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Concerns about balanced reporting on Syria

Lack of balanced reporting around civilian chemical weapon casualties in Syria

By Andrew Hubbard

Like a poorly-made rerun of the collective insanity that led to the destruction of Iraq in 2003, media and pundits alike are broadcasting their gullibility and ignorance.

There is yet to be publicly provided one single verifiable shred of evidence that Assad was behind the chemical weapons deaths in Syria. A Syrian aerial bombardment of an acknowledged militant position was followed by civilians apparently dying of chemical exposure. (I say apparently because many facts are disputed by various, though I personally believe that chemical weapons deaths did occur). That is the sum total of what we know.

The causality has not been investigated, much less established. That hasn't stopped the kangaroo clamour and the armchair punditry, most commonly in support of 'doing something' even if that something is unlawful, unjust and counter-productive.

The Russian statement – that a conventional attack by Syrian jets appears to have struck a militant chemical weapon storage depot – is vastly more plausible than the official narrative, yet not entertained in Western circles, let alone investigated.

An alternative theory – that the chemicals were deployed as a 'false flag' attack by the militants – is at least as plausible as the official story that sparked the attack.

Veteran journalist Robert Parry has covered the theories, facts, and the scepticism of professional US intelligence analysts here.

Equally credentialled reported Seymor Hersh has reported here on the previous alleged chemical weapon attack by Assad in 2013, detailing how the CIA have indeed been running chemical weapon precursors to the militants.

Assad supposedly verifiably gave up his chemical weapon stockpile in a deal with Russia and the West after the 2013 attack. Yet somehow he's acquired more, and chooses to use them to his own massive disadvantage? The idea is ludicrous. Given the Syrian airbase that allegedly launched the CW strikes has just been flattened by the US airstrike, couldn't they just propose testing for evidence of CW traces at that airbase? That's rather conspicuously not been proposed by the US. However Jerry Smith, head of the UNCW group which were charged with destroying Syria's chemical weapons after the 2013 agreement has called for just such an investigation (as has Russia).

This is not about Trump. There is little doubt remaining that Trump is indeed a dangerous idiot. But Hillary took to the podium before Friday's strikes, in full support, lending her weight and momentum: egging them on. For the first time in living memory, it is the supposed 'deplorables' who are railing against the war-mongering, and against the betrayal by Trump of his campaign promises to de-escalate Middle East conflict, and a large chunk of 'progressives' either actively cheering on the carnage, or remaining passively silent.

Before leaving office last year, Obama sold Saudi Arabia – home of nihilistic Islamic Wahhabism, home of the 9/11 attackers, chief funder of ISIS and destroyer of Yemen – a record USD $115 billion of US weapons. The same Drone King who spoke of “believing in the exceptionalism of the US with every fibre of his being” and institutionalised the policy and practice of drone assassination while the Western enablers - including New Zealand - stood by in passive silence. Bush, Obama, Trump, Hillary.. a lineage of ever-increasing idiocy and distain for any constraints or limitations from the international community on their ability to surveil and to destroy.

It is now crystal clear that the single largest threat to global peace is the United States of America – our supposed ally. If we are allied and say nothing, then we are actively complicit as a nation. Both parties in the US speak with virtually one voice – more war, more killing.

Despite Bill English's supposed Catholic values, he remains silent. Apparently, re-election is a higher purpose and priority than the needs of standing against global insanity. At least Helen Clark spoke (and prophetically) against the rising 'law of the jungle' represented by the Iraq invasion in 2003. English's murmerings are marginally better than the enthusiastic warmongering across the Tasman, but utterly insufficient.

The situation is far more dire than we generally ever hear spoken openly. Trump is so thin-skinned and manipulable, that it's impossible to imagine him de-escalating in a genuine confrontation with Russia. And yet Russia has warned again and again that it will never accept passive subservience to the US and its poodle-like affiliates.

NATO is placing so-called defensive missiles - capable of changing the global balance of power – on Russia's borders, and has massed tanks and artillery there also, on the pretext of countering Russian 'expansionism'. But this is, and was always, a lie as the erudite Russian Foreign Minister Servgei Lavrov outlines (amongst other things) here:

Despite the near-constant demonising of Putin, Russia has shown incredible discipline and self-restraint in the face of the West's lies and provocations. But that self-restraint will not last forever, and if Russia ever becomes convinced that a Western attack is inevitable – if the West insists on backing them into a corner – then another world war, with a nuclear-armed opponent is entirely probable.

A war is not inevitable. But it may well become so, and the first and most important defence is for journalists and individuals to actively give up their lazy preconceptions and start asking for hard evidence. The cartoon in today's Dominion Post was indistinguishable in it's bigotry and hatred from those published in Germany circa 1939. It portrayed Assad and Putin as charicature monsters, and yet it never paused for a single moment to consider whether it was based on facts, or merely on the stench of propaganda, which always portrays the other side as somehow sub-human.

I'm sick to the back teeth of this. If Assad is guilty, then hard evidence should be simple enough to obtain. If not, then it seems a round of apologies and a good deep breath is long overdue. Either way, the march to world war needs to be halted immediately. I want:

1. New Zealand to ressurect and support the joint Russian and Chinese proposal for a full impartial investigation into the use of chemical weapons in Syria, by a credible investigation team

2. New Zealand to have the guts to support censure of the US at both UN and political levels for wilfully ignoring international conventions in launching an attack on a sovereign country without UN support, and on the flimsiest of pretexts

3. Promotion of articles and information such as this one to awareness amongst the NZ population, and to counterbalance a virtual blackout on news reflecting anything other than a US/Western/Israeli position by the mainstream media

Friends tell friends when they cross over from being self-absorbed, hypocritical narcissists into a major threat to global peace and stability, and the time is long past for NZ to be having that conversation with the US, regardless of the cost in trade and prestige.


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