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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Syria: At what point is the "C word" justified?

Update: Russia makes its move. Russia is sending an anti-submarine ship and missile cruiser into the Mediterranean, and they're making it fairly clear that this move is in response to Obama's likely strike against Syria. Will the administration go through with that attack -- even though the public clearly is opposed, and even though this move could spark a third World War?

Also, there are now clear indications that the Labour party in the U.K. isn't buying it. They want hard evidence that the Syrian government was behind the use of chemical weaponry in Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus.

The launch site. The NYT may have spilled the beans. Our newspaper of record reported that the rockets carrying chemical weaponry were launched from the Qaboun/Jobar area. What the NYT doesn't tell you is that the anti-Assad rebels control this area.

Who do you trust? This blog republishes an interesting paragraph from a Wall Street Journal article hidden behind a pay wall:
One crucial piece of the emerging case came from Israeli spy services, which provided the Central Intelligence Agency with intelligence from inside an elite special Syrian unit that oversees Mr. Assad's chemical weapons, Arab diplomats said. The intelligence, which the CIA was able to verify, showed that certain types of chemical weapons were moved in advance to the same Damascus suburbs where the attack allegedly took place a week ago, Arab diplomats said.
The Arab diplomats are probably Saudi; I doubt that the WSJ would give any other Arabs much respect. Previously we were led to believe that the intel came from intercepted phone conversations involving a Syrian defense official. Now we learn that the Israelis may have a "man inside." (Or maybe we're talking about a computer trojan. The Israelis are good at that sort of thing.)

But can we trust the Israeli spooks to give us accurate information? I wish that those who say "yes" would first read Ostrovsky's books.

As noted above, the rockets appear to have been launched from a Damascus suburb controlled by the rebels.

Meanwhile, the Syrian ambassador says that Britain has conspired with the Syrian rebels.
However, in an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Bashar Ja’afari made the outlandish claim that David Cameron’s government had in fact supplied Syrian opposition forces with the necessary arms in an attempt to fool the world.

“The delivery system was offered by Britain,” said Mr Ja’afari, who described the attack as a “heinous crime” committed by “terrorists”.
Is this claim truly more outlandish than the idea that the pro-Assad forces -- who were winning the war -- would launch a militarily useless CW attack on a civilian population just a couple of miles away from a UN inspection team? An attack seemingly designed to force Obama to intervene on the side of the rebels? An attack that might have killed Assad's own troops if the wind had misbehaved?

Thankfully, Britain is waiting for the release of the UN's report on the CW attacks. Obama himself is starting to signal hesitation. Perhaps he and David Cameron are starting to worry that this thing could blow up in their faces.

The range of permissible opinion. Teeveeland pundits often present us with a false dichotomy in which no-one is allowed to mention the option favored the majority. For example, during the health care debate, nobody "serious" was allowed to discuss nationalized health insurance, even though polls indicated that the majority of the citizenry favored that solution. Now it's happening again.

As you know, every poll indicates that most Americans want to stay out of Syria's civil war. Nevertheless, CNN broadcast a Crossfire-type debate on the Syrian issue in which both the liberal and the conservative proclaimed support for the war option. The only disagreement was over how much war.

Here's what the conservative spokesperson, S.E. Cupp, had to say:
We should absolutely intervene to stop the genocide of more than 100,000 people. We should absolutely intervene to stop Al-Qaeda and Islamic extremism from jihadizing yet another conflict. It is absolutely our obligation, and instead we do the bare minimum to save face and pat ourselves on the back for our civility and our diplomacy. I think it's pathetic.
What hallucinatory nonsense! For ages now, the US has been supplying the Al Qaeda-linked Al Nusra front, because they're the toughest, most ruthless fighters against the Assad regime. The rebels are the jihadis. Assad may be an asshole, but he's not a jihadi.

And there you have American politics in a nutshell. On one hand, we have Establishment "liberals" who offer watered-down versions of conservative policies, and on the other hand we have a cavalcade from Crazyland. Non-crazies vote for the sell-out liberals because the sell-out liberals make an effort to sound rational.

Taking Al Qaeda's side. At least Robert Fisk understands the truth about the Syrian rebels...
While the Americans drone al-Qa’ida to death in Yemen and Pakistan – along, of course, with the usual flock of civilians – they will be giving them, with the help of Messrs Cameron, Hollande and the other Little General-politicians, material assistance in Syria by hitting al-Qa’ida’s enemies. Indeed, you can bet your bottom dollar that the one target the Americans will not strike in Syria will be al-Qa’ida or the Nusra front.
Fisk seems to suspect that we've not been told the truth about the CW attacks...
In Iraq, we went to war on the basis of lies originally uttered by fakers and conmen. Now it’s war by YouTube. This doesn’t mean that the terrible images of the gassed and dying Syrian civilians are false. It does mean that any evidence to the contrary is going to have to be suppressed. For example, no-one is going to be interested in persistent reports in Beirut that three Hezbollah members – fighting alongside government troops in Damascus – were apparently struck down by the same gas on the same day, supposedly in tunnels. They are now said to be undergoing treatment in a Beirut hospital. So if Syrian government forces used gas, how come Hezbollah men might have been stricken too? Blowback?
I believe Fisk is referring to this story...
BEIRUT: At least four Hezbollah fighters are receiving treatment in Beirut after coming into contact with chemical agents in Syria, a security source told The Daily Star Monday.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said between four and five members came into contact with the chemical agents while searching a group of rebel tunnels in the Damascus suburb of Jobar over the weekend.

On Saturday, Syrian state television said Syrian soldiers found chemical agents in Jobar and that some had suffocated while entering the tunnels.

The Hezbollah fighters were transported to Lebanon for treatment and are currently in a Beirut hospital in stable condition, the source said.

The source did not say what the chemical agent the fighters encountered was except that it was dispersed in the form of a gas.
This is another piece of evidence indicating that the rebels had CW stockpiles.

How many died? The CW attacks in Ghouta are starting to seem a little Jonestown-y. Why, at this stage, do we still have such a wide variance in the reported numbers of victims? If you look at the Wikipedia entry, you'll note that the numbers range from 322 deaths to 1,729 deaths. The lower number comes from the anti-Assad Syrian Observatory for Human Rights while the higher number comes from the Free Syrian Army.

As you will recall, the FSA earlier gifted us with an absurd story about the the toxic weapon being a (nonexistent) Russian nerve compound called SC3 mixed with "Iranian" liquid ammonia. (Because everyone knows that all the best liquid ammonia comes from Iran. It's sort of like Afghanistan and lapis lazuli.)

How to compound the mistake. Conservative ranters have demanded that the United States bomb Syrian chemical weapon storage facilities. Here's the problem with that idea...
The US has in the past bombed chemical weapons stockpiles, and US destroyers are in range. But a low-intensity explosion, Guthrie says, will release chemicals, and some stockpiles could well be in populated areas. A high-energy blast still won't incinerate all the chemicals but it will lift any intact agents high up where they can spread hundreds of kilometres. Both types of strike are likely to kill people in the vicinity.

A study published last December shows that the bombing of Iraq's extensive chemical weapons plants early in the Gulf War in 1991 released sarin over military encampments 600 kilometres away, at doses Robert Haley of the University of Texas in Dallas says caused characteristic Gulf War illnesses and brain damage. Soldiers who were exposed were four times as likely to have symptoms as those who weren't.
That's one hell of an oops.
I don't know why but this morning there was a distinct change of tone when it comes to a Syrian strike. Can't figure it out. Could be the Russians or the Arab League pushing back. I heard on MSNBC hat the Jordanians were none too happy with the prospect of Syrian involvement at this juncture. Cameron has put the brakes on, taking the debate to Parliament. The opposition is raising hell.

So . . . maybe there's hope that these rattling sabers will be quieted. Being 'kind of sure' about who or what used those CWs is simply not good enough. And without concrete proof, a military strike would be counterproductive. Not to mention insane.

Doesn't say much about this gazillion dollar intelligence structure we're suppose to have. Of course, when you spend your time spying on your own citizens you're distracted when these global questions pop up.

POTUS says he hasn't made a decision yet. I say, thank God. This is one instance where I'm all for Obama's indecision.

The same ol' let's-go-kill-more-Muslims faction (and Joseph knows and fears exactly who I mean, since he reluctantly deleted my last post) that orchestrated all the other Yank/Brit-committed atrocities, following the 9/11 false flag, just seemed about to get their bloodthirsty wish.

Then their puppet Cameron ran into a distressing bump in the Parliamentary road. But the "faction" won't give up so easily. Maybe it will take some more of their patented Wikileaks/NSA/GCHQ blackmail to turn the trick on recalcitrant pols and/or UN inspectors, but the ancient desire to do more "blood sacrifrice" always wins out in the end.
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