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Obama's Syria Strategy Has Been a 'Catastrophe' and the US Media Has Been Obscuring US Responsibility for Kunduz Killings

October 6, 2015
Ron Paul / The Ron Paul Institute & Glenn Greenwald / The Intercept

The US regime change policy for Syria has been a catastrophe. More than 200,000 killed and an entire country reduced to rubble. How is it that the president of a country 6,000 miles away has the authority to decide whether another leader belongs in office or not? It was quite clear early on that the perpetrator of the attack was the US -- but not to CNN and the New York Times.


I Wish Nobody Was Bombing Syria
Ron Paul / The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity

(October 06, 2015) -- The US regime change policy for Syria has been a catastrophe. More than 200,000 killed and an entire country reduced to rubble at least partly because President Obama decided that "Assad has lost his legitimacy."

How is it that the president of a country 6,000 miles away has the authority to decide whether another leader belongs in office or not? What if Rouhani in Iran decided that Obama had lost his legitimacy for killing a number of American citizens by drone without charge or trial? Would we accept that?

At least three years of US efforts to train rebels to overthrow the Syrian government has produced, as General Lloyd Austin, Commander of US Central Command, testified last month, "four or five" trained and vetted "moderates" in Syria. The $500 million appropriated for this purpose has disappeared.

The neocon solution to this failure to overthrow Assad and "degrade and destroy" ISIS is to increase the bombing and lead a ground invasion of Syria. The confusing policy of fighting Assad and also fighting his enemies does not seem to bother the neocons. They want us to forget all about their recent failures in Libya and Iraq and to try the same failed strategy one more time.

But something dramatic happened last week. Russian president Vladimir Putin delivered a speech at the United Nations criticizing the US policy of partnering with one set of extremists -- al-Qaeda and its allies -- to attack both ISIS and Assad. "Do you realize now what you have done?" asked Putin.

Shortly after Putin's UN speech, he requested and was granted authority from the Russian parliament to use force in Syria in response to the Syrian government's request for assistance against the rebels. Russian fighters and bombers began flying sorties over Syria almost immediately. In less than a week of Russian bombing, considerable damage appears to have been done to both ISIS and to al-Qaeda affiliates -- some of which are considered allies by the US and were actually trained by the CIA.

It may be tempting to cheer Russian military action in Syria, as it seems ISIS is finally suffering some considerable losses. Press reports suggest large numbers of desertions in their ranks after the Russian attacks. All of a sudden what looked to be an inevitable ISIS takeover of Syria once Assad was overthrown, seems far less likely with the Russians on the scene.

But I cannot cheer the bombs, whether they are Russian bombs or US bombs or French or British bombs. I do not believe a terrorist group created by foreign intervention in the region will be solved by more foreign intervention in the region. Bombs represent a total failure of policy. They destroy a country's economy and infrastructure.

I wish the American people would finally demand that their government end its destructive policy of trying to change any regime that does not bow to Washington's demands.

I wish Congress respected our Constitution enough to demand that the president seek a declaration of war before attacking a foreign country.

I wish President Bush and his neocon advisors had never decided to overthrow the Syrian government.

I wish President Obama had fired the neocons who led him from one foolish intervention to another. I wish the CIA had not trained rebels to fight alongside al-Qaeda in Syria. I wish we would reject the shrill cries of the warmongers.

I wish the US media was more than just a propaganda arm of the US government.

I am not thrilled that Russia is bombing Syria. I wish nobody was bombing Syria.

CNN and the NYT Are Deliberately Obscuring Who Perpetrated the Afghan Hospital Attack
Glenn Greenwald / The Intercept

(October 5, 2015) -- Much of the world spent the last 48 hours expressing revulsion at the US airstrike on a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. It was quite clear early on that the perpetrator of the attack was the US, and many media outlets and other organizations around the world have been stating this without any difficulties.

"US Airstrike Kills 19 at Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Afghanistan," states the straightforward Wall Street Journal headline, under which appears this equally clear lede: "A US airstrike in the Afghan city of Kunduz killed at least 19 people at a hospital run by international medical-aid organization Doctors Without Borders early Saturday, prompting condemnation from humanitarian groups and the United Nations."

Human Rights Watch chose this as its headline: "US Airstrike Hits Kunduz Hospital." And so on. Even the media outlets that early on took a more cautious approach nonetheless prominently identified right from the start -- in their headline and/or lede -- the key fact: namely, who was the likely perpetrator.

This Vice headline states: "19 Dead After Apparent US Airstrike Hits MSF Hospital in Afghanistan"; USA Today's headline read: "19 killed after Afghan hospital hit in suspected US airstrike"; while NPR in its first sentence definitively stated that the hospital was hit by "an aerial attack carried out by US forces.

But not CNN and the New York Times. For the last 36 hours, and up through this moment, this is the extraordinary opening paragraph in the featured article on the attack from the cable news network:

We're bravely here to report that these two incidents perhaps coincidentally occurred at "about" the same time: There was a hospital that blew up, and then there was this other event where the US carried out an airstrike. As the blogger Billmon wrote: "London 1940: Civilians throughout the city were killed at about the same time as a German air strike, CNN reports."

The entire article is designed to obfuscate who carried out this atrocity. The headline states: "Air attacks kill at least 19 at Afghanistan hospital; US investigating." What's the US role in this incident? They're the investigators: like Sherlock Holmes after an unsolved crime.

The article itself repeatedly suggests the same: "The United States said it was investigating what struck the hospital during the night." It's a fascinating whodunit and the US is determined to get to the bottom of it. Offering a tantalizing clue, CNN notes that "the circumstances weren't immediately clear, but the US military was conducting an airstrike in Kunduz at the time the hospital was hit, US Army Col. Brian Tibus said." So the US commits a repugnant atrocity that, at the very best, was reckless, and CNN can't bring itself to state clearly who did it.

In its own special way, the New York Times has been even more craven. Its original article on the attack opted for this bizarrely agent-less formulation:

Some airstrike, traveling around on its own like a lost tourist, ran into a hospital in Afghanistan (admittedly, for sheer propagandistic obfuscation, nothing will ever top the repellent missile-tourism headline chosen by the NYT when Israel bombed a Gaza cafe in 2014 and killed 8 people: "Missile at Beachside Gaza Cafe Finds Patrons Poised for World Cup").

The article in the NYT's Sunday print edition illustrated the pains the paper was suffering to avoid framing the story as what it was: a US airstrike on a hospital. This is what readers of that paper saw on Sunday morning:

In fairness, this is a modest improvement from the day before, as it at least constitutes an acknowledgment that there are some people in the world who are blaming the US for what happened -- but none who are at the New York Times of course! That led Kade Crockford, in exasperation, to offer this obvious editorial suggestion:

Even as of this morning, more than 48 hours later, the NYT continues to obscure who perpetrated this attack. In a long article about the effects on the region's residents from the destruction of their only hospital capable of advanced care, one reads and reads some more without any mention of who actually did this:

Note the lovely claim in the first paragraph that things have become so very "precarious for residents caught between government troops and Taliban militants after the withdrawal Sunday of an aid group that was one of the last providers of medical services there."

In addition to "government troops and Taliban militants," they've also sort of been "caught between" massive American firepower that destroyed the hospital in question, though this unpleasant fact has been vanished from the NYT's narrative of this event.

It's not as though these media outlets have any doubt about who did this. Both the NYT and CNN eventually get around to acknowledging that it was the US who did it. In today's NYT article, for instance, the paper generously acknowledges in the third paragraph that "the Pentagon . . . has said it may have inadvertently struck the hospital during a military operation"; grants anonymity to a "senior US military official" in the fourth paragraph to justify why "American forces on the ground then called for air support"; and then, all the way down in the 10th paragraph, finally gets around to acknowledging that "the attack . . . appeared to have been carried out by American aircraft."

The US and its allies -- in both the Afghan government and its own media -- have now switched course from the "it was a collateral damage mistake" cliché to the proud "yes we did it and it was justified" boast (indeed, a large bulk of today's NYT article, ostensibly about the effects of the hospital's destruction, is actually devoted to giving voice to those who are justifying why the hospital was attacked, even as the framing of the article is designed to suppress the identity of the perpetrator).

But from the start, not even the US military had the audacity to try to obscure that they did this. They left that dirty work to their leading media outlets, which, as usual, are more than eager and happy to comply.

See also: The Radically Changing Story of the US Airstrike on Afghan Hospital: From Mistake to Justification

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.




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