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The ‘Caesar Report’ conundrum and the increasing weaponisation of “international justice”

Moaz Moustafa (on right) facilitates John McCain’s illegal entry into Syria to meet with extremist group leaders and known kidnappers. (Photo: Antiwar)
By Tim Hayward | 21st Century Wire | April 6, 2019

The photos brought to public attention in January 2014 by the anonymous witness codenamed ‘Caesar’ show corpses, thousands in number, deceased from violent causes, some bearing signs of torture and many having suffered starvation and neglect.[1] The dead are said to be victims of Syrian state detention facilities, but it is now known that many were not, and it is still not known for sure how many of them were.[2]

If the atrocity of the crimes to which the photos attest is in no doubt, the question of who perpetrated them is less clear-cut. Yet Western reports have unequivocally blamed the ‘Assad regime’. A counter-hypothesis, hardly considered in public discussions, is that many of the bodies were of civilians captured by Jaish al-Islam (JAI) after taking control of Douma in December 2012. JAI are known to have starved their captives while using them as slave labourers, which they did on a scale monumental enough to create the extraordinary network of deep and impressively engineered tunnels that we now see had been built across the area under their control.[3]

Nevertheless, a Qatari-sponsored prosecution team vouched for the Caesar evidence as being ‘capable of being believed’ – in a court of law – to show ‘systematic torture and killing of detained persons by the agents of the Syrian government.’[4] The Western media’s subsequent dissemination of the prosecutors’ interpretation of the images – unchallenged – caused it to be widely believed in the ‘court of public opinion’. Despite significant unsettled and unsettling questions, then, a particular account of what the images show has exercised considerable influence over people’s default assumptions about accountability for atrocities in Syria.

It is the influence of this specific interpretation of evidence that will be reflected on here, and without prejudice as to what may be established about occurrences in Syrian detention on other bases.[5] Questions about the Caesar evidence point up concerns about the extent to which the dissemination of inaccurate information might have distorted the written historical record of our times and how it may have practically influenced real decisions and events.

It matters to get at the truth about the photos for those reasons, as well as for the sake of families whose loved ones have disappeared, but there is also a further reason. This concerns a use made of Caesar’s testimony that may affect the future course of history too. It is the promotion by Western prosecutors of judicial innovation in the pursuit of accountability for atrocity crimes. The purpose of this article is to set out how and why that is a concern, and fundamentally one about justice.

To situate the discussion it will be worth briefly outlining the contrasting kinds of reception the Caesar testimony has received – affirmative versus sceptical – and then also pointing to a much less noticed reception, one of significant silence. For there is an identifiable group of usually vocal critics of the Syrian president and government that has refrained from mentioning the name Caesar. This in itself could be somewhat revealing about what intelligence that group accepts as authoritative. But it also throws into relief the distinctive commitments of another group who, by contrast, have made considerable use of the Caesar name.

It is they who have, for instance, provided the impetus behind successful lobbying for the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act in the United States. Less spectacular, but of potentially more enduring international significance, is dissemination of Caesar’s narrative in a wider campaign aimed at creating increasingly flexible mechanisms for international criminal prosecutions.[6]

Billed by some as a progressive and cosmopolitan approach to ‘global justice’ that sets human rights above the prerogative of despots, this movement might more cautiously be assessed as legitimising ‘regime change’ by means of judicial innovation. Such use of the Caesar testimony could serve not only to delegitimise the current president of Syria but also to enhance the possibility of delegitimising any head of state.

This would be at the initiative of prosecution teams who themselves are accountable to their clients and sponsors rather than to the victims of conflict or to principles of humanitarian justice. The argument thus to be developed in this article commends caution about both the evidentiary value of the Caesar testimony and the intentions of those who have most vocally asserted it.

Caesar, his story and the questions raised.

The basic outline of Caesar’s story can be sketched quite succinctly. According to the testimony attributed to Caesar, he had been working as a military photographer in Damascus, where his job was to photograph the dead for purposes of state record keeping. In 2011, concerned at the number of deceased, and the visible indications of torture and starvation, he started smuggling digital files of the images to a contact, now referred to as Sami, who passed them to the Syrian National Movement (SNM). In August 2013, the SNM facilitated Caesar’s extrication from Syria, to be followed shortly after by his immediate family members.

The SNM, although based in Turkey, was backed by Qatar, and the Qatari government hired a team of lawyers and forensic specialists to assess the credibility of the witness and his evidence as a basis for potential prosecutions. In a matter of days the team pronounced Caesar’s evidence ‘capable of being believed’ in a court.[7]

Caesar was then taken to Washington on a visit facilitated by Mouaz Moustafa, director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force, a US State Department sponsored organisation representing some of the anti-government forces in Syria. When giving testimony there, Caesar’s face was concealed and his words were whispered to Moustafa, who acted as translator. After appearing in several other high profile venues with similar arrangements for anonymity, Caesar withdrew from the limelight.

Caesar testimony fed through Moaz Moustafa, facilitator of McCain’s trip to meet “rebels” in Syria. (Photo: Tim Hayward blog)

Meanwhile, an influential section of United States political opinion has pronounced itself confident enough in the witness Caesar to enact legislation in his name – the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act – aimed at enforcing ‘accountability’ measures on Syria. The lead author of the Caesar Report, David Crane, has spoken of the photographic evidence as a ‘smoking gun’, words echoed by Keith Harper, US Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC). Stephen Rapp, the former US Ambassador At Large for War Crimes, has stated that the photos help to provide ‘much better evidence than has been available to prosecutors anywhere since Nuremberg’.[8]

Prosecution teams in Europe have also attributed great value to the photos as evidence of atrocity crimes.[9] Among the lawyers prominent in promoting the prosecutorial value of the Caesar evidence are Toby Cadman,[10] Wolfgang Kaleck[11] and Patrick Kroker.[12] Meanwhile, the NGO Human Rights Watch produced its own report claiming to validate some of the Caesar evidence.[13] A number of journalists have also expressed themselves convinced, including Richard Engel, who has met ‘Caesar’, and Josh Rogin, Ben Taub, Susie Linfield,[14] Nick Robins-Early,[15] Adam Ciralsky,[16] Jim Muir for the BBC,[17] as well as many more contributors to news outlets including Spiegel,[18] Daily Mail,[19] CNN.[20]

Garance le Caisne wrote a book on Operation Caesar, and documentary films featuring it include Sara Afshar’s Syria’s Disappeared. Affirmation of the evidence has made its way into academic publications too. Some of this has come from people involved in organisations campaigning for an approach to justice and accountability for atrocity crimes that allows implementation of a ‘responsibility to prosecute’.

Those with this interest include prosecution lawyers and advisors like Stephen Rapp, David Crane, Wolfgang Kaleck, Patrick Kroker, and Beth Van Schaack. Other academics who have cited the Caesar evidence uncritically, treating it as part of an established factual record, include: Noha Aboueldahab;[21] Jamie Allinson;[22] Adam Bazco, Gilles Dorronsoro and Arthur Quesnay;[23] Nader Hashemi;[24] Bessma Momani and Tanzeel Hazak;[25] Chris Tenove;[26] and Thomas Weiss.[27]

Some academics have cited the HRW report rather than the original Caesar Report, even if, like Van Schaack,[28] they apparently did not notice how HRW had significantly modified some of the original report’s claims, such as the 11,000 victims figure that HRW corrected down. In all, it can certainly be said that Operation Caesar has made its way into publications that will be regarded as laying down the historical record.

Not everyone is convinced, however. Even the initial reception was cautious in some quarters. One reason was the revelation that Operation Caesar had been initiated by Qatar, a country that had been providing funds – now known to be in the billions of dollars – to opposition fighters aiming to bring down the government of Bashar al-Assad.

There were also the questions, flagged at the start of this article, that are simply begged by appeals – of Rapp and others – to the confirmation by the FBI that the photos showed real dead people.[29] Other serious concerns have been set out in detail by Rick Sterling[30] and Adam Larson[31], but an elementary and conspicuous one is the unconvincing justification for Caesar’s anonymity, which serves to prevent any rigorous independent questioning of his story.

The rationale given for secrecy appears to depend on the implausible proposition that a photographer in the state’s employ could go missing and yet not be missed. A result of the anonymity is that the public ultimately has to place a lot of trust in the competence, integrity and good faith of the people translating and relaying the story. Given that these are people pressing a case for the prosecution, it would be only proper to allow a full examination of the methods they have deployed in presenting their case.

From a defence perspective, it would be hard to ignore facts like prime mover Rapp and the fixer and translator Moustafa having been among the most persistent lobbyists on Capitol Hill for regime change – previously in Libya and then in Syria. Rapp, furthermore, has been campaigning for changes in international criminal law that would lower the barriers to prosecution for atrocity crimes. Even their allies in the quest to prosecute Assad have expressed reservations.

Notably, the directors of the organisations gathering the documentary evidence that Rapp finds the necessary complement of Caesar’s evidence have been quite clear on the point. Thus Bill Wiley, director of the Europe-based Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA) has said ‘would it make a case against Assad? No, not at all, not at all.’[32] Wiley’s counterpart in America, Mohammad al-Abdallah – director of the Syria Justice and Accountability Centre – is also deeply sceptical of the photos’ evidentiary value.[33]

Who dares to cite Caesar?

The central concern of this study can now be further delineated by reference to a group of social media commentators who, to my initial surprise, have appeared to accept that point. This is a group of people who are generally vocal in matters relating to the war in Syria and would not typically pass up an opportunity to highlight crimes alleged of the Syrian president and government.

This group would include Idrees Ahmad, Eliot Higgins, Oz Katerji, Scott Lucas, George Monbiot,[34] Thomas Pierret and Robin Yassin-Kassab. None of them – as far as I can discern – has ever referred to Caesar.[35] The most natural explanation would be that each has individually examined the Caesar Report and decided it did indeed give rise to the critical concerns that sceptics have identified.

However, the same people have been prepared to refer to the HRW report that validates the Caesar evidence, even though it does not address the critical questions. It is as if they are aware that particulars of the Caesar story may be vulnerable to being discredited but they are satisfied that the reputation of the NGO makes it safe to cite as an authority.

What makes this anomalous is that similar caution does not come into play for members of the group with regard to other operations that are no less controversial. A notable example would be the White Helmets. The idea that the White Helmets organisation consists of unarmed humanitarian volunteers devoted to altruistic and impartial service of their home communities is demonstrably misleading in that the funding, coordination and training comes from abroad, its recruits are paid, and they do not represent or serve all sections of Syrian society.

If some of the men may simply be carrying out the tasks they are ostensibly paid to, others have appeared to bear arms and to collaborate with militant extremists. Some have been accused of crimes, including serious ones, and there are even questions about whether some may have been involved in committing atrocities. In short, if one sees reason to be cautious about the credibility of Caesar it would be consistent and reasonable to be cautious about the White Helmets too.

In order to try and resolve the anomaly, it is worth considering another feature of the White Helmets operation that invites comparison with the Caesar narrative:

‘Like Caesar, the White Helmets—also known as the Syrian Civil Defense forces—have become inadvertent documentarians. … White Helmet volunteers have testified before the Security Council, in capitals, and elsewhere and provided photographs and videos of the aftermath of attacks that have helped to shed light on chemical weapon use.’[36]

This documentary role – ‘inadvertent’ or otherwise – has not been lost on promoters of the two operations. Of the Caesar exhibition, Van Schaack observes ‘Such displays respond to the behavioral psychology research on the “picture superiority effect,” which teaches that humans respond to photos more viscerally than to text.’

Of the White Helmets, James Le Mesurier has explained how, in 2012, the security firm he then co-directed, ARK FZC, consulted global market research showing that military and security actors were least likely to win public trust whereas first responders are the most trusted.[37] Thereupon ARK created the White Helmets, and Le Mesurier subsequently formed the Netherlands-registered non-profit Mayday Rescue to manage them (although he was funded from sources like the UK FCO through his company Mayday Rescue FZ-LLC based in a UAE tax haven). As documentarians, the White Helmets have had a much more widespread and sustained impact than Operation Caesar.

So there are some differences worth reflecting on. First, the publicity value of the Caesar images needs no narrative or naming, no due process or due diligence to underwrite, since it is immediate and visceral.

The name that needs to be tagged to those images, moreover, is not Caesar but Assad.[38] People don’t need to be kept in mind of the codename for an operation but they do need to have in mind a constant association of those terrible images with the name of Assad. Seen in this light, therefore, silence about Caesar is an entirely consistent element of an anti-Assadist strategy to influence public opinion.

By contrast, although the White Helmets also make considerable use of imagery,[39] their narrative and their projected identity are necessary for situating and making sense of the images. Moreover, they are protagonists of their own narrative and have remained in situ to cover continuing developments on the ground (even if they have had to move towns as battle lines have shifted).

Their trustworthiness being necessary for the effect of their message, it has been vigorously defended even in the face of serious criticisms. So it is not so surprising, after all, that activists and publicists who have avoided getting drawn into discussion of the Caesar narrative stand firm in defence of the White Helmets narrative.

But if the preference for the White Helmets over Caesar is explicable in those terms, what then needs to be understood is why some other people have nevertheless so actively promoted the Caesar narrative. If the initial purpose of promoting it was to press President Obama’s administration to take a more active interventionist approach to Syria, then it had already failed, and Caesar was not in a position to produce any new evidence. In seeking an explanation it is worth reflecting on who has been most active and consistent in promoting Operation Caesar – from its inception to this day.

The Caesar promoters 

The lead author of the Qatari-commissioned Caesar report is David Crane, and he also leads the Syrian Accountability Project (SAP), which he founded some time prior to Caesar’s defection.[40] SAP is said to be student-run and its clients include the Syrian National Council and US State Department.[41] It also ‘works very closely with’ the Syria Justice and Accountability Centre, which in turn is a conduit of US funding to CIJA.

Incidentally, Rapp, Crane, and fellow Caesar Report author Desmond De Silva, were all previously successive holders of the same job, namely, chief prosecutor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone.[42] The man who brought Caesar from his Qatari handlers to the West, and accompanied him on tour, even providing his voice, is Mouaz Moustafa.

Moustafa’s constant companion on the tour – which has included visits to the UK Foreign Office – is Rapp. Rapp was also involved in founding the organisation supplying the documentary evidence that is a sine qua non for the legal effect of Caesar materials. Now known as CIJA, that organisation grew out of Wiley’s collaboration at ARK FZC with the UK FCO’s go-to contractor, the former diplomat Alistair Harris, who through his ARK business also founded the White Helmets and other Syria security and ‘stabilisation’ projects.

Harris, a man of ideas and advocacy as well as action, was co-author with Cadman and Moustafa of a 2013 paper for RUSI urging that it was not too soon to start implementing transitional justice in Syria; and Harris’s ARK has been a conduit of funding – received from US as well as UK – for Moustafa’s organization SETF. As for the European prosecutions, and related initiatives pressing for ‘universal jurisdiction,’ Rapp is there too a constant and inspirational presence.

Stephen Rapp with Moaz Moustafa in New Hampshire. (Photo: New Hampshire Gazette)

Rapp’s core ambition is not focused exclusively on President Assad. He advocates in more general terms a principle of ‘no peace without justice’, which he interprets as implying a ‘responsibility to prosecute’ whose ultimate implications would be to enhance the legitimacy of externally imposed regime change operations on any nation – not just Syria – whose leadership is deemed to be oppressing its people and standing in the way of democracy and freedom.

It may be noted that Rapp has been part of on-going high level US deliberations about how to finesse that nation’s awkward situation of wanting to see other countries’ leaders prosecuted while not itself even signing up to the existing procedures that are provided by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

This conundrum has exercised the American elite for some years, and Rapp appears committed to a solution that lies in promoting innovative jurisprudence and hybrid courts. It would be facilitated by the emergence of a principle of ‘universal jurisdiction’, a principle that has gained particular traction in Germany, and some in other European countries too, like Spain, France and Sweden,[43] where the Caesar materials have apparently been deployed in courts.

In short, there is a discernible aim here of redefining the rules of the ‘rules-based international order’, with particular relevance to who shall be permitted to govern a country.[44] This is to press for global rules that override the powers of nation-states – a development whose effects are akin to what is already being accomplished through trade and investment agreements like TTP and TTIP by imposing rules of corporate globalism on nations with compliant governments.

Thus, from the standpoint of concern to serve US-based corporate interests, there is more at stake than the matter of who should be president of Syria.

The purpose of Caesar

Viewed from that perspective, Operation Caesar appears as a particular expedient in relation to a particular recalcitrant nation-state. The Caesar materials are likely to have little or no direct legal effect to that end, however, according to Wiley, and will not make a case against Assad in courts.

What the images do is harness powerful human emotion to the case. And it is entirely fitting that great human emotion should be stirred by images of human atrocities, as it may also be fitting that justice and accountability should be sought. If war crimes are committed, justice arguably requires accountability for them,[45] and so the value of evidence has to be assessed on its merits, and that means creating opportunities for such an assessment – even, conceivably, by deploying innovative judicial means.

I would just add that there are also other important considerations to keep in mind.

First, justice has to be assiduously sought by means that are rigorously directed to the pursuit of truth. This would be a sine qua non for just retribution. The pursuit of justice requires great scrupulousness of method and honesty of intent; it entails respecting the presumption of innocence, ensuring procedures are impartial and consistent, with due transparency and openness. These are qualities that need ensuring and cannot be assumed to follow from initiatives of ‘innovation’ that are pursued by special interest groups as is a concern about Operation Caesar.

Second is the need in due process to reserve judgement as to the honesty and intentions of witnesses to any alleged crime, pending their evidence being put to the test in a properly constituted hearing.

For the purposes of justice it is never to be assumed that all people at all times act honestly and in good faith, for it is precisely because they do not that institutions of justice are required to provide a remedy.

Thus a requisite degree of realism in retributive justice has always to attend to motivations, including thoughts about deterrents and incentives. As well as this general concern there is in the present context also a more specific kind of concern. It is a fact that deceptive events are sometimes staged, including by way of what are referred to as false flag operations.

Regarding many of the various accusations of atrocity crimes levelled against the Syrian government there are reasonable grounds for doubt, and justice certainly requires that no blanket presumption be made about the dependability of testimony from witnesses like the White Helmets or Caesar.

Third, although the Caesar evidence, like that of the White Helmets, has never been tested in a properly constituted court of law, it has sounded very loudly in the media and has thus exercised a determinate influence on the ‘court of public opinion’.

The media reports that shape public opinion, however, often appear to have scant regard for truth or accuracy, let alone justice. Insofar as promoters of prosecutions against state leaders are also seeking to use ‘innovative’ forms of justice effectively to lower the barrier to effective prosecutions, it could be perceived as extremely prejudicial that they are able to make their case so unrestrainedly to the wider public ahead of any properly constituted hearing.

Fourth, there is the distinct possibility that under circumstances where not only is public opinion manipulated but also political agendas are promoted, the communications can even provide incentives to stage harmful acts as false flag operations.

Specifically, the pronouncement of red lines can favour this effect. There are strong grounds for suspicion that in practice this effect has operated from time to time in Syria, as elsewhere, and a simple logic of incentives does nothing to assuage such suspicions.

It is therefore a matter of serious concern that the informal penumbra of ‘justice and accountability’ talk that goes to support the imposition of ‘red lines’ could be not only prejudicial to the trying of crimes that have occurred but potentially be used to support incentives for crimes to be committed.

The fifth point is the most important of all. Concerns about justice and accountability for war crimes are ultimately about acting on behalf of the moral conscience of humanity.

If any given war crime shocks the human conscience, then so much more ought the very occurrence of war itself do so, especially when it is not clearly just or necessary.

If war crimes have been committed in Syria it is because there has been a war in Syria – a war that need never have been but for the provocations and facilitations of external actors.

If we truly want to hold people responsible for war crimes, then should we not attribute great responsibility to those whose actions are among the root causes of them?

Let us bear in mind, for instance, that Qatar was the biggest supplier of funds and arms to the enemies of Syria’s government, and that the United States has been a major orchestrator of international collaboration to delegitimise that government. With such facts in mind, it can be argued that for agents of those states to be producing evidence to accuse Syria of war crimes is to add moral insult to injury.

 

Had these states not promoted an armed insurgency in the first place, there would have been no war and thus no war crimes in Syria. They certainly have earned no benefit of the doubt regarding the anonymous, secretive and unverifiable testimony their agents jointly presented in Operation Caesar.

On this last point, it is further interesting to note that we in the West do not receive much unfiltered communication from the side of the defence to these attempted prosecutions. We hear that Syria, Russia, China and various non-aligned countries have forceful reservations but this is always attributed to pure political calculation on their part. ‘They’, it seems, are always subject to conflicts of interest whereas ‘we’, in the West, are concerned only with the pure pursuit of humanitarian justice.

Just how far this might be from the truth is glimpsed in the reflections of former international criminal defence lawyer Christopher Black. His considerations of the modus operandi of prominent prosecutors like those pressing the ‘responsibility to prosecute’ as part of an ‘innovative justice’ agenda are sobering, to put it mildly.[46] For present purposes, however, it suffices to have indicated the much bigger game that the Caesar testimony has played a small part in.[47]

In conclusion, I would emphasise that it behoves us to try and be clear about the effects of Operation Caesar and learn lessons from the study of it. Having noted that even vocal critics of Assad and his government avoid appeals to Caesar, and given the serious criticisms made by others, we have good reason to reserve judgement as to its credibility.

This means that those who have committed to accrediting it as wholly true have quite possibly disseminated a falsehood. With NGOs, journalists and even academics embedding in it lessons of that possible falsehood, the historical record may already have been distorted in ways that may not be undone. But a still greater concern is that further harms may be generated in the future not only as a result of misinformation but also as a result specifically of what the West’s legal innovators are seeking, which is nothing less than a change in the rules of the ‘rules-based international order’.

We already find some scholars of international law viewing such changes as positive steps towards ‘global justice’. This is a matter about which more critical concern should be in evidence than has been to date.

To put bluntly this contextualised concern about Operation Caesar: not only may it already have altered the historical record, and not only may its effects have served to alter somewhat the course of history to date, but in serving to influence decision makers, it may contribute more indelibly to shifting the baseline of normative consensus in a direction favourable to ousting non-compliant leaders of sovereign states.

That is effectively to bestow legitimacy on imperialist regime change projects.

What justice meanwhile requires with regard to the ‘Caesar’ evidence is genuine and impartial investigation into the truth about who died and at whose hands. The instrumentalisation of those terrible deaths for the purposes of further destabilizing a country ripped apart by violent forces that are aided and abetted by foreign states – including so-called liberal democracies – is itself an affront to the conscience of humankind.

***

[1] For an overview of the story at the time see Ian Black in The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/20/evidence-industrial-scale-killing-syria-war-crimes. For a later and fuller reconstruction see Adam Ciralsky in Vanity Fair: https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2015/06/assad-war-crimes-syria-torture-caesar-hospital.

[2] See the Human Rights Watch study of the Caesar evidence: https://www.hrw.org/report/2015/12/16/if-dead-could-speak/mass-deaths-and-torture-syrias-detention-facilities. For a more detailed and critical study of the evidence see the website of Adam Larson: http://libyancivilwar.blogspot.com/search?q=caesar.

Drawing on Larson’s study, Paul McKeigue has summarised what is not in dispute and what other factors should be borne in mind (personal communication) and I follow his advice in the summary that follows.

Not disputed:- The photos show the bodies of at least 5000 adult men at the Damascus military hospital, many of whom have been starved, over a period of about 8 months up to August 2013. Their identities are unknown, and the bodies have been labelled with numbers.

Other factors:- Some of them may be battlefield casualties, although most have no obvious external injuries. Some of them appear to have been gassed while hung upside down. From this, and the signs of prolonged starvation it is clear that most of them were captives. What is not known for certain regarding most of them is whether they were captured and/or killed by the government or by rebel forces (since the fact of being gathered for delivery to the mortuary could apply in either event. Some victims have tattoos indicating they are Christian, Shia or Assad supporters. The picture is further complicated by the fact that there were prisoner swaps between the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and JAI in 2013.

Adam Larson (personal communication) adds that there is no semblance of a prison uniform evident in the photos, the men being mainly naked or in underwear, in street clothes or, in a few cases, still in their camouflage military uniforms.

For my part, I do not have the knowledge or expertise to offer an opinion as to the relative likelihoods of the two hypotheses. Nor does my argument depend on the likelihood of the JAI hypothesis being much greater than the official Western hypothesis, as Larson and McKeigue suggest it is. (Nor can some combination of those or other possibilities be definitively ruled out.) My argument relies only on the consideration that a self-consistent and materially possible explanation has not been ruled out while the accepted Western narrative has not been sufficiently established.

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgGqwAwJL5M&feature=youtu.be

[4] https://www.carter-ruck.com/images/uploads/documents/Syria_Report-January_2014.pdf

[5] This is a point made particularly effectively by Dan Murphy in an early response to the Caesar evidence: for he declares himself convinced on the basis of reports from other sources that the Syrian security apparatus is in fact responsible for large scale and egregious violation of human rights, and yet he vigorously challenges the credibility of the Caesar Report. https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Security-Watch/Backchannels/2014/0121/Syria-smoking-gun-report-warrants-a-careful-read

[6] These include, most recently, creation of the International Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM).

[7] https://www.carter-ruck.com/images/uploads/documents/Syria_Report-January_2014.pdf

[8] Rapp in a 2016 interview with Ben Taub in the The New Yorker: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/04/18/bashar-al-assads-war-crimes-exposed

[9] These include ECCHR https://www.ecchr.eu/en/case/caesar-photos-document-systematic-torture/ and the Guernica teams https://www.guernicagroup.org/syria, and German Public Prosecutors in Karlsruhe https://en.qantara.de/content/assads-crimes-tried-in-german-courts-hoping-for-justice.

[10] Before setting up the Guernica teams, Cadman had been an associate at Cherie Blair’s law firm Omnia and was at the centre of a scandal: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/cherie-blairs-right-hand-man-previously-pitched-to-represent-the-other-side-in-maldives-case-a6779321.html. This is relevant to mention insofar as much of the drive for judicial innovation is based on arguments about humanitarianism and morality that sit uneasily alongside motivations of making business profits.

[11] Wolfgang Kaleck founded the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) together with other internationally renowned lawyers in Berlin in 2007. He has promoted prosecuting on the basis of Caesar evidence https://www.ecchr.eu/nc/en/press-release/torture-in-syria-investigations-in-austria-are-a-first-step-now-arrest-warrants-must-follow/

[12] Patrick Kroker is responsible for ECCHR’s work on Syria. He sets out his perspective in this interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyi3jkDCRlE&feature=youtu.be

[13] https://www.hrw.org/report/2015/12/16/if-dead-could-speak/mass-deaths-and-torture-syrias-detention-facilities.

[14] Susie Linfield in The New York Review of Books: https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2019/02/09/syrias-torture-photos-witness-to-atrocity/)

[15] https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/03/28/syria-war-crimes_n_6950660.html

[16] Adam Ciralsky in Vanity Fair: https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2015/06/assad-war-crimes-syria-torture-caesar-hospital.

[17] Jim Muir for the BBC: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-25822571

[18] http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/spiegel-reporting-supports-accounts-of-torture-and-execution-in-syria-a-945760.html

[19] https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2544711/Starved-tortured-throttled-The-true-horror-Assads-soldiers-execute-rebel-prisoners-revealed-new-images-released-today.html

[20] https://edition.cnn.com/2014/01/20/world/syria-torture-photos-amanpour/index.html t.

[21] Noha Aboueldahab, Writing Atrocities (2018)

[22] Jamie Allinson, ‘Disaster Islamism’ (http://salvage.zone/in-print/disaster-islamism/

[23] Adam Bazco, Gilles Dorronsoro and Arthur Quesnay Civil War in Syria, Cambridge UP 2017.

[24] Nader Hashemi, ‘The ISIS Crisis and the Broken Politics of the Middle East’ http://www.bu.edu/cura/files/2016/12/hashemi-paper1.pdf

[25] Bessma Momani and Tanzeel Hazak, ‘Syria’, in The Oxford Handbook of the Responsibility to Protect Edited by: Alex Bellamy, Tim Dunne 2016 Oxford University Press.

[26] Chris Tenove (2019), ‘Networking justice: digitally-enabled engagement in transitional justice by the Syrian diaspora, Ethnic and Racial Studies’, DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2019.1569702

[27] Thomas G. Weiss (2014) ‘Military Humanitarianism: Syria Hasn’t Killed It’, The Washington Quarterly, 37:1.

[28] Beth Van Schaack (2019) ‘Innovations in International Criminal Law Documentation Methodologies and Institutions’ https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3329102

[29] Tim Anderson has commented that ‘we have no way of verifying in which year, circumstance or even which country the photos were taken. Those who finance and arm the sectarian groups have slaughtered hundreds of thousands in recent years, in the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. There is no shortage of photos of dead bodies…’ (Tim Anderson ‘The Dirty War on Syria: Barrel Bombs, Partisan Sources and War Propaganda’ Global Research 7 October 2015). However, after a very close study of the photographs, Adam Larson believes that the photos were taken in the Damascus area and that the deaths occurred within that area, mostly in the period from mid-late 2012 to August 2013. This fact, nonetheless, does not make the Syrian government a more likely suspect for their murder than Jaish al-Islam. (Adam Larson, personal communication)

[30] Rick Sterling, ‘The Caesar Photo Fraud that Undermined Syrian Negotiations’ https://dissidentvoice.org/2016/03/the-caesar-photo-fraud-that-undermined-syrian-negotiations/

[31] Adam Larson, ‘Fail Caesar’, in 10 parts: http://libyancivilwar.blogspot.com/search?q=caesar

[32] Wiley interviewed in the Al Jazeera documentary Syria: Witnesses for the Prosecution https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GGK4zrl7P0 ). Speaking at a conference organised by his friend David Crane at Syracuse University, Wiley is clear that for advocacy groups like Amnesty and HRW ‘the burden of proof for the sort of evidence they need for their reports, it is very, very low. … Oftentimes they do allege crimes, in my opinion, incorrectly, but they are just drawing attention to the suffering.’ (19.55) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=enJvVvN8thU (Running for Cover conference, Syracuse, 2016)

[33] Mohammad al-Abdallah quoted in Enab Baladi’s Investigation Team (2018) ‘Al-Assad’s crimes in millions of documents: When will accountability start?’ https://english.enabbaladi.net/archives/2018/10/al-assads-crimes-in-millions-of-documents-when-will-accountability-start/

[34] For readers not familiar with these debates, but who know Monbiot for his interesting work on environmental issues, his inclusion in this list may be surprising. I for one was very surprised to discover the company he keeps in this matter, and after some rather disagreeable interactions with him on the subject, I did an extended study attempting to understand it: https://timhayward.wordpress.com/2018/04/11/how-we-were-misled-about-syria-george-monbiot-of-the-guardian/

[35] I stand to be corrected on this, of course, and I do note that Caesar has been referred to by Higgins, for instance, in the context of geolocating one of the photos, but without direct comment as to its significance.

[36] Beth Van Schaack (2019) ‘Innovations in International Criminal Law Documentation Methodologies and Institutions’, p.40.

[37] This information comes from an address delivered by Le Mesurier at The Performance Theatre in 2015 [links to the video recording of which appear to have been taken down].

[38] See the discussion in Lissa Johnson, ‘The Psychology of Getting Julian Assange’ Pt 5 https://newmatilda.com/2019/03/25/the-psychology-of-getting-julian-assange-part-5-war-propaganda-101/.

[39] As shown by Simone Rudolphi (2018), ‘Analysis of White Helmets’ Visual Strategy’, Masters Thesis, University of Sunderland.

[40] Already in 2013, before Caesar’s defection, Crane was ‘working with a team of lawyers and civil-society advocates to set up an archive of war crimes and atrocities committed in Syria that could be used as a basis for prosecution.’ As Crane put it, “We former chief prosecutors are like racehorses – you can put us out to pasture but we still want to run.” (https://www.newsweek.com/2013/09/27/david-cranes-prosecution-former-liberian-president-charles-taylor-238008.html)

[41] http://www.iamsyria.org/uploads/1/3/0/2/13025755/syria-sap_general_overview.pdf

[42] http://www.rscsl.org/prosecution.html

[43] Thierry Cruvellier (2019) ‘European Justice Strikes on Crimes in Syria’ https://www.justiceinfo.net/en/tribunals/national-tribunals/40383-european-justice-strikes-on-crimes-in-syria.html

[44] Ultimately, however, what is at stake affects the United States as a nation of people too, since what is driving it is a form of association that knows no national loyalties to any body politic but only to the interests of those with control of the world’s mega-corporations.

[45] I say ‘arguably’, since another view would take justice to have a more complex relationship with peace such as may find some place for the principle of amnesty – forgetting – but the present paper does not call into question the principle of punishing war crimes through due process.

[46] See Christopher Black (2014), ‘Rwanda and the Criminalisation of International Justice: Anatomy of War Crimes Trials’, Global Researchhttps://www.globalresearch.ca/rwanda-and-the-criminalisation-of-international-justice-anatomy-of-war-crimes-trials/5408604 and ‘Rwanda Confronting the 1994 Apocalypse’ https://christopher-black.com/rwanda-confronting-the-1994-apocalypse/

[47] See also the perspective offered by the historian John Laughland on the notion of International Justice, as in this video interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4_J-ZxYnMw

April 6, 2019 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

DPRK Is Still Being Persecuted For “Violating Human Rights”

By Konstantin Asmolov – New Eastern Outlook – 20.12.2018

The ties between South and North Koreas are becoming closer and there are fewer tensions in the relationship between DPRK and the USA. That often makes us forget that, though it was rather the Democrats’ strategy to pick on North Korea for violating human rights, the pressure on Pyongyang for this reason has merely become less blatant.

For example, on 23 October 2018, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in DPRK, Tomás Ojea Quintana, announced that over the past year many changes had taken place on the Korean Peninsula, but the situation with human rights in DPRK remained the same. He referred to testimonies, made by defectors from North Korea, when he said that ordinary North Korean inhabitants were starving and had no access to medical services due to lack of money. During his speech he even showed a padlock, which had been given to him as a gift by a teenage defector from North Korea, and said that specifically the United Nations had the key to improving the human rights situation in DPRK.

On 15 November, the UN General Assembly Third Committee on human rights, humanitarian affairs and social matters unanimously (without a vote) approved yet another resolution, put forward by Japan and the European Union, condemning DPRK for violating human rights. The UN has been adopting such resolutions since 2005, and the latest resolution happens to be the 14th one. And just as the resolutions approved earlier, it condemns DPRK for constant, systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights in the north of the Korean Peninsula. It demands, among other things, that all labor camps be immediately closed, all prisoners freed, and all parties, responsible for violating human rights, be held responsible. The authors of the document urge for the situation in DPRK to be resolved in the International Criminal Court; for the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to be brought to justice, and for concrete measures to be taken on this issue, with due consideration to be given to the conclusions reached by the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) to investigate violations of human rights in DPRK (as it turns out the notorious 2014 report was, for the most part, based on false testimonies).

In reality, no serious changes were made to the document, which, according to South Korean media sources, lends evidence to the idea that no progress has been made to resolve human rights issues in North Korea, and does not illustrate the fact that such resolutions are produced regardless of the reality on the ground in North Korea. Still, the UN Committee on humanitarian affairs “has welcomed” Pyongyang’s attempts to normalize diplomatic relations with the international community and to abide by the inter-Korean agreements on families split up by the conflict.

In response, North Korea’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Kim Song, stated that discussions about human rights violations in DPRK were out of the question, and that the international community was meddling in internal affairs of a sovereign nation. China, Russia, Syria, Myanmar and other countries also did not support the resolution, but they did not demand for its approval to be put to a vote. They did not do so because the international community cannot demand that Pyongyang abide by its conditions, and the pressure applied by the resolution on North Korea is not great enough to start a confrontation over it. DPRK media outlets also called the resolution a thinly veiled campaign to tarnish North Korea’s reputation, and stated that the step taken by the UN was aimed at halting the current trend towards better dialogue and peace.

In November 2018, Moon Jong In, a special advisor to the South Korean President on issues connected with diplomacy and unification, advised the DPRK leader to start focusing on human rights issues, and to better still close labor camps. In his opinion, any rhetoric voiced by Kim Jong-un on human rights issues can substantially help Pyongyang gain more trust from the international community. Quoting the statement made by Moon Jong In, Amnesty International estimated (it would be interesting to know how) that there are more than 130,000 political prisoners in North Korea. And on 31 October 2018, experts from the international organization Human Rights Watch published an 86-page report, entitled “You Cry at Night but Don’t Know Why: Sexual Violence against Women in North Korea”, which stated that North Korean officials used the lawless rape of women as a mechanism of repression. We will dedicate a separate article to the analysis of this report, as it is a good example of how broad interpretations of the meaning of the word “rape”, and inaccurate information selection help transform DPRK into an analogue of those African nations where mass rape is actually part of repression means, used by authorities.

On 26 November, the main DPRK newspaper commented on the Human Rights Watch report and the repeated allusions to this issue, by noting that the USA had been using these mind games in order to gain concessions from DPRK in negotiations and to destabilize the North Korean regime. The paper also reported that, currently in the US, it is being asserted that the stumbling block in the relationship between the USA and DPRK is the nuclear issue. But once this issue is resolved to the benefit of Washington, the US will use the human rights violation issue or another reason to apply pressure on DPRK to change its regime.

On 27 November, the international news agency France-Presse announced that Washington approached the UN Security Council with a request to hold a meeting on the human rights issues in North Korea on 10 December. Such meetings have taken place since 2014, and despite objections from Beijing, the request has already received support from 9 nation-participants, which is essential for its approval.

DPRK’s Ambassador to the United Nations once again expressed regret at the fact that the UN Security Council followed orders from Washington blindly, and highlighted that the decision would not have a favorable effect on the outcomes of diplomatic negotiations between the international community and Pyongyang.

Along with international sanctions, imposed in response to the violations, unilateral ones are also being used. Hence, on 29 November, in order to reinforce the fight against human trafficking, Donald Trump signed an executive order to ban provision of non-humanitarian and non-trade financial assistance to a number of countries in year 2019. Eighteen countries were placed in this banned list, which includes DPRK, China, Iran, South Sudan, Eritrea, Venezuela and even the Russian Federation. They were included, because their local authorities failed to make enough effort to combat human trafficking, and these restrictions will remain in place until the nations take decisive action. Trump appealed to the International Monetary Fund and development banks to not offer credit lines to the previously mentioned nations.

Every year, the USA publishes a report on human trafficking, and every time DPRK, for 16 years in a row now, is listed as a nation which actively engages in human trafficking. Since 2003, the country has received the lowest rating, which means that it is actively involved in human trafficking within its borders, and that local authorities take no measures to resolve this issue. In the case of DPRK, “slave trade” usually refers to the fate of North Korean defectors to China, who end up in inhumane conditions on account of the efforts made by the so-called “brokers” that are often protected by South Korean NGOs.

As the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in DPRK, Tomás Ojea Quintana, stated, the United Nations would embrace closer ties between the two Koreas, but human rights violations were impossible to ignore. The author urges the readers to remember this statement and also recall it when answering the question “Will DPRK be left alone after it (let us say this is possible) fulfills the denuclearization requirements?” After all, in one possible scenario any mistake on North Korea’s part is presented as deplorable, but in another, as an unfortunate incident, which is easily forgotten. It is probably not worth explaining what the reaction of the international community would have been if the diplomatic mission where a dissident was dismembered had been a North Korean and not a Saudi one.

Konstantin Asmolov, PhD in History, Leading Research Fellow at the Center for Korean Studies of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

December 20, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

WaPo: Trump Needs to Destroy Venezuela to Save It

By Joe Emersberger | FAIR | December 17, 2018

Tamara Taraciuk Broner of Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Johns Hopkins professor Kathleen Page took to the pages of the Washington Post (11/26/18) to whitewash Donald Trump’s successful efforts to make Venezuela’s economic crisis much worse. Appropriately enough, at the end of the piece, the Post recommended four other articles (11/23/18, 9/11/18, 6/20/18,8/21/18) that either attacked Venezuela’s government or stayed conspicuously silent about the impact of US economic sanctions.

Propaganda works primarily through repetition. The vilification of Venezuela’s government in the Western media has been relentless for the past 17 years, as Alan MacLeod pointed out in his book Bad News From Venezuela.

A Washington Post op-ed (11/26/18) called on international governments to “put considerable pressure on Venezuela” in response to health problems that are largely a result of international pressure. (FAIR)

A WaPo op-ed called on international governments to “put considerable pressure on Venezuela” in response to health problems that are largely a result of international pressure.

NGOs like HRW play an important role in framing the Western imperial agenda from a supposedly “independent” and “humanitarian” perspective, as dramatically illustrated after the death of Sen. John McCain (FAIR.org8/31/18) when several HRW officials joined the US media in sanctifying an overtly racist warmonger. In contrast, a few hours after Hugo Chavez’s death in 2013, HRW rushed out a statement vilifying Chavez’s years in office, displaying total indifference to his achievements in reducing poverty and improving health outcomes, despite the violent, scorched-earth tactics of his US-backed opponents to prevent this from happening. No such statement was rushed out by HRW to attack George H.W. Bush—the recently departed butcher of Panama and initiator of the decades-long mass slaughter in Iraq, to mention only a few of his crimes.

HRW has repeatedly invoked the impact of an economic crisis in Venezuela to call for more US-led “pressure” on Venezuela’s government, as was done by Taraciuk and Page. They wrote:

But most sanctions—imposed by the United States, Canada and the European Union—are limited to canceling visas and freezing assets of key officials implicated in abuses and corruption. They have no impact on the Venezuelan economy.

In 2017, the United States also imposed financial sanctions, including a ban on dealings in new stocks and bonds issued by the government and its state oil company. But even these include an exception for transactions to purchase food and medicines. In fact, the government has purchased food from abroad, but these efforts have given rise to corruption allegations.

The idea that “most sanctions” have “no impact on the Venezuelan economy” is appalling nonsense (FAIR.org3/22/18). Trump has extended Obama’s cynically declared  “national emergency” over Venezuela, and escalated by directly threatening holders of Venezuelan government bonds, making it it impossible for Venezuela to “roll over” any bonds governed under US law (i.e., borrow to pay off principal when a bond comes due, as governments usually do). In January, a Torino Capital report on Venezuela’s economy stated that “all foreign-currency bonds are denominated in dollars, and all are governed by New York law.” Trump also prohibited the Venezuelan government–owned CITGO corporation, based in Texas, from sending any profits or dividends back to Venezuela.

The US allies Taraciuk and Page mentioned mainly provide propaganda cover for a US-led assault. Bear in mind that the United States, Canada and other countries within the European Union are supplying weapons and other essential military support to Saudi Arabia, even as it inflicts famine on Yemen. Why do you suppose governments barbaric enough to arm Saudi Arabia also target Venezuela with economic sanctions? Does concern over human rights and corruption, which Taraciuk and Page uncritically cited as a rationale, pass the laugh test?

It should be said that the financial sanctions the US has applied to Venezuela could not even be justified against Saudi Arabia which, unlike Venezuela, really is a dictatorship. In fact, Saudi Arabia is perhaps the most brutal and backward dictatorship on Earth, and one engaged in horrific aggression abroad. What would be justified against Saudi Arabia is cutting off arm sales and all military collaboration. That appears to be a real possibility in the United States at the moment, but recall that support for the Saudis may be funneled through Israel and other allies, as was done decades ago in Guatemala when the atrocities of US clients became overly embarrassing.

Francisco Rodriguez, the Venezuelan chief economist of Torino Capital and a longtime Chávez (and Maduro) government opponent, produced the graph below, which clearly shows the impact of Trump’s financial sanctions on Venezuelan oil production, which Venezuela depends on to get almost all the foreign currency it uses for trade. The piece Rodriguez wrote calling attention to this alarming fact was ignored by the media, according to a Nexis search done two weeks after it first appeared.

Venezuelan and Colombian oil production both fell when oil prices collapsed—but Venezuelan production kept falling after prices rose again, due to the effect of economic sanctions. (WOLA.org)

Venezuelan and Colombian oil production both fell when oil prices collapsed—but Venezuelan production kept falling after prices rose again, due to the effect of economic sanctions. (WOLA.org)

Before the financial sanctions introduced by Trump, Venezuela’s oil production followed a similar pattern to Colombia’s: There was a fall in production following a drop in investment, due to the steep and sustained drop in oil prices that began near the end of 2014 and bottomed out in 2016.

However, after Trump imposed financial sanctions in August 2017, Venezuela’s oil production plummeted, while Colombia’s stabilized. The impact of US sanctions therefore became much worse, but also easier to calculate. It works out to $6 billion in lost revenue to Venezuela’s government in the first year after the sanctions alone, even if one assumes that Venezuela’s oil production would have continued to decline along its pre–financial sanctions path. That’s over 600 times more than the emergency aid the UN has just approved for Venezuela.

The “exception for transactions to purchase food and medicines” Taraciuk and Page pointed to in Trump’s financial sanctions is a laughable smokescreen. The sanctions deprive the Venezuelan government of billions of dollars to buy foods and medicine, regardless of whether there are dubious “exemptions” to illegal sanctions.

According to Datanálisis, an opposition-aligned pollster whose directors appear regularly in Venezuela’s private media, more than 60 percent of Venezuelan households received subsidized food and other basic products this year, through a government program known as CLAP (in its Spanish language acronym). Taraciuk and Page mention these “corruption allegations”—like the allegations that the government has used this system to “buy support”—to falsely suggest that what concerns the US and its accomplices are revenues lost to corruption (hardly a problem unique to Venezuela).

On the contrary, the US concern is that Venezuelan government revenues might benefit the public. The worry—apparently shared by apologists like Taraciuk and Page—is that the Maduro government has been able to retain popular support by responding to the economic crisis. Sanctions take direct aim at Venezuela’s population by denying the government the revenues to do that—a depraved objective, but consistent with the behavior of the governments of the United States, Canada, France and UK, which continue to arm Saudi Arabia.

I’ve cited Venezuelan opposition sources above, not because I think they should be assumed the most reliable, but to show how extremist commentary on Venezuela has been in Western media. Even Venezuelan opposition sources are ignored when they can’t be used to support US belligerence.

In recent years, HRW officials have taken to calling Venezuela a dictatorship (CBC4/1/17). Pinning this label on Venezuela has been crucial to removing all legal and moral constraints on US policy. Taraciuk and Page refrained from using that label explicitly, but readers were clearly meant to get that idea:

Maduro’s government remains as opaque and repressive as ever. In January, the president called those who spoke out about the crisis “traitors to the fatherland.” His threat should be taken seriously in a country without judicial independence, where critics have been arbitrarily jailed and tortured, and hunger has been used for social and political control.

In fact, basic democratic freedoms in Venezuela remain at a level the US government would never tolerate were it faced with similar circumstances: a major economic crisis deliberately worsened by a foreign power that openly backs the most violent elements of the opposition. Just consider that, in far less dire circumstances, the liberal end of US opinion is either ignoring or viciously applauding the likelihood of Julian Assange being imprisoned in the United States for publishing government secrets.

Aggressive Maduro government critics appear constantly in Venezuela’s private media. Francisco Rodriguez traveled all over Venezuela in May, campaigning for opposition presidential candidate Henri Falcón, whom he advised on economic policy. Rodriguez made numerous appearances in Venezuela’s media during the campaign in which he lashed out at Maduro’s government (examples herehere and here).

Falcón (defying US threats) launched his presidential campaign with a 35-minute speech on Venezuelan state media. In that speech, Falcón repeatedly called Maduro the “hunger candidate,” and said that it is now common to see Venezuelans looking through trash for food. Falcón said democracy has been destroyed, and that all Venezuela’s institutions are “slaves” to the executive, that Maduro’s government has made Venezuela into a “hell,” that Venezuela faces the risk of civil war. Falcon pledged the release of all “political prisoners” and demanded that the election be held at a later date. The election was then moved back a month to May 20.

In an interview on a large private network during the campaign, Falcón said that Maduro’s government was an “unscrupulous monster,” but also “beatable” if voters turned out. Unfortunately for Falcón, much of the opposition leadership not only advocated abstention to discredit the election, but also hurled wild accusations at Falcon, saying he was in cahoots with Maduro.

About 23 minutes into the interview, Falcón advised government opponents that it’s foolish to wait for a “military invasion to save Venezuela.” The contradictions and absurdity of the opposition’s discourse, including the moderate faction, beggar belief. One shudders to think what would become of such opposition figures in Paris or Washington, but you will be shielded from such considerations reading Western media—and from understanding why Maduro easily prevailed in the 2018 election, despite an economic depression. Most importantly, you’ll be prevented from understanding how the Western media’s lies and distortions over the past 17 years have allowed the US to now pose a grave military threat to a democracy.

December 20, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | 1 Comment

China’s Uyghur Problem — The Unmentioned Part

By F. William Engdahl – New Eastern Outlook – 05.10.2018

In recent months Western media and the Washington Administration have begun to raise a hue and cry over alleged mass internment camps in China’s northwestern Xinjiang where supposedly up to one million ethnic Uyghur Chinese are being detained and submitted to various forms of “re-education.” Several things about the charges are notable, not the least that all originate from Western media or “democracy” NGOs such as Human Rights Watch whose record for veracity leaves something to be desired.

In August Reuters published an article under the headline, “UN says it has credible reports that China holds million Uighurs in secret camps.” A closer look at the article reveals no official UN policy statement, but rather a quote from one American member of an independent committee that does not speak for the UN, a member with no background in China. The source of the claim it turns out is a UN independent advisory NGO called Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The sole person making the charge, American committee member Gay McDougall, stated she was “deeply concerned” about “credible reports.” McDougall cited no source for the dramatic charge.

Reuters in their article boosts its claim by citing a murky Washington DC based NGO, the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD). In an excellent background investigation, researchers at the Grayzone Project found that the CHRD gets hundreds of thousands of dollars from unnamed governments. The notorious US government NGO, National Endowment for Democracy, is high on the list of usual suspects. Notably, the CHRD official address is that of the Human Rights Watch which gets funds also from the Soros foundation.

The ‘Uyghur Problem’

The true state of affairs in China’s Xinjiang Province regarding Uyghurs is not possible to independently verify, whether such camps exist and if so who is there and under what conditions. What is known, however, is the fact that NATO intelligence agencies, including that of Turkey and of the US, along with Saudi Arabia, have been involved in recruiting and deploying thousands of Chinese Uyghur Muslims to join Al Qaeda and other terror groups in Syria in recent years. This side of the equation warrants a closer look, the side omitted by Reuters or UN Ambassador Haley.

According to Syrian media cited in Voltaire.net, there are presently an estimated 18,000 ethnic Uyghurs in Syria most concentrated in a village on the Turkish border to Syria. Since 2013 such Uyghur soldiers have gone from combat alongside Al Qaeda in Syria and returned to China’s Xinjiang where they have carried out various terrorist acts. This is the tip of a nasty NATO-linked project to plant the seeds of terror and unrest in China. Xinjiang is a lynchpin of China’s Belt Road Initiative, the crossroads of strategic oil and gas pipelines from Kazakhstan, Russia and a prime target of CIA intrigue since decades.

Since at least 2011 at the start of the NATO war against Bashar al Assad’s Syria, Turkey had played a key role in facilitating the flow of Chinese Uyghur people to become Jihadists in Syria. I deliberately use “had” tense to give benefit of the doubt if it still is the case today or if it has become an embarrassment for Erdogan and Turkish intelligence. In any case it seems that thousands of Uyghurs are holed up in Syria, most around Idlib, the reported last outpost of anti-regime terrorists.

Washington and ETIM

In an excellent analysis of China’s Uyghur terror history, Steven Sahiounie, a Syrian journalist with 21st Century Wire, notes that a key organization behind the radicalization of Chinese Uyghur youth is the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and its political front, the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), which is also known as “Katibat Turkistani.” He cites a speech in Istanbul in 1995 by Turkey’s Erdogan, then Mayor, who declared, “Eastern Turkestan is not only the home of the Turkic peoples but also the cradle of Turkic history, civilization and culture…” Eastern Turkestan is Xinjiang.

ETIM today is headed by Anwar Yusuf Turani, self-proclaimed Prime Minister of a government in exile which notably is based in Washington DC. ETIM moved to Washington at a time the US State Department listed it as a terrorist organization, curiously enough. According to a report in a Turkish investigative magazine, Turk Pulse, Turani’s organization’s “activities for the government in exile are based on a report entitled ‘The Xinjiang Project.’ That was written by former senior CIA officer Graham E. Fuller in 1998 for the Rand Corporation and revised in 2003 under the title ‘The Xinjiang Problem.’”

I have written extensively in my book, The Lost Hegemon, about career senior CIA operative Graham Fuller. Former Istanbul CIA station chief, Fuller was one of the architects of the Reagan-Bush Iran-Contra affair, and a prime CIA sponsor or handler of Gülen who facilitated Gülen’s USA exile. He was also by his own admission, in Istanbul the night of the failed 2016 coup. In 1999 during the end of the Russian Yelstin era, Fuller declared, “The policy of guiding the evolution of Islam and of helping them against our adversaries worked marvelously well in Afghanistan against the Russians. The same doctrines can still be used to destabilize what remains of Russian power, and especially to counter the Chinese influence in Central Asia.” This is what the covert US weaponization of ETIM is aimed at. Like most radical Sunni Jihadist groups, Turani’s ETIM got funding as most radical Sunni Jihadist groups from Saudi Arabia.

In the late 1990s, Hasan Mahsum, also known as Abu-Muhammad al-Turkestani, founder of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, moved ETIM’s headquarters to Kabul, taking shelter under Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, ETIM leaders met with Osama bin Laden and other leaders of the CIA-trained Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan to coordinate actions across Central Asia. When the Pakistani military assassinated al-Turkestani in 2003 Turani became head of ETIM, and took his roadshow to Washington.

In his own study of Xinjiang, the CIA’s Graham E. Fuller noted that Saudi Arabian groups had disseminated extremist Wahhabi religious literature and possibly small arms through sympathizers in Xinjiang, and that young Turkic Muslims had been recruited to study at madrasas in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. He adds that Uyghurs from Xinjiang also fought alongside Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Fuller noted, “Uyghurs are indeed in touch with Muslim groups outside Xinjiang, some of them have been radicalized into broader jihadist politics in the process, a handful were earlier involved in guerrilla or terrorist training in Afghanistan, and some are in touch with international Muslim mujahideen struggling for Muslim causes of independence worldwide.”

The January 2018 Pentagon National Defense Strategy policy document explicitly named China along with Russia as main strategic “threats” to continued US supremacy. It states, “Inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in US national security.” Explicitly, and this is new, the Pentagon paper does not cite a military threat but an economic one. It states, “China and Russia are now undermining the international order from within the system by exploiting its benefits while simultaneously undercutting its principles and ‘rules of the road.’” The escalating trade war against China, threats of sanctions over allegations of Uyghur detention camps in Xinjiang, threats of sanctions if China buys Russian defense equipment, are all aimed at disruption of the sole emerging threat to a Washington global order, one that is not based on freedom or justice but rather on fear and tyranny. How China’s authorities are trying to deal with this full assault is another issue. The context of events in Xinjiang however needs to be made clear. The West and especially Washington is engaged in full-scale irregular war against the stability of China.

October 6, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SWEDHR Board of Directors ref. misattributed statements on White Helmets and alleged gas attacks in Syria

Professor Emeritus, med. dr.  Marcello Ferrada de Noli, chairman; Professor Emeritus, med. dr. Anders Romelsjö, vice-chairman; Chief physician, med. dr. Alberto Gutiérrez Mardones; Chief physician Ove Johansson, MD; Chief physician, specialist Dr Lena Oske, MD; Specialist Dr Leif Elinder, MD; Specialist Dr Martin Gelin, Dental Surgeon. On behalf of SWEDHR Board of Directors.

I

SWEDHR have performed several analyses around reports on alleged chemical attacks in Syria, which mostly have been originated from claims by the White Helmets and associates. In the main, our conclusions were that the alleged evidence appear clinically and epidemiological flawed. For instance, in regard to the Khan Shaykhun incident, as put forward in a document by the SWEDHR chair recently published by the United Nations Security Council. [1]  We have also asked for independent, non-biased investigations done by meritorious scientists, instead of politically appointed investigators. In spite that was all we have centrally said on the ‘gas attacks’ issue, we have been unjustifiably attacked by some mainstream media in Sweden, led by Dagens Nyheter, [2] and elsewhere by Der Spiegel, [3] Le Figaro, [4] etc., and in social media –including deleterious references to our organization by Mr Kenneth Roth, [5] president of Human Rights Watch.

However, in recent weeks, the United States Defence Secretary, General (Ret.) Jim Mattis, announced in a press conference that they do not possess evidence of a sarin attack in Syria. [6] Days after, the French Defence Minister, Ms Florence Perly, declared that France has not confirmed evidence of chlorine attacks in Syria attributed to the government forces. [7] Both statements bring unequivocal support, and further credibility, to the conclusions on the very same issues we achieved at SWEDHR, published in April, May and November 2017, respectively (See Notes & References).

Concomitantly, our firm stance about the probe-issue regarding allegations on gas attacks in Syria, by no means contradicts our equally solid stance of considering the eventual perpetration of such attacks a hideous war crime. Neither our demand for a beyond-doubt evidence regarding the alleged responsibility of the Syrian government represents a per-default political endorsement. SWEDHR is by definition opposed to the notion of war. [8] Unlike HRW, we have not advocated for the bombing of Syrians, [9] or for a No-Fly Zone, such as the White Helmets and associates do [10] – which in practical terms would only enable the intensification of belligerent input from jihadists fighting for an Islamic State in Syria. [11] We have instead repeatedly advocated for a prompt settlement of the Syrian conflict via negotiations. We view the Sochi peace talks as positive and crucial in those regards, and we concur with UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura, that the progress made in Sochi may be also seen as contributing to the Geneva process. [12]

SWEDHR stances are absolutely independent, [13] we are not bounded to any political or financial interest; we do not receive any support, financial or otherwise, from any government, company or institution –as is the case of ‘stream human rights organizations’ such as Human Rights Watch or Amnesty.  We demand respect for SWEDHR authentically independent commitment, and we will held in the future zero tolerance to libelous accusations in the mainstream media and social media which would contend otherwise. To this end, we are working for establishing the means for eventual legal actions.

As an example, the organization Reporters Without Borders, RSF, called the cancellation of the Swiss Press Club conference on the White Helmets of November 2017,  referring SWEDHR as an “organization that, according with our information, acts as a tool of Russian propaganda.” [14] We openly challenged RSF to either publish the evidence for such an allegation they made in a public letter, or otherwise “to shame”. [15] RSF did not reply.

II

SWEDHR doctors analyzed in March-April 2017 video material posted by the organization White Helmets on alleged life-saving procedures of infants [16] [17]. The conclusions of these analyses or whereabouts of its authors have unfortunately been distorted, as in the case of an article in Codastory.com propagated by Kennet Roth, [5] or a publication by Veterans Today, which we have already refuted. [18]

In recent weeks further misquotes of the SWEDHR doctors’ conclusions on the above-mentioned videos recirculated in social media. This quote, wrongly attributed to SWEDHR says, “Quote: The implication is that the White Helmets may have actually killed children and/or were using already-dead children ‘as propaganda props’.” Which is something SWEDHR doctors never have affirmed.

Instead, the conclusion by the SWEDHR doctors was:

“Lifesaving procedures on the children showed in the White Helmets videos were found to be fake, and ultimately performed on dead children… Which is not the same than affirming that the personnel seen in the videos caused the dead of the infant. In forensic terms, the actual cause of death, as well as the mode and the issue of intent, refer to different items than those treated in our analysis.” [17]

We would like to detail our stance on the White Helmets issue, in order to avoid further misuse or misreading of our investigations:

Even if we have contributed to expose fake life-rescuing episodes as shown in materials posted by the White Helmets themselves, our criticism differs from other authors or news platforms. As the SWEDHR chairman conveyed expressly on behalf of this board of directors at the Swiss Press Club conference of November 2017:

“The point for us has not been to demonise the individual participation of some well-minded volunteers deploying natural solidarity with civilians, which in a given moment are –tragically as in all wars– victims of a collateral damage. Neither is the case to criticise the humanitarian rescue-activity per se, in those cases in which that activity has been real. Instead, our analyses on the White Helmets materials aim to focus on two mayor issues pertaining the White Helmets as institution: a) The geopolitical significance of the White Helmets as an international construction in the propaganda war, and b) The using of this organization as a main source of information by UN investigative commissions.” [20]

We mean that although we do not deny that its individual ranks may have occasionally performed rescue maneuvers, we consider the organization White Helmets as mainly a political organization, with self-declared political aims, and with a war-propaganda purpose which coincides with the geopolitical interests of the powers that finance its operations. We find highly demonstrative that the White Helmets operate solely in territories in the main under the governance of militant jihadists formations, fighting for replace a secular government for a Sharia fundamentalist rule. [11] Which makes even more incomprehensible the support given to this organization by democratic, secular European countries such as Sweden. [21]

We hope the above clarifications will help to a more objective analysis about SWEDHR participation in this principal human rights debate, done in the context of a war which have costed nearly half million lives, and further risks a tragic geopolitical enhancing.

Notes and References

[1] United Nations Security Council, Official document S/2017/1010, 20 February 2018.
[2] Gasattacker förnekas med hjälp från svensk läkargrupp. Dagens Nyheter, 21 April 2017.
[3] Russlands perfider Feldzug gegen die Wahrheit. Der Spiegel, 21 December 2017. Rebuttal by SWEDHR in The Indicter Magazine, 22 December 2017.
[4] En Russie, une curieuse thèse reprise pour exonérer Damas”. Le Figaro, 13 April 2017. Rebuttal by SWEDHR in The Indicter Magazine, 15 April 2017.
[5] Kenneth Roth, promoting a libelous article on SWEDHR in the anti-Russia site Codastory. https://twitter.com/KenRoth/status/8596954964991672.  On Twitter, 3
May 2017.
[6] Mattis warns Syria against using chemical weapons. CNN, 2 February 2018. See also, Transcripts of US Def Sec James Mattis Press conference Feb 2, 2018.
[7] Florence Parly : Le Service national universel doit être attractif pour les jeunes. Franceinter, 9 February 2018.  See also [English] video “France Defense Minister: No confirmation of chlorine attacks, Syria.” The Indicter Channel. YouTube, 9 February 2018.
[8] From “Swedish Professors and Doctors for Human Rights – About us“: “SWEDHR work for Peace, and consider itself as part of the anti-war global initiative. We oppose war, and we favour instead the solving of geopolitical conflicts through peaceful talks or negotiations with the intervention of neutral mediators. We encourage the respect of decisions taken by International Tribunals. SWEDHR aims to contribute to the international Human Rights movement based on our research and professional experience in the health sciences.”
[9] In “Warmongering by Another Name“, it is found a sample with the following tweets authored by the President of Human Rights Watch, Mr Kenneth Roth:
  • “To justify #Syria inaction, top US general trots out age-old ethnic animosities line. Heard that B4? Bosnia. Rwanda.”
  • “Top general suggests US is more interested in a geopolitical partner in #Syria than saving civilians from slaughter. “
  • “It took chemical attack to convince Obama/Kerry that Assad isn’t interested in negotiated solution!? No more excuses.”
  • “If the appalling slaughter in #Syria won’t get Obama to act, maybe ridicule will:””
  • “If Obama decides to strike #Syria, will he settle for symbolism or do something that will help protect civilians?”
[10] Syria Needs a No-Fly Zone! Syrian American Council, 2016. The political associations between the Syrian American Council and the organization White Helmets is, for example, shown in the Facebook post, “SAC Hosts Official Syrian Opposition Delegation“, of 28 September 2016.
[11] Which rebel groups are fighting in Syria’s eastern Ghouta? Deutsche Welle, 9 March 2018
[12] Note to correspondents from Staffan de Mistura, Special Envoy for Syria from Sochi. United Nations Secretary-General, 30 January 2018.
[13] SWEDHR Is Absolutely Independent. Article in the Journal of the Swedish Medical Association. The Indicter Magazine, 9 June 2017.
[14] Guy Mettan sommé d’annuler une conférence. Tribune de Genève, 23 November 2017.
[15] Prof Ferrada de Noli, calling Reporters Without Borders (RSF) to publish alleged evidence: https://twitter.com/ProfessorsBlogg/status/934190859049938945. On Twitter, 23 November 2017.
[16] White Helmets Video: Swedish Doctors for Human Rights Denounce Medical Malpractice and ‘Misuse’ of Children for Propaganda Aims. The Indicter Magazine, 6 March 2017.
[17] White Helmets Movie: Updated Evidence from Swedish Doctors Confirm Fake ‘Lifesaving’ and Malpractices on Children. The Indicter Magazine, 17 March 2017.
[18] “Statement by Swedish Professors & Doctors for Human Rights on misrepresentations referred in Veterans Today article on White Helmets“. The Indicter Magazine, 8 April 2017.
[20] Should UN consider White Helmets a politically neutral organization, and its allegations as credible sources by UN investigative panels on Syria? The Indicter Magazine, 30 November 2017.
[21] “Why Is Sweden Giving the “Alternative Nobel Prize” to Syria’s ‘White Helmets’?”  The Indicter Magazine, 25 November 2016.

March 19, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Leave a comment

The ‘Human Rights’ War on Syria

By Jeremy Salt | American Herald Tribune | March 4, 2018

The perfidious role of ‘human rights’ organizations in the war on Syria has been exposed again with the Amnesty International report on Syria for 2017/18, followed by an equally tendentious article in the Melbourne Age newspaper by Claire Mallinson, Amnesty’s national director for Australia.

In the name of human rights these organizations have actually worsened the crisis in Syria. They have never dealt honestly with its primary cause, the determination of the US and its allies seven years ago to destroy the government in Damascus, as part of a bigger plan to destroy the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah strategic axis across the Middle East. Democracy, human rights and the best interests of the Syrian people were never on the agenda of these governments. They were cold-blooded and remorseless in what they wanted and the means by which they sought to get it.

By calling violent armed groups ‘rebels’ and ‘the opposition’, these ‘human rights’ organizations conceal their true nature. By calling the Syrian government a ‘regime’, instead of the legitimate government of Syria, representing Syria at the UN and representing the interests of the Syrian people, they seek to demean it. By accusing it of carrying out indiscriminate attacks on its own civilian population, on the basis of what they are being told by their tainted sources, they seek to demonize it. By accusing it of carrying out chemical weapons attacks, without having any proof, they perpetuate the lies and fabrications of the armed groups and the governments that support them.

Behind the mask of ‘human rights’ these organizations are promoting the war agenda of western and regional governments. Some are worse than others. Human Rights Watch might as well be a formal annex of the US State Department, but they all play the same duplicitous game.

East Aleppo is the template for what we are seeing now in the outrage over East Ghouta, the district on the outskirts of Damascus in which hundreds of thousands of people are being held hostage by takfiri armed groups. Aleppo was infiltrated by these groups in 2012 and the eastern sector of the city gradually taken over, as the army was already too hard-pressed on other fronts to stop this happening. Until then Aleppo, a commercial, multi-religious and multi-ethnic city, had managed to stay out of the war but now it was sucked right in. There was nil support in Aleppo for the takfiris but they had the guns and they were ready to kill to get their way. Advancing on government held positions, they devastated the old centre of the city with their attacks. Digging tunnels, they blew up some of its most famous buildings. Art, architecture, history, meant nothing to them. They destroyed the square minaret of the Umayyad mosque and their attacks led to the destruction of the ancient library in the mosque and the massive destruction of the Aleppo souk, one of the oldest and most colourful markets in the world.

In the districts they controlled they ruled by terror, massacre and murder and the institution of the most repressive sharia laws. Under the secular Syrian government, women and men have the same rights before the law, under the takfiris women have no rights that are not granted to them by men. They sought the extirpation of all those they did not regard as true Muslims (Shia and Alawi amongst others): one of their earliest acts was the kidnapping of two orthodox Christian prelates, never seen alive again. It was these armed groups and the foreign governments behind them that were responsible for the dire situation in #East Aleppo, yet it was the Syrian government, the ‘regime’ as they chose to call it, that was blamed by the media and ‘human rights’ organizations. The White Helmets, embedded with these groups, and funded by the same governments which had armed and financed them, were used as the main propaganda prop. Their staged rescues filled the pages of the corporate media. They were effectively canonised by George Clooney, the documentary on their bogus bravery and sham rescues winning an Oscar award, unfortunately not for bad acting, which should have been the prize.

As the Syrian military, with Russian air support, began to squeeze these groups in East Aleppo, the propaganda was turned up accordingly. The ‘siege’ of East Aleppo was no more a siege than the ‘siege’ of East Ghouta. The people trapped in East Aleppo were being held hostage, as are the people in East Ghouta, by some of the most violent groups on the face of the earth. These trapped civilians were their trump card. Those who tried to leave, they killed, just as the takfiris are killing civilians trying to get out of East Ghouta. Having negotiated the peaceful removal of the takfiris from East Aleppo, along with their families and camp followers, the fall-back position of the media and the ‘human rights’ organizations was to accuse the Syrian government of their forcible displacement. They made no mention of the captive Syrian soldiers whom the takfiris paused to massacre before they left. They made no mention of the civilians killed by the takfiris as they were trying to escape and no mention of the dancing in the streets, literally, by the people of Aleppo, and the honking of car horns in jubilation, as these killers were sent on their way. This just didn’t fit in with the narrative the media and these organizations had been spinning.

The takfiris fight among themselves over territory, power and money but their ideology is the same, based on the destruction of the secular state and society and the imposition of a harsh pseudo-Islamic regime in which women would be reduced to the status of cattle and all Shia and Alawi extirpated. It is they who target civilians deliberately. In Adra, at the Northern end of Ghouta, they slaughtered dozens of men, women and children in 2013, beheading some and pushing others into a bread oven. In 2015, in Douma, they put men and women into cages as hostages, to deter possible advances by the Syrian army. They are shelling the centre of Damascus every day, killing civilians, including many children, including some recently mortared in their classroom.

In its report on Syria for 2017/18 Amnesty International (AI) continues its misleading narrative on the fate of East Aleppo and east Ghouta. Those who support it financially should perhaps be considering where they could put their money and their good intentions to better use. AI refers to districts in east Ghouta controlled or ‘contested’ by unspecified ‘armed opposition groups’ and repeats the canard that the Syrian government carried out the chemical weapons attack on Khan Shaikhun in April last year. (Bear in mind the recent statement of US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis that the US had no evidence of the Syrian government using sarin, the agent allegedly fired into Khan Shaikhun.) AI has no proof of this, so why would it state this as fact, except to do more propaganda damage to the Syrian government?

AI refers to 400,000 people ‘besieged’ in East Ghouta by the Syrian military, when the true state of affairs is that their districts have been infiltrated and that they are being held hostage by extremely violent armed groups. They are besieged from within by these groups, penned in and unable to leave except at the risk of being killed by their captors. The Syrian army is not imposing a siege, it is trying to break it. The Syrian government is accused of depriving these people of access to medical care and basic necessities, when it is one or another of these armed groups, over the years, that has caused the breakdown of efforts to set up humanitarian corridors. Even now the Syrian government is waiting with medical care, buses and accommodation but those civilians who try to leave are being shot at and killed, as they were in East Aleppo.

AI’s references to ‘forced displacement’ from East Aleppo, and the way the ‘armed groups’ there were ‘compelled’ to surrender and negotiate a deal that ended the ‘unlawful siege’ are a grotesque distortion of reality. What was unlawful about the situation in East Aleppo was the presence of the armed groups, what was unlawful was the money and weapons being provided to them by outside governments, in breach of international law, what was unlawful was their killing of civilians and the restriction of their free movement (out of East Aleppo), what was lawful was the finally successful attempt of the government of Syria to break the hold of these groups.

Following the release of the AI report on Syria, Claire Mallinson, the national director of AI for Australia, charged into print under the heading of ‘Australians Need to Act on Syrian Monstrosities’ (the Melbourne Age, March 1, 2018). Her reading audience would already have been won over as the Australian media has not reported the war in Syria at all but simply pumped out the same propaganda appearing in the US or British press. Others watching Syria closely over the years know what these ‘monstrosities’ are, and they are not the same as Ms Mallinson’s.

These monstrosities begin with the conspiracy, of the US, Britain, France and their regional Middle Eastern allies, to destroy the Syrian government, and thus strike a deadly blow at the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah strategic alliance, whatever the cost to the Syrian people and whatever their aspirations. They move on to the use by these governments of takfiri proxies to do their dirty work in Syria, following the refusal of Russia and China to allow the UN Security Council to be used as the fig leaf for an air war. These governments armed and financed these groups. They did not care who they were, where they came from and what they believed as long as they were prepared to pick up a gun and bring Syria to its knees. These are the master criminals in Syria.

The monstrosities include a media picking up where it had left off in Iraq. It had peddled the lies there, it had peddled them in Libya, it peddled them again in Syria and it is still peddling them. They include the illegal presence of the US in Syria, its killing of Syrian civilians and its attacks on the legitimate armed forces of the Syrian government and people, attacks in which Australian aircraft have shamefully taken part and which have taken scores of lives of Syrian soldiers.

All of this has led to the grand monstrosity, the large-scale destruction of Syria, involving the loss of life of perhaps 400,000 people and the flight of millions of others beyond Syria’s borders. But now the same governments and the same media that brought you this war, and the same ‘human rights’ organizations that have supported it with their one-sided moralising and unbalanced reports, are expressing their outrage at the suffering in East Ghouta, as if this had nothing to do with them.

The monstrosities in the eyes of the Syrian people, if not in the eyes of Ms Mallinson, are on a par with, if not worse than, the genocidal decade of sanctions which preceded the attack on Iraq in 2003 and the crimes which followed this attack, committed by the same governments that are responsible for the onslaught on Syria. The suffering in East Ghouta is terrible and outrage is justified, but it is the causes that need to be identified and they do not include the efforts of the Syrian government and army to defend the country against attack fomented from without.

Ms Mallinson’s monstrosities are of a different order. They include the chemical weapons ‘reportedly’ being used ‘again’ by the Syrian government against its own people. This smear has been played out time and time again by ‘activists’ knowing that the media and ‘human rights’ organizations will snap it up. There is no proof of any chemical weapon attack ever being carried out by the Syrian military, as against abundant evidence of such attacks planned and carried out by the takfiris over the years, including the attack around Damascus in August, 2013.

Ms Mallinson refers to a UN report that Syria is developing chemical weapons ‘with the help of North Korea’, neatly tying in the two demonized targets of the US government. This is another canard, originating in Washington and designed again to smear the Syrian government and to set it up for whatever might come next.

What she does not say is that this ‘report’ remains unpublished, that the authors are unknown, that what we know of it comes from an account in the New York Times, which sold the lies on Iraq and has promoted the war on Syria from the beginning. The detail it gives of the material allegedly coming from North Korea indicates that it could have no possible connection with chemical weapons, which Syria does not have anyway, having given them all up under international supervision. Given the completely tendentious nature of this account, why would Ms Mallinson want to raise it except to further blacken the name of the Syrian government?

She refers to the ‘warring sides’ in East Ghouta as if both are legitimate when only one is, the government of Syria. The other is a collective of extremely violent armed groups sponsored by outside governments, in breach of international law. The presence of US and ‘coalition’ forces in Syria is a standing violation of international law and their killing of Syrian soldiers and civilians a gross aggravated violation of that law. The only legitimate armed forces in Syria are the Syrian army, which has lost tens of thousands of young men defending the country, and those forces the government has invited in, from Russian air power to Iranian and Hezbollah ground forces.

Ms Mallinson’s monstrosities include the hundreds of thousands of ‘ordinary men, women and children’ she says are at risk of annihilation by the Syrian army’s ‘siege’ of East Ghouta. In fact, the central source of the risk to the people of East Ghouta is not the Syrian government but the armed groups holding them hostage. The ‘siege’ is not of the people but of these groups. The Syrian military is trying to break their grip, as any army would in any comparable situation. Ms Mallinson accuses ‘the Russian-backed Syrian regime’ of breaking the ceasefire, ignoring the evidence that the takfiris are breaking it and killing civilians attempting to escape their grip. Only in the past few days they shot at a family trying to leave, killing the parents and shooting at the children even after they reached a Syrian army checkpoint. They are pouring shells into the centre of Damascus every day. There are no references in her account to the ‘American-backed’ or ‘Saudi-backed’ armed groups that have created this hell on earth, as she refers to it.

Finally, she appeals to the Australian government, as it assumes its seat on the UN Human Rights Council, to ‘show leadership’ in bringing these ‘abominations’ to an end. The problem here is that the Australian government is part of the problem. It fully supports US policy in Syria and has taken part in armed action in Syria, in violation of international law. In September, 2016, its aircraft joined a US-led air attack near Deir al Zor which killed perhaps 100 Syrian soldiers and allowed the Islamic State to regain lost positions. Australia did not apologise for its participation in this outrage, only repeating the US line that the attack was a mistake, which clearly it was not. When the Australian delegate did take his seat on the UN Human Rights Council, he merely echoed US policy, by attacking the Syrian ‘regime’ and its Russian backer.

If Australia does have a role in Syria, a moral role, a legal role, an independent role, it should not be as a sounding chamber for the US. It should distance itself from the illegal actions of the US and the violence of the takfiris against the Syrian people, their government and their army. It should be supporting the attempts of the government in Damascus to restore its authority over the whole of Syria and not supporting the attempts of the US and behind it, Israel, to break it up. It should support the Syrian people, not the actions of governments which have devastated their country.

It should define policy on the basis of the causes of the situation in Syria, not how they are being misrepresented in the media, by ‘activists’ embedded with the takfiri groups, by the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, by the White Helmets and by deluded or willfully dishonest ‘human rights’ organizations playing politics, not serving truth, justice and the interests of humanity. This would be a credible role for Australia, an independent role, but it is not one the government is going to adopt.

Everyone should be concerned at the loss of life in East Ghouta. Ms Mallinson does not have a mortgage on morality and empathy with human suffering. How does anyone think Syrians feel about this, Syrians shelled in the heart of Damascus every day, Syrians who have lost fathers, brothers and sons in this conflict, Syrians whose relatives are trapped in East Ghouta or have been killed by the armed gangs holding the whole region with a knife to its throat? Does anyone outside seriously think Syrians want to live under their rule? Syrians know what they want, without equivocation, the purging of these gangs from their midst, whatever it takes. They fully support their army and their government. It is their interests Australians, or anyone else of good faith, should be supporting, not the highly politicized interests of Amnesty International.

Outrage is going to solve nothing: it only serves as the pretext for taking the war to a new level of destruction. The roots of this violence are clear: the decision of outside powers to destroy the Syrian government, their support for violent armed groups committed to an ideology destructive of every value these governments are supposed to represent and their refusal to allow the war to end. For the violence to end these are the roots that need to be acknowledged and torn out.


Jeremy Salt has taught at the University of Melbourne, Bosporus University (Istanbul) and Bilkent University (Ankara), specialising in the modern history of the Middle East.  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.)

March 4, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Monbiot Still Burying his Head in Sands of Syria

By Jonathan Cook | Dissident Voice | November 21, 2017

Investigative journalist Gareth Porter has published two exclusives whose import is far greater than may be immediately apparent. They concern Israel’s bombing in 2007 of a supposed nuclear plant secretly built, according to a self-serving US and Israeli narrative, by Syrian leader Bashar Assad.

Although the attack on the “nuclear reactor” occurred a decade ago, there are pressing lessons to be learnt for those analysing current events in Syria.

Porter’s research indicates very strongly that the building that was bombed could not have been a nuclear reactor – and that was clear to experts at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) even as the story was being promoted uncritically across the western media.

But – and this is the critical information Porter conveys – the IAEA failed to disclose the fact that it was certain the building was not a nuclear plant, allowing the fabricated narrative to be spread unchallenged. It abandoned science to bow instead to political expediency.

The promotion of the bogus story of a nuclear reactor by Israel and key figures in the Bush administration was designed to provide the pretext for an attack on Assad. That, it was hoped, would bring an end to his presidency and drag into the fray the main target – Iran. The Syrian “nuclear reactor” was supposed to be a re-run of the WMD deception, used in 2003 to oust another enemy of the US and Israel’s – Saddam Hussein of Iraq.

It is noteworthy that the fabricated evidence for a nuclear reactor occurred in 2007, a year after Israel’s failure to defeat Hizbullah in Lebanon. The 2006 Lebanon war was itself intended to spread to Syria and lead to Assad’s overthrow, as I explained in my book Israel and the Clash of Civilisations.

It is important to remember that this Israeli-neocon plot against Syria long predated – in fact, in many ways prefigured – the civil war in 2011 that quickly morphed into a proxy war in which the US became a key, if mostly covert, actor.

The left’s Witchfinder General

The relevance of the nuclear reactor deception can be understood in relation to the latest efforts by Guardian columnist George Monbiot (and many others) to discredit prominent figures on the left, including Noam Chomsky and John Pilger, for their caution in making assessments of much more recent events in Syria. Monbiot has attacked them for not joining him in simply assuming that Assad was responsible for a sarin gas attack last April on Khan Sheikhoun, an al-Qaeda stronghold in Idlib province.

Understandably, many on the left have been instinctively wary of rushing to judgment about individual incidents in the Syrian war, and the narratives presented in the western media. The claim that Assad’s government used chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhoun, and earlier in Ghouta, was an obvious boon to those who have spent more than a decade trying to achieve regime change in Syria.

In what has become an ugly habit with Monbiot, and one I have noted before, he has enthusiastically adopted the role of Witchfinder General. Any questioning of evidence, scepticism or simply signs of open-mindedness are enough apparently to justify accusations that one is an Assadist or conspiracy theorist. Giving house room to the doubts of a ballistics expert like Ted Postol of MIT, or an experienced international arms expert like Scott Ritter, or a famous investigative journalist like Seymour Hersh, or a former CIA analyst like Ray McGovern, is apparently proof that one is an atrocity denier or worse.

Inconvenient facts buried

Monbiot’s latest attack was launched at a moment when he obviously felt he was on solid ground. A UN agency, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), issued a report last month concluding that the 100 people killed and 200 injured in Khan Sheikhoun last April were exposed to sarin. Monbiot argues that the proof is now incontrovertible that Assad was responsible – a position that he, of course, adopted at the outset – and that all other theories have now been decisively discounted by the OPCW.

There are reasons to think that Monbiot is seriously misrepresenting the strength of the OPCW’s findings, as several commentators have observed. Most notably, Robert Parry, another leading investigative journalist, points out that evidence in the report’s annex – the place where inconvenient facts are often buried – appears to blow a large hole in the official story.

Parry notes that the time recorded by the UN of the photo of the chemical weapons attack is more than half an hour *after* some 100 victims had already been admitted to five different hospitals, some of them lengthy drives from the alleged impact site.

But potentially more significant than such troubling inconsistencies are the conclusions of Gareth Porter’s separate investigation into Israel’s bombing of the non-existent Syrian nuclear reactor. That gets to the heart of where Monbiot and many others have gone badly wrong in their certainty about events in Syria.

Extreme naivety

Monbiot has been only too willing to promote as indisputable fact claims made both by highly compromised and unreliable western sources and by supposedly reputable and independent organisations, such as international human rights groups and UN agencies. He, like many others, assumes that the latter can always be relied upon to stand apart from western interests and can therefore be implicitly trusted.

That indicates an extreme naivety or possibly the lack of any experience covering on the ground highly charged conflicts in which western interests are paramount.

I have been based in Israel for nearly two decades and have on several occasions taken to task Human Rights Watch (HRW), one of the world’s most esteemed human rights organisations. I have shown that assessments it has made were patently not rooted in evidence or even credible interpretations of international law but in geopolitical considerations. That was especially true in the case of the month-long fighting between Israel and Hizbullah in 2006. (See here and here.) My concerns about HRW’s work, I later learnt from insiders, were shared in its New York head office, but were silenced by the organisation’s most senior staff.

Nuclear plant deception

But Porter helps shine a light on how even the most reputable international agencies can end up similarly following a script written in Washington and one that rides roughshod over evidence, especially when the interests of the world’s only superpower are at stake. In this case, the deceptions were perpetuated by one of the world’s leading scientific organisations: the International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors states’ nuclear activities.

Porter reveals that Yousry Abushady, the IAEA’s foremost expert on North Korean nuclear reactors, was able immediately to discount the aerial photographic evidence that the building Israel bombed in 2007 was a nuclear reactor. (Most likely it was a disused missile storage depot.)

The Syrian “nuclear plant”, he noted, could not have been built using North Korean know-how, as was claimed by the US. It lacked all the main features of a North Korean gas-cooled reactor. The photos produced by the Israelis showed a building that, among other things, covered too small an area and was not anywhere near high enough, it had none of the necessary supporting structures, and there was no cooling tower.

Abushady’s assessment was buried by the IAEA, which preferred to let the CIA and the Israelis promote their narrative unchallenged.

Atomic agency’s silence

This was not a one-off failure. In summer 2008, the IAEA visited the area to collect samples. Had the site been a nuclear plant, they could have expected to find nuclear-grade graphite particles everywhere. They found none.

Nonetheless, the IAEA again perpetrated a deception to try to prop up the fictitious US-Israeli narrative.

As was routine, they sent the samples to a variety of laboratories for analysis. None found evidence of any nuclear contamination – apart from one. It identified particles of man-made uranium. The IAEA issued a report giving prominence to this anomalous sample, even though in doing so it violated its own protocols, reports Parry. It could draw such a conclusion only if the results of all the samples matched.

In fact, as one of the three IAEA inspectors who had been present at the site later reported, the sample of uranium did not come from the plant itself, which was clean, but from a changing room nearby. A former IAEA senior inspector, Robert Kelley, told Parry that a “very likely explanation” was that the uranium particles derived from “cross contamination” from clothing worn by the inspectors. This is a problem that had been previously noted by the IAEA in other contexts.

Meanwhile, the IAEA remained silent about its failure to find nuclear-grade graphite in a further nine reports over two years. It referred to this critical issue for the first time in 2011.

Chance for war with Iran

In other words, the IAEA knowingly conspired in a fictitious, entirely non-scientific assessment of the Syrian “nuclear reactor” story, one that neatly served US-Israeli geopolitical interests.

Porter notes that vice-president Dick Cheney “hoped to use the alleged reactor to get President George W Bush to initiate US airstrikes in Syria in the hope of shaking the Syrian-Iranian alliance”.

In fact, Cheney wanted far more sites in Syria hit than the bogus nuclear plant. In his memoirs, the then-secretary of defence, Robert Gates, observed that Cheney was “looking for an opportunity to provoke a war with Iran”.

The Bush administration wanted to find a way to unseat Assad, crush Hizbullah in Lebanon, and isolate and weaken Iran as a way to destroy the so-called “Shia crescent”.

That goal is being actively pursued again by the US today, with Israel and Saudi Arabia leading the way. A former US ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, recently warned that, after their failure to bring down Assad, the Saudis have been trying to switch battlefields to Lebanon, hoping to foment a confrontation between Israel and Hizbullah that would drag in Iran.

Abandoning science

Back in 2007, the IAEA, an agency of scientists, did its bit to assist – or at least not obstruct – US efforts to foster a political case, an entirely unjustified one, for military action against Syria and, very possibly by extension, Iran.

If the IAEA could so abandon its remit and the cause of science to help play politics on behalf of the US, what leads Monbiot to assume that the OPCW, an even more politicised body, is doing any better today?

That is not to say Assad, or at least sections of the Syrian government, could not have carried out the attack on Khan Sheikhoun. But it is to argue that in a matter like this one, where so much is at stake, the evidence must be subjected to rigorous scrutiny, and that critics, especially experts who offer counter-evidence, must be given a fair hearing by the left. It is to argue that, when the case against Assad fits so neatly a long-standing and self-serving western narrative, a default position of scepticism is fully justified. It is to argue that facts, strong as they may seem, can be manipulated even by expert bodies, and therefore due weight needs also to be given to context – including an assessment of motives.

This is not “denialism”, as Monbiot claims. It is a rational strategy adopted by those who object to being railroaded once again – as they were in Iraq and Libya – into catastrophic regime change operations.

Meanwhile, the decision by Monbiot and others to bury their heads in the sands of an official narrative, all the while denouncing anyone who seeks to lift theirs out for a better view, should be understood for what it is: an abnegation of intellectual and moral responsibility for those around the globe who continue to be the victims of western military supremacism.

November 21, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Human Rights: The Latest Weapon Against Venezuela

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Lilian Tintori, wife of opposition leader Leopoldo López who is currently serving a 13 year sentence (in house arrest) for his responsibility in the deadly violence of the 2014 guarimbas.

By Ricardo Vaz | Investig’Action | September 21, 2017

The mainstream media have a crucial role to play in the war against Venezuela, creating a distorted narrative and a constant frenzy that are crucial for any regime-change operation. With violent protests having failed to topple the government and to stop the Constituent Assembly, the plan switched to military threats and economic sanctions. But these come directly from an unpopular US administration, and a more impartial-looking figure was needed. The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Jordanian Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad al Hussein, stepped up to the plate with the backing of more than 100 NGOs. We tackle the manipulation of human rights for imperial purposes, but first we examine how the term “NGO” is woefully inadequate to describe these organisations.

*****

So much more than NGOs

On occasion of the 36th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, 116 “NGOs”1 signed a letter demanding that Venezuela be a priority for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The effort was spearheaded by none other than Human Rights Watch (HRW). HRW has a long and documented history of bias and outright lies in their reports on Venezuela, which is no surprise given their blatant revolving door with the US government. Among the signatories are several usual suspects such as Provea or Foro Penal, whose president Alfredo Romero was a recent speaker in a “US Democracy Support” forum.

Another organisation on the list is Transparencia Venezuela, which includes as sources of funding the EU, several embassies and the parent organisation Transparency International. And although Transparency International is much shadier than it sounds, at least we can laud their transparency in listing their backers. The list includes the US State Department, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), George Soros’ Open Society, even corporations such as Shell. One more that stands out, and is quoted regularly by the media, is the International Commission of Jurists, which sounds very noble and independent until you discover that they were initially funded by the CIA.

The issue here is with the term “non-governmental organisation”, which are always presented by the media as faultless, impartial actors. While there are many scenarios in which independent organisations can step in and provide invaluable services, this is hardly the case of groups funded by the NED (or USAID, or similar agencies) to “promote democracy” or “defend human rights” in countries like Venezuela. These are merely extensions of the US and western foreign policy apparatus, working as the local infrastructure that is necessary in regime change operations as well as a source for the media to build its biased narrative.

At the end of the day, it is the term “non-governmental organisation” that falls very short of describing the nature and activities of these groups. If an organisation in Venezuela, or anywhere else, is funded by the US government, in what world is it a “non-governmental organisation”? One cannot prove that all the “NGOs” standing with HRW are western-funded, but advancing western interests is very much advancing corporate interests, and it is doubtful that anyone would do that for free.

UN High Commissioner for HR shaking hands with former US Secretary of State John Kerry. (If by accident their speeches were switched nobody would notice!)

Weaponizing human rights

While one should not judge a book by the cover, it might be useful to consider the background of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad al Hussein. A member of the royal family of Jordan, he comes from a Hashemite dynasty whose calling card has been its pliancy to imperial interests in the Middle East. And having served as ambassador to the US and permanent representative to the UN, he is, much like Jordan, someone the US can rely upon.

His most recent statement, which could just as well have been written by the US State Department, was delivered during the 36th Session of the Human Rights Council. It takes aim at every inconvenient country, from Iran to North Korea, while important US allies like Bahrain or Egypt are invited to “engage more productively” with his office. Israel is treated with kid gloves, and somehow the blame for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is supposed to be shared between Israeli and Palestinian authorities. And there is no mention whatsoever of Saudi Arabia, where surely there are no human rights issues… Even when addressing the catastrophe in Yemen there is only a passing mention to “coalition airstrikes”.

And then the High Commissioner gets to Venezuela, sounding like any opposition leader or US official on “human rights violations” during anti-government protests or the “crushing [of] democratic institutions”, and suggesting an investigation into possible “crimes against humanity”. Never mind Colombia, where for years the army killed thousands of civilians and dressed them as rebels to collect rewards. Never mind Saudi Arabia, conducting double tap strikes2 against funerals in Yemen, or the US “torturing some folks,” or Israeli soldiers killing children because they were “running like terrorists.” The High Commissioner is worried that crimes against humanity have been committed in Venezuela!

This statement comes on the heels of a OHCHR report about Venezuela that Joe Emersberger described as “embarrassingly shoddy and biased.” It barely mentions any violence coming from the opposition ranks, and while offering a tally of deaths allegedly caused by government forces and the bogeyman colectivos, there is no detailed breakdown to be compared with other accounts such as the one by Venezuelanalysis. Remarkably, given the importance of the issue and the damning verdict that the OHCHR wishes to pass, no investigators from the UN body set foot in Venezuela. Instead the report relies on carefully selected testimonies and the “NGOs” we just discussed.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza condemned the manipulation of human rights to attack Venezuela and the lies in the recent OHCHR report.

True NGOs strike back

While the amenable High Commissioner and the poorly-named “NGOs” put on their show to further the regime-change operation in Venezuela, others were not about to take it sitting down. True NGOs, independent organisations that are not pawns in imperialist machinations, and which are truly committed to human rights, condemned foreign meddling in Venezuela and the politicisation of human rights. One example was Swiss-based CETIM, an organisation focused on supporting social movements in the Global South. Concerning Venezuela, it released a statement that said:

[…] we declare ourselves for an immediate return to calm and to dialog, for the respect of Venezuelan peoples’ right to self-determination and the deepening of the process of democratic transformation that they have freely and courageously undertaken for two decades […]

Another organisation that reacted to the recent actions of the OHCHR was the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), through its representative at the UN, Micòl Savia, during one of the plenary meetings of the 36th Session of the Human Rights Council (intervention #35 in this link)

The IADL expresses its most profound dismay at the recent OHCHR report […]. Given its severity, we are particularly concerned by the High Commissioner’s mention of […] crimes against humanity, which lacks any legal grounds or sense of proportion. […]

The report is selective and biased, and represents a further example of the unfortunate politicisation that affects the work of the OHCHR, undermining its credibility and standing. Use of firearms, explosives, setting up barricades, people burned alive, attacks against hospitals, […], is this the model of “peaceful protests” that this council wants to promote?

Judge, jury and executioner

In the end the bias and lack of standards, or outright falsehood, of these claims and reports does not matter, because if the target is Venezuela they only have to look credible. The media will then do the rest, creating a background by repeating that “Venezuela has been accused by the UN of human rights abuses”, regardless of the shoddiness of the accusations, and this will be the basis to justify future escalations and aggressions as the empire pulls out all the stops to get rid of the biggest threat in its “backyard”.3

This is a good time to stress that legal systems are not moral or just by definition, but a reflection of who holds power, and this is especially true of international law. Though the struggle for an arena where all countries have the same weight is imperative, we are fooling ourselves if we are counting on international bodies to be impartial upholders of justice (just look at Palestine). Recent international tribunals have only served to reinforce the US/western narrative, either as a posteriori justification for past wars such as the one in Yugoslavia, or to justify upcoming ones against troublesome leaders like Gaddafi.

We should clarify that our argument is not some kind of moral relativism, whereby we defend that the alleged crime A should not be investigated until justice is served for (the much worse) crime B. We are not arguing that nobody can be guilty of crimes against humanity until Henry Kissinger is tried, although it is hard to take any international tribunal seriously if the most blatant crimes are immune from prosecution. But what is definitely absurd and unacceptable is to have the US empire, either directly or through its proxies, be the judge trying other people and countries.

Notes

  1. The HRW statement, and all pieces about it, refer to 116 NGOs; however, the organisations listed only total 115
  2. Double tap strikes comprise an initial strike on a target followed by another one targeting first responders.
  3. In its article about this issue, the Guardian refers to a high-profile jailed opposition leader called Leonardo López (his name is Leopoldo López). Given the overall bias and lack of standards, this is probably fitting.

September 22, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Echoes of Iraq-WMD Fraud in Syria

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | September 10, 2017

The New York Times and other Western media have learned few lessons from the Iraq War, including how the combination of a demonized foreign leader and well-funded “activists” committed to flooding the process with fake data can lead to dangerously false conclusions that perpetuate war.

What we have seen in Syria over the past six years parallels what occurred in Iraq in the run-up to the U.S.-led invasion in 2002-03. In both cases, there was evidence that the “system” was being gamed – by the Iraqi National Congress (INC) in pushing for the Iraq War and by pro-rebel “activists” promoting “regime change” in Syria – but those warnings were ignored. Instead, the flood of propagandistic claims overwhelmed what little skepticism there was in the West.

Regarding Iraq, the INC generated a surge of “defectors” who claimed to know where Saddam Hussein was concealing his WMD stockpiles and where his nuclear program was hidden. In Syria, we have seen something similar with dubious claims about chemical weapons attacks.

The Iraqi “defectors,” of course, were lying, and a little-noticed congressional study revealed that the CIA had correctly debunked some of the fakers but – because of the pro-invasion political pressure from George W. Bush’s White House and the U.S. mainstream media’s contempt for Saddam Hussein – other bogus claims were accepted as true. The result was catastrophic.

But the telltale signs of an INC disinformation campaign were there before the war. For instance, by early February 2003, as the final invasion plans were underway, the parade of Iraqi “walk-ins” was continuing. U.S. intelligence agencies had progressed up to “Source Eighteen,” one fellow who came to epitomize what some CIA analysts suspected was systematic INC coaching of sources.

As the CIA planned a debriefing of Source Eighteen, another Iraqi exile passed on word to the agency that an INC representative had told Source Eighteen to “deliver the act of a lifetime.” CIA analysts weren’t sure what to make of that piece of news since Iraqi exiles frequently badmouthed each other but the value of the warning soon became clear.

U.S. intelligence officers debriefed Source Eighteen the next day and discovered that “Source Eighteen was supposed to have a nuclear engineering background, but was unable to discuss advanced mathematics or physics and described types of ‘nuclear’ reactors that do not exist,” according to a Senate Intelligence Committee report on the Iraq War’s intelligence failures.

“Source Eighteen used the bathroom frequently, particularly when he appeared to be flustered by a line of questioning, suddenly remembering a new piece of information upon his return. During one such incident, Source Eighteen appeared to be reviewing notes,” the report said.

Not surprisingly, U.S. intelligence officers concluded that Source Eighteen was a fabricator. But the sludge of INC-connected disinformation kept oozing through the U.S. intelligence community, fouling the American intelligence product in part because there was little pressure from above demanding strict quality controls. Indeed, the opposite was true.

A more famous fake Iraqi defector earned the code name “Curve Ball” and provided German intelligence agencies details about Iraq’s alleged mobile facilities for producing agents for biological warfare.

Tyler Drumheller, then chief of the CIA’s European Division, said his office had issued repeated warnings about Curve Ball’s accounts. “Everyone in the chain of command knew exactly what was happening,” Drumheller said. [Los Angeles Times, April 2, 2005]

Despite those objections and the lack of direct U.S. contact with Curve Ball, he earned a rating as “credible” or “very credible,” and his information became a core element of the Bush administration’s case for invading Iraq. Drawings of Curve Ball’s imaginary bio-weapons labs were a central feature of Secretary of State Colin Powell’s presentation to the U.N. on Feb. 5, 2003.

The Syrian Parallel

Regarding Syria, a similar mix of factors exists. The Obama administration’s advocacy for Syrian “regime change” and the hostility from many Western interest groups toward President Bashar al-Assad lowered the bar of skepticism enabling propaganda arms of Al Qaeda and its jihadist allies to have enormous success in selling dubious accusations about chemical attacks and other atrocities.

As with the CIA analysts who tripped up a few of the Iraqi liars, some United Nations investigators have seen evidence of the trickery. For instance, they learned from townspeople of Al-Tamanah about how the rebels and allied “activists” staged a chlorine gas attack on the night of April 29-30, 2014, and then sold the false story to a credulous Western media and, initially, to the U.N. investigative team.

“Seven witnesses stated that frequent alerts [about an imminent chlorine weapons attack by the government] had been issued, but in fact no incidents with chemicals took place,” the U.N. report stated. “While people sought safety after the warnings, their homes were looted and rumours spread that the events were being staged. … [T]hey [these witnesses] had come forward to contest the wide-spread false media reports.”

Accounts from other people, who did allege that there had been a government chemical attack on Al-Tamanah, provided suspect evidence, including data from questionable sources, according to the U.N. report.

The report said, “Three witnesses, who did not give any description of the incident on 29-30 April 2014, provided material of unknown source. One witness had second-hand knowledge of two of the five incidents in Al-Tamanah, but did not remember the exact dates. Later that witness provided a USB-stick with information of unknown origin, which was saved in separate folders according to the dates of all the five incidents mentioned by the FFM (the U.N.’s Fact-Finding Mission).

“Another witness provided the dates of all five incidents reading it from a piece of paper, but did not provide any testimony on the incident on 29-30 April 2014. The latter also provided a video titled ‘site where second barrel containing toxic chlorine gas was dropped tamanaa 30 April 14’”

Some other witnesses alleging a Syrian government attack offered curious claims about detecting the chlorine-infused “barrel bombs” based on how the device sounded in its descent.

The U.N. report said, “The eyewitness, who stated to have been on the roof, said to have heard a helicopter and the ‘very loud’ sound of a falling barrel. Some interviewees had referred to a distinct whistling sound of barrels that contain chlorine as they fall. The witness statement could not be corroborated with any further information.”

However, the claim itself is absurd since it is inconceivable that anyone could detect a chlorine canister inside a “barrel bomb” by “a distinct whistling sound.”

The larger point, however, is that the jihadist rebels in Al-Tamanah and their propaganda teams, including relief workers and activists, appear to have organized a coordinated effort at deception complete with a fake video supplied to U.N. investigators and Western media outlets.

For instance, the Telegraph in London reported that “Videos allegedly taken in Al-Tamanah … purport to show the impact sites of two chemical bombs. Activists said that one person had been killed and another 70 injured.”

The Telegraph also quoted supposed weapons expert Eliot Higgins, the founder of Bellingcat, as endorsing the report. “Witnesses have consistently reported the use of helicopters to drop the chemical barrel bombs used,” said Higgins. “As it stands, around a dozen chemical barrel bomb attacks have been alleged in that region in the last three weeks.”

To finish up pointing the finger of guilt at the government, the Telegraph added that “The regime is the only party in the civil war that possesses helicopters” – a claim that also has been in dispute since the rebels had captured government air assets and had received substantial military assistance from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United States, Israel, Jordan and other countries.

The Al-Tamanah debunking received no mainstream media attention when the U.N. findings were issued in September 2016 because the U.N. report relied on rebel information to blame two other alleged chlorine attacks on the government and that got all the coverage. But the case should have raised red flags given the extent of the apparent deception.

If the seven townspeople were telling the truth, that would mean that the rebels and their allies issued fake attack warnings, produced propaganda videos to fool the West, and prepped “witnesses” with “evidence” to deceive investigators. Yet, no alarms went off about other rebel claims.

The Ghouta Incident

A more famous attack – with sarin gas on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta on Aug. 21, 2013, killing hundreds – was also eagerly blamed on the Assad regime, as The New York Times, Human Rights Watch, Higgins’s Bellingcat and many other Western outlets jumped to that conclusion despite the unlikely circumstances. Assad had just welcomed U.N. investigators to Damascus to examine chemical attacks that he was blaming on the rebels.

Assad also was facing a “red line” threat from President Obama warning him of possible U.S. military intervention if the Syrian government deployed chemical weapons. Why Assad and his military would choose such a moment to launch a deadly sarin attack, killing mostly civilians, made little sense.

But this became another rush to judgment in the West that brought the Obama administration to the verge of launching a devastating air attack on the Syrian military that might have helped Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate and/or the Islamic State win the war.

Eventually, however, the case blaming Assad for the 2013 sarin attack collapsed. An analysis by genuine weapons experts – Theodore A. Postol, a professor of science, technology and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Richard M. Lloyd, an analyst at the military contractor Tesla Laboratories – found that the missile that delivered the sarin had a very short range placing its likely firing position in rebel territory.

Later, reporting by journalist Seymour Hersh implicated Turkish intelligence working with jihadist rebels as the likely source of the sarin.

We also learned in 2016 that a message from the U.S. intelligence community had warned Obama how weak the evidence against Assad was. There was no “slam-dunk” proof, said Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. And Obama cited his rejection of the Washington militaristic “playbook” to bomb Syria as one of his proudest moments as President.

With this background, there should have been extreme skepticism when jihadists and their allies made new claims about the Syrian government engaging in chemical weapons attacks, just like the CIA should have recognized that the Iraqi National Congress’s production of some obviously phony “walk-ins” justified doubts about all of them.

After the invasion of Iraq and the U.S. failure to find the promised WMD caches, INC leader Ahmed Chalabi congratulated his organization as “heroes in error” for its success in using falsehoods to help get the United States to invade.

But the West appears to have learned next to nothing from the Iraq deceptions – or arguably the lessons are being ignored out of a desire to continue the neoconservative “regime change” project for the Middle East.

Pressure to Confirm

U.N. investigators, who have been under intense pressure to confirm accusations against the Syrian government, continue to brush aside contrary evidence, such as testimony regarding the April 4 “sarin incident” at Khan Sheikhoun, that suggested a replay of the Al-Tamanah operation.

In a new U.N. report, testimony from two people, who were apparently considered reliable by investigators from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, asserted that anti-government aircraft spotters issued no early-morning warning of a flight leaving the Syrian military airbase of Shayrat, contradicting claims from Al Qaeda’s allies inside Khan Sheikhoun who insisted that there had been such a warning.

If no warplanes left Shayrat airbase around dawn on April 4, then President Trump’s case for retaliating with 59 Tomahawk missiles launched against the base two days later would collapse. The U.S. strike reportedly killed several soldiers at the base and nine civilians, including four children, in nearby neighborhoods. It also risked inflicting death on Russians stationed at the base.

But the U.N. report accepts the version from the activists and rebels inside the Al Qaeda-controlled town and then goes on to endorse other rebel claims regarding alleged Syrian military chemical attacks on at least 20 other occasions.

The New York Times was mightily impressed with the U.N. report’s “unequivocal condemnation” of Assad’s regime and cited it as justification for Israeli warplanes bombing a Syrian military facility on Thursday. Rather than criticize Israel for attacking a neighboring country, the Times framed the action in a positive light as having “brought renewed attention to Syria’s chemical weapons.”

But the journalistic (and intelligence) point should have been that the West was fooled in Iraq by self-interested “activists” flooding the Times, the CIA and the world with fake information — so many bogus walk-ins that they overwhelmed whatever half-hearted process there was to weed out lies from truth. The Syrian “opposition” appears to have adopted a similar strategy in Syria with similar success.

Given the history, skepticism should be the rule in Syria, not credulity. Or, as President George W. Bush once said in a different context, “fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.

September 10, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Human Rights Watch Cites Al Qaeda and Collaborators in Latest Syria Report

By Tony Cartalucci – New Eastern Outlook – 26.02.2017

On the heels of Amnesty International’s admittedly and entirely fabricated report regarding Syria’s Saydnaya prison, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has published its own baseless report on Syria – this one regarding alleged chlorine bomb attacks in Aleppo during the city’s liberation late last year.

In a post on HRW’s website titled, “Syria: Coordinated Chemical Attacks on Aleppo,” it claims:

Syrian government forces conducted coordinated chemical attacks in opposition-controlled parts of Aleppo during the final month of the battle for the city, Human Rights Watch said today.

However, when qualifying HRW’s accusations, it admits:

Through phone and in-person interviews with witnesses and analysis of video footage, photographs, and posts on social media, Human Rights Watch documented government helicopters dropping chlorine in residential areas on at least eight occasions between November 17 and December 13, 2016. The attacks, some of which included multiple munitions, killed at least nine civilians, including four children, and injured around 200.

Watching the videos and viewing the photographs reveals that none of them actually link any of the alleged “chlorine attacks” to Syrian forces, or even to chlorine itself.

The body of evidence presented by HRW also reveals that the interviews they conducted with alleged “witnesses” included almost exclusively opposition forces. Among them were the US-UK funded White Helmets – referred to disingenuously as “Syria Civil Defense” in HRW’s report – who served as designated terrorist organization Jabhat Al Nusra auxiliaries, often found on the battlefield shoulder-to-shoulder with armed militants.

Not only are these clearly compromised sources of information based on their admitted political alignments, but also because of their respective, systematic fabrications throughout the Syrian conflict. It is telling of HRW’s systematic bias that it would base an entire report on compromised sources drawn from the opposition, but not even a single report based on government claims. United Arab Emirate-based Al Nusra propaganda platform Orient News was also cited, as were other notorious anti-government propaganda networks including the Aleppo Media Center. In reality, a true rights advocacy organization would only report what is physical evidence verified. Human Rights Watch has deliberately avoided doing so not only in Syria, but amid virtually every conflict it involves itself in.

From conflating the number of civilians “trapped” in eastern Aleppo, to attempts to downplay or dismiss the role designated terrorist organizations played in the occupation of Aleppo, the groups and individuals cited by Human Rights Watch have practiced deliberate deceit throughout the battle for Aleppo, and the Syrian conflict at large.

For Human Rights Watch – an allegedly world-renowned rights advocacy organization – to cite such sources indicates that this latest report, like Amnesty International’s recently fabricated report, constitutes a politically-motivated attack hiding behind rights advocacy, not upholding it.

Considering the timing of Amnesty International, Human Rights, and also the Atlantic Council’s reports, rolled out in a multi-organizational campaign attacking the Syrian government, the individual deceit of each organization transforms into collective and coordinated impropriety.

A final consideration in the wake of Human Rights Watch’s latest, politically-motivated report is the fact that all actual evidence points to the opposition itself for being behind both the production and deployment of chlorine-based weapons.

TIME Magazine in an article titled, “Syria’s Civil War: The Mystery Behind a Deadly Chemical Attack,” would admit:

In August rebel forces took Sabbagh’s factory by force, as part of a sweep that also netted them an electricity station and a military airport about 30 km from Aleppo. Sabbagh, who has since fled Aleppo for Beirut, says his factory is now occupied by Jabhat al-Nusra, a militant group with strong ties to al-Qaeda that has been designated a terrorist group by the U.S. He knows this because his site manager has struck a deal with the rebels — they supply 200 L of fuel a day to keep the generator running so that the valves of his $25 million factory don’t freeze up. The factory isn’t operational anymore, but this way at least, says Sabbagh, it might be one day in the future. In the meantime, he has no idea what has happened, if anything, to the 400 or so steel barrels of chlorine gas he had stored in the compound. The yellow tanks, which hold one ton of gas each, are used for purifying municipal water supplies. “No one can know for certain, but if it turns out chlorine gas was used in the attack, then the first possibility is that it was mine. There is no other factory in Syria that can make this gas, and now it is under opposition control,” he says.

Military experts since the advent of modern chemical warfare have noted its limited utility during combat. It has very temporary tactical advantages when used on a very large scale – a scale much larger than any of the alleged attacks cited by Human Rights Watch. Strategically, a military force with superior conventional means would have no logical use for chemical weapons.

Likewise, chemical weapons would not turn the tide in the battle of Aleppo for the occupying terrorists. However, the use of chemical weapons in Aleppo and the use of the West’s powerful propaganda arms to assign blame to the Syrian government did promise a very significant political and possibly strategic advantage. It was accusations of “weapons of mass destruction” that served as a pretext for war with Iraq in 2003 – a pretext the US attempted to recreate versus Syria in 2013.

With these latest, weak, and baseless accusations presented by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Atlantic Council, we are witnessing a redux of 2013 propaganda aimed at undermining the Syrian government and expanding the West’s pretext for more direct involvement in the Syrian conflict.

February 26, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | Leave a comment

Syria, Russia and American Desperation

By Margaret Kimberley | Black Agenda Report | December 21, 2016

It is no coincidence that anti-Russian propaganda is being ramped up at the same moment the Syrian government is poised to retake its country from terrorists. Barack Obama and the rest of the war party are left to sputter nonsensical statements because their grand plan to realize the neocon Project for a New American Century is in very big trouble.

The American corporate media ignored the suffering of Syrians in the city of Aleppo until their captivity was broken by the Syrian Arab Army. Ever since 2012 ISIS and other terrorist groups sponsored by the United States, NATO, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar have held thousands of people hostage there. Turks picked the region apart, raiding Syrian factories and transporting them piece by piece back to their country.

Now that the Syrians are retaking the city with the help of their Russian and Hezbollah allies, there is a steady stream of news about Aleppo. All of it is meant to pull at the heart strings of uninformed people as the human rights industrial complex reliably goes about its dirty work. Human Rights Watch and other groups who work to promote United States foreign policy speak endlessly about war crimes. They didn’t say much when America’s allies were terrorizing Syrians but now they suddenly point fingers and always at the people who run afoul of regime change plans.

The five year-long effort to destroy the Syrian state has produced many victims in that country and it always threatened to spark a larger international conflict. The assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey could be such a moment. The gunman’s last words and obviously his actions were a call to jihad. Even one hundred years later the 1914 assassination in Sarajevo is not far from memory.

But the United States is the principal actor in this drama. None of the other nations involved in this crime would have acted absent American direction. All of the casualties, the sieges, the hunger and the frantic search for refuge can be placed at America’s feet. So too the death of the Russian ambassador. This international tangle is covered with American finger prints.

The Syrian government is determined to take back its country and the Americans and their allies are equally determined to thwart it. The recent successes of the Syrian army explain part of the desperation coming from Obama, the Democratic Party and corporate media. Blaming Russia kills several birds with one stone. It continues the propaganda war against a country that will not knuckle under and accept American hegemony. The hyper Russophobia was also an attempt to make the unpalatable and incompetent Hillary Clinton more appealing. And its continuation is being used by Democrats and Republicans to stop the incoming president from having any chance to improve relations with that country or curtail the regime change doctrine. The war party never sleeps.

Barack Obama’s last press conference was replete with lies and insults aimed at Russia and Vladimir Putin. He should have been embarrassed to say that Russia was “smaller,” “weaker” and “doesn’t produce anything that anybody wants to buy except oil and gas and arms.” He completed his bizarre rant by saying that Putin was “the former head of the KGB.” He was no such thing and of course Obama knows that. It isn’t clear if he expected anyone to believe him or if facing his failure carried him away to heights of rhetorical foolishness.

Obama thought that Hillary Clinton would win and complete his regime change plans. Not only did she lose and deprive him of his third term but the hollowness of his legacy is clear. Obviously “hope and change” was a marketing tag line meant to hide his commitment to the world wide neoliberal project.

Donald Trump will be president of the United States in just four weeks. That is a short period of time in which to pull off a soft coup. He will be inaugurated but team Obama want to make sure he cannot upend the status quo they work so hard to uphold.

While the Democratic Party rank and file are anxious about racism, immigration, Islamophobia, judicial appointees and voter suppression their leaders only care about maintaining imperialism. Obama and the rest of the democratic party are unworthy of the loyalty they engender. On January 20th thousands of people will head to Washington to protest Trump while the Democrats will be making last ditch efforts to help jihadists destroy Syria.

Some of the protesters ought to target their ire at Obama and the Democrats and not just because of their electoral failure. They ought to pledge an end to support for warmongering Democrats altogether. If it is true that Trump is a fascist he won’t be the first one in the White House. His predecessor fits that description just as well. But events may have spun out of his control. The fate of Syria may not be in American hands any longer. And that is why the desperation is so evident.


Margaret Kimberley can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.

December 21, 2016 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , | Leave a comment

Human Rights Watch Purposefully Mistranslated Syrian Leaflet to Aleppo Rebels

By Prof. As’ad AbuKhalil – The Angry Arab News Service – November 30, 2016

Rami Jarrah (who is widely cited as an authority by mainstream Western media) posted the Arabic leaflet dropped by Syrian government forces and the English translation by Human Rights Watch, which has been widely circulated.

I will provide to you my translation of the original Arabic and you judge how reliable the translation by Human Rights Watch is. [Moreover they have shortened the text of the message]

The Arabic says (in full):

“Read and Repeat. This is the last hope. Save yourselves.

If you don’t evacuate those areas soon, you shall be finished off (or vanquished or destroyed).

WE have provided you with a safe passage to exit. Take your decision fast. Save yourselves.

You know that all have abandoned you and left you by yourselves to face your destiny and they won’t provide you with any help. General Command of the army and armed forces.”

PS The word annihilation is very specific and has an equal Arabic equivalent “Ibadah” which does not appear in the original Arabic.

[The substance of the message is turned upside down in the English translation. It does not mention that the government is providing exit and safe passage to the Al Qaeda rebels.]

December 2, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Leave a comment