The use of language usually determines how the listener will perceive the data that is shared. What words that are used and how the data is framed will project the speaker’s biased perceptions re: the data itself. This may or may not be done consciously. Therefore, there is legitimacy to the term, “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”
Last Wednesday, Amy Goodman invited Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch and Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian Studies and Politics at New York University and Princeton University to her program, Democracy Now!, to debate what is happening in Syria and especially in Aleppo.
Inviting Stephen Cohen to her program was significant. Although he has expertise in Russian history, politics, and culture, and the US government as well, the media have worked hand-in-hand to demonize Russia and their president, Vladimir Putin. Amy has spent the past two years reporting on Russia and Syria through the eyes of the N.Y. Times, the Washington Post and the White Helmets. She had chosen to ignore Professor Cohen as a very informed and valuable resource who could expand our knowledge regarding Russia and their involvement in Syria beyond the stereotypical data flowing from the MSM and government officials.
Although everyone is familiar with the N.Y. Times and Washington Post, some may wonder who are these White Helmets? The Western media have portrayed them as heroic first responders rescuing injured civilians in so-called rebel-controlled parts of Syria. But what is missing from the media description of this organization is that they are a source of propaganda about the war. Indeed their very existence is an element in the larger propaganda campaign to rally international support for a “regime change” war in Syria.
Therefore, it is clear that this organization is not a neutral entity. Their agenda coincides with the agenda of the US, UK, France, and Germany, to overthrow the democratically elected government of Bashar al-Assad, president of Syria, having won the last election with a plurality of 78%.
These are the folks who provide a large part of the misinformation coming out of Syria.
Besides promoting themselves as a humanitarian group, the White Helmets have become essential to the propaganda war by gaining—along with similar pro-rebel “activists”—a virtual monopoly on information from so-called rebel-controlled areas, supplying a steady stream of heart-rending stories and images about suffering children to a credulous Western media wanting to believe everything bad about the Syrian government.
Let me direct your attention to the use of the term “rebel-controlled” when describing territory no longer under the control of the Syrian army. The “rebels” would refer to disgruntled Syrians, as the official narrative goes, who are rebelling against an oppressive government. But, these are not rebels, these are mercenary terrorists, members of al-Nusra and al-Qaeda who are being supported by US/NATO money and weapons to overthrow Assad’s government. Calling them rebels gives them moral legitimacy and distorts the true nature of the fighting in Syria.
With this background and understanding, let me return to Democracy Now!. Kenneth Roth spoke first and provided us with a recycling of the official narrative which has dominated throughout the US. He stated, “Aleppo has been the victim of several months of siege, basically a starvation of everybody there, not simply the fighters, but up to 250,000 civilians . . . the Syrian-Russian combination have not simply aimed at fighters on the other side, which is what you’re supposed to do in war, but they have deliberately targeted civilians and civilian institutions, like hospitals or markets and the like.”
Stephen Cohen responded, “He (Roth) says that the Russians joined with the Syrians in deliberate war crimes. This is based on very selective reports that come from sources that cannot be verified. For example, the White Helmet man, that you had testify to this, didn’t tell us how he knew that, how he observed it, how he escaped with his own life. Moreover, there are people who doubt the reports that come from the White Helmets, that they have an agenda.”
In his response, Cohen makes an interesting point, one that relates to the issue of language and how it influences others. “Now, you, Amy, Mr. Roth and The New York Times have dropped the word ‘jihadist’ and ‘terrorist’ from your narrative. There were no longer any terrorists in Aleppo, no longer any jihadists, but people called rebels. And since our nation began in rebellion against Great Britain, rebels have a rather positive connotation.” In other words, calling those fighting against Assad “rebels” neutralizes how they are experienced by the public and can evoke sympathy for their cause.
The reality is, these so-called rebels are members of groups that have previously been listed by the US government as terrorist groups.
Why is the US/Nato supporting terrorists? Because it is more important to establish a regime change in Syria and install a government more favorable to the US/NATO countries. Currently, the Assad government has a long term, strong relationship with Russia and that is not tolerable or forgivable.
The charge that Russia and the Syrian army deliberately targeted civilian facilities makes absolutely no sense. The Syrian people have demonstrated strong support for the Assad government by electing him with an overwhelming majority. What does he gain by brutalizing these very same people?
I hope I’m not sounding cavalier but in war, people die, many of them innocent civilians, including women and children. That’s why war is so abhorrent to most of us.
As far as Russia is concerned, the current strategy in the US is to demonize Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin. Although it’s not funny, it has become somewhat of a running joke . . . if something goes wrong, it’s Putin’s fault.
Putin wisely put things in perspective when he said, “Who do we want in Damascus, the capital of Syria? Do we want Assad, the president of Syria, or do we want the Islamic State in Damascus?” Putin has, on several occasions asked the US to join with Russia to fight the terrorists. So far, the US has refused.
There is one bit of information that keeps getting lost in every conversation about Syria . . . what right does the US have to ignore the sovereignty of Syria as well as Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Ukraine and Yemen, send troops or weapons or money into these countries and sponsor the overthrow of their governments? Is it because we’re “exceptional”?
Dave Alpert has masters degrees in social work, educational administration, and psychology. He spent his career working with troubled inner city adolescents.