Rigging the Coverage of Syria

The major U.S. news media has consistently slanted its coverage of the Syrian conflict to back neocon desires for more U.S. military intervention in support of “regime change,” Gareth Porter wrote for FAIR.

By Gareth Porter

Coverage of the breakdown of the partial ceasefire in Syria illustrated the main way corporate news media distort public understanding of a major foreign policy story. The problem is not that the key events in the story are entirely unreported, but that they were downplayed and quickly forgotten in the media’s embrace of themes with which they were more comfortable.

In this case, the one key event was the major offensive launched in early April by Al Nusra Front — the Al Qaeda franchise in Syria — alongside U.S.-backed armed opposition groups. This offensive was mentioned in at least two “quality” U.S. newspapers. Their readers, however, would not have read that it was that offensive that broke the back of the partial ceasefire.

The Washington Post building. (Photo credit: Daniel X. O'Neil)

The Washington Post building. (Photo credit: Daniel X. O’Neil)

On the contrary, they would have gotten the clear impression from following the major newspapers’ coverage that systematic violations by the Assad government doomed the ceasefire from the beginning.

Corporate media heralded the ceasefire agreement when it was negotiated by the United States and Russia in February, with the Los Angeles Times (2/3/16) calling it “the most determined diplomatic push to date aimed at ending the nation’s almost five-year conflict.” The “partial cessation of hostilities” was to apply between the Syrian regime and the non-jihadist forces, but not to the regime’s war with Nusra and with ISIS.

The clear implication was that the U.S.-supported non-jihadist opposition forces would have to separate themselves from Nusra, or else they would be legitimate targets for airstrikes.

But the relationship between the CIA-backed armed opposition to Assad and the jihadist Nusra Front was an issue that major U.S. newspapers had already found very difficult to cover (FAIR.org, 3/21/16).

U.S. Syria policy has been dependent on the military potential of the Nusra Front (and its close ally, Ahrar al Sham) for leverage on the Syrian regime, since the “moderate” opposition was unable to operate in northwest Syria without jihadist support. This central element in U.S. Syria policy, which both the government and the media were unwilling to acknowledge, was a central obstacle to accurate coverage of what happened to the Syrian ceasefire.

Shaping the Story

This problem began shaping the story as soon as the ceasefire agreement was announced. On Feb. 23, New York Times correspondent Neil MacFarquhar wrote a news analysis on the wider tensions between the Obama administration and Russia that pointed to “a gaping loophole” in the Syria ceasefire agreement: the fact that “it permits attacks against the Islamic State and the Nusra Front, an Al Qaeda affiliate, to continue.”

MacFarquhar asserted that exempting Nusra from the ceasefire “could work in Moscow’s favor, since many of the anti-Assad groups aligned with the United States fight alongside the Nusra Front.” That meant that Russia could “continue to strike United States-backed rebel groups without fear … of Washington’s doing anything to stop them,” he wrote.

New York Times building in New York City. (Photo from Wikipedia)

New York Times building in New York City. (Photo from Wikipedia)

On the same day, Adam Entous of the Wall Street Journal reported that Obama’s “top military and intelligence advisers don’t believe Russia will abide by a just-announced ceasefire in Syria and want to ready plans to increase pressure on Moscow by expanding covert support to rebels fighting the Russia-backed Assad regime.”

For two of the country’s most prominent newspapers, it was thus clear that the primary context of the Syria ceasefire was not its impact on Syria’s population, but how it affected the rivalry between powerful national security officials and Russia.

Contrary to those dark suspicions of Russian intentions to take advantage of the agreement to hit U.S.-supported Syrian opposition groups, however, as soon as the partial ceasefire agreement took effect on Feb. 27, Russia released a map that designated “green zones” where its air forces would not strike.

The green zones, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense, corresponded with Syrian opposition groups that had signed on to the ceasefire. Furthermore, Russia stopped bombing the Nusra-controlled areas of northwest Syria, instead focusing on ISIS targets, as Pentagon spokesperson Jeff Davis confirmed on March 14.

Breaking the Ceasefire

But instead of separating themselves from Nusra Front, the U.S.-supported armed opposition joined with Nusra and its jihadist allies in a major offensive aimed at destroying the ceasefire.

Charles Lister, a leading British specialist on the jihadists in Syria, has recounted being told by the commander of a U.S.-backed armed group that around March 20, Nusra officials began a round of meetings with non-jihadist opposition groups from Hama, Latakia and southern Aleppo — including those supported by the United States — to persuade them to participate in a major offensive against the Assad regime, rather than in a ceasefire and political negotiations.

Syrian women and children refugees at Budapest railway station. (Photo from Wikipedia)

Syrian women and children refugees at Budapest railway station. (Photo from Wikipedia)

News media did not ignore the offensive launched on April 3 by Nusra Front and its “moderate” allies. The Los Angeles Times (4/4/16) described a “punishing attack” by Nusra and several “so-called moderate rebel factions” on the town of Al Eis, southwest of Aleppo, “overlooking the M5 highway, a vital artery connecting the Syrian capital, Damascus, in the southwest of the country, with the government-held city of Homs, in west-central Syria, and Aleppo in the north.”

Associated Press (4/3/16) reported that Nusra Front’s closest ally, Ahrar al Sham, together with U.S.-supported factions had simultaneously “seized government positions in heavy fighting in northwestern Latakia province.” The story quoted Zakariya Qaytaz of the U.S.-supported Division 13 brigade as telling the agency through Twitter: “The truce is considered over. This battle is a notice to the regime.”

The Nusra-led offensive was a decisive violation of the ceasefire, which effectively frustrated the intention of isolating the jihadists. It led to continued high levels of fighting in the three areas where it had taken place, and Russian planes returned to Nusra Front-controlled territory for the first time in nearly six weeks. Yet after the first reports on the offensive, its very existence vanished from media coverage of Syria.

Disappearing Key Facts

No U.S. newspaper followed up over the next two weeks to analyze its significance in terms of U.S. policy, especially in light of the role of “legitimate” armed opposition groups in trashing the ceasefire.

A protest placard in the Kafersousah neighborhood of Damascus, Syria on December 26, 2012. (Photo credit: Freedom House Flickr)

A protest placard in the Kafersousah neighborhood of Damascus, Syria on December 26, 2012. (Photo credit: Freedom House Flickr)

Wall Street Journal correspondent Sam Dagher (4/4/16)  suggested in his initial report on the offensive that it was a response to a Syrian air force airstrike in an opposition-controlled suburb of Damascus two days earlier, which activists said killed 30 civilians. But the offensive was so complex and well-organized that it had obviously been prepared well in advance of that strike.

None of the other papers sought to portray the offensive as the result of a pattern of increasing military pressure on the Nusra Front or its allies. In fact, after the initial reports, all four major newspapers — the New York Times, LA Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post — simply ignored the fact that the offensive had been carried out.

On April 19, three separate articles presented three variants of what became the broad media approach to explaining the fate of the ceasefire agreement. The Journal’s Nour Malas and Sam Dagher wrote: “A limited truce in Syria, brokered by the US and Russia in late February, has unraveled in recent weeks, with government forces escalating attacks on several fronts and rebels relaunching operations around the northern city of Aleppo.”

That formulation clearly suggested that either the regime had moved first, or that government and rebels had somehow both taken the offensive at the same moment; the former interpretation was encouraged by the headline, “Syrian Government Steps Up Airstrikes.”

On the same day, New York Times Beirut correspondent Anne Barnard wrote a piece focused mainly on regime airstrikes in two Idlib towns, Maarat al Numan and Kafr Nable, that had killed many as 40 civilians.

Barnard’s piece was headlined, “Ceasefire Crumbles as Bombings Kill Dozens” — suggesting that the airstrikes had somehow led to the “crumbling.” Barnard did refer to an otherwise unidentified “insurgent offensive” that preceded the strikes, but did not draw any causal relationship between it and the bombing.

The article cited the opposition claim that the government had repeatedly violated the partial ceasefire, but didn’t cite a single concrete instance of such a violation. And it appears to contradict that argument by observing that the Idlib airstrikes had ended “the relative respite from airstrikes that had lasted nearly two months” – i.e., from the time the ceasefire had gone into effect.

Yet a third article to appear that day, published by Reuters, explicitly asserted that the regime airstrike on a crowded market by Syrian planes to which Barnard referred was the cause of the failure of the partial ceasefire.

“Syrian peace talks appeared all but doomed on Tuesday,” it said, “after airstrikes killed about 40 people in a crowded vegetable market in rebel territory, with the opposition saying a truce was finished and it would keep out of negotiations indefinitely.”

Wrapping Up the Distortions

Finally, on April 27, Karen DeYoung, associate editor of the Washington Post, wrote a news analysis piece looking back on what happened to the ceasefire. The piece never mentioned the major Nusra Front offensive in which U.S.-supported armed groups had played a key role, passing on instead the distorted explanation of the fate of the ceasefire offered by national security bureaucrats.

Smoke billows skyward as homes and buildings are shelled in the city of Homs, Syria. June 9, 2012. (Photo from the United Nations)

Smoke billows skyward as homes and buildings are shelled in the city of Homs, Syria. June 9, 2012. (Photo from the United Nations)

“Some Defense Department and intelligence officials,” she wrote, “think Russia and its Syrian government client are clearly violating the ceasefire and provoking the opposition into doing the same.”

Like the three April 19 articles, DeYoung focused entirely on military moves taken by the regime more than two weeks after the joint Nusra/opposition April offensive. She cited the Syrian government bombing of Kafr Nabl and Maarat al Numan the previous week, asserting that the towns were “heavily bombed by Assad after rebel forces threw out Nusra occupiers and civilians took to the streets in anti-Assad demonstrations.”

But that characterization of the situation in the two towns, clearly aimed to support the notion that they were free of Nusra control, was false. In fact, Kafr Nabl had formerly been the home of the U.S.-backed Division 13, but far from having been thrown out, Nusra Front had reasserted its direct control over the towns in mid-March, kicking Division 13 out of its base and seizing its U.S.-supplied weapons after a fight over the larger town Maarat al Numan.

DeYoung went so far as to embrace the CIA/Pentagon bureaucrats’ argument that the United States should not have agreed to allow any attacks on Nusra Front in the ceasefire agreement.

“The Nusra ceasefire exception had already left a hole big enough for the Syrian government and Russia to barrel through,” she wrote, “and they have not hesitated to do so in pursuit of regaining the initiative on the ground for Assad.”

The implication of the argument is that the United States should do nothing to interfere with Nusra’s capacity to strike at the Assad regime. Thus DeYoung quoted an analyst for the Institute for the Study of War, which favors a more belligerent U.S. policy in Syria, dismissing the military collaboration by U.S.-supported groups with Nusra Front as not really significant, because it is only “tactical,” and that Nusra merely offers to help those allies “retaliate” against regime attacks, rather than seeking a military solution to the conflict.

Such arguments are merely shallow rationalizations, however, for the preference of hardliners in Washington for pitting Al Qaeda’s military power against Russia and its Syrian client, enhancing the power position of the U.S. national security state in Syria.

A Simplistic Summary

As more time passes, the media version of why the partial ceasefire failed has become even more simplistic and distorted. On July 12, DeYoung revisited the issue in the context of the Obama administration’s negotiations with Russia on military cooperation against Nusra Front. This time she portrayed the ceasefire quite starkly as the victim of Syrian and Russian bombing:

Video of the Russian SU-24 exploding in flames inside Syrian territory after it was shot down by Turkish air-to-air missiles on Nov. 24, 2015.

Video of the Russian SU-24 exploding in flames inside Syrian territory after it was shot down by Turkish air-to-air missiles on Nov. 24, 2015.

“Despite a ceasefire ostensibly in effect since February, Syrian planes have kept up a steady bombardment of both civilian and opposition sites — where they have argued that Al Nusra forces, exempt from the truce, are mixed with rebel groups covered by the accord. After observing the early weeks of the ceasefire, Russian planes joined the Syrian forces, including in an offensive last weekend that took over the only remaining supply route for both rebels and civilians hunkered down in the northern city of Aleppo.”

Playing the role of ultimate media arbiter of how the attentive public is to understand the pivotal issue of why the ceasefire failed, DeYoung has deleted from memory the essential facts. In her narrative, there was no Nusra Front plan to destroy the ceasefire, and no April Nusra offensive to seize strategic territory south of Aleppo with the full participation of U.S.-supported opposition groups.

The lesson of the Syrian ceasefire episode is clear: The most influential news media have virtually complete freedom to shape the narrative surrounding a given issue simply by erasing inconvenient facts from the storyline. They can do that even when the events or facts have been reported by one or more of those very news media.

In the world of personal access and power inhabited by those who determine what will be published and what won’t, even the most obviously central facts are disposable in the service of a narrative that maintains necessary relationships.

Gareth Porter, an independent investigative journalist and historian on US national security policy, is the winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for Journalism.  His latest book is Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, published in 2014. [This article was originally published by FAIR at http://fair.org/home/how-media-distorted-syrian-ceasefires-breakdown/]

33 comments for “Rigging the Coverage of Syria

  1. John Ellis
    August 18, 2016 at 10:39

    Honest government — Honest deadly force

    Sole purpose for government is to keep people honest by deadly force. Surely, for if everyone was honest there would be no need for deadly force.

    So, as all libertarians are capitalists, is capitalism honest? Well, is it honest for the intelligent upper-half of society to own all the land and wealth?

    Now were getting to the real issue, is the laboring-class lower-half of society without a college education because they have no ambition? In short, is the laboring-class victimizing itself by being lazy? For if raising minimum wage to a living wage would make the laboring-class more lazy and more inclined to not endure the hard work of getting college educated, then we do more harm then good.

    Truth is, back breaking, muscle stressing and sweaty manual labor, this is living hell and no one does it unless they are enslaved by economics and forced to do it.

    And so, capitalism is a competition based intelligence dictatorship, allowing capitalists to run government is pure stupidity and unless Jill Stein becomes President, look for eight more years of mind-blowing insanity.

  2. Vertice_ulularunt
    August 16, 2016 at 20:04

    There’s something about the Gothic font that disables the ability of humans to think for themselves.

  3. J. D'Urso
    August 14, 2016 at 17:47

    The author does a disservice to Syria by referring to it as Russia’s “client” state. It is neo-con policy makers, such as Anthony Morrell, although not Sec.of State Kerry, who cynically view the horrendous death toll and refugee crisis as simply a byproduct of a “proxy war.” Although it was targeted for “regime change” as early as 2005, before the war it was a prosperous nation with a functioning Parliament and full civil and religious freedoms. Even today, with the threat of assassination looming over its voters, millions turned out for internationally monitored elections which returned a decisive win for President. Without such popular support how else could this small nation have withstood the assault of the multitude of forces, led by President Obama, sent against it in an attempt to overthrow its legitimate government. The fact that Syria requested and received Russian aid, as President Putin recognized the seriousness of a potential ISIS takeover of Damascus, then turned around the situation around in less than 6 months, does not change the fundamental relationship between sovereign nations.

    • Bob Van Noy
      August 15, 2016 at 08:42

      Thank you J. D’ Urso I agree with your statement in total and I would add that the thoughtful commentary here is not only impressive but educational. I know a Christian Palestinian family that was forced to flee Palestine for religious reasons and could find safe refuge only in Syria with protection from the Assad government. Before I met this family; I wasn’t aware of the complexity of religious experience in the ME. And, thanks to commenters like Kiza, I’ve learned to contrast Soviet Russia from contemporary Russia, which is something even our State Department seems to struggle with.

      As I write this, very early on Monday morning West Coast time, I was thinking that without sites like Consortium News it would be a bleak world indeed. The Sunday NY Times had a lead piece by Sonia Nazario on Honduras yesterday that read like pure fiction.

  4. Abe
    August 14, 2016 at 12:56

    “The West and its Persian Gulf allies, the primary underwriters of the entire war and the militants currently embattled in and around Aleppo, have gone through great lengths to portray the pivotal battle as ‘rebels desperately trying to save 300,000 encircled civilians.’

    “As part of this rhetoric, the Western media has engaged in a concerted public relations campaign, presenting a document they claim was written by 15 individuals alleging to be doctors, pleading with the US to intervene amid the ongoing fighting around Aleppo. The media offers no evidence that these individuals are doctors, or that these individuals even exist at all.

    “What clearly does exist however, is a desperate need for a humanitarian pretext with which the US and its allies can cite to more directly intervene and change the tides in a proxy war they are decidedly losing.

    “The ability to establish a ceasefire and in some way salvage those forces trapped at the centre of Aleppo, perhaps even allowing them to escape, exists on the lower end of extremes. On the higher end, there is the prospect of Western military power being used to directly intervene against Syrian forces if and when they are able to ‘shame’ Russia into the shadows.

    “Politically Doomed, and Not Likely to Succeed

    “However, this has been tried many times before, with much greater prospects of succeeding, yet to no avail. The only aspect of the war in Syria that exists in greater quantities for the West now is desperation. And while the West is becoming increasingly desperate (and dangerous as a consequence), it seems that Syrian resolve and the resolve of its allies has increased right along with it.

    “The Western media has attempted to portray Syrian forces as ‘spent’ since 2011. Today, they are again claiming that they lack the ability to fully secure Aleppo because they are ‘spent.’ The fact that Aleppo was encircled in the first place suggests that isn’t so.

    “The necessity for the West and its militants to depend on political ploys and symbolic victories versus the very real, albeit slow progress the Syrian military is making around Aleppo suggests that despite the see-sawing battles we are witnessing, zooming out reveals a vector sum working in Damascus’ favour.

    “And Damascus abandoning this success is very unlikely.”

    Battle for Aleppo: How Not to Break an Encirclement
    By The New Atlas
    http://www.thenewatlas.org/2016/08/battle-for-aleppo-how-not-to-break.html

  5. Bill Bodden
    August 13, 2016 at 23:12

    It appears that several of Judith Miller’s protégés are running loose in the war-enabling corporate media.

    • Abe
      August 14, 2016 at 14:25

      Miller had no scientific background, but she became the Times’ expert on bio-terrorism. She was touted as one of a list of “experts” on the region by the Middle East Forum, run by Daniel Pipes (son of the notorious anti-Soviet crusader Richard Pipes and co-author of statements of the Project for a New American Century). The MEF is a Zionist lobby whose mission includes “fighting radical Islam (rather than terrorism),” “more robustly asserting U.S. interests vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia” and driving Syria out of Lebanon. It is also the parent group of “Campus Watch,” which targets academics critical of Israel.

      Miller did not speak Arabic, but she covered the Near East for almost two decades. Miller used translations from the Arab press provided by MEMRI (the Middle East Media Research Institute), whose staff is loaded with “former” members of Israeli intelligence.

      Miller’s articles on Hussein’s non-existent WMDs played a key role in U.S. war propaganda during the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But it was not the first time she played this role. A dozen years earlier, Miller co-authored a best-seller that made the case for the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein and the Crisis in the Gulf (1990). That book was written together with Laurie Mylroie, who worked at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank associated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

      More on Miller as an agent of disinformation http://www.voltairenet.org/article30050.html

    • Bill Bodden
      August 14, 2016 at 16:59

      Judith Miller’s “expertise” is in stenography, a skill required of all Washington correspondents – preferably ones without a conscience.

  6. Abe
    August 13, 2016 at 15:38

    The most rigged coverage of Syria (and that other major NATO regime change project: Ukraine) is regularly defecated by Eliot Higgins (aka “Brown Moses” and his Bellingcat gang of fake “citizen investigative journalists”.

    Text analysis of the latest Bellingcat BM https://www.bellingcat.com/news/mena/2016/08/13/syrian-opposition-factions-in-the-syrian-civil-war/ reveals high word frequency “rebel” (48 times) and “opposition” (27 times), and the complete avoidance of the terms “mercenary” and “terror” when describing these factions.

    The Bellingcat article uses the word “siege” (17 times) frequently and exclusively in association with Syrian government actions, while Syrian territory is merely “held” (11 times) by NATO’s regime change network of “opposition” forces.

    The reader is left with the distinct impression that the many armed “factions” in Syria spend most of their time innocently “holding” areas while designing cool new logos and flags, posing for macho photos, and opening several dozen more YouTube accounts.

    Completely unable to identify any “war crimes” perpetrated by the “opposition factions” factions in Syria, Bellingcat author Cody Roche goes out of his way to give Higgins a hand job: “war crimes have also taken place, most infamously the government’s use of sarin nerve agent in an attack on several suburbs in eastern Ghouta during a counteroffensive in August 2013”.

    Higgins’ “Brown Moses” accusations that the Syrian government was responsible for the August 2013 Ghouta chemical attack were proven false, but almost led to war.

    In September 2013, Jeffrey Lewis of Arms Control Wonk using his column on Foreign Policy to promote Higgins’ allegations.

    Sy Hersh published his December 2013 “Who’s Sarin” piece, asserting that the Obama administration had evidence that al-Nusra Front rebels had sarin gas capabilities, but cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.

    Higgins got busy attacking on Hersh.

    In January 2014, professor Theodore Postol in the Science, Technology, and Global Security Working Group at MIT. He published “Possible Implications of Faulty US Technical Intelligence in the Damascus Nerve Agent Attack of August 21st, 2013” along with Richard Lloyd, an analyst at the military contractor Tesla Laboratories who previously served as a United Nations weapons inspector and also boasts two books, 40 patents and more than 75 academic papers on weapons technology.

    In an interview, Postol said that Higgins “has done a very nice job collecting information on a website. As far as his analysis, it’s so lacking any analytical foundation it’s clear he has no idea what he’s talking about.”

    Higgins got busy attacking Postol and Lloyd.

    On 17 June 2014, one month before Higgins launched Bellingcat and MH-17 crashed in Ukraine, arms control “experts” Lewis and Aaron Stein were back busily promoting Higgins.

    Higgins’ shiny new Bellingcat propaganda campaign against the Russian government went into overdrive.

    For more on the rigging of coverage by Higgins and Bellingcat, see https://consortiumnews.com/2016/07/22/will-nyt-retract-latest-anti-russian-fraud/

    Despite the fact that Higgins’ accusations have been repeatedly disproven, Higgins and Bellingcat continue to be frequently cited, often without proper source attribution, by media, organizations and governments.

  7. John P
    August 13, 2016 at 14:40

    This reminds me of an old Israeli plan, the Yinon Plan, destabilize the area and take advantage of the chaos. The Israelis and neocons and Obama seem to want to support questionable militia in the Syrian operation, Israel still supports Saudi Arabia while the US has some problems at the moment. It makes me wonder was the US Iran deal a further ploy to build on Israeli and Saudi angst towards Iran and further shake the region? Why Israel supports Saudi Arabia can only be to assist in destroying Syria. Israel has had several goes at destroying Lebanon. Once a sufficient mess has been created, then Zionists and neocons can pick up the pieces creating the Greater Israel. And they run the MSM pushing their fables as truths.
    Israel tried to hold onto Lebanese land south of the Litani river, they still hold the Syrian Golan heights (water), are illegally settling the West Bank and trying to destroy Palestinian civilization in both the West bank and Gaza.
    Is there anything that money won’t buy?

  8. Bart Gruzalski
    August 13, 2016 at 13:31

    Dear Gareth Porter,

    As you can tell, all of us are very grateful to you for your quality article. I still have that one question: wasn’t there a Russian “surprise” attack on some of those being protected by the USA? You are also invited to email me at my personal Consortium news email:
    BARTCONSORTCOMMUNION1942@gmail.com.

    We commentators are an outspoken and honest lot. When you received 5 out of 5 stars, which is how I would assess the praise above, it means something here. We can also give 0 out of 5 stars, for example, we gave the equivalent of 0 out of 5 stars for Pillar’s Risks from Trump’s Reckless Invective.

    So: congratulations, and I hope to read articles by you in the future, whether here or elsewhere. Fine fine work.

    Thanks again,

    Dr. Bart Gruzalski, Prof. Emeritus, Northeastern University, Boston

  9. David Smith
    August 13, 2016 at 11:32

    Mr. Porter’s excellent article is very good analysis of the false statements that undergird the MSM reporting on Syria, but it’s target audience is thinking people who are very much aware of the bull-poop, and this audience is very small. The MSM target audience is the mass of unthinking cattle who only register the endlessly repeated buzz-words that produce the emotional reaction “Assad Bad” or “Putin Bad”. The US Propertied Class is only concerned with the reaction syndrome of the mass of human cattle, the “outliers” are statisticly irrelevant. Simply put, Mind Control wins, and Fact loses…..always.

    • Joe B
      August 14, 2016 at 08:41

      Yes, Mind Control wins because economic power was allowed to control mass media and elections. This failure of the Constitution to protect the institutions and tools of democracy from economic concentrations was due to an absence of those when it was written, and the oligarchy was able to consolidate power 1870-1930 by screaming “Marxist” and “anarchist” at opponents as they did so. The right wing revolution has parasitized and destroyed democracy, and there is no peaceful solution.

    • David Smith
      August 15, 2016 at 11:24

      Joe B. , you are correct as to the culprits, and that there is no peacefull solution. However, the mass of human cattle will never rebel under current conditions, and are too greedy and idiotic to organize the necessary new human order(the stone age order). Paradoxically, the technological civilization that is the source of Propertied Class power is creating an imminent Climate Disaster that is the only thing that can dethrone them. In the terrible deluge that will engulf rich and poor alike, bigger than any apocalypse, is the future only despair? But there is an interpretation of Prehistory that says we have been here before, and the disaster renews the beauty of The Earth, and the stone age order returns.

  10. Chris Chuba
    August 13, 2016 at 08:10

    The other routine pattern of distortion is that every single allegation by the rebels regarding the bombing of civilian targets or the alleged used of poison gas is picked up on Reuters and reported on CNN. So now we have a precedent that the U.S. MSM believes everything that Muslim Arabs claim at face value. I’ll have to remember this the next time Israel is involved in a military engagement.

    Regarding your excellent summary, I would add that a further proof of Assad’s good faith was the fact that a good portion of his army was diverted to the South-west in the retaking of Palmyra and Qaryatayn. The liberation of Qaryatayn, a Christian city wasn’t even reported. So while Assad was fighting ISIS, Al Nusra was busy launching an offensive with his CIA backed allies in Aleppo.

  11. TellTheTruth-2
    August 13, 2016 at 01:06

    It’s time to round up the Ziocon war mongers and put them in jail.

    • Bart Gruzalski
      August 13, 2016 at 11:54

      I like it: “Ziocon.” Did you read my earlier string of comments where I slowly worked from the misnomer “Neocon” toward something like Ziocon?

      There are no neocons. Just bad students of Prof. Leo Strauss who didn’t understand key sections of Plato’s Republic and so went off half-cocked and full of their own arrogance and hubris.

    • Bob Van Noy
      August 14, 2016 at 08:18

      Professor, l very much admire your commentary, thank you. For many years I have been intrigued by the rather exotic mix of students at Columbia University, especially Mark Van Doren and Jaques Barzun and the dynamic that led to the founding of the University of Chicago. I suspect that you’re quite correct that Leo Strauss’ students simply got it wrong. If they did, they certainly are responsible for a disproportionate amount of international chaos. Too, how about Milton Friedman’s economics; equally flawed, don’t you think?

  12. John
    August 12, 2016 at 21:32

    How to drive a Zionist crazy……refuse to kill one another, that includes Muslims……

  13. Abe
    August 12, 2016 at 20:42

    In the NSA’s 2007 Strategic Mission List obtained by Edward Snowden, in a section of the document headed “Foreign Intelligence, Counterintelligence; Denial & Deception Activities: Countering Foreign Intelligence Threats”, Israel was listed as a leading perpetrator of “espionage/intelligence collection operations and manipulation/influence operations” against U.S. government, military, science & technology and Intelligence Community organs.

    The term “manipulation/influence operations” refers to covert attempts by Israel to sway U.S. public opinion in its favor.

    Under a section headed “Mastering Cyberspace and Preventing an Attack on U.S. Critical Information Systems”, Israel was among the countries identified as “FIS [financial/banking system] threats”. Israel also appears on the list of countries believed by the NSA to be “enabling” electronic warfare “producers/proliferators”.

    Mossad has longstanding ties to Verint, Narus, and other Israeli surveillance technology companies used for both domestic and international spying, assuring that Israel has access to information collected by the NSA.

    Whether its Angela Merkel’s cell phone, François Hollande’s bidet, or Lindsey Graham’s rumpus room, the NSA and Israel have plenty of blackmail material on world leaders.

  14. Joe Tedesky
    August 12, 2016 at 20:16

    If it should interest any of you go to this site http://syrianperspective.com for the Syrian perspective.

    • Bart Gruzalski
      August 13, 2016 at 11:44

      Gareth Porter, I want to thank you for your documentation of the US-focused propaganda. It’s a very well written and well documented piece of journalism.

      I have one question which I wish you would answer here (just hit the reply rectangle and become engaged): I thought that the Russians, in the past two weeks, gave up on waiting for a US response about who was were, took advantage of the ambiguity about where some jihadist leaders were and bombed an area of Syria that they had never bombed in the past. The bombing mission took the US by surprise, but the US couldn’t even complain, since it was the US’s own lack of a response to Russia that set up the bombing.

      To: Joe Tedesky Joe Tedesky Joe Tedesky Joe Tedesky Joe Tedesky Joe Tedesky Joe Tedesky

      Thank you for the link. I read what I could though eventually I got the following message for several of the links: “service unavailable”

      I loved the titles that gave a clearly nouns for the enemy. Here’s one: STUNNING REVERSALS FOR TERRORIST RODENTS IN ALEPPO; FAYLAQ AL-SHAAM REDUCED TO POWDER IN LATAKIA–NO LONGER EXISTS! 7000 TERRORIST LEMMINGS MASSING SOUTH OF ALEPPO

      Here’s another, though I could never get through to read it: SYRIAN ARMY CLOSES ALL GAPS IN SIEGE; TERRORISTS RUNNING AMOK IN COUNTRYSIDE; SAUDI MANIAC RODENTS BEATEN BACK IN LATAKIA WITH HUNDREDS OF RAT CASUALTIES

      I love the nouns used for the enemy: Lemmings, rodents, rats, cockroaches.

      It’s clear that there is an awful lot of news, often a couple of articles a day. I guess we just don’t have the “right”!

      Thanks

    • Joe Tedesky
      August 13, 2016 at 23:07

      Bart, I am glad you enjoyed the Syrian site. Besides the nouns you mentioned, did you notice when the authors refer to the ‘allies’ that this is the Syrian Russian Iranian Coalition? What is important is to take into account that although the reporting is more than likely accurate, it is still written with a slant. After all the site is called the Syrian Perspective. We readers need to shred through everything we read to separate out the facts against the spin. Although I know you know this, I just had to bring it up to secure my own credibility. Also Bart keep posting I always take away something of value from your writings. Stay well JT

    • Joe Tedesky
      August 14, 2016 at 20:50

      Here is an article from back in March when al Nusra Front started scrambling to appear to be anything but al Nusra Front. Terrorism is a messy business.

      http://english.almanar.com.lb/adetails.php?fromval=2&cid=20&frid=23&seccatid=20&eid=261006

  15. ltr
    August 12, 2016 at 19:59

    Imagine the sheer craziness of the United States aligning interests with and supporting a wildly violent sectarian Syrian insurgency.

    • Abe
      August 12, 2016 at 20:57

      The war in Syria cannot be accurately described as an “insurgency”.

      For over five years, the United States has been aligned with a multi-national mercenary terrorist army, and continues to support its brutal onslaught against the Syrian people and their government.

      The Daraa “protest movement” on 17-18 March 2011 in Syria had all the appearances of a staged event involving covert support to terrorists.

      The “humanitarian mandate” of the US and its allies is sustained by diabolical “false flag” attacks which consist in killing civilians with a view to breaking the legitimacy of governments which refuse to abide by the diktats of Washington and its allies.

      In Daraa in 2011, as in Kiev in February 2014, roof top snipers were targeting both police and demonstrators.

      The coverage of Syria and Ukraine has been rigged from the very beginning.

    • Secret Agent
      August 12, 2016 at 23:29

      Your only as good as the company you keep.

  16. Abe
    August 12, 2016 at 18:53

    Hasbara damage control:
    Efraim Halevy, former director of Mossad and former head of the Israeli National Security Council, ‘splainin’ Israel’s “tactical” assistance to Jabhat al-Nusra
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vweHtxqnh-Y

  17. Abe
    August 12, 2016 at 18:38

    Uncovering the Tacit Cooperation between Israel and Jabhat al-Nusra
    By Khaled Atallah
    http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/01/syria-opposition-daraa-israel-communication-nusra.html

  18. August 12, 2016 at 18:30

    Let’s just admit the US created ISIL among other groups. They are funded by the Gulf States.

  19. Stygg
    August 12, 2016 at 18:20

    Excellent piece, thank you.

    • exiled off mainstreet
      August 12, 2016 at 21:11

      It is indeed excellent and too bad we have to look in specialized websites to see the true picture. The official view threatens nuclear war on behalf of el qaeda.

    • Peter Loeb
      August 13, 2016 at 07:41

      THIS IS PRECISELY THE FOLLOW-UP WE HAVE ALL AWAITED

      When Western media coverage began to trickle in on inner pages
      (after urgent reports from the Olympics where no one’s
      lives are in danger), one knew even with less knowledge than
      Mr Porter’s that something(s) just didn’t FIT.

      In reporting a war things don’t always “fit”.

      But this article was amazing and to the point(s).

      Thanks as always.

      —-Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

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