Since the “liberation/fall” of Aleppo has been confirmed, by which it can be assumed as of now that the forces of Bashar al-Assad, backed by the loose coalition of Russia, Iran and in parts, Turkey (a still debatable aspect), have secured the rebel-held eastern parts of the Syrian city, the story of Aleppo, the big narrative, has changed overnight.
Or at least there are massive challenges mounted at the grand narrative propounded by the likes of the New York Times, the BBC, the Guardian, Der Spiegel, the Daily Beast and the Washington Post, as well as by the “social media” warriors, who had been “live-tweeting” scary and heart-wrenching images from the war-torn city that is Aleppo.
Independent journalists such as Patrick Cockburn, Eva K Bartlett, John Pilger, and Robert Fisk have broken down and exposed many a crucial lie in the Battle of Aleppo, in which a systematic anti-Assad narrative, from the “use of chlorine and sarin gases against civilians by Assad’s Syrian Arab Army”, to using of civilians as human shields and slaughtering them, etc, have been levelled at the Assad-Putin coalition.
Patrick Cockburn has chided mainstream media for relying on unverified sources belonging to the Syrian opposition, as in Iraq, to base their rabidly anti-Assad stories on. Cockburn compares and contrasts the coverage of Aleppo with Mosul, both fallen into rebel/terrorist hands and the attempt to liberate them by respective government forces are/were ongoing, and shows that although there have been far more casualties in Mosul, the war cry over Aleppo has been exponentially high.
Eva K Bartlett says those are plain lies. In a scathing video recorded on December 9, 2016, four days before Aleppo officially came into Syrian Army’s hold and rebels “surrendered” after Putin and Erdogan “brokered a deal” for the safe passage of civilians, Bartlett – an independent Canadian journalist with massive experience in covering Iraq, Gaza and Syria – accuses BBC, Guardian and NYT of propagating Anglo-American lies and relying on Syrian rebels and NATO-backed terrorists for so-called information on Aleppo.
In fact, Bartlett is particularly acerbic towards the Guardian when she shreds into pieces the “Guardian view on Aleppo” exposing massive inconsistencies and a horrendous anti-Assad bias evident in every line.
Bartlett says that it was never about the people of Syria, who voted in Bashar al-Assad in a democratic election as late as 2014, exactly in the backdrop of accusations in the Western mainstream press about the president using sarin gas against his own people. Bartlett says it was always the rebels – who are actually NATO-backed terrorists and factions of al-Qaeda, al Nusra, with modus operandi similar to ISIS which the West parades as the mother of all evil – who had access to chlorine and sarin gases bulk manufacturing capability, and not the government forces who were fighting the rebels under a hot Western sanction since 2011.
Robert Fisk warns us that there is more than one story in Syria and that the international meltdown over Aleppo is more to serve Western interests than actually an instance of genuine sympathy for residents of Aleppo. According to him, “regime change” is the biggest interest driver in the NATO intervention, even though there is major populist support for Assad.
The framing of the Syrian crisis has been gravely wrong. As early as December 2013, veteran journalist Seymour Hersh expressed his reservations over the accusations against Assad that he gassed his own population, resulting in a no-fly-zone declaration within Syria. Hersh asked why would Assad take the route that would automatically invite international censure and make for terrible press, when he could effectively combat the rebels in conventional warfare. It must be noted that at that point, Russia hadn’t officially entered the Syrian equation, and Vladimir Putin was only giving informal and ideological support to Assad and his government.
Questions are being raised on the maelstrom of “fake news” generated by establishment media and the social media arms of well-known Anglo-American bodies. Images of children orphaned or killed by shelling are being photoshopped from music videos and then circulated as anti-Assad propaganda.
An important question that hasn’t been asked so far is that how do the tweeters and social media updaters and video uploaders have access to the enormous internet bandwidth required to upload the videos and images in real time, given Aleppo is a war zone. One of the first casualties of any conflict is obvious the internet and mobile networks, if the three-month-long Kashmir shutdown is an example to go by.
Eva Bartlett is scathing in her account of the “White Helmets”, who were in fact the first runners-up in the race to the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016. Bartlett says White Helmets have deep links with UK military and have been known to recirculate the same pictures and names over and over again, often using photos of children maimed and killed by shelling and aerial bombing and blaming it all on Assad’s forces, or Putin fighter jets.
Bartlett says White Helmets rescuers have been spotted posing over dead bodies of Syrian government soldiers, while systematically eschewing the true atrocities committed by the rebels. In her piece Useful Atrocities, Bartlett says how the grand narrative of cruelty has been used against Assad, exactly like the way it had once been deployed against Saddam Hussein, when regime change by external intervention on the basis of the planted news of WMDs was behind the 2003 Iraq invasion.
|It helped to portray Aleppo as the Auschwitz of our times. Problem is it’s more Baghdad than anything else. [Photo: Indiatoday.in]|
In the age of “fake news” that tilted the American election, we must ask is this indeed a brand new phenomenon? If NATO-backed propaganda has masqueraded as news for 70 years, why should we express the sudden alarm as the reins of “fake news” shift to hands that are not experts in passing off Anglo-American imperialism as liberalism and bringing democracy to people?
If the revolt against mainstream media has been so extreme in 2016, we need to ask why and shift the arena from within troubled Western countries to their imperial laboratories in West Asia and North Africa, where a crisis of information repression and twisting of narrative has been going on without remorse.
The belated lament over Iraq War has not sharpened the editorial eyes of establishment media houses such as the Guardian, BBC, New York Times, and they continue to see the “Middle East” through terribly biased lenses, seeing the vast swathes of land and people as mere resource basins in an increasingly resource-crunched world.
It helped to portray Aleppo as the Auschwitz of our times. Problem is it’s more Baghdad than anything else, but for the outcome. In the outcome alone, there may be shades of Vietnam in the grim four-year-long Battle of Aleppo.