Washington’s Supreme Hypocrisy on Chemical Weapons and Civilian Deaths

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Army in Idlib is an atrocity and the pictures of dead children tug at the heart. But the outrage of American politicians inside the beltway about it draws on the myths of American exceptionalism and Alzheimer’s of the political memory. It is also very suspicious in that the loudest voices of sympathy are the ones closest to the US military industrial complex, which has been regretting the missed opportunity of a Syria War.

If Trump and his circle are so tenderhearted, why did they propose, on taking office, permanently banning Syrian refugees from the United States? If it weren’t for some feisty Federal court judges, the Syrian refugee ban would be in effect. How sympathetic can you be if you don’t even want to give children asylum from these heinous atrocities?

Then, why is how children are killed in war more important than that they are killed? The most conservative estimate for deaths in the Syrian Civil War is some 300,000, and you figure that although many of those are fighting men, some large proportion (33%?) are innocent noncombatants, including tens of thousands of children. Rebel groups have also killed tens of thousands of people, including innocent civilians, though the regime has been more deadly because better-armed. Why was it all right for the regime to use indiscriminate bombing and barrel bombs on civilian neighborhoods, but if they kill some 80 people with gas all of a sudden the Beltway Bandits want to Send in Trump?

And by the way, all the time the US was occupying Iraq, 2003-2011, it was intensively bombing civilian neighborhoods to get at Iraqi militias. It certainly killed thousands of innocent civilians this way, including children. I can remember just one Saturday afternoon in 2004, the US bombed Amara over and over again to get at the Shiite Mahdi Army militia. The Agence France Presse had a stringer on the ground who reported 84 deaths. They weren’t all combatants. The US media refused to run the AFP report.

All this isn’t new. The US has long had a doctrine that it is all right to inflict large civilian casualties with the aim of limited troop casualties. The United States used nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, after which there were thousands and thousands of dead children. Some were carbonized so quickly that nothing was left of them but shadows on the wall. Little children. The US security elite has never apologized for this war crime and continues to menace other nations with this kind of indiscriminate and unspeakable violence every time it announces that “all options are on the table.”

As for chemical weapons, the US has studiedly avoided signing unreservedly the 1925 Geneva Protocol banning chemical weapons use. (It says it will use chem if others do, which means it could use chem in Syria now).

The Reagan administration shamefully ran interference for six years as Saddam Hussein of Iraq systematically deployed chemical weapons against Iranian troops at the front. Everyone knew this was going on. After then Searle CEO Donald Rumsfeld went to Baghdad in 1983 and famously shook Saddam’s hand, George Schultz’s State Department complained about Saddam’s chem, provoking angry puzzlement in Baghdad. Did Reagan want a new ally against Khomeini’s Iran, or not? Reagan had State back down. And, indeed, when Iran appealed to the United Nations Security Council to condemn what Iraq was doing, the Reagan administration maneuvered at the UN to make sure that Iran’s case was not taken up.

I saw an Iranian survivor interviewed. He said he wished he had been killed instead. His lungs had been permanently scarred by mustard gas, and every breath he took was pure torture. Imagine how many breaths a person draws every day.

Emboldened by Reagan’s running cover for him at the UN, Saddam went on to have his relative “Chemical Ali” al-Tikriti use sarin gas on the Kurdish town of Halabja. Again, lots of little children were among the thousands dead. Some were walking to school and their little hands were still grasping lunch pails. George H. W. Bush was vice president and must have been in the loop. His son, W., later invaded Iraq and gave as one of his pretexts that Saddam had used ‘weapons of mass destruction’ on ‘his own people.’

Iraq used chemical weapons for the same reason that the Syrian army does. They are deployed to level the playing field in the face of superior manpower on the other side. Saddam Hussein had a country of 16 million and invaded a country of some 40 million. US military doctrine of the time was you should only invade at a ratio of 3 to 1. So Saddam would have needed a country of 120 million to invade Iran. Needless to say, he lost the war very badly after an initial lightning invasion, since Iran could always over time raise a much bigger army than Saddam could. Hence the use of mustard gas and sarin gas on Iranian troops at the front.

Some Syrian military units have a chem team in case they face being overwhelmed by a more numerous enemy. The Syrian army was 300,000 before the war. It is at most 50,000 now. That number is not sufficient to control the whole country, though with the help of the Lebanese Hizbullah and Iraqi militias and some Afghans dragooned by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, plus vigorous Russian air support, they have been able to fight off the rebels and to take most urban areas. The small number of troops means that when they fight in a rebel-held territory like Idlib Province, they are tempted to deploy chemical weapons to offset their small numbers.

But it is indiscriminate fire and reckless disregard for innocent life that is the war crime here, and indeed a repeated pattern of war crimes is considered a crime against humanity.

By the way, Russian bombing has often been indiscriminate, but somehow Moscow has skated on war crimes accusations growing out of its heavy-handed role in Syria.

As for those decrying Obama inaction they need to, like, read the news sometime. For the past several years the US has intervened in Syria in two ways. President Obama used the Saudis to deliver money and weaponry to some 40 “vetted” groups supported by the Central Intelligence Agency, which is certified as having no ties to al-Qaeda or international extremism. Except that several of these groups have in fact formed battlefield alliances with al-Qaeda in Syria (was Jabhat al-Nusra, now Jabhat Fateh Sham or the Syrian Conquest Front).

Why in the world the US government should have backed groups like the Saudi favorite Army of Islam, which wanted to oppress or kill non-Sunnis baffles me. The rebel groups committed their own massacres of civilians.

The other US intervention has been thousands of bombing raids against Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) in Raqqa and Deir al-Zor in Syria’s far east.

Neither of these interventions has been effective to date, and both certainly have raised the death toll in the Civil War, including the civilian death toll.

Trump can’t stop Syria from using poison gas by bombing Damascus. Since he’s such a good buddy of Russian president Vladimir Putin, maybe he could pressure Putin to have Bashar al-Assad cut it out.

But that somehow the Syria situation can be made better if only Donald J. Trump would stick his fingers into it is a wildly implausible premise.


Related video:

Fmr. U.S. Ambassador On Syria: Donald Trump’s Response Is ‘Hard To Take’ | The 11th Hour | MSNBC

45 Responses

  1. It defies reason that the Syrian government would drop CW bombs on a warehouse in a rural town with no strategic or tactical significance for the sole purpose of killing civilians and with the knowledge that it would rabidly inflame the West. The Russians claim that the Syrian government hit chemical stockpiles held by the rebels.

    It’s a no-brainer that the Russian version of the story is accurate which is probably why Trump doesn’t believe it.

    BTW, Prof Cole, you forgot the 300 civilians killed by a US bomb in Mosul just a couple of weeks ago. It seems that conventional weapons are more deadly than the CW versions when used in in civilian areas which is probably why the US favours them.

    • It doesn’t defy reason at all. Idlib is al-Qaeda central now and coming to the front burner for Damascus. That it is rural is irrelevant; that is where you find guerrilas. Al-Qaeda did not gas its own subjects.

      • Professor Cole, the Syrians gave up their chemical weapons four years ago starting in September 2013. Syria is slowly winning the war against mainly foreign fighters funded by the US and Saudi Arabia. It’s not even a civil war as the leaders and most of the troops of the rebels are not even Syrian nationals.

        You write:

        Al-Qaeda did not gas its own subjects.

        Actually that’s exactly what Al-Qaeda did in 2013. President Putin of Russia put his personal word on the line in the New York Times signing a wrtitten statement:

        Under current international law, force is permitted only in self-defense or by the decision of the Security Council. Anything else is unacceptable under the United Nations Charter and would constitute an act of aggression.

        No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria. But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists. Reports that militants are preparing another attack — this time against Israel — cannot be ignored.

        It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it. Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan “you’re either with us or against us.”

        I’m surprised to see you giving much credibility to American security organisations considering your own experience of unjust and unlawful persecution at their hands. Whatever the sins of the father, Bashar as-Assad is a well-educated medical doctor and opthamologist with a history of integrity and protection of minorities. I’m mystified why you are so keen to see more blood flow in Syria.

        • Bashar bombed peaceful protestors from the air.

          That was the unforgiveable war crime and worse — it was an error.

          From that point on, the only option has been for Assad to be replaced with someone else; it’s just a matter of time. Hell, someone else in his *own family* would have been sufficient, but for some reason he wasn’t willing to do it.

        • Bashar bombed peaceful protestors from the air.

          Evidence please that the protestors were peaceful. The ISIS demonstrations in Syria don’t look very peaceful to me. More like beheadings, burning people alive in cages and slicing off arms.

          Unforgivable war crimes would include bombing the open air concentration Israel maintains in Gaza, shooting children playing on the beach in Gaza, blowing up Mosques in Mosul (US), bombing civilians in Yemen (US/Saudi Arabia with UK support).

          The ultimate war crime according to the Nuremburg trial is a war of aggression. The attack on Iraq in 2003 over non-existent WMD should have seen George W. Bush, Richard Cheney and Colin Powell hung from the neck until dead like Hans Frank, Wilhelm Frick, Alfred Jodl, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Wilhelm Keitel, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Alfred Rosenberg, Fritz Sauckel, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, and Julius Streicher.

          President Trump and the current administration are putting themselves in a similar (il)legal position. Or do you not believe in equality before the law?

          Strange to find you worried about democratically elected President Assad of Syria.

    • 50 Tomahawk cruise missiles have now been fired by the U.S. Navy at targets that include a Syrian government air base in Homs.

      A historic U.S. engagement against the Baathist Syrian regime.

  2. I think the video proves Prof Cole’s point concerning having blood on our hands.

    BW “And what would you do if you were Sec. Hill?”

    Hill…”I’d drop more bombs on them!”

    • There are no chem warehouses in that area and Idlib is owned by the Syrian Conquest Front; this was an attack by the regime on one of their safe houses.

  3. While the latest pictures of innocent children gasping for breath and many dead children and adults are truly appalling, it is important to remember other cases of atrocities committed by our side that most people wish to forget. As Professor Cole points out, Saddam Hussein made massive use of chemical weapons for many years against both Iranians and the Kurds. More than 50,000 Iranians were killed due to gas attacks and there are still many suffering from the consequences of being exposed to them. Saddam also used chemical weapons against the Kurds in Halabja and killed up to 5,000 people, and injured 7,000 more.

    The massive use of depleted uranium by American forces in Iraq, especially in Fallujah, resulted in many documented cases of cancer and other birth defects. According to Iraqi government statistics, the case of cancer in the country skyrocketed from 40 per 100,000 people prior to the First Gulf War to 800 per 100,000 in 1995, and to at least 1,600 per 100,000 in 2005.

    In the midst of the latest horrendous incident in Syria, it was truly sick of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer to blame it on the previous administration. A great deal has been made about President Obama’s alleged failure to honor his red line regarding the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government. In addition to Obama’s help to Syrian opposition, Obama did not say that he would attack Syria in case there was any use of chemical weapons. He said that it would constitute a red line that would have consequences. There were three problems with a military attack. The first one was that it could not be conclusively proven that the Syrian government had been responsible for the attack. Secondly, the British Parliament voted against military action in Syria, which meant that even America’s closest ally thought that it was wrong to take military action. Thirdly, President Obama asked Congress to vote on a military attack, which it refused to do. However, with Russian help, all known chemical weapons or precursors in Syria were taken out of the country. So there was a major consequence for the use chemical weapons, which was much more consequential than a military attack.

    While keeping an open mind about who was responsible for the latest attack, it is important not to jump to a conclusion about the real culprit. The former British Ambassador to Syria Peter Ford says that it is possible that it was the effect of hitting a chemical weapons’ dump:
    link to youtube.com
    Jerry Smith who led the UN-backed operation to remove Syria’s chemical weapons in 2013 agrees that it could provide one explanation: link to channel4.com

    • The massive use of depleted uranium by American forces in Iraq, especially in Fallujah, resulted in many documented cases of cancer and other birth defects.

      Then there are the unexploded bombs and landmines in Vietnam and Laos and Agent Orange in Vietnam – Made in the USA.

  4. Sure there are no innocents nevertheless the facts are clear in this case
    1. The regime is one of the most brutal ones in the world from Hama’s slaughter to today’s complete destruction of any area not under its control
    2. 14% of the population control more than 90% of all economic and security positions in the country
    3. Sectarian hatred by the ruling sect is no less virulent than that of ISIS or Wahhabi sectarianism
    4. The regime was instrumental in channeling all of the militants that wanted to go to Iraq and like Iran was absolutely ruthless in its utter disregard for human life.
    5. Defending the regime by pointing out the atrocities of others is not going to cut; you are certainly smarter than that.
    6. Please read from Tadmur to Harvard or at least advertise for the book on your website to be objective about it.

    Now I am not holding my breath that anything will change.

  5. At this point I wonder if the Russians aren’t considering a Syrian coup with a less deadly Assad replacement, open to accord with the Opposition, eager to destroy the Daesh, and guaranteeing continued Russian military presence, especially Navy. And Trump could take credit!

    • Yes, but what country would readily ally with Russia or trust Russia otherwise if Putin forcibly had Assad removed?

    • The Russians have wanted and pressured President Assad to step down for several years – which he has successfully resisted.

      The Russians have billions of dollars invested in infrastructure within Syria that they would stand to lose if the Baathists lose control of the government. This is the primary reason that Putin has protected the Assad regime from the imminent collapse they had been close to facing.

      There is a debate within the U.S. intelligence community whether the Russian naval presence at Tartus has any important significance to Russian defense interests. Reportedly the Russian naval installation there is small with few vessels docking there at any given time.

      • You seriously think that Russia couldn’t remove Assad in favor of a different Baathist? That’s obviously what they should do.

        If they can’t, Putin is *very very weak*.

        • “Baathism” does not rule Syria.

          Syria is controlled virtually completely by the extended family of President Al-Assad. This includes the Makhlouf clan that is on his mother’s side.

          Assad’s mother and sister left Syria several years ago and reside in the Persian Gulf states; they had left shortly after Assad’s sister, Bushraa, had the loss of her husband, the deputy minister of defense in a bombing that also maimed one of her brothers.

          If Russia had the influence to remove President Assad, they would have likely done it long ago.

  6. militarily speaking, why would you use a chemical device on a warehouse. wouldn’t you use it on an enemy neighborhood, mosque, plaza, etc where people congregate if you want to inflict damage. Let an investigation take its course and find the real truth about this incident. Do not judge without it.

  7. I thought the only UN members that have not signed or ratified the OPCW Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction were Israel, Egypt, North Korea and South Sudan? The US has both signed and ratified it.

  8. The fact that hypocrisy, obfuscation, and outright lies abound in these situations surely means that all parties should reserve their accusations until a proper investigation can take place when the facts will no longer be subject to dispute. Taking that view, the most important thing right now must be to launch such an investigation, preferably under UN supervision. Accusations levelled without evidence have a shorter shelf life.

    Jerry Smith, the operations chief of the UN-led team that supervised the removal of Syria’s sarin stockpiles….said the recovery of samples would be pivotal to the investigation of the Idlib strike. “It is one of the most important things now to get biological samples, interviews and environmental samples, ideally from witnesses who can also give statements,” he said.

    link to theguardian.com

  9. Five days prior to the banned-weapons attack on little Syrian children, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, “The longer-term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people,” implying a definite shift in U.S. foreign policy away from regime change in Syria. A green light to cross a “red line” from the amateur maladministration.

    link to middleeasteye.net

    Someone really must inform Secretary Tillerson that the Syrian people are not at home to vote. They are fleeing for their lives.

    If Fat Trump is the wheeler-dealer he claims to be, he could work with his buddy, Vladimir Putin to pressure Al Assad to stop using banned weapons? Naw, he’d rather blame Obama.

    Or if President Tweedldedumb was smart, he would call upon his “great friend” and Twitter-mate, Benjamin Netanyahu for a favor? Bibi has already been giving his air force some serious practice in Syria testing the new Russian air defense systems.

    link to aljazeera.com

    Either approach would be superior to what the fossil-fuel industry-driven neocon war-mongers and chickenhawks have always wanted, deeper U.S. military involvement on the ground. Undeterred by who is President.

    link to thedailybeast.com

    link to thehill.com

    The point being, no matter how heinous Al Assad’s behavior may be, this is simply not our fight, no matter what the NYT, Reuters, CNN or FAUXNews stuffs in our faces.

    link to jpost.com

  10. We do not know what really happened in Syria. We know Kushner was in Iraq with the Joint Chiefs. Tillerson went to Turkey. Trump met with Egypt. Trump’s Ambassador right-wing Friedman is in Israel.

  11. Hypocrisy in Washington? Unfortunately, that is not exceptional. It is equally rampant in the corridors of power of our allies and satrapies.

  12. Thanks for pointing out that the difference between dying from sarin and dying from bombing or shelling is probably irrelevant to the dead.

    Before the US acts, it should ask the people of Syria if they want us in their country? I doubt it, given the Iraqi experience. Of course, there is no way to ask in Syria.
    We could ask the refugees. Why didn’t any of the news reports that I saw ask Syrian refugees for an opinion? (Rhetorical question)
    Let’s survey enlisted soldiers who have been deployed in the Middle East and Afghanistan in the last 7 years. Let’s ask them if they believe a massive Syrian deployment would bring peace or help the people of Syria.

  13. This attack certainly got the Mosul bombing out of the news (such as the US media covered it at all), and the cameras were conveniently rolling in time for the US national news to broadcast the images. Cui bono?

  14. Talking of hypocrisy, compare the Washington establishment’s and the MSM reactions to the dozens of children killed by chemical weapons in Idlib and their responses to the hundreds of children killed in Gaza during Operations Cast Lead and Protective Edge.

  15. To avoid further U.S. political condemnation the Syrians should just switch to napalm since (apparently) burning someone to death is more humane than gassing him to death.

  16. C’mon Juan after every single previous accusation of the use of chemical weapons by Assad turned out to be mistaken you STILL get suckered into believing this one? I would really like to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge cheap. You can turn a quick profit on it, honest. The building that was hit doesn’t have to be a chemical warehouse for these people to store toxins in it. These people don’t answer to OSHA you know. They cut off people’s heads and kill you via suicide. If you seriously think Assad is responsible for this one then watch out Charlie Brown because Lucy is about to pull the football away from you again. You really need to start thinking in terms of the US military and intelligence community having exactly zero credibility at this point. The idea that Russia gave emails to Wikileaks rather than two American insiders – BS. The four DIFFERENT stories the military tried to Palm off on us about why they bombed a MSF hospital – BS. The absolute certainty they had that Assad attacked Ghouta with sarin – BS. Etc, etc, etc. All 100% pure BS. All Nusra has been making and using bathtub sarin for years in Syria now. My money is on more of the same.

  17. “The United States used nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki……..the US security elite has never apologized for this war crime………”

    General Douglas MacArthur and Admiral Chester Nimitz commanded military and naval operations, respectively, in the Pacific theatre in WWII during that juncture and both stated that dropping an atomic bomb on civilians violated everything their were taught as officers respecting their ethical duties to protect civilians of an enemy nation during warfare.

    Historically, the opinion of the American public has comfortably justified the A-bomb attacks on Japan as necessary to preserve the estimated 100,000 lives of U.S servicemen that would have been sacrificed to conquer the main Japanese islands.

  18. Hey Juan — your first sentence gives you away — there has been no investigation yet, so you cannot credibly talk about “The use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Army in Idlib” — you are just contributing to the hysteria and warmongering the Democrats initiated to take the focus off of their own war crimes and election fraud. Smarter writers than you have pointed out the logical reasons why Assad did not do this, and why the “rebels” likely did. This regime change mania has to stop, and shame on you for contributing to it.

  19. Here are the relevant paragraphs from the report Juan Cole links to:
    “At least 58 people, including 11 children, died in a suspected gas attack in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province, local sources reported on Tuesday.

    According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), people choked or fainted after the attack, while some were seen foaming at the mouth.

    The SOHR said it had received the reports from medics on the ground in the town of Khan Sheikhoun.

    Hours later, a small field hospital in the region was struck and destroyed, according to a civil defence worker in the area.

    The Syrian National Coalition (SNC), the main opposition group, said planes from President Bashar al Assad’s military carried out the airstrikes.”

    First, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is known to be one man who operates out of the U.K. He does not reveal his sources of information, so his reports are impossible to verify. Why anyone continues to cite the SOHR as a reliable source for anything is a mystery.

    The other source cited, “The Syrian National Coalition (SNC), the main opposition group”, is obviously an interested party. Again, how is it possible to verify that they are telling the truth? Western reporters cannot report in rebel held areas without risking capture and death.

    The Syrian regime has not been proven to have conducted any chemical attacks in the past. Further, they turned over their remaining chemical weapon stockpiles to Russia for disposal long ago. And to use chemical weapons now against the rebels would be so stupid and counterproductive–and Assad certainly knows that. You can believe that Assad is brutal and evil if you wish, but he has not survived the past few years by being stupid. It is not in the Syrian regime’s interest to commit such an attack, and they should not even have the means to do so.

    It is, however, in the interest of Al Qaeda to have it appear that the regime carried out a chemical attack, (and we do know that the rebels do have the ability to manufacture Sarin gas). Notice how quickly the usual suspects–the UK, the U.S., etc. all snap into line, accusing Syria of an atrocity, even before any sort of reliable investigation can get underway. I think we have seen this movie before.

    • R.A. – Quibble not – this isn’t a movie and POTUS is a psychopath.

      We have all been placed in far greater danger by reacting to this event.

  20. So our minority-elected president has decided to try to distract and unite Americans by bombing like Bush did on March 19, 2003, with shock and awe (why over 50 missiles?) while nobody waited for the facts on the ground. President tweet becomes President booom (in his own deranged mind). The tragedy is that so many military insiders must’ve presented this option to him as a realistic alternative. When the leader lacks wisdom, doom to us all!

  21. Forgive me prof. It was late. Forgot to thank you. Article was great; put things in perspective. There’s a lot to keep track of.

  22. In general, I don’t like puppets and client states, but in the case of Syria, the only “practical” solution on the horizon would be for Russia to take out al-Assad and put its man in charge and then put an end to the hydra that is now the opposition/insurgency.

    The West and the surrounding Arab countries, after making the anti-Alawite, anti-Ba’athist factions believe that the West would support them, left them hanging out to dry and allowed Da’esh (ISIS) to come in.

    It is obvious that the anti-al-Assad forces cannot win. But al-Assad is a five-star monster that only Russia can successfully remove in a way that could improve the situation.

  23. Why in the world Obama did not intervene but tacitly approved S. Arabia and others to do so is the real question. In the past, the US has stepped on the throats of its lesser ‘allies’ that misbehaved

    • Congress and the Constitution.

      What trump just did, is technically prohibited by the USA Constitution. Obama followed the Constitution and asked Congress for a declaration of war (actually its equivalent called the “Presidential war powers act”) , which congress refused to even vote on. If Obama had ignored the hostile congress, he would have been impeached withing days.

      Why didn’t congress vote? Quite simply because most Americans are sick of war and the waste of USA treasure and lives. Most Americans simply want better lives for themselves and do not care how many other humans on earth die. Any congress critter that had voted for more war would have had a hard time hanging on to their job.

      Trump may be able to get away with a simple (and ineffective and wasteful) “fireworks display” but if he goes any further he will pay a huge price and will be putting his presidency further in jeopardy.

      If enough congress critters start fearing for their jobs due to war, the republicans just may throw trump out. Contrary to popular notion, impeachment only needs the president to anger 218 house members and 67 senators and he is gone. No actual crimes need be proved which is why the Constitution is so vague.

      As Obama quickly came to understand and is taking trump a LOT LONGER to understand because he is much dumber, is there are no easy answers to international situations and most “solutions” range from extremely bad to really, really terrible.

      In fact, often the “best” solution for the USA is turn on the TV to a nice comedy and ignore what is happening elsewhere.

      • In 2013 President Obama submitted for Congressional authorization to use military force against Al Assad.

        link to washingtonpost.com

        He didn’t get it. The born-again Confederate Congress saw to that. Only Christian white people are permitted to kill Muslims at will. POTUS claims to be a Christian and is a shade of white, orange actually. So, it’s all good.

        Besides, it is apparent there is real fear in opposing the new maladministration.

        Quoting the last paragraph – “In fact, often the “best” solution for the USA is turn on the TV to a nice comedy and ignore what is happening elsewhere.” Where is the fun in that? When you can witness an original dark comedy series provided by the corporate-owned and controlled media 24/7?

    • That’s a question I can answer. Just prior to ordering the attack Obama met with CJCS Gen Dempsey, and at that meeting Dempsey informed Obama of the results of UK tests of the samples from the area.

      The Brits had determined that the sarin did not come from Syrian army stocks, and most closely resembled Libyan-manufactured sarin.

      So it’s a no-go on the boom-boom, but keep this on the q-t, OK, General?

  24. The Free Syrian Army on its “FSA NEWS” Twitter account tweeted a leaked putative copy of a Syrian government internal report confirming 7 killed and 18 wounded at the air base near Homs that was struck by U.S. Navy-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles.

  25. There is a gaping flaw in the logic of this article.

    Prof Cole is correct that CW are used to offset a numerically superior enemy (though I’lll point out that sarin can only be used defensively – you can’t drop it on the enemy and then order your troops to attack, coz if you do you’ll kill them too)

    But this town was way behind the lines, so by Prof Cole’s own logic there is no military reason for the syrians to drop CW on it.

    Coventional bombs, yes, because what you target in rear areas are warehouses, stockpiles, etc.

    But not CW, because while they kill the civvies they leave the warehouses intact.

    And what’s the point of that?

    None that I can see.

    The Russian explanation makes sense, the US explanation doesn’t.

    • Guerrilla groups only flourish if they have a base in the local population. The point of gassing Khan Shikhoun is to let people in Idlib know that they had better turn on al-Qaeda and its allies and deny them food, shelter, support or else they are all toast together. It is pour encourager les autres, to ‘encourage the others’ in the wicked French phrase.

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