By Chris Zuver, Staff Writer
On the night of April 6, at the order of President Trump, the USS Porter launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at the Shayrat airbase in Syria.
The strike was ordered in response to a chemical attack two days prior in the Syrian town of Khan Shaykhun, which killed at least 74 people and injured more than 500. The governments of multiple countries—including the United States, Israel, and the United Kingdom—all agreed that the chemical attack must have been ordered by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
In a letter that Trump sent to congress after the attack, he wrote: “I directed this action in order to degrade the Syrian military’s ability to conduct further chemical weapons attacks and to dissuade the Syrian regime from using or proliferating chemical weapons.” Furthermore, he wrote, “I acted in the vital national security and foreign policy interest in the United States.”
Since 2011, the established state of Syria has been in a civil war involving multiple factions including Rojava, Al Qaeda, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS). Since the beginning of this civil war, there have been other instances of chemical attacks,such as the Ghouta attack in 2013, which was also blamed on Assad without proof.
What is unusual about the idea of Assad ordering this recent chemical attack on his own civilians (besides the fact that he would have attacked his own civilians), is that he reportedly turned over all of his chemical weapons to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for destruction in 2013 after the Ghouta attack, which killed over 280 people. This was done in response to pressure from the possibility of the US taking military action against Syria.
Now, I’m not naïve. Just because Assad claimed to have turned over all of his chemical weapons, he could obviously lie about that. But what would he have to gain from ordering an attack on his own people? Also, he would have had to consider that if the last attack that was blamed on him almost drew US intervention, another attack would likely cause the same or similar ramifications? Currently, Assad’s side is winning the civil war—why would he carry out an attack that would damage his reputation and create more enemies right now?
There are alternative explanations for what occurred on April 4 in Khan Shykhun:
One possibility is that Syrian warplanes bombed a rebel weapons depot where chemical weapons were being stored, the explosion could have caused the gas containers to rupture and proceed to disperse into the streets. Another scenario is that Al Qaeda jihadists simply staged the attack. This wouldn’t be the first instance in which the rebel group showed disregard for human rights.
Meanwhile, in America, one would think that the mainstream media outlets would have varied opinions on the situation. With the possibility that Assad is not to blame in the recent chemical attack, one would think this would be addressed by the news networks.
However, with few exceptions, this has not been the case.
On April 7, an article was published on media website FAIR, titled: “Five Top Papers Run 18 Opinion Pieces Praising Syria Strikes – Zero Are Critical.” In the article, it stated that five of the major US publications, including the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and New York Daily News, gave no room for opposition to Trump’s airstrikes in their editorials. Between the five papers, they ran a total of 18 op-eds that supported the attack.
CNN host Fareed Zakaria, in an on-air commentary, stated that in the wake of the Shyrat attack, “Donald Trump became president of the United States,” and that “President Trump recognized that the President of the United States does have to act to enforce international laws.”
Additionally, upon discussing the video footage of the Shyrat attack, on-air MSNBC anchor Brian Williams described scenes from the footage as “beautiful pictures,” in a heavily patriotic tone and he even quoted the late Leonard Cohen, saying “I am guided by the beauty of our weapons.”
So why does the mainstream media have this fawning support when they talk about the attack on Shyrat? Why do they unequivocally support President Trump’s actions?
The answer is simple, really. As musician Jon Anderson once said: “War is big business.” Companies such as Raytheon, who developed the Tomahawk missiles used against the Shyrat air base will inevitably make more money from the US military who will buy replacements. Interestingly enough, President Trump is invested in Raytheon as well, whose stocks rose after the attack.
But when it comes to the media, they need viewers to support them and war coverage brings a surge of traffic to their networks. So, it seems obvious that they want to support these types of actions, as conflict creates stories. And why would they want to create doubt in the narrative by giving doubt to actions of the military? It doesn’t matter if a news outlet is biased toward left-wing ideals or right-wing ideals, both sides profit from coverage of war and conflict. It’s like the old saying: “If it bleeds, it leads.”
Just this month alone, most major stories have either focused on touchy situations with the US’s involvement with Syria, Russia and, of course, North Korea.
The mainstream media isn’t as much focused on giving fair coverage as it is on gaining an audience.
If you ask me, any publication can draw attention by pointing toward the absurd or macabre yet, when it comes to the media, behind that macabre story there is likely to be a certain degree of self-interest.