When the War on Terror began, CAGE took issue with the way ‘the rules of the game’ changed in order to cast suspicion on 1.8 billion Muslims globally. Rendition, secret detention, and torture were impacting tens of thousands of people globally.
Whether it was unlawful detentions or the illegal invasion of Iraq, those on the Left stood alongside Muslims who had become the latest ‘suspect community’. The solidarity became an important moment in the face of vilification.
Many of these left-leaning public figures, journalists and academics rejected binary ideas perpetuated around the causes of violence. There were those centrists and right-wing securocrats, who worked with think tanks and policy informing outfits to push a linear narrative.
It took many years before NGOs were able to tell the human stories of those detained, released detainees were able to speak truth of their experiences, and serious academics on national security issues were able to push back against the reductive ideas around who suspects were.
The call of CAGE has always been to understand human beings in their contexts, rather than painting entire communities or groups as suspects. It was difficult to discern all the motivations of those involved in political violence or militant groups, let alone predict who may turn to such methods.
After the Arab Spring, and in particular Bashar al-Assad’s brutal crackdown on the protesters in Syria, a portion of the Left chose to mimic the narrative of those they had been criticising for reductive arguments around ideology and foreign involvement for almost a decade.
In the context of Syria, some on the Left have chosen this kind of narrative to paint a secular liberal Syrian population that chooses to side with the regime against ‘terrorist’ ‘extremist’ ‘al-Qaeda’ militants within the revolutionary forces.
Unfortunately, this binary view involves refusing to acknowledge the many voices on the ground from those who are not inside regime-controlled areas. Their real-world experience of gas attacks, arbitrary detention, torture and mass killings is belittled due these commentators bending the story to fortify their wider geo-political affiliations.
This comes as a surprise as those same people previously were happy to help highlight the rendition and torture of Maher Arar, Abdullah Almalki, which happened at the request and with the complicity of the US and Canada.
Perhaps even more bizarrely, those who were once pushing narratives of securitisation and the need for the rules of the game to be changed, now champion the idea that the whole revolutionary forces outside of ISIS cannot be considered to be “terrorist” outfits.
So now, instead of a centrist conspiracy of Saudi Arabia funded al-Qaeda networks globally, we have a leftist conspiracy of Qatar-funded al-Qaeda networks in Syria. All the while of course, Qatar and Saudi have been complicit in various degrees in the War on Terror as we have documented through our cases.
CAGE has always pushed for voices from the ground informing our work and commentary. In Syria, that means we listen to those who are actually on the front lines of fighting ISIS, but also at the same time trying to evade the bombs of Assad and the Russians.
Those on the Left who keep recycling the same narratives that were once and continue to the be the mainstay of groups like the Henry Jackson Society and Policy Exchange have betrayed their stated values.
As for those who present themselves as supporters of the Syrian revolution, we see clearly the role you have played in establishing and profiting from Countering Violent Extremism programmes in the UK and abroad. Your recent support for Syrians does not whitewash that role in any way.
(This was published first as a thread on Twitter)
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)