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News & analysis from Proletarian Internationalist Notes—news, reviews and analysis from a global perspective
Liberal Democrats are complicit in the Syria strike
April 8, 2017
First, there was all of the anti-Russia jingoism when sovereign Syria was being viewed as a Russian proxy.
Even after Trump won the election, U.S. liberals – not just Democrats – were opposing Trump on everything except war.(1)
Then, there was the worrying rhetoric that “American values” means welcoming war refugees from countries the United States has invaded and bombed or is considering attacking directly and openly.(2)
Next, Republicans “failed” to replace Obamacare.(3) There was talk of reaching out to Democrats.
Now, the U.S. cruise missiles against an admitted government target have landed in Syria.
It could be wrong to assume much of a cause-and-effect relationship between the Obamacare survival and the deaths of Syrians due to U.S. war crimes. If it isn’t the case the Obamacare replacement failure a few weeks ago was a bribe to get liberals to support war, the reason could be that U.S. liberals were extremely weak or virtually nonexistent as an anti-war force in the first place.
In fact, many Democrats and liberals had long supported both keeping Obamacare and attacking Syria. There was no need to bribe them. That is true though money and political capital are involved in Amerikans’ support for war in general.
The Syria strike may represent a willingness to work with Democrats as opposed to Freedom Caucus Republicans, for example, on certain non-war issues. In many cases, however, there was no need to bribe Democrats in the matter of blasting a Syrian base.
Some Amerikans may have not opposed Trump on war, whether they personally opposed certain wars themselves or not, because they perceived Democrats or themselves as being more militaristic than Trump.
The days after the Syrian air base strike will be revealing but unsurprising. Apart from the specific question of liberal-Democratic complicity, the absence of a massive U.S. anti-war movement is so obvious that U.S. liberals and activists have been forced to comment on it almost since day one of Obama’s presidency. Some of the explanations mirrored U.S. State Department, Defense Department and White House messages.
Problems were apparent years before Obama’s election, and then the black sexy “community organizer,” who had made some statements against one war, arrived to deal the death blow to the anti-war movement. Through Obama – always the victim of powerful racism, despite eir arrogance, and never the perpetrator – Democratic unwillingness to oppose war came to be justified as inability, among those who didn’t cling to the delusion that Obama was a peacenik and who saw a need to justify Obama’s hawkish actions and others’ inaction or cooperation.
Obama sent the hillbillies and rednecks overseas to get maimed and develop PTSD, with “semper fidelis” on their lips, and some of them came back and appeared as alleged especially bigoted white trash opposing U.S. involvement at least in certain Mideast countries. They seem opposed to war more than many non-veteran Amerikans were opposed to war. They ended up voting for Trump, whom Democrats made look like a non-interventionist. Democrats never really understood this reason for their election defeat and couldn’t imagine these uneducated rural people being better than them on certain issues with a Democrat as the U.$. president and commander-in-chief, because so-refined Democrats are that narcissistic. For others, it was too easy to take advantage of the fact that Democrats had been leading wars and, yes, were more expert at it than Trump.
Job approval polls
Presidential job approval polls were one indication when Obama was in office. Regardless of the extent to which Obama emself was a liberal or not, liberal Democrats’ approval of Barack Obama’s job performance remained strong during the 2011 U.S. aggression in Libya. The average weekly Obama approval rating among liberal Democrats then was in the mid-80s and significantly higher than among moderate Democrats. For the approximately-year-long period in 2010-2011 when the U.S. troop level in Afghanistan was above or around 100,000 – higher than it ever was under Bush – Obama’s liberal-Democrat job approval ratings were even higher. In the months between Obama’s troop surge announcement in February 2009 shortly after being elected, and the 100,000-troop milestone in August 2010, the average liberal-Democratic approval rating ranged from the mid-90s to the mid-80s. In the years following the Amerikan-caused extrajudicial killing of Muammar Gaddafi, Obama’s average liberal Democrat approval rating was in the high 80s.
It can’t be denied that certain demographics – year after year, throughout Obama’s presidency – were repeatedly giving Obama high job approval ratings in the middle of wars. After Obama facilitated the completion of the body-snatcher-style destruction of the U.S. anti-war movement (a process that began in the Bush years with the social/cultural liberal response to the 2001 Manhattan attack) and presided over high levels of incarceration and deportation, it would have been surprising for these demographics to suddenly oppose anti-Russia, anti-Arab and anti-East-Asian warmongering no matter how much Trump didn’t care about black people.
Trump’s low approval ratings aren’t “fake news,” but neither are Obama’s high approval ratings among liberal Democrats. Nobody can dispute them or the fact that Democrats have been involved in leading wars and warmongering for years. Trump saw a way to win votes by differentiating from this during the presidential race, and Democrats played along.
Of course, Democrats disapprove of how Trump is handling eir job. Trump has had even historically-low approval ratings. Democrats as a whole disapprove of Trump’s job performance more than liberal Democrats approved of Obama’s job performance.(4) This is also true: it is possible to disapprove of the job Trump is doing without opposing war, just as it was possible to disapprove of Obama’s job performance without opposing war.
Various critics have opposed Trump’s supposed non-interventionism. Some Democrats are now saying Trump isn’t really serious about opposing the Syrian government or still hasn’t done enough to be as hawkish as Hillary Clinton on Syria. Trump has heard such comparisons and similar unfavorable statements and is no doubt aware of the support Obama had in the midst of war. Trump won the election but now has to deal with low favorability as a president.
Liberal Democrats gave Trump – whose overall approval rating could hardly go lower – no reason to think Trump couldn’t gain support among some demographic by attacking some country. In terms of deploying more troops, Trump still hasn’t caught up with where Obama was by this time in their presidency.
Other Democrats, trying to preserve the Democratic Party’s appeal to those with anti-war sentiments, have contorted themselves trying to argue that Republicans opposing Trump on the Syria strike are working with, or should work with, Democrats against Trump.
Former presidential candidate and liberal darling Bernie Sanders has expressed skepticism about the Syria strike, something that Democrats wanted to do years ago and which some Republicans opposed then while still calling for al-Assad’s overthrow. Sander’s own idea of opposing “troops on the ground” in Syria has involved supporting air strikes in the past.
As the Huffington Post reported, Bill Maher (a news source for some U.S. liberals) suggested Republicans were hypocrites for opposing Obama on Syria strikes supposedly because Obama was black.(5) ““Obama was president then and that would have involved ‘bombing while black,’” Maher quipped.” The thing to understand is that many HuffPo readers will take such statements (in this case possibly decontextualized) seriously and not just as something a comedian or satirist might say. Maher asserted “the dictator” in the Syria has used chemical weapons “many times.” “But, you know, in America you’re not really President until you bomb something. You know? Even the liberals were all over this last night. Everybody loves this fucking thing. Cable news loves it when they show footage of destroyers firing cruise missiles at night. It’s America’s money shot.” Funny. HuffPo didn’t transcribe that part, which apparently was supposed to be the joke, not the chemical attack, racism and Russian U.S. election interference allegations.
Various media outlets are dutifully regurgitating U.S. State Department, Commander-in-Chief and Pentagon justifications of the Syrian air base strike. There are also the obligatory expressions of skepticism.
Some seem to play dumb as if Democrats haven’t been beating the war drums and obviously trying to out-hawk Republicans for almost two years. Point out that there are still highly ranked webpages on berniesanders.com and the unofficial feeltheberg.org, for example, supporting the Syrian president’s overthrow or chemical weapons allegations against Syria – pages that built support for the recent strike and other U.S. or Amerikan-supported military activity in Syria – and some so-smart fucking piece-of-shit Democrats will play stupid. And, while claiming to oppose war, they will agree with Sanders in suggesting Russian involvement in the recent alleged Syrian chemical attack.
In an April 7 statement,(6) Sanders was quick to uncritically repeat the chemical weapons allegation against Syria, an allegation that Syria has strongly denied. It took the form of a somewhat-ambiguous blanket statement presupposing “his regime’s use of chemical weapons.” So-called socialist revolutionary Sanders accused President Bashar al-Assad (not Obama or Trump) of being a war criminal in addition to insinuating Russian responsibility. “Further, the U.S. must work with all parties to reinforce longstanding international norms against the use of chemical weapons, to hold Russia and Syria to the 2013 deal to destroy these weapons and to see that violators are made accountable.” Sander’s words, in some parts sounding little different from what Trump’s press secretary and secretary of state have said, have been quoted widely, including on the International Business Times website.
Democrats like Sanders aren’t stopping their incessant anti-Russia rhetoric, which they pretend has nothing to do with supporting war against any country even after the United States has burned tens of millions of dollars in a Tomahawk strike killing people at a base that had been used by Russia with Syria’s consent.
The notion that Democrats or socially liberal Amerikans are a singular anti-war force was questionable even during George W. Bush’s presidency. While calling Bush a fascist in some cases, atheists, secularists and cultural/lifestyle liberals played a special role in supporting war against poor, oppressed people for whom religion happened to play a more central role in daily life. Many did later disagree with what the United States was doing in certain countries, only to get used to disagreeing with wars verbally or mentally while doing little or nothing to oppose them in reality.
True, there were many well-documented protests against police brutality under Obama. Many New Afrikans (U.S. Blacks) and Euro-Amerikans (U.S. whites) who claimed to oppose police brutality still approved of Obama’s job performance, viewed the United States positively, or viewed Obama favorably. Some didn’t, but the people in that country who actually strongly oppose both police brutality and war don’t represent the vast majority of Democrats. It has to be said some Amerikans who claimed to agree that black lives mattered were willing to support drone and cruise missile strikes against Africans and Muslims outside the United States. The practice of coddling such evil must condemned and ended.
Some of the same people, and others, suggested that opposing sexism, healthcare issues, and supporting Amerika’s influence on environmental issues, were more important than avoiding nuclear war. Uniting with whites against racism and for integration took precedent over supporting New Afrikan (Black nation) nationalism and opposing U.S. militarism and military operations. Some of those who said there was “no hierarchy of oppression” etc. ended up, in practice, being involved knowingly or unwittingly in Democratic campaigning (accusing Republicans and their supporters of being especially racist and sexist) and treating militarism and warmongering as if they were unimportant and inconsequential. Certain domestic issues were apparently so important as to justify wrecking the U.S. anti-war movement and even weakening anti-surveillance activism in various ways.
So far, the real victims – the lethal casualties – haven’t been white people in Russia, but non-whites in the Middle East. Trump wouldn’t yet dare attack a Russian military base openly to alleviate pressure and try to boost support. But Trump could kill Arabs and Muslims in the Middle East and threaten to murder Asians in northern Korea as well. Muslim and Christian Africans are also in the crosshairs.
Right now, there is a situation where some conservative critics opposing the Shayrat Airbase strike – a done deal – are against a certain involvement more than many Democrats are. This seems remarkable to many. Many have discussed how people like Ann Coulter (“Those who wanted us meddling in the Middle East voted for other candidates”) and Michael Savage are critical of the Syria strike. The idea that Steve Bannon’s supposed loss of influence is related to the Syria strike, which may have affected Syria-approved Russian operations, has a degree of plausibility because conservatives have their own priorities. To some actual isolationists, restricting immigration or restricting trade really is more important than risking more war to respond to alleged humyn rights abuses on another continent thousands of miles away – even if protectionism may contribute to war in the future.
If the choice is between having a border wall to keep out religious Latin Americans prone to assimilating into the United $nakes’ decadent secular society, and having an expanded U.S. war in Syria costing hundred of billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of more lives, people like that fucking bitch Ann Coulter have to be given some consideration in certain contexts despite Coulter’s obvious statements about Muslim and Islam. As shocking as that may be, that would be a way to start thinking about how to divide Amerikans in a proper way, rather than constantly flattering U.$. Democrats even when that flattery obviously means supporting militaristic jingoistic criticisms of militaristic jingoist Trump. And it would be better than contributing to deleterious polarization on non-war issues in a country with no proletariat able to advance beyond a certain point. It should at least be clear that any supposed anti-racism, or opposition to white nationalism, that involves supporting U.S. militarism and bullying is worthless.
True, there is risk involved in encouraging Amerikans to prefer the border wall over blowing up people in other countries. This writer means no disrespect to Mexican nationalists who rightfully oppose the wall, and there are good reasons for Chican@ nationalists to oppose the wall as well. But politics within the United States is at a low point in general.
People outside the United States need to understand that and behave accordingly in international struggle – firmly oppose and isolate the Amerikans – or at least refrain from making ignorant statements flattering Democrats or liberals in the United States. They should also refrain from flattering non-liberal antisemites favoring non-Jewish Amerikans. The United States may have used I$rael as a proxy in previous attacks, but obscuring the non-Jewish Amerikan role isn’t helpful.
The United States would still be the most dangerous and threatening country in the world – the world’s top aggressor and oppressor – even if it weren’t fascist. That is an important point many talking about fascism haven’t understood. The world’s people have reasons to oppose the United States regardless of whether it is fascist. Generally speaking, though, it is possible at this time that there are only various kinds of fascist in the United $nakes. Trying to convert millions of Amerikans to a particular ideology wouldn’t contribute to an anti-war movement even if it were possible. It may very well contribute to fascism, in fact. Fascism could have various forms, including green ones opposed to different kinds of internal inequality including ableism and heterosexism. Already, Obama has proved it is possible to accomplish much of the liberal agenda while presiding over the world’s #1 prison state, criminalization of undocumented migrants near the U.S. border, limited nationalization, the invasion of multiple countries, a record two full terms of war, the killing of thousands of non-whites using drones, brazen high-profile assassinations, gigantic military budgets, normalization of staggering mass surveillance, a persynality cult, and mindfucking the world about all or most of this.
Liberal Democrats have succeeded in polarizing Amerikans on climate change issues, at least in terms of what Amerikans support and oppose verbally, while supporting militarism and bringing the world closer to nuclear war. They have made it more complicated to get Amerikans to oppose war on the basis that it threatens the environment. But there are various other possibilities. The Syrians, the Iranians and others are accusing the Trump administration of siding with ISIS. There are reasons for such accusations though the anti-ISIS rhetoric comes with risks. It has become somewhat harder, though, to use the anti-ISIS approach after the U.S. air strikes killing hundreds of Iraqi and Syrian civilians last month.
Such reactionaries like Pat Buchanan are relatively open about their views. What they stand for is clear. Bannon and Buchanan call themselves “nationalists.” Many Amerikans who claim to disagree with “America first” are also nationalists (white-nationalists or U.S. nationalists), but they are more dangerous. They have confusing appearances and contribute to the development of fascism in their own ways. That includes the Democratic hairsplitting related to Trump’s “wiretapping” claim, in the midst of ongoing spying revelations; this has the effect of normalizing mass surveillance and questionable practices.
The point here isn’t to exalt Trump’s former/current supporters or conservative critics, but to note the deadly consequences of certain ways of opposing Trump. The next victims may be Koreans – not whites or males in Russia (or white males in the United States, despite the Democratic demonization of Trump’s supporters). The Amerikans racheted up the anti-Russia rhetoric after the alleged Syrian chemical attack, but the Koreans are vulnerable. Unlike the attack in Syria, it is less clear that a U.S. attack in the Korean Peninsula would harm Russia, and it would also be less clear to many that the attack might benefit Russia in some ways. Attacking a facility in northern Korea might be less complicated in terms of U.S. domestic politics than another attack like the one in Syria. With Korea, Trump may have less to worry about in terms of disappointing supporters or agitating critics.
Many Amerikans may fantasize themselves as attempting a complicated struggle against fascism by working with extreme warmongers against Trump. More likely they contribute to both war and fascism. This is the politics of a rogue, yet still-hegemonic, state with chronic political problems and a lot of money to spend on wars. ◊
• “Iran’s mission at UN denounces US strike on Syria,” 2017 April 8. http://www8.irna.ir/en/News/82485440/
• “Syria missile strike: Did the Trump administration break the law?” 2017 April 8. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-08/syria-missile-strike-did-trump-government-break-war-law/8427800
1. “Women’s March lacked strong anti-war message,” 2017 January. https://github.com/pinotes/pinotes.github.io/blob/master/_posts/2017-01-26-news-Womens-March-antiwar.md “In some places, there seemed to be more signs about Trump’s appearance or connecting Trump to Russia, than anti-war signs. More signs about Trump’s Twitter wars than about possible attacks and wars within the next four years involving drone strikes, cruise missiles, and dead people including girl children and adult females. Signs with lists, some long, of what “women” were “against” didn’t mention war. Apparently, war is now just a fact of life for many, a bearable one.”
2. “There is still no massive U.S. anti-war movement, thanks to Democrats,” 2017 March. https://github.com/pinotes/pinotes.github.io/blob/master/_posts/2017-03-20-news-US-antiwar-movement-Democrats-Korea-Russia.md “It is true that many Amerikans are against the travel ban at least verbally. The price of that could be war. If it weren’t for the United States’ extreme international exploitation, sanctions, and aggression, there would be fewer people from Iraq, Iran etc. wanting to come to the States as refugees and migrants in the first place. If thousands of Koreans have to do die for there to be a new Korean refugee question to give Amerikans another chance to exercise morality or talk about “American values” and “the America we know,” fuck that. When Democrats and Republicans worry about how welcoming the United States looks toward war refugees more than they worry about war, the situation shouldn’t be viewed positively.”
3. “Obamacare, huge Pentagon budget remain: Nice going, DemoKKKrats,” 2017 March. https://github.com/pinotes/pinotes.github.io/blob/master/_posts/2017-03-29-news-Obamacare-replacement-failure.md
4.“Presidential approval ratings – Donald Trump.” Retrieved 2017 April 8 from http://www.gallup.com/poll/203198/presidential-approval-ratings-donald-trump.aspx
5. “Bill Maher blasts GOP hypocrisy over strike on Syria,” 2017 April 8. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/bill-maher-donald-trump-syria_us_58e87eabe4b00de14103c497?9ci&ncid=inblnkushpmg00000009
See: “‘Even the liberals were all over this’: Bill Maher disgusted by the cable news response to Syria,” 2017 April 8. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/style/wp/2017/04/08/even-the-liberals-were-all-over-this-bill-maher-disgusted-by-the-cable-news-response-to-syria/
6. “Sanders statement on U.S. missile strike in Syria,” 2017 April 7. https://www.sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/sanders-statement-on-us-missile-strike-in-syria