Thursday, June 18, 2015

House Holds Hearings Titled "Assad's Abhorrent Chemical Weapons Attacks"

The bane of a frontline wage-worker's life is repetition. Life is largely routinized Monday through Friday down to quarter-hour intervals. There is a tiny bit of freedom that the weekend affords, but Saturday and Sunday, for me at least, are largely routinized as well.

The silver lining to all this repetition is that it does yield a certain kind of deep knowledge. Doing the same thing over and over again gives one a type of understanding that is prized as "organic."

Reading the newspaper every morning for years one bit of organic wisdom that I have gleaned is that anything in the Gray Lady with a byline by Eric Schmitt or Rick Gladstone usually mirrors a U.S. governmental department perspective. These reporters' jobs are to act as a conduit -- most of the time, not 100% of the time -- for USG propaganda.

Another fruit of repetition (we seem to be on a lunar cycle here) is the Syrian chlorine gas barrel bomb delivered by "only Assad's military has helicopters" helicopters. There were hearings held yesterday by the House Foreign Affairs Committee neutrally titled "Assad's Abhorrent Chemical Weapons Attacks." Gladstone, in his story covering the hearings, "Claims of Syrian Chlorine Bombs Counter News of Progress on Chemical Arms," could not bear to refer to the hearings by their title, no doubt because he is a seasoned propagandist and "Assad's Abhorrent Chemical Weapons Attacks" is clearly of a class with Gaddafi's rape rooms, Saddam's soldiers throwing babies onto the floor from their incubators, etc.

Gladstone even includes the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announcement of the successful disposal of Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles as a way to balance the House Foreign Affairs Committee dog & pony show:
The monitoring group overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical arms stockpile said Wednesday that almost all effluent from the neutralized weapons had been eliminated, portraying the progress as a great success in the nearly two years since Syria agreed to give up its arsenal. 
But the news from the group, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, was partly overshadowed by outrage over what critics of the Syrian government call its increasingly brazen use of chlorine in makeshift poison gas bombs dumped on civilians and suspected rebels in the civil war. 
Witnesses at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing in Washington, including a Syrian doctor and a civil defense coordinator from areas said to have been attacked, described the chlorine bombs as horrific weapons that had asphyxiated young children.
One witness, Dr. Annie Sparrow, a pediatrician and human rights activist who has helped train doctors working in rebel-held areas of Syria, accused the Syrian government not only of using chlorine in bombs, but also of withholding chlorine for water purification and other critical sanitation needs in areas it does not control. 
Dr. Sparrow, an outspoken critic of the Syrian government, said it had “transformed a principal element of public health into a tool of disease and terror.” 
President Bashar al-Assad of Syria denies that his forces have dropped chlorine bombs, which would be a war crime. Such attacks would also violate the Chemical Weapons Convention, which the Syrian government, under heavy pressure from Russia, signed in 2013 to avert an attack threatened by the United States.
Gladstone doesn't mention that Dr. Annie Sparrow is married to Human Rights Watch (HRW) executive director Kenneth Roth. HRW authored a report, now discredited, blaming the Syrian government for the Ghouta sarin attack in August of 2013. Sparrow and Roth are partisans in the campaign to topple the Syrian government.

To get a more in depth look at these hearings one should consult a story (Alice Ross and Shiv Malik, "Syrian doctors to show the US evidence of Assad’s use of chemical weapons") that appeared in The Guardian a few days ago:
A network of Syrian doctors is due to tell the US Congress that Bashar al-Assad’s regime is systematically weaponising chlorine to spread fear among civilian populations, in defiance of a recent UN security council resolution.
The testimony on Wednesday will be accompanied by a dossier of evidence compiled by the Syrian American Medical Society (Sams), a charity that runs 95 medical facilities inside the country. It documents 31 separate chlorine attacks between 16 March and 9 June. The charity says all the attacks were conducted by launching barrel bombs from helicopters and many targeted civilian areas, leaving 10 dead and at least 530 people seeking medical treatment.
The dossier, which has been seen by the Guardian, provides US lawmakers with data, photos and videos that Sams says were taken in the aftermath of chlorine bombings in a province of Syria recently overrun by militants, including the al-Qaida-affiliated al-Nusra Front.
The Guardian has been unable to verify the material, which includes videos and photos of adults and children struggling to breathe, often wearing oxygen masks. Some are retching, while others are being stripped and hosed down to remove chemical residue.
Sams also provided the Guardian with a redacted list of basic patient information for 221 people treated for chlorine exposure. According to that list, 57 were under 18.
The lead medical coordinator for Sams in Idlib province, Dr Mohamed Tennari, has flown to Washington DC and has been invited to testify in front of the House foreign affairs committee on Wednesday morning. Tennari will say that although chlorine is less likely to kill than conventional weapons, it has created a “new type of psychological torture” for the Syrian people. He told the Guardian: “We would like to see a no-fly zone and increasing help being provided to refugees.”
The Sams data only reflects attacks that have been confirmed by the charity’s own facilities, and only those taking place in Idlib province. Other activists, including the White Helmets, a volunteer rescue service who will also testify at the hearing, have reported further incidents in the adjoining Hama province.
Recent reports suggest that militant forces in Syria, including Isis, are developing a chemical weapons capability of their own. Isis are understood to have used chlorine in Iraq. However, Sams said that all the attacks in their data were launched from helicopters, which are only operated by the Assad regime. [!]
The Syrian president has denied that his forces have deployed chlorine. Although the chemical is widely available, its weaponisation is strictly banned under international law. In an interview with France 2 on 20 April, Assad said there was no proof of chlorine use in attacks on Idlib city. 
“This is another fake narrative by the western governments … The regular armaments that we have are more influential than chlorine, so we don’t need it anyway,” he said. “We didn’t use it. We don’t need to use it. We have our regular armaments, and we could achieve our goals without it. So, we don’t use it. No, there’s no proof.”
These chlorine gas stories crop up every month to keep alive the issue of a no-fly zone in northern Syria. Obama's realpolitik brain trust has been wary of overt moves to get rid of Assad, but his administration has supported CIA front groups like SAMS and White Helmets. Once a neocon, whether Hillary or the Republican (whomever that may be), recaptures the presidency, the issue of chlorine gas will be part of the public record and used to launch the no-fly zone.

What is incredible to me is that even in a superior story like the one that appeared on Tuesday in The Guardian the absolutely bald lie that only Assad's regime operates helicopters used to deliver the chlorine barrel bombs in the Idlib and Hama is waved through without comment or disclaimer.

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