The ugly truth of America’s history in war

Alternet recently published a piece headlined “The Mass Killing of Civilians, Now in Syria and Iraq, Is Part of a Long, Depressing Pattern of American War-Making“.

The third paragraph says what many know to be true, but rarely say out loud.

There are peace-loving nations in the world. The United States is not one of them. It never has been.

The author, Frank Joyce, focuses on how the Vietnam War was different in that there was strong public objection to the killing of civilians.

Fifty years ago, the very idea promoted by the Vietnam antiwar movement that civilian lives “matter,” was a complete rupture with what had gone before. That’s why the opposition to the opposition was so emotional. It still is.

The effort to recover from the war aversion known as “Vietnam syndrome” has been much discussed elsewhere. Suffice to say that Ronald Reagan’s invasion of Grenada in 1983 and the many wars since have firmly reestablished the legitimacy of permanent war as the American value that supersedes all others.

What comes along with that territory is regression to the mean of obsequiousness to all things military. We are expected to applaud soldiers on airplane flights, thank soldiers for their service, pay tribute to them at sports events and display other forms of worship ad nauseam.

Even so, honoring Vietnam veterans remains an ongoing and specific project.

There are people I know and respect greatly who served in Vietnam, and I don’t think one bit less of them for it. But I am uncomfortable with the idea that every soldier in uniform is by definition a hero, and that being anti-war is somehow synonymous with being anti-troops.

Our goal as a nation should be to use our military in combat situations only when absolutely necessary, and in such ways that they can serve honorably with respect for the lives of civilians.

We need to remember that being critical of your nation’s history does not mean you hate your country. We criticize because we love our country, and frankly the people of all the world, and want to uphold in actions the values our leaders so easily promote with words.

Hersh reports that there was no proof Syria used sarin gas in attack

A German newspaper has published an interesting article written by famed investigative reporter Seymour Hersh. This article disputes the mainstream American consensus that Syrian had used chemical weapons against its own people on April 4. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the story was not published by a major American newspaper. But that doesn’t make it any less compelling. Here are a couple of the highlights, but the article is well worth reading in its entirety.

“This was not a chemical weapons strike,” the adviser said. “That’s a fairy tale. If so, everyone involved in transferring, loading and arming the weapon – you’ve got to make it appear like a regular 500-pound conventional bomb – would be wearing Hazmat protective clothing in case of a leak. There would be very little chance of survival without such gear. Military grade sarin includes additives designed to increase toxicity and lethality. Every batch that comes out is maximized for death. That is why it is made. It is odorless and invisible and death can come within a minute. No cloud. Why produce a weapon that people can run away from?”



The crisis slid into the background by the end of April, as Russia, Syria and the United States remained focused on annihilating ISIS and the militias of al-Qaida. Some of those who had worked through the crisis, however, were left with lingering concerns. “The Salafists and jihadists got everything they wanted out of their hyped-up Syrian nerve gas ploy,” the senior adviser to the U.S. intelligence community told me, referring to the flare up of tensions between Syria, Russia and America. “The issue is, what if there’s another false flag sarin attack credited to hated Syria? Trump has upped the ante and painted himself into a corner with his decision to bomb. And do not think these guys are not planning the next faked attack. Trump will have no choice but to bomb again, and harder. He’s incapable of saying he made a mistake.”

What would you do?

These short documentaries spotlight two famous experiments designed to learn about how people respond to authority. Both are quite frightening in their implications. Most of us like to think that we would stand up for our beliefs, even if it means defying authority. However, I’m not sure you can tell for sure until you’re placed in a particular situation.

 

Several former U.S. intelligence officials not yet convinced Syria used chemical weapons on April 4

A group called “Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity” has issued an open letter to the American people in which it expresses doubts that the Syrian government was behind the alleged chemical attack on April 4.

The CIA, Pompeo said, was “in relatively short order able to deliver to [President Trump] a high-confidence assessment that, in fact, it was the Syrian regime that had launched chemical strikes against its own people in [Khan Shaykhun.]”

The speed in which this assessment was made is of some concern. Both Director Pompeo, during his CSIS remarks, and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, during comments to the press on April 6, 2017, note that President Trump turned to the intelligence community early on in the crisis to understand better “the circumstances of the attack and who was responsible.” McMaster indicated that the U.S. Intelligence Community, working with allied partners, was able to determine with “a very high degree of confidence” where the attack originated.



The danger of this rush toward an intelligence decision by Director Pompeo and National Security Advisor McMaster is that once the President and his top national security advisors have endorsed an intelligence-based conclusion, and authorized military action based upon that conclusion, it becomes virtually impossible for that conclusion to change. Intelligence assessments from that point forward will embrace facts that sustain this conclusion, and reject those that don’t; it is the definition of politicized intelligence, even if those involved disagree.



The intelligence data that has been used to back up the allegations of Syrian chemical weapons use has been far from conclusive. Allusions to intercepted Syrian communications have been offered as “proof”, but the Iraq experience – in particular former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s unfortunate experience before the U.N. Security Council – show how easily such intelligence can be misunderstood and misused.

Inconsistencies in the publicly available imagery which the White House (and CIA) have so heavily relied upon have raised legitimate questions about the veracity of any conclusions drawn from these sources (and begs the question as to where the CIA’s own Open Source Intelligence Center was in this episode.) The blood samples used to back up claims of the presence of nerve agent among the victims was collected void of any verifiable chain of custody, making their sourcing impossible to verify, and as such invalidates any conclusions based upon their analysis.

Nuclear ban treaty worth pondering, even if unlikely to be achieved soon

The U.S. and other major powers recently boycotted U.N. negotiations for a treat banning nuclear weapons.

With the levels of distrust among nuclear powers seemingly growing by the day, banning such weapons does seem highly unlikely. Still, it’s important for people to think about nuclear weapons, the threats they pose and how the worldwide threat of nuclear devastation might be lessened.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons has published a pamphlet that covers the basics of the effort to outlaw such weapons in 2017. It’s a quick read, and well worth the time.

Case against Assad open and shut … or is it?

It seems the mainstream media is convinced that the alleged gas attack in Syria on April 4 was perpetrated by the Syrian government. However, not everyone has been persuaded that the case against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is air-tight.
Robert Parry of Consortium News wrote about his misgivings about the report released by the White House.

In similarly tense situations in the past, U.S. Presidents have released sensitive intelligence to buttress U.S. government assertions, including John F. Kennedy’s disclosure of U-2 spy flights in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and Ronald Reagan revealing electronic intercepts after the Soviet shoot-down of Korean Airlines Flight 007 in 1983.

Yet, in this current case, as U.S.-Russian relations spiral downward into what is potentially an extermination event for the human species, Trump’s White House insists that the world must trust it despite its record of consistently misstating facts.

In the case of the April 4 chemical-weapons incident in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, which reportedly killed scores of people including young children, I was told that initially the U.S. analysts couldn’t see any warplanes over the area in Idlib province at the suspected time of the poison gas attack but later they detected a drone that they thought might have delivered the bomb.

According to a source, the analysts struggled to identify whose drone it was and where it originated. Despite some technical difficulties in tracing its flight path, analysts eventually came to believe that the flight was launched in Jordan from a Saudi-Israeli special operations base for supporting Syrian rebels, the source said, adding that the suspected reason for the poison gas was to create an incident that would reverse the Trump administration’s announcement in late March that it was no longer seeking the removal of President Bashar al-Assad.

If indeed that was the motive — and if the source’s information is correct — the operation would have been successful, since the Trump administration has now reversed itself and is pressing Russia to join in ousting Assad who is getting blamed for the latest chemical-weapons incident.

Presumably, however, the “geospatial intelligence” cited in the four-page dossier could disprove this and other contentions if the Trump administration would only make its evidence publicly available.



[In a separate analysis of the four-page dossier, Theodore Postol, a national security specialist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, concluded that the White House claims were clearly bogus, writing:

“I have reviewed the document carefully, and I believe it can be shown, without doubt, that the document does not provide any evidence whatsoever that the US government has concrete knowledge that the government of Syria was the source of the chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun, Syria at roughly 6 to 7 a.m. on April 4, 2017. 

“In fact, a main piece of evidence that is cited in the document points to an attack that was executed by individuals on the ground, not from an aircraft, on the morning of April 4. This conclusion is based on an assumption made by the White House when it cited the source of the sarin release and the photographs of that source. My own assessment, is that the source was very likely tampered with or staged, so no serious conclusion could be made from the photographs cited by the White House.”]

Navy ships headed toward Korea

From the BBC:

The US military has ordered a navy strike group to move towards the Korean peninsula, amid growing concerns about North Korea’s missile programme.

The Carl Vinson Strike Group comprises an aircraft carrier and other warships.
US Pacific Command described the deployment – now heading towards the western Pacific – as a prudent measure to maintain readiness in the region.

President Trump has said the US is prepared to act alone to deal with the nuclear threat from North Korea.
“The number one threat in the region continues to be North Korea, due to its reckless, irresponsible and destabilising programme of missile tests and pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability,” US Pacific Command spokesman Dave Benham said.

Earlier in the week, NBC News reported that the National Security Council gave U.S. President Donald Trump several options for dealing with North Korea.

The first and most controversial course of action under consideration is placing U.S. nuclear weapons in South Korea. The U.S. withdrew all nuclear weapons from South Korea 25 years ago. Bringing back bombs — likely to Osan Air Base, less than 50 miles south of the capital of Seoul — would mark the first overseas nuclear deployment since the end of the Cold War, an unquestionably provocative move.



Another option is to target and kill North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and other senior leaders in charge of the country’s missiles and nuclear weapons and decision-making. Adopting such an objective has huge downsides, said Lippert, who also served as an assistant defense secretary under President Barack Obama.

“Discussions of regime change and decapitation…tend to cause the Chinese great pause of concern and tends to have them move in the opposite direction we would like them to move in terms of pressure,” he said.

Stavridis, a former NATO commander, said that “decapitation is always a tempting strategy when you’re faced with a highly unpredictable and highly dangerous leader.”

“The question you have to ask yourself,” he said, “is what happens the day after you decapitate? I think that in North Korea, it’s an enormous unknown.”



A third option is covert action, infiltrating U.S. and South Korean special forces into North Korea to sabotage or take out key infrastructure — for instance, blowing up bridges to block the movement of mobile missiles. The CIA, which would oversee such operations, told NBC News it could offer “no guidance” on this option. But Stavridis said that he felt it was the “best strategy” should the U.S. be forced to take military action. He described such action as: “some combination of special forces with South Korea and cyber.”

Looking at consequences of AUMF

CNN looks briefly at how U.S. presidents now routinely use the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) as justification for military actions.

According to a May 2016 report from the Congressional Research Service, there have been “37 relevant occurrences of an official record, disclosed publicly, of presidential reference to the 2001 AUMF in connection with initiating or continuing military or related action.” That includes “detentions and military trials,” like those carried out in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Let’s remember that California Democratic Representative Barbara Lee was the only member of either house of Congress to vote against the measure. Below is an interview Democracy New conducted with Lee regarding her vote and the AUMF. As you watch her speech, which is shown early in the clip, keep in mind that it was made days after the attacks of 9/11/01, when the mood of the American government, media and people made giving such a statement especially difficult.