Latest U.S. Air Strikes Steal Climate Summit Spotlight

By Keith Kloor
Sep 24, 2014 1:25 AMNov 19, 2019 9:46 PM


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I'm betting you've heard or seen the big news, as reported on the front page of today's New York Times:

The United States and allies launched airstrikes against Sunni militants in Syria early Tuesday, unleashing a torrent of cruise missiles and precision-guided bombs from the air and sea on the militants’ de facto capital of Raqqa and along the porous Iraq border.

This is a major development, especially for a war-weary American public. As the NYT says:

The strikes are a major turning point in President Obama’s war against the Islamic State and open up a risky new stage of the American military campaign. Until now, the administration had bombed Islamic State targets only in Iraq, and had suggested it would be weeks if not months before the start of a bombing campaign against Islamic State targets in Syria.

Now I'm no military planner, but I have to think that President Obama is the one who signed off on the timing of these air strikes into Syria. Coincidentally, the bombing commenced on the eve of the big climate summit in New York City. If I'm a climate activist I'm thinking, WTF, you couldn't wait a few more days? Naturally, the herd media instinct kicked in and whatever attention climate change was getting suddenly had to be shared with a new U.S. bombing campaign in the Middle East. That meant images like this when President Obama flew into New York City this afternoon to deliver a widely anticipated speech on climate change.

War protester in front of HOPE as #CGI2014 readies for — Brad Johnson (@climatebrad) September 23, 2014

Syria war protesters being warned to leave front of Sheraton or risk arrest — Brad Johnson (@climatebrad) September 23, 2014

And headlines like this in a major newspaper: "Post-Syria strike, Obama talks climate change and civil society." Oddly, there was concern by some that there would be a virtual news blackout of Obama's climate speech.

Well, that speech was short but powerful. Hit all the right notes. Too bad US media will almost entirely ignore it. — David Roberts (@drgrist) September 23, 2014

Powerful words from President Obama in his speech to UN Climate Change Summit. Will US media serve the American people by reporting them? — Bob Ward (@ret_ward) September 23, 2014

Yes, the speech would have to compete with the bombs dropped the night before, but did anyone actually expect it to to go unreported? I mean, really? Really? No, really? Because to me it seems pretty well covered. Still, if you want to grumble about media attention being distracted away from climate change this week, I think you know who to blame.

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