Thursday, September 05, 2013

Syrian Tragedy, Whoever Guilty

 KERRY AND ASSAD with partners at dinner in Damascus.

HOW rude it is to remind political leaders of what they said a few years ago, and depict them dining with the devil. There was US Secretary of State John Kerry putting Syrian leader Bashar al Assad on a par with Hitler and Saddam Hussein among criminals, and out came the photos of Senator Kerry from his visit to Damascus in February 2009, when he was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Kerry said in a press conference during the visit: "President Barack Obama's administration considers Syria a key player in Washington's efforts to revive the stalled Middle East peace process, " adding
"Syria is an essential player in bringing peace and stability to the region."

Kerry met with Assad at least six times, and on one occasion the two men and their wives dined together at the Naranj restaurant in central Damascus' Old Town.

Before that Tony Blair, the Middle East "peace envoy" who is shouting for war, was just as keen to get into the Syrian regime's good books, and to gain Syrian deals for Britain's order books, of course, and  as embarrassing as the photographs may be, more revelations are starting to come out of how this government has pursued those goals.

It is reported that Britain exported chemicals to Syria, including Potassium and Sodium Fluoride, which could have been use to manufacture sarin nerve gas. The chemical export licences were granted by Business Secretary Vince Cable’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills last January – 10 months after the Syrian uprising began.They were only revoked six months later, when the European Union imposed tough sanctions on Assad’s regime.

Dunfermline and West Fife Labour MP Thomas Docherty, who sits on the House of Commons’ Committees on Arms Export Controls, planned to lodge Parliamentary questions and write to Cable.

He said: “At best it has been negligent and at worst reckless to export material that could have been used to create chemical weapons".

Whether or not it was the Assad regime which supposedly crossed a "red line" by using the nerve gas, believed to be sarin, in an attack on a Damascus suburb, continues to be debated. Nearly 1500 people, including 426 children, were killed in the attack. While the Obama administration and David Cameron take this as justification for intervention, and some US Republicans would prefer all out war, Russia has called on Turkish authorities to give the UN information on the capture of an armed group with gas equipment.

Putin says Russia is not defending Assad but upholding international law.

Despite the efforts of UN inspectors on the ground, much of the argument about responsibility seems to rely on circumstantial evidence or generalised statements such as "only the government would have the means to use such weapons" or, on the other side "Cui bono? (who benefits), claiming that Israel must have somehow launched the attack as a "false flag" operation, either by itself or assisted by Arab accomplices, so as to bring on US intervention.

Why the Israeli government would prefer to see a stable Syria replaced by a possibly al Qaida-friendly regime on its border is not explained by these theorists, but as a sop to their views we might note that in the United States the Zionist lobby AIPAC is championing US intervention, while the obnoxious lawyer academic Alan Dershowitz is demanding the United States declare war on Iran. L'Shana Tova, Happy New Year everybody.   

Exploiting the opportunity of a crime is not the same as responsibility, of course, and getting back to the crime itself, the following article does merit attention, even if we cannot vouch for its reliability:

Ghouta, Syria — As the machinery for a U.S.-led military intervention in Syria gathers pace following last week’s chemical weapons attack, the U.S. and its allies may be targeting the wrong culprit.

Interviews with people in Damascus and Ghouta, a suburb of the Syrian capital, where the humanitarian agency Doctors Without Borders said at least 355 people had died last week from what it believed to be a neurotoxic agent, appear to indicate as much.

The U.S., Britain, and France as well as the Arab League have accused the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for carrying out the chemical weapons attack, which mainly targeted civilians. U.S. warships are stationed in the Mediterranean Sea to launch military strikes against Syria in punishment for carrying out a massive chemical weapons attack. The U.S. and others are not interested in examining any contrary evidence, with U.S Secretary of State John Kerry saying Monday that Assad’s guilt was “a judgment … already clear to the world.”
 However, from numerous interviews with doctors, Ghouta residents, rebel fighters and their families, a different picture emerges. Many believe that certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out the dealing gas attack.
“My son came to me two weeks ago asking what I thought the weapons were that he had been asked to carry,” said Abu Abdel-Moneim, the father of a rebel fighting to unseat Assad, who lives in Ghouta.
Abdel-Moneim said his son and 12 other rebels were killed inside of a tunnel used to store weapons provided by a Saudi militant, known as Abu Ayesha, who was leading a fighting battalion. The father described the weapons as having a “tube-like structure” while others were like a “huge gas bottle.”
Ghouta townspeople said the rebels were using mosques and private houses to sleep while storing their weapons in tunnels.
Abdel-Moneim said his son and the others died during the chemical weapons attack. That same day, the militant group Jabhat al-Nusra, which is linked to al-Qaida, announced that it would similarly attack civilians in the Assad regime’s heartland of Latakia on Syria’s western coast, in purported retaliation.
“They didn’t tell us what these arms were or how to use them,” complained a female fighter named ‘K.’ “We didn’t know they were chemical weapons. We never imagined they were chemical weapons.”
“When Saudi Prince Bandar gives such weapons to people, he must give them to those who know how to handle and use them,” she warned. She, like other Syrians, do not want to use their full names for fear of retribution.
A well-known rebel leader in Ghouta named ‘J’ agreed. “Jabhat al-Nusra militants do not cooperate with other rebels, except with fighting on the ground. They do not share secret information. They merely used some ordinary rebels to carry and operate this material,” he said.

“We were very curious about these arms. And unfortunately, some of the fighters handled the weapons improperly and set off the explosions,” ‘J’ said.
Doctors who treated the chemical weapons attack victims cautioned interviewers to be careful about asking questions regarding who, exactly, was responsible for the deadly assault.

The humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders added that health workers aiding 3,600 patients also reported experiencing similar symptoms, including frothing at the mouth, respiratory distress, convulsions and blurry vision. The group has not been able to independently verify the information.

More than a dozen rebels interviewed reported that their salaries came from the Saudi government. 

Remembering the way apologists for the Sarajevo bread queue massacre (and for that matter Guernica) tried to accuse those hit of staging the events and killing their own people, friends are wary of accepting such an explanation, But let us not forget that in both Bosnia and Spain it was the legitimate governments that were subject to an arms embargo and denied help. And that some of the so-called Syrian rebels are neither Syrian nor simply rebels, being jihadis and salafis for whom the concept of "their own people" is pretty meaningless, and loss of civilian life (or what Americans call "collateral damage") is an acceptable sacrifice.  

Meantime, those in the Left and anti-war movement who point to "Western hypocrisy", referring to the weapons used by the United States in Vietnam, or the white phosphorus used by US forces on Falluja in Iraq, or the Israelis attacking Gaza, are right, but we should not be content with such arguments, still less with shrugging that killing people with bullets or chemical weapons is all the same. It is not.

Whoever used sarin or similar chemical weapons to inflict such horrific deaths and suffering on people, it was a crime, and should not go unpunished. But who is there to punish it?

Certainly not the US and Britain, whose governments assisted and covered for Saddam Hussein when he gassed the Kurdish town of Hallabja, only raising that atrocity years later to justify their war on Iraq, when among other towns they bombed Hallabja again themselves. Their war on Syria, and together with Israel and the Saudis against Iran, can only mean more and bigger war crimes.




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