Six Ways the Media Has Misreported Syria - Printable Version
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Six Ways the Media Has Misreported Syria - shakur420 - 03-23-2012 12:54 AM
Six Ways the Media Has Misreported Syria
How One-Sided Reporting is Facilitating Escalation
As in the case of Libya, from NY Times to Fox News, from Guardian to National Post and from Le Monde to Le Figaro, the Western mainstream media’s coverage of the Syrian conflict has been mostly simplistic and black & white with a Hollywoodian good (opposition) and evil (Syrian government) story. The basic storyline reported is: “The dictatorial Syrian government is torturing and killing Syrian protestors and civilians including women and children and that the Western counties and the Arab League want to protect these Syrian civilians”. These outlets use any information that supports their stance regardless of its source and quality, and dismiss or ignore any information that brings it to question.
The bloody suppression of protestors by the Syrian government and also instability resulting from the armed insurgency aggravated by a complex set of foreign forces, each with its own set of vested interests, have resulted in significant suffering for the people of Syria. Western media’s unquestioning, consensual, biased and melodramatic coverage of the Syrian events risks moving this conflict to a full blown war with grave consequences for the Syrian people and the region.
Here are the six ways that the Western media, across the board, have been uncritical and misleading in their coverage of the Syrian conflict:
1. What do the majority of Syrians want?
In the mainstream Western media coverage, there is an implicit assumption rarely questioned that the majority of the Syrians support the armed insurgency and that they want immediate departure of Bashar Assad. However, the only opinion poll that has been carried out by the Qatar based YouGovSiraj, since the start of the conflict claims that about 55% of Syrians do not want immediate departure of Assad. The methodology for this poll is not robust. In addition, this stance might be not due to support for Assad rather, because the Syrian people are afraid of instability and civil war or because some believe in the reform intentions of Assad and still others because they might be benefiting from the existing regime. The 89% backing of the new Syrian constitution in the recent referendum with a turnout of 57% was also dismissed because of the ongoing violence on the ground and lack of independent supervision on the referendum.
Nonetheless, given the West’s backing of the Syrian opposition is based on the “will of the Syrian people”, for the media it is essential to expose and debate such polls and try to establish what the majority of the Syrians want before adopting a position on behalf of the Syrian people.
2. Is the Syrian National Council (SNC) and the militarized insurgency representative of the Syrian opposition?
The opposition is primarily represented by Syrian National Council (SNC) headed by a Syrian expatriate professor, Burhan Ghalioun who is based in Paris. This organization which is run mostly by expatriates has been demanding foreign intervention in Syria and it rejects any sort of dialog with the Syrian government. Several independent media outlets and other Syrian opposition groups have questioned SNC’s lack of transparency about its members, funding and foreign links and whether it is a legitimate representative of the Syrian opposition. Another organization claiming to represent the opposition is the Syrian Opposition Coordination body operated from inside Syria which is against foreign intervention and is for a dialog-based solution after an end is put to the violence and the political prisoners are freed. In addition, several militarized groups operate inside Syria such as Free Syrian Army who have been engaged in an armed conflict with the Syrian army and also have been attacking government buildings and other assets. These militia are reported to be a mix of deserting soldiers, foreign mercenaries and armed civilians and they are armed by cross border smuggled arms allegedly funded/provided by foreign governments including those of Saudi Arabia, Qatar.
All these organizations are non-transparent and little is known about who runs them and who they are accountable to. The media has an important unfulfilled role in exposing the governance of these organizations and their internal and foreign political sidings and ideological agenda. Currently there is no proof that such organizations represent the will of the majority or a significant part of the Syrian people or the opposition.
3. How many casualties and killed by whom?
There have been casualties due to government suppression of civilian protests, due to armed conflict between government soldiers and armed militia and also due to reprisals and bombings by the armed militias. The number of total victims reported by the UN Human Rights Council which is now at 7,500, is regularly used by the Western media to refer to the extent of the repression in Syria. However, no breakdown is provided as to what percentage of this number represents civilians, what part opposition armed forces and what percentage soldiers. The UN has estimated that as of Feb 15, 2012, 1,345 Syrian soldiers have been so far killed in the conflict. This is a strong indication that what is happening in Syria is an armed insurgency verging on civil war and not only a government “killing and torturing its people”. The violence perpetrated by both sides was exposed in the report prepared by Arab League monitors, which is the only existing first-hand account of what is happening on the ground . However this report was mostly ignored because it did not back the black and white account of the Arab League and the Western media. The Western media should show more responsibility in its use of casualty numbers, because such numbers are highly influential in driving international public opinion about the conflict.
4. Are the information sources unbiased and credible?
Operation of foreign journalists in Syria is limited by safety concerns. Consequently the Western media has been using other sources, mainly the Syrian Observatory on Human Rights and other opposition sources. Sometimes the media simply cites “activists” or a new largely unknown entity named “Local Coordination Councils” as the source for information without further detailing its sources. Syrian Observatory on for Human Rights (SOHR), which is the most common source, was originally run by a single person (Rami Abdulrahman) from Coventry, UK. SOHR has been recently contested by a competing organization with the same name. There is an ongoing bitter fight between the two SOHRs over who is the “authentic” SOHR . The latter SOHR blames the former of links with the Syrian regime and of over-reporting of soldiers’ and security officers’ death. The former SOHR states that it wants the “bloodshed to stop” and that it is against foreign intervention, while the latter states that it supports a no-fly-zone in Syria. Obviously all such opaque organizations, which are openly against the Syrian regime, have an interest in biased and inflated reporting of the casualties in the conflict. High quality journalism necessitates thorough verification of sources and including the account of both sides of the conflict to ensure a balanced coverage. However, so far the Western media has unquestioningly used the numbers and coverage of these organizations in a one-sided manner without sufficient questioning.
5. What are the interests of countries pushing for regime change and foreign intervention?
The current conflict in Syria is smeared and complicated by the interference of a long list of foreign stakeholders each with its own political agenda. Some of these interests are:
The media has so far been shallow in its coverage of the goals of the nations that are playing an active role in this conflict. The simple story is that all these governments want to “protect Syrian civilians”. However the complex mesh of vested interests is mostly left unexposed.
6. What are the “democratic credentials of the countries who want to take democracy to Syria?
One key block of countries pushing for military intervention and regime change in Syria has been the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). It is important to remember that most GCC countries including Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are run by totalitarian regimes facing local protests. Saudi Arabia recently sent troops to Bahrain to suppress peaceful protests . The Western media should do a better job in debating the legitimacy of such actors in pushing for democratic change and for protecting civilians in Syria.
As in the case of Libya, this one-sided coverage of the Syrian conflict is facilitating the escalation of the conflict towards a civil war and foreign military intervention which might serve the short-term interests of many foreign countries and forces but would be disastrous for the people of Syria. The Western media has a significant and grave moral responsibility to move from the current one-sided and biased media lynching of the Syrian government to a more balanced, nuanced and comprehensive approach.
March 14, 2012
 The Real News Network – The Syrian Opposition and the External Players; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEQeWU7Gm8c
RE: Six Ways the Media Has Misreported Syria - shakur420 - 03-23-2012 01:09 AM
Syrian Opposition Divided Over Arms and Intervention
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Washington.
At The Real News, in terms of our coverage of Syria, we're trying to give a voice or a platform for a spectrum of the debate that's taking place amongst Syrians inside and outside the country. Of course, it's very difficult to connect with people inside the country, especially when they're critical of the Syrian government, but we will be doing more of that.
But now joining us to give her perspective is Afra Jalabi. She's a Syrian Canadian who's also a member of the Syrian National Council. She's also a member of the editorial board of The Journal of Law and Religion at Hamline University and worked as a columnist in the Arab press for the last 12 years. And she joins us now from Montreal. Thanks for joining us, Afra.
AFRA JALABI, MEMBER OF SYRIAN NATIONAL COUNCIL: Thank you for having me on the show.
JAY: So the debate seems to be pivoting—if you're talking the debate within the opposition forces—on whether or not the opposition should be armed. And many have called for that—Qatar has called for it, Saudi Arabia have called for it. The U.S. seems to be on the fence about it, although you hear from John McCain and the neoconservatives in Congress that they want that and perhaps more. There's another point of view, which straightforwardly calls for some kind of outside intervention. And there's also a point of view which is expressed to a large extent by people in Syria in the opposition, if I understand it correctly, the non-armed opposition, if you will, that foreign intervention and external players should stay out of this, and that there may need to be some sort of negotiation with this regime as part of a transition. You're a member of the Syrian National Council, and at least the official position of the SNC, if I understand correctly, is in favor of some kind of armed intervention and the arming of the opposition. What's your point of view?
JALABI: Well, I mean, at the SNC, the majority views in the assembly, they feel that the Syrian people have been pushed to their limits. Now we're speaking about numbers that could be getting to even 10,000 fallen heroes, including many women and children. We're getting numbers that over 700 children were killed. And recently there has been massacres in Karm al-Zeitoun, a small area, a small village near Homs, and also in Idlib. The Syrian regime is using tactics of terror and trying to build back the wall of fear.
So when you have a situation that drastic, then you would have a huge debate and an intense debate on the best way of approaching this or getting out of this bloodshed and ways to stop the bloodshed. So there are many people who think that if there will not be in the SNC—and many people in the opposition, even on the ground, they feel that if there won't be intervention, external intervention, then let the people defend themselves. However, some of us, including myself, believe this is a dangerous option, because you have a civilian population that is not trained militarily, and that arming civilians would actually create further chaos.
Then there are other people who say no, this will not be arming the civilians, but rather giving arms to the soldiers who have defected from the army already, in order to protect the civilians, because they have sworn protection to the Syrian people and they've found themselves in positions where they have to shoot at the people and they refuse to do that, and they declined orders, and they disobeyed orders to do so and joined the Free Syrian Army
So, I mean, you have all these difficulties, because you have—basically it comes down to the situation on the ground. You have a civilian population in residential areas, in towns, in villages that—under attack. You have a regime that has waged full-scale war on its own people. What do you do in a situation like this? Do you leave it in the hands of the civilians? I think this is wrong. I think the international community has to get involved. You don't put the onus on the people themselves, you don't give the responsibility to protect [crosstalk]
JAY: But what does that mean, the international community gets involved? 'Cause we saw when the international community got involved in Libya it gave rise to full-scale warfare and probably thousands more deaths than might have happened otherwise. The Syrian army's a pretty powerful force. If you're talking about outside military intervention, you're talking a major, large-scale war.
JALABI: No, I'm not talking military intervention. I'm saying that perhaps we have not really used our international pressure with the Syrian regime. There could be so many things that could be done that would isolate that regime further. They could be more punitive measures. They could be a diplomatic isolation where there would be a complete withdrawal of the recognition of the Syrian regime. There would be—I mean, we could do things like declare the Syrian regime as a terrorist entity in the world. I mean, you know, many people consider al-Qaeda a terrorist organization for having killed 3,000 people or claiming to have done so. The Syrian regime has killed close to 10,000 civilians. And you have—according to the UN, actually, you have 230,000 people who are homeless in Syria and outside Syria, and 100,000 of them are wandering or hiding in other cities or in their relatives' homes inside Syria.
JAY: But how do you deal with the critique of that, that, you know, might acknowledge everything you're saying about what the Assad regime has done, but if you're going to call the Assad regime terrorist, what you do with the Americans, American government and its role in Iraq, which killed, certainly, tens of thousands of people more? Now, I'm not suggesting, because the Americans did bad things in Iraq, that somehow excuses what Assad is doing. But on the other hand, if you're going to label one terrorist, then, you know, why don't you also—you could talk about Israel and other countries as well.
JALABI: In fact, I mean, this is the sad thing, because we saw how Syria now has become the subject of the Chinese and Russian vetoes, and we see this happening repeatedly every year with the Palestinians. You have human rights violations in Israel, and the United States comes and protects Israel and vetoes the entire will of the international community and blocks that will from taking place. And so we're seeing this. And I think the Syrian situation at the moment is exasperating the image of the international community. We have institutionalized dictatorship at the global level. I mean, when you have something like the veto right in the Security Council, you basically have institutionalized dictatorship and you have a situation where the international community is blocked from taking real action to protect human rights and to protect the interests of people on the ground [crosstalk]
JAY: But isn't the problem part of the—.
JALABI: [crosstalk] protecting their own interests. Go ahead.
JAY: Well, that's—isn't that part of the problem is that this international community interested in human rights is kind of a fantasy? There is many countries with their own interests that fish in troubled waters.
JALABI: This is, I think, the real issue that we're all facing, because the nation state has been able to develop in a way where they established, each nation state, the rule of law, but at the international level we don't have the rule of law. It seems it's economic interest and political interest that drive foreign policies.
JAY: What do you make of the criticism that some people have made that outside players—and in this case we're talking particularly Qatar, Saudi Arabia, who also played—the same countries played this role in Libya—which is they kind of push a militarization of the opposition movement to a level that's past what would be developed just domestically or internally, and it kind of creates more severe crisis, even though one can put most of the blame on Assad's regime for the repression of peaceful protesters, but that when you militarize the opposition—and then, of course, with Qatar and Saudi Arabia—and United States, probably—picking its winners, the forces it wants to arm, that it raises this to a level that almost demands some kind of foreign intervention at some point, and in the final analysis actually is worse in terms of the well-being of the people, versus a protest movement that, yes, suffers from the repression but builds its forces over time? What do you make of that critique that external players have militarized this more than it might have been otherwise?
JALABI: Look, I mean, you know, when you have external players, of course they will push their own agendas. But on the other hand, you have a civilian population on the ground that is going through a severe kind of attack at the moment.
JAY: My understanding is there's a debate in Syria (and I guess with ex-pats outside amongst them as well) whether or not there should be some kind of negotiations, rather than an armed struggle for regime change. What do you make of that debate?
JALABI: The SNC and many opposition groups are very open and willing to do negotiations, but on one condition, that Assad himself steps down. And then the process of negotiation will start, even the—even to the level of accepting that his deputy steps into power and takes over the presidential responsibilities. So I think really what we're facing now here is an individual despot who is refusing to step down. I mean, isn't it ironic that you have the entire destiny and fate of a whole nation—of a whole nation—in the hands of one person, hanging in the hands of one person?
JAY: Well, is that really what it is? Or is it the regime and the elite who Assad represents? Is it not they don't want to show that they're going to capitulate? 'Cause if they throw Assad under the bus, it means they've capitulated to the opposition. But why make Assad the issue if in fact his replacement will be, essentially, more of the same thing?
JALABI: Because he is the issue, because this is a family situation, it's a dynasty, it's a mafia-like family that has ruled the country for 42 years. Eleven years ago, when the father died, the country was handed down to the younger son. There was an older son who died in a car crash before the father died, and Bashar al-Assad was brought back from London after having been there for just a few months to do his ophthalmology training, and the country was handed down to him. In fact, many people don't know that in a few minutes the Syrian constitution was changed to fit his age, because at the time he was too young to be the president of Syria. I mean, this is how ridiculous the situation is.
If the family steps down, then the fate of Syria will be different, because then there will be the beginning of the possibility for negotiations and for reform, and then people probably can work with some of the elements of the old regime whose hands have not been bloodied with Syrian blood and who have not stolen that much money. So there would be many people who would be, I think, suitable to replace the current leaders. There are a few leaders [crosstalk]
JAY: Now, there's—.
JALABI: [crosstalk] the Syrian people are completely adamant about not wanting to see in power.
JAY: And what do you make of the critique of the Syrian National Council that it's too tied up with some of the external player? Saudis and Qataris are doing exactly what you said could be terrible, which is they're arming their allies in the opposition. They're—and they're openly calling for (and we assume are) sending arms to these groups.
JALABI: Yeah, I know. So what—I mean, when you have a situation this desperate, so it becomes a vulnerable situation, it becomes a vulnerable context, because the cost to human life is extremely high—.
JAY: The point is, going forward, what's in the interest and well-being of the Syrian people? And if you wind up with—as you said right at the beginning of the interview, of armed sections of the population in a widespread civil war, I don't see how that advances the interests or the well-being of the Syrian people. And, number two, I think—do you not acknowledge Assad still maintains a significant amount of support in Syria? There's a civil war going on in Syria.
JALABI: This is why—yeah. This is why explain to the Syrian people who are actually favoring the armed option that many of us who keep telling them that this is not a viable option, because, first of all, you don't have the—I mean, you have the Syrian regime army that is armed to the teeth, and it has been waiting for a moment like this for the last 42 years. So, basically, the best option would be—but I'm afraid that perhaps we are beyond that point, but it would be wonderful if people regained their own momentum and the power they had at the beginning of this revolution and go back to the nonviolent means of resistance. And the difficulty is that when you have a situation when you have a population that's under attack, it becomes very hard for them to think rationally and strategically.
My own suggestion is that you had cities, actually, where they were demonstrating and going out, and without the protection of the Free Syrian Army. And sometimes, in fact, when the army came into these towns and the snipers got on the buildings, the people actually withdrew, they slowed down, and they waited until the army left town, and then they would go back. And so people sometimes were saying, no, look at other towns where the Free Syrian Army is protecting the people and they can continue protesting and the revolution hasn't died, and these other towns have withdrawn from the revolution, which is not true. They never withdrew from the revolution. What was happening: they were networking further, they were creating flyers, newspapers, local newspapers, and they were coming up with strategies.
So it's—I think it's extremely important for the people to realize that they need to rely on their own civic disobedience and on strategies, on civil strategies of disobedience to topple this regime. And then the way the international community will come to help them would be a cherry on the pie. It would be a different kind of intervention. It would not be an intervention, as you rightly pointed out, where other powers will be driving the agenda of the Syrians.
But this is why we need to support these groups inside Syria whose voice is being drowned now by the armed options or by the militarization options, because people are saying this: we are dying and nobody is hearing us out. What you want us to do? We need to defend ourselves. When—and when they defend themselves, the situation becomes exasperating. So it has become a vicious cycle of defense and attack.
And, in fact, the areas where the Free Syrian Army went and in fact were devastated and were shelled, yes, for a few days the Syrian people in those towns or cities, they experienced security because the security forces and the thugs no longer abuse them and they no longer walk on their buildings, or, you know, snipers no longer arrive in these towns.
But what happens? Something worse. The army arrives and it starts shelling residential areas, as we saw in Baba Amr. So it's extremely frustrating for people like me to make people understand that the armed option is not going to work. In fact, it's giving the Syrian regime itself momentum, because that's where its power lies, in violence, in terror, in arms, and our power lies in our morality and in our ethics and in our ability to dismantle the sources of power of this regime. But, I mean, you know, you know what's happening on the ground. When you have people dying, it's very hard to organize and to regroup in moments of despair.
JAY: Thanks very much for joining us.
JALABI: Thank you.
JAY: Thank you very much for joining us on The Real News Network.
March 18, 2012
The Real News
RE: Six Ways the Media Has Misreported Syria - shakur420 - 03-23-2012 01:17 AM
Conflict in Syria is a Civil War
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Washington.
In Cairo today, the Arab League announced that they think that what Assad is doing in Syria amounts to war crimes, crimes against humanity. Qatar has called for armed intervention. So has Saudi Arabia. And they've both called for arming the opposition. On the other hand, many people are suggesting this is a lot about the ambitions of Saudi Arabia and Qatar and the West, and the situation's not so simple, and that what is really emerging is in fact a civil war in Syria.
Now joining us to give us his take on what U.S. policy towards Syria should be is Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson. He's the former chief of staff of Colin Powell, and he now teaches at William & Mary College in Williamsburg, Virginia. Thanks for joining us.
COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON, FMR. CHIEF OF STAFF TO COLIN POWELL: Thanks for having me, Paul.
JAY: So, Larry, first of all, so much conflicting information coming out about what's really going on in Syria. I mean, as best as you can, what do you think is taking place?
WILKERSON: Putting it all together—the Arab League report, journalist reports out of the country, my own knowledge of the region, and experts' views, which are passed to me from time to time, including several people who served lengthy tours in Damascus when we had better relations with Syria, I would say it is a civil war. I would say there are assets, formidable assets, not least of which is the military, on the side of Bashar al-Assad, as it were, and there are some significant assets on the side of what is being called loosely (and I say that loosely) the opposition—there are probably multiple parts to the opposition, just as there were in Libya. So it is, I think, a civil war.
And then you follow up from that determination and you say, what's the geography, what's the demography, what's the military circumstances, what are the surrounding countries, and so forth, and you begin immediately to see that this ain't Libya, this is extremely different from Libya—perhaps being like Libya in one aspect, and that is that in eastern Libya, you may know, most of al-Qaeda who killed our troops in Iraq came from. So there are that potentialities with regard to Syria, too, there are those potentialities. Iran is there big-time, too.
So, much of the talk you hear from people like John McCain (who borders on being insane these days), it comes not from a desire to do something about the humanitarian situation such as it is in Syria. It's a backdoor into Iran, because Iran's IRGC is supporting with weaponry and with advice and so forth the Syrian government, Bashar al-Assad. It is also supporting him with technical means, like how to block the internet and other social media and so forth. So this is a backdoor for John McCain into Iran.
It is a very different situation, though, militarily. They have very sophisticated air defenses. We would lose a lot of airplanes and a lot of men and women were we to strike with air power. Air power probably would not do all that much, except kill a lot of innocent civilians who are caught up in this civil war. It's a very different situation. I agree with the Pentagon, which is, I think, officially and unofficially advising extreme caution here in terms of listening to people like Senator McCain and doing something about the atrocities, such as they are.
JAY: Now, it used—Larry, it used—.
WILKERSON: I think the atrocities, too, are occurring on both sides. I think the opposition is probably as guilty of killing innocents and killing people in the government as the government is of killing innocents in the opposition or associated with the opposition or actual opposition fighters. The Arab League report sort of gives you that. But no one wants to listen to the Arab League report, and certainly the monarchs in Saudi Arabia and in Qatar and other places, as you mentioned, don't want to listen to it, 'cause for them this is a game of power, this is a game of diffusing their own people's attention away from their own monarchies, this is a way of fighting Iran. At the heart of all this, Paul, you keep coming back to Persia, you keep coming back to that regime in Tehran that the Saudis and the Israelis, not because they present an existential threat, but because they present a power rivalry, want to have put down.
JAY: Now, of course, caught in the middle of all this are peaceful protesters in Syria, who are not these forces being harmed by the Saudis and others. There's a flow of arms coming in, including, I think, from Iraq, who—.
WILKERSON: Two sides in Iraq, I'm told: one side Muqtada al-Sadr, the other side Maliki. So you've got Iraq supporting both elements in—or the opposition and the government in Syria.
JAY: And, of course, the people are caught in the midst of all this, 'cause they're—I think at the core of this there were legitimate, ordinary, honest protesters against a dictatorship, who are now caught in the midst of all these conflicting interests. But I want to go back to something—.
WILKERSON: [incompr.] Paul, those are the people that I was calling innocents, because I think you're absolutely right, and I think that probably, if you would sit down and count, you'd probably find that includes the majority of the Syrian people—maybe not some of the segments of the elite or some of the segments of what I would call almost al-Qaeda-like elements, but it certainly, I think, includes the majority of the Syrian people. And that's what is the true shame here.
JAY: Now, it used to be rather clear, innocent or in fact not, civil wars are civil wars and external powers are supposed to stay out of them. It used—you know, whether they did or not, whether they followed the law—and in many cases or most cases they didn't. The external powers have always fished in troubled waters. But at least it was fairly clear in international law that you would stay out of civil wars. Now this rubric of humanitarian intervention seems to be wiping away this whole basic concept that if you want to have world peace, you don't meddle in internal affairs of other countries. What do you make of this humanitarian intervention?
WILKERSON: This is something that Madeleine Albright, Samantha Power, and a number of other individuals have pushed. I mention those two because they both held formidable government office. Madeleine, of course, is ambassador to the United Nations and then secretary of state, and Samantha is a major member of President Obama's National Security Council staff. It's people like that who have begun to bring this to fruition.
I'm not—I have mixed emotions about it, because, let's face it, I'm a realist, and I think there are some conflicts in the world that just ought to, as Edward Luttwak said at one time, be allowed to end and be allowed to—one side to achieve victory. You're going to have a lot more sustainability, a lot more stability, and a lot more endurance in the government that results if that is the case, and one hopes that it's a more democratic government rather than not. It's, I think, very difficult to intervene in a civil war. It's very difficult to intervene in a civil war that's being conducted in a land that's extremely difficult to get to militarily, and that's Syria as opposed to Libya.
And I always bring up the analogy of our own war, which was the most painful one in our history—600,000 dead, and on both sides, brothers, sisters fighting each other and so forth. And England was messing in our civil war, and before the Battle of Antietam (which dissuaded them, I think), was thinking hard about coming in on the southern side. Imagine, if they had, what we would have thought in Washington. This is not precisely the same circumstances, of course, but it is a situation of civil war that I think ought to come home to Americans.
Let this thing be handled by the Syrians. Let this thing be handled by people who are more contiguous, if you will, who have more dog in the fight, rather than interfering, and especially interfering with military force. I'm not saying that we shouldn't provide humanitarian assistance, support the ICRC, and all the other things that we can do that would be positive, but military force just in my view should be ruled out—at this time, anyway.
JAY: And what are you hearing from the Pentagon in terms of your sources, and where are they at on this?
WILKERSON: I think the cooler heads in the Pentagon—and that's the majority of them—are presenting these matters to the president. Of course, they're contingency planning, as they have to, in case the president tells them to do something—they will do it, they will do it to the best of their ability. But I think their advice right now is, probably, this is a really hard nut to crack and I don't think you want to get out your nutcracker.
JAY: Thanks for joining us.
WILKERSON: Thanks for having me.
JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
March 18, 2012
The Real News
RE: Six Ways the Media Has Misreported Syria - shakur420 - 03-23-2012 01:37 AM
Covert operations in Syria
NATO member states have long been active in Syria: sending weapons and volunteers to strengthen insurgents against President Bashir al-Assad. Special forces have been training them
Syrian insurgents are being trained by personnel of the NATO-backed National Transitional Council in Libya, as Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin has complained on March 7 before the UN Security Council. In addition, NATO member States are actively intervening in the Syrian civil war. There is much evidence of direct and even military support to armed opposition groups by U.S., France and British forces, even if the intervening powers have taken every effort to leave no obvious traces.
NATO-member Turkey is carrying out a completely open support of the so-called Free Syrian Army, which operates on Turkish territory. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a collection of Arab feudal states, with Qatar in the lead, which is currently the most aggressive allies of the Western powers, is also extremely active along with Saudi Arabia, which has long supported clandestine Islamist opposition groups in Syria.
As ex-CIA agent Philip Giraldi reported in mid-December, unmarked NATO aircraft have flown in weapons and volunteers from Libya to Turkish bases in Alexandretta (Iskenderun). This seaport city near the Syrian border is at the same time a base of the FSA. The weapons collected in Libya are very useful, because they cannot be traced back to the supplier. And the Libyan fighters bring their fresh experience regarding how to recruit new people into the battle against trained soldiers, who are unable to freely fight back because of external pressure. According to Giraldi, instructors from French and British special forces are also on the ground helping the Syrian rebels, while the CIA and U.S. special forces are providing the insurgents with communications equipment and intelligence, so they can avoid any large units of Syrian troops.
The Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has accused the West on several occasions of arming the rebels. "Through Turkey, Iraq and other countries weapons have been smuggled into Syria," dpa quoted the Moscow leader on Nov. 4, 2011. Ten days later, Lavrov was even clearer. The Interfax news agency reported that Western States "are illicitly providing weapons to Syria’s opposition to force the overthrow of President Bashir al-Assad," said Russia's top diplomat. "No one is commenting on it, and no one admits it, but the facts are impossible to contradict: Weapons are being smuggled from Turkey and Iraq to Syria, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Armed extremists use peaceful demonstrations in order to provoke Syrian government violence. " (Russia's Lavrov accuses West of arming Syrian opposition)
Agents in play
Also, the Israeli military information portal DEBKAfile released a report about planned deliveries of antitank weapons. As long ago as in August, it was said that Syrian security forces have "now running into heavy resistance: Awaiting them are anti-tank traps and fortified barriers, manned by protesters with heavy machine guns." On Aug. 14, 2011, DEBKAfile reported: " NATO headquarters in Brussels and the Turkish High Command are now drawing up plans for their first military step in Syria, which is to arm the rebels with weapons for combating tanks and helicopters (...). Instead of repeating the Libyan model of air strikes, NATO strategists thinking more in terms of pouring large quantities of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, mortars and heavy machine guns to the protest centers, to beating back the regime's armored forces. " (http://globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=26043 )
Finally, Britain's Daily Star reported earlier this year that, "Agents of MI6 and the CIA are already in Syria assessing the situation. Special Forces are also talking with Syrian dissident soldiers " -- the paper considers the term "deserters " too pejorative. They wanted to find out "what is happening and are finding out what kit dissident soldiers need."
On a Web page of the "Elite UK Forces," it says: " More recent reports have stated that British and French Special Forces have been actively training members of the FSA, from a base in Turkey. Some reports indicate that training is also taking place in locations in Libya and Northern Lebanon. British MI6 operatives and UKSF (SAS/SBS) personnel have reportedly been training the rebels in urban warfare as well as supplying them with arms and equipment. US CIA operatives and special forces are believed to be providing communications assistance to the rebels. "
Pepe Escobar of Asia Times reported similar facts. Diplomats in Brussels have confirmed to him that NATO and the GCC armed forces have set up a command center in the southern Turkish city of Alexandretta. Officially, these are to be used to create a "humanitarian corridor" to Syria. The French satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine and the Turkish daily Milliyet reported, however, that commandos of the French secret service and the British MI6 have already trained FSA fighters in urban guerrilla warfare techniques in Hatay in southern Turkey and in Tripoli in north Lebanon. Weapons -- from shotguns up to Israeli machine guns and rocket launchers -- were smuggled into Syria in large numbers. According to Escobar it is no secret that have since the beginning of the protest movement in Syria, armed gangs from Salafists to criminals have attacked regular soldiers, police officers and even civilians.
Memories of Afghanistan
According to Israeli sources in DEBKAfile, in Brussels and Ankara they are also considering a campaign to recruit thousands of volunteers from the Muslim world to fight alongside the Syrian rebels. The Turkish army would accept these volunteers and then train them and ensure their passage to Syria. Such plans remind us of the recruitment of Mujahideen by the CIA to fight the Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s. In early February DEBKAfile reported that the first foreign troops in Syria had begun operating in direct support of rebel militias.
According to DEBKAfile's exclusive military and intelligence sources, British and Qatari special forces are operating along with undercover rebel groups in the Syrian city of Homs, only 100 miles from Damascus. The foreign troops do not directly fight with the Syrian armed forces that are shelling various parts of Syria's third largest city with 1.2 million inhabitants. They are tactical advisers, take care of the communication channels and relay rebels' demands for weapons, ammunition, fighters and logistical assistance to the foreign supporters, mainly in Turkey. DEBKAfile: " This site is the first to report the presence of foreign military forces in any of the Syrian uprising's embattled areas. Our sources report the two foreign contingents have set up four centers of operation - in the northern Homs district of Khaldiya, Bab Amro in the east, and Bab Derib and Rastan in the north. Each district is home to about a quarter of a million people. "
The information is from DEBKAfile, which, since it allegedly expresses the views of the Israeli intelligence services, should always be viewed with caution. The reports of operations of NATO special forces in Libya, which the portal also published very early last year, however, have all confirmed.
March 10, 2012
International Action Center
A longer version of this article with its sources can be found on the author's Internet blog: jghd.twoday.net
RE: Six Ways the Media Has Misreported Syria - shakur420 - 03-23-2012 02:20 AM
Paul Holmes interview with Robert Fisk
A short time ago, about an hour ago, I spoke to Robert Fisk, Middle East expert, Middle East historian, author and columnist with Britains Independent newspaper, in Beirut, and I asked him about that suicide bombing overnight and the troops said to be massing outside Damascus. What did he make of it?
ROBERT FISK - Middle East Expert Well, I think that the terrible blood-letting in Syria is going to continue. Um, its going to carry on. Weve got a situation of near civil war between the regime and the people, and its going to continue. Its a terrible thing, because the Syrians dont want a civil war, but the regime, which is effectively an Alawite, um, Shiite dominated regime, uh, which asks the Christians and Jews to be their supporters - which they are, in effect, tragically - um, are effectively fighting the mass of the Sunni Muslim regime - or the Sunni Muslim group, who are the majority in Syria. And its a great tragedy in that we are seeing in a secular nation a sectarian war. And the Syrian war is going to continue. But I would say one thing - that, you know, people say Assad is about to collapse, because hes horrible and nasty and he uses torture - which is true. I think we are being the victims of wish fulfilment. Im not sure the regime will collapse that quickly. Im not sure that the regime was going to collapse as swiftly as we think against the armed opposition. Im not at all sure that things are going to follow the way in which our leaders, our Western leaders, are going to claim.
PAUL So, does Assad have any desire for reform, and could he do so even if he wanted? I mean, these emails the other day, the emails between him and his wife indicate a kind of a terrible disconnect between them and the rest of the country. So does he want reform?
ROBERT Well, you know, I have a feeling- I first met Bashar Assad and his wife just after his father died of a heart attack, um, 12 years ago, and I got the impression then that he really wanted to change Syria. His wife is not a stupid woman. Shes been accused of being Lady Macbeth, Marie Antoinette, etc, etc. This is trial journalism. She is a tough, ruthless woman, but shes not stupid, and nor is her husband. I think that the problem is that, you see, Bashar al-Assad wants a new Syria. I think he genuinely wants it. But he cant move it forward at the speed that it needs. You know, in other words, the end of the Baath party, the beginning of democracy. And he is faced with a situation where if he pushes for the kind of democracy he envisages, or perhaps does - lets not give him too much credit. Um, therefore there will be a revolution against him. A corrective revolution against corrective revolution. If youre Syrian, youll understand what I mean. Um, and I think that he cant do that, and I think he feels that the best he can do is to just fight on. And I think hes wrong. I dont think the Bashar Assad regime is going to collapse soon. People who say its on the way of going, that Homs is the Benghazi of Syria - this is rubbish. The regime in Syria is very tough and very, um, repressive and knows how to repress people. And I think it will continue for quite a long time to come. Im sorry to say, but I think it will.
PAUL So youre pessimistic about the West doing anything or being able to do anything. Or is it already too late? Is he just squashing it everywhere it happens?
ROBERT Im sorry, I cant hear you through my earpiece here. Would you repeat your question, please?
PAUL So, you dont sound optimistic about the West being able to do anything or wanting to do anything. Do you think the West is going to do something? Or is it maybe already too late? That hes quashing everything?
ROBERT Ill tell you frankly. Just before Christmas I was invited to do an interview on Syrian state television with me, which I did much against my better wishes and better thoughts. And I was asked what was the future of the Assad regime, which is effectively what youre asking me. And I said Bashar al-Assad is running out of time very fast, and you can no longer infantilise the people. You can no longer make them feel theyre little children going to school and if they disobey the rules, theyll be taken away by the headmaster and beaten by the secret police or killed. And I made this point, and I said to Syrian television, If you censor what I say, Im going to repeat what you censor in my newspaper. And I came back to Beirut here where Im speaking to you tonight, and I& (LAUGHS) I turned on my television. Of course, we can see Syrian television here. And there was me, and they ran it without a change because they wanted to let their people know that time was running out for the regime. Now, theres something very interesting in that because, you see, they wanted to let the people know that the regime wanted change, but the question is does the regime of Bashar al-Assad really want change, or does it want a change in a picture? You know, like, We would like to have a change, but maybe next year. And this is the big question.
PAUL Hillary Clinton and the American Defence Secretary, Leon Panetta, the difficulty they face with Syria is that they dont really know who this Syrian opposition is. They havent kind of identified anyone particularly of any strength whom they should help. Do you agree?
ROBERT Yes, I agree 101%. I was talking last night in Qatar. I go to Qatar regularly because they are running the opposition. (PAUL LAUGHS) Because Qatar wants to harm Iran like Saudi Arabia does. They dont want democracy in Syria. They want to have the overthrow of Irans best friend in the Arab world, who is Bashar al-Assad. Now, lets go back to that. I said to them, What do you want? What is it youre wanting? What the people of Syria want is dignity and justice. Dignity and justice. They want to feel they own their own country. And they feel that Assad believes he owns his own country, like Mubarak thought he was the owner of Egypt and Ben Ali was the owner of Tunisia. This is preposterous, ridiculous, stupid. But thats what they thought. The great crisis and tragedy in Syria is 1) that the government does not realise that the people want dignity and 2) that in fighting to preserve themselves, the regime will produce a civil war which will kill, with great bloodshed, so many people, which is a terrible tragedy for Syria itself. We talk all the time about Haram, you know, the regime is killing the people. Yes, but we dont talk about the actual bloodshed in Syria itself, which is most terrible and which we should be thinking about.
PAUL Does the world care enough about Syria? I only ask that question because, unlike during the spring in Cairo, the social media round the world has not really embraced the Syrian cause. Thats why I ask that, thats all.
ROBERT Yeah, I enjoy your stepping back from the question. I think the Syrians whom I meet in Beirut - and I go to Damascus still. I can still enter. I think the Syrians are appalled at the lack of historical knowledge of us Westerners. I think also, you know, they know what happened in Egypt and Tunisia. But I always say in my newspaper articles and indeed when I talk to New Zealand, Egypt was not Tunisia. Bahrain was not Egypt. Libya was not Bahrain. And Syria is not Libya. Every Arab country is different. But what you have here is a country, Syria, whose nationalist idea which was encompassed in the Baathist idea of& (SPEAKS ARAB LANGUAGE), and your Syrian-Australian viewers will know what Im talking about. Um, the idea that theres a nationalist centre of Syria is very strong, and you cant just brush it off the desk and throw it away, because so many people want to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. Um, what we have to do, if we want to be honest - I try to be honest as a journalist - is to say to the regimes, like Bashar al-Assad - and I met Bashar al-Assad, I met Asma, his wife, who is a fine lady - is you have to deal with the reality, not the reality of 20 years ago, but now. And you must stop killing your people. Because at the end of the day, the situation is very simple: if you treat your people as infantiles, as children, where if you go to school and you offend the headmaster, you go to the police station and you are beaten and killed, is over. When people lose their fear, they can never get their fear back. And this is what has happened in Tunisia, in Yemen, in Libya, in Egypt, and is what is happening now, today, in Syria.
March 18, 2012