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Charlie Rose: Media Straight Man for Bashar el-Assad

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Message Cameron Salisbury
On Monday night, media personality Charlie Rose sat down with Syria's leader Bashar el-Assad for an interview that lasted the better part of an hour. It was a remarkable conversation but not for the reasons that Charlie Rose is being treated like a conquering hero at CBS.  The person who deserves the high-fives is Syria's president.

Bashar el-Assad learned from his past encounters with the American media's selective tampering and this time had only one requirement: no editing before broadcast.  Rose got the sit-down after guaranteeing that the interview would be broadcast intact, unadulterated by biased editing.
And then an unedited Charlie Rose proceeded to turn himself into a perfect foil for the Syrian, showing himself as rabid as any other media puppet while allowing Assad to appear a principled and composed statesman.

True to form for broadcasters, Rose filled the interview with blame, finger pointing, and thinly veiled accusations that the smoothly rational, intelligent and well spoken Assad was a liar. Assad's clear explanations, his calm demeanor in the face of Rose's potentially explosive accusations, his ability to explain and justify his actions, showed his interrogator in stark relief as someone just a few steps this side of total lunacy.  

Rose failed to get the sound bites he wanted in response to his inflammatory accusations so often that he reverted repeatedly to asking the same questions again.  "We touched on this before ,  "let me bring this up again Assad, on the other hand, had little trouble getting his points across no matter how often he was asked. He could repeat what he'd said earlier in different words as often as Rose wished.

Assad refused to allow Rose to label the warring faction attacking Syria as "the  opposition.'  Assad reminded Rose that the 9/11 attackers were not labeled "the opposition' in the US. 

He said the invading thugs were terrorists like the ones who had attack the World Trade Center, and they were supported by foreign enemies.  Their dead fighters carried no identification, he said, making it impossible to discern where they came from. When Charlie insisted that nearly all of the fighters were Syrian, making this a civil war, Assad would have none of it.  His family had ruled the country for decades, he said, so why the problems now?

Assad steadfastly maintained that his government had the support of the Syrian people and its army. If that were not so, he said, he would step down.

As he told Rose that the US should expect that an attack on his country could have unknowable repercussions, he gently implied that 9/11 may have been blowback.  That sound bite received no play whatever in the American media.

The gassing incident, according to Assad, occurred when the terrorists, supplied by Saudi Arabia with sarin but apparently no instructions for using it, had released the deadly gas, possibly by accident, into a civilian population.  This matches the account of several outlets in the US. Assad repeated again and again that the Obama administration had no proof that Syria gassed its own citizens, because there was none.

Interestingly, Assad had been offered the alternative of leaving Syria for a place of his choosing, with lots of money, from day 1 of the offensive.  All he had to do was agree to step down.  He rejected that ongoing offer, he said, because he would not abandon his country.  

Assad is well aware of the political pressure put on Obama by the American people and Congress to abandon the idea of an attack, and is also aware that Barry is under pressure by powerful political players, domestic and international, to follow through with the folly.

Rose insinuated that Assad was responsible for the estimated one million Syrian refugees flowing into other countries.  As he had at other points in the interview, Assad had the grace not to mention something that he was surely thinking:  Those refugees, ordinary people who just want to live their lives in peace and safety, are largely the result of instability caused by American bombing threats. 

Nice job, Charlie, but who were you working for?

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Cameron Salisbury is a public health biostatistician and writer living in Atlanta.
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