Syria and the Struggle Against Takfiri Totalitarianism

By Cristobal Hirsch

I became a journalist because I did not want to rely on newspapers for information. And there’s no question the newspapers have not presented a clear picture of the Islamist death-squads in Syria, preferring to focus on the “atrocities” of the modern, secular government they are fighting. We hear of the dead, but after engaging in actual journalism what I have discovered is this: Of those who have died, the vast majority are of the totalitarian jihadist sort that only a sucker or a sympathizer would mourn.

They (“Islamo-fascists”) gave Syria no peace and we shouldn’t give them any. We can’t live on the same planet as them and I’m glad because I don’t want to. I don’t want to breathe the same air as these psychopaths and murderers and rapists and torturers and child abusers. It’s them or me. I’m very happy about this because I know it will be them. It’s a duty and a responsibility to defeat them. But it’s also a pleasure. I don’t regard it as a grim task at all.

It’s not amusing to see fascist killers hiding behind human shields and then releasing obscene videos of the work that they do. Nor is it rewarding to clean up the remains of a comrade who has been charred and shredded by a roadside bomb. To be taunted while doing so must be unbearable.

And yet, a very large element of the “humanitarian” Left and the neoconservative Right is openly sympathetic to the other side in this war, and wants it to win. This was made very plain by the leadership of the “progressive” movement, and also by Samantha Power when she shamefully compared the Syrian fascist “insurgency” to the American Founding Fathers.

With the Left, which is supposed to care about secularism and humanism, it’s a bit harder to explain an alliance with woman-stoning, gay-burning, Jew-hating medieval theocrats. However, it can be done, once you assume that Bashar al-Assad is the main enemy. Even for those who won’t go quite that far, the admission that the Syrian Arab Army might be doing the right thing is a little further than they are prepared to go — because what would then be left of their humanitarian imperialist credentials, which are so dear to them?

There is no question that mistakes have been made by the sovereign Syrian government. They are fighting a war for modernity against those who reject its very essence, recall. However, all the glib talk about how “barrel bombs” and false-flag sarin gas attacks are war crimes is so much propaganda and hot air.

In Vietnam, the rules of engagement were such as to make an atrocity — the slaughter of the My Lai villagers took almost a day rather than a white-hot few minutes — overwhelmingly probable. The ghastliness was only stopped by a brave officer who prepared his chopper-gunner to fire. In those days there were no precision-guided missiles, but there were “free-fire zones,” and “body counts,” and other virtual incitements to psycho officers such as Capt. Medina and Lt. Calley.

The other difference, one ought not need add, is that in My Lai the United States was fighting the Vietcong. A recent article about the captured diary of a slain female Vietnamese militant (now a best seller in Vietnam) makes it plain that the imperialist United States was vainly attempting to defeat a peoples’ army with a high morale and exalted standards. I, for one, will not have them insulted by any comparison to the forces of Baghdadi, the jihadi dogs of al-Nusra, and the criminal underworld now arrayed against us. These depraved elements are the Syrian Khmer Rouge. They employ the use of random murder to create a sectarian and ethnic civil war — perhaps the most evil combination of tactics and strategy it is possible to imagine.

Now put the case of ISIS. Its supporters do not live under a foreign occupation, but the attempted rule of Syria’s elected, legitimate government. The Islamic State is partly a corrupt multinational corporation, partly a crime family, partly a surrogate for the Saudi oligarchy and the Pakistani secret police, partly a sectarian religious cult, and partly a fascist organization.

Enfolded in any definition of “terrorism,” it seems to me, there should be a clear finding of fundamental irrationality. ISIS and its “moderate” Free Syrian Army allies meets and exceeds all of these criteria, to a degree that leaves previous nihilist groups way behind. Its means, its ends, and its ideology all consist of the application of fanatical violence and violent fanaticism, and of no other things. It’s “terrorist,” all right.

What this means in practice is the corollary impossibility of any compromise with it. It’s quite feasible to imagine Hezbollah or Hamas leaders at a conference table, and one has seen many previously “intransigent” forces of undemocratic violence, including the Nicaraguan Contras and the Salvadoran death-squads and the Irgun, make precisely that transition. Even Saddam Hussein, who is certainly irrational but was not always completely so, could perhaps, and certainly until recently, have decided to save his life and his regime. But some definitions cannot be stretched beyond a certain point, and the death wish of the theocratic totalitarians, for themselves and others, is too impressive to overlook. One has to say sternly: If you wish martyrdom, we are here to help.

Cristobal Hirsch is a journalist, lecturer and student of imperialism.

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