People have asked me for a response to the Newsbud exposé of Vanessa Beeley and Eva Bartlett, entitled Syria Under Siege: Guarding Against Wolves in Sheep Clothing, for which I was interviewed. The video is of course Newsbud’s, and not the one I would have made. Some of what Newsbud presented I disagree with, and some is a revelation.
1) My non-negotiable position on Beeley and Bartlett is that they are prepared to lie and vilify at the top of a hat for personal or tribal interest. I don’t think that came across in the video strongly enough.
2) It’s my understanding that Tim Anderson was wrongly imprisoned for terrorism, and, assuming I’m right, I regret Newsbud suggesting otherwise, as I indicated to Sibel Edmonds yesterday. It’s difficult to see either Anderson or the Grand Mufti as condoning murder, frankly.
3) The question of whether the “democratic opposition” in Syria should be termed terrorists is an interesting one. We’ve all seen the scary-looking pictures of the opposition, and their leaders like Saudi Muhaysini, we’ve seen the video (till removed) of al Zinki sawing off Abdullah Issa’s head, we know about the shelling of civilians in Aleppo and Damascus. We want them defeated. On the other hand, the Russians have been negotiating the surrender of thousands of insurgents, with a view to them being reincorporated into Syrian society. How well this will work out remains to be seen, but it’s probably not for us to make it any harder.
4) Eva Bartlett’s “outing” of Zak Alsawi’s alleged draft dodging is simply incredible – this alone justifies Sibel Edmond’s questioning her sense of decency. As she probably knows, Zac paid his military exemption in 2008. As a dual US and Syrian citizen not born in Syria, Zac would lose my US citizenship if he joined the Syrian military, unable to visit his family in the US
In any case, in Lebanon and elsewhere in the Middle East, one meets a large number of young men who are there to escape the war. Most people would not dream of throwing this in their faces, or outing them to others.
5) Sibel had some interesting things to say about doctors working for MSF. However the evidence that at the top level the raison d’etre of MSF, like Amnesty, is propaganda, and much (or all) of what MSF has underwritten in Syria has been propaganda, was glossed over. It will be interesting to see how many doctors have actually been caring for civilians in Idlib, for example.
6) I have always thought Beeley and Bartlett knew their stuff about Syria, with no need to lie to get their point across. However there has been a certain amount of sensationalising of what is known, and improving the story. There is evidence that Ghassan Alabed, Bana’s lawyer father, worked in the eye hospital when ISIS used it as a base. Given the Syrian government’s policy of reconciliation, it’s not for us to declare, as Beeley did, that Ghassan served on a sharia count condemning Syrian soldiers to torture and death. We don’t know that he served on such a court, the courts have a wide range of functions, and in any case, Ghassan, clearly NOT an extremist, may even have been a force for a good.
Likewise, the declaration that the White Helmets carried out a mass murder as a false flag in Khan Sheikhoun. There is no evidence that anyone died at Khan Sheikhoun – it’s not for us to point the finger at everyone involved in the hoax as a war criminal, whatever our own views of them.
7) Beeley and Bartlett have done some good work as Syrian activists – the videos Beeley did in Aleppo on its liberation were particularly fine. However they are also guilty of piggy-backing onto the work of others, without due recognition, and then taking ownership of that cause. A prime example is the White Helmets. It seems that the first person to reveal the important truths about the White Helmets was Rick Sterling in Seven Steps of Highly Effective Manipulators , April 2015 (though Cory Morningstar had made the connection between the White Helmets and Soros). Beeley’s article in August, Syria: The Propaganda Ring, relied heavily on Sterling, but he is given little credit nowadays.
When Beeley had a fit about OffGuardian not giving credit to herself and others in a factsheet published by Off-Guardian, the upshot, after Beeley had accepted Catte’s offer of private discussion, was the following.
So still no acknowledgement of Rick Sterling, whose contribution to White Helmet debate is destined to disappear without trace.
In July 2017 Eva Bartlett, who had taken no interest in the Bana Alabed saga, and contributed nothing to the research to date and when it mattered, chose to write an article herself. She contacted me to ask which article I would like referenced, I said Crucifixion, fine she said, I’ve got it open here. Subsequently I wrote a critical piece about her friend Hayward’s eulogy to Eliot Higgins, and coincidentally Bartlett chose not to credit me then or ever for work I had done on the Alabeds. I don’t own the Bana case, I’m not complaining. However Bartlett, in her interview with James Corbett, an egregious and dishonest piece of self-promotion on several counts, chose to credit to her friend Khaled Iskef work that was done by @Navsteva, which was clearly credited in my article, which she would have read at least once
8) Leaving aside the perfectly natural concern about Tim Anderson, the defence of Beeley and Bartlett appears to be driven largely by tribal interests. It’s hard to take seriously the knee-jerk defense and prating about “truth” from people who have actively condoned or failed to question Beeley and Bartlett’s lies and vilification of others, e.g.
- Bartlett’s slanderous charge that @Navsteva (Scott Gaulke) stalked her (thereby throwing Neil Clark’s genuine case of harassment into jeopardy);
- Beeley’s slanderous charge that I ‘savaged’ her friend in Beirut, a reversal of the truth;
- the lie that criticism of Tim Haywards extolling of Bellingcat was a witch-hunt driven by nefarious motives, when in fact the witchhunt was driven by them;
- the lie that Hayward’s article was a work of “high dialectic”, when the most charitable interpretation is that it was failed satire;
- Beeley’s dishonest labelling of myelf as an Orientalist when I (correctly) pointed out that the great majority of women in Yemen wear the niqab.
These same people condoned Marwa Osman’s lie that I’m a white supremacist.
9) Vanessa Beeley’s bullying behaviour in her attempt to change my article on Robert Fisk and pervert the truth over Maaloula was unconscionable.
Videos, photos, reports were to no avail
To this day Beeley has neither apologise for her behaviour nor conceded she was wrong. On the contrary, a few months later, after I had the temerity to criticise her friend Tim Hayward:
10) I have heard time and time again that it’s ok if Beeley and Bartlett lie their heads off, and all others are expendable, because “they have been to Syria” (subtext: they’re the most famous people who follow me on twitter, or they’re my friends on Facebook, or I’ve been to Syria too so …). As Richie Allen pointed out, this is mythomania: many Syrians, RT journalists and others are reporting on the ground, with fabulous stuff coming out from Ghouta at the moment. And there is no evidence that these journalists are vindictive liars, as Beeley and Bartlett are, beyond any doubt.
Much of this “on the ground” stuff is hyped up. Beeley claimed to be an expert on Maaloulah, of a status out-dignifying videos, photos and news reports, because she had spent two weeks in Maaloula and with fighters from Maaloula. This claim is based on a few hours in Maaloula as part of a package tour (itinerary has been well publicised) and maybe a lunch or two in Beirut.
11) Of COURSE it’s good when people promote the issue of the war on Syria, regardless of whether they are promoting themselves at the same time. For that reason people actively following the Syrian war in the issue have tended to keep any misgivings to themselves. If Newsbud choose to take the lid off and reveal the unethical behaviour associated with some of the activists who have been successful at this promotion, well, maybe it was always inevitable.