Interview With Max Blumenthal: The Left’s Failure To Confront Root Of Syrian Conflict
Above Photo: Muzaffar Salman/AP
Hosts Rania Khalek and Kevin Gosztola welcomed Max Blumenthal, journalist, senior editor of AlterNet’s Grayzone Project, and author of The 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza.
Blumenthal has appeared on the show before, but this time he was our guest because multiple listeners requested an episode featuring him. His interview is more than one hour.
During the show, Blumenthal addresses the root causes of the Syrian conflict as well as the failure of the left, particularly in the United States, to oppose U.S. military intervention and confront what is destroying a country.
“You might not be a leftist if you defend Wahhabism while constantly attacking the left,” Blumenthal states. “You might not be a leftist if you are an apologist for any of these rebel groups or if you are edging toward calling for the replacement of a post-colonial state with a Sunni Islamist theocracy that requires NATO or U.S. military intervention. There’s just nothing leftist about that, and none of this is possible without U.S. intervention.”
He confronts the position of much of the International Socialist Organization and journalist Anand Gopal’s recent comments on “Democracy Now!” arguing Syrian President Bashar al Assad created ISIS.
“I’ve spent a good portion of the last few months actually interviewing a number of ISIS fighters and defectors from ISIS. And one of the things I’ve made a point to do is actually ask them, ‘Why did you join this group?’ You know?” Gopal said. “And to a person, they all say they witnessed some horrific atrocity or massacre conducted by the regime. I’ve never heard anybody give another reason other than that. And so, what has happened is that the sheer brutality of the regime has led people to—some people to join ISIS, especially in the context where they see there’s not a lot of support for other groups.”
Blumenthal responds, “What [Gopal] said I don’t even think the State Department accepts anymore, which is that Assad created ISIS. Assad is responsible for ISIS’s creation. This is like essentially a neocon talking point that you’d see at the Daily Beast, and it sort of glosses over the whole history of ISIS.”
He draws attention to some of the poor coverage of the Syrian conflict by “Democracy Now!”
“The day that Donald Trump authorized 59 cruise missiles at the Shayrat airbase outside Damascus ‘Democracy Now!’s guest was Lina Sergie, who is an open aggressive advocate for Western military intervention in Syria and runs this group, the Karam Foundation, which has an advocacy arm to push for regime change.”
Blumenthal makes a critical point about the failure of the establishment left, progressives, and progressive media in general that relates to the massive refugee crisis.
“Look at how the Brexit campaign was run by UKIP, the far-right party of Nigel Farage,” Blumenthal states. “It was run through billboard campaigns across northern England and these economically devastated areas showing masses of Syrian refugees marching across central Europe, and it was warning that they’re coming your way because Europe and the globalists are going to bring them there. And in the end, 80 percent of people who voted for ‘leave’ voted on the issue of immigration. UKIP drove that campaign through the refugee crisis, and UKIP benefited.”
Blumenthal asks listeners to consider who is linking the refugee crisis to the systematic destruction of Syria by the West. It is Farage and far right and then Jeremy Corbyn, who is part of the left in the UK. But the alt-center of Labour and the Tories are in an all-out assault on Corbyn, which gives Farage the ability to capitalize off his statements on foreign policy and win greater influence among British voters.
“There has to be an alternative on the left,” Blumenthal contends. Yet, discussions in supposed left circles “refuse to make this linkage. Instead, what they’re doing in effect is campaigning for more people to be forced to flee their homes into the West and then they’ll welcome them with open arms.”
On what millions of refugees face in Europe, Blumenthal adds, “My experience in Europe is people just don’t have as much tolerance for mulitculturalism. They don’t have as much tolerance for other people. Maybe it’s different in urban areas of France and the UK, but they’re treated with outright open hostility.”
“How are stateless people in Europe going to get organized? What will happen if they’re deported again? There aren’t really any answers that I see coming from these institutional left circles, and the root issue isn’t being addressed, which is a covert proxy war which has systematically destroyed this country.”
To listen to the interview, click the above player or go here.