Suleiman al-Kalidi’s article, Russian-Led Assault in Syria Leaves over 500 Civilians Dead published by Reuters on July 7, 2019, would have us believe that Russia joined forces with Bashar Assad’s Army to kill over 500 civilians and wound 2,000.
His source was the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) which claims to monitor casualties and brief various UN agencies.
What is the Syrian Network for Human Rights? Who funds it? What is its relationship to the Syrian opposition? Does its financial support come from states that are waging war on Syria and openly lobbying for US military intervention?
According to Patrick Cockburn in The London Review of Books, “this group is staffed by anti-Assad activists, not exactly reliable sources.”
The Syrian government presides over a harsh police state apparatus, a relic from Hafez Assad that his son Bashar never managed to undo, but, that said, it has been the target over the last years of one of the most expensive and sophisticated campaigns arguing for regime change in recent history.
All modern Western-initiated wars have been fought with manipulated imagery and disinformation, and the US does it better than anyone. Everything starts and ends with “scene-setting” and “swaying perceptions” to prepare a population to support invasion, regime change, humanitarian intervention, and the like. In Syria, the US government imposed a narrative from day one: Assad was indiscriminately killing innocent civilians in a popular, peaceful revolution.
Many NGOs, like the Syrian Network for Human Rights, played a major role in spinning this conflict. They are one-sided and pro-opposition. They put out statements and reports based on the loosest definition of sourcing. Western journalists reported their disinformation across world media. On script, governments reacted in outrage. They cited the NGO and press reports as fact, just like al-Kalidi’s source-based article in Reuters.
Sharmine Narwani, unlike the Beirut-based journalists who rarely leave the city, has spent her days on the ground, whether in Daraa, the sight of the first uprising, or Homs, Aleppo or Idlib. She had no particular advantage over other foreign journalists. She had to wait just as long to receive a visa as anyone else, but she made the effort. After earning her degree in journalism from Columbia University, she spent four years as senior associate at St. Anthony’s College, Oxford. Her dozens of publications reflect her work covering the Middle East. According to Patrick Lawrence, Salon’s foreign affairs columnist, “she is eyes-wide-open and beholden to no national interest or media slant.”
She met with these so-called reliable sources. She didn’t interview them via Skype, as so many journalists did. She probed and exposed their so-called “sources” and motives. Her reporting was not published in any mass media publication because what she had to say ran contrary to the political agenda of the US government.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, Chairman of SNHR, told Reuters, “The Russian military and its Syrian ally are deliberately targeting civilians with a record number of medical facilities. Both deny their jets hit indiscriminately civilian areas with cluster munitions and incendiary weapons, which residents in opposition areas say are meant to paralyze every-day life.”
Who are these “residents in opposition areas? How did they get their information out? Via Skype? Where any journalists there asking the hard questions—who was dying, who was doing the killing?
The Idlib-based Civil Defense is none other than the US Department of Defense-funded White Helmets, who work only in areas with the most extreme militant groups and are the ones who played witness to alleged chemical attacks. Photos of these White Helmets “first-responders” show them flaunting their weapons and posing next to al-Qaeda and ISIS fighters. Despite such questionable sources, mass media consistently uses them to blame the Assad regime and its allies for mass killings.
Western media has helped to stage and grow the Syrian conflict. Should journalists be treated with a special kind of immunity when they repeatedly get the story wrong, and people die in the process? Sharmine Narwani calls them “media combatants,” a fair and accurate description of the role they play in today’s wars.
Both The Syrian and Damascus Street discuss in great detail the Syrian conflict. These books are available for purhase here: Amazon