Socrates, Syria, Amy Goodman and “Democracy Now”

It is unusual to encounter in the western media rigorous questioning of people who support the overthrow of the Syrian government.  This could simply be because the situation in Syria is too complex for the producers of programs to get their heads around all the issues and events happening there.  They are resource and time poor. Or it could be that one narrative has been accepted and this narrative will not be challenged.

This page is to encourage more critical questioning of guests who are invited to speak about Syria.

Ref:  Prof. James F. Tracy, Associate Professor of Media Studies at Florida Atlantic University, has written a critique of the manner in which progressive journals can support war.  He gives attention to “Democracy Now” and its presentation of the crisis in Syria.
 
“Progressive” Journalism’s Legacy of Deceit
 

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The list of questions below are ones Amy Goodman from “Democracy Now” could have asked an anonymous female Syrian ‘activist’ interviewed by DM.

DEMOCRACY NOW

Syrian Activist in Hiding: “We’re Not Looking for Intervention, We’re Looking for Support”

19 July 2012

 

http://www.democracynow.org/2012/7/19/syrian_activist_in_hiding_were_not 

 

QUESTIONS  

THE ARMED AND UNARMED OPPOSITION

  • You support the armed ‘opposition’.  What can you tell us about the unarmed ‘opposition’ in Syria?
  • What were the main political parties that have stood against the Baath Party in the recent elections?
  • In what circumstances would you be willing to work with the unarmed opposition?
  • We heard that the son of the leader of one of the main political parties was assassinated just one day before the election.  Who do you think killed him and why?
  • A member of the Communist Party is a minister in the new government.  What ministry does he have? Is the Syrian Communist Party aligned with any other communist party in the world?
  • What are the different support bases and platforms of the armed and unarmed opposition?
  • What motivates people to support the unarmed opposition rather than the armed opposition?

THE BOMBING (THE KILLING OF THE DEFENSE MINISTER AND OTHERS ON 18 JULY 2012)

  • You say a lot of people are ‘glad’ about the bombing.  Who is glad and why?
  • The Defense Minister was a Christian Syrian.  What has been the response of the Christian community to his killing?
  • Another minister killed was a member of the Sunni community.  Is the Sunni community very divided about his killing?
  • Syria is a secular country, so was the religion of those killed relevant to many people?
  • If the FSA and other armed fighters kill more leaders and soldiers it could seriously undermine Syria’s defense capabilities.  Does it concern you that it could make it very difficult for Syria to successfully defend itself from, for example, an attack from Israel?
  • There are signs that the Syrian army is still strong and united.  To topple the government it would be necessary to kill tens of thousands of loyal soldiers.  What belief or ideology can justify such large scale killing?  If the army is destroyed, Syria could become a terrorist stronghold; bloody fighting could continue for decades. Is this a concern for you?

ABDEL JABAR AL-AKAEDI, THE FSA, AND THE CRIMINAL REGIME

  • The leader of the FSA, Abdel Al-Akaedi, describes the Syrian government as a ‘criminal regime’.  There are groups which are affiliated with Al-Qaeda fighting alongside the FSA. Moreover, the armed opposition has been accused of committing crimes against humanity, as has the Syrian government. Therefore, if the FSA did topple the Syrian government, how could it ensure it would not replace the government with a regime even more criminal than the current one?
  • Abdel Al-Akaedi thanks God for the killing of the ministers.  Since the beginning of the Arab Spring in Syria, clerics have issued fatwas against the Syrian government. Also, in most videos showing the rebels fighting, you hear the rebels call out “Allahu Akbar”.   Syria is a secular country.  Is the fight against it predominantly a religious one?
  • If it is not a religious fight, do you think the fatwas of extremist clerics and Al-Qaeda’s involvement should be condemned?
  • Are you worried about extremist views dominating the armed opposition because that could lead to the killing of many innocent people based on their religious background?
  • What is the ideology which incites ‘rebel’ fighters to kill soldiers and supporters of the government?

THE INFORMATION MINISTER

  • The Information Minister accuses Arab and Western countries of being responsible for the bombing which led to the death of the Minister for Defense and others.  It has been public knowledge that Saudi Arabia and Qatar have funded and armed fighters for some time, and the U.S. is apparently giving assistance.   What other countries are involved in supporting the ‘rebel’ fighters?
  • After 9/11, the U.S. ‘punished’ Iraq and Afghanistan and hundreds of thousands of people were killed and millions displaced.  The Syrian Information Minister talks about countries which supply bullets to the rebels being ‘punished’.  Do you think Syria will try to do what the U.S. has done to Iraq and Afghanistan?
  • Some Syrians believe that the U.S. works with Saudi Arabia and Qatar to support the armed opposition because the U.S. wants to punish Syria for resisting it.  Could that be true?
  • Has Saudi Arabia and Qatar got any reason to ‘punish’ Syria?  They are the only Wahhabi states in the world.  Could they want to ‘punish’ Syria for being secular?
  • It is said that Qatar wanted to pipe natural gas through Syria very cheaply and the president wouldn’t accept this.  Could Qatar be trying to ‘punish’ Syria for not agreeing to their offer?

THE PEOPLE AND THE VIOLENCE

  • Tens of thousands of Syrians have been forced to leave their homes because of the fighting between soldiers and ‘rebel’ fighters.  Syria used to be considered a very safe country by travellers, but now there must be widespread fear in the country.  How long do you think it will be before it will be safe to travel or walk the streets again?
  • There are reports that the Christian community in Homs has been particularly affected.  Have ‘rebels’ forced Christians to flee their homes in Homs as reported, and if so why?
  • One of the earliest chants at demonstrations was, “Send Christians to Beirut, Send Alawis to their graves”.  Who is going to protect the millions of Christians and Alawis in Syria against the violence of those who support this chant? And who will support and protect the millions of other Syrians, the majority, who do not condone sectarian violence, who support secular Syria?
  • You say over 300 people were martyred in the recent fighting.  Does that include the soldiers killed in the fighting?
  • Are soldiers killed while defending Syria considered to be martyrs?
  • Damascus and Aleppo are the two most populous cities in Syria.  They have not supported the armed opposition; in fact, the cities were hardly affected by the fighting until recently.  Why haven’t they come out in support of the ‘revolution’?
  • If millions of people in the two major cities don’t back the armed opposition and want peaceful reform instead, how is the fighting against the government going to play out?  Will it mean a lot of killing in those cities?

THE MEDIA – WHO TO TRUST

  • You say you don’t watch Syrian television.  Many satellite television stations from across the Middle East are available to people in Syria, so what do you choose to watch?
  • Are there any Syrian journalists you trust?
  • There are many female journalists in Syria.  What other countries in the Middle East have so many female presenters and interviewers?
  • Three Syrian journalists were assassinated some weeks ago in their office.  Who do you think was responsible for their killing?  Why were they targeted?  What was your response to their killing?
  • There have been serious efforts to prevent the broadcasting of Syrian TV.  Who has been behind these efforts to censor Syrian TV channels and why?  Who does their censorship benefit?
  • Do you think the main media outlets in other countries reflect the foreign policy of the governments of those countries? Would you agree with the following:
  • Al-Jazeera presents the foreign policy of Qatar
  • Alarabiya presents the foreign policy of Saudi Arabia
  • The BBC presents the foreign policy of Britain
  • CNN presents the foreign policy of the U.S?
  • Since April 2011, quite a few reporters have apparently resigned from Al-Jazeera in protest against its reporting of the Arab Spring, particularly its reporting of events in Syria and Bahrain.  Has Al-Jazeera taken a partisan stand on Syria and become a participant in the crisis?
  • What is Qatar’s position on Syria?
  • The emir of Qatar has expressed opposition to the Syrian government and committed a lot of money to the rebel cause.  Do you think he could influence Al-Jazeera’s reporting of the crisis in Syria?  Would he lose face if the rebels didn’t win?

MASSACRES

  • Do you expect the government to crack down more heavily on rebel fighters now because of the bombing?  You say you anticipate massacres.  Why?  What sort of massacres do you anticipate?
  • Investigations suggest that anti-government fighters were responsible for the massacre in Al-Houla.  This is because those killed were supporters of the government.  Al-Qaeda has a presence in Syria.  Do you believe that fighters linked to Al-Qaeda were responsible for the massacre at Al Houla?
  • There have been reports of assassinations of civilians, even children by anti-government fighters.  For example, in June a professor, her two children and her parents were killed in their home.  How do you control fighters who kill innocent civilians in this way?
  • Sari Saoud was a young boy killed in Homs last year.  His mother claims he was killed by anti-government forces.  It appears that people responsible for his death wanted to use it as anti-government propaganda.  How commonly have children been killed in Syria for propaganda reasons?
  • What is the response of Syrians when they hear stories about anti-government rebels killing innocent children and trying to blame the army and government for the deaths?

SUPPORT FROM COUNTRIES OR FROM THE ‘PEOPLE’

  • The armed opposition has relied a lot on Saudi Arabia and Qatar for funds and arms.  You say you do not want to rely on any countries.  Would you like the UN Security Council to condemn countries which are supplying rebel fighters with weapons and funds?
  • Who will provide fighters with arms if you don’t rely on these countries?
  • You say you want support from the ‘people’.  What people would be willing to support the killing of soldiers and police as well as government supporters in Syria?
  • What will you say to people to persuade them to donate to the efforts to violently overthrow the Syrian government?
  • You say you don’t trust governments or politicians. Does that mean you are an anarchist?  Are there anarchists among the fighters?
  • Kofi Annan didn’t attend the ‘Friends of Syria’ meeting, but Hillary Clinton did.  Does that suggest Clinton is a better ‘friend’ of Syria than Annan?
  • Some of the members of “Friends of Syria” have been former colonizers of Syria, for example Turkey and France; some have tried to interfere in Syrian affairs before, for example, the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and Egypt.  Is there any country the Syrian people have reason to trust?
  • What is your opinion of the Annan peace plan?  For it to be successful, there needs to be intense pressure on the countries funding the rebel fighters so the smuggling of weapons can stop and the fighting can stop.  Which countries would be willing to pressure Saudi Arabia and Qatar, for example, to stop their arming of the rebels?
  • People normally cherish peace because they want to feel safe going about their everyday business.  When do you think children in Syria can play in the street again without fear?
  • If the FSA and other fighters are not willing to negotiate now with the government, when do you think they will be willing to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the conflict?
  • What is your vision of a ‘good’ government which could replace the current Syrian government?
  • Syria is virtually the only secular government in the Middle East.  What are the advantages and disadvantages to its being a secular government?
  • Do you know any inspirational leaders who could lead and unite all the Syrian people behind them?
  • You say the ‘Syrian street’ has become suspicious of the calls for intervention.  Of all the people and countries which help fund and arm the rebels, who does the ‘street’ trust?
  • Al-Qaeda is involved in the fighting in Syria. Why hasn’t the U.S. been more vocal in its condemnation of Al-Qaeda’s involvement, do you think?  How supportive is the ‘Syrian street’ of this?

HEROES AND FIGHTERS – WHO ARE THEY?

  • You say there have been heroes on the street.  Do you think there are heroes among the Syrian soldiers?
  • What do you feel for all those mothers and wives whose sons and husbands are in the army?  Do you think most of them believe their loved ones are defending their country?
  • Do you think the families of soldiers have mixed loyalties?  Do the families of the rebel fighters have mixed loyalties?
  • There have been reports of young soldiers being abducted by the FSA and being forced to fight with them otherwise they would be killed.  This way of recruiting fighters could be very counter-productive, couldn’t it?
  • For many people in Hama, Father Basil Nasser was a hero.  He was killed in the street when he was giving aid to someone who had been shot.  It is said Father Nasser was killed by armed men, not soldiers, but at some rallies of the opposition, Father Nasser’s photo is carried by members of the opposition to give the impression he was killed by soldiers.  How can we learn the truth about his killing?
  • There were many huge pro-government rallies last year and early this year.  However, there are very few rallies now.  Is this because people have been intimidated and are now afraid to show their support for the government?
  • Tens of thousands of Christian Syrians have been forced to flee Homs.  There are reports of some being killed by snipers.  Were there any heroes who tried to prevent the violence against them? How can we know who is killing whom in Syria?
  • You say you don’t want people to come into your ‘poor’ country.  But there are reports of fighters from Libya, Turkey, Iraq and Lebanon fighting in Syria.  Why makes them interested in your cause?  What unites you all?

WOMEN

  • Are there many women like you who support the armed opposition?
  • Syrian women are reputed to have more rights and freedom than almost all ME women.  What can women in Syria gain from the violence and the overthrow of the secular government?
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