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Did Assad bring it on himself?
SPECIAL FOR WUFYS READERS
The following comments will discuss how the IMF and World Bank sewed the seeds for the revolt, and for the destruction of Libya and Syria. In all cases, without exception, neo-liberal “reforms” impoverish the masses, crush them with debt, trigger inflation, widen the gap between rich and poor, and inflame the financial economy at the expense of the real economy.
If a target nation has a desirable resource (e.g. oil and gas), and its government follows IMF / World Bank instructions, then the resulting social stress can be used by NATO to destroy the nation, so that its resources may be freely stolen.
The point will be that Gaddafy and Assad were stupid to think they would avoid a NATO attack by obeying the IMF and World Bank. On the contrary, it made a NATO attack inevitable. Gaddafy paid the rice for his foolishness. Assad’s fate has not yet been decided.
We will discuss the Syrian “rebels,” and then move on to the roots of their revolt.
WHO ARE THE SYRIAN “REBELS”?
We know that the “rebels” consist of foreign mercenaries and murderous local bandits, but what about the indigenous rebels? Why are they revolting? A Washington post article about them spouts the usual propaganda, but has certain aspects that merit summarization.
Note that we are discussing the indigenous rebels, not the bandits, gangsters, and mercenaries.
Most of the indigenous rebels come from rural areas that have always been poor, but became even poorer when the Syrian government adopted the neo-liberal “reforms” of the IMF and World Bank (to be discussed farther below). They became poorer still when the global depression combined with a five-year drought in Syria. This made them ripe to be used and discarded by the NATO-Israeli-GCC alliance.
The indigenous rebels fight the government and the business class, i.e. urban merchants and industrialists who dominate cities like Homs, Aleppo, and Damascus. Many of these merchants and industrialists became rich with the IMF / World Bank “reforms,” while the poor became much poorer. (That is, the gap between rich and poor widened dramatically.)
The countryside surrounding Aleppo is dotted with small farming towns whose population is mainly Sunni Muslim, with a social fabric built around strong family and clan ties, primarily guided by local customs and a conservative brand of Islam (much as the American South is characterized by poverty, uneducated peasants, and violent Christian fanaticism.)
By contrast, Aleppo’s estimated 3 million urban residents are a mix of Sunni and Shiite Muslims, Alawites, Christians, Kurds, Turkomen and Armenians, all of which have a more liberal lifestyle. In addition, the urban centers have a powerful community of factory owners, manufacturers and merchants, mainly from prominent Sunni families, who were largely allowed to operate without government interference, while the Assad family’s Alawite sect kept its grip on political power.
The current uprising began in March 2011 in the impoverished southern province of Daraa (as NATO simultaneously destroyed Libya). A drought in Syria had displaced and impoverished tens of thousands of people from farming areas.
Meanwhile the city of Homs is known as “the mother of the poor” because it consists of poor workers who had jobs in the gas and petroleum refineries. The refineries had long been government-owned, but many passed into private hands with the neo-liberal “reforms,” such that workers became slaves.
In all cities, most of the fighting is in the poorer districts, with frequent rebel strikes into the city centers.
For much of the uprising, Aleppo largely remained on the government’s side, with little activity by bandits, mercenaries, or indigenous rebels. Aleppo’s businessmen warded off attacks by using threats and payoffs, since they had tens of thousands in the countryside on their payrolls. What few anti-Assad demonstrations that did take place early on came from the dormitories of the University of Aleppo, home to poor students from rural areas.
When the Western-backed rebels attacked Aleppo in July 2012, they moved into its impoverished, mainly Sunni districts, whose residents are mostly of rural origin. These poor areas became the rebel base, and remains so. Once the bandits penetrated the city, they were joined by others among the urban poor. All of Aleppo’s rebel-held areas are poor, while Aleppo’s affluent parts remain under government control, with life there continuing much as it had before, much to the rage of the rebels. When government forces surround and starve a rebel area, the desperate rebels attack city centers, using NATO-supplied arms.
Religious fanaticism increases in proportion to one’s poverty. This is a global constant. Religion allows the poor to escape into fantasy, and justifies the killing of people deemed better off. Religion also sustains delusions (which never come true) that a theocracy will be more egalitarian, and less materialistic. Further, religion bestows the courage to revolt, since dead rebels become “martyrs,” and go to an imaginary paradise of vengeance, where they can oppress the rich for all eternity, just as the rich oppressed them on earth.
Such escapist fanaticism, inflamed by poverty, is further inflamed by the trauma of war. Most rebels in Aleppo wear beards, a hallmark of Muslim piety among the poor and uneducated. Their conversation is filled with verses from the Quran, or sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad. They frame the fight in a religious context, and brag that they actually seek martyrdom. They also trade wild fables of imagined miracles that show God’s support for them. For example, they imagine that when they throw grenades, God changes their trajectory in mid-air, such that the grenades score direct hits on their enemies. It is the rhetoric of fear and desperation.
Rebel ambulance drivers especially like to brag about the courage, ignoring the fact that Syrian government forces do not fire on ambulances (unlike the rebels, or Israel, or NATO, which especially target ambulances, the wounded, and funeral processions).
Government forces punish the rebel-held areas daily with artillery and air strikes. In the cross-fire, civilians are killed and wounded while standing in bread lines, walking the streets, or watching TV at home. Bandit snipers target civilians in the rebel areas, while the Western media and “rights groups” falsely claim that the snipers are with the government, and deliberately target civilians.
The rebels are in a desperate fight for their lives, since even the poor are now tired of the war. In the poor parts of Aleppo’s outskirts, for example, there is hatred of the rebels because of their impact on the local economy. The rebels often retaliate by killing the poor, which the Western media and “rights groups” falsely blame on the Syrian government.
State-supported farmers’ associations that once sold fuel, seeds, and fertilizers no longer do so. Black market prices for the items are so high that it’s not worth planting some crops when the season starts in December. The fighting has also shut down markets that traditionally bought the rural produce of wheat, barley, chickpeas and olives.
“Supplies were available for the last farming season, but this season will be a very difficult one,” said Mazen Aleto, a local council member in Tel Rifaat, a village north of Aleppo. “There may not be a harvest this time.”
Thus, the rebels will starve and freeze as winter comes on, spurring them to ever more bloody acts of desperation. If they give up fighting altogether, then NATO may have to unleash a “humanitarian” bombing campaign, destroying Syria as NATO did Libya. (The 50,000 Libyans that NATO murdered were “liberated,” and now have “freedom and democracy.”)
THE ROOTS OF THE REBELLION
One of Syria’s problems is the “Dutch disease,” in which a nation relies so much on revenue from one resource that its farming and manufacturing sectors die. This also causes rural folk to converge on cities, creating vast slums. Further, it causes the nation to rely on food imports, which makes it vulnerable to blockades. In the case of Syria and Venezuela, the resource is oil and gas. In other cases, the resource is gold and precious metals. In Europe and North America, the “Dutch disease” is caused by the supremacy of the financial economy at the expense of the real economy. In all cases, a handful of people get rich, which everyone else starves.
Despite the “Dutch disease,” Syria’s real problems started with the government’s adoption of neo-liberal “reforms,” with all the standard lies about “free markets,” “trickle down,” and so on. Syria moved from a stable and socialist country to a Western-style nightmare, which the NATO powers fanned into a civil war.
Linda Matar with the Department of Economics at the University of London describes the process. Her comments will be summarized below.
Soon after assuming power in 2000, Bashar al-Assad introduced wide-ranging economic “reforms” (i.e. privatization and deregulation) that made him the darling of Western bankers and elitists. Assad enacted an investment-promoting decree; privatized state farms; introduced a private banking system; de-regulated capital and trade accounts; reduced customs duties; and promoted private sector-led investment at the expense of state-led investment.
Bashar’s father (Hafiz al-Asad) had already initiated some of these “reforms” on a modest level, but Bashar made the fatal error of doing so under guidance from the IMF and the World Bank, which (as always) claimed that “liberalization” would promote “stabilization.”
The IMF and World Bank spouted the lie (as always) that poverty would mean prosperity. The rich would become richer than ever, while the poor would benefit from “trickle down” economics. As always, when the rich actually become richer, they adopt the IMF / World Bank lies to justify their theft and corruption. That is, the local rich start talking abut “trickle down” and “fiscal responsibility,” and all the other terms that mask their greed and theft. Syria was no exception.
As always, the move toward the “market economy” neglected equitable income distribution and social protection, such that the gap between rich and poor widened dramatically. The financial economy (which benefits the “1%”) expanded at the expense of the real economy (i.e. the “99%”). As always, the corporate media called this a “miracle.” Bashar al-Assad was heralded as an “enlightened reformer.” (Same with Gaddafi, who went through the exact same cycle of stupidity.)
When Bashar took over, economic conditions in Syria were not in the best shape. In 1999 the GDP growth rate was negative 2.5 percent. In 2000 it was zero percent. From 1997 to 2001, GDP per capita had an average growth rate of negative one percent. This, combined with the “Dutch disease” (caused by Syria’s heavy reliance on oil revenue) made Syria ripe for the international bankers to come in with “reforms.”
In 2002, Syria’s economic performance improved with the rise in international oil prices (same with Venezuela), but the banker “reforms” had already been initiated, such that the increased oil wealth went only to the rich.
State-led investment decreased. Meanwhile foreign investment by speculators and corporate tycoons increased from 17 percent of GDP in 2000 to 23 percent in 2007. This private investment (as always) was concentrated in short-term or single-deal attempts in the FIRE sectors (finance, insurance, and real estate -- i.e. the financial economy).
GCC oil sheiks poured billions of dollars into Syrian real estate, causing a price bubble, especially in Damascus and Aleppo. The Syrian financial economy exploded at the expense of the real economy. Out of the total level of investment, the agricultural share fell from 16 percent in 2000 to 9 percent in 2007. Meanwhile in the real economy, investment in industry dwindled, causing the once exporting local industrialists to switch to importing or trading.
The exploding financial economy made a handful of people rich, but “trickle down” (as always) turned out to be a lie. The financial economy created no job opportunities for the 250,000 new Syrian entrants into the labor market each year. The urban “1%” became filthy rich, which the urban poor and the rural folk became dirt poor. As manufacturing disappeared, so did jobs.
Again, all this made Bashar al-Assad the darling of the West, which equates “freedom and democracy” with the tyranny of plutocracy. As the financial sector metastasized, the share of wages out of Syria’s national income fell. In 2000 it was 60%. By 2004 it was 40.5 percent. By 2009 it was 33 percent in 2009. In other words, parasitical rents and financial profits constituted 67 percent of the GDP. As in the West, everyone and everything existed to serve the bankers, the corporate lords, corrupt politicians, and the “1%.”
In 2009 the average household expenditure was S£31,000 per month (approximately $653), of which S£14,000 (approximately $295) went toward food. That is, 45 percent of everyone’s income went to food, 40 percent went to paying rent, and the remaining 15% went to general living expenses. Moreover, by 2009, nearly 71 percent of Syrian workers were earning less than S£13,000 (approximately $274) a month, meaning they were hardly surviving at all.
Thus, neo-liberal policies had once again fulfilled their purpose of widening the gap between the “1%” and the “99%,” and increasing the power of bankers and politicians.
Naturally, prices for everything went through the roof, which further benefited the “1%” (since all the money ultimately flows to them). During the 1990s, when the Syrian government had subsidies and price controls, inflation was only 5%. In 2000, however, the Syrian government (responding to instructions by the IMF and World Bank) eliminated fuel, power, diesel, and fertilizer subsidies. This caused a radical inflation spike (i.e. increase in prices) that crushed the poor. In addition, a severe drought in Syria forced farmers to farm less, or abandon their crops, as they have not been able to finance the cost of production. From 2006 to 2008, the inflation rate grew from 10 percent to 15 percent. If housing costs are included in those figures, inflation hovered around 17-20 percent. Thus, the MF / World Bank “reforms” achieved their goal of reducing the purchasing power of most Syrians, thereby widening the gap between rich and poor.
As a result of the ever-increasing poverty, social and ethnic differences became more pronounced. Today the rebels act from fear, hate, and desperation, with the NATO powers happy to arm them – but not enough for the rebels to actually take power. Instead, NATO seeks to destroy Syria by attrition. If the rebels have too many losses, then NATO increases its aid. If they make too many gains, NATO reduces the aid.
USED AND DISCARDED
Now that the situation for most Syrians has become worse than ever, the rebels cannot stop even if they want to. They have already looted everything, and have ensured that there will be no food for the coming winter. If Assad grants them concessions, then rich urban dwellers will turn against him, and Assad will go the way of Gaddafi.
Therefore, as winter sets in, the rebels will become more violent than ever, or else they will sit out the cold months, desperately searching for scraps to eat. But if they back off, then NATO mercenaries will massacre more villages, once more stoking the flames. If even that does not work, then NATO may have to start “humanitarian” bombing, not to destroy the government, but to destroy Syria (like Libya).
NATO destroyed Libya in order to stop Gaddafi’s efforts to create an alternative currency for Africa, and to steal Libya’s resources. Syria is being destroyed for its resources, and to weaken both Iran and Russia.
When Syria is destroyed, NATO will leave its rebels to starve (like Libya). Foreign corporations will steal Syria’s remaining oil and gas, while the starving rebels will be happy to protect the foreign-owned oil wells (like Libya). Anyone who questions this will be labeled “Al Qaeda,” and will be killed by U.S. drone strikes (like Libya).
Then NATO will move on to Iran.
WHO’S TO BLAME?
Neo-liberal “reforms” increase the gap between the “1%” and the “99%,” and generally increase the strength of a tyrannical government. This is great for the rich and their puppet politicians, but what if the globalists plan to eliminate your nation altogether? Hugo Chavez seems to have gotten the memo, but Gaddafy (and perhaps Assad) learned the truth too late. For the bankers and globalists, today’s “enlightened leader” is tomorrow’s “evil dictator.” (Myanmar, seeing the fate of Libya, has utterly surrendered to NATO and the globalists.) How many times must the same lies be repeated before they are no longer believed?
As for the impoverished Syrian “rebels,” can we blame them for being desperate? Did they have any say in the neo-liberal “reforms” that wiped out their jobs, and eliminated subsidies for food and fuel? I do not excuse their atrocities, and I certainly condemn the mercenaries, the bandits, and the gangsters who exploit the situation.
But who opened the door for all this?
Who let in the bankers and globalists?
Who traded long-term stability for short-term greed?