Karl Rove, senior advisor to President George W. Bush, famously said “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.” Regime change in Syria was part of that reality.
Almost from the start of the Bush regime, Assad was marked for “regime change.” In his 2007 article, “The Redirection: Is the Administration’s New Policy Benefiting Our Enemies in the War on Terrorism?” Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh exposed the Bush administration’s plan to use the Muslim Brotherhood and militant groups linked to Al Qaeda to overthrow the government of Syria, the result of which continues to unfold today under Barak Obama’s administration.
In the early months of the Syrian civil war which began in 2011, the West’s mainstream media presented the conflict as a simple case of good-guy protesters vs. bad-guy government, but the conflict was more complicated than that and the one-sided version only made matters worse.
Many parties are to blame, not least Bachar Assad who responded with brute force against the protesters, but also to blame are the interventionists in the US and its allies who rationalized supporting the Islamist opposition—and refusing to embrace serious peace negotiations proposed by Assad—on the grounds that Assad was a uniquely evil dictator. The conventional wisdom— that “the protest movement in Syria was overwhelmingly peaceful until 2011”—is wrong, or at best incomplete. In fact, opposition to the government had turned violent almost from the start, and was likely aimed at provoking a harsh reaction to polarize the country.
Although nothing justifies the myriad crimes committed by state forces then and since facts ignored by most mass media and government accounts suggest that responsibility for the horrors in Syria is widely shared. The facts undercut the rationale behind inflexible demands for “regime change” from the US and Gulf leaders, in particular Saudi Arabia and Qatar that closed the door on serious negotiations and opened the way to mass slaughter and the rise of today’s Islamist-dominated opposition.
According to Professor Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, the US media and its analysts refused to recognize that armed elements were becoming active. They preferred to tell a simple story of good people fighting bad people. There is no doubt that the vast majority of the opposition were peaceful and were being met with deadly government force. One only wonders why that story could not have been told without also covering up the reality—that armed elements, whose agenda was not peaceful, were also playing a role.”
Rather than seeking to promote dialogue and reconciliation, the US and its Arab allies chose confrontation and a deepening civil war. To make matters worse, they stand accused of funding and supporting the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood which is, for all intents and purposes the political wing of Al Qaeda, and is now beginning to arm militants affiliated with Al Qaeda itself.
According to Seymour Hersh the US took part in clandestine operations aimed at the Syrian government. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.”
For months, after years of headlines confirming the US had been covertly arming militants in Syria for the purpose of overthrowing the government in Damascus, a narrative revolving around tens of thousands of these militants, “defecting” to ISIS and its affiliates, has been peddled to the public to account for the apparent failure to create an army of “moderates” to both fight ISIS and the Syrian government. What documented evidence stretching back as far as 2007 shows is that the US had no intention of building up a moderate opposition in the first place, and any news of “defections” are simply a cover for the direct funding and arming of Al Qaeda and ISIS in Syria.
Claiming to fight ISIS, while so transparently supporting them, is a doomed position, one that Russia intends to change, much to the chagrin of the US government.