Delusions and Genocide: A Reply to Diana Johnstone 

Consortium News published an article on May 4 by Diana Johnstone, in which she critiqued an article by Tony McKenna, who has asked for the right to reply.

Editor’s Note: Consortium News published an article on May 4 by Diana Johnstone called, “Trotskyist Delusions: Obsessed with Stalin, They See Betrayed Revolutions Everywhere.”  In the piece, Johnstone critiqued an article by Tony McKenna, who has asked for the right to reply. We are publishing that reply here, with this disclaimer and notice to our readers that we do not endorse McKenna’s views on Syria. We feel they display a profound misunderstanding of the tragic circumstances in that country. To give just two examples:  McKenna’s assertion that it was the Free Syrian Army and other rebels that drove ISIS out of Syria and into Iraq, while ignoring all the many, more powerful forces arrayed against it, such as Syrian, Russian, Iranian, Lebanese, Kurdish and even American and its allied forces (who to some extent fought against ISIS in Syria), is a gross distortion of what has actually happened. 

The second example shows the essential error of McKenna and those that agree with him:  the failure to understand the nature of the opposition to Bashar al-Assad. His government emerged in the conflict as the far lesser evil to foreign-backed jihadists. Assad has never threatened the West the way ISIS has not only threatened, but attacked it. Assad did not kill Christians, Shia, Yazidi, women and other minorities just because of their identities, the way the jihadists have. McKenna’s assertion that it is Islamophobic to call most rebels in Syria terrorists, while comparing that to Israel labeling all Gazans “Hamas terrorists,” ignores the fact that Gazans and Hamas are resisting an occupation, while ISIS actually ran a particularly brutal occupation of both Syrian and Iraqi territory. He also ignores the role the West and Gulf Arabs played in allowing ISIS to flourish.


By Tony McKenna

I read with some interest Diana Johnstone’s recent article in Consortium News – ‘Trotskyist Delusions: Obsessed with Stalin, They See Betrayed Revolutions Everywhere’ (May 4, 2018) which was a response to an article of my own – ‘Revolution and Counter Revolution in Syria’ (International Socialist Review, March 1, 2018).  Johnstone’s article doubles as an attack on me and also a broader ‘critique’ of a ‘delusional’ Trotskyism whose ridiculous ideals have sinister real world consequences; that it to say, they allow said Trotskyists  ‘to align…with U.S imperialism. The obsession with permanent revolution ends up providing an ideological alibi for permanent war.’

In the comments section underneath, the same charge was echoed ad infinitum.  I am – either consciously or unconsciously – a supporter of Western Imperialism, at least with regard to Syria. This is the crux of the issue, and therefore something I’d like to address. 

I do not support US military intervention in Syria. I do not support Israeli intervention in Syria. I was against the recent airstrikes which were launched by the US with backing from Britain and France.   But I am also against the Russian and Iranian military interventions which have taken place in Syria.  The side I am not against – oddly enough for a ‘delusional Trotskyist’ – are the Syrian people themselves.  You know, the same guys who have been strafed, bombed, gassed, burnt, raped, tortured and systematically murdered for a sustained seven year period by their ghoulish dictator and his military apparatus –  in collusion, of course, with the cash, weaponry, troops and planes provided by Russia, Iran and Hezbollah.

Now I am going to emphasise the role of these latter state actors over others (shock, gasp – even over Western Imperialism!) because they are the ones who, in bolstering the Assad regime, have turned the country into a smouldering, ashen graveyard.  From March 11, 2011, to March 1, 2016, the regime was responsible for 183,827 civilian deaths,which accounts for a catastrophic 94.7 percent of all civilian deaths. UN investigators quite correctly described this as amounting to an ‘extermination’ of the civilian population.  This is the regime which Johnstone and her acolytes rally around.  Progressive, radical ‘anti-imperialist’ politics at their finest and most fragrant, served up in a batch, with that extra special dash of civilian mass murder. 

Then again, perhaps all those dead Syrian civilians were all ISIS sympathisers or the like.  Or even if they weren’t, perhaps those civilians had to be killed as collateral damage because they were harbouring rebels of a sinister Islamic fundamentalist bent in their midst.  That is certainly what Assad tells us. It is what the Russians would have you believe.  Ironic isn’t it?  As we watch, in real time, the murderous military machine of the Israeli state mow down unarmed Palestinian protestors taking part in the Great March of Return, Israeli propaganda feeds us a very similar ideological rationale.  The ‘great march’ protestors were, in reality, ‘violent fundamentalists’.  Or at the very least, they had been infiltrated by ‘violent fundamentalists’, they had been weaponised by Hamas.  

Is there any of us that take such claims seriously?  And yet, in the case of Syria, we are more easily swayed by such an insidious logic, we readily accept it as reality.  We take it as an accomplished fact that the rebels are Islamist fundamentalists, and where and when more secular currents emerge, we take it as given that these will eventually give up the ghost before rabid religious interests.  Is the Syrian, predominantly Muslim population, inherently susceptible to the most rabid strains of Islamic fundamentalism?  Or could it be that it is precisely this type of assumption, with all its islamophobic connotations, which has led to the lack of support for secular forces in their struggle against Assad.

FSA Smashed ISIS

In late 2013 a coalition of rebel forces of many different political shades (some secular, some religiously fundamentalist), led by the secular inclined Free Syrian Army, took a break from the bloody grapple with their murderous dictator in order to smash ISIS to pieces – driving them from Latakia, Idlib, Hama, Aleppo and Raqqa, sending the black clad, sword wielding fanatics scurrying back into the Iraqi desert. 

This was little covered in the press, of course, and, generally speaking, the rebels were given scant financial backing internationally as they conducted their heroic rout. In contrast, entities like ISIS are heavily subsidised by powerful foreign interests.  The Russians and Iranians pour billions into the Assad regime.   Locked between the snapping jaws of these snarling leviathans, the more secular inclined forces are given little support, and as a result have had their political presence diminished.

And that is why I support the right of the rebels to get arms from wherever they can. That includes, I am afraid to say, the U.S. state – or indeed any other.  Does that make me a de facto supporter of Western Imperialism?  Let’s consider this.  Just imagine being a member of that harrowing number caught between the Scylla of the fundamentalist extremists and the Charybdis of the Assad regime.  You are fighting for everything you have ever known and what is more you are fighting with meagre supplies against overwhelming forces, and in the most perilous of circumstances.  Surely you would accept arms and money from the devil himself if he offered them, no? For the simplest reason of all.  The alternative is annihilation.

Who is the Idealist?

Johnstone’s whole critique of me rests on the fact that I am some sort of ‘head in the clouds, Trotskyist idealist’ who is naïve to the way the real political forces are played out on the ground.  But in my view she is the idealist, if she somehow imagines that any rebel in that situation – in the face of an Assad regime which is genocidal in its intent and which has been fortified by billions in Russian arms and support – if she imagines that such a rebel should demur from using more effective and up-to-date weaponry, casting it to one side, on the grounds that it has been provided by the U.S. – and instead abandon themselves to the slaughter.  

Then again, I don’t think Johnstone troubles herself to think about the people on the ground all that much.  Methodologically speaking, there is a reason for this, and it is revealed in her piece.  In her account she mobilizes the figure of the Trotskyist as the bogeyman par excellence; she writes of Trotskyism in the following, withering terms: ‘The Trotskyists keep yearning for a new revolution, just like the Bolshevik revolution. Yes, but the Bolshevik revolution ended in Stalinism.’

I know something about Stalinism.  You might even say I wrote the book on it.  And in that book I noted the very opposite from that which Johnstone, and so many others, have glibly asserted; I noted that, in fact, the Bolshevik Revolution did not produce Stalinism from within itself.  In October 1917 the Bolshevik Party had a political mandate which came from the workers, soldiers, students and a significant proportion of the poorer layers of the peasantry. 

Such a mandate was channelled through the ‘soviets’, the workers’ councils which had sprung up in over 300 cities and towns across Russia.  In response to the October Revolution, and let me emphasise this – Western Imperialism – in the form of 14 foreign countries including the US, Britain and France, sent its armies into Russia in order to aid and abet the white counter revolution, as the forces of the ex-monarchy, the industrial capitalists and the dispossessed landowners threw everything they could against the new government in a bloody and protracted three year civil war.  

In that conflict, the Bolshevik bureaucracy, the government, managed to cling to power, barely, but the workers and radical peasants who had provided the democratic basis for that power had been exsanguinated in the furore of the civil war.  The Stalinist dictatorship was the ultimate expression of the centralisation of a bureaucracy which was made bereft of its social basis, a social basis which had withered in the fire of counterrevolution, and isolated and inward looking, that bureaucracy was now only able to retain its power from above – by purely administrative, militaristic and ultimately totalitarian means.

Lenin’s Last Battle

Of course, capitalist ideologues and defenders of the status quo adore the whole Bolshevism inherently leads to totalitarianism–Lenin inevitably begot Stalin, trope.   They do so, not because they have any interest in the historical specificities: the decimation of the industrial proletariat, the destruction of the Soviet democracy, foreign invasion, the movement from revolution to counterrevolution which underpinned that historical process.  They remain breezily unconcerned that the last battle of Lenin’s life was waged against the encroaching bureaucratic influence of Stalin. 

Rather, for them, Bolshevism becomes a cipher.  It represents any radical and popular socialist mobilisation which confronts the capitalist system and condemns such an alternative as inevitably destined to mutate into totalitarianism and gulags.  The inference, of course, is crystal clear; fundamental change is either utopian or dangerous –ergo capitalism is the only game in town.

For all her anti (U.S.) imperialism, for all her hatred of U.S. capitalism, Johnstone shares this sensibility with pro-capitalist ideologues to a tee. For her too, Bolshevism simply led to Stalinism – the historical specificity, the development of the popular revolution, the process of counterrevolution, the civil war – all these processes are either irrelevant or invisible; we are made to understand by Johnstone that revolution per-se ‘is more a myth than a reality’.   Needless to say, such a methodological presupposition bleeds into and thoroughly permeates her analysis of Syria.

For Johnstone, the revolutionary struggle of the Syrian masses is not flagging because they have been pulverized by the forces of a counter-revolutionary state bolstered by Russian imperial power; no the Syrian masses are wanting because just as Bolshevism innately led to Stalinism, so too their struggle must innately and inevitably lead to ‘jihadists taking over the country’. And when you understand, as Johnstone does, that forms of popular power from below are inherently irredeemable, the conclusion flows naturally and easily, and Johnstone does not shy away from stating it.  A country ‘such as Syria’ she informs us, is ‘not likely to be “modernized” without a strong ruler.’

In Bashar al-Assad she has found a strong ruler, a strong ruler indeed.  And a genocidal one.

Tony McKenna is a novelist, journalist and philosopher whose work has been featured by many publications including ABC Australia, The Huffington Post, New Internationalist, The United Nations, NewStatesman, The Progressive and New Humanist. His first book “Art Literature and Culture from a Marxist Perspective“, was released by Macmillan in 2015, the second a critically acclaimed biography of Joseph Stalin was published the following year, and in 2017 New Haven Publishing brought out his debut novel “The Dying Light“.

104 comments for “Delusions and Genocide: A Reply to Diana Johnstone 

  1. Maria S Calef
    May 28, 2018 at 12:50

    woooooo We need to make a clear cut difference between Syrian terrorists -seeking regime changes and the footsoldiers of USA, the father founder of Syrian terrorists. Hamas “terrorists’ are Gazans and other Palestinians resisting occupation. Hamas Gazan are Palestinians fighting apartheid, racism, ethnic cleasing and most at all zionist occupation. Please bear in mindi, such Syrian terrorists are CIA-Mossad- Saudi Arabia in disguise for regime change in Syria and Iran. Ant- imperialism invassion not matter what country is the victim.

  2. John Wight
    May 28, 2018 at 05:07

    Tony McKenna’s article confirms a salient truth concerning the difference between Trotsky and Stalin, and which allows us to discern the root cause of the failure of Trotskyism to produce anything other than analyses which continually crash against the rocks of reality.

    The history of Western Trostkyism providing left cover to imperialism is an ignoble one. Indeed in its attachment to the verities of the idealist chimera of Permanent Revolution, Trotskyism has more in common with Neoconservatism and its embrace of Permanent War and Regime Change than it would ever care to admit. The upending of societies in service to a revolution and upheaval as an end in itself is rooted in a rendering of the world consonant with a blank sheet of paper upon which societies develop not according on foundations that exist but instead as the result of moral design and revolutionary virtue.

    There is no revolution taking place in Syria, and never was. There was a non-sectarian protest movement in 2011, calling for reforms in line with legitimate grievances due to the impact of failed neoliberal reforms. But in the hothouse of imperialist intrigue and assault that was already underway across a region whose economic, social, and political development has been impeded by Western hegemony since the end of WWI, sectarian forces unleashed by an Arab Spring which ran out of steam in Libya and was given new impetus by Western miltiary intervention, turned this protest movement into a sectarian assault on a secular society in which the rights of minorities were upheld and respected.

    Is the Syrian government completely without blame for the trajectory of events in the country? No, of course not. But the idea that Syria’s future would be better served by Salafi-jihadism in power in Damascus is one that every right-thinking person rejects completely out of hand. There is no ghost army of moderate rebels ready and able to assume power. The notion of a Third Force links Mr McKenna and his co-thinkers with Neocon hawks in Washington.

    The only moderates fighting in this ugly conflict are the soldiers of the non-sectarian Syrian Arab Army, whose soldiers are drawn from the multicultural and multi-religious mosaic that is Syrian society. This army, despite taking the battering it has over 7 long years, is the true barometer of where the loyalties of the Syrian people lies.

    Mr McKenna evinces in his analysis a salient truth when it comes to the Stalin-Trotsky split. Whereas Trotsky applied theory to reality; Stalin applied reality to theory.

  3. May 27, 2018 at 16:33

    “From March 11, 2011, to March 1, 2016, the regime was responsible for 183,827 civilian deaths, which accounts for a catastrophic 94.7 percent of all civilian deaths.”

    I have read this assertion before and it always makes me wondering who’s counting and classifying the dead as military or civilians? Certainly not the Assad government. Has the opposition set up its own coroner’s office or are these numbers provided by some NGO?

  4. john dahl
    May 27, 2018 at 01:28

    I commend Consortium News for giving an airing of what seems like a opposition view. Still when one has been completely subjugated to lies you can’t expect the product to be readable.

    Was there ever a time when an argument took place between two well informed, sane participants. Now we get programmed, well funded, subservient, agents of deceit pushing the inconceivable as fact, versus beleaguered, truth seekers, worried about banishment, for stating the abundantly obvious.

    I liked Diana’s article. If Tony had the balls to actually go to Syria, which he so righteously pontificates upon, it would be fun to read him again. Until then my recommendation would be STFU.

  5. Ames Gilbert
    May 25, 2018 at 23:41

    You don’t know much, and it shows. As stated in the introduction explaining why your article was published at all on this site, the FSA did nothing to eject ISIS, Al Nusra, and the other head–choppers (an ongoing operation), in fact a substantial portion of the personnel, weaponry and support FSA had at one time was provided by ISIS, Al Nusra (Al Quaida in Syria)—for a fee provided by KSA, Quatar, and FUKUS.
    Such misunderstanding renders the rest of your article unserious.

  6. NavyVet
    May 25, 2018 at 08:31

    Stopped reading after idiot author asked me to believe that one side in a war is responsible for 95% of all civilian deaths. What a load of bullshit. I don’t care what war you are talking about, that simply cannot be true.

    • May 27, 2018 at 16:37

      That is hard to believe since the US has dropped so many Cruise Missiles on Syria that it was running out and had to urge Lockheed Martin to step up production. And the source of the so-called statistic doesn’t seem to be cited.

      • Anon
        June 1, 2018 at 05:41

        Which also seems to have been the whole point of the missile attack, since no significant targets have been harmed. Another gift to the MIC, with love from POTUS.

  7. Seby
    May 24, 2018 at 05:43

    “If this is what it mean to be a Trotskyite, then I am not a Trotskyite” – Lev Davidovich Bronstein

  8. Janet
    May 23, 2018 at 18:09

    How naive — most of his information comes from the Syrian Network for Human Rights, a UK-based info center. Instead, most of the truth of the war in Syria comes from Vanessa Beeley, who was actually on the ground speaking to actual Syrians in battle situations. Clearly, Mr. McKenna should stick to fiction.

  9. C. Freeman
    May 23, 2018 at 16:26

    This guy seriously asserts that the “Free Syrian Army” defeated ISIS lol! That had to be one of the stupidest comments I’ve seen made on the conflict in Syria, and this coming from someone who obviously thinks he has it all figured out.

    I have some leftist friends whom I don’t associate with much anymore because we clashed on the issue of Syria. They believed there was some great Marxist revolution (which we should support) happening in Syria against the evil dictator, that we should support these “revolutionaries” because we leftists support revolutions, even when what’s happening is not really a revolution.

    • michael
      May 24, 2018 at 07:07

      Revolutions lead to stability in the way of strong men (the French Revolution led to Napoleon, the Russian Revolution led to Stalin, the Iranian Revolution led to Ayatollah Khomeini, even the American Revolution led to Washington. The fall of the Soviet Union eventually, inevitably led to Putin). The author is correct in that “nation building” or attempts to restore the status quo (or better put, to take advantage of the wounded nation) by other countries, only make things worse. Iraq and Libya are emblematic of what would happen if Assad is deposed like Saddam and Ghaddafi. Moreover, Iran and Russia were invited into Syria by their sitting government; ISIS (created by Saudi money and US support) and interventions by uninvited US and Israel are against international law (as if the powerful care).

  10. Scott
    May 23, 2018 at 16:05

    I feel sorry for Tony because he believes a narrative that just doesn’t match the truth on the ground. I guess we all have our political leanings, to some extent. However, when it’s not tempered by facts and evidence, I grieve because holding to such a narrative cheapens the seriousness of the situation and the lives lost in that region.

    This spirit with which this reply was written is symbolic of a much bigger problem. Why can’t we just accept the truth for what it is? I mean, isn’t it the only road to human progress and peace? Why can’t we agree on the important issues and build from there without distorting reality so we can tell ourselves that we’re right?

    And finally, Tony it’s a really bad idea to go to battle with a contributer of Consortium News. It’s hands down the most outstanding collection of journalists, political analysts and other contributors that has ever been assembled — and I’ve sampled them all. Tony, I worry about a lot of things… but I NEVER worry about the commentary of world events that I read on this sites. Never.

  11. Just4peace
    May 23, 2018 at 14:44
  12. Jon Dhoe
    May 23, 2018 at 13:59

    I wonder if this guy would be talking about Assad, the vicious, evil monster, if the U.S. and Israel weren’t targeting it. I don’t hear anything about, say, the far worse regimes of Israel or Saudi Arabia.

    Note he also writers for Al Jazeera, which is now a Western media tool.

  13. Zan
    May 23, 2018 at 12:47

    mckenna’s argument amounts to selective outrage. he cannot take seriously the larger picture which is that in a brutal world, assad is good for and preferred by most of his people. he is sovereign, and iran and russia are invited by the sovereign power. international law matters.

    he skews the hamas analogy. in fact it is the zionists who routinely use mckenna’s logic…”dont talk about international law, hamas kills CIVILIANS!,” which they have.

    does that make hamas anything other than the legitimate, sovereign, elected resistance of a necolonial onslaught? does it deligitimize them and support Israel’s policies?


  14. Antiwar7
    May 23, 2018 at 12:27

    McKenna cites the ludicrous statistic that the Syrian govt is responsible for the absurdly precise “94.7 percent of all civilian deaths” in the Syrian war. As if the rebels don’t have heavy weapons, and do have restraint. The source of this statistic is an unnamed “9-person team of Syrian and international campaigners and communication professionals with backgrounds in organisations including Oxfam, Greenpeace, the UN and the BBC” aka “The Syria Campaign”.

    All the pro-war people have to constantly work to keep such ludicrous “facts” in the air, just like requiring the enemy leader to be motivated solely by irrational evil, the enemy leader to be both brilliant and perfectly prescient in some cases and idiotic and shortsighted in others, that all of one side’s soldiers fight only because all their families are held hostage, etc.

  15. May 23, 2018 at 11:24

    I commend Consortium News on its demonstrable commitment to freedom of speech.

  16. Alan McLemore
    May 23, 2018 at 09:06

    “You know, the same guys who have been strafed, bombed, gassed, burnt, raped, tortured and systematically murdered for a sustained seven year period by their ghoulish dictator and his military apparatus – in collusion, of course, with the cash, weaponry, troops and planes provided by Russia, Iran and Hezbollah.”

    Hey Tony: Your psychiatrist called, and he’s very disappointed that you stopped taking your medicine. Remember you promised to quit listening to those nasty voices in your head, and that you would call him if they started talking to you again. He said to take a double dose of your Thorazine NOW, and go to the nearest ER immediately.

    And stay away from keyboards, they are your worst enemy!

    I wish you the best of luck with your struggle ~a

  17. RickD
    May 23, 2018 at 06:59

    I have been rather puzzled by this attempt to paint Russia, and its murderous leader, as both the hero of this tale and opposing, for selfless reasons, the imperialism of the US. The real facts in this matter, to those without ideological stars in their eyes, are simply that this is an epic struggle between capitalist forces on both ( all) sides to capture markets, ensure profits and diminish competition.

    Putin entered the Syrian rebellion, not with high minded intent, but to defend a heinous dictator in order to build a pipeline. That is the fact here. One certainly is entitled to be critical of the US foreign policies which result in 17 years of war and counting, I do not mean to whitewash my own nation’s culpability, not at all, but I see things, not in the narrow isolation far too many use to arrive at conclusions, but in the market realities of actions on both sides.

    Putin’s aim is the rebuilding of the Soviet Union, not for any ideological penchant for communism, but for the less lofty goal of economic profitability. Russia is no less than the US in deserving criticisms.

    • Antiwar7
      May 23, 2018 at 12:32

      Who cares what Putin’s “intent” is? What’s clear is that if the rebels take Damascus, they would be extremely intolerant of all the non-Sunni and secular Sunni inhabitants. Whereas when the Syrian govt resumes control of a place, like Aleppo, you see both secular people and hijab-wearers going about in peace.

    • Just4peace
      May 23, 2018 at 14:02

      Who wants war in Syria? Assad? Russia? Iran? Or the US-Israel-Saudi-Arabia-Katar Anti-Assad-coalition financing and training islamic terrorists? That’s the point. See also Operation Timber Sycamore. See Wesley Clark “7 country in 5 years”, see what’s about pipeline and ressources. Who is accountable for all the atrocity are those who deliberately wanted war for greedy purpose, for demonstration of power. Russia and Assad are no saints, but in relation to the evil warmongers…

    • Jon Dhoe
      May 23, 2018 at 14:09

      Does “seven countries in five years” mean anything to you? You and Tony should look it up.

    • Skip Scott
      May 23, 2018 at 15:47

      I think you are falling for MSM BS regarding Assad. He enjoys substantial popular support inside his own country, and protects minority rights. Syrians are mostly secular and do not want their country to become the next Iraq or Libya. None of Assad’s supposed heinous acts have been proven to be true, and considering he won an election in 2014 with over 80% of the vote, and an over 70% turnout, including Syrians voting from embassies abroad, it is laughable to call him a dictator.

      If you haven’t checked out Eva Bartlett, you should give this some attention:

    • C. Freeman
      May 23, 2018 at 16:33

      There has been nothing that Russia under Putin has done to suggest they want to bring back the Soviet Union. If they were invading and occupying countries like the US is currently doing in the eastern part of Syria, then maybe you’d have a point RickD.

      I’m sure Russia has economic interests they are defending in Syria, just as the Western and Gulf countries have economic reasons for wanting to see Syria taken over by compliant jihadists. In fact, ISIS was making quite a bit of money selling Syrian oil (under the watchful eye of US forces who did nothing to stop it) until the Russians came in and put an end to it quickly.

      Russia and Iran were both invited and asked to help Syria – they are the only countries who are there legally and in compliance with international law.

    • May 23, 2018 at 20:22

      Putin was invited by an elected leader

      The USA was not

      Putin at least cares about his country what’s your excuse

  18. Abu Ahmed
    May 23, 2018 at 06:25

    “FSA Smashed ISIS” ?? LOL. I have to ask Tony, are we talking about the same war, or are your referring to someone’s fictional novel?

    He claims the “rebel forces” smashed ISIS to pieces “driving them from Latakia, Idlib, Hama, Aleppo and Raqqa, sending the black clad, sword wielding fanatics scurrying back into the Iraqi desert.”

    Talk about historical revisionism. What planet is this man on, and what is he smoking (please don’t be a prude Tony and pass it my way)? The FSA never fought off ISIS, in fact many of ISIS members were defectors from the FSA. Look it up Tony. Your superficial grasp of Syria might play well on Mother Jones but in the real world it’s really one of the most pitiful things I’ve ever seen and bears no resemblance to what is happening on the ground in the region. Truth be told, FOX News even has it closer than you do.

    Amazingly, Tony McKenna’s polemic perfectly proves Diana Johnstone’s point – that people like McKenna are trying to fashion a post-modernist world embodied in the the fabled ‘Arab Spring’, where western “progressives” are free to project their own versions reality over actual facts on the ground… because it feels like ‘the right thing to do’. Why? Because the mainstream are telling them it’s the safe thing to do to gain social acceptance in the New (fake) Left. “Assad is evil”, “Assad is a brutal dictator”, “Assad’s barrel bombs”, “Assad killed 500,000 of his own people” (that’s probably the most infantile of all the western driven propaganda lines), Assad, Assad, Assad ad nauseum, rinse and repeat. Belonging to this new cult of cool, signing Avaaz petitions, giving your 8 bucks per month to Amnesty and Ken Roth so they can email your fabricated reports on Syria (made to reinforce US government policy) is more important than bothering to find out what’s really happening in the world.

    So sad to watch all these ‘experts’ self destruct.

  19. Kalen
    May 23, 2018 at 01:12

    Even more than the subject of debate itself, all that seems to be even more revealing about state of political discourse as a whole and hence merit some basic clarity.

    First we, on the left must be united but it does means even substantial differences of opinion if arrived rationally from available facts via dialectic method devoid of imprinted factional dogmas and oversimplifications as society is dynamic organism.

    We all must accept that If people perceive only two choices to anything at all, they are hopelessly ignorant about true issues they think they know something about, exhibiting what shrink calls a sense of false knowledge.

    And hence supporting any one side in any disputations is NEVER EVER evidence of opposing any other particular side or opinion in the discourse unless openly and directly stated.

    Sadly, what Americans, and too many others, suck from their mothers’ milk is nothing but complete confusion.

    They confuse free choice from broadest spectrum of choices, determined by individual knowledge, with a razor thin slice of unreality founded on a binary world of fear and extortion as a foundation of American political thought that infested as much political right, broad corporate center and unfortunately also political left within bourgeois liberal political spectrum and what especially troubling as well, is quasi Marxist debates that deteriorated to personal insults, defending AstroTurf narratives and their own however out of date or simply wrong legacy.

    All that while the core issues are obfuscated or ignored, issues which by definition should be analyzed and understood using dialectic methods of Marx Historiosophy with focusing primarily on inherent contradictions of the sociopolitical systems like capitalism not personality clashes or battling opinions.

    “Proud” Americans often say:
    Are with me or against me? My way or highway? A totalitarian talk embedded in American brains like a parasitic worm of celebrated anti-intellectualism.

    Americans, and that disease spreads with globalism, do not learn lessons. It is against American religion of anti-intellectualism and required for Horkheimer’s subjective reasoning i.e setting a goal before devising some sophism as official justification for it.

    Americans reject debate and go straight for verbal fight often as a foreplay to violence since their goal is not to learn anything from one another but to dominate. So instead of questions and answers they have verbal attacks and responses and if deemed necessary violence and verbal intimidation that is ultimate goal of any American “debate”.

    And unfortunately it show in this debate as well.

  20. R.
    May 22, 2018 at 17:57

    Citing one’s own book as a source. Interesting mix of appeal to authority and terminal narcissism.

  21. John Neal Spangler
    May 22, 2018 at 16:59

    This article a waste of space, When he says FSA defeated ISIS, this is rubbish. The FSA is just a psyop and front so FUKUS can channel weapons and ammo to ISIS/AL-Qaeda . This man is either a liar or just plain delusional. This is a FUKUS/Israeli attack on the Syrian people and the cruel psychotic Jihadis so oppressive that it amazes me that this fellow can blame Assad and the Syrian people for defending themselves.
    The rest of the article is the left equivalence of arguing about how many Angels can dance on the head of a pin.

    • Piotr Berman
      May 22, 2018 at 19:40

      I agree that “FSA smashed ISIS” can at best be supported by factoids very carefully separated from context. What happened was an internal split of ISIS resulting in big majority of “ISIS characters” in regions like Idlib following al-Nusra and its subsequent mutation. One of the hallmarks of Islamist militants is propensity for internal infighting, somehow share with radical left in Europe and North America, but they do not follow the adage that pen is more powerful than sword (although they prefer firearms and explosives, actual swords were used by jihadists in China, some folks SERIOUSLY oppose modernity), ISIS seems merely the largest and most disciplined of their outfits. FSA was the least organized and disciplined of them all, so the author claimed that a group of chihuahuas made a short work from a pack of wolves (chihuahuas have a great talent for yapping, but they are not suited for fighting, hunting etc.)

      On the ground level, FSA was quite real, but they were a loose collection of village-level brigands. As a nationwide organization, they were, as you wrote, fictional.

    • May 23, 2018 at 02:02

      @ John Neal Spangler: “The FSA is just a psyop and front so FUKUS can channel weapons and ammo to ISIS/AL-Qaeda.”

      It became more than that, courtesy of Brett McGurk, the State Department’s Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, who “recruited” many ISIL and al Qaeda units to switch flags to FSA leadership in order to save them from destruction by Russia and the Syrian Arab Army. But the same result you describe.

      • Abu Ahmed
        May 23, 2018 at 06:37

        It’s worse than that – the US government and its allies PAID various ISIL and al Qaeda units to switch flags to FSA. Paid in weapons, and cash. After this bait and switch was over, they returned to fly their black flags, and still received arms, cash.

        McKenna doesn’t actually know what he is talking about. It’s a bit embarrassing.

  22. May 22, 2018 at 14:56

    What can one say about this? There is some point to your analysis of the aftermath of the Russian revolution and growth of Stalinism though I believe the poison was there very early on and Stalinism was the logical outgrowth of the movement. As for Syria–most of us don’t worship Assad we merely don’t believe that the Syrian state ought to be seized and divided up into statelets by U.S. proxies. Surely the author knows that the U.S. and British were early supporters of the Saudis and the Muslim Brotherhood–the West has been using Saudi funded terror for its own reasons and AQ and ISIS are both instruments of Western intel as should be obvious. There is no real “Free Syrian Army” and is no revolution in Syria because it was mainly a traditional “color revolution” which did not work and was latter expanded. This is obvious from anyone who looks at the realpolitik of the situation.

  23. tommy strange
    May 22, 2018 at 14:08

    The editor’s note pretty much sums up my view, and many other great commentators on here. Alex Reid Ross has also turned into a nut bag. Sad. Liked his first book. Overall these people raging about a red brown alliance, are mostly elitists deciding what we should read, as if us regular people have no critical thinking whatsoever, and then claiming most of the ‘left’ in the USA someone praise Assad and Putin! Yes, me and all my other bay area anarchist friends are suddenly supporting two murderous heads of state? My god. I haven’t met ONE, or heard from ONE real leftist working class person that doesn’t think those two are shit also. In 15 years on social media. The point is, we live HERE, and the USA, and we live in the most obvious jihadi, fascist state supporting war machine the world has seen since….uhhh…..hell Vietnam. I cannot lift a finger against Putin, ….I CAN, and have a responsibility to change my own country. Too bad these people, aren’t actually spending their time organizing against genocide in Yemen. Or the USA supporting al queda etc in Syria.or…..against death squads in Honduras. …..etc etc….I still love counter punch. But I like her articles and respect her views, and I do Caitlin’s. Some us dumb regular people can do that. I’m not being ‘led’ by anyone….gawd….just to early death by own goddamn government, that is for sure……..(health insurance, rising rents etc)

    • Zan
      May 23, 2018 at 12:53

      good point

  24. Yevgeny Goncharov
    May 22, 2018 at 12:28

    I have very short answer to Tony: Timber Sycamore.
    Syrian people he worries about….
    Looks like he supported Libya destruction too?
    The guy is delusional.

  25. exiled off mainstreet
    May 22, 2018 at 12:23

    Since many who at one time espoused leftist anti-imperialist positions have now sold out, we have to back the real anti-imperialists with track records who appear on Consortiumnews such as Diana Johnstone (and Caity Johnstone as well) are to be believed against the now faux leftist quislings who have gone over to the dark side, now fronting for the yankee or “atlantacist” power structures. Any sentient person has to be aware that the logical conclusion of these pro-yankee positions is to favour unacceptable risks of world ending armageddon.

  26. GMC
    May 22, 2018 at 11:55

    Yo MacKenna, Ms. Johnstone whipped your but with the Pravda and Facts on Syria. if I were you – I would go hide with your NWdisO friends and Stay there. I live 3 countries from Syria and you are so full of – IT your eyes must be brown. Thanks Consortium for the chance to see a real journalist in action – Ms Johnstone.

  27. FB
    May 22, 2018 at 11:40

    ‘…the Syrian people themselves. You know, the same guys who have been strafed, bombed, gassed, burnt, raped, tortured and systematically murdered for a sustained seven year period by their ghoulish dictator…’

    Stopped reading right there…

    Life is too short to waste on the delusional rantings of an obvious idiot…

  28. May 22, 2018 at 10:41

    So Mckenna’s rebuttal to Diana Johnstone is to essentially confirm her critique of his imperialist BS. Doubling down on Western propaganda and imperial terrorism as proof one supports neither. Fascinating logic.

  29. May 22, 2018 at 09:11

    Mckenna takes his statistics from the liars and murderers who have attacked Assad and almost destroyed Syria. Every warmongering word this armchair genocidalist types on his keypad is worse than worthless.

  30. Tim
    May 22, 2018 at 08:10

    Oh, please. The illegal war on Syria is about geopolitical domination of resources. Look at the map and what the US allies still cling to in Syria. The oil-rich northeast. Hopefully , Syria will retrieve this region soon and the Golan Heights, as well.

  31. Lea-Anne Zinke
    May 22, 2018 at 07:25

    Giving voice to the lies regarding Syrian leader Assad, when the MSM and US imperialists are so powerful in their reach is horrific. The independent journalists that have consistently tried to convey the voice of Syrians to the brainwashed West, are further muffled by allowing these horrific lies a platform. I am disgusted by this mind game that is played at our expense through media. Many of us know who our enemies are as we have been ruled by them for far too long.

  32. Thomas Mellman
    May 22, 2018 at 07:11

    We can’t really know for sure whether Assad is a monster or a misunderstood nerd, based on reports from Syria.

    My thinking is that, if he were a power-hungry sadist, he wouldn’t have needed to worry about studying to be a doctor. It’s true that his brother was destined to follow his father as leader, but he could have been the commander of the army or the secret police or whatever. He chose to slug it out in science studies. My goodness. He’s being touted as a monster?

  33. smith
    May 22, 2018 at 00:42

    McKenna is a genuine piece of garbage, a Left-wing jihadi sympathizer. And like his friend Louis hasn’t seen a bit of real violence in his life. But this is the Left now, people like Roane Carey at The Nation, Michael Weiss at the Daily Beast, and Ken Roth at Human Rights Watch who are vocal supporters of al-Nusra and al-Qaeda and, let’s face it, ISIS.

    • Gen Dao
      May 22, 2018 at 01:32

      McKenna and the others are not really on the left. They are budding fascists who don’t recognize their own fascistic tendencies. If they would travel to Syria and live there for a while, they would very rapidly see how wrong they are, but because they wrap themselves in abstract ideology and sacred terminology, they are protected from the truths told by material reality.

      • Skip Scott
        May 23, 2018 at 06:03


  34. John
    May 22, 2018 at 00:09

    McKenna shows himself to be a liar repeatedly in this article.

    His blatant lies on Syria have been amply called out by other commenters, so I will focus on a different aspect, one that is inherent to Trots in general.

    He keeps talking about the October Revolution (which was, in fact, a counter-revolution, against the February revolution.)

    He even has the audacity to claim “Such a mandate was channelled through the ‘soviets’, the workers’ councils which had sprung up in over 300 cities and towns across Russia”.

    Any honest student of Russia history realizes that this claim was proven false in 1921, when McKenna’s heroic mass murderer sent the army to massacre the Soviet of Kronstadt, essentially for the same reason that Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza – they democratically arrived at a decision that Trotsky did not like, so he had them killed.

    Someone capable of deluding themselves into thinking that a mass murderer like Trotsky (As he showed himself to be both in Kronstadt and in the Ukraine – massacring all who resisted replacing the Capitalist Class with a Coordinator Class, and who instead called for an actual Socialism, rather than the oxymoronic State Socialism) was somehow a good guy, is apparently easily deluded by blatant and obvious psyops like the “Free Syrian Army”, which, according to one of its main financiers, the US Government, included maybe 40 people unaffiliated with jihadists, which went quickly down to about 5 people within a year.

    Or, perhaps, he is not delusional, but is intentionally disinformative, trying really hard to make people support US Imperialism.

    One cannot oppose imperialism while supporting a mercenary force to attack a popularly elected government.

    • tommy strange
      May 22, 2018 at 13:59

      No kidding John. Lenin and trotsky DID lead directly to Stalin. The history is there. Bolsheviks DID destroy the revolution. All the real commies, and anarchists (emma!) said so then. And deeper history books by the left, btw, in the past 30 years have show how true this fact is. Amazing, so many trots and leninists still even exist. It also makes me discount everything he says.

  35. andy
    May 21, 2018 at 21:26

    blah blah blah. regime change warfare has resulted in one thoroughly destroyed country after another. regime change is nation destroying.

  36. Nicholas Steel
    May 21, 2018 at 21:23

    In our “real” world, who gives a damn about either of your “opinions”? You set yourselves up as commentators with power/influence but you are not. Remote commentators are simply noise makers. Get out of our faces and if you want to do something positive go to Syria and help the ordinary people there.

    • Oakland Pete
      May 22, 2018 at 13:25

      Nicholas Steel: Who the hell are you to tell us to not voice our opinions? This debate is healthy, although I think the issues are clouded by falsifications by both McKenna and Johnstone. But Steel should understand that we must hash out these issues, as frustrating as the discussion can be. Since this is a comment section on McKenna’s article, I would only add that I fully concur with Joe Lauria, THIS TIME, on his critique of McKenna. Good for him for allowing McKenna to respond, because he exposes the bankruptcy of his ideas by his own words.

      Please, readers: What McKenna is writing here is NOT Trotskyism. It’s the faction around Max Shachtman that was expelled from Trotskyism – led by Trotsky himself. There is a third path ignored by both Johnstone and McKenna, and before feeling compelled to side with one or the other, readers should investigate it. We can reject fascism – which Johnstone doesn’t; and alliances with imperialism – which McKenna doesn’t. We can oppose imperialist intervention in Syria, acknowledge that it is led by the U.S. and its allies (including its proxy army of jihadists), while not supporting or making excuses for the Syrian state – which is every bit as repressive as any capitalist state would be when under threat.

  37. carlusjr
    May 21, 2018 at 20:54

    It was a surprise when listening to DemocracyNow Amy seemed to be giving credence to the white helmets. It was disturbing to suddenly realize that she was spewing US regime change propaganda during her show when Syria was the subject. Then by chance, I read an article at CP that did the same thing and I was astonished. Ms. Johnstone, in her articles, seems to grant that these seemingly progressive voices of the “left” are intellectually honest in their opinions. I don’t. I think Goodman and McKenna, and those at CP who are giving voice to the McCarthyite anti Russian propaganda, aligning themselves with US CIA/deep state resource war maniacs are being reimbursed, in one way or another. The evidence of human suffering caused by this world view is overwhelming. There is no way to be wrong about it, honestly. I have stopped my support of both DN! and CP. I urge a boycott of both.

    • Abby
      May 22, 2018 at 03:41

      It’s sad to see that Amy Goodman has sold out her integrity, isn’t it? She did that about a year ago when she received funding from the Ford foundation, Carnegie foundation, George Soros and a few others. I believe that she received $1 million to do this. Since then the quality of her show has suffered. Plus she is spreading the Russia Gate propaganda and has had guests on her show that also spread Syrian falsehoods that totally ignored the fact that this country has been using the terrorists to help this country overthrow Assad.

      John McCain has been photographed with members of various factions of Al Qaida and ISIS which can be easily verified by searching for them. The group of AQ terrorists are the same group that our troops fought against during the Iraq war which makes what he did an act of treason, in my opinion because he was working with our sworn enemies. Obama was very aware that McCain did that which makes him an accessory to treason.

      The U.K. and France were also complicit in this act. Those two countries as well as the USA are funding the White Helmets who are members of an Al Qaida offshoot and when they aren’t staging false rescues they are terrorizing the citizens of Syria. One member was photographed with 12 year old boy moments before they beheaded him.

      This is who Amy Goodman has allied herself with. Shame on you Amy! You have let so many of your fans down and for w? $$$$$$$ ???

      • Roger Milbrandt
        May 23, 2018 at 01:34

        Maybe Democracy Now lost its integrity only when it began accepting grants from suspect organizations during the last year. But for me, anyway, the writing was on the wall in 2011 when Democracy Now supported the NATO/al Qaeda alliance against Ghaddafi.

    • FB
      May 22, 2018 at 11:52


      CP is a joke…Jeff St. Clair who now runs that ridiculous outfit has proved that he in no way deserves to be called a ‘journalist’…

      He proved that beyond doubt when he ran a completely fabricated, disgusting story about a supposed Putin trip to the Grand River in the US… which never happened…

      He quotes a local river guide who tells the story of how Putin and his ‘son’ [Putin has no son, only two daughters] ‘pissed and shat everywhere’ while being drunk all the time and bashing catfish heads in with rocks…

      A complete fabrication…

      This kind of disregard for truth is enough to tar a journalistic reputation forever…you don’t just make stuff up out of whole cloth and then publish it…

      • ToivoS
        May 22, 2018 at 23:40

        I read this article when it came out. Are you sure that the entire story about Putin rafting the Grand Canyon is a fabrication? I was certainly skeptical about the details but not that some kind of trip occurred. I googled around a bit and the only reference was to the St Clair article.

      • Antiwar7
        May 23, 2018 at 13:28

        I remember that article, too, and remembered thinking it was total b*llsh*t. One guy’s word, against the known fact that Putin has no sons.

        And put that against this article:
        which includes directly observed behavior, as opposed to hearsay.

        • Skip Scott
          May 23, 2018 at 13:50

          Yes, I would urge everyone to check out Putin’s speeches and interviews, and Oliver Stone’s four part interview in particular, and judge the man based on his own words. St. Clair is despicable to publish such rubbish.

    • May 26, 2018 at 21:17

      She was quite aggressive against Michael Ruppert when he was alive which showed to limits within the mainstream narrative she confines herself in.

  38. Mulga Mumblebrain
    May 21, 2018 at 20:36

    What delusional tripe. As the German intelligence BND told Merkel in 2012, ‘The FSA is al-Qaeda’. Every sane observer knows that to be the case, and that ‘moderate’ jihadists are as rare as hens’ teeth in Syria.

  39. Abe
    May 21, 2018 at 19:45

    Tony MacKenna takes it as an accomplished fact that civilian death figures cited by Fadel Abdul Ghani and the so-called “Syrian Network for Human Rights” are accurate.

    MacKenna’s “reply” includes links to a web page posted by a UK-based media group called “The Syria Campaign” and an article in the UK Independent site, both of which cite “data” supplied by Abdul Ghani’s group.

    In fact, the “Syrian Network for Human Rights” cannot be viewed as an independent, non-partisan organization neutrally documenting the conflict.

    In addition to the group’s founder and chairman Abdul Ghani, a resident of Doha, Qatar, the Board of Directors of the “Syrian Network for Human Rights” consists of:
    – Hassan Okour, a professor at Qatar University
    – Hamza al-Mustafa, a researcher at the Arab Centre for Research and Policy Studies in Doha
    – Bettahar Bojlal, an Algerian lecturer at the University of Lyon in France
    – French Syrian professor Burhan Ghalioun, the first chairman of the Syrian opposition Transitional National Council (SNC), who resigned in May 2012.

    Qatar funded armed opposition groups in Syria by as much as $3 billion during the first two years of the war.

    The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute estimated that Qatar had fueled the war by delivering more weapons to Syria than any other country. In total, there were over 70 weapons cargo flights into Turkey between April 2012 and March 2013.

    Qatar operates a training base for armed groups in its territory, in conjunction with U.S. military forces who ran the training, training about 1,200 fighters a year in three week courses.

    Qatar, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia were the primary sponsors of the terror coalition led by al-Nusra, and Qatar specifically funded Jaish al-Fatah.

    The “Syrian Network for Human Rights” was incorporated in the United Kingdom in May 2015.

  40. Greg Schofield
    May 21, 2018 at 19:20

    Wonderful supporting article for Diana Johnstone’s arguments.

  41. Pft
    May 21, 2018 at 19:01

    Someone has certainly drunk the Deep State MSM cool aid.

    I’ve seen little evidence Assad was the monster he has been portrayed to be before the foreign backed revolutions. Obviously in Total War there is brutality. Look at our own Civil War and those arrested in WWI for protesting the war and those interned and deprived of Civil Rights during WWII

    WWII was the last Total War the US has fought so folks may have forgotten.

  42. Homina
    May 21, 2018 at 18:29

    This is astonishingly ignorant. And on occasion simply befuddling, such as:

    “This was little covered in the press, of course, and, generally speaking, the rebels were given scant financial backing internationally as they conducted their heroic rout. In contrast, entities like ISIS are heavily subsidised by powerful foreign interests.” [gee, which?]


    • Mulga Mumblebrain
      May 21, 2018 at 20:39

      As AH recommended, when telling a lie, tell a BIG LIE, because that will impress the gullible and ignorant, and those who think that no-one would have the audacity to tell such a whopper. McKenna is a very audacious fellow.

  43. Jerad
    May 21, 2018 at 18:27

    Tony McKenna touts the Free Syrian Army as the secular saviors in the Syrian war but seems to be ignoring the reality that the strongest secular force in Syria is actually the Assad government. He also seems to ignore the documented fact that many of the foreign weapons meant for the Free Syrian Army mysteriously ended up in the hands of ISIS and Al Qaeda affiliates.

    The civil war has been prolonged by people such as McKenna framing the Syrian conflict as a battle between the evil Assad regime and the mythical Free Syrian Army. In reality, the conflict would not have even got off the ground if it weren’t for Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other gulf oil states pouring funding and weapons into Syria, not caring that the majority of those weapons would end up in the hands of fanatical jihadists. By the way, this is from former Vice President Biden himself, when he slipped up and told the truth during a speech at Harvard university on October 2, 2014. Biden admitted that there really was not much of a moderate opposition at all.

  44. voza0db
    May 21, 2018 at 17:32

    But I am also against the Russian and Iranian military interventions which have taken place in Syria.“… I’ve stopped reading right here!

    This dude clearly doesn’t know what international law is!

    Any group that tries to takeover power (political, financial, etc) using weapons and war is labeled as “a terrorist group”! Imagine if the Green Party (GP) tries to do the same in the USA? After all your fake democracy is ruled by oligarchs that have the GOP and the DNC in their pocket!
    So if the GP tried to takeover power using weapons/war (provided by, let us say Venezuela, Cuba, China, at least) and these “freedom fighters” attributed themselves the brand “Free American Army”, I would like to see the reaction of this dude!

    A visit to Congo is in order for this philosopher Tony!

  45. Jeff
    May 21, 2018 at 17:29

    I am going to put my understanding of the history of the Syrian civil war in a list. I invite and request anyone who finds errors there to correct me.
    – There was a dustup with some kid putting graffiti on a wall in 2011 and the Syrian army got all anal about it.
    – A number of armed rebels, mostly of the jihadi type, magically sprang up in reaction to the Syrian government’s over reaction to the kid’s graffiti. Since it is known that the US had targeted Syria for regime change (As Russia’s UN ambassador pointed out to the barely competent Nikki Haley, Russia’s government is elected and Syria’s government is elected regardless of how much she would like to call any government that the US disapproves of a regime) as early as 2006, it comes as no surprise to me that there were numerous groups of rebels just waiting for a causus belli to start a civil war. The US doubtless thought that Assad would fall as quickly as Batista did to Castro and immediately started feeding the rebels with the tools of the trade.
    -By 2015, Assad was still there and the US was getting more and more blatant about providing arms, ammunition, and support to the rebels. Russia stepped in to support their ally – 4 years after the civil war started and a number of years after the US was actively involved.
    -By 2018 with the military playing field leveled by Russian intervention, Syria is crushing the rebel scum.

    A few random observations. The author of this piece is obviously a virulent Assad hater. That’s fine but please don’t be under the illusion that the Syrian people agree with you. They have stuck by Assad through 7 years of civil war and re-elected him in the middle of it all. Compare that to Fulgencio Battista who was gone in less than 6 months after Castro and his bumbling band of revolutionaries showed up. Civil wars are always viscous. People wail and beat their breasts over the casualties in Syria. However, the American civil war in the 1860s produced more casualties than any other war the US was in except possibly WWII (it depends on how you count). And the civil war didn’t have machine guns, tanks, aircraft dropping bombs, field artillery, or TNT. I shudder to think what it would have been like if they had. This should be yet another object lesson in why you don’t try to run over another country’s sovereignty.

    • Oakland Pete
      May 22, 2018 at 16:47

      Not six months. Two years. But otherwise, yeah.

  46. F. G. Sanford
    May 21, 2018 at 17:05

    I had this genuine idiot for a history teacher when I was in high school. I’ve mentioned him before. Some of his lectures seemed to be recantations of movie plots he remembered fondly. It seemed like about every month or so, he would wax nostalgic. In a moment of philosophical detachment, he would pause, gaze toward the heavens, and proclaim: “You know, Hitler could have won the war…if only he had listened to his generals…” I always suspected he was a closet Nazi. Leon Trotsky is the guy who created the Red Army. Lenin died, then, apparently, Trotsky fell out with Stalin, or Trotsky was a victim of bureaucratic intrigue, or some tragic twist of fate led Trotsky to leave. Consequently, the “workers’ paradise” never materialized, and Trotskyists have lamented this tragedy ever since. It’s a real mystery. The guy who should have had the loyalty of the Red Army at his beck and call was left high and dry, with no support. He became an exile. The workers could have had a paradise…if only they had listened to their general. Maybe, just maybe…and I suspect this is a real possibility…they just didn’t like Trotsky, because he wasn’t such a great guy after all. I’m curious. Why would the Syrian people keep voting for a “genocidal maniac”? Maybe, just maybe…he’s not such a bad guy after all.

    • Joe Tedesky
      May 21, 2018 at 22:38

      Thanks F.G. For bringing the conversation back to what should really matter the most, and that is the Syrian people and their respect for Assad.

      Why we need to validate our political philosophy to know what’s right from wrong, as when it comes right down to it common sense is the final decider, is beyond my fragile minds comprehension. All this debating about arming rebels when all this instigated war should be discussed about infringing on another nation’s sovereignty, is giving intellectualism a bad name. I’m looking for pragmatic solutions not historical meanderings about some Bolshevik who fell out of favor with a dead Communist leader 65 years ago ….am I wrong?

      Sorry, but the whole conversation had no conclusion. This is a heady debate without closure. I feel dirty, like I listened in on a family fight…. again I know it’s me, so pardon my ignorance, as I’ll remember my place next time.

      I think the majority of Syrians do love their leader Assad. Always enjoy your comments F.G.. Joe

      • F. G. Sanford
        May 22, 2018 at 12:53

        Hi joe, I enjoy your comments too. Looking at all the false – in fact, completely delusional – things being said by our government about Syria, Iran, China, Russia and the economy, I think they are in complete and total panic. We’re getting bluff and bluster. The last thing I heard about the sanctions is that they have driven up the price of oil…so Vladimir Putin now earns an extra $537 million dollars A DAY! The “Twelve Point Plan” for Iran released by Pompeo is so divorced from reality that it has no hope of succeeding. As I speculated a while back, NOTHING is going to happen in North Korea, so forget about the “Peace Prize”. If North Korea is attacked, I’d guess China would immediately invade Taiwan. Everything seems to me to be an attempt to float one distraction after another in hopes that they can figure out how to soften the next financial crisis before it happens. Every 4 to 7 years is the average. 2009 + 7 = 2016, so we’re overdue. I think the “deep state” is happy to have President Trump in the hot seat – they’re going to use him to pull off the final middle east fiasco, then blame the economic collapse on him, and sell him down the river. I’m guessing Hillary is playing the martyr to cover the fact that this was the plan all along. Hey – you can laugh, but this makes as much sense as anything in the MSM! How else can anyone explain why she’s bullet proof?

        • Joe Tedesky
          May 22, 2018 at 14:16

          F.G. I could not agree with you more. In fact what better person to put in the White House at a time of empirical decline than to have the ever bombastic tweet storming President Trump to take responsibility for the empire’s failures? The hand writing is on the wall, so the demonizing of rival, or conjured up adversaries, is all that’s needed to keep the lie going until they no longer can. It will be probably very frustrating to when that happens, to how many more lies will be told as to how we got to such a terrible place. What we should hope for, is that eventually enough truth sayers will arise to bat down those lies, and that the truth sayers will prevail.

          About my comment, I didn’t wish to attack all intellectual discussion, as I see no point to further down this road of arguing among the Left. In many ways I see this in house arguing amongst Leftist leaders as a way of preventing the Left (if there is one in the U.S.) from ever banding together enough, as to oppose the ever popular Right. I’m a simple man, so you will need to excuse my analogy of this discussion.

          Good to have you back commenting once again F.G.. Joe

        • Abe
          May 22, 2018 at 23:29

          US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered his May 21st “After the Deal” speech, his first address since leaving his post as CIA director, at the right-wing Heritage Foundation in Washington.

          Pompeo’s laundry list of lies and false accusations against Iran began with praise for “Israel’s recent remarkable intelligence operation.” This referred to the absurd theatrical performance by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented on the eve of Trump’s May 8 decision to abrogate the nuclear agreement.

          In fact, Netanyahu failed to present any evidence that Iran had violated the terms of the nuclear accord.

          Pompeo placed the entire blame for the crisis in the Middle East on Iran. In reality, the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region has been ravaged by a succession of US “regime change” wars from Iraq to Libya and Syria.

          He placed responsibility for the war that has brought Yemen to the brink of starvation on Tehran, even as the US supplies the bombs and military support that enables Saudi Arabia to decimate the country.

          He added claims that Tehran provides sanctuary for leaders of Al Qaeda and supports the Taliban in Afghanistan, charges for which no evidence whatsoever has been presented.

    • Oakland Pete
      May 22, 2018 at 16:49

      That history teacher was named “Abe”, wasn’t he?

  47. Kevin Sweeney
    May 21, 2018 at 17:05

    Funny Dennis should mention Libya, because as I read this article and its benign view of the rebels in Syria, I kept thinking this is the same kind of guff we were fed about the rebels in Libya; and the evil murderous Qaddafi. I was also reminded of the video of the “moderate” F.S.A. cannibal cutting out and eating the heart of a dead Syrian soldier. When I saw that video I stopped buying the M.S.M. narrative about moderate Syrian rebels. Sadly I didn’t stop buying the M.S.M. guff about moderate Libyan rebels until they won. I’m not falling for the same narrative again about Syria, without some compelling evidence that demonstrates a clear difference, because from where I’m sitting they both look exactly the same. I would be very interested to hear what Tony McKenna has to say about how well things have worked out in Libya where the moderate rebels won.

  48. mike k
    May 21, 2018 at 16:42

    A long troll rant like the above article is no more deserving of a response than a short one. Don’t feed the trolls.

  49. May 21, 2018 at 16:39

    I don’t expect Tony to answer any of these comments. He has learned that 90 percent of the people who make these types of pro-Assad comments are working in a Moscow basement and being paid by the comment. The only thing I would add to Tony’s article is that Johnstone has written that Marine Le Pen is part of the left. If there’s anything that indicates the sordid Red-Brown politics being brewed at Consortium News, Russian-Insider, 21st Century Wire, Grayzone, et al, it is that.

    • Cassandra
      May 21, 2018 at 16:58

      Please go back down to your Washington basement with the White Helmets and Franklin Lamb.

    • Deniz
      May 21, 2018 at 17:44

      I too dont either Tony (or you) to answer any of these comments.

    • Jerad
      May 21, 2018 at 18:35

      Really, the best you can do is accuse people with different opinions of being Russian agents? That is a pathetic non-argument but one which I have come to expect from warmongers.

    • Abe
      May 21, 2018 at 20:44

      McKenna’s and Higgins’s li’l bitch, er, adoring fanboy, don’t expect “Tony” or “Eliot” to answer no comments, no suh!

    • John
      May 21, 2018 at 23:51

      Glen Beck in Drag, aka Rachel Maddow, is paid $30,000 a day to lie to you. Are you trying out for her job?

      This author claims to be in favor of the masses of the Syrian people, who overwhelmingly voted for Assad. These same masses fled the “rebel” areas to government controlled areas, and when these “rebels” were kicked out of areas, the masses returned to them and were literally dancing in the streets once the “rebels” were kicked out.

      I use scare quotes around the word “rebels” as they were, for the most part, foreign mercenaries. Early in the Syrian War, MSF’s head for the region was interviewed on film, and stated unequivocally that the “rebels” that MSF had treated were ALL of non-Syrian origin, and most had Turkish passports.

      Thus, when this author claims to be in favor of the masses of the Syrian people, he lies. If he was in their favor, he would respect their decisions, which have been very clearly expressed.

      Louis, that you would demean those who are in favor of the Syrian people as being “pro-Assad”, and thus paid Russian Trolls, indicates that you realize you have no rational argument to make, and this is why you immediately resort to vacuous name-calling.

      This red-brown alliance meme that warmongers like yourself bandy about in a pathetic and desperate hail mary attempt to demonize those who wish to end aggressive wars and the disinformation propaganda used to market aggressive wars, and is an insult to anyone with remaining brain cells.

      What is truly sordid is the pretense that you are doing anything other than what is painfully obvious that you are trying to do.

      How much does the Atlantic Council pay these days?

    • Michael
      May 22, 2018 at 10:39

      Thank you Louis for the insight into your belief system. It is very invaluable.

      Humanitarians like Ray McGovern and other contributors will be surprised of their newly found allegiance. Now, I just have to go out to my wife, working in her garden and break it to her that you’ve helped me discover that I’m a “Russian Agent” for opposing the systematic genocide waged across the planet executed by our government with my tax dollars in my name.

      We now know for whom YOU work.

    • Oakland Pete
      May 22, 2018 at 13:36

      Louis Proyect: I was one of your strongest defenders when Johnstone published her hit piece on Trotskyism. So here I want to tell you that you are an unprincipled hack when you say we are almost all “working in a Moscow basement and being paid by the comment”. I’m right here in Oakland, and understand all too well how you, McKenna, and Johnstone are all manipulating readers with your falsehoods. But this comment is about you and McKenna’s article, so I will add that you are discrediting any criticism of the red brown alliance that you rightfully assign to Johnstone and her politics. You and McKenna are part of a fake left that supports imperialism, and Johnstone is right in her criticisms of you for it. Yup, that broken clock metaphor again.

    • Homina
      May 22, 2018 at 13:55

      You’re a real person? I thought you were a meme/joke, similar to cinema’s “Alan Smithee”. Most of the things you’ve posted that I chanced upon are incoherent blather. Could not be real. But apparently you are, and actually believe what you type? Wow and LOL.

      • Oakland Pete
        May 22, 2018 at 16:51

        Homina: You need to specify who you’re addressing, or your point is lost.

    • Antiwar7
      May 23, 2018 at 12:18

      She’s written that Le Pen is more pro-worker than Macron. Do you dispute that?

      Te term “left” is a label who’s primary effect is to divide the led into teams to identify with and vilify. On important issues like war, there are good arguments and bad arguments coming from both “sides”. Focus on the issues, and not the “teams”.

  50. David Raeburn Finn
    May 21, 2018 at 16:34

    Wow. Tony seems quite confused about what genocide is. Where did Tony study again? He seems to have other issues with language. How does Tony explain his comment that Russia and Iran have, like the US, ‘intervened’ in Syria. A friend calls from her floor, fallen, can’t move; a burglar has pushed her over and is threatening her life. My wife, armed with bear spray, rushes over to help, to render assistance. Do thoughtful types describe my wife’s act as an intervention, as though she were an unwelcome guest who pushed the friend onto the floor in a violent disagreement? Tony, a philosopher? I’ve never met philosophers capable of equating Russia’s and Iran’s actions in granting the request of Syria’s legitimate government for assistance with illegal US, Israeli, EU, Turkish and GCC member founding, arming and supporting murderers of Syrians. As for 94.7% of civilian deaths caused by the regime …. Perhaps Tony is merely a philosopher who has, for reasons of doctrine, abandoned his brains at the door.

    • cal
      May 21, 2018 at 18:45

      There’s no denying Assad has killed his enemies, but to call it “genocide” is to be hysterical. The whole point of the Arab nationalist Baathist movement was to prevent genocides, even it is through authoritarian and non-democratic means. What people is Assad intentionally targeting for liquidation? Why do all the Syrian minorities generally support him? It makes no sense, but I guess that fits for an article about Syria to spend at least a quarter of its length talking about Stalin.

  51. Abe
    May 21, 2018 at 16:25

    Tony McKenna is a rank propagandist as evidenced by his unequivocal fact-free declaration that “the regime was responsible” for the deaths in the Israeli-Saudi-U.S. Axis war on Syria.

    McKenna, in his portrayal of “Revolution and counterrevolution in Syria”, cites Arutz Sheva, the media organ of the right wing Religionist Zionist movement embraced by the Israeli “settler” movement.

    McKenna also cites figures like Michael Karadjis, a member of the Socialist Alliance organization in Australia, an enthusiastic supporter of Al Qaeda terrorist affiliate groups in Syria. The World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) identified Karadjis as one of the “Australian pseudo-lefts complicit in US war drive against Syria.”

    In 2013, WSWS took note of the propaganda efforts of efforts of Karadjis: “Blatantly denying well-established facts, such as the dominant role of Al Qaeda-connected sectarian militias among the so-called rebel fighters, and the active role of the CIA along the Syrian-Turkish border in coordinating the flow of weapons, money, and foreign Islamist fighters into Syria”.

    Proyect, in his portrayal of “Diana Johnstone’s attack on Tony McKenna”, features a quote from a senior Israeli government minister copied from a 2012 article by Karadjis. Proyect basically duplicates Karadjis’ narrative about Syria and the Palestinians.

    Karadjis recently averred on his blog (April 21 2018), “Yes, the US is allied to Israel and to Saudi Arabia. So what?” He also claimed, “As for Israel, it has never aided the rebels”, which contradicts Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon, former Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, who acknowledged Israeli aid for al-Nusra in 2015.

    McKenna’s article certainly has a lot more links than Proyect’s copy-paste effort to help us “read Tony’s article as it was intended”. Those links reveal McKenna’s reading “comfort zone”.

    The largest single source of citations for McKenna’s article on Syrian “revolution” was a book published in December 2015 titled, Khiyana: Daesh, the Left, and the Unmaking of the Syrian Revolution.

    The book’s opening essay on “Socialism” boldly declared that “After Trotsky’s death Permanent Revolution was falsified by reality”, and “Trotsky’s theory became a fetish – a ready-made alternative to trying to understand that world”.

    These observations by an author names Assad al-Anar evoked no impassioned cries of “attack” from either McKenna or Louis Proyect. Proyect even went so far as to declare (in an April 12, 2016 post on his blog) that the article “deserves to be published separately as a pamphlet”. Curiously, the “Contributors” page of Khiyana provides no information about this al-Anar.

    In fact, both Proyect and Karadji contributed essays Khiyana, although McKenna does not refer to those particular essays in his ISR article. Drawing more than a quarter of his references from a single text would make the game too obvious, even for McKenna.

    But McKenna’s article does indeed draw its most frequent references by far (14 out of 56 notes) from the Khiyana essays of Edinburgh-based Sam Charles Hamad (5 citations), and London-based “socialist activist” Mark Boothroyd (9 citations),

    Scottish-Egyptian polemicist Hamad is notable for his highly selective outrage, his enormous enthusiasm for U.S.-enforced No-Fly Zones even after the catastrophic NATO destruction of Libya, and his promotion of “anti-anti-imperialism”.

    Boothroyd, founder of a group called Syria Solidarity UK, declares that British anti-war activist reluctance to embrace “regime change” intervention in Syria “reeks of hypocrisy”.

    Proyect and Boothroyd share enthusiasm for a primary “regime change” intervention propaganda canard: the notion that alleged chemical incidents in Syria were government perpetrated “attacks”.

    Boothroyd in Khiyana (page 50) cites Eliot Higgins of Bellingcat as an authority on “attacks” in Syria.

    Apparently there’s no “hypocrisy” in the fact that Higgins and Bellingcat work on behalf of the Atlantic Council, the notorious Western imperialist “regime change” think tank.

    That is of no concern to Boothroyd. And Proyect writes fawning articles praising Higgins’ “online investigations”.

    In comment on the Consortium News article by Johnstone, Proyect delusionally declared that it was a “broadside against Trotskyism”.

    However, Johnstone’s several qualified remarks about “some Trotskyists”, “these Trotskyists”, “inadvertent Trotskyist apologists” and “this brand of Trotskyism” make it clear that Johnstone is not addressing Trotskyist or Leftist and Marxist thought in general, but a given “Trotskyism” (exemplified by McKenna) that conspicuously aligns with U.S imperialism.

    Johnstone presents McKenna as “a strong not a weak example of the Trotskyist mindset”, no doubt due to McKenna’s obvious enthusiasm for what he calls “Trotsky’s great, prophetic writings”.

    Proyect has acknowledged as much.

    In an August 2016 blog review of McKenna’s book, The Dictator, The Revolution, the Machine: a Political Account of Joseph Stalin, Proyect notes the following: “Familiar with the Trotskyist movement that made rejection of Stalinism the centerpiece of its program, McKenna finds it wanting even though much of his analysis is based on Trotsky’s writings”.

    McKenna’s rejection of “the shadow of Stalinism” he sees everywhere certainly confirms his “Trotskyist mindset”, however much McKenna may find the Trotskyist movement in general “wanting”.

    Indeed, comrades McKenna and Proyect both loudly find ”the radical and revolutionary Left” in general to be “wanting” due to its insufficient passion for the Israeli-Saudi-U.S. Axis “regime change” project in Syria.

    Nothing in McKenna’s “reply” remotely suggests he is anything less than a “regime change” propagandist scribbling in support of the Israeli-Saudi-U.S. Axis “dirty war”.

    • Abe
      May 21, 2018 at 16:36

      At least in his mid-50s and in private notation, Lev Trotsky insisted on scrupulousness with “the facts”.

      In a series of notes not intended for publication, Trotsky wrote “The dialectic does not liberate the investigator from painstaking study of the facts, quite the contrary: it requires it. But in return it gives investigative thought elasticity, helps it cope with ossified prejudices, arms it with invaluable analogies, and educates it in a spirit of daring, grounded in circumspection.”

      (Trotsky’s Notebooks, 1933-1935: Writings of Lenin, Dialectics and Evolutionism, Translation by Philip Pomper. New York: Columbia University Press, 1986. page 92)

      • Oakland Pete
        May 22, 2018 at 16:59

        The point being…

    • May 21, 2018 at 16:52

      Speaking of WSWS and Proyect, there’s this;

    • Oakland Pete
      May 22, 2018 at 16:55

      One more historical falsehood from dishonest Abe. Neither McKenna or Proyect are Trotskyists. They cite Trotsky but contradict him at every turn. Their political tendency was expelled from the movement by Trotsky himself. Read it for yourself: “In Defense of Marxism” by Trotsky, available from Pathfinder Press.

    • Abe
      May 22, 2018 at 20:07

      The shrill claims of “Oakland Pete” notwithstanding, there are in fact various currents of thought that self-identify as “Trotskyism”, and various organizations that make appeals to the writings of Trotsky.

      Some Trotskyist organizations claim to be the original Fourth International founded in 1938, while others make no attempt to claim any relationship to the Fourth International in an organizational sense and argue that it no longer exists. Various Trotskyist organizations claim to represent a continuity from the Fourth International or to have re-established it, while others argue that the title “Fourth International” is so discredited that a Fifth International or another new organization is needed. Trotskyist organizations range in size from those having thousands of adherents in dozens of countries to tendencies which can barely claim a dozen members in three or four countries.

      The point is that facts matter. Even Trotsky had some private moment when he understood that “study of the facts” was important.

      That point is lost when some delusional “Trot” declares that reality is “dishonest” and facts are “divisive”

  52. May 21, 2018 at 16:14

    Thanks so much for the rightfully detailed editor’s note at the front.

    Frankly, beyond agreeing in general with Ms. Johnstone, let’s mention one ex(?) Trotskyite by name as a good example of problematic stances and poseuring in the Middle East, especially when it coincides with the US imperium.

    And that person is, of course, Chris Hitchens.

    A much newer voice is Jesse Zimmerman, who’s twice written about Syria at the North Star, and with zero editorial criticism from the managers there.

    • Oakland Pete
      May 22, 2018 at 16:57

      Socrates: Not “ex?”; just ex, period. Be honest. But then, that might be too much to ask for someone who uses “Trotskyite”.

  53. May 21, 2018 at 15:49

    Tony my friend. Enough of all this academic discussion of ideology.
    If Assad is murdered like Gadaffi was, who is going to rule Syria?
    And who is going to rebuild Syria?
    Answer me that.

    • Joe Tedesky
      May 21, 2018 at 16:18

      Dennis good questions. I personally would like to know why anyone would give a hoot to supplying ISIS with weapons? Joe

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