At the start of the ‘Arab Spring’ in 2011, brighter people in the West remembered Iraq, and so from the outset were sceptical about the forces behind this ‘awakening’. For us slower folk, it took the realisation that the West was never going to allow democracy in Saudi Arabia, but was intent on enforcing regime change in the most progressive and independent countries in the greater Middle East, to realise what a wicked scam the whole Arab Spring deal was.
Robert Fisk, however, embraced the ‘Arab Spring’ from the outset, and has promoted it directly or indirectly since, campaigning vigorously, for example, against Muammar Gaddafi and Bashar al Assad, and generally peddling the NATO line of peace-loving demonstrators, met with violent repression, particularly in the cases of Libya and Syria. Nothing since has given him pause: not the presence of armed militants from an early stage, the enormous pro-government demonstrations in Tripoli, Damascus and Aleppo (below), the Libyan catastrophe, the suffering and determination of the Syrian people; not the Wesley Clark revelations of a plan dating back at least to 2001 to go to war on seven countries of the greater Middle East, nor Hillary Clinton’s emails revealing the intention to destroy Syria for Israel.
For five years Robert Fisk has been campaigning on behalf of the West-sponsored ‘revolution’ in Syria. Robert Fisk wholeheartedly supports the concept of ‘humanitarian intervention’ – rather than castigating the UN for facilitating illicit regime change, he has constantly charged them with not doing it soon enough, or vigorously enough. That the West has not done more to assist the ‘rebels’ (ie ISIS, al Qaeda and associated groups) is due, it would seem, to a moral deficit.
An interview in May 2013, with the war in Syria in its third year, shows that Fisk is still pretty gung-ho about what he calls the ‘revolution’. The death of Gaddafi is something to celebrate and the state of Libya glossed over. The war in Syria is described as a sectarian war, the Sunni majority against the Shia minority, despite the fact that more than 60% of the Syrian Arab Army is Sunni Muslim. Bashar al Assad is described as a corrupt young man trying to crush the ‘revolution’. There is an implication that Western prejudice against the Muslim Brotherhood is due to anti-Islam prejudice, rather than because they provide the stiffening in all the extremist groups terrorising Syria. He also claims that Israel supports al Assad, because ‘the last thing the Israelis want is an Islamic state or chaos and anarchy on their borders’. This is simply weird, as it was already well established by the time of the interview that Israel was giving logistic and other support to terrorist groups in Syria.
In a rather curious attempt to further blacken al Assad’s name Fisk, as recently as May 2015, Fisk decided to resurrect the question of the 2005 assassination of Rafik Hariri, ex-prime minister of Lebanon, wealthy businessman and friend of Robert Fisk. The justification for this was a speculative, unconvincing and ultimately unsuccessful report to a special tribunal at the Hague by another good friend of Fisk, Lebanese politician Walid Jumblatt.
Two or three months ago, the unreconstructed Fisk spoke at UC Dublin about the Syrian conflict, still referring with misty eyes to the ‘Arab awakening’ and the ‘Arab revolution’. He saw no contradiction in also addressing the question of the inexplicable cruelty of ISIS (from 32 mins), and indeed spent some time trying to grapple with the phenomenon of their barbarity. He spoke of the deliberate and cold blooded damage to artworks in the Christian town of Maaloula, by ISIS and al Nusra. What Fisk does not say is that embedded with al Nusra is the supposedly moderate ‘Free Syrian Army’ – there is never an operation involving the FSA where al Nusra hasn’t played the major part. Furthermore, it was a leader of FSA, Abu Sakkar, who videoed himself eating the heart of a Syrian soldier. There is no difference in ideology between ISIS and the other ‘rebel’ groups in Syria.
The ideological solidarity of the various insurgent groups operating in Syria, all linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, is demonstrated by abundant photographic images where their flags are associated, eg below, where the flag (left) of ISIS is proudly held up next to that of the ‘Free Syrian Army’.
The huge gulf in ideology between the SAA and its allies on the one hand and the ‘revolution’ on the other is exemplified by the fact of traditionally Christian Maaloula being liberated by the largely Sunni Syrian Arab Army and the nominally Shiite Hezbollah together with local militias (the story goes that it was a Hezbollah soldier who rang the first church bells in Maaloula on liberation). However, Robert Fisk believes that the West should be intervening to ‘save’ multi-confessional Syria, by defeating the Syrian Arab Army, Hezbollah and its other allies, and handing it over, if not to ISIS, to groups with an identical ideology .
Robert Fisk’s latest effort to propagandise for Western intervention is an article, ‘No, Aleppo is not the new Srebrenica – the West won’t go to war over Syria’. Like much of Fisk’s work it is so full of inconsistencies and heavy irony that it is hard to work out what he is trying to say, and the misleading subtitle does not help. However, regardless of the often opaque content, the language used is manifestly hostile to the Syrian government (the ‘Assad regime’) and unnaturally positive in terms of the terrorists, who, whether they be ISIS, al Nusra or any other takfiri group are simply ‘rebels’, or ‘armed rebels’.
It is ironic perhaps that, just after the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia absolved Slobodan Milosevic from war crimes, Robert Fisk chooses to point to the former Yugoslavia as a case comparable to that of Syria, that of Srebenica to Aleppo. The Syrian equivalent of the Kosovan Liberation Army is the ‘Free Syrian Army, Jabhat al-Nusra or Isis or any of the other outfits which we either love or hate in Syria’. The multinational militants, who at one stage occupied ‘60% of the country'(so Fisk must be including ISIS), are termed ‘armed rebels’.
Fisk does concede faults on both side, in both cases: ‘There are no “good guys” among the Syrian warlords; yet still, despite all the evidence, we want to find them’. On the other hand, however, we have the ‘ruthless dictator, supported by Russia, accuses foreign powers of assisting his rebel enemies.’ Fisk is thus strongly implying that accusations of foreign involvement are a fabrication by the Syrian government. This is an incredible position on the part of Robert Fisk: the evidence that the ‘civil war’ in Syria is anything but, that forced regime change was planned many years ago, and that it is supported by the West and its allies in terms of funding, propaganda, armaments, boots on the ground, and now a bombing campaign in Aleppo, is overwhelming.
The one difference between Kosovo in 1998 and Aleppo in 2016, according to Fisk, is the lack of will on the part of the West. He insists that Western nations will do anything to avoid going to war with Syria (subtext: even if they should), despite any declared ‘red lines. This is perhaps the strangest example of Fisk’s posturing:
‘We can also forget “red lines”. Both sides in Syria have, I suspect, used gas and we didn’t go to war, even though we put all the blame on the regime.’
In fact, the only ‘red line’ formally declared with regard to Syria was that relating to culpability for the sarin gas attack on Gouta, subsequently shown to have been carried out by insurgents. Fisk himself (wisely as it turned out) voiced doubt that the Syrian government might be responsible. So is Robert Fisk saying now that the West should have exploited the false charge of poisoning East Gouta in order to bomb and destroy Syria? (Needless to say, Fisk does not suggest that ‘red lines’ should ever be applied to rebels.)
Given the determined and on-going campaign to charge the Syrian government with chemical attacks, and the complete lack of evidence for that, plus extensive evidence of chemical use by terrorists, it’s probably safe to ignore Fisk’s ‘suspicion’ of faults on both sides.
The Syrian people have fought armed militants, many of them of foreign origin, for five years, in order to preserve their country intact and retain its secular, tolerant and progressive society. Fisk, nevertheless, considers that not going to war with Syria, not putting paid to Syria’s hopes of returning to the society they are so proud of, is a moral failure on the part of the West. He says bitterly,
‘We are not going to save Aleppo, even if the Assad regime forces the rebels there to surrender (as they did in Homs, with scarcely a whimper from us). And I don’t think we are going to destroy Assad […]. Yes, it’s time we stopped lying to the people of the Middle East. And it’s time we stopped lying to ourselves.’
Make no mistake, Fisk’s idea of ‘saving Aleppo’, and Syria, is not to assist the Syrian Arab army and allies to see off al Nusra so that Aleppans can start to rebuild their city and their lives, and to give Syria a chance to rid itself of NATO’s terrorist gangs and return to the proud country it was. It means helping the takfiri extremists to hold out in East Aleppo, firing murderous mortars into West Aleppo, as the West apparently should have helped them in Homs, in order to keep alive the dream of ‘revolution’, and so leading inevitably to an extremist, oppressive state and the ethnic cleansing of all minorities. It means unilaterally ‘destroying’ Syrian president Bashar al Assad, regardless of the wishes of the Syrian people.
This article, with all its irony, contradictions and intellectual dishonesty, reads at first sight as the work of an aging hack with nothing to say but who is going to say it anyway, in as obfuscating way as possible. But the article is more sinister than that:
Fisk’s article is an obscene call for increased ‘humanitarian’ intervention by NATO, to wage open warfare on Syria, in order to put in place a repressive regime of head-chopping, cannibalistic, Wahhabi extremists, who are total anathema to the vast majority of the Syrian people.
Barbara McKenzie, The Demonisation of Bashar al Assad
Jeremy Salt, Truth and Falsehood in Syria
Check out, too, whether Gaddafi really was a crackpot, as Robert Fisk claims: