Summary: Trump has reversed course and attacked Assad, in response to chemical weapons attack on civilians, about which we know almost nothing. Trump risks a potentially catastrophic conflict with Russia, with jihadist rule in Syria the likely result of victory. This is madness. This is the path we travel.
We can learn much from the incident in Syria. It shows how our government works. How journalists work. It shows our gullibility.
An op-ed by famed columnist Anne Applebaum in the WaPo provides a summary that does not even attempt to be balanced. Which is odd since there is so little hard information about the chemical weapons incident.
“In the aftermath of the latest suspected chemical attack in Syria, the Russian government borrowed a tactic from President Trump. First, it denied the evidence: ‘False information is being planted about the alleged use of chlorine and other toxic agents by the Syrian government forces.’ Then, it gave the allegations a familiar label: ‘fake news.’ …
“Nor is it Russia’s only version of events. As in the past — after a missile linked to Russia took down a Malaysia Airlines plane in eastern Ukraine, after an ex-spy was poisoned in Britain — the Russian government is also attacking the truth by producing multiple conflicting stories. The Russian Embassy in Washington is blaming the suspected chemical attack on “terrorists,” while the Russian Embassy in Abu Dhabi says it didn’t happen at all. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov now says the attack was “staged” by an “anti-Russian” government.”
This has layers of weirdness. First, the WaPo displays the famous amnesia of American journalists. Defending with a barrage of lies is a tactic often used – perfected with long practice – by the US government. See this big list of lies by US government officials (a long but partial list). For example, while Russia provided the missile that shot down the Malaysia airliner, the USS Vincennes actually shoot down Iran Air Flight 655. The US replied with a long series of lies (details here; more details here).
Second, the story of the poisoned ex-spy is not as clear as the WaPo implies. There is no evidence linking Russia to the poisoning. The British government’s story makes little sense (details here). The report of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) says nothing about the source of the chemical, despite UK claims that it did.
Applebaum is certain that Assad is responsible for the attack. There is no evidence for that. Assad is mopping up the remnants of the insurgency. The gas attack makes no strategic sense, except for the insurgents. There is a long history of similar false flag attacks.
Applebaum is a Pulitzer-prize winner author. She is a visiting Professor of Practice at the London School of Economics, where she runs Arena, a project on propaganda and disinformation. She well shows her skills in this bit of propaganda. But the power is not in her. The effectiveness of works such as this lie in our weakness. In our gullibility.
Why wait for the facts?
“No, no!” said the Queen. “Sentence first – verdict afterwards.”
“Stuff and nonsense!” said Alice loudly. “The idea of having the sentence first!”
“Hold your tongue!” said the Queen, turning purple.
“I won’t!” said Alice.
“Off with her head!” the Queen shouted at the top of her voice.
— America goes to war, described by Lewis Carroll in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Those that question the narrative are declared outcasts.
In case you missed it: In response to media queries, the Spokesperson for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) confirms that the #OPCW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) team is on its way to #Syria and will start its work as of Saturday 14 April 2018. pic.twitter.com/IZUIpg2DsZ
— OPCW (@OPCW) April 12, 2018
A fun realistic look at this madness
From “If We’re on the Brink of War, the Fault Is Ours, Not Trump’s or Bolton’s”
Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone.
The fate of humanity now rests in the hands of this Twitter-obsessed dingbat executive and his new national security adviser, John Bolton – one of the most deranged people to have ever served in the United States government, a man who makes Jeane Kirkpatrick look like Florence Nightingale.
With these two at the helm, we are now facing the imminent possibility of direct military conflict with a nuclear enemy. No one in the popular press is saying it, but there could easily be Russian casualties in Trump’s inevitable bombing campaign. …
Virtually the entire intellectual consensus within Washington – with a few exceptions among progressives and Republican outcasts like Rand Paul – has been pushing the president in the direction of conflict.
Predictably, the instant Trump actually began to threaten military action against Assad and Putin, the pundit-o-sphere began to embrace a new line: They had been against military action all along!
Why, some Media Matters types, academics like UMass professor Paul Musgrave, and think-tankers like Brookings Institution fellow Tom Wright even began suggesting that it had not been they themselves, but evil foreigners, in conjunction with Fox News, who drove Trump to his “reckless” behavior. …
It started two weeks ago, when Trump announced he was pulling out of Syria. “We’re knocking the hell out of ISIS. We’ll be coming out of Syria like very soon. Let the other people take care of it now,” he said, reverting to his campaign persona in Ohio.
The D.C. intelligentsia wasted no time in hammering this decision. “Trump’s Syria Policy Isn’t Retrenchement, It’s Pandering,” sneered Foreign Policy. “Chaos reigns with his president,” said Hawaii Democrat Mazie Hirono, calling the withdrawal plan “incoherent.”
Howard Dean, a man I once voted for because he at least tepidly opposed a pointless Middle Eastern war, decided to use this occasion to taunt Trump in schoolyard fashion. “Why are you such a wimp for Assad and Putin?” Dean tweeted.
Subsequently, news emerged of a chemical gas attack on citizens in a town near Damascus. The Assad regime was blamed, but denied responsibility. Washington’s smart set instantly concluded (despite some at least faintly legitimate concern about the intelligence linking Assad to the attack) that Trump not only could not leave Syria, but also had to retaliate militarily. …
Moreover, some insisted, the gas attack was actually Trump’s fault.
- “@POTUS‘s pledge to withdraw from #Syria has only emboldened Assad,” tweeted John McCain.
- “Clearly there needs to be a response. It needs to be an international response,” said Democratic Senator Ben Cardin, underscoring the bipartisan agreement.
- “I would destroy Assad’s Air Force,” said Lindsey Graham.
- “Some kind of military response ought to be considered,” said Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. “It has to be robust and unmistakable.”
The notion that Trump needed to do more than lob a few wimpy little missiles was a popular theme. …
- “Morning” Joe Scarborough offered this armchair-tough tweet …: “Trump announced plans this week to surrender Syria to Putin, Assad, ISIS and Iran. Putin’s puppet responded to Trump’s weakness with war crimes.”
- Among think-tankers, Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute penned the non-sensational editorial, “It’s time to assassinate Assad.”
- “Chemical Attack in Syria Demands Stiff Response from U.S., Allies,” wroteLuke Coffey of the Heritage Foundation.
So pols, press, and talking heads were virtually all been in agreement. Attack!
A cold hard analysis
“Trump Can’t Alter Syria’s Future” by Douglas MacGregor (Colonel, US Army, retired; see Wikipedia). He has a PhD in international relations and has written five books. His latest is Margin of Victory: Five Battles that Changed the Face of Modern War. His conclusion is just good sense.
“Right now, the greatest danger to the Trump presidency is a renewal of Washington’s refusal since 1991 to accept any regional solution in the Middle East other than one imposed by American military power. The danger is a destructive collision with the triumvirate of powers that have tangible, concrete strategic interests in Syria: Russia, Iran and Turkey. Unlike the weak insurgents Americans have faced since 2001, these nations possess powerful air forces, air defenses, armies and navies.
“It is never easy for an aggressive commander in chief to resist offensive action, but any significant military action in Syria risks confrontation with these powers on strategic terms that do not favor the United States. Moreover, American military action is simply out of line with Syria’s actual importance to the United States.”
If we defeat Assad, jihadists win
Almost never mentioned are Assad’s opponents: mostly jihadists, as this article in The Nation delicately mentions. If we successfully help the insurgents overthrow Assad, this will yet another nation we have turned over to jihadists. Reagan liberated Afghanistan from secularism. Bush Jr. liberated Iraq from secular culture. Obama helped liberate Libya from secular culture. Now it is Trump’s turn.
Why has America become the great enabler of fundamentalist Islam?
These are secrets because we do not want to know them. Although the truth is out there, such knowledge shakes our complacency. See the strong similarity between the ex-spy’s poisoning in the UK and the Syria chemical attack. In both cases there no evidence of the bad guy’s guilt and strong reasons for false flag attacks. Yet conservatives, liberals, and major journalists all present the stories as showing obvious and certain guilt. To invade Iraq they manufactured fake evidence. Now they have taken our measure and know that evidence is unnecessary. Just lies are enough.
America will be governed. If we are too lazy to do so, then others will. Just like hot-wired stolen car, we can’t expect it to be treated well. But it is not too late. The political machinery bequeathed to us by the Founders remains potent, needing only our energy and willpower to make it work.
For More Information
Important to remember when reading today’s confident predictions by pundits: “The pundits were wrong about Assad and the Islamic State. As usual, they’re not willing to admit it” by Max Abrahms and John Glaser, op-ed in the LAT, December 2017.
The big picture about US – Russia relations: We ended the Cold War by lying to Russia. They remember, even if we don’t.
Ideas! For some shopping ideas, see my recommended books and films at Amazon.
- About the Ukraine war: The first rule of American war is not to believe what we’re told.
- Learning from the Cold War to prevent war with Russia today.
- Trump says the truth about our wars. Do Not Listen!
- The Russian cyberattack on the world that wasn’t (again).
- Debunking RussiaGate, attempts to stop the new Cold War.
- Debunking the story about Russia’s hit on Sergei Skripal.
- Another rush to war! This time in Syria.
Two new books about our new Cold War.
Return to Cold War by Robert Legvold
Who Lost Russia?: How the World Entered a New Cold War by Peter Conradi.
See Tony Wood’s review of these new books in the London Review of Books.