James Le Mesurier, a British ex-mercenary, founded the White Helmets in 2013. The group has been lauded for its “humanitarian” efforts in Syria, but they have actually functioned more as a logistics and propaganda arm of Syria’s al-Qaeda branch, complete with training from Le Mesurier.
By Whitney Webb
Part 3 - White Helmets founded through Western funding
When it came to time to found the White Helmets in March 2013, Le Mesurier seemed to have simply been in the right place at the right time. According to his own account, he founded the group in Turkey after being “compelled” by Syrians’ wartime stories.
Despite founding the White Helmets in Turkey, he raised $300,000 in seed funding provided by the UK, the U.S. and Japan, which Le Mesurier apparently had no trouble scrounging up. The $123 million dollars that was funneled soon after to the organization by the U.S. and UK governments, along with Western NGOs and Qatar, dispels all notion of the organization’s alleged “impartiality” and “non-partisan” stance on the Syrian conflict stated on their website.
He then used it to train 25 “vetted” Syrians “to deal with the chaos erupting around them.” By September of that year, more than 700 “vetted” individuals were believed to have undergone training under Le Mesurier’s supervision.
However, Le Mesurier’s ties to British military intelligence, mercenary groups and involvement in “stabilization activities” and “democratization programs” suggest that his convenient appearance in Istanbul, Turkey is perhaps not too coincidental. As Beeley noted in an interview with MintPress: “there are very few coincidences in the multi-spectrum, hybrid war that has been waged against Syria by the U.S. coalition since 2011.”
Indeed, the White Helmets were founded when the West was losing on both the propaganda and military front regarding the push for regime change and foreign intervention in Syria. More specifically, as Beeley told MintPress, the group’s founding took place just after “the Syrian government had raised concerns about a terrorist chemical weapon attack in Khan Al Asal against the SAA [Syrian Arab Army].”
It should come as no surprise then that, since their founding, the White Helmets have been instrumental in blaming the Syrian government for any and all subsequent chemical weapons attacks in Syria, acting as both witnesses and responders to events that were later proven to be the work of the armed opposition in Syria or staged. As a result, Beeley argued that it’s well within reason to speculate that the White Helmets were explicitly founded with this purpose in mind.
However, it is Le Mesurier himself who shed light on why the White Helmets were formed at such a crucial point for the foreign-funded opposition. As Le Mesurier noted in a speech delivered on June 2015, in “fragile” (i.e. destabilized) states, security actors – such as mercenaries or foreign armies – have the lowest level of public trust. However, Le Mesurier states that in contrast, those professions with the highest level of public trust in such situations are firefighters, paramedics, rescue workers and other similar types of first responders.
Le Mesurier, however, is not the only figure linked to the British military to take such a perspective. UK Admiral Sir Philip Jones, Chief of Naval Staff, stated last year that “the hard punch of military power is often delivered inside the kid glove of humanitarian relief.” It is for this reason that military actions sponsored by the United States and its allies for the past few decades have often been framed as “humanitarian interventions.”
Thus, the White Helmets were seen as a chance to reclaim the trust that the Syrian opposition fighters had lost, as news of their affiliation with terrorist groups began to spread.
In reclaiming that trust in Western audiences, the White Helmets have done nothing to ease the burden of war in Syria, but have fomented it by underpinning the very propaganda that has kept the conflict raging on for over six years, as well as undermined the ability of the Syrian and Russian governments to secure diplomatic alternatives to continued fighting.
Indeed, despite their claim of “impartiality,” the White Helmets were instrumental in Western attempts to bolster international support for Western intervention and a “no-fly zone” in Syria. However, such intervention will bring much more devastation to Syria, something the White Helmets profess to want to end.