The mainstream U.S. news has supplied a consistent
narrative regarding Syria that treats the “rebels” as
the good guys and the “regime forces” as the bad guys,
but it has never been that clear-cut, as Dennis J
By Dennis J Bernstein
December 21, 2016
- It’s rare for Americans to hear any version of
the Syrian conflict other than the simplistic accounts
favored by the U.S. government and the mainstream news
media that rely heavily on rebel sources and their
international supporters who often traffic in
One of the few independent Western journalists
covering the horrific conflict is Eva Bartlett who has
traveled to Syria six times in the last two years and
just returned from a six-month stint in the war-torn
country where she investigated human rights violations
and terrorism against Syrians.
Her multiple investigations have led the seasoned
Canadian journalist and human rights activist to
conclusions that contradict what the Western media and
governments have been reporting non-stop, regarding
human rights violations by all sides.
I spoke with Bartlett last Thursday during her West
Coast speaking tour about her discoveries, the situation
in Aleppo, and the impact the war has had on large
numbers of Palestinians who live in exile in Syria.
Dennis Bernstein: Eva, tell us, when were you last in
Eva Bartlett: I was in Aleppo twice in November, for
my third and fourth visits to Aleppo.
DB: Okay, and describe the situation there on the
ground. What’s happening, what’s… daily life like?
EB: I’m going to describe what it was like then, and
note that, as of the last week, things have change
dramatically. When I was there, in prior visits, as
well, July and August and in November, the situation was
that, on a daily basis, terrorists that are in many ways
backed by the West and gulf nations, financially and
otherwise, were, on a daily basis, firing a variety of
bombs on the civilian areas of Aleppo, which we never
hear about in the corporate media.
In these areas there are over 1.5 million people. And
on a daily basis they were subject to bombings of grad
missiles, explosive bullets, mortars, gas canister
bombs, water heater bombs, which are basically
improvised bombs using gas canisters and water heaters,
stuffed with explosives and shrapnel.
When I was there, I experienced some of that myself,
with a bomb going off half a kilometer away, and with an
explosive bullet landing about fifteen meters away. I
also met with many people who had lost loved ones due to
these bombings. I went to hospitals that themselves had
been hit, like the al-Dabit Maternity Hospital.
In May of this year the al-Dabit Maternity Hospital
was destroyed internally by a terrorist’s fired rocket.
And when it was destroyed, three women inside were
killed, and many more were injured. This was not, to my
knowledge, reported in the corporate media, although the
media’s always talking about alleged strikes on
hospitals in Aleppo.
DB: Now… so we keep it clear, and untangled, when you
say terrorists, are you talking about the people that
the United States is supporting?
EB: Yes, I am. The United States will say, at least,
that Jabhat al-Nusra–which is Al Qaeda in Syria, and
which tried to rebrand itself as Fatah al-Sham, but
which is still Al Qaeda in Syria–the U.S. will say that
they are terrorists.
But the United States will not say, for example, that
Ahrar al-Sham are terrorists, although on their internal
documents when they discuss funding, they do acknowledge
that they are terrorists. But, publicly they don’t state
They also don’t state that Nour al-Din al-Zenki are
terrorists, even though this particular group savagely
and methodically beheaded a 12 year old Palestinian boy,
Abdullah Issa, some months ago.
These terrorists have participated in bombings of
Aleppo, and also other villages we never hear about, and
which I will be discussing today, al-Fu’ah and Kefriya.
So, I do mean terrorists from those groups and also from
the so-called Free Syrian Army. The Free Syrian Army has
been as heinous and as gruesome as ISIS and as al-Nusra.
DB: Alright, you mentioned… a bunch of things we’re
hearing here. Let’s just go over a few of them. You
talked about the situation of the child, the Palestinian
child who was beheaded. And you’re saying that he was
beheaded by forces supported by the West?
DB: And how does the West support this particular
EB: They deem Nour al-Din al-Zenki a moderate group.
I’m not aware if there’s financial support, there’s
certainly support in terms of whitewashing their crimes.
And when the cease fires are enacted, for example, in
September and in February, these groups were not
expected to participate in the cease fires. Only al-Nusra
and ISIS and other al Qaeda affiliated groups were
expected to participate.
But the problem with this is the U.S. themselves
cannot control the terrorists that they support as
moderates, who intermingle with the terrorists that they
designate as terrorists. So they’re very aware of the
crimes that these different groups they deem as
moderates are committing, yet, they cannot control them.
DB: Alright, let me ask you a broad question, this
way. You certainly do not get this story in watching the
U.S. corporate media. So, let me ask you… what’s
missing, from the U.S. corporate media’s picture? I mean
you’ve been describing some atrocities that we haven’t
heard about, but in the broader picture what’s missing?
EB: The Syrian voice. […] The corporate media
interviews people that might be representatives of
Syria, living abroad who haven’t been to Syria for
years, or people they claim are in eastern Aleppo, until
recently (now eastern Aleppo is liberated).
But they don’t [talk to civilians on the streets]… I
mean how many western journalists have gone to Aleppo?
And, you can. I’ve applied for visas and I’ve waited
well over a month for my journalist visa. It’s not
impossible, and other western journalists have gone to
Syria and gone to Aleppo.
But they largely do not bother to talk to the Syrian
people there, and ask how has life been for you these
past years in Aleppo? If they had, they would find out
that people have fled from eastern Aleppo. Something
like 600,000 people over the years have fled from
eastern areas of Aleppo which the terrorists’ factions
occupied, to government-secured greater Aleppo. They did
so for their own safety and they were given shelter by
the government in university housing and in other
But this is never talked about in the corporate
media. They would never talk about the fact that water
and electricity have been cut off, since the terrorists
took over these areas, of eastern and outskirts of
Aleppo. They wouldn’t talk about the bombings that I’ve
mentioned. They wouldn’t talk about the period of
prolonged sieges, when terrorist factions cut off the
only road that was leading into Aleppo. And these
prolonged sieges meant that people weren’t getting food
and medicine, etc. from outside.
DB: […] Is there a web site that people can go and
find out [more about your lecture series]?
EB: Yeah. The tour is largely organized by a
coalition of anti-war, anti-imperialist groups. The
handsoffsyriacoalition.net is the website.
DB: Now … you probably heard that we just had a
presidential election, here. And there’s a big struggle…
everybody, you know, is pretty clear that Trump is a
white supremacist and serial liar, but when you consider
what Trump has been saying and what Clinton was saying
about Syria policy, Trump was making more sense.
In terms of the two candidates, you had to feel for
what Trump was saying because Clinton wanted to draw
down the same policy that gave us Libya, and a policy
that puts the US head to head with Russia, and now
China. And that could lead to WWIII. Your impressions
and your thoughts on that?
ED: I mean, I’m up front in saying I don’t follow
U.S. politics that closely for a variety of reasons. I
believe that the U.S. and the military industrial
complex obviously profits out of bringing wars upon
these countries that it declares, we declare (we, the
West declare) we’re going into these countries for human
rights and democracy.
So I can’t really address a whole lot to do with
Trump and Clinton, but on the note of human rights and
on the note of rights of women, these so-called
moderates that the West supports and that the corporate
media whitewashes, look at how they treat women in
Aleppo. I met with displaced people from eastern Aleppo,
people that had fled years prior, and people who had
fled weeks prior, when I met them. And they spoke of how
women had to be covered head to toe, including their
hands. Women had no rights in Aleppo. And people in
general, were being starved.
And these are things that are coming out now that
Aleppo is liberated, the testimonies of people on the
ground, meeting these people that were evacuated and
saved from the eastern areas of Aleppo, are horrific.
And, you know, all the corporate media has been accusing
the Syrian government of starving… what the U.N. said
was 250,000 people in eastern Aleppo. Now there’s only a
small pocket, I think the measurements were something
like two-square miles, in Aleppo, now that still have
Are we expected to believe that since roughly 100,000
people have come out of the areas occupied, until
recently, that the remaining two-squared kilometers are
holding 150,000 people? Because the U.N. has said for
years, and even [on December 15, 2016], [Staffan] de
Mistura, the representative of the U.N., the
peacekeeper, said there’s 50,000 in that small pocket. I
mean how credible is this? Are they standing on one
another’s head and shoulders?
This is an important point, because these numbers
were inflated. And they’ve been inflated throughout the
conflict on Syria–the war on Syria–in order to make
people feel that they have to do something, and usually
that something is supporting a no-fly zone. Which, like
Libya, will just bring so much “human rights and
The other point I wanted to make is that, you know,
in terms of all the myths we’ve heard about Syria, over
the years, the Syrian government has been accused of so
many things, chemical weapons, they’ve been accused of
massacring civilians. And every time there has been an
investigation, all fingers have pointed to the rebels.
Even Carla Del Ponte, who’s of the U.N. investigative
team in a 2013 chemical attacks accusations, said, “No,
it was the terrorists that had”… she said rebels… but
they had “sarin.”
So … you asked earlier what are we not hearing from
the corporate media. I’ll tell you what we’re not
hearing, now, from the corporate media: The scenes, the
voices of the people who have been liberated, saying
“Thank you” to the army.
The army, by the way are not Assad’s forces. The
army, the Syrian army is actually made up of Syrian
people. And it’s not simply Alawite. It’s Sunni, it’s
Alawite, it’s Christian. And the people in Aleppo… if
people bother to search out independence, on the ground,
Syrian journalists, or if you want, Russia Today, you
will find footage of people praising the army. And
people who have been terrorized for years by these
terrorists that the West calls “moderates”.
DB: … We know there are major Palestinian refugee
camps in Syria. The Palestinians haven’t done very well
as a result of U.S. supported so-called… whatever you
want to call them, the opposition to the government
there. We know that thousands have come over the border,
and have become refugees one time over again in crowded
refugee camps. Can you talk about that?
EB: I mean, I don’t know about the number about
thousands of Palestinians. It’s quite possible. But what
I do know is that, first of all, prior to this war on
Syria, Palestinians in Syria had the best existence of
any area where they lived outside of occupied Palestine.
You cannot compare their existence in Syria to say that
of in Jordan or Lebanon, where they have no rights,
whatsoever. In Syria they held equal rights, as Syrian
citizens including free health care, free education,
etc. And they were treated as Syrians, respected. And I
spent a lot of time in Lebanon. And they are not
The second point is that there are Palestinians who
have fought against the state, including Hamas. And
there are Palestinians who have fought alongside the
Syrian army, including groups like Liwa al-Quds, who are
instrumental in liberating areas of Aleppo. I visited
the University of Aleppo residences which, 16 of 20, are
housing IDPs [internally displaced persons] from other
areas of Aleppo. And one of the buildings was dedicated
to Palestinians from Handarat camp. So, I mean, that’s
I would highly recommend people read a very detailed
and thoroughly researched
article by Sharmine Narwani called “Who dragged
Palestinians into the Syria conflict?” She visited, I
wasn’t able to [simply because I didn’t have time], but
she visited… many Palestinian camps in Syria. And she
spoke with them extensively. And she wrote a very
thorough article on what happened with Palestinians in
Syria. And it’s contrary to what we’re hearing in the
corporate media, which likes to divide supporters of
Palestine and supporters of Syria, because divide and
I’d also like to suggest people look at the
syriasolidaritymovement.org web site where there’s a
statement of solidarity from various prominent
Palestinians, who are in solidarity with Syria’s
sovereignty and their right to fight against terrorism.
DB: Let me ask you, what would your advice be to U.S.
officials dealing at this point? What would you want to
EB: Stop arming the terrorists, stop whitewashing
their crimes. Stop allowing Turkey to keep its borders
open and terrorists to flood in and out through Turkey’s
borders. Stop supporting the regimes of Saudi Arabia,
which are in turn arming terrorists, which are
brainwashing terrorists. Stop interfering in a sovereign
The U.S. was not invited, nor was Canada, nor were
any of the groups that are in the U.S. coalition that is
supposedly fighting ISIS in Syria. And yet, out of,
something like 15,000 sorties, as of a couple of months
ago, they’ve done very little in terms of actually
fighting ISIS. To the contrary, they’ve repeatedly
attacked Syrian infrastructure, including bridges in
eastern Syria, in Deir ez-Zor. They attacked a Syrian
military position in September killing at least 83
Syrian soldiers. And only have finally owned up to this
in an attack that lasted nearly one hour that enabled
ISIS to take over the position.
So, you know, if U.S. officials, with all their
crocodile tears, actually care about human rights in
Syria, stop supporting the terrorists who are destroying
DB: And maybe we can end this way. If there isn’t a
sane policy prevailing here, what are your worst
concerns? I mean, this is the part of the world that
everybody worries about, it takes us to that next level
that we don’t even want to think about. So you want to
talk about if we go the wrong way here, how this can
unravel? What if there was a no-fly zone?
EB: If there was a no-fly zone, above all, it would
not mean human rights and it would not mean peace for
Syrians, and that’s the whole pretext of the no-fly
zone. Because the U.S. administration, and their lackey
corporate media, whitewash the crimes of the terrorists.
They vilify the government. And nobody is saying the
government is perfect. Because no government is perfect.
But the point is, this is a war on Syria, with
terrorists from over 100 nations, waging their wicked
and distorted version of Jihad in Syria, or just acting
as paid and drugged out mercenaries. If the U.S. was to
compose a no-fly zone, there are various allies of Syria
that are not going to stand for it.
If people don’t actually care about human rights in
Syria think about it from a U.S. perspective–you are
actually putting yourself at war with Russia. Russia is
an ally of Syria. It was invited by Syria. And it does
have its own interest in Syria. And clearly it’s not
going to stand for the U.S. destroying Syria as it did
DB: Alright, we’re going to leave it right there.
Again, what’s that website if people want to follow your
EB: Yeah, it’s the
handsoffsyriacoalition.net. And I just wanted to say
if people really want an honest taste of what’s going on
in Aleppo, I recommend taking a look at the
Facebook page of Vanessa Beeley. She can also be
found on 21st Century Wire. She was on the ground in
Aleppo just this week. And she was interviewing these
people who we are not hearing in our media.
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