It’s Time To Raise the Level of Public Debate about Syria

These past six months I have been getting to know the inter-media. They’re not formally part of mainstream, and they’re not very social, so I call them inter-media. They are like the maintenance team for the mainstream. To explain this, I’ll first say how I came to meet them.

The context of these encounters is writing posts on Syria. Doing so, I rely entirely on what others say. But the fact that we hear directly contradictory narratives provides a rare opportunity to test whose tale is the truer. Lies, whatever some bluffers and braggers may think, are infinitely harder to sustain, over time, than is the truth.[1]

The impulse to write about Syria originated at a very specific moment, even if my curiosity had been piqued earlier by the Netflix White Helmets: Where are the fighters that are holding off the combined military might of Syria and Russia? How come they don’t mind you filming here? The moment, though, was when Eva Bartlett responded to a mainstream media critic’s question: “Sources on the ground? You don’t have them.” And when Eva pointed out that the White Helmets were embedded with the fighters, this simply made more sense than Netflix had. But then I learned “That woman has been debunked.” (Note the way she is spoken about.) So who by? Well, Snopes for one. Fine, but seriously? I was informed that the mainstream view was verified by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Here, now, was a reputable organisation that actually had doctors there on the ground risking their lives to save others under very dangerous conditions. Except, as it turned out, they did not, and so I came to write my first blog on Syria.

(MSF had the good grace to accept that I’d identified a problem, and invited me to their annual research conference this year to discuss the issues involved in relying on secondhand testimony.)

Channel 4’s alleged debunking of Eva prompted a subsequent blog. That involved studying their output, which was revealed to include much more than some unreliable witness statements. If MSF’s misleading testimony might be attributable to an insufficiently accountable communications operation, Channel 4 appeared to be engaged in a systematic programme of disinformation. There seemed to be a conscious commitment to presenting part of the same alternative reality that White Helmets and Bana feature in. It all appears to be produced by the Aleppo Media Center, which is actually in Turkey, but Channel 4 got some bespoke pieces, like the ‘Inside Aleppo’ series, and not just syndicated stuff. Hence we find Channel 4’s Aleppo films winning awards, like Netflix did with the White Helmets.

(Hence the channel will not publicly address what some there privately acknowledge are valid questions. And when you think about the investment involved you can understand their reluctance.)

Reflect on what must be involved here, and you start to realise that such a coordinated effort must have a deep and extensive organisational basis that goes way beyond the specific organisations that retail the information. Consider the preparation, work, time, and resources, material and human, that go into producing even a single scene in a movie, and then, after a whole feature has been shot, the audience still knows it is just a movie, not real. How much more preparation and resource must go into not merely producing a movie but actually persuading the entire public that reality is like the movie.

Nor is the effort to build that wall of disinformation the end of the challenge. It will require constant maintenance, for any big structure is liable to stresses, and cracks will appear. Here is where you need people ready with some filler. This is where we meet the inter-media. More fleet-footed, less constrained, than straight up media channels, but more disciplined and very much less social than social media, they are something in between.  Their function with respect to the dominant narrative seems to be akin to that of those hi-tech bacteria that mould themselves into ongoing repairs in cracked concrete: the inter-media are there to plug up the cracks where shafts of truth show through.

This week afforded some opportunities to encounter the inter-media at work. Early in the week, a great article by Piers Robinson was published in openDemocracy urging a more serious look at propaganda and its contribution to the regime change agenda that is destroying Syria. Getting published in this prominent outlet was something of an achievement, for reasons I’ll let one of the first responders illustrate:

“By amplifying this conspiracist drivel, you are polluting the public sphere. @OpenSociety & @boell_stiftung should reconsider their support”

That tweet has since been deleted, perhaps because its author agreed with me that it cast a worrying light on his idea of how public debate should be conducted, and on whose terms. But it had made me curious as to why the Heinrich Böll Foundation should have a particular interest in the matter[2] I only knew them as a research organisation linked to the German Greens. (I’d spoken myself at their headquarters one time in Berlin.) But now I was about to turn over another stone! A cursory look on twitter quickly turns up that Foundation’s Middle East communications person tweeting about Tim Anderson, a longstanding critic in relation to The Dirty War on Syria, and lecturer at Sidney University:

“When will @sydney_uni finally end this producer of #FakeNews contract? Smearing of civilians, pretending #Assad doesn’t use gas.”

Wow! She attacks a man’s reputation, campaigns for him to lose his job, and challenges academic freedom, while also asserting an unproven claim as if it were truth, all within 140 characters. I can see how she got the job as communications head.

Moving on from this inter-media filler of German precision we will shortly come to meet one with American pizzazz. But first there is some backstory to fill in, starting with some words of clarification.

I hope it was clear, when I a moment ago implied a certain admiration for the skills of the propagandist just mentioned, that I am not approving of what she uses them for. I should have been clearer on this score when giving credit to Bellingcat in a post last week. In order to establish that my engagement with him would follow academic norms, I exaggerated the courtesies.[3] This caused some genuine consternation amongst readers, given the awareness many have of Bellingcat’s role in the propagation of the US-UK narrative. A few individuals were so outraged that they launched a forceful public criticism at me.[4] Since the last thing I want to do is mislead people I revised the blog, stripping out the confusing niceties, in order to bring attention back to its actual point. I had already apologised.

That incident taught me a few things. One is that writing in public, unlike in academia, means being aware of a potentially wide readership, with a variety of backgrounds and perspectives. So I should take more care to say only what I mean. Something else I learned, though, is what wonderful people there are who share the kinds of concern that I’m working through in these posts. Many people who I had already instinctively felt trust in revealed a depth of solidarity and integrity that is simply humbling. I really want to thank you all for your words of support. Thank you, also, for urging everyone to settle any differences like friends.

Like friends. That this expression comes so spontaneously to mind is my most important lesson.[5] There is actually a group of friends who are bound by a few simple ties: a desire that what we learn about the world is the truth; a conviction that whatever pressures of life may drive human beings into conflict with one another, we should do everything in our power to deal with them without being pushed into wars. Our power may not be great as individuals, but we all partake of a power that is ultimately indomitable. As embodied creatures of this real world we have evolved with a deep commitment to pursuing truth. If our ancestors could not discern the difference between a snake and a stick, we would not be here. If we were not able to make correct judgements about myriad things every moment of our waking life, aware of it or not, we would not survive long. We have an instinct for seeking true knowledge. We are predisposed towards it. To those who want to obscure it, we will seem like partisans for the truth.

With this in mind, I return to the American intervention on my twitter feed this week. The twitter storm provoked by my being too polite to Bellingcat had been watched with some amusement by Higgins himself and some of his friends. Here is one of them:

trouble-in-paradise-e1500653132802.jpg

I have anonymised this because, like the first tweet I quoted above, it comes from a person who works at a UK University. I highlight it not because I personally mind being grouped with the majority of people living in Syria who prefer their legitimate government to the murderous bands of foreign-backed sectarians attacking it. But it is intended as a smear, and for the sake of people who want to engage in constructive and serious debate, I shall stand up to this practice of the inter-media brigade of attacking any and every attempt at actual public debate about the truth in Syria (or, indeed, in many other places). If they want to behave like rude trolls, they’d best keep a respectful distance from academia when they do it. That is a message I would encourage them to embrace.

I don’t believe the public want to think their own or their children’s university education is entrusted to people who think it is appropriate public conduct to come out with productions like the follow up to that tweet. For in lieu of the requested apology from the waggish twitterer, there ensued a series of tweets including this flourish of creativity:

"Show Trial"

The inter-media brigade may think this is a bit of fun, a change from straight up abuse and intimidation (and from unreasoned dismissals such as we find with Padraig Reidy calling Piers Robinson’s piece in openDemocracy ‘disgraceful’ apparently because Piers has elsewhere defended Russia Today against irrational attacks). But I ask them, very seriously, what actually is there to be having fun about? Those who promote propaganda that has real consequences for real people should man up, and grow up, and own what they do.

Frankly, none of this should need saying, and I am not paid to be spending valuable time dealing with it. So to them I leave it at this: Meet us in an academic forum or on a public platform where norms of civil debate apply. You cannot have it both ways: you cannot go bruising it around the internet just making ad hominem slurs while also staking an implicit claim to academic backing.

As for friendly and open readers, especially beyond academia, I have this to say.  If in resisting propaganda you get called partisans, then let it be so. We are partisans for the truth. And resistance will work.  Perhaps the truth is ‘rarely pure and never simple’, but it is much less high-maintenance than the wall of misinformation that the inter-media team are perpetually trying to patch up, and it will out. Meanwhile, the resistance is growing.

And finally, just to illustrate the difference between the alternative reality and the world we live in, I leave you with a video released this week by the amazing journalist from Aleppo, Khaled Iskef. He shows us around the neighbourhood in Aleppo where the little Syrian girl called Bana actually lived, there alongside the HQs of the armed brigades whose men, alone, were able to make or send images from the place. You then get an idea of how the child used in the propaganda may have a true call on our human sympathies.

 

[1] I am willing to use the seemingly hyperbolic term ‘infinitely’ because the truth will be what it is forever, without any input from anyone, whereas a lie becomes increasingly high maintenance in the face of simple questioning. It is endlessly difficult to maintain the back story, and then the back story’s story, and so on, until the effort required to avoid self-contadiction simply becomes too much and the simple truth just comes out again, like a plant through cracked tarmac. That is why the propaganda campaign needs to be so vast and long term. It is a gargantuan feat that we only see the tip of. We see the movie, we don’t see the entire production process.

[2] A twitter contact, by way of answer, informed me that the ‘Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung was used by the CIA to influence culture in Europe. The financing was made via Ford Foundation’.  She sent me this video link (in German).  I have not investigated so I make no comment myself. A look at a longer sweep of tweets from the foundation’s spokesperson for Syria does reveal a pattern sufficiently familiar to anglophone inter-media agencies to warrant mentioning a possible concern here, but I emphasise the caveat that her twitter profile makes the disclaimer “Tweets my own”.

[3] In giving credit for his geolocation skills and responsiveness to my inquiries (which I’ve learned does not reflect everyone’s experience) I frankly laid it on too thick. It genuinely hadn’t occurred to me that anyone would think I misunderstood the nature of his operation, but that was my mistake. Notwithstanding my apologies, I can see my critics were justified in residual anger on the grounds that there would be readers at earlier stages of learning who could take it at face value. How much it then helped that those critics themselves proceeded to extract and broadcast precisely that misleading message, as if it really were my message to the world, I can only leave them to consider.

[4] I haven’t seen it myself, having opted out of interactions with its author and the initial instigator once it became evident they hadn’t accepted my apology. There have been replies on my behalf, and I also haven’t been reading these, but one was copied to me by a mutual friend on Facebook and I reproduce it below. One can tell from reading it that the debate had got heated, and such a forceful response needs to be seen in that context. Thank you, John Schoneboom, for your eloquent words:

Schoneboom on me on bellingcat

[5] The people I owe thanks to are far more than I shall even try to mention, but there is one person I do want to thank by name. Like Eva, she gets subjected to vast amounts of abuse for reporting a counter-narrative from Syria. Also like Eva, she is more than strong enough to take it. But frankly, she shouldn’t have to, certainly not from anyone associated with a UK university. Vanessa Beeley, I believe, has done more good for the prospects of ordinary people living in Syria than any of her trolls and detractors. If anybody in academia says I am wrong about this, I am ready to listen, but let them speak in terms that meet the standards of academic discussion.

 

Khaled & Bana

Amidst a cluster of (former) terrorist HQs.

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29 Responses to It’s Time To Raise the Level of Public Debate about Syria

  1. M Kavanagh says:

    bravo. appreciate your tenacity, and the way you refine and learn, as you go along, and also how your epistemology reaches out to fellow would be epistemologists “How do we begin to know?”. thank you, it’s a forum, its a network. Gauging, weighing, truth & truthfulness, becomes possible when the study is comparative, when we are allowed to -tonally- perceive intent [ e.g. with the smear tweets you describe..]. Clinging to the rock like one of those marvellous little shell fish that make tracks.

  2. kickingtoes says:

    Reblogged this on fighting stuff and commented:
    This is an excellent measured blogpost, it’s about time that Vanessa Beeley, Eva Bartlett and others were treated with respect and given an outlet which Professor Hayward is trying to do

  3. Willow Bell says:

    Its public opinion that resulted in the mess Syria is in. Of course Britain and its cohorts wanted the last Arab nationalist regime to fall but if the general public in the west had not egged on the so-called Arab spring through anti-social media outlets, the mass hysteria may not have spread.
    Its not that I dislike or disagree with the stuff you say its just that public debate can be incredibly damaging if it’s ill-informed.
    That said its amazing that so many people have stuck with Syria through all the lies and manipulation.
    From one who has tried in small ways since 2005, it was all so inevitable after Iraq. If the west is on a roll it seems little can stop it.
    At the end of it the old Syria is gone and now president al-Assad has little choice but to restructure the country’s economy and allow in western interests but he may have done this anyway, who knows. Now so many people who have remained in Syria through the upheaval are leaving because they cannot afford to live there any more even if they are quite middle class, live on the west side, where there’s relative peace and loyal to the regime. I’ve guaged this from the Syrian people I’ve met in Lebanon, more this year as its easier to travel there, it was a bit random before to say the least.

  4. “How much more preparation and resource must go into not merely producing a movie but actually persuading the entire public that reality is like the movie.”

    Unfortunately, this particular movie is aimed at a population carefully conditioned to suspend disbelief at all costs; in fact, it is aimed at a population which has been informed that to maintain an open mind is to sell out to Evil Assad and Evil² Putin.

  5. Patricia McCann says:

    Thank you for the integrity demonstrated throughout. Thank you too Khaled Iskef.

  6. Max Havelaar says:

    Indeed, great academic support for the most courageous, western, non-megacorporate, independent, journalist women Bartley and Beeley. The other eminent Syria reporters being John Pilger (Aus), prof. Tim Anderson (Aus), Us congress woman Tulsi Gabbard, en German PM Christoph Hörstel and many independent, locally living in Syria foreigners and clergymen.

    Since I like to describe matters in unambuiguous terms, I ‘ve email my parlement with this subjct line:
    The denial of the Syrian holocaust perpetrated by NATO-GCC-Israël.
    A summary:
    1. The Syrian holocaust is being perpetrated by Western trained, armed and
    commanded, mostly foreign(non-Syrian) Jihadi terrorists with the goal of regime
    change. Like Obama has stated: Assad must go.
    2. The Syrian Arab army is a Syrian people’s army and does not kill their own people,
    but does kill foreign terrorists and their commanders.
    3. a large majority of Syrian civilians support Assad and see the terrorists as the
    problem (=NATO/GCC/Israël agression). The Syrian 2014 election result proves this
    point.
    4. there exists no significant, popular uprising against Assad, no moderate rebels
    exist, only foreign, highly paid terrorists. 80% of the Syrians live in Assad’s army
    protected area’s. And all Syrians flee to government protected area’s, every time
    ISIS takes-over a town. Obama’s barrel bomb story is an outrageous lie! Just
    like Trump’s chemical waepon’s story is.
    5. the Syrian civilians out of newly-liberated East Aleppo overwhelmingly tell the same
    story: they have been deprived of food and medical aid, and been terrorized by the
    western-backed Jihadi’s,who possesssed arms and food stocks

    What the Western megacorporate-fascist media and Obama/Trump/Nato report, is a total
    lie and irrelevent. Anybody, who wants to know, only needs to ask the Syrian population.
    The satanic morality of the Western ruling class, the US billionaires, EU royals +
    billionaires and Israël’s elite have not changed the last 100 years. It only changed from
    direct colonialism to financial colonialism, controlled by the same Wallstreet/EU
    megacorporate dynasties.

    Already around 1850 Max Havelaar proclaimed: “Er ligt een roofstaat aan zee, tussen
    West-Friesland en de Schelde” (Holland is a robber-state).

    Time to change direction: stop militarism, do fair trade among all and human rights and
    liberties for all.

  7. Loverat says:

    A really good article.

    I recall a discussion I had with a friend recently which sort of sums up some of the mentality which prevails on social media. We were discussing how gay rights has evolved positively in the UK over the last 30 years and I expressed my hope that we would build further on this.

    However, we then started talking about Russia and I said that we should not really be dictating to other governments about rights for gays, I commented, as we have evolved positively in this area -, others will too. This met with a frosty response and I have noticed this attitude alot from ‘progressives’..

    Their whole view of Russia is formed by how that country treats gay people and therefore they cannot see beyond this to debate other issues, such as Syria sensibly. They revert to their prejudices, confirmation bias and shout others down rather than reaching a balanced viewpoint.

    What is amazing to me is watching whole sections of the mainstream – on one side those obsessed with regime change, domination and,Cold War mindset in alliance with so called progressive liberals pre-occupied with their selective human rights causes. There is nothing separating them and these people should keep off social media because they are doing as much damage to the Syrian people as their leaders – by destroying sensible informed discussion…

    In terms of Syria what you basically now have is both groups in league with groups and states which throw gays off buidings.have no rights for women, minorities and promote religious division and intolerance.

    A measured approach would be to support countries like Syria and Russia. They are not perfect but they are miles ahead in human rights terms than those we are funding and supplying arms.

    Anyone sensible can see our government/media have been helping Al Qeada, continue – meaning that, we are responsible for the refugees, the ideology, terrorist attacks and the prospect of a massive wider war.

    But it seems being part of any political or fashionable clique these days – left, right or ‘centre’ simply prevents people from seeing the obvious.

    • timhayward says:

      Thanks. The more you look into it the more you see the tragedy of people getting bought into ideas that end up harming them or the ones they care about. The irony of supporting opposition forces in Syria on gay rights gounds is beyond tragic.

  8. Bryan Neddin says:

    ‘a group of friends who are bound by a few simple ties: a desire that what we learn about the world is the truth; a conviction that whatever pressures of life may drive human beings into conflict with one another, we should do everything in our power to deal with them without being pushed into wars.’

    Assad-Putin-Iranian theocrats – Timmy Hayward, – ‘a group of friends’ , from Hell.

    • timhayward says:

      We’ve spoken before. I respect your right to express an opinion, but since you show no respect to me or people who actually read this blog with open minds, I will have to ask you to do so elsewhere. Insults are not reasoned debates. I’m not going to have the blog used as host for repeated abusive comments. You don’t like what I write. I understand. So please don’t read it, you gain nothing from it, clearly, and nobody gets any benefit from simple abuse. Goodbye.

    • Loverat says:

      From where I was sitting at the recent Frome media event the speakers were a group of friends who were only interested in the truth. Not interested in ideology, religion, politics, money, oil, arms – or conspiracy theories.

      I travelled a long a way to see a group of experts coming from different perspectives and to be honest I did not learn much new in terms of Syria. I had researched Syria before and knew a bit about propaganda, and how group think plays out. But the speakers brought all my beliefs into a better thought structure and vindicated all my views. Sometimes when you research these things on your own it is difficult to believe some of this stuff is true. And believe me it is difficult to believe the criminal duplicity over Syria – but then I started looking back to Libya, then Iraq and then Kosovo and Bosnia.. All a familiar pattern.

      All the above friends experts in their field. All sidelined by the government and MSM as the experts were over Iraq – and we saw what happened from then on,

      Research, think, research and think again and then get out and see these people speak. If you only read mainstream news you won’t get your head around this. Personally I think the facts here are sitting just beneath the surface. Not hard to dig out with a little effort and being open minded.

      I agree with the article – lets raise the level of this debate and get away from the tribalism and ignorance which is likely to end up in yet another World War if we don’t get smart.soon.

      • timhayward says:

        Thanks for your words. To be honest, I think I have learned more about the world these six months than in any other period before now. Glad you could make it to Frome!

      • Loverat says:

        Tim
        It was a great event. I was not one of the Frome Anti War Group. I’m not of any political party or pro or anti war. Each on a case by case basis. I had to go because of the impressive speakers – Vanessa Beeley and Peter Ford were known to me. But the different perpectives of all the experts worked so well.

        And I could tell that there was no vested interest, ideology, religion etc. For example I recall some questioners at the end tried to invite the speakers into commenting into some wider issues/conspiracy and it was good to see that the speakers declined to comment on these..

        I have been researching on and off for many years. I think the site which really got me interested in non mainstream news was the one below. He does not comment much on Syria but writes brilliantly.

        I hope you take part in other events closer to London. I’ll keep reading this site – looks like you have a lot of interest and rightly so. Syria should be preserved as a united and secular state. I fear if it doesn’t it’s going to lead to terrible consequences for that state, the region and possibly for us all.

        https://hat4uk.wordpress.com/

  9. steviefinn says:

    Keep the faith Tim & thank you for a great summation of the situation.
    Am posting this on David Malone’s blog http://www.golemxiv.co.uk/, you might know of him & as a previous candidate for Green part leader, he shares your concern for both the truth & the recent Green party’s position on Syria in reference to the alleged sarin attack.

  10. summitflyer says:

    Totally enjoyed reading this post Tim.I very much agree with what you are saying , the bull$hit /propaganda will always lose out to the truth .The more the propaganda is promoted the deeper the hole is dug , and eventually exposed .

  11. mato48 says:

    This is an impressive piece!

    After the NATO air war against Libya and the murder of Muammar Gaddafi I became interested in global politics because mainstream reporting was incongruent, contradictory, implausible, and informations didn’t add up. After rearranging the puzzle pieces of news according to an alternative narrative (the narrative of imperial conquest) everything fell in place and a clear picture emerged.
    https://mato48.com/2015/10/20/honoring-a-great-man/


    Then I researched the Yugoslavian wars and Syria and came to the same conclusions.

    Though a myriad of different forces and causal chains are involved, the main vectors are:

    Resource wars (water, oil).

    The imperial mindset (the imperium never retreats or compromises). Full spectrum dominance.

    The conquest of Russia (sparsely populated, resource rich, less effected by global warming, independent). The master plan: destabilizing Syria, then Iran, then Caucasus and Central Asia, then the southern Russian republics with Muslim populations. Creating chaos in order to steal, robb, cannibalize the pieces (kind of political hydraulic fracturing).

    • Loverat says:

      Mato48

      I often visited Yugoslavia during that period. There are some differences but many similarities to Syria. The apparent bombings of market places and other events when looking back are so similar. Likewise the vindictivemess and aggression of NATO. They bombed a Serbian TV station which portrayed an image on TV of NATO aircraft flying in Nazi formation. Well, by bombing that TV station NATO confirmed they were not much better than the Nazis..

      And then we have the NATO propaganda. 300 Serb tanks went into Kosovo. After 90 days of bombing and NATO saying the Serbs were destroyed, how many were counted by journalists coming out after the peace agreement? 287.

      At the time I was shocked at what was going on in Former Yugoslavia but did not necessarily think it was a wholesale and blatant attempt to destroy a state and replace that regime. Yugoslavia was slightly different in that it did start off as a civil war (albeit the Vatican and Germany gave the breakaway states instant recognition which was suspect) And also the leaders of each breakaway state shared blame for the conflict and the atrocities which followed. But the West chose to pick sides as usual and joined the Islamists in Bosnia, the KLA/Mafia in Kosovo and extreme right wiing groups and government in Croatia (annoying the Serbs more who had millions mudered by these groups in WW11)

      I actually think a lot of this mentality of destroying countries started with Yugoslavia. But I think this mindset crept in over time. Yugoslavia was always described an unconquerable – e.g WW11 and there was always a fear of getting involved at the start But sadly the strategy of destroying states has been used aggressively ever since.

      Finally have a look at which states have recognised Kosovo. Saudi Arabia, Turkey etc but you might think most muslim states would also. Not at all – Assad to his credit and many other middle East leasders can see beyond religion and judge the situation on merits and fairness,. That’s why secular Middle East should be protected against these extremists and fools in the White House.

      • mato48 says:

        Accidentally I came across Slobodan Milosevic in the 1990s. He had a brash demeanor and was not a very likable character but he didn’t appear as unreasonable or a monstrous villain.

        Carla De Ponte, who as a member of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria is at it again and thinks that Dr. Bashar al-Assad should be tried as war criminal, brought Milosevic to The Hague, where for five years the trial for lack of evidence went nowhere until Milosevic in 2006 died in his cell, probably because of medical neglect.

        Justice is always the victor’s justice. Nobody will try NATO or US-coalition pilots who drop bombs in civilian areas and their superiors who order the air raids and the politicians and strategists who start the wars.

      • Loverat says:

        Mato48
        I knew someone who met him in the 80s and they said similar. I think then he was a member of the communist Party but I think he would join any bandwagon. First communism and then nationalism.

        In some ways he is similar to Assad – as a pragmatist.. But in my view Assad is far more media friendly and actually cares about his people. I think Assad is very influenced by his father’s vision of what the Arab world should be.

        In terms of Croatia – the leaders there were ideologues – on par with Erdogan, the current Saudi regime, and Adolf Hitler. Just look at Franjo Tudman in his military uniforms and tell me Erdogan is not his reincarnation.

        And there were questions too over the leaders of Bosnia – the Islamists of Saudi Arabia and other extremist states transporting fighters there. Who urged caution? Secular Middle East and these states should be applauded for not taking sides and subsequently not recognising Kosovo. Serbia is a christian country yet the majority of the Middle East accepted that Kosovo was part of Serbia. These states under attack now from terrorists and the White House deserve our support..

        In my view the world is in need of a Secular League of nations to discourage the twin menace of extremism – and Western aggression. Rather along the lines of the Non Aligned Movement but something more powerful. I believe a country like India could be a founding memeber of such a league.

        The populist movements have been good in a way but have been incoherant and too focused on distractions like immigration and the so called ‘evils of Islam’. rather than the root causes. We need people like Tim Haywood to cut through vested interests, ideology, tribalism and speak up for truth and what is right.

        In the West we have sold our souls to the extremists and terrorists which are attacking our cities. Yet somehow the media think these attacks are nothing to do with us funding the same extremists abroad which we still insist are ‘moderates’. It is a ludicrous narrative which is difficult to believe can persist – but as we saw with Germany in the 1930s propaganda, group think and inertia are the main enemies of the truth.

        This pattern has continued for 25 years. Anyone of any intelligence,is reasonable, open minded and researched these matters could not possibly reach a different view IMO. You have to read, research and think for yourself.

        People like Bryan Neddin need to stop quoting articles which say this or that, He needs to provide some suppporting commentary and substance on why he believes the opposite. Otherwise his posts on here just distract from the debate and contribute to the suffering of the Syrian people.

  12. timhayward says:

    Thanks very much for the comments. The link you’ve given, by the way, leads to an expired page. I’m pretty sure your analysis captures some major drivers of this madness…

  13. Bryan Neddin says:

    There’s an article in jacobinmag addressing some of the madness of the westerners who buy the Hersh conspiracist madness. A shameful episode, that has parallels to the madness of the ‘left’ embrace of Stalinism that so enraged the great George Orwell in the last century.

    • timhayward says:

      Thanks for your point, Bryan. The thing is, it is not just Hersh and some questions about his account. (I haven’t arrived at thinking what I do without studying accounts on both sides of the key questions about Syria.) Specifically on Khan Sheikhoun, since you do mention Hersh, I honestly urge you to listen to what Scott Ritter says, and look at him while he’s saying it, and see how confident you feel at the end that he is embracing any kind of madness. What I am talking about in this article is how we have all been made to believe black is white on a major scale. Every time I have really probed to see the evidence on the official narrative side it flakes away. It is not only me. There are plenty of academics with various kinds of expertise who are contributing to seeing through what can really only be called propaganda.

  14. I endorse particularly your call for straightforward debate on Syria, because this is what is lacking, at least across the divide. Why is it not possible for there to be a discussion in the Western media with people like Peter Ford, or Alastair Crooke, or Tony Kevin – all of whom are like yourself, rational and dispassionate commentators with dissenting opinions? Why can we not hear discussions with commentators from RT – like Peter Lavelle for instance – instead of merely hearing abuse of RT as a ‘Kremlin mouthpiece’?
    Sometimes I doubt that the ‘mainstream’ commentators have the faintest idea of what the truth is about Syria, even though it is, as you say an edifice built of lies which must be harder and harder to believe in.
    But one reservation – the sort of debate we need is like that in Frome, and not like that in the pages of the Jacobin article cited above. It is a 5000 word demolition job on Hersh’s case, which relies on his source being unidentified, and resorts to generic abuse of Syria and Russia as ‘evidence’ that anything they say has no credibility. The author’s credibility meanwhile rests on all those sources of false information that saturate Western media, from the AMC, or NGOs with baggage.
    I think perhaps in addition to ‘dispassionate debate’ between informed commentators we need a few attack dogs to argue live with the mainstream – like George Galloway for example. We also need people like him in the media who interview our politicians – to ask them difficult questions…

    and PS – it’s really good to have your voice with us, and believing that we can effect a change – one day. It’s now six years of fighting this monster, but still as challenging.

    • timhayward says:

      Thanks for these comments, David, and for the encouragement to all of us that it is better late than never to see and speak the truth of what has been happening.

  15. Adrian D. says:

    Hi Tim,

    Hopefully the blog piece I’ve finally got round to publishing on the HRW ‘Death By Chemicals’ Report is the kind of ‘raising’ your after. Although I may have very slightly lowered the tone with my collective noun for a group of UK pro-war columnists, I think the rest creeps over the bar. More to follow in the next few days…

    View story at Medium.com

  16. Irwin Steffy says:

    Gaslighter.

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