The Assad regime's use of chemical weapons is announced as a "red line"—the favored metaphor of Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu, now alarmingly accepted by the US media, at least. Israel yesterday said the line has been crossed. Brigadier-General Itai Brun, head of IDF military intelligence, told an Institute for National Security Studies conference in Tel Aviv: "There's a huge arsenal of chemical weapons in Syria. Our assessment is that the [Assad] regime has used and is using chemical weapons." Brun cited photographs of victims that showed them foaming at the mouth and with contracted pupils. "To the best of our understanding, there was use of lethal chemical weapons. Which chemical weapons? Probably sarin." And John Kerry, speaking at a NATO meeting in Brussels, called on the alliance to make preparations to respond in the event of chemical weapons threatening a member (meaning Turkey). (The Guardian, April 23)
Commentary on the Boston attacks is making for some strange permutations. Voices on the left are seeking to play down jihadist involvement in the Chechen struggle—or to portray it as the result of US intrigues, with the obvious analogy to Afghanistan and al-Qaeda itself. Michael Moore's website sports a piece by FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley entitled "Chechen Terrorists and the Neocons," calling out figures such as Richard Perle for backing an "American Committee for Peace in Chechnya" as a lobby for the armed struggle against Russia—the name later "sanitized" to the American Committee for Peace in the Caucasus.
Talk of former Republican Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel's imminent nomination as Obama's new Secreaty of Defense has sparked all the predictable reactions—but they don't neatly break down along lines of right and left. MondoWeiss says the pick is "setting up a battle between the left and right flanks of the Israel lobby and between realist supporters of Hagel and his neoconservative detractors." We have, of course, pointed out that "realist" or "pragmatist" is a euphemism for what is more properly termed "paleocon." While the neocons harbor hubristic dreams of re-making the Middle East (and the rest of the world) along lines favorable to the US and Israel, the paleocons favor stability under authoritarian regimes. Neither position is even remotely progressive, and it is frustrating to see ostensible leftists get caught up in a Beltway intrigue between rival currents within the political right.
The Obama administration is suddely making much of Assad's supposed preparations for a chemical weapons attack on Syria's opposition strongholds.Conspiranoid blogs, including one with the unappetizing name Sic Semper Tyrannis, assert that the supposed intelligence is coming from neocon groups like the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) which is in turn getting the claims entirely from Syrian insurgent sources. However, the lead story on the WINEP website, "How Would Assad Use Chemical Weapons?," starts off: "US intelligence has detected increased activity at Syrian chemical warfare facilities, raising concerns about the regime potentially using chemical weapons (CW) against the opposition." Are the sources for that "US intelligence" WINEP istelf? Could things really be quite that incestuous? And—contrary to the conspiranoid assumption of a neocon-jihadist plot—the jihadists, like al-Nusra Front, seem to have made the neocons a little gun-shy in Syria. Insurgent sympathizers have been placing lugubrious propaganda videos on YouTube (via a stream called SyriaTube) luridly warning of an imminent chemcial attack. NBC News merely quotes anonymous US "officials" to the effect that "nerve agents" were loaded into warheads, without saying how this was determined. The agents are apparently "precursor chemicals for sarin," the gas that was used by Saddam at Halabja in 1988. Fox News merely cites the NBC account. The New York Times vaguely warns that stockpiles are being moved around to various of Syria's chemical weapons facilities, and that US officlals repeatedly warn Assad will be "held accountable" for their use...
Pretty funny. CIA director David Petraeus, responsible for countless civilian deaths in his lawless drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal territories, resigns in contrition saying, "I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair." (NYT, Nov. 9) After reading numerous accounts, we still can't figure out exactly how this came to light, but it seems to have originated in an FBI investigation of harassing e-mails apparently sent to an unnamed third party by Petraeus' paramour and biographer Paula Broadwell. After the Benghazi blow-out in the presidential debate last month, we were left wondering how the CIA could not have known for two weeks after the fact that the consulate attack was an armed ("terrorist") attack and not just a rowdy demonstration. Now we are left wondering how the director of the CI goddam A could not have known that the FBI was reading his e-mail. And it appears that, at least in the minds of the paranoid, there may be a link between these two apparent lapses...
Our hopes that with this eleventh anniversary of 9-11 the world was finally moving on from the dystopian dialectic of jihad-versus-GWOT have sure been dashed over the past few days. Since the 11th itself saw twin clashes at the US embassy in Cairo and the US consulate Benghazi, violence and protests ostensibly sparked by the Islamophobic "film trailer" (for a film that likely doesn't even exist) have now spread to Yemen, Tunisia, Iraq and Iran. The US has dispatched two destroyers armed with Cruise missiles to the coast of Libya, as well as a special Marines unit called the Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team (FAST) to protect the diplomatic corps there, and an FBI team to investigate the Benghazi attack that left dead the US ambassador, Christopher Stevens, two Navy SEALS and a computer technician. The affair has notoriously become a political football at home, with Romney baiting Obama for "apologizing" for American power, even as Obama wields ultra-nationalist rhetoric about how "We are the one indispensible power in the world." (Pretty out of wack, eh?) The White House even officially disavowed a perfectly sensible statement issued by the embassy in Cairo condemning the film as the work of "misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims." The capitulation came after Charles Krauthammer baited on Fox News: "That's a hostage statement. That's a mob of al-Qaeda sympathizers in Egypt, forcing the United States into making a statement essentially of apology, on 9-11 of all days, for something of which we are not responsible." This despite the fact (although its is unclear that Krauthammer knew it) that the statement was issued before the embassy was mobbed. Oh well, so much for moving on. (Al Jazeera, WP, CNN, Sept. 13; CBS, ABC Political Punch, PolitiFact, Sept. 12)