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Intel Behind Trump’s Syria Attack Questioned

June 25, 2017

Exclusive: The mainstream media is so hostile to challenges to its groupthinks that famed journalist Seymour Hersh had to take his take-down of President Trump’s April 6 attack on Syria to Germany, says ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

By Ray McGovern


Legendary investigative reporter Seymour Hersh is challenging the Trump administration’s version of events surrounding the April 4 “chemical weapons attack” on the northern Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun – though Hersh had to find a publisher in Germany to get his information out.
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The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ross fires a tomahawk land attack missile from the Mediterranean Sea into Syria, April 7, 2017. (Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert S. Price)

In the Sunday edition of Die Welt, Hersh reports that his national security sources offered a distinctly different account, revealing President Trump rashly deciding to launch 59 Tomahawk missiles against a Syrian airbase on April 6 despite the absence of intelligence supporting his conclusion that the Syrian military was guilty.

Hersh draws on the kind of inside sources from whom he has earned longstanding trust to dispute that there ever was a “chemical weapons attack” and to assert that Trump was told that no evidence existed against the Syrian government but ordered “his generals” to “retaliate” anyway.

Marine General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and former Marine General, now Defense Secretary James “Mad-Dog” Mattis ordered the attacks apparently knowing that the reason given was what one of Hersh’s sources called a “fairy tale.”

They then left it to Trump’s national security adviser Army General H. R. McMaster to further the deceit with the help of a compliant mainstream media, which broke from its current tradition of distrusting whatever Trump says in favor of its older tradition of favoring “regime change” in Syria and trusting pretty much whatever the “rebels” claim.

According to Hersh’s sources, the normal “deconfliction” process was followed before the April 4 strike. In such procedures, U.S. and Russian officers supply one another with advance details of airstrikes, such as target coordinates, to avoid accidental confrontations among the warplanes crisscrossing Syria.

Russia and Syrian Air Force officers gave details of the flight path to and from Khan Sheikhoun in English, Hersh reported. The target was a two-story cinderblock building in which senior leaders – “high-value targets” – of the two jihadist groups controlling the town were about to hold a meeting. Because of the perceived importance of the mission, the Russians took the unusual step of giving the Syrian air force a GPS-guided bomb to do the job, but the explosives were conventional, not chemical, Hersh reported.

The meeting place was on the floor above the basement of the building, where a source whom Hersh described as “a senior adviser to the U.S. intelligence community,” told Hersh: “The basement was used as storage for rockets, weapons, and ammunition … and also chlorine-based decontaminates for cleansing the bodies of the dead before burial.”

A Bomb Damage Assessment

Hersh describes what happened when the building was struck on the morning of April 4: “A Bomb Damage Assessment by the U.S. military later determined that the heat and force of the 500-pound Syrian bomb triggered a series of secondary explosions that could have generated a huge toxic cloud that began to spread over the town, formed by the release of fertilizers, disinfectants, and other goods stored in the basement, its effect magnified by the dense morning air, which trapped the fumes close to the ground.
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Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh

“According to intelligence estimates, the strike itself killed up to four jihadist leaders and an unknown number of drivers and security aides. There is no confirmed count of the number of civilians killed by the poisonous gases that were released by the secondary explosions, although opposition activists reported that there were more than 80 dead, and outlets such as CNN have put the figure as high as 92.”

Due to the fog of war, which is made denser by the fact that jihadists associated with Al Qaeda control the area, many of the details of the incident were unclear on that day and remain so still. No independent on-the-ground investigation has taken place.

But there were other reasons to doubt Syrian guilt, including the implausibility of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad choosing that time – while his forces were making dramatic strides in finally defeating the jihadists and immediately after the Trump administration had indicated it had reversed President Obama’s “regime change” policy in Syria – to launch a sarin attack, which was sure to outrage the world and likely draw U.S. retaliation.

However, logic was brushed aside after local “activists,” including some closely tied to the jihadists, quickly uploaded all manner of images onto social media, showing dead and dying children and other victims said to be suffering from sarin nerve gas. Inconsistencies were brushed aside – such as the “eyewitness” who insisted, “We could smell it from 500 meters away” when sarin is odorless.

Potent Images

Still, whether credible or not, these social-media images had a potent propaganda effect. Hersh writes that within hours of watching the gruesome photos on TV – and before he had received any U.S. intelligence corroboration – Trump told his national security aides to plan retaliation against Syria. According to Hersh, it was an evidence-free decision, except for what Trump had seen on the TV shows.
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The photograph released by the White House of President Trump meeting with his advisers at his estate in Mar-a-Lago on April 6, 2017, regarding his decision to launch missile strikes against Syria.

Hersh quotes one U.S. officer who, upon learning of the White House decision to “retaliate” against Syria, remarked: “We KNOW that there was no chemical attack … the Russians are furious – claiming we have the real intel and know the truth…”

A similar event had occurred on Aug. 21, 2013, outside Damascus – and although the available evidence now points to a “false-flag” provocation pulled off by the jihadists to trick the West into mounting a full-fledged assault on Assad’s military, Western media still blames that incident on Assad, too.

In the Aug. 21, 2013 case, social media also proved crucial in creating and pushing the Assad-did-it narrative. On Aug. 30, 2013, then-Secretary of State John Kerry pinned the responsibility on Assad no fewer than 35 times, even though earlier that week National Intelligence Director James Clapper had warned President Obama privately that Assad’s culpability was “not a slam dunk.”

Kerry was fond of describing social media as an “extraordinarily useful tool,” and it sure did come in handy in supporting Kerry’s repeated but unproven charges against Assad, especially since the U.S. government had invested heavily in training and equipping Syrian “activists” to dramatize their cause. (The mainstream media also has ignored evidence that the jihadists staged at least one chlorine gas attack. And, as you may recall, President George W. Bush also spoke glowingly about the value of “catapulting the propaganda.”)

Implications for U.S.-Russia

To the extent Hersh’s account finds its way into Western corporate media, most likely it will be dismissed out of hand simply because it dovetails with Moscow’s version of what happened and thus is, ipso facto, “wrong.”
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Russian President Vladimir Putin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on May 10, 2015, at the Kremlin. (Photo from Russian government)

But the Russians (and the Syrians) know what did happen – and if there really was no sarin bombing – they recognize Trump’s reckless resort to Tomahawks and the subsequent attempts to cover up for the President. All this will have repercussions.

This is as tense a time in U.S-Russian relations as I can remember from my five decades of experience watching Russian defense and foreign policy. It is left to the Russians to figure out which is worse: a President controlled by “his generals” or one who is so out of control that “his generals” are the ones who must restrain him.

With Russia reiterating its threat to target any unannounced aircraft flying in Syrian airspace west of the Euphrates, Russian President Putin could authorize his own generals to shoot first and ask questions later. Then, hold onto your hat.

As of this writing, there is no sign in “mainstream media” of any reporting on Hersh’s groundbreaking piece. It is a commentary on the conformist nature of today’s Western media that an alternative analysis challenging the conventional wisdom – even when produced by a prominent journalist like Sy Hersh – faces such trouble finding a place to publish.

The mainstream hatred of Assad and Putin has reached such extraordinary levels that pretty much anything can be said or written about them with few if any politicians or journalists daring to express doubts regardless of how shaky the evidence is.

Even the London Review of Books, which published Hersh’s earlier debunking of the Aug. 21, 2013 sarin-gas incident, wouldn’t go off onto the limb this time despite having paid for his investigation.

According to Hersh, the LRB did not want to be “vulnerable to criticism for seeming to take the view of the Syrian and Russia governments when it came to the April 4 bombing in Khan Sheikhoun.” So much for diversity of thought in today’s West.

Yet, what was interesting about the Khan Sheikhoun case is that was a test of whom the mainstream media detested more. The MSM has taken the position that pretty much whatever Trump says is untrue or at least deserving of intense fact-checking. But the MSM also believes whatever attacks on Assad that the Syrian “activists” post on social media are true and disbelieves whatever Putin says. So, this was a tug-of-war on which prejudices were stronger – and it turned out that the antipathy toward Syria and Russia is more powerful than the distrust of Trump.

Ignoring Critics

The MSM bought into Trump’s narrative to such a degree that any criticism, no matter how credentialed the critic, gets either ignored or ridiculed.
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Photograph of men in Khan Sheikdoun in Syria, allegedly inside a crater where a sarin-gas bomb landed.

For instance, the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity produced a memo on April 11 questioning Trump’s rush to judgment. Former MIT professor Ted Postol, a specialist in applying science to national security incidents, also poked major holesin the narrative of a government sarin attack. But the MSM silence was deafening.

In remarks to Die Welt, Seymour Hersh, who first became famous for exposing the My Lai massacre story during the Vietnam War and disclosed the Abu Ghraib abuse story during the Iraq War, explained that he still gets upset at government lying and at the reluctance of the media to hold governments accountable:

“We have a President in America today who lies repeatedly … but he must learn that he cannot lie about intelligence relied upon before authorizing an act of war. There are those in the Trump administration who understand this, which is why I learned the information I did. If this story creates even a few moments of regret in the White House, it will have served a very high purpose.”

But it may be that the Germans reading Welt am Sonntag may be among the few who will get the benefit of Hersh’s contrarian view of the April 4 incident in Khan Sheikhoun. Perhaps they will begin to wonder why Chancellor Angela Merkel continues with her “me-too” approach to whatever Washington wants to do regarding tensions with Russia and warfare in Syria.

Will Merkel admit that she was likely deceived in parroting Washington’s line making the Syrian government responsible for a “massacre with chemical weapons” on April 4? Mercifully, most Americans will be spared having to choose between believing President Trump and Seymour Hersh.

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Ray McGovern works with the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. During his 27 years as a CIA analyst, he was Chief of the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch; he also prepared the President’s Daily Brief, and conducted the early morning briefings of President Reagan’s top national security advisers.



Trump‘s Red Line

By Seymour M. Hersh |  


President Donald Trump ignored important intelligence reports when he decided to attack Syria after he saw pictures of dying children. Seymour M. Hersh investigated the case of the alleged Sarin gas attack.

On April 6, United States President Donald Trump authorized an early morning Tomahawk missile strike on Shayrat Air Base in central Syria in retaliation for what he said was a deadly nerve agent attack carried out by the Syrian government two days earlier in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun. Trump issued the order despite having been warned by the U.S. intelligence community that it had found no evidence that the Syrians had used a chemical weapon.

The available intelligence made clear that the Syrians had targeted a jihadist meeting site on April 4 using a Russian-supplied guided bomb equipped with conventional explosives. Details of the attack, including information on its so-called high-value targets, had been provided by the Russians days in advance to American and allied military officials in Doha, whose mission is to coordinate all U.S., allied, Syrian and Russian Air Force operations in the region.

Some American military and intelligence officials were especially distressed by the president's determination to ignore the evidence. "None of this makes any sense," one officer told colleagues upon learning of the decision to bomb. "We KNOW that there was no chemical attack ... the Russians are furious. Claiming we have the real intel and know the truth ... I guess it didn't matter whether we elected Clinton or Trump.“

Within hours of the April 4 bombing, the world’s media was saturated with photographs and videos from Khan Sheikhoun. Pictures of dead and dying victims, allegedly suffering from the symptoms of nerve gas poisoning, were uploaded to social media by local activists, including the White Helmets, a first responder group known for its close association with the Syrian opposition.

Seymour M. Hersh exposed the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam 1968. He uncovered the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and many other stories about war and politics

The provenance of the photos was not clear and no international observers have yet inspected the site, but the immediate popular assumption worldwide was that this was a deliberate use of the nerve agent sarin, authorized by President Bashar Assad of Syria. Trump endorsed that assumption by issuing a statement within hours of the attack, describing Assad’s "heinous actions" as being a consequence of the Obama administration’s "weakness and irresolution" in addressing what he said was Syria’s past use of chemical weapons.

To the dismay of many senior members of his national security team, Trump could not be swayed over the next 48 hours of intense briefings and decision-making. In a series of interviews, I learned of the total disconnect between the president and many of his military advisers and intelligence officials, as well as officers on the ground in the region who had an entirely different understanding of the nature of Syria’s attack on Khan Sheikhoun. I was provided with evidence of that disconnect, in the form of transcripts of real-time communications, immediately following the Syrian attack on April 4. In an important pre-strike process known as deconfliction, U.S. and Russian officers routinely supply one another with advance details of planned flight paths and target coordinates, to ensure that there is no risk of collision or accidental encounter (the Russians speak on behalf of the Syrian military). This information is supplied daily to the American AWACS surveillance planes that monitor the flights once airborne. Deconfliction’s success and importance can be measured by the fact that there has yet to be one collision, or even a near miss, among the high-powered supersonic American, Allied, Russian and Syrian fighter bombers.

Russian and Syrian Air Force officers gave details of the carefully planned flight path to and from Khan Shiekhoun on April 4 directly, in English, to the deconfliction monitors aboard the AWACS plane, which was on patrol near the Turkish border, 60 miles or more to the north.

The Syrian target at Khan Sheikhoun, as shared with the Americans at Doha, was depicted as a two-story cinder-block building in the northern part of town. Russian intelligence, which is shared when necessary with Syria and the U.S. as part of their joint fight against jihadist groups, had established that a high-level meeting of jihadist leaders was to take place in the building, including representatives of Ahrar al-Sham and the al-Qaida-affiliated group formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra. The two groups had recently joined forces, and controlled the town and surrounding area. Russian intelligence depicted the cinder-block building as a command and control center that housed a grocery and other commercial premises on its ground floor with other essential shops nearby, including a fabric shop and an electronics store.

"The rebels control the population by controlling the distribution of goods that people need to live – food, water, cooking oil, propane gas, fertilizers for growing their crops, and insecticides to protect the crops," a senior adviser to the American intelligence community, who has served in senior positions in the Defense Department and Central Intelligence Agency, told me. The basement was used as storage for rockets, weapons and ammunition, as well as products that could be distributed for free to the community, among them medicines and chlorine-based decontaminants for cleansing the bodies of the dead before burial. The meeting place – a regional headquarters – was on the floor above. “It was an established meeting place,” the senior adviser said. “A long-time facility that would have had security, weapons, communications, files and a map center.” The Russians were intent on confirming their intelligence and deployed a drone for days above the site to monitor communications and develop what is known in the intelligence community as a POL – a pattern of life. The goal was to take note of those going in and out of the building, and to track weapons being moved back and forth, including rockets and ammunition.

One reason for the Russian message to Washington about the intended target was to ensure that any CIA asset or informant who had managed to work his way into the jihadist leadership was forewarned not to attend the meeting. I was told that the Russians passed the warning directly to the CIA. “They were playing the game right,” the senior adviser said. The Russian guidance noted that the jihadist meeting was coming at a time of acute pressure for the insurgents: Presumably Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham were desperately seeking a path forward in the new political climate. In the last few days of March, Trump and two of his key national security aides – Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley – had made statements acknowledging that, as the New York Times put it, the White House “has abandoned the goal” of pressuring Assad "to leave power, marking a sharp departure from the Middle East policy that guided the Obama administration for more than five years.” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told a press briefing on March 31 that “there is a political reality that we have to accept,” implying that Assad was there to stay.

Russian and Syrian intelligence officials, who coordinate operations closely with the American command posts, made it clear that the planned strike on Khan Sheikhoun was special because of the high-value target. “It was a red-hot change. The mission was out of the ordinary – scrub the sked,” the senior adviser told me. “Every operations officer in the region" – in the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, CIA and NSA – “had to know there was something going on. The Russians gave the Syrian Air Force a guided bomb and that was a rarity. They’re skimpy with their guided bombs and rarely share them with the Syrian Air Force. And the Syrians assigned their best pilot to the mission, with the best wingman.” The advance intelligence on the target, as supplied by the Russians, was given the highest possible score inside the American community.

The Execute Order governing U.S. military operations in theater, which was issued by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, provide instructions that demarcate the relationship between the American and Russian forces operating in Syria. “It’s like an ops order – ‘Here’s what you are authorized to do,’” the adviser said. “We do not share operational control with the Russians. We don’t do combined operations with them, or activities directly in support of one of their operations. But coordination is permitted. We keep each other apprised of what’s happening and within this package is the mutual exchange of intelligence. If we get a hot tip that could help the Russians do their mission, that’s coordination; and the Russians do the same for us. When we get a hot tip about a command and control facility,” the adviser added, referring to the target in Khan Sheikhoun, “we do what we can to help them act on it." “This was not a chemical weapons strike,” the adviser said. “That’s a fairy tale. If so, everyone involved in transferring, loading and arming the weapon – you’ve got to make it appear like a regular 500-pound conventional bomb – would be wearing Hazmat protective clothing in case of a leak. There would be very little chance of survival without such gear. Military grade sarin includes additives designed to increase toxicity and lethality. Every batch that comes out is maximized for death. That is why it is made. It is odorless and invisible and death can come within a minute. No cloud. Why produce a weapon that people can run away from?”

This photograph by the Syrian opposition (Edlib Media Center) shows the aftermath of a strike against the town of Khan Sheikhoun. A large building was hit, but it’s unclear were the strike took place exactly


The target was struck at 6:55 a.m. on April 4, just before midnight in Washington. A Bomb Damage Assessment (BDA) by the U.S. military later determined that the heat and force of the 500-pound Syrian bomb triggered a series of secondary explosions that could have generated a huge toxic cloud that began to spread over the town, formed by the release of the fertilizers, disinfectants and other goods stored in the basement, its effect magnified by the dense morning air, which trapped the fumes close to the ground. According to intelligence estimates, the senior adviser said, the strike itself killed up to four jihadist leaders, and an unknown number of drivers and security aides. There is no confirmed count of the number of civilians killed by the poisonous gases that were released by the secondary explosions, although opposition activists reported that there were more than 80 dead, and outlets such as CNN have put the figure as high as 92. A team from Médecins Sans Frontières, treating victims from Khan Sheikhoun at a clinic 60 miles to the north, reported that “eight patients showed symptoms – including constricted pupils, muscle spasms and involuntary defecation – which are consistent with exposure to a neurotoxic agent such as sarin gas or similar compounds.” MSF also visited other hospitals that had received victims and found that patients there “smelled of bleach, suggesting that they had been exposed to chlorine.” In other words, evidence suggested that there was more than one chemical responsible for the symptoms observed, which would not have been the case if the Syrian Air Force – as opposition activists insisted – had dropped a sarin bomb, which has no percussive or ignition power to trigger secondary explosions. The range of symptoms is, however, consistent with the release of a mixture of chemicals, including chlorine and the organophosphates used in many fertilizers, which can cause neurotoxic effects similar to those of sarin.

The internet swung into action within hours, and gruesome photographs of the victims flooded television networks and YouTube. U.S. intelligence was tasked with establishing what had happened. Among the pieces of information received was an intercept of Syrian communications collected before the attack by an allied nation. The intercept, which had a particularly strong effect on some of Trump’s aides, did not mention nerve gas or sarin, but it did quote a Syrian general discussing a “special” weapon and the need for a highly skilled pilot to man the attack plane. The reference, as those in the American intelligence community understood, and many of the inexperienced aides and family members close to Trump may not have, was to a Russian-supplied bomb with its built-in guidance system. “If you’ve already decided it was a gas attack, you will then inevitably read the talk about a special weapon as involving a sarin bomb,” the adviser said. “Did the Syrians plan the attack on Khan Sheikhoun? Absolutely. Do we have intercepts to prove it? Absolutely. Did they plan to use sarin? No. But the president did not say: ‘We have a problem and let’s look into it.’ He wanted to bomb the shit out of Syria.”

At the UN the next day, Ambassador Haley created a media sensation when she displayed photographs of the dead and accused Russia of being complicit. “How many more children have to die before Russia cares?” she asked. NBC News, in a typical report that day, quoted American officials as confirming that nerve gas had been used and Haley tied the attack directly to Syrian President Assad. "We know that yesterday’s attack was a new low even for the barbaric Assad regime,” she said. There was irony in America's rush to blame Syria and criticize Russia for its support of Syria's denial of any use of gas in Khan Sheikhoun, as Ambassador Haley and others in Washington did. "What doesn't occur to most Americans" the adviser said, "is if there had been a Syrian nerve gas attack authorized by Bashar, the Russians would be 10 times as upset as anyone in the West. Russia’s strategy against ISIS, which involves getting American cooperation, would have been destroyed and Bashar would be responsible for pissing off Russia, with unknown consequences for him. Bashar would do that? When he’s on the verge of winning the war? Are you kidding me?”

Trump, a constant watcher of television news, said, while King Abdullah of Jordan was sitting next to him in the Oval Office, that what had happened was “horrible, horrible” and a “terrible affront to humanity.” Asked if his administration would change its policy toward the Assad government, he said: “You will see.” He gave a hint of the response to come at the subsequent news conference with King Abdullah: “When you kill innocent children, innocent babies – babies, little babies – with a chemical gas that is so lethal ... that crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line . ... That attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me. Big impact ... It’s very, very possible ... that my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.”

Within hours of viewing the photos, the adviser said, Trump instructed the national defense apparatus to plan for retaliation against Syria. “He did this before he talked to anybody about it. The planners then asked the CIA and DIA if there was any evidence that Syria had sarin stored at a nearby airport or somewhere in the area. Their military had to have it somewhere in the area in order to bomb with it.” “The answer was, ‘We have no evidence that Syria had sarin or used it,’” the adviser said. “The CIA also told them that there was no residual delivery for sarin at Sheyrat [the airfield from which the Syrian SU-24 bombers had taken off on April 4] and Assad had no motive to commit political suicide.” Everyone involved, except perhaps the president, also understood that a highly skilled United Nations team had spent more than a year in the aftermath of an alleged sarin attack in 2013 by Syria, removing what was said to be all chemical weapons from a dozen Syrian chemical weapons depots.

At this point, the adviser said, the president’s national security planners were more than a little rattled: “No one knew the provenance of the photographs. We didn’t know who the children were or how they got hurt. Sarin actually is very easy to detect because it penetrates paint, and all one would have to do is get a paint sample. We knew there was a cloud and we knew it hurt people. But you cannot jump from there to certainty that Assad had hidden sarin from the UN because he wanted to use it in Khan Sheikhoun.” The intelligence made clear that a Syrian Air Force SU-24 fighter bomber had used a conventional weapon to hit its target: There had been no chemical warhead. And yet it was impossible for the experts to persuade the president of this once he had made up his mind. “The president saw the photographs of poisoned little girls and said it was an Assad atrocity,” the senior adviser said. “It’s typical of human nature. You jump to the conclusion you want. Intelligence analysts do not argue with a president. They’re not going to tell the president, ‘if you interpret the data this way, I quit.’”

President Donald J. Trump with some of his closest advisors at Mar-a-Lago on April 6, 2017 at a top secret briefing on the results of the missile strike on Shayat Air Base

The national security advisers understood their dilemma: Trump wanted to respond to the affront to humanity committed by Syria and he did not want to be dissuaded. They were dealing with a man they considered to be not unkind and not stupid, but his limitations when it came to national security decisions were severe. "Everyone close to him knows his proclivity for acting precipitously when he does not know the facts," the adviser said. "He doesn’t read anything and has no real historical knowledge. He wants verbal briefings and photographs. He’s a risk-taker. He can accept the consequences of a bad decision in the business world; he will just lose money. But in our world, lives will be lost and there will be long-term damage to our national security if he guesses wrong. He was told we did not have evidence of Syrian involvement and yet Trump says: 'Do it.”’

On April 6, Trump convened a meeting of national security officials at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. The meeting was not to decide what to do, but how best to do it – or, as some wanted, how to do the least and keep Trump happy. “The boss knew before the meeting that they didn’t have the intelligence, but that was not the issue,” the adviser said. “The meeting was about, ‘Here’s what I’m going to do,' and then he gets the options.”

The available intelligence was not relevant. The most experienced man at the table was Secretary of Defense James Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general who had the president’s respect and understood, perhaps, how quickly that could evaporate. Mike Pompeo, the CIA director whose agency had consistently reported that it had no evidence of a Syrian chemical bomb, was not present. Secretary of State Tillerson was admired on the inside for his willingness to work long hours and his avid reading of diplomatic cables and reports, but he knew little about waging war and the management of a bombing raid. Those present were in a bind, the adviser said. “The president was emotionally energized by the disaster and he wanted options.” He got four of them, in order of extremity. Option one was to do nothing. All involved, the adviser said, understood that was a non-starter. Option two was a slap on the wrist: to bomb an airfield in Syria, but only after alerting the Russians and, through them, the Syrians, to avoid too many casualties. A few of the planners called this the “gorilla option”: America would glower and beat its chest to provoke fear and demonstrate resolve, but cause little significant damage. The third option was to adopt the strike package that had been presented to Obama in 2013, and which he ultimately chose not to pursue. The plan called for the massive bombing of the main Syrian airfields and command and control centers using B1 and B52 aircraft launched from their bases in the U.S. Option four was “decapitation”: to remove Assad by bombing his palace in Damascus, as well as his command and control network and all of the underground bunkers he could possibly retreat to in a crisis.

“Trump ruled out option one off the bat,” the senior adviser said, and the assassination of Assad was never considered. “But he said, in essence: ‘You’re the military and I want military action.’” The president was also initially opposed to the idea of giving the Russians advance warning before the strike, but reluctantly accepted it. “We gave him the Goldilocks option – not too hot, not too cold, but just right.” The discussion had its bizarre moments. Tillerson wondered at the Mar-a-Lago meeting why the president could not simply call in the B52 bombers and pulverize the air base. He was told that B52s were very vulnerable to surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) in the area and using such planes would require suppression fire that could kill some Russian defenders. “What is that?” Tillerson asked. Well, sir, he was told, that means we would have to destroy the upgraded SAM sites along the B52 flight path, and those are manned by Russians, and we possibly would be confronted with a much more difficult situation. “The lesson here was: Thank God for the military men at the meeting,” the adviser said. "They did the best they could when confronted with a decision that had already been made."

Fifty-nine Tomahawk missiles were fired from two U.S. Navy destroyers on duty in the Mediterranean, the Ross and the Porter, at Shayrat Air Base near the government-controlled city of Homs. The strike was as successful as hoped, in terms of doing minimal damage. The missiles have a light payload – roughly 220 pounds of HBX, the military’s modern version of TNT. The airfield’s gasoline storage tanks, a primary target, were pulverized, the senior adviser said, triggering a huge fire and clouds of smoke that interfered with the guidance system of following missiles. As many as 24 missiles missed their targets and only a few of the Tomahawks actually penetrated into hangars, destroying nine Syrian aircraft, many fewer than claimed by the Trump administration. I was told that none of the nine was operational: such damaged aircraft are what the Air Force calls hangar queens. “They were sacrificial lambs,” the senior adviser said. Most of the important personnel and operational fighter planes had been flown to nearby bases hours before the raid began. The two runways and parking places for aircraft, which had also been targeted, were repaired and back in operation within eight hours or so. All in all, it was little more than an expensive fireworks display.

“It was a totally Trump show from beginning to end,” the senior adviser said. “A few of the president’s senior national security advisers viewed the mission as a minimized bad presidential decision, and one that they had an obligation to carry out. But I don’t think our national security people are going to allow themselves to be hustled into a bad decision again. If Trump had gone for option three, there might have been some immediate resignations.”

After the meeting, with the Tomahawks on their way, Trump spoke to the nation from Mar-a-Lago, and accused Assad of using nerve gas to choke out “the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many ... No child of God should ever suffer such horror.” The next few days were his most successful as president. America rallied around its commander in chief, as it always does in times of war. Trump, who had campaigned as someone who advocated making peace with Assad, was bombing Syria 11 weeks after taking office, and was hailed for doing so by Republicans, Democrats and the media alike. One prominent TV anchorman, Brian Williams of MSNBC, used the word “beautiful” to describe the images of the Tomahawks being launched at sea. Speaking on CNN, Fareed Zakaria said: “I think Donald Trump became president of the United States.” A review of the top 100 American newspapers showed that 39 of them published editorials supporting the bombing in its aftermath, including the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.

Five days later, the Trump administration gathered the national media for a background briefing on the Syrian operation that was conducted by a senior White House official who was not to be identified. The gist of the briefing was that Russia’s heated and persistent denial of any sarin use in the Khan Sheikhoun bombing was a lie because President Trump had said sarin had been used. That assertion, which was not challenged or disputed by any of the reporters present, became the basis for a series of further criticisms:

- The continued lying by the Trump administration about Syria’s use of sarin led to widespread belief in the American media and public that Russia had chosen to be involved in a corrupt disinformation and cover-up campaign on the part of Syria. 

- Russia’s military forces had been co-located with Syria’s at the Shayrat airfield (as they are throughout Syria), raising the possibility that Russia had advance notice of Syria’s determination to use sarin at Khan Sheikhoun and did nothing to stop it.

- Syria’s use of sarin and Russia’s defense of that use strongly suggested that Syria withheld stocks of the nerve agent from the UN disarmament team that spent much of 2014 inspecting and removing all declared chemical warfare agents from 12 Syrian chemical weapons depots, pursuant to the agreement worked out by the Obama administration and Russia after Syria’s alleged, but still unproven, use of sarin the year before against a rebel redoubt in a suburb of Damascus.

The briefer, to his credit, was careful to use the words “think,” “suggest” and “believe” at least 10 times during the 30-minute event. But he also said that his briefing was based on data that had been declassified by “our colleagues in the intelligence community.” What the briefer did not say, and may not have known, was that much of the classified information in the community made the point that Syria had not used sarin in the April 4 bombing attack.

The mainstream press responded the way the White House had hoped it would: Stories attacking Russia’s alleged cover-up of Syria’s sarin use dominated the news and many media outlets ignored the briefer’s myriad caveats. There was a sense of renewed Cold War. The New York Times, for example – America’s leading newspaper – put the following headline on its account: “White House Accuses Russia of Cover-Up in Syria Chemical Attack.” The Times’ account did note a Russian denial, but what was described by the briefer as “declassified information” suddenly became a “declassified intelligence report.” Yet there was no formal intelligence report stating that Syria had used sarin, merely a "summary based on declassified information about the attacks," as the briefer referred to it.

The crisis slid into the background by the end of April, as Russia, Syria and the United States remained focused on annihilating ISIS and the militias of al-Qaida. Some of those who had worked through the crisis, however, were left with lingering concerns. “The Salafists and jihadists got everything they wanted out of their hyped-up Syrian nerve gas ploy,” the senior adviser to the U.S. intelligence community told me, referring to the flare up of tensions between Syria, Russia and America. “The issue is, what if there’s another false flag sarin attack credited to hated Syria? Trump has upped the ante and painted himself into a corner with his decision to bomb. And do not think these guys are not planning the next faked attack. Trump will have no choice but to bomb again, and harder. He’s incapable of saying he made a mistake.”


The White House did not answer specific questions about the bombing of Khan Sheikhoun and the airport of Shayrat. These questions were send via e-mail to the White House on June 15 and never answered.




„We got a fuckin‘ problem“

By Seymour M. Hersh | 25.06.2017

Intelligence officials doubted the alleged Sarin gas attack at Khan Sheikhoun. WELT AM SONNTAG presents a chat protocol of a security advisor and an active American soldier on duty at a key base in the region.

This conversation was provided to Seymour Hersh. It is betweeen a security adviser and an active US American soldier on duty on a key operational base about the events in Khan Sheikhoun. We have made abbreviations: American soldier (AS) and Security Advisor (SA). WELT AM SONNTAG is aware of the location of the deployment. For security reasons, certain details of military operations have been omitted.

April 6, 2017

American Soldier: We got a fuckin‘ problem

Security-Adviser: What happened? Is it the Trump ignoring the Intel and going to try to hit the Syrians? And that we’re pissing on the Russians?

AS: This is bad...Things are spooling up.

SA: You may not have seen trumps press conference yesterday. He's bought into the media story without asking to see the Intel. We are likely to get our asses kicked by the Russians. Fucking dangerous. Where are the godamn adults? The failure of the chain of command to tell the President the truth, whether he wants to hear it or not, will go down in history as one of our worst moments.


AS: I don't know. None of this makes any sense. We KNOW that there was no chemical attack. The Syrians struck a weapons cache (a legitimate military target) and there was collateral damage. That's it. They did not conduct any sort of a chemical attack.

AS: And now we’re shoving a shit load of TLAMs (tomahawks) up their ass.

SA: There has been a hidden agenda all along. This is about trying to ultimately go after Iran. What the people around Trump do not understand is that the Russians are not a paper tiger and that they have more robust military capability than we do.

AS: I don't know what the Russians are going to do. They might hang back and let the Syrians defend their own borders, or they might provide some sort of tepid support, or they might blow us the fuck out of the airspace and back into Iraq. I honestly don't know what to expect right now. I feel like anything is possible. The russian air defense system is capable of taking out our TLAMs. this is a big fucking deal...we are still all systems go...

SA: You are so right. Russia is not going to take this lying down

SA: Who is pushing this? Is it coming from Votel (General Joseph L. Votel, Commander of United States Central Command, editor‘s note) ?

AS: I don't know. It's from someone big though. . . . This is a big fucking deal.

AS: It has to be POTUS.

AS: They [the russians] are weighing their options. Indications are they are going to be passive supporters of syria and not engage their systems unless their own assets are threatened..in other words, the sky is fucking blue.' 

April 7, 2017

SA: What are the Russians doing or saying Am I correct that we did little real damage to Russia or Syria?

AS: We didn't hit a damn thing, thankfully. They retrograded all their aircraft and personnel. We basically gave them a very expensive fireworks display.

AS: They knew where ships were and watched the entire strike from launch to end game.

AS: The Russians are furious. Claiming we have the real Intel and know the truth about the weapons depot strike.

AS: They are correct.

AS: I guess it really didn't matter whether we elected Clinton or Trump. Fuck.

AS: No one is talking about the entire reason we're in Iraq and Syria in the first place. That mission is fucked now.

SA: Are any of your colleagues pissed or is everyone going along with it and saying this is OK

AS: It's a mad house. . . .Hell we even told the Russians an hour before impact

SA: But they clearly knew it was coming

AS: Oh of course

AS: Now Fox is saying we chose to hit the Syrian airfield because it is where the chemical attacks were launched from. Wow. Can't make this shit up.

SA: They are. I mean, making it up

AS: It's so fuckin evil

SA: Amen!!! 

April 8, 2017

AS: Russians are being extremely reasonable. Despite what the news is reporting they are still trying to deconflict and coordinate the air campaign.

SA: I don't think the russia yet understands how crazy Trump is over this. And i don't think we appreciate how much damage the Russians can do to us.

AS: They're showing amazing restraint and been unbelievably calm. They seem mostly interested in de-escalating everything. They don't want to lose our support in the help with destroying Isis.

SA: But I get the get the feeling are simply trying this approach for as long as they feel it might work. If we keep pushing this current aggressive stance they're going to hit back.'


===============

“We Got A Fuckin’ Problem:” Security Analyst/Soldier Chat Reveals Chem Attack Lies, Secret U.S. Agenda

JUNE 25, 2017 | By Brandon Turbeville

As congressional grandstanders make self-serving speeches repeating the “Russian threat” lie and push for greater sanctions and actions against the world’s only other superpower, veteran journalist Seymour Hersh has once again released a bombshell article blowing the official story of the chemical weapons attack at Khan Sheikhoun out of the water. The article is a “chat protocol” between an American military soldier and an American Security analyst. The soldier is on active duty at a key airbase in the region although the location of his deployment is being kept secret for obvious reasons.

The chat reveals that not only did the Syrian government not launch a chemical attack at Khan Sheikhoun but that the United States new there was no chemical attack. In addition, the chat shows that not all key personnel are on board with the decision to launch Tomahawk missiles at al-Sha’aryat or even of the whole Syria/Iraq mission. The chat reveals real concerns amongst knowledgeable personnel that the Russians will not continue to act as the cooler heads and that Russia has long wanted peace in the region. Most notably, it reveals the fact that there is a “secret agenda” moving forward in regards to Syria, Iraq, and Russia.

More detailed analysis will follow. For now, however, it is important to read the chat as it was published by Welt Am Sonntag and Seymour Hersh originally. The chat is provided below:

April 6, 2017

American Soldier: We got a fuckin‘ problem

Security-Adviser: What happened? Is it the Trump ignoring the Intel and going to try to hit the Syrians? And that we’re pissing on the Russians?

AS: This is bad…Things are spooling up.

SA: You may not have seen Trump's press conference yesterday. He’s bought into the media story without asking to see the Intel. We are likely to get our asses kicked by the Russians. Fucking dangerous. Where are the godamn adults? The failure of the chain of command to tell the President the truth, whether he wants to hear it or not, will go down in history as one of our worst moments.

AS: I don’t know. None of this makes any sense. We KNOW that there was no chemical attack. The Syrians struck a weapons cache (a legitimate military target) and there was collateral damage. That’s it. They did not conduct any sort of a chemical attack.

AS: And now we’re shoving a shit load of TLAMs (tomahawks) up their ass.

SA: There has been a hidden agenda all along. This is about trying to ultimately go after Iran. What the people around Trump do not understand is that the Russians are not a paper tiger and that they have more robust military capability than we do.

AS: I don’t know what the Russians are going to do. They might hang back and let the Syrians defend their own borders, or they might provide some sort of tepid support, or they might blow us the fuck out of the airspace and back into Iraq. I honestly don’t know what to expect right now. I feel like anything is possible. The russian air defense system is capable of taking out our TLAMs. this is a big fucking deal…we are still all systems go…

SA: You are so right. Russia is not going to take this lying down

SA: Who is pushing this? Is it coming from Votel (General Joseph L. Votel, Commander of United States Central Command, editor’s note) ?

AS: I don’t know. It’s from someone big though. . . . This is a big fucking deal.

AS: It has to be POTUS.

AS: They [the russians] are weighing their options. Indications are they are going to be passive supporters of syria and not engage their systems unless their own assets are threatened..in other words, the sky is fucking blue.’

April 7, 2017

SA: What are the Russians doing or saying Am I correct that we did little real damage to Russia or Syria?

AS: We didn’t hit a damn thing, thankfully. They retrograded all their aircraft and personnel. We basically gave them a very expensive fireworks display.

AS: They knew where ships were and watched the entire strike from launch to end game.

AS: The Russians are furious. Claiming we have the real Intel and know the truth about the weapons depot strike.

AS: They are correct.

AS: I guess it really didn’t matter whether we elected Clinton or Trump. Fuck.

AS: No one is talking about the entire reason we’re in Iraq and Syria in the first place. That mission is fucked now.

SA: Are any of your colleagues pissed or is everyone going along with it and saying this is OK

AS: It’s a mad house. . . .Hell we even told the Russians an hour before impact

SA: But they clearly knew it was coming

AS: Oh of course

AS: Now Fox is saying we chose to hit the Syrian airfield because it is where the chemical attacks were launched from. Wow. Can’t make this shit up.

SA: They are. I mean, making it up

AS: It’s so fuckin evil

SA: Amen!!!

April 8, 2017

AS: Russians are being extremely reasonable. Despite what the news is reporting they are still trying to deconflict and coordinate the air campaign.

SA: I don’t think the russia yet understands how crazy Trump is over this. And i don’t think we appreciate how much damage the Russians can do to us.

AS: They’re showing amazing restraint and been unbelievably calm. They seem mostly interested in de-escalating everything. They don’t want to lose our support in the help with destroying Isis.

SA: But I get the feeling they are simply trying this approach for as long as they feel it might work. If we keep pushing this current aggressive stance they’re going to hit back.’

Israel’s fully funded proxy armies in Syria fighting under the “Syrian Rebels” banner

Even the WSJ (The Wall Street Journal) is reporting on that Israel keeps proxy armies to fight on its behalf in Syria. Below is the full article published in the WSJ.





Israel Gives Secret Aid to Syrian Rebels

By Rory Jones in Tel Aviv, Noam Raydan in Beirut and Suha Ma’ayeh in Amman, Jordan
June 18, 2017 

Israel has been regularly supplying Syrian rebels near its border with cash as well as food, fuel and medical supplies for years, a secret engagement in the enemy country’s civil war aimed at carving out a buffer zone populated by friendly forces.

The Israeli army is in regular communication with rebel groups and its assistance includes undisclosed payments to commanders that help pay salaries of fighters and buy ammunition and weapons, according to interviews with about half a dozen Syrian fighters. Israel has established a military unit that oversees the support in Syria—a country that it has been in a state of war with for decades—and set aside a specific budget for the aid, said one person familiar with the Israeli operation.

Israel has in the past acknowledged treating some 3,000 wounded Syrians, many of them fighters, in its hospitals since 2013 as well as providing humanitarian aid such as food and clothing to civilians near the border during winter. But interviews with half a dozen rebels and three people familiar with Israel’s thinking reveal that the country’s involvement is much deeper and more coordinated than previously known and entails direct funding of opposition fighters near its border for years.
“Israel stood by our side in a heroic way,” said Moatasem al-Golani, spokesman for the rebel group Fursan al-Joulan, or Knights of the Golan. “We wouldn’t have survived without Israel’s assistance.”
Israel’s aim is to keep Iran-backed fighters allied to the Syrian regime, such as the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, away from the 45-mile stretch of border on the divided Golan Heights, the three people said.

But its support for rebels risks heightening tension with President Bashar al-Assad’s government, which has long accused Israel of helping rebel groups. Mr. Assad has said Israel supports rebel groups and launches airstrikes in Syrian territory to undermine his hold on power. Israel has said it doesn’t favor any one outcome in the civil war.

Israel captured part of the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 war and later annexed it—a move the international community doesn’t recognize.

The threat of a permanent presence of Iranian and Hezbollah forces on the Syrian side of the strategic plateau could drag Israel’s military further into a conflict that it has watched warily but mostly stayed out of since it began in 2011. Israeli officials haven’t ruled out such an escalation at a time when they are cultivating other alliances with Arab states against their common enemy—Iran.

Fursan al-Joulan’s commander, who goes by the nickname Abu Suhayb, says his group gets roughly $5,000 a month from Israel. It isn’t linked to the Western-backed Free Syrian Army and doesn’t receive Western funding or arms.

The office of Israel’s prime minister referred questions to the Israeli military, which didn’t respond to requests for comment on whether it was sending cash to or dealing directly with rebel commanders in the Golan region. It said only that it was “committed to securing the borders of Israel and preventing the establishment of terror cells and hostile forces … in addition to providing humanitarian aid to the Syrians living in the area.”

The person familiar with Israel’s assistance confirmed that cash moves across the border but said it goes for humanitarian purposes. However, rebels interviewed said they use the cash to pay fighters’ salaries and to buy weapons and ammunition—something the Israeli military wouldn’t comment on.
Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah have played a major role in propping up Mr. Assad’s forces. That help, as well as significant military intervention by Russia, has given the regime the upper hand in the multisided war.

Given the ascendancy of Iran in the war, Israel now fears it will establish control of a strip of land in Syria and Iraq that could be used to transport weapons to military bases in southern Lebanon and the Syrian side of the Golan.

Israeli officials have several times accused the Syrian regime and its Iranian and Shiite allies of planning attacks against Israel from Syrian side of the Golan. By contrast, Israeli officials have pointed out that rebels in that area have never tried to attack.

An Islamic State affiliate also has carved out a pocket of control on the south end of the Syrian Golan and clashes with rebels at times. Its fighters exchanged fire with Israeli forces last year.

The Israeli army has occasionally intervened in the Syrian war by launching airstrikes to stop suspected Iranian arms shipments bound for Hezbollah in Lebanon.

This effort to set up a de facto buffer zone in Syria is reminiscent of another Israeli scheme to protect its northern border by carving out a so-called security zone in south Lebanon during that country’s civil war in the 1970s and 1980s. Known as the “Good Fence” policy, it preceded an Israeli invasion of south Lebanon in 1982 that helped spawn Hezbollah. Hezbollah battled the Israelis until they withdrew in 2000.

Israel has dubbed the current Golan operation “The Good Neighborhood” policy, according Ehud Ya’ari, a fellow at the Washington Institute and Israeli political analyst briefed on Israel’s support to Syrian militias. It began under former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and continued under his successor, Avigdor Lieberman.

The fighters said rebel groups scattered across a roughly 125-square-mile border zone regularly deal with Israel.

“It’s a matter of interests,” said the person familiar with Israeli policy. Israel offers the humanitarian support and in return gets a “buffer zone” of local militias defending themselves.
Fursan al-Joulan is the main rebel group coordinating with Israel, according to fighters. It first made contact with the Israeli military in 2013 and Israel soon began sending cash and other aid, fighters said.

The group had just launched an offensive against regime forces in southwestern Quneitra province, which encompasses the Syrian side of the Golan, according to the spokesman Mr. Golani, who uses a nom de guerre.

The fighters carried wounded comrades to a border point where they were met by Israeli soldiers speaking Arabic, said Mr. Golani. Relatives of the wounded men pleaded for help and ambulances soon arrived to take the injured to hospitals in Israel. The moment was a turning point that opened communication between Israel and the moderate faction of opposition fighters, he said.

For Mr. Golani, the contact was also bittersweet. His cousin had died shortly before the encounter, killed by shrapnel that sliced open his stomach. He said he believes his cousin would have survived with surgery.

Fursan al-Joulan, based in Quneitra province, has roughly 400 fighters loosely allied with four other rebel groups on the Golan that also receive Israeli aid, according to the commander Abu Suhayb and other rebels. Some of these other groups are affiliated with the Free Syrian Army or receive other Western funding and weapons.

In total, there are roughly 800 rebel fighters across more than a dozen villages in this area, where thousands of civilians live, fighters said. Many of the rebels and civilians in this area rely on some level of support from Israel, they added.

“Most people want to cooperate with Israel,” said a fighter with rebel group Liwaa Ousoud al-Rahman, also fighting on the Golan.

18 June 2017

SOURCE | https://www.wsj.com/articles/israel-gives-secret-aid-to-syrian-rebels-1497813430


Also see for related links | https://www.facebook.com/notes/hands-off-syria/israels-fully-funded-proxy-armies-in-syria-fighting-under-the-syrian-rebels-bann/1390914517688619/




Independent Journalists Reveal America’s Sinister War in Syria

by Tony Cartalucci  - 24.05.2017



Syria is not experiencing a “civil war.” It is being targeted by both proxy and direct military force organized by the United States and its allies for the explicit purpose of dividing and destroying yet another Middle Eastern nation.

Worse than that, the United States is employing tactics to transform Syria’s heterogeneous multi-ethnic and religious communities into segregated ghettos, and using this as a means of dividing and conquering the nation and even the region.

The US is also widely employing the abhorrent tactics of socioeconomic, psychological, and armed terrorism to break the Syrian people completely and absolutely.

Unlike in Libya and Iraq, however, US plans in Syria have been confounded. And because of this, ample time has elapsed for independent journalists to travel to, record, and report what is actually transpiring versus the intentional, malicious, and continuous lies told by the West’s mainstream media.

One of these journalists is Patrick Henningsen of 21st Century Wire, whose recent trip to Syria had him cross paths and interview others frequently visiting and sharing their experiences and findings from the besieged nation.

The picture painted is one that cannot be ignored.

For those who have already decided to believe the Western media based on “activist accounts,” the accounts provided during a recent audio interview published by 21st Century Wire is at least as equally compelling. However, for those who truly desire to discover the truth, critical thought and additional research will reveal the latter to be telling a truth consistently and intentionally obfuscated by the Western media.

Imperialism’s Fingerprints: Weaponized Ethnic-Segregation


In an interview with British journalist Tom Duggan, the process of terrorists from internationally designated terror organizations like Jabhat Al Nusra and the so-called “Islamic State” targeting communities along sectarian lines is described. While the Western media has confirmed the sectarian nature of the ongoing conflict, what Duggan and Henningsen’s accounts reveal is that Syria was multi-ethnic, with communities enjoying integration and diversity based first on being Syrian, then based on their respective religious and ethnic identities, long before the conflict began.

Intermarriage and sociopolitical exchanges were common before the conflict, and only since 2011 has ethnic and religious tensions begun to expose fault lines within communities based solely on fear created and perpetuated by foreign-backed terrorist organizations like Al Nusra and the Islamic State.

Pointed out was the fact that both US foreign policy regarding Syria and Al Nusra and the Islamic State’s goals, both aim to see a Syria divided along sectarian lines.

While Al Nusra and the Islamic State attempt to cut Syria’s sectarian-diverse communities up literally with bullets and blades, the US has repeatedly presented multiple maps over several years of Syria divided into sectarian-based micro-states – effectively eliminating Syria as a functioning and unified nation-state. While the US omits the “secret ingredient” to make its fictional maps a reality, it is demonstrably clear that terrorist organizations are the ones on the ground attempting to draw these new maps.

Libya – besieged, divided, and destroyed by US-led NATO aggression in 2011 – has suffered a similar fate and currently exists as a cautionary example of what may become of Syria should US plans succeed. Libya will no longer contest US special interests geopolitically or otherwise in its current form as a failed, divided, and destroyed state.

The premeditated and systematic nature of this attempted division and destruction of Syria matches verbatim the tactics employed for centuries by the British Empire – and before that – the Roman Empire.

It is a fundamental tactic not of humanitarian-motivated interventionists, but of imperialists. The crass nature of these tactics – simultaneously promoted by the West and designated terrorist organizations – explains why the Western media has attempted to portray Syria as ethnically and religiously divided before the conflict began, rather than as a process of intentional division and destruction unfolding as part of US foreign policy.

Similar tactics have been employed in Iraq as well, with much greater success. And even as far as Thailand in Southeast Asia, the groundwork is being laid for similar tactics to be employed to divide and weaken states targeted by Washington for regime change – highlighting the global nature of America’s neo-imperial proclivities.

Daily Terrorism Carried Out By “Rebels,” Not Against Them

While the Western media has flooded headlines for years regarding the alleged atrocities carried out by the Syrian government and its allies against so-called “moderate rebels,” it has muted coverage of atrocities committed in turn by militants fighting the Syrian government and its people. These accounts are muted, because while they are technically “reported,” the obvious nature of these atrocities is often glossed over – sometimes even spun or lionized – rather than presented in a the same straightforward manner accusations against Damascus are.

During Henningsen’s interview with Duggan, the destructive and indiscriminate nature of improvised artillery systems used by terrorists in Syria was described. The narrative is one that equals any tale of “barrel bombs” employed by the Syrian government – perhaps even surpassing them – because while the Western media claims the Syrian government is using helicopters to drop ordnance into areas using direct line of sight, improvised artillery used by terrorists called “hell cannons” do not have direct line of sight to their targets.

This means that those using hell cannons have no way of knowing who, or even what they are hitting. They are blindly firing canisters full of deadly shrapnel – according to Western reports – up to a mile away.

The Daily Mail would describe the hell cannon as:


Firing improvised explosives with a range of around a mile, this is the homemade weapon of choice of the Free Syrian Army known as the ‘hell cannon’.

The cannon has been widely used during the conflict in besieged cities such as Aleppo and usually fires out highly modified propane gas cylinders.

The hell cannon could only ever be used as an absolutely indiscriminate weapon. With no way to reliably aim it, and no way to know definitively where rounds are landing, the result is predictable mayhem brought upon government forces and innocent civilians alike. With the vast majority of those living down range from the terrorists’ hell cannons being civilians, not soldiers, the likelihood of innocent people being maimed or killed by them is much higher.

For average readers of reports like the Daily Mail’s, “Syrian rebels strike back with the HELL CANNON: Aleppo fighters build devastating homemade weapon that shoots propane gas cylinders,” five minutes of critical thought will lead them to this conclusion.

Those operating among the West’s media – trained in journalism and in reporting events – when writing articles like those appearing in the Daily Mail, are thus making the conscious decision to intentionally, maliciously, and continuously lie regarding the methods and means used by terrorists they repeatedly refer to as “moderate rebels.” The double standards illustrated by the Daily Mail alone regarding “barrel bombs” versus “hell cannons” indicates concerted and serial attempts to misinform audiences and manipulate public perception.

Similar revelations are revealed during Henningsen’s interview with Duggan regarding the terrorists’ use of hospitals, schools, and mosques as military centers – knowing full well that any attempt by Damascus and its allies to target them would be politically exploited by their Western sponsors both from behind the podiums of public offices and within press rooms across the West.

Perhaps most ironic of all – is that US operations in Syria allegedly targeting terrorists, when hospitals, schools, and mosques are hit – produce admissions from across the Western media that – indeed – terrorists are using such facilities as military bases – admissions the Western media refused to make during the Syrian government’s operations to retake cities like Homs, Hama, and Aleppo.

Keeping an Open Mind

For those attempting to make sense of Syria’s ongoing conflict, or any other conflict being reported on by the Western media – the deep and concerted conspiracy that surrounded the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 alone should provide pause for thought before unquestioningly believing narratives produced from these same collection of Western media sources regarding other conflicts.

There are alternative organizations and media platforms operating in Syria, producing videos, audio interviews, and pages of information on a daily basis giving alternative insight into the conflict that people around the world can watch, listen to, and read. While no one is bound to believe Western or alternative narratives – for those genuinely pursing the truth – both need to be considered, researched, and vetted factually, rationally, and within a historical and logical context.

Narratives of a “humanitarian” motivated West seeking to end conflict and bring a brighter future to Syria simply does not add up in any context.

The special interests promoting regime change in Syria have a decades-long track record of deceiving the public, dividing and destroying nations, and leaving a path of destruction cutting across entire regions of the planet. While Western audiences are tempted to believe Western narratives regarding Syria in pursuit of US-backed regime change, nations like Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Ukraine smolder in the ruination of Western military intervention. By adding up the big picture, it is clear that alternative media sources are providing invaluable insight into global conflict the Western media has systematically and intentionally covered up for years.

Shifting in the minds of the global public the perceived reputation of Western media organizations versus their demonstrated serial deceptions is the first step toward truly ending conflicts like that raging in Syria, and truly bringing peace and a better future to the people trapped within these conflicts.

The Neocon-Zionist Alliance for War


by Ismael Hossein-Zadeh | November-December 2003

UNDER THE INFLUENCE of a cabal of the so-called neoconservatives, the Bush Administration openly embarked on an ambitious project to recast the geopolitical landscape of the Middle East – and perhaps beyond. Not only has this created insecurity and turbulence in the Middle East, it has also thrown most of the post-World War II international alliances, treaties, and institutions into disarray and confusion.

The relentless mobilization for war and militarism has also contributed to the undermining of both civil liberties and economic conditions of the overwhelming majority of the American people. While arms manufacturers are showered with massive amounts of tax dollars, nothing effective is done to stem the rising tide of unemployment and economic insecurity for the poor and working people.

The disproportionate allocation of resources in favor of arms industries is directly contributing to the undermining of both physical infrastructure (such as roads, bridges and ports) and soft/social infrastructure such as health care, education and nutrition.

Under a carefully orchestrated war atmosphere, and under the guise of a fiscal stimulus package, a huge capital-friendly tax cut is proposed that will drastically redistribute national income/resources in favor of the wealthy. Millions of Americans have witnessed their retirement savings disappear by the bear and corrupt market, and more than a million filed for bankruptcy last year alone.

Unsurprisingly, then, despite the somewhat artificial and somewhat coerced patriotism, many Americans are worried about their economic situation and, like many people in other parts of the world, anxious about international relations and world peace and stability.

What makes the foreign policy projections of the Bush Administration’s team of neoconservatives particularly dangerous is their self-righteous sense of being on a mission; hence their impatience in dealing with complex situations, their intolerance for discussion, debate and dissent, and their tendency to opt for pre<->emptive/adventurous shortcuts.

This strategy of Washington’s war-making cabal of neoconservatives in constantly contriving new external enemies seems to be derived from the political philosophy of H.L. Mencken, who maintained: “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”(1)

Thus, for example, in the face of legitimate questions about the alleged existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the Bush administration hurriedly invaded the country in an attempt to preempt further questions and/or a national debate on the issue. Likewise, in the wake of death and destruction in Iraq, and in the face of mounting economic problems at home, they are threatening war against Iran, Syria and other countries.

The Administration’s war juggernaut seems to be following the logic of the proverbial bicyclist who has to keep riding forward or else he will fall over; that is, embarking on new adventures and creating new problems as a way of dealing with the existing/old ones!

What then lies behind the Administration’s tendency toward a permanent state of war – pursued in the name of “preemption,” “regime change” and “war on terrorism”? Official explanations such as weapons of mass destruction, Saddam’s threat to the United States – or his connection to Al Qaeda, never actually claimed but cleverly hinted by U.S. officials – can now easily be dispensed with as flimsy pretexts for the invasion of Iraq.

Critics have pointed to a number of driving forces/factors to war. An obvious factor is said to be the President’s political need to maintain his 9/11-induced strong status as Commander-in-Chief, and his need for re-election on security/defense grounds. A second hypothesis attributes the Administration’s drive to war to its desire to divert attention from corporate scandal and economic recession.

Expansion of the American empire is offered as a third explanation. Control of the major sources of oil constitutes a widely cited fourth factor in the administration’s drive to war.

Whatever the contributory impact of these factors, they are not, in my view, the major driving forces behind the Administrations war machine. The Administration’s war juggernaut, rather, seems to be driven by an alliance/axis of two other forces: the Military-Industrial Complex and the hard-line Zionist proponents of a “Greater Israel” in the “Promised Land.”(2)

As I shall explain shortly, both of these forces perceive their interests better served by fomenting war and tension in the Middle East region. It is this convergence of interests on war and convulsion in the region that lies behind the current alliance of these two powerful forces.

This alliance is represented by a cabal of closely connected individuals who are firmly ensconced in the Pentagon. They also hold powerful positions within the National Security Council, the White House, the Congress and, to a lesser extent, the State Department. Not all hold official positions in the government apparatus. They also work within and through various lobbying think tanks, unofficial interest groups, consulting/research institutes, and the media.

Some of the well-known figures of what I call “the cabal” are Donald Rumsfeld (Secretary of Defense), Paul Wolfowitz (Under Secretary of Defense), Richard Cheney (Vice President), Richard Perle (Defense Policy Board), Douglas Feith (Defense Dept.), James Woolsey (former Director of Central Intelligence), David Wurmser (State Dept.), William Kristol (Editor, The Weekly Standard), Michael Ledeen (Oliver North’s Iran/contra liaison with the Israelis), Elliott Abrams (National Security Council), Lewis Libby (Vice President Cheney’s Chief of Staff), Fred Ikle (Defense Policy Board), Zalmay Khalilzad (White House), David Wurmser (State Department), Dov Zakheim (Defense Department), Peter Rodman (Defense Department), Richard Armitage (State Department), Norman Podhoretz (well-known doyen of the neoconservatives), David Frum (President Bush’s speech writer), John Bolton (State Department), Frank Gaffney (Director, Center for Security Policy), Joshua Muravchik (American Enterprise Institute), Martin Peretz (editor-in-chief, The New Republic), Leon Wieseltier (The New Republic), and former Rep. Stephen Solarz (D-N.Y.).

The number of the publicly known think tanks through which the Alliance operate include The American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Project for the New American Century (PNAC), Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Hudson Institute, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Middle East Forum, Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), and Center for Security Policy (CSP).

Some of the well-known publications that support, formulate, and propagate the views of the Cabal are: The Weekly Standard, The New Republic, The Wall Street Journal, National Review and the Washington Times.
Role of the Military-Industrial Complex

Because I have dealt with the role of the Military-Industrial Complex in the Bush Administration’s drive to war in an earlier article, I shall be brief here. (That earlier article, “Behind the Drive to War: Bush’s Escalating Military Budget,” can be viewed at: http://www.counterpunch.org/zadeh1025.html, and a version appears in Against the Current 102.)

My brief discussion of the issue here consists largely of excerpts and paraphrases from that earlier article. The theory behind the military industries’ tendency to war is straightforward: peace is simply not good for the business of these industries. War, by contrast, means good business; not only in terms of production and/or sales in general but also in terms of the industry’s appropriation of a big chunk of the nation’s tax dollars.

Excluding the elusive costs of the military adventure in Iraq, the official Pentagon budget for the fiscal year 2004 will amount to nearly $400 billion, the highest item in the Federal budget. Officially, military spending is the second highest item in the Federal budget after Social Security payments. But Social Security is a self-financing trust fund. So, in reality, military spending is the highest budget item.

In fact, if the social security trust fund is excluded from the Federal budget, as it should be, the military budget will be more than one-third of the entire Federal budget. President Eisenhower’s warning near the end of his second term against the potential dangers of the Military-Industrial Complex seems to have been prompted largely by this intrinsic tendency of the Complex towards war and militarism.

Of course, tendencies to build bureaucratic empires have always existed in the ranks of military hierarchies. By itself, this is not what makes the U.S. Military-Industrial Complex more dangerous than the military powers of the past empires. What makes it more dangerous is the “Industrial” part of the Complex.

In contrast to the United States’ military industry, arms industries of the past empires were not subject to capitalist market imperatives. Furthermore, those industries were often owned and operated by imperial governments, not by market-driven private corporations. Consequently, as a rule, arms production was dictated by war requirements, not by market or profit imperatives, which is often the case with today’s U.S. arms industry.

The fact that powerful interests within the Military-Industrial Complex derive “war dividends” from international conflicts explains why representatives of the Complex have almost always reacted negatively to discussions of international cooperation and detente (tension reduction). Thus, for example, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the Korean War and “Communist threat” were used as pretexts to overrule those who called for limits on military spending following the end of the World War.

Representatives of the Military-Industrial Complex, disproportionately ensconced in the State and Defense Departments, succeeded in having President Truman embark on his famous overhaul of the U.S. foreign policy, which drastically increased the Pentagon budget and expanded the military-industrial establishment.

Likewise, in the face of the 1970s’ tension-reducing negotiations with the Soviet Union, representatives of the Complex rallied around Cold Warrior think tanks such as the “Committee on the Present Danger” and successfully sabotaged those discussions. Instead, once again they managed to reinforce the relatively weakened tensions with the Soviet Union to such new heights that the 1980s came to be known as the Second Cold War – hence the dramatic “rearming of America,” as President Reagan put it.

Similarly, when the collapse of the Soviet system and the subsequent discussions of “peace dividends” in the United States threatened the interests of the Military-Industrial Complex, representatives of the Complex invented the “threat of rogue states to our national interests,” and successfully substituted it for the “threat of communism” of the Cold War era – thereby, once more, averting efforts at cutting the military spending. They also moved swiftly to exploit regional tensions and perhaps instigate certain states to react in a manner that would make the application of the term “rogue” to such states plausible. Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi dictator, was the first to fall into this trap.(3)

Thus, long before the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, beneficiaries of war dividends were searching for “rogue states” and other pretexts to justify and further expand the Pentagon budget. The needs of these beneficiaries of “war dividends” for international convulsions helps explain why they viewed the monstrous attacks of 9/11 as an opportunity for remilitarization.

These attacks were treated not as crimes, which they actually were, but as war on America. Once it was thus established that the United States was “at war,” military buildup followed logically. What is more, President Bush and his circle of war-making advisors have made their declared war on terrorism open-ended and permanent.

It is open-ended because the President’s close advisors seems to have no difficulty finding terrorism by definition; that is, “by deciding unilaterally what actions around the world constitute terrorism,” or by arbitrarily classifying certain countries as “supporters of terrorism,” as Bill Christison, retired CIA advisor, put it.(4) Justification of war has never been made so simple, requiring merely the fancy of the beneficiaries of “war dividends.”
The Role of Militant Zionism

Just as the beneficiaries of war dividends view international peace and stability inimical to their interests, so too the hard-line Zionists perceive peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors perilous to their goal of gaining control over the promised “Land of Israel.”

The reason for this fear of peace is that, according to a number of United Nations resolutions, peace would mean Israel’s return to its pre-1967 borders; that is, withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But because proponents of greater Israel are unwilling to withdraw from these territories, they are therefore afraid of peace.

Hence their continued efforts at sabotaging peace negotiations, including the heinous crime of assassinating the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin for having signed the Oslo Peace Accord with Palestinians. By the same token, these proponents view war and convulsion (or as David Ben-Gurion, one of the key founders of the State of Israel, put it, “revolutionary atmosphere”) as opportunities that are conducive to the expulsion of Palestinians, to the territorial recasting of the region, and to the expansion of Israel’s territory.

This judgment is based neither on theory, nor on conjecture, nor on simple logic. It is based on the well-known Zionist philosophy of establishing a Jewish state in the “Promised Land.” As a leading journalist and historian in Israel, Tom Segev, puts it:

“The idea of transfer [of Palestinians from their land] had accompanied the Zionist movement from its very beginnings, first appearing in Theodore Herzl’s diary. In practice, the Zionists began executing a mini-transfer from the time they began purchasing the land and evacuating the Arab tenants ... ‘Disappearing’ the Arabs lay at the heart of the Zionist dream, and was also a necessary condition of its existence . . .With few exceptions, none of the Zionists disputed the desirability of forced transfer – or its morality.”(5)

Because the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants of Palestine were not Jewish but Muslim and Christian Arabs, the question that faced the planners of a Jewish state in Palestine was, therefore, how to bring about the necessary removal of Palestinians from their land. Obviously, expulsions could not be brought about during normal, peaceful times; war and application of force were deemed necessary.

But launching war and applying force in the name of expulsions would be politically disastrous. Rather, any opportunity afforded by wars in the region was to be exploited. David Ben-Gurion explained the importance of the convulsive social circumstances to the objective of expelling the Palestinians and expanding the Jewish territory in these words: “What is inconceivable in normal times is possible in revolutionary times; and if at this time the opportunity is missed and what is possible in such great hours is not carried out – a whole world is lost.”(6)

The “great hours” arrived in the 1948 war, under whose cover they managed to expel 750,000 Palestinians (more than 80 percent of the indigenous population), and thus achieve “an overwhelmingly Jewish state.”(7) But while the state that was thus created achieved the objective of “overwhelmingly Jewish population,” it fell short of achieving the second major goal of militant Zionist planners: capturing the entire Palestine, the “Land of Israel,” from Jordan to the Mediterranean. It remained for another war, the 1967 war, to gain control of additional land, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Occupation of additional land, however, could not this time be accompanied by commensurate expulsion of its inhabitants. (About 30,000 Palestinians were expelled in 1967, compared to hundreds of thousands in 1948.) Additional territory, therefore, also meant an additional dilemma: the so-called “demographic problem.” The non-Jewish inhabitants of the occupied territories, combined with their higher rates of population growth, were viewed as a long-term threat to the ideal of “overwhelmingly Jewish state of Israel.”

Years of wrenching debate over how to resolve this “dilemma” led (by the 1980s) to a major fissure in the ranks of the Israeli leaders. The realist faction, headed by the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and his co-thinkers, gradually became convinced that the goal of capturing the entire Palestine based on the overwhelmingly Jewish population was unattainable.

The time had arrived in their view for Israel to consider the “land-for-security” proposals, along with the underlying ideas of two independent, side-by-side states of Israel and Palestine. This line of thinking eventually became the basis for the so-called Oslo Peace Accord between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

The hard-line proponents of “Greater Israel” such as Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu, by contrast, insisted on redoubling the “necessary” efforts to achieve the goal of capturing the “Land of Israel.” They acknowledged that, for the time being, certain conditions (the important friendly relations between the United States and a number of Arab states, the large Palestinian population in the occupied territories, and world public opinion) were not favorable to achieving this goal.

But they argued that some of those conditions could be changed, including geographic boundaries and territorial configurations of a number of countries in the region. Specifically, the hard-liners called for Israel to bring about the dissolution and fragmentation of the Arab states into a mosaic of ethnic groupings. This had been Ariel Sharon’s vision in planning the Israeli invasion of Lebanon as far back as 1982.

Thinking along those lines, Sharon stated on March 24, 1988, that if the Palestinian uprising continued, Israel would have to make war on her Arab neighbors. The war, he hinted, would “provide the circumstances” for a massive removal of the Palestinian population from the West Bank and Gaza and even from inside Israel proper. This implication is an unmistakable revival of David Ben-Gurion’s view that “revolutionary times” provide opportunities for population transfer from the “Land of Israel.”
USSR’s Demise and the Unholy Alliance

The collapse of the Soviet Union removed a major obstacle to that plan. As long as the Soviet Union existed as the countervailing world power to the United States, when the world in general and the Middle East region in particular were divided into East-West blocs of influence, the United States simply would not abandon or antagonize its Arab/Muslim allies in the region by supporting the Zionist plan of another overhaul of the geography of the region.

In pursuit of their goal of establishing a Jewish state in the “Land of Israel,” the Zionist leaders have always tried to portray their interests as coinciding with those of the United States. By the same token, they have also always tried to portray the opponents of their expansionist policies as enemies of the United States. But as just noted, such attempts at manipulation were not fully effective during the Cold War atmosphere.

In the aftermath of the Cold War era, however, those schemes began to resonate in a new way. This was not because the Zionist strategists suddenly became smarter, or the U.S. policy makers in the region suddenly became more susceptible to Zionist influence. Rather, the interests of the Military-Industrial Complex now converged with those of the hard-line Zionists in a continuing convulsion in the region.

This analysis contradicts the view/judgment that the U.S.-Israeli relationship represents a case of “tail wagging the dog;” i.e. that the U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East is shaped by the Israeli/Zionist leaders. While, no doubt, the powerful Jewish (and religious right) lobby exerts considerable influence over U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, the efficacy and the extent of that influence depends, ultimately, on the real economic and geopolitical interests of the U.S. foreign policy makers. In other words, U.S. foreign policy makers would go along with the demands of the Zionist lobby only if such demands also serve the interests of those policy makers (not necessarily the interests of the American people, or U.S. “national interests” in general).

In their search for substitutes for the Soviet threat of the Cold War era, proponents of U.S. militarism found a strong, well-established network of politically savvy allies: militant Zionists. Because the interests of these two powerful groups converged over fomenting war and convulsion in the Middle East, an ominously potent alliance was forged between them – ominous, because the mighty U.S. war machine was now supplemented by the Zionist lobby’s unrivaled public relations capabilities.(8)

The hawkish warmongers in and around the Bush Administration who have come to be known as neoconservatives serve the interests of this alliance. “Rogue states,” “war on terrorism,” “preemptive strikes” and “regime change” have been some of the politically useful products of the creative minds of the spin-doctors of the unholy alliance.

Not surprisingly, soon after the demise of the Soviet Union, representatives of the alliance embarked on a joint offensive against a whole host of long-established international institutions and conventions, arms control treaties and, most importantly, the Oslo peace negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis. In place of those long-established multilateral treaties and conventions, they now called for American unilateralism and/or militarism, along with an overhaul of the geopolitical landscape of the Middle East.

The alliance promotes its views and plans through an extended but tightly knit web of interlocking and/or overlapping network of influential think-tanks and lobbying entities, mentioned earlier in this essay. Some of these lobbying think tanks and their major political players have direct Israeli connections. For example, Colonel Yigal Carmon, formerly of Israeli military intelligence, was a co-founder of the Middle East Media Research Institute.

The other co-founder of MEMRI, Meyrav Wurmser, was a member of the Hudson Institute, while her husband, David Wurmser, headed the Middle East Studies Department of the American Enterprise Institute. Richard Perle, a major player in the neoconservative movement, was both a “resident fellow” at the American Enterprise Institute and a trustee of the Hudson Institute.(9)

Focusing on two of these influential think-tanks, JINSA and CPS, Jason Vest (reporting for The Nation) effectively unmasks “the close links among the two organizations, right-wing politicians, arms merchants, military men, Jewish billionaires, and Republican administrations.”(10)
“A Strategy for Securing the Realm”

In the immediate aftermath of the Cold War era, these think-tanks and their neo-conservative spin-doctors published a number of policy papers which clearly and forcefully advocated plans for border change, demo<->graphic change and regime change in the Middle East.

For example, in 1996 an influential Israeli think tank, Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, sponsored and published a policy document, titled “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” which argued that the Netanyahu government should “make a clean break” with the Oslo peace process and reassert Israel’s claim to the West Bank and Gaza.

It presented a plan whereby Israel would “shape its strategic environment,” beginning with the removal of Saddam Hussein and the installation of a Hashemite monarchy in Baghdad, to serve as a first step toward eliminating the anti-Israeli governments of Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Iran.(11)

The document, intended as a political road map for the incoming government of Benjamin Netanyahu, was prepared by a “Study Group” which included Richard Perle (American Enterprise Institute, Study Group Leader), James Colbert (Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs), Douglas Feith (Feith and Zell Associates), Robert Loewenberg (President, Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies), David Wurmser (Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies), and Meyrav Wurmser (Johns Hopkins University).

The dual role that a number of these individuals play is remarkable in serving as advisor both to the Likud party/government and to President Bush’s Administration (Perle is now a member of the Defense Policy Board; Feith is an Assistant Secretary of Defense; and Wurmser is special assistant to State Department chief arms control negotiator John Bolton).

In an “Open Letter to the President” (Clinton), dated 19 February 1998, a number of these lobbyists, along with a number of their cohorts in the Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf, recommended “a comprehensive political and military strategy for bringing down Saddam and his regime.” The letter further proposed: “It will not be easy – and the course of action we favor is not without its problems and perils. But we believe the vital national interests of our country require the United States to [adopt such a strategy].”(12)

Similarities between the recommendations made in this 1998 letter to President Clinton and those made in the 1996 report to the Likud party/government of Benjamin Netanyahu are unmistakable. The only difference is that whereas the 1996 report stressed the “national interests” of Israel the 1998 letter stressed the “national interests” of the United States.

Contrary to the neoconservatives’ claims, their belligerent policies serve neither the interests of the ordinary citizens of the United States, nor of the Jewish people. They serve primarily the interests of the U.S. arms manufacturers and the interests of militant Zionism – as perceived by its (misguided) leaders.

In September 2000 – the same month, coincidentally, when Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem sparked the Second Intifada and the subsequent descent into chaos – another think-tank of the warmongering cabal of neoconservatives, Project for the New American Century (PNAC), issued a report, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century.”

This report explicitly projected an imperial role for the United States the world over, and specifically an expanded U.S. presence in the Middle East region, using the claims against Saddam Hussein’s regime as a pretext: “The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.”(13)

This sample evidence clearly shows that the Military-Industrial-Zionist alliance had intended to invade Iraq and recast the geopolitical landscape of the Middle East long before the 9/11 atrocities. Indeed, evidence indicates that, aside from its triggering effect, those atrocities had very little to do with such plans.

Not surprisingly, immediately after the 9/11 attacks, representatives of the Military-Industrial-Zionist alliance began calling for war not just against Osama Bin Laden and/or Al Qaeda but also against a number of countries that allegedly supported or harbored terrorism. Thus on September 20, 2001 the neoconservative strategists of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) sent a letter to President Bush arguing that the “war on terrorism” must also include punitive measures against Iraq, Iran, and Syria:

It may be that the Iraqi government provided assistance in some form to the recent attack [of 9/11] on the United States. But even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. Failure to undertake such an effort will constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism . . . . We believe the administration should demand that Iran and Syria immediately cease all military, financial, and political support for Hezbollah and its operations. Should Iran and Syria refuse to comply, the administration should consider appropriate measures of retaliation against these known state sponsors of terrorism.(14)

In the 29 October 2002 issue of the Weekly Standard, William Kristol and Robert Kagan, two of the leading figures of the neoconservative cabal, reveal more of the plan of changing regimes and reestablishing a new world order:

When all is said and done, the conflict in Afghanistan will be to the war on terrorism what the North Africa campaign was to World War II: an essential beginning on the path to victory. But compared with what looms over the horizon – a wide-ranging war in locales from Central Asia to the Middle East and, unfortunately, back again to the United States – Afghanistan will prove but an opening battle . . . But this war will not end in Afghanistan. It is going to spread and engulf a number of countries in conflicts of varying intensity. It could well require the use of American military power in multiple places simultaneously.(15)

This ominous projection of another world war was made more explicit by Eliot Cohen three weeks later in a Wall Street Journal rticle, titled “World War IV”:

“Osama bin Laden’s War?. . . A less palatable but more accurate name is World War IV. The Cold War was World War III . . . The enemy in this war is not ‘terrorism’ . . . but militant Islam. The enemy has an ideology, and an hour spent surfing the Web will give the average citizen at least the kind of insights that he might have found during World Wars II and III by reading ‘Mein Kampf’ or the writings of Lenin, Stalin or Mao.”(16)

Professor Cohen is not alone in this portrayal of radical Islam as “the enemy,” the “threat to Western values,” and the culprit in “the clash of civilizations.” His ideological cohorts in crafting this insidious theory include Bernard Lewis, Daniel Pipes, Samuel Huntington, Charles Krauthammer and a whole host of other co-thinkers.(17)
Defining the President’s Mission

Despite certain concessions to the demands of the neoconservatives, both Presidents Bush Sr. and Clinton stopped short of fully complying with those demands. With the arrival of their candidate Bush Jr. in the White House, however, neoconservative strategists redoubled their efforts. As they competed with the traditional, multilateral approach favored by State Department’s Colin Powell, in order to win the President over to their policy of unilateralism, neoconservative strategists began to define foreign policy issues and objectives in religious, missionary, and mythical terms.

As James P. Pinkerton (of New York Newsday) puts it, the neoconservatives:

“word-creations, such as ‘moral clarity,’ ‘axis of evil’ and ‘Bush Doctrine,’ spread far and wide. These word-weavings were repeated over and over again, in magazines, books and cable news shows. Bush became Winston Churchill, Saddam Hussein became Hitler, the Arabs were ripe for Americanization, and the U.S. military became the sword not only of vengeance, but also of do-gooding and nation-building.”(18)

Not accidentally, the strategy of couching foreign policy in missionary terms worked. As a born-again Christian, and with little patience for nuances and gray areas, the President was energized once he was led to view his international responsibilities as “missions.” The missionary approach was further reinforced by the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

As Stephen Sniegoski put it, “Neoconservatives have presented the September 11 atrocities as a lightning bolt to make President Bush aware of his destiny: destroying the evil of terrorism.” Norman Podhoretz, one of the neoconservative strategists, gleefully describes the “transfigured” President:

A transformed – or, more precisely, a transfigured – George W. Bush appeared before us. In an earlier article . . . I suggested, perhaps presumptuously, that out of the blackness of smoke and fiery death let loose by September 11, a kind of revelation, blazing with a very different fire of its own, lit up the recesses of Bush’s mind and heart and soul. Which is to say that, having previously been unsure as to why he should have been chosen to become President of the United States, George W. Bush now knew that the God to whom, as a born-again Christian, he had earlier committed himself had put him in the Oval Office for a purpose. He had put him there to lead a war against the evil of terrorism.(19)

Having helped define the President’s “mission,” the neoconservative cabal took the most advantage of the thus energized President. By deliberately couching their nefarious objectives in missionary terms, and repeatedly defining their enemies, real or imaginary, in biblical language (“axis of evil, evil-doers, good vs. evil, day of reckoning,” and the like), they had no difficulty getting the President to carry out their agenda, including the invasion of Iraq.

Whether in light of the less-than successful mission in Iraq, along with all the underlying instances of deception, disinformation, and political scandal, the President will continue to (or can) carry out the rest of the neoconservatives’ plan of “World War IV” beyond Iraq remains to be seen.

In summary: Two major forces behind the Bush Administration’s policy of war and mischief in the Middle East are (a) the Military-Industrial Complex, and (b) the Zionist proponents of establishing a Jewish state in the “Land of Israel.” The perceived interests of both of these forces converge on the promotion of war and convulsion in the region. It is this convergence of interests on war that explains the unholy alliance between representatives of these two ominously powerful interest groups.

Militant Zionists, striving to capture the <170>Land of Israel,<170> have always tried to portray opponents of their policies of expulsion and expansion as enemies of the United States, and to thereby get the U.S. military force to fight and/or support their wars of territorial extension. Under the bipolar world of the Cold War era, however, the United States needed its Arab/Muslim “allies” in the Middle East; this meant that, in its support of Israel, the U.S. could not at the time afford to abandon those allies and comply with the Zionist demands of regime and/or border change in the region.

But the collapse of the Soviet system and the end of the Cold War changed this geopolitical scenario. As representatives of the arms industries sought substitutes for the Soviet threat of the Cold war era, they found in radical Islam a plausible candidate, long promoted by a number of theoretical leaders of militant Zionism and their ideological cohorts as a major “threat to Western civilization.”

The interests of militant Zionism in fighting “radical Islam” now converged with those of the U.S. military industries.(20) The cabal of neoconservative warmongers in and around the Bush Administration largely represents this alliance.

What can be done to rein in this dangerously unbridled force?

There is no doubt that the neoconservatives’ adventurous foreign policy is a threat to world peace and stability. There is also no doubt that their policies are also menacing U.S. citizens’ civil liberties, undermining their social safety net programs, curtailing the working people’s rights and opportunities, plundering national resources, and creating a huge fiscal strain.

Equally there is no question that the neoconservatives’ pyrrhic success – so far – in shaping the U.S. foreign policy, including the invasion of Iraq, has benefitted from heavy doses of deception, disinformation, and Machiavellian manipulations. The question, rather, is: How long can the cabal of neoconservatives get away with telling so many lies, committing so much fraud, and doing so much damage – both domestically and internationally?

External/international resistance to the neoconservatives’ adventures will obviously help. But the crucial, restraining opposition has to come from within, that is, from the American people. Such opposition to neoconservatives’ destructive policies is bound to unfold.

There are strong indications that, as Eric Margolis points out, “The longer U.S. forces stay in Iraq, the uglier the guerrilla war will get. And the more Americans will realize they were led into this needless conflict by a [President] manipulated by a cabal of neo-conservatives whose primary loyalty is not to the United States.”(21)

There is hope that as the American people realize that their sons and daughters are losing their lives because some policy makers lied, or that they are losing their jobs and livelihood because their national resources are squandered on the production of the means of destruction, they will demand the kind of accountability that will go some way to make the perpetrators of war and deception pay for their destructive policies.

Notes1. As cited by Carlton Meyer in: http://www.g2mil.com/May2003.htm

2. It is important to distinguish between hard-line/militant and moderate Zionists. While almost all Zionists would say that they dream of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, they greatly differ over what this really means. Generally speaking, two broad approaches have evolved over this issue: the moderate and the hard-line approaches.

Moderate Zionists do not deny the right of non-Jews to live in Palestine. They favor the idea of accommodation and peaceful coexistence with the non-Jewish natives of Palestine, either as a democratic, federal state, or as two independent states. Accordingly, they do not support the idea of forceful occupation of land, expulsion of indigenous people, and the establishment of a Jewish state based on exclusively or overwhelmingly Jewish population. Albert Einstein is the most well-known proponent of this approach.

Hard-line Zionists, by contrast, aim at capturing the “entire Palestine,” the “Promised Land,” stretching from Jordan to the Mediterranean, and establishing a state there based on exclusive or overwhelming majority of Jewish people. Accordingly, they advocate the policy of physical expulsion of the Palestinians from this “Promised Land.” “The iron wall,” a phrase put forward by Vladimir Jabotinsky in the 1920s, as the appropriate policy for militant Zionists to adopt in Palestine, succinctly captures this approach. It is this approach of Zionism, the hard-line approach, that I critique in this essay.

3. Evidence of such a trap surfaced in subsequent U.S. Congressional hearings on the issue. For example, an official message delivered to Saddam Hussein by the U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie on 25 July 1990, just days before the invasion of Kuwait, pointed out: “We have no opinion on . . . conflicts like your border dispute with Kuwait ... Secretary of State James Baker has directed our official spokesman to emphasize this instruction . . . I have direct instructions from the President.” For this and more evidence see, among other sources, International Viewpoint, No. 200, February 18, 1991, 4; Douglas Kelner, The Persian Gulf TV War Boulder, Colorado, Westview Press, 1992; and James Ridgeway (ed.), The March to War, 1991.

4. “The Disastrous Foreign Policies of the United States,” Counterpunch, May 9, 2002: http://www.counterpunch.org/christison0806.html

5. Tom Segev, “One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs under the British Mandate” (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2000), 404-5; as quoted in Stephen J. Sniegoski, “The War on Iraq: Conceived in Israel,” http://www.thornwalker.com:16080/ditch/snieg_conc1.htm. For a history of Zionist ideas on expulsion, see e.g. Benny Morris, “Righteous Victims” (New York: 1999); Nur Masalha, “Expulsion of the Palestinians: The Concept of ’Transfer’ in Zionist Political Thought, 1882-1948” (Washington: Institute of Palestine Studies, 1992).

6. Quoted in Norman Finkelstein, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, Introduction to German edition (10 July 2002), http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/id127.htm.

7. See Sniegoski, op. cit.

8. For some of the strategies through which the Zionist lobby manipulates the public opinion, especially in the United States, see, for example, http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article1395.shtml.

9. The literature on the neo-conservative think tanks, their family-like close ties, and their relentless scheming to further the interests of the war industries, on the one hand, and those of militant Zionism, on the other, is plentiful. Here is a sample: (a) Stephen J. Sniegoski, op. cit., http://www.thornwalker.com:16080/ditch/snieg_conc.htm; (b) Brian Whitaker, “US think tanks give lessons in foreign policy,” The Guardian, August 19, 2002: http://www.guardian.co.uk/elsewhere/journalist/story/0,7792,777100,00.html; (c) Richard H. Curtis, “Israel’s Lobby Tries to Widen Net Against Terrorism,” “Washington Report on Middle East Affairs,” December 2001: http://www.wrmea.com/archives/december01/0112026.html; and (d) Akiva Eldar, “An Unholy Alliance with the Christian Right: Gary Bauer and Likud,” Counterpunch, April 8, 2003: http://www.counterpunch.org/eldar04092003.html.

10. Jason Vest, “The Men From JINSA and CSP,” The Nation, September 2, 2002: http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20020902&s=vest&c=1.

11. Sniegoski, <MI>op. cit<D>. The original document, “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” can be viewed at: http://www.israeleconomy.org/strat1.htm.

12. The signers include many of the same Bush administration advisors and neoconservativbe figures mentioned earlier. See “Open Letter to the President,<170> February 19, 1998, http://www.iraqwatch.org/perspectives/rumsfeld-openletter.htm; Sniegoski, op. cit., http:// www.thornwalker.com:16080/ditch/snieg_conc2.htm; Frank Gaffney, “End Saddam’s Reign of Terror: Better late than never,” National Review Online, February 21, 2002, http://www.nationalreview.com/contributors/gaffney022101.shtml.

13. The sponsors of the report included Richard Cheney (Vice President), Donald Rumsfeld (secretary of defense), Paul Wolfowitz (deputy secretary of defense), and Lewis Libby (Cheney’s chief of staff). William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, was also a co-author of the report. See Sniegoski, op. cit.

14. The letter’s signatories included William Kristol, Gary Bauer, Eliot Cohen, Midge Decter, Francis Fukuyama, Frank Gaffney, Eli Jacobs, Michael Joyce, Donald Kagan, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Charles Krauthammer, Richard Perle, Martin Peretz, Norman Podhoretz, Randy Scheunemann, Stephen J. Solarz, Leon Wieseltier and Marshall Wittmann. William Kristol & others, “Toward a Comprehensive Strategy: A Letter to the President,” September 20, 2001, http://www.nationalreview.com/document/document092101b.shtml; also in: “Project for the New American Century,” http://www.newamericancentury.org/Bushletter.htm.

15. Robert Kagan and William Kristol, “The Gathering Storm,” The Weekly Standard, October 29, 2002: http://theweeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/000/384thhhq.asp.

16. Eliot A. Cohen, “World War IV,” The Wall Street Journal, November 20, 2001, >http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=95001493. After arguing that “the enemy in this war is not terrorism . . . but militant Islam,” Professor Cohen goes on to suggest that the first battle in this war should start with Iraq: “Iraq is the obvious candidate.” Even if we assume that Professor Cohen is right in saying that “the enemy is militant Islam,” it is not clear why, then, he suggests that the war against militant Islam, “World War IV,” should start with Iraq. Not much love was lost between the secular Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein and militant Islam. Nor have ties been found between Saddam’s regime and Al Qaeda.

17. See, for example, (a) Bernard Lewis, “What Went Wrong: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response,” Oxford/New York 2001; (b) Samuel Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order,” New York 1997; (c) Charles Krauthammer, Interview, “Middle East Quarterly,” December 1994; and (d) Daniel Pipes, “There are no Moderates: Dealing with Fundamentalist Islam, The National Interest,” Fall 1995.

18. James P. Pinkerton, “The Iraq War, or America Betrayed,“ ny-Newsday.com, July 15, 2003: http://www.nynewsday.com/news/nationworld/nation/ny-vppin153372005jul15.story.

19. Sniegoski, op. cit. Norman Podhoretz, “In Praise of the Bush Doctrine,” Commentary, in http://www.ourjerusalem.com/opinion/story/opinion20020904a.html.

20. For a sample of views expressed within the neoconservative handlers of the President’s foreign policy in favor of “World War IV” see, for examples, (a) Justin Raimondo, “World War IV: Has it arrived?” in http://www.antiwar.com/justin/j040403.html; (b) Gail Russell Chaddock, “Tracing the Roots of America’s war in Iraq: `Neocon’ architects of a muscular US policy eye more regime changes in the region,” in http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0409/p03s01-uspo.html; (c) Herald Tribune, Special to World Tribune.com, Friday, April 4, 2003, “What’s Next? U.S. Set Sights on Iran, North Korea,” in http:// 216.26.163.62/2003/ss_wmd_04_03.html.

21. Eric Margolis, “U.S. Falling Into Bin Laden’s Trap,” Toronto Sun, July 6, 2003, in http://www.canoe.ca/Columnists/margolis_jul6.html.

ATC 107, November-December 2003

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