While touting his efforts to end US involvement in Syria, Trump approved $4.5 million more for the White Helmets. This group has been at the heart of the regime-change war on the country, partnering with jihadists and joining Turkey’s brutal invasion.
By Ben Norton
US President Donald Trump has approved an additional $4.5 million for Syria Civil Defense, known popularly as the White Helmets.
With close to $100 million in funds from the US and UK governments, as well as donations from Qatar, support from Turkey, and backing from wealthy private donors, this outfit has acted as a public relations vehicle for the Syrian armed opposition.
White Helmets links to extremist Salafi-jihadist groups, including ISIS and al-Qaeda, have been thoroughly documented. What’s more, the group has participated in recent Turkish onslaughts in northern Syria where Kurds and other minority groups faced ethnic cleansing.
John Cantlie, a British journalist kidnapped by ISIS and forced to make propaganda for the genocidal militia, referred to a White Helmets team in one such hostage video as “the Islamic State’s fire brigade.” Similarly, the Saudi Islamic fundamentalist warlord Abdullah al-Muhaysini, who is closely linked to Syrian al-Qaeda, praised the White Helmets as allied “mujahideen.”
None of these inconvenient facts stopped the organization from winning an Academy Award, getting nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, or being portrayed by the international corporate media as benevolent humanitarian angels.
Syria Civil Defense was formed in alliance with the regime-change arm of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the Office of Transitional Initiatives.
The White Helmets have enjoyed a flood of funding from Western governments, who have used the group as a PR weapon to turn up the heat against the Syrian government and its allies Iran and Russia.
Between 2013 and 2016, USAID donated at least $23 million to the group. The governments of Britain, France, Canada, the Netherlands, and Japan added tens of millions more to this substantial “humanitarian” regime-change slush fund.
A month after this new round of funding, more than 400 members of the White Helmets and their families were evacuated from Salafi-jihadist-occupied territory in southwest Syria in an operation overseen by Israel.
The US State Department published a statement announcing, “We deeply appreciate Israel’s role in facilitating the transit of the White Helmets” into Jordan.
Facilitating Turkish ethnic cleansing of Syrian territory
While Israel was helping evacuate the White Helmets in the south of Syria, members of the same group were actively facilitating Turkey’s invasion and ethnic and cleansing in the country’s north.
The Syrian community of Afrin had been inhabited largely by Kurds, along with other minorities such as Yazidis and Armenians, before Ankara and Syrian Islamist insurgents embedded in the Turkish army violently expelled them. The White Helmets were directly complicit in this forced demographic change.
After two and a half years of prohibition, the #SyrianCivilDefense returned to work in the Syrian city of #Afrin to serve all Syrians. The #PYD and #YPJ closed the center and arrested the volunteers who were working there, to come back today and be with the residents. pic.twitter.com/32OHmLBvzN
On Twitter, the White Helmets promised to help “rebuild” the newly ethnically cleansed Afrin, “to restore the city to its former beauty,” and “to make the city aesthetically pleasing to emotionally help heal the people in the city.”
150 volunteers and 50 vehicles are enlisted in the campaign, to remove rubbles from the city's neighborhoods. Following this, sights which are out of service will be restored in order to make the city aesthetically pleasing to emotionally help heal the people in the city. #Afrinpic.twitter.com/LQjYSSwrvG
Turkish state media praised the White Helmets for its help cleaning Afrin after Ankara’s takeover.
The group’s involvement in the Turkish invasion and ethnic cleansing of northern Syria led the humanitarian organization Christian Peacemaker Teams to draft a letter to the White Helmets, asking why it was “working with the Turkish invading forces and their Free Syrian Army mercenaries in the Syrian region of Afrin.”
But the White Helmets did make sure to repeatedly publicly criticize the Kurdish-led YPG forces that were defending their communities from the illegal Turkish assault.
Six people were killed, and 13 others were injured, after artillery shelling and rocket attacks by the YPG on the villages of Mirza, Tal Ali, and Shuaib in the eastern countryside of #Aleppo this afternoon. pic.twitter.com/LCYNBg15GZ
This pattern is far from now. While they have been aggressively marketed in corporate media as a supposed humanitarian and peace group, the White Helmets and their parent organization the Syrian Campaign have in fact openly lobbied for US military intervention and sanctions on Syria.
Continuing the regime-change war on Syria while denouncing it
In a White House press briefing on October 23, President Donald Trump issued a shockingly honest denunciation of the US regime-change war on Syria and the violence and destruction it has wrought:
“Eight long years after President Obama’s ill-fated push at regime change, U.S. troops are still on the ground in Syria. More than half a million people are dead, hundreds of thousands are terribly injured, and millions more Syrians are displaced. It really is a nightmare of misery.
Across the Middle East, we have seen anguish on a colossal scale. We have spent $8 trillion on wars in the Middle East, never really wanting to win those wars. But after all that money was spent and all of those lives lost, the young men and women gravely wounded — so many — the Middle East is less safe, less stable, and less secure than before these conflicts began.”
Yet just the day before making this speech, the Trump White House had announced $4.5 million in additional funding for a group that has been at the center of that regime-change war on Syria.