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

What I think about Guantanamo

What I think about Guantanamo

I think President Obama has been thrown off-stride by the Karl-Rove-orchestrated assault on his perceived strengths (a very Clausewitzian and typical Rove strategy if you follow him).

With Guantanamo Obama had hoped to solve the issue by attrition and by devaluing the issue to the point where he could wrap it up with spending little or no political capital.

But now the issue is forced by the hunger strike, now in its official 100th day.

I think he must spend capital on this and if he does he will be rewarded.

The legal basis for holding these guys without charge or trial is that they are taken under the Hague and Geneva conventions in a war zone.

This runs into problems right off the bat because you are not supposed to exfiltrate prisoners of war or interned civilians from whatever country they were captured in except to return them to their country of origin.

For the same reason, the idea of returning these folks to some third country should be a non-starter.

Here is what is should be done.

Continue to hold military tribunals, but only for the purpose of status determination: prisoner of war or interned civilian.

Those who were captured under arms, had a command structure, some kind of uniform, may be found to be prisoners of war. The remainder of these folks will be found to be interned civilians.

Prisoners of war cannot be charged for fighting the enemy so long as they themselves obeyed the laws of war. The UN has also recognized the right of civilian people under arms to fight for national liberation, but that is not as well-ensconced in international law as is the rights and responsibilities of nation-states.

Civilians can be charged with criminal offenses, but they should be tried in theatre by local judges under local law (which can't be done since they have been illegally exfiltrated out of theatre) or else in their country of origin or by an international tribunal. The military commissions cannot be allowed to act as judge, jury and executioner. When military tribunals have been allowed to exceed their proper scope in the past, such as during the Civil War, the result has not been pretty.

As soon as is practicable, these men must be returned to their countries of origin, whether or not their tribunal proceedings are closed or complete.

Our intelligence should keep tabs on these guys in an open manner but otherwise let them lead their lives as best they can. It is very much in everyone’s best interest to help these folks with compensation for time during which they were improperly held or mistreated, and they all should be given enough to live and to receive medical and psychological assistance on an ongoing basis.

We are going to pay a price for letting these guys go. Here's 166 guys who are going to be very messed up and not feeling like Uncle Sam is their friend. That is the price we will pay for kidnapping, assassination, rape, torture, war crimes, running concentration camps, and 10 years of low-intensity conflict, which is what we call terrorism when we do it.

But you have to consider there’s already a lot more than 166 guys out in the world who don’t like the US.

By bringing this very real scandal front and center and highly publicizing the commissions and the procedures to return the prisoners of war and interned civilians, the ginned-up Rove scandaloids will be driven off the TV and front pages perhaps indefinitely.

What’s the reward? The issue is so corrosive of the moral authority and therefore of the power of the United States. Quite simply, it makes the US the bad guys and that’s not good. Time to end a bad situation which only festers as time goes on.

Copyright © 2013 Henry Edward Hardy

17 May, 2013 Posted by | Iraq, media, military, news, peace, politics, scanlyze, war | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments