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New revelations by Seymour Hersh in Syria gas attack

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The circumstances surrounding last August 21’s poisonous gas attack on civilians in a suburb of Damascus always were murky, despite the attempts of the Obama Administration and Secretary of State John Kerry to lay the blame squarely on Syria’s President Assad, who allegedly ordered the attack deliberately. Media at the time clearly pointed out that there was no clear-cut “smoking gun” available as evidence, as even the U.S. State Department itself admitted at the time. (See, e.g., Huffington Post, “U.S. Syria Conflict: Intelligence On Chemical Weapons Is No 'Slam Dunk,' Officials Say,” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/29/us-syria-conflict_n_3834544.html? ir=Politics&utm_campaign=082913&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Alert-politics&utm_content=Title) . Then, on August 29 the Mint Press News released as story under the bylines of Middle East expert Dale Gavlak and Yahya Ababna that claimed that an anti-Assad rebel group had accidentally fired off the gas-bearing missiles (The August 29 article is linked here: http://www.mintpressnews.com/witnesses-of-gas-attack-say-saudis-supplied-rebels-with-chemical-weapons/168135/). These issues were commented on at the time on examiner.com, in an article directly citing the Mint Press News report, , “Syrian rebels admit to being behind chemical weapons attack,” www.examiner.com/article/syrian-rebels-admit-to-being-behind-chemical-we..., and this author’s own critique of the State Department’s official paper pinning blame clearly on Assad and thus, through this, presenting a rationale for U.S. intervention in the Syrian civil war, “U.S. State Department’s paper on Syria presents very weak case for intervention,” http://www.examiner.com/article/u-s-state-department-s-paper-on-syria-presents-very-weak-case-for-intervention?cid=db_articles.

However, Gavlak herself repudiated involvement in the Mint Press News story, alleging that her byline was misappropriated, and that she’d not been in Syria at the time and had not interviewed rebel forces. (See the September 21, 2013 “Brown Moses Blog” for Gavlak’s official statement, brown-moses.blogspot.com/2013/09/statement-by-dale-gavlak-on-mint-press.html.) Though still murky, this repudiation might seem to lend indirect credence to the Obama Administration’s official claim that Syria’s President Assad himself was behind the attack on civilians.

But then, on December 8, 2013, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, who had exposed the My Lai massacre in Vietnam and the torture and degradation of prisoners at Abu Graib prison in Afghanistan, published in the London Review of Books “Whose sarin?” http://www.lrb.co.uk/2013/12/08/seymour-m-hersh/whose-sarin, alleging that the Obama Administration itself concocted intelligence that placed sole blame for the August 21 gas attack on the Assad regime, and deliberately misled the U.S. public in an attempt to build up a rationale for military intervention in Syria. (News report digests published December 9 on Hersh’s explosive revelations can be found at Yahoo News, “Seymour Hersh Alleges Obama Administration Lied on Syria Gas Attack,” http://news.yahoo.com/seymour-hersh-alleges-obama-administration-lied-syria-gas-204437397.html, and on Salon, “Seymour Hersh: Obama administration nearly lied the U.S. into war with Syria,” http://www.salon.com/2013/12/09/seymour_hersh_obama_administration_nearly_lied_the_u_s_into_war_with_syria.Hersh also appeared December 9 on the independent TV program Democracy Now to argue his claim that the Obama Administration “cherry picked” intelligence reports in order to provide the rationale it wanted the public to accept, http://www.democracynow.org/2013/12/9/seymour_hersh_obama_cherry_picked_intelligence.)
Though what actually happened in Syria on that fateful day is still murky, what is clear is that the Obama Administration almost provoked another U.S. war in a foreign region for which there was little, if any, actual rational, as opposed to concocted ones, according to Seymour Hersh’s reportage. Sound familiar? Or are Iraq and Weapons of Mass Destruction, Afghanistan as a vital battleground against Al-Qaeda, and Vietnam and the Gulf of Tonkin Incident forgotten already?

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