Ten years ago, George W. Bush and his administration so convinced people in the country that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction” that some people—even those in Congress—haven’t given up on that notion. Even then-Secretary of State Colin Powell got snookered into the myth for a while. Yet despite the embarrassment of finding out that Iraq had no WMD, the administration plodded along, sending cash, service members, and military supplies to the Middle East while creating great profits for companies such as then-Vice President Dick Cheney’s Halliburton and destroying the possibility of the U.S. repairing its infrastructure, increasing employment, and building a healthy economy.
Now the country is on the verge of another disaster in Syria after Secretary of State John Kerry promised everyone that the rebels need rescuing. Once again we’re heading a preemptive war. The president has promised just a little bit of bombing before we’re out of there. Loosely translated, that means killing more people, many of them probably innocent Syrian citizens, and probably accelerating into full-fledged military action.
Even worse, Kerry has made claims disputed by the United Nations, inconsistent with British intelligence reports, and giving information that international chemical weapons experts cannot accept. Kerry’s speeches contain the same misleading information found in promoting the U.S. attack on Iraq.
The communications that Kerry said was intercepted couldn’t have come through channels because Britain would have received the same information. Instead it most likely came from Israel who leaked it to a German magazine. Former British Ambassador Craig Murray thinks this intelligence is fraudulent because Israelis want the U.S. to attack Syria.
If one were to give this information the benefit of the doubt, the communications consisted of “panicked phone calls” between a Syrian Defense Ministry official and someone in a chemical weapons unit because the official was “demanding answers for [about?] a nerve agent strike.” The questions were prompted by charges from rebels in Ghouta, and intelligence doesn’t answer the question of whether the regime had used chemical weapons.
When the U.N. asked for access to investigate, the regime agreed within 24 hours to let them have free reign to the area. U.N. investigators were in Damascus because the Assad regime asked them to look into a gas attack that they said was carried out by rebels on March 19. A two-page assessment by the British Joint Intelligence Organization, released August 29, stated: “There is no obvious political or military trigger for regime use of Chemical War on an apparently larger scale now, particularly given the current presence of the UN investigating team.”
Regime personnel were “near an area that the regime uses to mix chemical weapons, including sarin,” according to U.S. geospatial and signals intelligence. Yet there is no information about any problemactic activities in this area. Instead the presence of the tracked individual area was viewed as “nothing out of the ordinary” until the U.S. suspected the use of chemical weapons. At that time, they changed the report to “streams of human signals and geospatial intelligence that revealed regime activities that we assessed were associated with preparations for a chemical attack.” From no indication of “preparations,” intelligence moved to getting ready for chemical warfare.
A description in the summary explained that “a Syrian regime element prepared for a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus area, including through the utilization of gas masks” but didn’t explain whether it was intent to attack or anticipation of rebel chemical attack. The summary also stated that the intelligence community had “high confidence” that the government had carried out a “chemical weapons attack” but nothing about any confidence when they said “that the regime used a nerve agent in the attack.”
A huge question about the intelligence is the assumption that chemical weapons were used because of no wounds on the bodies. Symptoms of a nerve agent are initial tightness of chest, pinpoint pupils, and running nose followed by uncontrollable vomiting, defecating, and urinating, and culminating in twitching and jerking before coma and suffocation in convulsive spasms. Videos in Ghouta didn’t display these symptoms.
In another anomaly, far more of the treated people survived than died, contrary to a nerve gas attack. Reports show that out of 4,500 people treated, 425 people died—the opposite of what would be expected. Although some people have guessed that the chemicals were diluted, Dan Kaszeta, a specialist on chemical, biological and radiological weapons, said, “There’s not much leeway between the incapacitating doses and lethal doses with sarin.” The concentration causing any symptoms at all, he said, “would quickly lead to absorption of a lethal dose.” The fact that none of the people treating casualties were suffering obvious symptoms “would seem to rule out most types of military-grade chemical weapons,” Kaszeta added.
The rebels gave the intelligence community information about the numbers and cause of death. The precise estimate of 1,429 people killed by chemical weapons, including “at least 426 children,” has no source. Normally, intelligence would use a range of figures from different data. The main center for the intelligence community’s analysis is the CIA’s Office of Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation and Arms Control (WINPAC) Center which made assumptions about the 2002 Iraq estimate that were unsupported by technical facts. Thus WINPAC reversed the normal intelligence analysis burden of proof and instead operated on the assumption that Iraq had the non-existent WMD programs.
Kerry’s only attribution for the number was “a preliminary government assessment,” but people are now accepting his guesstimate as gospel. Anthony Cordesman, a former senior defense official who’s now with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, noted that Kerry’s number doesn’t agree with the British assessment of “at least 350 fatalities,” the Syrian rebels’ confirmation of 502 dead, or the French figure of 281 fatalities.
Only the U.N. inspectors can solve the issue of chemical weapons, but those advocating an attack on Syria don’t want evidence from U.N. investigators. National Security Adviser Susan Rice sent an e-mail to key officials August 25 asserting that the U.N. investigation was pointless, and administration officials have dismissed the U.N. investigation as representing a Syrian political tactic. Kerry said that access “was restricted and controlled” although Farhan Haq, the associate spokesperson for Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon who receives regular reports from the UN team on its work in Syria, said he was unaware of any restrictions on the team’s work.
Kerry declared two days ago that samples of blood and hair from medical personnel in eastern Ghouta had been found to contain the signature of sarin nerve gas. These samples did not go through U.N. investigators but were smuggled out of Syria by rebels. The spokesman for the Free Syrian Army’s Supreme National Council, Khaled Saleh, announced August 22 that “activists” had collected their own hair, blood, and soil samples and were smuggling them out of the country. Even the Obama administration admits that they can’t be sure about the accuracy of this assumption without appropriate chain of custody, but they are now claiming that it is “impossible that the opposition is faking the stuff.”
Kerry has never actually said that the bodies tested positive for sarin. “It has tested positive for signatures of Sarin,” he said. But “signature” isn’t proof of sarin. The U.S. Army book Medical Aspects of Chemical Warfare explicitly says that concluding on a chemical agent exposure from “signatures” in bio-samples is false:
“Analyzing for parent nerve agents from biomedical matrices, such as blood or urine, is not a viable diagnostic technique for retrospective detection of exposure.”
Because sarin quickly decomposes within a few hours, it is almost impossible to find pure sarin samples on or within a body. What is shown are the decomposition products of sarin, similar to those from other chemical substances such as farming insecticides. There was no sarin in the samples from the insecure custody chain of evidence, only the decomposition products.
At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing today, Kerry was asked if the intelligence had any dissent or uncertainty about Assad’s use of chemical weapons. “I have no knowledge of any agency that was a dissenter, or anybody that had an alternative theory,” he answered. Not a flat no—he just didn’t know anybody who disagreed.
Like the lead-in to the preemptive war against Iraq, a president is beating the drums for attack and trying to stir up everyone with potentially false information. The only “intelligence” comes from Israel and Syrian rebels who want the U.S. to attack.
A new poll today shows that only 29 percent of people in the U.S. want even airstrikes in Syria whereas 48 percent of the population opposed doing this. The Washington Post/ABC News poll indicates an even stronger opposition, 36 percent in favor and 59 percent opposed. In a few years, the minority of the people may discover in a few years that once again they were hoodwinked.