Bob Taylor, a retired British journalist based in Brussels, contributed the following to an ongoing informal exchange of thoughts among former colleagues and friends.
Whatever one’s judgment of events in Syria, I am dismayed (yet again) at the uncritical way the western media have bought into the official Washington/London/Paris narrative. The media clearly don’t want to learn the lessons of Kosovo or Iraq. Once more, absolute good takes on absolute evil. Where are the shades of grey in the reporting? where is the background? Where the context?
Why burden readers and viewers with this baggage when the outcome of each warlet is a foregone conclusion? For make no mistake. The western endgame in Syria is regime change and the ousting of Bashar al-Assad who is as soiled goods as Milosevic and Saddam ever were. Even more so in the case of Syria, the media have become wittingly or unwittingly a frontline weapon in the hands of western governments to keep up 11 months of virtually daily international pressure on the embattled Damascus regime.
Our simplistic ‘humanitarian wars’ have so far achieved simplistic results. Albanian primitives replace Serb primitives in Kosovo. Shia primitives (plus Kurdish renegades) replace Sunni primitives in Iraq. Are these exemplars of the manly democracy we set out to impose by righteous force? Is this what we went to war for, with its vast cost in civilian and military deaths? Where is the value-added from the billions of taxpayers’ dollars in terms of decency, tolerance and social justice for all the citizens of these countries?
Bashar al-Assad’s regime is harsh and repressive in many respects. To blame the revolt on outside forces, as it does, is a classic exercise in self-deception and scape-goating.
But to deny or ignore the self-interested and largely negative interference of outsiders as the western media does is either willfully misleading or based on naivety or stupidity. Syria represents what is left of structured Arab opposition to Israel. It is a channel of support for Hezbollah and Hamas. It is an acolyte of the evil Iranians. For years, Israel has been trying to destabilise the Syrian regime and infiltrate its political and civil organs. For Israel (and the US) to stand on the touchline with arms folded until internal events in Syria play themselves out would require a degree of forbearance that is quite out of character for both governments. This is what our media would have us believe.
Israel is the elephant in the Syrian room. The western media rarely mention it. Yet it is the big winner in the event of a diminished Syria. If I were in charge of Israeli intelligence, I would be making trouble for Bashar like there was no tomorrow. You can be sure that those really in charge are working overtime. I have looked in vain for adequate press coverage of this aspect of the unfolding Syrian drama in the last 11 months. This is left to outsiders whose voices are drowned in the tidal wave of self-righteous outpourings from the mainstream media in favour of western and Israeli outcomes.
In my view, these outcomes are not (yet?) a foregone conclusion in the case of Syria. To make them so will require a more visible and muscular interference by the US and Israel (and/or their surrogates). The sham of a home-grown revolution removing Gaddafi was quickly exposed.
The outcome for Syria could well be the ascendency of the Muslim Brothers and the Sunni over Bashar and his Alawites (one more set of primitives replacing another set) – with what impact on Syria’s secularism and the co-existence between Sunnis and Alawites, Christians, Druze and Kurds? From a cynical western standpoint, if Syria is reduced in the process to a bit player in the middle east, who cares? But we’re not there yet.