On 4 January a human rights activist asked (via Twitter) the WikiLeaks Party (WLP) National Council (NC) member Jamal Daoud “Which opposition leaders did [the] WikiLeaks Party meet? Where are the photos?” Among many replies that avoided the question, Daoud stated “numbers of causalities in Syria: 99% were killed by opposition or from opposition rebels.” His tweet linked to Wikipedia’s 'Syrian Civil War' page which does not confirm his figures. It does display the statistics of a bewildering tragedy and the crimes inflicted upon and received by all of the factions. A better link for Daoud to have selected is the 'Casualties of the Syrian Civil War' page, where the nature of the Syrian conflict is even clearer; it states that each side has suffered around 50,000 causalities.
Jamal Daoud was part of the WLP's Syrian solidarity delegation and must be well informed about the conflict there, and yet he believes 50% is 99% or to put it another way, that 2 + 2 = 5.
The WLP had previously tweeted that “Contrary to slurs and rumour the WLP did meet with Opposition Members in Syria!” Asking a delegation member whether these meetings were documented should have be easily answered. Another of Daoud's replies is as follows “Did you enjoy this picture of FSA (Free Syrian Army) rebel eating heart of Syrian dead soldier.” His tweet then linked to a Huffington Post article containing graphic images of this atrocity. However, Wikipedia gives a fuller picture stating that:
January 06, 2014
Human Rights Watch said "It is not known whether the Independent Omar al-Farouq Brigade operates within the command structure of the FSA". The incident was condemned by the FSA's Chief of Staff and the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) said that the commander would be put on trial. The rebel Supreme Military Council called for Abu Sakkar's arrest, saying it wants him "dead or alive". Abu Sakkar said that the mutilation was revenge. He claimed he found a video on the soldier's cellphone in which the soldier sexually abuses a woman and her two daughters, along with other videos showing Assad loyalists raping, torturing, dismembering and killing people, including children.
Daoud eventually answered the question with: “If you mean Heart-eating opposition, we did not meet any of them” adding: “what is your definition of Syrian opposition? AL Qaeda? we cannot meet them.” The next question in response was of course “Why did WLP lie about their 'solidarity delegation' meeting opposition leaders in Syria on their 'peace' mission?” to which Daoud had no response.
The opposition politicians the WLP should have met are the members and representatives of the widely recognised Syrian National Coalition (SNC) based in Istanbul. Instead of doing this, Daoud only considered a commander driven insane by war and al-Qa'ida-linked militants as representative. He selected them in order to more easily dismiss all opposition factions. The illogical position that the entirety of the opposition is al-Qa'ida and therefore unacceptable, while al-Assad's equally murderous forces are acceptable is illustrated by the fact that the SNC's FSA is currently a part of the Syria Revolutionaries Front fighting al-Qa'ida's Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIS) in Northern Syria. Adding to the confusion of Daoud's biased world view, the U.S. and Iran are now assisting the Shia-dominated Iraqi government's attempt to dislodge the Sunni ISIS from the Sunni Al Anbar province.
Jamal Daoud also wrote a blog post about his time in Syria entitled 'My observations from meeting the Syrian president Bashar Al Assad'. The post states that Daoud enjoyed a cup of jasmine tea, as al-Assad spoke of the conspirators ranged against him. According to al-Assad “America has stop[ped] supporting and arming terrorists” or “allowing them to travel to Syria”, this is a misrepresentation, the U.S. suspended aid to the FSA after 'terrorists' took control of weapons stores. As we have seen, the FSA and Iraqi governments are currently engaged in fierce fighting with these 'terrorists'. The Syrian government even arranged a ceasefire with the FSA in order to assist their efforts.
Except that the FSA is no longer fierce fighting with 'terrorists' (insurgents). Instead they have agreed truce with the ISIS, having driven them from strategically significant towns. This truce was brokered by the al-Qa'ida's Al-Nusra Front and the powerful Islamist / Salafist Ahrar ash-Sham brigade. And once again, the FSA are concentrating on al-Assad forces, leaving another group to “fight ISIS until it destroys it.” 24 hours later the FSA's truce became a 48-hour ultimatum to surrender or face “a massacre.”
Rather than Daoud's narrative, the truth is that “It really is chaos out there. It's always been chaos out there.” The Bloodlands, by Timothy Snyder (2012). The daily reports coming out of Syria match Robert McNamara's haunting remarks to Lyndon Johnson, 2 March 1964 ”The frank answer is we don’t know what’s going on out there. The signs I see coming through the cables, are disturbing signs.”
As for allowing travel, al-Assad does not believe for one second that the U.S. controls Saudi foreign policy, however, he does think some people will believe anything. The fact that U.S. Presidents can't even control their own departments or understand their own foreign policies (in contrast to what they say in public) while on the cusp of wars that will cost millions of lives are often lost on the likes of Daoud. 27 May 1964, White House, Oval Office telephone recording:
Senator Richard Russell: It's the damn worse mess that I ever saw, and I don't like to brag and I never have been right many times in my life, but I knew that we were gone to get into this sort of mess when we went in there. And I don't see how we're ever going to get out of it without fighting a major war with the Chinese and all of them down there in those rice paddies and jungles. I just don't see it. I just don't know what to do.
President Lyndon Johnson: Well, that's the way I have been feeling for six months.
When al-Assad tells the WLP that the “struggle in Syria is powered by Western States” Wikipedia's entry on irrationality comes to mind, because as with Daoud's 99%, this statement is a literal half-truth. As it happens, impartial Middle East analysts believe that the only two parties that do not want an end to the war are the two countries funnelling weapons and jihadists into it, Iran and Saudi Arabia, neither of which are “Western States”.
It is notable that another blog post by Jamal Daoud on the WLP's “Syrian solidarity visit” lists only opposition atrocities. In it he states: “we will post many specific stories of atrocities committed by rebels in Syria”. In an interview regarding the increased tensions between the Sunni and Shia groups in Sydney caused by the Syrian conflict, Daoud seems far more concerned about the plight of the Shia, which is interesting because Daoud is a Sunni. However, he is also a Palestinian from Jordan and therefore supports the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis against Israel. According to Daoud's “meeting the Syrian president” post, al-Assad stated that “Palestine is at the heart of every Syrian. Palestine is at the heart of the concerns of the Syrian government, […] it is the core issue.” The rationale behind Daoud's bias is clear, but what does this have to do with the WLP? And how can it have been allowed to have such a dramatic effect on the party's policy?
When ABC's Nicole Chvastek asked WLP's chief executive John Shipton: "Did you ask [Assad] about the atrocities committed against his own people?" He replied: "No, we only had two questions and that was it." Chvastek: "Shouldn't you have, isn't that the main focus now?" Shipton: "We asked the Deputy Prime Minister that question." Chvastek: "And what did the Deputy Prime Minister tell you?" Shipton: "Well, you know, he insisted there wasn't any such thing and that they had 5.6 million internal refugees and there weren't any civilians in the areas bombed, only jihadis. But we've got no brief for that regime and we will make up our minds after we speak to the rebel leaders on the other side." Clearly Shipton contradicts the WLP statement that “Contrary to slurs and rumour the WLParty did meet with Opposition Members in Syria!” Moreover, the posts by Daoud and delegation member Dr Tim Anderson are anything but undecided.
Daoud blog post ends with the need to assist al-Assad's regime: “the State need donations now, especially in the circumstances of the unjust blockade, especially medicines. The State will facilitate the arrival of donations to beneficiaries. An important WikiLeaks Party project will be launched as soon as we return to Australia.” There is no question that the people of Syria need humanitarian aid. But collecting donations and sending them to the government rather than aid agencies is a troubling way of helping. It is also a political act. The U.S. policy on humanitarian aid for Syria:
This increased aid (nearly $161 million) will provide life-saving medical care and supplies, funding for shelter construction, and critical support for water, sanitation and hygiene projects to help those affected by the crisis in Syria. In addition, our new assistance will provide counselling and additional protection programs to help the most vulnerable, including women, children, persons with disabilities, and the elderly.
The U.S. policy on military aid for Syrian opposition forces:
So the $60 million that I announced on his behalf today will do the following: It will strengthen the organizational capacity of the Syrian Opposition Coalition. It will help war-torn communities be able to survive devastating situations with respect to sanitation, food delivery, medical care. It will speed the delivery of basic goods and services including security and education.
The Syrian government could announce it no longer holds the full confidence of its people and begin a process of stepping down. The Syrian army, the FSA, neighbouring forces and UN forces could stabilise and secure the country (driving out Iran and Saudi) while a political solution is found. But al-Assad will not do this. He believes that Syria is a part of 'The New Great Game', its people are not players but pawns, while others “cool and unsympathetic” regard him similarly. As a result, the country's resources (on both sides) are focused on the conflict. If the WLP directly provides money for medical supplies, regime resources will be freed up elsewhere – this is why the U.S. provides such aid. It also has a 'winning hearts and minds' value, often used as a counter-insurgency strategy. And although al-Assad told the WLP that he is “not afraid of transparency”, no one in their right mind would believe his government to be transparent, or any assertion it made regarding where the WLP's money will be spent. For that matter no one would trust a Western politician either.
With regards to the proposed WLP Damascus office, the first time it exposes the regime, it will be closed. So why set it up? You would only undertake such a thing if you did not expect it to be immediately shut down. If the WLP travels to Istanbul with similar intentions, they will face the same dilemma. That office would also only survive the truth once. For a foreign political party to tell the truth about Syria it needs to be outside the reach of those it is reporting on. For instance WikiLeaks often publishes sensitive infomation about the Pentagon but doesn't do this from a public office in Arlington County, Virginia for obvious reasons. Further, isn't this type of investigative work WikiLeaks' domain and better left in their experienced hands?
The WLP claims to be apolitical, “a party of the left and the right” that “represent[s] the struggle for both justice and freedom.” And yet, it has travelled to Syria not only with biased delegation members, but also WLP members who express a complete partisanship. In Syria the WLP's policies have become the antithesis of WikiLeaks' journalism.
WikiLeaks stated principles include the “defence of freedom of speech and media publishing” and an “improvement of our common historical record and the support of the rights of all people to create new history.” These principles are not compatible with distorting history to further political ends.
The scale of suffering in Syria is such, that to lie about any part of it is an abomination.
It is also against WikiLeaks' principles to act as a front for a regime that never has and never will act in “defence of freedom of speech” or allow “people to create new history”. WikiLeaks:
We derive these principles from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In particular, Article 19 inspires the work of our journalists and other volunteers. It states that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. We agree, and we seek to uphold this and the other Articles of the Declaration.
The WikiLeaks Party has become spiritually and ethically divorced from WikiLeaks. It is divorced from those who support WikiLeaks and from those who would vote for WikiLeaks. It is past time for Julian Assange to take control of the party, to reform it, and to give it new leadership.