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Tuesday, February 23

3 devastating exposés of U.S. government treachery against Syria

1. Hillary Clinton and the Syrian Bloodbath
By Jeffrey SachsDirector, Earth Institute at Columbia University
February 14, 2016
The Huffington Post

2. The media are misleading the public on Syria
By Stephen KinzerSenior Fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University
February 18, 2016
Boston Globe

3. Why the Arabs don't want us in Syria
By Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.radio host of Ring of Fire, environmental activist, author and attorney; son of late U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy, assassinated in 1968  
February 23, 2016
Politico - Europe Edition

Each of the three provides devastating revelations but taken together the effect is scorched earth. Technically the writings are opinion although Kennedy recounts so much history that much of his piece can be considered reportage. The other two also report established facts, all known to Washington insiders and those well informed on the Syrian War and modern Syria's political history. That excludes the majority of the American electorate, which is in store for many surprises in the writings. Americans who approach a reading 'cold' and who've accepted the mainstream media's narrative about the Syria will be shocked; I think many will say this keeps happening with our government and that it has to be stopped.

Yes it does have to be stopped. As Stephen Kinzer observes:
Americans 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.
I have minor quibbles with each of the three writings but none involve politics. I think it's obvious that politics prompted Sachs and Kennedy to decide to tell what they knew at this time in the presidential campaign. I don't criticize their motivations; I just wish they'd decided earlier to sing like a bird, but better late than never.

Stephen Kinzer



Stephen Kinzer brings tremendous experience in the journalism profession to his discussion. He criticizes the profession as an insider. From his brief bio at Brown University's Political Review, which interviewed him in December 2015, he served as the chief of the New York Times bureau in Istanbul, Turkey from 1996-2000. From the Boston Globe bio: he's reported from more than 50 countries on five continents. His articles and books have led the Washington Post to place him “among the best in popular foreign policy storytelling.” He was Latin America correspondent for The Boston Globe, and then spent more than 20 years working for the New York Times, with extended postings in Nicaragua, Germany, and Turkey. 

(He was interviewed yesterday on a TV show specifically about the Syria situation; here's the link to the 10 minute video.)  

My caution about Kinzer's op-ed and Sachs' is that they make a remark that could lead the reader to assume Israel's government has wanted Bashar al-Assad deposed. The assumption would be completely untrue; in fact it's been just the opposite. Jerusalem has longstanding issues with Syria's government but the Israeli position on Assad has consistently been, Better the devil you know, and what do you want to replace him with?

That last producing no coherent answer from Washington or any anti-Assad power -- for years!  And remember that Israel's military was one of only three (the other two Germany and Russia's) that the U.S. Joint Chiefs trusted to pass vital intelligence to Assad and the Syrian military about terrorist activity in the country.       

My only other quibble with Kinzer's writing is found in this passage:
For 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 it.
I have misplaced the link and cannot recall the name of the source document, but there is another version of what happened in Aleppo. According to a report I read months ago, Turkey's military carried out the operation themselves or hired goons or mercenary fighters to loot the factories in Aleppo and truck the stolen equipment to Turkey, as well as destroy the factories.

The motive wasn't to force factory workers into joining the mercenaries; it was to destroy as much of the country's industrial base as possible, and that was why the mercenaries made a beeline for Aleppo.

If all this sounds familiar to readers who follow the Afghan War -- yes, Pakistan's military did the same thing in Kabul after the Taliban came into power; they used Pakistani 'mafias' for the op. I recall a Pakistani journalist, Ahmed Rashid, recounting that they even stole all the telephone poles, would you believe. Yup, dug 'em and sold them as treated lumber. They picked the city clean of everything that could be sold.

Moving along, the account I cite doesn't mean the version Kinzer presented is wrong, but I wanted to mention the other one.  

I have only skimmed Kennedy's article; I plan to go over it with a fine tooth comb this weekend. My glance didn't turn up any errors. I did note a key assumption I would question and a glaring contradiction -- that last being the title of the piece: "Why Arabs don't want us in Syria."

For crying out loud, Kennedy practically hits the reader on the head with information that ".. the Sunni kingdoms with vast petrodollars at stake wanted a much deeper involvement from America" in Syria.

It's famously known that the Arab 'Gulfies' have been upset with Obama because he wouldn't get Americans directly involved in Syria. So it's not that Arabs don't want us in Syria; they want Americans there, all right, as long as we do exactly what they say.

As to the assumption in Kennedy's writing -- I am sensing a disturbance in the Force. Is it me, or is information about Gulf Arab oil and gas pipeline designs on Syria suddenly popping up everywhere?  I'm trying to recall who started this ball of yarn rolling -- was it a Russian website or Voltaire Network or somewhere else? I can't remember.

Anyhow, I am not entirely persuaded that pipeline machinations are what precipitated the operation in early 2011 to remove Assad under the guise of a cooked-up insurgency. I want to keep the question open for now. But if Obama's people have decided to (metaphorically) throw Al-Saud and Al-Thani under the bus, I'm thinking it couldn't happen to more deserving people.

All right. You have a lot of reading ahead of you if all three writings are news to you. Below is Stephen Kinzer's op-ed, which most Pundita readers -- those closely following the war -- have probably seen by now; featuring it here is my way of thanking him and the Boston Globe from the bottom of my heart.

The companion piece is Peter Oborne's shattering report, Aleppo Notebook: the city’s terrorist besiegers will now be besieged -- Again and again I was asked: Why is Britain supporting the terrorists in Syria’s civil war? which I've already featured, but to review, he recounts that upon returning to England from Aleppo he read in the London newspapers that up was down, and down was up:
Government-held Aleppo was under siege from jihadi forces until late last year. That was never reported. Now the areas of Aleppo held by the rebels are coming under siege. That is reported in the western press as a catastrophe, and has brought a concerned response from the British Foreign Secretary.
In short it isn't only the American news media that can't tell the difference between down and up when it comes to reporting on Syria. Kinzer thinks that much of the problem comes down to money. That's a part of it, but I note that this same financially strapped international mainstream news media managed to scare up sufficient funds to provide saturation coverage of the Arab Spring in 2011. 

That the coverage was very misleading and suppressed critically important information in the zeal to put the best face on the uprisings -- was that a money problem or a propaganda problem? 

The media are misleading the public on Syria
By Stephen Kinzer
February 18, 2016
Boston Globe

COVERAGE 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.
For 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 it.
This 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.
Militants, 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?”
This 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.
Many news reports suggest that Aleppo has been a “liberated zone” for three years but is now being pulled back into misery.
Americans 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 win.
This 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.
Under 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.
Astonishingly 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.
Washington-based 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.
Inevitably, 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 challenge her.
Politicians 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.
Americans 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.
[END]


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