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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Timing is everything - Why were WikiLeaks DNC emails released now?

While there has been a lot of speculation as to the source of the WikiLeaks DNC email dump, with mounting evidence that state-sponsored Russian hackers did it with an eye toward helping Donald Trump getting into the White House, less attention has been paid to the question of when this hack was done.

Obviously, the release, coming only 48 hrs before the start of the convention has had a major disruptive influence. As WikiLeaks leader and founder Julian Assange put it in an interview with Richard Engels of NBC News, this email dump is "now up-ending the DNC as we speak." He noted that because of what they call 'Hilary Leaks', “the very top of the Democratic party, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, is now being forced to resign.” There is no question that the release of these documents after a long nominating process has been completed, but days before it is to be consummated, has disturbed the Democratic National Convention and given an advantage to Donald Trump.

So when did this hack take place and why is it being released only now? According to WikiLeaks, "The leaks come from the accounts of seven key figures in the DNC" and "cover the period from January last year until 25 May this year." An examination of the dump shows
that the last email from each of the seven accounts was dated May 24th or May 25th:

AccountEmail ID#Time/Date
Communications Director Luis Miranda (10770 emails)30142016-05-25 00:42:48
National Finance Director Jordon Kaplan (3797 emails)32562016-05-25 12:03:21
Finance Chief of Staff Scott Comer (3095 emails)197812016-05-25 12:48:34
Finanace Director of Data Daniel Parrish (1472 emails)209632016-05-25 12:10:00
Finance Director Allen Zachary (1611 emails)30142016-05-25 00:42:48
Senior Advisor Andrew Wright (938 emails)161502016-05-24 18:55:10
N. CA Finance Dir. Robert (Erik) Stowe (751 emails)174152016-05-24 14:02:51

So there is no question that this data was captured on or after May 25th, and since these are people who use these email accounts every day, it is hard not to conclude that this hack was done before emails on or after May 26th could be captured. It would appear that this data capture, whether by leak or hack, took place on or about May 25th. This raises the very troubling question of just where all these stolen emails have been for almost two months and why only now are they being made public so that they may now affect our body politic.

Imagine the difference it could have made had these hacked emails had been released within a week after the last ones stolen? That would have been before the primaries in California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota and South Dakota were held. Bernie Sanders won two of those and Hillary Clinton won four including California. Would she have done as well if these emails were public knowledge then? What if Debbie Wasserman Schultz has been dismissed as DNC chair at the beginning of June instead of now? We very likely would be experiencing a very different Democratic National Convention now. The very timing of the WikiLeaks release shows it was not done to defend democracy but only to further manipulate the process. This release certainly wasn't timed to help Bernie Sanders, it was timed to help Donald Trump.

Julian Assange hasn't just been silent as to the source of these emails. He also hasn't said when WikiLeaks got hold of them. I was one of the independent journalists WikiLeaks granted pre-publication access to for both the Stratfor GI Files and the Syria Files, so I do know that in the past WikiLeaks has held material for quite some time while they and selected 3rd parties vetted and researched the materials before making them public. From what Assange told Engels about this current dump, not that much has changed, "Wikileaks has been doing that for ten years. We're a publishing organization. We get good scoops, we analysis them and them we publish them." In vouching for the material, he said "We verify the material. It is completely accurate and authentic." This also takes time, indicating that WikiLeaks has had this material for some period before releasing it 2 days before the convention.

There is another aspect of the WikiLeaks DNC email dump that is very likely to have partisan results that favor Donald Trump. In the past WikiLeaks has been careful to redact identifying information about those not their targets. Not so in this case. This data dump contains not just the email addresses of its seven targets but the undisguised email addresses of everyone they corresponded with. So in addition to making public the inter-workings of the DNC, WikiLeaks has also made public the private email addresses of hundreds, if not thousands of DNC employees and supporters. This is an open invitation to mischief. The disruptive possibilities of this list of email addresses is enormous. Even if Russian hackers had nothing to do with this email dump, as Assange claims, they will have a lot of fun with this list.

Friday, July 29, 2016

US Air Strike on Syrian maternity hospital kills 28

Bearing witness to the first holocaust of the 21st century since 2011...

Democracy Now was scandalous again today. Nothing about this. Amy called her report "War, Peace and the Presidency," but nothing about Syria period while US, Russian and Syrian forces are engaged in an concerted campaign to eliminate the last resistance in Aleppo - 300,000 people are trapped and being murdered!

From the little I've seen, the Left forces at the Democratic Convention also ignored this "united-front" imperialist activity in crushing the Syrian revolution in the shadow of the twin US political conventions. Many signs saying "No More War" in the abstract but not one did I see about those actually suffering from war in Syria.

Some think this air strike was done by the Russians but how much does it really matter, the US and Russia are bombing the same targets in Syria now and it ain't the Assad regime. Could be the Syria Air Force did this, Hard to tell from the ground, especially since the Russians like to remove the markings from their planes. Al Jazeera is reporting:
Syria: Save the Children says Idlib hospital bombed

A Syrian maternity hospital in a rebel-held area of Idlib province extensively damaged after a direct hit, says charity.
29 August 2016
A Syrian maternity hospital in a rebel-held area of Idlib province has been extensively damaged after a direct hit, according to the international charity Save the Children, which supports the facility.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said on Friday that the hospital in the town of Kafar Takharim was heavily damaged and left barely operational.

The charity also published a 15-second long video footage from the hospital in the immediate aftermath of the attack.

The number of casualties is not yet known, and is not yet cleared who carried out the reported air strike.

The hospital, the only maternity facility for about 113km around, works with around 1,300 women and children a month and delivered about 340 babies in June, a Save the Children spokesman told the Reuters news agency.

Friday's bombing was the latest in a series of attacks targeting hospitals in Syria. More...

AP is reporting:
Syrian activists: US-led coalition strikes kill 28 civilians

29 July 2016
BEIRUT (AP) — U.S.-led coalition targeting a village in northern Syria held by the Islamic State group killed 28 civilians, including seven children, Syrian activists said Friday.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said aircraft belonging to the coalition struck the village of al-Ghandour late on Thursday previous night.

Observatory's chief Rami Adurrahman said another 13 people were killed in the strikes but that he could not say if they were IS fighters or civilians. Al-Ghandour is 24 kilometers (15 miles) northwest of the town of Manbij, a key hub in the extremist group's Syria network and a supply route to IS's de facto capital of Raqqa.

The international coalition had no immediate comment on the casualty figures reported by the Observatory. The bombings came a week after airstrikes, also blamed by Syrian activists on U.S. aircraft, killed at least 56 civilians in Islamic State-held territory in northern Syria. More...

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Monday, July 25, 2016

Syria: Reasserting Dignity in the US Antiwar Movement

Republished from War Is a Crime with permission of the author. I have included David Swanson's comments for completeness. See also my open letter to David Swanson about this.   - Clay Claiborne
[Note: I'm publishing this with no edits, but with a note from myself at the end, as I think this article may serve as a useful corrective to various mistakes but am convinced it makes a few of its own. --David Swanson]
By Andy Berman
After 5 years of intense bloody conflict in Syria, resulting so far in the death of half a million people, the severe injury of millions more, the destruction of major parts of the nation’s housing and infrastructure and the displacement of 12 million persons, literally half the nation’s population, it is abundantly clear that the entity that calls itself the “US antiwar movement” has failed.
The US antiwar movement contributed significantly to ending the US war in Vietnam, and successfully prevented a US invasion of Nicaragua, and gave tremendous solidarity to the people of El Salvador in their struggle against their death-squad government. It made a major contribution of solidarity to the South African people in the struggle against apartheid.
But its record to date in mitigating the violence in Syria, much less helping to bring about a just solution to the conflict, is one of abject failure. It is also, in the opinion of millions of Syrians, a great betrayal.
After 5 years of death and destruction, following an initially non-violent uprising against a brutal dictatorship, there is no legitimate excuse for concerned antiwar activists to say they are still “confused” by the conflict, and to hold back from condemning the ongoing war crimes that occur on a nearly daily basis in Syria today. Bloodshed and conflict are occurring in a number of places around the globe. But in its scope of violence, its years of unceasing slaughter, its extent of civilian suffering, Syria arguably leads the pack. Syria should be very high on the agenda of peace and justice organizations.
But it isn’t, and the way that Syria is addressed by many US antiwar groups, seeing the US government as main perpetrator, is grossly inaccurate. The criminal Assad regime, and the massive military support it receives from Russia, Iran and Hezbollah are let off the hook.
Yes, the conflict in Syria is complex. Yes, it is convoluted. Yes, the opposition to the brutal Syrian regime has been polluted by the intervention of myriad outside forces with their own agendas. Yes, the rise of ISIS in the void created by the conflict has added a major new complication.
But serious antiwar activists should not be intimated by these complexities. Indeed, honest peacemakers are required by their stated moral commitments to examine carefully, to follow news developments from a wide range of sources, and to listen to the voices of the different parties of a conflict. And above all, in the case of Syria, it is incumbent on serious peacemakers not to manipulate the factual evidence when that evidence contradicts a preset ideological position, a popular belief, or a party line.
Many in the US antiwar movement apparently find comfort in viewing the Syrian conflict as “just another case of US imperialist intervention,” following a pattern we have seen of US aggression against Vietnam, Nicaragua, Cuba, Iraq, Afghanistan, Chile, and other places. But Syria is Syria. Contrary to popular myth, it is not “another Libya” or “another Iraq”.
Evidence and reports from very reliable sources show that the greatest portion of the death and destruction, the greatest portion of war crimes, the greatest portion of the crimes against humanity in Syria today come from the Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian backers. Making this point explicitly, Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, from 2008 to 2014, stated the following:
Atrocities by the Syrian government far outweigh crimes by the opposition fighters. Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime is mostly responsible for the human rights offenses…. Both sides’ abuses should be documented and brought to the International Criminal Court, but you cannot compare the two. Clearly the actions of the forces of the government far outweigh the violations – killings, cruelty, persons in detention, disappearances, far outweigh those by the opposition. (Associated Press, 9 April 2014)
Tirana Hassan, Crisis Response Director at Amnesty International recently stated the following:
“Syrian and Russian forces have been deliberately attacking health facilities in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law. But what is truly egregious is that wiping out hospitals appears to have become part of their military strategy” (Amnesty Press Release, March 2016)
To these reports, and the great body of collaborating evidence of Assad and Russia’s war crimes, US antiwar activists have a variety of responses:
One common response is overt denial and explicit support for the horrific Assad regime as a “legitimate government.” The argument is made that the insurrection and opposition against Assad was, and remains, a CIA plot. When UNAC, the “United National Antiwar Coalition,” at its March 13, 2016 demonstration in NYC included a contingent wearing T-shirts with Assad’s portrait from the overtly pro-Assad “Syrian American Forum” a cosponsor of the UNAC action, UNAC again exposed itself as a backer of Assad, as it has on previous occasions.
When a US delegation went to Syria and blessed the rigged June 2014 presidential “elections”, the delegation included members of Workers World Party, Freedom Road /Antiwar Committee, and the International Action Center among others. These groups put themselves squarely in the Assad camp. Those who claim to be “antiwar” activists, but celebrate the massive Russian military intervention in Syria also fall in this camp.
A larger number of US antiwar activists do not explicitly support Assad. Yet, despite the consistent reports of the regimes war crimes from Doctors Without Border, Amnesty International, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Physicians for Human Rights and other reliable sources, many antiwar activists refuse to condemn Assad’s crimes for fear of being viewed as supporters of the US military intervention.
Indeed, this has been my intense personal experience within Veterans for Peace. My advocacy for condemning the war crimes of ALL parties in Syria, including Assad, Russia and the US, was met with extreme hostility by some of the national leadership and others. The accusation that I was “promoting the US government’s policy of regime change” led to my banning from participation in internal VFP discussion boards, effectively expelling me from VFP after 20 years of activism in the organization.
What is particularly tragic is how many decent antiwar activists, some with long histories of determined, heroic commitment, allow the dogmatists, who hide behind a phony banner of “anti-imperialism”, to set the agenda for the antiwar movement. At that UNAC demonstration in New York, with the participation of overt supporters of the brutal dictator Assad, long time dedicated and deeply committed peace activist Kathy Kelly spoke. In the name of unity perhaps, she said not a word about Assad or Russia’s crimes in Syria while Assad’s flag and face was displayed in the crowd. In Veterans for Peace, once a proud mainstay of the US peace movement, in the name of unity (or perhaps out of habit), virtually all statements on Syria blame the conflict entirely on the US. That is an absurd position for anyone who has the most basic knowledge of Syria. This phenomenon is, unfortunately, quite common in antiwar groups in the US.
To be fair, there have been of late, a few cracks in the prevailing dogmatism that views the Syrian conflict only in terms of US intervention and the doctrine that Bashar al-Assad, as an “enemy of US imperialism” must not be criticized. Notably CODEPINK has made on its Facebook site occasional references to Assad as a brutal dictator, and David Swanson (“World Beyond War”, “War is a Crime”) has criticized those who celebrated Russia’s bombing campaign in Syria. Both deserve kudos for their stands, but also encouragement to broaden their understanding to see that a root cause of the slaughter in Syria is the Assad regime itself.
There are a few, but far too few, US antiwar activists, who chose to speak truth against ALL the war makers, not just those that fit an ideological mold. In homage to the magnificent US/El Salvador solidarity group “CISPES” of the 1980s, in at least three US cities chapters of the “Committee in Solidarity with the People of Syria” (CISPOS) have arisen. In other places, groups supporting Syrian refugees with legislative pressure and fundraising are now taking place. Working with Syrian refugees both abroad and in the US is enlightening to US peace activists since those who have fled Syria are most often bitterly opposed to the Assad regime, and understand that it is the major cause of the Syrian tragedy.
Their failure to make an effective response to the absolute hell of the ongoing war in Syria, begs the question: “What Should US Antiwar Activists Do About Syria?”
Here then is my modest proposal for reasserting dignity to US antiwar movement regarding Syria.
  • Antiwar groups and activists should strongly condemn ALL war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria, regardless of the party that commits them. A Syrian mother, whose child has been blown apart by an Assad barrel bomb, feels no less anguish than she would if her child was killed by an American drone. The Syria reports of Doctors Without Borders, Physicians for Human Rights, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees should be de rigueur reading for antiwar activists.
  • It should be understood as fact that a large part of the Syrian population in the deepest part of their hearts, despises the Assad regime for its decades of depravity and repression, and its despicable disregard for civilian lives in its conduct of the war. And while Assad does have some measure of support in the population, he is absolutely incapable of being a unifying figure in a nation that desperately needs unifying leadership. While a vibrant antiwar movement finds room for considerable divergence of viewpoints, support for the abject despotism of the Assad regime has no place in a peace movement that claims ethical motivation.
  • It is absolutely incumbent on antiwar activists that they get and stay well-informed on the history and current developments in the Syria conflict. It is a firm necessity to read widely, from a variety of sources, and different points of view, including those with we disagree. It is urgent that we hear the voices of Syrians and Syrian Americans. We would not dare decide our views and work on African-American issues without considerable input from African-Americans. Yet it is extremely rare for Syrian voices to be heard in many US antiwar organizations.
What is ironic is that there are Syrian-American communities and organizations across the US that are able and willing to dialog with US peace activists. The Syrian-American Council, easily found on the internet, is the largest organization of Syrian-Americans, with chapters across the USA. Other sources of Syrian news and viewpoints that are worth following include:
VIEWShttp://www.etilaf.us/ (the democratic opposition), http://www.presidentassad.net/ (Assad’s personal site…why not!)
FACEBOOKDay of Solidarity with Syria, Freedom for Syria and all people, Kafranbel Syrian Revolution, Radio Free Syria
SYRIAN WRITERS: (with blogs, books and published articles on the internet): Syrian authors Mohja KahfRobin Yassin-Kassab, and Leila Al ShamiYassin Al Haj SalahRami Jarrah
  • Given the enormous, nearly unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe engendered by the conflict in Syria, antiwar activists should feel obliged to spend part of their efforts on healing the wounds of war. Antiwar organizations should get involved in projects that provide medical aid, food and other humanitarian assistance to the millions of human beings that are suffering as a result of the Syria conflict. Projects of Doctors Without Borders, American Refugee Committee, the Syrian American Medical Society, White Helmets and others are in continual need of fundraising for their heroic humanitarian work.
  • In our outreach work, including peace marches, demonstrations, forums and literature, antiwar groups should advocate renewed international negotiations to find a just settlement to the conflict in Syria. Our pressure should be directed at all the major participants to the conflict, including, but not limited to the Syrian government, Russia, Iran, Saudi, Qatar and the United States. To our own government in the United States, we should advocate serious bilateral negotiations with Russia putting on the table all the bargaining points that might lead to a settlement on Syria and an accord with Russia. These include trade issues, lifting sanctions, NATO pullbacks, etc. A comprehensive reduction in tensions between the US and Russia is in the interests of all humanity.
A just settlement to the Syrian conflict coming with honest advocacy from the US antiwar movement would restore the international respect that the US antiwar movement once had, but has lost over Syria. For all those who have put effort and part of their lives into antiwar work, no greater joy, no greater success can be imagined.
Note on the author: Andy Berman is a lifelong peace and justice activist, a Vietnam War resister (US Army 1971-73), active in solidarity work with the people of Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador, South Africa, Palestine and Syria. He blogs at www.andyberman.blogspot.com
[Note from David Swanson: Thank you to Andy Berman for giving me and Code Pink a bit of credit in this article. I think more credit is do more groups and individuals. In particular, I think the public pressure in the U.S., UK, and elsewhere that stopped a massive U.S. bombing campaign of Syria in 2013 deserves a great deal of credit and far from being an example of a peace movement that has completely failed constitutes the most noteworthy success for peace of recent years. Of course it was incomplete. Of course the U.S. went ahead with arming and training and bombing on a much smaller scale. Of course Russia joined in, killing even more Syrians with its bombs than the United States was doing, and it was indeed deeply disturbing to see U.S. peace activists cheer for that. Of course the Syrian government went on with its bombings and other crimes, and of course it's disturbing that some refuse to criticize those horrors, just as it's disturbing that others refuse to criticize the U.S. or Russian horrors or both, or refuse to criticize Saudi Arabia or Turkey or Iran or Israel. All of this selectivity in moral outrage breeds suspicion and cynicism, so that when I criticize U.S. bombing I'm immediately accused of cheering for Syrian bombing. And when I read an article like this one that makes no mention of the 2013 bombing plan, no mention of Hillary Clinton's desired "no fly zone," no mention of her position that failure to massively bomb in 2013 was a mistake, etc., I have to struggle not to wonder why. Then when it comes to what we ought to do about this war, I'd love to have seen some acknowledgment that the party that has repeatedly blocked exactly what is proposed in point #5 (a negotiated settlement) has been the United States, including rejecting a Russian proposal in 2012 that included Assad stepping down -- rejected because the U.S. preferred a violent overthrow and believed it was imminent. I would also like to have seen greater recognition that people usually have the most influence over their own governments, as opposed to over the governments of others. I think one also has to have a view of U.S. imperialism to explain U.S. actions in Syria, including its failure to condemn Russian clusterbombs and incendiary bombs while U.S. cluster bombs are falling in Yemen, and while Fallujah is newly under seige. One has to have an understanding of Iraq and Libya to know where ISIS and its weapons and much of the weaponry of other fighters in Syria come from, as well as to understand the conflicted U.S. policy that can't choose between attacking the Syrian government or its enemies and that has resulted in CIA and DOD trained troops fighting each other. I also think a negotiated settlement has to include an arms embargo and that the greatest resistance to that comes from the greatest arms dealer. But I think the broader point here, that we should oppose and be aware of and work to end war, regardless of who is doing it, is the right one. And I think part of making that work will be both including a comprehensive list of criticisms of all parties in any mention we make of a conflict, and giving each other the benefit of the doubt rather than making accusing each other our top priority.]

the most noteworthy success for peace of recent years

an open letter to David Swanson...

The movement that developed against the Vietnam War was one of the leading social movements of the 20th century and I am proud to have played a role in it. It was massive, bringing millions of people to its protests. It drew strength from every segment of the population even though the young were its driving force. It built bridges to the Vietnamese and boldly spread its message within the ranks of the military itself. It was international in character, it wasn't just Americans that protested the Vietnam War. Working on many fronts, over many years, it made it increasingly difficult for the Pentagon to carry forward its war plans, and I believe it helped to end that war.

Because of the organization and education done by the anti-war movement around the Vietnam War, not to mention the abolition of the draft, the Masters of War had rough going for almost three decades. It took the shock and rage generated by the nine/eleven attacks to win popular support for the military adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq. The peace movement was caught on its back-heels initially by the invasion of Afghanistan, coming so quickly after nine/eleven, but before Bush could carry out his long planned invasion of Iraq, the peace movement had bought out over 15 million people in protest worldwide.

Arlington West, Santa Monica
That represented something of a high point in terms of numbers but the anti-war movement continued to build some enduring institutions and organizations. For a number of years I was a volunteer for the Veterans for Peace Arlington West project every Sunday north of the Santa Monica Pier. More than ten years on this VFP project is still going, and it is not the only group to come out of these early anti-war struggles that continues to champion the cause of peace today.

Still, many find the response of the peace movement to the wholesale destruction of Syria over the past five years disappointing. While as many as a half million Syrians have been killed and upwards of 12 million made homeless in what some call the first holocaust of the twenty first century, there have been few protests from the peace movement. Like the mainstream media in the "advanced" countries in which they live, the anti-war movement and its media have chosen to give little attention to the developing carnage in Syria. It has been as though the conscious of the West has taken a leave of absence.

The result is that the Baathist regime of Bashar al-Assad has been able to "burn the country," though many years of bombardment with all manner of weapons, many of which are illegal under international law, and there is almost no popular pressure coming from the United States and Europe to make him stop. He has regularized the state use of torture, rape and starvation as weapons against the people with little resistance from western peace and justice groups. He has even been successful in re-introducing lethal chemical weapons as a tool tolerated for repeated use in putting down popular insurrection under a cloud of confusion generated by the anti-war movement.

There are many causes behind the anemic response of the western peace movement to the war in Syria: It wasn't an American war. With Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq and name it, many already had too much on their plate. And then there was the fact, for sick reasons that are beyond the scope, that a certain section of the Left, including the organizations that build some of the biggest protests against the Iraq war, were big supporters of anything the ex-Soviet Union was for, including Gaddafi in Libya, Assad in Syria, Russians in Ukraine, and Crimea in Russia. There was also another large section of this shrinking movement that preferred to defer to this pro-Assad Left rather than do anything that would rock the boat. This "peace at any price" was purchased with the soul of the anti-war movement.

In assessing this state of affairs on David Swanson's WarIsACrime.org, Andy Berman put it bluntly in Syria: Reasserting Dignity in the US Antiwar Movement:
After 5 years of intense bloody conflict in Syria, resulting so far in the death of half a million people, the severe injury of millions more, the destruction of major parts of the nation’s housing and infrastructure and the displacement of 12 million persons, literally half the nation’s population, it is abundantly clear that the entity that calls itself the “US antiwar movement” has failed.
what have been the consequences?

One aspect of this question that deserves more consideration is what effect this failure has had on the people in Syria, and through them, on the whole world. If a robust peace movement during the Vietnam War served to shorten it, what has both the lack of response and the pro-Assad nature of much of the Left response meant to the Syrian conflict? The short answer is that it has served to demoralize and weaken the democratic forces on the one hand and strengthen the regime and extremist forces on the other.

All of those who have been fighting for freedom in Syria have been first surprised and then demoralized as the western "peace and justice movement" continued to ignore a conflict and a regime that was grinding hundreds of thousands of people into the dust. The Syrians in the liberate areas that were trying to build a new society under a constant rain of regime barrel bombs, and the fighters in the secular Free Syrian Army learned their struggle would be all the harder. Many were sophisticated enough to know why their plight was ignored by the mainstream media, but when it was also ignored by so-called progressive outlets like Democracy Now, they had important illusions about these "progressives" destroyed.

As the revolution had to face the reality that the promise of serious western military support would never be fulfilled, the willful-ignorance of the US peace movement made most Syrians in revolt feel that they couldn't even get moral support from the West. The cynicism and nihilism generated among the ranks of anti-Assad fighter by a western peace movement gone MIA on Syria has been a gift that keeps on giving for the Salafists of Daesh and al Nusra. It has allowed them to mock those who looked to the west for support in their struggle against the Assad regime.

More useful to Regime or Daesh?
The Syrian regime, on the other hand, could delight in the pro-Assad character of some of these western "anti-war" protests. Pictures of groups like Veterans for Peace marching with Assad's flag could be useful in regime propaganda and demoralizing to its opposition, so the regime was very thankful and openly flaunted these demonstrations of western peace movement support before both its friends and its enemies. For the reactionary extremists of Daesh and al Nusra the hypocrisy of this peace movement was further proof of the complete bankruptcy of western values and teachings.

David Swanson, while you accepted some of Berman's points, you also thought it left out some important successes, you said:
I think the public pressure in the U.S., UK, and elsewhere that stopped a massive U.S. bombing campaign of Syria in 2013 deserves a great deal of credit and far from being an example of a peace movement that has completely failed constitutes the most noteworthy success for peace of recent years.
Dave Swanson, if you looked at this episode from the point of view of the Syrian people and its effects on the flows of both refugees and terrorists from Syria since then, you might have second thoughts about calling it the most noteworthy success for peace of recent years. But before we get to that, I want to address this idea that a massive US bombing campaign was stopped. In the fall of 2013 no massive bombing campaign was going to happen. That campaign is only now really getting started.

Thanks to an interview with then Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in Foreign Policy, 18 December 2015, we now know a lot more about what was planned and when and how it was stopped:
It was Aug. 30, 2013, and the U.S. military was poised for war... Hagel had spent the day approving final plans for a barrage of Tomahawk cruise missile strikes against Damascus. U.S. naval destroyers were in the Mediterranean, awaiting orders to fire.

Instead, Obama told a stunned Hagel to stand down.
The French were planning their own independent strike against Assad for the chemical attack. The next day he told the French to stand down as well. Anne Penketh wrote in The Independent, 29 September 2013:
French President Francois Hollande called off military strikes against Syria on 31 August following a phone call from the US President only hours before fighter jets were set to take off, a French weekly magazine has revealed.
The French felt a special responsibility to act because Syria was a former French colony. Chuck Hagel was just making what he thought were appropriate plans given Obama's threat and Assad's actions, but Obama never had any plans to bomb Assad. Throwing it to congress was a face-saving ploy. Note that it was after 31 August that the peace movement swung into action demanding that Obama do what we had already done, stop the bombing. This is why the claims that the peace movement forced Obama to stop the bombing remind me of the little boy in a Dark Vader costume who thinks he just used "The Force" to start the family car.

Anti-war protests against any military response to sarin attack
Times Square New York City | 7 September 2013
Houston | 1 September 2013
Winnipeg, Canada | 7 September 2013
London | 8 September 2013

This would also be a good time to consider how the above pictures looked from various Syrian perspectives. This is my opinion: The Assad regime felt supported, those suffering under the regime felt denied, and the Islamic extremist felts vindicated in their rejection of the West.
Where are the anti-war protesters now? Is it that hard to understand why the average Syrian has come to believe that, as a practical matter, the Left is on the side of the regime?

In any time of great social upheaval, the masses are shaken from their normal stances and pulled both to the right and the left in search of solutions. Is it that hard to understand the relationship between the Left's rejection of the Syrian people's aspiration to be rid of a 46 year old dictatorship and the gains the right-wing, especially the Islamic extremists, have made in recruiting from that same population?
the deal

Instead of military retaliation, there was the deal brokered by Putin. Secretary of State Kerry said:
“We struck a deal where we got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out.”
Many in the peace movement hailed it as a peaceful solution to the crisis and congratulated themselves for helping force Obama to chose diplomacy over war. With that deal in the works and the threat of any military retaliation dead, it seemed like the peace movement was again washing its hands of Syria.

The Obama administration and the US peace movement may have liked the deal but how well did it work out for the Syrian people? Within weeks of the big sarin attack, the regime was using another chemical weapon, chlorine gas, with little protest. It has used both chlorine and mustard gas many times since then and in May, the Washington Post reported that it has returned to using sarin:
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz, apparently relying on a government source, reported May 2 that Assad’s forces used sarin gas last month against Islamic State fighters after they attacked two Syrian air force bases east of Damascus. Stockpiles of this deadly gas were supposed to have been removed from Syria in 2014.
Chemical weapons have become part of “the new normal” in Syria, according to a report in February by the Syrian American Medical Society. The group said that in 2015, there were 69 chemical weapons attacks in Syria, mostly chlorine bombs dropped by Assad’s air force.
In 2013 the UN inspectors found over 1,300 tons of chemical weapons, if he still retains as much as 20%, as we reported on Tuesday, the net effect of the deal was to remove Syria's CW assets as a strategic threat to Israel but allow Assad to retain enough to use as a terror weapon against his own people.

the massive bombing campaign now

On Wednesday we wrote about the massive bombing campaign the US is now carrying out in Syria, while the Charles Davis in the Daily Beast pointed out the lack of anti-war protest:
The relatively muted response among committed anti-interventionists to actually existing U.S. intervention in Syria—over 4,600 airstrikes and counting—is striking, having something to do, perhaps, with the antiwar left having already declared victory years ago. In 2013, the left credited itself with staving off airstrikes against the government of Bashar al-Assad after his forces used chemical weapons, a stated “red line” for U.S. President Barack Obama.
Now we are seeing US military intervention in the Syrian conflict, together with massive US bombing being coordinated with more of the same from the Russian and Syrian air forces, but this is not the attack on Assad that was threatened in 2013. Not one of those 4,600 US airstrikes have been against the Assad regime. They have all been against Daesh or they have been against those fighting the Assad regime. Nor does this represent a shift in strategy or sides, we wrote about US plans to bomb al Nusra in 2013, six months before the "red-line" was crossed, and now they are actually doing it.

US President Barack Obama's "redline" challenge was a bluff, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad called him on it. There was never any serious threat of a massive U.S. bombing campaign of Syria in 2013 because Obama has never really wanted to see Assad overthrown. You can't believe everything he says, look at what he does. If Obama had wanted Assad stuck after the sarin murder of over 1400, he would have just followed through with his promise and struck him. As commander and chief he had that power. Like his drone assassinations, he wouldn't have put the question to congress where he knew it would fail, and he wouldn't have made the French abort their own independent retaliation.

David Swanson, you see stopping the massive Syria bombing of 2013 as one of the peace movement's most noteworthy successes, but what if you are wrong and no massive bombing was in the works? Then all the peace movement has done by turning out for the first time in large numbers on Syria to oppose any military response to this murder of 1400 with sarin, was to give Left cover to Obama's decision to renege on his "red-line" promise.

David Swanson, you are proud of your refusal "of Hillary Clinton's desired 'no fly zone,'" but what do you say to these Syrians?

Friday of "No Fly Zone" | Daraa | 28 Oct 2011

Friday of Immediate Military Intervention | Homs | 16 Mar 2012

I guess it really doesn't matter. You won and they lost. The only no-fly zones in Syria have been the ones created by Assad and his Russian allies for Daesh ruled areas. Probably by now many of these Syrian peace demonstrators have been killed by barrel-bombs or fled Syria to avoid them. The failure to create a no-fly zone in Syria made the current Syrian refugee crisis inevitable.
the "red-line" in Syria

To understand the Syrian point of view on the "red-line" episode we have to go back a year before the sarin attack to 20 August 2012, when the statement was first made. That would have been the best time for an American to voice an objection, when the promise was being made in our name, not when the debt so incurred became due. Few did. I did. David Swanson, did you even notice what the president had said? Did you comment at the time?

Most people on the Left didn't notice when Obama made the promise because they weren't paying attention to Syria then. Pro-Assad, pro-Putin Leftist Stephen Lendman did notice and a week after Obama made the threat Lendman compared it to Risking Nuclear Armageddon. As if speaking for Assad, he assured us:
Syria won’t use chemical weapons except in self-defense. It won’t give Washington pretext to intervene.
Of course, Syria was already fighting a war of self defense, according to the regime, and with more than 40,000 dead and counting, Washington didn't want for "pretext" to intervene.

Curiously, in this piece published almost a year before the big sarin attack, Lendman tells us of the Russian origins for conspiracy theories that would later be adopted by much of the western Left to explain it away:
At the same time, [Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady] Gatilov expressed concern about Washington perhaps instigating insurgent nonconventional weapons use blamed on Assad. Doing so gives America pretext for war.
The US has intervened with a lot less pretext when it wanted to in the past. Most of those 40,000 dead were civilians and most the result of Assad's superior firepower. Some close observers thought the statement was chiefly a warning to Assad not to transfer CW to Hezbollah and saw it as an electoral gesture towards Israel. Charles Shoebridge of the Guardian said "headline could have been US rules out no fly zone.." Since Assad was already killing tens of thousands without using chemical weapons and Obama's statement seemed to rule out any military response from the US until he did, most supporters of the fight against Assad began calling Obama's "red-line" a "green light" to Assad to continue the slaughter by conventional means. And that is exactly what he did, killing another hundred thousand Syrians, even using sarin in small amounts, before he dropped it big time on East Ghouta.

The one saving grace, the one positive thing that could be said about America's red-line pledge was that if Bashar al-Assad ever did use "a whole bunch of chemical weapons" the most powerful country in the world, the country that likes to brag that it stands for freedom and democracy, human dignity, etc., etc., would actually step up to the plate and do something.

That is how matters stood on Obama's "red-line" statement before the morning of 21 August 2013.

On that morning over 1400 people, hundreds of them children, were killed by an attack of rockets carrying sarin to suburbs of Damascus that had been under siege by the Assad regime for many months.

Who was really behind the attack has been a matter of some controversy. While the Free Syrian Army, the Syrian opposition, the US government and most of the world blame the Assad regime. The Assad regime and its supporters, including Russia and a big section of the US Left, blame the opposition for trying to do what Gatilov said in 2012. The UN did determine that the sarin used came from the stockpile of the Syrian military but the Russians vetoed any conclusions. I don't want to reopen that debate in this article. I have responded to the various "alternative theories," yes, that's a nicer word, elsewhere, including:
11/16/2015Left's sarin song: still "Regime Change" after all these years!
04/10/2014Seymour Hersh's chemical weapons fetish
03/09/2014UN: Assad sarin used in attacks | The Left's response?
12/09/2013Whose Seymour Hersh?
09/25/2013Where Robert Fisk's defense of Assad falls down
09/23/2013منت برس(Mint Press) تكشف دعمها للأسد.AntiWar.com يقدم اعتذاره.
09/20/2013Mint Press exposed as Assad apologist, AntiWar.com apologizes
09/16/2013UN hints Assad used Russian rockets in sarin gas attack
09/09/2013Secret Intel Source of Ray McGovern & VIPS Revealed!
09/09/2013Why did Assad Regime first Deny CW Attack if Blameless?
09/09/2013Witness to CW Attack: When Paradise turned to Hell.
09/08/2013Dr. Zaher Sahloul on the CW Attacks in Syria
09/08/2013Why would Assad use CW with UN Inspectors in Syria?
09/07/2013My dare to Ray McGovern & VIPS on Syria CW attack
09/03/2013Who Used Sarin in Syria?
09/02/2013How Obama Helped Assad Kill with Poison Gas in Syria
08/30/2013Obama Denied Gas Masks to Assad's Victims
08/29/2013Obama's Dilemma and Assad's Opportunity
08/22/2013AntiWar.com Disparages Chemical Attack in Syria
08/21/2013Assad Knows: Chemical Attacks Kill Children First!
08/21/20131300+ Dead after Obama "Green-lights" new CW attack in Syria
08/05/2013Syria: New Poison Gas Attacks Reported in #Douma & #Adra
06/03/2013More False Reports of Sarin Usage by Assad's Opposition in Syria
05/06/2013Syria Sarin Blame Game: Is Carla Del Ponte at it again?
01/06/2013NY Times: Assad has sarin in bombs at airfields
12/22/2012BREAKING: Chemical weapons first use reported in Syria
12/12/2012AP on Obama's Green Light for Assad's slaughter in Syria
08/20/2012Obama "green lights" Assad's slaughter in Syria
The people of East Ghouta didn't need an MIT professor's calculus to tell them where the rockets had come from. They could hear the launch of the rockets from the nearby Assad stronghold, they'd heard that sound often enough. That's why they had the children sleeping in the basements. The difference this night was the sound they made when they hit. Instead of the bang of high explosives, these sounded almost like dudes. Almost. And the sarin sought out the children. The basement turned out not to be such a safe place to sleep that night.

Anyway, for the purposes of this piece, there is no need to revisit the fight over who used sarin on 21 August 2013 because people respond to what they think happened and among Syrians, outside of regime propagandists, people think the regime did it. It really doesn't matter what Leftists in the US have found it convenient to believe. None opposed to Assad think that Obama was justified in reneging on this "red-line" pledge because elements of the opposition used sarin on opposition areas.

the effects of betrayal

In the Daily Beast, 27 January 2015, Jami Dettmer said:
the "already high skepticism over American policy toward the war in Syria" among the opposition "skyrocketed when the Obama administration failed to enforce in 2013 its “red line” against Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons, and the skepticism has merely grown since."
Obama's famous "red-line" proclamation of August 2012 has turned out to be his most cynical and destructive con job to date. Here we had the "Good Cop" saying, I may not be able to stop the "Bad Cops", Assad and Putin, from shelling hospitals and barrel bombing schools, but I'll be damned if I'm going to let them kill you with chemical weapons too. It was a con from the minute he said it. Who uses language like "a whole bunch of chemical weapons" in an ultimatum he wants taken seriously?

When the Sting came, it was devastating. I have been told by Syrians with close ties to those carrying out the struggle in-country that it is hard to over-estimate the negative effect on the morale of Obama's failure to take military action. If an army travels on its stomach, a revolution lives or dies by the morale of the masses, and it would seem that too many Syrians had a misplaced faith in Obama and the United States, so when he reneged on his promise, they took it as a shot to the gut, or rather a knife in the back. I'm told that no battlefield defeat, no new outrage from Assad, had the destructive effect on the fighting spirit of the people against Assad as this one betrayal.

Like so many people before them, they had to learn the hard way about the gap between US words and US actions. It yielded predictable results, some quit the Free Syrian Army for more Islamic brigades, some dropped out of the struggle altogether, some said "Fuck America" and joined Daesh. The net effect was to weaken the FSA and other democratic forces and to strengthen the Islamic extremists like Daesh.

While certainly not the only factor, Obama's betrayal was a big contributor to what has happened since. Once it was clear there would never be a no-fly zone or a western military response to his slaughter, Assad greatly intensified it. Two-thirds of the people killed during the five years of the Syrian conflict have been killed since Obama reneged on his promise and Assad and his supporters have done 95% of the killing. With artillery, barrel-bombs, and frankly, everything short of nuclear, Assad has made many areas not under government control unlivable. The worst refugee crisis in many decades was the inevitable and tragic result.

While the US invasion of Iraq, and Assad's support for jihadists fighting it, laid the basis for Daesh. It was the festering wound that the Syrian conflict was allowed to become [It's not like we don't know how to stop barrel-bombs. Its not cancer.], and safe-haven given the group by Assad in Raqqa, that allowed it to become the worldwide menace that it has become. After Obama reneged, many more fighters cast their lot with the terrorists. In October, as the balance of power was shifting, Daesh began to make moves against the Free Syrian Army in Raqqa. We can only speculate whether what Daesh might call their "red-line" recruits played a significant role in their taking control of Fallujah and Ramadi in December and Raqqa in a January bloodless coup against the FSA, but after Obama's betrayal the group was on a roll, by June 2014 it had taken Mosul and Tikrit.

Now those that thought Syria was not their problem are being forced to take another look as right-wing fascists threaten to ride to power in the United States and Europe by using demagoguery and fear of dual threats widely portrayed as coming out of Syria, refugees and terrorists.

I was on the steps of the Pentagon in October 1967 when we mourned the passing of Che Guevara and I have been a part of the peace movement for half a century. After the Arab Spring, after Occupy, I think this movement lost its way on Syria. That seemed like a small defect, but the Syria issue grew, and deepened. What started in Syria didn't stay in Syria and a peace movement that thought it could sweep these defects under a rug and pay them no never mind, is now going to have to grapple with them head on if it is to have any credibility or relevance going forward.

In no war in my lifetime has the peace movement gotten so much of what it wanted. It demanded that there not be a no-fly zone and there hasn't been. It demanded that the Assad regime not be bombed and it hasn't been. The current state of affairs with regards to Syria is, in part, the result of the polices you have championed. So David Swanson, I hope you will begin by reconsidering your proclamation that stopping Obama from bombing Syria represents the most noteworthy success for peace of recent years.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

212 Syrian civilians killed in US air strikes as GOP calls for crushing ISIS

The area around Manbij, Syria, including Tokhar and Hoshariyeh, is a Daesh stronghold. There is currently a military campaign to clear Daesh, also called the Islamic State, ISIS or ISIL, out of this area. With air support from a US-led coalition, Kurdish and Arab ground forces from Syrian Democratic Forces [SDF] are mounting this campaign. Given the current political climate in the wake of so many ISIS claimed terrorist attacks, the pressure to be seen as making gains in the war against ISIS is enormous.

One of the big problems this US coalition has, especially with regards to the effective use of their overwhelming air supremacy is that the area is still filled with civilians and Daesh is using them as human shields - not allowing them to leave. Apparently, the solution to this dilemma chosen by the US coalition is now "damn the civilians, full speed ahead."  We've seen this before in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, and this has always been the approach of the Syrian and Russian war planes bombing Syria, and now we are seeing the United States making major contribution to the civilian carnage even as they are looking forward to greater cooperation between American and Russian pilots in bombing Syria.

Initial reports on Tuesday's air strikes around Manbij put the bodycount at 56 or more, including 11 children in Tokhar. Ten others, including 4 children were killed by a US air strike on nearby Hamira. Residents say that over 200 civilians were killed in recent air strikes. Little of this is being reported in the US media, which is filled with accounts of ISIS atrocities and demands that something be done about them. As a result, it is likely more civilians were killed by US war planes over Syria yesterday than were killed by NATO war planes over Libya in that 8 month campaign. NY Times, HRW and UN studies put that number at ~75.

NATO's Libya campaign was led by the Europeans and they showed how to use careful planning, smart bombs almost exclusively, and a willingness to abort missions if things weren't right, to carry out a devastating air campaign against a military target while minimizing civilian casualties. Until nations no longer wage war from the skies or until there is a better example, I think NATO's Libya campaign is the new standard by which all others must be judged.

The current US air campaign over Syria does not meet that standard.

During Operation Unified Protector, NATO planes "dropped ordinance", which is to say actually attacked something, on less than 20% of their "strike missions." If they didn't have a clear shot at a target that really did minimize civilian causalities, they didn't take it. That is probably the main reason they were able to help overthrow Gaddafi while killing less civilians than they did yesterday.
“As of today, and since 31 March, the U.S. has flown a total of 3,475 sorties in support of OUP. Of those, 801 were strike sorties, 132 of which actually dropped ordnance.”
            - AFRICOM spokeswoman Nicole Dalrymple in a statement issued 29 June 2011
Recently I've heard a number of Fox News military analysts, and their ilk, complaining that in the current US war against ISIS that Obama wasn't being tough enough, that, for example, US war planes were sometimes returning from missions without having actually bombed anything! "How are you going to defeat ISIS that way?" they complain.

Then this happens.

Like the people in Paris or Brussels, these civilians were trying to get on with their lives as best they could when bombs suddenly started exploding around them. These people are also victims of terrorism, delivered from above by American, Russian and Syrian bombers.

And for the benefit of those that couldn't care less for Arab lives, I would also like to point out that Daesh can never be defeated by killing Arabs from the air.

Aljazeera is reporting:
Syria: Coalition bombing kills at least 56 civilians

Mostly women and children reportedly killed in coalition air strikes on ISIL-held northern Syrian town.
19 July 2016
At least 56 civilians, including 11 children, have been killed in US-led air strikes against areas in Syria held by the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant group (ISIL, also known as ISIS), a monitoring group said.

Al Jazeera's Rosiland Jordan, reporting from Washinton, said that at least one town near the city of Manbij was allegedly hit by a coalition strike and that many of the casualties were reportedly women and children.

"The US central command has confirmed to Al Jazeera that it was conducting air strikes in the area and says it needs to investigate allegations of whether civilians were injured or killed in this incident."

Director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Rami Abdel-Rahman told DPA news agency: "We believe that the raids which were carried out Tuesday were by US [or] allied planes, but it was by mistake."

Residents in the area say the death told could be upwards of 200.

"It seems that the Syrian Democratic Forces under the leadership of the International coalition which is in charge of planning have decided to adopt a scorched earth policy," Hasan al-Nifi, a community leader in Mabij, told Al Jazeera.

"Manbij is full of residents, a quarter of a million residents, used by ISIL as human shields. Yesterday the coalition struck Al Zahuna neighbourhood, where more than 23 people were killed. Then it struck the western gate of the city, killing 6 people."

"Today the residents of Toka woke to a horrific massacre. The death toll rose to 212 and the numbers are rising."

The New York Times is reporting:
Dozens of Civilians Reported Dead in U.S.-Led Syria Airstrike

By Reuters
19 July 2016
At least 56 civilians were reported killed on Tuesday in airstrikes north of the besieged Islamic State-held city of Manbij in northern Syria, and residents said they believed the attack was carried out by aircraft from the United States-led coalition, a monitoring group said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the dead included 11 children, and that dozens more people were wounded. More...

Unlike Daesh, which has a record of collaboration with the Assad Regime. al Nusra, while still an extremist al-Qaeda affiliated group, has been a starch opponent and often joined alliances with others in the Syrian opposition. That is why US air strikes against this group are seen as particularly treacherous. As with Daesh, these air strikes are having the opposite of the intended effect. Now Media is reporting:
Al-Qaeda on the rise in Syria

After alienating many host communities, Nusra is once again gaining support due its military exploits and the prospect of a US-Russian air coalition against the group
Haid Haid
19 July 2016
There is a general assumption that the Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra is weakening in the face of the regime of Bashar al-Assad’s recent militarily achievements and international led airstrikes against the group. The increase in the number of anti-Nusra demonstrations this year, especially in Idlib, is usually cited as evidence to support this assumption. Yet, according to sources close to the group, Nusra has accepted more than 3,000 Syrians from Idlib and southern Aleppo into its ranks since February alone. While Nusra is experiencing this extraordinary rate of recruitment, other Western-backed groups in these areas are losing local support and manpower. It is therefore important to look at the reasons behind this significant increase in Nusra’s recruitment rate and what it portends for the future. More...
Is it too much to hope that the US anti-war movement will soon start to protest the slaughter of civilians that the Iranians and Russians have been doing for some time, now that the Americans are starting to join it in earnest?

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

In spite of UN deal Assad continues to make & use chemical weapons

After the biggest chemical weapons attack the world had seen since Saddam Hussein in the 1980's, much of the Left opposed the military response that US President Barack Obama had promised the year before. Many of these same people denied Assad regime responsibility for this attack and curiously, they focused exclusively on this attack. They didn't weigh in on the question of responsibility for the months-long siege that proceeded the attack, or the many smaller CW attacks that had taken place in Syria to that point.

Obama never planned to carry out his red-line threat, and so this Left opposition was helpful. Instead he supported a Russian program that required Assad to give up all the CW weapons and production facilities he was willing to admit to having. There was no independent inspection routine like the one imposed on Iraq. Still, he did give up quite a bit and with the likely exception of an incident in Darayya 15 February 2015 in which the United Nations said "that there is a high degree of probability" of sarin exposure, sarin attacks ceased to be a part of the Syrian Civil War landscape.

However, chemical attacks with other agents, including Chlorine and Mustard gas have continued with little notice and less protests. Now we have demands from the UN for Assad to give up the chemical weapons he held back. Charles Liser says that its been known for a long time in high government circles that Assad held back 20% of his CW in the bargain. Probably he had enough to kill everyone in Syria five times over to begin with.

The Daily Star is reporting:
Syria must explain chemical warfare agents: watchdog

Agence France Presse
13 July 2016
THE HAGUE: The world's chemical weapons watchdog is pressing Syria to explain why it has four undeclared warfare agents, its head said Wednesday, after a U.S. official accused Damascus of continuing to hoard a toxic stockpile.

Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons chief Ahmet Uzumcu said despite previous declarations by Syria, OPCW teams have found indications of five additional chemical agents.

After recent consultations with The Hague-based OPCW's secretariat, Syria "declared research and development of one more chemical agent," Uzumcu said in a report released last week, of which AFP was given a copy on Wednesday.

But "at present, Syria has not yet adequately explained the presence of indicators of four chemical warfare agents," Uzumcu said.

The OPCW chief added that "new information" offered by Damascus has failed to resolve outstanding issues on Syria's chemical warfare program.

"In many instances, such new information presents a considerable change in narrative ... from previous information – or raises new questions," Uzumcu said. More...

The BBC reported on another chemical attack on Syrian civilians more than two years after the 21 August 2013 sarin attack on East Ghouta:
Syria civilians still under chemical attack

By Ian Pannell
10 September 2015
The video is painfully difficult to watch. The pale, wet, listless bodies of young children are carried into a hospital as doctors frantically try to save lives. Men choke and vomit and cry out and a grandmother lies peacefully on a gurney. She is dead.

Five others died in the same attack on Sarmin, about 50 km (30 miles) southwest of Aleppo, in March this year - including three small children. None of them had a scar on their bodies.
For the children of Syria, it is not the high seas they must fear but death on dry land.
The footage was apparently taken in the aftermath of a chemical attack.

When it was shown to the UN Security Council it reportedly moved delegates to tears, and is just one of more than 60 incidents in which toxic agents are alleged to have been deployed.
The Syrian government has been repeatedly accused of perpetrating many of these attacks, something it vehemently denies.

But when Sarmin was attacked, witnesses say they heard a helicopter overhead and only government forces have helicopters in Syria.

Then people say they heard a roaring sound, like thunder but there was no explosion, just casualties.

Two years ago the UN voted unanimously in favour of the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons. It was perhaps the only threat that civilians were supposed to be protected from.

But there have been growing allegations that chemicals, in particular chlorine gas, have been used, mostly against civilian populations in dozens of attacks.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) looked at three of these alleged attacks and reported to the UN they have "a high degree of confidence that chlorine has been used repeatedly and systematically as a weapon" in Syria. More...
Aljazeera reported:
Tracking Syria's deadly toxic chemical attacks

By Diana Al Rifai
18 April 2015
Human Rights Watch, the New York-based rights monitor, has released a report with evidence that strongly suggests Syrian government forces used toxic chemicals in several barrel-bomb attacks in Idlib province beween March 16 and 31, 2015.

Rescue workers reported that the attacks affected 206 people, including 20 civil-defence workers. One attack reportedly killed six civilians, including three children.

In a closed-door meeting on April 17, the UN Security Council heard first-hand accounts from Syrian doctors of the same attack.

Evidence presented during the meeting included a video showing doctors trying to save the lives of three childrens  following the attack as they coughed and struggled to breathe due to liquid accumulation in their lungs.

The attacks violated the Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria ratified in October 2013, and a UN Security Council resolution, Human Rights Watch said.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria