Featured Post

The white-Left Part 1: The two meanings of white

Monday, September 2, 2013

Recycled Lies: Critique of the Kucinich letter on Syria

On 30 August 2013, Dennis Kucinich sent out a letter stating his views on the questions facing us following the gas attack in East Ghouta, Damascus, Syria that killed more than fourteen hundred people. He sent it out to 200,000 recipients and it has been republished numerous places including here at truthdig. His piece arguments that we do nothing beyond talk to stop the slaughter of Syrians by their own government, he gives a very pro-Assad slant on events, and he misrepresents the factual record in a willful and malicious way. For all these reasons, and because I never forget that lives hang in the balance, I feel compelled to take on Kucinich's letter in detail.

He begins his email not with Syria, this email is not really about Syria, but with Iraq eleven years ago and what he did then. I have quoted his entire email below, breaking into it as necessary for comments:
Dear Friend,

Eleven years ago I warned America we were about to get into a war based on lies. I led 125 members of Congress to oppose the Iraq War resolution. When I raised questions then, some of our leading Senators, such as John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards voted yes. The media was squarely behind the war. I was attacked for questioning the cause of war. Everything I said in October of 2002 as to why we should not go to war turned out to be 100 percent true. Many of those who were 100 percent wrong have continued in Congress or gone on to greater influence in government. And America? America lost 4,488 sons and daughters, with 32,021 wounded, at a cost which is approaching $6 trillion.
The parallel that he is trying to make here, a common one in the Left, is a completely bogus one. The charge made before the Iraq War, and backed by lies, was that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction [WMD]. Nobody claimed he was using them at the time. Although it was well known that he had used them more than a decade before and with the West's blessings at the time. The charge against Saddam Hussein was one of simple possession.

For that reason there was no reason to rush the process, no good reason to quickly withdraw UN inspectors, etc. In short, whether Saddam Hussein had WMD or not, he wasn't actively killing with them at the time, so a different standard of proof should have applied.

By analogy: If the police suspect someone is in possession of an illegal handgun, it is entirely proper to ask that they present the reasons for their suspicions to a judge and get a search warrant before they are allowed to act on their suspicions. If on the other hand, an active shooter is killing people, it would be ludicrous to ask the police to visit a judge before they resorted to the application of even lethal force to stop the shooter. I would also add that in the latter situation, anyone who demanded that the police not use their weapons to take down the shooter, and instead engage in "massive new negotiations" with him because shooting him "would only add to the violence," would likely soon find that they have been certified for support from the state as a mental incompetent.

Lives in the Balance

The question with regards to Bashar al-Assad and WMD is not one of simple possession. That ship sailed long ago. Even the Syrian government has spoken of their WMD; They've assure us that they are well guarded;-) There simply is no serious debate as to whether or not the Syrian Arab Army possesses chemical weapons and nobody is suggesting military action just because they have them.

The debate is over use. Since December, there have been charges that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons as many as 22 times to kill Syrians. As the body count from chemical weapons exposure has built up and the medical reports have come in, there is little doubt left that they have been used. Increasingly, especially with this latest attack in East Ghouta on 21 Aug 2013 that produced more than a thousand corpses with no outward signs of trauma, the debate is over who is using chemical weapons in Syria.

Since there is no debate over the fact that it is the Assad regime exclusively that is killing tens of thousands of Syrians with aerial bombardment using HE, napalm like incendiaries, Russian cluster bombs, barrel bombs and more from jet aircraft; That only the Assad regime is shelling neighborhoods from helicopters and raining down Scud missiles on Syrian cities. Since there is absolutely no doubt but that the Assad regime is responsible for the lion's share of the carnage in Syria by other means, this whole debate over whether it is also responsible for the chemical deaths or not has become something of a fetish, a diversion from the fact that, whatever else may be going on in Syria, there is no doubt that the government of Syria is carrying out a program of mass murder against civilians that refuse to consent to its rule.

That make Kucinich's defense of Bashar al-Assad particular obscene.

I think it telling that his last sentence above contains not even a hint of what the Iraq war cost the Iraqis. True the invading army lost over 4 thousand dead soldiers but Iraq lost hundreds of thousands of civilians by any measure. Don't they deserve a mention before the dollars lost are counted? Not in Kucinich's mind. Even though he acknowledges that the Iraq War was an imperialist invasion based on lies, his concern is only the effect on the United States. He doesn't mention the Iraqi loses. We will see that he is even less concerned for the Syrian dead.
Today we are poised to engage in war against Syria with such a flimsy case being made to attempt to justify an attack, it could only be the product of cynicism and willful misrepresentation in the cause of war and a callous disregard for our true national interest.
Kinda proves my point doesn't he? More than 100,000 dead and millions more made refugees. Millions of Syrians have been demanding international protection and a "no-fly" zone for years. Now 1400 are dead from a chemical attack and he regards all this and more as "a flimsy case being made" for military intervention.

Friday of International Protection in Zamalka, Damascus | 14 Sept 2011

Friday of "No Fly Zone" Protest in Idlib | 28 Oct 2011

FACT: There is no definitive proof that Syria’s Assad knew of and directed the chemical weapons attack on August 21st.
Written like the devil's advocate. First hurdle: What is "definitive" because there is a growing mountain of evidence that points to the the Syrian army as the perpetrators of this attack? Second hurdle: Even if you find "definitive proof" the SAA did it that doesn't mean his client "knew of and directed the chemical weapons attack on August 21st," so don't blame him. Never mind he clearly knows of and directs the daily carnage perpetrated on Syrians by his forces.
FACT: Intelligence which overheard Syrian military officials discussing the attack—far from implicating them—finds them denying they initiated an attack.
That statement is far from reality. According to the official "Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013" released on 30 August 2013, they overheard Syrian military officials planning the attack three days before it happened:

We have intelligence that leads us to assess that Syrian chemical weapons personnel – including personnel assessed to be associated with the SSRC – were preparing chemical munitions prior to the attack. In the three days prior to the attack, we collected streams of human, signals and geospatial intelligence that reveal regime activities that we assess were associated with preparations for a chemical weapons attack.

Syrian chemical weapons personnel were operating in the Damascus suburb of ‘Adra from Sunday, August 18 until early in the morning on Wednesday, August 21 near an area that the regime uses to mix chemical weapons, including sarin. On August 21, a Syrian regime element prepared for a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus area, including through the utilization of gas masks. Our intelligence sources in the Damascus area did not detect any indications in the days prior to the attack that opposition affiliates were planning to use chemical weapons.

The real scandal here is that they knew about the attack ahead of time and they didn't sound a warning. They didn't go to the UN, they didn't publicly call out the Assad regime and they didn't alert the people in Damascus. They us let it happen so now we can play this blame game less 1400 souls.
FACT: There are at least two instances where the opposition is said to have used chemical weapons. One incident, which occurred in March, was referred to the Security Council by Russia. Another, which occurred in April, was cited by special U.N. investigator Carla Del Ponte.
The first instances is a chemical rocket attack that occurred in Khan al-Assal on 19 March 2013. It was one of two that took place that day and it killed at least 25 people and injured 110. I wrote about it here and here. All the evidence points to a chemical attack launched by the regime that missed its military target and hit civilians. However, just as with the recent CW attack in East Ghouta both the Syrian and Russian governments blamed the opposition. So strictly speaking, Kucinich is correct to say "the opposition is said to have used chemical weapons," but rather than use that passive construction, he should have said this charge came from the Assad regime so that the reader could judge the credibility.

The second refers to a tv interview statement made by Carla Del Ponte that the rebels had used chemical weapons. It was disavowed by her commission only a few hours after she made it and was not supported in the commission's reports. I wrote about this incident here and here and I believe that anyone who references Carla Del Ponte's statement today without also recalling the rebuke is just being downright dishonest.
FACT: Some rockets identified near attack sites were described as “homemade.”
Brown Moses is well known for his research on the weaponry used by all sides in the Syrian conflict and has written extensively about the rockets used in the 21 August attack. He identifies one type of rocket used in the attack that "appears to be something that's unique to the conflict," Kucinich's "homemade" rockets. Here's what he says about who appears to be using them:

One thing to understand about these munitions is they aren't just linked to the August 21st attack. Since January 2013 there's been a number of images of these munitions posted online, not always linked to alleged chemical attacks (which would be reasonable as we've established there's two types of munitions), but always showing the same design, and in all of these examples they are claimed to be munitions used by the Syrian military against the Syrian opposition.

There is a reason Kucinich stopped with the "homemade" part. He is trying to make the case that the opposition gassed itself.
FACT: A coordinated effort was made by U.S. officials to discourage a full U.N. investigation.
Here Kucinich is neglecting to mention that a full UN investigation was never in the cards because the UN had to agree that it would not try to determine who committed this crime only if a crime had been committed, as if dozens of videos of hundreds of people dead overnight without apparent external trauma wasn't enough. He also failed to say that the UN investigation was delayed because the Assad regime was shelling the crime scene and destroying the evidence for several days before they were allowed access. This is the joke of a UN investigation that Kucinich thinks so important.
FACT: The biggest beneficiary of the attack on the Syrian government is al-Qaida, which leads the opposition.
The biggest lie here is that al-Qaeda leads the opposition. This is straight out from the Syrian government talking points. Elizabeth O'Bagy is a journalist who has been on the front lines in Syria's civil war. She recently had an article in the Wall St. Journal in which she specifically addressed this Kucinich/Assad slander on the opposition:

The conventional wisdom—that jihadists are running the rebellion—is not what I've witnessed on the ground.
August 30, 2013, 6:59 p.m. ET
Since few journalists are reporting from inside the country, our understanding of the civil war is not only inadequate, but often dangerously inaccurate. Anyone who reads the paper or watches the news has been led to believe that a once peaceful, pro-democracy opposition has transformed over the past two years into a mob of violent extremists dominated by al Qaeda; that the forces of President Bashar Assad not only have the upper hand on the battlefield, but may be the only thing holding the country together; and that nowhere do U.S. interests align in Syria—not with the regime and not with the rebels. The word from many American politicians is that the best U.S. policy is to stay out. As Sarah Palin put it: "Let Allah sort it out."
The conventional wisdom holds that the extremist elements are completely mixed in with the more moderate rebel groups. This isn't the case. Moderates and extremists wield control over distinct territory.
Contrary to many media accounts, the war in Syria is not being waged entirely, or even predominantly, by dangerous Islamists and al Qaeda die-hards. The jihadists pouring into Syria from countries like Iraq and Lebanon are not flocking to the front lines. Instead they are concentrating their efforts on consolidating control in the northern, rebel-held areas of the country.

Let me just interject here that anyone who experienced how certain cultural/nationalist/tribal types tried to take over spaces liberated by the occupy movement will understand exactly what is going on here.

Groups like Jabhat al Nusra, an al Qaeda affiliate, are all too happy to take credit for successes on the battlefield, and are quick to lay claim to opposition victories on social media. This has often led to the impression that these are spearheading the fight against the Syrian government. They are not.
Moderate opposition forces—a collection of groups known as the Free Syrian Army—continue to lead the fight against the Syrian regime. While traveling with some of these Free Syrian Army battalions, I've watched them defend Alawi and Christian villages from government forces and extremist groups. They've demonstrated a willingness to submit to civilian authority, working closely with local administrative councils. And they have struggled to ensure that their fight against Assad will pave the way for a flourishing civil society. One local council I visited in a part of Aleppo controlled by the Free Syrian Army was holding weekly forums in which citizens were able to speak freely, and have their concerns addressed directly by local authorities.

Moderate opposition groups make up the majority of actual fighting forces, and they have recently been empowered by the influx of arms and money from Saudi Arabia and other allied countries, such as Jordan and France. This is especially true in the south, where weapons provided by the Saudis have made a significant difference on the battlefield, and have helped fuel a number of recent rebel advances in Damascus. More...

Okay, so Kucunich opposes US intervention. Fair enough. But why does he feel he has to slander Assad's opposition as mainly al Qaeda terrorists?
FACT: Syria is not an imminent threat to the United States.
But if he thinks this situation won't effect us for decades, he is a fool.
FACT: Absent an imminent or actual threat to the United States, only Congress has the authority, under the Constitution, Article I, Section 8, to declare war.

Whatever we believe about Syria, as Americans, let us all believe in our Constitution, in the rule of law, and in the bedrock of principles which inform our rights and responsibilities as a nation. We have a right to defend ourselves, but no right to wage aggressive war. Our obligation as citizens is not to be a member of the Democratic, Republican or an independent party, but to be a party to the truth.
What he says about the constitution is correct and I think Obama should get congressional authorization for his drone strikes. He doesn't think he needs it for this or that and he is only asking for it now because he promised he's hit Assad hard if he did what he did and Obama doesn't want to. If you want to applaud Obama for doing the right thing, fine, just know that he is doing it for the wrong reasons.

I find it ironic that Kucinich ends this paragraph of righteous rhetoric with reference to the truth, given the way he has abused it throughout this whole email.
I am concerned that once again, in the name of humanity, an inhumane act of war is about to be committed against the people of a distant land, compounding their tragedy; in the name of security, an attack will be launched which will make us all less secure; and in the name of the United States, in our name, the destructive power of war will be unleashed based on the hubris of exceptionalism which, left untamed, will destroy our own nation.

I will discuss what must be done in our next communication.

Thank you,
An inhumane act of war has already been committed by the Syrian government against its people, one of many over the past two years, and while Dennis Kucinich argues strongly that it is none of our business and we should do nothing to stop it from happening again and his words may comfort the Assad regime but they show no mercy for the children he is slaughtering:

Epilogue: Dennis Kucinich has long supported Bashar al-Assad

Dennis Kucinich met Bashar al-Assad in Damascus in September 2007. When asked about the meeting on Syrian State TV he said:
It was a meeting where President Assad showed a real desire to play a role in helping to create a peaceful settlement of the conditions in Iraq, as well as a grander approach towards creating peace. So it was a very important meeting, and I felt honored to have the chance to speak with him.
This is what Dennis Kucinich told the Cleveland Plain Dealer after a trip he took to Syria in May 2011. He said that he would not "assign blame for the current unrest in Syria:"
"I've read where President Assad has made certain commitments, and I would imagine that when things finally settle down, that President Assad will move in a direction of democratic reforms," Kucinich said. "He has already made that commitment from what I can see."
While he was on this "fact-finding mission" he met for over three hours with Bashar al-Assad. At the time Kucinich was praising Assad on Syrian State TV, the death toll was less than 1,400, less in the whole conflict than died in the chemical attack on one night in East Ghouta.

After Kucinich took the road to Damascus in 2011, the Washington Post ran the following editorial:
Rep. Kucinich takes the side of Syria’s murderous dictator
June 29, 2011
DENNIS KUCINICH claims he was misquoted. And perhaps it’s true: Maybe the Democratic representative didn’t exactly say, as the official Syrian news agency reported, that “President Bashar al-Assad cares so much about what is taking place in Syria . . . and everybody who meets him can be certain of this.”
It could be that another quotation attributed to him, that “President al-Assad is highly loved and appreciated by the Syrians,” was a “mistranslation,” or a reflection of “the degree of appreciation and affection [the] state-sponsored media has” for the president, as a statement from Mr. Kucinich’s office delicately put it.

This much, however, appears to be uncontested: Mr. Kucinich, who has fiercely opposed the U.S. intervention against Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi, traveled to Damascus over the weekend to huddle with Syria’s dictator, who is desperately seeking to avoid being isolated and labeled illegitimate by the outside world. Thanks to the slaughter by his security forces of at least 1,400 people — the vast majority of them unarmed civilians — Mr. Assad has few friends these days. More...As a matter of fact, Dennis Kucinich played the same role in the Libyan Revolution. He worked very closely with the Qaddafi regime and did everything he could to slander its opposition, as papers found in the office of Abdullah Alsinnousi, head of Libya's intelligence service, after the Qaddafi regime was defeated, indicated. For example there was this internal memo on an information request from Kucinich:

Good Morning Gentlemen.
This is the Congressman you both spoke with. He is going to fight for us but he has asked us for evidence. I can bring whatever we can gather. If it is sensitive I will carry it, otherwise we can email it. House to vote next week on ending US involvement in Libya

l.Any corrupt (verifiable) acts by the Opposition leaders. Include any personal motives for instance to make money or gain certain types of power.
2.Any known Al-Qaeda operating in the Opposition.
3 .Any evidence of atrocities committed by the Rebel soldiers.
4-.Any evidence of Civilian deaths by NATO.
5 .Any evidence of arms sales to the Opposition in Benghazi or Misrata, including dates, who sold the weapons, what type and the cost of the deals.
6.Any evidence of weapons being smuggled on boats to Misrata, with dates. and type of weapons.
7.Any evidence that the uprising was a planned event prior to February 17th. Include intercepted communications, names, dates.
S.Evidence supporting that the Regime has a regular practice of hiring African military in its Pan-African units and this was not a new (mercenaries) thing just for the uprising.
9.Communications with the UK and USA prior to the UN bombings to show Regime was trying to negotiate peacefully.
10.Evidence of cease fires by the Regime or withdrawals of troops. Dates, location, description (including why cease fire broke down).
11.Evidence that before the uprising started, there were democratic projects under way, for instance a plan for elections and so forth. This shows that they were already going this way and aren't just saying that now.
l2.Evidence that The Leader had already planned to step down before the uprisings. This shows there was already a transition going on. It also helps him save face for when he does step down because it will look like that was the plan all along.
l3.A list of tribes and location known to be loyal to Regime, those pledging loyalty to Opposition, and the remaining ones that have not pledged either way. The population of each group as well, This shows that the Rebels don't have the full support of the country.
l4.A list and description (including date and location) of humanitarian efforts by Regime since this started, or their attempts to aid the civilian population, and any efforts blocked by NATO or the Rebels.
It will be used for:
A) A lawsuit against
B) Defending Saif in the ICC
C) Publicity to reform the image of Regime.
D) To help negotiation positions

This information request list reads more like a public relations plan and Dennis Kucinich reads like this new breed of Left-Liberal opportunists who are not above building alliances with right-wing fascist dictators.

We must separate ourselves from them.

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria


  1. What is the evidence that the Syrian government used chemical weapons?

  2. What is the evidence that the whole "rebel" movement was instigated by the KSA via Jordanian & British intelligence co-ordinated by US CENTOM in Qatar?