For eight months, Western leaders and some public media have been agitating for a war in Syria. The extremely serious accusations leveled against Assad intimidate those who question the justification for a new military intervention. But not everyone, because - on the initiative of Voltaire Network - some came to Syria to investigate for themselves and were able to measure the extent of NATO’s propaganda. Thierry Meyssan reports on the state of the media war.
- Created in Paris under French sponsorship, the Syrian National Council aims to overthrow the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. It is chaired by Burhan Ghalioun, professor of sociology at Sorbonne University (he is seen here with French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé, 23 November 2011).
In 1999, during the Kosovo war, Voltaire Network was outraged that France could be going to war alongside NATO without a vote from the National Assembly, with the passive complicity of the parliamentary group leaders. We considered that the refusal by the President and the Prime Minister to hold an open debate portended the opacity with which this war would be conducted. So, we took the initiative of publishing a daily bulletin on the conflict. The Serbian government websites having been immediately destroyed by the Atlantic Alliance, we had no access to the Serbian version of events. In the absence thereof, we took out subscriptions to news agencies in the region (Croatian, Bosnian, Greek, Cypriot, Turkish, Hungarian etc.).
Throughout the conflict, we presented a daily summary of NATO’s press conferences in Brussels and a summary of the reports by journalists from neighboring countries, some of which were engaged in a serious dispute with Serbia, but whose governments gave a mutually consistent account of the events. Eventually, NATO’s version and that of the local journalists drifted apart to the point of having nothing in common.
In the end, we were dealing with two radically different stories. We had no way of knowing who was lying and whether one of the two sources was telling the truth. Our readers had the impression of becoming schizophrenic, especially since the West European media were relaying exclusively NATO’s version; they were, therefore, exposed to the two parallel versions only when reading out website. We continued this exercise during the three months of fighting.
When the guns fell silent and it was possible for our colleagues and friends to go on the spot, they noted with astonishment that the "propaganda was not on both sides." No, NATO’s version was entirely false, while that of the local journalists turned out to be entirely true.
In the months that followed, parliamentary reports were released in several Member States of the Alliance establishing the facts. In addition, several books were published on the method developed by Tony Blair’s media adviser that enabled NATO to manipulate all of the Western press: the "story telling".
Indeed, it is possible to intoxicate Western journalists en masse and to hide the facts from them if they are told a children’s tale, provided the narrative is never interrupted, that it is charged with references stirring up buried emotions, and that its consistency is maintained.
I did not have the reflex to visit Serbia before the war started and I could not do so after the fighting broke out. However, dear reader, today I am in Syria, where I took the time to investigate and from where I am writing this article. With full knowledge of the facts, I can say that NATO’s propaganda is currently operating in the same way Syria as it did in Serbia.
The Alliance began telling a story out of touch with reality, which aims to justify a "humanitarian military intervention," according to the oxymoron coined by Blair. The parallel ends there: Slobodan Milosevic was a war criminal who had to be portrayed as a criminal against humanity so that his country could be dismembered; Bashar al-Assad is an opponent of imperialism and Zionism, who backed Hezbollah when Lebanon was under attack and supports Hamas and the Islamic Jihad in their quest for the liberation of the Palestinian homeland.
Four NATO lies
1. According to NATO and its Persian Gulf allies, for eight months mass demonstrations have taken place in Syria to demand more freedom and the departure of President Bashar al-Assad.
Not true. There have been demonstrations against President Bashar al-Assad’s, in some cities, at the call of Saudi and Egyptian preachers speaking on Al-Jazeera, but which rallied only some 100 000 people at the most. They were not claiming more freedom, but the establishment of an Islamic regime. They demanded the resignation of President al-Assad, not because of his politics, but because these protesters adhere to a sectarian strand of Sunni power, Takfirism, and they accuse Assad of being a heretic (he is Alawi) and of usurping power in a Muslim country, which they claim can only be legitimately governed by a Sunni from their theological school.
2. According to NATO and its Persian Gulf allies, the "regime" responded by using live ammunition to disperse the crowd, leaving at least 3,500 dead since the beginning of the year.
Not true. In the first place, it is not possible to suppress demonstrations that never existed. Then, from the outset, the authorities realized that efforts were afoot to provoke sectarian strife in a country where secularism has been the mainstay of the state since the eighth century. Consequently, President Bashar al-Assad prohibited security, police and army forces from using firearms in any circumstance where civilians might get hurt. The purpose is to prevent that the injuries, or even death, of a person belonging to one creed or the other, be exploited to justify a war of religion. This prohibition is respected by the security forces at the risk of their own lives, as we shall see later. As for the dead, their number should be cut in half. The majority are not civilians, but soldiers and police, as I was able to observe during my visits to hospitals and morgues, both civilian and military.
3. After we managed to break the wall of silence and got the big Western media to acknowledge the presence in Syria of death squads from abroad, setting up ambushes against the army and murdering civilians in the heart of the cities, NATO and its Gulf allies reported on the existence of an army of deserters. According to them, a group of military (not police) who had received the order to fire on the crowd allegedly rebelled. They apparently went underground and constituted the Free Syrian Army, already 1500 men-strong.
Not true. The deserters are only a few dozen, having fled to Turkey where they are supervised by an officer associated to the Hakim Rifaat el-Assad/Abdel Khaddam clan, famously linked to the CIA. There is, however, an increasing number of young people who refuse to do military service, more often under pressure from their families than by personal decision. Indeed, those soldiers who are caught in an ambush don’t have the right to use their firearms to defend themselves if civilians are on the scene. They have no choice but to sacrifice their lives if they are unable to escape.
4. According to NATO and its Persian Gulf allies, the cycle of revolution/repression has paved the way for the start of a "civil war". 1.5 million trapped Syrians would be suffering from hunger. It is therefore essential to set up "humanitarian corridors" to deliver food aid and allow civilians to flee the combat zones.
Not true. Considering the number and the cruelty of the attacks by death squads from abroad, population displacement has been minimal. Syria is agriculturally self-sufficient and its productivity has not declined significantly. On the other hand, with most of the ambushes taking place on major roads, traffic is frequently interrupted. Moreover, when attacks spring up inside the cities, merchants shut down their shops immediately. This results in serious distribution problems, including food. The real issue lies elsewhere: economic sanctions have wrought disaster. While for the past decade Syria had registered a growth of around 5% per year, it can no longer sell its oil to Western Europe and its tourist industry has been hit hard. Many people have lost their jobs and income, having to save on everything. They are subsidized by the government, which distributes free food and heating fuel. Under such circumstances, it would be more fitting to say that if it were not for the Al-Assad government, 1.5 million Syrians would be suffering from malnutrition because of Western sanctions.
Ultimately, while we’re still in the stage of unconventional warfare, with the use of mercenaries and special forces to destabilize the country, the narrative spewed out by NATO and its Persian Gulf allies has already strayed from reality. This gap will widen more and more.
As far as you are concerned, dear reader, there is no reason why you should believe me rather than NATO, since you are not on the spot. However, there are several elements that should send up a red flag.
- Bernard-Henry Levy, who boasted of having embroiled France in the war on Libya to serve Israel’s interests, told "Le Parisien" that he has a hit list of countries.
Four clues carefully hidden by NATO
1. One would think that the charges concerning the alleged repression and the number of victims were carefully looked into. But not at all. They originated from a single source: the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, based in London, whose leaders demand anonymity. What is the validity of such grave accusations if they are not cross-checked and why do institutions such as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights rubber stamp them without verifying their authenticity?
2. Russia and China vetoed a draft Security Council resolution meant to pave the way for an international military intervention. NATO political leaders have forlornly explained that the Russians are protecting their naval base at Tartus and that the Chinese will do anything to scrape together a few barrels of oil. Should we accept the Manichean view that Washington, London and Paris are guided by good intentions, while Moscow and Beijing are essentially selfish and insensitive to the martyrdom of the population? How to avoid noticing that Russia and China have much less of an interest in defending Syria than Westerners have in destroying it?
3. It is somewhat bizarre to observe who makes up the coalition of so-called well-intentioned states. How can it escape anyone’s notice that the two main sustainers of the Arab League and promoters of the "democratization" of Syria, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, are puppet dictatorships in lockstep with the United States and the United Kingdom? Should not one wonder how credible the West can be - after having successively ravaged Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya and killing more than 1, 2 million people in ten years, thus showing how little value they attach to human life - when it waves a humanitarian banner?
4. To avoid being manipulated on the events unfolding in Syria, the best thing is to put them in context. For NATO and its Persian Gulf allies, whose armies invaded Yemen and Bahrain to savagely quell peaceful demonstrations, the "Syrian Revolution" is an extension of the "Arab spring", perceived by them as peoples in the region who dream of a market democracy and the comfort of the American Way of Life. On their part, the Russians and Chinese, apace with the Venezuelans and the South Africans, recognize the events in Syria as the continuation of Washington’s plan "to remodel the Greater Middle East", which has already claimed 1.2 million lives and which anyone truly concerned about protecting human lives must strive to put an end to. They haven’t forgotten that on 15 September 2001, President George W. Bush green-lighted a plan to wage seven wars.
Preparations for the attack on Syria formally began on 12 December 2003 with the adoption of the Syrian Accountability Act in the wake of the fall of Baghdad. Since that day, the president of the United States - today Barack Obama - is under an order from Congress to attack Syria and is dispensed from any further clearance before launching hostilities. Therefore, the question is not whether NATO has found a divine justification for going to war, but whether Syria will find a way out of this situation, in the same way she outmaneuvered all the previous pitfalls and defamatory accusations leveled against her, such as the assassination of Rafik Hariri and the Israeli raid against an imaginary nuclear military plant.
Western mainstream media testify
At the end of this article, I would like to underscore that Voltaire Network facilitated a press visit to Syria, organized at the initiative of the Catholic Information Center of Middle East Christians, as part of the opening towards Western media announced by President al-Assad at the Arab League. We assisted mainstream journalists to travel to combat zones. At first, our colleagues were wary of our presence, both because they had negative preconceived ideas about us to us and because they thought we were trying to brainwash them. They eventually came to realize that we are normal people and that the fact of having chosen our camp did not mean we had renounced our critical spirit. In the end, though still convinced of NATO’s benevolence and while failing to share our commitment to anti-imperialist, they opened their eyes and ears to the truth.
Currently, their reports honestly reflect the actions perpetrated by the armed gangs that are terrorizing the country. Of course, they have refrained from openly contradicting the Atlantic version and tried to reconcile it with what they saw and heard, which called for some awkward contortions around the concept of a ’civil war’ allegedly pitting the Syrian army against foreign mercenaries. Nevertheless, reports by Télévision Belge (RTBF) and La Libre Belgique, to name a few, now clearly reveal that for eight months NATO has masked the actions of death squads and falsely attributed their crimes to the Syrian authorities.