Two days ago, I commented on Syrian rebels’ claims of yet another massacre of civilians perpetrated by the Assad regime’s forces, this time in Tremseh, on the eve of a meeting of U.N. members to try to find a peaceful resolution to the ongoing crisis. As I pointed out, reports of a massacre depended entirely upon claims from opposition forces that could not be verified, and the opposition almost immediately changed their initial story, admitting that most of those killed had not been civilians, but rebel combatants.
The same day I wrote that, the New York Times reported as fact that there had been a “mass killing on Thursday in Tremseh”. It cited the oppositions’ claims of 200 people killed and then dishonestly implied that that number had been admitted by the Syrian government which, the Times lied, said that “those killings … were carried out by rebels” (emphasis added). What the regime claimed, rather, was that there was indeed a battle in Tremseh, but not one of its military massacring civilians, but engaged against armed rebels; and that a some civilians had been killed, but by rebel, not regime, forces.
The next day, the Times, like the opposition before it, backtracked, stating in the lede:
New details emerging Saturday about what local Syrian activists called a massacre of civilians near the central city of Hama indicated that it was more likely an uneven clash between the heavily armed Syrian military and local fighters bearing light weapons.
Halfway through the article, the Times stated the bottom line:
Although what actually happened in Tremseh remains murky, the evidence available suggested that events on Thursday more closely followed the Syrian government account.
Further on, the Times stated that it was “unlikely” that “government forces had killed no civilians, but that the dead civilians found in the town had been killed by the rebel fighters”—a tacit admission that there was as yet no evidence that government forces killed any civilians and acknowledgment of the possibility that rebel forces may actually have been responsible for any civilian deaths that may have occurred (and we may stipulate that this is unlikely, but the point remains the same).
Of course, as I also observed in my previous post on this regime “massacre”, the actual facts don’t matter one little bit to the Obama administration. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described “[c]redible” reports of “yet another massacre committed by the Syrian regime that has claimed the lives of over 200 men, women, and children” as offering “indisputable evidence that the regime deliberately murdered innocent civilians” in Tremseh.
Facts be damned. So long as claims bolster the U.S. policy of regime change in Syria, expect them to be parroted by administration officials and the compliant mainstream media. Does anyone remember the lesson of Iraq?