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Response to 4Corners presentation of “Syria Exposed”

February 20, 2012

ABC’s Four Corners broadcast the Jonathan Miller Channel 4 documentary, “Syria Exposed” (20/2/2012).  It was presented at a time when there is enormous pressure on the international community to support the armed opposition in Syria and to condemn the Syrian government. Senator John McCain has come out in support of arming the opposition.  Miller’s film will feed the lynch mob mentality of such calls. Below are responses of two members of Australians for Syria to the Four Corners, one is an email to the producer, Ms Sue Spenser, the others are comments on the 4Corners Facebook page  Also, there are references to recent interviews and articles which help to present a much fairer picture, a wider context and a broader perspective to the crisis in Syria. By itself, the Miller film has the potential to lend support to what could be a catastrophic war.

‘Australians for Syria’ will be making a formal complaint to the ABC.


Dear Ms Spencer,
Having now watched the 4 Corners production, “Syria Exposed”, I can say that overall my criticisms registered beforehand and written below, are unchanged, but my apprehensions and objections to the screening of such “unbridled propaganda” are only enhanced. And while the world weary cynicism of Robert Fisk was refreshing, the light of his long experience failed to illuminate the obscured background in Jonathan Miller’s emotive and shallow presentation.
On another level the program failed to reveal exactly why a highly forceful propaganda piece for the “Opposition” was screened by 4 Corners THIS week, a week when the opposition and all its Western and Gulf backers have launched a surge against the Russian and Chinese efforts to prevent a sectarian war, and the consequent installation of a pro-Western puppet government in Damascus.
We have seen a series of attempts to make the same allegations of torture of innocents by ‘the regime’ stick, and influence Western public opinion, and the subtle and continuous use of such allegations by activists and their support network given an airing by Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, organisations which habitually ignore or play down the serial abuses of countries allied to the west. 
Supporters of peaceful and democratic change in Syria, in which the current Assad government must inevitably play a part, dominate the Syrian population as well as the expatriate community in Australia. They strongly support the Russian efforts to help this process, and Russia’s vetoing of UN forced proposals which the majority of Syrians do not support. It is now clear to many people who take a global view of the conflict that the “Opposition” groups supported by the West and the Sunni Gulf states neither represent Syrian popular sentiment or gather significant support from it, outside the centres of resistance in parts of Homs and Idlib and Dera’a.
In this situation, one where the international pressure for change is not supported by those who will be its “recipients”, the part played by ‘the media’ has been highly significant, if not fundamental in provoking a conflict which could have been mediated and resolved peacefully, as has happened in other countries affected by ‘the Arab Spring’ – with the exception of Libya of course.
As such, even the most basic assessment and overview of the crisis is incomplete without a discussion of the key role of Al Jazeera and its virtual partner the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. One might think that events in Libya would have drawn attention to this ‘role’ – as the now state broadcaster for Qatar, which supplied both arms and skilled soldiers to help the Libyan rebels, Al Jazeera helped to create the mayhem which now exists there. A relatively fair and wealthy society presided over by an eccentric socialist was replaced by a multi tribal civil war, where there is no concept of ‘democracy’ or fair trial, and where tens of thousands of former supporters of Qadhafi are held and tortured without charge; this with the help of a devastating bombing campaign by NATO forces which killed many thousands of innocent civilians and reduced some cities to rubble.
And why did this happen, and under the UN flag of Humanitarian intervention?  Because the US, France and the UK colluded with the Gulf states, particularly Qatar and Saudi Arabia, to install a Western and Gulf friendly government which would give them access to Libya’s plentiful Oil resources without the irritant and unpredictable Qadhafi.
It should have been clear from this disaster in Libya, and the obscene NATO facilitated murder of Muammar Qadhafi, that there were other forces at work than those paraded by the West; that this was anything but a ‘moral intervention to stop a massacre’. But the work of Al Jazeera with its Muslim Brotherhood connections to present the conflict as a revolution against tyranny and in favour of democracy proved critical in winning this war on hearts and minds in the West.
The people of Syria are however not part of the West, and when Al Jazeera’s radical Sunni resident Imam started preaching for an insurgency against the ‘Shia heretics’ in Syria, public opinion rapidly turned against it. The resignation of six journalists and the head of AJ’s bureau in Beirut, in protest against Sheik Qaradawi’s sermons and the direction that Al Jazeera was going, was the start of events that led to the ejection of AJ from Syria. While this was a government ban, the people quickly followed suit, and Al Jazeera’s falsifications have now become legendary. The formerly distrusted Syrian state TV began to show the events reported by AJ alongside its own – demonstrations and reported shootings were seen not to have taken place, and fabrications of videos were increasingly exposed.  At the same time the deaths of soldiers and security forces, as well as innocent people at the hands of ruthless insurgents, were reported daily from early on in the rebellion on Syrian TV. Like the massive demonstrations of support for Assad, and Russia, – ones which Robert Fisk has written about before – these deaths were ignored or denied by Western media, and in large part because the original sources were always the same – opposition activists and their conduit through the SOHR and AJ.
This media representation has now reached the point where suicide bombings carried out by jihadis against government buildings and people in Damascus and  Aleppo can be blamed on the government by ‘reliable sources’ such as the BBC and the Guardian. Despite the US admitting last week, after being caught out by Ayman al Zawahri, that ‘AL Qaeda’ was probably responsible for the suicide bombings, there has been no apology or expression of regret for accusing the Syrian government of this heinous crime – one which it had already claimed to have been carried out by ‘jihadist groups’ or Al Qaeda – or in other words, the “Free Syrian Army”.
I will commend you on one thing; the inclusion of a list of references as ‘background information’, in which some highly relevant articles are included, such as Alastair Crooke’s “Great Game”.  Since Crooke wrote ” Unfolding the Syrian Paradox” last July, supporters of Secular Syria have been struggling to get it into the public sphere, more or less without success. I would like to think that this dreadful film would never have been given an airing, again, had more people taken our advice and listened to his analysis, which becomes clearer with every passing day.
I look forward to a response to this letter, and an explanation for the decision to screen “Syria Exposed” this week.
yours etc,
 David Macilwain
Entries on Facebook:

Very disappointing that Four Corners has no funding to do own research. Dateline’s Mark Davis was able to get to Syria & present picture that was fair to Syrian people. It is interesting to compare Miller’s doco with M.Davis’. One key difference was that Mark Davis interviewed people and we learnt why people in Damascus support the government. Miller obviously didn’t want to present that human face. He has an agenda: shock the public into pressuring our politicians to support the efforts to damn Syria in the UN and ICC. But what about the victims of terror in Syria (Stories of torture are not so difficult to get from any war zone; it’s another side of the human story.) Why hasn’t Miller, or Amnesty, or Human Rights Watch, or the UN paid any attention to the stories of terror and the individual extremist clerics who call on their followers to kill (‘it doesn’t matter if you have to kill 1/3 of population to destroy this heretical government’). Many in Australian Syrian community know about the terror because they have family or friends who have disappeared, been kidnapped or killed/assassinated by ‘armed men’. There is so much to examine in regard to the Syrian story. Richard Stubbs did an exemplary job of trying to sort out the story of Syria today with two experts and listeners’ calls. Hope 4 Corners team can try again. Tragic if Aussie audience continues to remain ignorant but certain in what they know about Syria because of shows such as this – pinhole views of Syria. The Syrian people want the world to know their story and for people to help them. This was not their story. The interview with Robert Fisk was a token effort to present an ‘expert’. But we knew from the introduction what conclusions we were to draw. Robert Fisk referred to the killings of thousands of soldiers, but there was no discussion of this. We had the shock and horror; we didn’t need complexity.


There is nothing ‘forensic’ or seriously ‘investigative’ about Miller’s film as he gave virtually no voice to the millions of reasonable, peace loving Syrian people who support the army’s efforts to bring an end to the violence. Mark Davis proved you could talk to the people of Syria in his Dateline report. The claims that the government soldiers and/or security personnel are killing children are extraordinary and require sober,serious, and on-going investigation. (We are a nation with the story of Lindy Chamberlain embedded in our history; we should have learnt this!) They are not unlike John Howard’s ‘children overboard’ claims as they too demonize a people. What ‘normal’ population would accept this from government forces and still maintain support for their government. If Miller had been serious in ascertaining the truth he would have examined the story of Sari Saoud, the 9 year-old boy killed outside his home in Homs. There were false claims in regard to his killing by anti-government supporters and Al-Jazeera. I have seen his parents and aunts and uncles interviewed on television blaming ‘armed men’ for his death. I’ve also seen them in the front pew of a church in Damascus, at a service that was televised. The Mufti of Syria spoke at that service, referring to the killing of Sari and also of his own son who had been assassinated along with one of his university teachers.  Check the contradictory claims regarding Sari’s killings: Miller had the opportunity to dig much deeper than those videos to ascertain the truth. If you have the chance to watch satellite Syrian tv, you have the chance to see the faces of Syrians. They are not a people who look as though they are  brutalized  into accepting a government they don’t support. They are angry at the world for not being honest about what is happening in Syria; at not reporting the terror that they face. For example, why  is it that Miller did not refer to Adnan Arour? See video  If Arour who has said he wants ’20 heads a day’ has just 1,000 supporters in Syria, he can incite some shocking violence. There has been the most brutal things done to people by ‘militias’; why didn’t Miller refer to those.  And the most prominent cleric in the ME who broadcasts regularly on Al-Jazeera has said it is ok to kill 1/3 of Syrians in order to topple the government. (This guy: ) Surely Australian people should be informed of this element to the crisis in Syria? Most concerned Syrian, Lebanese, & Iraqi Australians  know about the calls of these extremists. Why don’t we? Miller is pretending to present in-controversial evidence of the Syrian government’s crimes against humanity. But he omits any evidence which could damage his case.  4Corners please do the job of serious investigative reporters. It is not too late. Start by going to 100, 200, or 300 Syrian Australians and ask for their responses to Miller’s film. Speak to Iraqi refugees who have lived in Syria, as well.  Watch these videos of Syrian Australians and others who could challenge Miller and present the bigger picture:  Watch an interview with the Archbishop of Aleppo  It is shameful that 4Corners is open to presenting ‘Syria Exposed’ without giving a voice to reasonable people who know the other story.


Weekend Edition February 17-19, 2012
CounterPunch Diary

Hypocrisy and Syria


Few spectacles have been more surreal than senior US officials – starting with the President, the Secretary of State and the US ambassador to the UN – solemnly lecturing Assad and his beleaguered Syrian government on the need to accommodate rebel forces whose GCC sponsors are intent on slaughtering the ruling Alawite minority or driving them into the sea.

At one grimly hilarious moment last Friday, these worthy sermons were buttressed by a message from Ayman al-Zwahiri, the head of al-Qaeda, therefore presumably the number one target on President Obama’s hit list, similarly praising the ‘Lions of Syria’ for rising up against the Assad regime. Al-Qaeda and the White House in sync!

The last time the United States faced serious internal dissent was in the 1960s and early 1970s, from war resisters and black and Native American movements. The government responded instantly with a methodical program of violent repression, including a well-documented agenda of assassination. 

For the full article, please go to:


William Blum – CIA murder and torture of Hundreds of thousands of people

Some perspective on the situation in Syria can be got from reading “Rogue State” or “Killing Hope” by William Blum. They are not that easy to find in a shop near your home, so the next best thing is to access a talk by W. Blum on the internet.


In contrast to J.Miller’s “Syria Exposed” on 4Corners, there have been other voices presenting in-depth analysis of the crisis in Syria with respectful reference to the Syrian people.

For example, John Bradley is a ME expert. He was interviewed on ABC  Radio’s The World Today, a current affairs show which has generally resisted requests from its audience to interview people other than opposition spokespeople or supporters. (Hope this interview presages balance on TWT.)

“Now British author and former foreign correspondent John Bradley is warning that the Arab Spring has been hijacked by dangerous extremists.

His latest book, After the Arab Spring, is subtitled, How Islamists Hijacked the Middle East Revolts, and he cautions that the international community is taking the wrong approach to Syria which he says is also set to fall to Islamist extremists.”

Ref:  Interview of John Bradley on ABC’s The World Today,  ” How Islamists hijacked the Arab Spring”.


On The Real News (any Aussie equivalent?), Sharmine Narwani is interviewed in regard to her visit to Damascus in January 2012.

News About Syria: Information or Propaganda?

Sharmine Narwani: Many opposition leaders want end to militarization on both sides as GCC and US neo-cons call for arming opposition

Sharmine Narwani is a writer and political analyst covering the Middle East. She is currently a Senior Associate at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University, and has a Master of International Affairs degree from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs in both journalism and Mideast studies. Sharmine writes political commentary on the Middle East as a blogger for Al Akhbar English and the Huffington Post. She has also written opinion pieces for Al Jazeera English, the New York Times and USA Today.


What’s what with Syria?

Richard Stubbs takes a long hard look at Syria to try and better understand who’s fighting and why

And Richard Stubbs bit the bullet and devoted one hour to Syria on his Melbourne 774 afternoon show. (Courageous guy because he invited people who didn’t present cliches and rhetoric:  the single narrative.)

You probably keep hearing about Syria on the news, but how much do you understand?

Richard Stubbs takes the time to talk to people who know about what is going on in Syria in an attempt to broaden our understanding of the issues the country is facing.

  • Dr Benjamin McQueen is from the School of Political and Social Inquiry at Monash University.
  • Robert Bekhazi is a Lebanese/Australian who imports alcohol and kitchenware from Syria and Lebanon.

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