From Douma to Xinjiang to Bucha, the U.S. Empire’s Atrocity Propaganda is the Same

Rainer Shea

“Humanitarianism” is the weapon that modern U.S. imperialism uses as the cornerstone in its campaigns to destabilize countries and regions. By presenting its violence as a selfless effort to save the people it targets, the empire can not just claim its hands are clean, but pose as heroic. It’s a natural evolution from the “white man’s burden,” repackaged for the modern age where the United States pretends to not be racist. And it fits perfectly into the falsely progressive and enlightened brand of liberalism in the social media age, which hides its support for oppressive systems behind feel-good sloganeering.

The ironic thing about the current manifestation of this “human rights” marketing for Washington’s engineered global destruction is that Russia, the country behind the supposed atrocities, is actually fulfilling the humanitarian duties that the U.S. claims to carry out. Russia’s special operation was in response to an imminent Ukrainian invasion of the newly independent Donbass republics, and to ethnic cleansing that’s been occurring for eight years by the design of the fascist Kiev regime. Yet these realities, despite being supported by post-2014 Ukraine’s belligerent history and by extensive human rights abuse documentation, are impenetrable within our discourse. Our cultural hegemony has been molded to block out the facts Washington wants to pretend aren’t real, and to make all of the “facts” Washington puts forth appear unquestionable. The narrative management around Ukraine is so effective because it didn’t start this year. The foundations for it were laid decades ago, and the extent of the “humanitarian” propaganda has been greatly intensified throughout the last decade in particular.

Lighting Syria on fire & blaming it on Assad

From the way commentators talk about Syria, you’d think it was a repeat of Nazi Germany, with Assad playing the role of Hitler and the “moderate rebels” being the liberators. Yet there are innumerable cracks in the wall of lies we’ve been subjected to about Syria, one of which is that the West’s narratives on it have mirrored previous imperialist disinformation campaigns. Disinformation campaigns that have been undeniably exposed as such. To justify the Gulf War, George H.W. Bush claimed that Saddam Hussein was worse than Hitler. To support this, the imperialist propagandists got a child to testify to having witnessed Iraqi soldiers taking babies out of incubators and leaving them to die. Then this testimony was exposed as a lie, and the credibility of the United States was irrevocably damaged.

To justify its theft-ridden occupation of around one-third of Syria, its backing of Kurdish proxy forces that commit cultural cleansing to advance ethnic nationalism, its support for the jihadists behind the conflict, and its starvation sanctions, the U.S. has used these tricks again. The narrative managers have even repeated the tactic of manipulating a child into lying. As Max Blumenthal wrote in 2017 about the way the imperialist media was using the Syrian refugee girl Bana al-abed during the most intensive years of the propaganda war against Syria:

Bana Alabed was a seven-year-old who gained international celebrity by publishing video messages and pleas for intervention from her Twitter account in Aleppo (“it’s better to start 3rd world war,” read one of her tweets). Though she faked it as best as she could, Bana had no ability to understand English; her mother and a collection of helpers appeared to be writing her tweets and scripting her video soliloquies. (Bana’s father, a former insurgent named Ghassan Alabed, carefully avoided the spotlight.) After Aleppo was taken from the insurgents, Bana was passed through Al Qaeda-controlled Idlib and into Turkey, where she became a centerpiece of state propaganda and was made a citizen following a bizarre photo-op with its Islamist premier, Tayyip Recep Erdogan. She was also granted an audience at Erdogan’s palace with American actress Lindsay Lohan, who spoke in a bizarrely put-on Arabic accent.

These theatrics were so exaggerated and obnoxious because their purpose was to get Americans to view the war the same way they view Marvel movies. The goal was to create the impression that Assad is a supervillain, and that he was being taken down by the designated good guys—with the production’s protagonists consisting of jihadists who’d been suddenly recast as heroes, Kurdistan fighters who were marketed as progressive despite indirectly taking example from Zionism, unaware child exploitation victims like Bana who were literally reading from scripts, and the White Helmets. The U.S. armed forces couldn’t take the superhero role this time, because the one million dead Iraqis had prompted for a shift in how war gets advertised. So the destabilization of Syria was presented as an entirely organic project, done by actors who got presented as independent. It was like the propaganda-filled proxy war against Yugoslavia, except with a Hollywood aesthetic. One that Hollywood had a direct hand in manufacturing.

This was a way of taking the military propaganda within superhero movies to the next level, making Americans feel like they were actually watching enforcers of justice try to defeat an enemy of humanity. There was no depth or serious analysis to it, which was the point. With our culture being conditioned to view Syria in a way so utterly detached from reality, it was easy to cover the tracks of Washington’s proxies when they got caught fabricating a lie or committing an atrocity. The terrorist ties of the White Helmets, which in many cases involved White Helmets members directly assisting in murders, were portrayed as entirely imaginary. The idea that they had anything to do with the Al-Nusra Front, or the other jihadist organizations, was labeled as the product of a Russian disinformation campaign. Netflix produced a documentary about the White Helmets designed to make them out as the real-life equivalents of the Avengers. The film won an Academy Award, reinforcing just how seriously we were supposed to take the spectacle.

It was all to provide a counter-narrative to the revelations which inevitably came out about how the White Helmets had been staging false flag chemical attacks. When Wikileaks showed that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons had suppressed its own findings on how the 2018 Douma incident wasn’t a gas attack but a case of mass dust inhalation, contradicting what the White Helmets had said, the damage had already been done. Syria had been reduced to a point where Washington could leverage sanctions towards sabotaging the rebuilding effort. And as indie media commentator Edward Curtin assessed, the sources behind the propaganda which brought about this tragedy had been made untouchable within our cultural hegemony:

The film with the Orwellian title, Bellingcat: Truth in a Post-Truth World, received its Emmy at a recent ceremony in New York City.  Bellingcat is an alleged group of amateur on-line researchers who have spent years shilling for the U.S. instigated war against the Syrian government, blaming the Douma chemical attack and others on the Assad government, and for the anti-Russian propaganda connected to, among other things, the Skripal poisoning case in England, and the downing of flight MH17 plane in Ukraine. It has been lauded by the corporate mainstream media in the west.  Its support for the equally fraudulent White Helmets (also funded by the US and the UK) in Syria has also been praised by the western corporate media while being dissected as propaganda by many excellent independent journalists such as Eva Bartlett, Vanessa Beeley, Catte Black, among others.  

It’s had its work skewered by the likes of Seymour Hersh and MIT professor Theodore Postol, and its US government connections pointed out by many others, including Ben Norton and Max Blumenthal at The Gray Zone. And now we have the mainstream media’s wall of silence on the leaks from the Organization for the Prohibition on Chemical Weapons (OPCW) concerning the Douma chemical attack and the doctoring of their report that led to the illegal U.S. bombing of Syria in the spring of 2018.  Bellingcat was at the forefront of providing justification for such bombing, and now the journalists Peter Hitchens, Tareq Harrad (who recently resigned from Newsweek after accusing the publication of suppressing his revelations about the OPCW scandal) and others are fighting an uphill battle to get the truth out.

These narrative manipulations made the parallel propaganda campaign about Xinjiang easy. Naturally, it was shortly after the Douma disinformation blitz that the narrative managers pivoted towards this new target.

The Uyghur “genocide” & the solidification of the new cold war’s anti-communism

It was in August 2018, with the claim by numerous media outlets that the United Nations had reported there being “massive internment camps” for Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, that the next stage in the “humanitarian” propaganda campaign began. The perception that the Uyghurs are an oppressed minority had already been cultivated for decades. With this new wave of disinformation, the narrative managers could expand it into a mythology about a new Holocaust taking place within China.

In reality, the United Nations hadn’t reported any internment camps. The claim was only made by the sole American member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. And the basis for this claim came from the Network of Chinese Human Rights Defenders, which is heavily funded by the CIA’s front group the National Endowment for Democracy. This was where the popular assertion about China interning “1 million” Uyghurs originates, with far-right Christian fundamentalist Adrian Zenz being the pseudo-expert leading the paper-thin investigations “proving” the number’s accuracy. This and other wild allegations against China were given an additional sense of legitimacy by the Uyghur Tribunal, an “independent” mock legal procedure that was funded by the U.S. government. The Tribunal’s actors did an 80-hour performance which “proved” China was guilty of genocide, as if time matters more than substance.

The narrative managers had put on another production, with the drama this time relying on rhetorical storytelling; there was no visual evidence that could be construed as genocide. There were no mass graves, and no refugee crises. Just a bunch of stories, ones sourced from paid Uyghur testimony-givers in the same fashion as the DPRK’s celebrity defectors. The propagandists were determined to ingrain these stories into the collective consciousness, as this was the only way to manipulate people’s emotions. So they had to be big and hyperbolic, however dubious the statistics or the sources were. Ajit Singh and Max Blumenthal assessed that:

Like the CHRD, Zenz arrived at his estimate [of] ‘over 1 million’ in a dubious manner. He based it on a single report by Istiqlal TV, a Uyghur exile media organization based in Turkey, which was republished by Newsweek Japan. Far from an impartial journalistic organization, Istiqlal TV advances the separatist cause while playing host to an assortment of extremist figures. One such character who often appears on Istiqlal TV is Abdulkadir Yapuquan, a reported leader of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a separatist group that aims to establish an independent homeland in Xinjiang called East Turkestan.

Prior to the Uyghur propaganda’s intensification in 2018, this network of jihadists had already carried out a litany of terrorist attacks against the Chinese people. After decades of routine violence within Xinjiang, China’s vocational training program had dissuaded enough Uyghurs from being radicalized towards jihadism that the violence finally stopped. And there haven’t been any attacks in the last several years, which last year led to these deradicalization facilities being for the most part shut down—a fact which even the U.S. media recognized.

Confronted with this new post-violence era for Xinjiang, the imperialists redoubled their propaganda surrounding the province. Their ever-growing series of myths about human rights abuses, modeled after the classic anti-communist propaganda about Stalin starving Ukraine and inhumane gulags, served to reinforce the narratives necessary for Washington’s broader strategic goals. These goals being a renewed cultural war on communism, the weakening of China, and the destabilization of all the other countries that the U.S. empire has on its current global target list. These Xinjiang atrocity narratives of course were intended as agitation propaganda for any Uyghurs within China who may still have been susceptible to jihadism, but this was secondary to the larger purpose of these narratives. And it’s unlikely that Xinjiang will ever again experience terrorist attacks anyway, given that Washington’s sanctions on the province have turned China’s Uyghur diaspora against the United States.

The Xinjiang propaganda has also partly been about stirring up general belief in the need for a Uyghur ethno-state within central Asia, inspired by Zionism. But the disinformation’s broader purpose was to solidify the cultural hegemony required for Washington’s great-power competition. With most Americans now concerned about human rights in China, Washington’s maneuvers against China and its guiding Marxist-Leninist ideology had a social backing.

This manufacturing of consent for the new cold war, despite being successful, faces the obstacle of a growing revolutionary potential among the U.S. masses. Capitalism’s contradictions are getting more pronounced as U.S. imperialism collapses, and as this leads to multiplying inequality, accelerating inflation, and societal vulnerability in the face of crises like Covid-19. The only way the ruling class can respond to capitalism’s deteriorating conditions, and the consequential intensification of class struggle, is through embracing fascism. Which is what these atrocity propaganda narratives assist in. Instrumental to fascism is anti-communism, which the Xinjiang propaganda obviously facilitated. Just as beneficial to fascism has been Washington’s positive propaganda for the fascist regime in Ukraine.

Pinning war crimes on Russia to distract from the U.S. bloc’s cultivation of Nazism

What’s so ominous about Zenz being a central figure in the propaganda war on China is that he’s connected to a major fascist-adjacent organization: the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. Singh and Blumenthal have written that:

The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation is an outgrowth of the National Captive Nations Committee, a group founded by Ukrainian nationalist Lev Dobriansky to lobby against any effort for detente with the Soviet Union. Its co-chairman, Yaroslav Stetsko, was a top leader of the fascist OUN-B militia that fought alongside Nazi Germany during its occupation of Ukraine in World War Two. Together, the two helped found the World Anti-Communist League that was described by journalist Joe Conason as ‘the organizational haven for neo-Nazis, fascists, and anti-Semitic extremists from two dozen countries.’

If you’ve researched Euromaidan, the Ukrainian ultra-nationalist movement that’s come to power throughout the last decade, this sounds alarmingly familiar. Ukraine is where during the last eight years, neo-Nazis have been operating with impunity. The governments that have followed the 2014 U.S. coup, including that of the Jewish Zelensky, have used the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion as a tool in the proxy war against Russia. Ukraine’s communist party has been banned, the fascist militias have been empowered to beat and kill communists, and the government has promoted classic anti-communist atrocity propaganda like the “Holodomor.” This fanatical anti-communism has served to justify all the ways the regime aids Nazis and Nazism, from glorifying Nazi collaborators to facilitating modern-day Nazi violence. All so that NATO can convert Ukraine into a vessel for its war-making. This has to do with the war on China as well; Washington has pivoted towards weakening Russia with the hope that China loses a crucial strategic ally, allowing Washington to more easily subdue China itself.

The common threads between what the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation stands for, and what Euromaidan stands for, are easy to see: the belief that Ukraine was at one point a “captive nation” of the Soviet Union, an opposition to treating Russia diplomatically, a willingness to collaborate with neo-Nazis should their goals align with general anti-communism, and an allegiance to the U.S. empire. When you look deep enough behind the facade of empathy and virtue that this “humanitarian” network puts forth, you find a network of terrorists who kill for the benefit of capital.

These proxies are even directly overlapping within the current conflict flare-up. As Modern Diplomacy’s Ahmad Salah has assessed:

Recently an investigator from the infamous agency Bellingcat Christo Grozev has spoken about the intention of the Russian Armed Forces to achieve a symbolic victory in Ukraine ahead of 9th may (Victory day in Russia) to cater to the wishes of the Russian President Vladimir Putin. He added that the Russian army is willing to go to great lengths to achieve this, even use terrorist tactics and banned munitions, including chemical weapons. Coming from Grozev, a person who directly participated in the investigation of the controversy around the 2018 chemical attack in Ghouta, Syria, this is an explicit sign of escalation of the Ukrainian conflict. In Ghouta, Bellingcat and White Helmets provided fake evidence of the usage of chemical weapons against members of the opposition and civilians by Syria’s government headed by Bashar Assad. On the basis of stated evidence an investigation was initiated by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The fake was honed to perfection and the White Helmets achieved their desired goal. As a result, the international community found Bashar Asad guilty of using chemical weapons.

Sure enough, this climate where NATO’s war propagandists are priming the public to uncritically blame all atrocities on Russia has produced supposed Russian war crimes which have become household names. Roman Kononenko, a member of the Presidium of the Central Committee of Communist Party of the Russian Federation, has concluded that these incidents are false flags using simple deductive reasoning:

We can see that this Bucha case is a provocation. It never happened, what we saw on Western TV and Ukrainian TV. This was completely staged by the Ukrainian armed forces, and political technologists, because we know that Russian forces left Bucha on the 30th of March. We saw public celebrations in Ukrainian media that said “Okay, now we are here in ‘Liberated Bucha,’” and there was no mention of any kind of massacre. Then there were publications in Ukrainian social media that they were starting a “cleanup” of the territory. And only after the Ukrainian “cleanup,” we saw what we now see in the pictures. So, I think they were just peaceful people, who were killed by Ukrainian armed forces or other nationalist paramilitary groups. Because if we look at the pictures or the photos and videos attentively, we can see white armbands. As it is happening in the Russian controlled territory of the Ukraine, the Russian armed forces ask peaceful people just to put this white strap on the elbow. So it is obvious that, I mean, I think the Ukrainians killed those people for cooperation with Russians and whatever. As to Mariupol, and other cases, now we can see that Ukrainian armed forces are using, in fact, terrorist tactics. As it was happening in Syria, for example, they are using the peaceful population as a live shield.

When referring to Syria, by “they” Kononenko means the jihadists who Washington has marketed as underdog rebels. These are the war crimes that the Uyghur separatists would be committing as well if they were able to get their desired civil war within China. Every time the imperialists try to destabilize a country or region, their proxies share the traits of willingness to violate the laws of war, propensity towards fabricating atrocity stories, and ethnic nationalism which is inspired by Zionism. Zelensky has said he aims to make Ukraine into a “big Israel,” where Israeli apartheid’s repression gets replicated through a dramatic expansion of the Ukrainian National Guard’s presence in daily life. Predictably, Israel has directly helped the Kiev regime, sending weapons to the Azov Battalion and providing soldiers for Ukraine.

Israel is a highly successful example of imperialism’s efforts to subdue the nations which stand in the way of U.S. hegemony. It’s forced the Palestinians into open-air concentration camps, and served as a tool for Washington’s campaigns to destabilize Iran, Syria, Yemen, and other imperialist target countries. In Ukraine, the empire has already replicated this by creating a regime which oppresses ethnic Russians and acts as a proxy bludgeon against Russia and Belarus. But the peoples of the DPR and the LPR have won their independence from Ukrainian fascism, and will retain that independence. Across the globe, the other nations targeted by imperialism will join them in building a new order, free from Washington’s grip.

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