Syria is on the cusp of peace, but the propaganda war is still raging in the west. What about Bashar al-Assad's reputation in the west as a torturer? Does the evidence of this mean that the Syrian state has no right to defend Syria?
To paraphrase from the Russian Marxist Plekhanov who wrote about this kind of "moral" argument in 1901 in his essay "Cant Against Kant", it is one thing to morally object to violence, torture, etc. But it is another thing to use this objection to then say that someone attacked in the street should then be forced to fight with their hands tied behind their backs.
The point I am making is not to endorse torture but to say that whatever moral objections one might have to things done by many governments (and certainly Syria has nothing on the US with its Abu Ghraib and secret prisons all over the world and its invasion and occupation of one country after another) the important thing about what is happening in Syria is not whether there is torture or no torture but that the country is being attacked by terrorists in the interests of imperialism and so Syria has the right to fight back.
In terms of characterizing the Syrian government, torture has been used by both "good" and "bad" governments, as abhorrent as it may be, so that does not tell us very much about Syria. But Syria has many policies that many on the left in imperialist countries only dream about for their own countries. To list some:
- parliament seats are 50%+1 reserved for workers and peasants
- city council seats are 25% reserved for low-income residents
- retail prices are capped by popular committees
- the country's loan capital prioritized public infrastructure and investment so much that private businesses had to go to Europe for loans because they were lower in priority, compare this to crumbling underfunded infrastructure in the US
- university education has nominal (practically free) or low cost
- generally free health care for most people
These are things those in the US want for their "own" countries which Syria already has, so that should give us an idea that the US or the West has no moral superiority over Syria. Even with the Maher Arar case it was after all at the US's request, and as mentioned the US has tortured far worse.
About the Author
Saleh Waziruddin is an Indian/Pakistani (South Asian)-Canadian who grew up in Saudi Arabia. He is on the executive committees of the Canadian Peace Congress and also the Canadian Network on Cuba.