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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Glenn Greenwald sees Islamist Terrorism as main issue in Syria


More than 17 thousand Syrians have died in the past 16 months in the struggle to free themselves of a brutal multi-generational dictatorship. In recent weeks, Syrian government forces have been relentless in their murderous assault using artillery, tanks, rockets, helicopter gunships and jet planes against dissident communities. There have been reports of massacre upon massacre and Syrians are being slaughtered by Assad's forces at a rate not seen before in this uprising.

Now the Battle of Damascus has been joined, and as fighting breaks out all across the oldest living city on Earth, the Free Syrian Army announces that operation Damascus Volcano will soon begin. The next morning a massive explosion tears a big hole in Assad's top level crack down team, and what does Glenn Greenwald see in all of this? He sees a chance to say something about Islamic terrorism and the hypocrisy of the West.

The problem is that doesn't really fit what has just happened so he is forced to twist the facts, misrepresent what others have said, and generally engage in some pretty shabby journalism to make his point.

This new piece in Salon by Glenn Greenwald is titled The Damascus suicide bombing. It caught my eye because I wanted to know how Glenn Greenwald knew it was a suicide bomber.

Outside of Russia Today and other Assad mouth pieces that accept SANA press releases as the truth without question, nobody else is saying for sure it was a suicide bombing. Greenwald gives his source:
In Damascus today, a suicide bomber attacked a meeting of high level Syrian officials and killed several of them, including the nation’s Defense Minister Daoud Rajha and the Syrian military’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Asef Shawkat, who is also the brother-in-law of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Several reporters covering the region, such as Omar Waraich of Time and The Independent, have deduced that the suicide bomber was “Islamist.”
The first link "attacked" leads to an NY Times article "Blast Kills Core Syrian Security Officials" but that article does not make the claim that it was a suicide bomber. It does say:
The government said that the attack was the work of a suicide bomber, while an officer with the Free Syrian Army said it was a remotely detonated explosive.
and
Lt. Malik al-Kurdi, the second in command of the Free Syrian Army troops in Turkey, said it was not a suicide bombing but “bombs planted around the national security building” that were set off by remote control.
now, for sure, the file name for the article is
suicide-attack-reported-in-damascus-as-more-generals-flee.html
but that can hardly be considered the NY Time's reading on the blast that took out the ministers, it probably just reflected the name someone gave it when they began it. This caption to a picture next to the article can't either:
Daoud Rajha, left, Syria’s defense minister, and Asef Shawkat, President Bashar al-Assad’s brother-in-law, were killed on Wednesday in a suicide bombing in Damascus.
If this is Greenwald's support for his claim that this was a suicide bombing, then he has no support.

He then goes on to claim this suicide bomber is Islamist based on what someone said in a tweet, "deduced" leads to this tweet:
The link in the tweet leads back to that same NY Times article but, again, that article doesn't make the claim that it was a suicide bomber, let alone an Islamic suicide bomber.

Also Robert Mackey of the NY Times has not only disputed Greenwald's claim made in an update that "The New York Times article on this attack states definitively in the first paragraph that it was carried out by a suicide bomber," he has pointed out that Omar Waraich only covers Pakistan, not "the region."

It is quite true that most of the information we have about this attack has been tightly controlled by the Assad regime and that from their first announcement they said or implied that it was a suicide attack and the work of Islamic extremists. That may account for the NY Times file name and many of the early reports that attributed the attack to a suicide bomber. But any informed observer of this conflict knows that the Assad regime often plays fast and loose with the facts and always seeks to paint Islamic jihadists, which often conduct suicide bombings, as their main enemy in this fight.

So from the beginning most journalists, including those at the NY Times, had their doubts about the Syrian state line and refused to endorse it. Then the other side of the story came out. The Free Syrian Army said it was their doing and that it was the start of the Damascus Volcano they had promised.



Soon the Daily News was reporting details of the bombing that certainly didn't sound like a suicide attack:
Syrian bombs were hidden inside flower pot, chocolate box: Report
An explosion that killed senior Syrian officials yesterday was caused by bombs that were planted in a flower pot and a chocolate box inside Bashar al-Assad’s meeting room in Damascus, according to Syrian opposition figures.
One of the bombs was made of over 10 kilograms of TNT, while the other was a smaller C4 explosive. They were both planted in the room days before the meeting by a mole working for the Free Syrian Army.
Members of Free Syrian Army are also working with drivers and bodyguards for high-level Syrian officials, the opposition figures told Britain’s Daily Telegraph.
The blast killed the defense minister, al-Assad’s brother-in-law, and the head of the government’s crisis cell in the harshest blow yet to the government’s inner circle in the 16-month uprising.

The main point Gleen Greenwald is trying to make in this article appears to be that "we" are hypocritical in how "we" define terror and even though,
I’m not arguing here that this is an act of Terrorism.
which is funny because he is the one that has dragged the term into this discussion and highlighted it, he says
The point here is that we pretend Terrorism has some sort of objective meaning and that it is the personification of pure evil which all decent people (and Good Western nations) by definition categorically despise, when neither of those claims is remotely true.
He has already illustrated this first by determining that the Damascus explosion was an act of Islamic terrorists, and then assures us that,
Needless to say, if such an attack — perpetrated by an “Islamist” suicide bomber — were aimed at a Western government or those of their allies in the region, it would immediately be branded Terrorism and vehemently denounced.

But it’s extremely doubtful that the term will be applied by Western media outlets to today’s Damascus attack.
He wants the Damascus bombing branded as a terrorist act just like Assad's people have called it.

To make the points that Glenn Greenward thinks are important to get out of the Damascus bombing, not only does he have to jump to the conclusion that it is the work of Islamic terrorism, he also has to ignore the whole context in which this took place.

No matter who carried it out, this was no simple terrorist act. It was a strike against a high level military target in the midst of a civil war.

I think Glenn Greenwald woke up Wednesday morning with the Damascus bombing leading the news and he really wanted to write about Islamic terrorists and suicide bombers and just how really bad and hypocritical "we" are, and he wasn't going to let facts get in the way.

His article wasn't really about the Syrian people or what is happening in Syrian, those things were just props with which to construct his story. The problem is that in doing so, he used his clout to support Bashar al-Assad's story. What he did with this Salon piece objectively gave aid and comfort to Assad while attempting to discredit the Syrian revolution.

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