Wednesday, December 18, 2013

an awkward silence...,


medialens | 'All governments lie', the US journalist I.F. Stone once noted, with Iraq the most blatant example in modern times. But Syria is another recent criminal example of Stone's dictum.

An article in the current edition of London Review of Books by Seymour Hersh makes a strong case that US President Obama misled the world over the infamous chemical weapons attack near Damascus on August 21 this year. Hersh is the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who exposed the My Lai atrocity committed by American troops in Vietnam and the subsequent cover-up. He also helped bring to public attention the systematic brutality of US soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

After the nerve gas attack at Ghouta, Obama had unequivocally pinned the blame on Syrian President Assad, a propaganda claim that was fervently disseminated around the world by a compliant corporate news media. Following Obama's earlier warnings that any use of chemical weapons would cross a 'red line', he then declared on US television on September 10, 2013:

'Assad's government gassed to death over a thousand people ...We know the Assad regime was responsible ... And that is why, after careful deliberation, I determined that it is in the national security interests of the United States to respond to the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike.'

There was global public opposition to any attack on Syria. But war was only averted when the Americans agreed to a Russian proposal at the UN to dismantle Syria's capability for making chemical weapons.

Based on interviews with US intelligence and military insiders, Hersh now charges that Obama deceived the world in making a cynical case for war. The US president 'did not tell the whole story', says the journalist:

'In some instances, he omitted important intelligence, and in others he presented assumptions as facts. Most significant, he failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country's civil war with access to sarin, the nerve agent that a UN study concluded – without assessing responsibility – had been used in the rocket attack.'

Obama did not reveal that American intelligence agencies knew that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had the capability to manufacture considerable quantities of sarin. When the attack on Ghouta took place, 'al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.' Indeed, the 'cherry-picking was similar to the process used to justify the Iraq war.'

Hersh notes that when he interviewed intelligence and military personnel:

'I found intense concern, and on occasion anger, over what was repeatedly seen as the deliberate manipulation of intelligence. One high-level intelligence officer, in an email to a colleague, called the administration's assurances of Assad's responsibility a "ruse".'