As Russian fighter jets target al-Qaeda and ISIS in Syria, the Western media is up in arms – and in denial. They deny the Russians are taking on ISIS – and they are indignant that Putin is targeting al-Qaeda, which is almost never referred to by its actual name, but is instead described as “al-Nusra,” or the more inclusive “Army of Conquest,” which are alternate names for the heirs of Osama bin Laden.
And there are no ideological lines being drawn in this information war: both the left and the right – e.g. the left-liberal Vox and the Fox News network – are utilizing a map put out by the neoconservative “Institute for the Study of War” to “prove” that Putin isn’t really attacking ISIS – he’s actually only concerned with destroying the “non-ISIS” rebels and propping up the faltering regime of Bashar al-Assad.
The premise behind this kind of propaganda is that there really is some difference between ISIS and the multitude of Islamist groups proliferating like wasps in the region: and that, furthermore, al-Qaeda is “relatively” moderate when compared to the Islamic State. Yes, incredibly, the US and British media are pushing the line that the al-Qaeda fighters in Syria, known as al-Nusra, are really the Good Guys.
Didn’t you know that we have always been at war with Eastasia?
There is much whining, this [Thursday] morning, that a supposedly US-“vetted” group known as Tajammu al-Aaza has felt Putin’s wrath – but when we get down into the weeds, we discover that this outfit is fighting alongside al-Qaeda:
“Jamil al-Saleh, a defected Syrian army officer who is now the leader of the rebel group Tajammu al-Aaza, told AlSouria.net that the Russian airstrikes targeted his group’s base in al-Lataminah, a town in the western Syrian governorate of Hama. That area represents one of the farthest southern points of the rebel advance from the north and is therefore a crucial front line in the war. An alliance of Syrian rebel factions, including both the al Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front and groups considered by Washington to be more moderate, successfully drove Assad regime forces out of the northern governorate of Idlib and are now pushing south into Hama.”
By the way, according to the Pentagon’s own testimony before a congressional committee, only sixty “vetted” fighters were sent into Syria to take on both Assad and ISIS. And while they denied, at first, that their pet “moderates” betrayed Washington and handed over most of their weapons and other equipment to al-Qaeda in return for “safe passage,” the Pentagon later admitted it. Furthermore, we were told that these were the only “vetted” fighters actually in the field, but now we are confronted with “Tajammu al-Aaza,” which – it’s being reported – is deploying US-supplied missile guidance systems against Syrian government forces.
So a handful of “vetted” fighters suddenly turns into an entire armed force – one which, you’ll note, has effectively merged with al-Qaeda.
The lies are coming at us so fast and thick in the first 24 hours of the Russian strikes that we face a veritable blizzard of obfuscation. They range from the egregious – alleged photos of “civilian casualties” that turn out to be fake – to the more subtle: a supposed Free Syrian Army commander is reported killed by a Russian air strike, and yet it appears that very same commander was kidnapped by ISIS last year. We are told that the town of Rastan, the site of Russian strikes, isn’t under the control of ISIS – except it was when ISIS was executing gay men there.
The Russians make no bones about their support of Assad: in his speech to the United Nations, Putin stated his position clearly: “We think it’s a big mistake to refuse to cooperate with the Syrian authorities and government forces who valiantly fight terrorists on the ground.” On the other hand, the objectives of the Western alliance in Syria aren’t so clear: on the one hand, Washington claims to be directing the main blow against ISIS, but its claims of success have been greatly exaggerated. Yet we have spent many millions arming and training “vetted” rebels who have been defecting to ISIS and al-Qaeda in droves.
It’s almost as if we’re keeping ISIS around so as to put pressure on Assad to get out of Dodge. As Putin put it in his UN speech:
“… [I]t is hypocritical and irresponsible to make declarations about the threat of terrorism and at the same time turn a blind eye to the channels used to finance and support terrorists, including revenues from drug trafficking, the illegal oil trade and the arms trade.
“It is equally irresponsible to manipulate extremist groups and use them to achieve your political goals, hoping that later you’ll find a way to get rid of them or somehow eliminate them.
“I’d like to tell those who engage in this: Gentlemen, the people you are dealing with are cruel but they are not dumb. They are as smart as you are. So, it’s a big question: who’s playing who here? The recent incident where the most ‘moderate’ opposition group handed over their weapons to terrorists is a vivid example of that.”
The reality is that there are no “moderates” in Syria, and certainly not among the rebel Islamist groups: they’re all jihadists who want to impose Sharia law, drive out Christians, Alawites, and other minority groups, and set up an Islamic dictatorship. These are our noble “allies” – the very same people who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, and against whom our perpetual “war on terrorism” was launched.
Except now the face of the enemy has changed: he is no longer an Islamist fighter but a Russian soldier. Osama bin Laden is dead, but Vladimir Putin is very much alive, and a War Party in search of a new foreign threat has found it in the Russian leader. Which is why we see all the usual warmongers marching around the Twitterverse chanting “Hands off al-Qaeda!”
The reason for this sudden devotion to the cause of “peace” is that the War Party is much more interested in unseating Assad than they are in defeating ISIS and its allies – who are being “flirted with,” as Putin put it, by the West, and subsidized by the Saudis and the Gulf states.
The Russians are upsetting this little applecart – and the regime-changers in Washington, and their media camarilla, are livid. And yet the average American looks at this and thinks: why should we fight the jihadists in Syria if Putin is willing to take on the job? This is precisely the question asked by none other than Donald Trump, the leading Republican presidential aspirant – and a good explanation for why he’s miles ahead of everyone else in the polls.
The cloud of propaganda hovering over events in Syria gets thicker by the minute, but it’s possible to see the reality of what’s occurring if we remember one thing: our former enemies – al-Qaeda and its imitators – are now Washington’s allies. However, we have to ask, as Putin did at the UN: “Who’s playing who here?”
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.