In making comparisons between the war on Syria and the war on Donbass - as I did in the previous article, "from Damascus to Donetsk", it is impossible to avoid noticing that what has played out for years in Syria is now playing out in days in Ukraine. It is a striking dissimilarity between the two wars which both makes the comparison more informative and makes it more uncertain. By the time I've finished writing this the earlier statements will surely be irrelevant - but like Russia's destruction of the IS oil tanker convoys or the blowing up of Jisr National hospital, those earlier observations still need to be recorded. It is one of the features of current news reporting that it lacks all context and perspective, that might allow the audience to draw some conclusions themselves. In fact the reporting - if we could even call it that - from Western media correspondents in Ukraine or Poland, is so bad and so misleading that it allows nothing other than a blind acceptance of the outrageous claims being made - whether by the correspondents or by leaders and agencies. For most people a report from RT or Sputnik would simply not be credible any more as it diverges so far from the blanket Western narrative - of Ukraine as the victim who must fight with his or her bare hands against the Russian army's ruthless barbarity and scorched earth tactics. It's total nonsense of course, but how would they know? The true cause of this extreme disparity can be laid mostly at the feet of leading State media organisations like the BBC who are infiltrated by their intelligence agencies and quangos like the Integrity Initiative. Three of the BBC's leading correspondents - Jeremy Bowen, Jonathan Beale and Frank Gardner - all members of the II's "UK cluster" - have been presenting cleverly twisted "reports" on Ukraine to suit the government narrative - reports that would seem highly credible were it not for notable slip-ups. The stimulus to write this article came about partly following Jonathan Beale's report this week on Russia's moves to take control of Kharkiv and other cities on the brink, which included the outrageous claim Russia already used cluster bombs, in a car park. In Beale's words this reported behaviour by Russia was: “a reminder of what the Russian military is capable of doing with indiscriminate airstrikes and artillery, reducing the city of Aleppo in Syria to rubble, showing scant concern for civilian life." Beale illustrated his Aleppo claim with a couple of photos of ruined streets somewhere in Syria, as here:
Beale was only one of many commentators to make the comparison with Syria, where people still remember the stories they heard about Russia "bombing hospitals indiscriminately", even if they don't remember why. Which isn't surprising given no explanation was offered for this behaviour. None was necessary as we all know "this is what they do". But Aleppo is dangerous ground for these slick agents of the Empire of Lies, and at least some of them know it. There are some lies that it may be easier to tell if one is unaware of the truth, but there are others where knowledge of the truth is absolutely necessary to avoid slip ups. Being able to spin that sort of tale must require a certain inhumanity, or dedication to the cause; in one way or another telling such lies costs innocent lives. So let's start with a few home truths about "the Battle for Aleppo" - as it was called in the West; the Liberation of Aleppo was how it was felt in Syria. Much as is now happening in Mariupol, where far-right extremists and neo-Nazi battalions have concentrated just 50 kms from the Russian border, the Syrian army and their Russian allies were faced with the problem of "human shields" in Aleppo. The terrorist groups of Al Nusra front and Ahrar al Sham were thoroughly embedded in the local population in East Aleppo, whether they liked it or not, and most didn't. From the shelter of this residential area they were able to harass and intimidate the citizens of West Aleppo which was under Syrian Government control. Their favourite weapon was the exploding gas cannister, launched from a so-called "hell's cannon" onto homes and schools and whatever else was within its range:
When Russian military police arrived in Aleppo in mid-2016, fresh from the battle to free the ancient city of Palmyra, they set up field hospitals in West Aleppo and a rehabilitation centre for people who had escaped from the terrorist-occupied East. They risked being shot by snipers or caught and punished, as without these human shields the insurgents knew their days were numbered. But constant pressure from Western aid agencies and governments for "humanitarian relief" for the besieged areas led to the setting up of humanitarian corridors, both to allow "aid" in and to allow civilians out. At least 100,000 people finally escaped to the safety of Western Aleppo, secured by the Syrian army, while initially meeting with much resistance and duplicitous claims. A very similar situation developed two years later in the suburbs east of Damascus, and the final showdown in Douma. The first convoys of aid and buses taking out civilians were met with sniper fire from militants, and chronic disinformation about Government intent, just as is now happening in Mariupol. In both cases also, Western agencies and media claimed that Russian forces were responsible for sabotaging the escape corridor they themselves had set up, without any evidence. There was however plenty of evidence that escaping people were being shot at by the insurgents. Finally those remaining in the blown out wreckage of their suburb were allowed to escape in buses towards the Turkish border, where most still remain in a sort of Turkish controlled colony. Syrian soldiers who had lost brothers and fathers and sons to these violent invaders would have liked to see them executed. But what happened next has particular relevance, as finally soldiers and journalists were able to enter the previously occupied part of the city, and were shocked by what they found. The armed gangs had commandeered the local hospital as a base as well as to treat their wounded, and were well stocked with medicines and equipment, even as the locals were prevented from getting treatment there. In addition it was discovered that the White Helmets operated from the same premises as Al Nusra and ISIS, proving the criminal credentials of the West's favourite saviours of Syrian lives. I was able to witness the similar situation in Douma, a month after its liberation from Jaish al Islam and their White Helmet brothers in arms. Douma hospital was heavily fortified, and acted as protection for the extensive tunnel system beneath the suburbs, which allowed fighters to drive from one area to another safely.
Having suspended writing this article due to pressure from ongoing events in Ukraine, I must now resume two weeks later on the exact same theme; not only is the "Syrian playbook" narrative still alive and well in the Western media as a guide to what Russia may do in Ukraine, but this pretence is assuming bizarre and ridiculous proportions. While Russian forces further constrain pockets of the Ukrainian "army", dominated by ultra-nationalist and neo-Nazi fighters, the massed ranks of Western media correspondents flood their ignorant audiences minds with stories of rescued pets and injured children. These are contrasted with tales of Russian missiles targeting people queuing for bread, bombing of hospitals and schools and fears "Putin" will "use chemical weapons" - conveniently providing the pretext for a massive "response" by NATO. Developing this narrative today, Guardian journalist Emma Graham Harrison explores the way Russia "is using tactics from the Syrian playbook" in Ukraine. Of course it's true - as Russia's assistance to the Syrian government and army in fighting the foreign-backed terrorist armies and trying to rescue the civilian population from the parts of cities they had occupied was very similar to what they are now doing in Eastern Ukraine. And just as the Guardian lionises their own agents in Syria - the White Helmets - for their alleged role in saving Syrians from their own government, now these journalists are white-washing the murderous extremists of the Azov battalion as "Ukraine's famed resistance" fighters for freedom and democracy. But what Graham Harrison writes about the notorious siege of Aleppo is a complete inversion of reality, and indoctrination with the Imperial war narrative that leaves no possibility of enlightenment: "From the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, to the great cultural and economic powerhouse of Aleppo, Russian bombs hit hospitals, schools, markets and queues of people waiting for bread. Its planes helped enforce Syrian sieges on the ground, reducing people to desperate skeletal bodies. And when Russia and the Syrian army promised exit routes, they sometimes bombed and shot the civilians trying to flee." Transposing this belligerent and totally false narrative to Ukraine, she concludes that: Internationally, Russia has attempted to deny some of its worst atrocities in Ukraine. Even the pregnant woman killed in Mariupol was not left to die in dignity – the Russian embassy in London claimed images of her final agonising moments were “fake”. That echoed attacks on the White Helmet civilian rescue group, the Syrian victims of Russia’s most aggressive and successful disinformation campaign. They gained worldwide fame for filming their rescues following bombings, but were regularly accused of faking the carnage they captured. The chief spokesperson for the Russian defence ministry, Maj Gen Igor Konashenkov, even alleged, without evidence, that Ukrainian forces were planning to make “staged videos” of fake civilian deaths, in campaigns “based on patterns used by the White Helmets”. In fact, the Guardian both whitewashes the war crimes to which the White Helmets were an active party, and misrepresents the Russian representatives' efforts to present the truth. In the above case of the "bombing of a maternity hospital" Russia made no specific claim about the apparently injured pregnant woman, but rather pointed out that all the patients in the hospital had been forced out by the Azov battalion so they could use this safe place as a base of operations, just as in Aleppo and Douma. Meanwhile Konashenkov, whose leadership of the Russian assistance programme in Syria was highly regarded, was referring to the White Helmets' ability to dig in piles of rubble and unearth children they had just buried before starting filming. It happened so many times as to become a complete joke, though not for the children. Exactly five years ago today, the 4th of April, the White Helmets staged one of their worst "child rescues" in Khan Shaikoun, with the film of a young boy gasping for air while being hosed with water screened over and over again. Far from being poisoned with Sarin as claimed, the boy showed clear signs of Carbon Monoxide poisoning - his florid complexion and acute shortness of breath - while being hit with a hose was the most egregious torture one could imagine. These victims were reported to have been kidnapped from villages nearby to use as expendable extras for the Syrian opposition's propaganda campaign. When the town was finally liberated from the extremist occupiers and access gained to the underground caverns from which they operated, they were found to contain a film studio along with prison chambers and command centres. But the criminals responsible for these war crimes were never identified and held accountable - and may well be amongst those mercenaries the US has now redeployed to do its dirty work in Ukraine. It seems like uncanny timing that Western media, led by the BBC and its agent Jeremy Bowen, has chosen this anniversary to launch its latest provocation in Ukraine, with claims that Russian forces wantonly killed ordinary civilians before withdrawing from Bucha, a small town north of Kiev. Much as in Syria, when the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian army made no sense at all, these latest allegations have little credibility. And the evidence this is a fabrication is now solidifying as the NATO powers make it into a virtual casus belli, claiming egregious war crimes were carried out intentionally and that further restrictions on trade with Russia must be imposed as a response. All this as the Russian military and local militias close in finally on the thousands of Azov militants and their commanders in Mariupol, and access to the locals who have been held under siege for the last eight years brings forth real stories of their captors' brutality and innumerable war crimes - all committed with NATO cooperation.
DM April 4th 2022