An American in Syria


In 1955 Alcoa was the first big sponsor to drop the Edward R. Murrow Show. Alcoa didn’t just make aluminum cans. They made parts for our military fighter jets. Murrow spoke out against the communism fear mongering tactics of Senator Joseph McCarthy and eventually more corporations dropped his show. Now those companies such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, GE, and Honeywell, to name just a few, own the mainstream media TV and papers and decide what “news” we, the American public get to hear. By 1961 we were warned by President Eisenhower about the Military Industrial Complex but not enough of us were paying attention. The truth does eventually get out, however. As I write this piece, recently retired Lt. General Flynn (who also served as chief of the Department Intelligence Agency), admitted that the US has been supporting al-Qaeda with money and weaponry. Isn’t that the same group we held responsible for attacking us on 9/11 in the first place?

Has the word “terrorism” simply replaced the word “communism?” Have corporate and government interests finally found a way to keep Americans completely in the dark in order to justify an exponentially increasing defense budget? The numbers indicate that between 20 and 25 cents of every federally taxed dollar goes to the DOD, the largest public employee in the US. Some suggest its double that if you include intelligence spending such as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), and the National Security Agency (NSA), etc. Even the Senate committees aren’t really sure what the NSA budget is. The second largest public employee is the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) with over 300,000 employees across its 3 branches. Like most Americans I was too busy working and had little reason to doubt the media until I retired at the end of 2011 from my local municipal government job. It was now time to began my own research.

I soon discovered we were hearing half-truths at best and wrote a few articles. Some were published and found their way to Dr. Declan Hayes, an Irish peace activist academic. He read them and was interested in what I had to say.

Dr. Declan Hayes.

In April, an invitation from the University of Damascus to attend “An International Conference: Syria on the Way to Reconstruction” appeared in my inbox. I had been following Syria’s “Civil War” from its conception as a legitimate protest until foreign terrorists funded by foreign entities hijacked it. I thought I knew the truth after reading internet articles but truth is hardly ever found there, or in mainstream media when it comes to our foreign policies around the globe. After making over a thousand Syrian Facebook friends and connections, I was finally going to Syria to witness the state of affairs for myself. Not only could I discover, or confirm the truth on the ground in Syria, I would be part of a delegation of professors, doctors and religious experts from around the world. And the only American.

This was the perfect opportunity to see if media portrayals of Muslims and Arabs were accurate. Would they dislike me because I’m from The West? Would they be suspicious of an American? Is media fear mongering warranted? Whether by fate or design, I was now part of Dr. Hayes’ delegation to Damascus!

Beirut Bound
The guidebooks suggest that you shouldn’t pay more than $20.00 for the taxi ride to the hotel but being tired the $30.00 asking price seemed fair. There was much to learn about Mid-East negotiating! Along the way, the driver pulled over, and out came a bottle of whiskey and two glasses. We toasted as he welcomed me to the Middle East.

Lebanon was beautiful with its rolling hills full of olive and lemon trees. The scent was incredibly sweet. We drove past the shore line where the waves of the Mediterranean Sea splashed onto the cliffs at the shoreline near Pigeon Rock. Within 10 minutes we were at the hotel and as I was checking in my driver entered the hotel. I had left a bag in his taxi and he was good enough to make sure it was returned. Everyone at the hotel was warm and respectful. Before getting some much needed rest Eiad Elissa, a Syrian refugee Facebook friend from Aleppo who had been working and living in Beirut for about 2 years now, made plans to meet me the following day. His mother was killed by terrorists in Aleppo. His father was kidnapped soon afterwards. To this day he doesn’t know his fathers fate.

Over the week, Eiad, his Lebaneese friend Fadi Bedro, and another Syrian refugee, Fayed Sourakji, introduced me to a lot of Syrians. All of them refugees. Almost all of them told me the same thing and it was NOT what we were hearing from our mainstream media. Most loved President Assad. My wife asked me just before I left why there were so many refugees, if indeed most of them supported President Bashar Assad. Its a fair question and soon I’d have the answer. Over the next 2 weeks I learned it’s a simple matter of numbers and geography. Syria is a vast country and the cities in the north and the east, like Aleppo, Syria’s most populated city with well over 5 million people, are very close to Turkey. Turkey has been a bad player here from the very beginning permitting tens of thousands of foreign extremists and paid mercenaries to fly into its southern airports from where they simply travel just south. Watch this video.

Turkey has constantly been shutting down its dams which keep cities like Aleppo from having water. Sometimes for months at a time. Syria’s army doesn’t have enough soldiers to protect those areas from what has become a global war of terror against Syria. There would be much more to learn once I reached Damascus, but now it was time to leave Beirut. The city that introduced me to shisha, a tobacco like substance drawn through a water pipe known as a hookah pipe, Eiad and soon Mother Agnes.

Meeting Mother Agnes
I received an E-mail from Professor Simon Keyes. Simon has lectured all over the world on reconciliation. He suggested we meet at the cafe of the hotel at about 7:00pm the night before we were to leave. We hit it off right away. We decided to go to a local restaurant just down the street for some Lebanese food when were joined by Reverend Andrew Ashdown, interfaith advisor to the Bishop of Winchester, England. Andrew is an expert of Christian/Muslim relations. Syria, along with Jordan, is the most tolerant of all Middle East countries where those relationships thrive. It was sheer coincidence that out of all the hotels in Beirut we all chose this one. When Simon and I suggested we go out for a bite to eat, Reverend Andrew looked at his watch. “Well, fellows, Mother Agnes will be joining us here very shortly.”

Me and Eiad Elissa.

Meeting Mother Agnes was an incredible experience. Her real name is Fadia Laham. Her father is Palestinian and her mother is Lebanese. The name Laham is the family name of the original residents of Bethlehem, Palestine. In The West we heard that President Bashar al-Assad starved and killed his own people in the city of Homs. In reality, the foreign terrorists or Islamist extremists (hard to distinguish between the two) had taken over part of the town. Any citizen left behind were either sympathetic to, or related to these thugs. One of the accomplishments of Mother Agnes was when she negotiated the release of thousands of civilians in which the terrorists got to leave on buses. Mother Agnes negotiated between the terrorists which are all basically the same whether they call themselves the Free Syrian Army, al-Nusra, al-Qaeda or ISIS, and the Syrian government.

The FSA and other terrorist groups have “labeled” her as “Assad’s nun.” We have labeled some of these terrorists groups as “moderate rebels.” Both labels are false. They said she was a regime supporter but in the beginning of the crisis she actually spoke out for reforms and democracy. She was on the side for real change. Later, as she discovered it was all Muslim Brotherhood and Radical Islam, she continued to help refugees in Homs and all across Syria. Tonight, she was eager to answer our questions. She confirmed that this NEVER was a civil war. Protests in March of 2011 for constitution change would quickly be hijacked by militants waiting in the wings. As you will learn, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel, The US, UK and Turkey were supporting these militants waiting for this “opportunity.” But why? That question would be answered in Damascus at the lectures. We asked if these terrorists are true followers of Islam? Are they really Muslims?”. Her answer was “no.…It is political. Not religious.” In the week ahead, I would hear that personally from Syria’s Grand Mufti, Hassoun. The ones who are carrying out the butchering and barbarous atrocities are nothing more than poverty ridden criminals. Paid mercenaries. “It is more about politics then it ever has been about religion. Terrorism knows no God. And Islamist extremists who are committing these atrocities are not really of Islam,” she said. We also spoke of General Wesley Clark’s speech where he publicly states the Plan for the New American Century which was to take out 7 Middle East countries. Watch this video.

This PNAC began in the mid 1990’s. It was founded by William Kristol and Robert Kagan. Later, people like Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, John Bolton and others considered “neoconservatives” would join their ranks several years before 9/11. The taking down of the World Trade Buildings garnered American support to further increase the military budget just as Pearl Harbor had done to get the US directly involved with World War Two. I’m not saying some CIA people knew the attacks would take place but they should have. They did know 3 of the hijackers entered LAX 15 months prior to 9/11. Mother Agnes said “one word of truth is more dangerous than a ton of lies.”

Mother Agnes.

Entering Syria
We left Beirut at 10:00 am the following morning for the 3 hour drive to Damascus. Getting through customs was not a problem and we were soon in Damascus, Syria. What surprised me the most was how beautiful and clean the city was. The palm trees lined the roads and the traffic circles were full of recently trimmed, colorful flowers. If I didn’t know better I’d think I was in an area close to Los Angeles with the dry, rolling hills surrounding us. As we got closer to our hotel I saw the smiles and felt the excitement of little children as they ran to visit the SAA (Syrian Arab Army) military at the check points. I would learn that just one year ago the city was not as secure and just 3 weeks prior to our arrival, the city had been hit by terrorists shells from south of the city. It would be hit again on August 12, 2015 killing 14 and injuring 70. A man by the name of Alloush was responsible. You’ll be hearing more about him. Thankfully the SAA is protecting Damascus.

Our room wasn’t quite ready so we wondered if we could hop in a cab and visit Old Damascus. It’s important for the reader to know that we never had any restrictions. No “minders” as we hear they have in North Korea telling you who you can visit and what topics are “off limits.” We were totally free to go about the city. Since I was there to meet the people, I let my Syrian facebook friends know we had arrived. It was good knowing I would meet Suzan Zuhair and hopefully talk to Shahe Mehran Seraydarian over the phone. Then we hopped in a cab and were off.

Old Damascus was protected since ancient times by a wall on all sides. Inside were shops and venders of every kind. Perfumes filled the air as did the smell of leather goods, spices and fruits. The corridors would lead to open air spaces and on one occasion we heard what sounded like thunder. Andrew knew better and that was our first sign that we were in a war zone. We noticed that the children continued playing as if they were immune to what was going on around them. At every shop we stopped at, I spoke to as many people that could speak English. Most were eager to meet an American and felt comfortable speaking to me. We had dinner in one of the open courts behind the narrow passages and huge wooden doors, and then headed back to the Dama Rose Hotel. What a wonderful Wednesday. I couldn’t wait to meet my facebook friend Suzan on Thursday morning!

We met at my hotel at exactly 9:00 am Thursday morning. As another example of Arab custom and warmth, she had brought a gift for both me and my wife. We took in the sights of Damascus near the museum and markets, and at one point I remember pretending to have almost gotten hit by a passing car. She gave me a friendly shove out of the path of the car and I thanked her for “saving my life.” In typical Muslim style she said “you can thank me by waking up tomorrow morning!” I thought that was really sweet. We walked past the government office where she worked, and stopped in to meet her boss and another of her co-workers. As it got closer to noon and the beginning of the lectures, Suzan asked if I could have dinner with her and her extended family the following night at their apartment. She walked me back to the hotel and insisted I get permission. Friday is their Holy Day and the shops would be closed so they would need to know now in order to do all the shopping. I took the elevator up to Andrews’ room, and with a wink of an eye he said “go for it.” After all, I was there to talk to as many of the local people as possible. We made plans to meet at the hotel at 7:00 pm Friday, the following night!

Lectures at Damascus University
The auditorium was buzzing with reporters and a hugh crowd as our bus pulled into the DU parking lot on that Thursday early afternoon. Our delegation consisted of Iranian Dr. Mohammad Marandi, Father David B. Smith from Australia, India’s own Professor Niloufer Bhagwat, Dr. Declan Hayes, Rev.Andrew Ashdown and Professor Simon Keyes. Syria’s parliamentary member Maria Saadah and Dr. Ahmad Alkhaddour, who was kind enough to have us as guests in his home on our final night, were also with us on the bus and much of the time throughout the following days. Other notable speakers would be University President Professor Mohammad Hassan al Kurdi, Dr. Ahmad Al-Khadour, Professor Naef Al-Yassin, who is an expert on the “Terror industry,” Professor Butros Hallak who specializes on Media Terrorism, Professor Abboud Al-Sarraj, George Rizqallah, Dr. Joundob Zaarour, Doctor Ahmad Saleh and even Ali Haider. Ali Haider is the leader of the SSNP, the Syrian Socialist National Party. It is one of the opposition groups to President Asaads Ba’athist party. Under President Assad, Syria has gone from one recognized political party to approximately 23. Ali Haider supported the protests during the initial phase until he recognized it had been hi-jacked by foreign entities. He is now the Minister of Reconciliation. That alone should tell you a great deal about the tolerance of the Syrian government. Other speakers would include Professor Mayssa Syioufi who, along with Parliamentary member Professor Marie Saadeh (Syria’s government includes many women) spoke of the effects of economic terrorism. Especially as it relates to tourism. That topic was something I had never even considered. When this conflict is over will there be any ancient sites remaining? What will become of one of Syria’s most important economic resources? Tourism. After all, Syria is considered the cradle of civilization. There were a few other speakers but the highlight on this day would be a passionate plea for peace by Syria’s highest ranking spiritual leader, The Grand Mufti, Shiekh Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun.
In short, this is what I concluded from the 5 days. Lets begin with the PNAC (Project for the New American Century), adopted in the middle to late 1990’s. Syria was on the list to be taken over. In 2000 President Bashar Al-Assad, an optometrist at the time in England, was summoned to Syria to replace his father, Hafez as president. His brother Basil had been groomed for the job but he was killed in an automobile accident a few years earlier. One of the first things he did was release many political prisoners. 3 years later when President Bush was looking for support against Iraq in 2003 he famously said “You’re either with us or against us.” Bush chose war. Assad and Syria chose peace.

Soon afterwards, plans were being discussed for a pipeline to be built from Qatar through Saudia Arabia, Syria and into Turkey. Assad made it clear by 2010 that he strongly opposed such a plan. Why? Why do so many Americans oppose the plan to run a pipeline from Canada through the US? Syria is a sovereign country and if they didn’t want it, that should be reason enough.

As the Arab Spring was beginning in Tunisia, Qatar and Saudi Arabia were making their plans to topple Assad. Even as early as 2006 the US had allocated $5 million to finance Syrian opposition. The ante was raised by Qatar in 2011 to $3 Billion by Qatar’s Minister of foreign affairs who also served as Prime Minister, Hamad bin Khalifa Thani. Before the protests ever began, Saudi Arabia had sent weapons which were hidden in tunnels in Darra and near Damascus. They were stored in Syria’s massive underground network. In Daraa, near Syria’s southern border, they were hidden under the Omari Mosque. The Imam of that mosque was Ahmed Alsyasena, a radical extremist who was working with the Saudi Arabian wahabiist Wahabism is an extremist view of Islam and they are nothing more than paid mercenaries from Saudi Arabia. Weapons were also hidden and stored in Bab Amer and Bab Alsebaa in Homs. My friend Mohamad Rahmoun witnessed the terrorists hiding them in Al Nour Mosque near his families home in Al Khabedia. But it was too late to stop them. The protests had begun. Saudi Arabia’s Prince Bandar bin Sultan also supported the attempted take-over of Syria with his wealth. The supreme leader of Liwa al-Islam, the only brigade of al-Qaeda sent into Syria at that time’s chemical weapons specialist Zahran Alloush, had been working for then Saudi intel chief Turki al Faisal in Afghanistan and Yeman. Alloush is the man responsible for the more recent shelling of Damascus in August,2015. The group gained fame due to risky, high-profile attacks. On 8 July 2012, the group carried out a bomb attack against the headquarters of Syria’s National Security Council in Rawda Square, Damascus. The group succeeded in assassinating several high profile members of Syria’s security establishment, including the Deputy Minister of Defense and brother-in-law of President Bashar al-Assad, Assaf Shawkat, Defense Minister Dawoud Rajiha, and Hassan Turkmani, a former Defense Minister and military adviser to then Vice-President Farouk al-Sharaa. And this was done after Alloush’s release from a Syrian prison where he had been held for 2 years because of weapons charges in 2011. Soon afterwards, he called for the cleansing of all Alawites and Shia’s in Damascus. When asked about this statement by The Western press, he stated “I said those things due to the psychological stress I was under.” The West then labeled this man a “moderate rebel” and supported him. As Professor Bhagwat stated at the lectures, “Terrorism is being used for aggression, occupation, economic and political subjugation of the entire Arab region led by the coalition of the US, Israel and NATO. Any government insisting on its own political and economic sovereignty which does not fall in line, is targeted for regime change to install collaborator governments.” In effect, puppet governments.

Over the next 4 years the US, UK, Turkey, France and Israel, which wants in the energy business very badly, joined Qatar and Saudi Arabia in funding the terrorists. The CIA was training a number of them in Jordan. Turkey’s President Erdogen and his Muslim Brotherhood have been US puppets from the onset. The West has thrown everything it has at Syria but still Syria stands because its people stand behind their president. Of this I am certain. The mainstream media will cherry pick only anti-Assad people and only let the world see and hear those who support the corporate media’s agenda, but the numbers tell the real story.

On February 27, 2012 Syria drew up a brand new constitution which is supported by most Syrians. The one point many disagree with is that the President must be a Muslim. Most Muslims would like that eliminated. In June of 2014, Presidential elections were held. Although militants controlled many areas in the East and North, the people still came out to vote! In the Khalidiyah area of Homs, the militants were in control. It didn’t keep the majority of the 500,000 eligible voters from coming out that day. And they are mostly Sunni!. In Lebanon, Syrian refugees lined up for hours on end to cast their votes. President Assad won by an extremely wide margin. Were there legitimate opponents? Some say yes. Some say no. But so many came out that day to show their support. In many ways his determination to stand up against the West and Saudi Arabia has galvanized his presidency.

Throughout the course of my days in Syria, one of the friends I will never forget is Shahe. He had traveled all the way from war-ridden Aleppo to Damascus to visit his daughter and son-in-law, and to meet me. The 3 of them were in the lobby when we met on Friday morning. He is famous on facebook for his kabobs and he invited me for lunch. Soon we were at the home of his daughter’s family in Old Damascus, and the grilling began. As we shared shisha and araq, a Middle Eastern liquor, Shahe showed me the video he had taken as he left Aleppo just the day before. What was once a beautiful city with ancient walls and historical sites has been blasted to ruins. Sometimes the people in Aleppo go months without running water or electricity. This is why there are so many refugees. But Shahe stays. After all, he tells me, “only the good die young!” His sense of humor, wit and kindness brings a tear to my eye as I recall our morning together.

In the weeks prior to Shahe’s current visit to the citadel, or center of town, it was occupied by foreign terrorists and/or extremists. Not Syrian rebels. The SAA had them surrounded and it looked as if the city would soon be liberated by the Syrian government. However, once again, the endless support, food and stream of mercenary terrorists/extremists flowing in from Turkey somehow broke the lines of defense and re-supplied the thugs. On the day before Shahe left Aleppo, the bombs were blasting all over the city and they were coming from the citadel. Where the terrorists were. Shahe video-taped his exit but out of respect he did not tape the dead bodies which covered the streets as he left to meet me. Just two days ago in August 2015, I read that the UN would be investigating Assad’s use of Barrel bombs against Syrian rebels. Against his own people. We’ve all heard this before but now I knew the truth. How can a Chechen, a Libyan, Tunisian, Morrocan or any other foreign paid mercenary be considered a Syrian rebel? They can’t. I don’t know if President Assad used barrel bombs but even if he did, to save the lives of people like Shahe, real Syrians, I have to ask. Whats the difference if you kill a terrorist with a barrel bomb or a bullet?


Shahe and his daughter Annie.

We had a wonderful time together, but it was time to go. Kevo, Shahe and Annie walked me to the gates of Old Damascus and were sure to find me a taxi that knew 100% where my hotel was. The 4th cab they asked knew. They are among the kindest people I have ever met. We said our good byes, and I wished Kevo good luck as he was returning to the SAA the very next day. Shahe and his family will always hold a special place in my heart.

Dinner in Damascus
Suzan met me as I had planned at 7:00 pm. As we walked through the streets of Damascus, the sun was beginning to set. About 30 minutes later we entered an apartment building. Soon, we were in the home of Suzan’s Aunt Amal. We walked through the dining room and sat in the adjoining living room area. The 3 of us sat and Suzan served as translator. Nobody except 12 year old Sedra, spoke English.

It wasn’t long before the house was full. As I mentioned earlier Suzan and her entire family are Sunni Muslims although it is quite common in Syria and Iraq for a Sunni and shier to wed. Soon Khaldoun, who is the son in law of Aunt Amal, entered. He appeared to be in his early to mid 50s, and sat down in an easy chair just to my left. He was interested in why I was in Syria as Suzan began translating the reason for my trip. He would look at me and nod as Suzan explained how the media in the US has been reporting this struggle to be a civil war. He politely laughed it off. This was a special night for me. They all made me feel as if I was part of the family. Soon I was introduced to Mona. She was an attractive 19 year old. Her sense of humor was delightful as was Neven’s. At one point, Mona stopped what she was doing and adjusted her hijab. She started laughing so I asked Suzan what was going on. She said Mona’s hijab was on too tight, and it was giving her a head-ache. Then they giggled. Soon afterward, the final couple arrived. Suzan’s cousin Muleham and his fiance Ghinwa who is interested in and partakes in boxing. Seems a lot of Syrians are, and Father Dave who is part of our delegation, helps teach and promote boxing in Syria.( He also writes articles on Syria. His report on the Yarmouk refugee camp is very enlightening.

Dinner was ready so we sat at the large dining room table. To my left, there was Khaldoun and a huge bowl of rice with lamb slices. To my right, was another huge bowl of chicken and potatoes in a wonderfully seasoned sauce. Seasoning is what makes the food in the Middle East so special. There were also plenty of vegetables. I didn’t want to discuss politics at the table but I was interested in Syria’s education system. Turns out the education is free from first grade, aged 6 to 12th grade. 17-18 years of age. They don’t have property taxes like we do that goes into public education. It is truly free. There are also private schools but their public system is as good as or better than ours. And in the end, the exams are the same in both the public and the private schools. Our public schools are paid for by our taxes. As far as University Education, things are a little different than ours. University is free for those who graduated 12th grade with good to high marks on the exams. If they did not have good marks, the student can choose to pay for a private University. If the student gets high marks at this point they can achieve the Masters Degree and the PhD, Doctorate, all free of charge. The government will also send top students abroad to foreign countries to complete a Doctorate (PhD). They can go to the USA, UK, Europe, India or Russia. The education fees are paid for by the government and a monthly stipend to cover all expenses like food and rooming (board). Even during this current crisis, these programs are fully funded and working. A friend is currently in Russia studying for her Doctorate in Business, all at the expense of the Syrian government.

Fruit, in a sauce and cheese, was brought to the table. I had complimented Amal so she continued to fill my plate. The fruit was delicious and I thanked them for the raspberry and sauce. Again Sedra, never missing a chance to use her English, corrected me. It was strawberries! It was truly a wonderful meal and you’d never know this was a country in crisis. After dinner, Amal asked us to go back into the living room. Soon, we were all served either tea or coffee. The Arabic coffee was served in demitasse cups. As I was watching Neven continue to try and loosen her hijab, I asked about the economy. The government continues to keep a lower price on things despite the terrible sanctions by the West in order to help the people. We already touched on medical supplies, but food items are also subsidized. Flour, sugar, tea and bread are kept artificially lowered in order to help the people of Syria. This is why Turkish people have always come to Syria to shop. Prices are much lower.

After desert, I realized we had already been together for 3 hours, and I had to be ready for the bus by 8:30 the next morning. Before I left though, Suzan’s aunt wanted to show me photos of where they once lived in Zamalka near Jober, and what the FSA had done to their home. Again, it was truly something to see a photo from someone right there on how this global attack was changing their lives. These photos were from the very beginning in 2011 when the FSA were legitimate rebels, but they too morphed into a terrorist group. It broke my heart and I apologized for my country’s part in all of this. It was also very clear that they did not want me to feel bad. All they wanted was for me to continue learning the truth and getting their message to the American people. We all said our good-byes and as I was walking out, I noticed Neven begin to take off her hijab. She giggled like a little girl when our eyes met but it didn’t matter. By then we were all family. Khaldour handed me some wrapped goods from his store in Old Damascus. He and Suzan drove me back to the hotel, and I thanked them for an evening I will never forget. God bless them all.

From left to right: Suzan, Me, Shareen, Larisa, Mona, Aunt Amal, Majed, Khaldoun, Sedra, and Neven.

Ma’loulaa, Saydynaya and the Grand Mufti
On Saturday, our bus took us to the ancient town of Ma’loula. A village over 2,000 years old where the homes are built right into the mountains. It’s a village of about 3,300 where Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ, is still spoken. Muslims and Christians live in peace and harmony as they do throughout all of Syria. Due to the nature of this essay, I can’t do Ma’loula justice. I’ll leave that to the guide books.

In early September 2013, this village was over run by al-Nusra terrorists. 6 people were kidnapped and never heard from again. Abu Mohamad al-Golani’s thugs killed some of the villagers. The town went back and forth between Nusra and SAA control until a November 29th, 2013. Nusra terrorists kidnapped 12 nuns on that day and held them until a prisoner exchange was completed, and by April 14th 2014, the SAA liberated the town once and for all, I pray. Most people in the West never heard about this. Why?

Just 3 or 4 weeks earlier there was the “false flag” chemical attack just outside of Damascus. All the West was waiting to see if President Obama would be attacking Syria. In the book, “Inside Syria”, written by Reese Erlich (See Chapter 6), he states that in the initial US report from August 30th, 2013, the White House reported that the gas had killed 1,429 people, including 426 children. Within weeks, the US version of events began to fall apart. First, was the matter of civilian deaths. The US figure of 1,429 was nearly 3 times the size of the highest estimates of reliable sources. Doctors Without Borders, which had medical personnel on the ground in Al Ghouta, estimated 355 deaths. British intelligence estimated 350 deaths, and even the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights counted 502. Only the Syrian Nation Coalition, the opposition group backed by Western powers and located in Turkey, agreed with the US estimate. But when pressed by the Associated Press for a list of names, it could only come up with a list of 395. Soon, MIT sent physicists, scientists and engineers to Al Ghouta. They all determined that the chemical gas came from an area only 2 kilometers away. Not the 9 kilometers reported by the mainstream news. The big difference being that 9 kilometers is where the government forces were stationed. 2 or 3 kilometers away is where the sectarian Islamists/terrorists were. It’s easy to see that the US was eager for popular support to bomb Syria. Thank God that the American public, for whatever the reasons, were against bombing. In fact about 80% of the American people had had enough of war in foreign countries by then.

Next we were headed to Saydnaya. Another Christian/Muslim village about 35 miles from Damascus. As we got off the bus, we joined thousands of people and a big brass band with drums. It was the 100th year commemoration of the Armenian Genocide. The Turkish genocide of between 800,000 and 1.5 million Armenians which had begun exactly 100 years ago on this date, April 24th 1915. Of course President Obama doesn’t officially recognize the genocide. After all, Turkey is one of our allies/puppets in the ME. We were brought from church to honor all who had died then, and also to honor all the martyrs killed since the current war began in 2011. In the West, we have been indoctrinated to associate the word martyr with a suicide bomber, but in reality the word martyr is used to describe any innocent person who has died in the conflict.

Finally, we were brought to the last church we would enter on this day. Reverend Andrew Ashdown and I were escorted to the very first pew where we sat, listening to story after story as people would be introduced onto the stage before us. The translator looked directly at us as the people told their stories of how their loved ones had been killed, kidnapped or brutalized. Never in my life had I been so moved. So ashamed, but at the same time determined to help. These people were turning their heartbreak and misery into a cry for help. Pleading us to tell the rest of the world the truth. As we left the church, everything seemed surreal as the marching band began playing again on that very sunny day. Soon, we were whisked onto the bus and headed back to Damascus. The day had been long and emotional but it wasn’t over. We had been invited to the Grand Mufti’s home for dinner. This was something very special!

For a man of his stature and standing, his home was a modest apartment by our standard although very neat, well furnished and fairly large. His servant greeted us at the door and we joined Dr. Hassoun in his living room. He was seated in chair in the center of the room against the wall. To his left, sat the President of Damascus University, and to his right our Professor Hayes. The rest of us gathered around him in sofas and chairs. He has kind eyes and when he speaks you really can feel the passion as he carefully enunciates his sentences. He told us the same thing we had been hearing every day. This conflict is political. Not religious. As gracious as he was, you could see he had a heavy heart. Not just because his son was recently killed by one of the so-called “moderate” rebels, but he told us of breaking news in the Northwest. The town of Jisr Shugour was under heavy attack. First, they took Idlib and now Jisr Shugour. Those places were all invaded by Jibhat al Nusra. One of their leaders is a man named MUSLIM AL SHISANI who is a Chechen. He was also present at the massacre of Kassab on March 21st 2014. How can a Chechen be a Syrian Opposition Member and how can a Chechen be a Syrian Rebel? Al-Nusra is 99% foreign fighters…not Syrians. He also confirmed what I had heard recently. Foreign mercenaries have been driving mobile scud missile launchers paid for by the US into Syria from Turkey. They fire shells into the Latakia area and are back in Turkey before the Syrian Air Force can get them. We never hear about these attacks, but if just one Syrian fighter jets’ missile landed in Turkey as it pursued these militant thugs you better believe it would be headline news.

In Summation
Track 2 diplomacy is when people from different countries talk to each other. I firmly believe this is the best way along with social media to make war less likely. My trip was an affirmation of almost everything I had previously heard. This is not a civil war. Is President Bashar al-Assad without his flaws? Of course not. There is corruption in the government and occasionally in the choosing of who gets those jobs. I’ve seem that first hand in New Jersey and almost got fired for trying to do something about it. It goes on in every jurisdiction and no country is immune. He also favors some businessmen over others, but that to is business as usual. In New Jersey, its called “Pay to Play.” However, most people really do love and respect him.

I can’t speak of Arabs or Muslims in Saudi Arabia, but practically every person I met in Syria and Lebanon was genuinely kind, polite, well educated and respectful. Not what we’ve been indoctrinated to believe. I know that if every American could go there we’d be demanding the truth from Washington DC, but that’s not practical. What is practical is the ability to learn. As soon as I retired, I began reading. In 2012, I began by reading S. Brian Willson’s book “Blood on the Tracks.” Another great read is Sibel Edmonds’ “Classified Woman.” She was an FBI translator for the FBI, and what she discovered about 9/11 is stunning. In that book you’ll see how our government keeps the truth from surfacing and you’ll see the dirty, clandestine agreements we make with Turkey. Imagine how much better off we all would be if less tax money went into “protecting us,” and instead went into our own infrastructure. Think of how it might effect the immigration problem if less people were forced to leave their homes in war torn countries that our government is very much responsible for. Everywhere I went in Syria, people of all ages asked me to deliver this message. “Please tell the Americans the truth!” The internet is what I refer to as “The Weapon of Peace.” Because of it, every country’s military can no longer de-humanize the “enemy.” Truth is, most people want the same thing. Peace. I hear people ask “why don’t Muslims speak out against these terrorists?” They do. Its simply not in the interest of mainstream media to report that. You have to dig for the truth. And by having gone to Syria, I am more certain of the truth than ever before. Remember when 60 Minutes reported that Assad was starving his own people in Homs? I spoke to many residents from Homs. The truth is the terrorists took over 1 section of the city. Assad told his citizens to leave. Most did. Then he starved the terrorists. Were a handful of them Syrian? Probably. There’s the half truth! Same as in the center of Aleppo more recently. Were some of those terrorists Syrian? If so, then the media wasn’t really lying. But you get the point.

I hope that this piece helps bring another kind of peace. I hope it gets some of you to find the time to search for alternatives to mainstream media and to join us. Then call your Senate and Congressional Representatives, and tell them to stop aiding the terrorists. Enough is enough. Until you do, these innocent people will continue to be slaughtered, and we will continue to lose our freedoms and maybe our country.

Final Thought
When the custom agent at Newark Airport saw I had been to Syria, he asked that I follow him into the stage two customs room where I was questioned and detained for about two hours. As he walked me towards the area he said “here in the US you’re free to speak your mind.” I thought about it, and decided I better not.



“An American In Syria” by guest blogger John Mesler, Posted by Jon Gold


Dr. Mohammad Abdo Al-Ibrahim

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

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