News, Politics

Syria: the strangest war

– Western military support for jihadist fighters in Syria could result in hundreds of thousands more deaths –

 

 

The Syrian government and its forces, led by Bashar al-Assad, has been winning the war that has raged in the country since 2011. Helped greatly in recent years by Russia, and by others, including the Iranian IRGC, it has now cornered its remaining enemies in small pockets of resistance. These ‘rebels’, as Western politicians and media benignly call them, consist of an array of groups, most of which are overtly militant Islamist. The same type of people who fly planes into buildings, blow-up teenagers at concerts and drive vans into pedestrians. They not only hate Assad, they hate the West and its values. The want a caliphate, not only in Syria, but across the whole region. In it, homosexuals will be killed and women veiled and made voiceless. Many of these groups are funded by Saudi Arabia, in spite of recent PR moves by the Kingdom. Some believe they receive training from the West. Before the war, Assad governed a complex region, holding it together and providing stability, in a successful and relatively secular state. It was far from perfect in a far from perfect region of conflicting religious and ethnic interests. Sometimes it required cruel and secretive activities to maintain the status quo. But nothing like the violence the country has seen in the last seven years.

A great number of the Islamists are now dead or have left. The war should be almost over. Assad’s enemies, on one level, are almost powerless and defeated. Yet, through a bizarre promotion of their interests and aims, their cause has been revived, with the help of our own politicians, media and some NGOs. It’s worth saying that again: our own political elite and most of the media appear to be working in the interests of murderers who wish to see us dead. If yesterday’s reports of a chemical attack achieve what they’re supposed to achieve, it’s likely Assad will be attacked and militants could be allowed to bring chaos and hundreds of thousands more deaths over the coming year or two. It will also risk a direct confrontation between US and Russian forces in the region.

For years now, in the Western media and on the lips of most politicians, we’ve hardly heard about who Assad is actually fighting. The battles, whether in Aleppo or more recently in Eastern Ghouta, are framed as one of Assad versus his own people, despite many of them being supporters of his. At most, his enemies are portrayed in the abstract, as rebels struggling against Assad’s tyranny. It is the strangest war, in which often there appears to be only one side fighting: the Syrian army and air force, backed up by Russia. Sometimes the truth about the ‘rebels’ is mentioned in news stories. But references to them are pushed way down the report, where you might not ever notice them. Briefly and quietly we are told who they are: among the most prominent in recent years are Tahrir al-Sham, closely affilitated with Al-Qaeda, and Jaish al-Islam. Both are fanatically Islamist in nature. So much so that journalists are rightly too fearful to report from rebel-held zones. There are no Western journalists there.

The news stories are often accompanied by short videos, usually the same set of videos being used repeatedly by the same organisation, such as the BBC, across different Syria-related stories. Because reporting is framed as Assad versus his people, it is rarely if ever asked or stated who made the videos, who took the photos, or who supplied the information. This results in stories purporting to be objective when in fact the truth is not known. Too often, only one side of the story is given, that provided by the ‘rebels’. The videos were necessarily made in Islamist-held zones. Everything coming out of them has passed through their hands. The BBC, among other outlets, publish these videos as neutral portrayals of what is happening. The videos consistently contain the same type of material and the people in them say the same things. The same doctors can appear, speaking to camera with great presence of mind even in the midst of apparent chaos and carnage. And very young children appear too, using the same phrases in different videos, specifically about barrel bombs and making direct appeals for the UN to do something. Or in other words, for the West to bomb Assad’s forces. Many, though by no means all of the videos, show the White Helmets, which claims to be a rescue organisation, but which only ever operates in rebel-held areas and whose members always seem to be carrying babies and young children just when the camera is there. They’re funded, at least in part, by the US government.

Don’t worry about the detail

All of this is taken at face value, or promoted as such, by the media. Who made the vidoes is not mentioned and sources are witheld. There is sometimes a passing, brief comment about the reports being unverified, but then the rest of the story is stated as if it were unquestionably true. Other organisations cited as neutral observers by the media include the UK-based, one-man band, the grandly named Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. This man’s website shows clearly where his allegiance lies, though he is frequently cited by the BBC as an impartial voice. But there is also a group of organisations which push the partial – and evidently false – narrative of Assad intentionally abusing his own people for the hell of it. In all the tweets and articles published by groups such as Médecins Sans Frontières, the Syrian American Medical Society, Physicians for Human Rights, and the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organization USA, you will usually find no mention of the ‘rebels’. Subtracted from their press releases and articles are the very people and the very reason Assad is waging war. Despite being the cause of so much chaos and death, as far as news is concerned they remain forever the invisible men, absent from our screens and out of the spotlight. People from these NGOs are often interviewed by the media, and are presented as messengers of the truth, even though they do not have independent observers, and those on the ground are under the control of the Islamists who surround them. They say Assad’s forces specifically target the weak and vulnerable in hospitals, though there is never any evidence provided, only endless accusations, which over time – and aided by the Islamist’s videos they deploy – take on the appearance of truth in the public’s consciousness. The explicit aim of these NGOs is to draw into the conflict Western military forces and they’re doing all they can to achieve that. It is for the reader to make up their own mind about whose interests these groups serve and their strategic position and purpose in the larger propaganda war.

In our media the war is presented, as most wars are, only in terms of emotion and morality: a terrible thing is being done, it is claimed, it is being done by Assad and we shouldn’t worry ourselves too much about the actual details or about who else is involved. While this helps achieve the aim of those at the very centre of Western governments, the invisible men and women who really direct foreign policy, by winning over the public’s hearts and minds, they do not believe it themselves. They do not deal in morality, only in power. They are driven only by geopolitical aims: increasing the West’s influence in the region by furthering Saudi Arabia’s interests over those of Iran, Assad’s ally. Russia’s presence in Syria is for the West both a negative and a potential positive. From the West’s point of view, Russia’s support for Assad, and his current success, presents an obstacle and an embarrassment. Yet, if Russia can be overcome – in short, by having its objectives denied, even at this apparently late stage of the war – then a great strategic victory would be achieved. With Russia now deemed our bête noire, mainly due to its refusal after the Yeltsin era to open up its markets enough to foreign financial interests, and the wish of Western arms manufacturers for governments to buy their products as protection against the fabricated Russian threat, defeating Putin in Syria would be a major prize.

Strategists and idealists

For those who are apparently only ever able to assess things in a morally simplistic way, namely those lesser mortals in government and in opposition, the neoliberal ground troops and much, though not all, of the liberal-left, the media’s partial coverage of the conflict is taken at face-value. Some may oppose bombing Assad, but that’s because they oppose violence. But they detest Assad, because he is assumed to be the aggressor, not least because it’s easier to believe that the side able to do the most bombing must be the one primarily to blame. Their anti-Assad position effectively provides moral support for those in the West who are quite prepared to bring chaos and further death to the Syrian people by supporting the militants. The videos, full of innocent children apparently covered in blood, they assume, just as the public assume, cannot be fake. Not only are they resistant to the very thought they could be lied to, their ideological narrative of good versus evil, of the people versus Assad’s tyranny, hinders them from looking at the detail, in this case of looking at who Assad is in fact fighting: those ethereal Islamists, concealed by the news, who not only have a very real interest in provoking a Western attack on Syrian government forces, but who are exactly the sort of people who would fabricate videos of this type and have the technical capability to do so.

These two forces, the political strategists at the heart of Western states, and the idealists who end up supporting them, are now – with the essential support of the media and NGOs – effectively combined into one force, which is bent on defeating Assad, the only one who realistically can bring an end to the war and is on the brink of doing so.

Today, on the strength of videos released by the ‘rebels’, Assad stands accused of carrying out a chemical weapons attack which killed scores of his own civilians in Douma. The media, the NGOs and a lot of the left are now giving their tacit support to governments who want to empower Islamists by attacking Assad. That a chemical attack would be politically and militarily against Assad’s own interests, at any time, let alone when nearing victory, falls on deaf ears for the many reasons stated here. Similarly, the fact the accusation and the videos came from Islamists with everything to gain from lying, and which cannot be verified, seems not to matter in the least. The Russian government stated a number of weeks ago that they had information that various rebel groups were planning to try to stage real or bogus chemical attacks, under a false flag. There are very strong arguments that this is in fact what has happened. It is also possible that they were aided by Western agencies. With so much to gain, and little to lose in carrying out covert operations, it is certainly a strong possibility.

Contrary to the non-interventionist stance of his election campaign, because Trump has been swayed by those about him, he may attempt to remove Assad. If so, it appears there can only be one outcome. A vacuum into which there will flow the militant Islamists whose ideology our governments at home hypocritically say they vehemently oppose. With it will come anarchy and a great number of needless deaths, followed by decades of chaos as militant groups fight out their differences. This is price the Syrian people will pay for the West’s Middle-East policy.

 

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Text copyright © 2018 David Hansard / davidhansard.wordpress.com
All articles on davidhansard.wordpress.com are written by David Hansard unless otherwise stated.

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