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.

CATEGORY: Syria

Syria and chemical weapons attacks: “Just trust us,” says everybody.

Sarin

Today, as covered by nearly everyone, Secretary of State John Kerry said:

“The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity. By any standard, it is inexcusable. And despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured, it is undeniable.”

Mr. Kerry alleges that the Assad regime destroyed evidence:

“Instead, for five days, the Syrian regime refused to allow the U.N. investigators access to the site of the attack that would allegedly exonerate them,” Mr. Kerry said. “Instead, it attacked the area further, shelling it and systematically destroying evidence.”

Evidence, of course, is forthcoming. Until then, just trust us.

 In the coming days, officials said, the nation’s intelligence agencies will disclose information to bolster their case that chemical weapons were used by Mr. Assad’s forces. The information could include so-called signals intelligence — intercepted radio or telephone calls between Syrian military commanders.

Meanwhile, Walid Shoebat, who claims to be a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, presents some kind of evidence that it was the rebels that used the chemical weapons, not Assad. Was Shoebat a member of the Muslim Brotherhood? Confirmation is needed, but how rigorous would the confirmation need to be for it to be accepted as fact? Would it matter if he were? As for the evidence he presents, how good is it? Is it merely circumstantial? Taken out of context? Entirely fabricated? Who should judge?

Meanwhile, Russia, likely to veto any UN Security Council measures against Assad, claims that there is no evidence that Assad did use chemical weapons.

Meanwhile, Assad denies using chemical weapons.

The drums are beating for war, and all too many, some perhaps with dubious motives, are eager to get the jump on Assad. How about we wait until the UN inspectors actually have a chance to report on the evidence, if any is found?

Meanwhile, speaking of obscenities committed with chemical weapons:

“They are tantamount to an official American admission of complicity in some of the most gruesome chemical weapons attacks ever launched.”

And:

“The declassified CIA documents show that Casey and other top officials were repeatedly informed about Iraq’s chemical attacks and its plans for launching more. “If the Iraqis produce or acquire large new supplies of mustard agent, they almost certainly would use it against Iranian troops and towns near the border,” the CIA said in a top secret document.But it was the express policy of Reagan to ensure an Iraqi victory in the war, whatever the cost.”

Surprising no one, Mr. Kerry didn’t mention this bit of our history.

—-

Image credit: US Army Materiel Command http://www.flickr.com/photos/armymaterielcommand/877765649/sizes/m/in/photostream/. Licenced under Creative Commons http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en.

CATEGORY: WarSecurity

Syria: Assad’s empty gestures, empty threats

Though it’s not certain Syrian President Assad was responsible for what looks like chemical-weapons attacks, his behavior seldom fails to disturb.

Assad

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Syrian President Assad insists that the apparent chemical-weapon attacks that have left upwards of 1,000 people dead in his country were committed by “terrorists,” as he calls the opposition. That’s his story and Russia and Syria are sticking to it.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that they were carried out “likely with high-level approval from the government of President Bashar al-Assad, according to American and European security sources.”

But, as Assad himself points out in an interview with Izvestia reported on by the New York Times:

… government troops would have risked killing their own forces if they had used chemical weapons. “This contradicts elementary logic,” news reports quoted him as saying. It is “not us but our enemies who are using chemical weapons,” he said, referring to antigovernment rebels as “the terrorists.”

Bearing in mind that just because he invokes logic doesn’t necessarily mean Assad actually isn’t capable of acting irrationally. But remember the area subjected to clouds of poison gas was the suburbs of the capital, Damascus, also his home. Though I’m unfamiliar with drift patterns of poison gas, putting Damascus, himself, and his famly in possible harm’s way would make him obstinate to the nth degree, not to mention self-destructive, on top of irrational. We’re talking about Hitler territory.

While it’s doubtful the opposition launched the attacks, one can’t help but wonder if, directly or by discrete suggestion, he delegated such authority to generals in order for him to maintain plausible deniability. If cornered, Assad can claim rogue elements of the military were responsible and, without immediately naming names, promise to investigate.

Assad finally agreed to admit U.N. inspectors, but that may be an empty gesture. The Wall Street Journal reported that

… the U.S. rebuffed Syria’s decision, saying the offer came too late to be credible. … “At this juncture, the belated decision by the regime to grant access to the U.N. team is too late to be credible, including because the evidence available has been significantly corrupted as a result of the regime’s persistent shelling and other intentional actions over the last five days,” [an] official added.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is increasingly drawn to an armed attack. As for actually ridding Syria of its chemical weapons, as with Iran’s nuclear complex, it’s, well, complex. In November of last year, David Sanger and Eric Schmitt reported for the Times:

The Pentagon has told the Obama administration that any military effort to seize Syria’s stockpiles of chemical weapons would require upward of 75,000 troops.

Complicating it further was the discovery that Hezbollah fighters have been training near some of Syria’s chemical-weapons depots. Said one senior American official: “… the fear these weapons could fall into the wrong hands is our greatest concern.”

Though it’s difficult to imagine what could be wronger hands than Assad, the Syrian military, or the opposition.

Finally, from today’s Times report:

In the interview with Izvestia, Mr. Assad said, “America has taken part in many wars but could not once achieve its political goals for which the wars were started. Yes, it is true, the great powers can wage wars but can they win them?”

That might seem like a threat, necessarily empty because of the differential in military power between Syria and the United States. But, as we all well know, he’s not wrong. None of our large-scale interventions, from Vietnam to Iraq to Afghanistan, can, in any sense of the term, be characterized as victories.

Cross-posted from the Foreign Policy in Focus blog Focal Points.

Syrian rebels

Has military intervention by the US become, by definition, a mistake?

Is reflexive resistance to intervention in Syria the right reaction by progressives?

Syrian rebelsAs you’ve no doubt heard by now, using as a justification its conclusion that the Assad regime had killed 150 or more people with sarin gas – technically a weapon of mass destruction – the Obama administration has made decision to supply Syrian rebels with small arms and ammunition.

Besides, the New York Times reports

Formally designating the Assad government as a user of chemical weapons, [an] official said, will make it easier for Mr. Obama to rally support from Britain, France and other allies for further measures.

What’s more, the administration is considering instituting a no-fly zone over Syria,. Towards that end, reports Reuters:

Washington has moved Patriot surface-to-air missiles, war planes and more than 4,000 troops into Jordan in the past week, officially as part of an annual exercise but making clear that the forces deployed could stay on when the war games are over.

Guess the administration finally took pity on the Syrian rebels after reading Wednesday’s (June 12) report by New York Times weapon expert C.J. Chivers about their efforts to manufacture their own weapons.

The workers arrive by darkness, taking their stations at the vise and the lathe. Soon metal filings and sparks fly, and the stack of their creations grows at their feet: makeshift mortar shells to be fired through barrels salvaged from disabled Syrian Army tanks.

Across northern Syria, rebel workshops like these are part of a clandestine network of primitive arms-making plants, a signature element of a militarily lopsided war. … “Everybody knows we do not have the weapons we need to defend ourselves,” said Abu Trad, a commander of the Saraqib Rebels Front.

In fact,

The value of workshop-grade weapons, while once crucial to the rebels’ success in claiming territory in northern Syria, may have substantially declined.

Last spring, when Mr. Assad was struggling to confront the armed opposition that his crackdown had fueled, shops like these forced Syria’s military to change tactics. … But the government has spent a year refitting its troops, Hezbollah has sent in reinforcements, and Iran and Russia have kept Mr. Assad’s forces resupplied. … And most of the shops’ other weapons systems lack … accuracy, range or explosive punch.

Chivers quotes Khaled Muhammed Addibis, a rebel commander, who said, “All we need is effective weapons. … Nothing else.”

I’m as wary as the next guy of a proxy war — with the United States, et al, on one side, and Iran and Russia on the other – of such obviousness that it stands a higher chance than usual of pitting the principals against each other face to face. But, my personal portal into the world of foreign affairs was via the study of genocide. In fact, guilt over failing to halt the Rwandan atrocities may be the reason that former President Clinton has come down, however cautiously, on the side of Syria intervention.

Most progressives reflexively resist intervention because it’s usually – okay, always – an excuse to further U.S. political and energy interests. But, speaking personally, however much I may personally suffer from delusions of heroism about rescuing those being bullied, I’ve always had to force myself to resist calling for intervention in international affairs.

In a perfect world, we could separate the rebel forces worthy of aid from those on a fast track to war-crimes trials, as well as defer our not-so-hidden agenda in the Middle East while we provide emergency military aid to the Syrian people. But neither is likely to happen, and, because we live in an age marked by the absence of a long-overdue, muscular international body, I can’t help but wonder (speaking for myself and not FPIF, of course), if there’s merit to incremental intervention. (Ducks head to avoid incoming barrage from other progressives.)

Cross-posted from the Foreign Policy in Focus blog Focal Points.

Nota Bene #122: OWStanding

“When I lie on the beach there naked, which I do sometimes, and I feel the wind coming over me and I see the stars up above and I am looking into this very deep, indescribable night, it is something that escapes my vocabulary to describe. Then I think: ‘God, I have no importance. Whatever I do or don’t do, or what anybody does, is not more important than the grains of sand that I am lying on, or the coconut that I am using for my pillow.'” Who said it? Continue reading