Sunday, September 16

Humanitarianism as a tactic of war and Netherlands decision to stop funding White Helmets

The Netherlands decision is good news. Now if only the U.K., U.S., Canada, Germany, New Zealand, and Japan would follow suit.(1) However, from my reading of Moon of Alabama's report (below) on the decision, it was made without questioning the veracity of the White Helmets videos, and skirted the issue of the group's collaboration with al Qaeda and other terrorist combatants in Syria. The reasons given for withdrawing funding are confined to issues with oversight and funds-transfer enforcement mechanisms.

I don't fault the government for the tack; it might have been the most legally defensible -- and diplomatically judicious, given the allied nations that fund the White Helmets. But while the Netherlands is the first Western government to publicly state that it found serious problems with the funding of the White Helmets, the reasons given for suspending the funding leave the door wide open for governments that want to continue funding the group.

It should be remembered that the group's official name is "Syria Civil Defense" despite the fact that it clearly operates in regions controlled by armed groups that have made war on a great many unarmed civilian members of Syrian civil society and that it serves those groups, which include terrorist ones.    

I think the White Helmets, as well as entities that use them for propaganda, are taking advantage of complex ethical issues related to medical treatment and other humanitarian aid for non-state enemy combatants. These are the issues the Netherlands and all other civilized nations need to tackle in coordinated fashion. Without such groundwork vaunted humanitarian relief groups such as the White Helmets and the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) and the entities that fund them can keep skating past any evidence that they're outright aiding and abetting terrorism.

The civilized nations long ago worked out the ethics of medical treatment for enemy state combatants. They have avoided nailing down the ethics of treatment for non-state combatants that routinely use terrorism as a tactic of war and their families and other civilians as human shields. This has placed the civilized nations in the impossible position of half-heartedly endorsing savagery. 

The terrorists and their facilitators have greatly benefited from the dilemma by turning humanitarianism against the very governments that most value it. This has led to tactics that could be termed humanitarian-fare, as in 'lawfare' -- the tactics of using a nation's laws against it. 

While I'd consider SAMS the more dangerous of the two groups, the White Helmets by very publicly promoting themselves are a highly visible illustration of humanitarian-fare. Yet without governments tackling the issues that lead to the use of humanitarianism as a tactic of war, the White Helmets, if disbanded, would be replaced by a similar group -- one just more clever at observing donor rules of oversight and funds-transfer mechanisms.

September 15, 2018 - 3:30 PM
Moon of Alabama

The Netherlands just announced that it is ending its support for al-Qaeda's propaganda gang, the "White Helmets". It also ends its support for the so called Free Syrian Police. Last week the Netherlands shut down its "non lethal" support for the Free Syrian Army after Dutch news organizations found that members of these groups were accused of terrorism by their General Prosecutor.

According to the Volkskrant daily (in Dutch), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ended the support for the White Helmets after its Directorate for International Research and Policy Evaluation issued a critical report about them. For the White Helmets, which had received €12.5 million from the Dutch government, it lists the following issues:
  • According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the supervision of the behavior of the rescue workers is 'inadequate'. The organization that supervises, Mayday, based in the Netherlands, is closely intertwined with the White Helmets itself. In practice, donors do not understand the difference between the two organizations.
  • Mayday wants to spend a maximum of 0.9% of its budget on supervision of the work of the White Helmets. 'That is why there is a lack of independent supervision of the activities and results of the project.'
  • The money for the White Helmets is transferred to the Syrian border in cash or enters the country via the hawala system. It is 'problematic' that Mayday does not know how much money is paid via which route. That is why there is a danger that money has fallen into the hands of armed groups. The cash flow can also indirectly be used for illegal trade. Systematic control of the money flow is missing.
  • The White Helmets are active in areas where armed groups are in power that are considered 'unacceptable' for the Netherlands. Contact between the White Helmets and local administrators who work together with extremist organizations is inevitable.
The seemingly intentional lack of transparency practically guarantees that much of the more than $150 million the White Helmets received from various governments will have flown into the private pockets of the people who organize the scam.

This blog has published several pieces about the White Helmets, mostly pointing out their obviously faked media productions; e.g.:
For background information on the White Helmets the earlier pieces by Vanessa Beeley's at 21st Century Wire are still the best: Syria’s White Helmets: War by Way of Deception – Part I and Part II – Syria’s White Helmets: ‘Moderate Executioners’.

Vanessa Beeley, Eva Barlett (vid) and others have tried for years to point out the nefarious scheme behind the propaganda scam "White Helmets". Roger Waters rightly calls them (vid) a "fake propaganda construct for terrorists". But 'western' media loved the dramatic fake photos and videos the White Helmets produced, partly because they could put them into print and on screen free of any charge. Whoever criticized them and questioned their narratives was publicly smeared and derided.

The Volkkrant notes:

It is the first time that a Western government states that there are problems with the project.
It will not be the last time. More people will take note, look into the issue and pressure their governments to end their support. As the Dutch know well, once the dikes break it is impossible to stop the flood. The relentless work of a few engaged writers put pressure onto the dike and finally broke it. The White Helmet scam will soon come under a flood of public scrutiny and will be swept away into some dark corner of history.

Just a month ago Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, also known as a "well-styled NATO call boy", met the White Helmets front man Raed al-Saleh, who was denied entry into the U.S., and promised him more money. 

Maas also lauded the recent 'evacuation of White Helmets' from the Quneitra and Daraa area to Israel, which was just another scam. Israel used the White Helmet cover to evacuated a number of terrorists commanders it had paid and equipped for years in its war on Syria.

Maas and his NATO colleagues in other countries will soon be asked about the Dutch example. Can they refute the analysis the Foreign Ministry of their NATO ally Netherland made? Can Maas explain what happened with the €17 million Germany gave them? In whose pocket did the money end up?


1) From Wikipedia's article on the White Helmets, Partnerships and Funding section:

The White Helmets receives charitable funding from the United States, the United Kingdom, and other western governments.[63] Initially the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office was the largest single source of funding through Mayday Rescue Foundation.[64]

As of 2016, SCD state they are also partly funded through Chemonics, a U.S. based private international development company.[63] Funders now include the Canadian government Peace and Stabilization Operations Program,[61] the Danish government,[65][66] the German government,[67] the Japan International Cooperation Agency,[20][68] the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs.[69][70] the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs,[71] the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)[46] and the United Kingdom Conflict, Stability and Security Fund(CSSF).[72]

USAID have contributed at least $23 million from 2013 to March 2016.[73][74] The British government had provided £15 million of funding between 2012 and November 2015,[75] increased to £32 million by October 2016.[76]

As of 31 March 2018, the British government had provided £38.4m in aid to the White Helmets.[77] The SCD has also received individual donations online to their Hero Fund, which provides treatment for wounded volunteers and supports their families.[78] In March 2017, the organization was reported to be operating on a budget of about $26 million.[9]

In April 2018 the Trump administration suspended the funding of the White Helmets as part of a wider suspension of the funding of stabilization projects in Syria while the U.S. reassesses its role in Syria. The U.S. had provided more than $33 million to support the group since 2013.[79][34]

On 14 June 2018, the Trump administration authorised USAID and the United States Department of State to release approximately $6.6 million in aid to be shared between the group and the UN's International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism in Syria.[80].


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