FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Before We Go to War With Syria, Inconvenient Truths Must be Confronted

On Tuesday, 4 April, images from a suspected a chemical weapons attack circulated the world and shocked all who saw them. Infants could be seen convulsing as they breathed into gas masks while young men were hosed down with water as they rolled around naked on the floor.

I was shocked too, of course, but not because of the content of the images (as a journalist, I encounter distressing images on a weekly basis). I was shocked because as soon as I saw the images, I knew exactly what the consequences would be.

They’re not difficult to predict. In fact, we’ve all seen how the events of Khan Sheikhoun play out dozens of times before: a heinous affront against humanity takes place, Western leaders apportion blame before any facts can be independently verified, all inconvenient narratives are ignored, sovereign leaders are vilified and a vulnerable government is toppled in the name of “regime change”. (PS this is exactly what academic Noam Chomsky recently meant when he said he United States is becoming the world’s laughing stock for kicking up a fuss about alleged Russian interference in its elections, when the country routinely overthrows governments it does not approve of.)

However, for some of us who follow Western foreign policy more closely, there usually entails another step in the chain of events that is not so well known: the incident that causes so much outrage turns out to be not as we were told or, in some instances, completely fabricated.

The weapons of mass destruction lie from the 2003 Iraq War is still fresh in our minds, but an example from the First Gulf War of 1990 may be more appropriate.

When public opinion was split about America’s involvement in the war, a 15-year-old girl who gave her name simply as Nayirah tugged the heartstrings of every right-thinking person and sold the case for war.

Appearing in front of US Congress, she testified that Iraqi soldiers took babies out of incubators in a Kuwaiti hospital and left the on the floor to die.

Her testimony was corroborated by Amnesty International and was broadcast all over the world, but in 1992, it emerged that Nayirah was the daughter of the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the US and that her story was completely false.

But by then, it was too late and the largest coalition of countries since World War Two had already gone to war.

Such tactics are known as atrocity propaganda and they became so widespread, they often became the pursuit of academic study.

“So great are the psychological resistances to war in modern nations”, wrote Harold Lasswell, a leading American political scientist, “that every war must appear to be a war of defence against a menacing, murderous aggressor.

“There must be no ambiguity about who the public is to hate.”

However, academics concluded that such atrocity propaganda leads to real atrocities as invading troops are more likely to let their hate dictate their actions and carry out acts of needless aggression.

Such violence then creates a cycle of hate that leads to the deaths of millions of civilians and the destruction of entire countries.

Though the facts are yet to fully emerge in this case, let us consider the inconvenient truths at play before we resign ourselves to the fate of all-out war.

One: In spite of the assertions of US officials, there is still no independently verified evidence to suggest President Bashar al-Assad’s troops were behind the suspected chemical weapon attack.

Two: Most evidence thus far has come from the British-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights – a network of opposition activists – and the White Helmets, founded by a former British Army officer. Both groups openly align with anti-Assad forces and are not impartial.

Three: One of the doctors who documented the alleged use of chemical weapons and appeared on television networks claiming sarin was used is Shajul Islam, 31, from east London. In 2013, he was arrested for the kidnapping of two Western journalists and was considered a “committed jihadist” by MI6 before being struck off the General Medical Council in 2016.

Four: Assad, who trained as an eye doctor in London, is said to be so daft that he authorised the attack days before a major peace conference in Geneva and after he has already vastly gained the upper hand against anti-government militants.

Five: Faced with US invasion in 2013 and when former President Barack Obama made his “red line” declaration, Syria joined the Chemical Weapons Convention of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and destroyed its 1,300-ton stockpile of chemical weapons and so-called precursor chemicals that can be used to make weapons.

Six: Though Assad is still believed to have some access to chemical weapons, he is not the only actor in Syria to do so. Following the 2013 chemical weapon attack in eastern Ghouta, which was immediately blamed on Assad, it emerged that groups such as the Al Qaeda-linked Al Nusra Front were more likely to be the perpetrators.

Seymour Hersh ­– a veteran investigative journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner – wrote for the London Review of Books at the time:

“Barack Obama did not tell the whole story this autumn when he tried to make the case that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus on 21 August [2013].

“In some instances, he omitted important intelligence, and in others he presented assumptions as facts.

“Most significant, he failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin.”

Before we make such assumptions in Tuesday’s attack and risk the prospect of World War Three, is it not reasonable to ensure we understand who was really responsible?

More articles by:

Tareq Haddad is a journalist. He can be reached through his website.

August 14, 2018
Daniel Falcone
On Taking on the Mobilized Capitalist Class in Elections: an Interview With Noam Chomsky
Karl Grossman
Turning Space Into a War Zone
Jonah Raskin
“Fuck Wine Grapes, Fuck Wines”: the Coming Napafication of the World
Manuel García, Jr.
Climate Change Bites Big Business
Alberto Zuppi - Cesar Chelala
Argentina at a Crossroads
Chris Wright
On “Bullshit Jobs”
Rosita A. Sweetman
Dear Jorge: On the Pope’s Visit to Ireland
Binoy Kampmark
Authoritarian Revocations: Australia, Terrorism and Citizenship
Sara Johnson
The Incredible Benefits of Sagebrush and Juniper in the West
Martin Billheimer
White & Red Aunts, Capital Gains and Anarchy
Walter Clemens
Enough Already! Donald J. Trump Resignation Speech
August 13, 2018
Michael Colby
Migrant Injustice: Ben & Jerry’s Farmworker Exploitation
John Davis
California: Waging War on Wildfire
Alex Strauss
Chasing Shadows: Socialism Won’t Go Away Because It is Capitalism’s Antithesis 
Kathy Kelly
U.S. is Complicit in Child Slaughter in Yemen
Fran Shor
The Distemper of White Spite
Chad Hanson
We Know How to Protect Homes From Wildfires. Logging Isn’t the Way to Do It
Faisal Khan
Nawaz Sharif: Has Pakistan’s Houdini Finally Met his End?
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Versus Journalism: the Travails of Fourth Estate
Wim Laven
Honestly Looking at Family Values
Fred Gardner
Exploiting Styron’s Ghost
Dean Baker
Fact-Checking the Fact-Checker on Medicare-for-All
Weekend Edition
August 10, 2018
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Militarizing Space: Starship Troopers, Same As It Ever Was
Andrew Levine
No Attack on Iran, Yet
Melvin Goodman
The CIA’s Double Standard Revisited
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The Grifter’s Lament
Aidan O'Brien
In Italy, There are 12,000 American Soldiers and 500,000 African Refugees: Connect the Dots 
Robert Fantina
Pity the Democrats and Republicans
Ishmael Reed
Am I More Nordic Than Members of the Alt Right?
Kristine Mattis
Dying of Consumption While Guzzling Snake Oil: a Realist’s Perspective on the Environmental Crisis
James Munson
The Upside of Defeat
Brian Cloughley
Pentagon Spending Funds the Politicians
Pavel Kozhevnikov
Cold War in the Sauna: Notes From a Russian American
Marilyn Garson
If the Gaza Blockade is Bad, Does That Make Hamas Good?
Sean Posey
Declinism Rising: An Interview with Morris Berman  
Jack Dresser
America’s Secret War on Yemen
Howard Lisnoff
The Use and Misuse of Charity: the Luck of the Draw in a Predatory System
Louis Proyect
In the Spirit of the Departed Munsees
Binoy Kampmark
Banning Alex Jones and Infowars
Mundher Al Adhami
On the Iraqi Protests, Now in Their Second Month 
Jeff Mackler
Nicaragua: Dynamics of an Interrupted Revolution
Robert Hunziker
Peter Wadhams, Professor Emeritus, Ocean Physics
David Macaray
Missouri Stands Tall on the Labor Front
Thomas Knapp
I Didn’t Join Facebook to “Feel Safe”
John Carroll Md
Are Haitian Doctors Burned Out?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail