featured, Guardian Watch, Syria

Monbiot, Syria and Universalism

by Philip Roddis

George Monbiot

I’m worried about George. An admirer of many years standing of his excellent columns charting what John Smith’s even more excellent Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century refers to as “capitalism’s destruction of nature”, I’m dismayed both by his stance on Syria and manner of defending it. His latest Guardian piece, yesterday – A lesson from Syria: it’s crucial not to fuel far-right conspiracy theories – is depressingly typical. The man who writes with such clarity, such evidence based reason, on the ties between environmental recklessness and big money repeatedly shows himself prepared to suspend his critical faculties – while projecting that very sin on his opponents – when it comes to Syria and the Assad ‘regime’.

Even the title of this latest piece is misleading when those he has in his sights are decidedly of the left. I mean John Pilger, who needs no introduction, and Seymour Hersh, the veteran whose tenacity broke the My Lai story all those years ago. The disingenuity continues apace as we read on. Paragraph two tells us:

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) last month published its investigation into the chemical weapons attack on the Syrian town of Khan Shaykhun, which killed almost 100 people on 4 April and injured around 200. After examining the competing theories and conducting wide-ranging interviews, laboratory tests and forensic analysis of videos and photos, it concluded that the atrocity was caused by a bomb filled with sarin, dropped by the government of Syria.

I don’t share Monbiot’s faith in the impartiality of United Nations agencies and, yes, that does include the OPCW. If you deem, as I do, the western powers guilty of a dirty war on Syria whose real drivers – like those in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya and a barely visible Yemen – had little to do with their sanctimonious rationales, you’ll likely share my scepticism but that’s not my point. Nor is the fact that the first of the two links in the paragraph cited is broken. When I searched for the report I found the OPCW has indeed declared that sarin was used at Idlib on April 4 this year (point 1.5 of its summary). The report also says (point 2.5 of its Legal Framework) that:

The scope of the FFM [OPCW Fact Finding Mission] mandate does not include the task of attributing responsibility for the alleged use.

So George, did you know this and choose not to share it with your Guardian readers? Or were you too busy trashing ‘denialism’ to actually read the report?

Yesterday’s piece houses other examples of questionable integrity. Monbiot’s second link is to a Guardian piece by Emma Graham-Harrison. Written the day after the attack, it begins with this assertion:

Syrian government planes carried out a dawn raid on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun on Tuesday morning. Following the airstrikes, residents reported whole families found dead in their beds, with victims and injured survivors showing symptoms that match poisoning by nerve agents.

Hmm. Why bother with all the fuss and expense of a UN investigation? Why not simply ask the Guardian, legendary for its extensive presence on the ground in Syria? I mean, it must be right if Emma Graham-Harrison says so.

Enough of the sarcasm. You get the point. Monbiot’s piece simply does not withstand careful scrutiny. Here’s another sample:

The Syrian government has a long history of chemical weapons use, and the OPCW’s conclusions concur with a wealth of witness testimony. But a major propaganda effort has sought to discredit such testimony, and characterise the atrocity as a “false-flag attack”.

Three comments. One, the first link above is to a roll call of imperialism’s frontline warriors, a who’s who of western aggression: Obama and Netanyahu, McCain and French Foreign Minister Fabius – predecessor of Jean-Marc Ayrault, whose ‘incontestable evidence’ of Damascus having authored the sarin attack on Idlib we have yet to see. (Sadly, “we have evidence” is all too easily mistaken for evidence when repeated ad infinitum by mainstream media.) This list of the great and not so good willing to damn Assad to hell and back also takes in – just as risibly but in a different way – the Syrian Observatory on Human Rights. That, in case you were fazed by the grand title, is the one-man band of a disgruntled Syrian in Coventry.

(Monbiot later cites, to show up the flat-eartherish denialism he so roundly trashes, widespread scepticism – sorry, denialism – re another ‘impartial’ source, the so-called White Helmets. So George, leaving aside the fact of their total invisibility when Aleppo was finally rid of ISIS, are you aware that White Helmet claims to be independent of government funding were given the lie in April 2016, when US State Department Press Officer Mark Toner revealed they’d had $23 million to date from his department? The video of that press briefing has been removed from Youtube – can’t for the life of me think why or at whose behest – but can be found here.)

Two, the second link – that ‘wealth of testimony’ – is in fact the product of a one-man visit to what was then ‘rebel’ held Idlib by Guardian and Daily Star reporter, Kareem Shaheen, a man with a long record of hostility to Damascus. Don’t take my word, check him out. Worse yet, Monbiot cites the very same piece later in the article as though it were something new. In my book that crosses the line from laziness to subterfuge since, taken alongside other examples of multiple and/or shoddy citings, it suggests an array of evidence, i.e. of Assad’s guilt, far wider than it really is.

Three, the idea of false flag chemical attacks is dismissed out of hand. Why? Here I quote from the post I’m about to replicate, below and in full. This extract is directed not at Monbiot but a man very similar – albeit more lightweight – in his flawed grasp of imperialism. The context is not Idlib 2017 but Ghouta 2013:

What does Owen Jones believe Damascus could gain from such an attack? Conversely, what is it that stops him seeing that the terrorists, with or without the complicity of western or Saudi intelligence services, had everything to gain from yet another false flag operation to justify further and more direct western intervention against the state they loathe for its multi-faith secularism, Washington for its “Arab communism”?

I’ve yet to see any convincing answer to either question, and regard Monbiot’s dismissal of the possibility of a false flag attack as disgraceful: “I have found no credible evidence that Syrian jihadists have access to sarin.” Thus spake George Monbiot, adding chemistry and ordnance to the many disciplines he’s master of. Here’s an alternative view:

[Sarin] is not especially hard to produce, in terms of both resources and expertise. “A competent chemist could make it, and possibly very quickly, in a matter of days,” says John Gilbert, a senior science fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, who spent much of his Air Force career assessing countries’ WMD capabilities. Producing sarin doesn’t require any kind of massive facility; a roughly 200 square foot room would do.

This, in case you were wondering, was taken not from a ‘denialist site’ but one convinced Assad is a bad guy who has to go. There’s a small clue in the piece’s opening line:

On Tuesday, the forces of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad unleashed a chemical attack on the civilian residents of Khan Sheikun

There are many other holes in George Monbiot’s column yesterday but I’ll leave them for those – such as OffGuardian BTL commenters – better versed than me to expose. And let me say now I do not claim Assad to be innocent. I say that (a) his guilt is highly unlikely on ground of motive, (b) terrorist guilt is highly likely on grounds of motive and past form, (c) few if any mainstream sources can be trusted on these or any matters where imperialism’s core interests and plans are concerned. See my short post, Syria: what we know and what we don’t

No, my aim is not to dissect Monbiot’s piece line by line. I want to contextualise it. Why does he take the position he has on Syria? And why in a way that not only compromises an outstanding record of calling out other aspects of capitalism in the age of imperialism, but takes a broker I see as fundamentally honest to the edge – some might say over it – of its opposite? My answer to the first question is universalism unexamined. I’m sure of that. My answers to the second are guesswork, and in any case less important. But here they are anyway, in a piece I wrote in May and have tinkered with ever since. As recently as yesterday, just hours before reading George’s latest, I was at it, striving as ever for greater simplicity and clarity on what I see as a complex (though not fiendishly so) and insufficiently examined phenomenon.

Universalism in an unfair world

For his well researched work on the British establishment, you couldn’t slide a cigarette paper between Owen Jones and me. The same goes for George Monbiot’s forensic but neatly penned linking of environmental vandalism to big money. Other of their writings, however – on Russia and Syria respectively – strike me as misconceived. In both cases the cause is the same. Each, in arguing sincerely held views on Putin or Assad, invokes the principle of universalism.

If you’re a socialist, you’re a universalist, not a relativist: you believe all people deserve the same economic and political rights. That can’t be achieved without democracy — not the limited democracy the West currently has, but a full democracy that we should aspire to. That means not lauding a regime which, despite its achievements, lacks the democratic rights a truly socialist society must enjoy as a bare minimum. Owen Jones, 29/11/2016

If we deny crimes against humanity, or deny the evidence pointing to the authorship of these crimes, we deny the humanity of the victims. Aren’t we supposed to be better than this? If we do not support the principle of universalism – human rights and justice for everyone, regardless of their identity or the identity of those who oppress them – what are we for? George Monbiot, Disavowal 27/04/2017

Jones writes four days after Fidel Castro’s death. Monbiot’s Disavowal comes three weeks after he’d tweeted his 99% certainty that Damascus had, three days earlier on April 4, used chemical weapons at Idlib. (More specifically, it’s one of a series of tweets and blog posts pouring scorn on the ‘denialists’ who won’t accept what he deems an open and shut case against Assad.) For both writers, universalism means condemning human rights abuse wherever it arises: be that in Ferguson Missouri or Aleppo, Abu Ghraib or Havana. On this the pair are in tune with an earlier writer, one whose hallowed status has obscured questionable deeds that to my mind arise from the logic of a universalism unexamined. I mean that other George, he who gave the world 1984 and MI5 lists of communist sympathisers.

As principle, who’d argue with the universality of human rights? Not me, though I have caveats. First, let’s not define human rights narrowly. That’s so we don’t get worked up – played even – over abuses real or alleged in countries our rulers have screwed for centuries, and in a different form still are screwing, while barely registering burgeoning infant mortality by humanitarian sanction or soaring cancer rates from depleted uranium in the wake of the latest humanitarian invasion. Since universalists seldom ignore the latter entirely, broadening ‘human rights’ to take in such as welfare provision, literacy and prosperity levels also makes it hard, if we’ve an ounce of intellectual rigour, to play an old get-out card. It gives less latitude for a lazy absolutism that cries ‘a plague on both houses’ while at best doing nothing, at worst giving de facto support to the America led aggression we piously deplore.

A wider definition of human rights obliges real-world assessments. One such is to discriminate between greater and lesser abuse, to shun specious moral equivalence. Suppose every word our media say about Assad to be true: a huge stretch, I know, but stay with me. Could he inflict a fraction of the death, misery and mayhem the US and its partners in crime have? (To answer this we need to acquaint ourselves with a little postwar history. It helps too to know something of the global balance of power, and financing and stupendous scale of America’s for-profit arms industry.) Here’s another question. Are any modern weapons not chemical? The implicit mantra – Tomahawk Good … Sarin Baad – shows, as does the barrel bomb brouhaha, just how easily red herringed we are by the spurious categorisations of a Washington dominated UN.

(Two years ago I visited a residential home for disabled men and women in Hoi Anh, Vietnam. Half the residents were disfigured, many in grotesque ways, by the Agent Orange the Pentagon used in its war on the Vietnamese people. Surprised by the youth of some, I was told the toxic effects are congenital. To this day children are born with severe defects as a result of chemical warfare Washington arm-twisted the UN out of describing as such. On what ground? That any harm to civilians was collateral and secondary to the aim of depriving Vietcong/NVA of ground cover. In fact millions of hectares of land remained uncultivable into the twenty-first century. This in a country on starvation rations for decades due to America’s embargo, and punishing of nations friendly to Hanoi. As with barrel bombs, too many liberals who consider themselves well informed are duped by arbitrary categorisations designed in Washington and relayed by ‘our’ media, a fraud of breathtaking cynicism rendered all the more effective by the naivity of leftist comment in the liberal media. And since I’m sure you were wondering, no; America has paid not one cent in compensation to Agent Orange victims. Not chemical warfare, you see.)

A second caveat is that we don’t take as truth incontrovertible every claim which, in an age of ‘humanitarian intervention’, will lend cover to aggression for profit. Not even when those claims are backed by sober voices packaged as impartial experts, and relayed by journalists not often mendacious but too often sharing the credulity of their audiences, topped up in their case by ‘career focus’. Journalists who know what’s good for them please editors. Editors who know what’s good for them please proprietors. Proprietors, by definition fully paid up members of the ruling class, crave honours and need advertisers.

A third is to do as E.M. Forster counsels, and only connect. IMF bullying and covert ops, deadly sanction and deadlier missile strike put states dubbed ‘pariah’ (read, distasteful to Wall Street) on a war footing. We in the west enjoy freedom of expression and limited democracy, fruits of a prosperity based on exploiting the global south*. When progressive governments must fight for survival – as in Castro’s Cuba, Chavez’s Venezuela and Ba’athist Syria – those freedoms may jeopardise gains without which democracy and human rights are meaningless except as cover for their antithesis. I mean economic planning instead of casino capitalism. I mean healthcare and schooling for all, not just those who can afford it.

The jeopardising factor here comes not from freedom of expression per se but its abuse by vested interests. These may be comprador capitalists, like the Venezeulan elite who gained from the impoverishment of their compatriots, who stood to lose from nationalisations that helped reduce said impoverishment, and whose near monopoly control of the media is as big an affront to meaningful democracy in that country as is its equivalent in ours. Or they may be the jihadists backed for decades by ‘our’ governments while ‘our’ media decried Hafez al-Assad’s ruthless crackdowns on the Muslim Brotherhood: a suppression of human rights which for all its brutality enabled Syria’s extraordinary progress on the very factors – literacy, welfare, shared prosperity on the back of state ownership of key sectors, womens’ rights and secularism – I want included in the definition before I sign up for the breezy universalism of Jones and Monbiot. In the meantime I adopt a stance out of favour with much of the left; critical but unconditional defence. What I hear from self styled universalists is too much of the critical, too little of the defence.

On that last, two 2013 pieces by Fred Weston are worth reading. These In Defence of Marxism articles make fair points on Assad (mainly Hafez) failings. They also set out a sound statement, albeit dated in its implicit vanguardism, of the case against Stalinism, ‘stageism’ and ‘socialism in one country’. Given that Trotsky is favourably cited it’s striking Weston makes no mention of the critical-but-unconditional meme, central to postwar Trotskyism and to my mind one of the more useful legacies of the ill fated Fourth International. If that’s all too estoteric, my point is he’s too busy trashing – on grounds I share and with a cogency I’d welcome in other contexts – the anti-imperialist credentials of Ba’athism to grasp the biggest aspect of this mess. Assad may be insufficiently opposed to imperialism for Fred Weston’s tastes, but is sufficiently in the way of it to be on the receiving end of its wrath. Says Weston:

… [the idea of] the Assad regime as anti-imperialist … can only be sustained if one suffers selective historical amnesia and ignores what the regime has actually done to collaborate with imperialism. In 1976, Hafez Assad invaded refugee camps in Lebanon to suppress Palestinian resistance, coordinating its operations with Israel, and with the full backing of US imperialism. Syria had in fact been called on to intervene by the west (including Kissinger) to prevent the defeat of the right-wing Maronite Christian militias in the civil war that had started in 1975 between progressive secularists, Muslim militias and the PLO. Later, in 1990-91 the regime cooperated in the US attack on Iraq; in 2003 the regime did not lift a finger to defend Iraq against imperialist attack. It withdrew from Lebanon under US pressure.

What’s wrong here (on top of slyly conflating Hafez and Bashar into a single Assad) is the tacit demand that an imperialised state behave with anti imperialist consistency to ‘earn’ the support of the left in imperialist states. But unless he thinks the west attacks Syria because of the sins he lists, and I’m sure he thinks no such thing, Weston makes the very confusion critical but unconditional defence disentangles. Internationalism begins at home. A key tenet is that imperialised states be defended from our own imperialism, regardless of Stalinist, nationalist, theocratic or other defects in their worldviews, or failings real or cynically concocted in their leaders. Such defects and failings must be condemned where proven, but always in the context of – yet meticulously decoupled from – unwavering insistence that the prime villain is ‘our’ imperialism.

Why does this matter? Because the left in the global north has a sorry record of capitulation to ferocious dominant narratives. That’s why defence of the Provisional IRA was tougher for British socialists than defence of an ANC whose program and leaders were equally flawed. Conversely, it’s why white South Africans in the ANC were truly heroic – likewise Israeli Jews fighting their own apartheid state – and why it was easier to defend the IRA if you were French or American than British. But in their hostility to Damascus, western media have set a climate as vicious as that created by British media at the height of the ‘troubles’ in the Six Counties. I’m sure Weston, like Jones and Monbiot, does not intend it but his attacks on ‘misguided’ leftists who back Damascus against Washington will add to a narrative of vilification funded by the deepest pockets and driven by the most venal interests. Music to Wall Street ears, they’ll also give cover for those on the left more interested in an easy life than in challenging a criminally insane world order at the points of greatest criminality. In this respect Weston’s brand of marxism serves, objectively, the same ends as Monbiot’s and Jones’s universalism.

That need for widening our definition of human rights, and being sceptical when leaders and media take the moral high ground on nations they do so much to impoverish, applies not only to imperialised peoples but to weaker imperialisms. I refer to Russia and China, whose rise I welcome not as ‘good guys’ to the west’s ‘bad guys’ but as sorely needed counterbalance. A materialist, not an idealist, I don’t locate evil in the peculiarities of any national psyche. I think in terms of class not country, and see our rulers concealing – not from rival leaders but their own subjects – the interests they truly serve beneath a cloak of morality. That needn’t imply conspiracism. (On the whole I locate evil in the logic of capital; its dynamic accelerated by the fall of the Soviet Union.) Yes, history is rife with conspiracy – proven in the cases of Tonkin and Saddam’s WMDs; deservedly suspected at Idlib – but dark plots are more history’s catalysts than its primary drivers. What’s more they tend to be seen by their authors as For The Greater Good.

Hence my open letter to Jones; its subject Putin, its theme the flaws of a universalism detached from realpolitik. Hence too my saying Monbiot is astray on Syria. I don’t doubt the sincerity of his views, though they’ve led a usually critical man to errors of reason and lapses of evidential standards. His failing has moral aspects too. See the Media Lens response to his Disavowal. Driving the disingenuity and flagrant misrepresentations, calmly dissected by ML, of this on the whole honest broker are the vanity and blinkered credulity of a man who can’t admit error: one who boasts he can ‘handle more reality than most’, and by that boast opens a door on the very opposite.

Owen Jones’s very similar vanity has led him to very similar misrepresentations over Syria. He wouldn’t share a 2013 Stop the War platform with Mother Agnes, mother superior of St. James Monastery in Qara, Syria, who’d spoken out on the ‘civil war’ and western-backed terrorists. (He’s less fastidious about appearing on BBC Question Time alongside champions of the west’s wars on the middle east.) Jones blogged that Mother Agnes is

perhaps most infamous for publishing a 50-page report claiming that the video footage of the Ghoutta massacre was faked, that the children suffocating to death had been kidnapped by rebels and were actually sleeping or “under anaesthesia”’.

Jones provides no link to said report. My guess, and that’s all it can be, is he didn’t read beyond its introduction. And it is a difficult read; lengthy and detailed, with erratic ‘signposting’ of the significance of every factor it documents. The difficulties are compounded for a lay westerner by technical terms, Arab names and the misspellings and unorthodox syntax of a writer whose first language is not English. Moreover, the report was rushed out to counter jihadist accounts lapped up by western media bent on damning Assad in ways that, intended or not, prime us for further aggression in our name on the middle east.

Be that as it may, an hour or two studying Mother Agnes’s report throws up serious questions Jones fails to address. How come a photo shown on page 20, offered by ‘rebels’ as evidence of atrocity by Assad, had been used a week earlier in Egypt after Muslim Brotherhood violence? What does Jones say to relatives claiming to have seen, in other ‘rebel’ supplied footage, their own children abducted earlier that month from Alawite villages, almost certainly by Al Nusra terrorists? Is it so far fetchedly incredible – as Jones’s airy refusal to trouble himself with the details would suggest – that these zealots, famous for both unspeakable cruelty and crude but effective propaganda, would act with such cynicism?

Related are two questions I’ve raised in other posts. What does Jones believe Damascus could gain from such an attack? Conversely, what is it that stops him seeing that the terrorists, with or without the complicity of western or Saudi intelligence services, had everything to gain from yet another false flag operation to justify further and more direct western intervention against the state they loathe for its multi-faith secularism, Washington for its “Arab communism”?

Crucially, in a foreshadowing of Monbiot’s misrepresentation of Media Lens over Idlib, Jones neglects to say that Mother Agnes is not offering an alternative narrative for Ghouta. Rather, she is pointing out flaws in the case for Damascus having used sarin there.

Blogger Phil Greaves echoes my views, albeit in terms I would not use, of Jones on Syria:

Since the onset of the Syrian conflict, Mother Agnes has made efforts to combat the skewed narratives emerging from corrupt western, Israeli, and Gulf Oil and Gas media – not least regarding the alleged chemical weapons attacks in Ghouta. Contrary to the smears, Agnes doesn’t deny people died, nor offer a complete alternative narrative. Her questions are focused on the many inconsistencies and inaccuracies within the “official narrative” and dubious YouTube videos touted as impartial evidence. It seems the CIA were also less than convinced of the US governments “assessment”; so much so that a mass resignation was threatened if their name was attached to John Kerry’s dodgy dossier.

Furthermore, a considerable open source collaborative effort to determine the perpetrator has drawn the logical conclusion that only the rebels could have been responsible. In addition, the much politicised UN report that attempted to point the finger at the Syrian army has also come under scrutiny from highly qualified avenues for its poor methodologies and misleading conclusions. Regardless of all the above, the fact Mother Agnes actually resides in Syria, is the head of an organisation that has mediated between warring factions and enabled the safe evacuation of civilians, and consistently calls for peaceful reconciliation and dialogue, doesn’t count for much in the eyes of rabid western pundits eager to demonize anyone that dare question, or offer a counter narrative to their fabrication-laden fantasies on Syria.

Owen Jones has written virtually nothing on the Syrian conflict. His understanding of events is largely based on the dominant narratives portrayed in western media. No doubt, like any self-respecting petty bourgeois leftist of London, Jones gets his information from the west’s supposed liberal establishment newspapers, who in recent years have stood proudly alongside right-wing media in cheerleading for disastrous western-led wars of aggression. The conflict in Syria has been no exception, the Guardian’s totally skewed coverage, that lends [sic] more from Whitehall/CIA/Mossad talking points than reality, has been well documented and debunked.

Accordingly, Jones’ ideas on Syria fall in line with this narrative: yes, the “Islamist rebels” are BAD guys (meaning there are some GOOD moderate guys that nobody can find yet, or, in Owen’s case even name), but Assad is a dictator, a war criminal, “barbarous”, “he needs to go”. Any reflection on cause and effect; the long and relevant historical context of US-led subversion and instigation of terrorist insurgencies in the name of “revolution”; or the underlying geopolitical dynamics that helped to create and exacerbate the extremist-led insurgency is far too much nuance for Jones’ simplistic binary narratives: Assad is BAD, and anyone that supports the Syrian government or refuses to support its ouster through coercion or violence is also BAD, by definition. What then, do Jones’ simplistic definitions mean for the millions of Syrians that still support their President and government? Well, like the nun, they are obviously evil and severely misguided.

I mean, what would they know, Living in Syria and all? This stance of vulgar superiority is indicative of the vast undercurrent of western bourgeois Orientalism which still oozes from the pores of western media and its decrepit “journalists” when their stance on “others” threatens to detriment their self-imposed “credibility”.

To be fair, Greaves is wide of the mark in saying that for Jones anyone that .. refuses to support [Assad’s] ouster through coercion or violence is BAD. Jones the universalist does indeed condemn regime change in the middle east but Jonathan Cook’s response, below, to Monbiot’s empty denunciation of the warmongers is equally applicable here. FWIW I don’t see either man as fundamentally dishonest. I do see them as complacent: a consequence on the one hand of their revered status on the liberal left; on the other their employment by a Guardian on a decidedly rightward drift. The first can turn the steadiest head, the second exert a groupthink effect whose dynamics need not depend on censorship or other forms of editorial conspiracy.

But vanity, complacency and any ethical consequences thereof are secondary. My focus is on flaws intrinsic to uncritical universalism. I’ll give the last – OK, penultimate – word to Jonathan Cook, familiar to all who are up to speed on the Palestine travesty, and in my opinion the best informed middle east commentator on the block.

Monbiot has repeatedly denied he wants a military attack on Syria. But if he weakly accepts whatever narratives are crafted by those who do – and refuses to subject them to meaningful scrutiny – he is decisively helping to promote such an attack.

Noam Chomsky made this point in a different context in Understanding Power:

“So when American dissidents criticize the atrocities of some enemy state like Cuba or Vietnam, it’s no secret what the effects of that criticism are going to be: it’s not going to have any effect whatsoever on the Cuban regime, for example, but certainly will help the torturers in Washington and Miami to keep inflicting their campaign of suffering on the Cuban population [i.e. through the US-led embargo]. Well, that is something I do not think a moral person would want to contribute to.”


  1. bevin says

    Jonathan Cook takes up the Monbiot matter in this:
    “…In what has become an ugly habit with Monbiot, and one I have noted before, he has enthusiastically adopted the role of Witchfinder General. Any questioning of evidence, scepticism or simply signs of open-mindedness are enough apparently to justify accusations that one is an Assadist or conspiracy theorist. Giving house room to the doubts of a ballistics expert like Ted Postol of MIT, or an experienced international arms expert like Scott Ritter, or a famous investigative journalist like Seymour Hersh, or a former CIA analyst like Ray McGovern, is apparently proof that one is an atrocity denier or worse….”

    • writerroddis says

      A fascinating and vital read. Thanks.

    • mog says

      A tweet from Lee Camp yesterday:

      Today’s the 55th anniversary of the day Kennedy’s Department of Justice ordered the American Zionist Council to register as a foreign agent.

  2. Paolo says

    Another Guardian journalist subconsciously choosing standpoints to support his career. They say that power corrupts but so do careers.

    • Manda says

      I wonder if there is more “subconsciously” going on than that. Aside from the various intellectual ‘bubble’ and self serving and incentive suggestions, I wonder if there is also a deep rooted neo-colonial belief in a British and western ‘exceptionalism’? I find it hard to believe it is just the system at work, especially these days when so much research, questioning and counter narrative is easily available.

      Of course there is very limited, even zero, questioning in foreign affairs of cui bono in MSM. This is why I believe we must not isolate foreign policy from domestic policy and events. In the end the beneficiaries are the same, banks, major corporations, wealthy vested interests and their legions of de facto support and enforcement structures.

  3. “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!” Upton Sinclair

    Monbiot and the other pseudo-journalists know who butters their bread and they sure as hell don’t want that lucrative relationship to end by actually digging up truths.

  4. mog says

    Great to see such a well written article and BTL responses on this.

    It seems that the reaction to Monbiot’s writing on these matters falls into two categories. The first is that of ‘being kind’ to him, acknowledging his contributions in other areas of journalism and putting down his determined stance on these (and related) issues to some kind of intellectual blind spot. The second, is to regard him as sinister or of such low morals that he is prepared to be bought off by his employer and to write material contrary to his own beliefs or journalistic standards.

    I find the second category of response difficult. Having met the man a couple of times and sharing some common friends even, it is hard, personally, to regard him as a Machiavellian actor. However, saying that, I think it is nowadays well beyond the pale of any intellectually engaged person to regard his employer, The Guardian, as ought but a deeply sinister propaganda device. I cannot believe that George Monbiot does not follow the output of his paper more closely than I do, or that he does not read around the web where it becomes clear that there are numerable clear cases where Guardian editorial policy is exposed as deeply nefarious and distorted. I cannot believe that he has not, and does not, read critiques of the liberal media by Chomsky, Pilger, Curtis, Medialens et al. How bad does it have to be before a person of conscience speaks out against such lies and distortions? How bad does it have to be before one seeks employment elsewhere on supposed grounds of being an honest truth teller?
    So I have to say that whilst ‘difficult’, I would have to accept that it is not ‘unkind’ to regard George Monbiot as a man of dubious morals by mere fact of his writing at The Guardian; that, and his lack of meaningful engagement with the most obviously crucial issue that underscores literally all that he writes about : I.e. the propaganda system of media lies and distortion. If he came and sat by the fire, I would have to leave.

    As for the first category of response, that GM is blind-sided by a misapplied or erroneous mental framework, I think that Philip Roddis makes a good case about an absolutist attitude in invoking universalism.
    However, I wonder if Philip would be more inclined toward focusing on the critique of Monbiot’s employment of the ‘conspiracy theory’ label if he had read the work by Griffin, Ryan, Scott et al, as he assured us that he would? To cross that bridge is to be forever questioning everything in detail. Yet Monbiot stands as a guard on one side, cutting away at the ropes with occasional bursts of nonsense. I wonder if we asked GM about Kennedy, would he seriously stand behind the Warren Commission? I suspect he would, and if so would disqualify himself from being taken seriously on anything to do with ‘conspiracies’.
    This epistemological pirouette of boxing off certain inquiries as ‘unclean’, is, for me, is the liberal disease par excellence. Kit did such a great dissection the other week on Freedland’s brainless splurge, yet I can well imagine George Monbiot reading that Guardian piece and nodding along in agreement and hubris. I always recommend Charles Pigden’s writing as a remedy to the confused thinking that underlies disregarding certain evidence because ‘it is a conspiracy theory’. I have come to think that of all the propagandistic techniques so deftly used by the liberal press and commentariat, it is this quarantining of thought that has been the most effective. Decoding its meaning leads us to a direct assertion of informational power : ‘We, the corporate/state media are the arbiters of truth. You, the public, need to know the truth to make sense of the world. We control you through defining what is true.’
    It’s a war.
    Is George Monbiot a presstitute, a covert stooge, a blithering idiot or a man lost in a cultish devotion to irrational views of history? I don’t know, but I think he has to be at least one of those things.

    • Frank says

      Monbiot is the Harvey Weinstein of entitled leftists, and a danger to the pot plants of 90 York Way.

    • bevin says

      What is sinister is that this article, which has been staring the world in the face-the Foreign Minister on TV in a lengthy interview!- has been studiously ignored with impunity. Like many other revelations from Syria the MSM have been shameless in their pretending that “It just didn’t happen. Nobody said anything of the sort. There was no TV interview.”
      Small wonder that the media, resigned to the steady erosion of its credibility, is reduced to urging search engines to develop the means of hiding the truth in order that their own shoddy misrepresentations do not crumble on contact with reality.

  5. Lupulco says

    Good article, but the trouble is the bad guys control the media.
    As for democracy most people are wage slaves as such are in economic servitude. There main aim is to get thru the month if lucky living month to month, if unlucky it is on a week to week basis.

    Most people are only three wage packets from destitution and if you are lucky, or frugal enough to be debt free, have a cash float to give you some sort of independence. You are usually to old to do anything constructive apart from tell the grand kids the economic facts of life [they may listen and take action] or just whinge at the pacifier and propaganda machine in the corner, the TV.

    Governments may promise this or that freedom, but no Government [of whatever orientation] will allow economic freedom.

    • bevin says

      “..the trouble is the bad guys control the media.”
      Which, in a community strung together by the media, means that the bad guys control our minds.
      The point is to change that. The question is how?
      The internet is a double edged sword: it draws us together but it does so by making us dependent on those who control its highways.
      In the past it was clear to any movement seriously committed to changing society that it had to build its own, alternative education and communication networks- political education classes, Fabian Tracts, Communist Universities, the Daily Herald etc etc.
      Is that what we are doing here?

  6. Jen says

    If one dares to venture to George Monbiot’s Twitter account and reads a recent chain of tweets started by Thomas Clerget about the Khan Sheykhoun incident (one should have a barf bag nearby), one gets a sense of what Monbiot thinks, what idiocy he swallows about the incident and how readily others feed him, and what he thinks of other commentators like John Pilger and Noam Chomsky.

    Here is what Monbiot says on one tweet chain about Pilger and Chomsky:
    “I think it’s a matter of wanting to believe certain narratives. In contesting the media’s propaganda model they have created a propaganda model of their own.”

    In other words, Monbiot believes those who challenge him on his views regarding Syria are deluded by their own prejudices and paradigms. Dare we think this is psychological projection in action?

    Further down there is a link to an article by “two brave AFP photographers, Omar Haj-Kadour and Mohamed Al-Bakour” who race to hospitals in Khan Sheykhoun soon after the incident. Notice the emphasis on the suffering of small children and the close-up photographs of them – it’s almost like looking at torture pornography.

    • Big B says

      Well said Jen: and thanks for having the stomach to do the research. Re: the two AFP photographers – if they raced there fast enough – did they get there before the attacks were supposed to have happened???

      57 of the 200 alleged victims of a chemical weapons attack, arrived at hospitals hours before the attack was said to have occurred. In some cases individuals arrived at hospitals over 100km away from the alleged attack site, before any planes were even in the area.

      [See also Robert Parry’s report on the timings: https://consortiumnews.com/2017/11/09/did-al-qaeda-dupe-trump-on-syrian-attack/#comment-295842%5D

      This is not conspiracy theory: this is based on the UN-OPCW-JIM (Joint Investigative Mission) report – only it is buried in Annex II. It is facts like this (and Postol’s) that Monbiot is deliberately trying to conceal with the conceit that we have “have created a propaganda model of [our] own.” _______ – fill in the blanks.

      If the attacks were between 0642 and 0652 hours: but the victims started to arrive at hospital at 0600 – the Monbiot-NATO-Atlanticist narrative is not only implausible – it is a politicidal fabrication. This beggars the question: has Monbiot read the JIM Report and the Postol analysis before denying them? Or did he just count his ‘thirty pieces of silver’; and say what he was required to say to maintain his antithetical position. Judas???

    • Big B says

      PS: no inference is drawn by Monbiot about the ability of the two AFP photographers (and the Guardian’s own Kareem Shaheen – see my comments below) ability to race through the al-Qaeda heartland to Khan Sheikhoun? I wonder: how far would a less sympathetic Western journalist[s] (Patrick Henningsen for instance) have got before they were beheaded with a blunt knife???

      • writerroddis says

        You make an underappreciated point, Big B. I fear I understated, early in my piece, the significance of Daesh allowing Shaheen safe passage for his ‘exclusive’ on Khan Sheikhoun.

      • Jen says

        Reading the article by the photographers Omar Haj-Kadour and Mohamed Al-Bakour that I linked to, I did get a hunch that those two fellows might have had similar safe passage as did Kareem Shaheen: the article’s focus on child victims and those photographs taken of the children’s faces in close-up to the extent that they look intrusive and disrespectful of their suffering – but with no pictures of adult suffering – puts it on par with the White Helmets’ exploitation of children like Omran Daqneesh for their propaganda videos.

      • BigB says

        Let me underscore my point: the same journey these “journalists” undertook alone (without the guarantee of safe passage by the Syrian authorities) was deemed TOO DANGEROUS for the UN-OPCW-JIM investigators to undertake. It is the cited reason they have not been to Khan Sheikhoun: and the “evidence” has been gathered and sent via Turkey (as I understand it.) No criticism intended (it’s hardly a flawed trait) but I fear your inherent kindness, Phil, has led you to be rather lenient on Monbiot. No primary physical or forensic evidence: no case.

        • writerroddis says

          Ha! No offence taken, Big B. In fact I’m just about to paste your comment into the version of my piece on my own blogsite!

    • Sav says

      Talking of Monbiot’s projection, here’s another line from his tweets about conspiracy theorists which fits this perfectly:

      ‘The pattern is always the same. They ignore a mountain of compelling evidence and latch onto one or a few contrarians who tell them what they want to hear’

  7. michaelk says

    The problem is the Guardian’s liberal/left image, or brand, isn’t really accurate or true. Whilst the style and rhetoric employed appears, on the surface, to be ‘critical’ of certain aspects and ‘mistakes’ that occur in our system, when it comes to the UK and Washington’s foreign policy the Guardian is only marginally, if at all, more critical compared to the rest of the rightwing press. The Guardian is a ‘partriotic publication’ and ‘loves’ its’ country. One will never see the West’s military attacks on foreign nations described as ‘aggression’ or ‘international crimes’ and our politicians are never called ‘war criminals’ who deserve to be held to account for their terrible deeds. At worst they are decent, honorable, men who simply make errors or mistakes, unlike official foreign enemies who are vile beasts, monsters who revel in violence and destruction because they actual enjoy it!

    The idea that our media and institutions are free and independent and therefore honest is a dogma, an article of faith within our media and public life; and this fundamental truthfulness… even in wartime and when are politicians have vowed to topple another ‘monster’ from power… is never questioned or scrutinized. This is odd. How likely is it that our media, which is both loyal and patriotic, is gonna tell the truth about our wars? when have they ever done this? Once we go to war against the latest foreign tyrant monster, the media fall into line and support our boys at the front, even if they are foreign terrorists with an agenda that would horrify most people, as in Syria.

    Monbiot is extremely conceited and arrogant. He appears to know next to nothing about western foregin policy, yet that doesn’t stop him have extremely strong views abouty it and especially those who have the temerity to question it.

    Why would Assad decide to use chemical weapoins at times seemingly designed to cause maximum damage to the reputation and interests of the Syrian government, like before so crucial vote at the UN? Why would Assad choose to hand the rebels a golden opportunity on a silver platter? Why stop with a few chemical attacks, why not use them on a mass scale and actually achieve something militarilly? So, Assad is both a monster and increibly stupid at the same time. That the Russians would never allow the Syrians to use chemical weapons precisely because the military advantage is massively outweighed by the political catastrophe that follows, making their use both pointless, counterprodutive and extraordinarilly dangerous for the regimes survival; none of that appears to cross Monbiot’s mind for a second.

    • Sav says

      Any domestic issue commented upon by government receives cynicism from the Guardian…as if hey…we’re on the side of the people. But when it comes to any foreign adventure the Guardian are there standing up and saluting to every instruction. No matter how many times we’re told has run off to Venezuela by the Foreign Secretary, this is dutifully reported without question.

      Remember the Guardian ran with the Russian trolls rubbish over a year ago. That their comments were being flooded with them. They said they discovered this from a tip off but wouldn’t disclose details of the informer. You can bet all that happened was this informer was via UK or US governments.

  8. Manda says

    I was going to shoe-horn this link into a reply but am strapped for time so will just leave it here.
    Prof Tim Anderson: “EXPOSED: The ‘Walter Mitty’ of Syria’s Fictional ‘Revolution”, highlighting the history of Yassin al-Haj Saleh. I am not claiming Monbiot et al write about this man, just wishing to flesh out lack of research in some areas that could pose questions about foreign policy objectives.
    It demonstrates, to me, how important it is for ‘leftists’, especially with a public platform, to research and question more deeply, especially if they proclaim they are committed to the ‘universality of human rights’.

  9. sabelmouse says

    he certainly doesn’t write with clarity regarding the environment and animal farming.
    his writing there is influenced by either vegan dogma, or the same monies that help vegan orgs. big ag/fossil fuels. i’ve lost my respect for him a while ago.

    • Manda says

      I am sure Monbiot is not vegan… he cooked and ate a road kill squirrel in TV.

      I did like his writing on rewilding and am on board with his ideas about better environmental water/rainfall management to reduce flooding… to be frank I wish he would limit himself to such subjects where he has expertise and leave foreign policy to discussions around the dinner table or on a personal blog.

    • Gordon Groves says

      well said. Animal farming is far more destructive of the environment and contributes to co2 by a factor of 10 compared to the use of fossil fuels, and none of the so-called environmental watchdogs have the spine to say it. If George was a real man with a backbone, he would have said it, but he’s much too frightened of losing his status in British society, and his salary.

      • sabelmouse says

        no it doesn’t. if you’re replying to me you have my comment/s backwards.

  10. Of course Monbiot writes ethical and moving prose. A whore subverts the Divine purpose of sex but must and will deliver the sexual thrill.
    He is like Chomsky, a determined vendor of every big treasonable lie that has triggered the great evils that have beset this world since 2001. He aches along with Israel at the Syrian failure. He obviously perceives the dangers of “conspiracy theories” [i.e. truth] to his preferred outcomes.

    Here are quotes by one Jesus Christ that fit the creep well,
    “O, ye blind guides, that strain at the gnat but swallow the camel.”
    “Ye are liars! Of Satan!”

    This establishment leader of the (false) opposition must be called out for what he is. a total fake. A shill for the international Zionist Imperialist project.
    A determined enemy within.
    A four-letter-fellow who, like Chomsky, is deserving of ZERO RESPECT.
    Let us damn the little b*stard every time he opens his mouth.
    Let us be grateful that he brands the Imperialist lefty Guardian with the stench of his lying life-destroying treachery. Not that they need him with Freedland and plenty of others of this ilk around.

  11. Big B says

    Russia is getting pissed off with the US’ increasingly (deliberately) counterproductive and continued interference in Syria. They have (rightly) vetoed the politically motivated witch hunt into the Idlib ‘Sarin’ attack at the UNSC. It is not clear whether they have read Monbiot’s recent article: I doubt if they would have approved!


    • According to RI, Moscow and Damascus have told the US to leave Syria and Lavrov denounced the USA claim they had a right to violate sovereign territory. Unlike the soaps on the TV which I don’t pay any heed to, the worldwide soap opera that is western geopolitical gerrymandering of truth and reality is unmissable. Unfortunately the many dead victims of the western war mongering would probably think otherwise, if only they could be heard.

      • Big B says

        Absolutely: and the US politely declined to leave. The Turks let slip that US Special Forces have 13 bases inside Syria: they ain’t going nowhere! The US-UK Imperium has the invented mythpoeia as the champions of International Law to maintain, when it is we – not the Russians – who are its principal enemies. A fact illustrated by the ever excellent Neil Clark in his response to Maybot’s recent Mansion House speech.


      • Big B says

        It gets better. I have just watched todays UK Column news: Mike Robinson had put in a FOIA request for a copy of the evidence that Matthew Rycroft presented to the UN – in which Porton Down confirmed that the presence of sarin. Mike’s request was answered with a statement that they could “neither confirm or deny” that they had the evidence available. The case that Monbiot is advocating is becoming vanishingly thin. Will he retract (laugh!)

        • Manda says

          Must watch it, thanks for the heads up. I tend to avoid Fridays for a specific reason.

          • Big B says

            You don’t like David Scott! LOL! If you go to the end and come back in, Mike makes this statement in the last 5 mins or so. You don’t have to watch the other 45mins!

            • Manda says

              I watched much of it thanks and ‘no comment’ to your suggestion.

  12. Frank says

    Listening to BBC Radio 4 whilst driving my car this morning I learned of these forthcoming items on the news. Firstly Hilary Benn was going to talk about Brexit, and then one of the Pussy Riot women is going to talk about her period of incarceration. How’s that for balance and objectivity? Everything they print, broadcast is designed to show Russia in a bad light. Aggressive, barbaric, totalitarian … and so forth. As for us? Well, we are as pure as the driven snow; a shining light of reason and justice in a world of darkness and ignorance. Two-minutes hate time.

    Note how public opinion is being stoked up by relentless Russophobic propaganda; populations must be ideologically and psychologically aligned and got ready for a forthcoming conflict. As in the US, the vassal states of Europe are being similarly manipulated. And the liberal media is cheering the whole process on. BTW ex-trot on the make, Paul Mason is yet another NATO socialist. It would be true to say that we no longer have a media – the center-right, center-left bob – but a Ministry of Truth. It is somewhat akin to a religious orthodoxy which brooks no opposition and which is the only source privy to truth and justice.

    I suppose just how far the west has declined since its progressive historical era (if it ever had one) and how in its downward trajectory threatens to take down the whole of humanity, either in a nuclear war or through climate change.

  13. My mention of the goat actually gave truth to the lie. Someone in the area of Khan Sheikhoun realized that if the goat was still alive having been tethered where it was throughout the supposed attack, was proof of the lie about the attack – it too should have been dead. Presumably someone else noticed his interest in the live goat and next thing you know – the goat is dead? Too late, our happy snapper had already put a spanner in the works. Suddenly the goat became the focus of “proof”, even though it was not in the first shots of the incident. PS. The goat in the above pictures – same goat to all intents and purposes, but it has been moved, it was originally tethered outside a wooden building. The reason, I suggest, was to disassociate it from the original live goat.

    • Big B says

      Bastards! Did they kill the birds too!!!

      I did realise that. Consider my reply tangential to what I set out to write.

      • What? The poor birds got it in the neck as well – must have been a lot of dead rats then? Alas the family muts, the birds and the rats didn’t make it into the news, or funnily enough the pictures I saw, perhaps the birds and rats flew/ran past at such a speed they died elsewhere? Miraculous how those chaps inspecting the crater only hours after the “incident” when Sarin has an active shelf life of between 48hrs and two weeks, are still alive. They should have made medical history, but alas, their fifteen minutes of fame has been and gone, a bit like them really.

  14. Kavy says

    Timothy Garton Ash wrote an article in the Guardian today title, Yes, we can halt the rise of the international far right, but i notice the CiF section is deactivated yet again, just like in the George Monbiot article. It seems that the Guardian knew it would get so many replies critical of the article that it turned the comment section off. I was disappointment because I wanted to point out that TGA is a liberal Interventionists, which is a new term for the discredited Neocons who are war hawks that have destroyed the ME and now slaves are being sold in Libya. The liberal interventionist wanted the backed ISIS to win the war in Syria who would have mass executed many of the men and boys and taken the women as concubines, now what’s liberal about that? But this is what the Guardian, TGA, and George Monbiot backed.

    RT, Strategic Cultures, New Eastern Outlook, and Sputnik are great outlets and must have Putin’s approval. These news organisations expose the crimes of the US empire but what gain do they have for Putin,? And If Putin is Trump’s friend why hasn’t he tried to modify these news outlets as they don’t stand for anything Trump stand believes in? Because they stand for decency and fairness which is universal and can’t be suppressed. Putin gets my thumbs up.

    Now Timothy Garton Ash’s article was about the rise of the alt right in Europe. But George Soros has too much influence in Europe and is meddling in our politics. Many Europeans don’t want mass immigration into their country but George Soros and the faux liberals are forcing this onto people and are making them move to the right. You won’t win the argument with ordinary people about mass immigration but you can win the argument about left economics.

  15. summitflyer says

    When I first came across the writings of George Monbiot a number of years ago ,I thought he was the real deal .It did not take me long to realize that it was definitely not so. He has obviously sold his soul to the hypocritical propaganda world .What a waste.

    • I disagree. Monboit writes some terrific stuff and has a very interesting perspective on many things. I wholeheartedly agree with 90% of his personal blog.

      But we need to stop idolising “messengers”. All messengers hold views that we don’t agree with.

      • Sav says

        I understand what you’re saying but there’s a difference between respecting someone, even if you disagree with them on certain things and someone who uses fallacious argument.

      • Harry Stotle says

        Fair enough, but Monbiot does seem to have a special talent for espousing suspect theories when it comes to the Middle East.

        His 9/11 musings were especially lamentable, and here he is again accusing Bashar al-Assad of war crimes despite the fact impartial evidence collection is nigh on impossible because opposing vested interests will invariably pollute analysis in a conflict that has come to rely so heavily on propaganda (from both sides) – all the more so when it comes to highly emotive accusations, such as who is responsiblre for the use of chemical weapons.

        Its just hard to take when an essentially honorable man like Monbiot adds his weight to the mountain of disinformation that has become an essential ingredient when it comes to perpetuating endless military intervention and if George doesn’t understand this point it is high time somebody sat him down and drew him a few pictures.

        If George really does want to get his knickers in a twist because of atrocities on the battlefield maybe he could revisit Chilcot especially the fact not a single person of high office was ever held to account for the ongoing mayhew that has unfolded post Afghanistan and Iraq.
        As I see it its all part of the double standards the Guardian is so fond off – column inches for Tony and Alastair, criminal proceedings for nasty dictators.

      • writerroddis says

        I’m with you on everything bar your last sentence. The issue – I speak as one many on this site will regard as too ‘kind’ to Monbiot – is not that I disagree with him. The issue is that since his stance (and mine) has real world consequences in the shape of death in the middle east, it is beholden on us all to inquire more deeply, more energetically and above all more honestly than George has shown himself willing to do. In my opinion, at risk of repeating myself, a good starting place for that would be a re-examination of his ‘universalism’.

        • Harry Stotle says

          ‘The issue is that since his stance (and mine) has real world consequences in the shape of death in the middle east, it is beholden on us all to inquire more deeply, more energetically and above all more honestly than George has shown himself willing to do’ – indeed, and perhaps we could throw into the mix the Faustian pact Monbiot has metaphorically signed in order to maintain the profile he enjoys with the news outlet that employs him?

          Lets not forget the Guardian is already at the front of the queue when it comes to ascribing the most anodyne of motives when it comes to the war crimes of Hilary and Obama, or indeed some of our own home grown murderers.
          In fact, I still can’t quite get over Zoe Williams arse kissing after Clinton’s appearance on a chat show; an article that perfectly illustrates the epic disconnect between political fantasy and political reality.

          At the same time the Guardian’s increasing reliance on censorship, which is presumably required to preserve the endless bullshit they espouse, has led to a culture of serious intolerance BTL.

          Unfortunately Monbiot cannot diassociate himself from this brand of journalism and his tacit acceptance of the status quo means he has become part of the problem.

          I’m not saying Monbiot is irredeemable but he is hopelessly compromised by the platform he comments from – his lazy chemical weapons s piece is just one more example of a blinkered news culture that deprives readers of more accurate and balanced analysis.

        • Big B says

          Phillip: it is a very interesting point that you make. In appealing to ‘universalism’: Monbiot is in fact abusing the concept to call for a limited and restricted investigation – one that conforms to the NATO-Atlanticist POV. By denying Postol, Blix, Ritter, etc. their say – he is setting the parameters of investigation and debate to conform and confirm his own (pre-determined) POV. What is universal about that? It is tantamount to the neo-totalitarian intellectual enforcement of his own confirmation bias.

          And on the universality of human rights: if he intends to determine the outcome – when another set of conclusions (such as mine) are equally plausible – he is denying the humanity and universality of rights of those murdered. The very noble concept he appeals to – and morally avows to uphold – is being employed as a tool of subversion. This amounts to moral brinksmanship … and that is a very disingenuous and ultimately dangerous stance to take.

        • Phillip. I still think you are too kind but that is probably to your credit. I, on the other hand, become very defensive when people like Proff.Tim Hayward come under attack and are dismissed by someone like Monbiot, with imperious arrogance. That’s why you are the respected, serious writer and I am the reactive minor player.

          • writerroddis says

            Mohandeer you’ve put your finger on my one and only moral failing – an excessive kindness.

            Seriously though, if I thought it would help me get through to him – and more importantly some at least of his fan base – then I’d turn the air blue and curse him out royally …

      • Big B says

        SocTrap et al: you can find my POV in response to this thread in my reply to Mohandeer below.

      • The problem is the 10% is the crucial 10%. The BIG issues. The 9/11 lie etc…. e.g. truths about wars and who are causing them.
        He is a Ziopropagandist and all the truths he writes are presented to ultimately draw his readership into service and support of the very worst Imperialist Zionist criminals.
        His ethical powers are an expression of the Satanic impersonating the Divine spirit.
        He serves the global Marxist agenda …. Marxism being seen (by the eilte) as an instrument for achieving a total monopoly over power and wealth of nations.
        this man is not our friend.

        • milosevic says

          You clearly don’t know what Marxism is.

          • Manda says

            I have noticed fascist Marxists or Marxist fascists are now a thing in certain circles.

          • writerroddis says

            You make an underappreciated point, Big B. I fear I understated, early in my piece, the significance of Daesh allowing Shaheen safe passage for his ‘exclusive’ on Khan Sheikhoun.

          • writerroddis says

            Indeed. I’d go so far as to say the single most important thing we can do, to make sense of the world we live in – capitalism in the age of advanced imperialism – is gain a thorough grasp of Marx’s labour theory of value.

  16. BigB says

    I would like to pick up and amplify the points made be Dave Hansell. The at-face-value Monbiot amplified narrative has been so completely debunked – no least by Theodore Postol, in a series of reports. Apart from the truth, and what was left (if anything ) of Monbiot’s conscience and credibility: all that died in Khan Sheikhoun was a goat and a bird. So where did the victims come from? Bearing in mind that Khan Sheikhoun is in the al-Qaeda heartland – is it likely they gassed their own? Is it possible that the real narrative is psychotically dark – and the victims were kidnapped from Majdal and Khattab for the purpose; poisoned with a “sarin-like ” poison (phosphine?); and filmed as they died for propaganda? I believe so: but in the absence of a reliable investigation (it’s too late now to investigate from primary sources) – I can’t be certain. But it is just as plausible as a terrorist constructed narrative – advocated and defended by Monbiot.


    [NB. Some of the victims were delivered to hospital BEFORE the attack happened. A “journalist” – Feras Karam – tweeted about the attack the day before. The ‘living proof’ [Hameed al-Yousef]: ‘father’ of the gassed twins – that lost 19 members of his family but lived to tell the tale (by wearing a paper mask.). Who would be so heartless as to question a man who had just lost his children: in an attack that didn’t happen? This is dark psychological manipulation of raw emotions for motives of regime change: and Monbiot is complicit.]

    [[Also complicit is Kareem Shaheen: who crossed the Turkish border illegally, travelled and colluded with al-Qaeda – to bring the Guardian it’s exclusive on the ground report. It should be considered criminally and morally corrupt that the Guardian has encouraged and enabled terrorism such as the Khan Sheikhoun and Rashidin massacres. This amounts to the political murder of innocents: to which Monbiot and Shaheen are parties after the fact.]]

    • Er. The goat didn’t die, even though it was in the same path downwind from the crater that was there but isn’t any more and could not have survived what so many, apparently, did not. Also missing from any reports by our MSM is the claim made by an ex White Helmets, who saw liquids being loaded by ISIS he knew was not what he was told it was(it’s the reason he left that particular propaganda organization) SANA reported it, as did the Iranian press and from the same town where 23 children’s bodies were removed from the local morgue. They died of CW as well from a mortar attack by ISIS on a schoolyard. That was the whole point of the piece on the goat posted to several alternate news sites by a Syrian who was there, it was alive during and after the supposed attack which is why so many Syrians believed the whole Khan Sheikhoun incident a fake. If it has died since – it too was likely murdered for effect. Tomorrow I will search my library for links(don’t hold out much hope, there are thousands to search through).

      • Big B says

        Susan: the terrorists poisoned the goat too? Bastards!


        This MoA report aggregates all four of Ted Postol’s analysis. The goat features in his summary report: “The Nerve Agent Attack That Did Not Occur.”

        I’m not going to get hung up on the goat when the apparent empirical conclusion is that men, women and children were kidnapped, taken to a quarry (i.e. not the hamlet down wind of the alleged sarin dispersal), poisoned, and heaped in a pile to die – for the glorification and justification of al-Qaeda, the White Helmets, and a psychopathic international regime change consortium. The video ‘evidence’ of this incident was nothing less than a necrophiliac ‘snuff movie’ infomercial for financial dictators – endorsed by (among many others) a criminally complicit Monbiot. Let’s not forget, this was a last ditch attempt to impose a Wahhabist ‘Caliphate of Evil’ on a secular multi-cultural society. How many ethnically, religious, and sexually marginal minority (even ‘the wrong sort of Muslim’ ‘apostate’) men, women and children would have been subjugated and slaughtered had Monbiot got his way? I’m not aiming this at you, Susan, but frankly I am appalled by some of the comments that exonerate Monbiot as essentially “honorable.” [sic] Where is the ‘honour’ in the endorsing of murdering children???

        We are not talking about a lapse in judgement: we are talking about actively dismissing evidence (like Postol’s) that does not confirm his egregiously lacking of any discernible morality bias. [See the Media Lens response to his ‘Disavowal’ that Phillip included.] He unapologetically self-promotingly virtue signals – passing himself off as the greenest guy in the country – whilst actively promoting the propaganda of dictatorship. In a recent article he talks of a “dark money net” taking over on both sides of the Atlantic. True: but it is one he is aligned with. He is a very dangerous man, who, judging from some of the comments – has taken many people in.

        [Apologies once again: I did not intend to direct my ire toward you.]

        • Big B says

          Caveat: Monbiot declared he was against intervention – yet his actions blindly endorse the regime change narrative. That is cognitively dissonant to say the least.

  17. DavidKNZ says

    Kudos to Phillip Roddis – there’s a vast amount of effort gone into his post. For a man who claims to have circumnavigated the sun more than 65 times this takes some “steel” . I can only assume that his “springs” have been wound up by a deep commitment to “Truth” in the face of increasingly degenerate falsehoods. Its good to see that pensioners can make a significant contribution 🙂

  18. rtj1211 says

    I really do not know why you regard Owen Jones as some sort of bellwether for journalism. He has the emotional development of an 8/9 year old when pronouncing on politics i.e. really rather totalitarian in attitude, needing to mouth tribal mantras but not yet having truly evaluated the sources of key tenets of faith. He has not been a journalist in the Middle East, he is scientifically illiterate yet he KNOWS about climate change and Syria.

    I spent 11 years learning that ‘all scientists are selfless loving servants of humanity’ to be baseless bullshit. I did so working at the coalface. I then worked for technology investors subjecting scientists and their science to due diligence. So I had plenty of experience preparing me to dissect the global warming propaganda, a scam which puts PPI and other financial services naughtiness in the shade. That scam has no bearing on environmental vandalism, fighting against which I thoroughly applaud. Nor does it impinge on murder for oil, another abomination I have no time for.

    I have no more experience on the ground than Jones where Syria is concerned, but I have two advantages:
    1) I am not wedded to any ideology or media organisation;
    2) I am skilled at recgnising media reporting inconsistent with purported conclusions.

    In other words, I am in no position to know the truth, but I have a hope in determining what is demonstrably false.

    People need to start evaluating the fitness of journalists to pronounce and ask why they need such pronouncements in the first place…….

  19. Jan Bloemendal says

    The Monbiot case is quite simple:

    “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” Upton Sinclair.

    I came to appreciate the truth of this statement in 2011 after visiting the Fire Safety Department of the University of Edinburgh to talk to one of its members of staff about the collapse of the Twin Towers on 9/11.

  20. BigB says

    I would like to pick up and amplify the points made be Dave Hansell. The at-face-value Monbiot amplified narrative has been completely debunked – no least by Theodore Postol, in a series of reports. Apart from the truth, and what was left (if anything ) of Monbiot’s reputation: all that died in Khan Sheikhoun was a goat and a bird. So where d

    • writerroddis says

      Mohandeer you’ve put your finger on my one and only moral failing – an excessive kindness.

      Seriously though, if I thought it would help me get through to him – and more importantly some at least of his fan base – then I’d turn the air blue and curse him out royally …

      • @Philip.
        Please don’t. You have my total respect precisely because you do not resort to the kind of response you propose. There is no gain or moral excellence in being either reactionary or lowering your own standards. I admire you just as you are.
        Susan O’Neill

  21. Kavy says

    The Guardian had no comments section underneath which was a shame but I think the Guardian knew what the comments would be like. I like The Real News but I found some propaganda on it the other day. I don’t think The Real News is interested in spreading propaganda but they should have known the story stinks. Anyway, underneath in the comments section no one was buying it – nobody. I see this a lot on YouTube nowadays and it seems that people are catching on about the fake news in the MSM.

  22. Dave Hansell says

    Focusing tightly on the narrative of the sarin gas incident.

    There are in existence detailed international protocols for dealing with all aspects of nerve agent incidents, including secondary contamination. These are easily found on any web search engine for anyone with the gumption and will to look.

    The point being that when considered alongside photographic and video evidence submitted at the time of this incident as being direct visual verification of the claim of the nerve agent incident that visual evidence is totally at variance with both the protocols and the reality of dealing with a nerve agent

    We are shown photographs of claimed on the spot assistance being rendered by people with totally inadequate protective equipment. No proper NBC (“Noddy”) suits; inadequate gas masks unfit for purpose; no gloves. Handling claimed nerve agent victims whose clothing and skin will have been contaminated by a claimed nerve agent. Ditto for the videos submitted.

    The protocols for dealing on-site and in off-site triage exist for a very good reason. Nerve agents are extremely toxic and secondary contamination is treated very seriously. Even forty years ago military training doctrines were specific that exposure to nerve agents gave a limited time for survival. Seven seconds. Which is why the policy in circumstances where an encounter with such agents was considered likely everyone would be issued with an auto-injector containing a suitable compound which might save your life.

    Three possibilities logically exist from the facts available.

    A nerve agent was used and people entered a contaminated zone assisting and treating contaminated victims with inadequate protective equipment and clothing outside of recognised international protocols for operating in a nerve agent contaminated area or outside one treating contaminated victims. And lived to tell the tale.

    The short descriptive term for this is “A miricle.”

    The photographic and video material submitted as evidence of people operating in a nerve agent contaminated area and treating contaminated victims inside that contaminated area and outside the area in medical facilities are false.
    The photographic and video evidence is accurate in terms of having been taken at the site of the incident but the incident did not involve a nerve agent. Otherwise the majority of those in the submitted visual evidence would either be dead or seriously out of action – which if that was the case we would most certainly have been told about it.

    Anything else is either lazy can’t be arsed research or pure bullshit.

  23. Sav says

    When someone uses dishonest argument that tells you all you need to know. The man is a fraud.

    Even before the OPCW report Monbiot was on Twitter claiming Assad was 99% behind the chemical attack. When asked for evidence he couldn’t be bothered to reply.

    He writes to Hersh demanding details of building coordinates whilst ignoring that the OPCW report is built on evidence provided by the ‘rebels/activists’. But this gives the illusion to readers that Monbiot has gone through everything objectively.

    And because there are connections to right wingers also supporting claims against Monbiot’s view, that apparently means these are far-right wing conspiracy theories? Used to get this nonsense BTL on the Guardian. Well the BNP also were against the invasion of Iraq and by that everyone who contested the propaganda before 2003 was obviously a far-right wing conspiracy theorist. The whole article is totally disingenuous.

    Dan Kaszeta is not an expert nor is he impartial. He gets paid $$$ by the very people pushing for regime change. The idea that he is going to say anything but Assad guilty is plainly stupid. Likewise Brownmoses & Co.

  24. bevin says

    Firstly, this really is an excellent article for reasons that there is no need for me to state.
    It is one of the least attractive parts of the Trotskyist tradition that nothing gives the regular critic of The Establishment more comfort than to take advantage of the occasional opportunity to join in with denunciations of the common enemy. It was probably always latent-and an irresistible temptation not to be the last or the most restrained in piling on to the recumbent corpse of Stalin’s or Mao’s reputation- in Trotskyism after 1928. After 1941, with the restraining hand removed, it became almost a raison d’etre.
    One of the results was the sort of politics that Monbiot and Jones practise and which is almost endemic in parts of the “Marxist” left, the ‘neither Washington nor Moscow’ slogan which, in a polis enthusiastically bombing North Korea and pouring millions of men into wars against the many of spectres of communism evident to, inter alia, the directors of the United Fruit Conmpany is merely a seconding of the resolution moved by the warmongers.
    Monbiot is quite vicious in his refusals even to listen to counter arguments about Srebrenica or Rwanda-anyone who dissents from the ‘official view’ is either evil or demented. I seem to recall that he was equally committed to the propositions that the late Colonel Ghadaffi was only prevented from bombing Benghazi back to the Stone Age and unloosing viagra crazed black men from equatorial Africa on the women of the Mahgreb by the timely intervention of the pseudo philosopher Levy, Sarkozy,Jonathan Freedland, Hillary (Benn no less than Clinton) et al.
    Nor, if memory serves, was he ever much impressed by Corbyn’s victories over the ‘moderates’ running for the Labour leadership. I’m not sure that Jones-the Guardian’s tame socialist- was not happy to join in with Blair, Polly Toynbee and 99% of the nation’s punditry in sneering at that good man’s honesty and sanity.
    To put is succinctly: Philip is far too kind to these people, nothing is more cowardly than to justify the enormously costly attacks made on the peoples of Syria, Yugoslavia Libya and wherever is next on the fatuous ground that those currently ruling in the victimsed lands have questionable democratic credentials. Of course they do, just as the CPSU in Stalin’s day did, they have been living under siege ever since they first said NO to imperialism’s demands.
    The left has never been short of Trimmers and now we have whole sects of them.

    • @bevin. May I put your words on my blog and if so, would you like me to credit you or only as a “from the comments section” mention?

        • You wouldn’t be flattered if you realised how disorganised my mind is and my rambling on without direction. Yours was a cogent and reasoned response that was well devised and eloquent.

  25. Many thanks OffG, have already reblogged Phillip’s article from Steel City Scribblings. As for Monbiot, I also follow Proff. Tim Hayward, another man of great integrity and honesty, when he requested of Monbiot that he at least explain his false assertions in light of Prof. Postol’s analysis. Monbiot behaved like a crass idiot and couldn’t actually respond because he knew his own article was a fraud, instead he just tried to belittle and demean Proff. Tim. I went on Guardian but no way would they let me post the real truth and facts(as one has come to expect). So I used their share buttons and gave the necessary corrections and cited links. Did the same a couple of years back with Jones who wrote a ridiculous article about barrel bombs – either he didn’t know Israel was the latest to use them and is credited with having virtually invented the modern version, or he just didn’t care(probably the latter). Monbiot and Jones have firmly established themselves as frauds according to the F/B feedback I got – and best of all, the majority were(being the operative word)Guardian readers; not any more.
    Writer R is proving to be quite the competent nemesis to the likes of M and J and the “G”.

  26. Paul says

    I imagine it’s difficult to get published in the Guardian if you dare express a view contrary to their very firm narratives on foreign affairs? In essence this is a “no buts” support of the US-Israeli-Saudi-Sunni Coalition. It’s certainly next to impossible to express an alternative btl: deletions are followed by life suspension. I don’t know how long it has been like this, very possibly always. Oddly they seemed to get worse and worse at getting away with their pretences to being progressive. It became inescapable in 2014 with Luke Harding’s unchallenged reports of brave anti Russians blindly bombing cities of a 1 million people. When Russia entered the war in Syria the Coalition went haywire; coverage of the Aleppo-Mosul liberation’s was surely the most one sided since WW1. Now who could imagine a Guardian journalist being allowed to say that the current hysteria about Russian interference arises from the power struggle underway in the US and huge resentment at Putin’s success in both Crimea and the ME. The case is so weak it has to be bolstered with things that are generally thought doubtful; Yes we have 100% evidence but sorry, we can’t show you. The crassness of being asked to believe that a Russian sending 4000 (?) tweets swung both Trump’s victory and the Referendum is quite mind boggling. You won’t find Guardian columns wondering whether the CIA aren’t being a touch tongue in cheek in making these allegations. They are far too polite or cautious to show any possibility of anti Americanism or loose talk about the Intelligence Agencies around the world. It’s taboo – unsurprising perhaps as they’ve been running the show for close on 70 years now.

    • I can attest to the fact that it really is virtually impossible to have material printed in The Guardian, unless you abide by a strict criteria the Editors impose, or, happen to be a former child genius able to bamboozle the bullshite artists – of course, when you point out said fact to many who get articles printed in the ‘fake news’ rag, one gets accused of many things, but, ‘facts really are sacred’, and we must point out said matter continually. Having crossed swords myself with Monbiot on Twitter with regards his previous BS on the alleged Syrian chemical attacks, pointing him to Sic Semper Tyrannis website, he got quite agitated – as such, Monbiot is a corporate tool, one in denial of being a corporate tool – quite sad really.

  27. JJA says

    I lost total respect for Monbiot when he started arguing nuclear power was the way forward. He is just another Guardian shill desperate to stay on the payroll. I wouldn’t waste the shoe leather dancing on the corpse of what the Guardian has become. This week it is all about the plagiarist Luke Walker’s new book ‘proving’ that Putin won the election for Trump and bigging up Steele’s idiotic report on Trump as being up to 90% true.

    • I live in Japan and I remember him proclaiming in the immediate aftermath of the Fukushima meltdown from the terrible earthquake/tsunami in 2011 that he was more convinced than ever that nuclear power was the way forward to ‘combat global warming’! Of course, Fukushima is still unresolved and has just basically been swept under the radar in terms of news, but it is still bad, with no solution in sight. I changed his name to ‘Monbidiot’ after that, with his pontificating, ‘I know better than the rest’, BS. Alexander Cockburn, who was the real deal as an honest reporter, had a hilarious go at Monbidiot over global warming on Counterpunch. Jeffrey St. Clair disapproved, of course, as did many Counterpunch readers, but it was hilarious to read his posts on the subject. Very sad that Cockburn passed away because Counterpunch was never the same after that.

      • Yes, around that time he was interviewed with Dr Helen Caldicott and his behaviour toward her was disgraceful. All ad hominem and smearing, no substantive arguments against.
        Whatever respect I’d had left for him vanished then and there.

  28. bill says

    his reputaition has been inpossibly compromised for some time now and no longer bother reading him

    • Manda says

      Me neither nor Jones or Mason but I am very grateful to those who do and have the ability to offer such critiques such as this article.

      • bill says

        it started with his monumental b.s over 9/11 where he DEMONSTRATED HE HADNT READ ANY OF THE EVIDENCE- hes a journalist whore,wrapping himsself in the good offices of the environmental movemenf

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