“Although every war makes ample use of lies and deception, the dirty war on Syria has relied on a level of mass disinformation not seen in living memory.”[1]

Prof. Tim Anderson, author of The dirty war on Syria

In the previous two parts, we have exposed two delusional fairy tales that are absolutely essential in keeping the conflict in Syria alive. Not only are the so-called moderates terrorists rather than peace-loving rebels, but the claim that Assad and his “loyalists” are terrorising their own people appears to have no real base in reality too. Indeed, thus far no credible evidence that the Syrian army deliberately targets civilians has been put forward. But still the Western public is let to believe that Syrians prefer the largely foreign, head-chopping, torturing terrorists to the Syrian army, in which – due to its large mobilisation and contrary to the armed opposition – many Syrians have relatives.

It is impossible, however, to dismiss 1) the large support the Syrian army and government enjoy, and 2) the terrible crimes not only of Jabhat al-Nusrah and Daesh, but also of the “moderate rebels.” Unfortunately, although this occasionally blows some holes in the official story, the dominant narrative in totality remains largely unquestioned. I often found myself thinking how this absurdly twisted logic is sustained. Indeed, the amount of disinformation in this conflict is enormous, but how is it possible that the West’s usual critical observers and anti-imperialists in this case are often not able to connect the dots and expose this as the propaganda war that it is?

The disinformation trail

When we take a closer look at how the militants’ lies keep finding their way to Western press without any scrutiny, a disinformation trail reveals itself. “Activists on the ground,” as well as (often unnamed) “journalists” and “doctors” embedded with the “moderate” and al-Nusrah terrorists, are regularly quoted in the Western press. Most of the time, however, there is a middleman between these obscure sources and the media. Self-proclaimed “human rights groups” and “NGOs” get their disinformation almost exclusively from opposition-linked sources, but are heralded as impartial and balanced by the Western media channels, who in their turn use these “human rights groups” and “NGOs” as primary sources to keep the false narrative alive.

The most quoted human rights group in the Western press is without a doubt the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a UK-based one man propaganda band headed by Rami Abdul Rahman.[2] The SOHR, collecting its information from a network of “associates” in and around Syria, is the main source for “regime atrocities” and casualty counting in the West. Although the body clearly distances itself from Daesh, Abdul Rahman’s bias in favour of the armed opposition isn’t difficult to uncover, as he has always woven the flag of the Free Syrian Army on his website.[3] This bias was further corroborated when he said that “I came to Britain the day Hafez al-Assad [Bashar’s father and predecessor] died, and I’ll return when Bashar al-Assad goes.”[4] This partiality, however, did not stop the EU and one EU-country not mentioned by name from funding his organisation.[5]

NGOs are essential in channelling propaganda to the outside world too. A cluster of Syria-specific organisations, including the Syria Campaign, Free Syrian Voices and the White Helmets, was established throughout the nearly six years of war in Syria. These NGOs, however, all turn out to be creations of Avaaz,[6] whose mother companies Res Republica and MoveOn have received more than 1.5 million dollars from George Soros’ Open Society Institute.[7] As Soros has been implicated in “color revolutions” and election manipulation around the world, it should not serve as a surprise that the demands of these NGOs, like establishing a Libya-style “no fly” or “no bomb” zone, fall perfectly in line with Washington’s foreign policy plans.

The sensational stories of the White Helmets, who were infamously nominated for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize, in particular appear to gain much media attention lately. Although the White Helmets promote themselves as unarmed and neutral heroic rescue workers, video evidence brought forward by Australian-based Hands off Syria clearly shows the opposite to be true. They have been filmed carrying weapons, standing by during an execution of an innocent citizen, and celebrating victories alongside the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusrah.[8] It therefore should serve as no surprise that they only operate in the terrorist-controlled areas of Idlib and Aleppo (the latter which has recently been recaptured by the government), in which al-Nusrah is the main opposition force. Rather than “heroes in the most dangerous place in the world,” the White helmets can thus more accurately be described as al-Qaeda with a facelift, serving as a propaganda tool for further Western intervention. The overlap of demands with the US-NATO agenda is again of course no coincidence, as the organisation was established not by a Syrian but a former British intelligence officer, and as it has repeatedly been funded by the US and UK governments.[9] In a bitter irony, when its leader Read Saleh was invited to the US to receive an award recognising his “contributions to humanitarian relief,” he was denied entry and was immediately put back on a plane to Istanbul.[10] As if that isn’t telling enough, a radicalised Syrian refugee in Germany who joined the White Helmets was arrested on the charges of planning a terrorist attack in Berlin.[11]

Unfortunately, the export of disinformation does not stop with Syria-specific NGOs. Longtime “liberal” NGOs like Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International openly advocate for “regime change” as well. Obtaining their false information via partisan sources and “witnesses” with strong links to Islamist armed groups, they have spread numerous fabricated stories.[12] In this case, it is also probably not a coincidence that the agenda of these more respectable NGOs resembles that of Washington, as staff of both organisations have moved smoothly from or to the US State Department. Moreover, HRW has received funds from a variety of US and pro-Israel foundations, and its board even has links to the Council on Foreign Relations, Washington’s most influential foreign policy think tank.[13] Although HRW has always been a shady organisation with a political agenda, the same cannot be said of Amnesty. Once a revolutionary organisation, it has in recent years, however, built a history of backing fabricated pretexts for war and military occupation. This includes the promoting of the staged Kuwaiti incubator incident during the first Gulf War and later disproven allegations claiming that Libya’s Gaddafi employed “black mercenaries” to “accelerate the oppressive process.”[14]

The result: emotional manipulation to further Western intervention

“Coverage of the Syrian war will be remembered as one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the American press.”[15]

Senior academic and journalist Stephen Kinzer in the Boston Globe

“This is a pattern we have seen before. We saw it in Ghouta in 2013; we saw it with Aleppo boy a few weeks ago [see below]. [When] something happens, immediately, within minutes, if not hours, Western officials are making accusations as to who is responsible based on partial or even in some cases zero evidence. That runs all the way around the world where all the mainstream media pick it up and give it saturation coverage and then, when people start to pick through it and [ask themselves] what actually happened here, you won’t see anything like that coverage to cast doubt on the story in the major media that carried it in the first place.”[16]

Former US Senate foreign policy adviser James Jatras on Press TV’s Top 5

As a result of the wide network of disinformation producers, a huge amount of blatant lies are able to make it to television screens across the globe without any scrutiny. Is this only due to uncritical and sloppy journalism? Remembering the CIA’s Operation Mockingbird, I strongly doubt that the upper echelons of the corporate media are not trying, in one way or another, to steer or shape public opinion. Below, I will discuss some examples in which the media’s reporting has, deliberately or not, led to increased support for further Western intervention.

One of the consequences of the Syria debacle and other wars across the Middle East and Africa is the refugee crisis. When three-year-old Syrian toddler Alan Kurdi washed up on the shores of Greece in early September 2015, the media was all over it. It was indeed a very tragic story, but as always, it is useful to look at the underlying context. A month before, an 11-year-old Syrian girl from Aleppo also died at sea.[17] This, however, caused no moral outrage. Why? Well, it was around the time of Alan’s death, not hers, that Australia was formally asked to join the US-led bombing campaign in Syria,[18] and that the UK parliament was set to vote on British air raids against Daesh in Syria.[19] The media exploitation of Alan’s death, not that difficult to uncover with headlines like “bomb Syria for Aylan,”[20] thus came in handy for Western interventionists. When UK Prime Minister David Cameron asked his parliament for military action against Syria a week after the equally manipulating east Ghouta chemical attack (falsely blamed on the Syrian government – see part 3) in 2013, his request was only narrowly rejected.[21] As Alan’s death occurred closer to home, emotional exploitation might have given the final push for the UK parliamentarians to agree on illegally bombing Syria.[22] One can only wonder how many other Syrian kids could have been saved if Western journalists had used Alan’s death as a wake up call to end Western intervention in Syria instead.

A fairly recent example involves a child too. Well, actually, the way I’m going to contextualise it, it involves two children. The first one, and the most well-known, is Omran Daqneesh, who was photographed in August 2016 after a Russian airstrike had allegedly hit a residential area in terrorist-held east Aleppo. Pictures of the wounded five-year-old boy circulated widely on opposition-linked social media, after which they were picked up and heavily exploited by the Western media to further their demonisation campaign against the Russo-Syrian alliance. Upon close analysis of the footage, however, the event looks like it might well be staged. Critical questions raised deal with the strangeness that nobody is attending to Omran, the lack of blood coming out of fresh head wounds, and the similarities with other questionable White Helmets videos.[23] It even looks like Omran and his sister had already featured in other rescue videos before not once, but twice.[24] Real or staged, it is certainly no surprise that, as usual, the media hype comes just when the Syrian army was close to encircling east Aleppo, which would undoubtedly have accelerated its liberation. The most shocking feature, finally, involves the photographer of Omran, Mahmoud Raslan. Raslan is not only a devout fanboy of the armed opposition, he also has selfies with the same Western-backed Nour al-Din al-Zinki “rebels” that beheaded a 12-year-old innocent Palestinian boy a couple of weeks before.[25] While Omran is alive and well, most people in the West have never even heard of the Palestinian kid, let alone many of the other children that have died due to rebel shelling across Syria.

The worsening humanitarian situation, too, has been heavily exploited by the media. In early 2016, multiple photos of starving people, allegedly from Madaya, a town near the Lebanese border controlled by Jabhat al-Nusrah and Ahrar al-Sham, were picked up by several major Western news outlets. The photos, however, turned out to come from other places, most even not from Syria at all.[26] While the Western press claimed that the besiegement of the town by the Syrian government was the reason for the shortage of food, which indeed exists among Madayan residents, both national and international aid has arrived safely in the town but was stolen by the insurgents and sold to the inhabitants at inflated prices.[27] Meanwhile, those same outlets who cried crocodile tears over Madaya turned a blind eye to the northwestern predominantly Shia towns of Kafraya and Foua, which are under a very real four-years-long siege from the same terrorist groups that control Madaya, the al-Nusrah Front and Ahrar al-Sham.[28] As Syrian Representative to the UN Bashar al-Jaafari stated when asked about besieged areas in Syria:

“Those who are besieged are all the Syrians. We are talking about Syria being besieged by enemies, by criminals, by murderers, by hostile governments [who] are targeting the whole Syrian people. […] It’s about 23 million Syrians besieged, by economic sanctions, by terrorist crossing from Turkey, from Jordan, from Lebanon, from Iraq.  This is the reality. The whole Syrian people is under [siege].”[29]

While the mainstream media thus tries to demonise the Syrian government at every opportunity, they rarely mention crimes of the jihadis, and when they do, they often attempt to justify them. For example, the BBC basically tried to legitimise the brutal beheading of the above-mentioned Palestinian child, citing Facebook sources to claim that he was a fighter.[30] Some Western press agencies have even gone as far as running stories that sought to humanise suicide bombers while making no mention of the innocent victims killed by them.[31]

The BBC might even have gone another step further, as the broadcast agency has been implicated in playing an active role in fabricating evidence. Around the time of the east Ghouta false flag in 2013 (see part 3), Western officials were trying to convince their people to increase intervention in Syria. In this context, the BBC launched a documentary – using footage made by the BBC itself – called Saving Syria’s children, in which it claimed that in late August the Syrian government had allegedly launched another chemical weapons attack, this time on a school in Aleppo. However, profound analysis of the BBC’s own video material, in addition to a rebel commander’s testimony denouncing the incident as fabricated, has led researcher Robert Stuart to conclude that “the footage was largely, if not entirely staged.”[32] If true, this would mean that the BBC is guilty of producing fake evidence. Either way, in different versions of the reporting, the word “napalm” remarkably changed to “chemical weapons” in a testimony from an anti-Syrian doctor present at the scene, which means that the BBC is undeniably guilty of tampering with their own footage.[33]

Conclusion

Because of the lack of real journalism in the mainstream media, most people are confused but still believe that there is a civil war in Syria, in which people rose up against a brutal dictatorship in search for democracy. What most of them don’t realise, however, is their own crucial role in the suffering of the Syrian people. If the Western masses keep applauding their leaders’ role in so-called “humanitarian” interventions around the world, the cycle of war will continue. However, if they would finally realise that it is those same leaders that are responsible for escalating war to further their hegemonic any geopolitical agendas, peace will once again flourish.

From the bottom of my heart, I hope that by now I have made you reflect on everything you are being told about the Syrian crisis, in particular every single past and future press report that quotes unnamed “activists,” “doctors” or “rescue workers” embedded with the terrorists, as well as the above-mentioned “NGOs” and “human rights groups.” Also, having all this information at your disposal, I sincerely hope that you are considering that there must be something bigger at stake for some regional and global powers here. If so, please move on to the last part, and let’s expose the real culprits and their intentions.

Notes

[1] Tim Anderson, preface to The dirty war on Syria: Washington, regime change and resistance (Montréal: Global Research Publishers, 2016), V.

[2] Tony Cartalucci, “West’s Syrian narrative based on ‘guy in British apartment’,” Land Destroyer Report, 04.06.2012, http://landdestroyer.blogpost.be.

[3] Homepage, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, consulted on 02.09.2016, http://syriahr.com.

[4] Mohammed Abbas, “Coventry – an unlikely home to prominent Syria activist,” Reuters, 08.12.2011, http://uk.reuters.com.

[5] Neil MacFarquhar, “A very busy man behind the Syrian civil war’s casualty count,” The New York Times, 09.04.2013, http://nytimes.com.

[6] Anderson, The dirty war on Syria, 63.

[7] “Avaaz, Soros, Israel, and the Palestinians,” NGO Monitor, 06.03.2013, http://ngo-monitor.org.

[8] “The White Helmets – Al Qaeda with a facelift,” Video page of Hands off Syria, consulted on 02.09.2016, http://handsoffsyriasydney.com.

[9] Brandon Turbeville, “White Helmets NGO: a ‘rescue and assist’ operation under guise of human rights,” Activist Post, 10.05.2016, http://activistpost.com.

[10] Somini Sengupta and Anne Barnard, “Leader of Syria rescue group, arriving in U.S. for award, is refused entry,” The New York Times, 20.04.2016, http://nytimes.com.

[11] Paul Carrel and Dominic Evans, “Berlin bombing suspect radicalized by imams in Germany, brother says,” Reuters, 14.10.2016, http://reuters.com.

[12] Rick Sterling, “Eight problems with Amnesty’s report on Aleppo Syria,” Dissident Voice, 14.05.2015, http://dissidentvoice.org; Tim Anderson, “Syria: ‘Human Rights Watch’, key player in the manufacture of propaganda for war and foreign intervention,” Global Research, 01.02.2014, http://globalresearch.ca.

[13] Anderson, The dirty war on Syria, 56.

[14] Anderson, The dirty war on Syria, 57; “How PR sold the war in the Persian Gulf,” PR Watch, consulted on 17.12.2016, http://prwatch.org; Maximilian Forte, Slouching towards Sirte: NATO’s war on Libya and Africa (Montreal: Baraka Books, 2012), 250.

[15] Stephen Kinzer, “The media are misleading the public on Syria,” The Boston Globe, 18.02.2016, http://bostonglobe.com.

[16] “US lip service to Syria truce political ploy: analyst,” Press TV, 21.09.2016, http://presstv.ir.

[17] Tom Rollins, “Alexandria: a refuge and a gateway to tragedy for Syrians,” Middle East Eye, 01.08.2015, http://middleeasteye.net.

[18] Michael Cornish, “The US wants us to bomb Syria for political reasons,” The Sydney Morning Herald, 25.08.2015, http://smh.com.au.

[19] “UK parliament to vote on air raids against Daesh in Syria,”Press TV, 06.09.2015, http://presstv.ir.

[20] Front page, The Sun on Sunday, 06.01.2015.

[21] Nicholas Watt and Nick Hopkins, “Cameron forced to rule out British attack on Syria after MPs reject motion,” Guardian, 29.08.2013, http://theguardian.com.

[22] Contrary to the Iraqi government, Syria has not invited the US-led coalition to bomb its country. They have no UN mandate to do so either, which makes the intervention illegal under international law.

[23] “The ‘wounded boy in orange seat’ – another staged ‘White Helmets’ stunt,” Moon of Alabama, 18.08.2016, http://moonofalabama.org.

[24] “Assad says the ‘boy in the ambulance’ is fake – this proves it,” Moon of Alabama, 21.10.2016, http://moonofalabama.org.

[25] Izat Charkatli, “Jihadists use child pain for political gain,” Al-Masdar News, 19.08.2016, http://almasdarnews.com.

[26] Paul Antonopoulos, “Analyzing Madaya’s starvation falsification,” Al-Masdar News, 09.01.2016, http://almasdarnews.com.

[27] “Madaya: West engineer another ‘humanitarian’ media hoax in Syria,” 21st Century Wire, 11.01.2016, http://21stcenturywire.com; “Madaya: what the media isn’t telling you,” Youtube-channel of SyrianGirlpartisan, 11.01.2016, consulted on 17.12.2016, http://youtube.com/channel/UC4unV5BVmWubfAF0Al_AVdw.

[28] Eva Bartlett, “Untold suffering in Foua and Kafarya: two northwestern Syrian villages under siege and assault by NATO’s terrorists,” Counterpunch, 18.08.2015, http://counterpunch.org.

[29] “Jaafari accuses al-Jazeera channel of serious news fabrications part 1,” Youtube-channel of Nizar Abboud, 11.01.2016, consulted on 25.09.2016, http://youtube.com/channel/UC7oazl72k72-o_J8vsGGDSg.

[30] “Syria conflict: boy beheaded by rebels ‘was fighter’,” BBC, 21.07.2016, http://bbc.com.

[31] “Dugma: inside the minds of suicide bombers,” ABC News, 25.08.2016, http://abc.net.au; Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith, “Young Uzbek suicide bomber filmed crying before carrying out final mission in Syria,” The Independent, 23.09.2015, http://independent.co.uk.

[32] Robert Stuart, “Fabrication in BBC Panorama ‘Saving Syria’s children’,” blog, consulted on 05.09.2016, http://bbcpanoramasavingsyriaschildren.wordpress.com.

[33] “In the age of media manipulation how much can we afford to take on trust?”, OffGuardian, 22.09.2015, http://off-guardian.org.