The Houla Massacre

Syrian government forces may or may not have been responsible for the killing of 108 civilians at Houla. Witness accounts point to militias that may have been acting independently of the Syrian government. One account describes the killings as avenging a rebel sectarian attack on an Alawite village. All the same, no witness account has been independently verified. The events are, in the words of a UN monitor, “murky”.

The US government, nevertheless, has reached far beyond the evidence to blame the Syrian government for the atrocity, a brazenly hypocritical public relations assault on Syria. In light of the serial massacre of hundreds of Pakistani and Afghan civilians, including children, by US drone strikes, the US government has no credibility as a self-appointed champion of the innocent.

Examining the conflict with reference to US foreign policy goals, and the objectives of other parties, it is likely that the Assad government’s opponents are depending on armed conflict and the exploitation of the public relations opportunities the conflict provides to meet their goal of regime change.

Damascus, on the other hand, has more to gain from working out a modus vivende with its internal opposition than trying to win a shooting war with armed rebels that have the backing of the formidable diplomatic and material resources of the United States and wealthy Gulf petro-monarchies.


In the Syria conflict, the goal of:

• Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf Cooperation Council Sunni petro-monarchies is to replace Syria’s Alawite-dominated state with a Sunni leadership;

• The United States and its Western allies is to force the Russia-allying, Iran-supported, Hezbollah-backing economic and Arab nationalist Syrian Ba’athist regime to relinquish control of the Syrian state. Ultimately, Washington would like to see a satellite regime in Damascus that ousts Russia from its naval base on the Mediterranean, breaks ties with Iran, cuts support to Hezbollah, accepts Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights, and opens its economy to US corporations and investors. Whether Washington can realize all these ambitions is unclear, but they do appear to be ambitions the US state embraces;

• The Sunni Islamists and al-Qaeda is to overthrow the Assad government, which they think of variously as “atheist” and “heretical”;

• The exile opposition and Free Syrian Army is to replace Assad as local rulers, courting US backing by professing commitment to Wall Street and State Department interests;

• The Syrian Ba’athist government is to survive in the face of determined opposition and with few allies.

In light of these goals, it is very unlikely that the opposition forces arrayed against the Syrian government are sincerely committed to the Annan peace plan. Since the plan seeks to find an accommodation between the Syrian government and its internal opposition without calling for the government’s dissolution, it fails to satisfy the opposition goal of regime change.

The plan does, however, promise a pathway to the Syrian government’s goal of political survival, and therefore it is Damascus, of all parties described above, that is likely to have the greatest commitment to making the plan work.

On the other hand, being committed to Assad’s overthrow, and not accommodation with him, the opposition is more likely to favor rhetorical commitment to the plan while continuing to pursue its regime change goal through armed struggle, relying on material, diplomatic, and moral support from the US and its allies.

This thrusts Damascus onto the horns of a dilemma. If it fails to respond to opposition attacks it puts its survival at risk. If it does respond, it is accused of violating the peace plan.


Atrocities being accustomed events in war, it was highly likely that one would eventually arise that Washington and Europe could take advantage of. Pinning blame for an atrocity on the Syrian government would allow Washington to escalate pressure on the Ba’athists, embarrass their supporters into withdrawing or weakening support, and strengthen public backing of stepped up intervention in Syria.

The events surrounding the Houla massacre are, in the words of UN monitors, “murky”, and the identity of those who carried out the killings of 108 civilians, many at close-range, remains unclear. Witness testimony, none of which has been independently verified, points to “pro-government militias” as the culprits, which may mean loosely organized sectarian gunmen acting independently of Damascus. One witness told The Wall Street Journal that “the attacks…might have been to avenge a rebel assault on a nearby Alawite village a day earlier.” [1]

While Syrian forces had been engaged in combat with armed rebels in the area, UN monitors found that fewer than 20 people were killed by government artillery fire. [2] And “rebel fighters,” according to The Wall Street Journal, “admitted putting up a stronger fight with government forces…than had been claimed initially. That fighting appeared to be what the government blamed for its artillery barrage.” [3]

Despite the event’s “murkiness” and evidence that it was possibly related to Alawite gunmen avenging an earlier sectarian attack, Washington blamed the massacre directly on Damascus, squeezing in a denunciation of Iran at the same time. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland called the Houla events an “absolutely indefensible, vile, despicable massacre against innocent children, women, shot at point-blank range by regime thugs,“ adding that the perpetrators were “aided and abetted by the Iranians, who were actually bragging about it over the weekend.” [4]

What the Iranians had actually done was point out that they have provided military aid to Syria, what the US and Gulf monarchies provide to the rebels trying to overthrow the Assad government.

Neither Nuland, nor her fellow compatriot practitioners of Goebbels’s art, have worked themselves up into high dudgeon over the 175 children and 828 civilians killed by US drone attacks in Pakistan since 2004 [5] — absolutely indefensible, vile, despicable killings of innocent children, women, killed from the safe distance of a Nevada warehouse by US regime thugs brandishing computer joy-sticks. And in the case of these killings there was no murkiness about who the killers actually were.

US atrocities don’t mitigate the Houla massacre, nor excuse the Syrian government if it was involved. The killings were indeed indefensible, vile, and despicable. But there are two points here.

Unlike the case of the far greater number of civilians blasted away by the United States, it is unclear whether Damascus was involved in the Houla killings. It may have been. But the evidence is hardly compelling and points just as strongly to perpetrators acting independently of the government.

The US track record is littered with indefensible, vile, despicable killings of innocent children and women by US forces—on a far greater scale than happened at Houla. Were there strong evidence that Damascus pulled the trigger, Washington’s denunciation of the Assad government would be manifestly hypocritical. But in the absence of such evidence, Washington’s apportioning of blame for the atrocity to the Syrian government is not only hypocritical but blatantly political—another volley in a war to put Washington more firmly in the driver’s seat in Syria.

1. Nour Malas and Jay Solomon, “Syria crisis deepens divisions”, The Wall Street Journal, May 29, 2012.

2. Nour Malas and Joe Lauria, “Western nations expel Syrian diplomats”, The Wall Street Journal, May 29, 2012.

3. Malas and Solomon

4. Malas and Lauria

5. “Obama terror drones: CIA tactics in Pakistan include targeting rescuers and funerals”, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, February 4, 2012 cited in Seumas Milne, “America’s murderous drone campaign is fuelling terror”, The Guardian (UK), May 29, 2012.

9 thoughts on “The Houla Massacre

  1. Even a mainstream German media outlet (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) is questioning the Houla massacre, suggesting that it was the USA/NATO-backed “rebels” that comitted this atrocity/war provocation:

    “Humanitarian War Criminals” in High Office: Was the Houla Massacre Ordered by the Western Military Alliance?

  2. ‘They walked for a very few minutes, the unarmed police watching them from the wayside, then a man next to him pulled out a gun and shot the nearest policeman dead.’
    A riot followed, reported by foreign TV stations as a police attack on peaceful marchers.
    I expect to have more to say on this in weeks to come.

    ‘The news being accepted as truth by BBC World News is so biased these days that I no longer believe what they say about anything any more, after more than 60 years of crediting them with the truth.”

    The sleeper awakes

    my one objection here is Hitchens:
    ‘As far as I can discover, they are not stooges of what they agree to be a rather nasty government in Damascus’

    thats not what syrians think..but westerners are usually clueless and easily led by media propaganda…the article is a step forward

  3. Global Research Editor’s Note

    This incisive report by independent Russian journalist Marat Musin dispels the lies and fabrications of the Western media.

    The report is based on a chronology of events as well as eyewitness accounts. Entire pro-government families in Houla were massacred. The terrorists were not pro-government shabbiha militia as conveyed, in chorus, by the mainstream media, they were in large part mercenaries and professional killers operating under the auspices of the self-proclaimed Free Syrian Army (FSA):

    “When the rebels seized the lower checkpoint in the center of town and located next to the local police department, they began to sweep all the families loyal to the authorities in neighboring houses, including the elderly, women and children.

    Several families of the Al-Sayed were killed, including 20 young children and the family of Abdul Razak. The people were killed with knives and shot at point blank range.

    Then they presented the murdered [corpses] to the UN and the international community as victims of bombings by the Syrian army, something that was not verified by any marks on their bodies.”

    We call on our readers to forward this report far and wide, post it on facebook. .

    The massacre in Houla is being blamed on the Syrian government without a shred of evidence. The objective is not only to isolate Syria politically and economically, but to develop a pretext and a justification for waging an R2P humanitarian war on Syria.

    The US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice has hinted that if the Security Council does not act, the US and its allies may consider “taking actions outside of the Annan plan and the authority of the [UN Security] Council.”

    This report by Marat Musin confirms that crimes against humanity are being committed by terrorist militia.

    It is essential to reverse the tide of war propaganda which uses civilian deaths as a pretext to wage war, when those killings of civilians were carried out not by government forces but by professional terrorists operating under the helm of the US-NATO sponsored Free Syrian Army.

  4. he following text is the translation of a blog entry of the ANNA News journalist Marat Musin, who was in the region of al-Houla (Houla/Hula – near the Syrian city of Homs) last week and who has own experiences how the horrible “Houla massacre” in Syria happened and who is behind the violent and horrible massacre near Homs.

    The translation about the own investigations of the journalist Marat Musin, together with Olga Kulygina, about the massacre in al-Houla (al-Houleh/al-Hula) was made with best intentions, you can find the original text of Marat Musin (ANNA News) about the horrible events in Syria at the end of the translation.

    As you can see, the explanations and descriptions about the “Hula massacre” (Houla massacre) differ, but considering that Marat Musin has been near al Rastan and the location of the horrible massacre, which was not the only massacre, carried out by armed groups last week in Syria, the question remains:

    Why is the UN Human Rights Council not interested in using the information of this journalist Marat Musin and Olga Kulygina for the so-called investigations of the “Houla massacre”, but relies on the typical sources like phone calls with the Syrian opposition members and so on (more information)?

  5. There is another possibility that predictably isn’t even considered by the Anglo-American “free press” or by some in the so-called antiwar Left: The United States is guilty of this massacre, as it was staged either by the US military or US proxies like the various Islamicist insurgents that America has been fomenting against Syria.

    In any crime, one must ask Cui Bono–who benefits?

    And in the Houla Massacre, the answer to who benefits from this crime is: America and its allies that have been desperately trying to manufacture some “humanitarian” pretext to invade and overthrow the Syrian government.

    One must also remember the essential geopolitical context to what is happening in Syria: the USA and its democratic allies (Britain, Israel, Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia) have been aggressively sponsoring and arming the Sunni militants that are fighting against Syria and have committed suicide attacks and other forms of sectarian violence designed to balkanize that nation.

    Indeed, without America or its human rights allies like Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, there most likely would be no low-intensity civil war in Syria to begin with.

    SYRIA: Killing Innocent Civilians as part of a US Covert Op. Mobilizing Public Support for a R2P War against Syria

    Just as damning is the fact the USA and its democratic allies are brazenly using the same geopolitical tactics against Syria that they used against Libya last year–not to mention other against nations like Sudan (with the SPLA), Serbia (with the Kosovo Liberation Army), and even El Salvador in the past: covertly arm and support insurgents in order to destabilize a targeted nation and justify potential American military aggression either overt or covert.

    Furthermore, it’s not a secret that the USA has historically allied with and deployed Sunni/Islamicist terrorists (including Al-Queda) as a geopolitical weapon to incite sectarian conflict and destabilize a targeted nation.

    The most notorious example is that of the American sponsorship of the Islamicist Mujahideen in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

    America’s ally at the time includes a fellow named Osama Bin Laden.

    Moreover, the United States has a nasty little habit of peddling “atrocity” stories in order to whip up public opinion to support an American-led attack on some hapless nation—from lurid tales of slaughtered Kuwaiti incubator babies to the Racak “Massacre” in the former Yugoslavia to allegations of Libyan troops using Viagra to rape civilians:

    Understanding the Propaganda War Against Syria

    It’s also very curious how Western nations and their media were so quick to place the blame for Houla on the Syria government or its allies.

    Even in routine murder cases in the West and USA, it often takes weeks, months, and even *years* for police to determine who is guilty. Yet in a more complex crime like the Houla massacre, the West and the corporate free press almost immediately were able to judge who the culprit was.

    Perhaps, the USA and West had in mind who should be blamed for Houla even before it happened….

    Are U.S.-NATO setting up pretext for attack on Syria?

    Given the USA’s criminal record of destabilization campaigns, war propaganda, and “false-flag” provocations, it wouldn’t be surprising in the least that United States is responsible for the Houla Massacre.

    But most Americans and their apologists instinctively dismiss as “anti-American conspiracy theory” the very idea that the USA could be behind the Houla Massacre, as they buy into the world historic deception that the USA is a great democracy and, as such, would never commit such a treacherous war provocation.

    Indeed, even to consider the USA as a potential culprit in this crime is to broach an idea that most people refuse even to think: Far from being the great champions of freedom, democracy, and human rights that they claim to be, America and the West in general are in fact the world’s preeminent terrorist nations.

  6. I did not see any mention of the Italian photographer’s claim (see below) in your article. Is this because you had not yet read this claim, or is this because you believe the claim to be inaccurate??? Very good points in your article.
    Published On: Mon, May 28th, 2012
    BBC Illegally Uses Image of Iraqi Victims: The US/NATO, UN Demonization Propaganda Against Syrian Government Further Intensify

    BBC illegally uses image of Iraqi victims as propaganda against the Syrian government

    Italian photographer, Marco Di Lauro, has exposed the BBC which illegally used one of his photographs taken in Iraq as anti-Syrian Propaganda on their website’s front page.

    Di Lauro said: “Somebody is using illegaly one of my images for anti-syrian propaganda on the BBC web site front page.

    Today Sunday May 27 at 0700 am London time the attached image which I took in Al Mussayyib in Iraq on March 27, 2003 (see caption below)

    was front page on BBC web site illustrating the massacre that happen in Houla the Syrian town and the caption and the web site was stating that the images was showing the bodies of all the people that have been killed in the massacre and that the image was received by the BBC by an unknown activist.

    Somebody is using my images as a propaganda against the Syrian government to prove the massacre.”

    Al Musayyib, Iraq – May 27, 2003 An Iraqi child jumps over a line of hundreds of bodies, in a school where they have been transported from a mass grave, to be identified.

    They were discovered in the desert in the outskirts of Al Musayyib, 40 km south of Baghdad.

    It has been estimated that between 10,000 and 15,000 Iraqis had been reported missing in the region south of Baghdad.

    People have been searching for days for identity cards or other clues among the skeletons to try to find the remains of brothers, fathers, mothers, sisters and even children who disappeared when Saddam’s government crushed a Shi’ite uprising following the 1991 Gulf War.

  7. Thanks for your article
    It’s a good support for our fitting through Internet on ALTER INFORMATION and COUNTER NATO PROPAGANDA

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