Tonight we are learning about what is already being termed another "Houla style" massacre in Syria. Given the deafening silence from the US left with regards to Assad's atrocities in Syria, the ordinary observer, not schooled in the "anti-imperialist" perspective, might well conclude that while the left may care a lot about the Palestinians, they obviously don't give a fuck about the Syrians.
They may also conclude that these leftists are really more anti-Israel than they are pro-Palestinian the way they were more anti-NATO than they were pro-Libyan.
They don't get that while Israel's atrocities are what they are, and Egypt's Mubarak and Tunisia's Ben Ali were clearly tools of imperialism, Libya's Mummar Qaddafi and even Syria's Assad have received the left's goodhousekeeping seal of approval and should be given a pass when they try to roll over popular opposition with tanks.
The BBC News had an interesting segment tonight, an interview with a Chinese activist named Shen Tong. Shen Tong has a rather unique life history. He was an activist in Tienanmen Square 23 years ago and targeted by the Chinese government. Later he was able to escape to New York where he created a successful software business, but when Occupy Wall Street broke out, he found that he was called back to his activist roots and got fully involved. From his point of view both were popular struggles for social justice. Separated by 23 years and 10,000 miles, they were the same struggle.
Violence and the coming world revolutions.
Why the left should have an uncompromising stance with regards to the use of military power against peaceful protesters.
I'm afraid the final struggle against capitalism may be a very bloody one. Before it is overthrown worldwide, the use of military violence against peaceful protesters, as practiced by Mummar Qaddafi and Bashar al-Assad, could well become the norm in many countries including in North America and Europe.
It is against the future interest of the people everywhere for the left to tolerated a regime's use of such violence against a popular opposition anywhere, as it did with regards to Qaddafi's violence in Libya and, most shamefully, continues to do with regards to the plight of the Syrian people today.
After Qaddafi initiated the use of military power against the non-violent Arab Spring, in February 2011, regimes in Yemen, Bahrain and most significantly, Syria, followed suit. The gloves were coming off.
I think it extremely important, and I mean on a world historic level, that Qaddafi's use of military violence against a popular uprising did not succeed in Libya. That reason alone is enough to support the outcome, regardless of future developments in Libya. Successes tend to be imitated and if Qaddafi had shown that the violent beat down could keep him in power, neighborhoods around the world would be more likely to come under artillery fire in the future.
It is now equally important that Assad not prevail. If for no other reason than his widespread use of military power against a largely peaceful opposition, for wantonly shelling rebellious neighborhoods, he must go down! Anyone on the left, that is to say, anyone who thrives to be a true champion of the people and their future must demand it.
"Rules of Engagement" for the class struggle
Fundamentally what groups like HRW, AI and UNHCR are about is trying to establishing some basic "rules of engagement" for the class struggle. What will and won't be allowed. No land mines, no cluster bombs, no torture, no shelling of neighborhoods, etc. This is not the same as an end to all violence against the people, nothing will but an end to capitalism, the last system of the class exploitation that gives that violence its energy. In the meantime, any effort to minimize the level of violence used against the people is welcomed.
Of course, any attempt to enforce "rules of engagement" any attempt to bring a level of civility to warfare will ultimately crash upon the rocks of desperation, but since we will win by numbers, not by violence, anything that lowers the level of violence, even if in only a particular sector or short period, works in our favor.
The left must also be involved in establishing and enforcing "rules of engagement" for popular uprisings. I think we should now have "rules of engagement" that say if you shell rebellious neighborhoods, if you use helicopter gunships against popular assemblies, etc, you will go down! A worldwide network of activists will immediately direct its focus on you. The view we should be promoting is that if you do that, as Qaddafi did and Assad is doing, you will immediately become the target of the full force and fiery of the world's people!
Every head of state who violates these rules of engagement should end up like Qaddafi did. I disagree with the protesters in Tahrir today demanding a new sentence of death for Mubarak. I say let Mubarak live with his life sentence, he never opened up with his tanks in his efforts to stay in power. Let Ben Ali escape to Saudi Arabia, his army didn't open fire on the protesters. In every successful uprising, the rulers will be tempted to use massive violence to save themselves. They must all be taught a lesson. They must all know that if they don't, they may be allowed to live, but if they do, they will come to the same ignoble end that Qaddafi did.
The neoliberal trend that is in the leadership of NATO also currently sees these attempts of dictators to use massive violence to stay in power as counter-productive to their goal of imperial domination with stability. In this regards, they have some tactical agreement with us. The army brass in both Egypt and Tunisia are very much influenced by both NATO and this neoliberal thinking. That is why they refused to open fire when first Ben Ali in Tunisia and then Mubarak in Egypt ordered them to. Better to ditch the one man that had become identified with the dictatorship and preserve as much of the old order as possible than to have an all out fight to the end with the risk that the imperialist loose all their influence. This is what has almost happened in Libya.
In Libya, the people responded to Qaddafi's use of massive military violence against peaceful protests with massive courage from the beginning and finally by waging a people's war that, for the first time in the Arab Spring revolts, sweep away not only the dictator, but also the dictator's army and all the organs of state power. In Libya today, they have reclaimed the term 'revolutionary' from the revisionist Qaddafi and they are creating a new Libyan state from scratch.
Certain refineries in France and Italy are designed to run on the type of crude that is Libya's specialty. So, with the world economic crisis and all, the EU, UK & US needed Libyan oil back on line ASAP, this and the fact that NATO cultivates a reputation of being the good guys that they have to uphold, meant that they were willing to give limited support to the Libyan opposition. The Libya opposition wisely kept that limited to air support and that air support was far from what many on the left have cracked it up to be.
It was far, far from the massive air campaigns than we have seen in the past over Vietnam and even over Iraq. I have written about this in the past, Renfrey Clark did a good piece analyzing NATO's air campaign over Tripoli. While thousands of 'so-called' strike missions were flown by NATO, most did not actually bomb targets. Of the targets that were hit, most were air defense targets and since the Libyan opposition didn't have any planes, that wasn't such hot news to them. That the UN investigation found only 72 civilians killed accidentally by NATO bombs, an extraordinarily low number, in the Libyan campaign is a testament not just to the accuracy of the NATO bombs, but also to their rarity.
But that won't stop the NATO leaders from claiming credit for the Libyan people's hard won victory over Qaddafi, of the anti-interventionist left giving it to them.
While on the subject of NATO, there is also the interesting way that the contradictions within NATO played out during the Libyan campaign. US anti-interventionists have been so quick to see the US masters of war as ramrodding NATO and even controlling the Libyan NTC, that they probably didn't notice that US forces carried out less than 20% of the air strikes, or ask themselves why. Defense forums and other NATO watchers became keenly aware of the power struggle being played out between the US and its European allies in the Libyan campaign, but i have yet to see anyone on the left address this.
If violent revolution has been more the norm than the exception, it is because those in power have shown time and time again that they will stop at nothing to stay in power. The left must never give such violence a pass or fail to support those people facing it. The almost complete failure of the organized US left to support "regime change" in Libya when the regime was raining cluster bombs on its people was shameful, and it's failure to demand "regime change" in Syria, as that regime daily goes from massacre to massacre is disgusting.