SEATTLE – “The United States has the power to decree the death of nations,” wrote Stephen Kinzer in the Boston Globe. Kinzer’s article was titled: “The media are misleading the public on Syria.”
In his piece, the scholar contested that his country’s media misinformation on Syria is leading to the kind of ignorance that is enabling the U.S. government to pursue any policy, however imprudent, in the war-torn Arab country. The U.S. government can “decree the death of nations” with “popular support because many Americans — and many journalists — are content with the official story,” Kinzer wrote.
Kinzer’s assertion regarding the U.S. government’s dangerous meddling in Syria’s affairs, the renewed Cold War with Russia and America’s ill-defined military mission in that country is true.
Neither the U.S. nor its Western and other allies are following the rules of war, nor adhering to a particularly noble set of principles aimed at ending that devastating war, which has killed well over 300,000 people, rendered millions displaced and destroyed the country’s wealth and infrastructure.
So what is the truth about Syria?
In the last 5½ years, since a regional uprising turned into an armed rebellion — and then turned into a civil, regional and international war — “the truth about Syria” has been segmented into many self-tailored “truths,” each promoted by one of the warring parties to be the one and only uncontested reality.
The only truth that all parties seem to agree on is that hundreds of thousands are dead and Syria is shattered. But of course each points to the other side for culpability in the ongoing genocide.
An oddly refreshing, although disturbing, “truth” was articulated by Alon Ben-David in the Jerusalem Post last year. The title of his article speaks volumes: “May it never end: The uncomfortable truth about the war in Syria.” “If Israel’s interest in the war in Syria can be summarized in brief, it would be: That it should never end,” Ben-David wrote.
“The continuation of the fighting in Syria, as long as there is a recognized authority in Damascus, allows Israel to stay out of the swamp and distance itself from the swarms of mosquitoes that are buzzing in it.”
Russia’s supporters, of course, refuse to accept the fact that Moscow is also fighting a turf war and that it is entirely fair to question the legality of Russia’s actions in the context of U.S.-Russian regional and global rivalry.
The other side, who are calling for greater American firepower, commit an even greater sin. Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the U.S. has not only scarred, but truly devastated, the Middle East — killing, wounding and displacing millions — and has no intention of preserving Syria’s territorial integrity or the human rights of its people.
That group’s plausible hatred for the Bashar Assad regime has blinded them to numerous facts, including the fact that the only country in the region that Washington is truly and fully committed to in terms of security is Israel, which has recently received a generous aid package of $38 billion.
Keeping in mind Ben-David’s reasoning, it is no surprise that the U.S. is in no rush to end the war in Syria, if not intentionally prolong it. For the U.S., the war is largely pertinent to American regional interests. After suffering major military and political setbacks in the Middle East, and considering its ongoing economic misfortunes, U.S. military capabilities have been eclipsed. It is no longer the only dominant Western country, one that is able to “decree the death of nations” on its own.
So, when Secretary of State John Kerry called recently for a war crimes investigation into Russian bombings in Syria, we can be certain that he was not sincere, and his impassioned appeal was tailored to win only political capital. As expected, his accusations were parroted in predictable tandem by the French, the British and others. Then, soon after, they evaporated into the augmenting, but useless discourse, in which words are only words.
So why is the truth about Syria difficult to decipher?
Despite massive platforms for propaganda, there are still many good journalists who recognize that, no matter what one’s personal opinion is, facts must be checked and that honest reporting and analysis should not be part of the burgeoning propaganda war.
Yes, these journalists exist, but they fight against many odds. One is that much of the existing, well-funded media infrastructure is part of the information war in the Middle East. And good journalists are either forced, albeit begrudgingly, to toe the line or to stay out of the discussion altogether.
It is rather sad that years after the war in Syria ends, and the last of the mass graves is dug and covered, many unpleasant truths will be revealed. But will it matter then?
Only recently, we discovered that the Pentagon spent over $500 million in manufacturing propaganda war videos on Iraq. The money was largely spent on developing fake al-Qaida videos. Unsurprisingly, much of the U.S. media either did not report on this news, or quickly glossed over it, as if the most revealing piece of information on the U.S. invasion of Iraq — which destabilized the Middle East — is the least relevant.
What will we end up learning about Syria in the future? And will it make any difference, aside from a sense of moral gratification by those who have argued all along that the war in Syria was never about Syrians?
The truth about Syria is that, regardless of how the war ends, it has been destroyed and its future is bloody and bleak; and that regardless of the regional and global “winners” of the conflict, the Syrian people have already lost.
Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years.
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