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Media coverage of events in Syria.
#1
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
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#2

Syrian rebels tried to get me killed, says Channel 4 correspondent

Alex Thomson says crew was led to 'free-fire zone' as deaths would discredit Bashar al-Assad's regime



[Image: -Alex-Thompson--008.jpg]Channel 4 News correspondent Alex Thomson said his team were fired upon and forced to take evasive action

The chief correspondent of Channel 4 News has claimed that Syrian rebels deliberately tried to get him and his crew killed by gunfire from government forces in a bid to discredit the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Alex Thomson alleged a small group from the Free Syrian Army deliberately guided the vehicle in which he and his Channel 4 News colleagues were travelling into what he described as a "free-fire zone" on a blocked road near the city of al-Qusayr, because "dead journos are bad for Damascus".
Thomson said that after being led into a "no man's land" between Syrian army and rebel forces by four men in a black car, his team were fired upon and forced to take evasive action, eventually managing to "floor it back to the road we'd been led in on".
He also claimed that later on the same car of rebels blocked the road between their vehicle and the UN vehicles accompanying them, which he said prompted the UN escort to drive off and abandon them after seeing the Channel 4 team surrounded by "shouting militia". The incident took place last weekend and Thomson is now back in the UK.
"Suddenly four men in a black car beckon us to follow. We move out behind," Thomson wrote in a Channel 4 News website blog published on Friday/ morning.
"We are led another route. Led in fact, straight into a free-fire zone. Told by the Free Syrian Army to follow a road that was blocked off in the middle of no-man's land," he added.
"At that point there was the crack of a bullet and one of the slower three-point turns I've experienced. We screamed off into the nearest side-street for cover. Another dead end.
"There was no option but to drive back out on to the sniping ground and floor it back to the road we'd been led in on. Predictably the black car was there which had led us to the trap. They roared off as soon as we reappeared.
"I'm quite clear the rebels deliberately set us up to be shot by the Syrian army. Dead journos are bad for Damascus."
Thomson said this conviction was only strengthened half an hour later when "our four friends in the same beaten-up black car suddenly pulled out of a side street, blocking us from the UN vehicles ahead".
"The UN duly drove back past us, witnessed us surrounded by shouting militia, and left town. Eventually we got out too and on the right route, back to Damascus," he added.
"In a war where they slit the throats of toddlers back to the spine, what's the big deal in sending a van full of journalists into the killing zone? It was nothing personal."
A spokeswoman for ITN-produced Channel 4 News said: "The safety of our journalists is of paramount importance and we only ever send experienced teams into these hostile environments.
"Alex is an incredibly experienced journalist who has covered conflicts around the world for more than two decades and has used social media to share the full detail of these assignments. We will be reviewing this trip, as we do with every other foreign send and sharing the review across ITN as we continue to cover this complex and important story."
http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/jun...ian-rebels


"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
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#3
Quote:"Suddenly four men in a black car beckon us to follow. We move out behind," Thomson wrote in a Channel 4 News website blog published on Friday/ morning.
"We are led another route. Led in fact, straight into a free-fire zone. Told by the Free Syrian Army to follow a road that was blocked off in the middle of no-man's land," he added.
"At that point there was the crack of a bullet and one of the slower three-point turns I've experienced. We screamed off into the nearest side-street for cover. Another dead end.
"There was no option but to drive back out on to the sniping ground and floor it back to the road we'd been led in on. Predictably the black car was there which had led us to the trap. They roared off as soon as we reappeared.
"I'm quite clear the rebels deliberately set us up to be shot by the Syrian army. Dead journos are bad for Damascus."
Thomson said this conviction was only strengthened half an hour later when "our four friends in the same beaten-up black car suddenly pulled out of a side street, blocking us from the UN vehicles ahead".
"The UN duly drove back past us, witnessed us surrounded by shouting militia, and left town. Eventually we got out too and on the right route, back to Damascus," he added.
"In a war where they slit the throats of toddlers back to the spine, what's the big deal in sending a van full of journalists into the killing zone? It was nothing personal."

Alex Thomson is a proper journalist. So his claims have real power.

Who remembers the American military slaughter of reporters at the beginning of the second Gulf War?


Quote:Death

Terry Lloyd died on 22 March 2003 while covering the events taking place during the 2003 invasion of Iraq for ITN. Working as an independent reporter not "embedded" with U.S. or UK forces, Lloyd and his team of two cameramen and an interpreter were caught in crossfire during fighting near the Shatt Al Basra Bridge in Basra, Iraq,[2] between U.S. and Iraqi forces. His body and that of his Lebanese interpreter, Hussein Osman, were recovered and it was later discovered they had both been shot by U.S. forces on the road to Basra.[3] The French cameraman Frédéric Nérac is still officially classed as missing, presumed dead. The Belgian cameraman Daniel Demoustier survived. Terry Lloyd's funeral was reported on ITN news bulletins by Mark Austin on ITV and Samira Ahmed on Channel 4.

[edit] Investigation

The Royal Military Police (RMP) carried out an investigation into the incident. Major Kay Roberts, an RMP investigator, testified at the inquest on Terry Lloyd that a videotape of the incident, taken by a cameraman attached to the U.S. unit that killed Terry Lloyd, had been edited before it had been passed on to the British investigation. The RMP forensics expert who examined the tape concluded that about 15 minutes had been removed from the start of the recording. Roberts testified at the inquest that she was sent the tape "some months" after the incident[4] and that the she was told by the U.S. authorities that the footage they handed over was "everything that they had".

The ITN team were driving in two cars both clearly marked as press vehicles. Frédéric Nérac and Hussein Osman were in the car behind Terry Lloyd and Daniel Demoustier. They encountered an Iraqi convoy at the Shatt Al Basra Bridge in Basra, Iraq. Nérac and Osman were taken out of their car and made to get into an Iraqi vehicle. The British investigation into the incident established the convoy was escorting a Baath Party leader to Basra. American forces shot at the Iraqi convoy, killing Osman: Nérac's body has not been recovered, but investigation suggests it is unlikely he could have survived.[5]

Frédéric Nérac's wife Fabienne Mercier-Nérac testified that she had received a letter from U.S. authorities who denied being at the scene when the ITN News team was attacked.

Demoustier and Lloyd, still in the ITN car, were caught in crossfire between the Iraqi Republican Guard and U.S. forces. Lloyd was hit by an Iraqi bullet, an injury from which he could have recovered. He was put into a civilian minibus that had stopped to pick up casualties. Forensic evidence presented at the inquest shows U.S. forces shot at the minibus after it had turned to leave the area, killing Terry Lloyd outright. Demoustier survived.

[edit] Inquest

The inquest on Terry Lloyd's death was held in October 2006 in Oxfordshire, and lasted eight days, recording the verdict on 13 October 2006. The Assistant Deputy Coroner, Andrew Walker, recorded a verdict of unlawful killing by U.S. forces, and announced he would write to the Director of Public Prosecutions asking for him to investigate the possibility of bringing charges.

Andrew Walker formally cleared ITN of any blame for Terry Lloyd's death, and said that in his view the U.S. tanks had been first to open fire on the ITN crew's two vehicles. However, in the same document, he says he "was unable to determine whether the bullets that killed Lloyd in southern Iraq on 22 March 2003, were fired by U.S. ground forces or helicopters." Lloyd "would probably have survived the first [Iraqi] bullet wound" but was killed as he was being carried away from the fighting in the civilian minibus. Walker said: "If the vehicle was perceived as a threat, it would have been fired on before it did a U-turn. This would have resulted in damage to the front of the vehicle. I have no doubt it was the fact that the vehicle stopped to pick up survivors that prompted the Americans to fire on that vehicle."[6] The National Union of Journalists said Terry Lloyd's killing was a war crime.[7]

The likelihood is that Lloyd, Osman and Nerac were killed for being in a part of the war zone they weren't meant to see. It was during the second Gulf War that the practice of "embedding" journalists within military units became essentially obligatory. The grisly fate of Lloyd, Osman and Nerac was a stark warning to war correspondents not to leave their "embedded" sanctuary.

In other words, war correspondents were told to stop being reporters and instead become a part of the military propaganda machine.
"It means this War was never political at all, the politics was all theatre, all just to keep the people distracted...."
"Proverbs for Paranoids 4: You hide, They seek."
"They are in Love. Fuck the War."

Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon

"Ccollanan Pachacamac ricuy auccacunac yahuarniy hichascancuta."
The last words of the last Inka, Tupac Amaru, led to the gallows by men of god & dogs of war
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#4
Quote:Jan Klimkowski wrote "In other words, war correspondents were told to stop being reporters and instead become a part of the military propaganda machine."

...and most 'journalists' (sic) have certainly take that to heart.....or left the business altogether. Only a few brave unembedded independent journalists are still out there!...and they all have targets on their backs if they go to the wrong place or report too much of the wrong [read right] thing....hats off to all of them!
"Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
"Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn
"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will" - Frederick Douglass
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#5

Beware the 'trusted' source


Video Here
But it just goes to show that in the digital age, fakery is very hard to pull off. Someone, somewhere, will catch you out.

It's a lesson ABC News learned this week, after it fell for a much more serious deception.

On Sunday May the 8th, some disturbing video about the protest in Syria was aired on ABC News 24


Kathryn Stolarchuk: Video uploaded to a social media website purports to show Syrian security beating detained protesters and holding guns to their heads. In the video, which can't be independently verified, around eight men can be seen lying face down on the floor, while armed guards lift them up by their belts, pile them on top of each other,...

ABC News 24, 8th May, 2011

The same footage turned up that evening on SBS World News...


(But) this is what anyone captured by the security forces can expect...

Once again, this footage can't be verified, but it's said to show Syrian troops beating detained protesters.

SBS World News, 8th May, 2011

The ABC also posted the footage online, with this caption:


Amateur video, which cannot be independently verified, shows heavily-armed Syrian security beating anti-government protesters.

ABC News Online, 8th May, 2011

Two days later, we got an email from a person who requested anonymity. He doubted the video's authenticity, because...


-They are not Syrian army uniforms
-The accents of the men talking are Lebanese particularly from Tripoli north Lebanon
-The car has a Lebanese licence plate
Please do your own research to verify this.

Email from Media Watch Tipster, May, 2011

We set out to do just that. Word of our interest reached a producer at ABC radio current affairs, Jess Hill, who has specialised in recent months in cultivating contacts throughout the Middle East, largely through Twitter. On Thursday, on her own initiative, she sent out this tweet:


jessradio:
Can any Syrian tweeps identify where this video came from?

Twitter, 12th May, 2011

With a link to the ABC online video. Within five minutes, she got a reply:


TrellaLB Imad Bazzi:
this video is not in Syria, this was shot in Beirut, years ago on 7 May attacks, the video shows members of Hizballa & Amal

Twitter, 12th May, 2011

Hezbollah and Amal, of course, are both Shi-ite Lebanese organisations with their own militias. A second tweet from Trella LB read:


and here is the original video bragging about what they did

Twitter, 12th May, 2011

The link he provided leads to this YouTube video - it's undoubtedly the footage screened by the ABC and SBS. But sure enough, it's captioned


Lebanon: Prisoners... caught by Hezbollah and Amal

Uploaded by aylender on 20 Aug, 2008

YouTube, 20th August, 2008

The pity is that nobody at ABC News 24 or ABC Online thought to make use of Jess Hill's contacts when Reuters - one of the most trusted news sources in the world - sent the video to its clients on the morning of Sunday May the 8th with this disclaimer:


Video uploaded to a social media website purports to show Syrian security beating detained protesters and holding guns to their heads.

REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE CONTENT OF THIS VIDEO...

Reuters, 8th May, 2011

Despite those warnings, ABC News 24 screened the video. And, as Gaven Morris, head of ABC Continuous News, frankly admitted to Media Watch, it shouldn't have.


We were wrong to run the video. Though Reuters is a very trusted source, there were enough doubts in their own sourcing for us to have chosen to leave it alone.

Gaven Morris, Head, ABC Continuous News, 12th May, 2011

Read Gaven Morris's responses to Media Watch's questions

On the face of it SBS was even more wrong. Because 20 minutes before its world news went to air, it received this warning from Reuters:


EDITORS PLEASE NOTE : REUTERS IS WITHDRAWING THIS VIDEO AS WE HAVE NOW ESTABLISHED THAT IT IS FILE FOOTAGE FROM LEBANON IN 2008, NOT SYRIA AS ORIGINALLY THOUGHT.
PLEASE ACCEPT OUR APOLOGIES

Reuters, 8th May, 2011

Read Reuters response to Media Watch's questions

However says SBS news, the warning carried:


No indication in the slug line that there was any retraction or correction contained in the copy. The sentence about the retraction was buried some distance down the copy

Mark Boyd, Executive Producer,SBS World News Australia, 16th May, 2011

Read Mark Boyd's response to Media Watch's questions

So SBS didn't notice the retraction, and nor it seems did anyone at ABC news Online. The video wasn't taken down from its website until Media Watch came calling four days later.

The moral: the new social media, used cautiously, are a boon to journalists. But used without due care, they can be a portal for fakery and propaganda.
http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcr...218415.htm
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
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#6

Everything They're Telling Us About Syria….Is False?

By Russ Baker on Jul 8, 2012

Friday, we read in the New York Timesand elsewhere about one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's most important supporters and allies having defected. The impression one gets is that Assad's government is in a state of collapse and this gives credibility to those pushing for Assad to turn over power.
But what the media are not mentioning is that Brigadier General Manaf Tlass did not defect directly from the Assad inner circle. He had already fallen into disfavor early in the uprising and lost his command in May 201114 months ago. If you had that additional piece of information, you would interpret the news reports in a totally different way.
When a piece of evidence that contradicts the overall impression is absent from the reportage, the reportage itself is almost worthless.
As are reports of horrific events without adequate fact-checking and follow-up. Remember the Houla massacre? Who carried that out?
Houla Whoops
The media told us that more than 100 people, including women and children, were brutally slaughtered at close range in the village of Houla in late May. The bloodshed, reported around the world, was ascribed to a militia, the Shabiha, which is loyal to Assad. Here's an example, from the BBC website:
Survivors of the massacre in Syria's Houla region have told the BBC of their shock and fear as regime forces entered their homes and killed their families….
[snip]
Most witnesses who spoke to the BBC said they believed that the army and shabiha militiamen were responsible.
"We were in the house, they went in, the shabiha and security, they went in with Kalashnikovs and automatic rifles," said survivor Rasha Abdul Razaq.
Later, a dribble of accounts cast doubt on this, since the people killed were, by and large, themselves supporters of Assad. But few heard about these. The BBC report did not say who Rasha was, or provide any evidence that she actually was there, or that if she was, she had any basis for saying that the killers were identifiable as to their affiliation. BBC quoted one other source, who did not provide a name. Despite the thinness of this material, the BBC story was picked up all over the world, and became perhaps the definitive account.
Hence, you probably were unaware of an article from the Frankfurter Allgemeine-Zeitung, a traditional and serious German newspaper for whom I've written in the past. It published a report a month ago from a correspondent who got eyewitness accounts from people who he says had visited the Houla area. The correspondent, Rainer Hermann, says that these eyewitnesses were Assad opponents, yet discovered that government backers were not responsible for the massacre.
Hermann's sources described the events as follows: anti-Assad rebels attacked army roadblocks just outside Houla, which had been intended to protect villages, where the majority are members of Assad's Alawi sect, from Sunni militias. The soldiers at the roadblocks, overwhelmed, called for backup, which led to a 90-minute battle, in which both sides sustained extensive fatalities.
It was in this time frame that the unidentified militias entered Houla.
As Hermann wrote June 7:
"According to eyewitness accounts…those killed were almost exclusively from families belonging to Houla's Alawi and Shia minorities. Over 90% of Houla's population are Sunnis. Several dozen members of a family were slaughtered, which had converted from Sunni to Shia Islam. Members of the Shomaliya, an Alawi family, were also killed, as was the family of a Sunni member of the Syrian parliament who is regarded as a collaborator. Immediately following the massacre, the perpetrators are supposed to have filmed their victims and then presented them as Sunni victims in videos posted on the internet.
…"Their findings contradict allegations of the rebels, who had blamed the Shabiha militias which are close to the regime."
Thus, Hermann seemingly was able to do something that most of the Western reporters have been unable to do: find opponents of Assad who nevertheless may be willing to provide accounts that do not serve their own interests.
Of course, we could do with more information on Hermann's sources. How do we know they were really in Houla? How do we know they are really opponents of Assad, not just pretending to be? Their story of inter-communal strikes makes more sense than the one that went around the world and turned so many people who had not been paying attention into supporters of toppling Assad. But nevertheless, everyone needs to provide more detail so we can try to ascertain what is true.
Almost all of the accounts in major news organization stories are characterized as being from the opposition, almost all portray everything as caused solely by the regime, and almost all add the disclaimer that the information "could not be independently verified."
Talking Turkey
Though conventional journalism likes to advertise that it is "objective" and doesn't take sides, I don't recall hearing much from the Syrian regime's point of view, beyond general and unconvincing denials following reports of regime wrongdoing. One almost gets the impression that the Syrian government does not wish to be heard.
But that turns out not to be the case.
With Syria's neighbor Turkey increasingly the leading edge for NATO on toppling Assad, it's interesting that a Turkish newspaper was willing to hear what the Syrian leader had to say:
In an interview with the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet, Bashar Assad went after Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan with an extraordinarily interesting critique. A version translated into English by the Syrian news agency, SANA, shows Assad stressing his goodwill toward the Turkish people in the first part of the interview, then raising questions about the motives of the alliance seeking to overthrow him:
Assad: …. Today, Erdogan is shedding the tears of hypocrites for the Syrian people. Why hasn't he cried for those killed in some Gulf countries, although they are innocent, peaceful and unarmed? Why isn't he speaking about democracy in some Gulf countries?
Journalist: Which country?
Assad: Qatar, for instance. Why didn't he do anything after the Marmara ship incident except shouting? Why did he challenge Israel, and then suddenly agreed to deploy the missile shield in Turkey? Did he deploy it in order to protect Turkey from the attack of a hostile country? Did America build these bases in order to protect itself against this region? Which country in the region has the capability to threaten America? No country.
[snip]
You don't have to be a fan of Assad (and who is?) to find it worthwhile to read his comments. Hearing, almost for the first time, from the other side in a conflict gives one a rushreminds me of a rule we were taught in journalism school but which never seemed to come up again, except in the most superficial ways: To find out what is really going on, make a real effort to speak to both sides.
All Hillary, All the Time
While the Western media simply ignores statements from the Syrian establishment, it functions as the flip side of the Syrian government press agency, publishing a relentless stream of declarations from the establishment trying to bring Assad down. For example, again from The Times, Hillary Clinton's well-covered remarks on Tlass:
Later at a news conference, Mrs. Clinton said that General Tlass's reported defection and those of other senior military officials had sent a powerful message that Mr. Assad's government was on its way out. She described General Tlass as "a very close and longtime ally" of Mr. Assad and his father.
So what you have is Hillary Clinton being willing to distort the Tlass development, and the media only too happy to go along.
There's a growing body of evidence that we Americans are being lied to by our government, with nary a peep from the people's representatives in the press. That's one development, sadly, that really is not news.
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
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#7
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?c...&aid=31874

been saying this myself for years....

The major Western mainstream media outlets have been running a "shock and awe" propaganda offensive against the Syrian government of President Bashar Al Assad for nearly 16 months. The misinformation has been unrelenting, monolithic, unverified, one-sided and, frankly, increasingly preposterous.
With the suppression of mounting facts that Western governments are waging a covert war of aggression in Syria, the Western public is right to treat the conventional media sources with skepticism and outright contempt. Such media are seen as "politicized" and "unreliable", serving a naked imperialist agenda for Western regime change. In a word, they are damaged goods.
This is where a segment of the so-called alternative media can play a valuable propaganda function for Western powers. Because such media are supposed to be independent, critical, non-corporate, the public tends to consider their reports as objective and unbiased. One such "alternative" news service is "Democracy Now" hosted by Amy Goodman. Goodman is seen as something of a campaigning critical journalist shedding the light of truth on the depredations of the US government, corporations and the Pentagon. But a closer look at what Goodman's "Democracy Now" is reporting on Syria shows that the purported critical broadcaster has become a purveyor of Western government propaganda. While the mainstream media's propaganda function is obvious to the informed public, Goodman's "Democracy Now" plays a more subtle role. Camouflaged with the trappings of critical, independent journalism, "Democracy Now" serves to sow powerful seeds of misinformation in a way that the "compromised" mainstream media cannot.
This misinformation from "Democracy Now" is valuable to the ruling elite because to many of its readers it is not seen as misinformation.
Rather, the "news" on "Democracy Now" is viewed as reliable and representing the views of the anti-war, anti-imperialist constituency. In this way, Goodman is a valuable asset to Washington and Wall Street because her broadcasts can serve to disorient and undermine a constituency that is normally opposed to Western warmongering and imperialism. Many of the subscribers to "Democracy Now" may see through the misinformation. Many, though, may not, and therefore will become embedded with the imperialist agenda. The fact that Democracy Now ratings appear to be holding up would indicate that a lot of its followers are oblivious to the insidious effect of such misinformation. As such, Democracy Now is more valuable to the powers-that-be than, say, the New York Times or the Financial Times. "Democracy Now" ensures that the agenda of the powerful becomes infiltrated in a constituency that would otherwise be opposed to that agenda.
First, let's recap on the mainstream propaganda offensive against Syria.
Since mid-March 2011, when violence was initially reported in that country, the Western mainstream television, radio and press studiously ignored the evidence of covert foreign-backed subversion and terrorism. Instead these outlets have sought to portray the protests as part of the pro-democracy Arab Spring popular movements that were seen in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Bahrain. The mainstream media have run saturation coverage to demonise the government in Damascus as a "brutal, authoritarian regime" that is cracking down mercilessly on its civilian population demanding democratic reforms. The narrative is monolithic in the major media outlets on both sides of the Atlantic. Whether the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, or the Financial Times, Guardian, Independent, Le Monde, BBC, ITN, the Irish national broadcaster RTE or the Middle East's much-vaunted Al Jazeera the "story" on Syria is uncannily uniform. A noble, civilian mass-based movement is being savagely crushed by a tin-eared dictator, so the story goes.
Every possible smear campaign against the Assad government has been indulged in and indeed fabricated. From the alleged killing of innocent civilians by the national armed forces, to the perpetration of massacres by pro-government militias, to self-inflicted car bombs in urban centres by Assad secret services, to the feckless shopping habits of the president's wife. Russia Today, Press TV, Der Spiegel, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the Vatican News Service (Agenzia Fides), to name a few, have been honorable exceptions in mainstream media journalism for conveying a more accurate picture of what is really happening inside Syria showing that "protesters" are far from peaceful civilians, and much of the violence is actually stemming from Western, Turkish and Arab-backed mercenaries that have infiltrated the country. As the facts of US and NATO-backed violence in Syria become more transparent and harder to conceal owing to the sheer volume of covert involvement, the Western public has rightly become more skeptical about what the mainstream media outlets are telling them. Indeed, the blatant misinformation and lies that are being sold as journalism is increasingly seen as contemptible.

The Houla massacre on 24 May is a case in point. The BBC and other mainstream media outlets have been shown to be outrageously wrong in their initial rush to blame the atrocity on Syrian government forces when the evidence has slowly emerged that it was most likely the grisly work of Western-backed mercenaries.

It is all the more disquieting when a supposedly informed, alternative news service, Democracy Now, peddles such blatant misinformation more than six weeks after the massacre occurred and after evidence has been reported that points convincingly to Western-backed perpetrators. On 9 July, Goodman broadcast an interview with Rafif Jouejati, a spokesperson for a Syrian opposition group called the Syrian Local Coordination Committees, based in Washington DC. Despite the mounting evidence of Western, Turkish and Saudi/Qatari covert operations, Goodman gave her guest a free rein to regurgitate the litany of mainstream media calumnies on Syria. Without a hint of scepticism from Goodman, her guest said:

"The bottom line is that the majority of the country is engaged in a popular revolution for freedom, for democracy, for dignity… We have mountains of evidence indicating that [Assad's] armed forces have been engaged in systematic torture, rampant detentions, massacres across the country."
Really? The majority of the country engaged in a popular revolution for freedom, democracy and dignity? That sounds more like the fanciful imagination of someone safely based in Washington DC. By contrast, sources in Syria have confirmed that people are terrified by Western-armed gangs running amok in their communities, kidnapping, murdering, evicting families from their homes and burning down business premises. According to the leaked Arab League Observer Mission Report, which had initially been commissioned by the Arab League at Washington's request:

"In Homs, Idlib and Hama, the Observer Mission witnessed acts of violence being committed against Government forces and civilians that resulted in several deaths and injuries. Examples of those acts include the bombing of a civilian bus, killing eight persons and injuring others, including women and children, and the bombing of a train carrying diesel oil. In another incident in Homs, a police bus was blown up, killing two police officers. A fuel pipeline and some small bridges were also bombed. "

"Such incidents include the bombing of buildings, trains carrying fuel, vehicles carrying diesel oil and explosions targeting the police, members of the media and fuel pipelines. Some of those attacks have been carried out by the Free Syrian Army and some by other armed opposition groups." (League of Arab States Observer Mission to Syria, Report of the Head of the League of Arab States Observer Mission to Syria for the period from 24 December 2011 to 18 January 2012, Ironically, these fact-finding observations of the AL Observer Mission , went against the interests of its Western sponsors. It was barely reported by the mainstream media)

According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ):

"Those killed were almost exclusively from families belonging to Houla's Alawi and Shia minorities. Over 90% of Houla's population are Sunnis. Several dozen members of a family were slaughtered, which had converted from Sunni to Shia Islam. Members of the Shomaliya, an Alawi family, were also killed, as was the family of a Sunni member of the Syrian parliament who is regarded as a collaborator. Immediately following the massacre, the perpetrators are supposed to have filmed their victims and then presented them as Sunni victims in videos posted on the internet." (Neue Erkenntnisse zu Getöteten von Hula.Abermals Massaker in Syrien, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, June 7, 2012 translated from the German, [URL="http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/neue-erkenntnisse-zu-getoeteten-von-hula-abermals-massaker-in-syrien-11776496.html"]
http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/neue-...76496.html[/URL])

The FAZ report quoted above echoes eyewitness accounts collected from refugees from the Houla region by members of the Monastery of St. James in Qara, Syria. According to monastery sources cited by the Dutch Middle East expert Martin Janssen, armed rebels murdered "entire Alawi families" in the village of Taldo in the Houla region.

Also of significance is the report of Der Spiegel (March 29, 2012) entitled "An Executioner for Syria's Rebels Tells His Story". A system of "burial brigades" for those executed confirms an organized process of mass-murder and extra-judicial killings. This single "burial brigade", according to the executioner's testimony, was responsible for the arbitrary execution of 350-400 people including "prisoners" and "traitors". The "traitors" are Sunni civilians within the occupied urban and rural areas, who express their opposition to the rule of terror of the Free Syrian Army (FSA):

"Since last summer, we have executed slightly fewer than 150 men, which represents about 20 percent of our prisoners,"
says Abu Rami. ... But the executioners of Homs have been busier with traitors within their own ranks than with prisoners of war. "If we catch a Sunni spying, or if a citizen betrays the revolution, we make it quick," says the fighter. According to Abu Rami, Hussein's burial brigade has put between 200 and 250 traitors to death since the beginning of the uprising." (Der Spiegel, March 29, 2012)

The Vatican News Service Agenzia Fides largely confirms that the Western backed "opposition forces" rather than the Al Assad government were responsible for countless atrocities:

"In Homs, called the "martyred city", "opposition forces have occupied two areas, Diwan Al Bustan and Hamidieh, where there are all the churches and bishoprics," the Archimandrite told Fides. "The picture for us he continues - is utter desolation: the church of Mar Elian is half destroyed and that of Our Lady of Peace is still occupied by the rebels. Christian homes are severely damaged due to the fighting and completely emptied of their inhabitants, who fled without taking anything. The area of Hamidieh is still shelter to armed groups independent of each other, heavily armed and bankrolled by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. All Christians (138,000) have fled to Damascus and Lebanon, while others took refuge in the surrounding countryside.

The Syrian soldiers in fact, continue to face foreign fighters, mercenaries Libyans, Lebanese militants from the Gulf, Afghans, Turks. "The Sunni Salafist militants - says the Bishop - continue to commit crimes against civilians, or to recruit fighters with force. The fanatical Sunni extremists are fighting a holy war proudly, especially against the Alawites. When terrorists seek to control the religious identity of a suspect, they ask him to cite the genealogies dating back to Moses. And they ask to recite a prayer that the Alawites removed. The Alawites have no chance to get out alive." (Agenzia Fides, Vatican News Service, 4 June 2012)

These reports were known to the alternative media. "Democracy Now" chose to ignore them.

Overblown Casualty Figures, Blamed on the Government

Goodman also indulged in the overblown casualty figures from dubious Syrian opposition sources as if they were verifiable accurate data. She even sounded like Hillary Clinton in talking up the "defection" of the hapless former Syrian Brigadier General Manaf Tlass as "significant" when informed sources discount that news as a minor irrelevance.
In the interview between Goodman and her guest (whom sources describe as belonging to a family formerly aligned with the Syrian government), Bashar Al Assad was portrayed as an unhinged leader who is in denial over massacres massacres, as we have noted, that have most likely been carried out by Western-backed death squads as confirmed by numerous reports.

Preposterously, Assad was described as guilty of much worse crimes than former Egyptian and Libyan rulers Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Gaddafi. Then the "alternative" Democracy Now broadcast this statement from the supposed opposition spokesperson as if it were normal discourse:

"I would like to think that we will proceed with full prosecution in the International Criminal Court. I think the longer this issue goes on and the more violence he [Assad] commits, the more likely he will wish to have a fate such as Gaddafi's."
Recall that the Libyan leader was lynched on a roadside by a NATO-directed mob, and sodomised with a knife before being shot dead. It may also be recalled that "Democracy Now" gave prominent broadcasts supporting NATO's intervention in Libya and justifying the criminal subversion of that country. Going by the latest coverage on Syria, Democracy Now is acting once again under a "progressive" cloak as a propaganda tool for US-led imperialist intervention. Given the misplaced respect among many of the public seeking independent, alternative, accurate news and analysis, this insidious role of Democracy Now is reprehensible. May it be suggested, in the name of media transparency, that the programme be aptly renamed "Imperialism Now".
Finian Cunningham is Global Research's Middle East and East Africa Correspondent cunninghamfinian@gmail.com
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
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#8
Who is he? He seems to be spearheading the effort in the Guardian to publish as much propaganda about Syria as possible.

Some fine pieces of Journalism by him below:

Syria: at least 200 killed in Hama province massacre, say activists


Quote:Syrian government troops and a pro-regime militia have killed more than 200 people, mostly civilians, in a village near the city of Hama, opposition activists reported in the early hours of Friday morning.

The massacre is said to have taken place in the village of Tremseh, starting early Thursday morning, when government forces are alleged to have surrounded the village and opened fire with mortars and artillery. Then an Alawite pro-government militia, the Shabiha, are reported to have moved into Tremseh and started carrying out executions.

The big picture is clear. A slaughter is under way in Syria, largely carried out by government forces and militias

Quote:You would be wasting your time. Even if I had been paid or programmed to falsify everything I write about Syria, my controllers would be powerless to alter people's perceptions of what is going on there. The news is streaming out by Skype, emails and satellite phones, and in the testimony of refugees. We rely heavily on our correspondents on the ground to gather information directly inside Syria. They do not spend much if any time on the phone to SNC spokespeople in Washington. Likewise most of the reports on the latest butchery in Tremseh came not from the SNC, but from rebels and activists in the area, and are treated for the time being as unconfirmed.

The bigger picture, however, is abundantly clear. A slaughter is under way, largely carried out by government forces and allied militias. Whether this should mean western military intervention is quite another question. It is hard to see how air strikes could stop the killing, but authorising the international criminal court to start a full investigation into who is responsible would seem like a step in the right direction.
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#9
I can't say I know him at all Danny but looking at some samples on the net he seems very much as you describe him.

Surprisingly for the MSM I also came across this from the Guardian yesterday. it is by Charlie Skelton who has started covering the Bildeberg conferences recently.
Quote:

The Syrian opposition: who's doing the talking?

The media have been too passive when it comes to Syrian opposition sources, without scrutinising their backgrounds and their political connections. Time for a closer look …


[Image: Rami-Abdulrahman-008.jpg]The director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdulrahman, speaks on the phone in his home in Coventry on December 6, 2011. Photograph: Reuters

A nightmare is unfolding across Syria, in the homes of al-Heffa and the streets of Houla. And we all know how the story ends: with thousands of soldiers and civilians killed, towns and families destroyed, and President Assad beaten to death in a ditch.
This is the story of the Syrian war, but there is another story to be told. A tale less bloody, but nevertheless important. This is a story about the storytellers: the spokespeople, the "experts on Syria", the "democracy activists". The statement makers. The people who "urge" and "warn" and "call for action".
It's a tale about some of the most quoted members of the Syrian opposition and their connection to the Anglo-American opposition creation business. The mainstream news media have, in the main, been remarkably passive when it comes to Syrian sources: billing them simply as "official spokesmen" or "pro-democracy campaigners" without, for the most part, scrutinising their statements, their backgrounds or their political connections.
It's important to stress: to investigate the background of a Syrian spokesperson is not to doubt the sincerity of his or her opposition to Assad. But a passionate hatred of the Assad regime is no guarantee of independence. Indeed, a number of key figures in the Syrian opposition movement are long-term exiles who were receiving US government funding to undermine the Assad government long before the Arab spring broke out.
Though it is not yet stated US government policy to oust Assad by force, these spokespeople are vocal advocates of foreign military intervention in Syria and thus natural allies of well-known US neoconservatives who supported Bush's invasion of Iraq and are now pressuring the Obama administration to intervene. As we will see, several of these spokespeople have found support, and in some cases developed long and lucrative relationships with advocates of military intervention on both sides of the Atlantic.
"The sand is running out of the hour glass," said Hillary Clinton on Sunday. So, as the fighting in Syria intensifies, and Russian warships set sail for Tartus, it's high time to take a closer look at those who are speaking out on behalf of the Syrian people.

The Syrian National Council

The most quoted of the opposition spokespeople are the official representatives of the Syrian National Council. The SNC is not the only Syrian opposition group but it is generally recognised as "the main opposition coalition" (BBC). The Washington Times describes it as "an umbrella group of rival factions based outside Syria". Certainly the SNC is the opposition group that's had the closest dealings with western powers and has called for foreign intervention from the early stages of the uprising. In February of this year, at the opening of the Friends of Syria summit in Tunisia, William Hague declared: "I will meet leaders of the Syrian National Council in a few minutes' time … We, in common with other nations, will now treat them and recognise them as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people."
The most senior of the SNC's official spokespeople is the Paris-based Syrian academic Bassma Kodmani.

Bassma Kodmani

[Image: Bassma-Kodmani-at-Bilderb-008.jpg]Bassma Kodmani of the Syrian National Council. Photograph: Carter OsmarHere is Bassma Kodmani, seen leaving this year's Bilderberg conferencein Chantilly, Virginia.
Kodmani is a member of the executive bureau and head of foreign affairs, Syrian National Council. Kodmani is close to the centre of the SNC power structure, and one of the council's most vocal spokespeople. "No dialogue with the ruling regime is possible. We can only discuss how to move on to a different political system," she declared this week. And here she is, quoted by the newswire AFP: "The next step needs to be a resolution under Chapter VII, which allows for the use of all legitimate means, coercive means, embargo on arms, as well as the use of force to oblige the regime to comply."
This statement translates into the headline "Syrians call for armed peacekeepers" (Australia's Herald Sun). When large-scale international military action is being called for, it seems only reasonable to ask: who exactly is calling for it? We can say, simply, "an official SNC spokesperson," or we can look a little closer.
This year was Kodmani's second Bilderberg. At the 2008 conference, Kodmani was listed as French; by 2012, her Frenchness had fallen away and she was listed simply as "international" her homeland had become the world of international relations.
Back a few years, in 2005, Kodmani was working for the Ford Foundationin Cairo, where she was director of their governance and international co-operation programme. The Ford Foundation is a vast organisation, headquartered in New York, and Kodmani was already fairly senior. But she was about to jump up a league.
Around this time, in February 2005, US-Syrian relations collapsed, and President Bush recalled his ambassador from Damascus. A lot of opposition projects date from this period. "The US money for Syrian opposition figures began flowing under President George W Bush after he effectively froze political ties with Damascus in 2005," says the Washington Post.
In September 2005, Kodmani was made the executive director of theArab Reform Initiative (ARI) a research programme initiated by the powerful US lobby group, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).
The CFR is an elite US foreign policy thinktank, and the Arab Reform Initiative is described on its website as a "CFR Project" . More specifically, the ARI was initiated by a group within the CFR called the "US/Middle East Project" a body of senior diplomats, intelligence officers and financiers, the stated aim of which is to undertake regional "policy analysis" in order "to prevent conflict and promote stability". The US/Middle East Project pursues these goals under the guidance of an international board chaired by General (Ret.) Brent Scowcroft.
[Image: Peter-Sutherland-001.jpg]Peter Sutherland pictured at the Bilderberg conference. Photograph: Hannah BornoBrent Scowcroft (chairman emeritus) is a former national security adviser to the US president he took over the role from Henry Kissinger. Sitting alongside Scowcroft of the international board is his fellow geo-strategist, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who succeeded him as the national security adviser, and Peter Sutherland, the chairman of Goldman Sachs International. So, as early as 2005, we've got a senior wing of the western intelligence/banking establishment selecting Kodmani to run a Middle East research project. In September of that year, Kodmani was made full-time director of the programme. Earlier in 2005, the CFR assigned"financial oversight" of the project to the Centre for European Reform (CER). In come the British.
The CER is overseen by Lord Kerr, the deputy chairman of Royal Dutch Shell. Kerr is a former head of the diplomatic service and is a senior adviser at Chatham House (a thinktank showcasing the best brains of the British diplomatic establishment).
In charge of the CER on a day-to-day basis is Charles Grant, former defence editor of the Economist, and these days a member of the European Council on Foreign Relations, a "pan-European thinktank" packed with diplomats, industrialists, professors and prime ministers. On its list of members you'll find the name: "Bassma Kodmani (France/Syria) Executive Director, Arab Reform Initiative".
Another name on the list: George Soros the financier whose non-profit "Open Society Foundations" is a primary funding source of the ECFR. At this level, the worlds of banking, diplomacy, industry, intelligence and the various policy institutes and foundations all mesh together, and there, in the middle of it all, is Kodmani.
The point is, Kodmani is not some random "pro-democracy activist" who happens to have found herself in front of a microphone. She has impeccable international diplomacy credentials: she holds the position ofresearch director at the Académie Diplomatique Internationale "an independent and neutral institution dedicated to promoting modern diplomacy". The Académie is headed by Jean-Claude Cousseran, a former head of the DGSE the French foreign intelligence service.
A picture is emerging of Kodmani as a trusted lieutenant of the Anglo-American democracy-promotion industry. Her "province of origin" (according to the SNC website) is Damascus, but she has close and long-standing professional relationships with precisely those powers she's calling upon to intervene in Syria.
And many of her spokesmen colleagues are equally well-connected.

Radwan Ziadeh

Another often quoted SNC representative is Radwan Ziadeh director of foreign relations at the Syrian National Council. Ziadeh has an impressive CV: he's a senior fellow at the federally funded Washington thinktank, the US Institute of Peace (the USIP Board of Directors is packed with alumni of the defence department and the national security council; its president is Richard Solomon, former adviser to Kissinger at the NSC).
In February this year, Ziadeh joined an elite bunch of Washington hawks to sign a letter calling upon Obama to intervene in Syria: his fellow signatories include James Woolsey (former CIA chief), Karl Rove (Bush Jr's handler), Clifford May (Committee on the Present Danger) and Elizabeth Cheney, former head of the Pentagon's Iran-Syria Operations Group.
Ziadeh is a relentless organiser, a blue-chip Washington insider with links to some of the most powerful establishment thinktanks. Ziadeh's connections extend all the way to London. In 2009 he became a visiting fellow at Chatham House, and in June of last year he featured on the panel at one of their events "Envisioning Syria's Political Future" sharing a platform with fellow SNC spokesman Ausama Monajed (more on Monajed below) and SNC member Najib Ghadbian.
Ghadbian was identified by the Wall Street Journal as an early intermediary between the US government and the Syrian opposition in exile: "An initial contact between the White House and NSF [National Salvation Front] was forged by Najib Ghadbian, a University of Arkansas political scientist." This was back in 2005. The watershed year.
These days, Ghadbian is a member of the general secretariat of the SNC, and is on the advisory board of a Washington-based policy body called the Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies (SCPSS) an organisation co-founded by Ziadeh.
Ziadeh has been making connections like this for years. Back in 2008, Ziadeh took part in a meeting of opposition figures in a Washington government building: a mini-conference called "Syria In-Transition". The meeting was co-sponsored by a US-based body called the Democracy Council and a UK-based organisation called the Movement for Justice and Development (MJD). It was a big day for the MJD their chairman, Anas Al-Abdah, had travelled to Washington from Britain for the event, along with their director of public relations. Here, from the MJD's website, is a description of the day: "The conference saw an exceptional turn out as the allocated hall was packed with guests from the House of Representatives and the Senate, representatives of studies centres, journalists and Syrian expatriats [sic] in the USA."
The day opened with a keynote speech by James Prince, head of the Democracy Council. Ziadeh was on a panel chaired by Joshua Muravchik (the ultra-interventionist author of the 2006 op-ed "Bomb Iran"). The topic of the discussion was "The Emergence of Organized Opposition". Sitting beside Ziadeh on the panel was the public relations director of the MJD a man who would later become his fellow SNC spokesperson Ausama Monajed.

Ausama Monajed

Along with Kodmani and Ziadeh, Ausama (or sometimes Osama) Monajed is one of the most important SNC spokespeople. There are others, of course the SNC is a big beast and includes the Muslim Brotherhood. The opposition to Assad is wide-ranging, but these are some of the key voices. There are other official spokespeople with long political careers, like George Sabra of the Syrian Democratic People's party Sabra has suffered arrest and lengthy imprisonment in his fight against the "repressive and totalitarian regime in Syria". And there are other opposition voices outside the SNC, such as the writer Michel Kilo, who speaks eloquently of the violence tearing apart his country: "Syria is being destroyed street after street, city after city, village after village. What kind of solution is that? In order for a small group of people to remain in power, the whole country is being destroyed."
[Image: Ausuma-Monajed-001.jpg]Ausuma Monajed. Photograph: BBCBut there's no doubt that the primary opposition body is the SNC, and Kodmani, Ziadeh and Monajed are often to be found representing it. Monajed frequently crops up as a commentator on TV news channels.Here he is on the BBC, speaking from their Washington bureau. Monajed doesn't sugar-coat his message: "We are watching civilians being slaughtered and kids being slaughtered and killed and women being raped on the TV screens every day."
Meanwhile, over on Al Jazeera, Monajed talks about "what's really happening, in reality, on the ground" about "the militiamen of Assad" who "come and rape their women, slaughter their children, and kill their elderly".
Monajed turned up, just a few days ago, as a blogger on Huffington Post UK, where he explained, at length: "Why the World Must Intervene in Syria" calling for "direct military assistance" and "foreign military aid". So, again, a fair question might be: who is this spokesman calling for military intervention?
Monajed is a member of the SNC, adviser to its president, and according to his SNC biography, "the Founder and Director of Barada Television", a pro-opposition satellite channel based in Vauxhall, south London. In 2008, a few months after attending Syria In-Transition conference, Monajed was back in Washington, invited to lunch with George W Bush, along with a handful of other favoured dissidents (you can see Monajed in the souvenir photo, third from the right, in the red tie, near Condoleezza Rice up the other end from Garry Kasparov).
At this time, in 2008, the US state department knew Monajed as "director of public relations for the Movement for Justice and Development (MJD), which leads the struggle for peaceful and democratic change in Syria".
Let's look closer at the MJD. Last year, the Washington Post picked up a story from WikiLeaks, which had published a mass of leaked diplomatic cables. These cables appear to show a remarkable flow of money from the US state department to the British-based Movement for Justice and Development. According to the Washington Post's report: "Barada TV is closely affiliated with the Movement for Justice and Development, a London-based network of Syrian exiles. Classified US diplomatic cables show that the state department has funnelled as much as $6m to the group since 2006 to operate the satellite channel and finance other activities inside Syria."
A state department spokesman responded to this story by saying: "Trying to promote a transformation to a more democratic process in this society is not undermining necessarily the existing government." And they're right, it's not "necessarily" that.
When asked about the state department money, Monajed himself said that he "could not confirm" US state department funding for Barada TV, but said: "I didn't receive a penny myself." Malik al -Abdeh, until very recently Barada TV's editor-in-chief insisted: "we have had no direct dealings with the US state department". The meaning of the sentence turns on that word "direct". It is worth noting that Malik al Abdeh also happens to be one of the founders of the Movement for Justice and Development (the recipient of the state department $6m, according to the leaked cable). And he's the brother of the chairman, Anas Al-Abdah. He's also the co-holder of the MJD trademark: What Malik al Abdeh does admit is that Barada TV gets a large chunk of its funding from an American non-profit organisation: the Democracy Council. One of the co-sponsors (with the MJD) of Syria In-Transition mini-conference. So what we see, in 2008, at the same meeting, are the leaders of precisely those organisations identified in the Wiki:eaks cables as the conduit (the Democracy Council) and recipient (the MJD) of large amounts of state department money.
The Democracy Council (a US-based grant distributor) lists the state department as one of its sources of funding. How it works is this: the Democracy Council serves as a grant-administering intermediary between the state department's "Middle East Partnership Initiative" and "local partners" (such as Barada TV). As the Washington Post reports:
"Several US diplomatic cables from the embassy in Damascus reveal that the Syrian exiles received money from a State Department program called the Middle East Partnership Initiative. According to the cables, the State Department funnelled money to the exile group via the Democracy Council, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit."
The same report highlights a 2009 cable from the US Embassy in Syria that says that the Democracy Council received $6.3m from the state department to run a Syria-related programme, the "Civil Society Strengthening Initiative". The cable describes this as "a discrete collaborative effort between the Democracy Council and local partners" aimed at producing, amongst other things, "various broadcast concepts." According to the Washington Post: "Other cables make clear that one of those concepts was Barada TV."
Until a few months ago, the state department's Middle East Partnership Initiative was overseen by Tamara Cofman Wittes (she's now at theBrookings Institution an influential Washington thinktank). Of MEPI, she said that it "created a positive 'brand' for US democracy promotion efforts". While working there she declared: "There are a lot of organizations in Syria and other countries that are seeking changes from their government … That's an agenda that we believe in and we're going to support." And by support, she means bankroll.

The money

This is nothing new. Go back a while to early 2006, and you have the state department announcing a new "funding opportunity" called the "Syria Democracy Program". On offer, grants worth "$5m in Federal Fiscal Year 2006". The aim of the grants? "To accelerate the work of reformers in Syria."
These days, the cash is flowing in faster than ever. At the beginning of June 2012, the Syrian Business Forum was launched in Doha by opposition leaders including Wael Merza (SNC secretary general). "This fund has been established to support all components of the revolution in Syria," said Merza. The size of the fund? Some $300m. It's by no means clear where the money has come from, although Merza "hinted at strong financial support from Gulf Arab states for the new fund" (Al Jazeera). At the launch, Merza said that about $150m had already been spent, in part on the Free Syrian Army.
Merza's group of Syrian businessmen made an appearance at a World Economic Forum conference titled the "Platform for International Co-operation" held in Istanbul in November 2011. All part of the process whereby the SNC has grown in reputation, to become, in the words of William Hague, "a legitimate representative of the Syrian people" and able, openly, to handle this much funding.
Building legitimacy of opposition, of representation, of intervention is the essential propaganda battle.
In a USA Today op-ed written in February this year, Ambassador Dennis Ross declared: "It is time to raise the status of the Syrian National Council". What he wanted, urgently, is "to create an aura of inevitability about the SNC as the alternative to Assad." The aura of inevitability. Winning the battle in advance.
A key combatant in this battle for hearts and minds is the American journalist and Daily Telegraph blogger, Michael Weiss.

Michael Weiss

One of the most widely quoted western experts on Syria and an enthusiast for western intervention Michael Weiss echoes Ambassador Ross when he says: "Military intervention in Syria isn't so much a matter of preference as an inevitability."
Some of Weiss's interventionist writings can be found on a Beirut-based, Washington-friendly website called "NOW Lebanon" whose "NOW Syria" section is an important source of Syrian updates. NOW Lebanon was set up in 2007 by Saatchi & Saatchi executive Eli Khoury. Khoury has been described by the advertising industry as a "strategic communications specialist, specialising in corporate and government image and brand development".
Weiss told NOW Lebanon, back in May, that thanks to the influx of weapons to Syrian rebels "we've already begun to see some results." He showed a similar approval of military developments a few months earlier, in a piece for the New Republic: "In the past several weeks, the Free Syrian Army and other independent rebel brigades have made great strides" whereupon, as any blogger might, he laid out his "Blueprint for a Military Intervention in Syria".
But Weiss is not only a blogger. He's also the director of communications and public relations at the Henry Jackson Society, an ultra-ultra-hawkish foreign policy thinktank.
The Henry Jackson Society's international patrons include: James "ex-CIA boss" Woolsey, Michael "homeland security" Chertoff, William "PNAC" Kristol, Robert "PNAC" Kagan', Joshua "Bomb Iran" Muravchick, and Richard "Prince of Darkness" Perle. The Society is run by Alan Mendoza, chief adviser to the all-party parliamentary group on transatlantic and international security.
The Henry Jackson Society is uncompromising in its "forward strategy" towards democracy. And Weiss is in charge of the message. The Henry Jackson Society is proud of its PR chief's far-reaching influence: "He is the author of the influential report "Intervention in Syria? An Assessment of Legality, Logistics and Hazards", which was repurposed and endorsed by the Syrian National Council."
Weiss's original report was re-named "Safe Area for Syria" and ended up on the official syriancouncil.org website, as part of their military bureau's strategic literature. The repurposing of the HJS report was undertaken by the founder and executive director of the Strategic Research and Communication Centre (SRCC) one Ausama Monajed.
So, the founder of Barada TV, Ausama Monajed, edited Weiss's report, published it through his own organisation (the SRCC) and passed it on to the Syrian National Council, with the support of the Henry Jackson Society.
The relationship couldn't be closer. Monajed even ends up handling inquiries for "press interviews with Michael Weiss". Weiss is not the only strategist to have sketched out the roadmap to this war (many thinktanks have thought it out, many hawks have talked it up), but some of the sharpest detailing is his.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights

The justification for the "inevitable" military intervention is the savagery of President Assad's regime: the atrocities, the shelling, the human rights abuses. Information is crucial here, and one source above all has been providing us with data about Syria. It is quoted at every turn: "The head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told VOA [Voice of America]that fighting and shelling killed at least 12 people in Homs province."
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is commonly used as a standalone source for news and statistics. Just this week, news agency AFP carried this story: "Syrian forces pounded Aleppo and Deir Ezzor provinces as at least 35 people were killed on Sunday across the country, among them 17 civilians, a watchdog reported." Various atrocities and casualty numbers are listed, all from a single source: "Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP by phone."
Statistic after horrific statistic pours from "the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights" (AP). It's hard to find a news report about Syria that doesn't cite them. But who are they? "They" are Rami Abdulrahman (or Rami Abdel Rahman), who lives in Coventry.
According to a Reuters report in December of last year: "When he isn't fielding calls from international media, Abdulrahman is a few minutes down the road at his clothes shop, which he runs with his wife."
When the Guardian's Middle East live blog cited "Rami Abdul-Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights" it also linked to a sceptical article in the Modern Tokyo Times an article which suggested news outlets could be a bit "more objective about their sources" when quoting "this so-called entity", the SOHR.
That name, the "Syrian Observatory of Human Rights", sound so grand, so unimpeachable, so objective. And yet when Abdulrahman and his "Britain-based NGO" (AFP/NOW Lebanon) are the sole source for so many news stories about such an important subject, it would seem reasonable to submit this body to a little more scrutiny than it's had to date.
The Observatory is by no means the only Syrian news source to be quoted freely with little or no scrutiny …

Hamza Fakher

The relationship between Ausama Monajed, the SNC, the Henry Jackson hawks and an unquestioning media can be seen in the case of Hamza Fakher. On 1 January, Nick Cohen wrote in the Observer: "To grasp the scale of the barbarism, listen to Hamza Fakher, a pro-democracy activist, who is one of the most reliable sources on the crimes the regime's news blackout hides."
He goes on to recount Fakher's horrific tales of torture and mass murder. Fakher tells Cohen of a new hot-plate torture technique that he's heard about: "imagine all the melting flesh reaching the bone before the detainee falls on the plate". The following day, Shamik Das, writing on "evidence-based" progressive blog Left Foot Forward, quotes the same source: "Hamza Fakher, a pro-democracy activist, describes the sickening reality …" and the account of atrocities given to Cohen is repeated.
So, who exactly is this "pro-democracy activist", Hamza Fakher?
Fakher, it turns out, is the co-author of Revolution in Danger , a "Henry Jackson Society Strategic Briefing", published in February of this year. He co-wrote this briefing paper with the Henry Jackson Society's communications director, Michael Weiss. And when he's not co-writing Henry Jackson Society strategic briefings, Fakher is the communication manager of the London-based Strategic Research and Communication Centre (SRCC). According to their website, "He joined the centre in 2011 and has been in charge of the centre's communication strategy and products."
As you may recall, the SRCC is run by one Ausama Monajed: "Mr Monajed founded the centre in 2010. He is widely quoted and interviewed in international press and media outlets. He previously worked as communication consultant in Europe and the US and formerly served as the director of Barada Television …".
Monajed is Fakher's boss.
If this wasn't enough, for a final Washington twist, on the board of the Strategic Research and Communication Centre sits Murhaf Jouejati, a professor at the National Defence University in DC "the premier center for Joint Professional Military Education (JPME)" which is "under the direction of the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff."
If you happen to be planning a trip to Monajed's "Strategic Research and Communication Centre", you'll find it here: Strategic Research & Communication Centre, Office 36, 88-90 Hatton Garden, Holborn, London EC1N 8PN.
Office 36 at 88-90 Hatton Garden is also where you'll find the London headquarters of The Fake Tan Company, Supercar 4 U Limited, Moola loans (a "trusted loans company"), Ultimate Screeding (for all your screeding needs), and The London School of Attraction "a London-based training company which helps men develop the skills and confidence to meet and attract women." And about a hundred other businesses besides. It's a virtual office. There's something oddly appropriate about this. A "communication centre" that doesn't even have a centre a grand name but no physical substance.
That's the reality of Hamza Fakher. On 27 May, Shamik Das of Left Foot Forward quotes again from Fakher's account of atrocities, which he now describes as an "eyewitness account" (which Cohen never said it was) and which by now has hardened into "the record of the Assad regime".
So, a report of atrocities given by a Henry Jackson Society strategist, who is the communications manager of Mosafed's PR department, has acquired the gravitas of a historical "record".
This is not to suggest that the account of atrocities must be untrue, but how many of those who give it currency are scrutinising its origins?
And let's not forget, whatever destabilisation has been done in the realm of news and public opinion is being carried out twofold on the ground. We already know that (at the very least) "the Central Intelligence Agency and State Department … are helping the opposition Free Syrian Army develop logistical routes for moving supplies into Syria and providing communications training."
The bombs doors are open. The plans have been drawn up.
This has been brewing for a time. The sheer energy and meticulous planning that's gone into this change of regime it's breathtaking. The soft power and political reach of the big foundations and policy bodies is vast, but scrutiny is no respecter of fancy titles and fellowships and "strategy briefings". Executive director of what, it asks. Having "democracy" or "human rights" in your job title doesn't give you a free pass.
And if you're a "communications director" it means your words should be weighed extra carefully. Weiss and Fakher, both communications directors PR professionals. At the Chatham House event in June 2011, Monajed is listed as: "Ausama Monajed, director of communications, National Initiative for Change" and he was head of PR for the MJD. The creator of the news website NOW Lebanon, Eli Khoury, is a Saatchi advertising executive. These communications directors are working hard to create what Tamara Wittes called a "positive brand".
They're selling the idea of military intervention and regime change, and the mainstream news is hungry to buy. Many of the "activists" and spokespeople representing the Syrian opposition are closely (and in many cases financially) interlinked with the US and London the very people who would be doing the intervening. Which means information and statistics from these sources isn't necessarily pure news it's a sales pitch, a PR campaign.




But it's never too late to ask questions, to scrutinise sources. Asking questions doesn't make you a cheerleader for Assad that's a false argument. It just makes you less susceptible to spin. The good news is, there's a sceptic born every minute.
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
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#10
This is Julian Borger's retort to Charlie Skelton's article above. I'd appreciate it if someone could translate it into English for me:

Quote:The case against the named SNC officials seems especially weak. Take the case of Bassma Kodmani, a member of the SNC executive bureau. Before the revolt, she worked for a variety of thinktanks, such as the Council of Foreign Relations, which Skelton describes as "a powerful US lobby group". This is a needlessly sinister description of America's most prestigious foreign policy talking shop and research centre, which is fairly centrist and does not push in any particular direction. It has lots of scholars, with widely different views of the world, doing their own things.

For added effect Kodmani is photographed looking glum apparently leaving this year's Bilderberg conference, but the days when that was seen as a Spectre-like organisation at which key operatives were handed their instructions to maintain global domination have long gone. Mainly because such claims are unsubstantiated and plain silly.

To see just how silly, you just have to follow Skelton's links on Kodmani. His principal source on her is a man called Webster Tarpley, who calls her "a Nato agent, a destabiliser, a colour revolution queen. The fact that Kodmani was there is a scary one for Syria."

Tarpley, who Skelton described as a "Bilderberg expert", is best known for a conspiracy theory book about the September 11 attacks, called 9/11 Synthetic Terrorism Made in USA, blaming a shadowy American security apparatus.

The affected tone of intrigue in Skelton's piece is grating but it's also beside the point. Most of the hated "mainstream media" treat the people he singles out as they should be treated, as the mouthpiece of a sprawling, dysfunctional coalition of strange bedfellows among which the Muslim Brotherhood are probably far more powerful that these would-be American plants.

I did a search for Bassma Kodmani mentions on the Guardian, and got seven hits for this year. But four of those were pieces by Skelton, and another was a wire agency piece on the infighting inside the SNC.

To appreciate how specious Skelton's approach is, all you have to do is apply it to other situations. In Kosovo, a lot of fighters in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) were complete rogues, including smugglers and car thieves. But that did not and does not change the fact Serb forces executed thousands of civilians there. To have focused exclusively on the KLA's shortcomings would have somewhat missed the point.

Likewise in Bosnia, there were also a lot of crooks in the Bosnian army, and the likes of the Reaganite Jeane Kirkpatrick and Margeret Thatcher advocated tough action on the Bosnian Serbs, as did lots of other people who turned out to be unsavoury or nutcases but to have obsessed about their politics would have meant you would have missed the genocide.

If you are of a conspiratorial turn of mind you could do a bit of research on me after reading this article and find that I spent more than eight years in Washington (aha!) and about 18 months in Jerusalem (the Mossad connection) and you may well find pictures of me with Ratko Mladic, and Radovan Karadzic, where I maintain I was conducting interviews but which could have had a much more underhand connection.
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