by James O’Neill*
A measure of how far the integrity of the public broadcasting service and the mainstream media have diminished is exemplified by their coverage of recent events in Syria and Iraq.
The Syrian government forces have recently recaptured all but a very small section of Eastern Aleppo. The remaining pocket covers about 5 square kilometres. Yet television, radio and newspaper reports variously state that between 100,000 and 250,000 people remain “trapped” in this enclave.
Even using the lower figure, it would make that part of Eastern Aleppo the most densely populated area in the world. Yet the figures are reported as self-evidently true.
As the terrorist’s hold on Eastern Aleppo was collapsing, they mounted an attack of Palmyra, a city previously liberated by government forces. Although the fact of the fall of Palmyra was reported, none of the mainstream media asked some of the more obvious questions.
The size of the terrorist force that captured Palmyra is estimated between 4000 and 5000 men. They travelled from Raqqa, Deir Ezzor and Mosul (in Iraq) in a fleet of vehicles that included tanks and infantry fighting vehicles equipped with heavy guns.
That journey would have taken at least 3-4 hours across an exposed landscape. Yet there was not a single attack by US or “coalition” air forces.
Why was that? It transpires that immediately before the terrorist movements began, the US Air Force suspended operations around Raqqa and Deir Ezzor, and left open a corridor to the west (into Syria) from Mosul.
None of this was reported in the mainstream media. In the same period before the assault on Palmyra, US Secretary of Defence Ash Carter visited Iraq on an unannounced trip; the US announced that it was boosting its special forces in Syria to help “train” the so-called “moderates”; and the Obama administration announced a relaxation of the arms supplies to those same so-called “moderates.”
If the mainstream media had bothered to connect the dots there is little doubt that it would all have been a coincidence.
Along with the non-reporting of relevant events, the barrage of fake “news” continues unabated. In the Sydney Morning Herald of 14 December 2016 Paul McGeogh, the ever reliable mouthpiece of the establishment view, claimed that leaflets dropped on Aleppo by the Syrian Air Force told residents that if they did not leave quickly “you will be annihilated. Save yourselves, everyone else has left you alone to face your doom.”
Unfortunately for McGeogh and the trusting readers of the SMH, the leaflet said no such thing. The Arabic original, together with a translation, can be found on Professor As’ad Abu Khalil’s website (www.angryarab.blogspot.com 30 November 2016).
The leaflet actually tells Aleppo residents to evacuate now. “We have provided a safe passage for you to leave.” That conveys a very different message from McGeogh’s version. That the terrorists would shoot the residents if they tried to leave was missing from the narrative.
Also completely missing from the mainstream’s endlessly discredited claims and pictures is any attempt at correcting earlier falsities. Summary executions of children and women; targeting of hospitals; gassing of civilians etc etc are endlessly repeated. SBS even had a picture of a “blood stained” child that was discredited long ago on their 14 December 2016 bulletin. For a detailed debunking of this disinformation I recommend the website www.moonofalabama.org.
The lack of reliable sources for these news stories is another feature. There is endless quoting of “reports say” or “sources say” with never any attempt to verify those reports or sources. The latest example is the “82 civilians summarily executed” without a single verified fact. Even the BBC has qualified these reports with an ‘unable to verify’ disclaimer. No such caution with Australia’s media.
Apart from an undue reliance upon unsourced reporting, a frequently cited source is the grandly named Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. It sounds impressive until one discovers that it is actually one man operating out of his living room in Coventry.
His equivalent on all matters pertaining to Ukraine and the shooting down of MH17 is “Bellingcat”, again a man operating out of his living room, this time in Leicester.
Why would the mainstream media rely on civilian organizations of dubious parentage when there are a plethora of exceedingly well-resourced intelligence agencies from all of the countries involved in the Syrian conflict?
Like the aforementioned Bellingcat, the use of a civilian conduit for misinformation gives the intelligence agencies deniability when their “information” is exposed for the propaganda that it almost invariably is.
Why is it the case that reporters for the ABC, SBS and the print and radio media seem incapable of looking at a map?
The territory held by the terrorists in both Iraq and Syria just happens to be along the route of the proposed Qatari sourced natural gas pipeline intended by the Americans as a challenge to Russian gas supplies to Europe. The proposed pipeline is also intended to forestall an intended Iranian pipeline of natural gas to Europe that would also travel through Iraq and Syria.
That there should be such significant geopolitical issues involved should be obvious to all reporters covering the Middle East. The pipeline issue is at least as significant in understanding the Middle East’s wars as the Yinon Plan published in February 1982. Oded Yinon ‘A Strategy for Israel in the 1980s‘ Kuvinum February 1982. That plan, which called for a breakup of Middle Eastern countries such as Iraq and Syria into small statelets that would pose no threat to Israeli domination of the region, is never discussed in the Australian media.
Similarly, Robert F. Kennedy Junior’s important article Syria: Another Pipeline War www.ecowatch.com 25 February 2016 has obviously never been on the reading list of any of the commentators and ‘analysts’ so favoured by our mainstream media.
To even raise such questions would prove embarrassing and potentially career threatening for our media. Far better for them to stick to the misrepresentations, distortions, omissions and downright lies that pass for geopolitical analysis in our mainstream media.
Their readers, viewers and listeners are surely entitled to something a whole lot better.
*Barrister at Law. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org