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Alex Rowell

(Don’t) Stop the War: Agnes meets the pseudo-pacifists

Mother Agnes-Mariam speaking next to Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire in Poland last month

Later this month, Bashar al-Assad’s favorite nun, Mother Agnes-Mariam, is set to receive perhaps the most significant legitimization of her career, when she will speak in Britain alongside the former chairman of the Labour Party, Tony Benn, current Labour MPs Diane Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn, and more than half a dozen writers, including Guardian columnists Jonathan Steele, Seumas Milne, Tariq Ali, and Rachel Shabi, at an event sponsored by the Stop the War coalition.

 

Indeed, to judge from the event’s write-up on the STW website, Syria will take center-stage at the ‘International Anti-War Conference’, making Agnes something of a guest-of-honor: the description begins by cheering the “historic setback for the organizers of the War on Terror” engineered by Russia in September. Though the conference will also include such sessions as “Imperialism, war and resistance” and “The new scramble for Africa,” the main event will surely be “The Syrian war in context.”

 

Below, NOW imagines how that panel might kick off:

 

Jonathan Steele: Many thanks to all of you for coming to what I hope will be our most enlightening panel, on what is perhaps the most important and dangerous conflict facing the world today. Of course, we all know the mainstream media has been totally one-sided on the so-called Syrian “uprising,” and what’s needed more than ever is to put this war in its proper context, free from nefarious state-sponsored propaganda.

 

Mother Agnes-Mariam: You have to understand, all Free Syrian Army fighters are terrorists.

 

Steele: That’s a great place to start, thank you Mother Agnes. It’s a great irony that, while one of the most perfidious lies of the War on Terror propagated by Orientalist imperialism is that all Muslims carrying guns are “terrorists,” this has in fact turned out to be entirely accurate in Syria.

 

Tariq Ali: Some things are true even if George Bush believes them.

 

Steele: Indeed.

 

Seumas Milne: If I could just jump in here, on that point, what’s been especially depressing for me to watch is the decline of al-Qaeda in Iraq from a resistance force, as I described them in 2011, to a reactionary, counter-revolutionary one in Syria.

 

Ali: Hamas, too. Don’t forget they’ve become terrorists now as well.

 

Milne: Right, yes. The very Palestinian cause itself is threatened as never before by imperialism.

 

Steele: Is anti-Zionism the new Zionism?

 

Milne: We should have called one of our sessions that. Next year.

 

Steele: We could invite Galloway.

 

Milne: Definitely. But back to the point, obviously propaganda-wise what we’ve seen in Syria fits a familiar pattern. Just as the number of Stalin’s victims has long been inflated by capitalist agitprop, so the alleged crimes of President Assad have been hugely exaggerated, if not outright fabricated. And this is something I know Mother Agnes has often spoken very courageously about.

 

Agnes: Yes. Whether it’s the Houla massacre, or the chemical weapons attack in East Ghouta, there’s never been any evidence of Syrian government responsibility.

 

Owen Jones: I’ve said that too.

 

Milne: Me too.

 

Steele: We’ve all said that. It’s disgraceful how so-called journalists rely on YouTube videos for their reporting nowadays.

 

But I think more broadly the problem is a fundamental refusal to understand that Assad is not the problem in Syria. As I’ve often written, it’s the rebels themselves who are responsible for the continued violence.

 

Agnes: Assad is a merciful man. Let me give you a personal example. When I negotiated the handover of hungry civilians from Moadamiyah to government forces last month, not all of them were arrested.

 

Milne: Remarkable. Even though they were Sunnis.

 

Agnes: Yes.

 

Milne: And people have the gall to say Assad’s government is sectarian.

 

Steele: They use the same smear on Hezbollah, even though Sayyid Nasrallah has made it very clear that his fighters are in Syria to save Sunnis as much as Shiites.

 

Milne: And what do they get in return? Human hearts eaten out of corpses. I mean we’ve all seen that YouTube video.

 

Agnes: Can I just say, it’s so nice to be here in Britain. I deeply regret that, during his recent visit to Syria, I wasn’t able to meet with the head of your National Party, Nick Griffin.

 

Steele: [Coughs] Coffee break! Anyone fancy a coffee break?

Agnes will be enlightening the panel as to the proper “context” in which to view the Syrian war (EPA/Jacek Turczyk)

Seumas Milne: If I could just jump in here, on that point, what’s been especially depressing for me to watch is the decline of al-Qaeda in Iraq from a resistance force, as I described them in 2011, to a reactionary, counter-revolutionary one in Syria.

  • Kellie

    Owen Jones has now said he won't attend with Mother Agnes-Mariam on the bill.

    November 15, 2013