Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What the CIA learned from Trotsky

Good news, sort of, from Syria: at least one person is not in danger.

For a while now, the BBC's line on Syria has been - ambivalent. About a month ago, I heard a very interesting 'From Our Own Correspondent' slot about how the government's brutal repression of protestors wasn't quite as one-sided as most news made it out to be. Long story short: there was plausible evidence that the unarmed protesters were, in fact, fighting back quite violently, and (at the time of that report) more than 50 Syrian security force personnel had been killed.

As compared with several hundred civilian casualties, that may not sound like all that many - but it does suggest that the Syrian government may have a genuine terrorist problem on its hands. Not that the Syrian government is justified, but there is a case to answer

He also pointed out how effective the Syrian opposition had been at taking videos and leaking them onto the internet - a process that takes organisation and planning on an impressive scale. We have solid evidence that the rebels have access to readily concealable cameras, in numbers large enough for many to be present at a single event; and to internationally-operable satellite phone SIM cards. These are, I'm reliably informed, not things that you can just walk into any Vodafone shop in Syria and buy for yourself.

Now, it's easy to characterise the BBC's Mid-East reporting as biased (and here is one self-appointed media watchdog doing just that). But it's not clear why such bias should inspire it to take sides in the Syrian business, nor why there were no comparable doubts expressed about Egypt or Tunisia or Libya.

I'm reminded of the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine. At the time, I was lucky enough to count among my friends both an American (whose wife had worked in Ukraine) and a Russian. The American regaled me with stories of vote-rigging by the Ukrainian government, while the Russian told me about the Americans who gave out free smartphones and orange shirts to favoured political groups. It was an interesting time.

Now there's this report, which shows that at least one of the causes célèbres of the anti-Syrian-government lobby is a deliberate, systematic fake, created by - an American.

Of course, it's possible that these Americans are all just private citizens exercising their rights to free speech, using money provided by anonymous private-sector donors. And it's possible that "Just Journalism" is a nonpartisan group of citizens with a love of Pure Truth and no financial connection to any government. And it's possible that I'm a brain in a jar.


Anonymous said...

The US government has a long history of taking an active interest in other people's governments. The Bush regime openly sponsored insurrection - and terrorism - in countries whose regimes it disliked, not just dubious Arab regimes but also the likes of Venezuela - whose democratic credentials look every bit as valid as the US/EU/etc.

We should not be surprised if such efforts bear fruit, whether favourable to the US (as appears to be the case in Ukraine) or the opposite (as in Afghanistan before 2001).

vet said...

Yes, well, they're just doing what empires do, I guess.

But there isn't really much "openness" about these insurrections. I follow a bit of American media, and I don't see any mention (at all) of black ops operating in Syria, or Iran for that matter. (And I defy you to find any mention from the Bush administration of "supporting terrorism" in Venezuela or elsewhere.)

I think what I'm objecting to is the inadequacy of the Western media in these cases. At least the BBC makes a slight effort, but it does so by stealth, releasing isolated stories like this without trying to draw connections between them. And it gets roundly vilified for its indiscretions all the same.