No one is safe — not even in Minnesota — from the long arm of Saudi intelligence.
Publish something that offends Prince Bandar bin Sultan and your career might be destroyed, perhaps even your life will be in danger — at least that’s the picture currently be conjured up by Mnar Muhawesh, executive director and editor at large for MintPress News. No doubt these fears resonate with all those lonely individuals who have taken it upon themselves to challenge the political establishment in the United States and the Middle East.
However, whether Mint Press and one of its reporters, Dale Gavlak, have indeed provoked Prince Bandar’s wrath by alleging his involvement in the August chemical attacks outside Damascus, he probably doesn’t need to take any action since the publication and journalist are doing a very effective job at destroying each other.
But let’s backtrack a bit and let Clay Claiborne, in colorful style, sum up how we reached this point:
For three days after the sarin gas attack that murdered over a thousand Syrians, a third of them children, in suburban Damascus on 21 August 2013, the Assad Regime denied that any such attack had even happened. As the videos and eyewitness reports began to come out, that position became untenable, so the Assad Regime started saying “Well then, the rebels must have done it.”
The Left and the Peace and Just Us* movement in the United States is so thoroughly infiltrated with Assad apologists, and other opportunists more comfortable in blindfolds, that many readily jumped on this “blame the victims, let Assad off the hook” bandwagon.
I find what these people have been doing, marching under the flag of the fascist dictator and embellishing his trash, despicable.
One of the more popular theories of how the opposition gassed its own people was a story published by Mint Press. This story, in addition to absolving Assad of any responsibility for the attack and putting the blame squarely with the rebels, had many elements in common with the sort of racist saga were the bungling, stupid [sand] niggers, acting at the behest of some rich white Jew, in this case played by the Saudi Prince Bandar, ends up doing themselves in by a stupid accident.
Dale Gavlak’s name appeared in the byline for that story, but she is currently engaged in a legal fight to have her name removed. She tells the New York Times, that MintPress has “refused ‘repeated demands’ to remove her byline from the article and that she has now retained a lawyer to press her case.”
Earlier, Gavlak issued a statement saying:
I did not travel to Syria, have any discussions with Syrian rebels, or do any other reporting on which the article is based. The article is not based on my personal observations and should not be given credence based on my journalistic reputation.
But now Muhawesh has responded:
Gavlak pitched this story to MintPress on August 28th and informed her editors and myself that her colleague Yahya Ababneh [whose name appears after Gavlak's on the byline] was on the ground in Syria. She said Ababneh conducted interviews with rebels, their family members, Ghouta residents and doctors that informed him through various interviews that the Saudis had supplied the rebels with chemical weapons and that rebel fighters handled the weapons improperly setting off the explosions.
When Yahya had returned and shared the information with her, she stated that she confirmed with several colleagues and Jordanian government officials that the Saudis have been supplying rebels with chemical weapons, but as her email states, she says they refused to go on the record.
Gavlak wrote the article in it’s entirety as well as conducted the research. She filed her article on August 29th and was published on the same day.
Dale is under mounting pressure for writing this article by third parties. She notified MintPress editors and myself on August 30th and 31st via email and phone call, that third parties were placing immense amounts of pressure on her over the article and were threatening to end her career over it. She went on to tell us that she believes this third party was under pressure from the head of the Saudi Intelligence Prince Bandar himself, who is alleged in the article of supplying the rebels with chemical weapons.
One of the principle websites which helped bring widespread attention to the original MintPress story was Antiwar.com. They have now issued a “Retraction and Apology to Our Readers for Mint Press Article on Syria Gas Attack.”
The staff of Antiwar.com sincerely and deeply apologizes for being a part of spreading this article. We also apologize to Dale Gavlak.
Gavlak’s disavowal of the story is somewhat undermined by an email she sent to MintPress on August 29 and which she shared with Brown Moses Blog:
Pls find the Syria story I mentioned uploaded on Google Docs. This should go under Yahya Ababneh’s byline. I helped him write up his story but he should get all the credit for this.
The New York Times adds:
The dispute over the article has caused even some contributors to MintPress to ask questions about its mission and how it is financed. Steve Horn, an investigative reporter based in Madison, Wis., said in an e-mail that he has decided to cut ties to the news site as a result of Ms. Gavlak’s objections to how her name was used. “I departed because I feel I was misled about the credibility of the article — which I trusted largely because Dale’s name was on it — and because of that, I no longer feel it’s a credible outlet. Frankly, I’m not sure it ever was.”
The thing to not lose sight of here, is that the MintPress story at the center of this fight contained nothing more than rumors.
Rumors can turn out to be true if they lead to an investigation that reveals substantive facts. But this has been the feature of the rebel-instigated-chemical-attack narrative from beginning to end — it has been propelled and propagated without any credible supporting evidence. Moreover, those pushing the narrative have shown an unconscionable lack of interest in evidence, allowing themselves to become enslaved to their own ideological convictions.