“War” by Edwin Starr with scenes from Viet Nam
Like so many we took the story of Bashar al-Assad using sarin gas on Syrians at face value. American media reported it almost in single voice with nearly nary a dissent to be heard. Based on such reporting and the reaction of the current president’s daughter our military launched a rather lame attack on a Syrian airbase manned with Russian personnel.
As with previous stories of American presidents standing up to the EVIL in the Middle East our news media was sickenly fawning in their praise of the president capped with Fareed Zakaria’s “I think Donald Trump became president of the United States” statement the morning following almost set piece bombing of the Syrian airbase.
Al-Assad has been portrayed by American media as such an amoral and power driven individual that it was easy to believe Assad capable of such an attack. So we were quite surprised to hear an MIT professor dispute the overwhelmingly prevailing discourse on the bradblog.com earlier this week.
In an interview bradblog’s Brad Friedman talks to MIT rocket scientist Theodore Postol. Postol discusses the blatant inconsistencies in the White House story that led to the the strike on the Syrian airbase.
Citing the total lack of media scrutiny of the president Postol states:
“It is very disturbing to see how uncritical the mainstream press has been of this matter,” Postol tells me today. “From my point of view, this may be the most serious event — with regard to American democracy — from this whole incident. Because the only way American democracy can function is if the press performs the role of providing accurate information, and also raising questions if those questions deserve to be looked at. And there’s no question here that the questions deserved to be looked at.”
Writing over the weekend, in his 4th report [PDF] on the matter, Postol charged: “Without an independent media providing accurate and unbiased information to the nation’s citizens, the government can do what it chooses without being concerned about the reactions of citizens who elected it. The critical function of the mainstream media in the current situation should be to investigate and report the facts that clearly and unambiguously contradict the government’s claims on this matter.”
The interview is riveting. The lead in includes an interview from the BBC of former British Ambassador to Syria Peter Ford. Ford stated that he doubts Assad would have done such an attack stating “he may be cruel and brutal, but he is not mad.”
Friedman follows that with an interview with Consortium news founder Robert Parry an independent journalist who is also deeply skeptical of the chain of events offered by the White House. (interview starts @ 23:00)
In the interview Parry states:
“We’ve seen now a recurring situation,” says Parry. “We had the case of the Iraq War, where you might’ve thought ‘well, after that, the New York Times and the Washington Post and others will be more skeptical and more self-critical about the need to show skepticism’. But that hasn’t happened. In fact, it’s gone increasingly in the other direction.”
“For the first two months or so of his Presidency, everything he said was put under a microscope and often laughed at, often rightly so,” he tells me. “So there’s been this attitude that this guy is not to be trusted on anything he says. Yet, he immediately jumps to a conclusion, way before there could’ve been any serious intelligence analysis of it, that Assad was responsible for this incident, and the mainstream media completely flipped around and just rallied to his position and then refused to listen to any alternative points of view on this.”
For the record, Professor Postol was the man who proved that the US could not possibly have shot down Iraq’s Scud missiles in the first Gulf War. Robert Parry was the journalist who broke the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s among others. That is to say that both men come with unvarnished credentials.
The Nation magazine is one of the few American news sources that covers this story and the non-coverage of this story by our media here.
In addition to highlighting the embarrassing degree to which the American media is seduced by displays of American military might, its rush to embrace President Trump’s decision to launch a military attack against Syria on April 6 has also crowded out dissenting voices from the administration’s claim that it was the government of Bashar al-Assad that was responsible for the chemical-weapons attack in Khan Sheikhun, which killed over 80 people and injured hundreds.
By firing 59 Tomahawk missiles at the Shayrat air base in Syria, and killing five Syrian soldiers and nine civilians in the process, President Trump was able to transform himself in the eyes of the media from an object of derision into, in the words of erstwhile Trump critic Elliot Abrams, “Leader of the Free World.”
Why is this important to Iowans? How many Iowans were lost in Vietnam following the bogus story of the attack in the Gulf of Tonkin? How many Iowans fought in the first Gulf War following the made up stories that led us into the conflict? And of course, how many Iowans have died for the misleads and lies that took us into Iraq and Afghanistan?
War is a great way for even lousy presidents to take on the mantle of leadership, no matter what got us into the war. A war economy is also a way to produce jobs despite underlying weaknesses. Following 80 days of lies and misleads and a hugely slumping approval rating, Trump becomes a leader because he unilaterally bombed a foreign country based on at best hearsay.
American history tells us that we re-elect wartime presidents, provided the war itself has not soured. Antiwar.com predicted the re-election of George W. Bush in 2002 before he had even invaded Iraq.
A cynic like me could look at this and say that our current president, needing a boost in popularity and a way to create jobs could have us scheduled for a conflict somewhere in 2019. That year would be long enough to have shown his leadership with a still fawning media while not being long enough for the war to sour before the election. At the same time jobs would be bumped by a wartime economy.
What the administration is doing right now is shopping for the best enemy for the conflict. Syria? North Korea? Someone else?