Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

August 31, 2013

Carla del Ponte and the “anti-imperialist” left: an unprincipled combination

Filed under: journalism,Syria — louisproyect @ 6:29 pm

Contrary to subsequent insinuations that she did not know what she was talking about, Del Ponte had chosen her words carefully. She had said that witness testimony made it appear that “some chemical weapons were used, in particular nerve gas.” And it appeared to have been used by the “opponents, by the rebels.” There is “no indication at all that the Syria government … used chemical weapons.”

Deepak Tripathi, Counterpunch May 13, 2013

On March 15, Mandel sent another complaint to Justice Carla del Ponte, the new chief prosecutor for the tribunal, who replaced Justice Louise Arbour in October. Mandel’s sharply worded letter protests the tribunal’s refusal to investigate NATO’s actions, saying that del Ponte has turned “the investigation into more of a farce than a judicial proceeding.” Mandel’s letter makes a solid case that far from being an independent investigator, the tribunal has conducted itself “as if it were an organ of NATO and not the United Nations.”

Alexander Cockburn and Jeff St. Clair, Counterpunch May 22, 2000

When I broke ranks with Fidel Castro in 2011 and chose to back the Libyan rebels, a lot of my old pals wrote me wondering why I was turning into the new Christopher Hitchens. After all, wasn’t I the guy who wrote all those articles attacking NATO’s war in the Balkans? I suppose I was. And I wouldn’t take back a word I wrote. One of the things that really struck in my craw back then was the way that people like Carla del Ponte were using the Hague to persecute Slobodan Milosevic, a politician who was demonized by people like Christopher Hitchens. History will record, however, that Milosevic stepped down after he lost an election in Serbia, something that did not assuage the opposition. They used violence after the elections to cement their rule. Meanwhile, Bashar al-Assad, who won 97 percent of the vote in the last “election” in Syria, uses MIG fighters against poor people simply demanding the right for true democracy. I haven’t changed. It is the rest of the left that now has the gall to cite del Ponte as a trustworthy expert that has changed.

Carla Del Ponte

It is not just Tripathi who takes Carla del Ponte seriously. You also have the spectacle of Marjorie Cohn, a past president of the National Lawyers Guild, and Jeanne Mirer, Co-Chair of the NLG’s International Committee, telling ZNet readers: “Indeed, in May, Carla del Ponte, former international prosecutor and current UN commissioner on Syria, concluded that opposition forces used sarin gas against civilians.” I understand that lawyers are trained to defend people in court even when they are guilty but this is ridiculous.

In 2002 Cohn wrote an article for http://jurist.law.pitt.edu on the deportation of Milosevic that began:

The deportation of former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia was a direct result of blackmail by the United States. Desperate to rebuild its economy, the Serbian government capitulated to U.S. threats: deliver Milosevic to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, or the U.S. would see to it that Yugoslavia didn’t get the foreign aid it critically needs.

Del Ponte became chief prosecutor in the following year at the International Criminal Tribunal, a body that broke laws in the name of enforcing international law. Del Ponte was so zealous in satisfying the policy needs of the nations that wanted to destroy Yugoslavia that she eventually came under investigation for prosecutorial misconduct as the Guardian reported on August 18, 2010:

Carla Del Ponte investigated over illegal evidence

Former war crimes prosecutor accused of allowing bullying and bribing of witnesses in trial of alleged Serbian warlord Vojislav Seselj

Carla Del Ponte, the former war crimes prosecutor who put Balkan warlords and political leaders behind bars, is to be investigated over claims she allowed the use of bullying and bribing of witnesses, or tainted evidence.

Judges at the UN war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague today ordered an independent inquiry into the practices of Del Ponte and two prominent serving prosecutors, Hildegard Ürtz-Retzlaff and Daniel Saxon, after complaints from witnesses that they had been harassed, paid, mistreated and their evidence tampered with.

It is the first time in the tribunal’s 17 years in operation that top prosecutors have faced potential contempt of court rulings.

During her eight years as chief prosecutor, Del Ponte, a determined Swiss investigator now serving as her country’s ambassador to Argentina, was a combative and divisive figure. She left her post in 2007.

The allegations against her concern the working practices of her team of investigators in the ongoing prosecution for war crimes of the Serbian politician, Vojislav Seselj, a notorious warlord.

“Some of the witnesses had referred to pressure and intimidation to which they were subjected by investigators for the prosecution,” said a statement from the judge in the Seselj case. “The prosecution allegedly obtained statements illegally, by threatening, intimidating and/or buying [witnesses] off.”

One Serbian witness said he was offered a well-paid job in the US in return for testimony favourable to the prosecution.

And now this is the person that the former president of the National Lawyers Guild asks us to believe when it comes to the origins of chemical warfare in Syria? Really?

Not long after del Ponte raised these charges about the rebels using chemical weapons, blogger Clay Claiborne conducted a thorough examination. He points out something that never gets mentioned by all those who raise Carla del Ponte’s findings as proof that the rebels are likely behind the massacre in East Ghouta, namely that the UN, in whose name she spoke, ultimately repudiated her charges:

The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic wishes to clarify that it has not reached conclusive findings as to the use of chemical weapons in Syria by any parties to the conflict. As a result, the Commission is not in a position to further comment on the allegations at this time.

Well, who would want to mention that when you are busy defending Bashar al-Assad. That messy detail would only get in the way of your political goals. What does it matter if the truth gets impaled on the sword of political exigency? We are trying to fight imperialism, after all.

As it turns out, del Ponte’s accusation was tied apparently to an incident at Khan al-Asal that, like East Ghoutia, had the Syrian dictatorship raising the same sorts of accusations. And, most interestingly, it turns out that del Ponte and a Russian documentary filmmaker named Anastasia Popova working in Khan al-Asal at the time of the attack and looking to promote the Putin policy agenda in Syria, met not long after the incident. Guess what, the two saw eye to eye, as Popova stated:

I was surprised to receive a letter from Carla del Ponte said she had watched my documentary and is interested in further cooperation. In my opinion, it was a very useful meeting and I hope to see positive results soon.

I suppose none of this matters to the “anti-imperialist” left. Didn’t Lenin write once that you had to lie in trade unions controlled by rightwing bureaucrats or something like that? Who cares if you look like Judith Miller when you string together a bunch of bullshit? We have a big job on our hands in defending Bashar al-Assad. If the Communist Party could have done the job in 1938 of making Leon Trotsky look like a Nazi agent, then surely the “anti-imperialist” left can make Bashar al-Assad look like an innocent victim of a conspiracy between Barack Obama and al-Qaeda.

Just leave me out.


  1. It’s a slander to tar the “anti-imperialist left” with the brush of actually supporting Assad’s regime. Your position is what you often deride, namely, to put a plus where the other side puts a minus, and a minus where it puts a plus. So, by uncritically supporting the rebels in Syria, Libya, or wherever, and criticizing the imperialists for not doing more to back the Syrian rebels militarily, you end up in the camp of the imperialists. That’s a pretty bizarre position for a leftist to take, one from weakness because nobody on the left has the wherewithal to do anything more than blog about what should be done. You seem to see a black and white, good vs. bad framework to what is going on in Syria, but that is simplistic, to say the least. As is your assertion that the rebels are merely “poor people simply demanding the right for true democracy.” Where is the class analysis in this characterization? You act like you know for a fact who used chem weapons in Syria, but the facts are not yet clear, despite all the speculation on all sides. Haaretz reports former Bush administration official Lawrence Wilkerson as suggesting that Israel did it as a “false flag”:


    I don’t claim to have a pipeline to the Truth (neither do you), but as a member of the “anti-imperialist left” who would be happy to see Assad overthrown by his people, not by imperialist attack, I see your Manichaean approach as the mirror reflection of the position of the Stalinists you excoriate.

    So, now some on the “pro-imperialist left” find themselves to the right of the British Tories? Shameful.

    Comment by David Thorstad — August 31, 2013 @ 6:56 pm

  2. It’s a slander to tar the “anti-imperialist left” with the brush of actually supporting Assad’s regime.

    Well, nobody actually “supports” Assad, not even the PSL. It is all lip service, like Obama saying that he supports working families.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 31, 2013 @ 8:25 pm

  3. “If the Communist Party could have done the job in 1938 of making Leon Trotsky look like a Nazi agent,…”

    Seventy-five years ago this year! Seventy-five years of connecting every event of in world politics to “Stalinism.”

    Comment by Aunt Josephine — August 31, 2013 @ 8:56 pm

  4. I’m glad that “Aunt Josephine” made this point. The people pimping for Bashar today differ from the CP in one important respect. The CP’ers could at least be forgiven for trying in their own mistaken way to solidarize with a society that had broken with capitalism. But anybody on the left today that can apply the same energy on behalf of Baathists following an IMF game plan is mind-blowing. Farce following tragedy, I guess.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 31, 2013 @ 9:06 pm

  5. The idea is simple: “Admission against interests”. del Ponte was once a trusted servant of the West. Now, for whatever reason, she has decide to turn against her masters. She has also written about the criminality of the Kosovar mafia put in power by the NATO aggression. Do you disbelieve her there, Louis? If a member of the elite goes against the expected narrative, it may not be the truth, but it’s certainly time to listen. Besides, she has become a non-person in the acceptable media as far as Syria is concerned. That should certainly add to her credibility among people trying to figure out Syria.

    Comment by George Stecyk — September 1, 2013 @ 12:13 am

  6. del Ponte was once a trusted servant of the West. Now, for whatever reason, she has decide to turn against her masters.

    So in the great chess game, she is playing white instead of black. Big fucking deal. The Syrian people are not pawns.

    Comment by louisproyect — September 1, 2013 @ 2:40 am

  7. I am completely, fully, wholly and wholeheartedly with the anti-imperialist left against the imperialist U.S. attack on Syria. I will rather die than be on the same side of the U.S. warmongers and hegemonists.

    Comment by Bankotsu — September 1, 2013 @ 3:31 am

  8. #7: And the relationship of the profession of the purity of your soul to Carla del Ponte’s prosecutorial misdeeds and lies is what exactly?

    Comment by louisproyect — September 1, 2013 @ 3:36 am

  9. I comment on several recent posts from this blog here: http://trotskyschildren.blogspot.com/2013/09/potpourri.html

    Comment by Dan King — September 1, 2013 @ 11:24 am

  10. You still maintain that there was no “ethnic cleansing” by Milosevic and the Bosnian Serbs and that the massacre at Srebrenica was a hoax?

    Comment by Sue Sponte — September 1, 2013 @ 4:44 pm

  11. It’s a relief to hear that Louis is against the bloody terror attack planned by Obama and while his reasoning abilities on the Syria question are suspect his humanity seems intact. The world was a much less complicated place for Leftists just 30yrs ago when a Manichean choice was possible when looking at the Communist insurrections in Central America. Today we face a multipolar world or at least multiple actors with multiple agendas especially in the MENA countries.

    It is very difficult for Leftists or anyone for that matter to walk a line that doesn’t appear to support tyrants while confronting Amerikan Imperialism.

    Comment by PeteM — September 1, 2013 @ 6:26 pm

  12. […] course, our intrepid reporters give a nod to Carla del Ponte, who I have already identified as about as trustworthy as Donald Rumsfeld. That they can end their article with a reference to her […]

    Pingback by Were Saudis and careless rebels responsible for the East Ghouta deaths? | Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist — September 1, 2013 @ 6:37 pm

  13. Is the “anti-imperialist left” and the jihadis of Benghazi an “unprincipled combination”?

    Is it “Islamophobia” to note the Syrian contras’ beheading of Christian bishops and eviscerating and eating of opponents on YouTube?

    So the Syrian regime, lately winning the war, launched a major chem weapons attack kilometers from the hotel of the UN inspectors, knowing it would bring the West down on it?

    Comment by gantonius — September 1, 2013 @ 7:17 pm

  14. […] course, our intrepid reporters give a nod to Carla del Ponte, who I have already identified as about as trustworthy as Donald Rumsfeld. That they can end their article with a reference to her […]

    Pingback by Were Saudis and careless rebels responsible for the East Ghouta deaths? | Bargad... बरगद... — September 1, 2013 @ 10:29 pm

  15. #11 I missed the part where LP states he is against the terror attack planned by Obama.

    Comment by Stuart Newman — September 4, 2013 @ 1:23 am

  16. Stuart, are you still reading my blog? You really need to get a life. In terms of Obama’s attack, I have the same position as Gilbert Achcar:


    Comment by louisproyect — September 4, 2013 @ 1:45 am

  17. gantonius: Yes its Islamophobic to claim that that man who’s sister was raped & killed who appeared on the video taking a bite out of an Assad loyalist’s heart did it because of Islam or to claim that he’s an Islamist or even a Muslim without any evidence but the fact that he did something apprehensive. And btw why would the US nuke Hiroshima and Nagasaki when it was winning the war?

    Comment by Michael T — September 7, 2013 @ 5:09 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: