The olden days of warfare, of shrewd generals commanding their gallant troops into majestic battles, are long gone. The guerres du jour are served as drawn out, low-intensity meat grinders across land, sea, and air, augmented by a generous portion of ideological – and perhaps, one could say, memetic – disinformation warfare waged both conventionally across mainstream media and asymmetrically on one of the most sophisticated pieces of technology devised by humankind: the Internet.
In the information age, the collective power and influence wielded by the Western establishment in the government, media, intelligence, and military spheres form the most powerful arsenal in the battle for public opinion. The lionization of the YPG, the Kurdish guerrilla which form the backbone of the US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in the Western psyche as “an organization which has an ideology that combines libertarian socialism, gender equality, respect for ethnic minorities, secularism and green politics”– as described in a recent Felix comment piece – is one of the most recent showcases for the power of this propaganda machine. The narrative from the Western mainstream media about this group is structurally sound only when supported by cherry-picked examples which distort the facts on the ground by presenting half-truths, or, in some cases, outright falsehoods. The YPG commit acts which are as reprehensible and against the ideas of the “Western liberal consensus” as any other group in this conflict, examples of which include:
- The use of female child soldiers under the influence of drugs (translation)
- Admitting to use of civilian clothing by its militants which is a war crime per Article 48 of the Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions, blurring the lines between combatants and civilians
- According to the UN, preventing civilians from leaving Afrin [10.30] and hence utilising them as human shields (a tactic also used by ISIS)
- Supporting attacks on civilians in Europe – think about what the headlines would have been in the case of similar Molotov attacks backed by ISIS
Sifting through popular media outlets such as CNN or The Guardian, it is nigh impossible to find any reporting on these deeds which would tarnish the YPG’s credentials.
“It is painfully obvious that Western intervention amplifies suffering”
Such selective reporting is, of course, not unique to the internet age. The most harrowing example of this behaviour is The Independent’s heroic portrayal of Osama bin Laden soon after the end of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, when his fighters were still useful CIA assets. However, whether delivered by the far more pervasive platform of the Internet or via the ancient-yet-proven medium of newspapers, the main objective behind such pieces is often drumming up support for interventionist foreign policy objectives. These policies have already led to disastrous consequences not only in the warzones themselves (attacking Afghanistan to destroy a regime led by militias who staged 9⁄11 but were previously supported by the CIA; outright lying about Iraqi chemical weapons as a pretext for invasion; “humanitarian interventions” in Syria and Libya) but also in Western countries as evidenced by the recent string of Islamist terrorist attacks across Europe and the USA.
In fact, a feedback loop created in the wars’ effects in Europe is the most peculiar – it is a two-step process initiated, ironically, by Western interventions, such those as in Libya and Syria which accelerated radicalization of Muslims living in the West and worsened the refugee waves. The second step is the radicalization of the Euro-American right which leads to further foreign interventions. The most tragic manifestation of this causation loop in the UK was the Manchester bombing in 2017, where the attacker was trained by the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group – an organization funded by the MI:6 in the 1990s to assassinate Gaddafi.
In response to the Manchester bombing, Jeremy Corbyn faced excoriating responses for suggesting that failure in foreign policy played a central role in the propagation of extremist ideologies, and that the war on terror was a failure. Upon closer inspection, it is painfully obvious that whenever Western groups support foreign armed groups, it inevitably amplifies suffering for both the people in those countries and the West itself. The world is now teetering on the edge of a war in Iran following US President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal. To break this cycle of madness, it is increasingly important to write to your MP, vote for non-interventionist candidates, and oppose all foreign intervention – whether that intervention takes the form of a supposedly Icelandic Pirate Party-esque militia or of a conventional invasion. Otherwise, the tragedies of Iraq, Libya and Syria could repeat in Iran in 2019.