Friday, May 10, 2013

BBC peddles the Assad line

[Originally posted at NOW]

As much as people like As’ad AbuKhalil want (and need) to believe that “Western media” are leagued in a barely-concealed conspiracy to indoctrinate the masses with anti-Assad propaganda, to any neutral observer it’s become increasingly apparent that the “line,” to the extent that there ever was one, is drifting markedly in the opposite direction.

Today’s diatribe in the BBC is a sterling example. Paul Danahar is a journalist I have often read and admired. During Israel’s most recent assault on Gaza last November, he was on the ground, courageously challenging the government line, exposing injustice and generally, as they say, ‘speaking truth to power.’

In his dispatch from Damascus today, however, Danahar has taken something of a reverse approach. When I read via Twitter yesterday of the “lots of meetings with lots of government officials in Damascus” he had lined up for the day, I trusted he would proceed with the hard-nosed skepticism expected of a BBC Middle East bureau chief. Instead, the muck flung at the wall by his companions seems largely to have stayed in place, and congealed.

The alarm bell first rings when he refers sarcastically to those who “[try] to boil it down to good versus evil: the FSA versus President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.” To imagine there is any moral difference between the rebels and the regime, you see, is deeply mistaken. “The situation in Syria,” he explains, is far too “complicated” for such infantile reductions.

So what’s really going on? Who’s truly responsible for the more than 70,000 killed? Well, “the regime has played its part,” he concedes. But no less dangerous; indeed the true cause of the enduring misery; is the “meddling” of Saudi Arabia and Qatar – two “sorely undemocratic states […] the cavalry from the very un-free Gulf […] not champions of democracy either at home or abroad.”

Of course! What fools we were to think that regime air strikes, SCUD missiles, cluster bombs, helicopters, tank units, death squads, and maybe now even chemical weapons were primarily to blame for the conflict being so damned “intractable.” All this time, it was bastard “Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia [which] hates Shiite Iran [and] is using the war in Syria to try and weaken it.”

There’s no need to mention, evidently, that Iran also “hates” Saudi Arabia, and has sent untold numbers of its own military personnel to Syria to optimize the regime’s killing machine. And why bring up Hezbollah, the foreign Islamist militia for whose military assistance Assad expressed his “great gratitude” today? Surely no reader needs to know that Russia, which maintains an entire naval base in the country, has supplied the regime with over a billion dollars’ worth of arms since the uprising began? And, really, who cares about the massacre of entire families, including toddlers, in al-Bayda and Baniyas last week when a Salafist once told some Christian women to cover their hair?

It’s one thing to quote the claims of a blood-drenched dictatorship that SCUD-missiles its own people, but quite another to actually believe them. Danahar’s extraordinary credulity in the face of one of the most reprehensible regimes in modern Arab history does the BBC’s readers an enormous disservice. Much more importantly, though, it insults the memories of that regime’s literally innumerable innocent victims, and shields the killers of those continuing to perish at this very moment.

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