The Betrayal of the Statist Left

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The Iraq War catastrophe happened thanks to a coalition of right-wingers, but ultimately the Iraq War broke the Left. Many leftists today are unable to think about foreign policy or about the Middle East beyond the prism of the Iraq War, as if history stopped in 2003. Leftism is supposed to be about support for the crushed and the weak as they struggle against oppressive power. The Iraq War broke certain segments of the Left so thoroughly that they can’t even see Syria’s crushed or their struggle. We’re stuck with a kind of Leftism that has so lost its way and its moral compass that they see Assad, Putin, and Khamenei (a fascist, an imperialist, and a theocrat) as the good guys – and the native Syrians who struggle against them as the foreign agents.

I’ll be the last guy to defend the Iraq War – it was that war and the “clash of civilizations” narrative that accompanied it that once radicalized me, and its memory continues t be traumatic at a very personal level. But the history of the Middle East didn’t end in 2003. And yet every argument with these so-called leftists ends with “but Iraq War!” – and you can immediately see that their own politics takes precedence over our lives, our struggles, our dreams, our agency, our sacrifices, and our pain. They don’t even see us. It’s all about the Iraq War.

Furthermore, there are statist leftists who don’t align with underprivileged people or societies, but rather with so-called “anti-imperialist” regimes, even if said regimes are brutal, oppressive dictatorships that crush native agency. They are statists, and because of that they’re blind to the real struggle of liberation across the world. They think that it’s a struggle between states and other states, rather than a struggle between regimes and societies. And because they’re blind to where the essential liberation struggle is, they end up aligning with outright fascists, even backing outright fascist regimes, so long they “resist” Western regimes – to them there are inherently “bad” states (mainly the US); and any state that pushes against the US becomes a “good guy”.

They’re also completely blind to the ideological effect of the terrible regimes they back, and how brutal dictatorships create perfect conditions for the spread of reactionary ideologies. And so they end up aligning with the victims of these regimes against the regimes, justifying it as a necessary “war on terror”, having completely internalized the neocon, neoliberal “war on terror” rhetoric down to their core. And they’re blind to the irony.

So eager are they to defend these terrible regimes that they dismiss any native call by crushed civil society activists to end their suffering and change the regime as a Western plot for “regime change”, as if the people don’t even exists and have no agency. And so they end up being statist, racist/Islamophobic, shills for dictators, fake leftists who are aligned with fascists and regularly employ neoconservative/neoliberal “war on terror” logic to oppose and belittle the voices of native agency.

When I tweeted this article as a thread it got to them – they started trolling me immediately. And yet nothing I say to you is more disgusting and filthy as your politics. You are scum, not worth being called leftist. And since many of these hacks are “pro-Palestine”, as a stateless Palestinian refugee I’d like to give them a huge middle finger, and let them know that I view the liberation struggle of Palestinians, Syrians, and all other oppressed people as one single struggle.

Believe it or not, it’s actually possible (and not that hard) to oppose dictatorship, terrorism, and foreign intervention all at once, without picking a choosing sides. In fact, not only is that possible, it’s perhaps the only morally tenable position. We must see the world in terms of societies, not states, and do what’s best for societies. And be aware that foreign intervention isn’t only military – it includes political & economic support, including weapons sales, to dictatorships – whoever provides it. And foreign intervention isn’t only American – the Russian and the Iranian regimes are also arch-imperialists who meddle extensively in other countries – just look at the destruction both have wrought in Syria, where they propped up a regime for years against its own people long after they would have overthrown it, and now both directly occupy parts of the country. In fact, the extensive evidence of the imperialism of “anti-imperialist” states needs an entire article. But for now, suffice it to say that if you wanna be non-interventionist, that’s fine, but at least be consistent in your demands for “no intervention”. More importantly, be clear about your values – are you pro-human rights or just knee-jerk anti-US?

I should close by saying that, of course, not all leftists display this kinda behavior or way of thinking. That goes without saying. But influential voices that identify with the Left do, and it’s deeply problematic and has real world (not just theoretical) consequences. And if I would just add one more note – the reason why it’s so hurtful when Leftists display this kind of behavior is that they should be our allies. They should understand. They should be the ones offering us solidarity. A lot of the anger stems from disappointment at those who should be our allies.