5 thoughts on “The fog of war”

  1. I agree emphatically with the comments of Carne Ross and Richard Spencer.

    I only wish to add how disturbing – bizarre, even – I find it, that the nature and composition of the remaining opposition fighters in Aleppo (which we can all agree is a fairly grisly picture) is seen as relevant to the way in which the government has conducted its military campaign against the civilians, and children, of eastern Aleppo. The whole point of the laws of the war, and the just war traditions of the west and Islam, is that it categorically does not matter who you claim to be fighting.

  2. I share Richard Spencer’s surprise at your recent post. The organization I run, Independent Diplomat, works with over two hundred Syrian civil society groups, including many from Aleppo itself. One objectionable aspect to the articles you circulated is that the arrogant assumption that only western reporters, who are absent in Aleppo as in much of Syria, are capable of observing and reporting facts. The many activists we work with, including doctors and other medical groups, are emphatic in their descriptions. The Assad regime and its Russian allies are killing civilians indiscriminately. The “rebels” in East Aleppo certainly include some extremist groups, but also present are units of the Free Syrian Army which represents the demand for democracy in Syria, and is affiliated with the democratic Syrian opposition, the Syria Coalition. I am in no position to verify the facts but I have more faith in reports from those on the ground, in this case actual Syrians, than Westerners swapping simplistic “narratives”.

  3. I find it surprising that you report these claims that the media coverage of the Aleppo crisis were nothing but propaganda, a myth spun by the Assad regime and Russian state media, just as the battle is over and people can see from themselves. As so often when western journalists are accused of propagandising against dictatorships, when the truth comes out, it is revealed to be worse, not better, than reported. Even Russian television stations are showing footage of the extraordinary destruction of East Aleppo. The World Health Organisation is reporting on the trauma injuries suffered by scores of children – the effects of Russian and regime bombardment. If the hospitals we reported as being targeted were still standing and full of untouched facilities and stockpiles of food, as Russian and other media would have you believe, I am sure the state media would have shown them to us. They have not. These commentators claim that the rebels are just more jihadis, like Isis or al-Qaeda, dominated by foreign fighters. Yet those claims have gone quiet: the rebels did not, like Isis, booby trap their own city as they left; they queued up to leave quietly with their families. The al-Qaeda faction was meanwhile shown to be a small minority, as always stated by the media (it was, remarkably, allowed by the regime to exit first of all the rebel groups, unhindered, unlike thousands of civilians, who were harassed, held up and in one case robbed).
    The Independent, which publishes Cockburn’s numerous pieces on this subject, appears to have shown some remorse and in another article urged its readers to picket regime embassies and to support SAMS, the Syrian exile medical association whose doctors in Aleppo – supposedly front men for al-Qaeda – were the first contacts for western journalists; those journalists reporting from Beirut, London and elsewhere – from where, you will note, Cockburn, Hitchens and Kinzer all reported themselves. However, unlike those three, many of the reporters they condemn have in fact reported from behind rebel lines, and made judgments on what to trust and what not to trust. And when they talk about no reporters being able to cover the rebels from the ground, they reveal their true colours: there are scores of well-regarded Arab journalists there. By journalists, of course, they mean white journalists.
    Bowen is right – as many other journalists have reported – that many if not most Syrians are just sick of the war. Many of us are also sick that a Russian disinformation campaign should be so gullibly relayed by people who should know better.

  4. How can the governments in Washington, London and Paris hope to succeed in their fight to roll back the propaganda of Vladimir Putin when they have often been engaged in Syria since 2011 and in Libya in 2011 in a very similar type of operation? Should we be surprised that senior North African officials – and no doubt many others across the Arab world, no longer trust the BBC as they once did and never did France 24. It is striking when speaking to Indian friends to realise to what extent they have lost any respect they might have once had for most western media where the Middle East is concerned.

  5. A very welcome commentary and the Cockburn piece is powerful testimony to how the US and UK lost Aleppo but won the narrative. About a month ago Jeremy Bowen got to Aleppo and had contacts in the East. He reported fighters telling him that all they wanted was for the war to stop and a chance for their children to live. They were fighting because that was the only way they could get paid and feed their families. They did not care whether Asad stayed or went. I saw this on the BBC web site. So far as I know it was not broadcast, though I may be mistaken.

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