The New York Times Lies About the Houla Massacre in Report on Latest Alleged Atrocity in Syria

by Aug 27, 2012Foreign Policy0 comments

But it’s one of those acceptable lies for our media to report, since it serves the interests of the establishment and the necessity to manufacture consent for the U.S.’s foreign policy.

The New York Times is lying to you. Again. (Surprise, surprise).

In an article titled “Dozens of Bodies Are Found in Town Outside Damascus”, the Times reports:

Dozens of bodies, possibly more than 200, were found Saturday in a town outside Damascus, raising the specter of a massacre by Syrian troops as bad as any atrocity committed since the Syrian uprising began nearly 18 months ago.

Naturally, the sources for this claim, revealed further into the article, are all opposition groups; namely, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Commitees, and the Times acknowledges that (emphasis added):

The circumstances and number of deaths in the town, a suburb named Daraya, could not be confirmed independently, and the reported death toll varied.

The article continues with more of the details (emphasis added):

They posted two videos showing what they said were different groups of victims; in one a series of charred bodies could be seen wrapped in blankets; in another, a far larger group of bodies — more than 150, according to the video’s narrator — had been lined up together in a dark area of what was said to be a local mosque.

Activists said most of the people killed were executed by government forces, who have been shelling the town for days as part of a scorched-earth campaign by Syrian troops to wipe out rebels and their sympathizers in several suburbs of the capital.

Most of the victims appeared to be men, but the Daraya Coordination Committee, a branch of the Local Coordination Committees, said the dead included eight members of a single family, including three children and their mother.

That family could not be seen in the videos, which did not include details identifying the location, time or the sex of the victims.

Still, the violence described by the activists in Daraya fit a pattern of deaths that has begun to emerge after raids by government forces in several suburbs of Damascus. Over the past week, activists repeatedly reported that Syrian soldiers had invaded towns where rebels had control, only to leave piles of bodies behind.

So the Times admits that none of the claims made by these opposition groups can be independently verified, but it “fit[s] a pattern” of other allegations by these same groups of government massacres. The article notes:

In most cases, according to photos and video from activists, the victims have been young men who appear to have been shot in the head, but there have also been cases in which the victims appear to have been killed by shelling.

Sound familiar? Remember the Houla massacre? When that massacre was first reported, I observed that the sources for the claims that the Syrian government was responsible were all from the opposition, whose ranks include terrorist groups (e.g., al Qaeda). As I wrote then:

U.N. observers confirmed that the massacre took place, and also “confirmed from an examination of ordnance that artillery and tank shells were fired at a residential neighborhood.” But the U.N. did not indicate whether the massacred civilians were killed by government this tank and artillery fire. On the contrary, the head of the U.N. Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) General Robert Hood said, “The circumstances that led to these tragic killings are still unclear”, and Secretary Bansent a letter to the Security Council saying that, “while the detailed circumstances are unknown, we can confirm that there has been artillery and mortar shelling. There have also been other forms of violence, including shootings at close range and severe physical abuse” (emphasis added).

On Saturday, the Security Council issued a statement condemning the killings of civilians “in attacks that involved a series of Government artillery and tank shellings on a residential neighborhood” (emphasis added). The statement also called for the cessation of “all violence in all its forms by all parties”.

In its report on the Security Council’s condemnation of the massacre, the New York Times leads readers to the conclusion that government forces were responsible, such as by quoting in the third paragraph German envoy Peter Wittig saying that “The evidence is clear—it is not murky” that “There is a clear government footprint in those killings.” It isn’t until the second half of the article (page 2 in the online edition), that one can read that it hadn’t actually been determined that government forces were responsible, but that “Mr. Ban skated very close to blaming Syrian government shelling for at least some of the deaths while carefully noting that the cause had not been completely determined” (emphasis added).

I wrote more about the continued misleading reporting on the Houla massacre from the mainstream media, the Times in particular, here. I wrote about how eyewitness accounts of the massacre corroborated the Syrian government’s version of events, indicating that the rebels had carried out the massacre, here. Then there was another alleged massacre in Hama, and the mainstream media continued its propaganda role, misleading readers in the same way it had with regards to the Houla massacre, as I discussed here. Then more eyewitness testimony emerged that rebel forces were responsible for the Houla massacre, as I wrote about here and here. Then there was another alleged massacre in Taramseh, where the U.S. government and the media again simply parroted allegations from rebel sources as fact, even though even the opposition sources were forced to back down from their claims in that case, as I discussed here and here. Keep all this in mind.

Next, the Times adds:

The government, in statements through its state news agencies, did not specifically mention Daraya on Saturday.

It has generally said very little about the campaign outside Damascus, but its usual explanation for raids involves what it describes as efforts to rid communities of “terrorists,” its label for insurgents and their supporters.

This is virtually obligatory for the Times when it reports on Syria. They repeat this line ad nauseum. As a fun little thought experiment, imagine if every time the Times reported on violence in Afghanistan, they said: “The U.S. government’s usual explanation for raids involves what it describes as efforts to rid communities of ‘terrorists’, its label for insurgents and their supporters.”

Now we’re coming to it. The Times implies that the government was responsible for this latest alleged massacre even while acknowledging the facts about it remain unknown by saying:

Experts have said extrajudicial killings were a particularly Syrian brand of counterinsurgency, in which fear has been the dominant tool.

The challenge in this case will be confirming exactly what occurred.

And now here it is; so we come to:

The United Nations observers who reported on previous accusations of human rights violations — in Houla, for example, where the United Nations confirmed in May that Syrian troops killed more than 100 people, including at least 32 children — have left Syria without plans to return.

That is a lie. Go ahead, follow the link the Times provides to its earlier reporting, and then compare it with what I wrote at the time (see above), and confirm for yourself that the statement that “the United Nations confirmed in May that Syrian troops killed more than 100 people” in Houla is a lie. Not just misleading. Not just deceptive. An outright lie. Period. But it’s one of those acceptable lies for our media to report, since it serves the interests of the establishment and the necessity to manufacture consent for the U.S.’s foreign policy.

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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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