How the New York Times Avoids Saying ‘Government Officials Lied’

by Jun 22, 2012Foreign Policy2 comments

By changing the administration’s denial from the U.S. not being involved in arms shipments to the U.S. not directly providing arming rebel forces, the Times is able to avoid having to point out the obvious fact that the Obama administration lied.

The New York Times has an article titled “C.I.A. Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Opposition”, which follows a Wall Street Journal report (which I discussed here) of CIA involvement in directing supplies from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey to rebel forces. The Times report begins (emphasis added):

A small number of C.I.A. officers are operating secretly in southern Turkey, helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms to fight the Syrian government, according to American officials and Arab intelligence officers.

The weapons, including automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and some antitank weapons, are being funneled mostly across the Turkish border by way of a shadowy network of intermediaries including Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood and paid for by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the officials said.

The C.I.A. officers have been in southern Turkey for several weeks, in part to help keep weapons out of the hands of fighters allied with Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups, one senior American official said. The Obama administration has said it is not providing arms to the rebels, but it has also acknowledged that Syria’s neighbors would do so.

But compare how the Times reports the administration’s denial to how it reported the administration’s denial in a previous report to which this is a follow-up (emphasis added):

Officials in Washington said the United States did not take part in arms shipments to the rebels, though they recognized that Syria’s neighbors would do so….

There is a significant difference between saying the U.S. itself is not providing arms to the rebels and saying the U.S. is not taking part in arms shipments to the rebels. The former, while disingenuous, may be technically true, but the latter is an outright lie.

So by changing the administration’s denial from the U.S. not being involved in arms shipments to the U.S. not directly providing arming rebel forces, the Times is able to avoid having to point out the obvious fact that the Obama administration lied, and also prevents readers from drawing that corollary on their own.

That’s not the only example in this article of dishonest reporting designed to serve the purpose either of damage control (remember, it was actually the WSJ that actually broke the story of CIA involvement in arms shipments) or manufacturing consent for the administration’s policy. The article also states:

The struggle inside Syria has the potential to intensify significantly in coming months as powerful new weapons are flowing to both the Syrian government and opposition fighters. President Obama and his top aides are seeking to pressure Russia to curb arms shipments like attack helicopters to Syria, its main ally in the Middle East.

Well, now, anyone who reads that without would have to be forgiven for thinking that Russia was sending new shipments of attack helicopters to Syria, which is exactly the conclusion the Times wants readers to draw. The problem with attempting to lead readers to that conclusion is that it is false, and the newspaper knows it is false.

As I discussed previously, this claim derives from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticism of Russia for “their continued arms shipments to Syria”, but as the Times previously reported:

Pentagon sources suggested that Mrs. Clinton … was referring to a Russian-made attack helicopter that Syria already owns but has not yet deployed to crack down on opposition forces.

In other words, Pentagon sources suggested that Mrs. Clinton was deliberately trying to mislead the public into believing that Russia was continuing to arm Syria when in fact these are helicopters the Assad regime has owned since before the armed uprising began. As I noted previously:

As a Pentagon official put it, talking to the New York Times, “She put a little spin on it to put the Russians in a difficult position.” Yes, “a little spin”. Turns out Syria had owned these helicopters for a long time, having bought them in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and signed a contract to have them overhauled and repaired in Russia. So Russia was just returning these old helicopters that Syria already owned in accordance with the contract.

As I have also pointed out, Russia didn’t take too kindly to the Obama administration’s hypocrisy of falsely accusing it of continuing to arm arm the Assad regime with attack helicopters while itself actively coordinating arms shipments to the rebels—and lying about that, too.

As for the regime’s recent escalation to the use of helicopters, the Times does readers the service of pointing out how this is a direct consequence of the increasingly effective attacks of the U.S.-backed rebel forces:

What has changed since March is an influx of weapons and ammunition to the rebels. The increasingly fierce air and artillery assaults by the government are intended to counter improved coordination, tactics and weaponry among the opposition forces, according to members of the Syrian National Council and other activists.

To repeat conclusions I drew previously:

So the U.S. helps to supply the rebels with arms, including antitank weaponry, which escalates the conflict and results in the regime beginning to use helicopters to suppress the insurgency, and yet it is not the U.S. but Russia that is blamed for this escalation of the conflict….

So the U.S. is once again intentionally escalating a conflict in a manner that increases the threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, risking an outcome where WMD might fall into the hands of terrorist organizations, and then citing this same possible consequence as a pretext to continue the very same policy of regime change that created the risk in the first place….

With the U.S. acting to escalate the conflict in Syria in order to implement its policy of regime change, increasing atrocities by both sides can be expected.

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About Jeremy R. Hammond

About Jeremy R. Hammond

I am an independent journalist, political analyst, publisher and editor of Foreign Policy Journal, book author, and writing coach.

My writings empower readers with the knowledge they need to see through state propaganda intended to manufacture their consent for criminal government policies.

By recognizing when we are being lied to and why, we can fight effectively for liberty, peace, and justice, in order to create a better world for ourselves, our children, and future generations of humanity.

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  1. Ellen Rosser

    Why doesn’t Russia use its influence over Syria, which it gets as Syria’s main weapons supplier, to force Assad to stop massacring his people and allow for free elections? I’m sure the opposition would put down their weapons if Assad did and if they were guaranteed free elections.

    • Jeremy R. Hammond

      Why doesn’t the U.S. use its influence over the rebels to accept a ceasefire, instead of arming them and escalating the violence?


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