Thursday, September 19, 2013

Thinking the Unthinkable about the Ghouta Massacre

You have to hand it to the Russians. They will not take 'yes' for an answer and they will not take cover, or admit that the deal they made with Assad makes them allies with a mass murderer.  It seems that Lavrov and Putin are hellbent on discrediting the "evidence" pinning the dreadful August attack in Ghouta on Assad's military.  Just exactly what you would not expect them to do if the balance of facts was really tipped the way the mainstream US media outlets are unanimous in saying it is - against Assad. And the reason why no TV panel or newspaper op-ed analyze with probity the likelihood  (even as a possibility) that the anti-Assad freedom fighters perpetrated the war's most revolting massacre, is not because it is impossible, since it plainly is possible, but because it is unthinkable. It is unthinkable to admit that the US was complicit in such a heinous deed. Unfortunately, the logic of the situation exludes the middle: it was either Russia or the USA whose proxies in the war wasted the lives of over fourteen hundred civilians and four hundred children to pursue their military and political ends in the war. It was either Russia or the USA who were ultimately responsible for a cold-blooded mass murder. It is clear that the Russians don't like that accusing finger pointed at them one bit.  

Yesterday, the deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov returned from Damascus with a new dossier given to him by the Syrians  ostensibly implicating the rebels in the atrocity.  This would add to their factual database, the existence of which as is not known to people who only follow the western media, includes samples of 'homemade' sarin bombs used by the rebels and collected by Russian experts in Khan al-Assal, earlier this year.  Despite litanies and protestations to the contrary, it could have very well been the FSA or any of the jihad groups who orchestrated and executed the attack.
The arguments for the Russian advance are clear and easy to follow:

1) It would have been strategically irrational for Assad to resort to large-scale chemical attack on an urban area: Almost everyone on both sides is agreed on this one.  The timing of the attack could not have been more improbable, given that since spring Assad and his Hezbollah and Iranian allies have been on the offensive and winning strategically important territory.  To risk an American intervention (to which president Obama pledged himself in December 2012 by issuing a 'red line' for the use of chemial weapons) would have been, as the surgeons say, counter indicative. It certainly would not have to help Assad any to launch (or to allow to launch) a mass attack targetting civilians at this particular juncture.  Western analysts attempted to talk around this issue by saying that it might have not been an action approved my the high command, or that it was an impulsive act by Assad's brother Maher, known for his ruthlessness. Still, even if such action is clearly a possibility it does not answer the argument satisfactorily.  The Japanese were known to resort to "banzai" suicide attacks in hopeless situations. They were not known to launch them during offensive operations.  The military effect of using gas unsystematically in attacks on an urban area where the positions of the adversary forces were largely would not have offset the risks and this certainly seemed to be the case, given the reported cases of dozens of poison Assad troops penetrating into the area.

2) Despite disingenuous assurances of the pro-rebel politicos and pundits,  the rebels have chemical weapons and used them elsewhere: The Russians claim to have proof that the rebels used "homemade" sarin-based munitions which do not originated from Assad's stockpiles.  It is assumed that Russia, as an ally would have been given the formula of the government munitions.  But it is not only the Russians who have made such a claim. Significantly, Carla del Ponte, a UN inspector said there were some strong (even if as yet inconclusive) indications that the rebels used sarin. The former Swiss prosecutor for war crimes in Yugoslavia can hardly be accused of championing Russian allies among war-crime perpetrators.  She is well remembered for her zeal in going after the Serbian war criminals, real and imaginary.  And of course, it's the rebels themselves who are making shambles of the claims of their chemical warfare innocence, made on their behalf.  They proudly display their chemical know-how and operational fitness on Youtube videos (here, here and here).

3) The UN report released on Monday (9/16/2013) does not do much if anything to dispel the suspicion: The Russians may be very clever in their disdain of the UN report on the use of chemical weapons in East Ghouta but it may be just they are seeing that while it nominally eschews "assigning blame" it actually does just that.  The decision, taken ahead of time, not to analyze the components to identify positively the origin of the munitions, seems to have been taken with the express intent to blame the Assad's army on a simple finding that sarin was used.  Mind you, even if they were positively identified, it would not remove the suspicion that the attack was staged, given the length of the conflict, porous borders and as many as twenty thousands foreign nationals involved, massive defections from Assad's military and the real possibility that scores of among military objects overrun was a chemical weapons depot. From an exchange between Russia's envoy at the UN and the head of the investigation, Ake Sellstrom, it has emerged that the weapons fired into the area were sophisticated missiles dispersing the payload prior to hitting ground.  Pace Samantha Power, this  is a smoking gun in Assad's hand but a level-headed assessment of such a finding would be that it could also be a sophisticated, planned military operation with either captured stock, or stock  imported into the country from elsewhere. The idea to restrict the UN mandate to a simple binary finding and then to use incomplete technical data of the finding for politically motivated conjectures, does not speak well of a sense of integrity.   The UN report actually does not shed any light on a slew of important issues most importantly if sarin was the only toxic material used, and was all of it delivered by a single method via single source, i.e. missiles.  Knowing this is crucially important, as evidently chemical agents were used by both sides, and in this case then the attack itself may have been "spoofed", or its scale purposly extended by planting toxic chemicals in civilian areas by means other than bombardment.

4) Is there evidence of staging on the videos coming out of East Ghouta on the day of the attack ?:  There is no doubt that the horrific images of victims of mass chemical weapons on the whole depict real people and the effects of poisoning.  The problem is that at dozens of videos have emerged within hours from areas which were supposedly highly toxic, and were - by the evidence of the videos themselves -  lethal to life not protected against the effect of sarin. The implication of the video evidence is that if it was not orchestrated, dozens of people became aware independently or by communication with each other that a large scale chemical attack was launched against their neghbouhoods, determined which areas were affected, procured the necessary protection to go into these places (gas masks and suits), went into the targeted neighbourhoods, and removed the very sick, bringing scores of them to hospitals where people took the videos of convulsed bodies, and posted the footage on the internet...all of that within two or three hours.  The improbability of this happening must be appreciated.  In terms of human psychology, the shock following such a horrendeous calamity, and the fear of a toxic gas spreading would have overwhelmed the place, initially . However there is no evidence of this on the first videos; they seemed to have been taken with professional detachment, showing chaotic situations such as one would expect. But what one would not expect on them are samaritans handling the very sick themselves being unprotected or not adequately protected.  If these people were actually relatives of the victims bringing them for medical care, how did they achieve immunity from the effects of sarin ?  Some of the scenes will likely have been staged and cut into scenes of the brutal effects of actual poisoning. 

5) Large scale massacres by the opposition were perpetrated before by islamic rebels with the express intent to blame Assad for the atrocity:   The Houla atrocity was initially blamed on Assad also but given the MO of the assault (butchery, mutilations by cutting implements) and witnesses testifying as to actual sequence of events, few now believe Assad's forces were responsible. Merkel's reluctance to join Obama's punitive strike against Syria doubtless relates to German media, which is much more critical of the rebels' methods than the US outlets. Der Spiegel reconstructed the Houla massacre and it points to the rebels, little doubt.  It is interesting to compare the video shot by the rebels of the Houla masacre to the images of the Ghouta carnage. Note the awareness of those present of the likely effect of images of dead children and facial mutilations on the U.N. and the civilized world. Dead children are used prominently to provoke visceral disgust. However, the way of one of the people at the scene handles the lifeless body of a child with a cavernous wound to his face, all but gives the authorship away.

6)  Evidence of planned false-flag operation preceding the attack:   The two images above, are cut out of Daily Mail Online article run originally on January 29. 2013.  It was taken off the paper's pages four days later but was available through an Internet archive Wayback Machine until the page was disabled.  (You can still see the article for a few seconds but the pages is then pulled)  Why would anyone want to tamper with the record if this really was a canard, if the US has 'high confidence' in the intelligence that says it really was Assad, and the  UN inspectors' report really (as Samatha Power claims) implicate Assad ?  There have been other 'leaks' purporting to show that this was a CIA-run or CIA-vetted operation but I am content with showing the curious disapperance of what was once deemed news fit to print in a major British newspaper.  The ministry of Truth now denies it has ever been printed.   As a crooked cop called Whitehouse (I kid you not !) says to Mel Gibson's character whom he betrays in The Edge of Darkness :

"It is never what it is, Tom;  it is always what it can be made to look like".

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