FAIR has noted before how America’s well-documented clandestine activities in Syria have been routinely ignored when the corporate media discuss the Obama administration’s “hands-off” approach to the four-and-a-half-year-long conflict. This past week, two pieces—one in the New York Times detailing the “finger pointing” over Obama’s “failed” Syria policy, and a Vox “explainer” of the Syrian civil war—did one better: They didn’t just omit the fact that the CIA has been arming, training and funding rebels since 2012, they heavily implied they had never done so.
First, let’s establish what we do know. Based on multiple reports over the past three-and-a-half years, we know that the Central Intelligence Agency set up a secret program of arming, funding and training anti-Assad forces. This has been reported by major outlets, including the New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel and, most recently, the Washington Post, which—partly thanks to the Snowden revelations—detailed a program that trained approximately 10,000 rebel fighters at a cost of $1 billion a year, or roughly 1/15th of the CIA’s official annual budget.
In addition to the CIA’s efforts, there is a much more scrutinized and far more publicized program by the Department of Defense to train “moderate rebels,” of which only a few dozen actually saw battle. The Pentagon program, which began earlier this year and is charged with fighting ISIS (rather than Syrian government forces), is separate from the covert CIA operation. It has, by all accounts, been an abysmal failure.
One thing the DoD’s rebel training program hasn’t been a failure at, however, is helping credulous reporters rewrite history by treating the Pentagon program as the only US effort to train Syrian rebels–now or in the past. As the US’s strategy in Syria is publicly debated, the CIA’s years-long program has vanished from many popular accounts, giving the average reader the impression the US has sat idly by while foreign actors, Iranian and Russian, have interfered in the internal matters of Syria. While the White House, Congress and the Pentagon can’t legally acknowledge the CIA training program, because it’s still technically classified, there’s little reason why our media need to entertain a similar charade.