Wednesday, July 5, 2017

922 Media Blackout on Seymour Hersh refutation of Syria "chemical weapons attack"

Media Blackout on Seymour Hersh refutation of Syria "chemical weapons
attack"

Newsletter published on 29 June 2017

Seymour M. Hersh is a credible source. He exposed the My Lai Massacre,
but is now being dismissed as a crank. The media blackout attests to
collusion between the Media and the Military, and is proof of a
high-level Conspiracy operating in much of the Western world. - Peter M.

(1) US Intel tell Hersh that Syria bomb hit chemicals hidden in
basement; Media refuse to publish
(2) Seymour Hersh: Syria did not use chemical weapons - Die Welt, Germany
(3) Avigdor Lieberman: Israel intel a source of the claim that Assad
used chemical weapons against rebels
(4) WSWS Trots publish Hersh refutation of Syria chemical attack
(5) Socialist Worker Trots and Socialist Alternative Trots black out
Hersh report
(6) Russia, China block bid by Western powers to impose UN sanctions on
Syria
(7) Russia, China veto at U.N. on Syria chemical weapons is
‘outrageous,’ U.S. says

(1) US Intel tell Hersh that Syria bomb hit chemicals hidden in
basement; Media refuse to publish

https://consortiumnews.com/2017/06/25/intel-behind-trumps-syria-attack-questioned/

Intel Behind Trump’s Syria Attack Questioned

June 25, 2017

Exclusive: The mainstream media is so hostile to challenges to its
groupthinks that famed journalist Seymour Hersh had to take his
take-down of President Trump’s April 6 attack on Syria to Germany, says
ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

By Ray McGovern

Legendary investigative reporter Seymour Hersh is challenging the Trump
administration’s version of events surrounding the April 4 "chemical
weapons attack" on the northern Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun – though
Hersh had to find a publisher in Germany to get his information out.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ross fires a
tomahawk land attack missile from the Mediterranean Sea into Syria,
April 7, 2017. (Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert S. Price)

In the Sunday edition of Die Welt, Hersh reports that his national
security sources offered a distinctly different account, revealing
President Trump rashly deciding to launch 59 Tomahawk missiles against a
Syrian airbase on April 6 despite the absence of intelligence supporting
his conclusion that the Syrian military was guilty.

Hersh draws on the kind of inside sources from whom he has earned
longstanding trust to dispute that there ever was a "chemical weapons
attack" and to assert that Trump was told that no evidence existed
against the Syrian government but ordered "his generals" to "retaliate"
anyway.

Marine General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the, Joint Chiefs of Staff,
and former Marine General, now Defense Secretary James "Mad-Dog" Mattis
ordered the attacks apparently knowing that the reason given was what
one of Hersh’s sources called a "fairy tale."

They then left it to Trump’s national security adviser Army General H.
R. McMaster to further the deceit with the help of a compliant
mainstream media, which broke from its current tradition of distrusting
whatever Trump says in favor of its older tradition of favoring "regime
change" in Syria and trusting pretty much whatever the "rebels" claim.

According to Hersh’s sources, the normal "deconfliction" process was
followed before the April 4 strike. In such procedures, U.S. and Russian
officers supply one another with advance details of airstrikes, such as
target coordinates, to avoid accidental confrontations among the
warplanes crisscrossing Syria.

Russia and Syrian Air Force officers gave details of the flight path to
and from Khan Sheikhoun in English, Hersh reported. The target was a
two-story cinderblock building in which senior leaders – "high-value
targets" – of the two jihadist groups controlling the town were about to
hold a meeting. Because of the perceived importance of the mission, the
Russians took the unusual step of giving the Syrian air force a
GPS-guided bomb to do the job, but the explosives were conventional, not
chemical, Hersh reported.

The meeting place was on the floor above the basement of the building,
where a source whom Hersh described as "a senior adviser to the U.S.
intelligence community," told Hersh: "The basement was used as storage
for rockets, weapons, and ammunition … and also chlorine-based
decontaminates for cleansing the bodies of the dead before burial."

A Bomb Damage Assessment

Hersh describes what happened when the building was struck on the
morning of April 4: "A Bomb Damage Assessment by the U.S. military later
determined that the heat and force of the 500-pound Syrian bomb
triggered a series of secondary explosions that could have generated a
huge toxic cloud that began to spread over the town, formed by the
release of fertilizers, disinfectants, and other goods stored in the
basement, its effect magnified by the dense morning air, which trapped
the fumes close to the ground.

"According to intelligence estimates, the strike itself killed up to
four jihadist leaders and an unknown number of drivers and security
aides. There is no confirmed count of the number of civilians killed by
the poisonous gases that were released by the secondary explosions,
although opposition activists reported that there were more than 80
dead, and outlets such as CNN have put the figure as high as 92."

Due to the fog of war, which is made denser by the fact that jihadists
associated with Al Qaeda control the area, many of the details of the
incident were unclear on that day and remain so still. No independent
on-the-ground investigation has taken place.

But there were other reasons to doubt Syrian guilt, including the
implausibility of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad choosing that time –
while his forces were making dramatic strides in finally defeating the
jihadists and immediately after the Trump administration had indicated
it had reversed President Obama’s "regime change" policy in Syria – to
launch a sarin attack, which was sure to outrage the world and likely
draw U.S. retaliation.

However, logic was brushed aside after local "activists," including some
closely tied to the jihadists, quickly uploaded all manner of images
onto social media, showing dead and dying children and other victims
said to be suffering from sarin nerve gas. Inconsistencies were brushed
aside – such as the "eyewitness" who insisted, "We could smell it from
500 meters away" when sarin is odorless.

Potent Images

Still, whether credible or not, these social-media images had a potent
propaganda effect. Hersh writes that within hours of watching the
gruesome photos on TV – and before he had received any U.S. intelligence
corroboration – Trump told his national security aides to plan
retaliation against Syria. According to Hersh, it was an evidence-free
decision, except for what Trump had seen on the TV shows.

The photograph released by the White House of President Trump meeting
with his advisers at his estate in Mar-a-Lago on April 6, 2017,
regarding his decision to launch missile strikes against Syria.

Hersh quotes one U.S. officer who, upon learning of the White House
decision to "retaliate" against Syria, remarked: "We KNOW that there was
no chemical attack … the Russians are furious – claiming we have the
real intel and know the truth…"

A similar event had occurred on Aug. 21, 2013, outside Damascus – and
although the available evidence now points to a "false-flag" provocation
pulled off by the jihadists to trick the West into mounting a
full-fledged assault on Assad’s military, Western media still blames
that incident on Assad, too.

In the Aug. 21, 2013 case, social media also proved crucial in creating
and pushing the Assad-did-it narrative. On Aug. 30, 2013, then-Secretary
of State John Kerry pinned the responsibility on Assad no fewer than 35
times, even though earlier that week National Intelligence Director
James Clapper had warned President Obama privately that Assad’s
culpability was "not a slam dunk."

Kerry was fond of describing social media as an "extraordinarily useful
tool," and it sure did come in handy in supporting Kerry’s repeated but
unproven charges against Assad, especially since the U.S. government had
invested heavily in training and equipping Syrian "activists" to
dramatize their cause. (The mainstream media also has ignored evidence
that the jihadists staged at least one chlorine gas attack. And, as you
may recall, President George W. Bush also spoke glowingly about the
value of "catapulting the propaganda.")

Implications for U.S.-Russia

To the extent Hersh’s account finds its way into Western corporate
media, most likely it will be dismissed out of hand simply because it
dovetails with Moscow’s version of what happened and thus is, ipso
facto, "wrong."

Russian President Vladimir Putin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on
May 10, 2015, at the Kremlin. (Photo from Russian government)

But the Russians (and the Syrians) know what did happen – and if there
really was no sarin bombing – they recognize Trump’s reckless resort to
Tomahawks and the subsequent attempts to cover up for the President. All
this will have repercussions.

This is as tense a time in U.S-Russian relations as I can remember from
my five decades of experience watching Russian defense and foreign
policy. It is left to the Russians to figure out which is worse: a
President controlled by "his generals" or one who is so out of control
that "his generals" are the ones who must restrain him.

With Russia reiterating its threat to target any unannounced aircraft
flying in Syrian airspace west of the Euphrates, Russian President Putin
could authorize his own generals to shoot first and ask questions later.
Then, hold onto your hat.

As of this writing, there is no sign in "mainstream media" of any
reporting on Hersh’s groundbreaking piece. It is a commentary on the
conformist nature of today’s Western media that an alternative analysis
challenging the conventional wisdom – even when produced by a prominent
journalist like Sy Hersh – faces such trouble finding a place to publish.

The mainstream hatred of Assad and Putin has reached such extraordinary
levels that pretty much anything can be said or written about them with
few if any politicians or journalists daring to express doubts
regardless of how shaky the evidence is.

Even the London Review of Books, which published Hersh’s earlier
debunking of the Aug. 21, 2013 sarin-gas incident, wouldn’t go off onto
the limb this time despite having paid for his investigation.

According to Hersh, the LRB did not want to be "vulnerable to criticism
for seeming to take the view of the Syrian and Russia governments when
it came to the April 4 bombing in Khan Sheikhoun." So much for diversity
of thought in today’s West.

Yet, what was interesting about the Khan Sheikhoun case is that was a
test of whom the mainstream media detested more. The MSM has taken the
position that pretty much whatever Trump says is untrue or at least
deserving of intense fact-checking. But the MSM also believes whatever
attacks on Assad that the Syrian "activists" post on social media are
true and disbelieves whatever Putin says. So, this was a tug-of-war on
which prejudices were stronger – and it turned out that the antipathy
toward Syria and Russia is more powerful than the distrust of Trump.

Ignoring Critics

The MSM bought into Trump’s narrative to such a degree that any
criticism, no matter how credentialed the critic, gets either ignored or
ridiculed.

Photograph of men in Khan Sheikdoun in Syria, allegedly inside a crater
where a sarin-gas bomb landed.

For instance, the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity produced
a memo on April 11 questioning Trump’s rush to judgment. Former MIT
professor Ted Postol, a specialist in applying science to national
security incidents, also poked major holes in the narrative of a
government sarin attack. But the MSM silence was deafening.

In remarks to Die Welt, Seymour Hersh, who first became famous for
exposing the My Lai massacre story during the Vietnam War and disclosed
the Abu Ghraib abuse story during the Iraq War, explained that he still
gets upset at government lying and at the reluctance of the media to
hold governments accountable:

"We have a President in America today who lies repeatedly … but he must
learn that he cannot lie about intelligence relied upon before
authorizing an act of war. There are those in the Trump administration
who understand this, which is why I learned the information I did. If
this story creates even a few moments of regret in the White House, it
will have served a very high purpose."

But it may be that the Germans reading Welt am Sonntag may be among the
few who will get the benefit of Hersh’s contrarian view of the April 4
incident in Khan Sheikhoun. Perhaps they will begin to wonder why
Chancellor Angela Merkel continues with her "me-too" approach to
whatever Washington wants to do regarding tensions with Russia and
warfare in Syria.

Will Merkel admit that she was likely deceived in parroting Washington’s
line making the Syrian government responsible for a "massacre with
chemical weapons" on April 4? Mercifully, most Americans will be spared
having to choose between believing President Trump and Seymour Hersh.

Ray McGovern works with the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of
the Saviour in inner-city Washington.  During his 27 years as a CIA
analyst, he was Chief of the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch; he also
prepared the President’s Daily Brief, and conducted the early morning
briefings of President Reagan’s top national security advisers.

(2) Seymour Hersh: Syria did not use chemical weapons - Die Welt, Germany

https://www.welt.de/politik/ausland/article165905578/Trump-s-Red-Line.html

Syria: Trump‘s Red Line

President Donald Trump ignored important intelligence reports when he
decided to attack Syria after he saw pictures of dying children.

Seymour M. Hersh investigated the case of the alleged Sarin gas attack.

Seymour M. Hersh

June 25, 2017

On April 6, United States President Donald Trump authorized an early
morning Tomahawk missile strike on Shayrat Air Base in central Syria in
retaliation for what he said was a deadly nerve agent attack carried out
by the Syrian government two days earlier in the rebel-held town of Khan
Sheikhoun. Trump issued the order despite having been warned by the U.S.
intelligence community that it had found no evidence that the Syrians
had used a chemical weapon.

The available intelligence made clear that the Syrians had targeted a
jihadist meeting site on April 4 using a Russian-supplied guided bomb
equipped with conventional explosives. Details of the attack, including
information on its so-called high-value targets, had been provided by
the Russians days in advance to American and allied military officials
in Doha, whose mission is to coordinate all U.S., allied, Syrian and
Russian Air Force operations in the region.

Some American military and intelligence officials were especially
distressed by the president's determination to ignore the evidence.
"None of this makes any sense," one officer told colleagues upon
learning of the decision to bomb. "We KNOW that there was no chemical
attack ... the Russians are furious. Claiming we have the real intel and
know the truth ... I guess it didn't matter whether we elected Clinton
or Trump."

Within hours of the April 4 bombing, the world’s media was saturated
with photographs and videos from Khan Sheikhoun. Pictures of dead and
dying victims, allegedly suffering from the symptoms of nerve gas
poisoning, were uploaded to social media by local activists, including
the White Helmets, a first responder group known for its close
association with the Syrian opposition.

The provenance of the photos was not clear and no international
observers have yet inspected the site, but the immediate popular
assumption worldwide was that this was a deliberate use of the nerve
agent sarin, authorized by President Bashar Assad of Syria. Trump
endorsed that assumption by issuing a statement within hours of the
attack, describing Assad’s "heinous actions" as being a consequence of
the Obama administration’s "weakness and irresolution" in addressing
what he said was Syria’s past use of chemical weapons.

To the dismay of many senior members of his national security team,
Trump could not be swayed over the next 48 hours of intense briefings
and decision-making. In a series of interviews, I learned of the total
disconnect between the president and many of his military advisers and
intelligence officials, as well as officers on the ground in the region
who had an entirely different understanding of the nature of Syria’s
attack on Khan Sheikhoun. I was provided with evidence of that
disconnect, in the form of transcripts of real-time communications,
immediately following the Syrian attack on April 4. In an important
pre-strike process known as deconfliction, U.S. and Russian officers
routinely supply one another with advance details of planned flight
paths and target coordinates, to ensure that there is no risk of
collision or accidental encounter (the Russians speak on behalf of the
Syrian military). This information is supplied daily to the American
AWACS surveillance planes that monitor the flights once airborne.
Deconfliction’s success and importance can be measured by the fact that
there has yet to be one collision, or even a near miss, among the
high-powered supersonic American, Allied, Russian and Syrian fighter
bombers.

Russian and Syrian Air Force officers gave details of the carefully
planned flight path to and from Khan Shiekhoun on April 4 directly, in
English, to the deconfliction monitors aboard the AWACS plane, which was
on patrol near the Turkish border, 60 miles or more to the north.

The Syrian target at Khan Sheikhoun, as shared with the Americans at
Doha, was depicted as a two-story cinder-block building in the northern
part of town. Russian intelligence, which is shared when necessary with
Syria and the U.S. as part of their joint fight against jihadist groups,
had established that a high-level meeting of jihadist leaders was to
take place in the building, including representatives of Ahrar al-Sham
and the al-Qaida-affiliated group formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra. The
two groups had recently joined forces, and controlled the town and
surrounding area. Russian intelligence depicted the cinder-block
building as a command and control center that housed a grocery and other
commercial premises on its ground floor with other essential shops
nearby, including a fabric shop and an electronics store.

"The rebels control the population by controlling the distribution of
goods that people need to live – food, water, cooking oil, propane gas,
fertilizers for growing their crops, and insecticides to protect the
crops," a senior adviser to the American intelligence community, who has
served in senior positions in the Defense Department and Central
Intelligence Agency, told me. The basement was used as storage for
rockets, weapons and ammunition, as well as products that could be
distributed for free to the community, among them medicines and
chlorine-based decontaminants for cleansing the bodies of the dead
before burial. The meeting place – a regional headquarters – was on the
floor above. "It was an established meeting place," the senior adviser
said. "A long-time facility that would have had security, weapons,
communications, files and a map center." The Russians were intent on
confirming their intelligence and deployed a drone for days above the
site to monitor communications and develop what is known in the
intelligence community as a POL – a pattern of life. The goal was to
take note of those going in and out of the building, and to track
weapons being moved back and forth, including rockets and ammunition.

One reason for the Russian message to Washington about the intended
target was to ensure that any CIA asset or informant who had managed to
work his way into the jihadist leadership was forewarned not to attend
the meeting. I was told that the Russians passed the warning directly to
the CIA. "They were playing the game right," the senior adviser said.
The Russian guidance noted that the jihadist meeting was coming at a
time of acute pressure for the insurgents: Presumably Jabhat al-Nusra
and Ahrar al-Sham were desperately seeking a path forward in the new
political climate. In the last few days of March, Trump and two of his
key national security aides – Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and UN
Ambassador Nikki Haley – had made statements acknowledging that, as the
New York Times put it, the White House "has abandoned the goal" of
pressuring Assad "to leave power, marking a sharp departure from the
Middle East policy that guided the Obama administration for more than
five years." White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told a press
briefing on March 31 that "there is a political reality that we have to
accept," implying that Assad was there to stay.

Russian and Syrian intelligence officials, who coordinate operations
closely with the American command posts, made it clear that the planned
strike on Khan Sheikhoun was special because of the high-value target.
"It was a red-hot change. The mission was out of the ordinary – scrub
the sked," the senior adviser told me. "Every operations officer in the
region" – in the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, CIA and NSA – "had to
know there was something going on. The Russians gave the Syrian Air
Force a guided bomb and that was a rarity. They’re skimpy with their
guided bombs and rarely share them with the Syrian Air Force. And the
Syrians assigned their best pilot to the mission, with the best
wingman." The advance intelligence on the target, as supplied by the
Russians, was given the highest possible score inside the American
community.

The Execute Order governing U.S. military operations in theater, which
was issued by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,  provide
instructions that demarcate the relationship between the American and
Russian forces operating in Syria. "It’s like an ops order – ‘Here’s
what you are authorized to do,’" the adviser said. "We do not share
operational control with the Russians. We don’t do combined operations
with them, or activities directly in support of one of their operations.
  But coordination is permitted. We keep each other apprised of what’s
happening and within this package is the mutual exchange of
intelligence.  If we get a hot tip that could help the Russians do their
mission, that’s coordination; and the Russians do the same for us. When
we get a hot tip about a command and control facility," the adviser
added, referring to the target in Khan Sheikhoun, "we do what we can to
help them act on it." "This was not a chemical weapons strike," the
adviser said. "That’s a fairy tale. If so, everyone involved in
transferring, loading and arming the weapon – you’ve got to make it
appear like a regular 500-pound conventional bomb – would be wearing
Hazmat protective clothing in case of a leak. There would be very little
chance of survival without such gear. Military grade sarin includes
additives designed to increase toxicity and lethality. Every batch that
comes out is maximized for death. That is why it is made. It is odorless
and invisible and death can come within a minute. No cloud. Why produce
a weapon that people can run away from?"

The target was struck at 6:55 a.m. on April 4, just before midnight in
Washington. A Bomb Damage Assessment (BDA) by the U.S. military later
determined that the heat and force of the 500-pound Syrian bomb
triggered  a series of secondary explosions that could have generated a
huge toxic cloud that began to spread over the town, formed by the
release of the fertilizers, disinfectants and other goods stored in the
basement, its effect magnified by the dense morning air, which trapped
the fumes close to the ground. According to intelligence estimates, the
senior adviser said, the strike itself killed up to four jihadist
leaders, and an unknown number of drivers and security aides. There is
no confirmed count of the number of civilians killed by the poisonous
gases that were released by the secondary explosions, although
opposition activists reported that there were more than 80 dead, and
outlets such as CNN have put the figure as high as 92. A team from
Médecins Sans Frontières, treating victims from Khan Sheikhoun at a
clinic 60 miles to the north, reported that "eight patients showed
symptoms – including constricted pupils, muscle spasms and involuntary
defecation – which are consistent with exposure to a neurotoxic agent
such as sarin gas or similar compounds." MSF also visited other
hospitals that had received victims and found that patients there
"smelled of bleach, suggesting that they had been exposed to chlorine."
In other words, evidence suggested that there was more than one chemical
responsible for the symptoms observed, which would not have been the
case if the Syrian Air Force – as opposition activists insisted – had
dropped a sarin bomb, which has no percussive or ignition power to
trigger secondary explosions. The range of symptoms is, however,
consistent with the release of a mixture of chemicals, including
chlorine and the organophosphates used in many fertilizers, which can
cause neurotoxic effects similar to those of sarin.

The internet swung into action within hours, and gruesome photographs of
the victims flooded television networks and YouTube. U.S. intelligence
was tasked with establishing what had happened. Among the pieces of
information received was an intercept of Syrian communications collected
before the attack by an allied nation. The intercept, which had a
particularly strong effect on some of Trump’s aides, did not mention
nerve gas or sarin, but it did quote a Syrian general discussing a
"special" weapon and the need for a highly skilled pilot to man the
attack plane. The reference, as those in the American intelligence
community understood, and many of the inexperienced aides and family
members close to Trump may not have, was to a Russian-supplied bomb with
its built-in guidance system. "If you’ve already decided it was a gas
attack, you will then inevitably read the talk about a special weapon as
involving a sarin bomb," the adviser said. "Did the Syrians plan the
attack on Khan Sheikhoun? Absolutely. Do we have intercepts to prove it?
Absolutely. Did they plan to use sarin? No. But the president did not
say: ‘We have a problem and let’s look into it.’ He wanted to bomb the
shit out of Syria."

At the UN the next day, Ambassador Haley created a media sensation when
she displayed photographs of the dead and accused Russia of being
complicit. "How many more children have to die before Russia cares?" she
asked. NBC News, in a typical report that day, quoted American officials
as confirming that nerve gas had been used and Haley tied the attack
directly to Syrian President Assad. "We know that yesterday’s attack was
a new low even for the barbaric Assad regime," she said. There was irony
in America's rush to blame Syria and criticize Russia for its support of
Syria's denial of any use of gas in Khan Sheikhoun, as Ambassador Haley
and others in Washington did. "What doesn't occur to most Americans" the
adviser said, "is if there had been a Syrian nerve gas attack authorized
by Bashar, the Russians would be 10 times as upset as anyone in the
West. Russia’s strategy against ISIS, which involves getting American
cooperation, would have been destroyed and Bashar would be responsible
for pissing off Russia, with unknown consequences for him. Bashar would
do that? When he’s on the verge of winning the war? Are you kidding me?"

Trump, a constant watcher of television news, said, while King Abdullah
of Jordan was sitting next to him in the Oval Office, that what had
happened was "horrible, horrible" and a "terrible affront to humanity."
Asked if his administration would change its policy toward the Assad
government, he said: "You will see." He gave a hint of the response to
come at the subsequent news conference with King Abdullah: "When you
kill innocent children, innocent babies – babies, little babies – with a
chemical gas that is so lethal  ... that crosses many, many lines,
beyond a red line . ... That attack on children yesterday had a big
impact on me. Big impact ... It’s very, very possible ... that my
attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much."

Within hours of viewing the photos, the adviser said, Trump instructed
the national defense apparatus to plan for retaliation against Syria.
"He did this before he talked to anybody about it. The planners then
asked the CIA and DIA if there was any evidence that Syria had sarin
stored at a nearby airport or somewhere in the area. Their military had
to have it somewhere in the area in order to bomb with it." "The answer
was, ‘We have no evidence that Syria had sarin or used it,’" the adviser
said. "The CIA also told them that there was no residual delivery for
sarin at Sheyrat [the airfield from which the Syrian SU-24 bombers had
taken off on April 4] and Assad had no motive to commit political
suicide." Everyone involved, except perhaps the president, also
understood that a highly skilled United Nations team had spent more than
a year in the aftermath of an alleged sarin attack in 2013 by Syria,
removing what was said to be all chemical weapons from a dozen Syrian
chemical weapons depots.

At this point, the adviser said, the president’s national security
planners were more than a little rattled: "No one knew the provenance of
the photographs. We didn’t know who the children were or how they got
hurt. Sarin actually is very easy to detect because it penetrates paint,
and all one would have to do is get a paint sample. We knew there was a
cloud and we knew it hurt people. But you cannot jump from there to
certainty that Assad had hidden sarin from the UN because he wanted to
use it in Khan Sheikhoun." The intelligence made clear that a Syrian Air
Force SU-24 fighter bomber had used a conventional weapon to hit its
target: There had been no chemical warhead. And yet it was impossible
for the experts to persuade the president of this once he had made up
his mind. "The president saw the photographs of poisoned little girls
and said it was an Assad atrocity," the senior adviser said. "It’s
typical of human nature. You jump to the conclusion you want.
Intelligence analysts do not argue with a president. They’re not going
to tell the president, ‘if you interpret the data this way, I quit.’"

The national security advisers understood their dilemma: Trump wanted to
respond to the affront to humanity committed by Syria and he did not
want to be dissuaded. They were dealing with a man they considered to be
not unkind and not stupid, but his limitations when it came to national
security decisions were severe. "Everyone close to him knows his
proclivity for acting precipitously when he does not know the facts,"
the adviser said. "He doesn’t read anything and has no real historical
knowledge. He wants verbal briefings and photographs. He’s a risk-taker.
He can accept the consequences of a bad decision in the business world;
he will just lose money. But in our world, lives will be lost and there
will be long-term damage to our national security if he guesses wrong.
He was told we did not have evidence of Syrian involvement and yet Trump
says: 'Do it."’

On April 6, Trump convened a meeting of national security officials at
his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. The meeting was not to decide what to
do, but how best to do it – or, as some wanted, how to do the least and
keep Trump happy. "The boss knew before the meeting that they didn’t
have the intelligence, but that was not the issue," the adviser said.
"The meeting was about, ‘Here’s what I’m going to do,' and then he gets
the options."

The available intelligence was not relevant. The most experienced man at
the table was Secretary of Defense James Mattis, a retired Marine Corps
general who had the president’s respect and understood, perhaps, how
quickly that could evaporate. Mike Pompeo, the CIA director whose agency
had consistently reported that it had no evidence of a Syrian chemical
bomb, was not present. Secretary of State Tillerson was admired on the
inside for his willingness to work long hours and his avid reading of
diplomatic cables and reports, but he knew little about waging war and
the management of a bombing raid. Those present were in a bind, the
adviser said. "The president was emotionally energized by the disaster
and he wanted options." He got four of them, in order of extremity.
Option one was to do nothing. All involved, the adviser said, understood
that was a non-starter. Option two was a slap on the wrist: to bomb an
airfield in Syria, but only after alerting the Russians and, through
them, the Syrians, to avoid too many casualties. A few of the planners
called this the "gorilla option": America would glower and beat its
chest to provoke fear and demonstrate resolve, but cause little
significant damage. The third option was to adopt the strike package
that had been presented to Obama in 2013, and which he ultimately chose
not to pursue. The plan called for the massive bombing of the main
Syrian airfields and command and control centers using B1 and B52
aircraft launched from their bases in the U.S. Option four was
"decapitation": to remove Assad by bombing his palace in Damascus, as
well as his command and control network and all of the underground
bunkers he could possibly retreat to in a crisis.

"Trump ruled out option one off the bat," the senior adviser said, and
the assassination of Assad was never considered. "But he said, in
essence: ‘You’re the military and I want military action.’" The
president was also initially opposed to the idea of giving the Russians
advance warning before the strike, but reluctantly accepted it. "We gave
him the Goldilocks option – not too hot, not too cold, but just right."
The discussion had its bizarre moments. Tillerson wondered at the
Mar-a-Lago meeting why the president could not simply call in the B52
bombers and pulverize the air base. He was told that B52s were very
vulnerable to surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) in the area and using such
planes would require suppression fire that could kill some Russian
defenders.  "What is that?" Tillerson asked. Well, sir, he was told,
that means we would have to destroy the upgraded SAM sites along the B52
flight path, and those are manned by Russians, and we possibly would be
confronted with a much more difficult situation. "The lesson here was:
Thank God for the military men at the meeting," the adviser said. "They
did the best they could when confronted with a decision that had already
been made."

Fifty-nine Tomahawk missiles were fired from two U.S. Navy destroyers on
duty in the Mediterranean, the Ross and the Porter, at Shayrat Air Base
near the government-controlled city of Homs. The strike was as
successful as hoped, in terms of doing minimal damage. The missiles have
a light payload – roughly 220 pounds of HBX, the military’s modern
version of TNT. The airfield’s gasoline storage tanks, a primary target,
were pulverized, the senior adviser said, triggering a huge fire and
clouds of smoke that interfered with the guidance system of following
missiles. As many as 24 missiles missed their targets and only a few of
the Tomahawks actually penetrated into hangars, destroying nine Syrian
aircraft, many fewer than claimed by the Trump administration. I was
told that none of the nine was operational: such damaged aircraft are
what the Air Force calls hangar queens. "They were sacrificial lambs,"
the senior adviser said. Most of the important personnel and operational
fighter planes had been flown to nearby bases hours before the raid
began. The two runways and parking places for aircraft, which had also
been targeted, were repaired and back in operation within eight hours or
so. All in all, it was little more than an expensive fireworks display.

"It was a totally Trump show from beginning to end," the senior adviser
said. "A few of the president’s senior national security advisers viewed
the mission as a minimized bad presidential decision, and one that they
had an obligation to carry out. But I don’t think our national security
people are going to allow themselves to be hustled into a bad decision
again. If Trump had gone for option three, there might have been some
immediate resignations."

After the meeting, with the Tomahawks on their way, Trump spoke to the
nation from Mar-a-Lago, and accused Assad of using nerve gas to choke
out "the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and
brutal death for so many ... No child of God should ever suffer such
horror." The next few days were his most successful as president.
America rallied around its commander in chief, as it always does in
times of war. Trump, who had campaigned as someone who advocated making
peace with Assad, was bombing Syria 11 weeks after taking office, and
was hailed for doing so by Republicans, Democrats and the media alike.
One prominent TV anchorman, Brian Williams of MSNBC, used the word
"beautiful" to describe the images of the Tomahawks being launched at
sea. Speaking on CNN, Fareed Zakaria said: "I think Donald Trump became
president of the United States." A review of the top 100 American
newspapers showed that 39 of them published editorials supporting the
bombing in its aftermath, including the New York Times, Washington Post
and Wall Street Journal.

Five days later, the Trump administration gathered the national media
for a background briefing on the Syrian operation that was conducted by
a senior White House official who was not to be identified. The gist of
the briefing was that Russia’s heated and persistent denial of any sarin
use in the Khan Sheikhoun bombing was a lie because President Trump had
said sarin had been used. That assertion, which was not challenged or
disputed by any of the reporters present, became the basis for a series
of further criticisms:

      - The continued lying by the Trump administration about Syria’s
use of sarin led to widespread belief in the American media and public
that Russia had  chosen to be involved in a corrupt disinformation and
cover-up campaign on the part of Syria.

      - Russia’s military forces had been co-located with Syria’s at the
Shayrat airfield (as they are throughout Syria), raising the possibility
that Russia had advance notice of Syria’s determination to use sarin at
Khan Sheikhoun and did nothing to stop it.

       - Syria’s use of sarin and Russia’s defense of that use strongly
suggested that Syria withheld stocks of the nerve agent from the UN
disarmament team that spent much of 2014 inspecting and removing all
declared chemical warfare agents from 12 Syrian chemical weapons depots,
pursuant to the agreement worked out by the Obama administration and
Russia after Syria’s alleged, but still unproven, use of sarin the year
before against a rebel redoubt in a suburb of Damascus.

The briefer, to his credit, was careful to use the words "think,"
"suggest" and "believe" at least 10 times during the 30-minute event.
But he also said that his briefing was based on data that had been
declassified by "our colleagues in the intelligence community." What the
briefer did not say, and may not have known, was that much of the
classified information in the community made the point that Syria had
not used sarin in the April 4 bombing attack.

The mainstream press responded the way the White House had hoped it
would: Stories attacking Russia’s alleged cover-up of Syria’s sarin use
dominated the news and many media outlets ignored the briefer’s myriad
caveats. There was a sense of renewed Cold War. The New York Times, for
example – America’s leading newspaper – put the following headline on
its account: "White House Accuses Russia of Cover-Up in Syria Chemical
Attack." The Times’ account did note a Russian denial, but what was
described by the briefer as "declassified information" suddenly became a
"declassified intelligence report." Yet there was no formal intelligence
report stating that Syria had used sarin, merely a "summary based on
declassified information about the attacks," as the briefer referred to it.

The crisis slid into the background by the end of April, as Russia,
Syria and the United States remained focused on annihilating ISIS and
the militias of al-Qaida. Some of those who had worked through the
crisis, however, were left with lingering concerns. "The Salafists and
jihadists got everything they wanted out of their hyped-up Syrian nerve
gas ploy," the senior adviser to the U.S. intelligence community told
me, referring to the flare up of tensions between Syria, Russia and
America. "The issue is, what if there’s another false flag sarin attack
credited to hated Syria? Trump has upped the ante and painted himself
into a corner with his decision to bomb. And do not think these guys are
not planning the next faked attack. Trump will have no choice but to
bomb again, and harder. He’s incapable of saying he made a mistake."

The White House did not answer specific questions about the bombing of
Khan Sheikhoun and the airport of Shayrat. These questions were send via
e-mail to the White House on June 15 and never answered.

{inset} Seymour M. Hersh exposed the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam 1968. He
uncovered the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and many other stories
about war and politics {end inset}

(3) Avigdor Lieberman: Israel intel a source of the claim that Assad
used chemical weapons against rebels


http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2017/04/american-intelligence-officials-mattis-no-doubt-stance-alleged-syrian-cw-smacks-politicized-intelligence.html

American Intelligence Officials: Mattis ‘No Doubt’ Stance on Alleged
Syrian CW Smacks of Politicized Intelligence

Posted on April 26, 2017 by WashingtonsBlog

AN OPEN MEMORANDUM FOR THE AMERICAN PEOPLE

From: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

Subject: Mattis ‘No Doubt’ Stance on Alleged Syrian CW Smacks of
Politicized Intelligence

Donald Trump’s new Secretary of Defense, retired Marine General James
"Mad Dog" Mattis, during a recent trip to Israel, commented on the issue
of Syria’s retention and use of chemical weapons in violation of its
obligations to dispose of the totality of its declared chemical weapons
capability in accordance with the provisions of both the Chemical
Weapons Convention (CWC) and relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions.

"There can be no doubt," Secretary Mattis said during a April 21, 2017
joint news conference with his Israeli counterpart, Minister of Defense
Avigdor Lieberman, "in the international community’s mind that Syria has
retained chemical weapons in violation of its agreement and its
statement that it had removed them all." To the contrary, Mattis noted,
"I can say authoritatively they have retained some."

Lieberman joined Mattis in his assessment, noting that Israel had "100
percent information that [the] Assad regime used chemical weapons
against [Syrian] rebels."

Both Mattis and Lieberman seemed to be channeling assessments offered to
reporters two days prior, on April 19, 2017, by anonymous Israeli
defense officials that the April 4, 2017 chemical weapons attack on the
Syrian village of Khan Shaykhun was ordered by Syrian military
commanders, with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s personal knowledge,
and that Syria retained a stock of "between one and three tons" of
chemical weapons.

The Israeli intelligence followed on the heels of an April 13, 2017
speech given by CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who told an audience at the
Center for Strategic and International Studies that, once information
had come in about a chemical attack on Khan Shaykhun, the CIA had been
able to "develop several hypothesis around that, and then to begin to
develop fact patterns which either supported or suggested that the
hypothesis wasn’t right." The CIA, Pompeo said, was "in relatively short
order able to deliver to [President Trump] a high-confidence assessment
that, in fact, it was the Syrian regime that had launched chemical
strikes against its own people in [Khan Shaykhun.]"

The speed in which this assessment was made is of some concern. Both
Director Pompeo, during his CSIS remarks, and National Security Advisor
H.R. McMaster, during comments to the press on April 6, 2017, note that
President Trump turned to the intelligence community early on in the
crisis to understand better "the circumstances of the attack and who was
responsible." McMaster indicated that the U.S. Intelligence Community,
working with allied partners, was able to determine with "a very high
degree of confidence" where the attack originated.

Both McMaster and Pompeo spoke of the importance of open source imagery
in confirming that a chemical attack had taken place, along with
evidence collected from the victims themselves – presumably blood
samples – that confirmed the type of agent that was used in the attack.
This initial assessment drove the decision to use military force –
McMaster goes on to discuss a series of National Security Council
meetings where military options were discussed and decided upon; the
discussion about the intelligence underpinning the decision to strike
Syria was over.

The danger of this rush toward an intelligence decision by Director
Pompeo and National Security Advisor McMaster is that once the President
and his top national security advisors have endorsed an
intelligence-based conclusion, and authorized military action based upon
that conclusion, it becomes virtually impossible for that conclusion to
change. Intelligence assessments from that point forward will embrace
facts that sustain this conclusion, and reject those that don’t; it is
the definition of politicized intelligence, even if those involved disagree.

A similar "no doubt" moment had occurred nearly 15 years ago when, in
August 2002, Vice President Cheney delivered a speech before the
Veterans of Foreign Wars. "There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has
weapons of mass destruction," Cheney declared. "There is no doubt he is
amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against
us." The message Cheney was sending to the Intelligence Community was
clear: Saddam Hussein had WMD; there was no need to answer that question
anymore.

The CIA vehemently denies that either Vice President Cheney or anyone at
the White House put pressure on its analysts to alter their assessments.
This may very well be true, but if it is, then the record of certainty –
and arrogance – that existed in the mindset of senior intelligence
managers and analysts only further erodes public confidence in the
assessments produced by the CIA, especially when, as is the case with
Iraq and Weapons of Mass Destruction – the agency was found so lacking.
Stuart Cohen, a veteran CIA intelligence analyst who served as the
acting Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, oversaw the
production of the 2002 Iraq National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that
was used to make case for Iraq possessing WMD that was used to justify war.

According to Mr. Cohen, he had four National Intelligence Officers with
"over 100 years’ collective work experience on weapons of mass
destruction issues" backed up by hundreds of analysts with "thousands of
man-years invested in studying these issues."

On the basis of this commitment of talent alone, Mr. Cohen assessed that
"no reasonable person could have viewed the totality of the information
that the Intelligence Community had at its disposal … and reached any
conclusion or alternative views that were profoundly different from
those that we reached," namely that – judged with high confidence –
"Iraq had chemical and biological weapons as well as missiles with
ranges in excess of the 150 kilometer limit imposed by the UN Security
Council."

Two facts emerge from this expression of intellectual hubris. First, the
U.S. Intelligence Community was, in fact, wrong in its estimate on
Iraq’s WMD capability, throwing into question the standards used to
assign "high confidence" ratings to official assessments. Second, the
"reasonable person" standard cited by Cohen must be reassessed, perhaps
based upon a benchmark derived from a history of analytical accuracy
rather than time spent behind a desk.

The major lesson learned here, however, is that the U.S. Intelligence
Community, and in particular the CIA, more often than not hides behind
self-generated platitudes ("high confidence", "reasonable person") to
disguise a process of intelligence analysis that has long ago been
subordinated to domestic politics.

It is important to point out the fact that Israel, too, was wrong about
Iraq’s WMD. According to Shlomo Brom, a retired Israeli Intelligence
Officer, Israeli intelligence seriously overplayed the threat posed by
Iraqi WMD in the lead up to the 2003 Iraq War, including a 2002 briefing
to NATO provided by Efraim Halevy, who at the time headed the Israeli
Mossad, or intelligence service, that Israel had "clear indications"
that Iraq had reconstituted its WMD programs after U.N. weapons
inspectors left Iraq in 1998.

The Israeli intelligence assessments on Iraq, Mr. Brom concluded, were
most likely colored by political considerations, such as the desire for
regime change in Iraq. In this light, neither the presence of Avigdor
Leiberman, nor the anonymous background briefings provided by Israel
about Syria’s chemical weapons capabilities, should be used to provide
any credence to Secretary Mattis’s embrace of the "no doubt" standard
when it comes to Syria’s alleged possession of chemical weapons.

The intelligence data that has been used to back up the allegations of
Syrian chemical weapons use has been far from conclusive. Allusions to
intercepted Syrian communications have been offered as "proof", but the
Iraq experience – in particular former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s
unfortunate experience before the U.N. Security Council – show how
easily such intelligence can be misunderstood and misused.

Inconsistencies in the publicly available imagery which the White House
(and CIA) have so heavily relied upon have raised legitimate questions
about the veracity of any conclusions drawn from these sources (and begs
the question as to where the CIA’s own Open Source Intelligence Center
was in this episode.) The blood samples used to back up claims of the
presence of nerve agent among the victims was collected void of any
verifiable chain of custody, making their sourcing impossible to verify,
and as such invalidates any conclusions based upon their analysis.

In the end, the conclusions CIA Director Pompeo provided to the
President was driven by a fundamental rethinking of the CIA’s analysts
when it came to Syria and chemical weapons that took place in 2014.
Initial CIA assessments in the aftermath of the disarmament of Syria’s
chemical weapons seemed to support the Syrian government’s stance that
it had declared the totality of its holding of chemical weapons, and had
turned everything over to the OPCW for disposal. However, in 2014, OPCW
inspectors had detected traces of Sarin and VX nerve agent precursors at
sites where the Syrians had indicated no chemical weapons activity had
taken place; other samples showed the presence of weaponized Sarin nerve
agent.

The Syrian explanation that the samples detected were caused by
cross-contamination brought on by the emergency evacuation of chemical
precursors and equipment used to handle chemical weapons necessitated by
the ongoing Civil War was not accepted by the inspectors, and this doubt
made its way into the minds of the CIA analysts, who closely followed
the work of the OPCW inspectors in Syria.

One would think that the CIA would operate using the adage of "once
bitten, twice shy" when assessing inspector-driven doubt; U.N.
inspectors in Iraq, driven by a combination of the positive sampling
combined with unverifiable Iraqi explanations, created an atmosphere of
doubt about the veracity of Iraqi declarations that all chemical weapons
had been destroyed. The CIA embraced the U.N. inspectors’ conclusions,
and discounted the Iraqi version of events; as it turned out, Iraq was
telling the truth.

While the jury is still out about whether or not Syria is, like Iraq,
telling the truth, or whether the suspicions of inspectors are well
founded, one thing is clear: a reasonable person would do well to
withhold final judgment until all the facts are in. (Note: The U.S.
proclivity for endorsing the findings of U.N. inspectors appears not to
include the Khan Shaykhun attack; while both Syria and Russia have asked
the OPCW to conduct a thorough investigation of the April 4, 2017
incident, the OPCW has been blocked from doing so by the United States
and its allies.)

CIA Director Pompeo’s job is not to make policy – the intelligence his
agency provides simply informs policy. It is not known if the U.S.
Intelligence Community will be producing a formal National Intelligence
Estimate addressing the Syrian chemical weapons issue, although the fact
that the United States has undertaken military action under the premise
that these weapons exist more than underscores the need for such a
document, especially in light of repeated threats made by the Trump
administration that follow-on strikes might be necessary.

Making policy is, however, the job of Secretary of Defense Mattis. At
the end of the day, Secretary of Defense Mattis will need to make his
own mind up as to the veracity of any intelligence used to justify
military action. Mattis’s new job requires that he does more than simply
advise the President on military options; he needs to ensure that the
employment of these options is justified by the facts.

In the case of Syria, the "no doubt" standard Mattis has employed does
not meet the "reasonable man" standard. Given the consequences that are
attached to his every word, Secretary Mattis would be well advised not
to commit to a "no doubt" standard until there is, literally, no doubt.

For the Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

William Binney, Technical Director, NSA; co-founder, SIGINT Automation
Research Center (ret.)

Marshall Carter-Tripp, Foreign Service Officer (ret) and former Office
Division Director in the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and
Research

Thomas Drake, former Senior Executive, NSA

Bogdan Dzakovic, Former Team Leader of Federal Air Marshals and Red
Team, FAA Security, (ret.) (associate VIPS)

Philip Giraldi, CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)

Matthew Hoh, former Capt., USMC, Iraq & Foreign Service Officer,
Afghanistan (associate VIPS)

Larry C Johnson, CIA & State Department (ret.)

Michael S. Kearns, Captain, USAF (Ret.); ex-Master SERE Instructor for
Strategic Reconnaissance Operations (NSA/DIA) and Special Mission Units
(JSOC)

Brady Kiesling, former U.S. Foreign Service Officer, ret. (Associate VIPS)

Karen Kwiatkowski, former Lt. Col., US Air Force (ret.), at Office of
Secretary of Defense watching the manufacture of lies on Iraq, 2001-2003

Lisa Ling, TSgt USAF (ret.)

Linda Lewis, WMD preparedness policy analyst, USDA (ret.) (associate VIPS)

Edward Loomis, NSA, Cryptologic Computer Scientist (ret.)

David MacMichael, National Intelligence Council (ret.)

Elizabeth Murray, Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Near East,
CIA and National Intelligence Council (ret.)

Torin Nelson, former Intelligence Officer/Interrogator (GG-12) HQ,
Department of the Army

Todd E. Pierce, MAJ, US Army Judge Advocate (ret.)

Coleen Rowley, FBI Special Agent and former Minneapolis Division Legal
Counsel (ret.)

Scott Ritter, former MAJ., USMC, former UN Weapon Inspector, Iraq

Peter Van Buren, U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service Officer
(ret.) (associate VIPS)

Kirk Wiebe, former Senior Analyst, SIGINT Automation Research Center, NSA

Lawrence Wilkerson, Colonel (USA, ret.), Distinguished Visiting
Professor, College of William and Mary (associate VIPS)

Sarah G. Wilton, Intelligence Officer, DIA (ret.); Commander, US Naval
Reserve (ret.)

Robert Wing, former Foreign Service Officer (associate VIPS)

(4) WSWS Trots publish Hersh refutation of Syria chemical attack

  Hersh Syria wsws; SW: Mossad -> Iran nuclear, burt xHersh too;
nothing at https://www.socialistalternative.org/?s=Hersh

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/06/28/pers-j28.html

Trump’s Syrian chemical weapons claims: A house of cards

28 June 2017

In the latest season of the Netflix drama House of Cards, the fictional
administration of President Francis Underwood and Vice President Claire
Underwood, facing a domestic political crisis, uses a manufactured
chemical weapons attack in Syria to declare war on the country.

In a case of politics following art, the Trump administration has
accused the Syrian government of "preparing" to use chemical weapons
against the civilian population. No evidence has been presented to back
up the concocted threat.

On Monday, Press Secretary Sean Spicer declared that the US had
"identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack
by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of
civilians, including innocent children." If Syrian President Bashar
al-Assad "conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons,"
the statement continued, "he and his military will pay a heavy price."

Washington’s ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, added Tuesday, "The goal
is at this point not just to send Assad a message, but to send Russia
and Iran a message… That if this happens again, we are putting you on
notice." In other words, any alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria
could be used to justify war against Iran and Russia.

Pressed to substantiate the White House’s allegation, Pentagon spokesman
Jeff Davis refused to produce any evidence. He said the alleged
intelligence was from "the past day or two" and regarded "specific
aircraft in a specific hangar, both of which we know to be associated
with chemical weapons use." This was a reference to the Shayrat
airfield, which the US targeted with a cruise missile strike on April 6.

Some military officials said they had "no idea" what the White House was
referring to. British defense officials said they had not seen the
evidence, but would support US military escalation regardless—meaning
they do not care whether the allegations are true or false.

The White House statement followed by just one day the publication of a
detailed article in Die Welt by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist
Seymour Hersh, the reporter who exposed the My Lai massacre during the
Vietnam War, which demonstrated that the allegations used by the Trump
administration to justify the April 6 missile attack on Syria were
entirely unsubstantiated.

Drawing on background interviews with military and intelligence
personnel, Hersh wrote that the administration possessed no evidence to
back up its claims that the Syrian government had launched a sarin gas
attack on April 4.

The false allegations of a chemical attack and subsequent bombardment of
the Syrian airbase were so brazen that they provoked opposition from
within sections of the military/intelligence apparatus. "None of this
makes any sense," Hersh cited one officer as saying. "We KNOW that there
was no chemical attack..."

At the time, Trump was under immense pressure from the Democratic Party
and intelligence agencies to shift to a more aggressive stance against
the Syrian government. Just days before, the Senate Intelligence
Committee had held a hearing at which it was alleged that Trump had
effectively collaborated with Russian efforts to undermine the 2016 US
election. Columnists and pundits painted the president as little more
than an agent of the Kremlin.

But that all changed—at least for a few days—after the attack. As Hersh
put it, "The next few days were his most successful as president.
America rallied around its commander in chief, as it always does in
times of war... One prominent TV anchorman, Brian Williams of MSNBC,
used the word ‘beautiful’ to describe the images of the Tomahawks being
launched at sea. Speaking on CNN, Fareed Zakaria said: ‘I think Donald
Trump became president of the United States.’ A review of the top 100
American newspapers showed that 39 of them published editorials
supporting the bombing in its aftermath, including the New York Times,
Washington Post and Wall Street Journal."

At the time, no major US news publication even raised the question of
whether the White House’s allegations were credible. They were simply
accepted as good coin, demonstrating that the media’s role as a
propaganda organ for war had not abated.

Indeed, Hersh was unable to find a news source to publish his most
recent article in the United States. The story was also rejected by the
UK’s London Review of Books, which published earlier investigative
reports by Hersh, forcing him to turn to the German newspaper.

As shown by the latest fabricated Syrian "atrocity"—this time,
supposedly in "preparation"—nothing has changed in regard to the media’s
readiness to serve as a sounding board for government propaganda.

But the media’s acceptance of the administration’s concocted claims
about weapons of mass destruction in Syria cannot hide the fact that
they are, in fact, concocted. In what has become standard operating
procedure, the administration has not attempted to present a shred of
evidence, making only the most general allegations, which the American
population is expected to swallow whole.

Fourteen years ago, the Bush administration used lies about weapons of
mass destruction to start a war in Iraq that led to the deaths of
millions. Now the Trump administration, with the full support of the
media and the entire political establishment, is using equally
groundless claims to escalate a war that could result in a nuclear
exchange between the United States and Russia, the world’s second
biggest nuclear power.

Far from opposing the escalation of war, the Democratic Party has made
this its central demand since the election of Trump and the focus of its
opposition to his administration. In an article published this month in
Foreign A ffairs, Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s running mate, spelled out
the aggressive foreign policy aims that underpinned Clinton’s candidacy
and are at the center of the present hysterical campaign over Trump’s
alleged "collusion" with Russian President Putin.

Kaine pilloried the Obama administration’s foreign policy, declaring
that Obama’s "unwillingness to forcefully intervene early in the Syrian
civil war will come to haunt the United States in the future." He
excoriated Obama’s "lackadaisical response to Russia’s cyberattacks and
its unprecedented interference in the 2016 election," concluding, "The
United States must always send a clear message to those who mean
Americans harm: don’t mess with us."

As a recent article in the Washington Post makes clear, the Obama
administration had expected to transfer power to a Clinton White House
that would immediately begin preparing a major escalation in Syria,
entailing a possible clash with Russia. Trump’s surprise election
victory disrupted these plans, which were well advanced. Hence the
ferocity of the efforts by the Democrats and the intelligence agencies
to pressure Trump to carry out a shift to a more aggressive and more
anti-Russian foreign policy—efforts that appear to be succeeding.

The deepening tensions between the US and Russia over Syria pose an
existential danger to humanity. The only way to avert the catastrophe to
which the US political establishment is rushing is for the working class
to intervene independently, on the basis of its own socialist,
internationalist and revolutionary program.

Andre Damon

(5) Socialist Worker Trots and Socialist Alternative Trots black out
Hersh report


Socialist Worker and Socialist Alternative, the two main groups of Trots
on campuses and in demonstrations, have blacked out the Hersh report.
They are allies of George Soros and possibly funded by him.
https://www.socialistalternative.org/ says nothing about Hersh.
https://socialistworker.org/ has not reported the Hersh refutation; but
it backed the Syrian uprising. A 2015 article titled 'Smearing the
Syrian uprising' attacked Hersh:

"... Seymour Hersh's widely discredited attempt to claim the Assad
regime did not launch a chemical attack on rebel-held Damascus suburbs
in August 2013"

https://socialistworker.org/2015/06/10/smearing-the-syrian-uprising

Smearing the Syrian uprising

Michael Karadjis challenges the distortions and faulty reasoning behind
the assertion that the U.S. helped enable the rise of ISIS, in an
article written for his blog. June 10, 2015 [...]

The other article mentioned (The Red Line and the Rat Line) is Seymour
Hersh's widely discredited attempt to claim the Assad regime did not
launch a chemical attack on rebel-held Damascus suburbs in August 2013
and that instead the rebels, supplied by Turkey, gassed their own
children to death. Hersh's entire story relies on the alleged testimony
of an unnamed source in the U.S. intelligence community. What it says on
this "rat-line" issue likely has about the same amount of credibility.
The significant addition to the above New York Times stories is Hersh's
assertion that "the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for
getting arms from Gaddafi's arsenals into Syria." Hersh is the only
source that makes such a claim; but he is unable to verify it for us
because the whole alleged agreement is in a secret annex to a Senate
Intelligence Committee report that only a few people have ever seen. It
is therefore difficult to know what to make of any of this.

(6) Russia, China block bid by Western powers to impose UN sanctions on
Syria


https://www.rt.com/news/378930-russia-china-un-veto-syria/

Russia, China block bid by Western powers to impose UN sanctions on Syria

Published time: 28 Feb, 2017 16:58 Edited time: 28 Feb, 2017 19:02

Russia and China have vetoed a UN Security Council proposal that would
have banned the supply of helicopters to the Syrian government, and
blacklisted eleven Syrian military commanders over allegations of toxic
gas attacks.

The proposed resolution, put forward by Britain, France and the United
States, was put to the vote of the international body on Tuesday despite
an earlier pledge by Russia to use its power the quash the proposal, the
seventh time it has done so since the conflict first erupted in Syria
since 2011.

The nations behind the proposal criticized Russia and China for the
veto. [...]

(7) Russia, China veto at U.N. on Syria chemical weapons is
‘outrageous,’ U.S. says

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/russia-china-veto-at-un-on-syria-chemical-weapons-is-outrageous-us-says/2017/02/28/c69adcf4-fdeb-11e6-99b4-9e613afeb09f_story.html

By Karen DeYoung

February 28 at 5:19 PM

The Trump administration accused Russia and China of "outrageous and
indefensible" action Tuesday after they vetoed a U.N. Security Council
resolution that would have imposed new sanctions on Syria for using
chemical weapons against its own citizens.

In a sharply worded speech after the vote, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley
said the message the council was sending to the world was that "if you
are allies with Russia and China, they will cover the backs of their
friends who use chemical weapons to kill their own people." [...]

The United States sponsored the resolution, along with Britain and
France. It followed the October conclusion of a joint investigation by
the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical
Weapons that the Syrian government had dropped munitions containing
chlorine on at least three occasions in 2014 and 2015.

The OPCW concluded after the alleged attacks that they had taken place,
but it had no mandate to assess responsibility. That led the Security
Council, with Russian and Chinese backing, to establish the joint
investigation to identify the perpetrators.

In a report issued in October, investigators concluded that the Syrian
government had dropped chlorine-filled munitions on the three dates in
question. The investigation also concluded that the Islamic State had
used mustard gas on at least one occasion.

The Tuesday resolution called for travel and economic sanctions against
several Syrian air force and intelligence officers linked to the attacks
by investigators, along with asset freezes of several Syrian companies
and government-linked organizations. It also established a mechanism to
monitor compliance.

A single veto from one of the 15-nation council’s five permanent members
— Russia, China, the United States, Britain and France — can kill a
resolution. Bolivia, one of 10 nonpermanent, rotating members, also
voted against Tuesday’s measure.

In denouncing the resolution, Safronkov suggested that evidence was
uncorroborated and came from "suspicious eyewitness accounts . . . armed
opponents, sympathetic [nongovernmental organizations], media and also
the so-called Friends of Syria."

The latter is an international group, made up largely of U.S. allies,
set up in 2012 in response to Russian and Chinese vetoes of previous
U.N. resolutions on -Syria. [...]

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