GOP Senators’ Plan Ends Capital Gains Taxes: ‘Good For The Economy’?

Cross-posted from, thank you to:

(Comment: In response to the proposal by U.S. Senators Rubio and Lee to eliminate capital gains taxes completely, how about zeroing out taxes on the first $50,000 of income, and taxing capital gains at the same rate as wages? Wouldn’t the effect on the economy be more positive than Rubio and Lee’s plan, because those with incomes up to $50,000 are more inclined to spend it into the economy, rather than bank money like those who enjoy large capital gains – exacerbating an already record high level of wealth inequality?)


The Next Great Treasury Raid

A new proposal to eliminate capital gains taxes would realize a dream the Right has had for decades.

Sen. Barry Goldwater accepts the Republican presidential nomination in San Francisco on July 16, 1964.

Sen. Barry Goldwater accepts the Republican presidential nomination in San Francisco on July 16, 1964

The latest craze in conservative circles is to see who can heap the most praise on the tax reform plan that Republican Senators Mike Lee and Marco Rubio released earlier this month.

Bloomberg’s Ramesh Ponnuru called it “the most pro-growth tax reform since Calvin Coolidge’s presidency.” Veronique de Rugy gushed in the National Review that “it’s just about impossible not to be happy with the plan.” The Mercatus Center’s Scott Sumner even went so far as to argue that, if enacted, the Lee-Rubio plan would “easily be the best thing the Federal government has done since the civil rights laws of the 1960s.” And they were far from alone in their enthusiasm.

Insofar as those on the Right quibble with the plan at all, they object to the so-called “reformocon” elements of the proposal, like the increases in the child tax credit and the maintenance of graduated income tax rates (instead of flat rates or a national consumption tax).

Why such conservative love for Lee-Rubio? As de Rugy put it, the plan packages a variety of ideas that “the free-market movement has highlighted for years.” Lee-Rubio is the culmination of more than four decades of conservative assault on the taxation of capital income.

Though they’ve never wholly escaped taxation, throughout the history of modern federal tax policy capital gains have usually been taxed at lower rates than labor income. In the decades after World War II, however, many policymakers and tax experts viewed the capital gains preference as a flaw, rather than a virtue, of the federal tax code. When they spoke of capital gains tax “reform,” most meant eliminating this special privilege and instead taxing capital income at the same rates as ordinary income.

By the early 1970s, most mainstream political forces agreed that addressing the capital gains loophole had to be part of any significant revision of the federal tax code. President Nixon’s undersecretary of the treasury, Edwin S. Cohen, called the preferential treatment of capital gains “undoubtedly the single most important source of complexity in the law.” Philip Stern — the author of The Great Treasury Raid, a 1963 bestselling loophole exposé — spoke for many on the Left when he called the capital gains preference “the greatest single cause of both inequity and complexity in the American tax system.”

The Treasury Department put hard numbers behind these objections when it began publishing estimates of the federal tax expenditure budget in the early 1970s. This data demonstrated that the capital gains preference not only accounted for the single greatest revenue loss among all tax loopholes, but that it was the rich who reaped its benefits, with more than half of all capital gains accruing to those making more than $100,000 per year in 1972 (more than $550,000 in today’s dollars).

With the Treasury hemorrhaging revenue, the rich escaping taxation, and tax accountants expending needless energy devising complex schemes to convert their clients’ earned income into capital gains, few objective experts seemed to support the capital gains preference anymore. Harvard tax economist Richard Musgrave summarized the conventional wisdom of the early 1970s when he told Congress that there were “no valid grounds” for continuing to tax capital gains at lower rates than earned income.

When George McGovern challenged Nixon in the 1972 presidential election, he ran on an anti-capital gains preference platform, declaring, “money made by money should be taxed at the same rate as money made by men.” McGovern also linked the issue of tax loopholes to rising economic inequality, calling unapologetically for “redistribution of income” by closing federal tax loopholes and lowering taxes — not only at the federal, but also state and local levels — for low- and middle-income taxpayers.

Despite McGovern’s sweeping loss to Nixon, both Nixon’s internal polls and public surveys showed that tax reform was the only issue on which McGovern consistently bested Nixon, a fact pollster Louis Harris called “remarkable.”

Indeed, the erosion of the progressive federal income tax, combined with steep increases in regressive state and local taxes, had squeezed the pocketbooks of most Americans and stoked public resentment at the loophole-filled tax code. By the early 1970s, two-thirds of Americans agreed that the “tax laws were written to help the rich and not the average man.” As a result, many in the press predicted that the capital gains preference would meet its end by the mid-1970s.

But the rising consensus around eliminating the capital gains preference elicited a sharp backlash from the Right. This pushback fit within a larger movement in the 1970s by business and the Right to reassert their strength in politics, perhaps best exemplified by Lewis Powell’s famous memo, “Attack on American Free Enterprise System.”

Business, Powell argued, needed to “launch a counter-attack” against those on the Left who criticized pro-business provisions like loopholes. General Electric CEO Reginald Jones agreed, arguing in the Harvard Business Review that “antibusiness attitudes” were “rotting out the very foundations of our economy.” What the Right needed to do, Jones said, was challenge not only proposed hikes in capital gains taxation, but also the existing “discriminatory tax treatment” of capital income.

Newly founded or reinvigorated right-leaning, corporate-funded groups like the Heritage Foundation, Business Roundtable, the Cato Institute, and American Council for Capital Formation, among others, now called for cuts to — or the elimination of — capital gains taxes.

While reducing the taxation of capital income would disproportionately benefit the wealthy individuals funding these foundations — such as Richard Mellon Scaife, John Olin, Joseph Coors, and David and Charles Koch — proselytizers for the tax cuts cast them as both indirectly beneficial for average Americans and morally just.

By encouraging “capital formation” with capital gains cuts, those on the Right argued, inflation would fall, employment would rise, and prosperity would flow down the income ladder, benefitting the “poor as well as the rich, and labor as well as management,” as the Chamber of Commerce’s Walker Winter put it in 1973. The American Council of Capital Formation portrayed the idea of taxing capital income as an attack on the “American Dream” itself.

The upper-income taxpayers who received capital gains were not beneficiaries of loopholes, conservatives argued, but were instead victims of oppressive tax rates and inflation. Just weeks after being sworn in as chair of President Gerald Ford’s Council of Economics Advisers, Alan Greenspan elicited boos and catcalls from a crowd of grassroots groups when he argued that “Wall Street brokers” were “really hurt the most” by inflation — an assertion contradicted by a Joint Economic Committee study that had been released earlier that year.

These anti-tax conservatives finally found their political opening when California voters approved Proposition 13 in 1978. Prop 13 cut taxes on the only significant capital most Americans owned — their homes. However, many Republicans and right-leaning activists portrayed Prop 13 as a call for cuts to all taxes on capital.

Crisscrossing the country aboard a plane dubbed the “Tax Clipper,” Republicans from Greenspan to Ronald Reagan pitched a previously moribund capital gains tax–slashing bill authored by Wisconsin Rep. William Steiger. In speeches, Reagan argued that the Steiger bill, like Prop 13, embodied the public’s demand for low taxes and economic growth. A capital gains cut, Reagan added, would actually raise revenue, thanks to its stimulating effect.

Many, from Ralph Nader to the AFL-CIO, opposed the Steiger bill, and President Carter initially criticized it as “huge tax windfalls for millionaires and two bits for the average American.” However, rhetorically linking the Steiger proposal to Prop 13 proved to be a stroke of political genius by conservatives. Democrats quickly folded, giving the bill overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate and leaving Carter to reluctantly sign the bill.

This 1978 victory proved to be a watershed for anti-capital gains tax proponents. Mark Bloomfield, the current president of the American Council for Capital Formation, proudly displays in his K Street Office a comic book-style cartoon depicting the ACCF’s role in the passage of the Steiger bill. Indeed, with the temporary exception of the Tax Reform Act of 1986 — a compromise that taxed capital gains at the same rate as ordinary income in exchange for slashing the top income tax rate from 50 percent to 28 percent — the notion that capital gains deserve special tax treatment has rarely gone unchallenged.

Today, aside from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, few policymakers advocate the older definition of capital gains “tax reform” — taxing gains the same as ordinary income. At most, some Democrats, like President Obama, support modest increases in capital gains rates.

The case for the old definition of reform remains strong, however. It has wide support among left-leaning economists like Paul Krugman, and numerous studies, both governmental and academic, have questioned whether low taxes on capital income either lead to significant job growth or bring about income gains that trickle down to low- and middle-income Americans.

In contrast, cuts to capital gains taxes undoubtedly have helped drive rising income inequality. Since the 1970s, capital income has become more concentrated. The top quintile of households now receive 90 percent of all capital gains and dividends, with the top one percent alone collecting nearly 70 percent.

Both the Congressional Budget Office and the Congressional Research Service have documented the outsized role that capital income has played in the soaring inequality evident in recent US history. Over the past decade, as the CBO put it, capital gains “accounted for about four-fifths of the total increase in [income] concentration.” The Right, however, remains undeterred in its push for zero capital gains taxes.

The Lee-Rubio proposal is the culmination of anti-capital gains tax arguments honed by conservatives since the 1970s. Echoing the “capital formation” claims of that decade, Lee and Rubio have touted their plan as eliminating the “bias against capital investment,” while the business-backed Tax Foundation has predicted that Lee-Rubio would super-charge growth and even pay for itself in the long run, despite the fact that more traditional estimates have found that it will cost the government trillions of dollars over the next decade.

What is certain, though, is that Lee-Rubio will tilt its benefits toward the richest taxpayers, just like the 1978 Steiger bill did. If it became law, Lee-Rubio would eliminate taxes on capital gains for the first time in the history of the modern US tax code. This would be not only a sweeping conservative policy victory, but also a redefinition the very meaning of “tax reform.”

The tides haven’t turned against taxing capital because there’s overwhelming evidence of its fairness or efficacy, but because the Right has gained more political power. The task for the Left is to organize to revive the older vision of “reform” as ending the preferential treatment of capital gains, shifting political power away from the wealthy and making at least some inroads against income inequality.


End The Criminal War On Syrians.

(Cross-posted from on March 25, 2015)


Syria is like a hunted animal, being slowly killed one American arrow at a time

The following article is written by my friend, Declan Hayes – a passionate Irishman. I was with Declan in Damascus in April of this year. He has been back to Syria twice since then and spent the bulk of his time meeting with ordinary individuals and families on the front line, and doing his best to contribute to the rebuilding of the country.

Declan is an academic by trade – a lecturer in finance at the University of Southampton – and hence not the most obvious character to be playing a key role in the rebuilding of Syria, and yet it tends to be the Good Lord’s pattern to choose the most unlikely characters to spearhead His work.

Declan introduces his article as follows:

“The comments that follow are based on my experiences and observations from the last month which I spent in government-controlled Syria, in particular, from my time in Damascus, Ma’lulah, Saydnaya, Latakia and Kasab where I saw at first-hand the results of the terrorist war of attrition the Syrian rebels, Turkey and their Western allies are waging against the Syrian people.”

Declan’s article is long and it is a hard read as it will likely bring a tear to your eye. But I would encourage you to read it through to the end. Our Western governments need to know what they are involved in in Syria and if no one speaks out then the killing will continue unabated.

Father Dave

Dr Declan Hayes

Syria is like a hunted animal, being slowly killed one American arrow at a time. In Syria’s north east, the Islamic State forces, obviously trained, supported and supplied by their regional allies, Turkey in particular, inflict heavy losses on the outgunned Syrian Arab Army forces. In the north, roving bands of Western armed and funded “moderate” gangs, aided and assisted by Turkey, plunder isolated Christian communities at will, slaughtering the inhabitants and, crucially, ripping the heart out of these communities.

Across the border, in Turkey, Western aid, most of it channeled through the terrorist Syrian Muslim Brotherhood organization, is given to the Islamic bands who control the refugee camps; some of the aid is given to the families of the fighters, more is given to opportunistic entrepreneurs and the rest is sent to the “moderate” Islamic fighters across the border in Syria to help them rid areas contiguous to Turkey of all non-Sunni minorities. All of this is designed to dismember Syria and to divide it, like ancient Gaul and modern Iraq, into three dysfunctional but malleable pieces, all the better to control and exploit it.

Aleppo, the industrial heartland of Syria, has been stripped of its factories, which have been sold as war booty in Turkey. Scores of civilians remain missing, sold, no doubt in Raqaa to Turks or Saudis who are not too particular how they acquire their non-Sunni sex slaves whom they regard as sub-humans.

Across the border, Lebanese soldiers are kidnaped by American-trained rebels and are beheaded so that Lebanon, which stands at the edge of the Syrian abyss, might also be devoured by the sectarian fires all of Syria’s armed rebels, along with their foreign mercenaries and the foreign powers, which fund them, stoke.

In the north, the mothers of Tartous and Latakia continue to bury their sons, who die in the uniforms of the Syria Arab Army, defending their families from the unspeakable fate Obama’s moderate rebels have decreed for them and which was visited in person to the mothers of Latakia in August 2013 by suspected war criminal and White House darling General Sam Idriss, when his moderate rebels kidnapped hundreds of women and children and slaughtered entire villages for no other crime than being moderate in their beliefs.  Syria’s Christians, meanwhile, their churches ransacked, scour the world, looking for a refuge, any refuge, from the fate that the West has decreed for them and for Lebanon’s Christians by the hands of the moderate Syrian rebels, who delight only in death and destruction, pillage and rape.

To the south, Israeli artillery units give covering fire to moderate rebels as they over-run Druze villages and behead their elders. In the outskirts of Damascus, the story is not much different. The moderate rebels shell residential communities on a daily basis and, when the Syrian Army counter-attacks, the West condemns them for defending their homeland against foreign rebels and mercenaries who brook no resistance, who countenance no contrary opinion and who execute all who are not fully subservient to them and their sectarian, slaughter campaign.

Syria’s true opposition, meanwhile, are numbed into inertia by all of this. This group, which includes opposition MPs, doctors working in Syria’s hospitals, as well as voluntary and church workers, cannot understand why Syria’s most sectarian forces, the extremist and ultra-sectarian Syrian Muslim Brotherhood in particular, are the darlings of the West. Though they can point to countless atrocities committed by these embittered thugs, they cannot understand why the John Kerry continues not only to wine and dine them but also allows them to continue their criminal enterprises.

This is not to say that they do not comprehend what the Pentagon has in store for Syria and her people; with Iraq just over the border, no one could fail to understand that the entire region is being fashioned to the design of the obnoxious regime of Saudi Arabia, which beheads far more people than do their Islamic State proxies and which suppresses freedom of expression in Bahrain with the same gusto than do the moderate rebels in Syria.

They know that the rebels could not function without the help of Saudi Arabia and Turkey and that their help is, in turn, conditional on the United States and the human rights groups she controls turning a blind eye to their crimes. They know all that but they cannot understand why the West wants to sacrifice them on the altar of Saudi Arabia’s ugly obscurantism. They cannot understand why Turkey is allowed to collude in blatant war crimes against the civilians of Kasab, Idlib and Aleppo and why the West also colludes in the final solution of extermination that is their lot.

The West’s leaders could be a part of the solution and not the problem if they wished. First off, they could immediately criminalize the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and prosecute those involved in its charity racketeering. Next off, they could investigate the role of Turkey’s leaders in the vast number of atrocities that have their paw prints indelibly embedded in them and take appropriate action against them and the Turkish state. Next, it could send fact-finding delegations to Damascus to get a feel for life under perpetual mortar fire, fortified by the West’s sanctions.

They could do all that and more but they do not want to because they want Syria destroyed and her people pauperized and impoverished. The moderate rebels have driven Syria’s farmers off their lands, they have stripped bare the factories of Aleppo, America’s green light has allowed them to hire armies of rapacious Chechen mercenaries and pay them three times as much in a day than Syrian soldiers can hope to earn in a month. That is the White House way.

These rebels and mercenaries are not harbingers of freedom but tools of Saudi conquest and oppression. Their policies, in as much as they have any, regarding women, minorities, religious, sexual or racial tolerance mirror those of the totalitarian Saudi state, which outlaws Christianity, persecutes most minority Muslim faiths, crushes civil dissent in Bahrain, funds terror and  obscurantist ideologies worldwide and brooks absolutely no dissent to its obnoxious rule. The ISIS apple does not fall far from the Saudi tree.

Although the West’s leaders, for whom the mercenary end seems to justify the mercenary means, knows all of this and more, they still shame-facedly pose as honest brokers and as some kind of guardian angels to the region’s minorities and moderate Sunnis, even as they and their allies supply weapons of death to the jihadists who are slaughtering them and cleansing them from their ancestral homes.

The Western media’s idea that there are moderate rebels in Syria is likewise utterly contemptible. War has always radicalized and brought out the worst, not the best in humans. The rule of the bomb and the bullet is the antithesis of reason and all the more so when the West is determined to divide the region on confessional lines. Arming Syrian Sunnis, ostensibly because they are the majority, is, of course, a recipe for sectarian slaughter, as is the dictatorship of the majority premise it is based on. It is to accentuate, rather than to mitigate the region’s fault lines and to let out the dogs of war on an unimaginable scale. It is to ensure minorities have no rights, unless they can be corralled into their own Bantustan, complete with the types of ephemeral rights and mountains of obligations West Bank Palestinians are all too familiar with.

Though all of that may seem unimaginable to most ordinary people, it is the game plan on The Road to Persia. The illegal, opportunistic and ill-thought out sanctions on and war in Iraq directly caused the deaths of over a million children, the infamous collateral damage to that war that now barely warrant a footnote from those who comment on it. A million dead Iraqi children, forgotten by all as if they never existed and never had simple dreams, pleasures, pastimes, hopes and aspirations like the rest of us.

As in Iraq, so shall it be in Syria, which is being dismembered into confessional mini states as part of the Road to Persia project for, although the fog of war might make it hard to say who is currently winning the war, the ordinary people of Syria are definitely its big losers. Not only are their sons being captured and beheaded by the Chechen and Tunisian mercenaries plaguing their land but America’s sanctions, which play the good cop to the bad Chechen cop, continue to destroy their quality of life. Many of Syria’s most vulnerable, the old and the very young, have to beg for scraps from the tables of pavement cafes, where the diners are often little better off than themselves. The Syrian soldiers look like they have not slept in a year and middle-class and middle-aged families have to elect to let their parents and children die rather than give them what, for us, would be routine surgery.

Syria resembles Byzantium in its death throes. The Armenian town of Kasab has had scores of its inhabitants beheaded, and its old folk taken as hostages to Turkey where they were paraded, like the war trophies they were, in front of the American ambassador. I met an English teacher there who used to get her simple kicks by singing and playing the organ in church. Her church is now gutted and the organ split into smithereens after the rebels made a propaganda video about it. Her school has been torched as have all the books and other primitive instruments of learning it was home to. The school children have even had their teddy bears stolen by the rebels and they are quite rightly fearful about their futures, if, indeed, they have one. Conversation in Kasab is not about Real Madrid or Barcelona, Cher or Kim Karadashian but is mostly about how the rebels looted every single home, how they scrawled their messages of hate on every single wall and what neighbours were tortured and murdered and where and why.

The why is the easy part. The Armenians of Kasab were butchered and their village dismembered to let them and the uncaring world know that Turkey can repeat this exercise any time it sees fit. Those Armenians who have returned are thinking of leaving again and wondering is there any port in the world that will give them refuge from the Saudi-funded storm overwhelming them.

Kasab’s children are a nice lot, as children usually are. They know the score, as we say in Ireland and it shows in their nervous twitches. They hear the nearby shelling, the machine gun fire and the artillery and they see the wounded Syrian soldiers being evacuated. Because they know that they too might have to be again evacuated, they have been uprooted, their childhoods sacrificed on the altar of America’s ruthless foreign policy.

Although the old folk who were taken as hostages to Turkey for the amusement of the American ambassador or who had stay behind under the occupation also know the score, most of them put on a brave face and recount how they defied their oppressors in big or little ways. Samuel Polodian recounts how he traded cigarettes for sardines with the Chechen commander who billeted in his house and George Kortmosian tells similar tales, as does 95 year old Joseph Saghjian, who Turkey filmed, for propaganda purposes, along with Soughmon, his 85 year old brother, being helped off the bus in Turkey by their kidnappers. Though Dikranuhi Mangigian, who is 91 and who could not be evacuated because America’s sanctions deprives her of the medicines necessary to keep her legs mobile, recounts how she pretended she could only speak Armenian and not Arabic to her oppressor, Papken Djourian has no such tales of valour. He and his wife had to watch as the moderate rebels executed Kevork, their only son, in front of them, let his body rot in the son for three days and then dump it, like the carcass of a dog, in a hole in their apple orchard before evacuating them with Turkish complicity across their border for their safety and for the amusement of the American ambassador and his pretty wife, both of whom cared not a whit for their plight.

I took a lift from Kasab to Latakia on the back of a pick-up truck with Syrian soldiers fresh from killing al Nusra foreigners and eager to go back and kill more. Though we joked and laughed about the usual things soldiers joke and laugh about, I did notice the soldier opposite me, in between the jokes, kissing and caressing the muzzle of this AK47. He is no doubt keeping the last bullet for himself, which, all in all, is probably sensible enough, even if the old ladies who met some of them in Latakia would prefer that bullet through their ancient skulls rather than the attentions of the moderate rebels, who enjoy gang raping their female captives and, in the case of the Afghans, their much younger male captives as well.

Latakia itself is, along with Tartous, enjoying something of an economic boom as those who flee rebel-held areas, flock to those and other safe havens and cause knock-on economic benefits in housing and other sectors. Tourism also booms there as Syrians, unable to go abroad, opt for stay-at-home holidays. The funeral industry is also booming as recruits from those areas are bearing the heaviest brunt in Syria’s war against the criminal elements ravaging it.

The funeral industry is also booming in Damascus, most notably but by no means exclusively in the Christian and Druze enclave of Jaramana. It is no means exceptional for these exclusively civilian neighbourhoods to get 20 and more rockets lobbed into them in a single afternoon and, in this respect, Jaramana is to Syria what Malta was the Allies during World War 2. It has been bombed and rocketed every single day for the last three years, ever since the war to dismember Syria began. Deaths, injuries and multiple funerals are now an everyday occurrence there as these innocent folk have been abandoned by the West to the non-existent mercies of the Syrian rebels in all their inter-changing hues and alliances of convenience.

Though the Syrian air force has now entered the fray, continually bombing the rebel front lines of nearby Jobar from whence most of the deadliest rockets and mortars come, they cannot deliver a knockout blow. Hamas have taught the rebels and their supporting mercenaries how to make impenetrable tunnels and Western technology and Syrian slaves have allowed them multiply and cause mayhem in places such as Adra which are as diverse as Syria herself.

The coalition waged against Syria have left little to chance. They are confident of victory. Their allies and proxies are kidnapping and chasing UN soldiers from the Golan Heights, they are wresting large swathes of land from the central Syrian government under one flag of convenience or another and uncertainty, the spectre of death and the stench of permanent stagnation haunt the rest of Syria. This can be easily seen in the Aramaic-speaking town of Ma’lulah, where the priceless icons have been looted, the churches destroyed, the children traumatized beyond recovery, the community destroyed and, like Kasab, the entire place abandoned by Westerners, Christians in particular, who should be helping them keep the faith. It is a war crime repeated the length and breadth of Syria.

The nearby all-Christian city of Saydnaya seems the exception that proves the rule. This city is dominated by a Greek orthodox convent the same way Italy’s Monte Cassino dominates its surrounds. Though these nuns are guardians to priceless icons, an icon of the Virgin Mary with the infant Jesus painted by St Luke the Evangelist taking pride of place amongst them, one wonders, if like those artifacts of Monte Casino, these too will be rescued or if they will follow those of Ma’lulah into the underground markets of Turkey, France and the USA.

Although we cannot be sure about what will happen to the icons, we can be pretty sure what will happen to the town’s Christian defenders, an eclectic mixture of semi-professional soldiers and civilians determined to fight and die for their homeland. They are, quite simply, doomed. There will be no salvation for them when the Pontius Pilate West allows the moderate rebels and their extremist partners regroup. Saydnaya is not Monte Cassino. It is not defended by battle-hardened German paratroopers but by a ragtag group of lightly (and sometimes not so lightly) armed patriotic locals who have not received the training and materiel the USA and her allies have extended to their enemies.

Although they are doomed, these “Cross worshippers”  are, like untold millions of their compatriots, determined to die with their boots on, faithful to their religion, to their culture and to their homeland until the inevitable, inescapable and extremely ugly end. One wonders what will follow their demise and the wasteland that will be Syria, and if the victorious warlords who inherit it, will, in time, allow narcissistic Western tourists potter around in the ruins and tut-tut about its “tragic” fate.

Perhaps the Pope in Rome will offer a Mass for the repose of the souls of those Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholic soldiers who die with an AK47 in one hand and their rosary beads in the other. Perhaps religious charities will raise a few bob on their backs and give some of it to those who manage to escape the fate that America has in store for them.

I know nothing of all of that. All I know is I met a bunch of lovely people in Saydnaya. I think of a little girl who proudly carried aloft an icon of Mary around for the entire procession on 8th September. I see the faces of the Greek Orthodox nuns who carried their icons on that procession as nuns before them have done since time immemorial. I see the faces of the young refugees from Ma’lulah the nuns house and can all too easily imagine their futures, blighted beyond repair by America’s machinations. I recall a very intelligent boy who gave me fascinating insights into the area on the convent’s roof and how we admired that convent, its view, its history and its culture and lamented how those America pays to attack it regard the convent as nothing more than a fortress to be stocked by their cohorts who are infinitely more ruthless than even Hitler’s Monte Casino paratroopers were.

The picture I see is very bleak, bleaker perhaps than the betrayal and subsequent fall of Byzantium. It is a picture of betrayal, of death and mass executions, of simple people being sold in slave markets and sacrificed for the interests of some of the world’s most repugnant regimes, Turkey and Saudi Arabia being pre-eminent amongst them.

This deliverance of the decent people of Iraq and Syria to their enemies is one of the most shocking and disgusting crimes of modern times and all of those, without exception, who colluded in this crime are at least as guilty as those who collaborated with Hitler’s SS when they committed their equally heinous crimes.  The fact that an almost defenceless people stand, in their homeland, on one side and, on the other, Western governments and civil and religious organisations arm, fund, clothe, protect and promote those foreigners and local Quislings and ne’er do wells who wish to wrest it from them, does not reflect well on anybody of authority in the West. Should Syria survive, should she and civilization itself come through these trials, it will be no thanks at all to those Western regimes and institutions who have cosied up to the world’s most reactionary, most despicable and obscurantist regimes who have put the entire people of Syria on the wrack for the pettiest and most venal of reasons. Nor will it be some sort of celestial miracle, delivered from on high for some obtuse reason or other. Rather, it will be a tribute to the courage, bravery and humanity of all of those alluded to here: the soldiers, mothers and civilians of Syria who, though abandoned by the world, managed to persevere. For my part, I am happy to have seen that light of humanity shine in the Darkness of the West, even if the Darkness still does not and never will comprehend it. It is enough.

Dr Declan Hayes made three trips to Syria this year. He is helping organize a three-day conference in Damascus, beginning April 24th 2015, tentatively called: Syria: Between Destruction and Reconstruction to mark the murder of all Syria’s innocents and to help plot a way forward out of the morass. He may be reached at…