(Stephen Gowans kindly gave me permission to repost his entire essay, but given that it’s longish, I did my best to synopsize some passages without sacrificing much of the full flavor. The portions that were most interesting, thus critical, to me were those concerning his class analysis of neo-colonialism.)
‘Cruise Missile Attacks: A New Step in Washington’s Long Class War on Syria’, April 8, 2017 by Stephen Gowans
“Washington has added a new dimension to its long war on Syria: direct military intervention.
Since the mid 1950s, the United States has tried to purge Damascus of an Arab nationalist leadership which has zealously guarded Syria’s freedom from US domination and follows an Arab socialist development path which is at odds with the global free enterprise project advanced by Washington on behalf of its Wall Street patron.
Until now, Washington has refrained from directly attacking Syrian forces, though it has intervened manu militari in Syria to hold the Islamic State in check so that the militant group remains strong enough to weaken Syrian forces but not so strong that it captures the Syrian state.
This limited Islamic State-directed US intervention in Syria has involved both airstrikes and an estimated 1,000 boots on the ground. However, the principal modus operandi of Washington’s long war on Syria has been war waged through proxies, both Israel, which annexed Syria’s Golan Heights and has carried out innumerable small-scale attacks since, and Islamist guerrillas, who, from the 1960s, have waged a jihad against what they view as Syria’s heretical government.
The United States contemplated direct military intervention in Syria in 2003, as a follow-up to its invasion of neighbouring Iraq, but found that its resources were strained by efforts to pacify Afghanistan and Iraq and that other means of regime change would have to be pursued.
In place of a muscular boots on the ground strategy, Washington imposed an economic blockade in 2003, which, by 2012, had caused Syria’s economy to buckle, according to the New York Times.
By the spring of 2012, sanctions-induced financial haemorrhaging had “forced Syrian officials to stop providing education, health care and other essential services in some parts of the country.”
By 2016, “US and EU economic sanctions on Syria” were “causing huge suffering among ordinary Syrians and preventing the delivery of humanitarian aid, according to a leaked UN internal report.” The report revealed that aid agencies were unable to obtain drugs and equipment for hospitals because sanctions prevented foreign firms from conducting commerce with Syria.
Veteran foreign correspondent Patrick Cockburn wrote that “the US and EU sanctions” resembled the Iraqi sanctions regime, and were “an economic siege on Syria”—a siege it might be recalled that led to the deaths of more than 500,000 Iraqi children, according to the UN, a death toll greater than that produced by all the weapons of mass destruction in history. Cockburn surmised that the Syrian siege was killing numberless people through illness and malnutrition.
On top of its merciless campaign of economic warfare, Washington enlisted the Arab nationalists’ longstanding foe, the Muslim Brotherhood, to provoke a civil revolt in Syria. The revolt, inaugurated by Islamist-instigated riots in Daraa in mid-March 2011, soon mushroomed into an all-out campaign of guerrilla warfare, fueled by Saudi, Qatari, Turkish, Jordanian and US money. U.S. and Western intelligence services trained thousands of guerrillas in Jordan and Qatar.
In 2012, the US Defense Intelligence Agency reported that the insurgency was Islamist, led by the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Islamic State’s forerunner, and that Western powers and the kings, emirs and sultans who preside tyrannically over Gulf oil states, were the backers. According to the intelligence agency, Turkey’s Reccep Tayyip Erdogan, a man infatuated with dreams of becoming a neo-Ottoman sultan, and himself an Islamist, was also a major backer.
But until Washington ordered cruise missiles to rain down on Shayrat Airfield near Homs on April 6, the United States had relied on proxies and siege to bring about regime change in a country which Moshe Ma’oz had termed “a focus of Arab nationalistic struggle against an American regional presence and interests.”
He continues with the blatantly partisan sources claiming Syrian forces gassed civilians, names the DeeCee-entangled White Helmets and the silly Syrian Human Rights organization (funded by the UK, iirc), says the OPCW won’t weigh in until an investigation is completed, but that the neo-colonialists and MSM ‘journalists’ used it as a pretext to level the illegal attack.
He notes that it’s all academic in any event, as no body exists that holds the US war machine to account, in any event.
“Expecting the United States to yield to international law is naïve and therefore any discussion of whether this or that act of the United States violates international law is a discussion of no consequence.”
Listing a few reasons that allow the White House to act with impunity, Gowan names the normalized psychological-blinders effect of ‘no body bags’ on ordinary citizens, nationalistic jingoism, and the constant demonization of ‘our enemies’ by Washington as well as their helpful scribes and pundit class. He mentions as a recent example Saddam’s WMDs, and posits that Washington conflates the release of biological and chemical weapons by Arab nationalist governments with nuclear arms, true weapons of mass destruction.
“Demonizing targets—often by accusing them of having, using, or intending to use either falsely classified or genuine weapons of mass destruction—creates, from the vantage point of the public, a moral obligation for the United States to act. The Leftists who have an insatiable appetite for moral lapidation and florid language about “murderous regimes,” brutal dictators,” and “moral disgrace,” in connection with the leaders of former colonies which the United States is endeavouring to re-colonize, contribute to the mobilization of consent for war and to an international class struggle from above.
Left collaborators see only the completely powerless as occupying morally tenable ground. Any state which pursues emancipatory goals is denounced as brutal, murderous, or a moral disgrace and arguments are mounted that the state’s emancipatory goals are a sham. Only people without formal power, by this way of thinking, engage in class struggle against oppression and exploitation, while those who exercise formal authority are viewed as agents of oppression by definition.
This view is too simple.”
[WD here; I’d like to provide a few such examples]:
One of their reTweets:
@ramahkudaimi Apr 6 “PSA: the Syrian people demanded the fall of the regime back in march 2011. that is where your analysis starts.”
and h/tip jason, (the Bern offers a two-fer; Assad as dictator, and make Putin an offer he can’t refuse.):
But onward to his class analysis of the long war on Syria.
“The Italian philosopher Domenic Losurdo argues for a tripartite model of class struggle linked to the division of labour on (1) an international level, (2) a national level and (3) within the household.
Class struggle on an international level corresponds to the exploitation of the people of one nation by another nation; for example, by the relegation of one country by another to a subordinate role in the international division of labour.
Class struggle on a national level corresponds to the exploitation of labour by the owners of capital within a country, while class struggle within the household pertains to the exploitation of female domestic labour by males.
Class struggle so conceived can be coterminous as when, for example, the people in one country are exploited en masse as a source of labour by the owners of capital of a second.
Washington’s long—and now expanded—war on Syria, is a class struggle on an international level. It is a class struggle in which the United States, as champion of the profit-making interests of corporate America and the class of billionaires who lead it, seeks to permanently relegate Syrians to a subordinate role in the international division of labour, one in which they will be limited to low wage jobs in extractive and basic manufacturing industries, if not subsistence farming.
Washington aspires to sweep away the Arab socialist impediments to the free enterprise, free trade, and free market capitalist nirvana it seeks to establish on a global scale, where US corporations have space to dominate the commanding heights of every country’s economy, and local labour is relegated to low-wage roles, and permanent penury.
Former chief economist of the World Bank Joseph Stiglitz put it this way:
Colonialism left a mixed legacy in the developing world—but one clear result was the view among people there that they had been cruelly exploited…the political independence that came to scores of colonies after World War II did not put an end to economic colonialism. In some regions…the exploitation—the extraction of natural resources and the rape of the environment all in return for a pittance—was obvious. Elsewhere it was more subtle. In many parts of the world, global institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank came to be seen as instruments of post-colonial control. These institutions pushed market fundamentalism…a notion idealized by Americans as ‘free and unfettered market.’ … Free-market ideology turned out to be an excuse for new forms of exploitation.
The class struggle fought by Arab nationalists in Syria continues, despite the concerted efforts of Washington, its neo-colonial allies, its Arab satraps, apartheid Israel, and Leftist collaborators, to crush it. Concurrently, the Islamic Republic of Iran is conducting its own class struggle against Western efforts of re-colonization, though on a grander scale, with the larger Islamic world as the object of liberation.
The struggle between Iran and the United States is a class struggle on a colossal scale, with Washington seeking to open Iran while keeping the remainder of the Muslim world open to continued exploitation by US financial, industrial, commercial and petrochemical concerns, and Tehran leading a project to build “resistance” economies that prioritize the uplift of the people who live and work in the Muslim world over shareholders of US corporations. This struggle is intertwined with the class struggle at which Syria is the center.
Washington’s expanded war on Syria is, then, an expanded class war from above against an emancipatory struggle from below. Washington’s war-making relies on multiple weapons, from siege, to proxy war, to direct military intervention, and no less to information warfare aimed at demonizing Syria’s Arab nationalists.”