The network of “humanitarian” Syria regime change groups recently experienced yet another major PR crisis. On February 9, James Harkin, a journalist who’s written for The Guardian and the Financial Times and is the director of the Center for Investigative Journalism, published an article in The Intercept titled What happened in Douma? Searching for facts in the fog of Syria’s propaganda war. Harkin’s conclusions were essentially reiterations of what less mainstream journalists had found in the past, which meant he likely would have experienced blowback if he’d talked about them during the height of the pro-war Syria propaganda campaign in April of last year. According to Harkin’s investigations, sarin had not been used at the site of the supposed Douma chemical attack, and the hospital scene had apparently been staged.
Shortly afterward, this assessment of the April 2018 Douma incident was confirmed by a statement from the BBC reporter Riam Dalati. Dalati Tweeted: “After 6 months of investigations, i can prove without a doubt that the #Douma Hospital scene was staged. No fatalities occurred in the hospital. All the #WH, activists and people I spoke to are in #Idlib or #EuphratesShield areas. Only one person was in #Damascus.”
Acknowledging these basic realities about what happened in Douma is now accepted within the mainstream of journalistic discussion. And the relatively mild challenges to the official narrative that Harkin and Dalati presented come after a mountain of evidence has appeared against the claim that Assad had “gassed his own people.” According to interviews made by the renowned journalist Robert Fisk, witnesses to the incident suffered not from gas poisoning but from dust inhalation. This version of the story was later supported by other witnesses to the Douma incident, who testified at the Hague in April of 2018 that they hadn’t experienced chemical poisoning. Given these facts, it makes sense why Fisk also reported that White Helmets members on the scene had needlessly incited panic by dishonestly shouting “Gas!” in a triage center.
During those weeks in April, the efforts from the media to attack all journalists and academics who challenged the official Syria narrative were extreme, to the point where people couldn’t help but notice how uniform and seemingly coordinated the behavior from the press was getting. And even now, as the official narrative about the Douma incident falls apart beyond repair, the West’s pro-war Syria propagandists are trying to delegitimize Harkin and Dalati’s findings.
In response to Dalati, the Global Public Policy Institute’s Tobias Schneider tweeted in a noticeably defensive manner: “Almost a year later, people are still squabbling over the intricacies of the 7 April 2018 Douma chemical attacks. Madness.” Schneider, who has ties to the neoconservative Atlantic Council and is complicit with the GPPI’s connections to a network of pro-regime change oligarchs, has also announced that the GPPI will be publishing an analytical study “on the logic underpinning the Syrian regime’s systematic use of improvised chlorine bombs in particular.”
These defenses from the propagators of the Syria war propaganda feel so desperate because they’ve been caught in too many deceptions. At this point, anyone who looks at even the most mainstream accounts of recent events in Syria will find not just that the Douma hospital scene was staged, but that the White Helmets made a deliberately false report about the incident. If they look into James Mattis’ admission last February that there’s no evidence Assad was behind the April 2017 chemical incident, they’ll also find that our government and media have lately engaged in a pattern of lying to us about Syria.
If they search a little deeper, they’ll find the appalling series of lies that have went into these and the many other Western charges against Assad. For instance, the fraudulent nature of the White Helmets has now been proven beyond all dispute; last December, a UN panel detailed organ harvesting and staged attacks. (This revelation follows the fraudulent reports and recruitments of jihadist sympathizers that the White Helmets have been long known to engage in.)
They’ll also find that the emergence of the White Helmets has correlated with maybe the most extensive and sophisticated war propaganda campaign in history.
The White Helmets, created by the British ex-mercenary James Le Mesurier in March 2013, were almost immediately able to get $123 million in funding from the U.S. and UK governments, as well as from Western NGOs and Qatar. This sudden investment in the “humanitarian” imperialist front group came at a cynically strategic time. For the last two years prior to then, Western governments had been engaged in a violent effort to destabilize Syria by activating their trained army of anti-Assad jihadists. Amid the death and destruction that was befalling Syria, the White Helmets were able to sell themselves as a legitimate and much-needed group of aid workers.
But the White Helmets and the other facets of the Syria propaganda operation have since tried too many tricks for their propaganda tactics to now be sufficiently effective. In addition to the fraudulent gas attack claims of April 2018 and April 2017, in August 2013 Western authorities claimed Assad had committed a chemical attack in Ghouta. This narrative then collapsed when an analysis by genuine weapons experts found that the missile which delivered the sarin had a short range, and that it therefore likely came from rebel territory.
Similar findings came out after it was claimed that Assad had committed a chlorine attack in April of 2014; United Nations investigators learned from the townspeople of Al-Tamanah that Syrian rebels had staged an attack and fed the story to a credulous Western media.
These kinds of hoaxes and theatrics have happened over and over again. So far I’ve mentioned only a few of the West’s false flag chemical attacks; despite the fact that Syrian jihadists have access to chemical weapons have used these weapons numerous times, media coverage has consistently tried to blame the Syrian government for these attacks.
Just as disturbing has been the war psyop factory’s exploitation of Bana al-Abed, the Syrian refugee child who’s been manipulated by adults into publicly voicing demonizations of Assad and Putin. As the Syrian journalists Khaled Iskef has assessed, the campaign of pro-war deception surrounding al-Abed is only one example of how children have been used as propaganda weapons in the attempts to slander Assad. “This is child exploitation to create the propaganda that promoted the terrorists in East Aleppo and was being used to destroy Syria,” Iskef has said in one of his video accounts of the events in his country.
Much of the blame for the propagation of these deceptions has involved the complicity of Hollywood institutions, media organizations, and public figures. The author J.K. Rowling, as well as the football star Colin Kaepernick, have participated in the attempts to legitimize the Bana al-Abed psyop. Netflix’ extremely misleading film “The White Helmets,” along with the Academy Awards’ decision to give the film an Oscar, have also reinforced this vast effort to fuse war propaganda with popular culture.
Even after all this, the neocons have failed in their quest for regime change in Syria. Russia has successfully countered the West’s army of jihadists, the Syrian people have mobilized to defend their country, and the effort to manufacture consent for the war has been crippled. But the desperate attempts from figures like Schneider to maintain the official narrative about Syria should still be countered, because their aim is to justify a new phase in the war against Assad. Neoconservatives in the House and the Senate have lately been leading an effort to impose sanctions against entities that engage in transactions with the Syrian government, an act of economic warfare which is aimed at preventing reconstruction in Syria and further weakening the Syrian state.
As journalists and social media users, we should continue to bring up all the lies that our government and media have told us about Syria in the last eight years, as this is a way to minimize the harm that the U.S. is still capable of doing to the Syrian people. And since Western imperialists have already lost control over the narrative about Syria to a considerable extent, this may not be too hard a task for us.