New Allegations of Chemical Weapons Use in Syria Are Based on US Political Motives, not Facts
The United States is once again, without evidence, accusing Syrian forces of using chemical weapons.
A senior White House official spoke of Âstrong indicationsÂ of Âa chemical weapons attackÂclearly by the (Syrian) government,Â but added Âwe need to do our due diligence and get all the facts.Â  In other words, we havenÂt got the facts, but that wonÂt stand in the way of our making the accusation.
The New York Times called the accusation into question with this headline: Images of Death in Syria, but No Proof of Chemical Attack. 
The newspaper went on to say that according to experts, videos of the attackÂs aftermath Âdid not prove the use of chemical weapons.Â It added that, "Gwyn Winfield, editor of CBRNe World, a journal that covers unconventional weapons, said that the medics would most likely have been sickened by exposure to so many people dosed with chemical weaponsÂa phenomenon not seen in the videos." 
The Syrian military vehemently denies that it used chemical weapons. That, of course, doesnÂt prove its innocence. The Syrians could be trying to cover up to avoid a backlash. But if theyÂre concerned about a backlash, why use the weapons at all?
It makes no sense to use gas, a weapon of mass destruction, to kill only as many people as can be killed readily with conventional weapons , while handing the United States, France and BritainÂcountries with histories of finding excuses to topple economically nationalist governmentsÂa pretext to step up their intervention in SyriaÂs internal affairs.
The White HouseÂs contention that Syrian forces are using chemical weapons but Âkeeping strikes smallÂ
possibly to avoid mass casualties that could spark a stronger international responseÂ  doesnÂt add up. ItÂs like accusing a country of using nuclear weapons, but keeping casualties low to avoid eliciting a punitive international response. If your objective is few casualties and no strong international response, why use weapons that produce neither?
The White House set the standard earlier this year for hurling baseless accusations in connection with Syria when it announced that it had concluded that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons, but admitted it had no proof.
On June 13, Deputy US National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes announced that: ÂFollowing a deliberative review, our intelligence community assesses that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year.Â 
Further down in the statement Rhodes admitted that the evidence the United States had collected Âdoes not tell us how or where the individuals were exposed or who was responsible for the dissemination (emphasis added).Â 
Read that again: The White HouseÂs evidence Âdoes not tell usÂ
who was responsible.Â
Contrast the rush to find Damascus guilty on the basis of no evidence with the White HouseÂs ridiculous refusal to conclude that the Egyptian military carried out a coup dÂetat, despite overwhelming and conspicuous evidence it did. For Washington, it seems, facts are facts, and conclusions are conclusions, but they exist in separate, unconnected, worlds.
So why is the United States baselessly accusing the Syrian military of using chemical weapons? For the same reason it calls the Syrian government the Assad regime. Both serve to create a demon. And creating demons, as Michael Parenti has pointed out, gives you license to intervene. (8)
In a letter to a US Congressman, the United StatesÂ top military officer, General Martin Dempsey, acknowledged that the war in Syria is fuelled by Âunderlying and historic ethnic, religious and tribal issuesÂÂa substantially different, and more realistic, take on the war than the simple-minded pro-democracy-rebels-fighting- against-dictatorship twaddle favored by the manufacturers of public opinion.
Dempsey went on to say that the Pentagon could intervene in Syria to tip the balance in the war, but that there are no opposition groups Âready to promote their interests and ours.Â 
Since itÂs absurd to say that there are no opposition groups ready to promote their own interests (what group doesnÂt promote its own interests as its members understand them?) it can only be concluded that what Dempsey really meant was that there are no groups that see their interests as consonant with those of the United States, and until Washington can create such a group and the group has broad public support, the Pentagon will wait to intervene more forcefully.
Until then, we can expect that Washington will continue to demonize the Syrian government and its leaderÂeven if it has to draw conclusions from thin air to do so.
1. Sam Dagher, Farnaz Fassihi, and Adam Entous, ÂU.S. Suspects Syria Used Gas,Â The Wall Street Journal, August 21, 2013
2. Ben Hubbard and Hwaida Saad, ÂImages of Death in Syria, but No Proof of Chemical Attack,Â The New York Times, August 21, 2013
3. Hubbard and Saad.
4. Estimates range from ÂscoresÂ to 130 to over 1,000 people killed in the latest incident, depending on the source.
5. Dagher, Fassihi and Entous.
6. Statement by Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes on Syrian Chemical Weapons Use, June 13, 2013, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/06/13/statement-deputy-national-security-advisor-strategic-communications-ben-
8. Paul Weinberg, ÂThe Face of Imperialism: An interview with Michael ParentiÂ, rabble.ca, November 3, 2011, http://rabble.ca/news/2011/11/face-imperialism-interview-michael-parenti. Parenti said, ÂOnce you convince the American public there are demons, you have the license to bomb their people.Â
9. Thom Shanker, ÂGeneral Says Syrian Rebels ArenÂt Ready to Take Power,Â The New York Times, August 21, 2013
August 21, 2013
Accusations Continue, But Still No Evidence of a Syrian Military Gas Attack
August 23, 2013
Two days after a possible chemical weapons attack in Syria we know that:
ÂÂ Â Â The United States does not have Âconclusive evidence that the (Syrian) government was behind poison-gas attacks.Â [Wall Street Journal, 1]
ÂÂ Â Â ÂNeither the United States nor European countriesÂ have a Âsmoking gunÂ proving that Mr. AssadÂs troops used chemical weapons in the attack.Â [New York Times, 2]
ÂÂ Â Â The State Department doesnÂt know ÂIf these reports are true.Â [New York Times, 3]
ÂÂ Â Â The White House is trying to Âascertain the facts.Â [Wall Street Journal, 4]
All the same, the absence of evidence hasnÂt stopped the Pentagon Âfrom updating target lists for possible airstrikes on a range of Syrian government and military installationsÂ;  hasnÂt stopped Britain and France from accusing the Syrian government of carrying out an atrocity; and hasnÂt diminished the enthusiasm of newspaper editors for declaring Assad guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt.
ÂThere is no doubt,Â intoned the editors of one newspaperÂwith an omniscience denied to lesser mortals, including, it seems, US officials who are still trying Âto ascertain the factsÂÂÂthat chemical weapons were usedÂ and that Assad Âcommitted the atrocity.Â 
In a editorial, The Guardian avers that the Syrian military Âis the only combatant with the capability to use chemical weapons on this scale.Â Yet The Wall Street JournalÂs Margaret Coker and Christopher Rhoads report that ÂIslamist rebel brigades have several times been reported to have gained control of stockpiles of chemicals, including sarin.Â 
That might account for why the White House admitted two months ago that while it believed chemical weapons had been used in Syria, it has no evidence to indicate Âwho was responsible for (their) dissemination.Â 
And given that the US president claimed chemical weapons use by the Syrian military would be a red line, the rebels have a motivation to stage a sarin attack and blame it on government forces to bring the United States into the conflict more forcefully on their side.
For the Syrian government, however, the calculus is entirely different. Using chemical weapons would simply hand the United States a pretext to more muscularly intervene in SyriaÂs internal affairs. Since this is decidedly against DamascusÂs interests, we should be skeptical of any claim that the Syrian government is defying ObamaÂs red line.
Another reason for skepticism: Why use chemical weapons to produce the limited number of casualties that have been attributed to chemical agents use in Syria, when conventional weapons can just as easily produce casualties of the same magnitudeÂwithout proffering an excuse to Western countries to launch air strikes?
Last month, the New York TimesÂ Rick Gladstone reported on a study which Âfound evidence of crudely manufactured sarin, a nerve agent, delivered via an unguided projectile with a crude explosive charge Â not the sort of munitions stockpiled by the Syrian military.Â 
So, no, the Syrian military is not the only combatant capable of using chemical weapons in Syria. But unlike the rebels, it has no motive to do so, and compelling reasons not to.
ThatÂs not to say that chemical weapons were used, rebel forces used them, and the Syrian military did not. The evidence is murky.
But thatÂs the point. The rush to blame the Syrian military, and to update target lists for possible airstrikes, on the basis of no evidence, smacks of political motivation.
Clearly, the United States, France and Britain want public opinion on their side for stepped up intervention in Syria. TheyÂve decided to declare Assad and the Syrian military guilty of using a weapon of mass destruction.
But the conviction of guilt, as is evident through the statements of politicians and reporting of newspapers, rests on no sound evidentiary basis Â indeed, on no evidence at all.
1. Adam Entous, Julian E. Barnes and Inti Landauro, ÂU.S. weighs plans to punish AssadÂ, The Wall Street Journal, August 22, 2013
2 Mark Landler, Mark Mazzetti and Alissa J. Rubin, ÂObama officials weigh response to Syria assaultÂ, The New York Times, August 22, 2013
3. Landler, Mazzetti and Rubin.
4. Entous, Barnes and Landauro.
5. Entous, Barnes and Landauro.
6. ÂSyria: chemical weapons with impunityÂ, The Guardian, August 22, 2013.
7. Margaret Coker and Christopher Rhoads, ÂChemical agents reflect brutal tactics in SyriaÂ, The Wall Street Journal, August 22, 2013
8. Statement by Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes on Syrian Chemical Weapons Use, June 13, 2013, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/06/13/statement-deputy-national-security-advisor-strategic-communications-ben-
9. Rick Gladstone, ÂRussia says study suggests Syria rebels used sarinÂ, The New York Times, July 9, 2013