From Gaza to Aleppo: A Handy Guide for Defending War Crimes

Or, how I learned to stop worrying and love the bombing of civilian neighborhoods.

Stephen Zunes October 7, 2016

A Syrian boy walks his bicycle in Aleppo in November 2014. (BARAA AL-HALABI/AFP/Getty Images)

Giv­en the Unit­ed States’ dis­as­trous record in the Mid­dle East — most crit­i­cal­ly the inva­sion and occu­pa­tion of Iraq — and the man­i­fold lies com­ing out of Wash­ing­ton to jus­ti­fy its poli­cies, many Amer­i­cans are under­stand­ably skep­ti­cal about U.S. inter­ven­tions and the ratio­nal­iza­tions used to defend them. This leads many Amer­i­cans to oppose both direct inter­ven­tion in Syr­ia and the arm­ing of rebel fac­tions — and right­ly so.

By combining segments of statements and resolutions supporting Israel’s “right to self-defense” with certain anti-imperialists’ writings on Syria, I was able to put together the ultimate guide to defending war crimes.

But while there is room for debate on some aspects of the con­flict, cer­tain ele­ments of the anti-war move­ment and the anti-impe­ri­al­ist Left — such as the U.S. Peace Coun­cil, the ANSWER Coali­tion, some Green Par­ty lead­ers and even Nobel Peace Prize win­ner Mairead Maguire—go beyond oppos­ing U.S. inter­ven­tion and implic­it­ly (and in some cas­es, explic­it­ly) defend the cor­rupt and auto­crat­ic régime of Bashar al-Assad. They min­i­mize or deny its respon­si­bil­i­ty for war crimes, attempt to dis­cred­it the rep­utable human rights orga­ni­za­tions that doc­u­ment these crimes, treat vir­tu­al­ly the entire Syr­i­an oppo­si­tion as its most extreme and vio­lent com­po­nents and attack fel­low Left­ists who dis­agree with them.

Many of the argu­ments used to defend the Syr­i­an régime’s dev­as­tat­ing attacks on rebel-held cities are eeri­ly sim­i­lar to those used by U.S. politi­cians, in their pub­lic state­ments and in a series of bipar­ti­san Con­gres­sion­al res­o­lu­tions, to defend Israel’s mas­sive assaults on the Hamas-con­trolled Gaza Strip. By com­bin­ing seg­ments of these state­ments and res­o­lu­tions sup­port­ing Israel’s right to self-defense” with cer­tain anti-impe­ri­al­ists’ writ­ings on Syr­ia, I was able to put togeth­er the ulti­mate guide to defend­ing war crimes.

How I Learned to Stop Wor­ry­ing and Love the Bomb­ing of Civil­ian Neighborhoods

The bomb­ing of Aleppo/​Gaza is a legit­i­mate act of self-defense by the gov­ern­ment of Syria/​Israel against for­eign-backed Islamist ter­ror­ists. Reports by groups like Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al and Human Rights Watch (HRW) that accuse Syria/​Israel of vio­lat­ing inter­na­tion­al human­i­tar­i­an law are based on hearsay by ter­ror­ist sup­port­ers and are not to be tak­en seri­ous­ly. Indeed, both Amnesty and HRW have repeat­ed­ly shown them­selves to be anti-Syr­i­an/an­ti-Israel, part of their over­all pro-/an­ti-West­ern bias. Médecins San Fron­tierés and Physi­cians for Human Rights have also shown their anti-Syr­i­an/an­ti-Israel bias in their reports of alleged war crimes,” ignor­ing how the schools and hos­pi­tals bombed by Syr­i­an /​Israeli forces have been used by the ter­ror­ists for launch­ing rock­ets into gov­ern­ment-held areas/​Israel and are there­fore legit­i­mate targets.

And a lot of the sup­posed atroc­i­ties” blamed on the Syr­i­an Arab Army/​Israel Defense Forces are actu­al­ly staged or com­mit­ted by the ter­ror­ists. The loss of civil­ian life is trag­ic, of course, but the respon­si­bil­i­ty rests sole­ly with the rebels/​Hamas. Assad/​Netanyahu wants peace, but he has a respon­si­bil­i­ty to defend his peo­ple from terrorism.

Sim­i­lar­ly, as demon­strat­ed by their report blam­ing Syria/​Israel for the vast major­i­ty of civil­ian deaths, the U.N. Human Rights Coun­cil has shown itself to be irre­deemably biased, effec­tive­ly deny­ing Syria’s/Israel’s right to self-defense. Indeed, the Unit­ed Nations has a his­to­ry of unfair­ly sin­gling out the sec­u­lar government/​Jewish state, there­fore requir­ing Russia/​the Unit­ed States to exer­cise its veto pow­er to block inter­na­tion­al efforts to dele­git­imize the Syr­i­an government/​Israel.

Mean­while, the news media — includ­ing shows like Democ­ra­cy Now! and net­works like Al-Jazeera — have sim­ply repeat­ed anti-Syr­i­a/an­ti-Israel pro­pa­gan­da through their one-sided report­ing on the con­flict, though at least there are net­works like RT/​Fox News to set the record straight.

Those who demo­nize Syria/​Israel for defend­ing itself against Islam­ic ter­ror­ist groups like Al-Nus­ra/Hamas don’t real­ly care about human rights or inter­na­tion­al law. Indeed, those who com­plain about alleged war crimes” by Syria/​Israel com­plete­ly ignore the very real war crimes by Israel/​Syria. Such sup­posed human rights” activists are back­ing the agen­da of the Unit­ed States and Israel/​Iran and Syr­ia and are moti­vat­ed by impe­ri­al­is­m/an­ti-Semi­tism.

There are no mod­er­ate anti-Assad/­Pales­tin­ian groups; they are Islamist extrem­ists and ter­ror­ists. And the claim that there has ever been a non­vi­o­lent anti-Assad/­Pales­tin­ian move­ment is sim­ply a myth.

The Syr­i­an rebels/​Hamas would not even exist were it not for sup­port by the U.S. and Israel/​Iran and Syr­ia, who use them to car­ry out their agen­da to destroy Syria/​Israel. This is why Russia/​the Unit­ed States must con­tin­ue to defend the peo­ple of Syria/​Israel, reject calls for sus­pend­ing mil­i­tary assis­tance and work with their ally to defeat the threat from terrorism.

Stephen Zunes is a pro­fes­sor of Pol­i­tics and Inter­na­tion­al Stud­ies at the Uni­ver­si­ty of San Fran­cis­co. Read more of his work at stephen​zunes​.org.
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