(ANTIMEDIA) — There are more than enough sound reasons to doubt the official narrative on the Syrian conflict and the alleged poison gas attack, according to the Independent’s Robert Fisk, who is currently on the ground in the Syrian city of Douma.
While in Douma, Fisk met with Dr. Assim Rahaibani, a Syrian doctor from an underground clinic that emerged as one of the sources of images of an alleged chemical weapons attack, which was then used by western powers as a pretext to launch strikes against the Syrian government over the weekend. According to the doctor, the gas attack videotape the entire world saw was, in fact, genuine. However, Dr. Rahaibani was able to provide a little more context to the video, which the rest of the world continues to be clueless about.
“War stories, however, have a habit of growing darker,” Fisk explains. “For the same 58-year old senior Syrian doctor then adds something profoundly uncomfortable: the patients, he says, were overcome not by gas but by oxygen starvation in the rubbish-filled tunnels and basements in which they lived, on a night of wind and heavy shelling that stirred up a dust storm.”
“I was with my family in the basement of my home three hundred metres from here on the night but all the doctors know what happened,” the doctor stated, according to Fisk. “There was a lot of shelling [by government forces] and aircraft were always over Douma at night – but on this night, there was wind and huge dust clouds began to come into the basements and cellars where people lived. People began to arrive here suffering from hypoxia, oxygen loss. Then someone at the door, a ‘White Helmet,’ shouted ‘Gas!,’ and a panic began. People started throwing water over each other. Yes, the video was filmed here, it is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia – not gas poisoning.”
Dr. Rahaibani also allegedly referred to Jaish al-Islam — a group that, not too long ago, was embroiled in a battle with the Syrian government in Eastern Ghouta — as “terrorists,” the same word the Syrian government uses to describe them. (For the record, Jaish al-Islam is concerned primarily with establishing Sharia Law in Syria, is allied with al-Qaeda, receives overt support from Saudi Arabia, and regularly resorts to terrorist tactics).
Fisk also notes that the doctors who were present during the alleged incident on April 7, 2018, were already in Damascus giving evidence to a chemical weapons inquiry.
“Before we go any further, readers should be aware that this is not the only story in Douma. There are the many people I talked to amid the ruins of the town who said they had ‘never believed in’ gas stories – which were usually put about, they claimed, by the armed Islamist groups. These particular jihadis survived under a blizzard of shellfire by living in other’s people’s homes and in vast, wide tunnels with underground roads carved through the living rock by prisoners with pick-axes on three levels beneath the town. I walked through three of them yesterday, vast corridors of living rock which still contained Russian – yes, Russian – rockets and burned-out cars.” [emphasis added]
Strangely enough, Fisk’s account and his experience in Douma appear to cast major doubts not only on the recent alleged chemical weapons incident but also on the overwhelming number of claims regarding the brutality of the Assad government in general. The western media narrative is that the Syrian government is so ruthlessly violent and oppressive that millions of people have fled the violence and the relentless control of the state, whereas the rebels are fighting for the freedom of the Syrian people.
Fisk’s experience seems to suggest the opposite, at least in the case of Douma:
“So the story of Douma is thus not just a story of gas – or no gas, as the case may be. It’s about thousands of people who did not opt for evacuation from Douma on buses that left last week, alongside the gunmen with whom they had to live like troglodytes for months in order to survive. I walked across this town quite freely yesterday without soldier, policeman or minder to haunt my footsteps, just two Syrian friends, a camera and a notebook. I sometimes had to clamber across 20-foot-high ramparts, up and down almost sheer walls of earth. Happy to see foreigners among them, happier still that the siege is finally over, they are mostly smiling; those whose faces you can see, of course, because a surprising number of Douma’s women wear full-length black hijab.”
Why did thousands of residents in Douma choose not to evacuate when they most likely knew they were in the process of being besieged by Syrian government forces? While there may be many answers to this question, on the face of it, it doesn’t seem to align with western media’s insistence that the Syrian people are solely seeking refuge from the Syrian government. In fact, according to the U.N., hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees have already returned to areas now under the control of the Syrian government. Between January and October 2017, nearly 715,000 Syrians had returned to their homes, the vast majority of whom returned to Aleppo after Syrian and Russian warplanes had supposedly destroyed the entire city.
Perhaps the Syrian people have largely been fleeing the Syrian rebels supported by the U.S. and its allies — and not running solely from the Syrian government.
“They [Douma residents] talked about the Islamists under whom they had lived,” Fisk added. “They talked about how the armed groups had stolen civilian homes to avoid the Syrian government and Russian bombing. The Jaish el-Islam had burned their offices before they left, but the massive buildings inside the security zones they created had almost all been sandwiched to the ground by air strikes.”
Fisk also reported that after talking to more than 20 people, he couldn’t find a single person who showed the slightest interest in the connection between Douma and the Anglo-alliance assault on Syria at the end of last week. Two of the witnesses allegedly told Fisk that they didn’t even know there was a connection.
As the media hypes up the usual pro-war narrative against the sovereign state of Syria, we would do well to pay attention to the mainstream journalists who actually take the time to go see these areas for themselves rather than simply relying on the words of those who sit behind a corporate desks and peddle Washington’s claims without even bothering to verify them.
We need only look at the lies that led to the fall of Iraq, Libya, and Yemen, to name a few – not to mention the lies that brought us to this juncture in Syria — to learn that we can and should figure out alternative ways to bring about meaningful peace and dialogue to the Middle East.
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