Given the insanity of Assad’s supposed chemical attack on women and children at a point in the Syrian civil war at which the government is clearly defeating the opposition, the main point in providing evidence for a US and British-led coalition of the willing to intervene militarily should be the establishment of whether or not the Assad regime was actually responsible for the attack, rather than evidence that a chemical attack did indeed occur. As of September 1, 2013, no evidence of the Assad regime’s guilt has been put forward, only evidence that a chemical attack occurred. The best arguments for strikes on Syria so far hinge on the frail logic that an atrocity occurred, and we know Assad is bad, so it must be him. Therefore there is no need to consider the possibility that it was conducted by the party with the most to gain by a chemical attack – the opposition.
However, in the world of political doublespeak, this matters very little when “activists say,” Leftists feel the need to “do something,” and neocons remain neoconnish.
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague set the propaganda tone early with cries of “conspiracy theory,” and “vanishingly small” chances.
From the BBC, Aug. 23, 2013:
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague: “It seems the Assad regime has something to hide”
“I know that some people in the world would like to say that this is some kind of conspiracy brought about by the opposition in Syria,” said Mr Hague.
“I think the chances of that are vanishingly small and so we do believe that this is a chemical attack by the Assad regime.”
It was “not something that a humane or civilised world can ignore”.
“Any option that complies with international law and could save innocent lives, we have to be open to those options,” he said, but added any decisions would come later and he would not speculate about them.
He added: “This is what we are focused on and we are working with countries all over the world to try to bring this about and to try to establish the truth to the satisfaction of the world about what is clearly a terrible atrocity.
“The only possible explanation of what we have been able to see is that it was a chemical attack and clearly many, many hundreds of people have been killed, some of the estimates are well over 1,000.
“There is no other plausible explanation for casualties so intense in such a small area on this scale.”
But “plausible explanations” aren’t called for here, evidence is! It is doubtful that the British or the American people want to start a new war based on plausible explanations.
The White House was also convinced of the “undeniable” use of chemical weapons, while convictions regarding the guilty party were more in the “very little doubt” range.
Press Secretary Jay Carney reiterated that the U.S. has “very little doubt” that Assad is “culpable” in the “undeniable” use of chemical weapons in Syria, and that the intelligence community has additional information on the chemical weapons attacks, to be released in the coming days. he added that it was “profoundly in the interest of the US and the international community that that violation of an international norm be responded to.”
John Kerry also states that the evidence of an attack is “undeniable,” and promptly labels such denial as “morally suspect,” while failing to mention any evidence, yet again, of who was responsible.
Russian president Vladimir Putin told UK prime minister David Cameron that Moscow did not have evidence of whether a chemical weapons attack had taken place or who was responsible. In his speech, John Kerry described such denial as morally suspect. Evidence of chemical weapons use “is undeniable,” Kerry said.
Reports from Syria of chemical warfare “should shock the conscience of the world,” Kerry said, adding that the indiscriminate slaughter of women and children carried out by the Assad regime constitutes a “moral obscenity.”
Echoing William Hague nearly word for word, Kerry said:
that the Obama administration is “all but certain” that the Syrian government used chemical weapons to attack innocent civilians.
The immorality of using chemical weapons is clear, but the logic becomes strained when it finally comes to the question of who did it:
Kerry said the White House has “additional information” about this attack that is being compiled and reviewed by the administration and will be released in the days ahead.
“While investigators are gathering additional information on the ground, our understanding of what has already happened in Syria is grounded in facts, informed by conscious and guided by common sense,” Sec. Kerry said. “The reported number of victims, the reported symptoms of those who were killed or injured, the first hand accounts from the humanitarian organizations on the ground . . . these all strongly indicate that everything these images are already screaming at us are real: that chemical weapons were used in Syria.”
“Moreover, we know that the Syrian regime maintains custody of these weapons,” Kerry added.
This, in essence, is the argument, the only argument thus far provided, that Assad is guilty. “Chemical weapons were used,” and the Syrian regime has them.
Rather than bringing forward any hard evidence that Assad was involved in the atrocities, the continual Kerry mantra centers around vague language of credibility and the usual “activists say” reports:
Today’s reports of an attack on the U.N. investigators, together with the continued shelling of these very neighborhoods, only further weakens the regime’s credibility.
More often than not he doesn’t even name the Assad regime as the guilty party, the actual agent of a verb phrase, favoring instead impersonal constructions like “an attack on U.N. investigators” and “the continued shelling.”
And just in case this compelling evidence isn’t enough to justify another war, and no more evidence comes to light, Kerry reminds us that the Syrian regime has engaged in a “cynical attempt” to cover up a “cowardly crime.” In other words, they are destroying the evidence, so don’t expect any.
“That is not the behavior of a government that has nothing to hide. That is not the action of a regime eager to prove to the world it had not used chemical weapons,” said Kerry. Rather, the official said the Assad regime’s latest actions are “too late to be credible.”
Of course the Obama administration has always behaved like a government with nothing to hide.
“Make no mistake,” he added, “President Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world’s heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people.”
Jay Carney again:
“What we are talking about here as Secretary Kerry made clear is a response to the clear violation of an international norm, and it is profoundly in the interest of the United States and the international community that that violation of an international norm be responded to,” Mr. Carney said. “The indiscriminate killing of innocent women and children and an attempt to maintain his bloody grasp on the power is despicable, but that is what we’ve come to expect from Bashar al-Assad.”
As Dave Ross points out:
So it is not an attack, but a response, and the legal justification is that we are enforcing not a law, but a “norm.”
The president’s spokesperson added that the proof of a chemical warfare attack “comes from sources well beyond the US government,”
Good to have impartial sources “well beyond the US government.” I wonder if those sources include the omnipresent, omnipotent “Activists say.”
“The president makes decisions about military action or potential military action with the national security interests of the United States in mind. There is no weightier decision for the president and he has made that…clear,” Mr. Carney said.
No, the Congress makes decisions about military action, and our Constitutional lawyer President should know that. Have I made that… clear?
At least Obama remains resolved to talk and consider and waver and allow voices to be heard – his customary shtick. Meanwhile, all the evidence of Assad’s guilt lies far beyond the government, well beyond good and evil and millions of miles beyond Manti Te’o’s alleged homosexuality. Far, far from it! In fact, the evidence seems to share a certain ontological status similar to his “girlfriend.”
However, a simple Google search for “activists say” should suffice to summarize the compelling evidence that somebody did something and that now we need to act and “do something.”
Syrian regime forces kill 46 people, activists say
Troops led by Assad’s brother likely to blame for chemical weapons, Syrian activists say
Syrian activists say chemical weapons were used near Damascus
Activists say incendiary bomb hit school in Syria
Syrian activists say gas attack near Damascus killed more than 200
Updated – Activists say 500 killed in gas attack near Damascus
Syrian Activists Say 100 People Killed In Alleged Gas Attack
Activists say intense Syrian government shelling has killed eight women and girls in the southern province of Daraa.
Syrian activists say ‘toxic gas’ killed scores
Syrian airstrike kills 20, activists say
You can get any war you want, at Activists Restaurant…
Apologies to Arlo Guthrie.
In summary: There are “vanishingly small chances” that the Assad regime, as sources “well beyond the US government” plausibly explain, is with “very little doubt” not responsible for the attacks which are undeniably chemical, and we have to be open to any option which “complies with international law,” including a “response” to violations of a “norm.”
I’m guessing the “response” won’t be a warlike one, as it will be “kinetic” in nature and won’t involve “boots on the ground.” Hopefully they’ll be using those nonlethal lethal weapons I’ve heard about.
“And they was using up all kinds of cop equipment that they had hanging around the police officer’s station. They was taking plaster tire tracks, foot prints, dog smelling prints, and they took twenty seven eight-by-ten color glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against us. They took pictures of the approach, the getaway, the northwest corner, the southwest corner and that’s not to mention the aerial photography…” – Arlo Guthrie, Alice’s Restaurant
“There’s an old saying in Tennessee… I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee, that says, fool me once, shame on… shame on you. But fool me – can’t get fooled again.” – George W. Bush