Scanlyze

The Online Journal of Insight, Satire, Desire, Wit and Observation

Letter to CJ Chivers of the New York Times about the improbable narrative on Syrian gas attacks

Mr Chivers,

There are several things about the alleged Syrian gas attack at Ghouta story which don’t seem to pass the smell test.

I’m dubious about the claims that Syrian regular forces were responsible given the use of IRAM (Improvised Rocket Assisted Munition) as a delivery mechanism. Isn’t this more likely to be some militia such as Hezbollah or Al Nusra or one of the US contra fronts?

Given the internecine fighting between anti government forces and the extreme brutality used in these fights, I don’t think it is a given that an attack on rebel territory is ipso facto certain to be of government regular troops origin.

A number of qualified commentators have commented on how the medical and other personnel have been able to handle the bodies without protective gear and without any apparent ill effects. Very odd if we are looking at sarin don’t you think?[1]

Cui bono? There is every motive for the FSA forces who are losing the war to try to change the equation. Likewise there is no motive for the government, which is winning the war, to do so.

Finally, the explanation for why the inspectors were unable to reach a site a few miles from the city center from Damascus just doesn’t hold water. We are told they came under fire from snipers, but no-one was injured.

We both know that is at best utterly improbable. Snipers just don’t work that way.

Snipers disabled the lead vehicle and took out the front windshield and then… did nothing? Really?[2]

Given the “dodgy dossier” and Dr. Kelley’s subsequent “suicide” with almost no blood found at the scene and no fingerprints recoverable from the knife or other objects allegedly found at the scene[3], and the blatant lies pedaled by Colin Powell and credulously amplified by the media including the Times in the leadup to the Iraq war, and given the lack of any direct confirmation at all of the origin of this attack, I smell a rat.

If you do too, please have the courage to go public with your concerns and skepticism.

Also being elided in the Times coverage seemingly is that waging aggressive war is a war crime as defined by the Nuremberg Principles. There is no possible justification for an unprovoked US attack on Syria under customary law absent an attack on the US or a UN Security Council resolution.

And under the US Constitution such actions require a declaration of war from Congress, the in my view, unconstitutional War Powers Act notwithstanding.

Is the New York Times going to repeat all its mistakes from the Judy Miller years? Have you learned nothing at all? You are all falling for the exact same tricks of disinformation again, if not actually knowingly and intentionally going along for the ride.

best regards,

–Henry

[1] AFP reports:

“At the moment, I am not totally convinced because the
people that are helping them are without any protective clothing and
without any respirators,” said Paula Vanninen, director of Verifin, the
Finnish Institute for Verification of the Chemical Weapons Convention.
“In a real case, they would also be contaminated and would also be having symptoms.”

John Hart, head of the Chemical and Biological Security Project at
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said he had not seen
the telltale evidence in the eyes of the victims that would be
compelling evidence of chemical weapons use.

“Of the videos that I’ve seen for the last few hours, none of them
show pinpoint pupils… this would indicate exposure to organophosphorus
nerve agents,” he said.

Gwyn Winfield, editor of CBRNe World magazine, which specialises in
chemical weapons issues, said the evidence did not suggest that the
chemicals used were of the weapons-grade that the Syrian army possesses
in its stockpiles.

“We’re not seeing reports that doctors and nurses… are becoming
fatalities, so that would suggest that the toxicity of it isn’t what we
would consider military sarin. It may well be that it is a lower-grade,”
Winfield told AFP.
Syria opposition says 1,300 dead in chemical attacks by army

Haaretz reports:

Western experts on chemical warfare who have examined at
least part of the footage are skeptical that weapons-grade chemical
substances were used, although they all emphasize that serious
conclusions cannot be reached without thorough on-site examination.
Dan Kaszeta, a former officer of the U.S. Army’s Chemical Corps and a
leading private consultant, pointed out a number of details absent from
the footage so far: “None of the people treating the casualties or
photographing them are wearing any sort of chemical-warfare protective
gear,” he says, “and despite that, none of them seem to be harmed.” This
would seem to rule out most types of military-grade chemical weapons,
including the vast majority of nerve gases, since these substances would
not evaporate immediately, especially if they were used in sufficient
quantities to kill hundreds of people, but rather leave a level of
contamination on clothes and bodies which would harm anyone coming in
unprotected contact with them in the hours after an attack. In addition,
he says that “there are none of the other signs you would expect to see
in the aftermath of a chemical attack, such as intermediate levels of
casualties, severe visual problems, vomiting and loss of bowel control.”
Steve Johnson, a leading researcher on the effects of hazardous
material exposure at England’s Cranfield University who has worked with
Britain’s Ministry of Defense on chemical warfare issues, agrees that
“from the details we have seen so far, a large number of casualties over
a wide area would mean quite a pervasive dispersal. With that level of
chemical agent, you would expect to see a lot of contamination on the
casualties coming in, and it would affect those treating them who are
not properly protected. We are not seeing that here.”
Additional questions also remain unanswered, especially regarding the
timing of the attack, being that it occurred on the exact same day that
a team of UN inspectors was in Damascus to investigate earlier claims
of chemical weapons use. It is also unclear what tactical goal the
Syrian army would have been trying to achieve, when over the last few
weeks it has managed to push back the rebels who were encroaching on
central areas of the capital. But if this was not a chemical weapons
attack, what then caused the deaths of so many people without any
external signs of trauma?
Following alleged sarin attack || Defense Minister: Assad used chemical weapons multiple times in Syria But Western experts are skeptical that nerve gas was used Wednesday, and describe other viable scenarios.

[2]
Despite Sniper Fire, U.N. Team Reaches Syria Inspection Site
Source: NYT

LONDON — Snipers opened fire Monday on a convoy of United Nations inspectors heading toward the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria, disabling the lead vehicle with multiple shots to the tires and windshield, the United Nations said, but the inspectors still managed to visit two hospitals, interview witnesses and doctors and collect patient samples for the first time since the attack last week that claimed hundreds of lives.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement that he had instructed his top disarmament official, Angela Kane, who was visiting Damascus, to register a “strong complaint to the Syrian government and authorities of opposition forces” to ensure the safety of the inspectors after the assault. There was no indication that any member of the inspection team had been hurt.

Mr. Ban’s spokesman, Farhan Haq, told reporters at a regular daily briefing at United Nations headquarters in New York that the assailants, who had not been identified, fired on the first vehicle in the convoy, which was “hit in its tires and its front window, ultimately it was not able to travel further.”

Mr. Haq said the inspectors, who numbered about a dozen, resumed their trip to a suspected attack site in a Damascus suburb after the vehicle was replaced, visiting two hospitals and interviewing witnesses, survivors and doctors. “They took a number of relevant samples, they feel very satisfied with the results of their work,” Mr. Haq said. A second visit was planned for Tuesday.
Despite Sniper Fire, U.N. Team Reaches Syria Inspection Site

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement after the assault that he had told his top disarmament official, Angela Kane, who was visiting Damascus, to register a “strong complaint to the Syrian government and authorities of opposition forces” to ensure the inspectors’ safety. There was no indication that any inspection team member had been hurt.

Mr. Ban’s spokesman, Farhan Haq, told reporters at a regular daily briefing at United Nations headquarters in New York that the assailants, who had not been identified, fired on the first vehicle in the convoy, which was “hit in its tires and its front window.”

“Ultimately,” he said, “it was not able to travel farther.”

Kerry Cites Clear Evidence of Chemical Weapon Use in Syria

[3] New suspicion over Kelly death – MP

Copyright © 2013 Henry Edward Hardy

28 August, 2013 Posted by | chemical warfare, customary law, gas, international law, lies, military, news, politics, propaganda, scanlyze, war | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Human Rights Watch: Ghost Prisoner: Two Years in Secret CIA Detention

Human Rights Watch has compiled a comprehensive report about the case of one of the “disappeared”, Marwan Jabour. Most of the docile and pathetic British and US press have ‘reported’ on this publication without managing to link to it or even so much as mention the name of the report!

Here’s a bit from the Summary:

When Marwan Jabour opened his eyes, after a blindfold, a mask, and other coverings were taken off him, he saw soldiers and, on the wall behind them, framed photographs of King Hussein and King Abdullah of Jordan. He was tired and disoriented from his four-hour plane flight and subsequent car trip, but when a guard confirmed that he was being held in Jordan, he felt indescribable relief. In his more than two years of secret detention, nearly all of it in US custody, this was the first time that someone had told him where he was. The date was July 31, 2006.

A few weeks later, in another first, the Jordanians allowed several of Jabour’s family members to visit him. “My father cried the whole time,” Jabour later remembered.

Marwan Jabour was arrested by Pakistani authorities in Lahore, Pakistan, on May 9, 2004. He was detained there briefly, then moved to the capital, Islamabad, where he was held for more than a month in a secret detention facility operated by both Pakistanis and Americans, and finally flown to a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) prison in what he believes was Afghanistan. During his ordeal, he later told Human Rights Watch, he was tortured, beaten, forced to stay awake for days, and kept naked and chained to a wall for more than a month. Like an unknown number of Arab men arrested in Pakistan since 2001, he was “disappeared” into US custody: held in unacknowledged detention outside of the protection of the law, without court supervision, and without any contact with his family, legal counsel, or the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The secret prison program under which Jabour was held was established in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, when US President George W. Bush signed a classified directive authorizing the CIA to hold and interrogate suspected terrorists. Because the entire program was run outside of US territory, it required the support and assistance of other governments, both in handing over detainees and in allowing the prisons to operate.

–from the Summary of Ghost Prisoner: Two Years in Secret CIA Detention

See also: BBC Report: ‘Sleaze alleged in CIA’
European Union: Report on the alleged use of European countries by the CIA for the transportation and illegal detention of prisoners

Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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1 March, 2007 Posted by | Afghanistan, archives, Central Intelligence Agency, CIA, covert operations, crime, detention, human rights, Human Rights Watch, international law, investigations, Jordan, kidnapping, law, law of nations, Marwan Jabour, memory hole, Middle East, military, news, Pakistan, peace, politics, prisoner, prisoners, rendition, report, repression, torture, war, war crimes | Leave a comment

Najaf Update: February 21, 2007

Interesting press release from the Multinational Forces in Iraq regarding Hilla, a town near An-Najaf, and the continuing suppression of heterodox Shia in the area. We must ask once again, what happened to the approximately 200 women and children captured near Najaf and Kufa in the “Battle of Najaf” on Jan 28, 2007?

Hilla SWAT captures 21 insurgent leaders
Saturday, 17 February 2007
Multi-National Corps – Iraq
Public Affairs Office, Camp Victory
APO AE 09342

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
RELEASE No. 20070217-05
Feb. 17, 2007

Hilla SWAT captures 21 insurgent leaders
Multi-National Corps – Iraq PAO

BAGHDAD – Iraqi Special Weapons and Tactics Team members of Hilla SWAT arrested 21 suspected insurgent leaders during operations with Coalition advisers Feb. 16 southwest of Hilla. The suspects are believed to be Mahdawiyah leaders who are threatening the lives of Iraqi Security Forces and civilians in the area.

The Mahdawiyah group was involved in the battle against Iraqi Forces Jan. 28 in Najaf. Since the battle, the Mahdawiyah leadership has made death threats to Hilla SWAT policemen and their family members.

There were Iraqi arrest warrants for all the suspects. Hilla SWAT also detained 13 additional persons for questioning.

The operation by Hilla SWAT resulted in minimal damage to the objective. There were no Iraqi civilian, Iraqi forces or Coalition Forces casualties.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT MULTI-NATIONAL CORPS – IRAQ, PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE BY E-MAIL AT MNCI-PAO-VICTORYMAINJOC@IRAQ.CENTCOM.MIL

See also: Keyword ‘Najaf’ on scanlyze

Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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22 February, 2007 Posted by | America, Army, detention, human rights, international law, Iraq, Islam, massacre, media, MNF, Najaf, national security, news, peace, politics, prisoners, propaganda, repression, scanlyze, war, war crimes | Leave a comment

Najaf: What happened to the children?

What happened to the ‘terrorist children’ captured in the Glorious Battle of Najaf? I suggest you contact your elected representatives and the responsible agencies and ask as I am. I am looking forward to a call-back from Senator Levin’s office next week.

Apparently a substantial number of those ‘hundreds’ injured, captured or killed in the day-long slaughter by US and Iraqi forces may have been non-combatants, women and children.

Stratfor provides some interesting additional information regarding the Najaf Incident and raises some pertinent questions:

Geopolitical Diary: Deciphering the An Najaf Battle
January 31, 2007 03 00 GMT

…Not only is this perhaps the most bizarre incident in almost four years of incessant violence that has ravaged the country, the government’s version of what allegedly transpired raises more questions than provides answers.

  • How could a cult evolve into such a major threat without getting noticed?
  • If this was an obscure cult, why were government forces unable to deal with it on their own?
  • From where did the group acquire such a large cache of weaponry?
  • Given the deep sectarian differences, how can extremist Shia and jihadists both be part of the group?
  • Why would a Shiite religious group risk alienation by engaging in the murder of the clerical hierarchy, especially during the holy month of Muharram?

These and other such questions indicate the government is withholding a lot of information. However, Stratfor has received some information that provides insight into the circumstances leading up to the battle.

We are told the al-Hawatim tribe wanted to organize its own Karbala procession during Ashurah but that a rival group with considerable influence prevented it from doing so. A number of tribesmen were killed at a checkpoint operated by this influential group, including a senior tribal sheikh. The tribe then launched a retaliatory attack that led to the battle. The fact that a large number of those arrested are women and children [emphasis mine–HH] lends some credence to the report that the fighting was related to Ashurah ceremonies.

Stratfor apparently only provides this article to subscribers or google searchers, so google on: “Geopolitical Diary: Deciphering the An Najaf Battle”.

Mike Whitney raises some more good points in Palestine Chronicle:

Mike Whitney: Whitewashing the Massacre in Najaf

The US military is now being used as an “enforcer” in tribal and clan-based disputes. This will make it even more difficult for Washington to prove that its honest broker who can reconcile the differences between the between the warring factions.

By Mike Whitney
PalestineChronicle.com

So far, there are 2 things that we can say with certainty about the massacre of 250 Iraqis outside Najaf on Monday. First, we know that there is no solid evidence to support the official version of events. And, second, we know that every media outlet in the United States slavishly provided the government’s version to their readers without fact-checking or providing eyewitness testimony.

This proves that those who argue that mainstream news is “filtered” are sadly mistaken. There is no filter between the military and media; it’s a direct channel. In fact, all of the traditional obstacles have been swept away so the fairy tales which originate at the Pentagon end up on America’s front pages with as little interference as possible.

In the present case, we were told that “hundreds of gunmen from a ‘messianic cult’ (Soldiers of Heaven) planned to disguise themselves as pilgrims and kill clerics on the holiest day of the Shiite calendar”. We are expected to believe that they put their wives and children in the line of fire so they could conceal their real intention to lay siege to the city. (AP)

This is absurd. How many men would willingly drag their families into battle? In truth, these same tribes make the pilgrimage to Najaf every year to express their devotion to Imam Hussein and to celebrate the Shiite holiday of Ashura. There was nothing out of the ordinary in their behavior.

Gulf Times says:

US military still probing cult battle

Published: Saturday, 3 February, 2007, 10:33 AM Doha Time

BAGHDAD: The US military said yesterday it was still investigating who its troops and Iraq’s security forces fought last week in clashes in which hundreds of people were killed.

The Iraqi government’s account of the battle near the holy city of Najaf has generated conspiracy theories among bloggers sceptical of its suggestion that those killed were members of a messianic Muslim cult plotting to kill top Shia clerics.

“We are investigating who we engaged there. We are not going to say anything as there is still an ongoing investigation,” US military spokesman Major Steven Lamb said, adding that this was standard practice after any major engagement.

But a week after the battle amid orchards and houses north of Najaf, mystery shrouds exactly who the fighters were and what triggered the day-long battle in which a US attack helicopter was shot down, killing its two crew.

Hundreds of people arrested in the aftermath, including women and children, are under guard. [emphasis mine–HH] Journalists were not allowed to visit the scene of the fighting until Thursday, four days after the battle, and only then accompanied by soldiers.

According to Middle East Online, almost 300 persons were taken into custody after the Najaf Incident:

Iraq lifts curfew in Najaf

Iraqi officials say nearly 2,000 civilians killed in raging sectarian conflict across Iraq in January.

By Hasan Abdul Zahra – NAJAF, Iraq

Iraqi authorities on Friday lifted a curfew imposed on Shiite Islam’s holiest city of Najaf in a bid to thwart attacks a day after 73 people died in twin suicide bombings in nearby Hilla…

On Sunday, Iraqi and US forces fought members of a Shiite sect north of Najaf, killing more than 250 “Soldiers of Heaven,” wounding more than 200 and arresting almost 300 [emphasis mine–HH].

See also: Keyword ‘Najaf’ on scanlyze

Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

3 February, 2007 Posted by | 1st Cavalry, Army, Bush, children, covert operations, intelligence, international law, Iraq, law of nations, Levin, massacre, media, memory hole, murder, Najaf, national security, peace, prisoners, repression, scanlyze, SCIRI, war, war crimes, weird | Leave a comment

Scanlyze response to ‘Army Suspends two NYT journalists’ on ‘Conservative Thoughts’

Conservative Thoughts has a bit on two journalists associated with the New York Times who have been “suspended” by the US Army for their reporting from Iraq:

Army Suspends two NYT journalists

My response to CT:

So the New York Times shouldn’t post any picture or video of someone dying? Only happy news, then?

Or is the issue that they showed an American soldier dying?

This war, which has cost the lives of thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, is supposed to be covered without ever showing anyone dying?

This family should be a LOT more angry with George W. Bush and the US Congress who wrongfully sent their son to be killed in an illegal aggressive war on the basis of lies, lies, propaganda, and more lies. Waging an aggressive war was one of the four main categories of charges at the Nuremberg Trials after World War II for which the Nazi leaders were imprisoned, or in most cases, executed.

Images of dying soldier renew war coverage debate Houston Chronicle, January 31, 2007
Marjorie Cohen Aggressive War: Supreme International Crime Truthout

Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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1 February, 2007 Posted by | Army, Bush, censorship, conservatism, customary law, freedom of the press, international law, Iraq, journalism, law, law of nations, media, military, national security, New York Times, repression, scanlyze, war, war crimes, WWII | 1 Comment