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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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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 RT.com:

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.