Since 2011, certain influential members of the anti-war left have never strayed far from the official NATO line on countries such as Libya, Syria, and Russia.
The US-led alliance of imperial nations has waged war on Syria for eight years with the hopes of overthrowing the independent Arab nationalist state led by President Bashar Al-Assad. Syria was believed to be another domino destined to fall in imperialism’s great power game to contain any international threat to its rule. Former NATO general Wesley Clarke revealed US plans in 2007 to use the September 11th attacks to justify the overthrow seven countries in five years: Iraq, Iran, Libya, Lebanon, Somalia, Sudan, and Syria. Most of these countries have since been thrown into chaos by way of US imperial expansion in the Middle East and North Africa. Clarke’s admission should be enough to clarify the Trump Administration’s most recent airstrikes on Syria as an escalation of the broader war for US hegemony in the region and the world.
Yet many who reside in the United States view the war on Syria from the lens of the US empire. This lens is articulated by both US political parties, their foreign partners, and their faithful corporate media servants. These expert liars claim that Assad is a butcher and the Syrian government a brutal “regime.” They don’t talk about how the US military occupies a large portion of Syria, coincidently in the country’s most resource-rich region . Also ignored is the fact that US allies such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey have loathed the Syrian government for its decision in 2009 to construct an independent pipeline with Iran and Iraq to transport precious gas and oil resources to European markets. Never mind that the US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and Israel to name a few have funded and armed hundreds of thousands of jihadist mercenaries for seven years in hopes that they would rid of pesky Assad and his nationalist policies. Imperialism wants Assad out because he stands in the way of US goals to dominate the region and keep Iran, Russia and China’s rise to global prominence at bay.
Syria is the number one target of US imperialism. The ongoing war there has the potential to spark a confrontation between great powers unforeseen in human history. In many ways, this confrontation has already begun. Russian forces in Syria have daily confronted US-backed jihadists armed with American-made weapons. US coalition strikes have killed Russian military personnel. Just prior to Trump’s airstrikes, seven Iranians were murdered in Syria by Israeli fighter jets . Russia has spent years enhancing its military capabilities in preparation for a major confrontation with the US, whether in Syria or at its own borders with NATO.
Yet when the US, UK, and France launched over a hundred strikes on Syrian territory on April 14th, few in the US and West expressed any public outrage. Anti-war groups like the United National Anti-war Coalition (UNAC) mobilized around the country, but that was about it. Americans were once again immobilized for the usual reasons. Wall to wall pro-war corporate media coverage blaming Assad for the attack effectively drowned out any anti-war analysis from reaching the ears of most Americans. Perhaps the most important factor in the lack of outrage was the scant possibility that American troops were going to be sacrificed during the escalation. No Russians were hit by the strikes, so a larger military confrontation was unlikely. And the US military showed how weak it has become as the Syrian government was able to shoot down a majority of the strikes with decades-old Soviet technology.
Americans usually care about American troops dying but have a difficult time developing class-based solidarity with people around the world. The Black Radical Tradition has historically been the force that counters white supremacist chauvinism and pro-war sentiments in the US. Eight years of Obama effectively shifted the Black polity so far right that polls showed Black Americans possessing a more favorable view of Obama’s declaration of war against Syria in 2013 than whites and Latinos. Neoliberal identity politics and the two-party duopoly system has for now swallowed the left whole. The Democratic Party wing of imperialism has dug deep into its Wall Street coffers to disguise itself as the anti-Trump “resistance” that will bring stability back to the empire.
The Democrats and their Republican allies seek a more stable Administration in Washington to properly manage the affairs of the ruling class. Those affairs mainly deal with the questions of austerity and war. Trump has been deemed “morally unfit” for the Presidency by spooks like James Comey because his unpredictable and egoist tendencies make him less interested in the preservation of empire and more interested in the preservation of the voting bloc and conditions that made his Presidency possible. We largely have the “cruise missile left” to thank for the lack of an alternative to the crisis of US imperialism. The cruise missile left has aligned with the Democratic Party and the intelligence agencies against Trump and have dropped any anti-war, anti-imperialist, and anti-capitalist tendencies in the process.
Nowhere is this clearer than in its position on Syria. The cruise missile left is best represented by the likes of Democracy Now! and The Intercept. Both sources have worked together to subtly forward the agenda of US imperialism. Since 2011, Amy Goodman has never strayed from the NATO line on countries such as Libya, Syria, and Russia. Like the corporate media, Goodman and her staff at Democracy Now! have provided positive coverage of so-called humanitarian groups like the White Helmets which have long been proven to work directly with NATO-armed jihadist mercenaries ravaging Syria . The Intercept and Democracy Now! have refused to invite any guests on their show that deviate from the NATO line on Syria.
These sources have benefited from the corporate takeover of the US media. Democracy Now! and The Intercept act as an escape valve from corporate media lies, which make them more difficult to criticize when they serve the same interests as the corporate media outlets that spurred their formation. In their coverage of the alleged chemical attack in Douma, both Amy Goodman and Glenn Greenwald joined the imperial chorus that the Syrian government bore responsibility for an attack that had yet to be proven even happened. Even Secretary of Defense James “Mad Dog” Mattis admitted that the US lacked evidence backing up their claims against Assad. The Intercept and Democracy Now! staked their firm position against the Syrian government despite the overwhelming evidence that Syria destroyed its chemical weapons in the OPCW brokered deal between Russia and the US in 2013 and that Syria, Russia, and their allies are the only parties interested in coming to a peaceful resolution to the war.
Cruise missile leftists thus bear much of the responsibility for the US, UK, and French airstrikes conducted against Syria on April 14th. After the strikes, Amy Goodman invited Chelsea Manning and so-called activist Rahmah Kudaimi to her show. Manning was given little time to speak while over seventy percent of the joint interview was taken up by Kudaimi’s assertions that US airstrikes “enable” the Syrian “regime.” Kudaimi practically begged the US to conduct the airstrikes correctly and fulfill the legitimate demand of the Syrian people to overthrow the Syrian government. Nowhere did Amy Goodman challenge such blatant support of US imperial objectives in Syria and beyond.
Democracy Now! and The Intercept are more interested in the overthrow of the Syrian government than its own government’s role in the region. Neither source gives any coverage to the influx of head-chopping jihadist mercenaries whose roots lie in the CIA-sponsored war in Afghanistan in 1979. Neither mentions how numerous primary sources, such as the 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency leaked document, pin US, Turkish, and Saudi support for “Salafists” in Syria for the rise of ISIS. The millions of displaced Syrians and hundreds of thousands dead fall at the feet of US imperialism. And the cruise missile left would rather the world become engulfed in the flames of World War III than admit this fact.
The US government is the most murderous entity the world has ever known yet the focus of the cruise missile left remains the chauvinistic and racist depictions of the Syrian government. These depictions have been proven to be outright lies time and time again. The Syrian government is the rightfully elected government of the Syrian people. President Bashar Al-Assad was reelected to office in 2014 by a large majority. Cruise missile leftists on Democracy Now! or The Intercept never bother to ask how a nation attacked by imperialism would benefit from murdering its own citizens and suppressing a legitimate rebellion of the people.
The imperial war on Syria is legitimate to the cruise missile left because it allows them to express white supremacy as a civilizing crusade. It was no different during the US-NATO invasion of Libya. Gaddafi was painted by the cruise missile left as a barbaric and despotic dictator who armed his Black mercenary army with Viagra to rape women and children. Assad has faced the same treatment as Gaddafi. The political legitimacy that collaboration with imperialism affords means much more to the cruise missile left than solidarity. After all, solidarity with oppressed people won’t get you lucrative partnerships with billionaire-backed foundations like First Look Media, the primary benefactor for The Intercept.
Democracy Now! and The Intercept not only betray the people of Syria and Russia when it peddles pro-war narratives, but also poor and working-class people here in the United States. Neither the terror of police occupation and mass incarceration in the Black community nor the poverty being enforced by the US austerity regime will become any less ruthless should US imperialism spark a nuclear conflict in Syria. In fact, endless war only exacerbates the declining conditions of the oppressed. The cruise missile left, however, sees its petty privileges as far more important than the future of humanity.
For those of us who have already decided that humanity comes first, our task remains the development of an alternative press that the cruise missile left is unwilling to provide.
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Top Photo | Khalid Albaih/Flickr
Danny Haiphong is an activist and journalist in the New York City area. He is currently writing a book with Roberto Sirvent entitled American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: Essays on Race, Empire, and Historical Memory. He can be reached at [email protected]