Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
January 28, 2012

The Syrian Death Numbers Are All Made Up

Headlines the Pakistani paper The Nation: Syrian forces killed 7,384 children: report. The headline is very wrong.


From the piece:

Syrian forces have killed at least 7,384 children since March last year in the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, according to a report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef).
Rima Salah, acting Unicef deputy executive director said as of January 7, 384 children, most were boys, had been killed. She said about 380 children, some less than 14 years old, had been detained. Assad forces in brutal crackdown against innocent people and pro-democracy workers have killed thousands of people, including women and children, since March 2011.

It seems that some folks at The Nation somehow made up the number killed by adding the "as of January 7" date times thousand and the number 384 the UN got from somewhere. Then they put that into the headline and the opening graph thus reporting a fantasy number some of their readers may well believe.

Lets take a look at the MSNBC version of the story about those children in Syria which at least got the number right which the UNICEF's Rima Salah used:

At least 384 children have been killed and virtually the same number have been jailed, the United Nations Children's Fund said. UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado told Reuters the figures were based on reports by human rights organizations which it judged to be credible.

What are "children" in this context? Which "credible" human right organization did the UNICEF spokeswomen talk about? The UN's own human right official Navi Pillay who back in December just made up the number of people killed?

Or does Rima Saleh trust that shady Syrian Observatory for Human Rights organization in London of which actually two feuding ones exist:

The moving force behind the rival group ( who issued a letter attacking Abdulrahman’s group ( is a London-based Syrian exile and medical doctor named Mousab Azzawi.
While both Abdulrahman and Azzawi stress their work is not influenced by political allegiances, their respective political positions correlate with a greater dispute between Syria's opposition groups on the question of foreign intervention and the military option.

The campaign led by Azzawi to discredit Abdulrahman seems to come on the heels of a major fallout between the Syrian National Council (SNC) and the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria (NCB).

Which of the two sides did UNICEF judge to be credible? The one that has neocons write their policy papers? Or the other one which takes fake videos as proof:

Kako [of Abdulrahman's organization] also said that a single person with a video proving the claim would be accepted: “we don’t put it out [from a single source] unless he got maybe a video of it, for example, because a video cannot be denied if it is shown that it is a genuine video.”

When asked about the process for verifying the authenticity of such videos, and the circumstances in which victims were killed, Kako said: “When we get the video from our activists, we don’t take anything from any other sources.”

So who of these two provided UNICEF with that very exact number of 7,384 children killed when at the same time even the UN's human right boss Navi Pillay finally found some sense and stopped the false counting and making up of nonsense numbers:

On Wednesday, the UN said it had stopped compiling a death toll for Syria because it is too difficult to get information. "Some areas are totally closed, such as parts of Homs, so we are unable to update that figure. But in my view 5,000 and more is a huge figure and should really shock the international community into taking action," AFP reported Pillay as telling reporters.

As the above quoted must-read Al-Akhbar report closes:

The lack of transparency regarding sources of casualty reports may have its roots in the difficult conditions activists are working under inside Syria. But short of a serious push to protect these sources and to insist on accountability by all sides, propaganda will continue to prevail over reality.

Adding sloppy news editors like at The Nation to that and one can only disregarded any number of Syrian death quoted in any news or UN report as certain to be a false one. My best guess is that the numbers on both sides, the government forces and the rebel forces, are both in the low thousands and about the same.

Posted by b on January 28, 2012 at 19:09 UTC | Permalink


My guess is that the number of casualties in Syria, during the past several months, is considerably smaller than either the numbers killed in Iraq, or the number of civilians killed in Afghanistan, during the same period.
As to the number of children imprisoned, that will be far exceeded by the number of Palestinian kids detained, tortured and kept in solitary by the state of Israel.

Posted by: bevin | Jan 28 2012 21:02 utc | 1

Too true, but there's a more serious problem in the visual. I've mentioned it before, but I've now appreciated that it is central to understanding the situation.

As I mentioned before, in all the videos I've seen of Syria (I haven't seen all, and I await contradiction), there's never any destruction of buildings. You often hear explosions of artillery in the background, or columns of smoke in the distance. You would think that if large parts of Homs were being destroyed, they would show it, but they don't. Every video shows untouched buildings.

This suggests that false sound-tracks are being added to videos. I remember particularly well a video of Sudanese observers regarding calmly an untouched quarter of Homs, while the sound-track was playing nearby explosions, and the photographer was ducking. They must have thought he was an idiot.

Everybody exaggerates. But what does this say about Syrian government policy, if heavy weapons are not being used, which will result in the destruction of buildings?

It is that Bashshar al-Asad must have given the order that heavy weapons were not to be used, whatever the opposition claims.

Bashshar, the opthalmologist from London, must be softer than his father. And he is still exercising influence. His relatives, notably Mahir, are more extreme. So there's an internal disagreement.

This decision to be gentle, could be fatal for the regime. We'll have to see.

Posted by: alexno | Jan 28 2012 21:54 utc | 2

The only thing these reports tell me is that the Coalition of Liars is getting desperate, which is hardly surprising considering that they've run out of ideas on how to resolve the EU and US financial black holes. I suspect there's a self-imposed time line sloshing around amid all the increasingly hysterical Syria bullshit

I'm also mildly curious about how they think they're going to intervene. I'm confident, based on reports I've read, that Syria has an abundance of Russian anti-aircraft weaponry. My confidence is bolstered by the fact that the Coalition of Liars hasn't made any 'no-fly' pronouncements since the 'rebellion' began.
They can thank the realty-creating 'nuclear facility' bombing raid by the brainless Israelis a few years ago for the new realty of Syria's currently impenetrable air defenses.

The Syria imbroglio has degenerated into an infantile and futile diversion from EU and USA's insoluble financial woes. Imo it's only a matter of weeks before citizens under stress in the teetering economies begin to ask their leaders why Syria is getting more attention than the economy?

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jan 29 2012 0:28 utc | 3

The whole affair is Orwellian. (Or Aeschylusian.*) Listening to National Public Radio today, "where news counts," the "news" was of the Syrian government killing "protesters."

The Syrian insurgency is being fought by the Free Syrian Army. Its formation "was announced on 29 July 2011 in a web video released by a group of uniformed defectors from the Syrian military, who called upon members of the army to defect and join them." --wiki

The insurgents are made up of Syrian Army defectors and armed civilians. In any country favored by the west these people would be called extremists, terrorists and/or insurgents, and the army defectors especially would be summarily shot on sight. (I mean, what they are doing does rather exceed Bradley Manning's alleged acts.)

But in Syria these revolutionaries are "protesters" with even National Public Radio following the 'strategic communications' guidelines no-doubt dictated by Washington, a case of propaganda prevailing over reality indeed.

*In war, truth is the first casualty.--Aeschylus

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jan 29 2012 0:33 utc | 4

Good interviews on RT: Don Debar and Stephen Lendman

Posted by: Juan Moment | Jan 29 2012 1:11 utc | 5

Further to my comment @ 3, judging by the increasingly nonsensical claims being attributed to such untrustworthy media sources as the UN, offshore 'Syrian Opposition movements and people like Cameron, Shrillary and O'Bomber, it's fairly obvious that Assad isn't in any immediate danger of being chucked out by armed forces 'defectors' or a popular citizen uprising.
Hence all the frustration reflected in their media comments.
Syrian Army members know that if they defect they won't be paid, so defecting isn't a decision to be taken lightly. From a different perspective it should go without saying that if a majority of members of the Syrian Army thought Assad was on the wrong track he'd be overthrown in a heart-beat.

I gather from reports about the Syrian Intelligence apparatus and its tracking of bin Laden, and reporting regularly to the US State Dept (which the State Dept studiously failed to acknowledge or respond to), pre and post-9/11, that they're dedicated, efficient and relentless. It is odds-on that Syrian Intelligence is tracking down the leaders of the 'rebel' movement and 'neutralising' so many of them that on-the-spot feedback to the Coalition of Liars is becoming unreliable.

If this is correct, then it would help to explain the current bout of Western hysteria. The State Dept knows from Syria's Bin Laden reports that Syrian Intelligence could (and has) taught the CIA a thing or two about intel ops and 'information extraction'.

While Syrian Intelligence and the Syrian armed forces remain loyal to Syria and Assad, I'd rate the 'rebels' chances of success (and survival) at somewhat South of Zero.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jan 29 2012 2:54 utc | 6

Syria rebels gain foothold in Damascus

Posted by: Paul | Jan 29 2012 5:20 utc | 7

@ 7.
There are several things wrong with the BBC article, not least of which is the author's implied invitation for readers to immerse themselves in his wide-eyed credulity. It reads like something a 12-year old would write after a stage-managed tour of illegal settlements in Jewish-occupied Palestine.

If this is the best the Beeb can do, it seems highly unlikely that 2012 will be remembered as the BBC's finest hour.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jan 29 2012 12:35 utc | 8

The coalition of the witless serial liars spew serially and constantly on and on about how to preserve the wacko racist religious state in spite of its obvious lunacy.
Our premodern worlds bane.
And obviously the ruling class in Pakistan is in on the con,as they want no part of people power and democracy,as it will end their US gravy train.

Posted by: dahoit | Jan 29 2012 15:03 utc | 9

I've been noting the almost 180 degree difference between reports of killings in Irag and Afghanistan (especially when the US was actively killing as invaders/occupiers in Iraq) and these reports of deaths in Syria.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, almost any killing done by US or allied forces anywhere, almost any civillian killing is first reported as avery small number, almost always as collateral damage of the killing of a larger number of "bad actors," When local people report higher numbers of civilians killed, it is reported as being somehow suspect.

When the Syrian numbers are reported, I have yet to hear the world "alleged."

That seems to be word non grata to MCM (Mainstream Corporate Media) reporters who are working to advance the goals of their Dear Leaders and Corporate Pay Masters.

Posted by: jawbone | Jan 29 2012 15:25 utc | 10

Uh oh. Golly, you mean they'd actually lie to us????

Holy shit, that's Earth shattering news!!! I'm sure glad they started lying AFTER 9/11, or we'd hafta be questioning that story too.

Posted by: PissedOffAmerican | Jan 29 2012 15:37 utc | 11

And then there's this:

Posted by: ben | Jan 29 2012 15:44 utc | 12

On the subject of The Syrian Death Numbers Are All Made Up, here's a little thought experiment.

What if the numbers are correct but the identity of the victims is made up?

We know what sore losers the Coalition of Liars is and we also know that right-wing cranks always look around for someone else to blame when one of their half-baked plots comes unstuck.

They really can't complain publicly about that ***hole Assad rounding up their stooges, dozens at a time, and extracting highly inconvenient information.

It has always struck me as odd that Assad's victims are are almost always counted with extreme precision. The only people who habitually do this are the Coalition of Liars when counting their own casualties. When they're counting enemy casualties, precision is usually the first casualty.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jan 30 2012 1:12 utc | 13

I don't see how the insurgency can succeed w/o western support and that would require UNSC action, which Russia wouldn't agree to.

The United Nations was established to promote and maintain peaceful relations between nations. It has international responsibilities not infra-national ones. It was not established “to provide military assistance to people who want to be free.”

The bogus 'Right To Protect' civilians protocol which was used in Libya of course doesn't apply to Syria, where the Free Syrian Army has been conducting an armed insurgency in operation for six months.

So the US will be hard pressed to come up with anything that is legally justified, but that hasn't stopped them in the past. Possibly Russia can be neutralized by some political concessions. They're working on it, to be sure.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Jan 30 2012 3:12 utc | 14

to the BBC armed insurgents are 'rebels' everywhere except in the UK.

Posted by: brian | Feb 1 2012 9:50 utc | 15

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