“Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidarity to pure wind.” – George Orwell.
US secretary of state John Kerry has just delivered what may turn out to be his most shameful moment in history. Kerry has been handed the baton of sabre-rattler-in-Chief by a President that has much vested interest in upholding his facade of “reluctant warmonger”. Since President Obama declared his now infamous “red-line” over the use of chemical weapons in Syria; it has invariably been White House underlings and members of the State Department who are given the task of misleading the public – Kerry is not doing a very good job of it.
In his most recent outing, Kerry reiterated – 22 times no-less – that the US administration – through its ever trustworthy “intelligence community” – “knows” with “high confidence” that Bashar al-Assad’s regime carried out chemical weapons attacks upon opposition areas in the suburbs of Ghouta, Damascus, on the morning of the 21st August. Kerry adamantly repeats what US intelligence “knows”, without actually providing any solid evidence to bolster his ever-increasing, outlandish claims – Kerry is on the path to Colin Powell stardom, one suspects this speech will be remembered for a long-time to come, and for all the wrong reasons.
Kerry frames his speech in a typically Orwellian fashion. Immediately discarding any semblance of honesty Kerry tells the world that his decades in Congress have taught him the valued lesson that the US must “ask the tough questions” prior to engaging in military attacks upon a sovereign nation, and in turn “get the tough answers before taking action, not just afterward”.
It would take only a cursory glance at the United States’ foreign policy record form the last 2-3 years to realise that this opening gambit of attempting to portray American virtue and patience is an outright lie and the total reverse of decades-long aggressive US foreign policy. For example: did the United States “ask the tough questions” before it dropped nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki – killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians? Or did the United States “ask the tough questions” before it manufactured a casus belli to engage in an illegal war in Vietnam – again resulting in the murder of hundreds of thousands of innocents through the indiscriminate carpet bombing of civilian areas and chemical/biological weapons? How about Iraq? Did Kerry “ask the tough questions” prior to that particular murderous, genocidal rampage? One wonders if Kerry asked himself “the tough questions” before he made the decision to support the US’ illegal invasion and subsequent destruction of Iraq in 2002? Or even if he attempted to gain the “tough answers” after the decision had been taken. It seems even 18 months after the invasion of Iraq, at a time when the country was rapidly spiralling out of control, Kerry adamantly stood by his decision to support the war with the sole justification that he “would have done things very differently to Bush” – knowing full well by this point that Saddam Hussein’s alleged “WMD” and links to Al Qaeda were a figment of Dick Cheney and the US “intelligence community’s” imagination. The list of reckless US aggression is quite literally endless, these are but a few prominent examples.
Ostensibly touted as an opportunity for the US to show the world its supposed “intelligence” to prove chemical weapons had been used by the Assad regime; Kerry made clear from the outset that his audience would not be privy to any information that may empirically prove the allegation. Instead, the administration chose to repeat unsubstantiated allegations and “intelligence assessments” that must remain confidential to protect “methods and sources”. Relying on slogans such as “NGO” and “Syrian officials” Kerry attempts to mask the fact that the vast majority of the allegations originate from a primary belligerent in the Syrian conflict; namely, the Syrian “opposition”; the “rebels” themselves; and the plethora of State Department-trained “activist” networks responsible for the reams of misinformation and propaganda repeated uncritically in western corporate-media. Kerry goes on to say that the release of the governments “estimate” is so important because its findings are as “clear as they are compelling”. How does one make a clear and compelling estimate? Surely an estimate would infer that there is a degree of doubt, how can one “know” anything from an “estimate”?
Kerry urges his audience to: “read for yourselves the evidence from thousands of sources, evidence that is already publicly available.” Yet neither Kerry, nor the “intelligence summary” provide any of these alleged “thousands” of sources that are “publicly available”. The US intelligence “assessment” does not hold a single link to any secondary or primary source material, or any empirical/scientific data, there is nothing in it other than a summary of previous allegations. So what is Kerry referring to? One can only assume Kerry, in his half-arsed attempt to bolster what is an evidence-free allegation is now relying on YouTube videos – and urging the world to take them as hard evidence to determine war-crimes and culpability.
In true authoritarian manner, Kerry moves swiftly into the “trust us” narrative, imploring his audience to read the administrations verdict – no longer a pretense of independent evidence to prove guilt; merely a self-appointed verdict. Of course, at every opportunity Kerry reminds his audience exactly what that verdict is: the Assad regime is responsible, our verdict is your evidence, nothing more, nothing less, “these are facts, this is evidence”.
In an effort to impersonate Donald Rumsfeld’s infamous “unknown unknowns”, Kerry tells us: “in order to protect sources and methods, some of what we know will only be released to members of Congress, the representatives of the American people. That means that some things we do know, we can’t talk about publicly. So, what do we really know that we can talk about?” Well, considering he has just told his audience he cannot disclose even the “estimated” information that forms what his intelligence community “knows”, it seems we can’t talk about very much; other than repeated unsubstantiated allegations we have now heard for over a week – but surely that is the administrations intention. It is reminiscent of a certain theory of an English political ploy that the leaders of the Nazi regime admired – and no doubt employed upon their own population. Goebbels wrote in 1941: “The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.” Of course, Goebbels and Hitler were equally, if not more so, proponents of the “Big Lie”. It can only be reasonable to expect the empire of the age to adapt and expand such duplicitous policy to hoodwink its own citizens into yet more hegemonic militarism.
Repeatedly punctuating the word “know” so as to implant it in every vapid mind available, Kerry then starts to reel-off exactly what the administration “knows”: “Well, we know that the Assad regime has the largest chemical weapons programs in the entire Middle East. We know that the regime has used those weapons multiple times this year, and has used them on a smaller scale but still it has used them against its own people, including not very far from where last Wednesday’s attack happened.” Already, Kerry is telling some revealing porkies. Syria has by no means the largest chemical stockpile in the Middle East, that honour lies with the US’ number one ally in the region: Israel. As former US deputy assistant secretary of defense responsible for chemical and biological defense, Bill Richardson, said in 1998 “I have no doubt that Israel has worked on both chemical and biological offensive things for a long time… There’s no doubt they’ve had stuff for years.” Not to mention the fact Israel have a huge, illegal, nuclear warheads stockpile – the biggest obstacle to a nuclear-free middle east. Kerry says the administration “knows” the Assad regime has used chemical weapons on “multiple occasions” of a smaller scale in the past. Yet again, the United States, nor its allies and the Syrian opposition have provided any empirical, or objective, independent scientific evidence to back up these claims. It should be reiterated that in May this year, UN investigator Carla Del Ponte pointed the finger at the “rebels” for the use of chemical weapons, a fact that has been thoroughly whitewashed in both western media and from the duplicitous mouths of western diplomats such as John Kerry – who still claim that “rebels” don’t have the capability to launch such munitions. Contrary to western diplomats hollow claims; in late May militant cells with links to Jabhat al Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham were found in both Iraq and Turkey with sarin and other chemical weapons materiel in their possession – another fact that received only light attention in western media, and has been virtually ignored in any western diplomats talking points.
Furthermore, recent interviews with Doctors, Ghouta residents, “rebel” fighters and their families carried out by long-standing Associated Press contributor, Dale Ghavlak, allege that it was in fact extremist elements within the “rebels” that were directly responsible for the chemical attack; even alleging the chemical weapons were supplied by Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan:
“… from numerous interviews with doctors, Ghouta residents, rebel fighters and their families, a different picture emerges. Many believe that certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out the dealing gas attack… My son came to me two weeks ago asking what I thought the weapons were that he had been asked to carry,” said Abu Abdel-Moneim, the father of a rebel fighting to unseat Assad, who lives in Ghouta… Abdel-Moneim said his son and 12 other rebels were killed inside of a tunnel used to store weapons provided by a Saudi militant, known as Abu Ayesha, who was leading a fighting battalion. The father described the weapons as having a “tube-like structure” while others were like a “huge gas bottle.”
Are these interviews, and this report included within the administrations “high confidence” assessment that the regime carried out this alleged attack?
Again, omitting any specific evidence to bolster his clams Kerry has asserted that the administration “knows” that the Assad regime was preparing for chemical attacks with vague reference to the regime utilising gas masks, making precautions associated with chemical weapons, and “specific instructions”. Such specific instructions that Kerry is once again unable to produce any evidence of. How this speculation is supposed to determine what happened in Ghouta – let alone culpability – is left to the audiences’ imagination. Kerry states that the US “know” where and when the ordnance was launched from, but again the audience is left with words and zero physical evidence to back this up.
In what can only be described as a desperate attempt to bolster a weaker case for war than the lies and fabrications that justified the US’ invasion of Iraq, Kerry then turns to social media to outline what the administration “knows”. He clams that US intelligence has over 100 videos that show the symptoms of a chemical weapons attack. Moreover, the US does not believe that such an amount of videos could possibly be fabricated, or manipulated in any way, why would the fluffy “rebels” – that have been busy with ethnic cleansing; systematically killing religious clerics; indiscriminately targeting and killing civilians; and chopping off heads – bother to stage such an atrocity? Kerry forgets that for over two years social media has been the primary vehicle for “rebel” agitprop and fabrication. The “rebels” have been caught numerous times fabricating videos to further their agenda, but the “intelligence community knows”, in this case, that all of the videos surrounding Ghouta must be true. Kerry says the world has seen thousands of reports – yet not one of those “reports” is either independent nor verified by any independent agency. There is no elaboration or further evidence provided as to why YouTube videos, unverified “reports”, and social media should receive such credence, let-alone be used as a justification for war, only that they bolster the verdict the United States has already drawn.
The “evidence” supposedly weaned from YouTube is morphed into emotional agitprop. Kerry recalls images of dead women and children: “not a scratch, not a shrapnel wound, not a cut, not a gunshot sound. We saw rows of dead lined up in burial shrouds, the white linen unstained by a single drop of blood.” Yet Kerry has absolutely no way of determining how those people were killed, does Kerry assume that once a body is dead and covered in a burial shroud it will carry on bleeding? Such contradictions to the administrations simple narrative are gradually marginalised from the uncritical media and replaced with verbatim stenography; yet in the margins even US intelligence officials are purposefully leaking doubts. It should be noted that Kerry’s description is quite accurate, there was indeed no sign of trauma on the vast majority of victims present in videos on YouTube. But crucially; there is also no evidence within those videos that can scientifically determine how they died – let alone who killed them.
According to John Kerry, the United States also “knows” exactly how many people were killed in this alleged attack. Kerry puts the death toll at 1,429 people, including 426 children. A figure that has outstretched even the most inflated estimations, which have ranged from the “dozens” to up to 1,300. Yet contrary to the US figure, Doctors Without Borders, and the much-touted Syrian Observatory have put the death toll from the alleged Ghouta attack at 355 people. It is all the more perplexing that the United States has suddenly developed the ability to accrue such accurate death tolls and information in a country it supposedly has no personnel operating within; yet after ten years the United States still cannot – and will not – determine the amount of innocent Iraqis or Afghanis it has murdered during its illegal aggression upon each of those countries. The US can barely acknowledge – let alone tally – the thousands of innocents it has killed as a result of its extra-legal drone assassination program; we are supposed to now believe the US has developed the capability to count victims of atrocities in foreign countries? Moreover, Doctors Without Borders (DWB) represent the “credible medical” source that Washington allude to with regard to Ghouta, due to the fact they supplied field hospitals in the area. Astonishingly, and again cannily omitted by Kerry, Doctors Without Borders did not have a single member of their own personnel in the region, or at any field hospitals within Damascus; the medics that relayed information to Doctors Without Borders were “rebels” and people working directly with the Syrian opposition. The administration is attempting to lay credence to their allegations through the flimsy connection of Doctors Without Borders with opposition elements in the area, while simultaneously contradicting the death toll DWB provided.
In another attempt to lay credence to unfounded accusations, Kerry claims the Syrian regime attempted to block the UN inspectors from visiting the site in Ghouta by bombarding the area in unprecedented levels for four days straight. Again, the physical evidence to prove this accusation is omitted. It may just have slipped Kerry’s attention but the Syrian army has been on a concerted offensive in the suburbs of Damascus for months – and was indeed, winning its chosen battles. More importantly, the US made the accusation in attempts to portray the regime as unwilling to meet the demands of the UN because it “had something to hide”. Washington immediately backtracked this false narrative when it became apparent that it was the UN itself blocking any investigation and had not requested permission to visit the area until the following Saturday. It took the Syrian government a total of 24 hours to permit the UN’s request. When this became public knowledge, the administration changed its talking points; now alleging that the regime purposefully bombarded the area to “systematically destroy evidence”. The UN, alongside several chemical weapons experts have since debunked this theory, noting it can take months for Sarin and other military-grade CW to disperse, and assured that it was still possible for the team of experts to gather necessary evidence despite the time elapsed since the alleged attack.
Despite the numerous contradictions, and massive lack of physical evidence, Kerry again urges his audience to trust the intelligence community’s high confidence: “In all of these things that I have listed, in all of these things that we know — all of them — the American intelligence community has high confidence, high confidence. This is common sense. This is evidence. These are facts.” One can easily recall supposed “facts” the US intelligence community has had a “high confidence” of in the not-too-distant past, yet the popular refrain being bandied around establishment and corporate media circles to deter scepticism of such claims are the very same refrains that were thrown at sceptics ten years ago. “The shadow of Iraq” is being used as a rhetorical tool to attack sceptics of these allegations, yet in reality, the scepticism surrounding these renewed WMD allegations are of exactly the same nature and equally as justified as they were during the build-up to Iraq. Moreover, in a reference to the then-CIA Directors false claims of Iraqi WMD being a “slam dunk”, several US intelligence officials leaked to various media that White House allegations are anything but a “slam dunk”; rendering Kerry’s claims even-less credible than the outright lies that lead to the invasion of Iraq.
It is indicative of the glaring lack of physical evidence that the remainder of Kerry’s speech is spent avowing lofty claims of “US credibility”, and that countries must believe the United States when it says (threatens) something. What Kerry is actually saying is that the US cannot back down from its own reckless hubris without losing face, and the United States relies on that militaristic hubris – and will rely on it ever more so in the future – to uphold its own geopolitical and economic “interests”. Obama’s reckless “red-line” moment effectively backed the United States into a position itself and its allies knew they could engineer toward an overt intervention. That overt western intervention is now needed more than ever as the Syrian Army move toward a de-facto military victory.
In the remainder of the speech, and equally as vapid in the “intelligence assessment”, the secretary of state warns of various other “enemy” nations and political factions on the wrong side of Imperialism taking heed from a supposed lack of US “action”. Attempting to evoke fear and trepidation the Empire’s “boogeyemen” are rolled out one by one, from North Korea to Hezbollah. Kerry attempts to evoke the oft-repeated sentiment that the United States speaks for the entire world, he hastily casts aside the international allies of Syria. Yet, the western itself is increasingly against the US-led drive to attack Syria. In the UK – before and after the recent defeat for David Cameron’s motion for military intervention – up to 90% of the UK population were against any military intervention – and that stance has only hardened as the conflict has dragged on. For once, and much to David Cameron’s dismay, this public sentiment was reflected in the vote, and the UK will not be taking part in any military action. The figures against intervention are reflected across the Atlantic; the American public, despite the massive propaganda campaign, and overt lies streaming from their supposed “diplomats” do not support US military intervention. But the lies and propaganda will continue unabated, and an uncritical corporate media will slavishly repeat and embellish on cue.
Kerry ended his speech with the doublethink-laden quote: “…the world’s most heinous weapons must never again be used against the world’s most vulnerable people.” This is a fact, but a fact that evidently does not apply to the millions of vulnerable people the United States murders unabated – with every kind of weapon known to man.
Phil Greaves is a UK based writer/analyst, focusing on UK/US Foreign Policy and conflict analysis in the Middle East post WWII. http://notthemsmdotcom.wordpress.com/