From the response to the Paris atrocity, it appears that sections of the left still fail to understand the Jihadist Islamist organisations of Al Qaeda and Daesh/ ISIS. Undoubtedly many do so wanting to be able to take a position that allows them an easy argument against a repetition of the disastrous war on Iraq. But their way of doing that is to put a ‘context’ on the tragedy that partially absolves Daesh for the responsibility for it.
Trivialising either the actions or the responsibilities of Daesh for their own crimes does not help. As with all forms of fascism, Al Qaeda and Daesh have ideologies as well as organisations. A diminishing but still sizeable proportion of the left continues to lie to itself, as much as it does to others, about the history of both. Its self-deception is indeed its only excuse.
The organisations and ideology of Al Qaeda/ Daesh has been no more created by western governments than the Nazis were created by the 1919 Treaty of Versailles. The economic devastation and war reparations may have created useful conditions in which fascism could grow in Germany but Nazism was an independent party with an ideology. It had to be smashed by someone, somehow – no post-Versailles head-shaking could avoid the necessity of that.
After 9/11, much of the left ignored the fact that 15 out of 19 of the bombers were wealthy Saudis, instead some pretended the Twin Towers destruction was in some way the reaction of impoverished Palestinians. It pretended the ideology of the bombers was some sort of democratically inspired anti-imperialism and not the most brutal fascist authoritarianism.
Now again we are seeing mealy-mouthed curmudgeonly responses from some. Not many, but some, still trivialize the terror in Paris. Just as they did with the victims of the Al Qaeda attack on 9/11 they wag their fingers at those who express their solidarity with Paris.
It is not important whether people who were concerned with Paris Facebooked their concerns at the terror in Kenya or Beirut or Suruc or Ankara or, for that matter, Gaza. It would be good if all terror was consistently seen and denounced but there can be no ‘ranking’ of such horrors. The hundred and more young Parisians and others murdered on Friday is no less horrific as any other. And the closer the horror is to people the more inescapable it is – for people as well as the press.
Of course, the right wing racist press will do their utmost, particularly after the initial horror is over, to turn this on both migrants and minorities.
But we do nothing to support Syrians and Muslims or to stop disastrous imperialist-motivated military interventions by deceiving people or ourselves.
The Daesh must be defeated both by argument but also organisationally. Their rule over their Islamic State must be broken. To not want the earliest possible destruction of the ‘Islamic State’ would be a huge betrayal, both to the hundreds of thousands who still suffer under it, and to the millions who have had to flee it.
The Rojavan and other Kurdish forces have been doing that – defeating Daesh – quite spectacularly in the last week. It can be done – it has to be done.
Amongst the millions of Syrian refugees there will be tens of thousands who will want to fight to free and bring democracy to their land. But instead they flee chaotically across Europe or languish in camps. They are unable to discuss democratically and organise. The treatment of them is a scandal that looks as though it is going to get worse. Rather than allow a force to be built that can defeat Daesh as well as Assad – the treatment of refugees by European governments may even draw further recruits to Daesh.
We need to:
- Deal with the refugee crisis and provide humanitarian aid and arms to the Kurds and genuine democratic Syrians – this demands money. But probably a lot less than was spent on the disastrous Iraq war.
- Recognise that Saudi Arabia and Turkey under Erdogan are, in their different ways, causes of the problem and in no way parties to a solution.
- Recognise that western governments are simply not trusted and given the history of their callous imperialist interventions that distrust is perfectly rational.
These are all aspects that can contribute to an ending of the Syrian tragedy.
But above everything we must talk with democratic Syrians and not dismiss them as ‘pro-imperialist’ as Stop The War Coalition do. It is inevitable that a people who have been so battered will want to shout at powerful western governments “do something!”. Even more inevitable if the left do not provide any real solutions other than like Pilate wash its hands of Syria.
Daesh has to be defeated we cannot ignore or lie about that. We should act against the Saudi and Turkish supply lines. We should attempt to undo the Wahhabist indoctrination. We endeavour to find a peace solution by establishing contact between genuine democratic forces in all countries and that will bring not only peace but justice and human rights.
But still Daesh has to be defeated!