In the early 2000’s, the corporate media, virtually in lockstep, told us that Saddam Hussein had “WMD” — systematically burying all evidence to the contrary. All skeptics and dissenters were purged, including the NYT’s Pulitzer-winning journalist, Chris Hedges. And, as if to illustrate the one true priority of corporate “news” — propagandizing the American people — MSNBC fired Phil Donahue for questioning the WMD claims, even as his show was the top-rated on their network.
And over a million Iraqis died unnecessarily, thanks to that unconscionable and massive dereliction of journalistic duty.
The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, Fox, MSNBC, NPR, and their ilk provided us with a graphic demonstration of just how corrupt the Fourth Estate had become in the USA — corporatized state media, utterly subservient to the oligarchy and Military Industrial Complex.
Today, following an unprecedented war on investigative journalism (initiated by Bush/Cheney, accelerated and normalized by Barack Obama, continued by Donald Trump), matters are considerably worse. Leading news organizations have become mere propagandists for empire, simply repeating the warmongering claims of anonymous intelligence agency spooks and government officials, re: Russia, Wikileaks, Venezuelan President Maduro, Syria’s Assad, and more.
More often than not, today’s MSM doesn’t just bury countervailing claims, it fails to report them entirely. Just as it largely failed to report the CIA’s Operation Timber Sycamore, itself: the regime-change op predicated on flooding Syria with tens of thousands of al Qaeda butchers, Sunni militants keen to unseat Assad and deprive Shi’ite Iran of a key ally (Mujaheddin 2.0, backed by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, trained and coordinated by the CIA).
Having learned no lessons from the run-up to our illegal war on Iraq, many Americans seem to accept — without compelling evidence — the claims that Bashar al-Assad has “gassed his own people.”
Following the 2002-03 media debacle that led to the invasion of Iraq and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocents, that is truly shameful.
Adhering to the same journalistic and political malefactors who have repeatedly lied to us before, many Americans simply believe the propaganda — even as several credible skeptics have emerged, from legendary journalist, Robert Fisk, to former U.K. ambassador to Syria, Peter Ford, to U.N. lead investigator, Carla Del Ponte, who after finishing her 2013 fact-finding mission to Syria said the following:
“Our investigators have been in neighboring countries interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals, and there are strong, concrete suspicions, but not yet incontrovertible proof, of the use of sarin gas. This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities.”
(The New York Times has also reported that the anti-Assad “rebels” used chemical weapons scores of times in Iraq and Syria over just a few-year stretch.)
And now, evidence has come to light that the United Nations’ agency for evaluating the WMD allegations, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), has been politically compromised, burying its own analysts’ conclusions that the latest chemical weapons attack in Syria was “staged.”
Aside from the fact that he’s been winning the war decisively with conventional weapons, there are hundreds of good reasons to doubt the claims that Bashar al-Assad has resorted to the use of chemical weapons in this conflict.
While voicing such doubts does not absolve Assad of other serious war crimes, it’s fair to ask why Syria’s leader would cross the one “red line” that would guarantee heightened U.S. involvement and potentially reverse the tide of the war? Why would this clearly intelligent leader do something so blatantly stupid and unnecessary, when already his regime had all but assured itself of victory?
One doesn’t have to be “anti-war” or a fire-breathing “isolationist” to regard these WMD claims — coming from the usual suspects, a parade of war criminals — with extreme skepticism.
One simply has to have an ounce of human decency, knowing that taking at face value such unfounded, dubious claims could well lead to an escalation of yet another Washington-provoked Middle Eastern conflict — claiming hundreds of thousands of more innocent lives — once again, on a pack of lies.
And yet most Americans, including members of the liberal class, apparently have become neocon true believers, as hawkish as any Bush/Cheney Republican. As blithely willing as any MAGA moron to believe despicable things about foreign leaders, thanks to a fundamentally Orientalist mindset.
I highly recommend the following exchange between one of America’s few remaining adversarial journalists, the latest “Izzy” Award recipient, Aaron Mate (formerly at Democracy Now!) and respected arms expert, MIT professor Theodore Postol.
In addition to laying out credible doubts about specific claims against the Assad regime, Postol notes just what has happened to journalism in the U.S. in recent decades:
“It’s a farce. What’s shocking is the news media today has done such a poor job asking questions about this. When I used to work with news media, 30 years ago, say, I’d get into the papers quite a lot with my work. And every reporter I worked with who was good — and there were lots of them — the first thing that would happen when I called them up and said, ‘Look, there’s an issue here that you may want to think about an article for,’ the first thing they’d ask me is, ‘What’s behind what you’re saying?’ In other words, can you show me, can you prove it to me, can you give me the evidence? That’s good! That’s the right thing any journalist should do when they’re confronted… when a story is proposed to them or when they think there’s a story worth looking into.”
“That doesn’t happen anymore.”