Fighting Greater Evils

There are many evils in the world, and they should all be opposed. However, should they all be opposed evenly? Should not the defeat of one evil be weighed against its effects on other evils?

British journalist Robert Fisk’s writings have taken a highly tendentious slant — sometimes incongruent with progressivist ends.1 He is a staunch critic of dictatorial regimes2 in the Arab world.

Syria has not been untouched by the protests of Arab Spring, and violence has ensued. Fisk notes that the Arab League wants Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, to cease the violence forthwith. Fisk’s finger is pointed at Assad as culpable for the violence.3

Why cite the Arab League? Since the regimes in the Arab world are composed of unelected “leaders,” what legitimacy can it call upon to back its proclamations? The support of the Arab people for the Arab League is doubt-able. This is the same despotic Arab League that sacrificed a democratic Libya (maybe the most democratic nation in the world despite monopoly media disinformation to the contrary4 ) to NATO’s guns and rues the decision.5

Fisk continues, “The UN has roared, though it managed to smear Syria’s protesters by calling for both sides ‘to exercise restraint’ – as if the demonstrators had tanks.” Fisk surely knows that bombs can kill as well as tanks, and having the US (and others) supporting an insurgency tilts the battlefield markedly.6

The US is poising itself to influence power inside Syria.7 It is part of US plans for restructuring the Middle East according to the interests of its ruling classes.8

Fisk complains, “The trouble is that everyone has been running out of patience with Syria since the spring, and no one has done more than turn up the rhetoric as the statistics of innocent dead ticked up from 500 to 1,000, to more than 2,000.” What about the “innocent dead ticked” up by NATO in Libya?9 This Fisk knows well about, but he blames Gaddafi for the NATO murders.10 Is this factually accurate and honest reporting? It is bad enough to rail one-sidedly against the Syrian regime, but it is something else to pin NATO’s killings in Libya on a man who represents, for so many Libyans, a revolution that deposed a corrupt monarchy (the antithesis of democracy) over 40 years ago.

Fisk laments the absence of journalists inside Syria preventing the full story from being known. It would help to get the full story out if NATO would stop killing journalists.11 It depends on how Fisk defines journalists, and on whether journalists have some greater claim to the “full story” than others. There are journalists and others in Libya reporting, and many of them are reporting something entirely at odds to what the monopoly media is reporting.12 Certainly Fisk does not expect the western state and corporate media to present the “full story” of any state being attacked by American or allied forces. Does the monopoly media report the “full story” of Zionist crimes against humanity? Examples of media control are myriad, such as the censorship over repoorting the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,13 to the massive disinformation campaign over weapons of mass destruction in Iraq,14 to the present battle to censor Wikileaks. The world is filled with media complicity in crimes against humanity making the monopoly media guilty of crimes against humanity.15 The monopoly media cover-up of the genocide in Iraq is one glaring present-day example of blood on media hands.16

Disinformation is also at play against Syria.17

That Syria is a family fiefdom is irrefutable evidence that Syria is no democracy. However, where is the democracy that Fisk admires? Is it the corporate-bought presidency in the United States or the premiership in the United Kingdom? If one is going to rail against the lack of democracy elsewhere then shouldn’t one focus foremost on the poor example of democracy in one’s own country? Fisk’s friend Noam Chomsky argues that dissidents should focus foremost on the crimes of their own regimes. Chomsky said:

When enemies commit crimes, they’re crimes. In fact, we’re allowed to expand them, lie about them, make up stories about them and so on, but surely to get angry and infuriated about them. When we commit crimes, they didn’t happen.18

Does Fisk disagree with Chomsky?

Fisk goes so far as to advocate a NATO assault on Assad’s rule in Syria.19 He writes of a “Syrian bloodbath,” without drawing a link to the bloodbath in Libya, something that NATO is deeply complicit in, despite NATO’s pro forma denials.

Fisk ponders what could have been: “Britain’s RAF bases in Cyprus are infinitely closer to Syria than to Libya. Had we prevented the bloodbath in Benghazi and left the Libyans to their civil war, we might have found a public opinion strong enough to stomach an assault on the Assad legions.”

If an attack is predicated on regime criminality, then should Fisk not advocate war against the regime at home?

I do not advocate launching a war against anyone. I prefer diplomacy in regional wars and conflicts and military non-interference. However, I do recognize the right of resistance against occupiers and oppressors.

Is Robert Fisk advocating more imperialist wars in the Middle East? If so, then why is he not advocating a war on the regime in Israel?

Is Fisk contradicting himself? Earlier Fisk wrote about Obama’s Cairo speech: “Then we had to hear what America’s ‘role’ was going to be in the new Middle East. We did not hear if the Arabs wanted them to have a role.”20 Did the masses of Syrians tell Fisk that they wanted Britain’s RAF fighters to attack Syria?

If the Syrian regime falls, few progressives will feel sympathy for Assad. However, what will replace Assad? The toppling of Hosni Mubarak’s western-backed regime in Egypt appears, at this juncture, only to have led to a takeover by the elements of the previous regime: the Egyptian military.

Will the toppling of Syria’s government be an opportunity for imperialists to install a lynchpin in the Middle East? It might certainly please the regime in Israel. The removal of an anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist regime in Syria — an ally of Israel’s designated enemies, Hezbollah and Iran — might help to consolidate Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights and Shebaa Farms. With a weakened Hezbollah, parched Israel may once attempt to seize control of water resources in South Lebanon.

Compared to Zionist and imperialist crimes, the crimes of the Assad regime are a decidedly lesser evil. All evils should be opposed, but seldom should a lesser evil be sacrificed to the benefit of a greater evil. Imperialism and Zionism are responsible for massive killing, suffering, and poverty throughout the world. Consequently, if Fisk wants to advocate regime change, how about starting with Washington and Tel Aviv? Once these destructive forces are removed from the picture, then the Arab peoples will be freer to pursue their own destinies.

Fisk’s words appear to serve imperialist and Zionist ends. His words act to create divisions within the Muslim world. However bad the regimes in the Arab world are, only through a unified front against Zionists and imperialists can they gain freedom from outside forces. To this end, the Arab regimes require a unity with their peoples — something utterly lacking. Nonetheless, this is for Arabs to decide and not Israel, the US, Europe, or Robert Fisk.

  1. Kim Petersen, “Is Robert Fisk a Psychologist?Dissident Voice, 21 March 2011. []
  2. The use of the term “regime” is pejorative for “government.” This writers holds that it is equally applicable to the regimes in Washington and other western states. []
  3. Robert Fisk, “This slaughter will end only when words of condemnation are acted on,” Independent, 9 August 2011. This is disputed, as there is evidence that the massacres are part of a bloody disinformation campaign. See John Landis, “Syria and the Armed Gangs Controversy,” Dissident Voice, August 2011. While I distance myself from Landis’s trust in CNN as a news source, important is the writer casts serious doubt on Syrian government involvement in the killings. []
  4. See “Understanding the Green Book & Libyan politics, the easy way,” Youtube. []
  5. Edward Cody, “Arab League condemns broad Western bombing campaign in Libya,” Washington Post, 2011. []
  6. See Craig Whitlock, “U.S. secretly backed Syrian opposition groups, cables released by WikiLeaks show,” Washington Post, 17 April 2011. []
  7. Syrian Organizations in the United States form a Syrian Coordination Committee (SCC),” PR Newswire, 3 August 2011. []
  8. See Kim Petersen, “A Bloody Border Project,” Dissident Voice, 5 June 2007. []
  9. Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, “NATO Massacres of Civilians Aimed at ‘Cleansing’ the Libyan People’s Resistance: Photographic Evidence of NATO War Crimes,” Global Research, 2011. “Gaddafi Regime: 85 Libyan Civilians Killed in NATO Bombing,” Democracy Now!, 10 August 2011. []
  10. Robert Fisk, “Remember the civilian victims of past ‘Allied’ bombing campaigns,” Independent, 21 March 2011. []
  11. AFP, “3 journalists killed in Nato raid: Libya,” Times of India, 31 July 2011. This in no way implies that the killing of journalists is one-sided. []
  12. See, e.g., “Eye Witness Account From Libya,” ICH, 11 July 2011. See videos at “The Marches,” libyanrevolution. “Leonor is a Frequent Visitor to Libya – She Tells All,” Youtube. “Open letter from Russian doctors in Libya to the President of the Russian Federation,” Leonoren Lybia, 30 March 2011. Leonor Massanet interviews Eloy Pardo, “A Spaniard’s Testimony from Libya,” IJID. “EYEWITNESS: Dedon Kamathi Returns from Libya and Reports,” Spectrum Today News, 10 June 2011. []
  13. See “Hiroshima Nagasaki,” Democracy Now!. []
  14. Seth Ackerman “The Great WMD Hunt,” FAIR, July/August 2003. []
  15. Kim Petersen, “Disinformation: A Crime Against Humanity and a Crime Against Peace,” Press Action, 21 March 2005. []
  16. See Kim Petersen, “Genocide in Iraq: The Numbers Tell the Horrific Story of a Lying Government and Complicit Corporate Media,” Dissident Voice, 16 October 2006. []
  17. Zainab Cheema, “‘Gay Girl in Syria’ hoax points to US-led counter-revolution,” Media Monitors, 17 July 2011. []
  18. Noam Chomsky interviewed by David Barsamian, “War Crimes and Imperial Fantasies,” International Socialist Review, 37, September–October, 2004. []
  19. “Had Messrs Cameron, Sarkozy and Obama stopped short after they saved Benghazi – had they reined in their juvenile enthusiasm for destroying Gaddafi – they may have had the spittle (I use Sir Thomas More’s word for courage) and the munitions to destroy some of Assad’s 8,000 tanks.” []
  20. Robert Fisk, “Lots of rhetoric – but very little help,” Independent, 20 May 2011. []

Kim Petersen is co-editor of Dissident Voice. He can be reached at: kim@dissidentvoice.org. Read other articles by Kim.