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Compare the Coverage of Mosul and East Aleppo and It Reveals a Lot
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I was in Iran in early 2011 when there were reports from opposition sources in exile saying that protests were sweeping the country. There was some substance in this. There had been a demonstration of 30,000 protesters in north Tehran on 14 February – recalling the mass protests against the allegedly fixed presidential election of 2009 – that had caught the authorities by surprise. There was hopeful commentary from Western pundits suggesting that the Arab Spring uprisings might be spreading to Iran.

But, by the time I got to Tehran a few days later, nothing much appeared to be going on, though there were plenty of bored looking riot police standing around in the rain doing nothing. It looked as if the protests had dwindled away, but when I checked the internet I found this was not so. Opposition spokesmen were claiming that protests were taking place every week not just in north Tehran but in other Iranian cities. This account appeared to be confirmed by videos running online showing protesters resisting baton-wielding riot police and militiamen.

I met some friendly Iranian correspondents working for the foreign media and asked why I was failing to find any demonstrations. The reporters were well informed, but could not work because their press credentials had been suspended by the Iranian authorities. They laughed when I described my vain pursuit of the anti-government protests, explaining that I was failing to find them because they had ceased earlier in the month.

One journalist usually sympathetic to the opposition said that “the problem is that the picture of what is happening in Iran these days comes largely from exiled Iranians and is often a product of wishful thinking or propaganda.” I asked about the videos online and he said that these were mostly concocted by the opposition using film of real demonstrations that had taken place in the past. He pointed to one video, supposedly filmed in the middle of winter, in which trees covered in leaves were clearly visible in the far background.

I asked the journalists if this was not the fault of the Iranian government which, by suspending the credentials of local reporters who were credible eyewitnesses, had created a vacuum of information which was swiftly filled by opposition propagandists. The stringers agreed that to some extent this was so, but added gloomily that, even if they were free to report, their Western editors “would not believe us because the exiles and their news outlets have convinced them that there are big protests here. If we deny this, our bosses will simply believe that we have been intimidated or bought up by the government.”

It is a salutary story because later the same year in Libya and Syria opposition activists were able to gain control of the media narrative and exclude all other interpretations of what was happening. In Libya, Gaddafi was demonised as the sole cause of all his country’s ills while his opponents were lauded as valiant freedom fighters whose victory would bring liberal democracy to the Libyan people. Instead, as was fairly predictable, the overthrow of Gaddafi rapidly reduced Libya to a violent and criminalised anarchy with little likelihood of recovery.

In present day Syria and Iraq one can see much the same process at work. In both countries, two large Sunni Arab urban centres – East Aleppo in Syria and Mosul in Iraq – are being besieged by pro-government forces strongly supported by foreign airpower. In East Aleppo, some 250,000 civilians and 8,000 insurgents, are under attack by the Syrian Army allied to Shia paramilitaries from Iran, Iraq and Lebanon and supported by the Russian and Syrian air forces. The bombing of East Aleppo has rightly caused worldwide revulsion and condemnation.

But look at how differently the international media is treating a similar situation in Mosul, 300 miles east of Aleppo, where one million people and an estimated 5,000 Isis fighters are being encircled by the Iraqi army fighting alongside Kurdish Peshmerga and Shia and Sunni paramilitaries and with massive support from a US-led air campaign. In the case of Mosul, unlike Aleppo, the defenders are to blame for endangering civilians by using them as human shields and preventing them leaving. In East Aleppo, fortunately, there are no human shields – though the UN says that half the civilian population wants to depart – but simply innocent victims of Russian savagery.

Destruction in Aleppo by Russian air strikes is compared to the destruction of Grozny in Chechnya sixteen years ago, but, curiously, no analogy is made with Ramadi, a city of 350,000 on the Euphrates in Iraq, that was 80 per cent destroyed by US-led air strikes in 2015. Parallels go further: civilians trapped in East Aleppo are understandably terrified of what the Syrian Mukhabara secret police would do to them if they leave and try to pass through Syrian government checkpoints.

But I talked earlier this year to some truck drivers from Ramadi whom I found sleeping under a bridge in Kirkuk who explained that they could not even go back to the ruins of their homes because checkpoints on the road to the city were manned by a particularly violent Shia militia. They would certainly have to pay a large bribe and stood a good chance of being detained, tortured or murdered.

The advance on Mosul is being led by the elite Special Forces of the Iraqi counter-terrorism units and Shia militias are not supposed to enter the city, almost all of whose current inhabitants are Sunni Arabs. But in the last few days these same special forces entered the town of Bartella on the main road twelve miles from Mosul in their black Humvees which were reportedly decorated with Shia religious banners. Kurdish troops asked them to remove the banners and they refused. An Iraqi soldier named Ali Saad was quoted as saying: “(T)hey asked if we were militias. We said we’re not militias, we are Iraqi forces and these are our beliefs.”

ORDER IT NOW

It may be that Isis will not fight for Mosul, but the probability is that they will, in which case the outlook will not be good for the civilian population. Isis did not fight to the last man in Fallujah west of Baghdad so much of the city is intact, but they did fight for Khalidiya, a nearby town of 30,000, where today only four buildings are still standing according to the Americans.

The extreme bias shown in foreign media coverage of similar events in Iraq and Syria will be a rewarding subject for PhDs students looking at the uses and abuses of propaganda down the ages.

This has been the pattern of reporting of the wars in Syria and Iraq over the last five years. Nothing much has changed since 2003 when the Iraqi opposition to Saddam Hussein had persuaded foreign governments and media alike that the invading American and British armies would be greeted with rapture by the Iraqi people. A year later the invaders were fighting for their lives. Misled by opposition propagandists and their own wishful thinking, foreign government officials and journalists had wholly misread the local political landscape. Much the same thing is happening today.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Media, Iraq, Syria 
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  1. It should not come as a surprise to any keen and astute observer, Patrick. However knowledgeable and critical observers of foreign and domestic affairs are a rather rare breed most news consumers lack any immunity to lies ,propaganda and moral hypocrisy so they are easily duped and lead stray by the age old oft repeated fallacies and emotional manipulation by those in the pay of the powerful and wealthy. Without “Enlightenment” there is no hope for moral improvement.

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  2. Good piece.

    The extreme bias shown in foreign media coverage of similar events in Iraq and Syria will be a rewarding subject for PhDs students looking at the uses and abuses of propaganda down the ages.

    Yeah, there’s probably like 5 of those left.

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    • Replies: @Alden
    PHD thesises must be approved by the advisor and a committee. The only subject that would be approved would be one totally in line with the current propaganda being pushed by the university.
  3. Dear Cockburn, show me a single moral western journalist including yourself, who wouldn’t liked to dip his/her fingers into $350 million pot offered by Dubya Bush to defeat Dr. Ahmadinejad in 2009 by fabricating all the Iraqi WMD-style propaganda lies against Ahmadinejad and Iranian people.

    The so-called ‘Fraud Election’, and the ‘execution of an adulterous woman’, a story authored by French Jewish ‘philosopher’ Bernard Levi.

    After the Zionist crusade failed – Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz pundits called Ahmadinejad’s victory: actually preferable for Israel – claiming that it’s not his last four years good governance but his being a “holocaust denier” – which has endeared him among the Iranian majority….

    https://rehmat1.com/2009/06/15/zionist-deja-vu-over-iranian-election-09/

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  4. Yeah, I’m sure the people in Aleppo are skeptical about any free passage guarantees by the government, but I think they would probably be OK. The Syrian government has an interest in getting as many people to leave as they can manage, because they really don’t have the manpower to storm the place house-to-house. They’ve been trying to establish some credibility by busing people to Idlib Province out of places like Moadamiyyah with “no questions asked” for about the last year if they give up fighting.

    So I expect some people to leave, more fighting, then another offer, then more fighting, etc. for the next month or two.

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  5. The bombing of East Aleppo has rightly caused worldwide revulsion and condemnation.

    Rightly? Worldwide? That’s rich coming from an article decrying media propaganda. What does Cockburn intend that Russia and Syria do – allow the jihadi enclave in East Aleppo to fester until America supplies it with missiles so the cannibal headhunters there can take the city? And what “world” is Cockburn going on about? Is the American stable of vassals the “world”? Even among them there’s increasing dissent with the Warshington line. Does Cockburn not know this?

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    • Replies: @woodNfish

    That’s rich coming from an article decrying media propaganda.
     
    Yeah, but, but, but,..... it's HIS propaganda!

    And this is why you can't believe any LLSM reports coming from foreign posts about anything. That includes Europe and Asia.
    , @El Dato
    Oh ... I actually thought it was sarcasm, not journalistic virtue signalling ("I'm with the imperial majority here! Good Guy! Don't Shoot!")
  6. East Aleppo fighters are chiefly responsible for the faith of all the people under their rule. If these salafists, wahhabis cannot defeat their enemies and thus cannot keep them safe or out of harm’s way, it is their duty to command at least the women and their children to leave to a safe area that may be guarded by either UN or US/allies.

    The wahhabis do not want even most short cessations of hostilities or to stop killing civilians under Damascus rule. And we don’t know how many of these wahhabis are non-syrian?

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  7. @Fiendly Neighbourhood Terrorist

    The bombing of East Aleppo has rightly caused worldwide revulsion and condemnation.
     
    Rightly? Worldwide? That's rich coming from an article decrying media propaganda. What does Cockburn intend that Russia and Syria do - allow the jihadi enclave in East Aleppo to fester until America supplies it with missiles so the cannibal headhunters there can take the city? And what "world" is Cockburn going on about? Is the American stable of vassals the "world"? Even among them there's increasing dissent with the Warshington line. Does Cockburn not know this?

    That’s rich coming from an article decrying media propaganda.

    Yeah, but, but, but,….. it’s HIS propaganda!

    And this is why you can’t believe any LLSM reports coming from foreign posts about anything. That includes Europe and Asia.

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  8. Mr. Cockburn, I always respected your journalistic capabilities but after reading this article I’m not too sure. You state that “The bombing of East Aleppo has rightly caused worldwide revulsion and condemnation.”

    Please take the time to see this video to understand exactly what is happening in Aleppo. Now, this is journalism without the cool-aid.

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  9. I read Cockburn’s article and it seems quite confused. I get the point that so much of what passes for “news” is actually a mish-mash of stories shaped to fit a narrative constructed by either governments or parties opposed to them. That narrative itself has been shaped by the demands of a for-profit media industry that insists on seeing black where there is white and vice versa. Having established the theme of his article, that so much news reporting is simply media propaganda put out by one side to denigrate the other and news agencies simply swallow the propaganda without fact-checking, leading them to misread the situation on the ground, Cockburn then goes further and chooses the siege of east Aleppo as one of two examples of misreporting. The example would have been good if he had remembered to check the facts on the ground in east Aleppo before writing about it: checking to see who most Western media agencies rely on for news about east Aleppo, if those sources are reliable and if the stories they supply have any credibility at all; and if those stories and sources turn out to be fishy, to use his previous experiences in Iran as his own model and investigate the misreporting in east Aleppo.

    Instead, his article shows he has fallen hook, line and sinker for the Western media propaganda fed by the jihadis and their “Aleppo Media Centre”. If he took the time to speak to truck drivers from Ramadi sleeping under a bridge in Kirkuk, surely Cockburn could have also taken the time to fly to Syria, visit Aleppo and speak to people there?

    Sad to see a good journalist hanging himself by the noose he just fashioned.

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  10. […] The Unz Review: Compare the Coverage of Mosul and East Aleppo and It Reveals a Lot By PATRICK COCKB… […]

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  11. @Fiendly Neighbourhood Terrorist

    The bombing of East Aleppo has rightly caused worldwide revulsion and condemnation.
     
    Rightly? Worldwide? That's rich coming from an article decrying media propaganda. What does Cockburn intend that Russia and Syria do - allow the jihadi enclave in East Aleppo to fester until America supplies it with missiles so the cannibal headhunters there can take the city? And what "world" is Cockburn going on about? Is the American stable of vassals the "world"? Even among them there's increasing dissent with the Warshington line. Does Cockburn not know this?

    Oh … I actually thought it was sarcasm, not journalistic virtue signalling (“I’m with the imperial majority here! Good Guy! Don’t Shoot!”)

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  12. @Svigor
    Good piece.

    The extreme bias shown in foreign media coverage of similar events in Iraq and Syria will be a rewarding subject for PhDs students looking at the uses and abuses of propaganda down the ages.
     
    Yeah, there's probably like 5 of those left.

    PHD thesises must be approved by the advisor and a committee. The only subject that would be approved would be one totally in line with the current propaganda being pushed by the university.

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  13. On October 27, 2016, Anshel Pfeffer, a British-Israeli journalist reported at UK’s Jewish Chronicle that fall of Daesh capital Mosul into the hands of Iraqi forces is bad for Israel because it will bring Iraqi Shi’ite and their Iranian military advisers closer to Israel.

    “Amid the slew of battle groups lining up to take on Daesh in Mosul, there is one cohort that is flashing large on the radars of Western and Israeli intelligence. Shia militias, under Iranian command, have joined the sundry coalition to uproot Daesh from the eastern Iraqi city with a particular aim: to help Tehran complete a “Shia Crescent” – a corridor – reaching from Iran, through Iraq and Syria, to Lebanon,” Pfeffer wrote.

    Peffefer also predicts that Daesh will launch a terrorist attack on Israel by the end of this year – just like it did in France, Belgium, Britain, Spain and Germany which were all Mossad false flag operations.

    American Jewish writer, author, and radio talk-show host, Steve Lendman wrote last year: “The only threats Israel faces are ones it invents.

    In august 2016, a study prepared by Israeli professor Efraim Inbar (Bar-Ilan University), director at Israel-based Zionist advocacy group, Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, had also claimed: ISIS defeat is bad for Israel.

    In June 2014, Benjamin Netanyahu had admitted: Daesh is good for Israel.

    https://rehmat1.com/2016/10/28/isis-defeat-in-mosul-is-bad-for-israel/

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