In the front page story of AFP’s Issue 17 & 18, just mailed, John Friend looks into the continuing fake news surrounding Syria. He reports doctors and eyewitnesses say the alleged “poison gas attack” in Douma—in response to which the U.S. fired 105 Tomahawk missiles on three Syrian targets—never happened. The real question: Who benefits from drawing the U.S. into yet another no-win war?
By John Friend
Testimony from Syrian civilians and one doctor, along with other reports on the ground, have cast doubt on claims by the West that the Syrian military used chemical weapons on its own people in early April. Despite this uncertainty, Western warmongers still used the allegation to justify launching missiles at alleged key military sites in the Middle Eastern country.
On April 8, major international media outlets reported that the Syrian government, led by the much maligned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, had launched a ruthless chemical attack the previous night on the city of Douma, a suburb just east of Damascus, the Syrian capital. The city largely had been controlled by radical Islamic rebels engaged in a brutal conflict with the Syrian government. Rebel groups affiliated with radical Islamic terrorist organizations, many of them funded and supported by Western intelligence agencies and governments, have been waging war against Assad for years in an attempt to overthrow the stable Syrian government, a key goal of the neocon warmongers holding sway in Washington and other major Western capitals.
Rebel groups hostile to the Assad regime had controlled Douma and other towns east of Damascus, known collectively as Eastern Ghouta, using it as a base of operations since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war. The Syrian government, backed by Russia and Iran, was engaged in a months-long campaign to retake the territory and expel the rebels, establishing sovereignty and the rule of law in the area once again. The towns, under the control of rebel forces close to radical Islamic terrorist organizations, had been subjected to heavy bombardment by Syrian military forces, who were on the verge of recapturing the territory.
Then news broke of the alleged chemical attack, prompting a harsh response from President Donald Trump and other Western leaders, who were quick to demonize not only Assad, but also his government’s primary allies, Russia and Iran.
“Many dead, including women and children, in mindless chemical attack in Syria,” Trump tweeted in the early morning hours following the alleged chemical attack. “Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia, and Iran are responsible for backing animal Assad.”
The Syrian government immediately insisted that the alleged chemical attack was a fabrication perpetrated by the Western media working in conjunction with local forces on the ground in Syria hostile to the Assad regime. Assad was interviewed by Sky News, a mainstream British news channel, and described the alleged chemical attack as a “100% fabrication.”
Syria’s representative at the UN, Bashar Jaafari, described the situation in Douma as a “Hollywood scene,” before accusing Western governments and their allies in the Mideast of supporting terrorist groups operating in Syria attempting to overthrow al-Assad.
“Today we directly accuse Washington, Paris, London, Riyadh, Doha, Ankara of providing ISIS, al-Nusra Front, Jaish al-Islam, Faylaq al-Rahman and dozens of affiliated terrorist groups with toxic chemical substances to be used against Syrian civilians,” Jaafari told the UN Security Council shortly after the alleged attack was reported by Western media outlets. “We accuse them of starting those massacres, of fabricating evidence to falsely blame the Syrian government of toxic chemical substances to prepare the ground for an aggression against my country, just as the United States and the United Kingdom did in Iraq in 2003.”
The Russian government also questioned the alleged chemical weapons attack, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stating the attack was staged by foreign agents working in collaboration with terrorist groups in Syria supported by the West. During a press briefing shortly after the purported attack, Lavrov told reporters his government had “irrefutable evidence” the attack was a fabrication perpetrated by forces hostile to both the Syrian regime and the Russian government and was part of a broader “Russophobic campaign” led by one country in particular that he did not name. Russian Gen. Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for the Russian defense ministry, specifically criticized the United Kingdom, stating, “We have . . . evidence that proves Britain was directly involved in organizing this provocation,” the BBC reported.
The Western press and virtually the entire Western political establishment insisted the alleged attack was carried out by the Syrian military, citing two extremely questionable organizations operating on the ground in Syria: the Syria Civil Defense, known more commonly as the “White Helmets,” and the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS). The White Helmets and SAMS have been operating on the ground in Syria for years and are openly hostile to the Syrian government.
In a joint press release on April 8, the White Helmets and SAMS alleged that there were more than 500 cases of local residents—almost all women and young children—experiencing “symptoms indicative of exposure to a chemical agent,” the press release stated. “Patients have shown signs of respiratory distress, central cyanosis, excessive oral foaming, corneal burns, and the emission of chlorine-like odor.”
Despite the allegations, little hard evidence was presented to demonstrate the Assad government in fact carried out a chemical weapons attack. Traumatic photographs and videos, which originated with the White Helmets and SAMS, were presented in the Western press as proof of a chemical weapons attack, but international investigators were prevented from verifying the details or investigating the scene.
Interviews with local residents cast doubt on the official narrative being disseminated by the Western press and major political figures. Dr. Assim Rahaibani, a doctor operating in Douma, and others explained that the picture painted by the Western media was a deliberate deception fabricated by the White Helmets and SAMS yet was parroted by the Western press in an effort to demonize Assad and justify a military strike.
“There was a lot of shelling [by government forces] and aircraft were always over Douma at night—but on this night, there was wind and huge dust clouds began to come into the basements and cellars where people lived,” Rahaibani explained, describing the night of the alleged attack. “People began to arrive here suffering from hypoxia, oxygen loss. Then someone at the door, a ‘White Helmet,’ shouted ‘Gas!’ and a panic began. People started throwing water over each other. Yes, the video was filmed here, it is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia—not gas poisoning.”
Marwan Jaber, a Syrian medical student who was in Douma on the night of the alleged chemical weapons attack, told a similar story.
“Some of [the victims] suffered from asthma and pulmonary inflammation,” Jaber told reporters. “They received routine treatment, and some were even sent home. They showed no symptoms of a chemical attack. But some foreigners entered while we were in a state of chaos and sprinkled people with water, and some of them were even filming it.”
It has become more and more obvious that the purported chemical attack allegedly carried out by Assad’s regime was a deliberate deception perpetrated by the White Helmets, SAMS, and others operating in Syria with ties to Western intelligence, working in collaboration with the mainstream news media.
John Friend is a writer based in California.