Syria: the War, the Loss, and the Silence

Western moral decay

Child from Eastern Aleppo receiving food in the Jibrin reception camp, December 14, 2016

On December 12, 2012, on the day, 4 years earlier, Western countries and allies – perversely calling themselves Friends of Syria – carried through a regime change by statement and set up a Syrian National Council of people never elected by anyone in Syria and told the world that it was, from now on, the only ‘legitimate representative of the Syrian people!’

During the 4 years, Western, Saudi, Turkish and the Gulf States supported innumerable illegal, destructive and mainly foreign terrorist groups with the goal to undermine the legitimate Syrian government and destabilise the country – as had been recommended by US ambassador William Roebuck ((Interestingly, the Wikipedia entry on Roebuck makes no mention of his past in Syria but reports on his continuing, harmful presence in and influence on Syria.)) in Damascus as far back as in 2006 (WikiLeaks documentation here).

December 12, 2016, marked a fundamental turning point.

Aleppo did not “fall to the dictator/butcher/mass murderer” aka President Bashar al-Assad ((Should you be interested in seeing and hearing how Bashar al-Assad looks upon domestic and international dimensions – something seldom given a fair hearing in Western media, this one was done on December 9, 2019, by an Italian TV channel RAI 24 News:

And here Bashar al-Assad speaks at length with Charlie Rose. The year was 2006, the year when the US ambassador in Damascus advocated to Washington that the US policy should be to systematically de-stabilize Syria (in English and with a full transcript).

Here a recent interview by Rafshin Attansi, RT

Here, finally, NBC’s Bill Neely speaks with President Bashar Al-Assad – a few months before Aleppo was liberated.

)) – no, it was liberated and the occupation by terrorist groups such as ISIS and al-Nusra during 4,5 years ended.

NATO member Turkey had been singularly active in pillaging everything of value in Aleppo and its huge industrial zone, bring it over to Turkey and convert the money to weapons and training facilities for terror groups – a quite peculiar way to contribute to the US Global War on Terror: Like the US itself, Turkey did its utmost to support terrorism in Syria.

Also, Assad’s predicted genocide on his own people there and then – well, just didn’t happen.

I documented this historic moment of change and liberation of Syrians from occupation because I was there, one of the extremely few Westerners, and the only one from Scandinavia. Six series with strong text and documentary photography – now seen by over 170,000 views on the Internet – and lots of articles on The Transnational.

Jibrin reception camp

Regrettably, not one Western media wanted, or dared, publish any of it.

Aleppo was said to fall by the Western press. But what fell in Aleppo in December 2016 was:

a) the regime change policy;
b) the inter-national war on Syria which is still, mostly and falsely, called a basically civil/domestic war, and
c) the constructed Western mainstream media narrative filled with fiction, fake and – not the least, omission – omitted facts, history, complexities and perspectives including that of international law, voices, experts and argument.

That narrative was created on the basis of millions upon millions of dollars of marketing, shocking videos, staged events, etc. and the peculiar phenomenon called the Syrian Civil Defence or White Helmets (who had stolen its first name from Syria’s Civil Defence (about this actor in the conflict, see here and here) which got millions of dollars, particularly from NATO countries), moral support, media coverage (brilliantly staged photos, Hollywood style), Nobel peace prize nominations, documentary film prizes and, well, only God know what more.

Eastern Aleppo, once an amazingly beautiful city on the Silk Road and on UNESCO’s list

I’ve reported and documented in details how Western media – Scandinavian as well as, e.g. The Nation – wanted to frame my texts and photos (which, for a truly free press, would have been a free-of-charge scoop) and ended up declining, across the board, to publish any of it.

Thank God, there is the Internet where broader perspectives, different angles and interpretations can still be posted – and there are genuinely independent think tanks without government and corporate funding like The Transnational Foundation that I am the co-founder and director of.


Every war is two wars: the one on the ground and the one in the media. By now, both have fallen apart for the NATO countries and their regional allies.

And the price for this nice little NATO-Western adventure? For this adventure which shall be added to the sufferings and deaths wrought on, say, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya?

Here is World Vision’s data:

Millions scattered, creating the largest refugee and displacement crisis of our time. About 6.7 million Syrians are now refugees, and another 6.2 million people are displaced within Syria. Half of the people affected are children

… Oct. 17, 2019 update: Since military operations increased in northeast Syria early in October, more than 130 civilians have been killed and more than 160,000 have fled, including at least 70,000 children, according to the U.N. refugee agency.

Eastern Aleppo, December 2016

And how many dead in Syria since 2011?

Well, of course, it is not easy to answer with reliable statistics but here are different sources and the answer seems to be between 370,000 and 570,000.

We are talking about around half a million people killed in a war on a sovereign state’s territory mainly financed and staffed by NATO governments and their friends in the Middle East, i.e., outside it – and with no UN Security Council mandate.

You begin to understand why Western media, politicians and experts have virtually avoided every mention of international law – according to which everything done by the NATO countries and their regional friends, such as Saudi Arabia, was illegal, an act of aggression on sovereign Syria and never had even the faintest mandate of the UN.

Dear reader, you may now argue that – well, but… Assad was a butcher, a nasty dictator. What else could be done with such a devil?

My answer is that even if Assad and the Syrian regime were as cruel and evil as we have been told – even if they were the single reason for everything bad in Syria – that can not excuse or legitimize what the West has done because of its deliberate politico-military attempts to carry out a regime change in that country and thereby cause the (for foreigners unimaginable) human suffering on innocent Syrians as well as the material and cultural costs.

The US and other Western countries had an agenda in Syria. When the violence broke out in spring 2011, these countries could have chosen other policies and strategies if their aim had been to contribute to peace.

Instead – and because of that agenda – they deliberately did everything you shall never do if it is peace and stability and security you want – for the other and for yourself.

… even if Assad and the Syrian regime were as cruel and evil as we have been told – even if they were the single reason for everything bad in Syria – that does not excuse or legitimize what the West has done in terms of politico-military attempts to carry out a regime change in that country and the human and other costs it has incurred on the innocent Syrians.
The US and other Western countries had an agenda in Syria. When the violence broke out in spring 2011, these countries could have chosen other policies and strategies if their aim had been to contribute to peace. ((See my “If you want peace, don’t focus on the violence and the evil guy.”))

While the Syrian government, its military forces, president, security services are surely responsible for a proportion of that mass-killing, that has to be seen in relation to at least these three dimensions:

  1. Syria’s right to self-defence against foreign presence on its territory, in accordance with the UN Charter’s Article 51. (And it’s right to invite Iran and Russia to help in that self-defence).
  2. An – admittedly contra-factual and heuristic – consideration: What would have happened if no single NATO and allied countries had poured in money, weapons, trainers, special forces, etc. to support each and every anti-Assad man and woman they could find?
    How much longer did the “civil war” take because these forces were supported from the outside – and how many lives would have been saved and how many fewer refugees would there be today if genuine mediation attempts, such as Kofi Annan’s, had not been systematically undercut by Western/NATO states?
  3. And how much more suffering has the Syrian people had to endure thanks to a media narrative that consistently blamed everything on the Syrian ‘regime’ and Bashar al-Assad, thereby gave legitimacy to every step of the broader deeper foreign interventionism and never-ever asked questions about even the tiniest complicity of the West in this catastrophic war on a people, a country and on a part of humanity’s civilisational cradle?

Even if it is believed that the Syrian president, government, military forces etc. were the most brutal of all – including in the torture prisons – does the West really have not a single reason to reflect on how it decided to deal with Syria long before the way and with the Syrian crisis from 2011 and onwards?

Does no Western/NATO country have a reason to reflect on its own aggression and co-responsibility for half a million dead Syrians? Or how it treated Syrians when they came to Europe as asylum seekers?

Do the Western countries not have a single reason to evaluate whether its “diagnosis” of the Syria conflict formation, its history, culture and modes of operation was correct? Or why it chose to completely ignore even very interesting and precise – but complex – American conflict analyses such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s and William Polk’s?

Is the silence on Syria since 2016 not, rather, an indicator of a peculiar inability of the West – which gladly, permanently and under US leadership criticizes everybody else around the world – to exercise just a bit of self-criticism and, therefore, a sign of weakness?

Or to quote Matthew 7:3 with some relevance to Western Christian values: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”

These are, admittedly, rhetorical questions. My answers to them are Yes, of course!

And when these issues have not been taken up even now three years after the Aleppo turning point, Western intellectual and moral capacity is evidently too weak to ever do so.

No lessons will be learned – because no lessons shall be learned. And no lessons can be learned. People – and countries – who see themselves as Number One don’t learn, they always teach.

Is the silence on Syria since 2016 not, rather, an indicator of a peculiar inability of the West – which gladly, permanently and under US leadership criticizes everybody else around the world – to exercise just a bit of self-criticism and, therefore, a sign of weakness?

And, thus, the silence on such a thing as the West’s intervention and warfare in and on Syria – it’s society, people and culture – is an indication of the West’s own decline, moral and otherwise.

It’s kind-of not enough that President Trump tells us that the US so bravely and successfully has defeated ISIS. Which by the way is a lie. And that it will stay in Syria to protect the oil sources – which is not a lie: It was about gas and oil in the sense Kennedy and WikiLeaks tell those who bother to read longer, more complex conflict analyses (which fewer and fewer seem to do in our tendentially post-literate society).

Eastern Aleppo, December 2016. All the destruction was done from the air by Syrian and Russian planes, right?

Truth comes in bits and pieces and the jigsaw puzzle changes into an entirely different picture

And now, late autumn 2019, comes the revelations about the documented changes in the OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) report about Douma event in 2018 and we are still waiting for the media – that knew so surely and so exactly what happened back then – to write about these reports and post an apology.

TFF has published about it here with a series of notes and links. TFF Associates Hans von Sponeck and Richard Falk have participated in conveying the important messages about this from OPCW whistleblowers.

And there is Tareq Haddad, the Newsweek man on Syria, who chose to resign because of internal censorship and go public about it. He is the new truthteller whose name you better take note of – and another courageous whistleblower that freedom-loving democracies should be proud of.

But how much have you read in the mainstream Western press about him – or about Max Blumenthal for that matter?

And then there is the interesting “Pentagon Papers” of our generation – the Washington Post’s recent publication of the “Afghanistan Papers” entitled “A secret history of the war. In a cache of previously unpublished interviews and memos, key insiders reveal what went wrong during the longest armed conflict in U.S. history.”

[Inadvertently, that very good publication raises the question why the Washington Post itself has conveyed a militarist perspective so consistently over many years].

Well, the Soviet – under the moral leadership of Gorbachev – had the common sense to get out of that quagmire after 7 years; the U.S. is still there 18 years later. Lessons never to be learned…

So, to cover up its own deep complicity and crimes of warfare, death and destruction, the West has to control and censor – old Pravda style – the media and blame everybody else for whatever happens and for using censorship and propaganda – e.g. Russia’s trolls and Russia Today, China’s “dictatorship” surveillance, etc.

In other words, you destroy what you were once proud of – what was once an essential, defining characteristic of your identity. Such as: Freedom of the press, diversity and decent professional fact-based journalism carried out by knowledgeable and experienced people who check sources, look for more perspectives and power-critical facts, report all conflicting parties’ views and arguments, pose critical questions to power and invite a broad variety of experts comment on and interpret what happens in the world – including independent civilian expertise that does not wear a political, military or intellectual uniform of pro-war political correctness.

War and other violence is a boomerang.

The silence on Syria offers roaring evidence of Western moral decay, media deception and political decline.

You cannot repeatedly do evil things – radical evil things – to countries, peoples, cultures and nature – without, over time, harming and undermining yourself, your own strength, identity and core values.

There were lessons to have been learned since Vietnam. But when you are Number One in a system, you do not learn, you teach. And that, paradoxically, will teach you a lesson or two as time goes by: the pupils have left the lecture hall and Titanic left at dawn…

  • All photos © Jan Oberg
  • Jan Oberg is a peace researcher, art photographer, and Director of The Transnational (TFF) where this article first appeared. Reach him at: Read other articles by Jan.