Syrian Narratives: the Worthy, the Scurvy, and the Topsy-Turvy

The Worthy, from (h/t Café denizen Jacob Freeze)

The Worthy: According to RT:  Jeffrey Sachs,  economist, UN special adviser, and Colombia University professor told MSNBC’s Morning Joe program that the current situation in Syria is a “US mistake that started seven years ago.”
Those seven years have been a “disaster,” he said, recalling a covert CIA operation called ‘Operation: Timber Sycamore.’ The US “started a war to overthrow a regime.”

“This is what I would call the ‘Permanent State.’ This is the CIA, this is the Pentagon wanting to keep Iran and Russia out of Syria, but we have no way to do that. And so we have made a proxy war in Syria.

“And so, what I would plead to President Trump is: Get out, like your instinct told you… Get out. We’ve done enough damage in seven years,” he said.”

‘Operation Timber Sycamore And Washington’s Secret War On Syria; To start this conflict and then keep its fires burning the US and its Satellites have spent billions of dollars’ by Martin Berger: DIA Docs: West Wants A “Salafist Principality In Eastern Syria” By Robert Barsocchini,

In part:

“To start this conflict and then keep its fires burning the US and its Satellites have spent billions of dollars. It’s curious that the New York Times has recently uncovered the criminal role that the CIA played in the Syrian war, reporting that members of the Obama administration have told them that Saudi Arabia is sponsoring the absolute majority of overseas unannounced overseas wars, to keep the role played in them by Washington a secret. At times the US and Saudi Arabia would share their intelligence, while in some cases Riyadh just hand out large sums of money to CIA operatives, without asking any questions.

Back in 2013 the CIA and Riyadh have agreed on launching an operation under the code name the Timber Sycamore that is aimed at toppling Syria’s elected officials through the continuous training and supported provided to all sorts of radical militants. Under the deal the Saudis contribute both weapons and large sums of money, and the CIA takes the lead in training the rebels on AK-47 assault rifles and tank-destroying missile. Moreover, Turkey, Jordan and Qatar have all been involved in this criminal design, even though exact amounts of money that the above mentioned states handed over to the CIA will always remain a secret. Still, the New York Times states that Saudi Arabia has been the major sponsor throughout all this time, allocating billions of dollars in a bid to bring down the government of Bashar al-Assad.”

More from the internal NYT ‘U.S. Relies Heavily on Saudi Money to Support Syrian Rebels’,, Jan. 23, 2016

“WASHINGTON — When President Obama secretly authorized the Central Intelligence Agency to begin arming Syrias embattled rebels in 2013, the spy agency knew it would have a willing partner to help pay for the covert operation. It was the same partner the C.I.A. has relied on for decades for money and discretion in far-off conflicts: the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Since then, the C.I.A. and its Saudi counterpart have maintained an unusual arrangement for the rebel-training mission, which the Americans have code-named Timber Sycamore.

By the summer of 2012, a freewheeling feel had taken hold along Turkey’s border with Syria as the gulf nations funneled cash and weapons to rebel groups — even some that American officials were concerned had ties to radical groups like Al Qaeda.

 The C.I.A. was mostly on the sidelines during this period, authorized by the White House under the Timber Sycamore training program to deliver nonlethal aid to the rebels but not weapons. In late 2012, according to two former senior American officials, David H. Petraeus, then the C.I.A. director, delivered a stern lecture to intelligence officials of several gulf nations at a meeting near the Dead Sea in Jordan. He chastised them for sending arms into Syria without coordinating with one another or with C.I.A. officers in Jordan and Turkey.

Months later, Mr. Obama gave his approval for the C.I.A. to begin directly arming and training the rebels from a base in Jordan, amending the Timber Sycamore program to allow lethal assistance. Under the new arrangement, the C.I.A. took the lead in training, while Saudi Arabia’s intelligence agency, the General Intelligence Directorate, provided money and weapons, including TOW anti-tank missiles.”

And again, h/t Jacob Freeze, more Imperial Scurvy: ‘Syria Will Stain Obama’s Legacy Forever; The arc of history is long, but it won’t ever judge the president’s Syria policy kindly’, David Greenberg,, Dec. 29, 2016, accompanied by the obligatory photos of the White Helmuts ‘saving’ wee chirren.

Self-explanantory in the main, but:

“Since the Syrian uprising began in 2011, Americans have regarded the carnage there as essentially a humanitarian disaster. For Obama, contemplating his legacy, the awful death and destruction that Syria has suffered — the 400,000 deaths, the wholesale wasting of civilian neighborhoods, the wanton use of sarin gas and chlorine gas and barrel bombs, the untold atrocities — has raised the old question of how future generations will judge an American president’s passivity or ineffectuality in the face of mass slaughter.”

Here Barsocchini features some of the docs that are hard to read on the pdfs: ‘DIA Docs: West Wants A “Salafist Principality In Eastern Syria”, Robert Barsocchini, 26 May, 2015,, (plus he helpfully adds a few related definitions, and more history re: the Sauds.

Clearly this is the Scurvy: Graham E. Fuller’s ‘What is the U.S. Fighting for in Syria?, (former senior CIA official), April 18,, and he did he did face some strong objections in the comments, but not enough, imo, as did Sybil Edmonds’ hits on Bartlett and Beeley…even as he got some of it right, of course.  A few bits:

“The power struggle between the Assad regime and the array of diverse insurgents has oscillated over seven years. Initially, when the government faced the first outbreak of domestic insurgency in 2011, it appeared that he might not last long in the evolving Arab Spring. But he proved resilient.”

[wd here: Ah, the CIA-George Soros, anti-Communist Otpor- sponsored Arab Spring; have you forgotten your roots, dude?]

“He was willing to strike back ruthlessly at the early uprisings and nip them in the bud. He was aided by the fact that the Syrian population was itself highly ambivalent about any collapse of his government. As regional regimes went it was unquestionably autocratic but not more brutal than usual in the region —at least not until early insurgent forces challenged the regime’s existence and  Damascus began to show real teeth.

In fact many Syrians did not want civil war—understandably enough since the human and material costs would be devastating. Second, large numbers of Syrians who had no fondness for Assad had even greater reason to fear what might come after him: very likely some combination of radical jihadi forces. Indeed, victorious jihadis might likely then have gone on to wage an internecine power struggle among themselves, just like the civil war among the Afghan mujahideen after the withdrawal of Soviet forces in 1988; it all but destroyed the country.”

“The world has learned that any state that does not accept the U.S.-designed order in the Middle East by definition becomes a “rogue regime”—hence losing any sovereign rights on the international scene. And Washington’s policies have all along been heavily driven by Israel’s own regional agenda. It’s a bitter pill then: acceptance of Assad’s remaining in power until the international order can eventually craft some new political process that offers more representative government there.”  (blink, blink)

Worthy from Caitlin Johnstone, the Worthy: ‘America’s Long History of Trying to Determine Who Rules Syria’, April 12, 2018,; some excerpts:

The 2006 William Roebuck Cable

A December 13, 2006 cable published by WikiLeaks reveals how five years prior to the beginning of the violence, the US government (USG) was seeking out weaknesses of the Assad government which could be exploited to undermine it. William Roebuck, an official at the US embassy in Damascus, said this in his summary of the cable:

“We believe Bashar’s weaknesses are in how he chooses to react to looming issues, both perceived and real, such as the conflict between economic reform steps (however limited) and entrenched, corrupt forces, the Kurdish question, and the potential threat to the regime from the increasing presence of transiting Islamist extremists. This cable summarizes our assessment of these vulnerabilities and suggests that there may be actions, statements, and signals that the USG can send that will improve the likelihood of such opportunities arising.”

(She links to more information on that at, Oct. 9)

The 1986 CIA Memo

A CIA document declassified last year exposed a plot to overthrow the Syrian government by provoking sectarian tensions all the way back in 1986.  Here are a few juicy excerpts:  [wd here: I’ll provide a couple]

“We believe that a renewal of communal violence between Alawis and Sunnis could inspire Sunnis in the military to turn against the regime.”

“Sunni dissidence has been minimal since Assad crushed the Muslim Brotherhood in the early 1980s, but deep-seated tensions remain–keeping alive the potential for minor incidents to grow into major flareups of communal violence… Excessive government force in quelling such disturbances might be seen by Sunnis as evidence of a government vendetta against all Sunnis, precipitating even larger protests by other Sunni groups.”

“Mistaking the new protests as a resurgence of the Muslim Brotherhood, the government would step up its use of force and launch violent attacks on a broad spectrum of Sunni community leaders as well as on those engaged in protests. Regime efforts to restore order would founder if government violence against protestors inspired broad-based communal violence between Alawis and Sunnis.”

Rebutting the Scurvy and Topsy-Turvey: On April 21, the good Stephen Gowans deconstructed some creepiness at the Intercept in his ‘Mehdi Hasan, beautiful soul, and his diatribe against the consequential Left’

“If it wasn’t already clear, The Intercept’s Mehdi Hasan, wants us to know he’s a beautiful soul. In an April 19 diatribe against “Bashar al Assad apologists,” Hasan professes his distaste for war crimes, torture, and dictatorship, no matter the source, but devotes particular attention to the violence and restrictions on political and civil liberties attributable to the Syrian president. Assad, Hasan concludes, “is a war criminal even if he didn’t gas civilians,” and leftists should stop defending him. The journalist, who once worked for the Qatari monarchy’s mouthpiece Al Jazeera, then proceeds to recite a litany of charges against Assad, some undeniable, some unproved or unprovable. One gets the impression that he’s peeved that the latest chemical weapons allegations against the Syrian government, ridiculously thin to begin with, and now largely demolished by Robert Fisk’s reporting, have failed to stick.” [snip]

Hasan has turned the distinction between goals and methods on its head. In Hasan’s view, leftists are defined not by what they’re trying to achieve, but by the methods they use. Torture, dictatorship, abridgement of civil liberties, warfare that produces collateral civilian casualties—all these things, according to Hasan, are signs of a contra-left political orientation. Thus, he argues, with illogic, that “Bashar al-Assad is not an anti-imperialist of any kind, nor is he a secular bulwark against jihadism; he is a mass murderer, plain and simple.” The illogic is evident in the false dichotomy that lies at the center of his argument. Mass murderer (if indeed Assad can be so characterized) does not exclude anti-imperialist and secular bulwark against jihadism; but in Hasan’s world, mass murderer and secular anti-imperialist are mutually exclusive. They are so to Hasan, because he has transfigured Leftism into the concept of avoiding all choices that have potentially awful consequences.

The beautiful soul retreats from the political struggles of the real world into impotent moral posturing, where no choices are ever made, because the consequences of all choices are awful to one degree or another. Success, then, in any political struggle is transformed from acting on the world to change it into avoiding any step that might have terrible consequences—a recipe for impotence, paralysis and failure. To the beautiful soul, the only leftist political movement that is worthy of support is the one that fails, never the one that comes to power and implements its political program and fights to overcome opposition to it.

To Hasan, the Syrian State’s position on the political spectrum is unrelated to its goals: overcoming sectarian and other divisions in the Arab world, safeguarding Syria’s political independence, and achieving economic sovereignty. Nor does it matter that Damascus is engaged in a struggle against (to use Hasan’s own words) “rapacious U.S. foreign policy”, “Saudi-inspired extremism” and “Israeli opportunism”—in other words, the aggression of conservative and reactionary forces that are more powerful individually to say nothing of collectively than the Syrian State by many orders of magnitude. To the Mahatma, all of these considerations are irrelevant, and all that matters in the evaluation of Assad’s political orientation is whether the methods Damascus has used to defend the gains it has made in the direction of asserting its right to equality and sovereignty are methods that that are suitable to a State in periods of stability, normalcy and safety. It’s as if what Hasan deplores about a war cabinet, for example, is not the war that made the war cabinet necessary, but the very fact that a war cabinet was created in response to it, as if carrying on in the regular manner could somehow make the war go away.” [snip]

“So, faced with these enormous challenges, what should Assad do? Whatever it is, Hasan can’t say. The best The Intercept writer can do is demand: “Is it the only way you know how to oppose” US, Saudi and Israeli aggression? Well, it does, indeed, appear to be the only way the Syrian government knows how to resist forces many times stronger than itself.  But if not this way, then what way? “Should we shoot balloons at the opposition?” Assad once asked another beautiful soul.”

Gowans added a bit more reality on Hasan’s ‘diatribe’ today with: ‘Meet Syria’s real mass murderers’

Related, of course: William Blum’sOverthrowing other people’s governments: The Master List’ (since WW II)  Spoiler alert: it’s a long list, and ends:

“Q: Why will there never be a coup d’état in Washington?

A: Because there’s no American embassy there.

art by anthony freda

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( cross-posted at

11 responses to “Syrian Narratives: the Worthy, the Scurvy, and the Topsy-Turvy

  1. ‘Dear Salafist Wahhabist Apologists’ by Paul Larudee / April 22nd, 2018, dissident voice

    “Mehdi Hasan (MH) can hardly be blamed for the ignorance that he displays in his Intercept article, “Dear Bashar al-Assad Apologists: Your Hero Is a War Criminal Even If He Didn’t Gas Syrians.” He has apparently never been to Syria, doesn’t often do research on Syria, and gets his information from proponents of a single point of view, representing a bunch of idealists that want to usher in their idea of a liberal democracy in Syria, without benefit of electoral niceties until their power is already ironclad. What’s wrong with this picture?”

    “Those of us whom MH accuses of being pro-Assad are nothing of the sort. We believe that Syrian sovereignty and territory should be fully respected (as MH also claims to believe), but we think it is important to counter the fake news and propaganda that are being used to justify the invasion of Syria. MH is in love with fake news. He prefers not to mention the killing of police in the uprisings that he describes as “peaceful demonstrations”. He prefers to cherry-pick the opinions of Syrian refugees in Germany rather than the views of the vast majority of refugees (displaced persons) who evacuated to government areas without leaving Syria. He produces the Human Rights Watch report on 50,000 morgue photos but not the deconstruction by investigator Rick Sterling. And he repeats the al-Qaeda claim and false film footage that Madaya was starving and in need when it was, in fact, sitting on a mountain of aid supplies being denied by the fighters themselves to the population.

    If MH can’t see the difference between being pro-Assad and not falling for interventionist propaganda, that’s his problem. What’s astonishing is the number of “leftists” that rail against interventionism but base their views on the drivel purveyed by the interventionists themselves in the mainstream media, and that originates from propaganda mills like the White Helmets, the Aleppo/Ghouta Media Center and other lavishly funded set designers for warmongers. If MH is not an interventionist, he’s nevertheless making their case for them.”

  2. same shit, different day from DN:

    and from ‘our partners in peace’:

    • shootthatarrow

      …Hi wd

      …Thank you for posting the above wd…needs to be seen and said

      …The evil and wickedness of what is being done in Yemen by evil and wicked humans is so tragically shown and underlined by that Yemeni young boy having to see, face and know heart wrenching sorrow and despair of the killing/ murder of his father. The hypocrisy and wickedness of USian Empire backing the evil doers doing this vile evil in Yemen or Palestine while at same time falsely accusing and demonizing Bashar Assad of and for doing the same in Syria goes to the middle of USian Empire demonstrated abuse of truths and facts while practicing ever so well polished malice, malevolence and perfidy. Ongoing USian mockery of truth and fact in favor of lies and fabricated conjurings of false propaganda will be our demise.

      … Fair to say Donald Trump has now become as much a USian War Criminal as War Criminal Barack Obama was and is. Who will put a stop to this ongoing evil and wickedness? Those who can and will.

      …The nonsense of ongoing USian set election(s) cycle(s) R vs. D junk politics serves little or no purpose other than to conceal and prolong the ethical, moral and political decay and rot of a corrupt and devoid of truth, compassion and mercy USian Empire to serve the few at the top who continue to benefit most from this decay and rot.

      …Take care wd…best wishes always

      …until again


      • so good to see you, arrow, but always under such grievous and barbaric circumstances. ‘who will stop us?’ yes, that’s the question, isn’t it? “…while practicing ever so well polished malice, malevolence and perfidy”; at least the orange one has lifted the veil on ‘the smiling, gentle, war criminal’, hasn’t he? mr wd was most sincerely depressed about the fact that his approval ratings increased to 51% post-airstrikes on syria, and that wikileaks had posted a story that of the 27 msm papers they looked at, not one of them indicated a whit of disapproval.

        as far as i can make out, yemen ain’t even on the msm’s radar, is it?

        and over yonder at c99% a lot of essays are seeking better democRats, ay yi yi.

        best to you and your partner as always, sta.

  3. From MoA today:

    “…While the US cuddles with ISIS in Syria to again use it for its own purpose, the 4+1 [Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Russia, plus Hizbullah] plan for a larger common operation to finally destroy the Takfiri menace. I expect that operation to begin only after the Iraqi parliament election on May 12 is over and a new Iraqi government in place…”

    • how fine, juliania. while i was finishing the chinese sesame noodles for dinner, mr. wd said: ‘woot! a comment finally! (there were a total of two over yonder, one quite flippant, sadly…)

      thank you for b’s quote, and here’s the link. i’ll need to read it all in the morning as mine eyes are bleary and weak by now.

      here’s hoping you’re well, or well enough. here, we just hit ‘extreme drought’ on the drought monitor. the extreme winds have abated for now, but i’ve been mentally been preparing for another evacuation. even knowing it’s likely sorta silly; but our fire bags ain’t much better packed than the last time…and we require even more unguents, potions, and home health care products than what, three years ago? tell me to stfu, please, lol.

  4. Quite a compendium on Syria.
    The best 2 things to happen were UK’s & U.S.’s false flags in Douma, Syria and in Salisbury, England.
    The more May tried to convince the more she was revealed as the liar she is.
    The impotent response of the U.S. in their wimpy missile attack was likewise very revealing.
    Russia is done playing our games. And I think/hope the U.S. gets it …for once.
    Cheers wd

    • agreed, v arnold. but oh, my, i seem to have had a bit of tunnel vision lately [on edit] because syria is ground zero in the proxy wars between the empire and friends…and The Bear}, on the left sidebar i grabbed these all in a row:

      ‘Pullin’ their Counterpunches? (you decide)’

      ‘Updates….while we wait a bit more…[updated at the end of comments w/ airstrikes news]’

      ‘2 breaking headlines: an open thread…while we wait’

      ‘Alleged Gas Attack in Eastern Gouta Provides Cover for a Wider Regional War’

      with the skripals in an undisclosed location, able to ‘communicate’ only thru the london po-po, the cause of the ‘poisoning’ still undetermined, the swiss lab that thought cointelpro BZ hallucinogen not being allowed to confirm that their lab is part of the joint investigation…it’s as though father and daughter have vanished, or…were always ghosts in the music. i guess as far as the airstrikes, i’ll have to go with the story that syria’s extant old soviet anti-missile missiles did in fact intercept and destroy most of them. and the news says is that since the agreement was broken, russia is sending their new s400s or whatever they are.

      i keep thinking there needs to be a new term past ‘orwellian’, including the next almost hilarious ‘new’ news i’d like to feature soon. what a fucked time for julian assange to be in a virtual prison, but w/ the new accords between lenin moreno and trump…how long will he be ‘permitted’ to be such a devastating problem in the ecuadorian embassy?

  5. Yes, wind.

    Our little swiftie-swallows have returned – I hope there will be bugs enough for them this year. The heat is on, but can switch back close to a freeze in the wink of an eye a la the Robert Frost poem.

    The swifties do cheer me with their chitterchatter and aeronautics – sweet little birdies! Consider the lilies of the field….I wish Trump would, or could.

    And yes, V, I agree on your two ‘signs of progress.’ The good is oft interred with our bones, to somewhat discombobulate the bard.

    • recently we’ve had a few 75 degree days, then low 30s in the mornings, as today. hard to guess how and when to garden, but we’ll start some seeds in the greenhouse today. glad you have some entertaining swallows; we started feeding again just in time for the return of the cassein’s and related finches and jimmy durante grosbeaks. now if we could just dis-invite the magpies, red-winged blackbirds, and collared doves, lol.

  6. addenda: Stephen Gowans (in the OP twice), author of ‘Washington’s Long War on Syria’ is up with a new critique today in his ‘Another Beautiful Soul: Counterpunching the Global Assault on Dissent’ (sound familiar? as in: ‘Pullin’ their Counterpunches? (you decide)’, both at the café and c99%)

    “I was recently alerted to Sonali Kolhatkar’s Truth Dig article, “Why Are Some on the Left Falling for Fake News on Syria?”, which Counterpunch found important enough to republish under the title, “The Left, Syria and Fake News.” Kolhatkar’s article was introduced to me as the work of a “beautiful soul.”

    There’s certainly reason to believe the Truth Dig columnist fits the description. She urges us to consider “nonmilitary alternatives to ending the complex [Syrian] war”, but can’t think of any, much as Mehdi Hasan, in his rant against supporters of the Syrian government’s struggle against the aggressions of what he concedes are rapacious US foreign policy, Saudi extremism, and Israeli opportunism, can’t think of the benign alternatives the Syrian government should employ to defend itself (but thinks Assad should come up with some, all the same.)

    Beautiful souls appear not to recognize that the war in Syria is a concrete political struggle connected to a specific social system related to empire; it is the struggle of the United States to extend its dictatorship over all of the Arab world and of Arab nationalists in Damascus and their allies to counter US imperial designs. All the beautiful soul recognizes is that people are being killed, families are being uprooted, small children are being terrorized, and they wish it would all just end. They’re not for justice, or an end to oppression and the dictatorship of the United States, or for equality; they’re for the absence of conflict. And they don’t seem to particularly care how it’s brought about.

    Kolhatkar accepts US-orchestrated war propaganda against Syria as true, and brands the challenges to it (which she deems fake news) as false. She deploys illogic (the White Helmets may be funded by the US but that means nothing because so are other groups) and then says our analysis “needs to be far more sophisticated.”

    and so on. it’s quite good as a critique, haven’t had time to read kohlatkar’s (non-counterpunchin’).

    also, gowans had also tweeted this on april 27; i’ll link to it rather than embed it so that you (hopefully) can see the fascinating discussion below it. “Assad is successfully thwarting US neo-colonialist designs, yet many leftists respond to Mehdi Hasan by denying that they see Assad as a hero. If the left seeks to overcome imperialism, why would it not regard an effective leader of an anti-imperialist struggle as a hero?”

    on evening edit: kohlhatkars’ op-ed is worse than i’d imagined; not just illogical as gowans had said, but…vapidly and stupidly Imperial all the way:

    “For years I excoriated the left for ignoring Afghanistan, a war that continues today. I can only conclude that there is little motivation among American leftists to protest a war where there is no charismatic anti-American strongman to defend.”

    “Many are citing Robert Fisk’s reporting this week from Syria on a doctor who was not a witness to the attack and yet claimed that the dozens of Syrians who died were asphyxiated by dust rather than poisoned by chemicals. Fisk made no attempt to explain the many reports of a chemical smell and of white foam at the mouths of victims. His report directly contradicts that of Associated Press and Guardian newspaper journalists who managed to corroborate with multiple sources including survivors that there had been a chemical attack from the sky. Earlier investigations by Al-Jazeera and The New York Times also concluded that the claims by survivors of the attack were accurate. Are we to believe that The New York Times, Al-Jazeera, AP and The Guardian are all part of some grand conspiracy to push the U.S. to bomb targets important to Assad?

    gowans said that whoever she is, she could be writing for haaretz. and news from the twittersphere:

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