Debunking the “U.S. Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013”

Eric Draitser

The document
entitled “U.S. Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical
Weapons on August 21, 2013”, released in tandem with public statements made by
Secretary of State John Kerry, is merely summary of a manufactured narrative
designed to lead the US into yet another criminal and disastrous war in the
Middle East.  Having been released prior
to even preliminary reports from UN chemical weapons investigators on the
ground in Syria, the document is as much a work of fiction as it is fact.

It begins with the conclusion that “The United States Government assesses with high confidence that the
Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs
on August 21, 2013.
”  Naturally, one
would immediately wonder how such a conclusion was reached when even the expert
investigators on the ground have yet to conclude their own study.  If these experts with years of training in
the field of chemical weapons, toxicology, and other related disciplines, have
yet to make such a determination, it would seem more than convenient that the
US has already reached this conclusion.

Moreover, based on its own admissions as to the sources of
this so-called “intelligence”, very serious doubt should be cast on such a
dubious government report.  The document
explains that:

all-source assessments are based on human, signals, and geospatial intelligence
as well as a significant body of open-source reporting…In addition to US
intelligence information, there are accounts from international and Syrian
medical personnel; videos; witness accounts; thousands of social media reports
from at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area; journalist accounts;
and reports from highly credible non-governmental organizations.

First and foremost, any critical reading of this document
must begin with the notions of “human intelligence” and “witness accounts”.  Such terminology indicates that the US is
simply basing pre-conceived conclusions based on rebel sources and the much
touted “activists” who seem to always be the sources quoted in Western media
reports.  Secondly, it is obvious that US
officials have cherry-picked their eyewitness accounts as there are many, from
both sides of the conflict, which directly contradict this so-called high-confidence

in the Mint Press News by Associated Press reporter Dale Gavlak, Syrians from
the town of Ghouta – the site of the chemical attack – tell a very different
story from the one being told by the US government.  Residents provide very credible testimony that
“certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief,
Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out the dealing gas
attack.”  What makes such testimony even
more compelling is that it comes from anti-Assad Syrians, many of whom have
seen their children die fighting Assad’s forces.  One of the Ghouta residents described his
conversations with his son, a fighter tasked with carrying the chemical weapons
for the Nusra Front jihadi group, who spoke of Saudi-supplied weapons being
unloaded and transported.  His son later
was killed, along with 12 other rebels, inside a tunnel used to store weapons.

Prince Bandar bin Sultan seen here commiserating with his fellow war criminal George W. Bush. Prince Bandar earned himself the nickname “Bandar Bush” because of his close friendship with both George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush as well.  Educated in the US, Bandar has long been understood to be the intermediary between Washington and Riyadh.

It is essential to also dispute the very notion that “social
media reports” constitute credible evidence to be used in making a case for
war.  It is a long-established fact that
US and other intelligence agencies are able to manipulate twitter, Facebook and
other social media in whatever way they see fit.  As the Guardian
reported back in 2011

US military is developing software that will let it secretly manipulate social
media sites by using fake online personas to influence internet conversations
and spread pro-American propaganda…each fake online persona must have a
convincing background, history, and supporting details, and that up to 50
US-based controllers should be able to operate false identities from their
workstations ‘without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries.’

Essentially then, the United States is using social media, a
system over which they have control, to justify their pre-fabricated war
narrative.  Additionally, the idea that videos
constitute a shred of evidence is laughable. 
As any investigator can tell you, videos are easily manipulated and,
even if they are untouched, they cannot be used to assess the culprit of a
crime.  Videos merely show what is
visible, not the underlying motives, means, and opportunity – all part of genuine

Finally, one must feel serious apprehension at the idea of
journalist reports as being part of this pastiche called a “high confidence
assessment,” for the simple reason that Western coverage of the conflict in
Syria is mostly coming from journalists outside the country or those already
sympathetic to the rebel cause.  Whether
they are paid propagandists or simply convenient tools used as mouthpieces of
the corporate media, their reports are highly suspect, and certainly should
have no role in shaping war-making policy.

It is critical to examine the “intelligence information”
referred to in the assessment.  It would
seem that, according to the document itself, much of the case for war is based
on human intelligence.  Many news outlets
have reported that the entire case against Assad is being based on an
intercepted phone call provided to US intelligence by none other than the Israelis.  Israel, with its long track record of
fabricating intelligence for the purposes of war-making, is not exactly a
neutral observer.  As one of the
principal actors in the region calling for the overthrow of the Assad
government, Tel Aviv has a vested interest in ensuring a US intervention in

 The ardently
pro-Israel FOX Newsreported

initial confirmation that the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad was
responsible for a chemical weapons attack Aug. 21 came from a tip from the
Israeli intelligence service…a special unit of the Israeli Defense Force – an intelligence
unit that goes by the number 8200…helped provide the intelligence intercepts
that allowed the White House to conclude that the Assad regime was behind the

It would seem rather convenient that one of the primary
beneficiaries of a war to topple Assad would be the primary source of the sole
piece of evidence purportedly linking Assad to the attack.  If this strikes you as at best a flimsy
pretext for war, you would be correct.

The assessment also outlines the way in which Washington
arrived at its conclusion that Assad carried out the attacks.  The document states:

assess with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out the chemical
weapons attack against opposition elements in the Damascus suburbs on August
21.  We assess that the scenario in which
the opposition executed the attack on August 21 is highly unlikely.  The body of information used to make this
assessment includes intelligence pertaining to the regime’s preparations for
this attack and its means of delivery, multiple streams of intelligence about
the attack itself and its effect, our post-attack observations, and the
differences between the capabilities of the regime and the opposition.

In analyzing the above excerpt, it should be immediately
clear to anyone who has been following events in Syria closely, that this
conclusion is based on faulty premises and outright lies.  First, the idea that it is “highly unlikely”
that the chemical attack was carried out by the opposition is an impossible
assertion to make given that there is abundant evidence that the “rebels”
carried out chemical attacks previously. As the widely circulated video showing rebels
mounting chemical weapons onto artillery shells demonstrates, not only do they
have the capability and delivery system, they have a significant supply of
chemicals, certainly enough to have carried out the attack.  Moreover, the multiple massacres carried out
by Nusra Front and other extremist rebel factions demonstrates that such groups
have no compunction whatsoever about killing innocent civilians en masse.

As for the claim that the US has based their conclusions at
least in part on “the regime’s preparations for this attack”, this too is a
dubious assertion simply because there has been no evidence provided whatsoever
to support it.  Ostensibly, the United
States would like international observers to “take their word for it” that they
have such evidence, but the fragile public simply cannot be allowed to see
it.  More echoes of Bush’s lies before
the Iraq War.

And the so-called “post-attack observations” are again
suspect because, as I have previously noted, the US has not bothered to wait
for the results of the UN chemical weapons investigation.  Therefore, these observations could only come
from anti-Assad sources on the ground or international observers not present at
the site who merely repeat the same information fed to them from those same
anti-regime sources. 

As if intended as a cruel joke to the reader, the document
points out that, despite the claim that this is an irrefutable, evidence-based assessment,
it is in fact based on nothing but hearsay and rumor.  Buried at the end of the first page is the
most important quote of all:

high confidence assessment is the strongest position that the U.S. Intelligence
Community can take short of confirmation
[emphasis added].

So, the US is supposed to make war on a country that has not
attacked it or any of its allies based on admittedly unconfirmed evidence? This
would be laughable if it weren’t so utterly outrageous and criminal.

The “U.S. Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s
Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013” is a poorly constructed attempt to
justify the politically, militarily, and morally unjustifiable war against
Syria.  It relies on lies, distortions,
and obvious propaganda to create the myth that Assad is the devil incarnate and
that the US, with its clear moral high-ground, must take it upon itself to once
again wage war for the sake of peace. 
Nothing could be more dishonest. Nothing could be more disgusting.
Nothing could be more American.

Eric Draitser is an
independent geopolitical analyst based in New York City.  He is the founder of and
a regular contributor to CounterPunch, RT, Global Research, and a number of
other news outlets.