On May 26, Syria held a presidential election in which President Bashar al-Assad ran against two candidates. Was it a free and fair election? Of course it was, by the twisted logic of the Sputnik Left. That’s because the US government — along with many others, not to mention anyone with a brain — cast doubt on the balloting. That alone means the election was one of the new millennium’s greatest expressions of democracy, according to sad sack Western apologists and tourist “journalists” in the tank for Assad.
Speaking of sad sack Western apologists and tourist “journalists” in the tank for Assad, check out these merry clowns below.
But wait, there’s someone who doesn’t seem to be as happy and merry as the rest of the group. Take a look at the person third from the left. That’s Aaron Mate of The Grayzone, the band of dimwits who have one principle, though that’s probably not the right word: If the US is for it, we’re against it. If the US is against it, we’re for it. That applies across the board and specifically, in regard to governments The Grazyzone is for, Syria, China, Nicaragua, Belarus, Venezuela, Zimbabwe and Russia, among others. Who knows, maybe Mate is unhappy because he realizes that going forward no one reading his work will ever take him seriously as an “independent” reporter
Surely, I’m exaggerating. This group of “independent” election observers — note that Mate is not named in this pathetic statement issued by the Syria Solidarity Movement but the caption in the photo above identifies him as being part of the delegation — were entirely impartial when it came to judging the balloting, right?
Hmmm. There are perhaps a few red flags. For example, the Syria Solidarity Movement is 110 percent pro-Assad. Its parent organization, the Association for Investment in Popular Action Committees, previously paid US political figures such as former Congressman Dennis Kucinich and Mint Press News, which received $10,000. Kucinich returned a $20,000 speaking fee after media reports revealed that the money came from the pro-Assad Syrian Solidarity Movement. Incidentally, Tulsi Gabbard, aka journalist Michael Tracey’s unrequited but pure love, got sent to Syria courtesy of cash from a different group but with a similar agenda to that of the Syria Solidarity Movement.
And who was part of the delegation of “independent” election observers? Well, there’s Paul Larudee, treasurer of the Association for Investment in Popular Action Committees and also treasurer of Serena Shim Award. The latter is a pro-Assad front group that has paid a number of US “journalists,” including Max Blumenthal, ringleader of The Crayzone. In 2019 Larudee, travelled to Damascus to participate in the Third International Trade Union Forum, presided over by President Bashar al-Assad. Blumenthal went along for that shit show as well, which was for those wanting to stand “against the economic blockade, imperialist interventions and terrorism.”
Here’s more about the Serena Shim Award, which election observer Larudee is linked to.
It’s a “Pro-Assad Lobby Group” that has paid bloggers on the left and right, according to Charles Davis of Bellingcat. Of course, I can hear The Crayzone and its defenders already, Bellingcat is a tool of Western imperialism — and there may be something to that — so it’s not trustworthy. Unfortunately for this crowd, Bellingcat has the receipts so that charge is impossible to gainsay.
But back to the “independent” election observer team that Mate was either part of or posed with. Another member was Rick Sterling, who went to Syria for the trade union event. Then there’s Johnny Achi, co-founder of Arab Americans for Syria and a complete Assad regime tool.
But certainly the group’s report was objective, right? Here blow are some of its conclusions and my observations:
“We saw nothing to indicate unfairness or coercion in the casting of ballots.” Well, I’m glad we’ve got that cleared up, I feel much better now. Hold on, Assad won with 95.1 per cent of the votes in an election that evryone except this group of observers determined was riddled with fraud.
“Many expressed that they were not simply casting votes for their preferred candidate, but for a sovereign, unified Syria, free from imperialist interference.” Sure, that’s exactly the way your typical Syrian talks.
“It is the unanimous conclusion of the undersigned representatives of the International Delegation to the 2021 Syrian Presidential Election that the re-election of President Bashar al-Assad, of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party and the National Progressive Front, is the legitimate, democratic expression of the Syrian people.” Sorry, I’ll be right back, I need to vomit.
Can you imagine how The Crayzone, Max Blumenthal, Ben Norton and Aaron Mate would react if a group of kept election observers covered for an election in Israel or Saudi Arabia? Yes, you can.
Joshua Frank of CounterPunch has been challenging Mate on his trip to Syria. “He’s not listed as a delegate and says he paid for his own ticket but he has not said anything about being an election observer as of yet,” he told me last night. Frank made a few other observations on Twitter that are relevant here.
Mate didn’t respond to that tweet as far as I can tell. When he does reply to Frank, things don’t go well for him, as seen in his tweet below, which, after he was widely mocked, Mate deleted.
I was one of those who mocked him.
I’ve sought comment from Mate, but haven’t heard from him yet. If I do, I’ll update this story.
As I’ve written elsewhere, one can make the argument that Assad, despite his massive and horrible flaws, could be the best bet for Syria at the moment, given what we have seen in prior US-sponsored regime change operations in Iraq and Libya. It’s also possible that Assad could win a free and fair election — I have no idea but that doesn’t strike me as entirely implausible — but it is entirely implausible that he won the May election with 95 percent of the vote. That’s a very different thing than serving as a boot polisher and lobbyist for Assad, as bad as the most craven and despicable US lobbyist (DC bottom feeder Lanny Davis springs to mind here), as Mate is happy to do, and for a fraction or none of the cash, which makes it even worse.
What’s especially sad about all this is Mate’s family history. His very intelligent and decent father is a refugee from communist Hungary, as my colleague Andrew Stewart pointed out to me, so there is surely no love lost on his part for Soviet communism. Would the elder Mate be caught dead recycling talking points from Herbert Aptheker’s embarrassing pamphlet The Truth About Hungary, a wholesale defense of the 1956 Soviet invasion of that country? It’s absolutely the same rhetoric and politics of apologia that his son is practicing now in Syria.
Mate keeps sinking lower and lower in journalism, and by providing cover for Assad’s fraudulent election he has reached a new, if temporary, bottom. This will end his career in any sort of respectable journalism, and I would define that in a broad sense. But with this latest shameful exercise, he will be forever wallowing in the gutter.