Michael Karadjis whitewashes Syrian al-Qaeda as “decent revolutionaries”

Michael Karadjis is one of the leading left-wing supporters of Western-backed Syrian rebels. His personal website, mkaradjis.wordpress.com, is in fact entirely devoted to the subject, and is titled “Syrian Revolution Commentary and Analysis.”

Karadjis, who has declared that Syrian al-Qaeda shooting down Russian planes would be “a victory for all humanity,” is part of a small yet obsessive crew of so-called leftists who viciously attack anti-war socialists.

For this regime change brigade, “anti-imperialism” is a bad word. Karadjis and his anti-anti-war confrères (a list is below) relentlessly smear journalists, writers, and activists who oppose Western intervention in Syria and the extremist Salafi jihadist militants in the country who are backed by the US, the UK, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey.

Michael Karadjis, an academic who has lectured at Western Sydney University and the University of Sydney, is a prolific writer. His pieces on Syria have appeared in Trotskyite websites like Socialist Worker, the newspaper of the Cliffite US group the International Socialist Organization (ISO); Links, which is affiliated with Australia’s Socialist Alliance; and Red Flag, the newspaper of Australian Socialist Alternative; along with Qatar’s putative progressive Al Jazeera alternative Al-Araby Al-Jadeed (The New Arab).

The articles Karadjis has published in these outlets and on his blog steadfastly defend the right-wing Islamist armed opposition in Syria. They are often light on facts and evidence, and heavy on ideological opining and moral posturing about the “authoritarian” left and its supposed “support of dictators.”

Karadjis takes this defense of Syrian rebels to extreme heights, going so far as to downplay and whitewash the far-right, fundamentalist ideology of militant groups like Syria’s al-Qaeda affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra.

In fact, in a 2014 article from his website that was reprinted in the ISO’s official publication Socialist Worker, Michael Karadjis referred to Jabhat al-Nusra fighters as “decent revolutionaries,” rationalized so-called moderate rebels joining al-Qaeda, and insisted, “Attacking JaN is a way of attacking the revolution.”

For apologists who might try to argue these quotes were “taken out of context,” the following is the exact quote from Karadjis’ article:

Despite the jihadist JaN leadership, much of its ranks are decent revolutionaries, often former FSA cadre, just going where the money and arms are. Despite some its recent provocations–caused by the impact of ISIS’s victory in Mosul on the more jihadist parts of the JaN ranks), it still mostly fights the regime and ISIS.

Attacking JaN is a way of attacking the revolution, just as the U.S. has been trying to turn the FSA into a Sawha–the tribal groups that the U.S. enlisted in Iraq to fight al-Qaeda–against JaN (not only against ISIS) since 2012. The FSA has always rejected this imperialist “advice.” According to FSA Col. Abdul Jabbar Akaidi, speaking last year, if the U.S. “helps us so that we kill each other, then we don’t want their help.”

Then we had the recent United Nations resolution against ISIS that just happened to also be against JaN as well, nicely slipped in by Obama.

The strange thing is this argument is couched in what appears to be principled opposition to US military intervention. Any socialist worth their salt must of course oppose US military intervention, and this is no exception. But Karadjis and groups like the ISO have no problem supporting rebels that were armed, trained, and funded by the US and its reactionary allies; they just claim to oppose direct US airstrikes (particularly when those airstrikes target Syrian al-Qaeda — when they target the Syrian government, some ostensible leftists applaud).

Hoping al-Qaeda shoots down Russian planes

That’s not all. In a 2016 post on his website, Michael Karadjis also insisted, “if even Nusra got its hands on good anti-aircraft missiles and shot dozens of Russian warplanes out of the sky it would be a victory for all humanity.”

The absurd defenses of Syrian al-Qaeda do not end there. In his 2014 article republished by the ISO’s Socialist Worker, Karadjis again whitewashed al-Qaeda, insisting its ranks do not share the “reactionary nature” (to put al-Qaeda’s genocidal, fascist ideology mildly) of its leadership.

He noted that, in the rebel-held Syrian cities of Aleppo, Idlib, and Homs, the opposition held demonstrations with chants of “We are all Nusra.”

Karadjis then risibly bent over backward to portray Syrian rebels’ “we are all al-Qaeda” slogan as “merely a declaration of rejection of U.S. imperialism’s attempts to set conditions on the uprising.”

For those who might falsely claim these remarks are out of context, the full paragraphs follow below:

Now, as stated above, I certainly don’t love Jabhat al-Nusra. But these chants mean the people identify with those getting bombed by Assad’s newly acquired air force. For those who want to emphasize the reactionary nature of the Nusra leadership–which I would distinguish from its ranks–this development underlines the fact that creating counterrevolution works in differing ways: One way is to directly attack a militia like JaN, which at this point is on the side of the revolutionary forces; another is to put extra pressure on the more pro-Western elements within the FSA to take the U.S. side against JaN, thus weakening and splitting their forces on the ground; and a third way is precisely allowing JaN to denounce anyone who doesn’t support it now as a U.S. agent, thus strengthening Nusra, the most jihadist pole, within the anti-Assad, anti-ISIS front.

Though this is by no means straightforward. The “We are all Nusra” chants may simply be identifying with those under U.S. attack rather than expressing political support for JaN. Thus, these demonstrations could equally be seen as a new, clearer anti-imperialist grounding of the revolution. It may take some time to work through what this means.

In this 2014 article, Michael Karadjis furthermore lamented, “A mass demonstration supporting ISIS even occurred in Kafranbel in Idlib, the very heart and soul of the revolution!”

More than two years have since passed, and what this means is very clear: The Syrian opposition is dominated by extremists.

Michael Karadjis

Michael Karadjis whitewashing Al-Qaeda

Jabhat al-Nusra is likely the most powerful rebel group in Syria. It has also become the largest al-Qaeda affiliate in history.

Michael Karadjis acknowledged the violently sectarian fundamentalist ideology of Syrian al-Qaeda, but downplayed it and argued so-called moderate rebels in Syria must deal with it out of political necessity, writing, “Despite also being a sectarian organization which the FSA will have to deal with in the future in its own time, based on its own decision-making, JaN has, for the most part, been fighting on the side of the FSA and the other rebels against both the Assad regime and ISIS.”

Like his ideological comrades on the the soft-imperialist left, Karadjis refers to the Syrian government as “fascist” (or, more specifically, “secular-fascist,” in contrast to the “clerical-fascist” ISIS). Yet, at the same time, he whitewashes actual fascists in Syria: al-Qaeda.

The arguments he employs are also the exact same arguments used by so-called left-wing supporters of the mujahideen in its war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Like the armed Syrian opposition, the Afghan mujahideen were dominated by hard-line, far-right Islamist extremists (true, not entirely, but mostly). And like Syrian rebels today — many of whom in fact refer to themselves in Arabic as mujahideen — the Afghan mujahideen were armed, trained, and funded by the US and its loyal imperial subject Saudi Arabia.

Not one to let pesky facts get in the way, nevertheless, Michael Karadjis dabbles in the conspiratorial, maintaining that the US and its allies were never truly committed to regime change in Syria, despite the enormous amount of evidence to the contrary — namely the more than $1 billion per year the CIA was spending ($1 out of every $15 in its budget) on arming and training rebels committed to the overthrow of the Syrian government, not even to mention the hundreds of times US government officials including former president Barack Obama, secretary of states Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, and more reiterated endlessly that Syria’s Bashar al-Assad must step down.

‘Leftist’ Syria regime change brigade

Michael Karadjis is by no means the only so-called leftist supporter of Syrian rebels who has said positive things about Jabhat al-Nusra. He joins other prominent figures of the “socialist” Syria regime change brigade.

Even more obsessive blogger Louis Proyect, who writes under the name “The Unrepentant Marxist,” has likewise expressed support for Syrian al-Qaeda.

Louis Proyect is a serial liar with extremely deranged behavior who has written numerous falsehoods and smears about me (and who photoshopped my head onto a cockroach).

Michael Kardjis and Louis Proyect are just two parts of the group. Other “leftist” Syria regime change figures include:

  • Muhammad Idrees Ahmad (or Idrees Ahmad), who staunchly supported NATO’s dismemberment of Libya and cheered on Donald Trump’s missile attack on Syria;
  • Oz Katerji, who has worked for Turkish state media TRT World, who openly calls for US-led regime change in Syria, who proudly tries to no-platform and economically attack anti-interventionist journalists, and who smears everyone who opposes regime change — including British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn — as “Stalinists” (UPDATE: After this article was published, Oz Katerji made it angrily clear to “little runt” me that he is a liberal, not a leftist);
  • Sam Charles Hamad, whose diatribe in the neoconservative website The Daily Beast was picked apart by Glenn Greenwald;
  • along with the disgraced Trotskyite writer Andrew Pollack, of the MENA Solidarity Network US, who was accused of harassment by numerous female socialist activists.

Michael Karadjis’ soft-imperialist politics have been noticed by other leftist organizations. The World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) has condemned Karadjis as one of the “Australian pseudo-lefts complicit in US war drive against Syria.”

WSWS wrote very presciently, back in 2013 (emphasis mine):

Socialist Alternative’s most recent article on the situation in Syria, “Assad’s backers on the left are ignoring reality,” published four months ago on May 5, was, for example, written by Socialist Alliance member Michael Karadjis.

The main purpose of Karadjis’s article was to blind its readers to the Obama administration’s preparations for war, and to cover over the reactionary character of the regime-change campaign. Blatantly denying well-established facts, such as the dominant role of Al Qaeda-connected sectarian militias among the so-called rebel fighters, and the active role of the CIA along the Syrian-Turkish border in coordinating the flow of weapons, money, and foreign Islamist fighters into Syria, Karadjis denounced all those who were “convinced that the US is hell-bent on backing the Syrian rebellion against the regime of Bashar Assad, who claim the US is backing these ‘Islamist’ forces, or even that the whole Syrian rebellion is a ‘US war on Syria’.”

The article ridiculed the prospects of a US military intervention based on a chemical weapons pretext. “[W]ith all the hoo-ha about the Syrian military allegedly using chemical weapons, and leftist claims that this was the parallel of the ‘WMD’ excuse to invade Iraq, one might have expected the US to order some kind of ‘strong’ action,” Karadjis wrote. “In sharp contrast to the lies about Iraqi WMD peddled in order to justify an invasion, in this case Obama has reacted to allegations of use of chemical weapons by stressing that the evidence ‘was still preliminary’ and thus he was in no rush to intervene… Most analysis concludes the US is very unlikely to change course.”

Karadjis has a long record of providing right-wing, nationalist US proxy forces in different conflicts with a “left” gloss, under the cover of promoting “self-determination” and “democracy.” For example, on May 12, 1999, as the US-NATO bombardment of Serbia was underway, and on the eve of the army intervention into Kosovo, Karadjis wrote an article for Green Left Weekly entitled, “Chossudovsky’s frame-up of the KLA,” declaring that the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) was a “genuine liberation movement representing the aspirations of the oppressed Albanian majority.” He defended the heroin trafficking operations that funded the KLA, and absurdly claimed that Washington aimed to destroy the KLA and was opposed to an independent Kosovo. These bald faced lies were quickly exposed by the subsequent US-led ground intervention into Kosovo and recognition of the territory’s “independence” under the domination of the former KLA forces.

Karadjis is now recycling the same reactionary politics on behalf of the US proxy forces in Syria. On July 9, 2013, the Socialist Alliance publication Links featured a lengthy article by him, “Issues in the current stage of Syrian revolution”, that angrily dismissed any concerns about the role played by Al Qaeda among the so-called Syrian “revolutionaries.” Karadjis insisted that “there have been remarkably few open sectarian attacks, let alone massacres, on Alawi or Christian minorities by radical Sunni elements of the opposition”—an extraordinary remark in the context of a brutal sectarian war that has seen tens of thousands of Christians and other minorities purged from “rebel”-held cities and towns. Karadjis went on to issue an equally extraordinary apologia for outright barbarism—insisting that videotaped footage of an opposition commander extracting and eating the organs of a corpse constituted mere “minor cannibalism.” This was not, he insisted, “an attack on an innocent person or ordinary soldier, still less a sectarian attack on an Alawite as some claimed.”

Karadjis’s political depravity sums up the evolution of the entire pseudo-left. His positions have served a definite purpose: to coverup for the drive by US imperialism to carry out regime change in Syria. Declaring that a “full-scale imperialist intervention” into Syria “has never been an option”, he added: “if the US or other imperialist states did decide for their own reasons to provide some arms, we should also not protest against it, robotic style.”

In the same manner as Corey Oakley’s denunciations of “knee jerk anti-imperialism”, Karadjis’s positions further expose the August 29 Socialist Alliance statement and its claims to “reject the interventions of the US and its allies in Syria.”