“The important thing is to not stop questioning.” – Albert Einstein
If you have trouble keeping the tangled knot of Middle Eastern politics straight, you’re not alone. The Middle Eastern governments themselves appear unable to avoid backing both sides of the same arguments – at times even when their own governments are part of the arguments. So, it’s to be expected that the US could find itself supporting Syrian insurgents allied with the same group that allegedly attacked the US on 9/11, and patrolling opium poppy fields in Afghanistan. Middle Eastern politics is a highly contagious disease.
This is where liberal application of cynically skeptical doubt comes in handy. When faced with a presentation that relies more on emotional appeal than independently verifiable information, the value of asking too many questions can’t be overstated. This is especially true when the price tags are high in terms of lives, financial resources, raw materials, and legacy.
Simply believing the Obama administration’s story, particularly as articulated by its principle spokesperson, Secretary of State John Kerry, is a sure road to disaster, disappointment, and destruction of yet more things the American people don’t understand, appreciate, or have any right to toy with.
The official account coming out of Washington claims that Bashar al-Assad, the veritable Butcher of Damascus, has once again outdone himself by gassing his own people in clear contravention of all that’s good and decent in the world. For the time being let’s assume that the US is good, decent, and has the ethical standing to support such criticism, even though the US has had awfully questionable policies and used awfully questionable weapons itself repeatedly in the past 10 years, including banned white phosphorus munitions, cluster bombs that most nations have prohibited, and DU (Depleted Uranium) weapons that keep on destroying unnumbered lives of non-combatants for many years after they were fired.
However, the official story about Syria starts unraveling even quicker than most other official US stories – like the 9/11 Commission Report, which even high school history students can be expected to see through before their rushed term papers on the subject are ready for their dogs to eat. There are several other accounts, supported by more substantial reporting, that make more sense.
For starters, the Syrian insurgents were apparently preparing press release material on the attack the day before it happened. One might suppose that a more appropriate reaction to that kind of advance knowledge would be to spread alarm in time to save lives instead of an announcement to proclaim a slaughter, but for a movement that includes cannibals, sporadic rampages of savage beheadings – sometimes featuring dual-purposed kitchen knives, and summary executions of women not involved in the fighting, and a litany of their own chemical weapons attacks (including ones using sarin) maybe there aren’t any civilized expectations that apply.
Preliminary reports indicate that the gas used was a DIY variety rather than the military grade found in the Syrian government’s chemical weapons arsenal. Likewise, the rocket debris has been alleged to indicate delivery systems quite a bit less sophisticated than those the Syrian government has at its disposal. Of course, the Syrian government could have made crude devices just to mislead investigators, but judging from practically every government’s reaction, Obama’s famous “Red Line” statement ominously hovering in the background, and America’s established lack of patience for investigation, it’s a bit of a stretch to think that Assad would have any reason to expect America’s reflexive reaction to be a call for investigation.
Nevertheless, an investigation by the UN has been launched. So far, the only clear conclusion reached has been that chemical weapons were, in fact, used. The UN’s report is also being quoted by some to make not terribly supportable claims that the weapons were fired from Syrian government positions. But the claim is contradicted by numerous first-hand accounts, independent analysis, and evidence offered by Russia, whose president, Vladimir Putin, is made to look like a peacenik by Barack Obama’s bellicosity. Some have even suggested that Obama needs to give the Nobel Peace Prize he clearly doesn’t deserve himself to Putin instead, who in this case, might actually merit the honor.
It’s also a little puzzling why Assad’s forces would carry out a chemical weapons attack about 15 minutes’ walk from where UN inspectors, invited by Syria to investigate chemical weapons attacks, were beginning their work. Motivation for the Syrian government is even harder to understand when considered together with the major advances against the insurgents on all fronts the Syrian government had been making for several weeks. Maybe the trick is to blindly accept All the Propaganda That’s Fit to Print.
America’s own story relies on details that lack depth. The “secret” report that the Obama administration at first wouldn’t let Congress see was ultimately revealed to supply no more information than the unclassified one, which was little more than a sketch of suspicious hearsay and conveniently edited, out of context surveillance, key parts of which were supplied by markedly partisan sources. All attempts to get further clarification of the details that were put forth as justification for war were answered with shallow responses that sounded exactly like the kind of thing one might expect from a hastily contrived story provided by people who hadn’t expected their wishful fabrications to be tested.
Echoing Curveball, the famously unreliable source behind crucial claims that were used to justify George Bush’s Iraq attack in 2003, Elizabeth O’Bagy, a likewise crucial source for material supporting the Syrian insurgent’s claims, turned out to be a paid tool of the same insurgents, and to ice the cake, lying about having a PhD.
The US can’t even seem to attenuate its eagerness to spread propaganda when it comes to reporting the body count from the attack. According to the US, over 1,400 were killed. In fact, John Kerry states an exact number almost as if he had a report on his desk listing their names. On the other hand, not even America’s allies promote fatality estimates one third as high, with some groups, like Doctors Without Borders, who were actually in the area trying to help, reporting figures no more than a fourth as high.
Clearly, some people have private agendas they’re trying to promote, and don’t mind stretching the facts to fit their framework, or making them up if there aren’t any facts to stretch. Who could they be? And what might be those agendas?
There are the usual culprits. Once again calling on the most cynically skeptical doubt a cynically skeptical doubter can muster, it’s tempting to wonder what part the American military-industrial complex might have in the spluttery foot-stomping and blast-happy daydreaming over another pointless, hypocritical war.
The back-burnered American attack, to teach that awful Syrian dictator what civilization is all about and demonstrate how America’s very own world simply will not stand for anyone who would stand against the threat of American bombs & missiles, is advertised as an attack that would, of course, be strictly by bombs & missiles with no “boots on the ground” involved. At least not right away, or not in any way that the not-a-war’s main salesman, John Kerry, can get nailed down to – provided no one asks too many questions about it.
Those bombs & missiles are frightfully expensive. The cheapest missiles run over a quarter of a million, each, and the really good ones push a million and a half, each. Those who would fire the missiles start their estimates of the number of missiles needed in the “hundreds.” Forgetting that those same people are famous for underestimating requirements, presumably in order to reduce the sticker shock that causes questions to be asked in the first place, it’s interesting to note that “hundreds” is a not particularly precise way of counting things, each with a price tag like a house or mansion, that they are asking to be allowed to toss away like they can be replaced at Wal-Mart.
America’s arms manufacturers stand to make huge paychecks out of any military adventure in Syria, conveniently in advance of sequestration cuts scheduled to automatically take effect in January. Not to press their concession too aggressively, they’ve also been nagging Congress about their assembly lines. They point out that they have to manufacture an impressive number of missiles of each type every year just to keep them in production. Anything less, they claim, and they have no choice but to shutdown their assembly lines, send production workers & engineers to the unemployment line, and threaten the entire American economy with collapse. America’s generals, either already “retired” and double-dipping in the arms industry cookie jar as consultants & lobbyists, or eagerly anticipating their lucrative futures, completely agree. That’s in addition to the terrific opportunity to keep their forces – especially the officer corps, trained in live combat, a project they’ve nurtured since Vietnam.
However, the military can always find itself something to do. They aren’t attached to any special conflict. Similarly, despite their whimpering, the arms manufacturers have plenty of customers if the US won’t buy their products. Sometimes that means selling to both sides of the same conflicts, occasionally when America’s own military is involved – as has happened in the past 5 years in Afghanistan, but business is business. They don’t really need Assad to keep their cash registers ringing.
Then there’s international banking & finance, where America plays a dual role, both as a major player with appropriately trans-national people and organizations, and as enforcer whenever there can be no question of military dominance. Greg Palast has written extensively on the former subject, and the history of US military engagement for the past 30 years speaks well enough for the second. Evidence suggests that both factors need to be considered if America’s Syria policy is going to be understood. Still, there doesn’t seem to be an explanation for the irrational edge in the Obama administration’s action, or for why Obama himself, supposedly a pretty intelligent guy, would leave himself so open to being called careless, weak, and full of empty bluster.
So, what else is left? Why would America be so eager to attack Syria?
The specious claims of promoting human rights & democracy fool only fools. It’s not like America occupies much ethical high ground anymore. Immediately following World War, part 2, that argument satisfied more of the world than objected to it. But not so much since Vietnam, and the two-part Iraq War with its brutal intermission, to list the most infamously, blatantly wrong of America’s long list of “post-war” military adventures. Then there’s the ongoing pillaging by insatiable American businesses, and over 60 years of supporting whatever ghastly, barbaric dictators and paid-for puppets suited the American ruling class’ needs, regardless of however many millions had to die or children had to starve. In fact, a growing number of people, Americans, even, would be quick to argue that America isn’t doing so great on human rights & democracy right at home in America, something it really ought to get right before it goes telling the rest of the world how to live.
Another argument advanced is that America has to make an example of Syria if only to protect the safety of America. Syria is a small country halfway around the world from America, obviously with no way to project its power over all its own people, let alone across thousands of miles and past the increasingly more aggressive, invasive, and pervasive police state security America is becoming notorious for. If America is afraid of what Bashar al-Assad’s Syria can do, then America has far bigger problems than it could solve even were it to nuke Syria until all that was left was a big hole glowing an eerie blue that could be seen from the moon, during the day.
Which brings up perhaps the most important point, who is the United States, with its thousands of nuclear, planet sterilizing weapons of mass destruction, its still undisposed of chemical weapons stocks, its ongoing biological warfare programs, and proven fondness for the use of force, to be telling anyone what kind of weapons they can’t have? That’s like a baseball bat-wielding school bully threatening to pound little kids because he feels threatened by sharp points on their pencils.
Look earnestly and it’s easy to find one country whose Major Media spent the last week of August and the first week of September giddily reporting on what seemed to them a sure bet that the US would shortly be solving their Syrian problem for them. You’ll find a country that gets so many billions of dollars in aid from the US that the average family in that country could take a comfy, month-long vacation every year on their share of the aid if it were deposited in their bank accounts instead of going to their military.
It’s the same country that, unlike Syria and most other countries, is never seriously asked to get out of the Weapons of Mass Destruction business itself, despite, for instance, possessing at least 80 nuclear devices that it won’t admit to, in addition to its own chemical weapons stockpile.
It’s a country that has made no secret of the fact that it prefers to have its neighbors continually weakened by violent political turmoil and even open civil war than dangerously united and able to, for instance, demand their stolen territory and scarce water resources back, including all that belonged to the refugees they still house by the millions.
It’s a country whose intelligence services are continually caught providing conveniently accusatory and often unsupportable information about their enemies to their collection of employees who occupy seats in the US Senate, House of Representatives, and other governmental posts all over the US. If it sometimes seems like the American government has gone off the deep end and isn’t acting in its own interests – or making only the barest amount of sense, then wondering what role a certain Middle Eastern counselor to the imperial American throne might have to do with things can be very enlightening. When the US government starts promoting self-destructive calls to get involved in Middle Eastern conflicts that it doesn’t understand, follow the money and prepare not to be surprised when you see where it leads.
But don’t ever name the country at the end of that trail, or finger its people. If you do, “conspiracy theorist” will be the kindest name people will call you, which in any event is better than being taken Syriasly.
Links directory (Don’t take any writer’s word for it, get the info as close to the sources as you can, and then get multiple sources! The article text that the links link from is in parentheses at the end of each line. The music video links are intended add guts to the story like simple reporting can’t, and the lyrics for all the tracks have their own links so you don’t miss any of that sometimes not very subtle messaging.)
- Financial Times (KN Al-Sabah, 2013 Aug 22) – A Short Guide To The Middle East (you’re not alone) You’ll need to sign up for a free Financial Times account if you want to read this short bit of wry humor. While you’re at it, you can sign up for the Financial Times’ daily news bulletin, which may surprise you. Sometimes. You didn’t hear that from me.
- Public Intelligence (various US Marines, 2012 Jun 09) – Photos of U.S. and Afghan Troops Patrolling Poppy Fields June 2012 (patrolling opium poppy fields) There’s a lot of this kind of stuff available on the web. US soldiers insure the security of crops that keep heroin addicts, heroin dealers, the DEA agents that bust them, and the privatized prison industry that gets guaranteed prison population levels from the government, all happy back home.
- Reason (Matt Welch, 2013 Sep 04) – John Kerry’s Morally, Linguistically, and Historically Obscene Case for War in Syria (Secretary of State John Kerry)
- War Is A Crime (David Swanson, 2013 Sep 07) – This War Too Is A Lie (The official account)
- CounterPunch (Dave Lindorff, 2013 Sep 20) – Obama’s Grotesque Hypocrisy Over Cluster Munitions (cluster bombs) The author points out that President Obama has “passionately evoked images of suffering Syrian children dying on hospital floors from a Sarin attack” while proposing a revenge attack that would presumably involve, as usual, cluster bombs. However, “[a]ccording to experts, 98% of the victims of cluster bombs are civilians ... And 40% of the victims are children.” Or in plainer language supplied by CounterPunch, “We Don’t Gas Children, We Shred Them.”
- RT (2013 Jul 23) – Depleted uranium used by US forces blamed for birth defects and cancer in Iraq (DU)
- Zero Hedge (George Washington, 2013 Sep 07) – High-Level U.S. Intelligence Officers: Syrian Government Didn’t Launch Chemical Weapons (other accounts)
- RT (2013 Au 28) – Syria asks UN to immediately investigate 3 new ‘chemical attacks’ by rebels (chemical weapons attacks) This is just the latest report. There are several others, including at least one relatively major one involving sarin use by insurgents near Aleppo that has a UN report to back up the Syrian & Russian government claims.
- The Telegraph (Damien McElroy, 2013 May 06) – UN accuses Syrian rebels of chemical weapons use (using sarin) Another UN-certified example of sarin use by the Syrian insurgents.
- Global Research (Yossef Bodansky, 2013 Sep 13) – Syrian Chemical Attack: More Evidence Only Leads to More Questions (Preliminary reports)
- McClatchy (Anita Kumar, 2013 Sep 06) – Obama’s talk on Syria ‘red line’ was spin, analysts say (Obama’s famous “RedLine”) It’s hard to say which is worse, Obama claiming not have “set a red line”, thereby channeling Bill Clinton’s attempt to dither over the definition of “is,” or Obama claiming his “credibility is not on the line” and thereby channeling Richard Nixon’s “I am not a crook.” (No one had asked, yet, but now that he mentions it…)
- Scribd / UN (Robert Mackey, 2013 Sep 16) – Report on the Alleged Use of Chemical Weapons in the Ghouta Area of Damascus on 21 August 2013 (UN’s report) Includes a note from the UN Secretary General and color photos!
- Moon of Alabama (2013 Sep 18) – Syria: NYT, HRW Wrong To Claim Chemical Attack Origin (independent analysis)
- Haaretz / DPA / Reuters (2013 Sep 18) – Russia says it has proof rebels behind deadly chemical attack in Syria (evidence offered by Russia)
- New York Times (Vladimir Putin, 2013 Sep 11) – A Plea for Caution From Russia (Vladimir Putin) Note the date of publication.
- World Socialist Web Site (Bill Van Auken, 2013 Sep 18) – New York Times on Syria: All the propaganda that’s fit to print (All the Propaganda That’s Fit to Print)
- Information Clearing House (William Bowles, 2013 Aug 29) – Chemical Hallucinations (a hastily contrived story)
- FireDogLake (DS Wright, 2013 Sep 11) – Kerry And McCain’s Source For Moderate Syrian Rebel Claim Fired For Fraud (Elizabeth O’Bagy)
- truthout / Workers Action (Shamus Cooke, 2013 Sep 19) – Is Capitalism to Blame for the Syrian War Drive? (the usual culprits)
- New Yorker (Andy Borowitz, 2013 Aug 29) – Obama Promises Syria Strike Will Have No Objective (another pointless, hypocritical war)
- Vice (Ray Downs, 2013 Sep 11) – How Much Will the Defense Industry Make from a Missile Strike Against Syria? (bombs & missiles are frightfully expensive)
- BuzzFlash / truthout (Jane Stillwater, 2013 Sep 13) – Who Spends Two-Thirds of Their Salary on Guns and War? The US Government, That's Who (price tag like a house or mansion)
- Arizona Daily Star (David Wichner, 2013 Aug 21) – McCain: Defense cuts will hit here (sequestration cuts)
- Politico (Austin Wright, 2013 Aug 29) – Syria strike could bring Raytheon payday (just to keep them in production)
- The Real News (Jaisal Noor, Greg Palast, 2013 Sep 02 & 13) – Revealed: Potential Fed Chair Summers At Heart of Global Economic Crisis (Greg Palast) Larry Summers may not be a candidate for Fed chairman anymore, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to retire and spend the rest of his life knitting beer stein cozies, either.
- AlterNet (Ellen Brown, 2013 Sep 04) – Secret Agenda in Syria? Larry Summers and Cronies Opening the World to Criminal Banksters (Evidence suggests)
- The Forward (Nathan Guttman, 2013 Sep 17) – Israel Pushes for Boost in U.S. Aid to More Than $3B a Year (billions of dollars in aid) An important point in this article is the unashamed sense of entitlement and total confidence that nothing will ever be denied. There is even reference to a policy of insuring a “Qualitative Military Edge” (QME) that is certainly positioned as a promise, even though it’s certainly not anything the American people have ever voted on.
- Information Clearing House (Gary Leupp, 2013 Sep 21) – Chemical Weapons: A Quiz (chemical weapons) If you get more than 2 or 3 right (without counting lucky guesses), then you can consider yourself exceptionally well-informed, and possibly a certified, cynically skeptical doubter. Most people work themselves into frenzies over the spew in the media without ever checking a single source, or trying to learn the backgrounds to the stories.
- Information Clearing House (William Bowles, 2013 Aug 29) – US-Israeli false flag gas attack unravels (providing conveniently accusatory and often unsupportable information)
- The Nation (Bob Dreyfuss, 2013 Sep 05) – Obama's Syria War Is Really About Iran and Israel (don’t ever name the country) This article serves to show that this column not the only one with “odd suspicions” about America’s Middle Eastern policy, and further, that even when others point the finger, they make a point of trying to look like they’re not pointing. The article’s references to Israel are mostly tangential. It leaves it up to the reader to connect the dots that answer the question, “Why does the US care so much about Iran in the first place?” Iran has often expressed a desire for rapprochement with the US. Unfortunately, that doesn’t suit Israel.
- The Onion (2013 Sep 05) – Poll: Majority Of Americans Approve Of Sending Congress To Syria (taken Syriasly)
- Miley Cyrus – Wrecking Ball (YouTube, 03:42 min – MileyCyrusVEVO) (US could find itself supporting Syrian insurgents) Lyrics This is possibly one of the best links ever made in this column to a supporting music video. It works on at least four levels!
- Nine Inch Nails – Happiness In Slavery (YouTube, 05:22 min – o0TGgirl0o) (believing the Obama administration’s story) Lyrics
- Barry McGuire – Eve Of Destruction (YouTube, 04:00 min – JoAnne Harrison) (road to disastrer) Lyrics
- Tupac – Shorty Wanna Be A Thug (YouTube, 03:52 min – jbw33) (US has had awfully questionable policies) Lyrics
- CNN (Becky Anderson, c. 2010) – Hypocrisy: US Forces 'Used Chemical Weapons' During Assault on City of Fallujah (YouTube, 5:11 min – RevolutionNewz) (weapons that keep on destroying) The title for this YouTube posting was supplied by “RevolutionNewz,” not CNN. Assuming CNN is a “reputable” news source, they would likely have used a term other than “chemical” to describe the weapons discussed in the video. Along with all its other toxic presents – including white phosphorus, the US deployed over 1,000 tons of DU (Depleted Uranium), and a small amount of slightly enriched uranium in Iraq. When used, it produces dust that remains a potent environmental toxin for 700 million to 4.5 billion years, depending on its U-235 to U-238 isotope ratio.
- Katy Perry – Roar (YouTube, 03:33 min – KatyPerryVEVO) (a cynically skeptical doubter) Lyrics This one’s intended to be encouragement – don’t doubt it!
- Edwin Starr – War (Vimeo, 04:30 min – Yakup Gümüş) (not-a-war) Lyrics