Thursday, 2 August 2012

No, ‘both sides’ are not equally guilty

What is it with modern journalism that makes reporters bound and determined to find the ‘middle ground’ in a story where it is does not exist (except of course when echoing the line emanating from Washington)? The News Hour last night reported on the apparent execution of secret police agents during the battle in Aleppo, which was captured on the usual cellphone videos and posted. The ITN voiceover then ponderously declared that both the Assad regime and the Free Syrian Army are now guilty of atrocities and therefore morally equivalent.

Oh, please. For over a year now, Assad’s thugs have systematically fired into peaceful demonstrations, rounded people up & disappeared them, tortured children (you do NOT want to know the details), and just this morning were found to have slaughtered dozens more people in Damascus. If Bashir and his family could nuke half the country to stay in power, they would. Now, in the middle of a war zone where the regime is targeting civilians, members of this criminal gang fell into the hands of the revolutionary army. So now we—who continue to stroke chins and debate when we have the right to torture civilians whom we deem our enemies—dare to compare them to a genocidal regime because they executed these prisoners?

This was an ugly scene, and summary justice is wrong. But time for a bit of real balance, my dears. We are witnessing a fight to the death on the streets of a city in chaos. We could ask—as the ITN reporter did not—if there were places to hold the captured cops, who had just picked off a dozen FSA fighters, so that they would not return to shoot at them again. Or do we expect them to behave correctly to satisfy our need for a pure, good-guy side to root for?

Let’s just do a thought experiment: if NATO troops in Afghanistan had done it, would we be having this debate? Or would the person who shot the video be in hiding with Julian Assange?

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