Tag Archives: White Helmets

Here we go agian

Just when we seem to be making progress over Syria this has to happen. The US was starting to accept that the current elected president in Syria no long “has to go.” Peace talks are underway in Geneva.

And then President Bashar al-Assad had to torpedo all this progress by launching a chemical attack on little children in Idlib. What a fool.Well, if you believe that I guess you might believe anything.

Well, if you believe that I guess you might believe anything.

In the video above, the former British Ambassador to Syria, Peter Ford, presents a far more sensible analysis. He is imminently reasonable in his analysis – but unfortunately the same cannot be said for our mainstream media, leading European politicians and the representatives of NATO countries in the UN Security Council.

Lessons from Aleppo reporting

I think it disgusting for our media and these politicians to unquestioningly take at face value reports from Al Qaeda – the umbrella organisation for the “rebel”/”terrorist’ groups in Idlib, and their propaganda arms – the White Helmets and the Idlib Media Center. Hell, we saw all this before. The propaganda from the Jihadists in east Aleppo, propagated by the White Helmets and the Aleppo Media Center. Reports of chemical attacks, massacres, bombing the “last” schools and hospitals.

In the end, the Aleppo Media Center and the White Helmets left with the jihadist fighters under the surrender agreement and have now set up in Idlib.

Now independent reporters have access to the parts of Aleppo formerly held by the jihadis what do we find? Schools used as arms factories, remaining evidence of the chemicals they used to manufacture chemical weapons.

And the jihadis have used, and still use, chemical weapons in both Syria and Iraq. Yet, strangely, those events, while they sometimes are reported in our mainstream media, never get the NATO Ambassadors running to call UN Security Council Meetings.

Of course, I do not know what really happened in Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib. We really don’t yet have the facts – as UN officials have pointed out. It seems to me unreasonable to assume that the Syrian air force used chemical weapons in their attack on jihadis there. After all, the Syrian government gave up all their weapons, under US supervision, in 2013. And what could they possibly have to gain? They are doling so well, militarily, at the moment. They don’t need this sort of bad publicity.

Dogs returning to their own vomit

No, the Syrian government is not gaining from this event – but the “rebels”/”terrorists” are. And so are those who wish to torpedo the peace conference – or worse, organise a NATO military attack on Syrian armed forces and aerodromes.

But haven’t we seen all this before. isn’t this what was attempted in 2013 with the blaming oaf a similar chemical attack on the Syrian government. Isn’t this, as Peter Ford says, just like “dogs returning to their own vomit.”

Hopefully, other politicians have a memory – and a conscience. They will not be fooled by yet another attempt to justify intervention. To justify “regime change.”

Hopefully, they will, at least, have more sense than the current gung-ho politicians from NATO. Hopefully, they will refuse to pass judgement until they have some facts. Hopefully, they will not be so silly that they trust the word of Al Qaeda and its propaganda arms.

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An Oscar for Al Qaeda?

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It was bound to happen. The White Helmets were seriously promoted for a Nobel Peace prize. This failed, so I guess the Oscar counts as a sort of consolation prize.

The Oscar was awarded in the short documentary category but anyone who follows the White Helmets may appreciate the irony – they are well-known for their acting ability. There are strong suggestions that many of their ‘rescues’ are staged. And, at least, they always seem to make sure that they have expert cinematographers in attendance when they go into action.

I have written about the White Helmets before – see Manufacturing news, and opinion, about SyriaAnti-Syrian propaganda and the White HelmetsWhite Helmets dupes New Zealand government? and White Helmets confirm authenticity of acted “rescue” video.

In short, although presenting themselves as an independent, non-aligned NGO with only humanitarian interests they are known to have strong links with “rebel”/”terrorist” groups, some of their members seem to “moonlight” as active armed fighters, and they are heavily involved in propaganda – propaganda against the Syrian government and in favour of the “rebels”/”terrorists” they are embedded with.

The White Helmets is one of the groups our mainstream media seems to rely on for news reports from Syria -especially from areas held by “rebels”/”terrorists.” They were very active in east Aleppo during that battle – but left with the fighters and their families when the surrender was arranged. Now they are most active in Idlib province.

An Official Information Act request

After the White Helmets managed to dupe $100,000 out of New Zealand Ministry’s of Foreign Affairs and Internal Affairs (see White Helmets dupes New Zealand government?) I made an official information request. I specifically asked for information on:

  1. Any contact with the International Civil Defence Association or the Syrian Civil Defence Forces during the Ministry’s vetting of the White Helmets?
  2. Any checking of White Helmet’s operations and the messages promoted in their propaganda material?
  3. Correspondence with US authorities regarding the denial of entry to the US White Helmets leader Raed Saleh to the US.
  4. The contact the ministry had with independent reporters who have been investigating the activity of the White Helmets?

The Ministry could not give any information for queries 1, 3 or 4 – which is interesting. I interpret this to mean the Ministry has not checked with the International Civil Defence Association or the recognised Syrian Civil Defence body. If nothing else, this illustrates a bias – a willingness to ally with a “civil defence” group embedded with the “rebels”/”terrorists” and not provide unbiased and balanced help. After all, civilians in government-held area also need rescuing and perhaps we should provide support to the legitimate Syrian Defence body that does this.

Due diligence

But I did get copies of emails involved in internal (within the NZ Ministries and diplomats) checking out of the White Helmets. In fact, back in January 2016 a formal message about possible engagement of NZ with the White Helmets identified as a “key question” the “further due diligence on the Syrian Civil Defence and on Mayday rescue to ensure New Zealand comfort with supporting these organisations.”

[Point of clarification – the White Helmets have unilaterally co-opted the name (and much of the equipment) of the real Syrian Civil Defence force which is recognised by the International Civil Defence Association. Mayday Rescue is an organisation set up by a former mercenary which organised and helps fund the White Helmets].

And in January 2016 reports from the embassy in Ankara suggested:  “given the security and political activities around Syria, it will be vital that we can demonstrate due diligence in this regard.”

But I cannot find any evidence of due diligence in the material I was given. There were personal declarations in the diplomatic community of admiration for the White Helmets work – based entirely on claims made by the White Helmets. There was an acknowledgment that the White helmets operated only in “rebel”/”terrorist” – held areas. That they did not work in government or Daesh-held areas. And complete silence about the fact that it operated in areas where Al Qaeda groups like Al Nusra (recognised by the UN as a terrorist group) are active. In fact, testimony from citizens of east Aleppo after that area was liberated indicated that many saw the White Helmets as embedded with, and operating as a civil defence force for, the Al Qaeda-led groups.

Now I do not call that “due diligence.”

Last minute “due diligence”

The final recommendations to the Ministers on the issue of support for the White Helmets summarised the description of the organisation as a ” volunteer organisation working in opposition-controlled Syria to save lives through urban search and rescue (USAR), firefighting, medical evacuation, and other civil defence activities.” This was after last-minute checking with the Ankara embassy because of damaging critical reports about the organisation.

Those reports had surfaced in Al Jazeera – and the Ankara embassy dismissed them simply by referring to the Al Jazeera report – which simply noted the White Helmets’ rejection of critical reports by the investigate journalist Max Blumenthal. Al Jazeera made no effort to investigate or report on the criticisms – no did the Ankara embassy.

[You can read Max Blumenthal’s reports at Inside the Shadowy PR Firm That’s Lobbying for Regime Change in Syria and How the White Helmets Became International Heroes While Pushing U.S. Military Intervention and Regime Change in Syria]

Below is the request from NZ for comments on those reports and response from the Embassy in Ankara on October 6, 2016

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This exchange indicates an unwillingness to check out reports (beyond Al Jazzera’s rejection of them). I also find the redacted sections interesting

It refers to “the pro-Assad ??” What is the redacted part? Is this a derogatory phrase? Is it describing the Max Blumenthal in a derogatory way?

Who are these funders in “the West” that have been redacted? The CIA, British intelligence, etc.?

The White Helmets were certainly “shining a light” on alleged atrocities (and their claims were very questionable) but what were the specific “atrocities resulting from airstrikes in recent weeks ???” Were they the embarrassing attacks on the “last hospitals in Aleppo” which were reported by our media more than 27 times during 2016?

I really cannot see why these sections were redacted using the excuse “to protect the free and frank expression of opinions by departments.” Surely the issue is more important than that.

White Helmets is a propaganda group

The Ankara embassy was certainly sensitive to any possibility of the credibility of the White Helmets being questioned because it would “undermine the accounts they produce of war crimes being committed in Aleppo and elsewhere ??” What was redacted? Did someone raise a question about the credibility of those accounts? Or about the war crimes committed by the head choppers in east Aleppo? And if we are concerned about the credibility of the White Helmets as  an anti-government propaganda source then we should not be pretending that we are considering them as just a civil defence group.

And the final sentences:

“Not to say, of course, that every member of the SCD is beyond all scrutiny. Some may have pasts (they are after all drafted from all areas of Syrian society). But as far as we are aware it is a non-political and neutral organisation directed at civil defence and USAR activities. So our comfort levels are in line with yours.”

This email underlines that White Helmets is much more than a civil defence organisation. It is also involved in dissemination of news and information – propaganda. the embassy acknowledged that and declared its appreciation of it.

 

So we have New Zealand diplomats unwilling to give proper due diligence, to check out the detailed reports of Max Blumenthal (or similar critical reporting about the White Helmets) and to be satisfied with an Al Jazeera report rejecting that research out of hand.

These diplomats also reveal an interest in the anti-government, pro-rebel propaganda of the White Helmets – despite continuing with the fiction that it is solely an independent rescue group.

The whole attitude towards the stinging criticism of the White Helmets is to protect the group’s credibility and value as a propaganda organisation,

So much for due diligence and the fiction that the White Helmets is a rescue organisation

And so much for Hollywood which is participating in a propaganda war by glorifying this propaganda group.

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White Helmets confirm authenticity of acted “rescue” video

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The acted White Helmets “rescue” video, the crew involved and the professional actor who was the “victim”

It really is a case of “reader beware” these days.  There is so much misinformation about – in the mainstream media as well as in alternative and social media – that the reader really has to avoid accepting things at face value.

I am strongly aware of this when I attempt to follow-up a lead from social media that looks interesting. The video I posted yesterday is an example (see Manufacturing news, and opinion, about Syria). I believe things like this get faked all the time. Searching through social media I even found suggestions the video was a “false flag” – prepared by supporters of Syria to discredit the White Helmets.

What convinced me the video was genuine was that my original source for the video was the web site of RFS – the antigovernment Revolutionary Forces of Syria Media Office – website. I was also convinced by the fact that on visiting that site several hours later the video had been removed, suggesting that it had been uploaded by mistake

I think I was right to conclude this was an enacted video that had been uploaded by mistake and had been removed to remove the evidence once the internet uproar about it had spread. Trouble was, though, the video had by then been saved to other servers.

Further confirmation

Today the RFS Media Office issued a statement that confirming this was a genuine – enacted – video produced by the White Helmets (see RFS Statement of Clarification and the image below).

They attempt to explain it, and its enactment, away by saying it had been prepared more or less as a publicity video for entry on the International Mannequin Challenge!

OK, any person or group is welcome to join in the latest social media craze. But a respectable “first responders” group? Where would such a group find time for this playing around in the midst of a brutal war?

How many similar first responder groups have entered this competition? I am sure the genuine Syrian Civil Defence Force  didn’t – they were too busy dealing with real emergencies and saving people endangered by the war. (The Syrian Civil Defence Force is the legitimate “first responder” force in Syria and is recognised by  the International Civil Defence Association. The White Helmets, who have usurped this name, are not).

At the very least this fiasco indicates the White Helmets has more to do with propaganda and publicity – with producing high-quality videos – than saving people. It helps explain why none of their videos show credible paramedic equipment or genuine recovery procedures – usually only kids who are miraculously saved injury-free (except for being covered in dust) from bombed buildings. Sometimes these children seem to be recovered multiple times as they occur in different videos, carried by different White Helmets men, being recovered from different buildings.

The other thing that rings alarm bells is that their Mannequin Challenge video (they have titled it “On the Edge of Death”) looks exactly the same (except for the stationary introduction) as all their other videos. Well lit, well produced, frantic rescuers – but no credible recovery or treatment equipment in sight. And I can’t help asking – what genuine first responders group only goes into action attended by a professional camera crew and lighting? Surely they are too busy doing their job – saving people.

The White Helmets and their “rebel”/”terrorist” friends in the Revolutionary Forces of Syria Media Office have obviously screwed up big time. Uploading this video only reinforced all the suspicions that this group is a propaganda arm for the “rebels”/”terrorists” and not  a genuine recovery group. It was too late to deny what had happened so they try to make the best of it in their statement (see below) and blame their fiasco on the Syrian Government:

“the regime used the video to distort facts and twist perceptions. As usual, the Syrian regime’s media workers took the video, abstracted of its background, and started spinning false stories about it to serve their own purposes and the purposes of Assad regime, that has been killing Syrians for nearly six years, accusing RFS media office of creating fabricated videos of rescue operations by civil defense teams.”

Wider concerns

It is one thing for groups to be involved in publicity and propaganda for participants in a brutal war and to pretend to be something they aren’t. But it is another thing, and this is what really concerns me, when people in authority and power take such groups and their propaganda seriously.

For example, Al Jazeera relies heavily on the White Helmets as a source for their news coverage of Syria – particularly Aleppo. White Helmets videos or often used and members of the group quoted for information. Beyond that I think Al Jazeera’s other most common source for new sin Syria are simply “activists.’ To me, that means participants in the war – “rebels”/”terrorists.”

My second example is closer to home – the New Zealand government (see White Helmets dupes New Zealand government?) The New Zealand Ministry’s of Foreign Affairs and Internal Affairs are coughing up about $100,000 to provide training for White Helmet’s members. Not much money – but it gives respectability to a publicity and propaganda organisation while ignoring the real Syrian Civil Defense Forces.

Let’s hope this fiasco, which can longer be blamed as a “false flag” operation or misinformation promoted by the Syrian government and their allies, is another relatively large step towards the final discrediting of the White Helmets.
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Manufacturing news, and opinion, about Syria

I originally posted this video from the RFS (Revolutionary Forces of Syria Media Office) Channel – but after realising that they were a “rebel”/”terrorist” group and had probably posted it by mistake I instead used a version saved by Moon of Alabama. Sure enough, when I checked a few hours later RFS had removed the video. (* See Footnote below).

For a while now I have felt our mainstream media has presented a very biased picture of the war in Syria.

I have been particularly concerned about the way the  media relies on “activists” from areas held by “rebels”/”terrorists” – surely that is just an admission that the media is using propaganda provided by these very “rebels”/”terrorists” who are fighting this war.

Then there are non-governmental groups often cited as sources – as if the fact they are NGOs is somehow an indication they are reliable. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Aleppo Medical Centre,   the Aleppo Media Centre and the White Helmets are some examples.

A phoney White Helmets rescue?

All these NGOs are suspect – and especially the White Helmets which produced the above video. I have written about this group in White Helmets dupes New Zealand government?, Anti-Syrian propaganda and the White HelmetsVoluntary media censorship is ethically wrong and Dissecting pseudoscientific and political propaganda.

In the video above they appear to be doing what is called a Mannequin Challenge where people remain frozen in action like mannequins while a video is recorded. It’s the sort of thing one could do while recording a fictional enactment – but certainly not while recording an emergency rescue situation.

In the past, I have found the White Helmet rescues presented on our mainstream media very unconvincing. Almost always a child was being rescued, often from very deep in a pile of rubble, and the White Helmet rescuer would run with the child toward or way from the camera. The videos played on our sympathy for children – but the lack of real injuries (a little bit of blood – or tomato sauce – and dust) were not consistent with a real situation. The lack of proper rescue equipment and provision of aid to the “victims” was also suspicious.

So what we have here is apparently an enactment. The two White Helmets rescuers and the “victim” were set in place and remained still and silent while the mannequin challenge was filmed. Then “action!” The victim screams, the White Helmets leap up and what appears to be recorded background noise starts.

The White Helmets propaganda videos have been very effective. Full of action, playing on natural sympathy for children. But the organisation operates only in the “rebel”/”terrorist” areas. And our media very rarely shows any coverage of the children and other civilians killed, injured or rescued in the government areas. There are plenty of these incidents and they are being filmed. (The little girl below is a survivor of terrorist shelling of two primary schools in west Aleppo where at least 8 children were killed). It’s just that our media very rarely shows them.

Footnote

This photo from the filming session for the White Helmets video above has also appeared online. Furtherer evidence the video is fake?
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White Helmets dupes New Zealand government?

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The real Syrian Civil Defence – and not a White Helmet in sight. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley August 15, 2016)

Apparently, the White Helmets have duped the New Zealand Ministry’s of Foreign Affairs and Internal Affairs into coughing up about $100,000 – and tarnishing the country’s reputation in the process.

Foreign Affairs Minister, Murray McCully, and Internal Affairs Minister, Peter Dunne, announced the funding last Wednesday (see NZ training support for White Helmets in Syria). It is to be used to provide four-month training support by the NZ Fire Service to the White Helmets.

On the surface, this looks like a poorly considered knee-jerk response to a White Helmets request for funds. But the Ministers cannot have properly vetted the White Helmet organisation or its claims. Peter Dunne naively describes it as a “volunteer organisation which is doing remarkable work in badly damaged cities like Aleppo.” The ministers also seemed to have uncritically accepted claims made by the White Helmets that they have helped thousands of Syrians. They ignored completely information showing this is a partisan organisation, operating only in areas held by “terrorists”/”rebels,” often seen to be involved in “terrorist”/”rebel” celebrations (sometimes carrying Al Nusra flags) and with members who carry arms and have been identified as also belonging to militant armed groups.

[Note: Al Nusra is the Syrian franchise for Al Qaeda and is classified as a terrorist organisation by the UN. I am using the term “rebel”/”terrorist” to avoid the problems of differentiating between so-called “moderate rebels” and terrorists – hell, even the USA has been able to differentiate them. Currently, groups that have been called “moderate rebels” are fighting in the Army of Conquest – a coalition led by Al Nusra.]

The Ministers seem to have been taken in by the slick propaganda claims of this organisation. They have ignored the fact that White Helmet propaganda is always directed against the legitimate government of Syria and its allies, and it often used by mainstream media to give a distorted picture of this conflict.

Who are the White Helmets?

Well, first, they are not the legitimate Syrian Civil Defence organisation – as Mr Dunne seems to believe in his claim this funding is not a sign New Zealand was taking a side in the conflict. He said.

“We don’t have a view about whether they are politically aligned or not – they are the Syrian Civil Defence Association.”

Is he not aware that the White Helmets have simply dishonestly usurped that name?

The White helmets are not affiliated to, or recognised by, the International Civil Defence Association (ICDA),  nor is it connected to the Syrian Civil Defence Forces (the legitimate Syrian Civil Defence organisation) which have been a member of the ICDA since 1972.

As independent report Vanessa Beeley points out in her article The REAL Syria Civil Defence Exposes Fake ‘White Helmets’ as Terrorist-Linked Imposters:”

For the REAL Syria Civil Defence you call 113 inside Syria.  There is no public number for the White Helmets.  Why not? Why does this multi-million dollar US & NATO state-funded first responder ‘NGO,’ with state of the art equipment supplied by the US and the EU via Turkey, have no central number for civilians to call when the “bombs fall”?”

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West Aleppo REAL Syria Civil Defence unit (Photo: Vanessa Beeley August 15, 2016)

It’s worth reading Vanessa Beely’s reports and watching her interviews. She has visited Syria and talked with people from the real Syrian Civil Defence. And she explains why the White Helmets are usurpers and not a legitimate Syrian first responder organisation.

I have written about the White Helmets before – see Anti-Syrian propaganda and the White Helmets and provided a general overview. This video also provides an overview:

In summary, the White Helmets is not a Syrian organisation, it is an overseas NGO funded by governments like the UK and the USA. It operates only in areas held by the “rebels”/”terrorists”  and issues anti-government propaganda – often calling for the US to attack Syrian government forces. Uniformed White Helmets members have been seen in “rebel”/”terrorist” demonstrations, holding Al Nusra flags and participating in Jihadist chants. They run a slick propaganda department – rescues seem only to involve young children and camera teams are always there to record the “rescues.” Professional rescue people have commented that they seem to never use real rescue equipment such as spine splints. Some commentators have even suggested that some of the White Helmet propaganda videos are staged. Rescues are certainly managed with an eye to the camera.

What vetting did the NZ government carry out?

OK, its only about $100,000 dollars – small bickies. But in terms of New Zealand’s reputation and providing support for anti-government forces this is a huge problem. We will now be publicly aligned with the “rebel”/”terrorist’ side in the Syrian conflict. And this despite giving support to UN Security Council resolutions on Syria which always start with the clause:

“Reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic, . . . “

Yet the White Helmets in their propaganda, calls for attacks on Syrian government forces and restriction of its work to “rebel”/”terrorist’ areas is obviously working against “the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic.”

Has the NZ government decided to align itself more publicly with the “rebel”/”terrorist” forces in Syria, or at least align itself more publicly against “the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic?”

Or is it just a matter of the government being duped by a slick propaganda campaign and possibly pressure from governments which are financing this anti-Syria organisation?

I sincerely hope that it is the later. But then that raises questions about the vetting procedure use by these ministries. Surely government ministries should carry out some sort of investigation before committing money and national reputation in such a controversial area.

What exactly was done to check out the White Helmets before this decision was made?

Perhaps it’s time for an Official information request?

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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.

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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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