The New World Disorder and What They Won’t Tell Us about the Middle East

Media Manipulation, Inc

After nearly five years of civil war in Syria, and over twelve years since the immoral and tragic coalition invasion of Iraq, US mainstream news coverage of events in Syria and Iraq continues to be abysmal. When between ten and thirty million people around the world demonstrated against the Iraqi War in February 2003, US media outlets continually under-reported and underestimated protest movements in the approximately sixty countries that participated. Described as the largest coordinated protest in history, the US and UK governments continued to pressure and threaten potential coalition governments, using media mouthpieces as their stooges. As the democratic will of the free world was standing in solidarity, US “leaders”, our “elite”, were busy shedding whatever remained of their consciences as they hunkered down to plan mass atrocities and crimes against humanity.

Our leaders claimed we would be fighting in Iraq for “freedom” and “to make the Middle East safe for democracy.” This sort of doublespeak continues unabated to this day, as normal citizens try to understand what is happening in war-torn nations where the “advanced countries” have been meddling, killing, and intervening for decades. After shattering Iraqi society in 2003 and killing over 500,000 civilians, today the US and its NATO ally Turkey’s actions in the region still get a free pass in the mainstream media, even as NATO and the Gulf nations support terrorists, demonize the Syrian government, and the policies of Iran and Russia. Twelve years later, leading US newspapers still are shamelessly repeating government disinformation. Let’s examine some recent examples of US media distortions of Mideast policies, involving outright lies against nations opposing US hegemony and blatant obfuscations and omissions surrounding current events.

First, let’s start with a Dec. 11 report from the New York Times: Iraqi Campaign to Retake Ramadi From ISIS Makes Gains.” In the article, the authors recount how the Iraqi army is currently retaking the city of Ramadi, capital of Anbar province. What they don’t mention, of course, is the strange way Iraqi troops abandoned Ramadi in May, when a few hundred ISIS infantry managed to overrun the entire city and its 450,000 residents. They also don’t mention how in June 2014, Iraqi army units abandoned their posts in Mosul and Tikrit, leading to another ISIS takeover of a wide swath of northern and central Iraq. In both cities, government troops left behind tanks, APCs, Humvees, and advanced weapons for ISIS to take. Currently, Iraqi government officials with orders from Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi are preparing to prosecute high-ranking Iraqi officers for their disloyalty. The army’s disappearance and the possibility of foreign meddling, especially in Mosul, where 30,000 troops fled from an estimated 800 ISIS fighters, is a major key to understanding who is behind ISIS, which the Times is either too ignorant or afraid to ask about.

Let’s move on to another paragon of the US establishment media: The Wall Street Journal. Here we have an interesting article and title: “Four Illusions about Syria That the U.S. Has to Abandon.” To give the author some credit, he at least agrees that the US will have to withdraw its wish to remove Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, to help counter ISIS. Wider issues, however, are missing in this author’s analysis, as he states that Russia’s priorities are simply to stop ISIS in Syria, and to give support to Assad. As I wrote recently, Russia has legitimate security threats within its own territory as well as in some former republics: specifically the Caucasus (Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia) and the Central Asian states (mostly in Tajikistan). Regarding the US, in truth, the entire strategy of the US in the wider region is an illusion, and a tragedy. We support Saudi Arabia, an intolerant, backwards, and corrupt royal regime with advanced weaponry, political alliances, and even Blackwater mercenaries in its illegal war against Yemen. The US allows Turkey to remain in NATO, and is complicit in Turkey’s actions as it runs supply lines of weapons to ISIS one way and smuggles its oil the other. In Israel, we support Netanyahu’s racist, supremacism with billions of dollars a year, and Egypt’s military dictatorship of al-Sisi with billions more.

No doubt, one of the biggest targets of US media manipulation is Iran. In a December 8 Boston Herald op-ed, author Trudy Rubin writes: “Iran secrecy on nukes proves trust isn’t enough.” Its main thrust is that “They [Iran] lied” about the timeline of their nuclear program, and that the covert program existed until 2009. Of course, any journalist worth their salt would simply have to step out of the bubble of propaganda to realize that the program was halted somewhere around 2002-2003, and that documents procured after that date were most likely forgeries by foreign powers, as Gareth Porter explains in a Middle East Policy Council essay. Further, Porter and others have explained that the US National Intelligence Estimate of 2007 confirmed the 2003 program shutdown, and former International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director El-Baradei himself considers the post-2003 weapons documents as forgeries. Rubin writes that we must “watch for Iranian cheating” even as the US and Israel have targeted Iran’s nuclear scientists, advanced harmful sanctions which have adversely affected innocent Iranian citizens, fabricated nuclear documents, and even supported hardcore terrorist groups to bring down the regime. Rubin quotes a former State Department lackey who claims “we must make clear…the US is prepared to use military force to stop [the nuclear program]”, the same tiresome, bullying, and bellicose rhetoric that Bush and Obama have repeated for years. So much for progress and media fairness in 2015, but that is what we have come to expect from news media fully corporatized and indoctrinated in war, neo-imperial capitalism, and fear of the Islamic “Other” which they do not even try to begin to understand.

Let’s finish off with the Beltway’s main consolation rag and ideological tool, the Washington Post. In a Dec. 14 essay, “Kerry to ask for Putin’s help in Syrian negotiations,” reporter Carol Morello tells us about the ongoing talks between the US and Russia, spearheaded by John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov. She repeats the dubious party line that Russia is unfairly targeting pro-US, anti-Assad rebels rather than ISIS itself. Yet she fails to mention Turkey’s role in the disaster that is the Syrian civil war. There can be no US-Russia deal without coming to terms with Turkey’s utter duplicity and insincere fight against ISIS. Turkey, a full NATO member, has been using ISIS as an excuse to fight the Kurds in its territory and in Syria, and is now deploying troops inside Iraq without its permission, a blatant violation of international law.

Here in the US there is no overt state-controlled media, no KGB or Stasi-like agencies telling journalists what to write and what must be censored. Most regional newscasts and leading city newspapers are either accomplices or simply unwitting pawns of their larger conglomerate media groups. Consciously or not, they are Manufacturing Consent of their own citizens through pure ideological stupidity, arrogance, and propaganda regarding American exceptionalism. Not to mention their utter disregard for a nuanced understanding of history or accepting our countries’ past mistakes. They are less than puppets, who at least know that they are being manipulated by outside agents.

Regarding recent terrorism, as President Obama has stated many times, we are told ISIS will be defeated (eventually), but for now it is our job to “contain” them. While Western nations are in fact almost totally safe from jihadists, the threats to civilians in the Middle East and North Africa from the diverse array of radical movements and terrorists do not seem to be contained at all, as this eye-opening map charting British flights over Africa and Asia shows. What we have instead are simply areas neglected and exploited by global capitalism, where chaos and brutality rule, and warlords are in charge. Instead of a group of truly “united nations”, we have a handful of the most powerful states using proxy warfare, covert actions, and economic subterfuge to control their own fiefdoms.

Rather than former President George H.W. Bush’s vision of a new world order, recent attacks in Beirut, Bamako, Baghdad, and Paris suggest a far darker and cloudy future for the global integration of cultures. Rather than unimpeded progress, our collective blind faith in technologies, Gilded Age capitalist production and inequality, and even well-intentioned humanitarian charity work masks many other problems: immigration from refugees in Syria, Iraq, Libya and what some euphemistically refer to as the “Global South”, looting of priceless antiquities from the dawn of civilization in Iraq and Syria, and the return of blatant racism and fascism in Europe and the US.

There are also feelings of anomie and restlessness for young Muslims in the modern West (in part a reaction against the egotism and consumer-oriented attitudes of capitalist societies) that are an undeniable recruiting tool for jihadists. We have a militarized police force in the US designed to crush domestic dissent and which unfairly targets minorities, a global drone assassination program where perhaps 90% of its victims are civilians, a total surveillance state, and prison, banishment, torture, or worse for brave whistleblowers like Snowden, Manning, and Assange. Instead of a wellspring of advanced and tolerant civilization, in the West we instead have our own crystal palace, where we are coddled and infantilized by corporations and media sycophants. Instead of a thriving and vibrant culture, we find ourselves in our own dystopian theme park of “democracy” and “freedom”, where these words stand in for their opposites: we have a “place that is no place”, to paraphrase Baudrillard. Recent events and news coverage suggest a fragile and frightened national psyche, a deep uncertainty about what our society is becoming, something straight out of Alfonso Cuarόn’s Children of Men, rather than a strong, critically engaged, and hopeful outlook towards the future.

Rather than ignoring the US-led imperial-capitalist system’s ugliness (which only cedes the social space and emboldens the corporate-military elite) and escaping into apathy and self-indulgence, as so many do, it’s time for citizens around the world to organize, protest, and form a collective to promote human rights in Syria and Iraq. Also, leaders and movements must begin a sustained peace initiative in the Middle East, an end to supporting proxy forces, an end to our inefficient bombing campaign, and begin to create an honest and equitable system to redistribute food, housing, life-saving medicines, resources and technology to billions of the worlds’ underprivileged citizens.

If a sustained, worldwide, grassroots protest movement for human rights in Iraq and Syria is formed, it might be possible for major US news organizations to snap out of their hypnotic gaze and slavishness towards the oligarchic, war-promoting US elite, as they should have done twelve years ago preceding the second Gulf War. By reengaging with ordinary citizens in war-torn nations and hearing their stories, in unity with those who endure and survive under tremendous hardship, US media can improve and become less biased. By understand ordinary people’s problems, hopes, and concerns, it may not be too late for our domestic media to salvage its function and its dignity. By listening to those without power, and rejecting the elite who use violence in reaction to their own impotence and neuroses, a brighter future can be created. However, this can only be done with the help of vigilant journalism focusing on the structural imbalances of state power and rejecting the destructive paths of misguided leaders and nations that are wreaking havoc in Syria, Iraq, and worldwide.

William Hawes is a writer specializing in politics and environmental issues. He is author of the ebook Planetary Vision: Essays on Freedom and Empire. His articles have appeared at CounterPunch, Global Research, Countercurrents, Gods & Radicals, Dissident Voice, The Ecologist, and more. You can email him at wilhawes@gmail.com. Read other articles by William, or visit William's website.