In the good old days in Australia, before spin and political correctness limited peoples’ language and vision, “fair dinkum” was a common part of the vernacular. “Are you fair dinkum?” meant “are you genuine?” or “is that really true?” Used amongst ordinary folk who called a spade a spade, to be fair dinkum was a word of honor; there was also an acute sensitivity to anyone who dared to breach this code of conduct.
Perhaps this sensitivity still exists “in the bush” where “fair dinkum” is still a popular expression, along with a disdain for pretentiousness and class superiority. But as urban society becomes ever more pretentious, not least under the influence of social media, peoples’ sensitivity to things that are not fair dinkum – “bullshit” in other words – has become dulled to the point of extinction. Or so one must conclude – when the daily diet of bullshit fed to us by the media induces a feeding frenzy rather than a violent rejection!
“Bullshit” also used to be a popular word, but nowadays is unacceptable in polite company, and even dubious in impolite company. This is unfortunate as the need to use the word has ballooned, particularly in relation to news stories in the mainstream media. These “stories” we are told by our media also fit neatly the description of a “bullshitter” – allegedly a person who tells a mixture of truth and lies and nonsense between, all with equal conviction.
This is all a preamble to an examination of the recent stories about the “end of the caliphate” in Syria, that have streamed into our living rooms for the past few weeks, and elicited hyperventilation over the fate of “IS brides” and cris de coeurs over their unfortunate and abandoned progeny, who have somehow turned up in a little “village” that we never heard of before where the recalcitrant dregs of Da’esh are allegedly making their last stand.
In this small outpost in Australia, where the last drops of dirty water are being drained from dams following the hottest summer on record, and leaving behind floundering yabbies and dying fish, the story of Baghouz doesn’t look “fair dinkum”. There is something fake about it, sensed right at the start but now looking increasingly like yet another of the media tricks that Syria’s enemies are so good at playing.
The “rescuing of the civilians from the village of Baghouz” has been like one of those old cartoon chases, where the same bit of landscape in the background keeps going past. Trucks full of alleged civilians or “families of IS fighters” pass by, allegedly freed from Baghouz and allegedly on their way to a refugee camp 250 kms north near Hasakah – with no explanation of why they should go there, rather than to Deir al Zour or west to Damascus, or even just over the border into Iraq. But we see them day after day – is it new footage, or the same convoy from a different viewpoint? US and SDF forces will go in to finish IS off once the civilians are out, which will be by the end of the week or next month. There are reports IS has dug tunnels/is using people as human shields/has already escaped/has been found in with the civilians.
Baghouz is only a few kilometers from the Iraqi border, on the left bank of the Euphrates opposite Al Bukamal. Al Bukamal – or “Abu Kamal” was, of course, the scene of the Syrian Army’s last battle against IS back in November 2017, when many soldiers’ lives were lost as IS fighters gave way and then returned, using suicide bombers and also tunnels to escape fire. In the final stages, Russian T22 bombers flew from Russia to support the joint offensive, which included Hezbollah and Iraqi PMUs.
Just where the Da’esh battalions in Abu Kamal came from is becoming clearer by the day, as we hear more about those now holding out across the river in Baghouz where some of the fighters likely ended up. They are said to include fighters and families from Deir al Zour and Raqqa – who were given safe passage south by the US in September 2017.
But as is still the case, the SAA was prevented from crossing the Euphrates by US forces, and against all normal internationally agreed laws and protocols. The US was determined both to protect the Oil-fields seized by Da’esh and then by the SDF, as well as something else that we never imagined.
Multiple reports emerged recently from Syrian, Turkish and Syrian Opposition media that the US had stolen GOLD from both Syria and Iraq, and flown it out in helicopters to the US base in Kobani before shipping it back to the US. While the story is told differently in different media, the essence seems to be this – US helicopters flew with Da’esh commanders who knew where the stolen gold was stashed, and their cooperation in this international heist was rewarded with their freedom, and that of hundreds of their fellow “field leaders and experts”.
“Experts” at decapitation, chemical weapons, Oil-field maintenance – and gold digging, presumably.
Variously it is reported that 40 tonnes of gold came from Mosul and that 50 tonnes of gold came from Syria, including some from Iraq. It was also said that the US had paid off the YPG with some of the gold before taking the rest home for their stash/slush fund.
Apart from a feeling of revulsion that the US could do this and get away with it, there is something of greater concern – that they did this under the noses of the world’s media, who had all assembled dutifully around Baghouz in January and then at the refugee camp in Al Hajr to see the “Brides of Da’esh” and relay their stories to the Western world. How exactly these already notorious European girls ended up in the convoy of trucks from Baghouz, sifted out from the thousands of faceless others, we can only speculate. It wasn’t a question asked by Anthony Loyd of the Times when he “stumbled on” the heavily pregnant Shamima Begum and – presumably – her special entourage, also looking a little pregnant under their black shrouds.
As I noted and must note again today as the children of Australia’s notorious IS member Khalid Sharouf have been seen in Baghouz, such fairy stories just would not have passed as fair dinkum in the not so distant past. And oddly – very oddly in fact – that old Aussie phrase that originated in England and meant “fair work” (for a fair day’s pay) was adjusted a little by White fortune hunters on the Australian goldfields as a friendly greeting to Chinese miners; “din-gum” means “good gold” in Chinese.
One could take this metaphor further – suiting the fake story of the last, last hold-out of the Islamic State, because it is always possible to find gold nuggets in the last drainings of dams, and that is fair dinkum, just like the story of the US stealing Syria’s gold. This is however only the beginning of the story of what has been happening in Syria east of the Euphrates since Donald Trump vowed to pull out the US forces before Christmas. Did Pompeo and Bolton say to him “but we can’t leave until we find where Da’esh has stashed the gold”? Or did they think it better not to tell him, given his evident love of the stuff, and their greater need?
More to the point perhaps is where did Da’esh steal the gold from – or receive it in return for other stolen goods like Oil – and how did the US know that they had such a huge quantity, worth a couple of billion dollars. We needn’t ask whether it occurred to them that the poor living residents of Western Mosul – those not killed by coalition bombs and still lying under the flattened ruins of the city – could use a couple of billion to build some new homes, hospitals, and schools. Those residents should just be glad that the US helped to get rid of the Islamic State forces, into Syria where it needed to set up the caliphate in Raqqa, as promised.
What really confirms the “final assault on IS in Baghouz” story as a fake made for the Western media, and maintaining the mendacious narrative that the US coalition is in Syria to destroy the Islamic State Caliphate, is what has been going on at Rukban camp on the Syrian border 240 kms South West where Iraq meets Jordan. By all accounts it is here, beside the illegal US base at Al Tanf, that IS militants are being protected both by the US and allied forces and by the human shield of 50,000 displaced Syrians. It is here that children have been dying of cold and starvation, and suffering from acute lack of services and assistance. And it is here that Russian and Syrian efforts supported by the UN to bring humanitarian aid to the camp have been constantly thwarted by the US coalition, including by direct attacks on Syrian Army units daring to retake the occupied Syrian territory. When negotiations finally allowed a UN-sponsored aid convoy of 130 trucks to go to Rukban a few weeks ago it was barely reported, leave alone filmed in dramatic style like the convoys from Baghouz.
A self-declared and illegal “deconfliction zone” extending 55 kms from Al Tanf has proven impregnable to both military and diplomatic offensives. Finally in the last few weeks, while the Western media has focused on the Fake Syrian Army offensive on Baghouz, along with the humanitarian crisis the US has created in Venezuela, Russia and Syria have abandoned any hope of concessions or cooperation with the US occupiers and have set up a humanitarian corridor for refugees, from the US controlled Rukban refugee camp. And that is fair dinkum!
But you won’t hear about it from the Western media, so concerned about the rights of women and children, and the question of what to do with returning Da’esh recruits, and how to ensure that they aren’t a danger back home in Bethnal Green, Manchester or Belfast. We probably needn’t worry anyway, as the US is already finding new homes for them, and with new job descriptions written out by Bolton and Pompeo.
Since I started writing this, the “final assault on Baghouz by the SDF” has been launched, and “it is hoped that we will see the end of the caliphate in a week”. Surprisingly though, even to those with an acute nose for bullshit, Baghouz has been relocated for the occasion. Formerly on the Iraqi border, it has now been described by both our Australian state media, as “near” to Qamishli, which lies just 300 kms to the North on the Turkish border. Adam Harvey, the ABC’s M/E correspondent based in Beirut, has travelled specially to Qamishli to interview Kurdish Syrians who suffered IS attacks in the early days of their advance into Syria, but makes it seem as though this is also where IS is making its last stand – using just one word – “near” – to confirm the intent to mislead.
Perhaps someone noticed that the convoys of alleged refugees and IS families traveling to the refugee camp at Al Hawl would have passed through the very place where Da’esh had stashed its gold, according to this report. “East of Al Shaddadah” puts it less than half an hour’s drive on the highway from Al Hawl camp, for a minibus full of journos, or 5 minutes in a US chopper with some shady characters picked up from the “surrendering fighters” part of the camp.
If only they’d known, those journos could have picked up a scoop of media gold!