By Dr Ramzy Baroud
December 15, 2016
When a veteran war reporter like Robert
Fisk constructs his argument regarding the siege of Aleppo based on ‘watching’
video footage, then one can truly comprehend the near impossibility of adequate
media coverage on the war in Syria.
In a recent article in the British
‘Independent’, Fisk reflects on the siege, uprising and atrocious Nazi
massacres in Warsaw, Poland in 1944. The terribly high cost of that war leads
him to reject the French assertion that the current siege in Aleppo is the ‘worst
massacre since World War Two.’
“Why do we not see the defending fighters,
as we do on the Warsaw films? Why are we not told about their political
allegiance, as we most assuredly are on the Warsaw footage? Why do we not see
‘rebel’ military hardware – as well as civilian targets – being hit by
artillery and air attack as we do on the Polish newsreels?,” he asks, further
demonstrating what he perceives to be the flaw of such a comparison.
Not that Fisk doubts that pictures of the
dead and wounded children in eastern Aleppo are real; his argument is largely
against the one-sidedness of the coverage, of demonizing one party, while
Without reserve, I always find comparing
massacres – to find out which is worse – tasteless, if not inhumane. What is
the point in this, aside from mitigating the effect of a terrible tragedy, by
comparing it to a hypothetically much greater tragedy? Or, as the French have
done, perhaps exaggerating the human toll to create the type of fear that often
leads to reckless political and military action?
The French and other NATO countries have
used this tactic repeatedly in the past. In fact, this is how the war on Libya
was concocted, purportedly to stave off the imminent Tripoli ‘genocide’ and
Benghazi ‘bloodbath.’ The Americans used it in Iraq, successfully. The Israelis
have perfected it in Gaza.
In fact, the United States’ intervention in
Iraq was always tied to some sort of imagined global threat that,
unsurprisingly, was never proven. Former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair,
was so eager to take part in the conquest of Iraq in 2003 that he contrived
intelligence alleging that Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, was able to deploy
weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes from the moment such an order was
The US went even further: it was only
recently revealed that the US had hired a London-based firm, Bell Pottinger, to
create fake al-Qaeda videos and news reports that were designed to appear as if
written by legitimate Arabic media.
The propaganda videos were ‘personally
approved’ by the commander of the US-led coalition forces in Iraq at the time,
General David Petraeus, Salon and others reported.
We still do not know the specific content
of many of these videos and to what extent such material, which cost US tax
payers $540 million dollars, influenced events on the ground and our
understanding of these events.
Considering the high financial cost and the
fact that the company worked directly from inside Baghdad’s ‘Camp Victory’,
‘side-by-side’ with high-ranking US officials, one can only imagine the degree
of deceit imparted upon innocent viewers and readers for years.
Compounded with the fact that the whole
reason behind the war was a lie, the then Secretary of Defense, Donald
Rumsfeld, had no intention of ever informing reporters of what was really
transpiring on the ground, and that countless reporters agreed to be ‘embedded’
with US-British forces, thus further contributing to the one-sided narrative.
One is left to wonder if any truth ever emerged from Iraq.
Then, again, we know that hundreds of
thousands have died in that catastrophic military adventure, that Iraq is not
better off, and that thousands more are still being killed because this is what
happens when countries are invaded, destabilized, hurriedly reassembled and
then left to lick their wounds, alone.
The chaotic violence and sectarianism in
Iraq are the direct outcome of the US invasion and occupation, which were
constructed on official lies and dishonest media reporting.
Is it too much to ask, then, that we learn
from those dreadful mistakes, to understand that when all is said and done,
nothing will remain but mass graves and grieving nations?
As for the lies that enable wars, and allow
the various sides to clinch on their straw arguments of selected morality, few
ever have the intellectual courage to take responsibility when they are proven
wrong. We simply move on, uncaring for the victims of our intellectual
“The extreme bias shown in foreign media
coverage of similar events in Iraq and Syria will be a rewarding subject for
PhD students looking at the uses and abuses of propaganda down the ages,” wrote
war reporter, Patrick Cockburn.
He is right, of course, but as soon as his
report on media bias was published, he was attacked and dismissed by both sides
on social media. From their perspective, a proper position would be for him to
completely adopt the version of events as seen by one side, and totally ignore
Yet, with both sides of the war having no
respect for media or journalists – the list of journalists killed in Syria
keeps on growing – no impartial journalist is allowed to carry out his or her
work in accordance with the minimum standards of reporting.
Thus, the ‘truth’ can only be gleaned based
on deductive reasoning – as many of us have successfully done, reporting on
Iraq and Palestine.
Of course, there will always been the
self-tailored activist-journalist-propagandist variety who will continue to
cheer for death and destruction in the name of whatever ideology they choose to
follow. They abide by no reasoning, but their own convenient logic – that which
is only capable of demonizing their enemies and lionizing their friends.
Unfortunately, these media trolls are the
ones shaping the debate on much of what is happening in the Middle East today.
While the coverage of war in the past has
given rise to many daring journalists – Seymour Hersh in Vietnam, Tariq Ayyoub
in Iraq, photo-journalist Zoriah Miller, and hundreds more – the war in Syria
is destroying journalistic integrity and, with it, our readers’ ability to
decipher one of the most convoluted conflicts of the modern era.
In Syria, as in Iraq and other warring
regions in the Middle East, the ‘truth’ is not shaped by facts, but opinions,
themselves fashioned by blind allegiances, not truly humanistic principles or
even simple common sense.
“Loyalty to petrified opinions never yet
broke a chain or freed a human soul in this world — and never will,” wrote Mark
Twain many years ago.
It was true then, as it is true in the
Middle East today.
Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20
years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an
author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His books
include “Searching Jenin”, “The Second Palestinian Intifada” and his latest “My
Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story”.