The Obama administration’s campaign for war against Syria is so flagrantly wrong, so ill-advised and so illegal, that it is making a fool of both the president and his secretary of state, John Kerry.
Certainly Kerry, who was in combat in Vietnam, where he commanded a river boat in the waterways of the lower Mekong River estuary, who later had the good sense to become an opponent of the war, and who clearly knows what war is, surely knows that launching an armada of high-explosive-tipped Tomahawk cruise missiles and probably high-altitude heavy bombers for a three-day blitz of Syria is exactly that: war. And yet there he was telling members of Congress during a hearing over the weekend that “the president is not asking you to go to war,” but only to bomb Syria for two or three days.
Think for a minute what the US would call it if Russia, or Venezuela, or Iran, fired even one cruise missile at a target in the US. Would we say it wasn’t an act of war. Just a missile firing?
The idea is laughable, right? And yet that is the argument that our vaunted Yale-graduate Secretary of State is making to Congress and the American people.
And Obama? This ludicrous holder of a Nobel Peace Prize is claiming that the US has to attack Syria to defend “international norms,” because the Syrian government allegedly launched a poison gas attack on an area of Damascus allegedly killing upwards of 1000 people, including children. A big point is made about the deaths of children.
The thing is, the focus of Obama’s outrage is always the children and the civilian deaths, which nobody denies. But the evidence he presents that it was Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government army that launched that attack, is not just thin, it is purely circumstantial. It is not even internally consistent.
One of the worst parts of the president’s argument is the claim that the US had satellite and ground-based intelligence showing that the Syrian army was making preparations for a gas attack three days before the attack allegedly occurred. Yet in prior cases when the Syrian government was thought to be preparing to use its stocks of gas weapons, the administration issued a clear warning that if it did so, the US would act. That was the “red line” which President Obama once did announce for US involvement in Syria’s conflict (a “red line” which he now claims, preposterously, that he never announced, claiming it is “the world’s red line). So the question is: if it were true that the US had evidence that Syria was planning to use gas in late August, why didn’t it re-issue its warning? Nothing was said, and in fact, according to a letter written by 12 senior veterans of the defense department and the CIA, instead forces in Turkey and Jordan, and rebel forces being advised and armed by the US, were told to prepare for military action in Syria by the US.
In other words, if it were true that Assad ordered a gas attack on his own people as alleged by the administration, it would also mean that the administration knew about it and callously and even criminally allowed that attack to go forward with no threats and no warnings, in order to have a pretext to launch an aerial bombardment of Syrian government positions.
But even that’s not the whole story. Syria only has poison gas, as the New York Times reports in a lead article in today’s paper, because western countries, including British, French, German and even “a handful of American companies,” provided the ingredients and the technology to Assad’s regime.
Talk about crossing “red lines.”
Furthermore, what is not being reported in the corporate media is that there is far more compelling evidence that the deadly gas attack in Damascus that is the casus belli for America’s planned bombing blitz on Syria was actually the work of Syrian rebels, and not of the government.
As the 12 defense and CIA veterans, whose numbers include retired CIA analyst Ray McGovern, who for several years had the job of personally delivering the daily intelligence briefing from the CIA to President George Bush, state:
“According to some reports, canisters containing chemical agent were brought into a suburb of Damascus, where they were then opened. Some people in the immediate vicinity died; others were injured. We are unaware of any reliable evidence that a Syrian military rocket capable of carrying a chemical agent was fired into the area.”
President Obama in laying out his case for war — excuse me, for a rocket attack on Syria — in a white paper on the White House web site, actually lies and says, in explaining its dismissal of arguments that rebel forces might be responsible for the Aug. 21 gas attack, “We assess that the opposition has not used chemical weapons.”
Yet the administration certainly is aware, but is not telling US citizens, that Carla del Ponte, chief investigator with the UN Human Rights Commission, has reported publicly that Syrian rebels used Sarin gas against civilians last March.
Even the claim that Syrian forces used rockets in their attack is open to question. Because so few rocket casings were found in the area, and because Syrian rockets equipped to fire poison gas carry such small payloads, there is now an effort to attempt to claim the Syrian military had developed an “ingenious” way to increase the payload of toxic gas on its rockets from a few liters of gas to over 50 liters.
Now, I’m no rocket scientist, but I studied enough physics to know that there’s a big weight difference between 5-6 liters and 50 liters (11-13.2 lbs. vs. 110 lbs.). You cannot make that big a change in a payload on a small rocket (these rockets used by the
Syrians are about six feet long, and 4.5 inches in diameter), without substantially upgrading and changing the configuration of the rocket itself, to increase the thrust. Furthermore, adding that much weight in a large, much wider cylinder at the nose of the rocket would profoundly affect its aerodynamics. In fact, in my amateur opinion, it would make it completely unflyable. The balance would be completely off, causing the rocket to begin to tumble, with the rocket thus veering off in any number of directions, including perhaps right back at the people firing it. (That’s why, when you fly in a small, not fully loaded commuter plane, the pilot makes passengers shift their seating to “balance” the load.) Adding to the problem are the very small stabilizing fins and ring at the rear of the rocket, which would become useless with a large, non-aerodynamic canister in front of them creating tremendous air turbulence.
Here’s a diagram of the rocket with the enlarged 50-liter gas warhead as envisioned in this government-funded “study” claiming such rockets must have been used to create the amount of devastation found on Aug. 21:
You can decide for yourself whether this thing could fly. I’m guessing no, or at least not where its launching crew intended it to go.
Of course the big lie being perpetrated by this war-mongering administration is that it has some kind of right and moral duty to bomb Syria to “punish” the government for its alleged criminal use of poison gas. Even assuming the truth of the government’s unproven claim that the government did use poison gas on Aug. 21, such a war crime under the Geneva Conventions does not call for the unilateral launching of a war by some other nation. In fact, left unsaid by the government is that a much more important law, developed as a key part of the Nuremberg Charter following the World War II Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, makes launching a war of aggression by any nation, without its being under “imminent threat” of attack by the nation being attacked, or without sanction from the United Nations Security Council, the number one war crime: a Crime Against Peace.
That is the real issue here. It is not whether or not the president has the right to launch a war on his own authority without Congressional authorization. That is a domestic Constitutional issue. The truth is that even Congress cannot authorize a war of aggression against another nation, unless the US is threatened with attack, or unless the US is given authorization to do so by the UN Security Council.
That is according to the UN Charter, a formal international treaty which the US helped author, which was signed by President Harry Truman, and formally ratified by the Congress, making it, under our Constitution, the law of the land. To violate that law is, I should add, a capital offense, which as then White House attorney Alberto Gonzales advised his boss, President George W. Bush, carries the death penalty, and has no statute of limitations.
With the US just days from possibly launching a new criminal war of aggression, this time against Syria, we, and the members of Congress, need truth from our government, not a pack of pathetic lies from officials who seem hell-bent on becoming war criminals of the first order.
Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).