Diane Abbott [id=1-a1]. Assad Apologists.

Major figure in "Stop the War Coalition", see also references under that organisation's name. Absolutist anti-interventionism is her main thing and mildly (points 1–3 see here) Assadist statements seem to be secondary and a means to that end for her. She associates with more clearly Assadist public figures through StWC.

[Author = Kester Ratcliff, Original Source = https://archive.fo/VQXiq]

[Posted & Amended by Lara Keller 20/9/18]

Example of a tweet opposing military intervention against Assad’s CW sites-

“Shocking to hear Tory minister on @BBCr4today claim that you can’t allow Parliament to vote on war because that would be to “outsource the decision to people who don’t have all the info” Do these people understand what parliamentary democracy is?—@HackneyAbbott, 15/4/18

The text content of the tweet is not Assadist. I disagree with it ( reasons, start from ‘Is forcible intervention without parliamentary approval legal or legitimate?’), but it is a legitimate opinion that parliamentary sovereignty means all decisions about military action should go through parliament. However, the photo with the tweet in context is very misleading — the proposed air strikes would not look anything like that, no-one was proposing indiscriminately bombing cities in Syria in response to the regime’s sarin attacks, and presenting that image appears to naive observers to mean that the indiscriminate bombing and the results of it we’ve seen were due to Western bombing in Syria, as in fact a surprising number of people believe.

The vast majority of civilian harms in Syria have been caused by the regime and Russian bombing, which has not actually targeted Da’aesh or extremist Islamist militias most of the time, but is mainly indiscriminately targeting cities where a significant number of people joined the protests demanding the end of the Assad regime. City after city has been besieged, bombed to a state of destruction so that no-one can live there anymore, and forcibly expelled.

About 70–80% of Syria before the war were Sunni Muslims, but the majority Sunni areas (except for the Sunni super-rich and corrupt businessmen who are interdependent with the regime), are presumed to be opposed to the regime, so annihilated and then replaced with Shia militias and their families loyal to the regime. The regime is not targeting Da’aesh most of the time, but mostly targeting civilians, civilian vital infrastructure, and humanitarian personnel and objects. Da’aesh (ISIS) is extremely horrible but quite a small part of the war in Syria, and is interdependent with the regime. US Coalition bombing against Da’esh in Deir ez-Zoor and Raqqa during the Obama Administration was imperfectly targeted, could have done better at avoiding civilians and their homes, but since the Trump Administration took over the targeting got much worse, for a few months they even exceeded the Russians’ civilian harms rate. Still, the vast majority (>95%) of civilian harms in Syria have been due to the regime and Russian airforce. (airwars.org, sn4hr.org)

Diane Abbott responded that the criticism was “pathetic” and implied it was irrelevant, but without answering the criticism that it was so misleading, it implied the opposite of the truth, so it appeared to be intentional to mislead. “Diane Abbott dismisses criticism of simulated image on Syria tweet. Shadow home secretary calls row ‘pathetic’ after she uses picture originally posted to aviation blog.”

She has voted against military intervention against Assad all three times when it has been debated in UK parliament, 2013, 2015 and 2018.

Her reasoning was —

1. ‘why would Assad do it?’

2. “a military strike would inevitably tilt the scales of the civil war in favour of Assad’s opponents” 28 August 2013 / “could end up with the RAF serving as the air arm of the jihadi extremist rebels in Syria” 13 April 2018.

4. legality of intervention without a UNSC mandate.

3. the rebels have used sarin before’.

(1.)  Admittedly about a much later case – the regime’s use of sarin in Douma, April 2018 – but debunking again the usual apologist trope of ‘why would Assad do it?’ — “Why would Assad do it?” Debunking the abstract theories surrounding Syria’s chemical attacks.

(2.) Is just a variation on ‘it’s Assad or the extremist Islamist jihadis’ — this is regime propaganda, not true, it has never been just Assad vs. extremist Islamist jihadis, it was originally the regime vs. civilian mass protests, which stayed resolutely non-violent for the first six months, and then people started to bring hunting rifles to protests for self-defence to deter the shabbiha gangs and some of the military started to defect and begin to form the FSA, but the regime has made this claim relatively gradually more true by preferentially targeting the civilian and moderate armed opposition, while sparing Da’aesh.

(3.) ‘the rebels have used sarin before’ — no, actually, that has never been confirmed. But the Assadist side regularly take Carla del Ponte’s statement that her UN team had “concrete suspicions” as if it was confirmation.

“Our investigators have been in neighboring countries interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals and, according to their report of last week which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated,” Del Ponte said in an interview with Swiss-Italian television. “This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities,” she added, speaking in Italian. [Reuters May 2013]

Here is a proper discussion of the sources and specific claims that were made —  Who Used Sarin in Syria? 3/9/13. [LK: The comments by Carla del Ponte were then retracted by the UN, she has a history of making irresponsible claims while working for International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia – Syria Sarin Blame Game: Is Carla Del Ponte at it again? ]

(4.) The claim about legality of intervention I’ve discussed at length here (see ‘Only if the UN agrees’).

In 2015 she co-signed a Stop The War UK Coalition statement opposing military intervention against Assad. The ‘reasoning’ they give in the letter is:

“He [PM: David Cameron] is doing so in the face of much evidence that such an action would exacerbate the situation it is supposed to solve. Already we have seen the killing of civilians and the exacerbation of a refugee crisis which is largely the product of wars in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan."

The US and its allies have dropped 20,000 bombs on Iraq and Syria in the past year, with little effect. We fear that this latest extension of war will only worsen the threat of terrorism, as have the previous wars involving the British government. Cameron is cynically using the refugee crisis to urge more war. He should not be allowed to.”

This letter appeared in OffGuardian, an Assadist / Russian grey propaganda site.

It’s hard to respond to such a statement because it makes so little sense. It triggers a string of emotions with the framing language used, but it bears no comparison to the facts or plausible causal logic. How could airstrikes on known chemical weapons sites exacerbate the regime using chemical weapons, or exacerbate the war generally?

“Already we have seen the killing of civilians” — almost all by the regime, Iranian and Russian forces. “exacerbation of a refugee crisis” — exacerbation implies a causal connection, not just an increase, but what is the increase supposed to be causally connected to? “which is largely the product of wars in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan.” — the implication is that the war in Syria is just like the wars in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, but Western government forces have neither initiated nor have had a major role in the war in Syria; the war was started by the regime, and the primary targets are civilians who protested against the regime.

The political dogwhistle implied is that the war in Syria is a “regime change” plot; better than any amount of words to counter that nonsense, just watch some of the videos of the big protests in the early years of the revolution, and try to explain to me, if you can, just how the CIA or whatever clandestine foreign agency could possibly have motivated and mobilised so many people to go out on the streets and shout “yalla irhal ya Bashar” (hurry up and get out, Bashar!) and “الشعب يريد إسقاط النظام” ‘the people demand the fall of the regime’ and “Souriya houriya” (‘freedom for Syria’), and to carry on when they were beaten and shot at and many people had been killed— what kind of magical remote mind control could motivate millions of people to protest and take personal risks like that?

“The US and its allies have dropped 20,000 bombs on Iraq and Syria in the past year, with little effect” — effects, 1,2,3; maybe what they mean is that the destruction of Raqqa, Deir’ezzor (Syria) and Mosul (Iraq) didn’t cause noticeable spikes in the refugee arrival rate, and that’s what they’re concerned with? “We fear that this latest extension of war will only worsen the threat of terrorism, as have the previous wars involving the British government” — maybe they hadn’t noticed but the war has already been going on for 7 years? Western intervention to limit Assad’s use of chemical weapons would not be starting a war — the war is already there, but it would set some consequences and constraints on the regime; at best, if enough, it might force them into a position of needing to genuinely negotiate, instead of just massacring their way out of a revolution.

[LK: The letter above, which was so concerned about any future UK “parliamentary decision to bomb Syria” was produced in September 2015. This panic appears to be prompted by a UK House of Commons debate on the 7th September 2015 – In response to a concern by a Labour MP about Assad’s bombing of Syrian civilians – PM David Cameron said “The House did not agree on that occasion [vote lost in August 2013 to bomb Assad’s military assets, but I hope that when it comes to future discussions we will think very carefully about our national interests and how to keep this country safe, how to defeat terrorism and how to give the people of Syria the chance of a better future.” In December 2015 Cameron did get his vote to extend bombing of ISIS targets in Syria however. Aerial bombing is a bad way to tackle terrorist extremists, but has a place in deterring use of advanced weapons by genocidal regimes.]

Tyrants [like Assad] cannot be relied on to do anti-terrorism, because without terrorism they would have no raison d’être. “Cameron is cynically using the refugee crisis to urge more war.” — no, Stop the War Coalition is cynically using the government’s truly shameful failings that has helped create the “refugee crisis” to urge letting Assad finish his war on Syrians in peace; but these things do not really logically follow — failing to help refugees adequately does not mean we should be consistently irresponsible and fail to help prevent more people being made refugees, or forcibly internally displaced.

Stop the War Coalition, once with Diane Abbott chairing, regularly exclude Syrians from their events, unless they know them to be pro-regime — Why Stop the War don’t want to listen to Syrians. “If Stop the War’s slogan ‘Don’t bomb Syria’ is to have any meaning, let them demand the end of the regime whose bombs have killed so many. If Stop the War oppose imperialism let them demonstrate their sincerity outside the Russian Embassy. Let them demonstrate with placards calling for Russia to stop bombing Syrian hospitals.”

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