Humanitarian Imperialism’s Gift: The White Helmet
The Netflix movie “The White Helmets” recently won an Oscar for short documentaries at the Academy Awards. The White Helmets are presented to the masses of American people as saviors and saints. According to the bourgeois media like NBC News, the group is championed as “Angels on the Front Line” or “selfless” and “humanitarian” by the likes of the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal.
The White Helmets have become a symbol of courage in the midst of a bloody six year war and a major source for citation for a broad range of folks from arch-imperialists and war hawks like Hillary Clinton and John Kerry to generally progressive news outlets like Democracy Now. Former Secretary of State John Kerry stated last September that he was “honored to meet [the White Helmets] leader and Aleppo activists,” praising the the organization as “brave 1st responders on the scene.” With the support of leaders of US imperialism, the mainstream media, and even some progressives, the White Helmets are able to maintain an air of legitimacy, but as we will see later on this is exactly opposite of the reality.
As revolutionary Marxists, we understand that not everything is what it seems to be and that a “concrete analysis of concrete situation” is in order to make sense of the popularity of the White Helmets in the heartland of global imperialism, but also why imperialism needs to organizations like the White Helmets in order to maintain their hegemonic order.
Impartial? Independent? Unarmed? — Alternative Facts
The White Helmets claim to be an organization that is independently funded, impartial, and unarmed, acting as a form of “Syrian Civil Defense.” According to their website they claim to have saved tens of thousands of Syrians in the conflict, a number that is not supported by any concrete evidence. As author Max Blumenthal points out in his expose of the group: “The recently released White Helmets’ Netflix documentary claims they’ve saved “over 55,000” people, while Georgetown Security Studies Review had the number at 15,500 in May 2015. The State Department claimed this April that 40,000 had been rescued by White Helmets, but AJ+, a subsidiary of Al Jazeera, asserted around the same time that “more than 24,000” have been saved.” In a separate report published four months later, AJ+ quoted the figure at 60,000 — which is the figure the White Helmets themselves claim.”
There exists no concrete evidence to support any claim that the White Helmets have saved tens of thousands of lives, but this is not the crux of what is at stake here. Are the White Helmets really an independent and impartial organization?
The White Helmets are an organization that was started by former British military officer and security specialist James LeMesurier. LeMesurier, started the Syrian White Helmets in March of 2013 and has been involved in the Syrian conflict since 2012. Prior to his involvement in Syria he worked for the notorious mercenary organization Blackwater (now known as Academi) which was responsible for murderous acts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Having worked for such a ravenous and despicable imperialist organization, universally condemned by progressives, Leftists, and anti-imperialists, LeMesurier is hardly an impartial figure and does not have the best interests of Syria or Syrians at heart. So the White Helmets can’t be a impartial organization if their founder is clearly partial — to Western imperialism and its military industrial complex.
Even when we look at the actions of the White Helmets on the ground in Syria they are not impartial as well. For one, they only operate in terrorist held territories, swarming with foreign backed reactionaries from over 50 nations which constitute some 1,500 different groupings. Secondly, they have consistently called for the implementation of a NATO imposed “No Fly Zone” which even war hawk Hillary Clinton admitted would “kill a lot of Syrians.” In addition, it was this same “No Fly Zone” strategy that in essence worked out to be the air brigades for terrorists posing as revolutionaries in Libya in the 2011 illegal war against the Libyan government and the masses that some have dubbed a “revolution.”
On the White Helmets website, which is an opposition run website based in New York and managed by Irish American Anna Nolan, we are invited to sign a petition to “stop the bombs” through a No Fly Zone. But it is odd that this organization only focuses its attention on the Russian and Syrian governments, which are not clean in this war to be clear (but such is war), while ignoring the multiple instances of the bombings of the American led coalition.
A No Fly Zone would only benefit the social forces that seek to see not only the Syrian government toppled but the nation leveled even more than it already is. For the White Helmets to push this tactic indicates that their goal aligns directly with the imperialists and their junior partners.
Contrary to what the White Helmets purport — that they are a “fiercely independent” organization that takes no money from governments, the facts show the organization is actually funded to the tune of $100 million dollars by the U.S., U.K. and other anti-Syrian governments. Even the chief liaison officer of the White Helmets, Abdulrahman Al Mawwas, stated bluntly
In addition, in 2016 Syria’s White Helmets were nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and dubbed by some in the mainstream media as ‘Heroes of Peace.’ The White Helmets are the same kind of peace warriors that Osama bin Laden was in Afghanistan:a hired hand of the imperialist powers. In an age when waging unilateral roughshod war on oppressed nations is no longer seen as a “the White man’s burden” — an old justification for colonialist and imperialist wars of aggression, today the new justification is that imperialist powers have a “responsibility to protect” oppressed nations from their own political leaders and intervene in the name of “humanitarianism.” The dominant ideology today is a not so much that of old neo-conservative war hawks, but of liberal interventionism.
The White Helmets winning of the Oscar represents the utter crisis of imperialism as well as its strengths. When the popular mood for wars are low, the demagogue President Donald Trump is calling for cuts to social services and programs to fatten the war budget, the ruling class needs to create the conditions that will allow them to continue to wage their wars of aggression and increase their drive to conquer the all sovereign nations in the Middle East to consummate the Bush era dream of a “New Middle East” completely subservient to the rule of finance monopoly capitalist imperialism and Euro-American hegemony.
Imperialism is in such a crisis that is must go at such odds as to create false humanitarian NGO’s and front groups in order to drum up public support for their neo-colonialist wars. The obvious strength is that the sheer immensity and totalization of their pro-war narratives are slick insofar as they are believable and have their message reinforced by the dominant corporate mainstream media as well as liberal and left-liberal groups that become unwitting tools of neo-colonialism and imperialism.