SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Media Never, Ever Gives Peace a Chance

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At this writing, President Trump is considering “the possibility of retaliation in Syria in response to a suspected chemical attack on young children and families in the Syrian city of Douma,” reported CBS News. “If it’s the Russians, if it’s Syria, if it’s Iran, if it’s all of them together, we’ll figure it out,” Trump said. “Nothing’s off the table,” including a military attack by the United States.

Whether that possibility involves a cruise missile strike, drone attacks or conventional bombing raids by fighter jets, this is deadly serious business. People, mostly innocent civilians and Syrian grunts who had nothing to do with the “suspected” chemical attack, will die. People will be injured. Survivors will be traumatized. An attack could escalate and expand the current conflict, leading to more death and destruction.

The stakes are high, but U.S. policymakers are as glibly insouciant as if they were choosing between Hulu and Netflix. This is not new or Trumpian. It’s always been like this. American leaders don’t take these life-and-death decisions seriously.

If the United States were a sane country populated by rational, civically-engaged citizens, Americans would pour derision and ridicule on anyone who seriously considered raining bombs over a “suspected” anything. And the skepticism in this case ought to be exponentially greater considering that this is Syria.

We’ve already been down this “Syria’s Assad regime used chemical weapons against their own people so we should bomb his forces” road. It happened under Obama. What is certain here is uncertainty: maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not. As legendary investigative journalist Seymour Hersh pointed out in 2014, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) believed that at least one major faction of the Syrian opposition, the al-Nusra Front, possessed significant manufacturing facilities and stockpiles of sarin nerve agent and other proscribed toxic chemicals.

Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? Since when is “maybe they did it, maybe they didn’t, oh well” sufficient?

American political culture has devolved from the Vietnam era, when pacifists were marginalized, to a kneejerk bellicosity in which they don’t exist as part of the debate.

To its credit, The New York Times — still with blood on its hands from its unwholesome publishing of Judith Miller’s pro-Iraq War screeds — has printed statements by those who oppose rushing into war with Syria. “We would prefer to start with a proper investigation,” the newspaper quoted Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations. It also ran letters to the editor that expressed doubts about Syria’s motivations and Trump’s trustworthiness.

Nowhere to be found was a pacifist: someone who opposes war, all war, no matter what. Nor were there any anti-interventionists: people who say Syria is not our business and should be left to sort out its own affairs.

It’s the same at The Washington Post. Some writers there wonder aloud whether Trump’s sabre-rattling is more “Wag the Dog” than “Doctor Strangelove”: if he bombs Syria, will it be to take our minds off the Russia stuff? Also, weirdly, this headline: “Something for Trump to keep in mind on Syria: His strikes last year were pretty popular.” How does Amber Phillips sleep at night? Again: no pacifists. No anti-interventionists.

It’s not like they’re not out there in Real America. The nativist America Firsters who formed the core of Team Trump in 2016 included a lot of isolationists — and Trump ran on a no-more-nation-building platform. They’re disgusted more by the cost of the bombs we drop on Muslim countries than the lives they destroy; if there’s any nation-building to be done, they ask quite reasonably, why not start with America’s own rusted-out, broken-down infrastructure?

Getting the paper out every day is a miracle. Editors can be forgiven for sometimes forgetting to cover all the bases by offering a wide spectrum of solutions to the problems covered by their news stories and debated in their opinion sections. The same goes for the producers laboring through cable news’ 24-7 news cycle. At a certain point, however, they ought to take a step back and consider the effect of their editorial decisions. They’ve created a relentless culture of ultraviolence, a debate without diversity between those who want bombs and those who want even more wars, to the point that not going to war isn’t even something we get to consider as a legitimate option.

(Ted Rall, the editorial cartoonist and columnist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.”)


10 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Media Never, Ever Gives Peace a Chance

  1. Hey, war sells papers. (clicks? Whatever)

    It’s been depressing to watch. While the gov’t tried to sideline the Vietnam protesters they didn’t yet own the media … yet. I remember listening to the radio to hear protest music and DJs condemning the war, etc. I saw pictures of the dead on both sides, and read reports like My Lai.

    But we can’t have the media undermining TPTB. Over the next few decades, wealthy conservatives bought up (out?) the media. So when we went into Afghanistan and Iraq, We had embedded reporters sending home pictures of basketball games instead of bodies. DJs no longer condemned the war, instead they “supported the troops” and refused to play protest music … sometimes even the SAME DJs.

    ” were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” – Thomas Jefferson, who I suppose to be whirling in his grave by now.

  2. The US, founded by racist genocidal misogynist plutocrats who, notwithstanding, wrote a constitution that demands a declaration of war, which in its conspicuous absence makes most wars waged during more than 90% of its existence acts of treason.

    Treason doth never prosper: what’s the reason?
    Why, if it prosper, none dare call it treason.

    The Culture of Kill rules, and yet people will deny the intrinsic nature of American culture and believe that they can still carve out a sanctuary from this cultures’ predations, from within this culture, within the the very places the founders’ hates are taught and endorsed as virtues (in their schools, media, workplaces, and streets), in places where they can be sheltered from personal harm while still deep within the culture they support by the denial of its existence and true nature.

    Martin Luther King Jr., who called attention to this absurdity, was abandoned even by the board of directors of his own institutions for the last year of his life before he was killed, as just another victim of the Culture of Kill.

  3. Does anyone remember the Spanish-American War? Hearst trying to sell newspapers by advocating for war? This is nothing new, unfortunately. The war party always wins, it doesn’t matter if they are Dem or Repub.

  4. I’d contend that “giving peace a chance” is a LONG way away, on the spectrum of possible actions, from the chronic reality of the media: perpetually and viciously stomping the head/neck of peace with the spiked jackboot of fundamentalist jingoism.

  5. When discussing alleged «gas attacks» in Syria and how to respond to such, it is wise to keep in mind the analysis of MIT Professor Theodore Postal et al, which concludes that the attribution by, among others, the always unbiased and objective US government, of at least one of the attacks to the Syrian government is demonstrably false….

    Then, of course, there is the odd notion that that selfsame US government is authorised to «punish» other state actors for their misdeeds, real or imagined. According to the Charter of the UNO, carefully constructed by (mainly) the US at the end of WW II and which constitutes international law in this case, that task falls rather to that organisation’s Security Council. There is, of course, an exception : the US, like any other country, has the right to defend itself in the event it is attacked, but so far as I know, not even the most rabid propaganda organs in that country have hitherto claimed that Syria has attacked the US….


  6. The MSM has managed to outdo itself.
    The US/UK/Fr claim to have proven that the evil Syrian and Russian regimes used poison gas to murder dozens of innocent pro-democracy activists: their chemists analysed samples from Douma, and the samples contained both chlorine and Russian-manufactured sarin. Since there is absolutely no way their chemists could possibly have gotten samples that are proven to have come from Douma, they have, in fact, irrefutably proven that the leaders of the US/UK/Fr are terrible liars, and yet all the MSM says their ‘proof’ clearly impels the US/UK/Fr/Il/GCC to force regime removal in Syria. Russia might be blustering, but it is no stronger than Panamá, Putin’s MAD that he showed on TV was just Photoshopped. So when the ‘coalition’ begins bombing Syria to force regime change, just as Obama did Libya, Putin will either meekly withdraw, or the coalition will be coerced into regime removal in Russia, and there is nothing Russia can do about it.

    I vaguely recall a French expert who said Russia was a pushover, and an Austrian expert who said the USSR was a pushover, but I can’t recall what happened. Were they correct or not? Is Russia still as weak as it was in ’11? I guess we’ll find out very soon.

    • Who, Michael, can withstand the combined might of those knights in shining armour, the US, Britain, and France – whose interventions in e g, Southwest Asia have led to so much good ? That dastardly Gospodin Putin and the bearded ones in Tehran are just going to have to tremble and creep silently away….


    • To michaelwme:

      Please clarify. Is it you or the MSM saying the following:
      “Russia might be blustering, but it is no stronger than Panamá …”

  7. It [i e, the New York Times] also ran letters to the editor that expressed doubts about Syria’s motivations and Trump’s trustworthiness.

    Here one of mine that the editors were willing to publish. Therewith has the NY Times performed its democratic duty and presented points of view which differ from those of its article authors and the leader page. Just the sort of «level playing field» that one of that newspaper’s favourite columnists, Thomas Loren Friedman, is so fond of talking about ?…