A Serious Comic about Syria's History.
April 5, 2012 7:25 AM   Subscribe


 
at this point, what isn't?
posted by gorestainedrunes at 7:31 AM on April 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm 100% on board with pointing out America's complicity in Syria's bloody history -- it's shameful. But why does he completely ignore Soviet involvement?
posted by empath at 7:39 AM on April 5, 2012 [10 favorites]


Wow, Miles Copeland. Stuart's Dad. Geez.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:40 AM on April 5, 2012


1949 is a little early to be blaming the CIA, especially as we're talking such a short time after the end of British mandate. In those days we were still learning from the Brits. Oh, I don't doubt there's been tons of US finincing to operations in Syria, but I think Copeland was full of himself.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:41 AM on April 5, 2012


I'm 100% on board with pointing out America's complicity in Syria's bloody history -- it's shameful. But why does he completely ignore Soviet involvement?

Because the rise of the Soviet Union is the fruition of secret American meddling in 1917.
posted by storybored at 7:42 AM on April 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


Do Arab countries and regimes have any agency? If not, why not? If they do, how much?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:43 AM on April 5, 2012 [16 favorites]


American rule of America was also the fruition of secret American meddling. How deep does this rabbit hole go?
posted by TwelveTwo at 7:45 AM on April 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


To be fair, America's unpleasant foreign policy of the 20th C is pretty much what it learned from the British in the 18th and 19th C. This doesn't really excuse it, but I am beginning to think of foreign policy as a sort of cycle of abuse passed on from generation to generation....
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:47 AM on April 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


Do Arab countries and regimes have any agency? If not, why not? If they do, how much?

Precisely as much as is most useful for whoever doing the analysis.
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:48 AM on April 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Do Arab countries and regimes have any agency? If not, why not? If they do, how much?

Hmm, now you're starting to come around to the line of thinking that radical islamic organizations take! This is not to call you out, but that really is a jumping off point for groups like Al Qaeda.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:51 AM on April 5, 2012


Sure, storybored, but the rise of America is the fruition of secret French meddling in the 18th century. I'm not sure whose fault France is, though.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:53 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


How deep does this rabbit hole go?
Uncle SAM. Secret American Meddling. See?
posted by storybored at 7:53 AM on April 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Asking questions: that's what al Qaeda does!11!!!
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:54 AM on April 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


Sure, storybored, but the rise of America is the fruition of secret French meddling in the 18th century. I'm not sure whose fault France is, though.

France's meddling must have also been the fruition of secret American meddling. It must all tie back to America. NUMBER ONE, NUMBER ONE, UNMOVED MOVER, NUMBER ONE!
posted by TwelveTwo at 7:56 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


TwelveTwo, to preserve confidentiality, please use a smaller font size.
posted by storybored at 7:59 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Asking questions: that's what al Qaeda does!

Now, now, I said I wasn't trying to take you to task on that. What I mean is, that particular question, "why does everyone meddle in our affairs while we sit and let them?" is one of the points of action used by such groups. Personally, I don't think it's an unjustified point at all.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:02 AM on April 5, 2012


It's all Ben Franklin's fault.
posted by spicynuts at 8:07 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


What I mean is, that particular question, "why does everyone meddle in our affairs while we sit and let them?" is one of the points of action used by such groups. Personally, I don't think it's an unjustified point at all.

That's not how I took the question. I think (Arsenio) is referencing the odd moral calculus that takes place when US actions taken in 1949 (or 1953 for that matter) are blamed for dictators and bloodshed in 2012. It's a kind of condescension (or "soft bigotry") that presumes that the rest of the world (but most frequently Arabs and Muslims) are helpless victims of American machinations.
posted by BobbyVan at 8:10 AM on April 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


To be serious for a second, the worst consequence of CIA activity in the Middle East has been the poisoning of political discourse by conspiracists and conspiracy theories. There are reformists trying to make headway in the Arab Spring but they have to contend with nutbar theories, gestated by real-life episodes of Great Power meddling.
posted by storybored at 8:14 AM on April 5, 2012


This is ridiculous. It ignores the absolute bullshit that France and England did in carving up the Ottoman Empire which got us the borders that (mostly) we have today, and the subsequent colonialism nonsense each of those nations went through, without which the American bullshit couldn't have happened at all. Bullshit-meddling-calling-out is good, but godsdamn, if you're going to grind an axe at least make it a really big axe, not whatever teeny axe o' irritation you feel at Mean Ol' America.

I'll let someone else use the time machine to kill Hitler; I'm going to go beat the crap out of Fran├žois Georges-Picot and Sir Mark Sykes.
posted by curious nu at 8:16 AM on April 5, 2012 [4 favorites]



"Although rapid economic development followed the declaration of independence of April 17, 1946, Syrian politics from independence through the late 1960s were marked by upheaval. A series of military coups, begun in 1949, undermined civilian rule and led to army colonel Adib Shishakli's seizure of power in 1951. After the overthrow of President Shishakli in a 1954 coup, continued political maneuvering supported by competing factions in the military eventually brought Arab nationalist and socialist elements to power. "

we have of course always been involved in the affairs of nations, and often supporting right wing elements. but a comic with no proof of anything is questionable. Note how many Arab nations have on their own had kinds, dictators and military rule. We support them. They have oil.
posted by Postroad at 8:17 AM on April 5, 2012


Sir Mark Sykes, the origin of the phrase "Syke." Someone get Kate Beaton on this.
posted by TwelveTwo at 8:25 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Soviet Union, France, England, the Ottoman Empire, Israel, and Iran -
all of them meddled with Syrian history because the United States meddled in their history first.

Everything is the fault of United States - including the fact that I burned my toast this morning.
posted by Flood at 8:27 AM on April 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's a kind of condescension (or "soft bigotry") that presumes that the rest of the world (but most frequently Arabs and Muslims) are helpless victims of American machinations.

True, but it's an assumption made perhaps most often by people in the Middle East about themselves. There is always an "other" meddling in their affairs, taking their stuff, taking over the seat of power, etc. It may be an outside force (the CIA, the British, the Soviets, the Ottomons, the Kurds, the Persians, the Arabs, Gulf Arabs...) or an internal one (that other tribe, those goddamn Christians, Jews, Mulsims, Druze, Baathists, Islamists...) but there's always somebody else to blame.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:28 AM on April 5, 2012


Everything is the fault of United States - including the fact that I burned my toast this morning.

Maybe if you could be trusted with your toast the US wouldn't have to meddle. It's for your own toasty good!

There is always an "other" meddling in their affairs...[snip]

This is pretty common thinking for an awful lot of people all over the world.
posted by curious nu at 8:31 AM on April 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


How long will the USA have to live with the consequences of the Bush presidency? Or Reagan's?

You just need to influence a single election or coup to change the history of a country for decades. Just ask Chile or Guatemala. Two countries who had democratically elected socialist governments, who were on the road to economis ans political stability, until the USA decided they had to intervene.

So yeah, blame the colonialists from the 15th to 19th centuries for setting up the trap, but you can blame 20th century's USA for making sure no one can escape it.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 8:42 AM on April 5, 2012


Also, if your historical account traces the events of 1949-1970 in painstaking detail and then glosses over the next 40 years in a few panels, you're not even trying to give a serious account. How the fuck could the current uprising be the "fruition of decades of American meddling" when Syria has been effectively out of our sphere of influence for the last four of those decades?

Oh, Israel and Lebanon and Palestinian refugees and Hezbollah and Iran and the Iraq war, you say?

Well then draw me a comic about that stuff, you lazy asshole.
posted by R. Schlock at 8:48 AM on April 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Wow, Miles Copeland. Stuart's Dad. Geez.

Yup. (Stewart, actually.) That's why they named the band the Police - a wry reference to America's main surgical instrument of global control.
posted by Philofacts at 8:50 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know about Syria, but our 1953 coup in Iran is well established historical fact. Ask any American about the history of American involvement in Iran. How many would know that in 1953 the CIA and British Intelligence pulled off a coup in Iran...ousting their democratically elected leader to install the Shah who then ruled that country (with total support from the USA) until he was overthrown by the revolution in 1979? And that we did it because Iran wanted to nationalize its oil companies? And that just maybe you piss off a people when you overthrow their democratically elected leaders so you can exploit/steal their resources! But of course it would be totally taboo to acknowledge that sordid history because it implies that we Americans are at fault for something. But we are never at fault for anything because by definition we are exceptional and anything we do is just and right.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 8:54 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


At least in Iran it was for oil. Guatemala has endured decades of war and genocide because the USA wanted cheap bananas.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 8:58 AM on April 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Guatemala and Chile are both relatively healthy and stable democracies now, with good relations with the US.
posted by BobbyVan at 9:01 AM on April 5, 2012


But of course it would be totally taboo to acknowledge that sordid history because it implies that we Americans are at fault for something. But we are never at fault for anything because by definition we are exceptional and anything we do is just and right.

Exposing sordid history? Good! Laying all of the "blame" on a single country's government? Silly! Life's just more complicated than that.
posted by curious nu at 9:02 AM on April 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Folks, if you think secret American meddling is bad now, wait until we invent the time machine (or perhaps we already have!). Then, you'll find out that American meddling will be/was responsible for such events as the burning of the Library of Alexandria as well as the extinction of the dinosaurs! Wake up and smell the tachyons!
posted by Edgewise at 9:03 AM on April 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Exposing sordid history? Good! Laying all of the "blame" on a single country's government? Silly! Life's just more complicated than that.

Who is laying all of the blame on a single country's government? Pointing out historical facts that are highly relevant to modern problems doesn't mean 100% of the blame is in one country's hands. Certainly the Shah had something to do with Iran's troubles as well...and he did have some support in that country. But we Americans have a knack for not accepting ANY of the blame for ANYTHING. And that is even sillier!
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 9:10 AM on April 5, 2012


the rise of America is the fruition of secret French meddling in the 18th century. I'm not sure whose fault France is, though.

Lots of options there, but let's go with Charlemagne/the Franks. Who were themselves the result of Roman meddling, who were arguably the result of Macedonian meddling, who were entirely the result of Greek meddling, who were partially the result of Persian meddling, who were in some ways the result of Egyptian medding. Now, it gets murky at this point, but the rise of Egyptian power would not have been possible without the urbanization of the Levant, so, in summary, the (neolithic) Syrians are themselves to blame.
posted by Copronymus at 9:12 AM on April 5, 2012 [12 favorites]


BobbyVan: Go read the post on the magazine awards, the article on the assasinated Guatemalan attorney, then come back and tell me how stable Guatemala is. The generals are still asasinating and pillaging, with what they learned from.tje CIA and the school of the ameticas, ams now the war on drugs is destroying the country. You are making an argument from ignorance.

Chile got better, that is true, but not before tens of thousands of people, mostly young students and workers, were kidnaped, tortured and killed. Guess who sponsored and trained the torturers and killers.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 9:12 AM on April 5, 2012


Just wondering Seymour (and maybe this is a derail), but do you blame anyone aside from the US and the former Shah for Iran's current troubles? Do the mullahs bear any responsibility for the country they have controlled for more than 30 years?
posted by BobbyVan at 9:12 AM on April 5, 2012


the article on the assasinated Guatemalan attorney

You mean this article about the attorney who killed himself and staged it to implicate the President?

The generals are still asasinating and pillaging

Guatemala sentences soldier to 6,060 years for massacre
Ex-paramilitaries jailed for Guatemala massacre
posted by BobbyVan at 9:17 AM on April 5, 2012


Who is laying all of the blame on a single country's government? Pointing out historical facts that are highly relevant to modern problems doesn't mean 100% of the blame is in one country's hands. Certainly the Shah had something to do with Iran's troubles as well...and he did have some support in that country. But we Americans have a knack for not accepting ANY of the blame for ANYTHING. And that is even sillier!

Okay then I'm confused about what you're trying to talk about. No one in this conversation seems to be ignoring any of this, and you keep talking about Iran when the subject is Syria, so..? Help me out here.

Also, re: blame: uh.. the comic's whole thesis is that the CIA's actions are directly responsible for 20+ years of bad times. The comic that is the subject of this post, and thus framing this entire discussion.
posted by curious nu at 9:18 AM on April 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I believe the word you are all looking for is "blowback."
posted by absalom at 9:28 AM on April 5, 2012


Do the mullahs bear any responsibility for the country they have controlled for more than 30 years?

It's the fault of Americans that the mullahs are in power.
posted by empath at 9:30 AM on April 5, 2012


It's a kind of condescension (or "soft bigotry") that presumes that the rest of the world (but most frequently Arabs and Muslims) are helpless victims of American machinations.

I thought Syria was aligned with the Russians for 30 years.

On the other hand, if American aid is allowing a regime to purchase weapons to maintain its power against an outgunned populace, it's pretty reasonable to call the populace helpless victims.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:38 AM on April 5, 2012


Lots of options there, but let's go with Charlemagne/the Franks.

You are forgetting the Merovingians. Since they were descended from Jesus, it is all Part of God's Plan. Or, you know, His fault. You pick.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:40 AM on April 5, 2012


Really, European politics from before the birth of Christ (BCE - Before Christ Enteredthepicture) are the legacy of the Roman Empire. And of course the Roman Empire wouldn't have been what it was without the influence and expansion of the Greek Empire. Which of course owes a huge debt of history to the Phoenicians. The origins of our alphabet even.

And the Phoenicians lived in what is now comprised of Syria and some other nations.

So, chickens, it's been 4,000 years, but you are coming home to roost.
posted by Xoebe at 10:02 AM on April 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


The US intelligence services have been shown by recent leaks to be incapable of such subterfuge and operational discipline. There is no way the US is responsible for the crimes it stands accused of. The US is just the scapegoat for the Brits and Russians.
posted by humanfont at 10:59 AM on April 5, 2012


It's the fault of Americans that the mullahs are in power.

Really? If you said, "it's the fault of Americans that the mullahs took power in 1979," that would be a defensible thesis. More than 30 years later, in 2012, I'd suggest that it's the fault of Iranians that the mullahs are still in power.
posted by BobbyVan at 11:16 AM on April 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


the US wanted cheap bananas.

B-A-N-A-N-A-S!!!
posted by K.P. at 1:52 PM on April 5, 2012


Dammit, Xoebe, you beat me to it. By about six hours, but still.
posted by XMLicious at 4:48 PM on April 5, 2012


Recent scholarship has questioned the level of actual US and British involvement in the 53 coup in Iran. The Mullahs played a major role behind the scenes. Kermit Roosevelt and other early CIA leaders played up the myth to get funding and justify later adventures. With the exception of the Arbenz coup they were never able to repeat their success. It doesn't really make sense when you think about it. Look at the logistics of what the CIA claims they did. It isn't possible. Moussadeg made a lot of enemies in the army, the mullahs and with the royalists. They gladly took the us money to help out, but they were getting rid of him regardless.
posted by humanfont at 7:04 PM on April 5, 2012


Fuck this gently with a running chainsaw.

Every person taking part in the Syrian Civil War is a human being endowed with free will and the responsibilities appertaining thereonto.
posted by ocschwar at 8:04 PM on April 5, 2012


Just for the record, here's a quote from Mossadegh himself:
It is most obvious that the American government had no wish to defend Iran's freedom and independence, but wanted to benefit from our oil in the name of stopping Communism. That is just what it did by exchanging a nation's freedom for 40 percent of the shares of the oil consortium.
So, Kermit Roosevelt isn't the only one involved who believed in the "myth" of the U.S. having a major role.
posted by XMLicious at 8:24 PM on April 5, 2012


While this cartoon does, in its intent to present a concise summary, commit the single-source fallacy (i.e., there are multiple factors that contributed to the Syrian situation, as with many others in which the US has been involved), so too do some of the criticisms of blaming the US, such as saying "what about [Nation X]'s own indigenous problems that existed before the US was ever on the scene?" or "Well, that was then, but we haven't' been in there for 30 years", which both ignores that being at the beginning, or near the beginning, of a causal chain to which many links have been added implies more responsibility, not less, for subsequent events, and that a meddler's indirect and external influences (you know: foreign policy, embargoes, arms sales, etc.) can have considerable ongoing impact even without any effective internal presence in a country. (e.g., the current sabre-rattling against Iran helps the mullahs and their mouthpiece Ahmadinejad rally a more united front against the perceived threat of invasion or bombing, and both distract and have an excuse to crack down further on their restive population.)

It reveals, perhaps, the presence of American exceptionalism in some people's thinking that they want to use the presence of other factors to completely discount American responsibility. As with many an emotionally charged issue, a kind of crude binary calculation seems to be going on, where the presence of any non-American factor utterly negates the import of the American factor.

But the fact remains that the US government, as the glove in which the hand of corporate interests (oil co.'s, United Fruit, Anaconda, whatever) operates, is, in most of these meddled-in countries, the single most important factor, the one with the most power and reach, both past (since WW II at the very least, but it can be traced back to the Spanish-American War, With WW II simply being the point at which the American Empire began to fill the vacuum left by the receding British and other European Empires) and ongoing.
posted by Philofacts at 8:54 PM on April 5, 2012


That may be all well and good, historically accurate and all that academic chatter, but does it make sense? No? Well, I for one, as an American, do not care. If it would not make a good movie than it obviously is not the truth I'm looking for.
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:13 PM on April 5, 2012


Yeah, from the timeline it sounds like maybe the U.S. supported the first coup, and since then Syria was able to keep us pretty well out. "US imperialism" also has to look at soviet imperialism and the interplay between those two things.
posted by delmoi at 8:39 AM on April 6, 2012


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