As horrid as this past year has been, a feeling of solidarity, of community, made the ordeal bearable. We all faced the horrors together. Anyone who detested the Donald could turn to MSNBC or the Colbert show or Democratic Underground to commiserate with the like-minded.
But the Syria strike changed everything. Once more, I find myself staking out the loneliest of positions. Neither the mainstream Dems nor the far-left Dems nor the Trumpers nor the Alex Jonesians (who seem to be distancing themselves from the administration
) nor the anti-Trump Republicans view the situation as I do.
Nevertheless, here I stand; I can do no other.
Assad did not use sarin
against his own people in 2013
; in all likelihood, the rebels were the culprits
. Even though the American intelligence community
did not sign off on the "blame Assad" narrative and even though the NYT eventually backtracked
, "good liberals" like Bill Maher and Rachel Maddow have pronounced Assad guilty of that crime -- and if you doubt his guilt, you must be one of those awful, awful conspiracy nuts.
The 2017 Khan Shaykhun attack has led to an even more egregious rush to judgment. We have gone to war without a legal basis, without a coalition, without presenting a case to the United Nations, without waiting for an objective international body to provide proof of Assad's guilt, without any report to Congress from our own intelligence community. Trump has committed an abominable act.
And liberals are applauding
I suspect but cannot prove that the current Putin/Trump "rift" is pure theater designed to counter the perception that Russian hackers aided Trump's election. The Dems praising Trump's strike on Syria are making a BIG mistake -- a mistake resembling the one committed in 2003.
At least Joan Walsh
shares my unease...
On CNN’s New Day Thursday, global analyst Fareed Zakaria declared, “I think Donald Trump became president of the United States” last night. To his credit, Zakaria has previously called Trump a “bullshit artist” and said, “He has gotten the presidency by bullshitting.” But Zakaria apparently thinks firing missiles make one presidential. On MSNBC, Nicholas Kristof, an aggressive Trump critic, said he “did the right thing” by bombing Syria. Anchor Brian Williams, whose 11th Hour has regularly been critical of Trump, repeatedly called the missiles “beautiful,” to a noisy backlash on Twitter.
Walsh's argument is that Trump has no idea as to what comes next. If chaos follows -- as it likely will -- liberals will now co-own that chaos.
There remains the possibility that some of this is theater. It should be said: Some observers, besides RT, say it’s unproven that the chemical weapons attack came from Assad; rebels could be behind it. There’s also the possibility of a kabuki performance from Trump, Putin, and Assad. We already know the United States warned Putin of the coming missiles, and that Putin warned Assad, whose military moved airplanes and other military equipment away from the intended target. Trump, plummeting in the polls, his domestic health-care and tax plans on the rocks, the investigation into Russian election meddling closing in on his team, really needed a boost; maybe they gave it to him. Trump’s sudden about-face on Syria makes it hard to judge.
What Walsh suggests, I shout.
I'm not alone in shouting these things, although you shouldn't presume that I have any fondness for my co-shouters. Richard Spencer and his fellow Alt Rightists have denounced the Syria strike, and appear to be breaking with Trump. Standing with Spencer feels icky; it's like eating a nice big bowl of oatmeal flavored with pus and red ants. Politics has always made for strange bedfellows, but...Spencer?
I'd rather sleep on the floor than share sheets with
a guy like that.
That said, it's pleasant to see the Trump coalition fraying.
What turned Trump around? When
did he turn around? Does he really
accept the "Assad did it" theory at face value?
Everyone seems have forgotten that Trump has quietly been sending troops to Syria for a while now. And everyone seems to have forgotten all about that deal in the Seychelles brokered by Erik Prince, in which Putin was offered lifted sanctions in exchange for tossing Assad under the bus.
So that's Theory 1: Trump and Putin agreed to this scenario back in January.
Theory 2 is that Trump sincerely believes in Assad's culpability for the recent sarin attack. I'm reminded of a story (perhaps apocryphal, but still instructive) about Napoleon. Supposedly, the Emperor once said: "People think I am the most powerful man in France. Actually, he
is." Napoleon pointed to an adjutant. "You see, I make all of my decisions based on reports given to me by that fellow. How am I
to know if the reports are accurate?"
False intelligence reports have made a lot of recent history: Remember Curveball? Those aluminum tubes? The Italian letter? In 2003, we had a seemingly incontrovertible amount of "proof" that Saddam possessed WMDs. Everyone accepted this "proof" at face value because no-one could believe that large sectors of the intelligence community would engage in a conspiracy to deceive Congress and the public.
The "proof" of Saddam's perfidy in 2003 was far more plentiful and persuasive than is the "proof" against Bashar Assad in 2017.
The Libyan precedent.
In 2017, all good Americans believe whatever the teevee tells them to believe about Syria. In 1986, all good Americans believed Reagan when he held Libya responsible for the bombing of the La Belle discotheque in West Berlin. Even I
accepted that claim, and I detested
Reagan. But as the extraordinary Adam Curtis documentary Hypernormalization
demonstrates, Khaddafy was, in all likelihood, the fall guy.
In his book By Way of Deception
, former Mossad agent Victor Ostrovsky claims -- persuasively -- that Mossad planted the evidence against Libya
A Trojan was a special communication device that could be planted by naval commandos deep inside enemy territory. The device would act as a relay station for misleading transmissions made by the disinformation unit in the Mossad, called LAP, and intended to be received by American and British listening stations. Originating from an IDF navy ship out at sea, the prerecorded digital transmissions could be picked up only by the Trojan. The device would then rebroadcast the transmission on another frequency, one used for official business in the enemy country, at which point the transmission would finally be picked up by American ears in Britain.
The listeners would have no doubt they had intercepted a genuine communication, hence the name Trojan, reminiscent of the mythical Trojan horse. Further, the content of the messages, once deciphered, would confirm information from other intelligence sources, namely the Mossad.
By the end of March, the Americans were already intercepting messages broadcast by the Trojan, which was only activated during heavy communication traffic hours. Using the Trojan, the Mossad tried to make it appear that a long series of terrorist orders were being transmitted to various Libyan embassies around the world (or, as they were called by the Libyans, Peoples' Bureaus). As the Mossad had hoped, the transmissions were deciphered by the Americans and construed as ample proof that the Libyans were active sponsors of terrorism. What's more, the Americans pointed out, Mossad reports confirmed it.
The French and the Spanish, though, were not buying into the new stream of information. To them, it seemed suspicious that suddenly, out of the blue, the Libyans, who'd been extremely careful in the past, would start advertising their future actions. They also found it suspicious that in several instances Mossad reports were worded similarly to coded Libyan communications. They argued further that, had there truly been after-the-fact Libyan communications regarding the attack, then the terrorist attack on the La Belle discotheque in West Berlin on April 5 could have been prevented, since surely there would have been communications before, enabling intelligence agencies listening in to prevent It. Since the attack wasn't prevented, they reasoned that it must not be the Libyans who did it, and the "new communications" must be bogus. The French and the Spanish were right.
1. "Trojan" did not mean then what it means now.
2. If you want to know why the Israelis misled the Reagan administration, read Ostrovsky's book. It's probably at your library, and you can find it online if you know where to look.
3. No, I am not blaming Mossad for the current situation. I don't have enough evidence for any
The purpose of this post is not to offer a grand Theory of Syria but to make a simple point: We've been fooled before
. By "we," I mean both the American people and
the American government.