Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Beeley in Bristol

By Clara Connolly

  • Lionised by the Morning Star newspaper, Assad apologist Vanessa Beeley denied hospital bombings in Aleppo and smeared White Helmets rescue volunteers.
  • Beeley addressed an ultra-Stalinist cult meeting in Bristol, ridiculing Syrian health workers.
  • When a Syria Solidarity UK member questioned Beeley on hospital bombings, he was put in a chokehold by meeting organisers and ejected.

On 17 February Vanessa Beeley, associate editor of 21st Century Wire and a frequent guest of the far right conspiracy blog InfoWars, http://www.infowars.com/ gave an illustrated talk in Bristol, billed as a challenge to mainstream media reporting of Syria, particularly of the fall of Aleppo. Four members of Syria Solidarity UK—including myself—went along to join Bristol members who were leafleting the meeting outside.

The hosts were ‘Bristol Open Inquiry into the Bombing of Syria,’ a CPGB-ML front aiming to ‘end sanctions on Syria; stop arming terrorists.’ The CPGB–ML (Communist Party of Great Britain–Marxist Leninist) is an ultra-Stalinist cult, expelled from Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party, and from Stop the War Coalition, for openly supporting Assad and Ghaddafi.

The meeting was attended by 70-90 people, not necessarily CPGB–ML members or supporters. According to the people around me, many had been informed about the event by STWC. Beeley was introduced by Mehraz Shahabi, an open supporter of the Iranian regime, who passionately defended Syrian ‘sovereignty’ against imperialism.

Vanessa Beeley spoke for a full two and a half hours on her recent trips to Aleppo as a self-styled independent journalist. She presented video clips which she claimed were interviews with escapees from the ‘jihadist prison’ of East Aleppo, taken mainly around the Jebrin Registration Centre from 14 December onwards. She did not explain how she obtained access, nor who her interpreters were, nor why the interviews were conducted in public. They were vox-pop snippets on the street, with the interviewees praising the Syrian Arab Army for giving them food and denouncing jihadists for giving them none. There were no detailed or in depth interviews—they needed extensive commentary from Beeley to yield the sense she wanted. But to someone uninformed about Syria, or willing to view mainstream coverage of Aleppo as propaganda to support an imperialist project of regime change, they could be effective.


While she commented on the many people she saw in a Russian field hospital in extremely bad health, showing signs of malnutrition and lack of medical treatment, and complaining of lack of education for their children, she blamed it all on ‘jihadists’ hogging food for themselves, and on Al Nusra who she claimed occupied schools and hospitals. She failed to mention that until February 2016, Al-Nusra were not in Aleppo at all, and after that only in small numbers compared to the other brigades—in East Aleppo there was a maximum of 900 Jabhat al-Nusra fighters out of a total of 11,000 prior to its fall to the Assad regime. She advanced the astonishing and unsupported theory that there was ‘enough food in East Aleppo for a year.’

From there, Beeley ranged over wide variety of topics to which I cannot hope to do justice in this short report. She has a butterfly style—no coherent narrative thread and often returning to earlier topics and tropes. It is a rapid fire technique—impressive live, because there is no time to stop and examine anything in detail. She does not complete her thought, so you are never sure what she is actually claiming. I will comment on a selection, to illustrate.

Aleppo’s humanitarian MP?

One of the video clips featured Fares Shahabi, a member of the Syrian People’s Assembly, the Assad regime’s rubber-stamp parliament, who represents Aleppo. In this clip, Shahabi is shown at a school with children’s voices in the background. He says that he is working on a project to provide education to children from East Aleppo after ISIS deprived them of proper education. Shahabi emphasises that the education he was providing to these children was ‘secular.’ In reality ISIS had had no presence in East Aleppo since January 2014, after they were thrown out by mainstream Syrian rebel groups, and the Syrian regime’s educational curriculum includes mandatory religious instruction.

She used this clip of a known Assadist to deny the existence of schooling in East Aleppo under relentless bombardment, despite evidence from numerous sources including UNICEF. Shahabi has previously been interviewed and challenged by Channel 4 presenter Jon Snow. In that interview he justified the bombardment of hospitals in his constituency by saying that they had been ‘turned into command centres for Al-Qaeda.’

East Aleppo flattened?

Beeley showed clips of a tour of a residential part of East Aleppo which she claimed showed damage from artillery rather than from above. She disputed the SNHR statistics about barrel bombs, arguing that if the SNHR figure of 35,000 barrel bombs had fallen on Syria, it would have been the equivalent of several atom bombs and ‘we wouldn’t have a world.’ This is the kind of pseudo-science typical of conspiracy theorists. (Their force was compared by experts to earthquakes, not atom bombs!) She said that SNHR has given figures for barrel bombs ‘since March 2011, but the first barrel bombs recorded are from August 2012’ so they must be inaccurate (disregarding that in its reports and graphs, SNHR always gives figures starting with the month of March 2011 because that is when the Syrian revolution started). She did not push her point to its conclusion—deny the existence of barrel bombs or replace the SNHR figure with her own estimates. She is content to gnaw at one tiny piece of the jigsaw and triumphantly claim that the whole picture has dissolved.

Bombed hospitals never existed? 

Beeley quotes Robert Fisk saying the Al Quds hospital was in operation in July 2016, thereby refuting (she claims) its widely reported bombing in April. Again, disputing a claim that was never made. In fact, MSF stated in May 2016 that it would reopen in two weeks.

She used a government list of Aleppo hospitals from 2011 to argue that the many East Aleppo hospitals shown to have been bombed had never existed. There was no mention of the field hospitals and clinics—often set up in basements to shelter from bombing—which were a heroic part of the medical contribution to the resistance in Aleppo. The number of hospitals she presented was completely implausible: there were no more than seven on her list, in a city with a population of two million.

She showed part of an Al Jazeera video (partly re-shown on Channel 4) of the bombing of a children’s hospital in November 2016. This was a particularly powerful piece: the journalist was on the spot to report the treatment of children suffering from chemical attacks when the hospital was bombed before his eyes. There was live footage of the bombing and its aftermath. But Beeley homed in on one clip of a nurse rescuing babies from incubators in the panicked aftermath, and used a critique of the apparently inappropriate handling of the baby to claim the whole piece was ‘staged.’

Syria Solidarity UK members forcefully ejected 

The audience was tittering with amusement at the ridiculed nurse, and at media reports of ‘the last hospital’ in East Aleppo. One Syria Solidarity UK member stood up and asked why the audience found it funny that hospitals were being bombed and medical workers killed. He then asked Beeley whether she supported hospitals being bombed, as she didn’t seem to have a problem with the bombing, just with how the media reported it? Beeley didn’t reply to this question, and at this point the Syria Solidarity UK member was grabbed roughly by several of the meeting organisers, put in a chokehold, and forced to leave.

Two other Syria Solidarity members stood to support him, and protest at this rough treatment, and were ejected themselves in the same manner. One held up a picture showing a massacre in Aleppo and told the audience that these were the crimes Beeley was denying. He was assured that he would be given an opportunity to ask questions at the end and sat back down again, but was nevertheless ejected.

Some other members of the audience protested too, and the meeting came to a noisy and chaotic stop. The organisers defended their action by saying that there would be time for questions afterwards, but ‘these people refused to wait.’ I decided to stay, in the hope of an intervention later on. My friends stayed outside to leaflet the audience at the end of the meeting. The organisers called the police who turned up. Apparently they responded to a call about ISIS in the building! The police said that there was no cause of action against the organisers—it was their premises and they had used ‘reasonable force.’ But when the organisers asked the police to stop Syria Solidarity UK members handing out leaflets, the police defended our right to do so.

Syrian sieges?

On sieges Beeley spoke only of two regime-held towns under siege, Kafraya and Foua, completely omitting reference to the fifty opposition held areas listed by Siege Watch as under total or partial siege by the Assad regime. She failed to mention that these were receiving food and medicine by airdrop as well as through negotiation, unlike areas besieged by the regime.

Food should never be used as a weapon of war, and sieges against civilians are a crime against humanity—whoever the perpetrator or whatever the reason. But here again Beeley used one small piece of a jigsaw of sieges, in an attempt to obscure Assad’s tactic of starvation sieges and forced displacement of whole populations.

White Helmets an Al Qaeda front? 

She returned to an old obsession at the end—the demonisation of the White Helmets, which she described as a Qatar funded project ‘to undermine Syrian state institutions.’ The White Helmets are part of a ‘shadow state,’ she asserted, and affiliated to extremist organisations. To illustrate this, she referred to a curious phone conversation she had (on the morning the White Helmets were nominated for the Nobel Prize) with the ‘real’ Syrian Civil Defence, to ask why their phone line had been diverted to the White Helmets. ‘An internal mistake,’ she was assured. ‘We’re the official, internationally recognised body.’ What that was meant to prove was puzzling—again she was attempting to refute what had never been asserted. The White Helmets are clear that their work does not extend to regime areas—only to those opposition areas where official regime services have been withdrawn or broken down.

Q & A 

This did not last long, with the organisers breaking the meeting into informal chat format after a few questions. There was one question before mine: ‘Why do you use mainstream language to describe the opposition forces as terrorists?’ Answer: ‘If you asked the Syrian people what they would call the people destroying their country, they would be happy to call them terrorists’—so a full embrace of the use of the War on Terror narrative by the Assad regime.

I then commented that her videos did nothing to undermine the basic facts of the conflict as provided by numerous sources: over 90% of total civilian casualties in Syria since March 2011 were caused by the Syrian regime and its allies. I said I would confine myself to two questions on the many I had about her material: firstly, her attack on the White Helmets, and secondly her failure to mention Palestinians in Syria.

I acknowledged her passion in defending the Assad regime at all costs, but why did it have to extend to attacking first responders? What is important about the White Helmets is what they do—attacking rescuers in cities under bombardment is like attacking the New York Fire Brigade after 9/11.

I also complimented her on her passion in defending Palestinians, but did this depend on who was attacking and killing them? She had not mentioned Yarmouk, a refugee camp of 160,000 Palestinians in 2011, subject to a starvation siege throughout 2013, for whom Palestinians in Gaza rallied to provide food when the UN was failing. And why had she not mentioned the 456 recorded deaths under torture of Palestinians; the families of whom were pleading for their bodies to be returned?

She replied to the first with a question of her own: did I deny that White Helmets operated in jihadist areas? I replied (despite being interrupted and told I had no right of reply) that in free Aleppo there was an elected local council who did what councils all over the world do: they organise services for residents. The White Helmets were Free Aleppo’s Fire Brigade.

Secondly she demanded, ‘Who put Yarmouk under siege?’ The regime, I replied. That was attested to by all observers including the UN. No, it was Hamas, she replied. I commented that I now understood why her support for Palestinians was lukewarm recently. I tried to press her for an answer, ‘Where are the 456 bodies?’ The audience was getting restless and I was told to sit. When I refused there was a call for the next question (to stop Beeley engaging in a tit for tat, which excused my staying on my feet) and the meeting moved on. I asked the audience if they really believed what they were hearing and left, shouting ‘Vanessa, Assad’s wall will fall!’

Outside: think again! 

Outside the venue, Syria Solidarity UK members picketed, in the company of the Morning Star cartoonist Rob Amos, acting as one of the bouncers for the organisers that evening. He had previously drawn a cartoon for the Morning Star lionising Beeley and Eva Bartlett as ‘independent journalists.’ We said that dozens of Syrian journalists had given their lives to tell the truth about Assad’s massacres, but he had nothing to say in response. A Syria Solidarity UK member had written a letter to the Morning Star about this cartoon but they neither responded nor published it.

As expected, we were abused by some of the attendees: one complimented us on our professionalism, asking who paid us to protest at the event—echoing comments made by US President Trump about those protesting against him. However many other attendees and passersby were curious about our opposition to Beeley and accepted our leaflet. The leaflet refuted Beeley’s claims and contained links to a Syrian Revolution resource page as well as reports from the United Nations and human rights organisations about what is really happening in Syria. We ensured that Beeley’s narrative did not go unchallenged.

Uncritical acceptance of a simplistic ‘anti-imperialist’ narrative promoted by the Assad regime, and its useful idiots like Beeley, is an important factor working against justice for the Syrian people, covering up the crimes against them, making heroes out of murderers, and demonising Syrians who have risked and given their lives to help the victims of Assad’s crimes.

No pasaran! 

40 comments:

  1. Vanessa Beeley speaks the truth, and that's a hard pill to swallow for others who are corrupt.

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    1. Spot on, some serious research and on the spot reporting wouldn't go amiss

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  2. Will SSUK support these guys as well? https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/idlib-court-announces-will-prosecute-villagers-chanted-support-assad/

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  3. "No pasaran" Lmao.
    So that's the new pro-jihadist rally cry? You people have no shame...

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    1. And they don't dare go to Idblib and visit the rebels. Why? Because they know that they at best be killed but most likely beheaded.

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  4. Are You for real??? "We support all efforts towards a political settlement for a democratic, pluralist and united Syria, where all Syrians can freely determine their future with the support of the international community." Good luck with that goal along side the Jihadists. Why don't You go to Idlib and preach pluralism and democracy.

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  5. Google this convicted criminal Scott Michael Gaulke anti Semite supports beeley

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    1. SSUKer co-founder Abdulaziz Almashi is a fanatic supporter of Al Zenki..the group that beheaded the 12yr old Palestinian boy and Jaish Al Islam..Salafisti terror groups.

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  6. And Saudies, USA, UK, EU, Turkey and Israel supports Your rebels, so?

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  7. 'over 90% of total civilian casualties in Syria since March 2011 were caused by the Syrian regime and its allies.'
    this is to say alqaeda and ISIS have hardly killed anyone!

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  8. 'Assad apologist'

    you may as well call the mass of syrian people 'Assad apologists'.. what they are are Assad supporters. of 12 milion refugees,7 million sought refuge in govt areas...nopt with the 'rebels'.

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  9. 'There was no mention of the field hospitals and clinics—often set up in basements to shelter from bombing'

    how anyone bomb hospitals if they dont know where they are? theyd be bombing 'buildings': it is a war zone

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  10. ' in an attempt to obscure Assad’s tactic of starvation sieges and forced displacement of whole populations.'

    Assads been president since 2000...from 2000 to 2010 no war,. no starvation and no forced displacement

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  11. 'Their force was compared by experts to earthquakes, not atom bombs!'

    so how powerful is an earthquake?

    'The escalation of the Kaikoura earthquake from 7.5 magnitude to 7.8 puts its power on a par with the energy release of 400 atomic bombs detonating.'
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11749778

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  12. I am disgusted by the spin and deception used to slander a respected journalist who has lived in Syria during the war to report what she has seen. Unlike the middle class twits who seem to want to put their fingers in their ears, living in a permanent stasis on a permanent diet of toxic regime change dressage, subtifuge and layer cake served by their political drivers and handlers from vile NGOs and "charities" which are causing absolute havoc around the world. I am ashamed that someone in UK can be so disingenuous and so deeply cynical as to write this article. I say that because from the first few lines it becomes evident that the deception is done with intent and malice of forethought. Events, and facts, deliberately and wantonly skewed to a point where it leaves no room for debate that this is a smear piece with no journalistic merit whatever. If a person truly cared about people of Syria, and people in general, would they be able to stoop this low for a political point scoring exercise? Or would they be more concerned with presenting actual facts and evidence and quotes from people who lived through the war?

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    1. Well said. But if You Watch Channel 4 You probably end up blind, deaf and dumb. https://timhayward.wordpress.com/2017/02/06/how-we-were-misled-about-syria-channel-4-news/

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  16. https://youtu.be/Ci0be87Nkco

    Then again she isn't the only one reporting on Syria and saying this stuff. This clip is one of plenty around.

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  17. Utter tripe! Thank goodness for the people like Vanessa.

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  18. Vanessa Beeley is a hero and all efforts to discredit her by the deep state are so obvious. This smear article was made after a founding member of SSUK went to Vanessa's event and tried to silence and censor her. "shush, shush!" The people will know the truth about SSUK, Mayday Rescue, Syria Campaign, Syria Civil Defence, White Helmets, and the whole of the false humanitarian NGO network set up to support rebels and Al Qaeda / al-Nusra / whatever they call themselves today.

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  21. The irony to slander Beeley by calling her 'narrative' 'simplistic' .
    Because what is the complicated truth here? It is that shills like you get paid well to spread misinformation about the US/UK lead proxy jihad in Syria. And shills like you are the lowest form of opportunistic criminals who for a fist full of dollars defend unspeakable crimes committed against defenseless civilians. So actually it isn't that complicated Clara Connolly; you are soulless sellout opportunist, terrorist supporter and a hypocrite.

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  22. Have you ever thought about writing some short fantasy novels Clara...? You have a talent there.

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  23. "smeared White Helmets rescue volunteers." That's about as far as I needed to read to verify that you are a brainwashed moron

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  24. From reading the comment above, I can add little except that your smear campaign seems to be falling on deaf but well informed ears. This is what happen when you insult people's intelligence with this type of tripe. I too, travel to Syria and have seen the truth and it isn't in line with the hit piece above.

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  25. 'self-styled independent journalist'. LOL. That's a tautology. Non-independent journalists are styled by the organisations which pay them and limit their ability to report what they see.

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  27. The imperial left is becoming more irrelevant as the days pass. Claire Connolly could have been heroic in bringing the truth to light at a moment in history when it is deeply unpopular. Instead, she toes the pro-NATO line. Colonisers are the new imperialists. Down with their white supremacist, white saviour complexes. Long live Vanessa Beeley. <3 Long live sovereign Syria without interference from NATO predators and their lackeys who write rubbish like this article.

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  28. Also need to add that this organisation SSUK is dangerous. Mongering for war in other countries under a pretence that they "care" and that they are helping "the people". This is the Reponsibility to Protect doctrine of the United States that marries with their "exceptionalism" and wouldn't be possible without the Mighty Wurlitzer of racist propaganda that demonises President Assad and the people of Syria who voted for him. My country NZ, was colonised by the British and my ancestors were murdered by the Brits and our people are still the targets of ongoing genocide. This is NO DIFFERENT. They are greedy, ruthless people who believe that whiteness is the pinnacle of all that matters in the world.

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    1. Genocide? NZ has it's problems and a very distorted official history, but your claim minimises the suffering in Syria and foments a dangerously false and devisive narrative. If you truly want to compare conditions in NZ to the ME - you will need to be more honest than that. As recently as 1828, Te Rauparaha slaughtered 1,000's of South Island Maori reducing the entire population to little more than 1500. Several 1000 were transported back to the North only to be ritualistically slaughtered and eaten.
      Shortly after that Ngati Tama invaded the Chatham Islands, murdering 300 of the welcoming, peaceful island dwellers on arrival, then proceeded to systematically enslave, butcher, and eat the population of 2,000, reducing it to just over 100 in 30 years. So before you paint genocide with a white brush, maybe you should take stock of your ancestors that died at the hands of Maori, the cannibals of the Pacific.

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    2. http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/1966/maori-tribal-history/page-4

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chatham_Islands#M.C4.81ori_conquest_and_genocide

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/australiaandthepacific/newzealand/1312121/Tribe-wins-justice-over-1835-massacre.html

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  29. With hysterical associates of yours screaming 'Genocide deniers will be hunted down' ..it makes you wonder of the extreme nature of your combined rhetoric.You are actively trying to silence another voice..throwing stink bombs into Vanessas meeting..disruptive and extremist behaviour..your bum chum Zuber Hatia has had proven links with Anjem Coudray who helped young Bristh jihadis seek fake revolutionary fervour..to go to Syria..wreak havoc and murder and get killed.You are a dangerous deluded hyprocrite.

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  30. Shame on you Connelly, you're an NWO sellout.

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  31. My dear Ms Connolly, one would hope that anyone deigning to criticise a journalist like Vanessa Beeley of obfuscating the facts would have enough wit not to resort to similar tactics themselves.

    Case in point: You cite and link to the UNICEF report as some kind of conclusive "proof" that education was being provided to the children of east Aleppo by the so-called "rebels".

    Did you actually READ the report? Or perhaps you simply assumed that, like you, the rest of us would be too stupid to bother? Because the UNICEF report you linked to did nothing of the sort! In fact, it couldn't possibly have done, because UNICEF was not present in east Aleppo!

    The only reference to Syria in the report you so ludicrously cited was in context of the difficulties involved in providing adequate and consistent education to children in conflict zones.



    No aspect of that report negates ANYTHING Vanessa Beeley claimed. If fact, it pretty much confirms her argument and her concerns!

    Furthermore, in a statement dated 16 December, 2016, by Anthony Lake (UNICEF Executive Director) he clearly states, and I quote: "More than 2,700 children have been evacuated from east Aleppo in the past 24 hours, including some who were sick, wounded or without their parents. However, hundreds of other vulnerable children, including orphans, remain trapped inside that part of the city. We are extremely concerned about their fate. If these children are not evacuated urgently, they could die."
    “UNICEF and our partners are on standby with transport and teams to evacuate these children to safety. We implore all parties to the conflict to let us do so safely and immediately.” . (http://www.unicef.org.au/about-us/media/december-2016/statement-by-anthony-lake-unicef-executive-direct)

    At no point is education mentioned for the simple fact that UNICEF is not privy to what schooling is/isn't available in "rebel" held areas of Syria because those same said "rebels" don't allow access to independent observers! Which is why all information we're getting is being filtered through their prism of their agenda.

    It's truly staggering that someone as ill-informed in even the most basic facts surrounding the Syrian conflict would have the gall to judge anyone on matters of "fact"... least of all Vanessa Beeley.

    The rest of your opinion piece is just as flawed. I only chose the UNICEF example to illustrate my point because highlighting every error, lie and deliberate misrepresentation of facts in your argument would frankly take more time than you're worth.

    Might I suggest that in future, if you want to be taken as anything other than a shill for imperialist wars and failed western humanitarian interventions... like the disastrous "regime change" in Libya which people like you studiously avoid mentioning for obvious reasons... you actually present some verifiable FACTS yourself. What you've presented here is nothing short of woeful in its lack of any real substance. In fact, it's the intellectual equivalent of "fast food" designed to be neatly packaged and easily ingested by people who really don't give much thought to what they're consuming or simply don't care....

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  32. The Assad government is what has and is holding stability in a Secular Syria and is protecting citizens from having Extremist Sharia Law forced on them or facing death for not going along with this extremism. And if you are a Christian forget it---you will be killed. ANYONE who thinks it is okay to support these so called rebels is certainly not on the side of what is good for Syrians or any human on earth. You and others who want Syria overthrown have no concern for the Syrian people or any humans at all other than ones that will benefit you in some way -- maybe your career, maybe finances, maybe attention, maybe allowing you to stay inside your protective safety bubble of reality and not allowing your brain to process that the opposition in Syria are terrorist who want to enslave the people in demented twisted extremist Sharia law and have no regard for the innocent lives being lost and beautiful country being destroyed. What if your daughter was a Christian born and living there or was just any woman living there. Is this what you would want for her!?

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  33. It is easily to evaluate this piece. It only takes two words: Utter Garbage.

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