I was in my senior year of high school when 9/11 happened. Al-Qaeda was behind the attack, and we were now at war. I joined the Army and served in American special operations units in Iraq and Afghanistan. There, I got to see the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and other jihadi militants up close, confirming beyond any shadow of a doubt that these guys are scumbags. I got out of the Army in 2010, but the war continued on. ISIS was born. Things got worse.

The war mutated, and to my shock, horror, and disbelief, our government and news media were soon telling us that al-Qaeda was our friend. They didn’t come right out and say it, although General Petraeus openly advocated arming al-Qaeda. Think tanks carefully couch their words, as does the CIA, when it refers to so-called “moderate” opposition in Syria. Our press freely and willfully accepts propaganda from “activists” in rebel/jihadi-held areas of Syria.

We have short memories in America. Let’s set aside the fact that we were told that al-Qaeda was our eternal enemy after 9/11 and look back to the Gulf War. In 1990, a 15-year-old girl named Nayirah testified in front of Congress, telling our lawmakers a shocking story in which she had witnessed Iraqi soldiers in Kuwait removing babies from incubators in a hospital, and then leaving them to die. There was one problem with her story: It was pure bullshit.

Nayirah al-Saud was the daughter of Kuwait’s ambassador to the United States, and she had been used as a vehicle to carry propaganda to American lawmakers as a part of a public relations campaign put on by Citizens for a Free Kuwait.

Have we learned nothing?

Is there anyone out there who is seriously so stupid as to believe that a seven-year-old girl in war-torn Aleppo is Tweeting about her life on the front lines? Bana Alabed is just one of many examples of children being used for propaganda purposes. In Eastern Aleppo, the groups holding those areas are FSA and al-Nusra, making one wonder who is really sending those Tweets. They certainly are not coming from a seven-year-old girl who would rather be playing My Little Pony instead of Tweeting about politics.

Does anyone else remember the gay Syrian girl hoax? A Gay Girl in Damascus was a blog that became an internet meme, which in turn was widely reported by the mainstream media without batting an eye. Later, it turned out that the blog was run by an American named Tom McMaster in the U.K.

Have we learned nothing?

The other day I pointed out a clear-cut case of jihadi propaganda coming out of Aleppo. These so-called “goodbye” messages from citizens of Aleppo were ridiculous and obvious propaganda. They were not citizens, but “activists” from Eastern Aleppo trying to paint a picture that speaks to Westerners. “I guess no one cares about freedom,” one of the activists lamented as he filmed himself. The two other participants who filmed goodbye messages have now been exposed as jihadis.

What about the White Helmets? Yeah, I watched their documentary. It consisted of footage they shot themselves in Aleppo, and then the members were brought to Turkey to be interviewed individually. Their answers were canned, staged, and made all the requisite talking points that a Western audience wants to hear. Nothing is said as to what rebel faction controls the areas they work in, or what the White Helmets’ relationship with them is. Perhaps they have saved lives, but along with that they carry a kinder, gentler message for terrorist groups.

How can we be so dumb as to take this stuff at face value?

Why do we keep believing the same lie we are being sold over and over and over again? Why do CNN and other media outlets report these propaganda messages as the truth, with little to no skepticism? Qatar-funded think tanks find white faces to sell us on the idea that the FSA is a moderate opposition force and that there are elements of al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham that are moderate, not jihadi. Why does the mainstream media prop up these al-Qaeda apologists and give them air time?

I consider myself to be a fairly sober person, but there are times when I feel as if I’m about to have a heart attack watching this nonsense. We fought al-Qaeda in the mountains of Afghanistan and in the bloody streets of Iraq. But now we are supposed to believe the whiny voices of their propagandists calling out for Western support. We’ve become the witting or unwitting assets of al-Qaeda; as they present a secular face in the context of the FSA, we supply them with arms. This is absolutely insane, beyond anything we’ve seen in the last 15 years of the war against terrorism.

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How is it that, in 2016, the American media outlets and academic institutions have become fronts for al-Qaeda propaganda out of Syria? The truly frightening thing is that this is the future of this particular terrorist organization. They are classing-up their image, playing on Western stereotypes, and blending their ideology with real or fake civil projects.

If terrorist organizations are so easily able to pull the wool over the eyes of NGOs, governments, and academics, we’re going to be in for a hell of a ride in 2017.

Featured image courtesy of CNN.