Long before the current fighting, western governments and Israel expressed a strong interest in overthrowing the government of Bashar Assad. In fact, their desire to be rid of Assad dates to at least the start of the “war on terror” they launched after 9/11, as I documented in my book Israel and the Clash of Civilisations.
Are the White Helmets heroes or villains? The mainstream narrative has them as a neutral, unarmed, grassroots (and Oscar-winning) humanitarian group with no political affiliations, nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Independent journalists, notably Vanessa Beeley, Eva Karene Bartlett, Patrick Henningsen, and Khaled Iskef, among a few others, suggest a radically different picture, in which the White Helmets are nothing more than a propaganda front for terrorist groups like the Al Nusra Front.
It is time for George Monbiot’s legion of supporters to call him out. Not only is he a hypocrite, but he is becoming an increasingly dangerous one.
The Guardian recently published an article claiming that critical discussion of the White Helmets in Syria has been ‘propagated online by a network of anti-imperialist activists, conspiracy theorists and trolls with the support of the Russian government’. Many readers were dismayed at this crude defence of a – presumably – pro-imperialist perspective, and at the unwarranted smearing of reasoned questioning based on evidence from independent journalists.
One of the wonders of contemporary propaganda is the extent to which corporate commentators are in denial about their use of the term ‘genocide denial’. Clearly, they believe they are using a neutral, objective term to describe indisputable facts of genocidal killing and ugly refusals to recognise those facts.
In what has become an ugly habit with Monbiot, and one I have noted before, he has enthusiastically adopted the role of Witchfinder General. Any questioning of evidence, scepticism or simply signs of open-mindedness are enough apparently to justify accusations that one is an Assadist or conspiracy theorist.
I’m worried about George. An admirer of many years standing of his excellent columns charting what John Smith’s even more excellent Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century refers to as “capitalism’s destruction of nature”, I’m dismayed both by his stance on Syria and manner of defending it. His latest Guardian piece, yesterday – A lesson from Syria: it’s crucial not to fuel far-right conspiracy […]
Our point is that if journalists like Monbiot are serious about establishing the truth, they will test the French government and other claims against the arguments and evidence offered by dissidents. They will consider the different claims, and come to some kind of informed conclusion. What is not acceptable is that journalists should simply accept as Truth arguments made by Western governments openly seeking regime change in Syria and that have a spectacular track record of lying about claims supposedly justifying war.
It is remarkable that, even after the deceptions of Iraq and Libya, journalists are so unwilling to report credible evidence challenging the US government’s version of events. This is made even more shocking by the fact that Trump has not, of course, been treated with the respect and deference usually reserved for US presidents. Rather, he has been subjected to a barrage of relentless and damning criticism. And yet, in response to his illegal bombing of a foreign country, the press has not only dropped its usual criticism, but showered Trump with praise while suppressing reasoned criticism. Yet more evidence that corporate journalism is dangerously corrupted by political and economic forces demanding Perpetual War.
Monbiot, a journalist for whom I have much respect, couldn’t bring himself to say a word in public after news of how my contract was unilaterally terminated by The Guardian for writing on my environment blog about the role of Gaza’s gas in motivating Israel’s military offensives.
But an attack on my critique of Iraq Body Count was enough to break the silence.
Most telling is that Monbiot does not even suggest that this area of corporate power needs fixing, let alone propose ways it might be done. That, ultimately, is because he is an employee of a corporation, one that sets implicit limits on what he can write about in relation to an area that is his stated expertise.