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Demonize and Distract: Sanitizing Syria for the Masses

By Jason Hirthler | CounterPunch | September 9, 2016

Summoning the Humanitarian Pretext

The arch pragmatist Machiavelli once wrote that, “If you watch the ways of men, you will see that those who obtain great wealth and power do so either by force or fraud, and having got them they conceal under some honest name the foulness of their deeds.” You couldn’t pen a better description of the relationship between the imperial corporate state and its supplicant media. Once the coffers of vulnerable nations are ransacked by American wars of aggression, it is the media that sweeps the crimes of state beneath a carpet of piety. The truth may come out in due time, although it is always ex post facto. Thanks to the the coordination between the corporate sector, the state, and the media, the American doctrinal system is largely a self-contained narrative. It comes complete with a smooth internal logic. Corporations set priorities, the state produces a storyline that rationalizes the pursuit of those priorities, and the media distributes and reifies the storyline until it is gospel. This is no surprise, since the corporations own the politicians and the presses. Yet one way to examine the functioning of this kind of systemic propaganda is by looking at some of the keywords on which the stories hinge.

The foul deeds Machiavelli mentioned now principally occur in the Middle East, where vast resources lie and where power may be usefully projected deep into Eurasia. The Syrian proxy war between forces east and west is a nice example of how the dissimulations initiated in Washington are disseminated through the MSM. For instance, The New York Times, and its deputies in the vast clearinghouses of state propaganda, would have us believe that the White House is supporting freedom-loving rebels in Syria who are politically moderate and fighting for their lives in a civil war against a despotic regime led by an evil optometrist, Bashar al-Assad.

But we know that the entire Syrian fiasco was engineered by the CIA with cash, guns, and training, and unceasing support from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) at our behest. It is a long-standing neoconservative plan to break the so-called Shia Crescent that runs from Lebanon through Syria to Iran. These are, of course, the independent-minded states that have thus far refused to accept either Israeli colonization of Palestinian land or permit Western-backed energy projects to take shape on their territory. Hence the need to dismember them into tiny, feckless statelets that pose no challenge to either Tel Aviv or Washington.

But this is hidden behind the fog of war and a domestic haze of media nuance. This entire conflict could reasonably be said to hinge on a single phrase: “moderate rebels.” The words “moderate” and “rebel” make all the difference in the telling of this fable. The truth is that we have hijacked Arab Spring discontent and festooned it with brigades of terrorist mercenaries procured from around the Middle East and Asia, all with the singular mandate to take down the Assad government. Tens of thousands of jihadists have been injected by NATO into a multi-confessional state governed by an elected leader who won a larger percentage of the electorate than our liberal messiah Barack Obama.

But this more truthful interpretation of events is unacceptable. To concede that the White House is now backing al-Qaeda terrorists in an effort to capsize a Middle Eastern democracy would implode the religion of American exceptionalism on which elite power depends. Thus the media cannot point out that the Pentagon’s recent admission of having troops in Syria violates the Nuremberg Principles on wars of aggression as well as the United Nations Charter. Omissions of this kind are what prevent average Americans from a) knowing what we’re really doing; and b) resisting it.

Demonize and Distract

But it isn’t enough to simply cloak our own crimes in the holy cloth of exceptionalism. We must defame our enemies. We must plant false flags in their soil now so that we can bury bombs in them later. It happens the same way every time. ‘Shocking’ discoveries are made about one of our most reviled enemies, usually provided by a defector with a farcical alias (think “Curveball”). Instantaneous mainstream reports issue a coordinated condemnation of the country in question. Each media outlet chooses a particular keyword to drive home the horror. Popular terms include “crimes against humanity”, “war crimes”, the words “industrial scale” in front of any noun or verb, the word “mass” in front of any noun or verb, “brutal crackdown”, “regime”, and so on. Grisly images are plastered across the front pages of the MSM. Often the images are fakes or are from unrelated incidents.

Once the reader has been stupefied, at least one columnist or politician will draw a deep breath, and then ‘draw comparisons’ to either Hitler and Auschwitz or Slobodan Milosevic and mass graves. (Recently Milosevic was declared innocent of all genocidal charges by the International Criminal Tribunal on Yugoslavia, albeit years after he died in prison after being denied medical treatment by his civilized captors. This process of posthumous exoneration is now practiced on an “industrial scale” by Obama’s drone assassination when various innocents are discovered to have been innocent after they’ve been “terminated”.)

Not only is the supposedly noble Syrian uprising a fraud, but so is our equally principled goal of wiping ISIS from the face of the earth, if the facts on the ground are of any import. Washington has gone after ISIS in a strangely half-hearted way. Why hasn’t it provided air cover for Syrian Arab Army when its helicopters were rendered useless by terrorist TOW missiles? Missiles sold by the United States to Saudi Arabia, likely for the express purpose of funneling them to al Nusrah and other rogue bandits in Syria. Why did the U.S. not immediately attack ISIS-controlled oil wells and oil trading routes–ISIS’ chief source of funding–as Russia did on its entry into the conflict? Why did the Obama administration produce a record-setting arms deal with the Saudis, the leading proselytizer of Wahhabism in the world? Why do we refuse to work with Moscow or the SAA or Iran? Why do we not share grids and intelligence and join their joint operations room in Baghdad?

Isn’t it obvious? We have different goals. We want Assad out and a daft, pliant puppet in charge, presiding over a vast arsenal of domestic police, ready to crush resistance on contact. Of course, any such resisters would be legitimate freedom fighters, as are the Palestinians. But the media takes care to call Palestinians “terrorists” and called citizens resisting the Iraqi occupation “insurgents”. Words matter. They shade the story and bring neutral readers over to the side of empire. They blame the victim for the violence that victimized them.

The dissimulation becomes even clearer when you realize that ISIS emerged from an American interrogation camp in Iraq, in a way that suggests CentCom was more than happy to release radicalized Islamists into the wild. To what purpose? The failed state in Libya and the collapsing scenery of the Syrian state provide plenty of fodder for speculation.

The Wages of Propaganda

Thanks to years of conditioning by the media, the population will do little to resist the escalation to come. Eventually the Syrian “regime” to be eventually overthrown by relentless American-backed violence. Hillary Clinton will win the election and gain control of the Oval Office. As Glen Ford wrote at Black Agenda Report, Clinton will “… ride into the White House on a warhorse”. She is the thinking man’s neocon, unlike President Bush, who represented the anti-intellectual strain of the American character, and Barack Obama, whose reluctance to pour troops into Arab prairie fires was widely predictably condemned as a sign of weakness.

Hillary is neither stupid nor soft. She will doubtless find a useful pretext by which to declare a no-fly zone in Syria, which would inhibit the efficacy of Russia’s campaign against various terrorist clans. (A House resolution is already afoot to lay the groundwork.) She will move more troops into the polder of northern Syria, violating all kinds of charters and conventions and declarations with an icy mixture of contempt and indifference. (See the UN Charter, Geneva Conventions, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for the bootless scraps of paper she will trample.) Perhaps most importantly, she will green light the transport of more arms, ammunition, and psychopaths into Syria to make a push for Damascus in the hopes of repeating the Libyan calamity.

Should that project succeed, Hillary will quite possibly ‘discover’ that Iran has been violating its bogus nuclear agreement with the P5 +1. Anonymous administration sources will be “troubled” by the development. This isn’t idle speculation. For lack of a better title, the long-term strategy for the “new world order,” as George H.W. Bush put it, is contingent on splitting the Shia Crescent, removing Iran as a regional antagonist, then moving farther into Eurasia to control Sino-Russian development. And we know how a confrontation with Tehran would play out. With rabid spittle cresting his white beard, Wolf Blitzer will escort numberless brigadier generals through The Situation Room to reassure Americans that the bearded mullahs in Qom are indeed a fearsome clan. Hillary will threaten, and perhaps use, tactical nuclear weapons (B-61s) on Iranian nuclear sites, backed by either a UN Security Council resolution of dubious authority or a coalition of the bullied, bought, and willing. As the mushroom cloud envelops the region in radioactive waste, Israel will be seen fastidiously colonizing more West Bank land, Benjamin Netanyahu rubbing his hands in frenzied anticipation, a dogeared copy of the Yinon plan stuffed in his jacket pocket. Saudi Arabia’s Deputy and Crown Princes will celebrate the fall of their hated rivals. Laconic onlookers in Washington and Europe will shrug and say nothing. CIA plants in D.C. will fastidiously distance Hillary’s bombs from Hiroshima’s, and Tel Aviv will move against Hezbollah in a final confrontation, since the Shia Crescent will by then be nothing more than a few shards of Mesopotamian culture atop a flaming midden.

With the Middle East finally brought “to heel,” as Hillary once proposed doing to young black boys, the ground will have been cleared for the pulse-racing showdown with Russia itself, the greatest thorn in Washington’s side. With Assad out of the way and Tehran chastened, the Kremlinologists and conspiracy theorists can be set loose to harrow the public into a state of high anxiety about the “expansionist” state to the East. NATO will inch closer to Russian borders and shout that Russia is moving closer to NATO. Destabilization will proceed apace. It will be called “democracy promotion” and will be paid for by fronts called “endowments”. Sanctions will tighten the economic screws. Verbal salvos will hit targets on either side of the water. New proxy wars will be touched off. Only a giant peace movement or stray asteroid could prevent something like this from happening. Perhaps the BRICS will halt the spread of empire with a collective stance, but Washington is agile if not artful at executing its core strategy to destabilize, divide, and rule its rivals. Until then, if you want to know what contempt looks like, look at this picture of Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin meeting at the G20 in China last week. The tenor of tomorrow is written all over their faces.

Jason Hirthler is a veteran of the communications industry and author of The Sins of Empire: Unmasking American Imperialism. He lives in New York City and can be reached at jasonhirthler@gmail.com.

September 10, 2016 - Posted by | "Hope and Change", Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. Agree with you on the middle east, in the last bit there is something missing. The middle east is the playground of oil oligarchs, zionist and wahabist dictators.The real goal is china. Russia must be broken with a Jeltsin look a like sales puppet in charge, but can stil be usefull. Chinas economic en technological potential is every western capitalist nightmare, because the chinese labourers are not going back to making iphones they never allowed to use. If you cant control it, you destroy it. Obama started with containment, korea, south chinese sea, laos, vietnam etc.

    Comment by Ben Sanders | September 11, 2016 | Reply

    • In my view China has collaborated with the Zionized west and the west still thinks they can exploit the Chinese people.

      China’s rulers have exercised a degree of independence but as yet have not crossed any red lines.

      Putin on the other hand has twice stymied the destruction of Syria which has been a major Zionist aim. It is apparent that the western rulers are not going to tolerate such impudence.

      Comment by aletho | September 11, 2016 | Reply


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