Saturday, April 08, 2017

I'm just a lonely boy. Lonely and blue.

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.

Key questions: 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.
Three points:

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 alternative scenario.

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.


Alessandro Machi said...

At this point in time, do we even know if it was a military plane that allegedly dropped sarin gas in Idlib, or was the gas launched from missiles? I've read both depictions, that people heard planes, and that it was missiles. Does anyone have a definitive source?

Anonymous said...

Maher is not a liberal.
A woman from Syria once told me that just by someone's accent or use of certain words they tell which side of the conflict they are on. She was convinced Assad was responsible for 2013 gass attack. She said it wasn't the first time and won't be the last. Applying logic and reason to understand that regime's cruelty never work.

Ken Hoop said...

The worst mistake in this post is you're calling the Clintonite Dems reaction in favor of Trump's attack a "big mistake."
Unless you're willing to dismiss neoliberal imperialism as merely a "big mistake."

bow wow said...

Here we go again . At MSNBC they might as well have had their party hats on, they were so visibly excited at the prospect. Military guests! Hawkish commentators! Lefties coming around! Wheeeee! Too good to be true. I'm lonely too. War's just the thing for the dictator king

ColoradoGuy said...

Joe, what's your thoughts about the following article in Der Spiegel? It seems better researched than the dreck in the US media.

Amelie D'bunquerre said...

Thought experiment: Using a memorable example, the U.S. Army's Ohio National Guard in 1970 attacked and killed their own unarmed and undangerous people. Would it have been okay for Syria to bomb Ohio or D.C.?

More to the point, the U.S. began its campaign against Iraq when it was reported that Saddam Hussein had gassed "his own people". The same locution was used against Assad in 2013, and again last week. How would either (true or not) be legitimate grounds for a foreign power to attack a legitimate government's internal, domestic, wretched behavior?

It's an act of war to attack some other government's people, but not one's own. Right? Wrong?

lastlemming said...

I believe one could make a different case:

First, the US military rules of engagement have changed and the military no longer has to clear troop movements with the White House. I remember noting this about 3 weeks ago I cannot find that particular article, which states such quite clearly, but this one also confirms same.

So that troop movement that you are concerned about likely had little to do with Trump or his minions and more to do with McMaster and Mattis. They ordered the troop movements and likely no one in the White House even noticed, since the White House's major war is with itself. What M & M's game is–is anybody's guess, but I think by focusing on Trump you are focusing on the wrong actors. (Also note the strategic timing of Bannon's removal from the National Security Council–the day before the strike. I also wondered why McMaster was so quiet about Cohen-Watnick's reinstatement and subsequent late night romp. McMaster probably wasn't too worried about some political skirmish. Now that Cohen-Watnick has had his 'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern' moment in this tale, he may now have found that "Wheels have been set in motion, and they have their own pace, to which [he is] condemned." By this, I mean he, too, has lost his seat at the big table at a strategic time.)

That's the (sort of) good news.

It's also the bad news. We have a military with almost unlimited freedom of action.

Note also: per Palmer report someone predicted the April 7th attack–down to the exact day–months ago. (Assuming WW III is to start with a whimper and not a bang.) Since the gas attack seems wedded to the follow on bombing, does this mean WE staged the false flag event involving sarin gas? Or was it a "Wag the Dog" type event with Syrian babies now standing in for Albanian puppies?

If you think you are lonely, try convincing anyone that America is being blackmailed with NSA/CIA data (USA компромат®). One occupies a very cold and lonely cyberplace. But the evidence keeps coming in. The Shadow Brokers are back with a new release of NSA data. Just after the bombing, funny enough.

Actually The SB posted the key to unlock previously posted encrypted material and preceded this with a note. The note is quite interesting.

It may be that the April 7th bombing served as cover for some other military action OR the bombing, puny as it was, still rattled Trump's putative masters. The Shadow Brokers are clearly not happy–which means, I will assume, that Russia is not happy. Whatever is going on, the game is very deep and we likely can only catch a glimpse, now and again, of its true nature.

kerry said...

Lastlemming, Trump's executive order allows him to designate particular conflict zones as temporary battlefields within which military commanders have expanded operational powers. These zones need not be part of any declared US war but simply areas of geopolitical interest, often referred to as "gray zone" conflicts. One shameful example is US military involvement in Yemen. On 9th October 2016 the Saudi 'coalition' targeted one of the biggest public halls in Yemen's capital Sanaa with missiles. It killed 458 people (including scores of rescuers in a follow-up attack). Of course, there is no Western media outrage over this atrocity because Saudi Arabia is a US ally using US missiles and US aircraft to kill 'non-persons'. And, of course, there were no White Helmets witnesses to 'enhance' the incident.

kerry said...

There are good discussions of the latest Syrian chemical attack here and here. The official details don't add up.

The White Helmets were photographed at some stage in the previous months trying on sarin-proof hazmat suits -- suits not used at Khan Sheikhoun. Sarin is known to be especially hazardous. Even mild doses to the exposed skin can induce rapid convulsions and respiratory failure. None of this was in evidence at the latest attack.

Alessandro Machi said...

Joseph, DailyPUMA is also questioning military action without substantive proof that the gas came from that military base. Did Donald Trump show any actual proof that the Syrian Military Base launched Sarin Gase into Idlib, Syria.?

b said...

The issue of whether the bombing was permitted under US law is IRRELEVANT to the fact that it was against international law: to wit, the UN Charter. It was not in self-defence, it was not requested by the Syrian government, and it was not authorised by the UN Security Council. Therefore it was unlawful. There are no two ways about that.

One country's little legal system can say it's fine, sweet, and thoroughly lawful for it to attack another country. That doesn't make it so.

Now the fucking bastards are sending a naval strike group towards Korea, led by the aircraft carrier the USS Carl Vinsson.

This is probably why Xi Jinping met Trump.

Does it look as though the US Government will try to do a Syria on North Korea? Yes, it does.

Those of us who thought the election of Trump would mark a major shift in the US and the world were right.

Anybody who is reading this from Seoul should get out of that city, fast. It may not exist by this time next week.

I would imagine that an event will be blamed on North Korea first, but they may not even bother.

b said...

Oh fuck!! 15 April is North Korea's "Day of the Sun"

prowlerzee said...

I'm trying to remember if b normally drops f-bombs. Either way, scary. The April 15 date would be perfect to distract from the Tax Day protest planned here in the DC area.

Writer said...

This was an air strike. The size of the attack leaves no question about that to anyone but assad and putin. But setting aside the fact that you are accepting mass murder denials from the only two people in this story with a history of mass murder, here's what I don't get: If you were going to blame anyone in this war who doesn't have planes, why would you blame the rebels and not ISIS? Is it that you don't know there's a difference? Or do you believe that the civilians fighting dictatorship are more capable of gassing their families and neighbors than, like, terrorists?

Joseph Cannon said...

Writer, you have me all wrong. Actually, I think that credit for the actual doing of the deed probably SHOULD go to Putin. I cannot be sure, but I imagine that one of his planes bombed a chemical storage facility.

You know, I've reprinted three times that key passage from the WP's story about Erik Prince in the Seychelles, and STILL you don't get it. How many times must I do so?



Get it? Get it? Get it? GET IT?

Think like a chess player. Don't look one move ahead. Look six moves ahead. As I keep saying, what Putin cares about is 1. An end to sanctions, 2. Dismantling NATO, and 3. Keeping Trump in power. To attain option 3, he and Trump must stage a rift. And then Trump must be perceived as having gotten the advantage of Putin vis-a-vis Syria.

It's all theater.

(I use chess metaphors so often that people probably have the impression that I'm a good player. In fact, I'm terrible -- precisely because I get impatient and stop looking more than one move ahead.)

Writer said...

Fair enough on the putin clarification. But my disappointment was about the suggestion that the rebels would have any hand in gassing themselves. It concerns me because it's an example of FSB/GRU anti-rebel propaganda seeping into the minds of even smart folks. It upsets me because it's a very very bad sign.