Gwynne Dyer: Seymour Hersh claims false-flag poison gas attack in Syria

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      Why would anyone believe Seymour Hersh? True, he’s the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter who broke the story of the massacre committed by U.S. Army troops at My Lai in 1968 during the Vietnam War, and revealed the torture and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. military police at Abu Ghraib prison in 2004. But he’s getting old (77), and he’s a freelancer, and he won’t even disclose the name of his key informant.

      Whereas the U.S. government has hundreds of thousands of people working for it just gathering and analyzing intelligence, and the American media are famed worldwide for their brave defence of the truth no matter what the cost. Besides, has the U.S. government ever lied to you in the past?     

      So we obviously should not give much credence to Hersh’s most recent story. It alleges that the poison gas attack in Damascus last August that killed more than a thousand people, and almost triggered a massive U.S. air attack on Syria, was not really carried out by Bashar al-Assad’s tyrannical regime (which the U.S. wants to overthrow).

      It was, Hersh says, a false-flag operation carried out by the rebel Al-Nusra Front with the purpose of triggering an American attack on Assad. If you can believe that, you would probably also believe his allegation that it was the Turkish government, a U.S. ally and NATO member, which gave the jihadi extremists of al-Nusra the chemicals to make sarin (nerve gas) and the training to carry out the mass attack in Damascus.

      Hersh even says that it was General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, who told President Barack Obama just days before the American strikes on Syria were due to start that the evidence was not strong enough to justify an American attack on the Syrian regime.

      The rest of the story we already know. Obama postponed the attack by deciding, quite suddenly, that he had to get Congressional support for it. Then he cancelled it entirely once the Russians gave him the face-saving alternative of getting Assad to hand over all of his chemical weapons for destruction. There is no chance of an American attack on Syria now. But could Hersh’s back-story be true?

      Not one American paper or magazine was willing to print Hersh’s story, so it was finally published in the most recent issue of the London Review of Books. The U.S. media are still studiously ignoring the story, and the Turkish government and various branches of the U.S. government have naturally all issued indignant denials. But the official story never made any sense at all.

      By last August it was clear that Assad’s regime would eventually win the civil war unless there was some radical change in the situation (like an American bombing campaign against it). So Assad’s survival depended on not giving the United States any reason to attack him.

      Barack Obama had already said that any use of poison gas by the Syrian regime would cross a “red line” and trigger an American attack. In mid-August there were United Nations inspectors in Damascus to look into two much smaller attacks earlier in 2013 that seemed to involve poison gas. And we are asked to believe that at that precise moment Assad thought it would be a neat idea to kill one or two thousand innocent civilians in the city with poison gas.

      So who did it? The obvious question to ask was: who stands to benefit from this attack?—and the answer was certainly not Assad. He would not have done this unless he was very stupid, and being wicked does not make you stupid. Whereas the rebels had every reason to do it, in order to suck American firepower in on their side.

      But I must admit that it felt very lonely making this argument at the time. I had no evidence that al-Nusra, or any other rebel group, had carried out the attack. I just said that motives matter, and that Assad had no plausible motive for doing it. And of course I couldn’t say where the rebels would have got their chemical weapons from, if they did it. Hersh says: the Turks.

      Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister for the past 11 years, has backed the Islamist rebels in the Syrian civil war from the start, and he will be in deep trouble if they lose. They will lose, unless either Turkey or the United States comes to their aid militarily. Erdogan would obviously rather have the U.S. Air force do it rather than his own armed forces. So he had a good motive for giving the rebels the poison gas.

      Hersh says that he has been told by a former senior official in the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency that that is what happened.  You can read the details on the website of the London Review of Books. And yes, he’s old, but that just means he has been getting it right about a lot of different things for a long time.

      He’s just a freelancer, but that’s why people with a whistle to blow trust him to get the story out. And no, he hasn’t got confirmation from three separate named sources. That’s not how whistle blowing works. But he is Seymour Hersh, and I strongly suspect that he is right.




      Apr 14, 2014 at 12:16pm

      After reading the article, I still ask the question Dyer asks to start the article - Why would anyone believe Seymour Hersch? But then, why would anyone believe Gwyn Dyer?

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      Apr 14, 2014 at 2:14pm

      I am much relieved that Gwynne is supporting Seymour's revelation in spite of his tongue in cheek manner. Talk about misdirection. The sad truth of the matter is that most rulers conspire and lie and the mass media are lying or misleading propagandists. Best not to read the newspapers or watch the "NEWS" unless you want to be deceived. If everybody were to ignore the official propaganda or better still not trust their rulers they would lose their power over us. However cynical this may be it implies that "Civilization" is a conspiracy of the few over the many; the moneyed elites and their paid enablers over the many. Believe it or not?

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      Surprise, Surprise

      Apr 14, 2014 at 3:02pm

      Well that might explain the Turkey's aggressive stance at any border incursion. Such as shelling and taking out Syrian aircraft...

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      Apr 14, 2014 at 3:18pm

      Dyer's logical assertion that Hersh's (and Dyer's)position is correct makes sense to me. And the Turkish P.M. as of late, has shown he is not a person of good character.
      I've admired Hersh's abilities for a long time and it seems he's a great role model for journalists.

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      Adam Hanlon

      Apr 14, 2014 at 5:49pm

      WhiTurkish jet I was all for the Turks sweeping down into Syria, Lebanon and Palestine and putting an end to the tribal kingdoms. They could have done the world a huge favour and eliminated the Saudis too. But like I said the moment has passed.

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      Apr 14, 2014 at 6:44pm

      What used to be derisively referred to as "conspiracy theories" are finally becoming recognized for what they really are -- standard operating procedures of The Powers That Be.

      A small percentage of the populace are aware of the BS that the government and mainstream media shovels at them 24/7, but as long as the vast majority remain pacified by shiny objects and canned entertainment, TPTB have nothing to worry about.

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      Apr 14, 2014 at 8:03pm

      I can see why the US leadership wouldn't want this known. Sure it doesn't incriminate them in the same way that Hersh's last two revelations did, but it does have two rather inconvenient implications.

      1. It implies that many countries and non-state actors around the world think that the US government is naive and easy to manipulate into foreign policy actions that do not serve its interests.

      2. Given how close the US came to actually attacking Syria, even though Obama's reluctance was obvious, implies that these actors are right.

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      I Chandler

      Apr 15, 2014 at 12:14am

      " it was the Turkish government, a U.S. ally and NATO member, which gave the jihadi extremists of al-Nusra the chemicals ... So who did it? "

      Turkey isn't the only practitioner:

      NATO has used false flag operations for many years:

      USAF Brig. General Ben Partin describes his testimony as a weapons expert :

      The 1960's saw the Gulf of Tonkin and Operation Northwoods originated with Joint Chiefs of Staff:

      Anthrax attack was blamed on Al Qaeda:

      "Not one American paper or magazine was willing to print Hersh’s story"

      These papers are not stupid - they let the Times have the scoop:

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      Apr 15, 2014 at 6:42am

      Chandler, why don't you compare the level of detail in Mr. Hersh's article to that of one of your so-called "revelations". Granted, Mr. Hersh has a slight problem of using anonymous sources (that can perhaps be forgiven given his reputation and the sensitive nature of his contacts), but otherwise it might interest you to see what an actual conspiracy looks like. More importantly, you might learn how to report on one without sounding like an idiot, a liar, or both.

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