Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report on the US-backed “international jihadist network”

Pink mosque, Iran

In an October 14th speech, Glen Ford, the executive editor of Black Agenda Report, laid out his understanding of the Syrian war to a Georgia peace group. He sees it as Syria & Russia battling the US-backed “international jihadist network” in a regime-change scenario.

One doesn’t know where he gets such detailed information for the formation & functioning of this jihadist network as he laid out. But in his presentation he said once foreign jihadists from all over the world amassed in Syria against the Assad government, they “inevitably started fighting the war that they wanted to fight in all of its sectarian horrors.” The horrors they unleashed, according to Ford, were not for the US or any of the regimes that armed them because “as far as they were concerned, they were fighting for God.”

Such ignorant prejudice about Islam, or for that matter Islamist extremism, does not sound one whit less offensive coming from Glen Ford than it does coming from the US Pentagon to justify its barbaric wars. It’s just more pathetic & tragic coming from him.

This is the interior of the renowned Nasir al-Mulk Mosque (or Pink Mosque) in Shiraz, Iran. This is what Muslims create when they want to honor God. They do not travel around the world looking for people to slaughter.

Syria & the growing disunity of the antiwar movement

I am more than aware that my views on the war in Syria are in the minority. One current opposes Assad & Russian intervention & promotes US intervention against them. Another current believes Assad & Russia are fighting “US-backed jihadists” in a regime change scenario & call only for the end of US intervention.

My position is that Assad is a dictator who turned the 2011 popular uprising against his rule into a civil war. The opposition to him is not all “jihadist” extremists but predominantly forces of the popular movement. The jihadist accusation is nothing but shameful cooptation by antiwar forces of US Pentagon anti-Muslim rhetoric justifying wars.

In my view, the only principled antiwar position is to demand the immediate, unconditional withdrawal of all foreign military forces in Syria, overt & covert, air & land. I do not believe the international antiwar movement should take a position demanding the removal of Assad. That is for Syrians to resolve. But I do believe the movement should demand the immediate cessation of Syrian bombing of civilians.

Many activists I have worked with going back 50 years are among those holding the regime change scenario. Many prominent activists in a fractured antiwar movement also promote that view. They call their position the “Hands off Syria” campaign.

My deepest political regret is the disunity of the antiwar movement for the past many years which has left the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Palestine, Somalia, & elsewhere isolated against US-NATO aggression. So I will be damned if I will be cowed by being in a minority. I intend to fight like hell for a principled antiwar campaign calling for the end of all military intervention in Syria.

Syria & the degeneration of the progressive movement

Progressive politics are going through a dramatic, wrenching metamorphosis & the schism point is war. That’s always been the case, at least since WWI. Differences that have long weakened the antiwar movement have reached the breaking point over Syria.

The primary schism is over the character of the Assad regime & how to respond to Syrian bombing of civilians & foreign intervention by Russia, the US, Iran, Turkey, Australia, Israel, & others. Activists who completely disagree on these questions all claim to speak for the Syrian people.

There is one international current that opposes Assad’s dictatorship as well as Syrian & Russian bombing of civilians. But instead of building a movement to oppose Assad & Putin, this current looks to the US Pentagon to impose a No Fly Zone (NFZ) which would entail a massive escalation of war. As a result, they actively campaign for Clinton as the candidate more likely to increase US intervention in Syria against Assad. Perhaps they can’t be faulted for not understanding how US military policy is formulated but when challenged on this perspective, many of them petulantly respond that a NFZ is what Syrians demand so who are we to stand in the way?

Who are we? We’re the ones who know what a NFZ means & won’t be patronized by such political drivel. What Syrians want is the cessation of bombing & the solution to that is not a NFZ which would only increase bombing & threaten nuclear war. We’re the ones who have watched US militarism unravel the foundations of civilization, destroy entire cultures, bomb millions to smithereens. We’re the ones who witness the devastation of militarism on US society, with increased persecution of Black & Latino youth, increased xenophobia & hatred of undocumented immigrants, increased social hatred of Muslims. We’re the ones who watch beloved family members come back in body bags or with missing limbs, with PTSD & mental illness, who commit suicide, who become twisted & disoriented, even violent, from their experiences in the US military. We’re the ones who have to live with all that.

How do we characterize a political current that understands dictatorship but doesn’t really grasp the consequences of militarism & sees the US Pentagon as the solution to conflict in Syria? It’s not entirely clear, but they are not allies.

Really wish the venom directed at Clinton had more to do with politics & less with the pathology of woman-hating. She has the same politics as Obama; in fact, she represented his regime on the world stage. But he has never faced the torrent of personal animosity that she has. She is not more corrupt than her husband but he has never endured the vituperations she has.

This is hardly an endorsement of Clinton but just a caveat: beware of the too ardent antipathy. It often represents something else again.