The last year and a half of bloodshed in Syria has many moving parts, with two superpowers – the US and Russia – taking on roles in the civil war. While the mainstream media has been critical of Russia’s involvement in the Syrian conflict, they have turned a blind eye to US involvement in the bombing campaigns in Gaza, Iraq, and Yemen.
Gareth Porter: For a long time the biggest problem with media coverage of the Syrian conflict – certainly since the Russian bombing campaign began in 2015 – has been that the US media has portrayed the situation in a way that has really played down, if not hidden, the central significance of Al-Qaeda’s Syrian franchise – Al-Nusra Front. It has distorted the nature of the conflict by making it look like the issue is the Russians and the Syrians are on one side, and the ‘legitimate resistance fighters’ are on the other side. But in the last two to three months, the main problem has been that the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and other news media have really portrayed the bombing campaign in eastern Aleppo by the Russians and Syrians as somehow uniquely indiscriminate. When I say that, I mean that this is different from any other modern urban wars that have been fought, let’s say, in the last 15 years. It includes the US invasion of Iraq and the bombing campaign that began in Damascus, the two wars in Gaza city by the Israelis, and the Israeli bombing of the Dahiyeh suburb of Beirut in 2006. So, all those are in the background of this, and, as I say, what the mainstream media has done is to suggest that this is something that is well beyond these recent wars in terms of being indiscriminate. What I said in my piece published [yesterday] is that, if you look at the specifics of these other wars, and you look at the specifics that we can discern from the coverage of the bombing in the Eastern Aleppo, they are much more similar than they are different.
RT: Al-Nusra is seen as part of Al-Qaeda, as you stated in several articles. If it’s blocking the civilian evacuation – then it’s a war crime. The US is backing Al-Nusra. Would you say that the US is then complicit in war crimes?
GP: I wouldn’t want to make the flat statement that the US is backing Al-Nusra. It’s more complicated than that. But the practical effect is that the US media following the signals from the Obama administration has been, in a way, covering for Al-Nusra Front. And that’s because US policy is still one of going along with the Saudi, Turkish, Qatari support for essentially Al-Nusra Front as the main fighting force against Assad. That’s the basic reality that we have to deal with here. It comes back to essentially a question of whether the US is, in fact, going to separate itself from that strategy of relying on Al-Nusra Front in the future. It’s still up in the air whether that is going to happen.