Close followers of the Syrian struggle against the Baathist dictatorship have probably grown accustomed to the “false flag” arguments of its apologists who see every regime massacre as an incident staged by the CIA et al to undermine the regime with the most prominent case being the sarin gas attack on East Ghouta in August 2013.
In the latest go-round, Rick Sterling of the misnamed Syria Solidarity Coalition has written a 30 page dossier titled The Caesar Photo Fraud that Undermined Syrian Negotiations that begins by referring to past “false flag” conspiracies with this at the top of the list:
In Gulf War 1, there were reports of Iraqi troops stealing incubators from Kuwait, leaving babies to die on the cold floor. Amnesty International incorrectly “verified” the false accusations.
As is so often the case with the Baathist amen corner, there is very little introspection. If this was such a blatant lie (and it was), why did the father of the current dynast in Damascus hook up with the USA, Saudi Arabia and other demonic powers against Iraq? Putting 7,500 troops at the disposal of the imperialist invasion force, Hafez al-Assad calculated that it might ingratiate him with the likely victors. He was correct. After standing up for the feudal lords of Kuwait, he was rewarded with renewed diplomatic relations with Britain and an easing of tensions with the USA that clearly recognized the importance of having an “anti-imperialist” government on its side as the NY Times reported on September 15, 1990:
The main purpose of Mr. Baker’s visit, American officials insisted, was symbolic. By meeting with President Assad, Mr. Baker sought to draw attention, particularly in the Arab world, to the fact that one of the most hard-line Arab nationalist regimes is joining the American-led multinational coalition against Iraq.
Syria’s participation legitimizes that coalition in Arab eyes in a way that no other country could, American officials say. The Administration has been worried from the start that President Saddam Hussein would break out of the boycott by convincing the Arab public that he is really fighting the Americans and just a few Arab ”lackeys.”
So in a war that really set the tone for the next invasion of Iraq in 2002, Bashar’s daddy was indispensable for selling the war to the Arab world, arguably with much more force than the stealing incubators bullshit. You might say that in this instance the true flag was a lot more damaging than the false flag.
Sterling’s goal is to debunk the notion that a former Syrian army photographer code named Caesar had 55,000 photographs documenting the torture and killing of 11,000 detainees by the Syrian security establishment when he defected to the USA two days before peace talks were to begin on January 20, 2014 and thusly undermining them. Not that photos of dead Syrians who had been tortured in prison would make much difference to a world inured to Baathist savagery.
The burden of his proof is that a HRW report in December 2015 admitted that nearly half the photos are of dead Baathist soldiers. But what does this have to do with the close study of the photos that did reveal torture? Attempting to discredit the original report conducted by the Carter Ruck Inquiry Team, Sterling claims that the accusations that these were victims of “death in detention” or “death by torture” or death in “government custody” are almost certainly false.
However, the Carter Ruck report makes no such claims. In fact, it is rather clear that only 835 corpses were examined in depth by the forensic team. And of those, just 20% showed evidence of inflicted trauma while 30% were “equivocal”. Meanwhile, another 42% showed emaciation. So basically, Sterling is knocking down a straw man. The report is very measured in its analysis and makes none of the extravagant claims that Sterling imputes to it.
Apparently, Assad’s goons had a weakness for strangling people just like mafia gangsters. The forensic team reported:
Neck images of 19% of individuals showed non-specific injuries and 16% showed evidence of ligature marks on the neck. In the opinion of the forensics team these ligature marks would be consistent with fatal or non-fatal ligature strangulation. The marks did not appear to be consistent with execution by hanging and in one case a characteristic ligature was in place.
Here are a couple of photos that the forensic team viewed as evidence of torture and starvation meted out to prisoners of the dictatorship people like Rick Sterling apologizes for:
I invite everybody reading this article to check out the Carter Rucker report for yourself and draw your own conclusions about its validity. It certainly holds up a lot better than Sterling’s amateurish conspiracy-mongering.
To give you a real insight into how Sterling tries to taint the findings, he invokes the CIA as a co-conspirator of the Carter Ruck investigation. He states that Caesar was introduced to the investigators by someone referred to as his “case officer” by David Crane, its chairman. This leads Sterling to conclude that Caesar was in the company of a CIA agent, which does not seem that far-fetched. What that has to do with a photograph of strangling marks on someone’s neck is open to question. Getting up a full head of steam, Sterling points out that Crane is a professor at Syracuse University “where the CIA actively recruits new officers despite student resistance.” Plus, everybody knows their basketball team is always up to infractions of one sort or another.
Yeah, that CIA. You can never trust anybody who has any dealings with those bastards, especially a government that participated in George W. Bush’s extraordinary rendition program that led to the kidnapping of a Canadian citizen named Maher Arar who was hauled off to Syria in 2002 where he was tortured for a year just like the men depicted in the Carter Ruck photos. Fortunately for him, pressure forced Bashar al-Assad to release the falsely accused “terrorist” who told CounterPunch readers what he had to endure:
This moment is still vivid in my mind because it was the first I was ever beaten in my life. Then he asked me to open my left hand. He hit me again. And that one missed and hit my wrist. The pain from that hit lasted approximately six months. And then he would ask me questions. And I would have to answer very quickly. And then he would repeat the beating this time anywhere on my, on my body. Sometimes he would take me to a room where I could, where I was alone, I could hear other prisoners being tortured, severely tortured. I remember that I used to hear their screams. I just couldn’t believe it, that human beings would do this to other human beings.
Now what kind of government would allow someone kidnapped by the CIA to be tortured in its prisons for a year like this to serve Bush’s “war on terror”? Surely, this too must be a “false flag” operation to discredit the only government in the Middle East supposedly committed to democracy, religious tolerance, ethnic diversity and kindness. Oh, I know. The same kind of government that would deploy 7,500 troops in partnership with Saudi Arabia and the USA against Iraq in 1990.
Finally, on the question of whether the photos were used to sabotage the peace talks alluded to earlier in this article. Sterling claimed that they were used as a trump card to bolster opposition demands that Assad resign. Once again the intransigent jihadists with backing from the USA would keep the war going. That, at least, is what Sterling would have you believe. But is there any truth to his claim that demands that “Assad must go” were strengthened by the photos, thereby torpedoing a chance for peace? That is only possible if you base your information on what you hear from RT.com or Press TV.
The NY Times reported less than a month after the photos were released:
The Syrian opposition coalition on Wednesday presented its most detailed vision yet of a political transition to end Syria’s conflict, in a 24-point plan that, strikingly, made no mention of President Bashar al-Assad or his ouster, while outlining strong requirements for human rights and justice in a future Syria.
The proposal, detailed in a document presented to the Syrian government’s delegation during peace talks here, marked a shift in tone for the opposition group, which has long insisted on Mr. Assad’s departure as the starting point for a political resolution to the conflict.
The shift was bold yet risky, coming as the opposition delegation has managed for the first time to persuade several representatives of armed rebel groups to attend the Geneva talks. It carried the risk that the fighters, whose trust the exile opposition coalition seeks to gain, would feel betrayed by the omission of a demand for Mr. Assad’s ouster.
Opposition members said they hoped the proposal would help ease the fears of Syrian fence-sitters — by signaling that Mr. Assad’s opponents want to avoid a state collapse like that in Iraq following the American-led invasion in 2003 — and warm relations with Russia, the Assad government’s strongest backer. Russia has long said it is not committed to Mr. Assad personally but rejects making his ouster a precondition for political transition.
“We would really like to open new channels with the Russians, and it is very important for us to meet with them,” said Abdulahad Astepho, a member of the opposition delegation, adding that the group hoped to meet with the Russian deputy foreign minister, Gennady Gatilov, after talks with the American undersecretary of state for political affairs, Wendy Sherman, on Friday.
Now, of course, none of this matters to the likes of Rick Sterling. He has no interest in developing an intelligent and honest portrait of Syrian realities. Like all cheap propagandists who have preceded him in a dismal five years of lying, his only interest is in covering up a torturing, murdering, thieving bunch of gangsters who make the mafia look tame by comparison.