According to prominent mainstream media sources, the Syrian government is currently unleashing a massive bombing campaign in Eastern Ghouta, a part of Syria that has some 393,000 people trapped in what the media calls an enclave. According to these reports, at least 500 civilians have been killed since Syrian government forces intensified their bombardment nine days ago in an attempt to retake the area from opposition forces.
This article is not a defense of the Assad regime and the allegations against it. In fact, for the purposes of this exercise, we will assume all of the above information to be one hundred percent correct.
Team America: World Police
According to NYU’s Stephen Holmes, “Homicidal rules are sometimes toppled, it is true, but rarely by good Samaritans.” In this case, the U.S. has a long and overlooked history of toppling dictators all across the globe, only to leave complete chaos and destruction in the aftermath, to which the powers-that-be quickly turn a blind eye.
Despite this reality, the mainstream media is still content to claim that the U.S. should bear the responsibility of liberating Syria from the current Syrian government. Writing for the Atlantic, Frederic C. Hof stated:
“As the slaughter continues in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta—a besieged area on the outskirts of Damascus that is home to some 400,000 people—the obvious question becomes even more urgent: How can this abomination be stopped? There are no risk-free silver bullets or magic potions. There is no diplomatic fairy dust or holy water. But one thing is inescapable: Unless the United States is seriously considering military strikes against Bashar al-Assad’s regime—a regime up to its eyes in war crimes and crimes against humanity—any discussion of ‘what to do’ is empty.” [emphasis added]
Never mind that the United States has done the exact same thing in both Iraq and Syria (and countless times in other countries throughout the Middle East). The United States has no legal justification to bomb Syria, a sovereign nation, yet in Raqqa, they launched a brutal offensive that would make anything Assad is capable of pale in comparison.
“By the time Raqqa was liberated on October 20th,” the non-partisan monitoring group Airwars estimated, “more than 1,450 civilians had likely been killed by the Coalition since the start of June. Other monitors said that at least 1,800 civilians died in the fighting. Defeat of [the] so-called Islamic State had come at an extraordinary cost, with the UN reporting that 80% of the city was left uninhabitable – despite the Coalition’s continued insistence that is had been ‘waging the most precise war in history.’”
Despite this, the mainstream media not only downplayed these crimes – they actually bragged about them.
“Looking at photographs of the ruined, desolate streets of what was once the Islamic State’s capital of Raqqa is a reminder of the overwhelming, pitilessly effective military power of the United States,” wrote the Washington Post’s David Ignatius in an op-ed published last year.
“The heaps of rubble in Raqqa that once housed terrorists and torturers convey a bedrock lesson, as valid now as in 1945: It’s a mistake to provoke the United States. It may take the country a while to respond to a threat, but once the machine of U.S. power is engaged, it’s relentless — so long as the political will exists to sustain it.” [emphasis added]
Following Ignatius’ recent trip to Raqqa, he has changed his tune somewhat, warning:
“Raqqa is a warning to be careful about destroying the ruling order, anywhere, without knowing what will come next. Russian President Vladimir Putin keeps making this point – the United States was reckless to encourage the overthrow of authority in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya without better planning for the ‘day after’ – and he’s probably right. Too often, the vacuums have been filled by warlords, foreign mercenaries and death cults….The United States and its allies nearly destroyed Raqqa to rescue it from a caliphate that governed by torture. It was a just war, but we should try hard to avoid having to fight one like it again.”
Who in their right mind wants the U.S. to liberate Syria from Assad? Where are the calls to liberate Syria from the United States military, which nearly completely destroyed an entire city it had no legal authorization to bomb in the first place?
It is worth noting that according to the United States, if its military wants to reclaim a city in Syria without any legal justification, the civilians who get caught in the crossfire will be wiped under the rubble as mere collateral damage. Meanwhile, Assad is bombing civilians in Syria for no apparent reason and without good cause, purposely committing a massacre and drawing the ire of western governments, including the U.S., which is content to do the same thing to achieve its own objectives.
According to a report from Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service, the two major groups battling the Syrian government in eastern Ghouta are Jaysh al-Islam and Faylaq al-Rahman, with a smaller Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (also known as al-Qaeda in Syria) presence in the area. All of these groups work together and are directly affiliated with al-Qaeda. Remember al-Qaeda, the group that allegedly commandeered a number of planes and turned them into missiles to strike the U.S. mainland? The group of terrorists the U.S. declared an endless war on in 2001?
These groups have the stated mission of overthrowing the Assad government and replacing his secular government with a Sharia law-based system. In 2015, a report released by the Tony Blair Foundation concluded that the majority of Syrian rebels shared ISIS’ core belief structure and that there was no point in distinguishing between moderate rebels and extremist rebels because they all work together on the ground.
Even so, the media still uses headlines like “rebel-held Ghouta” and refuses to specify who exactly these rebels are. Is this done intentionally?
The justification for the bombing on the Syrian side is that these extremist groups regularly shell civilians in Damascus. When Hamas and other groups fire rockets into Israel, much of the world justifies Israel’s aggressive response by saying Israel has the right to defend itself… from home-made rockets.
This is the problem. Either the argument is a valid one or it isn’t. We cannot use arguments of self-defense or counter-terrorism to justify America and its allies’ bombing campaigns but ignore these same defenses when other governments are accused of doing the same thing — unless we are to openly admit our bias that killing people is only wrong if a hostile state actor is doing it.
Areas Liberated/Bombarded by Assad
Between January and October 2017, nearly 715,000 Syrians had returned to their homes. This is hardly a trivial number. The vast majority of these returning Syrians returned to Aleppo, the same area we were told Assad and Russia had completely razed to the ground in a genocidal campaign in 2016. Why would these Syrians return home to the area after the Syrian government had reclaimed the territory if they were trying to flee Assad?
According to an International Organization for Migration (IOM) press release:
“The amount of people returning was generally higher in the first half of the year, which was around the time that the Government of Syria retook Aleppo city, and that other sub-districts in Aleppo Governorate were liberated from ISIL control. March was the month with the highest number of returns so far in 2017 with over 113,000 movements.
“Approximately, 25 per cent of returnees stated the need to protect assets and properties as their reason for return. Other reasons noted include improvement of security situation (20 per cent), social and cultural issues hindering integration or safety in area of displacement (17 per cent), improvement of economic situation in area of return (18 per cent) and worsening of economic situation in area of displacement (15 per cent).”
The IOM also noted that despite these high numbers, some 1,452,636 individuals were newly displaced in Syria at the same time, mostly from the areas of Raqqa and Deir Ez-Zor. What do those two locations have in common? They were both besieged by American airstrikes and American-backed forces on the ground. The U.S. even made a secret deal to allow thousands of ISIS fighters to escape from Raqqa safely to Deir Ez-Zor solely so the U.S. could then bombard Deir Ez-Zor and claim Syria’s most lucrative oil fields.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR)
For the above aspects of this report, I assumed the allegations against Assad to be true in order to prove my point. However, it is still important to examine where the majority of the allegations against Assad – both recent and past – are originating. As far as we can see, the majority of the reports coming out from Eastern Ghouta appear to rely on the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).
As Anti-Media documented in July 2016, SOHR is run by one anti-Assad dissident in Coventry, England, named Rami Abdulrahman. According to the New York Times, Abdulrahman relies on four men from inside Syria to help collate and report data from more than 230 activists on the ground. The Times admitted that SOHR is essentially “a one-man band” operating out of a “semi-detached red brick house on an ordinary residential street” using the “simplest, cheapest Internet technology available.”
Abdulrahman has not been back to Syria in approximately 17 years, and his sources are completely anonymous. He receives funding from one European country that he refuses to disclose, but he is also self-funded through the clothes shop he owns near his house (this is not a joke).
This is not to say SOHR is a complete propaganda outfit; maybe Abdulrahman’s work is meticulous, and perhaps his reports are one hundred percent accurate. But how could we possibly know? The fact alone that there is good cause to doubt SOHR reports means the benefit should lie with the doubt until further evidence is presented. However, the mainstream media never asks the hard questions in order to actually conduct a thorough investigation.
Who are Abdulrahman’s sources? Are they connected to al-Qaeda or one of its affiliates? How reliable is the information? Can it be further confirmed by other sources?
The Point of this Exercise
The purpose of this exercise is not to defend the Syrian government, which may or may not be unleashing an ongoing humanitarian catastrophe on its own people. The point is that our selective outrage does nothing for the people of Syria and enforces a pro-interventionist narrative led by countries that routinely commit mass murder on an even larger scale. Donald Trump openly said he would look Syrian children in the eye and tell them to “go home.” He is not the man to save Syria from violence.
We need to ask ourselves: If we care about the victims of one particular bombing campaign but we don’t care about the others, do we really care at all about what is currently taking place? Or are we simply being told to care by the corporate media and the governments who benefit from this narrative?