Ms Michelle Guthrie.
Australian Broadcasting Commission.
The screening by Four Corners of Channel 4’s documentary “The Case against Assad” marks a new low in the ABC’s editorial policy on this highly contentious subject, and at a time when its effect on public perception of the war on Syria has never been so critical.
This is a formal complaint to whoever it may concern at the ABC, whether at the level of management, production or presentation, over the continuing and deteriorating presentation of the War on Syria in News and Current Affairs on Radio and TV platforms.
The presentation of this one-sided and mendacious narrative, which the ABC shares with other leading Western mainstream media including the BBC, Al Jazeera, CNN, the Guardian and NYT, has now passed the point of legitimate comment and become effective war propaganda, following the US cruise missile attack on Syrian defence forces.
This illegitimate act of aggression by the US administration, supposedly in response to a chemical weapons attack on ‘civilians’ by the Syrian Air-force, should have been a turning point in the six-year long war to break Syria and cut ‘the axis of Resistance’ – as set out in the “Path to Persia”. It has long been evident, and well known outside the closed loop of Western media, that this is the plan being pursued and driven by US neo-cons and their close partners in the region – Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, and tacitly supported by the UK, Australia and other US and NATO allies.
The events of last September were the important antecedents to the current crisis, including particularly the lethal attack on Syrian forces by US and Australian warplanes in Deir Al Zour, and the staging of a strike on an aid convoy to Aleppo by Al Qaeda associated operatives, with Russian and Syrian forces wrongly condemned at the UN. These acts set the scene for the abysmal presentation in Western media and the ABC of the Syrian Army operation to liberate Aleppo from its occupying terrorist gangs, which was finally concluded in December.
This difficult but successful operation, whereby over 100,000 civilians held under siege by armed groups in East Aleppo were given safe passage into West Aleppo, and in which several thousand fighters were given amnesty, was achieved with minimal loss of civilian life or further destruction of buildings. Following the final removal of terrorist fighters and their families to areas still occupied by armed groups, an estimated 600,000 IDPs living in West Aleppo started to return to what remained of their homes in the East, while Syrians across the country celebrated what looked like the beginning of the end of their horrific suffering.
And so it should have been.
To suggest that Western media organisations bear total responsibility for the war-crime of the century committed by NATO and Gulf-backed forces against the Syrian State would be to overstate the case. But to pretend that these organisations have been innocent actors in the campaign driven by their governments would whitewash their effective complicity in the death and destruction they have all facilitated, wittingly or unwittingly. If it were ever said that ‘ignorance is no excuse’ then it should be said now. Given that this ignorance of the truth of Syria’s “Revolution” is not shared by ‘non-Western’ media or governments or independent observers, the scale of deception and misrepresentation across the Western mainstream media looks like negligence or wilful ignorance at best.
It is equally at odds with common sense to maintain that the ABC, and particularly its sister organisation the BBC, have acted independently of government opinion and direction in their presentation of the Syrian narrative; one need only speculate on the reaction of the UK and Australian governments were their state broadcasters to present a “pro-Assad” point of view, while rejecting the unverifiable opposition ‘activist’ reports that align with government policy. The completely different picture presented in those non-Western media who have correspondents within Syria, such as RT, Press TV, Xinhua and Al Mayadeen tells us a lot about the political stance and agenda of our own state media, including the ABC and SBS, as well as the major print media organisations, Newscorp and Fairfax.
As stated above, the liberation of Aleppo should have been a turning point, a wake-up call for Western media organisations. But such was the build-up of rhetoric and lies about the situation in East Aleppo, predicting a ‘genocide’ and a ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ resulting from what they portrayed as an invasion and attack by Russian, Iranian and Syrian forces, that when the truth was exposed it was completely ignored.
Russians and Syrians, Iranians and Chinese, and those in the West who followed their reports, were soon able to see correspondents accompanying Syrian or Russian forces into the streets of Aleppo’s old city, – to see the weapons caches and chemical stores, or the places terrorist groups had imprisoned, tortured and killed captives – as well as to hear the stories told by civilian families freed from the four-year long siege. They learnt directly from these ordinary Syrians how the militants and violent jihadists had held them in dire conditions, restricting their access to both food and medical care and shooting those who tried to escape. These people knew nothing of the stories told to the Western audience by their corporate media and leaders alike, of the “Syrian Civil Defence” workers who bravely rescued children from the rubble and destruction caused by “Assad’s Barrel Bombs”. They had never seen these men in the White Helmets, because they only actually assisted the militants of Al Nusra and Nour al Din al Zinki and other Al Qaeda groups, while fabricating videos of their ‘child rescues’ to be distributed by ‘activist networks’ to Western media organisations.
The failure of those organisations, including the ABC, to ever question the credentials of these ‘White Helmets’ – a US/UK funded propaganda organisation pushing the agenda of regime change – is itself a case of culpable negligence. The truth about the Oscar winning White Helmets – “Al Qaeda with a facelift” – has now been thoroughly exposed by independent investigators, and brought directly to the attention of the UN by leading Russian and Syrian ministers, including their Presidents. Yet at no time has the ABC shown any interest in interviewing any of those authorities, nor even mentioned the controversy to its audience, despite the frequent use of White Helmet produced video reports from ‘rebel’ occupied Syria.
But now the crisis over Syria has moved to a new and much darker level. And yet again the Western mainstream media organisations, including the ABC and SBS have failed to expose the truth – in this case of the Khan Shaikoun chemical weapon attack, making themselves complicit in the subsequent extraordinary and illegal US cruise missile strikes, which have brought the world so close to war with Russia. And yet again Russia has been forced to accept this US act of war against the sovereign state it is protecting, as well as the abuse hurled at its representatives on the UNSC.
Because of the apparent state of ignorance at the ABC, both on the true nature and agenda of terrorist groups supported and armed by the West, and on the prescriptions and proscriptions of international law, it is necessary to outline the truth of what happened in Khan Shaikoun on April 4th – as that truth appears to Russian and Syrian authorities and their intelligence services.
First point: Neither Syrian government forces nor any of their allies bear any responsibility for carrying out a chemical weapons attack on Khan Shaikoun, whether with Sarin or other agent.
- All Syria’s stocks of Sarin, and the means to manufacture it and other nerve agents, were destroyed under UN supervision in 2014.
- The Syrian army has been fighting a violent armed insurgency for six years, using whatever means it has to kill these terrorists brought into Syria through Turkey and Jordan, and armed with thousands of tonnes of munitions trucked in and paid for by Western allies of the Syrian ‘Opposition’. There is no reason to suppose that chemical weapons were not included in these shipments.
- The use of chemical weapons has next to zero strategic military purpose for Syrian security forces, as they are indiscriminate and hard to direct. In the case of Khan Shaikoun we can categorically rule out their use by the Syrian Army, who had recently driven thousands of terrorists back from a coordinated push to take Hama; such an act would have been pointless, but also brought the wrath of foreign powers onto the heads of the Syrian government – as we can see.
Second point: Terrorist groups in control of Khan Shaikoun, together known as Hayat Tahrir al Sham were consequently responsible for whatever occurred there on April 4th, including the drama shown on videos of the hosing down of men and children by “White Helmets” operatives, and the staging of a suspected Sarin attack on residents near to a main highway, following the exploding of some device there. The site and consequences of this explosion – allegedly caused by a Sarin-filled missile fired by the SAA – has been analysed in detail by MIT weapons expert Ted Postol. There is already well-documented evidence that Sarin supplied by Turkey is in the possession of the terrorist groups it supports in Syria.
Third point: Russia regards this event as a “provocation” or “false flag”, staged by NATO’s allies to provide a pretext for the cruise missile attack that followed. Due to the possibility, or likelihood of collaboration between terrorist groups responsible for the attack and the propaganda videos, and US allied foreign intelligence services, Russia suspended its ‘de-confliction agreement’ with the US. While Western media agencies and particularly their audiences may not understand the exact implications of this decision, it demonstrated Russia’s belief that information on Syrian air operations given to US authorities had been passed to Al Qaeda forces – including the White Helmets – responsible for the videos as well as an unknown number of deaths of innocent civilians. Despite numerous statements from Russia’s ministry of foreign affairs as well as from President Putin on this, what mention this has received from the ABC has been passed off as “Russia claims..”
Fourth point: few people in Syria understand the nature of Syrian society and of the war to defend it from foreign destruction better than the President, Bashar al Assad. In many interviews over the last six years conducted by correspondents from Europe, South America, Russia and China, President Assad has remained consistent and steadfast in defence of the Syrian people, while growing in stature and dedication to this cause despite everything. Not once in these six years has the ABC shown an interest in interviewing him, nor any interest in listening to what he has to say, beyond picking on some statement and presenting it out of context.
In one recent interview with AFP, following a long and detailed analysis of the circumstances and likely perpetrators of the Khan Shaikoun attack, President Assad stated that the attack was “100% fabricated”. Given the context in which this claim was presented – following repeated screening of the staged and emotive videos – few viewers would have believed Assad’s statement, but rather taken it as more evidence that the man is a psychopath who doesn’t even know he is a criminal. This manipulative presentation of Assad has become standard fare for Western media – a demonization which has made them a vital element in the illegitimate push for regime change.
While those at the ABC may only be guilty of a failure to investigate or consider alternatives to what has now become the ‘accepted wisdom’ across the Western world, the same cannot be said of our leaders and ministers. The protestations from Foreign Minister Julie Bishop that the cancelling of the de-confliction agreement endangered US coalition forces beggars belief, given that our forces are in Syria quite illegally, and without approval from either the Russian or Syrian governments.
If our own foreign minister, and the intelligence services that inform her, are unaware of who was responsible for the Khan Shaikoun attack, even as they cooperate with the main sponsors of those insurgent armies – Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the US – then we should be even more worried for our future than we are now.
Not that Ms Bishop and other Australian ministers are peculiar in their apparent desire to join in with the new US administration’s wild and reckless provocations around the world; statements by Theresa May and Boris Johnson, as well as the latest pronouncements from the French foreign minister are equally worrying. Laurent Fabius in particular, with the support of French intelligence services, has presented the case for his own prosecution at the International Criminal Court, should a proper investigation of the alleged Sarin attack be finally able to take place. His claims that such an investigation has already happened, thanks to French Intelligence on the ground in Syria, only confirms French collaboration in the false flag operation. Citing a similarity to an earlier alleged gas attack in Syria, in Saraqib in April 2013 only compounds this fraud, as that supposed attack was an early attempt by Al Qaeda groups to do what they finally achieved this April – framing the Syrian government for crossing Obama’s famous ‘red line’.
It is against this background that we should consider the performance of the ABC, both in providing coverage of all aspects of ‘the story’, and in maintaining impartiality and political independence according to its responsibilities to inform the Australian public. To any reasonably well-informed observer this performance must be judged as seriously deficient as regards Syria and Russia, both specifically and in the wider context of the war between the US alliance and its opponents.
As previously stated, the ABC has consistently misreported the Syrian conflict since its beginning in March 2011, when militant provocateurs fired on protestors and Syrian police. Six years later the same false stories about the start of the ‘Syrian revolution’ are repeated, and apparently believed by ABC commentators and reporters, despite the truth of this Gulf and US sponsored insurgency and its years of planning being thoroughly exposed. The maintenance of a completely false and infantile meme of President Assad as a ‘brutal dictator’ and the leader of an “Alawite clique”, and as such the legitimate target of “freedom and democracy protestors” has seen the reality of Assad’s popularity completely air-brushed from the ABC’s commentary. On the rare occasion that someone presents that reality – as demonstrated in the elections of 2014 and 2016 – their views are now ridiculed, both by the ABC and by its hopelessly misinformed audience.
It can no longer be said that such failure is simply negligent, as has been illustrated very recently in an article posted on the ABC’s news online. Written by a recent refugee from Syria Rifaie Tammas, now studying for a Phd at Macquarie University, this apparently informative article about Syrians’ perceptions of the war on their country would raise both mirth and anger in Syria. Tammas, who admits to being a ‘citizen journalist’ in Homs in 2013, gives voice not to genuine Syrians but to Syrian expats who would like to see their country install a pro-Western puppet government in place of the one legitimately elected by a large majority of Syrians. His persuasive and grossly misleading article has no place on the ABC news website, even with a disclaimer, yet it appears to have actually been sponsored by the ABC. This short extract is representative:
While the world was divided over who was responsible for the attack, and many demanded an independent inquiry, most Syrians inside the country had already made up their mind and pointed the finger at the Bashar al-Assad regime.
That is why when the US launched 59 missiles into the Syrian regime’s military airbase in Homs a few days later, many Syrians welcomed the move.
This statement is a complete reversal of the truth. Very few in the Western world ‘demanded an independent inquiry’, and in fact got together at the UN to condemn Assad with no inquiry, and opposed the independent one proposed by Russia. In a rare interview with Syria’s deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, Lateline host Jeremy Fernandez argued that Russia and Iran should be excluded from such an inquiry, and appeared to be upset by Mekdad’s defence of international law.
By contrast, ‘most Syrians inside the country’ made up their mind about who was responsible for the attack as soon as they heard about it; they have endured the savagery and criminality of our ‘rebels’ for six long years, and are no longer fooled by their offensive propaganda videos. Even some of the victims of the al Qaeda Sarin bomb interviewed in a Turkish hospital, were upset by the US attack on their country. The only Syrians who welcomed it of course apart from refugees outside the country, were those in terrorist groups fighting the Syrian Army, and members of the Syrian delegations to Geneva, such as Mohammed Alloush, who expressed a desire that the US destroy all of Syria’s airbases, helping the Islamist groups to seize the upper hand in their violent insurgency against the Syrian Army and the Assad government.
Those who have closely followed the Geneva proceedings only on ABC news would have no idea that Mohammed Alloush is part of Jaish al Islam, whose presence in Douma north of Damascus has made life hell for those in the city, with its random attacks with mortars and ‘hell’s cannons’. If they have heard anything of Douma, it would have been in reports such as that from Sophie McNeill in August 2015, on the alleged Syrian Army missile strike on a market. While McNeill makes reference to the Syrian government’s ‘claim’ it was conducting strikes on Jaish al Islam, because of the rocket attacks being launched on the city – as I stated above – she dismisses this claim in favour of the ‘opposition activists’ story. But like the Ghouta false flag attack that she mentions as having happened nearby two years earlier, this story of the Douma ‘market bombing’ was later shown to be fabricated, and the rest of her report makes it obvious why. This was just at the time when Australia was about to send planes to join the US operations already conducting illegal strikes in Syria; a time when Tony Abbott was seeking public support for expanding our role and stake in the Syrian conflict.
More recently Sophie McNeill has been involved in another controversial and political action over Syria, with her assistance to the Syrian man featured in “Australian Story” earlier this year. Others have already written extensive complaints to the ABC about that report, which completely mispresented the situation in the town of Madaya, whose residents were held under siege by Ahrar al Sham until the very recent ceasefire and evacuation agreement. As with Rifaie Tammas, the subject of McNeill’s story had played a very questionable role in Syria, supporting the violent insurgency by providing medical care. He too expressed a very un-Syrian dislike and disapproval of Bashar al Assad.
The ABC’s focus and apparent support for these Syrian ‘dissidents’ goes beyond simple interest in differing perspectives; there are many Syrians in Australia, including recent refugees, who are fully supportive of their country, and totally opposed to the attempts by the US coalition to overthrow their legitimate government and leader, using ‘Trumped-up’ pretexts, and violent military action. The occasional mention of such Syrian voices, as in this recent story from SBS’ Luke Waters, does not in any way compensate for the overwhelming emphasis by both the ABC and SBS on the ‘rebel’ perspective, and the presentation of the Australian government’s chosen narrative on the Syrian conflict.
Over the course of the last six years, and beginning within months of the launching of the “uprising”, I have written numerous complaints to the ABC over their failure to properly present significant events in the war. Responses have been generally dismissive or my concerns, and have failed to answer key questions or demonstrate that information I have provided has been read and understood. Far from becoming more enlightened on the nature of the Syrian conflict, and stimulating reasonable debate and responses in the community, the ABC’s output has become progressively more restricted and prejudiced, and with an overwhelming bias towards the false narrative coming from the US and UK governments and their close allies.
At the same time as this has occurred, the same false presentation of the Syrian conflict as “Assad’s brutal war on his own people” has been progressively adopted by both humanitarian NGOs and by UN agencies, making it increasingly difficult for independent observers and commentators to change the narrative, or even to be heard and understood within the Western media echo-chamber.
Until the Trump administration’s precipitous and criminal ‘intervention’ on April 6th, the severe problem of the Western delusions on Syria was almost manageable. Thanks to Russian and Iranian help, most of the populated areas have been liberated from the control of the foreign-supported terrorist armies despite the continuing supply of weapons and propaganda support to them.
The consequences however, not of the US attack, but of the Western media’s response to that attack, are severe, leading to an alarmingly rapid descent towards World War driven by aggressive US military provocations and destabilisation across the globe.
Had those media, including the ABC and SBS, not been so carelessly accepting of the lies about “Assad’s use of Chemical Weapons”, so cleverly disseminated by the “supporting powers to the armed opposition”, then there would have been widespread outrage and opposition to the Trump administration’s flagrantly illegal and unprovoked attack on the sovereign Syrian state.
Should we survive what now lies ahead, we may look back on April 6th as the point when the ABC’s failure to expose the fraudulence of Western leaders and hold them to account made us all participants in America’s greatest war-crimes.
It is a failure which demands an urgent enquiry and immediate response.
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/46859.htm (transcript of Assad interview)
http://www.abc.net.au/correspondents/content/2015/s4298276.htm (McNeill on Douma strike)