A War Crime? Yes - But Whose? The most obvious interpretation of the chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun is that it was intended to inflict as much damage on the Syrian Government as possible. Stopping in their tracks all moves towards accepting that the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must be involved in the peace-making process. Ensuring that the flow of arms to Assad’s enemies continues – or is increased. Placing the Russians under massive international pressure to abandon their alliance with the Assad regime. And forcing the Trump Administration to back away smartly from its “Assad can stay” position.
JUST ONCE, it would be nice to encounter a Western journalist willing to challenge the “International Community’s” official line. Someone willing to acknowledge that the term “International Community” is, itself, a cynical misnomer intended to cloak the self-interested policies of the United States and its Nato allies in the highfalutin language of global solidarity. A journalist willing to have a crack at sifting a nugget or two of truth from the dross of convenient lies.
Take this latest story about the use of poison gas against Syrian civilians. It seems certain that on 4 April 2017, the deadly nerve agent Sarin was released in in the rebel stronghold of Khan Sheikhoun, killing scores of civilians, including women and children. Before the last victim of the attack had been loaded into an ambulance, however, the world was being told that the party responsible for this unlawful attack was the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
Nobody thought to ask the obvious question: “Why would Assad do such a thing?” Syria was en route to a new round of peace talks. More importantly, she was about to enter negotiations in which the usual American, British and French demands that “Assad must go!” were to be, for the first time since the Syrian Civil War broke out in earnest, quietly put to one side. Having won the war on the ground, the Assad regime was on the brink of clearing away its enemies’ unrealistic preconditions. Finally, a serious conversation about Syria’s future could begin.
And yet, we are being invited to believe that, with all this at stake, President Assad ordered the use of Sarin gas on his own citizens. Somehow, instigating a reprehensible war crime against women and children was going to strengthen his moral authority. Somehow, by revolting the entire world, he would improve his chances of being accepted as Syria’s legitimate ruler. Somehow, by embarrassing the Russian Federation, his country’s most valuable military ally, he would enhance Syria’s national security. The whole notion is absurd.
The much more obvious interpretation of the chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun is that it was intended to inflict as much damage on the Syrian Government as possible. Stopping in their tracks all moves towards accepting that Assad must be involved in the peace-making process. Ensuring that the flow of arms to Assad’s enemies continues – or is increased. Placing the Russians under massive international pressure to abandon their alliance with the Assad regime. And forcing the Trump Administration to back away smartly from its “Assad can stay” position.
So many birds with just one, Sarin-smeared stone.
The failure of Western journalism to ask “cui bono?” (who benefits?) is made all the greater by the fact that its “Assad uses poison gas on his own people!” headline has been used before. On 22 August 2013, the world awoke to the news that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Syrian civilians living in the rebel-controlled Ghouta suburb of the Syrian capital, Damascus, had been attacked with what appeared to be chemical weapons, specifically, the deadly nerve agent Sarin. The author of the attack? Yes, you guessed it, Bashar al-Assad!
Surely, the International Community, opined (through its journalistic mouthpieces) President Barack Obama’s “red line” had been crossed? Surely, it was time for the USA to intervene?
Then a story appeared on the Mint Press News website based in the US state of Minnesota. Following numerous interviews with doctors, Ghouta residents, rebel fighters and their families, two freelance journalists, Dale Gavlak and Yahya Ababneh, concluded that the attack had been carried out by rebel forces using chemical weapons supplied by Saudi Intelligence.
The International Community and its flacks weren’t buying any of it. And yet, for some reason, Obama declined to be stampeded into war by the Ghouta outrage. Could it be that US intelligence officers and their Israeli counterparts uncovered exactly the same evidence as Gavlak and Ababneh? Did Russian Intelligence come forward with corroborative intercepts? Whatever the explanation, the USA declined to escalate the Syrian conflict.
Those peddling the same “Assad did it!” line in 2017 should, perhaps, ask themselves whether the person currently occupying the White House; the man who believes himself besieged by his own intelligence agencies; the man whose quick temper and sensitivity to criticism is legendary; the man currently in the market for a major political distraction; will, like Barack Obama, allow himself to be steered away from diplomatic and military responses that could only further inflame an already critical situation in the Middle East?
Just once, I wish the Western news media would use its fucking head!
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Wednesday, 5 April 2017.