By Ken Sievers
“Lying and war are always associated. Listen closely when you hear a war-maker try to defend his current war: If he moves his lips he’s lying.” Father Philip Berrigan (1923 – 2002)
The WikiLeaks Party concentrates on publishing stories ignored by the mainstream media. However the party has itself made the news by talking part in the visit of a delegation to Syria. Reports on the trip have appeared not only in Australia, but in the US, the UK, Taiwan, Turkey and Iraq. Even supporters like Anthony Loewenstein, let alone its critics, accuse the party of “political grandstanding”. In fact the “grandstanding” is created by those who disapprove of the visit. Their strategy is to attack the messenger and ignore the message.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK AND THE SEVEN COUNTRIES
The people in the delegation who travelled to Syria did not engage in a random act of folly. Their actions are based on a study of recent events which provides the motivation for their visit. Most peace activists have heard of General Wesley Clark, who served in the US military for 34 years, including a term in NATO as Supreme Allied Commander Europe. He is famous for revealing the details of a secret document distributed by the Secretary of Defense to the Pentagon not long after 9/11. This document outlined an ambitious plan to attack and destroy the governments of seven countries in five years, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran.i
Of course this plan was not announced boldly on the front pages of the New York Times. The public needs to be prepared for each attack with a sustained campaign of “information” in order to justify the action which has already been planned long before. It is also interesting to note that when Gen Clark tells how he learned of this document from a friend in the Pentagon, he explains that the person telling him did not know why these countries had been selected. In the military, you just follow orders. By contrast, peace activists know why they are doing what they do. They do not just follow orders. They want to stop wars, particularly those justified by lies and manipulation.
WHY SEND A FACT-FINDING MISSION TO SYRIA?
The visit of the Australian delegation was intended as a fact-finding mission. Calling it “grandstanding” ignores this and assumes the visit has no purpose beyond grabbing headlines. How can we ignore the importance of fact-finding in the present circumstances? How can we forget the role played by distorted and mistaken media reports in the events of the last few years?
The invasion of Iraq was justified by widely reported claims of weapons of mass destruction. These were later found to be false and based on questionable “intelligence”. Many suspect that the people who acted on these allegations knew they were false. The mainstream media followed the story blindly, making no serious criticism of the claims. Since the people of Iraq have suffered so much as a result of this scam, it is no surprise that the title of their report on the activity of the WikiLeaks Party in Syria reads: “WikiLeaks vows to expose the truth on Syria war”.ii No such headline can be found in the reports of the mainstream media in the West.
The invasion of Iraq was followed by NATO’s intervention in Libya. Here again the mainstream media claimed the Libyan government used violence to quell peaceful demonstrations. Our leaders and their obedient media outlets insisted “we” have a responsibility to protect the people of Libya from Gaddafi’s military. In fact the original “demonstrations” in Benghazi and other cities were actually armed attacks by the rebels. Further, NATO’s intervention was not intended to protect civilians but overthrow the government, a policy which caused many more civilian deaths. All of this and more is explained in a report from the Belfer Center at Harvard University, “Lessons from Libya: How Not to Intervene”.iii
The country is now a complete disaster area with no stable central government and regular armed conflict between different factions as they maneuver for power. As in Iraq, media reports were misleading or worse, and there was virtually no discussion of alternative accounts of what was happening on the ground.
HOW DID IT ALL BEGIN?
Is it a surprise that the narrative in the mainstream media about Syria is similar to the claims about Libya? Assad is a dictator with little or no popular support. His opponents, the rebel freedom fighters, are just trying to bring democracy to Syria, ending Assad’s police state and corruption. The conflict began when peaceful demonstrators were fired on as they protested Assad’s rule. The situation in Syria is always described in the news reports as a civil war, even though many of the rebel freedom fighters come from other countries. In fact, Syria is under attack from the outside, something usually described as an invasion.
The demonstrations against the Assad government began in March 2011. The unrest was presented as part of a spontaneous pan-Arab pro-democracy movement, spreading from Tunisia to Egypt, Libya and then Syria.
“Media coverage has focused on the Syrian police and armed forces, which are accused of indiscriminately shooting and killing unarmed “pro-democracy” demonstrators. While these police shootings did indeed occur, what the media failed to mention is that among the demonstrators there were armed gunmen as well as snipers who were shooting at both the security forces and the protesters.”iv
In other words, in March 2013 an armed uprising began against the Assad government which was described as nothing but the activities of unarmed and peaceful demonstrators. When the government responded to the uprising with military force, as Gadaffi did in Libya, their actions were portrayed as violent attacks on peaceful protestors.
We can get a clearer picture of the events which began the unrest in Syria by looking at the way they were described by local media at the time. The demonstration which began the conflict in Syria took place in Daraa on March 17 and 18, 2011. This is a copy of a report of these events from the Israel National News on 21 March:
“Seven police officers and at least four demonstrators in Syria have been killed in continuing violent clashes that erupted in the southern town of Daraa last Thursday.
“On Friday police opened fire on armed protesters killing four and injuring as many as 100 others. According to one witness, who spoke to the press on condition of anonymity, “They used live ammunition immediately — no tear gas or anything else.”
“In an uncharacteristic gesture intended to ease tensions the government offered to release the detained students, but seven police officers were killed, and the Baath Party Headquarters and courthouse were torched, in renewed violence on Sunday.”v
If such events occurred in the US, for example, can you imagine this government would have acted any differently?
BUT HOW CAN YOU IGNORE THE POISON GAS ATTACKS?
In Iraq, the claim that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction is used to justify the invasion by the Coalition of the Willing. In Syria, the focus is now on the alleged use of poison gas by the Assad government. On 21 August last year there was a sarin gas attack in Ghouta which was blamed on the Syrian government. The US and its allies seized on this as proof that Assad was a war criminal and must be removed. As I explained in an earlier article, the US and France had planned to attack Syria at 3:00 am on 1 September 2013, but the attack was called off at the last minute.vi We now have credible evidence that at the time the US government knew they could not prove the Assad regime launched this attack.
On 8 December 2013 Seymour Hersh published an article explaining how the US government carefully selected its facts to justify the claim that the Assad government was responsible for the attack in Ghouta. Further they hid the fact that “the U.S. intelligence community knew full and well that the rebels possessed sarin gas and should have been considered suspects in the attack.”vii This information probably came from members of the military and intelligence community who were unhappy about the way their reports were distorted by the Obama administration as they were preparing to attack Syria in early September 2013.
After the disaster of the Iraq war and the role played by doctored intelligence, the intelligence community has begun to publicly distance itself from the claims of the US government. For example, in 2012, sixteen U.S. intelligence agencies reported that Iran was pursuing research that could enable it to produce nuclear weapons, but was not attempting to do so. Further all the major American intelligence agencies believe there is no conclusive evidence that Iran has attempted to produce nuclear weapons since 2003.viii No doubt this announcement was motivated by a desire not to be blamed for another mistake if the US and Israel attacked Iran for this reason. Note that since then, the reason for applying pressure to Iran has changed to a different issue, namely the enrichment of uranium.
The US and France did not attack Syria in September, the UN inspectors sent to Syria to examine the claims of the use of sarin gas at Ghouta were able to complete their work. The UN chemical weapons report of 13 December 2013 “concluded that in addition to the Ghouta incident, there were at least four ‘probable’ sarin attacks. In three of these attacks, Syrian army soldiers were the victims of the deadly gas, while in the fourth, civilians were affected. Not a single one of the confirmed chemical attacks were against “rebel” militia fighters.”ixThe UN report does not come to any conclusion about who used the weapons, but Carla Del Ponte, head of the UN commission which produced the report, said that it was used by “the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities.” x
HAVE WE BEEN LIED TO AGAIN?
While there is no indisputable proof that the Syrian rebels launched the series of poison gas attacks investigated by the UN, there is also no indisputable proof that the Syrian government was responsible either. Further, there is circumstantial evidence that the rebels themselves were responsible. None of their fighters has been shown to have been killed, while several government soldiers have. And since the Syrian government knows of the US “red line” over use of chemical weapons and wanted at all costs to avoid a NATO attack, why would they use them in the face of such a serious threat?
When we recall that the US and France were within hours of launching a full-scale attack on Syria at the beginning of September 2013, the fact that the allegations against the Assad regime are anything but certain make it look like Iraq all over again. The claims of the use of poison gas look like a flimsy pretext to launch at attack which was planned long before, as explained by General Clark.
Needless to say, while politicians and commentators like Antony Loewenstein refer to Bashar al Assad as an “alleged war criminal”, the fact that the evidence for this claim is inconclusive at best shows that they are not really impartial in this situation. Under Australian law, unless you are Julian Assange, people are presumed to be innocent until proved guilty. This principle clearly does not apply to “dictators” that the West has decided to depose. And before which international court of law has Assad been charged? You mean he hasn’t even been charged yet? Don’t forget that George W. Bush, Tony Blair and Barak Obama have also been accused of being war criminals on a scale far greater than anything alleged against Assad. But who among our politicians would dare to call Obama an “alleged war criminal”?
WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?
It is interesting that many of the critics of the visit to Syria by members of the WikiLeaks Party have claimed that “their actions could be interpreted as a show of support for President Assad’s behaviour.”xi Does it not occur to these people that by repeating the “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” allegations about Assad with no solid evidence to support these claims, they too are taking sides? Are they not giving a “show of support” for the US, UK, France and others who are determined to topple the Assad regime? The statements of Chris Bowen of Labor are no better. He insists “the Assad regime has been widely criticised and correctly criticised around the world.” If he thinks the criticisms are correct, this only means that he too is prepared to provide a “show of support” for the claims of the opponents of Assad. These critics see no problem with their show of support for the US and it unproved allegations, but they are horrified that members of the WikiLeaks Party may have shown support for Assad. In the next section I will explain how the “show of support” rhetoric is hypocritical as well.
Even a supporter of WikiLeaks, Mr Loewenstein, states that the members of the WikiLeaks Party “are being used as a prop by a regime that has undeniably killed tens of thousands or more civilians.”xii At least here we have a claim which, unlike the “war criminal” allegations, can be supported by compelling evidence. However it raises an interesting question. Suppose that instead of visiting Syria, the members of the WikiLeaks party had decided to travel to the US to meet President Obama. Of course Obama would never be seen in public with these people, but if he did, could it have been “used as a prop by a regime that has undeniably killed tens of thousands or more civilians”? How many regimes are there that have not killed tens of thousands of civilians, either their own or unarmed civilians in some other country? And what is the time limit on this killing? Since WWII? Since 2000?
IS AUSTRALIA USED AS A PROP BY THE “WAR CRIMINALS” OF SRI LANKA?
Australia has good relations with Sri Lanka, but they have been accused of a range of war crimes in their conflict with the Tamil Tigers which ended in May 2009. It is estimated that between 80,000 and 100,000 people were killed during this 27 year civil war.xiii Most of them would have been civilians, and many would have been Tamil civilians killed by the government. So I would ask Senator Bishop and the Member for McMahon, Chris Bowen, the following question: Can the Embassy in Colombo and Australia’s many contacts with the government of Sri Lanka be interpreted as a show of support for the behaviour of the Sri Lankan government and President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the war with the Tamil Tigers? I assume they would say that they do not. So how is the Assad regime any different? To answer that we need to go back to the document described by Gen Clark. The difference is that Assad’s government is on the US “hit-list” and Rajapaksa’s government is not.
It is also interesting that at the recent Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka, David Cameron called for an independent inquiry into the events surrounding the defeat of the Tamil Tigers or else the government would face a UN investigation. The President replied that “people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” and reminded the British PM that it took the UK 40 years to make a serious investigation of Bloody Sunday in Northern Ireland in 1972 where 13 civilians were shot.xiv Other commentators “pointed toalleged abuses under British colonial rule to suggest Britain has no moral right to criticise Sri Lanka.”xv Our politicians and Mr Loewenstein do not seem to realize that not talking to governments that have blood on their hands would probably mean the end of diplomacy as we know it. They do it every day. So why can’t members of the WikiLeaks Party?
WHAT IS THE PROBLEM? WE ARE AT WAR WITH SYRIA.
I have shown that in view of the events since 9/11 the fact-finding visit of the members of the WikiLeaks Party is fully justified. We have been pushed into war after war by distortions and lies repeated mindlessly the obedient media outlets in the West. Syria is no different from Libya or Iraq. Was it illegal under Australian law for these people to travel to Syria? Obviously not. So instead the government and our media have attacked their actions using just the same unsubstantiated charges (“war criminal” etc.) that have been used to justify a military attack on Syria.
Further, when they claim that their discussions with the President of Syria – and the photos – might be seen as a “prop” by this “war criminal”, they engage is sheer hypocrisy. If Tony Abbot’s visit to the recent Commonwealth Summit in Sri Lanka (were there any photos of Tony Abbot with President Rajapaksa?) cannot be seen as a show of support for the way the Sri Lankan government dealt with the Tamil Tigers, how can the visit of the members of the WikiLeaks Party be seen as a show of support for President Assad and his government? What exactly is the difference?? Please Explain??
Clearly the visit of the members of the WikiLeaks Party has become a gigantic media event. All of the critics who claimed the visit was “grandstanding” (that is, just looking for massive publicity) seem to have ignored the fact that there was an easy way to stop the “grandstanding” effect of these actions: just refuse to report the visit at all! Does the WikiLeaks Party have that much influence over the editors of our major media outlets that they can decide what they will report? There are many events of great significance that are simply not reported at all. So who actually created the “grandstanding”? The media itself! The media by its reporting made the visit into a media event. So why make a big deal about actions which are perfectly legal and in no way different from the actions of the Australian government itself?
The answer to this question is simple: Australia is involved in an undeclared war against Syria. This undeclared war has been declared by the US, UK, France and NATO and assorted Middle Eastern countries like Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Australia is enamored by US foreign policy the way that flies are enamored by dung. I have shown that the statements of both major parties are entirely based on the “war criminal” allegations used by the US and NATO to remove the Assad regime.
So what did the members of the WikiLeaks Party do wrong? They visited an enemy country in time of war. Except the war is not declared, so what they did is not strictly illegal. But they had to be punished somehow! So instead of arrest they were served with a heavy dose of government and media disapproval. THESE ARE BAD PEOPLE! THEY HAVE DARED TO SPEAK WITH A WAR CRIMINAL!! This is why the visit was not just ignored by the media. They were “grandstanded” so they could be publicly reprimanded, put in the stocks and humiliated. The media in Australia is so shallow and stupid that they could not see THEY CREATED the media event for which the visitors to Syria were blamed! Could there ever be a better reason for having something like the WikiLeaks Party around??
v Gavriel Queenann, Syria: Seven Police Killed, Buildings Torched in Protests, Israel National News, Arutz Sheva, March 21, 2011, emphasis added. Quoted in: http://www.globalresearch.ca/syria-who-is-behind-the-protest-movement-fabricating-a-pretext-for-a-us-nato-humanitarian-intervention/24591
vi My earlier article is entitled “The War That Didn’t Happen and What it Means for Australia”. It can be found on the WikiLeaks Party website with a search for ‘Ken Sievers”. The two articles upon which this claim is made are: article by David Axe, “French Bombers Were Loaded Up, Syrian Rebels Were Deployed – All Awaiting Obama’s Okay to Attack”; https://medium.com/war-is-boring/69247c24253f, and http://israelmatzav.blogspot.com.au/2013/09/france-was-ready-to-strike-syria-obama.html.
xi From a statement by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, quoted by Antony Loewenstein in http://antonyloewenstein.com/2014/01/01/wikileaks-party-meets-syrias-assad-and-ignores-reality-of-country/