Tag Archives: regime change

Anti-Syrian propaganda and the White Helmets

Victim of “rebel”/”terrorist” attack on government-controlled Aleppo. Our media rarely covers these and there are no White Helmets in sight. Source: Dr Tim Anderson

US Secretary of State, John Kerry, recently met with people from Syrian opposition groups – including the “first responders” – the White Helmets. Somebody recorded the discussion and it has now been leaked (see Audio Reveals What John Kerry Told Syrians Behind Closed Doors).

The discussion is quite revealing, for a number of reasons, including divisions within the US ruling political circles and Syrian opposition beliefs that the US is not doing enough for their cause. But here I will just concentrate on aspects relevant to the anti-Syrian propaganda our news media seems to be saturated with.

The propaganda

I think this is important because there is a section of the US political system lobbying for military intervention, such as attacking Syrian armed forces or  attempting to enforce a no-fly-zone. Kerry, who originally supported military intervention, pointed out that the US people did not have an appetite for this. However, as we saw with Libya, such an appetite can be promoted by carefully playing the card of suffering civilians (and especially children) and arguing for “humanitarian intervention.”

That is certainly happening at the moment. One could be excused for believing that the Syrian war is all about the government and their allies, the horrible “Russkies,” purposely attacking civilians, destroying civilian buildings and, particularly, burying young children in rubble.

This image is typical of what we are exposed to – and news services like Al-Jazeera seem to present variants of this image almost every day.

syriacampaignfbphoto1

Typical media photo of White Helmet “first responders” rescuing children in a ‘rebel”/”terrorist” held area of Syria.

Of course, if this was the true intention of Syria and its allies the war would be over by now. But in fact, the Syrians and their allies are fighting armed “rebels”/”terrorists,” very many of them from outside the country. Armed and financed by external powers directly or indirectly. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, USA, UK and other NATO countries.

Civilian casualties, including children. may, at times, be an accidental by-product of this sort of war (what the US calls “collateral damage”) and can be caused by either side. But it is disingenuous to portray this as the intention of Syria and their allies. On the other hand, let’s not forget that terrorists very often deliberately target civilians, including children.

Aleppo has become the Middle Eastern Stalingrad. I sometimes wonder what sort of propaganda the German citizens at home were served with during the Stalingrad battle in World War II. Did they get images of children being pulled out of the rubble and hysterical complaints about those horrible Russians bombing and shelling the city indiscriminately – perhaps purposely bombing hospitals, schools and civilians? That sort of propaganda seem ludicrous to us now – but how different is it to what we are currently fed by most of our media?

And how often does our media cover the civilian casualties caused by “rebel”/”terrorist” attacks on areas under government control? Very rarely – and when they do we are often still left with the impression that the guilty parties are Syrians and Russians and not the terrorists. A recent classic example was UK newspaper, The Independent, report of the death of  a Syrian Olympic swimmer  and her brother in Aleppo (See Syrian swimmer and her 12-year-old brother killed by shelling in Aleppo). These deaths were originally reported as a result of Russian and Syrian bombing – but many readers protested because the swimmer was killed in the government-held part of Aleppo during a terrorist missile attack. The Independent backed away (slightly), adding this sentence:

“A number of commentators claimed the deaths were a result of a rebel-led attack, although those claims could not be verified.”

But their report still claimed the deaths occurred “amid a sustained assault on the city by pro-Assad forces backed by Russian warplanes.”

Images and videos  like those produced by the White Helmets are very effective. News readers are inclined to weep and it is hard not to empathise. After all, these are children. And the “first responders” rescuing them, the White Helmets, must be angels. Hell, they have even been recommended for the Noble Peace Prize and who would deny them that?

Well, I would – but more of that below.

Kerry’s concern about this propaganda

The Syrian opposition people referred Kerry to images videos like this as reasons for the US to become more involved – to impose a fly-free-zone in Syria. But  the US officials present pointed out that these images and videos were of no use to them. If these opposition people have video cameras around to film such events they should be filming the attack itself. Providing evidence that it is specifically the Syrians or Russians who are attacking civilians. These officials believed such information would be more useful to their cause.

The US officials also directed this critique at the White Helmet coverage of the attack on the humanitarian aid convoy in Aleppo province. A White Helmets’ spokesperson fronted images of burning trucks, claiming the attack was by Syrian helicopters, barrel bombs, and Russian bombers (he didn’t seem to want to miss anything out). But the officials’ response was that coverage was not useful – they need images of the attackers themselves. They need evidence of the munitions used.

Incidentally, the White Helmet spokesperson in this report leads a double life – see below.

As an aside, this plea for evidence, especially the munitions used, shows how hypocritical is the US claim it was the Russians who were responsible for the  attack on the aid convoy. Unfortunately, such unfounded (or at least evidence-free) claims from John Kerry and other US spokespersons are not new to us. But also, unfortunately, this claim is being used specifically to justify breaking off diplomatic negotiations on Syria and to argue for “Plan B” – the military option of a fly-free-zone or outright attacks on Syrian armed forces.

Who are the white Helmets?

This brief video from The Friends of Syria in Australia provides some information and background on the White Helmets organisation.

If nothing else, the fact that the group operates only in areas held by “rebels”/”terrorists” (despite claiming in its propaganda that it is neutral) is telling. The fact they receive funding from anti-Syrian governments including the US and the UK (despite claiming they don’t) is also telling. Their spokespeople also never seem to miss any chance to attribute all the damage and loss of life to “the regime,” barrel bombs and the Russians – often in hysterical tones.

I referred above to the White Helmet coverage of the humanitarian aid convoy attack. The image on the right is taken from the White Helmet report video. That on the left shows that the same guy is also involved in an armed “rebel”/”terrorist” group.

white-helemets Armed “rebel”/”terrorist” in Aleppo dons white hat and becomes an unarmed member of “aid” group – the White Helmets – reporting the attack on the humanitarian convoy. Image Source Friends of Syria.

Investigators have published on-line a number of similar images portraying White Helmet people in action as “first responders” but also of the same people posing with rifles and along with other “rebels”/”terrorists.”

There are also plenty of images and videos online showing members of the White Helmet group cooperating with “rebels”/”terrorists” in demonstrations They are easily seen in groups where Al Nusra flags are flying. And this video shows a White Helmet member participating in the assault on a prisoner captured by “terrorists.”

And isn’t this revealing, although not surprising considering where the White Helmets are active. A spokesperson for the Al Nusra front (recognised by the UN as a terrorist group) describes the White Helmets as Mujahideens

Another charge sometimes laid against the White Helmets is that some of their videos are staged and involve actors. News media often reenact actions from wars (although they usually acknowledge their video is a reenactment). The report “White Helmet” “Save Aleppo” Protest Proves How Easy it is to Dress Up Actors as “War Victims” shows how easy it is to make such staged videos to promote as news.

save-aleppo-staged

Actors staging a typical White Helmet “rescue” during anti-Syrian protests in Europe.

Of course, that  charge is also easy to make and hard to prove. But there has been at least one official complaint to the BBC about them running videos of staged scenes in their programmes about Syria.

I find it suspicious that the White Helmets always seem to go into action with a sizable camera crew in attendance – or at least with mobile phones recording the events. And there seems to be a common elelementf a guy, wearing a white helmet and White Helmet logos or uniform, carrying a child and urgently rushing forward or away from the camera. I can’t help feeling such videos are contrived.

Contrived or not the White Helmets’ videos are certainly emotively picked. They know what works. And our media goes along with the game – ignoring the children and civilians injured and killed  by “rebel”/”terrorist” missiles in government-held areas.

The above video shows the aftermath of a “rebel”/”terrorist” attack in west Aleppo. Not a single White Helmet in sight!

Conclusion

The video and photographic propaganda promoted by the White Helmets is not “proof” of their claims – but it is very effective in  promoting a narrative. A narrative which can be used  to justify direct military attacks by the US and NATO on the Syrian forces and their allies. (Yes, the US and NATO  already illegally bomb Syria and have armed forces on the ground – but so far these have not intentionally been directed at Syrian forces).

That narrative fits in with the  agenda of a section of the US political establishment promoting “humanitarian intervention” aimed at regime change. It fits in with the often repeated chant of politicians in the US and other NATO countries that “Assad must go!”

We saw what this led to in Libya – it was disastrous. And considering the support Assad has in Syria this regime change, or attempted regime change, would be much worse.

Pentagon: Russia S-300, S-400 Air Defense Deployment Grounded US Jets in Syria

Russia is deploying advanced S-300 and S-400 Air Defense systems in Syria. An attempted Libyan-style “regime change” by the US and NATO would be disastrous.

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When will they ever learn?

libya-report

So, now we have a new Parliamentary Report from the UK which is sharply critical of the 2011 intervention in Libya. This follows on from the Chilcot report which was sharply critical of the 2003 intervention in Iraq.

I wonder if a few years down the track we will see a similar report sharply critical of the UK, French and US intervention in Syria?

The summary of the Libyan report reads in part:

“In March 2011, the United Kingdom and France, with the support of the United States, led the international community to support an intervention in Libya to protect civilians from attacks by forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi. This policy was not informed by accurate intelligence. In particular, the Government failed to identify that the threat to civilians was overstated and that the rebels included a significant Islamist element. By the summer of 2011, the limited intervention to protect civilians had drifted into an opportunist policy of regime change. That policy was not underpinned by a strategy to support and shape post-Gaddafi Libya. The result was political and economic collapse, inter-militia and inter-tribal warfare, humanitarian and migrant crises, widespread human rights violations, the spread of Gaddafi regime weapons across the region and the growth of ISIL in North Africa. Through his decision making in the National Security Council, former Prime Minister David Cameron was ultimately responsible for the failure to develop a coherent Libya strategy.”

In Syria, we have seen the same interventionist approach. Hell bent on regime change, politicians in the UK, USA, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and NATO countries have blindly repeated the mantra “Assad must go.” They have exaggerated the suffering resulting from actions of the Syrian government (or more correctly, attributed all the suffering solely to the government). Recognise the clause above for Libya:

“This policy was not informed by accurate intelligence. In particular, the Government failed to identify that the threat to civilians was overstated and that the rebels included a significant Islamist element.”

By backing armed anti-government militia those advocates of “regime change” have ignored the inevitable anarchy and spread of terror that would result if their campaign is successful.

Again, recognise the clause above for Libya:

“That policy was not underpinned by a strategy to support and shape post-Gaddafi Libya. The result was political and economic collapse, inter-militia and inter-tribal warfare, humanitarian and migrant crises, widespread human rights violations, the spread of Gaddafi regime weapons across the region and the growth of ISIL in North Africa.”

When will these politicians learn these lessons from history?

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Can world leaders learn from the Paris terror attacks?

Putin Obama G20

This photo of Presidents Obama and Putin in serious and intense discussion  at the current G20 meeting symbolises what could be a positive change in international politics. Perhaps the Friday 13th acts of terror in Paris precipitated this particular meeting – or perhaps it is a culmination of geopolitical changes since the 2014 G20 conference in Brisbane.

Or perhaps I am just being  far too optimistic. After all, the problems facing the world today are pretty intractable.

“What have you done?”

It seems to me that a key moment was September UN General Assembly meeting where President Putin warned about the consequences of geopolitical trends. His  question to world leaders – “Do you realise what you’ve done?” – proved tragically prophetic (see the full text of his speech at Putin’s UN address: “Do you realise what you’ve done?”). France is just the most recent country to suffer extreme acts of terrorism and we should not ignore the other recent acts most probably carried out by Islamic State in Turkey, Lebanon and the Sinai Peninsula.

However, Putin’s question was primarily directed at political leaders in France and Turkey, as well as Europe, NATO, the USA, UK and the Middle East. These leaders have pursued policies of regime change which have, at best, downplayed the problems of terrorism, or at worst actually used terrorist groups like Islamic State and its affiliates to carry out regime change.

Now, perhaps, they are starting to realise the consequences of those policies and are becoming  a little more willing to support the concept of an international alliance to counter terrorism.

But only a “little more willing,” and that is not enough.

What right have outsiders to impose “regime change?”

French president Francois Hollande said during the emergency meeting of the French parliament:

“In Syria, we’re looking for the political solution to the problem, which is not Bashar Assad. Our enemy in Syria is ISIL,”

Good – France now supports a political solution to the Syrian civil war – but surely that is a solution which must be put into effect by the Syrian people. What right does the leader of a foreign country have to demand that any particular Syrian politicians must or must not be part of that process?

Western and Middle Western political leaders need to realise that an imposed “regime change’ of the sort that took place in Iraq and Libya will only promote more terrorism – in fact, is the source of the current terrorism. Regime change should be in the hands of the Syrian people – not external countries.

But there is a glimmer of hope. Maybe recent changes were precipitated by the intervention of Russian forces in Syria to prevent an armed overthrow of the government. But the Syrian peace talks in Vienna seem to be making some progress. There is now more talk of a political settlement, a ceasefire negotiated between the Syrian government and selected opposition forces and a timetable for parliamentary and presidential elections. The Syrian leadership is open to this process and hopefully the more genuine opposition  forces can be encouraged to take part.

And, isn’t that a better way to change a political regime?

External political leaders should stop their talk of “Assad must go” – it is arrogant and disrespectful to the Syrian people. What the hell are these western and Middle Eastern leaders going to do if a political settlement leads to democratic and constitutional changes and Assad is re-elected? Are they going to refuse to accept the will of the Syrian people?

Who is backing Islamic State?

Meanwhile, reports from the G20 meeting show that president Putin has provided leaders with evidence of the support helping to maintain ISIS and similar terrorist groups. He told reporters:

“”I provided examples related to our data on the financing of Islamic State units by natural persons in various countries. The financing comes from 40 countries, as we established, including some G20 members.”

He also presented satellite images and aerial photos showing the true scale of the Islamic State oil trade:

“I’ve demonstrated the pictures from space to our colleagues, which clearly show the true size of the illegal trade of oil and petroleum products market. Car convoys stretching for dozens of kilometers, going beyond the horizon when seen from a height of four-five thousand meters.”

Now, it seems to me that NATO and the US have demonstrated great skills in targeting sanctions at individual business and political leaders in the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Crimea. Surely it is not beyond them to destroy the financial and economic support current shoring up Islamic State. They must know who these business leaders are – and they must surely know who is trading the oil Islamic State transports into Turkey.

Surely, all they need is the political will.

Coordinating the anti-terror struggle

Wouldn’t armed attacks on Islamic State be far more effective if they were coordinated. If participants shared intelligence and identified agreed targets? Again, that is surely realistic – if an anti-Nazi coalition was possible during the last world war surely an anti-terror coalition would be a lot easier now. The current US excuses for refusing cooperation seem petty and inappropriate given the seriousness of the situation.

But that requires abandoning a failed policy of “regime change.” That requires a fundamental change in international power – or at least the recognition that a single superpower should no longer be allowed to dictate the political and social arrangements of other countries.

Still, I look at that photo above and it does give me hope.

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