25.01.2014 Author: Seth Ferris

Geneva II: CNN throws a Curveball Just before the Summit

syria-torture-protest-reutersSo Syria, meaning the government of Bashar al-Assad, has “systematically tortured and executed about 11,000 detainees since the start of the uprising in 2011.” So says a new report, commissioned by Qatar, the US ally which supports the opposition. Qatar and Saudi Arabia are the two of the main paymasters of Al Qaeda in Syria – and this begs the question as why did Qatar commission a “report” on atrocities published just ahead of the Geneva II conferenceDevastating Indictment of Syrian Regime or CNN Effect?

This report was apparently shocking to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, given her known intelligence links, and to a wide variety of international commentators and the diplomatic representatives arriving in Montreux, to participate in what are paradoxically known as the Geneva II peace talks. It comes as no coincidence that the report was released the day before the talks were about to begin. Maybe this is because it fatally compromises their own credibility before they even begin the conference, so not to give pundits too much time to evaluate the validity of the report.

The alleged atrocities are obviously headline news. They pose a number of questions about what is going on in Syria. But there are two other significant questions which need to be asked:

First, the timing is uncanny; why did this information only become public the day before the conference was due to begin?

Second, how did all this happen without a single one of these journalists, commentators and diplomats knowing anything about it in advance?

Journalists, commentators and diplomats know what reports are. Their jobs largely consist of commissioning, writing, reading and analyzing them. They know very well how long the process takes and how many hands are involved. Reports don’t just come into existence the day before an important international conference, unless….

Those who commission such reports don’t tell people to investigate something and then report back everything at once. They demand regular progress reports to see how their money is being spent. An allegation of 11,000 detainees being systematically tortured, starved and murdered would have appeared in a progress report, been checked and run through by legal people, several times before the report was written.

Then the report has to be published. However this is done, it goes through several more sets of hands before the target audience sees it, as decisions on priority, position, timing etcetera have to be made. Syria is a hot issue, constantly being investigated, and any report would automatically go to hundreds of media outlets before they themselves read, released and commented on it. So hundreds and hundreds of people would have known.

If 11,000 people had been massacred in one day this process would have been truncated. But no, this apparently happened systematically over a period of years. With the eyes of the world on the Assad regime, all these people were tortured, and all these highly paid journalists, commentators and diplomats seemingly knew nothing until the day before the conference.

If so, they should all be dismissed as incompetent. If those same journalists were asked to believe this about anyone else, we all know what they would say. If this report is true it has been sat on by those who knew its contents.

How many people were being tortured, with no reaction, while it was being suppressed? Is this in the report? What about the single source of the material, codename “Caesar” the defector who systematically took the pictures? Have we not heard this before with “Curveball” and the faked justification for the invasion of Iraq?

The evidence supporting this report the flood of damming allegations is a massive collection of photographs. Maybe all of these are genuine. Or maybe some of them were made at Guantanamo? When Kate Moss was photographed and videoed snorting cocaine in a recording studio she was brought to trial but not convicted because that was the only evidence. Photographs alone don’t prove anything. You need to interpret them beyond reasonable doubt. We have testimony, we don’t have facts.

This is sloppy journalism, CNN, UK’s Guardian Newspaper, the commentators and the diplomats, including the UN know it. But still it is being flashed round the world as a masterpiece of investigation. Why? Because nobody ever reports, or even acknowledges the existence of the activities of the usual source of such politically convenient stories, the United States and for hire investigators, whose record is not so prestigious based on their owned sordid histories.

There is no law against paying people to talk to journalists or politicians on your behalf. Those with the money and desire can pay professional lobbyists to represent them in a bid to gain positive news coverage, limit damage or change legislation. All these lobbyists have friends in high places most of us will never have, or they would not be able to influence anyone and thus earn a living.

The rich and powerful thus have an influence, through these lobbyists, denied to the ordinary citizens of any given democracy. They are willing to pay sometimes obscene sums of public or stockholder money to achieve their started ends by bending the right ears. To do that they tell stories people want to hear, “manufacture consent” for political and military action, most often in response to concocted humanitarian crisis. They present evidence people want to hear to serve their own objectives.

243607_mainimgUndoubtedly there are paid lobbyists trying to achieve their clients’ diverse objectives with regard to Syria. Most of the big international firms are based in the US, where the money is and where ‘pork barrel politics’, i.e. you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours, is regarded as a noble tradition, as the obituaries for legendary Senator Strom Thurmond from South Carolina demonstrated. This report justifies the US position on Syria in bold capital letters.

So who are these shadowy lobbyists, who are never mentioned as sources or acknowledged to be influencing media and politicians, despite it being a multi-billion dollar industry? It may never be known who was behind presenting this particular report at this particular time. But here are a couple of high flyers in this industry who may be taken as a sample:

Haley Barbour. Co-founder of the Washington DC firm now known as BGR Group, described in 1998 as the second most powerful lobbying firm in America. Clients included tobacco giant Philip Morris, known for sending its high tar cigarettes to developing countries when banned in the West, and Microsoft, which is already so powerful that the withdrawal of its software would shut down global government and commerce in an instant.

In 2001 this firm, largely through Barbour, lobbied on behalf of Mexico to alter US immigration laws to provide an effective amnesty for illegal immigrants from that country, whose terms did not apply to those from any other country. Mexico paid it $35,000 a month, plus expenses, out of public funds, to do this.

Barbour left the firm in 2003 to run, successfully, for Governor of Mississippi. As Governor he frequently spoke of the need for his Republican Party to “reach out to Latino voters” and withdrew state funding from smoking prevention programs. After the Hurricane Katrina devastation he awarded reconstruction contracts to several firms which employed BGR as their lobbyist. 

Whilst Governor Barbour continued to receive income from BGR, from a fund reported to be worth $3.3 billion dollars. This is set up as a blind trust, meaning that Barbour does not know where its income actually comes from. This was ostensibly done to avoid conflicts of interest which might arise from his office, but its income ultimately derives from the profits of BGR, whose clients and investments are a matter of record.

Patrick Worms. Senior Science Policy Adviser to the World Agroforestry Centre in Belgium and, though he doesn’t mention it on his latest public resume, Special Project Adviser and European Vice-President of Agenda-Global, another Washington DC based firm. According to this form’s website he delivers “winning strategies and results to varied, global clients”. 

Agenda-Global’s clients include the United States Agency for International Development, implicated in money laundering schemes throughout Europe. Worms’ own professed clients include food and chemicals giant Unilever, for which see, Vodafone/Proximus, Rockwell, Sony, IBM, ICANN, the European Commission, the World Bank, the European Space Agency, EUROCONTROL, KPN Mobile and Google. Whatever Worms’ market rate is, it is the market such clients can bear.

From 2006-2010 Worms was a partner in Aspect, a Brussels-based PR company. As he says, “From 2007, I acted on behalf of the Government of Georgia, alerting the world to increasing Russian provocations and running its media operations during the 2008 Russian invasion.”

Worms describes this work as the highlight of his career there. It included denying the illegal use of cluster bombs on Georgian civilians and Russian peacekeepers, despite the manufacturer’s plastic labels and unexploded ordnance “duds” being recovered from the battlefield. He personally profited from their use through the various rake-offs from arms deals where the arms largely existed on paper, and working closely with foreign controlled “assets” who have since been involved in the supply of Arab and Chechen militant jihadists to Syria.

These “assets” and others have been controlled and guided by a Washington-based think-tank called Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. The board of the Potomac Institute reads like a who’s who of retired US military and intelligence people. But according to Washington insider reports, Potomac is not entirely what it appears to be.

It is rather a flimsy front for intelligence and a group of US neo-conservatives working with Saudi Arabian intelligence. Two of Potomac’s key people involved in the Syrian debacle are Prof. Jonah Alexander who heads the institute’s International Center for Terrorism Studies and Ambassador (ret) David Smith. Alexander who has taught in Israel and headed a project: “Terrorism, Gray Area and Low Level Conflict,” for the US Global Strategy Council. 

David J. Smith is Director of the Georgian Security Analysis Center (GSAC) at the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies in Tbilisi, Georgia. Between 2002 and 2006 Smith was US Member of the International Security Advisory Board, assisting Georgia to build democracy and establish functional national security institutions. Many of the terrorist, both Arab and Chechen jihadist terrorists in recent years have infiltered into Syria from Georgia and Turkey. This was done with the full knowledge of cooperation of the CIA and other intelligence services. How many of the bodies in the pictures are the corpses of these same foreign fighters?

The corporations, international organizations and governments which spend large sums on lobbyists are not necessarily the richest ones. They are the ones with the greatest need to tell a good story.

If the same bodies acted well, and the changes they advocated worked, they would get all the positive publicity and influence they wanted because they would be trusted and loved. They would be desirable partners of any government and the automatic brand of choice for the public. But then the rest would lobby against them, and that is why lobbyists exist.

This unconvincing torture report serves the vested interests of the US. It does not pass muster as a piece of journalism, a criminal investigation or a situational analysis, as those commenting on it know. So it is a PR stunt by a lobbyist. The people we never hear about because no one wants to admit they listen to them. There is an obvious reason for that.

It is revealing that obvious crimes have been systematically and premeditated committed, BUT by whom and what is the motivation. It would seem that any leader would be stark raving mad, to commit such massive crimes against humanity, his own citizens, and then to carefully document them with revealing photos for the world to see.

One thing is certain, much of US policy depends on the “End Game” in Syria, and if the war does not go to the advantage of the US and its allies, harder questions will be raised both at home and on the international level. The stakes are high with many trusted US allies in the region being State sponsors of terrorism – and that for now is being carried out by proxy states, media spin doctors and hired killers.

So how trustworthy does this report seem to you? 

Seth Ferris, investigative journalist and political scientist, expert on Middle Eastern affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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