It is even worse that we have a corporate media addicted at the most charitable interpretation to its own incompetence
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By any reckoning, the claim made this week by al-Qaeda-linked fighters that they were targeted with chemical weapons by the Syrian government in Idlib province""their final holdout in Syria""should have been treated by the western media with a high degree of scepticism.
That the US and other western governments enthusiastically picked up those claims should not have made them any more credible.
Scepticism was all the more warranted from the media given that no physical evidence has yet been produced to corroborate the jihadists' claims. And the media should have been warier still given that the Syrian government was already poised to defeat these al-Qaeda groups without resort to chemical weaponsand without provoking the predictable ire (yet again) of the west.
But most of all scepticism was required because these latest claims arrive just as we have learnt that the last supposed major chemical attack""which took place in April 2018 and was, as ever, blamed by all western sources on Syria's president, Bashar Assadwas very possibly staged, a false-flag operation by those very al-Qaeda groups now claiming the Syrian government has attacked them once again.
Addicted to incompetence
Most astounding in this week's coverage of the claims made by al-Qaeda groups is the fact that the western media continues to refuse to learn any lessons, develop any critical distance from the sources it relies on, even as those sources are shown to have repeatedly deceived it.
This was true after the failure to find WMD in Iraq, and it has been confirmed after the the international community's monitoring body on chemical weapons, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), was exposed this month as deeply dishonest.
It is bad enough that our governments and our expert institutions deceive and lie to us. But it is even worse that we have a corporate media addictedat the most charitable interpretationto its own incompetence. The evidence demonstrating that grows stronger by the day.
In March the OPCW produced a report into a chemical weapons attack the Syrian government allegedly carried out in Douma in April last year. Several dozen civilians, many of them children, died apparently as a result of that attack.
The OPCW report concluded that there were "reasonable grounds" for believing a toxic form of chlorine had been used as a chemical weapon in Douma, and that the most likely method of delivery were two cylinders dropped from the air.
This as good as confirmed claims made by al-Qaeda groups, backed by western states, that the cylinders had been dropped by the Syrian military. Using dry technical language, the OPCW joined the US and Europe in pointing the finger squarely at Assad.
It was vitally important that the OPCW reached that conclusion""and not only because the west has an overarching ambition for regime change in Syria.
In response to the alleged Douma attack a year ago, the US fired a volley of Cruise missiles at Syrian army and government positions before there had been any investigation into who was responsible.
Those missiles were already a war crime""an unprovoked attack on another sovereign country. But without the OPCW's implicit blessing, the US would have been deprived of even its flimsy, humanitarian pretext for launching the missiles.
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