Bombing Bridges – questioning Australia’s role in the war on Syria.

David Macilwain

A bridge in Raqqa, destroyed by US and allied bombardment.

As I wrote recently, in an article intended for publication on the Australian blog “Pearls and Irritations, but finally published by 21st Century Wire, the apparent retreat from Syria by Western powers has seen a resurgence in abusive criticism of the “victorious” Assad government – as well as of its allies Russia and Iran.

Far from admitting to any fault, or guilt for their seven year-long conspiracy to replace the Syrian government with a Western-friendly puppet regardless of the democratic will of Syrians, these governments, their NGOs and media partners are now entrenching their false narrative of a noble and just effort that failed to remove a brutal tyrant.

Even better informed commentators who generally oppose the US’ hegemonic attitude and duplicity, and may recognise its shared responsibility for other disastrous conflicts – in Libya or Yemen or Iraq – are still evidently in a state of delusion over the war on Syria, and the US coalition’s malevolent role in it. The immediate reason for my article was the publication on “P&I” by one such respected commentator, Professor Ramesh Thakur, of an article considering how the Syrian war could have been shortened and with less loss of life – had Western powers behaved differently.

The whole premise of his article was wrong – that so much death and destruction had been for nothing because Assad remained in power; only Libyan style mayhem would have been a worse outcome. My concern, and desire to counter Thakur’s arguments, was because an alternative viewpoint – such as is accepted by all those on Syria’s side of the divide – is completely absent from Australian media, whether mainstream or alternative.

This is despite the events of the last few months in Syria, that have seen the true nature of the “rebels” and the true extent of their foreign support network exposed, in both alternative media and in mainstream Russian and allied media networks. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also been outspoken and explicit on the criminality and culprits in these networks, albeit to a deaf target audience.

The fabrication of the “Douma Chemical Weapon attack” and the subsequent US/UK/French bombing – clearly a war crime – was perhaps the last straw for Russia’s patience in dealing  with Syria’s opponents, but it must also be seen against a background and history of US coalition crimes against Syria and the incredible catalogue of lies and false pretences that supported their covert operations.

One of the most devious and profoundly criminal of these crimes was one in which Australian forces happened to be directly involved – the joint US-Australian airforce attack on a vital Syrian Army outpost in Deir al Zour of September 2016. This happened at the height of the West’s campaign to save the Al Qaeda-linked terrorists occupying East Aleppo, and while the US constantly stalled Russia’s efforts to create humanitarian corridors so civilians could escape the siege.

The story did nevertheless make the news in Australia, though government officials naturally denied any intention to target the Syrian Army. But the claims of the US and Australian forces who launched this assault that they mistook Syrian soldiers for “illegal combatants” rang hollow, as the attack continued for over an hour despite urgent protests from Russia, killing at least 80 soldiers and completely destroying their outpost. That this facilitated the immediate takeover of the hilltop post by ISIS militants, who appeared to have been waiting and ready for the US-coalition “assistance” was never mentioned by the compulsively “patriotic” Australian media. (It should be noted however that Australian pilots and support staff may well have been innocent of the true intent of their commanders; it was reported that some questioned intelligence on the target but were ignored)

A special internal investigation by the US was a complete whitewash as predicted; the US could hardly acknowledge it intentionally targeted the SAA as part of its effort to take control of land east of the Euphrates. Had the enquiry interviewed witnesses and victims of the attack, as did Robert Fisk at the time, and Australia’s Professor Tim Anderson more recently, the US-Australian case would have been hard to sustain. Had Australian government ministers been subject to more aggressive interviewing, and reasonable suspicion they were not being honest, the question of Australia’s real role in Syria might have been asked, in Parliament and by State media.

Only weeks after that attack the US mal-intent became transparently clear when it bombed bridges over the Euphrates in Deir al Zour. This barely rated a mention in Western media, but its effect on Syrians’ thinking and on reporting in Syrian and Russian media was dramatic. I had this confirmed in May, while visiting the city of Homs and seeing its steady recovery from years under siege. Our guide there was a strong and proud woman who like so many in Syria had lost a son in the war – killed by “rebels” while he was serving in Deir al Zour. Her other two sons then joined their father in the Syrian army, committing all in the fight to save their fellow citizens from this monstrous foe.

For Hayat herself, the loss and grief had become a source of strength in her community’s battle against the violent jihadists, where they occupied part of the city only a hundred metres from her home. Following their final expulsion two years ago her job is now to educate, or re-educate, foreign visitors to Homs.

Perhaps not many of them know the story of Deir al Zour and significance of the bombing of its bridge over the Euphrates, but as one who did I couldn’t resist her gift – of a glass block with an etching of the famous bridge – or fail to feel honoured by it. She gave me too the obligation to share this story of US strategic military bastardry, a key event in Syria’s history. (the US also bombed two bridges across the Euphrates near Raqqa, before launching its campaign to take the city under its “SDF” control and relocate IS forces)

The construction by Russian engineers of a sectional temporary bridge a year after its bombing to bring aid and assistance to the besieged population of Deir al Zour, following months driving IS forces back across the desert, saw a renewed push by US and NATO forces to keep control of the Eastern Syrian Oil and Gas fields in the hands of their terrorist allies, in violation of every law of civil and military conduct. (the “liberation” of Raqqa was concluded at the same time.)

Tim Anderson visited Deir Al Zour last October, and wrote a detailed account following interviews with witnesses and victims of the US and IS assaults and occupation of the city.

Anderson’s methodical and structured work sadly counts for nothing in Australian media discourse; dismissed as an “Assad-lover” and “conspiracy-theorist”, his solid evidence can be safely ignored. To any fair minded and unprejudiced person however, what he presents is clear-cut; wittingly or unwittingly the Australian government has been assisting and cooperating with terrorist groups including Al Qaeda and Da’esh/IS, as a result of its partnership with the US and other coalition allies.

While Australia announced a formal withdrawal of its fighter jets from Syria in December – though not its air-tanker or surveillance planes, its continuing involvement and support for anti-Syrian forces seems likely. The government’s rhetoric against the Syrian government and its Russian ally is unchanged, and support for Syria’s local enemies Israel and Saudi Arabia as well as it NATO partners is as strong as ever.

Neither is the position and intention of US forces occupying NE Syria at all clear. Far from pulling back, as they have done in the South West, the spectre of ISIS is being conjured up yet again as a pretext for them to remain, with the numbers of IS fighters still on the loose suddenly boosted. The source of these claims is none other than the DIA – the same organisation that notoriously predicted and supported the “declaration of the caliphate” in 2012.

The last word on this should go to President Putin and his colleagues, who continue to try to rebuild bridges while their opponents work so hard to destroy them. As the now hopelessly compromised UN – which has worked so hard for the Syrian “Opposition” – ramps up unfounded fears of yet another humanitarian crisis in the last terrorist-infested Syrian province of Idlib, Russia has forged on with its plans to involve Europe in cooperative work in Syria. In advance of Vladimir Putin’s visit to Germany, via Austria, Russia brought a large group of foreign journalists to Aleppo to see how much has been achieved there since its liberation.

Call it a “charm offensive” – or “bridge-building” – or just “a wake-up call” for those in the West who may be reconsidering their views, Russia’s positive message contrasts sharply with the combative talk from their NATO opponents, of threats and destructive sanctions.

As I write this the leadership of Australia’s conservative governing coalition is about to change, and in what seems likely to be a hard-right direction. Where foreign affairs is concerned, one can say two things about this dramatic domestic development.

First, that the question of foreign policy has played no part whatsoever in this change, and at this point has not rated a single mention, even on critical questions like our relationship with Trump’s America. And second, that whoever leads the government and country makes little difference – they all share the same allegiances to our allies and delusions about our opponents.

And it’s no cause for complacency or resignation, or even the reassurance that Australia is a small player in world affairs. If our involvement in some of the worst crimes committed against Syria isn’t sufficient evidence, our role in the “Five Eyes” security alliance, due to meet next week in Brisbane reveals that we “punch above our weight”, – and bomb bridges like the best of them.


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Obama is a leftie?
Reader
Obama is a leftie?

“the US Consulate in Benghazi Libya was operating a «rat line» for Gaddafi’s captured weapons into Syria through Turkey “the US tradition in that regard has long been to ignore civilian casualties; i.e., collateral damage of US attacks is okay or even desired (so as to terrorize the population into surrender) – not an ‘issue’, except, perhaps, for the PR people “Hillary Clinton Approved Delivering Libya’s Sarin Gas to Syrian Rebels “Obama is so obsessed to replace Assad in Syria “Our policy has always been against him [Assad]. Period” “the CIA’s first coup had been not just planned but was… Read more »

comite espartaco
Reader

The author shows a typically profound misunderstanding of the situation in Syria. The ‘Western’ policy in the region was never to bring down Assad but, only to weaken him and protect Israel. That is why Mr. Assad is still in control, because the Western powers did not want neither to intervene directly, nor to risk an opposition victory that could have created a strong Syria and, therefore, future trouble for Israel. The truth is that Western oligarchies do not care that much about the fate of Syria or the Arab ‘revolution’. They know that strong Arab countries and democracies could… Read more »

Canberra is US protectorate
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Canberra is US protectorate

Want to see the true colours of the Canberra’s regime?
Look how much care and help the governing parties are giving Assange in his ordeal.

Assange is Australian.
Both Labor and Liberal parties are a showcase of fascism and hypocrisy.

Ron Chandler (@RonChandler6)
Reader

[posted at the earlier article referenced here] Some devious [***] named Ramesh Thakur asked, ‘What if the road to the Syrian hell was paved with the good intentions of liberal humanitarians?’ A: It wasn’t. It was paved with the satanic intent to destroy an entire nation and lay them open to the bestial genocide of demonic head-chopping cannibal degenerates, with knowing, conscious evil. Thakur uses the phrase ‘brutal crackdown’ as if this propagandists’ meme was not already exposed for the war-mongers’ lie it was, by 2013. Where does Menadue find such cave-dwellers? At ASPI? There will never be a shortage… Read more »

James O’Neill
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The official reason given by then Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in September 2015 on ABC Radio was that Australia was fighting in Syria pursuant to the collective self defence provisions of Article 51 of the UN Charter at the request of the Iraqi government. The fact that the Iraqi government issued a statement denying having made any such request was simply ignored by the Australian media. Similarly, that Article 51 does not apply when the defence is against non State actors was also ignored. As David points out, there is no opposition to this illegal war involvement by the official… Read more »

Jim Scott
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Jim Scott

Yes Terrorist R US.

Jim Scott
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Jim Scott

I am not so worried about the leadership change in Australia because i am sure this is the last hurrah for the Coalition Government. The reason the spill succeeded was because the governments polling results were very bleak and the MPs were fearing losing their seats. The coup has been a badly managed nasty affair that was led by deluded far right morons who did not understand that it was not Turnbull who was unpopular as his personal ratings were high, it was the very nasty right winger climate deniers who who were rating poorly in the polls. The feeling… Read more »

Yarkob
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Yarkob

Lest we forget: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-syria-crisis-aleppo-water/u-n-condemns-air-strike-that-cut-water-supplies-to-syrias-aleppo-idUSKBN0TK4F020151201

Made possible by Aus/UK SAS targeting FAC

We (UK/AUS and others) are responsible for a whole litany of actual war-crimes

British Traditions
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British Traditions

Thanks for shedding light on ‘Canberra’s Obfuscation’ over the legality of their presence in Syria.

I recall reading about the Australians ‘well hidden’ response to their aggressive intervention. They were saying: Aussie troops are in Syria due to Syria’s inability to defend herself against the terrorists.

So here we go. The West arms and trains the terrorists and send them on regime change missions, and then claim that invading that country is necessary to protect it from terrorists.

Hell is empty, because the murderers are here on Earth!

Antonyl
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Antonyl

we “punch above our weight” yes, like the UK but at least the London cabal has their undeserving permanent UN security council seat as fig leaf excuse to poodle behind the Industrial-military-CIA complex.
Can’t the Aussies defend their continent size island by themselves? If not, allow more immigrants.

Jim Scott
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Jim Scott

You can’t defend yourself when no one is attacking you. The only threats the Australian Government can envisage is the millions of refugees they have helped create while serving the Empire. What seems obvious with our membership of the five eyes spying network and our military bombing of people who are no threat to us to please the Western war machine, is that our current government without resistance from Labor have secretly made a pact to earn our stripes by slaughtering brown people in the Middle East so that the USA/NATO group can get control of the remaining oil and… Read more »

Kenric Ashe
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Re: “completely absent from Australian media, whether mainstream or alternative” you forgot about Caitlin Johnstone! 🙂

https://caitlinjohnstone.com/?s=douma

archie1954
Reader

The Western based MSM is beyond despicable. Instead of functioning as a truth teller, it is issuing government propaganda on a regular basis. Unfortunately that propaganda is rife with lies and deception. We all suffer because of it.

Butties
Reader

If I was Australian I would be asking what on earth is my country doing. Why are Australian forces in Syria and by what Mandate are they there in the first place? I am a UK citizen and my question is why have no charges been brought against the UK and in particular Mrs May for sanctioning the missile attacks related to “Douma Chemical Weapon attack”? The silence ‘up over’ is as deafening as that ‘down under’. Plenty of chatter by the MSM and IGATS regarding what Mr Corbyn said or events he attended though!

sgw123
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Here in Australia we also have a government and a Labour opposition that are US sycophants and the problem with the world is US hegemony backed by NATO and world right wing extremists

grandstand
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grandstand

As an Australian I would like to get traction on the question of “what on earth my country is doing”. I want to know why my country is, without informing its people, attacking the legitimate army of a country that poses no threat. I want to know why the media of this country are ignoring it. But whenever I raise this issue with friends and colleagues – intelligent people – pointing out the facts as outlined in this article – I am regarded as either demented or treasonous. I try to point them to other sources of information than the… Read more »

JudyJ
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JudyJ

“…I am regarded as either demented or treacherous”. Me too. What I find distinctly difficult to explain is that however much I say to friends that they really ought to at least ‘dip into’ RT and websites like this one, 21st CenturyWire, ConsortiumNews and Craig Murray to judge for themselves, they just refuse point blank or they might patronisingly say “Oh yes, I might do that” when you know darn well they won’t. Yet they are more than happy to believe without question the MSM and Government’s malevolent criticisms of such alternative news outlets. It’s almost as if they are… Read more »

George Cornell
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George Cornell

When is Australia going to depoodle? Their revolting role as despicable and subservient fartcatcher to the never ending lineup of American thug-presidents and its amoral predatory MIC fills in for what its racist core and ubiquitous contempt for minorities of all kinds does not. Successive smug, arrogant ,venal governments surely reflect the will and ethos of the masses. Why do Australians accept their innocent young men being sent off to die for the self-serving aims of American foreign policy? Do they get early release Hollywood movies? They don’t really believe all that PutinAssad hatespeak, or do they?Australia is multiply blessed.… Read more »

Jen
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Jen

As Grandstand has said, the Australian mainstream news media completely ignores and/or avoids the issue of Australian participation in the war in Iraq and Syria. Our mainstream news media surely rates as one of the more dismal media in the world for its narrow range of opinion and the high level of ownership concentration with the bulk of news media (at national, regional and local level) owned directly or indirectly by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. As David McIlwaine states in his article and as James O’Neill confirms, all major political parties in Australia plus several minor ones as well support… Read more »

George cornell
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George cornell

I think Oz being geographically and to a degree has always punched above its weight in science, in sport, and to a degree in art. The reality of living in America and what it stands for is beyond the average Aussie. There is little empathy, very little, with the downtrodden of the world, in the way that self-made men and people want to take credit for their own success. It is a short distance therefore to blame others, including those who have had none of the advantages the Aussies think they deserve, for their failures. I would have thought that… Read more »

Jen
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Jen

We have been following the Americans into war since the 1940s. Probably the most important unacknowledged date in Australian history is 15 February 1942 when Japan defeated the British empire in Singapore and took over 80,000 military POWs, several thousands of whom were Australian citizens. Several thousands of civilians in Singapore, some of whom again were Australian, also became prisoners. We were effectively fighting a war on two fronts – we also had soldiers fighting in Europe and North Africa at the same time – against two enemies until the Americans landed in Guadalcanal in the Solomons in August 1942.… Read more »

George cornell
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George cornell

Thank you Jen for the clarification re WWII. But surely it is apparent to Australians that the US has changed dramatically since then. And so should Oz rethink its positions. Blind loyalty to anyone is fraught as you hint at. Canadians , who are very much more familiar with the core values of Americans for reasons of geography and near cohabitation are very wary. Enough so that Trump wants to penalize us on many fronts. Many of us would wear this as a badge of honour under the present circumstances. Why not Australia? Or do people believe the heroism narrative?… Read more »

Jen
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Jen

You answered your own question before you even asked it: it is because you Canadians are closer to the Americans physically and share history that you know to be wary of the US. Having a large French-speaking population with its own history, culture and outlook, and which has maintained itself by assimilating Irish Catholic migrants and then migrants from Francophone countries in Africa and the Middle East, probably helps Canadians maintain psychological distance as well. Australia on the other hand has long viewed the US as a supporter and guarantor of its national security. This always seems to be a… Read more »

George cornell
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George cornell

I think you are right about the Francophone influence, evident in Chretien’s famous Iraq speech. The influence of the French Equatorial African and Haitian migrants is negligible outside of Quebec, indeed even Montreal.

But who is threatening Oz national security? Who has ever threatened it since the Japanese in WWII?

Jen
Reader
Jen

Fact is, no-one is threatening Australian national security and no-one has threatened it since WWII. Politicians of mostly conservative stripe have played either the Indonesian card (when Sukarno was President there) or the Chinese card. Currently China is Public Enemy No 1 – even though that country is now Australia’s biggest trading partner. You can imagine how this paradox plays out in Australian political life where one faction of one major political party favours getting on well with China and another faction in the same party favours following the US into an unnecessary and unwanted war; and the same situation… Read more »

George Cornell
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George Cornell

It doesn’t seem to matter anymore and perhaps it hasn’t for a long time. There is no credible threat from Rusia whose economy is no larger than California’s and whose dreams of world domination play out only in Saturday morning cartoons, but the US/UK desperado initiatives to portray it otherwise seem to be primarily aimed at selling arms. Of course you need to buy them to qualify as a NATO member. And you need NATO to protect your nearest and dearest from those nasty Russkies. And the Saudis need them because they have lots of money? I am warming to… Read more »

George cornell
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George cornell

…being geographically, and to a degree culturally isolated, has always…

Eric Blair
Reader

What country are you in? Your description of the Australian government’s subservience to Washington, and its citizens apathy, could be applied to many countries, particularly Canada and the UK, yet you write like Australians are uniquely foolish in letting their elected “representatives” kowtow to empire. Are you really not familiar with how imperial geopolitics and modern “democracy” work? One could also write a J’accuse paragraph almost identical to yours and describe Americans’ willingness to sit back, or pass the buck, while their government steam rolls over their rights and liberties, foments a new Cold War, uses young soldiers as cannon… Read more »

David Macilwain
Reader

You seem already to have written a “j’accuse” paragraph, only against me, and with a particular venom which as you so indelicately put it, “smells like shit”. I actually explained quite well the context of this attack, and the fact that Australians in general and particularly on the “left” are quite ignorant/innocent of their country’s malintent. If they are sitting down looking at house prices – or electricity prices – then they’ll be talking about gender and diversity issues, or refugee justice. They simply don’t realise that our governments’ role in stoking the war on Syria, and Russia over both… Read more »

George cornell
Reader
George cornell

So because others do it, it is ok? That is the argument I used when I was 13 and wanted to stay out later. Everyone else can, I said. My parents laughed, just like I am laughing at you. Actually in Iraq it was a very small coalition that disgraced themselves. Chrétien said no. The French honourably did too and you Aussies laughed when they were called surrender monkeys by you invasion monkeys. Someone will have to stand up each time and it sure as hell won’t be the Aussies who will remain seated, talking about house prices.

Harry Stotle
Reader
Harry Stotle

As the funeral pyre in the middle east grows we can only be certain of 2 things – the media’s role in hiding the truth, and a lack of consequences whenever governance (or should that be chaos) is imposed by violent imperialists.

Despite a 24 hour news cycle many people in the west and elsewhere simply fail to understand that our leaders are responsible for war crimes – what has to happen for them to wake up?

Eric Blair
Reader

Despite a 24 hour news cycle many people in the west and elsewhere simply fail to understand that our leaders are responsible for war crimes – what has to happen for them to wake up? 24 hour “news” is propagandized entertainment or background noise, and besides, it doesn’t much focus on the war crimes of its host societies. For people to wake up they have to be at the receiving end of the same kind of brutality their leaders and military mete out to the citizens of countries who resist being inducted into the empire…or at the very least they… Read more »

JudyJ
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JudyJ

“…what has to happen for them to wake up?” A fundamental problem is that many people in the West don’t see the need to ‘wake up’. The simple truth is that with so much brainwashing about the superiority of ‘Western values’ over and above every non-Western nation the belief is ingrained in them that any nation east of the Euphrates or south of Europe must be inhabited by sub-humanity only worthy of our contempt and pity. The fact that the populations of such countries are no different from us but just happen to have a different (but not inferior, and… Read more »

grandstand
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grandstand

The Americans did have a war that tore apart their nation – the American Civil War – proportionately, by far, the bloodiest in the history of the country. But it has disappeared in the mists of time. Even WW2 had limited impact on the US – about 1/3 of 1% of the total population, and very few civilians. Compare Yugoslavia with at least 7% of the population dying. The American Civil War resulted in a similar percentage of casualties. A key problem of the current situation is that the military is relatively small in number, professional, and volunteer. Opposition to… Read more »

CF
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CF

Very true. Have you noticed that the Russians, we are told, “invaded” Ukrain (they didn’t), but US troops are “deployed” in Syria?

George cornell
Reader
George cornell

Well said Eric, the sooner the better for repatriating the chickens