Assad’s useful idiots and the smearing of The White Helmets.

When the combined lackwittery of the hard left and the far right agree on something, you can bet that it’s more than a little wrong.

Since 2013, volunteers of the Syria Civil Defense (SCD), better known as The White Helmets, have been pulling people out of the rubble, and undertaking other search and rescue missions, in that country’s civil war.

Like similar groups who seek to aid, save and protect in war zones, they have no partisan allegiance. But unsurprisingly they are not massive fans of the regimes which are bombing the sites they run towards; and they are proud of a certain defiant attitude in the face of adversity:


For their trouble, they have found themselves on the end of Assadist propaganda attempting to link them to Al Qaeda (via the Al Nusra Front franchise) or present them as the seditious agents of foreign powers.

As the Marxist blogger Louis Proyect (hardly a fan of the West’s relationship with the Middle East) points out, the source of much of these lies is the Leninist web-zine Counterpunch, which manages to be both revoltingly hard left and repellently far-right at the same time.

Inevitably — I used to be able to start these paragraphs with ‘unbelievably’ but that was the old politics — the smears have gained a new lease of life this week because one of the three causes that will benefit from the Jo Cox memorial fund is the SCD.

One blogger, anonymous of course, has written a particularly disgusting piece which I am not going to link to but which is being shared with glee by the West-hating left and the race-baiting right alike.

The allegations against the SCD have been written by the same three or four journalists and promoted across the same three or four ‘alternative’ websites until this circular reporting works its way far enough up the Google results pages and becomes the truth for useful idiots. Eternal student politician, Tariq Ali, has also joined in now.

It all comes down to four attempted libels, which Proyect has well-refuted in the post linked to above. The TL;DR is:

  1. A British military veteran helped set up the SCD. It is not unusual for ex-military to be involved in humanitarian organisations and if this really was for insurgent purposes, why waste all the time and energy training in search and rescue skills?
  2. Funding comes from USAID, UK FCO and George Soros. Again, not unusual donors for these organisations and the total currently amounts to $40 million. That is an absolutely paltry amount if you’re trying to fund a counter-insurgency against a Russian-backed Syrian government.
  3. Not every White Helmet has a whiter than white past. According to the Assad regime that is, who also used to torture some of them just to make sure. Look, I’m not going to vouch for every single SCD volunteer (approx 3000). In the chaos of the Syrian Civil War there will be previously undisciplined individuals now finding meaning and responsibility in many organisations. Earlier today I spoke to a friend who is based in the region and knows many White Helmets. His take? “I am proud to know [those] who return and take up the humanitarian fight immediately, into the battle zones, man and woman”.
  4. They are AQ collaborators. The White Helmets have to operate in all areas, some of which are controlled by Jabhat al-Nusra. As unarmed civilians, they do what tooled-up jihadists tell them in terms of the clearing and recovery of bodies. And, yes, even when those corpses are the result of jihadist operations and executions. This is not collaboration — it is the insertion of some small measure of humanity into such atrocities.

The filthy sewer that connects the hard left with the reactionary right and the far-right has been overflowing in the last few days with the reproduction of these falsehoods against The White Helmets and those who support them. If any of it spills into your timelines, tell those commenting where they can go.

Oh, and don’t forget to donate for Jo here.

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