Syria: denialism delegitimizes ‘anti-war’ position

We have noted how the "anti-war" forces are "fighting the last war" to such a degree that they can refer to the WMD charges against Syria as "false pretenses"—mere days after a chemical attack that may have killed over a thousand. We can't help but use quotation marks when the "anti-war" forces are covering up for monstrous war crimes. Yeah, this is a case of the proverbial boy who cried wolf—if Dubya hadn't lied a decade ago, Assad would not be getting such a free ride from the "anti-war" folks today (one hopes). But that doesn't let anyone off the hook: denial of the Ghouta attack still constitutes a shameful betrayal of human solidarity that completely delegitimizes any "anti-war" position. Diana Moukalled writing in the pan-Arab Asharq Al-Awsat Sept. 4 decries: "Iraq overshadowing Syria's cries for help"…

Since day one of the Syrian revolution, images of Syrians defacing statues of Hafez and Bashar Al-Assad immediately brought to mind the toppling of Saddam Hussein and scenes of Iraqis pulling down statues of the dictator. Something that has been overlooked is the fact that the Syrian people took to the streets to end the chronic injustice against them by the Assad regime alone, without US intervention…

Unfortunately for the Syrian people, the Western and Arab public are overcome with a sense of bitterness towards the Iraq war and its consequences. While the Syrian regime and its allies' propaganda machine has done its best to promote the belief that Damascus is facing a foreign conspiracy.

Therefore, Iraq has overshadowed Syria's cries for help since the first protests.

The more people are killed in Syria, the more the world reminds itself of the lessons of the Iraq war. This has resulted in all of us becoming silent observers of a massacre which has now been going on for more than two and a half years… "Don't you remember Iraq?" "Do you want to see a repeat of Iraq?" These are phrases which have been repeated over and over again in recent days. Everyone is afraid of a hypothetical war, as if what has been going on for over two years in Syria is not a war.

Any and all discussions regarding a possible strike against the Syrian regime have been held captive by the Iraq war.

Iraq, Iraq, Iraq. Iraq has become an echo of all massacres in Syria.

Moukalled is far from alone in her eagerness for foreign intervention against Assad—a reality, however difficult, that anti-war forces ignore at their own peril. In The Guardian of Sept. 1, Peter Beaumont reported from the Zaatari camp in Jordan, where Syrian refugees—including one wounded FSA fighter—bitterly told him:  "Obama lied to us"…

The Zaatari refugee camp is home to about 120,000 Syrians who have fled the war next door, the sound of which, on still nights, can be heard from across the border. The mood on Sunday was uniformly bleak. The news of the chemical attack in Damascus was devastating for those in the camp, said a UN official. Residents asked for no visits from journalists or dignitaries for three days. After that period of grief, amid all the tough talk by western leaders, refugees believed that something would be done to punish the Syrian regime.

Abu Atum, who left his village near Dara'a after seeing his son and nephew shot dead in front of him, said he had listened to the speech on the radio in his shelter. "Afterwards I called my family who are still in Dara'a. They had listened to it too. They were so happy when he started speaking. Afterwards they were so disappointed."

Abu Atum said he would never forget his son's final moments. "He was bleeding; he told me he didn't want to die."

He believes America has deserted Syrians. "We know what this means," he said. "It means nothing is going to happen. Not in a day, not in a week, not in a month…. it will never happen."

Heeding these voices does not mean we have to support Obama's intervention. But it does mean (at least) that we have to find ways to oppose it that do not betray and alienate Syrians who have for over two years been fighting for freedom and are now fighting for their very lives. The "anti-war" movement, such as it continues to exist, has been abjectly failing to do this. Leading the charge into shameful betrayal, of course, is the International Action Center, whose new mobilization call states: "Millions believe the pretext for the war is another Big Lie like the lies used before the Vietnam, Iraq and Libya wars." Well, millions may believe it, but with any good reason? And once the Gulf of Tonkin and Iraq WMD lies have been invoked, we apparently aren't supposed to ask what the "Big Lie" was in Libya. After baselessly casting doubt on Assad's atrocities it then has the chutzpah to add: "The repressive regimes in Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf kingdoms beat down the people of the region so that U.S. oil companies can have unfettered access to oil profits." The US client states in the Middle East are indeed a brutal and reactionary lot, but IAC is clearly just using this reality as a distraction from Bashar Assad's even greater crimes.

Unfortunately, in an error made again and again, many groups that you hope would know better are following the IAC's lead. UNAC and ANSWER are predictable; but deeply disappointing are Code Pink, Harlem Tenants Council, Grannies for Peace and La Peña del Bronx—all of whom have signed on to the IAC statement. So does a Syrian American Forum—whose kicker is "For a Democratic and Secular Syria," yet whose website has statements protesting various terrorist outrages by the jihadis but seemingly none protesting the state terror of Assad's regime.

All this constitutes treason against our natural allies in Syria—the secular, progressive forces in the opposition to the Assad regime, now besieged by ruthless armed actors on all sides. If any anti-war effort is to actually be in solidarity with Syrians, it must put the voices of the Syrian civil resistance front and center, and seek leadership from them. Our natural allies in Syria are in this democratic resistance (not in the dictatorship!), and they will need solidarity whether the US intervenes or not. And while the Local Coordination Committees—the original body of the unarmed civil resistance, still active at the grassroots level in Syria, in spite of everything—remains opposed to either armed insurgency or foreign intervention, they see their primary struggle as against the dictatorship. If the anti-war forces in the West do not offer solidarity in that struggle, they forfeit all legitimacy to oppose Obama's intervention.