You’re al Qaeda. You’re being supported by the United States in your jihad to impose extremist rule on Syria, but you still have a PR problem; too many people remember all that unpleasant business from so long ago when you blew up a few buildings in the US. What can you do?
Well, first you change the name of your Syrian branch two or three times. You make sure your spokesmen — who actually get respectfully quoted in the US media! — say moderate things in English but speak with genocidal sectarian fury in Arabic. So far, so good. But what if your new US media buddies actually got a peek at how you operate on the ground in Syria — cutting off heads, hoarding food aid, colluding with ISIS, slaughtering religious minorities, oppressing women, etc.? That’s easy: as Patrick Cockburn noted this week, you simply make the zones you control so dangerous for reporters – killing them, kidnapping them, etc. — that they don’t go there anymore. Instead they “report” on your activities from far away, relying on you to provide their information, telling the story you want told.
And presto chango, that’s how those who murdered Americans have become America’s newest heroes, the brave defenders of freedom in Syria. What’s more, anyone who dares point out the true nature of your organization, and how you operate, are now denounced as apologists for the loathsome Assad regime, or as Putin-lovers, even as traitors! Think of it; just a few years ago, you were the most reviled and hated group Americans had ever known — and now Americans across the media and political spectrum hail you as heroes and defend you from all attacks!
Sure, you’ve lost your foothold in Aleppo, where for years you systematically persecuted people and forcibly prevented them from leaving. But America’s still got your back, AQ! Even when you attack relief convoys in an attempt to scuttle a peace deal that would allow anyone who wants to leave East Aleppo to go free, the American media will fudge the headlines so no one will know that it was you who did the deed.
[And hey, let’s not forget what America’s been doing for you in Yemen! Remember how the Houthis had you on the ropes, nearly ridding the country of your presence — and then the Americans stepped in with their Saudi allies, bombing the holy hell out of the place, choking off food and medicine supplies, destroying the infrastructure for basic survival, killing thousands of civilians and putting millions of people at dire risk of starvation! And suddenly you were back, making great gains, stronger than ever! You simply couldn’t ask for a better friend, could you?]
So buck up, AQ! With the full weight of the American media and political establishment behind you, no doubt there are still great days ahead! In fact, the president has just made it easier for you guys to get even more American weapons so you can carry on your noble quest! It’s just our way of saying Merry Christmas!