October 8, 2015

Will Press Cover State Dept. Envoy Declaring Putin’s Involvement Shows Obama’s Syria Policy Is a Success?

It seems more than fair to say that establishment press coverage of the deteriorating situation in Syria has been much lighter than what we’d see if a Republican or conservatives was in the Oval Office. Additionally, what has been reported in the admittedly complicated situation has been confusing at best and misleading at worst.

There was a moment of disconcerting clarity today which, if reported, should disturb even those Americans who only have a vague understanding of what’s going on in that country. As reported by Tim Mak and Nancy A. Youssef at The Daily Beast:

Obama Official Says Putin’s New War Is a Sign of American Success

Moscow displays its military might in Syria—while Washington shows its ineptitude. It’s all a sign, one top U.S. official says, that America’s Syria policy worked like a charm.

The Russian airstrikes on Syria are a sign that U.S. policy is working, a senior State Department official told shocked Syrian-American advocates in a private meeting on Monday.

The “Russians wouldn’t have to help Assad if we didn’t weaken him,” U.S. special envoy for Syria Michael Ratney said, according to multiple participants in the meeting and contemporaneous notes. Russian intervention, he went on to say, is a sign of success for American policy on Syria.

The special envoy’s remarks come even as Russia began launching long-range cruise missiles into Syria from the Caspian Sea. It’s a move that Pentagon officials called an attempt to both emasculate the United States and support the Assad regime.

… Ratney’s boast also angered some of the Syrian-American advocates and humanitarian representatives gathered at the State Department for the meeting with him earlier this week.

… “The U.S. should not take Russian intervention as a sign that their policy to weaken Assad has been a success,” one meeting participant told The Daily Beast. “Instead, it shows that we have not been able to lead and our half-measures have led the Russians to believe there are no consequences to attacking our allies and helping Assad kill and displace civilians.”

Ratney was not immediately available for comment. But Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain was mortified when told of Ratney’s remarks on how Russia’s intervention is a sign that U.S. policy is working.

“He should be on Saturday Night Live. I strongly recommend it. I guess if Russia takes all of Syria and Iraq, then that shows they’re really weak. It’s ridiculous… just delusional,” McCain told The Daily Beast.

Nearly a quarter of a million people—including approximately 12,000 children—have been killed since the Syrian conflict broke out in March 2011, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Putin began his campaign in Syria in late September, with reverberations that have echoed throughout the region.

If Michael Ratney isn’t a household name in 24-36 hours (there’s no mention of him yet at the Associated Press, but it’s early), it will be de facto evidence that the press is far more interested in protecting the Obama administration’s standing with the American people than it is in informing them.

Along the same lines, I would wager that quite a few readers here, even those who work very hard at staying informed, had no idea that the death toll in Syria has reached the quarter-million mark in 4-1/2 years. Nor have we seen any indication of an active attempt to track the death toll since Barack Obama issued his “red line” warning on chemical weapons in August 2012 — a “warning” which now appears to have been an exercise in pre-election posturing with no lasting impact or meaningful follow-through.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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