"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘U.N.’

Independent Ecologists: Forthcoming UN IPCC Climate Change Mitigation Report Is “Deeply Flawed”; Recommendations Will Worsen Global Warming

In Uncategorized on April 15, 2014 at 4:12 pm

Independent experts explore viability of draft IPCC mitigation plans advocating carbon dioxide produced from power generation to be captured and stored in fight against climate change Photograph: Greenpeace Handout/EPA


Oldspeak:
“Dr Rachel Smolker, co-director of Biofuelwatch says that the report’s embrace of “largely untested” and “very risky” technologies like bioenergy with carbon capture and sequestration (BECCS), will “exacerbate” climate change, agricultural problems, water scarcity, soil erosion and energy challenges, “rather than improving them.”A leaked draft of the as yet unpublished report by Working Group 3 (WG3) of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to be officially released in mid-April, was obtained by the Guardian. Dr Smolker, a behavioural ecologist and biofuels expert, said that the alarming impacts of climate change identified by the IPCC’s Working Groups 1 and 2 would “worsen” as a consequence of such “false solutions” which have been increasingly criticised in the scientific literature… the IPCC’s central emphasis on biofuels with carbon capture is a “dangerous distraction” from the task of “deeply altering our entire relationship to energy consumption.” She highlighted an unwillingness to recognise the “fundamental link between ‘endless growth economics’ and ecological destruction.” Working Group 3, she said, lacks sufficient expertise to assess the merits of its recommended technologies. Many critical assessments of bioenergy “come from scientists with a background in ecology and related disciplines and those are barely represented within the IPCC” – WG3 is staffed largely by economists and engineers. -Dr. Nafeez Ahmed

“The highlighted section above is all you need to know.  Secondary sociopathic refusal to recognize the devastatingly ecocidal and destructive effects of globalized inverted corptalitarian kleptocracy has led market-based economists and engineers to present market-based “climate mitigation” strategies.  Leaving aside the fact there is no longer any way humans can mitigate the unprecedented extinction level event that their activities have wrought, and given who was on the working group this report is wholly unsurprising.  Sister Audre Lorde said “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.” The IPCC, is one of the supra-governmental transnational corporate network masters’ tools.  Meant to give the appearance of concern, impartiality, urgency, and “solutions” to Anthropogenic climate change. in the end, its aim is to justify continued business as usual market-based “economy”; infinite growth, profit generation, and cost externalization. Refusing to recognize basic truths like infinite growth is impossible on a finite planet. That nothing can be more important than life. There is no “economy” with out the ecology and its invaluable, and rapidly dwindling natural capital… Unfortunately we have in this report further confirmation that as revolutionary economist Manfred Max-Neef says: “Greed is the dominant value today in the world. As long as that’s the case, we’re done.” -OSJ

By Dr. Nafeez Ahmed @ The Guardian UK:

A British environmental organisation that has reviewed the draft of a forthcoming UN IPCC report on mitigating climate change has questioned many of the document’s recommendations as deeply flawed.

Dr Rachel Smolker, co-director of Biofuelwatch, said that the report’s embrace of “largely untested” and “very risky” technologies like bioenergy with carbon capture and sequestration (BECCS), will “exacerbate” climate change, agricultural problems, water scarcity, soil erosion and energy challenges, “rather than improving them.”

A leaked draft of the as yet unpublished report by Working Group 3 (WG3) of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to be officially released in mid-April, was obtained by the Guardian. Dr Smolker, a behavioural ecologist and biofuels expert, said that the alarming impacts of climate change identified by the IPCC’s Working Groups 1 and 2 would “worsen” as a consequence of such “false solutions” which have been increasingly criticised in the scientific literature.

Avoiding “overshoot”

The IPCC projects that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide emissions are unlikely to stabilise at 450 parts per million (ppm), accepted by the international community as the safe limit to ensure that global average temperatures do not exceed the 2 degrees Celsius danger level. It is more likely that concentrations could “overshoot” to around 550 ppm (if not higher by other less conservative projections). The leaked draft concludes that “essentially any” emissions target can be achieved “regardless of the near‐term path” of overshoot “by shifting emissions reductions to the future”:

“There are no published scenarios depicting a pathway returning to 450 CO2‐e [emissions] by century’s end without a negative emissions option when delayed participation is imposed. The vast majority of published 450 CO2‐e scenarios involve overshoot during the century and include a negative emissions technology.”

The draft thus recommends “carbon negative” energy technologies that might help to draw down carbon from the atmosphere. These include “large scale utilisation of BECCS”; coal and natural gas with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) – carbon emitted from burning fossil fuels is captured and injected underground where it is stored indefinitely; nuclear power; and large hydroelectric plants.

Carbon capture, or multiplier?

The problem, Biofuelwatch’s co-director said, is that there is no scientific consensus on whether these technologies actually work. CCS technology is already being used to facilitate intensified fossil fuel exploitation. In bioenergy, it has involved “capture of fermentation in ethanol refineries”:

“… so far much of carbon captured from bioenergy and other processes is ultimately used for Enhanced Oil Recovery – injected into depleted oil wells to create pressure enough to force remaining difficult to access oil out. This can hardly be considered ‘sequestration’ or an effective approach to solving the climate problem.”

She added that “burning wood for electricity and heat releases up to 150% as much CO2 per unit of energy generation than does coal” excluding emissions from “deforestation, harvesting and transportation.”

According to Dr Smolker, CCS cannot be viewed as “carbon negative” due to “the high costs, and associated high added energy demand for capture, transport, compression and injection.” Even more problematic, she said, is that there is “little real world testing” of whether CO2 pumped into underground cavities “will remain in situ” indefinitely, or be released, which she describes as “a dangerous gamble.”

Biofuelwatch also criticised the IPCC draft report’s recommendation of large-scale bioenergy projects. Bioenergy “should be considered a driver” of emissions from agriculture, forestry and other land use, Smolker said, “not a means of mitigation.” The growing use of bioenergy as a substitute for fossil fuels is encroaching increasingly on land use, and in turn escalating food prices, intensifying land grabbing, and increasing demand for crops, livestock, wood and so on:

“Lands and ecosystems cannot at the same time both provide large quantities of biomass for bioenergy, and still securely act as ‘carbon sinks.’ It is not possible to have it both ways.”

Currently, just under 40% of US corn production is dedicated to ethanol although it provides just “a pittance of transport energy.” The large areas of land required for meaningful bioenergy production means it would simultaneously undermine food production while contributing to “escalating food prices.” Although the IPCC proposes bioenergy as the solution to renewable energy, “it can never provide more than a tiny fraction towards the current and projected growth in demand for energy.”

Broken climate needs fixing

Stephen Salter, a professor emeritus of engineering design at the University of Edinburgh who has proposed cloud enhancement as one mechanism of geoengineering to address climate change, said that given the import of dangerous warming, techniques to reduce carbon in the atmosphere must be part of the toolbox. But he said the focus should be on the Arctic:

“Those working on geoengineering are largely doing so reluctantly. The concern is that we need to ensure technology is available in case events occur more quickly than expected. The IPCC has not fully accounted for certain feedbacks involving black carbon, methane release, and the rapid loss of the Arctic summer sea ice. A technique like marine cloud brightening by spraying seawater onto clouds to increase their reflectivity, could save the sea ice and help cool the climate with relatively little side-effects that can be controlled with careful application.”

But other geoengineering techniques suffer from less certainty, said Prof Salter, who is a member of the Arctic Methane Emergency Group (AMEG). “Many major proposals suffer from debilitating costs and practicalities, and would take too long – up to a century or more – to work. And their risks are less understood.”

Prof Stuart Haszeldine, a geoscientist also at the University of Edinburgh specialising in CCS, said:

“Ultimately a full, immediate transition to renewables is the right imperative, but it cannot happen overnight due to the engineering costs and practicalities. So we must reduce our carbon emissions while we are still relying on fossil fuels. Our current emissions trajectory is heading for catastrophe. CCS would allow us to draw down emissions during the transition to renewables.

Every component of CCS has been practiced separately in the industry for decades, so putting them altogether to minimise our carbon footprint makes sense. Several large-scale commercial CCS enterprises will become operational this year, such as the coal-fired plant in Kemper County.

100% renewable transition in 15 years: feasible?

Danielle Paffard of the Centre for Alternative Technology’s Zero Carbon Britain project, however, voiced further reservations: “BECCS isn’t useful as a central feature of a climate mitigation strategy, due to the scale of current electricity demand, and requires an enormous reduction of demand to be viable. Any proposal to rely primarily on biomass for baseload electricity generation is never sensible.” Salter, Haszeldine and Paffard have not seen the draft IPCC mitigation report.

In particular, Paffard criticised carbon capture for fossil fuel power plants as a “red herring”:

“We can’t hope to simply run over a carbon precipice and pulls ourselves back. Government targets must be much more ambitious. Our research has shown that we can run modern societies without relying on fossil fuels, and that transitioning to net zero carbon emissions by 2030 is technologically and economically feasible with the right approach.”

Despite reservations, Paffard acknowledged a limited but “very important” role for BECCS. Other forms of carbon capture such as peatland conversion, biochar, and extensive reforestation will be “crucial” for energy transition, she said:

“Biomass does have the potential to be very destructive, but if used sparingly it has a place as part of a wider strategy involving renewables, to create synthetic fuels useful for industry and transport. Bioenergy is important as a flexible backup to address long-term energy storage due to the intermittency and variability of renewable sources – but its use must be sustainable, based on ‘second generation’ non-food crops [e.g. forest and crop residues, municipal and construction waste], not encroach on land-use for food, and combined with extensive reforestation.”

The IPCC draft report does emphasise the need to dramatically ramp up solar and wind power, pointing out the superior “technical potential” of solar compared to other renewables.

Economic straitjacket?

Dr Smolker of Biofuelwatch, in contrast, said that the IPCC’s central emphasis on biofuels with carbon capture is a “dangerous distraction” from the task of “deeply altering our entire relationship to energy consumption.” She highlighted an unwillingness to recognise the “fundamental link between ‘endless growth economics’ and ecological destruction.”

Working Group 3, she said, lacks sufficient expertise to assess the merits of its recommended technologies. Many critical assessments of bioenergy “come from scientists with a background in ecology and related disciplines and those are barely represented within the IPCC” – WG3 is staffed largely by economists and engineers:

“The underlying assumption appears to be that business as usual [BAU] economic growth must be sustained, and industry and corporate profits must be protected and maintained. But if we focus on ‘BAU economics’, seeking and accepting only bargain basement options for addressing global warming – the costs will be far more severe.”

_________________________________________________________________

Dr Nafeez Ahmed is executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development and author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation: And How to Save It among other books. Follow him on Twitter @nafeezahmed

IPCC Report: Effects Of Anthropogenic Climate Change Happening Now In Real Time, Threaten Global Food Stocks & Humankind. Worst Yet To Come.

In Uncategorized on April 3, 2014 at 3:49 am

Flooding in Pakistan in 2010, the kind of extreme weather events which the IPCC says is the result of climate change. Photograph: Asif Hassan/AFP/Getty Images

Oldspeak: ““Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change

-Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

The report was built on the work of more than 300 scientists drawing from 12,000 scholarly articles to produce the most comprehensive picture of climate risks to date. Pachauri said the report provided all that governments could need for coming up with a strategy for cutting greenhouse gas emissions and protecting populations from climate change. The volume of scientific literature on the effects of climate change has doubled since the last report in 2007, and the findings make an increasingly detailed picture of how climate change – in tandem with existing fault lines such as poverty and inequality – poses a much more direct threat to life and livelihoods…. This was reflected in the language. The summary mentioned the word “risk” more than 230 times, compared to just over 40 mentions seven years ago, according to a count by the Red Cross…The report found the strongest evidence of climate change in the thawing permafrost in the Arctic and in the destruction of coral reefs. It found many freshwater and marine species had shifted their geographical range due to climate change…But the report said climate change was growing more evident in human systems as well, where it posed a series of risks….Climate change was already beginning to affect crop yields, especially for wheat and maize, and the report says that yields could decline sharply towards the middle of the century…The scientists found climate change was a driver of violent conflicts and migration, and was exacerbating inequality, making it harder for people to claw their way out of poverty…Climate change was also a factor in the rise of mega-disasters. The report said climate change was driving recent heatwaves and droughts, and was a risk factor for wildfires….At the forefront of those risks was the potential for humanitarian crisis. The report catalogued some of the disasters that have been visited around the planet since 2000: killer heat waves in Europe, wildfires in Australia, and deadly floods in Pakistan…“We are now in an era where climate change isn’t some kind of future hypothetical,” said the leading author of the report, Chris Field of Stanford University. “We live in an area where impacts from climate change are already widespread and consequential.”

“Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick…. the more time passes, the worse it gets. it’s only going to get worse, there is no viable mitigation strategy, there is no way to avoid the worst effects of anthropogenic global warming. industrial civilization will collapse as a result of its continued and ever-increasing destruction of the ecology… Scientists have been told to prepare for 4 to 6 degree temperature rise.  Multiple irreversible non-linear feedback loops have been triggered and cannot be stopped and climate change is ACCELERATING. Changes will happen faster than lifeforms can adapt. Near term extinction is all but assured.” -OSJ

By Suzanna Goldenberg @ The U.K. Guardian:

A United Nations report raised the threat of climate change to a whole new level on Monday, warning of sweeping consequences to life and livelihood.

The report from the UN’s intergovernmental panel on climate change concluded that climate change was already having effects in real time – melting sea ice and thawing permafrost in the Arctic, killing off coral reefs in the oceans, and leading to heat waves, heavy rains and mega-disasters.

And the worst was yet to come. Climate change posed a threat to global food stocks, and to human security, the blockbuster report said.

“Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change,” said Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC.

Monday’s report was the most sobering so far from the UN climate panel and, scientists said, the most definitive. The report – a three year joint effort by more than 300 scientists – grew to 2,600 pages and 32 volumes.

The volume of scientific literature on the effects of climate change has doubled since the last report, and the findings make an increasingly detailed picture of how climate change – in tandem with existing fault lines such as poverty and inequality – poses a much more direct threat to life and livelihood.

This was reflected in the language. The summary mentioned the word “risk” more than 230 times, compared to just over 40 mentions seven years ago, according to a count by the Red Cross.

At the forefront of those risks was the potential for humanitarian crisis. The report catalogued some of the disasters that have been visited around the planet since 2000: killer heat waves in Europe, wildfires in Australia, and deadly floods in Pakistan.

“We are now in an era where climate change isn’t some kind of future hypothetical,” said Chris Field, one of the two main authors of the report.

Those extreme weather events would take a disproportionate toll on poor, weak and elderly people. The scientists said governments did not have systems in place to protect those populations. “This would really be a severe challenge for some of the poorest communities and poorest countries in the world,” said Maggie Opondo, a geographer from the University of Nairobi and one of the authors.

The warning signs about climate change and extreme weather events have been accumulating over time. But this report struck out on relatively new ground by drawing a clear line connecting climate change to food scarcity, and conflict.

The report said climate change had already cut into the global food supply. Global crop yields were beginning to decline – especially for wheat – raising doubts as to whether production could keep up with population growth.

“It has now become evident in some parts of the world that the green revolution has reached a plateau,” Pachauri said.

The future looks even more grim. Under some scenarios, climate change could lead to dramatic drops in global wheat production as well as reductions in maize.

“Climate change is acting as a brake. We need yields to grow to meet growing demand, but already climate change is slowing those yields,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a Princeton professor and an author of the report.

Other food sources are also under threat. Fish catches in some areas of the tropics are projected to fall by between 40% and 60%, according to the report.

The report also connected climate change to rising food prices and political instability, for instance the riots in Asia and Africa after food price shocks in 2008.

“The impacts are already evident in many places in the world. It is not something that is [only] going to happen in the future,” said David Lobell, a professor at Stanford University’s centre for food security, who devised the models.

“Almost everywhere you see the warming effects have a negative affect on wheat and there is a similar story for corn as well. These are not yet enormous effects but they show clearly that the trends are big enough to be important,” Lobell said.

The report acknowledged that there were a few isolated areas where a longer growing season had been good for farming. But it played down the idea that there may be advantages to climate change as far as food production is concerned.

Overall, the report said, “Negative impacts of climate change on crop yields have been more common than positive impacts.” Scientists and campaigners pointed to the finding as a defining feature of the report.

The report also warned for the first time that climate change, combined with poverty and economic shocks, could lead to war and drive people to leave their homes.

With the catalogue of risks, the scientists said they hoped to persuade governments and the public that it was past time to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to plan for sea walls and other infrastructure that offer some protection for climate change.

“The one message that comes out of this is the world has to adapt and the world has to mitigate,” said Pachauri.

10 U.S. Sanctioned Chemical Weapons Attacks Washington Doesn’t Want You To Talk About

In Uncategorized on September 6, 2013 at 10:28 am
10, chemical, weapons, attacks, washington, doesnt, want, you, to, talk, about,

Shaking Hands: Iraqi President Saddam Hussein greets Donald Rumsfeld, then special envoy of President Ronald Reagan, in Baghdad on December 20, 1983.

Oldspeak: ““For the powerful, crimes are those that others commit.” -Noam Chomsky

By Wesley Messamore @ Policy Mic:

Washington doesn’t merely lack the legal authority for a military intervention in Syria. It lacks the moral authority. We’re talking about a government with a history of using chemical weapons against innocent people far more prolific and deadly than the mere accusations Assad faces from a trigger-happy Western military-industrial complex, bent on stifling further investigation before striking.

Here is a list of 10 chemical weapons attacks carried out by the U.S. government or its allies against civilians.

1. The U.S. Military Dumped 20 Million Gallons of Chemicals on Vietnam from 1962 – 1971
10, chemical, weapons, attacks, washington, doesnt, want, you, to, talk, about,

Via: AP

During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military sprayed 20 million gallons of chemicals, including the very toxic Agent Orange, on the forests and farmlands of Vietnam and neighboring countries, deliberately destroying food supplies, shattering the jungle ecology, and ravaging the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Vietnam estimates that as a result of the decade-long chemical attack, 400,000 people were killed or maimed, 500,000 babies have been born with birth defects, and 2 million have suffered from cancer or other illnesses. In 2012, the Red Cross estimated that one million people in Vietnam have disabilities or health problems related to Agent Orange.

2. Israel Attacked Palestinian Civilians with White Phosphorus in 2008 – 2009
10, chemical, weapons, attacks, washington, doesnt, want, you, to, talk, about,

Via: AP

White phosphorus is a horrific incendiary chemical weapon that melts human flesh right down to the bone.

In 2009, multiple human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and International Red Cross reported that the Israeli government was attacking civilians in their own country with chemical weapons. An Amnesty International team claimed to find “indisputable evidence of the widespread use of white phosphorus” as a weapon in densely populated civilian areas. The Israeli military denied the allegations at first, but eventually admitted they were true.

After the string of allegations by these NGOs, the Israeli military even hit a UN headquarters(!) in Gaza with a chemical attack. How do you think all this evidence compares to the case against Syria? Why didn’t Obama try to bomb Israel?

3. Washington Attacked Iraqi Civilians with White Phosphorus in 2004
10, chemical, weapons, attacks, washington, doesnt, want, you, to, talk, about,

Via: AP

In 2004, journalists embedded with the U.S. military in Iraq began reporting the use of white phosphorus in Fallujah against Iraqi insurgents. First the military lied and said that it was only using white phosphorus to create smokescreens or illuminate targets. Then it admitted to using the volatile chemical as an incendiary weapon. At the time, Italian television broadcaster RAI aired a documentary entitled, “Fallujah, The Hidden Massacre,” including grim video footage and photographs, as well as eyewitness interviews with Fallujah residents and U.S. soldiers revealing how the U.S. government indiscriminately rained white chemical fire down on the Iraqi city and melted women and children to death.

4. The CIA Helped Saddam Hussein Massacre Iranians and Kurds with Chemical Weapons in 1988
10, chemical, weapons, attacks, washington, doesnt, want, you, to, talk, about,

CIA records now prove that Washington knew Saddam Hussein was using chemical weapons (including sarin, nerve gas, and mustard gas) in the Iran-Iraq War, yet continued to pour intelligence into the hands of the Iraqi military, informing Hussein of Iranian troop movements while knowing that he would be using the information to launch chemical attacks. At one point in early 1988, Washington warned Hussein of an Iranian troop movement that would have ended the war in a decisive defeat for the Iraqi government. By March an emboldened Hussein with new friends in Washington struck a Kurdish village occupied by Iranian troops with multiple chemical agents, killing as many as 5,000 people and injuring as many as 10,000 more, most of them civilians. Thousands more died in the following years from complications, diseases, and birth defects.

5. The Army Tested Chemicals on Residents of Poor, Black St. Louis Neighborhoods in The 1950s
10, chemical, weapons, attacks, washington, doesnt, want, you, to, talk, about,

In the early 1950s, the Army set up motorized blowers on top of residential high-rises in low-income, mostly black St. Louis neighborhoods, including areas where as much as 70% of the residents were children under 12. The government told residents that it was experimenting with a smokescreen to protect the city from Russian attacks, but it was actually pumping the air full of hundreds of pounds of finely powdered zinc cadmium sulfide. The government admits that there was a second ingredient in the chemical powder, but whether or not that ingredient was radioactive remains classified. Of course it does. Since the tests, an alarming number of the area’s residents have developed cancer. In 1955, Doris Spates was born in one of the buildings the Army used to fill the air with chemicals from 1953 – 1954. Her father died inexplicably that same year, she has seen four siblings die from cancer, and Doris herself is a survivor of cervical cancer.

6. Police Fired Tear Gas at Occupy Protesters in 2011
10, chemical, weapons, attacks, washington, doesnt, want, you, to, talk, about,

The savage violence of the police against Occupy protesters in 2011 was well documented, and included the use of tear gas and other chemical irritants. Tear gas is prohibited for use against enemy soldiers in battle by the Chemical Weapons Convention. Can’t police give civilian protesters in Oakland, California the same courtesy and protection that international law requires for enemy soldiers on a battlefield?

7. The FBI Attacked Men, Women, and Children With Tear Gas in Waco in 1993
10, chemical, weapons, attacks, washington, doesnt, want, you, to, talk, about,

At the infamous Waco siege of a peaceful community of Seventh Day Adventists, the FBI pumped tear gas into buildings knowing that women, children, and babies were inside. The tear gas was highly flammable and ignited, engulfing the buildings in flames and killing 49 men and women, and 27 children, including babies and toddlers. Remember, attacking an armed enemy soldier on a battlefield with tear gas is a war crime. What kind of crime is attacking a baby with tear gas?

8. The U.S. Military Littered Iraq with Toxic Depleted Uranium in 2003
10, chemical, weapons, attacks, washington, doesnt, want, you, to, talk, about,

Via: AP

In Iraq, the U.S. military has littered the environment with thousands of tons of munitions made from depleted uranium, a toxic and radioactive nuclear waste product. As a result, more than half of babies born in Fallujah from 2007 – 2010 were born with birth defects. Some of these defects have never been seen before outside of textbooks with photos of babies born near nuclear tests in the Pacific. Cancer and infant mortality have also seen a dramatic rise in Iraq. According to Christopher Busby, the Scientific Secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk, “These are weapons which have absolutely destroyed the genetic integrity of the population of Iraq.” After authoring two of four reports published in 2012 on the health crisis in Iraq, Busby described Fallujah as having, “the highest rate of genetic damage in any population ever studied.”

9. The U.S. Military Killed Hundreds of Thousands of Japanese Civilians with Napalm from 1944 – 1945
10, chemical, weapons, attacks, washington, doesnt, want, you, to, talk, about,

Napalm is a sticky and highly flammable gel which has been used as a weapon of terror by the U.S. military. In 1980, the UN declared the use of napalm on swaths of civilian population a war crime. That’s exactly what the U.S. military did in World War II, dropping enough napalm in one bombing raid on Tokyo to burn 100,000 people to death, injure a million more, and leave a million without homes in the single deadliest air raid of World War II.

10. The U.S. Government Dropped Nuclear Bombs on Two Japanese Cities in 1945
10, chemical, weapons, attacks, washington, doesnt, want, you, to, talk, about,

Although nuclear bombs may not be considered chemical weapons, I believe we can agree they belong to the same category. They certainly disperse an awful lot of deadly radioactive chemicals. They are every bit as horrifying as chemical weapons if not more, and by their very nature, suitable for only one purpose: wiping out an entire city full of civilians. It seems odd that the only regime to ever use one of these weapons of terror on other human beings has busied itself with the pretense of keeping the world safe from dangerous weapons in the hands of dangerous governments.

How Intelligence Was Twisted To Support A U.S. Attack On Syria

In Uncategorized on September 5, 2013 at 3:26 pm
http://www.truth-out.org/images/images_2013_09/2013_0903sy_.jpg

In a White House handout photo, President Barack Obama meets with his national security staff to discuss the situation in Syria, in the Situation Room of the White House, in Washington, Aug. 31, 2013. (Photo: Pete Souza / The White House via The New York Times)

Oldspeak: “Disregard Obama Administration propaganda passing as an “intelligence estimate”. It’s bullshit. Very similar to the steaming pile of bullshit that was served up as justification for the illegal war of aggression in Iraq. Distorted, doctored, misleading and secret intelligence that cannot be publicly and independently verified. Nonsense visual evidence of chemical weapons use, in which victims exhibit none of the usual signs of exposure to chemical weapons. Physical evidence collected with no clear chain of custody by U.S. friendly “Syrian Opposition” groups. Open contempt for and attempts to discredit and curtail the investigations of U.N. weapons inspectors, pushing for an attack before independently collected and analyzed to determine what kind of chemical was used and who’s it was. We do not know much of anything for certain as our leaders are leading us to believe. Any so-called “definitive” intelligence is classified. So we’re supposed to trust that our leaders, who’ve repeatedly lied through their teeth on a whole host of issues, are sure “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Syria used chemical weapons?! RIIIIIIGHT…. My thing is, this has ZERO to do with the U.S., it is as Representative Alan Grayson said:

Our responsibilities are not to ignore the United Nations. Our responsibilities are not to ignore NATO or the Arab League. Our responsibility is not to ignore the international court of The Hague. Our responsibility is not to make vague remarks about red lines and to follow them up with equally vague remarks about violating international norms, which is a cover for saying that they have—that the Syrians have not violated international laws.

I’m very disturbed by this general idea, this notion, that every time we see something bad in the world, we should bomb it. And, in fact, the president himself has criticized that mindset, and now he’s adopted it. It’s simply not our responsibility to act alone and punish this. I’ll give you an example. There is substantial evidence right now, which the Russians have chosen to actually present to the United Nations, unlike the United States at this point, of the rebels using poison gas. Are we going to bomb both sides?

The Daily Caller reported in great detail that the report that the administration relied upon, in which the administration said that the Assad government must have been involved in this attack and ordered this attack because afterward one of the Assad generals commented on it, well, according to The Daily Caller, the comment was “We didn’t do this,” or words to that effect. And the administration has—if that’s the case, if that was the comment, the administration has completely mischaracterized it.

And, in fact, as far as I can tell, not a single member of Congress has actually seen the underlying document. What’s been provided to us so far is a four-page unclassified document and, if we bother to go down to the bowels of the congressional facility here, a 12-page classified document. But that classified document cites 300 underlying intelligence reports, none of which have been released to any member of Congress, despite the fact that we all have classified clearance. And I indicated that if there is some possibility that the administration is misleading the public regarding any of those 300 documents, then that has to be dispelled. We can’t go to war by mistake again.

We are three weeks away from the government shutting down. We are five weeks away from the government running out of money. And we’ve already spent two weeks engaged in a subject where almost everyone feels it’s simply not our responsibility. I said on MSNBC recently that the entire U.S. government, both Democratic and Republican, seems to be suffering from a very bad case of attention deficit disorder. We’re not showing any ability to focus on the things that actually matter in the lives of our constituents. And it’s not getting better; it’s getting worse.

Getting worse is Iran vowing to support Syria “to the end”. This situation can very quickly escalate from the proxy war it currently is to a regional firestorm. Do we really want to risk wider death and destruction on a war we can’t afford based on unverified evidence to “send a message”? -OSJ

Related Stories:

To Some, U.S. Case For Syrian Gas Attack Has Too Many Holes

Rep. Alan Grayson on Syria: Congress Should Reject “Warmongering” and Focus on Problems at Home

Russia Says it’s Compiled A 100 Page Report Blaming Syrian Rebels For A Chemical Weapons Attack

By Gareth Porter @ Truthout:

Secretary of State John Kerry assured the public that the Obama administration’s summary of the intelligence on which it is basing the case for military action to punish the Assad regime for an alleged use of chemical weapons was put together with an acute awareness of the fiasco of the 2002 Iraq WMD intelligence estimate.

Nevertheless, the unclassified summary of the intelligence assessment made public August 30, 2013, utilizes misleading language evocative of the infamous Iraq estimate’s deceptive phrasing. The summary cites signals, geospatial and human source intelligence that purportedly show that the Syrian government prepared, carried out and “confirmed” a chemical weapons attack on August 21. And it claims visual evidence “consistent with” a nerve gas attack.

But a careful examination of those claims reveals a series of convolutedly worded characterizations of the intelligence that don’t really mean what they appear to say at first glance.

The document displays multiple indications that the integrity of the assessment process was seriously compromised by using language that distorted the intelligence in ways that would justify an attack on Syria.

Spinning the Secret Intelligence

That pattern was particularly clear in the case of the intelligence gathered by covert means. The summary claims, “We intercepted communications involving a senior official intimately familiar with the offensive who confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime on August 21 and was concerned with the U.N. inspectors obtaining evidence.”

That seems to indicate that U.S. intelligence intercepted such communiations. But former British Ambassador Craig Murray has pointed out on his blog August 31 that the Mount Troodos listening post in Cyprus is used by British and U.S. intelligence to monitor “all radio, satellite and microwave traffic across the Middle East … ” and that “almost all landline telephone communications in this region is routed through microwave links at some stage [and] picked up on Troodos.”

All intelligence picked by the Troodos listening post is shared between the U.S. and British intelligence, Murray wrote, but no commmunictions such as the ones described in the U.S. intelligence summary were shared with the British Joint Intelligence Organisation.  Murray said a personal contact in U.S. intelligence had told him the reason was that the purported intercept came from the Israelis. The Israeli origin of the intelligence was reported in the U.S. press as well, because an Israeli source apparently leaked it to a German magazine.

The clumsy attempt to pass off intelligence claimed dubiously by the Israelis as a U.S. intercept raises a major question about the integrity of the entire document. The Israelis have an interest in promoting a U.S. attack on Syria, and the authenticity of the alleged intercept cannot be assumed. Murray believes that it is fraudulent.

But even if the intercept is authentic, the description of it in the intelligence summary appears to be misleading. Another description of the same intercept leaked to The Cable by an administration official suggests that the summary’s description is extremely tendentious. The story described those same communications as an exchange of “panicked phone calls” between a Syrian Defense Ministry official and someone in a chemical weapons unit in which the defense ministry official was “demanding answers for [about?] a nerve agent strike.” That description clearly suggests that the Syrian senior official’s questions were prompted by the charges being made on August 21 by opposition sources in Ghouta. The use of the word “panicked”, which slants the interpretation made by readers of the document, may have been added later by an official eager to make the story more compatible with the administration’s policy.

But the main problem with the description is that it doesn’t answer the most obvious and important question about the conversation: Did the purported chemical weapons officer at the other end of the line say that the regime had used chemical weapons or not? If the officer said that such weapons had been used, that would obviously have been the primary point of the report of the intercept. But the summary assessment does not say that, so the reader can reasonably infer that the officer did not make any such admission. The significance of the intercept is, therefore, that an admission of chemicals weapons use was not made.

The carefully chosen wording of the summary – the ministry official was “concerned with the U.N. inspectors obtaining evidence” – suggests that the official wanted to make sure that UN inspectors would not find evidence of a nerve gas attack. But it could also mean precisely the opposite – that the official wanted the inspectors to be able ascertain that there was no use of chemical weapons by Syrian forces in eastern Ghouta. The latter possibility is bolstered by the fact that the regime agreed within 24 hours of the first formal request on August 24 from UN envoy Angela Kane for unimpeded access to eastern Ghouta. As late as Friday, August 23, the UN Department of Safety and Security had not yet decided to give permission to the UN investigators to go into the area because of uncertainties about their safety.

The intelligence summary makes no effort to explain why the regime promptly granted access to the investigators. Another anomaly: the fact that the UN investigators were already present in Damascus, having been initially requested by the Assad regime to look into a gas attack the regime had charged was carried out by the rebels on March 19. The two-page assessment by the British Joint Intelligence Organisation released August 29, pointed to this question:”There is no obvious political or military trigger,” it said, “for regime use of Chemical War on an apparently larger scale now, particularly given the current presence of the UN investigating team.”

Another obvious case of a misleading description of intelligence in the summary involves information from US geospatial and signals intelligence purporting to show that the Assad regime was preparing for a chemical attack in the three days prior to August 21. The intelligence summary describes the intelligence as follows: “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.”

That seems like damning evidence at first glance. However, despite the use of the term “operating,” the US intelligence had no information about the actual activities of the individual or individuals being tracked through geospatial and signals intelligence. When administration officials leaked the information to CBS news last week, they conceded that the presence of the individual being tracked in the area in question had been viewed at the time as “nothing out of the ordinary.”

Yet, after the August 21 event, the same information was suddenly transformed into “evidence” that supports the official line. The summary refers to “streams of human signals and geospatial intelligence that revealed regime activities that we assessed were associated with preparations for a chemical attack.” Thus the same information that provided no indication of “preparations” was now presented as though it included knowledge of some “activities” somehow related to getting ready for chemical warfare.

A third piece of intelligence cited in the summary – unsourced but presumably from an intelligence agent – might seem to denote the intent to carry out a chemical weapons attack. However, the wording is slippery. “On August 21,” the document says, “a Syrian regime element prepared for a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus area, including through the utilization of gas masks.” That intelligence, if accurate, doesn’t establish an intent by the government to carry out an attack; it could conversely suggest the government’s anticipation of a chemical attack by the rebels. The intelligence’s language is ambiguous; it contains no certainty that the chemical weapons attack for which the regime was preparing was one it intended to initiate itself.

Behind the Uncertainty on “Nerve Gas”

The intelligence summary includes a notable indication that the intelligence community was far from convinced that nerve gas had been used August 21.

The summary said the intelligence community had “high confidence” that the government had carried out a “chemical weapons attack,” and added, “We further assess that the regime used a nerve agent in the attack.” The fact that a separate sentence was used to characterize the assessment of the nerve agent issue and that it did not indicate any level of confidence is a signal that the intelligence community does not have much confidence in the assessment that nerve gas was used, according to a former senior US intelligence official who insisted on anonymity. The former official told Truthout that the choice of wording actually means the intelligence analysts “do not know” if nerve gas was used.

The summary includes yet another sign of the analysts’ lack of confidence that nerve gas was used, which was equally well-disguised. “We have identified one hundred videos attributed to the attack,” it said, “many of which show large numbers of bodies exhibiting physical signs consistent with, but not unique to, nerve agent exposure.” Unless it is read carefully, the use of the word “bodies” – meaning corpses – instead of “victims” might be missed. But why would the intelligence community be focused on how many “bodies” – meaning corpses – exhibit particular “physical signs” when the far more relevant indicator of nerve gas would the number of “victims” exhibiting certain symptoms?

That strange choice averts acknowledgement of a fundamental problem for the intelligence community: Most of the alleged victims being shown in the videos posted online do not show symptoms associated with exposure to nerve agent. Corpses without any sign of wounds, on the other hand, would be “consistent” with a nerve agent attack.

The symptoms of a nerve agent attack are clear-cut: Soon after initial symptoms of tightness of chest, pinpoint pupils and running nose, the victim begins to vomit and to defecate and urinate uncontrollably, followed by twitching and jerking. Ultimately, the victim becomes comatose and suffocates in a series of convulsive spasms. The symptoms shown in dozens of videos of victims being treated in medical centers in Ghouta, however, are quite different. In an interview with Truthout, Dan Kaszeta, a specialist on chemical, biological and radiological weapons who has advised the White House on those issues, pointed out that a nerve gas attack would have been accompanied by a pattern of symptoms that are not shown in the videos posted online. “There should be more or less universal vomiting,” Kaszeta said. But he did not see any vomiting or evidence of such vomiting on the clothing or on the floor in any of the videos he saw. Stephen G. Johnson, a chemical weapons forensics expert at Cranfield University in the United Kingdom, noticed the same thing. “Why aren’t more people vomiting?” he asked Truthout in an interview.

A number of specialists, including Kaszeta and Johnson, also noticed that personnel were shown handling the victims without any special protective clothing but not exhibiting any symptoms themselves. Paula Vanninen, director of the Finnish Institute for Verification of Chemical Weapons, and Gwynn Winfield, the editor of CBRNe World, a magazine specializing in chemical weapons, made the same point in interviews with AFP on August 21. The only evidence of such effects is secondhand at best: Statements issued the following day by both the spokesman for the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army, Khaled Saleh, and the spokesman for its Washington, DC, arm, the Syrian Support Group, said that doctors and “first responders” had reported that they were suffering symptoms of neurotoxic poisoning. Saleh claimed that at least six doctors had died.

Experts noticed yet another anomaly: The number of those treated who survived far outnumbered the dead, contrary to what would be expected in a nerve gas attack. Dr. Ghazwan Bwidany told CBS news August 24 that his mobile medical unit had treated 900 people after the attack and that 70 had died. Medecins Sans Frontieres reported that 3,600 patients had been treated at hospitals in the area of the attack and that 355 had died. Such ratios of survivors to dead were the opposite of what chemical weapons specialists would have expected from a nerve gas attack. Kaszeta told Truthout that the “most nagging doubt” he had about the assumption that a nerve gas attack had taken place is the roughly 10-to-1 ratio of total number treated to the dead. “The proportions are all wrong,” he said. “There should be more dead people.” Johnson agreed. In an actual nerve gas attack, he said, “You’d get some survivors, but it would be very low. This [is] a very low level of lethality.”

These multiple anomalies prompted some specialists to come up with the theory that the government had somehow diluted the nerve gas to make it less detectable and thus made it less lethal. Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a former commander of the chemical biological and nuclear terrorism unit in the UK Ministry of Defense, told USA Today August 23 that the absence of symptoms associated with nerve gas attack might be explainable by a “low dose” chemical weapons attack.

Three days later, Winfield wrote in an article for CNN that the symptoms seen in the videos indicated “lower toxicity” than was associated with nerve agents. Winfield suggested that nerve agent might have been mixed with other substances that were likely to remain in the environment longer than a nerve agent such as sarin.

But Kaszeta cast doubt on the idea of a “low dose” nerve agent being used. In an interview with blogger Eliot Higgins, who specializes in weapons associated with the Syrian conflict under the name Brown Moses, he said, “There’s not much leeway between the incapacitating doses and lethal doses with Sarin.” The concentration causing any symptoms at all, he said, “would quickly lead to absorption of a lethal dose.”

Case Not Closed

If it wasn’t a nerve gas attack, then, what other chemical weapon could have produced the symptoms exhibited in the videos? In an analysis on the Strongpoint Security website, Kaszeta considered each known type of chemical weapon in turn and concluded that the symptoms exhibited in the videos were not consistent with those associated with any of them. And as Kaszeta told the Israeli daily Ha’aretz, the fact that none of the people treating casualties were suffering obvious symptoms “would seem to rule out most types of military-grade chemical weapons. … “

Instead of addressing the issue, the intelligence community opted to accept information about the numbers and the cause of death provided by sources that were presumably subject to the influence of opposition forces in the area. The intelligence summary cites a “preliminary U.S. government assessment” that 1,429 people were killed by chemical weapons, including “at least 426 children.” It provides no indication of how the analysts arrived at such a precise estimate, which is highly unusual for an intelligence assessment. The normal practice in arriving at such an estimate is to give a range of figures reflecting different data sources as well as assumptions.

The intelligence community’s main center for analyzing all issues relating to weapons of mass destruction is the CIA’s Office of Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation and Arms Control (WINPAC) Center. It is the same center that tilted the 2002 Iraq estimate toward conclusions that were not supported by technical facts. As the Robb-Silverman report on the Iraq WMD intelligence fiasco pointed out, intelligence analysts at WINPAC explained to the staff privately that they had reversed the normal intelligence analysis burden of proof and operated on the assumption that Iraq did have WMD programs.

That dynamic seems to have re-emerged in the case of Syrian chemical weapons, especially with the appearance of hundreds of videos containing highly emotive scenes of children suffering and, in many cases, already having died. The contradiction between the emotionally charged visual evidence and the technical analysis by chemical weapons specialists, however, poses an unresolved issue. The uncertainty about what actually happened on August 21 can be resolved only on the basis of actual blood samples from victims who have been gathered by the UN inspectors and are now being analyzed in European laboratories.

Both Médecins Sans Frontières and Human Rights Watch issued statements citing statistics and descriptions of symptoms provided by local medical personnel and, in the case of Human Rights Watch, local activists and other contacts. However Human Rights Watch acting Middle East Director Joe Stork stated, “The only way to find out what really happened in Ghouta is let the UN inspectors in.”

Médecins Sans Frontières made it clear in its original August 24 statement that it could not confirm the figure of 3,600 patients with “neurotoxic symptoms,” because its own staff did not have access to the medical facilities in question. And in an August 28 statement, the organization said scientific confirmation of the toxic agent was required, and that the data it had been given could not be a “substitute for the [UN] investigation.”

But the advocates of an attack on Syria within the Obama administration have not demonstrated a willingness to rely on the definitive evidence from the UN investigators. Instead, they have evinced a strong hostility toward the UN investigation ever since the Syrian government agreed to allow it unimpeded access to the locations where chemical attacks were alleged. National Security Adviser Susan Rice sent an e-mail to key officials August 25 asserting that the UN investigation was pointless.

Since then, administration officials have dismissed the UN investigation as representing a Syrian political tactic. Kerry claimed in his statement Friday that when the UN inspections were “finally given access, that access – as we now know – was restricted and controlled.”

But Farhan Haq, the associate spokesperson for Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who has been getting regular reports from the UN team on its work in Syria, told Truthout that he was unaware of any restrictions on the team’s work.

The Obama administration has made it clear it does not intend to rely on the UN investigation’s findings. Kerry declared on Sunday that samples of blood and hair from medical personnel in eastern Ghouta had been found to contain traces of sarin nerve gas.

However, those samples did not go through the UN investigators, but were smuggled out of Syria by opposition activists. The spokesman for the Free Syrian Army’s Supreme National Council, Khaled Saleh, had announced August 22 that “activists” had collected their own hair, blood and soil samples and were smuggling them out of the country.

The Obama administration had obtained physiological samples related to previous alleged nerve gas attacks, which had tested positive for sarin, but administration officials had insisted that, without being certain of the chain of custody, “they couldn’t be sure who had handled those samples,” as one official put it.

Despite the knowledge that samples lacking a clear chain of custody could have been tampered with, however, the administration began to disregard that key factor in June. It adopted a policy of accepting such samples as evidence of government guilt, on the argument, as one official explained, “It’s impossible that the opposition is faking the stuff in so many instances in so many locations.”

That policy shift is part of the undeclared framework in which the intelligence assessment was carried out.

Regardless of what evidence emerges in coming weeks, we would do well to note the inconsistencies and misleading language contained in the assessment, bearing in mind the consequences of utilizing ambiguous intelligence to justify an act of war.

Secretary of State John Kerry assured the public that the Obama administration’s summary of the intelligence on which it is basing the case for military action to punish the Assad regime for an alleged use of chemical weapons was put together with an acute awareness of the fiasco of the 2002 Iraq WMD intelligence estimate.  

Nevertheless, the unclassified summary of the intelligence assessment made public August 30, 2013, utilizes misleading language evocative of the infamous Iraq estimate’s deceptive phrasing. The summary cites signals, geospatial and human source intelligence that purportedly show that the Syrian government prepared, carried out and “confirmed” a chemical weapons attack on August 21. And it claims visual evidence “consistent with” a nerve gas attack.  

But a careful examination of those claims reveals a series of convolutedly worded characterizations of the intelligence that don’t really mean what they appear to say at first glance.  

The document displays multiple indications that the integrity of the assessment process was seriously compromised by using language that distorted the intelligence in ways that would justify an attack on Syria.

Spinning the Secret Intelligence

That pattern was particularly clear in the case of the intelligence gathered by covert means. The summary claims, “We intercepted communications involving a senior official intimately familiar with the offensive who confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime on August 21 and was concerned with the U.N. inspectors obtaining evidence.”

That seems to indicate that U.S. intelligence intercepted such communiations. But former British Ambassador Craig Murray has pointed out on his blog August 31 that the Mount Troodos listening post in Cyprus is used by British and U.S. intelligence to monitor “all radio, satellite and microwave traffic across the Middle East … ” and that “almost all landline telephone communications in this region is routed through microwave links at some stage [and] picked up on Troodos.”

All intelligence picked by the Troodos listening post is shared between the U.S. and British intelligence, Murray wrote, but no commmunictions such as the ones described in the U.S. intelligence summary were shared with the British Joint Intelligence Organisation.  Murray said a personal contact in U.S. intelligence had told him the reason was that the purported intercept came from the Israelis. The Israeli origin of the intelligence was reported in the U.S. press as well, because an Israeli source apparently leaked it to a German magazine.

The clumsy attempt to pass off intelligence claimed dubiously by the Israelis as a U.S. intercept raises a major question about the integrity of the entire document. The Israelis have an interest in promoting a U.S. attack on Syria, and the authenticity of the alleged intercept cannot be assumed. Murray believes that it is fraudulent.

But even if the intercept is authentic, the description of it in the intelligence summary appears to be misleading. Another description of the same intercept leaked to The Cable by an administration official suggests that the summary’s description is extremely tendentious. The story described those same communications as an exchange of “panicked phone calls” between a Syrian Defense Ministry official and someone in a chemical weapons unit in which the defense ministry official was “demanding answers for [about?] a nerve agent strike.” That description clearly suggests that the Syrian senior official’s questions were prompted by the charges being made on August 21 by opposition sources in Ghouta. The use of the word “panicked”, which slants the interpretation made by readers of the document, may have been added later by an official eager to make the story more compatible with the administration’s policy.

But the main problem with the description is that it doesn’t answer the most obvious and important question about the conversation: Did the purported chemical weapons officer at the other end of the line say that the regime had used chemical weapons or not? If the officer said that such weapons had been used, that would obviously have been the primary point of the report of the intercept. But the summary assessment does not say that, so the reader can reasonably infer that the officer did not make any such admission. The significance of the intercept is, therefore, that an admission of chemicals weapons use was not made.

The carefully chosen wording of the summary – the ministry official was “concerned with the U.N. inspectors obtaining evidence” – suggests that the official wanted to make sure that UN inspectors would not find evidence of a nerve gas attack. But it could also mean precisely the opposite – that the official wanted the inspectors to be able ascertain that there was no use of chemical weapons by Syrian forces in eastern Ghouta. The latter possibility is bolstered by the fact that the regime agreed within 24 hours of the first formal request on August 24 from UN envoy Angela Kane for unimpeded access to eastern Ghouta. As late as Friday, August 23, the UN Department of Safety and Security had not yet decided to give permission to the UN investigators to go into the area because of uncertainties about their safety.

The intelligence summary makes no effort to explain why the regime promptly granted access to the investigators. Another anomaly: the fact that the UN investigators were already present in Damascus, having been initially requested by the Assad regime to look into a gas attack the regime had charged was carried out by the rebels on March 19. The two-page assessment by the British Joint Intelligence Organisation released August 29, pointed to this question:”There is no obvious political or military trigger,” it said, “for regime use of Chemical War on an apparently larger scale now, particularly given the current presence of the UN investigating team.”

Another obvious case of a misleading description of intelligence in the summary involves information from US geospatial and signals intelligence purporting to show that the Assad regime was preparing for a chemical attack in the three days prior to August 21. The intelligence summary describes the intelligence as follows: “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.”  

That seems like damning evidence at first glance. However, despite the use of the term “operating,” the US intelligence had no information about the actual activities of the individual or individuals being tracked through geospatial and signals intelligence. When administration officials leaked the information to CBS news last week, they conceded that the presence of the individual being tracked in the area in question had been viewed at the time as “nothing out of the ordinary.

Yet, after the August 21 event, the same information was suddenly transformed into “evidence” that supports the official line. The summary refers to “streams of human signals and geospatial intelligence that revealed regime activities that we assessed were associated with preparations for a chemical attack.” Thus the same information that provided no indication of “preparations” was now presented as though it included knowledge of some “activities” somehow related to getting ready for chemical warfare.  

A third piece of intelligence cited in the summary – unsourced but presumably from an intelligence agent – might seem to denote the intent to carry out a chemical weapons attack. However, the wording is slippery. “On August 21,” the document says, “a Syrian regime element prepared for a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus area, including through the utilization of gas masks.” That intelligence, if accurate, doesn’t establish an intent by the government to carry out an attack; it could conversely suggest the government’s anticipation of a chemical attack by the rebels. The intelligence’s language is ambiguous; it contains no certainty that the chemical weapons attack for which the regime was preparing was one it intended to initiate itself.

Behind the Uncertainty on “Nerve Gas” 

The intelligence summary includes a notable indication that the intelligence community was far from convinced that nerve gas had been used August 21.  

The summary said the intelligence community had “high confidence” that the government had carried out a “chemical weapons attack,” and added, “We further assess that the regime used a nerve agent in the attack.” The fact that a separate sentence was used to characterize the assessment of the nerve agent issue and that it did not indicate any level of confidence is a signal that the intelligence community does not have much confidence in the assessment that nerve gas was used, according to a former senior US intelligence official who insisted on anonymity. The former official told Truthout that the choice of wording actually means the intelligence analysts “do not know” if nerve gas was used.  

The summary includes yet another sign of the analysts’ lack of confidence that nerve gas was used, which was equally well-disguised. “We have identified one hundred videos attributed to the attack,” it said, “many of which show large numbers of bodies exhibiting physical signs consistent with, but not unique to, nerve agent exposure.” Unless it is read carefully, the use of the word “bodies” – meaning corpses – instead of “victims” might be missed. But why would the intelligence community be focused on how many “bodies” – meaning corpses – exhibit particular “physical signs” when the far more relevant indicator of nerve gas would the number of “victims” exhibiting certain symptoms?  

That strange choice averts acknowledgement of a fundamental problem for the intelligence community: Most of the alleged victims being shown in the videos posted online do not show symptoms associated with exposure to nerve agent. Corpses without any sign of wounds, on the other hand, would be “consistent” with a nerve agent attack.  

The symptoms of a nerve agent attack are clear-cut: Soon after initial symptoms of tightness of chest, pinpoint pupils and running nose, the victim begins to vomit and to defecate and urinate uncontrollably, followed by twitching and jerking. Ultimately, the victim becomes comatose and suffocates in a series of convulsive spasms. The symptoms shown in dozens of videos of victims being treated in medical centers in Ghouta, however, are quite different. In an interview with Truthout, Dan Kaszeta, a specialist on chemical, biological and radiological weapons who has advised the White House on those issues, pointed out that a nerve gas attack would have been accompanied by a pattern of symptoms that are not shown in the videos posted online. “There should be more or less universal vomiting,” Kaszeta said. But he did not see any vomiting or evidence of such vomiting on the clothing or on the floor in any of the videos he saw. Stephen G. Johnson, a chemical weapons forensics expert at Cranfield University in the United Kingdom, noticed the same thing. “Why aren’t more people vomiting?” he asked Truthout in an interview.  

A number of specialists, including Kaszeta and Johnson, also noticed that personnel were shown handling the victims without any special protective clothing but not exhibiting any symptoms themselves. Paula Vanninen, director of the Finnish Institute for Verification of Chemical Weapons, and Gwynn Winfield, the editor of CBRNe World, a magazine specializing in chemical weapons, made the same point in interviews with AFP on August 21. The only evidence of such effects is secondhand at best: Statements issued the following day by both the spokesman for the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army, Khaled Saleh, and the spokesman for its Washington, DC, arm, the Syrian Support Group, said that doctors and “first responders” had reported that they were suffering symptoms of neurotoxic poisoning. Saleh claimed that at least six doctors had died. 

Experts noticed yet another anomaly: The number of those treated who survived far outnumbered the dead, contrary to what would be expected in a nerve gas attack. Dr. Ghazwan Bwidany told CBS news August 24 that his mobile medical unit had treated 900 people after the attack and that 70 had died. Medecins Sans Frontieres reported that 3,600 patients had been treated at hospitals in the area of the attack and that 355 had died. Such ratios of survivors to dead were the opposite of what chemical weapons specialists would have expected from a nerve gas attack. Kaszeta told Truthout that the “most nagging doubt” he had about the assumption that a nerve gas attack had taken place is the roughly 10-to-1 ratio of total number treated to the dead. “The proportions are all wrong,” he said. “There should be more dead people.” Johnson agreed. In an actual nerve gas attack, he said, “You’d get some survivors, but it would be very low. This [is] a very low level of lethality.”

These multiple anomalies prompted some specialists to come up with the theory that the government had somehow diluted the nerve gas to make it less detectable and thus made it less lethal. Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a former commander of the chemical biological and nuclear terrorism unit in the UK Ministry of Defense, told USA Today August 23 that the absence of symptoms associated with nerve gas attack might be explainable by a “low dose” chemical weapons attack.  

Three days later, Winfield wrote in an article for CNN that the symptoms seen in the videos indicated “lower toxicity” than was associated with nerve agents. Winfield suggested that nerve agent might have been mixed with other substances that were likely to remain in the environment longer than a nerve agent such as sarin. 

But Kaszeta cast doubt on the idea of a “low dose” nerve agent being used. In an interview with blogger Eliot Higgins, who specializes in weapons associated with the Syrian conflict under the name Brown Moses, he said, “There’s not much leeway between the incapacitating doses and lethal doses with Sarin.” The concentration causing any symptoms at all, he said, “would quickly lead to absorption of a lethal dose.” 

Case Not Closed 

If it wasn’t a nerve gas attack, then, what other chemical weapon could have produced the symptoms exhibited in the videos? In an analysis on the Strongpoint Security website, Kaszeta considered each known type of chemical weapon in turn and concluded that the symptoms exhibited in the videos were not consistent with those associated with any of them. And as Kaszeta told the Israeli daily Ha’aretz, the fact that none of the people treating casualties were suffering obvious symptoms “would seem to rule out most types of military-grade chemical weapons. … “ 

Instead of addressing the issue, the intelligence community opted to accept information about the numbers and the cause of death provided by sources that were presumably subject to the influence of opposition forces in the area. The intelligence summary cites a “preliminary U.S. government assessment” that 1,429 people were killed by chemical weapons, including “at least 426 children.” It provides no indication of how the analysts arrived at such a precise estimate, which is highly unusual for an intelligence assessment. The normal practice in arriving at such an estimate is to give a range of figures reflecting different data sources as well as assumptions.

The intelligence community’s main center for analyzing all issues relating to weapons of mass destruction is the CIA’s Office of Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation and Arms Control (WINPAC) Center. It is the same center that tilted the 2002 Iraq estimate toward conclusions that were not supported by technical facts. As the Robb-Silverman report on the Iraq WMD intelligence fiasco pointed out, intelligence analysts at WINPAC explained to the staff privately that they had reversed the normal intelligence analysis burden of proof and operated on the assumption that Iraq did have WMD programs.

That dynamic seems to have re-emerged in the case of Syrian chemical weapons, especially with the appearance of hundreds of videos containing highly emotive scenes of children suffering and, in many cases, already having died. The contradiction between the emotionally charged visual evidence and the technical analysis by chemical weapons specialists, however, poses an unresolved issue. The uncertainty about what actually happened on August 21 can be resolved only on the basis of actual blood samples from victims who have been gathered by the UN inspectors and are now being analyzed in European laboratories.

Both Médecins Sans Frontières and Human Rights Watch issued statements citing statistics and descriptions of symptoms provided by local medical personnel and, in the case of Human Rights Watch, local activists and other contacts. However Human Rights Watch acting Middle East Director Joe Stork stated, “The only way to find out what really happened in Ghouta is let the UN inspectors in.”

Médecins Sans Frontières made it clear in its original August 24 statement that it could not confirm the figure of 3,600 patients with “neurotoxic symptoms,” because its own staff did not have access to the medical facilities in question. And in an August 28 statement, the organization said scientific confirmation of the toxic agent was required, and that the data it had been given could not be a “substitute for the [UN] investigation.”

But the advocates of an attack on Syria within the Obama administration have not demonstrated a willingness to rely on the definitive evidence from the UN investigators. Instead, they have evinced a strong hostility toward the UN investigation ever since the Syrian government agreed to allow it unimpeded access to the locations where chemical attacks were alleged. National Security Adviser Susan Rice sent an e-mail to key officials August 25 asserting that the UN investigation was pointless.

Since then, administration officials have dismissed the UN investigation as representing a Syrian political tactic. Kerry claimed in his statement Friday that when the UN inspections were “finally given access, that access – as we now know – was restricted and controlled.”  

But Farhan Haq, the associate spokesperson for Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who has been getting regular reports from the UN team on its work in Syria, told Truthout that he was unaware of any restrictions on the team’s work.

The Obama administration has made it clear it does not intend to rely on the UN investigation’s findings. Kerry declared on Sunday that samples of blood and hair from medical personnel in eastern Ghouta had been found to contain traces of sarin nerve gas.

However, those samples did not go through the UN investigators, but were smuggled out of Syria by opposition activists. The spokesman for the Free Syrian Army’s Supreme National Council, Khaled Saleh, had announced August 22 that “activists” had collected their own hair, blood and soil samples and were smuggling them out of the country.

The Obama administration had obtained physiological samples related to previous alleged nerve gas attacks, which had tested positive for sarin, but administration officials had insisted that, without being certain of the chain of custody, “they couldn’t be sure who had handled those samples,” as one official put it.

Despite the knowledge that samples lacking a clear chain of custody could have been tampered with, however, the administration began to disregard that key factor in June. It adopted a policy of accepting such samples as evidence of government guilt, on the argument, as one official explained, “It’s impossible that the opposition is faking the stuff in so many instances in so many locations.”

That policy shift is part of the undeclared framework in which the intelligence assessment was carried out.

Regardless of what evidence emerges in coming weeks, we would do well to note the inconsistencies and misleading language contained in the assessment, bearing in mind the consequences of utilizing ambiguous intelligence to justify an act of war.

International Community, U.N. Remain Silent On Ethnic Cleansing Of Muslims by Buddists In Myanmar

In Uncategorized on July 20, 2012 at 8:26 pm

http://salem-news.com/stimg/july192012/myanmar.jpg

Oldspeak: ” Minority Rohingya population is being beaten, raped and killed by security forces and Rakhine Buddhists. They [international organizations and UN] have never broken their silence or provided a single piece of information about what is going on there… this is a very clear sign that this work is the work of those the powerful that might is right; if you are mighty you give yourself the right to raise the issues that you want and you do not talk about the issues that do not boil down to your interests,” -Ibrahim Mousawi While corporate media work faithfully to play up the civil war in Syria to provide pretext for invasion and regime change, Muslims are being murdered by the scores in Myanmar. All while U.S. and it’s western allies continue strengthen military ties and Wall St and the IMF invest in this murderous and tyrannical regime.  The politics of naming is always whimsical…

Related Video:

Ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Burma by Buddhists

By UK Guardian/AP:

Communal violence is continuing in western Burma six weeks after the government declared a state of emergency, with much of it directed at minority Muslim Rohingyas who have been beaten, raped and killed, Amnesty International has claimed.

The rights group accused both security forces and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists of carrying out fresh attacks against Rohingyas, who are regarded as foreigners by the ethnic majority and denied citizenship by the government because it considers them illegal settlers from neighbouring Bangladesh.

After a series of isolated killings starting in late May, bloody skirmishes spread quickly across much of Burma’s coastal Rakhine state.

The government declared a state of emergency on 10 June, deploying troops to quell the unrest and protect both mosques and monasteries. Authorities said at least 78 people had been killed and thousands of homes of both Buddhists and Muslims either burned down or destroyed.

Since then, communal violence has continued, albeit at reduced intensity. Amnesty said attacks were now being directed mostly at the Rohingya population.

Violence in the past six weeks has been “primarily one-sided, with Muslims generally and Rohingyas specifically the targets and victims”, Benjamin Zawacki, a Bangkok-based researcher for Amnesty, told the Associated Press. “Some of this is by the security forces’ own hands, some by Rakhine Buddhists, with the security forces turning a blind eye in some cases.”

Officials from Burma’s government could not immediately be reached for comment.

Amnesty also said security forces, including the police and the army, had detained hundreds of Rohingyas.

“While the restoration of order, security, and the protection of human rights is necessary, most arrests appear to have been arbitrary and discriminatory, violating the rights to liberty and to freedom from discrimination on grounds of religion,” Amnesty said in a statement.

The violence, which reached its bloodiest point in June, constituted some of the country’s deadliest sectarian bloodshed in years and raised international concerns about the fate of the Rohingyas inside Burma.

The Burmese president, Thein Sein, said earlier this month the solution to ethnic enmity in Rakhine state was to either send the Rohingyas to a third country or have the United Nations refugee agency look after them. The UNHCR chief, Antonio Guterres, said, however, it was not his agency’s job to resettle the Rohingyas.

Many people in Burma do not recognise Rohingyas as legitimate settlers – even those of Bengali heritage who came in the 19th century when the country was under British rule. The exodus of Rohingyas to Bangladesh in the 1980s and 1990s because of persecution, and their subsequent return, has added to the confusion over who among them are illegal immigrants.

Bangladesh also denies the Rohingyas citizenship, arguing that they have been living in Burma for centuries and should be recognised as citizens there instead.

The UN estimates that 800,000 Rohingyas live in Burma. Thousands attempt to flee every year to Bangladesh, Malaysia and elsewhere, trying to escape a life of abuse that rights groups say includes forced labour, violence against women and restrictions on movement, marriage and reproduction that breed anger and resentment.

Amnesty called on Burma to accept Rohingyas as citizens, something the government has staunchly opposed because it does not consider them an ethnic group native to Burma.

“Under international human rights law and standards, no one may be left or rendered stateless,” Zawacki said. “For too long Myanmar’s [Burma's] human rights record has been marred by the continued denial of citizenship for Rohingyas and a host of discriminatory practices against them.”

International Community And UN keep Silent On Myanmar massacre: Analyst

By PressTV:

They [international organizations and UN] have never broken their silence or provided a single piece of information about what is going on there… this is a very clear sign that this work is the work of those the powerful that might is right; if you are mighty you give yourself the right to raise the issues that you want and you do not talk about the issues that do not boil down to your interests,” Ibrahim Mousawi told Press TV on Friday.

He also added that people all around the world should voice their anger at the mass slaughter of the minority Muslim group in Myanmar and “tell the whole world they do not agree with the silence of their governments” over the matter.

The government of Myanmar refuses to recognize Rohingyas, who it claims are not natives and classifies as illegal migrants, although the Rohingya are said to be Muslim descendants of Persian, Turkish, Bengali, and Pathan origin, who migrated to Burma as early as the 8th century.

The UN says decades of discrimination have left the Rohingyas stateless, with Myanmar implementing restrictions on their movement and withholding land rights, education and public services.

Reports say 650 Rohingya Muslims were killed as of June 28 alone during clashes in the western region of Rakhine. This is while 1,200 others are missing and 80,000 more have been displaced.

Referring to the acts of violence committed against Muslims in the southeastern Asian country, the analyst added that “this is a matter of racial [prejudice], this is a matter of religious prejudice… The [Myanmar’s] authorities they don’t want to have more Muslims there, we all know that; this is something that has to do with religious backgrounds and with ethnic cleansing.”

This is while even Myanmar’s democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi has kept quiet on the atrocities committed against the Rohingya Muslims.

Ironically, just days after she received a peace prize, Suu Kyi told reporters she did not know if Rohingyas were ‘Burmese’.

 

Obama Speeds Up Preparations For Air Strikes, No-Fly Zone, As U.S., Russia Split War-Torn Syria Into Spheres Of Influence

In Uncategorized on June 12, 2012 at 7:37 pm

Image Detail

Oldspeak:“War #7 is imminent.  “US President Barack Obama has ordered the US Navy and Air Force to accelerate preparations for a limited air offensive against the Assad regime and the imposition of no-fly zones over Syria” The script is remarkably similar to the one used in Libya & Iraq.  Insert U.S. backed, foreign-born “revolutionaries” and clandestinely funnel financial and military support to native dissident militant groups to instigate a civil war with the regime to be changed. Play up alleged atrocities committed by the regime in media, to provide pretext for the coming invasion/coup de etat. Play up condemnations of the dictator to be removed by the “international community”. After invasion, insert military dictatorship/puppet regime obedient to U.S. interests. Divvy up “reconstruction” and resource extraction contracts among American/European corporations. Appropriation complete. The Russians held out giving their blessing long enough to ensure they’d retain control over at least a portion of their client state.”

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U.S. Secretly Backed Syrian Opposition Groups, Wikileaks Cables Show

The Truth Behind The Coming “Regime Change” In Syria

 

By DebkaFile:

US President Barack Obama has ordered the US Navy and Air Force to accelerate preparations for a limited air offensive against the Assad regime and the imposition of no-fly zones over Syria, debkafile reports. Their mission will be to knock out Assad’s central regime and military command centers so as to shake regime stability and restrict Syrian army and air force activity for subduing rebel action and wreaking violence on civilian populations.

Debkafile’s sources disclose that the US President decided on this step after hearing Russian officials stating repeatedly that “Moscow would support the departure of President Bashar al-Assad if Syrians agreed to it.”  This position was interpreted as opening up two paths of action:

1.  To go for Assad’s removal by stepping up arms supplies to the rebels and organizing their forces as a professional force able to take on the military units loyal to Assad. This process was already in evidence Friday, June 8, when for the first time a Syrian Free Army (which numbers some 600 men under arms) attacked a Syrian army battalion in Damascus. One of its targets was a bus carrying Russian specialists.

2.  To select a group of high army officers who, under the pressure of the limited air offensive, would be ready to ease Assad out of power or stage a military coup to force him and his family to accept exile.

The US operation would be modulated according to the way political and military events unfolded.
Washington is not sure how Moscow would react aside from sharp condemnations or whether Russia would accept a process of regime change in Damascus and its replacement by military rule.

Syria is being further wrenched apart as a result of US President Barack Obama’s maneuverings for winning Russian cooperation in resolving the Syrian conflict for US concessions in the nuclear controversy with Iran: As the coming DEBKA-Net-Weekly out Friday reveals, Russia is cementing its grip on Syria’s Mediterranean coast while pushing its civil war-torn heartland over to the Americans.

To spoil the Russian game, the US hopes to draw Damascus into the Syrian revolt, a goal only achievable with air force aid.

US Accelerates Preparations For ‘no-fly zone’ In Syria

By RT:

The United States may soon take on a formal role in the Syrian uprising after reports surfaced this week that suggest the White House wants an air offensive targeting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

After over a year of unrest in Syria, Israel’s Debka news agency reports that US President Barack Obama has asked the US Navy and Air Force to accelerate plans that would aid in the ousting of Assad. According to their sources, President Obama hopes that by initiating a temporary air strike in locales instrumental to the Syrian government, the US may be able to decimate Assad’s control by attacking his regime’s military command centers.

The US would call for a no-fly zone over Syria, reports Debka, then send their own personnel to strike Assad-aligned targets.

Murmurings of the latest plans out of Washington come less than two weeks after Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) called for the implementation of a no-fly zone. Speaking to reporters last month, Sen. Graham said that ousting Assad from control in Syria is much more crucial for America’s interests than the issue of Libya; last year the US aided in the removal of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi from Libyan rule.

“Compared to Libya, the strategic upside of taking out (Syrian President Bashar) Assad is far greater,” said Graham, who currently sits on the US Senate Committee of Armed Services. “We’ve used force to stop slaughter less strategic and egregious than this.”

Debka’s reports also come days after White House Press Secretary Jay Carney confirmed that, in terms of US involvement in Syria,“military action is always an option,” although he added, “We do not believe that … further militarization of the situation in Syria at this point is the right course of action.” Less than two weeks later, however, the White House may have already changed their stance.

According to Debka, Washington’s rumored change of heart may have something to do with reports out of Russia. Sources speaking with the news agency say that US President Obama asked for an accelerated attack on Syria’s leaders after hearing Russian officials allegedly say, “Moscow would support the departure of President Bashar al-Assad if Syrians agreed to it.”

Debka adds that, to carry out the plan, the US will equip Syrian rebels with military supplies so that they could out attack Assad’s regime on the ground after an American-led airstrikes. It is believed that Assad’s government is currently using unmanned surveillance air drones to patrol the countryside for rebel forces only to then order strikes targeted them.

 

 

 

U.S. Secretly Backed Syrian Opposition Groups, Wikileaks Cables Show

In Uncategorized on August 5, 2011 at 10:08 am

Syrian anti-government protesters march in Banias, Syria. The Arabic banner at center reads: "All of us would die for our country.”

Oldspeak:”While the drumbeat for “intervention” in Syria is played up in corporate media with the pretext of concerns about a “deteriorating humanitarian situation”, understand that all is not what it seems. We’ve seen this movie before. Just as in Libya, the U.S. has bankrolled the “opposition” surreptitiously, with the objective as in Libya being regime change and oil appropriation. You should also understand that this development is part of a grand plan devised long before the “Arab Spring” started to flow. “The Matrix is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.” While the “Grand Area” doctrine is relentlessly pursued, 1 in 5 Americans are on food stamps and/or unemployed. “Ignorance is Strength

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Syrian opposition accuses UN of ‘moment of shame’ over resolution

By Craig Whitlock @ The Washington Post:

Published: April 17 2011

The State Department has secretly financed Syrian political opposition groups and related projects, including a satellite TV channel that beams anti-government programming into the country, according to previously undisclosed diplomatic cables.

The London-based satellite channel, Barada TV, began broadcasting in April 2009 but has ramped up operations to cover the mass protests in Syria as part of a long-standing campaign to overthrow the country’s autocratic leader, Bashar al-Assad. Human rights groups say scores of people have been killed by Assad’s security forces since the demonstrations began March 18; Syria has blamed the violence on “armed gangs.”

Barada TV is closely affiliated with the Movement for Justice and Development, a London-based network of Syrian exiles. Classified U.S. diplomatic cables show that the State Department has funneled as much as $6 million to the group since 2006 to operate the satellite channel and finance other activities inside Syria. The channel is named after the Barada River, which courses through the heart of Damascus, the Syrian capital.

The U.S. money for Syrian opposition figures began flowing under President George W. Bush after he effectively froze political ties with Damascus in 2005. The financial backing has continued under President Obama, even as his administration sought to rebuild relations with Assad. In January, the White House posted an ambassador to Damascus for the first time in six years.

The cables, provided by the anti-secrecy Web site WikiLeaks, show that U.S. Embassy officials in Damascus became worried in 2009 when they learned that Syrian intelligence agents were raising questions about U.S. programs. Some embassy officials suggested that the State Department reconsider its involvement, arguing that it could put the Obama administration’s rapprochement with Damascus at risk.

Syrian authorities “would undoubtedly view any U.S. funds going to illegal political groups as tantamount to supporting regime change,” read an April 2009 cablesigned by the top-ranking U.S. diplomat in Damascus at the time. “A reassessment of current U.S.-sponsored programming that supports anti-[government] factions, both inside and outside Syria, may prove productive,” the cable said.

It is unclear whether the State Department is still funding Syrian opposition groups, but the cables indicate money was set aside at least through September 2010. While some of that money has also supported programs and dissidents inside Syria, The Washington Post is withholding certain names and program details at the request of the State Department, which said disclosure could endanger the recipients’ personal safety.

Syria, a police state, has been ruled by Assad since 2000, when he took power after his father’s death. Although the White House has condemned the killing of protesters in Syria, it has not explicitly called for his ouster.

The State Department declined to comment on the authenticity of the cables or answer questions about its funding of Barada TV.

Tamara Wittes, a deputy assistant secretary of state who oversees the democracy and human rights portfolio in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, said the State Department does not endorse political parties or movements.
“We back a set of principles,” she said. “There are a lot of organizations in Syria and other countries that are seeking changes from their government. That’s an agenda that we believe in and we’re going to support.”

The State Department often funds programs around the world that promote democratic ideals and human rights, but it usually draws the line at giving money to political opposition groups.

In February 2006, when relations with Damascus were at a nadir, the Bush administration announced that it would award $5 million in grants to “accelerate the work of reformers in Syria.”

But no dissidents inside Syria were willing to take the money, for fear it would lead to their arrest or execution for treason, according to a 2006 cable from the U.S. Embassy, which reported that “no bona fide opposition member will be courageous enough to accept funding.”

Around the same time, Syrian exiles in Europe founded the Movement for Justice and Development. The group, which is banned in Syria, openly advocates for Assad’s removal. U.S. cables describe its leaders as “liberal, moderate Islamists” who are former members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Barada TV

It is unclear when the group began to receive U.S. funds, but cables show U.S. officials in 2007 raised the idea of helping to start an anti-Assad satellite channel.

People involved with the group and with Barada TV, however, would not acknowledge taking money from the U.S. government.

“I’m not aware of anything like that,” Malik al-Abdeh, Barada TV’s news director, said in a brief telephone interview from London.

Abdeh said the channel receives money from “independent Syrian businessmen” whom he declined to name. He also said there was no connection between Barada TV and the Movement for Justice and Development, although he confirmed that he serves on the political group’s board. The board is chaired by his brother, Anas.

“If your purpose is to smear Barada TV, I don’t want to continue this conversation,” Malik al-Abdeh said. “That’s all I’m going to give you.”

Other dissidents said that Barada TV has a growing audience in Syria but that its viewer share is tiny compared with other independent satellite news channels such as al-Jazeera and BBC Arabic. Although Barada TV broadcasts 24 hours a day, many of its programs are reruns. Some of the mainstay shows are “Towards Change,” a panel discussion about current events, and “First Step,” a program produced by a Syrian dissident group based in the United States.

Ausama Monajed, another Syrian exile in London, said he used to work as a producer for Barada TV and as media relations director for the Movement for Justice and Development but has not been “active” in either job for about a year. He said he now devotes all his energy to the Syrian revolutionary movement, distributing videos and protest updates to journalists.

He said he “could not confirm” any U.S. government support for the satellite channel, because he was not involved with its finances. “I didn’t receive a penny myself,” he said.
Several U.S. diplomatic cables from the embassy in Damascus reveal that the Syrian exiles received money from a State Department program called the Middle East Partnership Initiative. According to the cables, the State Department funneled money to the exile group via the Democracy Council, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit. According to its Web site, the council sponsors projects in the Middle East, Asia and Latin America to promote the “fundamental elements of stable societies.”

The council’s founder and president, James Prince, is a former congressional staff member and investment adviser for PricewaterhouseCoopers. Reached by telephone, Prince acknowledged that the council administers a grant from the Middle East Partnership Initiative but said that it was not “Syria-specific.”

Prince said he was “familiar with” Barada TV and the Syrian exile group in London, but he declined to comment further, saying he did not have approval from his board of directors. “We don’t really talk about anything like that,” he said.

The April 2009 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Damascus states that the Democracy Council received $6.3 million from the State Department to run a Syria-related program called the “Civil Society Strengthening Initiative.” That program is described as “a discrete collaborative effort between the Democracy Council and local partners” to produce, among other things, “various broadcast concepts.” Other cables make clear that one of those concepts was Barada TV.

U.S. allocations

Edgar Vasquez, a State Department spokesman, said the Middle East Partnership Initiative has allocated $7.5 million for Syrian programs since 2005. A cable from the embassy in Damascus, however, pegged a much higher total — about $12 million — between 2005 and 2010.

The cables report persistent fears among U.S. diplomats that Syrian state security agents had uncovered the money trail from Washington.

September 2009 cable reported that Syrian agents had interrogated a number of people about “MEPI operations in particular,” a reference to the Middle East Partnership Initiative.

“It is unclear to what extent [Syrian] intelligence services understand how USG money enters Syria and through which proxy organizations,” the cable stated, referring to funding from the U.S. government. “What is clear, however, is that security agents are increasingly focused on this issue.”

U.S. diplomats also warned that Syrian agents may have “penetrated” the Movement for Justice and Development by intercepting its communications.

June 2009 cable listed the concerns under the heading “MJD: A Leaky Boat?” It reported that the group was “seeking to expand its base in Syria” but had been “initially lax in its security, often speaking about highly sensitive material on open lines.”

The cable cited evidence that the Syrian intelligence service was aware of the connection between the London exile group and the Democracy Council in Los Angeles. As a result, embassy officials fretted that the entire Syria assistance program had been compromised.

“Reporting in other channels suggest the Syrian [Mukhabarat] may already have penetrated the MJD and is using the MJD contacts to track U.S. democracy programming,” the cable stated. “If the [Syrian government] does know, but has chosen not to intervene openly, it raises the possibility that the [government] may be mounting a campaign to entrap democracy activists.”

 

 

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