Tags

,

IMG_1028
Describing liberation by the Syrian Arab Army as “heaven”, Hanano, East Aleppo, December 2016 (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)

Barbara McKenzie
21st Century Wire

One of the most difficult things about reporting on a war that claims to be a civil war or a popular revolution, is to gauge the feelings of the ordinary people.  The Syrian voice in practice tends to be reduced to ‘my friend’s cousin’, or ‘three people I spoke to in a refugee camp in Jordan’, or ‘all the ex-pats’.  This was never going to be good enough for Vanessa Beeley.

Vanessa Beeley has been following the Syrian war closely, since leaving Gaza in May 2013. She visited the country three times during 2016.  She has carried out in-depth investigations into phenomena such as the fake humanitarian construct known as the White Helmets .  Beeley was in Aleppo during and after its liberation from US, NATO & Gulf state funded, extremist groups in December 2016.  She chose to make the most of this rare opportunity by interviewing the people who had been trapped, under occupation by these Nusra Front-led terrorist groups, in East Aleppo. Many interviews were conducted, literally as these Syrian civilians emerged from their almost five year imprisonment.  Having undertaken this task, she did this thoroughly, speaking with as many people as possible from the liberated districts of East Aleppo, whose voices can be heard in her videos (full list here).

In recent weeks Vanessa Beeley has been speaking at venues in the United Kingdom, including Bristol on the 17th February (her presentation was videoed and the video should soon be available).  The meeting was attended by about 70 people, including a hostile group from Syria Solidarity UK (SSUK).

SSUK is a hard-line proponent of regime change in Syria, promoting active intervention by NATO state powers, including a Libya-style no-fly zone.  Its narrative assumes a ‘popular revolution’, the total veracity of Western propaganda, and the validity of propaganda constructs like the White Helmets.  One of the SSUK members, Clara Connolly, has written her own report on Vanessa Beeley’s presentation, Beeley in Bristol.

It is a common tactic for people who actively support war and destruction in Syria, regardless of the harm to the Syrian people, to claim the moral high ground over those opposing the war.  Clara Connolly, in her attempts to declare Vanessa Beeley as incompetent and morally deficient, only exposes her own moral and intellectual bankruptcy.

Connolly is big on labels, starting with the public meeting itself, which is termed a ‘Stalinist cult meeting’.  In the first few lines, she manages to damn Vanessa Beeley by association with the ‘far-right’ (Infowars),  the socialist paper Morning Star, and the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist), also termed Stalinist by Connolly, who conceivably does not know what the term means.  Mehrnaz Shahabi, who introduced Beeley, is described as ‘an open supporter of the Iranian regime’.   Shahabi does indeed belong to the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran – perhaps we should expect an ISUK group to emerge in the event of NATO contriving a colour revolution in Iran.

Consideration of some of the issues raised by Connolly reveals her total lack of interest in the real facts of the Syrian conflict.

Food shortages in Aleppo‘Beeley […] advanced the astonishing and unsupported theory that there was “enough food in East Aleppo for a year”.’

The following is one of the testimonies supporting this statement, that Beeley had included in her presentation, that was seemingly ignored or overlooked by Connolly in her eagerness to disappear the Syrian voices that did not agree with the SSUK narrative on Syria:

In the last months of 2016, extravagant claims were made of the Syrian government deliberately starving Aleppo into submission; take, for example the Nation, Assad Regime to Besieged Aleppo: Surrender or Starve.  During and after liberation of East Aleppo, by the Syrian Arab Army and allies, storehouses were found with substantial quantities of food aid – this unassailable fact has been widely reported, but seems to have completely escaped Clara Connolly.

In September 2016 a bizarre situation arose whereby the UN was demanding access to eastern Aleppo for humanitarian aid, but there were protests by the occupying Nusra Front-led extremist forces, insisting that is was not humiliating food aid they wanted, but an opening of the Castello road, a long-time conduit for weapons, supplies and equipment for the embedded terrorists.

One look at the protesters shows why they rejected food aid – starvation is not usually a problem for the extremist and terrorist occupying forces in Syria:


Various extremist factions and their supporters in East Aleppo prior to its liberation by SAA and allies. Third from left is Riyadh educated and funded “chief” of Jaish al Fatah ( Army of Conquest), Sheikh Abdullah Muhaysini. (Image via @Sadattawa)

WHITE HELMETS STARVING
White Helmets leader, Raed Saleh, says Aleppo residents 10 days from starvation. November 2016 Photo taken of White Helmet, Ismail Alabdullah end of October 2016

The  same situation prevails in other towns occupied by militants.  The town of Madaya, occupied by Ahrar Al Sham & assorted extremist groups, and under siege by the Syrian army, regularly receives aid from the Red Crescent/Red Cross with entry negotiated through the Syrian government in Damascus.  However, in January 2016, even though aid for three months had gone in the previous October, there were reports of starvation in the town, blamed, naturally, on the Syrian government.  When people who needed medical treatment emerged from the town, RT’s Murad Gazdiev went to meet them (there were no representatives from Western media present).   He was told that the militants were hoarding the food aid and selling it  at exorbitant prices. A familiar “siege” pattern across the extremist and terrorist occupied areas of Syria.

21st Century Wire article on Madaya: West Engineer Another Humanitarian Media Hoax in Syria

It’s worse than the rumours: civilians say rebels charged 100,000 SP ($250) for kilogram of rice

Misuse of schools and hospitals – ‘Beeley claimed al Nusra occupied schools and hospitals

There is extensive evidence, reported even in the corporate press, of the schools and hospitals of eastern Aleppo used by extremists as military bases, prisons and storehouses, as in the video above, for anything but their intended purpose.  In early December 2016, the Syrian Arab Army searched the National Hospital in eastern Aleppo, which was still in use, but as a military command centre, weapon depot and prison.

The last hospital in Aleppo

That the National Hospital was standing at all should come as a surprise, given all the reports of the ‘Last Hospital’ in Aleppo, which along with the ‘Last Clown’ and ‘Last Gardener’  have passed into legend.

On 28 April 2016  Doctors Without Borders (MSF) reported  Syria: Airstrike destroys MSF-supported hospital in Aleppo killing 14  – the hospital was reduced to rubble according to MSF’s source, unnamed ‘hospital staff’.  The story that once again the Russians had obliterated the last hospital in Aleppo went viral, see for example, the Washington Post.  Connolly, however, is clearly completely unaware of this well reported story, accusing Beeley of ‘disputing a claim that was never made’.

The extravagant claims were quickly forgotten by both MSF and the press – as Connolly correctly points out, MSF stated in May 2016 that it would reopen in two weeks, which does not alter the fact of the original lie, reported with such enthusiasm by MSF and the corporate media, all of whom continue to disseminate lies from the same sources.

In December 2016 Vanessa Beeley tracked down the hospital and found it intact and usable, with records proving it was operational in July 2016, three months later (video here) .

Connolly claims to take offense that Vanessa Beeley, along with most people following the Syrian conflict, ridicule the continual dramatic announcements from MSF of the destruction of another ‘last hospital’.  Scoffing at blatant propaganda is a proper response, certainly not to be compared with Hillary Clinton’s laughing at the demise of Gaddafi, or Madeleine Albright’s dismissal of the deaths of half a million children due to US crippling sanctions on Iraq. For Albright, these deaths were, a price that was “worth it” for the US geopolitical agenda that rarely leaves a target country standing, post US intervention.

The White Helmets  ‘What is important about the White Helmets is what they do—attacking rescuers in cities under bombardment is like attacking the New York Fire Brigade after 9/11.’

Needless to say Beeley is NOT attacking the work of first responders, and in fact she has written several articles promoting the role of the real civil defence in Syria.   What she has done, however, is expose the shadow state function & terrorist affiliations of the White Helmets, who are far from being humanitarian, first responders, according to the testimony of Syrian civilians living alongside these frauds, in East Aleppo, for almost five years.

The White Helmets, self-styled as an impartial first-responder outfit, are funded by the UK, the US and allied NATO & Gulf states for the primary purpose of constructing propaganda, in order to garner acceptance for a no-fly zone in Syria. A No-Fly Zone that has been called a declaration of war between the US and Russia on Syrian soil, by a number of analysts and scholars. Hillary Clinton herself, admitted that a No Fly Zone would lead to greater bloodshed in Syria.

The material the White Helmets provide is a primary source for claims of alleged Russian and Syrian war crimes, the majority of which have been discredited and proven to be False Flags.  They have been a vital weapon in the campaign for an escalated intervention against the Syrian government, army and allies – any attack on the credibility of the White Helmets is seen by NATO and its allies as a blow to that cause.

A member of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, whom Beeley spoke with, likewise could not recall seeing White Helmets operating in eastern Aleppo:

Barrel bombs: Beeley argues that if the SNHR figure of 35,000 barrel bombs had fallen on Syria, it would have been the equivalent of several atom bombs and “we wouldn’t have a world”.’

SNHRbarrelbombs

If Connolly is intimating that the statement she is attributing to Beeley is nonsense, she would be right – the US dropped 26,000 bombs in 2016 alone without managing to destroy the planet.   And Vanessa Beeley did indeed say something like this, but Connolly is omitting one vital piece of Beeley’s argument – the equivalence of several atom bombs is based on the wild claims made for the power of the barrel bomb.  Although the barrel bomb is in truth a very primitive weapon, James Le Mesurier, UK ex military trainer of the White Helmets, announced on the BBC that a single bomb was equivalent to an 8.0 magnitude earthquake (see Beeley’s Syria: Consign Barrel Bombs to the Propaganda Graveyard).  It is certainly not Vanessa Beeley who is talking nonsense

‘Moderate rebels’ – al Zinki, Ahrar al Sham, al Nusra, ISIS

The Astana talks over Syria’s future between the Syrian government and the opposition achieved one thing at least: they revealed exactly what is meant by what John Kerry used to fondly term the ‘legitimate opposition’ in Syria.  The opposition delegation to the talks were led by Mohammed Alloush of Jaish al Islam, and the two largest factions involved were Jaish al Islam and Ahrar al Sham.  Both these groups are regarded as barbaric extremists by the Syrian people, both groups have been involved in disgusting warcrimes: Jaish al Islam is notable for its use of chemical weapons and using caged women as human shields, while Ahrar al Sham has participated in many atrocities including the massacre of al Zara.  The ideological identity of both groups with that of ISIS and al Nusra is indisputable.  Of the two groups, Ahrar is the one with a strong presence in northern Syria, including Aleppo, and its operational links with both ISIS and al Nusra are well recorded; see e.g. Guido Steinberg, Ahrar al-Sham: The “Syrian Taliban”, and Stanford University, Mapping Militant Organisations.

The policy of the Obama administration was to make ISIS the fall guy in the context of Syria: the US was waging war on ISIS, rather than terrorism.  Al Nusra, also designated as a terrorist organisation, was in turn separated from the other groups, so that the followers of the conflict have been constantly subjected to silly statements from both John Kerry and Russia’s Sergei Lavrov about the US disentangling its ‘moderates’ from the extremists.

Connolly is anxious to devalue the presence and role of al Nusra and ISIS in Aleppo, playing to the fiction that Aleppo was dominated by ‘moderates’, i.e. Ahrar al Sham, and Harakat al Zinki, who were responsible for the gleeful beheading of Abdullah Issa in July 2016.  She insists that ‘until February 2016, Al-Nusra were not in Aleppo at all, and after that only in small numbers compared to the other brigades’ (pointing to the UN figures of 900 out of 11,000) and ‘In reality ISIS had had no presence in East Aleppo since January 2014’.

In fact, al Nusra has paraded its presence in Aleppo on regular intervals over the years, for example in October 2013, September 2014, and May 2015, with weekly parades reported in April 2016. Protests nominally carried out by the ‘Free Syrian Army’, such as the one protesting food aid above,  inevitably show the al Nusra flag;  when Murad Gazdiev filmed across to eastern Aleppo in October 2016, the only flags showing on the front line were ISIS and al Nusra.

ISIS may have officially left Aleppo in 2014, but its spirit lived on, as the footage from Beeley’s footage from the White Helmet base and the Syrian Arab Army’s foray into the National Hospital both reveal.  The al Zinki group, which enjoys a special relationship with the White Helmets, apparent in Channel 4’s homage to al Zinki, clearly identifies with ISIS.

Image result for al zinki isis flag

In September 2016 Eva Bartlett appeared on RT’s Crosstalk, Syria: CEASEFIRE 2.0, and was asked to comment on moderate rebels.  

‘It’s a farce.  There are no moderate rebels, and this is what Syrians would say if they had a voice.  They’re all committing the same crimes, the same heinous acts.’  (at 6:20 mins)

Another guest on the programme, Stephen Zunes, took issue with Eva Bartlett, but he was unable to suggest a single group that could be considered moderate.

‘The alphabet soup of differently named Jihadi groups in Syria merely disguises a single continuum of violent Wahhabi Jihadis all committed to the same cause: the overthrow of the Syrian government and the establishment of a sectarian Wahhabi exclusively Sunni state in its place’ ~ Alexander Mercouris.

Syrian Voices

SSUK’s slogan is #ListentoSyrians.  Connolly, however, was clearly unimpressed with Beeley’s endeavours to do exactly that, i.e. listen to Syrians.   She calls into question both the veracity and the value of Beeley’s interviews: according to Connolly, ‘they needed extensive commentary from Beeley to yield the sense she wanted’.  This is a matter of opinion – while it is true there are no intrusive pieces to camera, most would consider that the clips speak for themselves.

No doubt there are others who question Beeley’s interviews, those who will claim that her interviewees are speaking under fear of their lives.  It is up to a psychologist to assess whether these claims are consistent with the body language of the people of Aleppo, or with their eagerness to speak of their experiences.

However, CNN, the BBC, and organisations such as SSUK could have tested the veracity of the reporting of Vanessa Beeley and RT reporters like Murad Gazdiev and Lizzie Phelam, both before and after liberation, but have chosen not to.  They could have arranged to enter the National Hospital to check the findings of the Syrian Arab Army, but failed to do so.  What Beeley achieved with a video camera and an interpreter seems quite obvious now, but neither the BBC nor CNN, with all their resources, or SSUK for that matter, have made any attempt to emulate this feat.

Connolly’s attack on Beeley is malicious, unresearched and manifestly agenda-driven.   Within the murky fog of ignorance wilfully created by propaganda from the likes of SSUK, the integrity and intellect of Beeley’s work, and its real contribution to understanding, shine like a beacon.

source