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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

New York Times Editorial, "More Answers Needed on Syria": Ignoring Another Holocaust

Does history repeat itself? At The New York Times it sure as heck does.

Max Frankel was editorial page editor of The New York Times from 1977 to 1986, before becoming executive editor from 1986 to 1994. On November 14, 2001, in its 150th anniversary issue, the Times published an article by Frankel entitled "Turning Away From the Holocaust" (http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/14/news/150th-anniversary-1851-2001-turning-away-from-the-holocaust.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm), which acknowledged that during World War II, the Times ignored reports of the Holocaust. Frankel wrote:

"There is no surviving record of how the paper's coverage of the subject was discussed by Times editors during the war years of 1939-45. But within that coverage is recurring evidence of a guiding principle: do not feature the plight of Jews, and take care, when reporting it, to link their suffering to that of many other Europeans.

. . . .

'You could have read the front page of The New York Times in 1939 and 1940,' [Laurel Leff, an assistant professor at the Northeastern School of Journalism] wrote, 'without knowing that millions of Jews were being sent to Poland, imprisoned in ghettos, and dying of disease and starvation by the tens of thousands. You could have read the front page in 1941 without knowing that the Nazis were machine-gunning hundreds of thousands of Jews in the Soviet Union.'

. . . .

And to this day the failure of America's media to fasten upon Hitler's mad atrocities stirs the conscience of succeeding generations of reporters and editors. It has made them acutely alert to ethnic barbarities in far-off places like Uganda, Rwanda, Bosnia and Kosovo. It leaves them obviously resolved that in the face of genocide, journalism shall not have failed in vain."

Well, some 70 years after the Holocaust, The New York Times is again keen on papering over barbarities, this time those of the Assad regime in Syria. In an editorial entitled "More Answers Needed on Syria" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/29/opinion/more-answers-needed-on-syria.html?_r=0), The New York Times takes the position that there is insufficient evidence of the use of chemical weapons by Assad against civilians on the outskirts of Damascus. According to the Times:

"For starters, where is the proof that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria carried out the attack? American, British, French and Turkish officials have been unequivocal in blaming Mr. Assad for the attack, which seems likely since there has been no indication that his regime has lost control of its chemical weapons arsenal or that the opposition has the capability to deliver such a weapon. Still, no evidence to support this claim has been released.

. . . .

On Wednesday, the Syrian government added to the fog by blaming the rebels for three previously unreported chemical attacks last week. Those claims also must be investigated."

First, it should be observed that the new president of Iran, which has championed Assad's struggle against the rebels, acknowledges that chemicals were used against civilians, although he refuses to admit that they were used by Assad's forces (see: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/24/us-syria-crisis-iran-idUSBRE97N06P20130824). Is it possible that Syrian rebels were responsible for the sarin nerve gas attack that killed more than a thousand people in an area under their control, as both The New York Times and Iran would have us believe possible? I don't think so.

The Times editorial goes on to say:

"Despite diplomatic frustrations, the Security Council, on which Russia and China sit and have veto power, should be the first venue for dealing with this matter since chemical weapons use is a war crime and banned under international treaties.

Ideally, [italics added] once presented with evidence, the council would condemn Mr. Assad, impose a ban on arms shipments to Syria (including materials used to make chemical weapons, which the regime is trying to buy on the open market) and send Mr. Assad’s name to the International Criminal Court for prosecution. That is what should happen; Mr. Assad’s Russia and Chinese enablers are the ones most able to stop his brutality."

Excuse me, "ideally" the Russians and Chinese would back sanctions of any kind against Syria? What is the editorial board of The New York Times smoking, or do they wear their naivete on their sleeves? Let me assure the editorial board of the Times that idealism has absolutely nothing to do with Russian and Chinese foreign policy.

The Times editorial continues:

"Mr. Obama has yet to make clear how military strikes — which officials say will last one to two days and target military units that carried out chemical attacks, the headquarters overseeing the effort and the artillery that have launched the attacks — will actually deter chemical attacks without further inflaming a region in turmoil and miring the United States in the Syrian civil war."

Well, here the editorial board of the Times and I are actually in agreement: A US attack, intended, as Obama stated in a "PBS Newshour" interview, as a mere "shot across the bow" (see: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/28/us-syria-crisis-usa-obama-idUSBRE97R1A920130828), will be viewed as a sign of impotence by Syria, Iran and Russia. But then, any such attack is intended by the Obama administration as a face-saving device, i.e. superficial effectuation of the "red line" he announced a year ago, and not as a serious effort to deter Assad from future attacks against civilians.

How is the Assad regime preparing for this telegraphed US attack? They are calmly vacating army posts, to minimize the damage (see: http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Sources-Syria-evacuates-army-post-in-Damascus-324552).

The Times editorial concludes:

"Any action, military or otherwise, must be tailored to advance a political settlement between the Assad regime and the opposition, the only rational solution to the conflict."

"Tailored" to advance a political settlement? Where did we see that exact same word several hours earlier? Oh, now I remember: In his "PBS Newshour" interview (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/white_house/july-dec13/obama_08-28.html), Obama also declared:

"And if, in fact, we can take limited, tailored approaches, not getting drawn into a long conflict, not a repetition of, you know, Iraq, which I know a lot of people are worried about – but if we are saying in a clear and decisive but very limited way, we send a shot across the bow saying, stop doing this, that can have a positive impact on our national security over the long term, and may have a positive impact on our national security over the long term and may have a positive impact in the sense that chemical weapons are not used again on innocent civilians."


Peculiar how New York Times editorials and Obama's comments seem to dovetail. Or perhaps not so peculiar . . .

Yes, Obama's wavering West Wing and the intellectually and morally bankrupt New York Times are in convivial lockstep.

I opposed the Second Gulf War. I opposed US ground involvement in Afghanistan. But now, with respect to Assad's use of chemical weapons against innocent civilians, the time has come for the US to act forcefully and resolutely to ensure that this barbarism does not continue.

Yes, journalistic history has again repeated itself. Shame on The New York Times!

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