In a recent commentary, Terry Burke, a volunteer with the Committee in Solidarity with the People of Syria (CISPOS), cautioned readers on the anti-interventionist coverage of the ongoing war in Syria by several independent watchdog journalism organizations — including MintPress News, Media Roots, Shadowproof, Anti-Media, Zero Hedge and Counter Current News (“Information wars at play in Syria,” Oct. 28).
While we at MintPress agree that the mainstream media fails to give the public a full understanding of the nature of the conflict in Syria and what’s driving it (control over oil and gas supplies), Burke’s attempts to bash these independent, alternative news organizations contained a wealth of inaccuracies.
Writing for Fifth Column News, Justin King broke down Burke’s arguments that MintPress and other sites are on “the payroll of the regime of President Assad of Syria.” These “implications,” he says, are “buried in a rant that bemoans the named outlets’ habit of criticizing U.S. efforts for regime change.”
Indeed, it seems that Burke didn’t take time to familiarize herself with the MintPress website or any of the websites she listed.
Much of our funding, like funding for many of the sites Burke named, comes from donations, sponsorships, grants and ad revenue. There’s no secret about who is behind MintPress. Our staff, correspondents, business model and syndication partners are listed on our website.
Burke asserts that websites like MintPress are “progressive except for Syria.” But what’s progressive about supporting an imperialist agenda that believes it’s possible for America to bomb its way out of every difficult situation?
Rather than conjuring up conspiracies about the agendas of independent, watchdog journalism outlets skeptical about what motivates politicians and foreign policy, let’s look at the real agenda behind so-called “leftist” solidarity organizations that promote interventionist foreign policy.
Burke’s organization, CISPOS, like the better known Avaaz or White Helmets, for example, promotes an agenda in line with NATO’s war interests. Despite claiming to be antiwar, they’ve staunchly advocated for acts of war, including sanctions and a no-fly zone over Libya and Syria, ahead of the U.S. intervening and arming rebels in those countries. CISPOS has also hosted several events with Syrian expats who had gone on the record as supporting the U.S. bombing of their country.
When the U.S. prepares to invade a country or topple a government, it does so first on a “humanitarian” basis. It uses calls for sanctions and no-fly zones to rally public support for the impending conflict, and groups like CISPOS, Avaaz and the White Helmets jump in to influence public perception of humanitarian crises and to lobby politicians to overthrow foreign regimes.
Justin Raimando, writing for Antiwar.com, outlined the work of these leftist “solidarity” organizations, including CISPOS, last month:
“Indeed, the cruise-missile left bleeds off into the more liberal precincts of the Democratic Party and the mass media, where ‘humanitarian interventionism’ has replaced the old McGovernite ‘isolationism’ of the previous generation.”
These groups, he explains, have actually been created by “cruise-missile leftists” or pro-war Democrats who play to hawkish politicians like Hillary Clinton, President Obama and the State Department. These aren’t just Raimando’s observations, though: State Department cables released by WikiLeaks this year confirm as much.
Raimando concludes by saying these organizations “claim that the Syrian ‘revolution’ must be supported, and are basically taking the same position as the U.S. State Department in saying that there is such a thing as a ‘moderate’ and even a secular socialist (!) opposition to Assad which we have a moral obligation to aid.” But this “revolution” has been exposed as being instigated by the CIA and planned as early as 2006, according to WikiLeaks dumps of State Department cables from 2006, 2012, 2013 and 2015.
The agenda is clear: to control Middle Eastern oil and gas and the means in which it reaches Europe to weaken Russian control over the European gas market.
The efforts of these “solidarity” organizations to passively advocate for this war for oil and gas have been dangerous. In 2011, Avaaz started a petition for a no-fly zone over Libya and lobbied the U.N. Security Council, European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton and European foreign ministers to take heed. Their philosophy is: “Hundreds have already been killed and, without immediate international action, the situation could spiral into a national bloodbath.”
And in 2013, CISPOS and White Helmets advocated sanctions against and a no-fly zone over Syria. The White Helmets captured international headlines when their inner workings with the public-relations firm Purpose were exposed, revealing efforts to lobby the U.S. government to topple the Assad regime. It then came as no surprise when it was revealed that Avaaz and the White Helmets both had ties to the Open Society Foundation, a nongovernmental organization backed by George Soros, a wealthy investor frequently linked to acts of U.S. imperialism and war profiteering.
To understand the gravity of both acts of war, look no further than the first Iraq war. Sanctions placed on Iraq by President George H.W. Bush in the early 1990s left over 2 million Iraqis dead, 500,000 of whom were children. To punish Saddam Hussein, U.S. sanctions limited imports of goods, clothing, medicine and food, punishing the innocent civilians who vehemently opposed Saddam — a dictator put in power by the U.S.
There is an information war — that much Burke got right. But thanks to independent watchdog organizations like WikiLeaks, we’ve been able to fully understand the root of this war. And this could help us learn how to prevent humanitarian disasters.
To hear the mainstream media tell the story, if you are against U.S. intervention in foreign wars you must be pro-dictator. But when it comes to our supposed allies in the peace movement like Burke, shouldn’t we expect more than parroting establishment talking points?
This ad hominem smearing of antiwar activists and journalists who work tirelessly to expose the corporate driving factors of war by targeting our lifeline — our funding, the one channel that keeps our small businesses, blogs and websites running — sets a dangerous precedent for those who are trying to do the very job the mainstream media has failed to do in acting as a watchdog to government and informing the public about the money interests driving these conflicts.
Objectively speaking, President Obama is President Bush on steroids. Why then, do people in the progressive community suddenly support “spreading democracy” when it is a Democrat carrying out Republican policies?
Mnar Muhawesh is founder and editor-in-chief of MintPress News, host of a weekly watchdog video series, “Behind the Headline,” and adviser to the Minnesota chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine.