The Morning Star has today come under massive criticism for hailing the near total recapture of Aleppo by pro-Government forces as a “liberation.” I would agree that the situation calls for more nuance. However a feeling of relief that the fighting that has ravaged Aleppo for four years is coming to a close, must form part of any sane reaction. If we are not allowed to feel relief at that, presumably it means that we must have wanted al-Nusra and various other jihadist militias to win the hot war. What do we think Syria would look like after that?I am no fan of the Assad regime. It is not a genuine democracy and it has a very poor human rights record. If Assad had been toppled by his own people in the Arab spring and replaced by something more akin to a liberal democracy, which kept the Assad regime’s religious toleration, protection of minorities and comparatively good record on women’s rights, and added to it political freedom, a functioning justice system and end to human rights abuse, nobody would have been happier than I. Indeed I strongly suspect I have in the past done much more to campaign against human rights abuse in Syria than the mainstream media stenographers who all decry the fall of rebel Aleppo now.
But sadly liberal democracy, human rights and women’s rights are not in any sense what the jihadist militias the West is backing are fighting for.
Of course it is essential that human rights are now respected in Aleppo by the government, that civilians are looked after, and that rebel fighters once identified are incarcerated in decent conditions. I add my voice to those calls. It should be noted that the threat to life and limb, and the violations and war crimes, have been on all sides, and the oppression of the government is most unlikely to be worse than the oppression of the rebels. The jhadists impounded relief supplies from the civilian population, shot those attempting to flee, and raped on a grand scale. That is not in any way to minimise the potential for mirror abuse from government supporting troops. But it is nonetheless true and must be stated.
The freedom from rebel mortar bombardment of civilian areas of Western Aleppo will also be an added mercy.
But it is not only the western media which has been hopelessly one-sided in its coverage of events. I have been deeply shocked by the heavily politicised role played by western charities and relief agencies. And sure enough, reports reaching me today from an independent source in Syria indicate that now the Syrian government has taken over most of the ex-jihadist held areas of Aleppo, those western agencies and charities that were screaming for a ceasefire so they could get aid in to the communities, have lost all interest now that it is safe to do so and the Syrian government is begging them to go in. They appear interested only in servicing rebel-held areas.
Last week saw a rare moment of truth in western diplomacy as Boris Johnson accused Saudi Arabia of financing proxy wars in the Middle East and spreading the ideology of terrorism. It is a strange world when it comes as a shock when a government minister for once says something which is true. But it was a rare moment. Boris is now in Saudi Arabia touting for more arms sales. In fact the anti-democratic regimes in the Gulf loom extremely large in the affections of the current Conservative government. Both Hammond and May have recently been to Bahrain. As I said, the Assad regime does have a poor human rights record, but the Bahraini government beyond argument has a much worse one, with torture a widespread and everyday measure of oppression. The Sunni “royal family” was only maintained in its despotic rule over its majority Shia population during the Arab spring by the invasion of the Saudi army. Torture and repression has been stepped up ever since even beyond its normal appalling standards.
To repeat, Bahrain beyond doubt has an even worse human rights record than Assad. It is also even less democratic. Yet this is the UK’s close ally, and in a stunningly stupid flourish of neo-imperialism, Britain has just opened a new military base in Bahrain, indicating our desire to indulge in further disastrous military intervention in the Middle East for decades to come.
I don’t think I have ever been more ashamed of my country than when reading Theresa May’s speech last week to the assorted despots, torturers and head-choppers of the Gulf Co-operation Council. A plea for our relationship with “old friends” that nowhere at all gives even a passing reference to democracy or human rights, to the extent that it even references the East India Company as a good thing in our history! A litany of begging for their cash, while at the same time focusing on the “security” and “terrorist” threats they face, the “terrorists” in question being their own disenfranchised populations.
Shameful, shameful stuff. yet where is the condemnation from those mainstream media journalists waxing lyrical today on the evils of Assad?
The game goes on. With financing and ideological underpinning from these Gulf states, and covert intelligence aid from the West, ISIS forces are allowed to slip out of Iraq, regroup and retake Palmyra as “retaliation” against Russian/Syrian success in Aleppo, and as a propaganda counter to ensure the West’s jihadist “allies” are not demoralised. The cynicism of it all is sickening. The Morning Star may indeed have not been sufficiently nuanced; but compared to the lies and elisions of mainstream media it is a beacon of truth.