Saturday, April 29

"Damascus claims France involved in staging Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack"

List of links from Moon of Alabama comment section.

"Damascus claims France involved in staging Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack"

"Moscow demands OPCW explain how White Helmets emerged unharmed in Syrian sarin attack"

Russia now pressuring the French on how they obtained the samples they claim prove Syrian culpability in Khan Sheykhoun CW attack.

The National Evaluation (in English) is rather coy as to how the French obtained the samples:

"... France has deployed the required resources to obtain its own samples from the alleged sarin attack on 4 April 2017 in Idlib Governorate ..."

Did the French have any people on the ground? Or is it likely that the samples were provided to them by none other than the jihadists themselves?

Posted by: Jen | Apr 29, 2017 2:07:19 AM | 44


Thursday, April 27

"Aayega aanewala" The one meant to return will return

"Aayega aanewala" is the biggest hit song from Kamal Amrohi's Hindi-language 1949 movie Mahal, India's first "reincarnation thriller" -- and probably the world's first sight of such -- named by the British Film Institute as among the top ten romantic horror movies of all time. 

If non-Hindi speakers want to watch Mahal on YouTube, which doesn't have a version with English subtitles, they'd be well-advised to first read both Wikipedia's plot summary and the discussion of the plot at Outlook India, which is aptly titled Palace of DelusionThe reviewer, Nasreen Munni Kabir, is a filmmaker and author of books on cinema. I am not sure I would agree with either view of the gardener's daughter; however, as I have only seen the first half of the film so far I'll reserve judgment for now.    

 Kabir notes Mahal wouldn't scare audiences today. I'd add "Perhaps unless an audience thinks deeply about the plot." 

It's a very odd thing about the phenomenon misleadingly termed "reincarnation" -- while it's an actuality it's also something that should only greatly concern those most determined to break free of it; e.g., serious practitioners of the Buddha's path. 

For the rest, confusion and delusion are too often the result if they become entranced with the idea of their "past lives." They end up as a kind of ghost, with one foot in the present and one in the past.

From that point of view Mahal is more than a horror story; it's also a morality tale.

For those who'd prefer not to think deeply about the plot of Mahal, there is the fun of watching the birth of a Indian movie genre that created "an appetite for tales about ghostly mansions, murderous goings-on, unhinged minds and a female apparition sauntering as a haunting melody plays," as Kabir put it. 

But the reviewer also puts in a word for the romantics:
... at heart, Mahal is less about reincarnation than about people obsessed with finding eternal love. This search for and union with the perfect beloved is close to the Sufi idea of divine love, a theme running through all of Amrohi’s films: in Pakeezah and Razia Sultan, the question is whether love can transcend social and class barriers; in Mahal, it is whether love can transcend death itself."
There is also much in the movie to interest film buffs given that the cinematographer, a German, was a master of German Expressionist cinema and film noir, which derived from it

Yet it is the haunting "Aayega aanewala" and its singer, Lata Mangeshkar, who is never seen in the film, which still make the movie a topic of conversation even today among people who've never seen Mahal. There was a secret to how the haunting sound was achieved, as Kabir explains for India Outlook:
"Today sound perspectives are created using digital technology. But Aayega, aayega... was recorded more than 60 years ago. In an interview, Lata Mangeshkar once told me how much inventiveness Amrohi, composer Prakash and she brought to the recording to the give the song a ghostly feel: she stood in a corner of the studio, with the microphone at its centre, and walked towards the microphone singing the opening verse, from Khamosh hai zamana... to is aas key sahare, and when she got close to the mike, she sang the refrain, Aayega, aayega.... After much trial and error with this procedure, the song was finally recorded to everyone’s satisfaction."
Here is the English translation of the lyrics:

Time stands still,
The stars are silent,
The world is at rest.
Yet my heart is uneasy.
Suddenly, I hear footsteps nearing,
As though someone were
walking through my heart.
Or is it the sound of my heart
quickening with hope?
The one meant to return
will return


Wednesday, April 26

Steven Mnuchin's position does not absolve him of the Judgment at Nuremberg

April 24, 2017, TASS:
The US sanctioned on Monday 271 employees of the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center in connection with an alleged use of chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhoun (Idlib province), the US Department of the Treasury said. 
"These 271 SSRC employees have expertise in chemistry and related disciplines and/or have worked in support of SSRC’s chemical weapons program since at least 2012," the press center reported.

The statement qualified Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC), as "the Syrian government agency responsible for developing and producing non-conventional weapons and the means to deliver them".

The report also quoted Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaking on the decision. 

The statement [identified] Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC), as "the Syrian government agency responsible for developing and producing non-conventional weapons and the means to deliver them".
The report also quoted Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaking on the decision. 
"The United States is sending a strong message with this action that we will hold the entire Assad regime accountable for these blatant human rights violations in order to deter the spread of these types of barbaric chemical weapons," the treasury secretary said. "We... will relentlessly pursue and shut down the financial networks of all individuals involved with the production of chemical weapons used to commit these atrocities". ...
So much information has come into the public domain about the April 4 Khan Shaykhun chemical incident that I would find it hard to accept Steven Mnuchin doesn't know that he is bearing false witness by calling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government poisoners.

My question is whether Mnuchin is aware that Befehl ist Befehl ("Just following orders") has not been an acceptable legal defense since the Nuremberg Judgment

The same question could be asked about any others serving the White House who have knowingly borne false witness against Assad to rationalize the April 6 military strike against the Syrian government that was ordered by the American president.

For those who need a refresher, here is Principle IV of the Nuremberg Judgment:
"The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him".
Not only under "international law."  No civilized country can any longer accept that a person's official capacity acquits him of responsibility for following orders that amount to a war crime.


They're escalating. 2 recent robberies use militarized swarm tactics

1. Paraguay: "Robbery of the century": Gang unleashes war tactics as up to $40mn stolen (GRAPHIC IMAGES, VIDEO); April 25:
A group of up to 50 armed assailants laid siege to a police headquarters in Paraguay on Monday while stealing up to $40 million from a security firm. Four people were killed in what was dubbed the “robbery of the century” and subsequent police operations.

The gang, believed by police to include members of notorious Brazilian drug gang First Capital Command, targeted the headquarters of Prosegur, a security company specialising in the transportation of cash in the Paraguayan city of Ciudad del Este.

An explosive blew open the front of the facility, killing one policeman who was on guard, reported BBC Mundo. The gang then seized the contents of the firm’s vault, described by public prosecutor Denise Duarte as being full at the time. Police said the vault can hold $40 million in cash but the amount stolen has yet to be confirmed.

The gang, believed by police to include members of notorious Brazilian drug gang [First Command of the Capital], targeted the headquarters of Prosegur, a security company specialising in the transportation of cash in the Paraguayan city of Ciudad del Este.
Heavy gunfire can be heard in video geo-located to Ciudad del Este and shared to social media at the time of the incident.
2. USA, April 24: BART takeover robbery: 40 to 60 teens swarm train, hold up riders:
BART police are beefing up patrols at Oakland [California] stations after dozens of juveniles terrorized riders Saturday night when they invaded the Coliseum Station and commandeered at least one train car, forcing passengers to hand over bags and cell phones and leaving at least two with head injuries.
The incident occurred around 9:30 p.m. Saturday. Witnesses told police that 40 to 60 juveniles flooded the station, jumped the fare gates and rushed to the second-story train platform. Some of the robbers apparently held open the doors of a Dublin-bound train car while others streamed inside, confronting and robbing and in some cases beating riders.
“I’ve been there 24 years and this is the first time I’ve heard of anything like this happening,” said Keith Garcia, a BART police officer and union president.


Monday, April 24

A neuropharmacologist debunks use of sarin in the Khan Shaykhun incident

The US military and intelligence community has intercepted communications featuring Syrian military and chemical experts talking about preparations for the sarin attack in [Khan Shaykhun] Idlib last week, a senior US official tells CNN. ...

From Denis O'Brien's April 13, 2017 post at LogoPhere:
... let me make it absolutely clear that as one trained in neuropharmacology I know with absolute certainty that the [April 4 incident in Khan Shaykhun - "KS"],  like the one in Ghouta in 2013, was not a sarin attack.  ...
After taking verbal pokes at reporters and officials involved in the sarin poisoning hoax, O'Brien settles into presenting LogoPhere's Top Ten Ways to Tell When You're Being Spoofed by a False-Flag Sarin Attack

Here I'm just going to extract from his article the 10 subject headers and a few sentences under each heading and/or summarize his explanation under each header. 

#1. People intoxicated with sarin don't look well. Ever. None of them. 

It amazes me that I would even have to raise this point. But what also amazes me is how often one sees perfectly healthy looking people being passed off as "sarin victims" ...
  #2. People intoxicated with sarin don't gasp, cough, cry, or pant. 
Anoxia is one of those medical conditions that is either corrected immediately or never.  Anoxia is when the amount of oxygen in the blood drops too low to sustain life. Anoxia is what sarin victims succumb to, and the reason is that sarin paralyzes the muscles required to move air in and out of the lungs -- the respiratory muscles. Understanding this simple pharmacological fact is key to understanding so much of what is going on in the fake sarin videos. ...

#3: People intoxicated with sarin don't often foam at the mouth. 

... The physiological issue with the foaming is much the same as with coughing and panting.  Sarin does produce an increase in the production of mucus in the airways -- bronchorrhea -- but if the respiratory muscles are compromised or totally paralyzed, all of that mucus will not likely be pushed into the mouth and nose, nor will there be enough air-flow to aerate the mucus into a foam.  The more common scenario is that the mucus will plug-up the airways and add to the victim's respiratory problems.  ... 

[Foaming could occur if the antidote atropine was administered immediately after the victim was exposed to sarin; see the article for details.]

#4 & #5: People intoxicated with sarin defecate massively and urinate all over themselves. 

Many of the "victims" shown in these dramatic videos from KS are shown in their underwear, which is, in an of itself, a little odd because when I worked in an ER, one of the first things we did with seriously ill patients of all kinds was to cut all of their clothes off so the clothes didn't get in the way or contaminate anything. But the point I want to make here is that in these terrorists' videos if the victims had soiled themselves, it would be immediately evident. And not just for the ones shown in their underwear. ... And the reason ... is that sarin squeezes the smooth muscles of the intestines and bladder so hard that everything is going to come out. ... the lack of feces and urine staining a person's clothes is one of the most evident clues that the person has not been poisoned by sarin.

[He makes the point that the videos of victims show their underwear to be clean]

#6:  People intoxicated with sarin will vomit up everything they haven't defecated.

From both the physiological and evidentiary points of view, this diagnostic point is much the same as the last one.  Sarin causes the smooth muscle that make up the stomach walls to contract so tightly that the person will vomit profusely and the evidence of such emesis will be readily visible.   .... I have waded through dozens and dozens of these videos purporting to show Assad's sarin attacks on his own people, I have seen hundreds of "victims" in those videos, and in all of that supposed sarin-carnage [including the 2013 Ghouta attack] I have only seen two possible examples of vomiting. 

#7&8:  People intoxicated with sarin will produce a large volume of tears and a large volume of watery saliva.

One of the fetishes of the people making these anti-Assad sarin-porn movies is pin-point pupils, aka "miosis."  ... Sure, sarin causes miosis, but then so do a lot of drugs ...

... sarin acts directly on the tear glands to produce a constant, uncontrollable stream of tears. And yet what the terrorists show us [in videos] when shining flashlights in "victims'" eyes is not just pin-point pupils but also absolutely dry eyes, meaning the person could not have possibly been exposed to sarin.  

And they do this over and over again, proving every time what liars they are.  You can find dozens of these pin-point pupil episodes, and none showing excessive tears, except for kids who are crying.  

And it is much the same with the salivary glands -- sarin directly stimulates them, too. And this would produce a large amount of saliva and copious drooling.  So when the terrorist cameraman zooms in for the iconic shot of some poor distressed child's face close-up, and the child is not drooling like a bull mastiff at dinner time, then we have more proof that sarin was not involved in whatever the child's problem is, and most likely, neither was Assad.

#9: People intoxicated with sarin turn blue. Always. 

[My summary: Sarin creates cyanosis, which is most strikingly evident "in the lips, cheeks, ears, and nose where the blood vessels come close to the surface of the skin." O'Brien makes the point that there is no available photographic record, not anywhere or at any time including the KS incident, of a purported sarin victim showing cyanosis. So to convey exactly what cyanosis looks like, O'Brien publishes a rare photograph of a cyanotic condition although not from sarin. Again, none of the videos and photos produced in relation to the KS incident show purported victims with blue or blue-tinged skin.]

#10.   People intoxicated with sarin never turn pink or red. Never.

From the foregoing description of cyanosis, it should not surprise you to learn that people exposed to sarin -- certainly sarin at high enough concentrations to kill -- do not turn red or pink, which is called being rubicund.  Sarin causes anoxia, which causes the blood to turn bluish, which causes people to turn bluish, but blood that has large amounts of oxygen is bright red, which is why anyone who has been intoxicated with sarin cannot, physiologically speaking, be rubicund. 

And yet look at the victims in those sarin-porn flicks that the terrorists put up on YouTube. Look at their skin color. Over and over and over the skin color is pink to bright red.  Look at the victims shown in the images under points #1, #2, #3, #4 & #5 above. ...


Denis O'Brien makes several other points in this, his third deconstruction for the public of the sarin poisoning hoax, but the above are the 10 key points about the symptoms of sarin poisoning.

As to those who might worry that by publishing the truth about the symptoms, this will help the terrorists who stage sarin hoaxes and the governments that collude with them -- if they got another chance to fool the public about such a serious matter, then yes, I assume they would be more careful in the future to stage accurate depictions of symptoms. I do not think they are going to get another chance.

Most definitely you would want to read O'Brien's entire exposition, which he simplifies very well for laypersons, and which includes several photographs. You need to understand in detail the extent of the contempt with which governments and news organizations who claim and report on the use of sarin by Syria's government hold the public.  

I refuse to blame this on stupidity, unless I am to accept that the world's wealthiest governments and news organizations were so stupid they never consulted with even one pharmacologist to determine the most telling signs of sarin poisoning. No, they knew; they've known for years. It's just that they also knew the public didn't know the symptoms.  So they proclaimed blatant lies to our faces, then they laughed at us.     


Sunday, April 23

Shooting of a conservationist in Kenya: a deadly mix of drought, corruption, politics

"There's a lot of, actually, politicians, people within the police, people within the administration, storing their wealth in cattle and laundering ill-gotten money through cattle." - Kuki Gallmann's daughter 

Kuki, 73, is a tough old bird; today she survived a severe wound to her stomach from a gunshot that was clearly meant as an assassination attempt. My prayers for her swift and complete recovery.

Kuki Gallmann at her conservancy in Kenya

Daughter of Italian climber and writer Cino Boccazzi, Kuki Gallmann, fascinated by Africa, moved to Kenya with her husband Paolo and son Emanuele in 1972. They acquired Ol ari Nyiro, a 98,000 acre estate in Western Laikipia in Kenya's Great Rift Valley. At the time the estate was still a cattle ranch, which she would later transform into a conservation park. Both her husband and son eventually died in tragic accidents ... Kuki decided to stay on in Kenya to make a difference. She chose to work toward ecological conservation in the early '80s, becoming a Kenyan citizen.
As a living memorial to Paolo and Emanuele she established the Gallmann Memorial Foundation (GMF), which promotes coexistence of people and nature in Africa and is active in education, biodiversity research, habitat protection, reforestation, community service, peace and reconciliation, poverty alleviation and public health. GMF promotes environmental education of Kenyan students. She dedicated Ol ari Nyiro to this ideal, converting it into the Laikipia Nature Conservancy. ... [Wikipedia
April 23, 20172:26 PM ET

Kuki Gallmann, a conservationist best known for her book I Dreamed of Africa, was ambushed and shot while she drove across her conservancy in Kenya Sunday morning.
Gallmann, 73, was shot in the stomach and "severely injured" while surveying her property with rangers of the Kenya Wildlife Service, according to her brother-in-law Nigel Adams and a press release from a farmers' association of which she's a member.
She was flown to a hospital in Nairobi for treatment, and was still conscious and speaking after the attack, according to The New York Times.
Her conservancy, the Laikipia Nature Conservancy, has been the center of a bloody battle for weeks, as a large-scale drought has pushed cattle-herders to extreme measures to try and find grazing land.
NPR's Eyder Peralta spoke on All Things Considered earlier this month about the issue, after the owner of another ranch was shot and killed.
"You have nomadic herders who are moving into private wildlife conservancies with thousands of heads of cattle," Peralta said. "And in response, the Kenyan government launched a military-style operation to push the herders out. But what we've seen is an escalation of violence. Police have killed lots of cows. And the herders have responded by burning tourist lodges on the properties."
In fact, Gallmann was said to be surveying arson damage inflicted on her property, when she was attacked.
Members of the Pokot and Samburu tribes have long grazed on conservancy land in Kenya, but over the past few years things have changed. Herders have brought more and more cows, killed other wildlife, and begun to vandalize property. Gallmann's daughter, Sveva Gallmann, told NPR last month that the escalation concerned her.
"That's not just grass," she said. "That is heavily politicized violence. And that is what's much more worrying about this situation."
She added that she doesn't think the herders even own many of the cows.
"There's a lot of, actually, politicians, people within the police, people within the administration storing their wealth in cattle and laundering ill-gotten money through cattle," she said.
Government officials deny those claims.
Kenya has a national election coming up in August, and local land owners also blame politicians for inciting herders to push their cattle onto privately-owned land as a way of boosting their popularity, reports the United Kingdom's The Telegraph.
In an interview with NPR Sunday, Martin Evans, the chair of the Laikipia Farmers' Association, agreed that the battle between the herders and the Kenya Defense forces is politically motivated.
"It started a year ago," Evans said. "At the time it started, there was plenty of rain, it was nothing to do with lack of grass at that time so yes, I think it's definitely being pushed by politicians."
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta's office issued a statement warning politicians in the area not to inflame the situation with "reckless rhetoric."
"Politicians encouraging invasions of privately-owned property or attacks on individuals can expect strong deterrent action in terms of the law," Kenyatta's spokesman, Manoah Esipisu, said.
In the last month, the violence seemed to be escalating on the Gallmann ranch. Herders burned down a famous resort on her property, and she exchanged text messages last week with The New York Times that showed her concern.
"Pokot militia openly carrying firearms," Gallmann wrote on April 15. "Not just herders. Group of armed men without livestock. 13 firearm spotted."
NPR's Eyder Peralta contributed to this report.

Friday, April 21

April in Paris

April in Paris, chestnuts in blossom
Holiday tables under the trees

April in Paris,
This is a feeling no one can ever reprise

I never knew the charm of Spring, never met it face to face
I never knew my heart could sing

Never missed a warm embrace
'Til April in Paris

I never knew my heart could sing
I never missed a warm embrace
'Til April in Paris

Whom can I run to?
What have you done to my heart?

Photographs are from the Daily Mail report published 13:42 EDT, 20 April 2017; updated 19:38 EDT, 20 April 2017 and headlined "Dramatic video captures French police shooting dead terrorist who killed officer and wounded two others just days before French election - as it's revealed he was released EARLY from 20 year sentence for trying to kill cops" 

Lyrics, above, for "April in Paris" by Yip Harburg, composition by Vernon Duke.  

Wednesday, April 19

The Nation reports on dissenting voices raised against the White House claim that Syria's government used a chemical weapon against civilians on 4 April in Idlib

See also my April 24 post, A neuropharmacologist debunks use of sarin in the Khan Shaykhun incident.  The evidence presented is staggering when one considers the number of governments and news organizations that have ignored the true symptoms of sarin poisoning.


The Chemical Weapons Attack In Syria: Is There a Place For Skepticism?
By James Carden
April 19, 2017 - 12:05 PM ET
The Nation

The American media has excluded dissenting expert opinions in its rush to embrace Trump’s war on Syria.

By firing 59 Tomahawk missiles at a the Shayrat air base in Syria, and killing five Syrian soldiers and nine civilians in the process, President Trump was able to transform himself in the eyes of the media from an object of derision into, in the words of erstwhile Trump critic Eliot Abrams, “Leader of the Free World.”

Dissent from what amounts to a new party line has been noticeably absent. As the investigative journalist Robert Parry recently observed, “All the Important People who appeared on the TV shows or who were quoted in the mainstream media trusted the images provided by Al Qaeda-related propagandists and ignored documented prior cases in which the Syrian rebels staged chemical weapons incidents to implicate the Assad government.”

Former British Ambassador to Syria Peter Ford told the BBC last week that he seriously doubted that Assad was the culprit. “Assad,” said Ford, “may be cruel, brutal but he’s not mad. It defies belief that he would bring this all on his head for no military advantage.” Ford said he believes the accusations against Syria are “simply not plausible.”

And so, on what evidence and intelligence was Trump’s decision based upon?

On April 11, the White House released a declassified 4-page report which was meant to prove its case against Assad and serve as a belated justification for the Tomahawk attack on Syria’s Shayrat air base.The report, which was authored not by US intelligence agencies but by the White House under the supervision of national security adviser HR McMaster, says that “The United States is confident that the Syrian regime conducted a chemical weapons attack, using the nerve agent sarin, against its own people in the town of Khan Shaykhun in southern Idlib Province on April 4, 2017.”

The report relies on “open source” videos for proof of its claim that a “chemical munition landed not on a facility filled with weapons,” as the Russians and Syrians have claimed, “but in the middle of a street in the northern section of Khan Shaykhun. Commercial satellite imagery of that site from April 6, after the allegation, shows a crater in the road that corresponds to the open source video.”

Yet the administration’s report has come under withering scrutiny from Dr. Theodore Postol, a Professor Emeritus of Science, Technology, and National Security Policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who once served as a scientific adviser to the Chief of Naval Operations at the Pentagon.

Postol’s exhaustive critique of the White House report notes that “The only indisputable facts stated in the White House report is the claim that a chemical attack using nerve agent occurred in Khan Shaykhun, Syria.” And yet, according to Postol, “the report contains absolutely no evidence that this attack was the result of a munition being dropped from an aircraft. In fact, the report contains absolutely no evidence that would indicate who was the perpetrator of this atrocity.”

Postol writes that “The only source the document cites as evidence that the attack was by the Syrian government is the crater it claims to have identified on a road in the North of Khan Shaykhun.” Yet his analysis of the photographs of the crater provided by the White House “clearly indicates that the munition was almost certainly placed on the ground with an external detonating explosive on top of it that crushed the container so as to disperse the alleged load of sarin.”

And so, “In order to cover up the lack of intelligence to supporting the president’s action, the National Security Council produced a fraudulent intelligence report.” Postol concludes that the “report is completely undermined by a significant body of video evidence taken after the alleged sarin attack and before the US cruise missile attack that unambiguously shows the claims in the WHR [White House Report] could not possibly be true.”

The Nation spoke to Postol over the weekend.

“What I think is now crystal clear,” he said, “is that the White House report was fabricated and it certainly did not follow the procedures it claimed to employ.”

“My best guess at the moment is that this was an extremely clumsy and ill conceived attempt to cover up the fact that Trump attacked Syria without any intelligence evidence that Syria was in fact the perpetrator of the attack.” 

“It may be,” he said, “that the White House staff was worried that this could eventually come out – a reckless president acting without regard to the nation’s security, risking an inadvertent escalation and confrontation with Russia, and a breakdown in cooperation with Russia that would cripple our efforts to defeat the Islamic State.”

“If that is not an impeachable offense,” Postol told The Nation, “then I do not know what is.”

It is entirely possible, of course, that dissenting voices like Professor Postol and Ambassador Ford’s may ultimately be proved wrong, and that Assad was indeed behind the chemical weapons attack.

Indeed, if it is true, as CNN reported on April 13, that the “US military and intelligence community has intercepted communications featuring Syrian military and chemical experts talking about preparations for the sarin attack in Idlib” then that would be hard, if not impossible to explain away. 

[Pundita note: Given that the American government has routinely lied about the Syrian war and Assad and his government, actually it would be quite easy to dismiss the alleged intercept as just one more lie by showing it as part of an established pattern of lying.  As to American officials refusing to back away from their accusation -- they would have no choice given the alternatives:  firm ground for impeaching Trump and congressional investigation of the use of cooked intelligence to rationalize an act of war.]       

Meanwhile, US officials are not backing away from their claim that there is “no doubt” that the Syrian government ordered the chemical weapons attack.

But at this early stage, questions such as those posed by Postol and Ford should be aired by the US media, not ignored. And, given that the US intelligence community has seemingly kept its distance from the administration’s claims, a serious investigation into what exactly took place is all the more necessary.

Robert Parry writes, “it remains a mystery why this intelligence assessment is not coming directly from President Trump’s intelligence chiefs as is normally the case, either with an official Intelligence Estimate or a report issued by the Director of National Intelligence.”

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA case officer and Army intelligence officer, told radio host Scott Horton on April 6, that he was “hearing from sources on the ground in the Middle East, people who are intimately familiar with the intelligence that is available, who are saying the essential narrative we are hearing about the Syrians and Russians using chemical weapons is a sham.” 

Giraldi also noted that “people in the both the agency [CIA] and in the military who are aware of the intelligence are freaking out about this because essentially Trump completely misrepresented” what had taken place in Khan Shaykhun. Giraldi reports that his sources in the military and the intelligence community “are astonished by how this is being played by the administration and by the US media.”

Given these serious questions raised by Giraldi, one can’t help but wonder if the administration’s motives for launching the air strike were motivated by considerations other than those which they have aired thus far. What exactly was the rush? The findings of an investigation into the attack by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is expected to be released in only two weeks time.

In the meantime, according to a report from the April 5th meeting of the UN Security Council, the UN’s High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Kim Won-Soo, informed the council that “the information on the reported 4 April use of chemical weapons in Khan Shaykhun, in Syria’s Idlib Governorate, was still coming in.” 

The High Representative could also not confirm who carried out the attack, though both sides of the six-year long Syrian war have been repeatedly accused of using chemical weapons.

But in spite of all this, Trump, perhaps sensing political advantage, rushed to execute a unilateral and illegal military response. The fact that he did so raises serious questions about his judgment, as well as the judgment of all the pundits who applauded him.

But perhaps the enthusiasm which greeted Trump’s air strikes was misplaced. Ambassador Ford warns that “Trump has just given the jihadis a thousand reasons to stage fake flag operations, seeing how successful and how easy it is with a gullible media to provoke the West into intemperate reactions.”

It should hardly need saying that highlighting these dissenting voices is not tantamount to excusing Assad’s heinous human rights record or his previous attacks which have killed countless innocent Syrians. 

[Pundita note: The heinous human rights record is that of Assad's enemies, Mr Carden.]

Rather, it is to draw attention to the failure of the US media which has once again abdicated its responsibilities by ignoring the serious questions and allegations raised by Postol, Giraldi, and Ford about the White House’s intelligence relating to the chemical weapons attack in Syria.



Steve Cohen talks on John Batchelor's show about Theodore Postol

See also my April 24 post, A neuropharmacologist debunks use of sarin in the Khan Shaykhun incident.  The evidence presented is staggering when one considers the number of governments and news organizations that have ignored the true symptoms of sarin poisoning.

The short explanation, for readers who've been following this fast-developing story at my blog and elsewhere during the past week, is that on April 18 on the John Batchelor Show, Russia expert Stephen F. Cohen discussed Theodore Postol's critique of the 'intelligence' report that the White House used to rationalize a missile strike against a Syrian air base on the night of April 6 Washington time.

Steve's specific mention of Postol's critique starts at the 15:14 minute mark on the podcast of the discussion, although the segue to the discussion starts at 13:00.     

Steve Cohen weighing in on Postol's assessment of both the chemical incident and the White House report on the incident is big news. The news will get even bigger later today when The Nation publishes James Carden's report on Postol's findings.  

(Update 1:15 PM ET:  The interview has been published.) 

As to what now -- [looking at her watch] we wait for the dawn. Wait for the news of Steve's discussion with John to make its way around Washington and other world capitals, wait for James Carden's report.

Wait, and pray. 


Tuesday, April 18

FARS Syrian war headlines

Astana Process negotiations underway

ASTANA, April 18. /TASS/. The countries acting as the guarantors of the Syrian ceasefire are holding talks on the participation of the Syrian armed opposition in the international meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov said on Tuesday.
"The issue of the Syrian armed opposition’s participation is within the competence of the guarantor countries. During the previous rounds of the negotiations, Turkey did its utmost to make sure that the armed opposition groups take part in the talks here," he noted.

Abdrakhmanov recalled that during one of the rounds Jordan was represented as an observer and also ensured the participation of the Syrian armed groups located in southern Syria, closer to the border with Jordan in the Astana talks. 

"This fact shows that all parties interested in resolving this conflict by peaceful means are making vigorous efforts to persuade the Syrian armed opposition, firstly, to join the ceasefire and, secondly, to take part in the Astana process," he underscored.

Kazakhstan’s top diplomat also noted the consolidation of stances of all the parties concerned to strengthen both the Geneva and Astana negotiation processes.

"The consolidation of the positions of all parties concerned is underway on the need to strengthen both the Geneva political settlement process and the Astana platform where the cessation of hostilities is discussed," Abdrahmanov noted.

He added that Kazakhstan is getting ready to hold an international meeting in Astana on the situation in Syria. "A meeting of the guarantor countries is to take place in Tehran one of these days. After it we will be briefed on the next steps by the guarantor countries as part of the Astana process. Anyway, as planned, on May 3-4, we are getting ready for the next meeting within the framework of the Astana process," the top diplomat said.