The problems of the Syrian Arab Spring have never been about the absence of weapons. These smug debates about getting MANPADs into the hands of Assad’s opposition belong in the world of pointless speculation. Why do so many suddenly think they’ve become military strategists when they haven’t been able to organize an unarmed political movement to counter Assadist propaganda & to support the Syrian Arab Spring?

The role of a principled antiwar movement is not to lobby the US Pentagon to arm democratic forces because that beggars credulity. The Pentagon is incapable of anything other than counterrevolution. Or what are US colonialism & militarism in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, South East Asia all about!? The chief problem of the Syrian Arab Spring was political, not military. It was the corruption of the left & the antiwar movement into an Assadist & Stalinist cult, its refusal to build international antiwar opposition to support the Arab Spring, & its support for Russian, Iranian, & Hezbollah intervention. That was magnified a thousandfold when international opposition to Assad called for humanitarian US bombing to save the Arab Spring. When one looks to the Pentagon, a bastion of war, to save a popular revolution, the question must be asked: what planet are you flying in from? What have you missed about the history of US military aggression beginning with the extermination of Native Americans & continuing now in several US wars in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Palestine?

This is not the first time this issue has come up. In the 1980s, a representative of the FMLN in El Salvador toured the US to convince antiwar activists to stop organizing protests & turn itself into a fundraising apparatus for the FMLN, then a guerrilla force. I personally stood toe-to-toe with that representative & singlehandedly battled it out for several hours at a conference because his proposal would have brought the FBI down on the antiwar movement like a sledgehammer & destroyed it. When my position won the debate, the FMLN guy denounced me & demanded the antiwar movement throw me out on my ear. They laughed since I had been part of the antiwar movement since its inception.

Our commitment is to build a massive social movement to pressure the US government to withdraw from foreign intervention. It would be a betrayal of principles & politically suicidal to become a lobby for arming militias. We would be turned into a cult, a version of the Assadist & Stalinist cult that now prevails. You cannot solve a political crisis with MANPADs & anyone who looks to the US Pentagon to save a popular revolution needs to have their head examined.

Dr. Tarraf, a medical doctor & partisan of the Syrian Arab Spring who works on the front lines in Idlib, says ‘It cannot get more evil than this.” The roads are filled with car, trucks, vans carrying 800,000 civilians fleeing the holocaust of Syrian & Russian bombers whilst Syria is shelling IDP camps near the Turkish border. There isn’t a single protest anywhere in the world.

Graffiti by Syrian Banksy based on “The Little Match Girl” short story by Hans Christian Andersen about a poor little girl who froze to death. The wise political person listens to the cries of Syrian children, not the croaking of paid propagandists & their flunkeys.

Valentine’s Day isn’t just a commercial extravaganza nor a schmaltzy day for lovers & kids. We can rise above the exploitation & schmaltz by recommitting ourselves to loving on the human race despite all apparent evidence that we’re a gone goose. We look not just at the suffering & exploitation but at human resistance to oppression & to our children who we want to bequeath a better world. It’s time we follow the example of Syrians, Iraqis, Palestinians, Kashmiris, Uyghur, Rohingya, & so many others to try to make things right, to create a world suitable for human beings to live & love in.

Happy Valentine’s Day from Syrian & Russian bombers: this little guy named Wajih Al Asali was pummeled with concrete rubble while at a car repair shop in Idlib with his brother & dad. He’s now swathed in bandages & struggling to breath. He & his 11-year-old brother ‘hope Allah kills Assad & Russia’. Seven-year-old Rinad Zaidan was playing with her younger brother when the bombs hit. The White Helmets pulled them from the rubble & then pulled shrapnel from their heads, necks, & faces. She wants to be a doctor when she grows up so she can treat children. They were the lucky ones. Four-month-old Ghofran froze to death in an IDP camp. Ghofran means ‘forgiveness’ but let’s get real: there can be no forgiveness for the slaughter & the displacement of over a million people or for endangering the lives of 1.5 million children in Idlib.

Meanwhile the Assadist & Stalinist cult, also called the confederation of fools, which usurped the antiwar movement will be meeting in NYC to map out a defense of Iran against the US. They have their hand on Assad’s pulse & their nose up Iran’s ass. Meanwhile Idlib burns & they remain not just silent but absolutely complicit with the carnage inflicted on civilians & the Syrian Arab Spring by Syria, Russia, & Iran.

(Photo Of Wajih Al Asali from Sky News)

Be good to know why Facebook censors are trawling through my posts going back several years to find photos to cover to protect the sensibilities of readers. Wouldn’t time be better spent setting up a customer service center so we can protest the censorship?

Prison memoirs are an immense literary & political genre written by political prisoners from Stalin’s gulag, China, Turkey, Iran, Egypt, Guantanamo, Blacks in the US, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Ireland, Kashmir, India, Nazi Germany, Spain, Italy, Argentina, Burma, & many other countries. Increasingly, women, especially Iranian & Syrian women, are writing of their experiences as political prisoners subject to torture & sexual assault (though as we know from CIA, Iranian & Kashmiri prisoners, men & boys are also subject to sexual torture). It is a gruesome genre but no other gives deeper insight into the character of governments that imprison dissenters. It’s impossible to rank savagery, but the Syrian gulag ranks with the Stalinist, Iranian, & CIA prisons as among the most barbaric in human history.

Perish the thought that such gulags are a non-western phenomenon. They are deeply rooted in the legacy of colonialism where most colonized were not imprisoned but slaughtered or enslaved. Testifying to that are Long Kesh, the British prison in Northern Ireland where Irish republicans were housed with murderers & rapists, Guantanamo, CIA rendition prisons like Abu Ghraib in Iraq & Bagram in Afghanistan, the US concentration camps for refugees, Manus Island & Nauru prison for refugees in Australia.

“No Friend But the Mountains” by Iranian-Kurdish journalist & human rights activist Behrouz Boochani is about his experience in Manus Island, a penitentiary for male refugees seeking asylum in Australia. All of the refugees have gone through harrowing experiences fleeing war & persecution but are imprisoned rather than processed for asylum. The Australian government apparently outsources its refugee prisons to profiteers in the same way the US does its prisons & refugee concentration camps. These companies must dredge the sewers looking for psychopaths & sadists to staff them & their is no accountability for their cruelties. Behrouz also describes the racist way the prison employs Manusians for low-level undesirable jobs like washing down the toilets.

Bezrouz’s poetic style & sensibilities contrast with the graphic rawness of what he describes. In its rawness, the book is reminiscent of “My Testimony”, a 1969 memoir written by Anatoly Marchenko about the Soviet gulag. Most prison memoirs are written by intellectuals but Anatoly was a 19-year-old unschooled, apolitical laborer arrested in a drunken brawl. He was politicized in prison by political prisoners & wrote three prison memoirs. Solzhenitsyn, renowned for his gulag memoirs, described Marchenko as the true historian of the camps of the 1960s. He died in a prison hospital in 1986. Anatoly’s book is reminiscent of Bezrouz’s in their descriptions of how humiliation, especially the use of machismo, is systematically & sadistically employed by prison officials. Everything, especially eating, showering, & going to the toilet, is used to insult dignity & the sense of manhood to break down social cohesiveness among the refugees & create a sense of solitary confinement.

At times, Bezrouz seems almost cranky toward other prisoners but the book was written whilst he was in prison. He refused to participate in the sadistic conflict & competition for food set up by the guards & was hungry most of the time. In that way, the book is also reminiscent of “The House of the Dead”, the 1860 semi-autobiographical prison novel by Dostoevsky about life in a tsarist Siberian prison camp. He describes the cruelty of the guards but also the antisocial, criminal behavior among prisoners–although Russia did not separate political prisoners from common criminals.

The 2019 edition of this book has an introduction by Australian novelist Richard Flanagan who claims Bezrouz as “a great Australian writer”. Since Bezrouz never set foot in Australia, was imprisoned by Australia in barbaric circumstances, & does not intend to apply for asylum in Australia because of that mistreatment, it is presumptuous of Flanagan to make that claim. Behrouz was an Iranian-Kurdish writer which is the reason he fled for asylum.