Do they think we are stupid?
The question is relevant in light of the concerted anti Assad media, diplomatic, and political onslaught that has been unleashed over the past week, starting on the eve of the Geneva II peace talks over the Syrian conflict, when a dossier purporting to provide incontrovertible evidence of the mass torture and massacre of detainess by the Syrian authorities was released.
The dossier came to us courtesy of the Qataris, who allegedly obtained it from a defector – codenamed Caesar – a photographer with the Syrian military police, it has been claimed. By now, of course, we shouldn’t be surprised that the role of the Qataris in supporting and funding various opposition groups fighting to bring down the Syrian government – specifically Islamist groups such as the ISIS and Nusra Front – did not feature heavily, if at all, in the intense news coverage of the dossier and its contents. As for Desmond de Silva QC, whom we witnessed doing the rounds of the TV news studios to verify the authenticity of the evidence presented, what are we make of the credibility of the man who led the year-long investigation into the 1989 murder of Belfast lawyer, Pat Finucane. De Silva’s report into the murder – the Pat Finucane Review – was labelled a “sham” and a “whitewash” by the Finucane family and their supporters when it was published in December 2012?
Leading the anti-Assad media crusade has been Channel Four, whose coverage of the conflict this past week culminated in a documentary shown on 22 January following the fortunes of three girls – Children on the Front Line – living in a rebel controlled district of Aleppo. The daughters of a local rebel commander, in the documentary we are invited to sympathise with their plight and suffering as a result of the conflict. Significantly, only children of those fighting the regime are depicted and humanised in this way. No mention is made of the children of the soldiers or civilians who are supporting the regime. Presumably they are in Disneyland having the time of their lives.
In truth it wasn’t so much a documentary as a cynical exercise in anti Assad propaganda, designed to manipulate the emotions of the viewer and paint the rebels, through their children, as good guys fighting the forces of evil.
Meanwhile, on the very first day of the talks in Montreux themselves we had US Secretary of State, John Kerry, asserting in his opening remarks that there can be no peaceful solution to the conflict unless Assad and his government relinquishes power. His words were no doubt music to the ears of the majority 40 countries represented at the talks, overwhelmingly hostile to the Syrian government. To the majority of Syrians, and those who refuse to respond to the same old script with the same old Pavlovian response, they merely confirmed that Geneva II is nothing more than a sham and a stitch up, designed to fail from the outset and apportion the blame for the failure to the intransigence of the Assad regime.
All the while the suffering of the Syrian people continues in a conflict that grows ever more brutal. Atrocities have undoubtedly been committed by both sides. Given the stakes involved in the outcome, and given the chaos that has engulfed the region on the back of the proliferation of Sunni extremism – funded by the aforementioned Qataris and those other sons of liberty, the Saudis – this is no surprise. Only when such blatant and open subversion of Syria’s sovereignty, actively supported by Western governments, is ended can serious negotiations aimed at a peaceful resolution to the conflict begin.