Amid The Bombs
of Aleppo, All You Can Hear Are Lies
By Peter Hitchens
December 19, 2016
- I am the opposite of a
war junkie. I loathe the sound of fireworks because they
remind me of a bloody night in Lithuania in January
1991, where I lay down in dirty snow to save my skin
from Soviet bullets.
I was also frozen with
fright in lawless, gang-ruled Mogadishu in December
1992, waiting for US marines to arrive.
In Bucharest at Christmas
1989, I crawled under the bed as tracer fire whizzed
past my hotel-room window, and – because my long-delayed
call home came through just then – I dictated my account
of events to my wife. No heroics for me, thanks.
I was in all these
dreadful places by accident. I never meant to be there.
I take great care not to get caught in such things
But I learned a bit from
it, mostly that the old cliche ‘the first casualty of
war is truth’ is absolutely right, and should be
displayed in letters of fire over every TV and newspaper
report of conflict, for ever.
Almost nothing can be
checked. You become totally reliant on the people you
are with, and you identify with them.
If you can find a working
phone, you will feel justified in shouting whatever you
have got into the mouthpiece – as simple and unqualified
as possible. And your office will feel justified in
putting it on the front page (if you are lucky).
And that is when you are
actually there, which is a sort of excuse for bending
In the past few days we
have been bombarded with colourful reports of events in
eastern Aleppo, written or transmitted by people in
Beirut (180 miles away and in another country), or even
London (2,105 miles away and in another world). There
have, we are told, been massacres of women and children,
people have been burned alive.
The sources for these
reports are so-called ‘activists’. Who are they? As far
as I know, there was not one single staff reporter for
any Western news organisation in eastern Aleppo last
week. Not one.
This is for the very good
reason that they would have been kidnapped and probably
murdered. The zone was ruled without mercy by heavily
armed Osama Bin Laden sympathisers, who were bombarding
the west of the city with powerful artillery (they
frequently killed innocent civilians and struck
hospitals, since you ask). That is why you never see
pictures of armed males in eastern Aleppo, just
beautifully composed photographs of handsome young
unarmed men lifting wounded children from the rubble,
with the light just right.
The women are all but
invisible, segregated and shrouded in black, just as in
the IS areas, as we saw when they let them out.
For reasons that I find it
increasingly hard to understand or excuse, much of the
British media refer to these Al Qaeda types coyly as
‘rebels’ (David Cameron used to call them ‘moderates’).
But if they were in any other place in the world,
including Birmingham or Belmarsh, they would call them
extremists, jihadis, terrorists and fanatics. One of
them, Abu Sakkar, famously cut out and sank his teeth
into the heart of a fallen enemy, while his comrades
cheered. This is a checked and verified fact, by the
THE ONE, SORRY SECRET
OF BEING 'JUST LIKE US'
I watched Muslims
Like Us on BBC2 with grim fascination.
Indeed, they were
mostly like us, vaguely but pleasantly
charitable, sweary, victims of all kinds of
fashions in thought, clothes, language and
sex. And then they were not like us.
One had an
arranged marriage to a woman he’d never met, as
far as I could see. All suddenly slipped into
Arabic from time to time. One had attracted the
attention of the authorities because of the
passion of his views.
I watched Muslims
Like Us on BBC2 with grim fascination,
writes Peter Hitchens
I could see his
point when he upbraided his temporary housemates
for not being very Islamic. They weren’t. He
was. And I think most of us probably quietly
hope that most British Muslims aren’t very
But what really
bothered me was the joke British person, in a
bow tie, who was brought in to introduce them to
Britishness, whatever that now is. There they
were in York, looking at York Minster, one of
the most moving and powerful buildings on the
I almost stop
breathing whenever I visit it (I had the same
experience amid the Islamic glories of Isfahan
and Samarkand, by the way). But if Mr Bow Tie
once mentioned Christianity, or suggested they
go inside the great church, I missed it. And the
Muslim party seemed wholly unmoved, as if they
were being shown a furniture factory.
The sad fact is
Muslims are only going to be like us if they
sink, along with us, into the same state of
ignorance and indifference about the past, and
cease to take serious things seriously. Some of
them may. But an important number of them (to
their credit) never will.
Sakkar later confirmed it
to the BBC, when Western journalists still had contact
with these people, and there is film of it if you care
to watch. There is also film of a Syrian ‘rebel’ group,
Nour al-din al Zenki,
beheading a 12-year-old boy called Abdullah Issa. They
smirk a lot. It is on the behalf of these ‘moderates’
that MPs staged a wholly one-sided debate last week, and
on their behalf that so many people have been emoting
equally one-sidedly over alleged massacres and supposed
war crimes by Syrian and Russian troops – for which I
have yet to see a single piece of independent, checkable
When I used to travel a
lot in the communist world, I especially hated the fact
that almost every official announcement was a conscious
lie, taunting the poor subjugated people with their
powerlessness to challenge it.
I would spend ages
twiddling dials and shifting aerials to pick up the BBC
World Service on my short-wave set – ‘the truth, read by
gentlemen’ – because it refreshed the soul just to hear
it. These days the state-sponsored lies have spread to
my own country, and to the BBC, and I tell the truth as
loudly as I can, simply because I cannot hear anyone
else speaking it. If these lies go unchallenged, they
will be the basis of some grave wrong yet to come.
expressed in this article are the author's own and do
not necessarily reflect Information Clearing House