Workers Vanguard No. 1030
20 September 2013
U.S. Hands Off the World!
Imperialists Put Off Strike on Syria, For Now
Many throughout the world—from various European heads of state to the average Joe/Jill on the streets of the U.S.—breathed a sigh of relief when Barack Obama announced that he was tabling his plans to bomb Syria while exploring Russian President Vladimir Putin’s proposal to place the Assad regime’s stockpile of chemical weapons under “international control.” Soon after, Obama’s media toadies were fuming over the trenchant and apt delineation of U.S. bellicosity in Putin’s op-ed piece in the New York Times (11 September). Pointing out that a U.S. strike against Syria would “result in more innocent victims and escalation,” the capitalist autocrat wrote: “Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan ‘you’re either with us or against us’.” He then piously put forward, “We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.”
It is a measure of the intense opposition to a U.S. attack on Syria that Putin has been mentioned, at times without tongue in cheek, for the Nobel Peace Prize given to war criminals who, however briefly, resort to diplomatic wheeling and dealing. Meanwhile, calls on Obama to forfeit his prize have been on the increase. Putin’s posture as the epitome of moderation and reason is consummate hypocrisy from the strongman of capitalist Russia who led the carnage against Chechen fighters for independence over a decade ago, among other bloody deeds.
The current chaos and bloodletting in the Near East, which in the context of the Syrian civil war threaten to erupt into a regional Sunni-versus-Shi’ite communal war, have been fed by more than two decades of wars and machinations by U.S. imperialism in the service of its appetites to maintain and augment its dominance there. U.S. depredations have decimated the populations of Iraq and Afghanistan and are ongoing both in Afghanistan and with drone strikes throughout the region. Although the talks between Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov seem to have removed the prospect of an attack on Syria in the near future, Obama has maintained his “right” to act unilaterally if he is not pleased with the outcome of the chemical weapons deal.
The Assad regime lauds Putin for obtaining an agreement it describes as a victory. The Syrian rebels, on the other hand, had hoped that the campaign against the purported use of chemical weapons would provide the basis for imperialist bombardment on their behalf and have bitterly denounced the agreement. Marxists do not support either side in the Syrian civil war, which pits two reactionary forces against each other: the butcher Assad regime and a gaggle of rebel forces, ranging from hardcore Islamists to some secular types, which are mainly armed by Persian Gulf states and have themselves reportedly used chemical weapons. However, it would be the duty of the proletariat, especially U.S. workers in the belly of the beast, to stand for the defense of Syria against any military attack by the rapacious imperialists. Workers must also oppose the imperialist starvation sanctions that are in place against both Syria and Iran.
The Assad regime, which amassed chemical weapons as a counterweight to the nuclear-armed Zionist state of Israel, has indicated willingness to accept the terms of the Russia-U.S. deal, including the presence of United Nations chemical weapons inspectors. It is to be remembered that in the lead-up to the second U.S. war against Iraq, the UN and its inspectors acted as the imperialists’ facilitators, a role the UN has played since its founding after World War II. As the world’s dominant capitalist power, the U.S. will persist in its efforts to control the Near East politically and militarily. As aptly put by John Pilger in the London Guardian (10 September): “John Kerry’s farce and Barack Obama’s pirouettes are temporary. Russia’s peace deal over chemical weapons will, in time, be treated with the contempt that all militarists reserve for diplomacy.”
In Syria as well as Iran, Russia has strategic interests in the production and delivery of fossil fuels throughout the region. Moreover, Russia has enough military might, largely in the form of its nuclear arsenal, to command the respect of the U.S. To emphasize its opposition to Obama’s threatened bombing, Russia dispatched two warships to the Mediterranean Sea in August and recently sent two more to the area, including a “carrier killer” missile cruiser. The CIA has in recent weeks initiated light arms and munitions shipments to Syrian rebels, who are likely to receive more such aid in spite of the deal.
In the countries of the European Union (EU), many of which remain mired in recession, the widespread unpopularity of the U.S.-led war/occupation of Iraq provided the main basis for large-scale opposition to the proposed attack on Syria. British Conservative prime minister David Cameron’s failure to deliver parliamentary support for an attack left François Hollande, Socialist Party prime minister of France (Syria’s former colonial overlord), as the only EU leader to back the U.S. Russian resistance to the U.S. bombing plans stiffened the resolve of the European imperialist chiefs, whose countries have their own interests in the region. When the assassin Putin provided Edward Snowden with temporary asylum, thus seizing the tattered mantle of “human rights” respectability from the assassin Obama, those heads of state were further pleased. All of these run their own nations’ spy apparatuses (normally in collaboration with the NSA and CIA or, in Britain’s case, in lockstep). But many of them resent the mammoth scope of the surveillance they are subjected to by the U.S. spymasters.
The rapidity with which the U.S./Russian understanding was reached indicates that Obama had little taste to go it alone. His September 10 speech indicating a willingness to try the path of diplomacy was for the most part a paean to American imperialism as the seven-decade-long “anchor of global security”—in other words, the world’s sheriff. Through multiple enforcements (read, continuous wars), America has made the world a better place, a force for good especially devoted to keeping children safe, blah blah. To those few hawks who complained about limiting an attack on Syria to a pinprick strike, Obama was more than reassuring. He declared, “Let me make something clear: The United States military doesn’t do pinpricks.”
Indeed not. The drones that shatter villages in Afghanistan and elsewhere are neither childproof nor pinpricks. The atomic incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not spare the wee ones. The napalm conflagrations employed in the Korean War deprived the inhabitants of villages and towns of the air necessary to survive irrespective of age. The chemical defoliants rained on the population of Vietnam (six pounds of defoliant per head) produced what Vietnamese doctors call a cycle of fetal deformities. The U.S. blockade of medicines to Iraq during the Clinton era was similarly unkind to the kids. The number of those massacred abroad by the U.S. imperialists in pursuit of their class interests since World War II approaches the ten-million mark. The bloodsoaked American rulers will be disarmed only when the U.S. proletariat sweeps them from power through socialist revolution.
Absent international support, Obama’s eschewal of an immediate armed attack on Syria signifies some recognition that such a venture is opposed by the war-weary majority of the American people, many of whom voted for him in 2008 as the “peace” candidate. Predictably, the racist yahoo Tea Party types are against any proposal from a man they dementedly portray as an alien hybrid of Hitler, Stalin and Idi Amin. Most Americans have other concerns, like surviving the impact of the “Great Recession.”
In this context, the majority of Congress, many of whom will stand for election next year, were undecided or opposed to endorsing Obama’s “limited” attack on Syria. Although the president is not greatly favored by the populace at the moment, Congress is very widely and vigorously despised, inspiring the following headline in The Onion (5 September): “Poll: Majority of Americans Approve of Sending Congress to Syria.” From their own standpoint, many among the U.S. capitalist rulers share the appreciation that this Congress (whose job is, after all, to serve their class interests) can accomplish nothing and are ill-disposed to getting bogged down in another Near East quagmire. This is especially the case in Syria, where the strength of the rebel forces resides in Islamic fundamentalists who are devoted to the extinction of the Great Satan (America). And Putin gave Obama a way out of his mess.
In his speech, the president intoned: “I know Americans want all of us in Washington, especially me, to concentrate on...‘putting people back to work, educating our kids, growing our middle class’.” The reality is that the percentage of the population employed is the same as it was at the depths of the recent recession and that Obama has continued the attacks on education initiated by his predecessor under the banner of “reform.”
Those massively deprived of their homes by the recession remain, for the most part, dispossessed, while many others are added to that list due to the rapacious bankers. Meanwhile, those at the very top have not only recovered their losses from the financial crisis but have seen their wealth reach an all-time high. Many of the president’s liberal supporters laud “Obamacare” as the crowning achievement of his reign. Not so trade unionists who fear that his recent one-year reprieve to employers to provide health care under the plan will allow the bosses more time to dump the health care they are obliged to provide under existing union contracts.
To these blows to working and poor people should be added the veneer Obama provided to racists with his proclamation upon being elected five years ago that racism had been 90 percent eliminated in this country. The recent Supreme Court ruling threatening voting rights, at base, challenges the legitimacy of the North’s victory over the slaveholding South in the Civil War. The ruling appealed to the perception that racism is pretty much a yesterday thing. This fiction was exposed as such, for the umpteenth time, by the killing of Trayvon Martin, so that a president known for his reticence in addressing racism felt obliged to acknowledge that black people face “a history that doesn’t go away.”
Nevertheless, in the absence of a workers party that champions the interests of the exploited and the oppressed, most workers and black people continue to look to the Democrats and Obama to provide some redress for their plight. Simultaneously, the rulers of the decaying capitalist order are intent on further grinding the working people and the poor, and every successful extension of U.S. military might across the globe strengthens them in that effort. The only social force capable of reversing these assaults is the working class mobilized in struggle against the dictates of bourgeois rule. It is the historic task of the international proletariat to put an end to capitalist imperialism and create a worldwide planned economy. But that requires the leadership of revolutionary workers parties, which we in the International Communist League seek to build as sections of a reforged Trotskyist Fourth International.
In the article “Imperialists Put Off Strike on Syria, For Now” (WV No. 1030, 20 September 2013) we incorrectly referred to François Hollande as the Socialist Party prime minister of France. He is in fact the president of France; the prime minister is Jean-Marc Ayrault. (From WV No. 1037, 10 January 2014.)