Richard North, 21/09/2013  

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Cranmer is retailing a report from Mother Agnes Mariam el-Salib, a Roman Catholic nun who has lived and worked in Syria for 20 years.

Her report, which can be downloaded from here, is based on a study of videos offered as evidence of the gas attack on East Ghouta which, according to Mother Agnes, show evidence of staging. Specifically, she charges that the bodies of children shown on the videos were "manipulated and disposed with theatrical arrangements to figure in the screening".

The discoveries of her team, she writes, "incriminate the editors and the actors of forging facts through a lethal manipulation of unidentified children, in what she calls the "criminal use of children in the political propaganda of East Ghouta's chemical attack".

Not least, bodies of dead have been photographed in one location only then to re-appear in an entirely different location in the city, mixed with the bodies of other children and adults, for another video film. The question asked is how it was possible to carry the corpses from one location to another, when hundreds of victims were allegedly in need of care, with very little time and resource available.

In another sequence in one video, a young girl is seen inanimate and her father is shouting with emotion that she has been killed by chemicals. Yet, in another video taken by the same source, supposedly ten minutes later, the same girl is seen alive, being treated with "only light health care". In other scenes, children who are supposed to have been killed while sleeping, are filmed lying on the ground, in their day clothes.

All this and much more bring to mind our 2006 report on "Qanagate", which provided, we think, good evidence that the aftermath of a supposed Israeli air strike had been staged for propaganda purposes.

That and the considerable amount of other evidence adduced by others provide more than adequate testimony as to the unreliability of photographic evidence coming from the Middle East. It should be accepted only with the greatest of caution, and then only after the most careful of checking.

Yet this supposed evidence of the aftermath of the claimed Syrian gas strike has been furnished by the British and US intelligence communities to support military intervention against the Syrian government. It was that "open source" material which Mr Cameron cited as reason why we should commit British military assets to the region.

At the time of Qana in 2006, we remarked that Hezbolla had been known to exploit and even magnify incidents for propaganda purposes, and that the media had a special responsibility to report accurately what they saw.

In that instance, they failed, yet the response of AP and others was to deny the failure and to ignore the lessons. Had there then been a little more willingness to acknowledge how easily the Western media had been taken in, perhaps we would not have been quite so close to going to war this time, largely on the basis of what appear to be staged videos.

Cranmer now records that the shocking thing is that the bodies of dead children are being prostituted to justify military intervention, but to anyone familiar with Qanagate, that should not come as a shock. Staging such gruesome events is par for the course.


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