Alternative Left Perspectives on Syria

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Syrian flag

The responses of most leftists to the Syrian uprising and subsequent war (it’s often forgotten that it started as an uprising — indeed a nonviolent and nonsectarian one) have been deeply disappointing. Disappointing to many Syrian activists, and to many of us on the Left who support the Syrian struggle for dignity and justice, which is now a struggle against both Assad’s killing machine and the jihadi counter-revolutionary forces.

The Left’s responses fall into three main categories:

  1. explicit support for the Assad regime
  2. monochrome opposition to Western intervention, end of discussion (with either implicit or explicit neutrality on the conflict itself)
  3. general silence caused by deep confusion

The first camp, while relatively small, represents a truly hideous, morally obscene and, I would argue, deeply reactionary position – siding with a mass murderer and war criminal who presides over a quasi-fascist police state.

The second camp, which encompasses a majority of…

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In Defence of Assaulting Fascists

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“Only one thing could have stopped us – if our adversaries had understood its principle and from the first day smashed with the utmost brutality the nucleus of our new movement.” – Adolf Hitler

I take no personal gratification in watching physical assault take place. I recall the trauma of being punched at 14-years old in a racist incident. I was intimidated for years by even the most frivolous fights in high-school and even desisted from playing sports for a long time as a result. I know how intimidating violence can be.

Which is why I believe in violence against fascists. The New York Times today reported that Richard Spencer won’t be going on speaking tours for a long time as a result of being assaulted. He’s even afraid to go out for dinner. Before we conclude that that’s indubitably a good thing, I’d like to turn to the topic of collaboration.

We expect collaborators…

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Glenn Greenwald Sides with the Deep State on Trump and Russia

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When it was a race between a middling neoliberal and a neofascist buffoon, the way a certain sort of leftist with a social media presence chose to demonstrate their enviable, contrarian wisdom was to deride the former — while not endorsing the latter, mind you, but — for engaging in McCarthyist “red-baiting” against a right-wing authoritarian. It was accepted as self-evidently false, and laughably so, that the right-wing authoritarian in Moscow would seek to swing the U.S. election to an ally. Those positing that there was, in fact, something to the claim that the Russian state hacked the DNC (and selectively leaked what it found on behalf of the new Republican president) were either naively or cynically falling for a line put forward by shadowy and unelected Deep State operatives; leave it to liberals, the savvy leftist blogged, to find a way to side with the establishment against a billionaire.

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To “leftist” admirers of Assad’s Syria

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By Farouk Mardam-Bey

As a Syrian who has always identified politically with the left, I am particularly appalled by those men and women who call themselves left-wingers — and are therefore supposed to stand in solidarity with struggles for justice worldwide — and yet openly support the regime of the Assads, father and son, who are chiefly responsible for the Syrian disaster.

Following four months of intense bombardment by the Russian air force, Bashar Al-Assad’s army, along with Shiite militias hailing from everywhere and mobilized by the Iranian mullahs, have now finished ‘liberating’ Eastern Aleppo. Liberated from whom? From its inhabitants. More than 250,000 inhabitants were forced to flee their own city to escape massacres, as had the people of Zabadani and Daraya before them, and as will many more Syrians if systematic social and sectarian ‘cleansing’ continues in their country under the cover of a massive media disinformation campaign.

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Two Upcoming Screenings of SYRIA’S DISAPPEARED in Chicago

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The film Syria’s Disappeared has been called “brilliant and sickening” and a “must-view can’t-look documentary…about the 200,000 people arrested and detained after the Arab Spring took hold in Syria.”

Amnesty International is partnering with the filmmakers on a series of screenings and panel discussions around the world. Amnesty International – UK recently hosted one in London.

Amnesty International – Chicago is hosting two screenings: one at Loyola University’s lake shore campus on Wednesday October 25 at 6pm; one at DePaul University’s downtown campus on Thursday October 26 at 6pm. Following both screenings, Sara Afshar, the film’s director and co-producer, ​will discuss the film and take audience questions. At DePaul, she’ll be joined by Elisabeth Ward, executive director of the university’s International Human Rights Law Institute. Both screenings are free of charge and open to the public.

Want to organize a screening in your city? Want to review…

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Of Monsters and Men

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This is my review of Yassin al Haj Saleh’s book The Impossible Revolution: Making Sense of the Syrian Tragedy. It first appeared inThe New Arab

Since the beginning of the Syrian revolution over six years ago, there has been a determined effort to smother it both literally and figuratively. There is the ceaseless attrition of bullets, bombs, torture, starvation and poison gas; there is the relentless subversion of truth through erasure, distortion, slant and fabrication. But in defiance of the terror, through myriad betrayals, regardless of the slander, and in the face of global indifference, the revolution survives. Every time the violence ebbs, the revolutionary flag returns to the street borne by crowds chanting the same slogans that reverberated through earlier, more hopeful days. Even in the absence of peace, besieged neighbourhoods have elected local councils, provided social services, educated children, treated the wounded and fed the…

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Always Go

I’ve always loved tattoos. I got my first right before the first Gulf War. I was stationed on the USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67), based out of Norfolk, VA. We had received word that we had 72 hours before we had to get underway to the Mediterranean and then the Red Sea. Two of my buddies and I had talked about getting tattoos before, but there was a certain urgency to it now. We drove around, found a tattoo parlor out in the suburbs, did the paperwork, and got our ink. I found a cross with a rose wrapped around it, and got it on my left shoulder blade. Since then, I’ve gotten two others; one on my chest, the Orthodox Trisagion prayer in Greek, and the “NIKA” sign on my right shoulder blade.

Got my fourth tattoo this past weekend from Zac over at Ink 66 Tattoo in Columbus, GA. Good work, and a nice guy who was pleasant to chat with while getting stabbed over and over by those tiny needles.

The back story: I’m going to cut and paste something from The Collective Quarterly (www.collectivequarterly.com), which is a magazine dedicated to storytelling, place and people. This struck with me and really seemed to sum up where I am in my life right now:

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“In 2012, a war correspondent named Anthony Shadid died in Syria on assignment for the New York Times. A life like his defies summary in a few sentences: He won the Pulitzer Prize (twice) for his coverage of the Iraq War. He was shot by a sniper in Ramallah. He was kidnapped and tortured in Libya.

War reporting is serious business. We don’t pretend to be doing anything nearly as consequential as what Mr. Shadid gave his life for. But that life has been a powerful reminder to us of the critical importance of witness in storytelling. Bill Keller, the former executive of the New York Times, wrote in tribute:

“First, he understood the basic rule of reporting: always go. He went to places that were inaccessible and dangerous and miserable—not as a daredevil or adrenaline junkie, not recklessly, often reluctantly, always with the most meticulous and careful planning—but he knew you had to be there. You had to see it.”

As storytellers, we believe in the power of observation. Don’t rely on second-hand information. Don’t just call someone. And certainly don’t read about it on the Internet. Always go.”
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It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut, particularly when you’re in your late 40s. Job, responsibilities, a general idea of what is secure and safe, can all contribute to the basic ennui we often feel. When I was younger, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I knew I wanted to experience things, though, and to go places that were new and exciting and not what I was familiar with. I don’t really remember talking about that too much with anyone, but not long before my dad passed away, he asked about my journal from the Navy. I told him that I never really kept a journal, and he seemed surprised by that. Then he said, “Well, I always thought if anyone in our family was going to write a book, it would be you.”

Last year was hard for me in a lot of ways. Lots of loss. My dad passed away, as did three of my dogs. A relationship that I thought was “it” ended, as well. (We’re still friends.) Maybe it’s not surprising I went through a period of introspection. I’m a pretty resilient guy, but it was a struggle. We all come face to face with our own mortality eventually, and it’s easy to look back on your life to see what you did with it. In general, I’m proud of my life; what I’ve accomplished, what I’ve seen, who I’ve become, and who I’ve loved. But there were a lot of missteps along the way, as well, and I allowed myself to forfeit many of the things I thought I would do. I’ve always tried to live my life with no regret, but it’s hard not to have some. I guess this is my mid-age “crisis,” but I’m thankful for taking this important lesson from it: that it’s never too late to see the stars, to ride the waves, to start some shit, or to love again. I hope to do all of those things and more in the time I left left on this Earth. I hope to do many of them with my friends and family, but I’m not afraid to do them alone if I need to.

Always go. And never look back.