By Vojin Joksimovich, PhD
President Obama has decided to use force against Syria but has sought the congressional approval although he says that he can act without it. Five US destroyers are stationed off Syria’s coast. They are poised to deliver cruise missiles in a strike that can happen any time now. Some 200 House of Representatives members have signed letters seeking a congressional vote. The former presidential candidate and senior adviser to three presidents Patrick Buchanan argued that any attack on Syria without congressional approval would be an impeachable act. Obama claims that he doesn’t need support from neither the UN Security Council nor from NATO allies with the exception of France and Turkey. The UK prime minister (PM) Cameron lost the Syria war vote, while the German Chancellor Merkel ruled out any German participation. Quietly, several US allies are allegedly pushing for action. South Korea because of the fear that North Korea might be emboldened to use its own chemical weapons against the government based in Seoul. Saudi Arabia and Israel are also concerned that failure to act could convince leaders in Tehran that Obama isn’t serious about Iran’s alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons.
The military action would be in response to chemical weapons attacks in Ghouta, a suburb of the Syrian capital Damascus on August 21.The president cited intelligence reports indicating that 1,429 people were killed including 426 children (France claims that 281 people were killed in the attack). Prior to his Rose Garden remarks secretary of state John Kerry, a Vietnam veteran who has forgotten about the use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam war) delivered a 19-minute case for taking the military action against the secular regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Kerry emphasized that there is “high confidence” that Assad’s regime was responsible for the chemical weapons attack. If true why is Obama rushing to war, why the panic?
Syria dismissed the US claim and stated it was ‘full of lies” and the Russian Federation president Vladimir Putin said it was utter nonsense. UN commissioner Carla Del Ponte, who served as the chief prosecutor of the International Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), said that sarin gas was used by rebel fighters not the Syrian government. Dale Gavlak, a Middle Eastern journalist stationed in Amman who has written for AP, NPR and BBC in co-authorship with Yahya Ababneh, a Jordanian freelance journalist, reported: Syrians in Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels behind Chemical Attack. The attack was a result of mishandling chemical weapons provided by the Saudis with involvement of the intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan, long-serving Saudi ambassador to Washington with close CIA ties
Many perennial proponents of military interventions, such as Senator McCain, have argued that the bombing of Serbia in 1999, so called “Kosovo Model,” should be followed for the resolution of the Syrian dilemma. Yet, NATO’s bombing of Serbia was done in clear violation of a host of international laws including the UN Charter. Typically they use Kosovo propaganda lies to justify their advocacy. Former Canadian ambassador to Belgrade James Bissett wrote: “It is now clear that intervention had little to do with humanitarian concerns and everything to do with giving NATO a reason to exist.” Lloyd Axworthy, who held the position of Canada’s foreign minister at the time, advocated use of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine as justification for western intervention in Syria. However, R2P requires the UN Security Council approval.
There are others who believe that “Syria is not Serbia” like James Goldgeier from Politico. He argues that instead of Serbia 99, we could get Iraq 91. Robert Kaplan of the Stratfor group has argued: “Because so many war plans do not survive the reality of war itself, each war is a unique universe on its own and thus comparisons with previous wars, while useful, may also prove illusory.” This writer, who has authored two Kosovo books: Kosovo Crisis and Kosovo is Serbia, is very skeptical about Kerry’s assertions and believes that the “Kosovo Model,” deemed as a success by some is based mostly on outright propaganda lies. However, the “Kosovo Model” has a great instructive value as discussed herein.
“High Confidence” Assertion?
The media has reported a number of the administration’s assertions. The top one seems to be Syrian senior official’s communications, which discussed regime’s use of chemical weapons on August 21 and expressed concern about UN inspectors finding evidence. However, the intercept was not made public and doesn’t qualify as a casus belli. Other evidence includes satellite shots and that the Syrian army was operating in the area three days before the attack.
Russian president Putin has challenged the Obama administration to submit the evidence to the UN Security Council. Putin said it was ridiculous to suggest the Syrian government should be blamed. “Syrian government troops are on the offensive and have surrounded the opposition in several regions. In these conditions, to give a trump card to those who are calling for a military intervention is utter nonsense. So I am convinced that it is nothing more than a provocation by those who want to drag other countries into the Syrian conflict.”
Reputable Canadian military analyst Scott Taylor, editor of Esprit de Corps magazine, wrote: “If Assad really did launch a gas attack, it will be remembered as one of the dumbest military decisions ever made.” In order to secure international support for the rebels “Assad would need to do something so stupid, so diabolical and so dastardly that the world would have no choice but to choose al-Qaida as the lesser of two evils. In other words Assad would need to cross a line—a red line.”
Would Assad allow UN inspectors to the scene of attack if he was behind it? The UN inspectors have left Syria after gathering evidence for four days. They left for the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons in Netherlands. Collected evidence was sent to various European labs for analyses. It was estimated that it would take a couple of weeks for the completion of analyses.
Carla Del Ponte, a member of the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria, said according to London Independent that testimony gathered from casualties and medical staff indicated that the nerve agent sarin was used by rebel fighters not the Syrian government. Del Ponte qualified her statement as strong concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof.
The White House said that it was “highly skeptical” that Syrian rebels used chemical weapons. However, this writer finds Del Ponte’s assertions plausible based on his knowledge of both staged massacres in Bosnia and Kosovo in order to provide casus belli for Western powers to intervene militarily. President Clinton used the so called “Racak Massacre” in Kosovo as casus belli in 1999 to bomb Serbia, which was proven to be staged beyond a shadow of the doubt. The Markale massacres in Bosnia, staged by Bosnian Muslims while blaming the Serbs, fits into the same category as well.
Dale Gavlak’s and Yahua Ababneh’s report, on the Mint Press News website affiliated with AP, claims that the rebels admitted to the gas attack as a result of mishandling chemical weapons obtained from the Saudis. Numerous Interviews conducted with doctors, Ghouta residents, rebels and their families revealed that the Saudis didn’t tell them what those arms were or how they should be handled. “When Saudi Prince Bandar gives such weapons to people, he must give them to those who know how to handle and use them.” The residents said that the rebels were using mosques and private houses to sleep while storing their weapons in tunnels. The report has also referenced the humanitarian agency Doctors without Borders report that around 355 people had died (note discrepancy with Obama’s version) and that they treated 3,600 people with symptoms of frothing at the mouth, respiratory distress, convulsions and blurry vision. The report, dated August 30, was ignored in the American media other than the Antiwar.com indicates that a cover-up might be under way. The report essentially corroborates the statement made by Carla Del Ponte. It is a bomb shell that the US and Saudi propaganda will have a tough time to discredit. Their abilities in this respect should not be underestimated. A big geopolitical chess game might be under way.
Saudi prince Bandar bin Sultan has been implicated. He was a long-serving highly influential Saudi ambassador to Washington with close ties to the CIA. According to the Independent it was Prince Bandar’s intelligence agency that brought allegations of the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime in the February time frame. Recently The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that the CIA realized Saudi Arabia was serious about toppling Assad when the Saudi king Abdullah named Prince Bandar to advance Saudi Arabia’s top foreign policy goal of defeating Assad and his Iranian and Hezbollah allies. He convinced Washington to back a program to arm and train rebels out of a military base in Jordan, which went online in the summer of 2012. It is appropriate to pose a question if America would be fighting the Saudi war?
Based on leaks to the Russian press and the Lebanese newspaper Al-Safir, London’s Daily Telegraph reported that Prince Bandar, in a closed-door meeting with Putin at his dacha outside Moscow, offered Russia a sweeping deal to control the global oil market and safeguard Russia’s gas contracts if the Kremlin backs away from the Assad regime. Allegedly he offered other inducements. “I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us,” he allegedly said. He also pledged to safeguard Russia’s naval base in Syria. He went on to say that Chechens operating in Syria were a pressure tool that could be switched on and off. “These groups do not scare us. We use them in the face of the Syrian regime but they will have no role in Syria’s political future.”
The Gavlak/Ababneth report does not address the origin of Saudi chemical weapons. Did they come from the US, the UK or were they domestically produced? According to the Sunday Mail furious politicians have demanded Prime Minister Cameron explain why chemical export licenses were granted to firms last January, 10 month after the Syrian uprising began. Britain allowed firms to sell chemicals (potassium fluoride and sodium fluoride) to Syria capable of being used to make nerve gas.
Kosovo Model: Racak Massacre
In September 1998 US/NATO had established a red line against alleged Serb ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. Richard Holbrooke was dispatched to Belgrade for negotiations with the Serbian president Milosevic. After 50 hours of face-to-face negotiations the deal was announced on October 13. It called for: 1.Compliance with the UN Security Council Resolution #1199, 2.Verification of cease-fire by an international team of about 2,000 verifiers assembled by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and 3. Long-term political solution (see pages 201-204 of my Kosovo Crisis book) to the crisis.
This writer has read about a dozen articles advocating the “Kosovo Model” to be used in Syria but none referenced the Holbrooke-Milosevic accords. In case of Syria there is no UN Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire despite the fact that the Syrian civil war thus far has resulted in some 120,000 fatalities as opposed to 2,000 in the Kosovo conflict. There is no long-term political solution even on the drawing board. No US diplomat of Holbrooke’s caliber went to Damascus for negotiations with Assad.
Many critics posed the following question to Holbrooke: “Why couldn’t you have done what you did last week six months ago?” Part of his response was: “Democracies are slow to act; that is in their nature. But when they act, they are effective.” Part of that slowness is a need to convince their own people that it is in the national interest to risk the lives of American military in order to accomplish dubious and often incomprehensible foreign policy objectives such as siding with jihadists in Syria. 99% of the American people couldn’t find Kosovo on the map. Hence, the propaganda machine had to be launched in top incessant gear. Part of it was the demonization of the Serbian president as well as the Serbian people in general. Another part was the distortion of facts on the ground in order to support outrageous claims of ethnic cleansing including analogies with the holocaust. A massacre, even if staged, would go a long way to convince skeptical American people that the military intervention would be launched for humanitarian purposes.
The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which had launched an insurrection from northern Albania into Kosovo, was terribly disappointed that US/NATO bombing of Serbia wouldn’t take place. The KLA characterized at one point as terrorists by Robert Gelbard, Clinton’s special envoy to the Former Yugoslavia, as well as leading Albanian nationalists felt betrayed. The KLA needed the US/NATO air force to win the war. James Jatras, then US Senate policy analyst, predicted that the Clinton administration had set US policy on a course likely to lead to US-led NATO military intervention. The only missing element was an event, with suitably vivid media coverage including TV media displaying graphic pictures that would make intervention politically salable.
The US sent some 100 OSCE monitors with the American ambassador William Walker heading the Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM) against the protests from a number of US NATO allies. During Walker’s diplomatic tenure in El Salvador, deaths squads, trained in the US, decapitated thousands of Salvadoran victims. He also worked to overthrow the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua. Walker, later called Mr. Massacre, had a job to implement the Clinton administration policy irrespective of the statements made by the French defense minister: “The main destabilizing force is the KLA, not the Serbs” or a German BND report that “Serbian security forces in Kosovo were not acting against the Albanians as an ethnic group, only against the KLA and its actual supporters.” German courts ruled that “The measures taken by the armed Serbian forces are in the first instance directed towards combating the KLA and its supposed adherents and supporters.”
Earlier attempts such as using a mass grave in Gornje Obrinje as casus belli fizzled. On January 15, the Serbian police supported by the Yugoslav army with the green light received from the KVM, attempted to arrest a KLA terrorist group that killed a police officer as well as previously three others in the vicinity of Racak, known as the KLA bastion. The KLA group attacked the Serbian police officers. The officers using firearms in a battle, which lasted 14 hours, killed a number of terrorists wearing uniforms with the KLA insignia. Serbian on-site investigation was prevented by the KVM.
Ambassador Walker arrived at the site 15 hours later with foreign but no Serbian journalists and without informing the Serbian authorities. They discovered 45 Albanian bodies, dressed in civilian clothing, shot or mutilated. Later reported by KVM as 39 (37 men, one woman, one child). Walker called it a massacre and said: “Nor do I hesitate to accuse the government security forces for responsibility…It looks like it was done by people who have no value for human life.” Without an investigation or evidence he blamed the Serbian police suggesting they prove their innocence, which violates the principles of the American legal system. The Serbian president Milosevic disputed the Walker version and declared Walker persona non grata. Serious doubts about Walker’s version were instantly raised by several others including the French journalists reporting for Le Monde and Le Figaro. There was an AP film crew, which had filmed the Serbian police response. Walker was right that the Western propaganda machinery of CNN and others would carry the message blindly and all but ignore the Serbian version.
The response to Walker/CNN report of “Racak massacre” created an atmosphere of frenzy. World leaders voiced shock and anger, expressing outrage and revulsion. Secretary of State Albright declared that the Milosevic-Holbrooke accords had failed. She knew of the alleged massacre in advance, lavishly praising Ambassador Walker. On March 24, NATO bombs and cruise missiles started raining over Serbian targets marking the first time in NATO’s history that the alliance directed its military might, second to none in the world, against a sovereign nation in violation of seven international laws including the UN Charter. President Clinton announcing the bombing campaign against Serbia said: “We should remember what happened in the village of Racak…Innocent men, women and children were taken from their homes to a gully, forced to kneel in the dirt, sprayed with gunfire—not because of anything else they had done, but because who they were.”
The “Racak massacre” was simply a staged, manufactured propaganda event constituting a bogus casus belli belonging to so called Propaganda of the Deed family of events in the category of mass rapes of Belgian girls, cutting off limbs of Belgian children, carrying Belgian infants on German bayonets in WWI, the Gleiwitz radio station attack by Polish Army troops justifying Hitler’s war against Poland, or an Iraqi hoax justifying the Gulf War in 1990. During Milosevic’s Hague trial, his witnesses demolished the prosecution case. The Racak chapter in history has been closed after the present Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci confessed that the “massacre” was orchestrated by the KLA dressing their dead in civilian clothes, machine gunning them down and dumping them in a ditch and claiming it was a Serbian slaughter of civilians. Of course without Walker and the compliant media the world could not have been fooled. The famous German philosopher Hegel wrote: “What history and experience teach us in this—the peoples and governments never have learned anything from history.” Of course nobody cares about the truth of Racak now that the US/NATO have amputated Serbia and recognized illegally the unilateral declared independence of the Kosovo Republic.
The result of bombing Syria is likely to be a match that will light the fuse for an all-out Middle-East war. However, Obama might still be willing to act using Ghouta as the casus belli, despite the fact that he doesn’t have incontrovertible evidence that the Syrian government was behind the chemical massacre. Statements made by Carla Del Ponte and interviews conducted by Gavlak and Abbabneh have not been even mentioned and definitely not discredited. If Obama feels that he has incontrovertible evidence he should go with it to the UN Security Council and present it to the world. Pat Buchanan makes the point that President Kennedy through the UN ambassador Adlai Stevenson did that during the Cuban Missile Crisis. “We had our photographs, we showed the world what we had, and we proved the missiles were in Cuba.” If in the face of incontrovertible evidence, Russia and China veto sanctions it would be obvious to the world that they were on the wrong side. This writer is inclined to conclude that Ghouta is more likely some kind of a “Racak massacre” variation in particular after learning about the Saudi involvement playing a big geopolitical chess game.
Obama seems to be motivated to save some of his lost credibility for doing nothing in 30 months of the Syrian civil war and for messing up the Middle East royally. Alternatively, he might have been convinced to fight the Saudi war. Congress might be fooled to go along with Obama and it appears that it might be the case. His fellow Democrats will not allow him to be humiliated and the Republican House Speaker John Boehner and the House Majority leader Eric Kantor seem to have endorsed Obama’s war. They need to be reminded that the House of Representatives did not endorse Clinton’s Kosovo war but the Senate did. In any case, the American public as well as the world will not be presented with the truth.
Walter Russell Mead, in an article titled Our Failed Grand Strategy, provided an explanation for five big miscalculations in American Middle East foreign policy. He quoted the Hebrew Bible “tohu wabohu,” chaos and tumult and asserted that the Middle East seems to be reverting to that primeval state: “Iraq continues to unravel, the Syrian War grinds on with violence spreading to Lebanon and allegations of chemical attacks, Egypt stands on the brink of civil war with generals crushing the Muslim Brotherhood and street mobs torching churches, Turkey’s prime minister, once widely hailed as President Obama’s best friend in the region, blames Egypt’s violence on the Jews: pretty much everyone else blames it on the US.”
This writer also blames it on the US’ creation of “tohu wabohu” Middle East and partially on Obama although his predecessors must share some of the blame. Obama is a man of loose rhetoric but not substance. He seems to think that delivering a speech is sufficient to turn around century old conflicts in the Middle East into “new realities.” His Cairo speech is a prime example expecting that his grand strategy would demonstrate that liberal democrats were capable of innovation to run US foreign policy and that the solution for complex problems in the Islamic world is democracy with the help of America. As a consequence he sided with the Muslim Brotherhood rather than the military. The time is ripe for the US to withdraw from the Middle East since this country is on the way to energy independence with Canada and Mexico. Instead it should beef up its presence in the Pacific to safeguard more important economic interests.
Vojin Joksimovich is the author of three books and 110 articles on foreign affairs
The Revenge of the Prophet by Dr. Vojin Joksimovich is another classic book which gives great insight and knowledge about the Balkans, radical Islam, US foreign policy and other important areas.
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