Category: syria

How the West set out to destroy Syria

By Daniel Margrain

Pro-Assad demonstration

Largely unreported in the corporate media is that Bashar-al-Assad’s secular government won the first contested presidential election in Ba’athist Syria’s history on July 16, 2014. The election was regarded by international observers as open, fair and transparent. American Peace Council delegate, Joe Jamison, who was allowed unhindered travel throughout Syria, stated:

“By contrast to the medieval Wahhabist ideology, Syria promotes a socially inclusive and pluralistic form of Islam. We [the USPC] met these people. They are humane and democratically minded…. “The [Syrian] government is popular and recognized as being legitimate by the UN. It contests and wins elections which are monitored. There’s a parliament which contains opposition parties – we met them. There is a significant non-violent opposition which is trying to work constructively for its own social vision.”

Jamison added:

“Our delegation came to Syria with political views and assumptions, but we were determined to be sceptics and to follow the facts wherever they led us. I concluded that the motive of the US war is to destroy an independent, Arab, secular state. It’s the last of this kind of state standing.”

Analyst Stephen Gowans outlined that in early 2011, reporters from Time and the New York Times acknowledged that Assad commanded broad popular support and that the Syrian people exhibited little interest in protest.

Time’s Rania Abouzeid, for example, contended:

“Even critics concede that Assad is popular and considered close to the country’s huge youth cohort, both emotionally, ideologically and, of course, chronologically. Unlike the ousted pro-American leaders of Tunisia and Egypt, Assad’s hostile foreign policy toward Israel, strident support for Palestinians and the militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah are in line with popular Syrian sentiment.”

Assad, in other words, has legitimacy. The Time correspondent added that Assad’s “driving himself to the Umayyad Mosque in February to take part in prayers to mark the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, and strolling through the crowded Souq Al-Hamidiyah marketplace with a low security profile” had “helped to endear him, personally, to the public.”

This wouldn’t be possible if Assad was regarded by the Syrian people to be a dictator.

Overthrowing Assad by violent means

The notion that the United States government, its allies and proxies, want to see Syria’s pluralistic state under Assad destroyed, is not a secret. Indeed, the claim by Israel’s defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman, that Assad’s removal is the empires “ultimate goal”, is consistent with the notion that the aim of the U.S government is to stymie the non-violent opposition inside Syria.

Washington has been engaged in this latest phase of its long-standing strategy to depose Assad since early 2012 after it helped scupper Kofi Annan’s six point peace plan. Contrary to Western media propaganda, president Assad’s battle is not with his own people, but against outside mercenary forces and terror organisations who have, as commentator Dan Glazebrook noted, funded the Free Syrian Army and bribed government forces to defect.

Professor Jeffrey Sachs from the University of Columbia said:

“The CIA and Saudi Arabia together in covert operations tried to overthrow Assad….We started a [covert proxy] war (Operation Timber Sycamore) – a major war effort shrouded in secrecy [that was] never debated in Congress and never explained to the American people, signed by president Obama.”

Commentator John Wight added:

“Thousands of non-Syrians… descended on the country from across the Muslim world and beyond like a plague of locusts. [They took] advantage of the destabilization of the region wrought by Washington and its allies….”

The numbers highlighted below support this thesis:

Source Maytham

Dr Declan Hayes, who for many years has been living in Syria, offers additional insights:

“If this were a genuine revolution or revolt against a tyrannical regime, the sort of despots one gets in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait or Turkey, one would expect most Syrian moderates to support it. Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, to take one pertinent example, famously had the support of the shopkeepers, hawkers and students of Tehran who ended up sending the Shah, his secret police and their toadies scuttling for American-supplied bolt holes overseas.

Whatever its rights or wrongs, Iran’s Islamic Revolution had widespread support, as do Bahrain’s moderate protesters, who brave the henchmen of Saudi Arabia every time they protest against that truly autocratic regime. Moderate Alawites, Shias or Christians cannot support the Syrian insurgents as all the rebels are agreed that the Alawites and Shias must be exterminated and the Christians driven into exile, if they are not first also exterminated.

Hayes continued:

“All of Syria’s Christian leaders support, implicitly at least, the government of the Syrian Arab Republic, not least because, a few token rebels apart, there is no area in rebel-held Syria where they can openly practice their religion or live without perpetual fear.

Nor is there anywhere the moderate rebels control that Christians and other minorities can be safe from kidnapping by these same moderates, who will then sell them on to their more violent partners in crime, in much the same way the moderate rebels sold on the Ma’lulah nuns and the two American journalists who were recently beheaded. There is, in short, no way Syria’s Christians, Shias or Alawites, who do not have a death wish, can support the moderate rebels.”

Independent journalist, Vanessa Beeley, who spoke with civilians on the ground in east Aleppo as it was being liberated from Western-supported jihadist ‘rebels’, emphasized what she described as the universal “sheer jubilation and celebration at their liberation by the Syrian-Arab Army and the Syrian government.”

These kinds of testimonies have been totally absent from the corporate media and contradict the “Assad is a tyrant” narrative.

John Wight made the point that:

“History will not be kind to those who have propagated the lie that something approximating to a democratic revolution has been underway in Syria. On the contrary, the country and its people have suffered the depredations of an Islamic Khmer Rouge, intent on ‘purifying’ a multicultural and multi-religious society of minority communities that are able to trace their existence in this part of the world back over a millennia and more.”

The roots of Syria’s destruction

There is disagreement among academics as to the cause of Syria’s destabilization. However, there is general agreement that on 17 March, 2011, rioting occurred at the Syria-Jordan border town of Daraa involving hundreds of people. The rioting was guided by a largely Islamist agenda. It wasn’t a mass uprising typical of the Arab Spring.

A review of press reports in the weeks immediately preceding and following the riots, offers no indication that Syria was in the grip of a revolutionary struggle – a narrative consistent with the indifference shown to the “Day of Rage” on February 4 and 5, 2011 that preceded it. The ‘protests’ “fizzled,” said Time.

The magazine reported that two jihadist groups which would later play leading roles in the insurgency, Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, were already in operation on the eve of the riots, while three months earlier, leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood voiced their hope for a civil revolt in Syria.

The Muslim Brothers, who decades earlier declared a blood feud with Syria’s ruling Ba’athist Party and objected violently to the party’s secularism, had been embroiled in a life and death struggle with secular Arab nationalists since the 1960s, and had engaged in street battles with Ba’athist partisans from the late 1940s.

In response to the violent attacks by hundreds of jihadists against police officers and the setting alight of government buildings, president Assad conceded to many of the Islamists demands. This included releasing their comrades from state prisons. The U.S State Department had acknowledged that political Islam was the main opposition in Syria and that jihadists made up the principal section of opposition groups likely to be incarcerated.

Stephen Gowans drew comparisons with the West:

“Clerics demanding that Damascus release all political prisoners was equal in effect to the Islamic State demanding that Washington, Paris, and London release all Islamists detained in US, French and British prisons on terrorism charges.

Crucially, Gowans added:

“This wasn’t a demand for jobs and greater democracy, but a demand for the release from prison of activists inspired by the goal of bringing about an Islamic state in Syria. The call to lift the emergency law, similarly, appeared to have little to do with fostering democracy and more to do with expanding the room for jihadists and their collaborators to organize opposition to the secular state.”

Writing shortly after the events at Daraa, professor Michel Chossudovsky noted that the violence and burning of government buildings by jihadists:

“had all the appearances of a staged event involving, in all likelihood, covert support to Islamic terrorists by Mossad and/or Western intelligence. Government sources point to the role of radical Salafist groups (supported by Israel). Other reports have pointed to the role of Saudi Arabia in financing the protest movement.”

Reports (suppressed in the Western media) indicating that the number of policemen killed at Daraa (seven) was more than the number of demonstrators killed (four), is hardly indicative of the brutal actions of a government intent on oppressing its own people.

Assad’s mass support

Clearly, the outbreak of violence in Daraa, undertaken by less than a thousand jihadists in support of their imprisoned comrades, was not representative of the will of the mass of the Syrian people. Indeed, the subsequent pro-government rally in the capital twelve days after the Western fomented violence in Daraa which can be viewed here, is indicative of widespread support for Assad. The rally far exceeded in number the hundreds of protesters who turned out in the Syria-Jordan border town to burn buildings and cars and clash with police.

Despite this, the rally was portrayed in the Western corporate media as an anti-government demonstration. The Guardian, for instance, reported the rally as a “military crackdown against civilians”This kind of misinformation prompted Russia and China to veto a European-backed UN security council resolution threatening sanctions against the Syrian regime “if it did not immediately halt its military crackdown against civilians”.

That the major forces driving the insurgency in the country were Islamist factions backed by the U.S, Britain, Saudi Arabia, France, Israel and others, was quietly dropped. In 2012, a Pentagon document obtained by Judicial Watch confirmed that jihadist terrorist groups that include ISIS – who burned down churches and massacred the world’s oldest Christian communities – were the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.

Break-up of Syria

The rationale that lay behind the insurgency, is the break-up of Syria and the control of what is believed to be potentially vast untapped oil and gas resources in the country. Against this backdrop are the competing agendas of the various belligerent gas-exporting foreign factions, that according to Orstein and Romer, have interests in one of the two gas pipeline projects that seek to cross Syrian territory to deliver either Qatari or Iranian gas to Europe.

As Orenstein explained:

“In 2009, Qatar proposed to build a pipeline to send its gas northwest via Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria to Turkey… However, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad refused to sign the plan; Russia, which did not want to see its position in European gas markets undermined, put him under intense pressure not to.

Russia’s Gazprom sells 80 per cent of its gas to Europe. So in 2010, Russia put its weight behind an alternative Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline that would pump Iranian gas from the same field out via Syrian ports such as Latakia and under the Mediterranean. The project would allow Moscow to control gas imports to Europe from Iran, the Caspian Sea region, and Central Asia.”

Up to this point, US policy toward Assad had been ambivalent – the intention being that “jaw-jaw” rather than “war-war” would more likely pry him away from Iran, thus opening up the Syrian economy to US investors, and aligning the Assad government with US-Israeli regional designs. But the signing in July, 2011, of a $10 billion Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline deal put an end to the U.S ‘softly-softly’ approach.

Boost to profits

The prospect of a lengthy war against Syria provides a boost to the profits of the arms and weapons companies. Major U.S defense contractors Raytheon, Oshkosh, and Lockheed Martin assured investors that they stand to gain from the escalating conflicts in the Middle East. Lockheed Martin Executive Vice President Bruce Tanner said his company will see “indirect benefits” from the war in Syria.

Author, journalist and film-maker, Charles Glass, contended that in order to secure the hydrocarbon potential of Syria’s offshore resources with the aim of reducing European dependence on Russian gas and boosting the potential for energy independence, U.S tax payers’ money had been “used to fund terrorist groups from the very beginning.”

Corroborated by Wikileak cables, Glass continued:

“For the outside powers, it’s never been about human rights and democracy inside Syria. That’s not the issue. The issue has always been about Assad’s relationship with Iran.”

War is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous

The openly stated positions of the imperial powers in resource-rich parts of the world completely refutes the notion that the actions of these powers are benign. It is clear that continuous war that boosts the profits of arms companies is preferred to a genuine and lasting peace.

Western powers and their regional middle east allies view the suffering of innocent people at the hands of Islamist fundamentalists and other proxies, who they arm and fund, as a price worth paying in order that their geopolitical and economic regime change goals are maintained.

The right of Syria’s minority communities to be able to continue to live under a non-sectarian umbrella, protected under international law, and to ensure their civil liberties are upheld and protected, is not a priority for the imperial powers.

Many of my articles can be seen in Renegade Inc.

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Saving Syria’s Children: How the BBC are embedding their journalists with Jihadist groups in Syria

By Daniel Margrain

For many years I have been following Robert Stuart’s exhaustive and detailed exposition of the BBC Panorama documentary Saving Syria’s Children that highlighted the aftermath of an alleged incendiary bomb attack on the playground of the Urm al-Kubra school near Aleppo in Syria.

The BBC team comprising reporter, Ian Pannell and cameraman, Darren Conway (who coincidentally were inside Syria when the alleged attack happened), reported on, and filmed, the incoming casualties arriving at the Atareb hospital on 26 August 2013. The footage formed the basis of the documentary.

Staged

Stuart contends that the filmed sequences were largely, if not entirely, staged. Scenes from the documentary were shown as part of a brief BBC News at Ten broadcast report by Pannell and Conway which contained harrowing scenes of teenage boys and young men, their skin apparently in tatters, racing into what the report describes as “a basic hospital funded by handouts” to be treated for burns.

In one particularly disturbing scene a tableau of young men writhe, drool and groan, seemingly in great distress. What is particularly striking about the scene, are the actions of the central figure, Mohammed Asi, who looks directly into the camera for several moments before raising his arm, at which point the group around him instantly became animated before moaning in unison.

Other anomalies include:

  • Conflicting and contradictory claims.
  • A “victim” who appeared to be grinning.
  • Implausible demeanours of alleged victims.
  • Questionable authenticity of the alleged burns to victims by experienced doctors.
  • Apparent choreographed behaviour.
  • Unconvincing injuries.
  • Testimonies that challenge the BBC version of events.

All of the anomalies and contradictions highlighted call into question the authenticity of the entire alleged attack.

Doctors & weapons

Saving Syria’s Children also referenced to two British female doctors, Rola Hallam a ‘volunteer’ executive for the ‘charity’ Hand-in-Hand-for Syria (recently rebranded as Hand in Hand for Aid and Development) and (former?) BBC TV presenter, Saleyha Ahsan, an ex-captain in the British Army Medical Corps. The former’s father, Dr Mousa al-Kurdi, is a senior Syrian opposition member.

Atareb Hospital’s self-proclaimed, Medical Director, Abdulrahman Obied, was filmed alongside Dr Rola Hallam. In a blog article, Stuart showed that Abdulrahman’s younger brother, Iessa Obied, posted on Facebook numerous images of himself posing with an array of weapons.

All of this information was hidden from the public by the BBC.

Safe passage

More recently, Stuart has alleged, convincingly, that BBC licence fee money was used to ensure the safe passage of Pannell and Conway and that the film-makers were given protection by the ISIS-affiliated Salafist terror group, Ahrar al-Sham.

According to Stuart:

“The award-winning team of reporter Ian Pannell and cameraman Darren Conway OBE were embedded with jihadi group Ahrar al-Sham which, according to Human Rights Watch, had three weeks earlier worked alongside Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra as one of the key fundraisers, organizers, planners, and executors of an attack in which at least 190 civilians were killed and over 200 were kidnapped.”

Furthermore, in the midst of the crisis, Stuart produced evidence that “Conway filmed, at close quarters, an ambulance plainly bearing the ISIS logo, along with its militarily attired and armed occupants.”

Concerns

This prompted Stuart to report  Pannell and Conway’s flagrant abuse of their positions as professional BBC journalists to the National Counter Terrorism Security Office on the grounds that:

“the named individuals apparently established a business relationship with members of a jihadi group with links to al-Qaeda and ISIS in Syria in August 2013.”

In a January 2018 blog piece, Stuart mooted the possibility of a connection between the alleged incendiary attack and the then incipient White Helmets. The researcher confirmed the veracity of this assertion in a follow-up article where he demonstrated that senior White Helmets members were present at Atareb Hospital on this date.

Stuart outlined the above issues to his constituency MP, Shadow Defense Secretary, Emily Thornberry, and opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn but neither have addressed any of his legitimate concerns.

Sham

The researcher has also presented his findings in open public forums on numerous occasions and the BBC have been informed of an award-winning U.S online magazine’s description of Saving Syria’s Children as “a sham.”

Despite this, neither Stuart nor the said U.S online magazine, have been threatened by the BBC with any injunctions which would almost certainly have been the case had the allegations or claims been false.

The controversy that surrounds Saving Syria’s Children and the BBCs connections to Islamist terrorist groups, including the White Helmets, adds fuel to the fire of those independent researchers and journalists who posit that mainstream coverage of the current turmoil in Syria is emblematic of the corporate media’s systematic war propaganda against the Syrian government of Bashar-al-Assad.

It is clear that the BBC not only colluded in the production of false UK government propaganda intended to influence a vote in parliament to commit British troops to Syria in yet another illegal war, but that they did so by engaging in a sophisticated and well-planned series of events. This involved the active participation, not only of Islamist terrorists and their sympathizers, but the embedding of its journalists.

Conclusion

As the decline in traditional forms of media begins to take hold, the notion of the documentary as a sophisticated form of war propaganda, is increasingly being sold as a the new form of communication to the public. Indeed, Saving Syria’s Children must be seen in the context of the 2018 Oscar-nominated, emotionally charged propaganda documentary Last Men in Aleppo.

The willingness of the BBC to overtly fund and directly produce war propaganda would appear to be a first for the corporation. Their actions are not only inexcusable, but they have the potential to pose a serious risk to national security and to further undermine what little remains of the trust the public has in the corporation’s ability to report accurately and objectively on issues of national importance.

Robert Stuart contacted Jeremy Corbyn, requesting the need for a public investigation into Saving Syria’s Children. That time has now come.

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The bizarre world of Peter Hitchens

By Daniel Margrain

Peter Hitchens Says Tories Should 'Call Themselves the ...

Author and journalist, Peter Hitchens, is probably the most enigmatic and controversial public figure currently working in the corporate mainstream media today. Most noted for his six published books and his Mail on Sunday newspaper column, Hitchens seemed to be destined for a life of controversy at an early age, when in his youth, he was arrested for breaking into a government fall-out shelter in Cambridge.

While studying Politics and Philosophy at the University of York, Hitchens became embroiled in what is now the Socialist Workers Party. While publicly admonishing himself from what he described in later life as a Trotskyite “disease”, he nevertheless recognized the important role that the analytical rigour associated with Marxism was to play in formulating what he perceives are his critical thought processes.

Hitchens is a great example of the quote “If a man is not a socialist by the time he is 20, he has no heart. If he is not a conservative by the time he is 40, he has no brain,” even if a great many of conservative utterances put the second conclusion in doubt.

The media commentators journalistic career began with the Daily Express in 1977. This was also the first of six years he spent in the Labour Party. Having moved to Communist eastern Europe where he worked as a foreign affairs reporter (he became the Daily Express resident Moscow Correspondent in June 1990), he soon become disillusioned with the movement he ingratiated himself with, eventually embracing the Thatcherite critiques of the Soviet satellite bureaucracies of the Cold War period.

Hitchens left Moscow in 1992 basing himself for a brief period in London. He then reported from South Africa during the last days of apartheid, and from Somalia at the time of the US-led military intervention in the country. In September 1993 he became the Daily Express resident Washington correspondent, and during the next two years he reported from all over the United States, as well as from Canada, Haiti and Cuba.

After having completed a five year stint as commentator and columnist for the Daily Express from 1995-2000, Hitchens quit joining The Mail on Sunday, where he has a weekly column and weblog. In 1997 he joined the Conservative Party but left in 2003. Hitchens has authored and presented several documentaries for British television.

In addition, he has been a regular contributor to numerous UK TV discussion and debating programmes in which many of his controversial views – teenage pregnancy, drugs, sexuality, religion, public health and morality, education, international relations etc  –  have been aired.

Particular pet hates of the Mail on Sunday columnist include, abortionhomosexuality, birth control, feministsleftists, all pop and rock music in totality, human-induced climate changeevolutionIslam, secularism, neoliberalism and the metric system.

Among his core believes are that women who are raped should be denied anonymity; that woman’s place is in the home; that women should not have access to contraception; that women should not have premarital sex and that women should not have the right to an abortion.

He has also posited that homosexuality is something that should be kept “in the bedroom” and, in a January 2009 column, propagated the ‘just world fallacy’ by claiming that there is no objective poverty in the UK only that people suffer from “moral poverty”. According to Hitchens, the poor are being punished because there is “an almost total absence of good examples in their lives”, while the middle class are “better off because they are good.”

In addition to fanning hatred of women and gay people while helping to legitimize poverty, Hitchens also helped fan the flames of the anti-MMR vaccine hysteria. He has consistently promoted and attempted to justify his pseudo-scientific outlook by citing the disgraced former physician and medical researcher, Andrew Wakefield, who was one of the modern movements originators.

In terms of the debates around immigration, Hitchens paints himself as a defender of ‘traditional English values’ characteristic of a ‘return’ to a ‘lost’ quasi-religious idyllic past imbued with a yearning for nostalgia. The illogical inference made by Hitchens that rural England (in which only a minority of the population has lived since the great expansion of the 19th Century) is inherently more English than urban England (even though England was the world leader in mass urbanisation), has palpably racist overtones that cannot be nullified by reference to a romanticised rose-tinted view of the past that never existed.

But it’s Hitchens denial of the reality of the science underpinning man-made climate change that is the basis of arguably his most bizarre thesis. The fact-based debate on this is as one-sided as bringing an 8-inch atomic artillery piece to a knife fight. So Hitchens denial of the science inevitably involves a barrage of bad-faith misdirection tactics that do nothing to rebut the scientific consensus at issue.

Whilst it is encouraging that Hitchens opposed the war on Iraq; has challenged the media propaganda on Syria and is in favour of the re-nationalization of Britain’s railways, the vast majority of his views which the media barons are happy for him to espouse to millions of people, are not only insane, but are highly inflammatory, dangerous and misinformed.

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Masters of war: How the corporate media deceive the public

By Daniel Margrain

Mainstream <b>Media</b> <b>Lies</b> About Charleston, Guns & Racism With ...

In September, 2016, UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, effectively announced that the British government had channeled £2.3 billion in support of propaganda campaigns in Syria of which charities and NGOs like Hand in Hand, the Syria Campaign and the funding of terrorist mercenary forces, are an integral part.

It has been noted that the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), working with the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the Home Office and the Prime Minister’s Office, formed contracts companies for the express purpose of creating ‘targeted information’.

The means by which this is achieved is through the production of videos, photos, military reports, radio broadcasts, print products and social media posts branded with the logos of fighting groups. One of the most prominent of the groups allegedly overseen by the MoD, are the White Helmets, who Johnson named, and whose members are affiliated to Islamist terrorist groups.

The corporate mainstream media are failing in their duty to reveal what the true foreign policy objectives of Johnson and his government are in Syria and the wider middle east region, nor have elite corporate journalists critically evaluated their own integration within the state apparatus.

By acting as echo chambers for Western imperial power, the role of the said journalists when reporting on foreign affairs is akin to stenography. Examples include the Telegraph’s reaction to the Houla massacre of May 25, 2012 which cast Syria into the ‘civil war’ and the widespread misrepresentation of the UN report into the Ghouta chemical attack of August 21, 2013.

Then there has been the rush to judgement by Guardian and New York Times journalists in relation to the alleged April 4, 2017 sarin attack in the Syrian town of Khan Seikhoun, and the media’s failure to follow-up on allegations made by investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, that the CIA, with the support of M16, was responsible for ensuring the transportation of arms by Islamist groups from Libya to Syria.

The BBC Panorama documentary, Saving Syria’s Children, Channel 4 News, Up Close With the Rebels and the fake The Caesar Torture Photos story,  illustrate the extent to which the media has attempted to disorientate the public. These examples of ‘news’ functioning as propaganda in the service of power in relation to Syria, however, represent the tip of a huge iceberg.

Independent researcher and investigative journalist, Vanessa Beeley, has meticulously documented numerous occasions where the BBC and Channel 4 News have relied solely on unsubstantiated and biased Syrian opposition ‘rebel’ sources for its reports, and where dissenters of the official narrative have been smeared and abused by Guardian journalists simply for asking ‘difficult’ questions.

Moreover, the heavy reliance on what were clearly fake reports by al-Jazeera and CNN,  intended to sway public opinion in support of foreign intervention in Syria, adds fuel to the fire of those who accuse the elite media of being nothing more than conduits for  state power when it comes to their reporting of foreign affairs that involves the interests of the imperialist nations and their proxies.

Recent reports of protests throughout Iran, which investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed stated were fomented by the U.S State Department, are the consequence of harsh U.S economic sanctions of the sort used against Iraq and Syria. But this kind of ’cause and effect’ analysis is totally absent from mainstream news reportage. In short, the inability of elite journalists to report critically on foreign affairs which have the potential to cast the empire in a bad light, is indicative of a democratic deficit.

This is reflected in the highly concentrated nature of media ownership. Writer Tom London points out that almost 48% of the combined print and online press is owned by just two billionaires – Rothermere and Murdoch – and 75.1% is owned by just six billionaires. These media barons have shared economic interests with the military and political establishment that perpetual war helps facilitate. The securing of these narrow interests are antithetical to the notion of a fair, free and open media.

Author Ed Jones points to other factors that are symptomatic of the lack of democracy at the heart of the media system. These include its domination by privately-educated white men, the politicisation of sources and the manipulation of the press by the intelligence services.

The billionaire media barons understand the importance, not only of spending huge amounts of money on advertising and public relations, but also of employing ‘liberal-left’ journalists whose apparent principal role is to function as ‘gate-keepers’ for established power. Indeed, what John Pilger referred to as “counterfeit journalism” in which “the surface of events is not disturbed”, is central to the ability of the media barons to engineer the public’s consent.

As Jones points out, it’s the billionaires who own the press that set the news agenda. The BBC, who are among the forefront of news agenda-setting media in the UK, play a particularly pernicious role in the propaganda process by amplifying it due to their reputation for alleged impartiality.

However, the central role of the British state broadcaster is to spread ‘British values’ to a global market in much the same way the U.S government spends hundreds of millions annually on outfits like RFE/RL in order to spread ‘American values’.

In other words, the default position of the British state broadcaster is their false sense of entitlement to report selectively on international affairs in order to protect perceived “British interests”. Thus, embedded journalism that ignores ‘our’ criminality is deemed to be acceptable based on the flawed premise that elected politicians serve the people, and that it is the task of the BBC to support, not undermine, democracy.

The founder of the BBC, Lord Reith, was more honest in his assessment of the structural bias of the media, the BBCs role within it, and its relationship to the elite political-media class: “[The establishment] know they can trust us not to be really impartial”, he said.

The recent willingness by the BBC to offer an uncritical platform to the head of the CIA is an example of the corporations dual function role as purveyor of state propaganda in which both Westminster and Washington benefit. Apparently, propaganda only becomes a “problem” when Russia’s state broadcaster, Russia Today (RT), are themselves accused of actively promoting it.

As historian Mark Curtis pointed out, the simple truth is elites do not believe the public has a right to know what is being done in their name. The questioning of prevailing narratives leads critics open to smears and abuse. In relation to Syria, Louis Allday posited that to express “even a mildly dissenting opinion … has seen many people ridiculed and attacked [by liberal-left journalists] … These attacks are rarely, if ever, reasoned critiques of opposing views”.

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Are the ‘liberal’ media betraying the people of the middle east?

By Daniel Margrain

 

Fake images about Aleppo circulate on social media

In this article I will argue that the corporate mainstream media uncritically promulgate regime change narratives in the middle east that coincide with the interests of Western imperial power whose latest goal is the removal of president Bashar- al-Assad from power. As with Iraq, this goal preceded the stated justifications which were retrofitted to an act of aggression.

In 2011, Time reporter, Rania Abouzeid, announced the March 4 and 5, “Day of Rage” against the Syrian president, which was intended as an invocation to the masses in Syria to rise up against their “brutal dictator”. However,  the planned action ended up a complete failure.

At this stage, the empire pinned its hopes on the fact that the culmination of eight years of crippling U.S-led economic sanctions would be sufficient enough a catalyst for mass protests against the Assad government. However, the said sanctions had the reverse affect. On the March 29, 2011, tens of thousands of Syrians gathered at Central Bank Square in Damascus in support of their president.

Nevertheless, the pro-government rally was inaccurately portrayed in the Western media as an anti-government demonstration. The Guardian, for instance, reported the rally, not as a celebration, but as a “military crackdown [by the state] against civilians.”

A year later, on March 27, 2012, president Assad accepted in good faith the six-point Annan peace plan which was ostensibly intended to secure a diplomatic solution to end the growing violence in the country that escalated on March 17, 2011 in the Syrian-Jordanian town of Daraa.

The mainstream media collectively failed in their duty to report the fact the imperial powers reneged on their obligations. To my knowledge, not a single prominent journalist brought to the public’s attention that the U.S and its allies broke their “crystal-cut commitment” to stop aiding rebel fighters which was an integral part of the agreement between the respective parties.

The jihadists continued to rain shells down on the cities of Hama and Homs despite Syria’s commitment that it would abide by the terms of the ceasefire on the condition that the West stop arming the rebels.

That the Western imperial powers have shown no intention of reaching a genuine peaceful outcome to the regional mess they instigated, has never been the preferred media narrative. In Iraq, for example, the evidence that NATO did everything they could to obstruct a peaceful resolution in the country is overwhelming but, to my knowledge, has not been reported as such.

The same can be said of Libya. According to the text of UNSCR 1973, the aim was to facilitate dialogue between the various factions in the country. But this was rendered absurd by the subsequent rejection by the West of proposals put forward by the African Union.

So why wasn’t this reported?

A rare voice of dissent was Seumas Milne who observed:

“If stopping the killing had been the real aim, NATO states would have backed a ceasefire and a negotiated settlement, rather than repeatedly vetoing both.”

This is not a theoretical point. NATO flatly rejected all ceasefire and peace proposals in Libya and demanded that Gaddafi “step down” in much the same way they demanded it of Assad in Syria. The motives of the imperial powers and their proxies in the middle east are characterized as benign. But this is an illusion.

The fomenting of war and chaos in Iraq and Libya by the U.S and its allies, from which spawned al-Qaida and ISIS, are the same forces that are tearing Syria and, at the time of writing, Iran apart. Recent reports of widespread protests throughout the latter are the consequence of U.S economic sanctions of the kind used against Iraq and Syria. As journalist Nafeez Ahmed reported, the said protests were fomented by the U.S State Department.

Iran is being punished for fighting Western-backed jihadists and standing in the way of US-Israeli hegemony in the region. But it’s unlikely the public would be able to reach this conclusion by reading the so-called progressive liberal press.

The BBC Panorama documentary, Saving Syria’s Children, Channel 4 News, Up Close With the Rebels and The Caesar Torture Photos represent far more overt attempts at disorientating the public. The former, in particular, is arguably the greatest single piece of state-sanctioned propaganda to have been produced anywhere in the world.

By repeating the propaganda of Western governments, the media have consistently acted as stenographers. Examples include the Telegraph’s reaction to the Houla massacre of May 25, 2012 which cast Syria into the ‘civil war’ of the Wests making, and the widespread misrepresentation of the UN report into the Ghouta chemical attack of August 21, 2013.

One day after the attack, a Guardian editorial claimed there was not “much doubt” who was to blame for the incident, as it simultaneously assailed its readers with commentary on the West’s “responsibility to protect”.

Journalist Jonathan Freedland’s reaction in the Guardian to the alleged chemical attack on April 4, 2017 in the Syrian town of Khan Seikhoun, was a virtual carbon copy of the papers reaction to Ghouta almost four years previously.

Freedland wrote a day after the incident:

“We almost certainly know who did it. Every sign points to the regime of Bashar al-Assad.”

What these ‘signs’ are were not specified in the article.

Freedland’s rush to judgement, was similarly adopted by George Monbiot. On Twitter (April 7, 2017) the writer claimed:

“We can be 99% sure the chemical weapons attack came from Syrian govt.”

Three days later, media analysts Media Lens challenged Monbiot by citing the views of two former UN weapons inspectors, both of whom contradicted Monbiot’s assertion. “What do you know that Hans Blix and Scott Ritter don’t know?”, inquired the analysts. Monbiot failed to reply.

Conclusion

Corporate mainstream journalism is predicated on sustaining the illusion that ‘progressive’ writers fundamentally challenge the status quo. The reality is, if journalists in highly influential positions really posed a threat to established power, they wouldn’t be in the positions they are in.

As Upton Sinclair famously remarked:

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

Thus, highly paid corporate journalists are akin to gatekeepers. Their role is to manipulate public opinion in the service of power rather than to fundamentally challenge it.

One of the key signs of a healthy democracy is the extent to which both the state and corporate media encourage a genuine diversity of opinions and the conditions for alternative narratives to flourish. On both counts, the mainstream corporate media have failed not only the Syrian’s but the people of Iraq, Libya and Iran.

The inability of corporate journalists to report truthfully, is indicative of a structural and systematic media bias. Its highly concentrated nature has resulted in a sustained narrative of misinformation, deceptions and outright lies.

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Saving Syria’s Children: Was BBC license fee money used to support an Islamist terror group protection-racket?

By Daniel Margrain

  In Saving Syria’s Children the logo of Salafist terror group, Ahrar al-Sham, is visible on the front of one the vehicles in Pannell and Conway’s security convoy (Source: Robert Stuart).

For many years I have been following Robert Stuart’s exhaustive and detailed exposition of the possible fabrications behind the infamous BBC Panorama documentary ‘Saving Syria’s Children’. The documentary was made in response to the alleged dropping of an incendiary bomb containing a “napalm-type” substance on the playground of the Urm al-Kubra school near Aleppo.

The BBC team comprising reporter, Ian Pannell and cameraman, Darren Conway were inside Syria when the alleged attack happened. They reported on, and filmed, the incoming casualties arriving at the Atareb hospital on 26 August 2013. The footage formed the basis of the documentary.

Stuart contends that the filmed sequences were largely, if not entirely, staged. Scenes from the documentary were shown as part of a brief BBC News at Ten broadcast report by Pannell and Conway which contained harrowing scenes of teenage boys and young men, their skin apparently in tatters, racing into what the report describes as “a basic hospital funded by handouts” to be treated for burns. In one particularly disturbing scene a tableau of young men writhe, drool and groan, seemingly in great distress.

My first impression after having seen the film was that it was contrived and staffed by actors. What initially led me to this conclusion were the actions of the central figure, Mohammed Asi, who looked directly into the camera for several moments before raising his arm, at which point the group around him instantly became animated before moaning in unison.

Many other anomalies and contradictions too numerous to mention here in detail were evident throughout the Panorama documentary and the related reports. These included:

– Conflicting and contradictory accounts.

– A “victim” who appeared to be grinning.

– Implausible demeanours of alleged victims.

– Questions as to the authenticity of the alleged burns to victims by experienced doctors.

– Apparent choreographed behaviour.

– Unconvincing injuries.

– Testimonies that challenged the BBC version of events.

I attended Robert Stuart’s most recent public presentation of his findings in London which can be viewed here

Saving Syria’s Children made reference to two British female doctors, Rola Hallam a ‘volunteer’ for the ‘charity’ Hand-in-Hand-for Syria, and (former?) BBC TV presenter, Saleyha Ahsan.

Dr Rola’s father, Dr Mousa al-Kurdi, is a senior Syrian opposition member, while her on-site colleague, Dr Ahsan, is a former captain in the British Army Medical Corps. All of this information was hidden from the public by the BBC.

The British state broadcaster has not addressed any of the legitimate issues raised by Stuart. All of the anomalies and contradictions highlighted call into question the authenticity of the entire alleged attack.

The researcher has presented his findings in open public forums on numerous occasions and has not been threatened, legally, with any injunctions or forms of legal redress which would almost certainly have been the case had the allegations been false.

Most recently, Stuart has argued, convincingly, that Pannell and Conway were given protection by the ISIS-affiliated Salafist terror group, Ahrar al-Sham. On 22 November, 2017, Stuart reported the activities of Pannell and Conway – that amounted to colluding with executioners – to Britain’s National Counter Terrorism Security Office.

Not only is it shocking that the British public helped fund the production of anti-Syrian government propaganda in the form of Saving Syria’s Children, but that they also inadvertently helped support an Islamist terrorist protection racket to enable this to happen.

It appears to be increasingly clear that BBC licence fee money was used to allow the safe passage of Pannell and Conway to and from the location where Saving Syria’s Children was being filmed.

The actions of the BBC are not only inexcusable, but they have the potential to pose a serious risk to national security and to further undermine what little remains of the trust the public has in the national state broadcaster to report accurately and objectively on issues of national importance.

It is clear that the BBC not only colluded in the production of false UK government propaganda intended to influence a vote in parliament to commit British troops to Syria in yet another illegal war, but that they did so by engaging in a sophisticated and well-planned series of events that involved the active participation of Islamist terrorists and their sympathizers.

While the UK foreign office and high-ranking government ministers are eager to publicly condemn terrorist atrocities committed against UK citizens on British soil, what has not been widely acknowledged is the extent to which the British state is complicit in furthering the terrorists objectives in Syria. This has serious potential implications for all UK citizens in terms of helping to facilitate ‘blow-back’ on the streets of our towns and cities.

Evidence produced from independent journalists like Vanessa Beeley, Eva Bartlett and others who have exposed the nefarious activities of UK-funded ‘humanitarian’ organisations like the White Helmets and Hand in Hand, add to accusation that the role of the BBC is that of a propaganda conduit for UK imperial power in the countries these groups operate. After having studied Robert Stuart’s analysis in detail, it is difficult to arrive at any other conclusion.

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Why the corporate media continue to obfuscate in relation to Assad sarin attack claims

By Daniel Margrain

“A new report from the UN has found that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces are to blame for a deadly chemical attack that killed more than 90 people in a rebel village earlier this year”, proclaimed a recent Independent article.

Contradicting what the paper alluded was a definitive statement of fact, the article continued:

“The investigation from the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), released on Thursday [October 26], said that experts are confident that the Syrian Arab Republic is responsible for the release of sarin at Khan Sheikhoun on 4 April 2017”.

UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, was quick to emphasize the former interpretation when he stated:

“The independent [OPCW] report from expert investigators reach a clear conclusion: the Assad regime used sarin nerve gas against the people of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria on 4 April with tragic consequences for hundreds of victims.”

However, Russian officials claimed that the reports methodology, that included the sequence and storage of material evidence, the use of fake evidence and biased sources, was flawed.

The Russian claims appear to be credible. Details outlined by Moon of Alabama indicate that the alleged gas attack was used by the US government as their justification to launch an illegal missile strike on Syria’s al-Shayrat airbase on April 7, three days later. The decision to attack the airbase, in other words, had already been made; that it preceded the justification, which was being retrofitted to an act of aggression.

It’s a measure of the extent to which the mass media have become embedded within the deep state of government that president Trump, with near-unanimous journalistic support, was able to launch the April 7 attack on the airbase. Cathy Newman on Channel 4 News (April 10, 2017), for example, stated without evidence to support her assertion, that the US attack was “in retaliation to a sarin gas attack by president Assad”.

We’ve been here before

The release of the latest OPCW-UN report follows on the heels of another similarly flawed August, 2015 OPCW-UN report in connection with Security Council resolution 2235. The report which was aimed at introducing new sanctions against Syria didn’t make the claims subsequently attributed to it by the corporate media, namely that between April, 2014 and August, 2015 the Assad government was definitively responsible for three chemical attacks using chlorine.

Referring to the August, 2015 reports many caveats and reservations, security analyst Charles Shoebridge argued that the evidence “wasn’t sufficiently good to declare that Syria had dropped chlorine to a standard that could be considered “strong”, or “overwhelming”, adding that “investigators were largely reliant on reports from the [pro-rebel terror organisation] the White Helmets.”

Furthermore, independent journalist Gareth Porter inferred that U.N. investigators increasingly make their conclusions fall in line with Western propaganda after he exposed distortions contained in a March 1, 2017 report by the United Nations’ “Independent International Commission of Inquiry which claimed that an airstrike on a humanitarian aid convoy in the west of Aleppo City on September. 19, 2016, was undertaken by Syrian government planes. Porter revealed that the reports findings, also based on White Helmets testimonies, were “full of internal contradictions.”

Purveyor of propaganda

Despite the reservations as to the veracity of previous UN reports outlined, Boris Johnson’s eagerness to uncritically promote the latest OPCW offering is indicative of his role as a purveyor of UK government propaganda.

He has form in this regard. In September last year, for example, Johnson engaged in a piece of foreign office-produced theatre. The UK foreign secretary claimed the government had earmarked £2.3 billion towards supporting human rights organisations in Syria.

The money, however, was almost certainly channeled into promoting sophisticated propaganda campaigns and the funding of mercenary forces. The ultimate objective, as French foreign minister Roland Dumas admitted, is regime change in Syria that the UK government have “prepared, conceived and organised.”

However, impending defeat for the West in Syria prompted rhetorical flourishes from mainstream reporters and politicians alike that have shifted from the surreal to the absurd. Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, for example, described the liberation of Aleppo as a “tragedy”.

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