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The Donald’s missile "attack" on Syria’s al-Shairat air base is surely the most impetuous, thoughtless, reckless and stupid act from the Oval Office that we can remember – and that covers 50 years at least. And we put "attack" in quotes because it’s now evident that virtually every one of those $1.4 million per copy Tomahawks amounted to a big fat nothing-burger.
To wit, 36 of the 59 missile were duds and landed somewhere that was not the al-Shairat air base, including a nearby village where apparently a number of civilians were killed. The 23 that did hit the base actually missed the main runway, which, by the way, was back in operation launching Syrian air force sorties within 24 hours. None of Assad’s operational warplanes were hit, either – just a handful of old MIG-23s that have apparently long been languishing in the base’s "repair" boneyard.
Yes, the Donald’s sharpshooters did annihilate several glorified Butler buildings, otherwise referred to as "hangars", and a few fuel tanks – the better for some post-attack fireworks to be posted to the War Channels (CNN, MSNBC and Fox).
But what the Tomahawks surely did not hit was the chemical weapons storage facilities alleged by the Pentagon to be at the base. With Washington’s satellites monitoring al-Shairat like a cloud of bumble bees, there was not a whit of evidence of Syrian personnel running around with gas masks after the missiles hit.
Had there been, the War Channels would have been playing it in an endless loop all weekend. Naturally, the Pentagon says these apparently non-existent stores weren’t even targeted owing to humanitarian (?) reasons.
Right, copy that!
Worse, launching this feckless attack in the midst of sharing Caesar salad with the leader of China was surely an amateur ploy right out of the pages of The Apprentice. That’s because within 24 hours of Xi Jinping’s departure from what will now be known as War-A-Lago, the Syrian air force had not only resumed launches from the base, but was actually bombing the very site of the original offense at Khan Sheikhoun!
Upon hearing the news, China’s supreme leader would have presumably browned his Changshan (traditional tunic) in the fear of it – save for the fact that he is the reincarnation of Mao Tse-tung in a business suit, and just as ruthless.
That gets us, of course, to the purpose of attacking any sovereign government that has not attacked or threatened America; and, most especially, one waging a determined fight against the one threat to America’s peace of mind, if not actual physical security, extant on the planet today.
That is, the radical jihadist head-choppers of ISIS, and particularly the al-Nusra terrorists desperately holed up in their last redoubt in Idlib province. Even if Assad had used chemical weapons – and there is zero proof he did – what possible purpose was there in a pinprick attack on Assad’s military capability that was hailed by jihadists all over Syria and the greater Middle East?
Does the Donald really wish to attack both sides in the most tangled, bloody, sectarian and convoluted civil war in modern history – a course of action he has long, and rightly, criticized.
Did he really reverse in a mere two days, the anti- "regime change" line he had held for years? And one he had wielded to great effect with a "don’t do it" tweet storm in August 2013 in the wake of what now is clear had been a false flag chemical attack staged by radical jihadists at Ghouta designed to lure Obama into attacking the regime?
The weekend talk show huffing and puffing by Secretary Tillerson and the ignorant little nincompoop he appointed as UN Ambassador, Nikki Haley, would leave you to guess, but not really. At the time of the attack Thursday evening, Administration spokesmen made it clear that the attack was "punishment" for Assad’s violation of international norms about the fair way to kill civilians when waging urban warfare.
You see, dropping white phosphorous, which is a second cousin of sarin gas, as Washington did on Fallujah is apparently OK. The same goes for drone attacks and percussion bombs on civilian targets, as Washington has been doing throughout the better part of the Middle East for much of the last two decades.
But this was different. Why, according to the self-appointed tribunes of the moral high ground at the editorial pages of the New York Times, Assad’s attack on Khan Sheikhoun was so heinous that it cried out for punishment.
So then and there, Donald J. Trump appointed himself the Empire’s Spanker-in-Chief, and thereby destroyed what remained of his stillborn Presidency. Indeed, it will be all downhill from here because the Deep Steep now most assuredly has the Donald by his stubby.
Still, the fact that Donald Trump has now made himself a laughingstock by putting what amounted to a wimpy birch-switch to Bashar’s behind, does raise a crucial question. If Trump is to be praised – as the mainstream media did incessantly since Thursday night – for stepping up as Spanker-in-Chief, why stop with Assad?
How about his recent visitor to the Oval Office, General Sisi of Egypt? The latter has put thousands of his political enemies to death or in jail or through unspeakable torture. But rather than getting the birch switch, Sisi got a ringing endorsement from the Donald for his regime of terror and assurance that Washington’s $1.5 billion annual stipend to the Egyptian military would be his for the duration.
Then again, why was the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman grinning like a Cheshire cat after his Oval Office meeting with the Donald. He should have been grimacing in agony after several hundred Saudi-style lashes for conducting what amounts to a genocidal campaign against the civilian population of Yemen.
So far there have been more than 10,000 civilian casualties – including 4,000 dead men, women and children who were at the receiving end of Saudi bombs and missiles. And some of the latter were Textron-supplied "percussion" bombs which upon impact leave behind hundreds of unexploded bomblets disguised as brightly-colored balls, toys and trinkets.
Needless to say, they do not include a warning label in Arabic or otherwise saying "keep out of the reach of children". The proof of that is dozens of dead and maimed children who picked up the "toys" supplied by the war criminal pictured below (left side of the photo).
The worst part of the Donald’s spanking campaign, of course, is that the White House has not offered one iota of proof that Assad did it. Nor has it even attempted to refute the exceedingly plausible Russian-Syrian claim that the regime’s bombing raid in the heart of Nusra Front’s last remaining occupied territory hit a weapons depot where the jihadists were storing not only conventional ammo, but possibly manufacturing projectiles stuffed with chemical agents, too.
Do ya think that the Donald could have kept his birch switch in the drawer for at least a few days so that an impartial international inspection team could have examined the site and the victims?
In fact, retired DIA Colonel Patrick Lang gave us a roadmap to what may actually have happened based on his own sources in the intelligence community. In the past his credibility has been excellent, and his story makes far more sense than the White House’s. That is, on the verge of victory over the jihadists and only days after the Trump Administration threw in the towel on regime change, Assad committed an act of complete insanity:
Donald Trump’s decision to launch cruise missile strikes on a Syrian Air Force Base was based on a lie. In the coming days the American people will learn that the Intelligence Community knew that Syria did not drop a military chemical weapon on innocent civilians in Idlib. Here is what happened.
- The Russians briefed the United States on the proposed target. This is a process that started more than two months ago. There is a dedicated phone line that is being used to coordinate and deconflict (i.e., prevent US and Russian air assets from shooting at each other) the upcoming operation.
- The United States was fully briefed on the fact that there was a target in Idlib that the Russians believes was a weapons/explosives depot for Islamic rebels.
- The Syrian Air Force hit the target with conventional weapons. All involved expected to see a massive secondary explosion. That did not happen. Instead, smoke, chemical smoke, began billowing from the site. It turns out that the Islamic rebels used that site to store chemicals, not sarin, that were deadly. The chemicals included organic phosphates and chlorine and they followed the wind and killed civilians.
- There was a strong wind blowing that day and the cloud was driven to a nearby village and caused casualties.
- We know it was not sarin. How? Very simple. The so-called “first responders” handled the victims without gloves. If this had been sarin they would have died. Sarin on the skin will kill you. How do I know? I went through “Live Agent” training at Fort McClellan in Alabama.
There are members of the U.S. military who were aware this strike would occur and it was recorded. There is a film record. At least the Defense Intelligence Agency knows that this was not a chemical weapon attack. In fact, Syrian military chemical weapons were destroyed with the help of Russia.
This is Gulf of Tonkin 2. How ironic. Donald Trump correctly castigated George W. Bush for launching an unprovoked, unjustified attack on Iraq in 2003. Now we have President Donald Trump doing the same damn thing. Worse in fact. Because the intelligence community had information showing that there was no chemical weapon launched by the Syrian Air Force.
So given that very plausible alternative possibility, why not at least have an Adlai Stevenson moment? That’s when President Kennedy’s UN Ambassador stood before the entire world and showed dramatic reconnaissance photos proving the Soviets had indeed placed intermediate range missile batteries in Cuba.
By contrast, the Deep State’s octopus of secrecy today hides behind the pathetic excuse that it must protect its "sources and methods" at all hazards. Therefore it can only "assess" and "judge" out loud that the bad guys actually did it. Meanwhile, the Congress, the American public and the rest of the world should take their word for it that the intelligence community (IC) has the hard evidence.
Well, FU, IC.
For crying out loud, the entire world – and most especially the Russians, Assad regime and assorted other purported malefactors – knows that the skies of the planet are swarming with US intelligence satellites. And that NSA’s digital blood funnel, to borrow Matt Taibbi’s felicitous description of Goldman Sachs in another context, has penetrated every nod, switching center and backdoor of the entire global communications grid.
So exactly nothing is being protected by Washington’s refusal to stump up the SIGINT (signals intelligence) proof if they’ve got it.
That’s exactly what didn’t happen, of course, back in August 2013 when the jihadists pulled a similar false flag to lure Obama into a similar attack. At the time, the White House released a four-page, evidence-free paper pinning the blame squarely on Assad in what it called a “government assessment” because even the IC would not vouch for it.
Needless to say, not a shred of SIGINT was ever released to prove the White House contentions – save for an obvious leak a few days after the event to the ever complaint New York Times. The latter’s rewrite of their leaked White House talking points claimed that an assessment of the chemical rocket’s trajectory found at the site proved the sarin-carrying missiles were fired from deep in government controlled territory more than 12 kilometers away.
As it happened, an international arms control expert and leading MIT scientist in the field, teamed up shortly thereafter to prove from the primitive rockets examined by international inspectors after the attack that they could have had a trajectory of no more than 2 kilometers. That is, they were fired from the heart of jihadist controlled territory in the very villages where the horrific sarin gas attack occurred.
As Philippe Lemonoine summarized in a recent post, the evidence has only gotten even more unequivocal since then:
Back in 2013, Carla Del Ponte, a member of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (IICISAR) and the former Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, told the BBC that “what appears to our investigations [is] that [chemical weapons were] used by the opponents, by the rebels and we have no indication at all that … the authorities of the Syrian government have used chemical weapons”. To be sure, she indicated that she was only talking about their preliminary findings and, when the IICISAR published its report a month later, it didn’t assign responsibility to anyone. Del Ponte reiterated her claims after the report was published in another interview to Euronews and said that she didn’t regret making them.
There is still more to cast doubt on the hypothesis that Assad was behind the attack in Ghouta. Seymour Hersh, a famous investigative journalist who, among other thing, broke the My Lai massacre and the Abu Ghraib scandal, argued in two detailed articles published a few months after the attack that Turkey provided sarin to Syrian rebels. According to him, the Turkish government wanted them to carry out a false flag attack using chemical weapons in Syria, which Erdogan hoped would force the US to intervene against the regime. Indeed, as I already noted above, Obama had declared the use of chemical weapons a red line that Syria could not cross under any circumstances. Hersh’s claims were later supported by the allegations made in December 2015 by Turkish members of Parliament, who claimed that, back in 2013, several people had been arrested with chemicals in the South of Turkey a few weeks before the attack in Ghouta. According to them, the prosecutor’s office had wiretapped conversations proving that they were making sarin, but this was almost completely ignored in the Western media.
But far be it for the mainstream media to remember back that far. Indeed, the cable channels and the beltway politicians were all in war heat the entire weekend at the sight and sound of Imperial Washington literally pounding sand in the Syrian desert.
And right up front were not merely the usual suspects like Senator McWar (R-AZ) and Little Marco (R-FL) busy ranting about the "war criminals" in Damascus and Moscow, but also the ever so thoughtful (by his lights) Fareed Zakaria pronouncing within minutes of the attack that "tonight Donald Trump became president".
Yes, that’s what the man said. The entire Imperial City has become so sick with war fever that an illegal, unconstitutional act of rash stupidity can be proclaimed an exercise in high statesmanship.
Needless to say, the Donald will never shake himself loose of this tar-bay. He has the US now in harm’s way in the thick of an inferno crawling with Assad’s allies including the Russians, the Iranians and Hezbollah fighters, as well as his enemies scattered among pockets and crevices of an artificial nation created by European imperial diplomats in 1916 and utterly destroyed by Imperial Washington a century later.
The "enemies", of course, include the remnants of the Islamic State in the dusty rubble-strewn towns of the Upper Euphrates and the pockets of the northeast such as Idlib province controlled by the equally horrid jihadists of Nusra front and the various rebranded affiliates which operate with it.
As to the latter, the Donald may have actually helped revive what amounts to a Taliban in the Levant in the name of protecting Syria’s women and children.
Here is what one of America’s most distinguished scholars has to say about the Nusra front and their White Helmet auxiliaries who now rule the roost in Idlib. The latter flood the world with fake news on the social media, of course, about how they are being victimized by the duly elected leader of Syria – even as they would "Khadafy" him in a heartbeat if they had the half the chance:
To judge how incompetent the rebels have been in providing a viable or attractive alternative to Assad, one need merely consider the situation in the province of Idlib, where the rebels rule. Schools have been segregated, women forced to wear veils, and posters of Osama bin Laden hung on the walls. Government offices were looted, and a more effective government has yet to take shape. With the Talibanization of Idlib, the 100-plus Christian families of the city fled. The few Druze villages that remained have been forced to denounce their religion and embrace Islam; some of their shrines have been blown up. No religious minorities remain in rebel-held Syria, in Idlib, or elsewhere. Rebels argue that Assad’s bombing has ensured their failure and made radicalization unavoidable. But such excuses can go only so far to explain the terrible state of rebel Syria or its excesses. We have witnessed the identical evolution in too many other Arab countries to pin it solely on Assad, despite his culpability for the disaster that has engulfed his country."
Needless to say, we have no brief for Bashar al-Assad. He and his family have ruled Syria for 40 years harshly and more often than not by the sword. Their regime has been based on secular principles and a coalition of minorities including Christians, Druse, Kurds, Yazidis and their own minority Alawite (Shiite) tribe. The alternative is a Sunni-jihadist led reign of ethnic cleansing and an extension of the murderous caliphate hanging on by a thread in Raqqa and Mosul.
Yet in getting out the birch switch against Assad without even remotely proving the case, the Donald has ended up siding with the incipient Taliban occupiers of Syria’s northeast.
He needs to be careful. It’s only a few short steps to this.
David Stockman was a two-term Congressman from Michigan. He was also the Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan. After leaving the White House, Stockman had a 20-year career on Wall Street. He’s the author of three books, The Triumph of Politics: Why the Reagan Revolution Failed, The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America and TRUMPED! A Nation on the Brink of Ruin… And How to Bring It Back. He also is founder of David Stockman’s Contra Corner and David Stockman’s Bubble Finance Trader.