Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Three Years After Houla: Lessons Remembered, Forgotten, and Never Known

May 26, 2015
(edits 5-29, last edits May 20, 2017)

It's now been three years since the once-pivotal "Houla Massacre" of about 110 civilians in the last government-held part of the al-Houla region, on May 25, 2012. To this day, our work (the research by A Closer Look On Syria (ACLOS - overview post), the two reports from that in 2013 and 2014, this site, and related articles) is still the best reading of the evidence anyone has ever assembled towards understanding the event. With my improvements, the Wikipedia page is not quite as horribly misleading as it was (still planning on other revisions). And nearly a year after I published the challenge space, still no errors called out even where I sought it out. Many can still claim they've just never seen this but no one can claim it's been addressed or debunked.
To mark the date, I will finally upload to the CIWCL site Houla Massacre Victims, 2014 Morgue Photos (graphic), 30-page PDF document collecting victim photos from a short-lived opposition site on Facebook (PDF direct download link). The family-grouped names, with name-linked photos, was a bit of a treasure-trove of (alleged) information I cited in the 2014 report and in later findings on this site. I finished this PDF, and meant to publish it, back in January. But now, about a year after they were published on Facebook and some months after they were pulled back down, I've made sure these images and attached notes can still be seen and used to help understand the crime.

2017 note: after two years and few views, I've taken down the previous images of one victim.

For newbies, I could re-cap what we've been able to establish. But that's summarized somewhat in the long comment below, and explained in more detail all over this site. I guess a link to Houla Massacre Primer could help for anyone really behind.

And I'll check around to see if any liars or sadly mistaken folks are exploiting the anniversary to push further punishment of Syria's people and the government they rely on. Upon looking, I see Gareth Bayley, UK Special Representative for Syria, is doing that. He penned an Orwellian little piece called "Remembering Houla - Why Sectarianism Cannot Be Part of Syria's Future" May 25, 2015 - at Al-Arabiya and/or Huffington Post - and also on the FCO blog
Three years ago today, a massacre took place in the Syrian village of Taldou in Houla, in northern Syria. According to the UN, 108 civilians were brutally murdered, including 34 women and 49 children. More even than the death toll, the clear sectarian nature of the killings sparked an international outcry. The UN and twelve other countries, including the UK, expelled Syrian diplomats. Three years on, as we look to Syria's future, we mustn't forget the shock and horror of that day, 25 May, 2012.
... (highly slanted and inaccurate political boilerplate to support his upside-down point)...
Final point. Let's keep firmly focused on the need to bring perpetrators of massacres like Houla to justice....
Of course, continuing on the Islamist rebels' fictitious script like this jackass and so many other propose, is putting the perpetrators in power over more and more of Syria's people. They're still in charge of Houla, the first prize the "world community" handed them in thanks for the massacre.

Knife allegedly left behind by Shia (Shi'ite) killers at one of the Houla Massacre sites. Inscription may say "we will sacrifice ourselves for you, Hussein" - the UN's investigators mention this being brought to their attention by rebels who happen to be, or work with, Sunni extremist propagandists.
So I'll also mark the anniversary with a hefty comment there (at the Huffington posting), and also here in case it disappears.
In the months after the massacre, Mr. Bayley's government along with others was encouraging the rise of a Sunni extremist "prinicipality" in the desert between Baghdad and Damascus, to "Isolate" the "Assad regime." Now he goes on about that terrorism-beleaguered government as the purveyor of the sectarianism leading to ISIS in just that area. Considering what we've heard about the Houla massacre and the like, it makes some sense. However, we hear total nonsense and Orwellian inversions of the truth all the time, whether we recognize it or not ... 

Saad st. RPG incident
I for one am all for remembering the heck out of the Houla Massacre. What we're supposed to forget is that we never did really figure out what happened - we just decided. Gen. Mood's missing report with conflicting stories just went quiet, as everyone heard the other story anyway and blithely dismissed it. Rebel "terrorists?" "What lies!" Not everyone knows this yet, and lucky for people like Mr. Bayley, the Houla Massacre was done immediately after a rebel victory taking out 4 of Taldou's 5 security posts, as careful video analysis all but proves (please see my report The Battle for the Houla Massacre and the associated challenge space that sits empty). The UN's probe (CoI, led by a Washington policy think-tank director) managed to fudge the rebel victory down to two bases, but did so with inadequate reason. These overrun posts were in some cases across the street from massacre sites. 

In that context, government loyalist claims - that rebel "terrorists" had murdered government-supporting Sunnis, relatives of the parliament's news secretary, and former Sunnis who converted to Shi'ism - make more sense than most would like. In fact, in lining up with the video evidence of a rebel victory, it becomes the leading theory. It carries far more weight than do the illogical and inconsistent stories from rebel-supplied "witnesses" and "survivors." Consider: everyone cites the UN and the rebel witnesses, but they disagree; the CoI mentions half of the Battle for the Houla Massacre while the "survivors" deny it altogether. It seems the CoI was fudging between the truth and the rebel lie, carefully coming out closer to the lie side.

It's an un-realized scandal, the whitewash of the rebels' Houla Massacre. And we don't know who drew the blades here. Jabhat al-Nusra - the first beneficiary of the West's pro-Islamist strategy in Syria and Iraq - in an early form is quite likely. This al Qaeda group now runs much of the north of Syria, getting regular help from the "White Helmets" Mr Bayley lauds. He presumes since they're a Western PR stunt they must be pro-freedom and equality like they say, but the "White Helmets" often wave the black flag behind which JaN (aka not-ISIS) executes government loyalists and Alawites at will. And so in all corners of Syria, Sunni extremist sectarianism is increasingly a part of Syria's future as British/Western/allied policy works like intended - that is, the more and more Syria as a sovereign nation ceases to exist.

Thanks for allowing this contrary view to be aired.
(shorter version also at al-Arabiya in 2 parts - but these don't appear and bizarrely, links to the article always say 404 not found error - you have to search it and click the link from Bayley's page to see it - at least I do. Can anyone else try? Click the link http://english.alarabiya.net/en/views/news/middle-east/2015/05/25/ or paste into a new window and you get 404? Same exact url you see once you do find it) (a couple day later: still did not appear - only one comment, also critical. I left a third saying "I submitted a comment in two parts, the second one ending with a thanks for allowing a contrary view. They weren't approved." Headed "thanks for nothing?"
I also have some thoughts coming (not ready yet) about the recently classified DIA documents showing conscious plans to foster an Islamist menace between Syria and Iraq - what eventually spawned ISIS/Daesh and before that and some hope after that, spawned al Qaeda's Jabhat al-Nusra - and how this strategy sits in the timeline: after the Houla Massacre but before the emergence of JaN and its captured chlorine and "kitchen sarin" - and before the escalating string of chemical massacres leading up to the Ghouta alleged Sarin attack of August 2013 that supposedly killed over 1,000 civilians and nearly got the rebels a direct foreign military intervention.

Also we could say it's to mark Houla that I'll re-mention a recently revived investigation of some finer points of the Ghouta Chemical Massacre(s) (the hub for that) and a recent re-publication of al-Bayda massacre findings - for a powerful Houla-Ghouta-Bayda triumverate. These three primate massacres are arguably the three most called on in support of eliminating the "Assad regime." And to varying degrees (high to extreme) we have reclaimed all three - besides many others of less influence - from slavery to rebel lies, and set them on a better path towards truth and maybe even justice. That hasn't been widely noticed yet, but it's true.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Houla Massacre Images that Weren't (Graphic)

January 10, 2015
(modified from ACLOS)
last edits June 2, 2015

Everyone knows the photo at right is not from the Houla Massacre as the BBC had briefly said, but from Iraq, following the exhumation of a mass grave in May, 2003. Did no one even notice this shows several times the reported number of dead bodies in Houla? It was quickly called out and redacted to a different photo. The photographer who captured that image, Marco DeLauro, told the UK Telegraph on May 28 “What I am really astonished by is that a news organization like the BBC doesn't check the sources and it's willing to publish any picture sent it by anyone: activist, citizen journalist or whatever. ... Someone is using someone else's picture for propaganda on purpose.”

From there, we'll focus on more horrible images, without professional photographers involved, that still have people fooled. Some of the most appalling violence displayed by other activists as part of the Houla Massacre, especially that done to children, is genuine; torn-off jaws and hacked skulls at least happened to kids that day. But some of that worst of the worst imagery in that category was added with more recycled images.

1) Mohammed Family: The "Examiner" for example includes in an emotive slideshow a particularly horrible (graphic!) scene, captioned: "A family, all victims of the Houla massacre." In the video on youtube, you can hear the cameraman from the Free Syria army break into tears (courtesy of Days of Syrian Rage Facebook English Facebook page unless noted)" Actually, that's from from a mini-massacre in the dark days of Homs, January 30, 2012. This was in the Karm al-Zaytoun district of Homs city, they say say. Father, mother, four young children, mutilated, apparently tortured before death.

2) March KaZ Victims: One room full of men, women, and mangled children turns out to have been already aired after the March 11, 2012 Karm al-Zaytoun Massacre, same district as above. These extra-gruesome images have been used by both sides to blame each other for the Houla Massacre, and wrongly so (eg Vox Clamantis, Oweiss-Reuters, see below). A girl with her eye shot out/brain protruding, in a pink coat, is the most famous victim. If she's in the spread, it's from this massacre, with fascinating research backing it - see the link. Rebels are heard calling the KaZ victims "sheep" on one video, and it's said they were herded to one apartment in batches to be slaughtered.

3) Khaled al-Fares, May 17: VDC lists 10 Homs martyrs on May 17, including 5 from Houla (sub-town not specified). One is the executed pharmacist discussed here, shot or hanged, the rest killed by "shelling" A woman, a man, another man named (as given)  Mohammad Al-Faris, and his possible son, Khaled Abdulkarim Al-Faris, age 4, mother's name Nafia. Of the "shelling" victims, only the last has, or had, supporting imagery.

Video of the martyr video 1 (unavailable) - video 2 (private) - from elsewhere, another video (unavailable) - another yet at Daily Motion is still viewable, and could be the same child with shirt still on - dated May 17. It looks like his throat has been massively torn, and he lived long enough to stuff his hands in the wound and get that dismayed look on his face, which can be seen clearer in a set of two photographs.

This image is what Alex Thomson must mean when he says a local man showed him video on his cell phone, “of two children, their throats slit so deeply they are virtually decapitated.” There are two famous photos of Khaled, looking almost like two different children. As once seen here, (now gone - still at this Kuwaiti forum post) there's also a photo where he's rolled over - he's got a serious wound in the side and middle of the back, plus little nicks all over from exploding fragments, maybe, and then the throat elimination.
The alternate views of Khaled Alex Thomson may have
taken for a second child
These moving images have been re-used many times since for subsequent Syria massacres, and according to this Urdu site, exposing efforts to use this to blame Shia killers in Pakistan, in November 2013, and sow fresh discord there. One wonders if it was used to rile up or inspire the Houla Massacre perpetrators a week later, as they tore the jaw-necks off at least two kids to a similar horrifying effect.

This Houla local talking to Alex Thomson should know the video is from a week before the alleged Shabiha assault. Little Khaled did have a possible relative - Osama Fares - killed on the 25th in the Houla Massacre (first listed as killed by shelling, later changed to field execution - unlike Khaled), possibly on the militant side, possibly not. But Khaled was not slaughtered May 25, but on May 17, less likely by "shelling" than by, say, a claw hammer. We do not know who, in rebel-held al-Houla, would have done this, nor why.

Oweis Double-Whammy: Reuters' Khaled Yacoub Oweis got all the horrible ones, as if he needs any help short-circuiting logic in favor of emotive regime-blaming. He cites three extra-grisly videos, one of which sounds like a May 25 video ("Saad Street RPG Incident"). The others are exactly the two above:
Other footage and pictures posted on the day of the killings showed a child with its throat slit, with what appear to be burn marks near what may be an entrance wound on the upper rib cage.
That sounds like Khaled al-Fares. A Houla kid, but killed a week earlier and not to worry, by "shelling," not "Shabiha."
Another showed a girl, apparently shot in the right eye, blood soaking the right side of her clothing.
There's a similar-looking girl in Houla, but covered. The blood down the right side clarifies he's talking about the famous pink-coat girl from the Karm al-Zaytoun scene. Oddly enough, the report citing that photo for the wrong event was titled "Families herded "like sheep" to die in Houla massacre." - when - and this is worth repeating here - rebels are heard calling the KaZ victims "sheep" on one video, and its said they were herded to one apartment in batches to be slaughtered. Despite the event mismatch, the title and one cited picture wound up lining up pretty well.

Another Double-Whammy: Lebanese forum A Separate State of Mind shared Houla victim photos that inluce the KaZ scene (third row, middle) and Khalid (fifth row, middle). The picture to the left of Khalid is also questionable, but hasn't been pinned to anything else yet. Their second batch of photos seems to be all legit.

Add: Government loyalists do it too. This picture of what appears to be a boy from a loyalist family, from a video, has been widely pushed as a victim of the Houla Massacre. It was even considered by the UN's CoI (see June, 2012 report) as evidence for possible rebel guilt over the events of May 25. However, he's a victim of an April 5 Houla Massacre, about 6 weeks too early, as early postings and contemporary records bear out. The stricken home is geo-located in Taldou, east of town center. Rebels blame the government side for this as well, but clues suggest it was the rebels who killed this loyalist family. An uncle of the Farouq Brigade's Abdulrazaq Tlass (a leader of the May 25 attack) was killed in fighting in the "Houla countryside" at this time.