Syria 'Sarin' Attack: 5 Reasons for a more Cautious Response
The shocking and heart wrenching images of innocent Syrians frozen and choking for air, quite rightly has the world outraged. But amidst the emotional cries for something to be done, it is important to consider the full spectrum of information before channeling that outrage.
"Today's chemical attack in Syria against innocent people, including women and children, is reprehensible and cannot be ignored by the civilized world ... President Obama said in 2012 that he would establish a 'red line' against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing." - President Trump
Trump immediately ordered airstrikes on an airfield which is alleged to be where the chemical attack was launched. Such a hasty response both militarily and politically could easily make the situation in Syria worse, even if intentions are pure.
Here are 7 reasons to be cautious about what to do next.
Do We Really Know Who Did It?
In an era of so called 'fake news' and warring propaganda, knowing who carried out the attack with 100% certainty is extremely difficult from the side-lines. Right off the bat western officials and media pundits placed the blame on President Assad's forces and re-condemned Russia's support for the regime. Russia and alternative media voices blamed western backed rebels in various scenarios.
Before we can even think about a response, the basic question of whodunit needs to be answered and answered with evidence from impartial investigators, not just authoritative statements from officials or unnamed sources.
Nobody Wants a Cold War
Russia has condemned today's US airstrikes as a breach of international law and has stuck to their position that Assad did not carry out the chemical attack. An escalation of US-Russian tensions does nothing to benefit either country or the rest of the world.
It Happened Before
This isn't the first time chemical weapons have been used in Syria against civilians and it isn't the first time blame has been pointed both ways.
In 2013 hundreds of people were killed in the rebel-held Ghouta region by surface-to-surface rockets containing nerve agent sarin. On the face of it, the most logical culprit would indeed be Assad, but Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh argued quite convincingly that samples of the gas used didn't match batches owned by the Syrian army and that the rebels themselves had access to chemical weapons from Libya, that were smuggled through Turkey with the knowledge of Hillary Clinton! (And people wonder why some Democrats wanted Bernie instead of Clinton).
If the rebels had the capability to carry out a false flag attack, the question is did they? Hersh and Russia say yes. They wanted it to appear like Assad had crossed Obama's "red line" drawing the US in to the conflict.
Former UN weapons inspector Richard Lloyd and MIT professor Theodore Postol argued that based on the target, the gas "could not possibly have been fired at East Ghouta from the 'heart', or from the Eastern edge, of the Syrian government controlled area."
We've Been Lied to Before
Just because our officials and talking heads in the media say something, doesn't mean it's true. It's cliché at this point, but we all remember so called WMDs in Iraq and the utter devastation caused by using that lie and many smaller supportive lies as a pretext for the invasion. In fact the fallout of the Iraq war is what helped birth ISIS in the first place.
Even the first time around the public were massaged with false tales of Iraqi troops in Kuwait throwing babies out of incubators.
That's not to say the recent chemical attack was 'fake' or 'staged,' but there's always fog in war. Who, what, when, where and why?
Would Assad have reason to launch a chemical attack at this stage in the game with so much at stake? If so, is there concrete evidence to support that he did?
War Rarely Brings Peace
Make no mistake about it, certain politicians and media pundits (on both sides of the coin) already want the west to mount a full-on intervention in Syria and have long been bent on 'regime change.' Regardless of who was responsible for the recent attack, those with agendas are going to exploit it and already are.
Putting forth the argument that the west - from some kind of moral mountain - must intervene to prevent further humanitarian catastrophe, negates the mistakes already made. It was only last month that both the rebels and the Syrian government fingered a United States-led airstrike for killing around 30 civilians.
Days earlier a coalition airstrike on an ISIS truck laden with explosives led to the deaths of dozens of civilians in Mosul.
Are we helping or hindering?
Posted by KeelanB at April 7, 2017 6:02 AM
If the US is now targeting Assad’s assets with missiles and bombs, does that mean we don’t care about bombing the shit out of DAESH anymore? Or are we going to have to overcome Syria’s air defenses every time we want to hit DAESH. Trump’s current strategy strikes me as a little Myopic, but perhaps there is a grander plan that emerges.
The notion that this was the result of bombing a rebel stockpile is implausible. This article explains why.
Nerve agents tend to be stored in binary form, with the components stored separately. Sarin production creates Hydrogen Flouride molecules for every molecule of Sarin.
In solution, we call that Hydrofluoric Acid. Besides being very toxic, it will eat through a lot of containers other acids won’t. (Not a good idea to store it in glass). If you haven’t kicked the industrial problem of removing that, storing it as a unified chemical is tempting fate. You don’t want either a Sarin Leak or an HF leak.
When stored in binary form, one of the components is isopropyl alcohol. Even if they were storing the binary components together, what do you think happens when the bomb hits the alcohol?
It’s a convenient cover story to tell the gullible, but simple chemistry debunks it.
One significant issue here, all along, would be a lack of real industrial capacity on the part of the rebels, especially at this late date in the war. No production facilities nearby. You need facilities that only Assad would realistically have, or the Russians.
While the initial attack on the airfield sends a symbolic message, the question is what happens after this, and what’s happening behind the scenes. Are the Russians issuing hollow objections, or are they really ticked off? The Republicans might soon discover that accepting the help of Russian hackers is not a free lunch.
We did tip off the Russians, though. Was that, “Sorry, but my people need me to do this, so just act angry,” or was that, “don’t confuse me with somebody you want to shoot down?” Either way, if you thought warning the Russians wouldn’t be equivalent to warning the Syrians, you’re kidding yourself.
As for a new cold war? I’d argue that we’re not really at that point yet, but Republicans are truly kidding themselves if they think Putin is their friend. I’m not aching for a war with him, but Putin’s moves, such as invading his neighbors, deploying covert and open pushback on NATO and western power, and fostering divisive, isolationist politics in Europe and America are obviously aimed at restoring Russia to a greater position than what it had at the end of the Cold War.
We don’t need to be appeasing or accommodating that. Trouble is, for the longest time, all Republicans needed to know about Putin was that he was eager to give Obama trouble. Their oppositional politics overwhelmed their sense of loyalty to America’s geopolitical interests.
Accepting the help of Russia? Russia is our friend?
Sounds more like you have eagerly swallowed the hyperbole and that it is you who is “truly kidding themselves.”
Jesus Stephen, can’t we just say that just like with President Obama, President Trump will be damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.
It would be difficult for me to kid “themselves,” as I am not plural in my essence. All joking aside, in the name of trying to defeat and keep Obama suppressed, Republicans decided to validate Putin’s actions and positions. Now, though, if Trump’s gone too far for Russia’s tastes, then Putin will likely make sure something leaks about him, too.
There are consequences to playing the games the GOP did.
“if Trump’s gone too far for Russia’s tastes, then Putin will likely make sure something leaks about him,”
Problem is that it may very well not be the Russians who hacked the servers. It may very well be our own intelligence community. There is an ideological battle going on, and there have been documents pop up suggesting they can hack anyone and leave the signature of another player.https://wikileaks.org/vault7/?g
As a nation, we are adrift. A few generals and guys from Goldman Sachs are running things.
The Unemployment Report was weak, with non-farm payroll coming in at 98,000. The good news is we are at full employment with a 4.5% unemployment rate. The were supposed to be various pieces of legislation affecting the economy. Didn’t happen, unless giving some fossil fuel corporations permission to run wild, pollute, and bribe other countries. It is ugly, but not hugely significant. Huge environmental disasters and people being poisoned by the air they breathe and the water they drink takes time. We are drifting…
As for Syria, we are adrift. A few days ago, Secretary of State Tillerson and Ambassador Haley announced a new policy: we would no longer demand regime change, like Obama; instead, we would let the Syrian people decide. Of course the Syrians took that as permission to run hog wild, and they immediately gassed a village. We told the Russians and Syrians to get out of the way and proceeded to blow up an empty airfield. Maybe that will help goose Trump’s 35% approval rating.
We are adrift, waiting to react to the next disaster.
Just funny how all these massive undetectable conspiracies work together to make sure Trump is never responsible for anything at any time.
Aircraft are already taking off from the airfield we attacked. Ugh.
There is zero proof that the Russians affected the election. Assange already said russia wasn’t the source of the leaks. Here’s a thought, if Hilary had followed protocal, protocol she was well aware of, all her dirty laundry would never have been made public. Luckily we found out just how truely corrupt she was, and because of that, and her own ineptness she’s not president.
Has anyone considered that those murdered by Syria were Muslim. President Trump was outraged by the killing of Muslims?
How can that be my Lefty Pals? Have you not told us that Trump hates Muslims?
Yes, I noticed how he demonstrated compassion by offering to take in Syrian refugees.
I expected nothing less than derision from phx8 regarding President Trumps action with regard to Syria using WMD’s.
No further comment is necessary as phx8 has revealed his hatred for everything not Liberal.
It was theater, an reaction taken relatively quickly in response to the use of chemical weapons.
The Assad government’s chemical weapon attacks on civilians in 2013 killed 1400 people. The Obama administration acted deliberately. It built a coalition and international consensus. We clearly defined our stand on chemical weapons. Obama went to Congress to get permission for bombing. The GOP froze. In over a dozen tweets, Trump opposed any action in Syria, and said anything we did would require congressional approval. Obama declared he would bomb them anyway. The Assad government, with a Russian guarantee, caved. They stopped using chemical weapons.
The chemical weapon attack last week killed 70 people. Just days before, the Trump administration indicated the new policy was not regime change, but letting the Syrians decide if they wanted Assad to stay. That was a BIG mistake.
Now, Trump seems to be pursuing the Obama administration’s goals of acting as the world’s policeman, and punishing chemical warfare. But the US response was basically symbolic, or theatrical, if you prefer. There was no building of consensus. There was no international coalition. It was a one-off response, an isolated reaction, with no wider structure to make the gesture more powerful.
Personally, I think it is right to act as the world’s policeman. We have a moral responsibility. We need to come down HARD on the use of chemical weapons. But there needs to be some sort of structure, a framework, a overarching concept of what we are doing, and why we are doing it. Right now, no one knows. The Trump administration is adrift.
Of course phx8, I don’t expect you to agree with anything President does. You do write that “no one knows” what the presidents next move will be. That suits me just fine. Unlike Obama, Trump understands the advantage of not telegraphing his moves in military actions.
Unfortunately, you fail to understand the message sent to other countries along with the missiles sent to Syria.
It was just the right move, and just the right time.
Not telegraphing? We told the Russians & Syrians where we would strike so they could evacuate the target.
Unpredictability in a world with nuclear weapons is a terrible idea.
Following are the statements by countries who support President Trumps action in Syria.
“The U.K. government fully supports the U.S. action, which we believe was an appropriate response to the barbaric chemical weapons attack launched by the Syrian regime, and is intended to deter further attacks.”
Germany and France
In a joint statement, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President François Hollande of France said that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria “bears sole responsibility” for the strike.
A spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey said, “The destruction of Sharyat airbase marks an important step to ensure that chemical and conventional attacks against the civilian population do not go unpunished.”
Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said in a statement: “President Trump sent a strong and clear message today that the use and spread of chemical weapons will not be tolerated. Israel fully supports President Trump’s decision and hopes that this message of resolve in the face of the Assad regime’s horrific actions will resonate not only in Damascus, but in Tehran, Pyongyang and elsewhere.”
Saudi Arabia’s state news agency SPA said the government “fully supports” the missile strikes, calling it a “courageous decision” by President Trump in response to the use of chemical weapons by the Assad government against civilians.
Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s prime minister, said the “Australian government strongly supports the swift and just response of the United States.” He added, “This was a calibrated, proportionate and targeted response. It sends a strong message to the Assad regime.”
Italy’s foreign minister, Angelino Alfano, said, “Italy understands the reasons for the U.S. military action.” However, Italy’s opposition parties condemned the strikes, saying, “Unilateral action is dangerous, destructive and violates the principles of International law.”
A spokesman for the Polish government said that the United States was a guarantor of world peace and that there were times when you needed to react.
The United Arab Emirates
The foreign affairs minister, Anwar Gargash, said: “The attack on the civilians is a continuation of the heinous crimes committed by the regime against the Syrian people. It is a blatant violation of international and humanitarian conventions.”
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, “Japan supports the U.S. government’s determination to prevent the spread and use of chemical weapons.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement: “Canada fully supports the United States’ limited and focused action to degrade the Assad regime’s ability to launch chemical weapons attacks against innocent civilians, including many children. President Assad’s use of chemical weapons and the crimes the Syrian regime has committed against its own people cannot be ignored. These gruesome attacks cannot be permitted.
So, RF, you approve of attacking another sovereign nation without congressional approval? Because only Congress has the power to declare war, and firing 59 cruise missiles sounds pretty warlike to me. There is an AUMF to fight terrorism. There is not an AUMF to interfere in a civil war, even if the ruling government uses chemical weapons.
The Republican Congress refused- REFUSED- to grant Obama an AUMF for Syria despite repeated requests, and despite a chemical warfare attack that killed 1400 civilians. Trump repeatedly demanded the US stay out of Syria, and not bomb without congressional approval. Obama achieved US goals in Syria without the use of force. Very little has changed since then.
Why is it ok to attack Syria now?
“So, RF, you approve of attacking another sovereign nation without congressional approval?”
Well phx8, I believe I will wait and listen to Congress. It is only their viewpoint that matters…right?
He also wrote; “Obama achieved US goals in Syria without the use of force.”
Please refresh our memories phx8. Which “goals” might that be?
I think phx8 means the part where Syria played Obama for a fool believing that Chem. weapons were all destroyed.
I believe I will wait and listen to Congress
Why does Congress raise a ruckus when Obama wanted to strike an American adversary, but is deafeningly quiet when Trump is in charge?
Obama did 2 stupid things Warped, he believed the Syrian government and Trusted Russia. If he would of done what he said he was going to do if Assad gassed his people maybe things would of been different. He didn’t need congressional approval to do it either.
“…Syria played Obama for a fool believing that Chem. weapons were all destroyed.”
And yet, Assad did not dare use chemical weapons once Obama confronted him. Assad used chemical weapons once Trump was president. Why did Assad suspect Trump might be weak?
Trump responded by ordering 59 cruise missiles fired at an evacuated airbase- evacuated because we warned them to clear the area. Trump leveled what was already a level surface. The airbase was back in operation in a matter of hours. It actually bombed the exact same village with conventional bombs and killed 14 people.
Looks like a lot of theater here, a lot of posing. Everyone seems to have agreed not to do anything consequential.
Too bad all those people got gassed.
phx8, Obama was played a fool, Assad lied to him yet wasn’t stupid enough to use what was hid until Obama was out of office. Dropping a lot of bombs means nothing, Viet Nam could attest to that, especially when the bombs dropped hit useless targets.
He didn’t need congressional approval to do it either.
Yes, he did. Syria does not constitute an existential threat to the United States. Obama’s duty to defend American interests does not entitle him to unilaterally make war for humanitarian reasons. He needs Congress for that.
Warped, NO he did not! If anymore action is going to happen in Syria then YES he will need congressional approval. If congress had to be notified and approval given don’t you think Schumer and Pelosi would have been calling for his head on a platter instead of giving him praise for his actions?
Would it be possible for conservatives to give some advanced notice on their constantly changing principles and policies? Also, the Constitution has apparently become an a la carte menu.
Let’s see, conservatives are no longer bothering with the emoluments clause. Too bad. George Washington said and did some really inspiring thing to demonstrate the need to keep personal business separate his office.
The War Powers of Congress for conservatives? Nope? Well, ok.
Probable cause and the 4th? Conservatives punted on that one a long time ago.
Freedom of the press? Sorry. The MSM is “the enemy of the people.”
The judiciary? Just a bunch of “so-called” judges. Some of them are even Mexican.
Nice job quietly destroying internet privacy. Sold your personal information to the highest bidder. Sold everyone’s. And that little legislative gem can not be undone. Ever. Because once that information can be bought and sold by everyone, it can’t be put back in the bag. Trump signed that POS behind closed doors. No announcements. No cameras. I said, NO CAMERAS! On the plus side, liberals gave over $100,000 to a go-fund me site to publish McConnell’s, Ryan’s, and Marsha Blackburn’s internet activities. Don’t know if that will work. Wish they could make their family’s doings public too. Make them hurt.
At least libertarians have some principles. As for conservatives, you’re following Trump down every rabbit hole. Good luck with that. Conservative principles have become whatever whim hits Trump at 3:00 AM…
The Syrian policy of the Obama administration was regime change.
Trump changed that policy from regime change to letting Assad stay. Assad immediately ordered a chemical weapons attack.
Who was the dupe?
phx8, Regime change is what Trump wants now, but who would take Assad’s place if he were to be deposed? Would there be a worse person put in office? Would we get another Lybia? As far as Trump’s strike on Syria, Presidents have taken unilateral action on countries for decades now including and not limited to Obama. See phx8 even Obama took action without congressional approval, but I guess you give him a pass, RIGHT!!!
Four and half dozen Tomahawks launched and nothing on the ground has changed. Assad is playing Trump for a fool. Assad will continue to use prohibited chemical weapons with impunity and the paper tiger golfing in Mar-A-Largo won’t do anything to stop it.
Warped, If he does, I think congress would give Trump approval to level Syria and take Assad out. But to prevent WW3 he would have to notify Russia to get out of the way. And by the way I don’t think Russia would approve of him using Chemical weapons. Putin may be a Tyrant but even he wouldn’t use Chemical Weapons. By the way 59 Tomahawks sent a message even though they didn’t totally destroy the airbase. I am sure if Hillary were the President and she ordered the same type of attack you and the other liberals of W.B. would be cheering her on. Am I right phx8?
If he does, I think congress would give Trump approval to level Syria and take Assad out.
It would certainly be disturbing to see war authorization politicized like this.
Putin may be a Tyrant but even he wouldn’t use Chemical Weapons.
Don’t be naive.
By the way 59 Tomahawks sent a message even though they didn’t totally destroy the airbase.
Yes, they sent the message that Trump is scatterbrained and has no clue what he is doing.
I am sure if Hillary were the President and she ordered the same type of attack you and the other liberals of W.B. would be cheering her on. Am I right phx8?
Yes, we would. Being consistent with Hillary’s longstanding ideology, the strike would assure us that the second and third order consequences had been considered and debated appropriately. Trump does not conduce the same confidence because his foreign policy is so inconsistent. Does he support regime change in Syria or does he not? The answer to this question seems to be changing every week.
Warped, Putin may be many things but he isn’t an idiot possibly causing WW3 by his use of Chem. Weapons. Trump now would like to see a regime change but who would replace Assad? Do we get someone worse or better? Hopefully better but the chances of getting someone just like Assad are better. I think Trump has people on his team that briefed him on the second and third order consequences.
Is regime change still the strategy? I really do not know.
Would I support such a strike by HRC or Obama? Yes, if it were preceded by an effort to obtain congressional approval, ensure the American public supports it, and gather international support. I would support a build up of consensus, a sustained policy, and go along with the use of a lot more force.
Trump essentially chose to act quickly with a minimum amount of force. Yes, 59 cruise missiles is a lot of fire power, but it was a demonstration, a deterrent step. It needed to be done, and I support the moral argument for opposing the use of chemical weapons. It just needs to be done with congressional approval and support.
During the Obama administration, Obama sought congressional approval, and the Republicans literally froze. When Obama said he would bomb the Syrians anyway, there were lots of protests about dictatorship and tyranny and so on. Now, those Republicans are quiet as church mice.
phx8 laughingly notes; “…conservatives are no longer bothering with the emoluments clause.”
Really, can Mr. Knows-everything tell us when was the last time the “conservatives”, or anyone else, bothered with the emoluments clause?
I won’t add credence to them by asking about the rest of his litany of charges.
He also writes; “The Syrian policy of the Obama administration was regime change.”
To be accomplished by Obama placing a copy of “War and Peace” under his pillow at night and throwing coins in a fountain.
Warren adds his great insight by writing; “Assad is playing Trump for a fool. Such great insight and wisdom should be plumbed for more factoids.
“… when was the last time the “conservatives”, or anyone else, bothered with the emoluments clause?”
Every president for the past 185 years has observed it.
The fact that Trump will not release his tax returns makes it difficult to know about some potential violations.
tell us when was the last time the “conservatives”, or anyone else, bothered with the emoluments clause?
Such short memories, these conservatives possess.
Trump now would like to see a regime change but who would replace Assad?
There are no good options in Syria and Trump is going to need all the luck he can get. I’ve had my fun repurposing past GOP criticisms of Obama to criticize Trump instead. I do this to expose the right’s hypocrisy.
kctim said it best at the beginning of the thread. The President is damned no matter what he does. All I ask for is that he take the time to cautiously plot a way forward instead of acting rashly.
Putin may be many things but he isn’t an idiot possibly causing WW3 by his use of Chem. Weapons.
You didn’t read my link, did you?
If Russia isn’t interested in letting Assad use Chemical weapons, then why didn’t they remove those weapons like they promised in 2013?
And why do they lie about it, passing off the dubious idea that Assad had bombed a rebel controlled chemical munitions factory with conventional weapons.
Warped, My bet is that Putin wants Assad to bury his self and letting him do it by any means possible. I have this feeling that Putin and Iran would like Assad out and someone more to those 2 parties liking running Syria. Just my opinion. IMO Putin would Nuc. some one rather then gas them either way it goes it’s WW3.
KAP, I suggest you switch your brand of tea before making any more attempts to read the leaves. Assad IS Iran & Russia’s guy. If he goes, there’s absolutely no chance that either will get someone better. Particularly so with Iran, which is Shia.
Also, you don’t understand the history of chemical weapons. Like with nuclear weapons, there exist taboos on chemical weapons and treaties forcing nations to forgo their use. Russian usage of chemical weapons in Syria, while horrific, is not tantamount to nuking the place. Compare the hundreds of causalities from the recent gas attack to the casualties that would be inflicted if a major Syrian city was nuked. The difference is three orders of magnitude.
Warped, You have your opinion I have mine. Russia and Iran are letting him do a lot of stupid stuff to his people and waiting for someone to take him out. Russia will not do it neither will Iran but we might taking him alive and putting him in front of the Hague for war crimes or just killing him outright. I wasn’t referring to Putin using a Nuc. in Syria. If Putin really wanted to start something Gassing someone would be the last thing he’d do. He lets dumb asses like Assad do that. The only thing that is stopping him from using a Nuc. is three words starting with the letters M. A. D.