Syria and Chemical Weapons: Debating the Regime-Change War in Syria

by Roger Annis, A Socialist In Canada, April 24, 2018 

Like the rest of Canada’s corporate media, the state-run CBC is virulently anti-Russia and a constant voice favouring the regime-change war in Syria. So it was something of a surprise to hear its national radio news report on April 22 provide evidence that counters the claims of a chemical weapons attack against the town of Douma, Syria in the region east of Damascus on April 7.

Photo provided to Western media by the Western-funded ‘White Helmets’ agency purporting to show victims of a chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria on April 7, 2018

The CBC reported some of the information first reported by Robert Fisk of the UK Independent on April 17. He spoke to medical personnel who treated what were later claimed by Western media to be victims of a chemical attack. They explained to Fisk that the victims treated that day were suffering from respiratory ailments caused by the dust, debris and concussion symptoms of explosions. The medical personnel were interviewed separately and broadcast on a YouTube channel in Syria; you can view the video here.
Military clashes were still taking place on April 7 between the Syrian government and the right-wing militias in control of Douma since 2012. A ceasefire agreement has since provided for the withdrawal of the militias and re-assertion of control of Douma by the Syrian government.
As Nazareth-based journalist Jonathan Cook reported on April 18, Fisk’s reporting has been ignored or downplayed by Western media. The CBC reporting makes no specific mention of Fisk or his original reporting.
There is, of course, a long history of chemical weapons usage by the Western imperialist powers going back more than 100 years. The famed UK prime minister Winston Churchill was a firm proponent of chemical weapons usage during World War One and also in Britain’s colonial wars of the same era in the Middle East, Africa and India.
Britain also used chemical weapons in its military intervention into northern Russia in 1919. That intervention sought the overthrow of the revolutionary government which came to power in Russia and neighbouring republics during and after November 2017.
Chemical weapons were used with a vengeance by the U.S. and its allies during their brutal wars against the peoples of Korea and Vietnam. They have been used by NATO and allied countries as recently as in Iraq in 2003 (white phosphorus and depleted uranium) and in Gaza against Palestinians by Israel (white phosphorus).
In contrast to its one-off radio report on April 22, the CBC’s website continues to publish standard-fare Western news reports consisting of a mix of some news along with half truths and falsehoods. In this example on April 21, citations are provided from the Western-funded and promoted ‘White Helmets’ agency which mixes civil defense initiatives with propaganda favouring the violent overthrow of the Syrian government.
An April 10 report by U.S. antiwar activist and writer Rick Sterling provides a good overview of this latest chemical weapons accusation against the Syrian government. Sterling’s report was first published on Mint Press News and was then reprinted on Monthly Review‘s MR Online. Also on MR Online is an article reviewing the history of chemical weapons accusations against Syria.
The ‘World news’ page on my A Socialist In Canada website is following closely the unfolding situation in Syria. It lists headlines and weblinks to vital news and analysis of Syria, including of late by Greg Shupak in Jacobin and by Scott Taylor, who writes a weekly column in the Halifax Chronicle Herald.
I view the broad outlines of the situation in Syria as follows:
* The Syrian government and its Russian and Iranian allies are retaking control much of the western parts of the country which have been under the control of right-wing militias supported by the U.S., Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.
* At the same time, the U.S. and its NATO allies, including Turkey, are laying the groundwork for partitioning large parts of Syria, notably the northern strip along the border with Turkey and vast stretches of the eastern part of the country (where, coincidentally, most of Syria’s oil and gas reserves lie). This is the new and latest variant of their longstanding regime-change war in Syria.
* Syrian Kurdish political leaders are willing participants in the U.S. partition plans. (Kurds comprise some 2.5 million of Syria’s population of 18.5 million.)
* The supposed conflict between the U.S. and Turkey over Syria is typical theatre of the Trump era of U.S. politics designed to obscure and distract what is truly taking place in U.S. and NATO foreign policy. The two NATO allies see eye to eye in plans to weaken and divide the country and people of Syria. Their purported disputes are theatrics. Inside Turkey, a drive to an authoritarian state continues, accompanied by brutal crackdown against the rights of Turkey’s large Kurdish population. A particular target is the left wing People’s Democratic Party (HDP), the third largest party in the Turkish Parliament.
Debating the regime-change war in Syria
An April 24 commentary on Syria by writer Sonali Kolhaktar is published on CounterPunch: ‘The left, Syria and fake news‘. The commentary is re-posted from Truthdig, where it originally appeared on April 19 under the title ‘Why are some on the left falling for fake news on Syria?‘. Many such commentaries are being published by ostensible leftists condemning the antiwar and left wing voices in the West that are defending Syria’s national sovereignty in the face of the determined drive by U.S.-led imperialism to overthrow the Syrian government. Common to all the condemnations, including this latest one by Kolhatkar, is that they say and propose absolutely nothing by way of how the war in Syria could end. That’s because they favour the violent overthrow of the Syrian government and president. The rest is talk.
On April 23, Truthdig published a reply by U.S. writer and journalist Max Blumenthal to Kolhatkar’s original article. His reply is here: ‘Syria controversy: Don’t believe the official narrative‘. Truthdig published a brief rejoinder by Kolhatkar to Blumenthal on the same date.
Kolhatkar wrote in her rejoinder, “We need to get beyond the battle over Assad’s crimes to unite against U.S. militarism, but unfortunately, pro-Assad sentiment undermines the left’s credibility on this issue.” But we get no hint of how an antiwar left could “unite against U.S. militarism”.
An antiwar movement certainly should not “unite” in turning a blind eye to the U.S. regime change war in Syria. The same turning a blind eye is taking place over the civil war being waged for the past four years in eastern Ukraine by the extreme-right government in Ukraine with NATO backing.[1]
Nor should an antiwar movement make abstract calls for Russia to withdraw its military support to the Syrian government. A political agreement is required to end the war in Syria. This can open a process of national reconstruction, complete with political discussion and debate over the past and future paths of economic development for Syria. Certainly, the Syrian government’s past policies favouring the spread of globalized capitalism into the country should come under sharp scrutiny.
Presently, there is a dearth across the board of discussion in the West as to how a movement of solidarity with the Syrian people can assist a process of national ceasefire, dialogue and reconstruction. For example, nothing is known in the West of Russia’s longstanding proposals to the Syrian government and people that they modify the Syrian constitution in order to provide recognition to the country’s national minorities, notably the Syrian Kurds.
In the absence of a political agreement for ceasefire and peace, calls for withdrawal of Russian and Iranian support to Syria amount to calls for the people of Syria to surrender their sovereignty to imperialism. Thankfully, the people of Syria are not about to follow such counsel.
[1] The pro-NATO Atlantic Council recently published an article expressing unease over the continued ascendancy of a violent, extreme-right movement in Ukraine and the decline in legitimacy of the governing regime in Kyiv. Russia analyst Mark Ames commented on Twitter on April 23 on the Atlantic Council article: “Now even NATO’s front group [the Atlantic Council] is worried about Ukraine’s Nazi problem. Until recently, these same hacks smeared anyone worried about Ukraine’s Nazi problem as ‘Russian disinformation’, ‘Putinist’, ‘Kremlin bot’ etc.”


The eclectic CounterPunch ups the ante on anti-Russia reporting
[CounterPunch has published a commentary on April 25 which accepts the unproven claim of a chemical weapons attack by the Syrian government on the town of Douma on April 7. Worse, it ups the ante by saying that Russian president Vladimir Putin schemed with the Donald Trump regime in Washington as the latter prepared its missile attacks launched together with Britain against Syria during the night of April 13/14. The CounterPunch commentary begins:

Not once, but twice, Donald Trump seized upon the specter of alleged chemical use, by Bashar al-Assad, to punish Syria with missile attacks. With predictable and expedient faux rage, he risked elevating a seven year horror into a cataclysmic nightmare; at least that’s the common political sentiment.
Perhaps, this calculation is more than a bit frayed given the certainty of a choreographed agreement between Trump and Putin before the attacks began.
To be sure, only a political novice would overlook the bargain that enabled Trump to stage his domestic political show and afford Putin ample time to move his forces to avoid his own domestic fallout should any of the U.S. missiles have missed their Syrian mark and fallen, instead, upon a Russian fighter jet or pilot.
Pardon my cynicism, but I have little doubt that when it comes to the Middle East, or elsewhere, neither of these autocrats sees much beyond their own political and economic self-interest no matter what flag their rhetoric comes draped in. It’s not just the way of the times, but the accomplished trait of each…

The commentator ‘overlooks’ mentioning the fact that Russian-supplied air defenses allowed the Syrian armed forces to shoot down more than half the estimated 110 U.S. and UK missiles launched on April 13/14. The writers’s claim of a “choreographed agreement” between the U.S. and Russia thus takes left-wing conspiracy theorizing to a whole new level.
Copyright © 2018 Roger Annis.


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May 13, 2018 11:23 PM

Unbelievably, I’ve Just seen in Peter Hitchens’ Mail on Sunday blog today that the Foreign Office, not satisfied with giving money to jihadi terrorists via the White Helmets, has given the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights just short of £195,000 for communications and camera equipment. Boris Johnson presumably thinks it is something akin to Jodrell Bank. He obviously doesn’t realise it’s just a man on the end of a phone with a hotline to a man on the street in Idlib. Anyone think they will demand to see a genuine receipt for what WE are paying for?

May 14, 2018 10:18 AM
Reply to  JudyJ

Further to my post above, I wonder if this money is to be forwarded to the White Helmets to make their propaganda videos even more professional. That is the only reason I can think for the UK Govt handing over this money. I have been unable to find any msm reference to this funding, only Peter Hitchens reference where he says that “the Foreign Office have just confirmed to me…”. Methinks a letter to my MP is called for.

Apr 29, 2018 10:28 AM

Reblogged this on circusbuoy and commented:
fools rush in where angels fear to tread, as did the howling hounds baying for retribution against Assad for a false flag situation re chemical weapons.these fools have gone very quite especially Isreal.mossad did their dirty tricks to disrupt,distract .

Apr 29, 2018 5:53 AM

As for Western morals see also:
“A Reminder: Neocon Think Tanks and Fascism”: https://wipokuli.wordpress.com/2017/06/29/a-reminder-neocon-think-tanks-and-fascism-zur-erinnerung-neocon-think-tanks-und-faschismus/
Sunday regards

Apr 29, 2018 1:35 AM

Counterpunch, Truthdig, Democracy Now and other “alternative progressive media” remind me of the work the CIA was doing to influence and manipulate media during the Cold War. The CIA was both funding and insuring pro-American content through editorial control of progressive, and socialist journals in Europe such as “The Partisan Review” and “The Paris Review” even in the 1950s, unknown to the other writers being published by such journals. By publishing credible progressive writers and content most of the time, such publications gain credibility in the eyes of the public. When they then repeat the imperialist CIA pro-regime change propaganda they are seen as more trustworthy than MSM by their followers, though in fact they are simply parroting the same CIA pro-war nonsense. I can think of few things more despicable than such amoral shilling for empire cloaked under the guise of humanism.

Apr 29, 2018 8:12 AM

Excellent comment on matters which cross my mind daily .. My heart bleeds for the ole’ school journalists, like Robert Fisk, far removed from the ‘office politics’ of armchair & keyboard warriors back in London: office politics , which have been heavily infiltrated by a wide variety of undercover operatives, of differing nationalities but common objectives : especially in particular relating to any “Comments” sections of any publication open to the public. Who controls and regulates the Moderators ? Certainly no-body ‘independent’ , with a focus on community regs & the relative Laws pertaining .. It is no longer even worth mentioning ‘The Guardian’ in this regard, logic: but it is worth mentioning Fisk’s recent report from Douma, in the ‘independent’ and the fact that it was ‘tucked’ away out of sight, speedily, and with ZERO possibility to comment ! Poor guy, Fisk doing his best , not without ‘Risk’,… Read more »

Apr 28, 2018 10:55 PM


Henry Sadowy
Henry Sadowy
Apr 29, 2018 12:50 AM
Reply to  vierotchka

@CBC is a Canadian corporation run by pro Zionist management who feel compelled to broadcast lies and omit the TRUTH. Canadian Taxpayers have the right to quality, unbiased reporting as opposed to FAKE NEWS. Canadian public should force the government to either privatise only the @CBC News or privatise all of @CBC programing. This will prevent the Canadian public from subsidising Pro Zionist lies and FAKE NEWS.

michael major\\
michael major\\
Apr 28, 2018 7:01 PM

it is good to see Roger Annis’ work picked-up by Vaska Tumir for post to OffGuardian. Roger pokes holes in the abysmal Canadian mainstream media coverage of the anglo-zionist mercenary war to achieve on behalf of Israel a Libya-like failed state in Syria. Though the NATO coalition’s war aims have failed to destroy Syria, they have utterly sacrificed their own nations’ generally held belief that their governments retain any values or strategic vision independent from the Washington-Israel Neocon axis. The western coalition’s nations are in mid-conversion from lame vassals to insouciant contemptuous satraps. It has taken vast wealth to shred the remnant trust of citizens in the independence of their nations’ mainstream media and this has allowed the neocon war aim to be redirected from Syria to targetting the public values of our citizens and our formerly shared and unifying citizenship. Considering the hundreds of billions this outcome has cost,… Read more »

michael major\\
michael major\\
Apr 28, 2018 7:09 PM

Have so many people ever before become the targets of enlisted weaponized media? m\

Mulga Mumblebrain
Mulga Mumblebrain
Apr 29, 2018 1:25 AM

It is all in the interests of Israel, Zionism and the Oded Yinon Plan. It is quite bizarre that people, no doubted cowed by the ‘antisemitism’ industry witch-hunters, simply refuse to face facts.

Binra (@onemindinmany)
Binra (@onemindinmany)
Apr 28, 2018 6:46 PM

Love the truth as one can discern and accept and share it. Perhaps love seems the wrong word, but the willingness and capacity to be with what is real here, is the condition in which love arises of itself. Love is recognition of ourselves in each other and therefore of shared or common interests. This is the positive that includes the negatives below. Don’t honour the dictate that truth be sacrificed to power. Don’t limit truth to what supports your bid for power. Don’t feed the troll. Don’t feed the liar in yourself or another. Don’t use the same underlying lie in exposing the errors of others. Expose the error in such a way as to speak to the power of choice in others, rather than in intent to demonise their true capacity in such a way as to leave them no choice. Better choices can only arise from recognizing… Read more »

Apr 28, 2018 6:19 PM

The central issue here is the Zionist state of Israel (and, yes, there are other zionist states). (And Israel, understandably, looms particularly large where Chomsky is concerned.) Ir is because of Israel that the sort of peace for which the Russians are looking is unlikely- for Israel and the US Assad’s survival in acceptable only in the short term. In the long term he has to be replaced by Syrian version of King Abdullah. And now the French, where the politicos have been proffering imperial glory as an alternative to domestic peace and prosperity since the mid 1790s, have remembered M Picot while Macron looks back fondly on the Vichy regime which his business sponsors are aiming to recreate. The saga of the S300s demonstrates these realities- if Russia wants peace in the region and the defeat of NATO sponsored wahhabi militias it is going to have to put Syria… Read more »

Thomas Prentice
Thomas Prentice
Apr 28, 2018 5:53 PM

Now Noam Chomsky, in a complete and abject act of HYPOCRISY, is giving moral and intellectual “cover” to US / England /Saudi / Israeli /France regime change ops in Syria by supporting ops to “protect the Kurd” — more “humanitarian intervention” to the end of attacking Iran and Russia thus precipitating a global ground world war to be followed almost certainly by nuclear war. He doesn’t extend his compassion for the Kurds to, say, the Scots, the Barcelona Catalonians, the First Nations of Canada, the Rohinga of Myanmar or the Uighurs of China, the Basques … In an email to me yesterday, Chomsky said “I think we should find a way to protect the Kurds from slaughter.” He refuses to answer who the “we” is/are or to respond why the Kurds shouldn’t just escape and become refugees like, say, MILLIONS of others have during history nor does he provide authentic… Read more »

Mulga Mumblebrain
Mulga Mumblebrain
Apr 29, 2018 1:29 AM

So, if we were to slander you as you have Chomsky, we could say that you are an apologist for Wahhabist terrorist butchers, with your nonsensical reference to the Uighurs in Xinjiang. Their terrorist attacks on China being a prime US endeavour, perhaps you are posting from Langley, or somewhere close by.

Apr 29, 2018 1:40 AM

I tend to side with you that Chomsky is indeed a “gatekeeper” for the western faux-left intelligentsia. His refusal to even discuss, when he should have devoted at least one of his enumerable tomes, to 9/11 was likely the circumstance that exposed his deviousness to the awake. Indeed his collective narative is actually quintessentially that of the Zionist ego that absolutely has to brag about it’s motives and methods in clever ways that fall short of prosecutable confession. By presenting as critique you can disseminate policy hidden in plain sight. Having met and associated with many exiled Kurds in the town of Argos in southern Greece in the late 1980s I have some sympathy for them and would support their cause for a home to call their own. However their struggle has been thoroughly usurped by US/Israeli infiltration of the Kurdish leadership’s in Turkey,Iraq and Syria. So alas I can… Read more »

Apr 29, 2018 11:02 AM

Chomsky’s main problem is/was that he never really understood the technical side of financial markets and their inherent weaknesses in regulatory designs: that have always favoured continuously the hegemony & control of all markets, via ‘their’ five point strategic plan of the ruling corporate class ‘elites’, who control also all & any info. flow one way or another. A well proven, documented and fully admitted Mossad tactic. Communications the key .. After Enron & 9/11 , Chomsky really should have woken up to the systemic regulatory failures, from pensions to derivatives, & much much more >> given that the SEC Investigative Records for Enron were in WTC 7 , at the moment of WTC 7’s miraculous & scientifically impossible “Freefall” .. 9/11 really does represent Chomsky’s ‘Freefall’ from any notions of intellectual grace & respect, because like many other systemic ‘tools’ , he is in total denial of all Science,… Read more »

Apr 28, 2018 4:27 PM

Many thanks for this article, some very useful links. Truthdig and Kolhatker offer lots of words which amount to nothing remotely resembling suggestions on how a peaceful transition could be acheived let alone how Assad was supposed to respond to plans by the Imperialist Axis countries intention to Balkanise the oil and resource rich Syrian state. In other words, their “appraisals” were worthless background chatter. Glad you were able to see through it.

Apr 28, 2018 4:16 PM

Reblogged this on Worldtruth.