The ‘anti-imperialism’ of idiots


Cartoon criticizing selective outrage which only applies to chemical attacks, by Yaser Ahmad

Once more the western ‘anti-war’ movement has awoken to mobilise around Syria. This is the third time since 2011. The first was when Obama contemplated striking the Syrian regime’s military capability (but didn’t) following chemical attacks on the Ghouta in 2013, considered a ‘red line’. The second time was when Donald Trump ordered a strike which hit an empty regime military base in response to chemical attacks on Khan Sheikhoun in 2017. And today, as the US, UK and France take limited military action (targeted strikes on regime military assets and chemical weapons facilities) following a chemical weapons attack in Douma which killed at least 34 people, including many children who were sheltering in basements from bombing.

The first thing to note from the three major mobilisations of the western ‘anti-war’ left is that they have little to do with ending the war. More than half a million Syrians have been killed since 2011. The vast majority of civilian deaths have been through the use of conventional weapons and 94 per cent of these victims were killed by the Syrian-Russian-Iranian alliance. There is no outrage or concern feigned for this war, which followed the regime’s brutal crackdown on peaceful, pro-democracy demonstrators. There’s no outrage when barrel bombs, chemical weapons and napalm are dropped on democratically self-organized communities or target hospitals and rescue workers. Civilians are expendable; the military capabilities of a genocidal, fascist regime are not. In fact the slogan ‘Hands off Syria’ really means ‘Hands off Assad’ and support is often given for Russia’s military intervention. This was evident yesterday at a demonstration organized by Stop the War UK where a number of regime and Russian flags were shamefully on display.

This left exhibits deeply authoritarian tendencies, one that places states themselves at the centre of political analysis. Solidarity is therefore extended to states (seen as the main actor in a struggle for liberation) rather than oppressed or underprivileged groups in any given society, no matter that state’s tyranny. Blind to the social war occurring within Syria itself, the Syrian people (where they exist) are viewed as mere pawns in a geo-political chess game. They repeat the mantra ‘Assad is the legitimate ruler of a sovereign country’. Assad – who inherited a dictatorship from his father and has never held, let alone won, a free and fair election. Assad – whose ‘Syrian Arab Army’ can only regain the territory it lost with the backing of a hotchpotch of foreign mercenaries and supported by foreign bombs, and who are fighting, by and large, Syrian-born rebels and civilians. How many would consider their own elected government legitimate if it began carrying out mass rape campaigns against dissidents? It’s only the complete dehumanization of Syrians that makes such a position even possible. It’s a racism that sees Syrians as incapable of achieving, let alone deserving, anything better than one of the most brutal dictatorships of our time.

For this authoritarian left, support is extended to the Assad regime in the name of ‘anti-imperialism’. Assad is seen as part of the ‘axis of resistance’ against both US Empire and Zionism.  It matters little that the Assad regime itself supported the first Gulf war, or participated in the US illegal rendition programme where suspected terrorists were tortured in Syria on the CIA’s behalf. The fact that this regime probably holds the dubious distinction of slaughtering more Palestinians than the Israeli state is constantly overlooked, as is the fact that it’s more intent on using its armed forces to suppress internal dissent than to liberate the Israeli-occupied Golan.

This ‘anti-imperialism’ of idiots is one which equates imperialism with the actions of the US alone. They seem unaware that the US has been bombing Syria since 2014. In its campaign to liberate Raqqa from Daesh all international norms of war and considerations of proportionality were abandoned. Over 1,000 civilians were killed and the UN estimates that 80 per cent of the city is now uninhabitable. There were no protests organized by leading ‘anti-war’ organizations against this intervention, no calls to ensure that civilians and civilian infrastructure were protected. Instead they adopted the ‘War on Terror’ discourse, once the preserve of neo-cons, now promulgated by the regime, that all opposition to Assad are jihadi terrorists. They turned a blind eye to Assad filling his gulag with thousands of secular, peaceful, pro-democracy demonstrators for death by torture, whilst releasing militant-Islamists from prison. Similarly, the continuing protests held in liberated areas in opposition to extremist and authoritarian groups such as Daesh, Nusra and Ahrar Al Sham have been ignored. Syrians are not seen as possessing the sophistication to hold a diverse range of views. Civil society activists (including many amazing women), citizen journalists, humanitarian workers are irrelevant. The entire opposition is reduced to its most authoritarian elements or seen as mere conduits for foreign interests.

This pro-fascist left seems blind to any form of imperialism that is non-western in origin. It combines identity politics with egoism. Everything that happens is viewed through the prism of what it means for westerners – only white men have the power to make history. According to the Pentagon there are currently around 2000 American troops in Syria. The US has established a number of military bases in the Kurdish-controlled north for the first time in Syria’s history. This should concern anyone who supports Syrian self-determination yet pales in comparison to the tens of thousands of Iranian troops and Iranian backed Shia militias which are now occupying large parts of the country, or the murderous bombing raids carried out by the Russian air force in support of the fascist dictatorship. Russia has now established permanent military bases in the country, and has been handed exclusive rights over Syria’s oil and gas as a reward for its support. Noam Chomsky once argued that Russia’s intervention could not be considered imperialism because it was invited to bomb the country by the Syrian regime. By that analysis, the US’s intervention in Vietnam was not imperialism either, invited as it was by the South-Vietnamese government.

A number of anti-war organizations have justified their silence on Russian and Iranian interventions by arguing that ‘the main enemy is at home’. This excuses them from undertaking any serious power analysis to determine who the main actors driving the war actually are. For Syrians the main enemy is indeed at home – it’s Assad who is engaging in what the UN has termed ‘the crime of extermination’. Without being aware of their own contradictions many of the same voices have been vocally opposed (and rightly so) to Israel’s current assault on peaceful demonstrators in Gaza. Of course, one of the main ways imperialism works is to deny native voices. In this vein, leading western anti-war organizations hold conferences on Syria without inviting any Syrian speakers.

The other major political trend to have thrown its weight behind the Assad regime and organize against US, UK and French strikes on Syria is the far right. Today, the discourse of fascists and these ‘anti-imperialist leftists’ is virtually indistinguishable. In the US, white supremacist Richard Spencer, alt right podcaster Mike Enoch and anti-immigration activist Ann Coulter are all opposing US strikes. In the UK former BNP leader Nick Griffin and Islamophobe Katie Hopkins join the calls. The place where the alt-right and alt-left frequently converge is around promoting various conspiracy theories to absolve the regime of its crimes. They claim chemical massacres are false flags or that rescue workers are Al Qaeda and therefore legitimate targets for attack. Those spreading such reports are not on the ground in Syria and are unable to independently verify their claims. They are often dependent on Russian or Assad state propaganda outlets because they ‘don’t trust the MSM’ or Syrians directly affected. Sometimes the convergence of these two seemingly opposite strands of the political spectrum turns into outright collaboration. The ANSWER coalition, which is organizing many of the demonstrations against a strike on Assad in the US, has such a history. Both strands frequently promote Islamophobic and anti-Semitic narratives. Both share the same talking points and same memes.

There are many valid reasons for opposing external military intervention in Syria, whether it be by the US, Russia, Iran or Turkey. None of these states are acting in the interests of the Syrian people, democracy or human rights. They act solely in their own interests. The US, UK and French intervention today is less about protecting Syrians from mass-atrocity and more about enforcing an international norm that chemical weapons use is unacceptable, lest one day they be used on westerners themselves. More foreign bombs will not bring about peace and stability. There’s little appetite to force Assad from power which would contribute to ending the worst of the atrocities.  Yet in opposing foreign intervention, one needs to come up with an alternative to protect Syrians from slaughter. It’s morally objectionable to say the least to expect Syrians to just shut up and die to protect the higher principle of ‘anti-imperialism’. Many alternatives to foreign military intervention have been proposed by Syrians time and again and have been ignored. And so the question remains, when diplomatic options have failed, when a genocidal regime is protected from censure by powerful international backers, when no progress is made in stopping daily bombing, ending starvation sieges or releasing prisoners who are being tortured on an industrial scale, what can be done.

I no longer have an answer. I’ve consistently opposed all foreign military intervention in Syria, supported Syrian led process to rid their country of a tyrant and international processes grounded in efforts to protect civilians and human rights and ensure accountability for all actors responsible for war-crimes. A negotiated settlement is the only way to end this war – and still seems as distant as ever. Assad (and his backers) are determined to thwart any process, pursue a total military victory and crush any remaining democratic alternative. Hundreds of Syrians are being killed every week in the most barbaric ways imaginable. Extremist groups and ideologies are thriving in the chaos wrought by the state. Civilians continue to flee in their thousands as legal processes – such as Law No.10 – are implemented to ensure they will never return to their homes. The international system itself is collapsing under the weight of its own impotence. The words ‘Never Again’ ring hollow. There’s no major people’s movement which stands in solidarity with the victims. They are instead slandered, their suffering is mocked or denied, and their voices either absent from discussions or questioned by people far away, who know nothing of Syria, revolution or war, and who arrogantly believe they know what is best. It is this desperate situation which causes many Syrians to welcome the US, UK and France’s action and who now see foreign intervention as their only hope, despite the risks they know it entails.

One thing is for sure – I won’t lose any sleep over targeted strikes aimed at regime military bases and chemical weapons plants which may provide Syrians with a short respite from the daily killing. And I will never see people who place grand narratives over lived realities, who support brutal regimes in far off countries, or who peddle racism, conspiracy theories and atrocity denial, as allies.












124 thoughts on “The ‘anti-imperialism’ of idiots

  1. The socalled “left”, Think they are great Anti- imperialists when they support Assad, failing to recognize the popular resistance against Assad. The People’s resistance is described as ” terrorist”. This goes hand in hand with russian imperialism, which they Think only the US can exercise…
    A large number of these socalled lefties don’t realize that in fact are letting the syrian people down.

    • No one is supporting Assad. We are neither leftist nor rightist, but humanists.. You insult 3/4 of the world in your writings. Shame on you. You are focused on a pinpoint surrounded by a greater truth: love of humanity & the earth.

  2. “Many alternatives to foreign military intervention have been proposed by Syrians time and again and have been ignored.”

    Would you add a link(s) there to a source(s) where I could learn more about this?

  3. I read your words and on behalf of all peaceable people that I know I’ll just say sorry for the war, sorry for the abysmal leadership and sorry for my own lack of support. I am a peace loving person and empath, it pains me so, that I live in times when greed power and madness create so much suffering.

    • I hate to be the one to break it to you, but in all of human history all humans have lived in times when greed, power, and madness created so much suffering. You can’t just bewail it; you must do something about it. The relative lack of human suffering in so called Western Civilization is an anomaly, not seen in any other time in history.

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  5. Is there any validity to the claims that Assad isn’t the one that launched the chemical weapon strike here?

    I honestly don’t know what to believe. I’ve heard the claim that, given his proximity to victory, that it makes little sense to do this. I don’t know how true that it is.

    • No I don’t believe the rebels gassed themselves, there is no credible evidence to suggest they did, just poorly sourced claims from conspiracy theorists and pro-Russia trolls. Assad wanted Jaish Al Islam to leave Douma, they refused his terms, he gassed Douma, they left. Over a year ago, when there was the Khan Sheikoun attack we were told ‘it doesn’t make sense, the regime is close to victory’, yet here we are today.

      • With all due respect, and from somebody who does not see you via a conspiracy-theory lens and disapproves of the fale and lame anti-imperialsim, your argument could be countered with a statement of the like “pressure on rebels could be applied through more conventional and destructive bombing, why resorting to chemicals which would bring reaction from the West, even a symbolic one?” I claim no inside knowledge, I am sitting comfortably on my couch far from Syria. Yet, I cannot see any rationality in the alleged decision of Assad to gas Douma at a time he had reconquered 95% of Eastern Ghouta. All I am saying, there is a reason why most cannot figure out whether rebels sustained a chemical attack or fabricated it in order to at least gain time.

      • Wrong. There is LOTS of credible evidence they gassed themselves in Ghouta in 2013 and 2017. We know how the chemical precursors reached the rebels because to Turkish MP’s risked their lives by making public Turkish documents that tracked those precursors to the rebels. Seymour Hersh wrote an article asserting those precursors originated in Libya and were moved with heavy weapons along CIA “ratlines” to the rebels. Carla Del Ponte of the UN’s investigative committee said the evidence pointed towards the rebels. And DNI Brennan warned Obama not to believe the chorus of neocon claims it was Assad because, alluding to lies told to W in the run up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, “It’s not a slam-dunk.” There is more evidence than these few things I’ve mentioned. And there is such evidence implicating the rebels in the attacks one year ago. In that case, read and examine the images in the articles by MIT weapons expert Ted Postol. It is obvious the tube that contained whatever chemical was used was laying on the pavement when an explosive charged placed atop it crushed the tube and bent it to conform to the crater from the detonation. Thus, this was obviously not a munition dropped from an aircraft. There were also admissions to area hospitals an hour before the Syrian aircraft alleged to have dropped it flew over. So YES there is plenty of evidence these child-murdering terrorists would kill innocents on their own side because that act, protected by a anti-Assad media in the west, faces no risk of suspicion, no condemnation, and can do nothing but give the USA and other powers the excuse to destroy another country inconvenient to Israel, as we have done, one after another since 9/11 in accord with long-standing Israeli strategy documents and subsequent rewrites, followable from Israel to US think-tanks, to Pentagon war-plans for “seven wars in five years.”.

      • Syrian human rights organizations have accused the regime of being responsible for over 200 chemical attacks since 2011. The UN OPCW, international orgs such as Human Rights Watch & independent open source investigators such as Bellingcat have concluded that the regime was either responsible or likely responsible for multiple attacks. Claims such as those by Hersh & Postol (often originating in far-right sources) have been thoroughly de-bunked. There has been one credible (yet unconfirmed) claim of rebel use of chemicals in Aleppo & one confirmed claim of ISIS use of mustard gas. Those who share these conspiracies are engaging in atrocity denial and apologia for fascism. They have no place in a progressive movement.

    • There’s one little problem with the claim that the rebels gassed themselves: Both the Assad and Russian administrations deny that there was any gas attack! Through the Assad mouthpiece Robert Fisk, the claim is that it was a dust cloud and then a panic. When you see the photos of the victims, it’s clear that that is a lie. But why would they concoct that lie if Assad weren’t the culprit?

      And why would they deny the OPCW inspectors access for a week, while “reporters” were given access? The claim was that it wasn’t safe yet, but Fisk reported that all was calm.

  6. Nice to see someone brave enough to admit that they don’t have an answer to Syria. Frankly I’m getting rather fed up of people on all sides of the argument, including some of your allies, who criticise everyone else’s opinions but never offer a solution or remain oblivious to the huge problems with any proposal, whether military intervention, talks or whatever. Hence I was interested to see you referred to suggestions made by Syrians themselves, could you provide any link to such suggestions please

    • bellingcat is funded by the atlantic council.

      ted postol of MIT, who disagrees with you Leila, is independent. and many others.

      i hate to break it to you, but Jayesh Al Islam (an Al Qaeda group) is KNOWN to have possessed chemical weapons and to have taken hostages…not to mention they are funded and supported by Saudi Arabia, not exactly the bastion of democracy.

      of COURSE Al Qaeda in Douma would gas civilians and hostages, with the aid perhaps of the CIA, Mossad or Saudi Arabia, precisely when they were desperate and closest to defeat.

      i mean, these are the people who flew planes into the world trade center.

      to call that a conspiracy is willful blindness and to say that only “evil assad” could have staged the douma attack is disingenuous.

      you are of syrian descent, and no doubt influenced by your anti assadist family members, but you are not on the ground in Syria. you are like the young cuban americans who camored for the CIA and US military to intervene and overthrow the castro regime. But make no mistake, your anti fascism-cum-interventionism is NOT a leftist position. you are playing straight into the hands of the imperialists.

      is assad a bad guy. sure. but sorry, foreign powers need to stop funding jihadist nutsos to overthrow him you are part of that feeding frenzy.

      • Ted Postol’s source is an Australian based, David Duke fan, Assadist, anti-semite & Islamophobe known as ‘Partisan Girl’. You can check her videos on YouTube. I personally don’t buy that she is a convincing chemical weapons expert.
        Jaish Al Islam is not an ‘Al Qaeda group’ & didn’t exist when the World Trade Center was bombed.

      • In the first place, one should look at the evidence. Is Zan accusing Bellingcat of manufacturing the video and still photos of what happened in Douma?

        As far as who is responsible for the killings: It’s simply a matter of common sense, if one side controls the air and the other side doesn’t, then the first side has a huge military advantage. And we don’t have to simply rely on Bellingcat; just take a look at some of the video evidence taken on the ground there. Are all those people faking their videos?

        Finally, those opposed to Assad are accused of taking the side of US imperialism. In the first place, US imperialism is NOT dedicated to overthrowing Assad. Trump has openly stated that. So has the Wall St. Journal, whose editors defined the goals in Syria as being: “de­ter Russ­ian and Iran­ian im­pe­ri­al­ism, re­duce the chances of an­other Mideast war and keep Syria from pro­duc­ing global ter­ror­ists…” And the fact is that the US has acted according to those goals. Where and upon whom have they concentrated their firepower? In Raqqa against the IS. In any case, if the sole determining factor in deciding whom socialist should support or oppose is the role of US imperialism, then these “socialists” who say they are opposed to US imperialism and all its allies should be opposing the PYD and should be supporting the Turkish invasion of Afrin, since that invasion is aimed against the US ally, the Kurds.

        It is also ironic to hear the Assad apologists denounce the socialists who oppose him as being aligned with US imperialism. With whom are they aligned with? Richard Spencer and David Duke, Germany’s AfD, the French National Front, and Greece’s Golden Dawn. And within Syria, maybe these Assad apologists would like to explain why the fascist Syrian Social Nationalist Party is part of the Assad administration.

      • As far as Postol: There were 3 different and contradictory narratives of the Assadists. First was the Putin regime, which claimed that what happened in Khan Sheikhoun was that the terrorists were storing sarin ingredients in separate tanks which ruptured when the building was bombed, and these ingredients combined in mid air to form sarin. When that was proven nearly impossible, then Postol came up with his excuse – that terrorists fired a rocket containing sarin. When this was disproven, then we had Sy Hersh’s claim that it wasn’t really sarin at all. So, I guess “Zen” is disbelieving Hersh, but how does he explain the Putin narrative then?

        And through all this tangle of lies, one thing is being ignored: That following the sarin attack the hospital where the victims were being treated was bombed. Nobody has disputed that. It’s another “inconvenient truth.”

  7. so wait, we have the claims and videos of Al Quaeda in Douma that Assad used chemical weapons, and zero evidence from independent inspectors…

    …but somehow it’s a pure “Left” position to illegally fire missiles into a sovereign nation that the US has destabilized via its covert support for exremist terrorist groups? wow, this is a radical perspective indeed!

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  9. some good stuff here….
    in a war the first casualty is the truth…
    in the Syrian quagmire it is most difficult to discern…
    I’m against intervention and certainly don’t support Assad…
    left wearing the moniker of an anti-imperialist idiot…..

    • AND you get the benefit of being attacked by a hesd chopper, or you can convert to sharia salafism and be called an apostate. The forces of wahhabism decide Syria’s Constitution. Go islam crazy.

  10. I I’m torn here. And there ‘s a part of me that wants to say ‘fuck all y’all!’ I”ve been following this situation for several years …and my first take on it (through was that Al Assad had gassed and bombed neighborhoods of those supporting the political opposition…and I believed it, and for the longest time I supported the idea of bringing him down. And I didn’t buy that ‘poor Bashir’ narrative. I didn’t care who took him out. Then came numerous contradictory reports…. and then the gassing and bombing …..that turned out to be perpetrated by the rebels…and the people who were the victims claiming that this was by the rebels.
    Before you blame us, realise….. that we’re living in an age where it’s hard to tell who is telling the truth.
    Am I supposed to support Assad by accepting the accounts of those who say the rebels are just as bad as Assad or the blaming of Assad but by a mainstream media meanwhile other sources like the UN claiming he didn’t do it ‘this time’?
    Fuck you for blaming us as this “idiot Left”….considering that it’s hard to tell what sources are telling us the truth. Lies are coming from so many sides. I would gladly support that which liberates you….. but goddammit, …who the fuck is a reliable source here?!! Because it is truly difficult to tell.
    And honestly, I’m sick of fake excuses for war. Fuck war and fuck the US government… who just want war because they want your oil.
    We should not fucking be there. End.of.fucking. story. Fuck war culture. You need liberating? fine…I’m for that. But the US is the worst most corrupt world cop. Don’t expect us to fill that role… we only replace tyrants with tyrants.

    • One thing I can tell you is to ignore biased left-wing sources, like Truth-out, as steadfastly as you do right wing sources.It’s hard to look for facts and form your own opinions which is why sites like Truth-Out, that pre-digest cherry-picked facts and tell you what you should think, are so popular. Sometimes it’s good just to not have an opinion if you don’t know enough and keep learning until you do.

  11. Pingback: Imperial Theatrics in Syria: Where Is Justice for Syrians? – Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice (CPRSJ)

  12. “The US, UK and French intervention today is less about protecting Syrians from mass-atrocity and more about enforcing an international norm that chemical weapons use is unacceptable, lest one day they be used on westerners themselves.”

    Are not the two complementary?

    And the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia who were poisoned using a novichok nerve agent, now confirmed by the international chemical weapons watchdog is only the most recent example.

    • Sorry, Leila, for reposting this. I had orginally replied to wrong person. @bitethehand: No, the two are not complementary. The mass atrocity has already happened and the “defenders of “human rights” and “our values” did very little. So did the “civilised people”, Muslims and non-Muslims, who have been watching the spectacle. If you look at the long history of Western imperialism’s hypocrisy, you will find “protecting civilians”, “saving people”, etc is the smokesscreen and it is selective, depending on the balance of forces and interests. I can cite some examples: Kurds gassed by Saddam Hussein, Rwanda genocide, the on-going genocide in Myanmar (a genocide according a study by a Havard-based researcher), 93% of those killed in Syria over the last 7 years were killed by the regime (adding the countless number of those in the dungeons), around 200,000 civilians died because of the sanctions on Iraq (saving civilians!) … What is going on now are proxy wars came in the context of counter-revolutions of 2011 by the local and external regimes along with Russia’s drive to maintain its sphere of influence. The big powers, global and regional, none of them is progressive, and are involved in that context of chessboard. One should also add the current situation within Britain, the US and the EU.

  13. we do not support assad, yet we know that western intervention does no leave any more than an destroyed social structure, as been shown on the interventions in afghanistan (the 80s), iraq and lybia. therefore all your “pro-democratic” interventionism is only a meagre excuse for imperialist (re-)construction of the world.

  14. all your tries to rectify a western intervention in Syria, are nothing more than an imperialist destruction of an functioning social structure, as we have seen before in yugoslavia, iraq and lybia – and as little i support these ditorian regimes, as much I have to condemn the destructions and uprising of even more anti-civilatory fractions in the countries, where the west contemplated to bring democracy.

  15. No word about the pluralistic democratic experiment in Rojava. Why? It is the only hopefull element I see (but now under attack of Turkiye unfortunately).

  16. You think those of us on the left are fools who support Assad? I would say most of us simply realise that our own western governments use your cause for their own ends when it suits them. I doubt there will be any US led relief force coming to rescue Syria, it will be too costly in votes one way or another. These tokenistic air strikes are a flexing of muscle designed to bolster popularity at home. They will make little or no difference to the outcome of the war. Of course we might come if there was profit in it but we’ve been outmanoeuvred by Putin on that one. Sorry, but you’re fucked. Not by the left but by a capitalist world order which puts profit and power well before people.

    • This is the perfect example of “anti-imperialism of idiots”.

      The people actually doing the killing are hardly worth mentioning, it’s all about the capitalists whose bombs are only “tokenistic” and “make little or no difference” and would only make a real effort “if there was profit in it”.

      If we were to take you seriously at your word, we would conclude that you would enthusiastically support a much larger western war effort, you know, one that was not just “tokenistic”. But of course, you wouldn’t.

      Damn the capitalists if their war is too big, and damn the capitalists if their war is too small.

      You’re a one-string violin.

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  19. Emergency, an Italian humanitarian NGO, with internationally-recognised leading techniques and knowledge about war surgery, is actively working since many years in many countries devastated by wars (including Afghanistan and Iraq) and DOES HAVE HOLD a public meeting (“La guerra è il mio nemico”, The war is my enemy) on November 9th 2017, where a Syrian guy who fled his country in 2011 was invited to speak about his story. So the statement “leading western anti-war organizations hold conferences on Syria without inviting any Syrian speakers.” should be rephrased.

  20. Leila this is pure gold! But I beg you do not start the discussion with such an offensive title, I share your rage but it just repels from the very beginning those who are misled not by bad will but by lack of information and a analytic capacities, basically I will have problem disseminating this article because of its title. Jazak allah khair!

  21. Leila, I think a lot of your points are spot on and powerful. I do also think that your points are aimed mainly at the far-left and I know no lefties who are against western intervention who support Assad. My fear is that the US and UK govts – who are clearly not peace-loving nations – are not clever or thoughtful in their responses. And I think many would agree with that.

    But possibly more importantly – your article is attacking and divisive itself. If you genuinely want to bring about productive dialogue and solutions – you gotta untie and not divide. And having a title and a framing like you’ve given is not going to help. Go back to the egoism you spoke about of the left, and which we all have, this is not about venting your own anger, it is bigger than this. Talk kindly, and we might listen 😉

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  23. The so-called left, but truly rightists and warmongers who have no respects for human rights and in fact have been supporting bloodshed and massacres that are committed by the likes of Assad and the terrorist Iranian regime.

    These idiots believe distancing themselves from certain US foreign policies means falling in love with blood thirsty dictators like Assad and its real boss Khamenei.

    Assad and its Iranian criminal sponsors created ISIS precisely for this very reason: to continue genocide in Syria under the pretext of fighting with terrorists. But the real terrorists have been Assad, Khamenei and Ghasem Soleimani. Khamenei is the Godfather of ISIS. See Michael Wiess’ pieces on Syria.

    I am an Iranian support the National Council of Resistance of Iran and its President Mrs. Maryam Rajavi who have been on the side of Syrian people.

  24. To be fair, many of these so called anti-imperial leftists are actually obsessed with the US and everything American. It’s so obvious here in Sweden where I live. These people are stuck in a love-hate relationship with the US. They spend 30 percent of their time on social media complaining about America and 60 percent of their time following every shitty news story from the same country, whether it’s about Kanye, Trump or the latest documentary about Flint. They haven’t given jack shit about the Arab spring since 2011 because deep down they don’t humanize arabs the way they humanize americans. They aren’t leftists, they are infatuated but neglected and bitter groupies to the US.

  25. Excellent article!!!! Congratulations.
    Yet, I have a remark. Probably this unacceptable position of western anti-war movement his a result of the dominance of metamodernism. For many-many years the left was influenced by meta-modern philosophers!

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  27. Well done, Leila AlShami. My British friends will be particularly pleased with your piece, given how they have had to contend with the “Stop the War” crowd when they have mounted protests against #Assad’s continuing murders of the Syrian people. STW always trots out one of its stock phrases, “US imperialism,” conveniently and selectively overlooking Russia’s imperialist history and expansionist present in Ukraine, Crimea and Syria. These fools would have us believe that the USSR was an agglomeration of totally willing states to be part of that union. Another stock phrase is “illegal regime change war” which is straight out of the #Assad play-book, as mouthed by (at one time) Mother Teresa the #Assad mouth-piece and religious sister, by Vanessa Beeley, and perhaps more shockingly, by Representative Tulsi Gabbard, Democrat of Hawaii who has visited #Assad in Damascus. These are just some of what Lenin called “useful idiots” who parrot the #Assad regime’s lines, probably as paid propagandists.

  28. “What can be done?” Leila Al Shami, herself, ultimately admits that she does not have the answer. Yet she proceeds to paint others who draw a similar conclusion as “anti-imperialist idiots,” defined as people who “equate imperialism with the actions of the US alone” and described as people who “place grand narratives over lived realities, who support brutal regimes in far off countries, or who peddle racism, conspiracy theories and atrocity denial.”

    Al Shami does point specifically to ANSWER/Stop the War, but does not make it at all clear that her allegations are confined to that faction. (Also, her reference to “three major mobilisations of the western ‘anti-war’ left,” exaggerates Stop the War’s size and representation of the left.)

    She specifically named Noam Chomsky. Does Chomsky fit her characterization of an anti-imperialist idiot?

    Ironically, Chomsky’s comments on Syria are very similar to the ones Leila Al Shami, herself, makes in this article. Like Al Shami, Chomsky admits to having no clear, concrete “remedy” for Syria but does endorse a negotiated settlement. .

    Al Shami doesn’t allow room for others to share in a sense of uncertainty about the best course of action without lumping them together with people who overtly support and/or excuse Assad. This guilt-by-association even extends to comparisons with the alt-right, including Richard Spencer and Ann Coulter.

    Most writing and speaking from the left on Syria that I have seen, like Chomsky’s, is in line with Al Shami’s own analysis in acknowledging vast complexities. Yet, reading this article, one comes away with the impression that anyone (other than Al Shami) opposing US military escalation in Syria can be characterized as:
    • [Having] “no outrage when barrel bombs, chemical weapons and napalm are dropped on democratically self-organized communities or target hospitals and rescue workers” and
    • [Believing that] “Civilians are expendable; the military capabilities of a genocidal, fascist regime are not.”

    Lack of nuance is increasingly a problem on the left generally, but especially with regard to Syria, and it comes from both “sides.” This trend serves to stifle meaningful discourse and I wish that people would more consciously endeavor to reverse it. We can start by being very clear and specific in our critiques, engaging directly with the substance of one another’s arguments, and by refraining from creating caricatures and making sweeping generalizations such as those provided here by Leila Al Shami.

    • The ideas I point to may originate in far-left/far-right fringe, but they pervade the mainstream left & have made all efforts at practical solidarity with the Syrian people impossible. They are echoed by leading politicians (such as Labour in UK or Greens in US) & echoed by once-respectable left wing commentators in major media.
      If you have seen examples of major left wing organizations that have mobalized against Assad gassing & torturing people, or against the US invasion of Syria in 2014 (something I’ve repeatedly condemned) or Russia’s systematic destruction of health care, then please do share them, because I have not.
      There are many leftists who have taken a principled position, who I hugely respect. This article was not aimed at them & I think many of them share my despair.
      Please do not compare me to Chomsky, a man who has spread conspiracy theories about chemical attacks in Syria and has a history of genocide denial elsewhere.

  29. Esteemed Ms. Al-Shami,
    I just read your recent blog, ‘The anti-imperialism of idiots’ and received your book, ‘Burning Country.’ As I sit here in rural NE Arizona, the lack of reliable and consistent reporting (or our knowledge of same) has caused many of us to be totally confused about the situation, the various players, etc. This has left us with few options for understanding, so we have not been able to get beyond our reflex – If the US is doing it, it must be wrong. I look forward to following you and reading your book, in an effort to come to a better understanding. It is disheartening to hear someone with your knowledge to say that you, too, are without an answer to this horrible situation, but let us hope one can be found. Be well, JKS

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  33. Every Syria request is…. shit.
    Missiles are the only answer can have from Left to Right, from East to West.
    And the abominable and bastard “leitmotif” that is on in the media -generally speaking- is that “they (missiles) had no effect !!!”
    But, if you try to think a little bit deep, the problem(s) comes from “us”, in some way…
    Victimism, the lack of self-criticism and, above all, the social disintegration of the community, say Ummah, closed in a precautionary grip absurd and induced by the capital… Here… try to follow…
    (Thank you)

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