To: Detroit Workers' Voice mailing list
December 22, 2016
RE: Solidarity vs. pro-Assad lies

 1. Solidarity with Aleppo in Seattle

For years the pro-Assad stand of much of the left has paralyzed the growth of a solidarity movement with the Syrian uprising against dictatorship. But the savagery displayed against the civilians and the anti-Assad fighters in east Aleppo called forth demonstrations in at least 27 cities around the world over the weekend of Dec. 17-18. In the US, this included Washington, DC, Chicago, New York, Boston, San Francisco, and Seattle. A number of water protectors at Standing Rock also declared solidarity with Aleppo "against imperialism and hate". Aleppo has fallen, but its valor and sacrifice has rallied support for the Syrian people.

In Seattle, there were demonstrations on Friday, Dec. 16, and Sunday, Dec. 18.  Around 150 people turned out for Friday night's March for Aleppo. It was very youthful. Syrian, Palestinian and other Arabs, East Africans, American Palestinian solidarity activists, members of a refugee and immigrant support group, and many others marched side by side. They carried signs expressing solidarity with the people of Aleppo and Syria, and expressing hatred for the mass murderer Assad. And since it was cold and many people were angry, the chants resonated through the streets. These included, "Free, free Syria!" "Long live Syria!" "Syrians are dying for food and water -- Assad, you coward, stop the slaughter!" "We will not be silenced -- In the face of violence!" "Down with Assad, down with the tyranny!" "What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!" Ethiopian cab drivers honked their horns in support.

The speeches were militant. They covered the history of the Syrian uprising and the current horror that was wrought on Aleppo by Assad, Russia and Iran. One woman in particular emphasized the need to rouse the masses in the streets of this country. A couple of speakers at the end emphasized simply writing or calling elected officials. But a militant young worker got up on a picnic table and challenged the idea of appealing to the establishment. He said that instead we needed to build a movement among the workers. He got a lot of of applause, and later a crowd of young people gathered around him to discuss ideas about building solidarity with the Syrian people.

Comrades from the Seattle Communist Study Group, which is part of the Communist Voice Organization, participated in the event. They brought picket signs with the slogans: "Support the Syrian people's uprising!" "Down with Russian, Iranian and U.S. imperialism!" "Down with the butcher Assad!" And they passed out 90 copies of leaflets made from Detroit Workers' Voice mailing list items.

Overall, the “Stop the killing, save Aleppo” march was excellent, and more events are expected. Another one occurred two days later on Sunday, December 18. Around 70 people lined the sidewalk with signs at a busy downtown square while shouting slogans. SCSG comrades came with picket signs and passed out 275 leaflets. One of the picket signs was taken up by one and then another demonstrator, while an Arab woman took about 20 of the leaflets and passed them out herself. There were discussions about the class issues in building the solidarity movement and other issues.

(Based on a report from a SCSG comrade)

 2. Never before

A quote from the Syrian writer Rime Allaf, December 13, 2016:   

"Never before has the world been able to observe - in real time - the destruction of a nation and the extermination of a people who dared to demand freedom. Never before has a civilian population been filmed under attack with Scud missiles, barrel bombs and chemical weapons by its 'own' illegitimate authorities. Never before have starvation sieges and old-fashioned barbaric massacres been so documented as they happened. Never before has mass torture been so evidenced. And never before has the world’s indifferent silence been so loud, save for perfunctory condemnations and erasable red lines. ... Never again? You mean never before. Hell of a legacy." (https://bandannie.com/2016/12/15/)

 3. To those justifying the unjustifiable

Below is an extract from "Letter to a 'comrade' who insists on justifying the unjustifiable", by Julien Salingue, a French activist who has been especially involved with Palestinian solidarity.

"The city of Aleppo has been victim of a massacre, of a real carnage, which one cannot help comparing with other martyred cities like Srebrenica, Grozny, Fallujah, as well as Warsaw and Guernica, or the Palestinian camps of Sabra and Chatila.

"The direct testimonies pouring from the city, coming from 'ordinary' Syrians and not only from members of armed groups, are eloquent, a fortiori when they are accompanied by photographs or videos. Words and images that tell about the distress, the impotence, the horror.

"But you, 'comrade,' have done your utmost in these last few days --  if this exercise can be considered as having anything to do with a virtue  --  to explain that we should not engage with the inhabitants of Aleppo and that there was no need to denounce the bombing of which they are victims, nor to denounce the abuses committed by the troops on the ground during the 'liberation' of the city. In other words, you have come to explain us that we should not take a clear and determined position against the planned massacre perpetrated by the dictatorial regime of Bashar al-Assad and its allies, with Russia and Iran at the forefront.

...............

"The first problem of your analysis, 'comrade', is that it 'forgets' an essential actor: the Syrian people. Indeed, you seem to 'forget' that the point of departure of the 'events' in Syria is not a Saudi, US, Qatari or Turkish intervention. Not even a Russian one. The point of departure of all this is that in March 2011 hundreds of thousands of Syrian men and women rose up against a dictatorial and predatory regime, like they did in Tunisia, in Egypt, in Libya. And if Assad and his thugs wouldn't have decided to brutally repress the uprising, with more than 5.000 killed and tens of thousands of detentions during 2011, they too would have fallen under popular pressure.

"And we are talking about 2011, year in which, remember 'comrade', you were excited about the other uprisings in the region. 'The people want the fall of the regime', do you remember? You may have even chanted it in the streets of a French city, you who are so fond of freedom, social justice and democracy. In Syria it was chanted too, along with the same economic, social and political demands as in the other countries of the region that were touched by the uprising, and Ryad, Doha, Paris or Washington had nothing to do with it. If you are so interested in the Syrian question, you must know that every time there has been a truce in recent years, the demonstrations resumed. That without the intervention of Iran, then of Russia, the regime would have fallen, under the pressure of the Syrian people, not a few thousand 'foreign fighters' --  who arrived, by the way, long after the regime killed thousands of unarmed Syrians, and brought tens or even hundreds of 'jihadists' out of prison. Have you ever wondered why? — And, yes, the roots of the Syrian 'crisis' are indeed the popular protest against a clan, and the response of the latter: destroy everything rather than lose its power and perks."

For the full text, see
https://medium.com/@rafaelaapelmarcel/letter-to-a-comrade-who-insist-in-justifying-the-unjustifiable-ea6fae447a95#.9wuv8qkj9

 4. Eva Bartlett and the politics of lying

By Joseph Green

A number of the groups supporting Assad are promoting a national speaking tour for Eva Bartlett. They promote her as an "independent journalist" who has uncovered the truth, but, actually, since 2012 she has been part of the trend that eventually formed the pro-Assad "Syria Solidarity Movement". (This is according to the SSM itself, see
http://www.syriasolidaritymovement.org/about/origins-of-the-syria-solidarity-movement/)

How does one defend the atrocities of the Assad regime? The mass murders, the torture, collective punishment of villages, bombing out of one city after another, the deliberate use of rape, the incitement of sectarian hatreds, etc.? It clearly wouldn't do to say that, oh no, the Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian backers are only guilty of 80-90% of the bombing attacks, murders, rapes, gas attacks and so on that have been attributed to them. So instead Eva Bartlett and other sold-out apologists for Assad say that everything is a lie. Every Syrian loves Assad excerpt terrorists. The Assad regime has not bombed neighborhoods to smithereens. Assad's regime and the Russian didn't really target all the medical facilities in eastern Aleppo, etc.

That's what Eva Bartlett says. Any other story is supposed to be a lie by the compromised Western corporate media. Every video from Aleppo is supposedly a fake. Every atrocity was supposedly really done by anti-regime forces. Bartlett, the Hands Off Syria Coalition, and so many others produce one accusation after another against the Syrian uprising and against those who truly support the Syrian people.

Here's an example. As indignation rose against the attacks on hospitals and civilians by the Russian air force and the regime, Bartlett came to the rescue of the Assad regime. In August, for example, she indignantly thundered that "Lying media have for months claimed the number of doctors are dwindling, including even a late July propaganda piece in 'The Intercept' which asserted that 'the number of doctors in Aleppo City has plummeted into the low dozens. The number of remaining medical specialists is even smaller.'" (https://www.sott.net/article/325238-Western-corporate-media-disappears-over-1-5-million-Syrians-and-4000-doctors)

Then she self=righteously shows that there are doctors and hospitals in the regime-controlled section of Aleppo. She is utterly shameless. Of course there are medical facilities in the government-controlled area. If anything, this verifies that the mass of atrocities are carried out by the Assad regime; it's the hospitals and medical personnel in eastern Aleppo, which was holding out against the Assad regime, which were being destroyed, not those in the rest of Aleppo.

As for the article she denounces in the "Intercept",  it talked about the devastation being unleashed unto "opposition-controlled eastern Aleppo" and "Eastern Aleppo City". Yes, that's sometimes referred to simply as Aleppo, but everyone knows what is being talked about. It's not that the article made the government-controlled region of Aleppo disappear, but that Bartlett has been helping Assad make the opposition-controlled area disappear. He uses savage force, and she uses the politics of lying. For her, just as for Assad, there is no legitimate opposition, just terrorists.
(https://theintercept.com/2016/07/28/as-the-syrian-government-tightens-its-noose-aleppos-doctors-fear-the-worst/?comments=1#comments)

 Why does Bartlett have any credibility? It's partly because she has a certain history in the left,  where she worked in the Palestine solidarity movement. The Syrian uprising has exposed that there's something rotten in the left, which we must cure if we are to restore the left to its proper place as the champion of oppressed people.

As for Bartlett herself, one of her videos is presently making the rounds on Facebook. A detailed refutation was made by Idrees Ahmad, in an article entitled "Russia Today and the post-truth virus".
(https://pulsemedia.org/2016/12/15/russia-today-and-the-post-truth-virus/) Among other things, it points out that:

"Eva Bartlett, the woman in the video, writes for various conspiracy sites including SOTT.net, The Duran, MintPress and Globalresearch.ca. But more recently she has emerged as a contributor to Russia Today. And though her wordpress blog is called 'In Gaza', and though she has a past in Palestine solidarity work, unlike the people of Gaza, she is a strong supporter of Assad and she uses language to describe Assad’s opponents that is a virtual echo of the language Israeli propagandists use against Gazans.

"Bartlett was recently a guest of the Assad regime, attending a regime sponsored PR conference and going on a tour of regime-controlled areas herded no doubt by the ubiquitous minders (the regime only issues visas to trusted journalists and no visitor is allowed to travel without a regime minder). On her return, the regime mission at the UN organised a press conference for her and three members of the pro-regime US 'Peace Council' (The organisation has the same relationship to peace as Kentucky Fried Chicken has to chicken). In the press conference they all repeated the claims usually made by the regime’s official media SANA and by Russia Today: all rebels are terrorists; there is no siege; civilians are being held hostage; the regime is a 'liberator' etc.

...............

"So a conspiracy theorist with a blog who briefly visited Syria as a guest of the regime is declaring that everything you know about Syria is wrong. That you have been misled by everyone in the 'MSM' [mainstream media] from the New York Times to Der Spiegel, from the Guardian to the Telegraph, from CNN to Channel 4, from ABC to BBC, from CBS to CBC; that human rights organisations like Physicians for Human Rights, Medicins Sans Frontiers, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch; that international agencies like the UN and ICRC—they are all part of a vast conspiracy to malign Bashar al Assad. And the truth is only revealed on 'alternative' media like the Kremlin’s own Russia Today! (watched by 70 million people a week according to its own claims)

"In normal times something like this would provoke derision and dismay -- or at least the person would be asked to provide verifiable facts instead of anecdotes (virtually everything she said is verifiably false as Snopes and Channel 4 have both confirmed). But these are not normal times.

...............

"There is no doubt that the Western media has often failed in its coverage. Its reporting on Gaza and the journalism leading up to the Iraq war was abysmal. But western media isn't devoted to obfuscating truth with the kind of single-minded determination that Russia Today is. It is deeply ironic that many people’s often justified disdain for western journalists has led the into the embrace of a channel that has no commitment to truth at all."

In the passage above, Idrees Ahmad refers to two articles refuting Bartlett, and they provide more detail about her lies:

Snopes: "Victim Blaming: The idea that victims of mass tragedies are 'recycled' is a common theme among conspiracy theorists, but there are international reports and footage of the Al Quds Hospital attack."
http://www.snopes.com/syrian-war-victims-are-being-recycled-and-al-quds-hospital-was-never-bombed/

and Channel 4:"Eva Bartlett’s claims about Syrian children"
https://www.channel4.com/news/factcheck/factcheck-eva-bartletts-claims-about-syrian-children

But it doesn't matter to the pro-Assad forces that their lies are absurd. What matters to them is to repeat them as many times as possible. But sooner or later workers and activists will see through this dishonorable method. They will not only show solidarity for the Syrian people, but they will eventually repudiate the leaders and groups who have shown such contempt for the millions of workers and oppressed people rising up to fight against dictatorship. The fight against the dictators and exploiters will be supplemented by a fight to build a new and better left-wing movement. <>


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Posted on December 25, 2016
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