Thursday, July 21, 2016

Two tragedies, worlds apart

I got home from work and turned on the BBC News last night, expecting to hear something, anything, about a tragedy I’d been alerted to earlier in the day.

But there was nothing, not a word.                                  

I switched over to RTE News, and it was the same. Nothing. Silence.            
Coalition forces bomb a populated area in Syria

I felt I was living in an Orwellian world, where the people in authority, the elite, the Government, the authorities, call them what you wish, wanted to control what news I heard or saw.

At 7pm, I switched to Channel 4 News, and in fairness, at last, a mainstream channel on these islands dared to report on a horrific tragedy which had happened the day before.

I had read it in the Daily Telegraph, I had seen it on Russian Television, but when I watched both the BBC and RTE I began to disbelieve what I’d seen and heard.

How could such a tragic loss of life be considered so unworthy of attention?

Just a day earlier, an estimated 85 civilians, including almost a dozen children, had lost their lives. Yet there was no condemnation from our leaders, no minute’s silence, no expressions of regret about the loss of so many innocent lives.

The dead were in Syria, killed by air strikes.

US combatants had targeted an area in northern Syria which had been held by Islamic State (IS) or Daesh fighters.

85 lives lost, a death toll which was eerily similar to the 85 lives lost when a terrorist in a truck ploughed through a crowd of revellers celebrating Bastille Day in the French city of Nice.

All across Europe, people were, naturally, in shock at the news of another terrorist atrocity on French soil, coming so soon after the relief of seeing the European Championships football tournament conclude without any major incident.

Malcolm X: his jaundiced views of elements of the media
seem even more appropriate in 2016

France was in mourning again, yet we hardly ever hear news reports about the bombings carried out by the French in Libya or Syria.

After the latest Syrian attack, there were no commemorative walks along the Salthill Promenade or books of condolences opened up in Dublin.

Editors at the BBC and RTE did not even deem the attacks worthy of reportage.

So why is this important?

Well, the ‘terrorists’ who carried out this attack regularly stop to refuel their war planes at my local international airport. Nobody knows what they carry through Shannon, because nobody dares to find out.

On the day after the atrocity in Tokhar, the Irish Government confirmed in the Dail - the Irish parliament - that over 25,000 US troops had passed through Shannon Airport in the first six months of this year.

Gardai won’t search their war planes and those “dissidents” who dare to do so, some of them respected academics, can expect to make a visit to Ennis District Court.

When over 120 civilians are killed in just a few days in Syria and Iraq, we don’t see their faces on the TV (unless we go looking for obscure channels) and we aren’t even told that the French or the Americans killed them on our behalf.

It is believed that eight families were wiped out in the attack on Tokhar on Tuesday, in one of the deadliest bombings by coalition forces since the outbreak of war in Syria.

Two days earlier, a woman, four children, and an elderly man were also killed by coalition forces in an air strike on the Syrian city of Manjib.

The US military says it is investigating the civilian deaths, which is more than can be said for the Irish authorities who haven’t a clue who or what has been flown through Shannon (in ‘neutral’ little Ireland) over the past 13 years.

The loss of any innocent human life, whether in France or Syria, is a tragedy.

But some elements of our media don’t even bother to report some of them and, when they do, they refer to the lives lost as “collateral damage”.

How dehumanising our language has become over the 80 years since George Orwell used to write about Big Brother and the brainwashing of the totalitarian state.

Now “we” use drones to kill people thousands of kilometres away – US President Barack Obama famously sits down every Tuesday with his advisers to decide who should be slaughtered this week.

We rightly condemn the Islamic terrorists who carry out atrocities on European soil, but we ignore or are afraid to condemn the “terrorists” in uniforms who carry out atrocities on our behalf.

We don’t see their victims and the perpetrators view them from the skies, or military bases hundreds or even thousands of kilometres away, as though they were playing video games.

How much easier it is to "dehumanise" a civilian victim in Iraq, Syria, or Afghanistan when you kill them by pressing a button far removed from the combat zone.

So over the past week we've had at least two tragedies, which seem to be worlds apart.

We stop to mourn the deaths of innocents in Nice, and rightly so, but our "masters" decide not to even
tell us about a tragic loss of life in a Syrian town.

Why would we mourn them?

We never, or hardly ever, see their anguished relatives on our TV screens.

The monthly protest against US military
use of Shanon Airpor

And then we wonder why people in the Middle East detest the western world?

The attacks on civilians in Syria or Iraq don’t justify the appalling scenes we have seen in France and Belgium over the past couple of years, but they do at least provide some sort of context which is dangerously lacking from elements of our media.

It’s easier to understand why there is so much hatred out there when our politicians and news channels make it clear that some lives don’t really matter.

There is no doubt that ISIS are murderous terrorists, who pose a threat to the entire world.

But the people who bomb cities thousands of miles away don’t always do so with good intentions, as the Chilcot Inquiry found when it investigated Tony Blair’s rush to war in Iraq.

Sometimes the “terrorists” are on our side, too, much as we choose to ignore the uncomfortable truth about what’s really going on in the unreported parts of the world.

You can watch an Al Jazeera report of the tragedy in Syria here:

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