Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Are the Perennial Pinocchios of the Corporate Military State Ginning Up Another War Crime?

[Edited 8/29/13]
Is it Deja Vu all over again?

The mainstream media has been busily reporting the opinions of any Syria war hawk they can get their hands on to repeat every sort of wildly unsupported claim by government sources stating that Syria has gassed their own people, and that so-called "humanitarian intervention" is legal under international law. We recall that while it is forbidden for Syria to defend itself against Saudi, Qatari, Jordanian, Turkish, and western supported extremist rebels fighting alongside of al Qaeda in a sectarian civil war, it is apparently just fine for the Egyptian military and police forces to shoot down a thousand peaceful Muslim Brotherhood protestors in cold-blood on the streets of Cairo. Ditto for Bahrain and the other Arab Monarchies we support.

Talk of the "International Community" in the mainstream media (like NBC, CNN, NPR and the like), a term which really just means the US and some colonial Western European countries (certainly not including the large and populous countries of Russia, China, Iran the rest of Asia, and the many countries in Africa or South America), actually being representative of world opinion is as bogus as the three dollar bill. And while the media is sorely interested in whether the militaristic US corporate surveillance state (can you say neoFascist?) will find support from Israel and Western European "allies," they rarely mention whether our government has the support of the American public, which it appears they do not have. After all, with the earnest help of the mainstream media, our government has time and time again lied us into foreign adventures that we ultimately do not support, but which we have to pay for in blood, money, or both. As George Carlin said, they don't give a shit about you--they don't care about you. "But nobody seems to notice, nobody seems to care."

So the Obama administration comments, from "war hero" Secretary of State John Kerry have been presented as saying that the US believes that Syria used chemical weapons. My reading of the statement does not indicate that he actually said that. However, Jay Carney said on CNN that there is little doubt that the Syrian regime was responsible, and that "Allowing the use of chemical weapons on a significant scale to take place without a response would present a significant challenge to or threat to the United States' national security," What threat to national security would that be? He also promised that the Obama administration would release "a US intelligence report" later this week. Say what? OK, we are going to attack but the evidence will have to wait? Something like Colin Powell's address to the UN establishing that Iraq had WMD which turned out to be false? Hell, the mainstream media has all but insisted that Syria is responsible and that to protect our "credibility" about "red lines" we will attack in response, even without scrutinizable evidence. Credibility?

[Update 8/29/13:  On Tueday the PBS "Newshour" featured these links, all of which tend to support a strike, except for the part about Americans being wary, which confused the issue by showing a photo of a child supporting intervention:


White House Debates Best Way to Punish, Prevent Syrian Chemical Arms Use

If the U.S. doesn't wait for the U.N. to finish inspecting the alleged chemical weapons attack site in Syria before taking action, it may still rely on those findings in building an international case. Margaret Warner joins Judy Woodruff to discuss how the White House continues to consult allies and consider military action.
On Wednesday night, President Obama appeared on the show, saying that the administration has concluded that Syria is responsible for the attack, but then follows with a big "if" i.e., "if that's so" then "consequences." The administration seems to be purposefully giving out mixed signals. Did Syria do it or didn't they?
We have looked at all the evidence, and we do not believe the opposition possessed nuclear weapons of that—or, chemical weapons of that sort. We do not believe that given the delivery systems, using rockets, that the opposition could have carried out these attacks. We have concluded that the Syrian government, in fact, carried these out. And if that’s so, then there need to be international consequences. So, we are consulting with our allies. We’re consulting with the international community. And, you know, I have no interest in any kind of open-ended conflict in Syria, but we do have to make sure that when countries break international norms on weapons like chemical weapons that could threaten us, that they are held accountable. [Emphasis added]
Looks like he's covering all the bases. End update]

CNN also reported that "Vice President Joe Biden made clear the administration's view of who was to blame, telling the American Legion that "there is no doubt who is responsible for the heinous use of chemical weapons -- the Syrian regime" and that Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel says "we're ready to go."

CNN followed up with an OP-ED by Laurie Garrett, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations and a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, stating:
This week, the world is learning that on August 21, Syria's Assad regime attacked civilians living on the outskirts of Damascus, killing at least 355 of them, including many small children. According to Vice President Joe Biden, there is "no doubt" that chemical weapons were used by the regime -- and not, as the Assad government has claimed, by rebel forces.
NPRs John Hockenberry, on his 8/28/13 "The Takeaway" program (download link), one of the more dependably propagandistic of the NPR offerings, offered us two former government officials, Kurt Volker, a former CIA analyst, former staff member for warmonger John McCain, McCain Institute employee, investment bank lobbyist, and United States Permanent Representative to NATO, as well as Phyllis E. Oakley, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State. No sources that would argue the case against an attack on Syria, of course! Volker presented a completely false analysis for a "substantial response" that included "to deter the future use of chemical weapons" and a defense of the phony "humanitarian" concept of the "responsibility to protect" as being legal under international law, an argument which simply provides cover for reckless inhumane killing and destruction under the illegal model of the unjustified NATO wars on Serbia and Libya. The message was that international law really didn't matter if the US and their European allies think they would like to attack any country they disagree with, even if they don't present convincing evidence of actual threat, need, legality or national interest.

When one considers the unnecessary wars and attacks we have inflicted on other nations we disagree with, and who do not submit to our dictates, I often consider the costs in terms of blood and treasure. Aside from the moral questions of the loss of innocent lives and reducing countries to a subsistence level of living within the rubble, one needs to think about what we have actually gained from our aggression and how those resources spent on war could have been put to productive use at home. "a single Tomahawk cruise missile costs US$1,410,000." Three of them could provide Baker City with a modern UV water treatment facility. During the war on Libya alone (didn't that turn out great!) we used at least 161 of them. The Navy alone purchases 195 of them every year. (One suspects that they need to burn up a number of cruise missiles every year to keep the "defense" industries humming for the elite stockholders.)

Fortunately, we don't have to rely on NPR, NBC, CNN, and etc. for good information about the Syrian civil war because we have the internet.

Here are a few articles questioning the narrative that has been presented by the mainstream media.

The articles by Stephen Gowans are full of logic (god forbid) and fairly comprehensive (See also the links within the article):

Never Mind Whether Obama’s Red Line Has Been Crossed—Is It Even Legitimate?
August 28, 2013

By Stephen Gowans
US officials say they’re convinced that the Syrian government gassed its own people. This might mean something, if US officials weren’t notoriously bad at getting the facts straight. In 1998, the Pentagon flattened a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant with a cruise missile, because US officials said they were convinced it was a site for manufacturing chemical weapons (CW). In turns out the plant made pills. In 1999, Serbia and parts of Montenegro were bombed by US and NATO warplanes for 78 days because US officials said they were convinced the Milosevic government was carrying out a genocide in Kosovo. They were wrong. Over a million Iraqis were sanctioned, bombed and invaded into early graves by the United States and its British subaltern because the officials of both countries said they were convinced the Iraqi government was hiding weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Wrong again. The weapons Iraq was said to be hiding, but had destroyed, had only a tiny fraction of the mass destructive power of the weapons in the arsenals of the US and UK militaries, which didn’t call their weapons WMD, but “deterrents” and “guarantors of our national security.” The Libyan government was ultimately toppled by NATO warplanes because US, French and British officials said they were convinced Libyan leader Muamar Gaddafi was about to commit genocide. Gaddafi had neither the means nor intention to do so. Yet another spectacular error. 
In making the point that Washington has waged unprovoked wars on the basis of faulty intelligence at best, but far more likely contrived intelligence and sheer deception, we mustn’t implicitly accept the idea that the United States has the right and obligation to outrage the sovereignty of any country it wishes because the country’s government has crossed a red line the United States has unilaterally established. In doing so, we become locked in a framework of the US ruling class’s making, accepting its claim to have a moral right to assume the role of global rule-maker, prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner—in other words, the planet’s autocrat. 
Accepting this framework could limit the questions we ask, making us miss important ones. When is an intervention legitimate, and when is it not? Is intervention to punish a country for using a class of weapons in a civil war legitimate? If not, why even talk about whether the trigger for intervention has been pulled if the trigger is invalid? Why talk about whether Obama’s red line has been crossed, rather than whether Obama’s red line is even legitimate? Why are the United States’ massively destructive weapons not called WMD while Syria’s not so massively destructive weapons are? If the Americans, British, French, Russians, Chinese, Indians, Pakistanis, and Israelis have a right (de jure or de facto) to have nuclear weapons as a deterrent, why not the North Koreans?

Diana Johnstone eloquently pointed out in Counterpunch yesterday that, “There are many ways of killing people in a civil war. Selecting one as a trigger for US intervention serves primarily to give rebels an excellent reason to carry out a ‘false flag’ operation that will bring NATO into the war they are losing.” [1] True. But we could also note, There are many ways of killing people in a civil war. Why single out CW? It can’t be because they’re uniquely destructive or gruesome. All the deaths due to reported use of chemical agents in Syria are dwarfed by the number of deaths due to other weapons. And dying by gas is no more gruesome than evisceration by an al-Qaeda rebel or having your head blown off by a Saudi-supplied RPG.
Part of the answer, I think, for why CW have been singled out is because Washington can’t single out the Syrian government for using violence to put down a rebellion. That’s because the United States’ satellites, the ruling generals in Egypt, and the Arab royal dictators, are using violence in Egypt and Bahrain to put down rebellions there. To punish the Syrian government for using violence to defend itself against a rebellion is a tough sell, given that Washington’s friends are doing the same in their own countries.  . . . .
We should ask, Why is it not wrong for the United States and the United Kingdom to use sanctions of mass destruction to kill over a million Iraqis, and conventional bombs and missiles of mass destruction, along with depleted uranium, to invade Iraq, when it is wrong to use CW to kill a few hundred people (which, for reasons I’ve outlined elsewhere, there is no proof, open to examination, that the Syrian government used, and cogent reasons to believe it didn’t)? We should also ask, Is there not something morally grotesque about the United States and the United Kingdom planning to use their own WMD to punish Syria for the deaths of a few hundred people through CW, when the Anglo-American alliance used sanctions of mass destruction and weapons of mass destruction against Iraq, on contrived grounds, producing vastly more deaths and engendering a humanitarian catastrophe on an immense scale? Isn’t this even more grotesque considering that the evidence points more strongly to the alleged gassing incident being the work of the opposition, allied to the United States, than the Syrian government?

Meanwhile, one of Washington’s servile friends, the royal dictator, King Abdullah of Jordan, has called for a peaceful settlement of Syria’s civil war. Abdullah’s hypocrisy is stunning. He has turned Jordanian territory over to the CIA and Saudis as a center for training Syrian rebels and distributing weapons to the Syrian opposition. Hardly a contribution to a peaceful settlement. [2] 
Turkey, which once maintained a vast prison house of nations that included the Arabs, says it will join other former colonial powers, France and Britain, in the campaign to punish Syria. The Syrian government, it should be stressed, remains part of a movement of Arab national emancipation and colonial liberation. Unlike the US Communist Party and other leftists who make conspicuous displays of turning up their noses at the Syrian government, I’m happy to recognize the role it plays in the movement for Arab emancipation, and regard it as progressive. I measure no movement for emancipation against utopian standards, . . . . The servile Arab League, from which the legitimate government of Syria has been ejected, and which has settled comfortably into the role of US puppet, is not so concerned about emancipation, and the same leftists who publicly revile the Syrian government are not so concerned about showing their distaste for the reactionary Arab regimes, all friends of the West.

Finally, the Wall Street Journal reported today that according to a June poll it sponsored with NBC News, US public opinion is opposed to a military intervention to respond to “the Syrian government’s killing of protesters and civilians.” Only 15 percent of respondents backed a US military intervention. The newspaper didn’t say whether respondents were asked if they favored US military intervention in response to the Egyptian military’s killing of protesters and civilians in Egypt, or Bahrain’s royal dictatorship killing of protesters and civilians in Bahrain, although we can be pretty certain they weren’t. Within the ruling class framework of acceptable thought, punishing allies for doing what enemies are punished for, is unthinkable. It could be said that the poll results are irrelevant, because the survey question didn’t ask about CW. That’s true, but even if the CW question had been posed, the poll results would still be irrelevant. US state officials don’t make decisions on the basis of public opinion, and aren’t particularly swayed by it. The taking and presenting of public opinion polls simply create the illusion that public opinion matters in the formulation of US foreign policy. It doesn’t. What matters are the interests of major investors, bankers and the top executives of America’s largest corporations, and the opinions of the members of the power elite that represent them. And what matters to them is securing more markets, labor and natural resources for US capital to exploit and plunder by toppling governments that insist on using these for their own country’s development and people’s welfare, rather than for the enrichment of Wall Street investment bankers and the expansion of corporate America’s profit margins. Syria’s crime isn’t to have used CW (and it’s unlikely it did), but to have insisted on political and economic independence.
See also: 

Syria has the right to use chemical weapons, but there’s no proof, or reason to believe, it has   

Wednesday, August 28, 2013--Democracy Now!
As Strikes on Syria Loom, Is U.S. Ignoring a Diplomatic Track That Could Prevent More Violence?
The Obama administration says military action in Syria would be aimed at responding to chemical attacks, not seeking regime change, but critics say similar claims were made at the outset of the NATO intervention in Libya. "There is no military solution," says Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies. "Extra assaults from the United States are going to make the situation worse, put Syrian civilians at greater risk, and not provide protection." . . . .

PHYLLIS BENNIS: Well, you know, the decision to go to the Security Council, that the British are doing today, is, as you mentioned earlier, guaranteed to get a veto, certainly by Russia, likely by China, as well, although it’s conceivable China could abstain, but they’re likely to veto. They may not even get nine sufficient votes.
But what’s dangerous here is that the United Nations Charter, which is the fundamental component of international law governing issues of war and peace, is very, very clear on what constitutes the legal use of military force. There is no question that having used chemical weapons—whoever used it—is a huge war crime. It’s a specific violation of the chemical weapons treaty. It’s also a war crime or potentially even a crime against humanity. The problem is, we don’t know yet who is responsible.
The U.S. is hinting that it may use the Kosovo precedent of 1999 as a way to get around the prohibition—the absolute prohibition—on using military force unless it is immediate self-defense, which no one in Washington is claiming that the use of these horrible weapons in Syria somehow threatens the United States—so that’s off the table—or that the Security Council agrees, which we know is not going to happen. The Kosovo precedent basically said in 1999, "We know we can’t get support from the Security Council, Russia will veto; therefore, we won’t ask the Security Council, we’ll ask the NATO high command." So they went to NATO, and, what a surprise, the NATO high command said, "Yes, we approve the use of military force in Kosovo."  
Now, the problem is twofold. One, NATO is a military structure. It’s like a hammer and a nail. If you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. If you’re NATO, everything looks like it requires a military response. The other problem is legal. There is simply no legal justification that says that the NATO high command or any other organization has the right to determine the legality of the use of force other than the U.N. Security Council. So if that is the justification, it will stand in complete violation of international law.


CONFIRMED: US Claims Against Syria - There is no Evidence

By Tony Cartalucci
August 28, 2013 "Information Clearing House - The Wall Street Journal has confirmed what many suspected, that the West's so-called "evidence" of the latest alleged "chemical attacks" in Syria, pinned on the Syrian government are fabrications spun up from the West's own dubious intelligence agencies. 
The Wall Street Journal reveals that the US is citing claims from Israel's Mossad intelligence agency fed to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), a repeat of the fabrications that led up to the Iraq War, the Libyan War, and have been used now for 3 years to justify continued support of extremists operating within and along Syria's borders. 
Wall Street Journal's article, "U.S., Allies Prepare to Act as Syria Intelligence Mounts," states:

One crucial piece of the emerging case came from Israeli spy services, which provided the Central Intelligence Agency with intelligence from inside an elite special Syrian unit that oversees Mr. Assad's chemical weapons, Arab diplomats said. The intelligence, which the CIA was able to verify, showed that certain types of chemical weapons were moved in advance to the same Damascus suburbs where the attack allegedly took place a week ago, Arab diplomats said.

Both Mossad and the CIA are clearly compromised in terms of objectivity and legitimacy. Neither exists nor is expected to provide impartial evidence, but rather to facilitate by all means necessary the self-serving agendas, interests, and objectives of their respective governments. 
That both Israel and the United States, as far back as 2007 have openly conspired together to overthrow the government of Syria through a carefully engineered sectarian bloodbath, discredits entirely their respective intelligence agencies. This is precisely why an impartial, objective third-party investigation has been called for by the international community and agreed upon by the Syrian government - a third-party investigation the US has now urged to be canceled ahead of its planned military strikes. [It is worth remembering that technically, Israel and Syria, while reaching a ceasefire agreement after the 1973 Yom Kippur War, are still at war, and that Israel still occupies and transfers its citizens to the illegally held Golan Heights, which was taken from Syria in the 1967 war. Chris]
The Wall Street Journal reports:

In an email on Sunday, White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice told U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power and other top officials that the U.N. mission was pointless because the chemical weapons evidence already was conclusive, officials said. The U.S. privately urged the U.N. to pull the inspectors out, setting the stage for President Barack Obama to possibly move forward with a military response, officials said.
The US then, not Syria, is attempting a coverup, with fabrications in place from discredited, compromised intelligence sources and the threat of impending military strikes that would endanger the UN inspection team's safety should they fail to end their investigation and withdraw.

The Wall Street Journal also reiterated that the US is planning to fully sidestep the UN Security Council and proceed with its partners unilaterally:

...if the U.S. chose to strike, it would do so with allies and without the U.N., in order to sidestep an expected Russian veto.
The US proceeds now with absolute disregard for international law, all but declaring it has no intention of providing credible evidence of its accusations against the Syrian government. It is a rush to war with all the hallmarks of dangerous desperation as the West's proxy forces collapse before the Syrian military. Western military leaders must consider the strategic tenants and historical examples regarding the dangers and folly of haste and imprudence in war - especially war fought to protect special interests and political agendas rather than to defend territory.

The populations of the West must likewise consider what benefits they have garnered from the last decade of military conquest their leaders have indulged in. Crumbling economies gutted to feed the preservation of special interests and the growing domestic security apparatuses to keep these interests safe from both domestic and foreign dissent are problems that will only grow more acute. 
Outside of the West, in Moscow, Beijing, and Tehran, leaders must consider a future where Western special interests can invade with impunity, without public support, or even the tenuous semblance of justification being necessary.

This article was originally published at Land Destroyer

In Rush to Strike Syria, U.S. Tried to Derail U.N. Probe


After initially insisting that Syria give United Nations investigators unimpeded access to the site of an alleged nerve gas attack, the administration of President Barack Obama reversed its position on Sunday and tried unsuccessfully to get the U.N. to call off its investigation. 

The administration’s reversal, which came within hours of the deal reached between Syria and the U.N., was reported by the Wall Street Journal Monday and effectively confirmed by a State Department spokesperson later that day. 

In his press appearance Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry, who intervened with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to call off the investigation, dismissed the U.N. investigation as coming too late to obtain valid evidence on the attack that Syrian opposition sources claimed killed as many 1,300 people.  . . . .  Dan Kastesza, a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Army Chemical Corps and a former adviser to the White House on chemical and biological weapons proliferation, told IPS the team will not be looking for traces of the nerve gas sarin in blood samples but rather chemicals produced when sarin degrades. 
But Kastesza said that once samples arrive at laboratories, specialists could make a determination “in a day or two” about whether a nerve agent or other chemical weapons had been used. 
The real reason for the Obama administration’s hostility toward the U.N. investigation appears to be the fear that the Syrian government’s decision to allow the team access to the area indicates that it knows that U.N. investigators will not find evidence of a nerve gas attack. 
The administration’s effort to discredit the investigation recalls the George W. Bush administration’s rejection of the position of U.N. inspectors in 2002 and 2003 after they found no evidence of any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the administration’s refusal to give inspectors more time to fully rule out the existence of an active Iraqi WMD programme. 
In both cases, the administration had made up its mind to go to war and wanted no information that could contradict that policy to arise.


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