Nov 10 (7/7): White Helmets & Free Burma Rangers

So I wanted to make a post about the White Helmets. There are good reasons that make sense for why they’re not getting the press that the Free Burma Rangers are getting.

But that doesn’t make it fair. Meet the White Helmets:

White Helmets Twitter

The easiest way to explain why they are so amazing is to explain why they are not as famous right now in the coverage of this conflict.

tl;dr: They don’t have the epic heroic narrative that the FBR have, they are just grinders. I mean, just compare the names and insignia of the two groups: Which one is working class hero and which one is action hero?

The Free Burma Rangers:

The Free Burma Rangers are led by David Eubank, a straight white cis devout Christian ex-Special Forces family man who drives into combat zones, shouts Cover Me! as he runs through kill-zones to pull women and children out of rubble and then afterwards turns to the camera and tells Donald Trump that he loves him, he’s praying for him, and we could sure use your help.*

This is fantasy stuff. He’s Frank Dux with a stethoscope.

Moreover, the FBR are operating in the northeast where the conflict has much more of a graspable “sides” aspect. For whatever reason, one side is shelling civilians and striking the ambulances that our heroes are using to try to save people. This is a very easy moral narrative to get.

And for these reasons, among others, FBR have been getting a lot of press. In that vein, Eubanks is sometimes a bit theatrical, but that is also crucial to his mission, as he wants to get the message out of the war crimes and, probably more importantly to him, the humanitarian crisis on the ground; the videos and the story are essential to that effort.

A couple of days ago, one of the FBR, Zau Seng, was killed by Turkish forces’ shelling; FBR Tweeted out the video of the local  ceremonies honoring him.

Deep blue hero shit.

Nobody fantasizes about being a White Helmet.

The White Helmets:

Their story begins and ends with: Their conflict sucks. The moral story sucks too, or, at least, isn’t as epic. This is because the war in western Syria doesn’t have clear boundaries whereby aid workers move in and then escape. In Idlib, where the White Helmets operate, their stuck in the middle of relentless grinding desperation at all times.

At first, there were all sorts of rebel groups, many really punk rock and with liberal democratic aims, while others sought an Islamic ethnic state. And all sorts of variations on each theme. Which is also what brought al Qaeda, ISIS, and so forth. It is now widely understood that the SNA—the Syrian rebel umbrella group—has become “laced with jihadism”; heck, until recently their men kept posting pics and videos about it.

So the conflict is Assad’s Syrian quasi-Islamic post-Stalinist Arab regime pitted against Syrian jihadis. Though many on the ground fighting against Assad firmly believe in the righteousness of that cause, in and of itself, as a story, that’s not great.

It’s both more savage and does not have the same heroic narrative; indeed, there is no discernible morally preferable “side” to the conflict. This conflict, growing out of 2011’s Arab Spring, is Syria against Syrian rebels; Syrian against Syrian. It’s a mess on the ground.

That it’s closer to Damascus with heavier concentrations of armor and artillery, plus the Syrian Arab Army and Russia bombing them to in some cases the actual Stone Age just makes it more brutal.

And that’s what the White Helmets operate in. All the videos of them are them running around in crisis where everybody is getting wrecked and doing the best they can, trying to save as many lives as they can.

Translation (Google): Two children were killed and 7 civilians were injured, including a member of the Civil Defense and his family, on Thursday, as a result of an airstrike of al-Assad’s warplanes that targeted the houses of civilians in Meshmshan town of western Idlib countryside. ⁧#الخوذ_البيضاء

Translation (Google): A civil defense volunteer rescues his mother … and retrieves the bodies of two children from his relatives after the destruction of their home by al-Assad’s aviation in the town of Mashmshan in the western countryside of Idlib this afternoon. There is no more pain ….. ⁧#الخوذ_البيضاء⁩

They’re fucking incredible.

*It might be noteworthy that at the end of his most recent video where he recounted the death of his friend and fellow FBR, Eubank did not address Trump. He looked rather furious.

What’s it take to piss a guy like that off?

One thought on “Nov 10 (7/7): White Helmets & Free Burma Rangers

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