We've been documenting for years how the much-lauded Counterpunch is actually a pseudo-left organ of fascism, relentlessly cheering on dictatorships and providing a soapbox for Paul Craig Roberts, Ron Paul, Alison Weir, Israel Shamir, Gilad Atzmon and other such exponents of the far right. But this time they have really outdone themselves. On Jan. 29 they posted a piece with the predictable title of "The Rise of ISIS and Other Extremist Groups: the role of the West and Regional Powers." The writer? None other than Bouthaina Shaaban, official public relations advisor for the genocidal regime of Bashar Assad. This time not just a "useful idiot" of the Anglo-American "progressive" (sic) talking-head set, nor just another paleocon dictator-enthusiast—but an actual paid flack of the dictatorship that continues to carry out mass murder and starvation against the Syrian people.
The content of the piece is the same abhorrent jive we have been shooting down for years about how the Syrian Revolution was fomented by the West and a jihadist initiative from the start. In other words, a perfect reversal of reality. The Syrian Revolution shamefully received no support from the outside world for years, which is what allowed the jihadists to gain a foothold… after the regime that Shaaban speaks for serially massacred peaceful, secular, pro-democratic protesters. Of course Shaaban offers not a word about these massacres, but portrays the emergence of an armed resistance as an arbitrary and foreign-fomented response to the "conciliatory approach" of the regime!
In effect the Goebbels of the Assad regime, Shaaban is one of but a small handful of Damascus officials to face sanctions in the US in connection with human rights abuses—today better termed war crimes, although they had not yet escalated to that level when the sanctions were imposed in 2011. For this honor, she was rewarded with a typically gushing and marshmallow-soft interview by regime shill Robert Fisk in The Independent that year. He did ask a couple of questions about the events that won her US sanctions—the repeated massacre of protesters by the security forces. But the headline trumpets her disingenuous retort: "The army was told not to fire at protesters."
In her Counterpunch piece, she doesn't even offer that much. Those who rely on Counterpunch for their Syria analysis would never know the massacres happened at all—straight down the Memory Hole.
In 2014, our comrade Danny Postel ran a piece in Pulse, "Alternative Left Perspectives on Syria," which listed several leftist online voices in support of the Syrian Revolution (including this blog)—all fairly marginal compared to Counterpunch. He called this a "fourth position" within the Anglo-American left regarding Syria. The first three he identified as:
1. explicit support for the Assad regime
2. monochrome opposition to Western intervention, end of discussion (with either implicit or explicit neutrality on the conflict itself)
3. general silence caused by deep confusion
The first camp, while relatively small, represents a truly hideous, morally obscene and, I would argue, deeply reactionary position—siding with a mass murderer and war criminal who presides over a quasi-fascist police state.
The second camp, which encompasses a majority of peace activists and soi-disant anti-imperialists in the West, represents an (ironically) Eurocentric/US-centric stance (it's all about the West, not the Syrian people)—a total abandonment of internationalism.
The third camp is at least understandable, given the complexity of the Syrian conflict… Yet this stance remains disconcerting: silence in the face of what UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls "the biggest humanitarian and peace and security crisis facing the world" is a cop-out. Complexity is not a gag order.
We aren't so optimistic. Counterpunch is one of the most widely read sites of the American "left" (sic), and it now, beyond all ambiguity, falls into the category of "explicit support for the Assad regime." Also now probably falling into this category, with only a little more ambiguity, are such mainstays of the American "left" as the Orwellianly named Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. There is no ambiguity in the case of probably the most significant surviving national "anti-war" organization, the ANSWER Coalition. Even Democracy Now provides a platform for regime supporters and apologists, with only a rare guest from the Syrian opposition. And even basically good-intentioned peaceniks in the second category still increasingly take their talking points from the outright regime supporters.
As for the third camp—as they are silent on the matter, they sort of don't count. They offer no protest as the visible media voices and leadership of the American "left" (Counterpunch, FAIR, ANSWER, etc.) build a reactionary pro-dictatorship consensus. Therefore, they are part of the problem—and if, in fact, they constitute the majority, then the biggest part. Over and over we have heard that the Syrian situation is too "complicated" to be understood without more of an effort than this silent majority is apparently willing to make. Such bogus neutrality would be considered absolutely unacceptable regarding Palestine or Chiapas or Colombia or East Timor or Turkish Kurdistan—also situations of considerable "complexity." Yet when it comes to Syria, this is the default position of the American left—at best.
These equivocators behave as if the actual documented facts of what has unfolded in Syria over the past five years and the fictional version of events peddled by Shaaban and her "leftist" enablers were merely a difference of opinion, as if it were a matter of subjectivity—like art criticism, or something. The reality of the Syrian Revolution is routinely dismissed with utterly disingenuous terms like the "NATO narrative." Both words of this construction are thoroughly bogus. The Western intervention in Syria is, first of all, against ISIS not Assad—and secondly, not under the auspices of NATO. As for "narrative," that has become a mere empty propaganda word in contemporary "leftist" discourse. As we've noted before, all but the most rigorous post-modernists use that word exclusively to refer to the other guy's POV, while displaying no intimation that their own is similarly tainted by subjectivity. It is the new magic word by which documented history is reduced to mere subjective interpretation.
It is not a matter of subjectivity or interpretation that the Syrian Revolution began as a civil, secular and pro-democratic movement, and only escalated to an armed insurgency after regime troops opened fire on peaceful protesters —again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again. It was only subsequent to this escalation, and the continued betrayal of the legitimate Syrian revolutionaries by the entire world, that jihadists established a foothold in the country and it became "complicated." But the secular and pro-democratic civil resistance in Syria continues to exist under siege, from the regime and jihadists alike. Alongside the horror of the "complicated" civil war, there is still a revolution.
When are "progressives" in the West going to get serious about giving it some solidarity, instead of conniving with the fascist regime?