Wednesday, October 12, 2016

#ConfrontingISIS: PBS Frontline, or Pentagon's propaganda

I watched PBS Frontline's on ISIS, titled "Confronting ISIS". Here are my remarks:
1) The first thing I see as I watched it on line is an ad for Goldman Sachs.
2) Martin Smith, who prepared and narrated the report has no background on the Middle East. He never studied the Middle East and never lived in the region.  He worked for Peter Jennings but he has none of Peter's knowledge, sophistication, and courage on Middle East analysis.
3) The show--and it is a show--represents the world of Washington-DC punditry: the world of people agreeing with one another and repeating what everyone says in their own words: for that, only minutes after it was aired, the DC punditry were congratulating one another on Twitter.
4) The biggest gap, methodologically, is the absence of reference to the "monster-in-the-room", i.e. the US invasion and occupation of Iraq.  It was left as being irrelevant to the rise of ISIS.  In fact, the show treated the rise of ISIS as the direct result of Russia's military intervention in the Middle East.
5) There is absolutely nothing new or original in the show.  You could have read USA Today about ISIS and found the same things recycled in the show.
6) Does Kim Ghattas speaks for the Saudi regime? Every word she said was rather an advocacy of the Saudi regime. But this reveals a lot about Western journalism in DC, especially among Arab-Americans.  If you want to spend a year at a DC think-tank, you have to be someone without a reputation of criticism of Saudi regime or UAE regime because those two are now major investors in the think tank world.  A Lebanese-Saudi billionaire's son, Baha' Hariri, wants to succeed his brother as prime minister of Lebanon so he invests in DC think-tanks and hires a coterie of Zionists to build up his image.  Also, those journalists who may want in the future in the Arab media, can't afford to upset Saudi regime.  And when Kim Ghattas spoke about "the Arab people" or "what Arabs want", she was literally speaking about the Saudi regime, but conflating the regime with the entire Arab people.
7) I noticed that Zionists now are one with the Saudi regime, and are offended for any slights against the Saudi royal family.  Ken Pollack seems hurt by what he perceived as Obama's offenses against the royal family.
8) Do we really have to see Martin Smith every time he rides in a car in the Middle East, and listening to his bevy of interceptors and assistants and stringers?  In fact, it is in his interest to keep that out of our view.
9) The show is basically the Pentagon's perspective in its desire for a military solution in Syria and for a more aggressive US role there--not that US role in Syria is not aggressive enough.
11) The narrative of the Syrian "uprising" is the same: that militant Jihadis came out due to Asad's brutality. So those moderate liberal feminist Syrians transformed into Jihadis due to the regime brutality? So there were no Syrian Jihadis before that?
12) I like his references to Shi`ite Iraqi militias as "highly sectarian".  But relative to what? To the highly secular Jordanian and Saudi regimes?  If you want to use "highly sectarian" you should add that label to all the pro-US regimes.
13) The theory of Nuri Maliki being responsible for SISI (along with Asad) is rather funny.  Who installed Maliki in power? And were we not reading in the New York Times during Maliki's tenure, that Bush was holding at least weekly video-calls with Maliki and giving him orders and running his affairs? So the US should be blamed for the sectarian policies of Maliki.
14) the show makes it clear that US still decides who gets to be the prime minister of Iraq.
15) I was not impressed with the quality of US experts on the Middle East at the Pentagon, State, and National Security Council.
16) the top US expert of ISIS could not even property pronounce the Arabic word for ISIS (and he insisted on using the Arabic word): thus Da`ish came out Dash from his mouth.
17) Basically, the report (which is a clear Pentagon's propaganda show) maintains that no one fought ISIS except the US.  Every progress in the fight of ISIS is due to the role of US.  The battle of Tikrit was presented as a mere victory for US.  Everyone else, all the blood and sacrifices by Iraqis or by Syrians against ISIS are dismissed.  And notice that no civilians die from US bombing in Syria and Iraq.  Only terrorists die at the hands of US bombs.
18) Again, the typical Washington propaganda line that Russia did not fight ISIS is reiterated.  Yet, how does one explain that ISIS was able to manage its fuel trucking business AFTER US intervention, and that it was really Russian bombing which put an end to this ISIS business.
19) The show typically whitewashed the roles of US clients, the Saudi and Jordanian regimes.  The narrator goes to Saudi Arabia and so inappropriately walks into a mosque with his camera team and waits for the Saudi Mufti to finish his sermon. And then asks the Mufti: do you like ISIS terrrorism, and the Mufti says: no, we don't. And that was that. There was no interrogation of the Saudi Wahhabi clerical role in that regard. But don't be harsh on Mr. Smith: he also interviews a Saudi prince and Jamal Khashuqji (who has worked for various Saudi princes including Prince Turki, before become a media advisor to Prince Al-Walid) who he called "a Saudi columnist"--like there is such a thing in Saudi regime media as "a Saudi columnist".
20)  I think it was Marc Lynch who said that only the US makes ISIS a top priority.  But that is in fact not true.  Regardless what you think of them or of their roles in Syria (which I oppose), Iran, Iraq, and Hizbullah made ISIS a priority long before the US did.  That is a fact.
21) In talking about Syrian rebels, the show made it like there are two sets of Syrian rebels: there is ISIS, which all hate in Syria, and then there are the moderate secular feminist rebels, which include...Al-Qa`idah in Syria.
22) The show basically said that Bashshar killed 200,000 Syrian civilians (another guest said Bashshar killed 300,000 Syrian civilians). So basically all those who die in areas under rebel control are civilians, just as all those who die in regime areas are military? I mean, this is not even the account held by Qatari-funded and EU-funded Syrian Observatory which all Western media rely on.
23) Of course the same usual suspects are interviewed on Iraq, including US favorite, Hoshyar Zebari. But why not tell the viewers about the recent vote against him due to his corruption.
24) The Palestinian problem and Israeli aggression and occupation was not mentioned once in the show.
25) Was this report a response to the JASTA vote?
26) I find the story told by the Pentagon about how US-trained militias in Syria "defected" to ISIS and the Jihadis funny.  They basically said: that they just want to fight Asad. That is all. But they were fighting Asad before their recruitment by the US. Why did they get recruited then?
27) the show mentioned that Islam forbids killing by burning. That is true but in Islam (like in Judaism and Christianity) God is permitted to burn people in the fires of hell.

PS Also, the report cites US officials to the effect that US government does not pay ransom. That is not true of course. In the summer of 1975, when Col. Ernest Morgan was kidnapped in Beirut Lebanon by the organization named Organization of Revolutionary Socialist Action, the US government agreed (through a third party) to pay the ransom of tons of rice, beans, flour, and clothes for poor people in Karantina and Maslakh. The person who verified this is E O'Ballance, Civil War in Lebanon, 1975-1992, p. 14.