The following talk was given at a forum held by Mobilization Against War & Occupation (MAWO) on November 13th, 2012. The original talk was 3000 words, which for this article is reduced to 1850.
Iran, Libya and Syria
So looking to Syria, we saw a lot from the videos so I won’t go into it too much. But basically, to give a bit of background, on the heels of the uprisings throughout the Middle East and North Africa against U.S.-backed dictatorships, the U.S. government faced setbacks in it’s consolidation of power in the Middle East and North Africa, and suddenly saw it’s puppet regimes coming down under the force and will of people who had had enough of these U.S.-backed, tyrannical regimes in their countries. But of course the United States is not going to just sit back and let this happen. Immediately, the United States government began fomenting their own mass uprisings, but this time using the opportunity to take down the governments that were not yet puppet regimes under the control of the U.S. government. Specifically the governments of Libya, Syria and Iran, three governments without puppets regimes of the United States, and therefore three governments and three countries in the way and blocking the imperialist drive for hegemony in that region. We saw what this meant for Libya. A so-called protest movement that by all accounts did not look like the ones we saw in Tunisia or Egypt. In Libya, a group of armed men, fighting with military and strategic support from imperialist governments, and then eventually a no-fly zone by NATO, including the U.S. and Canada, which devastated Libya with over 30,000 bombs dropped on the country, and turned a country that once had the highest living standards in all of Africa, now into a complete chaos.
What's Up in Syria?
Now the focus is on Syria. The media is promoting that these rebels are fighting for freedom against a dictator that is mercilessly killing them. But as we saw in the videos, and as I’ll explain a bit more, the facts aren’t really adding up to that. For one thing what we are seeing is a civil war, but a civil war where one side, the rebels, are getting military support from other U.S.-backed governments in the region. One of the first reports of this came on June 21st, 2012, when the New York Times reported that “a number of CIA officers in southern Turkey are “helping” allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms, with the funding of US allies Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. These weapons are reported to include automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and some antitank weapons.” Since then there has been report after report that these rebels in Syria are being supplied weapons from these three countries through Turkish border, by U.S. allies Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Who are Foreign Mercenaries in Syria?
Also, there is the issue of foreign mercenaries in Syria. Associated Press reported just a short while ago on October 24th, 2012, that “Jabhat al-Nusra is the largest grouping of foreign jihadis in Syria, and the rebels say they number about 300 fighters in Aleppo, as well as branches in neighboring Idlib province, the city of Homs and the capital Damascus.” This is just one report, and as they are even saying, of the largest group, not to mention other foreign mercenaries and other foreign forces entering into Syria and fighting against the Syrian government. We can also look to the issue of whose payroll are these so-called rebels on? At an April 1st, 2012 “Friends of Syria” meeting in Istanbul, Qatar, together with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, pledged $100 million to pay the salaries of Free Syrian Army fighters. We also saw, in one of the last videos, that now France has stepped up as the first European Union country to call this new grouping or coalition of opposition in Syria the sole legitimate voice of the Syrian opposition. Already reports are saying this will make it easier for governments like France, the United States and Britain to fund and send military forces and military support to the rebels in Syria.
Who Is the Government of Qatar?
We can look first of all to Qatar. A country that has no elections held in Qatar since 1970. As for freedom of speech and other basic human rights, even the U.S. State Department acknowledges that these rights are severely limited in Qatar, although the U.S. government ignores these human rights violations in practice. According to a 2003 U.S. State Department report on human rights practices in Qatar, “the Constitution provides for freedom of assembly; however, the Government severely limited this right in practice. The Government generally did not allow political demonstrations. The Government did not allow political parties or international professional organizations critical of the Government or of any other Arab government.” So you see, it is not that the government of the United States doesn’t know what is going on in Qatar, but those aren’t the human rights they are concerned about. Furthermore, on September 14th, 2012, we saw one of the latest protests in Qatar, where at a protest march to the U.S. embassy in Doha, Qatar, you could see protesters carrying signs reading, “The people want to get rid of the American base that kills Muslims!"
What About Saudi Arabia?
Then we can also look to Saudi Arabia. In Saudi Arabia a wave of protests was sparked in January 2011, when a 65-year-old man set himself on fire. In January and February, four protesters were killed when security forces opened fire on demonstrations. The Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in the Arabian Peninsula also reported that Saudi security forces arrested medical personnel for treating injured protesters. This repression was met with more protests, and has continued. On January 16th, 2012, over 70,000 people attended a funeral for Issam Mohamed Abu Abdallah, who was killed by security forces in al-Awamiyah on January 12th.
Imperialists Hypocrisy Over Bahrain
We can also look to Bahrain, which we saw a lot of in the videos today. A country that is hosting the U.S. Fifth Fleet, and has seen huge demonstrations since mid-February 2011 up to today. This has been met by brutal crackdowns, not only by the Bahraini regime, but also with the help of troops from Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Just recently on Friday September 8th, 2012, Ali Hussain Neamah, who was 17 years old, was killed when Bahraini riot police fired shotgun pellets during clashes with protesters. He is the second young protester to die in six weeks. On that exact same day in Geneva, Bahrain’s candidate Said Mohammed Al-Faihani was elected as representative of the Asian Group to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) Advisory Committee. Another stain on this word of “human rights” that the United States throws around and that the UN with their own human rights council shows the complete hypocrisy it has when using this word. We also saw in the videos, the most recent steps in the tyranny of the Bahraini regime, when 31 people had their citizenship revoked. 31 people who were opposed to the government were basically told if you oppose this government, if you oppose and protest, your right as a citizen will be taken away.
When Imperialists Define Human Rights
Beyond all of these human rights violations, and beyond the protesters who are demanding an end to these U.S.-backed regimes, who are demanding democracy, the final hypocrisy of the United States comes with the sanctions that they are laying against the countries whose governments they want to overthrow. Against both Syria and Iran, these two countries have faced mounting sanctions against not just the government, but against the people of these countries. We saw in one of the last videos, the new, tighter sanctions against Iran. As the United States government claims “human rights” once again, we can look back and see what did sanctions do to Iraq? Eleven years of sanctions killed 1.5 million people, many of whom were children. So we can see the hypocrisy is very clear. We can see there is a double standard here. One can ask, when we talk to people or we hear in the news that “well maybe the U.S. can help, there are human rights violations going on in Syria, we have to do something,” well then why don’t we see the U.S. government or their imperialist allies, including Canada, crying for human rights in all of these countries that I just mentioned? Countries that have U.S. bases stationed there, countries that are following the agenda of U.S. policies. Countries that are even doing the dirty work of the United States against Syria, by funding and providing weapons to the rebels in Syria. As long as these countries and these U.S. backed regimes follow the dictates of the United States, then they are friends and we are not going to talk about their human rights records. These cries of human rights that we see from the United States and from the mainstream media against Syria mean a lot less and have to make us a lot more suspicious when we compare them to what we hear, or what we don’t hear about Bahrain, Yemen, Qatar, Jordan and all of these countries I spoke about.
Resist and Fight Back, and We Will Win
The fact is that the United States government is waging a war through different means. It is intervening through covert operations, through fomenting a civil war in Syria, through bringing down a government not through direct bombing but through every other channel it has at its disposal, as I’ve just outlined. This is still our job, as antiwar activists and as peace-loving people to come out with antiwar demands, to come out and organize against these new attacks against Syria, and against intervention, through whatever means, which even if aren’t direct military intervention are doing a huge damage to that country. It’s our job to demand “Hands Off Syria” as people who don’t want to see another country destroyed, or another country in the hands of the United States or under a puppet regime of the United States. It’s also our task to make it known that throughout the Middle East, that these uprisings, these protest movements which I spoke of are still going on, are continuing, are strengthening, but are also being put down by governments backed heavily by the United States government. I’ll say once again that we can’t be distracted, but that also we can’t only sit in this room. We need to discuss, we need to understand, we need to debate, but we also need to go out, as we will with our upcoming rally and petition campaign on November 17th, where we have a chance to go out and ask people to sign our petitions against sanctions on Syria and to engage them in why we are here, and how they can get involved also protest and fight back.
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