The Mainstream Media’s Shamefully Hypocritical Coverage of the Syrian War
(ANTIMEDIA Op-Ed) In October 2016, the Guardian ran an article entitled “Reality Check: are US-led airstrikes on Syrians as bad as Russia’s?” The article was a response to the suggestion of the British Labour party that there was too much focus on Russian atrocities in Syria and that this focus was detracting from other atrocities taking place, particularly from the U.S.-led coalition.
Unsurprisingly, the article concluded outright that “[N]o party to Syria’s brutal civil war has joined the conflict without killing civilians, but the scale of deaths caused by Russia’s bombing campaign is much higher than that from coalition airstrikes.”
The most telling part of this report is that one of the sources of their conclusion was the non-partisan monitoring group Airwars, which has been following the conflict closely since the air war against ISIS began. This is all well and good; it is hard to argue with neutrally produced statistics.
However, this is the same monitoring group that stated in March of this year:
“[T]he high number of alleged incidents across both countries forced Airwars temporarily to pause its full vetting of Russian airstrikes in order to keep pace with the reported Coalition toll.” [emphasis added]
“For the third straight month the reported civilian toll of Russian airstrikes in Syria was surpassed by that of the Coalition in both Iraq and Syria.” [emphasis added]
The same media that used Airwars’ reports to demonstrate that the Russian military was killing more civilians in Syria than the U.S.-led coalition in 2016 is almost all but silent on Airwars’ reports from 2017 that show the U.S.-led coalition is massacring Iraqis and Syrians by the thousands.
In March alone, the U.S. air campaign allegedly killed 1,782 civilians in Iraq and Syria. Airwars also notes that the U.S.-backed campaign in Mosul has displaced 400,000 civilians from just this one city alone.
In March 2017, the Guardian ran another article entitled “The west condemned Russia’s bombs – now coalition attacks are killing civilians in Mosul.” Considering the scale of the tenacity with which the mainstream media accused Russia of war crimes and elevated these stories to headline news, these lone articles containing the truth about what is unfolding in the Middle East are not nearly sufficient. If you have the time, Google search “guardian+russia+bombs+aleppo,” and you might notice a stark difference in the style, frequency, and manner of reporting on Russian casualties.
When a U.S. aerial bombardment in Mosul killed well over 200 civilians, the mainstream media shamelessly spun their headlines to downplay American culpability. In contrast, when an alleged Russian airstrike hit an area in Syria controlled by al-Qaeda, the media never once hesitated to run the story — even without legitimate sources on the ground to confirm the casualties. This patent hypocrisy matters greatly, especially considering that most Americans are headline readers only.
If the Guardian or any other mainstream media outlet were impartial and concerned only with the truth, they would run a new follow-up “Reality Check” article concerning the most horrifying developments taking place right now.
Though it is not a competition to see who can kill the most versus who can kill the least, there is a stark difference in that Russia’s air campaign has at least a small mode of legitimacy; the Syrian government formally requested Russia’s intervention. Compiling a coalition of countries — one rife with direct sponsors of ISIS and exporters of extremist ideology — does nothing to legitimize the United States’ war in Syria.
Further, according to Airwars, the U.S. is responsible for 95 percent of all coalition strikes in Syria and 68 percent of all actions in Iraq, making the rest of the countries’ contributions virtually inconsequential. For example, as the second most active partner, the United Kingdom has contributed 92 strikes in the Syrian campaign since the U.K. parliament formally voted to begin conducting airstrikes in 2015. This amounts to barely one percent of the coalition’s total of at least 8,502 strikes in Syria. Why were they so determined to join the fight in the first place — heavily debating the intervention in the U.K. legislature — just to contribute 92 missiles? What is the uncontrollable desire for everyone to bomb Syrian territory rooted in given that it has no internationally recognized legal basis? There is no U.N. mandate and there is no request from the Syrian government, which deems allied forces invaders.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump has given enormous scope to his military generals to order in airstrikes on the battlefield, which has directly resulted in blatant war crimes. To the media, this isn’t remotely important, scandalous, or newsworthy. Apparently, only anonymously leaked reports of intelligence sharing with Russia regarding topics the mainstream media had already reported on are all that’s worth covering.
While this nonsensical hysteria plagues our television sets, Iraq and Syria continue to burn.
As Airwars explains:
“‘The prevailing view in the United States,’ says Chris Kolenda, ‘is that ISIS is a terrorist organisation which just needs to be eliminated and it’s unfortunate that there are civilian casualties in the process. Americans tend to believe that the ISIS cancer will metastasize if left unaddressed. Most believe that ISIS causes far more damage to civilians in Iraq and Syria and that ineffectual US military efforts, due to excessive restrictions, will prolong the war and place more civilians at risk of harm.’
“Ordinary Iraqis and Syrians on the ground – who have already endured 1,000 days of airstrikes in the effort to defeat Islamic State – might disagree. For too many civilians, each new day brings the ominous sound of yet another air raid, once more putting them in fear of losing their homes, their loved ones and their own lives. It is a situation which we, far away from the battlefield, can barely begin to comprehend.”