Syria gas attack (as it were)

Discussion in 'International Politics' started by Patrick Armstrong, Aug 23, 2013.

  1. Patrick Armstrong

    Patrick Armstrong Commissar

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    In connection with my post above, this makes an interesting read. Much truth in it from my experience. You can be too big; quantity is not only no substitute for quality, it is usually much worse than mediocre quality.

    Take away quote

    "Ten thousand cubicle-dwellers with a master’s degree in international relations won’t produce the results of a single Lawrence or Burton. As a result of this failing in American culture, the 850,000 Americans with top security clearances keep busy shuffling intelligence reports provided by foreign governments, already translated into English."

    http://www.firstthings.com/onthesqu...ure-and-american-intelligence/david-p-goldman
  2. Alexander Mercouris

    Alexander Mercouris Ship Secretary (11th class)

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    That is very interesting. I have never had any close dealings with the intelligence agencies (that I know of that is) but certainly my impression of how the Americans go about things both in state and private business is that they are attracted to doing things on a colossal scale. Anyway trying to manage an intelligence apparatus of 850,000 people must be next to impossible and the information overload must be stupendous. Just as it is a military cliché that he who tries to defend everything ends by defending nothing, so I suspect it should be an intelligence cliché that he who tries to know everything ends up by knowing nothing.

    Incidentally what the writer says about lack of language skills in Britain at least also applies to knowledge of Russian. It is barely taught here in British schools and the pool of people who can speak it well must be very small, which doubtless explains why the British have such a poor understanding of Russia.

    Finally, on the subject of Russia, I may as well say that in my opinion a few well trained and open minded diplomats who make it their business to get to know and work with Russian politicians, officials, journalists and businesspeople are worth any number of intelligence "analysts" ploughing through intercepted telephone calls and such like for getting to know and understand the country.
  3. Philip Owen

    Philip Owen Office Registrar (13th class)

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    Patrick, Fascinating link. A less conspiratorial explanation of Israeli influence over the US.

    Alexander, You have a very strong point. LAck of contact with non NATO countries is the flip side to too much contact with the US. Until the late 70's when most grammar schools disappeared the situation was rather different. Russia was actually quite popular. At the specialist level the UK still has a strong academic presence in Oriental languages. I can't think of any such excellence in Russian or Slavic langauges. That said, both pre 1980 Universities in South Wales have Russian courses for undergraduates. In Mid Wales, Aberystwyth even attempts Russian via the medium of Welsh. I am told it is more natural to translate this pair than Russian-English as both have conserved old Indo-European features.
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  4. Patrick Armstrong

    Patrick Armstrong Commissar

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    In my previous, previous, previous existence (ie before Russia and retirement) that was also my opinion of the US war gaming apparat. The best IMO was a very small outfit at Aberdeen Proving Ground that had a bunch of smart curious guys and a small budget and not a lot of control from The Top.
    The other US outfit that impressed me was the Soviet war studies group at Leavenworth. A small number of very smart guys who were left alone to do their thing.
    The others that I dealt with re-invented the wheel every couple of years and were absurdly proud about it.

    As Comrade Lenin said: "better fewer, but better." (He could get the odd zinger off ).
  5. MarkPavelovich

    MarkPavelovich Commissar

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    As I have mentioned before here and there, the embassy staffed with know-nothing louts and layabouts who could not be bothered to learn the language or even pretend to admire the culture was a recurrent subplot of "The Ugly American". The novel has come to personify the clumsy, backslapping loud American abroad, regarded at best with amused tolerance, but the real ugly American (at least the main character of the novel) was a simple engineer named Homer Atkins, whose love of making things work scorned the barriers of class or race - he was willing to share with anyone who shared his passion for engineering. Incidentally, the notion that a passion for making things work transcends nationality and breaks down walls is a powerful one; it was used with great success in "The Sand Pebbles" as well, one of the best novels I ever read. Homer Atkins was greatly liked and respected by the Sarkhanese because he worked as hard as any of them, gave his knowledge freely to anyone who asked, and when it came time to sell their product (simple pumps which would move water from one level in a rice paddy to another, powered by a bicycle, which would work anywhere and required almost no maintenance), he entered into equal partnership with his Sarkhanese partner so that he could be seen neither to patronize him, or take advantage of him.

    Anyway, the mythical country of Sarkhan used in "The Ugly American" was thought by many to mirror Vietnam. In the novel, the American embassy staff are the louts and layabouts, too ignorant to get out of their own way, while the Soviet Embassy is staffed with fluent speakers of Sarkhanese who are totally au courant with local politics and Sarkhanese culture. I need hardly point out this is the opposite of the situation typically portrayed. The novel attracted the attention of the Kennedy administration, and was thought to be a significant driver to the development of the Peace Corps. There was a time when such lessons were not lost on our American cousins.

    Where's the Kennedy the country needs now?
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2013
  6. Patrick Armstrong

    Patrick Armstrong Commissar

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    Whaddaya think?
    With support fading fast, is it time for "Assad" to do another "gas" "attack"?
  7. Patrick Armstrong

    Patrick Armstrong Commissar

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    Just watched some videos posted on CNN via iPhone. (CNN motto: "We're all extremely stupid but we have great hair and a Journolizum Dugree"). Didn't look at all like Sarin/GB to me. Corpses very neat and clean (but complete evacuation of everything all at once is the effect); had been collected (but GB kills fast); pupils dilated (much showing of that -- well lots of things do that). Convulsions from a kid (well not really totally out of control convulsions -- more like a dance band -- because the real thing is totally out of control: the chemical that stops muscle action is blocked). BS I say.

    Disclaimer: I haven't watched the 300+ videos that the US Int community -- at least as screened by the White House -- claims to have watched, but I haven't seen anything that corresponds to what I was told years ago about Sarin/GB.

    Here are the CDC's description of Sarin/GB effects.
    http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/sarin/basics/facts.asp

    Has any one of you seen a video that corresponds to that description? Remember that EVERY muscle starts convulsing because none is turned off by acetylcholinesterase which Sarin/GB blocks. Nasty way to die but pretty fast. And all liquids evacuated -- tears, nasal mucous, vomit, urine, faeces. No clean clothes. And, don't touch the corpses or the clothes -- there's enough lingering stuff to kill you.
  8. Patrick Armstrong

    Patrick Armstrong Commissar

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    Syrian President Bashar Assad has repeatedly rejected requests from his field commanders for approval to use chemical weapons, according to a report this weekend in a German newspaper.
    The report in Bild am Sonntag, which is a widely read and influential national Sunday newspaper, reported that the head of the German Foreign Intelligence agency, Gerhard Schindler, last week told a select group of German lawmakers that intercepted communications had convinced German intelligence officials that Assad did not order or approve what is believed to be a sarin gas attack on Aug. 21 that killed hundreds of people in Damascus’ eastern suburbs.


    Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/09/09/201515/intercepts-caught-assad-rejecting.html#storylink=cpy
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  9. Patrick Armstrong

    Patrick Armstrong Commissar

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  10. Alexander Mercouris

    Alexander Mercouris Ship Secretary (11th class)

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    There has been a busy spinning operation underway for several days to represent the report of the chemical weapons inspectors as implicating the Syrian government.

    I have always found it better in these situations to go to the report itself rather than to base views on it upon what others are saying about it. Here is the report:

    http://www.un.org/disarmament/content/slideshow/Secretary_General_Report_of_CW_Investigation.pdf

    The report does not identify the Syrian authorities as responsible for what happened on 21st August 2013. What it does conclusively do is confirm that sarin was used. That is not a surprise given that both the Syrian government and the Syrian rebels have been saying it. All the claims that the report implicates the Syrian authorities in the gas attack are based on assessments in the appendices of the trajectory of two of the rockets used. Some people are claiming that this points to the rockets having been launched from government controlled areas. The report however does not say that. This it seems to me anyway assumes clear front lines, which is certainly not the case in this conflict.

    I am no expert on these questions but it also seems to me that the report points to a mixture of rockets being used one of which is identified as a Soviet built 1950s vintage BM14 rocket whilst the others look technologically rather simple to me. I draw no inference from that.

    Incidentally the report also refers to possible attempts to manipulate the evidence on the site.
  11. Patrick Armstrong

    Patrick Armstrong Commissar

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  12. Alexander Mercouris

    Alexander Mercouris Ship Secretary (11th class)

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    These things have been around for ages and lots of people have them - many more than Wikipedia says. The point is they can get picked up in all sorts of places - Afghanistan and Libya being just two examples. As I remember they were heavily used during the Lebanese civil war of the 1970s. They always got called "Katyushas" after their World War II predecessors.
  13. Patrick Armstrong

    Patrick Armstrong Commissar

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  14. Alexander Mercouris

    Alexander Mercouris Ship Secretary (11th class)

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    Dear Patrick,

    There is only one thing in the report which in my opinion can be used to suggest possible involvement by the Syrian government though as I hope to show doing so would actually be wrong. This is the inspectors' calculation of the possible trajectory of two of the rockets. I think it is worth pointing out that they are fairly sure of the trajectory of one of these rockets despite evidence that some of the sites have been tampered with. The report gives a careful explanation of why they think this and I have to say I find the reasoning compelling.

    Having said that it is essential to understand that all the report refers to is the trajectory of the rockets. It does not identify the launch site or the persons who launched them. Knowing the trajectory of the rockets may point towards the launch site but establishing where the rockets were launched from and who launched them is a completely different matter that requires far more detailed investigation. I repeat what I said before, it is merely supposition that the trajectory points to a launch site in an area that was government controlled. Given the nature of this conflict it is a mistake to think of front lines or to suppose that any particular area the rockets might have been launched from was controlled by one side or the other. This would be particularly so if the rockets were launched from a vehicle or vehicles like a truck.

    For the rest I think all attempts to identify the perpetrators of this attack based on the nature and provenance of the weapons used are completely valueless. The Middle East is flooded with weapons of this sort. By way of example, even if the BM14 rocket was from a batch supplied by the USSR to Syria it could have easily come from a depot captured by the rebels. The Syrians are also known to have supplied such weapons to various factions in Lebanon during the civil war there and it might have come from there especially as Lebanon is known to have been a major source of weapons to the rebels. Alternatively it could have come from other countries to which these rockets were supplied including Sudan, Egypt, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya or even Yugoslavia. Incidentally I understand that the Cyrillic lettering on this rocket does not give its serial number so contrary to what is being said by some people there is insufficient information provided in the report to enable the Russians to identify the batch it comes from. The investigators admit they did not find the warhead and admit that it might have been modified or be even home made.

    The same applies to the sarin used. The argument that the composition of the sarin somehow proves that it was Syrian is simply an argument, it is not a fact. We simply do not know the provenance of this sarin and there is nothing in the report to suggest that. There are many people in the Middle East who know how to manufacture sarin and who could get their hands on the facilities to do this. One obvious group would be Iraqi officers and engineers who previously manufactured and handled sarin for Saddam Hussein. We know that many of the rebels in Syria have their origins in Iraq. There is no obvious reason why they would not have access to personnel and technicians and even facilities there given what we know about how alienated many of Saddam Hussein's former Sunni supporters feel from the present Iraqi regime and their bitter hostility to Shiites and to Iran. In saying this again let me stress I am not saying that this is what has happened. I don't know what happened or where the sarin came from but my point is that no one except those who carried out the attack do and it is wrong to construe the report as giving us this information when it doesn't and doesn't pretend to.

    The one thing I would say about the report is that I get the impression from reading it that this incident may have been on a rather smaller scale than some of the previous reports about it suggest. The UN inspectors were in the area within days of the attack but only found remnants of five rockets of different calibres they could examine at various sites. I am no expert about these things but that may suggest possibly just two launchers were used one firing 140 mm rockets and the other 330 mm rockets. Apparently more than one area was targeted but I don't see why that would require more than two launchers, which could be positioned and aimed at more than one site. I stress that this is based on impression only and I may be wrong. It would be wrong to draw any inferences as to who launched these rockets from this fact even if it turned out to be true.

    Incidentally, if the scale of this incident has been exaggerated that might explain some of the photographs that caused you to doubt whether sarin was used at all. Obviously in that case those pictures were indeed staged just as you thought to make the incident appear much bigger than it really was. Given what the report says about how evidence was being manipulated that would not be surprising. Incidentally I notice the report does not provide any final casualty figures. It is still a mystery where the US came up with the 1,400+ people it says are the number who died as a result of this incident. From what I can judge the report does not appear to support this figure, which presumably originated from rebel sources.

    Churkin and Lavrov have both said the report is incomplete and that the incident needs to be more fully investigated. They are of course right. However I very much doubt that's going to happen. William Hague, Samantha Power and Laurent Fabius have all said the report "conclusively proves" that it was the Assad regime which was responsible even if the report actually does no such thing. When they make those sort of comments that all but guarantees that no further investigation will take place. They are hardly likely to agree to an investigation that might cast doubt on what they say has been "conclusively proved" already.
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2013
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  15. MarkPavelovich

    MarkPavelovich Commissar

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    The loopy but wierdly precise figure of 1,429 dead most likely came from the Syrian National Council, the handpicked "transitional government-in-waiting" which once included Bilderberger Bassma Kodmani (she resigned last year) and which remains thick with Islamic fundamentalists and a liberal front for the Muslim Brotherhood, with links to the paramilitary Free Syrian Army.

    http://blogs.aljazeera.com/topic/sy...tion-figure-quits-syrian-national-council-snc

    http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/03/14/200546.html

    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/09/02/201027/to-some-us-case-for-syrian-gas.html

    The Syrian National Council is the only other group known to have used a figure of around 1,400 dead. Another organization known to play fast and loose with casualty figures - albeit important since it is the UN's go-to source for numbers - the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, came up with around 500. The British and French are close to agreement at around 300, perhaps fewer but not more.

    The attack in which the gas projectiles were allegedly launched took place 90 minutes after the last recorded activity in the area of the Syrian Army. As the reference below highlights, 90 minutes is an eternity in combat, and that particular launch point could have changed hands several times. Moreover, it is unlikely the Syrian military continued to monitor it after the last action unless there was reason to believe those they attacked were not retreating; it would have been easy for a couple of small teams to have gotten back in long enough to pop off a couple of rockets on civilian positions.

    http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/09/point-by-point-rebuttal-of-u-s-case-for-war-in-syria.html

    As several references note, the USA claims to have had intelligence three days in advance that the attack was going to take place - government troops in the area where sarin was being mixed (how do they know this, and then claim the inspectors will have to run all over Syria looking for Assad's "hidden weapons"?), and Syrian forces donning gas masks before the attack. Of course they will not show this evidence to anyone, but even the claim begs the question - you knew your allies were going to be attacked with gas three days before it happened, and you didn't warn them?
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  16. Reggie Kabaeva

    Reggie Kabaeva Office Registrar (13th class)

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    Apparently, photos are now circulating confirming that the one of the pilots from the Syrian helicopter shot down yesterday by Turkey was beheaded by the rebels upon capture.

    And the Anglo-sphere wants these barbarians in charge of Syria??????????????
  17. Reggie Kabaeva

    Reggie Kabaeva Office Registrar (13th class)

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  18. Sky Fisher

    Sky Fisher Collegiate Registrar (14th class)

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    Turkish officials have repeatedly shown the "rebels" to be implicated in chemical weapons use, yet out of the other side of their mouths blame Assad for it. Now, in response to the downed Syrian army helicopter there is this:

    http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/tu...wning.aspx?pageID=238&nid=54663&NewsCatID=338

    Of course, the idea that Assad would launch an attack on Turkey is absurd, and the Turks must know that. The whole article is baffling by itself in several respects, but particularly so when viewed in the context of the whole procession of declarations, news flashes, accusations, backtracks, contradictions, etc. streaming from Erdogan's government throughout this crisis.

    I'm no expert, but Turkey seems to me to be playing both sides, perhaps to keep options open before finally landing on the side of "whoever is winning." Not a morally upstanding position, but perhaps it makes sense from a strategic sense. Historians often write about how countries in the "buffer region" between two major warring factions are inclined towards fence sitting strategies. Perhaps that is what Turkey is doing now?
  19. Patrick Armstrong

    Patrick Armstrong Commissar

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  20. MarkPavelovich

    MarkPavelovich Commissar

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    An interesting report I had not seen previously which contends the chemical weapons used in the Ghouta attack came from Turkey. A previous accusation had them coming from Saudi Arabia. Thierry Meysan has done some very good reporting on the Free Syrian Army, exposing it for the conglomerate of thugs, Islamic fundamentalists and mercenaries it is.

    http://www.voltairenet.org/article180284.html

    From the same source, a report that some of the dead children in the Ghouta attack have been recognized by their relatives as children kidnapped by rebels from Latakia, 200 km from Ghouta. That's quite a hike for a toddler, wouldn't you say? Includes speculation that most are Alawites, which should provide a chilling warning of what awaits Alawites should the phony "rebels" achieve victory.

    http://www.voltairenet.org/article180130.html

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