45 COMMENTS

  1. Hersh has never met an authoritarian regime he wasn’t willing to defend at the expense of the US. He is another one of these “anti-war” activists who seeks to blame every ill in the world on the US. I think it’s sad he would make himself an accomplice in allowing Assad to get away with a horrific chemical attack to suit his worldview.

    • This is an interesting effort to refute Hersh’s article and it does point to some weaknesses in his report, but does not actually refute it.

      “The reporter does not take into account that multiple sites, not just one, were hit with chemical agents on August 21.”

      How does that refute Hersh’s arguments? Higgins and others have insisted that the AL Nusra front doesn’t have the resources to carry out such an attack, but this seems dubious.

      Al Nusra and other extremist networks inside of Syria have had the US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel’s backing since at least as early as 2007. Since 2011, Qatar and Turkey have also played immense roles in supporting Al Nusra – with NATO-member Turkey providing them sanctuary and even logistical support.

      There is no shortage of money or resources available to Al Nusra.

      “EVERAL MUNITIONS, NOT JUST ONE, WERE USED TO HIT MULTIPLE TARGETS”

      Does the UN report state that any traces of Sarin were found on any of those munitions?

      ” It is based on an assumption that the system was 100% complete and 100% effective — a bit of a stretch in the real world.”

      Would the system need to be 100% effective to detect any movement of chemical stocks?

      “However, six were quickly released, and Turkish authorities soon said that the other six suspects had chemical which might be used to make sarin — and not the nerve agent itself.”

      Sarin is mixed just prior to being used. No one who planned to use it would therefore be in possession of the nerve agent itself.

      The most compelling issue of course is who benefits. Knowing that Washington had committed to intervention in the event that CWs were used by the Syrian government against civilians, what did the Syrian Military have to gain by launching the attack – especially given that they were in in the ascendancy by that stage?

      On the other hand, the losing side would have gained enormously from US strikes on Syrian military targets.

      • “”Al Nusra and other extremist networks inside of Syria have had the US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel’s backing since at least as early as 2007″”

        JAN announced its creation on January 2012 but before its establishment, it should have been supported by the west?
        How is that possible?

        To write a page-long fairy-tale is not necessary.
        Some facts with source disclosures would be sufficient.

    • “Sy Hersh’s Chemical Misfire”

      A very weak article that has been taken apart here.
      http://landdestroyer.blogspot.mx/

      Higgins denies any possibility that the rebels could have carried out the attack, but his correspondence with a contractor in Syria reveals that not only was it established that the rebels had access to Sarin, but were planning to use it.

      • These rockets are each delivering 50 liters of gas – that’s a car gas tank worth. You should deal with the question it where the rebels are said to have produced these quantities of poison gas.

        These attacks were carried out by the Syrian Army. Unless someone is going to explain how they got the launchers back into rebel territory after launching from right under the Syrian Army’s nose.

        Any answers?

        • “These rockets are each delivering 50 liters of gas”

          That’s funny. None of the pictures of the rockets they claim were used to deliver the gas look close to 50 liters in capacity. But please cite the source that states they were indeed delivering 50 liters of gas.

          “You should deal with the question it where the rebels are said to have produced these quantities of poison gas.”

          It has already been established by contractors on the ground that the rebels did indeed had access to the ingredients for the gas, so the question of what capability they might have is conjecture.

          Al Nusra and other extremist networks inside of Syria have had the US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel’s backing since at least as early as 2007. Since 2011, Qatar and Turkey have also played immense roles in supporting Al Nusra – with NATO-member Turkey providing them sanctuary and even logistical support.

          In other words, JAN has had access to limitless amounts of money and very powerful state actors for whom such capacity is trivial.

          There is no evidence the attacks were carried out by the Syrian Army and there certainly is no motive.

          “Unless someone is going to explain how they got the launchers back into rebel territory after launching from right under the Syrian Army’s nose.”

          As Hersh noted:

          Theodore Postol, a professor of technology and national security at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told Hersh that the Volcano is “something you could produce in a modestly capable machine shop” — in other words, a weapon the rebels could make. Postol also stated that various organizations’ flight path analysis of the Aug. 21 Volcanoes, which put the point of origin of the munitions at a Syrian military base more than nine kilometers away from the impact locations, were “totally nuts.” Postol’s analysis, Hersh wrote, had “demonstrated that the range of the improvised rockets was ‘unlikely’ to be more than two kilometres.”

          So the launchers never had to be moved out of rebel territory or anywhere near the Syrian Army’s nose.

          I hope that helps.

    • Please tell the rogue what kind of damage he causes.

      Currently on wikipedia is written that Sy is researching “”accurately””(?) and he also “”understands”” (?) the things about which he writes.

      This ability Hersh has certainly lost.

    • That’s kind of silly accusation – that Hersh wants Assad to win. Should we therefore conclude that you want Al Qaeda to win?

      What are your motives, and what do they even matter? The case should stand on the evidence.

      • “”The case should stand on the evidence””

        Note — No one has reported training the rebels in these weapons of WMD`s and there is no reason to believe the Iranians would do so in the case of the Fadjr-5 used for the 333 mm rockets.

        One of these systems is Russian, the other Iranian, and Russia and Iran are on Assad’s side.

        The rebels were NOT trained in these systems unless you’ve got solid evidence to the contrary. Put up, or shut up.

        • “Note — No one has reported training the rebels in these weapons of WMD`s ”

          Wrong.

          CNN’s December 2012 report titled, “Sources: U.S. helping underwrite Syrian rebel training on securing chemical weapons,” stated that:

          The United States and some European allies are using defense contractors to train Syrian rebels on how to secure chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria, a senior U.S. official and several senior diplomats told CNN Sunday.
          The training, which is taking place in Jordan and Turkey, involves how to monitor and secure stockpiles and handle weapons sites and materials, according to the sources. Some of the contractors are on the ground in Syria working with the rebels to monitor some of the sites, according to one of the officials.

          http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2012/12/09/sources-defense-contractors-training-syrian-rebels-in-chemical-weapons/

          Emails between American contractor Matthew Van Dyke and members of the Western media, including Higgins which indicated that militants had chemical weapons and were planning to use them in an attack to frame the Syrian government – serving as impetus for wider foreign intervention.

          http://www.qatar-leaks.com/vandyke-leaks/

          Is that solid enough for you?

  2. Regarding Ziyaad Tariq Ahmed: isn’t it possible that he is a high profile target for the US military and that he doesn’t show up on a Google search?

    Regarding the rockets found by the UN: isn’t it possible that these rockets were related to conventional rocket attacks? And that some rockets would be in the hands of the rebels, since much of the FSA is reportedly defecting regime troops?

    Regarding the motive of why rebels would attack their own territory: isn’t it possible that they may have shot the rocket and it failed to go to their intended destination, and blew up in their own territory?

    I agree it is unlikely that the rebels performed these chemical attacks, but the idea that the Obama admin had “no doubt” it was done by the regime forces seems too much. There is definitely room for doubt here.

    I think the Obama admin’s whole chemical weapons angle was a foolish one to begin with. Should have just focused on the humanitarian/pro-democracy angle of the anti-Assad fighters. Trying to prove guilt of a specific event in a war zone is extremely difficult.

    • After the attack, the Obama admin claims to have found communications which they captured before the attack that indicated that Assad CW forces carried out the attack. Sy Hersh seems to be very confused about how this works, because he says:

      .”A former senior intelligence official told me that the Obama administration had altered the available information – in terms of its timing and sequence – to enable the president and his advisers to make intelligence retrieved days after the attack look as if it had been picked up and analysed in real time, as the attack was happening. ”

      This is so confused. As Snowden’s revelations show, they record everything but they don’t listen to everything in real time. When something happens, they go back to their recordings and retrieve the relevant data. When Sy Hersh says “picked up and analyzed in real time” he just shows he doesn’t know how this work.

      But if they are not out right lying, and if they did pick up communications from Assad forces and then later found that it showed the preparation for the attack, then they could say definitively that Assad’s forces did it.

      This is the heart of Hersh’s argument, they they couldn’t know for sure. This is wrong. He can say they are lying about receiving these communications, but if they did, they would have no doubt that Assad did it.

      • wasn’t there a Syrian officer who claims he was ordered to use chemicals and chose to defect instead? I seem to recall something of the sort. I think he kept a copy of the printed orders.

        another curious thing about this file is the complete lack of satellite data. A person would think that Israel, EU, or US would have parked a satellite over Damascus and could rewind their infrared tapes. I personally suspect that satellite evidence exists but was with held as part of the CW deal.

        The ba’ath were far to certain of a retaliation strike, Assad was far to agreeable about disarming, and Putin was far too quick about dropping his cold war rhetoric. They would not have acted that way unless they were looking at undeniable evidence.

        • “The ba’ath were far to certain of a retaliation strike, Assad was far to agreeable about disarming, and Putin was far too quick about dropping his cold war rhetoric. They would not have acted that way unless they were looking at undeniable evidence.”

          The retaliation strike looked a certainty right up until the moment Kerry suggested the only way to avert it would be for Syria to give up it’s CWs. The Russians stepped in immediately and took advantage of what was claimed at the time to have been a gaffe by Kerry.

          The Syrian government has no need for the CWs in this conflict against the rebels, who they pretty much have on the ropes. Intervention by the US would be a disaster for them, so any way to remove this pretext would have been the best option for them.

          • I’m assuming that you know the items which describe the disaster of 21 August.

            There are more than 100 hundred reasons to assume that Assad was the culprit.

            Your only reason what you’re describing is that the rebels are bombarding themselves to draw US into the war?

            With weapons they do not own ? Since when will JAN and ISIS an involvement of US at war?

            • Indeed I do know the items which describe the disaster of 21 August.

              There are more than 100 hundred reasons to assume that Assad was the culprit.

              No, there are very few, and there certainly is no logical motive.

              Your only reason what you’re describing is that the rebels are bombarding themselves to draw US into the war?

              There have been a number fo reports of infighting among rebel factions, so it’s hardly impossible.
              http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/04/world/middleeast/syria.html?_r=0

              With weapons they do not own ?

              How do you know what weapong they do or do not own? The rebels have seized a number of Syrian Army weapons caches.
              http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/11/us-syria-crisis-usa-idUSBRE9BA08820131211

              • Sorry, you have misunderstood something….

                1. Where do the guns come from with which the poison gas was fired after Eastghouta?
                2. Where these weapons were developed?
                3. Who has the expertise to deal with poison gas Kow?
                4. Where is the laboratory in which these gases were developed?
                5. Who did the immense investments to make the development of war gases possible?
                6. Which group is responsible for the financing, development, testing and use of war gases? There are about 1,000 rebel groups in Syria who have partially closed together.

                Which group has the technical and financial capabilities to produce WMD’s?

                7. The political orientations of the rebels are inconsistent. Which favor of a U.S. application and which are not?

                8. Which Political orientation have the rebel groups fighting in Eastghouta?

                These are just some questions that you do not answering.

                How would it be with facts?

                [edited by moderator]

              • “1. Where do the guns come from with which the poison gas was fired after Eastghouta?”

                Could be anyone of JAN’s supporters, be they Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the US etc.

                “2. Where these weapons were developed?”‘

                See above.

                “3. Who has the expertise to deal with poison gas Kow?”

                CNN’s December 2012 report titled, “Sources: U.S. helping underwrite Syrian rebel training on securing chemical weapons,” stated that:

                The United States and some European allies are using defense contractors to train Syrian rebels on how to secure chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria, a senior U.S. official and several senior diplomats told CNN Sunday.
                The training, which is taking place in Jordan and Turkey, involves how to monitor and secure stockpiles and handle weapons sites and materials, according to the sources. Some of the contractors are on the ground in Syria working with the rebels to monitor some of the sites, according to one of the officials.

                “4. Where is the laboratory in which these gases were developed?”

                Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the US etc.

                “5. Who did the immense investments to make the development of war gases possible?”

                Pocket change for Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the US etc.

                “6. Which group is responsible for the financing, development, testing and use of war gases? There are about 1,000 rebel groups in Syria who have partially closed together.”‘

                Your guess is as good as mine. JAN is the most likely.

                “Which group has the technical and financial capabilities to produce WMD’s?”

                See the CNN report above.

                “7. The political orientations of the rebels are inconsistent. Which favor of a U.S. application and which are not?”

                Best you ask the US.
                http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/14/us-syria-crisis-rebels-idUSBRE9BD08D20131214

                “8. Which Political orientation have the rebel groups fighting in Eastghouta?”

                Sorry, makes no sense. Please try re-writing that question?

      • This is so confused. As Snowden’s revelations show, they record everything but they don’t listen to everything in real time.

        That pertains to the surveillance drag nett where they have elected to collect everything and store it in case they need it later. In targeted survilance cases, it is real time.

        And yes,they are out right lying. Obama made it pretty clear:

        “In the days leading up to August 21st, we know that Assad’s chemical weapons personnel prepared for an attack near an area where they mix sarin gas. They distributed gas masks to their troops. Then they fired rockets from a regime-controlled area into 11 neighbourhoods that the regime has been trying to wipe clear of opposition forces.”

        • Internet and telephone surveillance is one thing. Another are the facts on the ground.

          You didn`t noticed yet that the statements of Kerry and Obama about monitoring fit with the events happened on the ground?

          The question which remains :
          Why Obama has not posted any original documents from this monitoring to assign the question of guilt unambiguously?

          This is a political question. Is this question beyond your horizon?

          You need facts to participate in a political discussion.

          To deny facts as currently operate extreme right – and extreme left wing is certainly not in your interest – or is this assumption incorrect?

          [edited by moderator]

          • “Internet and telephone surveillance is one thing. Another are the facts on the ground.”

            I agree, but I was addressing the claim that the Obama administration did not claim to have real time knowledge of the events as they unfolded, when the above quote proves they did make this claim.

            “You didn`t noticed yet that the statements of Kerry and Obama about monitoring fit with the events happened on the ground?”

            It’s easy to make statements after the fact and claim you knew them at the time they were happening. As Hersh reports, there was no way the administration could have monitored communications between Assad and his commanders, since the Syrians had discovered – and plugged up – holes in their security months prior to the incident. (We know this thanks to Edward Snowden.) So they were lying about that.

            “Why Obama has not posted any original documents from this monitoring to assign the question of guilt unambiguously?”

            Probably because they don’t exist.

    • “Regarding the motive of why rebels would attack their own territory”

      To drag the US into the conflict and bomb Syrian military targets a la Lybia. Had they attacked Syrian government targets, then it would have been them accused of crossing the red line, not the Assad government.

      • To talk about the “rebels” is definitly wrong – particularly on the question of the use of soldiers from the outside.
        Why do I have to tell you this – you’re not informed?

        The question again: who exactly ( which rebell group?) is murdering civilians, women and children by WMD `s to to draw US into the war?

        Are you offering to continue bloating or do you have a respond?

  3. Hersh probably imagines himself at the razor’s edge of public opinion, not realizing he’s following the same tired path previously trod by countless other has-beens trapped in the past. Those are the kind of people that enabled the Serbs in Bosnia to kill, rape, and plunder so many Bosnians much longer than should have gone on. Hersh was good once, but he needs to retire. The left needs to stop defending people like Milosevic, Assad, Morsi, Ahmadinejad, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Mao, Fidel, etc. Thank you, Scott and Joanna, for this piece.

  4. How many sites were attacked with chemical weapons on August 21? If 8 sites were attacked, where does this information come from if not the UN? The UN of course did not have time to investigate the 8 sites since they had to flee from the imminent bombing of the country. Bombing always comes first! We have to shoot first and ask questions later! Those who are on the side of ‘shoot first and ask questions later’ are then responsible for the lack of accurate information—no? Now the people wallowing in fragmentary information would like to make their statements. Fair enough. Where are the ‘open source videos’ of the chemical attacks of August 21 showing the so-called ‘Volcano rockets’? So far, no videos. So much for your you- tube new age information.

    [edited by moderator]

  5. I finally managed to read this yesterday and I join the many who have paid Scott and Joanna compliments on this fine rebuttal. I’m pleased to see so many pingbacks, too. In fact, this piece made it into my inbox at work before I even saw it here. :-)

    Interesting to note that both the publication with which Hersh is most associated, The New Yorker, and The Washington Post passed on “Whose Sarin?”
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/08/seymour-hersh-syria-report_n_4409674.html

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