On Saturday, March 17, members of the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice (CPRSJ) attended a small ANSWER-dominated rally in downtown Los Angeles against US intervention in Venezuela, as we share the aim of opposing any US imperialist attack or strangulation of that country. Chants from the stage included “Hands Off Venezuela,” but also the more problematic and myopic “Venezuela Is Not Divided,” implying that the entire people is behind the increasingly authoritarian Maduro government.
Our slogans, as seen on the signs in the photo above, emphasized a firm opposition to US imperialism and intervention plans. But, unlike ANSWER, we also stressed that our solidarity is with the people, not the regime, and that we support socialist democracy and accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity everywhere.
There are a number of different perspectives regarding the current situation in Venezuela within the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice, and so we have chosen six articles that reflect that diversity in perspectives. This is part 6/6, written by Charles Davis. Originally published on The Daily Beast on 21 February 2019.
Donald J. Trump, the oppressively dim
president of these United States, was elected by a majority of white
people who cast ballots but only a minority of the popular vote, and
only then with the actively solicited help of a foreign intelligence
service. His closest allies are gaudy authoritarians who murder their
critics without so much as a plausible cover story. He does not, one
must conclude, give half a goddamn about democracy—not in the
United States, not in Saudi Arabia and certainly not in Venezuela,
where his point person is a man, Elliot Abrams, whose obituary will
include the term “right-wing death squads.”
It is an obvious point, but one
necessary to make in a world where implausible statements from an
incoherent president are still treated with legitimacy by a class of
reporters and pundits trained to show undue respect to those who
wield power, corporate or political and nowadays both. Trump cares
about Venezuelans, whom his government routinely
deports, about as much as he cares about his own children, which
is not to say “a lot.” If he cared about corrupt elites ignoring
the opposition-held legislature on their way to bankrupting a country
for profit, he would resign, or at least hand back the $500,000
he received from the Venezuelan state for a party on his
It is good and just to be an irritant on this point, but it is
equally important that it not be the only one that is made. When
Trump talks about democracy and poverty in Venezuela unconvincingly,
what he says that is discernible is not necessarily wrong; the former
is indeed lacking, in Caracas and Washington, and the latter
abundant. As in the imperial core, the Venezuelan government has
usurped its constitutional authority. I know, in part, because I was
paid by it, working as an editor at the state-sponsored teleSUR,
based in Ecuador, a former sponsor (its governing social democrats
In late 2015, when the opposition coalition won the National
Assembly with 56 percent of the vote, the expectation was that my
employer would go down with the dethroned ruling party—the
expectation being that legislatures, not presidents, determine
spending priorities. And the opposition did not like us.
That did not happen. Maduro, instead, claimed the authority to
pass budgets by executive fiat—in the U.S. democracy, presidents
declare a “national emergency” to do that—helping preserve the
delicate balance of power that has led the military, enriched by
smuggling and the self-inflicted currency exchange system that fuels
it, to stick with his administration. He then created an extralegal
body, called a Constituent Assembly, that has the purported power to
rewrite all laws.
Filled with party loyalists, the assembly was declared illegal by
Venezuela’s attorney general, Luisa Ortega Díaz, who had been
appointed by Hugo Chavez in 2007; she was forced to flee the country,
another Chavista labeled a right-wing plotter by a government that
has betrayed the poor. Maduro then won a presidential election, after
his leading opponents, in a vote that, according
to the United Nations, “does not in any way fulfill minimal
conditions for free and credible elections.”
The international left, then, should have taken notice
and—supporters of Maduro or not—urged against the dismantling of
democracy, and walking back from the precipice; friendship is not
telling a drunk comrade that they are a great driver and thus ceding
the moral high ground to the cop that pulls them over.
It is also true that the Venezuelan government, not the U.S., is
largely responsible for the state of the Venezuelan economy.
There are a number of different perspectives regarding the current situation in Venezuela within the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice, and so we have chosen six articles that reflect that diversity in perspectives. This is part 5/6. Originally published on News and Letters on 12 February 2019.
No to the U.S. Intervention in
Oppose Trump’s threats to send
No confidence in Maduro or Guaidó!
Corrupt Venezuelan generals and foreign creditors profit
while the people face hunger!
A severe economic crisis coupled with a deepening crisis of
leadership has left Venezuela vulnerable to U.S. attempts to
orchestrate a political transition that protects the military high
command and creates a regime directly subordinate to Washington.
Nicolas Maduro offers no alternative to the economic crisis and the
United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV by its acronym in Spanish),
created by Hugo Chávez, is an obstacle to the popular mobilizations
and struggles required to overcome the crisis.
Although the U.S. has recently taken economic measures to cut the
Maduro government’s access to vital oil revenues, throughout the
Chavista “revolution” of “21st Century Socialism,” the U.S.
has been the biggest buyer of Venezuelan oil. Trump’s sanctions
preventing Maduro and members of his inner circle from receiving oil
revenues are effectively a blockade on oil sales to the US, but this
recent development does not explain the hyperinflation and scarcity
of food and medicines driving popular protests against the
The root cause of the hyperinflation immiserating the people is the Chávez regime’s attempt to purchase the loyalty of the military high command, keep paying the foreign debt and avoid directly challenging the economic power of Venezuela’s criollo elite through serious land reform and nationalizations aimed at breaking the power of landlords and monopolists, and securing food sovereignty and the ability to overcome Venezuela’s dependency on imports.
Chávez coopted the popular struggle that challenged IMF-imposed austerity in the Caracazo of 1989. That popular struggle swept aside the power pact between corrupt political parties in 1998 and defeated a coup attempt in 2002. Initially enjoying deep popular support, Chávez replaced the old political regime, and carried out a redistribution of oil revenues in popular social programs to alleviate poverty and increase access to housing and healthcare. But these policies could only be maintained as long as oil prices remained high. Chávez did not break the country’s exclusive reliance on oil revenues to purchase imports of consumers goods. With the collapse of oil prices, the needs of the people competed with the colossal waste of resources spent purchasing the loyalty of the military high command and, worst of all, the uninterrupted service on the foreign debt.
Historically, the resistance against austerity in Latin America
has been associated with struggles against measures imposed upon
governments in or at risk of default to international banks. The
populist redistribution of oil revenues by Chávez was praiseworthy.
Today, however, the government’s policies following the collapse of
oil prices have tightened the belt on Venezuela’s people in order
to purchase the loyalty of the army; the result is a massive transfer
of wealth to the generals. Workers’ wages are eaten up by
hyperinflation. Venezuela imports everything except oil, and an
artificially low exchange rate is reserved for the regime’s
allies—in particular, the high command of the military. The result
is a black market that fuels inflation. The military is in complete
control of food imports and distribution, and it has become an
enormous parasite sucking the lifeblood from the Venezuelan people.
Under Maduro, the Chavista regime has gone from populist programs to
aid the poor to effectively forcing Venezuela’s poorest to bear the
burden of the crisis, while enriching the generals who maintain
control over the military and guaranteeing debt service to foreign
The question of control over the military is key to understanding
the political crisis in Venezuela. Up until recently, Juan Guaidó
was largely unknown to Venezuelans. He has seized upon popular
discontent to present his leadership over the simmering revolt, but
his planned transition is based on amnesty for the same corrupt,
criminal generals whose loyalty Maduro buys. The Trump
administration, European governments, together with reactionary
governments like Brazil’s and Colombia’s, have backed Guaidó’s
claims that Maduro’s election in 2018 was illegitimate, but
although much noise was made about corruption, none of the opposition
candidates in that election opposed the foreign debt service nor
seriously challenged the military’s control over food imports. In
any case, no election result or constitutional crisis can bind
millions of Venezuelans to endure years of misery. Political
struggles aside, Guaidó and the National Assembly are in fact in
agreement with Maduro on protecting the generals and continuing the
There are a number of different perspectives regarding the current situation in Venezuela within the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice, and so we have chosen six articles that reflect that diversity in perspectives. This is part 4/6. Originally published on Mediapart on 29 January 2019.
Venezuela is experiencing an unprecedented crisis, which has been gradually worsening in recent years, to the point of dramatically affecting all aspects of the life of a nation. The collapse of public services, the collapse of the oil industry and the extraordinary fall of GDP, hyperinflation, the vertiginous increase of poverty, the migration of millions of people define this crisis, among other factors. Political unrest has escalated to very dangerous levels, undermining the constitutional state, the framework of social coexistence and the health of institutions. The country’s population is in a state of absolute vulnerability.
The Government of Nicolás Maduro has advanced towards authoritarianism, suppressing de facto numerous forms of popular participation that had been established since the beginning of the Bolivarian process. Repression has increased in the face of numerous protests and demonstrations of social discontent; the government has hijacked the electoral route as a collective decision-making mechanism and has proved intransigent in the goal of holding on to power at any cost; Maduro has ruled outside the Constitution, applying a permanent state of exception. Meanwhile, extractivism is deepening and economic adjustment policies which favor transnational corporations are implemented, with a negative impact on society and nature.
In parallel, the extremist sectors of the opposition bloc that managed to lead different mobilizations, have prompted several calls for a forced and radical ousting of the Maduro government (in 2014 and 2017), which generated very serious violent confrontations and attacks on infrastructure. This has further contributed to the strangulation of the everyday lives of millions of people, and had a severe impact on the framework of peaceful coexistence.
Additionally, in the context of the growth and alignment of the political right in Latin America, foreign intervention has intensified. In the first place, the Government of the United States has assumed a much more aggressive position toward Venezuela since 2015, through Executive Orders, threatening statements, creation of regional and international lobbies against the Maduro Government and economic sanctions which have impacted the national economy. Other international actors such as China and Russia also have significantly influenced the course of events according to their own expansionist interest, and their economic and energy appetites, configuring an extremely tense geopolitical situation.
There are a number of different perspectives regarding the current situation in Venezuela within the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice, and so we have chosen six articles that reflect that diversity in perspectives. This is part 3/6. Originally published by Marea Socialista on 24 January 2019. We are including the introductory preface added by editors of the International Marxist Humanist Organization below.
We are publishing this article from Venezuelan socialists in order to stimulate discussion about how to oppose imperialist pressure/intervention against their country by the reactionary Trump administration and its allies. As revolutionaries, many of us based inside the imperialist countries, we need to direct most of our fire against Trump and other would-be interventionists. This is especially crucial given the administration’s outright threat of a U.S. military invasion of Venezuela and the sanctions it imposed on importing oil from Venezuela on January 29, which will have a devastating impact on lives of its people. This marks the most open and virulent effort on the part of the U.S. to violate the sovereignty of a Latin American nation in 30 years. At the same time, our opposition to imperialism is on a Marxist-Humanist basis. Therefore we also oppose the Maduro regime’s increasingly anti-democratic and autocratic policies, without in any way supporting the U.S.-backed opposition.
Only the sovereign mobilized people can decide its destiny, in a referendum and general elections
The Venezuelan people, mobilized along all social sectors, taking to the streets from the poor neighborhoods, is demonstrating that it is fed up with Maduro. The people will no longer tolerate the policies of hunger and destruction of labor rights, elimination of the right to healthcare and medicine shortages, degradation of public services, extreme corruption and routine repression.
This explains why a large part of the population mobilized to the marches called by the self-proclaimed Guaidó. Not because they are prepared to recognize whomever wants to snatch power, but because broad sectors of the population are fed up and don´t want any more of this. Even those who work in the public sector who remain silent or are forced to go to the government’s mobilizations to avoid retaliations at work, seeing their reception of CLAP subsidies affected, or endangering their Misión Vivienda homes. Word of mouth, within Chavism, also reflects exhaustion, annoyance and the progressive loss of fear.
Workers and the people have not been able to build an independent alternative of their own, to represent their real interests and anguish, and are trapped between the bureaucracy and capital. The result of this is the resurgence of polarization between the politicians of a corrupt government that controls power, and the parliamentarians of the parties of the capitalists that exploit workers.
Because the bosses that finance and promote the opposition parties of the traditional right, are also benefited by paying the miserable wages imposed by the government of Maduro, the PSUV and the military. And their proposal is no different in respect to continue unloading the cost of the crisis on the people while they secure their profits.
From the National Assembly, they aim to form a new government and use the people´s energy in their favor, because we lack strong organizations of our own to channel the struggle against Maduro’s government. But the National Assembly and the United States cannot impose governments on the Venezuelan people; neither can Maduro. They are all usurpers and they fight over the control of the state to maintain the people subdued and exploited.
Our unions and popular organizations are largely destroyed, corrupted or subordinated to the state apparatus, and another part of them has ceded its political independence to the leaders of the capitalist class that exploits us. This is why, not having yet escaped the authoritarian trap of Maduro, we are already falling into the trap of Guaidó’s coup (of the Voluntad Popular party), backed by the United States, who defends its own interests, opposed to those of the Venezuelan people.
We are now in danger of a confrontation between two governments-both illegitimate, and one of them supported by the United States-escalating into a civil war, or more direct forms of imperialist intervention by the Trump administration. We must also alert that the government takes advantage of each attempted bower grab by the right to unleash a wave of repression to submit the people and silence all protest.
In this situation, Marea Socialista calls on people to continue on the streets protesting against the oppressive government, but we must move with our own working class and peoples’ agenda, and not behind the right wing parliamentarians or the PSUV bureaucracy, and we must not accept any foreign intervention.
Marea Socialista calls for uniting all who understand the necessity of building our own fighting organization, to raise a new political alternative of our class and popular sectors who are suffering, to defend our interests and rights.
The people no longer want Maduro, and no one chose Guaidó.
Popular referendum for the people to legitimize all powers (Art. 71 of the Constitution).
Renovation of the National Electoral Council to reclaim its independence and call for new elections.
Emergency economic plan in favor of workers and the people, to confront the crisis, recover wages and access food.
No to the relinquishing of sovereignty.
No to the intervention and meddling of the United States and the Lima Group.
Let´s continue the struggle for our living conditions: wages, labor rights, public services, democratic rights.
No coup or negotiations behind the people’s backs.
Political autonomy for workers and popular sectors.
No more following the politicians of the ruling bureaucracy or the capitalists.
Not bureaucracy, nor capital!
They must all go!
The people must exercise its sovereignty.
No repression: liberation of all political prisoners, respect for human rights.
For a government of the workers and the people, not of the traditional bourgeoisie nor of the “reddish” bourgeoisie.
(Courtesy Camilo Rozo/El País and Andrés Martínez Casares/Reuters)
There are a number of different perspectives regarding the current situation in Venezuela within the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice, and so we have chosen six articles that reflect that diversity in perspectives. This is part 2/6, written by Diego Sacchi. Originally published on Left Voice on 26 February 2019.
Last week [two weeks ago now], Venezuelan right-wing coup leader Juan Guaidó called for a “human wave” to mobilize at the country’s barracks in order to pressure the military into turning against President Nicolás Maduro. He also called on supporters to gather at the border with Colombia on Saturday to receive the “humanitarian aid” sent by the United States. The goal was to present an image of chaos to the world and force the Army and National Guard to let in the trucks carrying supplies—signaling a break with the Maduro government.
This maneuver was defeated, sparking an aggressive response by the
Venezuelan right, the U.S. state department, and several high-ranking
American officials, who have been beating the drums of war since the
crisis began last month.
On Saturday evening, Guaidó stated, “The events of today have forced me to make the decision to formally declare to the International Community that we must consider all options to liberate this country, which is fighting and will continue to fight.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo echoed Guaidó’s threats, maintaining that “Every option is on the table. We’re going to do the things that need to be done.”
After Saturday, Marco Rubio, the Republican senator from Florida, focused on searching for a “casus belli” that could justify a military response, using his Twitter account to spread lies, such as the claim that shots were fired into Colombia from Venezuela. [There have been reports of Venezuelan forces firing tear gas over the border into Colombia.]
There are a number of different perspectives regarding the current situation in Venezuela within the Coalition for Peace, Revolution, and Social Justice, and so we have chosen six articles that reflect that diversity in perspectives. This is part 1/6. Originally published on Socialist Worker on 25 January 2019.
INTERNATIONALISTS and anti-imperialists, we look to the people of
Venezuela to defend their own sovereignty. We recognize that the
greatest threat to peace, democracy and prosperity in Latin America has
always been the U.S. state and U.S. big business.
President Donald Trump must have choked on his words when he claimed to stand up
for “freedom and the rule of law.” This from a man who has imprisoned
thousands of Central American children in cages. We hold him and his
administration responsible for the deaths of 8-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo and 7-year-old Jakelin Caal.
And Vice President Mike Pence’s accusation
that “Nicolas Maduro is a dictator with no legitimate claim to power”
rings hollow from a man who, along with Trump, won office after losing
the popular vote, and who regularly defends the reactionary monarchy in
We unconditionally oppose all U.S. aggression against the people of
Venezuela and demand that the Trump administration refrain from any
provocative military actions. Unfortunately, there is broad bipartisan
consensus in Washington, D.C., to target the people of Venezuela. Let us
not forget that almost two years ago to the day, President Barack Obama declared Venezuela an “unusual and extraordinary threat.”
This is the second article in a series that we are republishing and/or hosting on the recent United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) strike. Originally published in Commune
In their six-day strike, Los Angeles teachers refined the model of community unionism developed in West Virginia. Along the way, a generation of working-class students has discovered something you can’t learn in a classroom.
Long before the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) capitulated to union demands, it was clear the teachers were winning over Angelenos in the court of popular opinion. The teachers’ strike had an 80 percent approval rating in LA county (the largest in the United States). Organized under the banner of United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), approximately thirty-thousand teachers struck in nine-hundred campuses throughout the city. School staff as well as parents and community members joined teachers on the picket lines in numbers that grew every day. This strike was not only enormous; it was also incredibly well organized. In fact, it was UTLA’s first strike in thirty years. Nevertheless, daily picket lines at 7 a.m. blocked scabs—both substitute teachers and critical staff hired by the district—from entering the schools. Teachers also engaged in city-wide marches and a picket at the home of LAUSD School Board member, Monica Garcia. An estimated one third of students, about five-hundred thousand, were absent from school each day for the duration of the strike, costing the district $97 million by Thursday. The coordination of these demonstrations despite soaking rain was nothing short of amazing in a city known for shutting down after a few drizzles.
Privatization and Beutner’s Board
Across the country, teachers are fighting to preserve public education against an onslaught of privatization. A key target of this strike is the new superintendent of schools, Austin Beutner, a former hedge-fund manager who is leading a campaign to expand charter schools. Beutner ran on a campaign paid for by the California Charter School Association. Unelected but shadowing him on the school board are venture philanthropists like billionaire Eli Broad and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, whose financial contributions give them incredible steering power. Beutner’s election to the pro-charter board was controversial but not surprising, since the swing vote in the election was Ref Rodriguez, who had been forced to resign after convictions on felony charges of corruption and money-laundering. The UTLA strike took place ahead of an upcoming special election to replace Rodriguez’s seat on the school board. Teachers hope to fill the seat with an anti-charter voice, but they know the struggle does not stop or start with that election.
Yvette, a special education assistant I met on a picket, gave voice to the anti-privatization movement growing up around public education. “New Orleans lost all of its public schools after Katrina. Now they’re trying to spread this privatization all around the nation.” She continued: “These charter schools think that they’re doing everyone a favor by providing more options, but the reality is that they amplify discrimination. Test score based acceptance to charter schools weeds out the students they don’t want to take. How can you tell a student they’re not worthy of education? And all the kids that are being affected are the brown and black kids.” For teachers like Yvette, charter school reform is the wrong direction; she envisions a radical transition from a system of standardized testing to one that values students with differential needs and abilities.
In addition to the struggle against charter school reform, UTLA had five demands: 1) a 6.5% pay raise retroactive to July 1, 2016; 2) a cap on class sizes, because California teachers rank 48 out of 50 in the nation with regards to class sizes and LAUSD is among the worst of the worst; 3) discretion to determine when standardized assignments are given; 4) increased per-pupil funding, given that California ranks 43 out of 50 in per-pupil spending despite being the richest state in the country; and 5) additional school staff including nurses, counselors, librarians, and social workers. Prior to the negotiated settlement, the student-to-nurse ratio was 1,224:1 and the student-to-counselor ratio was 945:1.
By Ndindi Kitonga, Lilia Monzo, Ramona Rivera, Kevin B. Anderson
This is the first essay in a series that we are republishing and/or hosting on the recent United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) strike. Originally published on New Politics
In January 2019, a massive strike of over 30,000 public school teachers stunned the Los Angeles power structure when it received massive, almost unanimous public support, especially in the city’s large Latinx and Black communities. Latinx students now make up 75% of the city’s over 600,000 public school students. Even the anti-labor Los Angeles Times, which had issued dire warnings ahead of the strike, felt compelled to run a front-page headline on the third day that began with the words, “L.A. Teachers Bask in support for strike.”
This support, and the sustained pickets and rallies of teachers, students, parents, and other community members, forced the school board of the LA Unified School District (LAUSD) to concede considerable ground. Everywhere, the union placards of the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) were printed in both Spanish and English. The mass outpouring in favor of the strike also helped change the national conversation about the privatized charter schools that are eating away at public education. And just as the West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona teachers’ strikes of 2018 paved the way for this one in LA, so the LA strike is very likely to be followed by major teacher strikes in Oakland, Denver, and other cities.
What Teachers and Students Are Facing
Public schools are underfunded, overcrowded, lack adequate social services and are subject to the worst impulses of neoliberalism. These attacks on public education disproportionately affect poor students, students of color, immigrant children, students whose primary language is not English, and those with disabilities. For months and years, LA teachers have been demanding a modest wage increase along with lower class size, accountability for charter schools, more support staff (nurses, counselors, librarians, etc.), less standardized testing, re-investment in education programs, and a stop to random searches and policing of students. A previous strike in 1989 demonstrated how demanding only a wage increase was short-sighted. LAUSD did meet teachers’ demands in ’89 but also increased class size, cut down on support staff and programs, and heavily charterized the district.
By 2014, a slate backed by progressive caucuses brought a new leadership to the UTLA. Moreover, the reinvigorated union lost hardly any members despite the reactionary Supreme Court decision making it harder for public sector unions to maintain their membership by making it “voluntary” even for workplaces with union contracts.
As a result of the January 2019 strike, the teachers won something on all of these issues, although in some cases only marginally. The seven-day strike commenced on Monday, January 14, Teachers wore #redfored, in/with the spirit of their fellow teachers in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Arizona who had engaged in similar labor struggles in 2018. Teachers would report to their respective school site at 6.30 am and picket heavily during school drop-off. A daily rally was held in downtown LA at the LAUSD headquarters. After the rally, teachers would return to their schools to picket at the end of school. Other actions involved protesting at the homes of school superintendent Austin Beutner and Monica Garcia (one of the more obstinate board members). Beutner the new superintendent is an investment banker with no teaching or education administration background. He was also a deputy mayor under Antonio Villaraigosa and has ties to billionaire Eli Broad.
Supporters from many political leanings joined teachers on the picket lines. In particular, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA)-LA, the International Socialist Organization (ISO), and Black Rose/Rosa Negra (BRRN) were among the leftist groups that were conspicuously in solidarity with teachers picketing and offering resources, while several from the International Marxist-Humanist Organization (IMHO) participated as individuals. Teachers also coordinated their strike activity with other labor actions across the city.
Originally published on Notes Toward an International Libertarian Eco-Socialism
On Thursday, January 31, a U.S. judge found the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad responsible for the targeted assassination of U.S. journalist Marie Colvin in Homs in 2012. A reporter for The Sunday Times, Colvin had been covering the regime’s besiegement of the Baba Amr district of Homs, whose population had rebelled against Assad’s rule as part of the Revolution which had begun in the southern city of Der’aa in March 2011. Though evacuated with other internationals and journalists within days of her arrival as a precautionary measure in light of a threatened regime offensive, Colvin returned with the French photojournalist Rémi Ochlik and British photographer Paul Conroy to the improvised community media center from where they had been reporting. As Conroy describes, he, Colvin, and Ochlik believed that, by reporting on the regime’s besiegement of Baba Amr, they could affect world opinion and bring relief to civilians under fire. It was from Baba Amr that Colvin courageously went live on CNN, the BBC, ITN News, and Channel 4 News, on February 21, 2012, to belie the Assad regime’s fabrications that its assault on the district was exclusively targeting so-called “terrorists.” It was for this reason that the regime killed her, the very next morning after the broadcast. They triangulated her location via her cell signal due to Colvin’s bravery in broadcasting the devastating truth to the world, murdering her and Ochlik in a targeted artillery strike. As judge Amy Jackson observes in her ruling, Colvin was “specifically targeted because of her profession, for the purpose of silencing those reporting on the growing opposition movement in the country.”
Colvin’s remarkable story is told in two recent films: Under the Wire and A Private War. I will not here be discussing Under the Wire, which is brilliantly reviewed by Muhammad Idrees Ahmad in the New York Review of Books here. Instead, I will offer some comments about A Private War, a 2018 dramatization of Colvin’s life, directed by Matthew Heineman and written by Marie Brenner and Arash Amel.
Though Colvin covered armed conflicts for three decades, in A Private War, we follow her in her later assignments to war zones in Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. It is amidst covering Sri Lanka’s civil war that Colvin suffers a disfiguring injury, leading her to wear a distinctive eye-patch over her left orbit. While there is little sense in the film that Colvin had an anti-imperialist critique of U.S. participation in wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, the film depicts her dynamic and increasingly humanist approach to journalism, culminating in her martyrdom in Homs in February 2012. During the Libya segment, which takes place shortly after the outbreak of protests against Mua’mmar al-Qaddafi, we see Colvin outright interviewing the autocrat. Though Colvin never had the chance to question Assad—she was no Vanessa Beeley, a neo-fascist propagandist, but rather the Syrian despot’s direct victim—we get the sense that the writers and director are here channeling Assad’s specter through Colvin’s interaction with Qaddafi, given their similarities, from political authoritarianism to inter-personal repulsiveness and sexism, and their common opportunistic use of nationalist, ‘socialist,’ and ‘anti-imperialist’ rhetoric to legitimize their crimes. It follows logically that both Qaddafi and Assad would present essentially all opposition to their rule as “al-Qaeda” and/or “terrorists,” as they have.