To a certain extent, the old adage “out of sight, out of mind” is unavoidable for anyone, but we don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Western society and especially the American public, exhibit a generalized ignorance to events taking place beyond their borders that’s completely out of synch with the degree to which most Westerners have easy access to information. That is, if the US public cared to know what was going on outside of suburbia and beyond the Starbucks drive-throughs and the strip mall Targets they most certainly could find out, but that would likely mean discovering all manner of really inconvenient and often disturbing things and so, at the end of the day, willful ignorance allows everyone to perpetuate the myth that everything is fine. For its part, the media is more than happy to expose harsh realities as long as they’re conducive to ratings so, for instance, “unarmed black teen shot 18 times by angry white police officer” works well, while “Syria’s bloody civil war continues unabated” does not because to the largely ignorant public, Syria might as well be Mars and if for some inexplicable reason, life or death ended up coming down to being able to correctly identify Syria on an unlabeled map, well, it would be time to start praying.
Sometimes, however, the media stumbles across or, more likely, is fed an image or a series of images that are so indelible that they’re forced to run them, and the public consciousness is, if but for a fleeting moment, jarred out of its perpetual stupor. That’s what happened in 2013 when YouTube videos appeared to show the victims of a so-called “gas attack” that Bashar al-Assad decided, apparently out of the clear blue sky, to launch on his own people even though were the story true, it would seem to have been a rather peculiar strategy given that the strongman was fully aware that the US was just waiting on an excuse to launch a few cruise missiles. Then, a little more than two years later, we got another example of imagery powerful enough to focus the public’s attention on a far-away civil war when the body of a drowned toddler washed up on a beach in Turkey.
And even though connecting the proverbial dots isn’t something everyday Westerners are particularly adept at, it wasn’t too difficult for the media to paint the picture: 1) drowned toddler was a refugee, 2) there’s a refugee crisis thanks largely to a war going on in a place called Syria which isn’t on Mars but is in fact in the Middle East, 3) this place called Syria is where ISIS is, 4) the Russians are there too. It would be difficult to come up with a narrative more conducive to rallying public support for an invasion if you were trying. And indeed, maybe someone was trying, because as Reuters reports, the drowned child’s father might not have been a fleeing migrant after all, but rather a people smuggler and Aylan might have been on the boat not because his family intended to save their child from the horrific violence escalating daily in Syria, but rather because profiting off of other people’s misery was his father’s chosen profession and he often brought his family along for the ride. Reuters has the story, excerpts from which are presented below.
The father of drowned Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi was working with smugglers and driving the flimsy boat that capsized trying to reach Greece, other passengers on board said, in an account that disputes the version he gave last week.
Ahmed Hadi Jawwad and his wife, Iraqis who lost their 11-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son in the crossing, told Reuters that Abdullah Kurdi panicked and accelerated when a wave hit the boat, raising questions about his claim that somebody else was driving the boat.
A third passenger confirmed their version of events, which Reuters could not independently verify.
"The story that (Aylan's father) told is untrue. I don't know what made him lie, maybe fear," Jawwad said in Baghdad at his in-laws' house on Friday. "He was the driver from the very beginning until the boat sank."
He said Kurdi swam to them and begged them to cover up his true role in the incident. His wife confirmed the details.
Jawwad said his point of contact with the smugglers was called Abu Hussein. "Abu Hussein told me that he (Kurdi) was the one who organized this trip," he said.
Amir Haider, 22, another Iraqi who said he was on the same boat, confirmed Jawwad's account and identified Kurdi as the driver. He told Reuters by telephone from Istanbul that he initially thought Kurdi was Turkish because he was not speaking, but later heard him talking to his wife in Syrian Arabic.
A photo of Aylan Kurdi's body in the surf off a popular Turkish holiday resort prompted sympathy and outrage at the perceived inaction of developed nations in helping thousands of refugees using dangerous sea-routes to reach Europe, many of whom have fled Syria's four-year civil war.
And more from The Daily Telegraph:
THE father of the three-year-old boy whose lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach, rocking the whole world to its core, has been accused of being a people smuggler who captained the fateful voyage.
A woman who lost two of her three children on the vessel made the stunning claims to Network Ten via her cousin, who lives in Sydney, on Friday night.
It was claimed on Friday night that his father Abdullah was a people smuggler who captained the dodgy boat for its entire voyage, capsizing in heavy seas and killing at least 12 people.
Iraq-based Zainab Abbas, via her Sydney-based cousin Lara Tahseen, told Ten News she paid $10,000 for the voyage and Aylan’s father was in charge of the boat.
“He was a smuggler, yes, he was the one driving the boat,’’ she said.
She claimed a separate people smuggler to whom they paid the money had told them the captain was taking his own children on the voyage.
“He said ‘don’t worry, the captain of the boat, the driver, is going to bring his two kids and his wife,” she said.
The woman claimed the boat was travelling faster than its capabilities and had too many desperate asylum seekers on board.
The family of five was told there would only be six on the boat but when they got on there were 14.
“He was going crazy, like speed,” she said.
“He was the one driving the boat right from the start. When they set off five minutes in he was looking left and right, worried, then he was speeding. Even his wife was screaming at him to slow down,” she said.
Ms Tahseen said when the family arrived in Istanbul they phoned a number they were told was Mr Kurdi’s but another man answered.
They paid this man the money and he told them when they arrived at the island they were heading for, on which they would move to another boat to go to Greece, to phone him.
He and Mr Kurdi would then split the money, Ms Tahseen claimed. The trip was only supposed to take 15 minutes.
Now obviously, what happened to Aylan (and to an untold number of other refugees fleeing the Mid-East) is a tragedy and whether or not his father was the man driving the boat and profiting from the refugee crisis or was in fact a victim fleeing war like everyone else doesn’t change that (and in many ways, if the above account is true, Aylan's fate is actually even more tragic), but what is does change is the narrative being fed to the public.
It also seems - again, assuming the story outlined above is accurate - that it's possible Kurdi brought his family on the trip in order to make those paying him for the ride more confident in his ability to get them from Turkey to Greece safely. "If I was a people smuggler, why would I put my family in the same boat as the other people?" Kurdi asked MailOnline. That's a good question, but one (admittedly macabre) explanation is that it was a kind of people smuggling marketing ploy, something along the lines of this: "you know you can trust me because I have my own family on board." A less conspiratorial take on that theory would be that he did intend to get his family out of the Mid-East and so he simply overloaded the boat because the collective safety of the passangers was secondary to getting his family out of harm's way, but even if that's the case, the exact opposite ended up happening because by putting too many people on the boat, he inadvertently doomed Aylan, and besides, anyway you look at it, he was looking to make $5,000 off of the other passengers' desperation.
Coming full circle, the greatest tragedy here is that the entire episode will be used as an excuse to drop still more bombs on Syria and eventually to justify a ground invasion and because the public can't see past the various smokescreens being employed here, Americans and Europeans will end up tacitly accepting the patently ridiculous idea that the best way to stem the flow of refugees is to bomb the place from which the refugees are fleeing.
Of course the entire thing is made even more absurd by the verifiable fact that it was the West which destabilized Syria in the first place meaning Washington along with its European allies are now set to use a massive refugee crisis of their own making to create a still more massive refugee crisis by effectively doubling down on efforts to destabilize the country on the way to ousting Assad. And with that bolded passage in mind, we bring you what is quite possibly the most ironic statement to ever come from the mouth of a sitting US president:
Obama on Friday: "We are going to be engaging Russia to let them know that you can’t continue to double down on a strategy that’s doomed to failure in Syria."