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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people                              
Vol. 80/No. 1      January 4, 2016

‘Militant’ takes holiday break.
This is a two-week issue.
no. 2 in 2016 will be mailed out January 7.


2001-15 Militant Index
Now Available Online
(lead article)

Washington talks of Syria cease-fire, but steps up war

Washington and Moscow collaborated to push through a United Nations Security Council resolution Dec. 18 backing talks on a cease-fire in Syria. But bombing, shelling and other destruction — at the hands of Washington, Paris, Moscow and the Bashar al-Assad regime in Damascus — continue to rain devastation across the country.

The U.N. resolution was prepared by a trip to Moscow three days earlier by Secretary of State John Kerry, who said, “The United States and our partners are not seeking regime change in Syria.”

The administration of President Barack Obama acts as if the interests of U.S. capitalism and those of the rulers of Russia, Iran and Turkey can converge through negotiations, when all they have in common is seeking to advance their own sharply counterposed national interests.

At the same time, government spokespeople and political aspirants continue to scapegoat Muslims and Islam as the source of recent terror attacks in Paris and California, debating how severe new restrictions on basic rights should be and spawning assaults on mosques and Muslims.

The Washington-led coalition ramped up its air attacks on Islamic State positions in Syria and Iraq, while Moscow and the Assad regime kept pounding forces fighting the brutal Syrian government.

Opponents of Assad were forced to retreat Dec. 9 from their longtime stronghold in Homs.

Tensions between Moscow and Ankara have escalated sharply since the Turkish air force shot down a Russian fighter plane Nov. 24 and Russian President Vladimir Putin retaliated with economic sanctions. The war of words between the two regimes contains the threat of military conflict.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken advantage of the focus on Islamic State to step up a bloody assault on Kurds and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in southeast Turkey. Some 10,000 police and troops backed by tanks have killed hundreds and forced nearly 200,000 people to flee their homes.

The civil war in Syria, begun when Assad met mass mobilizations against his regime with bloody force in 2011, has left more than 250,000 people dead and more than half the population displaced. Islamic State has stepped into the vacuum created by decades of betrayals of the fight for national liberation by bourgeois nationalist and Stalinist forces and taken control of hunks of Syrian territory and Sunni areas in Iraq.

Aided by U.S. bombing, the Iraqi government is fighting to recapture Ramadi from Islamic State. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Baghdad Dec. 16, but al-Abadi rebuffed Carter’s offer of air assistance in a campaign to retake Mosul, fearing opposition from Iranian-backed militias allied with his government.

Attacks on Muslims

“We’re hitting ISIL [Islamic State] harder than ever in Syria and Iraq. We are taking out their leaders,” Obama said in a speech at the National Counterterrorism Center in McLean, Virginia, Dec. 17, and adding “additional layers of security for visitors who come here under the Visa Waiver Program.”

Most Republican presidential candidates derided Obama’s perspective of talks and bombing, arguing he should escalate Washington’s military involvement. Ted Cruz said he would bomb Islamic State “into oblivion.” Donald Trump said, “I would bomb the s--- out of them.”

Trump also said he agreed “100 percent” with Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders that Washington should back off efforts to topple Assad. They agreed the Middle East would be more stable with Assad, and with Saddam Hussein and Moammar Gadhafi still in power. Democratic politicians from Obama to Hillary Clinton and the liberal press excoriated Trump for his call for a ban on Muslim immigration. However, since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, both Democratic and Republican administrations have taken measures to exclude Muslims. “For the past 14 years, authorities have steadily and silently implemented variants of the proposed Muslim exclusion,” human rights attorney Diala Shamas wrote in the Washington Post Dec. 17.

A little-known federal program “results in delays or outright denial of citizenship or immigration benefits for otherwise eligible Muslims,” she said.”

The Obama administration has confiscated the passports of a number of U.S. citizens of Yemeni origin when they visited the U.S. Consulate there on routine matters, and uses its no-fly list to bar Muslims from boarding flights to or from the U.S. “We should be far more concerned by well-oiled federal programs vigorously defended by a Democratic administration than by bombastic election-season proclamations” by Trump, Shamas wrote.

Obama blames the working class, particularly those who are Caucasian, for attacks on Muslims. In an NPR interview aired Dec. 21, he attributed Trump’s popularity to the fact that “blue-collar men have had a lot of trouble in this new economy, where they are no longer getting the same bargain that they got when they were going to a factory and able to support their families on a single paycheck. You combine those things, and it means that there is going to be potential anger, frustration, fear — some of it justified but misdirected.”

He made similar anti-working-class comments in 2008, saying workers in rural Pennsylvania areas where he campaigned were facing shrinking job opportunities and “they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

Meanwhile, attacks against Muslims continue. Swastikas were painted on two businesses owned by people of Middle Eastern descent in the Salt Lake City area last week.

Wheaton College, a private evangelical school, suspended professor Larycia Hawkins after she donned a hijab in solidarity with Muslims and posted on Facebook Dec. 10 that Christians and Muslims “worship the same God.” Students and others at the Chicago-area college protested the suspension.

Some 200 people attended a press conference Dec. 18 in San Francisco against scapegoating of Muslims.
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