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Issue #1745      August 24, 2016

Culture & Life

Lies, damned lies and propaganda

I know it will probably shock you, gentle reader, but the sorry truth is that capitalist governments lie. They lie to the public and when they find it advisable they lie to the legislature. I’m truly sorry if I have shattered your illusions, but I think you have a right to know the truth.

The US aim is, as usual, regime change: the White House wants to force out Syrian President Bashar al-Assad: he is too friendly with the Russians, and not friendly enough with the Israelis or the Saudis.

They lie with particular intensity if they are engaged – or wanting to be engaged – in a war. Tony Blair lied outrageously to the British people and parliament when he wanted Britain to join the US in the invasion of Iraq. He told whoppers about the government of Saddam Hussein possessing “weapons of mass destruction” that were in fact non-existent. In Australia, Johnny Howard – who now likes to play the role of revered elder statesman – used the same mythical weapons to justify catapulting Australia into that invasion.

Going back a bit further, remember when the American U2 spy plane was brought down in the Soviet Union? The US authorities blandly lied that there had ever been such a plane, denied that they had any program of aerial spying on the USSR, and pretended that the whole thing was a Russian fabrication. Until the Russians produced the plane’s pilot, who had decided not to kill himself as expected, and had instead been captured. But lying about such things is the norm: the mantra is, “if caught out, deny, deny, deny.”

In fact, capitalist politicians lie so routinely that the populace are no longer shocked by it. Being caught out lying no longer necessitates immediate resignation from office. A press release, some PR spin, and a thick skin and you may not get away with murder but you will almost certainly be able to pass off the most devious statements with impunity!

If you’re looking for examples of lying on a wholesale scale, look no further than the US-backed conflict in Syria. The US aim is, as usual, regime change: the White House wants to force out Syrian President Bashar al-Assad: he is too friendly with the Russians, and not friendly enough with the Israelis or the Saudis. Not content with funding and arming a “rebel” opposition in the country, the US is also waging a propaganda war against the Assad government. Assad is regularly reported to have committed dreadful atrocities, such as barrel-bombing innocent Syrian civilians. Of course, that’s how you retain popular support, isn’t it: by killing your own people in droves?

However, indiscriminate barrel-bombing is not by any means the worst atrocity laid at Assad’s door. Remember the poison gas attack in a suburb of Damascus in 2013? The gas was sarin and once again a lot of people were killed. The US government and its attendant media had no qualms about blaming the attack squarely (and solely) on Bashar al-Assad, claiming that they had discovered that the Syrian army had a secret sarin program. The bulk of the capitalist media, always faithful to their class interest, endlessly reiterate this assertion, on the principle apparently, that if you say a thing often enough it becomes a fact! It was, however, yep, you guessed it, yet another lie.

In an interview with Truthout, US journalist Seymour Hersh – a prize-winning veteran of the Washington bureau of The New York Times – pointed out that “the Syrian gas arsenal was not a secret, as many in the US insisted, but widely known for decades to exist. ... The CW [chemical warfare] system had been generated by Bashar’s father, Hafez al-Assad, who ran the nation for 20 years, as a deterrent to the known – if undeclared – Israeli nuclear arsenal. ... The Syrian system was seen after Hafez’s death in 2000, with young Bashar al-Assad now in charge, to be useless, expensive, and hard to maintain – and publicly complained about as such.”

Of more significance than that, however, is the fact that, in Hersh’s words, “Israel and the US had joined forces, initially in secret, to monitor all of the suspected CW storage depots scattered through Syria; there were more than 20 of them. Any effort to begin preparing for a CW warfare attack would immediately trigger alarms in the US and Israel, and the government in Tel Aviv would begin preparing for a pre-emptive air force attack.” But, as Hersh points out, “the joint US-Israeli system did not signal an alarm in the hours before or after the CW attack near Damascus – clear evidence that the attack could not have come from a Syrian CW facility”.

An aspect of this incident that the capitalist media resolutely refuses to report, because it exposes the lie, is that (again in Hersh’s words) “the US and its allies knew from highly classified CIA and allied intelligence reporting throughout the spring and summer of 2013, that the jihadist opposition to Assad (primarily al-Nusra) had the ability to manufacture a crude form of sarin and other gas warfare items. To this date, despite constant references by the media to the Syrian attack, there has been no specific evidence linking the Syrian version of sarin, whose sophisticated additives and chemical make-up is known to the West, to the far cruder sarin found at the site.”

That “jihadist opposition” that Hersh refers to is armed, funded and even assisted with covert operatives by the USA. It is inconceivable that the opposition could develop, plan and carry out a classic “black operation” like a poison gas attack to discredit the Assad regime without US knowledge and approval. And yet, in the days after the August 2013 gas attack, the Obama administration focused its attention solely on blaming the Syrian army.

Now why would they do that, I wonder?

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