The public deserves from the White House far more hard evidence before the country takes military action to punish the Syrian government for last week's civilian deaths in Damascus from chemical weapons.
We are seeing a rush to judgment that the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, below at left, committed the atrocity. Neither the White House, Congress nor the mainstream media are showing the objective investigation deserved by such an important topic as launching airstrikes that could lead to a wider war and vastly more deaths.
The United States has a long and tragic history of wars based on information that was, at best, mistaken, thereby leading to millions of deaths.
Examples of misinformation go far beyond the notorious "Weapons of Mass Destruction" before the 2003 Iraq invasion.
Our first invasion of Iraq was justified in part by a false story devised by a DC public relations firm that Saddam Hussein’s troops were killing babies in Kuwait, as documented in several books that include those by Harper's Publisher John "Rick" MacArthur and longtime DC-based CIA historians Joseph and Susan Trento.
The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution escalated the Vietnam War. And, we now know from declassified documents that President Kennedy rejected the "Operation Northwoods" plan by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to kill innocent Americans to justify a U.S. invasion of Cuba.
The public receives images, reports of evidence, but scant evidence that open-minded inquiries are actually occurring.
At right is a White House file photo showing President Obama listening as Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security, briefs him on the terror threat, in the Map Room of the White House on Aug. 6, 2013. Also participating in the briefing are National Security Adviser Susan Rice and Chief of Staff Denis McDonough.
Shown below is a sample of recent news stories from both the mainstream media, especially the Washington Post, and the alternative or foreign press. You will see that some of those media, most notably alternative and the Wall Street Journal, describe the activities of Saudi intelligence and CIA Director John Brennan in ways almost entirely absent from the news coverage that most Americans receive.
I do not pretend to know what happened with the fatal chemical assault in Damascus last week.
But anyone can see we are experiencing the same stampede to military action as in two previous Iraq wars, the Libya airstrikes, and a number of other wars orchestrated by government and the beat reporters dependent on government sources for their news and jobs. Furthermore, only a small proportion of the public receives from mainstream media reporting that illustrates the complexities of the situation, such as the large number of foreign fighters on the rebel side funding by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and (some claim) the United States using secret appropriations.
The possibility that foreign mercenaries and their sponsors, faced with losing the war, may have inflicted death on helpless Syrian civilians to bring in outside air power is rarely addressed by the mainstream media. Neither are the contacts and potential shifting alliances between such key figures as CIA Director John Brennan and Prince Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud, the Saudi Arabia intelligence chief and former U.S. ambassador. He reputedly visited Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this summer to offer a $15 billion business deal in exchange for withdrawal of Russia's support for Assad.
The failure of the mainstream media to explore a host of such possibilities is central to my new book, Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and Their Masters. It shows how hidden agendas dominate government officials far more than the public typically understands -- in part because the major news media's most relevant publications and personnel are part of the process, far more dependent on relationships and the goals of the process than informing the public.Let's examine, for example, the Aug. 27 print edition of the Washington Post. The editorial board strongly urged decisive military action by the United State against Syria. So did the paper's leading "liberal" columnist, Eugene Robinson, whose role in his column and frequent appearances on MSNBC is to be a go-along, get-along follower of President Obama. Michael Gerson, a former Bush speechwriter who serves as one of the Post's many neo-con columnists, made an argument similar to Robinson's in favor of aggressive military action against Assad.
There are several striking ways in which the reporting and punditry are intellectually dishonest. I'll focus on two.
First is the rapidly diminishing pretense that initiation of war has any grounding in the U.S. Constitution or international law, as understood at least since the Geneva Conventions and founding of the United Nations. A modern doctrine is arising that if the U.S. President decides to initiate war he need only advise Congressional leaders on the basis of secret evidence and then move forward with a few other nations as allies. Conservative constitutional scholar Bruce Fein has eloquently contracted that argument, whether used by Obama or Bush. His lecture on the topic at the Rutherford Institute is available on YouTube.
Second is the notion that leaks by an anonymous official of his opinion (in this instance that Syria's government launched chemical weapons) to selected journalists similarly constitute sufficient evidence for public understanding of such an important decision. Having a few high-ranking officials such as Secretary of State Kerry then affirm the conclusion with little or no documentation does constitute evidence, in a sense, as did the opinion of his predecessor, Secretary of State Colin Powell, that Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction requiring an Iraq war.
Near the beginning of this column, I mentioned Operation Northwoods, a secret plan recommended unanimously in 1962 by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to undertake killings of Americans in high-profile situations and place the blame on Fidel Castro, thereby justifying a United States invasion to recoup national pride lost from the Bay of Pigs fiasco. President Kennedy and his defense secretary rejected the plan, we now know, thereby generating antagonism against them in high military circles.
We know about Operation Northwoods in significant part because of investigative reporter and author James Bamford, left, who broke the story based declassified documents and sources in his 2001 book, Body of Secrets. Bamford has an important oped this week on the related topic of secret surveillance and secret law, NSA: Listening to everyone — except oversight.
Fletcher Prouty, an Air Force colonel who served as the Joint Chiefs' liaison between the Defense Department and the CIA during the late Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations, hinted at such activities in his pioneering 1973 book,The Secret Team, and his followup JFK: The CIA, Vietnam, the Plot To Kill John F. Kennedy (1996 and 2011).
Jesse Ventura provided the actual document in his 63 Documents the Government Doesn't Want You To Read. The former Minnesota governor, a recent guest on my radio show, has a new book on the topic for this fall,They Killed Our President.. The book raises new questions and light on JFK's assassination as the 50th anniversary of his death approaches.
Again, I do not know what happened with the chemicals in Syria. But I would suggest that no one should have a solid opinion without some awareness of history and, in the here and now, solid proof.
Related News Coverage
AP via Huffington Post, Obama: U.S. Concluded Syrian Government Behind Chemical Weapons Attack, Staff report, Aug. 28, 2013. President Barack Obama says the U.S. has concluded that the Syrian government carried out a large-scale chemical weapons attack against civilians last week. Obama says the U.S. has examined evidence and doesn't believe the opposition fighting the Syrian government possessed chemical weapons or the means to deliver them.
Zero Hedge, Meet Saudi Arabia's Bandar bin Sultan: The Puppetmaster Behind The Syrian War, Tyler Durden, Aug. 27, 2013. Yesterday the Telegraph's Evans-Pritchard dug up a note that we had posted almost a month ago, relating to the "secret" meeting between Saudi Arabia and Russia. Saudi's influential intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan met with Putin and regaled him with gifts, including a multi-billion arms deal and a promise that Saudi is "ready to help Moscow play a bigger role in the Middle East at a time when the United States is disengaging from the region," if only Putin would agree to give up his alliance with Syria's al-Assad. What was not emphasized by the Telegraph is that Putin laughed at the proposal and brushed aside the Saudi desperation by simply saying "nyet." However, what neither the Telegraph, nor we three weeks ago, picked up on, is what happened after Putin put Syria in its place. We now know, and it's a doozy.
FireDogLake, Obama Deciding What Size Explosion Bouquet Will Send Just the Right Message, Jon Walker, Aug. 28, 2013. The Obama administration is trying to decide on a military strike in Syria that will make this administration look just tough enough according to the Los Angeles Times. One U.S. official who has been briefed on the options on Syria said he believed the White House would seek a level of intensity “just muscular enough not to get mocked” but not so devastating that it would prompt a response from Syrian allies Iran and Russia. “They are looking at what is just enough to mean something, just enough to be more than symbolic,” he said. I have noticed a complete lack of goals in the discussion of possible military action in Syria. The plan does not seem to be destroy Assad’s chemical weapons stockpile, kill him, or cripple his military capacity. It is not clear what the mission entails nor is it clear the the number of resources that will be necessary to complete the mission. Instead the administration seems to be acting like a man at a flower shop before a third date, trying to decide how many bombs, drones, and cruise missiles to include in our explosion bouquet to let Assad know we are interested without appearing too eager. It is like trying to find a medium between carnations and a dozen red roses.
Institute of Political Economy, Paul Craig Roberts on Syria, Paul Craig Roberts, Aug. 28, 2013. Have you lost patience, as I have, with the pretense that a US/UK military attack on Syria is a response to Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons? If only one journalist on live camera would ask one of the many liars–Obama, Cameron, Hague, Tony Blair–this question: “Why are you lying to us?” If only there were a Helen Thomas somewhere in the media! Alas! The media consists only of pimps and whores for governments. The US and UK governments have made it completely clear that Assad has not used chemical weapons. If Assad had used chemical weapons, Washington would wait for the report of the UN chemical weapons inspectors who are in Iraq conducting the investigation. The UN Secretary General says that the facts should first be established before starting a war, but Washington knows that the facts will prove that the US and UK governments are liars. Washington is desperate to attack before experts reveal the facts. If the facts supported Obama and Cameron, the two warmongers would have a good chance of obtaining a UN resolution in support of their attack on Syria. But Washington and London know that they have based everything on brazen lies. The point that everyone misses, including the UN Secretary General and the Russian media, is that whether Assad used chemical weapons or not, it is still a war crime for the US and UK to commit naked aggression against Syria. The Syrian government is confronted with an invasion from outside forces, most likely recruited and most definitely encouraged and equipped by the US. What right does Washington and London have to decide what weapons Assad can use to resist an invasion? Who gave Washington the right to use nuclear weapons on Japan, to use depleted uranium and white phosphorus in its half dozen wars against Muslim peoples?
Wall Street Journal, A Veteran Saudi Power Player Works To Build Support to Topple Assad, Adam Entous, Nour Malas and Margaret Coker, Aug. 26, 2013. Prince Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud maneuvers behind the scenes to defeat the Syrian regime and its Iranian and Hezbollah allies. Officials inside the Central Intelligence Agency knew that Saudi Arabia was serious about toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad when the Saudi king named Prince Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud to lead the effort. They believed that Prince Bandar, a veteran of the diplomatic intrigues of Washington and the Arab world, could deliver what the CIA couldn't: planeloads of money and arms, and, as one U.S. diplomat put it, wasta, Arabic for under-the-table clout. Prince Bandar—for two decades one of the most influential deal makers in Washington as Saudi ambassador but who had largely disappeared from public view—is now reprising his role as a geopolitical operator. This time it is to advance the Saudi kingdom's top foreign-policy goal, defeating Syrian President Assad and his Iranian and Hezbollah allies.
Telegraph, Saudis offer Russia secret oil deal if it drops Syria, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Aug. 26, 2013. Saudi Arabia has secretly offered Russia a sweeping deal to control the global oil market and safeguard Russia’s gas contracts, if the Kremlin backs away from the Assad regime in Syria. The revelations come amid high tension in the Middle East, with US, British, and French warship poised for missile strikes in Syria. Iran has threatened to retaliate. The strategic jitters pushed Brent crude prices to a five-month high of $112 a barrel. “We are only one incident away from a serious oil spike. The market is a lot tighter than people think,” said Chris Skrebowski, editor of Petroleum Review. Leaked transcripts of a closed-door meeting between Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan shed an extraordinary light on the hard-nosed Realpolitik of the two sides.
Time, Australians Are Joining Syria’s Rebels in Surprising Numbers, Ian Lloyd Neubauer, July 16, 2013. As many as 6,000 foreign fighters from nearly 50 nations have now joined the brutal 2½-year civil war to unseat President Bashar Assad of Syria. The vast majority are veterans from the the Arab Springs of Libya, Tunisia and Egypt. Islamist volunteers from Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey and a few former Soviet republics bolster their ranks. And then there are the Aussies. Surprising estimates suggest that Australians now make up the largest contingent from any developed nation in the Syrian rebel forces. There are around 120 French fighters in Syria, about 100 Britons and a handful of Americans — but there are at least 200 Australians, according to a public statement made by David Irvine, director general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO). The total may appear small, but it is growing rapidly, having doubled since the end of last year — and when looked at as a proportion of the Muslim population of Australia, the figure is startling.
Washington Post, U.S. says it has proof of chemical attack in Syria, Karen DeYoung and Anne Gearan, Aug. 27, 2013. U.S. intelligence has established a timeline of last week’s attack, officials say, and the Obama administration is planning to release evidence that points a finger at Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.
Washington Post, Imminent strike could draw U.S. into Syria’s civil war, Ernesto Londoño and Ed O’Keefe, Aug. 27, 2013. Historical parallels for retaliatory interventions feature unintended consequences and no success stories.
Washington Post, Russia says Western attack on Syria would be ‘catastrophic,’ Will Englund, Aug. 26, 2013. A Western military attack on Syria would only create more problems in the region, lead to more bloodshed and result in the same sort of “catastrophe” as previous such interventions in Iraq and Libya, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said Monday.
Washington Post, Britain, France weigh joining U.S. in possible strikes against Syria, Anthony Faiola and Loveday Morris, Aug. 27, 2013.
Washington Post, Where probable strike targets are, Staff report, Aug. 27, 2013.
Washington Post, Britain to offer U.N. resolution on Syria, Aug. 27, 2013.
Washington Post, U.N. chief pleads for diplomacy, Aug. 27, 2013.
Washington Post, Britain to offer U.N. resolution on Syria, Aug. 27, 2013.
Washington Post, U.N. chief pleads for diplomacy, Aug. 27, 2013.
BBC, US ready to launch Syria strike, says Chuck Hagel, Staff report, Aug. 27, 2013. Video American forces are "ready" to launch strikes on Syria if President Barack Obama chooses to order an attack, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says. "We have moved assets in place to be able to fulfill and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take," Hagel told the BBC. US Secretary of State John Kerry has said there is "undeniable" proof that Syria used chemical weapons.
Washington Post, New poll: Syria intervention even less popular than Congress, Max Fisher, Aug. 26, 2013. A new Reuters/Ipsos poll has finally found something that Americans like even less than Congress: the possibility of U.S. military intervention in Syria. Only 9 percent of respondents said that the Obama administration should intervene militarily in Syria; a RealClearPolitics poll average finds Congress has a 15 percent approval rating, making the country’s most hated political body almost twice as popular. The Reuters/Ipsos poll was taken Aug.19-23, the very same week that horrific reports emerged strongly suggesting that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad has used chemical weapons against his own people, potentially killing hundreds or even thousands of civilians.
FireDogLake, UN Envoy Waffles On Chemical Weapons Use In Syria, DSWright, Aug. 28, 2013. As US forces prepare a punitive strike on the Assad regime over alleged chemical weapons use, the United Nations envoy refused to state whether sarin gas was used. Instead the UN envoy merely stated some chemical “substance” was involved. Evidence suggests that some kind of chemical “substance” was used in Syria that may have killed more than 1,000 people, but any military strike in response must first gain U.N. Security Council approval, the U.N.’s special envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi said Wednesday. Even the people on the ground don’t know let alone pontificating politicians in Washington. Of course, Syria is not a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention. Even if the Assad regime did use prohibited weapons under the convention like sarin they would not be breaking international law. While that fact gives the Assad regime no moral immunity it would be another complicating factor in getting a UN resolution to authorize military force.
FireDogLake, Kerry Steps up Rhetoric on Syria, Likely Indicating Military Action, Jon Walker, Aug. 26, 2013. The overwhelming impression from Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent speech sounds like we got ourselves another war in the Middle East. Kerry used the most forceful and direct rhetoric to date from the administration, leaving little doubt that military action in Syria will soon be taken. The administration now believes the Assad regime has used chemical weapons, crossing President Obama’s red line. Kerry said multiple sources of information “strongly indicate” that chemical weapons have been used. Kerry, right, also made it clear that the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated. He claimed that all peoples “must stand up to assure that there is accountability for the use of chemical weapons so it never happens again.” Assad, left, used chemical weapons and the Obama administration believes that people must be held accountable. While Kerry did not explicitly say the United States will take military action, he walked right up to that line leaving that as the only logical conclusion from his statement. It sounds like official reason the United States is about to get involved in a civil war on the other side of the world is to the send the message that killing people with fast moving pieces of metal is acceptable but killing people with chemicals is not.
Institute for Political Economy via OpEd News, Syria: Another Western War Crime In The Making, Paul Craig Roberts, Aug. 26, 2013. Obama drew a red line, saying that the use of chemical weapons by the Syrians was such a great crime that the West would be obliged to attack Syria. Washington's UK puppets, William Hague, left, and David Cameron, have just repeated this nonsensical claim. The final step in the frame-up was to orchestrate a chemical incident and blame the Syrian government.
Huffington Post, President Obama: Don't Strike Syria Without Congressional Approval, Robert Naiman, Aug. 27, 2013. If President Obama can get us into war in Syria without prior Congressional approval, it will set a terrible precedent: A future president could get us more easily into war in Iran without prior Congressional approval. On Sunday, Republican Sen. Bob Corker and Rep. Eliot Engel -- a Democrat who voted for the Iraq war -- told Fox News that President Obama should strike Syria first and get congressional approval afterwards. That's not how the U.S. Constitution says it should go. That's not how the War Powers Resolution (which, despite the name "resolution," is binding U.S. law) says it should go. The Constitution and the War Powers Resolution say that absent an attack on the United States, Congress must approve military action before it takes place. There is a common misconception about the War Powers Resolution that it allows the president to do whatever he or she wants for 60 days. This confuses one provision of the War Powers Resolution with the whole.
Online Asia Times, Obama set for holy Tomahawk war, Pepe Escobar, Aug. 27, 2013. The ''responsibility to protect'' (R2P) doctrine invoked to legitimize the 2011 war on Libya has just transmogrified into ''responsibility to attack'' (R2A) Syria. Just because the Obama administration says so. On Sunday, the White House said it had ''very little doubt'' that the Bashar al-Assad government used chemical weapons against its own citizens. On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry ramped it up to ''undeniable'' and accused Assad of ''moral obscenity." So when the US bombed Fallujah with white phosphorus in late 2004 it was just taking the moral high ground. And when the US helped Saddam Hussein to gas Iranians in 1988 it was also taking the moral high ground. The Obama administration has ruled that Assad allowed UN chemical weapons inspectors into Syria, and to celebrate their arrival unleashed a chemical weapons attack mostly against women and children only 15 kilometers away from the inspectors' hotel. If you don't believe it, you subscribe to a conspiracy theory. Evidence? Who cares about evidence? Assad's offer of access for the inspectors came ''too late.'' As far as the Obama administration and UK Prime Minister David ''of Arabia'' Cameron are concerned -- supported by a barrage of corporate media missiles -- that's irrelevant; Obama's ''red line'' has been crossed by Assad, period. Washington and London are in no-holds-barred mode to dismiss any facts contradicting the decision. Newspeak -- of the R2A kind -- rules. If this all looks like Iraq 2.0 that's because it is.
Larouche Pac.org, How Saudis Are Working Obama Over To Attack Syria, Staff report, Aug. 27, 2013. An AP article carried by the Wall Street Journal on Aug. 26 shows the role of Saudi intelligence chief Bandar bin-Sultan in leading the Obama administration, with the help of some of U.S. legislators, to attack Syria and remove Bashar al-Assad. Bandar did all that because "he could deliver what the CIA couldn't: planeloads of money and arms, and, as one U.S. diplomat put it, wasta, Arabic for "under-the-table clout." It is evident that the plan was put into motion months ago when Bandar began "jetting from covert command centers near the Syrian front lines to the Élysée Palace in Paris and the Kremlin in Moscow, seeking to undermine the Assad regime," Arab, American, and European officials told the authors. The target of Bandar was the Damascus suburbs as part of the "southern strategy" of the Saudis for strengthening the rebels in that area where the chemical weapons have been allegedly used recently. Bandar, who was involved in the 1980s Contra operation— drugs for arms—does not visit Washington, but brings in influential U.S. legislators to Turkey and Saudi Arabia to make his case. It is his wasta, again. He is the closest Saudi confidant of the new CIA chief, John Brennan, who has been in periodic contact by phone with Prince Bandar, officials told the authors. Bandar found early support from Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. He set up a rare one-on-one meeting for one of them, then-Sen. Ben Nelson (D., Neb.), with King Abdullah in Riyadh. Sen. Nelson said he told the king that if regional powers pulled together with a common strategy, it would be easier for the U.S. to become a partner.
New York Times, A Sharp Shift in Tone on Syria From the White House, Scott Shane and Ben Hubbard, Aug. 25, 2013. Moving a step closer to possible American military action in Syria, a senior Obama administration official said Sunday that there was “very little doubt” that President Bashar al-Assad’s military forces had used chemical weapons against civilians last week and that a Syrian promise to allow United Nations inspectors access to the site was “too late to be credible.” The statement, released Sunday morning on the condition that the official not be named, reflected a tougher tone after President Obama’s meeting at the White House on Saturday with his national security team, during which advisers discussed options for military action. While officials said the United States would still hold consultations at the United Nations, they made it clear that the United Nations was not the only avenue for taking action against Syria.
InfoWars, Flashback: Hacked Emails Reveal ‘Washington-Approved’ Plan to Stage Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria, Paul Joseph Watson, Aug. 26, 2013 (republished from Jan. 28, 2013). Obama administration complicit in war crime? UPDATE: Britam has admitted that it was hacked but denied that the emails released by the hacker were genuine. Click here for a statement by a Britam spokesman. Alleged hacked emails from defense contractor Britam reveal a plan “approved by Washington” and funded by Qatar to stage a chemical weapons attack in Syria and blame it on the Assad regime, fulfilling what the Obama administration has made clear is a “red line” that would mandate US military intervention. The leaked emails, obtained by a hacker in Germany, feature an exchange (click here for screenshot) between Britam Defence’s Business Development Director David Goulding and the company’s founder Philip Doughty.
Reuters, NSA: Listening to everyone — except oversight, James Bamford, Aug. 27, 2013. For 35 years the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has been the judicial equivalent of a stellar black hole — everything goes in but nothing is allowed to escape. Last week, however, for the first time since its creation, the Obama administration declassified and made public large portions of an 85-page top-secret ruling by the court that had been the subject of a Freedom of Information lawsuit by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The surveillance court was created in 1978, designed to act as a safeguard to protect the public from the National Security Agency’s ever-expanding eavesdropping capabilities, and its long history of widespread illegal spying. These newly released documents, however, show a massive breakdown in the court’s oversight responsibilities — and an equally massive effort by the NSA to circumvent the law and secretly conduct widespread operations directed at Americans. In the 2011 ruling, the court’s then chief judge, John D. Bates, harshly admonished the agency for repeatedly misleading the court about its warrantless eavesdropping on tens of thousands of domestic email messages and Internet web searches for the previous three years. In his unusually harsh rebuke, Bates warned that the NSA’s operations had violated the Constitution and exemplified a pattern of misrepresentation to the court — what most people would call lies — by agency officials.