In a reversal of its usual role, Human Rights Watch on Oct. 11 released a report that exposed and condemned rebel groups fighting against the Bashar al-Assad government in Syria.
The HRW’s board is heavily biased toward investment bankers and analysts. Most of its international reports have been directed at governments that are out of favor with U.S. or Western imperialism. In this case, however, the HRW is exposing the role of groups that have been fed and armed by the U.S. and its NATO and Gulf monarchy allies.
“Armed opposition groups in Syria killed at least 190 civilians and seized over 200 as hostages during a military offensive that began in rural Latakia governorate on Aug. 4, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today [Oct. 11]. At least 67 of the victims were executed or unlawfully killed in the operation around pro-government Alawite villages.
“The 105-page report, ‘You Can Still See Their Blood: Executions, Indiscriminate Shootings, and Hostage Taking by Opposition Forces in Latakia Countryside,’ presents evidence that the civilians were killed on Aug. 4, the first day of the operation. Two opposition groups that took part in the offensive, the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham and Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar, are still holding the hostages, the vast majority women and children. The findings strongly suggest that the killings, hostage taking, and other abuses rise to the level of war crimes and crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch said.
“‘These abuses were not the actions of rogue fighters,’ said Joe Stork, acting Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. ‘This operation was a coordinated, planned attack on the civilian population in these Alawite villages.’”
It wasn’t just the extremist jihadist rebel groups that carried out this operation. BBC.com reported on Oct. 11 that U.S.-backed Gen. Salim Idris, leader of the “Supreme Military Council,” admitted at the time that troops from his “Free Syrian Army” participated alongside the others in this terrorist slaughter.
Whether or not HRW’s report reflects a shift in the imperialists’ propaganda tactics toward Syria, whose government forces have successfully pushed back the armed opposition forces in recent months, it does expose some of the crimes the “rebels” have already committed.
Chemical weapons destruction
On Oct. 8, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons announced it was sending a second team to Syria. In September, Syria agreed to a Russian proposal that would allow internationally supervised destruction of its estimated 1,000 tons of chemical weapons, and the U.S. retreated from its threat to risk a wider war by bombing and rocketing Syria.
Though they had no proof, Washington and some NATO allies blamed the Syrian government for using chemical weapons on Aug. 21. The Syrian government blamed rebel groups for the attack that killed hundreds of people.
In the next eight months, the OPCW aims to identify and destroy Syria’s stock of chemical agents. It reported the first batch eliminated on Oct. 6. This ambitious task is complicated by the widespread fighting going on across Syria between the government troops and imperialist-backed opponents.
Even U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has praised the Syrian government’s cooperation in this effort. The U.S. government statements and corporate press reports have become subdued since August and September’s orgy of 24/7 war-drive propaganda.
Then, a U.S. naval armada was brought to the coast of Syria. Targets for cruise missiles and fighter planes were identified. U.S. ground troops were already in place in both Turkey and Jordan.
Mass public opinion worldwide resisted the hammering with war propaganda. In England, Parliament voted against Prime Minister David Cameron’s motion to join the U.S. attack. French public opinion turned against the government’s backing of an attack on Syria.
U.S. opinion polls reflected nearly unanimous opposition to any new war. Facing a possible defeat even in Congress, President Barack Obama backed away from massive bombing and accepted the Russian proposal.
While much of the world breathed a sigh of relief, Washington still publicly calls for regime change in Syria. Even the elimination of chemical weapons in Syria can serve U.S. interests. These weapons were developed and stockpiled not to fight rebel groups that sprouted up only since 2011, but to counter the very real Israeli war threat.
The U.S.-financed settler state of Israel has waged six wars against all of its Arab neighbors since its founding, all subsidized by Washington. Israel also has a huge nuclear weapons arsenal and chemical weapons stocks, including white phosphorus bombs that it used flagrantly in attacking civilians in Gaza in 2008-2009. Destroying Syria’s chemical weapons reduces Syria’s self-defense capabilities should Israel attack.
People in the U.S. should note, however, these two developments: the admission by the media of the terrorist nature of the Syrian rebel groups and the overnight retreat of the media’s tone of whipping up war fever. They expose the cooperation between the imperialist politicians and their corporate media. Only a public that is educated and independent of capitalist ideology can avoid media manipulation and effectively resist aggressive imperialist wars in the future.