Monday 18 November 2013

Nun-speak, none-speak - Jones, Scahill and Stop the War

There's been significant fallout over a forthcoming Stop the War conference, after Jeremy Scahill and Owen Jones threatened to withdraw unless Syrian-based nun Mother Agnes was removed from the invited list of speakers.

As noted in a brief announcement from StW, she has now stood down, registering her disappointment and hope of future engagement.

It was notable that both Scahill and Jones announced their objections to her inclusion following tweets from Muhammad Idrees Ahmad and his Pulse media site urging them not to participate.

Ahmad and Pulse have denounced Mother Agnes as an Assad collaborator and propagandist, charges she and varied supporters have strongly rejected.

Beyond obvious war crimes on all sides, doubts and questions over responsibility for many atrocities in Syria remain, as detailed even in major Western intel. So, it's not unreasonable that Mother Agnes's claims should be subject to the same caution and scrutiny.

Yet, who, we may ask, are the more wilful propagandists here for war and increased suffering in Syria?

Ahmad/Pulse have been strident critics of the "anti-imperialist left's" 'dogmatic' opposition to Western intervention and 'disregard' for suffering Syrians.

In a piece for Al Jazeera US outlining the political and humanitarian ramifications of non-intervention, Ahmad concluded that an:
"externally imposed solution is less egregious than dooming Syria to prolonged war."
Ahmad has also used the self-proclaimed 'take-down' of David Bromwich to amplify his wider charge of left 'Monsterphilia'. Bromwich's response includes a measured dismissal of Ahmad's distorted language, while repeating his warning against any more disastrous US/Nato interventions like Libya.

A similar call for an "externally-imposed solution" is evident in this piece from Nott George Sabra [sic], a figure endorsed by Ahmad:
The anti-war movement in the West got what it wanted: the war in Syria grinds on without the involvement of the only force capable of ending the bloody stalemate, the U.S. military [my emphasis].
Should we accept such invocations of US military force? Is this the only way of ending the bloodshed? Are we to believe these 'humanitarian' voices for Syria? And, if not, what does it say about their denunciation of figures like Mother Agnes as 'propagandists' and 'regime apologists'?

StW are mistaken in succumbing to apparent pressure from Jones and Scahill over this issue. Mother Agnes may, indeed, be a defender of Assad. But she shares that view with a decisive section of Syrian society who either support his government in this civil war or, despite his oppressions and crimes, fear and reject the greater threat of Western-supported/jihadist forces fighting to replace him. Whatever the authenticity or otherwise of her claims, is there not a reasonable case for hearing such voices?

StW speaker Tariq Ali articulates a more nuanced view of the Syrian conflict - clearly rejecting Assad, but also seeing the vital political complexities and external forces driving imperialist and sectarian interests - and is still routinely castigated by Pulse et al for doing so. Is he also to be dropped from the panel as an 'Assad apologist'?

More particularly for an anti-war body, whatever questions may hang over Mother Agnes's position, involvement and accounts, there's little to indicate her actual promotion of war, something that distinguishes her from those like Ahmad with their encouragement of an "externally-imposed solution" and urgings of US 'capability'.

Despite the withdrawal of Mother Agnes, Ahmad and Pulse still have Stop the War in their sights, insisting that she would have remained as a speaker if not for Scahill and Jones:
@STWuk Had it not been for @jeremyscahill & @OwenJones84's principled stance, you won't have considered disinviting her. Kudos to them.
— PULSE (@im_PULSE) November 17, 2013
This may, indeed, have been the case, with StW feeling more worried about 'losing' Jones and Scahill than Mother Agnes - though, even with Mother Agnes relinquishing her invite, StW could have stated unequivocally that she still had a right to speak.

But the Pulse charge against StW and its presentation of the issue is motivated by much darker intent, as indicated in this further tweet:
@alexhiniker It matters how they are presenting it. Since @STWuk shares much of Mother Agnes's politics. Both have repeatedly blamed victims
— PULSE (@im_PULSE) November 16, 2013 [My emphasis.]
This is the repeated mischief from Ahmad/Pulse that StW not only support/excuse Assad but, more perniciously, that such left opponents of Western intervention have "repeatedly blamed [the] victims".

The intellectual dishonesty, indeed mendacity, of this line should need little elaboration. Yet, its crassness is equalled only by the vitriol behind its relentless delivery.

Did it ever occur to Ahmad and Pulse that the very act of opposing yet another aggressive Western intervention is a humanitarian act in itself, serving to prevent more victims - even if it cannot halt the existing suffering or resolve the civil war?

That should be reasonably obvious. But it gets in the way of Ahmad's cynical contrivance that the 'Monsterphile left' is not only blind to civilian suffering in their 'obsessive hatred' of Western imperialism, but that they are also guilty of blaming the Syrian people for their enduring misery.

Thus, Ahmad's strident denunciation of StW (at Facebook):
If you want to find the armpit of humanity, visit London on November 30 and attend this International "antiwar" Conference. [My emphasis.]
It's notable here that while Ahmad/Pulse have been resounding in their praise for Jones's and Scahill's actions, they have been contrastingly silent over their continued participation, minus Mother Agnes, in this "armpit" assembly.

In pursuit of serious explanations, Joe Emersberger has asked Scahill to defend his position on Mother Agnes. Beyond lame replies, no reasoned account has, as yet, appeared.

Interventions Watch also ask why Owen Jones would take moral umbrage over the presence of Mother Agnes while sharing panels and platforms with Labour elites who took primary roles in the mass crime against Iraq and the vital propaganda that accompanied it.

These are questions that Jones regularly evades and dismisses, ones that have been wilfully unaddressed by an entire liberal-left media, of which he's now a prominent, prestigious part.

Thus, for example, can Alastair Campbell appear on Question Time, write like a feted guest at the Guardian, host Have I Got News For You and give Humanitas lectures at Oxford.

How can someone so directly involved in spinning the lies for the slaughter of so many people be accorded that kind of indulgent protection? Precisely because, while ever-ready to denounce foreign despots and their apologists, so many left-liberals see no equivalence, or worse, with 'our' criminal leaders and propagandists.

Beyond the controversy of 'nun-speak', might that StW gathering find serious time and able guests to press people like Jones and Scahill on this much more vital issue of liberal-left 'none-speak', with its calamitous licence for mass Western warmongering?


Great comment piece here from Jonathan Cook:


brian said...

As a supporter of Assad and one who has observe. The scene for the past 2years,I find these attacks on Assad absurd ;he has not been oppressing Syrians :if he was we'd not see millions rally to show support . The ones who hate Assad are those who want to attack Iran :Israel ;and rose who want a Synni only Syria run on Wahhabi lines

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I don't support Assad.

I oppose any and all U.S. "interventions" in the Middle East, though.

How many fucking times do we have to fuck it up in the name of "humanitarian" goals, only to have it all revealed to be for oil company profits and Israel?

Time to quit it.

Aletho News said...

Jeremy Scahill seems to be simply hewing to The Nation’s and Democracy Now’s editorial stance. A solid wall against true solidarity or even truth seeking. It’s nothing more than a party line, as though he were a state appointed official, an apparatchik.

We can’t view him as a supposed alternative to the MSM or even a muckraker. Affording him that status would only be useful as a veil over the ugly realities that the Democrats would rather leave covered up.

In their hoped for ‘progressive’ paradigm we are allowed to wring our hands about the obligation to use force against ‘evil dictators’, but we can never expose the vile, underhanded ruses perpetrated by the empire which form the bases for the ‘responsibility to protect’.

In the end it’s not so different from Bush’s Christian right or Nixon’s moral majority, interventionism with a ‘moral’ underpinning.

Anonymous said...

It's weird too how it becomes de rigeur to say that you hate Assad. why? Because talking heads said to?He's way above average when compared to most of the dictators we are allied to, in terms of appearing to sincerely care about his people, and the syrian government has socialist characteristics that are far beyond what our government has.

JB said...

Agreeing that Assad is a 'brutal dictator' etc is a vital concession to the warmongering corporate media line. It allows 'progressive' careerists like Jones and StW's leaders to ensure that the 'anti-war' movement has no real content beyond a vague handwringing.

I wrote to Media Lens over the same issue - ie, casually repeating lies about President Assad based on no evidence whatsoever. You can read the correspondence here.

Therese Rickman-Bull said...

Reading most of these comments makes me want to tear out my hair. Those who support Assad appear blind to the fact, or chose to over-look the fact that he unleashed chemical weapons on Ghouta, near Damascus, on August 21st, killing over 1.400 people, including at least 400 children. Mother Agnes immediately inserted herself into this catastrophe, asserting that the attack had been caused by "rebels" or "terrorists." United Nations-mandated experts examined the trajectories of the weapons that carried the poison gas and concluded that they could have been launched only from Assad's military sites onto rebel-held territory. No Assad supporters were killed in this atrocity, only innocent Syrians living in these areas. Human Rights Watch reached the same conclusions, based on it own information. This may be the most egregious of Mother Agnes's lies for Assad, and it galvanized a wide coalition of people to stop her speaking at a Stop the War conference, given that she supports and spreads propaganda for a mass-murderer. At the very least, it was injudicious and hypocritical of STW to invite Mother Agnes without also inviting a Syrian who would be capable of refuting her assertions. The best person to do this would be Father Paolo dell'Oglio who has worked in Syria for 30 years, fostering inter-faith dialogue and cooperation, something that Mother Agnes fails to do with her focus on Syria's Christians - whose un-elected spokeswoman she also purports to be, while supporting Assad. Father dell'Oglio was kidnapped by ISIS (an Islamist group) in Raqqa, earlier this year, so he is unavailable to repeat his earlier statements that Mother Agnes uses her religion to cloak her agenda on behalf of Assad. She also tries to make Syrian Christians believe that their salvation lies only with Assad, implying that all the opposition is anti-Christian, which is not the case.

Terence said...

As evidenced by the likes of Jeremy Scahill, Owen Jones, and Muhammad Idrees Ahmad et al., large sections of the Anglo-American Left are just as arrogant and delusional as their own rulers like David Cameron and Barack Obama.

Behind all their humanitarian posturing and strident "progressive" rhetoric, this Anglo-American Left shares the same quasi-religious belief in Western moral/political superiority possessed by their OWN war criminal regimes from Tony Bliar to Dubya Bush, from Cameron to Obama.

The Anglo-American Left are citizens of the world's greatest war criminal nations (America and Britain), which are guilty of thinly disguised wars of aggression against Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Serbia, Vietnam--to name just a few examples.

These Anglo-American wars have murdered over a MILLION people in these nations and have been based upon propaganda deceptions like "WMDs in Iraq," the "War on Terrorism," "humanitarianism and the Responsibility to Protect," and "Defending Freedom and Democracy."

Yet despite all these repeated crimes against humanity committed by their own nations and regimes, many Anglo-Americans delude themselves into believing they have any moral legitimacy to:
-Vilify foreign leaders and governments which just so happen to be on the British-American enemies list.
-Decide if a foreign leader is morally fit to lead, EVEN if he is supported by the majority of his own citizens.
-Posture as anti-war critics and activists, despite being citizens of the greatest threat to peace on the planet: the Anglo-American Empire.

In short, these Anglo-Americans display the imperial delusion and arrogance that defined the Western Civilizing Mission and White Man's Burden of yore.

But instead of spreading Western "civilization" or Christianizing the heathen savage, Anglo-Americans today cloak their aggressive wars and conquests behind propaganda about spreading democracy, freedom, and human rights!