OPCW leak: what’s the story, George?

28 May

Dear George

I’d hoped you might have changed your tune – or at least laid off the Kool Aid and for once kept your head down on things Syria. You haven’t though. Above is your bizarre tweet in response to that leaked OPCW report, subject of my post last week, Syria: the lies unravel.

For a man of letters, you seem prone to imprecision. I’m bothered less by the hackneyed nature of “baying for blood” than by its wild-eyed lack of focus. It has a touch of the unhinged about it. Who is baying for blood, George? And whose blood do they want? Take a deep breath, gather your thoughts and try in your own words to tell us what on earth you could possibly mean.

What’s that? Didn’t quite catch it. Never mind. I’ve bigger fish to fry. Without doing anything so mundane as addressing details which had sounded alarm bells for Peter Hitchens and Robert Fisk, you dismiss that leaked report as:

… one person’s contentious account of a single atrocity while ignoring the vast weight of evidence for chemical weapons use and conventional massacres by the government…

You are not a stupid man. So why do your critical faculties, evident in highly lucid pieces on the environment, desert you the moment you see fit to sound off on Syria? I do wish to know, not least because there are those who – having given up on you as a house leftie, in situ to preserve the Guardian’s liberal credentials and mark the Overton Window’s left border – say I pull my punches when it comes to your Syria output. Maybe they’re right, but I’m still curious.

Where do they go, your critical faculties? I know you have them. I’ve seen them at work in many fine pieces – loved that one on red squirrels and pine martens by the way – on capitalism’s war against nature. But they vanish the moment you turn to Syria. It’s as if you hadn’t seen that the same logic – the same laws of accumulation at work in fracking, deforestation and fuelling our unsustainable addiction to meat, milk and motors – also fuel regime change in the Middle East.1 The rapacious madness demanding “economic growth” at whatever cost to the planet demands too that no nation may stand in the way of its asset grabs for imperialism.2

Enlighten me. No one in your position could be so obtuse, and selectively so, as to be unable to join the dots here. Syria’s ‘civil war’ may not be viewed – a smart teenager could tell you this –  in isolation, as though Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya had never happened.

And as if the West had not planned to overthrow Assad long before the 2011 protests at Daraa.3 Protests from a people sufficiently nuanced in its reasoning, thanks in no small part to a Hafez Assad who for all his ruthlessness had raised literacy to above Western levels,4 to differentiate between his popular son and the authoritarian state he wants to liberalise. Sufficiently nuanced too to value Ba’athism’s secularist welfarism, underwritten by state ownership of key sectors. This did not, of course, prevent Western media from presenting the Daraa protests in Ladybird binary as anti Assad, nor from ignoring evidence that the original protestors had gone home in disgust at Islamist infiltration.5

So again I ask: where do they go, these critical faculties of yours? Where do you put them while stepping into overdrive to move us along – nothing to see here! – from cracks in the narrative on Bashar al-Assad, a man given a sweeping mandate in the 2014 presidential elections your paper, unable to depict them as rigged, chose to ignore.

I’d particularly appreciate your input on two things. First, why call the leaked OPCW report a ‘contentious account’? Isn’t it too specific for that? It is either false, surely, else a matter of great significance. There aren’t any third options. If you find Henderson at fault in his closely argued findings, his grounds for saying that holes in a roof could not have been made by poison gas cylinders dropped from Assad’s helicoptors, does it not fall to you to say where you find him in error? You can see, can you not, that dismissing him as “contentious” doesn’t quite cut it?

Not least it doesn’t because the OPCW response to Hitchens’ questions on Henderson’s report, far from refuting his findings, chose simply to (a) lie twice about his status and (b) describe the leaking of those findings as “unauthorised”.

Second, doesn’t your tweet ignore the far from trivial point that if the Douma claims are flawed then there just might be a pattern here, one that may well unravel should your “vast weight of evidence” prove less damning under the kind of critical scrutiny you refuse, for reasons beyond me, to bring to bear.

(A useful start would be to engage politely with the experts you ignore or trash. I mean former UN weapons inspectors Scott Ritter and Ted Postol. I mean CIA renegades like Philip Giraldi, and former UK ambassadors Craig Murray and Peter Ford. And I mean Reagan appointees Paul Craig Roberts and Stephen Cohen. All these and more – mine is by no means an exhaustive list – have addressed other aspects of this vast weight of evidence, only to find the whole a good deal less than the sum of its parts.)

Let’s be clear why this matters. At issue is a prima facie case that allegations, music to the ears of those bent on Middle East regime change, are elevated to seemingly proven status by your profession, your paper absolutely included. The methods are (a) trial by media, high conviction rates ensured by saturation coverage, (b) piggy-backing on earlier unproven claims – Evil Assad gasses his own again – and (c) use of tainted sources. These last include, in ascending order of infamy: NGOs compromised by funding from states bent on regime change (see Tim Anderson on this), the Coventry based one-man band, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the criminal White Helmets and Western intelligence sources who, their lamentable record forgotten, now want us to accept that “we have evidence” is, well, evidence.

Worse though are the lies of omission. I already noted the silence on Assad’s electoral victory but that’s the least of it. What have you or your Guardian done to tell us of the West’s conflicted interests here? How many articles highlight the lucrative contracts at stake, were Assad only to see Wall Street’s point of view on the best route for piping oil across Syria to suppy the world’s biggest energy market? How many have brought to our attention that Cheney, Murdoch and other cheerleaders for war on brown skinned peoples are stakeholders in Genie Energy, set up to exploit recently discovered oil in the Golan? How many present the plethora of evidence of a US led privatisation agenda6 to which Baa’thism poses an obstacle so great as to make jihadi terror the lesser evil? Finally, how many words have you or your employer spent on placing your evidence-free (indeed, motive-free) slurs on Assad within the geopolitical context of a slow but sure slippage of power to Eurasia and One Belt One Road?

Again, you are not stupid. Maybe I’m the stupid one, perplexed at your disregard for the basics of sound journalism given a proven ability to exemplify them on other matters. Maybe I’m over complicating this, and should accept what others say: that on matters of central import to our rulers it matters not whether you’re simply credulous, or the latest in a long line of left-dressed shills for empire. But I can’t shake off my curiosity, so do tell. What’s the story, George?

* * *

  1. As Jonathan Cook has said of you, “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.”
  2. I stand by the nine word definition of imperialism I gave in a recent post, Profit and the Arms Economy, as “the export of monopoly capital and repatriation of profits” (underwritten, as the more direct rule of colonialism had been, by armed might).
  3. France’s former Foreign Secretary, Roland Dumas, revealed that two years before Daraa he’d been told by senior British intelligence officials of plans for the overthrow of Assad: https://youtu.be/jeyRwFHR8WY
  4. I wrote of “a Hafez Assad who for all his ruthlessness had raised literacy to above Western levels”. Given the opposition to “Arab socialism” of the Muslim Brotherhood, I might with more accuracy have replaced “for all his ruthlessness” with “because of his ruthlessness”.
  5. One irony here is that Assad’s popularity did take a hit, post Daraa, because he was judged too soft on Islamists bent on Sunni Rule. See Professor Tim Anderson’s Dirty War on Syria for evidence that the very people who’d backed Bashar’s liberalisation agenda – and urged greater pace in this most dangerous of projects – now pined for the Good Old Days of his no-nonsense father!
  6. Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine makes for instructive reading. It predates Syria but, as well as the chapters on privatising Russia and post-apartheid South Africa, has an impeccably detailed chapter on the fire-sale of post Saddam Iraq.

9 Replies to “OPCW leak: what’s the story, George?

  1. Not a fool then, more a rogue unable to maintain any level of objective consistency in line with the enlightenment values and principles he pretends to hold.

    For those like George (Paul Mason springs immediately to mind) the manifest destiny and exceptionalism of what Kipling labelled the White Man’s Burden trumps all. The final series of GoT lays bare this pretentiousness for what it is – creating it’s own definitions of tyranny to advance and impose it’s own (which is clearly why so many American viewers were upset by it).

    With this context at work it is pointless attempting rational evidence based argument because the evidence contradicts the faith based bubble those like George have wrapped the psyche in. They just can’t cope with the reality and have to go Karl Rove and make up their own to stop their fantasy from imploding.

    George will not lay out the evidence he claims exists because it has no substance. The best that can be achieved is to show them up for the charlatans they are.

    • I could be way off here, Dave, but have long felt vanity is a key to Monbiot’s outlandish aggression on Syria. (I have it from three separate sources who’ve had one to ones with him that Reasonable George of Guardian features is replaced, in point-counterpoint debate on matters not confined to Syria, by Raging George, well versed in ad hominem abuse.) I can’t help thinking that, having chosen to air his views, he now feels compelled by ego to defend them with shock and awe ferocity. I’ve said before that his boast – to which you subtly allude – of “being able to handle more reality than most” has led him to the very opposite.

      Glad you mention Paul Mason. I used to know him. Many a youthful Trot turns imperial defender in middle age!

      I’m the last man on the planet, its Western division anyway, not to have seen GoT. Must rectify – soon as I’ve finished playing catch up on all the Mad Men series!!!

  2. I know I have been critical of you in the past for defending Monbiot’s record in years gone by, but you at least are capable of rationalising your own errors when the weight of evidence has shown to be insurmountable(9/11)and making amends. Monbiot has no credibility and obviously no integrity in his absolutism regarding Syria and Assad, precisely because he has made his bones on Washington’s policies and sold out to the highest bidder. If he can’t face apologising for his errors when all the evidence he chooses to ignore lays bare the wrongness of his rants, then he is either a vain coward or a money grubbing serf to his paymasters and has consideration only for his continued wealth and status.
    I remember the to and fro between Monbiot and Hayward, a total farce with Tim coming out the clear winner simply because Monbiot only had insults to counter Proff. Tim’s truths.
    You really are wasting your time on gutless George, his vanity and servitude are his masters now.

  3. ps. If you wonder why I am so hostile to Monbiot, it’s precisely because his credibility is so shot, it calls into question his valid work on climate issues and I need him like I need another hole in my head. His blind devotion to his lies on Syria and Assad make him a contraversial and unreliable proponent of anything else he may previously had an opinion on, no matter how worthy – a case of who needs enemies with a friend like him.

    • I’m getting there, Susan. Thanks for your patience!

      (And of course, I’m not trying to change Monbiot’s views – I’m petitioning his fanbase!)

  4. The World: What is Really Happening
    25 May, 2019 in Uncategorized by craig
    If you want to understand what is really happening in the world today, a mid-ranking official named Ian Henderson is vastly more important to you than Theresa May. You will not, however, find anything about Henderson in the vast majority of corporate and state media outlets.

    You may recall that, one month after the Skripal incident, there was allegedly a “chemical weapons attack” in the jihadist enclave of Douma, which led to air strikes against the Syrian government in support of the jihadist forces by US, British and French bombers and missiles. At the time, I argued that the Douma jihadist enclave was on the brink of falling (as indeed it proved) and there was no military advantage – and a massive international downside – for the Syrian Army in using chemical weapons. Such evidence for the attack that existed came from the jihadist allied and NATO funded White Helmets and related sources; and the veteran and extremely respected journalist Robert Fisk, first westerner to arrive on the scene, reported that no chemical attack had taken place.

    The “Douma chemical weapon attack” was linked to the “Skripal chemical weapon attack” by the western media as evidence of Russian evil. Robert Fisk was subjected to massive media abuse and I was demonised by countless mainstream media journalists on social media, of which this is just one example of a great many…

    Continue reading here

    • Thanks Laura. People like Murray, and for that matter Hitchens, are desperately needed in the age of ‘perception management’, one of whose few redeeming virtues is the rise of the gamekeeper turned poacher in disgust.

      Did you come to my post through Piers Robinson’s link to it on Facebook?

  5. What I find infinitely more depressing than Monbiot’s duplicity (I’ve long ago given up on him, not least for his ad-hom attacks in place of rational argument on those who disagree with him) is the number of people who remain Guardian readers and still trust GM as a voice of truth and integrity. I say this from bitter personal experience of having a close friend who reads the fraudian every day — EVERY DAY! — and regards GM and Paul Mason and Owen Jones as writers he can trust. My friend isn’t stupid, yet despite my constant critical comments of K Viner’s despicable rag, backed by evidence from other sources, he can’t wean himself off the habit, and so the drip-drip-drip of propaganda infects his veins and governs his world-view. (Mind you, he’s just the same with the BBC, so what can I say?)

    • I know what you mean Trevor. I have good friends who, albeit with reservations, trust the Guardian. I see this as part and parcel of something bigger. Most of them don’t much care for capitalism either. Trouble is, they really REALLY don’t get how totalitarian it is, and the true role of liberal media in it. That’s largely because my friends, like me, have been doing OK. We grumble but basically have been shielded from the worst of a system whose most exploited are in the global south, but as anyone can see, impoverishment is moving north and our rulers are becoming more bellicose and the planet continues to be raped because too few have realised that the laws of profit accumulation trump all other consideration. Sometimes I think the truth is too shocking to get our heads round …

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