NON-FICTION
Syria Part 1: Connecting the Dots
M.G. Poe

In nature, good and evil do not exist. All actions and events in the organic world follow elemental law, which is to survive despite chaos. Good and evil are constructs of the human experience and relative to situations within that experience. They are value judgments regarding how we perceive situations to be; we make them either of benefit or detriment to our individual interests, ethical and moral frames. The natural universe is morally neutral.

Within the human construct, the idea of good and evil is sometimes personified through the archetypes of the villain and hero, an “us versus them” mentality. History is full of good guys and guys, individuals, regimes, political systems we condemn or exalt depending on point-of-view. Ayn Rand said it well: “All that which is proper to the life of a rational being is the good; all that which destroys it, is the evil.” 

On April 6, 2017, western media reported a chemical weapons attack, believed to be sarin gas, on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib Province, Syria, killing over 70 men, women and children. This attack, first broadcast worldwide by Al Jazeera (JSC), the Doha-base state-funded news outlet owned by the ruling family of Qatar, showed graphic scenes of civilians writhing in agony, struggling to breathe while the now famous first responder organization The White Helmets hosed down victims and performed medical assistance. It is speculated that watching this worldwide broadcast prompted President Donald Trump, to make an abrupt turn about to his previous hands-off Syria policy and launch, without Congressional approval, a strike of 59 cruise missiles on the Syrian controlled Shayrat airfield a few days later, making it the first direct assault from the United States on President Bashar al Assad’s government in the history of the six-year-old civil war conflict that began during the Arab Spring of 2011. 

Trump was quick to vilify Assad saying, “[he] choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. No child of God should ever suffer such horror,” declaring the Syrian refugee crisis continuing to deepen, threatening the security of the U.S. and its allies.

Before official United Nations investigations could be conducted, Federica Mogherini, the Italian High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs, also condemned the Syrian government stating that the “Assad regime bears responsibility for the “awful Syria chemical attack.”

Israeli President, Benjamin Netanyahu, joined in the condemnation tweeting “There's no, none, no excuse whatsoever for the deliberate attacks on civilians and on children, especially with cruel and outlawed chemical weapons. I call on the international community to fulfill its obligation from 2013.” Great Britain, France, and many other European states, as well as Israel and West-allied Arab countries including Yemen, Qatar, Turkey and Saudi-Arabia, quickly joined to publically condemn Assad. 

It is apparent that on the Western political stage, and with the help of mainstream media serving to exalt his vilification, Bashar al Assad has become one of the current international villains of choice. He, along with Kim Jong Un of South Korea and the Supreme Leader of Iran, complete what David Frum, former white House Speechwriter for George W. Bush coined “the axis of evil.” It is an easy moniker to accept, for the historical list of Syrian transgressions on the world’s political stage over the last 40 years, especially under Bashar’s father Haffez al Assad, have been long and culpable, including the stockpiling of chemical weapons during the 1980s.

At a recent press conference, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, “Assad’s role in the future is uncertain and with the acts that he has taken, it will seem that there would be no role for him to govern the Syrian people.” According to Tillerson the process to topple Assad from power could take some time and would require an “international community effort” involving first defeating the Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria, ending the civil war, and stabilizing Syria as a country to work collectively with U.S. partners through a political transition. “Those steps,” Tillerson said, “are underway.”

Bashar al Assad, second son of Haffez, succeeded his father as President of Syria in July, 2000 in an uncontested election. The world had high expectations that this Western educated ophthalmologist with a British born and educated wife of Sunni Syrian parents would not just modernize Syria, but loosen the vise of severe, sometimes brutal totalitarianism that had been his father’s rule, and even open Syria up to democracy. Not only did this not happened, but when protests against his government began in March of 2011, rather than tolerate it, Assad showed his mettle for autocracy by crushing the dissent, refusing to meet protesters' demands. 

American reporter Michael Isakoff, in an exchange with NPR, reporting on his exclusive February, 9, 2017 interview with President Assad for Yahoo News, surmised, “As he (Assad) sees it, he views all his opponents, his enemies, as terrorists, and therefore every step they take in this extremely bloody war is about fighting terrorism and, as he views it, saving his country.” 

In an Agency-France-Presse (AFPTV) interview conducted in April 2017, just days after the Idlib attack, President Assad stated that the alleged attack blamed on his government was a “100 percent fabrication,” further asserting the attack was a staged manipulation by terrorist groups, most probably al Qaeda who was in control of the region when the attack occurred. “It’s not clear whether it happened or not,” Assad said, “Because how can you verify a video? We don’t have an arsenal [of chemical weapons], and even if we did, why would we use it against our own civilians instead of the terrorists we are fighting?” 

Assad further stated that militarily, it wouldn’t have been a strategic area to attack, however he wouldn’t have authorized it even if it were, because “morally, it is not acceptable.” 

Assad insists that the “white helmeted” rescuers, (known as the White Helmets, a NATO funded first response group, also known as the Syrian Civil Defense, so called because they wear white helmets like the kind construction workers do) and medical personnel seen in the video helping victims of the attack were not themselves wearing sufficient protective gear, pointing out that in a real chemical attack of such magnitude merely wearing a mask would not be enough to prevent contamination. If it were a real attack, he said, how did doctors tending to victims with maybe only minutes left to live find time to “tweet out” about it, rather than tending to the urgent life-saving of their patients? “Every indication,” Assad finishes, “is against the whole story. This play that they staged doesn’t hold together. The story is not convincing.” 

The Idlib attack was not the first attack using chemical warfare in the history of this war, which reports estimate has killed approximately 17,000 civilians, (accurate counts are impossible) displaced 4 million, and destroyed 362 billion dollars in infrastructure. In August 2013, attacks took place in areas of Damascus. Those attacks were blamed on the Assad regime and condemned by the Obama Administration. President Assad denied responsibility, asking the United Nations Security Council to send a delegation to investigate them.

In an interview with CBS’s Charlie Rose, Assad again denied his regime used chemical weapons or barrel bombs against his own people. “This is part of the malicious propaganda against Syria. First of all, [regarding] chlorine gas is not military gas. You can buy it anywhere,” suggesting if anyone had used it, it was the rebels. “We cannot sustain four years in position as a government, and me as president, while the rest of the world, most of the world, the great powers, the regional powers, are against me and my people are against me. This is not realistic and this is against our interests as a government to kill the people. What do we get? What is the benefit of killing the people?” 

Canadian independent journalist and Middle East activist Eva Bartlett says mainstream media, backed by NATO and the corporate press are lying to the public. Ms. Bartlett who has journeyed to Syria and Aleppo seven times since the civil war began to speak to the Syrian people directly. Her statements at a press conference to the United Nations corroborate President Bashar al-Assad’s claims, adding that the Syrian people overwhelmingly support their President. 

Norwegian journalist Christopher Rothenberg at the UN press conference, challenged Ms. Bartlett claims: “Why should the international organizations on the ground lie? Why shouldn’t we believe all these absolutely documentable facts that we see from the ground? These hospitals being bombed. These civilians that are talking about the atrocities that they have been experiencing? How can you justify calling all of us liars?”

Bartlett answered: 

“Let’s start with your second question. International organizations on the ground…which ones are on the ground in Eastern Aleppo? I’ll tell you, there are none. These organizations are relying on the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in Coventry UK which is one man. They’re relying on compromised groups like the White Helmets… founded in 2013 by a British ex-military officer. They have been funded to the tune of $100 million by the U.S., U.K. Europe and other states. They purport to be rescuing civilians in Eastern Aleppo and Idlib, yet no one in Eastern Aleppo has heard of them. The White Helmets purport to be neutral yet they can be found carrying guns and standing in the dead bodies of Syrian soldiers and their video footage actually contains children that have been recycled in different reports. “How can the New York Times…[or] Democracy Now…maintain that this is a civil war? How can they maintain that the protests were unarmed and non-violent until say 2012? That is absolutely not true. How can they maintain that the Syrian government is attacking civilians in Aleppo, when every person that’s coming out of these areas occupied by terrorists is saying the opposite?”

Swedish NGO Doctors for Human Rights (SWEDHR) also have come out accusing the White Helmets of falsifying information about its “humanitarian work” in Syria, and Minnesota-based The Mint Press, cites a report by British journalist Vanessa Beeley defining the White Helmets, a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) as an invention of foreign interest groups hoping to destabilize the Syrian government by creating propaganda that supports military intervention by the U.S. and its allies. According to Beeley’s report, the group focuses its efforts only on areas held by the Islamic State of Syria, (ISIS) and Jabhat al-Nusra, Syria’s al-Qaida affiliate. The White Helmets, she says, ignore atrocities carried out by these terrorist groups, which are supported by Western aid (including the United States), while creating emotionally rendering images of victims of Assad’s supposed bombings in rebel-held areas. The White Helmets are funded in part by three major NATO governments, the United States  ($23 million), the United Kingdom ($29 million) and the Netherlands ($4.5 million), in addition to receiving material assistance and training from other EU Nations allied against the Syrian government.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a United Kingdom based Operation who is frequently quoted by major Western news medias, like Voice of America, Reuters, BBC, CNN and NPR is an on-line organization run by only one man, Rami Abdulrahman a Syrian Sunni Muslim who owns a clothes shop, and is an openly declared pro-opposition/anti-Assad Syrian activist who fled to the United Kingdom after being imprisoned three times in Syria, fearing a fourth. 

In the West we are told that Syria is the biggest humanitarian crisis of our times. We have witnessed television images of innocent men, women, and children suffering from the devastation within their own country, blown up by barrel bombs, suffocated by chemical weapons, surviving as refugees if they make it into neighboring countries. We have been told the war is a sectarian one, not a political one and that the man behind it all, Bashar al Assad, is a cruel and evil dictator responsible for perpetrating the most heinous war crimes upon his own people, and that he should be deposed in order for freedom, democracy and social justice to prevail in a free Syria. 

As short as six months ago, under the Obama administration, questioning the actions, and motives of our government would not have been issue, but in this time of fake and manufactured news, alternative facts, and a national government that cannot keep its skeletons crammed into the closet, and when the President of the United States and his administration get caught weekly in misrepresentation of facts, it is hard to know what, or whom, to believe. 

A Swahili proverb says ‘When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.’ There is no doubt that the conflict in Syria is real and that the death of civilians and the devastation of the land under war is taking place. Bashar al Assad is not a man who will look the other way when his territory is threatened or his authority is questioned, and he has and will continue to wreak retribution upon his adversaries. Under the laws of the Syrian Sovereign State it is his right and obligation. However, the evidence for convicting Bashar al Assad of being the sole perpetrator of crimes against his own people of which he is accused by the West, is not conclusive. Syria has a tragically long and complicated history, with an innate labyrinth of political turbulence. Its strategic geographic location on the world map makes it a radial point of power for whoever controls it. The Syrian civil war has been called a sectarian war, but that is a red herring for bigger global issues at play between world powers, with the fate of the Syrian people caught in the confluence. 

What accountability for the causation of events will the West and its allies bear if the information the public has been handed as truths are uncovered to be something else entirely? Will it be spun and delivered to audiences worldwide in yet another framed narrative of good versus evil, ‘us versus them?’ 

“The real story,” says Eva Bartlett, “is that this is a premeditated NATO Alliance war on Syria.” 

The question to ask is: Why?