Oct 142019
 October 14, 2019  Posted by at 5:36 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Salvador Dali Self portrait (Figueres) 1921



An article from long term Automatic Earth contributor Alexander Aston, who feels very strongly about the topic.

Personally, I have many more questions left. It’s easy to say Trump abandoned the Kurds, and everybody says just that, but because they all do I ask myself if that is really what happened. It’s an ugly situation alright, but would it have been prefereable if US soldiers had stayed in Syria indefinitely?

I’m looking at France, UK, Germany, Holland, refusing to repatriate ‘their’ ISIS citizens, leaving the US -and the Kurds- to take care of them, of the conundrum, and of the consequences. There’s no question that leaving it up to Erdogan is a bad idea, but Putin has already taken over command.

Everyone but Capitol Hill agrees it’s a good idea to get the US out of Endless Wars, but they haven’t been doing anything about it for many years. And when Trump does, there are no intricate discussions, there’s only black or white and then there’s Orange Man Bad.

Should Trump have gone the Obama route and bombed the heebeejeebees out of the country? You know, rather than let Turkey do it, knowing full well that Putin would stop it anyway?

But this is Alexander’s piece, not mine, and I love him.



Alexander Aston:

“If we do not do the impossible, we shall be faced with the unthinkable.”
– Murray Bookchin


Like the best of his generation, my American grandfather was a die-hard antifascist. He was shot down twice over Europe and spent the last nine months as a prisoner of war. The old man was highly decorated, earning a distinguished flying cross with three oak leaf clusters, four air medals, a silver star and a purple heart. However, the only memento of the war he ever showed me as a child was the tin mug that he ate from while in prison camp.

One of the few times that I saw him cry in my life was asking him about his experiences. He said to me, “son, I don’t know what was under those bombs I dropped; I’m going to die not knowing how many people I’ve killed.” He taught me more about sacrifice and responsibility with those words and the look in his eyes than I could express in a thousand pages. He showed me more about integrity and grit with a simple tin cup than all the honours and decorations in the world.

My grandfather was not perfect, but he was a good man. If you were wrong he would fight with you all day long, and if you were right he’d stand back to back with you until the very end. He was shot down the first time over Yugoslavia having been assigned to the mission as a replacement bombardier for another crew. After making it back to Allied lines with the aid of partisans he went back to work fighting fascism with his old crew, with whom he had promised to see out the war. It was his fourth tour of duty when he was shot down the second time.

He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross when their B-24 was strafed by a BF-109, killing one of the waist gunners and severely wounding the other as well as jamming the bomb bay doors open. Unstrapping his parachute so he could make his way to the back of the plane, he stabilised the surviving gunner, manned the 50 cal. and managed to shoot down the fighter as it came in for another sweep. The old man was fearless his whole life; he even testified against the mob after being hung by his ankles over the side of a high rise in Baltimore decades later.


These are lessons that he taught me which I will try to embody and to live up to my entire life: always keep your word, defend those weaker than yourself, and never stop fighting for what is right no matter the opponent, no matter the odds. He would have turned ninety-seven this last Friday, and I know that if he were here to see what has been done to the Syrian Kurds, his shame and anger would be boundless. He’s not here to speak up, so I will because that is what he taught me.

The Syrian Kurds and their allies in the SDF have sacrificed life and limb to stop the spread of Daesh. They confronted head on one of the most virulent and horrific ideologies in history, of an organisation bent on genocide, enslavement and unimaginable cruelty. The Kurds managed to do this at the same time that they set up a multi-ethnic, religiously tolerant, confederated democracy with equal political representation of women. It is not a perfect system, but it’s a hell of an accomplishment given the circumstances and a damn sight better than anything else going on in the Middle East.

Whether you are on the left or the right, we should all feel shame over the betrayal and dishonour shown to those that have fought Daesh. The Kurds dismantled their defensive position at the request of the US in the expectation that the Americans would maintain the security mechanism in good faith. The United States has actively impeded attempts by the SDF to come to a rapprochement with the Syrian State.

Now, these people that fought and died fighting Islamofascism are being massacred by the Turkish army and its FSA proxies, which are largely comprised of jihadists from Daesh and Al-Nusra. All of this violence is at the behest of Erdogan and the AKP, an authoritarian ethno-nationalist party which has systematically destroyed the secular democratic institutions and economy of Turkey, not to mention that it materially aided and abetted the rise of the Islamic State.

Many people, on both the left and the right, are currently justifying the current campaign of ethnic cleansing by the Turkish state. Often this justification is couched as some sort of anti-imperialist position. It is rather simplistic and naive to think that creating a sudden power vacuum and allowing the Kurds to be destroyed is going to end American imperialism or even improve the country’s foreign policy. Rather, this decision ensures further entanglement into an endless conflict in the Middle East. The announced deployment of US troops to Saudi Arabia this week shows that there is no real intention to leave the region.



Furthermore, as a NATO member, the US supplies and maintains the vast majority of Turkey’s military hardware. Allowing Erdogan to destroy one of the few secular and stable regions in the area and reviving the Jihadi caliphate is hardly dismantling America’s imperial model. It is simply allowing the same folks to continue making money off the collective suffering of decent people everywhere.

Likewise, replacing the US with other imperialisms will only set the stage for further conflict, particularly in a region on which the global energy system is dependent. While the Americans are undeniably in Syria for their own imperial ambitions, the Kurds worked in good faith with the US out of a very reasonable desire to survive and secure their own freedom. Defending them from ethnic cleansing now is not an imperial act but basic human solidarity.

The other absurd argument bandied about is that this ethnic cleansing campaign is somehow the fault of the Syrian Kurds because they failed to side with Assad. This view is ignorant of the historical relationship between the Assad regime and the Kurds, who were systematically dispossessed and excluded from participation within Syrian society. The Syrian army abandoned Kurdish areas before the YPG and YPJ stepped into the power vacuum.

They were left to their own devices fighting Daesh for quite some time before the Americans began to support them tentatively. The destruction of their communities is not warranted because, caught between the SAA’s indifference and Turkey’s antagonism, they made a pragmatic alliance with the US, a government that was not directly oppressing them. Should they have allowed themselves to be slaughtered by Daesh in a quest for ideological purity?

The US repeatedly attempted to build its coalition with Turkey and its preferred network of jihadist rebels. The truth is that the Kurds were the most resilient, tenacious and effective forces fighting the Islamic State. The Pentagon backed them once it was clear that they were the only ones “getting the job done.” It should also be noted that this chain of events is distinct from the cynical roles played by the State Department and CIA in arming the jihadists (though this does reveal the many internal contradictions and competing power blocs within the US).


The reality of the situation is immensely complex with a lot of grey areas. Nonetheless, if the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria is wiped off the map, we will all live to regret it. The United States inadvertently created Daesh with its invasion of Iraq and the prisons in which it housed Baathists and Jihadists together. The catastrophe that is the contemporary Middle East is fundamentally a result of the United States’ imperial hubris and horrific foreign policy, but, as the Americans like to say, “you break it, you buy it.”

After five hard years of putting that genie back in the bottle, another strategic blunder threatens us with a resurgence of the Caliphate. Yes, the United States should leave the Middle East, but it should do so responsibly. If this lunacy is not stopped then it is only a matter of time before there are more waves of terror attacks in Europe.

The Syrian Kurds have borne the brunt of the fight against Islamofascism and made a sincere attempt at setting up a libertarian society in the heart of the Middle East. A no fly zone needs to be put in place immediately; without American F-16’s bombing their positions the SDF is perfectly capable of fighting the Turkish military in a ground war. Arms embargoes on Turkey and targeted sanctions on the leadership of the AKP, making it increasingly difficult for Turkey to carry out its ethnic cleansing campaign.

Furthermore, European countries should repatriate and try to imprison their nationals who were radicalised in their own countries before absconding to fight with Daesh in Syria instead of leaving the SDF to take care of them with their limited resources. Essentially, it is time to take some responsibility.



The American president is probably too incompetent and too narcissistic to understand what he has done. He has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and materially supported the resurgence of the Islamic State. It is the greatest historical blunder in US foreign policy since Iraq. Appeasing Erdogan will only encourage him to be more aggressive. We must boycott, divest and sanction Turkey before we find ourselves in an even more expanded conflict. Those who are willing and able to engage in non-violent direct actions outside of Northern Syria to disrupt the Turkish agenda, must do so!

In the course of writing roughly a thousand Islamic State affiliated prisoners, at least, have been freed by Turkey and its proxies. In a last ditch effort to avoid annihilation, the SDF has made a bargain with the Syrian Arab Army, with luck it will prevent the worst atrocities at present from continuing. Perhaps this will expand the conflict on international scale not yet seen. Nonetheless, the Assad regime is brutal, authoritarian and ideologically defined by a strain of Arab ethno-nationalist chauvinism.

Undoubtedly, the people of eastern Syria have given up a great deal of freedom and autonomy to avoid destruction. As the regime solidifies its control, arrests, disappearances and torturing of the political opposition are all but assured. Hopefully there is enough resilience and conviction amongst the Syrian population that they might be able to peacefully depose their leader once the war has truly ended.

What is undeniable is the American strategic position and geopolitical clout has been fundamentally shaken by its abandonment of the Kurds. I welcome the end of American empire, but make no mistake, this is not an intelligent, strategic withdrawal and deconstruction of that institution. This is a chaotic and ill-conceived implosion of the American system that will only bring suffering to her people and the rest of us.

Nonetheless, dignity demands that we try to keep our word, stand up for what is right and defend the Syrian Kurds to the best of our abilities. If we will not shoulder the burden and share in the sacrifice of those that fight for us then we do not deserve the honour of so much as a tin cup in the prisons we will have erected for ourselves.


Bijî Berxdewana Rojava!



Just a thought from Beau of the Fifth Column



Alexander Aston is a doctoral candidate in archaeology at the University of Oxford and is on the board of directors with the Centre for Cognitive Archaeology at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. He has prior degrees in philosophy and history. His work lays at the intersection of Cognitive Archaeology, Deep History and Natural Philosophy, examining the relationship between ecology, material culture and social cognition. Alexander grew up between Zimbabwe, Greece and the United States.

Home Forums Do or Daesh

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    Salvador Dali Self portrait (Figueres) 1921     An article from long term Automatic Earth contributor Alexander Aston, who feels very strong
    [See the full post at: Do or Daesh]

    Dave Note

    ” Nothing is as it seems.”

    I think Russia is now The Player in that region. The U.S. has little credibility left anywhere in the globe much less the Middle East.

    The U.S. does nothing but lie, about everything under the sun.

    Liar, liar, pants on fire.

    The U.S. hasn’t conducted diplomacy anywhere in decades, it just threatens and bullies countries with it’s bloated corpulent military industrial complex.

    That is not diplomacy.

    The U.S has no infrastructure of diplomacy left, even in the State Department. All the real diplomats, having been pathologically over ruled for decades, left to pursue actual adult careers somewhere else.

    Russia will simply tell Turkey to stop after Erdogan waves his dick around enough to save face.

    Russia is calling the shots in the Middle East now , but with nuance and aplomb, something the U.S. brain trust could even spell, much less execute.

    Kevin Bahm

    The pro-war propaganda campaign in this country has really pulled out all the stops regarding the “Kurdish Betrayal”. It has united the Left and Right “never Trumpers” like no other issue thus far. I certainly understand the impulse to rage against anything Ubu-Orange does, and I am sympathetic to a point – I hate the guy too. But I find it extremely disorienting hearing the same arguments from aging hippies and corporate-media neocons. The logic employed is fundamentally flawed: in any civil war we meddle in one side benefits and one side is under our guns. The “betrayal” argument would have us forever stuck in every ill-conceived military adventure we have ever undertaken.

    Alexander Aston

    Kevin Bahm, a few respectful points. First, I am not in your country but the country I live in is now much more likely to experience more terror attacks because of this blunder. Second, up until this week Northern Syria was one of the most peaceful places in the entire country and it is now a charnel house, what is antiwar about that? Third, I am all for the withdrawal of US troops from Syria and everywhere else, but having an ally dismantle their defensive positions and then abandon them is an act of truly bad faith. The United States should have either allowed the SDF to negotiate with the Syrian government from a position of strength or handed them air defences and then withdrawn. There are a lot of intelligent ways to be antiwar and anti-imperial but this was not one of them. If Trump was a competent leader he could have done this brilliantly and I would have lauded him for it, instead he has unleashed terror. The fault does not solely rest with him but he is clearly well out of his depth.

    V. Arnold

    Kudos to Alexander Aston for his well written and thoughtful article.
    He is very fortunate to have had such a wise grandfather and to have learned from him.
    War is a crime committed by lazy and ugly humans…

    John Day

    Tom at INN World Report sent this clip of President Trump talking to a large crowd in Iowa this past week. He cued it up to the part where Trump talks about the worst thing he has to do, which is to sign all the letters to the families of dead servicemen and women. He reads the letters.He greets the planes and the families sometimes.He describes his first time greeting families of dead soldiers on the tarmac. I wish you would watch these three minutes. He wants them to come home alive, now. He seems to genuinely mean it.

    Trump can’t be a sociopath, having made that unscripted speech to those people. He also can’t be a complete narcissist, though he sure has some narcissistic traits.He’s human.He’s “The Gray Champion” of this country, for this particular systemic-reset-round as history deploys.
    I had a dream early Sunday (yesterday) morning, that I was (sort of) Donald Trump, and I started speaking truth, correcting history, apologizing for nuking Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and explaining why, and explaining FDR’s trick to get Japan to attack Pearl Harbor, to get the US into the war, and assure that so many Americans died that day and then more and more, and about JFK and 9/11, and how this is our real world.
    It was a good dream. It felt good.
    Just a dream, right?

    John Day

    I watched Beau’s 5th Column video about Trump crowing that the Saudis are paying for that infusion of 1800 US soldiers, added to those already stationed there.
    I would look at this more carefully. The $US is the petro-dollar because Nixon & Kissinger made that deal with King Faisal.
    Saudi Arabia just lost over half of it’s mercenary army, and their Saudi officers to the Yemeni army last month, and never said a word about it.
    The House of Saud needs that Aramco IPO to go through, and so does Wall Street.
    This makes it possible.
    Also, the US military is in the act of occupying Saudi Arabia to protect-the-oil, not to protect the house of Saud, at least not more than is necessary to control the oil.
    (Or so I interpret this)

    Kevin Bahm

    Alexander, a few counter-points: 1. Every intervention in that region by the US empire and it’s vassal states has increased the odds of “terror attacks” everywhere. More of the same is not likely to reverse that result. 2. “Most peaceful place in the country” is surely only true against the backdrop of a Syria awash in barbarity and bloodshed on a scale rarely seen since WWII. The CIA and MI6 share much of the blame for that – see operation “Timber Sycamore” that funneled arms indiscriminately to the region. 3. I agree the withdrawal could have been accomplished more intelligently (and much – much earlier would have been better in my opinion) but keep things in perspective: we are talking about approximately 1,000 US special operations forces quitting an area occupied by 40,000 to 60,000 Kurdish SDF troops squaring off against around 80,000 Turkish troops.

    John Day

    We are kindred spirits. So were our grandfathers. My grandfather was an observer-gunner in a Spad in WW-1, attended the Sorbonne after that, traveled the world as a radio man on a tramp steamer, went to Harvard Grad School in Journalism, raised a family during the depression and built them a house with his hands, then went to WW-2 in OSS counter-intelligence, Major Robert H. Williams. I knew him as my grandfather who raised cattle. He was a good and loving hman, who wanted the world to be free of it’s sociopathic masters. I listened.
    I also appreciate Murray Bookchin, and have read his work in my search for the best form of human government. His :ibertarian Municipalism apealed to Ocalon, too, who is the long-confined Kurdish leader, and seemingly a good and thoughtful human.
    I am not sure what is going on. Fog of war. You are also not sure what is going on.
    Different powerful interests want a gas pipeline from the Pars gas field (Iran/Qatar) to feed Europe’s energy thirst. It has to go through Syria. Assad (a decent human, unlike his brother and sociopathic father) said “No”. That’s what made the US/Israel/Western-interests start this war in Syria and fund it with money and mercenaries.
    That’s failed. Iran may eventually get to do it’s pipeline. Turkey is in a critical position for a lot of pipeline and trade flows, where Greece used to be, and mostly made up of ethnic Greeks, not Turkic peoples.
    There are different reports of levels of support from Basher al Assad for Kurds than what you have posted. I don’t personally know. He’s an Ophthalmologist. He didn’t plan to rule Syria. It’s an accident of history.
    The Kurds have been used by Israel and the US/Empire, and are now discarded, but they are still who they are, whoever that is, always a people without a country.
    I was hopeful a few years ago for Rojava, and I dearly want this communitarian form of governance to flourish. The Empire does not, of course.


    The Kurds in Syria needed to return to be in Syria. The US presence was preventing that. Now that Trump has withdrawn they just went ahead and did that. As they always should have. The US was a dividing presence there and elsewhere in the Middle East and it has nothing whatsoever to do with deserting a “friend.” The unrepatriated ISIS fighters will be dealt with in way or the other by either Syria or Turkey or both countries. Who really cares about bloodthirsty war criminals? Not you, not your guest writer and not his late grandpa. To equate a valiant soldier like this man’s gramps with the utterly reprehensible American illegal presence in a foreign country is nonsensical. It is backwards. American regime change attempts by propping up Kurdish Syrian citizens is fascistic and criminal. It’s been the M.O. of the US and the CIA for 70 years now and it’s time for it to stop. The Kurds have united with Syria. All is well. The man’s grandad can rest in peace.

    Alexander Aston

    Thank you all for the thoughtful comments. I would like to make it clear that there is a very large difference between supporting the Kurds, Yezzidis, and Assyrians in eastern Syria that face ethnic cleansing and support for the United States. I do not disagree with any of the comments here about the great fault of the US is in the contemporary Middle East. I also believe that the E.U. has a deep responsiblity to bear for its cowardice and appeasement of Erdogan. However, just because the United States is a malign actor, does not make the Assad regime or Syria the heroes of the story. That Assad is an ophthalmologist, Polpot was a primary school teacher and Pappa Doc Duvalier a physician does not mean that they are/were not brutal authoritarians. Furthermore, the terrible decisions and actions that to the United States being in Syria does not undo the history as it already stands. America was there as a result of a mess it had created and had a duty to disengage responsibly, which it did not. By a twist of fate the United States inadvertently ended up protecting one of the most important social experiments in the nearly a century. I say this as a person that professionally researches human social organisation, what happened in Northern Syria is special and worth defending. That is not a call I make to the US or any other state actor, but to common folk. I would be grateful for nothing less than the full dissolution of the US Military Industrial Complex, but what is happening is hardly that reality. Yes, there are a lot of people using this to advance their own political agendas, and plenty of folks that would have loved the US to stay indefinitely. My political agenda here is singular, to help preserve the Rojava revolution for I believe it is one of the most important political achievements in human history. Thank you for taking the time to read the article.


    Lord Have Mercy

    I don’t believe the things I’m seein’
    I’ve been wonderin’ ’bout some things I’ve heard
    Everybody’s crying mercy
    When they don’t know the meaning of the word
    A bad enough situation
    Is sure enough getting worse
    Everybody’s crying justice
    Just as soon as there’s business first
    Toe to toe, touch and go
    Give a cheer and get your own souvenir
    Well you know the people running round in circles
    Don’t know what they’re headed for
    Everybody’s crying peace on earth
    Just as soon as we win this war
    Straight ahead, gotta knock em dead
    So pack your kit, choose your own hypocrite
    You don’t have to go to off-Broadway
    To see something plain absurd
    Everybody’s crying mercy
    When they don’t know the meaning of the word
    Nobody knows the meaning of the word
    Mose Allison

    Dr. D

    War continues in Syria. “Oh the Kurds! The Humanity!” This from the same press that just two years ago tried to get Iraq to bomb the Kurds just so there’d be some war. “Those beautiful, beautiful bombs” –Brian Williams
    I’m not thrilled with it, but I’m not listening to the same people that started, it, promoted it, cooed over it, profited by it, lied about it, loved it. Here’s an idea, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel, U.S., Britain, AND Kurdistan: if you don’t want a war, don’t start one. You won’t like where it goes.

    “Through your arrogance and stupidity, you’ve opened these peaceful realms and innocent lives to the horror and desolation of war! You are unworthy of these realms, you’re unworthy of your title, you’re unworthy! …of the ones you have betrayed! I now take from you your power!” –Odin, Thor

    “To initiate a war of aggression is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” –Nuremberg Trials

    Right now Kurdistan is the home base for all the CIA who started the war and those who just tried to start WWIII. Tell me how you think they’re going to expel them from their own de-facto CIA country without some outside force. The Kurds aren’t going to double-cross them easily, first ‘cause honor, but second because that’s the means to establish the long-desired Kurdish state the CIA promised, the one which would cut Turkey and Iraq in half.

    Maybe we can book a conference room and ask the Black CIA arms-dealers and their paid international mercenaries to surrender nicely to a court of law?

    For ethnic cleansing, how? Kurds were a viable population of Syria and accepted for always, even though they are an independent and unruly people and they are constantly de-facto using Syria as a platform to destroy Turkey — a diplomatic problem of the 1st order. So all they need to do is to become Syrian citizens under Syrian rule, as Assad and Putin have offered. That’s hardly “ethnic cleansing,” or by them anyway. What do you think Assad is going to do, hand his country away or let a fully-armed Kurdish Army wander Syria at will?

    In any case, what would you like us to do about it? Set up a Kurdistan that will destroy Iraq, Turkey, AND Syria, as Western Intel long planned? Stay for 1,000 years?

    Syria abandoned YPG territory because a) they had to protect Damascus, b) the Kurds are the people most able to fend for themselves, now proven, and c) ISIS WAS SUPPORTED THROUGH TURKEY. Obviously you don’t rally-round the ENEMY’S borders, you fall back to safe territory. So did they prohibit the Kurds from hiding in Damascus? Doubt it. They would have been conscripted in Syrian army, in which case they might as well fight for their own hometowns, which they did just as I would. The Americans didn’t support them because the Americans were supporting ISIS, and needed them large enough to control the pipeline route. But the white papers say they would have created Kurdistan because it would destroy the present nations of the pipeline route, above. They supported them later to hold ISIS in their zone, and later still, as the U.S. mobilized against this CIA/S.A. op and actually started to (barely) attack ISIS for real, easily seen because once we actually tried it only took a few months to annihilate them with both arms tied behind our back. The facts of the Libya-Turkey-ISIS gun rat line are still coming out just yesterday.

    Erdogan is in a box, his leash held by Putin and Trump alike. He’s going nowhere and doing nothing without permission. Kurdistan is going to half-exist for now as they will mostly likely legalize the autonomous zone they already mostly had, and I expect this time was chosen because U.S./Russia have been telling them that, but they won’t stand down and submit to Assad; the CIA/State/Boltonites have been sabotaging such talks. However, destroying Turkey can’t be in the cards right now, or would you prefer the war move from Syria to the 80 million people in Turkey? You ain’t seen nothing for refugees or humanitarian crisis if the happens. A thousand ISIS fighters released into a free-fire war zone is a joke. A small town in Iowa could destroy them with loose deer rifles, to say nothing of the entire Turkish army.

    We have to leave, and there is not a single place on earth where U.S. withdrawing forces won’t be disruptive. But isn’t our being there MORE disruptive? There’s not a perfect world where we leave with rainbows and parades and not a single puppy dies. For one thing, the CIA, Turkey, organized crime, and heck even China will make sure of it. But go we must, and the sooner the better. Every day we remain people die too, but somehow that’s always okay.

    The Kurds will be driven to the negotiating table and Turkey will stand down. Soon enough we’ll see who’s right and wrong. Thank you for your article, I would have preferred a happier end too.

    John Day

    Hi Alexander,
    Point of correction.
    Pol Pot was not a school teacher. He was always of the elite ruling class. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pol_Pot
    You are conflating him with “Comrade Duch”, who was a schoolteacher, and became the head of Tuol Sleng Prison in Phnom Penh https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kang_Kek_Iew
    The only reason I know this is that I took my wife and kids to that prison when we traveled through Southeast Asia. The lesson is that ordinary people become monsters in such circumstances. Spot the trend and avoid the circumstances. Comrade Duch never tried to hide what he did, admitted and repented, helped investigators and converted to Christianity, by the way.

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