The Great Peacemaker U.S. and Its Benevolent Effort to Bring Peace to Syria

by | May 21, 2013

TIME magazine reports on a gruesome video of a member of the armed rebel forces fighting to overthrow the Syrian government:

In the video a man who is believed to be a rebel commander named Khalid al-Hamad, who goes by the nom de guerre Abu Sakkar, bends over the government soldier, knife in hand. With his right hand he moves what appears to be the dead man’s heart onto a flat piece of wood or metal lying across the body. With his left hand he pulls what appears to be a lung across the open cavity in the man’s chest. According to two of Abu Sakkar’s fellow rebels, who said they were present at the scene, Abu Sakkar had cut the organs out of the man’s body. The man believed to be Abu Sakkar then works his knife through the flesh of the dead man’s torso before he stands to face the camera, holding an organ in each hand. “I swear we will eat from your hearts and livers, you dogs of Bashar,” he says, referring to supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Off camera, a small crowd can be heard calling out “Allahu akbar” — God is great. Then the man raises one of the bloodied organs to his lips and starts to tear off a chunk with his teeth.

Videos like this prompt a troubling question: How do countries who want to support Syria’s rebels make sure they’re not unintentionally aiding rebels who might commit war crimes? Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are already providing the rebel forces with military aid, and the U.S. is helping with nonmilitary aid. There is an ongoing debate in Washington about whether the U.S. government should provide further aid to the rebels, possibly including weapons. Eating an enemy’s liver may be an extreme example of what appears to be a rebel atrocity, but there is enough documented evidence of extrajudicial killings, torture and desecration on the part of the rebels that it would be near impossible to know for certain who, exactly, are the “good” guys, says Peter Bouckaert, director of emergencies for the New York–based group Human Rights Watch. “In this context, where different rebel groups are fighting alongside each other, and sharing weapons, it’s difficult to control where the weapons end up. It is very likely that some of the weapons will end up in the hands of the likes of Abu Sakkar.”

There are no good options for the international community. Western intervention on behalf of the rebels could exacerbate sectarian tensions.

Western intervention on behalf of the rebels “could” exacerbate sectarian tensions? As though the U.S. hasn’t already intervened on their behalf, including by coordinating the flow of arms to the rebels, amongst whose top fighters include Islamic extremists such as the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra group?

I’ve repeatedly commented on the media’s propaganda narrative whereby these facts are swept down the memory hole. See my last post on the subject, which includes links to previous ones.

The New York Times offers yet another example. Reporting on the same video and other atrocities committed by the rebel forces, it states:

That lurid violence has fueled pessimism about international efforts to end the fighting. As the United States and Russia work to organize peace talks next month between Mr. Assad and his opponents, the ever more extreme carnage makes reconciliation seem more remote.

So the U.S. is working “to end the fighting”. That is all you need to know. No one single mention of how the U.S. has been in fact working to escalate the fighting by backing the armed rebels to implement its policy of regime change, thereby contributing to “the ever more extreme carnage” that “makes reconciliation seem more remote.”

For another example, there’s this op-ed in the Times asking “Can Obama Save Turkey from a Syrian Quagmire?” and urging the administration to do so because “Only Washington can change the equation”, which it should do “by arming the rebels or enforcing a no-fly zone” so as to “tilt the balance of power in favor of the rebels”. Perhaps if the U.S. was really interested in saving Turkey from a Syrian quagmire, it wouldn’t have joined Turkey in helping to create that quagmire in the first place.

Another recent Times article comments on some of the consequences of the U.S. policy of backing armed rebels to overthrow the Assad regime:

The black flag of jihad flies over much of northern Syria. In the center of the country, pro-government militias and Hezbollah fighters battle those who threaten their communities. In the northeast, the Kurds have effectively carved out an autonomous zone.

After more than two years of conflict, Syria is breaking up. A constellation of armed groups battling to advance their own agendas are effectively creating the outlines of separate armed fiefs. As the war expands in scope and brutality, its biggest casualty appears to be the integrity of the Syrian state.

On Thursday, President Obama met in Washington with the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and once again pressed the idea of a top-down diplomatic solution. That approach depends on the rebels and the government agreeing to meet at a peace conference that was announced last week by the United States and Russia.

Once again, we see that the narrative is how the lack of U.S. intervention has resulted in Syria falling apart, making its most recent effort to seek a peaceful solution all the more urgent. Syria is Humpty-Dumpty:

Increasingly, it appears Syria is so badly shattered that no single authority is likely to be able to pull it back together any time soon.

All the King’s men have their work cut out for them. Further down the page, one reads:

Although the Obama administration and its allies share the rebels’ goal of removing Mr. Assad from power, they have little else in common with the many rebel brigades that define their struggle in Islamic terms and seek to replace Mr. Assad with an Islamic state. Among them is Jabhet al-Nusra, or the Nusra Front, the local branch of Al Qaeda, which the United States has blacklisted as a terrorist group.

No mention of the fact that most of the arms directed by the CIA to the rebels have ended up in the hands of such Islamic extremists (again, see my last post on the subject), which is undoubtedly what prompted the U.S. to blacklist al-Nusra in the first place, in order to be able on one hand to paint the public picture that it opposes such forces while the other hand it continues to back the same rebel forces whose ranks include this al-Qaeda affiliate.

And while we are supposed to believe that the only role of the U.S. in Syria is that of the peacemaker, that villain Bashar al-Assad is showing his true colors by backing away from any willingness to negotiate with the armed opposition, according to another Times article. The lede tells us how Assad “appeared to dismiss the possibility of serious progress arising from any peace talks”. Further down we read what Assad actually said:

“We do not believe that many Western countries really want a solution in Syria,” Mr. Assad told Argentina’s Clarín newspaper in an interview published online on Saturday, blaming those countries for supporting “terrorists” fighting his government.

No mention, naturally, of the fact that the U.S. has indeed been supporting Assad’s armed opposition, whose ranks include an al-Qaeda affiliate even the U.S. government has labeled as a group of “terrorists”. Returning to Assad’s actual remarks:

“We support and applaud the efforts, but we must be realistic,” he said, referring to efforts by the United States and Russia to broker talks they hope will be held in June. “There cannot be a unilateral solution in Syria; two parties are needed at least.”

…“We are willing to talk to anyone who wants to talk, without exceptions,” he said. “But that does not include terrorists; no state talks to terrorists. When they put down their arms and join the dialogue, then we will have no objections. Believing that a political conference will stop terrorism on the ground is unreal.”

“We, the government, and me, personally, will meet, without exceptions, with Syrian opposition groups inside and outside” the country, he said. “The president of the country has said that we will try with everyone that is against us politically. And even those who use arms — we must try with them.”

So while the Times would have readers believe that Assad—unlike the greatest of peacemakers, the U.S.—is uninterested in peace talks, what he actually suggested was that his government is interested in talking to the armed opposition, but not as long as they are engaging in acts of terrorism, and that the idea of a U.S.-led peace effort would be beneficial while the U.S. at the same time backs the very same armed groups seeking to overthrow him should be met with skepticism.

He would seem to make a valid point.


  • Jeremy R. Hammond

    Jeremy R. Hammond is an independent political analyst and publisher and editor of Foreign Policy Journal. In 2009, he received the Project Censored Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism for his coverage of the US s support for Israel s 22-day full-scale military assault on the Gaza Strip, Operation Cast Lead (Dec. 27, 2008 Jan. 18, 2009). He is the author of The Rejection of Palestinian Self-Determination: The Struggle for Palestine and the Roots of the Israeli-Arab Conflict and Ron Paul vs. Paul Krugman: Austrian vs. Keynesian Economics in the Financial Crisis. Find him on the web at

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