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Jeremy Corbyn and George Soros

On 12 September 2015 Jeremy Corbyn, as his first act as the new leader of the British Labour Party, addressed a protest in support of refugees, called Solidarity with Refugees.  Corbyn stood next to Abdulaziz Alhashemi of Syria Solidarity UK (SSUK), who was draped in a flag representing UK-backed Syrian extremists,  on a platform from which Clara Connolly, also of SSUK,  had urged a Libya-style no-fly zone.

Syrian Solidarity UK describes itself as ‘a network of activists committed to solidarity with the Syrian Revolution’.  In practice this means making the case for greater UK involvement in Syria, above all a no-fly zone.  SSUK
 claimed a large part of the credit for the March:

SSUK REfMarch

The protest was organised by Stop the War in conjunction with groups created or  funded by George Soros, such as Avaaz.

George Soros, one of the world’s richest men, has been playing an active role in regime change wars and coups since the 1980s.  At the same time he is the major force behind the European refugee crisis and is the presumed architect of the Merkel Plan.   (See also F. William Engdahl,  Soros Plays Both Ends in Syrian Refugee Crisis).  ‘Solidarity with refugees’ in Soros terms means using war to create as many refugees as possible;  ‘Syria solidarity’ means facilitating those wars.

Thus Corbyn’s first act as leader of the Labour Party was to lend moral support to George Soros’s most ambitious projects:  externally created regime change and mass migration.

Corbyn and Syria

Corbyn as a leading anti-war activist has been vocal in his opposition to active interventions such as the invasion of Iraq and the bombing of Syria.   That he was sharing a platform with people demanding a Libya-style no-fly zone, and with a flag associated with some of the most vicious actions of the Syrian war, should have given Corbyn pause.

It could be argued that Corbyn arrived late; maybe he did not notice the FSA flag, or realise its significance; maybe he did not know about Connolly’s demand for a no-fly zone.

However Corbyn already had a murky history when it comes to regime change wars.  In 2011, he was instrumental as chairman of Stop the War Coalition in suppressing debate and dissent about STW policies regarding Libya and Syria.  In the same role he shares responsibility for the deplatforming of Mother Agnes Mariam, bullied by no-fly zone proponents out of speaking to a STW conference in 2013 about the war in Syria .

Also on Corban’s watch, STW continued its affiliation with the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), the British representative of the Muslim Brotherhood.  The Muslim Brotherhood is considered to be the parent or mother lode of all terrorist organisations in the Middle East.  The Brotherhood is sponsored by George Soros, with a recent study showing that Soros donated over $1.4 million to the Brotherhood from 2011 onwards.

In December 2015, in his speech to the debate about air-strikes on Syria, Corbyn made a most revealing statement about what he terms ‘the Syrian Civil War’.  (Full speech here), this clip taken from 18:20)

By suggesting that Assad is worse than ISIS, Corbyn is buying into the Nato narrative on Syria, heavily dependent on the myth of the genocidal Bashar al Assad, which has been created in order to justify the goal on regime change, in preference to actually stopping ISIS or other  terrorist groups in Syria.  So while ostensibly opposing overt intervention in Syria, Corbyn is underwriting the reasons given for that intervention, and thus facilitating it.

In December 2016 Corbyn wrote a public letter to Theresa May over Syria bloodshed:

“The rules of war are being broken on all sides. Labour has long condemned all attacks on civilian targets, including those by Russian and pro-Syrian government forces in Aleppo, for which there can be no excuse. We strongly believe that those responsible for violations of International Humanitarian Law in Aleppo and more widely in Syria should be held to account. […]

“Would you set out exactly how the government will boost Foreign and Commonwealth Office resources to aid [efforts to resolve the humanitarian crisis in Syria], engaging all sides, including regional powers such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran?”

The letter pushes culpability for the war onto Syria and Russia, rather than onto those responsible:

  1. Corbyn once again assumes the veracity of the NATO narrative with regard to Syrian, and now Russian, warcrimes, even though allegations of such crimes are never backed up by fact. There is no evidence that either Syria or Russia have ever deliberately attacked civilian targets.  On the other hand there was good reason for driving out the gangs terrorising both eastern and western Aleppo, the result being a free Aleppo now occupied with rebuilding lives and infrastructure.
  2. Corbyn’s only reference to the Foreign Office is to assume that they could play a positive role in Syria.  Corbyn is blithely ignoring the huge sums the FCO and other government departments have spent on promoting the war in Syria – the UK government is involved in activities ranging from funding terrorist groups (‘non-humanitarian intervention’) to orchestrating propaganda, including openly creating the fake humanitarian propaganda construct the White Helmets and being almost certainly behind the equally fraudulent @AlabedBana account.

In April 2017, Corbyn took issue with Boris Johnson’s decision to cancel his trip to Moscow.  Corbyn, of course, believes in dialogue, unless it is with Trump (see below) but seeking cooperation on, for example, fighting terrorism was not at the top of Corbyn’s mind – he wanted Johnson to call out the Russians for their support for Syria, regardless of its legitimacy in terms of international law:

He should go to Moscow, have a very strong and very robust conversation with the Russian government about their support for Assad and what they’re doing there, but have that conversation.

Corbyn’s position on Syria is virtually identical to that of the Stop the War Coalition, explored in Syria Has Shown That Stop the War UK is Unfit for Purpose.

Corbyn, Jo Cox and the White Helmets

Jo Cox was a British MP who was assassinated just before the Brexit referendum, due, it is claimed, to her opposition to Brexit. Aside from her untimely death, she was most notable for her support for the war on Syria, urging British military intervention and a no-fly zone, if necessary  one imposed unilaterally by Britain. In her Time to Enforce Syria’s Ceasefire to Save Lives  she expresses her admiration for Obama’s leadership ‘on everything’ (including presumably the destruction of Libya), asserting ‘Obama and Cameron did not intend to cause harm in Syria but containment has been a disaster – for Jo Cox failure to wage more war was the greatest crime.  Before the vote on Syrian airstrikes Cox declared that she would abstain, because the proposed measures did not go far enough.

Like Corbyn, Cox equated Syria’s president, Bashar Assad, with ISIS, asserting:

Jo Cox was a powerful spokesperson for the Foreign Office’s propaganda construct the White Helmets, a supposed first responders outfit staffed by members of vicious terrorist groups in Aleppo, such as Nour al-Din al-Zinki, who cut off the head of Palestinian child Abdullah Issa.  Cox nominated the White Helmets for the Nobel Peace Prize.

There is extensive proof of the fraudulent and obnoxious nature of the White Helmets, emanating from the tireless research carried out by Vanessa Beeley and other independent researchers.

As John Pilger pointed out, the White Helmets are a “complete propaganda construct”

The White Helmets are partially funded by George Soros, via Open Society and the Syria Campaign.

Jo Cox and her husband Brendan met when they both worked for the Soros-funded NGO Oxfam.  Brendan went on to work for Save the Children, likewise funded by Soros, but left under a cloud in November 2015.  On Jo Cox’s death, her grieving husband smartly set up the Jo Cox Fund, now the Jo Cox Foundation. The first £1.5m raised was earmarked from the beginning for the three charities deemed by Brendan Cox to be closest to his wife’s heart : the Royal Voluntary Service, Hope Not Hate and the White Helmets.

Jeremy Corbyn, like STW, takes no official position on the White Helmets, neither supporting them nor questioning Boris Johnson about their funding.  A search of his twitter account @jeremycorbyn, which he regularly uses to convey his position on issues, reveals no mention of the White Helmets at all.

What he has done is heavily promote Jo Cox: as well as speaking upon her death, as he should,  he paid tribute to her on the anniversary of her maiden speech, at Labour’s National Women’s Conference in September 2016, and again when her killer was sentenced in November.  In May, Theresa May and Corbyn agreed on a one day election truce in Cox’s memory.

Cox’s murder was a tragedy for her two children, in particular, and has implications for democracy itself, as Corbyn properly pointed out at the time. Morally, however, Jo Cox is in the same camp as Tony Blair, in that she was a warmonger and to that end underwrote an obvious fraud, i.e. the White Helmets. For a self-proclaimed anti-war activist to continue to sing her praises without reservation is therefore inappropriate.

Jeremy Corbyn has openly supported, in Parliament, the Jo Cox Foundation, which publicly earmarked money for the White helmets.  In December 2016 Corbyn invited Theresa May to join with him in urging the public to buy a record to support the Foundation.  Corbyn was therefore asking people to donate money to the White Helmets and support al Qaeda in the war on Syria.

Corbyn, in his relentless promotion of Jo Cox and her enterprises, is careful not to refer to the White Helmets directly.  A search of Jeremy Corbyn’s twitter shows no tweets regarding the White Helmets at all, let alone their funding by the Foreign Office.  Thus, after Boris Johnson, Corbyn is arguably Westminster’s most dedicated supporter of the White Helmets, without ever mentioning them by name.

The eulogies for Jo Cox do not look like stopping any time soon: the anniversary of  Cox’s death has elicited tweets from both Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequor John McDonnell.  It is hard to argue with their choice of hashtag.

The Great Get Together was a three day event to celebrate the life of Jo Cox, initiated by her ‘family and friends’.  It boasts more than a 100 partners: those cited include Avaaz, ActionAid and 38 Degrees, as well as others that enjoy Soros funding, such as Amnesty International.

Soros, Trump and The Women’s March

Like him or loathe him, it is undeniable that during the run-up to the US presidential election Donald Trump was seen as an outsider, unpredictable, someone not owned by the system.  For that reason many people opposed to Nato’s regime change wars hoped Trump might be less dangerous than Clinton, and certainly believed he could not possible be worse.

Trumps’s policies as then stated were a direct threat to the plans of George Soros:  on the one hand he wanted to reduce uncontrolled immigration, and on the other he proposed working with Russia to combat ISIS, and move away from ‘interventions’, i.e. regime change wars.

Having failed in his goal to put Hillary Clinton in the White House, George Soros set out to undermine Donald Trump, by funding enormous protests within the US and around the world.  For many it seemed as though Soros, having been so successful at forced regime change abroad, was going to achieve the same thing in the United States.   The demonstrations were directed squarely at Trump per se –  while also protesting his polices on abortion and immigration they were careful not to address the question of war.

The anti-Trump Women’s March on London was planned to coincide with the equivalent in Washington.  There is no question that Soros was behind the Marches: with one researcher estimating that at least 130 organisations linked to Soros were partners in the Women’s March on Washington. Sponsors of the London March included many organisations known to be funded by Soros, including  Amnesty International, Greenpeace, ActionAid UK and Oxfam, well as Stop the War Coalition.  STW’s Lindsey German was among those leading the March.

The organisers of the London march ‘called on people of all genders to march in London as part of an international day of action in solidarity’.  Although issues like abortion were mentioned, the primary intention of the March was to oppose Trump in principle and support Soros’s interests by attacking Trump’s refugee policy and avoid all reference to war.  The women wore hats or costumes representing vaginas, placards undermined the male sex and children were ruthlessly exploited.

Despite its supposedly feminist orientation, the Washington March was led by ‘civil rights activist’ Linda Sarsour, who has defended sharia law and is an outspoken supporter of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

In 2015 Linda Sarsour founded MPower Change, which claims to be a grass roots Muslim movement, in conjunction with Citizens’ Engagement Laboratory (CEL).  CEL is an Open Society Foundation, which makes George Soros (as Open Society founder) a primary funder of MPower Change.

Corbyn and the Anti-Trump Campaign

Corbyn supporters who loathed the selective morality, exploitation and sheer bad taste of the Women’s March breathed a sigh of relief when Corbyn chose to spend that day far away in Brighton talking about the beleaguered NHS. The relief was premature, as Corbyn subsequently gave his seal of approval to the Women’s March, without qualification, in a most revealing interview with Channel 4.  Corbyn’s wording is totally hostile and condemnatory of Trump, devoid of all concession:

Several of Corbyn’s positions are ones that many decent people would agree with, such as opposition to torture and the right of women to abortions, though they may be less impressed with Corbyn’s confidence that opposition to torture is a British value, given the criticism of British forces in Iraq.

Corbyn is on record as opposing both the TPP and the TTIP , so one might have expected Corbyn to congratulate Trump on his canning of the egregious TPP agreement, but no: instead we get a reference to ‘trade arrangements that are solely beneficial to the US and nobody else’, thereby casting aspersions on all the socialist countries who apply trade restrictions to protect their workers are immoral.  Free trade is another cause that is dear to the heart of George Soros but which is threatened by the rise of Trump:

The TPP and the TTIP do not work in the interest of the nation-state of the USA and the American people, but in the interest of the globalist corporations who were involved in drawing up these agreements and ensuring that Obama and later Clinton who they supported for the White House would carry through their implementation. (Katherine Frisk, Why George Soros Wants To Bring Down Donald Trump)

What is most interesting is what Corbyn didn’t say.  Trump has proposed working with Russia and, at least by implication, Syria, in order to fight terrorist groups in Syria. He has talked of ceasing to fund terrorists, reducing nuclear weapons, and reducing external interventions. Indeed, only a couple of months earlier US Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein had argued that peace was more likely under Trump than under Hillary Clinton (which did not stop her asking for a recount on Clinton’s behalf after the election).   On the other hand Trump attitude to Iran has been hawkish from the beginning.  Corbyn has nothing to say either about the more conciliatory signals coming from Trump or, on the other hand, about Trump’s threats of war and sanctions against Iran, Russia and North Korea.

Iran

Corbyn campaigned heavily against Trump via social and other media in the months after the presidential election.

The primary interest of a statesman in the activities of another country should be directed to that country’s foreign policy, above all vis-a-vis one’s own.  In the linked article, as elsewhere, Corbyn is totally absorbed with US internal affairs and the persona of Trump – there is no mention of war or sanctions.

Regardless of whether Trump meant what he says, or could achieve his goals, and regardless of whatever else he might plan to do, any anti-war activist with an ounce of integrity should have acknowledged the positive implications of his (then) cooperative approach to Russia, and the negative ones of his attitude to Iran.

At a new anti-Trump rally in London, 4 February 2017, in response to Trumps new travel restrictions, a pre-recorded speech relayed Corbyn’s support to the protesters.  Corbyn’s priorities as set out here are not what one would expect from a socialist and an anti-war campaigner. They do however mirror exactly those of Stop the War, the Women’s March, and George Soros, who could have penned the speech himself.

This flabby speech, like that given to Channel 4, stands in stark contrast to the dynamic, fact-filled speeches Corbyn has made in parliament on austerity and the NHS, relying on feel-good cliche and buzz words such as solidarity and hope versus fear, hate and hatred; solidarity is mentioned some eight times.

Once again Corbyn ducks the issue of Trump’s foreign policy and their implications for peace, in the same way as he always ducks the question of British sponsoring of funding of terrorism in Syria. While this may be odd for a supposed anti-war campaigner, it does mean that Corbyn is less vulnerable to the charge of hypocrisy – he was more than happy to meet with Barack Obama in 2016.

Hope and Hate

All Corbyn’s buzz words – hate, hatred, fear, solidarity, hope – are those much loved by the Soros machine.  Just a few days before Corbyn’s anti-Trump speech, Soros himself tweeted a photo of a placard which claimed that ‘hatred’s greatest weapon is complacency’.

Soros in fact funds an organisation called Hope not Hate , which supports Jeremy Corbyn, and been termed a Labour Party front group.  The hope versus hate dichotomy is a favourite with Corbyn:

Hope not Hate is at present suing Nigel Farage, who has accused the organisation of pursuing ‘violent and undemocratic means‘.  It is difficult to investigate the truth of Farage’s allegation, as HNH appear to have deleted all the relevant archives, but others have suggested that Hope not Hate thrives on hate.

The Soros Marches, with all their dishonest feel-good language, are designed, not to promote tolerance and solidarity, but to create resentment and fear in a large sector of the population.  Anyone who supports Brexit, or opposes the war on Syria, or opposes mass migration, or questions received wisdom on issues like 9/11 or vaccination, or is uncomfortable with the idea of grown men being able to use the same toilet as little girls, is deemed to be racist, fascist, a neo-Nazi, hateful.  And should be afraid.

trump-inauguration-protest fascists fear

We now have a situation where threatening the interests of governments, corporations and other powerful bodies is deemed to be ‘far-right’, and the protection of those interests and the aggressive suppression of free speech is ‘liberal’ and ‘left-wing’.  Soros aims, rather than being ‘progressive’, are perfectly in harmony with those of government:

It is difficult to find a cause Soros’ Open Society Institute supports that is not also funded, directed, and backed by the US State Department-funded, Neo-Conservative lined National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and its various subsidiaries including Freedom House, the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI). (Tony Cartalucci, Soros Criminal Conviction Exposes ‘Human Rights’ Scam)

The Complicity of Corbyn Supporters

Corbyn is seen as a return to Labour values and priorities.  His opposition to Tory austerity and defence of the NHS, along with his reputation as an anti-war activist, have huge appeal, so that many see that supporting him is a no-brainer.

The desperation for a ‘real’ Labour government after the years of Tory and Blairite administrations has had the effect of stifling all criticism of Corbyn amongst his supporters.  The campaign against Corbyn by the corporate media was virulent – no-one wanted to give it more fuel.  The outcome has been a deafening silence regarding Corbyn’s position on the UK’s war on Syria in particular.

When Corbyn is criticised for links with the suppposed terrorist organisation Hezbollah, his supporters do not feel that it is for them to point out the very real support he has offered the Muslim Association of Britain.  In Britain’s Real Terror Apologists, Finian Cunningham rightly points out the validity of sympathy with Irish aspirations or support for Hezbollah, and the hypocrisy of the British government given its own record of supporting terrorist groups from Ireland to Asia.  He does not, however, mention Corbyn’s own support for groups aligned with ISIS and al Qaeda via his fundraising for the White Helmets.

Likewise when Corbyn is condemned for not wanting to bomb Syria, genuine anti-war activists are loathe to argue that in fact he is offering the UK government strong support for their intervention in Syria by parroting their lies about Bashar al Assad and the Syrian and Russian forces. Hence we have Alexander Mercouris enthusing post-election about Corbyn’s success in the British election ends Britain’s involvement in regime-change wars, ‘Corbyn has staunchly opposed all the regime change wars – in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria’.

And certainly no-one is talking about Soros.  No-one is mentioning Corbyn’s open support for far too many of the Soros projects, from mass migration to the anti-Trump campaign,  to supporting the Women’s March, and his indirect support for the war on Syria.  No-one is talking about Corbyn’s wholesale adoption of Soros buzz-words.  There is no doubt that Jeremy Corbyn is controlled by Soros.  The only question is whether he knows it.

Those of Corbyn’s supporters on social media who also feel strongly about the UK’s war on Syria have been determined that he should not be held to scrutiny.  They have clearly hoped that ‘blips’ such as his claim about the Syrian government killing more people than ISIS, his support for Jo Cox and thus the White Helmets, and his backing for Soros’s Women’s March, will sink without trace.

As a consequence there has been no pressure on Corbyn to be an effective voice in parliament against the UK’s Middle East ventures.  The only pressure on Corbyn has come from the Israel lobby, Blairite and Conservative opponents, and their friends in the corporate media.

Some months ago I wrote an article about called The Gatekeepers. I proposeds that a  gatekeeper in the context of Syria was one who ostensibly opposed intervention in Syria, while simultaneously facilitating that intervention by keeping faithfully to the Nato narrative on Syria, i.e. the fiction of a popular uprising, moderate rebels and a genocidal dictator. At the same time, gatekeepers endeavour to create an impermeable barrier between the public and the facts about Syria, by blanking all research which questions that narrative.

It is in the nature of politicians to seek moral and intellectual compromise, so it is no surprise that peace specialist Jeremy Corbyn should fit the definition of gatekeeper.  What is more troubling is the role played by pro-Syria activists.  In order not to be seen to be attacking the already beleaguered Corbyn, they have made no attempt to force him to call Boris Johnson out for his support for terrorists in Syria, nor to persuade Corbyn to distance himself from Jo Cox and the White Helmets.  They have, therefore, contributed to the barrier between serious research on Syria and public discourse.

Whether his anti-war devotees have actually done Corbyn any favours is debatable.  If many of them were repelled by the Women’s March, then many less politically engaged voters in the UK will have felt the same way.  Moreover, the links between the UK government, the White Helmets and vicious extremists are becoming harder to deny.  It may well have worked to Labour’s advantage if Corbyn had endeavoured to expose the scan of the White Helmets instead of underwriting it through his excessive support for Jo Cox.

As leader of the opposition, Corbyn has chosen to ignore unpalatable truths about UK interventions abroad.  It would be interesting to see what compromises he is prepared to make should he become prime minister of Great Britain.  Not everyone is optimistic:

Only time will tell whether those of his supporters who oppose UK interventions in the Middle East will continue to give Corbyn a free pass.

See also:

Eva Bartlett, Human Rights Front Groups (Humanitarian Interventionalists) Warring on Syria

Vanessa Beeley, George Soros: Anti-Syria Campaign Impresario

Patrick Henningsen, An Introduction: Smart Power and the Human Rights Industrial Complex

Gilbert Mercier Big Brother George Soros’ Web Is Unraveling  Includes a useful rundown of Soros media assets.

Miri Wood, Slain UK MP ‘Rising Star’ on Wrong Side of Humanity. Another look at Jo Cox.

Wall of Controversy, Astroturfing for Regime Change: Frontline in the (Newest) War on the Antiwar Movement.

The Crucifixion of Bana Alabed

After I and others wrote about Mahmoud Halyaf who, having been born without arms, lost his legs to a terrorist mine,  I was approached by someone from the Global Media Department of a US university department, who wanted to be put in touch with the family – perhaps they could help him.  I spoke to his doctor, Nabil Antaki, who wanted to know more details , as medical staff were unwilling to allow the boy to be exploited.  After conveying this back to the inquirer, no more was heard.

Dr Antaki’s attitude stands in sharp contrast to the corporate media, and to regime-change seeking NGOs such as Amnesty, who see children first and foremost as objects to be used and manipulated.  A primary example is Omran Daqneesh, the boy on the orange chair, who was coldbloodedly chosen to be the face of a media campaign highlighting the trauma of war on children solely because he was little, chubby and cute, not because he had actually suffered any trauma.  Fortunately for Omran his fame is still largely confined to that one photoshoot.

The most determined and potentially most psychologically damaging campaign is the one to  turn Bana of Aleppo into a star.  Bana, the little girl supposedly tweeting from Aleppo, but actually the front for an account run from London, was selected to be the empathetic face of the campaign for a no-fly zone in Syria.  Her account was tailored to create the impression of perpetual bombing, perpetual war crimes, on the part of Russia and the Syrian government.

From the outset, the evidence that the project was controlled from far away, and not by Bana or her mother, was overwhelming. The controllers clearly thought they were creating a slick commercial, and it shows:

  • a subject chosen and groomed for maximum cuteness (the signature pink bow, just old enough to tweet), while old enough to type on a keyboard;
  • the carefully chosen first tweet – I need peace;
  • videos uploaded from the first day of operation;
  • the immediate purchase of huge numbers of fake followers;

Practically all the people seven-year old Bana chose to follow, apart from a handful of world leaders, were representatives of the mainstream media and/or anti-Syrian activists.

Apart from the undisguised sophistication of the operation, there were other glaring discrepancies. The tweets were first supposed to be Bana’s own, but the videos showed that Bana did not know a word of English when the project started.  The eventual explanation that she was actually a front for her terrorist-supporting family (that would be all right, apparently) still did not wash. The tweeter was clearly a native English speaker, while interviews with her mother Fatemah (real name Maram) revealed that she certainly was not. The claimed support for Manchester United was ludicrous.

Developments in the Bana account and more information further exposed the Bana Project.

Bana’s terrorist family

More is now known about the Alabed’s connections with the terrorist groups in Aleppo were exposed.  Ghassan Alabed is one of the leading lights of Kataib Safwa al Islamiya, part of the Jaish el Mujahadin alliance. The picture below is from Ghassan’s instagram account (gacm855, via @Nasteva); more representations of Ghassan as fighter here.

Ghassanterrorist.jpg large

The Alabeds have ties with ISIS-aligned al Zinki group, responsible for the murder of 12 year old Abdullah Issa. (Like Ghassan Alabed’s Safwa al Islamiyah, al Zinki was part of the Jaish al Mujahadin until May 2014.)  In the picture below, the man with Bana is Amma Jaber, also seen to the right posing with Mahmoud Raslan, Omran photographer, who (top left) takes a selfie with the al Zinki gang, who beheaded Abdullah Issa (top right). Amma Jaber appears to work for al Nusra’s Aleppo Media Centre – his tweets (@ammarjaber8) shows him presenting videos and posing with terrorist photographer Hadi.

Banazinki2.jpg

Bill Purkayastha drew this cartoon juxtapositioning Bana and Abdullah Issa before her  relationship with terrorist gangs like al Zinki had become clear.

BanaAbdullah

Bana posed with a string of terrorists and terrorist supporters, including photographer Hadi al Abdullah

Hadi.jpg large

The mysterious internet connection

Aleppo, as in other parts of Syria, has experienced breaks in internet availability.  There is no evidence from Bana’s postings of any inconvenience, however, as the account has continued to post even when apparently without a roof over her head.  Any criticism has evoked a querulous response from Fatemah.  The unprompted reference to internet here can be seen as a response to sceptical remarks received earlier by the account:

Internetsearch

On 3 November Dr Nabil Antaki posted on twitter and facebook that internet had just been restored after a week  in Aleppo.  Bana, however, tweeted throughout that period, for example:

InternetBanaNabil

The fake playground

CNN reports that before arriving in Turkey, Bana’s little brother Nour had never been to a playground, as the war is at least two years older than he is, and throughout the conflict Fatemah had sheltered her children at home.  Bana tweeted a picture of herself and her other brother in a playground supposedly in Aleppo before the war.  However there are two problems with the tweet.  First of all, Bana looks exactly the same age as in her current photographs, and secondly it appear that there is no such playground in Aleppo.  Maytham al Ashkar, who knows Aleppo well, has pointed out that there is in fact a playground like this in Gaziantep, Turkey, which is a major hub for terrorists of all colours and obscure NGOs claiming an interest in saving Syria.

Maytham’s offer of rescue.

Maytham al Ashkar, genuinely concerned about Bana’s welfare as fighting intensified and Aleppo’s liberation drew near, offered to help the family escape from Aleppo.  After negotiating with the Syrian authorities, he entered on a twitter exchange with the Bana account in Arabic, but the replies came in English, and he came to the conclusion that the account was not run by Bana’s mother, who is well educated in Arabic, but someone who did not know Arabic at all.  Ultimately the offer of help was refused (the incident is described in full here).

Maytham’s conclusion was that the account is the ultimate propaganda stunt.

‘There is no such a thing as Bana’s tweets. The girl is just a face, a tool used by the British intelligence, and I am saying British, because of the strong relationship between the Bana’s account and the White Helmets, who are funded and sponsored by the UK.’

Bana’s premature death

The account stalwartly ignored all the ridicule for three months, blocking all critics, until there was one blunder too many – Bana was killed off prematurely.

Dec3Deadhebe.PNG

Clearly a few wires were crossed in London, as there was a speedy correction.

Dec3Alive.PNG

Presumably the conversation back at MI6 went something like this (via  Heba@HKX07)

Fatema: I JUST SAW @AlabedBana. She’s dead.
Acct admin: You weren’t meant to kill her off yet.
Fatema: Shit. *Deletes tweet*   BANA IS ALIVE

Another disaster followed in February 2017, when handlers forgot an important detail of Bana’s family, and also used an old photograph (tweet from @NinaByzantina)

Bana's sisterNinaByzantina

Bana is known to have two brothers, Nour and Mohammed, and no sisters, and the suggestion that Bana would refer to a strange girl as ‘my younger sister’ is most unconvincing.  Furthermore, the photograph is from April 2015 at the latest.

After Bana’s premature death the account was promptly closed and then accounts reopened both for Bana and a separate one for Fatemah – from now on Bana’s tweets were to be all her own.   Following the second accident, both accounts were closed down to regroup, with offending tweets deleted, and then reactivated a few days later.

Despite all the evidence provided by first Bana’s embarrassing demise and resurrection and then the latest accident, as well as her close ties with extremists, the Western media continue to treat her as legitimate news. Neither Bana’s family nor her handlers are prepared to give up their cash cow, and the corporate media have no interest in exposing them.

‘Escape from Aleppo’

Soon after the Bana account was restarted following her death and resurrection in December, Bana managed to escape to Ankara, in rather obscure circumstances.  The implication is that she traveled on a green bus to Rashin, with other jihadist families.

and interviewed by Hadi:

A report from Fatemah tells a slightly different story.  According to Fatemah’s description of events in Human Wire, they left their house the day that it was was bombed and she herself sustained significant injuries.  The next the family made their way to Sheikh Sa’eed, another part of Aleppo city, from where they travelled by bus to Turkey.

Bana the Star

Bana’s official arrival in Turkey was the start of a new life in something like the Hollywood star programme.  The day after she is supposed to have left Syria Bana and her family were in Ankara being given a special welcome by Erdogan and the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu – Fatemah having miraculously recovered from her ‘significant injuries’.

Another photo opportunity for Bana was created when American actress Lindsay Lohan visited Turkey and met with both Bana and Erdogan:

All famous people are Bana’s friends, apparently.

UN officers are equally keen to play along.  Justin Forsyth, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF also met with Bana, and pretended to have a conversation with her, even though it was obvious that she could not understand a word. (See video in the Telegraph’s report).

On March 6 it was the turn of Nobel Peace Prize Winner Tawakkol Karman.

Still no let up for Bana –  on 8 March she was forced to appear on a Women and War panel  in Istanbul organised by the Turkish Writers Union to mark International Women’s Day: note that the Union’s article on the event (para. 3) gives special emphasis to the name Alabed, over that of other speakers.  An appearance on the panel would be unsuitable for any seven-year old, but Bana’s first language is Arabic – it can hardly have been anything other than excruciatingly boring.

Women and War

Earlier, in January Bana was interviewed in Istanbul for TRT, in English, again with much help from Mom.

Bana’s ignorance of the English language was painfully obvious; again this has been ignored by the mainstream media, though it certainly did not escape dedicated Bana watchers on social media:

NavstevaQuiz.PNG
(picture by @Navsteva)

Bana the Peace Preacher

Although much of the focus of the Bana Project now is promoting Bana per se, and on creating the assumption that she is already a star, Bana is not resting on her laurels.   In Turkey Bana and Fatemah have begun new lives as peace campaigners.

Febprofile

Assad and Putin are still in her sights:

Bana continues to beg the world to save the children of Syria, but with a special focus now, targeting the controversial new president of the United States. In late January she wrote a personal letter letter to Donald Trump.

Letter to Trump

I know you will be the president of America, so can you please save the children and people of Syria? You must do something for the children of Syria because they are like your children and deserve peace like you.

If you promise me you will do something for the children of Syria, I am already your new friend.

I am looking forward to what you will do for the children of Syria.

Bana’s letter was covered by the  BBC and other major news outlets.

LettertoTrumpMedia

The new star Bana is now in a position to issue ultimatums to the prospective president:

When Trump imposed a ban on immigration from seven Muslim countries, Bana was quick to respond.  Again her views received worldwide attention.

Bana has also written to the UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, begging for humanitarian aid for terrorist controlled areas.  (In fact shortage of food and medicines is not usually the problem in al Nusra controlled areas, so much as the fact of the terrorists stockpiling supplies and withholding them from residents.)

A Nobel Peace Prize for Bana?

In view of the political activism, the meeting with a Nobel Peace Laureate may have had more significance than simply getting another celebrity to sponsor the Bana project.  Devoted Bana fan Alex Verkeek has suggested that Bana could be compared with Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani activist for female education who became at 17 the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate. For the Nobel Prize to be awarded to, say, an eight or nine-year old, on the basis of her tweeting on behalf of bloody intervention, would be quite a coup for her handlers.

In 2016 the fake humanitarian propaganda outfit the White Helmets, with close ties to ISIS, al Nusra and al Zinki, were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, despite the evidence that they are everything to do with propaganda and terrorism and nothing to do with helping people.  There is no reason why the fraudulent Bana account should not be even more successful.  Should the Bana account achieve ‘peace’ in the form of a jihadi emirate in Idlib under UN protection, providing a permanent base from which to launch terrorist attacks on Syria, the campaign for a Nobel Prize will be virtually unstoppable.

Bana as symbol: Anne Frank; Madonna; the Crucified Christ

AnneFrank

Bana’s initial twitter profile picture was designed to be evocative of Anne Frank, and this has not escaped commentators, e.g. Caitlin Gibson in the Washington Post: How a 7-year-old Aleppo girl on Twitter became our era’s Anne Frank, or the NY Times’ Nicholas Kristof, Anne Frank Today Is a Syrian Girl. Another was ‘diplomat’ Alex Verkeek,  who sets out in full the rationale for the Anne Frank comparison, Bana Alabed, the girl that tweeted from Aleppo, is safe! .

The Bana Project has further reinforced the identity with Anne Frank, projecting Bana as a fellow influential female writer, a truth teller.

BanaAnneFrankj

Verkeek acknowledges that new comparisons will be made – in fact they already have, as images have appeared of Bana evoking the Virgin Mary:

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and the Crucifixion, from the beautifully produced TDV KAGEM video .

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Whether or not the crucifixion imagery is intended, it is certainly apt, and not because Bana has taken on the sufferings of Syrian children.

Bana is now the most powerful symbol of child abuse from the Syrian war.

Screamlouder

The exploitation of children in order to justify war must always be distasteful.  In the case of Bana she is going though something like the Hollywood star system, but where she is obliged to lie and dissemble for political purposes.  At the same time, her family will be well paid for her and their efforts. One can hardly imagine a more corrupting situation for a young child.

The concern for Bana’s own welfare, the sporadic mutterings in social media about child abuse, have grown to a crescendo.

iad tawil save the children

Bana gives the impression of being increasingly stressed, as in this recent appeal to Donald Trump.

Child exploitation scored a double hit when Bana and Abdulbasit were introduced.  Abdulbasit found fame after allegedly having had his legs blown off by a barrel bomb. Whether or not the boy has actually had his legs amputated at some stage, the story is deeply flawed, as the scene showed in the video and photographs provided is impossible medically, and otherwise inconceivable, with at least two cameramen operating, and two different fathers shown tugging at the boy.

Bana, who has recorded no response to tragedies occurring in areas under the Syrian government, was apparently shattered by the suffering of a fellow little jihadi.

Lucky Abdulbasit was now Bana’s new best friend, and received a visit in hospital from the little media star.  Bana’s mother directed the performance:

Bana’s association with Abdulbasit, on top of the discrepancies in her own story, should put paid to any credibility, while at the same time highlighting the exploitation of both children.

The complicity of the media

Given that UNICEF in the person of Justin Forsyth, along with various celebrities, is prepared to condone both the fraud and the abuse of Bana Alabed, , it is no surprise that the media have closed eyes and ears to any discrepancies in the saga.

The truth about Bana, and the impossibility that she should have anything to do with the account run in her name, must be inescapable to anyone who has actually met her.  Correspondents from organs of the media, however, such as CNN (A day with Bana, the Syrian girl who gave a voice to Aleppo, 8 February), and the Financial Times Seven-year-old Bana al-Abed, the ‘face of Aleppo’, 10 March, give no indication that the paucity of Bana’s spoken English contradicts the fluency of her tweeting.

What is most shocking is the role of experienced BBC correspondent Orla Guerin, well-known to viewers of BBC World for her reports from the Middle East.  She flew out to interview Bana for the BBC.

Guerin wisely chose to allow Bana to speak in Arabic for the bulk of the interview, though it appears she asked questions in English.  One can see Fatemah prompting Bana throughout, including the suggestion to finish with ‘we shall overcome some day’. Bana’s lack of ability in English, the fraud, the artificiality of the created Bana persona, should have been very apparent to Guerin, but she has chosen to play along with the charade.

Moreover Guerin is undisturbed by the manipulation and exploitation of Bana, and the  likely harm being done to the child by the unhealthy star treatment, the playacting, and the  wasted time spent pretending both to be fluent in a language she has almost no knowledge of and to be interested in matters beyond her years.

There is a moral consistency here.  The corporate media have heavily promoted hoaxes such as the White Helmets and Bana which are designed to gain acceptance for a no-fly zone and the destruction of Syria.  It should come as no surprise that for media intent on an outcome that will destroy the lives of millions, damaging one small Syrian girl is a small price to pay, in order to achieve that end.

LightsAction

See also:

Bana of Aleppo, the Story so Far

Qoppa, Unravelling Bana

Bana Alabed,  Wikipedia

Syrian Girl’s story of two Syrian boys, Omran and Abdullah

The Rebranding of the Anti-Syria Left, part 2: The Gatekeepers

This article is a continuation of The Rebranding of the Anti-Syria Left and endeavours to consider the perceived shift in stance by some of those who have campaigned most vehemently against the Syrian government and in favour of the ‘revolution’, and the implications of this shift.

To recap: Since 2011 researchers and activists have worked tirelessly to investigate and share the facts of the Syrian conflict.   For people taking a serious interest in the conflict the concept of the ‘civil war’ has been long debunked – instead the war has been seen for what it is, a proxy war initiated and fuelled from without, both camouflaged and justified through an extraordinary propaganda campaign . Unsentimental people with no personal interest in Syria now discount the unproven charges against Assad out of hand – after all, why would you believe some lies and not others?

In the meantime the likes of Rania Khalek, Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton have facilitated the war on Syria by using whatever platforms available to them, whether it be published articles, videos or social media. They have furthered the agenda of NATO and its allies by relentlessly vilifying the president of Syria, the Syrian armed forces and the Russian forces, and promoted the bogus concepts of popular revolution and a democratic opposition. At every turn they have underwritten the credibility of corporate media and the most discredited of non-government organisations. They have furthered the cause of forced regime change and external intervention, including actively promoting publications and individuals that support a free-fly zone. They have consciously played a role in the propaganda war on Syria, and therefore must bear some responsibility, if not for the inception of the war, at least for its continuation.

However, in the second half of 2016 there was a shift in approach to the conflict amongst these long-time supporters of the ‘revolution’, consisting in a subtle change in language and increased criticism of the armed extremists, US intervention and the corporate media.  There is less talk of anti-Assad or popular revolutionaries, and more about insurgents, jihadis and collaboration with al Qaeda: ‘The US seems hell bent on turning Syria into a failed state run by war lords’, RK 3/9/16; ‘There are plenty of Syrians opposed to Assad who also despise your Jihadist rebels and what the US has helped them do to Syria’, RK 27/9/16. ‘Syrian anti-government insurgents prevent civilians from leaving eastern Aleppo’ MB 13/9/16; UN’s Staffan de Mistura warns US/Gulf-backed Syrian rebels’ assault on West Aleppo could amount to war crimes, MB 31/10/16; ‘Theo Padno, US journalist kidnapped by al-Nusra, on how US-trained FSA collaborated with Syrian al-Qaeda’, BN 30/8/16.

Max Blumenthal once again plays the ‘Israel’ card, but this time it is applied against the insurgents rather than ‘Assad’:

while Norton no longer defines himself in opposition to ‘Assadistas’ but instead to those promoting a no-fly zone – the ‘pro-NFZ crowd’.

nortonrebranding1

Ben Norton, in particular, has taken care to delete a large number of article and tweets which he now seems to find embarrassing.  Much of this history is recorded in a thread by @nine11inreverse.

In November 2016 Max Blumenthal unexpectedly ‘broke’ the news of Jaish al Islam using caged captives as human shields, a story which had been given wide coverage in corporate and social media a full year earlier.

44cagedprisoners

The fact of Blumenthal deciding to promote a story to the disfavour of the ‘rebels’, 12 months after everyone else, highlights both his disconnect from serious discussion of the Syrian conflict and his change in position.

Thus having for years promoted the NATO narrative about a civil war between an oppressive regime and democratic rebels, all the while being careful not to offend active interventionists, important aspects of the narrative are suddenly being undermined.

Even the credibility of the corporate media, whom Blumenthal and co. have faithfully parroted on Syria, is now in doubt: ‘Compare the coverage of Mosul and East Aleppo and it tells you a lot about the propaganda we consume’ RK 24/10/16; ‘interventionist forces control the narrative on Syria and are immune from scrutiny’ MB 3/10/16.

Rania Khalek, who had not been back in the region for almost a decade, in 28 October began to crowdfund to pay for a trip to Syria and Lebanon, promising scoops and much-needed, apparently, ‘adversarial’ reporting.

Then in September-October Khalek and Blumenthal both published, within a few days of each other, serious research on the Syrian conflict, in each case possibly the first article they have ever written on Syria that does not hang on demonising its president.

People over the years have written about the effect of the sanctions on Syria. Rania Khalek, not having ever before show any such interest, pulled off a coup when the Intercept obtained a copy of the UN report on The Humanitarian Impact of Syria Related Unilateral Restrictive Measures and Khalek was able to publish a related article the same day the Intercept published (the stubs of both articles show 28 September).

A few days later Max Blumenthal published two substantial articles on the activities of organisations such as Avaaz, Purpose and the Syria Campaign, and their use of the White Helmets to push for a no-fly zone in Aleppo: Inside the Shadowy PR Firm That’s Lobbying for Regime Change in Syria and How the White Helmets Became International Heroes whole Pushing Regime Change in Syria.  Articles on Syria have continued to appear, by Benjamin Norton on Bilal Abdul Kareem, an American born-again takfiri well known for his pro-terrorist broadcasts from Aleppo, and Rania Khalek on the support of the western media for terrorist groups in Syria.

Meantime the perceived change of stance has attracted the ire of hardline interventionists, who were used to seeing people like Blumenthal as ‘one of us’, as Anas el Hawat put it.  Blumenthal’s criticism of the Syrian Campaign, slated by  Christina Abraham in an article, In defence of the Syria Campaign attracted particular hostility.

Rania Khalek reported that she had received over a 100 direct messages from Oz Katerji warning her to “change your rhetoric or we will continue to campaign against you (most people would have blocked Katerji long before this point).

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

Given the enormous scale of the propaganda against Syria and in support of the ‘revolutionaries’, no matter how barbaric, people who are prepared to combat that propaganda are sorely needed. Quite understandably, many feel that throwing up their past at a group of people who have ‘seen the light’ and ‘come on board’ is churlish and unhelpful.

However, while the thirdwayers may be abandoning their support for the ‘noble revolutionaries’, and may be selectively questioning Western intervention, a number of things have not changed.  One of the fundamental planks of the NATO narrative,  that of the genocidal Bashar al Assad, is almost unaffected, with Rania Khalek continuing to reinforce the message on twitter, even when criticising the insurgents:

While in Syria recently, Khalek believed she might be a target of the evil Assad regime.

raniakhalek

When this was queried by other journalists who ate at the same table, Khalek deleted the tweet, but did not drop the matter entirely. Other journalists were grateful that Syrian Arab Army and security kept close to them while travelling in Syria, but clearly not Rania Khalek:

raniastilldigging

The police state motif continues when Khalek is interviewed on Secular Talk (full interview here.

Ranis Khalek may be prepared to question the support given to al Qaeda in Syria by Western media, as in her recent article, but at the same time she promotes the assumptions about Syria that underpin the debate within the corporate media.

‘The Syrian government—a dictatorship known for imprisoning, torturing and disappearing dissidents—is easy to vilify. And over the last five years of Syria’s civil war, it has committed its share of atrocities.’

Paralleling the continued assumption of Assad culpability is the ongoing determination not to be seen as ‘Assad apologists’, which is reaffirmed repeatedly, especially on Twitter.

Some of the issues surrounded this rebranding are exemplified by the reception given to Blumenthal’s articles on Avaaz, and the White Helmets, which evoked praise in some quarters but were met with with reservation, surprise or criticism elsewhere.  Researchers like Vanessa Beeley and Corey Morningstar have over the years carried out extensive work on the White Helmets and Avaaz, respectively, much used but usually credited. It came as a surprise to many, therefore, when, Max Blumenthal suddenly produced articles which made extensive use of the work of such people, without crediting them.

In the case of the White Helmets Blumenthal’s material is thin and he has watered down the conclusions considerably. Blumenthal had gone for what might be termed a limited hangout by assuming that the White Helmets are a bona fide humanitarian organisation exploited for PR purposes by the Syria Campaign – according to Blumenthal the Syrian Campaign is ‘partnering with local groups like the Syrian civil defense workers popularly known as the White Helmets’. He is therefore choosing to ignore the implications of the fact of White Helmets being  founded by one James le Mesurier, ex-British army, ex-Foreign Office.

Vanessa Beeley, who has also written about the real Syrian Civil Defence, responded to Blumenthal, highlighting both the U-turn and the  weaknesses of Blumenthal’s report (twitter thread here) .

1.am confused, why do you now write about White Helmets after others have exposed them, no suppot fm u?
2. Why U turn after years attacking other Syria analysts and celebrating @MotherAgnesMari not speaking
3. Why not mention UK FO involvement as primary funder not US?
4. White Helmets are “local civil defence” groups. Why no mention of real Syria Civil Defence?
5. In Part II White Helmets rescue civilians? Russia and Syria are bombing civilians? What are you saying?
6. White Helmets are embedded in Nusra/ISIS areas. Why no mention?

Syria and the Left

On 1 November 2016 Blumenthal appeared in a debate that took place in New York,topic Syria and the Left, organised by Muftah Magazine and Verso Books.

The guests were all proponents of the revolution, the chief point of difference between them being the extent to which they favoured external intervention. Thus a number of assumptions were made by participants which went unchallenged: there was a popular and initially peaceful uprising, the majority of deaths are due to the Syrian government forces, Syrian and Russia are committing massive war crimes, the White Helmets are without doubt heroes (rather than frauds). The highly questionable ‘Russian strike on a school in Idlib’, which supposedly happened in October was mentioned twice without objection.

Sceptics of the NATO narrative would have queried all of these assumptions, but there was not a single person there interested in putting the viewpoint of the Syrian government, or in suggesting that the Syrian government was supported by the majority of the Syrian people, who have always been opposed to the ‘revolution’. There was no  acknowledgement of the research supporting alternative points of view, and certainly not of the people carrying out such research.

Any disagreement that Blumenthal had with other members of the panel was concerned with strategy, and not at all with fact. He was against war, and against anything that could lead to escalation, but his language assumes government culpability and the desirability of a successful outcome for the revolution. Thus,  ‘weaponising a civil uprising and handing it over to a militarised strategy has legitimised everything Bashar al Assad wants to happen with his war on terror narrative’.   ‘Twice he refers to ‘Bashar al Assad using east Aleppo as a “kill box”‘.  ‘We have a duty to stop the escalation that encourages the massive crimes that we all know are committed by Russia and the Syrian government.  […] Most deaths are caused by Syrian government.  […] I agree that what Russia has done is  criminal, what Syria has done criminal, I agree with Staffan de Mistura that Russian and Syria should stop bombing east Aleppo and that al Qaeda should leave.’

There are still, it would seem, moderate rebels:  ‘There are genuine revolutionaries in Idlib and east Aleppo, who are trying to run radio stations like Radio fresh, and lawyers who are involved in civil activism who have been crushed not only by Syrian govt but by al Qaeda’.  What’s needed is ‘legitimate activists to return to the forefront. […] A great idea, and I think Murtaza is thinking similarly, is promoting local ceasefires.  That can be done by incentivising peace, by incentivising people who have been involved in violence, including rebel commanders who do have credibility on the ground to put down their weapons …’

‘Filling the Void’

When criticised for his writing on the Syria Campaign, during the Syria and the Left debate Blumenthal, who had spent a lot of time agreeing with the others, was stung to reply:

If you don’t like my reporting, there are dozens and dozens and dozens of other pieces by other journalists who are spoon-fed PR by the Syria Campaign and all of these pieces about the White Helmets  look alike and they’re hailing them as heroes, the people on the ground who are rescuing children and yes they’re heroic, but I am trying to fill the void and inform you about the campaign that is insidiously cultivating military escalation, and I’m not going to be spoon-fed public relations by anyone.

In view of the high-calibre work on the Syria Campaign carried out by respected journalists like Beeley and Eva Bartlett, which is shared and promoted by thousands of people who oppose the war on Syria, Blumenthal’s claim that he is filling is a void in the research is startling to say the least.

The theme of a gap in research only now being filled by Blumenthal had already been broached by his article on the White Helmets:

Critical questions about the White Helmets’ role in an interventionist public relations apparatus have been raised by only a few marginal websites that generally support the Syrian government — and those who raise them have been subjected to scorn and castigation.

This is a deliberate attempt to belittle the status of people like Vanessa Beeley, whose work on  Syria is highly regarded and shared daily by thousands, and who has spoken to the United Nations on Saudi war crimes in Yemen.  A few days after Blumenthal published his article, Beeley, Eva Bartlett and Patrick Henningsen appeared on an edition of RT’s Crosstalk entitled ‘White Helmets, Really?’.  All three journalists have appeared numerous times on television and radio speaking about Syria and other issues, and their work is blogged and reblogged, sometimes by the same websites that publish Blumenthal’s own work.

There is a concerted campaign by representatives of the anti-Syria left to deny the existence of huge body of important research into the Syrian war, to marginalise the people that carry out this research, and to create a totally false perception that the essential dichotomy with regard to Syria is between Blumenthal and co. on the one hand, and people of a very similar persuasion on the other.

Two articles from the latter part of 2016, theoretically on different sides of this new divide, work very hard to enforce this perception, .  The title of Seth Frantzman’s piece is self-explanatory: Moral Barometer: How Syria Conflict Divided the Left Pro-Palestinian Voices and Exposed a Murderous Support for Assad

Now there is a full-fledged and visceral debate online among writers, journalists and activists.  On one side those such as Katerji have castigated a coterie of writers with similar views as Abunimah, such as Max Bumenthal, Rania Khalek and Benjamin Norton. […] many expressed shock at the degree to which their supposed ideological friends were wrong about the Assad regime, apologizing for its atrocities.

Fredrik deBoer on the other hand, in his article 1953—2002—2016: Syria and the Reemergence of McCarthyism, sees the newly rebranded third wayers as heroes: ‘Few have been the subject of more brutal smears than American journalists Max Blumenthal and Rania Khalek.’

‘Blumenthal and Khalek are, in a sense, political orphans: left-wing, disdainful of Democrats, not associated with deep-pocketed publications, and fiercely independent. They are thus vulnerable, and precisely the kind of voices we should be protecting, if we want to preserve an adversarial, questioning, critical press.’

The thirdwayers, too, like to project themselvs as heroes demonstrating enormous courage in the face of great odds:

DeBoer’s article is a determined promotion of the thirdway philososophy and its adherents, and his  views on Syria are almost identical to those of Blumenthal, ‘There is no doubt that a large portion of the Syrian public rejects Assad, who share my own conviction that Assad must go….  I think he’s a monster.’

There is considerable consensus between  the authors of these two articles and with the position of Blumenthal and co.  There is no essential disagreement over the nature of the Syrian conflict, or the fundamental desires and needs of the Syrian people.  There is no acknowledgement that serious research disagrees with their view of the facts.  Those who disagree with their viewpoint are explained away as being pro-Assad, and irrelevant. To this end, deBoer stated:

Are there in fact pro-Assad leftists? Sure. [..] What matters is not the existence of a pro-Assad left but the influence of the pro-Assad left. I would personally assign the power of that group at exactly zero.

Louis Allday’s article, Controlling the Narrative on Syria, likewise reinforces the false dichotomy and inflates the contribution by Blumenthal and Khalek. It is notable that while Allday does not vilify Bashar al Assad, he does leap to defend Blumenthal’s claim to being anti-Assad: ‘Indeed, in 2012 Blumenthal resigned in very public fashion from the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar, citing its purportedly pro-Assad editorial stance’, thus appearing to concur that to be called pro-Assad is indeed libelous.

Follow the Money: Soros and Alternet

In a comment to the Syria and the Left debate, Nakle Awad asked:

nakleawadsorossyriaandleft2

George Soros is well known as a sponsor, via his organisation Open Society, of a large number of NGOs, both major and very obscure, which all campaign actively against the Syrian government and in favour of a no-fly zone. Open Society also  funds the news outlet Alternet.

Max Blumenthal is a senior editor with Alternet’s Grayzone Project . According to its facebook page , the Grayzone Project is all about confronting Islamophobia, and exposing bigotry. The name is a curious choice, as it evokes nothing so much as the idea of
gray, white and black propaganda (white propaganda being the most truthful, with a fine line between gray and black).

In the past Alternet’s principal contribution to the Syria debate has been to publish hand-wringing articles about US intervention, without offering anything groundbreaking or courageous.  Alternet publishes articles by both Ben Norton and Rania Khalek, including their most recent.

Another Alternet contributor is David Swanson, who is also theoretically anti-war and anti-imperialist, while at the same time promoting the NATO narrative in terms of Russian and Syrian war crimes, and likewise never addressing the question of evidence.  His article How to Get Yourself Named Pro-Assad in which he mourns the burdens of being slandered as an ‘Assad supporter’, but has nothing to say about the untruths about Syria contained in the article he is addressing, certainly mimics the concerns of Blumenthal, Norton and Khalek.  Given that he had previously published (on Alternet) an article entitled The U.S. Has Been Pushing to Overthrow Assad in Syria for 10 Years, one might have expected him to take issue with, for example, claims of an initially peaceful uprising, but this was not his priority.

The connection between Alternet and Snopes, should not be overlooked.  Snopes is supposedly a fact-checking site that exposes fake news, though questions have been asked about its credentials, journalistic rigor and impartiality.  As with other sites focused on ‘fake news’, the corporate media is the benchmark for credibility.  In  Snopes Exposed: a Look at the Fake News Industry Vaccine Impact observed: ‘It can probably be accurately stated that Snopes upholds the mainstream media propaganda, while attacking anything in the alternative media’.

Independent journalist Bethania Palma Markus writes for both Alternet and Snopes, producing for the latter in December 2016 a rather flimsy article attacking the credibility of article written by Vanessa Beeley and published by 21st Century Wire.  Despite the enormous amount of photographic and video evidence to the contrary, Markus bizarrely concludes:  ‘Whatever their motives may be, we found no credible evidence that the White Helmets are linked to terrorist organizations‘.

Controlling the Narrative

Given the co-ordinated and limited nature of their ‘conversion’, the relentless and unwarranted self-promotion, the close links with proponents of a no-fly zone in Syria and the refusal to acknowledge the work of other people in the Syrian field, the view that people like Blumenthal and co. have ‘come on board’ the struggle for truth with regard to the Syrian conflict seems most optimistic.

What is far more probable is that there is a concerted campaign, sponsored by George Soros, to  control the narrative on Syria. This is to be achieved by  Blumenthal, Norton, Khalek and others moving closer to an anti-imperialist position, in order to create a false dichotomy within the forces opposed to Syrian independence.  This false dichotomy will be used to promote people who are hostile to the Syrian government and the interests of the Syrian people as the pro-Syrian voice in the Syria debate.  The goal is that Blumenthal and co. are in a position to dominate and weaken the discussion on Syria, and deflect attention from serious research which questions the fundamentals of Western propaganda.

There will be strategic concessions in the form of acknowledgement of ‘rebel’ atrocities and US intervention, while myths that facilitate intervention, such that of a popular uprising, the existence of moderate rebels and genocidal tendencies on the part of ‘Assad and Russia’ will be protected. Important questions relating, for example, to the propaganda campaign against Syria, including the role of the British Foreign Office and the true function of the White Helmets and Bana of Aleppo, will continue to be obfuscated.

The alternative media will give the thirdwayers a platform and permit them to regurgitate the research of others, enabling them to package as their own revelations that others made long ago.  Genuine researchers and genuine opponents to the war will be marginalised by being  ignored or discredited by the ‘alternative’ and mainstream media.  Blumenthal, Norton and Khalek will not risk debating serious researchers directly: that will be left to questionable organisations like Snopes and Bellingcat.  There will be a determined effort to erase a whole body of research that questions the NATO narrative on Syria.

There has been a disturbing increase in references to Iran on social media, e.g. the hashtags #IranArabSpring #FreeIran. There is a sense of impatience, as if events are falling behind schedule (see Wesley Clark).  The role of the thirdwayers, should there be a colour revolution in Iran, remains to be seen, but having now adopted the role of anti-imperialists, they will be in a better position to claim Iran as a genuine revolution, or to push for external intervention before the ‘revolution’ is taken over by jihadists.

The role of gatekeepers is a controversial matter, with some maintaining that their contribution outweighs any negative consequences.  However those who are seriously concerned for the future of Syria and the greater Middle East should think carefully before conceding too much ground to the ‘gray zone’.

 

Acknowledgements: a group of activists endowed with long memories and natural scepticism have been rigorously monitoring the apparent U-turn taken by Blumenthal, Norton and Khalek, and have also archived relevant material.  They include @cossa68, @ChrisRulon, @nine11inreverse and @Navsteva.

Russia: Ahrar al Sham and Jaish al Islam are ‘Moderate Opposition’

A nationwide Syrian ceasefire, which has been brokered by Moscow and Ankara, has been unanimously endorsed by the United Nations Security Council.  The media, even CNN, have been making a big deal of the ceasefire agreement, especially of the fact that it has been effected without the participation of the United States.  Who has actually been involved is another question, as some reports claim a tripartite agreement, involving Russia, Iran and Turkey.

In a clip that has been showing repeatedly on RT over the last day or two (31 December – 1 January), Murad Gazdiev waxed enthusiastic at the prospect of a successful ceasefire brokered without US involvement.  According to Gazdiev, the ‘troika’ (Russia, Turkey and Iran) ‘are now doing what US promised to do for years, separating moderates from jihadists […].  The troika is getting things done.‘  The clip continues with Ken Livingstone, who affirms that ‘Islamist groups have been excluded‘.

To many people a major question was the identity of these moderate groups, but in his excitement, Gazdiev overlooked this matter entirely.   Fortunately the Russian Ministry of Defence has published the list of the seven groups who have signed up to the ceasefire.  According to the Ministry, these are ‘Formations of the moderate opposition, which control vast territories in the northern and central part of Syria and which have joined the ceasefire‘.

1. Feilak al-Sham, over 4,000 strong; operate in Aleppo, Idlib, Hama and Homs provinces.
2. Ahrar al-Sham;  about 16,000; Aleppo, Damascus, Daraa, Idlib, Latakia, Hama and Homs provinces.
3. Jaysh al-Islam: 12,000; Aleppo, Damascus, Daraa, Deir ez-Zor, Latakia, Hama and Homs provinces.
4.  Thuwar al-Sham: about 2,500; Aleppo, Idlib and Latakia provinces.
5.  Jaysh al-Mujahideen: 8,000; Aleppo city,provinces of Aleppo, Idlib and Hama.
6. Jaysh Idlib:  more than 6,000;  Idlib province.
7. Jabhat al-Shamiyah; about 3,000; Aleppo, Idlib and Damascus provinces.

Thus the backbone of the ‘moderate rebels’, the ‘legitimate opposition’, are Jaish al Islam and Ahrar al Sham, long considered to be extremist organisations in terms of both their sectarianism and their brutality.  Jaish al Islam, which has forces in Ghouta, Damascus, is implicated in the Ghouta sarin attack (in its previous incarnation as Liwa al-Islam), shelling civilian areas of Damascus, and using caged women as human shields. Ahrar al Sham is associated with numerous atrocities; including the massacre in al Zara of May 2016.  They are also the dominant force in Madaya where the militants sell humanitarian aid at exorbitant prices to residents.

Jaish al Islam, along with al Nusra, is part of the Jaish al Fatah alliance, which claimed responsibility for a suicide attack in Tartous on New Year’s Eve, the same day that the ceasefire was agreed.  (The Arabic below actually reads ‘Today in in Tartous and tomorrow in Moscow, Russia’)

Until a few days ago Russia too saw these groups as extremist.  In May 2016 Russia moved that the UN Security Council recognise both Jaish al Islam and Ahrar al Sham as terrorist organisations, a motion that was vetoed by the US, the UK and France.  According to the view Russia’s Vitaly Churkin expressed at the time:

Jaish al Islam and Ahrar al Sham are ‘closely linked to terrorist organisations, primarily ISIL and al-Qaeda’. The groups ‘both give to [ISIL and al-Nusra] and receive from them financial, material, technical and military support’.

All the factions listed by the Russian Ministry, not just Jaish al Islam and Ahrar al Sham, have been operating in Aleppo or Idlib, alongside al Nusra. Aside from Jaish Idlib (based in the al Nusra stronghold of Idlib), they are all complicit in the wanton shelling of civilians in western Aleppo. Most of them refused to join the ceasefire brokered in September, because al Nusra was excluded.

In short they are all terrorist organisations.  But moderate terrorists, it would seem. And not just moderate but, according to the Russian Ministry of Defence, ‘moderate opposition’.

When Lavrov and Kerry brokered a cessation of hostilities in May 2016, on condition that the moderate rebels were separated from the jihadists that they were cooperating with, many people thought oh good, the US fiction of ‘moderate rebels’ is going to be exposed.  But no, Russia has been playing along with the concept of the moderate rebels all year, even though it has been abundantly clear that in Aleppo, for example, all the ‘rebels’, no matter what their theoretical alignment, have been cooperating in their operations, including their war crimes against the people of Aleppo.  Now Russia is making another huge concession to the NATO narrative, by redefining Ahrar al Sham and Jaish al Islam as moderate organisations.

Once again, we are asked to believe that groups who eat with, fight with, and have the same mores as al Nusra and ISIS can somehow be redefined as moderate, legitimate opposition in Syria.  As Eva Bartlett has said,  there are no moderate rebels – from a Syrian perspective they are all committing the same crimes, the same heinous acts (below, from 6.20 mins).

In fact the viability of the ceasefire, or at least its participants, seems to be in some doubt.  Fighting has continued: a report has just come through that Jaish al Islam has taken back the Air Battalion base in East Ghouta.

If the ceasefire is successfully imposed, the agreement obliges the Syrian government and the ‘opposition’ to start direct talks in Astana in late January.  The Syrian government has agreed, therefore, to sit down and discuss the future of Syria with war criminals who are anathema to the majority of Syrian people.  What will they discuss?  The options are limited, as the Syrian government have ruled out partition, and also  De Mistura’s idea of small Islamist states dotted about Syria.  The best case scenario is for all foreign fighters to leave and for Syrian militants to accept democratic rule in Syria (rather than sharia law), but it hardly seems likely.

FCO and Civil March Addenda

The purpose of this page is to present informally updates relating to the Civil March on Aleppo, main article here, including further information relating to background, and new developments.

1 January

Happy New Year to the people of ‘Aleppo’.  In English, German, Polish, but not Arabic. Another polished production.

28 December

Disagreements amongst supporters over whether ‘the flag’ should be flown and whether opposition to the Syrian government should be more explicit.  Thank you  @sunami495.  https://linksunten.indymedia.org/en/node/200144

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Pics above and below from @Navsteva

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26-27 December Twitter Account

As as 27 December the account was following 427 people

goodexamplebeetter

There are striking similarities with the Bana account.  It looks as though the the Civil March follows every single journalist, ‘activist’, official or organisation that asks for a no-fly zone in Syria or campaigns relentlessly on behalf of terrorist groups in Syria and against the Syrian government, including the following:

@mollycrabapple; Syrian Network for Human Rights; Charles Davis, Raed Fares; Robin Yassin-Kassab; Gareth Bayley FCO; Elizabeth Tsurkov; Daniel Wickham, SAMS @sams_usa; Hassan Hassan @hxhassan;  Murtaza Hussain;  Michael Weiss; Rafik Hariri Center; Kenneth Roth; Syria Solidarity UK; Oz Katerji;   Kristyan Benedict @KreaseChan;   Syria Pulse; Leila Al-Shami; Lina Sergie Attar; Kenan Rahmani;   Shawn Carrié @shawncarrie; Sophie McNeill;  Julian Röpcke; Liz Sly; HadiAlabdallah;  Kyle W. Orton;  Waad Alkateab; Samantha Power; Peter Tatchell;  Grannies4Equality;  Aron Lund;  Ahmad Alkhatib; Rami Jarrah;  Charles Lister ; Louisa Loveluck;  Emma Beals; The Syria Campaign; Stop the War Syria @STWsyria  [28 December, also Bilal Abdul Kareem]

At least five White Helmet accounts:  Ismail Alabdullah @ishmael12345611 ;   Majd khalaf @majdkhlafa19931;   Khaled Khatib @995Khaled;   Idlib – Whitehelmets @whitehelmets_sy;   The White Helmets@SyriaCivilDef

Several accounts associated with the Bana project, @AlabedBana,  @ZainaErhaim (who broke the news that Bana was safe after being bombed, @Mr_Alhamdo;  AJ Joshi @AJ .  Also … JK Rowling

Other celebrities, such as Ben Affleck, Emma Watson and Mia Farrow.

Other representatives of the corporate media, none noticeably sympathetic to the Syrian government, such as Orla Guerin, who flew to Ankara to interview Bana of Aleppo, Lyse Doucet, Jeremy Bowen, James Longman (sometimes referred to as Jihadi Jim), all of the BBC, Anne Barnard of the New York Times, Josie Ensor of the Telegraph, Jim Clancy.

Human rights ‘watchdogs’ such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch.

Various UN bodies, such as UNICEF, UNHCR. Also EU bodies: Council of Europe, European Ombudsman.

George Soros’s Open Society

The International Criminal Court @IntlCrimCourt. According to the manifesto: manifestojustice

Followers: so far the March has not matched @AlabedBana in terms of huge purchases of followers, having only 1,562 followers, but already a large number look suspect.  It will be interesting to see it the numbers change dramatically.

26 March sets out with 300 followers.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxwuUNMbmIU&feature=youtu.be

23 December

BBC runs article

The Civil March on Aleppo has the Foreign Office’s Prints All Over It

This article follows on from The British Foreign Office and the Propaganda War on Syria

The role played by the British Foreign Office and other government departments in the unremitting propaganda against the Syrian government is unquestionable. The British government is determinedly pursuing its policy of regime change in Syria, and sees gaining public acceptance of that policy through propaganda that demonises the Syrian government and glorifies the armed opposition as essential to achieving that goal.  Companies like Incostrat and Mayday, both British in origin, who are involved in ‘strategic communications’ projects in Syria, are open about their contractual relationships with the British government to deliver propaganda.

All major propaganda projects in Syria that are financed by the British taxpayer have one explicit message: the call for a no-fly zone in Syria, similar to that was which was imposed on Libya, with the well-known disastrous consequences. The ostensible purpose is humanitarian intervention; the aim is to destroy Syria as we know it .

The Civil March on Aleppo

The constant stream of allegations of war crimes on the part of the Syrian government and its allies is supported by specific propaganda projects, such as The White Helmets and @AlabedBana (see Appendix).  The Civil March on Aleppo is another such project.

The Civil March on Aleppo will set out from Berlin on 26 December. The March has all the hallmarks of a slick Foreign Office production: the quick development, the expensive-looking advertising, the feel-good values presented (families, peace) camouflaging the brutality of the desired outcome, ie. a no-fly zone and the bombing of Syria by the NATO coalition.

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The humanitarian corridor is of course a red herring. Humanitarian corridors have been provided by the Syrian government, only to be blocked by the terrorists in the east, with those fleeing often shot dead. The intention of the march is to support the demand for a no-fly zone, which is mentioned twice elsewhere in the manifesto ‘We need the no-fly zone and humanitarian corridor’. ‘We don’t want to get into politics – we only want a no-fly zone over Syria and humanitarian corridors so that help can get to the people in need’.

There are a number of assumptions that are not argued but taken as read: civilians are being massacred , bombs are dropping, children’s hospitals are being targeted. There is no mention of insurgents or terrorists, Russia or Assad, government-controlled western Aleppo versus eastern Aleppo. However, anyone who follows the mainstream media (or looks at the postings by Civil March activists) will assume the massacres referred to are those attributed to Syria and Russia, likewise the targeting of children’s hospitals.

According to the manifesto, ‘The only affiliation is peace. And hope […]‘.  Which is nonsense. The Facebook pages of both the Civil March and its organisers show that the organisation is affiliated with the armed insurgency, i.e. the terrorist groups.  This is demonstrated by: FSA flags; promotion of known terrorist supporters such as Bilal Abdul Kareem; overt support for the White Helmet and Bana Projects, both of which have close ties with the al Zinki gang; the constant repetition of propaganda derived from those projects or elsewhere, most of which is easily disproven. Imposition of a no-fly zone has no other motive than to satisfy the NATO agenda. The acquiescence of the United Nations to a no-fly zone in Libya was promptedly interpreted as an invitation to bomb Libya to smithereens; NATO states are desperate to get the green light to do the same thing to Syria. Fortunately, the response of Russian and China has been determinedly ‘fool me once …’.

[The manifesto of the Civil March has since been amended to remove all three references to a no-fly zone.]

The timing is somewhat strange – by the time the marchers arrive at the Syrian border the last terrorist will be gone from Aleppo, and it is most unlikely there will be any bombing going on in the city, at least on the part of the Russian and Syrian airforces. Furthermore, a lot of truth will have been revealed by then – even Kerry has conceded that some of the groups have been preventing civilians from leaving. Some have already joked that the Marchers will end up going to Idlib or Raqqa, though  the organisers have indicated their hope that their mission will be achieved (presumably the no-fly zone) before arriving at the Turkish-Syrian border.  The intended destination is probably Gaziantep in south-east Turkey, which provides a hub for terrorist support operations (Mayday, which runs the White Helmets on behalf of the FCO, has a base there), a number of minor NGOs whose chief function is to propagandise against the Syrian government and also for Western journalists.

The plan is the UN and all other institutions or entities that can stop the massacre of Syrian civilians hear us before we stand on the border.

The project was initiated, apparently, by an ordinary mother, Polish in origin, living in Berlin. On 20 November Anna Alboth was galvanised into action after reading an article in the British newspaper The Independent about premature babies (it’s very hard not to think of Saddam Hussein and the Kuwaiti incubator hoax)

As with Bana, there is the same sense of a campaign carefully planned externally and ready to go. There appears to be no record of Anna putting out feelers to friends or tossing ideas round, but by 28 November the Civil March on Aleppo had a Facebook account complete with professionally designed logo and cover photo, followed by use of the hashtags #StoptheBombing and #CivilMarchforAleppo.

On 1 December a video was uploaded.

Anna Alboth focuses on the need of ordinary people to get past their feeling of helplessness and do something- ‘I would like to transform these tears and this anger into some action – I would like to go to Aleppo’.

Anna’s words are very indefinite, but the photos in the video convey an unmistakable message.  The video provides the usual incestuous reinforcement, showing many tweets from the other FCO projects, @AlebedBana and the White Helmets.  There are tweets from @AhmadAlkhtiib, a Syrian journalist who tweets mostly in English on behalf of the ‘FSA’ and the ‘revolution’.  One tweet clearly warns of genocide in Aleppo. The mostly Facebook page, almost all in Arabic, of one Mohammed al Khatieb is shown (does Anna really speak Arabic?).

The video finishes with a chorus ‘I’m going to Aleppo’, ‘We are going to Aleppo’.

The video has high production values, and it is impossible to believe that it was designed by anyone other than a professional media company. However according to Alboth, the video was made by young chef Tokarski Jørg Jarek as his contribution to the project.

Who are We?

More information became available on 2 December.

There’s a lot of misinformation when it comes to who we are and why we’re organizing the march. We’ve read and heard it all: CIA, Assad, Putin…

The truth is a lot less sensational and a lot more mundane, I’m afraid – we’re just an international bunch of travelers, lawyers, journalists, social, office and corporate workers – your typical guys and girls next-door – who are sick and tired of feeling powerless when it comes to the crisis in Syria and beyond.

So the same company who used the line about the White Helmets being just ordinary Syrians, bakers, tailors, etc, are almost repeating themselves, but this time with a strong middle class angle.

The jocular suggestion ‘Is it CIA? Assad? Putin?’ (anyone but MI6) is a mantra repeated yet again in the biography of another enthusiast loaded that day (‘Is it CIA? Assad? Putin? No. It’s people like Marta’). It shows poor judgement on the part of the project managers, as Assad and Putin are clearly a ridiculous option, given that the intent of the March is to highlight their alleged war crimes, and strongly points to a deflection away from the real sponsors, with MI6 or the Foreign Office high on any list of possible suspects.

According to their blog, Anna Alboth and her husband Thomas endeavour to live a lifestyle which combines journalism, family life and travel. However their travels did not take them anywhere near Syria, and there is no indication that Anna had the slightest interest in the Middle East or peace activism before November 2016.

The manifesto gives a long list of people who support the Civil March on Aleppo.   Just first names are given but some full names appear elsewhere on the facebook page, a few of which I have checked out.

Stefan Oeknigk, a German living in Poland, describes himself as a project manager, responsible for the transport and logistic team for the March. His LinkedIn CV shows project management, team building, information technology, management of web design projects. He seems a likely candidate for overall management of the Civil March project. He does not appear to be a big user of social media – his twitter account @DayDreamer1969 is protected but shows little activity.

Marta Kusnierska describes herself on twitter, @martakusnierska, as a consultant for social impact and entrepreneurship / business and innovation strategy. According to her LinkedIn CV she has worked as a brand ambassador and marketing strategy consultant.  Like Anna, she has shown no interest in peace activism or the Middle East before November, but now actively promotes the Civil March.

Joanna Nowak posted about Anna’s plan even before she did, on 19 December. Again, there is no indication on her facebook page of any previous interest in Syria. However from then on her page is dedicated to standard propaganda in support of the militants in Aleppo, posting about the White Helmets, Bana Alabed, the last cat man in Aleppo, the Free Syrian Army, with reports from known terrorist sympathisers Bilal Abdul Kareem and Waad al Kataeb (latest reports give Waad’s current location as the al Nusra stronghold of Idlib).  In one posting Aleppo is glibly compared to Warsaw 1944.

Paulina Kuntze made a comment on the Civil March’s first post of 28 November. On the public pages of her facebook account there were indications of an interest in Syria prior to this, in particular a video posted 21 November from Orient News, a pro-terrorist media organisation – its propaganda intent is reveaded by the fact of the video portraying a huge demonstration in support of Bashar al Assad and the Syrian government (with red white and black flag) as a protest AGAINST the government).

Paulina Kuntze has an interesting twitter history. Her account was opened on 27 July 2014 and since then has functioned purely as an anti-Syria propaganda vehicle. Most days she did not tweet at all, occasionally just one or two tweets, but some days there was a huge number, e.g. on 1 June 2016 there were 150 all about Syia, while on 2 June, via mobile twitter, she tweeted 130 times. Most tweets have pictures and there are very few retweets. She appears to have put in an enormous effort, but very few were ever ‘liked’, and possible none retweeted. The account seems to have functioned purely as a filing system, and nothing has been added since August 11.

On 10 December the Civil March posted a report on the publicity in the media to date . One of the first to cooperate was the German tabloid Das Bild, well known as extreme in its anti-Syrian views even as corporate media go, which reported on 7 December that it had spoken with Anna Alboth several weeks previously. The article was written by Julian Roepcke, often referred to on social media as #jihadijulian for his pro-terrorist viewpoint, and is essentially a promotion of the March. A video is included, which appears to be a first draft of the one loaded on 30 November, with Anna uttering almost identical words. The snazzily presented twitter shots of the later video are missing, but the Civil March logo and banner are displayed.

In recent days there have been calls for the donation of equipment, and a crowdfunding campaign was announced. This by no means negates an external sponsor: while the Foreign Office have been open about their responsibility for the White Helmets, they have been a great deal more discreet about projects such as @AlabedBana and the Civil March on Aleppo.

The media campaigns face huge obstacles which they have not been able to surmount.

1) It’s advertising: It is hard to create a swept-up, maximum-impact campaign without it looking exactly that  – a maximum-impact high-end advertising campaign. The projects, therefore, contain a fundamental flaw: the advertising techniques that are so effective are the very things that give the game away. The careful posing of Omran on the orange chair was loved by the uncritical (or complicit) corporate media, but are a big red flag to any impartial observer.

2) The players: All these campaigns rely for their message on the supposed involvement of ordinary decent people, whether Syrian or Polish. Unfortunately for the project managers, the only trustworthy partners for the Foreign Office’s propaganda projects are people committed to the ‘revolution’, i.e. terrorist supporters. Many of them look, speak and behave like thugs, and in any case they cannot conceal their connections with unsavoury organisations.

It is questionable, therefore, how many people who have seriously looked at projects like the White Helmets actually buy the product. The petition in favour of the White Helmets getting a Nobel Peace price only garnered 3000 signatures. Very few of twitter respondents to @AlabedBana are genuinely taken in: most are trolls of one description or another, either pushing the NATO narrative or ridiculing the Project. In the case of the Civil March there appear to be very few genuine responders, apart from critics. One has to wonder whether the Foreign Office is prepared to pay for 3,000 extras to march on Aleppo.

Appendix

White Helmets

The ‘Syrian Civil Defense’ (not to be confused with the real Syrian Civil Defence), aka known as the White Helmets, are defined as a humanitarian first responder organisation, which according to their website is staffed by ordinary Syrians: ‘Bakers, tailors, engineers, pharmacists, painters, carpenters, students and many more, the White Helmets are volunteers from all walks of life’.

In reality we are dealing with a multi-million dollar enterprise, designed on behalf of the British government. Its sole function is to operate as a propaganda arm for al Nusra and allied groups in Aleppo and Idlib, by creating the image of brave and selfless heroes who stage dramatic rescues, usually involving small children, which are videoed by the Aleppo Media Center. Few people from eastern Aleppo seem to have heard of the White Helmets, but when RT’s Lizzie Phelan tracked down some who had dealings with them the escapees had little good to say about the ‘first responders’.

The White Helmet have all the elements of a major advertising campaign or serious company launch, with logo, catchy ‘White Helmets’ brand name and distinctive helmet, new and freshly ironed uniforms, Facebook page and Twitter account (not yet signed up to LinkedIn, though I did find this little promotion). Salaries, uniforms and other accoutrements are all paid for with targeted funding from NATO and allied countries, to the tune of more than $100 million to date.

The White Helmets vigorously demand a no-fly zone in Syria and have a petition to that effect on their website.

 Bana Tweets from Aleppo

Bana Alabed is the face of the Bana Project, which was based on the concept of a little girl tweeting out of Aleppo, begging the world to do anything, even declare WWIII, if it saved Aleppo from Assad and Russia’s bombs. As with the White Helmets, Bana  was greeted with  scepticism by Syria watchers from the beginning, and even the New York Times has expressed doubts.

Ostensibly ‘Bana’ should have been a completely different sort of campaign, without logos or expensive equipment. However, that it was a sophisticated operation was clear from the outset: the contrived opening tweet ‘I need Peace” , the reiteration of the message (we are bombed, save us), uploaded videos from day one, the purchase of huge numbers of followers to give the impression of support, and a supporting Facebook page.

In recent weeks Bana’s close links with the most barbaric gangs terrorising eastern Aleppo have become increasingly apparent, to the total indifference of the corporate media.

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(Image from Panchi Belaunde @panchibelaunde)

Bana and her mother constantly beg for active intervention from external forces.

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The Foreign Office and the Propaganda War on Syria

On his first official visit to Turkey in September 2016, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson announced that the British government was giving about £2.3 billion in aid to Syria. Of course when Johnson said ‘aid to Syria’ he meant anything but – Britain may be contributing to the odd refugee camp outside of Syria, but most of that £2.3 billion goes to support al Qaeda and ISIS-linked groups in order to bring down the legitimate government in Syria.

Since 2011 the British government has had an official policy of regime change in Syria – Assad must go. While the UK has not yet formally invaded Syria, it has played a significant military role, including training insurgents in Jordan from 2012. The British air force has a presence in Syria, ostensibly to fight terrorism, though whether it has ever targeted anyone but the soldiers of the Syrian Arab Army is open to question (the presence in Syrian airspace of the British airforce is in clear breach of international law).

Perhaps the biggest role played by the British government is that of creating propaganda designed to undermine the Syrian government and its supporters in their fight against ‘insurgents’.

The official position of the NATO states is that the Syrian government has ‘lost legitimacy’, and that there is a ‘legitimate opposition’ made up of ‘moderate rebels’. To create support for this view NATO states, including the UK, the US, France and the Netherlands, have invested heavily in a two-pronged propaganda campaign to shape public perception of the war by:

  1. Demonising the Syrian administration, particularly the person of Syria’s popular president, Bashar al Assad, and all the forces that support the administration: the Syrian Arab Army; the National Defence Forces (part-time reservists, rather like a Home Guard); non-Syrian forces from neighbouring countries, such as Hezbollah.
  2. Creating a false perception of a popular uprising spearheaded by ‘moderate’, ‘democratic’ forces that are acceptable to the Syrian people, and thus can eventually form or be part of a viable government.    

The target audience is the West – Syrians themselves are not going to swallow the bizarre fiction that groups who look like ISIS, act like ISIS and have the same ideology as ISIS, should somehow be seen on the one hand as heroes in preference to their own sons and daughters in the Syrian Arab Army, and on the other as a legitimate political opposition to their government.

A typical example of the moderate opposition in the eyes of NATO is the al Zinki gang, whose crimes include sawing off the head of a 12 year old child, and who clearly identify with ISIS (they were careful to pose in front of the ISIS flag in this picture).alzinkiheadchopper

In the context of Aleppo, the State Department has claimed throughout 2016 that it has been endeavouring to separate out the ‘moderate rebels’ from the extremists. This is clearly nonsense: al Nusra dominates in eastern Aleppo, and when a a ceasefire was agreed in September 2016, 20 ‘moderate’ groups including Ahrar al Sham and al Zinki refused to take part because al Nusra, as an officially designated terrorist group, was not included.

The propaganda campaign also serves to draw attention away from the role NATO have played in creating instability in Syria – it is painfully clear that British anti-war politicians and organisations such as Stop the War UK believe that honour is satisfied as long as Britain is not openly bombing in Syria.

The immediate aim of the propaganda is to gain acceptance for increased NATO intervention in Syria, above all a no-fly zone, as was approved by the UN for Libya in 2011, which would then be interpreted by NATO forces as a  license to bomb with impunity, and destroy Syria as a functioning independent country.

The UK’s propaganda effort for the Syrian armed opposition began after the government failed to persuade parliament to support military action against trhe Assad regime.  In autumn 2013, the UK embarked on behind-the-scenes work to influence the course of the war by shaping perceptions of opposition fighters. (Cobain, Ross, Evans, Mahmoud, 3 May 2016)

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), working with the Ministry of Defence, the Home Office and the Prime Minister’s Office founds or contracts companies for the express purpose of creating ‘targeted information’ in relation to the war on Syrian.

In effect the British government has funded a comprehensive top of the range advertising campaign to promote sectarian extremists in Syria who function as units of al Qaeda and ISIS.

Contractors hired by the Foreign Office but overseen by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) produce videos, photos, military reports, radio broadcasts, print products and social media posts branded with the logos of fighting groups, and effectively run a press office for opposition fighters.’ (Cobain and co., 3 May 2016)

The contractors also develop specific public relations projects such as the White Helmets, Bana Tweets From Aleppo and the Civil March on Aleppo.

In parallel with these operations the British Government funds social media trolls to get the desired message across.  In January 2015 the Ministry of Defence announced the formation of its 77th Brigade, which would consist of social media activists engaged in ‘non-lethal warfare’, by attempting to control the narrative in media such as Facebook and Twitter.  (According to the report in the Guardian, the US and Israel were already heavily engaged in such operations)

Two closely aligned companies working with the Foreign Office and other UK departments are Incostrat and Mayday Rescue.

Mayday Rescue

‘Mayday Rescue supports vulnerable communities in the most dangerous and challenging places in the world by training and equipping local groups to prepare for, respond to, and recover from the impact of war, disasters, and emergencies.’ (Mayday)

At the present time Mayday’s sole responsibility appears to be management of the ‘Syrian Civil Defense’ or White Helmets, a supposed first responder organisation staffed by ordinary Syrians, which are in fact an extension of the terrorist groups in Aleppo and Idlib. Their function is to cooperate with the Aleppo Media Center in the production of material which shows the White Helmets both as heroes and legitimate authorities on the Syrian conflict on the ground, and the Syrian and Russian governments as war criminals, deliberately targeting hospitals, schools, bakeries, animal shelters etc.

To that end, Mayday is generously funded by the UK, US and other governments, with offices in Amsterdam, Turkey, Jordan and Dubai. As at March 2016 its operational headquarters in Istanbul employs 30 staff, located in the operational centres of Istanbul, South-East Turkey, and has an annual operating budget of US$35,000,000.

Founder James le Mesurier, according to Mayday, ‘has spent 20 years working in fragile states as a United Nations staff member, a consultant for private companies and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and as a British Army Officer. […] Since 2012, James has been working on the Syria crisis where he started the Syrian White Helmets programme in March 2013. In 2014, he founded Mayday Rescue.’

Incostrat

‘We are a communications and media consultancy that provides a customised end-to-end service for government and private clients: we specialise in strategic campaign planning, narrative development, message distribution and feedback generation in support of policymaking […]

‘We have proven track records of designing and delivering complex communications and media projects in conflict and post-conflict environments. We have over two and a half years of continuous experience of Syria-specific work, co-operating with the moderate armed opposition, politicians, tribal and civil society’

Incostrat was founded by Paul Tilley, who has a similar background to le Mesurier, with experience of both the army and the Foreign Office. His CV on LinkedIn reveals the following:
2011-12 Director of Strategic Communication (STRATCOM) in the Ministry of Defence for the Middle East and North Africa.
2012-current. Developed and Project managed several multi-million dollar media and communications projects that are at the leading edge of UK and US foreign and security policy objectives in the Middle East.

Both Incostrat and Mayday Rescue were formally founded in November 2014, according to the LinkedIn profiles of their respective founders, but le Mesurier and Tilley were doing development work 2013 or earlier. The White Helmets first officially appeared on the scene in April 2014, when the BBC assisted in the launching of the brand by producing a documentary on ‘Civil Defence’ in Aleppo, which coincided with the White Helmets appearance on social media.

Incostrat is described by Thierry Meyssen as ‘a communications company in the service of the jihadist groups. It designed logos, made video clips by portable telephone, and printed brochures for a hundred of these groups, thus giving the impression of a popular uprising against the Republic.’

The difference between the older ISIS flag with the Incostrat designs for groups like Jaish al Islam, Jaish al Fatah is striking.

(left: ISIS; centre Jaish al Fatah; right: Jaish al Islam)

Meyssen continues: ‘together with the SAS, [Incostrat] made a spectacle of the most important group, Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam). Saudi Arabia supplied the tanks which were delivered from Jordan. Uniforms were made in Spain and distributed to the jihadists for an officer promotion ceremony. All this was choreographed and filmed by professionals in order to give the impression that the army was organised like regular forces and was capable of rivaling with the Syrian Arab Army. The idea was planted that this really was a civil war, and yet the images only showed a few hundred extras, most of whom were foreigners.’

Who actually does what in the Syrian theatre is not quite clear. On the one hand Mayday Rescue appears to have total responsibility for ‘Syrian Civil Defense’. On the other there are similarities in the branding and marketing of the terrorist groups with their logos, letterheads and social media pages, and projects like the White Helmets. One possibility is that Incostrat, as well as having responsiblity for the design aspects of the propaganda campaigns, may also have the task of finding ‘creative solutions’ in broad terms, such as the Bana Project, the Civil March and maybe the White Helmets. Mayday’s responsibility would then be the management of the White Helmets and the Aleppo Media Center both of which function as part of terrorists groups in Syria. Whether the Bana Project and the Civil March are managed from within Incostrat or whether there are separate groups or companies overseeing these projects too is not clear.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights

SOHR, founded in 2011, is a UK-based organisation that provides information on the Syrian conflicts to the world’s media. The Observatory is run from Coventry, England by Rami Abdulrahman,  a three-term convicted criminal in Syria  who left that country more than 10 years before the war started, and is openly opposed tot he Syrian government.

The Observatory is almost certainly the brainchild of the Foreign Office:

His funding comes from the European Union and “an unnamed European state,” most likely the UK as he has direct access to former Foreign Minister William Hague, who he has been documented meeting in person on multiple occasions at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. […] it was the British government that first relocated Abdul Rahman to Coventry, England after he fled Syria over a decade ago because of his anti-government activities. Beau Christensen, Propaganda spin cycle: ‘Syrian Observatory for Human Rights’ is funded by US and UK governments

Although the Observatory is manifestly biased, only showing the conflict from the perspective of the insurgents, and consistently showing the Syrian government in a bad light, the information provided is considered by the corporate media, the United Nations and trusted non-government organisations to be authoritative, and is widely quoted.

Clearly for real journalists, Abdulrahman is a useless, utterly compromised source of information who has every reason to twist reality to suit his admittedly politically-motivated agenda of overthrowing the Syrian government. However, for a propagandist, he is a goldmine. That is why despite the overt conflict of interests, the lack of credibility, the obvious disadvantage of being nearly 3,000 miles away from the alleged subject of his “observations,” […] the Western media still eagerly laps up his constant torrent of disinformation. (Tony Cartalucci, West’s Syrian Narrative Based on “Guy in British Apartment”)

These organisations by no means represent the total of British spending when it comes to creating or influencing propaganda while dressing it up as humanitarian endeavour or intellectual objectivity.  The government is a major funder of a number of NGOs that are openly committed to ‘humanitarian intervention’ (regime change) in countries like Syria, such as Amnesty International.  In his article Unravelling Bana, Qoppa has raised the question of the relationship of the much derided ‘research organisation’ Bellingcat with the British government, pointing out that one of the authors of Bellingcat’s own article on Bana is an ex-army officer.

Incostrat, Mayday and SOHR however have direct and undeniable links with the Foreign Office.  Their function is to create, via tools such as Bana Alabed and the White Helmets, or directly in the case of the SOHR, fake news for Western consumption that bears little or no relation to the reality within Syria.

The fake news is distributed via the corporate media and the reports of the industrial human rights complex.  Social media, however, is by no means forgotten.  There is an incestuous relationship between the Foreign Office projects, in that Bana promotes the White Helmets, and the activists of the Civil March promote both Bana and the White Helmets.   At the same time the MOD’s 77th Brigade push incessantly the general themes of Assad and Russian war crimes versus the ‘popular uprising’ on social media, but also reinforce the FCO’s major projects – such trolls are easily detected on Twitter accounts like Bana’s.

So what we have is the UK government, on behalf of the British taxpayer, openly funding multi-million dollar projects to create an assumption of war crimes by Syria and Russia against the Syrian people, while also creating a false image of a legitimate opposition, all of which the said taxpayer is then supposed to take in good faith. The purpose of all this is to garner support for a no-fly zone over Syria, imposed by the UK, the US and allied countries, as the first step to overthrowing the legitimate government.

Bibliography

Thierry Meyssan, The Techniques of Modern Military Propaganda

Thierry Meyssan, For Britain’s Media and Secret Service (MI6) War Propaganda Is an Art

Ian Cobain, Alice Ross, Rob Evans and Mona Mahmood, Inside Ricu: the Shadowy Propaganda Unit Inspired by the Cold War

Ian Cobain, Alice Ross, Rob Evan s and Mona Mahmood, How Britain Funds the Propaganda War Against ISIS

Tony Cartalucci, West’s Syrian Narrative Based on “Guy in British Apartment”

Beau Christensen, Propaganda spin cycle: ‘Syrian Observatory for Human Rights’ is funded by US and UK governments

Gearóid Ó Colmáin, Amnesty International, War Propaganda, and Human Rights Terrorism

Vanessa Beeley, The White Helmets Campaign for War not Peace

Unravelling “Bana”: a Response to Bellingcat’s Article “Finding Bana”

Introduction

Bellingcat are well known their ‘scientific’ analyses that lead to conclusions that suit Western interests, such as the sarin attack on Ghouta,  or the downing of flight MH17 over Ukraine.  Bellingcat has recently addressed the question of the authenticity of Bana Alabed, the seven year old girl who tweets from Aleppo begging to be saved from Russian and ‘Assad’ bombs. It surprises no-one that Bellingcat has declared the account genuine.

The analysis has a number of flaws: the primary arguments against the authenticity of the Bana account – the quality of the language and the sophistication of the enterprise – have been dealt with glibly and inadequately, while the authors lay much emphasis on red herrings such as Bana’s location while tweeting, about which there is no general agreement among Bana critics.

Qoppa presents here a critique of Bellingcat’s analysis, and brings the story up to date.

[Editor’s note: the analysis and conclusions are those of Qoppa.  While I don’t necessarily agree with all of them,  there is considerable accord among Bana sceptics on where the fundamental weaknesses of the Bana Story lie]

Bana al-Abed, the 7-year-old twitter girl from besieged Aleppo, has caught the hearts and minds of millions.  Now that she has safely escaped the dangers of living in a battle-zone, it may be the right time to look back and present some reflections on the “Bana phenomenon”, – especially in view of Bellingcat’s related article from last week. Bellingcat author Nick Waters has spent a lot of time and energy in Finding Bana – Proving the Existence of a 7-Year-Old Girl in Eastern Aleppo”. He has done a good job in laying to rest some of the speculations which have arisen from the seeming oddities of what came from the Bana account (specifically the issue of internet access, and geolocation of her home). Yet, the article fails to address sufficiently the main issues which sceptical observers have raised.

The “native speaker” problem

First and foremost is the “native speaker problem”. The Bana tweets are presented in perfect English, taylor-made for easy comprehension by an international audience. What is so striking is not just the lack of any major linguistic mistakes, it’s above all the correct use of idioms, phrases, abbreviations, orthography, down to punctuation. Even the occasional mistakes look tidy, some even calculated to give the impression of simplicity. What you will not find in the Bana tweets is traces of the inevitable difficulties, minor or larger, a non-native speaker will have to consistently communicate in a foreign language (finding the right expression, the correct preposition, word order, etc).

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The Bana tweets display an overall smoothness which not only presuppose near native speaker abilities, but also a long familiarity with getting across your message on a medium so peculiar as Twitter. It is plainly inconceivable how most of them could have been written by “Fatemah” (by which name Bana’s mother introduced herself on Twitter), whose spoken English, as is clear from her many videos, is on a more basic level.

Bellingcat is aware of the language problem and tries to counter the inevitable doubts by pointing out that “Fatemah” has taken several English language courses. Specifically they refer to the testimony of her English teacher Abdulkafi Alhamdo, who even links to the language certificate he has issued for Bana’s mother.

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I have refrained from spreading this information (though it was given away by Mr Alhamdo himself) because the certificate of course reveals “Fatemah’s” real name. I wish her and her family no ill. Since they now are in safety in Turkey, even welcomed in the Presidential Palace by Erdogan himself, such restraint is no longer necessary.
As for proof of language proficiency a closer look at this certificate is very informative:

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It is stated that “Maram Mohamed Alabd” attended a course on teaching English from November 2015 to March 2016, comprising 13 sessions (which is about one per week). On the level of the course: “This was the first stage out of four stages aiming for supporting creative teaching.”
So, the proof Bellingcat draws upon states quite the opposite of what would be needed to make a plausible case (in spite of the video evidence) for Maram’s authorship of the Bana tweets. The basic level attested here on the certificate is compatible with Maram’s documented speaking abilities, but nowhere near the required fluency, which is only acquired by living in, and communicating with, an English speaking community for a considerable time.
Even more laughable is Bellingcat’s attempt to compare “Fatemah’s” written style with that of her teacher: “their styles are in fact quite different: Fatemah scrupulously uses capital letters in the right place, correct punctuation, and correct spacing, all things Mr Alhamdo is much more slap-dash about.” He certainly is “more slap-dash” in this regard, but what we do in fact find on closer scrutiny of Alhamdo’s tweets is precisely the sort of mistakes and insecurities which a non-native speaker is naturally bound to make. It is like the written equivalent of an accent which non-native speakers will only be able to get rid of through practising speaking in an appropriate environment for years. And yet, Bellingcat wants us in all seriousness to believe that Maram would miraculously have learnt (in no more than 13 teaching sessions) to outdo her teacher by miles. What Bellingcat in fact asks us to do is nothing less than the abdication of all common sense.

Absurdities abounding
While we see Bellingcat weaseling around the language problem, they have almost nothing to say about all the oddities which the Bana story presents, and which are apt to cause incredulity with even the most well-meaning observers. The only credibility straining tweet which Bellingcat explicitly adresses is the one calling for World War III.

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Bellingcat’s comment on such tweets: “they ring quite true as outbursts from a person, almost certainly Fatemah, who is currently trapped with her young family in a city that experiences constant fighting, and faces death on a daily basis.” Given that Maram comes across in the videos as a rather soft-spoken and caring person, this attempt at explaining away the gross inadequacy will hardly do. However, even more significant is the method Bellingcat can be seen to apply here and elsewhere: they try to give the reader some sort of “reason” without questioning the preferred version, and without weighing the evidence. A true investigator would proceed quite differently, he would start by asking the main question: what is more believable? – a young Syrian mother of 3 children making such a call? – or rather, say, a British media operator who closely follows the political news about increasing tensions between US and Russia. (Gen. Dunford’s admission that imposing a no-fly zone would require to go to war with Russia was made just the week before this tweet).

One other absurdity that the Bana account has produced is the response to the evacuation offer by Maytham al-Ashkar (the full story is documented by Sputnik). Bellingcat mentions this offer, but although they pride themselves on using and evaluating the “open source information available” they have obviously refrained from doing so in this case. Clearly because the result would have severely damaged the case they want to make. Maytham naturally adressed “Bana” in Arabic, as from Syrian to Syrian, but the account operator who identified as mother “Fatemah”, while apparently able to understand the offer in Arabic, preferred to respond in English. Whatever the background and actual reason for this bizarre conversation, this incident alone should suffice to bury the idea that Maram, or any other native Syrian, is running the account.

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It is English native speakers, presumably British, who are the operators behind Project Bana. At least one of them, we have to assume, understands and speaks enough Arabic to keep the communication with their Aleppo assets smooth. This assumption is confirmed by another bizarre twist of the Bana story, maybe the funniest of all. When I discovered Bana’s father Ghassan, and that he works for the local council, I added the hint that it was controlled by al-Nusra Front. Now this remark seems to have set off an alarm clock. Ghassan’s Twitter profile, when I first looked at it, just provided this basic information: “Studied at Faculty of Law, University of Aleppo, graduated 2005” (similar to his Facebook profile). Apparently this did not sound innocent enough, the Twitter profile was soon changed, it now reads: “Independent lawyer, Activist against terrorism and ISIS”.

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Did Ghassan suddenly take up a new job, giving up his work for the local council? What does his activism against terrorism amount to – in the middle of Nusra- and Zenki-controlled East Aleppo? Anyway, every single word of the new profile text is directed against the possible charges, implicit in my remark, that might link Ghassan with al-Qaeda. Now, who was responsible for this frantic reaction? As one can clearly see from his Twitter timeline, Ghassan understands only little English (he uses Simple English feeds to keep up following international news about his now famous little daughter). He most definitely did not come up by himself with the idea of a new profile text. So again, we perceive the trace of an English-speaking operator who knows enough Arabic to communicate with Ghassan. The most likely suspect is Ghassan’s Facebook friend Patrick Evans – whom Barbara was able to identify as likely participant in this media scheme in the update of her her groundbreaking article on Project Bana.

Bellingcat keeps silent about the many strains and absurd turns followers of the Bana account had to watch, and which gave rise to doubt its authenticity in the first place. Not least of which is the tight monitoring of answers to Bana tweets (often numbering 1000s), which set in once the doubts went beyond a small group of sceptics. Are we really to believe that while the tweets spoke of constant bombing, while the family was on the run after their home district was taken by the Syrian Arab Army, – that under such circumstances the first priority of “Bana” was to go through her tweets and block all doubters? By now “Bana’s” blocking list must be one of the largest on Twitter. In one instance someone just asking a question was blocked five minutes later – at 2 o’clock in the morning Aleppo time. Someone else was blocked for the remark that her name was an anagram for “Anal Bead” (you need quite an advanced understanding, and not only of English, to realise this is indeed offensive).

Or those tweets about Bana’s death:

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What would a loving mother do first when seeing dead children and fearing her own daughter is among them? Tweet her fears to all the world? Just to announce 17 minutes later it wasn’t true? Or is it much rather a calculating operator’s attempt to cause a little emotional drama among Bana fans? That is, after all, how he uses them – as the gullible material of his manipulations.

Unravelling “Bana”

It is time to unravel “Bana”: on the one hand, there is Bana and and her mother Maram, two real persons caught in the middle of a bloody and brutal military conflict. And then there is “Bana” and “Fatemah”, their media images which are circulated worldwide to convey a certain message. While it is natural and human to empathize with the former, one shouldn’t fall for confusing this sympathy with the very specific purposes which this sympathy is exploited for.

Project Bana is part of a worldwide media campaign aiming at legitimizing “taking action” in Syria, which would inevitably come down to a military intervention. Project Bana bears all the marks of a professionally designed PR product. It is no coincidence Project Bana could seamlessly be integrated into another such campaign which runs with the hashtag #StandWithAleppo:

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Purportedly founded by “two ordinary moms”, it now turns out also #StandWithAleppo is a campaign designed by PR professionals. It runs like a well-oiled machine: a twitter rally to call for an end of the allegedly “largest humanitarian crisis since World War II” (I recommend reading a book on recent history, or just to look across the border at Mosul); fundraising against an imaginary genocide (I recommend using a dictionary); and participants may flatter themselves that they can “Be A Real Life Superhero for Syrian Children”(at this point there is nothing really to recommend any more).
This is the nonsense little Bana was made to be the face of!

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In the case of Project Bana, most traces point towards the UK and London as the origin of the media scheme. It’s not only the very British style and feel of the endeavour, including ManU, and J. K. Rowling, and the children of London:

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It was in British media that “Bana”, after her swift start with tweeting, first received extensive coverage, including many background details about her family, almost as if reporters had been present in Aleppo (Dailymail, Telegraph, and BBC).

The question to be asked explicitly is whether these media jumped of their own to this special “human interest” story, throwing overboard professional standards for thorough background checking. Or is it more plausible to assume that some official or half-official figure in the background had signalled it was “ok” to go with the story? Or might it even be some media persons themselves (not necessarily known to their company) colluded in the scheme?
Barbara McKenzie made this case in her article in respect to BBC’s Patrick Evans. After I did some more background research I do think it is quite likely she is right.

The UK’s informational warfare

What we know with certainty is that the British government has spent over £100 million for “UK Non-Humanitarian Aid in Response to The Syria Conflict” since 2012 (document produced in December 2015 by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office). A big chunk of this money (15m) goes, as is known, directly to fund the “White Helmets”. A separate funding of 5.3m is given to Media activists whose tasks include “active reporting produced by civil society groups and the likes of the `White Helmets across Twitter and Facebook accounts”. [1]

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It is herewith official: a good deal of what we read online on Twitter and Facebook from “Syrian opposition” is, directly or indirectly, funded by Her Majesty’s Government. It is inherently likely that Project Bana is part of it.

The larger context of these media activities is clarified by an article which appeared in the Guardian last May: “The UK regards information as a vital element of modern conflict. The MoD has drawn up a doctrine describing information as `so prevalent, potent and unavoidable that it forms as much a part of the strategic environment as the terrain or weather, and saying how it should be managed through `strategic communications.” As with regard to the present focus on Syria the Guardian reports: “One British source with knowledge of the contracts in action said the government was essentially running a `Free Syrian army press office.” And even more specifically, from the company Innovative Communications & Strategies, or InCoStrat, which took over the contract from November 2014: “An InCoStrat spokesman confirmed: `InCoStrat is providing media and communication support to the moderate Syrian opposition to assist Syrians to better convey the reality of war and those involved in it.”
The parallel US efforts for communication warfare are well documented on Moon of Alabama.

So in essence: the picture of “the reality of war and those involved in it” which we are presented from Syrian opposition sources is funded and directed from the British and US government. It is part of an informational warfare, which Western mainstream media have all too readily come to support and take part in. Including, unfortunately, the Guardian itself who against better insight did not diverge in the least from the official line.

The covert manipulation of public opinion launched by the UK government does not stop at pushing an agenda from abroad. Rather the other way, it starts right at home. As the Financial Times reported already on January 31, 2015 a new military brigade of 1500 online warriors has been set up, as part of the information warfare: “a new generation of `Facebook warriors who will wage complex and covert information and subversion campaigns”. Specifically, their task is described as performing “social media campaigns on Twitter and Facebook, spreading disinformation or exposing truths in war zones, `false flag incidents  which are designed to fool people into thinking they were carried out by someone else”.

So we may ask ourselves:
Where are all these online warriors on Twitter and Facebook if not right among us, in the middle of the news streams we receive from and about Syria (and Ukraine and Russia)?

There is good reason to put also Bellingcat into this context. They claim to be “by and for citizen investigative journalists”. But being “for citizens” is a spurious claim when time and again their “investigations” end up confirming the official UK and NATO view (with some minor alibi cases mixed inbetween).  In the latest major case, the attack on the UN convoy at Urum al-Kubra, Bellingcat swiftly confirmed the baseless US accusations of Russia as the culprit, exactly as it was to be expected. An assessment by a military expert of the very same pictorial evidence, however, came to the opposite conclusion, namely that the supposed evidence was planted by the White Helmets, and it takes only two minutes of sober thinking to realize he is right – right, that is, beyond reasonable doubt. [2]
As for the claim Bellingcat is “by citizens” – what on earth should a real normal citizen make of the fact that Eliot Higgins, its founder, is now promoted to the position of “Senior Fellow” at the Atlantic Council? And what of the author of the Bana article, Nick Waters, being “an ex-British Army officer”?

The “Bana phenomenon” is an excellent case to form your own judgment on these and related matters.

————-

[1] Research note: isn’t it interesting that the White Helmets funding goes under the label of “non-humanitarian aid”? And why is it that the White Helmets are again prominently mentioned among the media activists? So can we now somehow officially call them “media activists”? And how is it that, founded and funded by Western governments, they are singled out as standing for “civil society groups”?

[2] A note for international readers: last year German MSM, led by Der Spiegel, attempted to build up Bellingcat as a reputable and quotable source in the matter of the downing of flight MH17. However, they failed spectacularly after real experts, among them the developer of the software used, called bullshit on Bellingcat’s analysis. Der Spiegel was compelled to apologise and to publish an interview with them (English version): “its founder Neal Krawetz also distanced himself from Bellingcat’s conclusions on Twitter. He described it as a good example of “how to not do image analysis.” What Bellingcat is doing is nothing more than reading tea leaves. Error Level Analysis is a method used by hobbyists.”
Since this much publicised incident, Bellingcat’s reputation in Germany is tarnished, no major MSM would rely on them, everyone associates them with “Kaffeesatzleserei”.

The CJ Werleman Parody Account

Someone has been running a parody account in the name of @cjwerleman, posting some of the funniest satire of the western media ever seen. This example, for example, is evocative of the reaction to the election of Trump as US president, with offers of counseling to distraught supporters of Hillary Clinton’s wars on the Middle East:

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An extension of the corporate media’s description of barbaric extremists as ‘moderate rebels’ is countered by this little joke, rebranding die hard terrorist supporters as typical ‘civilians’.  Don’t miss Bilal Abdul Kareem, born-again takfiri of US extraction, fanatical promoter of the jihadist cause, in his new incarnation.

The suggestion that people might be emotionally moved by the hysterical outburst against Syria and its allies, with all the usual unsubstantiated claims, by the deeply unpleasant and totally unconvincing Samantha Power was truly masterful:

I particularly like this bit of fake news (below). The reporter is there telling us about the people all squeezed into a small bit of Aleppo, making a target for warplanes who are desperate to bomb them – civil defence no longer operates as they have no fuel for their vehicles so there are bodies everywhere. Needless to say, though we hear the added sound of a plane, we see neither plane, people or bodies.

@cjwerleman posted at least three videos from ‘civilians in eastern Aleppo’,  all talking of bombings, none of which show planes, buildings being hit, people in the street, or bodies.

Stop Press: Incredible as it may seem, I’m told that this is CJ Werleman’s actual account, so any satire is unintentional.

Over the last few days Werleman has devoted himself to tweeting on the supposed massacre of civilians in Aleppo by Syrian soldiers and allied forces – I counted over 70 tweets on 12 December alone.

RT’s Murad Gazdiev and Lizzie Phelan, along with independent journalists like Eva Bartlett and Vanessa Beeley, all report from Aleppo without ever drawing attention to their personal danger, except to give impact to the reporting. However Werleman’s friends are all heroes.

Chlorine-filled barrels sounds like one of my weaker jokes, but no matter, Werleman thought it worth a try.

If anyone is tempted to believe Werleman’s claptrap, have a look at this video …

Every family in Syria has someone in the army.  To believe that the young men and women of the Syrian Arab Army would massacre their own people says nothing about Syria, and everything about how people in the West view their own armed forces.  But if you have a narrative to push, then truth and commonsense will not stand in your way.

See also:

Corporate Media is Lying to You — Syrian Army Freed Aleppo, There is No Genocide

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