PETER HITCHENS: Our ‘noble’ cause? Dropping bombs on behalf of Al Qaeda – Mail Online – Peter Hitchens blog

PETER HITCHENS: Now we have definitely moved from being a post-war world to being a pre-war world. Madness and folly are loose again.

Source: PETER HITCHENS: Our ‘noble’ cause? Dropping bombs on behalf of Al Qaeda – Mail Online – Peter Hitchens blog

Hitchens is right on target (no pun intended). If you think it’s great, noble, and humanistic that we bombarded Syria with Tomahawks, and are now making noises about putting together a grand coalition to bring about forcible regime change there, read this, mark, learn, and inwardly digest it. Things are not (as happens all too often) as they may seem.

As I have stated previously, Assad is a dictator, a despot by Western democratic standards – but, he’s also a secular ruler in a part of the world where those are rare, he’s opposed to militant Islam / jihadism, and he protects the rights of women and minority religions, including Christianity (see, inter alia, “Syria and Christianity: Aleppo presents a moral dilemma for Christian leaders).

IF he is intentionally responsible for the chemical dispersal (it was only an “attack” if it was done intentionally, which is by no means certain), that is bad. But even if that is true, we made common cause with JOSEPH STALIN in WW II, for cryin’ out loud! We need to figure out who our real enemies are – who is really gunning for us.

Hint: it’s not Bashar al-Assad!

US military strikes on Syria: what we know so far | World news | The Guardian [with commentary]

Tomahawk launch – USS Porter

Key details about Donald Trump’s decision to launch missile strike on airbase allegedly linked to deadly civilian gas attack

Source: US military strikes on Syria: what we know so far | World news | The Guardian

At least The Guardian has the sense to use “allegedly”…!

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is by Western democratic standards a despot, but he is not a stupid man. Far from it. Let’s perform a mental exercise, here, for a moment:Let us say that you are the head of a country, fighting a vicious, nasty civil war. You have the support of one Great Power, but nearly everyone else – including the world’s one surviving superpower – doesn’t like you very much.

Your opponents are a mish-mash of ideologies, but many are various species of radical Islamists (you, by the way, may be a despot, but you are head of one of the last surviving secular states in the Middle East, opposed to Islamic jihadism, and protective of the rights of women and minority religions such as Christianity). The aforementioned superpower supports some of your opponents, but opposes others, making it difficult to predict exactly how it’s going to react in any given situation.

Despite all this, you are making headway in your civil war – in fact, you are making good progress, with the support of your Great Power ally. You are, in effect, winning, albeit slowly.

Now, I ask you: is this the moment you choose to gas your own people, in a way that has little or no military effect, but you have to know would elicit worldwide condemnation – hardening the stance of people who already don’t like you much anyway, and likely turning actual or potential supporters (such as the new President of the aforementioned superpower) against you?

Not if you have a modicum of intelligence, it’s not! And as I said above, President Assad may be many things, but stupid is not one of them. The Syrian government has said that they launched a conventional attack on a rebel weapons depot – which is a completely legitimate military target – and that this attack released chemical munitions possessed by the rebels and stored in that depot.

That is at least plausible. In fact, there’s good reason to believe that may be exactly what happened. See: Is Assad to blame for the chemical weapons attack in Syria? and Evidence Calls Western Narrative About Syrian Chemical Attack Into Question, for two accounts of the evidence.

The information cited in the preceding links calls into serious question the current dominant narrative on the incident. Would rebels bent on the overthrow of a government be willing to accept civilian casualties on their own side, if it led to widespread condemnation – and even attacks – against the government they are attempting to overthrow? I leave that to your consideration.

Now, I am aware that the President of the United States has access to sources of information and intelligence that the rest of us do not. And perhaps he found that information convincing. But I am sorry to say that at this point in history, I am not entirely sure that I trust our intelligence services to be 100% objective and apolitical. If you do, I fear that you are – shall we say – a bit naive. That is also making the assumption that the decision was drive entirely by intelligence assessments, and not in part by his understandable outrage at the gruesome effects of chemical agents on defenseless civilians.

[If it was Assad, it was despicable. But if it was allowed to happen, or even set up, by those bent on his overthrow, it was just as reprehensible. Chemical weapons are vile, no matter who is using / stockpiling them.]

Finally, there is the fact that this incident plays directly into the hands, not only of the Syrian rebels, but of others, who – shall we say – do not have our best interests at heart. Do we really want to see Syria become yet another failed state in the Middle East, overrun by militant jihadists? That is the likely outcome, if Assad is overthrown! The chaos stemming from the destabilization of Syrian has already caused many problems throughout the region and world (including and especially Europe); its complete collapse would worsen those problems exponentially.

Given the questions that exist about this situation, I very much fear that we “jerked our trigger” in launching that Tomahawk attack, possibly making an already-bad situation even worse, and further complicating our relations with Russia, at a time when they’re already rocky. That is, to my mind, both unnecessary and unwise.

Anyway, points being: a) don’t believe everything the mainstream media and politicians tell you – which is not something I should need to say, to most of those who will see this – or jump to the most immediate and “obvious” conclusions before all the evidence is in; and b) don’t let presuppositions and prejudices from Cold War days colour our diplomatic and military maneuverings.

I hope and pray that by firing Tomahawks at Syria we have not, instead, shot ourselves in the foot.


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Chemical Weapons Attack on Idlib: Why Questions Need to Be Asked

Source: Chemical Weapons Attack on Idlib: Why Questions Need to Be Asked

The war in Syria, a complex, controversial, and oft-tragic conflict involving the government of President Bashar Assad, ISIS, and Islamic militias – both rebels and government defenders, of a wide range of militancy levels – and plenty of atrocities on various sides, continues apace. The most recent major incident is a chemical-weapons attack, apparently utilizing nerve gas, in the embattled Idlib Province, which has been widely blamed on government forces by the mainstream media.

This essay gives us some reasons to hesitate before accepting this account uncritically:

The footage of men, women, and children in paroxysms of agony in the wake of a chemical weapons attack near the town of Khan Shaykhun in Idlib province, should make even the most hardened among us to weep. Such human suffering obliges us to question the very premise upon which we like to consider our world as advanced or civilized.

And it is precisely because of this that when we are witness to such an ontological breakdown in humanity that we must resist the pressure to accept the officially prescribed narrative of responsibility at face value… for pro-government forces to carry out such an attack at this time would constitute an act of political and diplomatic self-harm of near-historic proportions. […]

The Syrian government did not deny that it carried [out] an airstrike in Idlib around the same time footage emerged of such unconscionable human suffering. Their explanation is that they bombed a weapons depot close to the town in which Salafi-jihadi groups were storing chemical weapons. Confirmation that such groups are in possession of chemical weapons came in 2013 from UN special investigator Carla del Ponte, based on a UN investigation carried out concerning previous allegations of their use.

It is true that this account appears on the pro-Russian “Sputnik News” site, and the Russian Federation is a close ally of Syrian President Assad. However, some degree of bias is a fact of life in news reporting, especially in our present age, and there is no more reason to automatically discount this article based on its source than there is to automatically and uncritically accept accounts by mainstream media which are generally (and sometimes reflexively) anti-Syrian and anti-Russian.

In the world in which we live, it is important to weigh the relative merits of various accounts, in the hope of arriving at a reasonable conclusion. That it would do little good, and indeed much harm, to the cause of the Syrian government to unleash a chemical attack at this time seems a logical conclusion. And that chemical agents were spread as the unintended outcome of an attack on a weapons depot (a logical military target) which may very well have contained such weapons seems, also, quite logical.

I’m not on the ground in Syria, and I have no special knowledge of the area. But in weighing the relative merits of a logical explanation versus a hysterical account by media sources known to be biased against both the Syrian government and their Russian backers, the weight of the probability seems to incline, to me, toward the Syrian account being the accurate one. Your mileage may vary…


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