Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Please Support CounterPunch’s Annual Fund Drive
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We only ask you once a year, but when we ask we mean it. So, please, help as much as you can. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Syrian Guns of August

Remember the thumping of Obama’s war drums for a US attack on Syria last August and September, including his spokesmen’s absurd invocations of Kosovo as a precedent for a limited cruise missile strike on Syria?  The trigger for hyping that war fever was a sarin gas attack in Eastern Ghouta, a Damascus suburb, on August 21.  Obama was quick to blame Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for crossing Obama’s bizarre Netanyahu-esque “red line.”

The charge never made sense.  Assad was beginning to win the civil war, and a chemical attack was not needed militarily.  Moreover, such an attack would generate worldwide animosity and contribute to the further isolation of Assad.  So, Assad seemed to have far more to lose than to gain by launching such an attack.  Of course people do stupid things in war, so a chemical attack by Assad on his own people was not out of question, and that uncertainty coupled with the drumbeat made the American masses vulnerable to a con.

On the other hand, the Syrian rebels, particularly the Jihadi fighters, were beginning to lose the war, and they needed outside help.  Also, their donors were dragging their feet on supporting them, especially supplying them with lethal weapons.  Therefore, the Jihadis stood to gain in terms of favorable public relations caused by a chemical attack, if the attack could be pinned on Assad.  Finally, videos and pictures of the attack flooded the internet immediately after the attack, almost as if an orchestra was playing.

In short, even without invoking the Mossad, the chemical attack always had the strong odor, if not the certainty, of a classic false flag operation.

Perhaps it was the shaky foundation underpinning Obama’s war threats that caused the war fever to fizzle so quickly; but it was Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 11 September  2013 NYT op-ed that pulled the rug out from under Obama’s case for another American-led,  pro-Israel war in the Middle East.  Of course, given America’s sound-byte mentality, the crisis was immediately forgotten in the chaos of the government shutdown and the growing hysteria over the implications of Iran’s peace offensive.

Now Seymour Hersh has produced a stunning  analysis of the intelligence information available to President Obama last August, when he was threatening to attack Syria.  Hersh is one of the world’s great investigative reporters — e.g., He exposed the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam and much of the Abu Graib scandal in Iraq, among other things.  In his latest analysis, Hersh lays out in excruciating detail what Obama knew and when he knew it.  He paints a portrait of deception and delusion in Versailles on the Potomac that has become all too familiar since the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, but especially since the lead up to the war in Kosovo.

Using sources in an intelligence community, angered by being manipulated again by politicians intent on war, Hersh demonstrates, inter alia, how Obama’s case for war was a mixture of (1) cherry picked intelligence data that omitted pertinent countervailing information, (2) assumptions posing as facts, (3) why satellite/ground sensor coverage in August was sufficient to conclude Assad probably did not launch the attack, and (4) most importantly, the failure to acknowledge contemporaneous intelligence revealing the rebels also had the capacity to assemble chemical weapons and launch the attack.  To appreciate the full persuasiveness of Hersh’s stunning report, you must read it for yourself.

Not surprisingly, the Washington Post and the New Yorker declined to publish his 5500 word tube steak, so Hersh had it published in the prestigious London Review of Books.

Bear in mind, the Syrian faux crisis may have passed, but war mongering against the Muslim world is not over — Iran is still in the crosshairs.  Israel is working its traps in Congress and on K Street to queer the peace deal, by “encouraging” its wholly owned subsidiaries to assemble the votes needed to intensify the sanctions, even though Iran is moving toward an accommodation. Obama, who claims to be promoting the deal, is again wringing his hands, Hamlet-like, damping expectations, now saying the chances for a deal with Iran are 50% at most.

The Syrian Guns of August are now ancient history to the attention-deficit, trigger-happy cognoscenti inhabiting the Washington echo chamber. But the deeper warning implicit in Hersh’s essay is that, sooner or later, the reckless disregard for truth and sanity that is now part of America’s political DNA — e.g., the mixing of boogered intelligence and crackpot red lines — is going to spin out of control and land our country in a really serious war we cannot win.

Next June 28 will be the 100 year anniversary of the day when one teenage Serbian terrorist in Sarajevo triggered a chain of unstoppable “red line” crossings and faulty intelligence appreciations that ended up destroying the European order.  We are still living with its unresolved consequences, especially in the Balkans and the Middle East.  It is an ironic time to have such a disaster-seeking grand-strategic decision cycle in Versailles on the Potomac.

To paraphrase Prince Bismarck, God may eventually tire of protecting fools, drunkards, and the United States of America.

Franklin “Chuck” Spinney is a former military analyst for the Pentagon and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. He be reached at chuck_spinney@mac.com

More articles by:

Franklin “Chuck” Spinney is a former military analyst for the Pentagon and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. He be reached at chuck_spinney@mac.com

October 16, 2018
Gregory Elich
Diplomatic Deadlock: Can U.S.-North Korea Diplomacy Survive Maximum Pressure?
Rob Seimetz
Talking About Death While In Decadence
Kent Paterson
Fifty Years of Mexican October
Robert Fantina
Trump, Iran and Sanctions
Greg Macdougall
Indigenous Suicide in Canada
Kenneth Surin
On Reading the Diaries of Tony Benn, Britain’s Greatest Labour Politician
Andrew Bacevich
Unsolicited Advice for an Undeclared Presidential Candidate: a Letter to Elizabeth Warren
Thomas Knapp
Facebook Meddles in the 2018 Midterm Elections
Muhammad Othman
Khashoggi and Demetracopoulos
Gerry Brown
Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics: How the US Weaponizes Them to Accuse  China of Debt Trap Diplomacy
Christian Ingo Lenz Dunker – Peter Lehman
The Brazilian Presidential Elections and “The Rules of The Game”
Robert Fisk
What a Forgotten Shipwreck in the Irish Sea Can Tell Us About Brexit
Martin Billheimer
Here Cochise Everywhere
David Swanson
Humanitarian Bombs
Dean Baker
The Federal Reserve is Not a Church
October 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Climate Crisis is Upon Us
Conn Hallinan
Syria’s Chessboard
Patrick Cockburn
The Saudi Atrocities in Yemen are a Worse Story Than the Disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi
Sheldon Richman
Trump’s Middle East Delusions Persist
Justin T. McPhee
Uberrima Fides? Witness K, East Timor and the Economy of Espionage
Tom Gill
Spain’s Left Turn?
Jeff Cohen
Few Democrats Offer Alternatives to War-Weary Voters
Dean Baker
Corporate Debt Scares
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Affair and and the Anti-Iran Axis
Russell Mokhiber
Sarah Chayes Calls on West Virginians to Write In No More Manchins
Clark T. Scott
Acclimated Behaviorisms
Kary Love
Evolution of Religion
Colin Todhunter
From GM Potatoes to Glyphosate: Regulatory Delinquency and Toxic Agriculture
Binoy Kampmark
Evacuating Nauru: Médecins Sans Frontières and Australia’s Refugee Dilemma
Marvin Kitman
The Kitman Plan for Peace in the Middle East: Two Proposals
Weekend Edition
October 12, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Becky Grant
My History with Alexander Cockburn and The Financial Future of CounterPunch
Paul Street
For Popular Sovereignty, Beyond Absurdity
Nick Pemberton
The Colonial Pantsuit: What We Didn’t Want to Know About Africa
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Summer of No Return
Jeff Halper
Choices Made: From Zionist Settler Colonialism to Decolonization
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Incident: Trump’s Special Relationship With the Saudi Monarchy
Andrew Levine
Democrats: Boost, Knock, Enthuse
Barbara Kantz
The Deportation Crisis: Report From Long Island
Doug Johnson
Nate Silver and 538’s Measurable 3.5% Democratic Bias and the 2018 House Race
Gwen Carr
This Stops Today: Seeking Justice for My Son Eric Garner
Robert Hunziker
Peak Carbon Emissions By 2020, or Else!
Arshad Khan
Is There Hope on a World Warming at 1.5 Degrees Celsius?
David Rosen
Packing the Supreme Court in the 21stCentury
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Threats of Death and Destruction
Joel A. Harrison
The Case for a Non-Profit Single-Payer Healthcare System
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail