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02 September 2013


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Dave Schuler

This is off-topic but I thought you might be interested in adding it to your collection of stories that contradict the official account of Syrian chemical weapons use. From the Russian language online newspaper Utro:


"US and Saudi Arabia Gave Chemical Weapons to the Rebels"

The article is in Russian but the gist is that the Syrian military has found chemical weapons precursors in the hands of the rebels in containers marked "Made in Saudi Arabia" or "Product of the USA".

I honestly don't know what to think about reports of this sort. The detail (the markings on the containers) actually makes me believe the story less rather than more since if I were supplying chemical weapons precursors to the rebels I wouldn't leave my fingerprints on them but it is what it is.

You might want to add this story to your collection. I do find it interesting that we're seeing multiple sources for the Syrian rebels having chemical weapons and, apparently, only a single unnamed, classified source for their use by the Syrian military.

FB Ali

This messianism would be amusing, were it not for the fact that it made the US so prone to use its immense military power.

The rest of the world, except for America's acolytes, and especially those at the receiving end of these "virtuous wars", neither comprehends nor cares about these professed motives. For them it is just hypocrisy, or rubbing salt into the wounds inflicted.


Col. Lang-

Sir, Henry Allen's view is interesting, but I don't believe it fits our current reality. The examples he makes are of situations where the US actually had a foreign policy for the situation in question . . .

Has there actually been a US policy regarding Syria since the start of the civil war? Or is it much more simply us blindly supporting Saudi policy? With the Israelis signaling their support as well? I suspect the latter since we have been "secretly" aiding the rebels for over a year . . .


Saudi policy was initially the overthrow of the Assad govt, but unable to achieve that they have settled on supporting a war of attrition, but with the hope seemingly of bringing Assad down in the end, regardless of the cost to the Syrian people. So far from being some sort of moral judge as to the terrible things that have happened in Syria, we are one of the behind the scenes enablers supporting the rebellion which includes the latest Saudi financed version of "Al Qaida" . . . BHO's hands are hardly clean at this point, so how can he preach Allen's "virtue" to anybody? Given especially the character of the Saudis and what they support . . .

Had the US wished to act like a "Great Power" imo we could have worked together with the Russians and at least de-escalated this civil war or with luck even have ended it by now without the foreign Islamist element being entrenched in country as it is today. Imo the Russians had every reason to work with the US regarding Syria once it was clear that the Assad govt was actually threatened. Had we then acted like a Super Power and reigned in the Saudis, Turks and others from fanning the flames we would have proved our ability to influence events . . . Russia's response? I think it's obvious . . . and we would be dealing with a very different situation now.

In all the current situation in Syria a massive failure of US leadership, vision and strategic competence since I'm sure this option was never seriously discussed by BHO's crew or the McCainiacs . . . far better had we never got involved at all.

So, sir, imo, Allen's view is more a comparison to our past wars, than a description of this current monstrosity . . .



No. I thnk Allen has it right. In fact, the "Battle Hymn of the Republic' says much of the spirit of the thing. "With the beauty of a lily, Christ was born across the sea, with a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me. As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free." I have seen this phenomenon all my life and I am a close student of US history. pl


Mr. Lang,
your post reminds me of my favourite line in 'Breaker Morant'.


Lord Kitchener: Needless to say, the Germans couldn't give a damn about the Boers. The diamonds and gold of South Africa they're after.

Major Bolton: They lack our altruism, sir.

Lord Kitchener: Quite.

Alba Etie

Col Lang
How much of this "as he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free" thinking has its beginnings in "manifest destiny " ideology from our collective expansion West ? I believe it can be argued that a big part of the" manifest destiny" ideology was also driven by mercantile interest then & now. As we had Hearst admonish the then sheeple to remember the Maine, we now have prime time commercial talking up Lockheed Martin's war making products. Just which commercial interest will benefit most from a barrage of cruise missiles unleashed on Syria ? I know to my mind its always about who benefits most economically from this over reaching interventionist foreign policy ? KBR & Irak come to mind ...



People everywhere want to make money and be prosperous. Nevertheless, there is a special quality in American political and military messianism that marks it as something apart from the simple minded commercialism that you persist in believing to be causative. Do you really believe that we go to war so that more criuse missiles can be bought from business? If you do, you should be a panelist on "Shark Tank" where the obscenity that is the business mind is fully displayed. No, my English Puritan ancestors brought this "city on a hill" malignancy to the new world. Only in this country does the self obsession of 17th Century English Puritanis survive and most Americans glory in this and believe themselves to be the saviors of mankind. If you think we invaded Iraq to benefit KBR or other business then you have learned nothing here. pl


FB Ali,
IMO it is hypocrisy only from the outside.

From the inside it that these folks more often than not truly believe in their virtuous cause.

For those people, there is no contradiction between doing one thing while pontificating against others who do the same. There is no perceived contradiction as the US cause is per default just.

Look at all the harm the US has caused in Iraq and is by proxy now fomenting in Syria. None of that is America's fault. All the dead in Iraq are Saddam's and Al Qaeda's fault, and likewise, the death in Syria are Assad's fault. The embargo against Iraq that killed half a million Iraqi children? Worth it - and Saddam's fault.

They are Saddam's fault because that villain blatantly flouted US demands to unconditionally surrender, which simply proves his evil character - and not the excessiveness and unreasonableness of the demand - but that's what the idea that regime change is a policy gets you.

As a result, the US merely happens to be around and somehow involved all the time such horrible things happen, meaning that Anti-Americanism in Iraq or Syria must be perceived as an something of an incomprehensible phenomenon. Obviously, we live in a world full of ingrates.


One listens to air-warriors the likes of John McCain and Obama and wonders if they ever really study the gut wrenching hatred that exists on the ground in Syria. To McCain, war for him was a quick trip by air from a well appointed carrier ready room to torture and POW prison. Such clean and clear experience is not the war experienced on the ground under US bombardment. He never got to see the results of his air career on the ground.

There is some good reporting by Frontline that shows the reality that our messianic desire to sacrifice for freedom is simply insanity. These people are fighting to the death of one side or both. Our Tomahawks will just kill hundreds for naught and increase the world's hatred for US.


The show is also available on Amazon streaming for a price.

FB Ali

"...it is hypocrisy only from the outside".

I agree. But on the inside there often are policy makers who have no such illusions but cynically use this general American attitude to advance their agendas.

For example,I do not believe that Cheney and the neocons had any delusions about the "city on the hill" etc, but they used this belief among Americans generally to push through their attack on Iraq (Bush may well have deluded himself into believing he was launching a noble crusade).


FB Ali

You have said before that the mass of Americans are dupes, led on by heartless, neo-imperialists seeking commercial advantage, but you are wrong. I know the neocons including Cheney and they are first and foremodest true believers. you do not know them. pl

T for Texas

Colonel, I appreciate the lessons your site teaches, esp. as to the continuing influence of Puritanism and the "Shining City on a Hill" conception of the U.S.

Still, some of those seeking commercial advantage have become more transparent of late in their thoughts. For instance, this Aug. 31 tweet by Steven Rattner: "Punishing #Syria for using chemical weapons isn't declaring war. Shouldn't require Congressional approval. POTUS is our CEO." There's probably half a semester's college lectures about what's wrong with our elites in just those "140 characters or less."

Rattner, according to Wiki, is "an American financier who led the Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry in 2009 for the Obama administration. He was a managing principal of the Quadrangle Group, a private equity investment firm that specialized in the media and communications industries. Prior to co-founding Quadrangle, he was an investment banker at Lehman Brothers, Morgan Stanley, and Lazard Freres & Co., where he rose to deputy chairman and deputy chief executive officer.[2] Rattner began his career as a journalist for the The New York Times. Rattner is currently chairman of Willett Advisors LLC, the private investment group that manages billionaire New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's personal and philanthropic assets. He continues to be involved in public policy matters as the economic analyst for MSNBC's Morning Joe, and he has returned to The New York Times as a contributing writer for its Op-Ed page."

Source of the Rattner tweet published: http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2013/09/qotd-ceo-or-king.html


T for texas

"T for Texas?" You have to have balls to appropriate the motto of the 36th Division. Real balls. "some of those seeking commercial advantage have become more transparent of late in their thoughts." So what? That doesn't mean they run US foreign policy. Lobbyists are concerned with business law, bidding on contracts in existing strategy and regulation. Raytheon does not lobby for war so that they can sell more Tomahawks. To think that they do is childish, sophomoric silliness from the movies. I suppose that rich guy slaveholder George Washigton fought for seven years because the Stamp Act affected his bottom line. pl

Mark Logan


I'm thinking there might be a related hypocrisy at work in this, our view of "WMD".

We have internalized a view that CW and nukes are massively more awful than other ways to kill people. We burned whole cities with incendiary's in WW2, yet wring our hands in guilt over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This is being extended to "drones", I noticed. I was stunned when I saw Fran Townshend and Michael Hayden nod it grave agreement that if we do not send piloted aircraft into Syria we would be "sending the wrong message" the other day in one of our news "talkies". It might be that what Obama is saying is exactly what he is thinking in this. He is willing to go to war to stop it's use.

Did the rebs fake it or did some of Assad's people, or even Assad give in to the temptation of a battle field expediency? Either way, putting the spotlight on it makes it tough for either party to continue. The rebs get caught false flagging something now and their dream of US help are dead.

I'm posing a question, could it be Obama abandoned the idea of siding with Assad some time ago, yet be acting as he is now anyway?

Al Arabist

There's victimhood for virtue too, you know. And there's a cult of shame too. Not only in America do people attribute man made disasters to the wrath of God. This plays big in Syria.

Tom in Texas

It is evident that context is seldom more important than on the internet. To explain: ever since I arrived in Texas in the late 1980's, I have been a fan of country singer Jimmy Rogers (1897-1933), and particularly of his "Blue Yodel No. 1", thus "T for Texas, T for Tennessee. (T for Thelma, the gal that made a wreck out of me.)" Submitting a comment under "T for Texas" was not my attempt to grant credibility to myself or otherwise appropriate to myself any aspect of the 36th Division or its history. I will say in mild defense that, in the late 1980's, my exposure to Texas history at UT-Austin (in a required class for out-of-state undergrad students)inexplicably was more interested in illustrating the corruptions of George Washington Plunkitt (of Tammany Hall) than illuminating the lives and deeds of Stephen F. Austin, Col. Fannin or Juan Seguin. My lesson in context is that, had I been more educated in military history (and particularly in Texas military history), I would have chosen another name under which to comment.

To the substance of your critique, I agree completely with your response. However, I submitted the Rattner tweet since I recalled some short time ago you discussed how the position of U.S. President IS NOT the same as that of a corporate CEO. I also agreed completely with that evaluation, but hoped to starkly illustrate to the community of correspondence that influential others often do not accept your good sense. (Particularly where, as here, Rattner was closely involved with the Obama administration in leading the Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry starting in 2009.)

I apologize for any indication that my previous comment was an attempt to hijack your article--it was rather poor word choice on my part.


Tom in Texas.

OK. I might be a little tense these days. I have now read Rattner's tweet. He is mistaken. the president is not CinC of the US. Nor is he the CEO of the US. It is a false analogy to imagine that the president has anything like the legal power of a CEO. Such an idea must be resisted. pl



One thing that I have always found a bit disconcerting, the misuse/abuse of the 'executive order' power by the current and past Presidents. Attempted rule by fiat does our nation no benefit. Trying to end-run/usurp Congressional/Judicial input in decision/law making undermines the Republic. Congress in the past had tried to usurp Executive/Judicial, and the Judicial has tried to usurp Executive/Congressional. Guess that we will never see the three where they get along for the benefit of the Republic.



I wondered if somebody - maybe you - would like to say something to a thought I had on a comment of Obama. See this Obama quote:

"This kind of attack threatens our national security interests by violating well established international norms against the use of chemical weapons by further threatening friends and allies of ours in the region, like Israel and Turkey, and Jordan and it increases the risk that chemical weapons will be used in the future and fall into the hands of terrorists who might use them against us."



So, if I understand Obama's final goal in launching an illegal war of aggression against Syria over alleged CW use, it's strengthening or protecting "well established international norms."

In my view, it's totally absurd in itself. A major international norm is the prohibition of the use of force against foreign souvereign states and even the threat of using force is illegal. In the Nuremberg tribunal of the Nazi war criminals it was ruled that waging a war of aggression is the prime international crime in itself, as it brings with it all the horros of other war crimes.

So, and now comes Obama and tells the world openly that he intends to strengen the rule of law by waging a war of aggression? I find it absurd in itself.

Maybe you'ld like to share some of your thoughts on this. I'ld appreciate it.

r whitman

Thhttp://www.theonion.com/articles/so-whats-it-going-to-be,33662/e Onion says it all:

Alba Etie

Col Lang
First I have learned very much here. Next I do believe that mercantile interest will at times be the necessary final impetus to start These United States down some rabbit hole of an ill advised occupation such as Iraq. And I do agree completely that there were and are overriding 'save the world " impulses in our history & culture imported here from the Puritans that drive ill guided policies such as R2P in current days . No KBR & other private profits were not the over arching reason we went to Baghdad ,- it was specifically the necon claptrap of "Clean Break " that we invaded Iraq.
And yes people everywhere ,myself included want to be prosperous and make money -

Alba Etie

Col Lang
We all are more then a little tense these days - but we all continue to learn more as we correspond here at SST .


T for Texas, does your handle refer to the Grateful Dead's rendition of the traditional "New Minglewood Blues"?


Pat is right about American messianism. It was strongly present in what is the first "American War" -- The King
Phillip War which pitted the English Puritans and their offspring mainly from Massachusetts but also to a lesser extent from other New England states against several of the regions mainly non-Christian Indian tribes. Land was probably the key issue but the Puritan City on the Hill rhetoric cloaked that. The fate of the non-Christian survivors was not pretty. American messianic ideology probably had one of its greatest flowerings during the imperialist era around the time of the Spanish American War.

Babak Makkinejad

I think US could gain more commercial advantage through Caterpillar selling gas turbines, earth-moving equipment, and other stuff like that for the Iran-Iraq-Syria-Lebanon gas pipelines and their branches.

And then there is the training and maintenance (Services) part of the contract that could be as valuable as the original one.

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