by William Skink
I am watching the PBS news hour as I type this. The gas attack in northern Syria is the big news story. Trump is stating his opinion on Assad has changed. I suspect this time around there will be absolutely no skepticism about who is responsible for this attack. And that’s too bad because I seriously doubt Assad is to blame for this attack.
If one were to assume Assad is rational, and if one were to apply a little logic, it makes absolutely no sense for Assad to order this kind of attack when his government has the upper hand against the head choppers supported by America’s allies in the region, like Saudi Arabia.
I know it’s futile to write this. It makes absolutely no difference. America is too far gone to think rationally about foreign affairs. Journalists like Seymour Hersh, who courageously did some real reporting on the Sarin attack, at least tried. Here is some of his work:
For months there had been acute concern among senior military leaders and the intelligence community about the role in the war of Syria’s neighbours, especially Turkey. Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan was known to be supporting the al-Nusra Front, a jihadist faction among the rebel opposition, as well as other Islamist rebel groups. ‘We knew there were some in the Turkish government,’ a former senior US intelligence official, who has access to current intelligence, told me, ‘who believed they could get Assad’s nuts in a vice by dabbling with a sarin attack inside Syria – and forcing Obama to make good on his red line threat.’
The joint chiefs also knew that the Obama administration’s public claims that only the Syrian army had access to sarin were wrong. The American and British intelligence communities had been aware since the spring of 2013 that some rebel units in Syria were developing chemical weapons. On 20 June analysts for the US Defense Intelligence Agency issued a highly classified five-page ‘talking points’ briefing for the DIA’s deputy director, David Shedd, which stated that al-Nusra maintained a sarin production cell: its programme, the paper said, was ‘the most advanced sarin plot since al-Qaida’s pre-9/11 effort’. (According to a Defense Department consultant, US intelligence has long known that al-Qaida experimented with chemical weapons, and has a video of one of its gas experiments with dogs.) The DIA paper went on: ‘Previous IC [intelligence community] focus had been almost entirely on Syrian CW [chemical weapons] stockpiles; now we see ANF attempting to make its own CW … Al-Nusrah Front’s relative freedom of operation within Syria leads us to assess the group’s CW aspirations will be difficult to disrupt in the future.’ The paper drew on classified intelligence from numerous agencies: ‘Turkey and Saudi-based chemical facilitators,’ it said, ‘were attempting to obtain sarin precursors in bulk, tens of kilograms, likely for the anticipated large scale production effort in Syria.’ (Asked about the DIA paper, a spokesperson for the director of national intelligence said: ‘No such paper was ever requested or produced by intelligence community analysts.’)
Last May, more than ten members of the al-Nusra Front were arrested in southern Turkey with what local police told the press were two kilograms of sarin. In a 130-page indictment the group was accused of attempting to purchase fuses, piping for the construction of mortars, and chemical precursors for sarin. Five of those arrested were freed after a brief detention. The others, including the ringleader, Haytham Qassab, for whom the prosecutor requested a prison sentence of 25 years, were released pending trial. In the meantime the Turkish press has been rife with speculation that the Erdoğan administration has been covering up the extent of its involvement with the rebels. In a news conference last summer, Aydin Sezgin, Turkey’s ambassador to Moscow, dismissed the arrests and claimed to reporters that the recovered ‘sarin’ was merely ‘anti-freeze’.
This reporting doesn’t matter. All the talking heads on tv are saying Assad is responsible, and that’s good enough for Americans. Trump will now have a free hand to do whatever he wants in Syria. Who is going to stop him? There is no anti-war movement. Democrats gave up on that when Obama streamlined America’s killing machine.
Now that Trump is Commander-in-Chief, I’m sure plenty of Democrats will suddenly realize they are against war now that a Republican is directing the killing. There is already evidence of this, like this post from the alleged progressive combat vet, Josh Manning. Here is how he concludes his partisan post:
With a massive military budget and plenty of toys to play with, the U.S. military is going to look like the cavorting pig in the trough the next four years or possibly even eight. After so many years of war and such a heavy burden placed on so many of my fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines I cannot fathom how there is still an appetite for war in America. But it is upon us again and the war junkies and fake “champion of the troops” pundits on television are going to booster us into more and more conflicts. They will tell us that this is what the troops signed up for as more and more of them die. They will tell us that civilian deaths are just a consequence of greater strategic needs. They will lie to America when they do this. They will lie to distract us from the authoritarian nature of the Trump regime and to keep their places in power. Once we have reached that place of complacency it will be too late for the America we once knew.
I don’t know what the hell Manning means when he says it is upon us again. Maybe he means wars of occupation where actual American troops may die. Obama did a great job of sewing chaos in a manner that didn’t result in a lot of dead American soldiers.
But, let’s remember, it was under Obama’s watch that Libya was destroyed, Ukraine was destabilized, the Yemen slaughter began, and America expanded its killing into over a half-dozen countries, most of which we have not declared war against.
If Democrats start ramping up the anti-war sentiment (because it’s anti-Trump), it will be too little, too late. The power Trump now enjoys was first grabbed by Bush after 9/11, then solidified and expanded under Obama. Those of us who pointed out the danger of Obama’s war machine getting into the hands of a more blatant tyrant were never taken seriously by the partisans who forgot to be horrified by war once Obama took charge.
They can try to resist Trump’s foreign policy, but the sad reality is Trump is their legacy, and the corpse of the anti-war movement is buried in their backyard.