Syrian ‘White Helmets’ mourn John McCain as ‘supporter of peace’, then Twitter takes them to task

John McCain
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The White Helmets search-and-rescue group (aka Syria Civil Defense) has joined the chorus of voices celebrating the late US senator John McCain, describing him as “one of our best supporters”.

Honouring John McCain

Social media responded unfavourably:

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Even a supporter was surprised:

The McCain institute of Arizona State University honoured the “neutral” White Helmets with its “2018 Award for Courage and Leadership”:

White Helmets members receive McCain institute 2018 courage and leadership award

Propagandists for Western militarism?

In 2016, award winning journalist and contributor to The Canary Max Blumenthal published a report on the White Helmets.

Blumenthal wrote:

The White Helmets’ leadership is driven by a pro-interventionist agenda conceived by the Western governments and public relations groups that back them. Anyone who visits the group’s website—which is operated by an opposition-funded PR company known as the Syria Campaign—will be immediately directed to a request to sign a petition for a no-fly zone to “stop the bombs” in Syria.

Working with Turkish-backed rebels

In 2013 McCain met with leaders and members of the anti-government Free Syrian Army (FSA). Some commentators suggested that he was seeking to undermine peace talks.

McCain pictured with members of FSA in Syria
McCain pictured with FSA members in Syria during a visit in 2013

Then in March this year, up to 25,000 FSA militants allied with the invading Turkish army (and allegedly with ex-ISIS fighters) in sacking and occupying Afrin city. Afrin has been part of the radical experiment in direct-democracy, known as Democratic Confederalism. But it is now controlled by anti-Kurdish Turks and Sunni-Arab chauvinists.

War crimes against Afrin’s population continue to be documented.

In Afrin the Turks are Looting and Pillaging with Gunfire

White Helmets come to Afrin

Within two weeks of the Turkish occupation, the White Helmets announced their presence in occupied Afrin:

But the reaction has been less than positive:

According to independent journalist Wladimir van Wilgenburg:

The local administration in Afrin banned the group in December 2015, and their volunteers were arrested and their equipment confiscated. The group was likely banned [due] to its alleged links to rebel groups that, in April 2015, kidnapped 300 Kurds.

While the White Helmets claim neutrality, van Wilgenburg writes:

Kurds, on the other hand, claim the White Helmets only operates in areas controlled by the Turkish-backed rebels.

Funded by western powers

The UK foreign office has confirmed that:

As of 31 March 2018, the total sum of funding that the British Government has supplied to the White Helmets is £38,425,591.23.

Other major donors include the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Germany, the Netherlands, and Denmark, under the auspices of Mayday Rescue.

The US government also reportedly finances one third of the group’s budget.

As such, the White Helmets receive direct support from governments participating in the Syrian war.

Regardless of the humanitarian work of the White Helmets, endorsing someone like McCain as a “man of peace” will only serve to harden the views of those who see them as little more than a ‘soft power’ organisation, created to facilitate propaganda for western intervention in Syria.

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