For more than a year and a half the politicians and media in the west have been displaying their deep sympathy for the people of Syria. The litany is incessant: Bashar al-Assad is guilty of ‘crimes against humanity’. And indeed, the slaughter being carried out by the Syrian regime has mounted up at a terrifying pace, and has even further accelerated this summer, despite all the UN appeals for a cease-fire. The dictator of Damascus continues his project of wiping out the Syrian ‘rebellion’ with considerable determination, declaring recently that “this will take some time still” and that the growing desertion by senior regime officials amounts to “a self-cleansing operation by the state first of all, and by the nation in general”.
Since 15 March 2011, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 23,000 have been killed. And how many of the 200,000 injured will not be maimed for life, or will not survive their wounds? Assad certainly leaves little to chance, because he has even been bombing hospitals and sending in his troops to terrorise them and murder his enemies. Al-Qoubir, Damas, Rifha, Aleppo, Dera, Daraya, all these martyred towns are symbols of the extreme brutality that has descended on the country.
We should add to this a situation of humanitarian disaster. Food, milk for children, medicines, care for the wounded, water – there is a catastrophic lack of all these things in most towns and regions. Houses have been destroyed en masse and there is a serious shortage of shelter. Electricity cuts often last 4 to 5 days and supplies may only be resumed for an hour or so, as in Aleppo.
Fleeing the fighting and the exactions of Assad’s army, but also from the Free Syrian Army, which is increasingly being accused of certain massacres, nearly 300,000 people have gone into exile, whether to the south of Syria, towards Lebanon and Jordan, or north towards Turkey and even to Iraq. Masses of refugees are being kept in miserable camps in the hope of one day being able to return home...where everything has been destroyed.
In total, according to the UN, we are talking about over two and a half million people, women, children, the aged, in a ‘situation of distress’.
Tears of the crocodile
These alarming figures have drawn tears from the leaders of the planet, but they are tears of the crocodile. Fabius, the French foreign minister, said that this was “an intolerable and unacceptable situation”. And we would applaud these brave words as the expression of a legitimate revulsion against such horror – if they weren’t part a cynical masquerade.
On 27 August, François Hollande declared: “I solemnly declare that along with our allies we will remain very vigilant about preventing the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime, which for the international community would be a legitimate cause for direct intervention”. This intervention would follow in the footsteps of Barak Obama who not long before said that the use of chemical weapons would mark a “red line” and would be a reason for sending in troops against the Syrian regime. In other words, as long as the killing is done with ‘traditional’ weapons, that’s OK, but watch out for crossing that “red line”.
In fact the western bourgeoisie has been threatening to intervene for months, but it’s in no position to do so, and diplomatic initiatives have come and gone, each one more hypocritical than the one before. And even if they did intervene, this would not at all be in order to support the population but to open the door to a new free-for-all, a new escalation of horror whose first victim would again be the Syrian population.
This war of so-called ‘liberation’, this ‘struggle for democracy’, is an imperialist war pure and simple. All the regional and global powers are involved in it, with the USA, Russia, China, France and Britain in the front line. The involvement and responsibility of these gangsters is not restricted to their gesticulations in the UN or elsewhere, but through the arms and cash they are supplying to both camps.
The talk of setting up a buffer zone on Syria’s border with Turkey, to offer shelter to the tens of thousands of refugees in the area, is a vast smokescreen, because it’s not viable given Assad’s opposition to it. It would more or less require open war with Damascus because it would serve as a launch pad for most of the imperialist sharks, flying the flag of ‘peacekeeping’, with all the attendant risks for the refugees. We should remember how the UN, and France in particular, allowed thousands of people to be massacred in Srebenica by troops under Milosevic.
If the UN did intervene, we would have to recall the solicitude with which the Afghans, and then the Iraqis, have been treated since 2001 in the name of the ‘war against terror’ or ‘for democracy’. Both countries have been shattered by these interventions, leaving the population prey to rival warlords, each one more backward than the one before.
We should also keep in mind the intrigues and the violence which presided over the establishment of French and British protectorates in this region of the Middle East when the Ottoman Empire collapsed at the end of the First World War. The Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 carved up Syria and Iraq while promising ‘freedom’ to the Arab peoples. The bourgeoisie always makes a great show of its good intentions while hiding its real aims under a mountain of lies.
One thing is for sure, what is happening today under our eyes is not just the expression of the madness of Assad, but of this decadent social system. And it is without doubt the prelude to an unprecedented aggravation of the situation throughout the Middle East. The consequences will be disastrous, as we can already see with the extension of the conflict into the Lebanon.
. We should note the brazen cheek of Russia which has been supplying Assad with combat helicopters but which offered this excuse: “We are now finishing the fulfilment of contracts that were signed and paid for a long time ago. All of (the contracts) are solely for means of air defence” (www.theguardian.com/world/2012/jun/13/us-claim-syria-russian-civilians). But the US is not so different. It claims that it is only supplying the opposition forces with “means of communication” but it is actually using Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait to provide anti-tank weapons. France meanwhile sells thermal cameras to Russia for its tanks, which supposedly will not be used to equip the Syrian army!