From the Kosovo Protection Corps in the Balkans to the White Helmets of Syria, a group of well-connected people with the fundings of governments and elite billionaires have sought to wage a war on public opinion and have recently exploited Jo Cox’s death to do so.
by Vanessa Beeley and Whitney Webb
Part 7 - A closer look at Crisis Action
The smart-power complex that generates support for the White Helmets is vast and powerful. At the center of the NGO Hydra is an organization that remains in the shadows, a more clandestine behavioral insight guru that motivates and directs other members of the cartel, rather than taking center stage.
Crisis Action brings together Tim Dixon, Gemma Mortensen and Brendan Cox, who was instrumental in the incubation of this influential body of policy makers. Cox was executive director from June 2006 to January 2009. As Gemma Mortensen says, “We [Crisis Action] need to stay behind the scenes because that is the way in which partners will genuinely see that we are in it for the benefit of the collective work, not to promote ourselves”
Gemma Mortensen was with Crisis Action from August 2006 to August 2015. She joined in 2006 as a Senior Political Analyst and progressed to U.K. Director, before becoming Executive Director in 2009. Crisis Action describes itself as a “global network of the leading human rights, humanitarian and foreign policy organizations; harnessing their expertise to mount joint campaigns to ensure world leaders uphold their collective obligations to protect civilians in situations of conflict.” Another catalyst for global change in a direction that will be governed by the sponsors’ objectives.
In 2013 Crisis Action was awarded a Ford Foundation grant as one of the seven NGOs to reshape the global human rights movement. Its “innovative model for conflict prevention” has been recognized by the 2012 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions and the 2013 Skoll Foundation Award for Social Entrepreneurship. According to the Crisis Action annual report for 2017, Mabel Van Oranje is on the Board, thus almost closing the circle of the Jo Cox Fund originators’ involvement in this behind-the-scenes conflict “management” team.
Crisis Action partners are an impressive collection of “all the big human rights organizations,” including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Oxfam, Save the Children, Mercy Corps, International Crisis Group, and many more NGOs that work as extensions of U.S./U.K. state foreign policy in a chosen conflict zone. In fact, the Crisis Action network is one of the most expansive webs of the NGOs prevalent in providing cover for multiple regime-change wars.
Among te Syria-related NGOs we find: Syria Campaign, Avaaz, 38 Degrees (branch of Avaaz), UN Foundation, Mosaic Syria, Chatham House, InterAction. These also include the Muslim Council of Britain, heavily influenced by Islamist organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood, which have long been an instrument of destabilization in Syria and the region for the U.S. coalition.
Many of these Crisis Action partners were listed as supporters of the White Helmets in the run-up to the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016, when the White Helmets failed in their bid to join such luminaries as Henry Kissinger and Barack Obama on the Nobel Peace Prize podium. Many observers were horrified to see Greenpeace (member of the Crisis Action coalition) publicly support the White Helmets.
When members of the public wrote to Greenpeace to question its judgment, they all received a standard response. This response, that basically dismisses criticism of the White Helmets as being generated by the “extreme right” or “supporters of Syria or Russia”, is the same argument used across all platforms defending the White Helmets. This uniformity of response might suggest that it is coming from a central source, perhaps the “friends at the Syria Campaign”, and being fed to the organizations caught wittingly or unwittingly in the web of the anti-Syria soft power complex.
Greenpeace appeared to make no effort to engage with the questions, the evidence presented or the concerns of the public regarding the White Helmets. If the response is indicative of Greenpeace’s actual position, at the very least that is negligence on their part, at worst they must be considered to be compromised by their association with Crisis Action. As a major behavior influencing organization, Greenpeace owes it to their public sponsors to not mislead or misrepresent events in Syria. Particularly when that misrepresentation will inevitably support narratives provided by the White Helmets, designed to maintain external military and economic pressure upon Syria and its allies and to prolong the war, rather than foster peace.
“Thanks for your message. I’m sorry to hear that you disagree with us posting about the work of the White Helmets.
We have looked at the claims made against the White Helmets, but found a lack of evidence and inconsistency in the allegations. Opposition also seems to be based on opposition to NATO policy, which in turn seems to be based on support for the Syrian government and the Russians.
The people making these claims are also questionable. For example, extreme right wing US politician Ron Paul, who thinks global warming is a hoax.
The White Helmets have the support of our friends at the Syria Campaign, and also the late MP Jo Cox, who was very knowledgeable on these issues. They also have 133 organisations backing their bid for the Nobel Peace Prize, which includes a number of highly respected organisations from around the world.” (emphasis added)
The list of the organizations and individuals backing the White Helmets is certainly impressive and comprises many key actors from the Crisis Action NGO pool or those otherwise linked to Jo Cox. Another example of the exploitation of the murder of Jo Cox and the harnessing of her high profile and contacts to expand the support base for the U.K/U.S. White Helmet project in Syria. The Crisis Action machiavellian efforts certainly seem to have paid dividends for the White Helmets and their backers. Would we see such efforts being made for Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) or even for the REAL Syria Civil Defence, whose name has been stolen by the White Helmets and their marketing teams?
Asaad Hanna, the White Helmet Media and Advocacy Manager, is a regular contributor to Chatham House, according to his own CV. Chatham House is a U.K. government-linked policy influencer that has consistently promoted the White Helmets, even screening their Oscar-winning Netflix Documentary in October 2016, despite the mounting controversy surrounding the group of questionable “humanitarians.”
It is noteworthy that Hanna states that he is “managing a team of 150 media people in Syria and the office of the headquarters out of Syria.” As Peter Ford, former U.K. ambassador to Syria from 2003 to 2006, pointed out in Whitewashing the White Helmets: “They [the White Helmets] have a press department 150 strong, bigger than that for the whole of the UK ambulance service.”
InterAction, another “united voice for global change” and Crisis Action partner, was on the verge of giving Raed Saleh, leader of the White Helmets, the 2016 “Humanitarian Award” when he was unexpectedly deported from Dulles Airport because of his “extremist connections.”
Crisis Action lays claim to being a member of the NPIC (Not for Profit Industrial Complex) while stating: “We receive financial support from a range of foundations, governments and private individuals, many of which provide unrestricted multi-year funding. In addition, all of Crisis Action’s core partners make an annual financial contribution, with the exception of those located in the Global South.”
Crisis Action plays a pivotal role in swaying policy makers towards the agenda of their powerful donors and sponsors, which include Ford Foundation, Humanity Utd, Rockefeller Foundation, Skoll Foundation, George Soros Open Society Foundation, Sundance Institute, and a number of other major foundations. Canada, Sweden, Norway and Switzerland sponsor Crisis Action via their foreign affairs ministries.
According to its report and statements from its sponsors, Crisis Action has heavily influenced and covertly managed events in Sudan, Congo, Gaza, Afghanistan, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Libya and Syria.Crisis Action claims to amplify the voices of Syrian heroes — which include the White Helmets, lauded by Crisis Action as an “awe inspiring feature of the last six years”. This will be further explored in Part 3.
As already mentioned, Crisis Action supported the White Helmet nomination for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize, which “they sadly didn’t win” and celebrated the Oscar win for the Netflix documentary. Crisis Action worked with partners to secure a series of high-level meetings for the White Helmets in Brussels, Paris and London. Is this the extreme level of PR marketing and brand management we should expect for a “grass-roots” bunch of “bakers, tailors, engineers, students, carpenters, painters and pharmacists,” as the script goes?
With emphasis added, the Crisis Action Report states: “Crisis Action was privileged to work with the White Helmets, providing them platforms to engage decision-makers from Berlin to Washington DC. Their powerful testimony of their work put a human face on a grim conflict, shattering the prejudice that all Syrians are refugees or rebels, and motivating politicians and individuals to act on Syria who wouldn’t have done so otherwise.”
Crisis Action also collaborated with Bond, which is the umbrella group for British overseas development agencies, “to help shape a vision for Britain’s role in the world, post-Brexit. In the face of growing nationalism and antipathy towards immigrants,” Bond and Crisis Action collaborated to help their “partners” to influence the U.K.’s main political parties on the refugee crisis, aid, and climate change.
Ciaran Norris was political affairs advisor at Bond from 2014 to 2016, before he became director of the Rising Global Peace Forum (RGPF) from 2016 to 2017. Norris is currently head of external affairs at Oxfam. While Director at RGPF, Norris awarded the Peace Prize in 2016 to Jo Cox and the White Helmets: “The volunteers of Syria Civil Defence (aka The White Helmets) and the late Labour MP Jo Cox – who championed their heroism amongst so many other causes – are the perfect examples of people dedicated to peace. In our view, there could be no more deserving recipients for this prize and it is all the more significant that we recognise them together.”
A #LoveLikeJo tribute video emerged from this prize-giving ceremony, featuring Alison McGovern MP, White Helmet Munir Mustafa, and Nick Martlew, and was chaired by Norris. The panel reflected on the life of Jo Cox bringing the White Helmets more publicly into the fold of the global change manufacturers.
Munir Mustafa has since featured in Robert Stuart’s forensic investigation into BBC Panorama’s “Saving Syria’s Children” that has caused substantial waves among corporate media hierarchy in the U.K. Stuart’s work has involved “analysis of the 30 September 2013 BBC Panorama documentary ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ and related BBC News reports, contending that sequences filmed by BBC personnel and others at Atareb Hospital, Aleppo on 26 August 2013 purporting to show the aftermath of an incendiary bomb attack on a nearby school are largely, if not entirely, staged.” As a part of his investigation, Stuart exposed Mustafa as having connections to armed, extremist groups in areas occupied by the White Helmets. This inconvenient truth was overlooked by the organizers of the RGPF.
The global policy-influencing market is a very lucrative one for the board members and employees of Crisis Action. According to its 2017 annual report, Crisis Action received £3.1 million from its government and foundation sponsors. Their salaries and related costs came to a whopping £2.33 million, a huge percentage of their income.