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The New Humanitarianism: The Imperative to ‘Act’ and to ‘Act Now’

April 14, 2018

 

An Excerpt from the book Celebrity Humanitarianism – The Ideology of Global Charity by Ilan KapoorFirst [2013]

 

‘Ilan Kapoor’s stunning new book exposes the most appealing – and thus most dangerous – sacred cows of contemporary ideology: the humanitarian actor, the billionaire philanthropist, and the NGO. Kapoor shows that it is precisely where we feel most emotionally satisfied that we must be most suspicious. Celebrity Humanitarianism represents a landmark in the critique of ideology and a decisive blow in the struggle against apolitical ethics.’ — Todd McGowan, University of Vermont, USA

 

Since the end of the Cold War, there has been an explosion of international NGOs, particularly development and humanitarian ones, leading to the rise of what is termed ‘global civil society’. In large measure, this is due to the ascendancy of neoliberalism, which has seen NGOs fill the many gaps created by government cutbacks and privatization. But in part, it is also the result of the intensification of globalization and the information economy, which has opened up possibilities for greater  borderlessness’. Not content with doing only aid and development work, NGOs have carved out an increasingly more activist and interventionist role for themselves in the global arena. This trend is what has been called ‘the new humanitarianism’.

Central to the new humanitarianism is a security discourse, which divides the world, not so much along the lines of wealth vs. poverty as it used to, but more in terms of stability vs. threat. Mark Duffield argues that the security discourse is constructed on the basis of the metaphor of the ‘borderlands’ (i.e. the Third World), an imagined geographic space of instability, excess, and social breakdown, which poses a threat to the metropolitan areas (2001: 309).

The borderlands are depicted as violent and unpredictable, or at least always a  potential danger; they are the source of many of the problems seen to plague global security, including drug trafficking, terrorism, refugee flows, and corrupt/weak/rogue states.

Accordingly, the point of international intervention is to tame and manage instability. In this scenario, poverty, corruption, and refugee flows are to be feared much more than alleviated. Development and humanitarianism are seen not as problems of reducing inequality or protecting the most vulnerable, but as technologies of security, which function ‘to contain and manage underdevelopment’s destabilizing effects’ (Duffield 2007: ix, 24).

The practical outcome of this new humanitarianism is a significant shift away from respecting national sovereignty and towards external intervention in the Third World: it means neglecting international law, or obeying the ‘higher’ moral law of humanitarianism, under the guise of the ‘responsibility to protect’ (cf. Mamdani 2009: 274; Watson 2011: 5). In other words, new humanitarianism has increasingly become neoimperialism, allowing the West to ‘transform conflicts, decrease violence and set the stage for liberal development’ (Duffield et al. 2001: 269). Not just a Third World country’s foreign policy, but now also its domestic economic or human rights situation is seen as a credible threat (Duffield 2001: 311), recalling colonialism’s ‘civilizing mission’ to eradicate ‘barbaric’ Third World cultural practices such as widow-burning or infanticide. More often than not, the form of external intervention is military, that is, armed intervention parading as humanitarian rescue mission. The post- 9/11 War on Terror has only escalated this trend, enabling the possibility of ‘unending war’ to secure the borderlands (e.g. Iraq, Afghanistan) (Duffield 2007: 131). Illustrative of unending war is the following list, compiled by Watson (2011: 4), enumerating the countries for which humanitarianism has been used to justify military intervention in recent years: Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Angola, Mozambique, Kosovo, East Timor, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Zaire, Sudan, Côte d’Ivoire, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

NGOs are firmly enmeshed in this security–humanitarian network. For the past two decades particularly, the private–public linkages between Western states, UN agencies, private firms, militaries, and NGOs has grown. In fact, as Duffield puts it, the securitization of development/humanitarianism ‘has been of central importance for legitimising the growing involvement of non-state actors’ (2001: 312; cf. Watson 2011: 3–4). And NGOs have become not just accomplices in this network, but key players. Mamdani goes so far as to argue that the new humanitarianism is the ‘twin of the War on Terror’ (2009: 274), with groups such as Save Darfur as pivotal facilitators. NGOs have pushed for and capitalized on the vast resources directed at emergency and security operations around the globe. Many such operations (e.g. in Afghanistan, Haiti, Bosnia) have been ambitious and well coordinated, with relief agencies working alongside military or peacekeeping campaigns.

 

Above: Res Publica (Avaaz) calling for a Darfur intervention and criminal indictment. August 3, 2004 screenshot: “Only one thing will stop the killing in Sudan: an immediate international intervention” … “Click here to sign a petition calling for humanitarian intervention Darfur” [WKOG screenshot]

 

The imperative to ‘act’ and to ‘act now’ is central to these NGO campaigns.

To be sure, beginning mainly in the post-World War II era, organizations such as Oxfam, ActionAid, and MSF were created to respond to global crises, ranging from armed conflicts and epidemics to ‘natural’ or man-made disasters. Whether we are talking about the 1949 Palestinian refugee situation, the 1967 Nigerian civil war, the 1984–85 Ethiopian famine, or the more recent 2005 Pakistan earthquake, emergencies have become an opportunity for humanitarian NGOs to function and even expand. Indeed, they have been able to justify and aggrandize themselves based on what Duffield refers to as a ‘permanent emergency regime’ (2007: 25, 47–49, 219). All of them rely on a ‘threaturgency narrative’ to ‘legitimize their functions’ (Watson 2011: 9); it is this narrative that allows them to identify and categorize the disaster (e.g. as an impending famine or a pressing refugee crisis), as well as publicly highlight the humanitarian duty to save lives or assist ‘populations in distress’, as MSF puts it (http://www.msf.org).

One of the most poignant recent examples of the construction of emergency discourse is that of the Save Darfur Coalition, especially during the 2004–7 period. The Coalition relied on highly charged rhetoric to issue its emergency call for international intervention. The first move, as Mamdani underlines (2009: 64–65), was to categorize the conflict in the Darfur region as racially motivated: the government-armed ‘Arab Janjaweed militia’ were reportedly perpetrating violence against ‘black-skinned non-Arabs’. Such stereotyping became pervasive in Western public discourse and was often repeated by the mainstream press, including The Washington Post (Mamdani 2009: 64; cf. Hassan 2010: 98). Mamdani notes (2009: 6) that this ethnicized/racialized framing has its origins in the colonial tradition of racializing the peoples of Sudan for political purposes (i.e. as a divide and rule strategy); it is a framing that, in the contemporary global conjuncture, only served to reinforce the discourse of the War on Terror, demonizing Islam and Arabs, and pressing for immediate counter-terrorist action.

Above: Res Publica (Avaaz) March 8, 2005 screenshot: “Sign a petition below … over 18,000 signatories in the last week!” [WKOG screenshot]

 

The Coalition’s second discursive move was to characterize the Darfur situation as ‘genocide’ (despite evidence to the contrary, as we shall see below). It is the deployment of this culturally and politically charged term that, almost single-handedly, brought together such a large and diverse range of US-based organizations that made up the Coalition (see above), while catching the attention of the media and politicians alike (cf. Save Darfur Coalition 2011). After Save Darfur’s ‘genocide alert’ in 2004, events quickly gathered pace: a student-led divestment campaign was organized, a large Save Darfur Rally To Stop Genocide was held in Washington, DC, and an impassioned plea (by George Clooney) was made to the UN Security Council for international intervention. In 2007, the rhetoric was ratcheted up. The Coalition criticized China for its strong support of the Sudanese government, with a campaign that included taking out full-page advertisements in The New York Times and Mia Farrow denouncing the upcoming Beijing Olympics as the ‘Genocide Olympics’.

The overall effect of this emergency discourse was to exercise tremendous pressure on political leaders in the US and around the world. Secretary of State Colin Powell testified in front of the Senate Relations Committee that genocide was being committed in Darfur. The US Congress agreed, pushing for political and economic sanctions for Sudan. Meanwhile, the UN Security Council referred the Darfur case to the International Criminal Court, sent UN peacekeeping troops to Sudan, and following China’s change of position on the Council in the face of public pressure, established a larger joint UN–African Union peacekeeping mission, with financial support from the US Congress (cf. Flint and de Waal 2008: 181, 280; Haeri 2008: 35–37).

One of the most troubling features of this NGO emergency discourse is its tendency towards militarization and war. The imperative to act ‘now’ tends to provide added impetus and rationale for militarized intervention. We are familiar with NGOs providing relief work in war zones, in which they must sometimes coordinate with warring factions to deliver aid programs. We are also familiar with the use of army troops in non-military crises such as the Asian Tsunami in 2004 or Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (to keep law and order, or help NGOs distribute food aid). Increasingly, as Watson argues, ‘states and the international community have institutionalized a militarized response through the establishment of specialized military entities such as the United States Foreign Disaster Assistance or the Canadian Disaster Assistance Response Team’ (2011: 9).

But what is relatively new and noteworthy is the call by humanitarian NGOs for military intervention – a phenomenon described by the paradoxical concept, ‘humanitarian war’. It is a concept that, as Vanessa Pupavec notes, NGOs themselves helped legitimate, especially through their demands for military intervention in the Balkans during the 1990s (2006: 263). Thus, MSF appealed for military action in Bosnia in the mid-1990s, while Save the Children lobbied Western governments for armed intervention in Kosovo in the late 1990s (Pupavec 2006: 255). Since that time, several other similar calls have been made. Of particular note are Oxfam’s demand, in relation to the Darfur situation, for a broader interpretation of the UN Charter on the principle of non-interference to include intervention, and Save Darfur’s outright plea for a no-fly zone and Western military action. In fact, ‘Out of Iraq and Into Darfur’ became a common Save Darfur slogan. Pupavec points out, in this regard, that NGOs were quick to criticize the failure to obtain UN Security Council authorization for military intervention in Iraq, but were only too willing to ignore such authorization when they demanded military  ntervention in Kosovo and Darfur (2006: 266).

Above: Res Publica (Avaaz): “SUCCESS!! – Humanitarian Intervention in Darfur” … “SUCCESS!! – International Criminal Court to Prosecute Architects of Genocide in Darfur” [February 10, 2006 screenshot]

 

If rhetorical demands for action raise the stakes, resulting in the militarization of the new humanitarianism, so do media demands for spectacle. The mediatization of NGO emergency work – that is, the drive not just to act now, but also to be seen to be acting now – adds greater urgency. NGOs may well be responding to save lives, but they are also playing to the global media and public. MSF’s témoignage (witnessing) after all, is about witnessing not just on behalf of disaster victims, but also for the media/public. This recalls our earlier arguments about the entertainmentization of humanitarianism – the pressures to create ‘megaspectacles’, to satisfy seemingly insatiable appetites for suffering, death, and disaster. The militarization of emergency work only supplies further fuel to this fire, aiding and abetting the spectacularization of violence and war. In this regard, Henry Giroux contends that we are witnessing a new phase in the society of the spectacle, that of the ‘spectacle of terrorism’ (2006: 26).

According to him, a ‘visual culture of shock and awe has emerged’, which celebrates violence in the form of night bombing raids, hostage takings, and beheadings, or the destruction of public buildings (2006: 21, 24).

The pressure to create spectacle, then, means that spectacular NGOs are not simply observers or objective relays in delivering humanitarian aid; they are full-fledged actors, identifying emergencies and constructing them for public consumption (cf. Keenan 2002: 5). Add militarization to this mix, and you move from the imperative to act now and be seen to be acting now, to an imperative to be seen to be acting now, militarily if needs be (or preferably?).

The systemic and symbolic violence of spectacular NGOs

Three friends are having a drink at the bar. The first one says, ‘A horrible thing  happened to me. At my travel agency, I wanted to say “A ticket to Pittsburgh!” and I said “A ticket to Pissburgh!”’ The second one replies, ‘That’s nothing. At breakfast, I wanted to say to my partner “Could you pass the sugar, honey?” and what I said was “You dirty fool, you ruined my life!”’ The third one concludes, ‘Wait till you hear what happened to me. After gathering the courage all night, I decided to say to my spouse at breakfast exactly what you said to yours, and I ended up saying “Could you pass me the sugar, honey?”’

(adapted from Žižek 2004b: 61)

Often, the most traumatic situations are not necessarily the outwardly perceptible ones (i.e. the gaffes of the first and second interlocutors in the joke), but the less obvious ones (i.e. the repressed content in the outward politeness of the third). As Paul Taylor suggests, telling are the moments ‘in which nothing of substance is said… in that non-utterance resides all manner of psychologically destructive forces’ (2010: 93).

And so it is with spectacular (humanitarian) NGOs: it is most often in these organizations’ non-utterances that ideological violence is to be found. The spectacle of NGO humanitarianism is revealing not simply for what it shows, but more importantly for the violence it often ignores, takes for granted, or disavows. Žižek distinguishes two types of violence: (i) ‘subjective violence’, which is directly visible and identifiable (e.g. emaciated babies, physical destruction in the wake of a hurricane); and (ii) ‘objective violence’, which is less immediately perceptible (2008a: 1–2). Objective violence is itself made up of ‘systemic violence’, which refers to our often slow yet steady social oppressions  (e.g. gender exclusion, wage discrimination, the daily grind of alienating work), and ‘symbolic violence’, the violence inherent in our systems of representation (e.g. the way in which an image of a starving child can hide as much as it reveals). The crucial point for Žižek is that objective violence is what is required for the ‘normal’ functioning of our social and economic systems. In other words, systemic and symbolic violence is the background against which subjective violence happens: objective violence ‘may be invisible, but it has to be taken into account if one is to make sense of what otherwise seem to be “irrational” explosions of subjective violence’ (Žižek 2008a: 2). Accordingly, I’d like to highlight the systemic and symbolic violence of humanitarian NGOs, violence which serves as backdrop to their spectacle.

The systemic violence of humanitarian NGOs stems, at least in part, from the very nature of their work – short-term emergency operations that attempt to rescue people from immediate danger, but make no attempt to address the broader or underlying causes of such danger. As MSF’s James Orbinsky readily admits, MSF action ‘takes place in the short term’ with limited objectives in the wake of a crisis, ‘but does not itself attempt to solve the crisis’ (2000: 10). The problem is that such an approach is premised on what was earlier denoted as a ‘permanent emergency regime’: rather than working themselves out of a job, NGOs depend (and count) on more and more crises.

They have every interest in global neoliberal capitalism’s continued production of emergencies, which enables and legitimizes their spectacular humanitarianism. In this sense, the NGO-ization of humanitarianism (and development) may have less to do with finding effective solutions to problems than a way of keeping the humanitarian business in business.

True, some humanitarian NGOs do carry out broader ‘development’ programming, alongside their short-term relief and advocacy work. For example, MSF organizes a campaign to make cheaper generic drugs more readily available to Third World countries (cf. http://www.msfaccess.org), and Oxfam runs a host of projects in gender equality, health, and education around the world (cf. Oxfam UK 2011). But as pointed out in Chapters 1 and 2, most of these initiatives are depoliticized; they steer clear of, say, anti-capitalist/anti-racist critique, or unionization of workers (or women), in favour of tamer and nonthreatening areas such as mainstream human/gender rights and education. As Issa Shivji contends, in Sub-Saharan Africa issues of equality and equity are banished to the ‘realm of rights, not development’; that is, rights are a question of NGO ‘advocacy’, ‘not a terrain of people’s struggle’ (2006: 35). Moreover, many NGO development projects (e.g. job training, micro-credit) are ultimately an attempt at integrating subaltern groups into global capital; as James Petras puts it (1999: 432), they help corner ‘a new segment of the poor’ (e.g. young people, marginalized women, landless farmers, the urban poor), binding them to market entrepreneurialism. The result once again is a reaffirmation of the status quo, whose systemic violence is the basis for humanitarianism. And so the cycle continues … (I am not, of course, suggesting that humanitarian advocacy/relief and development should not happen, or that people must not be assisted in disasters; the problem is the significant institutional interests in people’s ongoing suffering or dispossession, and the enormous investments made in addressing the symptoms rather than the cure.)

This myopic and status quo approach is integral to the symbolic politics of humanitarian NGOs, too. The spectacularization of their relief and advocacy work is notable for what it includes as much as what it excludes. There is, first, the tendency (underlined earlier) to ‘sell’ stories and images that are visually and sound-byte friendly. Spectacles involving celebrities, poverty-stricken people, crying   mothers/children, gun-toting soldiers, or war-ravaged landscapes tend to be given priority. Most often, the resulting sensationalized images/stories are serialized and repeated to achieve maximum public and media spread and exposure. As one NGO media person puts it, ‘the misery of the victims of famine, flood, war, and plague must be underlined, perhaps even exaggerated, if [the organization] is to attract sufficient public attention’ (quoted in DeChaine 2002: 361). In this regard, MSF has been criticized for its sensationalized stories, causing some to pejoratively characterize the organization’s press officers as ‘catastrophe babes’, ‘whose motives are said to be driven more by the market than by the crises’ (DeChaine 2002: 360). Such tendencies  illustrate well the symbolic violence noted above, fetishizing and commodifying the outwardly visible (i.e. ‘subjective violence’) in the service of the society of the spectacle.

More often than not, the stories and commodity-images produced by NGOs resort to classic hero narratives, in which the NGO-as-hero/celebrity overcomes adversity (obstacles, enemies, crises) to save hapless victims. All the characters are clearly identifiable: the saviour-heroes are the aid workers, human rights advocates, and volunteer doctors/nurses; the enemies/adversaries are ‘natural’ disasters, or corrupt and authoritarian governments/leaders (e.g. the Janjaweed militia and President Al-Bashir, in the case of the Save Darfur narrative); and the victims are women, children, and dispossessed communities. Robert DeChaine states, for instance, that MSF’s credibility as a humanitarian agency hinges at least in part on ‘its ability to establish a perception of its volunteers as courageous, ideologically pure, morally committed agents of change. They are saviors, champions of the voiceless, who knowingly and willfully face the morally unrighteous enemies of humanity’ (2002: 362).

The creation of victims is key, and the humanitarian spectacle manages to never run out of them. Debrix argues that what transnational humanitarian NGOs such as MSF create when they intervene across state boundaries are ‘spaces of victimhood’, both spatial and symbolic: ‘Under the guise of reaching “victims” the world over, MSF constructs new spaces – humanitarian zones – inside which individuals in distress are identified as “victims”, are sorted out, and become recognisable as generalised examples of human drama’ (1998: 827).  The establishment of refugee camps, famine sanctuaries, and the like, are meant to clearly demarcate these spaces, so that the victims can be triaged, categorized, treated, managed.

The people shepherded into these zones tend to be constructed as passive beneficiaries. Rarely do they have a voice; most often, it is the NGOs that speak and ‘witness’ for them. In the Darfur debacle, for example, there was a notable absence of any articulate Sudanese or indeed Darfurian voices; as Salah Hassan points out, the discourse was dominated by ‘Western celebrity activists, aid workers, and other self-appointed experts and spokespersons, thus reconfiguring the “white man’s burden” in a significant way’ (2010: 97). Faced with such persistent victimization, it should hardly be surprising that NGO saviourheroes have sometimes been received by disaster ‘victims’ with hostility rather than thanks, as in the case, for example, of Somalia in 1992 or Iraq after the 2003 invasion (Watson 2011: 14).

Kate Manzo (2008) underlines how often humanitarian NGOs resort to the use of child iconography (usually close-ups of single children’s faces). Think of the 1960s ‘Biafra child’, the 1980s ‘Ethiopia child’, or the current-day Plan/World Vision/Save the Children poster child. Child imagery has become the face and brand of NGO humanitarianism (cf. Chapter 1). Here too, the child tends to be depicted as victim, with children’s commodity-images deployed to evoke innocence, dependence, suffering (Manzo 2008: 636). Frequently, the child is meant to stand for the Third World, crying out to be helped and saved.  Such paternalism only reproduces colonial tropes of infantalization of the colonies to rationalize Europe’s ‘civilizing mission’.

The production of these black-and-white stories and images, with plainly identifiable heroes, adversaries, and victims, makes for the ideal humanitarian morality tale. Drama and sensationalism permit clear and simplified messaging, enabling the audience to take sides, claim moral indignation at the situation, and feel good about its support for NGO humanitarianism. Mamdani likens this to a kind of pornography, which in the case of Save Darfur yielded a highly moral movement that appealed to people’s self-righteousness rather than political analysis (2009: 56–57; cf. Flint and de Waal 2008; DeChaine 2002: 358–59). Moral campaigns tend towards depoliticization, opting (as we have seen) for short-term, managerial, and emergency/militarized solutions. Pupavec contends that moral advocacy avoids ‘the stresses and  responsibilities of implementing assistance programmes on the ground … In other words, advocacy can in some cases represent a disingenuous flight from responsibility for social problems, rather than deeper engagement with them’ (2006: 266).

The problem with the moral spectacle is precisely that it is less concerned with analysis and understanding than with taking sides and issuing calls to action. Manichean tales simplify, mystify, and ignore the often highly complex politics of emergencies. The focus on the outwardly visible and the spectacular, on special effects and sound-bytes, avoids layered, substantive, and mediaunfriendly investigation. Sensationalized media reports tend to decontextualize and homogenize, telling the story for its universal message, not its specific content: thus, for instance, earthquake ‘victims’ stand as ‘global victims’, so that the disaster ‘is made into the general condition of humankind’ (Debrix 1998: 841, 843). Media/NGO stories tend to linger on the photogenic, privileging physical destruction. In the case of the 2004 Asian Tsunami, Watson finds that the disaster was presented in the media as ‘natural’, ‘unpreventable’, ‘indiscriminate’, or ‘random’, when in fact the physical destruction and human suffering had as much to do with human activity and social systems (e.g. use of poor building materials, especially in poorer neighbourhoods): ‘the physical evidence is used to tell a particular story – one that, in essence, speaks for itself in a way that is de-historical and de-political’ (2011: 14–15).

 

Above image from the Avaaz website: “Libya No-Fly Zone: As Libyan government jets drop bombs on the civilian population, the UN Security Council will decide in 48 hours whether to impose a no-fly zone to keep Qaddafi’s warplanes on the ground.” [Emphasis in original]

 

What is left out of the NGO/media stories are the un-photogenic details, the ‘boring’ particulars of the daily grind of people’s lives, the recurring patterns of alienation or marginalization. Historical knowledge is a no-no: ‘spectacular time’ militates against ‘historical time’, because the former must organize information ‘through the media as dramatic events that are quickly displaced and forgotten’ (Stevenson 2010: 162). When there is interest in details, the media usually home in on the personal (i.e. issues of identity, individual tragedy, etc.) or the gory (i.e. violence), rather than broader politics. In the 2004 Asian Tsunami, Watson finds that the media tended to fetishize human-interest stories (e.g. personal and family tragedies), devoid of any social or political context, and to sometimes suggest that ‘victims’ were responsible for their own plight (2011: 14). Moreover, all tsunami ‘victims’ were treated the same, ignoring the fact that local residents and Western tourists were differently impacted, and that local women and children, in particular, were the worst affected: the ‘human-tragedy component served to tie all the human victims together: Westerners and locally affected populations … [thus obliterating] the different sources of vulnerability for the two groups’ (Watson 2011: 14–15). Similarly, in the Hurricane Katrina crisis, Tierney et al. (2006) find that the media focused almost exclusively on issues of looting, poverty, and racial tensions, and had almost nothing to say about recurring state cuts for infrastructure and social services in the worst affected, low-lying, and mainly poor black neighbourhoods. Concentrating on ‘secondary malfunctions’ and ‘subjective violence’ – poverty, crime, corruption, individual trauma – as opposed to the ‘objective violence’ of, say, inequality and broader political economy, is a recurring ideological strategy that we have observed before. ‘Under the guise of exposing global trauma and injustice in spectacular detail, genuine consideration of the key political and economic causes is displaced’ (Taylor 2010: 131).

 

Such tendencies to ignore key details or broader contexts are integral to the types of photos or films produced by NGOs. Invariably, these are either largescale images (i.e. aerial or wide-angle shots) of landscapes and neighbourhoods, or close-ups of individuals and faces. This toggling between the bird’s eye view and the shrunk/miniaturized view, as Jim Igoe argues,

allows for the simultaneous presentation of problems that are so large they demand the attention of the whole of humanity, while identifying specific groups of people who are their perpetrators … Missing from these presentations are the complex and messy connections and relationships that are invisible in both the open-ended vastness of spectacular [landscapes] and the compelling specificity of prosperous villagers. (2010: 382)

It is not just the broader contexts of emergencies that spectacular humanitarianism ignores; it is also that some emergencies tend to be neglected altogether. During the Asian Tsunami, for example, the Western press focused almost exclusively on known tourist locations across the region, overlooking the devastation in ‘lesser-known countries and localities’ (Cottle and Nolan 2007: 879). The other, more telling recent example here is the Congo, where over four million people have died over the last decade, but which has received little attention from the press. Žižek writes in this regard that:

The Congo today has effectively re-emerged as a Conradian ‘heart of darkness’. No one dares to confront it head on. The death of a West Bank Palestinian child, not to mention an Israeli or American, is mediatically worth thousands of times more than the death of a nameless Congolese. (2008a: 3; cf. Mamdani 2009: 63)

The various manifestations of symbolic and systemic violence outlined above are revealing of the ideology of spectacular NGOs. For what is ideology, in the Žižekian sense that we mean it, other than the production of spectacular images and smooth spaces (i.e. humanitarian zones) to cover up the Real (broader political economy, long-term political alternatives, Western complicity)? The glossy photos and sensational headlines help create pure, untarnished, and moral humanitarian fantasies to be commodified and sold. The smooth spaces (refugee camps, etc.) help manufacture artificial humanitarian sanctuaries where ‘victims’ are categorized, controlled, and ultimately served up as advertisements for the likes of MSF, Save Darfur, or Save the Children (cf. Debrix 1998). The NGO/media spectacle helps to unify and stabilize reality, disavowing anything that disturbs the humanitarian dream-fantasy, is discomforting to the public, or threatens the neoliberal global order. Outwardly visible, subjective violence may well be shown, or even fetishized, but that it is symptomatic of a dirty underside, a broader underlying objective violence, is glossed over.

Of course, spectacular NGOs hide behind their faux objectivity and nonpartisan humanitarianism to repudiate any accusations of political ideology. Yet, as we have seen, their very presentation of reality through their stories and images is already an ideological construction of it (cf. Taylor 2010: 83). They create (the public view of ) emergencies and disasters in advance, so that ‘reality’ and the audience’s perception of it are one and the same (cf. Žižek 1994b: 15). Thus, Debord writes, ‘For what is communicated are orders: and with perfect harmony, those who give them are also those who tell us what they think of them’ (1990: 6).

 

[Ilan Kapoor is a Professor of Critical Development Studies at the Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University. He teaches in the area of global development and environmental politics, and his research focuses on postcolonial theory and politics, participatory development and democracy, and more recently, ideology critique. He is the author of The Postcolonial Politics of Development (Routledge 2008), and more recently, Celebrity Humanitarianism: The Ideology of Global Charity (Routledge 2013). He is currently writing a book on psychoanalysis and development.”]

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Amnesty International: Trumpeting for War… Again

Counterpunch

March 23, 2018

By Paul De Rooij

 

One must marvel at the first few paragraphs of Amnesty International’s recent press release:

“The international community’s catastrophic failure to take concrete action to protect the people of Syria has allowed parties to the conflict, most notably the Syrian government, to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity with complete impunity, often with assistance of outside powers, particularly Russia. Every year we think it is just not possible for parties to the conflict to inflict more suffering on civilians, and yet, every year, they prove us wrong…

 

Right now, in Eastern Ghouta 400,000 men, women and children, who have been living under an unlawful government siege for six years, are being starved and indiscriminately bombed by the Syrian government with the backing of Russia. […] The international community had said ‘never again’ after the government devastated Eastern Aleppo with similar unlawful tactics. But here we are again. Armed opposition groups have retaliated by indiscriminately shelling two villages in Idleb, which they have also besieged since 2014.” [1]

This is an unambiguous call and a justification for war; it seems that AI is calling for a NATO bombing campaign similar to the one staged in Libya in 2011.  There is also no ambiguity as to who AI deems to be culpable and ought to be at the receiving end of a “humanitarian bombing” campaign.  Before cheering yet another US/NATO war, it is useful to analyse Amnesty International’s record in assisting propaganda campaigns on the eve of wars.  It is also worthwhile reviewing AI’s reporting on Syria, and how it compares with that on other countries in the area.

A sorry record

It is not the first time that Amnesty International has played a role in a propaganda campaign in the lead up to a war.  A few examples:

Before the US invasion to ouster the Iraqis from Kuwait, president George Bush Sr. appeared on TV holding an Amnesty International report claiming that Iraqi soldiers had dumped babies out of incubators. That was Amnesty International’s willing participation in spreading a hoax — a hoax fabricated by a major American PR company.

 

In the months prior to the US-NATO attack on Serbia, Amnesty-USA put two Croatian women on a ten city-speaking-tour to project their account of their “rape-camp” ordeal — in reality one of them was a top Croatian propaganda official, a close advisor to president Tudjman, who was also known for her acting abilities.[2] Again, this hoax was pushed by a major American PR company.

 

AI’s coverage/non-coverage of Israeli mass crimes also deserves to be analysed.[3] In this case, Amnesty plays a role in adulterating and reducing criticism after wars or the misery caused by its continuous occupation and abuse of the Palestinians (discussed below).  Amnesty International-Israel served as a propaganda front busy manipulating “human rights” reports to suit Israel’s interests.[4]  AI-London has not commented on the manipulation by its Israeli siblings.

 

In 2012, Amnesty erected advertising posters in the US applauding NATO’s actions in Afghanistan — “Keep the progress going”, purportedly doing something for women’s rights. This was merely crass pro-NATO pro-interventionist propaganda. [5]

 

Amnesty-France was instrumental in propagating anti-Libyan propaganda prior to the NATO bombing of the country in 2011.[6]

Alas, Amnesty’s sorry record is much longer than these few examples indicate.

Not anti-war

One would expect a human rights organisation to be intrinsically opposed to war, but AI is a cheerleader of so-called humanitarian intervention, and even “humanitarian bombing”.[7]  In the past, when queried about its equivocal and lame statements about wars, an AI official stated that “Amnesty International is not anti-war”.  Even with this predisposition AI was honoured with the Nobel Peace Prize – yet another undeserving recipient for a prize meant to be given only to those actively opposed to wars. In Syria’s case, AI has given up this phoney “not anti-war” stance for one that is actively advocating war.  Notice that it uses a rather dubious argument about “never again” about standing by in the face of mass crimes; in reality this is an appeal to holocaust memes meant to favour this war.

Syria today…

The Syrian government is presently rolling back the jihadis who had managed to establish themselves in an area next to Damascus.  No government would tolerate to have a section of their capital city under jihadi control, an area from which the rest of the city is mortared, and an area vital to control the water supply of the city.  What would happen if jihadis took over Arlington, VA, and used it to bomb the center of Washington DC? The response would be self-evident.  For some reason AI doesn’t bestow this right of self-defence to the Syrian government, but instead refers to an “unlawful government siege [of Ghouta] for six years”.  This is laughable.

It is remarkable to find that in none of the latest press releases or reports does AI discuss the nature of the armed groups fighting in Syria.  Even those referred to as “moderates” by Washington are a rather unsavoury bunch.  Most of them are foreign jihadis; a good portion of them are Saudis. (NB: Saudis offered political and criminal prisoners a way out of jail on condition of going to fight in Syria.) And they are armed/trained/financed by the US/UK/Saudi/Emirates/Turkey/Qatar… to the tune of at least $12 billion.  The former US ambassador to Syria stated that the US contribution was at least $12bn [8]; this figure excludes the funds provided by the Saudis and other regimes in the area.  Gareth Porter reports that the quantities of weapons supplied to the jihadis were enough to equip an army. [9]  Yet, this armed gang of jihadis is barely mentioned in Amnesty’s assessment of the situation in Syria.  In Ghouta, the jihadis belong to the Nusra front (or one of its rebranded versions), that is, a group with an extreme ideology; they are an Al-Qaeda offshoot.  AI’s press release doesn’t mention this salient fact.

Amnesty portrays the Syrian government as at war against its own people — and Aleppo, Ghouta, etc., under siege; and not allowing the population to escape.  Although AI similarly condemned the liberation of Aleppo, it didn’t interview these victims after the fact.  If it interviews someone — invariably anonymous — it intones sinister fears of the government.  For all its faults, the government has popular backing, and it stands in the way of a jihadi project to carve up Syria and ethnically cleanse it.

And there is a double standard

When it comes to Israeli mass crimes AI is rather cautious in the language used and in its recommendations. It is rather coy in mentioning “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity”, and reference to the latter is virtually non-existent or couched in exculpatory language (favourite cushioning words: “alleged”, “could be construed as”).  While it sparingly uses these accusations against Israel, it levels the same accusations against Palestinians — it applies a notion that there are crimes “on both sides”.  AI’s harshest admonishment is that Israeli actions are not “proportionate”.  There are no appeals to the “international community” which should not stand by, “never again…” One wonders what Amnesty has to say about the Israeli siege of Gaza, where the population has been put “on a diet” causing a dire situation for about 1.8 million people today.  In this case, there are no reports, no calls to the “international community” to do anything, no accusations of “crimes against humanity”… AI uses another script altogether.

In the current press release, AI unambiguously states that both Syria and Russia are committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.  And if this is the case, there is an obligation for other states to act, to intervene.  AI is not requesting an investigation, it is urging intervention.

While in the Israeli case AI states that crimes are committed on both sides, when it comes to Syria it is only the Syrian government that is deemed culpable.  It is difficult to remove entrenched well armed jihadis who use residents as human shields.  Jihadis dig themselves in and around hospitals and schools [10], and when action is taken against them there, the likes of Amnesty utter their clucking sounds.

In its latest statement AI states: “It must also send a strong message that those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity will be held accountable, by referring the situation to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.”  Fair enough.  In 2002, Donatella Rovera, an AI researcher on the Middle East, was queried about why AI didn’t make a similar demand to hold Israel accountable at the ICC or ICJ, and she stated that AI didn’t make such demands.[11]  Another standard applies.

An issue about sources…

Amnesty reports several statements made by residents of Ghouta, all giving harrowing accounts of the conditions on the ground.  But all the statements blame the government for their predicament.  “Like many Syrians, the humanitarian worker expressed deep distrust of the government.” Or “We hear rumours of reconciliation but that can never happen. The government hates us…”  And other such unverifiable statements.  And who exactly is reporting this?  Does AI have a direct line to the “White Helmets”?  All Amnesty has to do is compare the statements made before the liberation of Aleppo and the opinion of the residents now.  If the residents are pleased with their condition without the jihadis around, then this should be sufficient to question the dubious statements originating from anonymous sources in Ghouta today.

Other examples

Amnesty International doesn’t want you to respect the Syrian government.  Reviewing its press releases about Syria, it is all one-sided; the jihadis hardly merit a meaningful rebuke.  But no report was as distorted as its multimedia presentation of the purported abuses in the Saydnaya Prison.  Here Amnesty’s methodology was on show: accept hearsay, magnify it melodramatically, extrapolate and exaggerate [12].  This is not human rights reportage, it is crass propaganda.  The timing of all these so-called reports is also dubious.  On the eve of major reconciliation talks or negotiations, Amnesty publishes a report portraying the Syrian government as beyond the pale.  Would anyone want to negotiate with such a party?  The timing of several other AI reports coincide with attempts to resolve the conflict via negotiations.  The timing of its latest press release coincides with a major Syrian government offensive into Ghouta — and portraying it as criminal in nature.

Human rights are not neutral

Harvey Weinstein, the sexual predator, made Amnesty International USA possible — he provided the funds necessary to establish the organisation. [13]  Weinstein didn’t put up the funds because he fancied AI’s lovely researchers.  People put up funds for such organisations to shape the way abuses and crimes are reported.  In Weinstein’s case, his ardent devotion to Israel might explain his financial contribution to Amnesty USA.  Amnesty is also a conduit to push propaganda desired by those who foster such organisations.  The very nature of “human rights”, its very flexible nature, lends itself to prime manipulation.

A Syrian furniture salesman based in Coventry, a small city in the UK, runs the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).  Sitting in his living room, he produces reports about the latest atrocities, chemical attacks, and every other sordid detail to tarnish the Syrian government’s image.  He reaches his mysterious sources by phone, invariably someone hostile to the Syrian government.  The output of this one-man-band is then used by the BBC, CNN, The Independent, The Wall Street Journal,… and major media outlets to report on the situation in Syria.  It is expensive for news organisations to have correspondents on the ground, it is dangerous; so what is better than “human rights” reports obtained for free!  And does Amnesty International rely on SOHR?  At least they should footnote their reports.

The main playbook

The US and some of its sidekicks have for decades been engaged in regime change in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Latin America…  The usual formula for this is to create civic organisations, e.g., Journalists’ union, Lawyer and Jurist guilds, select Labour unions… and human rights organisations.  These people are then trained to exercise political power effectively by staging mass demonstrations, manipulating the media, spreading rumours, disrupting the government — all the way to the take over of parliaments.  These are the so-called “colour revolutions”.  They tried this in Syria, but opted primarily to arm and organise jihadis.  The jihadis are backed by a propaganda machinery, and the US is conducting the largest disinformation/propaganda campaign in Syria today [14].   The essence of the campaign is to tarnish the image of the Syrian government, robbing it of its international legitimacy and support.  Human rights reportage is essential to this campaign.  By analysing Amnesty International reportage, it is evident that it is part of this campaign; it has weaponised human rights.

Currently there is a major buildup of US warships in the Mediterranean; and the Russian general staff fear that Syria will be the target of a major cruise missile attack.[15]  Possibly, Russian forces will also be targeted.  Couple this with the unprecedented black propaganda campaign against Russia in the US and the UK, and it seems very likely that a major shooting war is in the offing.  Given that AI has lent itself in previous propaganda campaigns on the eve of wars, one finds that the latest Amnesty International report is merely a leading indicator for such a war.  Amnesty International is embedded in a propaganda campaign — it will be cheerleading with blue and white pompons when the humanitarian bombs fall.

 

 

Endnotes

[1] AI, “Syria: Seven years of catastrophic failure by the international community”, 15 March 2018.

[2] Diana Johnstone, Fools Crusade, 20 Sep 2002.  Johnstone documents the curious case of Jadranka Cijel.  NB: AI was alerted to the fact that the accounts by the two women were questionable; it proceeded with the tour anyway.

[3]  I have written quite a few articles about Amnesty for Counterpunch.  The latest: Amnesty International: Whitewashing Another Massacre, CounterPunch, 8 May 2015.

[4]  Uri Blau, Documents reveal how Israel made Amnesty’s local branch a front for the Foreign Ministry in the 70s, Haaretz, 18 March 2017.  Neve Gordon, Nicola Perugini, Israel’s human rights spies: Manipulating the discourse, Al-Jazeera Online, 22 March 2017.

[5] Ann Wright and Coleen Rowley, Amnesty’s Shilling for US Wars, ConsortiumNews, 18 June 2012.

[6] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RnxJ6TvFZ0&feature=youtu.be  Also: Tim Anderson, The Dirty War on Syria, Global Research, 2016.

[7] Alexander Cockburn reports that Amnesty was present during a US State Department briefing seeking to justify “humanitarian bombing”.  How the US State Dept. Recruited Human Rights Groups to Cheer On the Bombing Raids: Those Incubator Babies, Once More?  CounterPunch, April 1999.

[8] Ben Norton , US Ambassador Confirms Billions Spent On Regime Change in Syria, Debunking ‘Obama Did Nothing’ Myth, RealNews.com, 9 February 2018.

[9] Gareth Porter, How America Armed Terrorists in Syria, The American Conservative, 22 June 2017.

[10]  Robert Fisk has reported on this fact in several of his articles.  In “the Syrian hospital siege that turned into a massacre”, The Independent, 5 June 2015 there is a reference to tunnels under a hospital.  In another article, the same, but at a school.

[11] Israel hasn’t joined the ICC, and thus ICC cannot bring any action against Israel.  ICC is only meant to harass African tinpot dictators.

[12]  John Wight, The Problems With the Amnesty International Report, Sputnik News, 15 February 2017.  Important discussion with Peter Ford, the former British ambassador to Syria.   Also, Tony Cartalucci, Amnesty International admits Syria’s ‘torture prison’ report fabricated entirely in UK, Sign of the Times, 9 February 2017.  And, Rick Sterling, Amnesty International Stokes Syrian War, ConsortiumNews, 11 February 2017.

[13]  Thomas Frank, Hypocrite at the good cause parties, Le Monde Diplomatique, February 2018

[14] Tim Anderson, The Dirty War on Syria, Global Research, 2016.

[15]  TASS, US preparing strikes on Syria, carrier strike groups set up in Mediterranean, 17 March 2018

 

[PAUL de ROOIJ is a writer living in London. He can be reached at proox@hotmail.com (NB: all emails with attachments will be automatically deleted.)]

REAL Syria Civil Defence Describe Terrorist ‘Double Taps’ & Chemical Weapon Attacks in Aleppo

21st Century Wire

March 26, 2018

By Vanessa Beeley

 


One of the many REAL Syria Civil Defence vehicles that had been targeted by Nusra Front & associated extremist groups in control of Layramoun and areas surrounding the RSCD centre in East Aleppo, prior to final liberation by the SAA and allies in December 2016. January 2018 (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)

The Syrian Arab Army is powering towards a final victory in Eastern Ghouta. Tens of thousands of Syrian civilians have been liberated over the last few days and are pouring out of the enclaves that have been controlled, for the last five years, by groups such as Failaq Al Rahman, Ahrar al Sham, a much diminished Free Syrian Army and finally, Jabhat Al Nusra which is Al Qaeda in Syria.

JAN goes by the rebranded name of Hayat Tahrir Al Sham but retains the same leadership and extremist ideology. All these groups have been financed by a variety of Gulf States & armed, supported, equipped by NATO member states led by the United States.

The colonial media in the West has resisted this SAA campaign to remove their state-sanctioned terrorist assets on the ground in the eastern suburbs of Damascus with familiar fury and hysterical sensationalism. Much of that hyperbole is sustained by the reports and daily cameo videos from the multi-million-dollar propaganda construct, the White Helmets, embedded with the aforementioned extremist groups in Eastern Ghouta.

Interestingly in recent weeks we have seen a change of uniform for the White Helmets and a rebrand very similar to that of their partners on the ground inside Syria – Nusra Front. Many media outlets have described the White Helmets as the Civil Defence or even as the Syrian Civil Guard.

Perhaps they are trying to distance the group from the mountain of evidence that has been amassed against them by a number of analysts and investigative journalists, much of it emanating from the White Helmets themselves or from the Syrian people who have lived under their occupation in areas previously occupied by teams of White Helmets alongside Nusra Front. This tweet taken from one of their many Twitter pages show the White Helmets ‘resplendent’ in their new kit which somehow made it safely into Eastern Ghouta despite the alleged Syrian government ‘siege’ of the district.

What has underpinned the Western media magnification of the White Helmet claims is the reliance upon two primary propaganda drivers.

1. Alleged “double tap” airstrikes by the Syrian Arab Air Force and Russian Air Force.

“Ten White Helmet volunteers have been killed in Syria over the past month, including two in eastern Ghouta. Half of them were killed in what are known as “double-tap” strikes, in which a plane bombs an area and then returns to attack it again after rescue workers have arrived.” ~ Kareem Shaheen based in Istanbul and reporting for The Guardian.

2. Alleged Chemical Weapons attacks by the SAA.

“Eight volunteers have been wounded in Ghouta, including two in an alleged chlorine attack on Sunday night.” ~ Kareem Shaheen in the same Guardian article.

As Syrian regime bombs rain down, the White Helmets fear their families will be next” Kareem Shaheen opines as his opener to this familiar romanticization of the White Helmet organisation. The Guardian has consistently been at the forefront of the White Helmet media protection racket yet has never examined their darker side that has been in full view to other more discerning media outlets since the White Helmets were established by the British and American hybrid war experts in March 2013.

 Another pro-imperialist academic and theatrical commentator on the Syrian conflict, Idrees Ahmad, has even gone so far as to describe the White Helmets as his “family” and any criticism of this organisation is usually followed by a stream of invective and a block by Ahmad on Twitter. This is a reaction that is designed to deter those of faint heart from investigating this UK FCO intelligence asset working hard to bring the pressure of the pseudo humanitarian complex to bear upon the Syrian government and its allies.

This is extraordinary behaviour for an ‘academic’, one who appears to be incapable of admitting there is a diverging view – a view that highlights the criminal and violently sectarian nature of the White Helmets as testified to by a large number of Syrian civilians, particularly from East Aleppofollowing its final liberation in December 2016.

As one corporate media journalist admitted to me recently inside Syria – “the White Helmets are too polarizing and controversial.” It appears that they are the “untouchables” in mainstream media and neocon circles. Hardly surprising that this is a red rag to independent media that has not abandoned its principles, nor its moral compass just because a subject becomes high-risk according to those who further the ambitions of some of the most predatory global powers that are currently occupying and targeting Syria with an aim to reduce it to the same hollowed out, terrorist infested state as Libya.

Aleppo – The REAL Syria Civil Defence Highlights Western Media’s Dishonest Reporting on Syrian Conflict

Unlike the corporate media who have shied away from being set upon by the White Helmet lynch mob – we at 21st Century Wire have consistently exposed this organisation for the fraudulent “shadow state” concept it really is. So have John Pilger, Robert Parry, Finian Cunningham, Richard Labeviere, Jeremy Salt, Tony Cartalucci, Afshin Rattansi, Stephen Kinzer, Gareth Porter, Scott Ritter, Philip Giraldi, Ron Paul, Daniel McAdams, Eva Bartlett, Tim Anderson, UK Column, Clarity of Signal, Syrian War Blog and many many more of the uncompromised media.


View from the RSCD yard in Layramoun, Aleppo, 25 meters from the frontlines with Nusra Front and associated militant factions. January 2018. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)

I had previously visited the REAL Syria Civil Defence (RSCD) centres in Damascus, Lattakia, Tartous and Aleppo in the Hamdaniyeh area during the final battles for East Aleppo’s liberation. On New Year’s Day in 2018 I finally visited the main centre in Layramoun, Aleppo. The crew here had stayed in the centre throughout the occupation of East Aleppo by the US/UK/EU supported and armed terrorist factions, financed by UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

They were less than 25 metres from the Terrorist front lines, dominated by Nusra Front. They were also very close to Bani Zaid, another fiercely contested area held by the so-called “moderate” 16th Division of the  Free Syrian Army in partnership with Nusra Front, for a period of time.


One of the many RSCD ambulances that had been put out of service by mortar or sniper fire from terrorist held enclaves. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)

These terrorist-held areas would rain mortars down upon civilian districts of Syrian government controlled West Aleppo. The commander of the RSCD told me that their volunteer Civil Defence centre received between 10-20 mortars or rockets per day over the 4.5 year occupation of the East. Everywhere we walked in the yard, we saw the mangled remains of vehicles and buildings that had been targeted. Twisted metal, gaping holes in the roof of most buildings, craters in the tarmac now overgrown with grass and weeds.


One of the buildings that had housed RSCD vehicles, targeted by Nusra Front mortars. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)

“They (terrorists) targeted us deliberately in order to destroy our equipment & structures. They wanted to prevent us being able to work for our people. They would target our crew with sniper fire and explosive bullets. Their main mission was to kill the crew and destroy our base so we couldnt care for the people of Aleppo” ~ Commanding Officer (CO) of RSCD, Layramoun.

According to the Commanding Officer of this RSCD centre, the main terrorist objective was to paralyse the essential infrastructure for the 1.5 million Syrian civilians sheltering in the Syrian Government controlled West Aleppo. This included the destruction of water trucks, water pipes, electricity stations and the RSCD crews, vehicles and equipment.

“The Syrian people are our people. It is our duty to care for them, wherever they are. We are unarmed, we dont even think of our own protection, our priority are the defenceless people around us. We had a Syrian Arab Army guard around our centre but that was our only protection” ~CO of RSCD.


This tall tower behind the RSCD centre was held by the SAA throughout the East Aleppo terrorist occupation. This was all that stood between the RSCD and invasion by the Nusra Front-led factions. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)

Standing in the RSCD yard, I could see a tall building towering over the yard. The RSCD CO told me that this building was held by the SAA during the period of terrorist occupation of East Aleppo. This was all that stood between the RSCD and the terrorist groups that would have massacred their crew members had they made it past the SAA defences.

Terrorist “Double Taps”

I was told that the terrorist groups systematically carried out double-tap attacks on the RSCD crew. Nusra Front or one of their affiliates would fire mortars into a densely populated civilian area of West Aleppo. For example in June 2016, terrorist groups intensified their attacks on West Aleppo. The district of Midan was pounded by mortar fire and during one attack, a huge number of civilians were injured and trapped in destroyed buildings. The RSCD sent teams to evacuate the wounded and to dig out those trapped inside the buildings.

“The terrorists waited for us to arrive and begin work, before they targeted the same area again – with mortars and hell cannon missiles”  ~ CO, RSCD

The RSCD is never mentioned in western media reports. The only existing “civil defence” according to the West are the White Helmets who endure “double taps” on what appears to be an hourly basis from their lurid accounts and video footage.

The RSCD works without recognition from the West and it is targeted by the Western promoted terrorist groups. The RSCD embodies everything that the White Helmets pretend to be, while in reality White Helmets work alongside the very same terrorist groups that are attacking the mainstay of humanitarian assistance for Syrian civilians in 85% of the inhabited regions of Syria.


One of the missiles fired into the RSCD yard during the terrorist occupation of East Aleppo that ended in December 2016. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)

Terrorist Chemical Weapon Attacks

According to the RSCD, in August 2016 the terrorist factions in East Aleppo carried out what has been described as an unidentified gas attack on the Old City of Aleppo. During this attack, three RSCD members died and 20 SAA soldiers lost their lives.

I was able to talk to two surviving crew members who pieced together the events of that day. They told me that the terrorists had been tunneling to reach SAA positions in the Old City and that SAA special forces had discovered the tunnels and had entered them to confront the terrorists or to destroy the tunnels.

It was hard to put the fragments of memory together into a coherent narrative but what the two crew members described was horrific.

First the RSCD team leader spoke:

“We arrived at the area and knew we had to enter the tunnel to save the soldiers who were trapped down there. We got to the deepest part of the tunnel and we started to feel the effects of whatever gas had been used. One of my crew radioed me that he couldnt feel his limbs. I shouted for him to come back and we grabbed him to pull him out of the tunnel” ~ RSCD team leader.

Then the affected RSCD crew member told me what happened to him:

“I entered the tunnel and immediately began to feel strange. My whole body seemed to lose control. I couldnt breathe. I pulled on the rope. Red spots appeared on my hands and there was a strange smell in the air, I still cant describe it” ~ RSCD crew member.

RSCD team leader:

“When we got him to the surface we tried to give him some water to drink. He went hysterical, lashing out at everyone”. ~ RSCD team leader. 

The CO told me that he had visited his crew in hospital immediately after the attack. He visited many times but the crew had no memory recall of the incident and it has only partially returned long after the incident.

The RSCD team leader told me:

“I spent one week in hospital. For three days, I felt like I had gone crazy. I even tried to bite my wife. I was just so full of rage.” ~ RSCD team leader.

Both RSCD crew members still  have respiratory problems and are still undergoing medical treatment for the effects of this chemical weapon attack. Both men were clearly still struggling with their memory of that day in August 2016 but piecing together what they could remember and combined with the lasting physical side effects, there seems no doubt that a CW of some kind was used against them. Why was it never reported by Western media nor listed as a war crime by the UN organisations that are mandated to document such crimes?

I had previously visited the RSCD based in Hamdaniyeh in Aleppo, in August 2016 just after the chemical weapon attack, they had also lost a crew member while trying to evacuate civilians from the area.

“They were wearing lightweight paper oxygen masks. Because of U.S. and EU sanctions being imposed on Syria, these rescue workers are unable to replace their supply of high-spec gas masks that would have been a lifesaver on many occasions.

The concentration of gas was so high that the flimsy oxygen masks did not effectively prevent the toxic fumes entering their lungs. One of the crew members, Mohammed Ahmed Eibbish, 36, died while trying to rescue a woman from an affected building.

Other crew members and civilians reported symptoms of gas poisoning, such as dizziness, nausea, burns, spasms, and difficulty breathing. Four women died from inhaling toxic fumes during this attack, and 25 civilians were affected and hospitalized as a result.” ~ Journey to Aleppo, Mint Press

(These two incidents were investigated at different times, & with RSCD crews from different areas of West Aleppo, there is no record of any other chemical weapon attack in Aleppo in this time period so it is reasonable to surmise it was the same incident with both crews attending a different area under attack. I will verify this during my time here now.)

What is clear is that while the world has been conditioned to hang off every White Helmet report of attacks on their terrorist controlled premises, I have been unable to find a single report on the attacks by terrorist groups against the REAL Syrian Civil Defence. Their existence is effectively removed from our state media snapshot of Syria, by a media intent on replacing them with the US/UK White Helmet construct that was created to magnify the alleged “war crimes” of the Syrian government and its allies, while erasing the terrorist atrocities from our television screens.

While speaking with the CO of the Layramoun RSCD, he told me:

“2 days ago and yesterday we were trying to recover the bodies of three of our crew members who had been killed by terrorist groups in the Eastern countryside (of Aleppo). The terrorists are deliberately preventing burial of our comrades. No religion in the world should be able to condone such an action, it is inhumane, unimaginable for us that anyone could do such a thing”.

When I asked the CO about the White Helmets, he told me:

“The White Helmets had two distinct roles. Most of them were fighters (militants) who would then change into their White Helmet uniforms when the cameras were on them. They worked only with the terrorist groups. When SARC (Syrian Arab Red Crescent) tried to evacuate civilians from East Aleppo to bring them to West Aleppo for medical treatment during the occupation, these terrorist groups including the White Helmets refused to allow them to leave. How can anyone call them a humanitarian organisation under these circumstances?”

The CO also told me that the US/EU economic sanctions make their job almost impossible.

“We need high quality equipment. Most of it comes from Italy, Germany and the UK who are supplying the White Helmets but will not supply us what we need to replenish our own equipment. Many of our stores and vehicles were destroyed or burned by the terrorists who invaded East Aleppo in 2012/13. Many vehicles were stolen and later used by the White Helmets.”

The RSCD has endured unspeakable crimes against their crew members on a daily basis without recognition by the west. Why are their voices and their harrowing experiences of no value to western media while the White Helmets who run with terrorist groups have their testimony republished without question or verification?

Meeting the Martyrs of the REAL Syria Civil Defence.


The family of RSCD crew member Damen Al Abazah from Sweida, killed in November 2013 in Deir Etiah, on the Damascus to Homs road. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)

I met with the family of Damen Al Abazah from Sweida in January 2018, in Damascus. On my first visit to the RSCD centre in Damascus, 200m from the previously terrorist held Ein Tarma area of Eastern Ghouta, the colonel was very surprised that I was interested in talking to them, no western media had ever requested an interview previously.

I had the same experience when I met this family, they were shocked that anyone from the West was interested in the death of their family member. This is a sad indictment on the standard of reporting on the conflict in Syria, why do these people and their story not have any validity for Western media, is their loss not as painful as the endless stream of accounts of tragedy from the “opposition” controlled areas? Those areas under the occupation of a number of Western backed extremist and militant groups financed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey among others.

Al Abazah’s wife is in the centre of the picture holding a photograph of her husband that had been hanging on the wall of their simple living room. Her name is Rabiaah Matar and she is 44 years old.

Al Abazah was a volunteer civil defence member with thirty years experience. Rabiaah, his wife, told me:

“He was 10 months from his retirement. I was so looking forward to having him at home  and we planned to take a lot of holidays. My husband was the officer responsible for the vehicle repair. He was so brave, so committed to his job and his colleagues. Even at weekends he would go to work and if I ever complained he would tell me, it’s my duty day or night. The night he he was killed,he was not on duty but he went anyway, he told me it was his mission”

Earlier on that fateful day, terrorist groups, namely Nusra Front and Ahrar Al Qalamoun, had attacked Al Basel Heart hospital in Deir Atiah on the Damascus to Homs road. Three suicide car bombs had attacked Syrian Arab Army checkpoints in Deir Atiah and Al Nabek killing & injuring many. Following these explosions the terrorist groups attacked Deir Atiah City and the battles centered around Al Basel hospital between the terrorists and the SAA.

Raabiah continued to describe what happened to her husband:

“The medical staff were trapped on the third floor. The terrorists were on the roof and on the ground floor and the hospital was surrounded. The SAA accompanied the RSCD vehicles until the final checkpoint before the hospital where the battles were raging. At this point the RSCD were advised not to advance as it was too dangerous…”

Raabiah paused and I asked her what her husband decided to do:

“My husband refused to abandon the doctors and medical staff. He drove the fire engine forward and tried to use the ladders to help the doctors and staff to escape. As they went forward, they were being targeted by the terrorist home made bombs. They tried to fix the ladder, the doctors were at the window calling to them to get them out. My husband was shot in the heart by one of the terrorist snipers. The other two crew members were also shot. One in the hand. They survived.”

Even five years after this incident, Raabiah was still clearly distressed by the loss of her husband. She told me that all the medical staff were killed by the terrorist groups, including 9 doctors.

“It was 21 days before we could recover his body from Homs. it was snowing and it was impossible for the Army to get to him. We were so worried that the terrorists would do something terrible to his body. Eventually the army flew his body back from Homs to Damascus and we could finally say goodbye to him here”

Raabiah and Damen have three children. A girl and two boys, aged 26, 24 and 23. One son is still with the SAA and has been with them for the last five years fighting the same US Coalition-imposed terrorism that murdered his father who was doing his “duty” trying to save Syrian medics & doctors from the terrorist groups that eventually killed them in the hospital where they worked.

I have searched the internet for any reference to this attack in Western corporate media and not found one. Damen Al Abazah was unarmed and neutral, he gave his life for his own people under attack from the terrorist groups inside Syria, yet he has not been proclaimed a hero by the colonial media, nor by the UN or its affiliates that will lionise the White Helmets without hesitation.

The “Disappeared” REAL Syria Civil Defence Operating on a Shoestring Budget, Under Sanctions, Saving REAL Syrians.

While in Damascus I asked the CO of the headquarters close to Ein Tarma to give me a breakdown of the national annual operating budge for the RSCD. He came back with a figure of $ 1.46m which included:

1. $ 890,000 for salaries and compensation for families of martyrs.

2. $ 320,000 for training, equipment and supplies including water and electricity.

3. $ 250,000 for the maintenance of buildings and vehicles, machines.

Compare this to the annual budget of the NATO-member-state financed White Helmets.

When I met with Hilal Assi,  the Director of SARC in Aleppo, also in January 2018 he told me:

We never saw the White Helmets in East Aleppo. They belong to the terrorists and they receive money from outside Syria, from more than one country”.

Rania A, a SARC Volunteer for three years in Salamiyah who had worked in both Hama and Idlib on the outskirts of terrorist held areas, told me:

“White Helmets are terrorists. They are specialists in acting and drama, not humanitarian work. The White Helmets abuse the “humanitarian” title to gain trust and to brainwash people in Syria and outside. They are a big lie. There are many foreigners working with the White Helmets”


The RSCD yard in Layramoun, Aleppo. January 2018. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)

So the White Helmets receive more than twenty times the annual financing of the REAL Syria Civil Defence. The White Helmets operate in less than 15 % of Syrian territory that is entirely under the control of terrorist factions. The White Helmets do not appear to provide rescue services for civilians except when the camera is trained on them, they work as “Nusra Front civil defence” for the majority of the time. The White Helmets are the go-to organisation for media in the West, the UN and their State handlers in the US, EU and UK. The reports supplied by the White Helmets, however dubious, are accepted without question by all these entities who diseminate them across as many platforms as possible with a terrifying uniformity.

The REAL Syria Civil Defence is ignored, marginalised, disappeared from view while they are working to rescue civilians in 85% of inhabited Syria now back under the protection of the Syrian state. The RSCD also works on rebuilding and restoring infrastructure in the recently liberated areas yet the rare western media journalists who actually do bother to come to Syria never mention them.


Childrens day in Lattakia Fire Brigade/RSCD centre. 

Every time the terrorist factions embedded in the (now liberated) Eastern Ghouta suburbs have targeted civilians in Damascus with mortars, missiles, suicide bombs or sniper bullets – it is the RSCD that races to the scene, not the White Helmets yet those victims and their rescuers are irrelevant to the regime-change-war consent- manufacturing corporate media.

The RSCD must be brought out of the shadows of NATO-member-state deliberate erosion of Syrian civil society and a light must be shone upon their existence as the REAL Syrians helping REAL Syrians throughout this conflict, giving their lives to help others who are suffering under the weight of economic, military and media terrorism without acknowledgement by those who are inflicting all of this hardship, bloodshed & poverty upon the Syrian people.

 

[Investigative journalist Vanessa Beeley is a contributor to 21WIRE, and since 2011, she has spent most of her time in the Middle East reporting on events there – as a independent researcher, writer, photographer and peace activist. She is also a member of the Steering Committee of the Syria Solidarity Movement, and a volunteer with the Global Campaign to Return to Palestine. See more of her work at her blog The Wall Will Fall.]

Exposing Charities in Africa: Hypocrisy, Racism, Objectification

TeleSUR

June 24, 2015

 

 

9

Crimes list:

World Vision

* Last year, World Vision announced its decision to finally stop discriminating and hire LGBTI people. However, after the announcement saw sponsors withdraw donations – apparently more concerned about people’s sexuality than hunger, the decision was reversed and the organization continues to bring homophobia to the African continent.

* Its president, Richard Stearns, studied business administration and began his career doing marketing for several Fortune 500 companies. His wage with World Vision is almost US$400,000 a year. He has blamed poverty as often being a result of “fathers that aren’t around … Boys learn from their fathers what it means to be a good man.”

* Its publicity continues to be children-centered, simplistic, and individualistic. It tells little fairy tales: “In a nearby poverty stricken village … Mona, 11 years old, is teaching her brother a song, because Mona believes it doesn’t take much to live happily … with $39 Canadian dollars we can help people like Mona.” Cameras angle down at big-eyed children with one name and an easily digestible story of suffering, easily cured with money and religion.

* Gospel given with food: The U.S. evangelicals broadcast over their Christian Broadcasting Network and Trinity Broadcasting Network throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

Save the Children

* An individualistic approach to a systemic problem. Donors choose the child they want to sponsor from a range of photos. This has many implications for the children, who become competitive with their friends who are chosen for sponsorship. The donor has the power to decide who will be more prosperous.

* In 2013, Save the Children and Britain’s biggest drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline joined hands, with GSK aiming to give the charity 15 million pounds (US$23.6 million). GSK pleaded guilty in 2012 to healthcare fraud, which involved promoting drugs, such as anti-depressants, for unapproved uses. It also fights to protect the patents of its HIV medicine, for example, which was developed using public funds, at the expense of affordable medicine.

* Like World Vision, the CEO of Save the Children, Carolyn Miles, also has a business and marketing background. In 2013 she was paid US$407,399.

* In 2014, war criminal Tony Blair was given Save the Children’s Global Legacy Award at a gala dinner in New York. Funnily enough, the year before, former adviser to Tony Blair and current Save The Children chief executive Justin Forsyth was among nine at the charity awarded US$250,000 in bonuses.

* In 2013 a whistleblower accused the charity of self-censoring criticism of energy corporations, such as British Gas, for fear of upsetting existing or future donors.

USAID

* A racist gem from USAID administrator Andrew Natsios, who was quoted in the Boston Globe in 2001 as saying Africans wouldn’t be able to successfully take HIV and AIDS treatment regimes because “Africans do not know what Western time is.” He allegedly said that many people in Africa “have never seen a clock or a watch their entire lives and if you say one o’clock in the afternoon, they do not know what you are talking about.”

* Last year USAID joined with real estate company Rockefeller to launch a US$100 million “climate resilience fund” for Asia and Africa, with the vague aim of making communities more resilient to disasters. The alternative could have been policy that reduces the U.S’s huge contribution to contamination and global warming: but that would affect profits.

Charities … as simple as white people’s individual goodness. They become saviors, while the denial of complexity, the simplistic advertising dehumanize and rob people in Africa of their dignity, agency, intelligence, and power.

* USAID has partnered with Monsanto to promote “biotechnology,” or genetically modified organisms. It launched the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project in 1991 to introduce GM crops, which benefit patent-holding companies like Monsanto and works to create dependence on U.S. corporations’ fertilizers and pesticides. USAID has invested millions in “biotechnology” in countries like Nigeria and Uganda and uses workshops on GMOs and other issues to promote policy change favorable to U.S. corporate interests.

* USAID’s slogan, “from the American people,” should be, “from U.S. corporations,” as it once claimed on its own website, “… the principal beneficiary of America’s foreign assistance programs has always been the United States. Close to 80 percent of the USAID contracts and grants go directly to American firms,” Grain.org reported. The USAID site also states that the organization works to promote “democratic” institutions (even though the U.S. is no model of democracy) and to “foster an environment attractive to private investment.” With its bureau for Africa located not there, but in Washington, D.C., Andrew Herscowitz, coordinator of the bureau, describes his position as “facilitating private investment to bring cleaner energy and electricity to millions across Africa.” Apart from the fact that that is another thing that the U.S. itself needs, its also another example of taking advantage of colonialism-caused lack of infrastructure to help companies make profits.

* Many governments find it hard to stand-up to USAID, as it functions as a mouthpiece of the powerful, warmongering U.S. Grassroots organizations, however, are often more willing to resist.

World Food Program

* Despite being the food assistance branch of the United Nations, and allegedly more neutral than some other charities, the WFP has corporate ties, and is problematic in similar ways to other charities

* It cooperates with USAID, Save the Children, and receives significant donations from Monsanto. In 2011 for example, the WFP held a donation drive in which each dollar raised would be matched by a dollar from Monsanto. Monsanto however, contributes to world hunger by making farmers dependent on their seeds and with destructive agricultural practices.

* WFP overlooks the role of big business in exploitation and causing poverty, instead promoting the private sector’s role in the so called elimination of hunger. It is part of the Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, which was formed in 2012 to facilitate private corporations’ profiting from hunger and as excuse for the rich nations to wash their hands of any responsibility.

* WFP states on its website, “Cause related marketing generates support and awareness for your business … presenting a unique opportunity for companies to simultaneously do well and do good.” Other WFP corporate partners unqualified to fight hunger include Pepsico Foundation (objectifies women and spent US$1.7 million in opposing U.S. citizens’ right to know if food is genetically modified), Bank of America (2008 financial crisis) Yum (parent company of fake food restaurants KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell), Caterpillar (proud demolisher of Palestinian homes), and Cargill (energy trading, crops and livestock: no self interest here, has had to recall a lot of its meat products for contamination, sued for extreme child exploitation on its cocoa bean plantations).

* Similar images such as this one using victimized, helpless children, and empowering the Western savior – “you can save lives.”

* Kenyan economist James Shikwati argued that WFP food aid was sometimes so big that it made it hard for local farmers to compete.

Clinton Foundation

The Clinton Foundation uses poverty in African countries as a public-relations tool for the families’ politicians and for the celebrities who donate to it. It focuses on health systems, not that Bill Clinton was able to do much for health in his own country: a reoccurring story with many charities. The charity is also used to foster business deals. The Clintons and celebrities conduct fly-by visits through African countries as a kind of ego parade of people pretending to care, with all attention on the “helpers” and none on the people of those countries.

* Earlier this year, the charity came under fire for not declaring tens of millions of dollars in foreign donations and in another unsurprising scandal this year, the Clinton Foundation worked closely with a pharmaceutical company to distribute “drastically substandard” antiretroviral drugs to third world countries that had no chance of helping HIV and AIDs patients, according to a Wall Street analyst.

Get Angry: Global Inequality Should Be Changed, and Charity Isn’t the Way

The thing about aid is that it always comes with conditions (working with businesses, practicing religion, spending money according to the dictates of the charity), it always involves the inequality of a much more powerful giver and a disempowered receiver, and it involves the powerful side thinking it knows better that the receiver about what they need and how to make that happen.

There’s little respect and a lot of condescension, as the boring rich try to show people in the apparently homogenous continent how to make wells, read the bible and make their own shoes. And, largely due to charities, the continent of Africa has become synonymous with poverty, starvation, tragedy – a homogenous blob of a continent of begging skinny children.

Charities simplify everything. They misinform. Solving poverty (which on the continent of Africa was due to the looting, interventions, social and economic colonization, and the constant stealing of local resources by those countries who tend to set up the charities in the first place) is as simple as white people’s individual donations. They become saviors, while the denial of complexity, the simplistic advertising dehumanizes and robs people in Africa of their dignity, agency, intelligence, and power.

Charities become competitive for money and are forced to convince their public they are dealing with the “most needy” and “deserving”. The advertising is never accountable to those people objectified by it.

Charities like the Clinton Foundation don’t deserve a pat on the back for given back a tiny proportion of what was stolen by the U.S. and Europe and their transnationals in the first place. Even less so when using poverty to dodge tax payments. Ultimately, such charities are a convenience for first world governments to outsource their social and political responsibility.

Unlike activist organizations, charities are undemocratic, alienating (donors are very disconnected from affected communities), and work over rather than with those communities. The big picture is the North (U.S, Europe, U.K, Australia, etc) has an undemocratic influence over the economies, resources, culture, and futures of countries in Africa – in addition to such influence through colonization, transnational resource robbing and so on already mentioned.

 

From the End of History to the End of Truth

TeleSUR

March 11, 2018

By Tortilla Con Sal

 

 

Ken Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. | Photo: Reuters

Non governmental organizations play a role in the Western elites’ offensive against resistance to them.

Making nonsense of Fukuyama’s premature triumphalist screed, it is commonplace now to note that the United States corporate elites and their European and Pacific country counterparts are increasingly losing power and influence around the world. Equally common is the observation that these Western elites and the politicians who front for them have acted over the last twenty years to reassert their control in their respective areas of neocolonial influence. The European Union powers have done so in Eastern Europe and Africa, most obviously but not only, in Ukraine, Libya, Ivory Coast, Mali and the Central African Republic. Likewise, the United States has acted to reassert its influence in Latin America and the Caribbean, effectively declaring war on Venezuela, maintaining its economic and psychological warfare against Cuba and intervening elsewhere with varying degrees of openness.

Before they died, among the main Western media bogeymen were Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez and Muammar al Gaddhafi. Now Vladimir Putin and Bashar al Assad have been joined by Xi Jinping and Nicolas Maduro. Along with these and other world leaders, Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega has also constantly been the object of endlessly repetitive Western media hate campaigns. This longstanding, plain-as-day media strategy, regularly and blatantly prepares mass opinion to facilitate Western government aggression against the latest target government. No one following these processes with any attention will have failed to notice the leading role played by non governmental organizations in the Western elites’ offensive against resistance to them by political leaders and movements around the world.

In almost every case of recent Western provoked interventions, from Venezuela in 2002, through Haiti in 2004, Bolivia in 2008, Honduras in 2009, Ecuador in 2010, Ivory Coast, Libya and Syria in 2011, Ukraine in 2014, Western media have used deliberately misleading and downright deceitful reports from Western NGOs to support their own false misreporting of events. In Nicaragua’s case, the usual untrustworthy NGO suspects like Amnesty International, Transparency International and Global Witness constantly publish misleading reports and statements attacking or undermining President Daniel Ortega and his government. In general, their reporting is grossly biased and disproportionate given the regional context of incomparably horrific events and deplorable conditions elsewhere in Latin America, but, as often as not, it is also downright untrue.

In a recent example, Global Witness stated that Nicaragua’s proposed interoceanic canal “wasn’t preceded by any environmental impact reports, nor any consultation with local people”. Both those assertions are completely untrue. But this Big Lie repetition is the modus operandi of the Western elites who fund outfits like Global Witness, Amnesty International, and other influential NGOs like International Crisis Group and Transparency Intenational. For example, Amnesty International claims “We are independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion”. But it bears constant repetition that many of Amnesty International’s board and most of its senior staff responsible for the organization’s reports are deeply ideologically committed with links to corporate dominated NGO’s like PurposeOpen Society InstituteHuman Rights Watch, and many others.

Also worth repeating is that Global Witness in 2016 received millions of dollars from the George Soros Open Society Foundation, Pierre Omidyar’s Omidyar Network, the Ford Foundation and NATO governments. The boards and advisory boards of these NGOs are all made up overwhelmingly of people from the Western elite neocolonial non governmental sector. Many have a strong corporate business background as well. All move easily from one highly paid Western NGO job to the next, serving NATO country foreign policy goals. Cory Morningstar has exposed the pro-NATO global political agenda of organizations like US based Avaaz and Purpose, noting “the key purpose of the non-profit industrial complex is and has always been to protect this very system it purports to oppose”.

Back in 2017 it was already a truism to note that Western NGOS “operate as the soft, extramural arm of NATO country governments’ foreign policy psychological warfare offensives, targeting liberal and progressive audiences to ensure their acquiescence in overseas aggression and intimidation against governments and movements targeted by NATO. To that end, they deceitfully exploit liberal and progressive susceptibilities in relation to environmental, humanitarian and human rights issues.” What is now becoming even more clear in the current context is that these Western NGOs and their media accomplices are confident enough to publish downright lies because reporting the facts no longer matters. Western public discourse has become so debased, incoherent and fragmentary that the truth is almost completely irrelevant. All that matters is the power to impose a version of events no matter how false and untruthful it may be.

This sinister media reality is intimately related to the politicization of legal and administrative processes in the national life of countries across Latin America. The spurious legal processes against Dilma Rousseff and Lula da Silva in Brazil, against Milagro Sala and Cristina Fernandez in Argentina, against Jorge Glas and, no doubt very soon, Rafael Correa in Ecuador are all based on the same faithless virtual association and complete disregard for factual evidence as Western media and NGO propaganda reports attacking Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba and Nicaragua. It is imperative to overcome the ridiculous liberal presupposition that the region’s elites, with the advantage of designing and controlling their countries’ legal systems and communications media for over 200 years, are somehow going to respect high falutin’ avowals about “separation of powers”.

Note: this article borrows from previous articles here and here.

 

 

[Tortilla con Sal is an anti-imperialist collective based in Nicaragua producing information in various media on national, regional and international affairs. In Nicaragua, we work closely with grass roots community organizations and cooperatives. We strongly support the policies of sovereign national development and regional integration based on peace and solidarity promoted by the member countries of ALBA.”]

How the Mainstream Media Whitewashed Al-Qaeda & the White Helmets in Syria

How the Mainstream Media Whitewashed Al-Qaeda & the White Helmets in Syria

In Gaza

January 6, 2018

By Eva Bartlett

 

neil clark tweet

*Neil Clark’s tweet

 

On December 18, 2017, the Guardian issued a shoddily-penned hatchet piece against British journalist Vanessa Beeley, Patrick Henningsen and his independent website 21st Century Wire, Australian professor and writer Tim Anderson, and myself.

Many insightful writers have since deconstructed the lies and omissions of the article, which I will link to at the bottom of my own.

Judging by the scathing comments on the Guardian’s Facebook post, the general public didn’t buy it either. The Guardian, like Channel 4 News and Snopes, whitewashes terrorism in Syria, employs non-sequitur arguments, promotes war propaganda, and simply gets the facts wrong.

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As the purported theme of the The Guardian‘s story was the issue of rescuers in Syria, I’ll begin by talking about actual rescuers I know and worked with, in hellish circumstances in Gaza.

In 2008/9, I volunteered with Palestinian medics under 22 days of relentless, indiscriminate, Israeli war plane and Apache helicopter bombings, shelling from the sea and tanks, and drone strikes. The loss of life and casualties were immense, with over 1,400 Palestinians murdered, and thousands more maimed, the vast majority civilians. Using run-down, bare-bones equipment (as actual rescuers in Syria do), Palestinian medics worked tirelessly day and night to rescue civilians.

There was not a single occasion in which I ever heard the medics (in Sunni Gaza) shout takbeer or Allahu Akbar upon rescuing civilians, much less intentionally stood on dead bodies, posed in staged videos, or any of the other revolting acts that the White Helmets have been filmed doing in Syria. They were too damn busy rescuing or evacuating the areas before another Israeli strike, and usually maintained a focused silence as they worked, communicating only the necessities. The only occasion I recall of screaming while with the medics, were the screams of civilians we collected and in particular the anguished shrieks of a husband helping to put the body parts of his dismembered wife onto a stretcher to be taken to the morgue. The medics I knew in Gaza were true heroes. The White Helmets, not a chance. They are gross caricatures of rescuers.

oli 5

A White Helmets member. “Unnarmed and neutral”?

Reply to The Guardian 

In October, a San Francisco-based tech (and sometimes fashion) writer named Olivia Solon (visibly with no understanding of Middle East geopolitics) emailed myself and Beeley with nearly identical questions filled with implicit assumptions for a “story” we were to be imminently featured in. My own correspondence with Solon is as follows:

In brief, I’ll address Solon’s emails, including some of her most loaded questions:

-Who is the “we”, Solon mentions? Her mention of “we” indicates this story isn’t her own bright idea, nor independently researched and penned. Parts of the article—including the title and elements I’ll outline later in my article—seem to be lifted from others’ previous articles, but that’s copy-paste journalism for you.

-It isn’t just that I believe the mainstream media narrative about the White Helmets is wrong; this narrative has been redundantly-exposed over the years. In September 2014, Canadian independent journalist Cory Morningstar investigated hidden hands behind flashy PR around the White Helmets. In April 2015, American independent journalist Rick Sterling revealed that the White Helmets had been founded by Western powers and managed by a British ex-soldier, and noted the “rescuers” role in calling for Western intervention—a No Fly Zone on Syria. (more on these articles below). This was months before Russian media began to write about the White Helmets.

Since then, Vanessa Beeley has done the vast amount of research in greater detail, doing on-the-ground investigations in Syria, including: taking the testimonies of Syrian civilians who had (often brutal) experiences with the White Helmets; establishing that the Syrian Civil Defense exists and has existed since 1953, but are not the White Helmets—which has misappropriated this name; establishing that the international body, the International Civil Defence organisation in Geneva, does not recognize the White Helmets as the Syrian Civil Defence; establishing that men now White Helmets members looted vehicles and equipment from the Syrian Civil Defence in Aleppo—and belongings from civilians; and establishing that White Helmets shared a building in Bab Al Nairab, eastern Aleppo with al-Qaeda and were present as al-Qaeda tortured civilians, among other points.

It is hard to believe that in the span of the two months between her contacting Beeley and myself that Solon, in her certainly deep investigations, has not seen this video, clearly showing uniformed White Helmets members with supporters of Saudi terrorist, Abdullah Muhaysini. Not quite “neutral” rescuers. But then, perhaps she did. She was willing to write off the presence of White Helmets members at execution scenes, standing on dead Syrian soldiers, and holding weapons, as a few bad apples sort of thing.

-As to Solon’s interest in my “relationship” to the Syrian government: No, I have not received payment, gifts or other from any government. To the contrary, I’ve poured my own money into going to Syria (and have fund-raised, and also routinely received Paypal donations or support on Patreon by individuals who appreciate my work). See my article on this matter.

As to how my visits to Syria and North Korea came about, this is another transparent attempt to imply that I am on the payroll of/receive other benefits from one or more of the governments in question.

-One of The Guardian’s questions was regarding my following: “That you attract a large online audience, amplified by high-profile right-wing personalities and appearances on Russian state TV.”

What following I do have began exactly one year ago, after I requested to speak in a panel at the United Nations, as the US Peace Council had done in August 2016. It is as a result of a short interaction between myself and a Norwegian journalist, which went viral, that my online audience grew. In fact, I deeply regret that what went viral was not the important content of the three other panelists and my own over twenty minutes report on conditions in Aleppo which was then still under daily bombardments and snipings by what the West deems “moderates”.

However, given that so many people responded positively regarding the interaction—which dealt with lies of the corporate media and lack of sources—it seems that the public already had a sense that something was not right with corporate media’s renditions on Syria.

The first person to cut and share the video clip in question (on December 10, one day following the panel) was Twitter profile @Walid970721. As I have since met him personally, I can attest he is neither Russian nor funded by the Kremlin, nor any government, and that he shared that clip out of his own belief that it was of interest. Otherwise, on December 10, before any major Russian media had, HispanTV also shared my words. Further, India-based internet media Scoop Whoop’s December 15 share garnered the most views (nearly 10.5 million by now). That Russian media later shared the clip and reported on the incident is neither my doing nor a bad thing: thank you Russian media for doing what Western corporate media always fail to do.

-Regarding The Guardian Solon’s question: “That you think that Assad is being demonized by the US as a means to drive regime change.” Of course I do, as do most analysts and writers not blinded by or obliged to the NATO narrative. As Rick Sterling wrote in September 2016:

“This disinformation and propaganda on Syria takes three distinct forms. The first is the demonization of the Syrian leadership. The second is the romanticization of the opposition. The third form involves attacking anyone questioning the preceding characterizations.”

Boston Globe contributor, award-winning foreign correspondent and author, Stephen Kinzer wrote in February 2016:

“Astonishingly brave correspondents in the war zone, including Americans, seek to counteract Washington-based reporting. At great risk to their own safety, these reporters are pushing to find the truth about the Syrian war. Their reporting often illuminates the darkness of groupthink. Yet for many consumers of news, their voices are lost in the cacophony. Reporting from the ground is often overwhelmed by the Washington consensus.”

Countering corporate media’s demonization campaigns, I’ve written on many occasions—notably including the words of Syrians within Syria—about the vast amount of support the Syrian president enjoys inside of Syria and outside.

In my March 7, 2016 article, I cited meeting with internal, unarmed, opposition members, including Kurdish representative, Berwine Brahim, who stated,

We want you to convey that conspiracy, terrorism and interference from Western countries has united supporters of the government and the opposition, to support President Bashar al-Assad.”

In that same article, I wrote:

“Wherever I’ve gone in Syria (as well as many months in various parts of Lebanon, where I’ve met Syrians from all over Syria) I’ve seen wide evidence of broad support for President al-Assad. The pride I’ve seen in a majority of Syrians in their President surfaces in the posters in homes and shops, in patriotic songs and Syrian flags at celebrations and in discussions with average Syrians of all faiths. Most Syrians request that I tell exactly what I have seen and to transmit the message that it is for Syrians to decide their future, that they support their president and army and that the only way to stop the bloodshed is for Western and Gulf nations to stop sending terrorists to Syria, for Turkey to stop warring on Syria, for the West to stop their nonsense talk about ‘freedom‘ and ‘democracy’ and leave Syrians to decide their own future.”

In my May 2014 article from Lebanon, having independently observed the first of two days of Syrians streaming to their embassy to vote in presidential elections, I cited some of the many Syrians there with whom I spoke (in Arabic):

“’We love him. I’m Sunni, not Alawi,’ Walid, from Raqqa, noted. ‘They’re afraid our voices will be heard,’ he said….’I’m from Deir Ezzor,’ said a voter. ‘ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) is in our area. We want Bashar al-Assad. The guy walks straight,’ he said, with a gesture of his hand.”

No one escorted me in a Syrian government vehicle to that embassy, by the way. I took a bus, and then walked the remaining many kilometres (the road was so clogged with vehicles going to the embassy) with Syrians en route to vote.

In June 2014, a week after the elections within Syria, I traveled by public bus to Homs (once dubbed the “capital of the revolution”), where I saw Syrians celebrating the results of the election, one week after the fact, and spoke with Syrians beginning to clean up and patch up homes damaged from the terrorist occupation of their district.

When I returned to Homs in December 2015, shops and restaurants had re-opened where a year and a half prior they were destroyed. People were preparing to celebrate Christmas as they could not do when terrorists ruled. In Damascus, attending a choral concert I overheard people asking one another excitedly whether “he” was here. The day prior, President Assad and the First Lady had dropped in on the pracitising choir, to their surprise and delight. And although the church was within hitting distance of mortars fired by the west’s “moderates” (and indeed that area had been repeatedly hit by mortars), the people faced that prospect in hopes of a re-visit by the President.

These are just some of many examples of the support Syria’s president sees and the attempts to vilify he and other Syrian leadership. Even Fox News acknowledged his support, referring to the 2014 elections:

…it underscored the considerable support that President Bashar Assad still enjoys from the population, including many in the majority Sunni Muslim community. …Without Sunni support, however, Assad’s rule would have collapsed long ago.”

Regarding war crimes, Syria is fighting a war against terrorism, but corporate media continues fabricating claims, and repeating those fabricated, not-investigated, accusations. For example, the repeated claim of the Syrian government starving civilians. In my on the ground investigations, I’ve revealed the truth behind starvation (and hospitals destroyed, and “last doctors”) in Aleppo, in Madaya, in al-Waer, in Old Homs (2014). In all instances, starvation and lack of medical care was solely due to terrorists—including al-Qaeda—hoarding food (and medical supplies). Vanessa Beeley has in greater depth exposed those corporate media lies regarding eastern Aleppo.

Even Reuters later reported on finding stockpiles of food in a “rebel” held building, citing civilians saying specifically that the Army of Islam “rebels”,  “kept all these items, here and there. They did not allow us to eat even a piece of bread. We died out of hunger.”

Regarding chemical weapons accusations, those have long been negated by the investigations of Seymour Hersh (on Ghouta 2013; on Khan Sheikhoun 2017) and the UN’s own Carla Del Ponte who said:

“…there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated. This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities.”

Regarding convoys allegedly bombed, see my own article on one such claim, as well as award-winning investigative journalist, Gareth Porter’s article.

Regarding whether the White Helmets have done any good work rescuing civilians: they are working solely in areas occupied by al-Qaeda and affiliated terrorists, so no one can prove whether they have actual done any rescue work of civilians. However, we have numerous on the ground witness testimonies to the contrary, that the White Helmets denied medical care to civilians not affiliated with terrorist groups.

In September 2017, Murad Gazdiev (instrumental in his honest reporting from Aleppo during much of 2016) documented how the White Helmets headquarters in Bustan al-Qasr, Aleppo, was filled with Hell Canons (used to fire gas canister bombs on Aleppo’s civilians and infrastructure) and remnants of a bomb-making factory. The headquarters was in a school.

Gazdiev’s reporting on the headquarters was preceded by French citizen Pierre Le Corf, living in Aleppo for over the past year, who visited the White Helmets headquarters in March 2017 (and again in April), documenting the al-Qaeda and ISIS linked flags, logos, and paraphernalia found inside the White Helmets headquarters, and that the White Helmets’ headquarters was next to a central al-Qaeda (Jabhat al-Nusra) headquarters. Le Corf also wrote about his encounters with civilians from Aleppo’s east, and their take on the White Helmets:

“…the last two families I met told me that they helped the injured terrorists first and sometimes left the civilians in the rubble. When the camera was spinning everyone was agitated, as soon as the camera extinguished, the lives of the people under rubble took less importance…. all the videos you’ve seen in the media come from one or the other. Civilians couldn’t afford cameras or 3G internet package when it was already difficult to buy bread, only armed and partisan groups.”

Vanessa Beeley took testimonies she took from civilians from eastern, al-Qaeda-occupied Aleppo, in December 2016 when the city was liberated. Beeley later wrote:

“When I asked them if they knew of the “civil defence”, they all nodded furiously and said, “yes, yes – Nusra Front civil defence”. Most of them elaborated and told me that the Nusra Front civil defence never helped civilians, they only worked for the armed groups.”

Beeley also wrote of the White Helmets’ complicity in the massacre of civilians (including 116 children) from Foua and Kafraya in April 2017.

Credentials, Please: What Is Journalism?

Regarding Solon’s question on my competency as a journalist, I note the following:

I began reporting from on the ground in Palestine in 2007, first blogging and later publishing in various online media.

In 2007, I spent 8 months in the occupied West Bank in occupied Palestine, in some of the most dangerous areas where Palestinians are routinely abused, attacked, abducted and killed by both the Israeli army and the illegal Jewish colonists. There, I began blogging, documenting the crimes in print with witness testimonies, first person interviews, my own eye-witness experiences, photos and videos.

After being deported from Palestine by Israeli authorities in December 2007, in 2008 I  sailed to Gaza from Cyprus and documented not only the daily Israeli assaults on unarmed male, female, elderly and child farmers and fishers, but also the effects of the brutal Israeli full siege on Gaza, Israel’s sporadic bombings and land invasions, and of course two major massacres (Dec 2008/ Jan 2009 and Nov 2012).

In the 2008/2009 war against Palestinian civilians, I was on the ground in northern Gaza with rescuers—actual rescuers, no acting, no staging—under the bombings, and under heavy sniper fire. I was also on an upper floor of a media building in Gaza City that was bombed while I was in it. And otherwise, I remained in Gaza after the slaughter had ended, taking horrific testimonies, documenting Israel’s war crimes, including Israel’s: assassinations of children, widespread use of White Phosphorous on civilians; holding civilians as human shields; and targeting (and killing) of medics.

See this link for a more detailed description of this documentation, with many examples, and my further documentation during the November 2012 Israeli massacre of Palestinians, as well as detailed accounts of my reporting from seven trips, on the ground, around Syria.

While questioning my credentials as an investigative reporter in the Middle East, The Guardian casually assigned the story to a San Fransisco based writer specializing in fluff piecesfashion and Russophobic analysis, who visibly has little to no understanding of what is happening on the ground in Syria.

Addressing “the propaganda that is so often disguised as journalism,”award-winning journalist and film maker, John Pilger, said (emphasis added):

Edward Bernays, the so-called father of public relations, wrote about an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. He was referring to journalism, the media. That was almost 80 years ago, not long after corporate journalism was invented. It’s a history few journalists talk about or know about, and it began with the arrival of corporate advertising.

 

As the new corporations began taking over the press, something called ‘professional journalism’ was invented. To attract big advertisers, the new corporate press had to appear respectable, pillars of the establishment, objective, impartial, balanced. The first schools of journalism were set up, and a mythology of liberal neutrality was spun around the professional journalists. The right to freedom of expression was associated with the new media.

 

The whole thing was entirely bogus. For what the public didn’t know, was that in order to be professional, journalists had to ensure that news and opinion were dominated by official sources. And that hasn’t changed. Go through the New York Times on any day, and check the sources of the main political stories, domestic and foreign, and you’ll find that they’re dominated by governments and other establishment interests. That’s the essence of professional journalism.

On a publicly-shared Facebook post, journalist Stephen Kinzer wrote:

“I happen to agree with Eva’s take on Syria, but from a journalist’s perspective, the true importance of what she does goes beyond reporting from any single country. She challenges the accepted narrative–and that is the essence of journalism. Everything else is stenography. Budding foreign correspondents take note!!”

In The Guardian’s smear piece, it is interesting that Solon employed a tactic used to denigrate the credibility of a writer by dubbing he/she merely a “blogger”. In her story, Solon used “blogger” four times, three times in reference to Vanessa Beeley (who contributes in depth articles to a variety of online media).

In the latter case, she quoted executive director of the Purpose Inc-operated “Syria Campaign” PR project, James Sadri saying:

“A blogger for a 9/11 truther website who only visited Syria for the first time last year should not be taken seriously as an impartial expert on the conflict.”

Remind me when either Sadri or Solon was last there? Seems to be 2008 for Sadri, and never for Solon. But they are “credible” and someone like Beeley who has since her first 2016 visit to Syria has returned numerous occasions, in the country at pivotal times—like during the liberation of Aleppo, speaking with Syrian civilians from eastern areas formerly occupied by al-Qaeda and co-extremists—is not?

As for bloggers, there are many insightful writers and researchers self-publishing on blogs (for example,  this blog). However, that aside, it is amusing to note that Solon on her LinkedIn profile list her first skill as blogging. Is she a mere blogger?

oli blogging

Regarding Solon’s use of the “truthers” theme, did she recycle this from an article on Wired peddled eight months ago? Her use of “truthers” is clearly to paint anyone who investigates the White Helmets as Alex Jones-esque. Is she capable of originality?

castello

Nov 4, 2016: Less than 100 metres away, the second of two mortars fired by terrorist factions less than 1 km from Castello Road on Nov. 4. The road and humanitarian corridor were targeted at least seven times that day by terrorist factions. Many of those in corporate media had retired to the bus, and donned helmets and flak jackets. I was on the road without such luxuries. Read about it here.

Guardian Uses CIA “Conspiracy Theory” Tactic

In addition to using denigrating terms, The Guardian threw in the loaded CIA term “conspiracy theorists”.

As Mark Crispin Miller, Professor of Media Studies and author, noted in a June 2017 panel (emphasis added):

“Conspiracy theory was not much used by journalist for the decades prior to 1967, when suddenly it’s used all the time, and increasingly ever since.

And the reason for this is that the CIA at that time sent a memo to its station chiefs world wide, urging them to use their propaganda assets and friends in the media, to discredit the work of Mark Lane… books attacking the Warren Commission Report. Mark Lane’s was a best seller, so the CIA’s response was to send out this memo urging a counter-attack, so that hacks responsive to the agency would write reviews attacking these authors as ‘conspiracy theorists’ and using one or more of five specific arguments listed in the memo.”

Guess Solon got the memo.

Professor James Tracy elaborated:

“Conspiracy theory” is a term that at once strikes fear and anxiety in the hearts of most every public figure, particularly journalists and academics. Since the 1960s the label has become a disciplinary device that has been overwhelmingly effective in defining certain events off limits to inquiry or debate. Especially in the United States raising legitimate questions about dubious official narratives destined to inform public opinion (and thereby public policy) is a major thought crime that must be cauterized from the public psyche at all costs.”

Researcher and writer Kevin Ryan noted (emphasis added):

“In the 45 years before the CIA memo came out, the phrase ‘conspiracy theory’ appeared in the Washington Post and New York Times only 50 times, or about once per year. In the 45 years after the CIA memo, the phrase appeared 2,630 times, or about once per week.

 

“…Of course, in these uses the phrase is always delivered in a context in which ‘conspiracy theorists’ were made to seem less intelligent and less rationale than people who uncritically accept official explanations for major events. President George W. Bush and his colleagues often used the phrase conspiracy theory in attempts to deter questioning about their activities.”

In her piece for the Guardian, Solon threw in the Russia is behind everything clause.

Scott Lucas (who Solon quotes in her own article) in August 2017 wrote (emphasis added):

“Russian State outlets have pursued a campaign — especially since Moscow’s military intervention in September 2015.”

Solon’s article? (emphasis added):

“The campaign to discredit the White Helmets started at the same time as Russia staged a military intervention in Syria in September 2015…”

But I’m sure this is a mere coincidence.

Initial Investigations Into The White Helmets Precede Russia’s

As mentioned earlier in this article, in 2014 and early 2015, long before any Russian media took notice, Cory Morningstar and Rick Sterling were already countering the official story of the White Helmets.

Morningstar on September 17, 2014, wrote:

“The New York public relations firm Purpose has created at least four anti-Assad NGOs/campaigns: The White Helmets, Free Syrian Voices [3], The Syria Campaign [4] and March Campaign #withSyria. …The message is clear. Purpose wants the green light for military intervention in Syria, well-cloaked under the guise of humanitarianism – an oxymoron if there ever was one.”

This is where the White Helmets step in.

Rick Sterling’s April 9, 2015, article looked at the White Helmets as a PR project for western intervention in Syria. He wrote (emphasis added):

“White Helmets is the newly minted name for “Syrian Civil Defence”. Despite the name, Syria Civil Defence was not created by Syrians nor does it serve Syria. Rather it was created by the UK and USA in 2013. Civilians from rebel controlled territory were paid to go to Turkey to receive some training in rescue operations. The program was managed by James Le Mesurier, a former British soldier and private contractor whose company is based in Dubai.

Since her initial scrutiny into the White Helmets in September 2015, by October revealing their ties to executioners in Syria, Vanessa Beeley has relentlessly pursued the organization, and the lies and propaganda around it, their funding of at least over $150 million, far more than needed for medical supplies and high-tech camera equipment.

As 21st Century Wire pointed out (emphasis added):

“Note that The Guardian and Olivia Solon also claim that the White Helmets are only “volunteers” – a foundational misrepresentation designed to generate sympathy for their employees. One could call this a gross lie when you consider the fact the White Helmets are paid a regular salary (which the Guardian deceptively call a ‘stipend’) which is in fact much higher than the national average salary in Syria – a fact conveniently left out in the Guardian’s apparent foreign office-led propaganda piece:

 

Guardian informationists like Solon would never dare mention that the White Helmet’s ‘monthly stipend’ is far in excess of the standard salary for a Syrian Army soldier who is lucky to take home $60 -$70 per month.”

The Guardian Whitewashes the White Helmets

What are some things The Guardian could have investigated, had Solon’s story not been predetermined and had she approached with an honest intent to investigate the White Helmets?

  • Solon very misguidedly chose to highlight the White Helmets’ “mannequin challenge” video, writing that the video was “stripped of its context”. What was the context? That the White Helmets, supposedly frantically, full-time rescuing civilians under the bombs, took time to make a video simulating a heroic rescue scene? The video reveals the patently obvious point that the White Helmets can clearly stage a very convincing “rescue” video. But Solon ignores this point, it doesn’t fit her factless, Russophobic story. Further, I cannot imagine any of the Palestinian rescuers I worked with wasting a moment of precious time for such an absurd video.
  • That in spite of the White Helmets’ professed motto, “To save a life is to save all of humanity” they willingly participated in executions of civilians. But Solon wrote those extremist-affiliated White Helmets who hold weapons or stand on dead bodies or chant with al-Qaeda off as “isolated” and “rogue” actors, in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Best part? It wasn’t Russia which photographed them, it was from their own social media accounts, where they proudly displayed their allegiance to terrorists.

 

In her attempt to defend the “rogue” assertion, Solon brings in White Helmets leader, Raed Saleh, who she doesn’t mention was denied entry to the US in April 2016, and deemed by the State Department’s Mark Toner to have ties to extremists.

Here’s one poignant example of a rogue actor who was dealt with by White Helmets’ leadership:

“Muawiya Hassan Agha was present at Rashideen, and he later became infamous for his involvement in the execution of two prisoners of war in Aleppo. For this rogue bad appleness he was supposedly fired from the White Helmets, although he was later photographed still with them. He has also been photographed celebrating ‘victory’ with Nusra Front in Idlib.”

  • The soldiers which Solon calls “pro-Assad fighters” are actually members of Syria’s national army. Lexicon is important, and by denigrating members of the national army, Solon is playing a very old, and once again lacking in originality, lexicon card worthy of some UN member states who violate UN protocol and in the UN call the Syrian government a “regime” (as Solon also does…) instead of government. In the UN, governments must be called by their official names. The Syrian Arab Republic, or the government of Syria.
  • That it is not the entire UNSC which believes that Syria has committed the crimes Solon repeats, it is some members with an admitted vested interest in toppling the Syrian government.

 

The Chemical Card

In her attempt to validate the White Helmets, and delegitimize those who question them, The Guardian article presented as fact claims that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its people in Khan Sheikhoun in April 2017, that the White Helmets provided valuable documentation to the fact, and stated that Beeley and myself were some of the “most vocal sceptics” of the official narrative.

But so was the British and US media:

“The following Mail Online article was published and subsequently removed.

Note the contradictory discourse: “Obama issued warning to Syrian president Bashar al Assad”, “White House gave green light to chemical weapons attack”.

Screen-Shot-2017-04-06-at-21.01.09-768x725

From the horse’s mouth: CNN

Screen-Shot-2017-04-06-at-19.12.35-768x144

Sources: U.S. helping underwrite Syrian rebel training on securing chemical weapons

Amusingly, according to the article (by the Qatari-owned channel, Al Jazeera) which The Guardian provided to back up their assertion of the Syrian government’s culpability (instead of providing the September 2017 UN report, itself questionable, and a much longer read for Solon), (emphasis added):

“All evidence available leads the Commission to conclude that there are reasonable grounds to believe Syrian forces dropped an aerial bomb dispersing sarin in Khan Sheikhoun.”

Reasonable grounds to believe is not exactly a confirmation of evidence, it’s just a belief.

The same article noted the investigators had not been to Syria and “based their findings on photographs of bomb remnants, satellite imagery and witness testimony.”

Witness testimony from an al-Qaeda-dominated area? Very credible. The White Helmet leader in Khan Sheikhoun, Mustafa al-Haj Yussef, is an extremist showing allegiance to the actions of al-Qaeda. As Vanessa Beeley wrote:

“Yussef has called for the shelling of civilians, the execution of anyone not fasting during Ramadan, the murder of anyone considered a Shabiha, the killing of the SAA and the looting of their property. …He clearly supports both Nusra Front, an internationally recognised terrorist group, and Ahrar Al Sham…Yussef is far from being neutral, impartial or humanitarian.

The initial analysis (of an April 2017 White House statement on Khan Sheikhoun) by Professor Emeritus of Science, Technology, and National Security Policy Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Theodore Postol, found (emphasis added):

“I believe it can be shown, without doubt, that the document does not provide any evidence whatsoever that the US government has concrete knowledge that the government of Syria was the source of the chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun, Syria at roughly 6 to 7 a.m. on April 4, 2017.

Postol’s analysis concludes that the alleged evidence

“points to an attack that was executed by individuals on the ground, not from an aircraft, on the morning of April 4,” and notes that “the report contains absolutely no evidence that this attack was the result of a munition being dropped from an aircraft.”

Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh also looked at the official accusations, noting that claims made by MSF contradicted the official accusation of the Syrian government bombing the area with sarin. Hersh wrote (emphasis added):

“A team from Médecins Sans Frontières, treating victims from Khan Sheikhoun at a clinic 60 miles to the north, reported that ‘eight patients showed symptoms – including constricted pupils, muscle spasms and involuntary defecation – which are consistent with exposure to a neurotoxic agent such as sarin gas or similar compounds.’ MSF also visited other hospitals that had received victims and found that patients there ‘smelled of bleach, suggesting that they had been exposed to chlorine.’ In other words, evidence suggested that there was more than one chemical responsible for the symptoms observed, which would not have been the case if the Syrian Air Force – as opposition activists insisted – had dropped a sarin bomb, which has no percussive or ignition power to trigger secondary explosions. The range of symptoms is, however, consistent with the release of a mixture of chemicals, including chlorine and the organophosphates used in many fertilizers, which can cause neurotoxic effects similar to those of sarin.”

The second article to which Solon linked was a NY Times article which called the report a “politically independent investigation”. This should make readers pause to guffaw, as the investigating mechanism includes the questionably-funded OPCW, and among those which the investigators interviewed were al-Qaeda’s rescuers.

Regarding the report, Professor Marcello Ferrada de Noli (founder and chairman of Swedish Professors and Doctors for Human Rights) in November 2017, refuted it as “inaccurate” and “politically biased”. Points he made included (emphasis added):

  • “The same JIM authors acknowledge that rebels in Khan Shaykhun have however destroyed evidence by filling the purported impact “crater” with concrete. Why the “rebels” have done that – and what consequences that sabotage would have for the investigation of facts is not even considered by the panel.”
  • “By acknowledging that Khan Shaykhun was then under control of al-Nusra, the JIM report exhibits yet another methodological contradiction: That would mean that al-Nusra and its jihadists allies, by having control of the area, they were also in control of the ‘official’ information delivered from Khan Shaykhun on the alleged incident. This would imperatively call for a questioning of the reliability/credibility (bias) of main sources that the panel used for its allegations.”

 

Twitter user @Syricide picked up on one of the JIM’s most alarming professed irregularity, tweeting:

Syricide

Even the Nation in April 2017 ran a piece stressing the need for actual investigation into the chemical weapons claims, citing the research of Postol, as well noting the following (emphasis added):

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA case officer and Army intelligence officer, told radio host Scott Horton on April 6 that he was “hearing from sources on the ground in the Middle East, people who are intimately familiar with the intelligence that is available, who are saying the essential narrative we are hearing about the Syrians and Russians using chemical weapons is a sham.”

Giraldi also noted that ‘people in the both the agency [CIA] and in the military who are aware of the intelligence are freaking out about this because essentially Trump completely misrepresented’ what had taken place in Khan Sheikhun. Giraldi reports that his sources in the military and the intelligence community “are astonished by how this is being played by the administration and by the US media.”

The same article included the words of the former UK ambassador to Syria, Peter Ford, who noted:

“It defies belief that he would bring this all on his head for no military advantage.” Ford said he believes the accusations against Syria are “simply not plausible.”

So, in fact, no, some of the most vocal and informed sceptics were neither Beeley nor myself, but MIT Professor Emeritus Theodore Postol, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, former UK ambassador Peter Ford, and former CIA and Army intelligence officer Philip Giraldi, not exactly “fringe” voices.

Investigative journalist Robert Parry in April 2017 wrote of a NY Times deflection tactic (one which Solon employed), emphasis added:

“Rather than deal with the difficulty of assessing what happened in Khan Sheikhoun, which is controlled by Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate and where information therefore should be regarded as highly suspect, Rutenberg simply assessed that the conventional wisdom in the West must be correct.

 

To discredit any doubters, Rutenberg associated them with one of the wackier conspiracy theories of radio personality Alex Jones, another version of the Times’ recent troubling reliance on McCarthyistic logical fallacies, not only applying guilt by association but refuting reasonable skepticism by tying it to someone who in an entirely different context expressed unreasonable skepticism.”

That sounds familiar. Solon wrote:

“Beeley frequently criticises the White Helmets in her role as editor of the website 21st Century Wire, set up by Patrick Henningsen, who is also an editor at Infowars.com.”

Infowars is Alex Jones’ site, and Henningsen is for many years no longer affiliated.

Solon followed this with another non sequitur argument about Beeley and the US Peace Council meeting with the Syrian president in 2016, a point irrelevant either to the issue of the White Helmets or the alleged chemical attacks. But irrelevance is what corporate media do best these days.

The Guardian story-writer has done literally zero investigative research into the fallacies she presents as fact in her article. She’s just employed the same, predictable, tired, old CIA defamation tactics.

Integrity-Devoid Sources Solon Cited

In addition to those I’ve already mentioned, it is interesting to note some of the other sources Solon quoted to fluff her story:

  • Scott Lucas, whose allegiance to Imperialists is evident from his twitter feed, a textbook Russophobe, Iranophobe. Lucas relied on the words of terrorist-supporter, Mustafa al-Haj Youssef, for his August article on the White Helmets (the one Solon seemingly plagiarized from). Solon relied on Lucas’ smears to dismiss the work and detract from the integrity of those Solon attacked. That, and being a token professor to include in attempt at legitimacy, was Lucas’ sole function in the Guardian story.

 

  • Amnesty International, the so-called human rights group which as Tony Cartalucci outlined in August 2012, is “US State Department Propaganda”, and does indeed receive money from governments and corporate-financier interests, including “convicted financial criminal” George Soros’ Open Society.

 

It’s not just “conspiracy theorists” like Cartalucci who have written on Amnesty’s dark side. Ann Wright, a 29-year U.S. Army/Army Reserve Colonel and a 16-year U.S. Diplomat serving in numerous countries, including Afghanistan, who “resigned in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq war,” and “returned to Afghanistan in 2007 and 2010 on fact-finding missions,” has as well. Her co-author was Coleen Rowley, “a FBI special agent for almost 24 years, legal counsel to the FBI Field Office in Minneapolis from 1990 to 2003, and a whistleblower “on some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures.” Together, in June 2012, they wrote about “Amnesty’s Shilling for US Wars”.

Professor of international law, Francis Boyle, who himself was a member of the US board of Amnesty, wrote of the group’s role in shilling for war. In October 2012, he wrote of Amnesty’s war mongering regarding Iraq—endorsing the dead incubator babies story told by the Kuwaiti ambassador’s daughter—and his own attempts to inform Amnesty “that this report should not be published because it was inaccurate.” He noted:

“That genocidal war waged by the United States, the United Kingdom and France, inter alia, during the months of January and February 1991, killed at a minimum 200,000 Iraqis, half of whom were civilians. Amnesty International shall always have the blood of the Iraqi People on its hands!”

Boyle’s parting words included:

“…based upon my over sixteen years of experience having dealt with AI/London and AIUSA at the highest levels, it is clear to me that both organizations manifest a consistent pattern and practice of following the lines of the foreign policies of the United States, Britain, and Israel. …Effectively, Amnesty International and AIUSA function as tools for the imperialist, colonial and genocidal policies of the United States, Britain, and Israel.”

  • Eliot Higgins, of whom Gareth Porter wrote:

“Eliot Higgins is a non-resident fellow of the militantly anti-Russian, State Department-funded Atlantic Council, and has no technical expertise on munitions.

British journalist Graham Phillips wrote in February 2016 on Eliot Higgins. Answering his question on who is Eliot Higgins, Phillips wrote:

“He never finished college, dropping out of the Southampton Institute of Higher Education. When asked…what he studied at university, his answer was, Media…I think.’ Higgins has always been completely open about his lack of expertise.”

The Guardian’s Russia Obsession

By now it should be clear that the intent of Solon’s December 18th story was not to address the manifold questions (facts) about the White Helmets’ ties to (inclusion of) terrorists in Syria, nor to question the heroic volunteers’ obscene amount of funding from Western sources very keen to see Syria destabilized and its government replaced.

Rather, the intent was to whitewash this rescue group, and to demonize those of us highlighted, and especially to insert more Russophobia (although Russia’s military intervention in Syria is legal, unlike that of the US-led coalition, of which Solon’s UK is a part).

Since our last early October communication until the long-awaited publishing of her slander-filled piece, Solon produced (or co-produced) 24 stories for the Guardian, nine of which were blame-Russia! sort of stories, including such lexicon as “Russian operatives”, “Russian interference”, “Russian trolls”, “Russian propagandists”, and “Russian bots”.

Is Baroness Cox, of the UK House of Lords, who recently spoke in support of Russia’s (invited) intervention in Syria, a “conspiracy theorist”, a Russian operative” or Kremlin-funded? She said (emphasis added):

“And the fourth point that I would like to make particularly to you is the very real appreciation that is expressed by everyone in Syria of the support by Russia to help get rid of ISIS [Daesh] and get rid of all the other Islamist religious groups.”

Cox, who went to Syria, is probably not a Kremlin or Assad agent. She probably just listened to the voices of Syrians in Syria, like the rest of us Russian propagandists who have bothered to go (repeatedly) to Syria and speak with Syrian civilians.

This is the first part of a longer article. Part II is forthcoming.

(*Some small additions are marked in red.)

DRau5UBX4AIcSem.jpg large

 

[Eva Bartlett is a freelance journalist and rights activist with extensive experience in the Gaza Strip and Syria. Her writings can be found on her blog, In Gaza.]

Celebrity ‘Charity’: A Gift for a Vicious System

Celebrity ‘Charity’: A Gift for a Vicious System

Al Jazeera

December 3, 2017

By Belen Fernandez

Irish rock star Bono talks to pupils at a school near Lesotho’s capital Maseru on May 17, 2006 [Mike Hutching/Reuters]

When movie star George Clooney married human rights lawyer and fashion icon Amal Alamuddin in Venice back in 2014, the Entertainment Tonight website declared that “it was charity that came out as the real winner” of the multimillion-dollar nuptial festivities.

The reason for the alleged win was that proceeds from certain wedding photos were said to be destined for – you guessed it – “charity”, that favourite celebrity pastime that so often translates into massive PR points and saviour-hero credit, not to mention tax breaks.

We non-celebrities have been so conditioned to perceive charity as something unconditionally positive – rather than a commodification and exploitation of faux altruism – that we don’t seem to notice reality’s conspicuous absence from the feel-good world of celeb-philanthropy.

Case in point: reports that rock star Bono’s anti-poverty foundation ONE managed in 2008 to channel a mere 1.2 percent of the funds it raised to the people it purported to be assisting have done nothing to interfere with the man’s portrayal as some sort of messiah for Africa.

In the case of the Clooneys, who now preside over their very own Clooney Foundation for Justice, celebrity worship and Amal-mania have also precluded sound judgement. Objectively speaking, it would seem that “justice” is not really an option in a world in which human rights lawyer-philanthropists by the name of Amal Clooney wear outfits costing $7,803.

The obscenity of inequality

Currently targeted for charitable assistance by the Clooneys’ organisation is the Syrian refugee population of Lebanon, where, the foundation’s website stresses, “refugee children are sent out to work for as little as 2 dollars per day”. Roughly calculating, it would thus take a Syrian refugee child approximately eleven years to accumulate enough funds for the aforementioned outfit (less if accessories are left out).

Fantastically expensive galas, celebrity photo ops with black and brown children in international charity hotspots, and other mainstays of the celebro-philanthropist repertoire do little, in the end, to alleviate poverty, hunger, oppression, and the rest of the global ills that are repeatedly invoked to tug at heartstrings and thereby provoke admiration and/or financial contributions to the cause being peddled.

This is not to suggest, of course, that one must always calculate and justify one’s expenses in terms of Syrian refugee income, but rather to point out that any sort of actual justice in the world would require dismantling the prevailing neoliberal panorama of obscene economic inequality.

In a forthcoming book titled Against Charity, authors Julie Wark and Daniel Raventos offer a meticulous and scathing indictment of the institution of charity as a key component of the neoliberal order – and of the role of celebrity philanthropists in keeping the have-nots in place and the powerful in power.

Celebrities, write Wark and Raventos, “draw attention to social distress but immediately cover it up by giving the impression that something is being done” by the wealthy of the world, who have the money to do things.

But fantastically expensive galas, celebrity photo ops with black and brown children in international charity hotspots, and other mainstays of the celebro-philanthropist repertoire do little, in the end, to alleviate poverty, hunger, oppression, and the rest of the global ills that are repeatedly invoked to tug at heartstrings and thereby provoke admiration and/or financial contributions to the cause being peddled.

Again, were global oppression to somehow magically cease, the “philanthropic” rich and famous would be up a creek – since no arrangement governed by literal justice would allow the obsequiously-celebrated “poverty fighter” Bill Gates to own a house with 24 bathrooms or for the ever-so-charitable David and Victoria Beckham to trademark their children’s names.

Disappearing context

Regarding the function of celebrities within “a system that sees famous people as brands and thus consumer products”, Wark and Raventos note that celebrity “excess” helps sustain the consumerist model by providing glorified examples of over-the-top materialism – while celebrity “beneficence” helps whitewash the brutality of institutionalised socioeconomic disparity.

Meanwhile, the “awareness” that celebrities purport to raise for their respective causes is frequently devoid of the political context necessary to comprehend contemporary causes of human suffering.

Take, for example, actress and philanthropic superstar Angelina Jolie, whose work as Special Envoy for the United Nations refugee agency elicits continuous media prostration before her charitable “radiance“.

Descending upon war-torn nations and refugee camps in characteristic superhuman perfection, Jolie decries earthly injustice – while regularly excising crucial pieces of the puzzle from her lament.

This was the case in a March 2017 speech in Geneva, when Jolie referenced “the conflict in Iraq – the source of so much Iraqi suffering to this day”, and yet proceeded to self-identify as “a proud American” and a believer in the notion that “a strong nation, like a strong person, helps others to rise up and be independent”.

Never mind that the US – a strong nation indeed – happens to have effectively destroyed Iraq, inflicting unquantifiable death and misery upon the Iraqi people.

In Iraq and beyond, in fact, the military and economic policies of the country of which our heroine is so “proud” have contributed to a range of humanitarian crises now abstractly seized upon by Jolie & Co – not least the Saudi-led starvation of Yemen, aided and abetted by none other than the US.

It’s showtime

A recent Vanity Fair cover story on Jolie touches on numerous aspects of the actress’ life, from her new Los Angeles mansion – “listed for around $25 million” – to her cofounding, with British former foreign secretary William Hague, of the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative in 2012. According to its website, the initiative “aims to raise awareness of the extent of sexual violence … in situations of armed conflict and rally global action to end it”.

This is the same Hague who, in addition to fervently championing the war on Iraq, argued in 2015 that just because Iraq had turned out poorly didn’t mean the west shouldn’t intervene in Syria.

In other words, so much for the prevention of violence.

Wark and Raventos observe that “the demigods of celebrity culture are a symptom of a general moral and ethical malaise in which, as capitalism is foundering in its own morass, mythmaking is essential for keeping the show going”.

If only the curtain would fall – not only on the sideshow of celebrity philanthropy, but on the myth itself.

 

[Belen Fernandez is the author of The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, published by Verso. She is a contributing editor at Jacobin Magazine.]

 

Avaaz Goes to Myanmar

Avaaz Goes to Myanmar

September 8, 2017

by Cory Morningstar with Forrest Palmer

 

“Good fucking luck with the World Bank ‘supporting’ your transition to democracy. Soon, the ADB (Asian Development Bank) will come and do the same – if it hasn’t already. Everyone falls for the utterly stupid. Mad world.” – Philippine citizen/activist Kristine Alvarez in response to the announcement “World Bank OKs first Myanmar aid in 25 years”, November 2, 2011

Andrea Woodhouse poses for a portrait on the new bridge on Sule Pagoda road, downtown Yangon. (C) Chiara Luxardo

 

In the book NGOs – The Self-Appointed Altruists (written in 2002 and updated in 2011) the author observes:

“NGO’s in places like Sudan, Somalia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Albania, and Zimbabwe have become the preferred venue for Western aid – both humanitarian and financial – development financing, and emergency relief. According to the Red Cross, more money goes through NGO’s than through the World Bank. Their iron grip on food, medicine, and funds rendered them an alternative government – sometimes as venal and graft-stricken as the one they replace.”

 

“The elites like this model, but it’s fragility is evident. Cancun itself can only take so many more category 5 hurricanes before it will be retired like Mazatlan or Atlantic City. When this happens, new frontiers of commodified leisure, whether in Colombia, Sri Lanka or Myanmar, will be developed, but even so the economic and political costs of the 2 degree Celsius average temperature rise that the world leaders have deemed acceptable are staggering.” — Normalizing Catastrophe: Cancun as Laboratory of the Future, Dec 18. 2010

In the March 3, 2017 article Yangon, Myanmar: World Bank Specialist Goes Back to Beginnings the Financial Times published a full feature on Avaaz co-founder Andrea Woodhouse. The article covers the following events.

In 2008 Avaaz co-founders Andrea Woodhouse and her husband David Madden went to Myanmar. According to Woodhouse, she carried out post-disaster work for nine months following Cyclone Nargis for “a body comprising the government, the UN, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations”. During this time, Woodhouse states there were “no credit cards, no ATMs and a SIM card for a mobile phone cost roughly $1,500.00.”

Former United States President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with Aung San Suu Kyi and her staff at her home in Rangoon on November 19, 2012. Source: (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Neoliberalism would soon follow. In 2012, Woodhouse would relocate to central Yangon “to settle as a social development specialist for the World Bank, which was re-engaging with Myanmar after an absence of more than 20 years” with her spouse and Avaaz co-founder David Madden. Not so coincidentally, Myanmar’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest, US and EU sanctions began to lift and “market liberalisation” was under way. Between 2011 and 2015 the cost of renting a typical apartment more than doubled with landlords catering to the wave of foreign money by demanding a full years rent up front.

In the Montessori school where Woodhouse’s child attends (“one of maybe two expats in a class of about 15 to 20 children”) the school teaches in English rather than Burmese. Living in one of the poorest countries in Asia, wealthy expats (inclusive of Woodhouse and Madden) and Myanmar elites travel abroad for medical treatment and child birth. Woodhouse acknowledges her children are  “extremely privileged”.

August 18, 2017, The FINANCIAL — “The Republic of the Union of Myanmar and the World Bank today signed a US$200 million credit for a First Macroeconomic Stability and Fiscal Resilience Development Policy Operation…. The terms for the IDA credit include a repayment period of 38 years…” [Source]

“In 2012 if we went to a restaurant popular with expats, we would probably recognise everyone there. Now we wouldn’t know a single person.”— Andrea Woodhouse

The vast majority of expats rent. Typical two-bedroom, serviced apartments in the capital cost about $5,100 per month. Parliament passed a new condominium law, which gives foreigners rights to purchase flats, in January 2016.

Avaaz Co-founder David Madden in Myanmar

  

Avaaz and Purpose co-founders Jeremy Heimans (l) and David Madden: “Jeremy Heimans and David Madden founders of Get Up! Action for Australia, at Old Parliament house in Canberra on Friday, 29th July, 2005.” THE AGE NEWS Picture by PENNY

“After years of isolation, Myanmar is opening up. Opportunities abound. However international companies have little experience here and local firms have little experience working with them. Parami Road meets this need.” — Parami Road Website

As first noted in the 2014 article, SYRIA: Avaaz, Purpose & the Art of Selling Hate for Empire, David Madden, co-founder of both Avaaz and New York consulting firm Purpose, has also co-founded the marketing firm Parami Road in Myanmar (“Our clients are mostly international companies entering Myanmar and they demand an international standard of work”) as well as the tech firm Phandeeyar – a 6000 square foot ICT hub in the heart of downtown Yangon. Launched with the support of several sponsors in 2014, including Internews and Phandeeyar (previously operated as Code for Change Myanmar), it is important to note that the key partners of Phandeeyar are USAID, the US State Department, U.S. Mission to ASEAN, and the  US-ASEAN Business Council. [Source]

“A serial entrepreneur who co-founded the global campaigning website Avaaz.org and U.S.-based digital strategy agency Purpose, among others, the Harvard-educated Madden believes technology is essential for Myanmar’s development.” — July 8, 2015, Myanmar Now

Simply stated, Madden plays a vital role in bringing western ideologies and foreign investment to the doorstep of Myanmar. As a co-founder of Avaaz, an NGO that specializes in behavioural change, Madden’s hashtag for his tech firm (“human Capital Development”) sums up the goal: social impact (#socialimpact MM). Of course, Madden cannot achieve this alone, thus he is joined by thousands of NGOs that comprise the non-profit industrial complex:

“Estimates vary widely on the number of local NGOs in Myanmar. An article claimed more than 10,000 such groups, while another study conducted in 2003 by Save the Children—the first detailed look at civil society in Myanmar—estimated there were 270 local NGOs at that time. Regardless of the number, there is a vibrant and growing nongovernment sector encompassing a range of interests and approaches throughout the country. International NGOs are increasingly active in Myanmar, working in humanitarian response and longer-term development in a multitude of sectors, including the environment, health, education, livelihoods, rule of law, advocacy, and civil society capacity building. International NGOs, present in small numbers since the 1990s, have entered Myanmar in two recent waves: in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis in 2008, and since the forming of the new government in early 2011.” — Civil Society Briefs Myanmar

A key function of Madden’s tech firm is not unlike that of MoveOn.org (a co-founding NGO of Avaaz) and its relationship with the US Democratic party, which is to focus on building Myanmar’s voter registration. It’s other key function is to pitch business opportunities to investors. In September of 2016, the tech firm launched the “Phandeeyar accelerator”.  According to Forbes (October 31, 2016), the “accelerator” provides $25,000 in seed funding, mentoring and free office space in Phandeeyar’s 6,000-square-foot building. Participants also receive “$200,000 worth of strategic services, including access to Amazon Web Services, free English classes and a range of other benefits. They’ll also have the opportunity to pitch investors who Madden describes as ‘serious about the Myanmar market.'” Madden foresees startups that establish themselves “could be poised for explosive growth in the next several years as the economy continues to accelerate.”

“Madden said that some had been hesitant, waiting to see how State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi’s rise to power would play out. But confidence is growing following the peaceful political transition, and the U.S.’ decision to ease sanctions in recent years has inspired much interest in the country. McKinsey Global Institute estimates that Myanmar’s economy has the potential to reach $200 billion in 2030, more than tripling from $45 billion in 2010. The Overseas Private Investment Corporation, run by the U.S. government, issued the first installment of $250 million loan to the telecommunication company Apollo Towers Myanmar in June. Microsoft is working with the Myanmar Computer Company to help 100,000 people develop IT skills within the country. And the country saw a strong performance from its first listed stock earlier this year, indicating potential for future growth. Investment opportunities abound, with deep needs across the energy, tourism and infrastructure markets, according to the British Chamber of Commerce.” —This Tech Accelerator Is Betting That Myanmar’s Startup Scene Is Set To Explode, Forbes, October 31, 2016 [Emphasis added]

In 2017, the Phandeeyar Accelerator’s Demo Day hosted over 200 local and international investors. The list included 70 venture capital investors (VCs) and mentors including Red Dot Ventures, Digital Ventures, and Omidyar Network. Note that although the official language of Myranmar is Burmese, spoken by 70-80% of the population, all Burmese speaking in the Phandeeyar demo day video are speaking English. Far be it for Anglo “leaders” to make any concerted effort to speak Burmese, let alone learn the language. This of course is colonization in one of its most accepted and blatant forms. This point is further validated by the fact that Edulink Australia (specializing in English proficiency) is a strategic partner of Phandeeyar.

Madden is not the only expat poised for explosive growth in Myanmar. With the global capitalist economic system hovering close to stall speed, the world’s most powerful corporations are desperately searching for new markets. Myanmar is the “new sweet spot” for the most egregious corporate entities:

“Still, the country’s young, inexpensive workforce and low living standards offer huge potential for growth. GE, on its website, describes Myanmar as a “new sweet spot” for growth in Southeast Asia. Some other major U.S. brands got a head start, including Coca-Cola, which has a factory producing for the local market. Ball Corp. has a factory in Yangon’s Thilawa Special Economic Zone making cans for Coca-Cola. MasterCard is expanding in the area of ATM cards. GE is active in energy and other sectors and leases Boeing 737-800s to the country’s national airlines. ConocoPhillips and Chevron have stakes in oil and gas exploration and development. Some U.S. businesses, like Caterpillar, have distribution tie-ups in Myanmar with local or other foreign companies.” [October, 2016, Source]

 

Above: Phandeeyar headquarters

On June 3, 2016 it was announced that Phandeeyar secured a $2 million follow-on investment from Omidyar Network. [Source: Deal Street Asia] Omidyar Network first invested in Phandeeyar in 2014 with other investors and aid givers including the Schmidt Family Foundation, the Open Society Foundation, USAID and Google. Deal Street Asia also reports that “[A]part from Phandeeyar, Omidyar Network has invested in Proximity Designs, Open Myanmar Initiative (OMI), Myitmakha news agency, Yangon Journalism School, Global Witness and Namati in the country.”

Financiers of Madden’s entrepreneurial tech operations and innovations also include Internews, Facebook, the United States Embassy, Hewitt Packard, Samsung, the US State Department, Pact, Office of Transition Initiatives (USAID), The Asia Foundation, KBZ Bank and Red Dot Ventures. Strategic partners include (but are not limited to) telenor, wave money (telenor, Yoma Bank), Fb Start, AWS Activate (Amazon), JobNet, Microsoft BizSpark, Today Ogilvy Myanmar (“we make brands matter”), Edulink Australia (specializing in English proficiency) and PwC.

The Innovation Marketplace is a joint initiative by Phandeeyar and FHI 360, and supported by USAID in which a primary focus is “mobilization of popular support for social change.”

And while the rich get richer:

“Land laws were changed in 2012 and 2013 to make it easier for the government to facilitate land grabs and many segments of the rural population have seen their homes demolished and their paddy fields ruined to make way for foreign development projects. Farmers like Umya Hlaing have been left without land with, “no conversation, no replacement land, no adequate compensation.” [January 30, 2017, Source]

The Ultimate Balancing Act

Here one must note that while Myanmar opens its arms to neoliberal foreign policy, it simultaneously transitions into a playground for the rich – all while the tensions and killings between the Muslim Rohingya, the Buddhist Rakhine, the Burmese authorities, Burmese government and its military escalate. As the so-called human rights NGOs (which are actually in servitude to empire) turn up the volume on this crisis, we must acknowledge there is much more going on behind the scenes that we, in the west, are not cognizant of. For example, terrorist factions such as Islamic State and Al Qaeda have embedded themselves into various Rohingya organizations such as the Rohingya Liberation Organization and the Rohingya Solidarity Organization. The well-documented atrocities and killings of Buddhist Rakhine by the Rohingya go unreported by mainstream media. This has undoubtedly been orchestrated, at least in part, by foreign interests. Exploiting existing divisions is key to controlled chaos and destabilization. Where divisions do not already exist – they are created.


Above: Avaaz campaign

Above: Avaaz training Buddhist Monks:A young student and monk take part in a non-violence training program – they cannot show their faces for fear of being identified by the military.” Source: Avaaz website

The said contention surrounding the Rohingya is the issue of legal citizenship (sovereignty and nationality) verses refugee/migrant status. This ongoing crisis is then conflated with the religious components. The fact that this is a basic human rights issue is then lost. Further, “Harsha Walia, a social justice activist and journalist, tells us that borders are constructs and that they serve an imperialistic purpose. Borders represent practices used to legally coerce displaced migrants into precarious labor and criminalized existence. In her work, Undoing Border Imperialism, Walia offers a framework termed ‘border imperialism,’ which is a system that controls the flow of people, themselves fleeing the military or economic violence of empire, who are racialized and economically exploited by their illegalization.” [Source: Borders: Imaginary Lines, Real Exploitation]

What is notable here is that fact that although Avaaz has produced a campaign to bring attention to this tragedy, never do they ask for the world to demand the implementation of a no-fly zone as they have done in countries that reject imperial dominance. It appears as though, if Myanmar does not continue to kowtow sufficiently to foreign interests, an intervention with a no-fly-zone on could easily be the next campaign demand for NGOs to rally behind. However, this is most unlikely as the full transition of Myanmar to western ideologies is already well underway with foreign investment now pouring in. Regardless of the geopolitics involving China and Asia as a whole, the fact is the World Bank has already sunk it’s teeth in. There is simply too much to risk with a full raze of the landscape. Indeed, the Myanmar crisis will prove to be a problematical balancing act of sabotaging Chinese interests while simultaneously attracting foreign investment from western corporations. If necessary, a coup is far more likely to be orchestrated by foreign interests. The crisis being highlighted by international NGOs should be seen as more of a threat – pressure upon Aung San Suu Kyi to ensure complete subservience more than anything else. The key factor is this: interventions by imperial states are never based on protecting human rights.

Also, to be taken into account, is the power struggle between the declining United States and new superpower China. First, consider the massive investment into Myanmar by China:

 “But the total $248 million U.S. companies have committed since 1988 amounts to less than 1 percent of total foreign investment of about $60 billion. China has invested more than $25 billion, according to Chinese figures.” [October 2016, Source]

Secondly, consider the crucial energy aspect:

 “After the massive Rakhine energy reserves were discovered in 2004 they attracted China’s attention. By 2013 China completed oil and natural gas pipelines, which connect Myanmar’s port of Kyaukphyu with the Chinese city of Kunming in Yunnan province.” [Source]

Dmitry Mosyakov, director of the Centre for Southeast Asia, Australia and Oceania at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, sums it up as follows:

“First, this is a game against China, as China has very large investments in Arakan [Rakhine] Second, it is aimed at fueling Muslim extremism in Southeast Asia…. Third, it’s the attempt to sow discord within ASEAN [between Myanmar and Muslim-dominated Indonesia and Malaysia]. — [Source]

Myanmar-to-China Crude Oil & Gas Pipelines

The Myanmar-China crude oil and gas pipelines were designed to carry more than 22 million tons of oil and more than 420 billion cubic feet of natural gas per year was to commence operations in 2013. On April 11, 2017, the Financial Times announced that China and Myanmar would open long-delayed oil pipeline after being suspended for years, fraught with delays and conflict. “Once fully operational, the pipeline from Made island in Rakhine state can supply almost 6 per cent of China’s crude oil imports. The gas line is already in use.” On May 20, 2017 India of Times reported that “China-Myanmar oil pipeline opens enhancing tie: The oil reached Ruili, a border city of in China’s Yunnan Province at 4 p.m. on Friday according to the state owned China National Petroleum Corporation, which built the pipeline.”

Map: Oil & Gas Journal, 2012

Near-term pipeline plans grow, longer-term projects sag – Oil & Gas Journal, February 6, 2012:

“Myanmar awarded China National Petroleum Corp. exclusive rights to construct and operate the proposed Myanmar-to-China crude oil pipeline. This line and a companion natural gas pipeline would transport hydrocarbons from the Bay of Bengal across Myanmar to southwestern China (Fig. 4). Plans call for the 440,000-b/d crude pipeline to run between Maday Island in western Myanmar through Ruili in China’s southwestern Yunnan province and on to a new 200,000-b/d refinery in Anning. Both the pipeline and refinery are to begin operation by 2013. CNPC began building a large oil import port at Kyaukpyu, Myanmar, in October 2009 to serve as the pipeline’s input point. The port will be able to receive vessels up to 300,000 dwt and will have storage capacity of 600,000 cu m.”

The natural gas pipeline is scheduled to begin carrying 12 billion cu m/year to southwestern China in 2013. Route preparation began in mid-2010, with the first pipes welded in August 2011. The pipeline will parallel the route of the crude pipeline to Ruili. From there it will run to Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, before extending to Guizhou and Guangxi in South China.

The crude line will transport oil carried by tanker from the Middle East, while the gas line will carry material from Myanmar’s offshore A-1 and A-3 blocks. Total estimated project costs are $1.5 billion for the oil pipeline and $1.04 billion for the gas pipeline.

The new pipelines will give China better access to Myanmar’s resources and will speed deliveries and improve China’s energy security by bypassing the congested Malacca Strait, which currently ships most of China’s imported crude oil.”

Here it is important to note that 90% of the crude oil going through the Myanmar-to-China pipeline is designated for China – while the bulk of the ecological devastation and social impacts/displacement, has been placed on the Myanmar ecosystems and most vulnerable populations.

The Strategic Expansion of Globalization & Capitalism

In this Friday, Oct. 7, 2016 photo, a sign of KFC’s grinning Colonel Sanders and his goatee is lit outside its outlet in Yangon, Myanmar. The end of most U.S. sanctions against Myanmar is raising hopes western businesses will join the rush to invest in Myanmar that up to now has been dominated by China and other Asian countries. But much hinges on how the government, led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, reshapes the country’s outdated laws and other policies. (AP Photo/Elaine Kurtenbach)

 

Here it is critical to acknowledge that empire’s strategic plans for expansion are designed years and even decades in advance. Consider that the co-founder of Avaaz Ricken Patel has been involved in Burmese activism since 2001 – 6 years prior to the founding of Avaaz – and also prior to co-founding Res Publica (a founding NGO of Avaaz) with Avaaz co-founder and former U.S. Representative Tom Perriello:

“…I have worked for years in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Sudan, and Afghanistan for international organizations, and I first got involved in Burma activism in 2001, so I had some experience to bring to understand the dynamics and the groups involved.

 

From the start, we recognized that granting money well, monitoring its expenditure, and following up is a demanding activity that requires professional support. Avaaz is a campaigning organization and not in this business. So we chose a foundation partner with long experience supporting the Burmese people to advise and administer our community’s donation. That group is the Open Society Institute, one of the largest and most respected foundations in the world. OSI is taking no overhead on the funds we are granting to Burmese groups, and has also increased its own support to this cause in 2008.” [Source]

It is also vital to recall George Soros (a key financial backer of Avaaz at its inception) has long had his eye on Myanmar.  The 2003 Council of Foreign Relation’s report titled “Burma: Time For Change,” (“Report of an Independent Task Force Sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations”) summarized the intentions: “[T]hese recommendations are intended to inform U.S. government actions as well as to increase U.S. cooperation with other countries, especially in Asia, to bring about a long overdue political, economic, and social transformation of Burma.” The independent task force sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations included 21 task force members (inclusive of George Soros) who were representative/associates of the following organizations, corporations and institutions:  Human Rights Watch, Goldwyn International Strategies (an international consulting firm focusing on the geopolitics of energy), the Unocal Corporation (oil and gas), liaisons for Vanity Fair, New York Times, New Republic, U.S News, World Report, The Economist,  the Open Society Institute and the Soros Foundations Network, Soros Fund Management, the World Bank, Amnesty International, National Security Council, the Millennium Development Goals, Psychiatry and Public Health, Refugee NGOs, and National Democratic Institute for International Affairs.

The seven organizations/institutions represented by eight task force observers were The Century Foundation, The Asia Foundation, U.S. Department of State, Council on Foreign Relations, U.S. House of Representatives, International Crisis Group and the United Nations Department of Political Affairs.

As a side note, the report also demonstrates the extent to which the international NGOs work hand in glove with imperial states, funneling funds through NGOs rather than governments. This demonstrates the blatant paternalism unabashedly embedded in the policy of Western governments:

“According to the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office, current U.K. policy is to deliver “targeted, transparent, and accountable assistance to ordinary Burmese people through the UN, international NGOs, and not through the Burmese authorities,” — The Council of Foreign Relation’s (CFR) 2003 document entitled “Burma: Time For Change,” [Source]

And while those in Ivory Towers, who have succeeded in decimating the natural environment in their own countries, transform Myanmar into a country that will reflect not only Western values but also the vapid western waste and consumption… and while rich expats rent apartments for USD $3,000 – $8,000 per month… consider the residents of 555:

“Like many others, he moved to Yangon to look for work in the sprawling shantytowns that have grown up on the outskirts of the city. The suburbs are centers of industries that have begun to boom since Myanmar opened to the world in 2011. Factories cordoned off behind iron gates produce everything from salt to garments. But with a new government in power since April, the 555 residents are among hundreds of thousands of informal settlers facing an uncertain future as displacement looms on the horizon again.

 

Nay Shwe moved to Hlaing Tharyar in 1996 as a construction worker employed to build the upmarket Pun Hlaing Golf Course — a gleaming image of wealth right next door to the slums. He rifled through a plastic wallet to pull out a crumpled, yellowed letter granting permission for himself and several other laborers to live near the grounds. At the time, there was little more than vacant scrubland. “We have endured hardships since that time until now,” he says. “We had to pump much sand from the river to live here.” Subsequent years brought tussles over the land. In 2012, he spent six months in prison for organizing protests against a planned forced eviction that was eventually suspended…

 

“When we describe the slums we always describe the negative things,” says Slingsby. “We never look at the positive things. These people are great survivors. … Somehow they manage to survive. Somehow a lot of them send their children to school and even to university. Who built the houses? The people built houses themselves.”

 

When their kids were turned away from the official schools, the 555 residents simply built their own. They recruited their own volunteer teachers. On a recent morning, a group of village elders, all men, stood outside and admired their handiwork. Like most of the structures in the area, the single-story school is propped up on wooden stilts to protect it from the rising water.

 

“So flooding is a problem here, but we can build a concrete road, so flooding for two or three hours is OK for us,” says Hla Htay. 555 might not exist, officially, and it might not be good land, but it is home.

 

“We prefer living here because it is the nearest place to our work, to the factories, so here we can build everything by ourselves,” he says. “We can build our houses. If we need to move somewhere provided by the government it will be expensive. … It will be a lot of rules.” [July 18, 2016, Evicting the Residents of 555]

The word Avaaz apparently translates to “voice”. Unfortunately, Avaaz is a voice for the elite power structures that keep the world at large enslaved. Avaaz is a slap in the face to the self-determination of citizens in sovereign countries everywhere. It must be recognized that those who continue to support this organization, with full knowledge of its elite formation, share these paternalistic Western values.

 

 

Further reading:

  • China Kunming to Myanmar Kyaukpyu DWP pipelines to open in June 2013, January 23, 2013
  • Myanmar, la Cina assetata di petrolio costruisce un porto e un gasdotto: in fuga migliaia di pescatori locali e 23 villaggi fantasma, February 5, 2015
  • Geopolitics of Rohingya Crisis, September 3, 2017
  • The Rohingya Crisis: Conflict Scenarios And Reconciliation Proposals, September 7, 2017

 

[Cory Morningstar is an independent investigative journalist, writer and environmental activist, focusing on global ecological collapse and political analysis of the non-profit industrial complex. She resides in Canada. Her recent writings can be found on Wrong Kind of Green, The Art of Annihilation, and Counterpunch. Her writing has also been published by Bolivia Rising and Cambio, the official newspaper of the Plurinational State of Bolivia. You can follow her on twitter @elleprovocateur]

[Forrest Palmer is an electrical engineer residing in Texas.  He is a part-time blogger and writer and can be found on Facebook. You may reach him at forrest_palmer@yahoo.com.]

Investigation: White Helmets Committing Acts Of Terror Across Syria

 

The White Helmets: Who are they, who created them, and what purpose do they serve in Syria? These questions remain largely unanswered by the governments, corporate media and NATO-aligned NGOs, including the UN, that have focused their efforts on regime change in Syria for the last seven years.

The White Helmets have achieved an almost cult-like status thanks to a diverse, well-oiled and multilaterally-funded support system. Their pictures adorn the front pages of most corporate media sites whenever Syria is mentioned. Their unprecedented success can be attributed to a top-drawer PR campaign — one that has been maintained to the highest standards ever since the White Helmets became the public face of “first responders” in Syria following their establishment in March 2013.

Such a publicity coup would not have been possible without some heavyweight organizations working behind the scenes to create a brand that would eclipse all others in Western public perception.

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For the last three years I have been conducting an ongoing investigation into the White Helmets, the much vaunted, so-called Syrian humanitarian NGO that has recently achieved Hollywood fame — winning an Oscar, which was awarded to a Netflix documentary showcasing White Helmet exploits in Syria. This investigation culminated in visits I paid to Syria to expand my enquiries and research on the ground inside the country. I have spent a total of four months in Syria since July 2016, my latest trip having taken place from July to August 2017.

In Part One of this series of reports, I will outline the genesis of the White Helmets, as well as their fabrication and evolution into one of the most widely-recognized “humanitarian” organizations the world has ever known.

The White Helmet motto. (Photo: White Helmet website)

The White Helmet motto. (Photo: White Helmet website)

 

Who are the White Helmets?

According to the White Helmets own website:

1: A “neutral, impartial, humanitarian NGO, with no official affiliation to any political or military actor and a commitment to render services to any in need regardless of sect or political affiliation.”

2: Their motto is “To save one life is to save all humanity;” making them non-sectarian, neutral, and operating without bias.

3: They are unarmed.

4: They have saved 90,000 lives since they began working in Syria (from the end of 2013 to early 2014).

5: They are Syrian and the impression is given that the White Helmets are the primary, if not the only, U.S.A.R. (Urban Search and Rescue) organization operating inside Syria.

My in-depth investigation into the legitimacy of these claims has uncovered some very disturbing anomalies that have never been identified or confronted by the mainstream media in the U.K., EU or U.S., with some very minor exceptions. Those “exceptions” address issues surrounding the White Helmets only in order to flip the narrative back to the “savior” concept and to discredit any criticism of the group as Russian propaganda. Why have these crucial and questionable aspects of the White Helmet construct never been professionally and objectively addressed by the corporate media?

A multi-million-dollar-funded organization largely financed by taxpayer money should come under intense scrutiny when the evidence against its bona fides is mounting on a daily basis.

I will now relate my findings, but I must emphasize that I am far from being alone in raising the following concerns. Many of my colleagues in independent media, peace activists and genuinely non-governmental NGOs, fostering diplomatic resolution to the Syrian conflict, have conducted their own analyses and arrived at the very same conclusions or raised the same questions.

White Helmets funding sources

The White Helmets receive funding from the U.K. Foreign Office, curiously through the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF)for non-humanitarian aid.  According to a statement made by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, “…the total value of funds committed between June 2013 and the end of the current financial year (31 March 2016) is £19.7m.” At the end of September 2016, U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson pledged a further £ 32 million.

A recent investigation into the U.K. Foreign Office’s Conflict Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) has exposed one unexpected funding stream that has allowed money from that £1 billion U.K. taxpayer-contributory, conflict slush fund to be siphoned into promotional activities for the White Helmets, via U.K. Foreign Office ex-employee and diplomat Carne Ross.

In 2004, Ross established Independent Diplomat in the U.S. after successfully portraying himself as a whistleblower on the propaganda that facilitated the Iraq war. Ross was even featured in John Pilger’s documentary “The War You Don’t See.”

Carne Ross, founder of Independent Diplomat. (Photo: Alchetron)

Carne Ross, founder of Independent Diplomat. (Photo: Alchetron)

During the investigation, I was sent the Independent Diplomat FARA (Foreign Agents Registration Act) submissions, which must be filled out annually for monitoring if an organization receives funds from a foreign government. In the period from 2013 through 2016, Independent Diplomat received £ 3.7 million, the majority of which was from the CSSF.

According to its website, Independent Diplomat “work[s] with groups and individuals representing more than 200 Syrian-led civil society groups based inside and outside Syria.”

Independent Diplomat’s use of the CSSF fund for lobbying on behalf of Syrian “opposition” actors was corroborated by a report in the Independent (U.K.):

The Conflict, Stability and Security Fund, known as Conflict Pool until April 2015, paid American diplomacy start-up Independent Diplomat $1.4 million in the last 18 months to lobby the U.S. State Department on behalf of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces.

A Foreign Office spokesperson said in an email:

The U.K. has spent over five million pounds [$6.5 million] since the start of the conflict supporting the Syrian opposition. This includes providing negotiation and communication support along with advice and training to staff at their international offices.”

In September 2016, Independent Diplomat used a percentage of the funding received to organize a promotional speaking tour — “This is Aleppo, an Inside View of Besieged Syria” — for White Helmets leader Raed Saleh, as well as the Syria Program Manager at Mayday Rescue, Farouq al Habib. Saleh’s deportation from the U.S. for his  “extremist connections” is discussed later in this report.

Watch Vanessa Beeley speaks with U.K. Column about the U.K. Foreign Office promoting extremism:

Despite repeatedly claiming to be an independent organization — one that does not take money from governments and is impartial in the Syrian conflict — the White Helmets also received a disclosed $23 million in funding from the U.S. administration under President Barack Obama via its USAID/Chemonics networks. This support was openly admitted by Mark Toner of the U.S. State Department during a press briefing held in April 2016, and confirmed by the White Helmet website:

Since 2014, the work of Syria Civil Defence has been supported by Mayday Rescue and Chemonics, who implement international aid programmes providing training and equipment, advocacy and outreach, and organizational capacity building.”

Interestingly, the original video of the Mark Toner press briefing has been removed by YouTube. However, another copy of the video can be found here on Vimeo.

Watch the State Department’s Mark Toner admit that the U.S. provided the White Helmets with $23M and that the WH leader, Raed Saleh, is tied to extremists:

Raed Saleh is the leader of the White Helmets. Saleh is from Jisr Al Shugour, a town close to the Turkish border, and claims he was originally an electronics salesman. As early as 2011, Jisr Al Shughour was one of the first towns in Idlib to fall to the extremist groups. One of the many terrorist atrocities of this conflict was committed in June 2011 when Syrian Arab Army soldiers and civilians were massacred by the invading militant forces. Later in this report, we examine the reasons behind Saleh’s deportation from the U.S. and his clear links to Nusra Front affiliates inside Syria.

A look at various other EU government websites and media reveals that Holland has also funded the White Helmets to the tune of $4.5 million; Germany $4.5 million; Denmark $3.2 million; and Japan an undisclosed sum.  The White Helmets also receive equipment and supplies from various EU member states, including France.

As Abdulrahman Al-Mawwas, the chief liaison officer of the White Helmets, told RT after a recent meeting with top French officials including President Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls: “We do not hide it, we admit [that] there is funding from the U.S., from the U.K., from Germany, from the Netherlands.” Al-Mawwas also said that “support” from Western powers includes providing the White Helmets with “equipment… vehicles, as well as search and rescue [aid].”

There is reason to believe that the EU funding of the White Helmets is concealed behind the generic heading of “Emergency Health and Relief Support to the Population Affected by the Crisis in Syria,” through the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG-ECHO), formerly known as the European Community Humanitarian Aid Office.

More recently, Qatar has also confirmed funding of the White Helmets, via its own Fund for Development in collaboration with Qatar Red Crescent. Qatar is known to be funding many of the extremist factions that have been operating inside Syria for the last seven years, including Nusra Front, Ahrar Al Sham, Nour Al Din Zinki, and many of their splinter factions, brutally facilitating the U.S. coalition objectives of destabilizing an independent sovereign nation and bringing about outright regime change – or rather, the establishment of a puppet regime, compliant with U.S. coalition supremacist ambitions in the region.

French president Francois Hollande, left, shakes hands with Rahed Saleh, director of Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, after their meeting with a Syria delegation at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, Wednesday Oct. 19, 2016. (AP/Francois Mori)

French president Francois Hollande, left, shakes hands with Rahed Saleh, director of Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, after their meeting with a Syria delegation at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, Wednesday Oct. 19, 2016. (AP/Francois Mori)

 

It is also worth noting that Qatar Red Crescent’s role, early on in the conflict, involved the procurement of $2.2 million to secure arms for extremist groups fighting in Syria:

Mosab Obeidat, previous Assistant Chief of Mission with the Qatar Red Crescent, one of whose officials, Khaled Diab was accused of supplying $ 2.2 m to secure arms for the terrorist groups in Syria. Details of this transaction and its exposure can be found in this Al Akhbar article from June 2013.” – White Helmets: War by Way of Deception Part I

Mayday Rescue was established in the Netherlands in 2014, after the creation of the White Helmets in March 2013. Its primary function appears to be as an intermediary “not for profit,” set up as a conduit to receive and transfer funds to the White Helmets. Mosab Obeidat, mentioned above, was among the early staff members, but all details regarding staff on the Mayday website have since been removed. Mayday “donors” are listed on their website and include the U.K. CSSF, Germany, Netherlands and Denmark.

An early video made in collaboration with Hands Off Syria shows the evolution of the White Helmets into the icon they have since become in Western media and among NATO-aligned NGOs.

The White Helmets receive considerable public funding, via their “Hero Fund,” orchestrated once more by their tireless PR machine, led by the Syria Campaign. The Syria Campaign, itself, was given seed funding by Petrofac CEO Ayman Asfari. Asfari has his own agenda in Syria, not least his oil interests, as well as connections to the U.K. government. Asfari was also exposed as having donated generously to the Tories under Theresa May.

Infographic demonstrating the Ayman Asfari connections to Syrian and British oil interests, combined with his funding of the Syria Campaign, which manages PR for the White Helmets. (By Vanessa Beeley)

Infographic demonstrating the Ayman Asfari connections to Syrian and British oil interests, combined with his funding of the Syria Campaign, which manages PR for the White Helmets. (Credit: Vanessa Beeley)

 

Oil executives, whose industry is promised further government support if the Conservatives are returned to power, have given more than £390,000 to the party since Theresa May became prime minister.

They include Ian Taylor, the chief executive of Vitol, whose firm was fined for making payments to an Iraqi state-owned firm, as well as Ayman Asfari, the chief executive of Petrofac, who was recently interviewed by the Serious Fraud Office over suspected corruption.

In October 2016, New Zealand’s government announced that their Fire Service would provide training support to the White Helmets. Foreign minister Murray McCully and Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne expressed their admiration for the group, with the standard, PR textbook platitudes:

The Syrian Civil Defence Organisation, known as the White Helmets, have helped save thousands of people affected by the ongoing violence in Syria. New Zealand has agreed to provide assistance with training to the White Helmets and this practical initiative sits alongside the work we are doing on the UN Security Council to improve the humanitarian situation in Syria and to push for an end to the conflict.”

Finally, we have the creation of the Jo Cox fund in June 2016. Jo Cox, an ambitious Labour MP who had fervently lobbied the U.K. Parliament for further British intervention in Syria, was murdered in the U.K. on June 16, 2016. A right wing “terrorist,” Thomas Mair, was sentenced to life imprisonment for her murder. One of Jo Cox’s causes in Syria had been the White Helmets.  According to the fundraising website, £1.5 million has been raised to be distributed between the three nominated causes, including the White Helmets:

A hideous murder of a rising star in U.K. politics, Jo Cox MP, has just sent shock waves across the world. Within hours of her death, a special fund was established in her name to raise money for three causes. One of those causes is the Syrian White Helmets.” ~ Who Are Syria’s White Helmets?

All governments and government-linked entities funding the White Helmets have publicly declared an interest in, or have been working towards, the removal of the internationally recognized Syrian government and its democratically elected President, Bashar Al Assad — thus effecting “regime change” in Syria. This fact alone must surely compromise the proclaimed neutrality of the group.

Screenshot from video (below) showing the White Helmets clearly affiliating themselves with the mythical “moderate” FSA (Free Syrian Army) that co-exists with Nusra Front and a variety of extremist groups.

Screenshot from video (below) showing the White Helmets clearly affiliating themselves with the mythical “moderate” FSA (Free Syrian Army) that co-exists with Nusra Front and a variety of extremist groups.

 

However, the White Helmets continue to claim that they are a “neutral and impartial organization. We do not to pledge allegiance to any political party or group. We serve all the people of Syria – we are from the people and we for [sic] the people.”

In this promotional video for the CIA- and NATO-funded and armed Free Syrian Army (FSA), an image of one of these “impartial” White Helmet rescuers appears, alongside other Syrian professionals who affiliate themselves with the primarily U.S. coalition-endorsed, -funded and -armed “moderate rebel” FSA. Near universal consensus now accepts that the FSA is an expired myth.

Early on in the U.S. coalition’s fomenting, funding and marketing of the Syrian “uprising,” the FSA was absorbed into the ranks of the better-funded extremist groups, such as the Nusra Front (al-Qaeda in Syria), whose weapons capability far outstripped the lesser FSA armory. The FSA have become nothing more than a tool of the more powerful Nusra Front, al-Qaeda in Syria.

While the U.S. has been a major contributor via its USAID/Chemonics program, it is secondary to the U.K. Foreign Office, which has been the primary source of funding and training for this White Helmet NATO-state construct. Inserted into Syrian society three years after the start of the proxy war that has been waged against a sovereign nation by the U.S.-led coalition for almost seven years, the White Helmets are a thoroughly British affair.

The White Helmets were established in Turkey, not in Syria.  They are largely trained in Turkey and Jordan, not inside Syria. They were established in March 2013 by a British ex-military officer, James Le Mesurier, with $300,000 in seed funding from Japan, the U.K. and the U.S.

Exclusively embedded with al-Qaeda and extremist factions

Screenshot from a video of ISIS kidnap victim John Cantile, filmed in Aleppo in 2014 and 2015.

Screenshot from a video of ISIS kidnap victim John Cantile, filmed in Aleppo in 2014 and 2015.

 

The White Helmets are embedded exclusively in areas of Syria occupied by known terrorist organizations, including Nusra Front and ISIS (Daesh), along with so-called “moderate rebels” such as Ahrar al Sham and Nour Al Din Zinki.  All these groups and subgroups are responsible for carrying out ethnic cleansing pogroms and documented atrocities against the Syrian people.

Nour Al Din Zinki recorded themselves on camera torturing and beheading 12-year-old Palestinian child Abdullah Issa in July 2016. Like the White Helmets, the majority of these armed groups receive funding, training, equipment, weapons and support from the United States and its coalition partners, particularly the Gulf states — a fact that is also extensively documented.

The White Helmets push for sectarianism

During the situation in Madaya, Syria in January 2016, the White Helmets in Idlib were photographed attending demonstrations and carrying banners that were calling for the “burning and destruction” of the towns of Kafarya and Foua.

White Helmets carrying posters calling for burning of Kafarya and Foua and corresponding Facebook post by the White Helmet's Abdul Halim Al Shehab demanding Kafarya is “exterminated," January, 2016. (Credit: Vanessa Beeley)

White Helmets carrying posters calling for burning of Kafarya and Foua and corresponding Facebook post by the White Helmet’s Abdul Halim Al Shehab demanding Kafarya is “exterminated,” January, 2016. (Credit: Vanessa Beeley)

 

Kafarya and Foua are two Idlib villages under full siege by Jaish al Fatah (Army of Conquest), which is a coalition of Ahrar Al Sham and Nusra Front. These villages have been under full siege since March 2015. The siege ensures the starvation of villagers, as well as the deprivation of water, medicines and medical treatment. Daily shelling and sniping by Ahrar Al Sham and Nusra Front have killed over 1300 civilians inside the villages so far.

If we include civilians who have been killed outside the villages during the evacuations, such as Rashideen, we have lost almost 2000 members of our families and relatives as a result of the terrorist siege and conflict” – Dr Ali Moustafa, head surgeon in Foua.

The suffering of these two Shia Muslim villages — marooned in the midst of Nusra Front-led, terrorist-occupied Idlib — is indescribable. The White Helmets’ call for the extermination and burning of these villages is a murderous and deeply sectarian act and could not be further from their lofty claims of “neutrality.” This video details some of the horrific acts to which these villages have been subjected, taken from the “Tale of Two Villages” Facebook page:

Watch the horror visited upon the Idlib villages of Kafarya and Foua:

The White Helmets also played a crucial role in supporting Nusra Front during the Rashideen massacre on April 15, 2017. Evacuees from besieged Kafarya and Foua were imprisoned in their buses for two days, with minimal food or water. On the third day, the children were lured from the buses by Nusra Front and White Helmets distributing potato chips. As the children surged towards the food, a blue truck drove into the crowds of children and a bomb inside the truck was detonated, killing and injuring over 300.

Infamous ex-White Helmet Muawiya Hassan Agha was present at Rashideen when the massacre was carried out. He is known for his involvement in the execution of two SAA prisoners of war in Khan Touman, Aleppo, Syria, May, 2016.

 

Infamous ex-White Helmet Muawiya Hassan Agha was present at Rashideen when the massacre was carried out. He is known for his involvement in the execution of two SAA prisoners of war in Khan Touman, Aleppo, Syria, May, 2016.

Infamous ex-White Helmet Muawiya Hassan Agha was present at Rashideen when the massacre was carried out. He is known for his involvement in the execution of two SAA prisoners of war in Khan Touman, Aleppo in May 2016

I was in Aleppo one day after this tragedy and was able to speak with survivors and mothers whose children had been abducted and taken to Turkey by White Helmet operatives and Nusra Front terrorists. A total of 114 are still missing, the majority being children. I also returned to Aleppo in July 2017 to interview survivors and families of the missing, who identified Agha as having been at the scene prior to and immediately after the suicide bomb attack.

Participation in Nusra Front brutality

There is video and photographic evidence available that clearly shows the White Helmets participating in Nusra Front operations in areas occupied or taken over by this organization. The video linked above was taken during the Nusra Front’s violent and brutal attack on Idlib in March 2015. In this video, White Helmet operatives are seen clearly beating a Syrian civilian prisoner of Nusra Front and circling the prisoner, mingling with heavily armed and hostile Nusra Front militia.

It is worth mentioning that YouTube has made a recent censorship sweep and has removed many of the incriminating videos involving the White Helmets working hand-in-hand with al-Qaeda in Syria — including the video above, which is, mysteriously, no longer available on YouTube.

Another video shows the White Helmet operatives, including Muawiya Hassan Agha, celebrating “victory” with Nusra Front in the main square of Idlib.

There have been at least four recorded executions that involved the White Helmets:

1: May 6, 2015 — Aleppo

Execution attended by White Helmets, where they performed a mop-up operation for Nusra Front fighters in Haritan, North Aleppo, Syria, May, 2015. (Image: Vanessa Beeley)

Execution attended by White Helmets, where they performed a mop-up operation for Nusra Front fighters in Haritan, North Aleppo, Syria, May, 2015. (Image: Vanessa Beeley)

 

The White Helmets were filmed “cleaning up” after a Nusra Front execution of a civilian prisoner in Haritan, northern Aleppo.  Although the official statement from the White Helmets claims they arrived after the execution, the speed with which they appear in the video immediately after the prisoner has been shot in the head demonstrates that they were on the scene and did nothing to prevent it.

James Le Mesurier, White Helmet trainer and founder of Mayday Rescue, has recently responded to accusations surrounding this incident:

But what about the damning video, from May 6, 2015? White Helmet volunteers were caught on tape running in to clear a body seconds after a gunman executed a man. It turns out that the deceased was tried and sentenced to death in a local Sharia court, said Mr. Mesurier. When his father found out about the time of execution, he called the White Helmets to help him conduct a proper burial. Besides, the gunman was clad in a balaclava, not a white helmet.” – Middle Ground

Curiously, Le Mesurier deems a trial in an extremist Sharia court and extrajudicial execution to be acceptable — an example that has been strongly followed by the White Helmets in their subsequent participation in Sharia court sentencing and execution.

2: May 2016 — Aleppo

Muawiya Hassan Agha takes a selfie with two captured and condemned SAA soldiers who were later publicly tortured and executed. Agha posted related footage to his Facebook page that was later deleted.

Muawiya Hassan Agha takes a selfie with two captured and condemned SAA soldiers who were later publicly tortured and executed. Agha posted related footage to his Facebook page that was later deleted.

 

Various other White Helmet operatives have posted videos of the torture and execution of Syrian Arab Army prisoners to their social media pages with celebratory comments.  One such operative, Muawiya Hassan Agha, is alleged to have been “sacked” from the White Helmets for his participation in a public execution of two Syrian Arab Army prisoners of war in Khan Touman, south Aleppo in May 2016. It goes without saying that this execution is a clear violation of all ethics surrounding an allegedly “impartial” NGO.

Watch the execution of two SAA prisoners of war in Khan Touman (Warning: graphic content):

 

However, despite several requests, an official statement has never been issued by the White Helmets. Nor have they publicly condemned the torture and execution of prisoners of war, an act that contravenes the Geneva Convention.  Within three weeks of his alleged sacking, Agha appeared in White Helmet photographs as one of their photographers.

In June 2016, Muawiya Hassan Agha was spotted photographing a White Helmet rescue, despite claims that the White Helmets had sacked him and condemned his involvement in an extrajudicial execution. Agha is on right, holding a camera and dressed in black. (Screenshot of Facebook page)

In June 2016, Muawiya Hassan Agha was spotted photographing a White Helmet rescue, despite claims that the White Helmets had sacked him and condemned his involvement in an extrajudicial execution. Agha is on right, holding a camera and dressed in black. (Screenshot of Facebook page)

3: May 19, 2017 — Dara’a

In the previously cited Middle Ground article, James Le Mesurier, a military veteran and the White Helmets’ trainer, is cited as having employed an extraordinary analogy to counter accusations of White Helmets attending and participating in Sharia court executions:

Accusing the White Helmets of this act would be akin to accusing Joseph of Arimathea of crucifying Jesus.”

Joseph of Arimathea is claimed, in history, to be the disciple who prepared the body of Jesus Christ for burial. This cynical use of blasphemy to cleanse the White Helmets of their multitude of sins backfired royally, as footage of the “saviors of all mankind” cheering a brutal, extremist execution later appeared on social media.

This execution took place in the town of Jasim, Dara’a, south of Damascus. The White Helmets are seen not only celebrating the grisly murder but performing their usual mop-up by unceremoniously carting away the body from the scene. Their later claims of giving the body a decent burial and affording the victim some dignity are rendered ridiculous when one views the video below.

Watch the White Helmets cheering during extremist execution:

4: June 21, 2017 — Dara’a

A video was released that showed a member of the White Helmets’ Dara’a “team” climbing over the slaughtered and dismembered bodies of Syrian Arab Army soldiers piled into the back of a pick-up truck. As the White Helmet operative stands on the mutilated bodies, extremist fighters surrounding the truck, parade a severed head as a war trophy. There is no shock or dismay from the ‘heroic’ White Helmet. On the contrary, he is then seen extracting the Syrian flag from among the SAA bodies, before throwing it to the ground.

 

I was told that the original video was much longer and contained scenes of a much more humiliating nature that would distress the families of the SAA soldiers whose bodies were being so hideously desecrated. The original video was aired by RT and can be viewed here. It is certainly one of the worst videos I have ever had to watch so please be warned. The following are screenshots from the video that demonstrate the appalling nature of this atrocity being committed by the White Helmets and extremist factions, once again, working hand in hand in Syria.”  – Severed Heads of Syrian Arab Army Soldiers Paraded as Trophies

Screenshots of the execution and dismemberment of SAA prisoners of war, with a White Helmets operative in attendance and assisting extremist factions.

Screenshots of the execution and dismemberment of SAA prisoners of war, with a White Helmets operative in attendance and assisting extremist factions.

The White Helmets did try to distance themselves, again, from their participation in this brutal dismemberment of the bodies of captured SAA soldiers. They issued a statement claiming to have “sacked” the offending operative. According to the statement, the “volunteer’s behavior constitutes a gross breach of conduct.”

The White Helmets are a publicly-funded organization via their fundraising activities. They also benefit from government funding schemes that depend upon taxpayer contributions. Where is the investigation into an organization whose members frequently ‘breach’ not only the White Helmet “code of conduct” but also contravene every international code of humanitarian law during war?

Watch the White Helmets and Southern Front extremists pile SAA bodies into trucks:

Deportation for “extremist connections”

The leader of the White Helmets, Raed Saleh, was deported from Dulles Airport in the U.S. in April 2016.  No real explanation was ever given for this decision. Mark Toner of the U.S. State Department fielded questions from media during a press briefing, but did admit to funding the group to the tune of $23 million, as well as suggest that Raed Saleh might have “extremist connections.”  Raed Saleh was then allowed back into the U.S. in September 2016 and spoke at the UN Headquarters in New York with the Dutch Mission. Saleh was involved in closed sessions with Syrian activists and former Secretary of State John Kerry, as noted by The New York Times.

In leaked conversations, Raed Saleh and another Syrian “regime change” activist and blogger, Marcell Shehwaro, lobbied hard for U.S. military intervention to bring about their desired regime change. The White Helmets’ penchant for political statements and lobbying calls into question their claims of being an apolitical, humanitarian-centric organization. Their conversation can be heard here:

Their conversation can be heard here:

White Helmet leaders: terrorist connections and ideology

Raed Saleh photographed with Mustafa Al Haj Yussef, a White Helmets leader, in Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib. (Photo: Facebook)

Raed Saleh photographed with Mustafa Al Haj Yussef, a White Helmets leader, in Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib. (Photo: Facebook)

Raed Saleh, the leader and global representative of the White Helmets, is a close colleague of another White Helmets leader: Mustafa Al Haj Yussef. Yussef has been with the group since 2013 and has been photographed in Idlib with Raed Saleh. Yussef’s social media accounts reveal the following:

1: Yussef has called for the unity of extremist factions such as Nusra Front and Ahrar al Sham.

2: Yussef has clearly professed allegiance and support for Ahrar Al Sham, which was responsible for the massacres in the Alawite village of Al Zaraa in May 2016.

3: Yussef publicly called for the shelling of civilians in Damascus during the 2014 elections.

4: Yussef has advocated the practice of executing civilians during Ramadan if they fail to fast.

5: Yussef endorses the looting of SAA houses after their capture or summary execution.

If the head of the Red Cross were to commit such ethical breaches, we would surely be calling for a full investigation. The White Helmets are seemingly given immunity against investigation into their extremist misconduct and violations of the Geneva Convention regarding treatment of prisoners of war.

Syria’s REAL civil defence volunteers

Real Syria Civil Defence crew member in Lattakia, Syria, August 2017. (Photo: Facebook)

Real Syria Civil Defence crew member in Lattakia, Syria, August 2017. (Photo: Facebook)

The White Helmets are also erroneously referred to as the “Syria Civil Defence.” However, this name truthfully refers to an organization that has existed in Syria since 1953.  I met with the group’s members in Aleppo, Lattakia, Tartous and Damascus during my extensive time in Syria.  The REAL Syria Civil Defence (RSCD) were founder members of the ICDO [International Civil Defence organization], which is affiliated with the UN, WHO, OCHA, the Red Cross and Red Crescent.

The REAL Syria Civil Defence are still paying subscriptions to the ICDO totaling 20,000 Swiss francs annually.  The group operated in both government- and armed militia-held areas until 2016, when it was decided that they should work only in government-held areas due to safety concerns, as armed groups were deliberately targeting their crew members during rescue missions in occupied areas.

Map showing areas controlled by the Syrian government, as well as NATO and Gulf state-funded extremist and terrorist factions. (Photo: 21WIRE)

Map showing areas controlled by the Syrian government, as well as NATO and Gulf state-funded extremist and terrorist factions. (Photo: 21WIRE)

The REAL Syria Civil Defence, while working predominantly in government-held areas, is nevertheless serving 80 percent of the Syrian population, including over six million internally displaced people who have fled to government-held towns and cities.

Fares Shehabi, a member of Syria’s parliament from Aleppo and head of the city’s Chamber of Commerce, had the following message for the West regarding the authentic Syria Civil Defence:

When the White Helmets were making a concerted bid to win the Nobel Peace Prize last year, supported almost universally by mainstream media in the U.K., the Internet link to the RSCD at the ICDO was mysteriously re-routed to the White Helmets. I called the ICDO in Geneva and spoke with their representative, who assured me that it was an administrative error. During our conversation, the following statements were made by this representative:

1: The White Helmets are not recognized by the ICDO and are not members of the ICDO.

2: The White Helmets are not even “concretely” a civil defense organization.

3: The White Helmets are the “wrong” civil defense group.

4: The only civil defense group recognized by the ICDO and the UN is the “official” Syria Civil Defence.

Listen to the full audio recording of the conversation here:

Western public perception has been deceived into believing the White Helmets are the only Syrian civil defense group, thus “disappearing” over 4,000 REAL Syria Civil Defence workers who risk their lives on a daily basis to rescue Syrian civilians under attack from the various terrorist factions that have invaded Syria. The NATO and Gulf state White Helmets project is shadow-state construction of the highest calibre.

Syrian civilian testimony to the White Helmets’ barbarism

During my August 2016 interviews with the REAL Syria Civil Defence,  I was informed that the Nusra Front and associated “moderate rebels” who invaded areas such as east Aleppo, Raqqa, Deir Ezzor and Idlib had massacred members of the REAL Syria Civil Defence and stolen the majority of their equipment in those areas, including fire engines and ambulances.

Many of these armed groups later became operatives for the White Helmets. Testimony from the REAL Syria Civil Defence has suggested that the White Helmets are acting as support for Nusra Front, ISIS and other heavily armed militia described as “moderate rebels.”

In August 2016, I conducted a short video interview with Dr. Bassem Hayak of the Aleppo Medical Association, which is based in west Aleppo. Dr. Hayak told me that his family, trapped in east Aleppo, had never seen the White Helmets, adding that UN agencies still operating in east Aleppo, such as the SARC (Syrian Arab Red Crescent), had not encountered the White Helmets either.

In December 2016, I was in east Aleppo when the SAA and its allies liberated the area from Nusra Front-dominated terrorist and extremist occupation. I was able to interview SARC volunteers who also denied having ever encountered the White Helmets during their time working in these districts of Aleppo.

This testimony was further confirmed by the civilian statements I gathered while in east Aleppo, visiting each district as it was retaken by the SAA.

All of the civilians I spoke to — over 50 people from all districts of east Aleppo — were confused when I asked them if they knew the White Helmets. When I asked if they knew of a civil defense group, their immediate response was “yes, yes Nusra Front civil defense.”

I was told that the White Helmets did not help civilians, that they were a support group for Nusra Front, Ahrar Al Sham and Nour al Din Zinki. Some told me they were thieves, that they would steal from the bodies of the dead. One man told Lizzie Phelan of RT that they killed his infant girl by injecting air into her veins. I was told that no medical treatment was available for civilians during the area’s five-year-long occupation.

A number of these Syrian civilian testimonies regarding the White Helmets were compiled into one video.

Watch Syrian civilians give testimony about the nature and actions of the White Helmets:

Pierre Le Corf, a French national working as an independent humanitarian volunteer in Aleppo, filmed the main White Helmets center in east Aleppo after the White Helmets had abandoned the civilians they had claimed to protect during the almost five-year-long terrorist occupation. They departed east Aleppo in buses that were also used to evacuate an assortment of armed groups, including Nusra Front. These evacuations took place during December 2016 under the Syrian Government Amnesty and Reconciliation agreement, which permitted safe passage for armed fighters to Idlib.

Le Corf’s film shows us that the White Helmet center was integrated into the Nusra Front compound and that this White Helmet center was adorned with a variety of graffiti and flags affirming the White Helmet affiliation to various terrorist groups, but predominantly Nusra Front.

Watch Pierre Le Corf’s film showing deserted White Helmet center’s ties to Nusra Front and other terrorist groups:

The compound incorporating both Nusra Front and the White Helmets was previously a school. It has been common for terrorist and extremist groups to occupy schools and hospitals and to convert them into military bases, Sharia courts, prisons, execution chambers and ammunition depots. This White Helmet center had been previously featured in an Al Jazeera documentary that was released on Aug. 14, 2016. The film described the White Helmets as selfless rescuers and humanitarians:

…this film about the White Helmets is a rare story of humanitarians working tirelessly to protect the people on the ground. It explores why they risk their lives to save strangers…”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this film failed to reveal the close proximity of armed Nusra Front terrorists to the White Helmet center, nor did it explore or even touch upon their close working relationship, as described by the Syrian civilians I interviewed in east Aleppo.Staged rescues, children used as propaganda tools

Staged rescues, children used as propaganda tools

On multiple occasions, the White Helmets have been exposed staging rescue scenes for both photo and video, recycling images of children and incidents from the conflict in Syria to support their narrative, as well as editing video in a way that misrepresents the scene in question and even using fake images.

There are many documented instances of this, but perhaps the most recent and the most disturbing was uncovered by an investigation by SWEDHR (Swedish Doctors for Human Rights) which analyzed a White Helmets video report on the alleged chlorine gas attacks of March 2015. The White Helmets’ video was presented at the UN in another closed-door session initiated by former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power. This video reportedly “reduced the UN officials to tears.”

Image created from screenshot of White Helmets’ UN video report (Vanessa Beeley)

Image created from screenshot of White Helmets’ UN video report. (Credit: Vanessa Beeley)

The video depicts three naked, lifeless children being treated for chlorine gas inhalation. The youngest child has a hypodermic syringe inserted into his chest and moved around erratically before being withdrawn. It appears as if the child dies on screen.

SWEDHR examined the video from a professional medical and ethical perspective and came to the following conclusions:

1:  “After examination of the video material, I found that the measures inflicted upon those children, some of them lifeless, are bizarre, non-medical, non-lifesaving, and even counterproductive in terms of life-saving purposes of children.” – Dr Leif Elinder

2: “Intracutaneous injection with adrenaline procedure…is not correctly performed and would have resulted in the death of the child, if not already dead.”

3:  SWEDHR concluded that the liquid level in the syringe does not change in the footage — therefore, the child is being injected with the needle for no apparent reason.

4:  “I think that even from the very brief video, we can see that this child has a reduced level of consciousness: he does not vocalize, does not open his eyes, and his only movements are to turn his head to one side and to open his mouth before he stops breathing altogether. This looks like respiratory depression, rather than injury to the lungs; he appears to be too sleepy to breathe.  I think the most likely diagnosis is a drug overdose causing reduced level of consciousness and respiratory depression.  Opiates are the most likely class of drug to cause this. Chlorine causes acute inhalation injury, but does not (in any of the sources I have read) cause reduced level of consciousness: the victim struggles to breathe until the end.”

The implications of these conclusions are horrifying. Did the White Helmets use already dead children as propaganda props? Why has this investigation not been aired by mainstream media?

 

Desecration of Syrian Arab Army bodies

…the amount of dignity that they give to those who lose their lives in Syria also has to be noted” – Joanna Natasegara, Oscar-winning filmmaker responsible for the Netflix documentary on the White Helmets.

Screenshot from video showing White Helmets standing on top of Syrian Arab Army soldiers bodies, whose boots have been stolen or removed.

Screenshot from video showing White Helmets standing on top of Syrian Arab Army soldiers bodies, whose boots have been stolen or removed.

The White Helmets have been filmed describing Syrian Arab Army bodies as “trash” and one particular video shows them standing on a pile of SAA soldiers’ bodies whose boots have been removed or stolen. The White Helmets talk about the bodies in pejorative terms, flashing “V” signs as a truck drives off with the White Helmets still atop the decomposing bodies of Syrian soldiers.

Screenshot from video showing White Helmets standing on top of Syrian Arab Army soldiers bodies, whose boots have been stolen or removed.

Screenshot from video showing White Helmets standing on top of Syrian Arab Army soldiers bodies, whose boots have been stolen or removed.

Despite this evidence to the contrary, the White Helmets and their PR consultants, universally,  maintain the same rhetoric:

When the bombs rain down, the White Helmets rush in. In a place where public services no longer function these unarmed volunteers risk their lives to help anyone in need, regardless of their religion or politics.”  – Saudi Orient News

 

Supposedly unarmed White Helmets are arms-bearing militants

There are many documented and archived images that show White Helmet operatives carrying arms or posing with arms alongside armed militia groups in Syria, including Nusra Front.

Images taken from the Facebook page of White Helmets operative Mohammad Jnued showing him holding the Nusra Front flag.

Images taken from the Facebook page of White Helmets operative Mohammad Jnued showing him holding the Nusra Front flag.

The claim from the White Helmet PR machine, even from James Le Mesurier himself, is that some of the White Helmets are “ex-fighters” who saw the light and reformed, dedicating themselves to a selfless cause and becoming the “saviors of all mankind:”

Yes, a few members of the White Helmets used to be former fighters, but they gave up their guns and now save lives. People change. Just because they did not clear their social media history of pictures and slogans from the time when they took up arms does not mean they are still fighting.” – Interview with James Le Mesurier featured in Middle Ground.

However, the number of images available on White Helmets social media accounts tell a different story. Many of the posts are blatant in their allegiance to the extremist factions that work alongside the White Helmets. Certainly, they are worthy of further investigation in the interest of objective reporting on events inside Syria.

Mo’ad Baresh in his dual role as White Helmets operative and Nusra Front-associated extremist. (Photo: Clarity of Signal/21st Century Wire)

Mo’ad Baresh in his dual role as White Helmets operative and Nusra Front-associated extremist. (Photo: Clarity of Signal/21st Century Wire)

In March 2016, White Helmets operative Mo’ad Baresh was killed fighting against the Syrian Arab Army in a battle for Khan Touman, southern Aleppo. Baresh was no ordinary White Helmets operative, as can be seen from video footage compiled by investigative journalist Khaled Iskef. Baresh was, in reality,  one of the many extremist fighters controlled and dominated by Nusra Front in Aleppo.  Rather than a “former fighter,” Baresh was another in a long line of White Helmets who don a white hat to camouflage their crimes against the Syrian people.

 

The PR machine behind the White Helmets

The adulatory publicity surrounding the White Helmets is the result of a multimillion-dollar marketing and social media campaign conducted through a network that is funded by George Soros and various U.S., U.K. and Middle Eastern enterprises. The PR network is made up of Avaaz, Purpose, Syria Campaign and the White Helmets and is detailed by Cory Morningstar and Rick Sterling in their respective articles:

Mo’ad Baresh in his dual role as White Helmets operative and Nusra Front-associated extremist. (Photo: Clarity of Signal/21st Century Wire)

Mo’ad Baresh in his dual role as White Helmets operative and Nusra Front-associated extremist. (Photo: Clarity of Signal/21st Century Wire)

 

Absence of paramedic and first responder expertise

Analysts have observed that the White Helmets make an average of four or five videos per day, depicting their “heroic rescue efforts.” The REAL Syria Civil Defence have evaluated these videos and cast doubt as to whether the White Helmets are true first responders or urban search and rescue experts.

They have pinpointed various anomalies, including the use of heavy equipment that is unsuitable for finding bodies in collapsed buildings, as well as the improper treatment of the injured. Many of the group’s paramedic procedures have also been deemed questionable. The White Helmets rarely travel without a sizeable camera team or crew of mobile phone cameramen. The Syria Civil Defence do not, as they are under too much pressure to save lives to prioritize their PR campaign.

The following video taken from the White Helmets “collection” is an example of the heavy-handed methods employed by the group when recovering bodies. As I remarked in a previous article, the use of a mechanized digger and sledgehammers in such a fragile environment is inappropriate and life threatening — unless, of course, the White Helmets know in advance exactly where the bodies are located.

A recent Ron Paul Liberty Report interview with former UN Chief Weapons Inspector for Iraq Scott Ritter further exposed the parody that is the White Helmets’ experience, when he discussed their role in the alleged chemical weapons attacks in Khan Sheikhoun in April 2017 — alleged attacks that resulted in President Donald Trump launching 59 Tomahawk missiles into Syrian territory.

Some would say the White Helmets do indeed deserve an Oscar for their acting skills and video production. In November 2016, a video was released showing the White Helmets apparently participating in the “Mannequin Challenge” Internet video trend. However, the veracity of that claim has been questioned by many who believe this video shows the White Helmets at work in the “studio,” producing more of their propaganda.

The White Helmets claim to have saved over 90,000 lives. However, there is no documentation of these lives — no names, no records. With all the logistical and financial support being received by this group, much of it coming directly or indirectly from taxpayer pockets, there should surely be some degree of accountability for their outlandish claims.

In an open letter to the New Democratic Party of Canada, retired Professor John Ryan strongly protested the NDP’s support for the White Helmet Nobel Peace Prize nomination in September 2016. Ryan expressed similar concerns to mine in his letter:

It is the White Helmets themselves who have claimed that they have rescued 60,000 civilians; this has not been verified by any other source. Despite such a classic conflict of interest, searching for independent evidence and disqualifying self-serving claims from belligerent parties in Syria has been ignored in much of the western media. As such, this claim by the White Helmets without any verification is next to meaningless.”

 

Conclusion: who the White Helmets really are, who’s behind them, and what they’re up to

In summary, this evidence points to the White Helmets being a U.S., U.K. and EU creation and not an independent NGO.  It is a multi-million dollar organization funded by governments that are involved and invested in the Syrian conflict. No one can rightly call this a grassroots Syrian organization.

There is an existing Syria Civil Defence that is being ignored by Western media. Running parallel to this group, there is a vast fundraising network constructed to collect money that is funneled into the White Helmets in order to replace the authentic Syria Civil Defence in the minds of the Western public. The real Syria Civil Defence is crippled by U.S. and EU sanctions, while the White Helmets have never been affected by these sanctions — their supply chain via Turkey is unbroken.

Conservative estimates put White Helmets funding at over $150 million thus far, which is far more than any real humanitarian NGO would ever require in a decade, much less three years. Taxpayers in funding countries have a right to know precisely what and whom their money is funding.

The evidence demonstrates that the White Helmets are sectarian — not impartial, as they claim to be. They are in many instances armed — not unarmed, as they claim to be. The promotional material produced for the White Helmets, such as the recent Netflix documentary film, is often produced outside of Syria, usually in Turkey, and with field footage supplied only by the White Helmets. Who has verified the authenticity of this footage?

The White Helmets are feeding images of “humanitarian disaster” and “war crimes” to the very same Western nations who are funding them, and to politicians and media outlets who are using these visual narratives with the explicit purpose of lobbying for a U.S./U.K.-proposed no-fly zone in Syria. Recent history teaches us that establishing such a zone carries with it the threat of reducing Syria to a Libya-style “failed state.”

The White Helmets, an allegedly impartial and apolitical organization, is effectively campaigning for an escalation of war in Syria. This alone should disqualify the White Helmets from being described as a humanitarian organization.

One of the funders of the Netflix documentary withdrew considerable funding from the project in October 2016. The Threshold Foundation published a statement regarding the reasoning behind its withdrawal:

We have since learned that the subject of the film (the White Helmets organization) and others involved in this film are advocating for strategies that could entail international military force and escalated violence.”

Full statement from the Threshold Foundation. (Screenshot)

Full statement from the Threshold Foundation. (Screenshot)

In an interview with RT’s Going Underground, eminent filmmaker John Pilger described the White Helmets as “a complete propaganda construct.”

Watch filmmaker John Pilger describing White Helmets’ actual purpose:

Many of the White Helmets campaigns have been discredited as fiction, and yet they are being used by the U.K./U.S. coalition as justification for continuing economic and diplomatic sanctions that are a collective punishment for the Syrian people. Meanwhile, the U.S. coalition persists with equipping and arming the various militia groups on the ground in Syria, including Nusra Front.

This only serves to ensure even more suffering and bloodshed inside Syria and delays the possibility of any real, peaceful resolution. It is incumbent upon us to ensure a full, international enquiry into the White Helmets as a part of any authentic peace process in Syria.

Screenshot from White Helmets “Mannequin Challenge” video.

Screenshot from White Helmets “Mannequin Challenge” video.

A crowd thinks in images, and the image itself calls up a series of other images, having no logical connection with the first…A crowd scarcely distinguishes between the subjective and the objective. It accepts as real the images invoked in its mind, though they most often have only a very distant relation with the observed facts….Crowds being only capable of thinking in images are only to be impressed by images.” – Gustav Le Bon, “The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind

Part Two of this series will further expose the White Helmets’ connections to Nusra Front and their participation in terrorist atrocities across Syria, with a particular focus on east Aleppo. The author will bring to light documents and evidence found inside abandoned White Helmets centers across the various districts of east Aleppo and demonstrate that the White Helmets invariably worked next door to al-Qaeda or even shared facilities and buildings with them.

She will also delve deeper into the funding streams that the group uses, based on the evidence uncovered during her investigation on the ground in Aleppo. Finally, she will dismantle some of their more iconic propaganda campaigns, shown to be based on lies, designed to facilitate NATO and Gulf state military escalation and increased faux-humanitarian intervention in Syria.

 

[Investigative journalist Vanessa Beeley is a contributor to 21WIRE, and since 2011, she has spent most of her time in the Middle East reporting on events there – as a independent researcher, writer, photographer and peace activist. She is also a member of the Steering Committee of the Syria Solidarity Movement, and a volunteer with the Global Campaign to Return to Palestine. See more of her work at her blog The Wall Will Fall.]

WHITE HELMETS: The Jib-Al-Qubeh War Crime in Aleppo, Denied by Channel 4

21st Century Wire

September 1, 2017

by Vanessa Beeley

 


“Harrowing footage published by the White Helmets volunteer rescue group showed a street littered with corpses and body parts, after civilians fleeing eastern Aleppo were reportedly hit by (regime) artillery fire. Shoes, clothing, suitcases and bags could be seen among puddles of blood and flesh.” ~ Lizzie Dearden for the Independent

This version of the news in the Independent regarding an alleged “Syrian regime massacre” in one district of East Aleppo, during November 2016, was repeated almost verbatim by NATO-aligned media outlets worldwide. Reports that saturated corporate media in the west, however, fell far short of the harrowing reality as recounted to me by residents of this East Aleppo district in July of this year. A reality that shattered the saccharine White Helmet “hero” narrative being promulgated by western media.

“The bodies of the dead and dying were left unattended for ten hours in the street after the Nusra Front rocket attack that killed 15 civilians. The White Helmets did not help them, they stole their belongings.” ~ Salaheddin Azazi, resident of Jibb Al Qubeh and eyewitness to events on 30/11/2016

On November 30th 2016, the clashes for the final liberation of East Aleppo, from a five year Nusra Front-dominated occupation and brutal siege of Syrian civilians, raged across the battle-scarred landscape of the eastern districts of Aleppo. Throughout this US coalition-armed and funded extremist campaign to steal Aleppo’s resources & industry and to gradually occupy the entire second capital city of Syria, the media propaganda campaigns had run in lock-step and parallel intensity.


Omran Daqneesh now a happy, well-adjusted child still living in East Aleppo with his family. July 2017. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)

First there was Omran Daqneesh, the dusty, bloodied and bewildered little boy, whose image went viral within hours and was described by the majority of NATO aligned media & NGOs (including the UN) as the child “whose bloodied and dusty image gave a face to the suffering of Aleppo’s civilians in last year’s siege”. Omran’s story has more recently been exposed as a cynical publicity campaign for a “Bomb Free Zone”, set up by the UK FO constructed White Helmets and their child-beheading, Nour al Din Zinki, associates.

During the ground battles to liberate East Aleppo, the Nusra Front affiliated White Helmets produced many of the varied and imaginative narratives to demonize the Syrian Arab Army as it fought to cleanse civilian areas of the extremist brigades that had universally converted schools and hospitals into prisons, Sharia courts, torture chambers, military centres and bomb making factories.

On the 30th November 2016, in Jibb al Qubeh, East Aleppo – the White Helmets appeared in one of their most theatrically “poignant” and iconic story lines, complete with “heartrending” testimony from “survivors”. This production was brought to the western corporate media by none other than French Foreign Office funded Aleppo Media Centre. This version was shared by Middle East Eye. Watch:

YouTube Video Preview

The Corporate Media Scrum 

The “copy paste” corporate media sprang into action. Despite the absence of journalists on the ground in Aleppo, within hours, the story had gone viral based entirely upon the testimony and video footage from an Al Qaeda affiliate, the White Helmets. Syrian media, civilian testimony and reports from officials on the ground in East Aleppo contradicted this White Helmet narrative but to no avail. The NATO-aligned media simply buried such bones of contention under the rubble of their crumbling propaganda edifice in their rush to halt the Syrian Arab Army advance by eliciting outrage from the international community over another fabricated “massacre by the evil regime forces“.

High Commissioner for Human Rights at the UN, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, issued the following plea to the international community:

“… heed the cries” of the women, men and children being terrorized and slaughtered in Aleppo and to take urgent steps to ensure that the tens of thousands of people who have fled, surrendered or been captured are treated in line with international law.

 

“The crushing of Aleppo, the immeasurably terrifying toll on its people, the bloodshed, the wanton slaughter of men, women and children, the destruction – and we are nowhere near the end of this cruel conflict,”

UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon talked once again about how history would judge the international community if they did not “act”:

“History will not easily absolve us, but this failure compels us to do even more to offer the people of Aleppo our solidarity at this moment,”

[It must be noted that during my time in Jebrin Registration centre in December 2016, an estimated 100,000 liberated civilians were pouring in from Eastern Aleppo districts and were receiving humanitarian aid and assistance from the Syrian Arab Army, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, various Syrian civil society organisations and volunteers. The Russian military were distributing food and water and Russian medical teams had set up treatment tents that were receiving over 150 civilians per day, suffering from the effects of starvation, appalling, festering injuries & chronic illnesses that had been left untreated by the “moderate rebels” during the 5 year Nusra Front-led occupation. The UN organisation was nowhere to be seen during this crucial time of release and recovery for these traumatized people. ]

Channel 4 grabs the ball and runs with it..

Who else should step in to score a home try for the Syrian “opposition” but Channel 4.

Jon Snow (winner of 21st Century Wire’s #FakeNews poll) stepped up to the plate and performed perhaps one of the landmark Goebbelesque propaganda interviews of the Syrian conflict, with Fares Shehabi. Shehabi is an independent Aleppo MP and head of the Aleppo Chamber of Commerce. Unlike many of his colleagues, Shehabi remained in Aleppo throughout the five-year East Aleppo occupation, by US coalition armed & funded extremist brigades.

Snows pugnacious questioning of Shehabi revealed absolutely no objectivity nor did it leave room for doubt. In Snow’s mind “the Syrian army did it” and no amount of logical reasoning, from Shehabi in Aleppo, was going to derail his propaganda train. Unfortunately for Snow, at some point that train was destined to hit the brick wall of truth from the mouths of the very civilians that Snow claimed to be advocating for.


Meme produced by page supporting NATO state intervention in Syria. 

In his eagerness to discredit the Syrian government and the Syrian Arab Army, Snow got a bit confused over his facts. Initially endorsing the “barrel bomb” narrative, he then deftly switched to “Syrian artillery” fire. Nowhere in his repertoire did he include the analysis that the neighborhood of Jib Al Qubbeh would be a mountain of rubble, had it been double whammied by the 7-9-richter-scale-barrel-bombs and Syrian artillery. Why should a little reality get in the way of producing news-desk-fantasy after all, especially when UK foreign policy interests are at stake.

Fares Shehabi told me after the interview that Channel 4 had edited many of his responses to better comply with their narrative. To watch Jon Snow’s stellar performance in its entirety (plus edits), it is linked here.

So the official, NATO-aligned narrative was that the Syrian Arab Army, its allies, the Russian & Syrian airforces had all combined to obliterate Syrian civilians fleeing East Aleppo for the humanitarian corridors set up by the Syrian government & their Russian allies to enable these civilians to escape the fighting and reach the sanctity of the Syrian government protected West Aleppo. Not a single question was raised among the corporate media elite about the blatantly irrational logic behind this distorted chronicling of events.

The Inevitable Requests for a No Fly Zone

Less than a week after this tragedy was aired by western media, Abdulrahman Al Mawwas a White Helmet representative was given a platform to speak in front of the foreign affairs committee of the European Parliament in Ireland. Images taken from the White Helmet/AMC Jibb Al Qubeh production were used to reinforce demands for the creation of humanitarian corridors and planes to drop aid to civilians affected by war and of course, last but not least, a No Fly Zone. Mawwas stuck to the familiar script but the disturbing images from Jibb al Qubeh gave new impetus to his recital.

The Truth of Jibb Al Qubeh as Revealed by its Residents

In July/August 2017 I returned to the districts of East Aleppo that I had seen during liberation in December 2016 and again in April/May 2017. In July it was heartening to see that so many civilians had returned to their homes and were trying to recreate the life they had before the violent disruption of their peaceful existence, by US coalition-manufactured, armed, extremist groups.

I went with Aleppo journalist, Khaled Iskef, to the Jib Al Qubbeh neighborhood and I spoke with civilians. We sat outside their houses and drank coffee whilst around them, life returned to a semblance of “normal”. The recall of these civilians, many of whom witnessed events on that day in November 2016, differed wildly from the mass-produced narrative of NATO-aligned media outlets.


Discussing the November 2016 events in Jibb al Qubeh with residents and Khaled Iskef. July 2017. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)

During my time in this district I spoke with Salaheddin Azazi and Ammar Al Bakr (in above photo) and a number of other named witnesses who testified to the truth of the killing of civilians who were fleeing East Aleppo to the safety of West Aleppo as the Syrian Arab Army was advancing on the ground and cleansing East Aleppo of Nusra Front and associated militant factions.


The street in Jibb Al Qubbeh where the White Helmets filmed their footage of massacred civilians. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley) 

Initially we toured (on foot) around the actual street that was the scene of the White Helmet/AMC video. Here we found the usual configuration of Nusra Front headquartes, Aleppo Council and White Helmet centres all within easy walking distance from each other. This same layout was found in every district of East Aleppo where these three entities were operating, also combining with the UK Foreign Office funded, Free Syrian Police in many of the same districts.

 

The above video, taken in the area, walks you through the Aleppo Council building and demonstrates the proximity of Nusra Front and the White Helmet centre at the end of the street. Graffiti on the garage door opposite the Aleppo Council is Kataeb Abu Amara, a Turkish funded militant brigade closely associated with Nusra Front that was also operating in this district of East Aleppo.


Khateab Abu Amara Graffiti on garage door opposite Aleppo Council, Jibb Al Qubeh, East Aleppo. July 2017. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)

In this district the Nusra Front headquarters were just behind the Aleppo Council on the main through-road that runs parallel to Bryyah Al Maslakh street. This was another school that had been occupied by the terrorist group and converted into a military centre and Sharia Court, the Ruba school in Jibb Al Qubeh.


Nusra Front headquarters in Jib Al Qubbeh, another converted school. This building was less than 200m from the Aleppo Council and the White Helmet centre in this area. July 2017. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)

Nusra Front aka Al Qaeda were the dominant force in Jib Al Qubbeh according to residents. A number of other, affiliated, extremist brigades were also operating, including Ahrar Souria (a version of the FSA strongly linked to Nusra Front and who shared their ideology), Ahrar Al Shaman extremist group responsible for many of the sectarian massacres in Syria yet still not designated a terrorist group by the US coalition and lastly the aforementioned Abu Amara brigade.

The leader of Ahrar Souria in Jib Al Qubeh was an individual by the name of Mahmoud Afash who came from Anadan. He was known as the terrorist tank “taxi driver”. He provided tanks for the terrorist front lines and battles. Talking to civilians a picture was formed of the dense network of terrorist entities that worked alongside one another including the White Helmets:

“The White Helmets worked ten hour shifts. Ten hours as White Helmets and then ten hours as Nusra Front fighters” Salaheddin Azazi told us.

The manager of the Jib Al Qubeh (JAQ) Aleppo council was Hassan Nairobani Hassoun, a pediatrician from the area who was working in Zahzour hospital during the Nusra Front-led five year occupation. Hassoun worked with Nusra Front, some residents told us of “large sums of money that he had tucked away in Turkish banks”. Azazi told us that Hassoun was tasked by Nusra Front to recquisition houses that had a basement for Nusra Front military use, during the almost 5 year occupation. Basements gave some protection from the aerial bombing by Syrian and Russian airforces. When Azazi heard of this project he deliberately broke his own sewage pipes and flooded his basement so Hassoun would reject it as a Nusra Front venue.


Syria Charity front page on its website, advertising Syrian children for “sponsorship” 

We were also told that Aleppo Council was equipped and maintained by the Syria Charity, a French government linked organisation that also “took care of the training of the White Helmets in Jib Al Qubeh”Pierre Le Corf, an independent, French humanitarian worker based in Aleppo said this about Syria Charity in his open letter to former President of France, Francois Hollande:

“Our government also finances associations such as ‘Syria Charity’ that has as an emblem the three star flag, and that was originally called the “League for a Free Syria.” This association, even if providing humanitarian aid, has crossed the thin red line by taking part in an opinion war to justify the overthrowing of the government by hiding the reality on the field and their proximity with belligerent groups and by providing constant medical relief to terrorist forces (their presence is carefully erased from all available videos).

 

Numerous French and international associations or humanitarian organisations intervening in « rebel » zones have done more harm than good through the weaponization of the suffering of the local populations and the public opinion in the name of an oriented cause, and through wrongfully directed donations. They are also responsible for taking civilians as hostages of this war, and enabling the conflict to continue by legitimizing it in a dishonest manner, enabling the fightings to continue and death to stay a daily preoccupation.”

How Events Unfolded on 30th November 2016


The street in Jib Al Qubbeh that was the scene of the White Helmet footage in November 2016. July 2017 (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)

Below is the image taken from the White Helmet/AMC footage that was widely shared by corporate media, in this case, the Daily Mail who ran the unambiguous headline:

Bodies lie scattered in the streets of Aleppo after Syrian forces bombard rebel-held region, slaughtering at least 45 people 

All residents we spoke to including Azazi and Al Bakr were adamant that two terrorist home-made rockets were fired from the Eye Hospital to the east of the district of Sha’ar. At that time the Eye Hospital and the Childrens Hospital combined compound was still occupied by Nusra Front and the Jabhat Al Shamiya brigade. This hospital complex was only liberated by the Syrian Arab Army on the 4th December, so four days after the tragedy occurred in Jibb Al Qubeh.


Diagram showing (estimated) placement of Syrian Arab Army and Nusra Front in relation to Jib Al Qubeh on 30/11/2016 

On the 30th November, the closest Syrian Arab Army artillery position was in the Castle in the Old Citadel. They did also have artillery further away, to the north east of Jib Al Qubbeh in Hanano. The missiles had landed on the west side of the street targeting the Aleppo Council and adjacent building, the holes in the masonry were still visible. The Citadel was to the south west of the street and well over 1km away, therefore logic dictates that the missiles must have been fired from due east, which is where the terrorist occupied Eye Hospital is located.

First missile strike hit the wall of the Aleppo Council on the western side of the road. July 2017 (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)


Second missile/rocket strike hit further along the street towards the White Helmet centre but still on western side. July 2017 (Photo: Vanessa Beeley) 

Both Azazi and Al Bakr told me:

“We have lived through four years of occupation and we are very experienced when it comes to determining from how far away the mortars or rockets have been fired. From the sound of launch to the number of seconds before impact we can tell you almost exactly the distance to the rocket launcher and direction. These rockets were fired from the Eye Hospital to the east.”

So, through a pretty simple deduction and elimination process, the entire White Helmet/AMC, corporate media narrative has already started to fall apart at the seams. Certainly the Syrian air strike or seismic scale barrel bomb narrative does not fit as the street is largely untouched by aerial bombing, most of the structural damage is clearly from artillery mortar fire and there are additional signs of close quarter gun fights with bullet holes in the walls on both sides of the street.


Remaining buildings in the street, even those inbetween the two mortar strikes are structurally intact. July 2017 (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)

Everyone interviewed told us, the attack happened at around 7am. Over 2000 civilians had been trying to escape the terrorist reprisals as the Syrian Arab Army advanced and these civilians were heading for the crossing points or SAA humanitarian collection points that would eventually give them safe access to West Aleppo. Azazi told me:

“They came from all areas, Jaloum, Salhiyeh, Midan, Bab al Nairab, Soukhari. They took this road to Farouj Al Sharq (one of the SAA collection points) instead of the main road, past the Nusra Front headquarters, to avoid being attacked by the terrorists…Nusra Front and Ahrar al Sham”. 

Azazi went on to describe the confusion that preceded the terrorist targeting of these civilians. I have paraphrased his description which I also videoed:

On that day, these 2000 civilians had been told that the safe point of Farouj AlSharq had been opened, by the SAA, to the north-east of Jibb Al Qubeh. They had collected their belongings and left their homes to escape the terrorists who were killing civilians rather than see them leave for the Syrian government held areas. (See my collection of testimonies from East Aleppo during liberation, December 2016 – here)

“As these civilians approached the end of the street, they saw that the way forward was blocked by Nusra Front terrorists. The terrorists told them to go back to Boustan Al Qasr, an area to the south-west of Jibb al Qubeh which was on the frontline between Nusra Front and the Syrian Arab Army.” said Azazi

Azazi clarified who was in charge of the Nusra Front terrorists at this point:

“The leader of Nusra Front in this area stopped them, he shot at them to turn them back. His nickname was Khattab Al Shishani his real name was Khaled Ktay. He is Syrian and from this area, we knew him” 

As they turned and fled back towards Boustan Al Qasr, they realised that this road was now also closed to them by the terrorist forces.

The crowds of civilians were effectively kettled into the narrow street at 7am when the rockets targeted them. Corporate media reports claimed 45 dead, residents told us 15 were killed in the attack. Those who managed to escape the rocket fire, were then pushed out of the street into the surrounding areas.

“Bodies were left in the street for ten hours, until 3 or 4pm” said Al Bakr.

“We watched the White Helmets steal the belongings of the victims,. They didn’t help them at all” Azazi repeated, and this eyewitness testimony was reiterated by a man who had come to join the discussion and who had a shop in the street…

“Yes, they stole all belongings from the dead bodies, they stole everything” he said. This man’s shop (in photo below) had been taken over by the Abu Amara brigade and used as a general store for their weapons and equipment.


Screenshot from video in Jibb Al Qubeh while residents explained events on 30/11/2016. July 2017. (Video: Vanessa Beeley)

“The White Helmets and Nusra Front would not allow relatives or people from the area into the street to help the injured or even to collect the bodies” added Azazi

“At around 4pm the White Helmets finally brought the orange body bags and started filming” said Al Bakr and Azazi

All three men confirmed that relatives were still prevented entry into the street to collect the bodies, until after the filming session. It is also very important to note that everyone we spoke to in East Aleppo, told us that filming or photography was only permissable if Nusra Front gave the green light. Nusra Front controlled all video footage and still photos in areas they governed, which was pretty much all of East Aleppo prior to liberation. This means that any footage being produced by the White Helmets, AMC, SMART, Channel 4 prize winning camerawoman Waad Al Khateabetc was enabled, almost exclusively by the express permission of Al Qaeda in East Aleppo. It also means that the footage and imagery that western corporate media based their narrative upon came with the blessings of Al Qaeda.

Above is a screenshot from the WhiteHelmet/AMC video. There is one White Helmet in full uniform on the left “checking” the body. The guy in the centre is unarmed but certainly looks more like a fighter than a first responder and the guy on the right is still wearing what could be identified as a militant headdress while sporting a White Helmet jacket. At this point, according to witness testimony, these bodies had already been picked clean of their valuables and belongings before these faux humanitarians starred in another of their cameo roles as rescue workers.


Walking back from the scene of the civilian massacre carried out by Nusra Front and “mopped up” by the NATO & Gulf state funded White Helmets. July 2017 with Khaled Iskef. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)

Conclusions

We walked back past the remnants of war and the ghosts of the lives lost on that day in November 2016, the July heat swirled around us and the sun cast long shadows on the street beneath our feet. I felt profoundly sad that these civilians, bewildered and terrified, had been trapped in this corridor of death on a bitterly cold November day in 2016 by the terrorists and their white-helmeted cohorts, before being mown down by the Nusra Front missiles.  I tried to imagine the panic, the fear and then the severe trauma for relatives who had to watch their children, their family members, dead or dying for over ten hours, unable to reach them or to prevent their meagre belongings being stolen from them.

Meanwhile the western corporate media had not pondered on any aspect of this incident before launching their “Syria & Russia did it” campaign. A campaign based upon the evidence of the White Helmets who hours before had left the bodies unattended in the street while they sifted through their remains and robbed the dead and dying of the few items of value these families had managed to gather together as they fled to what they hoped would be refuge from a life of oppression under Nusra Front rule.

Finally those desecrated bodies became propaganda props in another White Helmet movie, destined to evoke sympathy among the misinformed in the west and to feed the “regime change” narratives of the NATO-aligned media and NGOs who rely almost exclusively upon Al Qaeda affiliated testimony to produce their bullish pro-“moderate”, no-fly-zone lobby reports.

I leave you with another “immortal” quote from the Jon Snow interview…. Syrians are going home Jon Snow, ‘you know nothing.’

 

[Investigative journalist Vanessa Beeley is a contributor to 21WIRE, and since 2011, she has spent most of her time in the Middle East reporting on events there – as a independent researcher, writer, photographer and peace activist. She is also a member of the Steering Committee of the Syria Solidarity Movement, and a volunteer with the Global Campaign to Return to Palestine. See more of her work at her blog The Wall Will Fall.]