Jeremy Salt — American Herald Institute via Aletho News Jan 15, 2018
Lies, deceit and forgeries have always been part of war, truth being ‘the first casualty.’ But in the past two decades the falsifications of war have reached unparalleled heights, thanks to technology. The lies told by the American, British, Australian and allied governments ahead of and during the attack on Iraq in 2003 reached heights which one would have thought could not be surpassed. But then came Libya and the black mercenaries, the soldiers fed Viagra, all lies. Topping this, for the past seven years, we have had Syria and its ‘revolution’, photo-shopped, faked and staged from beginning to end with the connivance of the mainstream media.
With isolated exceptions in the Anglo-American media (the US, Britain, France, Australia and Canada) there has been no reporting of the Syria crisis as such. There has only been propaganda, surging forward in wave after wave. It is not enough to say that the credibility of the media has never been lower. Insofar as these wars in the Middle East are concerned, with the exception of a tiny handful of correspondents who occasionally correct the imbalance, it has no credibility at all.
Relying on ‘rebels’ and ‘activists’ and refusing to air the perspective of the Syrian government the media has spun a web of deceit designed to justify and perpetuate ‘western’ aggression against yet another Arab country, this time not through an open military attack, as in Iraq or Libya, but through armed terrorist proxies who have carried out a campaign of murder and mayhem across the country.
There are no ‘moderates’ amongst these groups, not by any reasonable standards. The US Vice President Joe Biden let the cat out of the bag in 2014 when he said there were no moderates in their ranks. They might fight among themselves over territory, arms, money and control but they have the same ideology as the official enemy, of themselves and ‘western’ governments, the Islamic State: extirpation of the Shia and the Alawi and the establishment of a takfirist Islamic regime in Damascus top their agenda. This is what the ‘west’ is supporting in Syria.
The latest issue fed into the headlines is the ‘siege’ of the population of the East Ghouta region, on the outskirts of Damascus, by the ‘regime’, with harrowing stories of children starving or denied hospital care fed into the news cycle. The ‘regime’ is held responsible, not the Jaysh al Islam takfiri collective which John Kerry described in 2016 as a ‘sub group’ of the ISIS and Jabhat al Nusra. These groups, armed and financed by outside governments, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have taken over large parts of East Ghouta and are holding the population hostage. The Syrian government has the responsibility of suppressing them, and in the conflict civilians are dying. This is the cause of the ‘siege’ of East Ghouta and the notion that the people there genuinely support these takfiri groups is as fanciful as the idea that they did in East Aleppo. It was also presented by the media as being under siege by the ‘regime’ but when it was finally liberated from the takfiris its people were literally dancing in the streets with joy. It will be the same in East Ghouta when these groups are sent on their way.
Now we hearing that the ‘regime’ is using chemical weapons in East Ghouta. According to the BBC news web site (‘Syrian war: Reports of chlorine gas attack on rebel-held Eastern Ghouta’, January 13), ‘people’ in the region reported smelling gas after a missile attack. A ‘health worker’ was quoted. An ‘aid worker’ said ten hospitals were affected. There is nothing here of any substance, no evidence of a chlorine attack and no attempt by the BBC to confirm what it has been told.
The BBC makes marvellous wildlife documentaries and excellent feature films but in its reporting of the Syrian conflict it has completely betrayed the most basic journalistic principles of objectivity and balance. Along with the rest of the media it runs whatever the ‘rebels’ and ‘activists’ choose to tell it. The allegation that goes into the headlines, is not substantiated but fulfills the central task not of reporting but of smearing the Syrian government, which never gets the opportunity to state its case beyond ‘the Syrian regime denies the allegations.’ This symbiotic game between terrorist groups and the media has been in motion for the past seven years. Through its false reporting the media has supported the war on Syria and must share the responsibility for the massive death and destruction that has ensued.
Of all media outlets the BBC has less credibility than most when raising the issue of chemical weapons attacks. In 2013 it was involved in the fabrication of one such alleged attack, on a school in Aleppo. The children and young men moaning on the floor with shaving cream on their faces and theatrically created burns and patches of skin hanging from their bodies were ludicrously bad actors. ‘Dr. Roula’, the woman speaking to the camera, turned out to be Roula al Hallam, the daughter of a member of the Syrian opposition in exile. The precedent for this performance is the blubbering young woman who told the story of babies being thrown out of their incubators by Iraqi soldiers after the invasion of Kuwait in 1991. She turned out not to be a hospital nurse but the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the US. This piece of theatre was produced by a Washington PR firm.
‘Dr Roula’s’ original statement (August 29) that this seemed to be a napalm attack had been changed to ‘chemical weapon’ by the time it was broadcast a few hours later (August 30). The film was the same, she was the same ‘Dr Roula’ but the words coming out of her mouth were not the same.
The timing of this fabrication was central to the story. On August 21, the very same day that UN chemical weapons inspectors were arriving in Damascus, the Syrian government was accused of orchestrating a chemical weapons attack in the Ghouta region, outside the city, that allegedly killed hundreds of people. On August 26 the napalm/chemical weapons attack was allegedly carried out on the Aleppo school. On August 29/30 the allegations were broadcast twice by the BBC, with ‘napalm’ changed to ‘chemical weapon’ in the second broadcast. Later in the day (August 30) the House of Commons voted on military intervention in Syria. The Cameron government lost the vote but only narrowly (285-272). The fabricated BBC report seems to have been aired with the intention of pushing the Commons vote across the line.
The attack in the Ghouta region around Damascus was never followed up by the media once the Syrian government had been smeared and set up for military attack. The identity of the children whose bodies were shown (sometimes the same bodies in different locations) remains a mystery. They were used for propaganda before disappearing forever. The takfiris have recently massacred hundreds of Alawis in the Latakia governorate and had kidnapped scores of women and children: according to Mother Agnes, the nun who did what the media should have done by trying to find the truth, some of the mothers identified the children at Ghouta as theirs.
The evidence of scientists and journalists, notably Seymour Hersh, showed, with no room for doubt, that the chemicals were fired from positions held by the takfiris. Barrack Obama had declared that a chemical weapons attack would be his ‘red line’ and the takfiris had set out to push him across it. The apparent involvement of other governments in this provocation was something else the media did not follow up.
After the New Yorker showed no interest in his story, Hersh took it to the London Review of Books, where it was published. When he exposed the falsity of a second alleged attack, in Khan Shaikhun, in April, 2017, he had to find a publisher in Germany (Die Welt). The truth-telling Hersh found a rapidly diminishing appetite for his truths in the mainstream even though, without any doubt, he is an outstanding investigative reporter, all the way back to his exposure of the My Lai massacre during the US war on Vietnam (and neighboring countries). While Trump bombed a Syrian air base near Khan Shaikhun, Obama pulled back at the last minute. According to Hersh, senior intelligence figures knew the Syrian government was not behind the alleged chemical weapons attack near Damascus but ‘how can we help this guy Obama when he and his cronies in the White House make up the intelligence as they go along.’
The war on Syria goes on. It is not over as many have said: but for outside intervention it never would have started. Even though ISIS has been virtually destroyed in Syria, thus fulfilling the rationale for its forces being there, the US is refusing to leave. It has been playing a double game, declaring war on the ISIS while clandestinely cooperating with it in various ways. It wanted a Salafist principality in eastern Syria and the Islamic State gave it one. ISIS fighters criss-crossed the Syrian desert, towards Mosul and Palmyra, without the US intervening, although satellite reconnaissance would clearly have shown these lines of pickup trucks kicking up the summer dust. US Special Forces passed through Islamic State positions on the way to Deir al Zor, the US shipped takfiri fighters out of Raqqa with their families and the US has been training takfiris rebranded as ‘rebel’ fighters at its Al Tanf base.
Far from withdrawing from Syria the US is entrenching itself even deeper. It is not there for the Kurds or the good of the Syrian people. It is there for itself and most probably for Israel, which has spent the past year preparing for its next war, most probably against Lebanon in the first place, and admits to at least 100 missile strikes against Syria. The US is not leaving Afghanistan either. Indeed, it is not shutting down or drawing down anywhere, but strengthening its global position to cover any possibilities arising in its rivalry with Russia and China. This is the vise in which Syria is now caught.
The empty rhetoric of supporting only ‘rebels’ against terrorists continues. If the collective of takfiri groups known as Jaysh al Islam is not officially designated as a terrorist group that is because when Russia proposed, in November, 2016, that it be added to the UN sanctions list, the US, France and the UK used their vetoes to block the move. They provide the political support for this group, Saudi Arabia and other countries the money and the weaponry needed to hold the people of East Ghouta hostage. These are the real realities of the ‘siege’ of this district.
Jeremy Salt is a former journalist, turned academic. He is based in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Bilkent University, Ankara where he teaches courses in modern Middle Eastern history and propaganda. His most recent book is “The Unmaking of the Middle East. A History of Western Disorder in Arab Lands” (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.)