Did the CWs Belong to a Rebel Group?

Two links:

AP SOURCES: INTELLIGENCE ON WEAPONS NO ‘SLAM DUNK’ (AP)

And then there’s this:

EXCLUSIVE: Syrians In Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack (Mint Press News)

I had about 500 words about the credibility of this story typed but FAIR already has this up:

Which Syrian Chemical Attack Account Is More Credible?

Actually everything on the FAIR front page about Syria right now is pretty essential reading.

Everything about this is fishy.  First off, when since at least the end of World War II, has a US administration told the unvarnished truth in the weeks leading up to military action?  They’re the least trustworthy people in the world.  And the press is taking their numbers and claims completely uncritically.  Most stories are using the government’s over-1400 death toll figure without qualification.  The government’s certainty that the rebels definitely don’t have chemical weapons is flatly contradicted by stories that have come out over the past year that rebels have been seizing stockpiles as they capture cities and bases.

The most charitable one can be toward Obama right now is to say that he’s cherry-picking evidence.

In front of the Senate, Kerry stated that boots on the ground might actually be necessary, and there was a friendly story in the Wall Street Journal today about a former Syrian opposition leader saying that we should issue an ultimatum for Assad to step down within a month or else intervene.

This is 2003 all over again.

  • EH

    During the Bush years I was definitely always annoyed when people would dismiss impeachment discussions as a distraction, so I’m fully aware of the irony of what I’m about to say but: I don’t think anything being reported here amounts to anything close to grounds for impeachment [a la Bush’s lying in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq in 20030. The U.S. government has made assertions based on specific intelligence it claims it has. Noone, so far, has said that the intelligence is wrong or being wrongly reported, just that they are not CONCLUSIVE evidence for the claims the US is making. The AP story, for example, is pointing out that Bashar al-Asad may not have given an order for chemical weapons to be used– which doesn’t mean the Syrian military isn’t responsible. As some have pointed out, there could be factions within his government or the military command structure. The MPN story is, again, realllllly circumstantial. So yes, I think while we should absolutely be vigilant about intelligence and reporting, there is a big difference between this, so far, and the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. I am also willing to believe that Obama does not, in fact, feel enthusiastic about bombing Syria but feels like he “has to.” I think there is actually a pretty remarkable space open right now for us all to lobby like hell to our representatives to vote NO on authorization, and there is plenty of ideological space on both the Right and the Left to do so. I would much rather we spend our energy in the next week doing that.

    • http://www.culturecrisis.com/ Carter

      We didn’t know conclusively that the Bush intelligence was wrong until after the war started, same with Clinton’s claims about the Balkans. If you look back at 2003 there was a only a tiny bit of skepticism about the official claims, the arguments on the left were that his WMD capacity didn’t threaten us or matter, and certainly didn’t justify a full-on invasion for regime change purposes, and that the allusions of connections to 9-11 were false. It doesn’t feel very different to me. Obviously it’s different if it really was Assad or his administration that ordered the attack, and if the rebels don’t have and haven’t used their own chemical weapons — an important part of Kerry’s justification, which he claimed with absolute certainty.

      I don’t at all agree that this is the wrong way to spend time. I don’t think Obama and congress are a bunch of free individuals making decisions on what they believe is right or wrong, or based on what their constituents think is right or wrong. That’s true for some issues, but never for war. They are the front men for a diverse set of interests (I’d say the military-industrial-complex, but it’s a lot more than just them) that are strongly in favor of going to war. I’m increasingly a believer in the notion that on your first day at the White House, a bunch of guys, most of whom you’ve never seen on TV, sit you down and explain what your real job is. And even if Obama really has doubts and really doesn’t want to do it, he’s said that he’s sure, and you just can’t go back from that as a president, it would be the end of any credibility he has not just internationally but domestically as well. There’s no way he’s going to sink what remains of his administration in order to not kill a few Syrians.

      I think a strategy consisting solely of citizens demonstrating and lobbying is guaranteed to fail. Maybe if there was a coordinated resistance by liberals on the scale of Iraq in 2003 at the same time as an equally large and loud protest by the Tea Party it maybe would stop this. Maybe the Tea Party could do it on their own, liberals can’t, and Washington couldn’t give two shits about radicals, no matter how loud we get. If the Democrats weren’t willing to go against Bush, they certainly won’t go against Obama. The Tea Party is the one organized group that legislators fear all over the country, and that’s what it’s going to take: fear. Our representatives simply do not fear strongly worded letters and moral arguments, not as much as they fear the defense sector, the intelligence community, the White House, the party leadership, and the pro-war media. If we can threaten their elections or their fundraising, we have a chance, but I don’t think we can.

      The news media is the only chance we have. The only possible way to stop this is a change to the narrative. And as we saw in 2003 and again in Occupy, citizen activism has a really really really hard time changing the dominate narrative on its own, especially when it comes to a war for which the mainstream media is beating a drum. But “Obama and Kerry are Liars” is a story our media loves to tell. If the story changed, things might actually change.

      I honestly can’t see what else could stop this at this point.

      • EH

        Actually, Amb. Joe Wilson, Scott Ritter, and others were quite publicly challenging the intelligence claims of the Bush Adminstration prior to March, 2003. My point is only that we, you and I, are actually not in a position to know the truth of this until we have more public information. Sucks, but that’s reality. Neither you nor I have the capacity to verify either the government’s claim (which is fairly specific) nor the MPN story (which is fairly vague). As to what Obama’s intentions are, or what’s in his deep heart, I also honestly don’t care. I’m willing to concede you are entirely right. But what is also true is that Obama didn’t have to get congressional approval, he clearly wasn’t planning on it, and he blinked. We now need to press the advantage.

        Seeing everything in terms of vast conspiratorial forces only undermines our own ability for agency. The U.S. government is a very complex, stupid, slow moving behemoth with many moving parts that is extremely difficult to turn, but it can, demonstrably, be done. Policy changes at the top level can be affected by pressure from below. Now seems like an opportune moment

        I’ve never claimed that the strategy for doing so is “solely of citizens demonstrating and lobby.” I am suggested that coordinated resistance is exactly what we need. There is resistance ot this military action on the left and the right currently.

        I’m really unclear what you mean by “the news media is the only chance we have.”

        • EH

          And just fyi, what I am concerned about is the MPN story is already getting passed around in my social media circles as some sort of proof. It really really isn’t. Read the article carefully. Leftists are just as bad as hearing what they want to hear as any other group.

          • http://www.culturecrisis.com/ Carter

            I have read it pretty carefully and the claim of the “exclusive” part of the story is just that several residents of Ghoutta, including some connected to certain rebel factions, believe that the CWs belonged to Jabhat al-Nusra. And even being more skeptical, it seems like, unless multiple sources were lying to the reporters or the reporters themselves are making up sources whole-cloth, that many people were at the very least fairly convinced that there were unusual weapons that nobody recognized being stored in town. I think that’s a significant story, because I don’t think I’m assuming too much when I imagine that the residents of Ghoutta are fairly familiar with what guns, rockets, RPGs, bombs, etc. look like.

            This is not smoking-gun “Obama Lied! Conspiracy!” evidence by any means. But it’s enough to strongly suspect that the administration is filtering what it hears in order to falsely state certainty where there is none. It’s entirely possible that the attack came from Assad himself or people high up in the command. It may even be the most plausible way of interpreting the evidence available. But I also really do believe that the Bush administration believed that there were WMDs in Iraq. They might have stuck their fingers a little further in their ears and hummed a little louder to avoid hearing what they didn’t want to hear, but I don’t think that what they did then and what Obama and Kerry are doing now is fundamentally different.

            When I say “the news media is the only chance we have,” what I mean is:

            “War is wrong” is just not something that the American public really believes. Americans like their military and overall believe that it has been a force of good in the world. We’re war-weary right now, but just being tired of seeing these kinds of stories on the news and being vaguely conscious of the financial costs is not going to spark actionable outrage by the general public.

            If the Administration is telling the truth, then there’s no real reason to suspect that Americans are really going to stand up and resist this thing. If people are going to oppose this, they need to get angry, whereas right now I think they’re just for whatever will get it off the TV as quickly as possible and insure that we don’t send in ground troops. If it could be shown that the administration is willfully deceiving the public and congress — even if it’s just in grossly overstating their certainty (or the level of risk that the conflict will escalate) then that would make this a different story.

            I just don’t see enough of the public, not even the Tea Party, voicing their discontent loudly enough unless what’s on TV changes. Highlighting the uncertainty of what they’re saying and accusing them of deceiving the public is the only path I can see that might change the course of the war machine. “Even if we’re wrong, at least we get the war we want” seems to be the attitude among American militarists when it comes to intelligence. I don’t think responding by saying “even if we’re wrong, at least we’ll get the peace we want” is out of line.

            Being absolutely right, only citing fully verifiable information, coming at this debate with a rock-solid moral position, these things don’t matter, not with the tiny amount of time we have to act. What matters is that those rockets don’t fire. Anything short of terrorism that reaches that goal is fair game. Likewise, if the Tea Partiers want to pull out every gross, racist, islamaphobic, trick in their bag, this time I won’t complain.

          • EH

            Ha. Well, I disagree that the ONLY thing that will work at getting people’s attention is accusations that the gov’t is lying. I think plenty of people can be reached with a variety of arguments. I’m all for everyone screaming out the thing that strikes them as most egregious, the more voices the better. I will say that my experience in the Palestine movement is never make any claim you can’t absolutely back up and never get sloppy because our opponents are waiting to discredit us for any slip-up, and that’s just unfortunate reality. It does seem to me that it would be useful to separate the questions into 1) Did a chemical weapon attack occur, and if so who was responsible? and 2) What is our response if a chemical weapon attack occurred? For example the conventions banning chemical weapons mandate that referral to the ICC is the recourse for breaking the convention, not cruise missiles. Anyways. Just so I don’t spend any more time defending the government’s narrative here’s a bunch more questions about that official narrative raised by Marc Seibel of McClatchy news service:

            http://www.democracynow.org/2013/9/4/as_us_pushes_for_syria_strike

          • http://www.culturecrisis.com/ Carter

            As for the difference between here and Palestine activism:

            The IDF and the pro-Occupation Israeli position are way way way more active and determined adversaries than the fucking Obama administration. My real sense is we could say whatever lies about him we want and he’d never bother to correct us. I mean maybe he’ll have more balls fighting back the left than he does the right, but I don’t see it. You can take the gloves off with this guy.

            Hell, even the Bush supporters let a lot slip by. Remember the persistent and overblown stories that Bush’s grandfather had been a pro-Nazi fascist conspirator? I don’t see someone like Netanyahu or Sharon letting that kind of thing pass.

        • http://www.culturecrisis.com/ Carter

          I don’t see things in terms of a vast conspiracy. I see things in terms of organized interests groups. On most issues, those groups (the moving parts) take a variety of sides, because they represent a variety of goals and ambitions. But when it comes to supporting military action, there is a lot of unity by the most powerful groups in our government and economy. Pressure from below definitely can change things, I’ll never deny that, but it’s important to consider how much pressure and what kind of pressure a specific goal will take. I’m interested in what will work, and I think that pointing out uncertainty in the official narrative is an indispensable part of any realistic strategy.

  • EH

    Just to keep this party going:

    Rep. Alan Grayson was on Democracy Now! saying the whip counts show the House isn’t going to approve Syria action

    http://www.democracynow.org/2013/9/5/rep_alan_grayson_on_syria_congress

    and Greg Sargeant talks about the emerging anti-war progressive/tea-party coalition here:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2013/09/06/alliance-of-tea-party-libertarians-and-anti-war-dems-looks-like-the-real-thing/

    But what worries me is that unlike what you have said, I am concerned with principles and not “how to we stop this imminent attack by any means necessary” because I believe that after this crisis there will be another one and another one and another one, and I want to build a movement for the long term. And while Alan Grayson is doing good work right now, I’m really worried about some of the things he says in that DN! interview. I think there is a distinction to be made between my values and right-wing isolationism. I believe in the principle of solidarity and internationalism from below, not on a state level, and Alan Grayson’s remarks start to resemble the rhetoric of Islamophobia. He dismisses AIPAC in that interview, but his record shows that he has taken the AIPAC line quite seriously in the past, with real consequences:
    http://mondoweiss.net/2009/12/gutsy-progressive-congressman-alan-grayson-leads-a-double-life.html

    You may say you don’t care, but for me, that has, as I said, real consequences. I am concerned with how to best support the struggle of the Syrian people, not just how to stay out of it.

    That being said: as a representative Typical American, Carter, what would you think of my recent brilliant idea: build a coalition to end all U.S. aid to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain…and Israel? Basically take the BDS call and expand it to three terrible Arab regimes that are also fascist dictatorships that have committed mass violence against their own people (and the Saudis, man, the fuckin Saudis are the worst) and then no-one could claim we were being anti-semitic (or rather, anti-Jewish). Most Arabs, certainly most Saudis, Egyptians, or Bahrainis, I hang out with would LOVE for the U.S. to stop supporting their fucked up governments.

    Here’s more on Democracy Now from today (they are killin it this week, as usual) on how the Saudis are currently working with the CIA right now to replicate Afghanistan in the 80s in Syria:

    http://www.democracynow.org/2013/9/6/iran_contra_redux_prince_bandar_heads