The Left of the United States and the current anti imperialist movement has a big problem that could damage the progress of our dialect. That problem is Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria.
It is a fact that Assad has sabotaged revolution in his country, quite actively so with state violence. I do not doubt there is some misrepresentation by the corporate media on the subject of the current regime in Syria. Although the conspiracy theories that Assad has never used state violence against his own people are factually not true and can be verified via testimony by refugees. Many refer to the fact U.N. investigators have found “no evidence” of the Assad regime using chemical weapons; however, while doing so they ignore the other fact that these are the same U.N. investigators who said there was no evidence of ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia or in Rwanda. They were wrong on both accounts.
There is no doubt some form of misrepresentation in the stories regarding Syria but this misrepresentation happens when discussing US foreign policy in any country, and it is simultaneously true that these misrepresentations are used as a tool by the media to justify interventionism. However what remains a harder truth is that Assad is not a Leftist, and he has been actively sabotaging Leftist uprisings in Syria. This is where the majority of Assad’s use of state violence has been directed. Assad’s use of violence has been a tool for suppressing the Kurdish Revolution in Rojava where the Kurdish people have declared autonomy from Syria and are creating a true socialist democratic confederation. As an autonomous region they do not recognize Assad as their head of state.
While some on the Left ignore Rojava and liberals and neocons bang the drums of war, several Leftists in the U.S. have taken the problematic stance which personifies the shallow “with us or against us” mentality that is all too common of U.S. politics. Certain radicals have perpetuated a problematic dialogue about Syria that ignores the Y.P.G. and Y.P.J. as Leftist units. This ignores the Syrians that Assad has in fact killed, and quite frankly will delegitimize the Left by perpetuating the exact form of “selective solidarity” which we see from neoliberals. Just as neoliberals express support for Malia of Pakistan but say nothing of the children in holding by I.D.F. forces, Leftists who support Assad are actively ignoring the people Assad has killed, especially the Kurdish people. They are therefore perpetuating a problematic dialogue.
This problematic dialogue is as such; that to be either anti-imperialist or pro-Syria one also needs to be Pro-Assad. This is nearsighted in countless ways. The most blatant of them being that it is an outright false equivalency. To be anti-imperialist does not mean one must support every leader who is against U.S. imperialism because those leaders in question might themselves still be imperialist, as is Assad. If Assad were not an imperialist he would have no problem seceding Rojava to the Kurds. To be a Leftist is to be anti-imperialist, but it is a bastardization of Leftism if we just outright support every leader who gives the middle finger to the U.S.
Further, this “either or” false dichotomy that to be anti-Assad is to be pro-imperialist blatantly ignores my first point, that Assad is not a Leftist and as far as my research shows the only Leftist movement with any steam in Syria is the Kurdish Revolution being protected by the Y.P.G. and Y.P.J. units. The fact that the word “socialist” appears in the name of Assad’s party is no different than the fact Hitler called himself a “National Socialist.”
Not only does this dialogue ignore a genuine Leftist revolution in Syria but it does nothing to help refugees. No matter who we try to paint as the good and evil in this situation it will be Syrian civilians who die. It will be Syrians who die no matter if it is Assad’s, Trump’s, or Putin’s bombs. We hurt refugees in two ways when we put Assad’s sovereignty ahead of the needs of Syrian victims of war. True working class solidarity should not be directed at protecting Syria and Assad’s “national sovereignty,” but rather directed at getting resources to refugees and fighting the anti refugee legislation constantly being enforced by the Trump presidency. Further, if the Left defends Syria and Assad along lines of “national sovereignty” then we lose legitimacy to our argument when we stand up for humanitarian rights in other nations. In Israel and Palestine for example, we cannot claim to stand for Palestinian rights if our concern is sovereignty because as far as international law is concerned Israel is a sovereign state. If solidarity is drawn along state lines then it loses legitimacy and we risk losing that legitimacy with selective solidarity directed at Assad and not the working class victims of Syria’s civil war. The Left’s dialogue about Syria must focus on helping refugees not on protecting state powers. It is selective solidarity if Leftists say they support Palestine but turn their backs on Syrian refugees.
Lastly this dialogue is the epitome of the shallowness in U.S. politics. It is no different than the idea that “you are either liberal or conservative,” or “with us or against us” as I mentioned above. It is not that complicated of a concept to argue that both U.S. imperialist interventionism and the Assad regime are things that the Left should stand against.
We must not support a dialogue about Syria that defends Assad as a leader. NATO forces have no right bombing any country and the idea that we are getting involved in Syria to spread democracy and not destabilization is laughable. However it is not so laughable that we can ignore the Assad problem that has infected the Leftist dialect and risks hurting our legitimacy especially when our energy is focused on protecting Assad’s power and not focused on helping Syrian refugees in any way we can.