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Did Syria’s President Assad attack his own people with chemical weapons?

The British government is funding a top-of-the-line propaganda campaign to facilitate its ultimate objective of regime change in the country. Media allies continue to blame Assad for chemical attacks on his own people despite the debunking of several flawed reports and the arrests of five propagandists who were caught filming fake footage in Cairo trying to pass it off as scenes of suffering in Aleppo.

While propaganda and the staging of suffering is not unique to Syria, it shows the demand for it within the corridors of imperial power and their proxies who have shared vested interests.

“A new report from the UN has found that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces are to blame for a deadly chemical attack that killed more than 90 people in a rebel village earlier this year”, proclaimed a recent Independent article.

Echoing the perspective of the vast majority of the corporate media, the paper continued:
“The investigation from the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said that experts are confident that the Syrian Arab Republic is responsible for the release of sarin at Khan Sheikhoun on 4 April 2017”.

So what was regarded to be a definitive statement of fact in the opening paragraph of the article, was contradicted in the paragraph that followed.

UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, reiterated the former interpretation when he stated:
“The independent [OPCW] report from expert investigators reach a clear conclusion: the Assad regime used sarin nerve gas against the people of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria on 4 April with tragic consequences for hundreds of victims.”

However, Russian officials claimed the report’s methodology was flawed, specifically in relation to the sequence and storage of material evidence and the use of fake evidence and biased sources.

UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson claimed the independent OPCW report concluded that the sarin attacks originated from the Assad regime. But then he would say that, wouldn’t he?

We’ve been here before

This follows on the heels of another previously flawed August 2015 OPCW-UN report in connection with Security Council resolution 2235. The report which was aimed at introducing new sanctions against Syria didn’t make the claims subsequently attributed to it in the corporate media, namely that between April 2014 and August 2015, the Assad government was definitively responsible for three chemical attacks using chlorine.

Referring to the report’s many caveats and reservations, security analyst Charles Shoebridge argued that the evidence “wasn’t sufficiently good to declare that Syria had dropped chlorine to a standard that could be considered ‘strong’, or ‘overwhelming'”, adding that “investigators were largely reliant on reports from the [pro-rebel terror organisation], the White Helmets.”

Furthermore, independent journalist Gareth Porter inferred that UN investigators increasingly make their conclusions fall in line with Western propaganda after he exposed distortions contained in a March 1 2017 report by the UN’s “Independent International Commission of Inquiry” which claimed that an airstrike on a humanitarian aid convoy in the west of Aleppo City on September 19 2016 was undertaken by Syrian government planes. Porter reveals that the reports findings were also based on White Helmets’ testimonies that were “full of internal contradictions.”

Purveyor of propaganda

Despite the reservations as to the veracity of previous reports, Boris Johnson’s eagerness to uncritically promote their latest offering is indicative of his role as a purveyor of UK government propaganda.

He has form in this regard. In September last year, the UK Foreign Secretary engaged in a piece of produced theatre, claiming the government had earmarked £2.3 billion towards supporting human rights organisations in Syria.

The money, however, was almost certainly channeled into promoting sophisticated propaganda campaigns and the funding of mercenary forces such as the White Helmets. The ultimate objective, as French foreign minister Roland Dumas admitted, is regime change in Syria that the UK government have “prepared, conceived and organised.”

But impending defeat for the West prompted rhetorical flourishes from mainstream reporters and politicians alike that have shifted from the surreal to the absurd. Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, described the liberation of Aleppo as “a tragedy“.

Meanwhile, Sky News’ Dominic Waghorn, on December 13, 2016, referred to Western-Saudi backed Salafist head-chopping terrorists in the city who began flooding into Syria in 2011-12, as a “popular uprising against the Assad regime“.

On the same day, commentator Brian Becker cited a New York Times headline which described the driving out by Syrian forces of al-Qaeda and their affiliates from eastern Aleppo as “A Complete Meltdown of Humanity.”

UN General Secretary Ban-Ki Moon conceded that the report which the New York Times had based its headlines were unverified. But that didn’t prevent the paper from publishing them, predicated on the regime change imperatives of Western governments that have subsequently been put on hold.

As one commentator put it:

“Articles like that in the New York Times, express the frustrations and anger of those in Washington and elsewhere who are angry with the failure of the regime change agenda.”


The anti-Syria propaganda campaign was a dealt a major blow on December 20, 2016 after it was reported that the Egyptian police had arrested five people for fabricating images in a factory in Cairo that would be passed off as scenes of suffering in Aleppo for the purpose of molding public opinion. The suspects revealed they had shot numerous scenes in Cairo that were intended to be spread on social media as if they were filmed from Aleppo.

The subsequent controversy is not that fake images and the staging of suffering is unique to Syria, but rather that there is demand for them within the corridors of imperial power and their proxies who have shared vested interests.

Patrick Cockburn made the point that many of the pictures and films allegedly coming out of Aleppo never show armed groups, even though a war zone is what is supposedly depicted. He points out that there is a lack of knowledge about the provenance of these images and that there is every chance they are the work of professional PR companies and opposition media specialists funded by foreign governments.

Cockburn relates how a journalist of partly Syrian extraction in Beirut told him how he [the Syrian journalist] had been offered $17,000 a month to work for such an opposition media PR project backed by the British government.

Such suspicions are not restricted to commentators on the left of the political spectrum. Peter Hitchens, on December 18, 2016, for example, wrote:

“In the past few days we have been bombarded with colourful reports of events in eastern Aleppo, written or transmitted by people in Beirut (180 miles away and in another country), or even London (2,105 miles away and in another world). There have, we are told, been massacres of women and children, people have been burned alive.

“The sources for these reports are so-called ‘activists’. Who are they? As far as I know, there was not one single staff reporter for any Western news organisation in eastern Aleppo last week. Not one.

“This is for the very good reason, they would have been kidnapped and probably murdered. The zone was ruled without mercy by heavily armed Osama Bin Laden sympathisers, who were bombarding the west of the city with powerful artillery. That is why you never see pictures of armed males in eastern Aleppo, just beautifully composed photographs of handsome young unarmed men lifting wounded children from the rubble, with the light just right.”

Hitchens continued:

“For reasons that I find it increasingly hard to understand or excuse, much of the British media refer to these Al Qaeda types coyly as ‘rebels’… But if they were in any other place in the world, including Birmingham or Belmarsh, they would call them extremists, jihadis, terrorists and fanatics. One of them, Abu Sakkar, famously cut out and sank his teeth into the heart of a fallen enemy, while his comrades cheered.”

Interwoven web

The above illustrates the existence of a complex interwoven web that connects the various government departments, NGOs, opposition groups and activists with the corporate media who facilitate and amplify negative stories in relation to Syria in order to help achieve the ultimate objective of regime change in the country.

The evidence that the British Foreign Office and other governments are pursuing such a policy by gaining public acceptance through propaganda that “demonises the Syrian government and glorifies the armed opposition as essential to achieving that goal”, is compelling.

Dr Barbara McKenzie highlights how the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), working with the Ministry of Defence, the Home Office and the Prime Minister’s Office formed contract companies for the express purpose of creating ‘targeted information’ in relation to the war on Syria.

In effect, the British government is funding a comprehensive top-of-the-range advertising campaign to promote sectarian extremists in Syria who function as units of al Qaeda and ISIS. This involves the production of videos, photos, military reports, radio broadcasts, print products and social media posts branded with the logos of fighting groups by contractors hired out by the Foreign Office and overseen by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

It’s a measure of the extent to which the mass media have become embedded within the deep state of government that president Trump, with near-unanimous journalistic support, was able to launch the illegal missile strike on the al-Shayrat airbase in Syria on April 7, 2017 in response to the chemical attack allegedly orchestrated by the Syrian government three days previously in ISIS controlled Khan Seikhoun.

Cathy Newman on Channel 4 News stated that the US attack was “in retaliation to a sarin gas attack by president Assad”. No evidence was provided by Newman to support her assertion.

Lack of scepticism

Meanwhile, Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian, wrote a day after the alleged April 4 attack: “We almost certainly know who did it. Every sign points to the regime of Bashar al-Assad.” What these ‘signs’ are were not specified in the article.

Even the usually cautious Guardian journalist George Monbiot appears to be eager for regime change. On Twitter (April 7, 2017) the writer claimed: “We can be 99% sure the chemical weapons attack came from Syrian govt.”

Three days later, Media Lens challenged Monbiot by citing the views of former UN weapons inspectors, Hans Blix and Scott Ritter, both of whom contradicted Monbiot’s assertion. “What do you know that Hans Blix and Scott Ritter don’t know?”, inquired the analysts. Monbiot failed to reply.

Apparently it hadn’t occurred to these, and practically all the other mainstream journalists (with the notable exception of Peter Oborne and Peter Hitchens), that Assad’s motive for undertaking such an attack was weak. As investigative reporter Robert Parry, who broke many of the Iran-Contra stories, argued:

“Since Assad’s forces have gained a decisive upper-hand over the rebels, why would he risk stirring up international outrage at this juncture? On the other hand, the desperate rebels might view the horrific scenes from the chemical-weapons deployment as a last-minute game-changer.”

Then there has been the willingness of the media to cite what is clearly an untrustworthy source, ‘British doctor’, Shajul Islam. Despite having been struck off the British medical register for misconduct in March 2016, the media have quoted or shown Islam in their reports where he has been depicted as a key witness to the alleged gas attack and hence helped augment the unsubstantiated media narrative. In 2012, Shajul Islam was charged with terror offences in a British court.

While the media are prone to readily cite unreliable sources, they largely ignore highly credible ones, arguably the most notable of which is US physicist and missile expert Theodore Postol, emeritus professor at MIT. In his detailed analysis of a US intelligence report of the alleged chemical attack, professor Postol argues that physical evidence strongly suggests the delivery system for the nerve gas was a mortar shell placed on the ground, not a bomb dropped from a warplane. Towards the end of his critique, Postol said, “The situation is that the White House has produced a false, obviously misleading and amateurish report.”

Elaborating on his argument in a television interview, the MIT professor said:

“The US report, quite frankly, doesn’t meet the laugh test. As an American citizen I want to know who signed it off….I think this is an indication that there is something extremely problematic in the American national system with regard to the use of intelligence.”

Postol added:

“It indicates a willingness on the part of high level people in the White House to distort and to use intelligence claims that are false to make political points and political arguments….I think this report was almost certainly politically-motivated… This is a serious and intolerable situation.”

The inability of mainstream journalists to undertake basic fact-checking illuminated by the examples described, reinforce the veracity of a respected German journalist who, in March 2016, claimed that corporate journalists are “educated to lie, to betray, and not to tell the truth to the public.”

But more than that, it amounts to a stark admission that the corruption at the heart of the elite media and political establishment is systemic. As Mark Doran on Twitter put it: “Our corrupt politics, our international crime, and our ‘free media’ form a seamless whole.”

The goal of this consolidation of power is to secure yet another Middle East resource grab.

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