Razer's Class Warfare

Apr 17, 2018

Razer: how to tell the baddies from the goodies in this Syria nightmare

Who are the baddies? Who are the goodies? Are there any goodies at all in this horrifying locus in which even allies clash?

Helen Razer — Writer and broadcaster

Helen Razer

Writer and broadcaster

It's not goodies versus baddies – it's baddies versus baddies.” There’s been so little of value uttered by Tony Abbott, let’s give the guy his due. Of the war in Syria, Australia’s then Opposition Leader said he’d prefer a political solution to a military one; that to offer military support to either “baddy” would be foolish.  

PM Kevin Rudd countered, “the last time I used the term goodies and baddies ... I was playing cowboys and Indians in the backyard,” Kevin might have done well not to scold others for childish language, having used the term “rat fuck” in the reportedly recent past.

Free Trial

Proudly annoying those in power since 2000.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

36 thoughts on “Razer: how to tell the baddies from the goodies in this Syria nightmare

  1. Charlie Chaplin

    ‘Kev dismissed Abbott’s analysis as “simplistic” then called him a graduate of, “the John Wayne School of International Relations”. ‘ I wonder where Kev’s been, that he’s missed all that about “ruthless regimes”, “brutal dictators” and “axis of evil”, not to mention “humanitarian intervention”.

    From where I’m sitting, the John Wayne School of International Relations has been the only game in town for my entire 53 years. The swing to Corbyn shows the Brits are waking up. I hope Australians are too.

    Thanks for this piece, Helen.

    1. dirtysnowball

      So, the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia are baddies.
      You’re unconvinced Russia is a baddie, have no opinion on Iran and concede Assad might be a baddie, but look, over there, those White Helmets must be too good to be true.

      1. David Thompson

        They certainly are too good to be true, ‘snowball.
        Click on the link in a comment below, the one with the report by Robert Fisk (from underground!) at The Independent, and see what you reckon.

      2. Charlie Chaplin

        Wow, Snowball! You got all that from my comment, despite the fact I didn’t mention any countries at all? Strawman, much?

        But here. I’ll try and clear it up for you. I don’t believe in goodies and baddies. I don’t believe in Objective Morality or Absolute Good and Evil, either: of all the things monotheism gave us, that’s the worst, because it encourages belief in goodies and baddies. I don’t believe war is a humanitarian intervention, I think it’s just war and I don’t like war. I don’t approve of it. And wrapping it in a pretty pink humanitarian intervention bow makes me dislike it even more. It’s dangerous, you see. It cons people into supporting the insupportable.

        I do, however, believe in the power of propaganda narratives, and you demonstrated why.

        1. dirtysnowball

          My response was intended for Helen, and I managed to get it in the wrong thread. Sorry about that.

      3. AR

        Some Orwellian offspring from Animal Farm escaped to Brave New World?
        Or the Isle of Dr Moreau?

      4. Helen Razer

        I said I was not persuaded that Putin was the cartoon villain depicted. Think I was pretty clear that all these powers are a bunch of arse. Last par clearly says they’re all detached killers for which we can have no mercy.
        Honestly. Every time one mentions Russia, even in a very negative way, there will always be a response that demands “you were not awful enough”.
        Same thing happens with Trump.
        At some point, one runs out of adjectives to describe all the foreign policy evil.
        As for Iran. I tried to be honest. The situation there is currently beyond my ken. I know the nation is being urged into alliance with the enemies of Israel, Saudi and the US. I don’t know enough about its politics or capabilities to say much more than that.
        The point here is to describe only the concatenation of several different foreign policies all playing out in one territory.

    2. Bobby

      The swing to Corbyn is less about wars and more about a decade plus of austerity, zero hours contracts etc while the rich get richer

      1. Helen Razer

        Of course, I agree. Absolutely. Corbyn is one of several Western leftists achieving great support, media critique notwithstanding. But the poll spike was immediate and is documented.
        Also, everyday people may have a sense that war might be a bit expensive. That the devotion to US foreign policy might be a bit like the attachment to the EU: bad for the people. Sort of anti-war nationalism.
        Let’s not underestimate the fear Britons would have had after the bombing, either.
        Of course, I agree. Corbyn has formed the largest and youngest political party in Europe for reasons other than this speech. But this speech, which happened just before the election, did help the numbers. I think to discount the growing intolerance many people in the West have for war (for a range of reasons) would be wrong. Like everything big in life (and in war) it’s not just down to one thing, is it?

  2. David Thompson

    “Just 28% of Britons surveyed this week by The Independent supported UK airstrikes in retaliation for the alleged chemical attack in Douma”
    One wonders what might happen to the 28% if The Independent redid that poll, after asking their readers to read a report they published in the last 24 hours, a report from a widely respected journalist who has made the ME his workplace for many a long year:
    And, H, if you’d like to pop over to an article by your colleague Mr Keane, on the same subject, yesterday, you’ll find the moderators have finished moderating a comment I left.
    The comment includes a link to an OPCW report, published a month ago, on inspections carried out last year, on various suspected Syrian CW facilities. The facilities included the ‘research centre’ bombed a few days ago, because it IS a CW facility.
    The OPCW report suggests otherwise, reporting a big tick for Syria across the board.
    You’ll also find a link to a report on that very same facility. That report comes from CBS, with a chap from CBS being one of 3 international journalists who were provided with a tour of that ‘research facility’ AFTER it was bombed.
    When great unravelings get rolling, it’s tough to keep up.
    Best to stay close.

    1. Charlie Chaplin

      Just read your comment on BK’s article. Definitely wasn’t there yesterday or last night, David. BK’s article may have incensed me a little less if it had been. I still don’t know if BK wants us to “intervene” more or less or what, but I’m off topic. Thanks for the link to the Fisk article, too. I’d read it, but clearly others haven’t.

      1. David Thompson

        Cottoned on to the BZ Toxin found by the Swiss lab in the Skriplas’ samples Porton Down supplied to the OPCW, Charlie?
        This is the best I’ve read on the matter;
        Very much a part of the great unravelling.

        1. Charlie Chaplin

          Missed that one and the link’s down.

          1. David Thompson

            The Russians got ’em?
            Not quite – ‘site maintenance’ noted earlier today.
            They’ll be back.
            They’ being a group of very disenchanted former ‘official’ operatives.

    2. York City

      Thanks for the link. Such an enlightening story and so unlike all the other commentary-hearsay “news” about on this subject. This and HR’s sanity restoring piece above deserve much much more attention.

      1. David Thompson

        City, if anyone wants to understand how the Amerikan-Anglo empire has and does roll, I recommend 2 journalists/authors, 1 deceased Australian, and 1 living Amerikan.
        The deceased Australian is Wilfred Burchett;
        Burchett revived – https://www.counterpunch.org/search-results/?cx=000357264939014560440%3Aicshsy4bfu0&ie=UTF-8&q=vietnam+will+win
        His magnificent account serialised.
        The surviving Amerikan – http://www.douglasvalentine.com/
        What Valentine has done is extraordinary – he ‘conned’ the masters of the CIA’s terrorism campaign in Vietnam to explain exactly how they’d gone about it, and he’s gone on from there.
        He even got William Colby – https://www.google.com.au/search?q=douglas+valentine+william+colby&oq=douglas+valentine+william+colby&aqs=chrome..69i57.14221j0j8&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8
        Mind you, he couldn’t publish the full factual account for years (until relatively recently), so dressed it up as quasi fiction.

  3. Nudiefish

    A very honest and thought provoking piece, HR. If only all commentators could take pause and consider that, perhaps, nobody has a clue what is going on. And even more relevant, that nobody understands how to fix the mess that is the Middle East. Maybe it is just unfixable?

    The danger is that when major powers get involved in civil conflicts things generally drop into new unfathomable depths. It reminds me of when Iraq and Iran were at war – who was the baddie in that conflict?

    1. AR

      Non interference would be favourite.

    2. Helen Razer

      I guess there’s a real life need for paid commentators to Have an Opinion. Which is just so impossible when it comes to some of the most complex foreign policy in the world. I mean, really, atm, the most complex. I remember in preparing for Iraq 2: The Reboot, Obama deployed something like 300 international relations scholars to Baghdad. Most of them were probably liberal interventionists, so likely to deliver similar solutions to a range of localised conflicts. But, the point is, as you have it: how do everyday people or even slightly educated commentators a la me claim to have a clue when some of the best and/or most powerful minds in IR don’t?
      Once a month or so, I try to read a heap of stuff on Syria (and try to read scholars from different schools; the old-fashioned Realists can be useful sometimes: for all their intolerance of culture, they do have something to say). And, you know, I mostly come up with: gee I know nothing.
      This used to embarrass me. Now, I am glad that I can identify my ignorance. It’s sort of the only way to learn or analyse.

  4. peter

    Hats off to you Mz Razer, I’m not always persuaded by your writings but on this occasion you’ve produced one of the most perceptive (and most sane) assessments I’ve read. Five stars!

  5. MichaelC - Melbourne

    Syria is an independent, secular state whose (admittedly hardline) president is doing his best to defeat armed islamist rebels, egged on by the US, zionist Israel and other western countries. The propaganda war in this conflict is reminiscent of World War One.

  6. Rais

    It used to be First Dog on the Moon that kept me subscribed to Crikey with his often thoughtful, sometimes harsh presentations. This year when subscription renewal time came up I let it slide for a couple of days then thought, “No, I’ll miss some thoughtful material from Helen Razer for the sake of a few devalued dollars” and renewed my subscription. Think about it. I’m a Muslim, in religious terms conservative (although politically I often find myself leaning towards the Greens.) Helen’s obviously not. Crikey owes you one, Helen.

    1. Kfix

      FWIW, I don’t often agree with you but your comments are always worth reading. Glad you stayed, so thanks for that too Helen!

      1. Helen Razer

        FWIW, most Crikey writers and readers often don’t agree with each other. Just quietly, I think that’s why we like it, K.

        1. Kfix

          You’re wrong! I always agree with you!

          But seriously, in your long reply to Rais below you’ve hit on something I’ve been thinking about for a while. I’m a fellow ex Catholic, and for a long while I was one of those obnoxious fundie atheists you mention, all about the evils of faith and why oh why can’t people be rational like me.

          I still have an internalised bad reaction to faith per se because I still believe in an evidence-driven approach to any question where possible, but I’m slowly coming to see that evidence is always much less clear cut than we humans with our cognitive defects wish to believe when it suits our preformed views.

          You’re helping me greatly in that journey away from fundamentalism Helen, so thank you for that as well.

    2. Helen Razer

      This is such a generous comment, Rais. And, of course, warm thanks for the subscription. Without it, there simply would be no Crikey. And, there would be no place, or time, for me to write articles of the type—no other publication in Australia permits such analysis. To know that I have sincerely engaged with you is, to me, flattery of the highest order. (Especially here, after staying up two nights in a row reading Realist accounts of the war in Syria! Goodness, but that thing is complex.)
      As for our difference. I wonder if it’s so great on the faith front. I’m not at all dismissive of the virtues of the Abrahamic religions. (If I knew much about the other ones, I’d probably like them, too.) I didn’t decide to be faithless, it just happened, and I am no advocate for atheism as it largely exists in the West. Ugh. Those people who see reason and religion as fundamentally opposed! How deluded are they? And, how do they not see their own extreme faith in Western “freedom” as precisely the sort of fundamentalism they decry? Well, they can’t see it, precisely because they ARE fundamentalist. The “radical centre” is, in fact, dangerously radical.
      All of which is to say, I honour those who honour God(s) and most especially when that practice demands a connection with the divine through connection with others. The “Love Thy Neighbour” of Christianity is, to me, an absolutely ethical position. The absolute hospitality I feel from Muslim friends and colleagues and many of the mitzvahs I observe from Jewish pals—these often seem to me to be as cultural as they are spiritual—are just plain good. I don’t like the humanist boast that “I don’t need a book of rules or a Man in the Sky to tell me how to behave”. I mean. My goodness. I need advice all the time about everything in the attempt to be human. Who doesn’t?
      In short, the only difference between my approach to life and that of a faithful Muslim, I think, is my inability to honour God or a Prophet (PBUH). Oh. And, probably that bottle of Aldi champagne I buy each fortnight. I know I am going on here, but I did want to take the opportunity to thanks you amply, but also to say that I am NOT AT ALL one of those faithless people who say stupid stuff like “religion is the root of all evil”. Yes. Of course. Religious organisations can host evil. I was raised Catholic and know this. But in the current world where the true and controlling fundamentalism is liberalism? Personal and community faith can be and generally is an uplifting and rebellious act. I attend services whenever friends invite me. I just know I can never believe in God, or even some sort of first principle. I do believe that a heedful and self-critical approach to faith creates so much that is good. Mashallah, Comrade!

      1. Rais

        Thanks Helen. There’s a cup of coffee here if you’re ever in Perth after the next few weeks. (We have some family travel going on.) Crikey has permission to give you my email address. No champagne but I have some good sparkling apple juice 🙂

  7. David Nicholas

    Ms. Razer, How I like your assessment of Syria and the fools who decide to immerse themselves into quagmires either of their own making or someone else’s. Then believe their own publicity when common sense should tell them to give the whole evil mess a wide berth and never to touch any of it with a ten foot barge pole. Obama did see what a goat fuck Syria had become but under pressure from his neo-con class of war mongers —those who pursue a permanent state of war in the world insisted — he did the minimal which he thought would satisfy them but instead really pissed them off.
    In the middle east I believe this is resident evil which is the best way to describe it. In that part of the world, I always watch for patterns of behaviour.
    Thus, when Trump utters he wants to get out of Syria and leave it to others ,which is what Assad hopes for suddenly within the week a “gas” attack occurs. Fully documented by the usual phone footage except the shots are repetitive from previous footage of gassings and of course the White Helmets are suddenly conveniently right there on site to confirm the attack and the carnage. That chlorine gas bombs are made on the ground is something everyone overlooks. For one to work you need water not explosives.
    Suddenly the assessment appears that it “highly likely” (you have to love that phrase) that it was a gas attack brought on from dropped barrel bombs. Beware of adverbs that allow caveats in statements.
    Trolls like US Ambassador Nikki Haley keep the drumbeat in the Washington and New York pro-war establishment and the beat gets parroted in high dudgeon by Ms. Theresa May whose own hand on power is tenuous that “yes, there is probably proof and the British have it and of course the “trustworthy” french echo, that they have it. No one asks how?
    Because essentially, there is no how, Worse those who would try to plant the proof at the site of the attack you can’t get to to without going through Assad’s forces. So it’s not possible. Thus we bomb first wiping out all efforts to test if there was such an attack. Assad who is ruthlessly winning his civil war and who has no reason to gas forces he was in the business of overrunning within weeks with Russian help is conveniently demonised and hey presto! the Trump righteous and his acolytes wage a thirty minute or so war and then take their toys and call it a day. Trump goes into is bathroom and jacks off and he feels manly again. His generals making grand announcements from the Pentagon don’t mention the has attack in their briefings after the attack. When pressed they evade. Funny that.
    Truth be said in Syria they are all bad and the so-called baddies on the US side in Syria are ineffectual except for the Syrian Kurds which Turkey will grind into mince meat once the war subsides in eastern Syria.
    Oh and Ms. Raser your assessment of Israel and Saudi Arabia is right on the money. There is nothing worse than an Israeli Prime minister one step away from doing deserved jail time to stir up trouble, particularly if distracts from his murderous efforts on the Gaza border and the fact that his personal cowardice is hidden by doing the Mussolini strut, In that Trump and he have something in common.
    I lived in America for 33 years and still write occasional columns on American affairs for Americans from my cozy pad on the Central Coast north of Sydney. First rule of American foreign policy is that foreign policy is always a lie of convenience .Once you understand that clarity can be perceived. At least I think so.
    This was long but have been itching to rant about this for days. So it goes.

    1. Rais

      It’s easy to demonise Assad David because there’s so much to demonise. I have friends from Syria, level headed citizens with no thoughts of fighting anybody but when the conflict started in Syria they did hope he and his clan would lose power and something like the beginnings of democracy we see in Tunisia be established. The evils of one side unfortunately don’t detract from the evils of the other. Just as bloodstained are the leaders of the neighbouring settler state, of the Empire and its minions and of Russia. Abbott’s remark was simplistic and was mocked but for once he was right. It’s hard to identify any way this conflict can have a tolerable outcome.

  8. kyle Hargraves

    I wonder if we are missing the point – which is that Donald can light the place up in a mater of hours; that is light up almost any place. If the rhetoric disappears as “puff” then its just Donald taking a nap.

    I can’t (literally) imagine the eventual fate of Syria but I suggest that it will be little better, if any, than Iraq. Syria had decent medical and other services prior to 2011-12. Although the cost of living in Syria was cheaper than that of Lebanon and Iraq (been there) in 2009-10 its services, in general were on a par.

    It is almost as if two countries have been destroyed by the same stone. By the way, just how does one determine the baddies from the goodies in this “event” or is the title intentionally misleading. A bit of history might have clarified the matter.

    1. David Thompson

      It’s difficult to ‘account’ the relative damages done to Syria and Iraq now, Kyle.
      But, whatever one thinks of Assad, and leaving aside the whataboutery of trying to argue who has done more damage than the other guy (also remembering both Saddam and Assad were ‘our guy’ once), Assad is surviving, and he did lead the most diverse nation in the region and, until the horrible drought hit, 8-9 years ago, they were a reasonably cohesive and tolerant set of communities.
      Questions were asked in the Commons last night, during the Treeza soul cleansing presentation, about ‘the Christians’ in Syria. There is a certain irony in the West bleating about Assad ‘the butcher’, and Putin ‘the murdering ex-Soviet KGB thug’, when they are funding Islamic head choppers who would kill Christians on camera – and have, numerous times – just to make a ‘point’.
      Many fail to mention the dominant religious sect in the Syrian Arab Army is Sunni, as are those populating the insurgencies.
      Patriotism trumps (HA!) religious devotion.
      Funny thing, sovereignty.

    2. Helen Razer

      The “baddy” is competing foreign policy. Let’s say the baddy is the Peace of Westphalia.
      Goodies? Don’t know of any.
      Honestly, I think it was clear who the baddy was. The headline (which writers do not devise; persons skilled in that craft do) refers to the Tony Abbott quote which works as a hook in the piece.

  9. Irfan Yusuf

    This analysis makes alot of sense.

  10. Andrea

    Dang I wish I’d persevered with that speed-reading course at uni. So much info to digest but I gotta earn as well as learn!

Leave a comment

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details