That the US is arming and training Syrian rebels has been well-documented for over two years, yet western media has historically suffered from a strange, collective amnesia when reporting this fact. As Ian Sinclair noted last September The Huffington Post:
[I]n mid-2012 the most influential newspaper in the world reported the US was helping to arm the rebels - a fact confirmed by subsequent stories in the New York Times itself as well as numerous reports in other mainstream news outlets around the world...
Contrast this publicly available, easily accessed information with these summaries from the mainstream media of the ongoing US role in Syria:
• The Telegraph, 21 April 2013: "While Saudi Arabia and Qatar are both known to be channeling arms to the rebels, there was no indication that the United States, Britain or other western allies might follow suit."
• New York Times, 4 May 2013: "President [Obama] seems to be moving closer to providing lethal assistance to the Syrian rebels, even though he rejected such a policy just months ago."
• The Guardian, 8 May 2013: "The US, which has outlawed al-Nusra as a terrorist group, has hesitated to arm the FSA [Free Syrian Army]..."
• The Guardian, 23 July 2013: "Obama, who has been reluctant to engage too deeply in the Syrian conflict, changed [his] position on arming opponents of Assad's regime last month".
• New York Times, 9 September 2014: "Mr Obama has resisted military engagement in Syria for more than three years, out of fear early on that arming the rebels who oppose Mr
Assad would fail to alter the balance in the civil war."
• BBC Today Programme September 2014, Presenter Mishal Husein to US Ambassador: "If you [the US] had helped the moderate Syrian opposition, the Free Syrian Army, three years ago, even two years ago, we might well not be in the position that we are now. President Obama's reluctance to intervene and to take action on Syria has contributed to what we are seeing now." (1 hour 52 minutes in)
Why are all of these professional journalists - supposedly a profession made up of stroppy, questioning cynics - incapable of stating the most basic of facts about the US role in Syria?
And this week, it appears, the media's collective FSA-CIA amnesia has struck once again:
Pentagon: U.S. to begin to train and equip moderate Syria rebels
The U.S. isn't "beginning to train and equip moderate rebels". This is just false. The report makes no mention of the CIA's on-going operation of arming and training Syrian rebels thats been thoroughly documented for over two years.
Congress approved President Barack Obama's request to authorize training the rebels in September. The first group of rebels is expected to begin the six to eight weeks of training in Jordan by the "middle of March," the official said.
"The first group"? The "first group" of what?
Three U.S. officials, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the training could begin in mid-March.
"Could begin"? It's not "beginning", it's being reassigned.
The U.S. has been talking about training moderate Syrian rebels for months, but has been moving very slowly to identify groups and screen the fighters in an effort to ensure that enemy insurgents aren't brought in.
"'Talking about' training moderate Syrian rebels?"
Even political puff pieces let this trope go unchallenged:
He was right, he said, when he warned the U.S. to immediately arm moderate Syrian rebels two years ago — before the radicals in the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant began beheading hostages and declaring a caliphate.
But this is the exact opposite of reality. He's "warning" the U.S. ought to do something he, as a member of Congress, very-well knows they've already been doing for some time.
And, of course, Politico makes no mention of the CIA's on-going operation of arming and training Syrian rebels thats been thoroughly documented for over two years, allowing this nonsensical talking point to go unchallenged.
Some articles, even while mentioning this fact seem to contradict their own lede while doing so:
The plan comes as the U.S. prepares to start training moderate rebels, who are waging a two-front fight against the extremists and the Syrian regime...
It would tack on in paragraph 12:
The Central Intelligence Agency began a covert program to train and arm moderate Syrian rebels in 2013, providing ammunition, small arms and antitank weapons to small groups of trusted fighters. While that program continues, some officials and administration critics say it has fallen well short of its aims.
So, which is it? Is the U.S. "preparing to start training moderate rebels" or has the CIA been doing so since 2013? What they mean to say, of course, is that the U.S. isn't "preparing" to "train and arm moderate rebels" but rather - now that the war effort is popular - transfering the duty over to non-clandestine operations in the Pentagon. This isn't the announcement of a new policy, but rather a bureaucratic restructuring. Indeed, even the oft-referenced Congressional approval of funds for Syrian rebels in Sept 2014 --
--- was merely a formal sanctioning of a secret Congressional approval that occurred nine months prior:
The weapons deliveries have been funded by the U.S. Congress, in votes behind closed doors, through the end of government fiscal year 2014, which ends on September 30, two officials said.
The media's insistence on framing these policies as if they are revelations or anything new - and the omission of the crucial fact that such training and arming has been going on since at least June 2012 - is the awkward by-product of a war that's being done in secret first, only to be formally sanction by our institutions of power after the fact. Just as Obama asked Congress to "authorize" airstrikes that began over six months ago, the media is tasked, once again, with acting as if the U.S.'s training and arming of Syrian 'moderate' rebels is something new. It's not. It's a years old political reality that should be treated as a run-of-the-mill government reshuffling rather than the democratically-sanctioned shift in policy it almost certainly isn't.