In 2012, the US television channel NBC suddenly decided to revise the story of the 5-day kidnapping of its team in Syria. Until then, we were asked to believe that Richard Engel and his assistants had been imprisoned by the « Shabihas » - which means, in Western propaganda rhetoric, a « secret militia of the dictatorship »). The journalist even specified that they were « chiites », and that they had been « trained by the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards ».

But … O dear! It was all a simple « error of interpretation » (sic).

As soon as the New York Times announced the forthcoming publication of its enquiry into the « kidnapping », NBC made a 180° turn and admitted – preemptively – that the kidnappers were in fact members of the Free Syrian Army (« moderate rebels » organised by France) [1].

For the moment, the US Press are not contesting the reality of the kidnapping, but only its interpretation.

Initially, the term « Shabihas » (« Ghosts ») described smugglers from the Lattakia region, reputed to be faithful to the Syrian Arab Republic. The title had been used by Atlantist propaganda to conjure up a picture of a « secret militia » belonging to the « régime » who were busy terrorising the population. For two years, the Western and Gulf Press gathered « eye-witness accounts » of the abuses perpetrated by this mysterious group, whose simple existence was seen as proof enough that Syria was a « dictatorship ». A number of Syrians claimed to have been « tortured » by this militia, forced to « renounce their faith » and to « prostrate » themselves before a portrait of the « Alaouite dictator ». The accounts by Richard Engel, a star reporter for NBC, managed to convince US public opinion, despite the absurdity of the myth - President el-Assad is also president of the secular Baath party, and as such, is most unlikely to require God-like adoration.

During his kidnapping, the fraudulent character of his account had not fooled anyone of good faith [2]. But the noise of Atlantist propaganda shouted down any contestation. Today, no-one ever mentions the « Shabihas », phantoms dreamed up by NATO for use in their war propaganda, and now there is even some hesitation to talk of « dictatorship ».

Pete Kimberley

[1New Details on 2012 Kidnapping of NBC News Team in Syria”, Richard Engel, NBC, April 16, 2015.

[2The adventures of Richard Engel”, Asad AbuKhalil, The Angry Arab News Service, December 18, 2012.