As the Yazidi face extermination by ISIS: Where are the Western Left?


Vian Dakheel Saeed Khadher MP making an impassioned and emotional plea in the Iraqi Parliament for humanitarian solidarity in confronting the extermination of the Yazidi population by ISIS.

Where are the protests in the streets of London and beyond for the people trapped on Sinjar? Where is the Western outrage? Where is the solidarity movement? Where are the angry demands for the right to return for the thousands displaced from their stolen lands? Where is Mehdi Hasan (currently Tweeting his distaste at ‘Conservative Friends of Israel’)? Where is Owen Jones (currently blaming the slaughter of Christians in the Middle East on the war in Iraq, obviously)? Where are the Ministerial resignations from a government remaining silent on constant torture, beheadings, and mass slaughters? Where are the ‘Free Iraq’ banners? Where is the pressure on the UN to uphold its human rights declaration and protect the most vulnerable? Where are the constant stream of images showing the grotesque result of what is slowly turning into a genocide? Where is the solidarity with the Kurds resisting ISIS? Will the Galloway’s of the World be cynically using the slaughter of the Yazidi people as a badly masked pretext to express how much they dislike Blair again? What use is a modern left that traditionally transcended international borders, if it now picks and chooses its relentless fight for basic human rights, based entirely on that population’s relation to US/UK foreign policy? The crisis in Syria and Iraq with ISIS is quickly highlighting the failures of the 21st Century Western Galloway-left’s outrage machine. It is a machine that is focused entirely on expressing its distaste for the US/Israel/Blair and will seemingly, and without a sense of shame, use any crisis to highlight that distaste. It is a left I no longer identify with.

The quickness in which the Western left springs into collective action became apparent over the past two weeks, when it responded with pictures, demands, articles, leaflets, debates, protests, and pressure over Israel’s violent incursion into Gaza and the awful human suffering that followed. This response from the Western left was admirable at times, and manipulative and slightly unsettling at others. It saw Mo Ansar try to underplay the effects of Hamas’s rockets. It also saw writers like Mehdi Hasan and musicians like Brian Eno try to justify a lack of anything close to a similar reaction to any other humanitarian crisis when that crisis doesn’t directly involve Israel or the US. A cynical attempt to justify singling out people, based on incredibly faulty, desperate logic, that may lead one to conclude that behind the poor justifications, lies the stench of bigotry. Because right now, ISIS has captured an area larger than Great Britain, controlling the lives of 6,000,000 people, whilst tens of thousands of innocent human beings – many children – from a religious minority are stuck on Mount Sinjar, threatened with starvation and dehydration if they stay, or execution for apostasy by ISIS if they leave. The women and young girls face enslavement. The men face slaughter. A further 130,000 have fled to the Kurdish north to escape death, forcing a humanitarian refugee crisis in the north of Iraq. Amnesty has noted how desperate the displaced people are for aid in the region. Unicef noted the deaths of 40 children as a result of dehydration and violence. This isn’t a crisis that the World can ignore. As ISIS spreads its net further, more human lives will absolutely fall into its hands to be crushed. It threatens to engulf the region, and beyond, and we have seen what this group is capable of. It is a crisis of massive proportions, and through it all, there is barely a mention from the Galloway, Jones, Hasan Western Left, unless they can find a way to use the human suffering to express their dislike of Blair or the US. A whole new meaning to the term ‘disproportionate response’.

After witnessing how quickly people can mobilise – especially in the age of social media – when it came to the crisis in Gaza and the constant stream of anger from protesters across the World, the quickness by which images were shared (some manipulated from previous conflicts) to create a sense of outrage, article after article, news report after news report, and international pressure rightly put on Israel for its violent incursion, I am left wondering why that Western liberal left moral compass has now been securely locked away during one of the biggest humanitarian crises in living memory.

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6 Responses to As the Yazidi face extermination by ISIS: Where are the Western Left?

  1. Lamia says:

    Very well said. They are motivated not by any humanitarianism but by narrow, posturing outrage.

    They have little or nothing to offer most oppressed and endangered people in the world, because if they can’t directly blame the US, the UK or Israel for their predicament, then it just doesn’t count for them. They are moral frauds.

  2. kpspong says:

    As Robert Hughes noted in his book “The Culture of Complaint”, the attitude of the Po-Mo, multi-culti, fashionable left, is “Oppression is what we do in the West. What they do in the Middle East is “their culture.” The book was written over 20 years ago. Plus ca change, as the cool kids say.

  3. santo thomas says:

    This all seems like a big red-herring. How much of the ‘left’ is the ‘galloway left’?

    When you say the ‘galloway machine’, you evoke images of a marauding propaganda machine, but How representative of the left is this? For moments, yes. But how much of a hold does this machine actually have in people’s daily lives? I’d say the Medhi Hasan’s and the Owen Jones’ are small fry in a nebulous and very disjointed left. I feel you have constructed an enemy in order to project your own disatisfaction with those who disagree with you on israel and Iraq. I.e. you clearly support(ed) the Iraqui war, and I would say you feel more sympathy towards the isrealis. This is ok, but don’t dress your criticisms as something more than getting back at a group who doesn’t agree with you. Have you seen any polls where people of a leftish persuasion don’t want to help those surrounded by ISIS? And would prefer them to die instead of accepting help from the US? not likely. so let’s not just put this prima facie apathy down to a selective faux-left.

    In Britain, the left is in tatters, and most of it’s members will probably slide to the right anyway when they get jobs and have a family (the only true test is time, I guess). you are correct, the refugee crisis is huge, but it would be insincere of me to start berating you and other lefties for never writing or protesting about Uzbekistan, Colombia, Brazil, etc, etc. A well organised-left is something to be desired, but feels a million miles away. The methods used by the left are, of course, imperfect. The palestinian cause is older and has gained traction over many years, thus it will be easier to start up a march when needed. Otherwise, to expect the left to be able to divert ‘people’ from their quotidienne and already restrictive lives is asking a bit too much, Jamie.

    Maybe you should try and write articles on why people just can’t give a fuck. It seems giving a fuck and doing something is antithesis to how most people imagine their role is in life. To my utter disgrace, I include myself in this category. Let’s hope you and I can break out of this malaise of being angy, wannabe lefties…It’s just there isn’t much to go into.

    anyway, if you read this you should skype me for a chat. You never get back to me, or if you do you tease me with a flirty watsap style message, then you do one just when i’m starting to salivate. I need substance! Jaime! Substance!

  4. Obviously I take issue with a lot of what you wrote.

    When you say the ‘galloway machine’, you evoke images of a marauding propaganda machine, but How representative of the left is this?

    – Not very. They’re a sub-section of the Left. But they’re certainly very loud. A sort of Tea Party of the Left.

    I feel you have constructed an enemy in order to project your own disatisfaction with those who disagree with you on israel and Iraq. I.e. you clearly support(ed) the Iraqui war, and I would say you feel more sympathy towards the isrealis. This is ok, but don’t dress your criticisms as something more than getting back at a group who doesn’t agree with you.

    – Whilst I’d love to take credit for “constructing an enemy” here, I’m afraid there are plenty on the left who – like me – feel a little uncomfortable with the direction the mainstream (and by mainstream, I mean folks like Hasan, Galloway and Jones – because they have the public ear more than most) left has taken in its obsession with the US, UK, Blair, Israel, ‘Military Industria…. blah blah’ in recent years. I did not “construct” an enemy. Nick Cohen writes an entire book on the subject. Christopher Hitches was a critic. Maajid Nawaz notes a sort of ‘the enemy of my enemy’ mentality on the Galloway-Left in recent years, Norman Geras wrote on it too. Whether you agree with those or not, this isn’t a subject that came from nowhere, and certainly not just from me. The right – Douglas Murray among others – try to suggest it is the Left in general that has shifted to tacitly defending religious supremacists who share a raging anger toward the West with them. I disagree with that, and I’m convinced they represent a small – but growing – section of the left.
    Secondly, my thoughts on Iraq are more complex than “I support the war!” I certainly supported the overthrow of Saddam’s regime, and I think there’s been a concerted effort on sections of the Left to underplay just how violent and criminal Saddam’s regime was, in order to strengthen an anti-intervention position. I’m yet to be convinced that Iraq is “worse now” than under Saddam, nor am I naive enough to believe a post-Saddam, post-invasion Iraq was going to be a democratic haven immediately. That said, I certainly am not a fan of how the war was sold to the public, nor how it was conducted. A massively incompetent war, that took no account of civilian casualties, nor the effects of trauma on soldiers, nor on a viable post-Saddam constitution. I simply don’t sit in a dogmatic “I support/don’t support it” camps.
    Thirdly, I sympathise with Israelis in and around the border regions, certainly. With thousands suffering PTSD and children suffering learning difficulties as a result of constant threat of Hamas rockets – that Mo Ansar completely underplayed when he suggested they have no effect – have me sympathetic. There is no excuse for Hamas and i’m sick of hearing their theocratic demands dismissed as “fighting for freedom”, that has never been their goal. I have no excuse for corruption within the PA. That being said, I also have no excuse for Israel’s leadership and much of their press. A bigoted far-right religious regime believing the entire region theirs by divine right, is not a regime I’m ever going to make excuses for. They use Hamas as a pretext for tightening a grip on a land they believe they own and collective punishment of all Gazans, and the grotesque suffering that this leads to, is indefensible. This is evident with further settlement building across the West Bank, a blatant attempt to put an end to any new and lasting peace deal resulting in statehood. And so, I am sympathetic the Palestinians right to a state – though it must represent all Palestinians, not simply heterosexual muslim men. I am sympathetic to their claim on a right of return, I find it impossible to argue against, and find Israeli attempts to do so to be weak. I’m sympathetic to the suffering they face on a daily basis due to the violent incompetency of the leaderships on both sides.

    This is ok, but don’t dress your criticisms as something more than getting back at a group who doesn’t agree with you.

    – I don’t. They are a group that I disagree with. You’re right. I’m not sure what I’m hiding about that? My criticisms lie in why I disagree with them, and what I believe their motives are for their positions, and how I think it represents a divergence with a traditional left. I don’t dress it up as anything else. This is a blog that houses my personal views and opinions as and when I form them. I sell it as nothing more or less. I’m not sure what you think the “something more” is? I’m quite clear, I disagree with them, and here’s why. That’s the motive, cowboy. I also don’t think it wrong to analyse and criticise the justifications they give, if I find them to be inadequate, surely that’s a good thing? I welcome the same criticisms for my articles.

    Have you seen any polls where people of a leftish persuasion don’t want to help those surrounded by ISIS? And would prefer them to die instead of accepting help from the US?

    – That’s a wonderfully leading question. I don’t think there’s anyone who – in their minds – phrases the question “Would I prefer the US to help, or would I prefer them to die?” I do however think there’s a little light that comes on in a lot of minds in which they now take note that there’s a crisis in Iraq/Syria with regard ISIS, the moment the US is involved. Before, it was on the periphery, now, it is in the headlights, but the narrative is an obvious one. An article by Owen Jones two weeks back on ISIS, was a brief condemnation, followed by why Blair is to blame. His next article on persecution of Christians in the Middle East took a couple of paragraphs to blame the Iraq war for that situation. An article for the New Yorker a couple days back, explained how US involvement now, is all for oil. The narrative is predictable. And this is the heart of my conflict with that section of the Left. A conflict – and the victims – are simply a vehicle for them to express and progress an anti-Western narrative. I’m fine with that, if only they’d admit it.

    ….but it would be insincere of me to start berating you and other lefties for never writing or protesting about Uzbekistan, Colombia, Brazil, etc, etc.

    – Yes, you’re right, if I were to do that, I too would be insincere. I’m writing on this as we speak in a new article. But to be clear; I have no problem with selecting conflicts to be protesting about. We all do it. Whether foreign affairs or domestic issues, we are all selective, because we are all just flawed and limited human beings. It is the motive behind the selective process that I am critical of, and that is that there is a significant section of the Left that increasingly selects its moral outrage and how it chooses to protest, on the basis of whether or not the crisis and the victims can be used as a vehicle to progress a rabid anti-US/UK/Blair/Israel sentiment. Chomsky is the king at this. The motive is not primarily concern for victims (though I don’t doubt that concern for victims plays its part, I’m not suggesting a lack of empathy), nor is it the traditional Left’s motive of fighting oppression where ever it is found (selective still, but different motives). It is the cynical use of conflicts, to progress the underlying motive; anti-US/Israel/UK sentiment and the manipulations and simplistic analysis that leads to, that is the bases of my criticism. Again, I didn’t “construct” this “enemy”, it is recognised across sections of the left that I identify with and has been for a few years now. It isn’t a new criticism from me alone.

    The palestinian cause is older and has gained traction over many years, thus it will be easier to start up a march when needed.

    – I find this to be another poor excuse in a growing list of poor excuses. I’m not asking for mass protests, but even a half the reaction that Israel/Gaza received over the past month, to – for example, Boko Haram – would be nice. I like to think there’s a middle ground between massive World wide protests, and doing fuck all, followed by ridiculous excuses for doing fuck all. But the “it’s an older conflict, so it’s easier to protest” point is blatantly wrong. The ‘Stop Kony’ campaign burst onto the scene in 2012, and resulted in raised awareness, leading to Human Rights Watch saying:

    “We’ve spent years investigating the horrors perpetrated by the LRA in central Africa – Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic (CAR), and South Sudan. We gathered evidence at massacre sites – wooden clubs covered in dried blood, rubber strips from bicycle tires used to tie up the victims, and freshly dug graves – and spoke to hundreds of boys and girls forced to fight for his army or held captive as sex slaves. And we’re elated that #stopKony is a trending topic on Twitter – if anyone deserves global notoriety it’s Kony.”

    – It also led to Senators Jim Inhofe and Chris Coons raising the issue in the US Senate and pledging the US’s support for governments in Africa trying to track down leaders of the LRA. It led to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees noting an unprecedented reaction to the atrocities and new commitments to stop the LRA. It was brand new. The protests against the civil war in Sri Lanka appeared suddenly. The protests against austerity were massive, well mobilised, and I was on a bus down to London two days after hearing about the planned march. You can’t get ‘liberals’ on TV any quicker, whenever someone posts a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad, followed by global protests. So let’s not pretend the length of a conflict determines the quickness by which a protest movement – any kind of protest movement – can be assembled. Mobilising, protesting, using the power of social media, and all forms of pressure do not require first analysing the financial transactions of the UK, and secondly reviewing the history of the protest movement. Silly excuse.

    But yes, a Skype would be great. I apologise for being pretty useless with talking over it, I barely use it, and get yelled at a lot for that. My fault. I should really use it more. So yeah, apologies. But happy to skype whenever you’re free.

  5. So well put. I’ve felt completely frustrated at this glaring hypocrisy that is now the norm in the Left with respect to global events. I despair as I watch colleagues and friend blindly follow the words of Chomsky and others who are now no better than Fox News. Your words have brought light to my frustrations. Thank you for describing the problem so clearly.

  6. Nicholas McMurry says:

    As a human-rights activist who does pro-bono work on behalf of an Iraqi religious minority, and also campaigns against the ongoing colonialism and appalling over-reaction of Israel in Palestine, I find this debate tiresome. The “what aboutery” on both sides is deflecting energy from where it should be targeted: at ending human-rights violations around the world from whatever quarter.

    You question the left’s motivations. In some cases you may be right. But it appears that your motivation is to use an appalling genocidal attack in Iraq merely as a pretext to attack your favourite ‘enemy’, the “Galloway-left”. In doing so you do nothing to protect the Iraqi people. The idea that those organising protests against the bombardment of Gaza are somehow responsible for there not being protests against the Islamic State is ludicrous, and yet that seems to be the implication of your article. The campaign for solidarity with Palestine has built for many years. This is not an excuse: this is how protest movements work. Occasional social-media success stories do not mean that others can follow suit easily. The organisers of protests in solidarity with Gaza are not responsible for the smaller numbers of protesters calling for action against the IS, who also include many left-wing activists. After all, the left has had a tradition of supporting the Kurdish people as well as the Palestinians.

    Why is it the responsibility of the “Galloway-left” to organise protests on Iraq? Why can you not organise such protests yourself?

    On a side note, blaming the invasion of Iraq for the current situation in the country may be convenient for the political stances of many on the left, but it is also supported by many Iraqis, including those from minorities. You are right that there are many other factors in the development of the Islamic state, but the ethnic cleansing of religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq has accelerated since 2003, especially with security being reserved for economically important elements rather than civilians during the occupation. In 2007, before the Syrian civil war, IS invasion, etc., more than half of Baghdad’s Christians had become refugees, 40% of Iraqi refugees were Christian (though they only represent 5% of the Iraqi population) and 80% of Iraqi Mandaeans had left the country. Of course USA and UK are not directly responsible for the plight of Iraqi minorities, but they do have indirect responsibility, particularly through their negligence during occupation.

    http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2007-03-22-christians-iraq_N.htm

    http://www.mandaeanunion.com/images/MAU/MHRG/MHRG_Docs/MHRG%20%20Report%202008%20.pdf

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