HomeArticleUS Coverup Of Syria Massacre Shows The Danger Of The Assange Precedent

US Coverup Of Syria Massacre Shows The Danger Of The Assange Precedent

Listen to a reading of this article:

The New York Times has published a very solid investigative report on a US military coverup of a 2019 massacre in Baghuz, Syria which killed scores of civilians. This would be the second investigative report on civilian-slaughtering US airstrikes by The New York Times in a matter of weeks, and if I were a more conspiracy-minded person I’d say the paper of record appears to have been infiltrated by journalists.

The report contains many significant revelations, including that the US military has been grossly undercounting the numbers of civilians killed in its airstrikes and lying about it to Congress, that special ops forces in Syria have been consistently ordering airstrikes which kill noncombatants with no accountability by exploiting loopholes to get around rules meant to protect civilians, that units which call in such airstrikes are allowed to do their own assessments grading whether the strikes were justified, that the US war machine attempted to obstruct scrutiny of the massacre “at nearly every step” of the way, and that the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations only investigates such incidents when there is “potential for high media attention, concern with outcry from local community/government, concern sensitive images may get out.”

“But at nearly every step, the military made moves that concealed the catastrophic strike,” The New York Times reports. “The death toll was downplayed. Reports were delayed, sanitized and classified. United States-led coalition forces bulldozed the blast site. And top leaders were not notified.”

Journalist Aaron Maté has called the incident “one of the US military’s worst massacres and cover-up scandals since My Lai in Vietnam.”

Asked by The Times for a statement, Central Command gave the laughable justification that maybe those dozens of women and children killed in repeated bomb blasts were actually armed enemy combatants:

“This week, after The New York Times sent its findings to U.S. Central Command, which oversaw the air war in Syria, the command acknowledged the strikes for the first time, saying 80 people were killed but the airstrikes were justified. It said the bombs killed 16 fighters and four civilians. As for the other 60 people killed, the statement said it was not clear that they were civilians, in part because women and children in the Islamic State sometimes took up arms.

I mean, how do you even address a defense like that? How do you get around the “Maybe those babies were ISIS fighters” defense?

Reading the report it becomes apparent how much inertia was thrown on attempts to bring the massacre to light and how easy it would have been for those attempts to succumb to the pressure and just give up, which naturally leads one to wonder how many other such incidents never see the light of day because attempts to expose them are successfully ground to a halt. The Times says the Baghuz massacre “would rank third on the military’s worst civilian casualty events in Syria if 64 civilian deaths were acknowledged,” but it’s clear that that “acknowledged” bit is doing a lot of heavy lifting there.

And it really makes you appreciate how much work goes into getting information like this in front of the public eye, and how important it is to do so, and how tenuous the ability to do so currently is.

Julian Assange currently sits in Belmarsh Prison waiting to find out if British judges will overturn a lower court’s ruling against his extradition to the United States to be prosecuted under the Espionage Act for journalistic activity which exposed US war crimes. War crimes not unlike those that were just exposed by The New York Times in its reporting on the Baghuz massacre.

The precedent the US government is trying to set with its persecution of Julian Assange will, if successful, cast a chilling effect over journalism which scrutinizes the US war machine, not just in the United States but around the world. If it can succeed in legally establishing that it can extradite an Australian journalist for publishing information in the public interest about US war crimes, it will have succeeded in legally establishing that it can do that to any journalist anywhere. And you can kiss investigative reporting like this goodbye.

This is what’s at stake in the Assange case. Our right to know what the most deadly elements of the most powerful government on our planet are doing. The fact that the drivers of empire think it is legitimate to deprive us of such information by threatening to imprison anyone who tries to show it to us makes them an enemy of all humanity.

______________

My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following me on FacebookTwitterSoundcloud or YouTube, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Ko-fiPatreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy my books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here

Bitcoin donations:1Ac7PCQXoQoLA9Sh8fhAgiU3PHA2EX5Zm2

Liked it? Take a second to support Caitlin Johnstone on Patreon!

Latest comments

  • From https://www.candobetter.net/james-sinnamon/blog/6200/australia-demand-your-parliament-finally-allow-debate-julian-assange “Australia: Demand your Parliament finally allow debate on Julian Assange” (25/11/21) by James Sinnamon at https://www.candobetter.net/james-sinnamon/blog/6200/australia-demand-your-parliament-finally-allow-debate-julian-assange:

    The final sitting of the Australian Parliament for 2021 is from Monday until Thursday next week. In the embedded video, I explain how, if it chose to, the Federal Government could have acted long ago to force the British Government to end the illegal imprisonment and torture of Julian Assange. Australians must make the government act to free Julian Assange, or else, hold it to account should it continue to fail to do so.

    As the end of the 2021 Parliamentary year approaches, there is still time for Australians to demand of the Government and Opposition to cease their obstruction and allow those 26 members of the Parliamentary Support Group for Julian Assange to move and argue for their motions in support of Julian Assange. Each and very Australian, who supports Julian Assange, must contact their local member of Parliament and each of their state Senators to ask them to at least act to ensure that at least enough time is found next week, starting from Monday 29 November, to have Julian Hill’s foreshadowed motion in support of Julian Assange moved, debated and then voted upon. My own 10 minute speech arguing for this and the transcript of that speech follows. The full transcript of that talk is included below the embedded video of my speech.

    See also “Video: Last chance for Assange as Australian Parliament blocks debate” (26/11/21) at https://youtu.be/h4sS4J-AL8o

  • Really appreciate your opposition to war and slaughter Caitlin – thank you. But I always feel upset by reports of “10 civilians killed”, “70 civilians killed” – because the actual number killed is in the hundreds of thousands. Calling this event the worst massacre since Vietnam is a desperate insult to the tens of thousands of children crushed under rubble and left to die of thirst in the dark in the bombing of Mosul whilst ISIS were allowed to go free after paying giving the US the gold they stole from religious buildings. And the pictures of the aftermath of the incineration of the city of Fallujah would give anyone nightmares. Complaining about 70 deaths is letting them off the hook for some of the worst criminal attrocities in ALL HUMAN HISTORY.

  • “I’d say that the paper of record [TNYT] appears to have been infiltrated by journalists…”
    Best thing I’ve heard all week!

  • First step: “[Bulldoze] the [targeted] site.”
    Second step: “[Bulldoze]” anyone who speaks with the Espionage Act.
    Third step: “[Bulldoze]” any written history with stenography.
    https://seaclearly.com/2020/11/29/what-is-left-to-be-trusted

  • “As for the other 60 people killed, the statement said it was not clear that they were civilians, in part because women and children in the Islamic State sometimes took up arms.”
    And the US Central Command didn’t even mention the worst part because given the hypersensitivity of US social media users and how sore they get at the slightest transgressions from the politically correct in societal matters like gender and race, it’s clear that the American public is not ready for it, but it’s a fact that the boyz also have to shoot “people who menstruate” over there because Islamic fetuses have been known to harbor terrorist thoughts and to learn swimming in the placenta in order to cross the ocean as soon as they’re born, with knives between their teeth, to come and slit your throat while you’re asleep.
    Cruel world…
    Anyway, the good news is that we can now feel free to shoot anybody we please since people everywhere “sometimes took up arms.” How do you know, as you’re absent-mindedly strolling through Central Park on a bright sunny day, that someone in this group eating pizza on the lawn by the Pond never “took up arms”? Short answer: you just can’t! The logical conclusion is that of the Pope’s legate at the siege of Béziers in 1209: “Kill them all, for the Lord knoweth them that are His”
    If you want to be honest, it’s the only way to ensure people’s safety.
    Except of course those eating pizza on Central Park’s lawn but you can’t make omelets without breaking eggs…
    According to the Pentagon’s own statistics, 90% of the people they bomb are innocent bystanders anyway and 99.99% of the hypersensitive US social media users don’t give a flying fuck about it, so what’s all the fuss about?

  • A story of two brave blokes:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-x29u7M7I0
    John and Julian.

  • The caste you are born into decides your fate. The upper caste is the one that kills all others. There are classes within the castes, but the under castes are not considered humans by the 1%. I was researching the 1 percenters as to who they are and I discovered the Thirteen families and the 300 supporting families as the people who make up the dominant and dominating caste. !% of 7 billion people on Earth at this time constitutes the brahmin caste and their rule is vicious and deadly and untouchable. They trace their origins as ancient and continuous. They fear no words. They allow word expression because it gives the illusion that fundamental change is possible. It really isn’t. Why do the elites have 160 bio-warfare labs al over the world taking local pathogens and making them into deadly bio-warfare tools? Who put up the Georgia granite slabs with the first inscription stating that the world population must be reduced to half a billion? On a daily basis how many people die because of the USA military,and the police are part of that military?

  • This reminds me of Bezos running the Afghan Papers story when he didn’t get a contract. What did the Pentagon screw the owners of the NYT out of? And why aren’t they afraid of being jailed or murdered? Who the Hell’s in charge around here, anyway? It just occurred to me that the main force behind Julian’s mistreatment might be his competitors.

    • I’ve been asking myself this since Assange was first accused. I clearly remember the NYT printing the Vietnam expose’, and I clearly remember the WaPo printing the Watergate papers.
      Why did neither of their publishers become jailed and tortured?

  • Frontline just did a report on the El Mozote massacre, the journalists who covered it, their cost in reputation and jobs, vindication and so forth. It was not a full hour, but just the second of two reports in the hour-long program. They totally failed to mention the role the Elliot Abrams played in the cover up of that massacre, or that it marked the beginning of a “stellar” failure career, going ever upward in covering up murder.

    Nice to see they brought this out but I kept looking for Abrams’ name. Or Rios Montt, who enjoyed his cover up by Abrams, more than mere cover up. And a line of other blood spilled in the Americas.

    A much repeated pattern.

    Or, the loss of LS-85 in Laos at Phou Pha Thi on March 11, 1968. This had been a VORTAC location and CIA station when, in November 1967, members of my squadron were sent to do the geodetic surveys (to upgrade latitude, longitude, elevation and azimuths) to upgrade this to a “Combat Skyspot” RGB (radar-guiding bombing) operation. They came out long before the NVA (North Vietnamese Army) overran them on the 11th because the numbers had to be fully calculated at the home squadron (Cheyenne, Wyomingm F.E. Warren AFB) in order to create more accurate bombing. Think of LS-85 kind of like “The Guns of Navarone.” Basically, we set up mathematical gunsights (actually, guiding bombs dropped on North Vietnam by aircraft). It was secret and was not allowed under treaties with Laos. It was also stupid. They were very vulnerable. Keeping it secret didn’t protect it from the NVA who knew immediately something was up, just from the extra construction choppers for the upgrade. Then from the increased bomb accuracy. The only people who didn’t know where the Laotians, the US citizens and anyone who might have had the common sense to put a stop to it (a typical “cowboy” op) before the inevitable fatal attack. Most personnel were killed. Only a few got out, extricated by chopper. Tell me again, how “operational security” protects the troops.

    • Oh, one more item. Of those few who got out, thanks in large part to CMSgt Richard Etchberger who was shot from the ground as he was the last one to climb into a helicopter. His family was told he died from a helicopter accident and didn’t learn differently for 13 years.

      quote from wikipedia (battle of Lima Site 85): On September 21, 2010 Chief Master Sergeant Richard Etchberger’s Air Force Cross (awarded posthumously in 1968) was upgraded to the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama at a White House ceremony for his actions during the Battle of Lima Site 85

    • I realized that the US government doesn’t care about the lives of its citizens when the Challenger shuttle blew up (and it was blown up). They didn’t care about the lives of the people in the three towers that were blown up (and they were blown up) on September 11, 2001.
      They didn’t care about the lives of the soldiers who were killed in Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, in Iraq, or in Afghanistan. They don’t care about the US citizens who are dying of Covid because we don’t have national health insurance. The people who die because there’s no affordable housing, and we have the highest nu number of homeless people in the “wealthiest” country in history
      In short, they don’t care about protecting the troops: they’re cheap, and there’s plenty more where they came from. (Sorry to be so crude about you and your buddies.)

  • The Times/Sunday Times in the UK may also have been infiltrated by journalists. Some good reporting on the (probable rape and) murder of a Kenyan woman in Nanyuki by UK ‘soldier X” which has been highly uninvestigated for years, despite being an ‘open secret’ in his regiment. Thanks in part to the Sunday Times reporting, the case seems to be making some progress at last.
    https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/british-army-soldier-murder-mother-kenya-9hffnjqqv

    https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/soldier-x-what-we-know-so-far-about-the-killing-of/id1501716010?i=1000541065422

  • While I understand your frustration and anger, Caitlin, you might as well bang your head against a brick wall for all the good it will do. Those in power have no scruples or morals and will continue on their vicious path until they are overthrown. This American Empire will eventually wind up in the dust bin of history as have all other empires throughout time. Sadly, many more innocents will suffer and die along the way.

    • Speaking the truth, if done in prophetic, not merely journalistic, mode, is an end in itself, with one caveat. It must be spoken to power. Caitlin and other leftist commentators like her are currently locked into that caveat. They preach largely to the choir and know it, but do not know what to do about it or, in some cases perhaps, are unwilling to leave the safety of their leftwing silos and engage directly with the enemy. How many champions of the left these days regularly raise their voices, if only via comments, in the silos of the right, all of those websites and blogs similar to Townhall? Check them out for your answer.

      • I and the Socialist Equality Party and the World Socialist Web Site raise our voices every day of the year. And you are a fool if you think we don’t comment on right-wing sites. They just delete our comments.

        • That would certainly explain it. I’ve just run a little experiment by posting an anti-capitalist comment on the lead article in today’s Townhall. I’ll report back here later as to whether it was simply mocked and derided…or erased.

          • Two hours gone by, and my comment is still up on the site and generating a small flurry of responses. Will report back later.

            • After another hour, my comment was moved to the very end of the list, but it’s still there getting shit on. Carolyn’s statement does not seem to be holding up, at least in my case. But I’ll check again a final time in a couple of hours or so.

              • 6 hrs and still up, last on list.

    • And when the American empire DOES end up in the dustbin of history, it will be no thanks to people like you who view resistance as beating one’s head against a brick wall “for all the good it will do”.

    • SAM:
      Your comment that Caitlin is beating her head against a brick wall clearly shows that you think her articles are directed to the perpetrators: the government and military. They’re not.
      They are directed to you, me, and the rest of the American citizens. It’s OUR JOB to stop these atrocities. You seem to be one of the hordes who look to someone – anyone – else to do it for us. No deus ex machina or superhero is going to pop out of the woodwork and save us from ourselves. No government agency or military conscience-bearers are going to do it for us either. Get off your dead *ss, put on your grownup pants, and expect yourself to be a conscientious citizen. The Declaration of Independence says that, if the government is not acting in the best interests of the people, it is not only our right, it is our DUTY, to stop it.
      Watch How to Start a Revolution DVD documentary and read From Dictatorship to Democracy the book. We can do this.

      • Excellent comment, a like from me.

  • Thank you, Caitlin, once again. I think we should outlaw this sort of thing (meaning, our US government!!!).

    <3

  • I read somewhere that there are negotiations going on between Russia and Israel over an American withdrawal from Syria. I don’t know how credible this report is, but it might explain the NYT piece as part of a plan to set the stage for an American withdrawal.

  • ‘Collateral damage’ surely the sickest expression ever, has been happening in war zones for centuries.
    The history is horrific.
    Since 1990 the MIC has made it THEIR plague:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilian_casualties

  • As always the US administration / NATO / war machinery , investigates itself and finds itself not guilty .It has always been like the fox watching the henhouse but in this case real people ,innocent men,women and children have succumbed to the absolute criminality of a totally corrupt system , of which they dare call free and democratic .

leave a comment