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The Official Fake News

By Serge Halimi | CounterPunch | July 3, 2018

Emmanuel Macron, who was comfortably elected to the presidency with the support of almost the entire French media, has demanded that his parliamentary majority provide him with a law against ‘fake news’ during election campaigns. Perhaps he’s preparing for the next one.

The draft legislation reveals both the blindness of those who govern when challenged and their inclination to invent new coercive countermeasures. You would have to be myopic indeed to believe that the victory of ‘anti-establishment’ candidates, parties and causes (Donald Trump, Brexit, the Catalan referendum, Italy’s Five Star Movement) could, even marginally, be the consequence of authoritarian regimes spreading fake news. The US press has been trying to demonstrate for a year, as yet without conclusive evidence, that Trump owes his election to fake news manufactured by Vladimir Putin.

Macron has a similar obsession, to the point of hoping to make fake news vanish with a law that is both useless and dangerous. Useless because France’s Council of State pointed out on 19 April that ‘French law already contains several measures intended to combat the dissemination of false information’: in particular the law of 29 July 1881 on the freedom of the press, which permits curbs on the dissemination of false information and the expression of views that are defamatory or abusive or incite hatred.

And dangerous because the bill about to go before parliament would require a judge to act within 48 hours to ‘stop the artificial and large-scale dissemination of news constituting false information.’ But, the Council of State’s response continued, ‘these are hard to determine legally, especially when the judge must give a judgement within a very short time.’ Macron’s law would also strengthen Internet service providers’ and hosts’ duty of cooperation with the authorities, since it extends to all false information restraints that were initially aimed at preventing ‘apologism for crimes against humanity, incitement to hatred and child pornography.’

Media ownership by the president’s billionaire friends, toxic advertising claims, and suppressing public television channels’ funding are not the subject of any draft law. And why limit this judicial apparatus to the campaign season? In the past few decades, in almost every war — in the Gulf, Kosovo, Iraq and Libya — there has been a proliferation of lies and news manipulation. Not by Russia, Facebook or social media, but by our beacons of democracy and journalism: the major western daily newspapers, with the New York Times in the vanguard, the White House and European capitals. Not to mention the Ukrainian government, which deliberately announced the false death of a journalist last month. If a judge needs to order the arrest of the people responsible for spreading this fake news, at least they’ll be easy to find…

Serge Halimi is president of Le Monde diplomatique

July 3, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Fake News, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

OPCW’s new power attempt to politicize its work: Syria

Press TV – June 29, 2018

The Syrian government has denounced a recent decision made by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the world’s chemical watchdog, to empower itself to assign blame for alleged chemical attacks.

“Syria expresses its deep concern at the methods of blackmail and threat used by Western countries, especially the ones involved in the tripartite aggression against Syria — the US, UK and France — to pass a resolution at the OPCW emergency session,” Syria’s official news agency, SANA, quoted a source at the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates as saying on Friday.

On Wednesday, the Hague-based organization passed by 82 votes to 24 a British-backed proposal, which enable the watchdog to hold responsible those who it thinks are behind alleged chemical attacks. Until then, the OPCW’s mandate was limited only to determining whether or not a chemical attack took place, not who was responsible.

Russia, which had strongly opposed granting extra powers to the OPCW, said it would not rule out leaving what it called a “sinking Titanic.”

The new decision would allow for the watchdog to be used as “vehicle to carry out violations against independent, sovereign states under the pretexts of chemical weapons use”, the source further said, adding, “The decision will only add new complications to the OPCW’s capacity to play its role, which will lead to its paralysis.”

Back in April, militants and activists linked to them, including the so-called civil defense group White Helmets, claimed that government forces on Saturday had dropped a barrel bomb containing poisonous chemicals in Douma, Eastern Ghouta’s largest town, killing and wounding dozens of civilians.

Damascus strongly rejected the allegation and said that the so-called Jaish al-Islam Takfiri terrorist group, which had dominant presence in the town at the time, was repeating the allegations of using chemical munitions “in order to accuse the Syrian Arab army, in a blatant attempt to hinder the Army’s advance.”

However, the US State Department issued a strongly-worded statement, blaming the Syrian government for purportedly conducting the attack.

The Hague-based OPCW is soon expected to publish the highly-anticipated results of its probe into the purported toxic gas attack in Douma.

The Syrian foreign ministry’s source further said that Wednesday’s decision “sets a dangerous precedent” by giving an “organization concerned with scientific and technical issues the authority to carry out criminal and legal investigations that are not its specialty.”

The source added that the Arab country reiterated its condemnation of the use of chemical munitions by “anyone, anywhere, under any circumstances.”

Militants belonging to a number of factions had held the Eastern Ghouta, an enclave in the vicinity of the capital Damascus, since 2012 and had practically held hostage its inhabitants, some 400,000 people.

Syrian troops and allied fighters from popular defense groups managed to fully liberate the enclave from the clutches of militants in April, after months of intense fighting with terror groups, which had used the area as a launch pad for deadly rocket attacks against residents and civilian infrastructure in the capital.

Since the beginning of the conflict in Syria in early 2011, the Western governments have on several occasions accused Syria of using chemical weapons against militants. Damascus has denied the allegation, saying it is meant to pile more pressure on government forces and delay their success in the fight against terrorists.

In April last year, the US and allies in Europe said Syria and Russia, an ally of Damascus in the fight against terror, used chemical weapons against militants in Khan Shaykhun in the province of Idlib. Moscow and Damascus strongly rejected the allegation. However, US warships in the eastern Mediterranean launched a barrage of 59 Tomahawk missiles against Shayrat Airfield in Syria’s Homs province, which Washington alleged was the origin of the suspected chemical attack.

The Syrian government surrendered its stockpiles of chemical weapons in 2014 to a joint mission led by the UN and the OPCW.

June 29, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | Leave a comment

Macron Embraces Liberal Authoritarianism by Attempting to Force French Children Into The Military

By Adam Garrie | EurasiaFuture | June 28, 2018

Emmanuel Macron was the first modern French President not to experience compulsory military service as prior to his eighteenth birthday, the French government abolished conscription. However, after benefiting from the fact that France is a country facing no traditional military threats, Macron has now put forward formal proposals which would force all 16 year old French girls and boys to serve in the military.

Macron’s proposals not only defy the pan-European trend of ending compulsory service but they also defy logic. It is well known that especially in the age of high-tech warfare, conscripted armies are simply not as efficient nor as effective as those comprised of volunteers. Countries that maintain compulsory military service are generally those that face major existential threats from traditional armed forces, countries with small populations or nations that simply have not got around to modifying old rules. In any case, many of the countries that still do enforce some kind of compulsory service are reducing the amount of years or months required while also offering a variety of exemptions.

Furthermore, while most countries that still conscript young people only begin the process when one has turned 18 and while furthermore, they generally only ever draft males – Macron has set the bar at the age of 16 and will require both males and females to forcibly join the armed forces if he gets his way.

Macron’s proposals represent a massive step backwards for the French people. France is a country that has enjoyed all the benefits of pan-European peace while its volunteer armed forces continue to inflect suffering upon the developing world along with their other NATO allies. There can be no justification for conscription during a time of unparalleled peace, but Macron has other things in mind.

While liberalism used to connote an idea of relaxed governmental controls on everything from the economy to public morality, today’s liberalism is increasingly embracing an atmosphere of classic authoritarianism which is used to enforce not patriotic nor moral values, but contemporary ultra-liberal ones. In other words, liberalism has pivoted from “do as you will do – no matter the consequences” to “do as we say or else be severely punished for not embracing our particular liberal set of social values”.

Macron’s attempt to militarise society by targeting children is the next logical progression of such a barbaric modus operandi and what is more worrying is that other liberal authoritarians in Europe may follow Macron in throwing away Europe’s peace by turning it into a needlessly more militarised region.

Without a doubt, the biggest problem that contemporary Europe faces is the migration crisis that was itself caused by Angela Merkel forcing a pan-EU open door policy down the throats of ordinary people who never got to have a formal say in the matter. As France has been one of the countries to most readily embrace Merkel’s open door policy, Macron bears his share of responsibility for the present crisis.

Macron has implied that his conscription policy is an attempt to use military service to create social solidarity where at present there is a great deal of discord. However, by militarising the youth, all it will do is propagate an atmosphere of violence that can only be tackled by tough policing when combined with an end to open door policies for economic migrants posing as refugees.

The problems in French society are due to a combination of lax enforcement of current drug laws, poor policing techniques against the proliferation of gangs, terror cells and weapons and an attitude of so-called political correctness which disallows police from following basic lines of logic in cracking down on criminal activities in society.

All Macron’s conscription plans will do is create more anger and violence among ordinary citizens who at the moment simply want professional police to do their job without the constraints they are currently under. Furthermore, Macron’s plan seeks to shift the blame for the migrant crisis onto an invisible foreign threat that a bulked-up, partially conscripted French military will now prepare to fight. This weapon of mass distraction seeks to point the finger at any given “foreign menace” as the cause of the current breakdown in French society when in reality it was France’s and the EU’s own policies which sowed the seeds of the current atmosphere of widespread discontent.

Macron’s liberal authoritarianism will simply punish French children for literally no reason at all, while simultaneously providing himself an excuse to deflect from the blame he has earned by his refusal to wake up to reality regarding Europe’s migrant crisis.

If there was ever a reason for French men and women to take to the streets and protest their government, this certainly is among the most important.

June 28, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Ayatollah Khamenei slams West’s ‘shameless’ human rights posture

Press TV – June 27, 2018

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has strongly denounced the Western states for their pretense of advocating human rights while in reality supporting terrorist groups and acts of terror.

Addressing the staff of Iran’s Judiciary at a meeting in Tehran on Wednesday, Ayatollah Khamenei made reference to human rights violations committed by the United States in various parts of the world as well as France and Britain’s crimes of the past decades which took place in Africa and the Indian subcontinent.

The Leader added that the West’s support over the past years for the Daesh terror group in Syria and the atrocities being committed in Myanmar and elsewhere “is indicative of the repeated lies of the shameless fake human rights advocates.”

Ayatollah Khamenei said when it comes to the issue of human rights, it is actually the Islamic Republic that stands in the position of the true advocate of human rights as opposed to “the criminal Western pretenders.”

The Leader expressed satisfaction with the Judiciary’s work in restoring the Iranian nations’ rights in the face of bullying powers.

Separately, Ayatollah Khamenei advised the judicial officials to work closely with the government towards resolving the country’s economic problems.

‘Systemic corruption a lie’

The Leader criticized certain people who seek to create the impression among the public that there is “systemic corruption” within Iranian state institutions.

Corruption does exist in a number of governmental and commercial enterprises, “but the existence of systemic corruption is not true,” the Leader said. “This wrong impression should not be allowed to affect the public opinion.”

Ayatollah Khamenei further stated that foreign enemies and certain oblivious elements at home have made the Judiciary the target of the most severe propaganda and media pressure.

In order to effectively confront this massive propaganda campaign, the Leader suggested, the judicial system needs to develop a strong and skillful media arm.

June 27, 2018 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, War Crimes | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Western Media Whitewash Yemen Genocide

By Finian CUNNINGHAM | Strategic Culture Foundation | 18.06.2018

With the United Nations warning that millions of civilians could die from violence or starvation from the ongoing military siege of the Yemeni port city of Hodeida, there is no other way to describe what is happening except as “genocide”.

The more than three-year war on Yemen waged by a Western-backed Saudi coalition has been arguably genocidal from the outset, with up to eight million people facing imminent starvation due to the years-long blockade on the Arabian country, as well as from indiscriminate air strikes.

But the latest offensive on the Red Sea city of Hodeida threatens to turn the world’s already worst humanitarian disaster into a mass extermination.

Hodeida is the entry point for 90 per cent of all food and medical aid into Yemen. If the city’s port stops functioning from the military offensive – as UN aid agencies are warning – then an entire country population of more than 20 million will, as a result, be on the brink of death.

The Saudi coalition which includes Emirati forces and foreign mercenaries as well as remnants from the previous regime (which the Western media mendaciously refer to as “government forces”) is fully backed by the US, Britain and France. This coalition says that by taking Hodeida it will hasten the defeat of Houthi rebels. But to use the cutting off of food and other vital aid to civilian populations as a weapon is a blatant war crime. It is absolutely inexcusable.

This past week an emergency session at the UN Security Council made the lily-livered call for the port city to remain open. But it stopped short of demanding an end to the offensive being led by Saudi and Emirati forces against Hodeida, which is the second biggest stronghold for Houthi rebels after the capital Sanaa. The port city’s population of 600,000 is at risk from the heavy fighting underway, including air strikes and naval bombardment, even before food, water and medicines supply is halted.

Since the Security Council meeting was a closed-door session, media reports did not indicate which members of the council voted down the Swedish call for an immediate end to hostilities. However, given that three permanent members of the council, the US, Britain and France, are militarily supporting the Saudi-led offensive on Hodeida, one can assume that these states blocked the call for a cessation.

As the horror of Hodeida unfolds, Western media are reporting with a strained effort to whitewash the criminal role of the American, British and French governments in supporting the offensive. Western media confine their focus narrowly on the humanitarian plight of Hodeida’s inhabitants and the wider Yemeni population. But the media are careful to omit the relevant context, which is that the offensive on Hodeida would not be possible without the crucial military support of Western governments. If the Western public were properly informed, the uproar would be an embarrassing problem for Western governments and their servile news media.

What is notable in the Western media reportage is the ubiquitous descriptor when referring to the Houthi rebels. Invariably, they are described as “Iran-backed”. That label is used to implicitly “justify” the Saudi and Emirati siege of Hodeida “because” the operation is said to be part of a “proxy war against Iran”. The BBC, France 24, CNN, Deutsche Welle, New York Times and Washington Post are among media outlets habitually practicing this misinformation on Yemen.

Both Iran and the Houthis have said that there is no military linkage. Granted, Iran politically and diplomatically supports the Houthis, and the Yemeni population generally, suffering from the war. The Houthis share a common Shia Muslim faith as Iran, but that is a far cry from military involvement. There is no evidence of Iran being militarily involved in Yemen. The claim of a linkage relies heavily on assertion by the Saudis and Emiratis which is peddled uncritically by Western media. Even the US government has shied away from making forthright accusations against Iran supporting the Houthis militarily. Washington’s diffidence is a tacit admission that the allegations are threadbare. Besides, how could a country which is subjected to an illegal Saudi blockade of its land, sea and air routes conceivably receive weapons supplied from Iran?

By contrast, while the Western media repeatedly refer to the Houthis as “Iran-backed”, what the same media repeatedly omit is the descriptor of “American-backed” or “British and French-backed” when referring to the Saudi and Emirati forces that have been pounding Yemen for over three years. Unlike the breathless claims of Iranian linkage to the Houthis, the Western military connection is verified by massive weapons exports, and indeed coy admissions by Western governments, when they are put to it, that they are supplying fuel and logistics to aid and abet the Saudi and Emirati war effort in Yemen.

Last week, the New York Times affected to lament the infernal conditions in Yemen as a “complex war”, as if the conflict is an unfathomable, unstoppable mystery. Why doesn’t the New York Times publish bold editorials bluntly calling for an end to US government complicity in Yemen? Or perhaps that is too “complex” for the Times’ editorial board?

The Washington Post also wrung its hands last week, saying: “The world’s most dire humanitarian crisis may get even worse. Emirati-led [and Saudi] offensive underway against port city of Hodeida, which is controlled by Iran-backed [sic] Houthi rebels.”

In its report, the Post did not mention the fact that air strikes by Saudi and Emirati forces are carried out with American F-15 fighter jets, British Typhoons and French Dassault warplanes. Incongruously, the Post cites US officials claiming that their forces are not “directly involved” in the offensive on the port city. How is that credible when air strikes are being conducted day after day? The Washington Post doesn’t bother to ask further.

In a BBC report last week also lamented the “humanitarian crisis” in Hodeida, there was the usual evidence-free casual labelling of Houthi rebels as “Iran-backed”. But, incredibly, in the entire article (at least in early editions) there was not a single mention of the verifiable fact that the Saudi and Emirati military are supplied with billions-of-dollars-worth of British, American and French weapons.

In the final paragraph of its early edition of the report, the BBC editorializes: “In March 2015, Saudi Arabia and eight other mainly Sunni Muslim Arab states launched a military campaign to restore [exiled president] Hadi’s government after becoming alarmed by the rise of the Houthi group which they see as an Iranian Shia Muslim proxy.”

Note the BBC’s lame and unconvincing implication of Iran. This is a stupendous distortion of the Yemeni conflict by the British state-owned broadcaster which, astoundingly, or perhaps that should be audaciously, completely airbrushes out any mention of how Western governments have fueled the genocidal war on Yemen.

At the end of 2014, the American and Saudi puppet self-styled “president” Mansour Hadi was kicked out by a Yemeni popular revolt led by the Houthis, but not exclusive to these rebels. The Yemeni uprising involved Shia and Sunni. To portray Iran as sponsoring a Shia proxy is a vile distortion which the Saudis and their Western backers have used in order to justify attacking Yemen for the objective of re-installing their puppet, who has been living in exile in the Saudi capital Riyadh. In short, covering up a criminal war of aggression with lies.

In reality, the Yemen war is about Western powers and their Arab despot client regimes trying to reverse a successful popular revolt that aspired to bring a considerably more democratic government to the Arab region’s poorest country, overcoming the decades it languished as a Western, Saudi client kleptocracy.

For over three years, Saudi and Emirati forces, supported with Western warplanes, bombs, missiles, attack helicopters, naval power, and air refueling, as well as targeting logistics, have waged a non-stop bombing campaign on Yemeni civilians. Nothing has been off-limits. Hospitals, schools, markets, mosques, funerals, wedding halls, family homes, farms, water-treatment plants and power utilities, all have been mercilessly obliterated. Even graveyards have been bombed.

Even during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the Saudi-led coalition – the supposed custodian of the two holy mosques of Mecca and Medina – has continued to massacre innocents from the air.

Elsewhere in the region, Western politicians and media have mounted hysterical protests against the Syrian government and its Russian ally when they have liberated cities from Western-backed terrorists, accusing Syria and Russia of “war crimes” and “inhuman sieges”. None of these hyperbolic Western media campaigns concerning Syria has ever been substantiated. Recall Aleppo? East Ghouta? The Syrian people have gladly returned to rebuild their lives now in peace under Syrian government protection after the Western terror proxies were routed. Western media claims about Syria have transpired to be outrageous lies, which have been hastily buried by the media as if they were never told in the first place.

Yet in Yemen there is an ongoing, veritable genocidal war fully supported by Western governments. The latest barbarity is the siege of Hodeida with the callous, murderous objective of finally starving a whole population into submitting to the Western, Saudi, Emirati writ for dominating the country. This is Nuremberg-standard capital crimes.

With no exaggeration, Western news media are a Goebbels-like propaganda ministry – par excellence – whose duty is to whitewash genocide conducted by their governments. The barefaced lies and sly omissions being told about Yemen is one more reason among many reasons why the Western media have forfeited any vestige of credibility. They are serving as they usually do – Vietnam, Iraq, Libya, Syria among others – as accomplices in an epic war crime against Yemen.

Photo: Geopolitics Alert

June 18, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, War Crimes | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Houthis say Saudi-led forces bogged down outside Hudaydah

Press TV – June 17, 2018

Yemen’s Houthi fighters have dismissed reports that Saudi-led forces have seized the airport in the port city of Hudaydah, saying the aggressors are on the retreat on all front lines.

Militants and foreign mercenaries armed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are attempting to capture the well-defended city and push the Houthis out of their sole Red Sea port in the biggest battle of the war.

“A battle of attrition awaits the Saudi alliance which it cannot withstand. The Saudi coalition will not win the battle in Hudaydah,” Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam told Lebanon-based al-Mayadeen TV.

Saudi Arabia on Sunday conducted airstrikes on the airport, to support forces attempting to seize it. The official SABA news agency said warplanes carried out five strikes on Hudaydah – a lifeline to millions of Yemenis.

Ground troops including Emiratis, Sudanese and Yemenis have surrounded the main airport compound.

Mohammed al-Sharif, deputy head of Yemen’s civil aviation, said images circulated online about the airport had been taken in October 2016.

A fence shown as proof of the airport’s capture is actually situated near the al-Durayhimi district, on a piece of land belonging to a Yemeni lawmaker, the official SABA news agency quoted him as saying.

Ahmed Taresh, the head of Hudaydah airport, also denied news of the airport’s capture, but said that it has been completely destroyed in airstrikes conducted by the Saudi-led coalition.

Abdulsalam warned that the Saudi-UAE offensive against the port city would undermine chances for a peaceful settlement of the Yemen crisis.

The rebuttals came after the media office of the Saudi-backed Yemeni forces loyal to ex-president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi said on Twitter that they had “freed Hudaydah international airport from the grip of” the Houthis.

Reports on Sunday said Saudi-backed forces had been surrounded in the al-Durayhimi Bayt al-Faqih district and at least 40 Saudi mercenaries killed by Yemeni sniper fire over the past two days.

Al-Mayadeen, meanwhile, cited informed sources as saying that the invading forces had retreated from all fronts in Hudaydah’s west.

A Yemeni military source said clashes had left 50 Saudi-backed forces dead and destroyed 13 of their armored vehicles in southern Hudaydah.

Yemeni forces have also managed to confiscate a French or American ship off Hudaydah’s coast, president of the Houthi Revolutionary Committee Mohammed Ali al-Houthi tweeted.

The UAE, a key member of the Saudi-led coalition waging the war on Yemen, launched the Hudaydah assault on Wednesday despite warnings that it would compound the impoverished nation’s humanitarian crisis.

Le Figaro newspaper on Saturday reported that French special forces were present on the ground in Yemen supporting the operation.

According to the Houthis, British and French warships were also on standby on Yemen’s western coast to launch missile and aerial attacks on Hudaydah.

Fighting on Saturday closed off the city’s northern exit, blocking a key route east to Sana’a and making it harder to transport goods from Yemen’s biggest port to mountainous regions.

The UN World Food Program and the World Health Organization have both expressed concern over the situation.

More than 70 percent of Yemeni imports pass through Hudaydah’s docks and the fighting has raised fears of a humanitarian catastrophe in a country already teetering on the brink of famine.

On Saturday, the UN envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths arrived in Sana’a to hold emergency talks on Hudaydah. He was believed to be pushing a deal for the Houthi fighters to cede control of the Red Sea port to a UN-supervised committee.

June 17, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

Iranian President Suggests Pullout of Advisors, Foreign Military From Syria

Sputnik – 13.06.2018

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has discussed the situation in Syria, as well as prospects of Iran deal with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron in a telephone call, the official website of the Iranian president reported.

Hassan Rouhani noted that Tehran had sent its military advisers to the Arab republic at the request request of its legitimate government in order to help Damascus fight terrorism. He expressed hope that no “foreign military presence” would be needed after the terrorist threat had been eradicated.

Israel accuses Iran of sending the country’s troops to Syria in order to attack it from Syrian territory. Tel Aviv has already conducted several airstrikes against Syrian bases under a pretext of Iranian Revolutionary Guards being stationed there. Tehran and Damascus deny these accusations.

The two presidents also discussed the current state of the JCPOA. Rouhani praised the stance that Europe took to keep the deal alive after the US withdrawal, but noted that, so far, statements had not been “accompanied by practical and tangible measures and solutions.”

“If Iran cannot benefit from the privileges of this agreement, remaining in it will not be possible,” the Iranian president said.

Emmanuel Macron confirmed commitment to the JCPOA and assured Rouhani that France is working on “a series of measures and practical solutions” to make the deal work.

The US withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018, with President Donald Trump claiming the deal was “flawed” at its core. Other parties to the agreement have confirmed their readiness to stick with the deal and work out solutions against possible US sanctions.

June 13, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 1 Comment

French Thought Police and the Creeping Dictatorship of Virtue

By Jean Bricmont | Consortium News | June 11, 2018

The French government of Emmanuel Macron has introduced a new law to protect the French from “fake news” during election periods. This vaguely drafted amendment to existing press law seems to have been inspired by Macron’s resentment at rumors circulated against him during last year’s presidential election – which didn’t prevent him from winning. Widely opposed by opposition parties from left to right, and by most journalists, this amendment fits in all too well with the growing establishment campaign to censor dissident opinion by one means or another. The main pretext is the copycat Clintonite accusation of Russian “interference in Western elections.”

Applying initially only to election periods, to protect “our democracy”, this attempt to legislate the difference between true and false is a dangerous step in the door toward official censorship. Similar plans to ban “fake news” are brewing on the European level.

The law is superfluous to start with, since the existing 1881 French press law already sanctions insults, defamation and the artificial creation of panic, such as shouting fire in a crowded theater. But Macron’s government wants to go much farther, outlawing the spread of “false information”, obscurely defined as “alleging or lending credibility to a fact lacking verifiable elements of a nature to make it believable”. (…“une allégation ou imputation d’un fait dépourvue d’éléments vérifiables de nature à la rendre vraisemblable”.)

This definition is both unclear and potentially far-reaching.

To start with, a skeptic could ask what are the “verifiable elements” proving the existence of God, of life after death or of the effectiveness of prayer. There goes religion. How about the “verifiable elements” proving the effectiveness of astrology? There go some popular daily newspaper features. Numerous scientists have raised questions as to the “verifiable elements” justifying psychoanalysis without receiving satisfactory answers. Should psychobabble be banned in the name of combatting fake news?

And what should be done with post-modern French philosophy, whose most famous names take psychoanalysis very seriously and pride themselves on leaping to subjective conclusions? No one proliferates more fact-free assertions than Bernard-Henri Lévy, which so far has not interfered with his position on the board of major media from Le Monde to the cultural channel Arte.

But that’s only the beginning. What do we do with scientific theories that have been advanced without experimental confirmation? For example, string theory in physics and various hypotheses in cosmology.

In fact, many scientific discoveries begin with unproven hypotheses. Better not mention them!

Bernard-Henri Lévy: No one proliferates more fact-free assertions. (CNN Screenshot.)

And what about mainstream media? In one recent news report after another (Skripal poisoning, chemical weapons attacks in Syria, the falsified murder in Ukraine of an anti-Putin journalist, not to mention the responsibility for firing a missile that shot down a Malaysian airliner in July 2014), there is a big difference between the Western version of the facts and that which prevails in Russia, Malaysia, Syria and much of the non-Western world.

A Mental Border with Russia

Instead of Pascal’s “truth on this side of the Pyrenees, and error on the other side”, we would be establishing “truth on one side of the Mediterranean, error on the other”. Or rather, truth exists up to the Eastern border of NATO, with error on the other side. This is no way to advance toward universal understanding. The only way to resolve our differences with the rest of the world is free discussion. Inasmuch as the law against fake news seems to be designed mainly to counter what Western governments describe as Russian propaganda, there is a strong likelihood that it can only enforce the mental border between us and the Russians.

When the independent journalist André Bercoff simply raised a couple of questions concerning anomalies in reports of the amazing rescue by Mamoudou Gassama of a child hanging from a Paris balcony, his own colleagues instantly condemned him for “provoking doubts” and engaging in “conspiracy theories”. The official regulatory agency, the Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel, hastened to open an investigation… of Bercoff. President Macron had invited Gassama to the Elysee Palace, offering him French citizenship and making the event an exemplary national legend. Thus sacred.

It is an odd sign of the times to reproach a journalist for asking questions. Leaving aside the rescue incident, raising questions used to be considered a primary function of journalism. If it is better to let ten guilty persons go free than to imprison one innocent man, in terms of rational scientific method, it is better to have ten extravagant doubts than one unchallengeable dogma.

It is true that what the dominant media call “conspiracy theories”, going everywhere from legitimate questioning of their own narratives and of official assertions to the wildest fantasies, do indeed proliferate on social media. But can anyone believe that describing Bercoff’s doubts as “conspiracy theorizing” will in any way stem that proliferation?

Françoise Nyssen: Public broadcasts must combat reactionary ideas.

The French Minister of culture, Françoise Nyssen, has decided that public radio and television, financed by taxpayers, should be devoted to combatting French people’s “highly reactionary” ideas, notably concerning “diversity”. Note that Macron’s ruling party, Republic in Movement, considers “reactionary” exactly what was considered progressive only a few decades ago: defense of public services and national sovereignty. Is it legitimate to oblige adults to pay for their own ideological re-education?

I by no means suggest that the current government is consciously intent on installing a totalitarian regime. The problem stems rather from the overwhelming subjectivism of contemporary culture in which talk of “values” leaves little space for concern for facts or objectivity. This is increasingly true even in discussions of scientific or technical progress. Of course, legislation cannot be fully objective, but since the Enlightenment reflection on freedom, the ideal has been to seek to establish reasonable rules to protect the individual from arbitrary power. This rule applies particularly to freedom of expression.

Those who speak endlessly of their values are merely trying to show off their own moral superiority. That is the basis of the corruption of the legal system in the matter of “fake news”, the reaction to Bercoff’s doubts, and the crusade of Madame Nyssen against what she considers “reactionary ideas”. Once a group of people convince themselves that they embody Virtue itself thanks to their “values”, they become unable to perceive any legitimate grounds for limiting their own power. That could be called the totalitarianism of the naïve.

This article originally appeared on RT’s French-language site. It was translated and adapted by Diana Johnstone. 


Jean Bricmont is professor of theoretical physics at the Catholic University of Louvain (Belgium), and author of numerous articles and books, including Humanitarian Imperialism, La République des Censeurs,and Fashionable Nonsense (with Alan Sokal).

June 11, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Russophobia | , , | 2 Comments

When Private Ryan is shamed by quiet heroes in the Syrian Arab Army

RT | June 9, 2018

Stories of wartime heroism abound in Hollywood movie history, the gung-ho, swashbuckling images that saturate our cinema screens promote US military personnel to cult figures, ‘saving the world’.

It is the victory of fantasy over realism that distances the American public from the horrors of war.

Wars that are never on US soil but waged in distant lands, but always in the “interests of national security”. Consent is manufactured for these wars by fabricating fear and insecurity, the amplification of terrorism threats as the ever-present danger menacing the American people, held at bay by military intervention at an imagined ‘source’.

“US airstrikes on Syria were in the “vital national security and foreign policy interests” of the United States” President Trump  told Congress, after the tripartite alliance of US, France and UK had unlawfully attacked Syria. An attack carried out under the pretext of a trumped-up charge of chemical attacks by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in the last moments of Douma’s liberation from Saudi-financed and UK-promoted extremists, Jaysh al-Islam.

Cinema is escapism and Hollywood excels in distracting a public already bamboozled by a corporate media’s expert distortion of fact to generate the narratives that instil fear and dehumanize the latest foe in the foreign policy crosshairs.

In Saving Private Ryan, the horror of battle is surround-sound deafeningly conveyed. Unremitting reality confronts our sensibility, the scream of bullets tearing into flesh, the clamour of the dying; nothing is left to the imagination. It is full frontal war.

In the movie, a detail of American soldiers is dispatched to France to bring Private Ryan home to his mother after General Marshall learns that his three brothers were killed in action. We are led to believe that the assuaging of Mama Ryan’s grief is of paramount national importance. It is an all-American feel-good-factor movie with the familiar “true grit”, the hard-bitten courage of ‘real men’ fighting to save the world and their own souls. As the movie’s tagline informs us: “In the last great invasion of the last great war, the greatest challenge for eight men… was saving one.”

As US Defence Secretary, James Mattis, said recently, when trying to explain away the wholesale devastation in Raqqa following a sustained bombing campaign by the US-led coalition – “we are the good guys and the innocent people on the battlefield know the difference” – I doubt the “innocent people” who were deliberately targeted by the coalition “precision” bombs would agree. The proclaimed war on terror, in this case Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), invariably results in the massacre of innocent people whose mangled remains are dismissed as “collateral damage” in another US campaign that protects “national security”.

A campaign fought illegally in the skies above or on the ground of a sovereign nation that has never presented a threat to US security. Syria has effectively been defending US and European “national security” for seven long and tortuous years. The hordes of extremists under a variety of monikers are armed, financed and equipped by our governments and their allies in the Gulf States, to enable regime change in Syria, but you would never know it from the rhetoric they use to drown out their responsibility.

Syria is stemming the terrorist tide within its territory and the SAA is fighting and dying to contain the threat. Alongside its allies, Russia, Iran, Hezbollah – Syria is sacrificing everything to prevent the spread of a cataclysmic contagion that has been created and imposed upon them by the nations whose claims of moral superiority ring hollow when confronted by the bloodshed they leave in their wake.

The SAA is dehumanized and criminalised by media in the West, it is reduced to ‘Assad’s army”, a ‘Shia militia’ – portrayed as a ‘murderous squad of sectarian thugs’. Nothing could be further from the truth, in my experience. I have met with many families of martyred soldiers who have given their lives to defend their homeland, their people, their honour and their way of life. They fight because “a fallen building can be rebuilt, but a fallen homeland is lost forever.”

Om Al Fouz outside her home in Taldara with ISIS fighters less than 1km away. © Vanessa Beeley

There are thousands of ‘Mama Ryans’ in Syria, brave, fearless women who have suffered indescribable loss but who remain steadfast, proud of their children’s role in protecting their future. Om Al Fouz from Taldara, close to Salamiyah, has lost five sons in the genuine “war on terror”.   

“When I lost the first one, I felt as if I had broken my back, I lost the second one only fifteen days later – I thought my heart had broken. Then the third, the fourth, the fifth, each time I grew stronger”. 

Om Al Fouz also told me: “I have 25 grandsons, I am ready to give all my children for this battle. We are all ready to be martyred, this is our country, our dignity, our honour, our morals. We will never leave this country to anyone else”.

I met Hala in January 2018 in Salamiyah. Hala is a beautiful young girl whose husband was killed fighting with the SAA to defend her hometown and her country. Like so many families in Salamiyah, Hala expressed great pride her husband’s martyrdom but the sadness in her eyes told me she has lost her love and the father of her child.

Her husband, Fadi Afif al-Qasir, was killed defending Western Salamiyah from Nusra Front. He was 31 years old. Hala proudly showed me their wedding photographs, a stunning young couple just beginning their married life with so many hopes and dreams.

Hala told me: “When they called him to serve the homeland, he left immediately so he could defend his land, to defend his land, to defend his values……so that Syria’s voice could reach all of the countries, so that peace for Syria could prevail, so that peace would not only happen for us, so peace would be for all countries. What is entering here that we are fighting against, it is going to go outside of Syria, and if it went outside of Syria it is going to destroy all the people. So, my husband, Fadi Afif al-Qasir he offered his soul, he offered his heart, he offered his blood, to redeem the homeland”.

Hannah Al Ayek with a photo of her martyrd son Saed Nizar and alongside his brother Mohammed, her husband Ashour, daughters Sally and Isra © Vanessa Beeley

I also met Hannah Al Ayek and her family early in 2018 in Salamiyah. Her son, Saed Nizar, was not even 22-years-old when he was killed. Saed had been a helicopter engineer with the Syrian Arab Air Force. He was killed on 22 January 2013.  He was on board a helicopter ferrying supplies into the base when it was brought down by a Free Syrian Army TOW missile, according to his family.

 Hannah said to me: “Your coming here and talking to me about my son gives us strength. We beg you to take our voices as far as you can. My son and all our Martyrs have sacrificed themselves for the world, not just for Syria. Maybe they don’t all have the same face, but they do have the same soul.”

Ahmed Jabr with his family and photo of his martyrd son, Mohammed, in Salamiya © Vanessa Beeley

Every family I met with and interviewed made similar statements. Ahmed Jabr lost his 23-year-old son, Mohammed, on the 4 March 2013, fighting with the SAA against IS in Qaryatayn. 

Ahmed told me: “We have a great army and we represent the army. The army represents us and they have sacrificed so much but thank God we have the victory on our side. They brought every foreign terrorist in the universe to our country. It is the Western countries bringing us this terrorism. Thank God we stand by our Army as one hand. Our Army defends the whole Arab world and the World from this terrorism because it will spread from Syria to the World.” 

The SAA is made up of conscripts. In many cases ordinary young men and women have taken up arms to defend their people, as in Salamiyah surrounded on four sides by IS, Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham and a variety of extremist splinter groups. These soldiers are often inexperienced in military strategy and combat. They are facing a professional force of battle-hardened mercenaries, well equipped with more sophisticated weapons and machinery thanks to their sponsors in the West and Gulf States.

In every city, town and village in Syria you will find the displays of photos of Martyrs who have given their lives to defend their people. This is Salamiyah. © Vanessa Beeley

We in the West owe an infinite debt of gratitude to these young men and women who have resisted the terrorist spawn of our own imperialist nations. There will be no ‘Private Ryan’ films depicting their courage and bloodshed. There will be no commemorative statues erected in Washington or London in honour of their sacrifices. There will be no recognition of their unity, no acknowledgement of their dignity in Western media.

It falls upon us, the people, to salute these heroes, these defenders of humanity who have given their lives to prevent us living their torment. This is not some romantic vision of a world of complex nuances and multi-faceted truths, it is the realistic admission that without the SAA, we would be awash with extremism from the Euphrates to the Thames. Far from the din and cacophony of Hollywood generated conflict, these soldiers are the quiet heroes who have undeniably earned “the right to go home”.

June 9, 2018 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , | 2 Comments

US using ‘ethnic cleansing’ to set up compliant state in Syria – Vanessa Beeley to RT

RT | June 6, 2018

The US is trying to ethnically cleanse Syria in order to kill off Syrian nationalism and create an obedient state, journalist Vanessa Beeley told RT following a damning report on the US coalition’s military activities in Raqqa.

Beeley, an independent journalist who has covered the war in Syria extensively, told RT that the US, UK and French coalition is using proxy forces to cleanse certain areas of land in the war-torn country in an effort “to replace them with a proxy that will essentially create a US controlled state.”

She was responding to a new Amnesty International report that strongly criticizes the actions of the US-led coalition in its campaign to liberate the previously Islamic State (IS, ISIS/ISIL)-controlled city of Raqqa.

The Amnesty report accused the coalition and its Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) proxies of creating “a level of destruction comparable to anything we’ve seen in decades of covering the impact of wars,” and it says that the coalition’s claims that the bombings were “precise” and caused few civilian casualties do not stand up to scrutiny.

Beeley said that the Amnesty report put “meat on the bones” of previous analysis from on-the-ground journalists and some Russian analysts and commentators. She said that despite the US-led campaign ostensibly being about ridding the area of IS terrorists, it was the terrorists “who were evacuated as priority over the civilians.”

“Civilian property and infrastructure, essential infrastructure like water taps, like water supply units that were keeping civilians alive during the campaign were also being targeted,” she said, adding that it was the SDF forces designating the targets for the US coalition.

“So there’s a degree of collusion here between the US coalition and its proxies forces on the ground,” she said.

Beeley also criticized the reluctance of the British government, in particular, to admit to causing civilian deaths during its military campaign. The UK Ministry of Defense, she said, “did not even admit one civilian death as a result of their “precision” bombing — and then they only reluctantly admitted that they believe one civilian was killed by one of their drone strikes.”

Comparing the American-led military campaign in Raqqa to the Russian and Syrian-led military campaign to liberate east Aleppo, Beeley said that there were different standards set and attempts were made to protect Aleppo civilians.

“What we saw there were the provision of humanitarian corridors for civilians to be able to leave under the cover of the Syrian Arab Army and with the help of the Russian reconciliation teams negotiating with the terrorist and militant extremist factions to allow civilians to leave,” Beeley said. “What we’ve seen in Raqqa is civilians paying smugglers to try and leave during the military campaign, having to cross minefields, being unable to afford the cost of those smuggling groups.”

Beeley also said that Syrian civilians were being forced to return to buildings and areas of Raqqa that had not yet been cleared of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), booby traps and mines left by IS militants.

In contrast, the journalist said that Russian forces “cleared thousands of hectares of those IEDs and booby traps” following their campaigns to liberate Aleppo and Ghouta from IS.

“What we’re seeing here is a disgusting despicable disregard for human life both during the military campaign and even more importantly after the military campaign by the US coalition,” Beeley said.

Watch Vanessa Beeley’s full interview with RT.

‘Yemen killings may be even bigger’

In a separate interview, Joshua Landis, the director of the Center for Middle-East studies at the University of Oklahoma, told RT that the Amnesty report made it clear that there were “massive violations of human rights.” An investigation was unlikely given that the US, Britain and France sit on the UN Security Council, he said.

Landis said he believed the US did make efforts to avoid killing civilians, but that, ultimately, the US-led coalition was “in a hurry.”

“The UN asked them [US coalition] multiple times to give breaks so civilians could get out, but they didn’t want to negotiate with IS, they said they were gonna kill them on the battlefield. They didn’t want them as prisoners in another Guantanamo and this led to a situation where the US was eager to finish it off, did not want to allow a break, did not want UN workers to go into Raqqa because they were going to see the devastation,” he said.

Landis compared the destruction to that caused by the US-supported, Saudi-led coalition in Yemen: “What’s taking place in Yemen may be even bigger, but we don’t even know because reporters aren’t being allowed in there – but an entire population is being starved.”

“Half a million Yemenis have gotten cholera and there isn’t the proper medicine to fix them and heal them and this is a terrible, devastating war crime because it’s voluntary. It doesn’t have to happen. People don’t have to be starved. There’s a blockade going on,” he said.

“We know that US special forces are helping the Saudis now in Yemen. Is the killing in Yemen more clean than the killing in Syria? It’s hard to believe it is – and we’ll find out the ultimate body count, I guess in the end,” Landis added.

June 6, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lebanon launches search for first oil & gas reserves despite Israeli threats

RT | May 30, 2018

Beirut has announced the start of its oil and gas exploration for offshore energy reserves in the Mediterranean after approving a plan submitted by a consortium of France’s Total, Italy’s Eni and Russia’s Novatek.

Energy and Water Minister Cesar Abi Khalil said Lebanon plans to launch a second offshore licensing round by the end of 2018 or early 2019.

In February, the country signed its first offshore oil and gas exploration and production agreements with the Total-Eni-Novatek consortium for offshore Blocks 4 and 9.

Part of Block 9 contains waters disputed with neighboring Israel but the consortium said it had no plans to drill in that area. Lebanese authorities gave the go-ahead this week for exploration of the two blocks to begin, said Khalil.

The exploration period can last up to three years and the first well is expected to be drilled in 2019, providing all government departments grant necessary licenses and permissions “on time and without delay”, he added.

The minister explained that drilling would determine whether Lebanon had commercial reserves and, if so, their scale. Lebanon shares the Levant Basin in the eastern Mediterranean with Israel, Cyprus, and Syria. A range of big sub-sea gas fields have been discovered in the area since 2009.

However, the country was far behind Israel and Cyprus in exploring and developing its share of resources as a result of political issues over the past few years, and a dispute with Israel over Lebanon’s southern maritime border.

Israel had earlier threatened Lebanon over drilling in areas which it considers to be disputed. It warned Lebanon that it would pay a “full price” if another war breaks out between the two countries.

Three months ago, Lebanese President Michel Aoun appealed to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, asking for Washington’s “effective role” in settling the dispute with Israel over offshore oil drilling areas. After the US proposed sharing the offshore blocks, Lebanon rejected its offer to “help.”

The US proposal reportedly specified that the Lebanese would take up 65 percent of the disputed sections of the shelf. Commenting on the proposal Aoun said Lebanon will not give Israel a “millimeter.” He underlined that the offshore energy blocks are located in Lebanon’s waters and thus are within Beirut’s exclusive economic zone.

Lebanon and Israel’s dispute runs over a triangular area of around 860 square kilometers (332 square miles) of waters, which could contain huge reserves of natural gas and maybe even crude oil.

May 30, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Attack on Syria by the US, UK and France Was Aggression

By David Morrison | American Herald Tribune | May 30, 2018

The prohibition on the use of force by one state against another is one of the most fundamental principles of international law. It is set out in Article 2(4) of the UN Charter, which states:

“All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state … .”

The UN Charter recognises two exceptions to this fundamental prohibition on the use of force. The first is the right of self-defence under Article 51 of the Charter in the face of an armed attack. The other exception is if the use of force has been authorised by the Security Council under Article 42 in Chapter VII of the Charter.

The use of force in any other circumstance constitutes aggression contrary to Article 2.4 of the UN Charter.

On 14 April 2018, the UK engaged in military action against Syria in alliance with the US and France. Together, they fired 105 missiles against targets in Syria. This action was not carried out in self-defence in response to Syrian aggression, nor was it authorised by the Security Council. So, it constitutes aggression against Syria contrary to Article 2.4 of the UN Charter.

Oliver Miles: Is it legal?

Lest there be any doubt about this, here’s what former UK Ambassador Oliver Miles had to say about the action shortly after it took place:

“Before launching an operation of this kind, you have to pass three tests. The first test is: is it legal? The second is: is it effective? And the third test is: what are the political consequences?

“It fails on the first test, because I don’t think it’s legal. I think that the Prime Minister and the Government, and the other Governments concerned, have failed to address [the fact] that the Charter of the United Nations is very clear that military action of this kind can only be undertaken in two circumstances, either in self-defence, which clearly this was not, or with the authority of the Security Council, which they did not have.

“The Government, and the other Governments concerned, have stressed very rightly the importance of strengthening the taboo on use of chemical weapons, but the trouble is that in pursuing that objective they’ve weakened the intermission – the ban – on aggressive war.”

President Putin was not wrong when he described the airstrikes on Syria by the US, UK and France as: “an act of aggression against a sovereign state … without a mandate from the UN Security Council and in violation of the UN Charter and norms and principles of international law”.

This aggression was supported by the EU. Since EU foreign policy decisions require unanimity amongst EU members, this means that all 28 EU states support a fundamental breach of the UN Charter by the US and two of its own members.

May justifies use of force

Prime Minister May justified this use of force on humanitarian grounds in a statement on 14 April. It was taken, she said, in response to the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Government in Douma on 7 April 2018, which killed “up to 75” civilians. Its purpose was to “protect innocent people in Syria from the horrific deaths and casualties caused by chemical weapons” and, to that end, it consisted of “targeted strikes to degrade the Syrian Regime’s chemical weapons capability and deter their use” in future.

The Government published a paper Syria action – UK government legal position, which attempted to argue that this use of force was legal under international law. It asserted that:

“The UK is permitted under international law, on an exceptional basis, to take measures in order to alleviate overwhelming humanitarian suffering.”

Understandably, the paper made no mention whatsoever of the UN Charter, since there is no provision in the UN Charter which permits military action on humanitarian grounds without specific authorisation by the Security Council. Without that, military action against another state is aggression in breach of the UN Charter unless it is taken in self-defence.

Russia seeking to undermine “the international rules-based system”?

In recent years, the accusation that Russia is seeking to undermine “the international rules-based system” has become a mantra for the British Government and its supporters. For example, in the wake of the nerve gas attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal, Prime Minister May told the House of Commons on 26 March 2018:

“This act against our country is the latest in a pattern of increasingly aggressive Russian behaviour, attacking the international rules-based system across our continent and beyond.”

The Prime Minister didn’t make clear what she means by “the international rules-based system”, but the UN system, and the rules specified in the UN Charter, must be at the heart of it. It is ironic therefore that a few weeks later Britain should drive a cart and horses through the UN Charter by taking military action without Security Council authorisation against a sovereign state that hasn’t attacked it.

The Russian veto

The Prime Minister inferred that efforts to sanction Syria in any other way for its alleged use of chemical weapons were “repeatedly thwarted” by Russia applying, or threating to apply, its veto in the Security Council.

Like it or like it not, the “international rules-based system” involves Russia having a veto in the Security Council, along with the other four permanent members: China, France, the UK and the US (see Articles 23 and 27 of the UN Charter). Russia’s status as a veto-wielding permanent member is a reflection of its outstanding contribution to the defeat of fascism in Europe in WWII.

What is more, it is impossible to take the veto away from Russia, or any of the other permanent members – because amending the UN Charter requires the support of all five permanent members (see Article 108 of the UN Charter).

So, in practice defending the “international rules-based system” involves accepting that Russia will always have a veto on the Security Council, the body which, according to Article 24 of the UN Charter, has “primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security”.

It is not insignificant that each of the three states which took military action against Syria on 14 April have a veto in the Security Council. They are in a position to engage in aggression against other states,as and when they like, without fear of being sanctioned by the Council for doing so, since they can veto any resolution critical of them proposed in the Council.

Did a chemical weapons attack take place?

But, did a chemical weapons attack actually take place in Douma on 7 April? All the Prime Minister has to say about the alleged attack in her statement of 14 April is that “a significant body of information including intelligence indicates the Syrian Regime is responsible for this latest attack”. This “indication” of the Syrian Government’s responsibility was sufficient for the Prime Minister to authorise the use of force and to put it into effect. For reasons that can only be guessed at, the execution couldn’t be delayed to give the OPCW inspectors (who were already on the ground in Damascus) sufficient time to gather information and make a judgment about what actually happened in Douma.

Did the Syrian Government really mount such a chemical weapons attack against civilians at this time when it is coming close to defeating the armed opposition? Such an attack was absolutely certain to provoke a military response from President Trump, since an alleged attack a year ago at Khan Sheikhoun had done so.

On that occasion, President Trump authorised the firing of 59 cruise missiles at a single target, namely, the Syrian air base from which the attack was said to have been launched. Damage to Syria’s military capabilities was limited. However, another chemical weapons attack was likely to lead to a more extensive US onslaught against Syria’s military infrastructure, which might undermine the Syria Government’s ability to finally defeat the armed opposition.

Why on earth would President Assad risk that outcome by using chemical weapons against civilians in an attack of little or no military value?

Lord West has doubts

As Lord West, former First Sea Lord and Chief of Defence Intelligence, pointed out in a BBC interview on 16 April:

“President Assad is in the process of winning this civil war. And he was about to take over and occupy Douma, all that area. He’d had a long, long, hard slog, slowly capturing that whole area of the city. And then, just before he goes in and takes it all over, apparently he decides to have a chemical attack. It just doesn’t ring true.

“It seems extraordinary, because clearly he would know that there’s likely to be a response from the allies – what benefit is there for his military? Most of the rebel fighters, this disparate group of Islamists, had withdrawn; there were a few women and children left around. What benefit was there militarily in doing what he did? I find that extraordinary. Whereas we know that, in the past, some of the Islamic groups have used chemicals [see here], and of course there would be huge benefit in them labelling an attack as coming from Assad, because they would guess, quite rightly, that there’d be a response from the US, as there was last time, and possibly from the UK and France …”

Little more than a gesture

In fact, the military response from the US, UK and France turned out to be little more than a gesture. This was because the US military accepted that missile strikes against military targets that might lead to Russian casualties had to be avoided, lest the Russians respond by striking the sources of the missiles, as they had warned in advance they might do. As Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov explained afterwards, the US military was informed “where [the Russian] red lines are, including red lines on the ground, geographically” and “the results show that they did not cross these red lines”.

So, instead of striking significant military targets, three sites associated in the past with Syria’s chemical weapons capabilities were chosen – a research centre in Barzeh near Damascus and two weapons storage centres near Homs. On the face of it, this choice was appropriate given that the military action was, in the Prime Minister’s words, “to degrade the Syrian Regime’s chemical weapons capability”. But would these sites have been attacked if it was really thought that significant quantities of chemical weapons were stored there, given the risk to civilians nearby from toxic chemicals?

Syria became a party to the Chemical Weapons Convention on 14 October 2013 and, as required by the Convention formally agreed to destroy its chemical weapons stocks and production facilities. On 4 January 2016, the OPCW announced that all chemical weapons declared to it by Syria had been destroyed.

If Syria did not declare all its stocks to the OPCW (as the US and its allies claim), then it is highly unlikely that the undeclared stocks would be kept in known storage sites and be open to destruction from the air. A few months earlier, on 22 November 2017, the OPCW inspected the Barzeh site and didn’t discover any banned chemicals or “observe any activities inconsistent with obligations under the Convention”. Likely, the US and its co-aggressors didn’t expect to destroy any chemical weapons at these sites – there have been no reports that they did – but it made sense to target these sites in order to put a humanitarian face on the aggression.

Mainstream media turn a blind eye

The mainstream media in Britain have, almost without exception, accepted without question the Government’s narrative that the Syrian Government used chemical weapons against civilians in Douma on 7 April – and they have turned a blind eye to the growing body of evidence which suggests that there wasn’t a chemical weapons attack at all, which the Syrian and Russian Governments have claimed from the outset.

Remarkably few Western journalists have visited Douma to see for themselves. An exception to this was Robert Fisk, who has reported from the Middle East for over forty years (and is an Arabic speaker). Here is an extract from his account published in the Independent on 17 April of his conversation with Dr Assim Rahaibani, a senior doctor in the clinic where victims of the alleged chemical attack were brought for treatment. Dr Rahaibani told Fisk what had happened on that occasion:

“I was with my family in the basement of my home three hundred metres from here on the night but all the doctors know what happened. There was a lot of shelling [by government forces] and aircraft were always over Douma at night – but on this night, there was wind and huge dust clouds began to come into the basements and cellars where people lived. People began to arrive here suffering from hypoxia, oxygen loss. Then someone at the door, a ‘White Helmet’, shouted “Gas!”, and a panic began. People started throwing water over each other. Yes, the video was filmed here, it is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia – not gas poisoning.”

Fisk walked freely around Douma talking to people he met but he encountered nobody who knew of a “gas” attack on 7 April. An American journalist, Pearson Sharp, from the One America News Network, had a similar experience: on 16 April he reported:

“Not one of the people that I spoke to in that neighbourhood said that they had seen anything, or heard anything, about a chemical attack on that day… they didn’t see or hear anything out of the ordinary.”

Russia Today has broadcast several interviews with paramedics from the clinic and with an 11-year old boy describing how he was roped into the making of the video by the White Helmets (see Interview with boy in Douma video raises more doubts over ‘chem attack’, 19 April). It has also broadcast the proceedings of a news conference organised at The Hague by the Russian Ambassador to the OPCW, when 17 doctors and paramedics, brought from Syria by Russia, testified to a complete absence of chemical weapons or victims at the clinic (see No attack, no victims, no chem weapons: Douma witnesses speak at OPCW briefing at The Hague, 26 April).

This evidence from Robert Fisk and Pearson Sharp, together with the witness testimony broadcast by Russia Today, is close to definitive proof that there was no chemical weapons attack in Douma on 7 April.

David Morrison is the co-author of “A Dangerous Delusion: Why the West is Wrong about Nuclear Iran” (published by Elliott & Thompson, 2013). He has written many articles on the US-led invasion of Iraq.

May 30, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | 2 Comments