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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 4/23/18

Yes, You Can Be Antiwar and Anti-Assad Too (And You Should Be)

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I believe that the US should immediately end its bombing of Syria and withdraw all of its 2000+ troops. I also believe that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is a dictator and torturer responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Syrians. There is no contradiction between these two beliefs.

Not everyone would agree. The Workers World Party, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, International ANSWER, and the Freedom Road Socialist Organization are just a few of the groups on the left that contend that it is impossible to be antiwar and anti-Assad. Assad is good because he is opposed by the capitalist, racist, imperialist US. Oppose Assad and you support the US, no matter how loudly you declare that you oppose both Assad and the US.

The Douma gas attack on April 7 followed a week later by air strikes by the US, France, and Great Britain on supposed chemical-weapons installations of the Syrian government have posed a challenge for Bashar al-Assad apologists. Assad's cheering section in the West has been exercising all its ingenuity trying to convince us that Douma was a "false-flag" operation staged by militants. War correspondent Robert Fisk, who is embedded with Syrian government forces, reported from Douma that there was no gas attack; the 74 or more victims died from dust inhalation.

Assad's defenders were equally convinced of Assad's innocence for the 2017 gas attack on the town of Khan Shaykhun (100 killed) and the still more horrific 2013 sarin gas attack in Ghouta (1,429 killed).

On Friday, The Intercept ran "Dear Bashar al-Assad Apologists: Your Hero Is a War Criminal Even If He Didn't Gas Syrians," an article by broadcaster and journalist Mehdi Hasan. Hasan points out that even apart from using chemical weapons, Assad is responsible for "a vast array of blatant human rights abuses, crimes against humanity, and war crimes." Hasan is exactly right.

Hasan's article drew the ire of Australian independent journalist Caitlin Johnstone. What's Johnstone's beef with Hasan? Hasan is against military intervention in Syria and so is Johnstone, so that's not it.

Hasan accuses Assad of torture, indiscriminate bombing of civilians, and many other war crimes. Does Johnstone call these allegations untrue? Nooo, Johnstone doesn't say Hasan's allegations are untrue (although she does not concede their truth either).

No, Johnstone is upset by Hasan's "tone policing."

Johnstone slams Hasan for "condemning unnamed opponents of western interventionism in Syria for not being sufficiently condemnatory of Bashar al-Assad in their antiwar discourse."

The truth is that Assad's Western admirers do not condemn Assad at all. Mention Assad's crimes and they will change the subject to the crimes of the US or Israel or the Islamic State. Or simply lie. Vanessa Beeley, an unpaid propagandist for the Assad regime, has tweeted that Syria is "not a police state." The prisoners in Assad's torture cells will be glad to know that.

Not everything Assad's defenders say is wrong. They are right when they decry US imperialism. Depending on how you count, the US is currently involved in at least six wars. That number may climb if President Donald Trump carries out his threats against North Korea. And Johnstone is correct when she says that the US has schemed for years to topple Assad.

Assad's defenders are wrong, however, when they gloss over the crimes of countries other than the US, Israel, and other US allies. All Assad's defenders have done is invert Reaganism. President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union "the focus of evil in the modern world." The Assadists simply switch the focus of evil to the US.

It follows that anything that goes wrong anywhere in the world is the work of the US. When the Syrian Revolution broke out in 2011 it wasn't because ordinary Syrians had had enough of Assad's arrests, torture, and repression; it was the work of the CIA.

A parodist of SÃ ren Kierkegaard wrote that "Purity of mind is to think a single thought." That describes Assad's apologists perfectly. There seems to be no room in their tiny minds for any thought other than "US bad." They certainly have not managed to squeeze in the thought that Assad, Russia, and Iran may be bad too.

Assad's defenders tell us that criticism of Assad must be avoided because it gives aid and comfort to Western warmongers. What's more, criticism of the Syrian regime is racist. Slandering the Arabs and Muslims being killed by Assad, however, is not racist. (Curse that Mehdi Hasan's Islamophobic attacks on Assad!!)

I will give the last word to Mehdi Hasan:

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Charles Pierson is a lawyer and peace activist in Pittsburgh. He contributes regularly to CounterPunch on subjects such as Yemen, Pakistan, war, armed aerial drones, and US military spending.

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