The drumbeat for intervention in Syria has been going on for many months, with the same neoconservatives who authored the Iraq war joining with “humanitarian” liberals to demand we “do something.” The latest claims of the use of sarin gas by the Assad regime are the occasion for a raising of the decibel level.
Under attack from Al Qaeda-affiliated jihadists for the last year, with car bomb attacks on both civilian and military targets and the rebels in control of a third of the country, Syria’s authoritarian government has responded with lethal force – much like any government that found itself in a similar position would, including our own. Yet there is reason to doubt this latest claim: the “rebels” have staged a number of alleged “atrocities” committed by the secular authoritarian regime of Bashar al-Assad, but these have been consistently debunked – and the increasing dominance of jihadists in the Syrian opposition has made the Obama administration reluctant to get involved.
Now, however, we have a new accusation leveled not only by the rebels and their American amen corner, but also by the British and Israeli governments: in answer to an inquiry from Senator John “Boots On the Ground” McCain, the administration accuses the Syrian regime of using sarin gas “on a small scale,” an assessment they make “with varying degrees of confidence.”
Varying from what to what?
The letter is rife with equivocation and conjecture:
“Our standard of evidence must build on these intelligence assessments as we seek to establish credible and corroborated facts. For example, the chain of custody is not clear, so we cannot confirm how the exposure occurred and in what conditions.”
Translation: no facts have been established. But that doesn’t stop the Obama administration from making assumptions about who used sarin:
“We do believe that any use of chemical weapons in Syria would very likely have originated with the Assad regime. Thus far, we believe that the Assad regime maintains custody of these weapons, and has demonstrated a willingness to escalate its horrific use of violence against the Syrian people.”
Yet there is no reason to assume any such “belief” about the Syrian government’s possible use of sarin gas. That regime is deteriorating by the day, as fast as their control over vast swathes of Syrian territory is disappearing. It is just as reasonable (i.e. not very) to assume the rebels are responsible: after all, they have plenty of state-backed sponsors (the dictatorships of Saudi Arabia and Qatar) who would be more than ready to provide it. And, of course, the jihadists who are the backbone of the rebel army, wouldn’t hesitate to deploy it.
US intervention in Syria’s civil war – which pits Bad Guys against Even Badder Guys – will be justified by the alleged use of “weapons of mass destruction” by Damascus, and the cry will go up: “He’s killing his own people!” If all this has a familiar ring to it, then you’ll recall the same accusations, including allegations of poison gas deployment, were made against Iraq: this was the justification for the invasion, conquest, and subsequent occupation of that country, a project that cost trillions and is now regarded as one of the worst military disasters in our history. (Never mind that Saddam’s use of poison gas on the Kurds occurred when we were his ally.) That the War Party is running this one up the flagpole defies belief – but, hey, in Bizarro World, where up is down and unwarranted assumptions are “very likely,” anything is possible.
What’s really going on here? After all, the “arguments” made by the interventionists just don’t add up. Take Jamie Kirchick, who works for an outfit called the Foundation for the Defense of the Democracies (formerly known as “Emet“), writing in the New York Daily News:
“Of all the regimes that have experienced turmoil as a result of the Arab Spring, Syria’s is the only one that has been consistently opposed to American interests. It is the only Arab ally of Iran, a major supplier of weapons to Hamas and Hezbollah, a perpetual violator of Lebanese sovereignty and a transit hub for jihadists on their way to Iraq.”
In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Syria proactively offered to aid – and did aid – in the round up of Al Qaeda cadre, and, indeed, we renditioned several to Assad’s torture chambers for the kind of interrogation not even our water-boarding CIA was prepared to conduct. As per usual with Kirchick, he confuses American interests with Israeli interests, citing Syrian support of Hamas and Hezbollah as further proof of Assad’s crimes. While both organizations are indeed terrorist groups which target civilians – as were their Israeli counterparts, the Irgun and Haganah – their target is Israel, not the United States.
The kicker is when Kirchick kvetches that Syria is “a transit hub for jihadists on their way to Iraq.” He can’t be unaware that these very same jihadists stand at the head of the Syrian rebel army. The sheer sloppiness is breathtaking: war-mongering hacks like Kirchick – who once proposed setting up a “gay brigade” to go fight in Iraq (without saying whether he’d join up himself!) – are feeling so confident they aren’t even bothering to make a credible case.
Similarly, one would think the numerous hoaxes – such as trying to pass off photos of atrocities occurring in Iraq as “evidence” of mass killings by the Syrian government – attempted by Syrian rebel propagandists would induce skepticism at these new accusations. But no – not in Bizarro World, where a history of outright lies naturally causes one to trust the pronouncements coming out of Washington and its allies even more.
Britain and France were demanding a UN investigation even before this latest release of “intelligence” by an Israeli general at a security conference, who claims to have “proof” of the sarin gas charge. Now the Israelis have added their two cents: however, in a phone conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, John Kerry was unable to get him to confirm this latest revelation.
The British also claim to have definitive evidence, but the Wall Street Journal reports some officials are skeptical: the Brits tout their test results, but US intelligence sources are saying “the samples may have been tainted by rebels who want to draw the West into the conflict on their side. Likewise, they said the detection of chemical agents doesn’t necessarily mean they were used in an attack by the Syrian regime.”
If Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, laying there in the hospital, could only hear the war cries of our pundit-shrikes grow louder and more insistent, he would crack a smile. After all, one of his causes is the Syrian rebel movement: as this Yahoo article points out, on his Vokontakte page (the Russian Facebook), Dzhokhar “expresses sympathy for rebel fighters in Syria and elsewhere:
“One video bears the Russian title ‘For those who have a heart,’ showing people being brutalized by uniformed men in a country the video identifies as Syria. ‘They are killing your brothers and sisters without any reason,’ the Russian subtitles of the video read. ‘Simply because they say our Lord is Allah.'”
Indeed, if we do intervene, Dzhokhar could even imagine his horrific crime is a great success – because, after all, isn’t the Great Satan on the verge of taking up the cause of jihad in Syria? One might even conjecture that, from a certain vantage point, this development is a response to the Boston bombing, a message to jihadists both here and abroad: Don’t bomb us – because we’re here to help!
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
I’m having great fun on Twitter these days, and I urge you to join me on this wonderfully interactive site: you can do so by going here.
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 Forward by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).