Feb 24, 2012

Rundle: Colvin was brave in Syria, but her cause is unjust

No one has really asked whether Marie Colvin's death, or her extended mission, had any real purpose.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


Nothing captures the absurdity of the debate around Syria better than an exchange yesterday on BBC Radio 4’s flagship Today program. Veteran broadcaster John Humphrys was interviewing Syrian expat Rim Turkmani, who is opposed to any form of military intervention. “But what if it was your family in Homs?” Humphrys probed. “I have family in Homs. At least a dozen,” Tukmani replied. “I’m terrified for them, but intervention will only increase the bloodshed.” At which point the interview lost its easy structure.

True, Humphrys was playing advocatus diaboli, but he was a lot less diaboli to the other guest, a Syrian advocating Western arming of the Free Syrian Army. Why? Because he fitted the now tiresome narrative — beleaguered people crying out for help, spurned by the West. Yet Tukmani made clear the full absurdity of the situation, in that no one is seriously contemplating any sort of full-scale Western military intervention in Syria — whatever is going to happen will depend on what Turkey wants to do.

Free Trial

Proudly annoying those in power since 2000.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

26 thoughts on “Rundle: Colvin was brave in Syria, but her cause is unjust

  1. Robert Barwick

    Brave analysis. Whoever gets Crikey in Kevin Rudd’s office should force him to pull his head off the TV cameras for a few minutes and read it, before he follows the British script and drags Australia into a re-run of Iraq.

  2. Gavin Moodie

    Thanx for this most useful analysis.

    As GRundle demonstrates, some are able to both report from the field and analyse from the desk.

  3. garydj

    Another great article, Guy. But on one minor point, I think you’ve let your
    view of how you would like things to be, get in the way of understanding how
    they actually are.

    The line, “Syria has several separate peoples penned within a colonial-era
    bounday”, applies as much to Libya, as it does to Syria. Gaddafi was able to
    survive as long as he did because he had a basis for support. Gaddafi
    supported some tribes and ethnic groups over others. It was these groups
    that enabled Gaddafi to rule for forty years and it was they who provided
    many of his foot soldiers in the war last year. Similarly, it was the groups
    that were not favoured, particularly those in the eastern parts of Libya, that
    provided the foot soldiers for the militias that fought against Gaddafi.

    Although it may be less appealling than the idea that there “was a
    revolution by the Libyan people across the board”, but the war in Libya last
    year was a civil war, not a revolution.

  4. scott rooney

    “The hard question to ask is this: did Colvin’s reports add anything to our understanding of the situation?” I suspect her reports added much more than anything you can write.

  5. ninetenthsofthelaw

    Interesting article, but you didn’t really show much from her writing to support this argument.

  6. Thinkandspeak12

    The situation in Homs and Syria is not resolved, so I’m not sure about Colvin’s “cause being unjust”. Perhaps her reporting does need interpretation, history and context. To require all journalists to do this with all their reporting is an interesting suggestion. Let’s hope the deaths of all the journalists and camera crew can be vindicated by a peace deal in Syria.

  7. Kevin Herbert

    Nice work Guy….sensationalising of war zones’ activity is not a reporter’s job..that’s the job of the pollies on both sides.

    Colvin was a front line high risk journo, who like Neil Davis, must have
    accepted a long time ago that one day she’d probably be fatally wounded.

    As for her description of the dying baby, I wonder if it would’ve got a run
    in the Times if it’d been one of the 318 children murdered by the
    IDF’s shelling of civilians in Gaza during their Caste Lead Xmas 1999

    I don’t think so.

  8. Al

    Too right Guy! I too am sick of the shallow level of reporting of war and international politics; its more and more about the moral high ground of the west contrasted with the sheer savagery of the darkies whether they are in Sri Lanka, Libya, Egypt or now Syria. Forget about the complicity of the west in supporting these repressive regimes; never mind the fact that the French, Brits and Yanks have been, and continue to profit handsomely from arms sales to the same regimes that we condemn only when we have no no other moral place to go; never mind that when Israel pounds civilian areas in Gaza or Beirut with artillery and airpower we vote against, or at the very best abstain on, UN general assembly criticism; never mind that we hear sweet bugger all of the brave protesters killed in Bahrain or these imprisoned and tortured in Saudi; and never mind that we supported the Indonesian rape of Timor Leste for decades before we suddenly discovered liberty and freedom for those poor unfortunate darkies. The brutal treatment of peoples across this globe are directly related to to machinations of imperialist powers; this isn’t a mystery and can be understood from the most cursory of a reading of history but most journos seem oblivious to this fact and present conflict as unfortunate disputes resulting mainly from the uncivilised nature of all those who aren’t white and christian. As you wrote thank God for Robert Fisk!

  9. AR

    Guy, a much needed meditation on a couple of points –
    a) the nature of war-p*rn reportage, if it bleeds, it leads, not aiding understanding and often obscuring fact for feeling,
    b) the Western majority view of the Syria tragedy as just another case of arabs being arabs – forgetting that Syria is the best educated, most secular of the arab nations, controlled by a minority sect, Alawite, regarded as heretics by Wahhabi & Salafist hardliners in our Great & Good Demokratic Friends like Saudi & Bahrain,
    c) the support, however reluctant, of the current autocracy by the various minorities, Christian, Jew, Kurd, Druze & Ismaili who know what their fate will be if the sunni militias take over.

  10. Dr_Tad

    Guy, you write, “Libya was a revolution by the Libyan people across the board — whatever the shadowy nature of the leadership — against an autocrat with no social base to speak of, merely mercenaries and weapons. We assisted a process they had begun themselves in a clear manifestation of the general will, and in a military situation where strategic assistance was limitable and feasible.”

    That’s obviously why it took months of NATO bombing and some 30,000 dead to get the result we did, and why we have such a gloriously united and idyllic Libya now that the “general will” has got its way.

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details