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Bana of Aleppo: the Story So Far [updated 6 December]

Back in 2011 there was the Gay Girl of Damascus, supposedly a young lesbian blogging from the Syrian capital in support of the Arab Spring, but who turned out to be a 40 year old man from Georgia, USA, living in Scotland.  Now, five years on, we have @AlabedBana tweeting from Aleppo.

The Bana story all began in September of 2016 when 7 year old Bana began to tweet from eastern Aleppo to share with the world her anxiety about living in a war-torn city. It is perhaps a sad reflection of the world we live in that her arrival on the social media scene provoked a certain amount of scepticism, hilarity even. It seems only fair to endeavour to consider the Bana case objectively.

Bana, as we are told, lives with her parents and two brothers in Aleppo. Her mother Fatemah is a teacher who ‘manages Bana’s Twitter account’ and occasionally tweets herself, and her father Ghassan works in the ‘legal department of the local council’, whatever that means – the area is totally controlled by al Nusra who have set up their own council:

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Bana’s first tweet was heartwrenching:

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Bana’s sole purpose in tweeting is to tell us about the bombing of Aleppo by Putin and Assad, and to ask us to do something about it (Bana herself has lost one or two friends to the bombing, though we never learn their names).  The tweets are almost invariably variations on the themes of bombs, the need for peace, pray for us, save us.

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Bana is desperate enough even to suggest it is worth declaring World War III, just to save Aleppo.

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There are also calls for Assad and Putin to be tried for war crimes:

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Wee Bana hit the ground running on 24 September with about 20 tweets,  and has continued at a good rate ever since, managing over 120 on 4 October (including retweets).   I myself used Twitter for weeks before I used hashtags and I was slow to learn the jargon.  Bana, however, was up to speed from the beginning, and over the first two days we got #Aleppo, #HolocaustAleppo #MassacreInAleppo #StopAleppoMassacre.  She is well up on acronyms like POTUS and OMG.   Followers were impressed with Bana’s command of English idiom:

happiestpersoninworlds8oct

dying-like-flies
im-very-afraid

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To have mastered English contractions like ‘I’ll’ and idiomatic expressions such as ‘horrible dream’ at the age of seven puts Bana in the genius category. The problem is, when cute Bana was videoed, it became apparent that she wasn’t a child prodigy at all, in fact she couldn’t put two words of English together if not rote-learned. It was clear that whoever wrote the tweets was nothing to do with the small actor reciting, eg. on her 1st day of tweeting (yes, the video was all set to go too): pic.twitter.com/yeTjREZW 

She was slightly more practiced by 6 October:

29 October was another disaster:  pic.twitter.com/45GNr4U40x

One sharp-eyed fan was very impressed with the new clothes sported by Bana and her brothers in the above clip (thank you Vivienne@KitchandBot):

new clothes.PNG

Bana has a friend, Abdulkafi Alhamdo, who has described himself variously as a teacher at Aleppo University, a reporter, and activist.  It is possible that he helps with the technical aspects of running the Twitter account, such as videoing and either uploading or passing them on, and maybe language coaching.

Mr alHamdo.PNG

He himself has both Twitter and Facebook accounts .  Most of his friends are located in Aleppo; many of these, if not all, are members of terrorist groups:

alhamdofriend

Alhamdo ostensibly resides in Aleppo, along with Bana.  However another possibility is Gazientep over the border in Turkey, which is a base for a number of Western-backed NGOs and journalists.  A number of Kurdish cities and towns in South-East Turkey such as Mardin and Diyarbakir have been badly shelled by the Turks  and might provide the necessary apocalyptic scenes, for both Bana and journalists claiming to report from eastern Aleppo.  Thus Alhamdo and Bana could be in South-Eastern Turkey, safe both from bombs and exposure.

Bana’s ‘father’ ‘Ghassan Alabed’ has his own Twitter account, @ghassanalabed77 which was opened in September, coinciding with the launching of the Bana Project (thank you @Qoppa999), and Facebook page, with visible posts from 6 October 2016, so again probably opened for the project.   There is no evidence that Bana and Ghassan have met as Ghassan does not feature in Bana’s tweets and videos.  I previously suggested, incorrectly, that Ghassan was attributing the wrong name to Bana, Zahra, but that was due to Facebook showing only a bad machine translation for that post from Arabic, and not the Arabic original – it would seem that Ghassan does not know English.

Ghassan has close links with Aleppo and the terrorist groups that have been occupying eastern Aleppo. On 29 April  he changed his Facebook cover photo to ‘Aleppo is Burning’, which was a campaign originating in the Western to call for even more intervention on the part of the West, in order to prevent Syria and Russia driving terrorists out of eastern Aleppo.  Both on Facebook and on Twitter Ghassan follows a large number of accounts associated with the insurgency in Syria, such as that of al Zinki, the gang that cut off the head of little Abdullah Issa, Jaish al Mujahadeen (a group that describes itself as part of the Free Syrian Army but is allied to al Nusra), and also of the Saudi cleric Muhaysini, spiritual leader of al Nusra (al Qaeda in Syria).

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In October Bana, or rather Bana’s mother, was  interviewed by one  AJ Joshi (@AJ) via Periscope. The interview makes for painful listening, but @JohnDelacour has provided a transcription of a typical segment – it is hard to believe that Fatemah has the language skills to compose either her own or Bana’s tweets.

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In mid-November Fatemah uploaded onto Youtube a strange video which purports to prove that Bana’s family really are being bombed.  Fatemah talks and there are the sounds of children, but no attempt to show any of these people.  We see ruined buildings and smoke in the distance, which could come from bombing, but not the promised airplanes.  There is absolutely no reason to believe that this is not footage with a completely separate voice-over added later.

After three weeks Bana was following 51 people.  None of them would be an obvious pick for a seven year old girl: without exception they were politicians, corporate media or social media activists.  Most of them could be considered sympathetic to the war on Syria; many of them have strong links with terrorist groups.    Iyad el-Baghdadi, Louisa Loveluck,  Julian Roepcke, Sophie McNeill, all determined supporters of the Syrian ‘revolution’, are very familiar to pro-Syria activists who spend any time on social media.  Bana is also following the pro-terrorist National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, as well as the White Helmets, the fake humanitarian organisation that presently has a petition calling for a no-fly (i.e. NATO bombing) zone in Syria.  A particularly sinister choice is @IranArabSpring, which is focused on regime change in Iran, presumably by the same bloody route laid down for Syria.

One of the first to be followed by Bana, and typical, was the Australian journalist Sophie McNeill who was instrumental in promoting the Madaya hoax/beatup in January 2016.  The story went that inhabitants of Madaya, a town besieged by the government, were starving and that it was all the fault of the Syrian government who were preventing aid from reaching the town.  In fact many if not all the photos were fake, aid for three months had gone into Madaya in October, and the chief problem was terrorists selling food at exorbitant prices.  Many others followed by Bana are likewise involved in pushing misinformation on the Syrian war.

Bana built up a huge following within days, reaching 65,000 by 3 October.  A large proportion of the followers appeared to be fake accounts, which again suggests that very savvy people are managing the project. (Screenshot from @laissezfaire; it cannot be verified because of dramatic changes to the account, see below.)

Regardless of the discrepancies and warning signals, the corporate media have taken Bana to their hearts, without exception, with poignant articles free of all doubt appearing in the Telegraph, the Guardian, and on all the main television channels.   The New Statesman went on the attack against the many people who have made fun of the account.

The latest endorsement has come from author JK Rowling, famous author of the Harry Potter series, who sent Bana a set of ebooks (in English), and has retweeted her several times in the days since then:

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Would-be trolls of the Bana account should note too that in October Bana was one of the 2210 people followed by @Jack, i.e. Jack Dorsey, founder and CEO of Twitter.

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 Who’s tweeting?

Given the calculated nature of the operation, and the standard of the English, many Bana-watchers have assumed that while Bana and her mother may have direct help with videoing and the English in Aleppo or Gaziantep, the base of operations and the source of the tweeting would be elsewhere.  London tends to be first choice, partly because of the language used, and perhaps also because the Foreign Office is the primary funder and probable instigator of the White Helmets.  As yet there is no definitive evidence of who ‘Mr Bana’ is, but one can hypothesise.  For example:

Although there appears to be no direct link between Bana’s ‘father’ Ghassan Alabed, and Bana’s friend Abdulkafi Alhamdo, they do however, have a mutual acquaintance,  BBC journalist Patrick Evans.  Alhamdo features in an article on Aleppo by Evans (the article presents the viewpoints of people who are supposed to be representative of eastern Aleppo, but who are in fact all terrorists or terrorist supporters).  Evan’s describes himself as a BBC journalist; as well as the Aleppo article he has written an article on the Donbass, similar to the Aleppo article in that it is likewise hostile to those allied with Russia .

Patrick Evans is also one of a small number of English speakers who are friends with Ghassan Alabed on Facebook.

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Evans’s own Facebook page is significant in that all except about eight of his 54 ‘friends’ have Arabic names. Most of these do not appear to speak English; most have manifest links with Aleppo and/or terrorism.

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The person pictured above describes himself as a mujahid, or jihadi, in the service of God, based in Aleppo; the Syrian Revolution Network is an ‘activist network’ focused on Aleppo.

Evans’s LinkedIn profile is even more interesting.   He has worked for the BBC since finishing studies at the University of York in 2013, which could put him in the mid-twenties (consistent with the rather immature prank of putting in Bana’s mouth the call for World War III).   His skills as listed on LinkedIin are not necessarily what one would expect from a BBC journalist: while writing and investigative skills are not mentioned, social media skills are right up there.

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Although  most of Evans’s Facebook friends are Arabic speakers, no skill for Arabic language is listed on LinkedIn.  Moreover, these Arabic speaking Facebook friends hardly feature in Patrick Evans’s Twitter feed; Evans follows very few Arabs on twitter, none non-English speaking, and the tweets relating to Syria are sufficient to reflect the times and his profession, no more.  Whether Evans truly has no knowledge of Arabic, or whether it is a skill he chooses to suppress, it is not possible to decide on the information to hand.

Patrick Evans’s tweets are heterogeneous and mainly retweets, and are largely devoid of emotion and humour, all of which give the account an artificial feel.  Evans seems to be a fan of JK Rowling, following an account called @HogwartsLogic, and also follows Sophie McNeill.  There are a couple of retweets from Abdulkafi Alhamdo, alhamdo14nov

and from Rami Jarrah, a pro-insurgency activist, journalist and film maker of Syrian parentage, along with tweets relating to Evans’s article on Aleppo.  There is also this tweet from Evans to Rami Jarrah:

ramijarra

The Patrick Evans of the Facebook page seems completely divorced from the Patrick Evans of Twitter.  There is, however, one essential connecting factor between the Facebook and the Twitter accounts: Abdulkafi Alhamdo.  As well as featuring at least twice in Evans’s twitter feed in November, he is Evans’s Facebook friend.

So we have:

  • a young man in London, Patrick Evans,who works for the BBC, and who
  • provides a link between Ghassan Alabed, Bana’s ostensible father and Alhamdo, known acquaintance of Bana.
  • Alhamdo in turn provides the link between Evans’s Twitter account and his Facebook account.
  • Although this is not evident to anyone who looks at Evans’s tweeting,  his greatest professional skill according to LinkedIn is a knowledge of social media
  • Evans appears to have two different persona, his Facebook one, where almost all his friends are Arabic-speaking terrorist supporters, probably terrorists themselves, and Twitter, where the people he follows are English-speaking and tend to be from the Western media, and it it is difficult to gauge any strong interests, particularly political ones, apart from a conservative bent.
  • Patrick Evans wanted to speak privately with Rami Jarrah, well-known pro-terrorist activist and media expert, based in Turkey, six weeks before the Bana Project was launched on 14 September.

‘Bana’ could well be a person, or people, like Patrick Evans.

The agenda

There can be no doubt that the Bana project is a  hoax, like the Gay Girl in Damascus and the White Helmets.  The tweets are not the thoughts of a little Syrian girl wanting the world to save her from Russian bombs.  Rather, they are the product of a sophisticated and well-planned operation designed to shape public perception of the Syrian and Russian operations, in order to justify Western intervention in Syria and facilitate regime change.

The sympathies of the Bana project are totally with the extremists who are terrorising residents of eastern Aleppo, shelling western Aleppo, and are in imminent danger of being forced out by the Syrian Arab Army and allies like Hezbollah and the Palestinian Al Quds brigade.

From the first days Bana accused Assad and Putin of perpetrating a holocaust, a massacre, of carrying out a bombing campaign using cluster bombs, phosphorus, thermite bombs, and of course barrel bombs.  Since then the account has continued the theme of bombing and Assad/Putin culpability, along with constant calls for the world to do something, ‘to stop the bombing’.

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No mention is ever made of the terrorists who mow down demonstrators in the streets of eastern Aleppo and prevent humanitarian aid reaching the area.  Bana’s family may be in a position to repeat the dubious claim that Russia bombed a school in Idlib, but shows no interest in the atrocities caused by hellfire cannon directed by terrorists at western Aleppo.  When young swimmer Mireille Hindoyan was killed by a terrorist shell in the Armenian quarter in western Aleppo,  the Bana project, along with the Independent, smoothly implied that this was due to Russian bombing.

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The purpose of the Bana Project is to create in the outside world a conviction that Russia and Syria are committing serious war crimes by recklessly or even deliberately bombing civilians, hospitals, schools, blood banks and animal shelters.

Persuading the world that atrocities are being committed could lead to one of two outcomes.  As with Madaya, there is pressure on Syria and Russia to abandon the siege and any hope of liberating Aleppo, east and west, from terrorist depredations.  Syria and its allies would be circumscribed, at worst the terrorists would be allowed to make gains, and at the least there would be a stalemate, facilitating eventual partition.   The other desired outcome,  first preference for many since early in the war, is to garner support for a no-fly zone.  Russia and China have so far vetoed any UN resolution to that effect, having seen how the resolution was applied to Libya.

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The US, however, have recently  passed a resolution that calls for evaluating and developing plans for the United States to impose a “no fly zone” inside Syria unilaterally, despite the inevitability of a clash with Russia.  Whether it is prepared to take this step, or whether it can act before Aleppo is completely liberated, remains to be seen.

Is the end nigh for Bana?

Things are now moving fast in Aleppo, with the Syrian Arab Army, Hezbollah and the Palestinian-Syrian al Quds Brigade taking new areas of Aleppo on a daily basis.  Bana has been sending out desperate warnings of impending doom with one last tweet from Fatemah:

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and then another from ‘Bana’ at 3am:

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It is somewhat surprising that while 7.8 thousand people had retweeted the above when I viewed it, of the dozen or so people who commented the majority were people who ridiculed the tweet, a few more were clearly activists or trolls, and only one or two were in the ‘kind-hearted stranger’ category.  How many genuine followers Bana actually has is therefore in serious doubt.

There has been speculation that Bana is about to be written out, however at 10.00am Syrian time, 28 November, she was alive and still tweeting…

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Update (6 December 2016)

Bana survived the bombardment and continued to tweet, but complained of being homeless, thirsty, and ill.

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There are repeated calls for the world to do something:

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On 3 December it really did seem that the end had come:

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But no:

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Clearly a better choice would have been a miraculous recovery, rather than a line about being confused about which child died.  The interpretation from @HKX07 is fairly persuasive:

dec3heba

Within 24 hours there was a further development: the @alabedbana account was shut down.  Whether this is a permanent state of affairs, or whether Bana will reappear, perhaps in Idlib, even Raqqa, time will tell.

Stop Press:  Bana has reactivated her account, and is monitoring it closely for trolls, blocking critics on a daily basis.

The Rebranding of the Anti-Syria Left

Part 1: The Anti-Anti-War-Left

One could argue that for any serious student of the Middle East, using a range of sources, the approved narrative on the Syrian conflict should have been suspect from the outset: the precedents of Iraq and Libya and the accompanying lies, the well-reported lack of interest in revolution on the part of the Syrian people, the quickly developing violence in contrast with the ready accommodations of the government in terms of reform and release of political prisoners, the dominant role of brutal sectarian gangs in a traditionally tolerant and pluralist society.  Those trying to find the truth of the Syrian war, however, found themselves opposed from an unexpected quarter.

There is a large body of commentators in the West who define themselves as ‘left’, ‘progressive’ and ‘anti-imperialist’ insofar as they condemn Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians. Their claimed support for the Palestinians is offset by virulently opposing anything that threatens Israel’s interests in other areas, such as investigation into the role of Mossad’s activities outside of Israel .   Israel’s interests are likewise to the fore when it comes to drastic change in Syria (seen by Hillary Clinton as essential to Israel’s interests as far back as 2006) – the ‘soft Zionists’ have been promoting the externally created revolution in Syria from the outset.

The Thirdwayers

Sharing most of these characteristics are a group of people who espouse a ‘third way’ whereby ostensible anti-imperialists criticise their governments’ interventionist policies but at the same time have promoted the revolution and been determined opponents of the Syrian government.  While in theory they oppose external intervention, they at the same time facilitate such intervention by peddling propaganda to that end.

For five years, people like Max Blumenthal, Ben Norton and Rania Khalek have actively promoted forced regime change in Syria, insisting on the validity of the popular revolution, characterising the Syrian president as a butcher, and alternately vilifying and patronising those who were unconvinced by the NATO narrative.

At the same time there has been no attempt by proponents of the Syrian war to engage with the anti-war activists who have been carrying out and sharing research on the conflict –  instead they have contented themselves with unfounded slurs on the intellect and integrity of supporters of Syria.

However, ripples have been going through social media in recent months as these seemingly diehard opponents to the Syrian government  have moved to taking a more nuanced view of the conflict. This was quickly picked up by eagle-eyed users of twitter who have been following the war on Syria for years …

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In order to consider the significance and extent of this shift in perspective, it is worth looking back at the views espoused by the thirdwayers over the years

The popular revolution

Long after the violent, sectarian and fundamentally un-Syrian nature of the uprising was revealed along with its external impetus, diehards were still promoting the idea of a popular revolution, with a sentimental attachment to the Free Syrian Army well after its use-by date. While atrocity stories  to the disfavour of the ‘Assad thugs’ (Syrian Arab Army) were quickly shared, those which show the ‘revolutionaries’ in an unfavourable light were ignored or speedily forgotten: By 2012 there was abundant proof of FSA atrocities, including cannibalism, decapitation and sectarian massacres, but this did not stop Blumenthal tweeting approvingly in August ‘Protest in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights in support of the #Syrian revolution’.

Thus in August 2014, when most people were discarding the fiction of Syria’s moderate rebels, Ben Norton still had a rosy view of the ‘democratic’ revolutionaries: a spate of tweets in their favour on August 18 included such optimistic claims as, ‘Syrian revolutionaries have already liberated cities, and they ran them somewhat democratically’, and on 22 September, ‘Majority of the FSA consists of average Syrians & former SAA members who refused to slaughter civilians & defected’.

As late as February 2015 Ben Norton complained:

Blame Assad for brutally destroying the progressive and secular resistance against his murderous fascist regime […] not Syrians for standing up to bravely fight for not just food, justice, and dignity, but for their very lives.

In 2014 Khalek interviewed Molly Crabapple, artist, writer and fervent supporter of the ‘Syrian revolution’.   Both Khalek and Crabapple assume a non-violent inception to the Syrian conflict, ruthlessly crushed by government forces.

Khalek:  […] You addressed the fact that there was a segment of the anti-war left that still till now is very dismissive of the Syrian uprising and in some cases excuses Assad for the horrific crimes he’s committing and you got attacked for pointing this out.

Crabapple: […] Many people I deeply respect are anti-intervention for good reasons. Other ones were pro certain sorts of intervention. But I think what is absolutely wrong is to pretend the Syrian revolution didn’t exist, to pretend that these activists weren’t amazing people …

The ‘evil Assad’

Attacking any movement by demonising its leader is a tried and true tactic where there is no legitimate means to an end – one only needs to look at the treatment meted out to Alex Salmond who, in the run-up to the Scottish referendum, was variously compared to Hitler, Mugabe, Nero and Genghis Khan.  Likewise vilification of Bashar al Assad has been a major plank of regime change advocates. For more than five years the anti-Syria movement has relentlessly vilified the Syrian president with an incontinent flow of accusations, making full use of language favoured by the most hard-line interventionists: Assad ‘the butcher’, ‘the brutal tyrant’ has been accused of deliberately conducting a reign of terror, of bombing, starving, raping, gassing his own people, deliberately targeting hospitals, blood-banks, schools, bakeries, children and even kittens.

The thirdwayers have been amongst the most determined proponents of the evil Assad narrative: ‘Assad slaughter continues’ BN8/8/14; Assad’s ‘brutal tyranny’ MB 4/10/11; ‘Assad slaughter’ MB22/2/13; ‘Assad’s atrocities’ MB 14/9/13; ‘Assad’s reign of terror’ MB 16/9/14; ‘Assad family’s ongoing legacy of criminal fascism’ MB 18/10/14; ‘Assad the butcher’ RK 15/8/14  ‘Assad’s butchery’ RK 29/7/14; Assad is a mass murdering criminal’ RK  19/7/16; ‘the criminal Assad regime’ RK 18/1/14; civilians are being intentionally starved by the Assad Regime’ RK 19/4/14; ‘Assad is starving, torturing, & killing not just Syrian but also Palestinians’, BN 26/8/14.

From very early in the war many allegations of atrocities and war crimes have been leveled at the Syrian government and then soon shown to be false.  Furthermore, sSubstantial research had been carried out revealing the extent of foreign intervention, the billions of dollars of aid to the ‘rebels’, the many thousands of mercenaries pouring in through Turkey.  However even in February  21015 Norton was still undeterred.  According to his article 56 dead in one day: a Glimpse of Assad’s brutality  Assad was responsible both for the early violence:

Since Assad first tried to drown the nonviolent popular uprising against his fascist regime in blood in 2011 …

and its continuation:

… the Syrian regime has dropped thousands upon thousands of bombs on civilian areas—and has engaged in systematic campaigns of torture, starvation, and rape. […]   If you want to see why horrible reactionary groups like Al-Nusra and even ISIS have support among some Syrians, try taking a look at the crimes the fascist Assad regime commits on a daily basis. […]

Norton is, therefore, offering a partial justification for joining ISIS.

No possible accusation has been overlooked.  Specific claims of atrocities are seized on, never questioned and then, once debunked by others, forgotten.  Although the thirdwayers, unlike the hard-line interventionists, may be prepared to discard discredited anti-Assad horror stories, this never seems to impact on the overall theme of Assad the monster.  Thus massacres such as those that occurred at Houla, Ghouta and Banias were all immediately blamed on the Syrian government by both the corporate media and the third-wayers, even though subsequently found to have been carried out by insurgents, for either ethnic cleansing or ‘false flag’ purposes.  (Blumenthal was still insisting that the Houla massacre was carried out by ‘shabiha’ (derogatory term for local defence forces) in February 2013, see video, below).

Assad is correlated with Israel, or ISIS, or is even worse than ISIS, according to both Rania Khalek

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echoing the sentiments expressed by Josie Ensor of the Telegraph a few months earlier

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The public knowledge that both the US and Israel are hell-bent on regime change in Syria was turned on its head with claims that the US and Israel supported Assad: ‘”Israel’s preference is for Bashar al Assad to remain in power…”‘,  MB 11/12/2012.

US support for the ‘Assad regime was a favourite theme of Ben Norton, who explored this thesis in an article US Government Essentially Sides with Assad.  Despite all evidence to the contrary, Norton supports the US administration in its blatant fiction that its priority is going after ISIS:

‘With the Syrian Civil War approaching its fourth whole year, the evidence increasingly suggests that the Obama administration has essentially sided with the Assad regime. […] In October 2014, Foreign Policy noted that “U.S. officials are beginning to see Assad as a vital, de facto ally in the fight against the Islamic State.”’

 With the advent of foreign fighters from Central Asia , polio  reappeared in Syria, after having been eradicated in 1995 (the strain in Syria is the same as that present in Pakistan, source and transit point for many jihadists fighting in Syria).  Despite being engulfed in war the Syrian acted quickly to set in place vaccination programmes (the latest campaign was announced on 16 October).  Rania Khalek, however, laid a large part of the responsibility at the door of the ‘regime’, likewise ignoring evidence available at the time which showed that the Red Crescent is frequently blocked by groups such as the ‘Free Syrian Army’.

The insanely high toll [from chronic disease] is largely due to the Assad regime’s criminal use of food and medicine as weapons in his war against his own people.’

The discrediting of the 2011 lie that Gaddafi was giving black mercenaries viagra to encourage them to rape Arab women did not deter Ben Norton from seizing with alacrity on an obscure and short-lived rumour that the Deputy Mufti of the ‘Syrian regime’ advocated rape by the army.

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‘Assad worshippers’

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[Pro-Assad Bingo, posted by Ben Norton in April 2015]

In parallel with the demonisation of Bashar al Assad is the recurrent theme of contempt for Assad supporters.

Undermining one of NATO’s principle planks and justification for intervention, ie the demonisation of al Assad, is an enormous threat to the NATO narrative For this reason a major focus of the anti-Syria left has been to undermine, not just the Syrian government, but also the credibility of pro-Syria activists who have questioned the atrocity narrative. 

Critics of the anti-Assad narrative are deemed to be stupid and hypocritical.  A spate of tweets about the pusillanimity of  ‘Assad workshippers issued from Ben Norton in 2014, eg 24 August: ; I just can’t get over the ludicrous degrees Assad defenders are going to to try to defend the mass murderer…it’s almost unbelievable.’; ‘HAHAHAHAHAHA, these Assad-worshiping conspiracy theorists just get more and more absurd. They are completely deranged’. ‘The Western “anti-imperialists” who support (read: worship) Assad so fervently have never met a working-class  Syrian’.

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Max Blumenthal is equally contemptous of ‘Assad apologists”, informing writer Miri Wood: ‘when non Muslima say takfiri I cringe almost as much as when they defend Assad’s reign of terror 16/9/14.  Even Syrians cannot escape Blumenthal’s derision:

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Assad supporters have, we are told, a tendency to Islamophobia, ‘I noted a while ago that Islamophobia informed certain Assad apologists’ MB 12/4/13;  or fascism and Stalinism, ‘when you see someone defend Assad, remind them that Fascists & far-rightests throughout europe support Assad’ 12/4/13.

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In this tweet of March 2016, Norton is referring to the protester top right, who is holding a placard supporting Bashar al Assad.  Not everyone was convinced by Norton:

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In October 2013 Blumenthal tweeted:

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Thus in an impressive use of twitter, he managed to impugn the integrity of an opponent to regime change, indicated that it was ‘Assad’ that was responsible for the Ghouta sarin attack, and played ‘in bed with Israel’ card.

In late 2012 Max Blumenthal noisily resigned from al-Akhbar News, complaining that the outlet was providing a forum for ‘Assad supporters’.  As well as publishing a letter of resignation, Blumenthal’s departure from the newspaper was the subject of an  interview with The Real News in which, on the basis of his visit to a refugee camp in Jordan, he presents himself as an expert on Syria.  The video is 18 minutes and is an education .

In letter and interview Blumenthal reiterates his position on the Syrian war: ‘the Syrian army’s pornographically violent crackdowns on what by all accounts is still a mostly homegrown resistance’, the regime’s responsibility for massacres such as Houla; ‘the Assad regime’s campaign to delegitimise the Syrian opposition by casting it as a bunch of irrational jihadis’.  According to Blumenthal,  Assad ‘makes Israel look like a champion of human rights’.

There is an interesting attempt to correlate Hezbollah with al Qaeda and ISIS: ‘ironically [the Syrian regime]  seem to have little problem with Hezbollah’s core Islamist values’.  One wonders what the people of Maaloula, very thankful to be liberated from jihadists with the help of Hezbollah, would make of Blumenthal’s implication.

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[Hezbollah fighter saluting the Virgin Mary after the Battle of Maaloula]

In 2014 Norton wrote a spiteful article termed  Meet the Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theorists Who Are Assad’s Biggest Fans. The primary purpose appears to have been to wreak vengeance on a group of social media activists who found it hard to take Norton at his own evaluation:

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Norton starts from the fundamental premise that all who oppose the war on Syria are, without exception,  devoid of all moral sense.

Those of us with at least some kind of rudimentary moral compass are compelled to oppose draconian tyrants like Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, whose regime regularly engages in brutal state terrorist campaigns of mass bombingtorturestarvation, and rape of civilians, including children.

The article is a fascinating exercise in dishonesty, damning the ‘antisemites’ by association with the anti-war movement and vice-versa, and conflating all members of the group on every point while ignoring all contrary evidence.  (Norton’s piece was answered one of the group.

Regime change the third way

The part played by the NATO countries, the Gulf States, Turkey and foreign mercenaries has been essentially ignored or denied by the thirdwayers, who have stayed with their narrative of a ‘civil war’.  They have theoretically been opposed to proposals for open military intervention, or at least the idea of bombing campaigns,  whether by the NATO states or Russia.

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The narrative hasn’t been totally consistent: a lot of what is tweeted is ambiguous,  even irresponsible, often indicating that intervention might actually be the humanitarian option.  bluminterventioncaesarfiles

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raniaassadbarralebombs

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Again, Blumenthal’s angry response in 2014 to an article by Bob Dreyfuss suggesting that Obama give up on regime change in Damascus hardly seems consist with an anti-interventionist viewpoint.

regimechange

Max Blumenthal’s own credentials as a ‘reporter from the region’ lie in a visit to Jordan to interview refugees. The article chronicles the dire conditions in Zaatari camp, but Blumenthal chooses to end on a call for bombing Syria:   ‘Either bomb the regime or you can bomb Zaatari and get it over with for us.’

The group’s principle plank is that the conflict in Syria is a ‘civil war’, a ‘popular revolution’.  While being opposed in principle to external intervention, they have facilitated that intervention by promoting NATO propaganda against the Syrian government and in favour of the ‘revolutionaries’, in effect the jihadist extremists who have controlled the insurgency from the beginning.  They may not be responsible for the inception of the war, but they share culpability for its continuation.

 

Continued in Part 2: the Gatekeepers

See also:

The Demonisation of Bashar al Assad

UN Proposes Establishment of Islamic State in Syria

Eastern Aleppo is occupied by Islamic extremists allied to al Qaeda and ISIS – when Murad Gazdiev peeped over into East Aleppo recently the only flags he saw were the black ensigns of ISIS and al Nusra. The jihadists are preventing residents from leaving via the humanitarian corridors created for that purpose, and are shelling western Aleppo on a daily basis, causing horrific casualties which are, however, totally ignored by Western media. At the present time the Syrian Arab Army and allies is engaged in a major campaign to retake this part of Aleppo – this will seriously undermine the West’s project for the destruction of Syria as we know it.

In order to resolve the Aleppo ‘crisis’, i.e. the impending liberation of eastern Aleppo from terrorists, the United Nations Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has proposed that eastern Aleppo be made an ‘autonomous zone’. If this was agreed to by the Syrian government, and approved by the UN, this would mean that eastern Aleppo would have official UN status and protection.  Essentially it would mean the realisation of an Islamic State, governed by people closely aligned in terms of loyalty and values with ISIS, though despised and hated by the vast majority of Syrians.  That the official flag might be that of al Qaeda or the FSA would hardly be of comfort to the residents of Aleppo, east or west.

Presumably the idea is to have a permanent ‘ceasefire’, whereby  the residents of eastern Aleppo are in permanent hostage to terrorists, and those in western Aleppo continue to be bombarded by hellfire cannon.  Atrocities by jihadists would continue to be ignored; any breaches or retaliation by the Syrian forces would be punished with further sanctions or constitute a ‘red line’ for NATO invasion.

The next step would be the recognition as autonomous entities of other cities controlled by ISIS/al Qaeda such as Raqqa and Idlib.

The proposal came to light at a televised press conference held after the Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem met with Staffan de Mistura on Sunday. Moallem made it clear that Damascus completely rejects de Mistura’s proposal.

‘Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem on Sunday said Damascus completely rejects UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura’s proposal to establish an autonomous zone in east Aleppo.
‘“This was completely rejected… This is a violation of our sovereignty,”
‘The Syrian FM said that the UN envoy said he can’t offer guarantees that a new ceasefire can take hold, noting that the Syrian government had given three chances for the injured people to get out of eastern Aleppo.
‘Meanwhile, Moallem stressed that Damascus “can no longer accept that 275,000 of our people are hostages by terrorists in eastern Aleppo” which is held by Takfiri militants fighting the Syrian government.’

Syria has been adamantly opposed to any proposal that entails the division of its territory or threatens its sovereignty. However it is of great concern that the United Nations is prepared to brazenly put on the table the option of an official, protected and independent entity within the state of Syria, presumably to be funded by the West, controlled by the most barbaric Islamic extremists, and operating as a cancerous tumour within Syria.

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[Mohammed Ma’yuf and Omar Salkhu, the leaders of the al Zinki gang, who hacked off the head of 12 year old Abdullah Issa in Aleppo, but who are considered part of the legitimate opposition by the US State Department]

Addendum

This article was a response to the statement by Walid Moallem to the press directly after his meeting with the UN envoy. Since then de Mistura has clarified his own position in a press conference, full transcript here . There is also an AP report, but this mostly relies on an older Guardian article (!).

De Mistura has essentially confirmed Moallem’s statement, that an independent administration in eastern Aleppo be given formal status.   De Mistura affirms that he respects Syrian sovereignty, but …

‘On the other hand, Aleppo is a special case, eastern Aleppo is a special case, and all this can be temporary but needs to be having a creative formula. […] But local administration we need to have a special case for Aleppo, so that we can have a temporary arrangement until there will be a national political solution.’

De Mistura’s creative solution is to persuade the ‘900’ terrorists and leave in place the ‘local administration’, ie. the other gangs, who according to the UN are not terrorists (just cannibals and child murderers). It is not clear whether he expects the ‘real terrorists’ to go before Syria formally acknowledges an independent administration in Aleppo, but it is taken as read that once de Mistura’s ‘900’ terrorists leave, the shelling of western Aleppo will magically stop.

Even more startling is de Mistura’s view, in defiance of all the known facts, that the people of eastern Aleppo would be so horrified at being under Syrian government authority that they would prefer to take refuge in Turkey.

‘we are running out of time, we are running against time […]  Imagine simply that by Christmas as I had feared due to military intensification you would have the virtual collapse of what is left of eastern Aleppo, you would have 200,000 people moving towards Turkey that would be a human catastrophe.’

De Mistura made it very clear that he chooses to treat reports from bogus humanitarian organisations like the White Helmets and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights as gospel, for example totally rejecting Moallem’s emphatic denials that any bombing of eastern Aleppo had taken place in recent weeks, let alone targeting hospitals.

since we do have a difference of opinion between the Mister Mouallem saying that there is total denial of any aerial bombing of hospitals in eastern Aleppo and our point of view that indicates that there has been tragic bombing of hospital in eastern Aleppo and elsewhere

The Envoy proposes to send a verification team to east Aleppo to investigate the claims of hospital shelling, so it will be interesting to see who volunteers for that exercise.

 

 

 

See also

ISIS, Al-Qaeda and the “moderate rebels” are fighting together in Aleppo

Militants plant mines to prevent civilians Leaving East Aleppo

Terrorists shoot dead protesters in Aleppo: 27 killed and 40 wounded

3 killed, 28 injured in militant shelling of govt-held Aleppo (GRAPHIC IMAGES)

Eric Draitser and the ‘Pro-Assad Syria Fetishists’

Ever since Nick Cohen, supporter of imperialist wars and Israel, lectured in the New Statesman to the ‘Left’ about what direction it should take, I have been deeply suspicious of people who follow suit (and unsubscribed from the New Statesman).  This latest article from Eric Draitser only confirms my prejudices.

Eric Draitser has taken it upon himself to lead the ‘Left’ back on to the right path in his article Syria and the Left: Time to Break the Silence.

The cold, hard reality of the war in Syria is that the violence, bloodshed, and chaos continues unabated while the Left, such as it is, continues on in a state of schizophrenic madness. Different points of view, conflicting ideological tendencies [etc, etc …]. But those issues are not the urgent task of this article; the Left does need to seriously self-reflect though about just how it responds to crises of imperialism and issues of war and peace.

The ‘on the pro-Assad side of the argument’ who have spent years studying, researching and sharing facts on the Syrian conflict and the role of external powers will be somewhat bemused to be told, only now, that they need to start thinking about how to respond to crises of imperialism and issues of war and peace.

Those same ‘Assad supporters’, who have been sharing the facts both about the human cost of the war, and the long-term implications for Syria, will also be taken aback to find that they have apparently forgotten their humanity:

It seems that many, myself included up to a point, have gotten so enveloped in the embrace of partisanship in this war that we have forgotten that our responsibility is to the people of Syria and to peace and justice …

However, the real problem is that we don’t have a strategy in the case of WWIII

it is only a matter of time before she ratchets up US military involvement in Syria, with a full US war, and attempted regime change, becoming all but a certainty.

And where will the Left be then?

I have no idea where the ‘Left’ will be, but if Hillary goes to war with Russia, I’ll be at home digging my bunker.

Draiters is confident that he can see where the problem lies:  ‘the Left, such as it is, continues on in a state of schizophrenic madness ….  civility and reasoned debate in short supply …the Left does need to seriously self-reflect … And where will the Left be then?’  Will you continue to delude yourselves …?   Will you allow yourselves to be the useful idiots…?’

Let us examine Draitser’s warnings for what he terms the ‘pro-Assad Syria fetishists’.

To the pro-Assad Syria fetishists, I ask: Will you continue to pretend that the only crimes and atrocities being committed are those veiled behind Old Glory? Are you comfortable in the knowledge that this war will continue on indefinitely so long as all outside actors continue to use Syria as merely a square on their respective geopolitical chessboards? Will you continue to delude yourselves by refusing to accept the plainly obvious truth that no state or group has the best interests of Syrians at heart? Will you allow yourselves to be the useful idiots of carefully calculated political maneuvering?

Pro-Assad Syria fetishists:

Excuse me for pointing out the obvious, but it is clearly necessary.  There is a move to weaken, destabilise and probably partition Syria, and change its status as independent state that supports Palestine.  The agents for this are barbaric extremists – if they prevail the fabric of Syrian society and the lives of all Syrians will be changed dramatically for the worse.  The NATO alliance will then move on to Iran.  In the meantime, people are dying in Syria, soldiers and civilians; many others are being displaced.  Either you get excited about criminality, murder and dispossession or you don’t.

Will you continue to pretend that the only crimes and atrocities being committed are those veiled behind Old Glory? 

Draitser is claiming, therefore, that there are crimes that ‘pro-Assad’ types are deliberately closing their eyes to.  It is unfortunate that he references reports from the corporate media, relying in turn on discredited sources.  Again I will point out the obvious.  There is an enormous media campaign against Syria and Russia, with allegations that ‘Assad’ and the Russians are homicidal maniacs who bomb, gas, starve, targeting hospitals, schools, children, and probably kittens.   Allegations of war crimes by Syrian and Russian forces are unproven or shown to be false, e.g. the massacres of Houla, Ghouta, Russian bombing of hospitals.  No-one is saying that all Syrian soldiers, and  all Russian pilots are angels.  We do contest the totally unsubstantiated claims of a campaign of terror through the deliberate targeting of civilians.  If Russia and Syria were carpet-bombing eastern Aleppo, it would have fallen long ago.  And actually, where would you rather be, in Aleppo being bombed by Russia, or in Mosul being bombed by the US?

Are you comfortable

comfortable …

in the knowledge that this war will continue on indefinitely so long as all outside actors continue to use Syria as merely a square on their respective geopolitical chessboards.

The Syrian war is a war of defence against NATO and its allies.   With the invited intervention of Russia, Iran and other players, there is a chance that the extremist groups backed by the Western alliance will be defeated and Syria will stay intact and independent.  If Putin is indeed just using Syria as a square on a geopolitical chessboard, who cares, as long as he takes the square for Syria?  Has Draitser evidence of Machiavellian intentions by Putin? – if so, he should spell it out.

To accuse Iran, who is the next intended victim after Syria, and Hezbollah, who views the war on Syria as the West’s way of breaking the back of the Axis of Resistance, of playing some cynical geopolitical chess game is beyond all belief.

Will you continue to delude yourselves by refusing to accept the plainly obvious truth that no state or group has the best interests of Syrians at heart?

It’s a war.  Syria, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah are working together to defeat the Western alliance.  All foreign players are obliged to put their own constituents first; prevailing in Syria is probably in those interests.  People argue all the time about Russian intentions and diplomatic manoevres, but in any case if the alternative is ISIS/ALQaeda…  Again, what does Draitser actually mean?  What are the preferred alternatives?

Will you allow yourselves to be the useful idiots of carefully calculated political maneuvering?

What carefully calculated political manoevring?   Are we being manipulated into supporting something that we should oppose on moral or intellectual ground?  If so, what?

[a] white supremacist, fascist ideology … underlies a significant amount of the support base for Assad and his allies (see David Duke, David Icke, Alexander Dugin, Brother Nathanel, Alex Jones, Mimi al-Laham, Ken O’Keefe, and on and on and on)

This red herring is truly desperate.  There are people at the forefront of research on Syria, such as Tim Anderson, Eva Bartlett, Vanessa Beeley, Sharmine Narwani and Rick Sterling.  Their work is published, reblogged, quoted and shared widely (but not as far as I know by white supremacists).  Andersons’ book The Dirty War on Syria has been translated into several languages. Eric Draitser’s own work is often shared.  None of the people mentioned by Draitser are anything like in the same league, although al-Laham has done some videos that are often viewed.

I don’t know enough about the people listed by Draitser to say whether they are in fact ‘fascists’ and ‘white supremacists’, and most of them would be unknown to the majority of ‘Assad’ supporters.  Dropping a few names of people, some of whom have very tenuous links with the Syrian movement, is hardly enough to substantiate Draitser’s claim that fascism underlies ‘a significant amount of the support base’ for Assad and his allies.

  *              *            *

With this article  Draitser has spent so much time patronising Syria watchers he has forgotten to explain what his point is.  Really, it is hard to wake up to all these traps Draitser is warning us of, if we don’t know what he is actually referring to, and if all his claims are unsubstantiated.  The purpose of the article seems to be staking a claim to a neutral position, a ‘third way’, which holds that all actors in the Syrian conflict are blameworthy, and all activists are blind, intellectually dishonest or deluded .  Ultimately Draitser has no rational advice for Syrian activists, no argument for doing anything other than what we are doing.

No Eric Draitser, we are not going to ‘self-reflect’ on the mission of the ‘Left’.  We are going to carry on researching and sharing facts about the war on Syria, as honestly as we can.  And if that means we are not really ‘Left’ at all, as you define it, too bad.

See also

Danny Haiphong has also  responded to Draitser’s article, with much useful information for those unfamiliar with the background to the Syrian conflict:
Break the Silence or Support Self-Determination? In Syria, the Answer Should be Obvious

Alex Salmond and the Syrian Conflict

Alex Salmond, former First Minister of Scotland, is now international affairs spokesperson for the Scottish National Party. He recently spoke to Sophie Shevardnadze on RT’s SophieCo on matters relating to Russia and to the war on Syria. Thanks to some persistent probing from Sophie, the interview comes as a revelation to those who see the SNP as Scotland’s anti-imperialist alternative.

Alex Salmond was a powerful voice in opposition to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, but the Scottish National Party, with Salmond as party leader, voted with the UK Government and Labour Opposition to bomb Libya in 2011 (the present Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was one of a 13 MPS who voted against). When it came to the vote in the House of Commons on whether to bomb in Syria in November 2015, the SNP voted as a block against the motion.

Given his record on Iraq, one might have expected that Salmond would on the one hand oppose imperialist wars on principle, and on the other be sceptical about claims made by the UK and allied governments in respect of the reasons for going to war. Not so. Salmond presented on SophieCo a view of the Syrian conflict that is quite startling to those who see him as some kind of anti-imperialist on the basis of Iraq and of Scottish independence, since in fact it fits perfectly with the NATO narrative on the Syrian war and Russian involvement.

Salmond’s primary thesis is that ‘Syria has … a multi-faceted civil war’. Now anyone with an interest in UK foreign policy, even if just following the mainstream media, should know that this is patently false. There was never a popular uprising in Syria: for example, it was widely reported even in Time that the ‘Day of Rage’ planned to take place across the Arab world on 4 February was a complete fizzle in Damascus, with only a handful of people turning out.  The huge demonstrations in Damascus at that time were for the government, not in opposition to it.   Furthermore the ‘uprising’ was always intended to be violent – given the lack of enthusiasm on the part of the Syrian people, it could not otherwise succeed. At the big demonstration in Dara’a in March 2011 seven policemen and four demonstrators were killed – who could possible swallow the story of a protest brutally suppressed by government forces, when more policemen die than demonstrators?  Presumably there were  peaceful protesters at the beginning, but the great majority quickly backed off, with the result that all the ‘opposition’ groups now in operation are extremist criminals.

Salmond implies that Russia is the only foreign power intervening in Syria.‘I would argue that Russia should not be [intervening in Syria] and it’s perfectly reasonable for the international community to express that whether through sanctions or other action.’ Salmond must be aware of the dishonesty of this position. He will know that NATO was running training camps in Jordan from an early stage – certainly there were reports in the media from as early as February 2012.   The UK alone has spends millions, probably billions, on supporting terrorist groups in Syria;  the government is now planning to train more ‘moderates’ in Syria, in full knowledge that men and weapons will end up with extremist groups.  The UK is the primary funder of the al Nusra media project, the White Helmets.

Sanctions against Russia, ie the Russian people, are seen by Salmond as an appropriate response, as a legitimate way of expressing disapproval. Presumably he is encouraged in this view by the devastating effects on Saddam’s Iraq, which caused the deaths of half a million children, but also made it easier for the West to invade in 2003. (The current sanctions on Syria, which include cancer medication, likewise have horrific implications for Syrian children.)

At present the US, in co-ordination with Iraqi forces, is conducting operations to take the city of Mosul from Islamic State. However, Salmond denies any double standard in the way the West views the siege on Mosul vis-a-vis the siege on Aleppo. Iraq has a ‘legitimate government’ whose ‘main opposition is the Daesh death cult whom we all oppose’ and which ‘has asked for international support’, and there is ‘an efficient ground force which makes action in Mosul practical‘. Syria, however, is a ‘multi-faceted civil war: … international action is legitimate against Daesh, but international action or national action to take sides in a proxy conflict is not, and the consequences for civilians we see in Aleppo have to be faced up to’.

Salmond’s answer to Sophie seems rather like what one might expect from Sir Humphrey Appleby, however presumably (and I’m struggling here) the difference between the sieges of Mosul and Aleppo all hangs on Salmond’s desperate assertion that Syria is a civil war. Thus, collateral damage in a battle in Mosul against the legitimate target, ISIS, is acceptable, but Russia causing civilian casualties in a ‘civil war’ against al Qaeda extremists is not, even though these extremists are executing civilians in eastern Aleppo, and shelling civilians in the west of the city on a daily basis, causing horrible casualties.

Needless to say, there is no acknowledgement whatsoever of the war crimes committed by NATO forces in Syria, including coalition strikes that have result in the deaths of hundreds of Syrian civilians. And while Salmond claims to be a great fan of ceasefires, he makes no mention of the NATO bombing of Syrian troops at Deir ez Zor, killing over 80 and allowing ISIS to advance, which did nothing for the ceasefire in place at the time.

Salmond’s description of the war in Syria as a ‘proxy conflict’ is odd, a Freudian slip even: the only proxies in the Syrian war are those sponsored by the West, fighting the legitimate forces of the Syrian Arab Army, and properly invited allies.

‘To the extent where the international action is targeted against Daesh – then fine’. But not international action by Russia against al Qaeda and its offshoots, not against al Zinki that sawed the head off 12 year old Abdullah Issa, not against the Free Syrian Army which is responsible for untold atrocities in Syria. This echoes the position of the US State Department, who recently acknowledged that fighting al Nusra/alQaeda, the principle terrorist group shelling western Aleppo, is not a US priority in Syria.

Perhaps the most curious statement in this interview was Salmond’s response to a more general question on foreign policy. Salmond enthuses about ‘SNP initiatives for the participation of women across the MENA region’, seeing no conflict with his legitimisation of some of the most gender-oppressive extremists in the Middle East.

However a major focus of SNP foreign policy is, it appears, the Kurds. ‘We’re working hard with the various Kurdish groups who have a long-term association with Scotland to try and bring these groups together … And to try and bring the various Kurdish strands of opinion together themselves – it strikes me as an important aspect.’ With what outcome? Is Salmond having talks about the establishment of a Kurdish State, created from the wreckage of Iraq, Syria, then Iran and possibly Turkey?

In sum, Alex Salmond is heavily promoting aspects of the NATO position on Syria: it is a civil war; the warring forces include bad terrorists (Islamic State/Daesh), and good terrorists (al Nusra, Ahrar al Sham, al Zinki etc etc etc) as well as the government; Russia is a war criminal, the NATO countries not.  In this interview, at least, he does not suggest that the West should be helping the ‘democratic opposition’ (al Nusra etc). On the contrary, he appears to be in complete denial about all external help given to them, in terms of funds, armaments, the lucrative ISIS oil trade, and manpower.

Subsequent to a recent discussion in the House of Commons on Aleppo and the much-mooted no fly zone, Alex Salmond appeared on Sky News. A clip showing the bombing of eastern Aleppo appears to have been shown prior.  Salmond opposes the no fly zone, but the sole reason given is that it might lead to a hot war with Russia. One reads from this that if a nuclear power were not involved, Salmond would support a no fly zone for Syria, as he did for Libya.

In this interview Salmond does appear to acknowledge al Nusra as an extremist entity, while at the same time supporting the concept of a ‘moderate opposition’, here described as ‘moderate democrats of some factions of the Free Syrian Army’ [sic]. Salmond does not of course name these factions – he cannot, because they would soon be exposed as being exactly the same criminals as the other gangs in Syria. This is a replica of the State Department’s bizarre logic and myth-making: there is a ‘legitimate, moderate opposition’ which eats with al Nusra, fights with al Nusra, commits the same atrocities as al Nusra, but which the West needs to protect at all costs from Russia, which has the bad taste to consider them terrorists and kill them.

Salmond is applying nothing that should have been learned from the wars on Iraq and Libya, from the lies that were told to justify them, and from the disastrous consequences for the people of those countries.  It is impossible to believe that Salmond is totally ignorant of the true facts of the Syrian conflict – one can only deduce that he supports in principle forced regime change in Syria, whether it be through the use of terrorist proxies, propaganda, sanctions or bombing the Syrian Arab Army, in order to further the aims of the NATO/Israel alliance in the region.

See also

Scottish Nationalistm and the Yinon Plan

How the Violence Began in Daraa

Mother Agnes Mariam: The West and the Arab States are Protecting Terrorists Who Will Never Win in Syria

Will the ISIS Yellow Helmets be Nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize?

Boris Johnson and the British Foreign Office have announced a further 1 million to go to the Syrian Civil Defense.

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An unofficial source has indicated that the money will be allocated to the ISIS linked Yellow Helmets.

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Yellow Helmets in Raqqah, firefighting (above and left) and rescuing drowning man (below centre right)

Syrian Civil Defence is defined as a Syrian volunteer search and rescue organisation, which is however only seen in ‘rebel’ held areas. The White Helmets operate exclusively in areas controlled by al Nusra (al Qaeda in Syria), whereas the Yellow Helmets operate in ISIS-controlled areas.

The Foreign Office is, with the US State Department, one of the largest funders of Syrian Civil Defence, and is promoting the White Helmets for a Nobel Peace Prize.  The FCO believes that al Nusra and ISIS are major partners in the War of Terror and should be suitably acknowledged and rewarded.  There are some who quibble about this support for terrorism, believing that at least it should be less blatant.  Unkind souls have pointed out that many White Helmet ‘volunteers’ appear to have a day job as terrorist fighters, often taking part in the torture of Syrian soldiers.   One view holds that the White Helmets are no more than a set of props and uniforms to be donned when required for propaganda purposes.

Less is known about the Yellow Helmets as, although the BBC and CNN have journalists regularly putting al Qaeda’s viewpoint from Eastern Aleppo, fewer journalists make it to Raqqah.

However it appears that Mr Johnson is concerned that the Yellow Helmets should not be ignored, and discussions are taking place on whether they should be nominated for the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.

White Helmets Stage Another Dramatic Rescue

 

There is nothing humanitarian about this, it is simply child abuse

The White Helmets are ostensibly a humanitarian organisation, carrying out a first responder function throughout war-torn Syria. In fact they function as a branch of al Nusra (al Qaeda in Syria), operating only in areas dominated by al Nusra. Many of their humanitarian workers are also photographed in fighting gear, and video footage shows them taking part in the torture of of prisoners. It is questionable whether the White Helmets are anything more than a set of uniforms donned by whoever is to hand for the purposes of propaganda.  It is a powerful comment on the West’s relationship with terrorism that despite, or because of, their identity with al Nusra the White Helmets have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

jihadistcroppedcapture

With the tears evoked by the Omran Daqneesh photo-shoot not yet dry, al Nusra’s White Helmets have staged another dramatic rescue.  The location has moved to Idlib, and the victim is a baby girl, less than a month old according to al Nusra photographer Moaz alShami.

The scenario plays out in much the same way: the baby is pulled from the rubble and carried off to a waiting ambulance – despite their nice uniforms, fine equipment and purportedly extensive experience, White Helmets do not appear to possess stretchers for children.  Again, as with Omran, the baby is not placed carefully on a bed and checked for broken bones.  Instead, she is held most awkwardly by his White Helmet rescuer, who is overcome by the experience.

The baby shows a small cut or wound on the front right of her scalp and there is blood  above the left eyebrow.  Clearly it is not possible to ascertain the extent of the injuries from the video. but the back of her head, or at least the top half, appears to be uninjured.  Ointment is then daubed over the baby’s forehead, with no obvious attempt to focus on the apparent wounds.  The very part of the head that we can see to be uninjured is covered with bandaging.  The man doing the doctoring is wearing a mask, handily covering his chin only, which enables him to raise his head to address the camera and abuse Syrian president Bashar al Assad (I can’t make out whether he mentions barrel bombs).

Baby’s state is considered serious enough to be rushed to hospital, but still not serious enough to warrant the use of stretchers or trolley.  We can now see what might be a graze on her cheek, which has somehow escaped the ointment treatment.  The hero of the hour is then interviewed by Moaz alShami, followed by a piece to camera.

According to alShami, the rescuer says, ‘she could have been my own daughter’.  Maybe she was indeed his daughter, which would explain why she only started crying when she suffered the ‘medical treatment’, though it does not quite explain his awkwardness in holding her.  If the child is not in fact the offspring of any of the al Nusra media team, it is hard not to be concerned about her fate ….

Further information will be available to Arabic speakers, including perhaps an explanation of the whereabouts of the child’s parents, who do not seem to feature and, most curiously, are not mentioned at all by alShami in his facebook post.  Maybe that part of the story is still a work in progress.

It could be that, despite their supposed years of experience, these first responders are just incompetent. However this rescue looks to be totally faked or at best a beat-up, just like the Omran performance. In that case it raises the question: if the Russian and Syrian air forces are ruthlessly and indiscriminately bombing civilians, as we are told, why the need for fakery?  Why aren’t there scores of real victims, seriously injured?

Regardless of this, surely it’s time we said: ‘there is nothing humanitarian about this, it is simply child abuse’.

UN Team Heard Claims of ‘Staged’ Chemical Attacks

OffGuardian

A widely touted U.N. report accusing the Syrian government of two chlorine-gas attacks relied on shaky evidence and brushed aside witness testimony that claimed some incidents were staged, reports Robert Parry.

United Nations investigators encountered evidence that alleged chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian military were staged by jihadist rebels and their supporters, but still decided to blame the government for two incidents in which chlorine was allegedly dispersed via improvised explosives dropped by helicopters.

In both cases, the Syrian government denied that it had any aircraft in the areas at the times of the purported attacks, but the U.N. team rejected that explanation with the curious argument that Syria failed to provide flight records to corroborate the absence of any flights. Yet, if there had been no flights, there would be no flight records.

The controversial map developed by Human Rights Watch and embraced by the New York Times, supposedly showing the flight paths of two missiles from the Aug. 21, 2013 sarin attack intersecting at a Syrian military base. The analysis was later discredited when aeronautical experts found that the one missile carrying sarin had only one-fourth the necessary range. The controversial map developed by Human Rights Watch and embraced by the New York…

View original post 2,079 more words

Lying for NATO

There has been a spate of truly dreadful anti-Syria articles published recently in ‘alternative’ media. Taken individually they would not normally be taken seriously, but as they seem to be feeding off each other, and as they share common characteristics, admittedly not unique to them, it is worth paying them some attention. Three articles in particular come to mind, written by Ashley Smith, Anti-Imperialism and the Syrian Revolution, Terry Burke, US Activists Aren’t Listening to Progressive Syrian Voices, and Andy Berman, Reasserting Dignity in the US AntiWar Movement. The articles are strikingly similar with the same essential thesis, and the same premises. They have another point in common – they are all spectacularly dishonest.

The essential flaws of all three articles are encapsulated in the opening paragraph of Ashley Smith’s offering:

The Syrian Revolution has tested the left internationally by posing a blunt question: Which side are you on? Do you support the popular struggle against dictatorship and for democracy? Or are you with Bashar al-Assad’s brutal regime, his imperial backer Russia, his regional ally Iran and Iran’s proxies like Hezbollah from Lebanon?

The intent of the writers is to show that the true path for progressives, leftists and anti-imperialists actually lies in supporting the NATO alliance’s imperialist war on Syria, by defining it as a popular revolution, contrary to all the evidence. The writers hope to  persuade the reader of the validity of this view by denigrating, undermining and patronising those in the West who support the Syrian government.

Anti-war activists are accused of standing ‘on the side of dictatorship, counterrevolution and imperialist intervention (Smith). Rather than look to imperialist powers or dictatorial regimes in either camp, the left should stand for workers’ struggle (Smith).

The real imperial power is deemed by the writers to be, of course, Russia. Although Russia, unlike the NATO alliance, has a legitimate presence in Syria, Berman sees a contradiction in Those who claim to be “antiwar” activists, but celebrate the massive Russian military intervention in Syria. Smith believes Russia is reasserting its imperial power through its all-out support for the Assad regime in Syria‘ and the left must reject imperialism in any form, including Russia’s. Even more unhinged is the following argument from Smith’s: Libya and Syria were happy to work with Russian and Chinese imperialism. In no way can they be accurately categorized as ‘anti-imperialist’. (So on that basis, anyone can invade these countries, because Syria supposedly supports ‘imperialism’ in principle?)

Terry Burke, who manages to refer to Orwell four times in the one article, sees it as ‘Orwellian’ that opponents of the Iraq war are also opposed to the proxy war on Syria. She believes that subconscious imperialism is a major reason for opposition to the war on Syrian.

Another factor is a deeply ingrained imperialism, an arrogant first world attitude that we know more than the rest of the planet. Orwell’s Big Brother would have approved of today’s “anti-imperialist” leaders subconsciously identifying with the state and behaving like imperialists, imposing their point of view on poorer countries. One of the basic principles for anti-imperialists should be respect for people from the Global South.

Clearly the total disregard for the opposition of most Syrians to the fake revolution does not count as imperialism in Terry Burke’s book.

The husband and wife team of Burke and Berman, who have somehow produce articles almost identical in content, both stress the importance of listening to Syrians, It is urgent that we hear the voices of Syrians and Syrian Americans (Berman). In her comments to her article, Burke reiterates again and again her concern over the imperialist dismissal of progressive Syrian voices. Unfortunately Burke’s ‘progressive Syrian voice’ of choice is that of Robin Yassin-Kassab, who according to his website was born and brought up in England, has spent little time in Syria, and now lives in Scotland. Most of the other ‘Syrians’ preferred by the Burke-Berman team have a similar background: they are expatriates who opportunistically peddle the NATO narrative, regardless of fact.

It’s a waste of time getting into a silly argument over who has the most Syrian contacts and sources (my Syrian friends can beat your Syrian friends). However it is hard not to wonder if, for example, Syrian natives such as the Aleppo doctors who have spoken to Eva Bartlett are quite progressive enough for Terry Burke.  It is also curious that Burke’s list of ‘white’ authors supposedly promoted by anti-war activists includes writers whose support for Syria is in doubt, such as Robert Fisk, but excludes the writers who, I suggest, are doing the most substantial research into the Syrian situation, including Rick Sterling, Eva Bartlett, Tim Anderson, Vanessa Beeley, and Eric Zuesse.

The abundant evidence that supports an imperial war on the part of the NATO alliance, on the one hand regarding the stated intent of the NATO alliance (the Wesley Clark revelations, the Yinon Plan, the https://wikileaks.org/clinton-emails/emailid/18328 that reveal her intention to destroy Syria for Israel), and on the other hand the overt support given to the insurgents, not to mention the lack of support for the war from Syrians themselves, is dealt with very simply – it’s totally ignored.

The argument that the anti-imperialist option is to support NATO imperialism is supported by a number of strategies, all equally dishonest. Firstly there is no attempt to engage with the intellectual position of those opposed to the war on Syria. The essential facts of the Syrian conflict, from the point of view of vocal opponents to the armed insurrection, whether anti-imperialists, people with personal knowledge of Syria, or Syrians themselves, can be summarised thus:

  • The uprising was orchestrated externally and was violent from the outset.
  • The armed insurrection is not and never has been supported by the majority of the Syrian people.
  • The insurgents now consist of ostensibly separate forces all distinguished by sectarianism, exceptional cruelty, and the presence of a large number of foreign mercenaries.
  • These forces have been externally supported by states hostile to Syria, to a value of billions of dollars.
  • The armed insurrection has been supported by a relentless and fraudulent propaganda campaign.
  • A large number of so-called humanitarian organisations have been overtly and dishonestly campaigning against the Syrian government.

Another point could be added: that Syria is seen as the front, one battle in a war that has seen the destruction of Iraq and Libya, and if lost will be followed by the destruction of Iran. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah sums up the importance of the Syrian conflict well (especially from 6.40 mins, but it’s worth watching the whole 10 minutes).

The involvement of Hezbollah, Palestinian troops, Iran, Iraq, Russia and now China in the war for Syria (which is all in accordance with international law), and a successful outcome, is in the interests of Syria, the greater Middle East and the whole world.

Smith and co. do not even acknowledge these conclusions, let alone confront them with data and analysis. Instead they rely on unsubstantiated claims and on patronising and denigrating those who support the Syrian government, employing emotive language and a raft of fallacious arguments, including argumenta ad hominum and dubious appeals to authority.

All three rely on a set of facts that are straight out of the NATO alliance’s propaganda handbook, with no acknowledgement either of the wealth of research that exposes them as lies, OR that they are in conflict with the assumptions of the people they are claiming to address. They include:

      • There was an initially non-violent popular uprising of a mass character (out there in Dera’a – if you don’t know where that is, try Googling).
      • US couldn’t possibly be backing ISIS.
      • The US does not seek regime change in Syria
      • Self-defined ‘humanitarian’ organisations are by their very nature reliable sources of information (Berman has described the funder and controller of these organisations, convicted fraudster George Soros, as a wise and generous philanthropist).
      • Assad is a hated figurehead [sic], a brutal dictator who has massacred some 400,000 Syrians.
      • Assad is besieging ‘Aleppo’ (all of it, it would seem …).
      • The regime carried out the chemical attack on East Ghouta.
      • Atrocities by the Syrian government far outweigh crimes by the (headchopping, cannibalistic) opposition fighters. (There is no record of Syrian Army soldiers chopping off an opponent’s head and then ringing his mother to gloat, but let’s not be picky.)

 

There is no acknowledgement that all these claims are at best controversial (bare-faced lies, many would say). On the contrary, there is an assumption that no other views exist, and this is perhaps the most obnoxious, the most dishonest aspect of these articles. Having totally ignored the conclusions reached by pro-Syrian activists (and the huge body of research leading to those conclusions), the authors then pretend that activists actually agree with their own dishonest assertions of fact.

Anti-war activists, according to Smith, Burke and Berman, know and accept the facts relating to the Syrian war as defined by them, but choose to ignore or undervalue them for reasons that are unworthy or pusillanimous, ie from moral or intellectual failure. Thus those who disagree with Smith and co. are presumed to really believe that the revolution is a popular one,  ie that the rebels ( the terrorist groups indistinguishable from al Qaeda and ISIS) have popular support in Syria, and that the Syrian government is committing horrific crimes, but are prepared to overlook them. Ashley Smith:

A whole section of the left […] have turned a blind eye to Assad’s massacre of some 400,000 Syrians, and his regime’s use of barrel bombs, chemical weapons and barbaric sieges of cities like Aleppo.

Opposition to this popular revolution, therefore, can only stem from the most unworthy motivations, nothing to do with issues peculiar to Syria, or a growing sense of horror because of Iraq and Libya.  Anti-war activists are accused of knee-jerk anti-Americanism.  Smith repeatedly accuses his opponents of ‘campism’ – they don’t want to support US imperialism, so feel they have to side with Assad and Russia .  As Burke says:

A major reason for the support of Assad is that some organizations believe “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” For them it is a simple knee jerk analysis. If the United States opposes Assad, they support him.

Well-intentioned but weak activists are led astray:

Many decent antiwar activists, some with long histories of determined, heroic commitment, allow the dogmatists, who hide behind a phony banner of “anti-imperialism”, to set the agenda for the antiwar movement (Berman).

But as well as being weak, activists are also arrogant, according to both Burke and Smith:

Leaving everything else aside, such arguments display an arrogant dismissal–not unlike defenders of imperialism–of the capacity of exploited and oppressed people to fight for liberation (Smith).

 

It goes without saying that all three writers adopt the normal practice of terrorist supporters in referring to the Syrian government as the regime (which is apparently deeply despised), or Assad and his henchmen,  Chechen headchoppers as rebels and the proxy war as a revolution. Perhaps the most shameless statement of all is Smith’s ‘those who rose up for democracy and justice continue to bear the brunt of the violence’.

Another example of Smith’s warped logic is the suggestion that, opposition to the NATO alliance’s war on Syria can be identified with supporting the Russians crushing the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, Czechoslovakia’s Prague Spring in 1968 and Poland’s Solidarity in 1981, not to mention Mao’s cultural revolution, the Chinese oppression of Tibet and the Robert Mugabe revolution.

Smith, Burke and Berman are relentlessly dishonest on all fronts: their claim that their own position represents progress and anti-imperialism, their failure to engage with or even acknowledge the intellectual position of anti-war activists, and the pretense that anti-war activists fundamentally agree with the most outrageous claims of NATO propaganda but choose to ignore them.

It is impossible not to feel disgust and contempt for those who who claim to be ‘left’, ‘progressive’ ‘socialist’ or ‘anti-imperialist’ but who are blatantly promoting NATO imperialism in the Middle East. The assumption that there is a large number of people who are vocal in their opposition to the fake revolution in Syria, but who have some overweening desire to be classified as ‘left’ or ‘socialist’ by the likes of Ashley Smith naturally provokes ridicule: ‘if that’s being left-wing, then I certainly am not’. However the material is written for a purpose, to promote and facilitate the proxy war on Syria, which aims to weaken and control that country before NATO turns its attention to Iran. No matter how distasteful it as it may be to engage with work so ruthlessly mendacious, it is essential to expose the inherent dishonesty of writers like Smith, Burke and Berman wherever it shows itself.

See also:

The purpose of this article is not to debate the individual issues relating to the Syrian war. However …

How Bamboozled the American Public Are About Syria
A Syrian Soldier Speaks Video,25 mins, totally compelling.
The Syrian Crisis: What You’re Not Being Told. Video, 17 mins, very clear and watchable presentation on the Ghouta chemical attack and the framing of the Syrian government.

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