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Another massacre has allegedly taken place in Syria that is being compared to the recent massacre in Houla. There are indeed striking similarities. As with the Houla massacre, claims that Syrian government forces or pro-regime militias carried out the atrocity are being parroted by the Western media despite the fact that such claims made by opposition groups and rebel forces remain unverified.
In the case of Houla, there are numerous indications, including eyewitness testimony, that the massacre was actually carried out by rebel forces or allied terrorist groups—with the U.S. and its allies actively supporting the opposition, including by funding and arming the rebels. The allegations of government-backed massacres of civilians are predictably being used as a pretext by the U.S. to implement a policy of regime change in Syria.
The latest massacre was alleged to have occurred on June 6, the same day Secretary of State Hillary Clinton headed to Turkey to “talk strategy with America’s allies,” as the Associated Press put it, “and look for a way to win Russia’s support for a transition plan ending the Assad regime.”
“It’s time for all of us to turn our attention to an orderly transition of power in Syria that would pave the way for democratic, tolerant, pluralistic future,” Clinton told reporters in Azerbaijan before leaving for Istanbul.
Clinton made clear that the U.S. was not supportive of the peace plan brokered by U.N. special envoy and former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, which seeks a diplomatic solution to Syria’s civil war.
“We think it is important for us to give Kofi Annan and his plan the last amount of support that we can muster,” she obliquely declared, “because, in order to bring others into a frame of mind to take action in the Security Council, there has to be a final recognition that it’s not working.”
A State Department official briefed reporters on Clinton’s meeting in Turkey by saying she had set forth “essential elements and principles that we believe should guide that post Assad transition strategy, including Assad’s full transfer of power.”
Also on June 6, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner stated, “We the United States hope that all responsible countries will soon join in taking appropriate actions against the Syrian regime, including, if necessary, Chapter VII action in the U.N. Security Council, as called for by the Arab League last weekend.”
The reference to Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter is an allusion to Security Council authorization for the use of force. However, the Charter would also forbid any use of force for the purpose of regime change.
NATO’s regime change operations in Libya, for example, exceeded the U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing a no-fly zone to protect civilians in violation of the U.N. Charter prohibition against “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state”.
On June 7, following reports of the alleged massacre in Hama coinciding with her visit, Clinton declared that the regime was responsible for this killing of civilians.
“The regime-sponsored violence that we witnessed again in Hama yesterday is simply unconscionable,” she stated. “Assad has doubled down on his brutality and duplicity, and Syria will not, cannot be peaceful, stable or certainly democratic until Assad goes.”
She added, “We have to do more to help organize and focus the opposition.”
It is unlikely that the U.S. would gain cover for another illegal military intervention to overthrow the Syrian regime in the form of another U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force, since Russia and China, both permanent members with veto power, have made it clear that they will not permit a repeat of what occurred in Libya.
“China and Russia strongly oppose any attempt to address the Syria crisis with military interference from the outside or forcefully impose a regime change in the insurgency-ridden country,” both nations expressed in a joint statement.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) also called for a “peaceful resolution of the Syrian problem through political dialogue”. The SCO said in a statement, “Member states are against military intervention into this region’s affairs, forcing a ‘handover of power’ or using unilateral sanctions.”
Russia has proposed to host a meeting of 15 nations and organizations to attempt to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis. Russian foreign minister said that the goal would be to “agree with a circle of outside players, without the Syrians, about how we should use our influence on each Syrian group” to pave the way to ending “all military excesses”.
Russia proposed to include Iran in the discussions, which the U.S. immediately rejected, with the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, telling reporters, “There is no question that it is actively engaged in supporting the government in perpetrating the violence on the ground”.
The hypocrisy is difficult to ignore, given the fact that the U.S. is admittedly actively engaged in supporting rebel forces in perpetrating violence on the ground. But Washington, as ever, holds itself to one standard and the rest of the world to another.
An apparent reference to the U.S. policy of seeking regime change in Syria, Kofi Annan urged that “Individual actions or interventions will not resolve the crisis.”
At the same time, he seemed to imply that pro-regime militiamen were responsible for the Houla massacre and alleged killings in Hama by saying, “The first responsibility lies with the government…. The government-backed militia seems to have a free rein, with appalling consequences.”
“The trail of blood leads back to those responsible,” U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, using similarly vague language. “Any regime or leader that tolerates such killing of innocents has lost its fundamental humanity.”
The Syrian government denied responsibility. “What a few media have reported on what happened in Al-Kubeir, in the Hama region, is completely false,” the government said in a statement. “A terrorist group committed a heinous crime in the Hama region which claimed nine victims. The reports by the media are contributing to spilling the blood of Syrians.”
The Syrian ambassador to the U.N., Bashar Jaafari, said that government troops intervened to try to save civilian lives and that four were wounded in the attempt.
“Mr Jaafari also accused news organizations, including the BBC, of broadcasting images of bodies from an entirely different location”, The Telegraph reported, declining to inform readers that this “accusation” was true—the BBC had earlier posted an image of dead bodies purporting to be of the massacre in Houla that had actually been taken in Iraq in 2003. When the photographer who took the photo learned of this, he criticized the BBC for its “propaganda”.
The mainstream corporate media reports on the latest alleged massacre have apparently relied exclusively on claims from the Syrian opposition that pro-regime forces were responsible. The Guardian reported, “On the face of it, the circumstances of the apparent massacre at al-Qubair, a tiny village near Hama, look grimly familiar: tank or shellfire followed by an assault by the feared shabiha, paramilitary thugs drawn from the minority Alawite community of President Bashar al-Assad.”
The Guardian thus reported the account given by the opposition as fact before providing the government’s version: “The regime blamed ‘armed terrorists’ for killing nine people and accused ‘media backing Syria’s bloodletting’ of spreading lies. Opposition activists have listed 56 named victims and claim 78 died.”
Of course, if the victims of the alleged massacre—described here as “apparent” even though there had yet been no independent confirmation that a massacre even occurred, apart from the Syrian government’s own claim of nine dead—were in fact killed not by pro-regime militias but by rebel forces or allied terrorist elements, then the charge against the media of “spreading lies” would be perfectly accurate.