The Trump Administration’s Syria Gas Attack Narrative Continues to Unravel

Pretty much every official statement emanating from the U.S. government these days is a deception, fabrication, or outright lie. I understand that this is a hard thing for a U.S. citizen to admit, but as James Baldwin so accurately stated:

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

So let’s go ahead and face the facts. Governments lie. Governments have always lied. Extremely corrupt, imperial governments overseeing societies in deep economic and cultural decline lie even more. This isn’t conspiracy theory, it’s what obviously happens when you combine tremendous power with human nature.

Although I’ve been questioning the Trump administration’s fairytale narrative about the recent Syria gas attack from day one, I don’t have the expertise to sufficiently examine the evidence and put some meat on the bones. In contrast, Professor Emeritus of Science, Technology, and National Security Policy at MIT, Theodore A. Postol does, and he’s published a series of reports over the past week calling out what he believes is a deliberate deception by members of the Trump team.

As Yahoo reported:

A leading weapons academic has claimed that the Khan Sheikhoun nerve agent attack in Syria was staged, raising questions about who was responsible.

Theodore Postol, a professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), issued a series of three reports in response to the White House’s finding that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad perpetrated the attack on 4 April.

He concluded that the US government’s report does not provide any “concrete” evidence that Assad was responsible, adding it was more likely that the attack was perpetrated by players on the ground.

Postol said: “I have reviewed the [White House’s] document carefully, and I believe it can be shown, without doubt, that the document does not provide any evidence whatsoever that the US government has concrete knowledge that the government of Syria was the source of the chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun, Syria at roughly 6am to 7am on 4 April, 2017.

“In fact, a main piece of evidence that is cited in the document point to an attack that was executed by individuals on the ground, not from an aircraft, on the morning of 4 April.

“This conclusion is based on an assumption made by the White House when it cited the source of the sarin release and the photographs of that source. My own assessment is that the source was very likely tampered with or staged, so no serious conclusion could be made from the photographs cited by the White House.”

The image Postol refers to is that of a crater containing a shell inside, which is said to have contained the sarin gas.

His analysis of the shell suggests that it could not have been dropped from an airplane as the damage of the casing is inconsistent from an aerial explosion. Instead, Postol said it was more likely that an explosive charge was laid upon the shell containing sarin, before being detonated.

“The explosive acted on the pipe as a blunt crushing mallet,” Postol said. “It drove the pipe into the ground while at the same time creating the crater.

The implication of Postol’s analysis is that it was carried out by anti-government insurgents as Khan Sheikhoun is in militant-controlled territory of Syria.

Postol, formerly a scientific advisor at the Department of Defense (DoD), has previously outlined similar inconsistencies with US intelligence reports. Following the 2013 chemical weapons attack in eastern Ghouta, Postol again said the evidence did not suggest Assad was responsible – a finding that was later corroborated by the United Nations.

In his latest reports, Postol hit out at what he says is a “politicisation” of intelligence findings.

Postol said: “No competent analyst would miss the fact that the alleged sarin canister was forcefully crushed from above, rather than exploded by a munition within it.

“All of these highly amateurish mistakes indicate that this White House report, like the earlier Obama White House Report [from Ghouta in 2013], was not properly vetted by the intelligence community as claimed.

“I have worked with the intelligence community in the past, and I have grave concerns about the politicisation of intelligence that seems to be occurring with more frequency in recent times – but I know that the intelligence community has highly capable analysts in it.

“And if those analysts were properly consulted about the claims in the White House document they would have not approved the document going forward.”

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Take a look at the “Summary and Conclusions” section from his third report courtesy of Naked Capitalism:

Summary and Conclusions

It is now clear from video evidence that the WHR (White House Intelligence Report) was fabricated without input from the professional intelligence community.

The press reported on April 4 that a nerve agent attack had occurred in Khan Shaykhun, Syria during the early morning hours locally on that day. On April 7, The United States carried out a cruise missile attack on Syria ordered by President Trump. It now appears that the president ordered this cruise missile attack without any valid intelligence to support it .

In order to cover up the lack of intelligence to supporting the president’s action, the National Security Council produced a fraudulent intelligence report on April 11 four days later. The individual responsible for this report was Lieutenant General H. R. McMaster, the National Security Advisor. The McMaster report is completely undermined by a significant body of video evidence taken after the alleged sarin attack and before the US cruise missile attack that unambiguously shows the claims in the WHR could not possibly be true. This cannot be explained as a simple error.

The National Security Council Intelligence Report clearly refers to evidence that it claims was obtained from commercial and open sources shortly after the alleged nerve agent attack (on April 5 and April 6). If such a collection of commercial evidence was done, it would have surely found the videos contained herein.

This unambiguously indicates a dedicated attempt to manufacture a false claim that intelligence actually supported the president’s decision to attack Syria, and of far more importance, to accuse Russia of being either complicit or a participant in an alleged atrocity.

The attack on the Syrian government threatened to undermine the relationship between Russia and the United States. Cooperation between Russia and the United States is critical to the defeat of the Islamic State. In addition, the false accusation that Russia knowingly engaged in an atrocity raises the most serious questions about a willful attempt to do damage relations with Russia for domestic political purposes.

We repeat here a quote from the WHR:

An open source video also shows where we believe the chemical munition landed—not on a facility filled with weapons, but in the middle of a street in the northern section of Khan Shaykhun. Commercial satellite imagery of that site from April 6, after the allegation, shows a crater in the road that corresponds to the open source video.

The data provided in these videos make it clear that the WHR made no good-faith attempt to collect data that could have supported its “confident assessment.” that the Syrian government executed a sarin attack as indicated by the location and characteristics of the crater.

This very disturbing event is not a unique situation. President George W. Bush argued that he was misinformed about unambiguous evidence that Iraq was hiding a substantial store of weapons of mass destruction. This false intelligence led to a US attack on Iraq that started a process that ultimately led to the political disintegration in the Middle East, which through a series of unpredicted events then led to the rise of the Islamic State.

On August 30, 2013, the White House produced a similarly false report about the nerve agent attack on August 21, 2013 in Damascus. This report also contained numerous intelligence claims that could not be true. An interview with President Obama published in The Atlantic in April 2016 indicates that Obama was initially told that there was solid intelligence that the Syrian government was responsible for the nerve agent attack of August 21, 2013 in Ghouta, Syria. Obama reported that he was later told that the intelligence was not solid by the then Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper.

Equally serious questions are raised about the abuse of intelligence findings by the incident in 2013. Questions that have not been answered about that incident is how the White House produced a false intelligence report with false claims that could obviously be identified by experts outside the White House and without access to classified information. There also needs to be an explanation of why this 2013 false report was not corrected. Secretary of State John Kerry emphatically testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee repeating information in this so-called un-equivocating report.

On August 30, 2013 Secretary of State Kerry made the following statement from the Treaty Room in the State Department:

Our intelligence community has carefully reviewed and re-reviewed information regarding this attack[Emphasis added], and I will tell you it has done so more than mindful of the Iraq experience. We will not repeat that moment. Accordingly, we have taken unprecedented steps to declassify and make facts available to people who can judge for themselves.

It is now obvious that this incident produced by the WHR, while just as serious in terms of the dangers it created for US security, was a clumsy and outright fabrication of a report that was certainly not supported by the intelligence community.

In this case, the president, supported by his staff, made a decision to launch 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian air base. This action was accompanied by serious risks of creating a confrontation with Russia, and also undermining cooperative efforts to win the war against the Islamic State.

I therefore conclude that there needs to be a comprehensive investigation of these events that have either misled people in the White House White House, or worse yet, been perpetrated by people to protect themselves from domestic political criticisms for uninformed and ill-considered actions.

Sincerely yours, Theodore A. Postol

Professor Emeritus of Science,
Technology, and National Security Policy
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Email: postol@mit.edu

The U.S. government is completely rogue and determined to drive the U.S. into an unwinnable war based on false pretenses, which doesn’t serve the national interest. These lunatics must be stopped.

Photo: Justin in SD The White House via photopin (license)

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  • Mark D

    Ah yes and the CIA brought down the World Trade Center. (he said sarcastically) Better to believe Assad than the U. S. Government or every other western government. I’ll bet this guy reveled in the Arab Spring, the Russian Reset and the Benghazi video hoax.

  • This over educated progressive Liberal professor has forgotten the Russians and Syrians had removed all chemical weapons during John Kerry’s tenture as Sec. of State. according to Obama. Thus no red line was broken. Who has more access to chemical weapons? I assume the people who had them and claimed all them were disposed of or a bunch of rebels who are constantly in hiding in Syrian occupied territory. I was in Iraq after Sadam was overthrown and the word was on the street that over a 100 truckloads of chemical weapons were buried in Lebanon under the direction and control of Assad in an area of Syrian control in the Bicall Valley. This is a pot of BS. Trump does not have to fabricate anything.