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News :: International
No to Intervention - The Syrian Elections -- by AJAMU BARAKA
04 Jun 2014
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Defying threats of violence, tens of thousands of ordinary Syrians went to the polls to cast a vote that was more about Syrian dignity and self-determination than any of the candidates on the ballot. After three years of unimaginable atrocities fomented by a demented and dying U.S. empire, with the assistance of the royalist monarchies of the Middle East and the gangster states of NATO, the Syrian people demonstrated, by their participation, that they had not surrendered their national sovereignty to the geo-strategic interests of the U.S. and its colonial allies in Europe and Israel.

The dominant narrative on Syria, carefully cultivated by Western state propagandists and dutifully disseminated by their auxiliaries in the corporate media, is that the conflict in Syria is a courageous fight on the part of the majority of the Syrian people against the brutal dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad. As the story goes, the al-Assad “regime,” (it is never referred to as a government), can only maintain its power through the use of force. By attacking “its own citizens,” the regime, representing the minority Alawite community, can only maintain its dominance over the rest of the country through sheer terror.

However, events in Syria, with the election being a dramatic example, continue to reveal fissures in that story.

First, it became clear that substantial numbers of non-Alawite people and communities support the government. And even those elements of Syrian society that were not enthusiastic supporters of the government grew to understand that the legitimate indigenous opposition had been displaced by powerful non-Syrian forces from the U.S. and the Gulf States who provided material, political and diplomatic support to an opposition that not only had tenuous ties to the country but seemed only committed to waging war. This convinced many that the only politically consistent option was to support the government, as an expression of support for Syria’s sovereignty and its’ national project.

As a result, not only did popular support for the government hold over the last three years of carnage, it expanded to include those in the opposition who were against the destruction of the country and the slimy Syrian ex-pats who traveled from one European capital to another begging for the U.S. and NATO to do what it did in Libya – destroy the infrastructure of the country through the use of NATO air power and flood the country with weapons.

But the most graphic undermining of the dominant Western narrative has been the participation of tens of thousands of ordinary Syrians who have braved threats and violence to participate in the election process.

Western corporate news outlets, especially in the U.S., were unable to explain the huge turnout of Syrian refugees voting in Lebanon preceding the election on Tuesday, so they just decided not to cover it. Images of Syrians displaced by war yet backing al Assad for president did not support the carefully crafted story that the only people fleeting war were those who had been terrorized to do so by the government.

Instead, the U.S. press raised the question of the “legitimacy” of elections taking place in a country involved in a “civil war,” a position consistent with their narrative of the war being one between the Syrian people and the government as opposed to what it has turned out to be – a war largely being fought by foreign forces, with the indigenous opposition forces allied with the feckless Syrian National Coalition; isolated, out-gunned and militarily irrelevant.

And while the U.S. press uncritically propagated the position of the U.S. state, which wrote off the election as illegitimate and a farce, the media seemed not to notice the contradictory position of the U.S. writing off the election in Syria because of conflict but giving enthusiastic support to the election in Ukraine in the midst of a conflict and contested legitimacy. The Western media could explore a few obvious questions if it was really independent, such as: what makes the election in Ukraine legitimate when half of the country boycotts the vote and the national army violently attacks its own citizens in Eastern Ukraine who refused to recognize the legitimacy of the coup-makers in Kiev?

Other questions might be: if they deem it appropriate to support an election in Ukraine, why would the Obama Administration violently oppose elections in Syria, especially if, as it claims, the majority of the people oppose the current government? Wouldn’t the illegitimacy of the government in Syria be confirmed by the low turnout, even in areas where there was a modicum of security? If Syrian authorities organized opportunities for displaced Syrians in various countries around the world to vote and very few participated, wouldn’t that verify the Administration’s position that the al Assad government lacks popular support?

Yet in various European capitals and other countries like Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Egypt, efforts were made to block the opportunity for displaced Syrians to vote in their election – why? Were the authorities afraid that the narrative of non-support for al Assad might be challenged if there was a proliferation of images like the ones that came out of Lebanon showing thousands of Syrians marching to the polls holding signs of Bashar al Assad?

It will be interesting to see how the authorities and their spokespeople in the corporate media spin the voting process in Syria.

The U.S. position is a position of continued war in Syria

Secretary of State John Kerry declared that Syria’s presidential election was a “farce,” and that the U.S. and its partners are prepared to quickly redouble efforts to support opposition forces in the county. The meaning of this position is that it does not matter what kind of public display of support is given to al Assad or anyone who might emerge as the head of state in Syria, the U.S. objective is more death, more war and more chaos.

This is the essence of the “new” global strategy unveiled by President Obama during his foreign policy speech at West Point last week. The U.S. declaration that it will “change the dynamics on the ground in Syria” came out of a meeting of the so-called “Friends of Syria,” a motley collection of 11 Western colonial nations and their Arab creations. The Obama Administration intends to work though these kinds of regional formations and alliances to advance its strategic objectives with as minimal a cost to the U.S. as possible. Of course, the interests and desires of the states or peoples involved are of secondary concern. The desire on the part of the majority of the people to end the conflict in Syria is not even considered. As part of the effort to secure public support in the U.S. for destabilizing and then attacking Syria it was posited that by deposing the al Assad government a real democracy can be introduced. That is why policymakers pretended to back so-called moderate elements that support democracy. But over the last year or so, even that proposal has been eliminated. Democracy in Syria is as much a threat to U.S. imperialist interests as it is in Ukraine – and increasingly even in the U.S.

Policymakers in Washington and London have already made the shift to supporting what are being called “moderate” Islamists forces grouped around the Islamic Front (IF) with al Nusrah, al Qaeda’s official Syrian affiliate, operating in the background. The problem for the Syrian people is that these moderates the west is supporting are Salafi-Wahhabi fundamentalists who reject representative democracy and support the imposition of sharia law in Syria. So while the U.S. and their allies characterize the election in Syria a farce, their solution is to back forces who would eliminate even the pretext of democratic participation. This is the progress that is being imposed on the secular, pluralist society of Syria by the Western “liberators.”

It is not about al Assad, it is about the people of Syria and imperialism:

Questions of democratic legitimacy have never determined U.S. relationships with any state where the U.S. had strategic and economic interests. If a commitment to democracy and democratic governance was the determining factor for U.S. support, the Obama Administration would not be in alliance with the dictatorship of the royalists in the Gulf states, it would have condemned the coups in Honduras and Egypt, not given diplomatic or economic support to the coup in Ukraine, and would not be supporting right-wing elements in Venezuela attempting to destabilize the democratically-elected government in that country.

There was a time when this position would have been clear to the peace and anti-war, anti-imperialist progressive and left movements in the U.S. and the West. But over the last two decades, with the ideological infiltration of the left by liberalism, social democracy and the rightist tendencies of “anti-authoritarian” anarchism, the resulting political confusion has seen a consistent alignment of the left with the imperial project of the U.S. – from the attacks on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia through to attacks on nationalist projects throughout the global South, from Libya to Syria. Since the last gasp of anti-imperialism solidarity represented by the massive marches in opposition to the illegal attack on Iraq in 2003, the peace, anti-war and anti-imperialist movements have been in relative disarray.

This disarray and ineffectiveness is taking place right at the historical moment when in order to maintain its global hegemony, the colonial/capitalist West has decided to revert to what it does best – spread death and destruction. For those of us who understand our responsibility situated, as we are, at the center of this monstrosity called the U.S., we have to strip away the veneer of humanitarianism that hides the ugly inner logic of domination and we have to “struggle” – a term now passé for the hip post-modern nihilist left.

When a people, like the people of Syria, demonstrate their commitment to the integrity of their own national experience in opposition to the efforts of the imperialist states that we reside in, the only principled position we can take is to stand in solidarity with those people, no matter how we see the internal contradictions of that nation/state. The people of Syria have said no to foreign intervention. Those of us in the imperialist West, can we do anything less?

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/06/04/the-syrian-elections/

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Re: No to Intervention - The Syrian Elections -- by AJAMU BARAKA
07 Jun 2014
Vetoed by Assad Election Victory

Obama’s Syrian Policy

by SHAMUS COOKE


“Assad’s days are numbered” – President Obama, February 2012

Living in denial is the easiest way to avoid hard truths, but it’s a horrible way for a government to conduct foreign policy. Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry recently scoffed at the elections in Syria, calling them “meaningless.” The U.S. media obediently agreed, while the rest of the world drew a much more realistic opinion. It’s true that an election during an ongoing conflict isn’t ideal for democracy, but the deeper truths exposed by the election were completely ignored by the U.S. government and media.

Interestingly, few governments or media outlets doubted the Syrian election was fair for those who were able to vote. There were no large-scale allegations of fraud, and the numbers announced by the government were not seriously contested.

The results of the election weren’t a surprise to anyone familiar with Syrian domestic politics. Russian Television points out the two most obvious reasons Assad’s victory was assured:

1) The president never lost the support of his core constituencies — the Syrian armed forces, the government and business elite, the major cities, the minorities (Christians, Druze, Alawites, Shia, etc.) and secular Sunni (most of the 3 million members of the Baath Party are Sunni).

2) The opposition was fundamentally unable to present a cohesive front and a common political platform — this includes both domestic and external opponents — let alone rally behind a single candidate.

While ignoring these clear truths, John Kerry attempted to justify his characterization of the election as “meaningless,” by adding “…you can’t have an election where millions of your people don’t even have an ability to vote.”

Kerry’s point, although true, would hold greater weight if not for the fact that the Syrian Government controls all but one major city in Syria. Most of the Syrian rebel strength is in the less populated rural areas.

Therefore, it’s quite meaningful that 73 percent of eligible voters went to the polls and that 88 percent of them voted for Assad. Eleven out of 15 million apparently voted. And although one could likely poke further holes in the electoral process, the general sentiment in Syria found expression, the meaning of which was accepted by most of the world.

Equally meaningful was the huge voter turnout in neighboring countries, though especially Lebanon and Jordan, where tens of thousands of Syrian refugees voted at the Syrian embassy overwhelmingly in favor of Assad. Of course this fact directly contradicts the longstanding lie that these refugees were all “victims of Assad.”

In fact, Syrian citizens around the world voted at their embassies, overwhelmingly for Assad. This didn’t make the U.S. media think twice about their strict anti-Assad narrative. Ignorance is bliss. The media had a similarly muted attitude when thousands of pro-Assad Syrian protesters across the U.S. attended anti-war protests in response to Obama’s plan to bomb Syria.

Perhaps the deepest truth the Syrian elections exposed is that, were it not for the U.S. and its allies, the war in Syria would have long ago ended, and tens of thousands of lives spared. Millions of refugees would not be homeless.

It’s now very clear that the motor force of war in Syria has long been orchestrated from the outside. The people on the inside want peace. The media has long acknowledged that Obama’s CIA has led regional allies Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, etc., against the Syrian government, by funneling guns and training foreign fighters. Without this the rebels would have been crushed long ago.

Ultimately the elections proved that the catastrophic war in Syria is not the will of the Syrian people. Many likely voted in favor of Assad simply to show the world that they don’t support the rebels — that they want an immediate end to the insane war that has nearly destroyed an entire nation.

Will Obama listen? Not likely. John Kerry’s blathering about the election was out of sync with most of the world, but in line with the Obama administration’s consistently out of touch perspective about the situation in Syria.

Stunningly, when the official spokeswoman for Obama’s State Department, Jen Pskai was recently asked if the administration still believes that Assad’s “days are numbered,” she responded by saying “yes we do.” Being in denial too long can resemble psychosis.

Obama also recently re-enforced his failed Syria policy in his big speech at the West Point military academy, where he said he would “…ramp up support for those in the Syrian opposition who offer the best alternative to terrorists and brutal dictators.”

To “ramp up” support for the Syrian rebels at this point means only one thing; that much more blood is about to be spilled. And for what?

Obama’s West Point plan to “arm the Syrian moderates” is the same worn-out “strategy” that Obama has used since 2011 to justify his support of cash, arms, and training to the Syrian rebels, which has artificially lengthened the Syrian catastrophe while directly resulting in a the revival of Islamic extremism and terrorism in the region.

Ironically, Obama’s West Point speech also mentioned a plan to create a $5 billion dollar regional anti-terrorism fund, no doubt a way to “legally” funnel more money to further target the Assad government while creating yet more terrorists in the process.

It was also revealed recently that Obama is now supplying rebel groups with sophisticated anti-tank missile launchers, ensuring that blood will flow more freely. By continuing down this policy that the Syrian people have clearly rejected, Obama is proving that he cares nothing for democracy nor for the lives of the people in Syria. Nor does he care about the will of the American people: In a 2013 poll conducted by the Pew Research Center “70% of Americans oppose arming the Syrian rebels.”

The number is likely much higher now.

At home and abroad Obama’s Syrian policy has been condemned as a failure, yet he shows no signs of stopping, even after most Syrians voted for peace. This is the same peace that Americans and the rest of the world demand.

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org). He can be reached at shamuscooke (at) gmail.com

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/06/06/obamas-syrian-policy/
Re: No to Intervention - The Syrian Elections -- by AJAMU BARAKA
07 Jun 2014
Syrian Election Reveals Huge Population Loss in Rebel Areas

The Bankrupt War on Syria

by PAUL LARUDEE


The Syrian election has indirectly exposed or confirmed a surprising statistic that shows how badly the anti-Assad fighters are losing and how hopeless their cause is.

It is of course no surprise at all that Assad won big in the first open and contested Syrian presidential election in memory, winning 88% of the total.‎ Whether you believe that the vote was rigged or that the Syrian people ‎overwhelmingly love their president, the margin was almost embarrassing. ‎ During the days before the election, the Syrian street began joking that the votes of the challengers might need to be padded.

The surprise was the total number of votes cast. According to the Syrian National Presidential Commission, a total of 15.84 million Syrians age 18 or older were eligible to vote in the election. Of these, 11.63 million – equal to 73.7% – actually did.

That’s an enviable turnout anywhere‎, but astonishing under the current conditions in Syria. The Syrian obsession to vote is a great story. Syrian expatriates and refugees besieged their embassies when they could and returned to Syria – sometimes across ten time zones – when they couldn’t. But that also is not the surprise.

The surprise is not who voted or how many, but rather who did not. They are the 4.2 million difference between the numbers of eligible and actual voters. Who are they?

Many are living in other countries. Some are refugees, for whom the lowest accepted estimate is 2.5 million. If we add another conservative number of dual national Syrian expatriates, it rises to 3.1 million. Even with the incredible voting efforts of this population, however, that figure shrinks by only 200,000, to 2.9 million.

This accounts for all but 1.3 million of the Syrians who didn’t vote. It is not reasonable to expect that all Syrians who had the chance actually voted. We have to allow at least 5% or 790,000 for the one in twenty that decided not to vote, for whatever reason. This leaves a maximum of only a half million Syrians – around 3% – in captive areas.‎ It is probably less than that.

This is of course an educated (if conservative) guess. However, it safely puts to rest the inflated estimates of 40% propagated by mainstream journalists and deceitful government officials. Those figures were obtained by applying pre-conflict population statistics to the geographic areas under the control of anti-regime groups, a patently absurd formula.

Such figures are a fantasy conceived for the purpose of deception and distortion. Vast numbers of Syrians have fled anti-regime areas, mostly to government territory, but also to other countries. However, only the most delusional propagandist ‎would claim that meaningful numbers of Syrians are fleeing to anti-regime areas.

In fact, one of the tactics of the Syrian military seems to be to allow the anti-regimists to hold a territory long enough to drive the civilians out, and then ‎to either negotiate terms or remove them by means of weapons that cause the fewest government casualties. This is what earns the regime the title of ruthless murderer in western hyperbole.

It is time to pay attention to what the Syrian people are saying. When they went to the polls by the millions, they did much more than affirm ‎their self-determination and their choice for president. They showed us by their numbers that the attempt to destroy Syria is bankrupt and doomed to failure.

Paul Larudee is a founding member of the Syria Solidarity Movement. ‎He submitted this piece from Syria after completing an assignment as an election observer.