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Monday, 16 April 2018

Syria - in war the first casualty is the truth


The lies of Theresa May - Yemen, Iraq and Palestine


The bodies of dead Iranian solidiers - killed in an Iraqi gas attack - the chemical weapons in this case were supplied by the West
Robert Fisk


As always truth is the first casualty of war.  Theresa May’s statement that it is in Britain’s national interest to prevent the use of chemical weapons and that is why we took part in the bombing of Syria beggars belief. 

Was this the same national interest that led to the turning of a blind eye to Iraq’s use of chemical weapons in the war against Iran?  Or the use by Britain and America of depleted Uranium shells in the first Gulf War and in Iraq in 2003?  Or the use by Israel of White Phosphorous in the attack on Gaza in Operation Cast Lead in 2008-9?

Theresa May’s concern for the children of Douma is of course in sharp contrast to her silence over the children of Yemen, thousands of whom have died in the Saudi attacks on that country.  But given that May’s government is busy selling the Saudis the weapons to murder civilians in Yemen it is no surprise that she has kept silent on such matters.
Bodies of victims of alleged gas attack in Douma last week
 By what logic does the British government extend its sympathy to those killed in Syria whilst supplying the weaponry to kill far more children in Yemen?  The use of chemical weapons by any state or group is to be condemned without reservation, but so is the deliberate bombing of civilian targets. 

The use of chemical weapons by Assad, even if it proves to be true and that is by no means certain, is a pretext for the bombing.  The United States, Britain and France are unhappy at the victory of Russia and Assad in the Syrian civil war.  This bombing is a means of expressing their displeasure and signalling that they are not yet finished interfering in Syria.  Macron has stated that he has persuaded Trump not to withdraw US forces from Syria.  That is the real purpose of the bombing.

We shall see who are the treacherous creatures in Labour’s Parliamentary Labour Party prepared to back May over this.  The names of   these MPs should form a list of the highest priority of MPs for constituency activists to deselect.

Below is an excellent article by Robert Fisk in Thursday’s Independent.  A pity that the once-liberal Guardian isn’t capable of the same.

I have also included an article, also by Robert Fisk nearly 6 years ago on Syria and chemical weapons.  Not much has changed in that time except that Assad is now nearer to winning the civil war.

Tony Greenstein
Result of Saudi airstrike in Yemen where 60% of civilian casualties caused by Saudi bombing

 As Theresa May gears up for war in Syria, we should remember what hypocrites we are about chemical warfare in the Middle East

·         Robert Fisk 
·         @indyvoices 
·         Thursday 12 April 2018 09:15 BST

Oh, the hypocrisy of it. The ignoble aims. The distraction. The outrageous lies and excuses.

I’m not talking about America’s tweet-from-the-hip president and his desire to escape from the cops’ raid on his lawyer’s office – there’s a Russian connection, all right.

And I’m not talking about his latest sleaze. Life with Melania might not be great at the moment. More distracting to sit with the generals and ex-generals and talk tough about Russia and Syria.

I’m not talking about Theresa May, who wants to step out of the Brexit ditch with any distractions of her own: Salisbury attacks, Douma – even Trump. So Trump telephoned Macron, when the poor lady thought she’d won his hand. What is this nonsense?

Macron has now hitched his own wagon to the Saudis against Iranian “expansionism” – and no doubt arms sales to the Kingdom have something to do with it. But how sad that the desire of young French presidents to act like Napoleon (I can think of a few others) means that they devote themselves to joining in a war, rather than pleading against it.
Mad Dog Matthis - Trump's Defence Secretary
Now we have our spokespersons and ministers raging about the need to prevent the “normalisation” of chemical warfare, to prevent it becoming a part of ordinary warfare, a return to the terrible days of the First World War.

This does not mean any excuses for the Syrian government – though I suspect, having seen Russia’s Syrian involvement with my own eyes, that Putin might have been getting impatient about ending the war and wanted to eradicate those in the last tunnels of Douma rather than wait through more weeks of fighting. Remember the cruelty of Grozny.

But we all know the problems of proof when it comes to chemicals and gas. Like depleted uranium – which we used to use in our munitions – it doesn’t, like a shell fragment or a bomb casing, leave a tell-tale hunk of metal with an address on it. 
When all this started with the first gas attack in Damascus, the Russians identified it as gas munitions manufactured in the Soviet Union – but sent to Libya, not to Syria.
But it’s a different war that I’m remembering today. It’s the Iran-Iraq war between 1980 and 1988, when Saddam Hussein invaded Iran. When the Iranians re-crossed their own border and stormed into Iraq years later, Saddam used gas on thousands of Iranian soldiers – and civilians, for there were nurses and doctors at the war front.
Halabja today a Kurdish city where 5,000 were murdered by Saddam Hussein and the West
Funny how we forget this now. We don’t talk about it. We have forgotten all about it. Talk about the “normalisation” of chemical warfare – this was it!

Aleppo before the Syrian Civil War

But in our desire to concentrate minds on Syria, we’re not mentioning the Iran gassings – Iran being another one of our present-day enemies, of course – and this may be because of our lack of official memory.

More likely it’s because of what happened: the institutionalisation of chemical warfare, the use of chemicals by Saddam who was then an ally of the West and of all the Gulf Sunni states, our frontline Sunni hero. The thousands of Iranian soldiers who were to die were referred to on Iraqi radio after they crossed the frontier. The “Persian insects” had crossed the border, it announced. And that’s how they were treated.
Houthi fighter after a Saudi air strike
For the precursors for the Iraqi gas came largely from the United States – one from New Jersey –  and US military personnel later visited the battlefront without making any comments about the chemicals which were sold to the Iraqi regime, of course, for “agricultural” purposes. That’s how to deal with insects, is it not?
Yet not a soul today is mentioning this terrible war, which was fought with our total acquiescence. It’s almost an “exclusive” to mention the conflict at all, so religiously have we forgotten it. That was the real “normalisation”, and we allowed it to happen. Religious indeed, for it was the first great battle of the Sunni-Shia war of our time. But it was real.

Of the thousands of Iranians who were asphyxiated, a few survivors were even sent to British hospitals for treatment. I travelled with others on a military train through the desert to Tehran, the railway compartments packed with unsmiling young men who coughed mucus and blood into white bandages as they read miniature Korans.
They had blisters on their skin and, horrifically, more blisters on top of the first blisters. I wrote a series of articles about this obscenity for The Times, which I then worked for. The Foreign Office later told my editors that my articles were “not helpful”.

No such discretion today. No fear of being out to get Saddam then – because in those days, of course, the good guys were using the chemicals. Don’t we remember the Kurds of Halabja who were gassed by Saddam, with gas which the CIA told its officers to claim was used by the Iranians?

For this war crime, Saddam should have been tried. He was indeed a “gas-killing animal”. But he was hanged for a smaller massacre with conventional weapons – because, I have always suspected, we didn’t want him exposing his gas warfare partners in an open court.

So there we are. May holds a “war cabinet”, for heaven’s sakes, as if our losses were mounting on the Somme in 1916, or Dorniers were flying out of occupied France to blitz London in 1940.

What is this childish prime minister doing? Older, wiser Conservatives will have spotted the juvenile quality of this nonsense, and want a debate in Parliament. How could May follow an American president who the world knows is crackers, insane, chronically unstable, but whose childish messages – about missiles that are “nice and new and ‘smart’” – are even taken seriously by many of my colleagues in the US? We should perhaps be even more worried about what happens if he does turn away from the Iran nuclear deal.

This is a very bad moment in Middle East history – and, as usual, it is the Palestinians who will suffer, their own tragedy utterly forgotten amid this madness. So we are going to “war”, are we? And how do we get out of this war once we have started it? Any plans, anyone? What if there’s a gigantic screw-up, which wars do tend to usually produce? What happens then?

Well, I guess Russia comes to the rescue, just as it did for Obama when gas was used for the first time in the Syrian war.

Robert Fisk: Syrian war of lies and hypocrisy

·         Robert Fisk @indyvoices Saturday 28 July 2012
The West's real target here is not Assad's brutal regime but his ally, Iran, and its chemical weapons
Has there ever been a Middle Eastern war of such hypocrisy? A war of such cowardice and such mean morality, of such false rhetoric and such public humiliation? I'm not talking about the physical victims of the Syrian tragedy. I'm referring to the utter lies and mendacity of our masters and our own public opinion – eastern as well as western – in response to the slaughter, a vicious pantomime more worthy of Swiftian satire than Tolstoy or Shakespeare.
While Qatar and Saudi Arabia arm and fund the rebels of Syria to overthrow Bashar al-Assad's Alawite/Shia-Baathist dictatorship, Washington mutters not a word of criticism against them. President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, say they want a democracy in Syria. But Qatar is an autocracy and Saudi Arabia is among the most pernicious of caliphate-kingly-dictatorships in the Arab world. Rulers of both states inherit power from their families – just as Bashar has done – and Saudi Arabia is an ally of the Salafist-Wahabi rebels in Syria, just as it was the most fervent supporter of the medieval Taliban during Afghanistan's dark ages.
Indeed, 15 of the 19 hijacker-mass murderers of 11 September, 2001, came from Saudi Arabia – after which, of course, we bombed Afghanistan. The Saudis are repressing their own Shia minority just as they now wish to destroy the Alawite-Shia minority of Syria. And we believe Saudi Arabia wants to set up a democracy in Syria?
Then we have the Shia Hezbollah party/militia in Lebanon, right hand of Shia Iran and supporter of Bashar al-Assad's regime. For 30 years, Hezbollah has defended the oppressed Shias of southern Lebanon against Israeli aggression. They have presented themselves as the defenders of Palestinian rights in the West Bank and Gaza. But faced with the slow collapse of their ruthless ally in Syria, they have lost their tongue. Not a word have they uttered – nor their princely Sayed Hassan Nasrallah – about the rape and mass murder of Syrian civilians by Bashar's soldiers and "Shabiha" militia.
Then we have the heroes of America – La Clinton, the Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, and Obama himself. Clinton issues a "stern warning" to Assad. Panetta – the same man who repeated to the last US forces in Iraq that old lie about Saddam's connection to 9/11 – announces that things are "spiralling out of control" in Syria. They have been doing that for at least six months. Has he just realised? And then Obama told us last week that "given the regime's stockpile of chemical weapons, we will continue to make it clear to Assad … that the world is watching". Now, was it not a County Cork newspaper called the Skibbereen Eagle, fearful of Russia's designs on China, which declared that it was "keeping an eye … on the Tsar of Russia"? Now it is Obama's turn to emphasise how little clout he has in the mighty conflicts of the world. How Bashar must be shaking in his boots.
But what US administration would really want to see Bashar's atrocious archives of torture opened to our gaze? Why, only a few years ago, the Bush administration was sending Muslims to Damascus for Bashar's torturers to tear their fingernails out for information, imprisoned at the US government's request in the very hell-hole which Syrian rebels blew to bits last week. Western embassies dutifully supplied the prisoners' tormentors with questions for the victims. Bashar, you see, was our baby.
Then there's that neighbouring country which owes us so much gratitude: Iraq. Last week, it suffered in one day 29 bombing attacks in 19 cities, killing 111 civilian and wounding another 235. The same day, Syria's bloodbath consumed about the same number of innocents. But Iraq was "down the page" from Syria, buried "below the fold", as we journalists say; because, of course, we gave freedom to Iraq, Jeffersonian democracy, etc, etc, didn't we? So this slaughter to the east of Syria didn't have quite the same impact, did it? Nothing we did in 2003 led to Iraq's suffering today. Right?
And talking of journalism, who in BBC World News decided that even the preparations for the Olympics should take precedence all last week over Syrian outrages? British newspapers and the BBC in Britain will naturally lead with the Olympics as a local story. But in a lamentable decision, the BBC – broadcasting "world" news to the world – also decided that the passage of the Olympic flame was more important than dying Syrian children, even when it has its own courageous reporter sending his despatches directly from Aleppo.
Then, of course, there's us, our dear liberal selves who are so quick to fill the streets of London in protest at the Israeli slaughter of Palestinians. Rightly so, of course. When our political leaders are happy to condemn Arabs for their savagery but too timid to utter a word of the mildest criticism when the Israeli army commits crimes against humanity – or watches its allies do it in Lebanon – ordinary people have to remind the world that they are not as timid as the politicians. But when the scorecard of death in Syria reaches 15,000 or 19,000 – perhaps 14 times as many fatalities as in Israel's savage 2008-2009 onslaught on Gaza – scarcely a single protester, save for Syrian expatriates abroad, walks the streets to condemn these crimes against humanity. Israel's crimes have not been on this scale since 1948. Rightly or wrongly, the message that goes out is simple: we demand justice and the right to life for Arabs if they are butchered by the West and its Israeli allies; but not when they are being butchered by their fellow Arabs.
And all the while, we forget the "big" truth. That this is an attempt to crush the Syrian dictatorship not because of our love for Syrians or our hatred of our former friend Bashar al-Assad, or because of our outrage at Russia, whose place in the pantheon of hypocrites is clear when we watch its reaction to all the little Stalingrads across Syria. No, this is all about Iran and our desire to crush the Islamic Republic and its infernal nuclear plans – if they exist – and has nothing to do with human rights or the right to life or the death of Syrian babies. Quelle horreur!

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