Juan Cole jumped on the “Green Revolution” propaganda bandwagon in 2009 with the claim that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stole the presidential election, despite the fact that all indications were that he legitimately won. He cheered on NATO’s illegal regime-change military operation in Libya. He has also been dutifully towing the line on Syria.
I have written repeatedly in recent weeks on the mainstream corporate media’s use of propaganda is manufacturing consent for another illegal military intervention in Syria, most recently in my article “Propaganda Is the Name of the Game in Media Reports of Atrocities in Syria” (in which I also cite my previous writings, so just follow the links for more background).
Today, Mr. Cole posted to his blog “83 Dead in Syrian Military Repression”. Under this headline, he writes:
Some 83 Syrians, most of them non-combatants, were killed on Saturday by the Syrian military.
Follow that link and read the AP article. You’ll read this (emphasis added):
Pro-regime forces killed 83 civilians throughout Syria on Saturday, including women and children among 20 dead in the flashpoint town of Daraa, a watchdog group said. Nine women and three children were among those killed in a pre-dawn bombardment of a residential neighbourhood in the southern city of Daraa, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Juan Cole just drops this caveat and repeats the SOHR’s claim as fact. The AP at least had the decency to attribute this claim to the source, which is the very minimal that should be expected. In this case, the AP is still being dishonest, because the SOHR is not a “watchdog” group. It’s an individual, an anti-regime activist who runs an opposition network peddling propaganda to the Western media (see my previous reports). Neither Juan Cole nor the AP offer any indication of any kind of verification of this claim.
Mr. Cole continues, next paragraph:
In Deraa, the small town in the south of the country where the revolution began, the Syrian military subjected inhabitants to an artillery barrage. About 17 activists were killed in Deraa with dozens more injured.
Follow the link and read that Huffington Post article. You’ll read this (emphasis added):
Syrian army troops have killed at least 17 people in the southern town of Deraa, among them women and children, activists say.
According to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Government tanks began bombarding the district before dawn.
The HuffPo did one better than the AP, dispensing with this business about the SOHR being a “watchdog” and correctly describing it as an activist group. Notice how Juan Cole simply parrots this claim as though it were a verified fact.
Mr. Cole’s next paragraph:
You’ll notice he cites the same HuffPo article for this assertion, and yet the HuffPo piece doesn’t even discuss this incident. I read it twice. Search the page for “Homs” or “29”. There’s no discussion of this (there is discussion of the massacre in Houla and more recent alleged massacre in Hama, on both of which topics I defer to my previous writings). Perhaps he mistakenly linked to the HuffPo piece here. I would hope didn’t just presume that nobody would notice that the source he cites offers no support for his assertion.
Mr. Cole also posts an Al Jazeera video reporting on the same claim of killings in Daraa by government troops—citing the same source, the SOHR.
So despite the three separate news reports Mr. Cole links to, there still remains only one source for this information, a source lacking in credibility whose claim apparently has yet to be verified by any independent source.
I seem to recall Mr. Cole being a reasoned anti-war voice who criticized U.S. foreign policy. He gained respect on account of his critical voice. But it seems to me he has increasingly become just another mouthpiece for the establishment interventionist foreign policy now that it is Obama rather than Bush carrying it out. Perhaps my memory fails me, but I seem to recall him doing such things as criticizing the media over its parroting the official line on Iraq. Yet now Mr. Cole engages in the same kind of reporting as we saw from the mainstream media to sell that war, such as dropping all caveats and reporting unverified claims as fact.
This is disappointing.