by John Lawrence
They Have Other Techniques at Their Disposal
We have seen two recent examples of politicians getting themselves out of a bind. Manipulation of the news need not include producing fake news. Since reality seems to be composed of media images and talk show brou ha ha, all that is necessary is to change the subject. Case in point: the US as personified by President Trump was on the hook for dropping bombs in Mosul that killed 200 civilians. The New York Times reported on March 24:
The American-led military coalition in Iraq said Friday that it was investigating reports that scores of civilians — perhaps as many as 200, residents said — had been killed in recent American airstrikes in Mosul, the northern Iraqi city at the center of an offensive to drive out the Islamic State.
If confirmed, the series of airstrikes would rank among the highest civilian death tolls in an American air mission since the United States went to war in Iraq in 2003. And the reports of civilian deaths in Mosul came immediately after two recent incidents in Syria, where the coalition is also battling the Islamic State from the air, in which activists and local residents said dozens of civilians had been killed.
The management of this news can be discerned from the very first sentence, and in particular the word "investigating." Until the incident is thoroughly investigated, we can't be sure, evidently, that the reports are really true. And by the time the investigation is complete, the media reality will have been taken over by some more current event - it usually doesn't take more than a day or two - and that is exactly what happened in this situation.
Sure enough on April 6, a little more than a week after the purported US attack that killed 200 civilians, another event occurred which made the earlier event all but forgotten. This was a chemical bomb attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib Province, which left scores dead and hundreds sickened in one of the worst atrocities so far in the six-year-old Syria war. Immediately there was a hue and cry that this was the doing of Syrian President Bashar Assad. There was outrage in the American media by pundits and politicians that this called for President Trump to do something which he promptly did by bombing an airfield in Syria from which the attack supposedly originated. The massacre of civilians by US bombs in Mosul was totally forgotten and Trump looked Presidential at last because he took action where supposedly Obama had dithered.
But wait a minute. Since all we know about the gas attack are the images of pathetic children, do we really know it was perpetrated by Assad? Immediately Assad denied responsibility. President Putin of Russia even suggested it was a "false flag," a set-up to bring the US into the war. We won't know the truth, evidently, until an "investigation" has taken place, Putin suggested. Well fair is fair. If Trump and the US military can get off the hook by denying responsibility until an investigation has taken place, why can't Assad and Putin? Again, they are suggesting, we can't nail them until an investigation has conclusively concluded that Assad is responsible. Until then we have to withhold judgment just as we have to withhold judgment about the Mosul attack which, by the way, killed more than the Idib gas attack - 200 in Mosul vs 87 in Idib.
The UK Daily Mail reported:
The OPCW [Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] said Thursday that a fact-finding mission was analysing samples gathered from 'various sources' and that allegations a chemical attack took place in the Syrian rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun were 'credible'.
Lavrov said Russia, Iran and Syria have demanded a 'thorough, objective and unbiased investigation' under the auspices of the OPCW, insisting it must use 'independent experts', including from Moscow.
So if Assad was responsible, by the time an investigation is concluded, the furor will have died down. So Putin and Assad are using the same techniques to get off the hot seat that Trump and others have used.
Hey News Media, You've Been Trumped!
Trump even managed to divert media attention from his alleged involvement with Putin regarding the Trump political campaign by suggesting Obama had "tapped wires" at Trump Tower. Immediately there was a media furor which took attention away from Trump's alleged nefarious activities and put it squarely on his predecessor even though Trump's allegation was patently false. I don't even know if an "investigation" was necessary in that case, but, in any event, Trump has proven himself to be a past master in managing media attention. Will there be any consequences to Trump for telling what seems to be a blatant lie implicating Obama in a nefarious deed? No, there will never be any consequences so he can lie away, and distract the pundits, politicians and American people any time he feels like it, particularly if his claims are more sensationalistic than whatever he's being charged with or implicated in. Trump knows that sensationalism Trumps more boring news especially if it's more than a day old, and he can use this to manipulate the media and public opinion. Trump stands ready to Trump your Ace reporter!
Why should we take anything the Trump administration claims to be the truth after all the lies of the Bush administration? And have we forgotten the lie that intensified the Viet Nam war - the Gulf of Tonkin incident? Vox has reported in an article, No, really, George W. Bush lied about WMDs:
Mother Jones’s David Corn has been excellent about chronicling specific examples over the years. Here are just a few:
In October 2002, Bush said that Saddam Hussein had a "massive stockpile" of biological weapons. But as CIA Director George Tenet noted in early 2004, the CIA had informed policymakers it had "no specific information on the types or quantities of weapons agent or stockpiles at Baghdad's disposal." The "massive stockpile" was just literally made up.
In December 2002, Bush declared, "We do not know whether or not [Iraq] has a nuclear weapon." That was not what the National Intelligence Estimate said. As Tenet would later testify, "We said that Saddam did not have a nuclear weapon and probably would have been unable to make one until 2007 to 2009." Bush did know whether or not Iraq had a nuclear weapon — and lied and said he didn’t know to hype the threat.
On CNN in September 2002, Condoleezza Rice claimed that aluminum tubes purchased by Iraq were "only really suited for nuclear weapons programs." This was precisely the opposite of what nuclear experts at the Energy Department were saying; they argue that not only was it very possible the tubes were for nonnuclear purposes but that it was very likely they were too. Even more dire assessments about the tubes from other agencies were exaggerated by administration officials — and in any case, the claim that they’re "only really suited" for nuclear weapons is just false.
On numerous occasions, Dick Cheney cited a report that 9/11 conspirator Mohammed Atta had met in Prague with an Iraqi intelligence officer. He said this after the CIA and FBI concluded that this meeting never took place.
More generally on the question of Iraq and al-Qaeda, on September 18, 2001, Rice received a memo summarizing intelligence on the relationship, which concluded there was little evidence of links. Nonetheless Bush continued to claim that Hussein was "a threat because he’s dealing with al-Qaeda" more than a year later.
In August 2002, Dick Cheney declared, "Simply stated, there's no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction." But as Corn notes, at that time there was "no confirmed intelligence at this point establishing that Saddam had revived a major WMD operation." Gen. Anthony Zinni, who had heard the same intelligence and attended Cheney’s speech, would later say in a documentary, "It was a total shock. I couldn't believe the vice president was saying this, you know? In doing work with the CIA on Iraq WMD, through all the briefings I heard at Langley, I never saw one piece of credible evidence that there was an ongoing program."
The Bush administration on numerous occasions exaggerated or outright fabricated conclusions from intelligence in its public statements. Bush really did lie, and people really did die as a result of the war those lies were meant to build a case for. Those are the facts.
Aside from the fact that Assad and Putin are actually winning the Syrian civil war, why would Assad be so reckless as to drop chemical weapons which might have the effect of bringing the US, which had been sitting on the sidelines, back into the war? What would be his incentive? They were just sitting around and he did not want them to go to waste? He was running out of conventional bombs and didn't want to pay for new ones?
The news coming out of Idlib is completely controlled by al Nusra and the "white helmets" which are working for the ouster of Assad. They want regime change and they want the US to stay involved in the war because that's the only way they're going to get it. As Alternet reporters Ben Norton and Max Blumenthal have pointed out, Idlib is controlled by an affiliate of ISIS, al-Nusra. They control not only the population which was given a choice of becoming their radicalized brand of Islam or clearing out, but also they control all the news coming out of Idlib, and that includes the news regarding the chemical attack. This means that an objective observer can't take the blame for the attack at face value.
According to an Alternet article:
But there has been one issue major media outlets have refused to touch, and that is the nature of the rebels who would gain from any U.S. military offensive. Who holds power in Idlib, why are they there and what do they want? This is perhaps the most inconvenient set of questions for proponents of "humanitarian" military intervention in Syria.
The reality is that Idlib is substantially controlled by al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate, which has gone through a series of rebranding schemes but remains the same jihadist group it always was: Jabhat al-Nusra. In the province it rules, al-Nusra has imposed what a leading scholar has described as a Taliban-like regime that has ethnically cleansed religious and ethnic minorities, banned music and established a brutal theocracy in which it publicly executes women accused of adultery.
Even analysts who have repeatedly called for U.S.-led regime change in Syria have described Idlib as the "heartland of al-Nusra."
Beneficiaries of Idlib Chemical Attack: ISIS and al-Nusra
On the Chris Hedges show On Contact recently, Blumenthal and Norton claimed that the only beneficiaries of the chemical attack on Idlib were the ISIS affiliates who want regime change in Syria, and their only way of getting it is to bring the US back into the war. Trump seems to have changed his position from non-involvement in Syria to regime change. Making a 180 degree policy change on Syria or anything else is nothing new for Trump. He also made several others of the same type in a week recently.
Modern atrocity propaganda most notably was also undertaken to cause President George H. W. Bush to get involved in the war in Kuwait. An incident related by a 15 year old girl by the name of Nayirah detailed how Saddam's army had taken babies out of incubators in Kuwait and left the babies to die. This incensed numerous United States senators and President George H.W. Bush himself in their rationale to back Kuwait in the Gulf War. Later it was revealed that Nayirah was the Kuwaiti ambassador's daughter and the whole thing had been a set-up, a propaganda ploy to bring the US into the war. Her testimony was organized as part of the Citizens for a Free Kuwait public relations campaign which was run by American public relations firm, Hill & Knowlton, for the Kuwaiti government.
So before we get too excited about Assad's purported chemical attack we must ask the hard questions
1) what could be Assad's motive?
2) who benefits from the blame for the attack being placed on Assad?
3) who gains if the US comes back in the war as the champion of regime change?
and 4) should we wait for an investigation before we start shooting?
Even if Assad is finally to blame, it could be said that he and Putin have mastered one aspect of media manipulation which is to call for an investigation. Both investigations - the one of Trump's campaign's involvement with Russia, and the other being Assad's blame for the chemical attack - will likely take weeks if not months and both will be relegated to a small column on the last page of the New York Times. By that time those events will have been overtaken by the media's constant pursuit of the latest tidbit of sensationalism and will have been for all intents and purposes completely forgotten.
California Free Press