Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
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 provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
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.

Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
Sam Husseini
The Most Strategic Midterm Race: Elder Challenges Hoyer
Maria Foscarinis – John Tharp
The Criminalization of Homelessness
Robert Fisk
The Story of the Armenian Legion: a Dark Tale of Anger and Revenge
Jacques R. Pauwels
Dinner With Marx in the House of the Swan
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Ricardo Vaz
How Many Yemenis is a DC Pundit Worth?
Elliot Sperber
Build More Gardens, Phase out Cars
Chris Gilbert
In the Wake of Nepal’s Incomplete Revolution: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian 
Muhammad Othman
Let Us Bray
Gerry Brown
Are Chinese Municipal $6 Trillion (40 Trillion Yuan) Hidden Debts Posing Titanic Risks?
Rev. William Alberts
Judge Kavanaugh’s Defenders Doth Protest Too Much
Ralph Nader
Unmasking Phony Values Campaigns by the Corporatists
Victor Grossman
A Big Rally and a Bavarian Vote
James Bovard
Groped at the Airport: Congress Must End TSA’s Sexual Assaults on Women
Jeff Roby
Florida After Hurricane Michael: the Sad State of the Unheeded Planner
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Bradley Kaye
The Policy of Policing
Wim Laven
The Catholic Church Fails Sexual Abuse Victims
Kevin Cashman
One Year After Hurricane Maria: Employment in Puerto Rico is Down by 26,000
Dr. Hakim Young
Nonviolent Afghans Bring a Breath of Fresh Air
Karl Grossman
Irving Like vs. Big Nuke
Dan Corjescu
The New Politics of Climate Change
John Carter
The Plight of the Pyrenees: the Abandoned Guard Dogs of the West
Ted Rall
Brett Kavanaugh and the Politics of Emotion-Shaming
Graham Peebles
Sharing is Key to a New Economic and Democratic Order
Ed Rampell
The Advocates
Louis Proyect
The Education Business
David Yearsley
Shock-and-Awe Inside Oracle Arena
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail