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The New Yorker’s Partisan Attempt to Refute Its Claim of Partisan Disinformation on Biden and Ukraine

By Joe Lauria | Consortium News | October 8, 2019

The New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer has gained a reputation as one of the best reporters in Washington, but in her latest piece on Ukraine and former Vice President Joe Biden, Mayer has succumbed to the partisan mania ripping apart this city and much of the country.

There is little subtlety in her argument, as evidenced by the title of the piece: “The Invention of the Conspiracy Theory on Biden and Ukraine.” Rather than taking an impartial, non-partisan view—needed now more than ever in journalism—Mayer neglects evidence that would have produced a more nuanced report on this increasingly volatile story.

Such an achievement required the suppression of a seasoned reporter’s natural curiosity. Maybe the other side has evidence worth examining too.

Mayer is not alone in dismissing serious questions about Biden as merely “a repeatedly discredited conspiracy theory involving Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s work in Ukraine.” In doing so, Mayer has joined an unthinking media consensus protecting Biden and the media’s own interests to save itself from the shame of having pushed the now discredited conspiracy theory of Trump’s collusion with Russia. With the Trump Justice Department digging into the origins of that fiasco it was the perfect time to preempt its findings with a trumped up impeachment scandal. The last thing the intelligence agencies and their compliant media need are revelations about how they together duped the country.

Mayer, who distinguished herself on many stories, including a defense of the wrongly accused National Security Agency senior executive Tom Drake—an actual whistleblower—reduced herself to the journalists’ herd that gave Russiagate credence, and in the process undermined scores of media reputations.

Instead of owning up to it, Mayer writes that the media was manipulated in 2016, not by Democrats or intelligence officials, but by Republican partisans.  She produces a line about Ukrainegate that would more credibly describe media accomplices in Russiagate: “News organizations continue to be just as susceptible to manipulation by political partisans pushing complicated and hard-to-check foreign narratives as they were in 2016.”

Mayer’s unwillingness to see the corruption of both major parties is stunning.

She writes: “Anyone trying to track the Ukrainian conspiracy stories that were eventually embraced by President Trump is likely to get mired in the same echo chamber of right-wing news purveyors that misinformed voters in 2016” (except that in 2016 it was an echo chamber aligned with Democrats).

Mayer only blames Republicans who were largely on the defensive during Russiagate. Her exoneration of Democrats then and now for misinforming voters, extends to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s approval of an uranium deal with Russia, after which, Mayer reports, “more than two million dollars in contributions” came to “the Clinton Foundation from the businessmen behind the deal.” She says Clinton is in the clear because other U.S. agencies also approved the deal and the amount of uranium was “negligible.” It was all just a conservative plot, Mayer tells us.

The Biggest Omissions

Mayer attributes the origins of Biden’s appearance of conflict of interest in Ukraine solely to a disinformation campaign run by a shadowy group set up by Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, the right wing activist, Steve Bannon.

This is intended to put a nail in the story at its origins, portraying it as just a nutty conservative conspiracy, and thus no one needs to be concerned about significant evidence that followed. “For nearly two years, conservative operatives have been trying to weaponize the Ukraine-based story that has led Trump to the brink of impeachment,” Mayer wrote.

She takes at face value Bannon’s braggadocio about his so-called Government Accountability Initiative being “key” and the “predicate” to the Biden-Ukraine story, allowing her to easily dismiss an array of facts, including a public admission of corruption by Biden himself, as merely an “unethically seeming morass.”

Of all the evidence missing from Mayer’s piece, perhaps the most important is the opening act of this Washington drama: the U.S.-backed coup that overthrew an elected Ukrainian government in 2014. Without that evidence it is impossible to understand the context of the nauseating Biden/Ukraine impeachment story. She is not alone in this either. The entire elite liberal media and Fox News won’t mention it in a bipartisan cover-up of rapacious American foreign policy.

The press usually takes 25 years, after the declassification of documents, to admit the United States routinely breaks international law by overthrowing sovereign governments, and not in the name of spreading democracy, but in the interests of capital and geo-strategy. That was the case with Ukraine in 2014.

Hunter and Joe Biden at Obama’s 2009 inaugural parade

Can you imagine if the Trump administration finally succeeds in overthrowing the Venezuelan government and a couple of months later Vice President Mike Pence’s son (who wasn’t kicked out of the Navy for drug use) lands a spot on the board of a privatized Venezuelan national oil company?

That is exactly what happened with Biden and his son Hunter in Ukraine.

And then imagine that the U.S.-installed government of Juan Guaidó begins an investigation into corruption at the oil company and wants to question Pence’s son. So Pence flies to Caracas and tells Guaidó he won’t get a $1 billion U.S. credit line until the prosecutor is fired. Six hours later the prosecutor begins cleaning out his desk and Pence later brags about it in an open forum at the Council on Foreign Relations.

That is exactly what Biden did in Ukraine.

The fired Venezuelan prosecutor then gives an affidavit under oath that Pence had him fired because he was investigating his son’s company and that the U.S. had taken over the country’s prosecutor’s office.

That is exactly what the Ukrainian prosecutor testified.

But none of these facts are in Mayer’s story. In the face of the affidavit and Biden’s open admission on video, she still somehow calls these “baseless tales claiming that Biden corruptly intervened on behalf of his son’s Ukrainian business interests.”

Instead Mayer attacks the reporter who revealed most of them, John Solomon of The Hill. A partisan reporter attacking another partisan reporter is what passes for journalism these days.  Being non-partisan—a requirement to practice serious journalism—means looking past the politics of a reporter or a news outlet, and even overlooking their partisan motivation, if they present documented evidence. The motive is irrelevant if the evidence is substantiated.

There was no such evidence in the Russiagate farce, but that never stopped partisans in the Democratic media. The same lack of skepticism has accepted now two CIA officials as “whistleblowers” without questioning their motives, while showing no interest in real whistleblowers who challenge the Establishment on behalf of the nation.

If the Department of Justice and its investigation into the origins of Russiagate is serious and reveals wrongdoing by intelligence officials and by extension by the media, the best move those officials and journalists can make is to go on offense as their best defense. It also gives them another crack at Trump after failing with Russiagate. And Trump gave them the opening to do it.

Trump’s Blunder

Trump’s mistake was to get personally involved in the investigations into the origins of Russiagate and the Bidens. By mentioning both in a telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, he broke the wall that should exist between the White House and the Justice Department. Though there was no clear quid-pro-quo, Trump hinted that he would release military aid to Ukraine in exchange for the investigations. If Trump did that it is the routine corrupt way the U.S. carries out foreign policy, as Biden openly admitted.

Trump compounded his problems by publicly calling for China to investigate Hunter Biden’s dealings in that country. By getting personally involved, instead of leaving it up to the DOJ to investigate his possible challenger in next year’s presidential election, Trump allowed his enemies in intelligence and the media to portray his conversation as an impeachable offense.

Every move the DOJ or Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, makes in investigating Russiagate or the Bidens’ corruption, including legitimately asking foreign governments for assistance, is now tainted as political because of Trump’s unwise intervention.  He threw a lifeline to intelligence officers and journalists like Mayer, who will continue to make the most of it even if it means turning their backs on their professional commitments.

October 9, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , | 2 Comments

Fighting Fake Stories: The New Yorker Serves Up A Doozie

The Polemicist | July 15, 2018

On July 8th, The New Yorker published a short piece by Adam Entous, under the graphic above, titled “The Maps of Israeli Settlements That Shocked Barack Obama.” In the article, Entous purports to tell us the heretofore unknown inside story of how the Obama administration came to the surprising realization that Israeli settlements were taking over the West Bank. In the kind of irony The New Yorker might best appreciate, the magazine’s latest promotional tag line is: “Fighting Fake Stories With Real Ones,” and this Adam Entous article is the epitome of fake.

As Entous narrates it, in 2015, the third year of Obama’s second term, as his “Presidency was winding down,” a gentleman called Frank Lowenstein—who was, and still is, the Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations and Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State—stumbled upon a map of West Bank settlements “that he had never seen before.” Though Lowenstein—as, you know, Special Envoy for Palestinian Negotiations and all—had seen “hundreds of maps of the West Bank” and had one “adorning” his office, this “new map in the briefing book” was a revelation to him. It showed clearly that “not only were Palestinian population centers cut off from one another but there was virtually no way to squeeze a viable Palestinian state into the areas that remained.”

Shocked, shocked, Lowenstein scurried off to show the map to Secretary of State John Kerry, telling him: “Look what’s really going on here.” After studiously having the map’s information “verified by U.S. intelligence agencies,” Kerry then unfurled the map on a coffee table in the White House for President Obama to see. As Ben Rhodes, “one of Obama’s longest-serving advisers,” recounted, Obama, too, was “shocked” at Israel’s “systematic” use of settlements to “cut off Palestinian population centers from one another.”

All of this shock was then translated into action. Of the rhetorical sort. Kerry “incorporated [the key findings] into … speeches and other documents, and Lowenstein “walk[ed] [the Israelis] through” those findings—though he “didn’t show the maps to the Israelis.” (Because what? He didn’t want to “shock” them? Didn’t want to make the case to them too strongly, lest it upset them? Didn’t want to have to apologize? [see below] Pause for a moment, or more, to consider that demurral, which remains unexplained by Entous or Lowenstein. It’s the kind of withholding of information one would do in the face of an innocent child one wants to protect, or in the face of a more powerful superior one does not want to annoy. What is the place for such reticence in the relation between the United States and Israel?)

Capping off this new wave of decisive rhetorical action, driven by the “alarm” over what he saw in the “maps” (now plural), President Obama “decided to abstain on a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the settlements.” In the true punchline of the article, Entous presents this abstention as “Obama’s final act of defiance against Benjamin Netanyahu… before Donald Trump took office and put in place policies that were far more accepting of the settlers.”

All in all, this article presents a perfect exemplar of ideological production: it produces without recognizing the bizarre, nearly delusional aspects of liberal ideology in its current state; for the author and his likely readers, it shows the faults of that mindset but does not see them, and in fact turns them into a story re-confirming the virtue of those—whether author, reader, or subject of the story—who hold that mindset. It’s not only fake; it’s a fake-out.

Let’s walk through all the possible meanings of this article.

Either:

1) The story is true. Entous, using his reliable, inside-the-room sources and direct quotes, has accurately reported something that actually happened. Harvard-educated Barack Obama and his team of oh-so-smart and-well-educated foreign-policy wonks—Yale-educated Secretary of State Kerry and Special Envoy for Palestinian Negotiations Frank Lowenstein, and Rice- and NYU-educated Ben Rhodes (whose brother, David, is President of CBS News)—were completely unaware of what the Israelis had been doing for the 48 years before they just happened to see that map. Neither Barack Obama nor John Kerry during their careers as senators and presidential candidates, nor Obama, during over six years as President, had ever imagined any such thing.

They must have missed this UN map, showing in red all the West Bank areas inaccessible to Palestinians, which has been around since 2009:

And they must have missed this one, also widely available since 2009, showing Israel’s relentless theft and pulverization of Palestinian land. This is the map that MSNBC apologized for showing to its viewers:

So, in this case, if this story is true, Obama and his team are as politically stupid as Trump and his, regarding Palestine at least. If this story is true, it means that years of studying in the highest academies of the empire and working in the highest levels of political power may only yield abysmal ignorance regarding one of the most important issues in the world.

Which is, in fact, quite possible.

In a meeting at the Left Forum last year, Andy Trimlett, who produced and directed the fine new documentary, 1948: Creation and Catastrophe (which I supported on Kickstarter), told of how he was able to get a Master’s degree in Middle East Studies from the University of Washington while learning virtually nothing about what the creation of Israel entailed. He’s not the only person I’ve heard that from.

So, in his acerbic tweet, the excellent British journalist Jonathan Cook may be (probably is) right in his skepticism regarding this New Yorker story, but he may also be underestimating the political vacuity of the “educated” American, especially regarding Palestine and Israel:

The New Yorker insults its readers’ intelligence with this article claiming that Obama officials only worked out – accidentally – in 2015 that Israeli settlements had taken over 60% of the West Bank. Who could have guessed what Israel was up to?! — Jonathan Cook (@Jonathan_K_Cook) July 10, 2018

 Or:

2) The story is not true. Obama and Co. knew very well, all along, what Israel was doing, and they are now putting out this story—a flat-out lie–because… Well, maybe because after the Gaza massacre, with the tide turning among the Democratic constituency, to exacerbate the image of Trump as the absolute villain, etc., the Obama team, as an exemplar of establishment Democratic liberalism, wants to pose as naive innocents rather than the conscious collaborators with ethnic cleansing they were and still are. They really want The New Yorker’s readership to have that image of Obama as the one who continually “defied” Netanyahu, versus Trump who is now capitulating to him.

That, too, is a flat-out lie, as anyone who isn’t mis-educated into political stupidity by the media, the politicians, and the highest academies of the empire knows. The whole “Obama’s final act of defiance” punchline, which is in Entous’s voice, makes the story fake, even if it’s true. There was no series of “acts of defiance” by Obama, of which the lame-duck abstention on the Security Council resolution was the “final” one.

It’s fair to say, and to his credit, that Obama acted against Netanyahu’s wishes in accepting the Iran deal, which Trump has abrogated. And Obama made good noises, from early in his administration, about the dangers of Israeli settlement construction—which, of course, indicates that he knew about all those “systematic” problems before he discovered The Map. But he, like his predecessors, did nothing about it. He, like they, enabled and supported the systematic, two-state-destroying settlement of the West Bank, and continually supported Israel in whatever violence it wanted to do to the Palestinians—including bombing the crap out of them in Gaza, twice.

No slouch in that regard, Obama was the first American President to give bunker-buster bombs to Israel—secretly, precisely because he had publicly said Israel had to curtail settlement construction in exchange for such gifts and didn’t want it to be known that he was capitulating. He was also the first American President to demand that “Palestinians must recognize that Israel will be a Jewish state”—a new, gratuitous, and excessive demand, insisted upon by Netanyahu. The lame-duck abstention on the Security Council resolution cost Israel nothing. Overall, Obama’s Palestine-Israel policy, consistent with American policy over decades, was one of continual capitulation to the will of Israel–including specifically on settlements. That is not some new policy “put in place” by Donald Trump.

And, if the story is not true, then

Either:

2A) Adam Entous and The New Yorker—that oh-so-intelligent, sophisticated, and “reliable” journal—fully and sincerely believe the fake story the Obama people are putting out, and are communicating that bullshit to you in good faith, as what they think is true, in-depth knowledge of an important aspect of American foreign policy that you should have. In which case, Entous and The New Yorker are as stupid and gullible as any Trump supporter.

Or,

2B) Entous and The New Yorker know very well this is a fake story that Obama and his people are putting out, and they are consciously collaborating with them to get you to believe something they know to be untrue. (And the lite, bad faith version of this—that they can deny that they “know,” even if they suspect, the story is not true, because they take these— i.e., their—people at their word, share their objectives, and don’t ask too many questions—is no less deceptive and pernicious.)

Why would they do this? Because it’s the tortured-humanitarian version of Obama’s and the liberal Democrats’ implication in the colonization of Palestine that they want you to have. And because it helps enforce the fairy tale of how the good, progressively-intentioned American presidency under Obama has been completely overturned by the bad, anti-American-values presidency of Trump.

So, in any possible reading of this article, it’s a damning indictment of the liberal ideology embodied by Obama Democrats and/or by an iconic media outlet of highbrow culture. In any possible reading, someone’s a political fool. In option 1, it’s a true story, and Obama and his team were terribly ignorant fools who should not have been allowed near the responsibilities of the Presidency; in option 2, it’s a fake story, and Entous and The New Yorker have themselves either been fooled by, or are complicit in trying to fool you with, the Obama team’s mendacious attempt to create a false image of themselves, and a phony nostalgia about American politics. There is no option 3.

In all options, of course, the target of the tomfoolery is the audience, the likely reader of The New Yorker. Indeed, in option 2B, which gets Jonathan Cook’s vote (and mine) and is at least as likely as any other, the reader is the only one being fooled. The article, and the ideology, counts on the reader not noticing that these are its only possible—and all quite damning—meanings. Any reader who doesn’t notice this is totally captured within, and faked-out by, the ideology the article reproduces.

There’s no bigger problem in the United States today than the citizenry’s widespread mis-education into political gullibility, not to say stupidity, and it’s the height of foolishness to think this is only a problem of Republicans and rightists, of those who read Breitbart and not those who read The New Yorker, or of those who finish their education at high school and not those who get it finished off at one of the higher academies of the empire.

As I’ve said before, America is now a ship of fools, with a thousand captains barking fake orders. Reader, beware.

July 15, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A New Anti-Assad Propaganda Offensive

By Daniel Lazare | Consortium News | April 21, 2016

Now that Syria’s “cessation of hostilities” appears to be crumbling and rebel forces are gearing up for a fresh offensive, the mighty U.S. propaganda machine is once again up and running.

A case in point is “The Assad Files,” an 11,000-word article in last week’s New Yorker that is as willfully misrepresentative as anything published about Syria in the last five years or so, which is saying a great deal.

Written by a young Columbia Journalism School graduate named Ben Taub, it tells of a Canadian political entrepreneur named William Wiley who, starting in 2012, persuaded the European Union and the German, Swiss, Norwegian, Danish and Canadian governments to give him millions of dollars so he could begin building a criminal case against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

To that end, Wiley hired lawyers, translators, and analysts and sent investigators into Syria itself alongside “moderate” rebels so that they could rifle security and intelligence installations in search of incriminating evidence. Once they got what they were looking for, they either squirreled it away locally or spirited it over the border to an undisclosed location in Western Europe where the documents could be scanned, bar-coded, and safely secured.

The upshot is a 400-page legal brief that Taub says “links the systematic torture and murder of tens of thousands of Syrians to a written policy approved by President Bashar al-Assad, coordinated among his security-intelligence agencies, and implemented by regime operatives.” It is “a record of state-sponsored torture,” he adds, “that is almost unimaginable in its scope and its cruelty.”

Taub fills his article with lots of J-school-style color, informing us that Wiley is “a field guy, not an office guy”; that he “handles the considerable stress of his profession with Cuban cigarillos, gallows humor, and exercise,” and that, at age 52, “he bench-presses more than three hundred and fifty pounds.” He describes in vivid detail one of Wiley’s associates negotiating his way through 11 rebel checkpoints while transporting a truckload of captured Syrian government documents. But for all his diligence, he manages to overlook the blindingly obvious problems that Wiley’s activities raise. For instance:

–He notes that no international judicial body has jurisdiction over Syrian war crimes and that, in May 2014, Russia and China specifically vetoed a UN resolution assigning the International Criminal Court such a role. So what’s the point of a 400-page legal brief if there’s no court to present it to? Is this a genuine pursuit of legal truth or just another propaganda exercise funded by the West?

–Waving such objections aside, Taub quotes Wiley as saying: “We’re simply confident – and I don’t think it’s hubris – that our work will see the light of day, in court, in relatively short order.” But what on earth does this mean? That Wiley has inside knowledge that Assad is about to fall?

Western Crimes

–By zeroing in on Assad alone, the investigation ignores malfeasance by other players. Arming rebels and sending them to spread terror across the Syrian countryside, for example, is a straight-out violation of the UN Charter, which declares that “all members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”

Yet Wiley says nothing about such crimes even though the U.S. and Saudi Arabia commit them daily. The same goes for bombing Syrian targets without express Syrian government permission. That, too, is illegal. Yet Wiley remains silent about that as well.

–Sending investigators into Syria without express government approval is likewise a violation, which means that Wiley and his group are also complicit. Washington would not like it if Syria sent “investigators” to this country to break into FBI offices and rifle through CIA files. So what gives Wiley the right to do the same? And given the intensity of the propaganda war surrounding Syria, what weight should one give to the purported evidence?

Although you wouldn’t know it from a travesty like “The Assad Files,” the facts about Syria have long been clear. In August 2012, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency issued a report stating that Al Qaeda, the Salafists, and the Muslim Brotherhood were “the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria,” that their goal was to establish a “Salafist principality” in eastern Syria, and that this is “exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition” – which is to say Turkey, the Arab Gulf states, and the Western powers – “want in order to isolate the Syrian regime.”

In October 2014, Vice President Joe Biden told students at Harvard’s Kennedy School that “the Saudis, the emirates, etc. were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war [that] they poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of military weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad, except the people who were being supplied were Al Nusra and Al Qaeda.”  (See quote starting at 53:20.)

In October 2015, a New York Times editorial noted that private donors in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait were continuing to channel funds to ISIS (also known as ISIL, Islamic State, and Daesh), while, in January 2016, the newspaper reported that Saudi aid to Islamist rebels in Syria has totaled not hundreds of millions of dollars as Joe Biden had stated, but billions.

In other words, the U.S. and its Arab Gulf allies lavished immense funds on a Sunni fundamentalist rebellion from the start, they encouraged the growth of Salafist caliphate, and they stood by as private money flowed to Al Qaeda and Islamic State.

This is a scandal that people should be shouting about from the rooftops. Standing reality on its head, however, The New Yorker wants us to believe that the only person to blame for this debacle is Assad. If he hadn’t disregarded Barack Obama’s order to step down in August 2011, then America and its allies would not have been obliged to fund jihadists bent on installing a Sunni dictatorship in Damascus.

Through his obstinacy, Assad forced the U.S. to back a religious war of extermination against Alawites, Christians and other minorities, which is why Washington now has no choice but to arrest him, give him a fair trial and then find him guilty as charged.

Cooking the Books

Taub cooks the books in various ways. He devotes much of his article to a 38-year-old dissident named Mazen al-Hamada who says he spent a year in Assad’s prisons, suffering repeated beatings and emerging a broken man as a consequence.

“People went crazy,” he tells Taub of his time inside. “People would lose their memories, people would lose their minds.” Even though Hamada was eventually able to leave Syria and join his sister in the Netherlands, he spends his days agonizing over the friends and relatives he left behind.

“Where are they?” he cries. “Are they alive? Are they dead?” Every day is “misery,” he tells Taub. “It’s misery. It’s misery. It’s death. It’s a life of death.”

This is powerful stuff, especially for those who enjoy reading about evil Arab dictators. But the careful reader will notice that Hamada has no connection to Wiley’s campaign and that his role, rather, is to put flesh on the bones of Wiley’s dry legal arguments by describing what’s at stake.

Taub thus goes into painful detail about the tortures that Hamada says he endured – beatings, burnings, electric shock, and so on. It’s gruesome stuff, and, according to Taub, Hamada “sobbed desperately” in recounting it.

But what did Hamada do to merit such treatment, if indeed such abuses were inflicted? The article says only that he comes from an educated middle-class family in the city of Deir Ezzor and that members “were outspoken critics of the government, and even before the revolution they were routinely followed and periodically arrested. They were especially outraged by the government’s failure to do anything about the widening gap between the rich and the poor. ‘It was all organized to benefit the élites,’ Hamada said.”

This makes them sound like Bernie Sanders supporters. Taub adds that Hamada also organized inside a local mosque but assures us that it was just a matter of convenience.

“It was a logistical issue,” he quotes Hamada as saying. “Everyone went to the mosque on a Friday, everyone came out. …  If we could have come out of churches, we would have come out of churches!”

But is that really all there is to it? In fact, Deir Ezzor is part of Syria’s wild east, a tribal region that was an Al Qaeda stronghold following the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and then again after the Arab Spring beginning in early 2011.

“The religious and tribal powers in the [border] regions began to sympathize with the sectarian uprising,” states the 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency report, written just a few months after Hamada’s arrest the following March. (emphasis added). “This sympathy appeared in Friday prayer sermons, which called for volunteers to support the Sunni’s [sic] in Syria.”

So what The New Yorker doesn’t tell us is that Hamada agitated inside mosques at a time when they were resounding with calls for holy war against Assad and his fellow Alawites. This doesn’t prove that Hamada is not a liberal, a social democrat, or some other mild-mannered sort. But it raises the possibility that he’s something else – a Salafist, perhaps, a Wahhabist, or a supporter of Al Qaeda.

A One-Sided Morality Play 

If Taub seems stingy with the details, it’s most likely because he doesn’t want anything getting in the way of his simple-minded morality play about a noble dissident suffering at the hands of a cruel and vicious tyrant.

But how do we know Hamada suffered at all? How do we know he’s not making it all up? Taub summons up bits and pieces of corroborative evidence in an effort to buttress his account, none of it terribly convincing.

Hamada says that after he and his fellow prisoners were transferred to an air base at Al-Mezzeh, a few kilometers west of Damascus, guards taunted them by saying that the Americans would soon bomb the installation, killing them all.

Since Obama was threatening to retaliate against Syria for the use of sarin gas a few days earlier and “at least one of the sarin-gas rockets is believed to have been launched from the base at al-Mezzeh,” according to Taub, the story seems to make sense.

But there’s a problem: Taub’s statement about al-Mezzeh is dubious at best. In contrast to the Aug. 21, 2013, sarin-gas attack at the Ein Tarma/Zamalka area, located to the east of Damascus, the sarin-gas attack at Al Moadamiyah, located near al-Mezzeh to the west, is so poorly documented that it’s unclear whether it occurred at all.

Members of the United Nations inspection team, which gained access to the site five days later, found no evidence of sarin from their field tests, a result later confirmed by two U.N. labs, which reported no sarin or other chemical weapons agents present, although the two labs had conflicting findings on whether a trace chemical from the area might have resulted from degraded sarin.

But even that suspicion was undercut by the fact that a second rocket recovered in the Ein Tarma/Zamalka area several days later tested positive for actual sarin (though it had been exposed to the elements even longer). That crude second rocket was later determined to have a range of only about two kilometers, meaning that it could not have come from the Syrian base and more likely came from rebel-controlled territory. Later evidence, including a report by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, pointed to the likelihood that it was launched by rebel jihadists as a provocation to draw the U.S. military into the conflict on their side.

There was also the question of why Assad would have invited in U.N. inspectors to examine a prior chemical attack against his troops and then launch a large-scale sarin attack on a nearby location just as the investigative team was settling into a Damascus hotel.

As the excellent open-source “WhoGhouta” blog points out, it doesn’t make sense unless the Baathists were bent on suicide – and if there’s one thing we know after five years of civil war, it is that the Damascus regime’s goal is not suicide but survival.  [See also Consortiumnews.com’sA Call for Proof on Syria-Sarin Attack.”]

Of course, it is possible that Hamada’s Syrian guards might have anticipated a U.S. attack even if Assad’s government had nothing to do with the sarin attack. But the dubious case surrounding the sarin gas incident leaves his account sounding contrived and unsubstantiated, an example of old anti-Assad propaganda being dredged up in support of yet another round of lies and distortions.

Dubious Photos

Taub also invokes the famous “Caesar,” the pseudonym of a Syrian army photographer who caused a sensation in early 2014 by defecting with 55,000 photographs purportedly documenting the torture and killing of 11,000 detainees at the hands of the Syrian security establishment.

Where Hamada says he was assigned a four-digit identification number during his confinement, many of Caesar’s victims were also tagged with a four-digit ID, which makes Hamada seem more plausible. Where Hamada reported a pile-up of dead bodies at the hospital in which he was interned, Caesar, clicking away at the same facility, also reported a gruesome pile-up. If Caesar is believable, then Hamada is as well.

But Caesar’s tale fairly cries out skepticism.  For instance:

–His publicity campaign was paid for and organized by Qatar, a key backer of Islamist rebel groups, which also engaged a London law firm to testify that the photos were genuine.

–The photos were hurriedly released just as peace talks in Geneva were about to begin, talks that Qatar and its rebel allies both opposed.

–Rather than victims of the regime, an examination by Human Rights Watch found that nearly half the pictures were of dead army soldiers, members of the security services, or victims of fires and car bombs – i.e. victims not of the government, but of the rebels.

–A further examination by the Syria Solidarity Movement found that significant numbers of photos showed fresh bullet or shrapnel wounds suggesting that the victims had died in combat rather than in prison; signs of bloating suggesting that they had also perished in conflict zones; or bandages indicating that they had died after receiving medical treatment.

Where Hamada, moreover, said that dead bodies were stored in toilets of all places – guards instructed him to “pee on top of the bodies,” he assures a credulous Taub – the bodies that Caesar photographed were stored in a morgue or in a garage bay.

Caesar’s photos thus prove absolutely nothing about the Assad regime in general or about Hamada’s experience in particular. Since their evidentiary value is nil, we have no reason to believe that he is telling the truth as opposed to filling a young reporter’s head with stuff and nonsense designed to set his editor’s pulse racing back in New York.

The result is every bit as outrageous as the articles The New Yorker ran prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq alleging collusion between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.

The Christian Science Monitor, one of the few publications not to tumble into bed with Caesar and his photos, described them as “a well-timed propaganda exercise funded by Qatar, a regime opponent who has funded rebels fighting Assad who have committed war crimes of their own.”

With the White House preparing to up the ante in Syria by possibly supplying the rebels with portable anti-aircraft missiles weapons that will almost inevitably find their way into the hands of ISIS and Al Qaeda – is there any reason to regard “The Assad Files” as anything other than a well-timed propaganda exercise as well?

[For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’sHow The New Yorker Mis-Reports Syria.”]



Daniel Lazare is the author of several books including The Frozen Republic: How the Constitution Is Paralyzing Democracy (Harcourt Brace).

April 21, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

How The New Yorker Mis-Reports Syria

By Jonathan Marshall | Consortium News | April 20, 2016

Only 6 percent of Americans surveyed in a new national poll say they have a lot of confidence in the media — a result driven by a widespread perception that news stories are one-sided or downright inaccurate. That finding came to mind as I heard New Yorker editor David Remnick introduce an April 17 segment on Syria on the New Yorker Radio Hour.

“For the last five years Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has framed the revolution in his country as a conspiracy fueled entirely by foreign powers,” Remnick claimed. “His security agencies have . . . killed hundreds of thousands and displaced possibly half of the entire country.”

The New Yorker is famous for its fact checkers, but Remnick evidently failed to consult them. Even a casual listener might have questioned his remarkable attribution of Syria’s entire death toll and refugee crisis to Assad’s security agencies, as if ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other rebel forces were mere innocent bystanders.

In fact, the dead include somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000 pro-government forces, comparable to the number of opposition fighters killed, and human rights organizations report that “Opposition armed groups in Syria have indiscriminately attacked civilians in government-held territory with car bombs, mortars, and rockets.”

But what about Remnick’s claim that Assad’s crackdown was driven by paranoia about foreign conspiracies? Like a feature article in his magazine’s April 18 issue, Remnick’s shorthand attempt to portray Assad as insane as well as ruthless fails the test of good journalism.

The article by Ben Taub, which describes efforts by international rights activists to smuggle government documents out of Syria for future war crimes trials, says that Assad “declared his intention to suppress dissent in the brutal tradition of his father” during an address to the Syrian nation on March 30, 2011, shortly after the outbreak of anti-government demonstrations in several cities.

Taub makes his point with a few choice quotes from the speech: “Syria is facing a great conspiracy, whose tentacles extend” to foreign powers that were plotting to destroy the country, [Assad] said. “There is no conspiracy theory,” he added. “There is a conspiracy.” He closed with an ominous directive: “Burying sedition is a national, moral, and religious duty, and all those who can contribute to burying it and do not are part of it.” He emphasized, “There is no compromise or middle way in this.”

Forgotten History

The quotes are accurate, but the missing context tells us important facts both about the origins of Syria’s violent conflict and what’s wrong with much advocacy journalism today. Assad certainly did see foreign conspiracies at work in Syria, but he was not paranoid. Unlike most of Taub’s readers, Assad knew that the first military coup in Syria’s modern history was instigated in 1949 by agents of the newly formed Central Intelligence Agency.

That was not the last foreign covert intervention in Syria. In 1957, according to official papers summarized by The Guardian, “[Prime Minister] Harold Macmillan and President Dwight Eisenhower approved a CIA-MI6 plan to stage fake border incidents as an excuse for an invasion by Syria’s pro-western neighbours, and then to ‘eliminate’ the most influential triumvirate in Damascus. . .

“Although historians know that intelligence services had sought to topple the Syrian regime in the autumn of 1957, this is the first time any document has been found showing that the assassination of three leading figures was at the heart of the scheme.”

In 2005-6, as I documented previously in ConsortiumNews, Washington and Saudi Arabia began secretly backing Syria’s Islamist Muslim Brotherhood with the goal of ousting Assad. Further details of that covert operation emerged just weeks after Assad’s March 30 speech, when the Washington Post reported that “The State Department has secretly financed Syrian political opposition groups and related projects, including a satellite TV channel that beams anti-government programming into the country.”

The recipients were described in State Department cables as “moderate Islamists” and former members of the Muslim Brotherhood. The paper continued:

“The London-based satellite channel, Barada TV, began broadcasting in April 2009 but has ramped up operations to cover the mass protests in Syria as part of a long-standing campaign to overthrow the country’s autocratic leader, Bashar al-Assad . . .

“The U.S. money for Syrian opposition figures began flowing under President George W. Bush after he effectively froze political ties with Damascus in 2005. The financial backing has continued under President Obama, even as his administration sought to rebuild relations with Assad. . . .

“Syrian authorities ‘would undoubtedly view any U.S. funds going to illegal political groups as tantamount to supporting regime change,’ read an April 2009 cable signed by the top-ranking U.S. diplomat in Damascus at the time.”

In his March 30, 2011 address, Assad referred explicitly to the challenges his regime faced in 2005 and to recent anti-government violence incited by “satellite TV stations” — an obvious reference to Barada TV. So when Assad complained in his speech that “our enemies work every day in an organized, systematic and scientific manner in order to undermine Syria’s stability,” he was not merely delusional.

Acknowledging Fault

But Assad also took care to acknowledge Syria’s genuine internal problems and overdue reforms, “so that satellite T.V. stations will not say that the Syrian president considered all that has happened a foreign conspiracy.” Toward the end of his speech, Assad reiterated, “Since some people have short memory, I will refresh their memory once again by saying that not all of what is happening is a conspiracy, because I know that they are on the ready in their studios to comment.”

Despite Assad’s best efforts, Taub and Remnick evidently never got the message.

“We all discuss, criticize, and have our disagreements because we have not met many of the needs of the Syrian people,” Assad further conceded. “That is why it was easy to mislead many people who demonstrated in the beginning with good intentions. We cannot say that all those who demonstrated are conspirators. This is not true, and we want to be clear and realistic.”

Assad devoted much of his speech to explaining why reforms had moved so slowly since he took office in 2000. His message disappointed many Syrians, especially political critics living abroad. But, to the applause of other Syrians, he promised over the course of the following month to “identify the measures that need to be taken” for reform.

Unmentioned by Taub, Assad followed through with some significant steps. He fired unpopular governors of two provinces, named a new prime minister and cabinet, dismantled his unpopular National Security Court, and lifted the emergency law.

On April 16, Assad spoke to ministers of his new government, telling them that the most effective way for Syria to resist regime change was to carry out reforms and attend “to the needs of the Syrian population.”

Sounding not at all like a ruthless dictator, he also decried the loss of life during recent anti-government demonstrations, saying “the blood which has been spilled in Syria has pained us all. . . . We are sad for the loss of every Syrian and for all those who have been injured. We pray to God to provide solace to their families and friends.”

Assad discussed plans to lift the country’s state of emergency. He called for better training of police to help them “cope with the new reforms” and “protect demonstrators” while still preventing “sabotage.” He cited detailed proposals for improving the fight against public corruption. And he stressed the need for economic reforms to reduce unemployment and the despair felt by young people with no prospects.

Said Joshua Landis, a leading U.S. academic authority on Syria, Assad’s speech “was about as good” as he could have made it, and a big improvement on his March 30 address. “For those who continue to believe in the possibility of reform and not regime-change, this speech was reassuring.”

But anti-government demonstrators took Assad’s limited reforms as a challenge, not an opening. As I recounted previously, protesters declared one major city a “liberated zone,” prompting a massive crackdown by Assad’s security forces and gun battles between soldiers and armed opponents. Key opposition leaders also rebuffed national dialogue meetings sponsored by the Assad government in June and July of 2011, when the death toll was still low.

As Landis later commented, “Western press and analysts did not want to recognize that armed elements were becoming active. They preferred to tell a simple story of good people fighting bad people. There is no doubt that the vast majority of the opposition was peaceful and was being met with deadly government force and snipers. One only wonders why that story could not have been told without also covering the reality that armed elements, whose agenda was not peaceful, were also playing a role.”

The New Yorker, like much of the Western media, still prefers telling simple stories of good and evil when it comes to Syria. But quality journalism requires more than story-telling. It requires factual accuracy, context, and nuance, professional attributes needed more than ever during passionate times.

A less biased look at Assad’s words and actions would not absolve him of repression and war crimes, but might suggest that Syria’s opposition had peaceful alternatives to civil war.

We’ll never know, of course. But we do know for certain that by demanding nothing less than “regime change,” Assad’s opponents and their foreign backers contributed along with Assad’s own actions to one of the great humanitarian catastrophes of our time.



Jonathan Marshall is author or co-author of five books on international affairs, including The Lebanese Connection: Corruption, Civil War and the International Drug Traffic (Stanford University Press, 2012).

April 20, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | 1 Comment

A Blind Eye Toward Turkey’s Crimes

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | December 16, 2015

Theoretically, it would be a great story for the American press: an autocrat so obsessed with overthrowing the leader of a neighboring country that he authorizes his intelligence services to collaborate with terrorists in staging a lethal sarin attack to be blamed on his enemy and thus trick major powers to launch punishing bombing raids against the enemy’s military.

And, after that scheme failed to achieve the desired intervention, the autocrat continues to have his intelligence services aid terrorists inside the neighboring country by providing weapons and safe transit for truck convoys carrying the terrorists’ oil to market. The story gets juicier because the autocrat’s son allegedly shares in the oil profits.

To make the story even more compelling, an opposition leader braves the wrath of the autocrat by seeking to expose these intelligence schemes, including the cover-up of key evidence. The autocrat’s government then seeks to prosecute the critic for “treason.”

But the problem with this story, as far as the American government and press are concerned, is that the autocratic leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is in charge of Turkey, a NATO ally and his hated neighbor is the much demonized Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Major U.S. news outlets and political leaders also bought into the sarin deception and simply can’t afford to admit that they once again misled the American people on a matter of war.

The Official Story of the sarin attack – as presented by Secretary of State John Kerry, Human Rights Watch and other “respectable” sources – firmly laid the blame for the Aug. 21, 2013 atrocity killing hundreds of civilians outside Damascus on Assad. That became a powerful “group think” across Official Washington.

Though a few independent media outlets, including Consortium News, challenged the rush to judgment and noted the lack of evidence regarding Assad’s guilt, those doubts were brushed aside. (In an article on Aug. 30, 2013, I described the administration’s “Government Assessment” blaming Assad as a “dodgy dossier,” which offered not a single piece of verifiable proof.)

However, as with the “certainty” about Iraq’s WMD a decade earlier, Every Important Person shared the Assad-did-it “group think.” That meant — as far as Official Washington was concerned — that Assad had crossed President Barack Obama’s “red line” against using chemical weapons. A massive U.S. retaliatory bombing strike was considered just days away.

But Obama – at the last minute – veered away from launching those military attacks, with Official Washington concluding that Obama had shown “weakness” by not following through. What was virtually unreported was that U.S. intelligence analysts had doubts about Assad’s guilt and suspected a trap being laid by extremists.

Despite those internal questions, the U.S. government and the compliant mainstream media publicly continued to push the Assad-did-it propaganda line. In a formal address to the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 24, 2013, Obama declared, “It’s an insult to human reason and to the legitimacy of this institution to suggest that anyone other than the regime carried out this attack.”

Later, a senior State Department official tried to steer me toward the Assad-is-guilty assessment of a British blogger then known as Moses Brown, a pseudonym for Eliot Higgins, who now runs an outfit called Bellingcat which follows an effective business model by reinforcing whatever the U.S. propaganda machine is churning out on a topic, except having greater credibility by posing as a “citizen blogger.” [For more on Higgins, see Consortiumnews.com’s‘MH-17 Case: ‘Old Journalism’ vs. ‘New’.”]

The supposedly conclusive proof against Assad came in a “vector analysis” developed by Human Rights Watch and The New York Times – tracing the flight paths of two rockets back to a Syrian military base northwest of Damascus. But that analysis collapsed when it became clear that only one of the rockets carried sarin and its range was less than one-third the distance between the army base and the point of impact. That meant the rocket carrying the sarin appeared to have originated in rebel territory.

But the “group think” was resistant to all empirical evidence. It was so powerful that even when the Turkish plot was uncovered by legendary investigative reporter Seymour M. Hersh, his usual publication, The New Yorker, refused to print it. Rebuffed in the United States – the land of freedom of the press – Hersh had to take the story to the London Review of Books to get it out in April 2014. [See Consortiumnews.com’sWas Turkey Behind Syria Sarin Attack?”]

The Easier Route

It remained easier for The New York Times, The Washington Post and other premier news outlets to simply ignore the compelling tale of possible Turkish complicity in a serious war crime. After all, what would the American people think if – after the mainstream media had failed to protect the country against the lies that led to the disastrous Iraq War – the same star news sources had done something similar on Syria by failing to ask tough questions?

It’s also now obvious that if Obama had ordered a retaliatory bombing campaign against Assad in 2013, the likely winners would have been the Islamic State and Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, which would have had the path cleared for their conquest of Damascus, creating a humanitarian catastrophe even worse than the current one.

To confess to such incompetence or dishonesty clearly had a big down-side. So, the “smart” play was to simply let the old Assad-did-it narrative sit there as something that could still be cited obliquely from time to time under the phrase “Assad gassed his own people” and thus continue to justify the slogan: “Assad must go!”

But that imperative – not to admit another major mistake – means that the major U.S. news media also must ignore the courageous statements from Eren Erdem, a deputy of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), who has publicly accused the Erdogan government of blocking an investigation into Turkey’s role in procuring the sarin allegedly delivered to Al Qaeda-connected terrorists for use inside Syria.

In statements before parliament and to journalists, Erdem cited a derailed indictment that was begun by the General Prosecutor’s Office in the southern Turkish city of Adana, with the criminal case number 2013/120.

Erdem said the prosecutor’s office, using technical surveillance, discovered that an Al Qaeda jihadist named Hayyam Kasap acquired the sarin.

At the press conference, Erdem said, “Wiretapped phone conversations reveal the process of procuring the gas at specific addresses as well as the process of procuring the rockets that would fire the capsules containing the toxic gas. However, despite such solid evidence there has been no arrest in the case. Thirteen individuals were arrested during the first stage of the investigation but were later released, refuting government claims that it is fighting terrorism.”

Erdem said the released operatives were allowed to cross the border into Syria and the criminal investigation was halted.

Another CHP deputy, Ali Şeker, added that the Turkish government misled the public by claiming Russia provided the sarin and that “Assad killed his people with sarin and that requires a U.S. military intervention in Syria.”

Erdem’s disclosures, which he repeated in a recent interview with RT, the Russian network, prompted the Ankara Prosecutor’s Office to open an investigation into Erdem for treason. Erdem defended himself, saying the government’s actions regarding the sarin case besmirched Turkey’s international reputation. He added that he also has been receiving death threats.

“The paramilitary organization Ottoman Hearths is sharing my address [on Twitter] and plans a raid [on my house]. I am being targeted with death threats because I am patriotically opposed to something that tramples on my country’s prestige,” Erdem said.

ISIS Oil Smuggling

Meanwhile, President Erdogan faces growing allegations that he tolerated the Islamic State’s lucrative smuggling of oil from wells in Syria through border crossings in Turkey. Those oil convoys were bombed only last month when Russian President Vladimir Putin essentially shamed President Obama into taking action against this important source of Islamic State revenues.

Though Obama began his bombing campaign against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria in summer 2014, the illicit oil smuggling was spared interdiction for over a year as the U.S. government sought cooperation from Erdogan, who recently acknowledged that the Islamic State and other jihadist groups are using nearly 100 kilometers of Turkey’s border to bring in recruits and supplies.

Earlier this month, Obama said he has had “repeated conversations with President Erdogan about the need to close the border between Turkey and Syria,” adding that “there’s about 98 kilometers that are still used as a transit point for foreign fighters, ISIL [Islamic State] shipping out fuel for sale that helps finance their terrorist activities.”

Russian officials expressed shock that the Islamic State was allowed to continue operating an industrial-style delivery system involving hundreds of trucks carrying oil into Turkey. Moscow also accused Erdogan’s 34-year-old son, Bilal Erdogan, of profiting off the Islamic State’s oil trade, an allegation that he denied.

The Russians say Bilal Erdogan is one of three partners in the BMZ Group, a Turkish oil and shipping company that has purchased oil from the Islamic State. The Malta Independent reported that BMZ purchased two oil tanker ships from the Malta-based Oil Transportation & Shipping Services Co Ltd, which is owned by Azerbaijani billionaire Mubariz Mansimov.

Another three oil tankers purchased by BMZ were acquired from Palmali Shipping and Transportation Agency, which is also owned by Mansimov and which shares the same Istanbul address with Oil Transportation & Shipping Services, which is owned by Mansimov’s Palmali Group, along with dozens of other companies set up in Malta.

The Russians further assert that Turkey’s shoot-down of a Russian Su-24 bomber along the Syrian-Turkish border on Nov. 24 – which led to the murder of the pilot, by Turkish-backed rebels, as he parachuted to the ground and to the death of a Russian marine on a rescue operation – was motivated by Erdogan’s fury over the destruction of his son’s Islamic State oil operation.

Erdogan has denied that charge, claiming the shoot-down was simply a case of defending Turkish territory, although, according to the Turkish account, the Russian plane strayed over a slice of Turkish territory for only 17 seconds. The Russians dispute even that, calling the attack a premeditated ambush.

President Obama and the mainstream U.S. press sided with Turkey, displaying almost relish at the deaths of Russians in Syria and also showing no sympathy for the Russian victims of an earlier terrorist bombing of a tourist flight over Sinai in Egypt. [See Consortiumnews.com’sObama Ignores Russian Terror Victims.”]

New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman expressed the prevailing attitude of Official Washington by ridiculing anyone who had praised Putin’s military intervention in Syria or who thought the Russian president was “crazy like a fox,” Friedman wrote: “Some of us thought he was just crazy.

“Well, two months later, let’s do the math: So far, Putin’s Syrian adventure has resulted in a Russian civilian airliner carrying 224 people being blown up, apparently by pro-ISIS militants in Sinai. Turkey shot down a Russian bomber after it strayed into Turkish territory. And then Syrian rebels killed one of the pilots as he parachuted to earth and one of the Russian marines sent to rescue him.”

Taking Sides

The smug contempt that the mainstream U.S. media routinely shows toward anything involving Russia or Putin may help explain the cavalier disinterest in NATO member Turkey’s reckless behavior. Though Turkey’s willful shoot-down of a Russian plane that was not threatening Turkey could have precipitated a nuclear showdown between Russia and NATO, criticism of Erdogan was muted at most.

Similarly, neither the Obama administration nor the mainstream media wants to address the overwhelming evidence that Turkey – along with other U.S. “allies” such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar – have been aiding and abetting Sunni jihadist groups, including Al Qaeda and Islamic State, for years. Instead, Official Washington plays along with the fiction that Saudi Arabia, Turkey and others are getting serious about combating terrorism.

The contrary reality is occasionally blurted out by a U.S. official or revealed when a U.S. intelligence report gets leaked or declassified. For instance, in 2009, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted in a confidential diplomatic memo, disclosed by Wikileaks, that “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.”

According to a Defense Intelligence Agency report from August 2012, “AQI [Al Qaeda in Iraq, which later morphed into the Islamic State] supported the Syrian opposition from the beginning, both ideologically and through the media. … AQI declared its opposition of Assad’s government because it considered it a sectarian regime targeting Sunnis.”

The DIA report added, “The salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria. … The West, Gulf countries, and Turkey support the opposition.”

The DIA analysts already understood the risks that AQI presented both to Syria and Iraq. The report included a stark warning about the expansion of AQI, which was changing into the Islamic State. The brutal armed movement was seeing its ranks swelled by the arrival of global jihadists rallying to the black banner of Sunni militancy, intolerant of both Westerners and “heretics” from Shiite and other non-Sunni branches of Islam.

The goal was to establish a “Salafist principality in eastern Syria” where Islamic State’s caliphate is now located, and that this is “exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition” – i.e. the West, Gulf states, and Turkey – “want in order to isolate the Syrian regime,” the DIA report said.

In October 2014, Vice President Joe Biden told students at Harvard’s Kennedy School that “the Saudis, the emirates, etc. … were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war … [that] they poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of military weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad except the people who were being supplied were Al Nusra and Al Qaeda.”

Despite these occasional bursts of honesty, the U.S. government and the mainstream media have put their goal of having another “regime change” – this time in Syria – and their contempt for Putin ahead of any meaningful cooperation toward defeating the Islamic State and Al Qaeda.

This ordering of priorities further means there is no practical reason to revisit who was responsible for the Aug. 21, 2013 sarin gas attack. If Assad’s government was innocent and Ergogan’s government shared in the guilt, that would present a problem for NATO, which would have to decide if Turkey had crossed a “red line” and deserved being expelled from the military alliance.

But perhaps even more so, an admission that the U.S. government and the U.S. news media had rushed to another incorrect judgment in the Middle East – and that another war policy was driven by propaganda rather than facts – could destroy what trust the American people have left in those institutions. On a personal level, it might mean that the pundits and the politicians who were wrong about Iraq’s WMD would have to acknowledge that they had learned nothing from that disaster.

It might even renew calls for some of them – the likes of The New York Times’ Friedman and The Washington Post’s editorial page editor Fred Hiatt – to finally be held accountable for consistently misinforming and misleading the American people.

So, at least for now — from a perspective of self-interest — it makes more sense for the Obama administration and major news outlets to ignore the developing story of a NATO ally’s ties to terrorism, including an alleged connection to a grave war crime, the sarin attack outside Damascus.


Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

December 16, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment