besieged Syrians have been calling for a no-fly zone for years now, but the line of the "anti-war" left remains entirely denialist, even now that the Assad regime is clearly escalating to genocide. We understand the obvious problems with a no-fly zone—the risk of direct US confrontation with Russia, and yet further entanglement of Syria in imperial rivalries. But merely ignoring the actual problem, denying the reality of popular revolution and regime genocide in Syria, seeing only "regime change" conspiracies that render the Syrians voiceless and invisible… all this constitutes an unforgivable betrayal of the values of human solidarity that the left supposedly stands for.


  1. Torture, mass extermination in Assad’s prisons

    The UN now accuses the Assad regime of a systematic "extermination" of the civil population in areas it controls—beginning with the prisoners. Middle East Eye puts the number killed in Assad's prisons over the past five years at (an almost certainly low-balled) 12,500. They interview a young survivor of Assad's gulag, who was arrested in 2012 at the age of 17 (presumably on suspicion of taking part in protests, or merely for being a Sunni), and spent the next three years being moved from prison to prison—the worst being the special "Branch 215" facility in Damascus, run by the political police. He was finally able to escape because his mother paid a $15,000 bribe. From asylum in Sweden, he describes his three years of witnessing and experiencing the most cruelly ingenious tortures—the standard electric shock to the genitals, a favorite of dictatorships worldwide, being the very least of it. Read it yourself for the gruesome details. He saw scores die, and was sometimes assigned the job of disposing of the corpses. In addition to the usual signs of torture, he also says he saw evidence of organ-harvesting from some bodies.

    1. New Amnesty estimate on Assad extermination of prisoners

      More than 17,700 people are estimated to have died in custody in Syria since the country's conflict began in March 2011, an average of more than 300 each month, Amnesty International finds in a new report. (AFP)

    2. Nearly 75,000 Syrians ‘forcibly disappeared’

      The Syrian Network for Human Rights has documented 74,607 cases of forced disappearance across Syria since the outbreak of the revolution in March, 2011. In a new report entitled “Prolonged Pain” the organization finds that "government forces" are responsible for at least 71,533 cases of forced disappearance. That figure includes 7,319 members of anti-government forces and 64,214 civilians, among whom were at least 4,109 children and 2,377 women. The remainder of the cases are attributed to ISIS and other militant groups. (MEM, Aug. 31)

  2. UN confirms Syria chemical attacks

    A UN investigation has established that President Bashar Assad's forces carried out at least two chemical attacks in Syria and that ISIS used mustard gas as a weapon. The report from the Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) found that the Syrian regime dropped chemical weapons on two villages in northwestern Idlib province: Talmenes on April 21, 2014 and Sarmin on March 16, 2015.

    In both instances, Syrian air force helicopters dropped "a device" on houses that was followed by the "release of a toxic substance," which in the case of Sarmin matched "the characteristics of chlorine."

    The panel found that ISIS "was the only entity with the ability, capability, motive and the means to use sulphur mustard" in an attack on the town of Marea in northern Aleppo governorate on Aug. 21, 2015. (AFP, Aug. 24)

  3. New chemical attack in Syria

    A suspected chlorine gas attack on an opposition-held neighborhood in the Syrian city of Aleppo has caused at least one death and dozens of cases of suffocation, according to local activists and medical sources. A video obtained by Al Jazeera shows what activists say is the aftermath of an attack in al-Sukkari district in eastern Aleppo. They say that the Syrian government used a helicopter to drop two barrel bombs loaded with gas on residents, killing at least one person and injuring more than 100. The video shows gasping and traumatized infants and children receiving emergency treatment at a local hospital.

  4. UN confirms another Syria chemical attack

    An international inquiry has found that Syrian government forces were responsible for a third toxic gas attack, according to a confidential report submitted to the United Nations Security Council on Oct. 21. The finding sets the stage for a showdown between Russia and Western members of the Council over how to respond. The fourth report from the 13-month inquiry by the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the global chemical weapons watchdog, blamed Syrian government forces for a toxic gas attack in Qminas in Idlib Province on March 16, 2015. (NYT)