Category Archives: lies

The National Geographic Hell on Earth Syria Hoax

On April 5, 2017, National Geographic released a preview of its film, Hell on Earth: The Fall Of Syria And The Rise of ISIS, by filmmaker Sebastian Junger and producing partner Nick Quested:

The film itself debuted on April 26, 2017, at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York and on the National Geographic channel on June 11.  Junger and Quested persuaded NG to release the preview early, following the suspected chemical attacks in Syria on April 4.

There are, unfortunately, several problems with the footage in both the preview and the film, as well as with the claims made by the filmmakers and National Geographic.  The most glaring of these is that the opening scene of the trailer is a total fraud.

The scene shows a missile destroying a residential building with a thunderous explosion.  Imposed over the footage are the words, ALEPPO, SYRIA.  The clear implication is that the missile is part of a Russian or Syrian Air Force attack in the battle for Aleppo.

But how would the videographer have known where to position the camera in preparation for such an attack?  Surprisingly, there is a logical answer to this question, because there are, in fact, circumstances where victims are told in advance the location and time of a missile strike.

Such a location is Gaza, and the time is when Israeli soldiers call the inhabitants of a house by phone and tell them to get out in 15 minutes or be blown up. That is enough time for a neighbor to film the event, and, in fact, it has been done on multiple occasions in Gaza, such as here, here, here, here, here and here.

But in Aleppo, Syria? Who would call in advance? In this case, the explanation is rather different; i.e., that the footage is not from Aleppo at all, but, in fact, from Gaza and only labeled as Aleppo.  The original source footage comes from 2014, and is from the Israeli operation that took more than 2,200 Palestinian lives that summer, long before the Russians started providing air support for the Syrian army:

The use of this footage in the National Geographic preview, falsely labeling the location as Aleppo and implicating the Syrian or Russian Air Force in the destruction, is therefore a shameless and utter fraud.

The second discrepancy is that, according to the filmmakers, the footage in the preview is from the feature film.  That may have been true on April 5, when the public had not yet seen the full film, but at some point, someone must have brought the fraudulent footage to the attention of National Geographic, so that they could replace it with a new opening footage.  When did this happen?  Was it before the debut on April 26, or later?  It would be good to know.

But the reaction of the filmmakers is disappointing in the extreme.  When faced with proof positive that their film contained a blatant fraud, did no one question the extent to which the entire film might be filled with fraud? Anyone who would so obviously falsify would hardly limit it to a single segment.  The footage was clearly chosen for its effect, not its accuracy, and its quiet removal is more a cover-up than a correction.

To what extent, for example, are the rescue portions of the preview and film, featuring the White Helmets, also fraud?  Respected US Marine intelligence officer and UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter is convinced that the White Helmets are incompetent in rescue operations, and that their videos are fabrications.  Recognized documentary filmmaker John Pilger has called them a “complete propaganda construct”.  On occasion, the White Helmets have even been forced to admit the same.

To what extent is the featured family merely acting out the events portrayed and not actually living them?  To what extent is it all contrived?  These are questions that deserve investigation.  More important, how true is the reality that the film tries to portray, whether simulated or not (although if simulated, the filmmakers should say so for the sake of their own integrity, rather than pretending it is genuine)?

The fact is that although half the Syrian population has been displaced by war, the majority have never left Syria. When displaced, they have almost invariably left the areas taken over by “rebels” in order to seek refuge in government controlled areas.  Why?  Is it because the Syrian government; i.e., the “despised” Bashar al-Assad – despite the disastrous economy and in cooperation with Syrian civil organizations – is somehow housing, feeding, clothing, educating and providing health care to these Syrian citizens?  In fact, the United Nations High Commission on Refugees reports that, with the Syrian government reasserting its authority in recovered areas of the country, more than 440,000 displaced persons have returned to their homes.

The film also fails to mention that thousands of “rebel” fighters have laid down their arms, accepted Syrian government amnesty and been allowed to return to their homes.  It further omits that the US and its allies could have stopped ISIS by merely denying them funding and arms.  Russia was the one that largely put an end to the trafficking of stolen Syrian oil, by bombing the massive convoys of trucks across the Turkish border.  No mention of that in the film.  The US has avoided serious actions against ISIS and al-Qaeda, and treated them as useful hit men in order to destroy the Syrian military.  This made us enablers of the terrorists rather than their eliminators.

As for the filmmakers, the New Yorker reports that “[they] couldn’t get into Syria, so …[the film] was shot by Middle Eastern news outfits, and by activists, witnesses, and citizen journalists.” This is reflected in the credits, which include the Aleppo Media Center, Daryaa [sic] Media Center, Halab News Network and Sham News.  These are all affiliates of the White Helmets, which in turn is the front organization for the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, variously called Jabhat al-Nusra, Jabha Fateh al-Sham and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.  Their lavish funding comes from France, the UK, the US, Qatar and other countries.  There is no evidence that any of the footage has been authenticated by the filmmakers themselves, and every reason to think that it has not.

It’s not that the film is totally inaccurate or that it does not do a service by revealing the suffering of refugees.  It does.  But it also perpetuates the worst western myths about the war, which are feeding a continuation of the suffering and the conflict.  The US and its allies are the prime cause of the conflict, not the solution.  US policy makers see the destruction of Syria as a positive thing, much as they do Iraq and Libya, and US efforts are directed toward destruction and control, not toward resolution and reconciliation.

If the filmmakers were honest, they would take the evidence of fraud as a sign that they need to review all the footage in the film that they have not authenticated and over which they have not exercised control.  Otherwise, they run the risk of being labeled as propagandists and permanently damaging or ruining their credibility as documentary filmmakers.

“An Impeachable Offence”: Professor Postol and Syria

It is hard to believe that just three weeks ago the entire corporate media was in uproar over Syria; specifically, about the need to ‘do something’ in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack in Khan Shaykhun, Idlib, Syria, on April 4. Guardian commentator George Monbiot summed up the corporate media zeitgeist:

Do those who still insist Syrian govt didn’t drop chemical weapons have any idea how much evidence they are denying?

Monbiot linked to evidence supplied by Bellingcat, an organisation hosted by Eliot Higgins. In a 2014 letter to the London Review of Books, Richard Lloyd and Ted Postol, described by the New York Times as ‘leading weapons experts’, dismissed Higgins as ‘a blogger who, although he has been widely quoted as an expert in the American mainstream media, has changed his facts every time new technical information has challenged his conclusion that the Syrian government must have been responsible for the sarin attack [in Ghouta, August 2013]. In addition, the claims that Higgins makes that are correct are all derived from our findings, which have been transmitted to him in numerous exchanges’.

Professor Postol, a professor emeritus of science, technology, and national-security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has an impressive record of fearlessly debunking propaganda. For example, the Pentagon declared the Patriot missile system no less than 98% successful at intercepting and destroying Iraqi Scud missiles during the 1991 Gulf War. After careful examination, Postol found that the Patriot’s success rate was rather less impressive:

It became clear that it wasn’t even close to intercepting any targets, let alone some targets.1

Postol has now challenged a White House report on the alleged chemical weapons attack in Idlib. He notes:

The only source the document cites as evidence that the attack was by the Syrian government [air force] is the crater it claims to have identified on a road in the North of Khan Shaykhun.

But Postol claims that the White House’s photographic evidence ‘clearly indicates that the munition was almost certainly placed on the ground with an external detonating explosive on top of it that crushed the container so as to disperse the alleged load of sarin’.

He adds:

I have reviewed the document carefully, and 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.

No competent analyst would assume that the crater cited as the source of the sarin attack was unambiguously an indication that the munition came from an aircraft. No competent analyst would assume that the photograph of the carcass of the sarin canister was in fact a sarin canister. Any competent analyst would have had questions about whether the debris in the crater was staged or real. No competent analyst would miss the fact that the alleged sarin canister was forcefully crushed from above, rather than exploded by a munition within it. All of these highly amateurish mistakes indicate that this White House report… was not properly vetted by the intelligence community as claimed.

Postol’s conclusion could hardly be more damning:

I have worked with the intelligence community in the past, and I have grave concerns about the politicization of intelligence that seems to be occurring with more frequency in recent times – but I know that the intelligence community has highly capable analysts in it. And if those analysts were properly consulted about the claims in the White House document they would have not approved the document going forward.

We again have a situation where the White House has issued an obviously false, misleading and amateurish intelligence report.

Postol recently told The Nation:

What I think is now crystal clear is that the White House report was fabricated and it certainly did not follow the procedures it claimed to employ.

He added:

My best guess at the moment is that this was an extremely clumsy and ill-conceived attempt to cover up the fact that Trump attacked Syria without any intelligence evidence that Syria was in fact the perpetrator of the attack…. It may be that the White House staff was worried that this could eventually come out—a reckless president acting without regard to the nation’s security, risking an inadvertent escalation and confrontation with Russia, and a breakdown in cooperation with Russia that would cripple our efforts to defeat the Islamic State.

If that is not an impeachable offense, then I do not know what is.

Robert Parry, an investigative reporter who broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s, comments:

On April 11, five days after Trump’s decision to attack the Syrian airbase, Trump’s White House released a four-page “intelligence assessment” that offered another alleged motivation, Khan Sheikhoun’s supposed value as a staging area for a rebel offensive threatening government infrastructure. But that offensive had already been beaten back and the town was far from the frontlines.

In other words, there was no coherent motive for Assad to have dropped sarin on this remote town. There was, however, a very logical reason for Al Qaeda’s jihadists to stage a chemical attack and thus bring pressure on Assad’s government. (There’s also the possibility of an accidental release via a conventional government bombing of a rebel warehouse or from the rebels mishandling a chemical weapon – although some of the photographic evidence points more toward a staged event.)

We have no idea who was responsible for the mass killings in Idlib on April 4; we are not weapons experts. But it seems obvious to us that arguments and evidence offered by credible sources like Postol should at least be aired by the mass media. As Parry writes:

The role of an honest press corps should be to apply skepticism to all official stories, not carry water for “our side” and reject anything coming from the “other side,” which is what The New York Times, The Washington Post and the rest of the Western mainstream media have done, especially regarding Middle East policies and now the New Cold War with Russia.

Our search of the Lexis database (April 26) finds that no UK newspaper article has mentioned the words ‘Postol’ and ‘Syria’ in the last month. In our April 12 media alert, we noted that former and current UN weapons inspectors Hans Blix, Scott Ritter and Jerry Smith, as well as former CIA counterterrorism official Philip Giraldi, had all questioned the official narrative of what happened on April 4. Lexis finds these results for UK national newspapers:

‘Blix’ and ‘Syria’ = 0 hits

‘Ritter’ and ‘Syria’ = 0 hits

‘Jerry Smith’ and Syria = 1 hit

‘Giraldi’ and ‘Syria’ = 0 hits.

It is remarkable that, even after the deceptions of Iraq and Libya, journalists are so unwilling to report credible evidence challenging the US government’s version of events. This is made even more shocking by the fact that Trump has not, of course, been treated with the respect and deference usually reserved for US presidents. Rather, he has been subjected to a barrage of relentless and damning criticism. And yet, in response to his illegal bombing of a foreign country, the press has not only dropped its usual criticism, but showered Trump with praise while suppressing reasoned criticism. Yet more evidence that corporate journalism is dangerously corrupted by political and economic forces demanding Perpetual War.

  1. Postol, quoted, Great Military Blunders, Channel 4, March 2, 2000

Pipelines, Tomahawks, and The Syrian Gulf of Tonkin

Right off the bat, you may have realized that The Gulf of Tonkin is nowhere near Syria.  But if you’re familiar with The Gulf of Tonkin Incident from 1964, in which the American public was duped by its government into believing that its Navy was fired upon by North Vietnam forces – a lie which resulted in the deaths of 58,000+ U.S. Military Boys, and several untold, uncounted, superfluous millions of Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians – you too may be doubting the official U.S. Government/MSM story about a recent sarin gas war crime, which allegedly took place in Syria.  The built-in lie-detector in the pit of my stomach has been flying off the charts, as Lester Holt and his multi-network cadres in lies and deceit carefully recite the C.I.A.-issued song and dance, nightly, in four part harmony, each wearing his best ‘serious’ face, and with feeling:  “The attack on Syrian civilians in Idlib was carried out by the Assad Regime and Russia.”…or words to that effect.  Over and over and over and over again, ad infinitum, to the extent that it begins to interfere with all the important stuff:  Namely sports, car thefts, kidnappings, and more localized murders  Did I mention that no proof is ever offered?

And now Don Trump tells invites “all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed” in Syria.  Pretty funny stuff, Don, considering the U.S.A. NEVER intervenes in the affairs of other countries for “humanitarian” reasons.  When the Tomahawk Missiles are flying, they are not following a trail of blood and death nor truth and justice…their path follows the money.  Syria; nothing but a thimbleful of semen in the 20-year-old wet-dreams of Cheney and his gang of thieves and thugs at The Project for a New American Century (PNAC).  Far from being fired to end the slaughter and bloodshed, U.S. Tomahawk Missiles are out to complete the transformation of Syria into a pile of death and debris.  Like Afghanistan, like Iraq, and like Libya.  Wars are no longer waged with winning in mind.  If you break it, you own it…and the U.S. Military’s goal is to break Syria and gain control of its strategic location, its oil, and its gas.  To own it, my friends.

Anybody else think that footage of the largely discredited, Isis-friendly, C.I.A.-stooge White Helmets “saving” child victims of the alleged sarin gas attack was a little strange?  Those Academy Award-winning White Knights must be supermen.  Amazing how they handled those dead and dying children with bare hands, in an attempt to save their lives.  With little to no regard for their personal safety.  Few gas masks, no gloves…touching the dying and certainly becoming contaminated with sarin…a death sentence.  Wonder how many are now dead?  Anybody like to wager that they’re all just fine?  I’d just about guarantee you that the heroes will be up on stage at next year’s Oscar Event, to accept another award for yet another grim fairy tale.  That or accepting The Nobel Peace Prize.

The U.S.A., its European lapdogs, and Israel would sorely like to close the books on the Pipeline War they have been waging in Syria since 1949.  Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who’s studied recent Syrian history extensively tells us:

The CIA began its active meddling in Syria in 1949—barely a year after the agency’s creation. Syrian patriots had declared war on the Nazis, expelled their Vichy French colonial rulers and crafted a fragile secularist democracy based on the American model. But in March of 1949, Syria’s democratically elected president, Shukri-al-Kuwaiti, hesitated to approve the Trans Arabian Pipeline, an American project intended to connect the oil fields of Saudi Arabia to the ports of Lebanon via Syria. In his book, Legacy of Ashes, CIA historian Tim Weiner recounts that in retaliation, the CIA engineered a coup, replacing al-Kuwaiti with the CIA’s handpicked dictator, a convicted swindler named Husni al-Za’im. Al-Za’im barely had time to dissolve parliament and approve the American pipeline before his countrymen deposed him, 14 weeks into his regime.

Of course, this was only the beginning of a struggle which has spanned my lifetime, and of which, as an uninformed American Citizen, I’ve been largely unaware.  More recently, in 2000, Qatar proposed a ten billion dollar natural gas pipeline through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, and Turkey.  In 2009, Assad announced that the pipeline would not be allowed a route through Syria, in deference to the wishes of his favored ally, Russia.  The flow of Qatar gas to Europe would have cut into Putin’s business.  And that, boys and girls, is why the allegorical shit is hitting the fan in Syria.  That is why Trump has just ramped up Wall Street’s war on Assad.  That is why Lester Holt wears the same nightly, pale, blank, lying facial expression, which adorned the face of Colin Powell when he told his tall tales and blatant lies about Saddam Hussein’s Weapons of Mass Destruction.

And so time marches on in The U.S.A.  Pearl Harbor was no surprise to F.D.R. nor the war-hungry businessmen who surrounded him, and so my Dad got drafted and sent into the bloody waters of The Pacific.  The Gulf of Tonkin lies justified The Vietnam War.  The sordid story of 9-11 may never be revealed, but it is clear that the official story was as bogus as a $20 Rolex Watch, and the result has been justifiable and endless wars in the Mideast and Africa.  Gaddafi had grand plans to free Africa from Empire’s heavy hand, so he was falsely and obtusely accused of some undefinable crimes, summarily and disgracefully murdered, and Libya reduced to rubble while Hillary Clinton cackled for joy.  And the sarin gas attack at Idlib is now being used as a welcome mat to World War III.  How will Putin respond?  Will a handful of Satan II Missiles wipe out all U.S. population centers sometime before the Summer of 2017?  Stay tuned for the next exciting chapter.

Our Sons-of-Bitches: Western Media and the Syrian “Rebels”

“He may be a son-of-a-bitch, but he’s our son-of-a-bitch” – this is what U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt is rumoured to have once said about Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza. We examine how the western media, always so full of editorials and columns praising western values (whatever those may be), have covered the Syrian opposition during the Syrian war, focusing on three groups in particular. A closer look at the falsehoods that have been peddled, the inconvenient truths that were left unsaid, and the contradictions that emerged due to low journalistic standards, reveal the shameless and spineless support for western imperialism that has become the norm.

*****

A war outsourced to al-Qaeda

The coverage of the Syrian war reached deafening tones during the recent government recapture of East Aleppo. Who can forget hearing over and over that the “last hospital” in East Aleppo had been destroyed? This entire coverage, orchestrated with a multitude of hidden backers, had the goal of convincing western readers that this had been a collective failure of humanity, that the west had done nothing to prevent it and that it thus needed to do more.

This myth of western non-intervention has been thoroughly debunked, even if far away from the mainstream press. But nobody put it better than Rania Khalek:

[…] the US government outsourced its war against the Syrian government to Al Qaeda, and Americans have no idea, because corporate media continue to promote lies about Obama’s so-called inaction.

The way in which al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, has been portrayed in the western press will one day be part of journalism courses. It is truly unbelievable that the Syrian branch of) al-Qaeda, a group that was declared public enemy #1, the main target of the open-ended “war on terror”, the existential threat to western civilisation, would end up spearheading the U.S. regime change operation in Syria.

Throughout the Syrian conflict we have mainly seen three ways of incorporating al-Qaeda into the mainstream narrative. One is to simply not mention their presence. When the propaganda goes into overdrive we start reading only about “rebels”, with no mention whatsoever of their nature. And thus we heard of the plight of the “rebels” in East Aleppo over and over again. The contrast with the coverage of the operation to retake Mosul, or with previous operations against al-Qaeda in Iraqi cities, could not be starker.

The second one is to mention that, even though a given operation is led by the Nusra front and their jihadi cousins of Ahrar al-Sham (more on them later), there are also plenty of moderate rebels around. The myth of the moderate rebels became ever-present in the western media, David Cameron claimed there were 70.000 of them!

While the Russians and Syrians claimed they were bombing terrorists, western governments cried in outrage that moderate forces, standing side by side with extremists, were being attacked. At this point there is an obvious question to be asked: if they are standing and fighting next to al-Qaeda, how moderate can they really be?1 Additionally, the west has been supplying weapons to these groups via regional proxies. Does this not just simply amount to an indirect supply of weapons to the Nusra front, which is where they naturally ended up?

Press conference announcing the Nusra front’s rebranding as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham

And the final tactic is what is employed by low-cost airlines after a plane crash: changing the name. This has arguably more to do with the regional sponsors of extremism, Saudi Arabia first and foremost, but also Qatar, the UAE, and to some extent Jordan and Turkey2, in that they need to at least pretend that they are fighting extremism in the region.

Therefore we have seen multiple rebrandings and regroupings of the Nusra front. There was the umbrella Jaish al Fatah (“Army of Conquest”), there was the official split from al-Qaeda with the blessing from al-Qaeda and the renaming as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham. While any serious journalist would remind readers that this was the regrouped/rebranded al-Qaeda affiliate, it was not uncommon to find cases where we are just presented with the new names and no background. We also witnessed a situation where, under the cover of these rebrandings, a Saudi official pretty much admitted that the Saudis were supplying weapons to the Nusra front. His blushes were spared by the low journalistic standards of the BBC but not by the Intercept.

All in all, it seems like Bin Laden only needed to survive a few more years, move to Syria and get a new logo, and he would be back working with the Americans just like in the good ol’ 80s.

An islamic state through the ballot box

Another group in Syria3 whose trajectory in the western media is worth analysing is Ahrar al-Sham. It is known that it began forming brigades well before the official start of the Syrian “Revolution” in 2011, and this seriously undercuts the theory that the Syrian uprising was entirely secular and progressive from the start, only to be hijacked by jihadists, or forced in that direction by the government response, later on.

When the group first emerged as a serious player the coverage rule book had yet to crystallise, and western journalists sometimes fell into old habits of doing actual journalism. Reporting facts, verifying stories, that sort of thing. At the time it was plainly said that Ahrar al-Sham were a jihadist group full of foreign fighters which fought side-by-side with al-Qaeda. When it became clear that these groups were the big players in the Syrian opposition, the tune needed to change, at least in the newsrooms. Intelligence agencies had long known of this risk as weapons and money had been flowing from the west and regional allies. But while al-Qaeda had an unfixable PR problem, there was still hope for Ahrar al-Sham.

So we witnessed a scramble to merge the “democratic, secular forces we said we supported” and the “bin-ladenites we actually support”. The BBC needs to be credited with a quite remarkable piece of journalism. When describing Ahrar al-Sham, they wrote that they were:

  • “An ultraconservative Islamist, or Salafist, rebel group that aims to topple Mr Assad and build an Islamic state;
  • Has vowed to achieve the latter through the ballot box and not force”

Among the multiple journalists and editors, not to mention whoever told this to a reporter, surely someone must have thought this was a bit hard to believe. Here we have a group that wants to create an ultraconservative Islamic state, ban music, install religious courts, stone adulterers, kill non-believers and all that, and the BBC thinks they will just put this as an option in a ballot.

width=Ahrar al Sham speaking to the press, assuring them that there were no terrorists in Aleppo

The campaign to whitewash the group was a full-blown PR effort, with sponsors such as Qatar swearing on the moderation of the group. The face of this sanitisation for western consumption was Ahrar al-Sham’s foreign policy chief, Labib al-Nahhas. Soon enough he was given op-eds in mainstream outlets, claiming that contrary to all previous reports of his group fighting side-by-side with al-Qaeda and sharing its ideology, including in those same newspapers where the floor is now ceded to him, accusations of “organizational links to al-Qaeda and of espousing al-Qaeda’s ideology” could not be “further from the truth”.

And the absorption into the mainstream was complete when, beyond giving a column to Ahrar al-Sham, western outlets started basing their editorial lines on the opinions of the group. The case in point is the Shia bogeyman, Iran’s alleged masterplan to re-engineer the demographics of the region, something regularly peddled by the most sectarian regimes in the region, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Monarchies, and by the always loyal DC think tanks. What is most remarkable is that a journalist in a supposedly serious newspaper would base his geopolitical analysis on the views of a group he himself not so long ago labelled as “jihadi“, “conservative salafist” and “sharing much of al-Qaida’s worldview“.

If we cannot work with child beheaders, who are we left with?

The episode that most gruesomely captured the contradictions of western foreign policy and media coverage took place in Aleppo in July 2016. A sickening video was released showing a group of men taunting and then beheading a young boy. The perpetrators were from Nour al-Din al-Zenki, and the boy was a 12 year old Palestinian whom they accused of belonging to a Palestinian militia that fights alongside the Syrian government.

This was immediately followed by the damning revelation that this group had been vetted by the U.S. and received weapons. And while in reaction to previous episodes of this sort, though arguably none as reviling as this one, we witnessed widespread condemnation and defiant proclamations that evil would not triumph, this time what transpired was a damage control mission. From absurd claims that the boy was actually 19 and had stunted growth, to justifications that this was an individual act that would be punished by a “judicial process“, even attempts to deflect the blame onto the Assad “regime”.

But for some even this episode was not enough to conclude that western powers should not be allied with this kind of groups. Sam Heller argued that the U.S. will only achieve its goals in Syria by backing groups such as Nour al-Din al-Zenki. If you can only achieve your goals by working with child-beheading jihadis, maybe the goals are not worth pursuing in the first place? This question never seems to pop up in western media.

Sam Heller defends working with groups like Nour al-Din al-Zenki while Charles Lister spreads lies about the victim.

Another fierce advocate of Nour al-Din al-Zenki has been Charles Lister of the Middle East Institute. He shamelessly tried to downplay the heinous crime by claiming the victim was a “child fighter“, while in truth he was nothing of the sort. In the past Lister had advertised the group as “moderate“, but he is also on record saying that 50% of the rebels in Syria are moderate and that ISIS was created by the Syrian secret services. Recently Lister declared that, even though the group was moderate, it had become disgusting and he no longer supported it. So either a long history of extremism, abuses and coordination with al-Qaeda was out-of-character behaviour from a moderate group or Lister was blatantly lying all this time.

As for Nour al-Din al-Zenki, it has joined the latest rebranding/regrouping of al-Qaeda in Syria.

Jihad made in USA

If we contrast the official discourse of the U.S. and other western powers with regard to the Middle East, always full of uncompromising pledges to defend freedom, democracy and human rights, and the nature of the groups and countries in the region that are allied with western interests, there is a glaring contradiction. The media, instead of exposing this hypocrisy, have chosen to bridge the gap through omission, obfuscation and outright fabrications.

In reality this contradiction is only apparent. There is a long history of western empires finding the most extremist islamist groups as their most useful allies. The Taliban in Afghanistan and Bin Laden are probably the most emblematic of recent examples. But this goes back decades, for instance, to the British manoeuvres to put the Saud clan in power. When there was a struggle for hegemony in the Middle East between Gamal Nasser and the Saud family, it was crystal clear on whose side the west was on. And even recently John Kerry admitted that the U.S. had hoped ISIS advances could be used as leverage against Assad.

Any truly progressive regime in the Middle East, past or present, will invariably find itself at odds with western interests in the region, from natural resources to the occupation of Palestine. This history of contradictions and weaponisation of Islamic extremism by western powers, along with the way it has been presented to western audiences, is explored in the recent book Jihad made in USA by Gregoire Lalieu (available in French and Spanish).

• First published at Investig’Action

  1. On a related note, western journalists do not seem to find any inconsistency in (supposedly) democratic, secular, feminist groups being backed by Saudi Arabia!
  2. There is also a lot to write about Israel’s involvement in all this, from their détente with extremist groups right on their doorstep (the occupied Golan Heights), sometimes even allowing fighters to receive hospital care in Israel, to their constant violations of international law when they bomb targets in Syria.
  3. It would be lazy and inaccurate to call them “Syrian groups”, since there has been a tremendous influx of foreign fighters.

The “White Helmets” Go to Hollywood

The Netflix movie The White Helmets may win an Oscar in the “short documentary” category at the Academy Awards on Sunday February 26.  It will not be a surprise, despite the fact that the group is a fraud and the movie is a contrived infomercial.

The White Helmets are a “feel good” story like a Disney hero movie: 90% myth and fabrication. Most of what is claimed about the Syrian rescue group is untrue. They are not primarily Syrian; the group was initiated by British military contractor James LeMesurier and has been heavily funded (about $100 million) by the USA, UK and other governments. They are not volunteers; they are paid. This is confirmed in the Al Jazeera video which shows some White Helmet “volunteers’ talking about going on strike if they don’t get paid soon. Most of the heavy funding goes to the marketing which is run by “The Syria Campaign” based in New York. The manager is an Irish America woman Anna Nolan who has never been to Syria. As an example of its deception, “The Syria Campaign” website features video showing children dancing and playing soccer implying they are part of the opposition demand for a “free and peaceful” Syria . But the video images are taken from a 2010 BBC documentary about education in Syria under the Baath government.

White Helmets and Nusra

When eastern Aleppo was finally freed from the armed militants, it was discovered that the White Helmets headquarters were alongside the headquarters of the Al Qaeda Syrian militant group. Civilians from east Aleppo reported that the White Helmets primarily responded when the militants were attacked. Soon after departing Aleppo in government supplied buses (!) the White Helmets showed up in the mountains above Damascus where they allied with terrorist groups in poisoning then shutting off the water source for five million people in Damascus.

The White Helmets’ claim to be neutral and independent is another lie. They only work in areas controlled by the rebel groups, primarily Nusra/Al Qaeda.  Their leaders actively call for US and NATO intervention in Syria. Video shows White Helmet workers picking up the corpse of a civilian after execution and celebrating Nusra/Al Qaeda terrorist battle wins.

White Helmets and Nusra

The movie is as fraudulent as the group it tries to heroize. The film-makers never set foot in Syria. Their video footage takes place in southern Turkey where they show White Helmet trainees in a hotel and talking on cell phones. Thrilling. There is some footage from inside Syria but it looks contrived.  The opening scene depicts a White Helmet “volunteer” going to work and beseeching his son not to give mommy a hard time. Real or scripted?

The message is simple: here are people we can support; they are under attack by the brutal “regime” …shouldn’t we “do something” to stop it??!

ISIS and One Finger Salute


White Helmets’ One Finger Salute

Khaled Khatib is said to be the person who filmed the footage from inside Syria. He has reportedly received a US visa and will attend the Oscars. This will likely garner special media attention. Ironically, some of those who have exploited the refugee issue for their own fund-raising campaigns, like Human Rights Watch, are groups which promote the war which created the refugee crisis.

Khatib has tweeted the first video he took showing the White Helmets. It looks remarkably unrealistic, with a girl who was totally buried being removed without injuries or wounds or even much dirt. Is it really possible to rescue people that quickly? In the real world, rescue workers are told to work slowly so as to not damage or exacerbate body injuries. The original video has the logo of Aleppo Media Center (AMC) which was created by the Syrian Expatriates Organization.  Their address on K Street in Washington DC suggests this is yet another Western funded media campaign driven by political objectives.

In the past few days, with perfect timing for the upcoming Oscars, there is yet another “miracle” rescue … another girl totally buried but then removed and whisked away in record breaking time — perfect for social media.  Is it real or is it contrived?

This raises a question regarding the integrity of the Academy Awards. Are awards given for actual quality, authenticity, skill and passion?  Or are Oscars sometimes given under political and financial influence?  There is political motivation to promote the White Helmets as part of the effort to prevent the collapse of the Western/Israeli/Gulf campaign to overthrow the Syrian government.  These same governments have given boatloads of money to fuel the propaganda campaign. Last week Syria Solidarity Movement reached out to three marketing firms in the LA area to request help challenging the White Helmets nomination.  Two of the firms declined and the third said they were already being paid to promote the nomination!

The true source and purpose of the White Helmets was exposed almost two years ago. More recently Vanessa Beeley has documented the fact there is a REAL Syrian Civil Defence which was begun in the 1950’s and is a member of the International Civil Defense Organizations. This organization is opposite to the group created in Turkey in 2013. According to on-the-ground interviews in Aleppo, terrorists began by killing real Syrian rescue workers and stealing their equipment.  Since then the White Helmets have been supplied, by the West through Turkey, with brand new ambulances and related rescue equipment.

Max Blumenthal has written a two part detailed examination of the “shadowy PR firm” behind the “White Helmets”. And Jan Oberg has written an overview survey of the “pro” and “con” examinations in his work “Just How Gray are the White Helmets“.

Yet mainstream media, and some ‘alternative’ media, continue to uncritically promote the myth of the “White Helmets”. The promoters of the group absolutely deserve an award for marketing and advertising. This is a field where truth and reality is irrelevant; it’s all about sales and manipulation. On that basis, the “White Helmets” has been an incredible success. The group was started as “Syria Civil Defense”  in Turkey in 2013.  It was re-branded as the “White Helmets” in 2014. It was heavily used in 2014 and 2015 by Nicholas Krisof, Avaaz and others to campaign for all out aggression against Syria.  In 2016 the group received the Rights Livelihood Award and was seriously considered for a Nobel Peace Prize.  These facts show how corrupt and politically and financially influenced the Rights Livelihood Award and Nobel Peace Prize can be.

Meet the White Helmets

The White Helmets movie is a tactic in the ongoing campaign of distortion and deception around Syria.  It’s a fraud, just like the fake kidnapping of NBC reporter Richard Engel. The Oscars will be a demonstration of the integrity of the Academy Awards.  The reporting on the story will be a test of the integrity and accuracy of media outlets. Ironically, the Israeli mainstream TV program I24 presented both sides and titled the segment “White Helmets: Heroes or Hoax?”  In contrast, the highly popular and widely respected DemocracyNow has only broadcast a puff piece promoting the “White Helmet” disinformation.  The coming days will reveal more about the ongoing information war against Syria.  Meanwhile an on online petition continues to gather signatures to NOT give the Oscar to the White Helmets deception.