Introduction – June 6, 2012
The headline above should read: time to consider the Western corporate media as a wing of the West’s military forces, because every major military campaign the West has been involved in recent years has been accompanied by a media campaign waged in the so-called free press.
These media campaigns have been used in a number of ways. One of the more obvious examples was when the media was used to pave the way the 2003 invasion of Iraq, when it was rife with speculation about Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction.
You couldn’t turn on a TV news broadcast or open a newspaper without coming across some reference to Saddam’s notorious W.M.D.
As it turned out there was none but such speculation added to Western politicians portrayal of Iraq: as a potential military threat that needed to be neutralised.
It may have been completely discredited now, but for a while stories about Tony Blair’s “45 minute” claim were everywhere.
No matter that the invasion failed to reveal any of Saddam’s WMD. Once the occupiers were installed speculation about Weapons of Mass Destruction was quietly forgotten. The stories had served their purpose and the mission had been accomplished, with the help of a compliant media.
Nonetheless, anyone surveying current events recently must have been struck by an eerie sense of deja vu. Familiar echoes of the media coverage in the run up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq could be found in the media’s coverage of Syria.
Almost in unison, the Western media immediately blamed Syria for the atrocity, despite the fact that there was little to substantiate such claims.
Initially, the BBC even used a photograph from Iraq in 2003 to illustrate a report on the massacre, that featured extensive quotes from ‘Syrian activists’ blaming government forces for the killings.
More tellingly, the Western media also failed to give prominence to reports that those killed in Houla were government supporters. Perhaps because such reports would undermine claims that pro-Assad forces were responsible for the atrocity.
Likewise, the Western media has also played down reports of financial aid to ‘Syrian activists’ from gulf states and how they are working in collusion with Western Special Forces.
That might be because such reports would undermine corporate media claims that Syrian strife was a spontaneous response to government oppression. Not a contrived Western military campaign using Western Special Forces in collusion with Arab malcontents to foster ‘regime change’.
The Western Corporate media is helping complete this illusion, just as they once did with reports about Saddam’s Weapons of Mass Destruction.
What follows is a prime example of how the corporate media now works in conjunction with Western military and intelligence to bring about such changes.
Note how it refers to Houla being “ravaged by regime forces”, while ignoring evidence that ‘Syrian activists’ were involved. Or it how it suggests that “the only way to stop the slide into civil war is to put military options on the table”; while overlooking the fact that the West is helping facilitate this “slide into civil war” in the first place.
We aren’t here to defend Syria’s President Assad or his regime but the following article needs to be seen for what it is: warmongering propaganda.
Time to consider military options in Syria
Roula Khalaf – FT.com June 5, 2012
The Houla massacre has whipped up a new wave of outrage at the brutality of Syria’s dictatorship. More Syrian envoys were kicked out of western capitals, more financial sanctions slapped on the regime in Damascus, and more furious calls for a political transition from Bashar al-Assad issued. So what? Mr Assad is no closer to ceding power than he was a year ago, when the rebellion against him was already raging.
Houla embodies the daily tragedy of Syria over the past 14 months while the world stumbles from one failed policy to another. Before Houla there was Baba Amr and Dera’a, to cite but a few places ravaged by regime forces. It would be unfair to say that western powers have not tried to put an end to Syria’s plight, using all diplomatic means available. The removal of Mr Assad, after all, would yield significant strategic gain by weakening Iran, Syria’s main ally.
Today the US and Europe are prevented from taking tougher international action by a world power – Russia – which itself is intervening in Syria through the sale of weapons to the regime.
The only diplomatic mechanism to which Russia has signed up is the Kofi Annan initiative, a plan that is unravelling as UN monitors sent to observe a ceasefire instead bear witness to more crimes. The grim reality is that unless Russia can be made to end its support for Mr Assad, the only way to halt a slide into full-scale civil war is to put military options on the table.
We’ve all heard the arguments against intervention and they are persuasive: no UN Security Council resolution and none of the Arab League unity that was present in the case of Libya; no united opposition; and greater strategic risk because of Iran’s support for the Assad regime.
It is true that Syria does not lend itself to an easy military solution, and such a move would hold enormous risks. But there are ways of securing both international and regional legitimacy for the creation of a Nato-protected zone in the Idlib province near the Turkish border and possibly also in Dera’a, near Jordan. There, a more disciplined rebel force could be assembled and higher-level defectors would find shelter. Only then can the serious cracks within the regime that western governments have been hoping for become possible, and only then will Mr Assad understand that he must sign up to a transition plan that ends his presidency.
Although a trickle of weapons is starting to flow to some rebel forces with money from Qatar and Saudi Arabia, these Arab states will pick and choose their clients, fragmenting a disparate rebel force further but without giving it sufficient strength to alter the balance of power.
Where can the legitimacy for a broader, more organised intervention come from? It is likely that the Gulf Co-operation Council, which groups six Arab states including Saudi Arabia, would back the creation of a protected zone. A decision by the UN General Assembly could be sought by invoking the responsibility to protect – the doctrine, developed after Rwanda’s genocide, that the international community must act if governments fail to protect their own citizens. The Henry Jackson Society, a UK think-tank, has also argued that legal authorisation from the General Assembly could be based on the “Uniting for Peace” resolution of 1950, which was used to overcome the Soviet Union’s obstruction at the Security Council in the Korean war.
Moreover, support for intervention is passionate on the ground, where Syria’s peaceful revolutionaries and the armed rebels now believe the world has abandoned them. Worse still, they fear losing ground to the more radical new elements taking advantage of the uprising. Western intelligence agencies blame al-Qaeda for bomb attacks in Damascus, which have added a dangerous new element to the conflict.
It is ludicrous to wait for the Syrian opposition overseas to unite under the banner of the Syrian National Council. Instead it is through the local co-ordinating committees of activists and the revolutionary councils in towns across the country that western powers need to advance, and justify, a more robust strategy.
A peaceful diplomatic solution to Syria undoubtedly remains the preferred way. But if it is impossible to achieve, it is not through tougher action but through inaction that Syria will face a prolonged, bloodier, and more sectarian conflict that threatens stability across the region.
The writer is the FT’s Middle East editor
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