US media betray Kobani defenders

With more than a thousand militants killed and territory slipping away, ISIS is losing its grip on the Syrian border town of Kobani in the face of stiff resistance by Kurdish fighters backed by US-led air-strikes, says an optimistic account in AP Jan. 14. The "stunning reversal" for ISIS, which in September seemed poised to take Kobani, could be a critical turning point. "An IS defeat in Kobani would quite visibly undermine the perception of unstoppable momentum and inevitable victory that IS managed to project, particularly after it captured Mosul," said Faysal Itani, a fellow at the DC-based Atlantic Council.

But in an "exclusive" (read: click-bait) seemingly designed to dampen the spirits of the Kobani defenders, Daily Beast gloats: "ISIS Gaining Ground in Syria, Despite US Strikes." While there have been modest gains against ISIS in Iraq since the air-strikes started, in Syria, ISIS "has not any [sic] lost any key terrain," Jennifer Cafarella, a fellow at the also DC-based Institute for the Study of War, "explained" to the Daily Beast. Note some subtle manipulations here (apart from the sheer sloppiness)…

First, Cafarella's use of the qualifier "key," implying (contrary to the assumption of rival wonk Itani) that Kobani is not "key," and therefore need not be taken into account. Next, note the Beast's use of the loaded word "explained" (rather than "claimed," "asserted" or simply "said"), clueing us in that Cafarella is giving us the Straight Poop.

Obliged to actually mention Kobani, the Beast treats us to this gem of obfuscation: "Even US military officials privately conceded to The Daily Beast that ISIS has gained ground in some areas, even as the Pentagon claims its [sic] seized territory elsewhere, largely around the northern city of Kobani."

What the hell is that sentence supposed to mean? The ambiguous word "its" is presumably a contraction for "it has" (despite missing an apostrophe). So the "it" refers to "the Pentagon"—implying that "the Pentagon" rather than the Kurdish fighters of the People's Protection Units (YPG) have been taking territory from ISIS at Kobani! Really, Daily Beast? The Kurds are completely invisible, and the "the Pentagon"—with no troops on the ground—has "seized [the] territory"?

So this claim is factually inaccurate, politically problematic, and non-grammatical to boot. Way to go, Daily Beast! A perfect trifecta! Actually, we can also add journalistically problematic, as it shares in the current craze for anonymous and therefore unverifiable sources.

What's truly sad is that this demonstrates how the Kurds of Kobani have become a propaganda pawn in the internecine beltway wonk-wars pitting pro-intervention neocons against isolationist paleocons and their paradoxical left-liberal allies. That elite think-tanks like the Atlantic Council are even taking note of the Kurds ultimately spells trouble for them. But we noted when the US first came to their aid in October that this, even if welcome and necessary, would heighten the contradictions they face…