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[Norm’s note: For context, you can read or even engage in the conversation evolving in reaction to: Eva Bartlett on Syria: Responding to Buzzfeed.  I’m highlighting Greg Staniak’s reply to a series of comments by John Paolozzi, well, because it really caught my eye for both its eloquence and remarkable completeness despite its brevity.]

By Greg Staniak

December 22, 2016


I remember a time when every major media outlet from across the political spectrum reported Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, yellowcake purchases, and close Al-Kaida links. I remember US Secretary of State presenting evidence of these indisputable facts to the UNSC, saying, and I quote: “Ladies and gentlemen, these are not assertions. These are facts, corroborated by many sources, some of them sources of the intelligence services of other countries” — with “countless” UN resolutions following, based on these “facts”, with well known results. I remember US Secretary of Defense publicly announcing that, and I quote: “There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends…and against us.”

I remember Fred Hiatt of Washington Post mocking and vilifying “conspiracy theorist” who didn’t subscribe to the government position at that time and questioned its narrative, I remember Thomas Friedman of New York Times cheerleading for the invasion. I remember Judith Miller of New York Times continuously regurgitating government’s rhetoric and “facts”. I remember how the White House Iraq Group’s activities were later disclosed, the truth about over 50 patently false articles in the biggest and most respectable outlets unveiled, and Mr. Rove’s, Ms. Rice’s and other WH staffers’ roles in orchestrating the propaganda offensive exposed.

I also remember a lot of people like you, shocked and offended by those whom they saw as defending a tyrant wielding atomic weapons on behalf of Al-Kaida, coming to destroy them any minute now. You could smell the treason accusations in the air.

So please excuse me while I remain unimpressed by “every major media outlet”, UN resolutions, government press conferences, and the echo chamber generated from very carefully filtered “sources”, always happening to be under terrorists’ control.

It’s a sad realization that none of the above is a guarantee of veracity these days, but after Iraq we know for a fact that yes, that’s possible, even probable and likely. If you choose to disregard independent reporting and rely on what comes out of the echo chamber, that’s your choice. Myself, being fooled once is more than enough.

And as far as your criticism of Eva Bartlett is concerned, it sounds a lot like shooting the messenger. That one conference happened after six journeys to Syria and years of reporting — which happens to corroborate what other independent reporters are telling us, like Vanessa Beeley, revd Ashdown, Pierre Le Corf:

Vanessa Beeley
Andrew Ashdown
Pierre Le Corf

It sounds like you realize yourself that the conference was not “on behalf” of the Syrian government, and you’re just shocked that someone could simply present a point of view that doesn’t contradict the government’s position. I’m sure you can see how this is a logical fallacy, since it’s quite easy to imagine that even the worst people in the world may be telling the truth in particular cases. And what they say doesn’t agree with news from your governments, or with UN resolutions, but happens to be in line with what real people see when they actually travel to Syria, see what is going on and talk to other real people.

And it’s not just those pesky independents from nowhere. Here’s part of a soon to be released book, with almost 70 citations from “major media outlets”, which directly contradicts the current official narrative of a popular uprising in Syria:

The Revolutionary Distemper in Syria That Wasn’t

And here are mainstream, veteran journalists who spent decades in the Middle East, telling you that what glitters is not always gold:

Robert Fisk
Patrick Cockburn

Please pay attention to this little nugget in particular:

There’s more propaganda than news coming out of Aleppo this week

“It would be simple-minded to believe that this very appealing and professional PR for the Syrian armed opposition is all their own work. Foreign governments play a fairly open role in funding and training opposition media specialists. One journalist of partly Syrian extraction in Beirut told me how he had been offered $17,000 a month to work for just such an opposition media PR project backed by the British government.”

Last but not least, I can’t resist noticing how indignant you appear when you note that someone dares to agree with something that “authoritarian nations” say. Let me remind you then that the USA, the “regime change” agenda follower in this conflict, is a close friend and ally of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.