Crime and Punishment in Syria


Vithal Rajan – TRANSCEND Media Service

17 Apr 2017 – When a dastardly crime is committed, criminal investigation procedures demand there should be a primary focus on who has the motive, and then on who has the opportunity to commit the crime. Responsible agencies are not expected to jump to conclusions.

So, it was surprising that at an emergency meeting of the Security Council on Wednesday, April 5th,  Nikki Hayes, American ambassador to the UN, held up photos of children dying of sarin gas poisoning in Idlib, a rebel-held stronghold in north Syria, and blamed Syrian President Assad for bombing them to their agonizing death on Tuesday, April 4th  morning.

However, Kim Wan-Soo, the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, could only say ‘the means of delivery of the alleged attack cannot be definitively confirmed, at this stage.’ The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons [OPCW] was also still in the process of gathering and analyzing data and could confirm nothing. Nikki Hayes was not deterred. ‘When the United Nations consistently fails in its duty to act collectively, there are times in the life of states that we are compelled to take our own action,’ she said. ‘For the sake of the victims, I hope the rest of the council is finally willing to do the same.’

Acting like a chorus, all the Western powers, including faraway Australia, were unanimous in their conviction that Assad ‘had done it’ and they all applauded when President Trump, with lightning speed launched 69 cruise missiles against the Syrian government’s airbase at Homs on Friday April 7th morning. The American government is now directly involved in the ‘internal conflict’ between Assad’s Syrian government and so-called rebels, who are also mixed up with Al-Qaeda and ISIS.

But the mystery remains. A former head of the criminal law division of the Pentagon, Republican Senator from Virginia, Richard Black, cannot understand why Assad would ‘snatch defeat from the jaws of victory,’ by sarin bombing civilians when everything was going his way. Chemical weapons experts say that sarin or chlorine gas can be used effectively only from the ground and not by aerial bombardment because of dispersal effects.  Senator Black suggests that ISIS was the perpetrator. ‘Only way ISIS can defeat Pres. Assad is to draw U.S. into the war. What better way than stage an attack on women and children? Why would we take the word of terrorists about the gas attack when killing innocent civilians is what they engage in, not President Assad.’

The mystery deepens further. For the last few years Trump has spoken out against American involvement in Syria. Even very recently he said that regime change in Syria was not a priority for his regime. Daryll Kimball, Executive Director, Arms Control Association in Washington, says he is stunned that Trump changed his views on Syria in such a short time. He adds, ‘It’s not clear from the statements I have read, from the President or the Pentagon, what the purpose of the attack was. There’s a risk of escalation. The expectation of further punitive military strikes will still be there, on Trump.’

Aleksei Pushkov, communications spokesperson for the Russian Duma [parliament] cautiously criticizes the uniform Western response calling for the ouster of Assad, and adds that what surprises him is the rapid military response, almost as if there was foreknowledge of the sarin attack to come. For time voices within the American administration had been asking for such an attack . Hillary Clinton in a televised interview had demanded the bombing of Assad’s airbase at Homs as a way of strengthening the hands of the ‘rebels.’

The handlers of President Trump have made him come around to their point of view in very quick time, just as they had handled Nobel Peace Prize Winner, President Obama. He and Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, had presided over the destruction of Libya and the murder of Gaddafi. They had recorded an arms sale high of $ 278 billion, more than double that of the Bush regime. A major buyer had been Saudi Arabia, controlled by the Wahhabi cult, which has its own agenda of toppling the Shia-led Assad government in Syria, and its form of religious tolerance towards Christians and others.

If it seems very unlikely that Assad had any motive to sarin bomb his civilians, and the al-Qaeda-ISIS rebels had a much clear motive to do so, there is still confusion as to who had the weapon. However, it must be noted that as early as June 2013, ‘it was widely reported,’ according to Richard Black, ‘that Turkish border agents had arrested al Qaeda soldiers crossing from Turkey into Syria carrying 2.2 kg of Sarin poison gas.’ A sarin gas attack happened soon after near Damascus for which Assad had been blamed by Western powers. Following a huge uproar, Russia had brokered an internationally monitored deal, by which over a thousand tonnes of all chemical material that could make the poison gas were removed from Syria. However, in 2015, Turkish members of Parliament, Eren Erdem and Ali Seker blamed the Turkish authorities for supplying the gas to Syrian rebels, and were arrested for their pains. Their report was corroborated by Pulitzer prize winner and investigative journalist par excellence, Seymour Hersh in his article ‘The Red Line and the Rat line,’ in The London Review of Books, of 17 April 2014. Assad’s government continues to maintain that it does not have gas, and is innocent of any attack.

Why then are the Western powers, led by America, so certain that Assad is the culprit? Criminal investigation experts inform us that all criminals have a distinctive modus operandi, a criminal signature, by which their agency is recognized. Just as Nikki Haley held up a photo of children dying of gas attack to initial America’s direct military engagement in Syria, way back in 2003 Secretary of State Colin Powell held up a tube of anthrax in the Security Council meeting to assert Saddam Hussain had weapons of mass destruction. After the destruction of Iraq, no such weapons were found. Even further back, in August 1964, President Lyndon Johnson blamed North Vietnam for launching torpedo boat attacks against the USS Maddox in what came to be known as the Gulf of Tonkin incident. It is now accepted that this was a false accusation, but it was used to pull America into direct war with North Vietnam.  That terrible war was fought by America to contain China. Why does America want to destroy Assad’s government in Syria?

In August 1953, the Prime Minister of Iran, Dr. Mossadeq, a popular and secular leader, was toppled by the CIA, and power was restored to the Shah of Iran, to ensure that Iranian oil remained under Western control. Since that time, American policy in the Middle East has been dictated by the interests of American corporates to retain full control over the energy resources of the region. Hawks and doves, Presidents Bush and Obama, have been relentless in destroying comparatively progressive regimes as existed in Iraq and Libya, and supporting not only the regressive Saudi regime, but they have studiously cultivated, financed and armed terrorist fundamentalists such as the Mujaheedin and the Taliban in Afghanistan, and later, more covertly al-Qaeda and the ISIS. To close the ring round Middle Eastern oil, Assad must be removed and a pliant government or chaos put in place. Iran would be isolated and could be brought to heel.

Another key Western strategic aim is to keep Russia from having access to the Middle East. The Crimean War of 1856 was fought precisely for the same reason, the general public gulled as usual by falsehoods into taking a jingoistic position. Senator Richard Black has exposed American falsehoods. The young and talented Tulsi Gabbard, a practicing Hindu and a Democratic Representative from Hawaii, has introduced a bill in Congress: ‘Stop Arming Terrorist Act,’ which is gathering bipartisan support from many Congressmen. Tulsi Gabbard says:

“For years, the U.S. government has been supporting armed militant groups working directly with and often under the command of terrorist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda in their fight to overthrow the Syrian government. Rather than spending trillions of dollars on regime change wars in the Middle East, we should be focused on defeating terrorist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda, and using our resources to invest in rebuilding our communities here at home.”

 “The fact that American taxpayer dollars are being used to strengthen the very terrorist groups we should be focused on defeating should alarm every Member of Congress and every American.  We call on our colleagues and the Administration to join us in passing this legislation.”

If this sounds like a Hollywood-scripted conspiracy theory, it is worth quoting William Blum, who wrote in the authoritative Foreign Policy Journal, of Jan 10, 2014:

And let me tell you about American leaders. In power, they don’t think the way you and I do. They don’t feel the way you and I do….It would, moreover, be difficult to name a single brutal dictatorship of the second half of the 20th Century that was not supported by the United States; not only supported, but often put into power and kept in power against the wishes of the population. And in recent years as well, Washington has supported very repressive governments, such as Saudi Arabia, Honduras, Indonesia, Egypt, Colombia, Qatar, and Israel.

Not exactly the grand savior our sad old world is yearning for. (Oh, did I mention that Washington’s policies create a never-ending supply of terrorists?) And what do American leaders think of their own record? Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was probably speaking for the whole private club when she wrote that in the pursuit of its national security the United States no longer needed to be guided by “notions of international law and norms” or “institutions like the United Nations” because America was “on the right side of history.”

For ‘American national security’ one can read ‘the interests of corporations’ that control American administration and are ready to lead us into another major war.

As a footnote, it might interest Indian readers to know that sarin gas used in Syria is closely related to chlorpyrifos. This organophosphate, first developed by Nazi scientists, and now a lethal element in pesticides, has been banned in America since 2000, but is easily available in India as Dursban, marketed by Dow Chemical, a company well-known in Bhopal. In 2003, The Centre for Science and Environment, Delhi, found traces of Dursban in India-manufactured Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola well above acceptable norms.


Vithal Rajan, Ph.D. [L.S.E.], worked as a mediator for the church in Belfast; as faculty at The School of Peace Studies, University of Bradford, and as Executive Director, the Right Livelihood Award Foundation. He has founded several Indian NGOs, is an Officer of the Order of Canada, and a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 17 Apr 2017.

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