More Guardian propaganda on Syria

by on October 2, 2016 in Media Comment

This is the Guardian egging on the US to take military action in Syria:

Earlier in the week two other emergency centres and the only remaining maternity centre were bombed by jets, prompting a bitter response from US diplomats and vague claims that Washington was “reviewing options” about how to defuse a grave and deteriorating humanitarian crisis. [1]

The sense of disappointment with the ‘vague’ response is palpable. As with Iraq and as with Libya the liberal press seems to play a role cheerleading for war.

But it happens time and time again. All the following are links to articles on the Guardian at the time of the UK’s intervention in Libya in 2011 about how this was going to bring ‘democracy’ to the country:

Libyan people: ‘What we need now is free speech and free thought’ (‘the masses want two things: retribution and democracy’)

Libya’s path to democracy (Paddy Ashdown writing in the Guardian and dreaming about democracy)

Opinion piece: As Gaddafi’s reign ends, the work of creating democracy in Libya begins (this one, amusingly, mocks people who fortold that Libya would descend into chaos, like Iraq. But that is exactly what happened…)

Libya prepares for liberation ceremony (about the ‘liberation’ ceremony following the murder of Gadaffi – which at least the paper admits was a problem)

Benghazi rappers voice hopes for Libyan democracy – video (Benghazi rappers rap for ‘democracy’. How right on. Only the Guardian.)

Editorial: Libya: The west can’t let Gaddafi destroy his people (This editorial argues for intervention and critiques the assertion that an intervention would lead to the rise of Al-Qaeda. But that is exactly what happened).

Of course, within a year or two the paper was reporting on how it had all gone wrong:

With Libya’s return to war, democratic dream is all but ruined

How Libya is slowly becoming ‘Somalia on the Med’

The Guardian view on Libya: learning lessons from the latest failure

We could repeat the same exercise with Iraq. Here for example is an editorial in 2003 calling for ‘decisive action’:

Iraq: the case for decisive action

And here is the inevitable ‘learning lessons’ article written 10 years after the event in 2013:

Iraq war: six lessons we still need to learn

 

Back to the article on Syria. And the propaganda goes on. For example; the ‘breakdown’ of the ceasefire (in fact it didn’t breakdown; it just wasn’t renewed) is blamed exclusively on the targeting of an aid convoy outside Aleppo. This is pure dishonest propaganda:

The attacks on Aleppo have worsened since the breakdown of a ceasefire brokered by Russia and the US that had barely lasted a week before Russian jets and Syrian helicopters attacked and destroyed an aid convoy that had been permitted to cross into an opposition-held part of the country

The UN has wavered on whether the attack was an air-strike. At any event it is unclear what the source is for this claim about “Russian jets”. The Russian MOD has denied their jets attacked the convoy. We can at least expect a source for this controversial claim. [2] And then there is propaganda by omission. In the week of the ceasefire the US bombed Syrian military positions killing upwards of 62 soldiers and giving a boost to the Al-Nusra militants who were opposing their position. [3] Surely this event would have been a major reason for the ceasefire to ‘break-down’?  And then the Russian air campaign is represented as targeting the ‘moderate opposition’ and causing civilian casualties:

The latest escalation comes on the first anniversary of the Russian intervention, which has been concentrated on northwest Syria and has transformed the battlefield across the country. Hailed initially as a campaign to confront Islamic State, the Russian role has been almost entirely aimed at defeating opposition to Assad, among them regular members of the armed rebel ranks and jihadist groups who often work among them.

Monitoring groups say that more than 3,000 civilians have been killed by Russian and Syrian attacks.

(The ‘hailed initially’ is a dramatic flourish which enables the prose writer to introduce the contrast with the claim about ‘defeating opposition to Assad’). The strongest opposition to Assad on the ground in Syria is the radical Islamist opposition. This report in the International Business Times [4] (hardly a ‘Kremlin mouthpiece’ [5]) and based in part on academic research makes it clear a) that radical Islamists are amongst the strongest and most significant elements fighting Assad, b) that there is intermingling between some of these groups and the ‘moderate opposition’ and c) that the ‘Free Syrian army’ is split into many different factions and indeed it can reasonably be argued that is does not even exist as a coherent entity. Incidentally all this is consistent with the explanations put out by the Russian Foreign Ministry that the ceasefire failed because the US could not separate its supposed ‘moderate rebels’ from the terrorists. [6] Thus if it is true that the Russian campaign has been targeting the opposition to Assad then that is entirely consistent with their claims to have been striking Al-Nusra, ISIS and groups who are working with them. The narrative about Russia being ‘in the wrong’ because they are targeting the ‘opposition to Assad’ is an excellent example of narrative construction. It is pure narrative and not grounded in actual facts. The narratives are designed to create a so-called moral case for whatever the West happens to be doing at this point.

Yes; no doubt Russian airstrikes cause civilian casualties. (The un-named ‘monitoring groups’ probably aren’t wrong though it would have been interesting to see the source so their methodologies and allegiances could have been examined). But then so do US airstrikes. And. more to the point, the Russian military intervention in Syria is legal under international law whereas that of the US and UK and others is not. Russia is there at the invitation of the government of Syria.

Also absent from this article is any mention of the ongoing covert US and UK operations which are seeing opposition fighters being armed. [7]

This article in the Guardian by a Martin Chulov, who, ironically, won the Orwell prize for journalism in 2015, [8] is part of a tradition in the liberal press in the West which is essentially a plea to legitimize genocide in the name of humanitarian interventions. The absence of any mention of the 62+ Syrian soldiers killed by a US air-strike, the entirely one-sided presentation, reflects the belief that their enemies (anyone who doesn’t accept the liberal-capitalist worldview) – in this case Assad and his forces – simply don’t count. They aren’t worth mentioning other than in a role of absolute demons.

The US military intervention in Syria has been going on since 2013 (or before). From the very start of this conflict the West unanimously joined with the opposition calling for Assad to ‘go’ – without any negotiation. That is; from the start the West has been promoting a military solution to this conflict, not a political settlement. The press plays its role, of creating the narrative in which the military intervention is explained in ‘moral’ and ‘humanitarian’ terms. But as a review of the course of events – via Guardian headlines – shows; so far it seems clear that these interventions have been causing more not less humanitarian tragedies.

Edits

Updated 5/10/16 to reflect recent UN statement on attack on aid convoy. See note 2) below.

Notes

1. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/01/russia-warns-us-not-to-intervene-aleppo-hospital

2. http://www.itv.com/news/update/2016-09-20/un-syria-aid-convoy-hit-by-attacks-not-airstrikes/

“The United States blamed Russian aircraft. Moscow denies the charge. “With our analysis we determined it was an air strike and I think multiple other sources have said that as well,” Lars Bromley, research adviser at UNOSAT, told a Geneva news briefing. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced on Friday that he would establish an internal U.N. board of inquiry to investigate the attack and urged all parties to fully cooperate. (Reuters)” – report by RT 5/10/16.

3. https://www.rt.com/news/359678-us-strikes-syrian-army/

4. http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/syria-conflict-who-are-major-players-bloody-complex-civil-war-1522027

5. The International Business Times is owned by the same New York based group, IBT media, which publishes Newsweek. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBT_Media . IBT media is privately owned.

6. https://www.rt.com/usa/360971-kerry-russia-syria-talks/

7. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/27/world/middleeast/cia-arms-for-syrian-rebels-supplied-black-market-officials-say.html?_r=0

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/24/world/middleeast/us-relies-heavily-on-saudi-money-to-support-syrian-rebels.html

http://www.stopwar.org.uk/index.php/news/matt-carr-blog/1490-iraq-and-the-us-game-of-thrones-was-isis-made-in-washington

8. https://www.theguardian.com/profile/martin-chulov

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