In order to understand the media’s smear campaign against Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), we need to look back to Syria and we need to question and challenge the toxic narratives so prevalent in the mainstream media. We have not learned our lesson after Iraq.
After Congresswoman and 2020 presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard exposed Senator Kamala Harris’ (D-CA) racist prosecutorial record, Gabbard began to be smeared across the spectrum of mainstream media. Rather than holding Senator Harris to account on her problematic record as attorney general for California, some in the mainstream media are instead attacking Gabbard as an “Assad apologist” backed by Russia.
The main slander against Gabbard is her questioning of the mainstream narrative on Syria. Progressives need to work on shifting the Overton window on Syria. The debate, as it is currently constructed, is too skewed and distorted. Anyone questioning the mainstream narrative is immediately tarred and dismissed as an apologist for “a murderous dictator.”
From its origins to the horrific chemical attacks, the narrative surrounding the war in Syria has been outright dishonest. In a 2007 interview with Democracy Now, General Wesley Clark discussed how the plans to attack Syria were drawn up in 2001 — a decade before violence erupted in Syria.
Those who have expressed doubt and differed from the mainstream narrative on Syria include former President Barack Obama, former Vice President (and 2020 presidential candidate) Joe Biden, and former Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
Everything about Syria needs to be questioned. So much of the official narrative already lies in tatters. The antecedents of this “conflict,” its actual start, the staged rescues, the proven links between Western-backed rebels and Al Qaeda, and chemical attacks used as false flags: each component of its narrated history, each insidious tactic serves only one purpose. That purpose is to promote war against one secular Middle Eastern country (Syria) that benefits other theocratic, sectarian and totalitarian regimes — which happen to be NATO allies.
The violence in Syria was premeditated and planned by the so-called opposition. Since then, many of the most problematic elements of the mainstream media’s discourse on Syria have been debunked and contradicted; both by mainstream sources and by a dedicated and growing group of global activists and Syrians.
For instance, the iconic image of Omran Daqneesh, a young child covered in soot and blood, was actually a staged incident, as were the most horrific chemical attacks. These were false-flag chemical attacks staged by the Al Qaeda-dominated “opposition” to draw in the United States to bomb Syria. And President Donald Trump complied — not once, but twice.
In the last couple of weeks, new evidence and leaks from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) highlights that the world’s leading expert on chemical attacks came to a separate conclusion privately, as opposed to an official position that was ostensibly coerced by those who wanted NATO to bomb Syria and side with the Al Qaeda “rebels.”
As characterized by blogger Caitlin Johnstone:
To recap, a few days ago the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media (WGSPM) published a document signed by a man named Ian Henderson, whose name is seen listed in expert leadership positions on OPCW documents from as far back as 1998 and as recently as 2018. It’s unknown who leaked the document and what other media organizations they may have tried to send it to.”
The report picks apart the extremely shaky physics and narratives of the official OPCW analysis on the gas cylinders allegedly dropped from Syrian government aircraft in the Douma attack and concludes:
The dimensions, characteristics and appearance of the cylinders, and the surrounding scene of the incidents, were inconsistent with what would have been expected in the case of either cylinder being delivered from an aircraft.”
It says instead that manual placement of the cylinders in the locations investigators found them in is “the only plausible explanation for observations at the scene.”
Johnstone wrote of the findings:
And as for the gullible, viewing, reading public – us – this outrageous deceit by this supposedly authoritative body of international scientists can lead to only one conclusion: that we must resort once more to the Assanges and the Chelsea Mannings – “traitors” who harm Western security in the eyes of their enemies – and the revelations of groups like WikiLeaks, if we want to know the truth of what happens in our world and the real story behind the official reports.”
The OPCW has denied the veracity of the leaked study that contradicts its official position. This is very troubling and highlights that the main excuse for bombing Syria and justifying regime change is built on a lie. If the OPCW cannot be trusted on the 2018 chemical attacks, can it be trusted on the earlier chemical attacks that were blamed on the Syrian government?
Stephen Kinzer of the Boston Globe (whose work as an alternate source is invaluable) wrote this about Syria in 2016:
COVERAGE OF the Syrian war will be remembered as one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the American press. Reporting about carnage in the ancient city of Aleppo is the latest reason why.
Washington-based reporters tell us that one potent force in Syria, al-Nusra, is made up of ‘rebels’ or ‘moderates,’ not that it is the local al-Qaeda franchise. Saudi Arabia is portrayed as aiding freedom fighters when in fact it is a prime sponsor of ISIS. Turkey has for years been running a ‘rat line’ for foreign fighters wanting to join terror groups in Syria, but because the United States wants to stay on Turkey’s good side, we hear little about it. Nor are we often reminded that although we want to support the secular and battle-hardened Kurds, Turkey wants to kill them. Everything Russia and Iran do in Syria is described as negative and destabilizing, simply because it is they who are doing it — and because that is the official line in Washington.”
This debate has to be shifted. Such a shift is essential to not only challenge the military industrial complex; it is the key to making Gabbard palatable to the average American who has been brainwashed against her.
While everything on Syria needs to be questioned, let’s focus specifically on the chemical weapons attacks.
This was one of the most heinous crimes committed in this conflict and blame for the attacks has been placed squarely on the shoulders of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.
Similarly, the most progressive and principled candidate for the 2020 elections has been relentlessly attacked on the issue of Syria. Gabbard should call to witness former President Obama and former Defense Secretary Mattis, both of whom have expressed doubts about the veracity and evidence of reports blaming Assad for the chemical attacks. She should educate America about how renowned journalist Seymour Hersh debunked the mainstream version of the 2013 chemical attacks in the London Review of Books. And she should make known that similar doubts have been raised by MIT scientist Theodore Postel and journalist Robert Fisk, among others.
A BBC News item from May 2013 quotes the UN’s war-crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte:
Testimony from victims of the conflict in Syria suggests rebels have used the nerve agent, sarin, a leading member of a UN commission of inquiry has said. Carla Del Ponte told Swiss TV that there were ‘strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof.’”
This was before the most devastating chemical attack that took place a few months later in Ghouta, resulting in scores of children dying. At this point, it is clear that even the UN was caught by surprise when Del Ponte concluded that rebels could have also used chemical weapons.
The August 2013 Ghouta attack: no “slam dunk”
One of the main sources used by the mainstream media to pin the blame on the Syrian government was Elliot Higgins, an otherwise unemployed blogger working from his sofa in Leicester, England.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Seymour Hersh also wrote a detailed report challenging the mainstream media’s assertions blaming Assad for the chemical attacks. It was not published in the New Yorker, where Hersh has published heavily in the past, but was picked up by the London Review of Books. Bear in mind, this is the same Seymour Hersh who uncovered the horrific My Lai massacre committed by the United States in Vietnam.
President Obama and then-National Intelligence Director James Clapper were themselves not confident about the veracity of the reports coming out from Syria.
This is made clear in Obama’s detailed 2016 interview with Jeffery Goldberg of The Atlantic:
Obama was also unsettled by a surprise visit early in the week from James Clapper, his director of national intelligence, who interrupted the President’s Daily Brief, the threat report Obama receives each morning from Clapper’s analysts, to make clear that the intelligence on Syria’s use of sarin gas, while robust, was not a ‘slam dunk.’’ He chose the term carefully. Clapper, the chief of an intelligence community traumatized by its failures in the run-up to the Iraq War, was not going to overpromise, in the manner of the onetime CIA director, George Tenet, who famously guaranteed George W. Bush a ‘slam dunk’ in Iraq.”
Renowned historian and journalist Gareth Porter also covered Obama’s break with the foreign policy establishment:
A big reason Mr. Obama had begun to doubt the wisdom of a military response to the Aug 21 attack, Goldberg reports, was that National Intelligence Director James Clapper came to see Mr Obama on the morning of Aug 30 and told him he could not say that the intelligence on Mr Assad having carried out the attack was a ‘slam dunk.’
Mr Clapper’s reference was to the misguided assurance that CIA Director George Tenet reportedly gave then-President George W. Bush in 2002 that the intelligence community could back up Mr Bush’s WMD (weapons of mass destruction) claims about Iraq and that to do so would be a ‘slam dunk.’ Mr Clapper was saying that U.S. national intelligence was not at all certain that the Mr Assad regime was at fault for the attack.”
Even Gabbard’s 2020 opponent and former Vice President Joe Biden offered a candid assessment of the situation in Syria. As the Washington Post reports:
When asked by a student whether the United States should have acted earlier in Syria, Biden first explains that there was ‘no moderate middle’ in the Syrian civil war, before changing the topic to talk about America’s allies:
‘Our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria. The Turks were great friends, and I have a great relationship with Erdogan, [whom] I just spent a lot of time with, [and] the Saudis, the Emirates, et cetera.
What were they doing? They were so determined to take down Assad, and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad – except that the people who were being supplied, [they] were al-Nusra, and al-Qaeda, and the extremist elements of jihadis who were coming from other parts of the world.
Now, you think I’m exaggerating? Take a look. Where did all of this go? So now that’s happening, all of a sudden, everybody is awakened because this outfit called ISIL, which was al-Qaeda in Iraq, when they were essentially thrown out of Iraq, found open space and territory in [eastern] Syria, [and they] work with al-Nusra, who we declared a terrorist group early on. And we could not convince our colleagues to stop supplying them.’
The 2017 Khan Sheikhoun attack
A 2018 article in Newsweek titled “Now Mattis Admits There Was No Evidence Assad Used Poison Gas on His People,” offers this telling assessment by the figure who was at the time the highest authority in the U.S.’ defense establishment, General James Mattis:
… the striking statement by Secretary of Defense James Mattis that the U.S. has ‘no evidence’ that the Syrian government used the banned nerve agent Sarin against its own people.
This assertion flies in the face of the White House (NSC) Memorandum which was rapidly produced and declassified to justify an American Tomahawk missile strike against the Shayrat airbase in Syria.
Mattis offered no temporal qualifications, which means that both the 2017 event in Khan Sheikhoun and the 2013 tragedy in Ghouta are unsolved cases in the eyes of the Defense Department and Defense Intelligence Agency.”
If Mattis and the DoD and DIA can express doubt as to who is to blame for the chemical attacks, then why can not a sitting congresswoman, presidential candidate and U.S. veteran?
From 2013 onwards, every major chemical attack that has been attributed to the Syrian government has been questioned. The OPCW has contradicted its own official findings.
Why must Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard be smeared and attacked for questioning the mainstream narrative on Syria when even Barack Obama has done the same?
Feature photo | From left, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio participate in the second of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN, July 31, 2019, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit. Paul Sancya | AP