The strange sympathy of the Far Left for Putin

Gershom Gorenberg writes: Jeremy Corbyn, the grim, controversial, and recently re-elected leader of Britain’s Labour Party, rejects the idea of protesting outside Russia’s embassy in London against that country’s brutal bombing of Syria. “The focus on Russian atrocities or Syrian army atrocities,” said a Corbyn aide this week, distracts attention from “very large scale civilian casualties as a result of the U.S.-led coalition bombing.”

In case this is a bit obtuse, let’s go over to Britain’s Stop the War coalition, which Corbyn chaired before he was elected Labour leader. In a radio interview, current vice-chairman Chris Nineham said that protesting Russian atrocities would increase “hysteria and jingoism.” The way to end the Syria conflict, he said, was to “oppose the West.”

In another words, when we say we’re against war, we don’t mean Vladimir Putin’s war. We mean war waged by Western imperialists.

To fill in some dots: The idea of protesting outside Russian embassies, not just in London but around the world, reportedly came from Labour MP Ann Clwyd. It’s true that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson endorsed the proposal. But ignoring Russian war crimes because Johnson opposes them is a bit like ignoring Donald Trump’s misogyny because some Republicans also object to it.

As for the equation of Russian and coalition actions, The Guardian did a fact-check with the monitoring group Airwars. The civilian death rate from Russian attacks, said the group’s director, “probably outpaces the coalition by a rate of eight to one.” The coalition tries to limit civilian deaths; the Russians deliberately target civilians, he said.

Predictably, lots of people in the riven Labour Party are outraged by Corbyn’s stance. It’s only the latest instance of Corbyn’s fossilized and one-dimensional anti-imperialism being an embarrassment for the left. In the United States, Putin’s most prominent fan is the embarrassment of the right.

Still, Corbyn has his American counterparts — starting with Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Until a few days ago, Stein had a statement on her website saying that the United States should end any military role in Syria, impose an arms embargo, and work “with Syria, Russia, and Iran to restore all of Syria to control by the government.” The “anti-war” candidate’s stance, in other words, was to let the war crimes continue until the Assad regime and its patrons massacre their way to victory. [Continue reading…]

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