AMNESTY USA ON SYRIAN GOVERNMENT’S WAR CRIMES
The whole truth?by Rahnuma Ahmed
I’D THOUGHT of writing about Monsanto — the US-based biotech giant which is being sued by five million Brazilian farmers for 7.7 billion dollars for its seed-patenting, rightly dubbed ‘GM genocide’ — this week but the press statement from Amnesty International USA, which had slipped into my inbox caught my eye.
Headlined, ‘Urgent: From Syria's Frontlines’, it spoke of an Amnesty report to be released this week which has uncovered ‘widespread new evidence of heinous war crimes committed by the Syrian government armed forces and militias.’ Amnesty’s investigations of the Houla and Dara massacres, claims the release, provides ‘unequivocal evidence that the Syrian army is responsible for gross violations of human rights on a massive scale.’
Only Bashar al-Assad’s armed forces and militias? Only the Syrian army? No mention of atrocities committed by the rebel forces? Of the US secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s admission that al-Qaeda is supporting the armed insurrection in Syria? Which, as Paul Joseph Watson points out, is consistent with reports that these same terrorists had helped to overthrow Colonel Gaddafi in Libya and had been airlifted to Syria by NATO forces? That al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has publicly lent support to Syrian rebel forces? (‘Clinton: Al Qaeda, U.S., Helping Syrian Rebels’, Global Research, March 2, 2012).
That the Arab League observer mission’s report (generally ignored by the Western media) concluded that both sides of the conflict were responsible for indiscriminate violence and that terrorist groups were helping the rebels carry out attacks?
That a general in the Free Syria Army — the opposition militia — admitted to a Reuters journalist that the rebels were being armed with weapons and anti-aircraft missiles supplied by the United States and France? That US troops, according to former FBI translator and whistleblower Sibel Edmonds, had landed on the Jordanian and Syrian border in December 2011 to train militants to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad?
That British and French Special Forces have been actively training members of the FSA from a base within Turkey? That CIA operatives and special forces are allegedly providing training in communications? (Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, January 7, 2012).
Maybe Amnesty’s report — I must add here that the organisation has considerable credibility among activist circles in Bangladesh — will not be as one-sided as the press release implies.
Maybe ‘other’ behind the scenes machinations — proving beyond doubt that what has been occurring in Syria for over a year is not simply a popular uprising — have been taken into cognisance by Amnesty.
For instance, the news that Qatar ‘bought’ general al-Dhabi’s resignation. For those who don’t know, the Sudanese general Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dhabi, who headed the Arab States Observer Mission to Syria — yes, the one whose conclusions were ignored by the ‘international’ media — well, when soon after, talk turned to forming a new observer mission (jointly by the Arab League and the UN), Qatar escalated pressure on al-Dhabi to retire. Why else but because of his refusal to endorse the ‘Atlanticist version of events in Syria’?
Al-Dhabi was first offered ‘compensation’ by Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem, prime minister and foreign minister of Qatar. He refused. The emir then phoned him to say that every man has a price and sent him a blank cheque, asking him to fill in the amount himself. He still refused. Qatar’s emir then spoke to the Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir and made available a grant of two billion dollars to Sudan, poor and war-torn, in exchange for the general’s withdrawal. Al-Dhabi was recalled to Khartoum after the payment was made. (‘Qatar buys General al-Dhabi’s resignation’, Voltaire Network, February 14, 2012).
Maybe the Amnesty investigation has not been oblivious to the ‘international’ war propaganda machine, hell-bent on manufacturing lies so that the desired ‘regime change’ in Syria, occurs, and, for Western powers and its crony Gulf Arab tyrants, the sooner the better.
But if it has — despite massive evidence that has surfaced detailing sordid tales of pro-war propaganda by the media establishment (al-Jazeera, Huffington Post, the BBC, to name a few), revealing as well FSA’s recent trap to kill Western journalists (‘dead journos are bad for Damascus’) — one will be forced to conclude that Amnesty as well is a party to the western war machine.
In early March, al-Jazeera Arabic’s Beirut correspondent Ali Hashem resigned. The station had refused to show photographs taken by him of clashes between armed fighters and the Syrian army in Wadi Khaled; he was lambasted instead by his bosses for being a ‘shabeeh’ (regime loyalist). Hashem was doubly frustrated because al-Jazeera was refusing to cover the Bahrain uprising despite ‘people being butchered by the “Gulf’s oppression machine”.’ According to press reports, Hashem is not alone; inside sources have spoken of the ‘dismay’ of staff members in al-Jazeera’s offices in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Bahrain at its generally ‘biased and unprofessional’ news coverage (‘Al Jazeera reporter resigns over ‘biased’ Syria coverage," al-Akhbar, March 8, 2012).
A year earlier, al-Jazeera’s Beirut bureau chief Ghassan Ben Jeddo resigned because al-Jazeera had ‘abandoned [its] ideal of objectivity and professionalism and resorted to gutter journalism.’ The stark contrast between its ‘scant coverage’ of Bahrain as compared to its ‘intensive coverage’ of Libya, Yemen, and (later/now), Syria, says Jeddo, made it obvious that the channel had changed from being a ‘media source’ to an ‘operations room for incitement and mobilization.’ (Monthly Review, April 23, 2011).
In March this year, Sharmine Narwani, who blogs at Huffington Post, wrote that HP has refused to publish all but one of her seven Syria articles, despite (or, maybe because of?) her viewpoint having challenged the ‘dominant narratives on Syria in the mainstream media.’ Censorship of her Syria pieces became ‘noticeable’ after the AOL’s purchase of HuffPost in early 2011, even though she contributed ones which contained ‘exclusive’ information, including ‘first-hand accounts’ from Syria. Preference was given to wire articles instead, written from outside Syria, usually from Beirut or Amman, ‘often citing unverifiable information and claims from “activists” inside the country.’ Editors at HuffPost, she alleges, have failed to respond to her e-mails (al-Akhbar, March 7, 2012).
I can understand why when I read her ‘High-tech trickery in Homs?’ Narwani relates how the US ambassador to Syria, posted on Facebook the US state department’s satellite images of the Syrian army’s use of heavy weaponry, and scenes of the Homs carnage, in order to ‘expose the regime’s brutal tactics for the world to see.’ But a detailed examination of these images by bloggers later revealed that the heavy weaponry ones were not those of deployment, but of troops undergoing training in barracks. Secondly — and this is when the story gets curiouser and curiouser — the US envoy, in his Facebook posting, had claimed that the opposition, including those who’d defected from the Syrian military, didn’t have access to any ‘heavy weapons’. However, images broadcast by the CNN on February 5, two days after violence erupted in Homs, showed scenes of ‘shelling, fires and damages’ consistent with the use of heavy weapons. Narwani writes, even though the CNN claims, as does the ‘international’ media, that these images are of Baba Amr neighbourhood in Homs (an anti-regime stronghold), a close examination reveals that they are actually of al-Zahra neighbourhood (a pro-regime locality), inhabited mainly by Alawis, who belong to the same Muslim minority sect as president Assad.
It’s a ‘stunning revelation’, she writes, since pro-regime civilians in Homs and other Syrian areas had been complaining for months about ‘attacks, kidnappings and killings by armed opposition groups’ (al-Akhbar, February 14, 2012).
They are stunning no doubt, but probably from HuffPost’s point of view, for the wrong reasons as they expose what US diplomats, and the western media says, to be lies.
Over the last year, writes Narwani, the turmoil in the Middle East has ‘morphed into a battleground for much larger interests — economic, political, financial — and the players see this as an existential fight; the final showdown, so to speak. The battle for narratives is the frontline of this war, and it is a dirty one.’ So dirty that previous lies of WMDs in Iraq, yellowcake uranium in Niger are hardly comparable to ‘the barrage of unverified propaganda that filters through both social and mainstream media sites every, single day’ (al-Akhbar, March 7, 2012).
How dirty becomes clearer in a BBC report, dated May 27, 2012, of the alleged government assault on the town of Houla. Reporting hours after the massacre, the BBC used a photo published nine years ago, taken in al Mussayib, Iraq, claiming that the picture had been provided by an activist and ‘believed to show the bodies of children in Houla awaiting burial.’
After Marco Di Lauro, who’d taken the original photograph, protested in Facebook, ‘Somebody is using my images as a propaganda against the Syrian government to prove the massacre’, after the ‘mistake’ was publicly exposed, the BBC was forced to change its original article. However, it didn’t bother to issue a retraction.
Di Lauro says he was ‘astonished’. How could the BBC not bother to verify the ‘authenticity of the image’? How could it be willing to ‘publish any picture sent it by anyone’? Not any picture, nor sent by anyone Marco, only those which dovetail with Washington’s party line.
More recently, senior British journalist Alex Thomson, has written in his personal Channel 4 blog of his ‘narrow escape’ from a trap set for him and his team, by Syrian rebels (‘Set up to be shot in Syria’s no man’s land?’ June 8, 2012). Thomson, who had accompanied UN monitors to Free Syrian Army-held territory had asked for an escort to leave al Qusayr. ‘Suddenly four men in a black car beckon us to follow. We move out behind. We are led another route. Led in fact, straight into a free-fire zone... At that point there was the crack of a bullet... I’m quite clear the rebels deliberately set us up to be shot by the Syrian Army. Dead journos are bad for Damascus.’
What if the rebels had succeeded? Tony Cartalucci asks. It would have been ironical for then Thomson’s own countrymen, his own colleagues, particularly those at the BBC, would have brought out banner headlines, ‘BRITISH JOURNALISTS SLAUGHTERED BY ASSAD!’ But far more illuminating is Cartalucci’s observation that Thomson’s account reveals a bifurcation between ‘rebel’ forces. Organised fighters on the one hand, solely committed to fighting the Syrian army. A more insidious third party on the other, who had led Thomson and others into the trap. The latter consisting of ‘foreign mercenaries and sectarian extremists carrying out the bulk of the violence and atrocities’, one which is corroborated in Syrian government accounts and analyses made by independent geopolitical analysts globally (‘Killing the Truth: Syrian rebels set trap for British journalists’, June 9, 2012).
Will the Amnesty report be, or not be, one-eyed? It’s hard to think that it will speak truth to power because the press statement urges its readers to,
— Pressure Russia and China to immediately halt weapons and munitions transfers to the Syrian government.
— Demand that the United Nations Security Council act decisively in the wake of mounting global awareness of the crisis.
— Ensure that human rights monitors can travel throughout Syria to get the facts that break through the Syrian government’s lies.
Mark the words, only and exclusively, Syrian government’s lies.
The battle for narratives, as Narwani says, is a dirty one. Amnesty’s press release would seem to indicate that it, too, is mired in the dirt.
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