As’ad AbuKhalil on the Lebanese hostage release

Professor As’ad AbuKhalil’s (the “Angry Arab”) latest article for Al Akhbar English is essential reading: Lebanese Hostages in Syria and Western Media Propaganda.

Here’s AbuKhalil’s commentary on how the whole episode of the year-and-a-half long brutal captivity of Lebanese civilians by the Northern Storm Brigade (FSA affiliate) is being ignored and softened in Western press:

The release of the Lebanese pilgrims who were kidnapped in Syria more than a year and a half ago was not big enough news for Western media, or even for Arab oil and gas media. The story is embarrassing for those in Western media who have been promoting and romanticizing the armed groups of the Syrian “revolution.” Worse, the captors were in fact very moderate and “secular” (any Islamist group in Syria that is not tied directly to al-Qaeda earns the moniker of “secular” by Western governments and media).

and here…

Western media have become so propagandistic about the Syrian “revolution” that correspondents (operating from Beirut and relying almost always on staff composed of March 14 Lebanese) don’t refrain from engaging in fundraising for the armed groups. Loveday Morris of The Washington Post wrote a tear-jerking article about the financial needs of not the “moderate” and “secular” groups who exist only in the imagination of Western governments but of what she termed “the moderate Islamist” armed groups. There are now distinctions being made between the jihadi Bin Ladenites and the moderate and reasonable jihadi Bin Ladenites: There is al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda-light. The groups that receive lavish funding from Qatar and Saudi Arabia are said to be deprived of cash.

Do you remember John McCain’s PR disaster over the below photo? Last May, McCain entered Northern Syria to meet with Northern Storm Brigade members. At the same time this meeting and photo op took place, this very group was holding the Lebanese religious pilgrims hostage. Based on the testimony of those held, the group’s kidnapping activities were routine. The now freed hostages report that during their ordeal, they were subject to viewing summary executions, including the religiously motivated killing of a Christian.

Near the time of McCain’s meeting with high ranking members of Northern Storm, Time Magazine’s Patrick Wells traveled to Syria to do a video profile of Northern Storm Brigade, as they settled into the long siege of Menagh Air Base.

In the video interview, viewable here, Wells speaks to a local Northern Storm commander, and reveals the following: 

This is Najd Madeen, the commander of this small unit. He was a fruit seller in Beirut before the war, but is now a self proclaimed jihadist. He also claimed that he went to fight the Americans in Iraq for a month after the invasion in 2003. [Madeen] “When jihad was announced, I gave up everything and came here.”

During the scandal surrounding McCain’s Syria visit, the fact that some among Northern Storm Brigade members openly confessed to having fought Americans in Iraq did not get enough coverage. Major media still operated under the assumption that FSA associated groups like Northern Storm were “moderates” – yet with a few bad apples.

Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium has Northern Storm listed and profiled as a terrorist organization. If you watch the video, pay attention to the funeral scene at the end, where the Muslim preacher speaks passionately about “the re-establishment of the Islamic Caliphate” – even while knowing Time Magazine’s cameras are present.

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