MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

How rock star Roger Waters was hung out to dry by Amnesty and Bellingcat for his views on Syrian ‘chemical attack’ — RT Op-ed

Posted by M. C. on October 15, 2020

https://www.rt.com/op-ed/503461-roger-waters-douma-syria/

Kit Klarenberg is an investigative journalist.

A leaked phone call reveals that outside pressure caused Amnesty to pull its promotion of a webinar featuring Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters – a vocal skeptic of the Douma ‘chemical attack’ that prompted Western powers to bomb Syria.

In August this year, environmental pressure group Amazon Watch broadcast an online panel discussion in support of Steven Donziger, a crusading attorney who dared try to hold US energy giant Chevron to account for widespread environmental destruction in the Amazon, and was left fighting for his life, livelihood and liberty as a result.

In February 2011, Chevron was found liable by an Ecuadorian court for contamination resulting from crude oil production in the region by its subsidiary Texaco between 1964 and 1992, in a legal action that was many years in the making and led by Donziger.

Chevron is yet to pay a penny of the settlement though, for the landmark ruling was overturned in March 2014 by a US Federal Court on highly dubious grounds – in reaching his decision, presiding Judge Lewis A. Kaplan relied heavily on the evidence of a former Ecuadorian justice who subsequently admitted to fabricating his testimony. Donziger has since been charged with contempt of court and sat under house arrest for over a year awaiting trial.

Donziger himself was present on the Amazon Watch webinar that August evening, and was joined by a number of prominent campaigners, including Simon Taylor, founder of NGO Global Witness, and Roger Waters, co-founder of rock institution Pink Floyd.

The talk was widely promoted in advance by a number of prominent human rights activists, and NGOs, perhaps most prominently Amnesty International.

However, the organization’s endorsement triggered a deluge of criticism on social media from a number of notorious advocates for regime change in Syria. This led to a post advertising the webinar published by Amnesty USA’s official Twitter account the day before broadcast to mysteriously disappear without explanation.

I would appeal to @amnestyusa not to promote this event given Roger Waters participation because slandered #WhiteHelmets repeating Russian propaganda putting their lives at risk when saved over 150,000 lives & cannot remain silent as know them well as a filmmaker @SyriaCivilDefhttps://t.co/8e311Xcj2S— Ronan L Tynan (@RonanLTynan) August 5, 2020

In response to one critic, Amnesty UK Campaigns Manager Kristyan Benedict said promoting the talk was “not good at all” and confirmed that the offending tweet had “been deleted.”

Yep – not good at all – it’s been deleted.— kristyan benedict (@KreaseChan) August 5, 2020

A leaked recording of a September 25 phone call between Waters and two senior staffers at Amnesty International USA – Matt Vogel, head of artist relations, and Tamara Draut, chief impact officer – sheds fascinating light on the episode.

At the start of the conversation, Waters recalls he was not only informed Amnesty would promote the panel discussion on Twitter in advance, but also personally retweeted the endorsement so it reached his circa 375,000 followers at the organization’s express request.

However, an associate informed him just before the webinar began that they couldn’t locate the post. When the talk was over, he went about getting to the bottom of the tweet’s absence.

After conducting “a bit of sleuthing,” he determined that the removal followed pressure being brought to bear by a number of individuals, in particular his “old adversary” Eliot Higgins, founder of controversial website Bellingcat, due to Waters’ views on the Syrian Civil Defense, aka White Helmets. Seeking answers, he attempted to reach out to Amnesty, but was repeatedly stonewalled before finally being put in touch with Vogel and Draut.

In response, Draut confirmed that the tweet’s removal was indeed prompted by a “difference of opinion” on the White Helmets. “We believe they’re really champions for human rights, and have fought for their protection and freedom. When the tweet went up on our end, it wasn’t fully vetted as it should’ve been, and immediately we heard from folks in the White Helmets, asking why we were promoting you, due to comments you’ve made about them. We also heard from other Syrian human rights activists, who were quite hurt by our support of you…” she began, before Waters interrupts, asking what relevance his views on the group has to “the plight of rainforest dwellers in northern Ecuador.”

“People interpreted our promotion of an event at which you were speaking as promoting your position on the White Helmets. I got involved in this process too late, I wouldn’t have taken down the tweet, that’s not the policy I like to follow, I would’ve much rather dealt with this openly and honestly…” Draut explains.

Waters made headlines the world over in April 2018, when he stopped mid-set during a concert in Barcelona to talk about a chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria, which had allegedly taken place six days earlier.

Branding the White Helmets a “fake organization” creating “propaganda for jihadists and terrorists,” he suggested that Western public opinion was being manipulated in order that “we would be encouraged to encourage our governments to go and start dropping bombs on people.” Mere hours later, his prediction came to pass, as France, the UK and US carried out a series of military strikes against multiple government sites in the country.

In May 2019, Waters was again the subject of intense criticism when he claimed on his official Facebook page that a leaked document had vindicated his position. The file in question was an engineering report produced by an Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) fact-finding team that visited Douma in the days following the contested strike, which concluded there was a “higher probability” that cylinders found at two locations in Douma, alleged by the White Helmets to have been dropped from Syrian Air Force helicopters, were “manually placed… rather than being delivered from aircraft.”

Photos of the cylinders circulated widely in the Western media and on social networks in the wake of the claimed incident. Such images, along with footage of Douma residents being hosed down in hospitals, children seemingly foaming at the mouth, and piles of dead bodies in a housing complex – all produced and disseminated by the White Helmets – were all damning evidence offered in favor of the idea that the Syrian government had targeted civilians with chemical weapons, a notion which in turn provided Paris, London and Washington with a pretext for military intervention.

The OPCW team’s dissenting appraisal was, for reasons unclear, entirely unmentioned in the organization’s final report on Douma, published two months prior to Waters’ Facebook post.

Despite making few if any public comments about the White Helmets or the ongoing crisis in Syria since, Waters has nonetheless been subject to an unending deluge of online abuse from their Western supporters.

Back on the call, an indignant Waters cites a since-deleted tweet from Eliot Higgins, which stated that Amnesty International “needs to explain why Roger Waters is an appropriate person to talk about human rights.” Rather than responding constructively to the question, the organization opted to simply yield to critical pressure.

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