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Anti-War Movement Must Listen to Voices Within Syria's Civil War


Anti-War Movement Must Listen to Voices Within Syria's Civil War

Stephen Zunes

With the prospects of increased U.S. military involvement in Syria, peace activists have been mobilizing across the country. Recognizing the disastrous results of recent U.S. military interventions, the suspicions throughout the region regarding Washington's motivations, and the lack of any major cohesive democratic armed force to support, there is a widespread understanding within the anti-war left that further militarization of the conflict would likely increase the suffering of the Syrian people.


As soon as human rights organisations receive funding from governments (Human Rights Watch) or hire former officials from the State Department (Amnesty) they are no longer independent. The hysteria surrounding the gas attack in Damascus has shown that many NGO's have no back bone and do not sift through the evidence carefully because it is much easier to follow the official line. A lot of the criticism against Assad is based on flawed evidence. Certainly the main stream ignores the signs that show the Syrian war to be another regime change operation engineered by the CIA and the State Department. There will be no peace or stability (survival of the Syrian population) as long as there are extremists armed and funded by the US and its allies in the region.


Oh my, this is when it's so easy to get in trouble here in Common Dreams. Zunes is a personal favorite of theirs, and the boss doesn't take criticism of him well at all.
But this cannot be let go, even at the cost of another Zunes-inspired exile.
A. This isn't a civil war, and using the ludicrous qualifier of "multi-sided" doesn't mitigate that assertion one bit. It's an invasion. Foreign supplied and transported fighters--most jihadis, many mercenaries--are the primary combatants against the Syrian state.
B. "Brutal dictator". Dictator, yes. At least, at the beginning. If Assad were as unpopular as Zunes suggests, he'd have toppled long ago. The only reason he's still standing, frankly, is precisely because the Syrian people writ large have rallied behind him and the idea of the Syrian state. There's no excuse for a professional academic claiming expertise in the Middle East to not know this. Which is why I've always thought Zunes shared a payroll stub from the Agency with his pal, Cole.
C. There is nothing inconsistent in being anti-war and pro-sovereignty and self-determination. That was kinda the goal for our kind after WWII. An end to the politics of colonialization, right? You can't do that if you don't even recognize the basic right of a nation-state to self-determine.

Zunes might mean well by trying to play down the desirability of further military activity in Syria, but by doing it while conceding the US regime's terminology and analytical framework, both fraudulent, his case is weak and is vulnerable to ridicule by the violent tendencies of the R2P crowd.

There are just far better voices than this one on the vital subject of Syria, especially since Clinton will almost certainly try to invade quickly upon assumption of office.

Edit: I know some of our fellows will point out the initial uprising in Syria was justifiable, and for the most part, I'm fine with that. I'm also fine with noting that Assad's reaction was unnecessarily brutal, and it gave Syria's enemies the excuse they needed to launch a 'Libya 2.0". This all might be true. But that conflict played out literally years ago, and has zero bearing on what's been going on in Syria since the first 6-8 months of the crisis.


This not a civil war, please do some research or change the people you listen.

As drone1066 points there was short while it until the cia and friends kidnapped it from the people.


Simple fact. Mr Assad won elections with a large majority of the voters. That there are people opposed to Mr Assad does not change this. Mr Zunes follows the same old tired script used by the USA to justify the overthrow of Governments in other Countries.

There was in fact people in Iran that did not like Mosaddeq in Iran.There was people that did not like Allende in Chile. There was people that did not like Chavez in Venezuela. There was people that did not like Zelaya in the Honduras.

It does not follow that those nations were therefore not democracies or were run by brutal dictators. If the majority of peoples supported these leaders in a democracy, the minority does not get to dictate that they should not rule.

The elections in Syria, just as occurred in the Crimea were deemed fair by international monitors. Asaad even indicated he would have another country wide election if the strife ended. The USA refused this outright claiming that in such an election Asaad should not be allowed to run.

This is Vietnam all over again , wherein realizing that Ho Chi Minh would win country wide elections and the US backed side would lose, the USA imposed their Military on that Country claiming they would not recognize such elections even as they stated they were champions of democracy.

By the way that same "crony capitalism" that mr Zunes cites, and the increasing numbers of people in poverty even as a small group grows rich perfectly defines the USA.


This article was really disappointing. Not because it criticizes Assad's government, as it is clearly not above criticism, though I remain unconvinced that it is substantially more problematic than governments like Saudi Arabia or Israel, which are allies of the USA.

I don't think bombing either of them would produce positive results, and I don't think that Mr. Zunes is trying to make a case for military intervention, although I must admit that it is not entirely clear.

No, the article was disappointing because I read the headline which promised voices from within Syria. But the only source he sites to support his claims is Mohja Kahf. Now, while being a Syrian-American who moved to the US in 1971, at the age of 4, does probably give her some unique insights that are worth paying attention to, I think it is a stretch to call her a Syrian voice from within the civil war.

If anyone knows a place where I can find a variety of first-person accounts, I would be grateful to hear it.


I had not known this about Mr Zunes source. It was a little disingenous of him to cite her without mentioning that she moved to the US at age 4 and lives in the USA today.

In fact it outright dishonest.


It's been a heated race but Zunes has shot to the head of the "haven't learned from history" pack.


There are a lot of total idiots who ignore the brutal consequences of prior U.S. involvement and push the Neocon bullshit that "humanitarian" intervention is necessary in countries with stable governments. Many who boldly ignore how much worse, how much more inhumane, things get in countries after U.S. "humanitarian" interventions, but Zunes, blinders firmly on and eyes closed, races ahead - not just bemoaning the fact many in the left aren't buying the bullshit, but attacking others, like Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity and Jill Stein, who aren't drinking the Kool-Aid.

Ray McGovern/VIPS, and Jill Stein, have got a lot more credibility than Zunes, who apparently is looking for a seat at the Neocon table.

Vote Sane: Vote Green.


Well, the article originally put up by this author today was apparently quickly taken down because it was completely indefensible. This one, to replace it, is hardly any more coherent. Following the reasoning given here the US should immediately disavow most of the regimes it has allied itself with, and immediately begin to bomb them and establish no-fly zones over their sovereign territory. This is the exquisitely marvelous thing about warfare: once the violence commences there is no lack of brutality and atrocity to go around, and whoever has the biggest megaphone determines who is in the docket and who is on the judge's bench.

And a straw-man argument thrown in to boot. This is the first time I had heard of the Christian missionary claiming the sarin gas attack never occurred. However I have read at least a half-dozen articles now which delineate the much more plausible case that (never doubting it actually happened) it was the jihadists, with the help of the Turks. Why the hell would Assad, or any other sane leader for that matter, commit an offense that was specifically identified as a "red line" by the empire on the very day that a UN delegation arrived? Good grief; John McCain wasted his money on that one, and should just stick to drooling on his shoes, instead of bankrolling extremists. No, I don't have any proof of that last, but it wouldn't surprise me.


Why is R2P "Right to Protect" and not "Responsibility to Protect"? Is it a weasel phrase, whereas responsibility implies a universal obligation, and right allows selective application of this action?

Curious in Ohio.



Worth viewing. This an expansion on the recent article about Fake news being created by the CIA to shape public opinion.


Last time anyone checked the anti-war movement was against war. Period.
It doesn't take sides. "Stop the War!"
What Mr. Zunes seems to want us to do is to side with the anti-Assad rebels against the Assad government. And Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and the Palestinian Quads forces.
In other words support Hillary's position on this war.

Here is the quite simple message to Mr. Zunes and his compatriots from the anti-war movement:

Stop the War in Syria!
Stop the War in Yemen!
Stop the War in Libya!
Stop the War in Afghanistan!
Stop the War in Iraq!


Thank you a hundred times over for your post!


Thank you CD for posting this photo with the article.
The Stephen Zunes piece below, meh, it not so much...
The utter, total destruction of much of Syria in photos without people doesn't quite tell the true story nor does it show the disgusting magnitude of a country rent asunder.
The sorrow and despair of the man in the photo strikes me in the heart.
Civil war? Bulltwicky.
Syria is another piece on the neocon chessboard and the neocons suck at chess.


Try these

The owner Ziad lives here but family members still live in Syria with a couple in the Army.

On Ziad site he comments and rights some

Owned by Ziad son




you're quite welcome. and thanks for your appreciation.


Here's some interesting history behind this article. CD posted a version of it earlier here:


Looks like it did not click right with some CD editors so it was soft blocked a couple of hours later, as shown by restricted return code (as opposed to the complete removal which would have returned a CD search page). The commons discussion thread tho is still available via direct URL:

Here's the original article as it was published on "In These Times" in case anyone is interested


Interestingly enough a different version of the same article was also published on National Catholic Reporter. This is the article you are commenting on now. Looks like Mr. Zunes, while sending the same
message, customized the delivery to match different audiences.

It would be interesting to know what the story was behind all this. Looks like some kind of shift is taking place in the progressive left community regarding the Syria conflict. Within the past few days I have seen on several progressive sites articles mentioning destruction of hospitals as well as civilian casualties caused by the Russian/Syrian bombing of Aleppo. It seems like some kind of new agenda is being pushed by some major players.


Military intervention or decapitating Syria would lead to what we've seen in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. Drawn-out bloodshed followed by the installation of a corrupt and bloody dictator mixed with the spread of Daesh/al-Qaeda types. It would be helpful if Professor Zunes could cite a successful case of US-backed regime change. In the long list going back 60 years, I can't think of any.

What seems possible: end this war, shutdown Daesh and similar groups, and resume international efforts toward elections and a gradual transition to democracy to avoid another Egypt/Tahrir scenario where democracy seems present one day, then reverts to a military dictatorship the next.

The fact that early protests preceded the US/Saudi/Israel/Turkey move to begin pumping weapons and cash into the regime-change effort doesn't legitimize the regime-change policy.


I remember watching news and the bodies of young teenagers carried home dead and tortured for writing slogans on walls. That was how Syria was part of the Arab Spring. Human decency was outraged. Assad's tanks and troops were called out within a short time. A traditional revolution against the same grotesquely barbaric practices of our closest ally, Saudi Arabia.

Assad forgot he was a bordering southern division of the defeated Ottoman empire, in ww1. He forgot the always dire need to have healthy, vigilant, prosperous and loyal fellow citizens. He forgot Turkey is a large remnant core of the Ottoman empire.

Syria was in it's own little world spiraling into revolution in search of freedom and a more efficient government. Assad turned down a Saudi pipeline with an eye toward his ally, Iran. You know all these things, Stephen, and much more.

What would have happened if the Iraqi army had not fled in front of ISIS and left a mountain of armaments behind, including uniforms abandoned in haste for civilian clothes. What would have happened if the US had not terrorized and dumped more weapons in the area, such as anti-tank missiles that burn a tank as if it is a wooden frame house.

These are not the tools of a citizens revolution against tyrants. If Assad had continued brutality against citizens as Israel and Saudi Arabia now do, the world might have been shocked into a boycott such as South Africa felt and Israel now faces. The Syrian revolution was turned into an arms race for financial and career reasons. Now we will never know how the Syrians eventually won their freedom.

The US has gone berserk and has created an abnormal and barbaric capitalist enterprise based on pain, suffering and anguish. It is now turning in on itself with militarized police who can probably hold a military empire together well into world war three. The US is an invader in Syria just as Columbus was an invader in America.


I sure hope you weren't expecting a disagreement here, Matt!
I didn't type that little edit to challenge or support the story. My purpose was to say, essentially, even if it is true, that was then this is now. I don't think we should be arguing justification for intervention based on 5 year old conditions that have long since ceased to apply. That was all.