The vile manipulation of children to promote war is easily exposed in the case of Bana al-Abed — and the fame of a 7-year-old in American mainstream media.
(TFTP) Shameless aptly describes the dirty dealings of modern war, from drone bombing human targets from afar in denial of all due process and invasions into sovereign lands, to pro-armed aggression propaganda — often brazen fabrications disseminated across media to engender support for otherwise untenable conflict — including that of exploiting young children, who could not possibly possess the critical thinking necessary to grasp the messages their words send to the world.
And no better example of this puppetry of children for war profiteering and Western imperialist agenda-pushing exists than in the case of seven-year-old Bana al-Abed — proffered as the voice of innocent victims of the Syrian government’s bombardment of Aleppo — whose Twitter following just surpassed 386,000, after she featured in a corporate media-touted video promoting the United States’ goal of deposing Bashar al-Assad.
A child was chosen by propagandists for a reason.
September 2016 marked the creation of the Bana al-Abed Twitter account, which exploded in popularity by tweeting express “calls early on for action against the Syrian president, and Russia, and with a glaring absence of information or mention of the terrorist factions occupying eastern areas of Aleppo,” as independent journalist, Eva Bartlett, points out.
In one since-deleted tweet — a prime example of the supposed seven-year-old’s keenly bellicose thinking — al-Abed (sometimes spelled, Alabed) putatively implored,
“Dear world, it’s better to start 3rd world war instead of letting Russia & Assad commit #HolocaustAleppo”
Then, on December 13, a ceasefire agreement saw the purging and transfer of terrorist factions and their families from eastern Aleppo — an action which also triggered a flurry of tweets from ostensively unrelated accounts claiming to be in such a perilous state, their words should be considered a “last message” from inside the besieged city. al-Abed, among them, tweeted,
“I am talking to the world now live from east #Aleppo. This is my last moment to either live or die. -Bana”
My name is Bana, I’m 7 years old. I am talking to the world now live from East #Aleppo. This is my last moment to either live or die. – Bana
— Bana Alabed (@AlabedBana) December 13, 2016
Of course, the child and her family survived after safely absconding from Aleppo, stopping in Idlib, and ultimately settling in Turkey, where Bana shortly set to work vilifying the Assad regime and its ally, Russia — not exactly typical, seven-year-old, conflict refugee behavior.
Indeed, the child’s tweets appeared so sophisticated in tone and sentence construction, nuanced in idiomatic expression, and generally complex, Fatemah al-Abed, her mother, eventually had to admit to assisting on the first of the year, tweeting,
“For those wondering how can 7 year old tweet, I help her compose the tweets while she’s with me. I let her read all the replies & she enjoys”
For those wondering how can 7 year old tweet, I help her compose the tweets while she’s with me. I let her read all the replies & she enjoys
— Fatemah Alabed (@FatemahAlabed) January 1, 2017
Ultimately, the mother insisted she would allow Bana to compose social media posts, though suspicions remain that has not happened. Some believe, understandably under the circumstances, Bana may never have composed any tweets herself.
Once she arrived in Turkey, Western media ravenously championed the tear-jerking font of propaganda from the obviously-coached little girl, with CNN’s Alisyn Camerota eagerly extending a microphone, camera, and world stage to Bana.
All told, the platform given Bana comprised a potent elixir for anyone harboring misgivings about the continued dropping of bombs in populated areas of Syria — after all, if this small child pled the case for regime change across international air waves, her story had to be credible, right?
Not so much.
“It was scripted, and Bana was phonetically sounding out words that she did not understand in order to manufacture public support for more US interventionism in Syria.
“The interview was scripted, and what for me is most shocking is that Alisyn Camerota necessarily had the other half of the script. Bana wouldn’t have been able to improvise answers to unscripted questions, so Camerota was necessarily knowingly acting out a staged, scripted scene and deceiving her audience about its nature. She lied to the American people for the most despicable reason imaginable, and exploited a little child to do it.”
Of all the pro-war propaganda justifying the military-industrial machine’s mere existence, the exploitation of Bana al-Abed and the tellingly similar manipulation of Omran Daqneesh — child victims of conflict championed by the U.S., with goals having next to nothing to do with humanitarianism as so proclaimed — could arguably be deemed the most abominable use of innocents for imperialist purposes in morass in Syria.
Bana’s CNN appearance led to others — including TIME Magazine, which named her one of the top 25 most influential people; the advocacy of CNN journalist, Jake Tapper, who suggested Bana as a viable news source; and, recently, a book deal with Simon & Schuster — despite her inability to form reliably coherent sentences in English.
Another keen example of these discrepancies between written words ostensively belonging to Bana and her statements on video — a collection of misspelled basic words and sophisticated syntax even the casual observer could theorize issued from two, separate people — surfaced in January, when the BBC republished what was said to be her letter to President Donald Trump.
“I lived in Syria my whole life before I left from besieged East Aleppo on December last year. I am part of the Syrian children who suffered from the Syrian war,” Bana al-Abed — a seven-year-old child, putatively writing in her second language — wrote to the president, with bolding added to highlight the more glaringly adult syntax.
“I am very sad about them and wish they were with me because we would play together by right now. I couldn’t play in Aleppo, it was the city of death. …Right now in Turkey, I can go out and enjoy. I can go to school although I didn’t yet. That is why peace is important for everyone including you. …However, millions of Syrian children are not like me right now and suffering in different parts of Syria. They are suffering because of adult people.”
But if the pro-regime change propaganda in the supposed authentic letter weren’t off-putting enough, the BBC implores Trump to consider succumbing emotionally to the child’s pleas to depose Assad — albeit without explicitly stating as much.
“Turkey, where Bana and her family now live, supports the Syrian opposition. But President Trump’s position is not yet clear,” the BBC notes, suggesting that, were the president not to support the U.S.-armed, funded, and trained ‘moderate Syrian rebels’ in opposition to the elected administration of Assad, he would be acting single-handedly against Syria’s war-weary children.
Simple manipulation by the media, a refined vocabulary, and disparities in written and spoken comprehension of the English language obviate only superficially something amiss with the story of Bana al-Abed.
Leery of the niggling details, Bartlett, the journalist, previously interviewed Syrian colleague, Khaled Iskef, on the exploitation of Daqneesh — and revisited the topic in reference to Bana al-Abed. She writes:
“For his research, Iskef did more than look at the social media accounts of the family. He went to their home, which happened to be just meters around the corner from an al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda) headquarters, and less than 400 meters down the street from the main Al-Qaeda headquarters in Aleppo.”
Iskef learned Ghassan al-Abed, Bana’s father, describes himself on Twitter as an “Independent lawyer, Activist against terrorism and ISIS” — but that, as well as any pretense the family randomly became the face of pro-interventionist policy, falls apart upon inspection. Bartlett writes,
“In the al-Abed home, Iskef found a notebook documenting Ghassan’s work with terrorists over the years. According to the notebook (and coinciding with photos formerly on his social media pages) Ghassan Al-Abed was a military trainer for the Islamic Sawfa Brigade, and worked in the Shariah Council in the occupied state Eye Hospital, under the control of ISIS for a time until 2014, and al-Nusra for all of the time that al-Abed was there. The Shariah Council which al-Abed worked with passed decisions on imprisonment and assassination of the captured civilians being tried.”
From the location near vital al-Qaeda headquarters where photos were taken of Bana to her father’s and grandfather’s direct ties to the terrorist group, nothing about this little Syrian girl with massively popular social media accounts is as simple as made to appear.
When extenuating circumstances shred the thin semblance of innocence from an innocent child’s plea, the pro-war propaganda is working precisely as designed — precisely to engender your support for continued Western intervention in a sovereign nation’s conflict.
To propagandists, a child’s lips can do more to rile public outrage against nebulous geopolitical conflicts than any studied presentation on the merits of an aggressive military campaign ever could.
This is not a condemnation of Bana al-Abed. Rather, that condemnation is reserved for the unscrupulous adults eagerly proffering an innocent, photogenic face of the Syrian war — when they know the contrary to be true — to enjoin support for yet more bombs to be dropped on countless other innocent children who will never know the perks of a timely book deal.