So is the U.S. no longer funding the white helmets? And is it connected to Trump’s freeze on $200 million earmarked for Syrian “recovery”?
This is a Reality Check you won’t get anywhere else.
Late Friday, the White Helmets were all over the news. The reason? The State Department allegedly is no longer funding the controversial organization.
So what funding has been cut, exactly? That remains unclear.
According to CBS News, the White Helmets have complained that they haven’t received U.S. funding in weeks. This, after President Trump announced a freeze of $200 million in recovery funding for Syria.
In our investigation into who’s funding the White Helmets, we discovered that in August 2015, USAID awarded a $211 million, five-year contract with Chemonics to “provide fast, flexible, short-term assistance targeted at key political transition and stabilization needs” in Syria.
According to the website GovTribe, $2.1 million in incremental funding was last allocated for the contract in March of this year.
So far, $81.6 million of the total contract has been obligated in the deal with Chemonics.
There is no clear indication as to whether this contract is frozen. Even so, western governments are still supporting the white helmets.
Washington, D.C. – 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.
The US State Department hosted the White Helmets in March and praised the group for their work in Syria.
“Our meetings in March were very positive. There were even remarks from senior officials about long-term commitments even into 2020. There were no suggestions whatsoever about stopping support,” Raed Saleh, the group’s leader, told CBS News.
In contrast to the popularized characterization of the White Helmets as heroic saviors, independent investigative reporting has described the group as less of a humanitarian construct and more of a form of propaganda/intelligence operation deployed as a Syrian Civil Defense, but which operates only in rebel-held areas, as a news means of employing western soft power in the form of information warfare meant to forward a regime change operation.
The White Helmets were founded in 2013 by James Le Mesurier, a former British military intelligence officer and private security specialist, and are largely funded by the U.S. and UK governments. The group was hosted by the US State Department less than two months ago and were lavished with praise.
CBS News reported that “U.S had accounted for about a third of the group’s overall funding,” but, “now they are not getting any U.S funding as the State Department says the support is ‘under active review.’”
“This is a very worrisome development,” said an official from the White Helmets. “Ultimately, this will negatively impact the humanitarian workers ability to save lives.”
Recently Pink Floyd great Roger Waters, during a recent solo concert in Barcelona, called out the White Helmets as a “fake organization that exists only to create propaganda for jihadists and terrorists.”
“The White Helmets is a fake organization that exists only to create propaganda for jihadists and terrorists,” Waters said. “That’s my belief… If we were to listen to the propaganda of the White Helmets and others, we would be encouraged to encourage our governments to start dropping bombs on people in Syria. This would be a mistake of monumental proportions for us as human beings.”
The group says they have received no formal notice from the US government but that the groups people in Syria report that they have not received funds for weeks. Despite a purported “emergency plan” to fund the groups work on the ground for a couple of months, representatives are concerned about a potential long-term or permanent freeze in assistance.
“If this is a long-term or permanent halt, it would have a serious impact on our ability to provide the same intensity and quality of services that we currently provide to civilians,” said Saleh.
Although the State Department has characterized the group as “selfless men,” going so far as to urge journalists to watch an Oscar-winning documentary about the group, in the video below Ben Swann provides critical analysis of the White Helmets, which reveals some penetrating truths.
UPDATE: Watch Ben Swann explain the recent developments in US funding of the White Helmets in an updated Reality Check by clicking here.
But who are the White Helmets really? Are they a legitimate organization or pawns, funded for the purpose of regime change?
Let’s give it a Reality Check you won’t get anywhere else.
Despite a recent U.S. funding freeze for humanitarian aid for Syria, the U.S. continues to fund the controversial group, known as White Helmets.
Follow the money and you will find numerous ties to government funding from not only the U.S., but the U.K., the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany.
Untangling these ties to the White Helmets is complicated, so stay with me.
According to their website, the Syria Civil Defense, nicknamed the White Helmets, formed in “late 2012- early 2013” as self-organized groups.
Realizing they needed training, 20 Syrians went to Turkey back in March 2013 to learn from a former British army officer named James Le Mesurier.
Le Mesurier has ties to the failed NATO intervention in Kosovo. He developed a training program for Syrians that included trauma care, command and control and crisis management courses.
Le Mesurier was able to fund this training program through Mayday Rescue, his Netherlands-based non-profit funded by grants from the Dutch, British, Danish and German governments.
Now, this brings us to December 2013, when the U.K.-based PR machine backing the White Helmets was established.
It’s called the Voices Project, set up as a private limited company for public relations and communications activities.
Part of the Voices Project’s articles of incorporation state that the organization seeks to “influence public opinion” and “influence governmental and other bodies and institutions regarding reform … legislation and regulation.”
Who set up the Voices Project? The first listed director on the articles of incorporation is Jeremy Heimans, the co-founder and CEO of the global PR platform “Purpose” and a co-founder of controversial online activist network “Avaaz”.
In February 2014, New York-based “Purpose” listed a job posting for interns to “help launch a new movement for Syria.”
By March 2014, the Voices Project set up The Syria Campaign NGO, which they describe as “a human rights organisation that supports Syria’s heroes in their struggle for freedom and democracy.”
This, coinciding with the graduates of the Mayday Rescue training establishing new teams in Syria.
Six months later, in October 2014, a conference of these teams came together to establish the Syrian Civil Defense as an official, national organization. They then became known as the White Helmets, thanks to The Syria Campaign.
Yet there’s evidence that both of those organizations started supporting the White Helmets back in early 2013, right around the time the White Helmets claim to have formed as self-organized groups.
Mayday Rescue, as we said, is funded by the Dutch, British, Danish and German governments. And Chemonics?
They are a Washington, D.C. based contractor that was awarded $128.5 million in January 2013 to support “a peaceful transition to a democratic and stable Syria” as part of USAID’s Syria regional program. At least $32 million has been given directly to the White Helmets as of February 2018.
The firm has been funded by USAID for years, and carries a record of failures in supporting so-called humanitarian interventions, including in Libya.
There are even more dots to connect here, including the relationship between USAID, Chemonics, Jeremy Heimans and Azaaz. We will make those connections in another episode of Reality Check.
But for today, let’s make this clear: there are very real questions about the authenticity of the voice of the White Helmets as representative of the Syrian people.
It is also clear that the White Helmets have ties to organizations that are being funded by governments that have been seeking, and right now continue to, seek to overthrow the Assad government and to establish a new regime in Syria.
And yet our media and government act as if the information coming from the White Helmets is coming from an impartial observer. When in fact, it appears to actually be coming from an organization that is being funded with an agenda to see the Syrian government overthrown.
Barcelona, Spain – Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, during a recent solo concert in Barcelona, stopped mid-concert to address the recent bombing of Syria – under pretense of retaliation for an alleged chemical attack – and called out the White Helmets as a “fake organization that exists only to create propaganda for jihadists and terrorists.”
Waters said he had been approached by a man prior to the concert who wanted to get onstage to speak on behalf of the White Helmets regarding the alleged chemical attack in Douma, but instead chose educate the crowd himself. Although well intentioned, Waters said he believed the person had simply been misled about the White Helmets.
“The White Helmets is a fake organization that exists only to create propaganda for jihadists and terrorists,” Waters said. “That’s my belief. We have opposing beliefs. If we were to listen to the propaganda of the White Helmets and others, we would be encouraged to encourage our governments to start dropping bombs on people in Syria. This would be a mistake of monumental proportions for us as human beings.”
Officially known as Syria Civil Defense, the White Helmets were founded in 2013 by James Le Mesurier, a former British military intelligence officer and private security specialist, and are largely funded by the U.S. and UK governments. Investigative reporter James Corbett delved into the White Helmets as a western propaganda construct in a video earlier this year.
Waters went on to say that individuals should “persuade our governments not to go and drop bombs on people,” going on to imply that a rush to judgement based on propaganda isn’t a substitute research, likely in direct reference to the US-led attack on Syria, based on the Douma chemical allegations.
“What we should do is go and persuade our governments not to go and drop bombs on people. And certainly not until we have done all the research that is necessary so that we would have a clear idea of what is really going on. Because we live in the world where propaganda seems to be more important than the reality of what is really going on,” he added.
Waters has been a staunch anti-war activist throughout his career and has never shied away from controversial stances. For instance, in 2016, he explained that the entertainment industry discourages individuals from calling out the atrocities committed by the Israeli military, and how the “boycott, divestment and sanctions” (BDS) campaign was targeted:
The only response to BDS is that it is anti-Semitic, I know this because I have been accused of being a Nazi and an anti-Semite for the past 10 years. My industry has been particularly recalcitrant in even raising a voice [against Israel]. There’s me and Elvis Costello, Brian Eno, Manic Street Preachers, one or two others, but there’s nobody in the United States where I live. I’ve talked to a lot of them, and they are scared s***less.
“If they say something in public they will no longer have a career. They will be destroyed. I’m hoping to encourage some of them to stop being frightened and to stand up and be counted because we need them. We need them desperately in this conversation in the same way we needed musicians to join protesters over Vietnam,” he added.
Hours before the United States, the UK, and France carried out “limited” strikes last Saturday morning, the Russian military presented what it claimed to be proof that the chemical weapons attack used as the pretext for those strikes was staged at the behest of the UK government.
During a Friday briefing, the Russian Defense Ministry showed interviews with medical professionals reported to work in the only functional hospital in Douma – the suburb of the Syrian capital Damascus where the attacks are said to have taken place. In their testimony, the two men asserted that the footage of the alleged chemical attack was taken after a Syrian air strike occurred and that the affected people shown in the video were suffering from smoke poisoning. They stated that a false claim of chemical weapons use was then circulated, leading concerned family members to douse those affected with water.
The Russian military then asserted that the White Helmets, the foreign-funded “humanitarian” group active in Syria, were pressured by the UK government to “speed up” a provocation that they had been preparing in order to push for Western intervention.
British UN Ambassador Karen Pierce called the allegations “grotesque,” “a blatant lie” and “the worst piece of fake news we’ve yet seen from the Russian propaganda machine.”
The main group that has provided footage and evidence purporting to show the chemical weapons attack in Douma are the White Helmets. Syria’s White Helmets, while they have largely been portrayed in Western media as a humanitarian first responder group, were actually founded in Turkey in 2013 by a British mercenary named James Le Mesurier. Le Mesurier is a former officer in the British military and also formerly worked for British intelligence. He eventually left his work with the British government to join with the Olive Group before it merged with Blackwater-Academi to become Constellis Holdings. He then worked in Abu Dhabi before moving to Turkey and founding the White Helmets.
To found the group, Le Mesurier raised $300,000 in seed funding provided by the UK, the U.S. and Japan, according to journalist Vanessa Beeley. Since its founding, the White Helmets have received over $123 million from 2013 to 2016 from the U.S. and UK governments, as well as Western NGOs and Gulf state monarchies. In addition, during the past five years, the White Helmets have been instrumental in blaming the Syrian government for any and all chemical weapons attacks in Syria, acting as both witnesses and responders to events that were later reported to be the work of the armed opposition in Syria or staged.
In Mid-March, the Syrian Arab Army intercepted a truck containing weapons and ammunition destined for the militant rebel groups in the area where the chemical weapons attack is said to have occurred. Among the items found were canisters apparently containing smoke grenades made in Salisbury, England – where the UK government has a chemical weapons laboratory.
Regardless of what information emerges from Douma regarding the alleged chemical weapons attack, the UK and its allies have already unilaterally attacked Syria even though they have admitted that they have no evidence that the attack even took place, beyond social media posts and YouTube videos created by controversial groups with ties to U.K. intelligence.