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Chicago anti-war leader Joe Iosbaker speaks out on Syria

By staff

Chicago, IL – A forum was held here, Aug. 3, about U.S. Intervention in Syria. Sponsored by the March 19th Coalition, it included speakers from the ANSWER Coalition and the Syrian American Forum.

Joe Iosbaker, an activist with the Anti-War Committee-Chicago, was part of the panel.

The following is the speech that Iosbaker delivered:

The Anti-War Committee is opposed to U.S. intervention in Syria. The U.S. is at war, and we are trying to stop that and prevent further intervention. I’m going to speak about some of the wrong ideas that we encounter in the anti-war movement in the course of organizing protests against the U.S./NATO/Israeli war on Syria.

Wrong idea number one: The U.S. is not at war in Syria and is trying to not get dragged in

We hear this in two versions, one from liberals and one from so-called leftists.

Liberal Version

The war in Syria is a civil war between Sunni forces oppressed by an Alawite minority government; and Alawite and Christian forces aligned with the government because they fear the victory of the Jihadist Sunni forces. The Obama administration is hesitant to intervene – they don’t want another Libya, but are being pushed by hawks like John McCain and Hilary Clinton. Obama doesn’t want to look weak.

Underneath these ideas is a belief that Washington’s entrance into the war would be a humanitarian act devoid of imperial machinations.

Response: This is relatively easy to refute simply by pointing to the billions of dollars of control that U.S. military aid buys over Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. Those countries are part of the U.S. team; they wouldn’t be intervening without U.S. knowledge and consent.

Further, while issuing denials of involvement at each stage, the truth continues to leak out. A New York Times article earlier this year reported that a Qatari minister admitted that the CIA was sitting in their meetings as early as Oct. 2011 to decide where arms should go to in Syria.

‘Leftist’ version

The Free Syrian Army (FSA) is part of the Syrian revolution that emerged with the Arab Spring protests in 2011. The revolution took up armed struggle after violent repression by Assad’s brutal military. The local revolutionary councils continue to run the communities and therefore the revolution should be supported. However, the Obama administration doesn’t want to support this democratic revolution, so the U.S. isn’t intervening.

Response: Whatever grievances the protesters in Syria had in 2011, the Gulf monarchies and Turkey, along with the CIA, leapt in at the opportunity that was provided. The U.S. was already funding rightist groups in Syria in 2005. After the street protests, within months, arms began to flow from Qatar and Turkey.

The fantasy that the revolution is alive and not dominated by imperialism ignores two truths that all political forces on earth know: First, the lines have been drawn quite clearly – a sectarian army backed by imperialism vs. a government with a history of resisting imperialism. Those who align themselves with foreign armies are considered traitors. And second, political power grows out of the barrel of a gun. If there are still local committees that have some political and social ideas separate from the foreign dominated armies fighting the Assad government, they will have no say in any post-war Syria.

Wrong idea number two: The Assad government is brutal, so how can we blame the FSA for accepting weapons that are supplied by Saudi Arabia and Qatar? Response: Although it is a struggle to get through the mass of pro-rebel propaganda, truth has come out. For instance, independent sources state that the largest numbers of casualties have been [inflicted on] forces associated with the government – soldiers and militia; second, civilians, including heavy Alawite casualties; and third, rebel troops.

But again, for anti-war forces in the U.S., there’s no other way to read this idea but a call for somebody to intervene to topple the government of Syria. In other words, some imperialist intervention is good.

The anti-war movement has to be very clear: the U.S. cannot play a progressive role in the affairs of another country.

Wrong idea number three: The war in Syria is a U.S./Russian proxy war Response: The mainstream media runs out this idea more and more. Characterizing the war in Syria as a proxy war lets the U.S., NATO and Israel off the hook. They are waging a war on the government and people of Syria because they want a puppet in power. The Russians are providing weapons to the government of Syria to resist that war. “Proxy war” makes it seem like both sources of arms are equally to blame for the fighting in Syria. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Wrong idea number four: The FSA grew from the Arab Spring protests against austerity. Response: What is the economic program of the rebels? No doubt everyone is aware of the violent sectarianism of the rebels, but look at the economic program of the U.S. and Gulf state-led Syrian National Council (SNC). The SNC calls for a Marshall Plan, basically looking to U.S. and Western financial agencies to recreate the Syrian economy. It is well known that U.S. investment leads to the domination of an economy by U.S. interests and not to prosperity for the majority. The policies of opening up to the West by Assad’s government and the resulting austerity measures were the cause of the Arab Spring protests in Syria in 2011. The SNC program doesn’t represent the demands of the protesters for an end to those policies.

What should the stand of the U.S. anti-war movement be?

First, recognize that the U.S. is at war. Second, in my opinion, the Syrian government ought to be defended. And more than ever the U.S. and the worldwide anti-war and social justice movement must demand, “Hands off Syria!”

For me, the starting point in looking at the world is this: the main struggle in the world today is between imperialism and the oppressed nations and people. The center of this world wide contest is the battle to control the natural resources – oil – of the mainly Muslim nations of the Middle East. This is the leading edge of the imperialist campaign to use military might to put them back on top of the world capitalist heap, which they can’t accomplish through economic means. The imperialists have lost ground over 70 years to the nations and people of the world. Their drive to turn back the hands of time is leading them to get rid of every government of an oppressed nation that resists imperialist dictates, and Syria and Iran are the two most important.

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