Fascinating recent history of Syria

Thanks to a link provided by commenter Marcus Ranum, I want to bring to readers’ attention this gripping account by Adam Curtis of the of the twists and turns of post-World War II Syrian history, and how it interweaves with the histories of Iraq and Egypt. I am reposting it here because it deserves a much wider readership.

The 1949 military coup that the CIA engineered in Syria to replace the elected leader with their own man reminded me strongly of how the US overthrew the elected Iranian leader in 1953, replacing him with the hated Shah of Iran, and set in motion a chain of events that reverberate to this day, and should serve as a warning to those who glibly talk of the benefits of the US overthrowing the Syrian government. It is no surprise that people in countries like Egypt seem to be overwhelmingly opposed to US action against Syria, even if the Assad regime deliberately used chemical weapons. The only Arab countries voicing support are the ones without elected parliaments.

Curtis’s narrative was almost all new to me but you can be sure that it is well known to the Syrian people and will form the basis of how they view possible US military action in their country. And because we are ignorant of what they know, we will see their behavior as completely irrational and motivated just by hatred of western values, the way that we are told to view Iranian hostility to US meddling.


  1. dezn_98 says

    You are write this deserves to be read by every american…. but few will ever read it, and even fewer will take it seriously. American’s in general are notoriously ignorant about the things that the American Government does to other nations. The amount of history Americans are routinely not taught is quite astonishing, and this ignorance is the reason Americans are in no real place to understand world affairs… They have been so isolated from the world, such that their naivete is insulting. Furthermore, they are dangerous because they have the power to act on such ignorance. Even US politicians do not know US history when it comes to foreign affairs, and all too often they are taught it through the lens of imperialistic US propaganda.

    Sadly, this piece of history is neither new nor shocking to anyone even remotely connected to word affairs outside the US. The US government is still sponsoring military coups around the world today, so this is not even “history” in the sense that it is all in the past… rather, and repugnantly, this is “history” in that it describes the US modus oporandi around the world today. The US never stopped behaving in the way this small piece of history has detailed, rather this is just one of many past and present US actions that have been committed and are committed on a daily basis by the US government. The truth of the matter is that the american people do not realize that the US is one of the most feared nations around the world because it is many times over responsible for crimes against humanity around the world.

    My family comes from a little Latin American nation called El Slavador.. and we too are well antiquated with US sponsored regimes that lead to the wholesale slaughter of the citizens of the country. A history that is fairly recent – the civil war that faught against the US backed murder ragtime only ended in in the mid 1990’s – and yet still manages to be forgotten quite easily by the US public. I have no idea how it is possible for american minds to be so fickle in their memory… Fairly recently, last year, Americans were accusing the citizens of my home country of “terrorism” simply because they burned an american flag… and not one, not a single american that easily accosted the Salvadorian people with such a claim, understood the history of the region. Not one of them knew the history of US imperialism in El Salvador… and none of them could understand why my Slavadorian people might not be fond of the US. It was quite amazing to see such ignorance on display… and the fact of the matter is that such ignorance is on display practically every time the US decides to interfere in another countries sovereignty. The truth of the matter is that the US has no credibility whatsoever… and is not to be trusted at all.. because their actions in the past and today tell us what US intervention leads to.. and it is rarely, if ever, good.

    Not a single US citizen, I feel, can understand what citizens countries that have been targeted and ruined by US aggression in the past and present feel towards american and their government. The fact is that this is sad, and the fact is that Obama is going to do what he wants.. you can count on it. Unless a massive worldwide protest is waged against him… he is going to terrorize another country – just as he is terrorizing countries right now and how no one pays any attention. It is sad to see american culture try and make other people look “irrational” for not liking the US.. when in reality, that is the only rational conclusion you can come to if you know your US history.

  2. curcuminoid says

    Very interesting read. Something worth mentioning: This is potentially the first time I have heard about an American coup that was motivated by ideals, rather than power or profit.

    One thing I was curios about in the article was the Syrian’s fear of Israel in the early 1950s. I would understand why this would be if this was after the Six Day war (67) or the Suez Crisis (56), but it doesn’t seem like Israel was a threat to Syria in the early 50s. Does anyone know where the fear came from?

  3. nrdo says

    Israel wasn’t a major threat, nor did it have particularly solid US support until 1967, but Syrians likely feared Israel for a combination of reasons, some legitimate and some not; old religious hatred ingrained by religion, embarrassment at having lost the 1948 war, the perception that the destruction of Palestinian villages would be replicated if Israel gained further territory. Israel was always a handy scapegoat for whatever leader was in power at a given time. [Think of how the threat of “terrorism” is used today]

  4. Funny Diva says

    I find it particularly harrowing that the linked article is dated June of _2011_.
    Over two years old and it still addresses every “argument” for making war in Syria…exactly as though it were written two days ago!

    And thank you for re-posting it, Mano. I value the history lesson even though I didn’t support US intervention in Iraq in 2003 and certainly don’t support intervention in Syria now.

  5. says

    Does anyone know where the fear came from?

    Israel has always been on a trajectory of territorial expansion and Syria would have been wise to worry about either having Israel come after their water supply, or having to host hundreds of thousands of displaced refugees as a consequence. A nuclear-armed rogue state of religious nihilists is not a good neighbor; anyone in their right mind would be scared to share a continent with them.

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