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In his article published on Sunday, December 8, by The London Review of Books, Seymour Hersh asked Whose sarin? was deployed in the August 21 CW attack in Syria.  Even though the Obama administration stressed that they had incontrovertible, undeniable evidence that it was the Assad regime's sarin, intelligence gathered prior to the attack found that al-Nusra had access to sarin, too, and, as such should have also been considered suspects.

In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports, culminating in a formal Operations Order – a planning document that precedes a ground invasion – citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity. When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.
In Elias Isquith's Salon article, Seymour Hersh: Obama administration nearly lied the U.S. into war with Syria, he reminds us of how the administration sought to make us believe that only Assad had access to sarin:
following the release of the UN report on 16 September confirming that sarin was used on 21 August, Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, told a press conference: ‘It’s very important to note that only the [Assad] regime possesses sarin, and we have no evidence that the opposition possesses sarin.’
Hersh told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now that the US had formed a plan to remove CW from both Assad's forces and al-Nusra and that Obama and his administration ought to have read these intelligence reports, even though it may be possible that they did not.

The Obama administration claimed that they knew that the Syrian Army prepared for this attack by distributing gas masks, but the intel they used to base this statement was gleaned back in December.  To use drills developed in December to pin the August 21 attack on Assad is highly misleading and certainly not "incontrovertible" evidence upon which to wage war.

The White House’s government assessment and Obama’s speech were not descriptions of the specific events leading up to the 21 August attack, but an account of the sequence the Syrian military would have followed for any chemical attack. ‘They put together a back story,’ the former official said, ‘and there are lots of different pieces and parts. The template they used was the template that goes back to December.’ It is possible, of course, that Obama was unaware that this account was obtained from an analysis of Syrian army protocol for conducting a gas attack, rather than from direct evidence. Either way he had come to a hasty judgment.

In Amy Goodman's interview with Sy Hersh on Democracy Now, he explains how his sources believed in their oath of office to uphold and defend the US Constitution and tell the truth, which is why his intelligence sources came forward and gave him information about the misleading propaganda used to hurry a war with Syria.

I encourage you to listen to Sy Hersh in this interview.  The Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter who uncovered the Mai Lai massacre and Abu Ghraib speaks eloquently about his investigations.  He told a story about how Turkey caught Al-Nusra in possession of more than 4 pounds of sarin gas to attack an American air base in Adina, but later claimed that they were only looking for the sarin, but didn't actually have it.  He puts in context the complicated geo-politics of the region and the difficult spot an investigative reporter is in with regard to the MSM and spokespeople for the government agencies about which he uncovers inconvenient truths.


Actually, Amy, it’s really not my case; it’s the case of people in the administration who believe when they—when they take the oath, they take the oath of office to the Constitution and not to their immediate general or admiral or not to the—or not to the president even. It’s about truth. And there are an awful lot of people in the government who just were really very, very upset with the way the information about the gas attack took place. And that’s not to say that I have—I certainly don’t know who did what, but there’s no question my government does not. And there’s also no question that the American president that we now have—a guy I voted for, who has a lot of good things about him—was willing to go to war, wanted to throw missiles at Syria, without really having a case and knowing he didn’t have much of a case. And that, to me, is very troubling.
In this climate of hunting down and punishing whistle blowers, Sy Hersh's sources were very brave to tell him about the weaknesses in the "back story" the Obama administration put together from "cherry picked" intel as the "incontrovertible" evidence to start a war with yet another country that poses no threat to our security.
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Comment Preferences

  •  the strike that never happened? (8+ / 0-)

    and from the way I see it, probably never was going to?

    Dawkins is to atheism as Rand is to personal responsibility (not an original but rather apt)

    by terrypinder on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 12:44:45 PM PST

  •  Sorry, I don't credit Hirsh anymore. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FG, Tuffie

    He has a habit of promising more than he delivers and his sources have obviously been using him for propaganda for a long time.
    How many times did he predict an attack on Iran?
    Somebody's covering tush this time around.

    Obamacare at your fingertips: 1-800-318-2596; TTY: 1-855-889-4325

    by hannah on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 01:00:31 PM PST

    •  Apparently, it never occurred to you that (12+ / 0-)

      the revelations about potential strikes on Iran might have had some hand in actually preventing strikes on Iran?

      There are a few things to do with any and all investigative journalism regardless of the author…

      First and foremost in any national security or war scenarios one must think about why someone decided to tell a secret and who gains from such secrets being put out into the public.

      It is entirely possible that Hirsh's claims are completely accurate and true.  It would not surprise me in the least to find out at some point down the road that the Administration fingered Assad's government because they felt that it was the most efficient and effective way to get to the chemical weapons and to gain control over them.  Accusing the rebels would not have given them access to the country the way accusations against the regime would - ever.

      Next question is why does someone want people to know this about the Administration?  The Administration itself might have some purpose in disclosing this information.  There may be some other country that they want to send a message to by a disclosure such as this one.

      A lot of international relations communications between nations is conducted at dog whistle levels.  No Administration past, present or future will ever be entirely straight-forward on that front - and every Administration finds itself making things up from time to time to advance their geo-political goals.

      Anyone who thought that the Obama Administration was going to be dramatically different was being naive, I'm afraid.  

      I was not at all happy about the prospect that we would invade yet another Middle Eastern country, but I was not unhappy with pressuring the Assad regime to give up chemical weapons especially in light of the fact that the country is in the middle of a very unpredictable civil war.  I would not have supported an invasion over it, but putting pressure on them wasn't a bad thing.

      •  Don't jump the shark (0+ / 0-)

        So any time I predict something is going to happen, or report that something is going to happen, and it doesn't happen, I can say that I wasn't wrong, I was just executing a brilliant strategy to prevent whatever it was I predicted would happen?

        No.  Wrong is wrong.

        •  LOL - when YOU or I predict something (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          lotlizard, erratic

          are we basing predictions on "Pentagon sources" or people like that who one would have a reasonable belief that they have access to information at this level?

          Hersh has a decent reputation.  He is a "go to guy" for whistleblowers.  As I said above, interpreting what he or any other investigative reporter reports is the key.  Sometimes why the information is made public is not immediately apparent.

          It is always interesting to me how defensive people get about Obama even in situations where he is operating pretty much in the same way that every other President before him has.

          It isn't like he made the claim that there were chemical weapons; invaded; and then had to admit that there were none after a years-long occupation and many lives lost.

          •  Hersh *had* a decent reputation (0+ / 0-)

            He's running on the fumes of past glories, like Woodward.

            •  I really don't know. (0+ / 0-)

              Woodward has little credibility in my book because my Dad was investigating Watergate before they did and had everything to do with the real reason why Nixon fell.

              But I would add that because I know something about that history first hand and a fair amount about why people did and did not talk at that time, information - credible stories and why they are told - is a far more complicated and nuanced question then you seem to think.

              LOL - just to put it into perspective for you - my father was 32 years old and was asked to challenge a sitting President.

              Fonzie jumped the shark many years later.  

              That shark thing happened after we migrated to California.  

              We left because my Dad was on Cheney's enemies list which made it clear that leaving DC was probably the right thing to do under the circumstances.  

        •  You? No. Semour Hersh? Vastly more likely. (0+ / 0-)

          Retired Pie Warrior. Substance over Sh*t Flinging (as best as I am able). Sarcasm for - and derision of - True Believers / Entitlement "Reformers" / NSA cheerleaders (yes, significant overlap) still available 24/7, you betcha!

          by JVolvo on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 04:13:15 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Well, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FG, NYFM, hooper

    If you noticed, the small scale attacks that were ambiguous, didn't elicit the response that the larger, later attack did.
    Why?
    Because there was some question as to who launched them.
    There WAS a response to the large scale attack and quite sufficient evidence of their provenance.
    When confronted with the facts, backed up by a couple warships, Syria backed down entirely. They never admitted outright that they were to blame (and I wouldn't be surprised if the orders came from a couple levels down the chain) but they have acted exactly as they would had they been caught red-handed. BECAUSE THEY WERE.
    I don't know what the axe being ground here is, but this "revelation" doesn't do anything to promote peace. It only serves to undermine Obama and Kerry.

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 01:09:16 PM PST

    •  Why would a country that had the Fundamentalist (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      corvo, Pluto, BigAlinWashSt, CIndyCasella

      Terrorists on the run risk the wrath of the international community by using chemical weapons?

      Doesn't pass the smell test.

      Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project. www.hamiltonproject.org

      by PatriciaVa on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 01:17:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Because their domestic rebels (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NYFM

        were dug in to the suburbs of Damascus (the area gassed) and the military couldn't root them out.
        And as I said, I don't believe this came from the top of the chain, it is more likely from Assad's brother, the top general and by all accounts a real brutal bas+ard. He would not be concerned with the international aspects, just focused on stomping out to rebellion.

        If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

        by CwV on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 01:23:03 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Another approach frequently taken is (0+ / 0-)

          the leader says, "Do whatever it takes to reach an outcome" who the leader knows will do that without concern for moral behavior.

          Leader does not ask any questions when the result is reached.

          When the world discovers terrible things occurred, leader says, "I never ordered", "I was unaware", "those responsible will be held accountable."

          The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

          by nextstep on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 02:11:21 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Because they may very well have been (0+ / 0-)

        deployed by rogue elements within the Syrian forces.  Smell better?

        •  If a Rogue US agent engaged in an Unsanctioned.. (0+ / 0-)

          ..act in a foreign country, should that foreign country retaliate militarily against the US?

          Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project. www.hamiltonproject.org

          by PatriciaVa on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 01:44:10 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Well that's what Bush would (and did) do (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            CwV

            but fortunately Obama is president and so we didn't.  
            And of course one would need definitive proof as to exactly who acted and under whose authority and it was that level of proof we lacked. But what I really don't understand is why folks are complaining about not getting into another war while also preventing further chemical attacks- which is exactly what has happened.

            •  I've been wondering that myself. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              NYFM, hooper

              What is the problem with having disarmed Syria of it's chemical weapons without firing a shot?
              There seems to be a stream of commenters that are bent on denying Obama any kind of win. And if the win can't be denied then scuff it up and sh!t on it so it doesn't look like a win.
              I expect that from the FUX Noise idjits but it's really exasperating when it's from our Left.

              If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

              by CwV on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 02:16:31 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

      •  What doesn't pass the smell test (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NYFM

        is assigning a level of rationality to the actions of the Assad regime that they haven't previously displayed.

        Just because YOU don't think it would make sense doesn't mean they didn't.

        •  Some countries' farts don't stink... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          The Dude 415

          as far as they are concerned.

          "First, we make a commonwealth of our family. Then, we make a commonwealth of families. Then, we make of ourselves a political commonwealth. We engage in the ongoing process of self-government which, first and foremost, is a creative act." - C. Pierce

          by Superskepticalman on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 02:38:03 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  It serves to illustrate Obama and Kerry are (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CIndyCasella

      lying.  The entire Syria "war" has been a big lie.

      "It is easier to pass through the eye of a needle then it is to be an honest politician."

      by BigAlinWashSt on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 02:46:34 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Hersh's story would have had some credibility (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NYFM, CenPhx

    if he stuck to professional standards of journalism which he of all people must know.  There's no way to tell from the piece he wrote whether he has devolved into a Lara Logan copycat quoting anyone without questioning their authenticity.

    Amy has said herself that the media is complicit in delivering lies to the public.

    Last September 1, as members of Congress were pontificating about the need for a vote on military action, I posted a diary here to draw attention to the vote they had already taken just two months earlier. In June, the House called for the President to take action to remove Assad with a 301-123 vote.  In August, they were outraged when he proposed limited military action.  How dare he follow the marching orders they gave him. It takes brass.

    Hersh doesn't seem to know that there was a plan before the President's plan.

    There is no existence without doubt.

    by Mark Lippman on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 01:51:40 PM PST

    •  He was always well received by this community (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CenPhx, PatriciaVa, CIndyCasella

      when debunking the rationale behind George W Bush's international escapades.

      Sure, he's likely a CIA shill, at some level, but I suspect his reporting is as accurate now as it was then.

      •  I'm sorry. Your reply to my comment is (0+ / 0-)

        pointless.

        First of all, GWB callously joked in public on more than one occasion about the elusive WMD in Iraq. He debunked his own rationale and he made it easy for the press and the public to say that he lied.

        That situation is in no way analogous to or the equivalent of the Syria episode in August and September.  The story Hersh wrote doesn't comport with documented facts.  Why isn't he interested in the measure passed by the House?  Why doesn't he ask where the Armed Services committee and Intelligence committee got the information to support the language on Syria that they put in the NDAA?  

        If you haven't studied the proceedings in Congress related to Syria this year, Hersh's story might seem plausible. You'd also have to believe that Hersh is somehow reading Obama's mind.

        There is no existence without doubt.

        by Mark Lippman on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 03:10:31 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  What does that have to do with evidence (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          PatriciaVa, JVolvo, CIndyCasella

          surrounding the alleged chemical attack?  You haven't said anything to refute Hersh's evidence.

          "It is easier to pass through the eye of a needle then it is to be an honest politician."

          by BigAlinWashSt on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 03:14:51 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  He doesn't have evidence. The weapons inspectors (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            erratic

            collected the evidence. Read their report.

            There is no existence without doubt.

            by Mark Lippman on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 03:40:45 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I think you should read the report again. It (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              BigAlinWashSt

              clearly states that the sites were contaminated and evidence was manipulated and that they could not assess blame based on the science.  

              Yes, there was a small chorus of propagandists who claimed over and over again that the UN report fingered Assad, but that is patently untrue.

              Information is the currency of democracy. ~Thomas Jefferson

              by CIndyCasella on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 07:20:26 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Someone upthread implied that Hersh has (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                erratic

                evidence and he does not.

                The weapons inspectors' report doesn't identify who was responsible for the chemical weapons attack. Its findings were inconclusive.

                I don't care what propagandists say. I go by the report that was produced by the experts who conducted an onsite investigation. What do you know that they don't know for you to say that anything is patently true or untrue? What evidence do you have to say that you know better than they do? Where is your report that matches or exceeds the forensic quality of the  inspectors' report so that your findings are more conclusive than theirs?

                This isn't complicated. If no one knows who was responsible then no one can say Obama's narrative was false. You may think it was false. You may suspect it was false. But according to the weapons inspectors' report you don't know and no one does.  Furthermore, it wasn't a narrative that belonged exclusively to Obama.  As the Congressional Record shows, the narrative about Assad was written into a piece of legislation the House passed in June.

                You skipped over the history of the narrative and you didn't bother to trace it to its source. The House didn't write its legislation out of thin air. The narrative goes back further. But somehow, absent all facts, you think you know what's patently true.  Because you're all wrapped up in the politics and you have a biased opinion.  I get that.  My opinion may be similar but an opinion doesn't substitute for the facts. And the facts are inconclusive.

                The rumors about al-Nusra & chemical weapons have been around for a year. Read the Congressional Record for testimony from intelligence experts. The persistent rumors have never been proved. Other countries in the region, Turkey, for example, tried and failed to prove them. Still, some insist, particularly Israel, which believes it is vulnerable.  However, Israeli intelligence said it was sure Assad was responsible almost immediately which prompted questions in the press. Médecins Sans Frontières also reported almost immediately when 3600 people came streaming into the facilities it was using all at once. Its staff began exhibiting symptoms right away, too, from second hand exposure, a sure sign of chemical weapons.

                Nowadays people proceed to a political discussion based on one slanted stand-alone article without any substantive knowledge of the history, background, and facts so that they can even begin to ask some intelligent questions. All they know is whether it fits with their agenda. If it does, then it's patently true. Good luck.

                There is no existence without doubt.

                by Mark Lippman on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 03:49:22 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  All he said is that the rebels had the capability. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            erratic

            That's all.  Unless I've misread something.

            •  It has been rumored for a year that (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              hooper

              al-Nusra, an alleged al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, has had some ability to make chemical weapons or to gain access to the stockpiles Syria held as a non-signatory to any international  non-proliferation agreement.

              The testimony of experts, pro and con, is in the Congressional Record.  Why doesn't Hersh's source come to testify before Congress like others have already done if he has new information? He would find many members, maybe a majority, who are all ears. Is the source an American? If so, it would be his duty to come forth.

              Instead, Hersh writes a nutty story that makes it seem like he was given clandestine information that was being suppressed. It may come as a shock to him that the information is there for anyone to read in the Congressional Record. It wasn't suppressed. It was refuted and it was determined that there is a credible danger from the same group gaining access to Assad's stockpiles which were vulnerable. That risk has been mitigated and will be eliminated completely with the destruction of any remaining chemical weapons in Syria.

              There is no existence without doubt.

              by Mark Lippman on Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 04:30:21 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

    •  Epistemic closure always seem to have problems (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JVolvo

      with "professional standards of journalism" outside the box.

      "First, we make a commonwealth of our family. Then, we make a commonwealth of families. Then, we make of ourselves a political commonwealth. We engage in the ongoing process of self-government which, first and foremost, is a creative act." - C. Pierce

      by Superskepticalman on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 02:36:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Modern Liberals stop trying to make (0+ / 0-)

    Assad giving up his WMD arsenal about you. You just look small and silly ([or rather] just like a Tea bagger).

    •  What about Hersh's evidence can you refute? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      CIndyCasella

      "It is easier to pass through the eye of a needle then it is to be an honest politician."

      by BigAlinWashSt on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 03:08:27 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  You look like a tea bagger? What are you talking (0+ / 0-)

      about?  

      This comment is difficult to decipher. Who are you calling modern liberals?  I don't understand what you are trying to say.  

      I have a feeling English may not be your first language, so perhaps you could rewrite this comment in your native tongue and I'll use Babylon to translate it.

      Information is the currency of democracy. ~Thomas Jefferson

      by CIndyCasella on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 07:27:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Conversations take place in a historical vacuum (9+ / 0-)

    Reading through the comments, which are interesting, logical, and for the most part well-informed, what strikes me is the apparent total lack of historical context.  There seems to be little trouble considering the USG to be an institution that acts with integrity and is motivated by worthwhile goals, such as spreading democracy or fighting the use of chemical weapons.  There is almost no recent historical evidence to back these assumptions and a lot of evidence to throw them into doubt.  Fallujah is a fairly recent example, but it seems that in the consciousness of even relatively well-informed Americans, Fallujah never happened.  The suffering there continues, with many birth deformities caused by the use of illegal phosphorous and depleted uranium there.  The numbers are stunning and the photos are sickening.  And this is merely one aspect of the suffering inflicted on that one Iraqi city.

    I don't know how the denial works, whether people just immediately dismiss such examples as so highly unusual as to not be worthy of generalization, or perhaps people think that the US is a fundamentally good country which can be trusted to decide wisely whether the greater good will be served by our breaking of international law and creating hardship for an entire city for generations to come.   I don't know how the denial works, but I know for me, I think there is close to zero probability that concern over use of sarin had anything to do with the behavior of the Obama administration, whatever the facts of the matter turn out to be.

    Harold Pinter referred to this hypnosis in his Nobel Lecture, which included these memorable, and literally accurate words:

    The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never be forgiven.

    Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn't know it.

    It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

    I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road. Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self love

    Secrecy is a hot bed of vanity. - Joseph Brodsky They who have put out the people’s eyes reproach them for their blindness. – John Milton 1642

    by geomoo on Tue Dec 10, 2013 at 03:47:45 PM PST

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