The recent ceasefire in Syria, spearheaded by Russia and Turkey, is virtually dead. On December 30, 2016, less than twenty-four hours after the agreement was implemented, sporadic violence between rebels and government forces erupted. Clashes have continued since then, as President Bashar Al-Assad attempts to recapture rebel-held territory in the suburbs of Damascus.

The ceasefire’s unraveling is neither new nor surprising. All previous attempts to enforce a truce have collapsed within hours of their announcement, a trend that is likely to continue and diminish the probability of a lasting peace in the foreseeable future. This, combined with inadequate international efforts to deliver food, medical aid, and other basic amenities to besieged areas in Syria, makes it clear 2017 will be as horrifying and disastrous for Syrians as 2016.

Despite this reality, antiwar coalitions in the United States continue in their failure to meaningfully mobilize against the war in Syria. Beyond blindly reaffirming their staunch opposition to U.S. intervention and disdain for the “Salafist” rebels, many members of the antiwar left have done little more than express superficial anguish at the country’s crisis.

This is particularly astonishing given the United States’s intervention in Syria for well over two yearsIn 2016 alone, for example, the United States dropped approximately 12,192 bombs in Syria, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. Notably, this made up nearly 50% of the bombs the Obama administration dropped across the world last year.

The antiwar movement speaks about Syria, however, as though the United States has yet to intervene. This narrative is so widespread that it can even be found in mainstream outlets like The New York Times (“Don’t Intervene in Syria”) and The Washington Post (“Why the United States hasn’t intervened in Syria”).

The American antiwar movement, which once viciously protested the invasion of Iraq, has fallen conspicuously silent in the face of Syria’s dystopian tragedy. In fact, when Russia militarily intervened on behalf  of Assad in order to “combat terrorism” in September 2015, some so-called antiwar leftists welcomed the move as potentially positive, instead of organizing protests outside the Russian embassy calling for military deescalation.

Compare this with the antiwar movement’s impeccable record of protesting whenever the Gaza Strip is being razed. Instead of taking the same approach and articulating a response to Syria’s tragedies using the language of moral imperatives, many so-called antiwar leftists have instead demonstrated that their most primal political fear—that of a military intervention in which the “Salafist” opposition takes power following Assad’s ouster—is more important to them than helping to end human suffering.

As Charles Davis wrote in an article for Muftah, those in the antiwar left who spent all their energy combatting a future U.S. intervention against Assad “should be forced to own the fact that all they have ever offered Syrians is opposition to a war that never was, coupled with silence on the wars that are killing them now.”

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  • Joe Catron

    I’m sorry, but this is very silly. There are valid criticisms to be made of sections of “the anti-war left” on Syria, but those have to do with them exaggerating – not denying – the scale of US intervention. Who does that? Name names and provide citations!

    Incidentally, Alarian makes the opposite error here. It’s absolutely no secret that the CIA, and to a lesser extent the Pentagon, have been running weapons to rebels for considerably more than “well over two years.” It is, in fact, a matter of public record.

  • 50iyrntk

    Joe I think you’re confused. The primary criticism leveled against antiwar coalitions is that their opposition to American intervention in Syria is superficial, because they’ve failed to mobilize on a scale that mirrors opposition to the Iraq War, and have failed to protest Russia’s ongoing military campaign. Is there something complicated about that fact? The reason these coalitions have failed to visibly demonstrate against Russian intervention like they do against Israeli aggression in Palestine for example is because they believe “Russia was invited by the Syrian government” and therefore its military campaign does “not count as imperialism” (those words are Chomsky’s but you can find them pretty much on any mainstream antiwar website). This has been the case for years. Also, the funneling of weapons to rebel groups doesn’t actually fit the traditional definition of “intervention” (and it definitely doesn’t fit the word’s usage in this particular piece like you seem to imply). So for you to talk about it as if a “matter of public record” has been openly denied in the article is just out of line. That’s what’s called a straw man. You should take some time to acquaint yourself with the following statement recently put out on the ANSWER website:

    “Congress is currently debating an extremely dangerous, pro-war bill called House Resolution 5732, misleadingly titled the “Syrian Civilian Protection Act.” It is essentially a war cry for intervention in Syria. Not only would it tighten the sanctions that have been a centerpiece of U.S. regime change efforts, but it would require the president to assess the possibility of enforcing a “no-fly zone” over the country.

    No-fly zones are often packaged and sold to the public as a humanitarian measure. But as the decades of brutal war waged on the people of the Middle East by the U.S. government and its support for the most repressive dictatorships in the region show, this can not possibly be the true motivation behind such a move. In fact, a no-fly zone is a prelude to a war, and involves extensive bombing to cripple the targeted country’s ability to control its own airspace.”

    Does this honestly not come off as a perfect example of how some antiwar coalitions are misleadingly discussing Syria “as though the United States has yet to intervene”, just as the piece claims? It’s kind of shocking that you even needed evidence of this. You seem to have gotten hung up on the word “deny” (which never even appears in the piece itself except for the title), when the real issue is that they are obscuring a reality by talking about the actual intervention happening now as maybe just “bombs dropped on Syria” while they discuss the hypothesized no fly zone consistently as “intervention.” You can’t just ignore that as an unsubstantial footnote. So if anything at all, the “denial” you mention is not necessarily an explicit thing.