Who Used Sarin?

In our very recent congressional discussions and our major media, it seems all but settled fact that Assad is the sole party responsible for the use of nerve gas.  The reported facts are disturbingly not as clear.

The UN said in May that initial evidence suggested the Syrian rebels, not Assad, were responsible for the use of sarin.  This was prior to the large death toll of 1500 + from gas that occurred in August.  The UN delegate was careful to say that incontrovertible proof did not exist that the rebels deployed the weapons and also acknowledged that Assad may have used them as well, but, the UN’s initial post-preliminary investigation opinion was that the rebels had used the gas.

The New York Times covered the UN conclusions by reprinting a Reuters news story.  Clearly, “Who used the sarin” is an important issue.  Possibly the most critical issue of the day, as it appears military strikes will be made based on the use of chemical weapons.  I found it odd and perhaps telling that the Times just reprinted a Reuters article instead of devoting at least one unpaid intern to call the UN and get an interview.  They also printed the story on A-9…hardly neon-highlighted.

They have not run any similar articles since that one, that I can find.  No more curiosity about who used the sarin.  In fact, on August 27, 2013, they ran a story called “Crisis in Syria – Key Questions on the Conflict in Syria”.  The story completely leaves out the fact that the UN investigation, the only presumably impartial investigation done, determined that the Rebels appear to have been the one to have used sarin.

How does the NYT leave the issue of “who used the sarin” out of an article about key questions in Syria?  The issue has not been resolved and is critical.

All across the country, In nearly every major paper, the headlines mirror the USA Today’s storyline of September 1, “Kerry Cites Evidence Syria Used Sarin Gas“.  The “new evidence” Syria used sarin consists of “…samples that were provided to the United States and that have now been tested from first responders in East Damascus, and hair samples and blood samples have tested positive for signatures of sarin,” Kerry said on NBC’s Meet the Press.  The evidence sounds like proof sarin was used, but it is certainly not proof of who used it.

The samples relied upon to come to the conclusion in Secretary of State Kerry’s new evidence did not come from the UN.  Rather, the samples we relied upon came from unnamed and unknown “independent sources”.

Groups linked with Syrian rebels (the al-Nusra front) were busted in Turkey very recently, in possession of sarin.  Reuters carried the story, which can be read here.  Try finding this story in our major media.  Why is the fact that rebels have been busted with sarin recently not being written about?  It strikes me as highly relevant at a minimum.  I can not find any American major media carrying this Reuters article.  Amazingly, just yesterday, Secretary Kerry, while being questioned by the Senate committee and discussing “boots on the ground”, stated

In the event that Syria imploded, for instance, or in the event there was a threat of a chemical weapons cache falling into the hands of al-Nusra or someone else, and it was clearly in the interests of our allies, all of us, the British, the French and others, to prevent those weapons of mass destruction [falling into their hands],” Kerry said, “I don’t want to take off the table an option that might or might not be available to be available to the president.  [My emphasis]

Well..we KNOW that the al-Nusra Front very recently had chemical weapons because of the remarkably under-reported Reuters story linked above relating how the group was caught with sarin.

As I finished typing this article, I just came across a CBS story that addresses some of the points seen here.  I am happy to see I am not a complete nut or at least, maybe a nut in good company.  Some of the issues herein were highlighted for me by a provocative video on a wonderful blog, High-Grade Discourse.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has already approved action by a 10-7 vote.  The Senate gave a much more limited authorization of force than was requested, installing a temporal limit of 60 + possible 30 more days.  Obama requested a temporally unlimited use of force.  The Senate committee authorization of force does not, critically, appear to limit the use of force to Syria, geographically.  Although we are being told as a nation that the strikes would be of a scope only to send a signal against the use of chemical weapons, the actual resolution put forward tonight by the Senate panel states “…it is the policy of the United States to change the momentum on the battlefield in Syria”.  Watch the mission creep and creep and creep.

I am personally against intervention for many reasons, but whatever your stance, the issue of who used sarin is a critical fact to our world leaders, and it has not been established.  We should speak out and demand more facts before the country is sucked into a black hole in Syria and beyond.

2 thoughts on “Who Used Sarin?

  1. DK Fennell

    Glenn, this is an interesting question (particularly with the report by the Turkish media of the possession of sarin by a rebel group last May), and would be of crucial importance if the U.S. government were acting honestly. The evidence seems to be against that latter hypothesis, however. As a purely tactical matter, the antiwar case can’t rest much on this argument, because the U.S. will simply argue that “it makes no sense” for the rebels to gas their own people (even though, in their current strategic position, it might in a Machiavellian way). There will be other magical talk about delivery devices, trajectory, etc. And, in fact, it is not beyond probability that both sides have access to chemical weapons. (It would complicate the Administration’s position to concede this, but it wouldn’t undercut the hawks. Given how the rightwing argues in this country, they would spin it as further proof of the need for an attack.) The anti-war opposition can never muster the “intelligence” of the Adminstration that has $56 billion/year in intelligence capability, which has long since learned how easy it is to manipulate bits of information into an alarming-sounding conclusion.

    It seems to me that the more compelling argument, and one that applies universally to all forms of ad hoc US. adventurism (by missiles or otherwise) is based on (1) the illegality of unilateral action here under the UN Charter and other norms of international law; (2) how such adventurism undermines international institutions and norms (the enforcement of which the Administration claims to be upholding); and (3) the fact that air warfare has rarely achieved limited political ends and often ends in strategic defeat and almost always in political losses.

    Beyond all of that, there is the fundamental problem that these kinds of actions are simply symptoms of military-capital stranglehold on our democratic institutions. You can see how much of a squeeze the national security apparatus has put on the political operatives of this Administration by the over-the-top rhetoric of the President and Secretary of State. If indeed the credibility of the world depended on preventing violations of crimes against humanity, then the world would have done something before now about the 5 million that have been slaughtered in the various civil wars taking place over the last 15 years in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

    1. Glenn Dukes at civilrightskiosk.com Post author

      Thanks for weighing in DK. I agree with everything you have written here, particularly your three points. I was interested in the sarin question as an example of obvious propaganda and war manufacturing, but you are right that the government does not seem to be interested in trying to ferret this out. The probable use of sarin is just an artifice to get us in there. They just need the war dollars, the leverage over oil, the permanent military bases, and mainly an excuse to strike out at Iran. Our disdain for international law seems short-sighted as hell as well as making us pretty bad world neighbors.

      I have to say, it is frightening to see our media so complicit…media treatment of Iraq was such a joke, and Syria seems to be a repeat performance.


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