COUNTERPUNCH: “Baathism, Secularism and the U.S. Encouragement of Fanatic Islamism in the Arab World” by GARY LEUPP

COUNTERPUNCH – A beautiful essay posted on, entitled “A Marine in Syria: Silhouettes of Beauty and Coexistence before the Devastation” by Brad Hoff, draws our attention to what for the warmongers in Washington is a highly inconvenient truth: the secular dictatorships in the Middle East the U.S. has sought to destroy since 9/11 (including most recently that of Libya) have been far more tolerant towards religious and cultural diversity than the regimes that have replaced them.

In particular, the much-vilified Baath Party, which governed Iraq during the Saddam years and continues to govern Syria, was and is based upon the principle of secularism (non-religious, relatively religiously tolerant) rule…

Read the rest at Counterpunch Magazine…


Kamal Alam: “Pax Syriana – neither vaquished, nor all-conquering”

Syria´s president Hafez al-Asad and Defense Minister Mustapha Tlass, during the Arab-Israeli War of 1973, at the Golan front. Wikimedia/The Online Museum of Syrian History. Public domain.

Now an almost yearly journalistic exercise, a slew of prominent journalists and analysts are musing about an imminent collapse of the Syrian government in Damascus. While government forces have suffered significant setbacks in the last weeks, such a predicted collapse is not coming.

As I said this week on the Scott Horton Show, nationalism in Syria is still alive and well and constitutes the “sticking power” of the Army, whose members do not identify themselves fundamentally according to sectarian or ethnic background, but as Syrians first. The Army understands itself as fighting tooth and nail for the sovereignty of their nation against a foreign invasion by proxy.

A failure to understand the nature of the Ba’ath state and the history of the Syrian Army as an enduring and experienced institution with popular backing continues to result in embarrassing and false predictions among politicians and analysts.

Kamal Alam’s Pax Syriana: neither vaquished, nor all-conquering remains the best history and analysis of the Syrian Army and why it has not fragmented or collapsed throughout the last four plus years of immense internal and external pressures. 

Pax Syriana: neither vaquished, nor all-conquering

OPENDEMOCRACY.NET – The Syrian Army has fought on now for more than three years without disintegrating as had been predicted by many commentators. Indeed it is the Army of the Syrian Arab Republic (al-Jaysh al-’Arabī as-Sūrī) which has kept the state intact. The Syrian state institutions of which the Army is the foremost guarantor have held firm in the onslaught of all the non- state actors as well as regional neighbours.

How is it that the Syrian Arab Army has held together? Contrary to what most observers say, the overwhelming factor in this has not been because this was an Allawite army. Had this been the case, it would not have been able to hang on for so long. The most prominent Chiefs of Staff and General Staff officers have been a combination of Sunni, Christian and Allawite. Nor was the army constructed along sectarian or ethnic lines. To take its three major contemporary personalities–Mustafa Tlass, Fahd Jassem Frejj and the late Daoud Rajiha–they are respectively Sunni and Greek Orthodox. The elder Tlass is now retired, but he was the man who shaped the Syrian armed forces with Hafez al Assad in the 1970s.

Read the rest here…

A Marine in Syria: Silhouettes of Beauty and Coexistence before the Devastation

He who has not lived in the years before the revolution cannot know what the sweetness of living is.    

—Talleyrand, via Bertolucci, from the 1964 film Prima della Rivoluzione

IRAQ, LIBYA, SYRIA… Countries ripped apart through sectarian and political violence in the aftermath of cataclysmic external interventions: American invasion and occupation in Iraq, NATO intervention in Libya, and international proxy war in Syria. Mere mention of these countries conjures images of sectarian driven atrocities and societal collapse into the abyss of a Hobbesian jungle. And now it is commonplace to just assume it’s always been so. Increasingly, one hears from all corners of public discourse the lazily constructed logic, “but they’ve always hated each other”… or “violence and conflict are endemic to the region.” But it was not always so — I found a place of beauty, peace, and coexistence in a Syria that is now almost never acknowledged, and which risks being forgotten about. But Syrians themselves will never forget…

Read the rest of “A Marine in Syria” at

A bizarre and fascinating tale of the young Ba’ath revolutionary Saddam Hussein

File:Saddam Hussain 1980.jpg

The below paragraph from the first English political biography of Saddam Hussein to have been produced after the first Gulf War, Saddam Hussein: A Political Biography (1991), contains the most intriguing story you’ve likely ever heard about the young revolutionary Ba’ath officer (account said to have happened in or near 1968):

These purges were not only planned and executed by Saddam in his capacity as the head of the security services, but there is some evidence that he took close interest in their practical implementation. A Shi’ite dissident who survived the torture chambers of Qasr al-Nihayyah gave a hair-raising description of how Saddam personally killed another Shi’ite detainee by the name of Dukhail: “He came into the room, picked up Dukhail and dropped him into a bath of acid. And then he watched while the body dissolved.” Although this episode, like numerous Shi’ite stories seeking to blacken Saddam’s image, can neither be confirmed nor denied, the Deputy Chairman’s personal involvement in the persecution of political opponents is also illustrated by the account of a Jewish survivor of the notorious palace, who was much luckier than his Shi’ite counterpart. Na’im Tawina, now a 65-year-old Israeli, was a member of the Iraqi Jewish community when he was jailed in the early 1970s as “a Zionist spy.” One day, as he was about to be tortured, Saddam suddenly entered the room. He cast a quick glance at Tawina and addressed the investigator. “Do not touch this man,” he said, “he is a good man. I know him. Let him go.” The startled Tawina was released from jail and sent away. Shortly afterwards he fled the country and emigrated to Israel. For years he wondered what drove the “strong man in Baghdad,” whom he had not personally known, to show such close interest in his fate. It was only much later, when he saw a picture of the young Saddam, that the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle were put together. He recollected that Saddam had been the slim youth at the Baghdadi street corner from whom he used to buy his cigarettes on his way to work, and whom he had often tipped handsomely. Saddam apparently remembered his anonymous benefactor and rewarded him in the most significant manner possible. (pp. 39-40)