A fake news story has been circulating on both mainstream media and alt-media saying that Russia and Iran have issued a joint threat to ‘use force’ in the event of the US targeting Syrian forces again. It was also reported that the issue was quoted as being a ‘red line’, a term generally used by the United States.
This blatantly false story was picked up by the following media outlets
The Sunday Express and Zero Hedge both cite something called Ilam al Harbi media as the source of information for the story.
A quick English language Google search for ‘Ilam al Harbi’ comes up with several articles from Yemen Press, none of which lead to a story about the Putin/Rouhani phone call or anything else concerning Russia/Iranian responses to the US attack on Syria.
Additionally there is a Saudi based telecom company called al-Harbi whose website can be found here. It is not a news website in any way shape or form.
A report from the usually reliable Al-Masdar news has produced an Arabic language document purportedly from a joint military command centre used by Russia, Iran, Syria and Hezbollah. Although, Iran, Russia and Syria do share intelligence and cooperate in the Syrian war against terrorism, the existence of the specific ‘joint command centre’ in question, seems to be inaccurate if not entirely fabricated in this context.
In all likelihood, the document is a forgery produced by those who seek to spread false stories about the strategy of Russia, Iran, Syria and Hezbollah. The second most likely scenario is that the document was produced by middle or low ranking military personnel who do not speak for any of the aforementioned parties.
Because the document is in Arabic, it is unlikely to have originated in either Russia or Iran.
The actual content of the well documented phone call between the Russian and Iranian Presidents entirely contradicts the dubious document and is totally in line with official and de-facto Russian and Iranian policy.
Vladimir Putin and Hassan Rouhani pledged to continue support for the Syrian government in its war against terrorism. The two leaders additionally pledged to cooperate further on issues of regional stability.
They also called for an investigation into the chemical attack which America used as the proximate cause of the missile strike on Syria.
Further information on the phone conversation can be found in the original report from The Duran.
Whoever has spread this fake news clearly wants to paint Russia and Iran as violent, unhinged and destabilising as the United States.
Fake news is being used to try to increase tensions, this is not only irresponsible but it is dangerous, as dangerous as the lies upon which the US attack was based.
In 2015, the United States government earmarked at least US$4.26 million for Venezuela through the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, with much of this going to organizations undertaking anti-government work.
Almost US$2 million of these funds were funneled through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), an organization created in 1982 purportedly “dedicated to the growth and strengthening of democratic institutions around the world.” Of these funds, US$849,223 were allocated for “civic” or electoral purposes including the creation of an “interactive online platform connecting citizens to National Assembly candidates,” along with US$160,813 for the promotion of “free market” reforms.
Some US$505,796 were disbursed for media purposes including funds to “radio programs”, “alternative channels to generate and disseminate news and information”,”local independent journalists and alternative media outlets in defending freedom of expression and democracy” as well as for training “journalists on investigative journalism and the use of social media in disseminating news.”
With more than US$170 million in annual funding from the U.S. State Department through USAID, the NED provides 1,000 more grants to support organizations that promote U.S. foreign policy objectives in more than 90 countries. In addition to the NED, USAID also partners with Freedom House, The International Republican Institute, The National Democratic Institute and The Pan-American Development Foundation of the Organization of American States.
The U.S. Congress also provides some US$777.8 million for the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which runs the Voice of America, as well as the anti-Cuban government outlets Radio Marti and TV Marti, while also providing millions in funds to media organizations and journalists who opposed governments that are at odds with U.S. interests.
The NED also boasted about the impacts of its funding on the outcomes of elections in Argentina
“In Argentina and Venezuela, NED grantees played key roles to promote free and fair elections,” the NED’s 2015 report states.
“Mauricio Macri won Argentina’s presidential election, an outcome that symbolized the end of the Kirchner imposed, populist and authoritarian political model. In Venezuela, legislative elections in December 2015 gave the political opposition a supermajority in the National Assembly for the first time in 18 years of Chavista rule. A strong opposition presence in the legislative branch may help reverse Venezuela’s devastatingly anti-democratic government.”
While the government-funded NED does specify grant recipients in certain countries, neither the report nor the organization’s website names the organizations that received funding in the case of Venezuela.
In 2015, the NED also spent some US$1,047,818 in Ecuador and US$883,620 in Bolivia to support organizations working against those left-wing governments.
Since winning a majority of the National Assembly in 2015, Venezuela’s MUD opposition has been accused of attempting to create an institutional crisis between branches of government through repeatedly attempting to pass laws in direct contravention to the country’s constitution, such as a law that attempted to retroactively reduce the presidential term.
Opposition leaders, who have been increasingly calling for street demonstrations to oust the Maduro government, have cited the impasse as grounds for foreign intervention.
A lawyer for one of Venezuela’s most prominent right-wing politicians was detained Tuesday in Caracas, after allegedly being found with materials used in counterfeiting, according to unconfirmed reports.
The lawyer, Ana Teresa Argotti, was allegedly taken into police custody after a routine traffic stop. From her vehicle, police reportedly uncovered 17 identity cards, six passports, more than 30 official government stamps and raw materials used in the counterfeiting. The story was originally published by online news blog La Tabla. Along with the statement of an anonymous source, the blog also published photos that appeared to show Argotti in police custody. In one of the photos, Argotti appeared to be shown with her seized property, including the six passports, ID cards and both US and Venezuelan currency.
Argotti is reportedly the lawyer of Lilian Tintori. Tintori is the wife of Leopoldo Lopez, an opposition leader sentenced to over 13 years imprisonment for his role in leading violent anti-government protests in 2014.
The blog also claimed Argotti is the partner of former Venezuelan diplomatic staffer Misael Lopez. Lopez has accused Venezuelan diplomatic officials in Iraq of fraudulently selling hundreds of passports. The Venezuelan government has denied the claims and accused Lopez of acting as an agent of the US.
Venezuelanalysis cannot confirm the authenticity of the La Tabla report, though similar stories have been picked up by state media outlet teleSUR and Russia’s RT – both seemingly based on La Tabla’s piece.
Right-wing newspaper El Nacional has also reported on the story, including allegations police falsified evidence against Argotti.
“A source close to El Nacional Online confirmed that Argotti, adviser to Lilian Tintori, is under arrest,” the newspaper reported.
“However, they clarified that the items seized from the lawyer were ‘planted’,” El Nacional reported.
By now, you’ve heard the news.
Since Tuesday, right-wing opposition protesters in Venezuela have led violent demonstrations against the socialist government, throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks at police.
Despite one reported casualty, Venezuelan police have largely been on the defensive, using shields and water cannons to protect themselves from protesters.
On Saturday, however, when protesters intensified their attacks on police, opposition leaders claimed President Nicolas Maduro’s administration used “toxic weapons” to shut down anti-government demonstrations.
El Hatillo Mayor David Smolansky, a leading figure of the opposition Popular Will party, alleged on Twitter that “Nicolas Maduro is beginning to use chemical weapons as they are using in Syria.”
“I denounce that the Guard (police) used a ‘red chemical gas’ that is prohibited,” Smolansky added.
But Smolansky wasn’t the only opposition leader spreading this unsubstantiated allegation.
Venezuelan National Assembly member Armando Armas also claimed Maduro “attacked the population with red toxic gas,” calling him a “dictator” on Twitter. And Popular Will coordinator Marcela Maspero said “police are using a red gas to repress us,” adding that “it can be neutralized with soda and lemon.”
If you haven’t yet figured out why these allegations are fake news, here are three hints.
First, and perhaps most obviously, because hundreds of people would have instantly died if the alleged “red toxic gas” was a chemical weapon as used in Syria.
Second, because the Venezuelan government does not currently possess chemical weapons, nor has it ever possessed them, according to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
Finally, because the right-wing opposition has presented no proof whatsoever of alleged chemical weapons used by Maduro’s administration.
Although Maduro has not commented on the faux allegations of police allegedly using a “red chemical gas,” he has remarked on how violent opposition forces will stop at nothing to provoke war.
“U.S. imperialism is based on lies in order to undertake its interventions against nations,” Maduro said on Friday while commenting on Syria, citing Libya and Iraq as other examples.
Almost 60 percent of the people in Germany say the US strike on a Syrian airbase earlier in the week was the wrong thing to do, according to a poll commissioned by Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
The poll, ordered by the media outlet and conducted by Emnid-TNS company, asked respondents about Washington’s decision to launch Tomahawk missiles at the Syrian airfield.
The survey revealed that 26 percent approved, and 59 percent disapproved of the attack on the military site.
The majority of the respondents, 80 percent, also think that no more strikes should be made on Syrian territory. Only nine percent would welcome further US attacks on the country.
The US said the bombardment was in response to a suspected chemical gas attack in Idlib, which Washington claims Syrian President Bashar Assad and his government were responsible for.
A total of 59 Tomahawk missiles launched from American warships hit Shayrat airfield, where it is alleged that Syrian planes with chemical weapons took off.
The Bild am Sonntag survey also found that 40 percent of Germans fear that the strike can provoke military conflict between Russia and the US, while 53 percent do not believe it is a possible outcome.
Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has voiced concerns over the escalation of tensions between Moscow and Washington, Bild reports, citing the minister.
Gabriel also called for international experts to help conduct an investigation into the alleged chemical weapons assault.
“It is important that the UN and experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) gain immediate access and can carry out their investigation without hindrance,” – he told Bild newspaper in the interview.
Russia has also advocated sending professionals to investigate, saying that it is “the only way to receive and present to the whole international community any objective evidence on the alleged presence of poisonous substances.”
The German foreign minister said that the alleged chemical attack was a “barbaric act” and that it was plausible that the Syrian president was behind it, though he did not provide any evidence to support the allegations.
Damascus has denied all allegations, saying that the Syrian military hit a warehouse where terrorists could have produced and stored chemical materials.
Moscow also pointed out that Syria has eliminated its stockpiles of chemical weapons, which was confirmed by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
So, let me get this straight,
“Amalek hated Jews and wanted to annihilate ALL of them”
“Pharaoh of Egypt enslaved Jews and wanted to kill them ALL”
“Haman of Persia planned to kill ALL Jews”
“Hitler of Germany wanted to exterminate ALL Jews”
“Two Billion Muslims hate Jews and want to kill them ALL”
So, the entire world since the dawn of time has this inexplicable intrinsic “hatred” against Jews, for no particular reason ?
I.e the entire world is nothing but a bunch of hateful criminals, who are intrinsically evil, and only Jews are good who have always been the pure innocent victims of a mad world?
Oh HELL NO
The claim that gentiles are innately “hateful antisemites” is not only wrong. It is OUTRAGEOUSLY RACIST, and OUTRAGEOUSLY ANTI-HUMAN.
The level of “anti-human RACISM” is surpassed by none.
They dare to accuse entire peoples and cultures and even mankind as whole, with being GENETICALLY “antisemites” by propagating such enormous FALSE accusation, rather than having an honest look at themselves.
“Anti-Semitism is part of Europe’s DNA”, they dare to say!
I, an exiled SEMITE Palestinian, am no longer willing to hear a word about “antisemitism”, for we have been at the receiving end of vehement antisemitism for over a century. Jewish Zionists and their global network of supporters are the most antisemitic group humanity have ever seen. period
No longer should we tolerate being subjected to, or falling for the vacuous accusation of so called “antisemitism”.
Moreover, we are now demanding an exposure of the SUPREMACY and RACISM within Jewish IDEOLOGY.
We demand an END to the anti-gentilism within that ideology.
It is about time that supremacists are brought before mankind to answer for their anti-human, anti-gentile ideology, attitude and behaviour
69 years ago today – The Deir Yassin Massacre Israel Forces Murder over 100 Palestinians Including Women and Children
I grew up in a country far removed from the horrors of Deir Yassin, but I’ve lived with the snapshots of the massacre my entire life. My grandmother’s Nakba trauma has permeated my inner life, and I’ve known the world of acute agony and the mockery of what human life has been reduced to for the Palestinian people. Every massacre and assault carried out in Zionism’s calculated desire for control adds another layer to the trans-generational transmission of trauma of Palestinians everywhere. Like the bombs that Israel drops on civilian populations, dispersing their incendiary fallout in distant places long after the initial explosion, the psychological trauma continues.
When they said that there would come a time when the old would die and the young would forget, they didn’t realize that Palestinians who grow up fluent in a language of trauma and resistance could never forget. But more importantly, they refuse to.
The significance of the need to preserve the memory of what happened at Deir Yassin remains woven into our DNA. It’s a name that flickers at the edge of our consciousness, resonating in the Palestinian collective memory with chilling significance. My grandmother’s story has taken up residence in my soul. It became the blood coursing through my veins, reverberating in my heart and graven in my memories.
The collective Palestinian narrative is written in indelible link and though it’s a story of unimaginable terror and devastation, shattered dreams and decimated hopes, it’s also one of extraordinary sumud (steadfastness) and resistance. It’s a story that remains unfinished and determined, standing with hope defiant.
My grandmother was nine years-old on the morning of Friday, April 9th 1948 when the Zionist terrorist organizations – the Irgun and Lehi, with the agreement of the Haganah in Jerusalem, carried out Operation Nahshon and opened fire on the villagers of Deir Yassin. By evening, nearly 110 villagers were executed and the village was cleared. But the evidence of the Zionist criminality lay in the rivers of blood and the disemboweled, dismembered, and disfigured bodies of men, women and children.
The villagers endured barbarity at the hands, boot heels, and the edge of bloodied knives of Zionist terrorists who rounded up villagers executing them in decimation for crimes they had never committed. Men were paraded around on trucks before being taken to the village quarry and shot execution style.
Menachem Begin, the leader of the Irgun at the time, consciously inflated the death toll of the massacre from just over 100 to 254 to instill a sense of incoherent terror within people in hopes of eliminating and erasing the Palestinian people from the landscape and from human consciousness – root and branch, bone and blood. News of the massacre triggered the mass, forced exile that emptied Palestine of 80% of its native Arab population. Over 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from the only homes they had ever known. Today, displaced Palestinians remain the largest and longest-standing refugee population in the world.
The beginning of the Nakba was more than an atrocity; it was completely and intentionally genocidal.
It’s been 69 years since the Deir Yassin massacre and the world has moved past it, but its selective amnesia remains present. Its survivors, however, have never forgotten that Palestine continues to be left with human devastation on an unimaginable scale by Israel in its successive operations and assaults. In the litany of Israel’s gruesome crimes and indiscriminate massacres, Deir Yassin was not the most massive in scale but it’s the one that reduced the Palestinian people to ungrievable, dehumanized convenient objects of hatred and violent retribution whenever convenient. It became the precondition for the calculative, prolonged violence and subhuman slaughter of Palestinians. This became the operative philosophy of the Zionist regime that exists today.
“Man’s inhumanity to man” – A poignant irony
Deir Yassin is one of the few Palestinian villages where the Zionist state attempted to erase its inhabitants, but kept its homes and buildings completely intact. Behind the security cameras, guard posts and fence where my family’s village and home once stood now exists a closed psychiatric facility – Kfar Shaul – which houses people with severe mental illness. The irony is not lost on me: The birth of a state predicated on the wholesale slaughter of innocent people on command, a state that has attempted to anesthetize itself to death and depravity, would surely drive anyone of conscience insane. Another breathtaking irony chills my bones every time I stand on the stolen land of my ancestors. Israel’s official Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem, is built in panoramic view of Deir Yassin, standing as a haunting, insidious testament to “never forget man’s inhumanity to man” in absolute denial of the souls of martyrs buried deep beneath.
Zionist vindictiveness created a deeply-rooted psychological transference onto a people who had nothing to do with the Nazi Holocaust. Prior to 1948, Deir Yassin was a relatively prosperous and peaceful village, and its residents lived in peace with their Jewish neighbors in nearby villages, especially those in Givat Shaul whom they had signed a peace pact with. My grandmother recalls a different time when Arabs and Jews lived as neighbors attending each other’s weddings and celebrations, smoking arghila, eating dried watermelon seeds, sharing news, and going to the cinema together with their Jewish friends. The Orthodox community of Givat Shaul was one of the first to help the survivors of Deir Yassin following the Irgun-Lehi assault. This was never a conflict that has existed for thousands of years. The Palestinians have never had a problem with Judaism; it’s with injustice.
But here’s the thing about stories of survival: They affirm an inescapable truth that reacquaints both victims and perpetrators with memory, with history, with life, and with justice. Aggressors cannot seem to live with the inconvenient truth of their guilty history but survivors refuse to live without it. The people of the world continue to demonstrate that they are so capable of conveniently forgetting the murderous atrocities in which their fellow peers have participated, so it becomes morally imperative and essential, at the very least, to regularly remind them of it.
Palestine has never been a land without a people. It has always been home to a rich landscape filled with a beautiful people, with their own native land, language, and holy sites at the center of their religions. The Zionists tried to expel a people and attempt to scatter a people into oblivion, for they learned from colonizers before them that there is no precedent for a scattered people’s remaining a people. Their dispersion meant their disappearance. Or so they thought.
Tell the stories
The late Dr. Edward Said once said, “To recall Deir Yassin is not just to dwell on past disasters, but to understand who we are and where we are going. Without it we are simply lost.”
My grandmother’s face aches with despair as she narrates the horror and trauma of Deir Yassin. Her body has kept score for the past sixty-nine years. She has been acutely aware of the sense of displacement dully throbbing with determination inside the dark spaces between her organs and bones, haunted by a history that has sat uncomfortably out of joint for a lifetime. The emotional pain of displacement and dislocation hurts like no other.
The collective inventory of the Palestinian people rests on our shoulders. To never forget the incomprehensible violence and intolerable pain, the extraordinary valor and the steadfastness that have defined Palestinians. It is our duty to record of every life lived, every sentence spoken, every word transmitted still reverberating within it. As the story of the massacre moves on in memory, the aim of remembering the atrocity and bearing witness takes on new meaning. The words of our parents and grandparents remain a talisman that will continue to be passed down for generations. These are the stories that teach us resilience, joy, hope and incarnation.
The Nakba continues
What drove the exterminatory impulses of the Zionists was not only the contempt that branded millions of Palestinians as dispensable and sub-human, but also the ideologically pervasive mixture of terror and hatred that continues to blame the Palestinians for all of Israel’s ills and seeks their destruction as a matter of life and death in the interests of the Jewish people’s survival. This is the politics and colonial neurosis of Zionism. Israel justifies its policy of mass eradication through its demagogic abuse of portraying itself the perpetual victim. And for those who don’t understand the sadistic nature of the Israeli settler colonialist violence, the only mention of Israel will continue through the perpetual victim narrative, nothing more than a kind of ersatz victory every time. No matter what Israel has ever done, it’s because they’re always defending themselves – armed with bombs and artillery that unearth entire societies – against the Palestinians. Everything Israel ever does is painted as reactionary under the normalization of Zionist brutality.
Israel has a very finely-tuned feel for how many atrocities it can get away with before the world reacts with revulsion. But when entire families are butchered, immolated[DE1], bombed to oblivion upon breaking their fasts[DE2], when mass murder has become an annual event, when the reprise of internment camps and the reinstitution of torture become acts of policy, where were the cries of “Never again”?
The truth is that for the Palestinian people, the truer shout is not “Never again” but “Again and again and again.”
The post-Holocaust vow that genocide would never again be tolerated has long been hollow. The Palestinian people are living proof that murder looks on its victims with a casual eye. The extraordinary and soul-crushing pain that the Palestinian people have endured, for nearly seventy years now, has been perceived as just and mutable.
The Nakba did not penetrate the world consciousness in the same manner as the Holocaust. Slaughtering people, village by village, didn’t seem too high a price to pay, nor did it appear inhumane. These origins contain the historical seeds of genocide. The silence absorbed the lack of noise with a lack of sound so potent that it blackened this world with something so much richer than Zionist hate. Since Deir Yassin, we’ve known what man is capable of: the silent acquiescence in genocide of another people.
The Nakba never ended. It is an ongoing catastrophe.
Justice and only justice
From its inception, Israel has had an insatiable addiction to blood, pouring more bodies into pits of slaughter never allowing the dead to rest in peace. But peace can never be built on the blood and bone of others. The robotic mass annihilation of the Palestinians had brought human bloodlust to a climax which nobody had considered possible by the victims of the Nazi genocide. Zionists have relied on decades of distortion and deceit, but what they always forget is that the millions of bodies have buried them more than anyone else. With each assault on the most vulnerable, disenfranchised, and traumatized people in which Israel pours endless young bodies into pits of death, they follow it. With every massacre, entire generations are revolutionized and filled with more conviction and sumud.
A truly “free” state can never exist when it’s enslaved to the organized aggression it has chained itself to. One day, Israelis will realize the ceaseless turmoil disrupting their peace has nothing to do with opposition to a Jewish state but is rooted in the fact that no human beings anywhere are created to accept injustice so casually. There will come a time when the world will stop asking the Palestinian people to stop resisting their oppression when the boots of the oppressor remains on their throats. The Palestinian people remain the only colonized and oppressed people who are constantly told to guarantee the security and rights of their occupiers and oppressors, who continue to be held responsible for nothing.
While Israeli expansion, expulsion, colonization, and the indefinite justification for violent retaliation under apocalyptic conditions continue, Palestinians are asked to concede and give more. Each year, their beloved homeland and rights wither away, like a diseased heart, speckled, clotted, and hollowed out. A homeland annulled. No two-state delusion will ever be a viable solution. There will be no peace in Israel and Palestinian until a modicum of justice is achieved for the Palestinians.
Our voices will not be muted by dispossession, expulsion, trauma, and denial. In attempting to erase us, the reality created by the Zionists became a fertile soil for the expression of steadfast resistance and perseverance. No matter how many innocent Palestinians are rounded up and executed, disappeared and silenced, there will always be more of us out there: living, excelling, falling in love, getting married, having children to pass on our narrative to. That resistance is what continues to ensure that ‘never again’ is not hollow.
Dina is a first-generation Palestinian-American living in Chicago. She works in the States and overseas with an NGO for victims of torture in the Occupied Territories of Palestine (Ramallah).
British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon has accused Russia of being complicit in the ongoing bloodshed in Syria, saying Moscow is to blame for “every civilian death” in a recent suspected chemical attack in the Arab country.
Moscow is responsible “by proxy” for the deaths of civilians as the “principle backer” of the Syrian government, Fallon told British media.
Fallon further accused Russia of not doing enough to stop the conflict that has been raging on since 2011.
“Someone who uses barrel bombs and chemicals to kill his own people simply cannot be the future leader of Syria,” he said of President Bashar al-Assad.
The defense secretary also voiced his support for the US missile strikes that hit an airbase and surrounding villages in the western province of Homs in the early hours of Friday.
On President Donald Trump’s personal order, the US military launched 59 cruise missiles on al-Shayrat airfield in Homs. Trump said the attack was in response to “the Syrian government’s recent chemical attack in Idlib province.”
“By sending Tomahawk missiles to attack the airfield, aeroplane and equipment believed to be involved, it (the US) has sent a strong signal to the Syrian regime to think twice before using gas in the future,” Fallon said.
The remarks came as British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson cancelled a trip to Russia citing a fundamental change to the situation in Syria.
The visit, on Moscow’s invitation, would have been the first by a top British diplomat in the last five years.
Reports suggest that Johnson will instead work with his American counterpart, Rex Tillerson, on a joint plan to demand Moscow withdraw military support for Damascus.
According to the Kremlin, Syrian jets had struck a terrorist warehouse in Idlib that contained toxic chemicals, leading to a gas leak in the area. More than 80 people were killed in Tuesday’s incident.
Damascus, which categorically denied responsibility for the suspected chemical attack, slammed the missile attack by the US, calling it a clear sign of Washington’s support for terrorism.
The Syrian government also vowed to intensify operations against foreign-backed militants in the country.
The US attack has sparked angry reactions from Russia and several Middle Eastern countries including Iran.
European Union foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said the missile strike was not within the framework of the United Nations.
The recent bombing of a Syrian airbase by American Tomahawk missiles was preceded by several days of heavy media coverage centered on the presumed “chemical attack” against the Khan Sheikhun community.
In fact, this press coverage was the only justification for the bombing, since the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and other international bodies simply had no time to properly investigate the circumstances.
This situation imposes additional responsibility on journalists, but were they up to the task? Unfortunately, just like in many previous cases, there were many immediate assumptions and immediate categorical statements that have been made concerning the presumed guilty party. The current situation is a vivid demonstration of the dilapidated state of the so-called fourth estate that is mixing, without any distinction, information and opinion in the news of this event.
If the hype and opinion are removed from the equation, what are the solid facts that are known about this really cruel act? The attack occurred on April 4, 2017 in the Khan Shaykhun area in the south of the Idlib province of Syria. This fact was recorded by OPCW and reflected in its press release.
For the Western mainstream media (MSM), at this point, the facts ended and allegations started. What is worse, these allegations bore all the hallmarks of propaganda. The MSM quickly assigned guilt and in many cases suggested a military course of action. In retrospective, the press coverage looks like a hasty justification for the US government’s position on the matter, which resulted in the bombing.
Here is the press statement of the US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, issued immediately after the attack in Khan Shaykhun: “While we continue to monitor the terrible situation, it is clear that this is how Bashar al-Assad operates: with brutal unabashed barbarism. Those who defend or support him, including Russia and Iran, should have no illusions… Anyone who uses chemical weapons to attack his own people shows a fundamental disregard for human decency and must be held accountable.”
The first and the most frequently used technique of propaganda is assertion. It consists of presenting a disputed sequence of events or a debatable idea as a fact, with no further explanation. It reflects the public’s longing for a quick and easy explanation of events. Even Tillerson’s statement contains a lot of categorical and emotionally laden assertions, but offers very little in terms of hard evidence to back those claims. The guilt is also personalized (another typical element of propaganda), with Assad proclaimed guilty without any sort of trial or investigation.
Unfortunately, the MSM follow this tactic of distributing guilt by assertion. The MSM also adds to its guilt by association — a propaganda technique, in which previous misdeeds of some (possibly very different) actors are somehow associated with the demonized person. The scale of the blame is deliberately exaggerated or left unclear.
The MSM did not busy itself with any sort of balanced contextual understanding, what was being projected and promoted was the notion of a massive scale crime immediately associated with Assad. A New York Times headline read “Worst Chemical Attack in Years in Syria; US Blames Assad“.
This headline is deceptive and misleading as it can be deduced that this is the worst single act in six years of the Syrian civil war, even though a bigger attack took place just recently — in 2013, near Damascus. Many other attacks, some of them possibly coming from the opposition groups fighting Mr. Assad, were also recorded since then. The authors have not seen the scene of the attack, but they rush to dramatize what they have not seen: “One of the worst chemical bombings in Syria turned a northern rebel-held area into a toxic kill zone on Tuesday, inciting international outrage over the ever-increasing government impunity shown in the country’s six-year war.” This one sentence contains a number of different elements of propaganda. One of them is bandwagoning — in this case the entire international community’s reaction is represented as aligning itself with the US’ position, without the authors specifying the positions of individual countries. In addition, the implication is that the Syrian government must abide by the NYT’s representation of what the international opinion and reaction is. Assertion propaganda also appears, where there is little to no evidence provided to support the assertion (in this case concerning the ever-increasing impunity and the assigned guilt of Mr. Assad in person). The headline and the very end of the article also differ in terms of the strength of the assigned guilt. The headline contained “US blames Assad” (certainty is projected), but the last paragraph notes that “a chemical weapons attack, if carried out by the government…” denotes much less certainty of the guilty party.
Fox News, while representing a different, “illiberal” wing of the American MSM, is involved in the same kind of propaganda as the New York Times. The simplest technique is exaggeration. Here is the headline: “At Least 100 Dead in a Suspected Chemical Attack in Syria, Hospital Reportedly Hit“.
Very soon we shall read that even by the most pessimistic accounts there were less than 90 victims, and not “at least 100” offered to us by Fox News. But Fox News never apologized or corrected itself. In the article they present a slideshow with “heartbreaking images of gas attack victims.” This particular statement contradicts the headline that points to “a suspected chemical attack” and not a definite one. As to the “hospital reportedly hit”, once again there is no certainty or due diligence concerning the verification of information, which should be a standard journalistic good practice. Fox’s sources of information include the MSM standard source, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is a shadowy organization that has been actively campaigning for regime change in Syria. In addition to this source, they use the White Helmets, which are in fact a Western-funded organization that is called by some as “al-Qaeda’s civil defense.”
The last, but certainly not the least effective means of propaganda is an emotional attack on the audience. The reader (or the viewer) is put face to face with such unbearable cruelty, that it spurs him to justify any military action (in this case — from the US government) that would remove the terrible descriptions from a newspaper page or the unbearable images from the screen before his eyes. A headline appearing in Vox certainly is among the most emotionally-based ones — “Bashar al-Assad Just Gassed His Own People, Then Bombed the Clinic Treating Victims”
This article also uses a personalized form of character assassination against Assad, lacking any proof to back up the claims, and hypes the level and scale of the alleged atrocities committed. The information that is published in the article is not even verified, as it is admitted on the first page. Once more a great deal of stress is placed on the deaths of children. As with Reuters, some quotes by Syrian government and Russian sources are published, but hidden in the middle of the article. The end of the article confirms the conspiracy theory of the Syrian government’s guilt in this matter, using selective historical accounts to try and create the picture of a pattern (as opposed to an isolated incident) of atrocities by the ‘bad’ character of this story.
All in all, these practices of the MSM media should be remembered and in due time used against it. Not only politicians justifying war should be held to account, if we are allowed to use MSM’s favorite formula. Journalism once more found itself in the situation of not only supporting war, but enabling it, war journalism at its very worst and supporting a narrow set of destructive political interests that are very far from the public interest of starting yet another war of choice.
President Trump meeting with his advisers at his estate in Mar-a-Lago on April 6, 2017
There is a dark mystery behind the White House-released photo showing President Trump and more than a dozen advisers meeting at his estate in Mar-a-Lago after his decision to strike Syria with Tomahawk missiles: Where is CIA Director Mike Pompeo and other top intelligence officials?
Before the photo was released on Friday, a source told me that Pompeo had personally briefed Trump on April 6 about the CIA’s belief that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was likely not responsible for the lethal poison-gas incident in northern Syria two days earlier — and thus Pompeo was excluded from the larger meeting as Trump reached a contrary decision.
At the time, I found the information dubious since Trump, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other senior U.S. officials were declaring quite confidently that Assad was at fault. Given that apparent confidence, I assumed that Pompeo and the CIA must have signed off on the conclusion of Assad’s guilt even though I knew that some U.S. intelligence analysts had contrary opinions, that they viewed the incident as either an accidental release of chemicals or an intentional ploy by Al Qaeda rebels to sucker the U.S. into attacking Syria.
As strange as the Trump administration has been in its early months, it was hard for me to believe that Trump would have listened to the CIA’s views and then shooed the director away from the larger meeting before launching a military strike against a country not threatening America.
After the strike against Syria by 59 Tomahawk missiles, which Syrian officials said killed seven people including four children, Trump gave a speech to the American people declaring flatly:
“On Tuesday, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad launched a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians. Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women, and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”
As much as Trump stood to benefit politically by acting aggressively in attacking Syria — and thus winning praise even from his harshest critics — the idea that he would ignore the views of the U.S. intelligence community on an issue of war or peace was something that I found hard to believe.
So, I put aside what I had heard from the source about the discordant Pompeo-Trump meeting as the sort of tidbit that may come from someone who lacks first-hand knowledge and doesn’t get all the details right.
After all, in almost every similar situation that I had covered over decades, the CIA Director or the Director of National Intelligence has played a prominent role in decisions that depend heavily on the intelligence community’s assessments and actions.
For instance, in the famous photo of President Obama and his team waiting out the results of the 2011 raid to kill Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, CIA Director Leon Panetta is the one on the conference screen that everyone is looking at.
Even when the U.S. government is presenting false information, such as Secretary of State Colin Powell’s 2003 speech laying out the bogus evidence of Iraq hiding WMDs, CIA Director George Tenet was seated behind Powell to lend credibility to the falsehoods.
At the Table
But in the photo of Trump and his advisers, no one from the intelligence community is in the frame. You see Trump, Secretary of State Tillerson, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, strategic adviser Steve Bannon, son-in-law Jared Kushner and a variety of other officials, including some economic advisers who were at Mar-a-Lago in Florida for the meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
However, you don’t see Pompeo or Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats or any other intelligence official. Even The New York Times noted the oddity in its Saturday editions, writing: “If there were C.I.A. and other intelligence briefers around, … they are not in the picture.”
That made me wonder whether perhaps my original source did know something. The claim was that CIA Director Pompeo had briefed Trump personally on the analysts’ assessment that Assad’s forces were not responsible, but – then with Pompeo sidelined – Trump conveyed his own version of the intelligence to his senior staff.
In other words, the other officials didn’t get the direct word from Pompeo but rather received a second-hand account from the President, the source said. Did Trump choose to rely on the smug certainty from the TV shows and the mainstream news media that Assad was guilty, rather than the contrary view of U.S. intelligence analysts?
After the attack, Secretary of State Tillerson, who is not an institutional intelligence official and has little experience with the subtleties of intelligence, was the one to claim that the U.S. intelligence community assessed with a “high degree of confidence” that the Syrian government had dropped a poison gas bomb on civilians in Idlib province.
While Tillerson’s comment meshed with Official Washington’s hastily formed groupthink of Assad’s guilt, it is hard to believe that CIA analysts would have settled on such a firm conclusion so quickly, especially given the remote location of the incident and the fact that the initial information was coming from pro-rebel (or Al Qaeda) sources.
Thus, a serious question arises whether President Trump did receive that “high degree of confidence” assessment from the intelligence community or whether he shunted Pompeo aside to eliminate an obstacle to his desire to launch the April 6 rocket attack.
If so, such a dangerous deception more than anything else we’ve seen in the first two-plus months of the Trump administration would be grounds for impeachment – ignoring the opinion of the U.S. intelligence community so the President could carry out a politically popular (albeit illegal) missile strike that killed Syrians.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that ‘Israel’ remained committed to treating war wounded from Syria and reaffirmed his support for last week’s US air strike in Syria.
In comments at the start of a cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said “Israel is caring for wounded Syrians as part of a humanitarian effort,” “We will continue to do so.”
Israeli media reported that a proposal to do so had been met with objections from some government and security officials due to logistical difficulties, with the location far from the Zionist entity.
The occupying entity has treated more than 3,000 war wounded militants from Syria in what it describes as a ‘humanitarian gesture’.
It says it treats whoever makes it to the demarcation line regardless of affiliation, though ‘Israel’ is accused of supporting terrorists.
Netanyahu spoke again of his support for last week’s US missile strike against a Syrian airbase.
I have supported the Green Party for as long as it has existed within the UK. I think its speakers often make more sense than most other politicians.
However, the statement on Syria, by co-leaders Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley, seems to me misguided. While they express concern about the illegitimacy of US airstrikes on Syria, they at the same time condemn the president of Syria, advocating alternative measures against his government.
Would such measures not hurt Syrian people? When Caroline speaks of freezing ‘the continued flow of arms to the region’ she makes no mention of how supplies from the West – including from Libya via Turkey – are supporting ISIS and Al Qaeda, who, in turn, are killing, trafficking, raping and oppressing Syrian civilians who come under their de facto rule.
Caroline and Jon ought to be aware that there is as yet no authoritative account of the chemical attack last week and that critical observers caution all of us not to jump to conclusions about who is responsible. The event fits a longstanding pattern of trumped up pretexts for intervention that were subsequently discredited.
Which brings me to a point that goes beyond the rights and wrongs of this past week’s events.
For many years – for far more even than the six that the Syrian people have been subjected to constant violence – there has been a geopolitical strategy to remove Assad from power in order to have a Syrian region that is more compliant with the goals of the various external interested parties.
These interested parties, the Greens ought to be aware, are the very same that drive environmental destruction and social injustice across the planet. If you think Assad is the problem, I fear you may not have understood what the problem is.
My reason for posting these remarks is that none of the vision I share with the greens includes breaking up other people’s countries for the sake of the planet’s delinquent elite.
I hope some of the critical intelligence so much in evidence elsewhere in Green Party thinking might be brought to bear more keenly on the narrative you are accepting. My own discovery, for what it’s worth, is that once you start to ask questions about evidence and sources concerning Syria, you realize you may have been misled by seemingly reputable organisations like Amnesty International, Médecins Sans Frontières, by news organisations like BBC and Channel 4, and by UK Government.