The demonization campaign was under way in full force as news stories repeated the same message over and over: The Syrian government is to blame for what is happening in Madaya as the Syrian Arab Army was allegedly enforcing a food blockade starving the people. Despite the lack of credible evidence, reports of deaths due to starvation were served up by media outlets.
Outlets did not refrain from outright forgery. The “respectable” news source BBC recycled footage from Yarmouk, Palestine, in 2014, claiming it to be from Madaya. Al-Jazeera published the image of a starving man, supposedly from Madaya, which turned out to be a photograph of a homeless man taken in Europe in 2009. VICE News, an outlet linked to FOX news, published a news report on the starving children in Madaya. The image used turned out to be fake and was retracted later. The picture of a supposedly starving Syrian girl turned out to be fraud as the girl was revealed to be from Lebanon, in good health and with her family.
On Jan. 10, the International Red Cross Committee, which works in coordination with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, which in turns works in close coordination with the Syrian government on the ground in Syria, stated that reports of death from Madaya due to starvation could not be officially verified.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and “White Helmets” have been major sources for the news published by the mainstream media about Madaya. SOHR is essentially a one-man show based in London that issues reports based on phone calls and YouTube videos from “activists” without any independent sources to confirm their accuracy. White Helmets is another dubious Western NGO, with ties to George Soros.
What is the truth about the situation in Madaya? Madaya, home to 23,000 people, is one of the four towns, along with Zabadani, Kefraya and Foua, in which a temporary ceasefire was reached between the Syrian government and opposition groups in September 2015. Madaya and Zabadani are held by Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusrah Front and Ahrar-Al Sham forces, who the mainstream media news stories choose not to publicize or refer to simply as “rebel fighters.” Kefraya and Foua in Idlib province are under siege by another Sunni extremist opposition group, Jaish Al-Fateh (Army of Conquest).
Contrary to the allegations that the Syrian government was enforcing a food blockade in order to starve the town, food and aid were delivered to Madaya in October as well as November. According to RT News, which actually had a journalist, Murad Gazdiev, on the ground in Madaya who interviewed the residents, most of the supplies and aid that made it to the town were kept by the opposition fighters who then charged people $250 for a kilogram of rice. Gazdiev also reported that opposition fighters were not letting anyone leave the town.
The words of a Madaya resident captures the reality: “Opposition groups are nothing but traders of people’s blood. They only cared about securing food supplies for themselves and sell the rest to people for astronomical prices.”
Not mentioned in the Western media coverage is that a majority of the Madaya residents are pro-Syrian government. According to Al Ahed news of Lebanon, of the 378 civilians able to flee Madaya many joined the Syrian Arab Army.
As the date for the UN peace talks in Geneva scheduled to start on Jan. 25 approaches, the news about Madaya serves the purpose of the ongoing demonization of the Syrian government in the eyes of the Western public. The aim is to give U.S.-led imperialism the upper hand in the upcoming negotiations while also whitewashing the role of the U.S. as the main force responsible for the crisis in Syria—funding, arming and supporting reactionary extremist groups in its ruthless drive to overthrow the Syrian government.
U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power took the Madaya reports as an opportunity to denounce the Syrian government: “The humanitarian crisis in Madaya is yet another sign of the Assad regime’s brutality. Time and again, the regime has promised to allow life-saving aid to reach starving people, only then to prevent it from moving.” This accusation from the representative of a country that on 42 occasions vetoed resolutions critical of the state of Israel, and from one of the key figures behind the NATO destruction of Libya, is laughable at best.
Speaking in the UK Parliament, Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening said: “No one who has seen the pictures coming out of Madaya over recent days can say this atrocious situation is anything other than utterly appalling. The situation is deliberate and man-made. The Assad regime has besieged the town since July, causing horrific suffering and starvation. I should remind the House that the UK has been at theforefront of global efforts to help ensure, from day one, that people suffering inside Syria have been helped over the past four years.”
Let us translate this imperialist-speak: “As a member of the U.S.-led imperialist coalition, the UK has been involved from day one in funding, arming and training reactionary opposition forces in the imperialist effort to overthrow the Syrian government, and the UK will continue to exploit the plight of the people of Madaya at the hands of the opposition forces as a means to demonize the Syrian government.”
The words of Bashar al-Ja’afari, permanent representative of Syria to the UN, on Madaya are worth noting as they highlight the role of imperialism and its proxies in the atrocities to which the people of Syria have been subjected:
“Now, and when the Syrians are going to meet in Geneva, end of this month, certain regional and international parties supporting terrorism in Syria are not satisfied that the Syrian government is engaging positively in the political process. And thus are trying to demonize it … torpedoing the meeting in Geneva. … “
“Those besieged are all the Syrians. We are talking about Syria being besieged by enemies, by criminals, by murderers, by hostile governments targeting the whole Syrian people. … It’s about 23 million Syrians besieged, by economic sanctions, by terrorists crossing from Turkey, from Jordan, from Lebanon, from Iraq.”
‘The whole Syrian people are besieged’
This is the reality. The whole Syrian people are besieged. People of Kefraya and Foua, including around 6,000 children, have also been facing starvation for months as these towns have been held under siege by the imperialist-backed opposition group Jaish Al-Fateh (Armyof Conquest). The aid convoys by the UN, IRCC and Syrian Red Cross destined to these towns were blocked from entering by Jaish Al-Fateh fighters. It is not surprising that the Western media hypocritically chose to ignore this news story as it did not serve the imperialist agenda.
The truth is, U.S. imperialism and its media mouthpieces could not care less about starving people and children in Syria or anywhere else. U.S. imperialism is driven by the expand-or-die logic of capitalism to dominate the world politically, economically and militarily. Backed by mainstream media lies and despite of its fake humanitarian rhetoric, its interventions are intended to increase profit for its capitalist class and secure its global domination.
According to conservative UN estimates, more than 21,000 people die of hunger and hunger-related diseases daily—under capitalism, the brutal system of exploitation and misery. In the year 2014, 15 million children alone in the U.S., the heart of imperialism, lived in food-insecure households. Where is the outcry in the Western corporate media?