OF the Syrian war will be remembered as one of the most shameful episodes
in the history of the American press. Reporting about carnage in the ancient
city of Aleppo is the latest reason why.
three years, violent militants have run Aleppo. Their rule began with a wave of
repression. They posted notices warning residents: “Don’t send your children to
school. If you do, we will get the backpack and you will get the coffin.” Then
they destroyed factories, hoping that unemployed workers would have no recourse
other than to become fighters. They trucked looted machinery to Turkey and sold
month, people in Aleppo have finally seen glimmers of hope. The Syrian army and
its allies have been pushing militants out of the city. Last week they reclaimed
the main power plant. Regular electricity may soon be restored. The militants’
hold on the city could be ending.
true to form, are wreaking havoc as they are pushed out of the city by Russian
and Syrian Army forces. “Turkish-Saudi backed ‘moderate rebels’ showered the
residential neighborhoods of Aleppo with unguided rockets and gas jars,” one
Aleppo resident wrote on social media. The Beirut-based analyst Marwa Osma
asked, “The Syrian Arab Army, which is led by President Bashar Assad, is the
only force on the ground, along with their allies, who are fighting ISIS — so
you want to weaken the only system that is fighting ISIS?”
does not fit with Washington’s narrative. As a result, much of the American
press is reporting the opposite of what is actually happening. Many news reports
suggest that Aleppo has been a “liberated zone” for three years but is now being
pulled back into misery.
are being told that the virtuous course in Syria is to fight the Assad regime
and its Russian and Iranian partners. We are supposed to hope that a righteous
coalition of Americans, Turks, Saudis, Kurds, and the “moderate opposition” will
is convoluted nonsense, but Americans cannot be blamed for believing it. We have
almost no real information about the combatants, their goals, or their tactics.
Much blame for this lies with our media.
intense financial pressure, most American newspapers, magazines, and broadcast
networks have drastically reduced their corps of foreign correspondents. Much
important news about the world now comes from reporters based in Washington. In
that environment, access and credibility depend on acceptance of official
paradigms. Reporters who cover Syria check with the Pentagon, the State
Department, the White House, and think tank “experts.” After a spin on that
soiled carousel, they feel they have covered all sides of the story. This form
of stenography produces the pabulum that passes for news about Syria.
brave correspondents in the war zone, including Americans, seek to counteract
Washington-based reporting. At great risk to their own safety, these reporters
are pushing to find the truth about the Syrian war. Their reporting often
illuminates the darkness of groupthink. Yet for many consumers of news, their
voices are lost in the cacophony. Reporting from the ground is often overwhelmed
by the Washington consensus.
reporters tell us that one potent force in Syria, al-Nusra, is made up of
“rebels” or “moderates,” not that it is the local al-Qaeda franchise. Saudi
Arabia is portrayed as aiding freedom fighters when in fact it is a prime
sponsor of ISIS. Turkey has for years been running a “rat line” for foreign
fighters wanting to join terror groups in Syria, but because the United States
wants to stay on Turkey’s good side, we hear little about it. Nor are we often
reminded that although we want to support the secular and battle-hardened Kurds,
Turkey wants to kill them. Everything Russia and Iran do in Syria is described
as negative and destabilizing, simply because it is they who are doing it — and
because that is the official line in Washington.
this kind of disinformation has bled into the American presidential campaign. At
the recent debate in Milwaukee, Hillary Clinton claimed that United Nations
peace efforts in Syria were based on “an agreement I negotiated in June of 2012
in Geneva.” The precise opposite is true. In 2012 Secretary of State Clinton
joined Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Israel in a successful effort to kill Kofi
Annan’s UN peace plan because it would have accommodated Iran and kept Assad in
power, at least temporarily. No one on the Milwaukee stage knew enough to
may be forgiven for distorting their past actions. Governments may also be
excused for promoting whatever narrative they believe best suits them.
Journalism, however, is supposed to remain apart from the power elite and its
inbred mendacity. In this crisis it has failed miserably.
are said to be ignorant of the world. We are, but so are people in other
countries. If people in Bhutan or Bolivia misunderstand Syria, however, that has
no real effect. Our ignorance is more dangerous, because we act on it. The
United States has the power to decree the death of nations. It can do so with
popular support because many Americans — and many journalists — are content with
the official story. In Syria, it is: “Fight Assad, Russia, and Iran! Join with
our Turkish, Saudi, and Kurdish friends to support peace!” This is appallingly
distant from reality. It is also likely to prolong the war and condemn more
Syrians to suffering and death.
Kinzer is a senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies at
Brown University. Follow him on Twitter @stephenkinzer.
ROLAND SAN JUAN was a researcher, management consultant, inventor, a part time radio broadcaster and a publishing director. He died last November 25, 2008 after suffering a stroke. His staff will continue his unfinished work to inform the world of the untold truths. Please read Erick San Juan's articles at: ericksanjuan.blogspot.com This blog is dedicated to the late Max Soliven, a FILIPINO PATRIOT.
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