Workers' Voice mailing list
September 24, 2016
RE: The all-out bombing of Aleppo
1. From the ceasefire to the all-out bombing of Aleppo
2. The statement of 150 Syrian supporters of democracy
By Joseph Green
The US-Russian negotiated cease-fire has collapsed. All it has led to is intensified bloodshed. Russia felt free to bomb an aid convoy to Aleppo, showing off its ability to blow up trucks and massacre unarmed aid workers. And now Russia and the Assad regime are carrying out an all-out offensive to eliminate all opponents of the Assad regime in the city of Aleppo.
The situation in Aleppo is serious, and the anti-Assad struggle may suffer a grievous setback. But even if this happens, it won’t be the end of the struggle against the Assad dictatorship. It will be clear, however, to millions of Syrians and other people in the Mideast that the outside powers would rather see the Syrian people drowned in blood, in a Syrian nakba rivaling the Palestinian one, than see a successful democratic uprising.
The US-Russian deal collapsed so soon for a number of reasons. For one thing, US and Russian interests differ. Russia is backing the bloody Assad tyranny to the hilt, while the Obama administration doesn’t care that much what the next Syrian regime is, so long as US imperialism has a say in it.
The deal collapsed because it was taken as by both Russia and the Assad regime as a sign that US would let them get away with anything and merely whine about it. In that regard, the deal is a continuation of the coordination between US bombing and the Assad regime that has been going on for some time. And it has thus paved the way for the intensified slaughter that has followed the failed ceasefire.
The deal collapsed because you can’t successfully fight Islamic extremism by crushing the struggle for democracy in Syria. And the futility of supposedly fighting Islamic extremism by bombing some of them while allying with those Islamic extremists in Syria (such as Iranian troops, Iraqi sectarian militia, and the Lebanese Hezbollah fundamentalists) who support the Assad regime is certainly apparent to everyone in the region.
If the US and Russia had really agreed on what to do, the deal might have lasted somewhat longer, but it still would have collapsed. That’s because it was decided by outside powers in defiance of the wishes of the Syrian masses fighting for freedom. And the Syrian people have shown an astonishing determination in their struggle against dictatorship.
Russian policy has been to back the Syrian dictatorship at all costs. It began large-scale bombing back in September last year in order to prevent the Assad regime, which was tottering, from falling. It has interpreted US eagerness for a deal as a go-ahead for it to push harder to prop up Assad.
US policy is to maintain the military apparatus of the Assad regime, but perhaps without Assad. This is the lesson US imperialism thinks it learned in Iraq: keep the reactionary apparatus built up by the Ba’ath party even if you get rid of the head man. In line with this, the Obama administration doesn’t want the mass uprising to sweep away the old dictatorship, because then the entire dictatorial Ba’ath apparatus, including its security apparatus, might be broken up. So the Obama administration has been bleeding the anti-Assad forces, trying to ensure that they don’t win or lose, so that outside forces will determine what the next regime will be. But even this plan isn’t an absolute principle for the Obama administration: US imperialism isn’t so much for any particular outcome in Syria as for that US should have a say in whatever happens.
Both US and Russian policies are policies of wading through pools of Syrian blood. It displays the imperialist nature of both the US and Russian bourgeoisies.
But ultimately the deal collapsed because the old Syria is dying,
and the outside powers can increase the carnage but they can’t restore
the old system. They can prop up the Assad regime with Iranian troops,
Iraqi sectarian militia, Islamic fundamentalists from Hezbollah in
Lebanon, massive Russian bombing, and the US efforts to keep the
anti-Assad forces from having sufficient weapons. They can talk and
bomb, and negotiate and bomb, and complain about there being too many
Syrian refugees and bomb; they can shed rivers of Syrian blood; but
they can’t put the old Syria back together, the Syria where for half a
century everyone was bound and gagged and had to watch silently as the
Assads and their cronies enriched themselves and tortured and killed
dissidents; they can’t pacify the region and build a new Syria. Sooner
or later, it is the Syrian people who will rebuild a new Syria. That’s
why the US-Russian deal failed. <>
The US-Russian deal was immediately recognized by democratic Syrians as an attack on their struggle. This was expressed in a statement by 150 prominent Syrians denouncing the brutal attempt of US and Russia to settle Syrian affairs among themselves. We might not agree with everything it says, but this statement shows the legitimate hatred that is growing for US and Russian imperialism.
The statement appeared on The Nation website for September 21. Below we reproduce excerpts from this statement, and from the introduction to it in The Nation. (However, The Nation is not a supporter of the anti-Assad struggle; its carrying this statement is not typical of its coverage of Syria. For example, The Nation website also carries an article by James Carden dated September 12 lauding US-Russian deal-making on Syria.)
The Nation writes that “The signatories include globally known figures such as Paris Sorbonne professor Burhan Ghalioun, who was the first chairperson of the Syrian National Council in 2011-12; award-winning novelist Samar Yazbek, whose works are published in many languages; famous Syrian intellectual Sadik Jalal Al-Azm; Farouk Mardam-Bey, a writer who edits the most important collection dedicated to the Arab world in France; playwright Mohammad Al-Attar; and Yassin al-Haj Saleh, a prominent independent voice in the Syrian opposition.”
The statement says, in part:
We the undersigned are democratic and secular Syrian writers, artists, and journalists who have opposed the tyrannical Assad regime for years, even decades. We are participants in the struggle for democracy and justice in our country, our region and in the world. We unreservedly, and in the strongest language, condemn the Russian and US approach of intervening in our internal Syrian affairs. At least since 2013, these two powers have been working to co-opt the Syrian liberation struggle under the rubric of the "war against terror." This is a war that has failed to score a single success since its outset, and has led instead to the destruction of a number of countries.
Three years ago the two imperialist nations signed a reprehensible deal on chemical weapons that resolved a problem for the United States, Israel, and Russia, and even for the Assad regime, which had just murdered 1,466 of its subjects. The deal however did not resolve any of the problems facing the Syrian people. Rather it gave free rein to an extremely criminal regime that kills Syrians, destroys their villages and communities, and drives them into exile. The deal has also proved to be a priceless gift to Islamist nihilistic groups like Daesh and Jabhat an-Nusra. Three years into this contemptible deal -- with the death count now at around half a million Syrians -- Russians and Americans have agreed to freeze the current situation so that the two military powers can carry on their endless war against terror. The agreement remains silent on the untold number of detainees held in brutal conditions, and includes no call for lifting the blockade on besieged areas, or the withdrawal of Iran, the Hezbollah militia, or any other sectarian militia. It is also devoid of any reference to the concept of a new and democratic Syria. Nor are the warplanes of Bashar al-Assad restrained from bombing areas that will ultimately be the subject of a later agreement between Russia and the United States. Not only does this show complete lack of a moral sense of justice on the part of the Russian and American negotiating teams, it also exposes the degradation of politics and the lowly level of officials in the two most powerful nations in the world today.
We are also disappointed in the United Nations, angered that, as was recently revealed, it has been financing the criminal oligarchy of Assad and his cronies throughout their war against the Syrians. [This refers to the UN awarding contracts to organizations, presenting themselves as charities and NGOs, that work with the Assad dictatorship.-Joseph Green]
As Syrian writers, artists, and journalists, we see the world today heading toward an unprecedented numbing of ethics. Levels of fear and hatred escalate in parallel with the increasing visibility of politicians who invest in the same feelings of fear, hatred, and isolationism. We see democracy in retreat around the world, while surveillance, control, and fear are rife and advancing. We do not believe that our fate is defined by these conditions, but rather that these are a result of dangerous choices taken by dangerous political elites, and that we must work together to voice our opposition to them, right now and wherever we may be.
A destroyed Syria is the symbol of the state of the world today. The Syrian revolution was broken against the solid wall of the international community, and not only against the wall of the forces aligned with Assadist fascism. ...
This world must change. In just five and a half years, it has allowed the destruction of one of the most ancient cradles of civilization. The world today is a Syrian problem, just like Syria today is a world problem. ...
(The full statement and a list of signers may be found at
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Posted on September 28,
with a typo corrected.