Sky News and the Western Press Have Once Again Failed Syria

By Vanessa Beeley
Source

Recent storylines from the Western press on the “Idlib” narrative, particularly the extraordinary spate of “on-the-ground” reports from Sky News reporter Alex Crawford, have failed to paint an accurate picture of the reality faced by Syrian civilians.

Brett McGurk – the U.S. government’s Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL — described Idlib as “the largest Al Qaeda safe haven since 9/11,” adding that the presence of Al Qaeda in Idlib was a “huge problem” and had been so “for some time.” Mint Press journalist Whitney Webb covered McGurk’s statements and U.S. policy in Idlib in late 2018.

McGurk’s statement seems to have been forgotten by both corporate media and “human rights” commentators alike since the Syrian Army’s military campaign to liberate areas of Idlib began in earnest a few weeks ago. In fact, there seems to be an ongoing campaign by the Western press to normalize militant groups affiliated with Al Qaeda.

On May 27, 2019 a headline in a Reuters article read “Idlib government chief urges defense against Assad attack” (emphasis added). The “head” of the Idlib “Salvation Government,” Fawaz Hilal, was calling upon Turkey to intervene on their behalf to protect them from SAA military advances.

While Reuters openly admits that the Salvation Government is heavily backed by Hayat Tahrir Al Sham (HTS)/Al Qaeda, there is minimal reference to the daily war crimes committed by armed groups against civilians in Syrian government-secured territory as a valid reason for the uptick in Syrian military operations to liberate areas of Idlib province.

The reader is ultimately left with the impression that the Salvation Government is legitimate Syrian “opposition” rather than an Al Qaeda construct established with the involvement of the notorious Abu Mohammed Al-Jolani.

Idlib Syria Media

Even the partisan Crisis Group, which tends to lean heavily in favor of the U.S. Coalition, described the Salvation Government’s clear Al Qaeda affiliations and its role in securing financing for the violent, extremist organization. A January 2019 Crisis Group report concluded:

The centrepiece of HTS’s project is the ‘Salvation Government,’ formed in November 2017 … For HTS, the Salvation Government seems to be both a political project and a money-making tool.”

Supposed to be a safe place

Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and former European director of Human Rights Watch, told the BBC:

Idlib was supposed to be a safe place. Where war should not be, so it has to end. We cannot have war take place in what is essentially a refugee camp.”

Egeland “disappeared” the estimated 120,000 terrorist fighters controlling the majority of Idlib province and pockets of northern Hama. Aleppo MP and head of the Aleppo Chamber of Commerce, Fares Shehabi, told the BBC in September 2018 that 100,000 extremist fighters were controlling Idlib, 40,000 of whom were “hard-core radicals.”

Shehabi has since told me that he believes the numbers to have increased to 120,000 extremist fighters, with up to 50,000 hard-core radicals that Shehabi says includes large numbers of foreign mercenaries, hardline soldiers from around the world. While these numbers may be on the high side, it is clear that the size of the Al Qaeda-dominated force in Idlib is alarming.

Idlib Syria Media

Considerable numbers of “hard-core” extremists were bused to Idlib after the liberation of East Aleppo, Homs, Eastern Ghouta and southern provinces of Syria from December 2016 through July/August 2018 as part of Syrian government amnesty and reconciliation deals.

By whitewashing the role of the Idlib mercenaries and extremist groups — which include Jaish Al Islam, who ruled Douma with a regime of torture, execution, slave labor and imprisonment — the Western press has acted as de facto protection racketeers for the very forces exploiting civilians as human shields in Idlib and preventing their exodus via the Russian/Syrian-established humanitarian corridors.

Embedded video

This is a familiar pattern that was seen previously during the liberation of East Aleppo and Eastern Ghouta, when extremist groups would shell or snipe fleeing civilians, often blaming the crimes on advancing SAA forces.

A narrow escape?

Sky News’ Alex Crawford first produced a story from inside Idlib, claiming her team had been “deliberately” targeted by Syrian government forces. Crawford and her team said a Syrian drone had zeroed in on them, relaying their location to the SAA.

Crawford Idlib

Syria: Sky News witnesses horrors of Syria’s last rebel outpost

Sky’s Alex Crawford says the crew was attacked with tank shells, as an activist they were travelling with was hit by shrapnel.

news.sky.com

Crawford most likely entered Idlib via the Turkish border and was being escorted by the HTS fighters on motorbikes, which were visible in a longer video published by Sky News. Under these circumstances and in the midst of an ongoing military campaign, traveling with a known extremist group through their enclave while they were actively engaged in combat with the Syrian Army would indicate that the SAA was not targeting journalists, but instead the extremists with whom they traveled.

The military drones — which Crawford alleges were used to “pinpoint” her team’s location prior to a “deliberate” attack — were never shown in the video produced by Sky News, nor is there any sound of drone activity in the video. This reporter has heard drones in action in Gaza during the 2012 Israeli offensive and their sound is very audible, particularly when they descend to attack or close-surveillance altitude.

Idlib Syria Media Sky News

Crawford and the Sky News team also don’t appear to be wearing “Press” tabards or helmets in their video report, although it is difficult to distinguish much at all in the report, save a lot of confusion and expletives from Crawford.

Idlib Syria Media Sky News

Crawford’s Sky News report carried the headline: “Syria: Sky News witnesses horrors of Syria’s last rebel outpost” (emphasis added), reducing HTS — an established terror group — to simply “rebels.”

The “civilian activist” described by Crawford  in her report is none other than Nusra Front acolyte Bilal Abdul Kareem, who is (by his own admission) on the U.S terrorist “kill list.” In a July 2018 Rolling Stone article, Kareem claimed that he was tipped off by a Turkish source that “he had been put on a list of targets at Incirlik Air base, a launching pad for American drones.

Bilal Abdul Kareem | Syria

Crawford’s working with Kareem, while wearing a “long black abaya” without any press identification in HTS-held territory, was not only a foolhardy enterprise, but a very risky endeavor in a time of war.

Sky News is not the first media outlet to collaborate with Kareem. In a July, 2017 article for Mint Press News, journalist Whitney Webb delved into Kareem’s working relationship with CNN when Kareem assisted in the making of the Clarissa Ward award winning documentary, “Undercover in Syria”.

Kareem was responsible for organising access to the extremist-held territory for the CNN team. In the article, Webb highlights the armed group members who were interviewed by journalist Max Blumenthal – who “confirmed that Kareem was a well-known member of al-Nusra and was commonly referred to as the “American mujahid.”

Was Crawford unaware of Kareem’s ties to Al Qaeda when the Sky News team chose him as their “activist” escort and fixer?

According to its report, Sky News retreated to the town of Khan Sheikhoun, another Nusra Front/HTS stronghold in Idlib. The ease of movement with which Sky News was able to traverse Idlib territory, which is amongst the most densely populated by Al Qaeda offshoots and extremist underling groups, without threat of kidnap or worse is perplexing. Journalists are regularly targeted or kidnapped by terrorist groups operating in Syria.

The last “last hospital”

When challenged on the veracity of her maiden report from Idlib, Crawford resorted to a tried and tested rallying cry for Western journalists still clamoring to paint Syria’s opposition forces as legitimate anti-government resistance – the last hospital.

Crawford expressed outrage at the alleged targeting of “hospitals” by the Syrian government and its allies. The “last hospital” narrative, previously used heavily in East Aleppo, comprised repeatedly recycled sensationalist headlines that the Syrian government and its allies were deliberately targeting the last remaining hospital in a given area during the final stages of liberation from armed groups — a narrative discredited by independent journalists reporting on the ground in Aleppo during the final stages of the military campaign to liberate East Aleppo from the grip of international terrorism.

Idlib Syria Media

I covered the “last hospital” narrative in a separate article for MintPress, where I highlight how this narrative is deployed by many in the Western press as a distraction from the reality in Syria. It was previously brought into play — as the SAA were sweeping East Aleppo and Eastern Ghouta clean of the occupying sectarian gangs — in order to effectively protect the extremist militants who had ruled these areas for more than five years, inflicting their brutal, violent ideology upon captive civilians. The narratives served to effectively delay the release from occupation for these civilians, who were desperate to escape to the safety of government-held areas.

Idlib reality succinctly described

Peter Ford, former U.K. ambassador to Syria, explained the current operations in Idlib very succinctly:

In brief, what is happening at the moment is not a full-scale assault by Syrian government forces aimed at liberating the whole of Idlib. Rather it is a limited operation, the main goal of which is to chip away at the southern fringes of what is effectively the Al Qaeda caliphate.”

The reporting from the likes of Alex Crawford and Sky News does not convey this reality nor does it reveal the existence of the Al Qaeda caliphate described by Ford. Crawford has entirely disappeared the extremist group’s aggression against the border towns and villages which has been ongoing since the establishment of the “deconfliction zones” in September 2018 and which entirely validates the Syrian military response to defend civilians against further bloodshed to halt those violations.

It must also not be forgotten that another of the Sochi agreement terms was the freeing up of the M5 highway that links Idlib to the rest of Syria and ultimately serves as the main trade route from Turkey to Syria and on into Jordan, whose trade borders with Syria have been successfully reopened after liberation of the south of Syria from the armed-group’s occupation.

Idlib Syria Media

The HTS control of significant areas of the M5 route has prevented this agreed-upon development and is another reason for the recent intensification of Syrian allied military activity in Idlib — again ignored completely by the majority of the Western press, whose selective coverage plays into the hands of these extremist groups.

Were Sky News to adhere to true journalism ethics, it would identify Turkey, a member of NATO, as the cause of the recent military confrontation that is threatening civilian lives on both sides of the Idlib/Hama border. As Peter Ford states:

The jihadis have been bolstered with arms supplied by Turkey (including tanks and deadly U.S.-made TOW anti-tank weapons) and paid for by Qatar, which also pays salaries. As long as Turkey continues to prop up the jihadis and Qatar to fund them, fighting is likely to continue, with the [Syrian] government continuing to put its faith in softening up with aerial bombing and artillery shelling rather than risk its sparse ground forces.”

Ford even offers a pragmatic solution in Idlib, never presented or even examined by the Western press:

The only way realistically to limit the fighting is for Turkey to withdraw its support for the jihadis and let them melt back into the Turkish border zone where they could affiliate with the Turkish-controlled militias there. This would still leave a problem for later but Idlib could breathe.”

A deliberate attempt to mislead

There is no nuance to the Sky News reports, no analysis of complexity, no diverging opinions or context. Therefore, in my opinion, this is not journalism; it is a deliberate intent to mislead a gullible public fed a media diet of “war on terror” fear and insecurity for years. It is information bias and cynical misdirection of narratives designed to support U.S. military adventurism in Syria and the region.

After Crawford was taken to task by educated Twitter accounts, she put out a Tweet stating:

Sometimes, just sometimes, twitter and some on it, make me want to explode with frustration at the unregulated untruths and constant misrepresentation of facts without check.”

No, Ms. Crawford, what is happening is that people who inform themselves no longer accept unregulated untruths and constant misrepresentation of facts without check from media channels whose public trust has been irreparably eroded by years of falsification and obfuscation of “facts” in relation to the U.S. Coalition war waged against Syria since 2011.

The recently published documentary, The Veto, a collaboration between Syrian journalist Rafiq Lutf and this correspondent, exposes the depth of media complicity in sustaining the Syrian conflict and the level of fabrication by CNN and other mainstream channels that have heavily influenced public opinion against the Syrian government since the early days of the campaign to topple President Bashar Al Assad from power and to destabilize the country.

The true frustration explosion is the public response to the conversion of their media into a fifth column for power and the resulting mayhem, bloodshed and misery it brings to the peoples of countries targeted for regime change or resource plundering by the U.S. and allied globalist nations — powers that have zero regard for “human rights” when it comes to achieving their aims and no qualms about usurping any government or population that stands in their way.

We live in an unprecedented age of media and state deceit and the expression of frustration is a natural reaction when we wake up to this gaslighting abuse. Crawford and other establishment journalists who have effectively served the abusers — the state mind-controllers — need to be aware that the long-time victims are finally turning against them. They have two choices: to continue serving power or finally becoming agents of the people. Which will it be?

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BBC’s Business of Strategic Information Warfare

See Behind The Veil

Well, well, well.  There goes the British Broadcasting Corporation again!

BBC’s news story titled “Uncovering Pakistan’s secret human rights abuses” was published on June 2, 2019 by the Corporation’s native correspondent in Islamabad M. Ilyas Khan – a “proud Edwardian chasing stories among a resilient people in a sorry dominion”.  And subsequently raised a reasonably livid response from the Pakistan’s military.

Interestingly one keen look at the webpage carrying the story reveals how artfully the norm of providing links to related articles has been utilized to further the impact of the new endeavor.  Nothing unusual on the face of it – yet once you look at related links you cannot help realize the deliberation of design.  ‘A protest Pakistan wants to hide from the world’ (February 7, 2019), ‘The young tribesman rattling Pakistan’s Army’ (April 23, 2018), ‘Pakistan’s undeclared war’(September 10, 2004) and ‘Will Pakistan mends its…

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Robert Stuart vs the BBC: One Man’s Quest to Expose a Fake BBC Video about Syria

By Rick Sterling
Source

Robert Stuart BBC eb2f5

It’s a David vs Goliath story. A former local newspaper reporter, Robert Stuart, is taking on the British Broadcasting Corporation. Stuart believes that a sensational video story about an alleged atrocity in Syria “was largely, if not entirely, staged.”  The BBC would like it all to just go away. But like David, Stuart will not back down or let it go.  It has been proposed that the BBC could settle the issue by releasing the raw footage from the event, but they refuse to do this. Why?

The Controversial Video

The video report in controversy is ‘Saving Syria’s Children‘. Scenes from it were first broadcast as a BBC news report on August 29, 2013 and again as a BBC Panorama special in September. ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ was produced by BBC reporter Ian Pannell with Darren Conway as camera operator and director.

The news report footage was taken in a town north of Aleppo city in a region controlled by the armed opposition. It purports to show the aftermath of a Syrian aerial attack using incendiary weapons, perhaps napalm, killing and burning dozens of youth.  The video shows the youth arriving and being treated at a nearby hospital where the BBC film team was coincidentally filming two British medical volunteers from a British medical relief organization.

The video had a strong impact. The incident was on August 26. The video was shown on the BBCthree days later as the British Parliament was debating whether to support military action by the US against Syria.  As it turned out, British parliament voted against supporting military action. But the video was effective in demonizing the Syrian government. After all, what kind of government attacks school children with napalm-like bombs?

The Context

‘Saving Syria’s Children’ was produced at a critical moment in the Syrian conflict. Just days before, on August 21,  there had been an alleged sarin gas attack against an opposition held area on the outskirts of Damascus. Western media was inundated with videos showing dead Syrian children amidst accusations the Syrian government had attacked civilians, killing up to 1400.  The Syrian government was assumed to be responsible and the attack said to be a clear violation of President Obama’s “red line” against chemical weapons.

This incident had the effect of increasing pressure for Western states or NATO to attack Syria. It would be for humanitarian reasons, rationalized by the “responsibility to protect”.

The assumption that ‘the regime’ did it has been challenged. Highly regarded American journalists including the late Robert Parry and Seymour Hersh investigated and contradicted the mainstream media. They pointed to the crimes being committed by the armed opposition for political goals.  A report by two experts including a UN weapons inspector and Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity also came to the conclusion that the Syrian government was not responsible and the attack was actually by an armed opposition group with the goal of forcing NATO intervention.

Why the Controversial Video is Suspicious

After seeing skeptical comments about ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ on an online discussion board, Robert Stuart looked at the video for himself. Like others, he thought the hospital sequences looked artificial, almost like scenes from a badly acted horror movie.

But unlike others, he decided to find out. Thus began his quest to ascertain the truth. Was the video real or was it staged?  Was it authentic or contrived propaganda?

Over almost six years his research has revealed many curious elements about the video including:

* Youth in the hospital video appear to act on cue.

* There is a six hour discrepancy in reports about when the incident occurred.

* One of the supposed victims, shown writhing in pain on a stretcher, is seen earlier walking unaided into the ambulance.

* The incident happened in an area controlled by a terror group associated with ISIS.

* One of the British medics is a former UK soldier involved in simulated injury training.

* The other British medic is daughter of a prominent figure in the Syrian opposition.

* In 2016 a local rebel commander testified that the alleged attack never happened.

Support for Robert Stuart

Robert Stuart’s formal complaints to the BBC have been rebuffed. His challenges to those involved in the production have been ignored or stifled.  Yet his quest has won support from some major journalistic and political figures.

Former Guardian columnist Jonathan Cook has written several articles on the story. He says,  “Stuart’s sustained research and questioning of the BBC, and the state broadcaster’s increasing evasions, have given rise to ever greater concerns about the footage. It looks suspiciously like one scene in particular, of people with horrific burns, was staged.”

Former UK Ambassador Craig Murray has compared scenes in ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ with his own harrowing experience with burn victims. He says, “The alleged footage of burn victims in hospital following a napalm attack bears no resemblance whatsoever to how victims, doctors and relatives actually behave in these circumstances.”

Film-maker Victor Lewis-Smith has done numerous projects for the BBC. When learning about Stuart’s research he asked for some explanations and suggested they could resolve the issue by releasing the raw video footage of the events. When they refused to do this, he publicly tore up his BBC contract.

Why it Matters

The BBC has a reputation for objectivity. If BBC management was deceived by the video, along with the public, they should have a strong interest in uncovering and correcting this.  If there was an error, they should want to clarify, correct and ensure it is not repeated.

The BBC could go a long way toward resolving this issue by releasing raw footage of the scenes in ‘Saving Syria’s Children’.  Why have they refused to do this? In addition, they have actively removed youtube copies of ‘Saving Syria’s Children’. If they are proud of that production, why are they removing public copies of it?

Has the BBC produced and broadcast contrived or fake video reports in support of British government foreign policy of aggression against Syria? It is important that this question be answered to either restore public trust (if the videos are authentic) or to expose and correct misdeeds (if the videos are largely or entirely staged).

The issue at stake is not only the BBC; it is the manipulation of media to deceive the public into supporting elite-driven foreign policy. ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ is an important case study.

The Future

Robert Stuart is not quitting.  He hopes the next step will be a documentary film dramatically showing what he has discovered and further investigating important yet unexplored angles.

The highly experienced film producer Victor Lewis-Smith, who tore up his BBC contract, has stepped forward to help make this happen.

But to produce a high quality documentary including some travel takes funding. After devoting almost six years to this effort, Robert Stuart’s resources are exhausted. The project needs support from concerned members of the public.

If you support Robert Stuart’s efforts, go to this crowdfunding website.  There you can learn more and contribute to this important effort to reveal whether the BBC video ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ showed true or staged events. Was the alleged “napalm” attack real or was it staged propaganda?  The project needs a large number of small donors and a few substantial ones to meet the June 7 deadline.

As actor and producer Keith Allen says,” Please help us to reach the target so that we can discover the facts, examine the evidence, and present the truth about ‘Saving Syria’s Children’. I think it’s really important.”

Liberate Syria’s Idlib, precisely for the civilians that America fakes concern over — In Gaza

May 25, 2019, RT.com -Eva Bartlett Western media and politicians are crying for Al-Qaeda in Syria again. It doesn’t get much more absurd than this! After years of brutal occupation by terrorists from various groups and now overwhelmingly Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (aka Al-Nusra, aka Al-Qaeda in Syria), Idlib governorate will eventually, by political or military means, be liberated. […]

via Liberate Syria’s Idlib, precisely for the civilians that America fakes concern over — In Gaza

New Zealand mosque attacks: Politicians and media have blood on their hands

By Siema Iqbal

ICH

March 15, 2019 “Information Clearing House” –  We woke to news of at least 49 Muslims murdered in New Zealand by far-right fanatics.

We watched – or consciously avoided watching – in horror the live-streamed footage of Muslims being gunned down while praying. How depraved has society become when social media is used to lionise massacres?

I had to tell my children about the attack. I told them not to watch the videos or to be afraid of being who they are: Muslims.

Spreading hatred

Today, the media and politicians like American president Donald Trump and former British foreign secretary Boris Johnson, have condemned the attacks. The same media and the same politicians have helped spread hatred against Muslims and Islam. They have blood on their hands.

This terrible mass murder was committed on the other side of the world supposedly in the name of “Europe”. There are lessons for us here in Britain, just as there are across the world.

This hatred is institutional. We knew Islamophobia was endemic in the Conservative party, but we turned a blind eye. Not anymore.

Siema Iqbal@siemaiqbal

This senator is Australian.

He has blood on his hands .

Call out the bigotry and hold people responsible.

Enough is enough.

Do not dare say that Islamophobia does not exist. The media and politicians must be held to account.

If we allow fanatics to turn up outside mosques with their banners of hate, and give airtime and social media platforms to the likes of Tommy Robinson and Katie Hopkins, this is what happens.

If we continue to allow “think-tanks” to provide ammunition to parliamentarians and far-right leaders under the guise of “credible reports”, this is what happens.

Worldwide bigotry

This type of hatred is not confined to any country, but is widespread across the world.

Muslims are imprisoned in China; there are attacks on Muslims by Hindu nationalists in India; Rohingya Muslims are being ethnically cleansed in Myanmar. All of this is done in the name of tackling “extremism”, while ignoring the bigotry all around us.

Politicians might speak of their concern for the victims and families, but on a daily basis, many people are targeted by the far-right, as politicians have enabled a destructive discourse.

It’s time to admit that the UK’s Prevent strategy is not working. The “war on terror” has only fuelled hatred of Muslims in the general population, and distrust of the state among Muslim communities.

In 2013, the UK nearly suffered a similar attack against multiple mosques. Mosque security should be a major priority going forward.

Standing strong

Although Facebook was quick to remove a graphic video of the Christchurch attack, why was no action taken in response to previous posts threatening violence against Muslims?

How many more innocent people have to die before governments take a long, hard look at their role in creating this mess?

While many far-right extremists are celebrating the New Zealand attack, as a Muslim, I can promise you this: The more you attack us, the stronger and more united Muslims will become.

Today, the mosques will be packed – more than ever before – as prayers are offered for those killed. Muslims will never be afraid of bowing down to Allah, and nothing will stop us from doing so.

Siema Iqbal is a mother, a doctor and a British Muslim opinion writer based in Manchester. She is currently a partner and trainer at a North Manchester GP practice. She enjoys writing and can often be found public speaking and raising money and awareness for charities both in the UK and abroad.

This article was originally published by MEE” –

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Lies America’s News-Media Tell

By Eric Zuesse
Source

Here are America’s recent targets for regime-change (against which have been used economic sanctions, invasion, and enormous destruction) — and all of them are nations that never invaded nor threatened to invade America:

Iraq 2003, Libya 2011, Syria 2011-2018, Yemen 2015-now, Ukraine 2014, and Venezuela 2017-now.

Because all of these were and are aggressive wars by the US against nations that never invaded nor threatened to invade the US, they all ought to be subject to mega-criminal prosecutions as was done by the US, Britain, and USSR, against Germany at the Nuremberg Tribunals after World War II. That was merely victors’ ‘justice’, applied by the US, Britain and USSR, but this would instead be actual international justice, the first instance of such in all of world history. It’s desperately needed — especially now.

America’s Government and news-media were and are remarkably unanimous in saying that these invasions and coups are and were done in order to advance democracy and human rights in the given target-nation. However, what it actually brings and has brought, in each and every case, is, instead, massive bloodshed, death, poverty, destruction, and outpourings of refugees — and an increasingly dangerous world, the current world.

Is this lying, by the US and its allies, and their ‘news’-media, mere hypocrisy, or is it something even worse — far worse? In any case, only a fair and international juridical tribunal that’s controlled by no nation and by no alliance of nations can possibly deliver a credible verdict on this. And, so, such international criminal trials must be organized and carried out, or else even worse can be expected to occur. Impunity is desirable only by and for gangsters, and no land where it exists can reasonably be called “democratic.”

America’s news-media — especially the mainstream ones — not only cover-up important truths, but they routinely lie. Both the Democratic Party’s media and the Republican Party’s media report the same lies, which are the Government’s lies, on these international matters. These are lies on which there is bipartisan unity by the nation’s press (and by both political Parties), in order to deceive the public, into support for invading and occupying, or overthrowing via a coup or otherwise, some foreign government. Their target is always a government which America’s billionaires who control international corporations want to replace, and so the US regime unanimously lies against that targeted government, as being dangerous and evil, even though the given takeover-target has never invaded, nor threatened to invade, the United States — is no real national-security threat to the American people. Only on the basis of lies can that succeed. This is the main function of the press, in such countries: deceit, on those international matters.

In other words: the US Government is fascist, like the Axis powers were in World War II. This is worse than, for example, merely wasting billions of dollars on building a border-wall against Mexico in order to protect Americans, but it receives far less press-attention (perhaps because the press is so unanimous in endorsing and supporting these atrocities — and that’s yet further evidence of the American regime’s fascism). The press is owned by, and funded by ads, and donations from, America’s billionaires, the very same people who fund our politicians and who also own controlling interests in the weapons-firms such as Lockheed Martin, which can’t survive without these weapons-sales, and which therefore demand constant conquests, in order to create new markets for their wares, new “allied nations.”

So, naturally, America’s military is mainly the enforcement-arm of the billionaires who control US-based international corporations (especially the weapons-firms and the extractive firms such as mining and fuels, which corporations crave to control foreign natural resources), and those people also control America’s Government and press, and this produces the unanimity for these regime-change operations — which likewise fits the fascist model.

The US is clearly the world’s leading fascist nation, and there is no close second (and none of the nations that the US regime is trying to conquer is fascist at all). What Germany was under Hitler, the US is and has been at least since the time of US President Ronald Reagan. The US has been a dictatorship since at least 1981.

Coup or invasion (either form of aggression) is an international war-crime, but the deceit against America’s public usually succeeds, because the public trust especially the billionaire-controlled mainstream press, which is always leading these lies-for-conquest.

Furthermore, almost all of the ‘alternative news’ media are likewise owned by (and funded by ads or donations from) wealthy interests that participate in and benefit from this mass-deceit — from the stenographic ‘news’ reporting, the Government’s accusations against the particular target-nation that’s about to be (or has been) regime-changed.

For example, all of America’s ’news’-media were stenographically reporting the US Government’s many lies about ‘Saddam Hussein’s WMD’, in order to ‘justify’ America’s kicking out the UN’s weapons-inspectors and simply bombing Iraq and invading and militarily occupying, and basically destroying, that country (which had never invaded ours) in 2003. All of America’s ‘news’ media did the same, but especially all of the mainstream ones did, of both the right and the left, all the way from Fox News to the New York Times. They all were hiding the truth and lying to support an illegal invasion — an international war-crime under international law, and violation of the UN’s Charter. Did Americans stop buying those ‘news’papers and watching those ’news’ channels, and buying those ’news’ magazines, after the truth became reluctantly exposed (during 2002-2005) that those ‘WMD’ didn’t exist and no longer had existed after 1998? No, those same ‘news’-media still are successful. (They all ought to be long-since out-of-business, but such accountability doesn’t exist in the news-business. Not only does a major ‘news’-medium hide its own corruption and lying but it hides that of all other major ‘news’-media, because otherwise the entire ‘democratic’ system of control by the nation’s billionaires would simply collapse.)

America’s ‘news’-media report just as much false ‘news’ (not merely what they call “fake news,” but actually false ‘news’) today, as they did back then, because America’s ‘news’-media cover-up not only for themselves, but also for each other, since they all lie so routinely in order to ‘justify’ their Government’s aggressions, coups, military invasions, foreign mass-murders, etc., and those invasions and coups are part of the unspoken business-plan of them all, for growth or expansion of their global control.

These atrocities are all done for ‘national security’ reasons, and in order to ‘spread democracy’, and in order to ‘protect human rights around the world’ — and Americans continue to believe it, and to believe the regime, and to subscribe to those same mainstream (and hangers-on) ’news’-media. Accountability against lying doesn’t exist in a hyper-aggressive ‘democracy’, a would-be all-encompassing global empire, which America has certainly become.

Today, these ’news’-media hide that they’ve been lying when they report that Russia ‘hacked’ Hillary Clinton’s email and John Podesta’s computer. Just click onto that, right there, and you will immediately see the latest documentation that it’s all mere lies against Russia, which is the only nation that does actually possess the military wherewithal to stand up against the US regime (since it inherited the arsenal of the former Soviet Union when the Cold War ended in 1991 on their side — though that war secretly continued and still is continuing on the American side).

These fabrications could have many reasons, but perhaps the likeliest is in order to increase weapons-sales by Lockheed Martin and other US weapons-makers, all of which are 100% dependent upon their sales to the US Government and to its allied governments. (There are consequently interlocking directorates between the ‘news’-businesses and the armaments-firms, and the Wall Street banks, and the think tanks, etc.; and all of this is intensified by the revolving door between Government officials and the private sector, such as generals becoming directors of ‘defense’ firms.) But this fraud that ‘Russia hacked the election’ has been exposed before, though not with the same thoroughness as it is in that latest news-report, which comes from the “Sic Semper Tyrannus” blog. You might happen to think that it must be ‘fake news’, because it’s from a non-mainstream site? It comes from Bill Binney, who is the NSA whistleblower who was the NSA’s top signals-intelligence analyst before he quit in disgust at the Government’s lying. Of course, he had tried all the mainstream ‘news’-media as prospective outlets for this news-report, but they’re not interested in exposing the truth — because that would expose themselves to be liars. Once a major lie is told, and told repeatedly, by a major ‘news’-medium, exposing that lie would be exposing itself — and none do that.

They also hide that they’ve been lying to report that America was justified to bomb Syria on 11 April 2018, justified to do it in order to punish Syria’s Government for having perpetrated a chemical weapons attack on 7 April 2018 in the town of Douma — a chemical weapons attack that was actually fabricated by the US and its allies, and which US Government lie is still being protected (hidden from the public) by the US regime’s ’news’ media, which media, for example, fail to report that the OPCW did not find any such attack to have occurred:

“OPCW Issues Fact-Finding Mission Reports on Chemical Weapons Use Allegations in Douma, Syria in 2018 and in Al-Hamadaniya and Karm Al-Tarrab in 2016”

Friday, 06 July 2018

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — 6 July 2018 — The Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), issued an interim report on the FFM’s investigation to date regarding the allegations of chemical weapons use in Douma, Syria on 7 April 2018.

The FFM’s activities in Douma included on-site visits to collect environmental samples, interviews with witnesses, data collection. In a neighbouring country, the FFM team gathered or received biological and environmental samples, and conducted witness interviews.

OPCW designated labs conducted analysis of prioritised samples. The results show that no organophosphorous nerve agents or their degradation products were detected in the environmental samples or in the plasma samples taken from alleged casualties. Along with explosive residues, various chlorinated organic chemicals were found in samples from two sites, for which there is full chain of custody. Work by the team to establish the significance of these results is on-going. The FFM team will continue its work to draw final conclusions.

If those “final conclusions” are ever made public by OPCW, will you trust your ’news’-media to report them honestly? And, if the conclusions never are published, will you think that the US regime and its ’news’-media are war-criminals there, just as they were in Iraq, and Syria, and Yemen, and Ukraine, and so many other countries?

According to Russian Television, or “RT” — which all major ’news’-media in the US and its allied regimes say is ‘untrustworthy’ — “Real ‘obscene masquerade’: How BBC depicted staged hospital scenes as proof of Douma chemical attack”. That op-ed by the great British investigative journalist Vanessa Beeley, who specializes in Syria, isn’t published by the BBC, or by ABC, NBC, CBS, NPR, PBS, Fox, MSNBC, CNN, New York Times, Guardian, or Washington Post. It’s too honest, for that. Could this be part of the reason that they call RT ‘fake news’? If so, maybe RT should replace them, at least for international reporting.

And, before that, there was the claimed 21 August 2013 sarin gas attack in the town of Ghouta by Syria’s Government, which was actually done by the US Government’s allies who were trying to overthrow and replace Syria’s Government — it’s what’s called a “false flag attack” — one that’s designed to be blamed against the other side, in order to serve as an ‘excuse’ to invade. The American Government and its ‘news’-media keep making suckers out of the American public this way, and yet the American public continue to subscribe to them — to pay their good money, for such evil propaganda. Apparently, nobody is even embarassed. It simply keeps happening, again and again.

Another recent example is the ‘democratic revolution’ in Ukraine in February 2014, which was actually a US coup that destroyed that country.

And the latest example is the US-and-Canada-led effort to impose a fascist regime in Venezuela.

Furthermore, as one of the perceptive reader-commenters to that latest Binney article on ‘Russiagate’ noted: “Craig Murray, in a very revealing but neglected interview with Scott Horton, said: ‘I should be plain that the Podesta emails and the DNC emails of course are two separate things and you shouldn’t conclude that both have the same source. But in both cases, we’re talking of a leak not a hack, in that the person who was responsible for getting the information out had legal access to that information.’” Murray, a whistleblower and former UK Ambassador, had been personally involved in that, by transferring a thumb-drive from the DNC whistleblower to Julian Assange, and he also said there, “If you are looking to the source of all this, you have to look to Americans,” and not at all to any Russians or other foreigners.

The comprehensiveness of the deceit by the US regime is beyond what the vast majority of Americans can even imagine to be the case. It is simply beyond the comprehension of most people. And that false ‘news’-reporting then becomes basic to, and enshrined in, false but best-selling ‘history’-books, so as to deepen, yet further, the deception of the public.

On Sunday, February 24th, the “Zero Hedge” independent news-site headlined “WaPo Quietly Deletes Branson’s Venezuela Concert From Article After ‘Fake’ Attendance Figures Exposed” and reported (and documented) that the British billionaire Richard Branson’s free pop-concert on Friday February 22 at the Venezuela-Colombia border in support of Washington’s attempted coup to overthrow Venezuela’s democratically elected President had drawn less than 20,000 fans instead of what had been reported in the US regime’s Washington Post, which had reported that 200,000 attended, and that as soon as the US regime’s fraud was publicly exposed — which was done by means of a photo of the crowd which had been taken by Dan Cohen of Russia’s RT, plus careful independent calculations by the “Moon of Alabama” blogger — the US regime’s ‘news’paper retroactively removed their ‘news’-report’s crowd-size-estimate from the online version of their ‘news’-report. Of course, the ‘error’ had already been physically printed in that trashy ‘news’paper, which might (at its discretion) subsequently publish a printed correction, saying that they’d only been trying to fool their subscribers in order to assist propaganda supporting the US regime’s grab for control over Venezuela.

The problem isn’t ‘fake news’ from RT or from small online sites (such as all of the major media claim to be the case), but false ‘news’ from mainstream US (and allied) ‘news’ (propaganda) media. They’ve all got millions of victims’ blood on their hands, and they’re not even a bit ashamed of any of it — and of shifting the blame for it to the targeted nations.

PS: Max Blumenthal is an investigative journalist who formerly believed the lies from the (think tanks and other agencies of the) billionaires who finance the Democratic Party. He was the star journalist at one of the Democratic Party’s leading ‘alt-news’ propaganda-sites, AlterNet, until he lost his employment there after starting to expose the rot that he had previously been fooled into supporting. He increasingly moved away from liberalism to progressivism; and the Democratic National Committee doesn’t want any of that, except as window-dressing — and Blumenthal decided he could no longer do that. He became unemployed for a while and then established, along with another former AlterNet reporter “The GrayZone Project,” in order to continue being employed. Blumenthal recently issued a YouTube video in which he interviewed star Democratic Party Presidential aspirant Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other members of Congress “Is the US Meddling in Venezuela? Max Blumenthal Asks US Congress Members.” As you can see there, all of them are either mildly or very supportive of Trump’s coup-attempt in Venezuela. Unfortunately, Blumenthal didn’t interview Tulsi Gabbard, who might possibly be an exception to the depressing rule that corruption reigns, and who recently announced her candidacy for the US Presidency. Nor did he interview Bernie Sanders, nor Sherrod Brown, nor Elizabeth Warren, all of whom likewise are competing for the progressives’ votes in the upcoming Democratic Party Presidential primaries. As for the other Democratic contenders, they’re competing to become instead the new Hillary Clinton — the American billionaires’ favorite. Instead, with Trump, we got in the 2016 Presidentials their second choice.

On February 18th, Blumenthal and a colleague, Alexander Rubinstein, headlined at one of the few sincere and honest US-based international-news sites, “Mint Press,” “Pierre Omidyar’s Funding of Pro-Regime-Change Networks and Partnerships with CIA Cutouts”, and they exposed Omidyar, the owner of a famous ‘news’ site that’s targeted at naive progressives, “The Intercept.” Whereas Mint Press is called ‘fake news’ by America’s billionaires’ ‘news’-media, The Intercept (which isn’t nearly as honest as Mint Press is) is not. The dictatorship’s aim is to crush the truth, and (like The Intercept does) they let in just enough of truth so as to keep hidden what’s most important to them to keep hidden from the public — things such as what Blumenthal and Rubinstein are now disclosing.

Everybody except America’s 585 billionaires should be reading sites such as the ones that publish Blumenthal and Rubinstein, and other honest investigative journalists (which are banned at all of the mainstream sites). Propaganda that poses as ‘news’ has to be crushed, in order for truth itself not to be crushed. But can their exposé of Omidyar win a top national journalism award without thereby bringing down the entire rotten and corrupt superstructure of lies? And that would also bring down the enormous international crimes this superstructure has supported and continues to support, such as Iraq 2003, Libya 2011, Syria 2011-2018, Yemen 2015-now, Ukraine 2014, and Venezuela 2017-now.

If such news-reports cannot win top journalism prizes, then what hope is there, realistically, that things will ever be able to improve?

Only by removing the blinders from the public, can the public see the light and the actual truth, about the world in which they are living. That’s what is needed in order for democracy to be able to exist. What now exists is, instead, dictatorship. That’s the current reality. It includes the European Council, which is the unelected government of the EU, which clearly is a dictatorship (and this is true even if Brexit is wrong), and it also includes every other ally of the US regime. The EU was created by the US and its allies after WW II. It “always was a CIA project.” FDR was dead, and maybe whatever there had been of US democracy died along with him. The UN that exists is not the one that he had intended and so carefully planned. We’ve been living in a charade. It didn’t start in 1981. There is this, and there also is this. It’s FDR’s vision turned upside-down and inside-out. That’s the actual world of today. It’s based on lies.

The Unreported Realities of Marie Colvin’s Last Assignment

By Jeremy Salt
Source

Marie Colvin 38d62

Familiar with Muslim culture, the American journalist Marie Colvin always took off her shoes when entering a Muslim household. On February 20, 2012, she traveled from Beirut to the Syrian border, where she and photographer Paul Conroy were taken to the outskirts of Homs by minders from the Free Syrian Army. From there they were led into the Baba Amr district through a stormwater drain.

Guided into a ‘rebel’ media center Colvin took off her shoes. Two days later she and Conroy awoke to the sound of intense shelling.  They were led outside with other foreign journalists and told when to run to safety across the street.  According to media reports, Colvin was running back to retrieve her shoes after one explosion when there was a second, killing her and French photographer Remi Ochlik.

Beginning in May 2011, Homs had been infiltrated by armed groups. Towards the end of the year, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) was able to tighten its hold on the Baba Amr district. No quarter was given to captured soldiers or civilians identified as supporting the government.  In December 2011, FSA fighters stood 11 Syrians they accused of being shabiha (pro-government paramilitary fighters) against a wall and shot them dead.

The army intensified its operations but it was only after the killing of 10 soldiers at a government checkpoint on February 2, 2012, that it decided to do what was necessary to drive the ‘rebels’ out of Baba Amr. The bombardment of the district was scaled up. Colvin was killed on February 22 and 10 days later the FSA abandoned Baba Amr.

On January 31, 2019, a federal district court in Washington ruled that the Syrian government was responsible for Colvin’s death and should pay $302.5 million compensation to her family.

The plaintiffs were Marie Colvin’s sister Cathleen and a nephew and niece. The defendant, the summons served through the Czech embassy in Damascus, was the Syrian government; It did not respond and was not represented in court. The judge, Amy Berman Jackson, ruled that the plaintiffs’ brief was so comprehensive that an evidentiary hearing, in which a judge hears testimony and documentary evidence from both sides can be reviewed, was not necessary.

The plaintiffs’ evidence included a declaration by ‘Ulysses’, the pseudonym of someone claiming to be a defector from the Syrian government’s intelligence services; a statement by David Kaye, a former adviser to the US State Department and now a rapporteur with the UN; and an affidavit by Robert Ford, the former ambassador to Syria who in 2011 broke diplomatic protocol – and a Syrian government ban on diplomats leaving Damascus – by visiting the centres of street protests.  Accused of incitement by the Syrian government, he was withdrawn in October.

Ruling that the Syrian army had fired the artillery shell that had killed Colvin, Judge Jackson concluded that her death had been a ‘targeted murder.’  She did not mention that Colvin and Conroy had entered Syria illegally but she did note that the US government had designated Syria as a state sponsor of terrorism on December 29, 1979, following its support for the Iranian revolution. Given government and media hostility to Syria since that time, the outcome of the Colvin court action was never likely to be anything other than a finding for the plaintiffs.

Colvin was an experienced war correspondent. She had lost an eye while reporting the Sri Lankan civil conflict from the side of the Tamil Tigers. She had reported from East Timor, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, amongst other theatres of war, before going to Syria. As correspondents do, she had witnessed terrible things. The death of civilians, especially children, affected her deeply.

These accumulated experiences took a heavy personal toll. She began to drink heavily, she was having nightmares and she had been treated at a clinic for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) before heading off to Syria. Once in Homs, her employer, the London Sunday Times, ordered her to leave but she refused. The paper later came under criticism for letting her go in the first place, given the fragile state of her mental health.

These aspects of her life were depicted in the recently released biopic, A Private War, woven around an account of her life written for Vanity Fair by Marie Brenner (‘Marie Colvin’s Private War,’ August 2012).

On the day of Colvin’s death, she was described in an online article for Vanity Fair as having ‘died as a martyr …. a martyr for truth and the standards of civilization … she died because she wanted the world to know the full extent of the barbarism practiced by President Bashar al Assad’s forces against his own people.’ (Henry Porter and Annabel Davidson, ‘Remembering War Correspondent Marie Colvin: 1957-2012,’ Vanity Fair, February 22, 2012).

Truth, of course, is the first casualty of war. The Greek dramatist Aeschylus apparently first coined the phrase, which has been repeated many times by many people over the centuries. As for civilization, it has been used to justify every war of aggression launched in the Middle East by the US and European powers for the past 200 years.

In this region, the standards of civilization, as we imagine them to be, consisting of civilized behaviour, justice, fairness, respect for human life and respect for the law, have not been upheld but violated in brutal and inhumane fashion by the very governments that repeatedly invoke them as justification for the crimes they are committing.

No doubt Marie Colvin was reporting the truth as she saw it but how much could she see of anything in the space of two days, effectively trapped in a war-scarred building under heavy bombardment by the Syrian army?

In her final despatch for the Sunday Times, she talked to women in what she called the ‘widows’ basement’ and she watched (apparently on a video feed from a clinic, contrary to the impression she gave that she was actually there) a baby dying from a shrapnel wound. Asked on CNN why she thought showing the image of the dead baby was important Colvin replied: ‘That baby will move more people to think ‘What is going on and why is no one stopping this murder in Homs that is happening every day.’

Colvin said 300 women were in the basement, a figure which, from other reports, seems to have been wildly exaggerated.  Who these women were was not clarified, but seeing that that Baba Amr was controlled by the FSA, many of the dead husbands were probably fighting men.

When Colvin said that 28,000 civilians were trapped in Baba Amr she had to be repeating what she had been told by her FSA minders.  She had no way of knowing how many civilians remained trapped in Baba Amr and the figure seems to have been a gross overestimate, aimed no doubt at further dramatizing the plight of civilians trapped in what the media was misleadingly calling the ‘siege of Homs.’

Colvin and Conroy first entered Syria on February 13. They were taken to Baba Amr on February 15. The next day Colvin was able to visit a makeshift field hospital set up in an apartment building as well as civilians sheltering in a basement storage depot but on hearing rumors of an impending army offensive and a ‘possible gas attack’ (as claimed by Judge Berman, without any such credible claim having been made at the time) they fled in the evening.  This was all Colvin was able to see for herself outside the ‘rebel’ media center during her two visits to Baba Amr.

Baba Amr constituted about 15 percent of the city and had a pre-war population of about 100,000. Most civilians in the district fled to the 80-85 percent of the city controlled by the government once the armed groups launched their assault on Baba Amr.

Colvin said Homs was being bombed by ‘a murderous dictator.’  Talking to CNN from Baba Amr she said ‘there are no military targets here. There is the FSA, heavily outnumbered and outgunned – they have only Kalashnikovs and rocket-propelled grenades. But they don’t have a base. There are more young men being killed, we see a lot of teenaged young men but they are going out just to try to get the wounded to some kind of medical treatment. It’s a complete and utter lie that they’re only going after terrorists.’

What Colvin actually saw was true. A baby did die and the women in the basement were suffering but by 2012 Syria was a land of suffering women and dead babies, killed not by the ‘murderous dictator’ but by ‘rebels’ supported with money and arms by outside governments.

It was not true, however, there were no military targets in Baba Amr. Colvin’s definition of a valid target seems to have been an actual military base. There was not one, of course, but the armed groups who had infiltrated Baba Amr and killed many Syrian soldiers and civilians in the process were no less an equally valid military target.

The FSA was certainly outgunned, as any insurgent force must be when challenging a regular army, but already early in 2012, outside governments were stepping up supplies to reduce the gap.

In March 2013, the New York Times reported that several governments, with help from the CIA, had begun airlifting weapons to the ‘rebels’ in early January 2012.  Over a year more than 160 cargo flights had taken an estimated 3500 tons of weapons to Ankara airport and other airports in Turkey and Jordan for delivery to ‘rebels’ across the border.  As the ‘rebel’ group of choice, the bulk of these weapons would have gone to the FSA, even if they eventually ended up in other hands.

Colvin’s reference to young men running into the streets to rescue the wounded and not fight is not something she could have known. In fact, young men were the backbone of all armed groups as they were of the Syrian army.

The Syrian army was not shelling ‘Homs’ but only part of a city which had been taken over by armed groups.  The government in Damascus – Syria’s legitimate government and the representative of the country’s interests at the UN – had the constitutional responsibility of driving them out.

The civilians trapped in Baba Amr were certainly at risk but what Colvin was seeing – or reporting rather than actually seeing for herself – was only a small corner of a very large picture of human suffering.  The general civilian death toll was beginning to rise sharply in 2012 as the armed groups – including the group sheltering Colvin and Conroy – launched attacks across the country.

Many of these attacks were completely indiscriminate, as for example when mortars were fired into the middle of Damascus or a rigged car was exploded outside a government ministry.

As civilians are always going to die in war, the critical question is one of responsibility.  Whatever the failings of the Syrian government, it was support by outside governments for these armed groups that brought Syria to its knees and not the attempts by the Syrian government to prevent the country from being bled to death.

The publicity given to the death of Marie Colvin has now been revived by the publicity given to the film of her life and to the court ruling against the Syrian government. The film returns Colvin and the ‘murderous dictator’ to a news cycle which had largely lost interest in Syria since the defeat of the armed groups it had been supporting as ‘rebels’ until Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of US troops.

At the same time, the publicity is an opportunity to examine Colvin’s role in the context of a media which uniformly misreported the war in Syria as it had only recently misreported the war in Libya and before that the invasion of Iraq in 2004.  The canons of responsible journalism were all junked.  There was no balance, no reporting of the Syrian government’s version of events except for nominal references to its denial of atrocities in such a way that the reader was invited to disbelieve them.

The narrative was entirely built around the claims of ‘rebels’ and activists and sources far from the scene, such as the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights.  Whatever they cared to say, no matter how wild and improbable, would be reported without any attempt being made by the media to uncover the truth.

Anything that would damage the Syrian government was regarded as fit to print, anything that would support its claims would be suppressed, or as far as possible turned against the government. Knowing this, the activists developed an industry based on lies and deceit to serve the corporate media’s needs.

This is the media environment in which Marie Colvin operated. Perhaps she had private doubts, but from what she said in her few reports from Syria she had swallowed whole the mainstream media narrative of rebels standing against a brutal dictator who was killing his own people.

All critical elements were missing from the news cycle. In March 2011, during ‘peaceful’ protests in Dara’a, the media headlined the alleged arrest and beating of children for scrawling graffiti on walls, while ignoring the evidence of arms stockpiled in a mosque and the slaughter of soldiers and police by bands of armed men.

Gunmen shooting into crowds from rooftops were part of what was clearly a well-planned revolt.  While the media insinuated that they were Syrian state agents, the far greater likelihood is that they were agents-provocateurs but nowhere in the media mainstream was there any follow-up. Only the accusation, not the proof, was important, an approach which was to characterize the media narrative.

Similarly, June 2011, the massacre of about 120 Syrian soldiers and civilians in the northern town of Jisr al Shughur was presented as a civilian response to government oppression and torture rather than what it was, a carefully planned attack on government offices by well-armed takfiri groups.   Video clips – never shown in the media mainstream – showed bodies being taken in a pickup truck to a high bridge over the Assi (Orontes) river and being pitched into the water over the railing to cries of ‘Allahu akbar.’  Later, mass graves were also uncovered.

Colvin’s role must begin with who brought her into Syria. She was not the only ‘western’ journalist funneled into Baba Amr from the Lebanese border.  A pipeline had been set up, with the online activist network Avaaz liaising with FSA ‘rebels’ to smuggle western journalists into the city.

Avaaz had also been supplying the ‘rebels’ with medical supplies, satellite modems and cell phones with cameras.  With the help of an ‘activist’ called Wael Fayez al Omar (a source for the plaintiffs in the court case against the Syrian government), it organized the transport of Colvin and her photographer, Paul Conroy, to the Syrian border.  The FSA then took over and moved them to Baba Amr, first on February 13 and again when they decided to return on February 20.

Formally established in July 2011, the FSA quickly won the support of Turkey, which provided it with a camp from which it was soon organizing attacks across the Syrian border.  Turkey also backed the FSA’s political arm, the Syrian National Council, an exile body which had no known support inside Syria, providing it with money and offices in Istanbul.  The FSA itself was never a proper army but rather a brand name for a ‘rebel’ collective involving numerous armed groups who responded to their own leaders, rather than the injunctions of the FSA leadership in Turkey.

The early actions for which the FSA claimed responsibility included the explosion inside the Syrian national security headquarters in July 2011, which killed several senior military and government personnel, including the defense minister and two of his deputies.

By this time the FSA was already launching attacks in many parts of Syria. Insofar as Homs was concerned, ‘rebel’ groups, including the FSA, penetrated the city in May, 2011, and succeeded in taking control of the Baba Amr district by the end of the year after overrunning military checkpoints.

By 2012 the FSA was operating at peak strength across Syria. It was killing soldiers, police and civilians and sabotaging oil pipelines and other infrastructure. In May, several months after the FSA had been driven from Homs, the Houla district, about 30 kms northwest of Homs and largely under the control of the FSA, was the site of the massacre of 108 men, women and children.

While the Syrian government was automatically blamed by ‘western’ governments and the corporate media, accounts pieced together later by journalists on the scene indicated that villages in the Houla region had been attacked by a joint force of about 700 takfiris, including a contingent of about 250 FSA fighters.

Their targets were Sunni Muslims who supported the government or, reportedly, had converted to Shia Islam.  The victims’ houses were hit by rocket-propelled grenades but most of the killing seems to have been done with small arms and knives.

In November, 2012, a mass grave of soldiers and civilians killed by FSA fighters was found at Ras al Ayn, just over the Turkish border.  In August, 2013, an attack was launched on Alawi villages in Latakia province by the FSA, Jabhat al Nusra, Ahrar al Sham, the Islamic State and other takfiri groups.  The FSA commander Salim Idris said the FSA had participated in the assault ‘to a great extent.’

Hundreds of those who took part in the assault were foreigners.  This was a sectarian assault aimed at cleaning the landscape of the despised Alawis. Up to 190 men, women and children were killed and hundreds more women and children kidnapped.  There are unconfirmed reports that some of the children were taken to Damascus to be used as props in the chemical weapons attack of August 21, 2013, blamed on the Syrian government but carried out by ‘rebels’ working in conjunction with foreign governments, with the aim of pushing Barack Obama across his self-declared chemical weapons ‘red line’ so that he would order an air attack on Syria.

On other occasions, the officially-sanctioned FSA ‘rebels’ cooperated with the officially-designated ‘terrorists’ in attacks on government positions.  In October, 2014, the FSA joined forces with the Islamic State, and Jabhat al Nusra in an attack on Idlib city in which 70 Syrian army soldiers, including senior officers, were beheaded.

Many other FSA atrocities can be added to these episodes.  Most of them had not happened when Marie Colvin was in Homs but FSA brutality had clearly been demonstrated in the year before she arrived.

The minders who moved Colvin and photographer Paul Conroy to Homs from the Lebanese border were not just FSA but armed members of one of its most brutal units, the Faruq Brigade.  It had captured Baba Amr and held it in a ruthless grip.

The takfiri element was already strong in the ranks of the Faruq Brigade and only strengthened after its ejection from Homs.  Interviewed by the French journalist Mani in September, 2012, members of the brigade spoke of relatives in Homs who they alleged were being butchered by Alawis and Shia.  They were determined to take their revenge. As one of them remarked, ‘It’s not about the army any more or toppling the regime. It’s a sectarian conflict now.’

Clearly unknown to Colvin and Conroy, the brigade was taking its captives to a burial ground at night and cutting their throats.  According to one of its members interviewed by a Der Spiegel reporter in March, 2012, nearly 150 men had been executed in this fashion since the previous summer.  This period covered the two occasions Colvin was in Baba Amr.

One of the Faruq Brigade commanders in Baba Amr was Khalid al Hamad, nom de guerre Abu Saqqar.  After fleeing Baba Amr, Abu Saqqar set up his own fighting force, the Omar al Faruq Brigade.

Variously described as a street vendor from Homs and a bedu with ‘a wild stare’ (Paul Wood of the BBC), Abu Saqqar was shown in a video released in May, 2013, but apparently filmed in March, calling on ‘the heroes of Baba Amr’ to slaughter the Alawis, remove their hearts and eat them.

He himself proceeded to cut open the body of a dead Syrian soldier, who he claimed had a mobile phone in his pocket showing the soldier raping a woman and her daughters.   Abu Saqqar removed various organs before lifting the heart to his mouth and appearing to bite off a piece.  Later joining Jabhat al Nusra, he was ambushed and killed in 2016 by members of a rival Takfiri group, reportedly Ahrar al Sham.

In conclusion, did Marie Colvin die as a ‘martyr to truth’ or did she die not just because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time but because she was keeping the wrong company? She was a well-known journalist for a leading British newspaper and therefore a prize catch for the ‘rebels.’  They were only going to tell her what they wanted her to believe, and feed into the corporate media news cycle.  Trapped in a bombed-out building, she would not have the opportunity to investigate the truth for herself, especially in the two days she had before she was killed.

Colvin called for intervention to save the trapped civilians of Baba Amr. ‘Why is no-one stopping the murder in Homs?’, she asked. In fact, the US and its allies had already been laying the groundwork for military intervention.

An Arab League resolution tabled at the UN Security Council on February 4 called on the Syrian army to withdraw from the towns and cities it was defending from attack by armed groups.  Russia and China supported the Syrian view that the resolution constituted a gross infringement of Syria’s sovereignty and vetoed it.  Had the resolution been passed, non-fulfilment of the conditions laid down could have opened the way to military intervention, probably an air campaign far more devastating than the seven-month assault that destroyed Libya.

Thwarted at the UN, the US and its allies then formed a collective calling itself the ‘Friends of the Syrian People.’  Their intervention in the form of support for armed groups led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and almost destroyed Syria.

The point of this article is not to denigrate Marie Colvin.  She has been described as foolhardy because of the risks she took but she was a person of great courage.  She was deeply affected by the death of civilians, especially children.  Her insistence that the media show the images of the baby killed by shrapnel was justified but it was not just the alleged victims of the ‘murderous dictator’ her readers and television viewers needed to see but the victims of the armed groups.

They were being slaughtered across the country, soldiers who were fighting for their country (not the ‘regime’) and civilians who supported their government, but as any telling of their fate or the suffering of their families would have disrupted a narrative based on the crimes of the dictator and his ‘regime’ and perhaps prompted people to ask ‘what is going on? Why is no-one stopping this murder?’, as Colvin had asked in Baba Amr, their voices had to be suppressed.

The Syrian government accused Colvin of working with terrorists.  Its own definition of the word would include not just the armed men but the ‘activists’ and ‘media centers’ that were their propaganda extensions.  It was with these people that Marie Colvin was sheltering when she was killed.

There has never been any evidence that any of the armed groups commanded anything more than miniscule support in Syria, including genuine support from civilians who lived in fear under their rule.  When the takfiris were driven out of Homs and Aleppo and the two cities were whole again, their citizens celebrated in the streets, not that corporate media consumers were likely to have seen such scenes.

Support for Bashar al Assad was strong at the start of the war and would be stronger now.  Every election held in the past few years – held fairly and under the watch of outside observers – proves the point.

The renewed attention to Marie Colvin’s death is an occasion to cast an eye over the state of the corporate media.  When Seymour Hersh cannot get published in his own country it is clear that journalism, as we knew it until it was fully corporatized, is in a parlous state.  Far from defending the right of the citizen to know, the media has been complicit in enabling governments to deceive.  Syria is only the latest in a chain of misreported wars, with the assault on Venezuela shaping up as the next one.

The corporate media had already made up its mind about Syria in 2011.  Marie Colvin did not have the time to develop her own narrative about Baba Amr and what was happening in Syria generally but no-one ever gets everything right.   Her role model, Martha Gellhorn, was good on Spain and Vietnam but terrible on the Middle East. In her article ‘The Arabs of Palestine’ (The Atlantic, October 1961) she extolled Israel and its kibbutzim, racist institutions by any measure, and put the Palestinians down in a manner that was itself bordering on racist.

In a better state of mental health and with more time to get behind the propaganda passed off as news about Syria, Marie Colvin might have seen through the deceits and exposed them.  The bleak reality, however, is that she spent her last assignment under the protection of a violent armed group which despised the personal freedom and the values she was sure to have cherished.

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