Syria, A Tragedy Made by Imperialist Intervention and Aggression
An except of the talk by Nita Palmer at a Mobilization Against War & Occupation (MAWO) forum on Syria on September 27, 2016 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Hello everyone, thank you for coming this evening. We know from what we have seen in the news and what we have seen in the video clips here that Syria today is in a complete state of crisis. But, what is easy to forget amidst all this coverage is that just five years ago Syria was a peaceful country, one of the most advanced in the Middle East in terms of education, healthcare, and other social programs. It is a country of beautiful cities and ancient ruins and history. It was even considered to be a vacation paradise for Europeans.
All public education in Syria is free, including university. Before the war, school enrolment was at 93%, but today thousands of schools have been closed, teachers have fled the country and there are 4 million children out of school. Some children in Syria today have never been able to receive an education.
Healthcare is also free. Before the war Syria was making great improvements and advances in their in healthcare system. It was considered to be one of the best in the Middle East. But now, many hospitals have been destroyed, thousands of doctors have fled the country, and the pharmaceutical sector has been all but destroyed. Syria made the majority of their own medicines before the war, but there is now a massive shortage of medicines in the country. The security situation, particularly in the terrorist-controlled areas, has also prevented many Syrians from seeking medical aid.
The sanitation systems have been destroyed, and access to water limited in many areas. All of this has added up to a massive public health crisis and people have begun dying from diseases like polio, which were eradicated until before the war.
On top of this, more than 400,000 people have lost their lives and nearly half of the country's population has had to flee their homes. There are about five million Syrian refugees outside of Syria, as well as another 6.5 million who are internally displaced within their country.
If you watch the news you will see videos from the White Helmets, which Ken talked about earlier, showing ‘regime bombings,' and a lot of talk in the media about the so-called ‘war crimes’ of Russia and the Syrian government.
But, what they won't show you is the video of the so-called ‘moderate rebels’ in Aleppo beheading a 12 year old boy, on video, mocking him, saying, "we are worse than ISIS”. They won't show you the coverage of clinics and apartment buildings torn apart by rebel shelling in Aleppo or the hundreds of people killed in these attacks.
They won't show you the numerous air strikes by the US and their allies in the country that have killed hundreds of civilians. We just saw the coverage in that video of the one man who lost almost all of his children in an air strike. The US denies that any civilians were killed in this air strike and says that this father is not credible. Stories like his are multiplied by hundreds, thousands of times across Syria. All from people like him, to whom the US is saying that their lives, the lives of their children, don't matter.
The reporting of the war in Syria on the whole has been some of the most atrocious reporting that I have ever seen. It is not only one-sided and completely without context, it is not even reporting the truth. The mainstream media actually reported three different times that the last children's hospital in Aleppo, the Anadan hospital, had been destroyed. How can the same hospital have been destroyed three times? In reality, they have been showing pictures of other buildings which were damaged, and some of the hospitals they are claiming have been destroyed are other buildings or not even recognized hospitals. It is just complete lies, essentially, which are being been reported, without any accountability, just for the goal of forwarding the agenda of the US there.
The main source for their ‘facts’ that are used to say what is happening in Syria is also just coming from the opposition groups. There is very little independent investigation or anything that is being shown in the media as to what is really going on.
What about Aleppo?
What is going on in Aleppo has also been reported entirely without context. The tragedy in Aleppo, is not an isolated tragedy. It is happening within the context years of a so-called civil war in Syria, which is really a proxy war which has been completely created by the US and their allies.
The official narrative that we see in the news is, of course, that a civil war in Syria started when the Syrian government and President Bashar al-Assad launched a violent crackdown on peaceful protesters and that since then Syrian government has basically just been attacking its own citizens. And then somehow - this is never really explained other than vague mentions of it being Assad's fault - ISIS has come to rise in Syria.
In reality, the war in Syria began with a so-called protest movement, which started not as most protest movements do, with a mobilization in the cities demanding rights and freedoms, but rather with a small group of armed rebels in a town near the Turkish border.
I want to read an excerpt from a report from a Dutch missionary who was in Syria from April 2012, who was later killed. He explains that, "Most of the citizens of Syria do not support the opposition... you also cannot say that this is a popular uprising. The majority of people are not part of the rebellion and certainly not part of the armed rebellion. What is occurring is, above all, a struggle between the army and armed Sunni groups that aim to overturn the Alawite regime and take power. From the start the protest movements were not purely peaceful. From the start I saw armed demonstrators marching along in protests, who began to shoot at the police first. Very often the violence of the security forces has been a reaction to the brutal violence of the armed rebels."
So, this is a first-hand account which has been echoed, of course, by many other activists and Syrians themselves, saying that the 'opposition’, the so-called ‘moderate’ opposition, the so-called ‘supporters of democracy’ that the US are aiding, were, from the beginning, for the most part conservative Sunni Islamist groups who were opposed the liberal and secular Syrian government.
But these groups did not act on their own: they received funding from Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States - funding, training and weapons. These groups were, and are, by definition, terrorists. The dictionary definition of terrorism is “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims," which is exactly what these groups are doing.
So this is the context for what has happened in Syria in the last five years that brings us to Aleppo today.
Aleppo has been at the heart of the war in Syria since the beginning. It is Syria’s biggest commercial centre and is also on important supply route from Turkey for the so-called rebels. The city has been divided between government-held and terrorist-controlled areas, but in the beginning of 2016, the Syrian army began to make gains against these terrorist groups that control half of Aleppo. By the end of July, the Syrian army had Aleppo surrounded and had cut off the last weapons supply route to the terrorists.
What about ceasefire?
The Syrian army, at that point, was really on the verge of winning what would have been a decisive battle in the war. At this point, the US government and media and the US-funded groups, like the White Helmets, that are claiming to represent the ‘Syrian people,’ started campaigns in the media about Syrian government's so-called atrocities.
The US supported a ceasefire, but used it only to buy time. Recall that the first RT video that we saw tonight was an interview with an Al-Nusra commander who was saying that they were using that time to receive training and arms. But the US broke the ceasefire with the bombing of the Syrian army, which killed over 60 people, and then ignored the advances made by ISIS, or Daesh, in the wake of the bombing.
From the beginning it was clear that this ceasefire for the US was not because they really cared about the Syrian people, and they wanted to really try and work things out. It was simply an opportunity to buy some time to try and re-organize their forces because the Syrian government had been making gains against the 'moderate rebels' that they are backing.
The US has called for a 'no fly zone,' but we can see that it would really be more of the same thing. They don't really want a 'no fly zone,' they basically want a ceasefire that is only for their opponents. They want a ceasefire that only applies to Russia and the Syrian government, not to themselves.
As the same time, as the US has been supporting these terrorist organizations in their campaign against the Syrian government, they have also been looking for an opportunity to expand their direct military intervention in Syria. They have tried many different ways to overthrow the Syrian government, but it still has the support of a majority of the Syrian people.
They are looking to further their intervention through 'boots on the ground' there. Although the US has claimed that they do not want to put boots on the ground in Syria, there are already 300 troops there.
They have been using their allies to do their dirty work for them. At the end of August, staunch US ally Turkey launched a ground invasion of Syria with the excuse that they were ‘protecting Turkish border from Daesh.' In reality, this was simply a way for the US and their allies to expand intervention in Syria.
Turkey’s foreign minister announced this week that they will be pushing farther into Northern Syria. This is a significant violation of Syrian sovereignty and an obvious way for the US to try and gain an upper hand in the situation.
So, what is the US interest in Syria?
They have claimed, of course, that it is a humanitarian interest, to bring peace and democracy and human rights to the people of Syria. But what human rights or democracy, or peace has been brought there?
The human rights situation in Syria is far, far worse today, with millions of refugees forced out of their homes; food, water, and medicine shortages; and schools, hospitals, all the basic things needed for life completely destroyed.
They claim that they are there to get rid of terrorism. But the US actions inside Syria have supported rise of Daesh, a dangerous terrorist organization, either directly or indirectly. They are supporting terrorist organizations like the al-Nusra front.
This is completely exposing what the US agenda is, and that they are not really fighting for human rights, or waging a 'war on terrorism’. They, in fact, have broader strategic interests in Syria. Not just to access oil or resources, but also to re-colonize the Middle East. They want to eliminate the independent, anti-imperialist governments like Syria, like they have done with Libya. They want to turn Syria into essentially a military base next-door to Iran, which is a country that has been in the US sights for invasion or overthrow of their independent government since the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
Syria today is also a situation where the US is really trying to gain an upper hand over its competitors, China and, particularly in Syria, Russia.
Essentially, the US and their allies, including Canada, which we must not forget, have absolutely destroyed a country which was one of the most advanced in the Middle East in terms of social development, until they came on the scene. Syria was not a perfect country, of course, and has its own internal issues, just like any country, just like Canada and the US themselves do. But, through their both direct and indirect interference, the US and their allies have created this massive crisis. They have not only destroyed the country, but they have allowed the rise of dangerous terrorist organizations like Daesh.
US, UK, France, Canada and all other imperialists hands of Syria
Really, I think the only option left for Syria in terms of how to move forward, of how to get out of this situation, is for the country to be left to the Syrian government and the Syrian people to decide what to do. The US and their allies have unequivocally proven that they are not interested in stopping terrorism, in bringing human rights, in bringing democracy to Syria.
If Daesh is to be defeated, it must be by a Syrian-led force, with help from other countries only at the invitation of the Syrian government; not countries coming in and conducting their own air strikes and military campaigns with their own interests as Canada and the US, Turkey and other countries have done.
I think that the demand for 'US Hands Off Syria!' and for an end to foreign intervention in Syria by the US and their allies is a very important and central demand for anyone who is concerned about peace and justice in the world today.
These wars that we see happening abroad are happening at the expense of people here at home, as well as around the world. We have seen austerity measures happening here in Canada, like cuts to healthcare, education, saying that 'there is no money for these programs,' when the Canadian government is funding terrorist organizations in Syria - terrorist organizations! -to the tune of 5.3 million dollars.
I think that Ken earlier did a really good job earlier of outlining exactly what Canada's role in Syria has been. I think that also makes it very important when we see how much that Canada has been behind supporting the US in this war and intervention in Syria. We, as people living here in Canada, have a responsibility to call for an end, not just to the US war in Syria, but also to the Canadian government's involvement. This is our duty as people here, when tax dollars of people here in Canada are being spent on this war.
I think it's also very important for Canada to open the doors to Syrian refugees, as well as refugees from other countries like Libya and Afghanistan, where the government of Canada and their allies have participated in wholesale bloodshed.
This war in Syria is really part of a new era of war and occupation, which is not just a concern for people in Syria or in the countries that are being bombed, but really needs to be a concern for every person around the world. It is very important that we, as people involved in the antiwar movement, as peace activists, continue to be out in the streets and demanding an end to the war on Syria and educating around this. Because so many people don't have a chance to see alternative media like we have, or come to these forums and are just seeing the news which is so completely biased and one-sided. It is really our responsibility to continue to push forward this demand and make it clear that the Canadian government is also complicit in these war crimes that are happening in Syria.
I want to really encourage everyone here to continue to come out to these events, if you don't already regularly, and also to take information that you learned here, and that we have at the back table, to share with your friends and family and colleagues. This is a very important issue for people to know about, and to see what the truth is about what is really happening in Syria.
Follow Nita Palmer on Twitter:@NGP1z0
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