FAIR serves up more lies on Syria

"Leftist" (sic) shilling for fascist dictator Bashar Assad reaches new levels of deception in an entry from one Adam Johnson of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), perversely entitled "Down the Memory Hole: NYT Erases CIA's Efforts to Overthrow Syria's Government." The chutzpah of invoking Orwell in his title is downright Orwellian, as his distortions reveal the very name "Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting" to be pure doublethink. Wedded to the persistent pseudo-left hallucination of a US campaign to destabilize Assad, Johnson gripes: "This past week, two pieces—one in the New York Times detailing the 'finger pointing' over Obama's 'failed' Syria policy, and a Vox 'explainer' of the Syrian civil war—…didn't just omit the fact that the CIA has been arming, training and funding rebels since 2012, they heavily implied they had never done so." So what is Johnson's evidence that the CIA has been doing this? In defense of his claim, he links to articles in (funny) the New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel and the Washington Post. But if you bother actually click on the links (perish the thought), you'll find that none of them quite back up Johnson's assertions…

The Times story, from March 24, 2013, says nothing about the US "training" or "funding" the rebels—only a "secret airlift of arms and equipment." If this support was ever "secret," it wasn't for very long. The very next month, John Kerry was openly boasting of US support for the Syrian rebels at an Istanbul meeting—although it is questionable how much of the promised aid actually reached the rebels. And by the end of 2013, Kerry had announced a cut-off of "non-lethal" aid to the FSA. National Security Advisor Susan Rice later stated that "lethal aid" had continued—but emphasized that it was in the interests of "counterterrorism"; that is, fighting ISIS, not Assad. (Haaretz, June 7, 2014)

The Guardian story (March 8, 2013) says nothing about the CIA, only "Western" training of Syrian rebels in Jordan. Actually read the story (perish the thought) and it turns out to be the British and the French, and the whole thing is based on anonymous sources. The only indirect reference to the CIA is the following line: "A Jordanian source familiar with the training operations said: 'It's the Americans, Brits and French with some of the Syrian generals who defected. But we're not talking about a huge operation.'"

The story from Der Spiegel (the actual link is to a March 10, 2013 Reuters story citing Der Spiegel) is essentially a recapitulation of The Guardian's claims, and concludes: "The reports could not be independently verified."

The Washington Post story (June 12, 2015) actually reports that Congress was moving to cut CIA aid to the rebels. Again citing unnamed or fuzzy sources, the account claims the CIA has spent around $1 billion over the past "several years" to arm and train Syrian rebels—but emphasizes again that the primary enemy is ISIS, not Assad.

So of Johnson's four sources, it is only the last that vaguely backs up his claim. And he leaves out two salient facts: that the aid is primarily directed against the jihadists who Assad is also fighting, not Assad; and that it is coming to an end.

Johnson does mention the far less ambitious but better publicized Pentagon program to train Syrian rebels, admitting it has been an "abysmal failure." He doesn't mention (as we have) that the fighters trained under this program amount to a whopping 54—of whom only 37 were still actually in combat last time we checked back in August. Nor does he mention (as we have) that rebels have refused to participate in the training program because of the Pentagon's insistence that they do not use their training to fight Assad—only ISIS. 

After this subterfuge, Johnson goes on to gripe that the Sept. 13 New York Times story fails to mention the CIA training program. Distortions, eh? Cast the beam from thine own eye, Adam.

He closes with the usual sickening bogus neutrality:

As the military build-up and posturing in Syria between Russia and the United States escalates, policy makers and influencers on this side of the Atlantic are urgently trying to portray the West's involvement in Syria as either nonexistent or marked by good-faith incompetence. By whitewashing the West's clandestine involvement in Syria, the media not only portrays [sic] Russia as the sole contributor to hostilities, it absolves Europe and the United States of their own guilt in helping create a refugee crisis and fuel a civil war that has devastated so many for so long.

Oh really, Johnson? How many of the refugees are fleeing the FSA, as opposed to Assad's relentless aerial bombadment and ISIS sectarian cleansing? A case can be made that it is the West's failure to meaningfully support the rebels—without condescending conditions that they don't fight Assad—that has led to the disaster in Syria. The notion that "the West" is to blame for the refugees is literally echoing Assad's propaganda. See CNN Sept. 16 ("Syria's Bashar al-Assad: West is to blame for refugee crisis"). 

In fact, even ISIS is a distant second to Assad as the aggressor the refugees are fleeing. An account based on refugee interviews on the German website Qantara quotes one refugee in its headline: "Stop Assad's bombs, then we'll go back." A salient passage:

Indeed, the key reason for displacement in Syria is not IS, but Assad. The regime's air force is killing at least seven times as many people as IS. This "terror from the air", as it is referred to by civil groups, is destroying all those areas controlled by rebels—both moderate and Islamist. The aid organisation Doctors Without Borders reported that in August "heavy bombardments were carried out on 20 consecutive days in besieged Eastern Ghouta" where it is supporting 12 provisional underground clinics… One in every four victims—whether dead or injured—was a child under the age of five.

But you would get no sense of that from the ironically named Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting. This is the same FAIR, recall, that was eager to jump on utterly dubious claims that the rebels and not the Assad regime were behind the Ghouta chemical attack. Now it is plugging the utterly fictional notion of a "CIA Effort to Overthrow Syria's Government." Bunk. On the contrary, the US is tilting to Assad, viewing ISIS as the greater and common enemy. This is a betrayal of the Syrian revolution, which is ultimately even counter-productive to the aim of fighting ISIS. Telling the secular and pro-democratic forces they must accept rule under one tyrant is hardly conducive to a strong resistance against a rival gang of fascists.

Why does the increasingly reactionary FAIR continue to have any legitimacy whatsoever?


  1. Further deconstruction of FAIR lies on Syria…

    …is provided by the dogged Linux Beach blog. Blogger Clay Claiborne also notes that it is only the Washington Post story that even apparently backs up Johnson's claims, and even this is dubiously sourced. The claim of the CIA's $1 billion to the rebels is cited rather vaguely to unnamed documents provided to WaPo by Edward Snowden. The claim that "the CIA has trained and equipped nearly 10,000 fighters sent into Syria over the past several years" is cited to anonymous "US officials." Writes Claiborne:

    It is the claim of these 10,000 CIA funded, armed and trained fighters that nobody can seem to locate in Syria, that is in dispute. I don't think anybody doubts that the CIA can fritter away a billion bucks under line-item "Syria" without having the least effect on the struggle in Syria. It is this claim of massive numbers of anti-Assad fighters trained by the CIA that has become the butt of jokes. And while not to doubt the veracity of anything coming from Edward Snowden, it would be well to remember that he is living in Moscow at the pleasure of Vladimir Putin.

    Yes, a rather unfashionable point about Mr. Snowden that we have also made.

  2. Speaking of the Memory Hole…

    FAIR seems not to recall that the CIA's own ex-director Michael Hayden has spoken out in support of Assad's survival in power as the "best" among "possible outcomes." (Best for whom? Persumably not the civilians getting bombed in Ghouta and Aleppo.) But hey, never let the facts get in the way of a good conspiracy theory, right FAIR?

  3. More pseudo-left lies on Syria

    Truth-Out is touting an excerpt from the forthcoming book The WikiLeaks Files, presented with the utterly dishonest title "WikiLeaks Reveals How the US Aggressively Pursued Regime Change in Syria, Igniting a Bloodbath." With that title, you know that absolute bullshit is about to follow. As if the US either could have or would have had to provoke a popular revolution in Syria. As if the Syrian revolution had not been started in March 2011 by school-children who painted anti-regime slogans on a wall in Deraa. As if the US had not for years been conniving with the Bashar Assad regime, even "renditioning" terror suspects to his torture chambers. As if the US had not (repeatedly) betrayed the Syrian rebels throughout the course of the war. And as if the suppression of civil society for generations under the Assad dynasty had nothing to do with "igniting the bloodbath." This is all deeply insulting to the Syrian civil resistance, and is ultimately racist and US-centric imperial narcissism.

    At issue is a very unsubtle 2006 cable from US diplomat William Roebuck in which he waxes conspiratorial about how to manipulate the situation in Syria, including a recommendation to "play on Sunni fears of Iranian influence." What the text does not tell us is that nowhere in the document does Roebuck talk about "regime change" or "destabilization" or any like thing. Instead, he speaks of hopes to "directly impact regime behavior," and other such wording that in fact implicitly accepts Assad rule. Furthermore, the cable was written four-and-a-half years before the Syrian revolution actually broke out. And there is no evidence that the US ever followed through on Roebuck's cynical prescriptions. So this one cable does not even remotely prove that the "US Aggressively Pursued Regime Change in Syria."

    Shame on Truth-Out for giving a platform to this bullshit. And shame on Gareth Porter, Stephen Zunes and Phyllis Bennis for loaning their names to the book.

    The oft-problematic WikiLeaks doubtless approves of this distortion of the facts. If they do not, we call upon them express some dissent.

  4. Kerry: US not seeking ‘regime change’ in Syria

    Just keep repeating that conspiracy theory, FAIR. From ABC, Dec. 15:

    Following lengthy talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow today, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said the United States is not seeking regime change in Syria and that the U.S. and Russia see the conflict "fundamentally very similarly."

    "The United States and its partners are not seeking so-called regime change as it is known in Syria," Kerry said in a news conference inside the Kremlin, before immediately adding that the U.S. continues to believe that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has no possibility of remaining the country's leader in the future. However, Kerry said the talks didn’t focus on "what can or can't be done immediately about Assad" but rather on establishing a political process where Syrians will be able to choose their own leader.

    Right, as if "Syrians will be able to choose their own leader" while getting bombed by Assad, whose one-party dynasty has ruled since 1971. Utter doublethink. 

    1. US does not want to see Syrian regime ‘collapse’: CIA

      We missed this one. From AFP back on March 14, 2014:

      CIA Director John Brennan said on March 13 the United States does not want to see a chaotic collapse of the Syrian regime as it could open the way to Islamist extremists taking power…

      "I think that's a legitimate concern," Brennan said when asked if the US government feared who might succeed Assad.

      Speaking at an event at the Council on Foreign Relations, he said that "extremist elements" including ISIL and Al-Qaeda veterans are "ascendant right now" in some parts of Syria.

      "The last thing we want to do is allow them to march into Damascus. That's why it's important to bolster those forces within the Syrian opposition that are not extremists," Brennan said…

      "None of us, Russia, the United States, coalition, and regional states, wants to see a collapse of the government and political institutions in Damascus," Brennan said.

      But, please… Just keep repeating that conspiracy theory, FAIR. Don't let us stop you.