Your mind wandered as a brief pause in our conversation settled in. We were driving back from a town you knew well, and one I’d come to know as much. The car drifted into the lane beside us, the one reserved for those headed the opposite way. I too looked out the window, letting my mind ponder the sheer time the trees in the distance had seen, and how we have so little of it to experience. I noticed a car approaching, and figured you did too. But it came closer, inching ever nearer to our fate. Finally I broke your wandering mind and you reacted with the speed of a man half your age. I yelled just one word, “Grandpa!”

We were safe. I cast no blame, your mind was restless like mine, your desires bigger than the world you resided in. The ability to keep yourself latched to the moment without looking far ahead was an affliction, if you could call it that, which I shared with you. It was not the first time you had made a mistake, and tried to correct it. Thankfully, it was successful, a consequence not often enough for you, I know. It didn’t matter just then, we laughed about it the rest of the ride home.

There are few people in the world you can disagree with vehemently, but respect with the same vigor. You were one of those for me. Our worlds were different, time had passed, wars fought, nations destroyed, governments toppled and replaced. Money was, for some, easier to come by, a struggle had settled into passing the rewards forward to the next generations. It was I who received your check, written with years of toil, mistake and attempted reparations. We were different, but shared not only genetic material, but mindfulness, appreciation for nuance and irony, as well as the undeniable desire to always be victorious in argument.

We battled; hard. We disagreed and yelled, hurled insults and consternation, but could always break the stalemate with a joke, or an ironic twist of fate. That was us, two fighters for truth, whose paths had meandered far away only to come rushing back in glorious collisions. I reveled in the chance to be honest with an elder, to contest the “wisdom” that was attained over years of strife, and to put them to the test of the modern world. You, in return, loved to tease the impressionable, stab holes in our multi-colored coat, and impart indelible truths gleaned from a lifetime of engagement with humanity.

Then there is music, the great bridge of generations. Though the form diverse, the tempo was always fast, a reflection of how we viewed life. You, like I, ensured that it continued and in right time. It was us who, though branded with white skin still retained rhythm, made sure the band was grounded and allowed to stretch its legs. When I sit each time before my instrument I will take a moment and remember all the times you too sat in your own stool, providing the basis for everything else. From now on, you will have to take a seat next to me, for it is my turn to take on the whole burden.

One last thing we share I cannot leave unsaid. I too have stared at the empty bottom of bottles, wondering why its contents had only provided part of what they formerly had. Though I recalled countless wonderful memories with the drink, they had receded far from the present and only served to send my insides swirling. It’s a lesson that came too hard or too late for you, but it’s one, though unspoken, you have helped me to learn. I will raise a glass to you today, the last day that allowed your mind to continue exploring, but I will also put it down. It is that quality which is, really, a greater tribute to your legacy.

So with this ode I say farewell, though you won’t be far. Not hoisted high above, or sent careening down below, instead your place will be with me, taking a seat for a performance or holding my hand as we wander into introspection or utopian dreams. I won’t forget you, or what you’ve taught me. I won’t forget your desire for truth or your belly laugh at irony’s greatest follies. You were my grandpa, and were your own until the dawn began breaking this morning, but now you’ve gone and are left to reside in all those who remain etched by your genes and blessed by your ever adventurous spirit and incorrigible mind. Thank you for everything, I won’t forget you.

White Priviledge

Posted: September 23, 2014 in Uncategorized, Writing

Here’s my only issue with all the discussion of white privilege. Let me first say I acknowledge the phenomenon and it’s obvious outcroppings. My issue is that the phenomenon can be draped in classic identity politics, i.e. race and gender, but that is really just masking the true underlying problem: class inequality. When you look at it from a Marxist rather than a liberal view (class over identity) you get much more out of it. Blacks and women are paid less and have a harder time because they are poor at higher rates than privileged classes. Wealthy black people don’t have near the issues of black people as a whole.

The other issue, which is more generalizable, is this. Okay so I have educated myself as the last comic suggested. Now what to do about it? This where liberals and proponents of identity politics fail. For them the issue stops at recognition. “This is how our messed up society just works.” There are no explanation as to why (which would upset liberals) or ways to actually confront and change this social ill.

This is why liberals get nowhere. They complain about issues which are worthy of elucidation and examination but that’s were they end. This alienates working class people who are spending enough time dealing with the aftermath so as they lack the requisite time and energy to study philosophy, critical theory or feminism. It shoots itself in the foot because it is usually spouted from well to do or upper middle class (mostly white) liberals with – as they see it – nothing better to do than whine about social ills the never actually experience.

So I’m left holding the bag with nothing but guilt and anger which, as capitalism is so wonderful at doing, I can alleviate by distractions. Go youtube.


Posted: July 25, 2014 in Poetry

Not just waves wash away
Footprints in the sand
The slow creep, not today
No, it came in fast

From the blue horizon
Only distant dots in sight
From above then it came
To continue the fight

A football blown clear
Rolled lightly into water
Untouched by the blast
Singing silent honors

The air around etched
With the stench of death
Laughs led to screams
Out of nowhere it seemed

But we know, don’t we all
A star etched in a deck
But both of them believe
In the angel of death

There not only in dreams

The Farm

Posted: July 24, 2014 in Poetry

Rays of sunlight pierce through the cracks of the barn creating a checkerboard design on the expansive lawn of the turn of the century farmhouse nestled among fields of soy, corn and wheat stretching as far as one can see in each direction. Each winter the fall’s condensation seeps into the cracks between the boards, freezing and pushing them apart with the persistence and patience of a continental plate, moving just a few centimeters each season. Ever widening gaps grow larger each year as do the rows of sunlight on the grass, allowing patches to grow a little faster where it hits. The overgrown trees, neglected for decades, shroud most of the lawn in shade, and keep the spring rain from reaching the sward causing an even more discordant lawn, with patches grown over and others nearly bare.

We all just called it “The Farm.” Settled outside a village so small there show no population tally under the only sign which announced its presence to those who passed. The farm was a place to escape the city – to look out upon the sea of olive green or light brown and admire the process that brings food to local stores which otherwise goes completely unnoticed. Grandpa lived in the old farmhouse alone. Although nearing the age of 80, he still stood tall with a wide grin and a growing belly. He tended a decent sized garden at the edge of the property, the harvests of which he was particularly proud. He never mentioned being lonely, but it was evidenced by the look on his face when the first visitors would arrive for our family gatherings and the small drop of the head as we pulled from the long driveway.

The farm was a place to escape the limitations and monotony of modern life – time slowed and the world lost its numbing complexity, there were no computers or tablets to distract; phones lost the signals beamed from towers too far to reach us. Those of us who had nearly forgotten a world outside screens and skyscrapers were suddenly forced to find a way to entertain ourselves. Our curiosity, usually curbed by the infinite information at our fingertips, was allowed, even demanded, to roam free and pull our bodies with it. We explored the terrain, climbed trees, built forts; we waged epic battles in our small Ardennes and herded the sheep Grandpa kept for supplemental income making sure to put out of our minds their final fate, even as they eventually moved to fork from plate.

The barn, which long ago began the slow dip towards collapse, was kept upright by shear engineering prowess, fighting gravity and harsh winters but gradually losing its former glory. Still, it provided a myriad of means for young’uns to stay engaged. We found small spaces between the haystacks and ceiling, crawling from one end to the other with just enough room for our tiny frames to wiggle through. It was the hayloft that provided the most fun, though. The large beams which made up the frame of the barn stood fortified in cement and attached to each wall, making a perfect balancing beam which we all eventually mastered.

Grandpa caught on to our fascination and rigged up ropes to climb, attached a ladder to the retaining beams allowing easy access to our gymnastic frolics. He shifted ropes and pulleys which formerly moved bales of hay around the loft to retrofit them into zip lines, carrying droves of children from one end of the barn to the other. While a horribly unsafe endeavor, the barn itself dangling dangerously close to catastrophic ruin, none of us were ever hurt badly. There was a spill here and there, but nothing a Band-Aid and Grandpa’s comfort couldn’t treat with ease.

Over the years the barn fell silent, no children echoing its spaces with oration and laughter. We had grown up, more interested in other advantages visits to The Farm provided. Grandpa’s refrigerators were always stocked with beer, vodka, tonic water and food – all cheap products purchased from discount stores or duty free at the nearest Air National Guard base situated just an hour away. Every once and a while, with beers in hand and lit cigarettes in our mouths, we would peer into the barn and track is slide towards earth. The bravest among us still willing to take the risk to gaze upon the former playing grounds, losing themselves in a flood of nostalgic nervousness complimented by the potential fatal accident one strong gust of wind away.

Grandpa still fared well over those years. His belly grew a bit and his face wrinkled more, a small patch of skin hung just slightly from his chin. Still relatively active, he tended his garden year after year, keeping the old farmhouse clean, but spending the majority of time in a warm basement seated in an old VA wheelchair, flipping channels between college football and Fox News. He kept his mind occupied, not wanting to replay the tumultuous events of his life. He had seen the best and worst of humanity – felt true love and real loss, gazed upon the dizzying world of the travelling circus and pulled salmon from the California seas. All but once he dodged surface to air missiles over Hanoi, and had to watch the North Vietnamese jungle come nearer and nearer as he floated towards its canopy. He felt the slight sting of high honors as they were pinned to his chest, saw the world flatten as his depth perception was taken from him and watched as his six young children grew, eventually bringing their own offspring to The Farm retirement afforded him.

He ignored the widespread bitterness old age tends to bring and chose, despite immense difficulty, to look on the bright side; to watch, like an astronaut floating hundreds of miles above the surface, as the world changed shape around him still keeping a keen eye on the horizon in front and behind him. A new generation reinvigorated the place; all carrying some of his genes and all attempting to live up to his familial reputation. It granted him a new lease on life, and gave a purpose often left unconsidered. For all of us he is the Colonel, the undisputed patriarch of a family which grows exponentially in size and touches each corner of the country, but ultimately lies in the old house situated on a small parcel of land nestled among the fields that feed us with a uneven lawn, beams of light winding through the cracks in the barn’s wooden walls which, like the man who occupies the home across the greensward, stands against the unshakable force of entropy remaining tall and proud.

Tour Song

Posted: October 17, 2013 in Uncategorized

Seeing America through the front window
its vast oceans of green spread out in each way
Its water is clear, blue, and green
its sky: blue, red and grey

All the people are the same
some great, some less; some all together lost
but there’s always somewhere in America
where they can find and be found
it teems with difference
yet we’re not really that different

And through the window
it seems as if there’s certainly something
just a little bit farther in the distance
Fields and forests, steel and sand
cut through by long stretches of concrete

People replace trees as the urban jungles near
with buildings reaching skyward
but the sullen lot below
gaze upward with a jealous grin
but don’t know where to go

There’s music though, in every place
we’re not only connected by interstate
its the same everywhere; the people, the sounds
its just the names on the streets and the name of the town

As we move along to the next stop on the list
I wonder what similarities I’ll see
and what I things I may notice
but I know it wont matter
because to me, you see,
we’re all in it…together

In the time when there appeared to be an imminent American attack on Syria based on the alleged use of chemical weapons in the suburbs of Damascus, a new argument began. The U.S. has claimed it has “irrefutable” evidence that the forces loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad had carried out the attack, while Russia has claimed it has evidence it was actually perpetrated by the “rebels”, specifically the Islamist faction of the “Free Syrian Army” or FSA. This debate has settled after an agreement was brokered between the two imperial powers which brings Syria into the international Chemical Weapons Convention agreement. This will undoubtedly lead to the dismantling of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile. This stockpile is arguably the largest in world outside the U.S. and Russia who have both claimed to have been in the process of destroying their own weapons warehouses, but in a sad irony, have “yet to complete the process”.

However, what has come from this potential attack by the U.S. is a debate within the anti-war community. The focus of this debate surrounds where to stand on the issue of Assad and his regime. There are pro and anti-Assad groups who both claim that their own positions are the key to the future of the anti-war movement. The following is a brief outline.

On September 10, 2013 Socialist posted an article titled “Standing against Both war and Dictatorship” which basically sums up the Anti-Assad aspect of the anti-war movement. In short the position stems from the assumption that the Arab Spring is a popular movement of disaffected workers against regimes which have repressed freedoms and stifled political activity for decades. Therefore we get:

1) The Syrian opposition is seen as having two facets, the Islamists and the genuine revolutionaries embodied in the Local Coordinating Committees.

“But if the U.S. has been successful in its perennial strategy of finding regime opponents willing to play ball with Washington’s plans–in this case, former members of the Assad regime itself, among other dubious characters–that obviously doesn’t discredit everyone fighting for change. In particular, the Local Coordination Committees and other revolutionary currents have a proven record of challenging the regime while remaining independent of imperialist maneuvers.”

2) The Assad regime (which stretches back to Bashar’s father Hafez al-Assad) has had a long history of rights abuses, the suspension of the constitution by the enactment of emergency laws to repress those who oppose the regime.

During the civil war,

“There is no iron-clad evidence that the regime was responsible for the chemical weapons attack that killed more than 1,400 people in a Damascus suburb on August 21, but its brutality is well established by its use of heavy weaponry against a civilian population in recent years–and its history of using a “state of emergency” declared in 1963 to clamp down on even the tamest reform efforts.”

3) Syria is decidedly not “anti-imperialist:

Citing Omar s. Dahi and Yasser Munif

Within the context of Arab authoritarianism, Syria has a unique trajectory. It doesn’t follow the diktats of the West in the same way Mubarak’s Egypt or Abdullah’s Jordan do, but it has never been truly oppositional to the U.S. world order, as it sometimes likes to portray itself. It has been more independent than the U.S. would like and, in an era of total subservience by Syria’s Arab brethren, this has seemed radical.

But the main goal for this independence was regime preservation. Its 1976 involvement in the Lebanese war alongside right-wing Christian militias to crush the Palestinian Liberation Organization attests to the Syrian regime’s conservative nature. In 1991, Hafiz al-Assad chose to participate in the Gulf War against Iraq while his son’s regime participated in extraordinary rendition, torturing Syrian citizens to gather crucial information that could help the U.S. in its “global war on terror.”

As Yusef Khalil wrote in

Anti-imperialism is not an excuse to give political cover to a regime that has for decades repressed independent political parties, unions, workers’ organizations, and even discussion groups and public gatherings…

Dictatorships and imperialism use one another as alibis to justify the violence they inflict. In fact, the choice between the two has historically guaranteed that we will suffer from both. The antiwar movement cannot oppose American bombs while cheering Assad’s bloody crackdown.

I myself have argued this position in person and on the internet, specifically (and perhaps shamefully) on Facebook.

In response the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO) wrote a reply titled “The ISO and the war on Syria: Silly and shameful.” and I also found an article which makes a few more Pro-Assad points titled Decriminalising Bashar – towards a more effective anti-war movement. While the Decriminalizing Bashar article attacks a few specific critics, the FRSO article specifically attacks the ISO as an organization with some fairly useless positions, not in need of recitation here.

Both articles do, however, lay out the basic positions of those in support of Assad in the anti-war movement.  One of the most important presuppositions of this argument stems from the Moaist position that the most important facets of modern international politics is Imperialism versus Anti-Imperialism. Based on this, we are given the following arguments:

1) The Syrian government of Bashar Al-Assad is anti-imperialist.

(From the FRSO) “The government of Syria has done more to oppose imperialism than ISO will ever do. They help the Palestinians in a big way. Same goes for the patriotic and national democratic forces of Lebanon. Syria, Iran and the movements for national liberation in Lebanon and Palestine are central to the camp of resistance to imperialism and Zionism in the Middle East.”

(From Decriminializing) “Frankly, this leader of independent, anti-imperialist Syria is subjected to far more severe abuse from the mainstream left than are the leaders of Britain, France and the US. In the imperialist heartlands of North America and Western Europe, the defence of Syria has been left to a small minority, although thankfully the (far more important) left movements in Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and elsewhere have a much richer understanding of anti-imperialist solidarity.”

2) There is no such thing as a genuine Arab Spring in Syria and that the “rebels” are just US stooges or Jihadists.

“As for the ‘rebels,’ history’s verdict is in. One can debate the nature of the demonstrations against the Syrian government several years ago and what led up to them, but today, right now, the opposition is bought, paid for, and acting on behalf of the U.S. and the most reactionary of Arab regimes.”

“A successful ‘Arab Spring’ revolution – armed, trained and funded by the west and its regional proxies in Saudi, Turkey, Qatar and Jordan – would have installed a compliant government and would have constituted an essential milestone in the imperialist-zionist regional strategy: the breakup of the resistance axis and the overthrow of all states unwilling to go along with imperialist diktat. This strategy – seemingly so difficult for western liberals and leftists to comprehend – is perfectly well understood by the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah: “What is happening in Syria is a confrontation between the resistance axis and the U.S./Israeli axis. They seek aggression against the resistance axis through Syria in order to destroy Syria’s capabilities and people, marginalize its role, weaken the resistance and relieve Israel.”

3) Bashar Al-Assad and the Syrian government is very popular and a socialist (or progressive) state.

“As with so many things, we have to start with a total rejection of the mainstream media narrative. The country they paint as a brutally repressive police state, a prison of nations, a Cold War relic, is (or was, until the war started tearing it apart) a dignified, safe, secular, modern and moderately prosperous state, closely aligned with the socialist and non-aligned world (e.g. Venezuela, Cuba, DPR Korea), and one of the leading forces within the resistance axis – a bloc that the imperialists are absolutely desperate to break up.”

“The Syrian government maintains a commitment to a strong welfare state, for example ensuring universal access to healthcare (in which area its performance has been impressive) and providing free education at all levels. It has a long-established policy of secularism and multiculturalism, protecting and celebrating its religious and ethnic diversity and refusing to tolerate sectarian hatred.

Syria has done a great deal – perhaps more than any other country – to oppose Israel and support the Palestinians. It has long been the chief financial and practical supporter of the various Palestinian resistance organizations, as well as of Hezbollah. It has intervened militarily to prevent Israel’s expansion into Lebanon. It has provided a home to hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees, who are treated far better than they are elsewhere in the Arab world.”

So what are to we make of all of this? Certainly there is a legitimate side to take. I will say right away that I am not anti-war in the sense that I am a pacifist. I do think there is a time to fight, and that there are good reasons to do so. I think the fight against Bashar Al-Assad is a good one. That said, I doubt very seriously the intention of the United States, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and any other imperial powers that have used their influence or military might to shape the battle being waged in Syria today. Instead, I believe that a third way must be made, one that supports intervention not of the US military or the West, but of Pro-revolutionaries like myself and the countless others around the globe. Something like the Abraham Lincoln Brigade should be reestablished to fight for Syria’s revolution, one that has suffered from the abuses of Fascist regime and bloodthirsty Islamist fanatics.

My argument is as follows:

1) Bashar Al-Assad is the head of Fascist regime, which has violated the terms of its constitution and betrayed the organizing principles of the Ruling Ba’athist party.

Any claims that there is actually a coalition leading Syria are ridiculous, and it clearly shows the ignorance of those who don’t understand how Ba’athist party rule works. One need only to look at Iraq for the examples of this.  The Assad regime has had terrible history of rights abuses, although I admit, for some, the regime has been quite helpful. These groups, however, have been patronized by the regime for their position in society, or their unflinching loyalty, not out of benevolence or the social consciousness of the regime, quite the opposite in fact. The tactics being used in the civil war by the regime (whether or not that includes chemical weapons use) have be abhorrent and to support this kind of action is to green light mass destruction and death on the same working class those on the left claim to support.

2) The resistance to Assad (the so-called and poorly named “rebels”) are made of of those who were not patronized by the regime.

Islamist and Jihadists (Shi’ite groups helped by Iran and Hezbollah and Sunni’s helped by Arab States),  pro-westerners who were not supported by the regime, and those opposed to Fascism and Western neo-liberalism that the regime had adopted and moved towards, respectively. With the same fervor that I oppose Assad, so too do I resist the influence of Jihadists and the puppets of imperialism. The LCC’s have claimed the position of non-violence, which is a useless place to stand when all those next to you are displaced or dead. It is these groups which represent the real resistance to imperial, Fascist or Islamist influence in Syria, but they need their own fighting brigades.

3) The united front policy in Syria is flawed on both sides.

For those opposed to Assad this policy has helped the Islamist faction of the Front to gain influence and fighting control because of the support they receive from abroad. It has made for the awkward situation of the US arming the very people who are mortality opposed to their world hegemony: Islamic Fundamentalists. For those support Assad it has forced even the smartest among them to say stupid things in support of someone who deserves no support. Assad is not against neo-liberalism or imperialism. Calling Assad a socialist or progressive is just as disingenuous and ridiculous as Francios Hollande being called a socialist – all irony intended.

4) An intervention is needed.

The kind of intervention needed is of a different kind. Let me be clear, I do not support a foreign army intervention in Syria. Many of those fighting both for and against Assad are not Syrians. They have come all corners of the world to fight for the world they wish to seek. Those desiring to see a new Caliphate and an Islamic world have come to wage a Jihad against who they see as a Stooge of the secular west. Those hoping to see a liberal-capitalist democracy have come to topple the dictator who is the figurehead of a system which has allowed the country to be exploited while keeping much of the gains in the hands of the cohort most valued by ruling elite. Those hoping to continue using the Assad Regime to control Syria for their own means (Russia and Iran) have been tapped to aid in the fight against what the Regime and it’s supporters call “the (not-so-ironic-western-inspired euphemism) terrorists.”

That is where we need to come in. We, those who oppose Imperial intervention (Western or Eastern), Jihadism (Islamic Fundamentalism) and Ba’athist Fascism, must realize that it is we who are needed to fight. We need to stand up from our armchair calls for supporting the Syrian revolution and actually do something about it. Words of support mean little when the shells hit Homs or the bombers fly over Allepo. Now is not, to borrow from the disappointing John Kerry, the time for armchair isolationism. Instead, we should answer the call to protect the revolution that we believe exists and is very close to being snuffed out by the forces opposed to civilization, who have committed crimes of repression, or wish to open the doors to oppression. We need, with every means possible to support our comrades in Syria with everything that we can.

On August 23, 2013 in the north Eastern Suburbs of Damascus, Syria, something terrible happened. At 2:30 am, the residents of that area awoke to the horrific sight of their neighbors showing signs of being exposed to Sarin Gas. Since the first widespread use in World War One, chemical agents have been generally agreed to be one of the worst forms of weapons second only to nuclear bombs in their devastating effects. Almost every nation on Earth has signed onto the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) which basically outlaws the use of such weapons in case of war between states or resistance within it. However, there have been some serious abuses of this general convention, recent memory recalls Iraqi forces in the Iran-Iraq war using these terrible agents against Iranian targets and against civilians and resistance fighters in the Kurdish village of Halabja.

Who Has Chemical Weapons in Syria?

Syria has not signed nor ratified the CWC. Although denying it publicly, in 2012 the government of Syria did admit that it had stockpiles of chemical weapons, but only reserved them as a deterrent to outside attack, which they view mostly likely coming from Israel. While their fear of Israeli attack is not illegitimate given the belligerence of Israel and the position of it’s greatest ally, the U.S., the manufacture and possession of these weapons is a stain on their image, just as it is for any other nation (including the U.S. and Russia) that possesses these heinous weapons of mass destruction.

At the outset of the war, Syrian ally Russia had confirmed that the stockpiles of chemical weapons had been collected and secured by the regime. However, in December of 2012 there were reports that the Al-Nursa Front (and Islamist fighting group in Syria) captured a chemical weapons facility outside Aleppo. As far as I can find, this is the only report of a non-regime force with access to chemical weapon manufacturing capabilities.

Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria

There have been many allegations of the use of weapons in the civil war. However, many of these allegations have been hard to confirm. Here is a quick list:

  • December 2012, al-Bayyada neighborhood of Homs.
  • March 2013, Khan al-Asal district in Aleppo and the Al Atebeh suburbs of Damascus, with both sides accusing each other of carrying out the attack.
  • April 2013, another chemical attack was reported, this time in Saraqib. Both Sides accused each other.
  • August 2013, the area of Ghouta, Damascus.

The Intelligence about the Attacks – A tug of war with the truth

There have been conflicting reports from both the regime and “the resistance” (more on these terms below) and their respective allies. Here is a quick list to illustrate this point.

  • After the “attack” in December 2012 the U.S. claimed “the reporting we have seen from media sources regarding alleged chemical weapons incidents in Syria has not been consistent with what we believe to be true about the Syrian chemical weapons program”. Although a secret cable stated that they did.
  • After the attack in March of 2013 the U.S. claimed there had been no substantive evidence of chemical warfare in Syria. Russia however, said there was a chemical weapon attack and accused “the rebels”.
  • In early April 2013- Zahir al-Sakit, a defected Syrian army general from the chemical weapons branch, said he was instructed to use chemical weapons during a battle with the FSA in the southwestern area of Hauran.
  • Israel also claimed that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons in March near Aleppo and Damascus.
  • The Times reported that British military scientists found evidence of chemical attacks, but couldn’t determine who was behind them.
  • In early April the New York Times reported that the Obama administration had been made aware of intelligence by its allies, but refused to acknowledge the purported use of chemical weapons. By late April the U.S switched its public position and started claiming that Assad regime had likely used chemical weapons. Obama administration denies the claim that the rebels even could have used chemical weapons.
  • Le Monde reporters claimed that they personally witnessed the Syrian army’s use of chemical weapons on civilians.
  • A U.N. report stated that there are “reasonable grounds” to believe that limited amounts of chemical weapons have been used in at least four attacks in the civil war, but couldn’t determine who used them.
  • By June of 2013, the U.S. had fully solidified its position. It claims to have “proof” the Assad government used chemical weapons on multiple occasions on “rebel forces.”
  • In July 2013, Russia formally submitted its evidence of the attacks at Khan al-Assal to the United Nations. The contention is the “rebels” used chemical against, not the regime.
  • After the attacks in Ghouta, the UN asked Syria for permission to enter the area of the attacks. Syria agrees and the UN inspectors come under fire at the site (in “buffer” territory between regime and rebel areas) and have a difficult time getting good samples due to significant shelling “from regime forces” after the alleged attack.
  • Before the UN report is compiled, the US releases a report. This four page “report” claimed that U.S. Intelligence had classified but irrefutable proof that regime forces conducted the attack. No evidence is actually given in the report. it is used as the justification for likely military action.

Who is fighting is Syria?

In media reports we are so often bombarded by euphemisms and unclear statements. We hear about “regime forces” and “Rebel Forces” The “FSA” and the “SNC”. But who are these groups? What do they want? Why are they fighting? Who is, as some mebers of the U.S. Congress have stated, the “vetted opposition forces?”

Why does this matter? Because without knowing who is fighting, we can’t understand what is actually going on, and what the possibilities are. Therefore, I hope to shed a little light on this.

“The Regime” – Forces who protect the ruling elite of the country, specifically the Ba’athist party and the ruling “coalition of “leftist” parties. The fighting force is the Syrian Army. Armed mostly with Russian, Chinese and other post-soviet weapons systems, the army is well trained and well armed. Conscription is mandatory in Syria, so much of the force is made up of draftees.

“National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces” – Is the opposition parliamentary organization of those wishing to oust the regime. It seeks to be recognized as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. It is largely ineffective and is prone to foreign intervention from Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The members include: Muslim Brotherhood, Coalition of Secular and Democratic Syrians, Damascus Declaration, Syrian Democratic People’s Party, Supreme Council of the Syrian Revolution, among others.

“The FSA” – The Free Syrian army is a military organization loose organization of different groups opposed to the regime. It supports the Syrian national council and National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces.

“The Syrian National Council” – Is a political organization of different groups opposed to the regime, most notably, the Syrian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Assyrian Democratic Organization,some Kurdish dissidents, and many of the the Local Coordination Committees (LCCs). It is generally fractured and ineffectual, although holding a majority of the National Coalition.

Most importantly in this group is the LCC’s. These local committees are the heart of the Syrian revolution as the exist in area which have resisted both the rule of the regime and the rule of the National Coalition. They are independent and where real democracy resides in Syria.

Syrian Revolution General Commission – A network of over 40 groups which is not aligned to the national coalition because they see it as ineffective and splintered beyond reproach.

Syrian Islamic Front – an umbrella groups of Jihadists in Syria fighting to overthrow Assad and create and Islamic republic like Iran.

Syrian Islamic Liberation Front – Another Islamist group which has among it the greatest number and the most well armed of all of the resistance fighting groups with numbers in the tens of thousands.

Al Nursa Front – this is arguably the most powerful armed group in Syria . Many of it’s fighters are veterans of the Iraqi resistance against the U.S. occupation and are looking to overthrow Assad and create an Islamic Caliphate. It has claimed responsibility for many suicide attacks and car bombing in Syria.

The point of getting this out there is to show that when we hear in the media about “the oppositions” or “Rebels” or even the “FSA” these are being used in place of specific names, because either the editors of our papers or broadcasts do not believe we can understand the difference, or they believe that the lion share of us just don’t care. The real reason that this is not explained to us is that these groups are, in many ways, not much better than Assad’s forces, and it is hard to know or find who “the good guys” really are. Therefore, if you just use the term “the opposition” it makes it easy to pretend like these diverse groups are all united together in the same goal and that, given the rhetoric against Assad, they are “the good guys”.

Arguably they are united. United in the desire to overthrow the Assad regime. However, their tactics and revolutionary ambitions are significantly different. This matters, because revolutions do not stop when the dictator is deposed (see the example from Egypt and Libya), in many ways, that is where the revolution really begins.

Why we should beskeptical – the “Just Trust Us” doctrine

Given the tumultuous history of “intelligence” reports especially centered around Iraq (which shares a border with Syria and is home to countless Syrian refugees) the only rational position towards the Obama administrations oscillating position on chemical weapons in Syria is skepticism. In this case, as it was for Iraq, we are given a “Just Trust Me” approach from our government. Instead of providing evidence for it’s assertions the arrogant officials in the pristine halls of American government don’t tell us what evidence they have, or how they are certain of what they are telling us, they simply tell us, “We know!”

No actual evidence has been presented for the case against Assad. What we are given by our government is a platter of meaningless words, harsh rhetoric and a 4 page document which essentially says “We know this happened the way we say it did. We are the U.S. intelligence community. Trust us.” It is a slap in the face to any intelligent, critical individual and does nothing to make a legitimate case to take the lives of another nations citizens.

When another permanent member of the security council, albeit with it’s own objectives regarding the Syrian Civil war, claims to have evidence exactly opposing our own, it seems only logical that we would bring our evidence into a fair forum and pit it against its opposition. This kind of honest, intellectual debate can assure us, and those who may soon see bombs falling on their homes, that the narrative being shoved down the throats of the American people and the rest of the world is really the truth.

Given the recent history of the abuses of both dictatorial regimes (like the Ba’athists in Iraq) and Islamic fundamentalists (the largest resistance fighters in Syria) and the fact that there exists evidence that both groups had access to these weapons, the use of chemical weapons by either side seems more than legitimate to postulate. This is why is behooves both Russia and the U.S. to state plainly the evidence they have in making their case.

The Failure of the Media

If one reviews all the major news outlets regarding this debate, we are given a clear bait and switch. We are told that Russia denies the allegations of the US and then we get what the U.S. believes. There is no evidence given to test, and no questions asked.

What is now being quoted is  John Kerry’s recent speech where he uses the phrase, “We know” 24 times! And all without a shred of justification!

Here are some examples of how they are used:

“We know where the rockets were launched from, and at what time. We know where they landed, and when. We know rockets came only from regime-controlled areas, and went only to opposition-controlled or contested neighborhoods.”

Really?! How? Can you tell us?

No, that information is classified. Trust us, we just know.

“With our own eyes we have seen the thousands of reports from 11 separate sites in the Damascus suburbs.”

Really?! Can we see those reports?

Nope. Classified.

Again: “We know that a senior regime official who knew about the attack confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime, reviewed the impact and actually was afraid that they would be discovered.”

Who is this official? What’s his name? How do you know him? Can we talk to him?

Can’t tell. That’s secret. Classified. Of course not!

Then he has the audacity to say: “In all of these things that I have listed, in all of these things that we know, all of that, the American intelligence community has high confidence, high confidence this is common sense, this is evidence, these are facts.” Mr. Secretary, you cannot just say words from your podium with that pretty seal and pretend that makes them facts. No, instead you need to give us evidence!

Most notably he urged us to “Read for yourself, everyone, those listening, all of you, read for yourselves the evidence from thousands of sources, evidence that is already publicly available, and read for yourselves the verdict reached by our intelligence community about the chemical weapons attack the Assad regime inflicted on the opposition and on opposition-controlled or contested neighborhoods in the Damascus suburbs on the early morning of August 21st.” I too urge you to read it, it s four pages long and contains no evidence at all!

He also reminds us of our infancy “But still, in order to protect sources and methods, some of what we know will only be released to members of Congress, the representatives of the American people.”

The most despicable part of this speech, and the real “just trust us” moment is when he said, “So the primary question is really no longer, what do we know. The question is what are we — we collectively — what are we in the world going to do about it.”

And where is the U.S. media on this? Nowhere. Instead of asking these very simple questions, Mr. Kerry’s speech is just repeated, or President Putin’s refutation asserted. There is no investigation, no asking of questions, no testing of claims; just repetition of the same nothingness; “The US thinks this, Russia thinks this, the UN inspectors are in Lebanon, etc, etc, etc”

This is failure of every pillar of power in the modern state, the legislative branch for not demanding oversight, the executive for simply asserting things with no evidence, the media for not asking any questions and the courts which should finally assert that any military action is an act of war and should be part of a declaration of such from congress.

We should all be opposed to dictatorships and actions taken by governments against it’s people. That may well have happened in Damascus, but it happening here too. We should oppose all governments that lie to their people, or tell them they can’t handle the truth. We should say no to lies (or statements without evidence) that justify murder, whether that be from a Ba’athist thug, or an American Democrat. Both the American and Syrian governments are packed full of liars, elitists and warmongers, and it’s about time the winds of the Arab Spring cool the hot air of America’s belligerent and faithful militarism before we see more bodies of children and innocent people on the streets of Syria.