By Catherine Shakdam*
We live in a time where deception and misinformation have become so widely institutionalized and standardized that the very concept of propaganda has been reduced down to a simple matter of optics – how issues and crises should be best presented, and facts manipulated for the powers that be to benefit.
For the longest of time truths have been sold as lies and realities have been bent to fit specific narratives, stripping away our ability to critically analyze those arguments politicians have thrown at us, as they rationalize and legitimize their policies.
And while it would be foolish to expect any less from politicians – manipulation remains indeed the name of the game, there will always be certain instances where facts are so clear cut and choices so profoundly simple that not even the most astute spin-doctor will be capable of conjuring a lie – not without running the risk of unraveling those very deceptions powers architected.
Turkey’s downing of a Russian jet over Syria this November was one of those times.
When President Recep Erdogan willingly and meaningfully earmarked one of Russia’s jets for destruction – an act of war under international law – just so he could protect those interests he vested in ISIL terror network, those truths, those shadowy games certain powers have engaged in, were exposed right in the open.
As Russia watched its plane tumble to the ground, it is the world which awoke to the reality behind Turkey’s fallacious political stance against radicalism. There it was … Ankara’s real agenda, Erdogan’s dirty dealings with ISIL in the name of financial advancement.
In a report written for the New Eastern Outlook, Petr Lvov, a PhD in political science stated that Erdogan close circles of relations generated a “staggering 5 billion dollars a year” from their dealings with ISIL black oil, of which “2 billion going back to ISIL command structures for them to pay “salaries” to militants and purchase arms.”
But Turkey’s crimes are not just Turkey’s crimes, not when Turkey stands a member of the NATO, the very military alliance which has proclaimed itself the ultimate terror crusader, the rising tide against the cancer of ISIL.
Whether or not Western powers condone President Erdogan’s crimes, whether or not Western powers knew of his criminal friendships are beside the point now – politically the NATO has been damaged, its name, its values, its reputation, its political currency are all but spent.
And so something had to be done – optics had to be handled, and a new narrative had to be built so that political face could be salvaged, and pretenses protected under a new layer of moral veneer.
Only certain truths are too powerful to remain hidden, only this time the implications of those truths which were unveiled, might lead to more than just a clever game of public deception.
Erdogan today stands alone in the crisis he manufactured. For all his Western friendships, and all his geopolitical clout, the despot mastered but a few whispers of support from those he calls allies.
Reneged on and abandoned Turkey has had to rely on other alliances and other tricks to doctor its political legitimacy back to life.
And so the wheels of propaganda were spun against the one party, which through this entire crisis has risen above the petty and the ugly, to carve a path where reason and accountability remain powerful political matrixes – Russia.
Russia, which remains the unwarranted victim of an attack against its military, and thus its sovereignty has been dragged in the mud by unscrupulous journalists – or I should say propagandists; so that the bully could claim hardship his own, and the victim, Russia, could be left to hang in a court of public opinion.
Right there in the lead stands the Middle East Monitor, a UK-based media organization which has made a career out of its criticism of Israel.
If MEMO has indeed no qualms in calling out Israel on its war crimes and fascist tendencies vis-a-vis Palestinians, it remains oblivious to Turkey’s own, preferring instead to vilify Russia for daring allege that Turkey is indeed in league with ISIL radicals.
Imagine that! Well actually Russia’s claims are more than just allegations, they are factually correct. Unlike most, Russian officials don’t plant stories, they stick to documented facts.
It has been argued that President Vladimir Putin risks igniting World War III for demanding that those powers in league with ISIL be held accountable … Again imagine THAT! What a horrible policy indeed to call on the world to stand united against such treacherous individuals.
Seriously now, what’s next? Are we going to demand that justice be upheld against even the rich and the powerful?
Jamal Khashogji, a Saudi writer whose article for Al Hayat was translated and published in MEMO reads: “The Russian jet incident may well be repeated. We are nearly in a state of war with the Russians despite all the visits, meetings and smiles. Sooner or later Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey will appear in Putin’s eyes to overlap with the Syrian opposition. Once he fails to defeat this opposition he will start looking for someone to blame, and he will find no one but us.”
I find the “us” most interesting here. What is the “us” referring to? Us as in ISIL and Co … what does this “us” stand for really?
Also very telling are those powers Khashogkji mashed up into one alliance against Russia, when all Russia has ever done and ever demonstrated in the Middle East has been its desire to lay waste ISIL.
Or is that the problem? Is that really what the allusions to Russian war crimes and Russia’s alleged imperial folie des grandeurs are all about?
Let me tell you what I think.
I think Turkey and its allies, whoever they may be are desperately trying to shift the narrative by selling the public a repackaged Cold War rhetoric.
I think that Turkey is so very afraid of the storm it unleashed that it wants now to ignite old angers and old political fault lines to manipulate its way out of the fire pit.
But never mind what Turkey is trying to do – rather observe what it is that Russia has done and you might learn a lesson in political restraint.
Where most powers would have answered one fire with another: the United States did it, Israel did it, France did it … the list goes on; Russia answered the downing of its plane with political and economic sanctions.
Rather than seek cold hard revenge for the death of its pilot and risk throwing the entire region out of balance, President Putin choose legal channels to exact justice.
THIS is exactly how we will get ourselves out of the dangerous dynamics we find ourselves stuck in in the Middle East.
THIS is how responsible powers behave themselves – by abiding to the law.
Ankara I hope you’re taking notes.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT nor those of Human Wrongs Watch.
*Catherine Shakdam is a political analyst, writer and commentator for the Middle East with a special focus on radical movements and Yemen.
A regular pundit on RT and other networks her work has appeared in major publications: MintPress, the Foreign Policy Journal, Mehr News and many others.
Director of Programs at the Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies, Catherine is also the co-founder of Veritas Consulting. She is the author of Arabia’s Rising – Under The Banner Of The First Imam