The Return of the Dodgy Dossier

The case for bombing Syria is unraveling

by , August 30, 2013

The War Party’s Syria narrative is beginning to unravel – and, with it, support for yet another US military intervention in the region.

Initially, we were told the US had incontrovertible proof the regime of Bashar al-Assad was responsible for attacking the rebel town of Ghouta with chemical weapons, and that the substance involved was undoubtedly sarin gas. Outrage followed, with news of an impending US strike supposedly scheduled to occur on Thursday or Friday at the latest. However, that appears to have been put on hold as a backlash over the rush to war gathers steam. British lawmakers put the kibosh on the UK’s plans to join the American bombardment as a full-scale backbencher revolt threatened the Tory-Liberal Democrat government and the Labor Party balked. In the end, Prime Minister David Cameron was forced to promise not one but two votes in Parliament before the Brits lend "direct" support to the Obama administration’s war plans. It didn’t matter: they voted the war down anyway.

Here in the US, as polls show overwhelming opposition to this latest Middle Eastern crusade, around 140 members of our own sleepy-eyed vacationing Congress remembered that archaic document known as the Constitution, and demanded to be be called back into session to debate the question. Chemical weapons experts began to weigh in, calling BS on rebel claims even as our Secretary of State cited YouTube videos as definitive proof of Assad’s perfidy.

Growing skepticism was given added impetus when the source of that "signals intelligence" cited in media reports – which purportedly proved the Syrian government’s responsibility for the attack – was revealed. The Israelis have been trying to drag us into war with Syria and its ally Iran since before the invasion of Iraq: that they are now wielding a "smoking gun" to trigger that conflict is beyond suspicious. Not that they would ever lie to us, you understand, or even exaggerate …. But still: is this the best the War Party can do?

While Cameron protests "this is not Iraq," the parallels with the run up to that disaster are positively eerie: claims of WMD, cloudy "intelligence," and American intelligence officials anonymously debunking the White House’s self-righteous certitude. As the Associated Press reports, it’s "no slam dunk":

"Over the past six months, with shifting front lines in the 2 1/2-year-old civil war and sketchy satellite and human intelligence coming out of Syria, U.S. and allied spies have lost track of who controls some of the country’s chemical weapons supplies, according to the two intelligence officials and two other US officials.

"US satellites have captured images of Syrian troops moving trucks into weapons storage areas and removing materials, but US analysts have not been able to track what was moved or, in some cases, where it was relocated. They are also not certain that when they saw what looked like Assad’s forces moving chemical supplies, those forces were able to remove everything before rebels took over an area where weapons had been stored."

So why couldn’t the rebels be responsible? After all, it’s not like the "ethics" of al-Qaeda – with whom these "rebels" are affiliated – would forbid the use of such weapons. What if they captured and simply mishandled these extremely volatile chemicals? Yet none of these possibilities are even considered by those geniuses in Washington and London, perhaps because they don’t fit into the preferred narrative.

As for the Israelis and their intercepts, which Bibi so helpfully made available:

"In addition, an intercept of Syrian military officials discussing the strike was among low-level staff, with no direct evidence tying the attack back to an Assad insider or even a senior Syrian commander, the officials said."

This is precisely why the Obama regime (and its British vassals) are so eager to rush us into war – so we don’t have time to look at the facts and make a rational judgment. The Syrian civil war has been ongoing for two and a half years, but we just can’t wait another minute before we start bombing.

We don’t know where Syria’s chemical weapons are located, we don’t know who has possession of them, and we have no real idea why some 300-plus Syrians died with hundreds of others injured in this incident. Yet we are willing to go to war based on – what? YouTube videos made by professional propagandists? Please.

The UK government has released a dossier on the Houta incident which is remarkably free of science and big on supposition. We are told the Assad regime has engaged in chemical warfare on at least 14 previous occasions, and yet none of these are named and no evidence is cited. This Dodgy Dossier II avers that it’s impossible for the rebels to have had anything to do with it in spite of the fact that they have conquered large portions of Syria and we don’t know where the chemicals are stored. The dossier, issued to British MPs, murkily implies that certain "highly sensitive" information – "which you all have access to" – identifies the Assad regime as the culprits, but we aren’t allowed to know about that (this is presumably referring to the Israeli intercepts). The dossier then goes on to admit there was “no obvious political or military trigger for regime use of [chemical weapons] on an apparently larger scale now."

Well, yes, especially since the UN inspectors were only a short distance away, in Damascus, investigating those previous incidents of alleged chemical weapons use. Why would the Syrian government choose that particular conjunction of circumstances to unleash the very weapons they deny using? It defies all reason.

"It is being claimed," the authors of the dossier intone, "including by the regime, that the attacks were either faked or undertaken by the Syrian Armed Opposition. We have tested this assertion using a wide range of intelligence and open sources."

Really? How about consulting the open source record of serial hoaxes by the Syrian rebel propaganda team? First they did a replay of the old "incubator babies" hoax, only this time instead of Saddam Hussein being cast in the role of baby-killing mad dictator it’s Assad. When that didn’t fly, they claimed the village of Houla had been the site of a massacre by government forces: the evidence they offered turned out to be a photo of taken in Iraq during the US invasion. They fooled the BBC – which ran it over stories about the alleged "massacre" – until the photographer took umbrage at his work being misused in the service of war propaganda and angrily exposed the fraud. YouTube has been a favorite playground of Syrian rebel fakery, but their production values have been so bad that no one took the obviously fake blood and other amateurish touches too seriously. So when the British government tells us that we have to look at the most recent accusations "in context," they fail to take this very open source record of consistent lying into account.

After two and a half years of this nonsense, however, it looks like professionals have taken over the Syrian rebel propaganda department. An incident murky enough to create real doubt even in the minds of some not inclined to support yet another war has been blown out of all proportion to "justify" the use of force on purportedly humanitarian grounds. As the murk begins to clear, however, shedding new light on the official narrative, people are beginning to remember having been lied into war at least once before – and they are beginning to ask questions.

Here in the US, as of this writing, about 140 members of Congress have signed a letter circulated by Rep. Scott Rigel (R-Virginia), demanding the Speaker of the House recall Congress from vacation so they can vote on the vital question of war and peace. The majority of the signers, I’m sad – and simultaneously delighted – to say are Republicans. The interventionists are only a few days into their war propaganda campaign and already they’re encountering a lot of pushback: many are speculating this encouraging development may very well cause the Obamaites to delay their glorious "humanitarian" war indefinitely.

If that happens, it will be a huge defeat for the War Party and the Obama cult – but I have a hard time believing it. Yesterday we were being told to expect a US strike sometime around Thursday or Friday: is it possible the administration got cold feet in a mere 24 hours? Maybe, but I doubt it.

For the President to come out and flatly contradict the reporting of the past week or so and say he has yet to make a final decision is quite significant. My guess is the internal debate over Syria, pitting Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and the Pentagon against the Samantha Power types, occasioned some highly unauthorized leaking from the latter. The idea being to pressure the President to act – instead, however, it had the opposite effect, leading to a political backlash that threatens their war plans.

Obama is acutely sensitive to the politics of every policy issue, and the last thing he wants is a repeat on Capitol Hill of what’s happening in the British Parliament. Republicans are beginning to realize the political advantages of questioning the rush to war, and Democrats don’t want to own this one. If this debate goes on much longer, the momentum for war will have been spent. The choice facing this President is: act now, before the questioning turns into a chorus of protest – or forget it.

My own view is that they’ve gone too far to back down now – but then again, who knows, we may get lucky this time and avoid falling into another decades-long quagmire. Meanwhile, stay tuned to this space …..

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.

I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).

You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.

Read more by Justin Raimondo