Wednesday, 18 September 2013

War exponents exploit non-findings of UN report

UN findings on the chemical weapons attack in Ghouta confirms what most already understood: that an atrocity, one of many in this tragic civil war, had actually taken place.

Yet, for all the UN's carefully-gathered evidence, two key things remain unidentified: those responsible for the attack and the actual number of people killed in it.

The issue of culpability was not, of course, part of the UN remit. Nor does the report tell us for sure how many died in this incident.

Yet these two key issues continue to be assumed and misrepresented by war politicians and most Western media.

On the fatality count, John Kerry claims that 1429 were killed in the August 21 attack. Yet, substantial doubts remain over the precise figure, including children.

This is not to say that such numbers of people did not die. It's simply to record that we've seen no actual proof of these claims from the UN or, as yet, from the US and its allies.

Nor, one must reasonably assume, are we likely to, particularly from the latter. For, surely, if the actual evidence was there, it would have been placed in the public domain by now.

And yet, war-supporting politicians and most major media continue to use such numbers without qualification.

The figure of over 100,000 deaths in the course of the conflict is, likewise, usually cited without either a source, or, crucially, clarification that it includes deaths caused by all sides in the civil war.

The total death figure is commonly attributed to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Yet, SOHR's own recent figures include 27,654 army soldiers and 17,824 pro-regime militia. That in itself is a substantial part of their declared count - intended to convey the impression of a strong military opposition.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, their calculation of civilians killed by opposition forces is not so forthcoming.

But whatever the breakdown of SOHR figures, why would the BBC and other political/media observers trust an organisation so obviously propagandising the opposition case?

As previously cited by Media LensAisling Byrne has cast key questions over SOHR's bona fides, and the easily-accepted ways in which the BBC and other leading media repeat its claims.

There's also, as ML show, a notable precedent here for the BBC in its selective use of Iraq Body Count.

The absence of hard evidence on actual fatalities corresponds with a lack of hard proof on who was definitively responsible for the attack.

Again, the UN seems to have 'prudently' avoided making proclamations over what it doesn't substantively know.

But, speaking at Real News, environmental scientist and human rights activist Rania Masri also asks us to consider why the UN inspectors were not also tasked with obtaining evidence on who committed the crime.

The resulting vacuum of definitive information has allowed the American French and British governments even more space to infer Assad's guilt, while, as Masri also notes, marginalising the very real means and motives of an international-backed opposition to handle, move and deploy chemical weapons.

Emerging Russian-Syrian claims of opposition guilt over the use of chemical weapons are also being treated with token disregard by the BBC.

But even these claims do not confirm or deny Assad's innocence. We still have no primary proof either way.      

Thus, critical analysts will search in vain for any actual evidence of Assad's guilt in Samantha Power's interpretation of the UN report.

Yet, this hasn't stopped Human Rights Watch director Peter Bouckaert, writing at the Guardian, from intimating guilt based on little more than hypothetical supposition:
Their [the UN's] mandate does not allow them to say who was responsible for the deadly barrage. But if you read between the lines, it isn't difficult to figure it out.
The various theories claiming to have "evidence" that opposition forces were responsible for the attack lack credibility. This was not an accidental explosion caused by opposition fighters who mishandled chemical weapons, as claimed by some commentators online. The attacks took place at two sites 16km (10 miles) apart, and involved incoming rockets, not on-the-ground explosions. This was not a chemical attack cooked up by opposition forces in some underground kitchen. It was a sophisticated attack involving military-grade sarin.
Perhaps. But, again, where is the defining evidence disproving all this, or proving otherwise? And, as with its interventionist promotions over Libya, doesn't HRW's supportive assumptions over Syria again indicate its useful service to Power?

Meanwhile, beyond the chemical weapons attack, and key others still to be verified, a greater overall calamity goes on, involving both sides in the civil war.

As the UN statement specifically states:
We should not lose sight of the broader perspective of the Syrian crisis. The terrible loss of life on 21 August was the result of one of many attacks that have collectively killed more than 100,000 people in Syria during the past two and a half years.

The UN Commission of Inquiry has reported that Government and pro-government forces have committed murder, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, rape and torture against civilians. It has also reported that anti-government armed groups have committed murder, executions, torture and hostage-taking. There has been indiscriminate shelling of civilian neighbourhoods by all sides. Yet arms continue to flow to the country and the region.
Beyond the CW issue, the ongoing militarisation of the conflict, as overseen by the West and its Gulf allies, is the much bigger problem requiring political and media attention.

Yet beneath the diplomacy-speak on removing chemical weapons and wider 'peace-seeking' overtures, a much more pernicious policy prevails for the US, Israeli and Saudi nexus: to keep Syria in a state of war, instability and mutual depletion. As noted by Rania Masri:
You know, I don't believe that the U.S. government ever really cared about chemical weapons attacks in Syria. It was simply used as a means for a larger goal, and that larger goal has been to shift the imbalance on the ground in Syria, to prolong the civil war as long as possible, until it reaches a stage where the country has completely been destroyed, and then to be able to replace the regime with a more clientelist regime than we currently have.
Unsurprisingly, liberal interventionist groups like HRW and Avaaz seem much less interested in helping to uncover the truth behind that toxic agenda.


wargabebas said...

No, the real agenda is the assassination of Assad. With Assad's absence there shall be perpetual anarchy and that is what Israel want. The Israeli hand is all over this. Appalling how a statesman like Senator Kerry could stoop so low. Even more so for President Obama. He makes a mockery of the Nobel peace prize.

John Hilley said...

Regarding Israel's involvement and calculations over Syria, a useful analysis here from Jonathan Cook: