Syria and moral double standards

Just after announcing an investigation into air-strikes that apparently claimed scores of civilian casualties at the north Syrian town of Manbij, the US military last week said that more civilians may have been killed in another strike around the same town. Reports indicate up to 70 may have been killed in the new strike. (The Guardian, July 28; ABC, July 27) But at least when the US does this kind of thing, it makes headlines. The ongoing aerial terror of the Assad regime and its Russian accomplices is exacting a similar toll on a near-daily basis—to comparative media silence. The latest entry in their atrocious campaign of bombing hospitals was registered just two days after the new US strike on Manbij. A maternity hospital in rural Idlib governorate was hit in what Amnesty International called "part of a despicable pattern of unlawful attacks deliberately targeting medical facilities." (AI, July 29) But of course there was no talk of an investigation from either Damascus or Moscow—and you had to turn to Amnesty for the details. There was little coverage from the mainstream media, and for the so-called "alternative" media in the West—not a peep.

As regime forces backed by Russian warplanes advance on besieged Aleppo, a staggering humanitarian disaster awaits, as the outside world is concerned with other matters. Perversely, Russia's Defense Ministry is calling its Aleppo campaign a "humanitarian operation"—because Russian and regime forces have supposedly left open a corridor for the city's defenders and civilians to flee.

Amnesty International isn't buying it. The organization's Middle East director Philip Luther said: "For years the Syrian government has blocked crucial aid from reaching besieged civilians while subjecting them to the horrors of daily shelling and air strikes, using starvation as a weapon of war and deliberately causing unbearable suffering to those living in opposition-held areas. Providing safe routes for those civilians who wish to flee Aleppo city will not avert a humanitarian catastrophe. It is not a substitute for allowing impartial humanitarian relief for civilians who remain in opposition-held areas of the city or other besieged areas, many of whom will be skeptical about government promises."  (AI, July 28)

The people of Aleppo, betrayed by the outside world, have taken to burning hundreds of tires in the streets to create a haze over the city as a hindrance to bombing raids—their own improvised "no-fly zone." (WP, Aug. 1) One activist in Aleppo issued a video message with an apology to environmentalists for the air pollution caused by this tactic—but explaining that the city's desperate residents have been left with no choice.

And regime chemical attacks also apparently continue. In the latest of several such reports since the Assad regime ostensibly gave up its chemical arsenal, 15 civilians are being treated for asphyxiation after regime helicopters dropped two barrel bombs apparently containing chlorine gas on Saraqib village in Idlib governorate. (New Arab, Aug. 2)

All this is, of course, completely invisible to the "left" in the West. Typical is the response to the Manbij air-strikes on CommonDreams website. It opens: "As the number of civilians killed by US-led coalition forces in Syria since June rises to above 100, the head of opposition group the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) is asking the U.S. to suspend the coalition's airstrikes against the Islamic State (ISIS) while the deaths are investigated." 

First there is the usual double standard" not a word here about the far higher toll exacted by regime and Russian bombardment—which is intentionally targeting hospitals and civilian residential areas. As we have said before: The fact that we have a greater responsibility to protest the crimes of our own government does not mean we have to maintain hermetic silence on those of other governments. The only thing that accomplishes is squandering our moral credibility. This is where the Western left perennially falls flat on its face. Worse yet, of course, are those who actively support atrocities carried out by the "other" side.

It's particularly ironic to see lefties who would be the first to dismiss the Syrian National Coalition as an imperialist creation suddenly giving it a platform. We can't help but note that the US air-strikes the SNC is now protesting were carried out by its rivals in the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The SNC has been very quick to jump on claims of abuses by Kurdish forces, and we wonder if they would be so vocal about civilian casualties if the strikes had been carried out in defense of its own ally, the Free Syrian Army.

Also note that the latest Arab-led militia that Washington has prompted formation of to receive US aid, the New Syrian Army (NSA), was explicitly created to fight ISIS—not the Assad regime. This is despite the fact that the NSA commander, Khazal al-Sarhan, has repeatedly said that ISIS and Assad are but two sides of the same coin, and that his forces would fight Assad once ISIS is defeated. (Al Monitor, July 28)

This reveals once again that far from seeking to destabilize Assad (as the "leftist" conspiracy theories would have it), the US is actually tilting to Assad in the Syrians war—to the point of restraining rebel forces from fighting the regime which is now escalating to genocide against the Syrian people.

The evident reality is that the Assad regime is now being embraced (at least implicitly) as part of the Great Power convergence against ISIS. Perversely, even Syria's al-Qaeda franchise, the Nusra Front, is now making a bid to get on board. Its leader, Abu Mohammed al-Julani, in his first recorded message, just announced that his organization is breaking ties with al-Qaeda, and will be renamed Jabhat Fateh al-Sham—Front for the Conquest of Syria, or the Levant. Al-Qaeda leadership actually issued a statement giving Nusra approval to break from the franchise.  (BBC News, July 29; Reuters, July 28)

Once again, "leftists" who cheer on Assad and Putin for beating back CIA-created jihadists have absolutely no idea what time it is. The irony is that, if only they were paying attention, they are actually on the same side as the White House, State Department, Pentagon and CIA. Washington is now, at least tacitly, supporting Assad—and giving a completely free hand to Russian aerial terror. There is certainly no reason to maintain our silence on Russian aerial terror on anti-imperialist grounds.