By JEFF MACKLER
At meetings initiated by the newly formed Hands Off Syria Coalition (HOSC), independent Canadian journalist Eva Bartlett reported on her several trips to Syria, including most recently to Aleppo in late November. Bartlett toured the U.S. in mid-December addressing packed meetings in New York City and other East Coast venues as well as standing-room-only public forums in Oakland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
More than 600 activists attended her meetings, which included lengthy question and answer periods. Her slide show and video presentation debunked the U.S. corporate media’s characterization of the events in Syria as a civil war between democratic-minded Syrian “rebels” and the government of President Bashar Assad. Instead, Bartlett, while noting the legitimacy of the early mass protests for democracy in 2011, asserted that this brief movement had long ago given way to a U.S.-backed, NATO and Gulf State Arab monarchy abetted imperialist and terrorist war aimed at “regime change” in Syria.
Based on two key points of unity, “No U.S. Intervention in Syria!” and Self-determination for Syria!” the Hands Off Syria Coalition was formed last year at the initiative of the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) and the U.S. Peace Council.
Security and transportation for Bartlett’s most recent visit to Aleppo was provided by the Syrian government and included interviews with President Assad. Bartlett was joined on this tour by journalists from several countries, including the New York Times Bureau Chief based in Lebanon, Anne Barnard. Bartlett traveled on the same bus with Barnard, and both noted the massive destruction in Western Aleppo wrought by so-called rebels based in Eastern Aleppo and backed by the U.S.
While Barnard’s reportage over the past years has frequently called attention to the fact that the main fighting forces in Syria seeking the Assad government’s removal are trained, financed, and abetted by the U.S. and its sponsored “coalition” allies, The Times coverage most often relegates this defining information to brief references buried beneath the official CIA assertions that the Syrian government is guilty of war crimes.
See Socialist Action, November 2016, for Barnard’s and other Times reports on the central role of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front and its essential domination of the fighting forces in Eastern Aleppo. For example, the Aug. 25, 2016, New York Times reported, “The jihadists’ prominent role in the Aleppo offensive showed that they remain militarily indispensable to the wider rebel movement and increased their popularity at a time when many Syrians [unnamed] criticize the United States for not doing more to protect Syrian civilians.”
And further from the July 14, 2016, Times, “The Nusra Front has been one of the most effective anti-Assad forces and because of that United States-backed rebel groups often coordinate their activities with its units.”
Bartlett’s interviews and live footage demonstrate major support to the Syrian government, a fact confirmed by the independent ORB polling agency, which found in May 2014 that the Syrian government and President Assad had more support among the Syrian people than the combined total of all its opposition.
To date, more than 2000 organizations and individuals around the world have signed the HOSC petition demanding U.S. Out Now! and Syrian self-determination (see UNACpeace.org).
Bartlett’s tour was especially well received in Oakland and San Francisco, where over $3000 was raised to help defray her travel expenses. The Bay Area tour was also sponsored by UNAC and the Syria Solidarity Committee. This writer, representing UNAC, opened the meetings in Oakland and San Francisco to explain the basic political principles that form the basis of the HOSC.
Photo by Roger Harris: Bartlett’s forum in Oakland (from left): Paul Larudee, Syria Solidarity Coalition; Eva Bartlett; Jeff Macker, UNAC; Rick Sterling, Veterans for Peace.