Wednesday 9 September 2015

Making A Desert And Calling It Peace: Why I Agree With Winston Peters.

Syria In Agony: It is such a mess. And all the horrors that fill our screens are the progeny of the West’s intervention. Every hostage beheaded. Every gay man hurled to his death from a high place. Every 9-year-old girl traded in the slave-markets of Raqqa and Mosul. Every screaming reproach and accusation wrenched from the victims of IS and Assad, alike, is ours to answer. Only the West possessed the power to break this world, and only the West can fix it.

WINSTON PETERS wants the men of Syria to fight for their homeland. By all means, he says, let us give succour and safe haven to the women and children of that bloody dystopia. But, let us not offer a permanent residence to Syria’s misery. Not unless the world is ready to swallow every last Syrian. To leave their home a desert – and call it peace.
The Left finds it easy to dismiss Winston and his gnomic pronouncements. They look at him the way they’ve always looked at people who wear suits to protest planning meetings – with a mixture of disbelief and suspicion. That prominent leftists are now willing to vouch for him only pushes the comrades’ eyebrows higher. “Don’t let the flash suits put you off,” say Matt and Andrew, “Winston’s okay. A little old fashioned, yes, but don’t worry, we all hate the same people.”
Okay, but, really! How are we supposed to take Peters seriously when he comes out with stuff like this? Send the Syrian men back to fight? FFS - the guy’s an idiot!
But when our tears for little Aylan have dried. When the global news cycle has rolled over enough times for the images of the Middle East’s wretched human refuse to have lost their power to shock and shift public opinion. What then? When the razor-wire fences have all been made people-proof. When the sleeping dogs of European racism have all been kicked awake and are howling down the bleeding-hearts and do-gooders. What will we do then?
Because the great engine of all this grief; the motor of all this misery, will not have stopped. Not for a moment will the death machine that is the Syrian civil war have ceased to pump out its torrents of innocent blood. Four million human-beings have already been driven beyond Syria’s borders by the combined efforts of Bashar al-Assad’s Baathists, the Islamic State, and whatever loose assortment of Saudi-funded and US-trained jihadis are currently passing themselves off as the Free Syrian Army. That just leaves another 20 million souls to decant into the already overflowing vessels of Syria’s immediate neighbours.
Who cannot possibly take so many, and so will drive these new waves of refugees northward and westward, following the trail of tears to the European Union. Which, in spite of its name, will offer only increasingly divided counsels – and higher walls.
Yes, the injustice of all this rises to heaven on a reeking cloud of Western mendacity. Having broken the Middle East and North Africa into a thousand pieces, the United States and its Nato allies now refuse to own the desolation their own hands have wrought. They smashed Afghanistan for no better reason than to sate the Great Hegemon’s thirst for vengeance after 9/11. Then they invaded Iraq – this time in pursuit of some delusional NeoCons’ dream of inculcating capitalist democracy in a made-up country with virtually no history of either capitalism or responsible government.
It is such a mess. And all the horrors that fill our screens are the progeny of the West’s intervention. Every hostage beheaded. Every gay man hurled to his death from a high place. Every 9-year-old girl traded in the slave-markets of Raqqa and Mosul. Every screaming reproach and accusation wrenched from the victims of IS and Assad, alike, is ours to answer. Only the West possessed the power to break this world, and only the West can fix it.
But not just the West. The Russian Federation and the Peoples Republic of China must also be part of the solution. A truly global force, assembled under the banner of the United Nations. Hundreds-of-thousands of soldiers: men and women of all colours and creeds, drawn from every continent, to cauterise the bleeding wound that is Syria. And in their wake the agents of international justice – for the sake of ruined Palmyra and its martyred guardian; for the sake of tiny, helpless, innocent Aylan.
And in the vanguard of that mighty host, the young men of Syria: leading the attack; hewing down the flags of tyranny; setting their nation free.
It’s all Winston Peters is trying to say: that Syria cannot be saved by emptying it of Syrians.
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Wednesday, 9 September 2015.


JanM said...

It never ceases to amaze me how Winston seems to bring out the idiot in so many of us. It is obvious from the reactions that few people understood what he was saying and no one bothered to ask him to clarify before leaping into print - people from all sides who should know better were crowing with delight that he had lost the plot. In fact, in terms of his grasp of most situations he could run rings around most of us, which really seems to get up a lot of noses

Alastair said...

Except that's not all he's trying to say, is it? He's very clear about what he's saying; "I don't think we should let Syrian men into New Zealand, and if we let in Syrian women we should allow less immigrants from somewhere else."

You make plenty of valid points, and finish with a liberal dose of optimistic conjecture. Unfortunately, regardless of what you - or even "Matt or Andrew - claim, there's little evidence any of this can actually be drawn from Winston's recent comments.

I'm afraid it's the usual dog-whistle being blown. Whether Asian or Arab, Winston knows there are votes in pandering to the xenophobic fears of some New Zealanders. Say what would you like about the man, but he's never been one to let an opportunity pass him by.

Dave Kennedy said...

"that Syria cannot be saved by emptying it of Syrians."

Sadly this isn't the Syrian's war any longer. Russia is arming and supporting Assad and the US has armed most of the rebels including ISIS. I think all the peace loving Syrians should abandon Syria if they can and leave it to the rest to fight it out. What is the point of either remaining in the country or fighting? Anything Russia or the US touches militarily turns to crap: Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea, Chechnya and the Ukraine. Perhaps in ten years or so when all the warmongers have finished then the peaceful Syrians can move back and pick up the pieces of what's left. Peace will come faster if more and more people refuse to fight...and perhaps we should remember Gandhi, the revolution he lead was one of the shortest.

Bushbaptist said...

Read and weep!

Anonymous said...

We could take more Syrians but cut the number of immigrants by half

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Winston is right about one thing. The answers to the Middle East problems lie in the Middle East and its people, and we should do everything to help them solve them – maybe. But it has to be a genuine altruistic form of help rather than the self-interested bullshit that passes for help now.

Wayne Mapp said...

Actually Afghanistan is making a go of it. Not actually peaceful, but not falling apart.

As for Syria, well at least you have not primarily blamed the West for the civil war. Having said that, the level of Western intervention has not helped, Not enough to defeat Assad but enough to keep the war going, which is possibly the worst of all scenarios. Similarly with Russia and Iran, enough to help Assad stay in power, but not enough to defeat the insurgents.

So if things stay the same, an interminable civil war with no end in sight, more deaths, more dislocation, but no victor.

Your solution implies an international force of opposites (The West, Russia, and a variety of Middle Eastern nations including Iran) to take over the country and run it, perhaps in reality allowing the various Syrian forces running their bit of Syria, but under supervision. Presumably forcing them to accept a Bosnian style outcome. The creation of a nominal nation with with its various parts run by the various factions.
It is hard to see that happening, unless the various factions agreed to the occupation. In that case a Timor Leste solution, but in Timor Leste, Fretilin had the support of the great majority of the people.
Nevertheless if the various factions in Syria did agree to the occupation, agreed to stop the worst atrocities, had some form of Truth and Reconciliation Forum, perhaps a Force of Opposites could be formed.
This is where NZ could earn its keep on the Security Council. Help to create the Coalition of Opposites and get the various factions in Syria to agree to the occupation.
It has worked sufficiently well in Bosnia, especially when you think of the alternatives.

Unknown said...

It is such a mess. And all the horrors that fill our screens are the progeny of the West’s intervention.
Because they aren't stable societies to begin with and neither neocon nor a Jeremy Corbyn has the answer to that.

jh said...

It’s all Winston Peters is trying to say: that Syria cannot be saved by emptying it of Syrians.
I'd never really thought of it like that rather I had thought of it as people thinking of the few western countries as though they are a python digesting a big lump of people and turning them into machines of loving grace?

jh said...

Doesn't it all make you suspect that a fight to the death (and bury the defeated) worked very well for the future? Look at the trouble the Treaty of Waitangi is causing. It is nothing better than an open wound (as Gareth Morgan is demonstrating with his failed attempt).

jh said...

Alastair said...
I'm afraid it's the usual dog-whistle being blown. Whether Asian or Arab, Winston knows there are votes in pandering to the xenophobic fears of some New Zealanders.

but it is only xenophobic if it is not based on fact and their is plenty of academic support for limiting immigration. There is also the personal circumstance of the low paid in Aotearoa who struggle for jobs against cheap labour or for houses against wealthy migrants.

Unknown said...

Ecologists understand what is going on here even if Greens and labourites don't.

Unknown said...

re xenophobia
this is from Croaking Cassandra
I noticed an odd story in the Dominion-Post this morning. In the hard copy it is headed “Economic benefits to compassion”, while on Stuff it goes under the title “Refugees are good for NZ’s economy, say economists”. The first heading seems like a category error, while the second is almost certainly wrong.

Bushbaptist said...

It's all part of a sectarian war between Sunni and Shia. Madd Sadd was the buffer that kept the factions (Iran-Shia Saudi-Sunni) apart. With him out of the picture this situation simply had to happen.

The bunch led by Wolfowitz, Kristol, Boulton, Cheney, and Rumsfeld wanted to break up all the larger artificial states there into tiny but wealthy Emirates that would never be a military threat to US hegemony. Their wet dream of turning Iraq into a beacon of democracy there was just that -- a wet dream! Tribal affiliations and religious beliefs are paramount that region. The Yanx haven't learned the lesson that they can't force Democracy from the muzzle of a machinegun. Not that Democracy was their real aim - a pliable Govt. it what they wanted and chaos was what they caused.

Vlad Putin has been supporting Assad all along and it's been common knowledge, he's just said so openly now.

Incidentally, at the risk of sounding pedantic, the region is not the bloody "Middle East". There is no middle east, that's a colonial construct. That area is Western Asia!!

David Stone said...

Hi Chris
Very well said.
The Guardian has Cameron hinting at a vague temporary co-operation with Assad ; I think this has got to happen, It is only in the remainder of Syria under his control that is safe , and there are over 6 million refuges from rebel controlled areas there. I suspect that if an election were possible in Syria right now his regime would win in a landslide , but how are the US and UK going to turn around from their quiet support and equipment of the less extreme rebel groups . Groups that are probably much more closely aligned with Isis beliefs than with western ideas of democracy. America and UK need to try for a commitment from Assad to elections once peace is established , and then co-operate with Russia and Iran to restore normality .And it will require boots on the ground, To bring order for a change rather than to destroy it. Providing absolute security in the Assad controlled part would be a good first step.
As I see it the alternative will be a Syria under the total control of Isis with it's military , it's chemical factories , it's population converted to the ends of that organisation . What then ?
In the meantime according to an article in the Greek Reporter Isis has earned itself about $300,000,000 by providing the means of the refugee exodus. So they are facilitating it. So it is certain that peppered among the predominance of fit young men in the refugee numbers, in a flood that can't be properly vetted, will be Isis jihadists with plans and instructions where to go and what to do. The Syrian refugee crisis needs to be addressed in Syria.
This time the west must leave off the Neoliberal bottom line " How does this affect our profits ?
Cheers David J S

Unknown said...

While people criticize Wolfowitz etc at the other end we have the "love will conquer all crowd" open border types. That won't work either. The best idea I have heard is that countries which are relatively self sufficient are peaceful. 30 years ago - Sweden, New Zealand (before the population Ponzi started).

greywarbler said...

Lots of talk. Skirting around the present problem. Full of rhetoric, finger-pointing, theories of fault, popular side-issues diverting, but the people are there, needy. What is to be done to help them right now. No time for elegant theories and back-biting

Above 80% of the refugees are men. Some are no doubt hoping to find a place and then bring family out to safety.

Bible quote: Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Luke6
'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings,
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains, Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Rarely, rarely, comest thou
Spirit of Delight. Song

Suggestions about helping the refugees:
They don't want clothes, but men's shoes and flip-flops are the need.
Grassroots efforts:
Medecins Sans Frontieres seems a good way of giving medical help where it is needed.They are in Greece. Donate thru Australia.
Shelter Box good?

What might be done towards resolving the conflict, or a long cessation in it even?

This would be a very good time for Russia to wrongfoot the USA very publicly. They would do that if they went to USA and other tail-wagging NATO allies, and requested a summit meeting on the 'Middle East', bringing along China, and other major countries involved, plus observers from major countries not immediately involved. If they did this quickly before the USA could suggest it, that would be one in the chops for the Warmongers-in-chief there.

Anonymous said...

To help solve the Syrian crisis we need to get alongside the Russians, Russia and Syria have been as one for at least 40 years and that will not change soon. When the West started to support the rebels against the Assad regime the West was in effect supporting ISIL. They still are and will not win because of above.

Robert M said...

During the 1991 Gulf War, quite a few Iraqi, Scuds got throught and hit Israeli targets, one hit an apartment block and killed 100 Israeli citizens and two other Scuds came within a couple of inches of having the same ffect. As far as Tel Aviv was concerned, Washington and totally failed to give priority to the Scud search and find the launchers and that is a major factor in the pressure on the W43 administration that led to the 2003 war and decision to drive all the way to Bagdad.
The Arab spring was always going to be a disaster, and even the first outbreaks in Tunisia and Libya while seemingly justified and probably immeasurably reduced stablity and the quality of their citizens lives.
Assad was a Bathist like Saddam a sort of Fascist socialist concept, no where near as radical or class based as the SS Model of Pinochet, Vidella and Milsovich. But both models had merits for their type of socities, however horrendous to the know nothing never lived activists. It seemed to me Assad ran Syria about as well and even as fairly possible. The western intervention in Syria was always going to be misguided and disastorous, and even Obama largely backed off when the claimed evidence of chemical weapon attrocity, proved phony.
The problem that precipitated the intervention in Libya and Syria, was the now totally irresponsible British calls for interventions, By British politicians who now command no real military capability and have no real knowledge or learning about any military reality. France is now the only European nation with significant enough air, sea, carrier army capability to operate with the Americans.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I assume you were Foreign Minister Wayne? Because if you were your knowledge of the west's historical engagement in the Middle East is rubbish. And you should be ashamed. Actually you should be ashamed anyway it's general knowledge. I mean if we even go back to 1916 when the artificial orders were settled by Western powers – we get the beginning of Middle Eastern problems we see today. And the US began covert interventions in the late 1940s and early 1950s, culminating in the overthrow of the Democratic government in Iran and the establishment of the Shah. The US also at various times supported the various dictators which presumably kept the lid on the sectarian conflicts – but at a price. Just a quick question or two though, not holding my breath as usual, but how many American troops does it take for Afghanistan to be doing okay? How long are they prepared to stay? And what's going to happen when they leave? Are you not old enough to remember Vietnam?

Anonymous said...

presumably, Chris, you also expect them to fight for Assad, given Putin's backing for him and your backing for Putin's foreign policy initiatives last week.

Or perhaps you prefer to back western intervention in support of the rebels.

just fighting in a three way conflict is not enough, you have to say who you want to see them fighting for.

unless perhaps you prefer to see a fourth side enter the fray too, perhaps one led by Tsipras and Corbyn. now that would tick a lot of logically consistent boxes.

Guerilla Surgeon said...


'these attacks caused 2 civilian deaths, although indirectly, they caused the following casualties: 4 heart attacks, 7 deaths as a result of incorrect use of biological/chemical warfare kits, 208 injured, 225 cases of unnecessary injection of atropine. Damage to general property consisted of 1,302 houses, 6142 apartments, 23 public buildings, 200 shops and 50 cars.'

This is the best information I can find Robert. As the rest of your post as fanciful?

britbunkley said...

This current migration also consist of Afghans and Iraqis and is the result of the West's US initiated invasions (as to certain extent Syria is as well). This notion, held by the far right (and Mr. Trotter?) in Europe, Australia and NZ , that the refugees can be sent back home to "fight" Isis with no resources or organized infrastructure makes as much sense as the Irish being sent home in the 1840's to fight the British during their neo-liberal famine. (British guarded Irish grown grain with guns bound for English markets as the Irish starved. More starved as a percentage than during Mao's Great Leap Forward.) The catholic Irish were as vilified then as the Mideastern people are now (and they left in greater numbers as a a percentage than the mid-easterners are today)...only to later become part of the backbone of the US, NZ and Australia. BTW This migration will be nothing as compared to the migrations that are forthcoming when Global Warming really kicks in.

Wayne Mapp said...

Guerilla Surgeon

I am not sure what your complaint is. You raise the issues of the Picot Sykes borders, but does that really have much to do with the Arab Spring, as it played out in Syria. Yes, the regime is largely Alawite Shia, and probably the majority of the protestors in 2010 were Sunni and Christian. Did that mean that Assad would automatically shoot them in the streets? There were other alternatives. Religious differences in states does not mean they are automatically destined to split. But if the govt ruthlessly deals with a minority (or in this case a majority) then that is what will happen.

Hence my point about a Bosnian outcome, where the national state is a relatively loose confederation.

I am well aware of many of the issues of Middle eastern politics, having read a great deal about it. In fact my PhD was on the Iran United States Claims Tribunal. So while you may rail against the US, it seems unlikely the Syrian crisis will be resolved by them completely absenting themselves from the current situation. That would probably result in an ISIS win, but perhaps you would support that.

As for Afghanistan, well, Western troops are now largely out. I would note that on my various visits there the one thing that was stressed to me by Afghani Ministers that while the West needed to leave the one thing they had to keep doing was to continue the pay the bills. One particular minister, the Interior Minister had been an official in the soviet backed government. He noted that after the Soviets left, they were able to resist the Taliban so long as the Russia paid enough money for the Afghani govt to pay the Army. When the money stopped in 1992, the Afghani army melted away as the unpaid soldiers left for their villages. That was when the Taliban won.

So the proposal was (and is) to build the Afghani Army to 300,000 which was achieved by 2012. At that size it can basically hold off the Taliban. It costs US$7 billion to pay and sustain them. That is the money the West needs to pay Afghanistan each year, plus another $7 billion for economic aid (roads electricity, etc). The Afghani govt will keep going indefinitely on that basis, and give them time to reach a settlement with the Taliban.
In terms on Bamyan province when I first went there there was no mains electricity and travel between the two main towns took 12 hours. Today mains electricity, a 2 hour drive on a new road (paid for by Korea), a new hospital, a Polytech and virtually all children in school. None of these things had ever happened in Bamyan before.

greywarbler said...

Wayne \That is an interesting reply to GS. I am glad that Bamyan, where I think NZ was a positive force, has achieved so much. Of course a few
SCUDs etc can wipe out much of that. But the US$7 billion from the USA will keep that bay, though it comes from their accumulating debt, so it is a finely balanced investment.

It might have been better if your bunch of RW pollies is so wise and knowledgeable, to have used this information of supporting the Afghani government earlier, and stepped in after the Russians stopped. A lot of revenge-making history and bad blood has been spilled unnecessarily.

You are all so wise after the event. And I find the stab at Chris a trace cynical when you say, "That would probably result in an ISIS win, but perhaps you would support that."

Guerilla Surgeon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Guerilla Surgeon said...

Thank you Wayne, at last an answer that contains some substance. And of course the traditional bit of snark.
Of course there were other alternatives, but dictators very rarely bother to use them. And religious differences, unless strictly controlled, do seem to lead to the splitting of states. Ireland and Yugoslavia being two examples. It seems obvious to me that Syria is going to have to be split, and possibly Iraq as well. And as I pointed out, the US is to play a part perhaps it should be a little bit less self-centred. And yes, I do rail against the US, with good reason.
If I could get my little bit of snark in, did you support the establishment of the Shah? Makes about as much sense as your question about Isis, but I suspect you are more likely to have supported him than I am likely to support them.
I'm glad to see you have faith in the Afghan army, perhaps you could explain the differences between it now, and it when it ran away a little while ago? After billions of dollars of US money wasted on training seemingly.
The problem is, that we have learned nothing from Vietnam. We are supporting a corrupt government, against somebody we don't happen to like, simply because we don't like them. The Taliban will, as you suggest have to be dealt with, but if the Afghan army "slips slowly and silently away" again they won't have much incentive to negotiate will they? You remind me so much of those politicians and generals who were talking about all the advances made in South Vietnam in the 1960s and 70s. All for nothing as it turns out. And God help us, they are now talking about body counts. Not that they are exact parallels, but there is enough similarity for me to be just a little cynical about your optimism. Still, good luck with that but I think time will prove me to be more correct than you. My thesis was about asymmetric warfare in a religiously split country :-).