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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Ex-journalist Robert Fisk: One is reminded of Goebbels

As it is only a few days after the third anniversary of the 25 January uprising in Egypt that ousted Hosni Mubarak from power, this would be a good time to remember one of the important contributions that Robert Fisk made to the Arab Revolt while he was still a journalist. On the night of 30 January 2011 Mubarak ordered the Egyptian army to open fire on protesters. Reporting from Tahrir Square, Robert Fisk told us:
Many of the senior tank commanders could be seen tearing off their headsets – over which they had received the fatal orders – to use their mobile phones. They were, it now transpires, calling their own military families for advice. Fathers who had spent their lives serving the Egyptian army told their sons to disobey, that they must never kill their own people.
I concluded from Fisk's report that if senior Egyptian army officers had refused Mubarak's order, it never would have been heard over those headsets, and posted Senior Egyptian Army Officers Ordered Massacre! to WL Central and my then DailyKos blog. My prophetic news of the treachery of the Egyptian Supreme Military Council made its way back to Tahrir Square where it was greeted by this response from Mona Knoieif one of the revolution's leaders:
Could this be true? This is contrary to what I heard from people who assured me that the army was initially refusing to even deploy on the streets let alone fire at demonstrators...

However, I do not trust the military one bit and this report is very, very worrying. The revolution still has a long way to go. We must all be very alert, very aware and not drop our guard for one minute. Please post this on April 6th, We are all Khalid Said, etc. as I do not have access to facebook right now, and distribute as widely as possible.
That was three years ago when Robert Fisk was still a journalist, not a mouthpiece for a dictator, and still did work that was useful to the people. Now things as different, as his latest defence of Bashar al-Assad upon the release of the Syrian death camp pictures clearly shows:
Syria report: One is reminded of Nazi Germany

Robert Fisk
21 January 2014
The pictures are horrific, the torture details revolting, the numbers terrifying. And the integrity of the three former prosecutors who have effectively accused the Syrian government of war crimes, are without blemish. Shrivelled, blood-spattered corpses provide unstoppable evidence of regime cruelty – just as the videotapes of Syrian rebel executions tell us what kind of Syria may soon exist if the insurrection against Bashar al-Assad succeeds.
Unlike some in the "anti-imperialist" Left, Fisk doesn't claim the photos are fake. He accepts their authenticity but then he ignores the growing body of evidence that the jihadist ISIS and al Nusra are closely linked to the Assad regime so that he can blame their crimes on the whole insurgency and argue that it is better if the Assad regime wins. He continues:
Besides, everyone knows that the Assad regime – from father Hafez onwards – has employed torture and executions to preserve the doubtful purity of the Baath party. So why not, indeed, talk of war crimes? Well, let’s just remember that the 11,000 prisoners reportedly done to death by the Syrian regime is only just over half the total number of Syrians – 20,000 – reportedly killed by Hafez’s brother’s troops in the besieged Syrian city of Hama in 1982.
He tries to minimize the import of those 11,000 deaths in detention by ignoring the fact that they represent the work of one photographer and only a fraction of those murdered in detention, not to mention the 130,000 other Syrians killed in Bashar al-Assad's bloody suppression, so that he can compare those 11,000 in a favorable light to the 20,000 killed by his father. Is this what passes for progress in the mind of Robert Fisk?

He goes on to suggest that we should be more interested in prosecuting Assad's defectors for 30-year-old crimes he alleges they've committed while part of the regime than stopping the murders which are taking place now:
So how come we are not demanding war crimes trials for those responsible for that even greater massacre, whose perpetrators – reported at the time and recounted in numerous books afterwards — came from the ranks of the special units commanded by Rifaat al-Assad. Could it be that we have just forgotten this even more terrible massacre? Or could it be – since Rifaat, who has denied any role in the Hama operations, now lives in safety in Paris and sometimes in London, protected by our own European security services – that we don’t have the inclination to pursue that particular bloodbath?
Similar to his methods used to accuse Obama of siding with Al Qaeda, or defending Assad against charges that he murdered with sarin gas, Fisk seems to be throwing up everything he can to create confusion and muddy the waters, so he questions the timing of the report:
How long, for example, have the Qatari authorities been in possession of this terrible eye-witness material? A couple of weeks, just enough time to rustle up the lawyers for the prosecution? Or a couple of months? Or six months? And, more to the point, why now? For it would be difficult to imagine a better way for Qatar – whose royal family viscerally hates Bashar al-Assad – to destroy his hopes of a future role in Syria, even in a ‘transitional’ Syrian government, than by releasing these snapshots of terror just before the Swiss talks.
Photo from one of Assad's death camps c. 2013
Of course this report was timed to come out just before the Swiss talks. Would Fisk prefer that it come out after... or, perhaps, not at all? We know that Amnesty International issued a report on the Assad Regime's "systemic and widespread torture and ill-treatment in detention"  in March 2012, Human Rights Watch released a comprehensive report on Assad's death camps some six months ago, that various eye witness reports have come out over the years, and the Obama administration was shown some of these photos in November but choose to remain silent. I would think these photos are enough to cause the Qatar royal family or anyone else to viscerally hate Bashar al-Assad. The question this paragraph raises is, having admitted that these photos represent a true picture of how Assad treats his fellow Syrians, why is Robert Fisk still concerned about "his hopes of a future role in Syria, even in a ‘transitional’ Syrian government?" 

 Finally, Fisk gets to the point he promised in the title:
Indeed, one is reminded – in terms of political purpose rather than historical parallel, of course — of Nazi Germany’s disclosure of the mass graves of 22,000 Polish officers and civilians murdered by the Soviet secret police in 1940 at Katyn, in that part of Russia newly occupied by German troops. The Nazis claimed the Soviets were responsible – in the hope that this would divide Stalin’s alliance with America and Britain. The Allies denounced the Nazis for the massacre – although it was indeed committed by the Soviets. Does Qatar now hope to divide Syria’s alliance with Russia and Iran with similar evidence of Syrian government mass murder?
Photo from one of Hitler's death camps c. 1945
So photos of emaciated and tortured bodies emerge, photos that remind anyone with a knowledge of history of those we saw when Buchenwald and Auschwitz were liberated, and with this sleight-of-hand, Fisk compares, not Assad, but Qatar, with the Nazis, because he finds the timing inappropriate. This is the work of a propagandist trying to spin a damaging revelation, not a journalist looking for the truth.

The next few paragraphs are a bunch of trite. Why was the defecting photographer code-named "Caesar"? The real Caesar's death led to the execution of Cicero. Cicero was the name of a top Nazi spy. Are we being invited to fashion some sort of conspiracy theory out of this? Why didn't Al Jazeera get the story first. What about HRW and Amnesty International? Never mentioning their own reporting on Assad's detention centers. Pure trite! Then he ends with:
The regime’s enemies can parade those terrifying pictures which Qatar has made available. But war and peace in Syria will not be decided by this horror show.
Certainly not, if propagandist Robert Fisk has anything to say about it!

PostScript: Joseph Goebbels was Adolph Hitler's chief propagandist, and while Assad is no Hitler and Fisk is no Goebbels, it should be remembered that Goebbels was a journalist who fashioned himself a left-winger before he started shilling for a fascist dictator. From Wikipedia:
Goebbels, with his journalistic skills, thus soon became a key ally of Strasser in his struggle with the Bavarians over the party program.... In 1925, Goebbels published an open letter to "my friends of the left," urging unity between socialists and Nazis against the capitalists. "You and I," he wrote, "we are fighting one another although we are not really enemies."

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

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