The group known as the White Helmets has reportedly stopped receiving funds from the US government, according to CBS News. The White Helmets, formally known as the Syrian Civil Defense, have reportedly not received funds from the US in recent weeks, leaving the controversial group uncertain of how a “long-term or permanent halt” in funding would impact their future operations.
The cease in US funding for the White Helmets reportedly stems from President Trump’s decision in late March to freeze $200 million in U.S. recovery funding for Syria as part of a broader strategic overhaul. CBS News reported that “an internal State Department document said that its Near East Bureau needed confirmation from the administration to green light funding for the White Helmets in Syria by April 15th or the department would initiate ‘shut-down procedures on a rolling basis.’”
“We are actively reviewing our current Syria assistance programs at the President’s request, including U.S. support for the White Helmets,” a State Department official, who also noted that the United States has provided more than $33 million to the White Helmets since 2013, told CNN Friday.
There is your M.S.M. Take
Now for the truth:
Their name, of course, makes you think of the UN’s Blue Helmets and white is the color of those who should be protected in harm’s way – and the color of innocence. However, for many years there has been an Argentinian relief organization with the same name.
The SCD or White Helmets counts nearly 3.000 rescue workers who operate in very dangerous areas in rebel-held territories in Syria and claims that it has, in three years, rescued about 70.000 lives according to its Twitter account (or 65 per day).
Contrary to what you might think, it isn’t a Syrian organization because Syria has its own organization, incidentally also called Syria Civil Defence, which was established in 1953 and is registered with ICDO, the International Civil Defence Organisation, since 1972.
The White Helmets seems to have an annual budget of US$ 30 million and has raised a total support of well over US$ 100 million. And it seems that they operate exclusively in war zones in which the fighting against the Syrian government and the Syrian Arab Army takes place, i.e. in ‘liberated’ areas where hundreds of groups and some 80 countries, mainly NATO members, Gulf states and Saudi-Arabia, operate.
On the White Helmets’ briefing page it is stated that “funding for their humanitarian relief work is received from the aid budgets of Japan, Denmark, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States.”
Here is how the Foreign Ministry in Copenhagen explains the roughly US$ 9 million to the White helmets from Denmark, a country that bombs in both Iraq and Syria.
Other civil societies and humanitarian organizations inside Syria have not been so fortunate. You’ve probably not heard that much about the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and its work? How much/little support have they received from Western humanitarian-concerned governments? And in general, civil society organizations in Syria – women, peace, human rights, culture, etc. – have received nothing like US$ 100 million in a few years and no one has such a flashy media appearance as the White Helmets.
The joint Russian-Assad regime campaign against the White Helmets is not just fought with bombs and missiles. Russian and Syrian state outlets are circulating “information” meant to tarnish the volunteers as allies of terrorism, dedicated only to the assistance of jihadists. As President Assad told the Associated Press in September 2016: “They use different humanitarian masks and umbrellas just to implement certain agendas.”
The White Helmets are “driven by a pro-interventionist agenda conceived by the Western governments and public relations groups that back them”. Never mind that the White Helmets’ “crime” is to call for zones protecting civilians; ignore their firm declaration that they don’t affiliate with any government or NGO. To Blumenthal, they are a Trojan horse for “70,000 American servicemen” to invade Syria.
Having started the cycle of disinformation, Russian state outlets can complete it by citing “investigative journalists” such as Beeley and Blumenthal to deride the White Helmets as a “controversial quasi-humanitarian organization” and – invoking the magnate George Soros as conspiracy master – a “Soros-sponsored” operation “cooking up lies”.
These claims are the product of disinformation and spurious inference – but all this politics and propaganda, however menacing, is irrelevant to the people on the ground, whose focus is on the next mission.
Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters denounced the White Helmets civil defense group in Syria as a “fake organization” that spreads propaganda for “jihadists and terrorists.”
Rogers made the comment Friday at a concert in Barcelona when he said someone had wanted to speak to the audience on behalf of the group about the alleged chemical attack by the Syrian regime earlier this month.
“He is one voice. I personally think he is entirely wrong. I believe the organization that he purports to represents and who he supports — the White Helmets — are a fake organization that exists only to create propaganda for the jihadists and terrorists,” said Waters, who in recent years has become known for his vocal backing of a boycott of Israel.
If we would listen to the propaganda of the White Helmets and others, we would be encouraged to encourage our governments to go and start dropping bombs on people in Syria,” he added, saying to do so would be a “mistake of monumental proportions.”
Waters’ remarks echoed those of Syria and its backer Russia, who have asserted the deadly chemical attack in Douma was staged. Western countries have pointed the finger at Syria, and the US, UK, and France carried out strikes against Syrian targets over the weekend in retaliation for the attack.
Images of the attack in Douma were shared by the White Helmets, which works to rescue civilians in rebel-held areas.
They have gained international renown for their daring rescues, often filmed and circulated on social media, and were nominated for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize.