World in view: In Syria, righteous hours expose evil years

March 17, 2020

From the March-April 2020 issue of News & Letters

by Gerry Emmett

Free Syria, the revolutionary idea that can’t be killed, claimed its ground in Idlib. There it has been subjected to continuing, genocidal assault by the Bashar al-Assad regime and its fascist allies, imperialist Russia and Iran.

In the last few weeks of February we have seen the provision of MANPADS allow Free Syrians to shoot down a number of regime helicopters as they arrived with their cargoes of barrel bombs. Putin’s air force is much less effective when it has to remain out of range of these missiles.

In revenge, the regime made the foolish mistake of attacking a Turkish observation post and killing dozens of Turkish personnel. It opened a rift between Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that allowed some truth to show through.


Contrary to the myth of “Syrian air defense,” we have seen how easily Turkish planes and drones can devastate Assad’s forces. (In the south of Syria, Israeli helicopters have also had no problem entering Assad’s airspace at will.)

There was never any doubt about this. This writer was at a public meeting some years ago, during the previous U.S. administration, where an official spoke of cell phones being provided to the Syrian people to record the regime’s atrocities.

One of the audience members spoke up: “To hell with cell phones! Send us some Stinger missiles!” This was said to great applause, but it never happened then. Years of hypocrisy followed.


The most intense reaction to these events seems to concern Turkish President Erdogan’s “threat” to allow Syrian refugees to enter Europe. The usual torrents of racism were unleashed. The dispossession of Syrians has been the wind in the sails of the racist Far Right.

In fact, it might be seen as Erdogan’s message to Putin that he didn’t intend to help the Free Syrians press on to Damascus—which would allow all the refugees to return to their homes.

An agreement to end the atttacks on Idlib would be a great step, but there is no possibility that Free Syria and Assad’s regime can coexist. The fascist slogan, “Assad or we burn the country,” wasn’t a sign of strength. It was a recognition of the regime’s damnation, its absolute illegitimacy.

The nihilists who support Assad have tried, and failed, to burn human history itself.

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