Exclusive: The U.S. government and the mainstream media rushed to judgment again, blaming the Syrian government for a new poison-gas attack and ignoring other possibilities, reports Robert Parry.
With the latest hasty judgment about Tuesday’s poison-gas deaths in a rebel-held area of northern Syria, the mainstream U.S. news media once more reveals itself to be a threat to responsible journalism and to the future of humanity. Again, we see the troubling pattern of verdict first, investigation later, even when that behavior can lead to a dangerous war escalation and many more deaths.
Before a careful evaluation of the evidence about Tuesday’s tragedy was possible, The New York Times and other major U.S. news outlets had pinned the blame for the scores of dead on the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad. That revived demands that the U.S. and other nations establish a “no-fly zone” over Syria, which would amount to launching another “regime change” war and would put America into a likely hot war with nuclear-armed Russia.
Even as basic facts were still being assembled about Tuesday’s incident, we, the public, were prepped to disbelieve the Syrian government’s response that the poison gas may have come from rebel stockpiles that could have been released either accidentally or intentionally causing the civilian deaths in a town in Idlib Province.
One possible scenario was that Syrian warplanes bombed a rebel weapons depot where the poison gas was stored, causing the containers to rupture. Another possibility was a staged event by increasingly desperate Al Qaeda jihadists who are known for their disregard for innocent human life.
While it’s hard to know at this early stage what’s true and what’s not, these alternative explanations, I’m told, are being seriously examined by U.S. intelligence. One source cited the possibility that Turkey had supplied the rebels with the poison gas (the exact type still not determined) for potential use against Kurdish forces operating in northern Syria near the Turkish border or for a terror attack in a government-controlled city like the capital of Damascus.
Reporting by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh and statements by some Turkish police and opposition politicians linked Turkish intelligence and Al Qaeda-affiliated jihadists to the Aug. 21, 2013 sarin gas attack outside Damascus that killed hundreds, although the Times and other major U.S. news outlets continue to blame that incident on Assad’s regime.
On Tuesday, the Times assigned two of its most committed anti-Syrian-government propagandists to cover the Syrian poison-gas story, Michael B. Gordon and Anne Barnard.
Gordon has been at the front lines of the neocon “regime change” strategies for years. He co-authored the Times’ infamous aluminum tube story of Sept. 8, 2002, which relied on U.S. government sources and Iraqi defectors to frighten Americans with images of “mushroom clouds” if they didn’t support President George W. Bush’s upcoming invasion of Iraq. The timing played perfectly into the administration’s advertising “rollout” for the Iraq War.
Of course, the story turned out to be false and to have unfairly downplayed skeptics of the claim that the aluminum tubes were for nuclear centrifuges, when the aluminum tubes actually were meant for artillery. But the article provided a great impetus toward the Iraq War, which ended up killing nearly 4,500 U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.
Gordon’s co-author, Judith Miller, became the only U.S. journalist known to have lost a job over the reckless and shoddy reporting that contributed to the Iraq disaster. For his part, Gordon continued serving as a respected Pentagon correspondent.
Gordon’s name also showed up in a supporting role on the Times’ botched “vector analysis,” which supposedly proved that the Syrian military was responsible for the Aug. 21, 2013 sarin-gas attack. The “vector analysis” story of Sept. 17, 2013, traced the flight paths of two rockets, recovered in suburbs of Damascus back to a Syrian military base 9.5 kilometers away.
The article became the “slam-dunk” evidence that the Syrian government was lying when it denied launching the sarin attack. However, like the aluminum tube story, the Times’ ”vector analysis” ignored contrary evidence, such as the unreliability of one azimuth from a rocket that landed in Moadamiya because it had struck a building in its descent. That rocket also was found to contain no sarin, so it’s inclusion in the vectoring of two sarin-laden rockets made no sense.
But the Times’ story ultimately fell apart when rocket scientists analyzed the one sarin-laden rocket that had landed in the Zamalka area and determined that it had a maximum range of about two kilometers, meaning that it could not have originated from the Syrian military base. C.J. Chivers, one of the co-authors of the article, waited until Dec. 28, 2013, to publish a halfhearted semi-retraction. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Backs Off Its Syria-Sarin Analysis.”]
Gordon was a co-author of another bogus Times’ front-page story on April 21, 2014, when the State Department and the Ukrainian government fed the Times two photographs that supposedly proved that a group of Russian soldiers – first photographed in Russia – had entered Ukraine, where they were photographed again.
However, two days later, Gordon was forced to pen a retraction because it turned out that both photos had been shot inside Ukraine, destroying the story’s premise. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Retracts Russian-Photo Scoop.”]
Gordon perhaps personifies better than anyone how mainstream journalism works. If you publish false stories that fit with the Establishment’s narratives, your job is safe even if the stories blow up in your face. However, if you go against the grain – and if someone important raises a question about your story – you can easily find yourself out on the street even if your story is correct.
No Skepticism Allowed
Anne Barnard, Gordon’s co-author on Tuesday’s Syrian poison-gas story, has consistently reported on the Syrian conflict as if she were a press agent for the rebels, playing up their anti-government claims even when there’s no evidence.
For instance, on June 2, 2015, Barnard, who is based in Beirut, Lebanon, authored a front-page story that pushed the rebels’ propaganda theme that the Syrian government was somehow in cahoots with the Islamic State though even the U.S. State Department acknowledged that it had no confirmation of the rebels’ claims.
When Gordon and Barnard teamed up to report on the latest Syrian tragedy, they again showed no skepticism about early U.S. government and Syrian rebel claims that the Syrian military was responsible for intentionally deploying poison gas.
Perhaps for the first time, The New York Times cited President Trump as a reliable source because he and his press secretary were saying what the Times wanted to hear – that Assad must be guilty.
Gordon and Barnard also cited the controversial White Helmets, the rebels’ Western-financed civil defense group that has worked in close proximity with Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and has come under suspicion of staging heroic “rescues” but is nevertheless treated as a fount of truth-telling by the mainstream U.S. news media.
In early online versions of the Times’ story, a reaction from the Syrian military was buried deep in the article around the 27th paragraph, noting: “The government denies that it has used chemical weapons, arguing that insurgents and Islamic State fighters use toxins to frame the government or that the attacks are staged.”
The following paragraph mentioned the possibility that a Syrian bombing raid had struck a rebel warehouse where poison-gas was stored, thus releasing it unintentionally.
But the placement of the response was a clear message that the Times disbelieved whatever the Assad government said. At least in the version of the story that appeared in the morning newspaper, a government statement was moved up to the sixth paragraph although still surrounded by comments meant to signal the Times’ acceptance of the rebel version.
After noting the Assad government’s denial, Gordon and Barnard added, “But only the Syrian military had the ability and the motive to carry out an aerial attack like the one that struck the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun.”
But they again ignored the alternative possibilities. One was that a bombing raid ruptured containers for chemicals that the rebels were planning to use in some future attack, and the other was that Al Qaeda’s jihadists staged the incident to elicit precisely the international outrage directed at Assad as has occurred.
Gordon and Barnard also could be wrong about Assad being the only one with a motive to deploy poison gas. Since Assad’s forces have gained a decisive upper-hand over the rebels, why would he risk stirring up international outrage at this juncture? On the other hand, the desperate rebels might view the horrific scenes from the chemical-weapons deployment as a last-minute game-changer.
Pressure to Prejudge
None of this means that Assad’s forces are innocent, but a serious investigation ascertains the facts and then reaches a conclusion, not the other way around.
However, to suggest these other possibilities will, I suppose, draw the usual accusations about “Assad apologist,” but refusing to prejudge an investigation is what journalism is supposed to be about.
The Times, however, apparently has no concern anymore for letting the facts be assembled and then letting them speak for themselves. The Times weighed in on Wednesday with an editorial entitled “A New Level of Depravity From Mr. Assad.”
Another problem with the behavior of the Times and the mainstream media is that by jumping to a conclusion they pressure other important people to join in the condemnations and that, in turn, can prejudice the investigation while also generating a dangerous momentum toward war.
Once the political leadership pronounces judgment, it becomes career-threatening for lower-level officials to disagree with those conclusions. We’ve seen that already with how United Nations investigators accepted rebel claims about the Syrian government’s use of chlorine gas, a set of accusations that the Times and other media now report simply as flat-fact.
Yet, the claims about the Syrian military mixing in canisters of chlorine in supposed “barrel bombs” make little sense because chlorine deployed in that fashion is ineffective as a lethal weapon but it has become an important element of the rebels’ propaganda campaign.
U.N. investigators, who were under intense pressure from the United States and Western nations to give them something to use against Assad, did support rebel claims about the government using chlorine in a couple of cases, but the investigators also received testimony from residents in one area who described the staging of a chlorine attack for propaganda purposes.
One might have thought that the evidence of one staged attack would have increased skepticism about the other incidents, but the U.N. investigators apparently understood what was good for their careers, so they endorsed a couple of other alleged cases despite their inability to conduct a field investigation. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “UN Team Heard Claims of Staged Chemical Attacks.”]
Now, that dubious U.N. report is being leveraged into this new incident, one opportunistic finding used to justify another. But the pressing question now is: Have the American people come to understand enough about “psychological operations” and “strategic communications” that they will finally show the skepticism that no longer exists in the major U.S. news media?
Originally published on 2017-04-05
About the author: Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
Source: Consortium News
Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection & Pinterest.
Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!
Donate to Support Us
We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.
[wpedon id=”4696″ align=”left”]
Today, Memorial Day, Americans across the land will hear the same message: that U.S. soldiers who have died in America’s foreign wars and foreign interventions have done so in the defense of our rights and freedoms. It is a message that will be heard in sporting events, memorial services, airports, churches, and everywhere else that Memorial Day is being commemorated.There is one big thing wrong, however. It’s a lie. None of those soldiers died protecting our rights and freedoms. That’s because our rights and freedoms were never being threatened by the enemy forces that killed those soldiers.Let’s work our way ...
The UK Parliament just confirmed what the alternative media has been saying for years.Specifically, a new report from the bipartisan House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee – based on interviews with all of the key British decision-makers, review of documents, and on-the-ground investigations in Africa – found that the Libyan war was based on lies, that it destroyed the country, and that it spread terrorism far and wide.The War Based On Bogus Intelligence … Like the Iraq WarInitially, the report finds that the threat to civilians from Libyan government forces was dramatically overstated:Former French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé, who introduced ...
Тhe world is at a dangerous crossroads. The United States and its allies have launched a military adventure which threatens the future of humanity. Major military and covert intelligence operations are being undertaken simultaneously in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia and the Far East. The US-NATO military agenda combines both major theater operations as well as covert actions geared towards destabilizing sovereign states.America’s hegemonic project is to destabilize and destroy countries through acts of war, covert operations in support of terrorist organizations, regime change and economic warfare. The latter includes the imposition of deadly macro-economic reforms ...
Comparing testimony from Vietnamese women and American soldiers, Gina Marie Weaver, in her book Ideologies of Forgetting: Rape in The Vietnam War, finds that rape of Vietnamese women by American troops during the US invasion of Vietnam was a “widespread”, “everyday occurrence” that was essentially “condoned”, even encouraged, by the military, and had its foundation in military training and US culture. She explores why US rape in Vietnam was so common, and why this aspect of US behavior has been virtually “erased” from “narratives of the war”. She stresses the issue is also important as rape in the US military continues ...
“Just rubble, a ruin, completely destroyed.” - @lindseyhilsum reveals the full scale of destruction in Palmyra.— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News)Video: April 2, 2016Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!Donate to Support UsWe would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.[wpedon id="4696" align="left"]
July 3, 2019 marks the 40th anniversary of when the United States’ first military assault against Afghanistan with the CIA-backed Mujahideen began. It would be a mistake to treat the present-day conflict as being separate from the U.S. intervention that began in 1979 against the then-government of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan. Afghanistan was not always known as the chaotic, ‘failed state’ overrun by warlords as it is now; this phenomenon is a product of that U.S.-led regime change operation. The article below, originally published on March 30, 2019, summarizes and analyzes the events that transpired during and after the Cold War ...
"Welcome to Nulandistan: Propaganda and the Crisis in Ukraine" (2014)This full length GRTV documentary looks at the fictitious land of Nulandistan that has been constructed out of Ukraine.The GRTV documentary deconstructs Nulandistan and the propaganda of the Obama Administration [...], the US Department of States, US officials, and their allies about the crisis in Ukraine and takes a look at their growing frustration towards the Russian media, particularly RT, for challenging their account of the events on the ground in what they have declared is an intensifying information war.The full length documentary starts by looking at the self-benefiting description of ...
The image of Srebrenica tells us more about the reality of the majority of the media and of course the “Muslim victim card” is being used in order to cleanse the Bosniak Muslims. After all, from enslaving Orthodox Christians during their brotherly love with the Turkish slave masters of the Ottoman Empire to having Muslim SS units who supported Adolf Hitler; then “victimhood” is needed in order to justify their history and culture.Of course the wishy-washy brigade will tell us that the Ottoman period was enlightened and that the system of taking the eldest Christian boy (devshirme system) in the ...
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (and President Obama — and some NATO partners) did it previously to Libya, and here was the result (as discussed by the retired British career diplomat Craig Murray, at his craigmurray.org.uk, who has kindly allowed me to distribute it to other newsmedia) [and I as editor will add a few clarifiers and questions in brackets] (and then afterward, I shall add my own comments); so, here is Craig Murray:This is the result of NATO bombing of Sirte to “enforce the no-fly zone” in Libya.When the neo-cons in the UK parliament and the serial warmonger Hillary Clinton call for a ...
Despite having the biggest military budget in the world, five times larger than the next six countries, the largest number of military bases – over 180 – in the world and the most expensive military industrial complex, the US has failed to win a single war in the 21st century.
In this paper we will enumerate the wars and proceed to analyze why, despite the powerful material basis for wars, it has led to failures.
The Lost Wars
The US has been engaged in multiple wars and coups since the beginning of the 21st century. These include Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Palestine, Venezuela and ...
On 23 June 2017 in the Parliament Square of Vilnius, capital of Lithuania, an official celebration of the uprising of 23 June 1943 against Soviet rule took place. The event was orchestrated mainly by veterans of the Lithuanian Freedom Fighters Association, a far-right militia group. During these celebrations an exhibit of more than 12 posters were hung which presented the anti-Soviet insurrection one that “drove terror into the Bolshevik occupying army and the lackeys of the occupation forces.”Some historical context is needed here.In June 1941, Hitler had launched a surprise attack on the Soviet Union, overrunning the Baltics in a ...
The superhighway to disaster is already being paved.From Donald Trump’s first days in office, news of the damage to America’s international stature has come hard and fast. As if guided by some malign design, the new president seemed to identify the key pillars that have supported U.S. global power for the past 70 years and set out to topple each of them in turn. By degrading NATO, alienating Asian allies, cancelling trade treaties, and slashing critical scientific research, the Trump White House is already in the process of demolishing the delicately balanced architecture that has sustained Washington’s world leadership since ...
To gauge the transformation in the response by the U.S. military, the mainstream media and the public to a U.S. war crime, one need only compare the reactions to two of the most heinous American crimes: the 1968 My Lai massacre in Vietnam and the gunning down of innocent Iraqis on a Baghdad street in 2007.The latter was captured on a cockpit video from attacking Apache helicopters and revealed in a video released by WikiLeaks ten years ago today. Wikileaks obtained the video from a conscientious U.S. Army intelligence analyst, Chelsea Manning. The My Lai incident was revealed to the public ...
Many articles in the US press have speculated at length in an attempt to define a new ideology called “Putinism.” The pieces serve as an attempt to fit Putin into an outdated Cold War narrative, as if some new ideology in the Russian Federation is playing the role that Marxism-Leninism once played in the Soviet Union, though the current Russian constitution forbids this.The notable leaders of history are rarely ideologues. History judges people mainly by what they achieve, not what they write or say. As Chinese President Xi Jinping recently put it: “The worth of any plan is in its ...
They could be found on the outskirts of Sirte, Libya, supporting local militia fighters, and in Mukalla, Yemen, backing troops from the United Arab Emirates. At Saakow, a remote outpost in southern Somalia, they assisted local commandos in killing several members of the terror group al-Shabab. Around the cities of Jarabulus and Al-Rai in northern Syria, they partnered with both Turkish soldiers and Syrian militias, while also embedding with Kurdish YPG fighters and the Syrian Democratic Forces. Across the border in Iraq, still others joined the fight to liberate the city of Mosul. And in Afghanistan, they assisted indigenous forces in various missions, just as they have ...
America’s horrendous gun violence can be attributed to many factors, but there is one factor that is hardly talked about or explored in public discourse – the apparent link between mass shootings and the rampant culture of US militarism.Mass shootings in the US – involving four or more persons – occur on an almost daily basis. The most recent major atrocity was in Virginia Beach last month in which 12 people were killed. The shooter was reportedly a military veteran.Turns out that US military veterans are disproportionately responsible for violent gun deaths among American civilians. Investigative journalist David Swanson has ...
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was given a host of assurances that the NATO alliance would not expand past what was then the East German border in 1990 according to new declassified documents.Russian leaders often complain that the NATO extended an invitation to Hungary, Poland and what was then Czechoslovakia to joint the alliance in 1997 at the Madrid Summit in contravention of assurances offered to the Soviet Union before its 1991 collapse. The alliance has dismissed the notion that such assurances were offered, however, scholars have continued to debate the issue for years. Now, however, newly declassified documents show that ...
Here we go again. In yet another Pentagon precision strike, a residential building in Achin district of Nangarhar province was hit as a crowd welcomed home a tribal leader returning from the Hajj.At least 13 civilians were turned into «collateral damage». The Pentagon of course does not «discuss the details of counter-terror operations», but it’s «currently reviewing all materials related to this strike».Nothing obviously will come out of it – adding the civilian dead to the non-stop mounting toll of Operation Enduring Freedom (Forever).Someone that actually is bound to endure his freedom in full splendor is former warlord, head of ...
The historical and political precedents for the creation of a greater Sqiperia or Greater Albania was set during World War II when the Kosovo and Metohija regions along with territory Southwest of lake Skutari from Montenegro and the western region of Southern Serbia, or Juzna Srbija (now part of Macedonia), were annexed to Albania by the Axis powers led by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, under a plan devised by Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler to dismember and to destroy the Serbian Nation and people, which the Germans and Italians perceived as the main threat to the Axiss powers and ...
Why has Barack Obama airdropped 50 tons of ammunition into areas that “moderate rebels” in Syria supposedly control? This is essentially the equivalent of poking the Russians directly in the eyes. Much of this ammunition will end up in the hands of those that the Russians are attempting to bomb into oblivion, and so to Russia it appears that we are attempting to make their job much harder. And of course the truth is that there aren’t really any “moderate rebels” in Syria at all. Nearly all of the groups that are fighting are made up primarily of radical jihadists ...
Memorial Day is Based on a Lie
British Parliament Confirms: Libya War was Based on Lies
Neoliberalism and the Globalization of War: America’s Hegemonic Project
American Rape of Vietnamese Women was Considered “Standard Operating Procedure”
Video: Destruction of Palmyra (2016)
Afghanistan: The Forgotten Proxy War
“Welcome to Nulandistan: Propaganda and the Crisis in Ukraine” (Documentary Movie, 2014)
Srebrenica: Bosnian Muslim Jihad Killings of 3,500 Christian Serbs
Hillary Clinton Wants to Do this Again — Now to Syria
The US: The Century of Lost Wars
The Baltic Holocaust and Russophobia
The Demolition of U.S. Global Power
‘Collateral Murder’ and the My Lai Massacre
“Putinism” in American History
U.S. Special Operations Forces Deploy to 138 Nations, 70% of the World’s Countries
Americans Pay Price for Criminal Wars From Mass Shootings at Home
Newly Declassified Documents: Gorbachev Told NATO wouldn’t Move Past East German Border
Afghanistan: It is the Heroin, Stupid
Kosovo Albanian “Skanderbeg SS Division”
Is Barack Obama Actually Trying to Start World War III?
FOLLOW US ON OUR SOCIAL PLATFORMS