By Rania Khalek
US media outlets are recklessly promoting war with help from neocons, including Arab American right-wingers who do not represent the views of the region they are demanding Trump bomb.
American media outlets can’t help themselves. They love war. They love war more than they hate Trump. They love war so much, they are cheering on the president they hate to militarily escalate in Syria. And if he doesn’t escalate in Syria, it proves he is controlled by the Kremlin, they tell us. If he wants to demonstrate that Russia isn’t calling the shots, he must bomb Syria. And he must bomb Syria to punish Assad for an alleged chemical attack that has yet to be properly investigated to determine whether it took place and who is responsible. The US media isn’t interested in evidence, they have been repeating that Assad was behind this alleged attack from the beginning and through repetition it has become a truth.
NBC recently published claims fed to them by anonymous US intelligence officials claiming to have proof that the attack did indeed take place and that Assad is responsible. It’s not as if US officials have ever lied about weapons of mass destruction in the past to justify war, so why should NBC be skeptical of this?
Meanwhile, CNN—when it isn’t busy obsessing over Stormy Daniels—has hosted a parade of war hawks agitating for military escalation against Syria, against Iran, even against Russia.
For example US Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who has never seen a country he doesn’t want to bomb, was allowed to go on air and call Assad a legitimate military target, saying Trump should take him out to “send a strong message other bad actors like North Korea and Iran.” He went largely unchallenged by the CNN host whose only qualm was where the US could bomb in Syria to properly punish the Assad government. “It’s tough to decide what option to hit. What is a good option? You’d be forced to take out the air force but it doesn’t sound like taking out the air force will stop if it’s chemical attacks coming out of a helicopter,” she said to Graham.
The editorial board at the Washington Post, a newspaper that is owned by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos who has a $600 million contract with the CIA that is never disclosed by the paper on stories related to the intelligence agency despite the clear conflict of interest, agitated for Trump to go further than just bombing Syria once. The Post wants to see a longer term plan for regime change and US military domination over Syria.
“The reality Mr. Trump has not yet faced is that as long as the dictator he called “Animal Assad” remains in place, Syria’s wars will continue, breeding Islamist terrorists and propelling refugees toward Europe,” said the Post. But the reality is the opposite: it is the US’ war of regime change in Syria that has prolonged the war, bred Islamist terrorists, and propelled refugees toward Europe, and the Post is calling for continuing that regime change operation.
The New York Times editorial board similarly worried that Trump wouldn’t make good on his promise to bomb Syria, saying“the president should know by now that tough talk without a coherent strategy or follow-through is dangerous.”
Just two weeks earlier, most of these outlets were running fluff pieces on another dictator, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as he toured the US, schmoozing with celebrities, billionaires, and political elites. He is waging a war on Yemen, the poorest country in the region, a war that has caused a cholera outbreak and famine that kills a child every 10 minutes. They label him a “reformer.” Meanwhile, they want Trump to enforce regime change in Syria to remove a dictator. The utter hypocrisy of it all would be laughable if there wasn’t so much at stake.
The Western press appears to be completely blind to the gravity of the situation, to the fact that escalation in Syria could lead to a hot war with Russia. A hot war between the two most nuclear-armed powers in the world. We are dangerously close to a world war three-like scenario and the US media is recklessly pushing us closer to that outcome.
Right-wing Arabs call for war
The media almost exclusively hosts white “experts” that advocate war in the Middle East. But on the rare occasion that Arabs are given platforms to speak on the region of the world they come from, it is almost always right-wing Arab Americans agitating for war.
One example is Kenan Rahmani, an adviser to various pro-regime change lobbying outfits, including the Syria Campaign, the PR arm of the US and UK-funded White Helmets rescue group, whose members operate exclusively in insurgent-held areas and have been implicated in atrocities on video.
Rahmani has repeatedly gone on Fox News to beg Donald Trump to bomb the Syrian government. He is nothing more than a neoconservative using his Arab identity to advocate for military escalation against Syria from the comforts of America, where he doesn’t have to deal with the consequences of such a bombing.
Rahmani isn’t alone. Sadly, most Arab and Muslim American organizations receive funding from Gulf monarchies and/or the US State Department and are therefore staffed by religiously conservative and often sectarian Arabs who reflect the views of the individuals and countries that fund them.
This has led to the marginalization of progressive and secular Arab voices in Arab and Muslim American political organizations, leading to a distorted image of Arab-American views on the Middle East.
Another example of this phenomenon is Nihad Awad, the leader of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim civil rights and advocacy group that does good work domestically to combat Islamophobia but has a terrible record on foreign policy due to its conservative ideological orientation, and perhaps the money it receives from Gulf monarchies. Awad has called on Trump to overthrow the government in Syria.
CAIR also lobbied the US government for a no-fly zone in Libya, which was actually a campaign of regime change that threw that country into chaos and made it a haven for extremist groups who today are selling African migrants as slaves in what was previously a stable and safe country.
Another Arab American who is heavily quoted by US media pushing for war in Syria is Zaher Sahloul, head of the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), an organization that, like the White Helmets, receives large amounts of money from the state department and only operates in insurgent-held areas. An investigative report by journalist and author Max Blumenthal labels Sahloul “an ardently anti-Iran operative dedicated to drumming up a war of regime change against the Syrian government” and reveals SAMS to be “a USAID-funded lobbying powerhouse that functions with a single-minded determination to stimulate a US-led war of regime change that will place Syrian Islamists in power in Damascus.”
“Whatever happened to ‘never again?’ This is genocide,” Sahloul toldthe Chicago Sun Times about the alleged chemical attack.
The Arab Americans who lobby for US regime change in Syria are largely despised by Syrians living in government-held areas where the overwhelming majority of Syrians live, the kind of Syrians who are never given a platform in US media coverage of the conflict.
As one young Syrian from Aleppo explained to me, “Most Syrians in the West who are today’s pro-opposition activists are descendants of Syrian and Egyptian-expelled Muslim Brotherhood families or they are ex-aristocrats who lost their lands due to socialist policies in the 1950s and 60s. Now they speak out against the government from the safety of America.”
His description reminded me of right-wing Cubans who formed a vast apparatus in Miami to lobby for overthrowing Cuba’s communist government or shady influencers like Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi exile who convinced Washington power brokers that he would usher in a democratic, Israel-friendly government if it agreed to overthrow Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
It is these right-wingers, these exile elites living in the West who occupy the limelight in the US press. They get to speak on behalf of people in the region, when in reality their views are extremely marginal in the countries they are claiming to represent. They are the US Empire’s useful Arabs and they’re helping a reckless media drag us to war.
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