Translated by Ben Kearney
In the event of major military conflicts that risk considerable humanitarian and economic consequences, it is useful to examine the interests of all parties involved as well as the role that the media plays in reporting the events.
The most visible of all the parties that have a stake in the Syrian conflict are the rebels. This group is an amalgam of approximately 1200
smaller and larger factions, ranging from jihadist fighters
to Chechen rebels
to, most prominently
, Al Qaida
. It remains unclear as to where the loyalty of these foreigners
lies. Are they primarily concerned with the welfare of the Syrian people, or are they more focused on drawing a pay check or improving their future standing? Given the interests that are at stake for the rebels, it is just as legitimate to take a critical look at them as it is to examine the regime of President Assad.
Was the chemical weapons attack carried out by Assad, or by the rebels?
All parties involved in the Syrian conflict are aware that the use of chemical weapons constitutes the crossing of a red line for U.S. President Obama, with all that this entails. In an possible reference to Obama's stance, this line was indeed crossed on 21 August 2013, a year and a day
after he made his statement on this issue. It is as if the Syrian regime is committing suicide. What’s more, this attack took place right in the vicinity
of where a team of UN inspectors had beenstaying. This team had arrived
a few days earlier there with the permission of the regime in order to investigate
a previous attack. A third factor to consider in this confluence of events is the seemingly credible argument
made by the Syrian regime that the Syrian army “was ‘winning the battle against the rebels’ and there was no need for chemical weapons.”
So while he had nothing to gain, Assad is alleged to have carried out the attack, which in the process played right into the hands of the rebels. Also worth noting is the fact that the UN inspectors, who were in a position to uncover evidence linking the poison gas attack to Assad’s troops, were seriously hampered in their efforts when they took fire
from snipers. Their mission was also endangered by the request
that was made by the Obama administration to the UN to halt the investigation - a request that was subsequently rejected
by the Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon.
A poison gas attack on civilians that is accompanied by shocking images could work to the favor of the anti-Assad coalition. This is something that was established back in 2011 during a conversation
held between the intelligence company Stratfor and strategists of the U.S. Air Force: “They [USAF] don’t believe air intervention would happen unless there was enough media attention on a massacre, like the Gaddafi move against Benghazi.”
John Kerry and the media
A ‘massacre’ could work to the advantage of those who desire a different Syria, as long as President Assad is the one implicated in such a massacre. And this effort is now in full force, often expressed in a roundabout
sort of way: “If you believe him [Kerry] and if you listen closely to him, what he says sounds quite convincing.” These are references which are continually repeated and which invoke images of smoke clouds rising from chemical weapons fired by the Syrian army. The question remains as to what John Kerry is basing his stern statements
on, statements which are given such broad coverage in the media. One of the evocative examples that Kerry cites
(5:40) is a photo
showing the horrible consequences of the attacks carried out by Assad’s forces. The only problem with the photo is that it was taken in Iraq
back in 2003. The person who took the photo, Marco Di Lauro, wrote to tell me: “I am concerned to learn my work has been misrepresented in this way without the proper due diligence.” Kerry’s statements are reminiscent of those made by Colin Powell in his appearance at the UN, an appearance which he has since come to view
as a blot on his record.
What is the record of the U.S. when it comes to the use of chemical weapons?
During the Vietnam War, American forces used Agent Orange, which was manufactured
by Monsanto. There is also the use
during the war against Iraq of white phosphorus
, a variant of napalm, which also saw use in Vietnam. The U.S. attack on the Iraqi city of Fallujah was preceded by a pep talk from President Bush
: “Kick ass! [...] Stay strong! Stay the course! Kill them! Be confident! Prevail! We are going to wipe them out! We are not blinking!” Previously, the U.S. had sold Saddam Hussein anthrax, botulism, brucella melitensis and clostridium perfringens. The Americans eventually used the existence of these weapons of mass destruction as a pretext for invading Iraq. In addition, the White House knew
that Saddam had used chemical weapons against Iran, the country with which he had started a war at the urging of the U.S. Like so many dictators, Saddam was a creation
of the U.S., and he made use of chemical weapons with the knowledge of the U.S. A comparable list of facts
can be recited
in the case of Britain. All of this is not strengthening the credibility of the argument that says that Syria should be liberated from a cruel dictator on humanitarian grounds. Yet this is still what fills the headlines
. Filmmaker Oliver Stone
: “As we inch closer to another intervention, our media beats the drum for war in search of ratings.” All available means are being brought to bear, up to and including the Alyssa Milano Sex Tape
Perception, representation and facts
It would seem that, for the warring parties, perception and representation form a higher priority than facts or reality. This is a recurring theme. Take for example the aforementioned
case in which Kerry
compared Assad to Hitler. These sorts of chilling comparisons are often made during the escalation of conflicts. In my book on Iran
, I cite numerous examples in which the U.S., and in particular Israel, have compared Iranian leaders to Adolf Hitler. This type of representation is even more explicit in cartoons: during the wars against Iraq, Saddam was regularly depicted
wearing a skull and crossbones, while at the same time George Bush and now John Kerry
are walking about at all times with a golden pin depicting a skull and crossbones
underneath their clothing as a token of their sacred vow to the secret society known as Skull & Bones
. This example shows that it is not just the facts, but also the images which are distorted. The same is true of our perception of Iran as an aggressor nation, a country that has not started a war since 1862
. This stands in contrast to the beacon of democracy America, which since WWII has managed to initiate seventy different conflicts
(21:40) and is now on the brink of openly engaging Syria in battle.