Gaius Publius: War with Syria — What Is It Good For? We May Soon Find Out

By Gaius Publius, a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States and frequent contributor to DownWithTyranny, digby, Truthout, and Naked Capitalism. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius, Tumblr and Facebook. GP article archive  here. Originally published at DownWithTyranny

Yemen civilian deaths amid Saudi Arabia-led war rise as U.S. Senate approves arms deal with Saudis (source). The Houthis are predominately Shia-led. Saudi Arabia, Sunni-led, with major U.S. support, is killing them.

Two data points to keep in mind as you contemplate the next Middle East escalation — or rather, as you contemplate the effects of the escalation while others contemplate the escalation itself. You and your preferences are not a factor in their contemplation; they will wage war when and as they choose.

First this, from Pentagon chief James Mattis at the end of February 2018 via Newsweek (h/t Twitter friend Boris Dirnbach):

Now Mattis Admits There Was No Evidence Assad Used Poison Gas on His People

Lost in the hyper-politicized hullabaloo surrounding the Nunes Memorandum and the Steele Dossier was the striking statement by Secretary of Defense James Mattis that the U.S. has “no evidence” that the Syrian government used the banned nerve agent Sarin against its own people.

This assertion flies in the face of the White House (NSC) Memorandum which was rapidly produced and declassified to justify an American Tomahawk missile strike against the Shayrat airbase in Syria.

Mattis offered no temporal qualifications, which means that both the 2017 event in Khan Sheikhoun and the 2013 tragedy in Ghouta are unsolved cases in the eyes of the Defense Department and Defense Intelligence Agency.

Regular readers of our reports were alerted to this deception as early as last April. Among the many pieces presenting contrary evidence was this one.

Next this, from NJ Star-Ledger columnist Paul Mulshine on Trump’s recent about-face on war with Syria (via email from Kevin Fathi):

Trump’s getting awful advice from the foreign-policy swamp

On Sunday I got a call from Mike Doherty. The current state senator and former U.S. Army officer was livid about President Trump’s about-face on Syria.

“In the 2016 campaign, his major promise was ending these stupid foreign wars,” said the Warren County Republican. “If he breaks that promise with his base, I think he’s finished.”

As of early last week, Trump sounded like he was sticking to his promise to pull U.S troops out of Syria. On Tuesday, he met with his generals in what was supposed to be a private meeting on the issue.

On Wednesday, leaks from that meeting were widely reported in the press. The reports said his call for a rapid withdrawal of troops from Syria “faced unanimous opposition from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Pentagon, the State Department and the intelligence community.”

There are two points made above. One, Trump’s about-face reportedly occurred as a result of “unanimous opposition from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Pentagon, the State Department and the intelligence community.”

And two, note the other point made by Mike Doherty, the New Jersey state senator quoted above: “In the 2016 campaign, his major promise was ending these stupid foreign wars,” said the Warren County Republican. “If he breaks that promise with his base, I think he’s finished.”

In other words, in one Republican’s opinion (who, by the way, was “the first prominent politician in New Jersey to back Trump” according to the same article), Trump breaking his stop-stupid-wars campaign pledge will hurt him with his base. (I’m less certain of that than Doherty is, but we’ll see. There are certainly other such rumblings on the right.)

Finally, the proposed escalation in Syria could put us in direct, armed conflict with the Russians. From former Green Beret Pat Lang as quoted in the article:

I got an assessment of just how dangerous when I talked with another former Army officer with whom I like to discuss current events.

“This time it could easily get out of hand,” said Pat Lang, a former Vietnam Green Beret who later spent a couple decades in the Mideast. (See this debunking of the co-called “white helmets” on his site.)

Back in 2013 the war was mainly between the Syrian government and the rebels. Now Russia is a major supporter of the Syrian government.

“The Russians have made it very clear that if we attack Syria again that they’re going to fight our attack,” Lang said. “There will be a war between the United States and Russia over Syria.”

From the linked report, here’s that Russian statement:

Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said on Monday that Moscow has warned the United States of “grave repercussions” if it carries out an attack against Syrian government forces over reports of a deadly chemical weapons attack.

If no one backs down, U.S. and Russians troops and pilots could start killing each other in Syria.

About the Self-Styled, PR-Created White Helmets…

The nicely named “white helmets” (could they hope for a better brand?) are suspected of lying-with-an-agenda by many of those not in favor of this war. This means, of course, they’re praised on corporate-owned cable news.

More critically, Rick Sterling writes this, from a longer piece at Robert Parry’s Consortium News (emphasis added):

Not only do they only operate in rebel-controlled areas but they are a source of propaganda about the war, indeed their very existence is an element in the larger propaganda campaign to rally international support for a “regime change” war in Syria. The “White Helmets” brand was conceived and directed by a New York-based marketing company named “The Syria Campaign,” which itself was “incubated” by a larger politically oriented marketing company called Purpose.

Along with managing the online and social media promotion of the White Helmets, the Syria Campaign has parallel efforts in support of “regime change” in Syria. One of these efforts has been to criticize United Nations and humanitarian relief organizations that supply aid to displaced persons living in areas protected by the Syrian government.

If that’s true, it’s damning, both for them and those who, for their own reasons and interests, promote them. Which means they’re praised on corporate-owned cable news.


From all this we can conclude:

• Defense Secretary James Mattis, knowing the evidence for the Trump’s 2017 Tomahawk missile strike was ginned up, still wants war with Syria.

• The entire foreign policy and military establishment also wants war — the Joint Chiefs, the State Department and the nation’s security services, presumably the CIA, DIA and FBI among them.

• We will indeed end up fighting Russians if Trump keeps his word and the Russians keep theirs.

• That fact seems to stop no one on our side.

In other words:

• The world just got less safe.
• The bipartisan DC establishment pretty much wants it that way.


Will Democrats — or enough of them — join with Trump to make the war “bipartisan”? Remember, Clinton was the hawk in the Obama administration. Reports she wanted a wider Syria war are not hard to find.

At what point will our widening war come home, a war against Shia Islam, fought, among other reasons, to fulfill the desires of Israel and Saudi Arabia? In other words, when will Americans, us and our elites, reap what we sow?

And finally, will Rachel Maddow weep tears of joy at the thought of a shooting conflict with Russia, or will she suddenly fly above the fray, waving careful flags of high-minded caution, after lighting the fires that caused it? (“That is not it at all,” I hear her say, “that is not what I meant, at all.”)

Stay tuned. The American people may not favor this war — though I can’t see the unwashed (those of us with non-political lives) being much opposed. Yet should it come home, they’ll surely pay most of the price — and no doubt be thanked for their service after their deaths by those in the safe seats at corporate-owned cable news.

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  1. The Rev Kev

    I seem to recall from NC that people woke up to the fact that Trump did very well in areas of the United States that had actually incurred battle casualties. There was in fact a correlation with Trump support and military deaths in those communities. If Trump is thinking of an attack on Syria that could turn into a hot war with Russia, even if only in the local theater (with any luck!) then I would guess that that would finish him with a lot of American voters. This idea is reinforced by anecdotes from other commentators here.
    One of the main idea of voting Trump in was to stop getting American kids killed in obscure places and whose deaths would never have any real meaning. Getting America involved in yet another useless mid-East war may just be enough to turn Trump into a one-term wonder. Hot on this is the news that Trump is now considering joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership – a measure that was enormously popular with many Trump voters. I am wondering if all this may be the explanation for the exodus of about 43 House Republicans who have announced that they are retiring, including Paul Ryan. That they consider that the road ahead is going to be a Republican blood-bath.
    Being replaced by Democrats is no real gain here either as they are just as much pro-war as the Republicans who they would be replacing. I cannot even say for sure that just because a Democrat is progressive means that he is not pro-war. I regret that I have to point out Sanders here as an example. The media and so many organizations have drunk the cool-aid juice here and are refusing to publish the obvious account of the White Helmet’s dodgy associations as well as all the other information that actually comes from Jihadist sources. Earlier today I was musing who would be on a virtual Propornot list of propaganda media such as exemplified by that Sinclair YouTube clip. It was with regret that I had to conclude that such a list would include the bulk majority of newspapers, TV networks and radio stations and would resemble the printed New York Telephone Directory.
    How will this all play out I have absolutely no idea but if the last election threw up a Trump, think of what an even more desperate electorate might throw up in the years to come. I have my own ideas here of what might happen but do not want to put any ideas into people’s heads.

    1. ebbflows

      If I might wax… the emotional sunk costs of being directly or indirectly engaged to the adventurism in the ME has a forward leading demand pull like the mother of all black holes. The vapors that underpin heaps of authority and self identity are in dire straights e.g. having to say your wrong is akin to saying dawg is dead and with it your power[s.

    2. Sid Finster

      Honestly, as much as I wish otherwise, I doubt it. For most people, their support for a given candidate is tribal. Issues play a peripheral role, at least after the tribe has spoken.

      Witness the endless litany of excuses that Team D true believers make and made for Obama. Trump groupies make the same excuses for Trump..

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        Believe me, they stopped dead in their tracks when Trump said some gun restrictions make sense. Of course he doubled back on that and all was forgiven, but there are definite lines he can’t cross.

    3. Edward E

      I don’t think joining TPP was enormously popular at all, it’s giving your sovereignty over to corporations. It’s a way of thumphammering China.
      I met Paul Ryan once in Janesville, just happened to be at a sporting goods place when he walked in buying ammo. His father died when he was a teenager, he was the one that found him. Paul Ryan has kids, maybe he wants to devote time to them.

    4. Ptolemy Philopater

      Major fact influencing “Fly over Country”, over 20 Veteran suicides a day. The friends and relatives of these veterans have seen the horrors that these men have witnessed. They see a Saudi prince tour UK and US and magically two provocations to war are staged. Donald Trump announces that it is time to withdraw troops from Syria, Donald Trump’s lawyer’s office is raided by prosecutors. The flyovers may be deplorable, but they are not stupid.

      When candidate Donald Trump denounced the Iraq war to military audience in South Carolina, he was applauded. We are very close to the point were the armed forces of the United States say to their well porked generals enough is enough.

      It is now, certainly obvious to all that the generals are selling the lives of their men to the Military Industrial Complex’s two top customers, the foreign powers Saudi Arabia and Israel, which are neither democratic or free. That the leadership of this country are selling the blood of free men to despots should nauseate all right thinking Americans.

      It is time for the Armed Forces of the United States to say enough is enough, our lives are not to be sold for filthy lucre. Until the Armed Forces rise up there will be no revolution. We are very close to a revolution. Recall Russia in 1917, just one hundred years ago. History may not repeat itself but it certainly resonates.

  2. 1 term enough?

    So what would be the problem if he is finished with his base? Is he planning on staying for two terms?
    If I remember it correctly the Trumps were shocked to have won in the way that you are if you are not really into being a president.

  3. Plenue

    Certainly seems like John Bolton didn’t waste any time spreading his poison.

    Right now there are four US guided missile destroyers and two missile equipped subs off the coast of Syria. Additionally a carrier strike group is en route to the Mideast, due to arrive at the start of May. Germany has attached a frigate to the flotilla, and France is talking big about how chemical weapons use is unacceptable. Theresa May’s government is saying similar things, but Parliament isn’t keen on it. If ever there is going to be an escalation over Syria, this is when it’s going to happen.

    If the shooting starts most likely Russian air defense puts up a good show but succumbs to sheer weight of numbers. After that Russian strategic bombers sink the US strike group (maybe the new Russian hypersonic anti-ship missiles get used). Then I imagine someone decides it’s time for tactical nukes.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, Plenue.

      I have just returned from a week in Paris.

      It’s quite staggering how the French Obama is BSing his way and playing poodle to racaille like MbS. De Gaulle, Mitterand and Chirac would never allow France to bow and scrape like that.

      My family is Mauritian. Family members have served in British and French forces. The elderly survivors can’t believe to what level Macron has sunk, but he’s desperate to suck up to the Saudis.

      It was amazing to see a French woman journalist reporting from Saudi intelligence HQ and BS how progressive the place is or is becoming. Dad, who was based there from 1992 – 2013, after a quarter of a century in the Royal Air Force, had a good chuckle about the desperate whitewashing.

      1. ChrisFromGeorgia

        The question in my mind is why anyone, let alone the French, are desperate to suck up to the dying Saudis.

        The ARAMCO IPO had to be shelved, their only economic asset is rapidly depreciating due to climate change and their pathetic military can’t handle the Houthi rebels in Yemen, even with US help.

        True they still have a lot of money left over from better days, but in a couple of decades they’ll probably look a lot like Somalia or the Sudan, just with shinier buildings.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          A key sign of second rate thinkers is that they double down on old policies rather than anticipating which way the wind is blowing. As you rightly say, the Saudis are in deep trouble, their ability to buy themselves allies is waning and MbS himself is in danger of provoking an internal coup at some stage.

          Take their money by all means, but it must be obvious to anyone that allowing the Saudis to dictate policy now just because they can still wave a big chequebook is dangerously short-sighted. The only certainty now in world affairs is that in 10 years time the balance of power in the Middle East/Central Asia will look very different from now – and more than likely the Iranians will be significantly more powerful, while the Saudis will be severely diminished.

          1. Ignacio

            The Saudis recently placed an order to build and buy 12 corvettes made in Spain. Another piece of their desperate attempts to buy allies.

        2. ambrit

          They have their eyes on all sorts of petrochemical ‘assets’ in the Middle East region. A new, big find in Qatar, the fields in Iran, Irak, Kuwait, and who knows where else.
          As Frank Herbert pointed out in one of his first books, “The Dragon in the Sea,” oil is perfect for lubrication purposes. Even electric vehicles will need some for that purpose. And plastics, fertilizer, etc.
          Finally, a switch over to more ‘sustainable’ methods of running civilization will require foresight, planning and some self restraint. Seen much of any of that around lately?

          1. Expat2uruguay

            Finally, a switch over to more ‘sustainable’ methods of running civilization will require foresight, planning and some self restraint. Seen much of any of that around lately?

            In Uruguay, yes. Sadly, it is a very small country.

            1. blennylips

              …with a very large problem:

              Drought in Argentina and Uruguay, the most expensive weather disaster of 2018

              I’ve heard wonderful things about your new home, best of luck.

          2. polecat

            And lower standards of living, ambrit .. as is often falsely perceived by many of us, to which I would say is not as awful and depreciating as most imagine … it just means living lighter on this rock, being resourceful with less bling, to reject the presumed need for supposed ever and greater ‘progress’ : for societies to come to a re-assessment of priorities … and slow-the-f#ck-down !

      2. Sid Finster

        I saw a glossy special edition dedicated to MbS’ visit to the United States, in the grocery newsstand in Moorhead, Minnesota.

        No doubt checkbook journalism, but the attempted sell is obvious.

        Ain’t it funny how we get so teary-eyed over how children allegedly suffer at the hands of governments we don’t like, but we turn a blind eye to the open and gleeful slaughter of children at the hands of Israel and Saudi Arabia?

    2. Lambert Strether

      > John Bolton didn’t waste any time spreading his poison.

      Did you read the post? Do consider it:

      The entire foreign policy and military establishment also wants war — the Joint Chiefs, the State Department and the nation’s security services, presumably the CIA, DIA and FBI among them.

      This is a systemic problem. It’s not like Bolton is a “bad apple.” It’s really useless, indeed counterproductive, to focus on demon figures (even as a way to relieve anxiety, as I’m convinced, without evidence, demonology is).

      1. Carolinian

        Actually reports this morning suggest Bolton and Mattis have clashed over the Syria attack and the military may be holding Trump back along with a possible, overdue, burst of sanity. It’s possible that the above piece is assuming the Pentagon’s desire to occupy parts of Syria is the same as a desire to go to war with Syria and even Russia. After all the Pentagon’s goal is to maintain their vast power and prestige within the US itself, and losing one or more of their expensive ships or having their weapons prove ineffective would give them the opposite of what they want.

        However the State Department is doubtless full of neocon true believers who never served a day of their life in the military. Here’s hoping this bureaucratic infighting will forestall a new war. Given that there may have been no chemical attack at all then the longer the delay the less likely an attack.

      2. PlutoniumKun

        I’m not sure its that clear-cut. Other sources (including some in todays links) indicate that at least some in the military are extremely nervous about the outcome of bombing Syria and have been advocating caution – not least because they are worried about Russias capacity to counterstrike.

        I suspect there are some anxious analysts in the Navy counting up all the Russian subs they can account for. If only one can’t be located, then that will make the crews of those destroyers very nervous indeed.

      3. steven

        This is a systemic problem.

        Indeed it is. The US rescued its own ‘free enterprise’ system during WWI by selling its European rivals for global hegemony the means to destroy each other. America’s plutocracy resisted the attempts of reformers to rescue that system by sharing the wealth created by advances in science and technology after WWI. The only thing it was willing to accept was weapons spending that freed it from the last remaining vestiges of market competition.

        This ‘system’ is what has produced the likes of the Clintons, Madaline Albright and the current, morally bankrupt, ever so nauseating Democratic Party. It will only change when ‘the people’ stop conniving in their own destruction in the doomed attempts to hang on to a comfortable status quo.

      4. Plenue

        Oh, I know. The timing does seem a bit suspicious to me though, coming so soon after his appointment.

  4. Adrian Kent

    Anyone who is any doubt that the recent Douma CW ‘attack’ is likely a false-flag, needs to read this excellent analysis of last years Khan Sheikhoun ‘attack’ from Professor Paul McKeigue of Edinburgh Universty.

    He (correctly) assesses that the likelihood of the official narrative (an airdropped chemical bomb) being true is essentially zero. I cannot recomnend his work highly enough. NC – if you’re really interested in this topic consider contacting Prof Tim Hayward (another Edinburgh academic and host of the blog) as a cross-posting of some of their pieces could be very informative for your readers.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you, Adrian.

      I have forwarded to my father and godfather, both former RAF doctors from 1966 – 91 and veterans of wars fought by the UK in that period. They will forward to their circle.

      As it happens, the pair caught up with a dozen plus former comrades in Bristol yesterday. Why Bristol? It’s halfway between where the comrades live. Some worked at and with the military establishments near Salisbury / in Wiltshire and retired in that area.

      Not one believes what’s being officially spun out Salisbury, not that far from Bristol, and Ghouta. They are worried by the chicken hawks dragging us to WWIII. They are not surprised that the professionals, scientists, former diplomats and former servicemen and women, who would blow the official lines and the talking heads who parrot them out of the water are kept well away from the MSM.

      I grew up in a sort of military family / community. I am one of the lucky ones in that my father retired in one piece, physical and mental. Other friends were not so lucky.

      The people who think an action can be contained, wars can be won with smart weapons and only the other side, or at least not them, perish are deluded.

      If we are going to war, can the Bush, Clinton, Obama and Trump children enlist and go over the top first?

      I mentioned the above to colleagues. Again, not one believes the official line. None wants a war or any involvement of any sort.

      1. Adrian Kent

        @Colonel Smithers. No one I know believes a word of it either. That 43% of the populace (YouGov poll) are against any military involvement in Syria I think is telling.

        The BBC and the Guardian are disgracing themselves again – they’re well past the ‘assessing the evidence’ stage (which I don’t think they actually dwelt upon at all) and are now deep into the ‘how soon and what targets’ discussions.

        Yesterdays ‘flagship’ Radio 4 news programme, Today, had no less than 6 anti-Assad voices (1 ex-MI6, 1 ex-State Dept., 1 ex-army Tory MP, 1 ex-NATO Cameron adviser life-peer and 2 Syrians who have fled Ghoutta to Idlib iwth the jihadis. For balance they had one Russian think-tank bod and someone from the ‘Stop The War Coallition’ who was interrupted and challenged to state who she thought did it if Assad did not.

        Not a single one of the pro-intervention voices were asked anything similar – like what in God’s name did they think Assad had to gain or why there were (yet again) no pictures of the alleged carnage – 500 victims! – from the never-usually-camerashy White Helmets.

        None of the 6 BBC senior correspondents mentioned the illegality of any such UK military action, let alone the possible ‘collateral damage’.

        John Sopel (the BBC Chief US Correspondent) even called launching 57 cruise missiles a ‘pin-prick’. How I’d love to see one of them ‘deployed’ up his aris.

        1. Eustache De Saint Pierre

          AK – thank you for watching that so I don’t have to – although I actually do not have a TV which is just as well due to blood pressure concerns. Has Mr. Sople still got the unlikely black topknot ?

          I have likely been the only member of a Graun boycott since Nuland threw a match into the Ukraine. Yesterday I came across this site which is the antithesis of BBC news which has a livestream every day from 1pm, mainly focusing on UK issues, with I believe a daily video of which yesterdays featured a report from an English journalist who is on the ground in Douma. I have not had much chance to assess their real worth but with around 18,500 youtube subscribers, they at the very least provide a good service as to what is occurring within activist circles. One item today struck me, as in a Manchester group calling themselves the New Levellers latest meeting.

          Here is a link just in case you or anyone else might find it useful – I like the fact that the two main presenters are in no way chosen due to their aesthetic beauty.

          1. RBHoughton

            Thanks for the link to the YouTube video of UK Column site and the ex-Royal Naval officer who runs it. I did not know that before. His beliefs are not my beliefs but its always helpful to receive a variety of opinions. Much obliged

            1. Eustache De Saint Pierre

              You are very welcome – I have the sense that I would also not agree in ways, but in these strange times when the likes of Tucker Carlson & the American Conservative publication make more sense than what was once seen as the Left, with a filter applied it does seem worth keeping an eye on. They are at least attempting to delve into that cess pit of organised child abuse, which for almost everybody else is a case of look the other way & nothing to see here folks.

      2. Norb

        In America, I think the time has come to change the name of the Defense Department back to its more honest, and accurate designation, the War Department.

        Only then can honest professionals in the military not be outmaneuvered or sidelined by improper public messaging instigated by war profiteers. A rational public debate might then be possible on matters of war and peace.

        Until then, civilians and politicians alike will follow the reasoning of Madeline Albright- “What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?” The US has been using this superb military to little positive effect except for the profiteers.

        I’m not surprised that a faction within the military establishment is resisting further expansion. Only why it has taken so long.

        I would imagine that a power struggle would become acute the minute ships and installations are lost. The rational would be to escalate rapidly, or pull back from armageddon with the same speed.

        Sane heads must outweigh the crazies, don’t they? Surely, many would choose NOT to fire and that would lead to a internal reorientation that is long overdue. I don’t see the West purging its officer corps. It that is possible, we are in greater danger that ever expected.

        1. John Wright

          If things go wrong in a USA military action, the answer is always MORE military action and a larger military budget in the future.

          This is a positive, self reinforcing feedback loop..

          Wouldn’t it be great if there were a countervailing entity to the USA military actions that was responsible for judging effectiveness, justness and harm done by the US military?

          But there is the USA Peace Corps, established by JFK.

          Here is its 2018 budget request (see

          The Peace Corps’ budget request for FY 2018 is $398,221,000, a decrease of $11,779,000 from the agency’s FY 2017 request. Pending Congressional approval, the agency’s FY 2018 budget also includes $15 million planned for costs related to a potential relocation of the Peace Corps’ headquarters office. The FY 2018 request will enable the Peace Corps to provide support to over 7,400 Americans serving abroad as Volunteers in approximately 65 countries worldwide.

          So the Peace Corps budget is about 0.4 billion compared to the USA Defense budget of just under $700 billion.

          This puts the Peace Corps budget at about 5.7% of the Defense Budget.

          One can wonder how the USA would be perceived around the world if the percentages were reversed.

          1. blennylips

            One can wonder how the USA would be perceived around the world if the percentages were reversed.

            It don’t matter: it elephantsspooks all the way down:

            Deans write to Obama about CIA vaccine scheme in Pakistan

            Deans of public health schools in the United States have sent the following letter to President Obama, in which they criticize the use of a vaccination campaign by the Central Intelligence Agency in Pakistan to hunt for Osama bin Laden. I wonder if he will reply.

            January 6, 2013

            Dear President Obama,

            In the first years of the Peace Corps, its director, Sargent Shriver, discovered that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was infiltrating his efforts and programs for covert purposes

            In September Save the Children was forced by the Government of Pakistan (GoP) to withdraw all foreign national staff. This action was apparently the result of CIA having used the cover of a fictional vaccination campaign to gather information about the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden. In fact, Save the Children never employed the Pakistani physician serving the CIA, yet in the eyes of the GoP he was associated with the organization.

            Which, of course leads to

            Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world with ongoing wild poliovirus transmission, alongside Afghanistan and Nigeria. The country is also affected by a circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2).

    2. BtheB

      I’ve often thought that it should be child’s play to prove that the Syrians are using chemical weapons – at least if they’re being delivered by aerial bombardment. I mean if we can track a plane sufficiently accurately to shoot it down, why can’t we track it sufficiently accurately to say it was in precisely the right time and place to commit an alleged chemical attack. Why am I not surprised that when that kind of analysis is done in an official report inconsistencies are simply hand-waved away.

      1. Sid Finster

        All that would prove is that an airplane flew overhead. Anyone wishing to create a false flag would wait for the airplane to pass by and then poof!

        1. BtheB

          Implausibly difficult to do I would have thought. I mean that’s what seems to have been tried in this case. A chemical weapon was detonated while a Syrian plane flew overhead in an effort to create a plausible narrative but they haven’t succeeded in that the plane’s flight path and the alleged impact site aren’t really consistent. Well they wouldn’t have succeeded if the report’s authors weren’t prepared to gloss over that inconvenient fact.

    3. Ignacio

      No wonder why russians vetoed the US-led initiative to search for proof of chemical attack in Douma. Then they (I think that the representative from Sweden) proposed an alternative which would also investigate the origin of the attack. Some US or EU official responded that it was not a judicial search (why not?) and it was also rejected.

      Dark times when you cannot trust anyone anymore.

      1. Jim Haygood

        David Stockman goes full tilt against the Orange Comb-over:

        The [gas attack] evidence comes mainly from rebel forces opposed to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. One of these was the Violations Documentation Center, a virulently anti-Russian organization funded by George Soros. Another was the White Helmets, a completely comprised operation financed by the US and UK and which has operated only in rebel-held territories — often cheek-by-jowl with the al-Nusra Front and other terrorist elements.

        The Orange Comb-Over is being lured not so much into an Assad spanking exercise or regime change maneuver as into a proxy war with Iran and Russia. The latter is literally manna from heaven for the Warfare State.

        Since America lost its only real enemy in 1991, Washington has become an unhinged war capital. It is now endangering the entire planet in a doom loop of expanding military muscle, multiplying foreign interventions and occupations, intensifying blowback from the victims of Washington’s aggression and an ever greater chorus of Empire-justifying experts, apparatchiks and politicians.

        Alas, the Donald has apparently opted for war in a desperate maneuver to keep the Deep State at bay.

        Stockman thinks Trump is finished. If so, it will make two insider coup d’etats in this young century. Strategic insight for Assad from ancient China:

  5. Colonel Smithers

    Speaking of Maddow, can Maddow and Andrew Sullivan (who seemed worse than his usual self on UK TV yesterday evening) enlist and go over the top first? WWIII should bring about diversity in death and destruction. Rich white gays and lesbians from Manhattan should serve and die alongside poor whites, blacks and Latinos from Fly Over. Or does identity politics not come into the picture?

    1. ebbflows

      Gasp their constitution and think of the distractions for the – real – fighting men.

      Heck some have futures….. life is just like that….

    2. Thuto

      Colonel Smithers, even in this century war is what it has always been: old men (and women) talking and young men (and women) dying. The oldies lie, obfuscate, double-speak and “propagandize” from the safe political ivory towers of Washington, London, Paris et al while rallying impressionable young ones around “sacred” missions to defend country/civilization/way-of-life from attack by the worst of all imaginable enemies. It is thus that the young warrior class are sent off to die in far away lands or to slaughter others in said far away lands sanctimoniously while the war profiteers line the pockets of these oldies with enough loot to make the prospects of their own offspring joining the ranks of the warrior class whose young bodies are blown up into a million pieces (with their deaths supposed to be “redeemed” by having flags draped over their coffins and grieving parents receiving phone calls directly from the president to comfort them and thank them for the service to the country from their dearly departed loved ones) by roadside bombs dim in the extreme.

      Emmanuel Macron is young enough to be in the front lines, but even he has joined the ranks of those who beat the war drums from the safety of [insert western capital here], seeing off the warrior class as they head off to their deaths and never setting foot on “enemy territory”. Diversity in the ranks of the military (those doing the actual fighting) is the longest of all long shots but should perhaps be made a requirement for all “interventions”, that those sounding the war clarion call should have skin in the game by having family members enlist, otherwise whose children do they expect to go and die on their behalf…

    3. polecat

      Perhaps they can grab all the Congress folk, ‘duel’-citizens included … incessently yapping for moarwar outta their gobs … and lead them straight into the hot zones !
      .. a coalition of the diversified unwilling, as you inferred .

  6. Norb

    History repeating itself- pre WWI?

    It is amazing to me how many people carelessly bandy about the use of nuclear weapons. Or believe the propaganda pushing for war. How many times do working class people have to fall for the desires of a corrupt elite before they say enough is enough?

    I asked the question in my workplace, “what would you do if the Russians sank a US ship firing on Syrian targets? EVERY person said they would be compelled to support the US government. EVERY one. International law meant nothing. The crimes of offensive war meant nothing. In their minds, the American system of capitalism must be protected at any cost. They still operate under the assumption that they are free to live their lives in pursuit of their own interests- not connecting the dots that the current economic system is straining to maintain itself. Domestic upheaval is being masked by using the threat of external war. And it works.

    Economic wellbeing is connected to government policy, and the economic policy of America is to wage offensive war.

    The great American crisis is that the country is actually leaderless. Why would it be a surprise that the Republican rats take their money and flee a sinking ship? Or that the corrupt democrat party salivating at having a greater opportunity to bleed the public dry upon Republican exit, all the while, common citizens become more disillusioned.

    Obama became president at a turning point in American history and failed to act in the best interests of the citizenry. Momentum pushed the debacle into the Trump presidency, where contradictory, and subversive policy is the order of the day. The American Crisis is reaching a breaking point and will not withstand the resolve of China and Russia to challenge US world dominance. The leadership will openly have to ask the American public to go to war, and the powers that be cannot guarantee the answer. This is impossible when you lead by proxy and national power is diffuse.

    The real motivations of the government are hidden from the citizens, and in the end this becomes problematic for a Democracy to function at all.

    American Capitalism is reaching its dead end, and the question now is if leadership can be found that has the foresight and grace to change course. It is insane to think that doubling down on offensive violence will bring any sort of positive outcome. Pre WW1 indeed, and saner heads must prevail. I don’t see millions of people rushing to get themselves killed in WWIII, but the elite have leveraged their power in such an manner that a few can cause untold damage.

    Not supporting war must be understood, loud and clear. Getting on with life must become more of a priority than petty elite great games. Their is no fever for more war- only the economic argument for it that is a loosing dominance. Over time, all this military spending has only formed a strong foundation to spread inequality. That is a hollow vision for the future, and certainly not a principle to go to war over.

    1. Glenn Olson

      Regardless of who was President, Democrat or Republican, no matter what their promises or beliefs, the US has continued on the same path. The only conclusion I can make is that the President is not in charge of US foreign policy. As the saying goes, “Follow the money.” There is money to be made in military activities which means that whomever is making money off them are likely the ones running the country. That the MSM is marching lockstep with US policy implies that the same people running the country also own the MSM. This should be a fairly small list of individuals and simple enough to track down. Those are the people who own and run the US.

  7. TG

    A well written piece, I certainly agree with most of it. But still, we are continuing to refuse to see the elephant in the room.

    Contrary to current big-lie propaganda, Malthus was not wrong. Once a country’s population reaches a certain density and there is no longer an open frontier, exponential growth is so powerful that human beings do not have the ability to double their population every 20 years or so, until most people become incredibly poor and the sheer weight of human misery (not typically famine) limits population growth for us. This is real, has happened, and continues to happen.

    Assad pushed for a pro-natalist policy, criminalizing the sale and possession of contraceptives, and propagandizing that it was every woman’s patriotic duty to have six kids each. He got the population doubling every 18 years, and it went from 5 million to 10, then 10 to 20, then 20 to… oopsie! The aquifers have been drained and it all fell apart. And the population is not doubling every 18 years any more…

    I don’t blame the Syrian people, I blame Assad and the vile philosophy that people should be bred like cattle, their numbers regulated by an unaccountable elite. But even more, I blame us, for allowing pressure from the super rich and political correctness and herd instinct etc. to silence any discussion of this topic. Remember when Bernie Sanders started talking intelligently about immigration? Remember how quickly he was silenced on this issue? (Racist! Nazi! You Just Can’t Say That! Note the lack of reason and data in these arguments…) It’s moral cowardice like this that is leading the world into an overpopulated hell. And the discussions here, as otherwise laudable as they are, are just one example of this…

    1. Tony Wright

      Basic ecology. Overpopulation in any species leads to conflict, disease or famine, or all of the above. And if the species has big enough brains ( but f… All foresight), it can even accellerate climate change. Aren’t we clever little smarties….
      And by the way, has not Erdogan recently issued similar overpopulation instructions to Turkish women?

  8. Jim Haygood

    Will Democrats — or enough of them — join with Trump to make the war “bipartisan”?

    No need — Congress has determined that ‘surgical strikes’ are as much within the president’s purview as ordering up toast for breakfast.

    Since they aren’t even permitted to view the secret DOJ memo that authorized last year’s strikes on Syria, Congress creatures might as well get back to work renaming post offices.

    Happy ever after in the marketplace
    Ryan lets his children lend a hand
    Schumer stays at home and does his pretty face
    And in the evening he’s a singer with the band

    — The Beatles, Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

    1. Jim Haygood

      Wait — a few critters are rising up:

      Lofgren-Amash-Lee-Massie Letter to Trump:
      Seek Authorization from Congress Before Escalating in Syria

      April XX, 2018

      Dear Mr. President:

      We write to you as a bipartisan group of colleagues with a shared concern, as we did with the prior administration in 2013, and again in a letter to you last May. We strongly urge you to consult and receive authorization from Congress before ordering additional use of U.S. military force in Syria.

      Your responsibility to do so is prescribed in the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution of 1973.

      While the Founders wisely gave the Office of the President the authority to act in emergencies, they foresaw the need to ensure public debate — and the active engagement of Congress — prior to committing U.S. military assets. Engaging our military in Syria when no direct threat to the United States exists and without prior congressional authorization would violate the separation of powers that is clearly delineated in the Constitution.

      We stand ready to consider the facts before us and share the burden of decisions made regarding U.S. involvement in the quickly escalating Syrian conflict.


      Zoe Lofgren — D-Calif
      Justin Amash — R-Mich
      Thomas Massie — R-Ky
      Barbara Lee — D-Calif

  9. flora

    “War with Syria – What is it good for?”

    Uh, maybe for changing the subject away from something TPTB don’t want talked about? People were talking about MLK’s economic justice ideas pretty seriously last week. Can’t have people talking about that. (Too cynical?)

  10. Andrew Watts

    I doubt there’s going to be an armed confrontation between Russia and the US in Syria. If the US does bomb Syria it’ll probably be like when Trump ordered those Tomahawk missiles fired off at a mostly empty base. Russia will likely be notified of the attack by the deconfliction hotline rendering it nothing more than another symbolic attack that avoids a wider conflict.

    Nobody is prepared to overcome the pathological fear of a military attack that could escalate into a nuclear war. When forces loyal to Damascus attacked the SDF at the Conoco plant and Russian mercenaries were killed both governments and their military leadership played the incident down. There hasn’t ever been a battle like that where US forces killed Russian nationals serving in an armed role.

    Trump and his administration has every reason to hype and pretend to overreact concerning this incident. It distracts attention from the Mueller investigation and his personal issues, re-directs attention away from his domestic policies, and maybe it’ll provide an opening for elevated and increased dialogue with Russia/Putin among other things. The constant intrusion of US domestic politics into US foreign policy will likely remain a mainstay of our political system.

    The entire foreign policy and military establishment also wants war — the Joint Chiefs, the State Department and the nation’s security services, presumably the CIA, DIA and FBI among them.

    No, they want a geopolitical enemy they can hype and fearmonger about to maintain military spending.

    1. Sid Finster

      Russia has stated that they will shoot down those missiles and destroy their launch platforms.

      Moreover, all that does is kick the can of the Day of Reckoning down the road, until ISIS or al Qaeda (sorry, I mean “vetted moderate jihadis”) need some air support.

      1. Andrew Watts

        Russia has stated that they will shoot down those missiles and destroy their launch platforms.

        Moreover, all that does is kick the can of the Day of Reckoning down the road, until ISIS or al Qaeda (sorry, I mean “vetted moderate jihadis”) need some air support.

        I don’t care what either side is saying as only their actions matter at this point. This is another thing we can blame on Obama. The man wrote a check with his mouth that his (_l_) wasn’t ever going to cash. Trump has merely taken it to an absurd level.

        Such passivity in the face of certain destruction isn’t a compliment of the American / Western character. People in Damascus are keeping calm and chiving on. Nor are the Russians getting all hysterical.

    2. Wyoming

      Like everyone I see the risks of action between the Russians and the US rising. But, at this point in time, I do think that most who are showing alarm are overreacting quite a bit on how likely that is to happen when Trump finally gets around to doing something. As he has promised to do. Yes, I understand how easy it is to miscalculate and how misunderstandings can get something started. But the two militaries really do not want this to happen and they will go out of their way to find a path through whatever Trump and Dr. Strangelove..err Bolton…think they are up to.

      So, no, I don’t think there is even a 10% chance that the Russians try and sink a naval vessel of ours. It is also very unlikely that they would fire missiles at the B2’s should they be used in the likely strike coming. Those types of actions would have to be responded to in kind should the Russians actually hit any of the US ships or planes and everyone knows that. So this will not happen (barring some local commander going rogue of course).

      The US military (whether Trump wants them to or not) is going to deconflict this situation on their own with the Russians and both militaries will do everything they can NOT to end up shooting each other. That is not to say that both sides are not going to shoot in the little dust up coming. They are. But the US will tell the Russians how to get out of the way and the Russians will tell the US exactly where they must not target. Then there will be a gentlemans agreement that the US will launch a bunch of stuff and the Russians will shoot down a bunch of our missiles. The Syrians will do that to their ability as well. A bunch of Syrians will die and a handful of Syrian installations of worth will be demolished this time.

      Further into the future it could easily get worse.

      1. schmoe

        I agree with that, but the obvious Russian countermove is not to directly fight us, but to bomb our “moderate rebel” mercenaries to smithereens. I believe Russia could, especially if they don’t care about civilian casualties. There is simply no way to win a war solely with air power, and if or our allies don’t have sufficient manpower on the ground after a Russian pounding, will Trump send in 50,000 troops to fight Russia, SAA and Hezbollah mono e mono? I doubt it,but I also doubt if he has thought that far ahead?

  11. simjam

    Mattis, Kelley, Dunford are the remaining line of resistance to war hysteria. What they have in common, of course, is experience in the consequences of poorly thought out wars. Yes, if any group is in a position to rescue the US from our downward spiral toward destruction, it is the military.

    1. Wyoming

      Hmmm. I think you give way too much credit to the military here. While Mattis and Dunford are 4 stars and have ‘some’ experience in the consequences their ranks are way to high to have on the ground dirt in your face understanding. There is no way that our upper level military has true understanding of war from their minor experiences in Afghanistan or Iraq. Also the military is wholly complicit in the ‘poorly thought out wars’ so the likelihood of their rescuing us is sort of grasping at straws. The leaders of this machine are those who were most successful in advancing their careers in the very flawed system of advancement we have in the military today. How many of these people would have been in charge of combat troops in WWII?

      The issue with the Russians is that they are not the sort of player you want to go to war with. That is to be avoided at all costs. A bunch of Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans? You bet as they are basically unable to defend themselves. It is worth remembering that the number of US personnel lost since 9/11 is not much higher than total Allied losses were on D-Day in WWII. Trivial in military terms. So the US is at war but its non-combat death rate since 9/11 is about 50% of its combat deaths. These are not serious war figures. We are not really at war in any real sense.

      Serious conflict with the Russians is something that higher level military officers, and pretty much anyone with a basic knowledge of history, know is to be avoided at all costs. It means tens of thousands of casualties are possible in just a minor amount of fighting scaling up to hundreds of thousands and potentially millions if we decided to go to actual war with them. And the end of the world worst case – which is what scares everyone so bad.

    1. Jim Haygood

      Like the bipartisan War Party, the small group of war resisters in Congress are also bipartisan, consisting of a few antiwar Democrats [remember those?] and a few small-gov, constitutionalist Republicans.

      See the letter from two Democrats and two Republicans quoted above. Their last letter on May 5, 2017 got 73 signatures — more Ds than Rs, as a first impression.

  12. Unna

    Interesting post on Col. Lang’s blog
    by Publius Tacitus. Two comments to the post. SmoothieX12, some Russian guy, thinks the disagreements in Washington right now are between the surgical strike people (Mattis), and the neo-cons who want to attack Russian assets directly apparently in order to humiliate Putin to overturn him: “Most people in Pentagon and, obviously, some in the so called IC understand consequences of attacking Russians directly–they know the score, they have calculated probabilities for a number of contingencies and none of them, obviously, looks good for CENTCOM assets in the area. But for the BORG there is no way back–and the reasons for that are way larger than Syria. We are talking about global realignment and major shift in power balance. This is not an easy thing to take to self-proclaimed “exceptional” people in Washington plus add here their utter lack of grasp of scales and proportions involved in a purely military aspect….”
    And another commentator says the Americans want to have it out right now, like some say Germany decided in 1914, let the war happen before Germany’s opponents got too strong to beat: “I’m afraid that the Borg has done its sums like the Germans before WW1 and concluded that war with Russia is preferable sooner rather than later and for almost the same reason – primarily logistics.

    The Borg has correctly concluded that an alliance between Russia and China, connected by the one belt one road project that provides interior lines of communication between the Two and their allies, fortiified by the best of Russian military technology produced in volume in China powered by the Chinese economy and Russias inexhaustible natural resources is going to overwhelm the U.S.A in time. We are only going to get weaker.”

    Well who knows, but this Syria thing may not have anything to do at all with proof of chemicals etc but with other considerations. As Jim Haygood might say, gold is up again this morning and so not a good sign

    1. Eustache De Saint Pierre

      I wish I could poke holes in that assessment but cannotl.

      I am hoping someone comes along who can.

      I am also beginning to suspect that the Skripal affair might have been a warm up & that May is not working primarily with Trump.

      Also this delay which has been attributed to waiting for proof of the attack – is it perhaps in terms of a military response the likelihood that the larger it is the more time is needed for preparation ? I seem to recall that the last response happened very quickly with no effort in the form of investigation.

      My other hope is that I am simply prey to wild imaginings.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Better trolls, please.

      Your first link is ad hominem, which is a violation of our written Site policies.

      The tweet you cited, which got all of 5 retweets, is a bald assertion and does not link to any information substantiating his claim, as the many replies to the tweet point out.

  13. VietnamVet

    I was a Junior at University during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Today is worse because all of mankind is within nuclear missile range. Five nuclear nation states are involved in the Syrian war. Rouge nations and Intelligence Agencies are intentionally trying to start a war between NATO and the Russian Federation. The two recent nerve agent incidents in Douma Syria and Salisbury England, when taken together, have only two possibilities; both extremely dangerous. Either they are Russian and Syrian state ordered poisonings as portrayed by corporate media and the British government or they are rouge state supported intelligence operations to disperse nerve agents to start a war that is intended to destroy Iran.

    Once the first American or Russian pilot is killed, or naval vessel sunk by one or the other; the Syrian world war will escalate almost instantaneously into nuclear world annihilation.

      1. VietnamVet

        OPCW detected a nerve agent in Salisbury samples. Chlorine and a nerve agent was reportedly detected in samples from Douma that made it to Turkey. Both incidences taken together do not seem to be happenstance. It takes a fairly competent chemical laboratory like Porton Down to synthesize and handle a very toxic Russian designated nerve agent. It takes an intelligence agency to transport and salt samples to make a nerve agent false flag convincing. If the Russians and Syrians didn’t do the Salisbury and Douma nerve gas attacks then that leaves only Mossad or MI-6 at the Saudi’s request who could stage these as false flags. Both incidents are being used by western politicians and corporate media to expand the war to Russia and Iran. There is no reason why the White Helmets would poison a Russian ex-British spy in the middle of England.

        1. Plenue

          For the Salisbury incident, I’ve yet to read any explanation for why of three people supposedly poisoned with something multiple times more lethal than VX, not a single one is dead. In fact one is already out of the hospital.

        2. Grebo

          The OPCW report states only a ‘toxic chemical’. While it says it confirms what the UK is saying, it doesn’t make clear what it means by that. Even if it means ‘the Skripals were poisoned with Novichok’ it does not rule out a false flag.
          Chlorine and a nerve agent (why both?) from Libya were (reportedly) provided to the ‘rebels’ by the CIA.
          Obviously the White Helmets did not poison the Skripals, but they work for someone, also apparently the CIA and/or MI6. SAMS is mostly funded by USAID, a wholly owned subsidiary of the CIA.
          The CIA is an intelligence agency and it has form when it comes to false flags. But I don’t need to tell a Vietnam vet that…

  14. b1daly

    Trump has so far proved to be as bad as I feared.

    If I had any confidence he was actually going to reduce our military activities, I would have voted for him, even though he disgusts me.

    But he is truly a bad person, who cares only for money, power, and ego worship. My prediction, before the election, was that once Trump was in office, he would have no more motivation to pay more than lip service to the handful of decent, populist, positions he espoused. On the contrary, to implement a draw down in US troops would pit him against vastly more powerful interests that would be in opposition.

    So he lets the elite power structure run roughshod over the whole damn country, and the world, because there’s not enough upside for him to take the heat this would bring. As it is, he is being attacked mercilessly by establishment elements in the government ( and deservedly so).

    Trump ironically is weak, because his pathological narcissism prevents him from acting in the sustained, methodical manner political action requires. It requires a measure of self sacrifice, which is simply beyond Trump’s understanding.

    All signs at this point are towards the continuation of our ever mestastizing military engagements. The men whose business is war are going to call the shots.

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