Barry Grey, Ben Norton, carts and horses, crushing an opponent, false accusations, imperialist politics, Joseph Daher, Michael Karadjis, Mrs. J., slander, the popular agency of the Syrian people, the US missile attack on Syrian air bases in April of 2017
[Norm’s note: when I wrote this, only minutes ago, I was, as I still am, in a state of virtual stupor for not having slept very much in the last couple of days. My hands on my keyboard, like on a Ouija board, typed out words and phrases, the origins of which I do not exactly know. So if parts of this are a bit incoherent, you will know why. But why don’t I wait until I’m rested and lucid to edit this if it needs it and only then post it? Because I know myself. If I feel that something is finished, and I don’t post it, it usually never ends up getting posted. By posting it now, I’m committed. So here goes . . .(and I’ve just fixed a link that misdirected, @ 3:16 pm, 9/15/2018, namely, this one: DONALD TRUMP’S AIMS IN SYRIA)]
Recently I commented below an article posted at Off-G. My comments were not well received. Perhaps it’s my style. Perhaps I don’t express myself very well, either. English is not my mother tongue, and sometimes people think I’m being sarcastic when I’m not. And sometimes when I am being sarcastic, my sarcasm doesn’t even begin to get off the ground.
On the other hand, I also suspect that the content of my comments may have had at least a little to do with their unpopularity. Everybody knows that the civil war in Syria is an oeuvre of the CIA and the Imperializing West, and of only the CIA and the Imperializing West, that the Syrian people are utterly incapable of any agency.
But blind to what everybody knows and to the rule of propriety that says it’s not nice to directly confront people with your dissenting opinion in public, I did dare to suggest that ordinary Syrians were actually capable of collective action and, sins of all sins, also that on the basis of some readings I had done, readings I was being told were completely without merit, that Syria was neither socialist, nor anti-imperialist, nor certainly anything but repressive.
Of course, I’m right, as I always am about everything, and everybody else who doesn’t agree with me is wrong, and in this instance, that was pretty much everyone either reading or posting comments below the article that was at issue. (I’m being a tad ironical, here — in case some of you might have missed it. In one’s strongly held convictions, who doesn’t believe him-/her-self, at least as a point of departure, that is to say, until you realize you’ve been wrong all along, to be right? I now will leave it entirely up to you to sort out which of all the subsequent statements in the rest of this piece are intended sardonically .)
But this is the thing that I’m taking away from that experience: if you have a cart and a horse, having the horse in front of the cart yields results that are different from having the cart in front of the horse and different yet from having either the horse in the cart or the cart on the horse. When you stop to think about it, that much should be obvious.
But permit me to clarify my point:
Here is an example of what I have in mind: someone over at Off-G, one of the commenters, the one responsible for bringing up the issue of the cart and the horse, wanted very much to discredit me by discrediting one of the authors I had touted as a source of solid information and analyses, things that directly challenged the notion that Syria was only, and could only possibly be, a battleground on which a larger, more powerful imperialist bloc was battling a smaller, less powerful, but heroic anti-imperialist one.
That person then went looking for any possible dirt that could be found about that author. Wow! Did she find dirt (and let’s call her Mrs. J., to give her a name)! And just as quickly as she could, she posted links to the dirt she had found and, if I’m not imagining it (though I am), she gloated somewhat triumphantly.
The only point of difficulty for her was that she hadn’t taken the time to verify that what her rescuers had claimed that the author in question had written was in fact what the author had written. The claims, it turns out, were provably and palpably bogus.
The author in question and to be discredited was Michael Karadjis. Part of the dirt on Karadjis presented had been concocted by a certain Mr. Ben Norton. The link that was provided to Norton’s piece was this: https://bennorton.com/michael-karadjis-syrian-al-qaeda-jabhat-al-nusra/ .
I followed the link, and lo and behold, I happened upon this, right there, the second paragraph into the piece:
“Karadjis, who has declared that Syrian al-Qaeda shooting down Russian planes would be “a victory for all humanity,” is part of a small yet obsessive crew of so-called leftists who viciously attack anti-war socialists.”
“Wow! Now that is both stunning and damning, isn’t it?” I thought to myself.
Well, okay, to tell the truth, no, that isn’t what I thought to myself.
In fact, I think I sighed, and what I really thought was, “Do these people really think that we can’t verify their attributions, especially if what they are slandering is posted somewhere on the internet?”
So I copied the string “a victory for all humanity,” did a “paste” in Google, appended the name ‘Michael Karadjis’ to that string, and presto, like magic, I had a link to the piece in which Karadjis had forever damned himself to hell.
Now compare this with what Ben Norton wants you to believe Karadjis wrote, and I quote somewhat at length to contextualize the upshot of Karadjis’ remark:
The other main issue often arising in discussion is that of which rebel groups control the various parts of Aleppo now under attack.
For many Rojava-Firsters, this is a good excuse to support this counterrevolutionary action: “Oh, but that area is controlled by Nusra, so it’s good that the “democratic” forces are ejecting them” (even if with Russian air power – let me try that: Oh, but Iraq is run by Saddam Hussein, who is an extremely brutal tyrant, so of course we need to fight on the side of the US Blitzkrieg to unseat him, etc etc).
A particularly disgusting (and disappointing in the extreme, given the source) example of this was a tweet sent by the head of the leftist/Kurdish-based HDP in Turkey, Selahattin Demirtaş: “Davutoğlu says #Azez won’t fall. Who’s in Azez? Al Nusra and Ahrar ash-Sham. Rapists & people who sell women”.
Now the level of outright racism and dehumanisation in this tweet is unbelievable (so ordinary Arabic people don’t live there? Were the babies killed by Russian bombing of the maternity hospital there also rapists?); and of course it is also a lie that either Nusra or Ahrar al-Sham engage in a policy of rape (that would be the Assad regime) or sell women (ISIS), regardless of their other sins. But as we will see, it is also a lie about who is actually in control of Azaz.
First, however, I disagree with the premise in any case. It is up to the local peoples to choose their political/military leaderships in revolutionary situations (in the same way as the PYD/YPG is in control of Kurdish regions), and to change them; and even if we dislike some of them, it is not up to an outside force; still less one operating with Russian air support, to forcefully eject them; and the ethnic factor in a military attack cannot be ignored, even if the SDF may theoretically be very good on the multi-ethnic issue.
And even in the case of Nusra, a group I detest, it is a new development in left-wing thinking that it is OK to be on the side of an invading imperialist power bombing the country to bits against even a reactionary local militia; in the conditions of this genocide from the sky, if even Nusra got its hands on good anti-aircraft missiles and shot dozens of Russian warplanes out of the sky it would be a victory forall humanity (and anyone wanted (sic) to now express outrage, kindly express it to children ripped to bits by Russian bombs in Aleppo). [Source: The Kurdish PYD’s alliance with Russia against Free Aleppo: Evidence and analysis of a disaster.]
Now I ask you, because my English is probably not as good as it should be, does this read to you as though Karadjis is a supporter of Nusra (or Al Qeada)? As Mr. Ben Norton would have you believe? Or is Karadjis rather not expressing a deeply felt outrage at the slaughter of innocents?
That’s what I thought, too.
And in my sanctimonious indignation, I threw what I here quoted from Karadjis into the gloating face of that arrogantly ignorant and ignominious bitch! Well, okay, maybe it wasn’t exactly sanctimonious indignation, and I didn’t really feel like I was throwing anything into anyone’s face, let alone that of an arrogantly ignorant and ignominious bitch. But I did provide the work of comparing and contrasting Karadjis’ purports with those of Norton, to demonstrate to my interlocutor that I really was getting the hang of what she had probably been driving at when earlier she had accused me of putting my horse before my cart, ooops, I mean of putting my cart before my horse, that is to say, of daring to quote an author in support of an argument before taking the time to establish the integrity of that author as a reliable witness. You know, it’s true, I’m slow on the uptake, but give me enough time, and eventually, eh?
But after this exchange, do you know what happened? Pettiness got the better of me.
I felt I’d gotten something like the upper hand in a contest, in a battle of wits or something, and I really, really wanted to crush my opponent, and to do it while she was still off balance. So I fantasized a scenario in which to “help” Mrs. J., I would go looking for more “impartial” information about Michael Karadjis of the kind Mrs. J. had come up with, you know, given my unqualified admiration for the man, and wouldn’t you know it, on my first attempt, right there, in a single article, not only more slanderous insinuations about Karadjis, but about another person I’d been quoting in support of my arguments against Mrs. J., some dirt being made on Joseph Daher, too! “Oh, how gleeful Mrs. J. will be,” I thought, “that not only had she managed to bring down Karadjis through the likes of a Mr. Norton, but that she could now also harm the reputation of a man that I admired even more than Karadjis, but not only that, but that she had managed to maneuver me into discrediting my own best source of “information,” so to speak.”
Well, okay, my pettiness never really did get the better of me, though it was there, bubbling away just beneath the surface of my usual discomposure, and I never did make up that scenario in my head, except as something I just invented for the purpose of filling up some space in this post, because what’s a post good for if it doesn’t waste at least a bit of someone else’s time, eh?
But what is true, though, is that out of curiosity I did go looking for more slanderous accusations against Michael Karadjis, and the bit about finding some made up dirt about Joseph Daher in an article also attacking Karadjis is also true.
In an article written by a certain Barry Grey, titled, “The ISO and the imperialist politics of the pseudo-left,” Grey manages to do the impossible.
How, for example, do you manage to extract this first statement,
After the US missile attack on Syrian air bases in April of 2017, the ISO published an article by Joseph Daher and Frieda Afary denouncing the attack for not going far enough. [Source: Ibid.]
from this second statement, the one that Grey adduces in support of his claim that Daher and Afary denounced the April 2017 missile attack by the US for “not going far enough,”
However, at this point, we can say that this strike, which was announced in advance to the Russian government, does not indicate any strategic change in US policy concerning the future of Syria or the Assad regime… Clearly, no peaceful and just solution in Syria can be reached with Bashar al-Assad and his clique in power. He is the biggest criminal in Syria and must be prosecuted for his crimes instead of being legitimized by international and regional imperialist powers. [Source: DONALD TRUMP’S AIMS IN SYRIA]
The most that I can possibly deduce from the Daher-and-Afary quote is something along the lines of, “it appears that the U.S. is not intent upon overthrowing Assad, despite any bluster or rhetoric (or claims from whatever quarter) to the contrary, and wouldn’t it be nice if Bashar al-Assad and his clique in power could be brought to justice,” but certainly not that “the U.S. should have gone a lot farther than they did.”
Now since I could not for the life of me infer from the Daher-and-Afary quote what for Mr. Barry Grey was is in plain sight, I located the article by Daher and Afary (which Grey neither links to nor identifies by title) and actually read it.
Nowhere in that article is there so much as a hint that Daher and Afary denounced “the attack for not going far enough.”
In point of fact, the upshot of the article is precisely what the preamble to it says that it is:
“In a statement first published at the website of the Alliance of Syrian and Iranian Socialists, Joseph Daher and Frieda Afary condemn the Trump administration’s air strikes in Syria, and reiterate the organization’s opposition to U.S. and Russian and Iranian imperialism–as well as resolute defiance to the brutal regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.” [Source: Ibid.]
While it is true that Daher and Afary do “condemn the Trump administration’s air strikes in Syria,” I think it is clear that Mr. Grey is more than stretching things just a tiny bit by suggesting that Daher and Afary felt that the air strikes hadn’t gone nearly far enough.
I also note the manner in which he constructed his quote to have it — do what exactly?
To sorta, kinda, vaguely suggest what he wanted it to suggest?
I mean, a simple ellipsis inserted between sentences separated by no less than. . . three. . . whole . . . paragraphs.
But I guess Grey had a point that needed to be made, eh?
But yeah, I’d say that Mrs. J. had a point: you really do need to pay attention to the way you arrange your horse and your cart before you try to get some mileage out of them both. I mean, I can think of some ways of getting some mileage out of cart-and-horse arrangement in which the horse walks behind the cart, pushing it along, or the cart is on the horse, or the horse is in the cart and you yourself are doing all the pulling or pushing. But in general, eh . . .
And would that people who sincerely posture as truth seekers would trouble themselves just a wee bit more in trying to actually ascertain the truth of anything before proclaiming it. In this resepect, Mrs. J. is 100% correct.
I mean, it’s not as if we aren’t all already in enough of a collective muddle on just about everything, and that we need to work at it just a little harder, that is, at confusing ourselves even more than we already are.
One thing is certain, though, if someone is accusing someone else of holding to this or that untenable standpoint, of lying and slandering, there is no greater cure for such accusations falsely being made than following things back to their presumed original sources, at least in textual matters.