Though it’s rarely mentioned in polite company, Harold Pinter’s 2005 Nobel Prize in Literature acceptance speech continues to resonate nearly ten years later.
“It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest”, Pinter explained about the death and destruction caused by the United States across the globe. He went on: “The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them.”
How can something not happen even while it was happening, you ask? Let me explain.
In June 2012 the New York Times, published a report headed ‘CIA Said To Aid In Steering Arms To Syrian Opposition.’ According to the report “a small number of CIA officers are operating secretly in southern Turkey” coordinating the delivery of arms to rebels in Syria, including “automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and some antitank weapons.” In March 2013 the New York Times published another report, titled ‘Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels Expands, With Aid From CIA’. This report noted the arms deliveries had “grown to include more than 160 military cargo flights by Jordanian, Saudi and Qatari military-style cargo planes”. According to the New York Times the size of the arms transfers were such they “correlated with shifts in the war within Syria, as rebels drove Syria’s army from territory by the middle of last year.”
So, to summarise, in mid-2012 the most influential newspaper in the world reported the US was helping to arm the rebels – a fact confirmed by subsequent stories in the New York Times itself aswell as numerous reports in other mainstream news outlets around the world.
Contrast this publicly available, easily accessed information with these summaries from the mainstream media of the ongoing US role in Syria:
- The Telegraph, 21 April 2013: “While Saudi Arabia and Qatar are both known to be
channeling arms to the rebels, there was no indication that the United States, Britain or other western allies might follow suit.”
- New York Times, 4 May 2013: “President [Obama] seems to be moving closer to providing
lethal assistance to the Syrian rebels, even though he rejected such a policy just months
- The Guardian, 8 May 2013: “The US, which has outlawed al-Nusra as a terrorist group, has
hesitated to arm the FSA [Free Syrian Army]…”
- The Guardian, 23 July 2013: “Obama, who has been reluctant to engage too deeply in the
Syrian conflict, changed [his] position on arming opponents of Assad’s regime last month”.
- New York Times, 9 September 2014: “Mr Obama has resisted military engagement in
Syria for more than three years, out of fear early on that arming the rebels who oppose Mr
Assad would fail to alter the balance in the civil war.”
- BBC Today Programme, 11 September 2014, Presenter Mishal Husein to US
Ambassador: “If you [the US] had helped the moderate Syrian opposition, the Free Syrian
Army, three years ago, even two years ago, we might well not be in the position that we are
now. President Obama’s reluctance to intervene and to take action on Syria has contributed
to what we are seeing now.” (1 hour 52 minutes in)
As Pinter said, “Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening”.
Why are all of these professional journalists – supposedly a profession made up of stroppy, questioning cynics – incapable of stating the most basic of facts about the US role in Syria?
The recent admission of former senior Reuters journalist Andrew MacGregor Marshall may provide the answer. Describing Reuters’s Iraq coverage as “pretty useless”, the ex-Baghdad Bureau Chief explained “there is a certain discourse that becomes normalized, in which certain views are acceptable and others not.” In this atmosphere, if you make obvious factual statements “you are often marginalised as some sort of looney figure”, he notes. “It is through this process that the mainstream media basically becomes a tool of misinforming people, rather than informing people.”
Another reason is alluded to in a September 2013 New York Times article that noted “Saudi Arabia, quietly cooperating with American and British intelligence and other Arab governments, has modestly increased deliveries of weapons to rebels fighting in southern Syria”. The US and UK cooperation with Saudi Arabia is covert, the report explained, because “American and British intelligence and Arab Governments… do not want their support publicly known”.
By refusing to inform their readers that the US has been arming the rebels in Syria since 2012 the mainstream liberal media have done exactly what best suits the US and UK governments. And by so closely following the US and UK Governments’ preferred narrative, the media continues to minimise the US’s responsibility for the on-going carnage in Syria and the rise of Islamic State.