The US government recently ended a long-standing CIA programme to arm Syrian rebels fighting against the Assad regime. But is it too little, too late? Is there something more to the decision that isn’t being reported in the mainstream media? And can Theresa May’s government learn anything from this move?
Disarming for the greater good?
The safety of children in Syria at the hands of rebel factions is a big part of the untold story. The following video, tweeted by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, contains disturbing scenes. It shows the behaviour of the US-trained Zenki movement, as The Canary described in 2016.
The heartbreaking video portrays one boy covered in cement dust, ‘the boy in the ambulance’, a photograph that went viral and was widely circulated in the mainstream media; and a second boy, a 12-year-old Palestinian, captured in Aleppo by the ‘Zenki’ militant group. The second boy was filmed surrounded by his Zenki executioners in the back of a pick-up truck just prior to his beheading. He had reportedly been removed from a hospital and had intravenous lines (IV) attached to him.
A tale of two Syrian boys https://t.co/0vSHI5Xz3t (I have checked that the substantive facts in this video are accurate)
— Julian Assange 🔹 (@JulianAssange) June 30, 2017
Did this video have something to do with Trump’s decision to stop US backing of anti-Assad rebels forces? Assange certainly seems to think so:
— Julian Assange 🔹 (@JulianAssange) August 1, 2017
There is a huge discrepancy in what we are ‘shown’ and ‘told’ in the mainstream media. We are often misinformed and skewed to assume one thing over another. We only need to look at the recent coverage of Venezuela and Yemen to see that.
Imagine being a UK news editor and deciding to cover left below, not right. You're right at the centre of a disinformation system pic.twitter.com/Vy2rAnWxyj
— Mark Curtis (@markcurtis30) August 8, 2017
Arming repressive forces
As The Canary has previously detailed, both the US and Britain have recently supported local anti-terrorist ground troops in Syria. Details of RAF strikes in Syria, for example, are available via the UK government’s website. And it’s difficult to argue with backing the secular and democratic forces in question in their fight against terror.
The problem is that Britain still trades a vast number of arms to human rights abusers like Saudi Arabia. Legal action was recently brought against Theresa May’s government by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT). The group aimed to stop the trade because of its understanding that British arms are being used illegally in Yemen. But by reportedly providing ‘secret evidence’, the government managed to convince the High Court that UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia were legal.
At the same time, May’s government hasn’t done itself any favours by refusing to release in full a report into the extent of Saudi Arabian and other foreign funding for extremism in Britain.
What about Yemen?
Since the Saudi-led bombing of Yemen began in March 2015, the UK has licensed £3.3bn worth of arms to the Saudi regime, including:
- £2.2 billion worth of ML10 licences (aircraft, helicopters, drones)
- £1.1 billion worth of ML4 licences (grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures)
- £430,000 worth of ML6 licences (armoured vehicles, tanks)
The effect has been devastating. As Labour MP Keith Vaz wrote this week, “Yemenis are facing the triple threat of conflict, cholera and malnutrition and the impact on the population is devastating”. The death toll in Yemen is now estimated to be over 10,000. And the media coverage, Vaz insisted, has been woeful.
May says that her alliance with Saudi Arabia “has helped to keep people on the streets of Britain safe”. But when she ignores the human cost to others of arming such states, we know we have a huge problem.
Real human victims
Arms kill people. It’s a simple equation that all world leaders must somehow solve. Not only is selling arms immoral, but it violates fundamental humanitarian laws. British foreign policy decision-making, meanwhile, is still shrouded in mystery.
When economics become a stronger driving force than human loss, we must question our leadership. We also have to question what we are being shown by mainstream media, and always read between the lines.
– Join or support the Stop the War Coalition. Show your support for Veterans for Peace, who are fighting for peaceful solutions to the world’s problems. And take action with the Campaign Against Arms Trade.
Featured image from Flickr