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Author's Note: This article was originally published on August 28, 2011

In 2011, the United States had its dominance of the Middle East seriously threatened due to massive peaceful protests that were sweeping the Arab world. No longer were people going to put up with corrupt and oppressive regimes that were backed by Washington. No longer would they put up with horrid dictatorships in which the only freedom they had was to obey. In 2011 protests in Tunisia began what would become known as the Arab Spring.

Tunisia

The spark that launched the Arab Spring began on December 17th, 2010. Mohammed Bouazizi was selling fruit without a license and when the authorities confiscated his scale, he became enraged, confronted the police, and was slapped in the face. This led him to plead his case in the town’s government office, but when it was rebuffed, he went outside and lit himself aflame. This small act became noticed by the populace at large and the anger “spread to other towns in the interior of the country, where unemployment among university graduates was approaching 50 percent.” [1] Mass protests soon began with calls to end dictator Ben Ali’s rule and democratic elections, however, Ali turned to the police and the slaughtering of protesters began in earnest.

When protests began to occur, the US was deeply worried as Tunisia had significant military ties to the US. Tunisia cooperated “in NATO’s Operation Active Endeavor, which provides counter-terrorism surveillance in the Mediterranean,” participated in NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue, “and allow[ed] NATO ships to make port calls at Tunis.” [2] Every now and then the US would criticize Tunisia for its record on political rights and freedom of expression, yet “In parallel with these expressions of concern, the United States continued to provide military and economic assistance to the Tunisian government.” [3] Thus, the US began to play both sides, in an effort to maintain its hold over Tunisia, no matter the outcome. About two weeks after Ben Ali had fled the nation, America sent their top Middle East envoy to Tunisia and tried “to press its advantage to push for democratic reforms in the country and further afield,” [4] yet what was truly occurring was that the US was trying to help shape the outcome of the revolution in its favor. America's main goal was to make sure that Tunisia would still be on the side of NATO and allow for NATO to dock there. Thus, when Ben Ali fled, an interim government was set up that consisted mainly of members who had been part of the former regime.

Today, the country remains in a delicate state in between authoritarian government and democracy as elections for a constituent assembly, which will form a new constitution, are scheduled for October 23rd.

Almost as soon as the US was finished in Tunisia, they had even bigger problems on their hands with the protests in Egypt.

Egypt

Due to being inspired by the success of the Tunisian protests, the Egyptian people launched their own protest movement, calling for the overthrow of US puppet Hosni Mubarak. However, the US was busy co-opting the protest movement.

The US used the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) as a cover to help co-opt the protest movement. Ironically, the NED is not used for the spreading of democracy, rather it was established by the Reagan administration to aid in the overthrow of foreign governments, after the CIA’s covert operations were revealed. The NED was "took over the financing of foreign overthrow movements, but overtly and under the rubric of ‘democracy promotion.’” [6] Thus, the US supported both Mubarak and the protesters, in a bid to make sure that no matter what occurred, America would still get its way.

Washington already had influence in Egyptian pro-democracy circles as in May 2009 many Egyptian activists that would eventually organize protests calling for the end of the dictator Mubarak's reign

spent a week in Washington receiving training in advocacy and getting an inside look at the way U.S. democracy works. After their training, the fellows were matched with civil society organizations throughout the country where they shared experiences with U.S. counterparts. The activists [wrapped]  up their program this week by visiting U.S. government officials, members of Congress, media outlets and think tanks. [7] (emphasis added)
Thus, due to the US aiding the activists, the Americans ensured that the protesters owed them a debt and that US interests would be secure even if Mubarak was ousted.

The military also played a role in US plans. While they originally had protected protesters and refused to fire upon them, the Egyptian military showed just how supportive they were of a democratic Egypt when they began arresting and trying them before military courts, dissolved parliament, and suspended the constitution. In reality, the military junta that now controls Egypt is no different than the Mubarak regime when it controlled Egypt.

While the Egyptian military is currently in control until elections, no matter what occurs, America will still have its way.

Bahrain

Protests also began taking place in Bahrain. The people were tired of a government which “ failed to abide by their own constitution, refused to investigate the crimes of torture and continued to expropriate more than half of the land of the country.” [8] The Bahrani government was controlled by the Al Khalifa family, which has ruled Bahrain for over 300 years and has created an economy where there is a powerful and wealthy Sunni minority while the Shiite majority constantly faces discrimination in jobs and education, has little political representation, and are barred from many government and military positions.

The US was deeply troubled because of the protests as the Al Khalifa regime allowed for the Americans to station their Fifth Fleet in the country, which allows the US to patrol “the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, and the east coast of Africa,” “keep an eye on – and, if necessary, rattle sabers – close to oil shipping lanes, Iran, and the increasing activity of pirates,” and “ [provide] basing and overflight clearances for US aircraft engaged in Afghanistan and [help] cut off money supplies to suspected Islamic terrorists.” [9] Thus, the Bahraini regime was of major importance to US regional interests.

The US showed that it would do anything to make sure that its puppet stayed in power when they backed the Saudi military intervention in Bahrain. The Saudis intervened on the behalf of the Bahraini government as their major concern was that the protests would quickly spread to their own country. Once in Bahrain, the Saudis began aiding in the suppression of protesters and shooting into crowds of Bahraini protesters. [10] However, even though the protesters were being gunned down, they still were determined to fight for their rights against America’s puppets.

Libya

The Arab Spring movement also reached all the way to Libya, however, things were quite different as instead of having peaceful protests, opposition forces were picking up arms and fighting the Libyan military. Due to the then-leader of Libya, Col. Mummar Gaddafi, having never truly been a Western puppet, America launched a propaganda war to allow the US-NATO war machine to intervene in Libya on the grounds of “humanitarian intervention.”

The question that must first be asked is why the West even wanted to intervene in Libya. The answer is because Libya has Africa’s largest oil reserves and Western oil companies wanted access to them. However, there are also larger economic reasons. Months prior to the intervention, Gaddafi had called upon African and Muslims nations to adopt a single currency: the gold dinar. This would have excluded the dollar as the gold dinar would have been used to purchase goods, thus threatening the economies of Western nations. However, the creation of a gold dinar may have also

empowered the people of Africa, something black activists say the US wants to avoid at all costs.

“The US have denied self-determination to Africans inside the US, so we are not surprised by anything the US would do to hinder the self-determination of Africans on the continent,” says Cynthia Ann McKinney, a former US Congresswoman. [11]

There was also geopolitics at work as during the war, Gaddafi “vowed to expel Western energy companies from the country and replace them with oil firms from China, India, and Russia.” [12] This would have effectively excluded the West from ever getting at Libya’s oil. By ousting Gaddafi, the West would be able to have a puppet regime to counter Chinese and Russian moves in North Africa as well as access to Libyan oil.

What many of the media never asked until the conflict was nearing its end was who exactly were the rebels. In the Iraq war, most of the foreign fighters came from Libya and in that, “almost all of them came from eastern Libya, the center of the anti-Gaddafi rebellion.” [13] (emphasis added) A Libyan rebel commander even admitted that some of his soldiers had links to Al Qaeda:

In an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, Mr al-Hasidi admitted that he had recruited "around 25" men from the Derna area in eastern Libya to fight against coalition troops in Iraq. Some of them, he said, are "today are on the front lines in Adjabiya".

Mr al-Hasidi insisted his fighters "are patriots and good Muslims, not terrorists,"but added that the "members of al-Qaeda are also good Muslims and are fighting against the invader". [14] (emphasis added)

Thus, the US and NATO were backing terrorists, yet they may have known seeing as how a 2007 West Point Study revealed that the Benghazi-Darnah-Tobruk area was a world leader in Al Qaeda suicide bomber recruitment. [15]

Due to the US and its NATO allies not wanting to look like the imperialists they truly were, Obama pressured the UN to pass a resolution allowing for the establishment of a no fly zone over Libya and an arms embargo on the nation. However, both were broken quite soon. The UN resolution clearly allowed all member states “acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, to take all necessary measures to protect civilians under threat of attack in the country, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory.” [16] However, the imperialists admitted that they wanted to overthrow Gaddafi in an op-ed piece, when Cameron, Sarkozy, and Obama stated: “Our duty and our mandate under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 is to protect civilians, and we are doing that. It is not to remove [G]addafi by force. But it is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with [G]addafi in power.” [17] (emphasis added) The US and NATO clearly stated that their main goal was to overthrow Gaddafi.

The hypocrisy of the West ran deep as they found an excuse to intervene in Libya, but not in Egypt, Bahrain, Palestine, or any other location where people were being oppressed by local regimes. However, Western hypocrisy was shown near the outset of the conflict when it was reported that Egypt’s military had begun to ship arms to the rebels with Washington’s knowledge. [18] This clearly shows that supposed arms embargo on Libya was in reality, an embargo on Gaddafi’s forces.

To whip up support for their “intervention,” a massive media propaganda campaign was conducted against Gaddafi. The mainstream media were reporting things such as Gaddafi gave his troops Viagra to rape women, bombed civilians, and that Libyan troops gunned down civilians. Despite these claims being false, the mainstream media still reported it. However, what many people ignored was the fact that the rebel and NATO war crimes. In mid-August, “a NATO bombing campaign near the Libyan city of Zlitan earlier this month reportedly killed almost 100 civilians — more than half of them women and children.” [19] However, NATO denied all claims arguing that they had struck legitimate targets. This is just one example of many NATO war crimes in Libya, ranging from killing civilians to bombing the rebels themselves. There were also reports that Libyan rebels were targeting and killing black Africans. All across eastern Libya the rebels “and their supporters [were] detaining, intimidating and frequently beating African immigrants and black Libyans, accusing them of fighting as mercenaries on behalf of [Gaddafi],” in some cases “executed suspected mercenaries captured in battle, according to Human Rights Watch and local Libyans,” and “arbitrarily killed some mercenaries and in others cases failed to distinguish between them and non-combatants.” [20] Yet, despite these and other numerous reports, the Libyan rebels excused their war crimes, saying that they didn’t have the structures in place to deal with matters such as these.

What was also somewhat ignored was the fact that the rebels were extremely fractured, only united in their goal to overthrow Gaddafi. This was clearly seen after the assassination of General Al-Younes and two top military commanders aides. Their deaths “resulted in internal fighting within the Transitional Council” with “Factional divisions [developing] within rebel forces.” [21] This factional divide may soon play itself out in the creation of a new Libyan government.

Finally, there was the fact that Western special forces were on the ground. The initial appearance of Western special forces was when British SAS troops were captured near Benghazi in March. However, US CIA agents were in Libya [22] and there may have been French and US special forces in Libya aiding the rebels. In a March interview on the O’Reilly Show, retired Colonel David Hunt of the US Army and Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, a former Army intelligence officer were interviewed about the situation in Libya. Hunt stated the following when asked about special forces being in Libya:

Yes, absolutely. You've got British service been in there about three weeks ago and actually got captured and released. The French GIGN have been in there and our special forces and our U.S. intelligence operatives and their assets. We do not conduct operations like this, large scale air operations, without people on the ground. They have been very successful, very good, not a lot of contact with the rebels because you don't know who to talk to. But, yes, we have got intel gathering and rescue guys and special operations guys on the ground, have had them for about 12 days. [23] (emphasis added)
Shaffer agreed, saying:

Yes, I have heard from my sources -- I got a call from one of my key sources on Monday and that's exactly what's going on. Let's be really clear here. You have got to have these individuals doing what Dave just said, especially when you are talking about trying to protect, and the stated goal here, Bill, is humanitarian support. So you don't want to have weapons hitting the wrong targets. So, Dave is very good on the fact that we have special operations guys sitting there with laser designators. Bill, you saw… [24] (emphasis added)

The Americans constantly denied that they had boots on the ground, yet, as usual, they were lying.

The imperialists already had plans for a post-Gaddafi Libya, which consisted of "proposals for a 10,000-15,000 strong 'Tripoli task force', resourced and supported by the United Arab Emirates, to take over the Libyan capital, secure key sites and arrest high-level Gaddafi supporters.” [25] However, the plan may be problematic as it is “highly reliant on the defection of parts of the Gaddafi security apparatus to the rebels after his overthrow.” [26] There were far reaching economic consequences as it was reported that the new government would favor Western oil companies at the expense of Russian, Chinese, and Brazilian firms. [27]

Due to the imperialists succeeding in Libya, many are worried that the US-NATO war machine may set its sights on a new target: Syria.

Syria

Protests in Syria began in earnest in May and have not let up since then. While there are calls for intervention into Syria, there is much at stake for America in terms of Syria’s relationship with Iran.

The Americans are quite interested in the link between Iran and Syria, noting that there have been several joint ventures between the two nations in the financial and manufacturing sectors, as it was noted that “there have been several reports of increased Iranian investment and trade with Syria,” “Iran has stated its intention to establish a joint Iranian-Syrian bank,  possibly involving Bank Saderat and the Commercial Bank of Syria,” and “the Iran Khodro Industrial Group has established a car assembly plant in Syria through a joint venture known as the Syrian-Iranian Motor Company.” [28] There are also military links as Iran supplies weapons to Syria which, from the US perspective, pose a threat to its ally Israel. “In June 2010, Iran reportedly sent Syria an air defense radar system designed to detect Israeli aircraft or possibly increase the accuracy of Syrian and Hezbollah missile strikes against Israel in the event of a regional war.” [29] Thus, the US was deeply worried about the link between two anti-American nations and the growing friendship between them.

Due to these worries, the US became involved in Syria’s protest movement, using methods that are similar to the ones the Americans used in the Egyptian revolution and in the Libya conflict..

For the past five to six years, the US policy toward Syria has used what could be called a two-pronged strategy to push for regime change. The US has supported “civil society” activists or external opposition organizations. It has also worked to delegitimize, destabilize and isolate the country through the application of sanctions and various other measures, which could be applied to exploit vulnerabilities. [30] (emphasis added)
One “civil society” organization that is being used by the US is the Movement for Justice and Development (MJD), which is “closely affiliated with the London-based satellite channel Barada TV, which started broadcasting in April 2009 but ‘ramped up operations to cover the mass protests in Syria.’” [31] The Americans may have wanted to work with MJD due to the fact that they are a moderate Islamic group which wants to end the Assad regime via democratic reform. This democratic reform may very well play right into America’s hands if the US does intervene in Syria, they can back the MJD and argue that they are the same as Libya’s rebels: people who want to end their oppressive regime and replace it with a democracy.

The US is using US organizations such as “Freedom House, American Bar Association, American University, Internews and work done by MEPI with the Aspen Strategic Initiative Institute, Democracy Council of California, Regents of the University of New Mexico and the International Republican Institute” [32] to aid in fomenting regime change in Syria by working with and funding Syrian “civil society” groups.

There have been many reports of the Syrian regime attacking unarmed protesters, however, one should be quite skeptical of these reports. The US media has reported that there are violent Syrian protesters [33], which should make one question the official narrative that the protesters are peaceful. One must also include the fact that there are absolutely no outside media sources in Syria whatsoever. Journalists have contacts whom they can get information from, but who says that these sources are being objective, much less telling the truth? All the reports that are being shown in the mainstream media may very well be half-truths, if not outright fabrications.

The Arab Spring, while an overall movement to overthrow oppressive regimes, has too many times been co-opted by foreign powers who seek only their personal gain. Due to this, the Arab people may never experience true freedom.

Endnotes

1: http://www.cbsnews.com/...
2: http://www.fas.org/...
3: Ibid
4: http://www.google.com/...
5: http://gowans.wordpress.com/...
6: http://www.freedomhouse.org/...
7: http://www.ihrc.org.uk/...
8: http://www.csmonitor.com/...
9: http://www.youtube.com/...
10: http://rt.com/...
11: http://www.newsmax.com/...
12: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...
13:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/...
14: http://www.globalresearch.ca/...
15: http://www.un.org/...
16: http://www.nytimes.com/...
17: http://online.wsj.com/...
18: http://www.thenewamerican.com/...
19: http://articles.latimes.com/...
20: http://www.globalresearch.ca/...
21: http://www.nytimes.com/...
22: http://www.foxnews.com/...
23: Ibid
24: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/...
25: Ibid
26: http://www.euronews.net/...
27: http://www.fas.org/...
28: Ibid
29: http://dissenter.firedoglake.com/...
30: Ibid
31: Ibid
32: http://www.cbsnews.com/...

Discuss

Wed Sep 05, 2012 at 09:04 AM PDT

On Intellectuallism

by DevonDB

On Intellectuals and Their Duties in the 21st Century

“It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and to expose lies.”
~Noam Chomsky [1]

Intellectuals have always played a major role in society, from the philosophers of old such Plato and Aristotle who articulated thoughts about government, science, and biology to modern intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky and Cornel West who go about speaking truth to power and working toward informing and empowering average people. Yet, the role of the intellectual has changed over time and thus the time has arisen to reexamine and redefine the duties and responsibilities of the intellectual for this new century.

Before going into what the duties of intellectuals are, one must first define what an intellectual is. The tem intellectual can be defined as “a person who primarily uses intelligence in either a professional or an individual capacity.” [2] This application of intelligence can be for almost anything, but it is more popularly viewed as applying intelligence to social, economic, and political issues. Furthermore, the intellectual goes beyond focusing on newsworthy items and goes into the realm of theory, from thinking and formulating theory to articulating as to how that theory would potentially work in reality.

Currently, it seems that intellectuals are split into three camps: public, private, and dual intellectuals.

The public intellectual is usually a university professor who goes about researching, writing, and sharing their ideas in the public sphere via books, conferences, and being guests on radio and television shows. While this may seem to be a positive occurrence, much of this information remains in the realm of academia or academia-related areas with little of it becoming truly disseminated to the mainstream public. The books may be published and the conferences occur, but the only people who know about them are mainly people who are either in that field professionally or already have an interest in that area of study. Of the little information that does get disseminated on a mass scale, it is mainly done by well-known intellectuals such as Chris Hedges. Thus, there is currently a problem concerning public intellectuals where the information isn’t truly getting out to the people at large and because of this the majority of people are unaware of what new theories or discoveries are occurring and thus more vulnerable to misinformation and less likely to become active and involved in the current economic, social, or political situation.

The private intellectual is one who uses their intellect for the benefit of private groups, foundations, or individuals. One such example is Martin L. Leibowitz, the managing director of the Rockefeller Foundation. Leibowitz uses his intellect for the betterment of the Foundation by managing its assets and investments in order to make the most profit, thus allowing the Foundation to continue its work.

Dual intellectuals are members of the intelligentsia that have one foot in both worlds, occupying the space of a public intellectual and also being or having been a private intellectual. Arguably the most prominent dual intellectual in American politics today is Zbigniew Brzezinski. While he has been a professor at Harvard and Columbia and is currently employed by John H. Hopkins University, Brzezinski was also the co-founder of the Trilateral Commission, which concerns itself with increased cooperation among the United States, Europe, and Japan. Intellectuals such as these are arguably the most powerful as not only do they have the connections and power that comes from being in the private sector, but they also have major sway over the collective consciousness of a society. Dual intellectuals can make their ideas public, put them out into the mainstream society, and because they also have a background as a public intellectual, the public is much more willing to trust them as they see such people as experts.

There are further differences between intellectuals when one breaks them down into their relationship with the current political, economic, and social system. There are three types: loyalist, reformist, and radical.

Loyalist intellectuals are those who uphold and are in favor of perpetuating the current structures. Intellectuals such as these are often deeply embedded within the system and hold government posts or are in think tanks that are quite instrumental in forming policies, such as the Council on Foreign Relations and its relation with the US State Department. Once again, an example of a mainstream loyalist intellectual would be Zbigniew Brzezinski. He has a history of favoring the current global political and economic system, atop which the United States is perched, and wanting to preserve that system for as a long as possible. Intellectuals such as these are highly touted in their societies and may command great influence and respect among the society at large and are used by elites to formulate policies that continue the present state of affairs.

Reformist intellectuals support the overall system but would prefer to see certain reforms to the current system as to promote certain values of equality, justice, and human rights. University professors appear to make up a large percentage of reformist intellectuals. Reformist intellectuals are used by the elites to produce new generations of intellectuals that support the status quo and can be co-opted by elites to promote policies that are favorable to them.

Radical intellectuals find fault with the system and criticize it, often offering alternatives that would break down the current structure. Intellectuals of this type tend to be the most useful in terms of going beyond what is spoon-fed to the public by elite-owned media that ignore, distort, and in many cases outright lie about ongoing situations, both domestic and international, and getting to the heart of the matter by telling what the true reasons policies are chosen and exactly whose interests are served. Radical intellectuals are often among those few intellectuals that have a moral conscience and believe in wholly changing the system if not uprooting and replacing it entirely. While most radical intellectuals are in the fringes, some have gained mainstream attention such as Cornel West and Chris Hedges.

While there are three main sets of ideological stances in relation to the current societal structure, there is a subset of intellectuals in the radical circle: underground radicals. These are intellectuals that are radicals (sometimes even more so than the mainstream radicals), but have had little mainstream notoriety. There are many current-day examples of these intellectuals such as Andrew Gavin Marshall and Allison Kilkenny. Underground radicals often harbor views that are outside the mainstream political system and have no trust whatsoever within the political elite to change society for the better. Such intellectuals are greatly needed as they are often independent voices, not tied to any organization or entity that would censor them and thus they are more likely to be committed to the truth.

While there are different types of intellectuals, they all have the same types of duties.

The intellectual first and foremost has a duty to themselves to be honest in their research and work, honesty being objectivity and avoiding distortion of facts. Objectivity plays a major role as if one is going to espouse policy ideas that are contrary to the actual reality of the situation, no one is helped as the policy will be incorrect and potentially make a situation even worse. This is not to say that intellectuals cannot have any political or ideological leanings, but rather when conducting research or proposing policy, one should keep such things separate.

Empowering ordinary people should be the overall goal of the intellectual. On the local level, intellectuals should work with community organizations with the goal of addressing the problems of the community in a constructive manner. If it requires working with the state, so be it, but one must be aware that the problems that are in a town are best known and felt by those who reside within it, thus working with the local populace and local organizations should be at the center of any plan to quell problems within a community.

On the national level, the intellectual class should work much more to put its research and findings out to the general public, as this increase in information access may allow the general public to become aware of political theory and policy and will allow them to make more informed political decisions. The empowerment of people has a different role in the economic and sociological spheres. The economist should aid in the creation of policies that create economic wealth for the nation, but not at the expense of the many to the benefit of the few. Depending on the situation as well, the economist should also push for policies that would free the nation from dependence on external sources of income such as the IMF or the World Bank and rather support policies of internal economic development which will enrich the nation in the long-term. The sociologist should work to dispel myths and stereotypes of minority races/ethnicities and work to understand different cultures.

The intelligentsia must also combat old and outdated ideologies that hold people back. The current societal structure of the United States is such where it favors heterosexual gender-conforming upper-class white men. This system ostracizes and ignores those who do not fit into that narrow framework. Intellectually, the conversation is twisted and distorted with outright fabrications and myths continuing about Native Americans, blacks, and other minorities while white men are upheld as essentially the creators of modern society and other thinkers, activists, and the like that rebelled against the system are either ignored entirely or viciously distorted. Thus, it is up for the intellectuals to work with other organized groups to combat not only the historical distortions and omissions in the general historical narrative, but also the very system itself that favors one group of people over another.

The intellectual has a duty to the youth, specifically to the students in the classroom. Professors must go beyond the dull repetitiveness of the classroom, from having students memorize facts and figures, to doing serious critical analysis and having them apply the skills they are learning to current, real-world problems. Intellectuals should be willing and ready to go off the set curriculum and tell students about the true history of their area of study; they should willingly reveal such important and relevant information such as that the educational system itself comes from a drive by the elites for social control [3] that is still being used today. [4] Revealing the true nature of the study will allow students to be even more critical in their thinking of current problems in the field and will be more inclined to speak truth to power as they know the underpinnings of the current social structure and how it has and continues to effect the lives of ordinary people.

The intellectual need to allow themselves to be challenged by students and ordinary people. Currently, there is so much trust in the intellectual elite that any ordinary person who challenges them is dismissed as a fool and uninformed. Such thinking leads to the public trusting rather unscrupulous people such as dual loyalist intellectual Henry Kissinger, a wanted war criminal. [5] Allowing intellectuals to be challenged will create an opportunity that will allow people to be exposed to those who have differing opinions and alternative viewpoints. It can foster discussion among individuals and allow people to learn from one another and in this vain of expanding knowledge and being open-minded, intellectuals should welcome challenges and critiques of their work from alternative viewpoints.

Intellectuals should be willing to aid in peaceful revolutionary political activity that advocates the transformation of the current social, economic, and political structures as to break down oppression and work towards true freedom and equality for all peoples, no matter race, sex, gender identity, socio-economic background, sexual orientation or any other form of oppression that holds people back. Yet, they must be careful in involving themselves in revolutions as they must be conscious of what they are doing as to ensure that they do not lead the revolution. The revolution cannot be led by the intellectual class, they can only guide it. Only the people can lead the revolution. However, this is not simply on the national level. We are living in a globalized society where revolutions against established elites have occurred all over the world [6] and grass-roots organizations have sprung up all over the world and are working together. A global revolution is occurring and, just like the protest groups are organizing and working together (to differing extents and success to be sure), intellectuals from all over the world should organize and work to think, research, and articulate a new system in which the current institutions of power and control are abolished and new systems that do not seek to dominate and oppress come into being.

The intellectual class has the responsibility to stand up for the people and against the systems of oppression for in doing this not only do they free others, but they also free themselves and allow the creation of a new world in which all peoples can be truly free. It is either that or aiding in the continuation of a system that oppresses, exploits, and controls the very many for the benefit of the very few. That is the choice intellectuals face in today’s world. Let us hope they make the right decision.

Endnotes

1: Noam Chomsky, “The Responsibility of Intellectuals,” Noam Chomsky, February 23, 1967 (http://www.chomsky.info/...)
2: Wikipedia, Intellectual, http://en.wikipedia.org/...
3: Andrew Gavin Marshall, “The Purpose of Education: Social Uplift or Social Control?” Andrew Gavin Marshall, April 8, 2012 (http://andrewgavinmarshall.com/...)
4: James F. Tracy, “The Technocratization of Public Education,” Global Research, June 14, 2012 (http://www.globalresearch.ca/...)
5: Christopher Reilly, “Henry Kissinger, Wanted Man,” Counterpunch, April 28, 2002 (http://www.counterpunch.org/...)
6: Andrew Gavin Marshall, “Welcome to the World Revolution in the Global Age of Rage,” Andrew Gavin Marshall, July 30, 2012 (http://andrewgavinmarshall.com/...)

Devon DB is a 20 year old independent writer and researcher. He is studying political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University. He can be contacted at devondb[at]mail[dot]com.

Discuss

Tue Aug 07, 2012 at 08:23 AM PDT

America's Internal Colonialism

by DevonDB

Colonialism is a word associated with the 19th and 20th centuries, with an outside force (usually European) coming into a country and destroying and uprooting the culture and people, with the main goal being the extraction of resources for the gain of the ‘mother’ country. It is defined as “the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically.”[1] Yet this definition of colonialism can be expanded from examining the external to examining the internal. For what may be the first time in US history, internal colonialism is occurring as the very facades of democracy and the economic system begin to fall apart and the elites begin to colonize internally.

The internal colonization of America by elites can be seen most starkly in the financial sector, specifically in the ongoing economic crisis. There was mass panic about the near global economic collapse which the government responded to by bailing the corporations  out to the tune of $12.8 trillion,[2] yet, once the dust cleared, the very banks (with much help from the US Congress and the Federal Reserve) that caused the crisis only grew larger. Bloomberg noted in April of this year that Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Citigroup had combined assets that “amounted to 43 percent of US output” in 2007, but after the crisis those same banks now “held $8.5 trillion in assets at the end of 2011, equal to 56 percent of the U.S. economy,”[3] meaning that their combined percentage of the economy had increased by thirteen percent.

While the near collapse of the economy led to large amounts of growth for the banks and the banksters getting massive bonuses for their supposed ‘good work,’ it had a devastating impact on average Americans. While one can go and generalize about the number of jobs and houses lost, it is much more telling to go and look at the actual numbers. After the crisis ended, it was stated that the entire fiasco “cost the U.S. an estimated $648 billion due to slower economic growth” which translated into “an average of approximately $5,800 in lost income for each U.S. household.”[4] It was also found that 5.5 million more jobs were lost than were predicted in the Congressional Budget Office forecast of 2008.

The effects of this recession has not only resulted in droves of Americans being left destitute and unemployed to the point where just last year one million of them applied to McDonalds,[5] but has also left towns and cities almost utterly destroyed. A 2011 IHS report revealed that there were “37 metropolitan areas which are not expected to return to peak employment until after 2021” and that

Many of these metropolitan areas are part of the “Rust Belt,” an area covering portions of the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest that was once an international center for heavy manufacturing. Cities such as Canton and Youngstown, Ohio were once hubs of the steel industry. Detroit and Flint, of course, were at the heart of the US automobile industry.[6]
This is a prime example of internal colonialism, where the banks and automobile companies have sucked the economic life out of towns and cities, exploiting them to the fullest extent possible, and then when they are done and no more can be used, the banks and companies leave these areas and move elsewhere in the world to exploit other people, leaving in their wake only destruction and devastation. This combination of greedy banksters along with the Federal Reserve not only created a global economic crisis, but also a situation where half of the US population is now either impoverished or low-income.[7]

Yet, this internal colonization happens on an even more horrendous scale environmentally. Mining companies such as Massey Energy, now owned by Alpha Natural, engage in a horrid practice called mountaintop mining which is defined as “a surface mining practice involving the removal of mountaintops to expose coal seams, and disposing of the associated mining overburden in adjacent valleys”[8] Mining practices such as these allow corporations to get at the resource faster and thus extract more easily and cheaply as well as it allows miners more safety since they do not have to actually go down into the mines. While this may be good for the corporations, it is nothing but horrible for the environment. A 2007 Wired article stated that

In just two decades, hundreds of mountaintops, more than a thousand miles of stream, and hundreds of square miles of forests have been obliterated….

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, MTR destroyed more than 1,200 miles of Appalachia’s streams and 7 percent of its forests between 1985 and 2001. Approximately 800 square miles of mountains were leveled….

According to a rough estimate by West Virginia University bio-geochemist William Peterjohn, the deforestation could add as much as 138 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphereand that’s not even counting the even-larger CO2 emissions from burning the coal.[9]

There is also a human factor involved also as removal of the mountaintops in such a manner causes water resources to become contaminated which can lead to “Balkan endemic nephropathy (BEN), an irreversible kidney disease has been related to the leaching of toxic organic compounds in groundwater.” Contaminated drinking water can affects children quite negatively as “An Eastern Kentucky University study found that children in Letcher County, Kentucky, suffer from an alarmingly high rate of nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and shortness of breath, symptoms related to blue babe syndrome,”[10] which was found to be caused by contaminated minerals find their way into nearby streams.

This is yet another prime example of internal colonialism. As the corporations abuse the planet and push the environment to its breaking point, their careless exploitation and sole concern for profits results in a decimated, uninhabitable environment and people who become sickly and weak. As with the bankers, once there is no one and nothing left to exploit, they flock to the next location and start the process anew.

This internal colonialism is not only destroying people, but also the very environment that everyone—including the bankers and industrialists—live on. While we may be suffering currently, the colonizers may be in for a surprise as they destroy the environment and with it, themselves.

Notes

1: Oxford Dictionaries, Colonialism, http://oxforddictionaries.com/...
2: PBS, The true cost of the bank bailout, http://www.pbs.org/... (September 3, 2010)
3: David J. Lynch, “Banks Seen Dangerous Defying Obama’s Too-Big-To-Fail Move,” Bloomberg, April, 16, 2012 (http://www.bloomberg.com/...)
4: Pew Charitable Trusts, The Impact of the 2008 Economic Collapse, http://www.pewtrusts.org/... (April 28, 2010)
5: Andy Kroll, “How the McEconomy Bombed the American Worker,” Truthout, May 9, 2011 (http://truth-out.org/...)
6: 24/7 Wall St, Ten Cities That Will Take A Decade To Recover From The Recession, http://247wallst.com/... (June 22, 2011)
7: ABC News, Census date: Half of US poor or low income, http://www.cbsnews.com/... (December 15, 2011)
8: U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, Mid-Atlantic Mountaintop Mining, http://www.epa.gov/...
9: Brandon Keim, “Blowing The Top Off Mountaintop Mining,” Wired, September 10, 2007 (http://www.wired.com/...)
10: University of South Carolina, Mountaintop Removal: Effects on Human Health and the Environment, http://law.sc.edu/...

Discuss

Sat Aug 04, 2012 at 07:06 PM PDT

Oppression and Intersectionality

by DevonDB

Being oppressed is a struggle that many groups in society face on a daily basis, whether it be racial discrimination because one is Latino or being paid only 70% of what a man makes. Yet, oppression becomes even greater and more complex when one includes intersectionality which is how social, economic, and other categories overlap and intersect in a greater framework of oppression. Rather than discussing this matter from an ‘objective’ standpoint and using examples which one can easily distance themselves from, I will examine oppression and intersectionality using actual people.

I am a gay black man. At first glance, one might think that while I am oppressed due to my sexuality, that I benefit from male privilege because the United States is a patriarchal society. However, this is where intersectionality comes into play. Ordinarily, in a patriarchal society all males benefit from male privilege, yet when one factors in race, the situation changes drastically. Due to America’s history of consistently portraying black men as a threat to the larger society, I am viewed as a menace to society by my very existence. This can be seen by the fact that when black men (or men of color in general) are gunned down by police even in the most dubious of circumstances, a chorus of voices comes out of the woodwork arguing that the individual in question should have been killed as he was a threat or was potentially going to become one. Thus, not only do people of color who are a part of the LGBT community have to deal with the constant stigma, insults, and oppression from the society at large but they must also deal with the oppression that comes from being a person of color in a white supremacist society.

One of my friends is a Muslim woman. Due to her being a woman, she must deal with the misogyny in American culture, from the intellectual belittling of women (the constant mantra of women being viewed only as ‘emotional’) to the never-ending comparison of women’s bodies to a standard of beauty that exists only in  the mind. Yet, she must also deal with the stigma that comes from being a Muslim in a society that is not only quite ignorant of Islam, but also has been taught to hate Muslims and everything to do with Islam. Due to this, she is confronted with Islamaphobic misogyny where she is belittled due to her gender, but also considered  as a danger to society because of the stereotyping of her religion.

While we realize the overlapping of oppression and how it can affect people, there can be instances where a person is oppressed in one way, but has freedoms in others. This is not to say that privilege and oppression cancel each other out, but rather to acknowledge a situation that many find themselves in. One such example is a friend I have who is middle class gay white man. Though he is oppressed due to his sexuality and the homophobia and stereotypes that come with being gay, there is a major difference between himself and LGBT people of color. Other than his being gay, American society essentially rolls out a red carpet for him as he benefits from being a white male in a patriarchal society that favors whiteness.

Viewing oppression through the lens of intersectionality is empowering as not only does it give us a different manner of examining oppression and exploring ways to combat it, but this type of view also can potentially create new alliances between oppressed communities and thus create greater coalition of those working together to fight for their freedom.

Discuss

Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 08:47 AM PDT

PBS Promotes Syrian Propaganda

by DevonDB

The ‘objective’ news network PBS has been (and still is) engaging in the media propaganda war against the Syrian government, from perpetuating the myth about Syrian Migs attacking rebel fighters to calling the Syrian rebels “underdogs,” the Public Broadcasting Service is perpetuating the disinformation campaign surrounding the events in Syria.

On July 25th, PBS Newshour host Judy Woodruff interviewed Youssef Amrani, Morroco’s minister delegate for foreign affairs. In the interview, Woodruff bought up the topic of diplomacy, specifically within the framework of the UN Security Council, with Amrani stating that he wanted more sanctions and the like on the Assad regime. When Amrani stated that he thought the UN “should work with the opposition” to find a solution to the crisis, Woodruff responded by saying

Well, that brings me to the question. One of the reasons the U.S. and other countries have been reluctant to get involved, to support the opposition is because they don't know what a successor government is going to look like. We just saw in that report al-Qaida starting to show up among the opposition. (emphasis added)
Such statements are utter and outright fabrications! The US and other countries have been quite involved in supporting the opposition and Al Qaeda is not “starting to show up” in the opposition as Woodruff would like viewers to think, but rather have been there for quite some time.

In regards to the US supporting the Syrian rebels, this was first acknowledged in December 2011 on the site The American Conservative where former CIA analyst Philip Giraldi wrote an article in which he stated that “the CIA and U.S. Spec Ops are providing communications equipment and intelligence to assist the rebel cause, enabling the fighters to avoid concentrations of Syrian soldiers.” Most recently, it was reported on August 1st that President Obama “has signed a secret order authorizing U.S. support for rebels seeking to depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government.”

The US government has known that Al Qaeda has been among the Syrian rebels as in February 2012, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper stated that “Members of Al Qaeda have infiltrated Syrian opposition groups.”

Thus, the US government has been supporting the rebels since late last year and has been working with Al Qaeda (albeit indirectly) to topple the Syrian government, yet PBS seems to be concerned only with spouting lies.

In the same interview, when Woodruff asked Amrani “How can you be sure that the next government won't be as repressive as this government?,” Amrani replied by saying “Listen, we had some experiences in Libya, in Tunisia, in the Maghreb, that were successful.”

It is quite interesting that he cites Libya as a “success” as that nation, after being overrun by US-NATO backed fighters, has been plagued by violence in recent months. It makes one wonder what the minister thinks “success” actually means.

In an interview on July 26th, Judy Woodruff interviewed Kelly McEvers, a journalist from National Public Radio, after she had “just completed a weeklong reporting trip to northwestern Syria, near the Turkish border, where she visited a number of towns currently under rebel control. In the interview, McEvers was asked about the Syrian rebels. After her description of them, Woodruff stated the the rebels were outgunned to which McEvers responded

Exactly. They are so outgunned right now. They're basically operating with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades and homemade bombs.

That's another key component to their sort of arsenal right now. That's how they deal with regime tanks.

But when you talk about a fully equipped army with tanks, artillery, mortars,  
helicopters, and now we have seen jets being employed in this fight by the regime's army, you can see that the rebels are definitely the underdogs here.
(emphasis added)

This myth that the Syrian rebels are outgunned is but another fabrication. It was reported on August 2nd that the Syrian rebels were using a captured tank in the battle for Aleppo. This is not the first time this has happened as in February, the International Business Times presented a video on Youtube which showed the rebels using a tank against the Syrian military. The use of fighters jets is also a myth that is based on a single tweet from BBC correspondent Ian Pannell. The magazine The Aviationist did a report on the alleged incident of Syrian air force MiGs attacking the rebels and found that the plane in question was an L-39 “a combat trainer” which “could be used for reconnaissance purposes.” Yet, even if the Syrian regime was using fighter jets on the rebels, the rebels most likely wouldn’t have a problem as they now have surface to air missiles. Despite this evidence, McEvers still feels the need to state that the rebels “are definitely the underdogs.”

Thus, the propaganda campaign of demonizing the Assad regime and praising the US-NATO backed rebels continues with the help of such ‘reliable’ and ‘centrist’ sources as PBS. The psyop against the public continues as the imperialists push ever closer to intervention in Syria.

Discuss

Mon Jul 16, 2012 at 10:58 AM PDT

The Revolutionary Potential

by DevonDB

The Revolutionary Potential of the Queer Rights Movement

Currently the LGBT community is focused on many issues, from same sex marriage to ensuring the rights of transgendered individuals are protected. There is widespread support across the US and across the world for LGBT individuals to be accepted as equals in society and the overall movement is forcing society to change for the better, yet, underneath this is a revolutionary potential that can change society in even greater and more fundamental ways.

The current battle over same sex marriage is typically viewed under the lens that two people who love each other, no matter their sexual orientation, should be allowed to marry the same as anyone else. This is quite true and correct, but in allowing the marriage of same sex couples, it challenges the institution of marriage that is entrenched in heterosexuality. For too long lesbians and gays have been ignored, ostracized, and persecuted. They have been and in many cases still are being forced to live on the fringes of society. However, with the campaign for same sex marriage, it forces society to look at itself and acknowledge the fact that in many ways it still doesn’t live up to the values that it espouses. While some might argue that same sex marriage is redefining the definition of marriage, it must be noted that marriage has always been being redefined over the times.

Transgendered individuals, especially those who are people of color, have a great revolutionary potential as it forces society to deal with race, misogyny, and gender. Transgender issues demand a greater realization of oppression and intersectionality. (Intersectionality is realizing that oppression can come from many different avenues and those issues intersect and overlap, deepening ones oppression.) Race comes into play as trans people of color not only have to deal with the stigma it comes from being trans but also must deal with the additional effects of being a person of color in a country that favors whiteness. When transgender and feminist issues intersect and affect the lives of transgendered women, transmisogyny takes place, in which trans women are subjected to being hated and discriminated against for not conforming to certain gender roles in society. Finally, gender plays a role as transgendered individuals challenge the very notion of gender roles in a society. With all of these factors interacting and overlapping, by confronting the suffering trans people face, society is forced to confront three other forms of oppression and in dissolving that oppression, free not only trans people, but also free people of color , women, and genderqueer individuals as well as dissolve gender roles that oppress people as a whole.

Polyamorous relationships challenge the traditional notion that humans are meant to be bound in one relationship for the rest of their lives. In doing this, polyamorous individuals are showing that there is a path that differs from the one which society emphasizes and that it works, not just in the mind, but also in reality. It is expanding the notions of marriage and love.

Overall, the queer rights movement is revolutionary as it challenges the preconceived views of what love is, what marriage is, and what gender is. In doing this, the movement is expanding, evolving, and in some cases breaking down norms and stereotypes that are prevalent in our society. This only makes people freer, more accepting of themselves, and more likely to realize that we are not all that different, no matter one’s sexual orientation, relationship status, or gender identity.

Devon DB is a 20 year old independent writer and researcher. He is studying political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University. He can be contacted at devondb[at]mail[dot]com.

Discuss

Fri Jul 13, 2012 at 06:21 PM PDT

Revolutionary Freedom

by DevonDB

Please note this is a repost of an article I wrote that was published earlier this year.

Freedom. It is a something that every person wants and deserves to have, from the freedom to speak their mind without fear of persecution to the freedom to practice their religion of choice to the freedom from government involvement in their private lives. Freedoms such as these are quite important, however, freedom needs to be taken beyond matters such as these and into the territory of revolutionary freedom in order for us to truly be free.

Revolutionary freedom must be looked at in three distinct, yet interconnected ways: intellectual, political, and economic.

It has been said for quite some time that history is written by the victors. This is quite true, but there must be a closer examination of the type of history that is written by these victors. Usually, in the case of the United States, Britain, France, and other imperial colonizing powers, the histories of entire peoples and regions were rewritten to enforce racial and cultural inferiority of an indigenous population while elevating the race and culture of the colonial powers. The colonized were stripped of their actual history and had it replaced with one that was full of fabrications and distortions. This not only destroyed the indigenous population on a cultural level, but also destroyed them on a psychological level as it resulted in the near decimation of the identity of the colonized people.

In order to increase the intellectual destruction of the indigenous identity, new language was created to enforce that racial differences between colonizer and colonized and to enforce the inferiority of the latter. This resulted in a colonization of the mind in which the indigenous peoples were further degraded and more likely to develop a sense of self-hatred in which they would attempt to detach themselves from their identity in order to be more like their oppressors.

This destruction of history and of self-identity has affected people all over the world. Yet there is hope. It can be overcome by people writing histories from their points of view, whether it be in a nonfictional or fictional manner. What matters is that people write the history of their country from their point of view. This would aid in the reestablishment of their identities and the reclaiming of their history.

Currently, around the world the United States and other Western powers are propping up corrupt and morally bankrupt regimes such as the regimes of Saudi Arabia, which hasn’t been affected by the Arab Spring, and Bahrain, which has been murdering its own civilians for quite some time. There are also many corrupt regimes in Africa whose leaders borrow money from the World Bank and the IMF and, rather than using it to improve the quality of life for ordinary citizens, embezzle large amounts of it for personal use. Both external forces and government incompetence/corruption are major problems that result in the people having to pay the price.

Yet, this price is paid multiple times. It is paid in that the country as a whole is not allowed to chart its own political destiny. It is paid in the form of the social genocide that is austerity, when the World Bank and the IMF come in with their structural adjustment programs, in order to get back the money owed to them with interest. It is paid in the form of the sovereignty of a country being handed over to foreign powers that care not about the citizens, but rather about the resources that a country has and how it plays into their larger geo-political chess game.

This can change only when the people rise up and take back their country. This occurred somewhat in the Arab Spring, but the end results are still quite murky. In taking back their country, the people must institute systems that are accountable, transparent, and have the national interest at heart, for without all three, one runs the risk of returning to a corrupt regime. Yet in doing this, one must be careful as to not allow for foreign influences to come into play and unravel the struggle and sacrifice that people have made to get to that point.

Just as important, perhaps even more so, to reclaiming the political sphere is the reclamation of the economic sphere. In so-called Third World nations, countries are routinely pillaged by the West in the form of the IMF and the World Bank as to allow for Western corporations to come in and control the economic resources, which ultimately allows for these same corporations to control a country’s political destiny. These leeches need to be ejected and the economy taken back in the form of it being used to produce for the many and increase the national wealth as a whole. The money gained would be reinvested by the government into developing a quality education program and develop new industries. The reclamation of the economy is of crucial importance because without economic liberation, there can be no political liberation. This can be seen in countries on the continent of Africa, where they are politically independent, but exercise no economic independence.

All of these are interconnected due to the fact that without intellectual freedom, we will not know who we are and how we got to this point in history. Without knowing how we got here, we won't be able to take back the political and economic system, and if we aren't able to take back the economic system, then political freedom is meaningless.

In order to truly be free, we must have revolutionary freedom.

Discuss

Tue Jul 10, 2012 at 08:03 PM PDT

Intervention In Syria

by DevonDB

Intervention In Syria: What Could Happen?

Currently, the crisis in Syria is chaotic and ever-changing with the situation consistently on uneven ground. The ongoing fighting between Western-backed rebel forces and the Syrian regime have plunged the country into a civil war and many government figures, such as US Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman, as well as Vice Israeli Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz, have argued for armed intervention against the Syrian regime. It must be realized that tensions are quite high, as can be seen by the current debacle over a Turkish plane being downed. There are competing claims as to whose airspace it was in when the plane was shot down with the Turks, while admitting violating Syrian airspace, claimed that the plane was shot down in international waters while the Syria claims that it was taken down in their airspace. The wreckage was found in Syrian territorial waters. This tense situation has resulted in the Turks threatening military action if there is “any future violation of its border by Syrian military elements.”[1]While the situation is still murky, military intervention has not been taken off the table. A view of what is at stake for major players, how an intervention would go about, and what its effects on the region could potentially be is thus needed.

Who Cares About Syria?

There are several major players in the Syrian crisis on both the regional and international scene, each with its own interests and objectives concerning Syria in the geo-political, military, and economic realms. While many of these actors are allied with one another, be it military pact or an alliance of convenience, it does not mean that their interests are the same, and as such one must examine the interests of each actor on an individual level.

The United States

The United States has its concerns with Syria that are primarily linked to Iran and terrorist organizations. In April 2010, the US government acknowledged that Syria “continue[d] to support Hamas and Hezbollah” and had financial relations with Iran as Iranian companies “invested in concrete production, power generation, and urban transportation.”[2] At that time, such involvement with Iran was viewed as a problem for US interests due to their being the possibility of an Israeli strike on Iran. [3] The Syrian-Iranian alliance would potentially prove a problem for the US and Israel if a strike had occurred as it could have allowed the Iranians to wage an effective retaliation on Israel, thus harming America’s interests by damaging a main regional ally. Today, the unease concerning the Syria-Iran alliance remains.

As of the recent civil war in Syria, the US seems to be hoping for the ousting of the Assad regime, stating that were the rebels to be found victorious in the civil war, “a more democratic Syria may seek to broaden its relationships with Western democracies and could choose to reduce its dependence on its current alliance with Iran.” [4] Yet, while the US may want a rebel victory, they are worried about infiltration of the Syrian opposition by terrorist groups, namely Al Qaeda.

The Americans have been worried about the Syrian opposition being infiltrated for quite some time, with US officials stating this year that “the violence and disorder paralyzing Syria appears to be creating opportunities for Al Qaeda operatives or other violent Islamist extremists to infiltrate the country and conduct or plan attacks” and that “Sunni extremists have infiltrated Syrian opposition groups, which may be unaware of the infiltration.” [5] Yet, this infiltration of Sunni extremists becomes rather interesting when one acknowledges that the US knows Al Qaeda is in the Syrian opposition and that the US is supporting the opposition. Al Qaeda’s presence in the Syrian rebel groups was acknowledged in February by Director of Intelligence James R. Clapper when he said that “Members of al-Qaeda have infiltrated Syrian opposition groups, and likely executed recent bombings in the nation’s capital and largest city.” [6] Most recently, it was reported that the CIA was giving arms to the Syrian rebels. [7] Thus, not only is the US aiding to arm elements of Al Qaeda, but also the US and Al Qaeda are (however indirectly) working together to dismantle the Assad regime. What peculiar bedfellows this situation is making!

The final interest that the US has in the Syrian crisis is taking out a major Iranian ally. As was stated earlier, a Syrian-Iranian alliance deeply troubles the US and taking Syria out of the picture would aid America in its quest to isolate Iran on a regional level. If the Assad regime were to fall, it would “cut off Iran’s access to its proxies (Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza) and visibly dent its domestic and international prestige, possibly forcing a hemorrhaging regime in Tehran to suspend its nuclear policies.” [8] Furthermore, with the Assads gone, it would result in Iran having no Middle East ally and being fully isolated, which would make it easier to invade or attack, seeing as how regime change in Iran is not off the table either.

Israel

Regarding the Assad situation, Israel is in a rather unenviable situation of essentially having to choose between an enemy it does know or siding with an unknown group that may be even more hostile to Israel.

Israel may choose to deal with the Assad regime, but not due to any fondness for it. It should be acknowledged that “Syria fought Israel directly in October 1973 and via proxy in Lebanon between 1982 and 2000. Since 2000, Syria has continued to support Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.” [9] Yet, while Israel is no fan of the current government, they do realize that “the Assad regime will not attempt to repossess the Golan Heights by military force and will meet with Israeli leaders to negotiate for peace, which occurred in 1991, 1995-1996, 1999-2001, and 2008.” [10] Thus, while Assad may not be the friendliest neighbor, they are better than the alternative.

In addition to this, if a new regime is established that has more popular support than the current government (last checked, Assad had the support of 55% of the population [11]), it would allow for the Syrian government to position its military resources to external threats, namely the Jewish state. Thus, from an Israeli security standpoint it is better for the Syrian government to be tied up in suppressing rebels rather than potentially threatening Israel.

Just like the Americans, the situation regarding Iran is also at the front of the minds of the Israeli government, however it may not be for the reasons that one would assume. While governments and the media have been stating for years now that Iran is attempting to get nuclear weapons, in reality, Israeli (along with American and European) intelligence has acknowledged that “Tehran does not have a bomb, has not decided to build one, and is probably years away from having a deliverable nuclear warhead.” [12] (emphasis added) Thus, if Iran is “years away from having a deliverable nuclear warhead,” much less building a nuclear weapon, this leads one to wonder what the real reason is that Israel is so worried about Iran possibly attaining nuclear weapons? The real reason is that Israel is worried about losing its nuclear monopoly in the region and security risks that come with it.

Israel's real fear -- losing its nuclear monopoly and therefore the ability to use its conventional forces at will throughout the Middle East -- is the unacknowledged factor driving its decision-making toward the Islamic Republic. For Israeli leaders, the real threat from a nuclear-armed Iran is not the prospect of an insane Iranian leader launching an unprovoked nuclear attack on Israel that would lead to the annihilation of both countries. It's the fact that Iran doesn't even need to test a nuclear weapon to undermine Israeli military leverage in Lebanon and Syria. Just reaching the nuclear threshold could embolden Iranian leaders to call on their proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah, to attack Israel, knowing that their adversary would have to think hard before striking back. (emphasis added) [13]
Thus, Israel does see Iran as a threat but much more to its regional military hegemony than rather a threat to its very existence.

Finally, Israel both the current Assad regime and Iran come into play with Israel’s final regional interest, Hezbollah. Israel is worried that they may gain non-conventional weapons if the Assad regime fell. Most likely, Israel is concerned about Hezbollah coming into chemical and biological weapons as they are already rehearsing drills for if such a situation were to occur. [14] Such an occurrence would empower the terrorist group and by extension its financier, Iran, as well as become a potential security concern. The Israeli government realizes that “The outcome of the internal conflict in Syria will have a decisive impact on Hizbullah's strength and behavior, as well as on the political and security situation in Lebanon generally, and on Israel's relationship with Lebanon,” [15] and this are keeping a close eye on the situation in Lebanon and how what occurs in Syria affects their northern neighbor.

Russia

Russia’s concerns about Syria stem from its military and commercial interests in Syria as well as its worries about the radical Islamist elements in the Syrian opposition and protecting its own borders.

Putin is pushing against military intervention due to the fact that the Kremlin think that “allowing the United States to use force at will and without any external constraints might lead to foreign interventions close to Russian borders, or even within those borders—namely, in the North Caucasus.” [16] This possibility of intervention near Russia’s borders alarms the government as NATO has already been busy allying itself with many of the satellite states of the former Soviet Union in addition to the creation and implementation of the European missile shield. Russia may view such a possibility as an attempt to isolate and intimidate Russia.

Two other concerns of Russia are its commercial and military interests. In Syria, Russia maintains control of its naval base in Tartus, its only access to the Mediterranean sea. However, If Russia were to lose this base, it would hurt doubly as not only would Russia lose Middle East projection power, but also access to much of the natural gas and oil that is in the Mediterranean [17] and the power that comes with controlling such resources. There are also commercial interests at stake as “Russia has long been Syria's primary military supplier and currently has about $4 billion worth of contracts for future arms deliveries to Damascus.” Having a client for military weaponry is important but beyond that, “Russian companies have made a number of investments in Syria. These projects are worth roughly $20 billion and include some from Russia's powerful energy sector, such as a natural gas production facility and pipeline.” [18] Thus, the loss of the Assad regime would not only hurt the defense sector, but would also harm the massive investments made in the Syrian energy sector.

Finally, Russia is deeply concerned with the extreme Islamist elements in the Syrian opposition. Russia backs Assad as they realize that “if the regime in Damascus falls, the whole ‘terrorist international’ that is now fighting against Bashar al-Assad will begin to fight elsewhere. It is quite possible that the fighting could spread to the Caucasus or Central Asia.” [19] Such a possibility worries the Kremlin as the rebels in the Chechnya region have many Islamic links, including having Al Qaeda fight alongside them. [20] In the mind of the Kremlin the Islamist threat is quite serious as it potentially threatens not only their rule but also the stability of the country.

Turkey

Turkey, a close neighbor of Syria, also has many vested interests in seeing the fall of the Assad regime. The Turks view the situation through the lens of their economic and foreign policy interests as well as their domestic interests in relation to the Kurdish situation.

Turkey has viewed Syria quite some time as a stepping stone on its way to “become a political, economic and self-described ‘moral’ leader in the Middle East.” Economically, the Syrian crisis concerns Turkey, who has made major economic gains because of trade between the two nations. The Turkish government is concerned about

creating an environment that is conducive to the flowering of Turkish trade and the expansion of the Turkish economy. In that sense, one of Ankara’s main interests vis-à-vis Syria is to use the country as an outlet for Turkish exporters, particularly from the highly entrepreneurial regions bordering Syria, such as Gaziantep and Hatay. The statistics from the last few years demonstrate the success of this policy: Turkish exports to Syria skyrocketed from $266 million in 2002 to $1.6 billion in 2010. (emphasis added) [21]
On a regional scale, there is a battle between Iran and Turkey over influence in Syria. Turkey and Iran are both attempting to influence the Syrian regime for their own purposes. To Turkey, Syria would be “the proving ground for Turkey’s moderating effects on its neighbors and the place to showcase Turkey’s role as a kind of regional reform whisperer. Ties to Syria were seen as the cornerstone of a new regional order, one based on more open borders and the free flow of goods and people.” [22] Turkey needs to keep Syria in its sphere of influence if it is to establish a new regional order in which Turkey is the leader.

The Kurdish question also plays into Turkey’s concern about the situation in Syria. The Turkish leadership looks forward to the fall of the Assad regime as it would allow for “Kurdish rights [to] be recognised within ‘the unity of the Syrian state.’ Thus, Syria's Kurds would be prevented from gaining any form of autonomy, the PKK's branch in Syria - the Democratic Union Party (PYD) - would be undermined, and Turkey's own Kurdish separatist movement would not be further inflamed.” [23] Keeping the Kurds in line and pacification them is quite important to the Turkish government as the Kurds have demands that range from recognition of cultural rights to the creation of a Kurdish state that includes majority Kurd areas in Turkey. Thus, Turkey must attempt to play all sides in order to ensure that it comes out on top.

Iran

Iran is a steadfast ally of Assad and a longtime ally of Syria. Yet even close allies have their own reasons for supporting the current regime. While economic and military interests play a role, a unique factor in this relationship is that the leadership of both regimes are of the Shite sect of Islam in a region that is filled with those of the Sunni sect.

Just like Russia, Iran has major economic ties to Syria as can be seen by the fact that Syria gives Iran a place to invest money and a trading partner. “Iran has high-profile assets like auto factories, a cement plant, and an oil refinery in Syria, all of which rely on the stability of the Assad regime. Leaders in the two nations also share theological ties, as Shiite Muslims, and a mutual distaste for the West.” [24] This economic alliance is made all the more important with the international trade sanctions that have afflicted Iran’s economy for years.

Iran is also concerned about its aid to Hezbollah as such a blow would affect Iran itself. Syria has allowed Iran to “transform Hezbollah into a force that the Israeli military cannot defeat.” If the Assad government falls, Iran will find itself without a way to back Hezbollah and result in a “[decrease in] Iran's ability to deter Israel from attacking its nuclear facilities.” [25] Thus, Iran needs Syria as part of a larger strategy to deter Israeli aggression.

China

While far away in Asia, the Chinese government has extremely large investments in Syria and is backing the Assad government as a way to ensure the needed stability- and cash flow- continues unabated.

China has made major investments into Syria. In 2007 it was reported that the real figure of Chinese exports to Syria is around  $1.2 billion and that Syrian officials predicted it would double by 2011 [26], meaning that the Chinese government has about $2.4 billion in investments that are currently at stake.

It also needs to be addressed that the majority of China’s imports from Syria are oil and crude oil imports. Oil is something that China greatly needs if it is to continue fueling its massive economic growth and growing military power. While the US has the governments of most of the major oil producing nations under its influence, China has been looking outward, from Africa to Middle Eastern enemies of the West, in order to attain natural resources. While it may not seem like it, China, without a doubt, wants to ensure that its investments as well as the transfer of oil is protected whether regime change occurs or not.

Military Intervention?

While the question of whether or not there will be a military intervention in Syria on behalf of the rebels, that option has not been taken off the table. There have been many calls for intervention from many prominent figures such as Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman in the US [27] and Vice Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz in Israel. [28] There is still the possibility that a military intervention would occur and as such, it is needed that the military capabilities of all the potential players involved, including the Syrian military itself, be examined.

The United States

While the intervention would without a doubt include European NATO members and potentially Western allies in the Middle East, it is quite likely that the US will have its regional military assets actively involved in the military intervention.

The Middle East region is covered by the US military command Central Command (CentCom). While CentCom has no fighting units that are directly subordinate to it, the command does have naval, ground, marine, air, and special forces components. If an intervention occurs, the US could activate its nearby Fifth Fleet in Bahrain which consists of “20-plus ships, with about 1,000 people ashore and 15,000 afloat, consists of a Carrier Battle Group, Amphibious Ready Group, combat aircraft, and other support units and ships.” [29] In the region the US has the aircraft carrier the USS Enterprise and several air force bases including Incirlik and Izmir in Turkey, as well as Camp Udairi in Kuwait which serves as a base for Middle Eastern Theater reserve soldiers. [30] Such air bases as well as the Enterprise would be useful for the US to do such things as launch airstrikes, deploy special forces to aid and train the rebels, bomb Syrian military forces, and give supplies to the rebels. If an intervention occurs, air power by itself would not fully tip the scale to the side of the rebels as it is ground forces, rather than air forces, that are doing the most damage. An intervention in Syria could play into a changing in US military doctrine, at least for the US Third Army which is connected to CentCom. Third Army plans on (or is already) adopting a new strategy known as the campaign plan which is defined as “a series of major operations and efforts across the joint, interagency and multinational spectrums aimed at achieving strategic and operational objectives in a defined time and space” [31] An intervention in Syria which would allow them to coordinate with allied forces would give them such a scenario as to achieve “strategic and operational objectives in a defined time and space” and allow Third Army to see what needs work in their campaign plan.

It has been reported that that US and its allies are currently discussing with Middle Eastern allies about the situation in Syria.

The United States, Britain and France have all been discussing contingency scenarios, potential training and sharing of intelligence about what is happening in Syria with neighboring countries including Jordan, Turkey and Israel. But it is Jordan, so far, that is most seeking the help because of its relatively small military and potential need for outside help if unrest in southern Syria were to impact Jordan's security. (emphasis added) [32]
This is quite important to note as it implies that the Western forces may be preparing, at least partially, for some type of intervention into Syria.

Russia

Russia already has a naval base that it desperately wants to keep, however, that is not the full extent of Russia’s military capability concerning Syria.

According to Pavel Felgenhauer, an independent defense analyst based in Moscow, the Russian military is preparing “the 76th Pskov Airborne Division, the 15th Army brigade from Samara, as well as GRU special forces from the South Military District” and that “The Secretary General of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) Nikolai Bordyuzha also remarked on the possibility of a CSTO peacekeeping force being deployed in Syria.” [33] Thus, it seems that Russia is ready and willing to defend its interests in Syria with military force, if the need arises.

This would present quite a problem for the US and its NATO and Arab allies if an intervention were to occur as a Russian military presence as well as Russian military backing for the Assad regime would make it much more difficult for their intervention to succeed. If Russia does go into Syria while the intervention was occurring, it could potentially make any place Russian soldiers reside a stronghold for the Assad regime as the US-NATO-Arab alliance would have to avoid killing Russian troops, even accidentally, lest it risk greatly escalating the conflict.

Iran

Iran has been doing much to support and prop up the Assad regime. It was reported in March that Iran was increasing its aid to Assad in the form of  “dispatch[ing] hundreds of advisers, security officials and intelligence operatives to Syria, along with weapons, money and electronic surveillance equipment.” [34] The United States went so far as to state that it had “evidence of Iranian military and intelligence support for government troops accused of mass executions and other atrocities.” [35] In May the Guardian reported that the Iranian government had sent members of its Quds force to aid government troops. [36] A reason this could be occurring is for the sake of Iran’s national security as the Iranian government knows that if Assad falls, then it is almost only a matter of time before the US-NATO-Israeli alliance either attacks Iran’s nuclear facilities or invades it outright.

Syria

The Syrian military is quite different from that of Mummar Gaddafi’s Libya, with a larger army and air force, as well as advanced air defense capabilities.

The Syrian air defense system is composed of

Major surface-to-air missiles (Sams) - 25 air defence brigades, 150 Sam batteries, 320 SA-2 missiles, 148 SA-3, 195 SA-6 and 44 SA-5

Light Sams - 8,184+, including 4,000+ SA-7/SA-18 Igla Man-Portable Air Defence Systems (Manpads)

Anti-aircraft guns - 1,225 guns [37]

The SA-2 has a ceiling range of 60,000 feet [38] which is the same as the flight ceiling of an F-22 Raptor [39], thus the US could potentially have a difficult time taking out Syria’s anti-aircraft system with the F-22s that it has in the region. It is also important to note that in 2007 the Israeli Defense Force stated that Syria possessed “the most crowded antiaircraft system in the world” and that “According to one estimate, the Syrians hold more than 200 anti-aircraft batteries of different types.” [40]  This only reinforces the notion that air power alone will not do the job if an intervention is to take place and that the intervening countries may have to send in special forces soldiers if they are to complete their objective of overthrowing the current regime.

In addition to this, the Syrian military is actively preparing for an intervention by conducting large-scale exercises for such a scenario,[41] which will make an intervention all the more difficult.

Post-Intervention Effects?

If an intervention does occur, it is almost certain that there will be little to no similarities between the Syrian intervention and the Libyan one. Yet, there will be one major similarity in that there will be major effects on not just the nation of Syria but on the region as a whole.

The country that is most going to be affected by a fall of the Assad regime is Lebanon. Over the past month there has been a major flare-up in ethnic tensions between the Alawite and Sunni communities in Lebanon, which have resulted in major firefights between the two groups. [42] This is quite problematic due to the fact that if there is already a considerable amount of violence in the country and there has been no intervention, then there is a possibility that the violence will explode if an intervention occurs. Israel must also be taken into account as the two countries share a border and if there is large-scale violence in Lebanon then Israel will most likely beef up its military presence on its northern border.

Besides ethnic tensions, an ousting of Assad would hurt the Lebanese economy even more than it already has as the Lebanese economy is deeply connected with Syria and is affected by any political, economic, or social unrest that occurs there.

Pro-Syrian business interests are deeply influential within the Lebanese economy. The current unrest has significantly affected the Lebanese economy overall; the effects are particularly noticeable in trade relations, the banking industry, and tourism. Within Syria, the unrest has primarily impacted its oil and tourism industries.
[...]
According to the Lebanese Ministry of Tourism, tourism in Lebanon decreased by 25% in the first seven months of 2011.Approximately 25% of all tourist arrivals in Lebanon travel via Syria. Tourist activity on the Lebanese-Syrian border has decreased between 75%-90%. [43]
Greater economic distress on top of an already damaged economy and increased sectarian violence would most likely only increase violence in the country and make an already bad situation even worse.

Hezbollah would also be affected by regime change as “Without Syrian backing and without supply routes passing from Iran to Lebanon, through Syria, it is doubtful whether Hezbollah will continue to be the dominant player in Lebanon.” [44] The supply routes are quite important as they allow Hezbollah to attain weapons and aid from Iran which in turn allows the group to maintain a powerful position in Lebanese politics. Without the aid, the organization's position would be considerably weakened.  A weakened Hezbollah also means a weakened Iran as “Under the new circumstances, these moderate forces will have a chance to finally put an end to the entrenchment of the armed militias, which serve Iranian, rather than Lebanese, interests” and Iran will no longer have an ally to aid in retaliation if Israel and its allies attack it.

Israel is also getting prepared for a potential backlash if the Assad regime falls. They are most concerned with Syria’s biological and chemical weapons could fall into the hands of Hezbollah militants which would endanger the lives of Israelis living near the Israeli-Lebanese border. Such a possibility has prompted Northern Command Chief Maj. Gen. Yair Golan to state that “The IDF has the capability to take over in a relatively short period of time the launching sites which threaten Israel’s home front, and defeat Hezbollah terrorists at these sites,” [45] as to reassure the populace that they would be safe.

Whether or not there is an intervention into Syria and to what extent no one knows, however, if there is one, the stakes will be high and the potential for catastrophe will be even higher. Overall, it seems that an intervention would do more harm than good. An intervention would only open up a Pandora’s box that we may wish had stayed closed.

Endnotes

1: “Turkey threatens Syria with retaliation over downed military jet,” Fox News, June 26, 2012 (http://www.foxnews.com/...)

2: Jeremy M. Sharp, Syria: Background and U.S. Relations, Congressional Research Service http://fpc.state.gov/... (April 26, 2010)

3: Ian Black, “Israel primed to attack a nuclear Iran,” Guardian [UK], November 28, 2010 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/...)

4: Jeremy M. Sharp, Syria: Issues for the 112th Congress and Background on U.S. Sanctions, Congressional Research Service http://assets.opencrs.com/... (April 28, 2011)

5: Christopher M. Blanchard, Jeremy M. Sharp, Syria: Unrest and U.S. Policy, Congressional Research Service http://www.fas.org/... (May 24, 2012)

6: Greg Miller, “Al-Qaeda infiltrating Syrian opposition, U.S. officials say,” Washington Post, February 16, 2012 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/...)

7: Eric Schmitt, “C.I.A. Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Opposition,” New York Times, June 21, 2012 (http://www.nytimes.com/...)

8: Efraim Halevy, “Iran’s Achilles’ Heel,” New York Times, February 7, 2012 (http://www.nytimes.com/...)

9: Giorgio Cafiero, “Syria: America versus Israel,” Asia Times, June 6, 2012 (http://www.atimes.com/...)

10: Asia Times, June 6, 2012

11: Jonathan Steele, “Most Syrians back President Assad, but you'd never know from western media,” Guardian [UK], January 17, 2012 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/...)

12: Mark Hosenball, Tabassum Zakaria, “Special Report: Intel shows Iran nuclear threat not imminent,” Reuters, March 23, 2012 (http://www.reuters.com/...)

13: James P. Rubin, “The Real Reason to Intervene in Syria,” Foreign Policy, June 4, 2012 (http://www.foreignpolicy.com/...)

14: Yaakov Katz, “IDF tests siren for rogue non-conventional missiles,” Jerusalem Post, July 3,
2012 (http://www.jpost.com/...)

15: Jadaliyya, The Israeli Position Towards Events In Syria, http://www.jadaliyya.com/... (February 11, 2012)

16: Dmitri Trenin, “Syria: A Russian Perspective,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, June 28, 2012 (http://carnegieendowment.org/...)

17: F. William Engdahl, “New Mediterranean oil and gas bonanza,” Russia Today, February 26, 2012 (http://www.rt.com/...)

18: James O’Toole, “Billions at stake as Russia backs Syria,” CNN Money, February 10, 2012 (http://money.cnn.com/...)

19: Alexey Pilko, “The Syrian crisis and Russia's interests,” The Voice of Russia, June 22, 2012 (http://english.ruvr.ru/...)

20: Scott Peterson, “Al Qaeda among the Chechens,” Christian Science Monitor, September 7, 2004 (http://www.csmonitor.com/...)

21: Yigal Schlefier, “From Endearment to Estrangement: Turkey’s Interests and Concerns in Syria,” United States Institute of Peace, October 25, 2011 (http://www.usip.org/...)

22: United States Institute of Peace, October 25, 2011

23: Maria Fantanpple, “Turkey eyes Syrian crisis through lens of Kurdish stability,” The National, March 23, 2012 (http://www.thenational.ae/...)

24: Jessica Rettig, “Iran Has Much to Lose if Syria's Assad Falls,” US News, September 2, 2011 (http://www.usnews.com/...)

25: Asia Times, June 6, 2012

26: Executive, Syria - China - trade partners, http://www.executive-magazine.com/... (September 2007)

27: “John McCain & Joe Lieberman on AC360 talking Syria intervention,” April 10, 2012, video clip, Youtube, http://www.youtube.com/...

28: Dan Williams, “Israel accuses Syria of genocide, urges intervention,” Reuters, June 10, 2012 (http://www.reuters.com/...)

29: Global Security, Fifth Fleet, http://www.globalsecurity.org/...

30: Ben Piven, “Map: US bases encircle Iran,” Al Jazeera English, May 1, 2012 (http://www.aljazeera.com/...)

31: United States Army Central, Third Army/ARCENT Campaign Plan Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), http://www.arcent.army.mil/...

32: Barbara Starr, “US military completes initial planning for Syria,” CNN, June 14, 2012 (http://security.blogs.cnn.com/...)

33: Pavel Felgenhauer, “The Russian Military Prepares Expeditionary Forces, Allegedly for Deployment to Syria,” The Jamestown Foundation, June 14, 2012 (http://www.jamestown.org/...)

34: Liz Sly, John Warrick, “US officials: Iran is stepping up aid to Syria,” Washington Post, March 3, 2012 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/...)

35: Washington Post, March 3, 2012

36: Saeed Kamali Dehghan, “Syrian army being aided by Iranian forces,” Guardian [UK] May, 28, 2012 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/...)

37: Jonathan Marcus, “Analysis: Options for military intervention in Syria,” BBC, June 12, 2012 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/...)

38: National Museum of the US Air Force, SA-2 Surface-to-Air Missile, http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/...

39: Global Security, F-22 Raptor Specifications, http://www.globalsecurity.org/...

40: Alex Fishman, “IDF: Syria’s antiaircraft system most advanced in world,” Ynet News, August 13, 2007 (http://www.ynetnews.com/...)

41: Today’s Zaman, Assad military conducts large-scale exercises as fighting spills into Lebanon, http://www.todayszaman.com/... (July 8. 2012)

42: Nicholas Blanford, “In Lebanon, a worrying sectarian spillover from Syria,” Christian Science Monitor, June 3, 2012 (http://www.csmonitor.com/...)

43: Rebecca A. Hopkins, Lebanon and the Uprising in Syria: Issue for Congress, Congressional Research Service http://www.fas.org/... (February 2, 2012)

44: Avigdor Lieberman, “The case of Syria could prove different,” Jerusalem Post, March 13, 2012 (http://www.jpost.com/...)

45: Jacob Edelist, “Anticipating US Intervention in Syria, Israel, Iran, Prepare for Clash,” Jewish Press, May 31, 2012 (http://www.jewishpress.com/...)

Discuss

Sun Jul 08, 2012 at 02:03 PM PDT

Who Cares About Syria?

by DevonDB

Author's Note: The following is an excerpt from an upcoming article entitled Intervention in Syria: What Could Happen? in which the interests of several major countries are examined in relation to the ongoing crisis in Syria.

There are several major players in the Syrian crisis on both the regional and international scene, each with its own interests and objectives concerning Syria in the geo-political, military, and economic realms. While many of these actors are allied with one another, be it military pact or an alliance of convenience, it does not mean that their interests are the same and as such one must examine the interests of each actor on an individual level.

The United States

The United States has its concerns with Syria that are primarily linked to Iran and terrorist organizations. In April 2010, the US government acknowledged that Syria “continue[d] to support Hamas and Hezbollah” and had financial relations with Iran as Iranian companies “invested in concrete production, power generation, and urban transportation.” [1] At that time, such involvement with Iran was viewed as a problem for US interests due to their being the possibility of an Israeli strike on Iran. [2] The Syrian-Iranian alliance would potentially prove a problem for the US and Israel if a strike had occurred as it could have allowed the Iranians to wage an effective retaliation on Israel, thus harming America’s interests by damaging a main regional ally. Today, the unease concerning the Syria-Iran alliance remains.

As of the recent civil war in Syria, the US seems to be hoping for the ousting of the Assad regime, stating that rebels were found victorious in the civil war, “a more democratic Syria may seek to broaden its relationships with Western democracies and could choose to reduce its dependence on its current alliance with Iran.” [3] Yet, while the US may want a rebel victory, they are worried about infiltration of the Syrian opposition by terrorist groups, namely Al Qaeda.

The Americans have been worried about the Syrian opposition being infiltrated for quite some time, with US officials stating this year that “the violence and disorder paralyzing Syria appears to be creating opportunities for Al Qaeda operatives or other violent Islamist extremists to infiltrate the country and conduct or plan attacks” and that “Sunni extremists have infiltrated Syrian opposition groups, which may be unaware of the infiltration.” [4] Yet, this infiltration of Sunni extremists becomes rather interesting when one acknowledges that the US knows Al Qaeda is in the Syrian opposition and that the US is supporting the opposition. Al Qaeda’s presence in the Syrian rebel groups was acknowledged in February by Director of Intelligence James R. Clapper when he said that “Members of al-Qaeda have infiltrated Syrian opposition groups, and likely executed recent bombings in the nation’s capital and largest city.” [5] Most recently, it was reported that the CIA was giving arms to the Syrian rebels. [6] Thus, not only is the US aiding to arm elements of Al Qaeda, but also the US and Al Qaeda are (however indirectly) working together to dismantle the Assad regime. What peculiar bedfellows this situation is making!

The final interest that the US has in the Syrian crisis is taking out a major Iranian ally. As was stated earlier, a Syrian-Iranian alliance deeply troubles the US and taking Syria out of the picture would aid America in its quest to isolate Iran on a regional level. If the Assad regime were to fall, it would “cut off Iran’s access to its proxies (Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza) and visibly dent its domestic and international prestige, possibly forcing a hemorrhaging regime in Tehran to suspend its nuclear policies.” [7] Furthermore, with the Assads gone, it would result in Iran having no Middle East ally and being fully isolated, which would make it easier to invade or attack, seeing as how regime change in Iran is not off the table either.

Israel

Regarding the Assad situation, Israel is in a rather unenviable situation of essentially having to choose between an enemy it does know or siding with an unknown group that may be even more hostile to Israel.

Israel may choose to deal with the Assad regime, but not due to any fondness for it. It should be acknowledged that “Syria fought Israel directly in October 1973 and via proxy in Lebanon between 1982 and 2000. Since 2000, Syria has continued to support Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.” [8] Yet, while Israel is no fan of the current government, they do realize that “the Assad regime will not attempt to repossess the Golan Heights by military force and will meet with Israeli leaders to negotiate for peace, which occurred in 1991, 1995-1996, 1999-2001, and 2008.” [9] Thus, while Assad may not be the friendliest neighbor, they are better than the alternative.

In addition to this, if a new regime is established that has more popular support than the current government (last checked, Assad had the support of 55% of the population [10]), it would allow for the Syrian government to position its military resources to external threats, namely the Jewish state. Thus, from an Israeli security standpoint it is better for the Syrian government to be tied up in suppressing rebels rather than potentially threatening Israel.

Just like the Americans, the situation regarding Iran is also at the front of the minds of the Israeli government, however it may not be for the reasons that one would assume. While governments and the media have been stating for years now that Iran is attempting to get nuclear weapons, in reality, Israeli (along with American and European) intelligence has acknowledged that “Tehran does not have a bomb, has not decided to build one, and is probably years away from having a deliverable nuclear warhead.” [11] (emphasis added) Thus, if Iran is “years away from having a deliverable nuclear warhead,” much less building a nuclear weapon, this leads one to wonder what the real reason is that Israel is so worried about Iran possibly attaining nuclear weapons? The real reason is that Israel is worried about losing its nuclear monopoly in the region and security risks that come with it.

Israel's real fear -- losing its nuclear monopoly and therefore the ability to use its conventional forces at will throughout the Middle East -- is the unacknowledged factor driving its decision-making toward the Islamic Republic. For Israeli leaders, the real threat from a nuclear-armed Iran is not the prospect of an insane Iranian leader launching an unprovoked nuclear attack on Israel that would lead to the annihilation of both countries. It's the fact that Iran doesn't even need to test a nuclear weapon to undermine Israeli military leverage in Lebanon and Syria. Just reaching the nuclear threshold could embolden Iranian leaders to call on their proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah, to attack Israel, knowing that their adversary would have to think hard before striking back. [12] (emphasis added)
Thus, Israel does see Iran as a threat but much more to its regional military hegemony than rather a threat to its very existence.

Finally, Israel both the current Assad regime and Iran come into play with Israel’s final regional interest, Hezbollah. Israel is worried that they may gain non-conventional weapons if the Assad regime fell. Most likely, Israel is concerned about Hezbollah coming into chemical and biological weapons as they are already rehearsing drills for if such a situation were to occur. [13] Such an occurrence would empower the terrorist group and by extension its financier, Iran, as well as become a potential security concern. The Israeli government realizes that “The outcome of the internal conflict in Syria will have a decisive impact on Hizbullah's strength and behavior, as well as on the political and security situation in Lebanon generally, and on Israel's relationship with Lebanon,” [14] and this are keeping a close eye on the situation in Lebanon and how what occurs in Syria affects their northern neighbor.

Russia

Russia’s concerns about Syria stem from its military and commercial interests in Syria as well as its worries about the radical Islamist elements in the Syrian opposition and protecting its own borders.

Putin is pushing against military intervention due to the fact that the Kremlin think that “allowing the United States to use force at will and without any external constraints might lead to foreign interventions close to Russian borders, or even within those borders—namely, in the North Caucasus.” [15] This possibility of intervention near Russia’s borders alarms the government as NATO has already been busy allying itself with many of the satellite states of the former Soviet Union in addition to the creation and implementation of the European missile shield. Russia may view such a possibility as an attempt to isolate and intimidate Russia.

Two other concerns of Russia are its commercial and military interests. In Syria, Russia maintains control of its naval base in Tartus, its only access to the Mediterranean Sea. However, If Russia were to lose this base, it would hurt doubly as not only would Russia lose Middle East projection power, but also access to much of the natural gas and oil that is in the Mediterranean [16] and the power that comes with controlling such resources. There are also commercial interests at stake as “Russia has long been Syria's primary military supplier and currently has about $4 billion worth of contracts for future arms deliveries to Damascus.” Having a client for military weaponry is important but beyond that, “Russian companies have made a number of investments in Syria. These projects are worth roughly $20 billion and include some from Russia's powerful energy sector, such as a natural gas production facility and pipeline.” [17] Thus, the loss of the Assad regime would not only hurt the defense sector, but would also harm the massive investments made in the Syrian energy sector.

Finally, Russia is deeply concerned with the extreme Islamist elements in the Syrian opposition. Russia backs Assad as they realize that “if the regime in Damascus falls, the whole ‘terrorist international’ that is now fighting against Bashar al-Assad will begin to fight elsewhere. It is quite possible that the fighting could spread to the Caucasus or Central Asia.” [18] Such a possibility worries the Kremlin as the rebels in the Chechnya region have many Islamic links, including having Al Qaeda fight alongside them. [19] In the mind of the Kremlin the Islamist threat is quite serious as it potentially threatens not only their rule but also the stability of the country.

Turkey

Turkey, a close neighbor of Syria, also has many vested interests in seeing the fall of the Assad regime. The Turks view the situation through the lens of their economic and foreign policy interests as well as their domestic interests in relation to the Kurdish situation.

Turkey has viewed Syria quite some time as a stepping stone on its way to “become a political, economic and self-described ‘moral’ leader in the Middle East.” Economically, the Syrian crisis concerns Turkey, who has made major economic gains because of trade between the two nations. The Turkish government is concerned about

creating an environment that is conducive to the flowering of Turkish trade and the expansion of the Turkish economy. In that sense, one of Ankara’s main interests vis-à-vis Syria is to use the country as an outlet for Turkish exporters, particularly from the highly entrepreneurial regions bordering Syria, such as Gaziantep and Hatay. The statistics from the last few years demonstrate the success of this policy: Turkish exports to Syria skyrocketed from $266 million in 2002 to $1.6 billion in 2010. (emphasis added) [20]
On a regional scale, there is a battle between Iran and Turkey over influence in Syria. Turkey and Iran are both attempting to influence the Syrian regime for their own purposes. To Turkey, Syria would be “the proving ground for Turkey’s moderating effects on its neighbors and the place to showcase Turkey’s role as a kind of regional reform whisperer. Ties to Syria were seen as the cornerstone of a new regional order, one based on more open borders and the free flow of goods and people.” [21] Turkey needs to keep Syria in its sphere of influence if it is to establish a new regional order in which Turkey is the leader.

The Kurdish question also plays into Turkey’s concern about the situation in Syria. The Turkish leadership looks forward to the fall of the Assad regime as it would allow for “Kurdish rights [to] be recognised within ‘the unity of the Syrian state.’ Thus, Syria's Kurds would be prevented from gaining any form of autonomy, the PKK's branch in Syria - the Democratic Union Party (PYD) - would be undermined, and Turkey's own Kurdish separatist movement would not be further inflamed.” [22] Keeping the Kurds in line and pacification them is quite important to the Turkish government as the Kurds have demands that range from recognition of cultural rights to the creation of a Kurdish state that includes majority Kurd areas in Turkey. Thus, Turkey must attempt to play all sides in order to ensure that it comes out on top.

Iran

Iran is a steadfast ally of Assad and a longtime ally of Syria. Yet even close allies have their own reasons for supporting the current regime. While economic and military interests play a role, a unique factor in this relationship is that the leadership of both regimes are of the Shite sect of Islam in a region that is filled with those of the Sunni sect.

Just like Russia, Iran has major economic ties to Syria as can be seen by the fact that Syria gives Iran a place to invest money and a trading partner. “Iran has high-profile assets like auto factories, a cement plant, and an oil refinery in Syria, all of which rely on the stability of the Assad regime. Leaders in the two nations also share theological ties, as Shiite Muslims, and a mutual distaste for the West.” [23] This economic alliance is made all the more important with the international trade sanctions that have afflicted Iran’s economy for years.

Iran is also concerned about its aid to Hezbollah as such a blow would affect Iran itself. Syria has allowed Iran to “transform Hezbollah into a force that the Israeli military cannot defeat.” If the Assad government falls, Iran will find itself without a way to back Hezbollah and result in a “[decrease in] Iran's ability to deter Israel from attacking its nuclear facilities.” [24] Thus, Iran needs Syria as part of a larger strategy to deter Israeli aggression.

China

While far away in Asia, the Chinese government has extremely large investments in Syria and is backing the Assad government as a way to ensure the needed stability- and cash flow- continues unabated.

China has made major investments into Syria. In 2007 it was reported that the real figure of Chinese exports to Syria is around  $1.2 billion and that Syrian officials predicted it would double by 2011 [25], meaning that the Chinese government has about $2.4 billion in investments that are currently at stake.

In addition to that, the majority of China’s imports from Syria are oil and crude oil imports. Oil is something that China greatly needs if it is to continue fueling its massive economic growth and growing military power. While the US has the governments of most of the major oil producing nations under its influence, China has been looking outward, from Africa to Middle Eastern enemies of the West, in order to attain natural resources. While it may not seem like it, China, without a doubt, wants to ensure that its investments as well as the transfer of oil are protected whether regime change occurs or not.

Endnotes

1: Jeremy M. Sharp, Syria: Background and U.S. Relations, Congressional Research Service http://fpc.state.gov/... (April 26, 2010)

2: Ian Black, “Israel primed to attack a nuclear Iran,” Guardian [UK], November 28, 2010 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/...)

3: Jeremy M. Sharp, Syria: Issues for the 112th Congress and Background on U.S. Sanctions, Congressional Research Service http://assets.opencrs.com/... (April 28, 2011)

4: Christopher M. Blanchard, Jeremy M. Sharp, Syria: Unrest and U.S. Policy, Congressional Research Service http://www.fas.org/... (May 24, 2012)

5: Greg Miller, “Al-Qaeda infiltrating Syrian opposition, U.S. officials say,” Washington Post, February 16, 2012 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/...)

6: Eric Schmitt, “C.I.A. Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Opposition,” New York Times, June 21, 2012 (http://www.nytimes.com/...)

7: Efraim Halevy, “Iran’s Achilles’ Heel,” New York Times, February 7, 2012 (http://www.nytimes.com/...)

8: Giorgio Cafiero, “Syria: America versus Israel,” Asia Times, June 6, 2012 (http://www.atimes.com/...)

9: Asia Times, June 6, 2012

10: Jonathan Steele, “Most Syrians back President Assad, but you'd never know from western media,” Guardian [UK], January 17, 2012 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/...)

11: Mark Hosenball, Tabassum Zakaria, “Special Report: Intel shows Iran nuclear threat not imminent,” Reuters, March 23, 2012 (http://www.reuters.com/...)

12: James P. Rubin, “The Real Reason to Intervene in Syria,” Foreign Policy, June 4, 2012 (http://www.foreignpolicy.com/...)

13: Yaakov Katz, “IDF tests siren for rogue non-conventional missiles,” Jerusalem Post, July 3, 2012 (http://www.jpost.com/...)

14: Jadaliyya, The Israeli Position Towards Events In Syria, http://www.jadaliyya.com/... (February 11, 2012)

15: Dmitri Trenin, “Syria: A Russian Perspective,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, June 28, 2012 (http://carnegieendowment.org/...)

16: F. William Engdahl, “New Mediterranean oil and gas bonanza,” Russia Today, February 26, 2012 (http://www.rt.com/...)

17: James O’Toole, “Billions at stake as Russia backs Syria,” CNN Money, February 10, 2012 (http://money.cnn.com/...)

18: Alexey Pilko, “The Syrian crisis and Russia's interests,” The Voice of Russia, June 22, 2012 (http://english.ruvr.ru/...)

19: Scott Peterson, “Al Qaeda among the Chechens,” Christian Science Monitor, September 7, 2004 (http://www.csmonitor.com/...)

20: Yigal Schlefier, “From Endearment to Estrangement: Turkey’s Interests and Concerns in Syria,” United States Institute of Peace, October 25, 2011 (http://www.usip.org/...)

21: United States Institute of Peace, October 25, 2011

22: Maria Fantanpple, “Turkey eyes Syrian crisis through lens of Kurdish stability,” The National, March 23, 2012 (http://www.thenational.ae/...)

23: Jessica Rettig, “Iran Has Much to Lose if Syria's Assad Falls,” US News, September 2, 2011 (http://www.usnews.com/...)

24: Asia Times, June 6, 2012

25: Executive, Syria - China - trade partners, http://www.executive-magazine.com/... (September 2007)

Discuss

Sun Jul 01, 2012 at 07:25 PM PDT

Queer Anarchy

by DevonDB

Author's Note: Please note that this is a repost of an article I published earlier in the year.

The state itself is a form of oppression.

In a modern-day context this may seem like a false statement, however it is quite true. The state oppresses and restrains us every day, keeping us back from our full potential through its laws and security apparatus that enforce the whims of the state. Yet, this is not only done on a physical and economic level, but is also done based on one’s sexuality and gender identity. Yet, to get a fuller understanding of how the state oppresses us based on sexuality or gender identity, it is first necessary to ask the question: What is the state?

The state can be defined in many ways; however there are several definitions that are accepted such as Max Weber’s definition that the state is “a human community that successfully claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory.” It can also be defined in a geographical sense using borders. However, at its heart, the state is made up of people. While these people may be of different genders or racial/ethnic groups and hold different positions in the state apparatus, they still make up the state itself. Merriam-Webster defines the state as “a politically organized body of people usually occupying a definite territory.” This “politically organized body of people,” in a modern context, refers to what is called the federal government.

However, we must take a deeper look at Weber’s definition. He states in his definition that the state has a “monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force.” What does that say about the state, that it needs the use of physical force in order for its creation? It says that the state itself is inherently violent and that it needs the consistent use of force in order to maintain its validity, for without the use of force, the state will no longer exist. In this, there comes the realization that the concept of the state is in many ways forced down the throats of the individual and they are forced to accept it.

In the United States and Western nations in general, the federal government has the power to create laws and initiatives that may seem as if they are in the best interest of the public, but are in reality much more about continuing the power of the state. In order to better understand this, one must look at the state not as some faceless entity, but rather as a gang of political elites and their financiers. The entire purpose of these political elite is to further their own power. One may be familiar with this in the examples that can be seen under the Bush and Obama administrations.

After 9/11 Bush used the tragedy as an excuse to further centralize power in the Executive Branch, but on a larger level to expand the power of the state, allowing for the state to intrude on the lives of private citizens and to begin the creation of the surveillance state that is so prevalent today. Obama furthered the power of the state when he signed the National Defense Authorization Act which allows for the indefinite detention of US citizens and argued that the President has the power to engage in extrajudicial assassinations of US citizens. Yet, while the state is biased towards expanding its own power, it must also be examined in the framework of sexuality and gender identity and how that plays into the role of oppressing others.

The state recognizes and validates the relations of heterosexual couples by allowing them to get married and giving with them a number of benefits. [1] The state have even gone so far as to define heterosexual marriage as the legal marriage, one only need to look at the Defense Of Marriage Act (which is still in effect) to see this. This oppresses queer people in a legalistic and psychological sense. Queers are oppressed psychologically as not only are they viewed in a negative manner and ostracized on a regular basis and by not allowing queer marriage (this also includes polyamorous relationships), it only serves to reinforce the notion that they are underprivileged citizens and alienates them from the larger society.

There is economic oppression in the form of wage gaps and hiring discrimination. Currently, it is legal in 29 states to fire an employee based on sexual orientation and the number increases to 34 if they are transgender. [2] While there is a law that aims to end this so far nothing has been put into place and actually the situation is getting worse. A 1995 study revealed that “between 16% and 46% of [lesbian, gay, or bisexual people surveyed] reported having experienced some form of discrimination in employment (in hiring, promotion, firing, or harassment).” [3] Today the situation has little changed. [4]

This has a major negative impact on queers on both an individual and group level as their earnings are lower than a heterosexual person’s would be, thus contributing to them being more likely to be poor, especially if they are same sex couples. [5] In the state now enacting legislation to deal with this problem, they are, at most, engaging in oppressing queers, or, at least, acting as an accessory to their oppression.

The state is further oppressing queers in the form of voter suppression, especially transgendered individuals.

Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin have all passed laws requiring voters to present a government-issued photo identification before casting a ballot. But the laws impose unique barriers on transgender individuals, since many do not have an updated identification — such as a driver’s license — that lists their correct gender. [6]
This would deter queer individuals from making attempts to end their oppression in a manner consistent with the current status quo, that of legalistic reform than actual radical change.

Yet, this oppression by the state is not only in the West but can be seen all over in the world. In the African country of Uganda, there was originally a bill bought up in Parliament that argued that anyone who was caught engaging in homosexual activity should receive the death penalty. While this particular part of the bill was retracted, the bill still generally criminalized the “promotion” of homosexuality. In the country of Indonesia, an LGBT rights advocacy website was banned, with the government deeming it “pornographic.” [7] Even the much-touted Europe isn’t safe for all members of the queer community as 17 European countries force transgender sterilization. [8]

Throughout the world, members of the queer community are actively under attack by the state. The state has always betrayed us and continues to be a source of oppression for the queer community. We need to realize that while it seems that the oppression may end with the passing of same sex marriage or the criminalization of discriminatory practices against queers, it will only be a first step in a battle against the state. The oppression could still take different forms, such as institutionalizing discrimination. The only way we may every truly be free is with the destruction of the state.

Notes

1: Nolo, Marriage and Rights Benefits,
http://www.nolo.com/...

2: Human Rights Campaign, Pass ENDA Now End Workplace Discrimination, http://sites.hrc.org/...

3: M. V. Lee Badgett, “The Wage Effects of Sexual Orientation Discrimination,” Industrial and Labor Relations Review 48 (July 1995): 728

4: Crosby Burns, Jeff Krehely, “Gay and Transgender People Face High Rates of Workplace Discrimination and Harassment,” Center for American Progress, June 2, 2011
http://www.americanprogress.org/...

5: Lauren Keiper, “Children of gay families more like to be poor: study,” Reuters, October 25,
2011 http://www.reuters.com/...

6: Eric W. Dolan, “Voter ID laws could disenfranchise more than 25,000 transgender voters: study,” Raw Story, April 15, 2012
http://www.rawstory.com/...

7: International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, IGLHRC Website Banned,
http://www.iglhrc.org/... (February 7, 2012)

8: Nicole Pasulka, “17 European Countries Force Transgender Sterilization,” Mother Jones, February 16, 2012
http://motherjones.com/...

Discuss

Thu Jun 28, 2012 at 04:04 PM PDT

Slavery By Another Name

by DevonDB

Author's Note: Please note that this is a reposting of an article I wrote in late May of this year for The Prison Project.

Slavery By Another Name: The Convict Lease System

After the Civil War, the 13th, 14th, and 15th Constitutional amendments were passed which aided newly freed slaves in being equally treated under the law, or so the story goes. The fact of the matter is that slavery was- and still is- completely legal in the United States and not only that, but it took on a much different form. The institution of slavery changed as instead of having the direct enslavement of blacks with an entire apparatus that had to be created to keep slaves in their condition, elements of the state apparatus were used to enslave blacks, namely the legal and prison systems. Yet, the enslavement itself was changed as black convicts were no longer slaves to individual masters, but rather they were enslaved to the companies which they were leased out to. To create this system there not only had to be the involvement of the Southern judicial system and individual Northern and Southern elites, but also the involvement of the corporation and reinstitution of slavery within a corporate context.

The 13th Amendment

To attain a full understanding of the convict lease system, there must first be a reexamination of the 13th amendment. It has been stated in history books and in classrooms across America that this amendment ended slavery, yet this is quite false. The 13th Amendment states “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” [1] (emphasis added) Thus, slavery is completely and totally legal if it is part (or the whole) of a punishment for someone who was convicted of a crime.

When debating the 13th amendment, many in Congress were not thinking of slaves, but rather white labor, with Senator Henry Wilson saying “The same influences that go to keep down and crush down the rights of the poor black man bear down and oppress the poor white laboring man.” [2] Senator Richard Yates of Illinois was much blunter, stating that he had “never had the negro on the brain” [3] when discussing the amendment. Such notions are in the absurd! Wilson is correct to an extent when he argues that both slave and white labor are oppressed by the same system; both are oppressed in that they are being manipulated and played off one another by the elite of both the North and South. Still, Wilson ignores the fact that white labor was very much less oppressed than black slave labor as white laborers were seen as human being, deserving of dignity and respect, rather than treated worse than animals. White laborers were free to do as they pleased, not having to worry about ensuring that they consistently had papers on their person as to prove their freedom.

The passing of the 13th amendment should be examined within the context of an economic competition between black slave labor and free white labor. The South’s economy was built around slave labor and the ability to have the slaves produce more than they were ‘worth,’ seeing as how slaves were viewed as not just general property but a long-term economic investment which helped the Southern plantation elite. Yet, due to the existence of slavery, white labor suffered as not only did they lose out on the income they were making when slavery was first introduced as well as the potential future income, but also white labor was unable to make advances within the South as slave provided a source of labor that was less expensive in the long-term.

Senator Henry Williams illustrates these points and other problems that white labor had with slavery. He stated that

slavery was evil because it destroyed much of the richest land in the South; it degraded labor and the meaning of labor for poor white working men in the South; it robbed the South of culture by degrading the efforts of laborers; and it allowed southern aristocrats to further insult northern white workers by demeaning their laboring efforts as crabbed and mean. It was the association between labor and slavery in the minds of southern aristocrats that demeaned the efforts of industrious northern laborers. Thus, slavery pulled white workers down in two ways: one, by direct competition with slave labor in the South, and two, by associating all the industrious efforts of workers with those of the degraded slaves. [4] (emphasis added)
Thus, the only way for white labor to triumph in their struggle for rights such as a fair wage and regular working hours was for the abolition of slavery. White labor had a direct interest in the nullification of slavery.

Yet, there was a difference of opinion in the minds of Southern elites who wanted to continue slavery, but on different terms.

Southern Elites

Before discussing the Southern elites, one must first examine it within the context of the Southern economy after the Civil War. It was utterly in shambles, one could make quite the argument that it had been decimated and demolished in virtually every conceivable way. The entire economy of the South was built upon the institution of slavery and agriculture. With the end of the Civil War, not only was the Southern economy damaged by the freeing of black slaves, but also the land was deeply scarred and hurt, thus creating an immediate economic problem. However, among all of this there was an opportunity reorient and reconstruct the economy around a new labor source as cheap labor would be needed to rebuild the region.

The social order must be examined as well. While the slaves were now free and able to do as they pleased, there was still a deeply embedded racism within the minds of Southern whites. Just because blacks had fought in the Civil War did not suddenly mean that the perception of blacks had changed; rather to the Southern elites, they still viewed blacks as inferior and only good for labor, longing to perpetuate the slave system but within a new industrial framework seeing as how the agricultural framework had been destroyed. This new system was to be found in the convict leasing.

The leasing out of state convicts to private hands has its basis in the minds of such people as John T. Milner of Alabama. Milner was no ordinary man, rather he was a Southern elite who “was in the vanguard of that new theory of industrial forced labor,” writing in 1859 that “black labor marshaled into the regimented productivity of factory settings would be the key to the economic development of Alabama and the South.” [5] Milner’s idea of using regimented black labor can be seen in his involvement of a project for the Blue River, a railroad company, in Alabama. In 1859 he issued a plan for the laying of rail in Montgomery, “presenting statistical evidence to demonstrate the potential economic benefit to Montgomery of securing connections with Decatur,” a city north of Montgomery. He argued that the Blue River could build its own track in nearby Jones Valley with the use of slave labor. Yet, in Milner’s mind, this slave labor had to be managed by whites. He stated “A negro who can set a saw, or run a grist mill, or work in a blacksmith shop, can do work as cheaply in a rolling mill, even now, as white men do at the North, provided he has an overseer, a southern man, who knows how to manage negroes." [6] (emphasis added) After the end of the Civil War, Milner’s plan changed, but he was convinced that “the future of blacks in America rested on how whites chose to manage them.” [7] To this end, in the 1870s, he moved with purpose to acquire the black convict labor that Alabama’s prisons were offering up. He took these convicts and put them to work in coal mines, treating them barbarically.

Records of Milner’s various mines and slave farms in southern Alabama owned by one of his business partners- a cousin to an investor in the Bibb Steam Mill- tell the stories of black women stripped naked and whipped, of hundreds of men starved, changed, and beaten, of workers perpetually lice-ridden and barely clothed. [8] (emphasis added)
Black Americans, many of them former slaves, were essentially re-enslaved but within the context of a corporate structure with an alliance between the state and the corporation. Yet, the judicial system was greatly involved in allowing this to occur, from the laws passed to sheriffs selling of convicts to companies.


The Judicial System

In order to allow for the convict lease system to exist and for blacks to be reduced to their former state as a labor source, it required that the law limit the rights of blacks and criminalize black life to the point that blacks could be imprisoned on the most frivolous of offenses. Such laws took the form of Black Codes.

To understand the creation of Black Codes, it is necessary to understand the social order that motivated elites to push for such legislation. North Carolina is a prime example. After the war, the elite would have preferred the system to revert back to the status quo that existed under the slave system, yet this was not possible due to the liberation of blacks and free whites caused by the destruction of the slave system. This problem was greatly exacerbated by the fact that “in suppressing the war to dissolve the Union the whites were deprived of arms while many Negroes had easily obtained them,” thus “A general feeling of insecurity on the part of the whites” resulted. [9] Armed blacks were a threat to elite interests as by being able to defend and protect themselves; blacks would be able to ensure that they would not be re-enslaved. Furthermore, it presented a problem to the overall white power structure as having weapons would empower blacks to stand up for themselves and assert their rights not only as Americans but also as human beings and such a situation bought the memories and worries of a slave revolt back to the forefront of the minds of elites.
To put blacks back ‘in their place,’ the elite pushed several laws that were passed in the state legislature such as defining “a Negro as any person of African descent, although one ancestor to the fourth generation might be white.” [10] The fact that racial identity was dependent on the mother rather than the father made the situation all the worse as blacks who had white fathers, whether by marriage or by rape, were now considered to be black and thus would be subject to the worst aspects of living within a white supremacist society.

Another example of the law being used to punish blacks was those laws concerning vagrancy. In North Carolina there was a problem concerning labor as after the Civil War, blacks and whites were working on their own fields, yet

Many others less energetic, white and black, were flooding the towns and refusing work of any sort, for in the days of bondage, master and slave had been taught that to labor with the hands was undignified: consequently, freedom to many Negroes meant a deliverance from hard labor. [11]
These workers proved a problem to North Carolinian industrialists and agriculturalists as few could afford to pay workers a wage until the crop had been grown, not to mention that neither employee nor employer were familiar with a wage system. A solution was found in creating vagrancy laws. Of the workers who refused to do any labor, vagrancy laws were passed that stated that a person who had no means of survival or refused to work would be regarded a vagrant and sent to court, however, a payment could be offered which would be conditional upon the good behavior of the vagrant for one year and thus would allow the person to get off scot free. Yet if the person was unable to make such a payment, they would be convicted a vagrant and fined, imprisoned, or both. When concerning now freed slaves, the laws was much harsher as many of them, once convicted, were apprenticed to their former owners under a contract or being leased to a corporation. In the contract, the owner was to feed, clothe, and instruct the freed slave in reading, writing, and arithmetic and, upon the end of the apprenticeship, they were to be given money, a new set of clothes, and a new Bible as payment for the work done. However, such repayment rarely occurred or was enforced by the state government.

Overall in the South, vagrancy laws were so vaguely defined that any free black that was not under the protection of a white person could be arrested. Such laws allowed for police to “round up idle blacks in times of labor scarcity and also gave employers a coercive tool that might be used to keep workers on the job.” [12]

With the judicial system having established a means to ensure a continuous supply of cheap labor, the leasing could now begin.

Convict Leasing

The act of leasing out convicts isn’t anything new as in states such as Alabama, where the government had no interest in caring for convicts; prisoners were leased out to companies. While this may have helped prisons get convicts off their hands, they made no extra revenue from it. After the Civil War, such leasing began to pick up steam as corporations had access to almost free labor.

Labor scarcity between states was a major problem and thus concerted efforts were made by each state to keep black prison labor within their borders. This was done be waging war on emigrant agents, people who specialized in moving labor from where it was abundant to where it was scarce. They had done this when slavery was still existent and it continued under the newly freed slaves. Such agents were viewed as a threat to white farmers as by moving black labor here and there, it threatened the establishment of a stable labor source. Though in the early months emigrant agents were ignored, many states established anti-emigrant agent laws due to their need to keep in black labor. One example is in 1876 when Georgia, “Hard hit by black movement to the West,” passed legislation that “levied an annual tax of $100 for each county in which a recruiter sought labor. A year later she raised the amount to $500.” [13]

Convict leasing, interestingly enough, resulted in power being taken from the state level and given to those on the local level to the point that sheriffs became quite powerful soon after the Civil War ended as “County sheriffs and judges had dabbled with leasing black convicts out to local famers, or to contractors under hire to repair roads and bridges, beginning almost immediately after the Civil War.” [14] This economic empowerment of sheriffs created an incentive for them to convict and lock up as many freedmen as possible and keep a steady supply of labor. An entire economy eventually formed around the convict lease system, including a speculative trade system in convict contracts developed.

The witnesses and public officials who were owed portions of the lease payments earned by convicts received paper receipts- usually called scrips- from the county that could be redeemed only after the convict had generated enough money to pay them off. Rather than wait for the full amount, holders of scrips would sell their notes for cash to speculators at a lower than face amount. In return, the buyers were to receive the full lease payments- profiting handsomely from on those convicts who survived, losing money on the short-lived. [15]
While there was much profit to be made in the convict lease system, not everyone was happy with it, namely, white labor.

Labor’s Reaction to Convict Leasing

Just as how white labor was against slavery due to it undermining their struggle for better working conditions, they were also against the convict lease system for the very same reasons. Never did they stop to consider the fact that both worker and freedman were being manipulated by the very same systems that governed them.
Labor’s anti-convict leasing sentiments were felt long before the Civil War began. In 1823 in New York City, journey men cabinet makers conducted a mass meeting to discuss prison-made good being introduced to the market and how it threatened their trade. In that same year, also in New York City, mechanics petitioned the state legislature to end the use of prison labor. [16]

During the Civil War, labor unions were opposed to the use of convict labor, arguing that it “tended to lower the wages of thousands of laborers, and in some instances has virtually driven certain kinds of labor out of the field” and that” the contractor is seeking cheap labor and cares nothing for the welfare of the prisoner.” [17] However it should be noted that unions were not opposed to all convict labor, as they stated that they were fine with prisoners building a state prison. Thus, the labor unions didn’t truly care about the brutal, inhumane treatment of convicts, but whether or not the convicts were encroaching on their area of employment.

Yet this should not be examined as a separate battle between free labor and convict labor, but rather a continuation of the struggle between the two groups. Once again, the only way white labor’s goals could be achieved was with the destruction of most of the convict lease system to protect their own industries.

While the convict leasing may have been profitable for a select few and a thorn in the side to many, eventually the system would have to end.

The End of Convict Leasing

Due to a mixture of the changes in economic and social landscape, convict leasing would eventually die out. However, it is important to first note that the economic and social justifications for such a system reinforced each other as not only was it “an expedient by which Southern states with depleted treasuries could avoid costly expenditures; it was also one of the greatest single sources of personal wealth to some of the South's leading businessmen and politicians.” [18] The Southern elites benefited greatly from the system and thus put all their efforts into perpetuating the system for as long as possible.

If one only looks on the surface at the abolition of convict leasing, they may assume that its demise was due to the public indignation that arose against the system yet this is not the case- far from it, rather it involved a combination of race, politics, and economics depending on the state. For example, in Louisiana, convict leasing was abolished due to it being “part of a reform package which had as its purpose the complete triumph of white supremacy in political affairs” whereas in Tennessee, its leaders

decided that the demands of fiscal responsibility dictated abolition when the expense of maintaining the militia at convict stockades-a cost incurred by an armed rebellion on the part of free miners who were displaced by convict gangs-proved greater than the income from the leasing contract. [19]
In this system was embedded racism, politics, and economics, but it was also just as much embedded in violence and brutality. Men and women were beaten, bloodied, bruised, and valued only so long as they were able to do labor. They were reduced to nothing more than human resources, human tools to do the bidding of and enrich white industrialists and agriculturalists from the North and the South. From the Civil War to World War Two, black Americans were re-enslaved under a new system that was no better than the first.

Endnotes

1: Legal Information Institute, 13th Amendment of the US Constitution, http://www.law.cornell.edu/...

2: Lea S. VanderVelde, “The Labor Vision of the Thirteenth Amendment,” University of Pennsylvania Law Review 138:2 (1989), pg 440

3: VanderVelde, pg 446

4: VanderVelde, pg 466

5: Douglas A. Blackmon, Slavery by Another Name: The Re-enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War 2 (New York, New York: Anchor Books, 2008) pg 51

6: W. David Lewis, “The Emergence of Birmingham as a Case Study of Continuity between the Antebellum Planter Class and Industrialization in the ‘New South’,” Agricultural History 68:2 (1994), pg 67

7: Blackmon, pg 51

8: Blackmon, pg 52

9: James B. Browning, “The North Carolina Black Code,” The Journal of Negro History 15:4 (1930) pg 462

10: Browning, pg 464

11: Browning, pg 466

12: William Cohen, “Negro Involuntary Servitude in the South, 1865-1940: A Preliminary Analysis,” The Journal of Southern History 42:1 (1976) pg 34

13: Cohen, pg 39

14: Blackmon, pg 64

15: Blackmon, pg 65

16: Henry Theodore Jackson, “Prison Labor,” Journal of the American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology 18:2 (1927) pgs 244, 245

17: Theodore Jackson, pg 246

18: Matthew J. Mancini, “Race, Economics, and The Abandonment of Convict Leasing,” The Journal of Negro History 63:4 (1978) pg 339

19: Mancini, pg 340

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