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“We Note Your Concerns” – ABC News Responds to Accusations of Misreporting Syrian Conflict

White Helmet images allegedly from Eastern Ghouta invariably depict WH operative carrying baby or child with no mother in attendance. No context, no names, no record of the incident. 

21st Century Wire says…

David Macilwain is an Australian journalist and peace activist whose battle against ABC’s misrepresentation of the Syrian Conflict is a long and frustrating one. Macilwain recently wrote, again, to ABC to challenge their Eastern Ghouta narrative. Here is that letter that follows on from a previous correspondence between journalist Jeremy Salt and ABC.  Salt received the bland response that began – “We note your concerns”. Translation “ABC will not deviate from support for US Coalition regime change project in Syria” : 

As another writer and critic of the ABC’s unbalanced reporting of the war on Syria, Jeremy Salt has forwarded me your response to his complaint about Sophie McNeill’s recent report on Ghouta.
Jeremy shared his complaint with me at the time, and I endorse the points he made in their entirety, regarding both the true situation in Syria and Ghouta, and on the ABC’s consistent and seven-year long failure to present a balanced picture of the Syrian government’s war with foreign-backed Islamist terrorists.
Consequently I am bemused by the ABC’s response today. Taken at face value, it betrays an almost complete lack of understanding of the ‘geopolitics’ of the conflict, as well as the role that the ABC has played over the last seven years in helping to deceive and misinform the Australian public.
So serious is this failure, and that of all the other “Western mainstream” media organisations, that almost the whole of Western society, including leaders and commentators, NGOs and even the UN, have an idea about the war on Syria which is a total fabrication.
Put simply, – and I need to spell it out – the war ON Syria was started and fomented by the US and NATO governments in coordination with their local Middle Eastern allies – the Gulf Arab theocracies, Israel and Turkey.  These countries and their intelligence agencies conspired to ship an arsenal of weapons into Syria, and jihadists from across the region, with the intention to destroy Syria’s secular government and replace it with a Western friendly puppet.
This criminal attack by “proxies” and mercenaries might not have succeeded in Syria, where there was little interest in removing the government, and certainly not by force. So the role played by some media networks, in particular Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, and the collusion of Western media agencies such as the Guardian and BBC – and by association the ABC – was critical to creating support for this lethal invasion amongst those in the West who had some say in what their governments were doing.
The propaganda from Arabic media, including Al Jazeera before it was kicked out of Syria, was also important in persuading some Syrians that their own government was attacking them. Many Syrians who fled the country continue to believe this, even as support for their government and army by the majority who remained is at record levels.
That is the background to the war on Syria, but there are two particularly important aspects of the subsequent misreporting of the war – as “Civil war” for instance, or as some sort of sectarian war against Sunnis – that need special mention. These two things have recently come together in the incredible propaganda campaign over the Syrian Army’s operation to liberateEastern Ghouta from its terrorist besiegers.
This ugly propaganda partnership is between the White Helmets and their “Chemical Weapons”. And it was perfectly illustrated in the scenes we saw – over and over again – of White Helmets hosing down children they claimed to have been affected by Sarin gas in Khan Shaikoun last year. This supposed attack is now thoroughly debunked, due to a complete lack of credible evidence either of Syrian airforce bombing or of proven Sarin contamination. While the UN made such claims, it refused to send an investigative team to the area – under control of Al Nusra terrorist groups – or respond adequately to Russia’s detailed criticism and protestations at the UN.
  In fact, the most cursory viewing of the Khan Shaikoun footage – filmed by the White Helmets’ photographers and transmitted to Western media by unknown and unverified “activists”, would lead an uninformed – or un-misinformed – viewer to ask questions about its credibility. They might ask – and have – how the “White Helmets volunteers” seem unaffected by the Sarin contamination of their victims.
  But if they know a little more, or do some simple research on the symptoms of Sarin poisoning, they wouldn’t ask this question; victims of Sarin and other nerve agents do NOT gasp for breath, because they cannot breathe. They also turn blue from lack of oxygen, in contrast to the rosy faces of these poor children, supposedly dying from Sarin exposure.
  The well-informed viewer would then conclude – as I have and Jeremy Salt has, and thousands of observers and commentators in “non-Western” and alternative media have done – that both the White Helmets and their Sarin, and “Chlorine” attacks are a FRAUD. A criminal fraud, which has led to the deaths of tens and hundreds of thousands of innocent Syrians and Syrian defence forces by being endlessly repeated and echoed in Western media.
  Even though these media organisations may not be intending to mislead, and may – like their audiences – genuinely believe that the White Helmets are a volunteer rescue organisation and that the Syrian government is killing its own people with chemical weapons – these media must hold some responsibility for the atrocious situation we now find ourselves in.
  It will be a hard road back to truth and responsibility for the ABC and SBS, and their foreign media partners, but it is not too late to turn around and face reality. The consequences of not doing so are becoming increasingly severe.
   Finally I would just like to address several points and claims that you made in your response to Jeremy Salt’s complaint.
  You say that:
“As we have noted in our previous correspondence to you, the ABC has presented vast and comprehensive coverage of events in Syria. This coverage has included a broad and diverse range of perspectives over time, as required by the editorial policies.”
  This beggars belief. “Vast and comprehensive coverage” that failed to inform your audience about the 10,000 strong “Army of Conquest” that was created by Saudi Arabia and Turkey in March 2015, and invaded Idlib province at a time when the Syrian army and its allies were finally making great progress to liberate the area from the clutch of insurgent groups. Now three years later, and countless thousands of deaths later, the Syrian army has driven the insurgents back to Idlib, with assistance from Russia.
“Comprehensive coverage” that somehow failed to tell your audience about the billion dollar Oil export business being run by Islamic State, in collusion with the US, Israel and Turkey, which was brought to an end by Russian bombs and cruise missiles?  And that also failed to note how huge convoys of IS fighters and weapons had crossed the desert to reach and attack Palmyra without being stopped or attacked by US coalition forces?
A “diverse range of perspectives over time” that completely failed, over a very long time, to present the “perspective” of Syria’s legitimately elected government or that of the majority of its people? Their perspective on the foreign backed head-choppers of Al Nusra and Ahrar Al Sham, Jaish al Islam and Islamic State, is quite simple – they are all terrorists killing innocent Syrians, and if Western governments won’t cooperate in the joint operations with Russia, Iran and Hezbollah to drive them out and kill them, then they have no right to level any accusations against the Syrian government and its partners for acting in whatever way they see fit to defend their sovereign territory.
I’m afraid that the ABC’s response to this criticism is quite inadequate, and evidently a parody of truth. Citing two recent reports where there was mention of terrorist attacks on Damascus only highlights the absence of such a perspective from normal coverage. The titles of both reports focused on the usual half-truths about attacks on ‘rebel-held’ Ghouta by the Syrian army, misleading readers away from the reality – that the Syrian Army’s actions are a defensive response to the terrorists indiscriminate shelling of residential areas of Damascus.
It should also be borne in mind that Ms McNeill was not actually in Eastern Ghouta, so her sources are suspect. There is no credible information available on the number of children suffering or killed in Ghouta, and what information does reach us is mostly misinformation, from the White Helmets and their “anti-government” partners. When you have seen one fake “child rescued from the rubble” by these men you have seen them all, and should ask why it is that these bombed suburbs seem to have no inhabitants other than White Helmets “volunteers” and young children?

In consideration of my own criticism, which must also constitute a formal complaint, I would ask that you refer to my recent article posted on John Menadue’s blog “Pearls and Irritations”, which questions our alliance with America over the war on Syria, as well as the role and nature of the White White Helmets.”

The article that Macilwain refers to is published below:

Standing Up Against America

Arguing that Australia should cut all support for US forces in Syria, and support the Syrian government and its allies in the fight against the terrorist insurgency. This starts with a recognition that the “White Helmets” are allies of Al Qaeda, supported by the US and UK.

Arguing that Australia should cut all support for US forces in Syria, and support the Syrian government and its allies in the fight against the terrorist insurgency. This starts with a recognition that the “White Helmets” are allies of Al Qaeda, supported by the US and UK.

In a week when Australia’s close alliance with America has been uncomfortably evident, along with the dangers this poses to Australia, John Menadue has posed this question:

“How long will Australian denial of US policies continue? When will some of us stand up?”

It is encouraging to see that others writing on his blog are standing up, yet it is also astonishing to consider just how small a part of Australian informed opinion we dissentersoccupy, given the totality of the “case against America” that John has so thoroughly elucidated. As he also says:

“A further reason for the continuing US hegemony in Australian attitudes is the galaxy of Australian opinion leaders who have benefitted from American largesse and support – in the media, politics, bureaucracy, business, trade unions, universities and think-tanks.”

“A galaxy of opinion leaders”, we might add, who have themselves been influenced – one could say “hypnotised” or even “brainwashed” – by the force of America’s political, economic, cultural and military juggernaut.

Because not only are we struggling to be considered or even heard – and not dismissed as “just anti-American”, but our little corner of dissent continues to shrink. In the years that have passed since Malcolm Fraser set a cautionary tone with “Dangerous Allies”, which even then was snubbed by the mainstream, American influence and control over Australian culture and thought has continued to expand.

Combined with America’s increasing belligerence and fomenting of conflicts across the world, this influence and control can only be seen as malignant, particularly in the way it operates through the media – in all its various aspects. As John writes:

“But it is not just the destructive role of News Corp in US, UK and Australia. Our media, including the ABC and even SBS, is so derivative. We are saturated with news, views, entertainment and sit-coms from the US. It is so pervasive and extensive, we don’t recognize it for its very nature. The last thing a fish recognizes is water.”

Expanding on this appealing metaphor, and what I have liked to call the “Western media echo chamber”, the point is also that for a fish the surface of the pond is a mirror; it cannot see or understand what goes on in the realm above.

This state of denial and delusion about the “other realm” now exists across the whole of the Western world, and to a degree that defies comprehension – a “mass psychosis” as Russia’s ambassador to the UN Valery Nebenzya put it – and seems to have passed a point of no return in recent months. That it coincides with Malcolm Turnbull’s charm offensive in the US this week, and an embarrassing “mating” spectacle with the Goldilocks in the White House, makes this public departure into fantasy land deeply worrying.

Nebenzya was, of course, referring to the double vision over the war on Syria, which has been dominating the news. The stories in our media of “hell on earth” being created by the Syrian Army in Ghouta have had such emotional force as to completely conceal the truth from its audience. Presented with that truth now, or just a part of it, this audience would be incredulous; it no longer has the capacity to comprehend it.

Who would accept for instance, that the intrepid “civil defence volunteers” that we see digging for survivors in the rubble of bombed buildings and carrying wounded children to safety, are actually assisting those creating “hell on earth” for the citizens of Damascus, while creating the video fairy-stories about Ghouta on behalf of their sponsors in Whitehall and Washington?

We have reached a turning point. As Syria’s UN representative Bashar al Jaafari so eloquently put it following the ceasefire vote, “White has now replaced Black”, as the black-flagged terrorists of IS are replaced by the White helmeted terrorists of Al Qaeda.

Such an accusation against the Western sponsors of those terrorist groups, which Jaafari identifies as primarily the US, UK, France and Israel, might be dismissed as conspiratorial nonsense by the aforementioned Western media and its captive audience but was well understood by those countries’ representatives. Along with their close and inseparable ally Australia, they know as well as Syria and Russia and their allies just what their own “civil defence volunteers” in Syria are doing, because they are paying them to do it.

US state department spokesperson Heather Nauert is not shy in promoting the White Helmets, whose story is told in a film submitted to the Oscars about the siege of Aleppo. Nauert recommended “Last Men in Aleppo” to the gathered press with the warning that the same fate awaits the residents of Eastern Ghouta. She is right of course, but for the wrong reason.

East Aleppo was held under siege by Jabhat al Nusra, until the Syrian army liberated its 100,000 trapped residents, enabling them to reach the safety of areas protected by the Syrian Arab Army, while bussing the terrorists and their families to the Turkish border and to Idlib. In the same way, humanitarian corridors secured by Russia will allow the trapped residents of East Ghouta to reach the safety of Damascus, before the terrorist groups holding them under siege are dealt with, one way or another.

The dominant group in Ghouta is Jaish al Islam – the Army of Islam – which contrary to the pretence of its foreign supporters is an extremist Islamist group no different from other terrorist groups, who now form the vast majority of anti-government forces in Syria. Its former leader Zahran Alloush cooperated with Islamic State in the dreadful attack on nearby Adra, committing acts of unspeakable barbarity against government employees and ordinary people.

When Saudi Arabia took charge of the Syrian Opposition group, they earmarked Alloush to lead it, in recognition of his dedication to their cause in Syria. Fortunately, Syrian intelligence managed to assassinate Zahran, but another Alloush with a little less blood on his hands took the leadership instead. His presence at talks in Geneva made it impossible for Syria to take those talks seriously.

It is in the light of these details that we should consider the Syrian government’s current push to expel or exterminate all the militants in Ghouta, including their white-helmeted colleagues in arms. As Jaafari explained to the UNSC, Jaish al Islam and its partners have been making life hell for Damascus residents for months, recently intensifying their indiscriminate attacks.

Meanwhile, the White Helmets, whose “news-feed” dominates the Western media reports from Ghouta, have created the impression of a community under constant bombardment and living in fear of death. So effective is the White Helmets’ propaganda, and staging of “child rescues” and “chlorine attacks”, that even the Pope has declared that “Syria is being martyred”. We needn’t ask “by whom” as everyone knows the answer – “Assad and Putin”!

This is of course not the answer and cannot be, as our chief source of information – misinformation – in areas of Syria outside government control is this group of mercenaries organised and paid for by the UK and US. Posing as volunteer rescue workers these “Syrian civil defence” or “White Helmets” are not, however, mere film-makers and performance artists. Should these criminals and their backers finally be exposed, their own videos will be their downfall.

Far from exposing the supposed brutality of the Syrian air force and army, or the ‘indiscriminate bombing” by the Russians, the White Helmets’ logo will become a seal of inauthenticity on their videos; everything they claim will not just be in doubt but will be disproved. Then it will soon also become apparent that NGOs and UN bodies who are cooperating with the White Helmets must also be tainted, along with all the governments who are waging this illegal campaign against the Syrian government and its allies.

This is what our alliance with and allegiance to America means; we support the terrorist groups in Syria that America supports, and legitimises through the White Helmets propaganda machine. Much as we may dismiss the Syrians’ and Russians’ intimate knowledge of “Al Qaeda with a Facelift”, or the evidence revealed in East Aleppo after the White Helmets were forced out of the headquarters they shared with Al Nusra there, the truth will out. 

Better to jump ship now, and call an end to our support for America’s illegal wars. And while we are at it, we should also cut the cord with our other partner and colonial overlord the UK, before – as they say – the s**t hits the fan!


David Macilwain is an independent observer and writer with a special focus on the war on Syria and its allies. He writes voluntarily for Russia Insider and the American Herald Tribune, from his home in the hills of NE Victoria.


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