According to what we’ve been hearing from the Western media for these last nine years since the Syrian war started, the U.S. hasn’t had any detrimental role to play-and imperialism couldn’t possibly be any kind of relevant factor. But there’s a reason why non-imperialist Syria reporters like Vanessa Beeley have been thoroughly attacked, and why so many people (including me) have been censored for speaking the truth about what the Washington imperialists have done. The Syria narrative managers are so anxious to crush opposing voices because if those voices get recognition, a vast series of U.S. crimes will be exposed.
Since the U.S. took advantage of Syrian unrest in 2011 to ignite a regime change war waged by NATO-backed terrorist groups and Turkey, the war propaganda machine’s objective has been to keep the public totally in the dark about the U.S. role behind Syria’s crisis. They don’t want their war on Syria to be remembered like their wars on Vietnam and Iraq are remembered, with the U.S. being mostly recognized as a villain that’s responsible for tremendous atrocities. So in addition to the censorship and smearing of journalists who’ve told the truth, the narrative managers have constructed an alternate reality around Syria that the public is told to believe as the truth.
In this alternate reality, the terrorists are “moderate rebels” who are worthy of praise. The White Helmets, despite their proven ties to the terrorist groups and their dishonest tactics which serve imperialist narratives, are paragons of humanitarianism. The YPG, despite their collaboration with the imperialists, are “libertarian socialists” who’ve supposedly been building a just society in opposition to the designated villain Assad. And the U.S. itself hasn’t been the string-puller behind the violent efforts to overthrow Assad, but rather a benevolent helper of the “moderate rebels,” who represent the will of the Syrian people despite most Syrians supporting their current government.
This mythology about the anti-Assad militants being part of a cause that’s independent and just, along with the Russia-baiting tactic of demonizing all of Putin’s interventions in Syria, has kept the Western public focused on the empire’s targets rather than on the war crimes the empire has been committing against the Syrian people. The 5.6 million Syrian refugees, and the several hundred thousand deaths from the war, have all been blamed on Assad for defending his country amid a conflict that the U.S. created and perpetuates.
“The construction of the narrative in which street demonstrations against the Assad government would go from supposedly non-violent demonstrations to a ‘justifiable’ call for armed struggle in a matter of weeks and gain support from Western radicals was an amazing feat,” anti-war commentator Ajamu Baraka observed last year. “When some of us warned Western radicals that they were being manipulated, that the so-called revolution in Syria had become fraudulent because it lacked an organic, independent social base, and was being driven by imperialist forces who cared little about democratic reforms, the working class or Syria as an independent sovereign state, we were condemned as ‘Assadists’ and ‘Putin puppets.’”
Amid Assad’s movement towards military victory in the last several years, the strategy of warfare against Syria has changed, and with it the approaches to hiding Washington’s atrocities. The U.S. has shifted towards a long-term campaign of economic strangulation, where it works to cripple Syria’s economy under the guise of trying to hold Assad accountable for his supposed misdeeds. Amid this year’s pandemic and global depression, Syria’s economic crisis is now spiraling as a result of this, making it harder for the country to rebuild itself in the aftermath of the worst of the war. Washington has made it so that food in Syria is now more than twice as expensive as it was last year.
As this criminal deprivation of the Syrian people’s resources continues, the U.S. is partnering with the YPG to steal Syria’s oil. Last month, Secretary Pompeo confirmed that the State Department had awarded the U.S. company Delta Crescent Energy with a contract to start extracting oil in northeastern Syria. Despite this extraction of the resources of a sovereign country being illegal under international law, the Kurdish forces are providing the military support to stop the Syrian government from preventing Washington’s theft.
Yet the Western leftists who’ve glorified the YPG and other facets of the Syrian imperialist proxy forces still aren’t denouncing these forces-who would expect them to? On certain issues, there’s an ideological alignment between the U.S. State Department and the anti-communist, chauvinistic factions of the U.S. left. This alignment becomes apparent during imperialist operations like the 1999 Yugoslavia bombing campaign, which prompted Michael Parenti observe that “a gaggle of those anarchists and Trotskists…convinced themselves that the destruction of Yugoslavian social democracy was a blow against Stalinist communism.” It becomes apparent during attempted U.S. color revolutions like the recent CIA-backed Hong Kong protests, which were supported by the anarchist and left-communist factions which view the Communist Party of China as their enemy. And the imperialist war on Syria has made it clearer than ever.
This leftist complicity in Washington’s Syria operations is more than a lucky development for the imperialists. Like every other part of the Syria narrative, it’s been engineered. The demonization of Assad and the omission of Washington’s crimes has come from numerous left-oriented figures, from popular journalists like Amy Goodman to political artists like Molly Crabapple to public intellectuals like Noam Chomsky (who outright supports U.S. military involvement in Syria based on his desire to advance the establishment of a Kurdish ethnostate). Ironically, the man who wrote a book about how the U.S. manufactures consent has been helping with the consent manufacturing effort when it comes to Syria.
The ideological consensus behind this war has been ingrained into this country’s left from every available angle of manipulation. From the start, the imperialists have worked to make their version of the events in Syria so ubiquitously repeated that it becomes unquestionable, even to the political groups that consider themselves to be opposed to imperialism.
There’s the horror of the war propaganda paradigm that we in the imperial core are now trapped within. When even the supposed anti-imperialists don’t see an imperialist operation happening, the destruction and theft that our government is wreaking in Syria and other places become utterly benign. The horrors abroad, along with the injustices at home, fade into banality as late-stage capitalism descends into barbarism.
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