The ongoing crises in Syria and Venezuela have been described by mainstream media as the result of failed leadership. In truth, their troubles are the result of U.S.-led regime change efforts masquerading as humanitarian aid to control both nations’ lucrative oil and gas industries.
by Whitney Webb
Part 2 - Media manipulation used to cast Venezuelan, Syrian leaders as despots
While both Maduro and Assad have plenty of reason to be fearful of foreign intervention, such fears have been used to cast them both as paranoid, despotic leaders who are intent on killing and oppressing their own people. Despite the fact that Chávez had been targeted by a documented coup, led by the United States in concert with right-wing groups in Venezuela and Colombia, the Western media has consistently cited Maduro’s “paranoia” as a reason to regard him with suspicion.
The Economist, in its 2015 report “Venezuela’s Crackdown: A Slow-Motion Coup,” stated, “The regime’s favorite charge to level at hostile politicians is plotting to overthrow the government, often in conspiracy with the United States.” The Washington Post wrote that same year that “Maduro accuses business owners of waging an “economic war” against him and asserts that Ledezma and other leading opposition figures are part of an international plot that also includes Colombian paramilitary forces, Venezuelan expatriates in Miami, right-wing Spanish politicians and the United States, all bent on toppling his socialist government.”
Neither of these articles, or the scores more like them, mentioned the failed coup attempt of 2002.
While Maduro has been cast as a paranoid despot intent on clinging to power, Assad’s media coverage has been arguably worse. With headlines like “Bashar Al Assad: An Intimate Profile of a Mass Murderer,” “North Korea Congratulates Syria’s Brutal Dictator On His Recent ‘Election’,” and “As He Slaughters Civilians in Aleppo, Bashar Assad Prepares to Make Nice With Donald Trump,” it almost seems like Maduro has had it easy.
In a 2015 article published in The Atlantic titled “Bashar al-Assad and the Devil’s Endgame,” writer Dominic Tierney accused Assad of “pursuing a cynical, brutal, and risky strategy to cling to power.”
According to Tierney, the main cornerstone of this plan is to deliberately aid Daesh (ISIS) “so that the Syrian dictator looks like a lesser evil to domestic and foreign audiences.” Never mind that it is the U.S., not Assad, that has been caught aiding Daesh and that it has been Syria and its ally Russia who have been the only governments that have consistently and actively fought Daesh and erased gains made by the terrorists when only the U.S. coalition was attempting to fight them.
Another key facet of the media’s demonization of Assad is the use of the so-called “humanitarian” group known as the White Helmets.
This group, above all others, has been relied on by the Western media as the face of the Syrian opposition in promoting regime change. The photos and videos the group produces that show them removing children from rubble are used as proof of the claim that Assad butchers his own people.
The White Helmets, however, have been caught faking rescue missions in their videos. Despite claiming to be impartial and completely independent from foreign money and influence, the White Helmets also receive millions in funding from Western governments, including $23 million from the U.S. alone and millions more from the British government. The group was founded by a British mercenary and promoted by a top public relations firm that specializes in war propaganda.
In addition to this, the group operates almost exclusively in areas held by the al-Nusra Front, a Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate, with whom they have collaborated with on a regular basis. Many White Helmets members have been seen with al-Nusra in assassination videos that show them to be heavily armed.
This is in stark contrast to how the media paints the White Helmets as a humanitarian civil defense group.
The White Helmets have even popped up in Venezuela. Though lacking an official name for their organization, the group is composed of “volunteer medical students” who take care of those who have been wounded in anti-government protests that have become increasingly violent. Donning white helmets with green crosses, the group – while still in its infancy – is already garnering international attention and being used to accuse Maduro of attempting to murder his own people.
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