Monday, August 18, 2014

Our Spin on How the Mideast Spiraled into War

Cable news networks are not supposed to provide background to current events. Poorly informed audiences are easier to frighten. As a rule, our media partners try not to provide perspective.

However, sometimes a superficial attempt to put events into context is better than none.  Case in point: the present unrest in the Middle East. Having lit the match, like any good arsonist, we want to distance ourselves from the fire. Mideast Spiraling in War and Terror, a recent CNN article, hides our tracks through charred forests.

First stop: Libya.

Gaddafi was overthrown by our NATO partners. Although they now have the run of the country, the jihadists played only a supporting role in toppling Gaddafi.  For the Department, Libya is a fiasco rivalled only by Iraq. Thoughtfully, CNN has completely written us out of Libya's history.

Next stop: Syria.

The armed opposition to Assad is largely comprised of hard-line Islamist groups including al-Nusra, ISIS and al-Qaeda. Moderates represent only a fraction of the firepower arrayed against Assad.  CNN says "rebels want to end the rule of al-Assad." Of course for extremist rebels, the endgame is Islamic rule. 

The video accompanying the article includes a map in which Syria and Iraq have been disappeared:

By showing Islamic State in control of all of Syria and Iraq, CNN makes the situation in the Middle East look bleaker than it really is. This wild distortion isn't fully qualified by correspondent Jim Sciutto in his narration of the video. Although Sciutto says IS/ISIS has "taken over more than a third" of Iraq, concerning ISIS in Syria, Sciutto says, "it was one of several rebel groups that was fighting the regime of Bashar al Assad." Of course, ISIS continues to fight the Syrian government.  The map, paired with Sciutto's narrative, wildly exaggerates IS successes. It overlooks Syria's role as the region's strongest bulwark against Islamic State.  Should we ever decide to attack Syria, CNN's audience won't think we're out of our minds.

CNN knows better than to let facts get in the way of a promising new narrative. In the video Jim Sciutto says, "When you look at these crisis, each one has brought a different policy response: in Syria, no intervention..." No intervention? Of course, in June we publicly admitted that we're aiding jihadists groups fighting the Syrian government.  Our continued support for various jihadist groups in Syria protects ISIS by diverting Assad's forces.  

How does CNN explain what happened in Iraq? 

Since spilling into Iraq from Syria...  No need to explain how that happened. No need to point out that we supported the efforts of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to train and arm thousands of Syria-bound jihadists; that we ourselves supplied jihadists fighting in Syria with aid, training and weapons. No need to explain that these policies wrecked Syria's ability to secure its territory and thereby created sufficient instability in Syria for ISIS to grow roots and now "spill into Iraq."  

Is CNN effective? We think so. Readers reacted as we might have hoped to this rewriting of Mideast history. Instead of blaming the Department for bombing otherwise stable nations like Libya and aiding jihadists from Tripoli to Aleppo, CNN's audience is learning--through reports like this one--to blame the locals. 

Readers of the CNN article said they liked this comment best: 

Mission accomplished.

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Dr. Rebecca Wolf
Undersecretary for Community and New Media
United States Department of Fear