Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Arab agency

First, on Robert Fisk's visit to Douma, ahead of OPCW. If the victims were suffering from "dust" inhalation, then that means that the building they were in was bombed by Russian or Syrian forces ... something that seems to happen a lot, despite Russia/ Syria denials that they target civilians.

Which brings us to the question of why Robert Fisk is only trying to debunk one particular type of regime attack (for example, does he have any views on what has happened to the Syrian healthcare system in rebel areas due to government attacks on infrastructure and personnel?). Anyway, the answer is that Fisk is only attempting to debunk one type of attack, because it's the only one that burnishes supposed anti-establishment credentials. If there's no prospect of a western response, then there's no need to debunk, because it's just a plain vanilla al-Assad atrocity.

Fisk's style of reporting does a lot of damage, especially for people whose own anti-establishment mentality locks them into believing him and contrarians like him, and even more especially people who are themselves in the establishment but want the credential of not being so. Here's Michael McDowell explaining the Syrian crisis to his Sunday Business Post readers --

Indeed, it was Qatar and the Saudis, acting back then as joint sponsors of an Islamist Sunni revolution, that started the Syrian civil war. 

This is a standard narrative for soi-disant contrarians, but it ignores the fact that actual Syrians began their own Arab Spring protests, which the regime turned into a civil war by brutally repressing them. Then the Qataris and Saudis got involved (and by the way, here's a post we keep having to go back to as a reminder that the Saudis had no intrinsic quarrel with Bashar until he started killing protesters). But for Fisk and McDowell, it's far easier to view the Arab world through the lens of endless western machinations than to allow a role for choices made by Arabs themselves.

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