Journalism

This “just” in: Jabhat al-Nusra rebels claim chemical weapons attack in Ghouta with an oops

StopJabhat al-Nusra Rebels Admit Responsibility for Chemical Weapons Attack
Paul Joseph Watson, Global Research/Centre for Research on Globalization
September 1, 2013

Militants tell AP reporter they mishandled Saudi-supplied chemical weapons, causing accident

 Syrian rebels in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta have admitted to Associated Press correspondent Dale Gavlak that they were responsible for last week’s chemical weapons incident which western powers have blamed on Bashar Al-Assad’s forces, revealing that the casualties were the result of an accident caused by rebels mishandling chemical weapons provided to them by Saudi Arabia.

This article also posted the following important update:

UPDATE: Associated Press contacted us to confirm that Dave Gavlak is an AP correspondent, but that her story was not published under the banner of the Associated Press. We didn’t claim this was the case, we merely pointed to Gavlak’s credentials to stress that she is a credible source, being not only an AP correspondent, but also having written for PBS, BBC and Salon.com.

By all means, take a few minutes to read the full article and peruse the ones linked below.

From a Google news search just now, Monday, September 2, 2013 2:42 AM MST, here is what amounts to full coverage of this claim at a first pass.

Saudi Prince Bandar behind chemical attack in Syria: report
Tehran Times, August 31, 2013

Syria: Rebel Groups, Not Assad, Behind Chemical Attacks Says Pat Buchanan
IBTimes, September 1, 2013

Saudi Bandar Provided Gouta Chemical Weapons, Militants Mishandled
Al-Manar TV Lebanon, August 31, 2013

Further, a search on Bandar chemical weapons turns up the these results.  One might say there is a dearth of Western coverage.

Syria’s deputy foreign minister on accusations over chemical weapons
Euronews.com, September 1, 2013

What passes for American coverage?  The New York Times does not disappoint.  By that, I mean if you expect selective silence and beating the drum for war, you’ll not be disappointed.

President Seeks to Rally Support for Syria Strike
2 hours ago

To be certain, Saudi Prince Bandar is mentioned…in exactly one sentence.  That sentence, however, had absolutely nothing to do with the context presented above.  One might think, given the gravity of the allegations and, for that matter, the sheer mind-boggling nature of a terrorist organization issuing a mea culpa rather than a boast, as well as the implication of an AP reporter’s credibility in the matter, that maybe some mention would be made of these journalistic developments from the Middle East.

Naturally, a cosmic prank of this magnitude must come with a punchline.  Here it is, from three days ago.

EXCLUSIVE: Syrians In Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack
MintPress News, August 29, 2013

Of note at the end of the MintPress article:

Some information in this article could not be independently verified. Mint Press News will continue to provide further information and updates . 

The same can be said, in spades, for US claims. See the FAIR analysis for examples.

With all the doubt flying around, let’s take just a moment to vet MintPress as a source, shall we?  Here’s their About page.  Here’s a write-up from MinnPost from nearly two years ago. Here is an excellent compare and contrast analysis from Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting.

Zero Hedge, a blog of mixed distinctions, was also on top of the MintPress story. Examiner.com covered the story from MintPress.

Here’s my burning question for you, dear reader.  Where else have you heard this coverage?

Whatever the truth is, before we go lobbing so much as one shot across the bow the American public would be well advised, whatever the short-term humanitarian cost, however horrible it is, to demand a full independent investigation to ascertain as well as possible just what the hell actually happened.  We have had far too many conflicting claims, far too many inconsistencies, and far, far too many weasel words, strong assurances, and empty platitudes compounded with nothing but circumstantial evidence and strident demands for trust from this administration to just sit back and let hawks from both the left and right railroad us into what may turn out to be a cataclysmic conflict.

—-

Image credit: MSVG @ flikr.com.  Licensed under Creative Commons.

12 replies »

  1. And basing your decisions on something reported in the Tehran Times??? What is that, exactly? How about we take the word of the KGB and/or Putin too.

    Seriously, these claims have no basis in reality. One example: From the MintPress News article a person describes the weapons as “… having a ‘tube-like structure’ while others were like a ‘huge gas bottle’.” Do you know what that sounds like to me? It sounds like the description simple people might imagine a chemical weapon looks like.

    Do YOU know what a chemical weapon looks like? It looks EXACTLY LIKE a regular weapon. Maybe before you continue to spread such silliness as what is “reported” above, you familiarize yourself with the relevant facts. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemical_weapons#Manner_and_form

    Also, look at how the Syrian government handled the UN inspections. Look at what truly independent experts are saying http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn24112-wind-and-rockets-key-clues-in-syrian-chemical-puzzle.html#.UiSoMBZ0GEk Look with an unbiased mind and the answers will reveal themselves in short order.

    In the end, there are plenty of reasons to be against military action in Syria. You do yourself, and your cause, a grave disservice by spreading such obvious and blatant inaccuracies as the above.

    • Additionally, it seems that al-Manar TV is affiliated with Hezbollah. As to IBTimes, if it’s the “International Business Times,” I’m not seeing that it is any more neutral than the Wall Street Journal when it comes to NON-business news.

    • Let me be sure I’ve got this straight, doa70 (and JosephW). If I do it once, I won’t feel compelled to do it again and again should others of like mind and capacity come along.

      I was, I thought, very clear in the way I structured this piece as 1) a discovery of news of which I was previously unaware, and 2) a process of vetting and critical thought. I very clearly stated:

      “One might think, given the gravity of the allegations and, for that matter, the sheer mind-boggling nature of a terrorist organization issuing a mea culpa rather than a boast, as well as the implication of an AP reporter’s credibility in the matter, that maybe some mention would be made of these journalistic developments from the Middle East.”

      Note the use of the word “allegations.” Note that I referred to FAIR’s analysis. Note that my principal contention is that this news is not to be found in the MSM here in the West. For a culture that thrives on every last allegation, substantiated or otherwise, in the George Zimmerman case, or Jerry Sandusky’s sex assaults on children, or Wienergate, you’d think that maybe, just maybe it would be worthwhile to investigate such allegations either to bear them out or to put them to rest. We like to Jerry Springer the living hell out of any sensational news and scream for all the dirt, but not when the lives of our soldiers and innocents overseas are concerned? Silencing allegations is not what a genuine fourth estate is for, especially when there is cause to look at all the players involved and what their motives are for involvement. Truth can always bear scrutiny.

      Yet the first claim by doa70 and the only claim from JosephW amounts to nothing but rank ad hominem. “Oh, THEY said it, so it can neither be true nor merit inquiry.” The intellectual dishonesty in that presentation is appalling.

      Here, let me give you another cause to exercise your ad hominem skills and link to a site of possibly dubious merit because it makes arguments and claims you won’t like.

      http://www.blacklistednews.com/Who_Benefits_From_A_War_Between_The_United_States_And_Syria%3F/28536/0/0/0/Y/M.html?morestories=obinsite

      “Someone wants to get the United States into a war with Syria very, very badly. Cui bono is an old Latin phrase that is still commonly used, and it roughly means “to whose benefit?” The key to figuring out who is really behind the push for war is to look at who will benefit from that war.”

      Spoiler alert: Saudi Arabia (you might remember them from 9/11) and Qatar, who would love to export NG through Syria.

      Secondly, doa oversimplifies my citations, further evidencing dishonesty. I linked how many sources? Yet the one that gets called out is solely the one to Tehran Times. “How about we take the word of the KGB and/or Putin too,” is to suggest that I advocate taking anyone’s word for anything. Any reader with a modicum of comprehension skills can see that my point is specifically about not taking anyone at their word, but that we must vet sources, weigh evidence, and think critically.

      Third, doa asserts the claims have no basis in reality. To wit, the reporters involved in the Mint Press piece are clearly lying, or are reporting solely on the basis of lies. What evidence do you present to substantiate your extraordinary claim? Just this, “Do you know what that sounds like to me? It sounds like the description simple people might imagine a chemical weapon looks like.”

      I’m not sure what “simple” people means, but it sounds like an insinuation of ignorance or stupidity. That doesn’t make a case. For that matter, were I to wager on a “simple” person’s accurate description of what a chemical weapon looks like, I’d probably favor that “simple” person in a war-torn country where such attacks have occurred, and where first-hand accounts of such attacks are likely to be passed around over the account of a “simple” person in a part of the world that has never been attacked with chemical WMD.

      Further, doa says, “Do YOU know what a chemical weapon looks like? It looks EXACTLY LIKE a regular weapon.”

      For the moment, let’s ignore my personal experience of indirect fire infantry weapons such as the 81mm and 61mm mortars. What exactly is the gibberish statement “It looks EXACTLY LIKE a regular weapon” even supposed to mean? Define your terms. Does it look like a rock? A broken bottle? An AK-47? A mortar round? Rocket? Gas canister? “Regular weapon,” sheesh.

      Dismissing the reportage presented as silliness, doa then offends with a link to a section of a Wikipedia article (which, itself, I have no trouble with as a starting point), that gives a textual description of what something looks like while the article itself is nearly devoid of relevant images, unless an unexploded mortar round (not identified in the caption as to its type…is it HD, WP, other?) and a man with an AK-47 count. Seriously, you couldn’t at least be bothered to do a Google image search on chemical weapon to locate…this (Google image links shortened at bit.ly):

      http://bit.ly/1a1isg7

      More specifically, this:

      http://bit.ly/173BiC8

      Or this:

      http://bit.ly/1fuRnlS

      Or this:

      http://bit.ly/15tdUAW

      Or this:

      http://bit.ly/173Bpxq

      Without knowing more about what the “simple” person meant, possibly somewhat lost in translation, by “tube” or “gas bottle” I’d hazard to guess that a simple person might call a mortar a tube or some variant of some of the images I shared as “gas bottles.” As the grunt that carried the tube of my team’s 60mm mortar, I can vouch for the tubishness of the damned things. There’s nothing to say that the “simple” person meant that the “gas bottles” and the tubes were to be used together like some screwy round peg/square hole configuration. To assume that’s what was meant is to assume much.

      As for “what truly independent experts are saying,” you cite pop-sci mag New Scientist. Fine. That’s better than turning to NYT by some measure, at least at first glance. So let’s vet, shall we?

      http://www.badscience.net/category/papers-new-scientist/

      Pertaining to a completely unrelated issue from 2004, Ben Goldacre had this to say in the Guardian:

      “Embarrassingly, New Scientist accepted his claims uncritically, and the BBC and others followed suit, although New Scientist did, after two pieces here, remove their glowing article about him from their website.”

      Oh, oops. New Scientist, not a peer reviewed journal, is demonstrated to at least occasionally engage in lousy journalism. Once doesn’t prove it’s happening now, but it doesn’t prove that they’re not just rubber stamping “experts” now, either. I’ll leave it to your novice Google-fu to determine if 100% of “truly independent experts,” support your assertion. Oh, wait. No I won’t.

      http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/06/14/194016/chemical-weapons-experts-still.html#.UiTatXazKpg

      “Zanders, who also has headed the Chemical and Biological Warfare Project at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute and was director of the Geneva-based BioWeapons Prevention Project, noted that had sarin been the chemical agent in use, the victims would have been dead long before they reached doctors for treatment.”

      http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/08/is-u-s-launching-a-war-in-syria-to-distract-from-spying-and-other-scandals.html

      “John Hart, head of the Chemical and Biological Security Project at Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said he had not seen the telltale evidence in the eyes of the victims that would be compelling evidence of chemical weapons use.”

      My point here is not to take the side of any of the experts but to simply demonstrate that, over time, experts differ on this issue. Your appeal to their authority carries no weight. The experts I want to hear from are the UN inspectors that just left Syria prematurely under threat of premature strikes from the US.

      At least we can agree on there being plenty of reasons to be against military action in Syria. Contrary to the remainder of your statement, however, the disservice is to brush off serious allegations without so much as a whiff of critical curiosity. How well did that work out for us and for Iraq in 2003?

  2. jingo-sim has it’s own momentum. every war you can think of had this same dynamic–selective reporting, selective listening, etc. as your other post spoke to, obama may or may not be a communist-kenyan-whatever, but he will clearly go down as The Big Disappointment.

  3. I am not coming down on either side of this issue, but your article was interesting. Listing Pat Buchanan as a source though, lessens your whole appeal. If you want your articles to be taken seriously never list someone like Pat Buchanan. On any USA new service he would never ever be quoted except for maybe as part of the “laugh of the day” segment.

    • Oh, I agree. I only included that one because a) it was one of the very few links available at the time of posting and b) I like going to uncomfortable places. Stopped clocks twice a day and all that. Putting him side by side with an analysis from FAIR on roughly the same side of a topic was definitely weird.

  4. I think even the Mint admits that Dale Gavlak wasn’t in Syria and did not speak to any rebels. She just helped write up the report of another correspondent.

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