Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

May 5, 2017


Filed under: Syria — louisproyect @ 5:44 pm

Translated By: Yaaser ElZayyar

(Red Youth)(Red Youth)


In memory of Michel Seurat, our martyr.

I was in Istanbul for about ten days when I met a Turkish communist who explained to me that what was going on in Syria was nothing but an imperialist conspiracy against a progressive, anti-imperialist regime. The Turkish comrade’s talk contained no novel information or analytical spark that could suggest something useful about my country, and everything I tried to say seemed utterly useless. I was the Syrian who left his country for the first time at the age of fifty-two, only to be lectured about what was really happening there from someone who has probably only visited Syria a few times, if at all.

Incidents like this are repeated over and over in both the real and virtual worlds: a German, a Brit, or an American activist would argue with a Syrian over what is really happening in Syria. It looks like they know more about the cause than Syrians themselves. We are denied “epistemological agency,” that is, our competence in providing the most informed facts and nuanced analysis about our country. Either there is no value to what we say, or we are confined to lesser domains of knowledge, turned into mere sources for quotations that a Western journalist or scholar can add to the knowledge he produces. They may accept us as sources of some basic information, and may refer to something we, natives, said in order to sound authentic, but rarely do they draw on our analysis. This hierarchy of knowledge is very widespread and remains under-criticized in the West.

There are articles, research papers, and books written by Westerner academics and journalists about Syria that do not refer to a single Syrian source–especially one that is opposed to the Assad regime. Syria seems to be an open book of a country; anyone with a passing interest knows the truth about it. They particularly know more than dissidents, whom they often call into question, practically continuing the negation of their existence which is already their fate in their homeland. Consequently, we are denied political agency in such a way that builds on the work of the Assad regime, which has, for two entire generations, stripped usof any political or intellectual merit in our own country. We are no longer relevant for our own cause. This standpoint applies to the global anti-imperialist left, to mainstream western-centrists, and of course to the right-wing.

The Western mainstream approaches Syria (and the Middle East) through one of three discourses: a geopolitical discourse, which focuses on Israeli security and prioritizes stability; a culturalist or civilizationalist discourse, which basically revolves around Islam, Islamists, Islamic terrorism and minority rights; and a human-rights discourse, which addresses Syrians as mere victims (detainees, torture victims, refugees, food needs, health services, etc.), entirely overlooking the political and social dimensions of our struggles. These three discourses have one thing in common: they are depopulated (Kelly Grotke), devoid of people, individuals, or groups. They are devoid of a sense of social life, of what people live and dream.

The first two discourses, the geopolitical and the culturalist, are shared by the Western right as well.

But what about the left? The central element in the definition of the anti-imperial left is imperialism and, of course, combatting it. Imperialist power is thought of as something that exists in large amounts in America and Europe. Elsewhere it is either nonexistent or present only in small amounts. In internationalist struggles, the most important cause is fighting against western imperialism. Secondary conflicts, negligible cause and vague local struggles should not be a source of distraction. This depopulated discourse, which has nothing to do with people’s lived experiences, and which demonstrates no need for knowledge about Syrians, has considered it unimportant to know more about the history of their local struggles.

The Palestinian cause, which was only discovered by most anti-imperialists during the 1990s, has paradoxically played a role in their hostility towards the Syrian cause. From their far-off, transcendent position in the imperialist metropoles, they have the general impression that Syria is against Israel, which occupies Syrian territory. Thus, if Syria is with Palestine and against Israel, it is against imperialism. At the end of the day, these comrades are with the Assadists, because Syria has been under the Assad family rule for nearly half a century. Roughly speaking, this is the core of the political line of thinking which can be called ivory-tower anti-imperialism. That Syrians have been subject to extreme Palestinization by a brutal, internal Israel, and that they are susceptible to political and physical annihilation, just like Palestinians, in fact lies outside the clueless, tasteless geopolitical approach of those detached anti-imperialists, who ignorantly bracket off politics, economics, culture, the social reality of the masses and the actual history of Syria.

This way of linking our conflict to one major global struggle, which is supposedly the only real one in the world, denies the autonomy of any other social and political struggle taking place in the world. Anti-imperialists, especially those living in the allegedly imperialist metropoles, are most qualified to tell the truth about all struggles. Those who are directly involved in this or that struggle hardly know what’s really going on – their knowledge is partial, “non-scientific”, if not outright reactionary.

During the Cold War, orthodox communists knew the real interests of the masses, as well as the ultimate course of history. This was sufficient reason for a communist worldview to be always in the right, without fail. But this position, which looks down on history, has placed itself in an overly exalted position with relation to the masses and their actual lives, and in relation to social and political battles on the ground. In fact, this position can be accurately described as imperialist: it expands at the expense of other conflicts, appropriates them for itself and shows little interest in listening to those involved or in learning anything about them. The distinguishing feature of most Western anti-imperialists is that they have nothing but vague impressions about the history of our country; they cannot possibly know anything about its potential adherence to –or noncompliance with– “the course of history.” This makes their meddling in our affairs an imperialist intervention in every sense of the word: interference from above; depriving us of the agency and capacity to represent our own cause; enacting a power relation in which we occupy the position of the weak who do not matter; and finally the complete absence of a sense of comradeship, solidarity, and partnership.

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  1. Almost every word said here by Yassin Al-Haj Saleh about the western leftists’ relation with Syrian left’s contributions and analyses, which should be the primary information sought and considered, can be repeated for the relation between a lot of people in the western left and the Iranian left’s contributions and analyses.

    The only difference is that, in the case of Iran, there are some of our own brothers posing as white ‘leftist’ ‘anti-imperialist’ members of the American left who are too happy to have private conference with Ahmadi-nejad, when, in his good old days, he used to attend annual U.N. gatherings, to be saluted and cheered and toasted by western peace activists like the Code Pink, at private parties organized by the said Iranian brothers posing as anti-war activists, when in reality just lobbying on behalf of Iranian theocracy; people like CASMII (you can Google them) or the assorted ‘Iranian-American’ this or that ‘Association’ who regularly get invited to Democracy Now, or get quoted by RT.

    At least the Syrian brothers and sisters don’t have snitches and khaa’en (backstabbers), like we do in the Iranian diaspora. Which makes things more complicated for us; and by just that many inches easier for the Syrian revolutionaries. Count your blessings!

    Comment by Reza — May 5, 2017 @ 10:04 pm

  2. Thank you Louis for posting this and great thanks to Yassin for writing it. As a Westerner and traveler to the Middle East since the late 1980s, it hits home with a blow to the gut. Essential reading and brilliant theorizing.

    Rich Wood, Port Townsend, WA

    On Friday, May 5, 2017, Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist wrote:

    > louisproyect posted: ” Posted on May 5, 2017 Yassin Al-Haj SalehTranslated > By: Yaaser ElZayyar (Red Youth) In memory of Michel Seurat, our martyr. I > was in Istanbul for about ten days when I met a Turkish communist who > explained to me that what was going on in Syr” >

    Comment by Richard Wood — May 7, 2017 @ 2:36 pm

  3. Dear Reza,
    Khameni and Ahmadinejad might have commited crimes against the Iranian people. But in the disputes that raged between the US governements over money, the support of Hezbollah and Hamas, and Irans nuclear program, Iran has been 110% in the right and the USA 125% in the wrong. These percentages are not something that I can overlook. There vor I imagine that many people who consider themselves western leftist choose not to overlook them either. Furthermore if the Iranian people do not want to support resistance to Israel I would gladly enslave them myself, just the same as I would enslave any Ukrainians that think that they should belong to the EU and NATO. The people of any counrty should not be allowed to do bad things just because a majority of the people of the country support it.
    Yet for leftist in the west to bitch to each other about who are the worst imperialists in the world is really just a game of backgammon in a livingroom on Easter Island. The left is so impotent it can not even influence the working class in the vast majority of the world’s countries anymore. When the left takes power in Iran they will get evem more moral support from the western leftists in thier struggles against the USA and NATO than the Islamic Republic gets now. But until that day when the Iranian left takes over it would be totally inappropriate for western leftists to give them any more support than to say good luck. I know that saying good luck actually does not help at all so I do not even bother to say that. I would think that it would be clear that if an Iranian wanted to change what was going on in Iran he needs to be writing or speaking to a predominately Iranian audiance. If I am not mistaken in the US judicial system when there is even an appearance of a conflict of interest a judge is suppossed to remove himself from the case. When it comes to American and the middle east in general and Iran in particular there is clearly the appearance of a conflct of interest. There four Americans should remove themselves from the middle east, except as tourists, and as long distance givers of advice, which would clearly prohibit being military trainers or advisors. (period)

    Comment by Curt Kastens — May 7, 2017 @ 9:50 pm

  4. That this abstract and vacuous article provides not one concrete example or individual to prove any of the arguments kind of reminds me of the rhetoric of Ann Coulter–a victim of an unnamed conspiracy. In fact, SJPs, like the one that denied Rania Khalek a platform in Chapel Hill, have succumbed to the diffuse, opaque logic demonstrated in this crappy little pseudo-intellectual screed, with its telltale reference to “agency.” Among other things, serious and effective pro-Palestinian activism has been undermined by this wretched line of pro “rebel” thinking. But thanks, Louis, for proving that there is no writing along these lines crass enough for you not to disseminate.

    Comment by David Green — May 7, 2017 @ 10:36 pm

  5. Fifty years after his death, people will still be learning from Yassin al-Haj Saleh’s writings. Five minutes after Green’s death, nobody would waste their time pissing on his grave.

    Comment by louisproyect — May 7, 2017 @ 10:41 pm

  6. ‘with its telltale reference to “agency.”’

    Indeed! Imagine such egregiousness!

    Thank you Mr Green for explicating your true face. That’s right. That dreaded word ‘agency’. What nerve! Yeah, how dare we backward niggers from the barbaric third world dare mention the concept, let alone claim do have brains, intelligence and awareness, particularly of our societies, just as you have knowledge of your society!

    Man, us uppity backward-ass monkeys should just be happy to have a ‘strong man’ putting us in our place.

    David, listen: “Baby, you should go and love yourself,” as the great contemporary poet, The Bieb, put it.

    Comment by Reza — May 7, 2017 @ 10:56 pm

  7. Since Green’s comment was so repulsive, I took 5 minutes to see who this jerk was. It turns out he ran for Congress as a fucking Democrat. This is a liberal knucklehead who is devoted to Assad. But then again, you can say the same thing about Tulsi Gabbard, Dennis Kucinich and most of the liberal press.

    Comment by louisproyect — May 7, 2017 @ 11:01 pm

  8. A relevant comment from the Angry Arab blog: “The meaning of irony: Yassin Hajj Saleh attacks Noam Chomsky in a paper owned by a Saudi prince. This is a classic in the history of ironies if there is one. Yassin Hajj Saleh (who was identified comically in The Intercept as “a leftist” although he makes clear in Arabic that he is not a leftist and he denounces leftists and leftism and here mentions the “loss of confidence” in socialism and communism) attacks Noam Chomsky. He says that he has “nothing of value” about Syria and that he is too concerned about the US and its crimes (he does not use the word “crime”, I do), and that he is too engaged against the US and its policies in the world. He believes that there are many crimes of which the US is not responsible and even talks about the “independence” (he uses that word specifically) of Israel in its wars from the US (i.e. the US is innocent or blameless in Israeli wars and massacres). He even questions the validity of the concept of imperialism. All this was published in the mouthpiece of Prince Khalid bin Sultan, Al-Hayat. As you know, Prince Khalid bin Sultan is the guru or idol of Arab liberals.”

    Comment by David Green — May 7, 2017 @ 11:37 pm

  9. “The meaning of irony: Yassin Hajj Saleh attacks Noam Chomsky in a paper owned by a Saudi prince.

    Green, you have to learn something about Marxism before making such clumsy interventions. Karl Marx wrote for the NY Herald and Trotsky wrote for any number of bourgeois newspapers. But then again, for all I know you are as hostile to them as you are to Saleh. In fact, I don’t get any sense from your posts that you have any familiarity with Marxist literature.

    Comment by louisproyect — May 7, 2017 @ 11:45 pm

  10. Again, Louis, this is just a virtually incoherent grad student word salad that has nothing to do with Marxist analysis, and wouldn’t pass muster as a POMO lit crit dissertation proposal. I realize it’s translated, but there isn’t a google translator on earth that could make any sense of this. He’s a vacuous self-promoter and a self-involved crackpot, and it is ironic that he attacks Chomsky, who speaks simply and coherently, and with humility, as always.

    Comment by David Green — May 8, 2017 @ 1:46 am

  11. How would you know what a Marxist analysis is? You certainly didn’t use any of it when you ran for Congress in the Democratic Party primary.

    Comment by louisproyect — May 8, 2017 @ 11:27 am

  12. This way of linking our conflict to one major global struggle, which is supposedly the only real one in the world, denies the autonomy of any other social and political struggle taking place in the world. Anti-imperialists, especially those living in the allegedly imperialist metropoles, are most qualified to tell the truth about all struggles. Those who are directly involved in this or that struggle hardly know what’s really going on – their knowledge is partial, “non-scientific”, if not outright reactionary.

    This is clear enough and makes a case to answer. I suspect it’s this clarity, not the idiom of what is after all a translation, that repels David Green, whose responses here are as self-involved, irrational, tangential, and incoherent as it is possible to be. “[A]bstract and vacuous . . . crackpot” indeed. He certainly is evading the main point of the discussion.

    And what’s with this utterly irrelevant “grad student” obsession of Green’s? Do we have in Green’s case yet another tragic instance of dissertation interruptus? A “social policy analyst” without portfolio, temporarily haunting the corridors of some third-rate American university? It wouldn’t matter if there was even the germ of actual analysis in his responses here.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — May 8, 2017 @ 11:48 am

  13. FK, I like that “allegedly imperialist metropoles”, as if there’s any doubt about the existence of a country conducting what Chomsky calls the greatest terror campaign in history, directed primarily at the region to which Syria is central. This is evasiveness taken to a higher level.

    Comment by David Green — May 8, 2017 @ 3:37 pm

  14. Louis, I’m certainly not the authority on Marx that you are; nevertheless, I actually incorporated a Marxist analysis into my campaign in the Democratic Primary for U. S. Congress in 2014. What follows are comments I made at the local yearly banquet in October 2013, not that I care in the least about approval from someone of your low character and tactics:

    My campaign invokes FDR’s New Deal and the Occupy movement of the 99%; it is rooted in the idea that the idleness of those who want to work is needless and to nobody’s benefit, that we are a rich country that must choose not to have poor people and especially poor children, that there is enough for everyone, and that it is the right of everyone to have enough. It is a campaign of analysis, ideas, compassion, and vision.
    My campaign is also in opposition to U.S.-driven predatory global capitalism and the immoral wars needed to maintain an unjust and class-driven system of radical inequality, increased poverty, and species-threatening climate change, all while recklessly flirting with the threat of nuclear war.
    My experience in grassroots politics is as an antiwar activist and an activist for peace with justice in Israel and Palestine. I have a public record of taking firm stands on vital issues of global importance, including active and vocal opposition to our immoral wars in Afghanistan and Iraq from prior to their inceptions. My published record on both foreign and domestic topics is extensive, comprehensive, and clear.
    I support single-payer universal healthcare or Medicare for All, which will save hundreds of billions of dollars and achieve better outcomes. Our current healthcare system is killing our economy and many citizens, and will continue to do so under the ACA.
    I support the federal government funding a job for everyone who wants one; that is, the creation of at least 10 million living wage jobs by ongoing federal spending at federal, state, and local levels—in infrastructure, transportation, connectivity, conservation, and education, including free pre-schools and daycare centers. I support increased taxes on the wealthy to help pay for these programs. They can also be paid for by healthcare savings and cuts in military spending.
    In this light, it must be said that tax incentives for small businesses are a trivial, unproven, and often abused way of creating good jobs. Both small and large businesses need a growing, living wage economy that can only be the result of demand created by federally-funded jobs programs.
    The poverty level in the world’s richest country is outrageous. It can and should be eliminated by a dramatic increase in the minimum wage and other programmatic safety net measures. The middle class has always been in fact a vulnerable working class. Workers need unions and legislative protections for joining them and asserting their rights.
    The notion of an educational “skills gap” among our workforce is unproved and unfounded. Millions of workers did not suddenly lose their skills in 2008. It is not the educational system that has failed the job market; corporate profiteers have failed American working families.
    I support justice for all, including Wall Street bankers and other criminals among the 1%.
    The African American community rightly perceives that the drug war has engendered a New Jim Crow, decimated their communities, and is indeed a racist war against black males largely engaged in victimless crimes. I advocate ending the drug war and other policies related to mass incarceration, which make our prison population the largest in the world, and an international shame. Drug use should in general be seen as a public health problem, not a criminal justice problem.
    I support an absolute ban on fracking. We need to move decisively toward a post-carbon economy without destroying the earth and its inhabitants of all kinds any more than we already have.
    I want to end American state-sponsored violence around the world; to bring our troops home, to dismantle our empire of bases; to stop intimidating democratically elected leaders in Iran and Latin America; and to stop supporting and funding Israeli apartheid.
    Regarding whistleblowers and the surveillance state, I support the former and oppose the latter. Our government’s tactics put the lie to the notion that they are fighting to defend our freedoms.
    I oppose trade treaties like NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership that have devastated American and foreign workers for decades. We need fair trade and a fairly valued dollar, which is now set artificially high, leading to an unnecessary trade deficit and costing millions of American jobs.
    In conclusion, if the name of this party is to be taken seriously, let an informed citizenry decide which among us has accuracy and fairness, as well as compassion and vision, on our side. I challenge my opponents to engage in frequent debates with me all around our district in the coming months.

    Comment by David Green — May 8, 2017 @ 3:51 pm

  15. David, I hate to break the news to you but you are a left-liberal. Your politics are found in CommonDreams, Alternet, Mother Jones and The Nation any day of the week. Frankly, I have no idea why you are bothering to comment here since our differences are profound. I would not bothering writing comments on Alternet myself even though the crap that is published there sticks in my craw. Maybe you should think more deeply about why you intervene here.

    Comment by louisproyect — May 8, 2017 @ 4:01 pm

  16. Louis, I am no left-liberal, but you certainly are a piece of arrogant Marxist sectarian shit.

    Comment by David Green — May 8, 2017 @ 4:42 pm

  17. I challenge my opponents …

    As far as the Internet and his own Facebook page know, David Green and his congressional campaign have been a dead letter since 2014. Curious, this use of the present tense. But perhaps his own mind is the only constituency Green requires at this point in time.

    However you explain it, the man is clearly unable or unwilling to address the issue of how the bloodthirsty mass-murderers Assad and Putin have suddenly metamorphosed into champions of anti-imperialism, beloved of the red-brown forces (and a few confused left-liberals) worldwide. In any case, it’s clear that all Green can do is snipe at incidental turns of phrase in a translation from Arabic.

    The main points of the article Louis posted are quite clear. Either Comrade Green is mentally incapable of grasping this obvious truth or he is too dishonest to address the real issues. His contention that this article makes no sense is transparently false, and his arguments, such as they are, are a mere farrago of misdirection and irrelevancy.

    What Green might or might not have said about NAFTA three years ago (or last week for that matter) is strictly beside the point.

    But why break a butterfly on the wheel? The longer this goes on, the more likely it seems that nobody has listened to anything this man has had to say for a rather long time. If that’s so, he may amount to nothing more or less than another victim of the political isolation and impotence visited on so many in America during the Age of Trump.

    At least the prematurely senile Ted Postol has his Syrian Girl. Who, one wonders, does David Green have?

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — May 8, 2017 @ 6:45 pm

  18. This comment is based on an interview with Max Blumenthal (conducted by Rania Khalek).

    Sample: Blumenthal: 29:15 – “After I wrote about the White Helmets, the Syrian sort-of civil defense group that also functions as a public relations arm for the Syrian opposition, works with PR firms to advance western military intervention in Syria and is really one of the most sophisticated propaganda scams I’ve ever seen to push a kind of humanitarian intervention that would be disastrous (…)”

    1:06:00 – “So what do you do? You goad Trump into bombing a Russian ally? It’s an extremely dangerous narrative that can only lead to more military intervention and a more rightwing Democratic Party where Hillary Clinton is a welcomed member of the resistance (…)”

    I’m not a fan of attributing positions and beliefs to someone based on what they don’t say, especially after seeing many discussions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (and that’s being polite – a better term would be Zionist-native). Still, I have to wonder how it’s possible to spend 80 minutes talking about how you oppose “humanitarian intervention” in Syria and imperialist meddling of all kinds while not mentioning the USAF has been bombing there since late Sept. 2014, 2.5 years now.

    And that apart from two incidents striking SAA, one of which was supposedly an accident, the targets have only ever been Islamist militia Khalek and Blumenthal believe the US and friends have sponsored for a “covert imperial proxy war aimed to split Syria into several pieces and slowly grind down the govt.” (22:35-24:30) Not to mention US ground troops are part of dislodging ISIS in Iraq. Considering their analysis completely ignores a major part of the situation on the ground, it’s easy to see where Yassin al-Haj Saleh is coming from with, “The anti-imperialists do not seem to object to this war, however, as much as they did when the Obama administration considered punishing Bashar al-Assad for violating the red line (…)”

    Comment by andrew r — May 9, 2017 @ 6:21 pm

  19. @ andrew r:

    1. In your view who have been the major actors in the Middle East since 1979, or 1991, or 2001: a. the U.S., Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, and Israel; b. Russia, Iran, Syria, Lebanon (Hizbollah), (Baathist) Iraq, Palestinians; c. ISIS; d. Max Blumenthal and Rania Khalek; or e. other (please specify) ?

    2. Referring to Saleh’s article, please provide me with one example he provides in which an actual human “leftist” is proved to have had thoughts that translated into words and actions (i.e., agency) that influenced in even a minimal way any of the state or non-state actors referred to above.

    3. Compare and contrast: U.S. and Russian involvement in the Middle East since the fall of the Soviet Union.

    4. Bonus question: What is the U.S. contribution, if any, towards the events that have led to the famine in Yemen?

    Comment by David Green — May 10, 2017 @ 1:41 pm

  20. I would hate to be Green’s student.

    His whole smug academic tone is a good indication of why academics such as Green like to do ‘policy analysis’ and are keen to exhibit disproportionate (compared to their actual ability) desires for political power. They just have to ‘prove’ themselves to their students who hate their guts.

    OK, David, here’s some more Bieb lines for you to ‘compare and contrast’:

    “For all the times that you rain on [marxists’] parade
    And all the clubs you get in using [a leftist game]”

    Don’t forget the evidence of things that you have done,
    to see why:
    “My mama don’t like you, and she likes everyone.”

    So, here’s the bonus points for you to chew on:
    “if you like the way you look that much
    Oh baby you should go and love yourself.”

    Comment by Reza — May 10, 2017 @ 5:01 pm

  21. David, I’ll humor you, then make my point:

    1. All of the listed actors in (a), (b) and (c). Why the hell did you put Iran and Iraq in the same camp when they fought an eight-year war?

    2. Saleh’s point is that leftists are never going to be relevant unless they get knowledgeable about the internal workings of the societies in the ME countries instead of speaking about them as passive objects of outsider meddling.

    3. I haven’t forgotten the US invaded Iraq in 2003, because that’s most likely what you’re alluding to.

    4. Or that Saudi buys the fighter jets it bombs Yemen with from the US.

    So my point is, why is it so hard to accept that Assad is the primary actor in the destruction of Syria? It’s really this simple – Syria experienced no conventional military invasion like Iraq. If the events there were all down to a proxy war initiated by (*deep breath*) the US, Saudi, Turkey, Qatar, Israel and maybe Jordan, that would explain terrorist attacks but not the govt. losing whole swathes of territory. It would mean Assad is so incompetent he allowed foreign fighters to infiltrate his country and accomplish what would normally take a blitzkrieg. That seems to undermine the whole reason he has any supporters at all, that he defends Syria from imperialism.

    That and until we start mentioning the US is bombing Syria all the same, we’re not going to have an intelligent discussion about its present-day role in the region so much as cutting-and-pasting a “regime change” analysis that clearly doesn’t work in this case. The most convincing analyses of the US role in Syria I’ve seen point to its pre-2014 intervention being aimed at keeping the armed opposition to Assad unable to decisively win.

    Comment by andrew r — May 10, 2017 @ 10:03 pm

  22. P.S. The question in #1 was rhetorical because obviously you grouped (b) according to how they’ve been targets of US imperialism.

    Comment by andrew r — May 10, 2017 @ 10:14 pm

  23. andrew, the “armed opposition” was armed by whom?

    Comment by David Green — May 11, 2017 @ 3:36 am

  24. David, if you’re trying to say there would have been no civil war in Syria whatsoever without US (and friends’) involvement, can you just make the point? Or tell me if you’re getting at something else? I’m not going to keep humoring your probing questions without some kind of high concept to hang them on.

    Comment by andrew r — May 11, 2017 @ 5:30 am

  25. Andrew, you seem to deny that the civil war has become a proxy war. For me, the only question is when and how it became a proxy war, and who is involved in that proxy war.

    Beyond that, I’m still waiting for a concrete example from Saleh’s article, beyond his references to Fisk/Cockburn/Hersh, of somebody on the left has engaged in a thought crime and related behavior that somehow has influenced either events in the region, or influenced the reactions of western governments to events in the region. At bottom, I question whether the role of the left in the conflict is a thing, or even should be a thing, other than the left encouraging both military disengagement and diplomatic efforts.

    But Andrew, I do give you credit for not being a complete lunatic, as far as I can tell.

    Comment by David Green — May 11, 2017 @ 4:03 pm

  26. Re Green as “academic.” The main website for the weirdly named Center for Prevention Research and Development (CPRD) at U. Illinois where G. is supposed to work (and what the hell is that when it’s at home anyway) doesn’t list Green under Staff at all. Somewhere in the mesenteric coils of the U. of Illinois main website, Green does appear, with a photo displaying a charmless smirk of self-satisfaction, as a Research Analyst for the CPRD, He apparently does (or did) a bit of “research” and carries/carried out “miscellaneous duties.” There’s no indication of faculty rank or any teaching duties at all.

    Who knows what this really means? It certainly doesn’t appear to equal “academic” status as the term is usually understood.

    A) As a much-abused veteran of the gig economy, I can’t throw stones at Green for whatever wangle he pulled in getting to be whatever he actually is in whatever the hell that thing he claims to work for is.

    But B) There’s no indication–as little glory as that would entail–that he is what we would ordinarily think of as an “academic.” He does seem to be trying to give the impression of being an academic–which makes me very suspicious of his qualifications as an authority on anything..

    The real problem with this asshole–credentials aside–is that every single thing he’s posted here is tangential or irrelevant to the main point of the discussion.

    The assault on the alleged “graduate student” mentality of Saleh is profoundly stupid I really don’t think Green understands the point. I get the impression that he is paranoid and perhaps a bit delusional–hence the phony Socratic pose of always “raising questions”–the classic conspiracy-theorist ploy, designed to cover up the fact that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

    When Green does make an actual statement, it’s a tissue of badly-written irrelevancies about a political campaign that ended three years ago, but which he refers to in the present tense. The snide tone–especially given Green’s own limited ability as a writer– is just plain goofy.

    There’s nothing to be salvaged here. One presumes that if there were, Green’s masters at U. of Illinois and in the Democratic Party would take away his cap and bells.

    More proof, if proof were needed, that no help will ever be found for working people in the Democratic Party. Where did they dig this guy up?

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — May 11, 2017 @ 4:06 pm

  27. “Beyond that, I’m still waiting for a concrete example from Saleh’s article, beyond his references to Fisk/Cockburn/Hersh, of somebody on the left has engaged in a thought crime and related behavior that somehow has influenced either events in the region, or influenced the reactions of western governments to events in the region.”

    Clearly, you haven’t been reading the garbage by Khalek, Norton, Blumenthal, Beeley and a thousand others smearing the White Helmets as al-Nusra. When Russian and Syrian jets were bombing hospitals, this is what they focused on. I call that a thought crime and a capital crime at that.

    Comment by louisproyect — May 11, 2017 @ 4:07 pm

  28. @ FK; if it’s OK with you, I retired last year. You’re welcome to look up my articles on Counterpunch, although they’re mixed up with some other David Green. You can also look them up on Mondoweiss and Electronic Intifada; and at publici.ucimc.org. But mainly I participate in local politics and debate–anti-war, anti-Zionist, etc. I actually condescend to deal with real people everyday, including non “leftists.”

    Comment by David Green — May 11, 2017 @ 7:47 pm

  29. Louis, it’s quite possible that Assad is a monster, as Chomsky says, and that the White Helmets are promoted by those with an imperialist agenda, as Blumenthal says. To have an Oscar-nominated film seems to fit the usual tactics related to Darfur, etc., of liberal interventionists.

    Comment by David Green — May 11, 2017 @ 7:59 pm

  30. “Louis, it’s quite possible that Assad is a monster, as Chomsky says, and that the White Helmets are promoted by those with an imperialist agenda, as Blumenthal says.” Of course it is possible. Nobody has denied that the White Helmets got off the ground because of help from a British officer. But their agenda is not “imperialist” unless you believe that digging people out of the rubble left by Russian jet bombers is furthering the cause of imperialism.

    Comment by louisproyect — May 11, 2017 @ 8:10 pm

  31. Louis, why don’t you make your analysis more widely available; for example, on Counterpunch. If you have such a unique moral perspective on the “left,” given your publication of Saleh’s (ridiculous) condemnation, given your forgiving attitude for Eric Draitser since he “repented,” why don’t you put it up on Counterpunch instead of your boring movie reviews? So respond to what Jonathan Cook put up there yesterday, an overview of the proxy war in Syria.

    Why do you hide out here and pander to the Counterpunch readers, most of whom probably don’t agree with your attack on Khalek etc.? I would think St. Clair would love the attention that a more direct attack on Counterpunch regulars would bring the website. And then you could get more traffic yourself. Maybe he Draitser would have you on his podcast, although I have a feeling that both of you would be struggling to get a word in edgewise. And then all of the Wights and Whitneys would be forced to address you directly, which I would actually like to see, because there are certainly things about their general arguments that often play fast and loose, although they’re not in your league in that regard, and certainly not in terms of slander and venom.

    Again, have you actually read Saleh’s piece? I can’t believe anyone with any critical faculties whatsoever doesn’t recognize this as a series of obtuse, McCarthyite generalizations about mostly unnamed and of course powerless individuals, all lumped into some sort of global movement that actually matters. Again, it’s just stupid and pathetic, really, although of course I’m sorry for his life and his plight and that of his devastated country. But sorry, at bottom, America done it quite as much as Assad. Sorry for the cliché, but what if the Middle East grew broccoli?

    Comment by David Green — May 11, 2017 @ 9:58 pm

  32. Why do you hide out here and pander to the Counterpunch readers, most of whom probably don’t agree with your attack on Khalek etc.?


    Because it would be an unproductive use of my time trying to convince the average Counterpunch reader who is just as much of a brainwashed idiot as you. I am interested in dialog, not putting up with uninformed people lacking intellectual curiosity. Most of my readers here are highly intelligent and then there is you.

    Comment by louisproyect — May 11, 2017 @ 10:06 pm

  33. Louis, your cowardice is so transparent.

    Comment by David Green — May 12, 2017 @ 2:50 am

  34. Green–

    Let me get this straight. You boast about writing for Counterpunch and chew Louis out for writing for Counterpunch. When you do it, it’s as good as a tenured professor’s publishing in a peer-reviewed journal. When he does it, it’s “pandering.” Most interesting, especially in view of your idiotic guilt-by-association attack on Saleh for publishing in “a journal owned by a Saudi prince.” If you did that, you’d dine out on it for a year.

    When has Louis ever “pandered” to readers of Counterpunch? In 2015, at least, he published a painstakingly documented statement of his then views on Syria, very much contrary to the general trend of commentary in that publication. (http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/08/31/jacobin-and-the-war-on-syria/). No pandering there.

    In this blog, he has consistently attacked the Counterpunch tendency represented by Mike Whitney and John Wight as well as the senile maunderings of Ted Postol, Seymour Hersh, and many other former good guys, not all of them ancient. This is of a piece with his critique of the kind of “anti-imperialism” that is to anti-imperialism as American cult “Chrisitianity” is to Christianity (not that I endorse either).

    The fact that L’s writing for Counterpunch is mostly film reviews means nothing. This is a good thing. What’s your problem? Political writers can’t review films?

    You have a hell of a nerve calling anyone a coward.

    You just can’t stop calling names and ducking issues, can you?

    Of course, I’m assuming you–not being a panderer–agree 100 percent with the political views of such stalwart Counterpunch contributors as Paul Craig Roberts and Justin Raimondo–if you don’t, by your lights you are certainly “pandering” when you publish in those pages.

    Well, enough of you, you pandering coward. This hasn’t been much fun.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — May 12, 2017 @ 5:57 pm

  35. “This hasn’t been much fun.” Oh yes it has.

    Comment by David Green — May 12, 2017 @ 8:01 pm

  36. “Oh yes it has.”

    Apparently you’ve reached the stage of senility at which shitting on the carpet is the most fun you can have.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — May 15, 2017 @ 3:49 pm

  37. FK, you are not a shining light in the firmament, but you fit right in in Louis’s imperialist amen corner. If you want to actually learn something about the region, you might check out this interview: http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=19099

    Comment by David Green — May 16, 2017 @ 9:34 pm

  38. There is no doubt that the so-called “anti-imperialist”, pro-Assad Left has a Western-centric view of imperialism and are useful idiots.

    I will never forget their articles in which they repeated every single one of Russia’s lies about MH17, nor will I ever forget their framing of the Syrian conflict as Western imperialism, refusing to acknowledge the origins of the crisis, which any Leftist should have no trouble doing.

    Paul Craig Roberts, John Wight, Hersh, Robert Parry and the rest of their ilk are some of the biggest useful idiots alive, repeating such obvious lies from our Russian colleagues in the state media that it astonishes the reader. Whether that be about Syria or even Ukraine, they are all the same.

    The reality is not that they are “anti-imperialist.” Rather, they are anti-Western and will always oppose the West. Such feeble-minded folks only serve to be useful idiots to the enemy and are a potential fifth column.

    Don’t believe me? Look at the American Green Party. Jill Stein chose Ajamu Baraka as her VP pick, perhaps the second-biggest biggest lunatic in the anti-Western Left. This man is so unhinged that I doubt his sanity. His lunacy is only surpassed by that of the 2008 Green Party Leader, Cynthia McKinney. A quick look at her Twitter feed would cause any sane human to abandon the cause of her and her ilk.

    Comment by DownWithAssad — June 17, 2017 @ 8:11 pm

  39. The characterisation of the anti-imperialist left as pro-Assad is a smear, and doesn’t square with his own record (ditto fellow Baathist Saddam) of collaboration with imperalism over the years.

    In an ideal world, Assad would be toppled in a democratic revolution. But if he falls, who’s going to take over? The jihadi fanatics.

    Comment by WeatherEye — November 20, 2017 @ 4:10 pm

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