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Western Spin Machines Functioning at Full Capacity on Syria

Suddenly bombing Al Qaeda is a bad thing

Originally appeared at Journalitico

Well the ‘US good, Russia bad’ propaganda drive has reached full-blown hysteria mode this week. My sincerest compliments to the usual suspects, you are absolutely playing a blinder.

I’m especially impressed by how quickly you all became such staunch humanitarians and tallied up the civilian casualties from the handful of Russian strikes mere moments after the bombs were dropped. That’s dedication.

And hey, don’t worry about totting up the civilians casualties from the 20,000 bombs the US has dropped on Syria and Iraq for the past year. That’s yesterday’s news.

Russia’s airstrikes in Syria began on Wednesday.  They appear to be targeting both ISIS and other terrorist factions, including Al Qaeda and Al Nusra. There are reports that the strikes have also hit CIA-trained ‘rebel’ camps.

The interesting thing about this is that until this week, Western media had been dutifully telling everyone that the US only really had about ‘four or five’ serious rebels in Syria and that the White House hadn’t really put much muscle into this whole ‘train the rebels’ thing. Then Russia strikes, and BAM, American-trained rebels as far as the eye can see. They’re everywhere. Russia is bombing them. No one can stop it. Oh, the horror. We must act! Our “rebel friends” need us.

SEE: With One Bombing Run, Russia Gets the US to Acknowledge CIA’s “Covert” Regime Change Forces

By Thursday, tireless warmonger John McCain had appeared on Fox News with Neil Cavuto who demanded to know “what the heck” was going on with Russia thinking it could just willy-nilly bring its warplanes into Syria (note: permission granted from Damascus is not important).

Cavuto was terribly agitated to realize that the US was essentially being told by another power that there was something it couldn’t do. *Gasp!* …what audacity! The Russians have been “demanding that we get out of Syria” he told a nodding McCain, before handing over the floor.

As ever, McCain proceeded to spit forth a flurry of wonderful and coherent suggestions, including the fantastic idea that the US should help the so-called ‘moderate’ anti-Assad rebels shoot the Russian planes out of the sky — a move which of course would invite no repercussions whatsoever. If I was a cynic, I would think it was almost like McCain has been doing everything he could possibly think of to create the conditions for all-out nuclear war.

Next up was asylum escapee and US Senator Tom Cotton who spoke in the Senate for five minutes in an apparent attempt to outdo even McCain, presenting a litany of suggestions to counter Russia’s moves in Syria. If you have just eaten and would prefer to keep your lunch confined to your stomach, I’d advise you to skip this next bit.

Cotton’s suggestions include: 

  1. arming Ukraine 
  2. shooting down Russian planes over Syria 
  3. shooting down Russian planes in “the vicinity” of NATO countries, and 
  4. threatening Iran with “termination” of the nuclear deal — not termination of Iran in general, although that may still be somewhere in Cotton’s pipeline of handy suggestions, too.

Finally, he also wanted the world to know that the US must be allowed to fly “where we want, when we want” …no questions asked, of course.

By Friday, Hillary Clinton had come out in support of a no-fly zone over Syria. Presumably, this would be not dissimilar to the no-fly zone which was a total failure in Libya and helped to propel the conflict forward, ultimately leading to the violent overthrow of Gaddafi and the destruction of the state.

The publicly-stated rationale for the no-fly zone of course is to “stop the carnage” and protect civilians. The real rationale however, has little to do with civilians and everything to do with weakening Assad, strengthening the US position on Syria, making Russia irrelevant and gaining the upper hand in the conflict.

But politicians are one thing. The media is another. At least it’s supposed to be. We’re supposed to be able to rely on journalists to retain at least a modicum of decency and skepticism in these matters, rather than just simply spouting out talking points from the White House and State Department.

I really do rack my brains over this. The last three days have been a perfect example of our media’s stunning lack of self-awareness. Irony truly is dead. Headlines like this are one example.

This is after years — almost a decade in fact — of US efforts (both covert and overt) to destabilize Syria, which have done more harm — and promoted more extremism — than the Russians could ever hope to. As I’ve said before, this is not conspiracy theory or conjecture. It is documented fact.

But let’s just ignore all of that and focus on the last three days.

Another popular ‘Russia bad, US good’ talking point this week has been: Russia is not really targeting ISIS.

This line has been trotted out alongside maps and diagrams which “prove” that Russia is targeting only the US-trained rebels (who, remember, barely existed last week).

Headline after headline claimed that Russia hadn’t targeted ISIS, because you see, we were told, there just are no ISIS guys in the locations the Russians dropped their bombs. Except, the thing is, before last week there were plenty of Western reports on ISIS’s gains in said areas.

See: No ISIS Where Russia Is Bombing – Except Last Week, When ISIS Was Killing Gay Men There?

And as a quick by-the-way: Who ever thought we’d see the day when bombing Al Qaeda could be construed by the US and its media as a ‘bad’ thing?

Then we have the sudden concern for civilian casualties, which if by the way, was sincere, we’d be seeing a lot more reporting from Yemen — where the US is supporting Saudi Arabia in pummeling civilians with bombs, to the point where the country has been left on the verge of famine and total collapse, according to the UN. The same UN, by the way, where the Saudis have just managed to sink a war crimes probe suggested by the Netherlands, while the US stayed silent.

And if you were wondering whether the British government is any better, turn your attention to the fact that the UK engaged in a secret vote-trading deal with Saudi Arabia in order to secure the Saudi kingdom a place on the UN Human Rights Council. Yes, the same Saudi Arabia that has beheaded more than 100 people this year alone. Let that sink in.

Now, you probably assume that because I am severely critical of the Western reporting on Syria — and of US policy in general — that I therefore support the Russian strikes. That’s not necessarily true. Nor is it necessarily untrue.

The war in Syria is too complicated to ascribe ‘simple’ solutions or to propagate any kind of linear analysis. Not that this appears to have stopped anyone, so here’s my personal take:

In general, I support the Russian position that Assad must not be violently overthrown and that existing institutions must be supported. I believe Assad’s overthrow would open up a power vacuum that would lead not to stability or ‘freedom and democracy’ but instead would see only an escalation of violence and terror, perhaps on an even worse scale. Why? Because this has happened time and again everywhere the US has attempted to forcefully install democracy and spread its ideology.

I believe we need to remember what kind of country Syria was a decade ago, and what kind of country it could become if Assad is thrown out and replaced with some ‘moderate’ regime hand-picked by Washington. Syria, before its civil war was a secular and vibrant country. A country with a rich history and culture. Women were not required to wear the hijab, although many did. All religions were represented. Mixed marriages were not entirely uncommon. Education was prized. People watched American TV shows. They traveled. They were aware however, that their situation was still far from perfect, and many held deep grievances with the country’s leadership. But the potential was there for Syria to move in a positive, progressive direction.

The road US policy is leading this country down is now a very, very different one. Today, ISIS — a horror that has grown out of the chaos in Iraq and Libya — has run rampant over their land, destroying everything in its path. According to Washington, the only ‘legitimate’ solution to the crisis is the removal of Assad and the installment of a US-friendly government. This has nothing to do with the well-being of the Syrian people and its outcome could be truly dire.

Russian support has allowed Assad to remain in power. Now Russian bombs will attempt to do the same. Immediately this has upped the ante and created the conditions for an even bigger clash between the US and Russia.

But are Russian bombs really going to solve anything?

We’ve seen a lot of Putin’s going to save the world! stuff from Russian media this week — and someone should really tell them that jingoism is unattractive, regardless of nationality. If you were concerned that US bombs wouldn’t work in Syria, you should probably also have some concerns about Russian bombs.

There is no guarantee that this military venture will be a success. There is no guarantee that Russia can save Assad. It’s an incredibly risky (and expensive) move on Russia’s part. Moscow risks getting bogged down in a gamble that may never pay off. For its part, the US will do everything in its power to prevent the impression being formulated in minds that Russia has played a positive role in any of this. That in itself will limit the effectiveness of anything Russia does. Not to mention, the likelihood of backlash inside Russia has also consequently increased. These risks (and the alternatives) have all been carefully weighed by Moscow, but they are risks nonetheless.

Russia and the US are in Syria for very different reasons — and for the most part, those motivations are entirely incompatible with one another.

That, in turn, is incompatible with building peace and stabilizing the state. The US presents its reasons as “humanitarian” when they are anything but, while Russia readily admits its actions are done in its “national” interests — many of which are entirely legitimate, given Russia’s domestic concerns. US interests on the other hand, are almost purely hegemonic and imperialist. And yet, we’ve been inundated with reports about Russia’s ulterior motives, which exist, to be sure — but why aren’t we hearing the same about Washington?

Furthermore, the US intervention is illegal under international law. The Russian one is legal. Not that legality matters to any civilians who have been or will be caught under the bombs, but the point is worth mentioning.

Putin has thrown a spanner in the works for US imperialism in the Middle East. Whether his gamble will ‘work’ or not is anyone’s guess.

But one thing is obvious: The spin machine is now functioning at top speed. Western media is scrambling. Politicians and officials are scrambling. But they are scrambling because they are losing. And they are losing because they are wrong.

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