by Danny Haiphong
Much of the U.S. “left” is confused or on the wrong side of Washington’s war against national sovereignty and self-determination in Syria. Publications like The Intercept attempt to conflate Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and Donald Trump, “thus delegitimizing Assad in the eyes of the majority of the U.S. population.” The tactic is closely related to anti-Russian McCarthyism -- designed to distract from the bankruptcy of Democratic policies.
Why Syria Still Matters in the Age of Trump
by Danny Haiphong
“President Assad’s commitment to self-determination and international solidarity, not human rights violations, has placed him in the cross hairs of US imperialism.”
The corporate media has spent little energy on Syria since the election of Donald Trump. Trump has become the 24-hour news story of the day in league with the CIA/"deep state" effort to keep him in line. Much of the news coverage on Trump in relation to foreign policy has been intensely focused on the concocted narrative that the 45th President is an agent of Russia. At the same time that WikiLeaks released confidential CIA documents revealing the agency's role in making up the Trump-Russia connection, the Trump Administration sent 400 additional combat troops to Syria to fight ISIS. The move ostensibly fulfills Trump's campaign promise to focus the full attention of the US military apparatus on the Islamic State group.
Concerns from anti-war activists have surfaced regarding the true intentions of the increased troop presence inside of Syria. The War on Terror has been historically used to justify US imperial wars on sovereign states in the region. Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia (to name a few) were all destabilized by the US and its allies under the guise of the threat of terrorism. Syria has been targeted as the next domino to fall in US imperialism's chess game for hegemony. But for the first five plus years of the war, the US sought to topple the Syrian government on "humanitarian" grounds, claiming that President Bashar Al-Assad was butchering his own people.
“Syria has been targeted as the next domino to fall in US imperialism's chess game for hegemony.”
These claims have been repeatedly proven false. The US media has rewarded groups peddling the anti-Assad line with extended airtime and even an Oscar in the case of the White Helmets. The election of Trump as US President has complicated matters in Syria because the billionaire magnate campaigned on the promise of ending regime change efforts in Syria and the Middle East. In late February, reports emerged that the CIA had frozen its assistance to rebel terrorist groups in Syria. The deployment of US troops to Syria thus raises legitimate suspicions about whether the Administration is merely adjusting the form of attack on the sovereign state.
While it is reasonable to condemn the US for yet another violation of Syria's right to self-determination, there remains much work to be done toward developing a serious anti-imperialism movement in the United States. The election of Donald Trump has presented a different set of challenges than the Obama era. For one, Trump does not offer token gestures. The Obama Administration and its GOP allies spent a half-decade arming, funding, and training jihadists to create the necessary chaos to justify a larger military confrontation. Trump's Administration has committed to increasing the bloated military budget by 54 billion dollars so the US can supposedly start "winning" wars again. So it was the Democratic Party under Obama that waged more effective wars, laying the basis for the current escalation under Trump.
“The deployment of US troops to Syria thus raises legitimate suspicions about whether the Administration is merely adjusting the form of attack on the sovereign state.”
Despite the variation that exists between Trump and Obama's approach to Syria, US imperialism as a system maintains the same parasitic agenda of expansion on behalf of finance capital. That agenda remains dutifully served by the ideology of white supremacy. White supremacy paints the US nation-state as the world's savior despite the fact that it is the root cause of much of the world's suffering. All capitalist development in the US, from computer technology to retail apparel, is birthed from the plunder and pillage of nations abroad. The ideology of white supremacy and advanced capitalist development has coerced most Americans into a passive acceptance of imperialist war crimes abroad.
Syria is a critical example of how the ideological and material effects of imperialism rage on, this time in a state of crisis. There remains a deep suspicion and hostility toward the Syrian government from the so-called anti-war and anti-imperialist left in the US. In this regard, corporate media slander of the Syrian government has proven to be very effective. Some on the so-called left, such as the Intercept, have drawn a straight line between Trump's foreign policy campaign promises and Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. The comparison is meant to equate Assad with Trump, thus delegitimizing him in the eyes of the majority of the US population.
“White supremacy paints the US nation-state as the world's savior despite the fact that it is the root cause of much of the world's suffering.”
Such a false comparison does not change the fact that Syria remains a critical struggle on the global stage. Bashar Al-Assad has the backing of the Syrian people. He has not wavered from his commitment to defend the nation's sovereignty. In an interview with the Chinese media Phoenix Television, President Assad reiterated his long-standing position that all forces inside of Syria operating without permission of the government are nothing more than "invaders." The statement was followed up with a promise to develop stronger relations with China to lead the way in rebuilding the country once the war comes to an end. All along the way, it has been President Assad’s commitment to self-determination and international solidarity, not human rights violations, that has placed him in the cross hairs of US imperialism.
While many remain confused about the US-led war on Syria, the vast majority of the US population is fed up with the current trajectory of US political economy. A recent national poll suggests that the struggling people of the United States are finally beginning to see the hypocrisy of US imperialism’s lies. Suffolk University and USAToday found that Trump’s low approval ratings remain higher than the ratings of the Democratic Party and the US media. These numbers alone reveal the deep popular suspicion and discontent that exists beneath the surface of US imperialism’s web of deceit. Such discontent is what drove Trump’s victory in the presidential elections and produced a condition where the only means of opposition to Trump at the disposal of the ruling class is the neo-McCarthyist war against Russia that currently dominates the political narrative of the corporate media.
“The stock market is booming but the working class has crashed with no sign of repair.”
But the corporate media cannot hide behind lies when US imperialism leaves nothing except rot and decay for the masses. A recent report by Prison Policy reaffirms that the US stands alone as the incarceration capital of the world, with over 70 percent of its 2.3 million inmates identifying as Black, Native American, or Latino. The stock market is booming but the working class has crashed with no sign of repair. Over half of the US population cannot afford an emergency of $500 dollars. Meanwhile, major corporate business magazines speak of a coming period where work itself will become obsolete. US capitalism is on the verge of another productive crisis that will send shock waves throughout a planet still struggling with the impact of the 2008 crisis. The ruling class knows it, and hopes that the destruction of Syria and Russia will prolong its ability to horde and loot the world's wealth for a little longer.
The consequences of the current state of crisis will be profound unless stopped by a greater force composed of humanity’s wretched of the earth. Rebellions and spontaneous mass movements are inevitable wherever there is oppression and exploitation. But the danger of World War with Russia and the destabilization of Syria require much more than spontaneity to defeat. They require an organized movement led by trained and committed revolutionary forces prepared to defend self-determination abroad and attacks on the working class and oppressed in the US. To paraphrase assassinated Black Panther and political prisoner George Jackson, the sooner begun the sooner done.
Danny Haiphong is an Asian activist and political analyst in the Boston area. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org