July 18, 2012 · 0 Comments
Above: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived at Cairo International Airport on Saturday. Credit: Brendan Smialowski/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
By Michael McGehee:
A central theme of my NYT eXaminer columns has been the differential treatment the press provides towards events based on political interests. Where an aggressor is aligned with the West it should be expected that they will receive preferential treatment. But if the aggressor is on the wrong side of power they will have their feet held to the fire.
So it is no surprise that an interesting pattern, though predictable, has arisen from the events in Bahrain, Egypt and Syria during the so-called Arab Spring.
When Islamists want to obtain power in Egypt via democratic elections, and Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) seizes control, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a recent press statement, commends “the SCAF for representing the Egyptian people in the revolution.”
When the U.S. and its allies in the West and Gulf states arm and direct Islamic militants to seize power by force in Syria, Clinton rebukes the Syrian military for “murdering their own people.”
In an example readers may come across, the Times’ columnist Neil MacFarquahar’s recent article “Blast Kills Elite in Assad’s Tight Circle“:
A suicide bomber attacked a meeting of the most senior ministers and security chiefs in central Damascus on Wednesday, according to state television, killing both the defense minister and President Bashar al-Assad’s brother-in-law who is the deputy chief of staff of the Syrian military.
It is widely known that the U.S. and its allies are arming and directing the armed opposition in Syria, which makes it all the more noteworthy that MacFarquhar says nothing about that, or how a terroristic suicide bombing may implicate political leaders like President Obama or Secretary Clinton. Neither the “paper of record” nor policymakers will issue rebuke for the Syrian rebels “murdering their own people.”
Times readers can find similar comparison in hundreds of articles putting the blame on Iran for attacks in Iraq during the American occupation. Or when the monarchy in Bahrain uses brute force to clamp down on its democratic uprisings the U.S. political leadership, to a very large degree, simply ignores it. According to Craig Murray, a former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, in 2011 the U.S. signed off on Saudi Arabia sending troops to Bahrain to put down the rebellion in exchange for the Gulf states pushing for military intervention in Libya.
The vacillation is astounding, but not limited to America’s policy makers. The pattern can also be found in the media.
Browsing through the New York Times website readers will be hard pressed to find where columnists criticize the U.S. for putting their “national interests” before democracy and human rights in places like Bahrain and Egypt, though readers will easily find dozens of such articles deriding Russia and China on Syria.
In another recent article from Neil MacFarquhar, “Fighting Spreads in Damascus; Russia Resists Pressuring Syria,” we see another good example. It’s on Russia to pressure Assad to stop the fighting, and not the West to pressure the armed rebels. In fact, MacFarquhar routinely writes such articles. Last October, in his article “With Rare Double U.N. Veto on Syria, Russia and China Try to Shield Friend,” he wrote that, “By vetoing a Security Council resolution condemning Syria for its oppression of antigovernment forces, Russia and China effectively tossed a life preserver to President Bashar al-Assad.” This is explained by MacFarquhar when he says that “Russia has varied interests in Syria, like oil and gas and cement.”
And in the article “Russia and China Block U.N. Action on Crisis in Syria,” published nearly six months ago MacFarquhar wrote: “A United Nations Security Council effort to end the violence in Syria collapsed in acrimony with a double veto by Russia and China.”
This and more is written with a similar message: There is a crisis in Syria, and the evil Russians and Chinese are behind it because they are obstructing democracy and justice. That the West politically and materially supports the Syrian opposition, and has been for at least several years, gets little to no coverage. That Wikileaks has released documents showing the West is using the armed opposition forces in Syria to destabilize and bring down the government is likewise not a part of “all the news fit to print”—especially at the volume in which it critiques Russia and China.
Whether it is places like Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Honduras, Paraguay, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Croatia, Bahrain, and so on, where the U.S. is aligned with the belligerents, the New York Times is acting as a public relations consultant by consistently publishing highly politicized articles presented as journalism.