The Stubborn Doubters
Yet, the stubborn doubters reportedly include members of the U.S. intelligence community and UN officials. Clearly, if the Obama administration had the entire intelligence community onboard, there would have been no need for such a dodgy dossier as the "Government Assessment" posted by the White House press office rather than by the Director of National Intelligence. (I was told as much by a source close to U.S. intelligence on Syria.)
And, Robert Fisk, a veteran reporter for London's Independent newspaper, found a lack of consensus among UN officials and other international observers in Damascus -- despite the career risks that they faced by deviating from the conventional wisdom regarding Assad's guilt.
"In a country -- indeed a world -- where propaganda is more influential than truth, discovering the origin of the chemicals that suffocated so many Syrians a month ago is an investigation fraught with journalistic perils," Fisk wrote...
"Nevertheless, it also has to be said that grave doubts are being expressed by the UN and other international organisations in Damascus that the sarin gas missiles were fired by Assad's army.
"While these international employees cannot be identified, some of them were in Damascus on 21 August and asked a series of questions to which no one has yet supplied an answer. Why, for example, would Syria wait until the UN inspectors were ensconced in Damascus on 18 August before using sarin gas little more than two days later -- and only four miles from the hotel in which the UN had just checked in?
"Having thus presented the UN with evidence of the use of sarin -- which the inspectors quickly acquired at the scene -- the Assad regime, if guilty, would surely have realised that a military attack would be staged by Western nations.
"As it is, Syria is now due to lose its entire strategic long-term chemical defences against a nuclear-armed Israel -- because, if Western leaders are to be believed, it wanted to fire just seven missiles almost a half century old at a rebel suburb in which only 300 of the 1,400 victims (if the rebels themselves are to be believed) were fighters.
"As one Western NGO put it ... 'if Assad really wanted to use sarin gas, why for God's sake, did he wait for two years and then when the UN was actually on the ground to investigate?'"
Fisk also reported that...
"Information is now circulating in the city [of Damascus] that Russia's new 'evidence' about the attack includes the dates of export of the specific rockets used and -- more importantly -- the countries to which they were originally sold. They were apparently manufactured in the Soviet Union in 1967 and sold by Moscow to three Arab countries, Yemen, Egypt and Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's Libya.
"These details cannot be verified in documents, and Vladimir Putin has not revealed the reasons why he told Barack Obama that he knows Assad's army did not fire the sarin missiles; but if the information is correct -- and it is believed to have come from Moscow -- Russia did not sell this particular batch of chemical munitions to Syria.
"Since Gaddafi's fall in 2011, vast quantities of his abandoned Soviet-made arms have fallen into the hands of rebel groups and al-Qa'ida-affiliated insurgents. Many were later found in Mali, some in Algeria and a vast amount in Sinai. The Syrians have long claimed that a substantial amount of Soviet-made weaponry has made its way from Libya into the hands of rebels in the country's civil war with the help of Qatar -- which supported the Libyan rebels against Gaddafi and now pays for arms shipments to Syrian insurgents."
So, rather than bullying people who still have questions about the Aug. 21 incident -- or just shouting more loudly than the other side -- the Obama administration and the Russian government might want to lay their cards on the table. The secrecy addiction among major world powers is deeply corrosive to democracy and makes a mockery of popular rule.
If President Obama's pleasant words about the universal human right of self-governance are to mean anything meaningful, he should accept that democracy is meaningless if a population is denied facts and left drowning in a swamp of propaganda.
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