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      Crocodile Tears over Tragedy of Syria

      By Nita Palmer

      #aleppoisburning - the hashtag has been trending on Twitter for some time now, accompanied by photographs of ruined buildings and the chaos of injured bodies. The beautiful Syrian city is indeed burning, left with empty streets and bombed-out shells which occupy the space where examples of the city's fine architecture once stood. But one question goes unanswered: if Aleppo is burning, who set the city alight?

      Western governments, rights groups, and mainstream media point to the crimes of the 'Assad regime' in Aleppo. They express rage at the killing of civilians, and publish images of war-scarred children to tug at our heartstrings, begging us to condemn the tyranny.

      In their hue and cry over the crimes of the 'regime', they ignore the brutal reality of children murdered by US-backed terrorists, of neighbourhoods shattered by their hell-cannons and weapons supplied by Western allies. It is, in fact, the US and their allies who set the city and the country alight, but this is never mentioned. Stories from Aleppo are reported without regard to fairness, context, or even basic journalistic accuracy and fact-checking.

      Are we to ignore the deaths of 30 of Aleppo's citizens on July 20 - at the hands of the US-backed al-Nusra Front? (now rebranded as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, or the Front for the Conquest of the Levant) Do their lives mean less simply because they are on the side of the city under Syrian government control? Likewise, should we ignore the brutal beheading of a 12-year-old boy by these so-called 'moderate rebels' earlier this summer? And beyond Aleppo, what of the US airstrike which killed at least 73 civilians in northern Syria in July? The media maintains an unconscionable silence on these horrific crimes.

      Syria is also facing a humanitarian crisis on many levels. According to UNICEF, access to water in areas with the most fighting has been reduced by 75%. This has caused an increase in easily preventable diseases. Young children are often the worst affected by the lack of available sanitation facilities and drinkable water. The Syrian health care system has been decimated as well, with the World Health Organization reporting that 57% of Syria's hospitals have been damaged and 37% are no longer functioning. A staggering number of people have died as a result of lack of access to health care - the Syrian American Medical Association estimates around 300,000. It is truly a tragedy to see these senseless deaths in a country which once boasted one of the best health care systems in the region.


      The media has left all context out of their story on situation in Aleppo, reporting as though it is a one-sided attack by the Syrian government on its own citizen. What is in fact happening in the city is a pitched battle for the very future of Syria.

      The war in Syria began in 2011, when so-called 'rebels' backed by the US, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia began an armed uprising against the Syrian government. The Pentagon launched a $500 million program to support and train these 'rebels'. Though that program has been cancelled, the New York Times reported in October 2015 that the CIA continues to support 'significantly larger' programs of the same kind. With foreign support, these armed insurgents quickly gained ground. Despite the known ties to al-Qaeda among some of the rebels, the US labelled them as the 'moderate opposition'. Not surprisingly, backing these Islamist groups and destabilizing the country created an opening for the terrorists of Daesh, or ISIS, to gain significant control in Syria. Today, dozens of factions battle for ground in Syria, each with their own interests.

      Now we come to Aleppo, Syria's major commercial centre and an important weapons supply route for the terrorist organizations which call themselves 'rebels'. Since the beginning of the war, the city has been divided primarily between Syrian government control and terrorist control. In the beginning of 2016, the Syrian army began to make gains against the terrorist groups that control half of Aleppo. By the end of July, the army had Aleppo surrounded and had cut off the last weapons supply route of the terrorists. It was around this time that Western governments and their supporters in the media began the #aleppoisburning campaign in order to pressure the Syrian government and their allies to stop their military campaign (which would of course allow the rebels to regain control of their supply routes). In fact, the British newspaper Daily Mail reported on August 6 that at least 130 civilians had been killed in less than a week - mostly by rebel shelling of government-controlled Aleppo.


      The war in Syria never was a 'civil' war - from the beginning it was created by US intervention. The US government has long had its sights set on removing President Assad from power. The Washington Post reported in 2011 that the US government had been funding illegal organizations in Syria since 2006, whose aim was to promote unrest and opposition to the government. US President Obama has repeatedly called for Assad's ouster.

      From the Wall Street Journal, November 2015:

      “The reason is not simply because of my opinion of [President Assad]. It is because it is unimaginable that you can stop the civil war here when the overwhelming majority of people in Syria consider him to be a brutal, murderous dictator,” Mr. Obama said. “He cannot regain legitimacy. And if in fact he is still in power, regardless of what outside powers do, there is still going to be large portions of the population that are fighting.”

      Obama's claims about Syrian lack of support for Assad are categorically false. London-based research firm ORB International conducted a poll in 2015 which found that 47% of Syrians described Assad as 'having a positive influence in Syria' compared to 26% for the opposition groups. Syrian support for Assad was also verified by his re-election in 2014 in a vote which was internationally monitored.

      The US has set its sights on the removal of Assad not for 'humanitarian reasons' but because it views the independent government of Syria as a threat to its interests in the region, which include gaining access to important trade markets and resources ahead of growing economic competitors such as China and Russia. It is also in the US interest to maintain a military presence next door to Iran, The US would prefer a Syrian government which bows to US political, military and economic interests.

      The US needed this manufactured 'civil war' in order to legitimize their intervention in the country, a move which otherwise would have been met with a great deal more resistance from war-weary US citizens and rank-and-file military members. They armed 'rebels' knowing full well that many of them had ties to extremist Islamist organizations, including al-Qaeda.

      The inevitable rise of Daesh provided the justification the US needed to expand its intervention in the country under the guise of 'fighting terrorism'.


      Despite repeated assurances by Obama that the US military would not be directly intervening in Syria, there are now 300 US troops in the country and a number of warplanes in the skies, regularly conducting airstrikes. However, the US has been looking for an opening to intervene further and they have found it in their close ally, Turkey. On August 24, the Turkish military launched Operation Euphrates Shield, a ground invasion by Turkish troops, which was closely coordinated with the US and supported by US air strikes. Although the official Turkish pretext for this operation is the protection of the Turkish border from Daesh, in reality it is a significant move towards opening the country for further intervention. For the first time, a NATO member state will have 'boots on the ground' in the country.

      Turkey has its own interests in Syria as well - namely pushing back the expansion of Kurdish territory, which Turkey fears will strengthen the fight for Kurdish independence within its own borders. This adds yet another level of factionalism to the war in Syria, as the Turkish army is now fighting the Kurds, with whom the US had been working with until last week. This is just one further confrontation which threatens to tear apart the fabric of Syrian society.


      This significant escalation of intervention in their country will not 'help' the people of Syria one bit in their battle against Daesh. The US and their allies helped to create Daesh and other Islamist groups in the first place - they will not stop them now. As for Syria's internal problems and struggles, including the question of who they would like to have as leader of their country, these are issues for Syrians to decide for themselves.

      Poor and working people, peace loving people, and social justice activists around the world must rally together in defence of Syria's right to self-determination and for an end to this brutal and senseless war. Only the capitalist class of imperialist countries stands to benefit from this war, which will only kill, maim, and displace millions more people as it drags on.

      The importance of defending Syria extends well beyond the borders of that nation, though: it is truly a question of defending the entire world from the threat both war. Millions of lives have already been lost in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Palestine and beyond. The rising exodus of people from their war-torn homelands is destabilizing neighbouring countries, whose limited resources are stretched by taking in millions of refugees. The war in Syria has drawn in a number of regional and international players, including the US, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and other NATO countries including Canada. The world is now facing a new era of war and occupation which is expanding every day. Furthermore, the war abroad has been matched by a war at home in imperialist countries. Under the guise of ‘preventing terrorism’ legislation restricting the right to freedom of speech and the right to organize has been passed in many countries, targeting everyone from peace activists to environmental activists to union organizers. The struggle to defend our own human and democratic rights is necessarily tied to the struggle against war.


      For a long time, Canadians have avoided confronting the Canadian government's role in wars abroad, believing that the warmongers were our neighbours to the south. However, since the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre it has become increasingly clear to people in Canada that this government - whether Liberal or Conservative - is playing an important role in this new era of war and occupation. Under a Liberal government, Canada played a leading role in the war in Afghanistan, and supported the US behind the scenes in Iraq. The war in Afghanistan was extended by the Conservative government, and the Canadian Air Force conducted air strikes in Libya as well as Syria. The government of Canada also funded Syrian 'rebel' groups to the tune of $5.3 million, according to information obtained by the National Post. Although Canada's participation in air strikes in Syria have ended under the new Liberal government, a number of other war planes remain, supporting the US-led mission.

      The government of Canada has spent billions of taxpayer dollars on funding this war drive around the world, while social programs that Canadians rely on - such as employment insurance, public health care, and education - have faced funding cuts with the excuse that there is 'no money' to support these programs. Wouldn't we people in Canada prefer that our hard-earned tax dollars fund these necessities rather than these ongoing wars which have utterly failed to make the world a safer place?

      Canada should also open its doors to refugees of these wars and significantly expand and speed up the existing program to accept Syrian refugees. The government of Canada has played a significant part in creating the wars which led to the refugee crisis to begin with. If as they claim they are truly concerned with the human rights Syrians, Afghans, Libyans, and others whose countries they have invaded or attacked, then they should open the doors for 200,000 refugees to come to this country. This is the least Canada can do for people who have suffered so much.


      Until 2011, Syria was a peaceful country, and one of the few remaining secular democracies in the Middle East. The influence of terrorists and radical Islamists in the country was small. Like any country, it was not without internal problems and divisions, but these problems pale in comparison to the threat Syrians now face from Daesh, US-backed terrorists and ongoing US airstrikes. The US and their allies created the terrorist threat in Syria - they certainly won't solve it. The only way forward for Syria is for the US, Turkey, Canada, and all other foreign countries to withdraw all troops, stop the airstrikes, and end all interference in Syria's internal affairs. If the Daesh and the other terrorists are to be stopped, it must be by the Syrian government and allies they choose in this fight.

      Now more than ever, Syrians need peace-loving people around the world to unite to demand an end to foreign intervention in their country.

      No War on Syria!
      US and Turkey Out of Syria Now!

      Follow Nita Palmer on Twitter:@NGP1z0

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