Physicians for Human Rights and Propaganda: A Response to “PHR Action—Urgent Need for Justice”

This message to Donna McKay of Physicians for Human Rights has not previously been published. Simran Sachdev, PHR's Online Communications Coordinator, responded by thanking me “for contacting Physicians for Human Rights and sending us feedback; we greatly appreciate hearing from our supporters.” I do not support PHR; nor was my message intended as an April Fool's joke.


Donna McKay,

Executive Director, Physicians for Human Rights 1 April 2015


Dear Donna McKay,

There is indeed an urgent need for justice in Syria. But for action to have any hope of contributing to that goal, it must be informed by an understanding of what has happened there.

As in the case, more recently, of the Maidan movement in Ukraine, a peaceful and pro-democratic civil-society movement was supplanted by violent insurrectionaries who were armed, paid for and trained by the US and its allies. These people turned what began as a pro-democracy movement into a civil war, and the so-called Free Syrian Army rather quickly revealed itself as little more than a front for jihadi extremists: al Nusra, al Qaeda, and ultimately, it seems, ISIL.

I don't doubt for a moment that Syrian government forces have committed appalling war crimes and crimes against humanity—but the notion that the US government has any moral standing in the matter is truly Orwellian. In destroying Syria through proxy forces, the US is implementing a project enunciated more than a decade ago by that notorious war criminal Donald Rumsfeld—and war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria by US proxy forces (including some blamed by US propaganda on the Syrian government) have been well documented.

If the United States wishes there to be accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity, it should begin with the crimes for which it is itself responsible.

If PHR wishes to retain standing as a human rights organization, rather than a mouthpiece for propaganda, it needs to inform itself more thoroughly about the situations in which it wishes to intervene.


Michael Keefer

Professor Emeritus, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontari