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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 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 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.

Read the rest of this entry →

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 winning so Israel evens things up, tries to force U.S. air war

12:54 am in Uncategorized by fairleft

Thoughts on the major Israel missile strike on Damascus while reading a bit too much of the Western war propaganda …

Internal chaos weakens Syria and at least for now benefits Israel. However, the Syrian people have long tired of senseless killing there and support peace above all else. So, those still fighting the government are now largely either paid Western mercenaries or paid Islamic extremists bent on establishing a Saudi-style Sunni state in Syria. Not a surprise that, faced with such opponents the Syrian state was making progress on the battlefield (note such real news is not allowed on the mainstream ‘news’ because it counters the line/narrative that the Syrian government is on its last legs). Israeli missile attacks will help but won’t be enough, the rebels are too weak, so the attacks are primarily aimed at forcing Western intervention ‘Libya style’. (If you’ve forgotten what that did to Libya read this by Patrick Cockburn.) In sum, the ‘why’ of the Israeli attacks has nothing to do with the mainstream media’s explanation: “Israel strikes Syria, says targeting Hezbollah arms.” So please, read Robert Fisk:

The story is already familiar: the Israelis wanted to prevent a shipment of Iranian-made Fateh-110 missiles reaching Hezbollah in Lebanon; they were being sent by the Syrian government. According, at least, to a ‘Western intelligence source’. Anonymous, of course. And it opens the old question: why when the Syrian regime is fighting for its life would it send advanced missiles out of Syria? … why would the Syrians send [the missiles to Lebanon], as US sources were also claiming last night, when the Americans themselves claimed only last December that the Syrians had used the same ground-to-ground missiles against rebel forces in Syria.

I think Fisk’s analysis makes a great deal of sense, especially in light of the fact that the attack was on a huge scale, killing over a hundred Syrian soldiers and civilians (note how the mainstream ‘news’ avoids mentioning casualties: the only reference I have seen is on page 2 of a long New York Times report and refers only to soldiers killed). Al Akhbar’s Ali Rizk comments on

It seems that Bashar Assad militarily has gained the upper hand so Israel realizes Assad won’t be going unless there’s outside intervention. So Israel is trying to drag the US by saying “If you don’t go in, then we shall wreak havoc. We shall go ahead with our own military escalation.”

But how could huge Israeli missile strikes on Syria trigger a pro-Israeli intervention? Don’t such unprovoked attacks indicate the problem is Israel, the attacker, rather than the ‘attackee’? (You might have asked the same thing after Syria asked the UN to investigate the rebels’ use of chemical weapons.) No, that would make too much sense, so read on:

In Washington, the reported Israeli attacks stoked debate about whether American-led airstrikes were the logical next step to cripple the ability of the Syrian president to counter the rebel forces or use chemical weapons. That was already being discussed in secret by the United States, Britain and France in the days leading to the Israeli strikes, according to American and foreign officials involved in the discussions, with a model being the opening days of the attacks on Libya that ultimately drove Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi from power.

But but but, the problem for U.S. and Western intervention is the Big Bear to the north:

I think what you have now is that Iran and Hezbollah now have a new significant ally of real significant weight which is Russia, which is continuing to the Middle East scene once again. So I think that if we do have escalation, Iran will intervene, Hezbollah will intervene, and I think also we might speak about a Russian intervention or some kind of a Russia role because Russia clearly has been very much present and there saying “I am here and I have a significant say.”

Is the West prepared to go mano v mano with Mr. Putin?

My guess is no, in part for the additional reason that even from a rational Israeli perspective ousting the Assad government is counterproductive. I think we are observing an Israeli military-industrial complex out of control, acting for its own expansionary and profit interests rather than in the interest of the Israeli state. Perhaps, just perhaps, there are rational (and powerful) people within the Beltway who realize that.

P.S. — Another recent Fisk piece well worth reading is “Alawite history reveals the complexities of Syria that West does not understand,” which begins:

In Syria these days, we are resorting to our racist little maps. The Alawite mountains and the town of Qardaha, home of the Assad family – colour it dark red. Will this be the last redoubt of the 12 per cent Alawite minority, to which the President belongs, when the rebels “liberate” Damascus? We always like these divisive charts in the Middle East. Remember how Iraq was always Shias at the bottom, Sunnis in the middle, Kurds at the top? We used to do this with Lebanon: Shias at the bottom (as usual), Shias in the east, Sunnis in Sidon and Tripoli, Christians east and north of Beirut. Never once has a Western newspaper shown a map of Bradford with Muslim and non-Muslim areas marked off, or a map of Washington divided into black and white people. No, that would suggest that our Western civilisation could be divvied up between tribes or races. Only the Arab world merits our ethnic distinctions.

Syria’s shaving cream war: will it turn the tide for rebels?

12:55 pm in Uncategorized by fairleft

Prior to the last 24 hours it was joke publications like The Telegraph (source of the photo above) and other Murdochian, Fox News quality rags that trumpeted the simpleton propaganda video that Syrian rebels say shows poisoning by government sarin gas. In those good old days we could enjoy light-hearted blog titles like this:

That title was above some very entertaining ridicule of the video and some serious (but easy) debunking (link is in the original: follow it to the Centers for Disease Control, which lists the signs and symptoms for sarin exposure):

The short video posted at the Telegraph site shows three persons laying on hospital stretchers. All three persons have some white foam around their mouths. None of them shows any acute breathing problem. All three seem rather relaxed. … This “foaming at the mouth” video proof of chemical weapons usage is fake. … “foaming at the mouth” is NOT a standard symptom of sarin exposure.

Thank you Moon of Alabama, but unfortunately matters have now taken a very serious Chuck Hagel face turn. The U.S. government is now running with the scam, and ‘prestigious’ operations like the BBC are now ‘required’ (careerism uber alles) to treat the video not as silly, crass entertainment but as real. Defense secretary Hagel announced yesterday that U.S. intel officials will now pretend, along with the Brits and Israel, that the video is serious evidence of sarin gas poisoning. No more laughs, shaving cream may bring war and bloody cruel death to tens of thousands more Syrians. So, ‘despite’ little blogs’ ridicule, big corporate media now use shaving cream as the foundation for headlines like this:

Why has Western imperialism (seemingly desperately) now reached for this video, such a flimsy, silly straw? Well, partly because there are now no limits to what its news media will say with a straight face, but also because the war looked to be turning and the wrong side seemed to be winning. Outside the propaganda field, which the Western corporate media obviously utterly dominates, the war on the ground goes very poorly for the deeply divided and Sunni fundamentalist dominated rebels and mercenaries. The following report is from April 24 (emphasis added):

In Damascus, Syrian [government] forces … seized a strategic town east of the city, breaking a critical weapons supply route for the rebels, activists and fighters said. Rebels have held several suburbs ringing the southern and eastern parts Damascus for months, but they have been struggling to maintain their positions against a ground offensive backed by fierce army shelling and air strikes in recent weeks.

“The disaster has struck, the army entered Otaiba. The regime has managed to turn off the weapons tap,” a fighter from the town told Reuters via Skype. …

“Now all the villages will start falling one after another, the battle in Eastern Ghouta will be a war of attrition,” another fighter in the area said, speaking by Skype.

More than two years into their struggle to end four decades of Assad family rule, the rebels remain divided by struggles over ideology and fighting for power. … The army appears to have been advancing on fronts across Syria in recent weeks, even in northern provinces where rebels seized large swathes of territory.

Finally, I give some credit to President Obama, because he remains reluctant to do a Libya on Syria without ‘further’ proof. Despite the administration ‘confirming’ with “varying degrees of confidence” that sarin gas had been used by Syrian government forces, it does seem to want more ‘proof’, something maybe a little more serious than the video? I’m pessimistic though. I mean, if that shaving cream video is a ‘go’, not even a snicker from the highest echelons of Western media and government, how hard will it be to generate further ‘evidence’?

Mainstream Media Self-Censors Boston Bombers’ Syrian Fundamentalist Sympathies

11:29 pm in Uncategorized by fairleft


Sunday, April 21, 2013
Boston bomber and Syria

Notice that U.S. media are not reporting that the Boston bomber was an enthusiastic supporter of your Syrian “revolution”. He posted videos about it on his Youtube page.

Posted by As’ad AbuKhalil at 7:41 AM

Yup, let the self-censorship begin. Since April 20 (based on my Google search), the mainstream media has not mentioned the Tsarnaev brothers’ fundamentalist Syrian rebel sympathies. This even though there have been multiple mainstream articles in recent days on relations between Russia and the U.S. which mention the Syria rebellion. So, for example, in a USA Today column by Louise Branson we get this:

We’re fighting the same fight, has been [Putin's] refrain to U.S. presidents and officials. President Assad makes the same case in Syria. The Boston Marathon explosions have helped tip Putin’s argument. … Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the captured Boston marathon bomber will, over time, give answers about the brothers’ aims and ties.

Hey columnist Branson, haven’t you noticed that he’s already given ‘answers’ (that don’t fit the U.S. imperialist narrative)? … Take a look at his Youtube page.

Other very similar columns are in the Seattle Times and the Washington Post. Both discuss the bombings’ effect on Russia-U.S. relations, and they focus on Syria as a key conflict, but both also fail to mention the Tsarnaev brothers’ fundamentalist rebel sympathies. I understand the brothers’ sympathies are not the central focus of any of the three articles I’ve noted, but not mentioning those sympathies when you’re discussing Syria seems like self-censorship.

By the way, I was a little surprised by the negative reaction here at MyFDL to my Saturday article on the Tsarnaev brothers’ sympathies. (I thought it was obvious but) I hope the following comment I made there will help to clarify what the hell I’m about:

The mainstream media [back on April 19] says the Tsarnaev brothers were supporters of the Sunni fundamentalist side of the Syrian rebellion. Without apology I use those ‘facts’. If you’re opposed to U.S./EU/Saudi/Qatari imperialism in Syria, you post a post like mine.

Do you think the ‘conspiratorial’ theorizing about what ‘really’ happened will have any traction in the real world? We KNOW the majority of Americans, if they knew, would strongly oppose the U.S. de facto alliance with Al Qaeda and similar in Syria. You see that sentiment all the time on Yahoo discussion boards, for example. So I use the current newsworthy ‘facts’ to publicize (in tiny places like MyFDL) the realities that the imperialists want to keep quiet.

Nothing fancy or nuanced, I’m just one of those folks opposed to corporate globalist imperialism. And, I see a meme here that already resonates with regular America so I turn up the volume with these posts. Unfortunately I can’t turn it up much on tiny blogs, but every little bit helps. Frankly, as I’ve said before, the information war is in the mainstream media’s comment sections. Sadly it is not here at MyFDL.

P.S. — For the record, here are the two sources, the first mainstream (on the 19th), the second alternative (on the 20th), that noted the Tsarnaev brothers’ Syria sympathies:

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev … 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.”

There are signs that the brothers showed interest in the conflict in Syria, which has drawn al Qaida fighters and other militants from across the Muslim world and Europe, according to a U.S. counterterror official. …

The brothers had viewed videos about the plight of Syrian Muslims, the official said. Syria is the latest hotspot on the world map of jihad. Holy warriors a decade ago were inspired by videos about brutal combat between jihadis and Russian troops in the brothers’ family homeland …

P.S.2 — By the way 2, here is the U.S. and EU backed rebellion in action (hip tat to Angry Arab):

Islamist rebels are clashing with tribesmen in eastern Syria as struggles over the region’s oil facilities break out in the power vacuum left by civil war, activists said on Saturday. One dispute over a stolen oil truck in the town of Masrib in the province of Deir al-Zor, which borders Iraq, set off a battle between tribesmen and fighters from the Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda linked rebel group, which left 37 killed, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. … Masrib tribesmen called for help from Assad’s forces against Nusra, according to the Observatory and a fighter with the Islamist group. Nusra responded by blowing up 30 houses after the battle, in which 17 rebels were killed, at least four of them foreigners, the fighter said on Skype.