Syria October Update: Father Dave Smith.

Vietnam war memorial
Vietnam war memorial (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Posted October 3, 2013

by Jerry Alatalo

The following is Father Dave Smith’s latest post on the situation in Syria, from his website fatherdave.org.

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I’m writing to you from the lovely town of Narooma on our state’s south coast. Our family is taking a few days off at Ange’s parents’ house and, as you can see from the pic below, the children are frolicking in the sunshine and enjoying the great outdoors!

Enjoying the great outdoors!

Enjoying the great outdoors!

I’m afraid that since we last spoke I seem to have been bogged down in desk work and other clerical duties, though I have been keeping myself up-to-date with Syria. Indeed, I’ve been finding myself increasingly mired in the ongoing information war.

I hope that you saw my article on “How Obama lost the first battle for Damascus”.  It got quite a wide circulation and can now be found on onlineopinion.com.au, orientalreview.org, and counterpunch.org, as well as on my own Syria blog – prayersforsyria.com.

My aim in the article was to try to unravel some of the rhetoric that was being used to prepare the ground for open war. Since writing, I’ve been made even more aware of just how deep and dirty this war of words really is!

The Battle for Hearts and Minds

Some of us are old enough to remember the only war in human history that was ever brought to a close due to popular demand – the war in Vietnam (1955-75). The reason the Vietnam War was so unique and was concluded in such a unique fashion was that it was the only war to have ever been televised by an independent media!

The power-brokers learnt their lessons from Vietnam. Mainline media is no longer so independent, and reporters are no longer allowed to move freely around the front lines. They are now safely ‘embedded’ at well-determined vantage-points.  The makers-of-war lost control of the narrative in Vietnam and determined not to lose their grip again. Then along came the Internet, and with it, the threat of the true democratization of information!

This where Obama came unstuck, I suspect. He announced that Assad had committed a crime that warranted his country being invaded and a million bloggers cried foul!

From what I could see, the mainline media did very little to question the official government narrative, just as they completely failed to notice that every sector of the church across the globe had united in opposition to US intervention. Even so, the multiple voices of dissent could not be kept below the surface. There were too many of them, and too many people had the capacity to hear them!

It would be interesting to do a detailed comparison of the various lies that have been used to justify wars and see how this latest set compares. Even putting to one side the obvious lies concerning Saddam Hussein’s Weapons of Mass Destruction and his supposed links to Al Qaeda, we could push back a little further and compare:

  • The stories told by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, in April 2011, about how Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was issuing Viagra to his troops to encourage the systematic rape of civilians – a charge that was later investigated by both ‘Doctors Without Borders’ and ‘Amnesty International’, and shown to be without foundation (see here).
  • The eerily similar 1993 story of an unnamed Serbian General who commanded his troops to “Go forth and rape”. It made the front page of the New York Times and helped grease the wheels for NATO’s intervention in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The paper later published a small correction saying that “the existence of “a systematic rape policy” by the Serbs “remains to be proved.”” but this received little attention.
  • The Kuwaiti girl who testified before Congress in 1990 that she had seen Iraqi soldiers storm the hospital where she worked and dump newborn babies out of their incubators. She turned out to be the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the US, if you remember, and the whole ‘baby-killer’ story turned out to be the brain child of an American marketing firm, but nobody questioned the story until well after it had played its role in justifying the first invasion of Iraq.
  • George Bush I’s outlandish depiction of Manuel Noriega, accompanied by the transparently false claim that American lives were at risk in Panama, used to justify the invasion of 1989, cynically named “Operation Just Cause”!
  • The outrageous lies told by Ronald Reagan back in 1983 to justify the invasion of the tiny Caribbean nation of Grenada – claiming that the tiny country was being developed into a Cuban-Soviet military base that would be used to launch communist attacks against the US!
  • The staged “The Gulf of Tonkin” incident that launched America into a full-scale war in Indochina in 1964!

Most of us are too young to remember this last incident, but recently declassified documents reveal quite unambiguously that the “unprovoked attack” by North Vietnamese vessels on the USS Maddox on the night of August 4, 1964, never actually took place!

In short, government lies are nothing new and they are rarely particularly sophisticated. You get the impression that the great powers assume that their voting public will believe anything that comes from the top, and history shows that generally we do!

I think the reason for this is simple. The papers inevitably report what our leaders say. If there is a denial of the leader’s statement, it’s nestled somewhere deeper in the paper, on the pages that most people never reach.

But nowadays the counter-narrative is in your face! It’s coming at you through your smart-phone, and it’s all over Facebook and Twitter before the papers carrying the official narrative are even printed! This must be causing those who reap the big profits from war and human misery to panic!

The Machinations of Propaganda

It’s macabrely fascinating to watch the way the power-players are handling these latest developments.

On the one hand we see the relatively sophisticated US propaganda machine try to reframe the argument for war and refocus us on other issues (using their full arsenal of ‘weapons of mass distraction’ as Chomsky calls them). On the other hand we see basic thuggery and intimidation being used in the Arabic press!

One saga that has gripped me has been the unraveling of an article published in Mintpress News on August 29 that was the first to claim eye-witness accounts of the gas attacks in Ghouta! According to the two Jordanian journalists to whom the article was attributed, it was actually the Saudis who were behind the attack!

Since the publication of that article, one of the journalists seems to have disappeared and the other is trying to distance herself from the work completely. Apparently she’s under pressure from … (you guessed it) … the Saudi’s! (see the full story here).

In the middle of all these machinations is our own dear Mother Agnes, who published a lengthy study of her own that disputes the official US version of the gas attacks. This has earned her praise from some quarters and ridicule from others. Mother Agnes’ study can be downloaded here.

Mother with Mairead and myself in Beirut

Mother Agnes with Mairead and myself in Beirut

I found it difficult to study Mother Agnes’ report in detail as it contains multiple images of apparently dead and suffering children, and it is hard to look at such images analytically. Even so, I appreciate that if we are to take these children’s suffering seriously we must investigate these crimes scrupulously, and this is what Mother Agnes has done. If you’d prefer an abbreviated version, this RT News article draws directly on Mother Agnes’ work and makes it clear that at least some of the videos used by the US to justify the proposed attack on Syria cannot be trusted!

And so, as Mother Agnes tries to unravel the propaganda, she becomes a target of propaganda herself! Media sources from Russia and other countries that oppose foreign intervention in Syria have been praising her while those in favour of intervention pillory her.

The effort from Australian mainline media seem particularly pitiful. One recent article published in the Melbourne Age that was straightforwardly critical of Mother Agnes turned out to be a simple cut and paste job done on an article that appeared in the New York Times. The interesting thing is that the New York Times article is actually far more balanced. The Australian version has all the balanced bits cut out!

And now ‘Human Rights Watch’ have come out in opposition to Mother Agnes! This might sound like a damning indictment, but it probably says more about ‘Human Rights Watch’ – an organisation whose objectivity has been under suspicion for some years – than it does about Mother Agnes. Read this article published on the ‘Ron Paul Institute’ site if you’d like to know more about this

A Solution for Syria?

And while the propaganda war rages, a solution to the actual war on the ground may be nearer than we had thought!

One consequence of the proposed intervention that the Americans may not have anticipated was that it has further fragmented the Syrian opposition, many of whom hate the Americans even more than they do Bashar Al-Assad!

One the one hand this has led entire units of the ‘Free Syrian Army’ to defect to Jabhat Al Nusra – the largest of the Islamist groups – who are by no stretch of the imagination fighting for a free and democratic Syria! Conversely, those Syrians who are still fighting for reforms to their homeland are now considering teaming up with government forces to help throw out the foreigners!

Robert Fisk reports that secret meetings between FSA and government officials have already taken place and that we may well soon see a complete reshaping of the conflict! If this happens I expect that the war in Syria will end pretty quickly. There will be no way that the US will be able to justify arming Al Qaeda against an all-Syrian coalition who are defending their country from foreigners. And once support for the opposition dries up from the US and its allies (the Saudis, Qatar, Israel and Turkey) it will not take long before the insurgents will be in full retreat!

I pray that this will happen quickly, as I would much rather return to Damascus when this is all over there than go there as a human shield. Even so, things are by no means resolved as yet, and the propaganda machine still has plenty of fuel left in the tank.

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