The Unz Review • An Alternative Media Selection
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 BlogviewPatrick Cockburn Archive
Syrians Face Calamity as Trump’s Sanctions Mix with Surging Covid-19
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information


Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New ReplyRead More
ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
These buttons register your public Agreement, Disagreement, Thanks, LOL, or Troll with the selected comment. They are ONLY available to recent, frequent commenters who have saved their Name+Email using the 'Remember My Information' checkbox, and may also ONLY be used three times during any eight hour period.
Ignore Commenter Follow Commenter
Search Text Case Sensitive  Exact Words  Include Comments
List of Bookmarks

“If I don’t buy masks or medicine, I may die or survive, but if I don’t buy bread for the family, we will all die of starvation,” says a retired 68-year-old teacher in Damascus, explaining why he does not have masks, sterilisers or medicines. “We need two bundles of loaves every day which costs us at least 600 Syrian pounds (24 US cents), but if we buy masks, they will cost us about 1000 SP (40 cents). The choice is between bread and masks.”

Millions of ordinary Syrians are having to choose between buying food to eat and taking precautionary measures against coronavirus, which local witnesses say is much more widespread than the Syrian government admits.

Poverty and deprivation have worsened dramatically since the US introduced all-embracing sanctions on Syria on 17 June under the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, which Donald Trump signed into law late last year. Named after the individual who documented the murder of thousands of Syrians by the Syrian government (Syrian officials deny the allegations), the legislation is supposedly intended to restrain it from carrying out further acts of repression.

In practice the Caesar Act does little to weaken President Bashar al-Assad and his regime, but it does impose a devastating economic siege on a country where civilians are already ground down by nine years of war and economic embargo. The eight in 10 Syrians who are listed by the UN as falling below the poverty line must now cope with a sudden upsurge in the coronavirus pandemic.

As with UN sanctions imposed on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in the 1990s, the Syrian leadership will be least affected by the new American measures because it controls resources. The real victims are the poor and the powerless who suffer since the price of foodstuffs has risen by 209 per cent in the last year. The cost of a basic food basket is 23.5 times what it was before the start of the Syrian crisis in 2011 according to the World Food Programme (WFP).

Beneath a hypocritical pretence that it is helping ordinary people, the Trump administration is stoking a humanitarian catastrophe in a bid to deny a victory to Russia and Iran, the two main supporters of Assad during the conflict. Confirming this aim, the US special representative for Syria James Jeffrey says that US policy is to turn Syria into “a quagmire” for Russia, like the one the US faced in Vietnam, and to give the US a degree of control over Syria similar to what it had in Japan at the end of the Second World War.

Such aims are dangerously unrealistic as Assad, Russia and Iran have already won the war militarily, but US wishful thinking does have the potential to further devastate the lives of millions of Syrians. Detailed and reliable information has been lacking about how they are surviving, or failing to survive, as the Caesar Act is implanted and the virus spreads. Access to Syria by journalists is limited and news from Syria, however dire, has largely dropped out of the international news agenda because everybody is preoccupied with the progress of the pandemic in their own countries.

A nurse at one of the largest hospitals in Damascus has given The Independent a detailed account of how coronavirus and the Caesar Act are combining to bring fresh disasters to Syria, a country already ruined by nine years of war. Muhanad Shami (which is not his real name) is 28 years old and works in the giant al-Mouwasat University Hospital in Damascus. He speaks graphically and convincingly of the worsening crisis in the Syrian capital and in his own hospital as the virus spreads amid crippling shortages and soaring prices.

“It’s an atmosphere of fear and panic in the hospital,” says Muhanad. “Every day hundreds of sick people come here, most of them suffering from coronavirus symptoms, but the hospital is already full.” Its buildings hold more than a thousand patients, many of them sleeping on mattresses on the floor.

He says that the official numbers of infections announced by the Syrian authorities may be only about 10 per cent of the real figure: “On Friday 14 August, the ministry of health announced only 72 cases in Syria, but in my hospital alone there were about 200 people crowded into the yard nearby and all of them were sick, coughing, with a high temperature, a need for oxygen, and no feeling of taste and smell.” The hospital management only had enough equipment to test three people who all tested positive.

The swift rise in the number infected is scarcely surprising, given that, until recently, the government played down the threat from coronavirus, leading people to take few precautions to avoid catching it. Muhanad says: “Every day, I go to work in a bus or minibus which should carry eleven people, but is mostly crowded with 15 people and I am the only one who wears a mask.” He normally gets a mask and disinfectant from his hospital but, when these are not available, he walks 45 minutes from his flat to the hospital rather than risk being crammed into a bus.

“I am surprised I am not sick so far,” he says. “Maybe it is because I am walking to work most days and sweating and that makes me more immune.” Three doctors and several nurses, two of whom he knew, have died at the hospital, where there is a shortage of masks. “I just wash my hands and drink water every 10 minutes. I spend the day in a state of anxiety.”


Private hospitals are also full up and oxygen cylinders and ventilators often have to be purchased privately. Muhanad says that his “aunt has four children and the whole family are sick with coronavirus, so our relatives living in the United Arab Emirates sent her some money to buy equipment.” She spent about $450 (£345) on medicine, ventilators and oxygen cylinders, but then faced the problem that there is no continuous supply of electricity in Damascus to keep equipment like a ventilator running all the time.

The pandemic strikes at a population already weakened during nine years of war and sanctions – already stringent and economically destructive before the Caesar Act provoked a collapse in the Syrian currency this summer. Muhanad’s monthly salary is the equivalent of $20, which he doubles by taking tips from patients for injections and other medical procedures. He can no longer afford the modest two-room flat he shares with two others, because the landlord is raising their rent by a third: “About four months ago, before the Caesar Act, things were expensive but now they are unaffordable.” He used to buy a kilo of tomatoes for 100 Syrian pounds (4 cents), but since the act the tomatoes are three or four times more expensive, while the cost of a taxi ride has tripled and that of a bus has doubled. There is a cheap government bread ration but enormous queues outside the bakeries.

Muhanad blames the Syrian government for pretending that coronavirus was less widespread than it really was, leading people to crowd together without masks in the markets. He sees the Caesar Act plunging an impoverished people deeper into misery.

The number of Syrians who are food insecure has risen in the last six months by 1.4 million to 9.3 million, more than half the population, according to the WFP. The Caesar Act and coronavirus do not appear to be weakening Assad, Russia and Iran, but there is every sign they are together plunging ordinary Syrians into a deep and lethal quagmire.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
Hide 13 CommentsLeave a Comment
Commenters to FollowEndorsed Only
Trim Comments?
  1. Dan Hayes says:

    James Jeffrey meet Madame Albright, your earlier counterpart in genocide!

  2. Yes, is President Trump and our duplicitous Congress that passed the Caesar Act, not war criminals here?

    The pandemic strikes at a population already weakened during nine years of war and sanctions – already stringent and economically destructive before the Caesar Act provoked a collapse in the Syrian currency this summer.

    Claiming you are helping and protecting a ground down population while in reality undertaking the the Slow Murder of a population through starvation and blockadig a is really appalling, and the ultimate height of treacherous double speak.

    Genocide as plain as day, and doled out by the entire US political establishment of Zionist stooges, Yet no shame, as they continue in their job of serving their money masters.

    Very little news coverage on this. No push back either not by the American liberal democrats (ACO and company, etc), the non-interventionist Right (Tucker Carlson, Pat Buchanan, etc. etc.) , and the fake Christians of most persuasions, and here surely excluding the Zio-vangelical Christian impostors, who are probably on board with depopulating Syria so the Chosenites can take over.

    Of course we know who ordered the Caesar Act, it did not just accidentally happen, nothing does in our Israel First and Pedo-blackmailed Congress. The Silence of our Zio-controlled media is what can be expected —– Move along, Nothing to See Here.

    The Caesar Criminal Act is the final coup de grace the Syrians get for surviving a brutal 9 year invasion by Islamo-mercernaries from the 4 corners of the planet.

    Yes, another Crime Against Humanity, that the American people have gotten placed around their necks.

    • Agree: mark tapley
  3. meamjojo says:

    When I read stories like this, I wonder what is the point of continuing to live? I think that were i in the same situation, I would give up and hope there really is a next and better life.

    P.S. People should stop popping out babies when you can’t feed them.

  4. Sanctions that have effect on whole populations or large subsets of a nation’s populace are crimes against humanity in the very sense outlined in the brief that established the Nuremburg Tribunals.

  5. The Israeli Deep State using Obama, Hillary and Rice kicked it off, Trump continues the genocide because Trump is owned also. This is how the U.S. is used, “Onward Christian Soldiers” indeed.

    All routine, nothing new under the sun.

    • Replies: @mark tapley
  6. George says:

    The good news is covid is a hoax.

    • Agree: mark tapley
  7. Smith says:

    Why can’t China or Russia help?

  8. Thank you for the article, Patrick

  9. Muhanad Shami (which is not his real name)

    LOL. I should believe this story?

    Every day hundreds of sick people come here, most of them suffering from coronavirus symptoms, but the hospital is already full

    Well, that’s what happens when you don’t “flatten the curve”. I read carefully, and no claim is made that anyone actually died, correct me if I’m wrong. Where’s muh mass graves and Chinamen dropping dead in the street?

    So, let me get this straight, in a bombed out Beirut style rubble hospital in a war zone with inadequate supplies, patients on mattresses, NO MASKS!!!, and there is zero deaths from Covid-19?

    I am surprised I am not sick so far

    I’m not surprised at all, actually.

    She spent about $450…ventilators…but then faced the problem that there is no continuous supply of electricity…to keep…a ventilator running all the time.

    Ventilators? That’s so New York in March. Maybe Quomo can send some of the ventilators Trump sent him. Lucky for her the ventilators can’t run, probably saved her life. His aunt didn’t die, right?

    Since Syrians don’t have to wear masks, I wonder how hard it would be to move there?

    • Agree: mark tapley
  10. Jimmy1969 says:

    Israel and their world and American Zionist backers have a lot of bad karma on their backs over Syria.

  11. More propaganda supporting the fake virus. Very few cases of what are called flu are really the flu. The CDC and WHO don’t want you to know this because that would destroy their credibility in promoting the worthless and harmful but profitable vaccine scam. These are the same criminals pushing the fake covid 19 that has not been identified by any real scientific study because they can’t. All that is happening is that every respiratory ailment and lots of everything else is being reported as Covid 19. This is the same scam they used with Swine flu and with the AIDS epidemic. Read the truth about the flu numbers and the CDC coverup from reporter Jon Rappaport:

    In this article, I’m putting together several pieces I wrote in years past, to reveal scandals on a scale most people have never considered.

    Why? Because the credibility of information you’re getting now, from government agencies, about COVID, is connected to the credibility of information you’ve received from the same government agencies in years gone by.

    If they lied to you then—in mind-boggling ways—there is no reason to think they’re telling the truth now.

    Buckle up.

    SCANDAL ONE: In 2013, Dr. Peter Doshi, writing in the online BMJ (British Medical Journal), revealed this monstrosity.

    As Doshi states, every year, hundreds of thousands of respiratory samples are taken from flu patients in the US and tested in labs. Here is the kicker: only a small percentage of these samples show the presence of a flu virus.

    This means: most of the people in America who are diagnosed by doctors with the flu have no flu virus in their bodies.

    So they don’t have the flu.

    Therefore, even if you assume the flu vaccine is useful and safe, it couldn’t possibly prevent all those “flu cases” that aren’t flu cases.

    The vaccine couldn’t possibly work.

    The vaccine isn’t designed to prevent fake flu, unless pigs can fly.

    Here’s the exact quote from Peter Doshi’s BMJ review, “Influenza: marketing vaccines by marketing disease” (BMJ 2013; 346:f3037):

    “…even the ideal influenza vaccine, matched perfectly to circulating strains of wild influenza and capable of stopping all influenza viruses, can only deal with a small part of the ‘flu’ problem because most ‘flu’ appears to have nothing to do with influenza. Every year, hundreds of thousands of respiratory specimens are tested across the US. Of those tested, on average 16% are found to be influenza positive.

    “…It’s no wonder so many people feel that ‘flu shots’ don’t work: for most flus, they can’t.”

    Because most diagnosed cases of the flu aren’t the flu.

    So even if you’re a true believer in mainstream vaccine theory, you’re on the short end of the stick here. They’re conning your socks off.

    But the mainstream press can’t report any of this.

    It would topple the flu-treatment money machine. It would topple public health agencies.

    SCANDAL TWO: Widely reported in the press, health authorities admit the seasonal flu vaccine may be only 10% effective in a given year.

    But of course, they urge you to take the vaccine anyway.

    Why is this vaccine ineffective? Because it’s made using chicken eggs, and researchers have discovered that the flu virus—which is placed in the vaccine—mutates in chicken eggs.

    Therefore, by the time a person takes the flu shot, he’s not being protected against this year’s seasonal flu virus. He’s being protected against a mutated virus that isn’t causing the flu this year.

    This is the conventional explanation. If you think it’s the whole story, I have condos for sale on the moon.

    You see, vaccines have been made using chicken eggs…for the past 70 years.


    That would mean the flu vaccine has been ineffective for decades.

    Healthline[dot]com: “The majority of flu vaccines are grown in chicken eggs, a method of vaccine development that’s been used for 70 years.”

    SCANDAL THREE: In December of 2005, the British Medical Journal (online) published another shocking Peter Doshi report, which created tremors through the halls of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), where “the experts” used to tell the press that 36,000 people in the US die every year from the flu.

    Here is a quote from Doshi’s report, “Are US flu death figures more PR than science?” (BMJ 2005; 331:1412):

    “[According to CDC statistics], ‘influenza and pneumonia’ took 62,034 lives in 2001—61,777 of which were attributable to pneumonia and 257 to flu, and in only 18 cases was the flu virus positively identified.”


    You see, the CDC created one overall category that combines both flu and pneumonia deaths. Why do they do this? Because they disingenuously assume that the pneumonia deaths are complications stemming from the flu.

    This is an absurd assumption. Pneumonia has a number of causes.

    But even worse, in all the flu and pneumonia deaths, only 18 revealed the presence of an influenza virus.

    Therefore, the CDC could not say, with assurance, that more than 18 people died of influenza in 2001. Not 36,000 deaths. 18 deaths.

    Doshi continued his assessment of published CDC flu-death statistics: “Between 1979 and 2001, [CDC] data show an average of 1348 [flu] deaths per year (range 257 to 3006).” These figures refer to flu separated out from pneumonia.

    This death toll is obviously far lower than the old parroted 36,000 figure.

    However, when you add the sensible condition that lab tests have to actually find the flu virus in patients, the numbers of flu deaths plummet even further.

    In other words, it’s all promotion and hype.

    “Well, uh, we used to say that 36,000 people die from the flu every year in the US. But actually, all we can prove is about 20 deaths. However, we can’t admit that, because if we did, we’d be exposing our gigantic psyop. The whole campaign to scare people into getting a flu shot would have about the same effect as warning people to carry iron umbrellas, in case toasters fall out of upper-story windows…and, by the way, we’d be put in prison for fraud.”

    SCANDAL FOUR: The so-called Swine Flu pandemic of 2009. This one is a real eye-opener. The CDC was caught with its pants down.

    Swine Flu was hyped to the sky by the CDC. The Agency was calling for all Americans to take the Swine Flu vaccine. Remember?

    The problem was, the CDC was concealing a very dirty secret.

    At the time, star CBS investigative reporter, Sharyl Attkisson, was working on the Swine Flu story. She discovered that the CDC had secretly stopped counting cases of the illness—while, of course, continuing to warn Americans about its unchecked spread.

    Understand that the CDC’s main job is counting cases and reporting the numbers.

    What was the Agency up to?

    Here is an excerpt from my 2014 interview with Sharyl Attkisson:

    Rappoport: In 2009, you spearheaded coverage of the so-called Swine Flu pandemic. You discovered that, in the summer of 2009, the Centers for Disease Control, ignoring their federal mandate, [secretly] stopped counting Swine Flu cases in America. Yet they continued to stir up fear about the “pandemic,” without having any real measure of its impact. Wasn’t that another investigation of yours that was shut down? Wasn’t there more to find out?

    Attkisson: The implications of the story were even worse than that. We discovered through our FOI efforts that before the CDC mysteriously stopped counting Swine Flu cases, they had learned that almost none of the cases they had counted as Swine Flu was, in fact, Swine Flu or any sort of flu at all! The interest in the story from one [CBS] executive was very enthusiastic. He said it was “the most original story” he’d seen on the whole Swine Flu epidemic. But others pushed to stop it [after it was published on the CBS News website] and, in the end, no [CBS television news] broadcast wanted to touch it. We aired numerous stories pumping up the idea of an epidemic, but not the one that would shed original, new light on all the hype. It was fair, accurate, legally approved and a heck of a story. With the CDC keeping the true Swine Flu stats secret, it meant that many in the public took and gave their children an experimental vaccine that may not have been necessary.

    —end of interview excerpt—

    It was routine for doctors all over America to send blood samples from patients they’d diagnosed with Swine Flu, or the “most likely” Swine Flu patients, to labs for testing. And overwhelmingly, those samples were coming back with the result: not Swine Flu, not any kind of flu.

    That was the big secret. That’s what the CDC was hiding. That’s why they stopped reporting Swine Flu case numbers. That’s what Attkisson had discovered. That’s why she was shut down.

    But it gets even worse.

    Because about three weeks after Attkisson’s findings were published on the CBS News website, the CDC, obviously in a panic, decided to double down. If one lie is exposed, tell an even bigger one. A much bigger one.

    Here, from a November 12, 2009, WebMD article is the CDC’s response: “Shockingly, 14 million to 34 million U.S. residents – the CDC’s best guess is 22 million – came down with H1N1 swine flu by Oct. 17 [2009].” (“22 million cases of Swine Flu in US,” by Daniel J. DeNoon).

    Are your eyeballs popping? They should be.

    In the summer of 2009, the CDC secretly stops counting Swine Flu cases in America, because the overwhelming percentage of lab tests from likely Swine Flu patients shows no sign of Swine Flu or any other kind of flu.

    There is no Swine Flu epidemic.

    Then, the CDC estimates there are 22 MILLION cases of Swine Flu in the US.

    SCANDAL FIVE: This one involves a vaccine manufacturer. It goes back to at least 2016, and it keeps unfolding.

    —The Philippines, where drug giant Sanofi’s Dengvaxia, was given to prevent Dengue Fever. Sanofi is facing enormous pushback from government officials, who stopped the national vaccination campaign, after thousands of children already received the shot.

    The issue? Safety.

    FiercePharma: “The Philippines stopped vaccinations shortly after the company warned that Dengvaxia can cause more serious infections in those who previously hadn’t had exposure to the virus. The country also kicked off a probe and plans legal action, according to health secretary Francisco Duque.”

    Did you get that? The company (Sanofi) itself warned that vaccine might not be safe.

    FiercePharma: “…the [Philippine] Department of Health didn’t heed warnings from an advisory group of doctors and pharmacologists, who concluded early last year that the vaccine’s safety and efficacy were unproven.”

    My, my.

    But let’s dig even deeper. Sanofi saying is saying the vaccine might be dangerous for those who haven’t been exposed to the Dengue virus before getting the shot. What on Earth does that mean?

    It means a child who had naturally come in contact with the virus would have developed his own antibodies to it. And later, those antibodies would protect him against the Dengue virus IN THE VACCINE. Otherwise, the virus in the vaccine could give him a case of Dengue or cause some other form of damage.

    This is saying, “If a child is ALREADY immune to Dengue Fever, because his immune system has successfully dealt with the virus, then the vaccine won’t damage him.”

    And THAT is saying, “If the child has naturally developed an immunity to Dengue, then the vaccine, WHICH HE DOESN’T NEED, won’t harm him.”

    Of course, the press isn’t getting the picture. If any reporters are seeing the light, they’re keeping their mouths shut. The scandal is too big and too crazy.

    Between the lines, a vaccine company is admitting their vaccine is only safe for children who don’t need it.

    A tree just fell in the forest. Who heard it?

    Mainstream reporters don’t want to uncover the true meaning of vaccine scandals. Therefore, they cultivate ignorance as a defense against admitting their own unconscionable bias. And that’s the essence of their own mental “vaccine,” which works very well. For them.

    These five scandals, as boggling as they are, are just a brief sampling from the recent history of governments and pharma.

    History matters.

    The titanic load of nonsense and lies about COVID now being dropped on the population is one more chapter of business as usual:

    In 2019, a new and unique coronavirus was discovered through the application of proper scientific procedures. LIE.

    The diagnostic test (PCR) is dependable and highly accurate. LIE.

    The case numbers and deaths numbers are accurate and meaningful. LIE.

    The containment measures are effective. LIE.

    The destruction of national economies, through lockdowns, is necessary. LIE.

  12. @Jim Christian

    All part of the Yinnon plan for Greater that began with execution of the 30 year plan for 911 and then Saddam’s WMD’s. The goal is to balkanize and break up all non cooperative Arab Nations so that the Kazar thugs and their Zionist satellite Jewmerica will gain total control of the worlds most strategic geographic position. This will also allow them to control energy delivery, pipeline transportation coming from Asia, Africa and the Indian Ocean across Afghanistan and through the Syria, Iran region. The Zionist aim to control all land, minerals, resources, energy, financial capital and the human livestock to be placed in the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Initiative Agenda 2030. This is the reason for the fake virus fraud. If the Zionists can generate enough fear of “the virus” then what they perceive as livestock will be more easily coerced into giving up their natural rights to the global elite and their Neo-feudalism of tyranny.

Current Commenter

Leave a Reply - Comments on articles more than two weeks old will be judged much more strictly on quality and tone

 Remember My InformationWhy?
 Email Replies to my Comment
Submitted comments have been licensed to The Unz Review and may be republished elsewhere at the sole discretion of the latter
Subscribe to This Comment Thread via RSS Subscribe to All Patrick Cockburn Comments via RSS
Personal Classics
Full Story of the Taliban's Amazing Jailbreak
"They Can't Even Protect Themselves, So What Can They Do For Me?"
"All Hell is Breaking Loose with Muqtada" Warlord: the Rise of Muqtada al-Sadr