Thugs of the Near and Middle East

By Stephen Gowans

He has cracked down harshly on protestors who object to his autocratic style. He calls his opponents terrorists and says there’s a foreign plot to topple his government. He says the opposition is infiltrated with foreigners from all parts of the world.


No. This is Turkey’s prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to The New York Times. [1]

The Times fails to mention that Erdogan has killed his own people, both Kurds, whose struggle for autonomy the Turkish state has waged war to annihilate, and demonstrators, who have protested without arms against the Turkish prime minister’s autocratic ways.

Which makes one wonder why the United States, and its satellites, the UK and France, justify their support for the head-barbecuing, organ-eating religious fanatics who are trying to topple the anti-sectarian, secular Arab nationalist state in Damascus by pointing to the same behavior on Assad’s part that they’re perfectly willing to tolerate on Erdogan’s.

The New York Times reported on Saturday that “The Central Intelligence Agency has been training rebels in Jordan under a covert program.” [2]

So why isn’t the CIA training rebels to bring down the popular uprising-crushing, kill-his-own-people Erdogan, or to topple the brutal, royal dictators in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE? These monarchical tyrants have no more patience for demonstrators than Erdogan has—indeed, considerably less. Bahrain’s crowned dictator crushed a popular uprising in blood with the help of tanks dispatched by the misogynistic, democracy-abominating, Saudi family dictatorship next door.

But Assad is different. He has used chemical weapons. At least, that’s what my local newspaper tells me. Accepting the White House at its word, Ottawa Citizen reporters Jason Fekete and Jordan Press, write that “chemical weapons have been used by the Assad regime.” [3] Not are alleged to have been used. Not the White House claims they have been used. But, they have been used. Period.

Parenthetically, on the same day the Citizen reporters were playing Charlie McCarthy to the White House’s Edgar Bergen, the Wall Street Journal ran a headline that read: “West to Press Iran on Nukes.” [4] Iran doesn’t have nukes, but the Western media every once in a while like to tell us they do, presumably to keep the fear-level high enough to justify the United States and European Union carrying out their sub-critical anti-Iran war of economy-crippling sanctions, cyberattacks, and assassinations. After all, who wants a mad Ayatollah running around with nukes? On the other hand, Israel’s estimated 400 nukes, its nuke-launching submarines, nuke-delivering long-range bombers, and nuke-tipped long-range missiles, are rarely mentioned, if ever. “West to Press Israel on Nukes” is a headline you’ll never see—except in a really good alternative history where the world turns out as it should. Who wants crazed Zionists running around with nukes?

One might have thought that after the Bush administration’s phony Iraq weapons of mass destruction frame-up, that the two Ottawa Citizen reporters would have exercised a good deal more caution when reporting on Washington’s self-declared reasons for intervening in the affairs of other countries. At minimum, they might have noted that the White House chemical weapons claim is just that—a claim. And that Washington’s record on these matters is not what you’d call confidence-inspiring.

What’s more, if the Iraq WMD deception wasn’t enough to galvanize Fekete and Press to greet the White House’s announcement with a healthy dose of skepticism, the text accompanying US deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes’ announcement that the US intelligence community had assessed that Syrian forces had used chemical agents should surely have set alarm bells ringing. Rhodes said that the evidence does not “tell us how or where the individuals were exposed or who was responsible.” [5] In other words, we’ve assessed that Assad did it, but our evidence doesn’t tell us he did it.

Even if Washington, itself, had not qualified its own claim, the reporters’ unqualified assertion that chemical weapons have been used by Syrian forces would have been unwarranted, and hardly up to the standards of journalism that journalists are supposed to practice, but rarely do. It’s doubly unwarranted given that Washington acknowledges that its own evidence is, well, not really evidence at all, but “shreds and shards of information that could be possibly linked to chemical weapons,” [6] but used by whom, we’re not really sure.

Given all this, could one really be blamed for arriving at the conclusion that Fekete and Press are not journalists at all, but Western chauvinist stenographers, whose total absence of scepticism about the motives of Western states, serves well the cause of duping the public into going along with Western interventions to topple official enemies?

Back to Erdogan. As part of the alliance of US lackeys seeking to topple the non-lackey Syrian government by giving arms and training to Islamist fanatics with a taste for human liver, Erdogan can be assured that Washington won’t be coming after him, no matter how autocratic or deadly his behaviour. As for what the press will report about him, well, that largely depends on what the White House will have to say about its ally.

1. Tim Arango, Sebnem Arsu and Ceylan Yeginsu, “Turkey expands violent reaction to street unrest,” The New York Times, June 16, 2013.
2. Michael R. Gordon and Thom Shanker, “U.S. to keep warplanes in Jordan, pressing Syria”, The New York Times, June 15, 2013.
3. Jason Fekete and Jordan Press, “PM won’t arm Syrian rebels”, The Ottawa Citizen, June 17, 2013.
4. Jay Solomon and Farnaz Fassihi, “West to press Iran on nukes”, The Wall Street Journal, June 16, 2013.
5. Statement by Ben Rhodes, the US deputy national security advisor for strategic communications, on chemical weapons. The Guardian (UK), June 13, 2013.
6. This is how US officials described the evidence two months ago, before the rebels suffered a major military set-back, and when Washington was resisting pressure to step up its intervention. Jay Solomon, “Obama cools opposition’s hopes in Syria”, The Wall Street Journal, April 26, 2013.

2 thoughts on “Thugs of the Near and Middle East

  1. I think the fact that Turkey is a charter member of NATO is significant but it’s rarely mentioned even in this article [did I miss it?]. Why? Is it too obvious?
    The USA is rattling sabers in Jordan with “Operation Eager Lion”.
    Where will that lead?
    There are “radical Islamists” and then there are “radical Islamists.”
    Can you spot the difference?

  2. Turkey makes a very convenient airstrip for NATO of course, so intervention is doubtful, even with a more reactionary religious group in power. Great article, and an interesting Canadian perspective on events. Regards, Pete.

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