Fact Check

Pentagon Awards Contract to United Airlines to Forcibly Remove Assad?

A bit of military satire involving involving United Airlines and Syria was mistaken for real news on social media.

Published Apr 11, 2017

 (Greg K__ca / Shutterstock.com)
Image Via Greg K__ca / Shutterstock.com
The Pentagon awarded United Airlines a contract to forcibly remove Bashar al-Assad from Syria.

On 11 April 2017, the military satire web site Duffel Blog published an article saying that the U.S. government had awarded United Airlines a government contract to take out Syria's president. The article came one day after a controversy involving United Airlines' forcible removal of a passenger from a flight: 

The Pentagon announced it had awarded a sole-source contract to United Airlines for work related to the forcible removal of President Bashar al-Assad from Syria.

The contract, worth $2.1 billion, tasks the airline company with locating Assad, grabbing him from his seat in the presidential palace, and “dragging him out of Damascus by his arms.” The contract also notes that Assad should be “asked several times, politely” to give up his seat of power, though if he refuses, United workers should bloody his nose up a bit, according to the posting at FedBizOpps.

Though US military officials have struggled in recent months with a plan for removing Assad, United Airlines cleared its final hurdle for the military’s request for proposal on Monday, when it ordered police officers to forcibly remove a passenger from a flight that was overbooked.

The article was just another spoof from Duffel Blog, a site that deals exclusively in military-related satire. Unlike many fake news sites that claim to be "satire," Duffel Blog genuinely aims to amuse (not befuddle) their audience — members of the armed forces and their families:

Since 1797, Duffel Blog has been serving the men and women of the American military with insightful commentary and hard-hitting journalism. While other agencies have sometimes run from possibly scandalous stories, Duffel Blog has been known to be edgy and ahead of its time, almost as if they could see into the future. After reporting on President John Adams’ $200 per week cocaine habit in March 1799, Duffel Blog was named The American Military’s Most-Trusted News Source by the Columbia Journalism Review and the nickname stuck.

Duffel Blog is sometimes referred to as “The military version of The Onion,” but this is a popular misconception. The misnomer was cleared up in May 2012 when DB staff successfully conducted an airborne assault on the offices of The Onion News Network so that others would know “The Onion was actually the civilian version of Duffel Blog.”

Although fans of the  Duffel Blog are aware of its nature, the subtlety of its satire is sometimes lost on civilians unfamiliar with it.

Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.

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