Should Syrians Feel Safer Because the Left Hears Echoes of Iraq?

by Clay Claiborne on December 14, 2012

 

 

In the Village of Now there once was a young boy named Jimmy that thought it was fun and games to run out of the woods crying “wolf,” so later, when Johnny came running out of the woods with a nasty bite on his thigh and blood streaming down his leg, crying “wolf,” many on the Left said “remember Jimmy? ha ha!”

Not only did they refuse Johnny any first aid, they completely ignored his wounds in their efforts to imply he was lying about the wolf.

This is the position being taken by many on the Left today when they imply that concerns expressed by Obama and others that Bashar al-Assad may use chemical weapons against his opposition in Syria are echoes of the false charges made by the Bush and Blair governments against Saddam Hussein in Iraq a decade ago. They ignore the inconvenient fact that Assad has already killed tens of thousands of Syrians in the past two years and is currently killing hundreds everyday. They don’t catalog the weapons he is already using to slaughter Syrian civilians, including artillery barrages, sniper attacks, shahiba, cluster bombs with napalm-like filler, barrels filled with explosives, white phosphorus, incendiaries, and helicopter gunships because acknowledging any of this undermines their thesis that it is all a Western excuse for intervention and there is no real danger of Assad slaughtering even more Syrians with chemical weapons.

In short, for their claims to even past the smell test, they have to ignore the rotting bodies in the streets of Aleppo and Damascus, ignore the reality that Assad is already killing civilians, it would seem, by any means possible. If there is any doubt as to whether on not Assad has or will use chemical weapons, they insist that the benefit of the doubt be given to Assad and not the people he is murdering.

Yes, we know they threw us a Curveball on the question of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq. Yes, we know that claim was completely fabricated. Does that mean that every such claim is a false claim made for nefarious purposes? Maybe they’re just thinking about how they will look if they don’t say anything and such an attack does come. Nobody is saying they will definitely take military action if Assad does use chemical weapons.

The claim that we were in imminent danger from Hussein’s WMD was just a phony excuse for the invasion of Iraq. The West has a history of making up causes for war out of whole cloth. I document in Vietnam: American Holocaust how the Gulf of Tonkin Incident that was used to justify the sending of a half million U.S. soldiers to Vietnam and the slaughter, by the U.S., of at least three million Vietnamese, was fabricated by LBJ’s White House.

There are numerous other examples where a flimsy excuse is used as a “casus belli” by imperialists. This is one of the reasons why the Left position promoted, for example, by Democracy Now! in this headline, published on the website last week in response to the Syria chemical weapons talk, rings false:

Syria: West Using Chemical Weapons Pretext to Justify Invasion

On Tuesday, Amy Goodman had Charles Glass on Democracy Now! to expand on this theme:

It sounds to me pretty much like the propaganda that was used prior to the invasion of Iraq, where the chemical weapons were held up as an excuse to bring about Western intervention, ultimately, when it wasn’t true.

Of course, Democracy Now! is merely repeating here what has become a virtual mantra on the Left as to Obama and all’s warning to Assad not to use chemical weapons, but there are at least three things wrong with this proposition.

1) The unmentioned fact that Bashar al-Assad has obviously adopted a murderous policy of punishing the civilian population in opposition areas and causing massive civilian deaths with everything in his arsenal, including cluster bombs capable of being loaded with “napalm-like filler”, except for the chemical weapons that his government has acknowledged they possess. Civilian deaths are not “collateral damage” they themselves are a means to an end. Perhaps that is always the case. But today, in Syria, the world is tolerating it even when it is naked and open as never before.

2) Does the West really have “insufficient pretext” for intervention in Syria? 42,000 dead is insufficient pretext? Firing numerous times into Turkey, a NATO partner is insufficient pretext? Firing into Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, even Israel is insufficient pretext? Political violence and assassination in Lebanon is insufficient pretext? Half a million refugees forced to flee the war to neighboring countries is insufficient pretext? The use of cluster bombs and white phosphorus on civilians insufficient pretext? Crossing Obama’s “red-line” version 1.0 by moving chemical weapons, in fact, loading them into bombs, is insufficient pretext?

I could go on, but it is clear that if the West wanted to invade Syria, for once, they would not need to fabricate a pretext. If they wanted to rally public support for such an invasion, all they would have to do is run some of the stuff available on YouTube from Syria on the evening news. Which brings us to the third reason the Democracy Now! claim is ridiculous.

3) The West has no intention of putting any ground forces into Syria to overthrow Assad, although they may try to do so to “shape the outcome” after Assad’s forces have been defeated by the revolution.

It is not for the lack of a “pretext” that after 22 months of regime violence against the masses, there aren’t NATO boots on the ground or even NATO air cover over the neighborhoods. It is because from the beginning, the NATO members have been a closet opposition to the people’s “regime change” efforts in Syria. Their view has been “Better the Devil You Know.” They have wanted Assad to stay in power; now they see that is no longer possible. That is why they are at long last recognizing the Syrian opposition. Remember how Bush recognized the 2002 coup attempt against President Hugo Chavez the next day, even though they were out the following day?!

Besides as a Stratfor analyst put it in Global Intelligence Files obtained by WikiLeaks and released today in partnership with Wikileaks:

“They don’t have oil”

These documents reveal that almost from the very beginning of the Syrian uprising these private spooks had no illusions about Western military involvement on the side of the Syrian people. For example, over a year ago, on October 28, 2011, after eight more were Syrians were killed by the regime and protesters were calling for international protection, Stratfor analyst Bayless Parsley wrote:

A lot of people in Syria want for NATO to do what it did in Libya. Other protesters do not. The USG’s recent statement said it wouldn’t be intervening there a la Libya because the people didn’t want it, but we’ve seen plenty of other things from the USG that didn’t display any regard for what the Syrian protesters wanted from the West. It’s definitely worth being aware if the calls from within Syria for a foreign intervention begin to grow, but there is just no way this will happen.

Another Stratford analyst cataloged the reasons western military intervention was unlikely, in spite of Libya:

Any foreign intervention in Syria will have far wider implications than the one in Libya. For one thing, the Syrian military is far more capable than the Libyan one, and it has not splintered as yet like the Libyan one did before the intervention. [that was over a year ago - cjc] Second, the Arab street and the Arab league would be far more concerned about an intervention in Syria as that would remove a bastion of opposition toward the Izies. Third, the Syrian opposition against Assad is not as widespread as the one in Libya, and you may very well have around 50% of the Syrians still in favor of Assad. [that was then - cjc] Finally, Syria has weaponized chemical weapons.

To which Michael Wilson responded:

Anyways I’m not arguing there is about to be a military intervention. I agree with what you have written as that has been our assessment for months now. My point is merely that the US stated intention for not intervening is clearly belied by what the opposition want.

Here too, many on the Left also claimed that the protesters in Syria were demanding no international intervention when they clearly were as reported here, here and here. Reuters reported that same day:

“God, Syria, We want a no-fly zone over it,” shouted protesters in the Bab Tadmur neighbourhood of Homs.

“A no-fly zone is a legitimate demand for Homs,” read banners carried by protesters in the Khalidya neighborhood.

That was 14 months and tens of thousands of lives ago. The world has in all this time denied them what they rightfully demanded and the Left has been in the forefront of that denial.

As with the West’s real policy of giving Assad the time and space to crush the rebellion by any means short of “a whole bunch of chemical weapons” the whole “Hands off Syria” crowd has been providing left cover for what the imperialists had every intention of doing without their advice.

No wonder they have been so successful in seeing their non-interventionist policy prevail. The U.S. State Department laid out its non-interventionist policy over 14 months ago, and misrepresented the demands of the Syrian protesters while doing it:

MS. NULAND: I think our position on this hasn’t changed. As we have said, the vast majority of the Syrian opposition continues to speak in favor of peaceful, nonviolent protest and against foreign intervention of any kind, and particularly foreign military intervention into the situation in Syria, and we respect that.

And some 30,000 Syrian deaths later, they still aren’t doing anything to stop the slaughter.

For almost two years now the Left has been demanding the imperialists provide no support for the Syrian Revolution, and in this they have been successful. Surprise, surprise!

Here is another popular example of this Left take on the Assad chemical weapons danger. This one is straight out of Moscow Central, i.e. Voice of Russia, but Google shows 3,050 results in a search for it. It has gotten very wide distribution in just a few days.

Syria: Iraq 2.0, another false-flag invasion, rated XXX
John Robles  Dec 7, 2012 23:59 Moscow Time
The US and NATO are set to invade Syria, something many of us have been warning about for a while now. It has been obvious that they have been looking for a pretext and that pretext has already been injected into the public debate. That pretext: chemical weapons, revealed by Fox News and the Director of the CIA, the same two sources that brought us all of the Iraq invasion lies.  More…

Again, this article doesn’t talk about what is going on in Syria now. The mass killing being done by the Assad regime becomes an inconvenient truth if you want to claim fears of his chemical weapons are unfounded or fabricated.

Said to be the same street, after and before Assad’s attacks
We are told to be sure that a regime that is doing this to its country would never be crazy enough to use chemical weapons.

For an example of how far these apologists are willing to go in giving Bashar al-Assad the benefit of the doubt, I give you Greg Thielmann, a senior fellow at the Arms Control Association in Washington, December 7, 2012:

“Even if we could see them being filled, how do we know how they intend to use them?” Thielmann added. “There’s no threat made by Assad of using them, and we’ve made our threats to a sufficient level that he could expect something pretty nasty if he did.”

Assad is in the process of using almost everything he has to kill his people and the more recent use of improvised barrel bombs and naval mines against land targets strongly indicate that he may be running out of deadly agents. This Thielmann guy, who obviously is not in Syria, is here to smugly tell us “there is no threat” that Assad will use chemical weapons. Never mind that Obama has already “made our threats” as to the movement of chemical weapons being a red-line, and Assad has already called our bluff on that score.

I think Assad is beginning to “expect something pretty nasty” whether he uses his chemical weapons or not so I don’t think we can rely on Obama’s threats to stop him.

I think it is high time the Left stop indulging its cynical fantasies and stand with the people of Syria.

WikiLeaks releases new Stratfor Files about Syrian chemical weapons
For a real world analysis of issues surrounding Syria’s chemical weapons we now have a very interesting report acquired by WikiLeaks from the Stratfor Global Intelligence files. It is two years old, dated December 29, 2010 and so before the Arab Spring that the question of Syrian chemical weapons against Syrians wasn’t on their radar.

The sources are described as:

Lebanese military intel source (who has reported reliably on HZ in the past) and Syrian political advisor to Bashar al Assad (former advisor to Hafiz); at the end there is also a note from an Iranian diplomatic source in Lebanon

And source reliability is rated:

B for the first, C for the second, D for the 3rd

This excerpt is from the body:

Hizbullah has not mounted chemical weapons on any of its missiles. All HZ missiles are equipped with traditional warheads. The Iranians supplied HZ with limited quantities of chemicals for use to slow down an Israeli ground offensive. The Syrians insisted that the chemicals go to southern Lebanon, especially to the South Litani area. The Syrians ensured that they would never allow HZ to threaten Israel with chemical warheads on the Syrian-manufactured M-600 (Fateh-110) it supplied HZ with. Syria knows that Israel cannot tolerate such a missile capability for HZ. HZ has stored the chemicals in a variety of locations in southern Lebanon. The July 14, 2009 mysterious explosion in Khirbet Silim in the South Litani area destroyed a chemical weapons depot. HZ has protective gear for chemicals. This further points to the fact that HZ will only use the chemicals it has in tunnel warfare or to slow down the IDF advance. Israel is not believed to have stockpiles of chemical weapons.There are no chemicals mounted on HZ long range missiles. The Syrians believe next war will involve them as well and they believe a determined HZ resistance in the south will slow down the thrust of the IDF advance in Syria’s flat terrain between the Golan ceasefire line and the outskirts of Damascus. The Syrians will not be using chemicals against advancing Israeli troops. Although the Syrians have their own stockpiles of chemicals mounted on their M-600 missiles, it is most unlikely that they will ever consider using them. It is known to everybody in the region that their use in the form of missile launches will trigger an intolerable response from Israel.

HZ will use its chemicals to slow down the IDF ground advance; chemical canisters will be used locally and never mounted on missiles. Should war break out, the IDF will launch massive air raids and landings by special forces to destroy HZ missile sites, which are equipped with traditional explosives up to 500 kgs on the M-600s. HZ will unleash what remains of its missiles against Israel as soon as the IAF offensive gets underway. HZ has plans for sending guerrilla squads to penetrate into northern Israel.

Yes, Iranian experts control HZ arsenal of chemicals and most likely it will be IRGC troops who will launch them at advancing Israeli troops. By the way, HZ arsenal of chemicals is not significant as it does not exceed 300 canisters.

Iranian Diplomat: says Iran will certainly not invite an Israeli nuclear by mounting chemicals on HZ missiles. He predicts next war to include Syria as well. He thinks the war will lead to the signing of peace treaties between Syria/israel and Lebanon/Israel. He thinks Syria, Lebanon and Jordan will become a buffer zone between Israel and Iranian sphere of influence in Iraq and the Gulf. Iran will not go to war against Israel over a regional war between Syria/HZ on the one hand and Israel on the other.

From this report you can also get a clue as to why the big powers might want to keep Bashar al-Assad around, and not just Russia and China, but also the U.S., U.K., E.U. and even Israel. In spite of his “anti-imperialist” facade, Assad was somebody they could deal with. He bought a certain kind of brutal stability to the region. He might use Hamas and Hezbullah as bargaining chips but he could be depended upon to keep the Palestinians, Lebanese, and his own people in check.

The Left can go on forever looking for “regime change” plots behind the Arab uprising, but the movement to “rock this boat” did not come from the West, it came from the people of Syria.

When Israel attacked Syria in 2007
Unlike Israel’s nuclear arsenal, Syria’s pursuit of WMD has long been an issue for the West. In September 2007, Israel was reported to have targeted what was widely reported to be a nuclear weapons facility in Syria. Stratfor Global Intelligence files obtained by Wikileaks and released today, give us some new insights into that history. At least one Stratfor analyst doubted that it was a nuclear facility that was struck. He thought it probably was a chemical plant or maybe missiles. From an email dated September 21, 2007:

If the US thought North Korea was unloading nuclear technology in Syria, there is no way Bush would decide not to act so it didn’t undermine the talks with DPRK. A North Korean nuclear program is already a done deal. A syrian one is not.Maybe it was a chem weapons plant (though it is intreesting how little play the reports of a chem weapons accident from July got, even though it was supposidly them loading the chem warheads onto the medium-range missiles).

Missiles possibly (remember, it was supposidly a North Korean cement ship unloading – and it was a cement ship that was carrying missile parts to Yemen a few years ago) – but then why have to hit it right away?

I am thinking more and more that the whole North Korea angle is a red herring, designed to misdirect so no one can figure out what really happened.

And another Stratfor email a few days latter about a second weapons related explosion in Syria gives us a window into the conspiratorial mind of the spook:

There was a recent report of an explosion in Syria where Syrian and Iranian chemical weapons experts were killed. Is there any possibility that the Iranians or Syrians believe that Israel or US Special Forces were involved in that explosion, as well? Because if there is, then the game may be about the Syrians and Iranians trying to figure out where the mole is or where their network has been penetrated. With two successful weapons related operations occurring in quick succession inside Syria, one which could be tied to NK, but might not be … and the other which could have been an accident, but might not be; you can see how one in Iran might presume that their network supporting operations in Syria had been penetrated … or compromised in some way.It seems to me that grayness in these matters often has a value … and the US and Israel may be hoping to exploit it.

One other thought … is there any chance all this could be the real root cause behind the Iranian border closing? And if so, what exactly are the Iranians cooking up in Syria? Was all this destined for Lebanon … or for Baghdad … or for somewhere else? Do we, in fact, have their plans … or have we just been lucky? To take it a step further, the Iranians could be shutting down the system in order to check it for leaks and gaps, slowing progress toward their goal – and putting forces in Iran and Syria that are friendly to the US and/or Israel at great risk.

Just wondering

This is how the international game has been played through the cold war and long before. The masses played no part in their plans. The masses didn’t even fit into their equations. The Arab Spring has changed all that.

More analysis from The North Star:

Note: hyperlinks to Wikileaks files are not yet operative but will soon be. Their publishing schedule and ours are not in-synch.

  • Ben Campbell

    While much of the Left’s stance has been simplistic, unhelpful, and conspiratorial, I cannot agree with Clay’s assertion here that NATO and Israeli policy has been dictated by “Better the Devil You Know.” I think that is profoundly wrong, and believe that US policy is better described as cautious support for the opposition from afar. Israel’s elite likely are also hopeful for the revolution, but profoundly worried about possible outcomes, especially the fate of Assad’s chemical weapons stores, and the possibility of two Muslim Brotherhood-led states on their doorsteps (Egypt and Syria). Nevertheless, the possibility of dealing Iran and Hezbollah a strong blow by the removal of Assad is the dominant incentive for Israel here. At present, their dominant concern is the fate of Assad’s actually existing WMD. However, at present they has very little direct influence on the course of events in Syria, exerting their influence mainly through its allies in NATO.

    • http://www.dailykos.com/blog/Clay%20Claiborne/ Clay Claiborne (@clayclai)

      I back up my finding that neither Israel nor the United States has been in favor of regime change in Syria with a lot of original research, especially in Barack Obama’s Courtship of Bashar al-Assad

      For example this is a just a tidbit form the GI Files:

      Syria offering intel cooperation on AQ, Iran, HZ
      Syria facilitating March 14 win in Lebanon
      Saudi pouring money into Syrian coffers
      US and Saudi rewarding Syria with diplomatic recognition (notice how quiet everyone is about Lebanon)
      Signs that Syria is moving forward — big Syrian military/intel reshuffles; Iran threatening to destabilize the Syrian regime; HZ anxiety
      this is all covered in our analysis

      There is nothing backing up your opinion. Do you equate “cautious support for the opposition from afar” with a policy of “regime change?”

      Do you really believe “Israel’s elite likely are also hopeful for the revolution” What do you think they are hoping for would be better than Assad, a truly democratic revolution that would almost certainly demand the return of the Golan Heights and give real support, not rein in, the Palestinians? Or an Islamic victory that would do pretty much the same thing?

      They both need a gangster in control in Damascus, someone they can deal with, Assad has been very reasonable in recent years and they both know their chances of getting someone better in the current Arab Spring climate are slim and none.

      The Syrian people have been behind “regime change” in Syria. NATO and Israel have no part in those plans.

      • Ben Campbell

        There is “nothing backing up my opinion”? Except perhaps for just about all published work from mainstream foreign policy think tanks. Go take a look at the Council on Foreign Relations, Clay, and show me documentation for how the mainstream American foreign policy elite support Assad. They don’t, unless you think all their published work is for show, and that the real truth will be revealed by digging through wikileaks files and finding a few Stratfor emails out of tens of thousands that paint American/Israeli opinions in a certain light. This is the same conspiratorial mindset as those who paint the FSA as covert CIA ‘contras’. Neither view is correct.

        Both the Americans and Israelis have serious concerns about the revolution – that should not be confused with support for Assad, “the Devil they know”. Take a look at Brookings; is this analysis incorrect? How? http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Research/Files/Papers/2012/11/israel%20syria%20rabinovich/Rabinovich%20web%20final.pdf

        • http://www.dailykos.com/blog/Clay%20Claiborne/ Clay Claiborne (@clayclai)

          This Brooking’s piece is from last month, so I doubt they were crazy enough to think keeping the Assad regime was still an option.

          And yes, I think most publications by “the mainstream American foreign policy elite” are for show. For example, most will claim they are promoting democratic values and other altruistic themes and its all BS.

          Of course, they have all claimed to be against various dictators, including Assad, but how many have they acted to overthrow.

          What have they done to help Assad’s opposition? Why have they withheld weapons from Assad’s opposition?

          I am much more interested in what they do than what they say.

    • http://www.dailykos.com/blog/Clay%20Claiborne/ Clay Claiborne (@clayclai)

      On 18 May 2011 as the rebellion was entering it’s third month, France24 wrote:

      The Obama administration had pinned hopes on Assad, seen until recent months as a pragmatist and potential reformer who could buck Iranian influence and help broker an eventual Arab peace deal with Israel.

      But U.S. officials said Assada**s increasingly brutal crackdown left them little choice but to abandon the effort to woo Assad, and to stop exempting him from the same sort of sanctions already applied to Libyaa**s Muammar Gaddafi.

      That is one way Syria is not like Libya. They really haven’t wanted to see the king of Syria go.

      According the NOW Lebanon, Obama didn’t decide that it was essential to save the Assad regime until late August 2011, after the revolution had been going for five months:

      The White House did not say whether they had discussed the brutal crackdown on protesters by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at the head of a regime that has provided years of uneasy stability on Israeli’s northeastern border.

      Last week, the United States signaled it no longer subscribed to the idea that Assad’s survival was necessary for geopolitical stability, saying he had the region on a “very dangerous path.”

      And in the last week of February 2011 as Arab Spring protests were breaking out in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and Syria, this is how the US was plotting “regime change”:

      U.S. Senator John Kerry and Syrian President Bashar Assad reportedly began drafting an unofficial position paper that would define the principles of negotiations with Israel.

      U.S. Senator John Kerry, the chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee and a close associate of U.S. President Barack Obama, has been working together with Syrian President Bashar Assad over the last few months on a plan to restart negotiations between Syria and Israel.

      The Stratfor Analysis emails are very interesting, not because they are always right, but because they are paid for being right and for delivering the unvarnished truth to this clients, unlike media people. This is what one had to say about the seeming contradiction in US “regime change” policy. I think the note about Israel at the end is very telling.

      I’m aware the situation is very different. In Egypt, the U.S. could afford to abandon Mubarak and let the military keep running the show. US mil was maintaining channels of communication with their counterparts for much of the early days, and though there was a gap for a bit for a week or so after that, DC probably had a pretty high degree of confidence that the country was not going to descend into chaos if Mubarak were to be forced out by the deep state.

      In Syria, that is not the case. The sectarian nature of the country added to the fact that it’s not really isolated from its neighbors by large tracts of desert the way Egypt is, but rather, intertwined with Lebanon, Turkey and, to a lesser degree, Iraq makes the prospect of the Syrian regime collapsing much more dangerous than Mubarak being pushed out.

      I should have said “ironic” rather than “remarkable,” because the irony is that everyone thought the US viewed Mubarak as an ally and Bashar as an enemy. And this may have been true. But what I was pointing out is that this is not a good metric for gauging how DC will respond to unrest in a country that threatens to upend the leader.
      ….
      forgot to add Jordan in there as well and not to mention Israel actually quite likes Bashar being in power

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

      Blocking heavy weapons from the FSA’s hands as the CIA has can hardly be described as “cautious support.” Claiborne’s formulation is more correct, but there are many dimensions to U.S. scheming with regards to Syria which means that any snappy description will be less than adequate.

      My view is that U.S. policy has gone through two basic phases:

      1) Early in 2011, the U.S. did not call for Assad to go, therefore the U.S. line was, in effect, he must stay. That was their preferred outcome, their first choice.

      2) The bodies piled up and this became untenable, so in summer of 2011 Obama said he must go but Assad-ism (meaning the Syrian state machine) must stay. This was and is their fall back position.

      The U.S. continues to angle for some type of reconciliation/settlement between the regime and the foreign-based wing of the opposition which is most subject to Washington’s pressure. This is consistent with their goal of preserving as much of the status quo in Syria as possible.

      A policy of cautiously supporting the Syrian opposition would not involve starving them of the weapons they need and are begging for. Instead, the U.S. would be vetting and arming (non-Islamic) sections of the opposition to buy allegiance and work to create a relationship of military dependence to exert political leverage as Qatar and the Saudis are doing. As you say, their interests are not identical to those of the U.S., and that is what underpins the different tacks they’ve taken.

      Qatar and the Saudis don’t care much if the post Assad-order upsets the regional balance of power which favors Israel; what they care about is extending their influence in Syria (and curbing Iran’s) by creating a strong Sunni-based polity. The U.S. won’t go this route because Sunni extremists tend to also be anti-Israel, anti-West. So while U.S. policy appears to be nothing more than incoherent dithering, it is in fact the expression of trying to pursue goals that are incompatible/impossible in the current situation.

  • Arthur

    Agree with Ben re US and NATO.

    Israel clearly would rather the Assad regime continued but there is nothing much they can do about it (same was true re Iraq). Stratfor “analysis” are no more informative than other media or blogosphere speculation. Israeli hysteria about Iran is better understood as a manipulation of public opinion there to define their “existential enemy” as Iran rather than the Palestinians in view of the failure of the war for Greater Israel and need to avoid collapse in Zionist morale at eventually having to reach a compromise with Palestinians. (eg Latest attack on Gaza merely covered accepting failure and end of the blockade of Gaza in the same way that Nixon’s Xmas bombing of Hanoi covered his cutting off funds from South Vietnam puppets until they signed the peace agreements – be loud and aggressive while retreating is a standard ploy).

    Its clear that public opinion in both US and Turkey is still isolationist. Most “opinion leaders” are not inclined towards intervention against atrocities. Certainly mobilization around atrocities will help but claims re WMDs have much more impact on “opinion leaders” as with Iraq.

    Real issue is interests. US foreign policy establishment still inclined towards seeing their interest as “stability” and hence maintaining the autocracies so plenty of articles can be found reflecting that “Devil we Know” position. But this blew up with 911 and actual US interest is to “drain the swamps” – the stagnant misery of the old order which breeds terrorism. Obama administration much less clear and resolute about that than Bush administration but actual interest is in ending these regimes, not maintaining them.

    More later.

    • Anthony Abdo

      From wikipedia….

      ‘During the 2006 Lebanon War, Syria threatened to enter the war on Hezbollah’s side, provided support to Hezbollah, and allowed Iran to ship supplies to Hezbollah through its territory. Later, Turkey organized peace talks between the two countries (Israel and Syria), but Syria later withdrew in response to the 2008-2009 Gaza War.’

      And now we come to Arthur’s dubious and unbacked assertion… ‘Israel clearly would rather the Assad regime continued but there is nothing much they can do about it…’

      So, Arthur, just how on earth did you reach your rather silly personal conclusion that Israel has now somehow become a NEW supporter of the Assad government, even though Assad is allied with Iran who Israel constantly threatens with war?

      • Arthur

        Nothing new about it. An important reason for the extremely stupid widespread Palestinian sympathy for Iraqi Baathists was their hatred for their opponents the Syrian Baathists who were much more involved in Palestinian affairs and actively masssacred them in Lebanon. eg At a Palestinian National Council meeting there was applause at news of Syrian jets being shot down over Lebanon even though they were shot down by Israelis.

        Nor much credible about Israel’s “constant” threats of war with Iran either (cf their supply of US military equipment for Iran to fight Iraq in the Contras affair). As I mentioned, it helps distract their own “opinion leaders” from obsessing about the failure of the war for Greater Israel. They are easily distracted – eg Hamas became an “Iranian proxy” in Israeli accounts because it suited them to present things that way despite it being completly incoherent.

  • Arthur

    Returning to Clay’s article:

    “The claim that we were in imminent danger from Hussein’s WMD was just a phony excuse for the invasion of Iraq. The West has a history of making up causes for war out of whole cloth. I document in Vietnam: American Holocaust how the Gulf of Tonkin Incident that was used to justify the sending of a half million U.S. soldiers to Vietnam and the slaughter, by the U.S., of at least three million Vietnamese, was fabricated by LBJ’s White House.”

    Certainly it was a phony excuse and the use of phony excuses is commonplace in decisions to go to war. But the Gulf of Tonkin pretext was not used to obscure the whole point of the war. US “opinion leaders” understood perfectly well that the war was aimed at preventing communist led national liberation movements from succeeding and that the US was in the Gulf of Tonkin for that purpose.

    With WMDs as an excuse the aim was to confuse and disorient the US foreign policy establishment itself. There is no way opinion leaders could have mobilized to obtain Congressional funding for the real war aim of reversing the whole thrust of US policy in previous decades by destabilizing the autocracies and unleashing democratic change.

    Even now, despite the calm acceptance of change in Tunisia and Egypt and active military intervention in Libya, support for military intervention on the side of revolution is a difficult poposition for any US administration to promote. It has been made harder by the conventional wisdom about how disasterous it was in Iraq.

    Its interesting that the same dilemma can be discerned in Clay’s article. Simultaneously arguing that Syrian WMDs should be taken seriously because the author does not want to undermine mobilization for intervention but accepting much the same analusis of Iraq as the opponents of intervention both in the pseudo-left and the US foreign policy establishment. Lets dissect some of the contradictions:

    “there are at least three things wrong with this proposition [opposing intervention in Syria as being similar to intervention in Iraq]:

    1) The unmentioned fact that Bashar al-Assad has obviously adopted a murderous policy of punishing the civilian population in opposition areas and causing massive civilian deaths with everything in his arsenal, including cluster bombs capable of being loaded with “napalm-like filler”, except for the chemical weapons that his government has acknowledged they possess. Civilian deaths are not “collateral damage” they themselves are a means to an end. Perhaps that is always the case. But today, in Syria, the world is tolerating it even when it is naked and open as never before.”

    The Iraqi regime did the same, but ALSO included chemical weapons attacks against Kurdish civilians. That was not the reason for the US invasion but it was a good reason for both Iraqis and anyone progressive to want that regime destroyed.

    “2) Does the West really have “insufficient pretext” for intervention in Syria? 42,000 dead is insufficient pretext? Firing numerous times into Turkey, a NATO partner is insufficient pretext? Firing into Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, even Israel is insufficient pretext? Political violence and assassination in Lebanon is insufficient pretext? Half a million refugees forced to flee the war to neighboring countries is insufficient pretext? The use of cluster bombs and white phosphorus on civilians insufficient pretext? Crossing Obama’s “red-line” version 1.0 by moving chemical weapons, in fact, loading them into bombs, is insufficient pretext?

    I could go on, but it is clear that if the West wanted to invade Syria, for once, they would not need to fabricate a pretext. If they wanted to rally public support for such an invasion, all they would have to do is run some of the stuff available on YouTube from Syria on the evening news. Which brings us to the third reason the Democracy Now! claim is ridiculous.”

    Again, it is simply absurd to contrast this situation with Iraq. Although 42,000 dead now exceeds the previous record set by Assad senior and the numbers killed in Israel’s invasion of Lebanon (with no US concern, let alone threats of intervention) it does not come anywhere near the numbers massacred in Baathist Iraq, nor the mass murder of Iraqi civilians by the Baathist and jihadi counter-revolution following free elections in Iraq. In Iraq’s case it went rather beyond “firing into” neighbors and included the actual annexation of Kuwait but the US merely removed Iraq from Kuwait while preferring the existing regime to “instability”.

    The problem was not a lack of “pretext” but a policy that preferred “stability”. When the policy changed (but the outlook of “opinion leaders” had not) a suitable pretext was found. Imagining that the mass murder of civilians by a regime would be a better pretext than WMDs shows a failure to grasp the mentality of US “opinion leaders”. What mattered was the right-wing opposition from the US foreign policy establishment, which could actually have blocked the war. Any left or liberal support for the war on progressive grounds would only have had a negative impact in strengthening conservative opposition.

    “3) The West has no intention of putting any ground forces into Syria to overthrow Assad, although they may try to do so to “shape the outcome” after Assad’s forces have been defeated by the revolution.

    It is not for the lack of a “pretext” that after 22 months of regime violence against the masses, there aren’t NATO boots on the ground or even NATO air cover over the neighborhoods. It is because from the beginning, the NATO members have been a closet opposition to the people’s “regime change” efforts in Syria. Their view has been “Better the Devil You Know.” They have wanted Assad to stay in power; now they see that is no longer possible.”

    No, it isn’t from a lack of pretext. But its a long jump from there to “closet opposition”. The US offered the Mubarek regime only the rather unhelpful advice not to massacre the Egyptian people (when its only hope of survival was to do so). A much simpler explanation for the inaction is that there was no danger of the regime successfully crushing the revolution as there was in Libya. Given the continuing mood about Iraq there is no need for elaborate theories to explain their reluctance to commit blood and treasure “merely” to save Syrian lives. Nor is there any reason to assume that they are not already mobilizing public opinion to do so.

    Just because the pseudos are instinctively wrong about practically everything does not mean that ostentatious remarks about WMDs are not intended to prepare public opinion for the possibility of intervening in Syria.

    • http://www.dailykos.com/blog/Clay%20Claiborne/ Clay Claiborne (@clayclai)

      Arthur, I’m confused. When you said:

      With WMDs as an excuse.

      Are you referring to the decade long campaign that began in 1991 after the 1st Gulf War demanding that Iraq give up its WMD, which it did early on, and nevertheless was pursued by 10 years of sanctions and finally used as an excuse for invasion?

      Or are you referring to the current charge that Assad may used WMD against Syrians? Or are you trying to conflate the two? Because in my mind they are very separated situations and claims with only “WMD” and other superficial connections to relate them.

      Arthur, I am arguing that Assad’s chemical weapons should be taken seriously because:

      1) There is no real doubt that he has them.
      a) Syrian gov’t spokesmen have said they have them.
      b) Syrian defectors said they have them.
      c) all intel organs say they have them.
      d) Therefore I believe they really have them, which I never did in Iraq
      2) Assad has adopted the policy of civilian mass murder as a strategy for winning.
      3) Assad is quickly becoming a cornered rat.

      You apparently think there is no danger and any such concern is bogus but you don’t present a case for that. But don’t you dare imply that I already “know” that my concerns are bogus but do not say that because “the author does not want to undermine mobilization for intervention.”

      Nor do I appreciate redefining what my three points were designed to prove before critiquing them. I defined “this proposition” as “Syria: West Using Chemical Weapons Pretext to Justify Invasion” not “opposing intervention in Syria as being similar to intervention in Iraq”

      The proposition I am saying is wrong doesn’t mention Iraq. It is you that insists of making these Iraq comparisons in a way not really relevant to my argument, but since you did:

      Wasn’t the chemical attack against the Kurds in ~1988? When you say “The Iraqi regime did the same” [as the Syrian regime] Was there an Arab Spring 1 that I missed? Were there comparable mass protests and and armed struggle fueled by defections from Hussein’s army? When was there a mass armed struggle with legs enough to have a real chance of overthrowing Hussein, because I don’t recall the Iraqi regime even facing the same conditions.

      I’ll skip over th other Iraqi stuff, that’s your thing.

      But finally:

      A much simpler explanation for the inaction is that there was no danger of the regime successfully crushing the revolution as there was in Libya.

      And you know that how?

      Of course hindsight is 20/20, but how could anybody know that Assad could not crush the revolution but Qaddafi could, unless it received outside aid?

      How do you know they wouldn’t still be slugging it out with Qaddafi now just like their brothers and sisters in Syria are doing with Assad instead of holding peaceful elections and going back to school if they had not received NATO air cover?

      • Aaron Aarons

        And leftists are supposed to celebrate peaceful bourgeois elections? Or maybe I missed something and these were actually elections for workers’ and peasants’ councils.

      • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

        “Was there an Arab Spring 1 that I missed? Were there comparable mass protests and and armed struggle fueled by defections from Hussein’s army? When was there a mass armed struggle with legs enough to have a real chance of overthrowing Hussein, because I don’t recall the Iraqi regime even facing the same conditions.”

        After Gulf War I there was an uprising in northern and southern Iraq in which Hussein lost control of 14 out of 18 provinces. Bush I called on the Iraqis to rise up and they did, and then he allowed Hussein to fly helicopters into the no-fly zones to crush the uprising, for which he was rightly and justly skewered by anti-war activists in the U.S. These days I guess they would applaud Bush I’s non-intervention and respect for “Iraqi self-determination.”

        My, how far the left has fallen.

        • http://www.dailykos.com/blog/Clay%20Claiborne/ Clay Claiborne (@clayclai)

          I know that history. That was in ~ 1991. Iraq has a long history of class struggle. The question is what compared to the Arab Spring was going on at the time of the US invasion of 2003 when the excuse of WMD was used?

        • Arthur

          Apologies for delay responding to Clay. I hope to have time tomorrow – comments below are not an adequate response.

          “When was there a mass armed struggle with legs enough to have a real chance of overthrowing Hussein, because I don’t recall the Iraqi regime even facing the same conditions.”

          After Gulf War I there was an uprising in northern and southern Iraq in which Hussein lost control of 14 out of 18 provinces. Bush I called on the Iraqis to rise up and they did, and then he allowed Hussein to fly helicopters into the no-fly zones to crush the uprising, for which he was rightly and justly skewered by anti-war activists in the U.S.”

          The second sentence above directly answers the first. Unfortunately they seem to often be stored in two separate mental compartments, one labelled “US invason of Iraq was counter-revolutionary” and the other labelled “US refusal to support revolution”. Even actually writing them out one after the other in the same comment does not seem to trigger an awareness that there is something to think about more carefully.

          Unfortunately the same blind spot led far wider circles than just the hard core pseudo-left to actively oppose the 2003 invasion with ludicrous demands to respect an Iraqi “self-determination” which could not possibly exist under a tyranny. Correcting that mistake won’t win you any friends among the pseudos. But by now you should have figured out that they are not desirable friends.

          PS of course it is true that there was no Arab spring at the time of the US invasion of Iraq. Nor could there be in Iraq after the earlier massacres, nor in Syria after the Baathist massacres there. In fact it is very hard to imagine either the Arab spring itself or the lack of US hostility to it without the preliminary of removing the worst autocracy in the region. In my view the Arab spring was the most important goal of the invasion and not a goal that COULD be presented to US “opinion leaders”. The complications in reversing policy in that way are well illustrated by the FACT that we still have extremely counter-revolutionary regimes like the Saudis who are inevitably targets of the Arab spring (and of US strategy to avoid future terrorist attacks) actually assisting the revolution in Syria (like French monarchy assisting US republic) while still suppressing Bahraini as well as Arabian people.

      • Arthur

        Sorry about the extended delay responding. I needed to spend many hours catching up on developments in Syria, including reviewing Clay’s recent Daily Kos postings and links both for info to be sure I understand where he’s coming from.

        Won’t attempt a full response but briefly for now:

        1. My understanding of the article is that it is responding to claims that Western warnings about regime use of WMDs are a sign of preparations to intervene in Syria similar to claims about WMDs being part of preparations to invade Iraq.

        2. My view is that they ARE part of preparations to intervene in Syria – and so is the increasing attention being drawn to the danger of Al Qaeda. On the latter, note that the UK Government aims to persuade the EU to start arming the revolution on the basis that refusing to do so is helping Al Qaeda get a foothold:

        http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9751487/David-Cameron-warns-of-strategic-imperative-to-arm-Syrian-rebels.html

        3. That does NOT mean that I think there is no risk of the regime using checmical weapons or that there is no serious problem from Al Qaeda. It simply means that I believe drawing attntion to these matters is part of preparations for intervention as the opponents of intervention claim (whereas my understanding of Clay’s position is that the West covertly supports Assad).

        4. I did think the arguments Charles Glass mentioned are reasonably plausible:

        “I think it’s pretty clear that the Syrians have never used chemical weapons, that there is no advantage to them to use chemical weapons. The areas where there is fighting are areas where people who support them are living, and their own soldiers would themselves be vulnerable to inhaling chemical gases. There is absolutely no advantage to the regime to do it…”

        However it does not follow that there is no risk of them doing it in desperation and the scope for perceiving advantages to using them is increasing as they withdraw from most of the country and especially if they try to retreat to an Alawite region around Lataika and can treat the rest of Syria as enemy territory.

        As for Al Qaeda I have no doubt at all tha the problem is real and is a strong motive to intervene.

        5. It a mistake to “skip over” the Iraq stuff. Having a faulty analysis of what Iraq was all about makes it very difficult to correctly analyse what’s going on now.

        6. It doesn’t require 2020 hindsight to understand that there was (and is) no prospect of Assad successfully crushing the Syrian revolution. Here’s a comment from Patrickm over a year ago expecting a “major war”:

        http://strangetimes.lastsuperpower.net/?p=2137#comment-11691

        7. Nor is there much controversy about the fact that Libya is completely dominated by coastal cities with nothing like the basis for a rural insurgency in Syria and that Gaddafi’s troops had already almost reached Benghazi when NATO intervened.

        8. Its also important to understand that intervening in Libya was quite straightforward as Libyan air defences were insignificant while the Syrian Air Defense is very real:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syrian_Air_Defense_Force

        (You ought to understand that if supplying manpads could make a huge diference to the regime’s ability to use air power against the revolution the fact that the regime has large numbers of SAMs makes a hunge difference to the ease with which NATO can use air power in support of the revolution).

        9. Explanations for Western inaction based on indifference to the suffering and unwillingness to spend blood and treasure are simpler and easyier to convince people about and mobilize them to change than claims that the West covertly supports Assad.

        • http://www.dailykos.com/blog/Clay%20Claiborne/ Clay Claiborne (@clayclai)

          So, how long have you been expecting NATO intervention in Syria? Why do you think they have waited so long? What signs do you see that they are actually planning an invasion?

          “I think it’s pretty clear that the Syrians have never used chemical weapons, that there is no advantage to them to use chemical weapons. The areas where there is fighting are areas where people who support them are living, and their own soldiers would themselves be vulnerable to inhaling chemical gases. There is absolutely no advantage to the regime to do it…”

          Charles Glass is full of shit. What he does here is paper over Assad’s current strategy of slaughtering Syrians in opposition areas to punish them. He isn’t using his soldiers in close combat, they would defect and there really aren’t many areas that support him. If you have read my recent stuff you know where to find the references already.

          Charles Glass wants us to think Assad is only fighting back, i.e. he us only using his weapons only in areas where “there is fighting” This is a lie in service of mass slaughter!

          His, and your, whole defense of Assad falls down when you realize he could very well use nerve gas where he is already using cluster bombs.

          • Arthur

            1. There is already significant NATO intervention in Syria. Turkey is openly allowing rebels to use its territory to wage war on the regime and assisting supplies of funds and munitions from the Gulf. These are acts of war which would result in an armed attack on Turkey by Syria if Syria was in any position to do it. The ostentatious demonstration of NATO support for Turkey with deployment of Patriot missile batteries and joint planning and liaison cells on the Syrian border is part of the reason the Syrian regime is unable to so respond.

            2. I expected much stronger NATO involvement by now, perhaps due to wishful thinking. I think they have waited so long because they are gutless wonders unwilling to spend blood and treasure “merely” to save Syrian lives. Because there was never any reason to expect the revolution to be successfully crushed they see no reason for urgency (unlike Libya). Another factor could be the lack of unified command and political leadership on the revolutionary side. I also expected that to develop much quicker, which again could be wishful thinking.

            3. I don’t see signs of imminent invasion yet but there are clear signs of a shift towards openly funding and supplying the rebels and direct relations (including funding) are being established with local revolutionary governments. Drawing public attention to WMDs and Al Qaeda are important signs. Its important to understand that “opinion leaders” in US, EU and Turkey are overwhelmingly hostile to “humanitarian intervention” and even arming the rebels. The sort of arguments that appeal to us have no impact on them. NATO. US and EU government are starting to use arguments that WOULD influence their “opinion leaders” to support stronger intervention.

            4. In the Rwanda Genocide some 500,000 or more were killed in 100 days using machetes:
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rwandan_Genocide

            The world did nothing. The subsequent Congo wars killed more than 6 million people and hardly entered public consciousness:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Congo_War

            In Indonesia larger numbers than in Syria were slaughtered in a shorter period in the anti-communist massacres:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indonesian_killings_of_1965%E2%80%931966

            Since the target was communists, that was with enthusiastic Western support.

            Its clear from the much smaller numbers kiled over a much longer time that the Assad regime’s weapons are indeed primarily being used in areas where there is fighting. The indiscriminate use of area denial weapons such as cluster munitions is a war crime but not an attempt at genocide.

            It is also clear that the Assad regime still has a mass base. It even still pays civil servants in areas it does not control. Using expressions such as “This is a lie in the service of mass slaughter” and “your whole defence of Assad falls down” is clear evidence that you are responding emotionally rather than carefully analysing the facts. That is understandable but counter productive.

  • Anthony Abdo

    The following video scene described by Patrick Cockburn at the ‘commondreams’ website reminds me more of the filming techniques of the Zetas in Mexico than it does Iraq even. Here is his description of the work of Syrian-Nato ‘revolutionaries’ so beloved here on North Star by our renegade cyber ‘marxist’ squadron.

    ‘It is one of the most horrifying videos of the war in Syria. It shows two men being beheaded by Syrian rebels, one of them by a child. He hacks with a machete at the neck of a middle-aged man who has been forced to lie in the street with his head on a concrete block. At the end of the film, a soldier, apparently from the Free Syrian Army, holds up the severed heads by their hair in triumph… …The film is being widely watched on YouTube by Syrians, reinforcing their fears that Syria is imitating Iraq’s descent into murderous warfare in the years after the US invasion in 2003. ‘

    Of course, for Clay Claiborne, leading political leader here on website North Star, this is all just more of the ‘pseudo-left’s ‘ ‘crying “wolf””…. Surely just more ‘pseudo-left’ pretense by Patrick Cockburn. It is the evil Assad that must be cutting off heads our super marxists here on North Star surely would assure us, and not their beloved ‘revolutionaries’ backed by Nato! No never!

    YES, Clay lives in fantasy land along with Pham and Louis… Here is Clay’s stated belief clouded by his lost in ‘marxism’ doctrine…

    ‘It is because from the beginning, the NATO members have been a closet opposition to the people’s “regime change” efforts in Syria. Their view has been “Better the Devil You Know.” They have wanted Assad to stay in power; now they see that is no longer possible.”’

    Comical stuff by Clay. How does a marxist become so confused?

    Now check out the Patrick Cockburn commentary referred to earlier for some reality instead of this North Star fed nuttiness… ‘US Stupidity in Syria: This Is No Fight Between Goodies and Baddies- Syria’s descent into Holy War’ http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/12/16-2

    See the difference between fogged over ‘marxist’ brainshells and reality?

    • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

      None of that invalidates Claiborne’s arguments or analysis which is focused on U.S. policy rather than the character of the people fighting Assad.

      F for effort.

    • http://www.dailykos.com/blog/Clay%20Claiborne/ Clay Claiborne (@clayclai)

      Untrained militias and Syrian army deserters cannot stop armoured columns.
      —– Patrick Cockburn, the Independent, 18 Feb 2012

      You mean that Andrew Cockburn.

      It sounds like he is traveling with Assad forces as a guest of the regime. As for the beheading video. One video only proves one incident not a trend, if that. Any video first made known and widely distributed by the Assad regime is immediately suspect, and this one has already been proven to not be what it is claimed it is.

      Today EAWorldView has this report on the video:

      Questions About the “Boy Beheads Two Regime Officers” Video
      Tuesday, December 11, 2012 at 9:56 | James Miller

      Yesterday we noted a claimed video of a group of men and a young boy beheading two men who were reportedly “Alawite officers” involved in the Houla massacre.The video was reportedly taken on Sunday, provided to a journalist by a “commander in Homs”.By the end of the day, however, activists were claiming the discovery of footage, posted on a pro-regime YouTube channel months ago, that apparently had some of the images in the beheading video which emerged yesterday:

      @brown_moses Old video. Appeared for the first time on pro regime channel youtube.com/watch?v=rWBpG5…— الجندي الحر (@FreeSySoldier) December 10, 2012

      Screenshots of the two execution videos first @zaidbenjamin‘s “Dec 09″ post second from youtube.com/user/syriatube… on Nov 26: twitter.com/Guardian_Mario…— Mr. Green (@Guardian_Mario) December 10, 2012

      An observer who circulated the beheading video initially stood by the claim that it was taken on Saturday morning, but later he amended this from “sources”, to say the incident occured on 22 October in the al-Khalidiyah district of Homs.That “clarification” fits with the report of Zilal, an activist who is associated with the opposition CFDPC, that the images — taken in October — first appeared on a programme of Sama TV, a pro-regime television channel. More…

      • http://www.dailykos.com/blog/Clay%20Claiborne/ Clay Claiborne (@clayclai)

        I mean Patrick cockburn of course

    • Brian S.

      To All and Sundry:
      The video referred to in the Patrick Cockburn article that Tony links to in his post was reported in the UK press several days ago. I was involved in an exchange about it on the Guardian blog at the time, and tried to check it out as fully as I could. My feeling was that it looked suspect, but since I don’t have the necessary skills to do a systematic evaluation I left it at that. So I am surprised to see this blank cheque being issued for it by Cockburn – a journalist with great experience in combat situations, whose judgement I would normally respect. Its not clear to me what he bases his assessment on – he quotes the judgement of “Nadim Houry, the deputy director for Human Rights Watch”. OK. I can find no mention of this affair on the HRW website (but they don’t rush to judgement on things); but there is also no mention of it in Houry’s twitter feed. However he is caught up investigating n the Aqrab massacre (something we need to keep our eye on).
      On the video itself: There are several versions of this around; the earliest seems to have been taken from a state tv channel which heavily pixilated the images (quite understandably) but this meant that it was possible that it was a fake. Eventually I located an unedited clip which shows the whole process; but as Pravda pointed out, it appears that the beheading was of a corpse, so the possibiilty off fakery is still there. As I say, I don’t have the knowledge to inquire further, but I have several questions that I hope those who do will answer in the coming days:
      1. this is not the first “beheading” video to appear – I found two going back 18 months on YouTube (one very likely a fake) and a couple more recently. Why the stir over this one? Obviously its because of the involvement of a child. But isn’t that a bit conveninet for the regime?
      2. Provenance. Where exactly does this video come from? We know that one version is from state tv. The unedited one I found had been posted from Australia from a YouTube account opened expressly to post this one video. But where to they get them from? There do exist jihadist websites on which records of such actions are posted, but as I understand it, they are usually accompanied by declamations and claims of responsibilities. This video appears to have nothing on it but the graphic incident. Why would a jihadist group issue such a truncated version? And if there is a fuller version why did the distributors not include the additional material? The video was of poor quality – looked like mobile phone job- if it was taken by one of the participants as a personal record, how did it leak out?. And whay does no one seem to have identified the victims?

      • http://www.planetanarchy.net Pham Binh

        Never thought I’d see Cockburn filing Baghdad Bob-style reports from Syria’s Green Zone.

      • Brian S.

        Update: Clay has posted the most recent info on this video above. I’ve now seen the full version of the Sama TV broadcast of 26 November. Its very wierd – clips of this video are intercut with bits of a Turkish soap opera. The video clips bear the YouTube logo, so they’ve been lifted from that. It looks as if Pravda was wrong – the guys being “executed” appear alive. So its clear this was a pro-government propaganda film cobbled together for domestic consumption. But it leaves open the question of where the original video came from and whether or not its authentic -as Clay says,the suggestion is its several months old. How Cockburn could certify this is beyond me.

  • Ben Campbell

    FWIW, Anthony Abdo’s commenting privileges have been revoked by the moderators. While he will no doubt consider himself persecuted for his political opinions, in reality he has simply proven himself incapable of holding himself to the minimum required for a civilized discussion. Heated disagreement and polemic is one thing, but non-stop trolling is another. His conspiratorial delusions about being censored have now become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    • Ben Campbell

      Also, you will note our commenting policy has been posted above. We really are quite laissez-faire about things, as demonstrated by the lengths to which we put up with Tony. Nevertheless, we thought it would be helpful to come up with some general rules. I don’t imagine they will be an issue for the vast majority of our commenters, who are really the most valuable part of what we’re trying to do here.

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