Fake ‘Aleppo Genocide’ Pics Spread Online amid Renewed Calls for ‘Humanitarian’ War on Syria

Global Research, December 23, 2016
Mint Press News 20 December 2016
Aleppo

‘The atmosphere of misinformation only strengthens the Syrian regime’s insistence that all Western media reports of its forces’ atrocities are false,’ noted one media analyst.

Propaganda about conditions in Aleppo, including photos recycled from other incidents in other places, is spreading online amid efforts to justify war on the Syrian government.

Even mainstream media sources and humanitarian organizations admit that reports of atrocities in the besieged Syrian city are often unverifiable rumors.

An example of the many doctored, fake, and recycled photos that are being disseminted online claiming to be from Aleppo, Syria. (Photo: Twitter @Partisangirl)

For example, on Dec. 9, the Agence France-Presse reported on the deaths of 82 civilians in Aleppo, allegedly the victims of Syrian government forces.

“The U.N. human rights office said it had received reports of ‘pro-government forces killing at least 82 civilians including 11 women and 13 children in four different neighbourhoods,’” Rupert Colville, the spokesman for the U.N. human rights office, told reporters in Geneva.

But the United Nations was unable or unwilling to stand by Colville’s claims, adding in a separate statement provided later to AFP: “We hope, profoundly, that these reports are wrong, or exaggerated, as the situation is extremely fluid and it is very challenging to verify reports.”

Shira Rubin, a reporter at Vocativ, noted on Wednesday that images of atrocities in Aleppo are proliferating wildly on social media. However, Rubin added, “A large portion of those images are fake, sparking an uproar among those who argue the false posts diminish the reality of those suffering and fighting on the ground.”

Syrian geopolitical analyst Mimi Al Laham took to Twitter on Dec. 14 to point out that images purporting to show a terrorist attack came from music videos and an unrelated bombing in Pakistan:

View image on Twitter
View image on Twitter

story about massacre of civilians in has no evidence so their using fake photos from music videos and Pakistan bombing

The frequent, pervasive rumors make it hard to know which sources of information are trustworthy, particularly as the U.N. and major NGOs frequently appear to exaggerate or even invent reports to support the push for war. Rubin added: “The UN estimates that nearly 400,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict began in 2011, and more than half the population has been displaced. The numbers, which cannot be verified, have led to accusations and rumors as people online try to sort fact from fiction.” Noting that these recycled images and false reports are spread “intentionally … for propaganda purposes as well as by inadvertent social media users,” Rubin wrote, “The atmosphere of misinformation only strengthens the Syrian regime’s insistence that all Western media reports of its forces’ atrocities are false.” Even Eliot Higgins, a security analyst often called on by the mainstream media to promote a Western, pro-war viewpoint, admitted on Twitter on Dec. 13 that many images of alleged Aleppo atrocities appear to be recycled:

I’m not saying it’s not happening, but all the “Aleppo executions” images I’ve seen so far have been old and/or from elsewhere.

While attacks attributed to the Syrian government have been a frequent topic of reporting throughout the Syrian civil war, atrocities by so-called “moderate” rebels, forces with the backing of the United States and its allies in Europe and the Middle East, rarely receive the same enthusiastic treatment in the mainstream media.

Reports have even suggested that some of these groups have blocked efforts to evacuate Aleppo’s civilian population, including Jabhat Al-Sham, an extremist group with both U.S. backing and ties to al-Qaida.

Robert Fisk, a renowned foreign policy analyst, noted in a Dec. 14 report that while Syria’s leader, Bashar Assad, had undoubtedly carried out numerous human rights violations, the West also must be held accountable for its support of extremist groups involved in the conflict. He recounted one recent atrocity he heard from a refugee:

Only a few weeks ago, I interviewed one of the very first Muslim families to flee eastern Aleppo during a ceasefire. The father had just been told that his brother was to be executed by the rebels because he crossed the frontline with his wife and son. He condemned the rebels for closing the schools and putting weapons close to hospitals. And he was no pro-regime stooge; he even admired Isis for their good behaviour in the early days of the siege.

Blaming atrocities in Syria solely on the Syrian government supports the agenda of the U.S. government, which seeks to overthrow the Syrian government and replace it with one more amenable to Western interests and investment by fossil fuel companiesWikiLeaks’ archives of U.S. diplomatic cables show that the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia have sought to unseat Assad since at least 2006.

Saudi Arabia ‘Deliberately Targeting Impoverished Yemen’s Farms

Increasing evidence suggests Kingdom is not merely bombing civilians in neighbouring country, but systematically targeting infrastructure survivors will need to avoid starvation when the war is over

By Robert Fisk

October 27, 2016 “Information Clearing House” – ” The Independent” –  The Yemen war uniquely combines tragedy, hypocrisy and farce. First come the casualties: around 10,000, almost 4,000 of them civilians. Then come those anonymous British and American advisers who seem quite content to go on “helping” the Saudi onslaughts on funerals, markets and other obviously (to the Brits, I suppose) military targets.

Then come the Saudi costs: more than $250m (£200m) a month, according to Standard Chartered Bank – and this for a country that cannot pay its debts to construction companies. But now comes the dark comedy bit: the Saudis have included in their bombing targets cows, farms and sorghum – which can be used for bread or animal fodder – as well as numerous agricultural facilities.

In fact, there is substantial evidence emerging that the Saudis and their “coalition” allies – and, I suppose, those horrid British “advisers” – are deliberately targeting Yemen’s tiny agricultural sector in a campaign which, if successful, would lead a post-war Yemeni nation not just into starvation but total reliance on food imports for survival. Much of this would no doubt come from the Gulf states which are currently bombing the poor country to bits.

Mundy points out that a conservative report from the ministry of agriculture and irrigation in the Yemeni capital Sana’a, gathered from its officers across the country, details 357 bombing targets in the country’s 20 provinces, including farms, animals, water infrastructure, food stores, agricultural banks, markets and food trucks.

These include the destruction of farms in Yasnim, the Baqim district of Saadah province and in Marran. Mundy has compared these attacks with figures in the Yemen Data Project, which was published some weeks ago. Her verdict is a most unhappy one.

“According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, 2.8 per cent of Yemen’s land is cultivated,” Mundy says. “To hit that small amount of agricultural land, you have to target it.” Saudi Arabia has already been accused of war crimes, but striking at the agriculture fields and food products of Yemen in so crude a way adds merely another grim broken promise by the Saudis.

The kingdom signed up to the additional protocol of the August 1949 Geneva Conventions which specifically states that “it is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuffs, agricultural areas for the production of foodstuffs, crops, livestock…for the specific purpose of denying them for their sustenance value to the civilian population…whatever the motive…”

The fact that Yemen has long been part of Saudi Arabia’s proxy war against Shiites and especially Iran – which has been accused, without evidence, of furnishing weapons to the Shia Houthi in Yemen – is now meekly accepted as part of the Middle East’s current sectarian “narrative” (like the “good” rebels in eastern Aleppo and the “very bad” rebels in Mosul). So, alas, have the outrageous bombings of civilians. But agricultural targets are something altogether different.

Academics have been amassing data from Yemen which strongly suggests that the Saudis’ Yemen campaign contains a programme for the destruction of rural livelihood.

Martha Mundy, emeritus professor at the London School of Economics, who is currently working in Lebanon with her colleague Cynthia Gharios, has been researching through Yemeni agriculture ministry statistics and says that the data “is beginning to show that in some regions, the Saudis are deliberately striking at agricultural infrastructure in order to destroy the civil society”.

In a lecture in Beirut, Mundy has outlined the grievous consequences of earlier economic policies in Yemen – cheap American wheat from the 1970s and the influx of food from other countries which discouraged farmers from maintaining rural life (terracing of farms, for example, or water husbandry) – and the effect of Saudi Arabia’s war on the land. “The armies and above all air forces of the ‘oil-dollar’,” she said, have “…come to destroy physically those products of Yemeni labour working with land and animals that survived the earlier economic devastation.”

There are photographs aplenty of destroyed farms, factories and dead animals lying in fields strewn with munitions – effectively preventing farmers returning to work for many months or years. Poultry and beehive farms have been destroyed.

Even today, more than half the population of Yemen relies in part – or wholly – on agriculture and rural husbandry. Mundy’s research through the files of other ministries suggests that technical support administration buildings for agriculture were also attacked. The major Tihama Development Authority on the Red Sea coastal plain, which was established in the 1970s – and houses, as Mundy says, “the written memory of years of ‘development’ interventions” – is responsible for a series of irrigation structures. It has been heavily bombed twice.

But I guess that one war – or two – in the Middle East is as much as the world can take right now. Or as much as the media are prepared to advertise. Aleppo and Mosul are quite enough. Yemen is too much. And Libya. And “Palestine”…

A Picture And Its Story: Severe Malnutrition In Yemen

By Abduljabbar Zeyad | HODAIDA, Yemen

October 27, 2016 “Information Clearing House” – Reuters” –  The emaciated frame of 18-year-old Saida Ahmad Baghili lies on a hospital bed in the red sea port city of Hodaida, her suffering stark evidence of the malnutrition spread by Yemen’s 19-month civil war.

Baghili arrived at the Al Thawra hospital on Saturday. She is bed-ridden and unable to eat, surviving on a diet of juice, milk and tea, medical staff and a relative said.

“The problem is malnutrition due to (her) financial situation and the current (war) situation at this time,” Asma Al Bhaiji, a nurse at the hospital, told Reuters on Tuesday.

The 18-year-old is one of more than 14 million people, over half of Yemen’s population, who are short of food, with much of the country on the brink of famine, according to the United Nations.

Her picture is a reminder of the humanitarian crisis in the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest country where at least 10,000 people have been killed in fighting between Saudi-led Arab coalition and the Iran-allied Houthi movement.

Baghili is from the small village of Shajn, about 100 km (60 miles) southwest of the city of Hodaida, and used to work with sheep before developing signs of malnutrition five years ago, according to her aunt, Saida Ali Baghili.

“She was fine. She was in good health. There was nothing wrong with her. And then she got sick,” Ali Baghili told Reuters.

“She has been sick for five years. She can’t eat. She says her throat hurts.”

After the war began, Baghili’s condition deteriorated with her family lacking the money for treatment.

She lost more weight and in the last two months developed diarrhoea.

“Her father couldn’t (afford to) send her anywhere (for treatment) but some charitable people helped out,” Ali Baghili said, without elaborating who the donors were.

(Writing by Patrick Johnston in LONDON Editing by Alison Williams)

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The Real Purpose Behind the “Liberation” of Mosul?

When Mosul falls, Isis will flee to the safety of Syria. But what then?

The entire Isis caliphate army could be directed against the Assad government and its allies – a scenario which might cause some satisfaction in Washington

By Robert Fisk 

October 18, 2016 “Information Clearing House” – “The Independent“- Syria’s army and Hezbollah and Iranian allies are preparing for a massive invasion by thousands of Isis fighters who will be driven out ofIraq when Mosul falls. The real purpose behind the much-trumpeted US-planned “liberation” of the Iraqi city, the Syrian military suspect, is to swamp Syria with the hordes of Isis fighters who will flee their Iraqi capital in favour of their “mini-capital” of Raqqa inside Syria itself.

For weeks now, Western media and the American experts it likes to quote have been predicting a Stalingrad-style battle to the death by Isis inside Mosul – or a swift victory over Isis followed by inter-sectarian Iraqi battles for the city. The UN is warning of massive refugee columns streaming from a besieged city. But the Syrians – after witnessing the sudden collapse and evacuation of Palmyra when their own army retook the ancient Syrian city earlier this year – suspect that Isis will simply abandon Mosul and try to reach safety in the areas of Syria which it still controls.

Already, Syrian army intelligence has heard disturbing reports of a demand by Isis in towns and villages south of Hasaka – a Syrian city held by regime forces and Kurds in the north of the country – for new electricity and water supplies to be installed for an influx of Isis fighters from Mosul. In other words, if Mosul falls, the entire Isis caliphate army could be directed against the Assad government and its allies – a scenario which might cause some satisfaction in Washington. When the Iraqi city of Fallujah fell to Iraqi army and militia forces earlier this year, many Isis fighters fled at once to Syria.

Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader who sent thousands of his men to fight (and die) in the struggle against Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria, said in a speech marking the Ashura commemorations last week that the Americans “intend to repeat the Fallujah plot when they opened a way for Isis to escape towards eastern Syria” and warned that “the same deceitful plan may be carried out in Mosul.” In other words, an Isis defeat in Mosul would encourage Isis to head west to try to defeat the Assad regime in Syria.

These suspicions have scarcely been allayed by a series of comments from American generals and US military sources over the past few weeks. The newly appointed US commander in the region, Lt Gen Stephen Townsend – heading what the US has presumptiously called ‘Operation Inherent Resolve’ – has said that not only Mosul but the Syrian city of Raqqa would be captured “on my watch”. But who exactly does he think will capture Raqqa? The Syrian army still intends to fight on to Raqqa from its base on the the Damascus-Aleppo military road west of the city after an attempt earlier this year which was abandoned for political rather than military reasons. Russia apparently preferred to concentrate its firepower on other militias, especially Nusra/al-Qaeda, which both Moscow and Damascus now regard as being far more dangerous than Isis.

Both have noticed how Nusra – which changed its name to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, the “Support Front for the People of the Levant”, in the hope of escaping its al-Qaeda roots – is increasingly referred to by both Western politicians and journalists as “the rebels”, along with a plethora of other militia outfits fighting the Syrian regime. An unidentified US general was quoted last month expressing his concern that Iraqi Shia forces might seize the town of Tal Afar on the Iraqi-Syrian border in order to trap Isis fighters inside Iraq – and thus prevent their flight into Syria. Isis itself is reported to have abandoned Tal Afar several days ago.

The US-based Military Times online magazine (which, as the saying goes, is “close” to the Pentagon) has argued that General Townsend, who has a mere 5,000 US troops on the ground in both Iraq and the far north of Syria, must “pursue Isis into Syria, where the US has few allies on the ground” – which is quite an understatement – while Townsend himself is talking of “a long, difficult fight” for Mosul. He has also referred to a “siege” of Mosul. These are the dire predictions in which the Syrians do not believe

Assad’s own army, with its 65,000 fatalities in a battle that has now lasted five years, has already been bombed by the Americans at Deir Ezzor at a cost of at least 60 dead – Washington described this as a mistake – and is now preparing to challenge the huge influx of Isis fighters which could cross the border after the collapse of Mosul. Nasrallah himself made an intriguing allusion to this in his speech. He suggested that if Isis forces are not defeated by the Iraqis themselves in Mosul then the Iraqis – presumably the Iraqi Shia militia which are one of the spearheads of the government army – “will be obliged to move to eastern Syria in order to fight the terrorist group”

Given the possibility that Syrian troops and their Russian allies may have to confront this same group, it’s little wonder that they are trying to conclude their capture of eastern Aleppo – whatever the cost in lives – before the fall of Mosul.

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Robert Fisk Reminds of Qana: Shimon Peres was No Peacemaker!

When the world heard that Shimon Peres had died, it shouted “Peacemaker!” But when I heard that Peres was dead, I thought of blood and fire and slaughter.

Qana massacre

I saw the results: babies torn apart, shrieking refugees, smoldering bodies. It was a place called Qana and most of the 106 bodies – half of them children – now lie beneath the UN camp where they were torn to pieces by Israeli shells in 1996. I had been on a UN aid convoy just outside the south Lebanese village. Those shells swished right over our heads and into the refugees packed below us. It lasted for 17 minutes.

Shimon Peres, standing for election as “Israel’s” prime minister – a post he inherited when his predecessor Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated – decided to increase his military credentials before polling day by assaulting Lebanon. The joint Nobel Peace Prize holder used as an excuse the firing of Katyusha rockets over the Lebanese border by the Hizbullah. In fact, their rockets were retaliation for the killing of a small Lebanese boy by a booby-trap bomb they suspected had been left by an “Israeli” patrol. It mattered not.

A few days later, “Israeli” troops inside Lebanon came under attack close to Qana and retaliated by opening fire into the village. Their first shells hit a cemetery…; the rest flew directly into the UN Fijian army camp where hundreds of civilians were sheltering. Peres announced that “we did not know that several hundred people were concentrated in that camp. It came to us as a bitter surprise.”

It was a lie. The “Israelis” had occupied Qana for years after their 1982 invasion, they had video film of the camp, they were even flying a drone over the camp during the 1996 massacre – a fact they denied until a UN soldier gave me his video of the drone, frames from which we published in The Independent. The UN had repeatedly told “Israel” that the camp was packed with refugees.

This was Peres’s contribution to Lebanese peace. He lost the election and probably never thought much more about Qana. But I never forgot it.

When I reached the UN gates, blood was pouring through them in torrents. I could smell it. It washed over our shoes and stuck to them like glue. There were legs and arms, babies without heads, old men’s heads without bodies. A man’s body was hanging in two pieces in a burning tree. What was left of him was on fire.

On the steps of the barracks, a girl sat holding a man with grey hair, her arm round his shoulder, rocking the corpse back and forth in her arms. His eyes were staring at her. She was keening and weeping and crying, over and over: “My father, my father.” If she is still alive – and there was to be another Qana massacre in the years to come, this time from the “Israeli” air force – I doubt if the word “peacemaker” will be crossing her lips.

There was a UN enquiry which stated in its bland way that it did not believe the slaughter was an accident. The UN report was accused of being anti-Semitic. Much later, a brave “Israeli” magazine published an interview with the artillery soldiers who fired at Qana. An officer had referred to the villagers as “just a bunch of Arabs” (‘arabushim’ in Hebrew). “A few Arabushim die, there is no harm in that,” he was quoted as saying. Peres’s chief of staff was almost equally carefree: “I don’t know any other rules of the game, either for the [“Israeli”] army or for civilians…”

Peres called his Lebanese invasion “Operation Grapes of Wrath”, which – if it wasn’t inspired by John Steinbeck – must have come from the Book of Deuteronomy. “The sword without and terror within,” it says in Chapter 32, “shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also with the man of grey hairs.” Could there be a better description of those 17 minutes at Qana?

Yes, of course, Peres changed in later years. They claimed that Ariel Sharon – whose soldiers watched the massacre at Sabra and Chatila camps in 1982 by their Lebanese Christian allies – was also a “peacemaker” when he died. At least he didn’t receive the Nobel Prize.

Peres later became an advocate of a “two state solution”, even as the Jewish colonies on Palestinian land – which he once so fervently supported – continued to grow.

Now we must call him a “peacemaker”. And count, if you can, how often the word “peace” is used in the Peres obituaries over the next few days. Then count how many times the word Qana appears.

Source: The Independent, Edited by website team

29-09-2016 | 13:54

Saudi Arabia Cannot Pay Its Workers or Bills – Yet Continues To Fund a War in Yemen

Robert Fisk

Almost exactly a year after Salman bin Albdulaziz Al Saud, king of Saudi Arabia, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and head of the House of Saud, hurriedly left his millionaire’s mansion near Cannes with his 1,000 servants to continue his vacation in Morocco, the kingdom’s cash is not flowing so smoothly for the tens of thousands of sub-continental expatriates sweating away on his great building sites.

 


Almost unreported outside the Kingdom, the country’s big construction magnates – including that of the Binladen group – have not been paid by the Saudi government for major construction projects and a portion of the army of Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan and other workers have received no wages, some of them for up to seven months.

Indian and Pakistani embassies approached the Saudi government, pleading that their workers should be paid. Economists who adopt the same lickspittle attitude towards the Saudi monarchy as the British Government, constantly point out that the authorities have been overwhelmed by the collapse of oil prices.

They usually prefer not to mention something at which the rest of the world remains aghast: deputy crown prince and defense minister Mohamed bin Salman’s wasteful and hopeless war in Yemen. Since the king’s favorite son launched this preposterous campaign against the “Houthis” last year, supporting the internationally recognized Yemeni president against Shia Muslims, aircraft flown by Saudi and Emirati pilots [aided by British technical “experts” on the ground] have bombed even more hospitals, clinics and medical warehouses than America has destroyed in Serbia and Afghanistan combined since 1999.

The result? A country with 16 per cent of the world’s proven oil reserves, whose Aramco oil company makes more than $1bn a day and now records a budget deficit of $100bn, cannot pay its bills. At first, the Yemen fiasco was called “Operation Decisive Storm”, which – once it proved the longest and least decisive Arab “storm” in the Middle East’s recent history – was changed to “Operation Restore Hope”. And the bombing went on, just as it did in the pre-“hope” “storm”, along with the help of the UK’s “experts”. No wonder the very same deputy crown prince Mohamed announced this year that state spending on salaries would be lowered, yet individual earnings would rise.

In Pakistan, whose soldiers make up a large number of the “Saudi” armed forces, there has been outrage, parliamentarians are asking why three Saudi companies have not paid salaries for eight months, refusing even to provide food for their employees. In some cases, the Pakistanis have paid their own nationals for food supplies.

In Saudi Arabia itself, the government seems unable to cope with the crisis. The Arab News says that 31,000 Saudi and other foreign workers have lodged complaints with the government’s labor ministry over unpaid wages. On one occasion, the Indian consulate and local Indian expatriates brought food to the workers so that their people should not starve. The overall figure that the government owes the construction companies owed may be billions of dollars.

Overtly xenophobic comments have emerged in the Saudi press. Writing in the Saudi Gazette, Abdulrahman Saad Al-Araabi said:

“Many expats hate us and are angry because we are a rich country. Some of them go so far as to say that we, Saudis, do not deserve these blessings and the money we have. That is the reason why some of them become violent when they do not get paid on time.”

Well, I suppose some people are paying a lot of cash to the Jabhat al-Nusra [recently re-named Jabhat Fateh al-Sham al-Nusrah] or Al-Qaeda or Isis lads out there in the line of fire in Syria.

Embassy staff from the Philippines, France and many countries in the Middle East, have raised the problems with the Saudi government. Typical of their responses has been that of Saudi Oger which said it had been “affected by current circumstances [sic] which resulted in some delays in delays in fulfilling our commitments to our employees”.

The Saudi government insisted the company paid its employees. Many of them, it should be added, are Lebanese whose Sunni Muslims come from the Sunni areas of Lebanon who traditionally vote for the Sunni leader’s son Saad.

An official of the company made the extraordinary statement that “the company’s situation is unstable due to the scrapping [sic] of many of its projects it was to execute,

” Meanwhile, workers at United Seemac construction company are complaining they have not been paid for months – or even granted permission to leave the country. Some had apparently not been paid for more than a year and a half. Unlike the big companies such as Binladen and Oger, these men – and they are indeed mostly men – are consumed into the smaller employees. “All the attention is on the big companies – it’s easy to ignore us because we are not so many people.”

All in all, a dodgy scenario in our beloved monarchy-dictatorship, whose war against the Shia Ansarullah – and the Shia Hizbullah, the Shia/Alawite regime in Damascus and Iran – is unending. Wasn’t there an equally dodgy Al-Yamamah arms deal with the Saudis a few years ago?

No cash flow problems then. And what does “yamamah” mean in Arabic? “Dove”? Let us go no further.

Source: The Independent, Edited by website team

09-09-2016 | 10:05

 

Robert Fisk: We Love to Talk of Terror – But After The Munich Shooting…

Robert Fisk

The frightful and bloody hours of Friday night and Saturday morning in Munich and Kabul – despite the 3,000 miles that separate the two cities – provided a highly instructive lesson in the semantics of horror and hypocrisy. I despair of that generic old hate-word, “terror”. It long ago became the punctuation mark and signature tune of every facile politician, policeman, journalist and think tank crank in the world.

We Love to Talk of Terror - But After The Munich Shooting...

Terror, terror, terror, terror, terror. Or terrorist, terrorist, terrorist, terrorist, terrorist.

But from time to time, we trip up on this killer cliché, just as we did at the weekend. Here’s how it went. When first we heard that three armed men had gone on a “shooting spree” in Munich, the German cops and the lads and lassies of the BBC, CNN and Fox News fingered the “terror” lever. The Munich constabulary, we were informed, feared this was a “terrorist act”. The local police, the BBC told us, were engaged in an “anti-terror manhunt”.

And we knew what that meant: the three men were believed to be Muslims and therefore “terrorists”, and thus suspected of being members of (or at least inspired by) “ISIS”.

Then it turned out that the three men were in fact only one man – a man who was obsessed with mass killing. He was born in Germany (albeit partly Iranian in origin). And all of a sudden, in every British media and on CNN, the “anti-terror manhunt” became a hunt for a lone “shooter”.

One UK newspaper used the word “shooter” 14 times in a few paragraphs. Somehow, “shooter” doesn’t sound as dangerous as “terrorist”, though the effect of his actions was most assuredly the same. “Shooter” is a code word. It meant: this particular mass killer is not a Muslim.

Now to Kabul, where “ISIS” – yes, the real horrific Sunni Muslim Isis of fearful legend – sent suicide bombers into thousands of Shia Muslims who were protesting on Saturday morning at what appears to have been a pretty routine bit of official discrimination.

The Afghan government had declined to route a new power line through the minority Hazara (Shia) district of the country – a smaller electric cable connection had failed to satisfy the crowds – and had warned the Shia men and women to cancel their protest. The crowds, many of them middle-class young men and women from the capital, ignored this ominous warning and turned up near the presidential palace to pitch tents upon which they had written in Dari “justice and light” and “death to discrimination”.

But death came to them instead, in the form of two “ISIS” men – one of them apparently pushing an ice-cream cart – whose explosives literally blew apart 80 of the Shia Muslims and wounded at another 260.

In a city in which elements of the Afghan government are sometimes called the Taliban government, and in which an Afghan version of the Sunni Muslim “ISIS” is popularly supposed to reside like a bacillus within those same factions, it wasn’t long before the activists who organized the demonstration began to suspect that the authorities themselves were behind the massacre. Of course, we in the West did not hear this version of events. Reports from Kabul concentrated instead on those who denied or claimed the atrocity. The horrid Taliban denied it. The horrid “ISIS” said they did it. And thus all reports centered on the “ISIS” claim of responsibility.

But wait. Not a single report, not one newscast, referred to the Kabul slaughter as an act of “terror”. The Afghan government did. But we did not. We referred to the “suicide bombers” and the “attackers” in much the same way that we referred to the “shooter” in Munich.

Now this is very odd. How come a Muslim can be a terrorist in Europe but a mere “attacker” in south-west Asia? Because in Kabul the killers were not attacking Westerners? Or because they were attacking their fellow Muslims, albeit of the Shia Muslim variety?

I suspect both answers are correct. I can find no other reason for this weird semantic game. For just as the terrorist identity faded away in Munich the moment Ali Sonboly turned out to have more interest in the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik than the Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of Mosul, so the real “ISIS” murderers in Kabul completely avoided the stigma of being called terrorists in any shape or form.

This nonsensical nomenclature is going to be further warped – be sure of this – as more and more of the European victims of the attacks in EU nations turn out to be Muslims themselves. The large number of Muslims killed by “ISIS” in Nice was noticed, but scarcely headlined.

The four young Turks shot down by Ali Sonboly were subsumed into the story as an almost routine part of what is now, alas, the routine of mass killing in Europe as well as in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

The identity of Muslims in Europe is therefore fudged if they are victims but of vital political importance if they are killers. But in Kabul, where both victims and murderers were Muslim, their mutual crisis of religious identity is of no interest in the West; the bloodbath is described in anaemic terms. The two attackers “attacked” and the “attacked” were left with 80 dead – more like a football match than a war of terror.

It all comes down to the same thing in the end. If Muslims attack us, they are terrorists. If non-Muslims attack us, they are shooters. If Muslims attack other Muslims, they are attackers.

Scissor out this paragraph and keep it beside you when the killers next let loose – and you’ll be able to work out who the bad guys are before the cops tell you.

Source: The Independent, Edited by website team 

25-07-2016 | 15:23

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Inside the air base that held out against Isis for three years – and the death and destruction that was left behind

Israel lost its war. Will Assad's enemies lose, too? - Robert Fisk

The relief of Isis-besieged Kuweires air base last year after an astonishing two-year hold-out was a major symbolic blow against Isis in Syria. Robert Fisk, the first Western journalist to visit the site, finds tales both of death and defiance

fisk1.jpg

The remains of the Isis fighters still lie on the desert floor outside the sand ramparts of the Kuweires air base in northern Syria. A skull, sockets staring at the sun; bones protruding from a military boot; and rotted torsos beneath a grey tarpaulin lie beside the colossal, burnt-out suicide tank they tried to drive through the earthen wall.

For three years, Syrian government soldiers and air force cadets and cooks and military teachers fought them off. By the count of air force Brigadier General Munzer Zaman, Syrian group commander of Kuweires, around 1,100 men defended their base. Eight hundred of them died.

Twice Isis managed to break through the perimeter of the 15-sq-km air base on the main highway to Raqqa, driving captured Syrian armoured vehicles packed with explosives and smashing them into hangars and an administration block. An intelligence officer called Maher leads us to a 30-metre high pile of concrete.

“Five of my friends died here,” he says. “We found a hand, part of a body, that’s all,” and he held his arms apart to show how little was left of them. The rest still lay beneath the rubble. “One of them was a general,” he says.

If the Syrian army survives this terrible war, the story of the siege of Kuweires, north of the great salt lakes in the desert 38 miles east of Syria’s largest city of Aleppo, will be told and retold as an epic of endurance and bravery. If it is defeated, the battles here will be denigrated as the brutal stand of a regime’s forces against the “martyrs” of Islam, the smashed villages and mosques surrounding the air base testimony to the cruelty of war. The crumpled villages are there all right, shell-holed, roofless, a cupola roof of a mosque lying on its own broken walls, a cemetery of powdered gravestones.

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Syrian Air Force Group Commander Munzer Zamam Commander in his office at Koyeress airbase (Nelofer Pazira)

But after General “Tiger” Suheil and Major Saleh blasted their way down the highway to the relief of Kuweires six months ago, the battle did not end. All day while I am here, the batteries of 122mm guns are still banging their shells across the desert. Brig Zaman constantly breaks off his conversation to receive battlefront requests for artillery support from shouting soldiers, and he scrawls over his computer maps to check their coordinates and give permission to fire. The windows of his office rattle constantly with the blasts.

Even today, the lonely road to Kuweires runs up the eastbound side of the dual carriageway between burnt fields, scorched factories and blasted homes. “Liberating” besieged soldiers is a destructive business. You might find the villages of Fah and Meer el-Hossen on a map. But they are dead. Brig Zaman insists that Syria will be rebuilt “more beautiful than it was before the terrorists came” and one can only hope he is right.

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“Terrorists” means Isis and the al-Nusrah Front – Zaman makes no difference between them – and he has a bleak, harsh memory of the battles to defend his air base. “Our enemy,” he says, “had two choices: death and death. There was no other.” When I ask if he knew the Syrian pilot, Major Nowras Hassan, who had just bailed out over Nusrah territory on the Syrian-Lebanese border far to the west and been promptly executed by his captors, Brig Zaman nods. “Of course I knew him well. He was a married man, no children. But the ways of terrorists will not terrorise us. Our base was under siege for three and a half years. It was the largest siege in history after Stalingrad.”

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Captured homemade Isis mortar on the Syrian airbase at Koyeress (Nelofer Pazira)

The casualties and the geography may be a miniature version of the German Sixth Army’s siege of the Soviet city, although there were some clear historical parallels. The “liberation” of Kuweires earlier this year could not have been achieved without Russian air support; and the graveyard of smashed Mig fighter-bombers, shell holes, dismembered trees and gun-pits have a distinctly Second World War flavour. So do the casualties. Nine air force students died when a suicide truck was crashed into the hangar in which they were sleeping. The Syrians buried their dead in cemeteries around the runways, 79 of them in separate graves beside the air-base swimming pool.

“Our mufti said prayers over them under the shellfire but there were no shots fired over their graves,” a major says. “When we were liberated, the bodies were dug up one at a time and placed in new coffins and inside was a glass jar with their names and details.” A wooden board with “grave No. 7” on it is marked: “Ahmed Ali Zohoud from Lattakia, died 7 July 2015.” Almost exactly a year ago. A mile away, rows of captured homemade mortars constructed by Isis mechanics lie in the grass near to an American-made construction vehicle attached to a massive iron drill that had ben used to build tunnels beneath the base.

“They tried to call up the officers on the base,” Brig Zaman says. “They sent papers over the walls with numbers of mobile phones our men could ring to defect. They offered safety corridors from the base if they wanted to desert. But our men were loyal. I even received a message with telephone numbers to ring in Saudi Arabia and Turkey. I gave the numbers to our intelligence people. These countries work for the Americans and for Israel. The only slogan we sent back was that we will win or face the consequences of being martyrs.”

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Missile with origin defaced, fired at Syrian troops at Koyeress airbase 40 km east of Aleppo (Nelofer Pazira)

For two years, helicopters could still land under fire in the base, but then flights became too dangerous. They then relied on air drops for essential supplies. General Hasham Mohamed Younis, a teacher at the air academy at Kuweires, was in charge of air drops throughout the siege. “Our helicopters flew over at an altitude of 4km,” he says. “Our problems were wind, the weight of the 75kg and 120kg packages – because the parachutes used in the drops were made for the weight of men – and the terrorists shooting at the drops when they were parachuted down to us. Some drifted down over the enemy, but not many. We successfully received most of the diesel and kerosene and food and letters for cadets from their families.”

War stories there were aplenty. Gen Younis recalls how one package of food from a cadet’s family was packed beneath a parachute which was blown down into the Isis lines. After a few hours, a message was thrown over the wall addressed to the cadet. “The enemy said they had enjoyed his mother’s food,” Younis recounts. “They asked him to tell his mother to send more for them.”

One fuel-carrying helicopter was shot down en route to Kuweires, all but one of its crew burnt to death. The other, Pilot Ali Hosman, jumped out of the machine holding on to one of the parachutes and landed on a 14-year old boy on the ground. The boy lived. Hosman died five minutes later.

Driving across the runways and perimeter ramparts of this huge air base – the first Western journalist ever to visit Kuweires – it isn’t difficult to see what a prestigious target it made for Isis. Battered Mig jets – one with its tail broken off – stand beside more captured ordnance, two unexploded missiles clearly bear Latin letters and numbers of Western origin, another bears the inscription of an Arab government depot with its country of origin carefully scratched out. The tanks and BMP armour Isis used appear to have been captured from the Syrians at the start of the war – they include a T-72 tank which has its own Isis numbering (“311” is stencilled below the rear chassis) and it is remarkable that any serviceable aircraft still survive. But I drive past untouched Hind helicopters and several new Migs.

The soldiers at Kuweires are in some ways lucky. At least one other air base was overrun by Isis and its defenders captured – they were then beheaded on film. No wonder Brig Zaman is harsh in his commentary of war.

“We had no messages for our enemies – we replied with our weapons. These people who have this ideology, you can’t change them – but you can kill them.”

And he makes a reference to Hama in 1982, where Syrian forces killed thousands following a Muslim Brotherhood uprising. His lesson is a grim if rather startling one.

“In Syria, we are defending all the world’s humanity. If Syria is defeated, even Britain will not escape, nor France, nor Turkey, nor Jordan. They will be darkened with the same blood.”

There are many, however, who would point out that Britain has not escaped Isis, nor France, nor Turkey, nor Jordan. All countries which – along with America, Israel and the Gulf – Syria blames for the “conspiracy” to destroy the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

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