Syria: Amnesty International, Regime Change and an Ambassador

Absolutism, tempered by assassination.
— Ernst Munster, 1766-1839

Oh, well!  Time to move on, folks.  Nothing to see here. Now there is an oil man, who spent many years in the United States, shoed in as “interim Prime Minister” in Libya.  It’s time to go a-toppling again.

Don’t mention the dead, distraught, destroyed, the mass graves and mass murders by NATO and their ethnic cleansers at ground level,  tutored by their Special Services. There’s oil to pump, rebuilding contracts to be divvied out, a bit of looting – and near certainly no accounting for all of Libya’s frozen assets, being minimally returned in dribs and drabs. Remember Iraq’s missing billions? Another day, another precedent, another grand theft.

And that well worn propaganda hand book, battered, dog eared, but trusty, is back.

It has, in fact,  been leafed back to over twenty years ago — to August 1990, to be exact. Then Kuwaiti babies had been torn from their incubators, thrown to the hospital floor and left to die by Iraqi soldiers, said a “nurse” claiming to work in Kuwait – backed by Amnesty International.  It was entirely untrue, but it was arguably the tipping point, justification for the coming 42 day bombardment and the first ruination of Iraq, which was “Operation Desert Storm.” 1

In August of this year, it was alleged that babies in Syria were left to die in their incubators after President Bashar al-Assad had the electricity turned off. Pictures showed pathetic little souls, inexplicably blood smeared – and huddled.

However, some meticulous digging by Ali Abunima throws up many questions. Certainly the doctored picture was earlier in an Egyptian publication, showing overcrowded conditions in the country’s paediatric units – the babies in that one were pink and healthy, nevertheless.

As the fog of disinformation again obscures much, it is worth remembering that President Assad trained as a doctor, worked as one for some years, then did further post-graduate training, qualifying as an opthamologist at London’s prestigious St Mary’s Teaching Hospital group. He had planned medicine as a career, which was cut short when his brother, Bassel, designated his father’s heir, was killed in a car crash in Damascus in 1994.

Accusations of targeting babies towards a man who had devoted years to studying medicine should surely at least be questioned. Further, in an atmosphere of unrest, it would hardly win over the dissenters.

On  October 25, Amnesty produced a 36 page Report largely taken from media outlets and non-attributed videos, “documenting” gruesome abuses in Syria’s hospitals, including a variation on babies ripped from incubators, “… at least one unconscious patient having his ventilator removed …”before being taken away, an unnamed “health worker” had said.

Four days after the Report was published Amnesty had organized a demonstration in London: “No more Blood – No more Fear”, which rallied outside the Syrian Embassy.

Chris Doyle, Director of the Council for Arab British Understanding told demonstrators that “Even donkeys have become targets of the Syrian army” and that water had been cut off because the government claimed it had been polluted by halucigens. The cynic might think that had all the validity of claims Colonel Quaddafi gave Viagra to his troops — and Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

However, Doyle shone one light, demanding that “human rights organizations” be allowed into the country. If they have relied on second hand sources for their Report, has it any more validity than Kuwait’s incubator babies?

Franklin Lamb thinks not and has produced a detailed piece as to why, from seemingly unrestricted, recent, first hand experience in Syrian hospitals. He also has telephone numbers of medical practitioners wishing to invite Amnesty researchers to see for themselves.

Syria, it seems, is in the regime change frame. Today, it has been revealed by a “a senior diplomat … and a former UN investigator”, who, of course, “both spoke on condition of anonymity”, that Syria has a previously unknown nuclear power plant.

“Suspicions” are that Syria worked with Abdul Qadeer Khan, “father of Pakistan’s atomic bomb, to acquire nuclear weapons technology.”

The buildings “closely” resemble those of Libya’s when they were trying to build nuclear weapons. However, before you head for the fall-out shelter or reach for a 2,000 lb. bunker buster:

The complex, in the city of Hasakah, now appears to be a cotton-spinning plant, and investigators have found no sign it was ever used for nuclear production.

Israel, of course, bombed a “suspected” nuclear plant in 2007, legality, as ever, redundant.

Syria is also currently being accused of laying mines along the Lebanese border to prevent insurgents crossing it. Perhaps it is, who knows? If so, a way to discourage might be to put out a hand of friendship. If threatened sufficiently, most might resort to protective measures.

It is surely coincidence that the unrest and the focus on Syria began shortly after the arrival of the first US Ambassador to the country since 2005.

Ambassador Robert Ford, arrived in Damascus on January 16 this year. By January 31, there was a call for a “Day of Rage” on  February 4. As Michel Chossudovsy has pointed out the Ambassador has an interesting CV — diplomacy possibly not being one of his towering strengths. He is currently temporarily withdrawn, having been pelted with tomatoes.

Syria has been under embargo since 2004. The US has frozen all the country’s assets. Yet Syria opened its borders to two million Iraqi refugees after the 2003 invasion, with no recompense. Libya had one hundred thousand. The displaced keep fleeing and dying, the region lives in constant fear as to who is the next target.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International Director Kate Allen, cites Syrian diplomats as representatives of “repression and injustice.”

Perhaps we need to look a little closer to our Western home for that.

Incidentally, October 31, the day Libya was declared liberated and NATO’s “mission” over, was the anniversary of the US, UK and France’s bombing of Egypt in 1956 to force the re-opening of the Suez Canal. On the same day in 1968, Lyndon B. Johnson announced the cessation of the bombardment of North Vietnam.

Unending decades of lies dressed as liberation and asset grabs as tyrants who terrorize.

  1. John R. MacArthur, Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the 1991 Gulf War, November 1993, Chapter 2. []

Felicity Arbuthnot is a journalist with special knowledge of Iraq. Author, with Nikki van der Gaag, of Baghdad in the Great City series for World Almanac books, she has also been Senior Researcher for two Award winning documentaries on Iraq, John Pilger's Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq and Denis Halliday Returns for RTE (Ireland.) Read other articles by Felicity.