The UN inspection team in Syria has been "delayed" due to a dispute among the rebels, who could not or would not guarantee the team’s safety. While the Assad government has granted them access, the suburb of Damascus where the alleged chemical attacks occurred is in rebel-controlled territory. Western news media aren’t reporting the reason for the delay, mostly sticking with the official UN statement:
“Following yesterday’s attack on the U.N. convoy, a comprehensive assessment determined that the visit should be postponed by one day in order to improve preparedness and safety for the team. Considering the complexities of the site, confirmation of access has not been obtained but is expected later today.”
The "complexities of the site" include a rebel occupation force that has everything to fear from a real inspection. These are same people responsible for serial hoaxes, some of them pretty crude, and all designed to fool us into believing Assad’s forces had launched a poison gas attack – not against rebel forces but against civilian bystanders. The last UN inspection led to the conclusion that if anyone had used chemical weapons it was the rebels, and after this tremendous buildup that’s the last news the US and its Syrian sock-puppets want to hear.
Of course it’s just a coincidence that the US government told the UN inspection team to turn back even before they arrived on the scene, with Washington claiming they already have enough evidence to convict the Assad regime out of hand. As the Wall Street Journal reported:
"The U.S. had earlier delivered a caution to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, with a senior official telling him the inspection mission was pointless and no longer safe, said a person familiar with the matter. Mr. Ban ordered his team to continue their work, this person said."
Meanwhile, the US has already told the rebels to expect an attack perhaps "within days" – "as early as Thursday," says NBC – that’s how eager they are to get on with it. Without even waiting for the UN delegation to depart, never mind issue their report! Talk about a rush to war: this is a stampede.
Once again a US administration is brushing aside UN inspectors because, after all, our intelligence-gathering capabilities make our assessments so much more accurate than anyone else’s, as the Iraq war proved (in Bizarro World). Yes, Uncle Sam knows all, sees all, as Edward Snowden recently confirmed: just ask New America Foundation senior fellow Steve Clemons, a somewhat mushy anti-interventionist before the Obama cult absorbed the left. Pontificating on the Rachel Maddow Show last [Monday] night, Clemons displayed his access to Washington VIPs like a peacock strutting his feathers, confiding in us that the US has "signals intelligence" supposedly proving the Syrian air force high command launched unspecified chemical weapons against rebel forces.
See, now aren’t you glad we have a National Security Agency with the ability to spy on anyone in the world?
Well, then, can we see the evidence? Clemons cited "signals intelligence." This is supposedly the source of the administration’s certainty that this time confirmed liars are telling the truth. Declassify the intercepted emails showing Assad telling his commander to gas ‘em all. Let’s hear the phone conversations played out in public:
Assad: "Go ahead, commander, do the deed. It’ll be a gas."
Commander Thug: "But, your malign majesty, don’t you read the papers? The Americans are listening in on the other end! Now they’ll thwart your glorious plan to commit genocide and go down in history as the worst mass murderer since Harry Truman!"
Assad: "Bullshit. Those Americans think they are smart, but I’ve outsmarted them. Because, you see, I’m wearing my Anti-NSA Encryption Ring – three boxtops and a dollar!"
Okay, enough already with the comedy, this is serious business – although the problem with that is it’s hard to separate the comic aspects of this war hysteria from its real world consequences. It’s hard not to laugh when our Secretary of State cites a YouTube video as a clear and sufficient reason to take this nation into war:
"I went back and I watched the videos, the videos that anybody can watch in the social media, and I watched them one more gut-wrenching time."
Forget the UN inspectors, forget the scientists and the forensic experts poring over the evidence, forget a vote in Congress and never mind that only nine percent of the American people support this reckless policy – because he’s seen the videos. In the social media!
We don’t need facts when we have imagery, the woof and warp of war propaganda. Kerry’s war jeremiad is filled with images that conjure visions of terror, suffering, and inevitably the children come into the picture. The point isn’t to convince anyone, it’s to enrage everyone beyond the reach of reason. They’ve been doing it at least since World War I, when British tales of German soldiers bayoneting Belgian babies were touted by the John Kerrys of that era as proof of the Kaiser’s perfidy. The same narrative was trotted out in the run up to the first Gulf War, with the infamous incubator babies purportedly unplugged by Saddam and his Orcs. Although it is illegal to deliberately lie to Congress, none of the people associated with that particular hoax were ever held to account – although I have no doubt one of them at least has found his proper place in Hell.
It isn’t incubator babies, this time, but in retrospect we may very well discover it’s on the same level of veracity. Initial rebel claims of 1,300 dead were soon shrunk to around 330. Chemical weapons experts have already begun to question the meaning of those videos which so impressed the Fool of Foggy Bottom. In any case, the mere presence of chemical weapons, whether military grade or not, tells us nothing about who used them.
That the very same people who told us we couldn’t wait for the mushroom cloud to blossom over Manhattan (or Israel) before we acted in Iraq are now signing letters demanding intervention in Syria ought to set off your BS-detector. I love the headline on this release by Bill Kristol’s Foreign Policy Initiative: "Foreign Policy Experts Urge President Obama to Respond to Assad’s Chemical Attack." These people are experts, all right – at creating disasters.
How is the administration going to sell this to the American public? Even if it is shown Assad did indeed gas "his own people" (and lots of foreign jihadists we aren’t supposed to talk about), 46 percent – according to the latest poll – say stay out. The Obamaites will have a hard time convincing their own progressive base, which bitterly opposed the Iraq war – "Bush’s war" – and supported the antiwar Obama over unrepentant Hillary, who stood by her aye vote and paid the price.
Oh, don’t worry: the spin doctors are already working on that one, with a trial balloon being floated by The New Republic The piece purports to give us a peek at the internal debate going on in the White House: supposedly the "do less" crowd led by Gen. Martin Dempsey is winning out over the Samantha Power "do more" faction. In the end, we are told, the "do less"-niks will have their way, which TNR attributes to Obama’s inexplicable caution:
"The US would likely act, but it would act mostly to impose a sense of consequence, stopping short of doing something obviously designed to shift the balance inside Syria between Assad and the motley rebel crew. Envisioned thus, US military action would probably target things like the headquarters of airforce intelligence or other targets associated with the distribution of chemical weapons, but would probably spare Assad’s deadly air force. That is, it would do enough damage to show the world that Obama’s word is bond, that a red line – however accidentally drawn, however tardily noticed – is a red line, but would stop short of weakening Assad enough to let some increasingly shady people topple him."
Let’s be clear about what US military action against Syria entails: it won’t end with a few well-placed "precision" strikes. Instead, the US will be ineluctably drawn into yet another sectarian war in the Middle East: with its "prestige" now on the line, the argument that "we can’t back down now" and the inevitable comparisons of Assad to the failed painter of Vienna are sure to follow. "Appeasing" Assad, the confirmed mass murderer, is akin to appeasing Hitler! Munich! 1938!
Once we take moral and military responsibility for Syria, we will own it. Some new trumped up atrocity will be discovered by "activists," reported as incontestable fact by the Western news media, one air strike will lead to another and Washington’s regime change machine will go into full "liberation" mode. Chances are they’ve already picked out the statue of Assad to be toppled for that "iconic" Liberatory Moment – sure to be recalled years later as a farce. If you think Iraq is rife with deadly sectarian rivalries, what we’re in for in Syria makes Bush’s folly look like the "cakewalk" the neocons promised us. By the time anyone realizes this, of course, it will be too late.
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.