| by Ahnaf Kalam |
Eva Bartlett, an ‘independent’ Canadian journalist, stole the hearts of the anti-war Left in her account of what was really happening in Syria in a now-viral video clip from a UN press conference. Maintaining, among other things, that Syrian civilians overwhelmingly support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and that the mainstream media’s account of the Syrian Civil War is simply pro-regime change propaganda, her position — and her condescending attitude — reflect the moral failings of the prevalent libertarian and anti-war Left movements when faced with humanitarian disasters.
The UN event where Bartlett made her statements, however, wasn’t a General Assembly meeting or anything remotely as significant, it was a panel hosted by the Hands Off Syria Coalition and the US Peace Council –– two overtly biased anti-Western nonprofit organizations. Fewer than a dozen people were in attendance.
Bartlett is also not an “independent” journalist: she is a contributor to RT, the state-sponsored news network of Russia. On her personal blog, she explicitly professes her support for the Assad regime:
“I support Syria against a ‘civil’ war that is funded, armed and planned by the western powers and their regional allies with a view to wiping out all resistance to imperialism in the Middle East…”
Not only does she conveniently brush aside, as though they were fringe details, Russia’s leveling of hospitals in Aleppo, its decimation of UN aid convoys, and Bashar al Assad’s use of chemical weapons against civilians, she further goes on to claim that there are no international organizations on the ground in Syria, that the civilian victims in Aleppo are “recycled actors,” and that the Al-Quds hospital, which had been bombed in the Spring of 2016, had not actually been bombed, despite the incident having been confirmed in a report by Doctors Without Borders, who have been working closely on the ground in Syria with the Al-Quds Hospital for over four years. Snopes also put out a recent piece, branding Barlett’s claims as “false.”
It is very telling that Bartlett is not only suspiciously selective in her narrative, but completely denies reality. The amount of mental gymnastics necessary to convince herself that Bashar al Assad and Vladimir Putin are not the bad guys is astonishing. Bartlett has resorted to claiming that the countless civilian children in Aleppo are simply actors, notwithstanding the fact that “Aya” is a very common name in Syria. She has denied well-documented accounts from international organizations (who she maintains are not even there in the first place) as to the unending list of crimes committed by Russia and Syria. She doesn’t even so much as raise an eyebrow at the fact that Mr. Assad won the recent elections in Syria — and only in government-controlled parts of Syria — with almost 90% of the vote, and instead, assumes that to mean that he is a favorable leader. She would likely be shocked to learn what was in store for the people who didn’t vote for Assad.
Further, Bartlett attempts to preemptively administer culpability to the United States for the chaos in Syria. Not for its inaction or its failure to intervene, which would have been a fair criticism to make, but for actions and mistakes it has yet to even make. To Bartlett and other so-called “anti-imperialist” Assad apologists, massacring hundreds of thousands of civilians, torturing and executing dissidents, and destroying entire cities is preferable to the United States and the West even doing so much as looking in the direction of Syria.
Though hardly anybody was in attendance at the actual press conference, Bartlett’s sentiments don’t fall on deaf ears. For many Americans, to even mention humanitarian military intervention is an irredeemable sin practiced by only the most sinister neoconservative war-hawks.
Without a doubt, a large contributing factor to the election of Donald Trump was the large number of Americans who were completely disenchanted by even the thought of another military intervention after the long and costly operations in Iraq and Afghanistan which, by the end, were widely seen as unsuccessful endeavors.
Having gone a step further than simply voting against a hawkish Hillary Clinton, many have internalized Donald Trump’s prospective plans to reconcile our relationship with Russia and have become complacent with the idea of joint cooperation with the Kremlin.
Over the last several years, Putin has been quietly testing the waters. Having invaded Crimea in 2014, flattened hospitals in Aleppo, and allowed his friend Mr. Assad to murder his own people with chemical weapons, he has taken notice of the fact that Washington has hardly lifted a finger in response, thus enabling him to keep doing what he is doing.
For Mr. Putin, the election of Trump could not have come at a better time, as he now effectively has a free pass to call the shots in Syria without reprimand from the US as long as Trump believes that Russia is helping him kill ISIS terrorists. Like Mr. Trump, a striking number of Americans believe that ISIS is the biggest cause for the instability in Syria, and so to them, an alliance with Russia actually sounds like a good thing. However, to allow a primary offenders of human rights abuses, war crimes, and crimes against humanity to remain in power while the US, a wealthy and industrialized democratic superpower, sits by and does nothing is signing Syria’s death warrant.
Ahnaf Kalam is a Bengali-American ex-Muslim and writes on issues of politics and religion. You can follow him on Twitter @AhnafKalam