Seymour The Janitor

This post is perhaps best seen as an adjunct to WP's revealing article, Big Surprise: US Intel Knew Syrian Rebels Could Produce Sarin; Obama Lied About It Trying To Justify Another War

In writing his article, “Whose Sarin?”, Seymour Hersh is explaining to his audience what happened (and what didn't happen) in Syria and why Obama behaved as he did. He also provides us with the titilating revelation of the National Reconnaissance Office having sensors in Syria that can supposedly detect chemical weapon (CW) activity.

But the first question we need to ask ourselves is “Who is Hersh's audience?”

Presumably he wasn't published in the London Review of Books by random chance. So we can assume his audience is the academic/intellectual circle that reads there. An audience with critical thinking capabilities . . . of a sort. I say 'of a sort' because while critical thinking is necessary and often seen in their pursuit of their occupations, academics and professionals are actively discouraged generally from asking critical questions in the fields of economics and international politics. We don't want to be thought of as a 'conspiracy theorist', do we? There's the reputation to think of and, of course, the mortgage. It has been said that there are none so blind as those whose jobs depend on them not seeing.

But still, the troubling questions of 'why Obama backed down from his threat of a military strike against Syria' and 'what really did happen regarding those chemical attacks anyway', must persist. Luckily for this esteemed audience there is Seymour Hersh at hand to enlighten them.

It seems that the out of character aboutface of the US in not carrying through with it's threatened attack on Syria was not due to the Russians stating that they will defend Syria with its fleet parked just off the Syrian coast. The fact that this same Russian fleet shot down two American ballistic missiles aimed at Damascus had nothing to do with it either, it seems. I guess we know the Russians had nothing to do with the US turnaround because if they had Seymour would have mentioned this. Surely.

Instead we are treated to a series of quotes from various sources and some information from Hersh himself that is rather confusing when taken together. It leaves the reader with the idea that there is much incompetence going on within the Administration/Intelligence network interface. Hersh states that when the chemical attacks took place, and for some days after, Obama knew no more than the general public. From Hersh's article-

"The complaints focus on what Washington did not have: any advance warning from the assumed source of the attack. The military intelligence community has for years produced a highly classified early morning intelligence summary, known as the Morning Report, for the secretary of defence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; a copy also goes to the national security adviser and the director of national intelligence. The Morning Report includes no political or economic information, but provides a summary of important military events around the world, with all available intelligence about them. A senior intelligence consultant told me that some time after the attack he reviewed the reports for 20 August through 23 August. For two days – 20 and 21 August – there was no mention of Syria. On 22 August the lead item in the Morning Report dealt with Egypt; a subsequent item discussed an internal change in the command structure of one of the rebel groups in Syria. Nothing was noted about the use of nerve gas in Damascus that day. It was not until 23 August that the use of sarin became a dominant issue, although hundreds of photographs and videos of the massacre had gone viral within hours on YouTube, Facebook and other social media sites. At this point, the administration knew no more than the public."

There is the unstated presumption that Obama now has much more information as to whom was really culpable and has called off the attack. Plus, there was the argument from the military that an attack on Syria could well lead to the jihadists being in control of Syria's chemical stockpile necessitating US troops on the ground and them being subsequently the target of chemical weapons now in the hands of these Al Qaeda sympathizers. So it seems that Reason and Good Judgement have saved the day (and not the Russians, after all).

But there are other troubling aspects of this whole Syrian thing for the chattering class. It has become increasingly obvious that the Syrian 'opposition'/foreign terorists has access to chemical weapons. And have used them, though Seymour doesn't say it straight out. There have been reports saying that the CW came from Saudi Arabia, specifically from Mint Press which quotes Syrian 'rebels' directly. Then there was the report of Turkey detaining jihadists in Turkey with CW in their possession. Well, Seymour doesn't mention Saudi Arabia in his lengthy article so it mustn't be them. Instead he points the finger at an Iraqi ex-pat, Ziyaad Tariq Ahmed, who worked for Saddam making mustard gas. Case solved! But where would Tariq (as Seymour calls him) get the raw materials from to make Sarin (which must be like mustard gas)? Seymour's not sayin'. Perhaps his contact kept that info back for National Security Reasons.

There is still that nasty business that went on in Ghouta on August 21st, though - all those people killed, including children. Seymour treats us to another little revelation about where the dodgy death figures came from. Those liars! Meanwhile we can forget about who killed those children in the jihadists' videos because we have a culprit regarding the death toll figures. Of course, if Hersh's audience were to think about the children in the videos they might think about Mother Agnes and her report to the UN detailing how the jihadists staged those video's and were using (probably murdering) the children that they had kidnapped from the Latakia region a week or so previously. Embarrassing. Mother Agnes took apart these same videos that Seymour's friends at the CIA used for their case blaming the Syrian government for the chemical attack. Her report made it obvious that the CIA were either rank amateurs or craven liars. Embarrassing all round.

Speaking of embarrassing, the chattering class would no doubt have been chattering (as they do) about the spectacle Jeremy Scahill made of himself in putting a stop to Mother Agnes talking at the Stop The War In (On) Syria conference. So best not mention the good Mother at all. Otherwise, there might be all sorts of questions asked about the bone fides of a lot of people such as Scahill and Owen Jones together with the organisations that sponsor them and even the press. Yes, even the revered Guardian!

Seymour Hersh has saved a lot of people from a lot of indigestion and even from a troubled conscience or two, I'm sure. They are now well informed. We have a lot to thank him for. It is not easy being the public conscience. Especially when you are not acknowledged for it. And can't even mention it yourself! So it is with a great deal of pleasure that I can now do that for you, Seymour.


Excellent work, James

You have done a much more thorough job on this than I did.

Thanks very much for filling in all the additional details.

Different tack

Thanks WP. I just took a different but, I think, complimentary approach. You focussed on what was in Hersh's article so I focused on what wasn't in his article. I was prompted to take a closer look at what missing in “Whose Sarin” after a comment from McJ noting that Hersh ignored the Russians entirely in his assessment of Obama's aboutface.

negative analysis

Not just a different tack, but also a more difficult one. It's easy to write about a few of the things that are there (i.e. positive analysis). But it's more challenging to look at what's there and see what isn't there. More worthwhile, too, in a lot of cases.


thanks very much, WP smiling

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