The latest shocking video to emerge from Syria – showing a militant commander carving out the internal organs of a dead regime soldier and proceeding to eat them in front of the camera – has prompted a telling reaction from the Western corporate-controlled news media by Finian Cunningham
The Western media have cranked into damage-limitation mode in a pathetically servile bid to spare Western governments being implicated in involvement or responsibility for such violence. This response is especially urgent as these governments are now trying to justify sending weapons overtly to Syrian militants, and as these same powers try to force the sovereign government of President Bashar Al Assad into negotiations with cut-throats and car bombers in an upcoming so-called peace conference next month.
More perplexing, perhaps, there is strong suspicion that if it were not for the latest “cannibal video” haphazardly surfacing and going viral on the internet, the Western media would not be reporting on it – that is, would have suppressed the horror from reaching public awareness – even though they knew of the video’s existence.
First though, note how the Western media’s expressions of horror and disgust – there could be hardly anything less over such depravity – are nevertheless immediately qualified in its reportage with ample denunciations of the macabre incident by the so-called Free Syrian Army. The reaction by the Western mainstream media is evidently one of trying to isolate the mutilation video as the behavior of an aberrant extremist group that is outside the control of the “reasonable”, “civilized” militants.
Rather than just reporting on the barbarous activity in the video, the Western media show an unseemly haste to limit the publicity damage that would otherwise stem from this obvious fact: that this is the nature of sickening violence that Western governments have been sponsoring in Syria for more than two years. And if US President Barack Obama, Britain’s David Cameron and France’s Francois Hollande get their way with plans to openly supply mercenaries in Syria with even more weaponry, then the bloodbath in that country will escalate.
In the light of the latest ghoulish video behavior – in which Syrian militant commander Khalid Al Hamad, also known by his nom de guerre Abu Sakkar, declares himself as the bloodcurdling perpetrator of cannibalism – Western media feign to ask naively: how can Western governments ensure that their support for the Syrian “opposition” does not fall into the wrong hands?
This dichotomy of “good rebels” whom the West presumes to support and “the bad rebels” whom the West is allegedly trying to isolate is, of course, illusory and cynical. The truth is that the Western governments have unleashed the dogs of war on Syrian society for the past two years, which has resulted in wholesale carnage and destruction, with as many as 80-90,000 total deaths. Some one-fifth to a quarter of the population in this once stable, pluralist and prosperous Mediterranean Arab country has been displaced from their ruined homes to eke out a miserable existence in refugee campsites.
Such Western-fuelled violence has resulted in countless massacres and atrocities, from no-warning car bombs in urban neighborhoods to the latest “cannibal video”. No doubt there have been atrocities committed by pro-government forces, as is part and parcel of war. There are credible, although unconfirmed, reports of heinous acts of violence against civilians in Baniyas in Tartus Province by pro-government forces.
But the central fact is that Syria’s mayhem would not have reached the cataclysm that is has if it were not for the pernicious accelerator of violence and destruction provided by Western governments and their regional allies: Israel, Turkey and the Persian Gulf dictatorships of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. All we have to do is follow the flow of arms and blood-money to identify the sources of carnage and crimes in Syria.
Now when such a vile spectacle of just one incident of this violence emerges, the Western media scramble to pretend that it has nothing to do with their governments’ policies of pushing Syria over the abyss.
Worst than that, there is evidence that the Western media tried to cover up this latest spectacle of barbarism. These media are only now reporting on the shocking video after it emerged over the past weekend on the internet, posted apparently by a pro-Syrian government source.
In a bizarre admission, US-based Time magazine reveals that it first saw the video of Abu Sakkar’s sacrificial cannibalism several weeks ago, but it did not report on it back then. Here is Time on 14 May trying to rationalize its way out of suppressing that important information:
The publication states: “Two Time reporters first saw the video in April in the presence of several of Abu Sakkar’s fighters and supporters, including his brother. They all said the video was authentic. We later obtained a copy. Since then, Time has been trying to ensure that the footage is not digitally manipulated in any way – a faked film like this would be powerful propaganda for the regime, which portrays the rebels as terrorists – and, as yet, Time has not been able to confirm its integrity.”
We can be sure that if Time had obtained video footage purporting to show atrocities committed by the Syrian government forces of Bashar Al Assad, it would have screamed headlines about it with wall-to-wall coverage, as the Western media have done routinely in the past even when many of those videos have turned out to be fake.
So what Time’s response appears to indicate is that it chose to suppress the cannibal video. But, when the video went viral on the internet over the weekend, only then did Time feel obliged to disclose its prior knowledge of it, probably to save itself from accusations of outright cover-up.
Another Western media outlet, France 24, also reported this week with “shock, horror” the cannibal video. But, tellingly, the national French broadcaster declined to provide a link to the video in its reports. Yet, France 24 regularly runs unconfirmed videos out of Syria purporting to show regime violence and violations. In its latest report, France 24 perversely spins the macabre video as evidence of the “regime’s crackdown brutalising people”.
Incongruously, Time magazine quotes Brigadier General Salim Idriss, leader of the self-styled Free Syrian Army (FSA), whom, it is claimed, controls “over 90 per cent of rebel forces”. He condemned the actions of the militant human-butcher in the video and said: “If there is evidence that fighters from the FSA are doing something against human rights or international law, they will be brought before the court.”
Well, if the FSA general is in control of 90 per cent of rebel forces, as the Western media try to make out and whom the Western governments would like to openly ply with weapons, why is it that such depraved violations by Syrian militants keep on surfacing with such prevalence and regularity?
Recall a few: the video showing militants coercing a young boy to decapitate a captured combatant. Recall the video of militants throwing victims off a multi-storey building. Recall the video of captives begging for their lives moments before they were shot dead in cold blood; or the footage of bodies dumped along the roadside shot in the head execution-style; or the more than 90 corpses washed up on the banks of the Queiq River in the militant-held Al Bustan area of Aleppo. Not to mention the countless car bombs that have ripped through civilian districts, schools and hospitals of Damascus and Aleppo.
The fact cannot be concealed by the Western media propaganda machine that Abu Sakkar, the videoed butcher, is commander of the Farouq Brigade, which is one of the FSA’s mainstay fighting units based in Homs City. Just like the Al Qaeda-linked Al Nusra Front, the West similarly also tries to pretend that this outfit is somehow fringe to the state-sponsored sabotage of Syria.
The grotesque video depicting the cannibalism by one man is really a vignette of the bigger picture of cannibalism that the Western regimes have unleashed on the entire Syrian people – a monstrosity of state terrorism that Western media are guilty of covering up.
Finian Cunningham, originally from Belfast, Ireland, was born in 1963. He is a prominent expert in international affairs. The author and media commentator was expelled from Bahrain in June 2011 for his critical journalism in which he highlighted human rights violations by the Western-backed regime. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in journalism. He is also a musician and songwriter. For many years, he worked as an editor and writer in the mainstream news media, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. He is now based in East Africa where he is writing a book on Bahrain and the Arab Spring.He co-hosts a weekly current affairs programme, Sunday at 3pm GMT on Bandung Radio