Muslim Press has conducted an interview with political activist Paul Larudee to discuss the situation in Syria and the role of media outlets in reporting the conflict.
Here's the full text of the interview:
Muslim Press: How do you assess the humanitarian situation in Syria, in general, and Aleppo, in particular?
Paul Larudee: The humanitarian situation in Syria is appalling. Half of the population are displaced, and at least a quarter million people have died. It's worst in the active war zones, and Aleppo is the biggest and most active one. It's impossible not to be horrified.
MP: How do you analyze the operation to liberate Aleppo?
Paul Larudee: Many of us were hoping that the terrorist-held enclave of "East Aleppo" would collapse and all of Aleppo would finally be under government control. That will still hopefully happen, but not as soon as we had hoped. Of course, it's possible to carpet bomb East Aleppo into oblivion, but there is still a large civilian population there, so the Syrian government is not doing that, and they set up three areas for the civilians to leave the area. This is how the Syrian army has retaken most areas, such as Homs, Ghouta, Qalamoun, etc. It's why they have one of the lowest civilian/combatant casualty ratios of any war, even though the number of total casualties over five years is a great tragedy.
MP: What role does the UN play in the Syrian conflict?
Paul Larudee: The UN is providing part of the relief to displaced persons, both inside and outside Syria. In addition, it has provided inspectors that have documented the chemical weapons attack and helped to show that there is no credible evidence that the government used such weapons and that these are almost certainly "false flag" attacks. On the other hand, they have done nothing to curb or even denounce the violations of Syrian sovereignty by the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the NATO alliance and other countries. Admittedly, there is little that they can do because of the US veto power in the Security Council. As a result, it has not been very effective in bringing peace to Syria.
MP: What’s your take on the media outlets that report the Syrian conflict? Do they portray a true image of the war with concrete facts and evidence?
Paul Larudee: More than 2500 years ago, the Greek playwright Aeschylus wrote, "In war, truth is the first casualty." This has not changed. As usual, the media are being used as instruments of war, and even the NGOs are providing false and biased information according to the source of their funding. However, I must say that the reporting on Syria is unusual for the extent of fabricated information, including photos and videos that are no more than theater or are real but from totally different origins than reported. Some are reused from other places and sometimes not even Syrian. Caveat emptor!
MP: Syrian Army has been accused of starving out the residents, using barrel bombs and chemical weapons against civilians. What could you say about this?
Paul Larudee: This is war. We have to be realistic. The Syrian government makes every effort to get civilians to leave a war zone, and offers support services to those who do. But some of them still don't leave, either because they are afraid of what might happen to their homes or because the terrorists use them as "human shields" and prevent them from leaving, or for their own reasons. In this case it is not unusual for government forces to besiege the area. This is less dangerous to the civilian population and to the soldiers (whose lives are also important) than sending the army in to fight door to door. Under these circumstances it is often difficult for the population to get supplies. In some situations, the starvation has been real, as in Ghouta and the last days of Homs before liberation, but it has also been fabricated or exaggerated, as in Madaya. Keep in mind that the anti-government fighters do the same, as with the sieges of the towns of Foua and Kafarya, which have lasted for years.
The difference is that they often do not end with respect for the lives of the captured population. By contrast, when most of the civilian population has left, the government tries to end the siege peacefully, often by offering amnesty to the fighters. Those who refuse are then often attacked by aerial bombardment and other weapons of war that are most likely to spare the lives of the soldiers. This usually ends in surrender.
"Barrel bombs" are just simple gravity bombs that are made in Syria. They are not fundamentally different from other bombs dropped from aircraft except that they are much less expensive to produce and use, and must be dropped from helicopters because they would be less accurate from jet aircraft. The western media and governments hypocritically argue that "barrel bombs" are inhuman. Their governments use different bombs that are just as destructive or even more so, but they can demonize "barrel bombs" because they do not use them.
With regard to chemical weapons, it is absurd to think that the Syrian government would use such weapons. If they didn't use them before Obama's "red line" warning, why would they do so afterward? What advantage would be gained? That's why they decided to eliminate such weapons altogether. The available evidence all indicates that the sarin in the attacks came from Libyan supplies or was manufactured from base materials. It's not that difficult. The fanatical Aum Shinrikyo terrorists made their own supply in Japan. Their usage in Syria was a false flag operation intended to push the US to attack Syria. It didn't work.
Paul Larudee is an Iranian-born American political activist who is a major figure in the pro-Palestinian movement. Based in the San Francisco Bay area, he is involved with the International Solidarity Movement and was a founder of the Free Gaza Movement and the Free Palestine Movement.