Journalism

Reporting Atrocities

Syrian government forces and militia loyal to the Assad regime are killing and sexually abusing children and using them as human shields, the UN says, amid fears that the conflict is intensifying.

 
Kofi Annan said he was “gravely concerned” about the escalation of fighting in Syria, citing the shelling of opposition areas in central Homs province and reports of mortar, helicopter and tank attacks in the town of Haffa and its surrounding villages in Latakia province on the Mediterranean coast. The US state department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland voiced fears about reports that the regime “may be organising another massacre” in Latakia, where UN monitors have been impeded.

 
The UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon’s annual report on children and armed conflict during 2011 included Syrian government forces and the allied shabiha for the first time on a list of 52 governments and armed groups that recruit, kill or sexually attack children in armed conflicts.

 

The Guardian 12.06.12

There is substantial evidence that the Houla massacre was carried out by the rebels: http://bit.ly/LPHFir. There is also evidence that many reports coming out of the western media are lies: http://bit.ly/LPJv2H. There is evidence that there is a US plan to take down the governments of several Middle East states including Syria:http://vimeo.com/38951836.

Following revelations about the real perpetrators of Houla we see a spate of reports about the Syrian army using children as human shields and also torturing and abusing them. This is reminiscent of reports in the first Iraq war that babies were being thrown out of incubators and reports that Gaddafi’s army were being given viagra to help them carry out rapes. These proved to be lies. While I’m not saying that the reports of Syrian regime abuses are all untrue I think we would be justified in treating all news reports with a high degree of analysis and scepticism.

The Syria Deception

This video from RT asks if the West’s media shapes rather than reports news coming out of Syria and the other Arab conflicts. The answer is clear as we see former Al Jazzera journalists who say that they resigned because of the clear bias against the governments of some countries and see staged interviews with a purportedly wounded child and with British born Syrian activist, Danny Abdul-Dayem aka ‘Syrian Danny’.

The section that shows Danny Abdul-Dayem lying about being in a war zone where two hundred people had just been killed by government bombardment is from a leaked video.

Under the title ‘The Houla Hoaxters‘, Justin Raimondo has written a good summary of what is either the media incompetence or else the coordinated deception that has been misinforming the public in the west about what is happening in Syria.

Over the past few days it has become clear that it was the anti-government forces that were responsible for the massacre in Houla. John Rosenthal, in a National Review Online article writes:

It was, in the words of U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan, the “tipping point” in the Syria conflict: a savage massacre of over 90 people, predominantly women and children, for which the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad was immediately blamed by virtually the entirety of the Western media. Within days of the first reports of the Houla massacre, the U.S., France, Great Britain, Germany, and several other Western countries announced that they were expelling Syria’s ambassadors in protest.

 

But according to a new report in Germany’s leading daily, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), the Houla massacre was in fact committed by anti-Assad Sunni militants, and the bulk of the victims were member of the Alawi and Shia minorities, which have been largely supportive of Assad. For its account of the massacre, the report cites opponents of Assad, who, however, declined to have their names appear in print out of fear of reprisals from armed opposition groups.

William Hague must be aware of this so why does he and other UK/US politicians insist that the Assad regime is to blame for all the violence?

Libya and Africa

http://youtu.be/Y6sOrUBYxp8

Reports coming out of Libya, even from the mainstream western media, show that the place is a mess. The result of the NATO intervention has been to set up an ineffectual government that has no democratic mandate and that competes with armed militias. The Channel 4 documentary describes a nation in continued conflict and rife with racist brutality against black Libyans and black migrant workers. It is interesting that although the documentary shows the truth of what is happening the commentary makes many references to the ‘barbarism’ of the Gaddafi regime, asserts that everyone is happy to see Gaddafi gone and repeats the lie that he was using mercenaries against his own people. Perhaps it would not have been possible to make the film without these caveats.

It is very clear that the NATO intervention in Libya was not humanitarian and was based on lies just as the decision to invade Iraq was based on lies. What does this say about David Cameron who with Sarkozy and Obama were central to pursuing the war and pushing for ‘regime change’? What does it say about the ‘loyal opposition’ that did not oppose this?

Dan Glazebrook argues that Gaddafi was a bulwark against US plans to recolonise Africa for the western powers and his elimination means that these plans can go ahead unhindered:

Glazebrook writes:

Libya’s destruction gave AFRICOM a renewed lease on life. The U.S. Africa Command “has now announced an unprecedented fourteen major joint military exercises in African countries for 2012.” Meanwhile, the NATO-created “government” of Libya passed Law 37, which imposes life in prison for “glorifying the former government or its leader,” and Law 38, which immunizes from prosecution all crimes – including lynching and ethic cleansing – committed while “promoting or protecting the revolution.”

With a threat of life imprisonment for “glorifying the former government or its leader,” it is hardly surprising if reporters find few people speaking well of the previous regime.

Glazebrook’s article, reprinted in Black Agenda Report provides a proper commentary to the Channel 4 Documentary:

“Libyan resources are now being jointly plundered by the oil multinationals and a handful of chosen families from amongst the country’s new elites.”
The scale of the ongoing tragedy visited on Libya by NATO and its allies is becoming horribly clearer with each passing day. Estimates of those killed so far vary, but 50,000 seems like a low estimate; indeed the British Ministry of Defense was boasting that the onslaught had killed 35,000 as early as last May. But this number is constantly growing. The destruction of the state’s forces by British, French and American blitzkrieg has left the country in a state of total anarchy – in the worst possible sense of the word. Having had nothing to unite them other than a temporary willingness to act as NATO’s foot soldiers, the former “rebels” are now turning on each other. 147 were killed in in-fighting in Southern Libya in a single week earlier this year, and in recent weeks government buildings – including the Prime Ministerial compound – have come under fire by “rebels” demanding cash payment for their services. $1.4billion has been paid out already – demonstrating once again that it was the forces of NATO colonialism, not Gaddafi, who were reliant on “mercenaries” – but payments were suspended last month due to widespread nepotism. Corruption is becoming endemic – a further $2.5billion in oil revenues that was supposed to have been transferred to the national treasury remains unaccounted for. Libyan resources are now being jointly plundered by the oil multinationals and a handful of chosen families from amongst the country’s new elites; a classic neo-colonial stitch-up. The use of these resources for giant infrastructure projects such as the Great Manmade River, and the massive raising of living standards over the past four decades (Libyan life expectancy rose from 51 to 77 since Gaddafi came to power in 1969) sadly looks to have already become a thing of the past.

The rest of Glazebrook’s article describes how:

in the same month Gaddafi was murdered (October 2011) – the US announced it was sending troops to no less than four more African countries – the Central African Republic, Uganda, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. AFRICOM has now announced an unprecedented fourteen major joint military exercises in African countries for 2012.

That the machinations in the Middle East and Africa are part of a plan to maintain the dominance of the West is so obvious that it takes wilful blindness not to see it. The question is, what can ordinary citizens of the UK do individually or collectively?

Libya and ‘Weaponized Narrative’

I’ve been interested in the Libya situation since news of the rebellion hit the mainstream media early in 2011 with strange stories of British troops being arrested in Bengazi. There are competing narratives positing Gaddafi as a mad despot or a benevolent philosopher king. After the NATO intervention we got stories of the rebels killing and torturing their opponents, supporters of the former regime. In particular there was a narrative, particularly in the alternative or ‘non-mainstream media’, about about a pogrom against black Libyans:

http://youtu.be/yuCJcaQRIuA

This narrative appears to be well documented. There are several videos available on YouTube about black people being terrorised, tortured and killed together with other Libyans who are suspected of being loyal to the former regime. Very little seemed to be coming out of the mainstream US and UK media.

Recently a story titled “In Libya, the Captors Have Become the Captive” by Robert F Worth was published in the New York Times. This story epitomises the mainstream narrative that Gaddafi was a particularly brutal dictator and that the situation following his overthrow is one in which the imposed government, the National Transitional Council (NTC), is trying to establish justice and democracy but has to deal with a will to vengeance by Libyans in the various and largely autonomous militias that comprised the rebel forces. Worth presents us with the story of a militia leader in charge of prisoners who had been prison guards under the Gaddafi regime. We are presented with a former guard who had gratuitously tortured prisoners and with a Gaddafi soldier who had murdered the brother of the militia leader. We are told that the tables have been turned and now the prisoners who he had been tortured are able to torture their former captives. It is brutal but there is an inevitability and a certain justice about it.

Worth’s narrative is a ‘human interest story that invites us to sympathise with the rebel torturers. It does not talk about the pogroms against black people or give the big picture. Its effect and arguably its purpose is to insinuate the general from a particular. It is well written and worth reading but we come away with a only a story, with only a perspective, with maybe a fragment of the truth but one that is not the whole truth nor only the truth. Because it is well written we think we know more but we do not we have just heard a story.

Stories can powerfully influence the way we think. An article in the Disiformation blog referencing a Wired article suggests that US government agencies are looking at “weaponized narrative” as part of their propaganda strategies. It’s surely not a big stretch to connect the dots and ask whether Worth’s NYT article is just such a “weaponized narrative”.