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Elias Groll vs. Ghouta, Syria’s ‘most plausible hypothesis’

12:46 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

Though discussing evidence (‘Why don’t you show us the evidence, Mr. Kerry?’) and assertions and plausibility does not matter to the Congressional dolts who will vote for their owners in a few days, it does matter to those attempting to keep resistance strong. In that light, I’ve noticed that the most plausible account of what happened in Ghouta, based on evidence and not assertions, is that there was an accidental release of chemical weapons agents by the rebels. Good to know the learned and insightful Diana Johnstone is thinking along the same lines (which are grounded in an in-Ghouta mintnews.com report and perhaps an International Business Times report):

… the most plausible hypothesis so far is that the incident was an accident. Indeed, rebel sources themselves have been quoted as saying that the incident occurred as a result of their own mishandling of chemical weapons obtained from Saudi Arabia. In that case, the victims were the “collateral damage” so frequent in war.

But more important than its plausibility is that the accident hypothesis is now reaching dangerously large numbers of Americans. For confirmation of that good news, we see that the mainstream media now can’t ignore the hypothesis and must go on the attack. And that’s where Foreign Policy Magazine’s Elias Groll comes in. Here’s his entire case for why the ‘accident hypothesis’ is “crazy” (and yes, note the extreme, trollish rhetoric):

… The chemically-laden rockets were launched from government-controlled territory into rebel-held lands. Western intelligence agencies intercepted phone calls from within the Assad regime panicking over the chemical attack’s massive spread. Then the regime launched a series of conventional rocket barrages in an apparent attempt to cover up the crime. To believe the rebels pulled this off, you’d have to convince yourself that the opposition did all of this to themselves. Oh, did we mention that the Syrian military has hundreds of metric tons of precursors for chemical weapons?

A sentence-by sentence response:

The chemically-laden rockets were launched from government-controlled territory into rebel-held lands.

We all know the government is firing missiles at rebel-held territory, but how does Groll know the missiles fired from government-controlled territory were chemically laden? He doesn’t, of course, it’s a bald assertion backed by no evidence provided to the public. Instead of pretending assertions are evidence, why doesn’t Mr. Groll join his more enlightened colleagues and demand evidence for what the U.S. says happened?

Western intelligence agencies intercepted phone calls from within the Assad regime panicking over the chemical attack’s massive spread.

“Western” as in Israeli, why not just say it? Anyway, none of these calls have been released to the public, so again your argument is rooted in interested assertions about whether the calls are authentic, and if they’re real about their content and context and who was making and receiving them. Secondly, reports by those who have listened to the calls agree that Syrian government (i.e., ‘Assad regime’) officials were rightfully panicked and apparently confused by the release of the poison gas. None of this seems to be evidence for who perpetrated the attack or whether or not it was an accident. Again, though, maybe if the public could hear the calls the preceding would be cleared up. Why don’t you ask for the evidence to be released, Mr. Groll, so you can then make a reasoned rather than groundless judgement?

Then the regime launched a series of conventional rocket barrages in an apparent attempt to cover up the crime.

Again this is a bald assertion not supported by any evidence released to the public. This conception of what happened also conflicts with the fact that the Syrian government allowed access by UN inspectors within 24 hours of the UN’s initial request, so that looks like an “apparent attempt” NOT to cover up anything. But I’ll of course grant that it’s reasonable to assume the military had been bombing the rebel areas with conventional weapons before, during, and after the chemical accident or attack. There’s a civil war going on, after all. What government adn military motives were is ‘apparent’ only to mind readers until we see actual evidence. Where is that, why isn’t the public shown it? Just saying, but not releasing evidence indicates to this skeptical person that the U.S. government might be hiding a lack of evidence for its assertions.

To believe the rebels pulled this off, you’d have to convince yourself that the opposition did all of this to themselves.

How does the accident hypothesis equate with “the opposition did all of this to themselves” or “pulled this off”? It doesn’t. An accident is not ‘pulling something off’ or doing something to yourself, it’s an accident.

Oh, did we mention that the Syrian military has hundreds of metric tons of precursors for chemical weapons?

And … how is that well-known fact evidence of anything? Or is this argument by absence, where you mention one well-known fact but not the other not so well-known fact, that the rebels have been caught with sarin gas supplies?

I would love to hear from Mr. Groll about how I’ve shown him the error of his ways, which in a nutshell was accepting one side’s assertions as fact even though it refuses to provide the evidence for its claims. Instead, if he wants someday to be a good journalist, Mr. Groll should become very skeptical when sources refuse to provide evidence for their claims. On the other hand, if he wants to become a mainstream Washington insider and make a big-time salary, Groll is well on his way and should change nothing about the way he argues/trolls life-and-death foreign policy issues. Have fun virtually riding the missiles into Damascus dude! ;-/

P.S. 1: BIG hip tat to Gareth Porter — in How Intelligence Was Twisted to Support an Attack on Syria — for some of the insights and links provided above.

P.S. 2: Contrasting the mintnews.com account and the Kerry/Obama’s assertions, Jim Naureckas of FAIR has a wise commentary, Which Syrian Chemical Attack Account Is More Credible?:

… As with the government white paper, there are gaps in the Mint account; while Abdel-Moneim cites his late son’s account of carrying chemical weapons, the rebels quoted do not indicate how they came to know what they say they know about the origin of the weapons. But unlike the government, Mint is honest about the limits of its knowledge: “Some information in this article could not be independently verified,” the story admits. “Mint Press News will continue to provide further information and updates.”

This humility about the difficulty of reporting on a covert, invisible attack in the midst of a chaotic civil war actually adds to the credibility of the Mint account. It’s those who are most certain about matters of which they clearly lack firsthand knowledge who should make us most skeptical.

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Why Aren’t We Bombing the Rebels, Mr. President?

3:52 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

Carla Del Ponte said it best, there are “strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof” that the rebels have used chemical weapons during the Syrian civil war. The evidence against the government is much weaker. Why aren’t we bombing the rebels, Mr. President, in particular the Al Nusra Front, against whom the evidence is strongest?

1. Turkey finds sarin gas in homes of suspected Syrian Islamists – reports

Note that the U.S. has just announced that indications of sarin gas are exactly what it claims to have found at the Ghouta chemical attack (or accident) site.

2. UN’s Del Ponte says evidence Syria rebels ‘used sarin’

Again, the newest U.S. claim is that indications of sarin gas were found in Ghouta.

3. Syrians in Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack

… from numerous interviews with doctors, Ghouta residents, rebel fighters and their families, a different picture emerges. Many believe that certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out the dealing gas attack.

“My son came to me two weeks ago asking what I thought the weapons were that he had been asked to carry,” said Abu Abdel-Moneim, the father of a rebel fighting to unseat Assad, who lives in Ghouta.

Abdel-Moneim said his son and 12 other rebels were killed inside of a tunnel used to store weapons provided by a Saudi militant, known as Abu Ayesha, who was leading a fighting battalion.

The above indicates that the ‘attack’ was really an accidental release of sarin. In that case maybe we shouldn’t bomb Al Nusra Front. ;->

Earlier in the year there were reports like this:

4. US-backed Terrorists Renew Threat to Use Chemical Arms against Syrians and Damascus Gov’t

Clearly an anti-rebel source, but the article is largely direct quotations of rebel leaders and their threats.

Syria: Give War Another Chance?

4:54 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

Kinda sad when the U.S., the West and their corporate media lead the fight for war and against reconciliation in Syria. (More Nobel Peace Prizes likely in the mix!) Once again all the pro-civil-war, pro-terrorism statements are being voiced by U.S. and Western officials, and their media are as biased as ever against peace and for more death and destruction. Not to mention Ban Ki-Moon … and the rebels themselves: “To date, opposition leaders have refused to consider any form of negotiations or compromise with the regime.”

Despite the predictable response, once again Syria’s Bashar al-Assad has presented a national reconciliation process leading to democratic elections, and the proposal is instantly rejected by the rebels, the U.S. and the West (and this is presented as ‘normal’ and ‘honorable’ in the corporate media). On Sunday Assad described his three-part plan:

Phase I would … entail making contact with the full spectrum of Syrian society, political parties and administrative bodies. These would include “all forces inside and outside the country who are interested in a solution,” he said.

In Phase II, the current government would chair a “comprehensive national dialogue conference” with these groups with the goal of drafting a national charter.

This document would uphold Syria’s sovereignty and unity, reject terrorism and “pave the way for the political future of Syria,” said Assad.

The charter would be put to a national referendum for approval.

Parliamentary elections would then be held within the framework of the constitution to form a new government that would represent all segments of Syrian society. …

In Phase III, a new government would be formed in accordance with constitutional law.

Now, what exactly is wrong with the preceding? Well, that’s pretty clear: it’s not a proposal for immediate regime change, which is the first and only demand of the rebels and their sponsors. Those sponsors unfortunately include the UN’s Ban Ki-Moon, who said he rejected Assad’s plan because it did not include “a political transition and the establishment of a transitional governing body with full executive powers that would include representatives of all Syrians.”

But Assad’s plan allows for transition, if that’s what Syrians vote for in elections. In contrast, Ban’s suggested path is anti-democratic, not allowing Syrians to choose “representatives of all Syrians” in any sort of election.

Me, uh, I’m for democracy … guess that ain’t cool anymore.

A final note on one of the imperial media lies about Assad’s Sunday speech, that he had “dismissed any chance of dialogue with the opposition.” In fact Assad asked for dialogue with the opposition, but lamented “that his government had not yet found any partners willing to back a solution to Syria’s ongoing crisis.” And who can deny his description of the violent opposition as largely Western puppets or terrorists? Or deny the good sense of his desire to dialogue with “the master not the servants”? And, finally, isn’t the opposition at the moment, as it has always been, badly fractured and riddled with sleaze?

Finally, a bit of optimism. In part because regime change in Syria by and for the West was never a very coherent plan, there are hints of peace despite its latest knee-jerk rejections. And after all, if the choice is really between “‘Somalia-ization’ of Syria Or a Political Settlement,” then whispers that the U.S. is secretly negotiating with Russia on a quiet, peaceful, end to the civil war might be true. Certainly almost all Syrians prefer peace to their present hell. Instituting a democratic transition that would lead to democratic governance and, if the Syrian people will it, Assad stepping down would also be real nice.

It’s just particularly cruel to fight against peace now, when both sides seem exhausted, and the winter is cold and food scarce in both government and rebel-held areas.