It is good journalism when the media become the voice of the voiceless, the watchdog and the fifth estate. Often shoddy journalism is referred to as bad journalism. There is another type of journalism – the ugly or dirty journalism, where the media play the role of a hit man, a mercenary promoting someone else’s agenda.
Suddenly ugly journalism is in all force to tell the world that what is happening in Syria’s Ghouta, the land of Eden turned hell, is genocide. The corporate media raising the alarm and arousing public protests worldwide to put pressure on world leaders to act fast to save the trapped civilians of Ghouta, some may say, is perfectly in order. But why now? Why this sudden awakening? Why this selective alarm?
Since the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, Ghouta, which is less than an hour’s drive from Damascus, has been under the iron rule of the so-called Islamic rebels, whom the corporate media, working for their clients in the White House and lofty palaces in the Arabian Gulf region, are trying to project as moderate rebels opposed to tyrant Bashar al-Assad. The Western media were largely silent when the rebels linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorised the civilians of Ghouta, just as the ISIS did in Iraq’s Mosul and other places. These rebels used Ghouta as a launching pad to shell highly populated Damascus and carry out terrorist attacks. These attacks killed civilians, including children. In April last year, 68 children were among some 130 people killed when a rebel car bomb hit a convoy of civilians leaving Aleppo, following a safe-passage arrangement between the Syrian Government and the rebels. But their deaths drew little condemnation.
Even now the happenings in Ghouta come to us through the prism of the Western media, which rely on material supplied by rebels who are known to be producing fake videos to evoke the international community’s response against the Syrian regime. According to a Russia Today report, photographs taken in Gaza and Mosul were being liberally circulated in the social media as being those from Ghouta. It is alleged that the Syrian forces were using chlorine bombs to kill civilians.
Independent investigations show that both the regime and the rebels have used chemical weapons. The Western media are often fed by an organisation called the White Helmets, which is working largely in collaboration with various rebel groups. This organisation, according to news sites, which carry reports that corporate media would not show or publish, is allegedly controlled by Western intelligence outfits to give credibility to western – also rebel – propaganda against the Syrian regime.
We do not deny there is suffering in Ghouta. We insist that the Syrian war should be halted immediately so that the Syrian people can lead a peaceful life as they did before February 2011.
But this suffering is as much due to rebel atrocities as it is to the Syrian government’s attacks. Following last Saturday’s United Nations-backed truce in Ghouta, Russia announced a safe corridor for the trapped civilians to leave the enclave. But reports claim that the rebels were using the civilians as human shields and preventing them from leaving. The LTTE did this in Sri Lanka, the Islamic State in Iraq and now Syrian rebels in Ghouta, where so far some 600 civilians including children have perished in three weeks of clashes between the rebels and the Syrian government troops.
When bombs rained on Mosul, Iraq, some 4,000 civilians, including children, died; hundreds of them were buried alive under rubble when US and Iraqi war planes unleashed their massive fire power on urban population centres. Corporate media carried no disturbing television footage with a warning to viewers. Despite the United Nations raising concerns over civilian safety, the destruction of Mosul was justified on the basis that ISIS needed to be eliminated. There was no pressure on Iraq and the United States to abandon the campaign against ISIS.
Saudi Arabia drew only mild criticism when charity organisations in November last year warned that a million children will die in Yemen due to the Saudi blockade on Yemen’s rebel-held areas.
Ghouta is no different from Mosul or Yemen. The people there should be liberated. Their suffering should end. But the responsibility of ending this suffering is largely on those who started the war. The war was not Assad’s doing. Syria was relatively peaceful before all hell broke loose. Against the backdrop of Arab-spring-led regime changes in the Middle East, Tens of thousands of foreign fighters, helped by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and their Western allies, penetrated Syria to incite a rebellion against Assad.
If people’s power uprisings were responsible for the regime changes in Tunisia and Egypt, it was totally a different scenario in Libya. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE and their Western allies engineered an armed rebellion against Muammar Gaddafi. Foreign mercenaries were airdropped to train and guide anti-Gaddafi rebels mainly in Benghazi, while the Nato carried out air attacks on Libya.
The formula executed with clinical precision succeeded in overthrowing Gaddafi. The fathers of the formula then turned their attention towards Syria, assuming that what worked for them in Libya would work for them in Syria. The war mongers partnered with al Qaeda and ISIS and wanted a regime change in Syria because Assad had resisted their plan to build a pipeline across Syria to send Qatari and Saudi gas via Turkey to Europe, where Russia controlled more than 60 percent of the gas market.
These countries were also apprehensive of the rising power of the so-called Iranian-led Shiite Crescent which included Iran, Iraq, Syria and parts of Lebanon, not to mention the rise of Shiite political forces in Bahrain, Yemen, and the eastern region of Saudi Arabia. By setting up a friendly regime in Syria, the war party thought, they could quash Iran’s regional ambitions.
In addition, Israel also wanted Assad ousted and a regime loyal to the West installed so that the new rulers of Syria could hand over the Golan Heights to Israel. There is oil in Golan Heights. Israeli and US companies have plans to commercially exploit this oil. But Israel is prohibited from selling the Golan oil in the international market because under international law, an occupying nation cannot profit from resources of an occupied area. So they all wanted Assad ousted.
But the direct involvement of Russia, which has a naval base in Syria, in the Syrian conflict since 2015 changed the equation in favour of Assad. In the meantime, regular terror attacks in Europe forced the United States and European nations to declare an all-out war against ISIS.
Assad is a tyrant because the corporate media continue to describe him so. He may be or maybe not. But he has not spurned international peace moves, especially the one now being spearheaded by Russia. At the initial stages of the conflict, Assad was even willing to hold multi-party elections to find a speedy solution to the crisis. But peace talks have so far failed because of the insistence of the rebels and their sponsors that Assad must go. The solution to the crisis can only be found with Assad as a partner.