Residents look for survivors at a damaged site after what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the Al-Shaar neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria September 17, 2015. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail - RTX242XG

Why Everything We’re Hearing About Aleppo Right Now Could Be Wrong

As the Russian U.N. envoy announces that its military operation in Aleppo is complete, I’m in two minds about the war that has ravaged the Syrian city…

Residents look for survivors at a damaged site after what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the Al-Shaar neighbourhood of Aleppo, Syria September 17, 2015. REUTERS/Abdalrhman Ismail - RTX242XG

I’m in two minds because the mass media has published extensive reports on the fact that the Russian and Syrian authorities have bombed the former economic hub of Aleppo into oblivion. According to Secretary of State John Kerry, Russia and Syria should face trial for war crimes. According to the media, there are no hospitals left in Aleppo because every single one of them has been bombed. According to this same media, there are 250,000 civilians trapped in Eastern Aleppo who has been pulverized by Russian and Syrian bombs. Yet even the New York Times admitted the population of Eastern Aleppo may only be in the tens of thousands.

I’m in two minds because the so-called rebels fighting for their freedom have also allegedly shelled a Russian make-shift hospital, killing Russian aid workers in the process. I’m in two minds because when the Russian authorities demands recognition of the attack from American officials and various human rights groups, they were told an investigation was needed in order to verify the claims. Yet every time the rebels – or a mouthpiece acting on behalf of the rebels – alleges Russia and Syria have committed a crime, it receives widespread coverage from the mainstream media without any form of verification whatsoever. I’m in two minds because despite this one-sidedness, according to Save The Children, half of the victims of Russia’s aggression have been children.

I’m in two minds because one side of the media spectrum promulgates the idea that Syria is committing genocide against its own people. Yet this same media has already acknowledged that those rebels who previously held Eastern Aleppo have been sniping down civilians trying to escape their clutches during their so-called “liberation.” We have seen endless footage of civilians rejoicing after escaping al-Qaeda affiliated fanatics and making it safely to government-controlled areas; but we don’t know whether to trust these videos because they are not from our trusted media (who, of course, would never spread lies). Never mind that our trusted media has admitted that the majority of civilians (1.5 million) already lived in the government-held areas of Aleppo and were subject to rebel shelling constantly.

I’m in two minds because, as even the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has stated:

“During the last two weeks, Fatah al-Sham Front [in other words, al-Qaeda] and the Abu Amara Battalion are alleged to have abducted and killed an unknown number of civilians who requested the armed groups to leave their neighborhoods, to spare the lives of civilians…We have also received reports that between 30 November and 1 December, armed opposition groups fired on civilians attempting to leave.”

Further, “indiscriminate attacks” were reportedly conducted on civilian-dense areas in western Aleppo as well as in “‘rebel’ eastern Aleppo.”

I’m confused because even as Western media reports that the Syrian government is destroying Aleppo, they insist on quoting a spokesman from the very same formerly U.S.-backed rebel group that was filmed beheading a ten-year-old child only a few months ago. I’m confused because, in contrast, I have never seen the corporate media quote al-Qaeda in Afghanistan to demonstrate what it is like for those who have been subject to NATO bombs for over 15 years.

I’m in two minds because a think tank founded by suspected war criminal Tony Blair concluded it was pointless to distinguish between moderate and extremist rebel groups on the ground in Syria because they all share ISIS’s core belief system. Even the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army said they regularly conduct joint operations with al-Qaeda, their “brothers,” and that they wish for Syria to be ruled by Sharia law.

I’m in two minds because I have been told that Assad is illegitimate, yet in spite of his own crimes, he has maintained the majority support of his people throughout the conflict. That same regime holds the seat at the U.N. and formally requested Russian intervention in the Syrian war.

I’m in two minds because the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which often reports on Russian and Syrian war crimes, is run by one man out of his T-shirt shop in Coventry, England.

I’m in two minds because the U.S. coalition is supposedly in Syria to fight ISIS, but when Russia was making significant advances against the terror group, a NATO ally shot down a Russian plane. I was at a loss for words as a coalition airstrike killed 62 Syrian soldiers, paving the way for a timely ISIS offensive. Even this week, as ISIS retook Palmyra from the Syrian authorities, the U.S. coalition refused to act to repel ISIS’ assault on the ancient Syrian city.

I’m in two minds because as the war rages on, there appears to be no real hope in sight for the Syrian people. I’m in two minds because there is an overwhelming amount of evidence that the U.S. and its allies instigated the war in the first place by forcing Assad to overreact to the threat of extremists flooding the country, according to Wikileaks. Still, Russia and Syria are set to finish the war in a gruesome, horrendous, and egregious way.

I’m in two minds because John Kerry called for Russia to be tried for war crimes, yet Russia withdrew from the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) jurisdiction not long after. This is most likely due to the fact that the ICC reported that Russia has been occupying Ukrainian territory, and considering a recent preliminary probe found the ICC could prosecute the United States for CIA’s war crimes committed in Afghanistan, Russia probably opted to bow out before it, too, could be investigated.

I’m in two minds because rather than fighting effectively with a clear strategy, the U.S. has been waging a proxy war against itself by supporting fighters on the ground and allies in the region who have been fighting themselves for some time now. At least the Syrian and Russian authorities have stated goals, a clear strategy, and an effective fighting force on the ground.

But this alone cannot absolve Russia, Syria, and Iran of their duty to protect civilians. The people who matter the most – the Syrian people – are nothing but pawns on a political chessboard.

I’m in two minds because President Trump may live up to his promises to focus more on ISIS than removing Assad, yet rich regional players such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar have insisted they will continue to support rebels regardless of what Trump does.

I’m in two minds because if that is the case, this war will never end. I’m in two minds because the U.S. and its allies have pushed this war to the breaking point, even though they could have accepted Assad’s removal in a potential peace deal 2012. I’m in two minds because though the U.S. has instigated and escalated this war over the course of half a decade — arguably forcing a Russian intervention — any legitimate criticism or observation I offer makes me a “useful idiot” of Russia’s propaganda arm.

According to whom? Good question.

I’m in two minds because I don’t want to pick a side in this battle; I’m joined by many others who just want the fighting to stop.

If this is to be done, however, the U.S. will have to accept defeat and move on. The focus now should be on protecting civilians from rebel forces, coalition forces, and pro-Assad forces alike. It should be on rebuilding the country, regardless of who takes control of what’s left of Syria.

The country does not need more guns, more terror, or more funding, training, and weaponry for shadowy militant groups. Realistic peace deals should be the goal, and the various regional powers should put their ludicrous differences aside to work together on resolving the crisis.

I’m not in two minds about that.

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