Tag Archives: Syrian conflict

He Killed His Own People!

The Cat has always been bemused by the claim that so-and-so “has killed his own people”. This line of argument is usually deployed in advance of an invasion, air campaign or the implementation of a ‘no fly zone’. When one unpacks this argument, it is always found wanting and reveals the hypocrisy at the heart of the establishment’s rationale for military adventurism.  Sometimes the phrase “he’s another Hitler” will be added for dramatic effect.

In the run up to Gulf War I, we were told Saddam Hussein had “killed his own people”.  When Gulf War II rolled around, he also become “another Hitler”.  By his “own people”, the warmongers and the news media were referring specifically to the Kurds.  But Saddam Hussein didn’t see the Kurds as “his own people” and he wasn’t alone in this: it is a view that had been consistent in Baghdad throughout the history of Iraq, since it became nominally independent from Britain in 1932.

The Kurds (led by the powerful and corrupt Barzani clan) had constantly been in conflict with Baghdad since independence and had been waging a guerilla war in Northern Iraq for decades.  A full blown war between the Iraqi Kurds and the Iraqi government took place in 1961.  But this isn’t to say that Kurds didn’t participate in Iraqi politics or in government.  They did.  General Bakr Sidqi, for example, was the head of Iraq’s army.  He led the forces that participated in the Simele Massacre of 1933, which saw thousands of Assyrians slaughtered as they fled towards the Syrian border. Sidqi, King Ghazi and the Prime Minister Rashid Ali al-Gaylani, didn’t see the Assyrians as “their people” either.  Al-Gaylani would return as Prime Minister in a coup in 1941 and enter into a short-lived pact with Nazi Germany until he was overthrown by the British in the same year.

Western news media – especially British and American news media – have repeated ad infinitum the claim that Bashar al-Assad has “killed his own people” to rally public support for official military intervention and the eventual toppling of the Syrian president.  That Assad has killed his own people isn’t in doubt, but his forces have also killed people that the West ironically sees as its allies. Fighters from the al-Nusra Front, for example.

Britain and the United States have historically offered much support to national leaders that have “killed their own people”. Many of these leaders were military strongmen that were entertained by British and American governments because of their impeccable anti-communist credentials.  Below is a partial list.

  1. Nursultan Nazarbayev (current president of Kazakhstan)
  2. Islam Karimov (Uzbekistan, 1989 – 2016). His successor, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, is just as if not more violently repressive.
  3. Suharto (Indonesia, 1967 – 1998)
  4. Mobutu Sese Seko (Zaire, 1965 – 1997)
  5. General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte (Chile, 1973 – 1989)
  6. Generalissimo Francisco Franco Bahamonde (Spain, 1936 – 1975)
  7. The Greek Colonels (1967 – 1974)
  8. Air Chief Marshal Hosni Mubarak (Egypt, 1981 – 2011)
  9. Colonel Anwar Sadat (Egypt, 1970 – 1981)
  10. General Zia al-Haq (Pakistan, 1978 – 1988)
  11. Generalissimo Rafael Trujillo (Dominican Republic, 1942-1952)
  12. Jose Efrain Rios Montt (Guatemala, 1982 – 1983)
  13. Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (Iran, 1941 – 1979)

The conflict in Syria, like that in Iraq has been subject to the most deceitful, one-sided coverage with the siege and aerial bombardment of Aleppo becoming the focus of some pretty blatant propaganda. In short, we’re getting a raw deal from our news providers. Patrick Cockburn in today’s Independent writes:

The dominance of propaganda over news in coverage of the war in Syria has many negative consequences. It is a genuine civil war and the exclusive focus of on the atrocities committed by the Syrian armed forces on an unarmed civilian population gives a skewed picture of what is happening. These atrocities are often true and the UN says that 82 civilians may have been summarily executed in east Aleppo last month. But, bad though this is, it is a gross exaggeration to compare what has happened in Aleppo to genocide in Rwanda in 1994 or the massacre in Srebrenica the following year.

In the same paper Robert Fisk writes:

But it’s time to tell the other truth: that many of the “rebels” whom we in the West have been supporting – and which our preposterous Prime Minister Theresa May indirectly blessed when she grovelled to the Gulf head-choppers last week – are among the cruellest and most ruthless of fighters in the Middle East. And while we have been tut-tutting at the frightfulness of Isis during the siege of Mosul (an event all too similar to Aleppo, although you wouldn’t think so from reading our narrative of the story), we have been willfully ignoring the behaviour of the rebels of Aleppo.

Our leaders, though they may claim otherwise, have also “killed their own people” and we don’t need to cast our minds back that far.  The brutal regime of cuts to social security by the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition (2010-15) drove people to commit suicide, and although these people died by their own hand, it was the government’s policies that were ultimately responsible for their deaths.   Why?  Because this is a feature of what Pierre Bourdieu and Loic Wacquant called “symbolic violence”, which gets the victim to carry out acts of violence against themselves, thus obviating the need for actual physical violence from the state.  It’s a pretty clever trick.  No?

Governments are more than happy to kill their own people, even in so-called ‘democracies’. It isn’t confined solely to certain Middle Eastern countries.

Reference

Bourdieu, P., & Wacquant, L.J.D. (2003). Symbolic violence. na. Available at: http://cges.umn.edu/docs/Bourdieu_and_Wacquant.Symbolic_Violence.pdf  Accessed 29/2/16

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Filed under Free Press Myth, Ideologies, Iraq, Journalism, Media, Middle East, propaganda, Syria, Yellow journalism

Corbyn And The Media (Part 3)

Yesterday, the mass media was agog at the spectacle of Peter Tatchell disrupting Jeremy Corbyn’s speech to mark the occasion of the United Nations general assembly signing the declaration on human rights in 1948. Tatchell, a man whose career since 1983 has been characterized by its use of stunts, claims he was highlighting Corbyn’s silence on Russian bombing of Aleppo. Leaving aside the lack of objectivity in news coverage of the Syrian conflict, Tatchell’s choice of moment for his latest stunt could not have been better timed.  He knew that this would provide excuse for the mainstream media to launch another round of attacks on the beleaguered Labour leader.  And attack him they did.  The Guardian even took the time to remind us that St Tony had “condemned” Corbyn over the bombing of Syria. This is the man whose eagerness to bomb Iraq has led directly to the current conflicts in the Middle East. This is the man whose supporters in the Commons voted to bomb Syria.  One of those MPs was Hilary Benn, who was applauded by the Tories for his “barnstorming speech” and grandstanding ignorance of the historical actualité.

It is no surprise that news providers covered the Tatchell stunt but not the actual event at which Corbyn was speaking.  The media created its narrative through the magic of digital video editing, in which only those moments of Tatchell’s stunt were broadcast. However, The Cat has seen additional footage that tells a rather different story:  it is one in which Corybn, though under attack, gives a clam and measured response to Tatchell.  He wasn’t manhandled or harangued.  The Tory press would have loved that.  Can you imagine what would have happened if he’d pitched up to a UKIP meeting and had done the same thing? Can you imagine what would have happened if he’d done that when Blair was leader?

So what about Tatchell’s point?  Has Corbyn done enough to condemn Russian bombing?  As always, it depends on who’s asking the question.   If the BBC, ITV, Sky or Tatchell himself is asking the question, then it comes with the added demand that if Corbyn is ‘guilty’ in their eyes, then he should do the decent thing by donning sackcloth and sleeping with a stone for a pillow.  Nothing less will do.  This is, at least, the subtext of Andrew Neil’s Twitter exchange with former Labour MP, Chris Williamson.  Click on the images to access the conversation.

Neil is joined by what The Cat assumes are a number of Labour right-wingers (the names are real giveaways) and Tories,  all of whom are flatulent with their own sense of self-importance and entitlement.

For his part, Tatchell is continuing to churn out his excuses.

That’s great, Peter, but you’ve chosen the wrong politician to attack.  That reminds me, for a gay man, you don’t seem that bothered by Daesh, who continue to throw gay men from tall buildings.  These are the people whom the mass media refers to as “the rebels”, while next door in Iraq, they’re called ‘Daesh’.  Funny that.

What about Corbyn’s “silence” over Russian bombing?  Well, Corbyn has condemned all sides in the conflict.  I mean, aren’t all sides guilty of atrocities?  Yet this is not enough for Andrew Neil, Peter Tatchell or our notionally free press. The hidden discourse to their claims is that Corbyn quietly supports ISIS/IS/ISIL/Daesh.  But there is nothing on record to even remotely suggest that he does.  This statement issued in the aftermath of the Paris attacks earlier this year attacks all parties involved in the conflict.

This article from Left Foot Forward published in October, repeats the demand that Corbyn “must break his silence on Assad and Russian bombings”.  These things are gifts to the Tory press, the Tory Party and the Labour Right.  But whatever Corbyn does or doesn’t say, you can be assured that a story will be assembled from a lot hearsay, speculation and lobby tittle-tattle.

Remember, the ‘news’ is just a collection of stories that have a beginning, middle and end.  In stories, simplistic themes of good versus evil are crucial in driving the narrative’s plot.  If you’re looking for impartiality or objectivity in the news, forget it.  Go and read some critical theory instead.

 

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