Dear Readers: I’m taking a much-needed break today, getting some necessary research done. I’ll be back on Friday. In the meantime, check out my recent piece for The American Conservative, “JFK, Warmonger.”
The suspicion that the sarin gas attack supposedly launched by Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad’s forces against rebel positions in the town of Ghouta on August 21 was a false flag was always in the air. Now we have strong evidence pointing in that direction.
For months prior to the events in Ghouta the Syrian rebel propaganda machine had been revving up its motors, churning out murky YouTube videos supposedly documenting poison gas attacks by Syrian government forces. None of which were very convincing. It wasn’t until late summer that the rebel narrative took hold in the mainstream media with an account of a Syrian government attack on Ghouta that reportedly killed anywhere from 1400 to approximately 250 people.
The Obama administration latched on to these allegations and then some, assuring us that there was absolutely no doubt whatsoever that the Assad forces were responsible. Indeed, the President presented the American people with a fairly precise scenario that sounded almost like an eyewitness account:
"In the days leading up to August 21st, we know that Assad’s chemical weapons personnel prepared for an attack near an area where they mix sarin gas. They distributed gas masks to their troops. Then they fired rockets from a regime-controlled area into 11 neighbourhoods that the regime has been trying to wipe clear of opposition forces."
Administration officials made it seem as if we had tracked in real time the various steps Syrian government troops took in preparing the atrocity, and the War Party shouted hosannas to the NSA. There was just one problem: it was all a lie.
As Seymour Hersh reports in the London Review of Books, there was no way the administration could have monitored communications between Assad and his commanders, since the Syrians had discovered – and plugged up – holes in their security months prior to the incident. (We know this thanks to Edward Snowden.) So they were lying about that.
Secondly, the sensors the Americans (or someone) had planted near Syrian chemical arms caches detected nothing in the days prior to the attack: if Assad had launched the sarin-packed missiles, alarm bells would’ve gone off in Washington. They didn’t.
Yes, but there was an attack utilizing poison gas that took place in Ghouta on August 21 – so who did it?
Well, who had access to sarin among the combatants? The Obama administration insisted that only the Syrian government had the technical capacity to launch such an attack – even as they knew the facts to be otherwise. As Hersh reports:
"In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports, culminating in a formal Operations Order – a planning document that precedes a ground invasion – citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity. When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad."
It’s cherry-picking season in Washington again – gee, I thought those days were supposed to be over. Yet they will never be over, as all realists and libertarians understand, and Americans are now beginning to realize. Even as US government officials told Congress and the public that only government forces had access to sarin, the administration knew otherwise:
"An intelligence document issued in mid-summer dealt extensively with Ziyaad Tariq Ahmed, a chemical weapons expert formerly of the Iraqi military, who was said to have moved into Syria and to be operating in Eastern Ghouta. The consultant told me that Tariq had been identified ‘as an al-Nusra guy with a track record of making mustard gas in Iraq and someone who is implicated in making and using sarin.’ He is regarded as a high-profile target by the American military.
"On 20 June a four-page top secret cable summarising what had been learned about al-Nusra’s nerve gas capabilities was forwarded to David R. Shedd, deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. ‘What Shedd was briefed on was extensive and comprehensive,’ the consultant said. ‘It was not a bunch of "we believes."’ He told me that the cable made no assessment as to whether the rebels or the Syrian army had initiated the attacks in March and April, but it did confirm previous reports that al-Nusra had the ability to acquire and use sarin."
As to where al-Nusra would acquire sarin gas, and the means to launch a false flag attack, maybe someone should ask this guy.
The real smoking gun in Hersh’s piece is the statement attributed to a former senior intelligence official that the "intelligence" cited by administration officials as justification for bombing Syria was simply made up in much the same way that the Bush administration manipulated intelligence-gathering in the run up to the Iraq war. Apparently those sensors had gone off last December, and the NSA had picked up transmissions that seemed to indicate a sarin attack was imminent – but it turned out to be a training exercise. According to Hersh, in making their case for war the administration tried to pass off the December intercepts as having occurred in the days prior to the August 21 incident:
"The former senior intelligence official explained that the hunt for relevant chatter went back to the exercise detected the previous December, in which, as Obama later said to the public, the Syrian army mobilised chemical weapons personnel and distributed gas masks to its troops. The White House’s government assessment and Obama’s speech were not descriptions of the specific events leading up to the 21 August attack, but an account of the sequence the Syrian military would have followed for any chemical attack. ‘They put together a back story,’ the former official said, ‘and there are lots of different pieces and parts. The template they used was the template that goes back to December.’"
Putting together a "back story" is spook-talk for outright lying. There are laws against government officials doing that in testimony before Congress, and it appears those laws were broken.
Let’s be clear about what administration officials yet to be identified did: they described NSA intercepts detailing preparations for a military drill that had occurred months earlier as communications sent in the days prior to August 21. This reminds me of another bit of "intelligence" that turned out to be a forgery: the Niger uranium papers, although the Syrian intercepts forgery wasn’t quite as crude. This administration is much better at lying than Team Bush – but apparently their much-touted anti-leak program isn’t Hersh-proof.
Government officials testifying before Congress parroted the administration line that they knew the sarin gas attack was the work of the Syrian government. Can it be that Secretary of State John Kerry had no knowledge of intelligence indicating otherwise? I’ll bet I’m not the only one who finds that hard to believe.
One of Hersh’s sources in the intelligence community throws his hands up in the air and asks: "’How can we help this guy’ – Obama – ‘when he and his cronies in the White House make up the intelligence as they go along?’"
The gang that fabricated "intelligence" about Iraq’s alleged WMD is still running around loose: Scooter Libby’s out of jail, and there never was that much-promised investigation into the "intelligence failure" in Iraq. But now that Hersh has caught their imitators in the Obama administration red-handed, perhaps some members of Congress who are sick and tired of being lied to will have the nerve to launch a congressional investigation into who forged the "evidence" that would’ve sent us into war this time around.
Obama lied – thousands almost died. C’mon, you brain-dead Republicans (and Alan Grayson) – get moving!
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
Whew! Our Autumn-Winter-Christmas fundraiser is – finally! – over. Now that was one bumpy ride, but we made it: our goal of $80,000 has been reached, and that will keep us going for the next quarter. A mere “thank you” would hardly express the depth of my gratitude – and the profound feeling of affirmation that I get from knowing our readers care enough to support our work here at Antiwar.com. I know I strive each and every day to be worthy of such support, and so do the other members of our small but very energetic staff. Now we can get down to focusing on our mission: educating the American people about the dangers of our foreign policy of global intervention.
Many, many thanks to one and all.
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.