Note: Please read Blips #139 (September 9, 2013) and Asma and Bashar al-Assad (September 23, 2013) by the same author.
(Swans - October 7, 2013) Two weeks ago I was late in filing my article on Asma and Bashar al-Assad, real late, Sunday around 2:00 p.m. I was trying to establish how the affair had been framed in the Western world to corner the Syrian regime. I was not taking sides, just noticing how the game was being played. It was a confusing endeavor. I had to deal with dates, articles, official comments, and dates again (and hours of research). My point was not to absolve or defend any party, it was to question and tentatively clarify the situation. I am not sure I did a good job. Most feedback was negative. I was defending a bloodthirsty tyrant, many people accused me, always anonymously (courage is not a primary Internet condition). I'm used to it. My piece was done. It was up to Jan (my companion/wife) to edit it. At long last I went to read the Sunday New York Times, our household's weekly recreation. In the Sunday Review -- that was September 22, 2013 -- Nicholas Kristof had an Op Ed, "The Boy Who Stood Up to Syrian Injustice." Kristof, Cohen, and Keller have been relentlessly advocating the Obama line -- bomb the latest Hitler out of his cave. Let America remain the indispensable light of goodness to the world. Roger Cohen could not be more explicit in his September 12, 2013, Op Ed, "An Anchorless World." America über alles.
Mr. Kristof related the tragic story of Muhammad and his father, Adnan, being brutally tortured by al-Assad's goons and thugs -- something absolutely horrific, though totally undocumented. Once more he advocated missile strikes against the Syrian regime, which has been the constant position of the humanitarians and the "revolutionaries." Nothing out of the ordinary until I read the following sentence: "What kept Adnan from revealing his son's location were thoughts of another boy detained in Dara'a: Hamza Ali al-Khateb, 13. When Hamza's body was returned to his parents, it had burn marks and smashed kneecaps, and it had been sexually mutilated." Holy cow, a red flag was raised in a hurry. I knew about that story. Actually, I had just written about it in my piece: "[...] And she [Joan Juliet Buck] goes on telling the story of a 'chubby 13-year-old boy named Hamza' with horrifying details." I tend to shy away from gory details, but it was indeed the same story. Ms. Buck, in her article published on July 10, 2012 (notice, please notice the date), quoted a full and longer paragraph about Hamza Ali al-Khateb -- a narrative that raised my eyebrows: Why would those goons cut off the penis of this kid? Why would they burn him and smash his kneecaps? And why, oh why, would they bring the dead kid to his parents' home? To let the neighborhood know what would happen if they defied the regime? The origin of the story, according to Ms. Buck, was al-Jazeera, the international broadcaster.
Then, over one year later, Mr. Kristof recycles the story in a couple of lines without mentioning its origin. Undoubtedly, Kristof is a prominent and busy opinion-maker, traveling all over the world to spread humanitarianism (© 1940-2013 USA). So he had to depend on his support group (researchers, secretaries) to unearth juicy tidbits that would carry his narrative. What's significant is that both Ms. Buck and Mr. Kristof relied on the identical story over a one-year period originating from the same alleged source, al-Jazeera (or Mr. Kristof's assistant relied on Ms. Buck's piece). It just so happens, believe it or not, that al-Jazeera is a Qatari news organization. Its chairman, Hamad bin Thamer Al Thani, is the cousin of the recently retired Emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. Qatar, with Saudi Arabia (and the U.S.), has been funding the Syrian rebels to overturn the Assad regime for the past 2 1/2 years. Hmm, does anyone see a thread, or am I delusional?
I must certainly be delusional since I am a contrarian and I meticulously follow the calendar. This acknowledged, I wonder: Why is it that the link to the Buck July 2012 piece on the Dailybeast.com Web site
(http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/07/29/joan-juliet-buck-my-vogue-interview-with-syria-s-first-lady.html), which was fully available two weeks ago (I visited it countless times), simply disappeared two weeks later (404-Not Found)? I contacted the editor and tech support of the publication. They have not answered. But, as I also wrote two weeks ago: "I've often said, once you publish something on the Web, it does not disappear even if you delete it from your server." Ms. Buck's hatchet piece can now be accessed at
http://www.fashion-law.org/2013/08/flashback-friday-syrias-fake-first.html#.UlGDAlJvCSp (and I've saved a copy just in case).
Somehow, it reminds me of the PR and ideological techniques described by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky in their 1988 Manufacturing Consent...how opinion-makers frame an issue. Here is another example. The figure of 100,000 dead since the beginning of the conflict made the news quite often. It was, we were told, a UN estimate, but this figure was most often presented as resulting from massacres carried out by the Assad regime. I even received a submission that cited that number at the beginning of the article and by its end it had grown to 120,000, and al-Assad was compared to Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Pol Pot, Mao, etc. However, a Syrian human rights organization estimated that about 40,000 civilians, 22,000 rebels, and over 40,000 regime fighters had been killed. I suppose the regime killed its own!
I have no idea how one can count with such precision so that the number goes viral, but I wonder how many Iraqis died in the first 2 1/2 years of Operation Iraqi Freedom...
This is not to defend, excuse, exonerate, or condemn, denounce, accuse the Syrian regime. Is Asma al-Assad a "rose in the desert" or the "first lady of hell"? Bashar al-Assad, an authoritarian, a tyrant, a dictator, an ogre, a despot, an oppressor, a killer? It's so darn easy to make up one's mind when one follows the dogma du jour.
But ask yourselves these two questions: Can you stop the violence by pouring fuel on the fire and arming all sides? Have you seen the results of regime change in the neighborhood? Think carefully, and here is a bonus question: Why does The New York Times publish an article from the elite journalist Robin Wright, "Imagining a Remapped Middle East" (September 29, 2013)?
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