By: Cliff Kincaid | Accuracy in Media
The mainstream media have not challenged the claim that chemical weapons were used by Syrian and/or Russian forces. Hence, they have been forced to explain how they were used when Obama officials previously claimed they had been removed from Syria. It’s another new low for a press corps that was eager to regurgitate whatever the Obama administration had claimed as a success in foreign policy.
The New York Times article entitled, “Weren’t Syria’s Chemical Weapons Destroyed? It’s Complicated,” is a fascinating exercise in trying to rationalize why Obama officials lied when they claimed Syria’s chemical arsenal had been eliminated.
It seems that lies are “complicated” to explain.
According to the Scott Shane article, President Barack Obama had declared that “American diplomacy, backed by the threat of force, is why Syria’s chemical weapons are being eliminated.” Later, Secretary of State John Kerry had declared, “We struck a deal where we got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out.”
So they lied. Right? Wrong. It’s a complicated matter.
According to the Times, Kerry and others had tried to refer to the elimination of Syria’s “declared” stocks. This was “a nuance often lost in news reports,” the Times said.
So when Kerry talked about eliminating “100 percent” of the weapons, that isn’t really what he meant.
Shane goes on to report, with a straight face, “Despite the failure to completely eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons, Obama administration officials and outside experts considered the program fundamentally a success.”
A failure is a success.
At the time, the Times ran a story by Michael R. Gordon under the headline, “U.S. and Russia Reach Deal to Destroy Syria’s Chemical Arms.” It began: “The United States and Russia reached a sweeping agreement on Saturday that called for Syria’s arsenal of chemical weapons to be removed or destroyed by the middle of 2014 and indefinitely stalled the prospect of American airstrikes.”
Those airstrikes had been threatened by Obama.
The Times said the agreement, titled “Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons,” called for the “complete elimination of all chemical weapons material and equipment” during the first half of 2014.
There doesn’t seem to be any “nuance” in that report. The phrase “complete elimination” is self-explanatory.
Here are some other references from the “Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons:”
- Syria will submit “a comprehensive listing, including names, types, and quantities of its chemical weapons agents, types of munitions, and location and form of storage, production, and research and development facilities.”
- “We set ambitious goals for the removal and destruction of all categories of CW related materials and equipment” (emphasis added).
The Kerry quote, “We struck a deal where we got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out,” was uttered on the July 20th, 2014 edition of NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Here is more of Kerry’s statement: “Russia was constructive and helpful and worked at that effort. Russia has been constructive in helping to remove 100 percent of the declared chemical weapons from Syria. In fact, that was an agreement we made months ago. And it never faltered, even during these moments of conflict.”
NBC News, on August 18, 2014, highlighted Kerry’s statement that “the United States has finished eliminating Syrian President Bashar Assad’s declared chemical weapons arsenal aboard the U.S. cargo vessel MV Cape Ray in international waters.”
NBC also noted this Obama statement:
“Today we mark an important achievement in our ongoing effort to counter the spread of weapons of mass destruction by eliminating Syria’s declared chemical weapons stockpile.” In this statement, with the reference to “declared chemical weapons,” we see that Obama was playing fast and loose with the truth, or using “nuance,” as the Times indicated. Kerry had been using it, too.
So where were the media demands for an explanation of the use of the term “declared” and what exactly it was supposed to mean?
When Obama had issued a statement on the U.S.-Russian “Agreement on Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons,” the word “undeclared” was not there. Obama said, “This framework provides the opportunity for the elimination of Syrian chemical weapons in a transparent, expeditious, and verifiable manner, which could end the threat these weapons pose not only to the Syrian people but to the region and the world.”
Over at The Washington Post, where “democracy dies in darkness,” we find a number of stories about the alleged complete elimination of Syrian chemical weapons.
On September 15, 2013, the Post reported, “The United States and Russia agreed Saturday on a plan to bring Syrian chemical weapons under international control, a rare diplomatic victory in a brutal civil war that appears to head off a punitive U.S. military strike on Syria in the near future.” On October 31, 2013, the Post reported that inspectors “confirmed today that the government of the Syrian Arab Republic has completed the functional destruction of critical equipment for all of its declared chemical weapons production facilities and mixing/filling plants, rendering them inoperable.”
Incredibly, the Post has now run a column stating that “A chemical weapons attack in Syria exposes Trump’s Assad problem,” rather than that it exposes Obama’s failure.
The author, Ishaan Tharoor, who writes about foreign affairs for the paper, found fault with Trump officials for highlighting Obama’s failed Syria policy. “It’s seemingly a bizarre line of attack for the Trump administration to choose,” he wrote. But why? What has happened to holding the government accountable?
Obama’s policy was more than a failure. It was a carefully crafted lie, concocted with the collaboration of the Russians, which was designed to deceive the American people into believing that the weapons had been eliminated.
On the left, the media watchdog group, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), has also been performing mental gymnastics in trying to defend the failed agreement. The group does not dispute that the Syrians used chemical weapons and that the alleged sarin attacks on the Syrian city of Idlib “strongly suggest the OPCW [Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] campaign didn’t fulfill its promise of ridding Syria of chemical weapons. But this is only a criticism of the program’s overall efficacy, not its actual existence.”
In other words, the OPCW failed, but it actually succeeded.
FAIR defended the work of the OPCW by saying that the attack could have been worse! Writer Reed Richardson said that “…it is worth pondering what greater atrocities the Syrian people might have suffered with 1,300 metric tons more chemical weapons remaining in the country…”
Of course, according to this logic, we don’t really know how many chemical weapons were left in Syria. The regime could have hundreds, or even thousands of tons of weapons still available.
Whether the Sarin attack was carried out by the regime or its Russians backers is beside the point. The media have accepted the evidence provided to them by their sources. The issue is that acceptance of this evidence blows apart their previous narrative that Obama had saved the people of Syria from future gas attacks.
Another point that has to be made is that Obama trusted the Russians to participate in the disarmament of their client state, and Obama now comes across looking like a complete dupe of the Vladimir Putin regime.
But wasn’t Trump supposed to be the Russian agent?
Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism and can be contacted at [email protected]. View the complete archives from Cliff Kincaid.