What is the Truth About Sarin and Syria?

by Dan Schlitt, Nebrakans for Peace Member

The truth about the use of chemical weapons in Syria is still unknown. More bits of information keep coming out.

At the Annual Peace Conference in Omaha there was a workshop on Syria where, among other things, attenders were cautioned to not jump to conclusions about the facts of the use of the nerve gas sarin. It is going to be up to future historians to straighten things out.

An important new collection of information is provided by Seymour Hersh in an article published in the London Review of Books <http://www.lrb.co.uk/2013/12/08/seymour-m-hersh/whose-sarin>. Hersh is a well regarded investigative reporter. Among other things he exposed the My Lai Massacre and its coverup and Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. He has many contacts in government and the intelligence community.

Hersh's article "Whose Sarin?" is a devastating indictment of the Obama administration's claims of information the U.S. government had about the Aug 21 chemical weapons attack near Damascus. It even looks like the administration was using this event to justify eventual large scale military intervention in the chaotic syrian civil war by “cherry picking” the intelligence; starting military action with small missile strikes that would lead to more and more intervention.

Congress insisted that they should be involved in any decision; the people told Congress and the President “no way” to US military action. We were saved by what still looks like a fortunate coincidence that led to an agreement by Syria to eliminate their chemical weapons.

The article reveals an even more important story. Drawing from extensive public source research and interviews with anonymous but high level intelligence officials, Hersch concludes that the US intelligence community has determined that al-Nusra Front, an opposition group affiliated wth al-Qaeda, had the capacity at the time of the attack and may still be able to launch a chemical weapons attack with sarin.

This adds to the uncertainty about who was responsible for the sarin attacks. Since that article was written UN observers have verified the use of sarin in earlier smaller incidents than the Ghouta event.

An open question is who gained from the timing of the Ghouta attack. It is clear that it occurred at an awkward time for the Assad regime. The rebels did gain from the assumption that it was done by Assad because it made the regime look bad and would invite response by the US.

The argument against the rebels making the attack was that the victims were on the rebel side. But al-Nusra, the Islamist rebel group is designated as a terrorist organization by the US and UN. Al-Nusra is known to have carried out scores of suicide bombings against Christians and other non-Sunni Muslim sects inside Syria, and to have attacked its nominal ally in the civil war, the secular Free Syrian Army.

Hersh's account highlights the need for continued investigations into the Administration's previous justification for the attack, as well as investigations into whether there are existing stockpiles of chemical weapons in Syria, under opposition control.

Please contact your elected officials and ask them to read the Seymour Hersh article before they decide to go to war on Syria. Contact information for Nebraska representatives can be found by clicking HERE.

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