The World

Apr 16, 2018

Did the missile attack on Syria really happen?

Western military attacks on Syria's chemical weapons sites serve little purpose, are entirely incoherent, and part of profoundly flawed interventionist urge that plays out as ritual that may as well be fake.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

Did the US, the UK and France actually fire 100 missiles at three chemical weapons sites in Syria on Friday night? They say they did. Russia says they did, and angrily denounced the strikes. Other countries say they did. Like Australia -- both Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten supported the attacks.

Or were they just fake news? Like tweets circulated by people purporting to show pictures of them that are in fact from other Middle Eastern countries decades ago, thus conveying (who knows? maybe deliberately?) the irony of the perpetual present of Western bombardment of the Middle East? Like Wag The Dog, in which an administration fakes an entire war to distract from a president's sex scandals (made during the Clinton years, back when a president actually having even one sex scandal was considered grounds for impeachment -- the past is another country, yada yada). Like those disgusting pro-Assad lefties on social media, who dismiss any accusation of war crimes by the butcher Assad as elaborately staged conspiracies by the US Deep State. Like Jean Baudrillard arguing that the Gulf War (#1, but he was writing before we had to number them) Did Not Take Place, that it existed for the West purely as propagandistic spectacle.

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49 thoughts on “Did the missile attack on Syria really happen?

  1. Saugoof

    This is a great write-up!
    I don’t really have a position either way on those air strikes, except of course that being outraged at the killing of innocents taking place and responding by killing different innocents seems an odd action to take.
    But what baffles me the most about the whole Syria conflict is how everyone here seems to have super-strong opinions on it, but basically no one really has much of an idea what is going on there. We’re all really just doing the same as NATO/Russia, we’re just using Syria as a proxy conflict for our deeply held beliefs. We ignore whatever information conflicts with what we want to see, but remove all doubt from anything that confirms our world view.

    1. Richard

      Why? What is going on??
      Brooking Institute “Which Path To Persia?”

  2. Paul Guy

    Bernard I’ve been a subscriber since Day 1. This is the biggest rubbish I’ve read ever. What’s next? The landing on the moon was faked? The earth is flat?

    1. Saugoof

      Not wanting to be rude or anything, but I think you missed the point of this article. He’s not suggesting that it didn’t happen, just that for all it achieved, it may as well not have.

    2. AR

      Capricorn One“, starring the one and only (hopefully), OJ Simpson?

  3. Janno

    Got it in one Bernard, thanks. Killing with chemicals nasty. However, bombing human lives and habitation to shells of their former selves (just look at non-fake pics of east Ghouta, Mosul in Iraq), seems to be business-as-usual. AND there will be NO Marshall Plan to revive Iraq. Iraqis will just have to struggle to their knees and get on with life. As in Yemen where the Saudis are following suit. What a benighted worldview our politicians, many politicians take of this part of the world. Assad will resume the political life his father (and political great-grandfather) have played in Syrian history, ie, not for the benefit of those who wanted just a shred of democracy in their country.

  4. Dog's Breakfast

    Of course we care Bernard, some more than others, but what can you do. We aren’t being offered alternatives or agency in any form. The only agency we seem to have is in taking in some refugees, but I’d much rather there weren’t wars and atrocities occurring to create the conditions for refugees.

    We care, we’re just disenfranchised and impotent.

  5. James O'Neill

    The author is obviously spreading his talents too widely. Whenever he try to write about foreign affairs we get served up the same old stale cliches about Iran and Russia helping Assad’s “genocidal slaughter” of his own people. Paul Guy has it absolutely right. This is a load of old garbage. Given that the same garbage is spouted by persons who ought to know better, such as the ANU “analyst” on ABC Radio this morning, one might be tempted to cut BK a bit of slack, except that better information is available if only Crikey’s commentators could emerge from their bunker long enough to actually do some serious research.
    And yes there is such a thing as international law, and just because Turnbull and Bishop pay lip service to it and then ignore it, does not mean that we should do the same. If we are to prevent a slide to nuclear annihilation, then actually upholding the law, and holding accountable those who break it, should be an essential first step.

    1. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

      James, which “law”? Less than two years ago Australian jets bombed a Syrian ‘target’ and mistakenly killed about 100 Syrian government soldiers. Prime Minister Turnbull “apologised” (to someone) for the error. That’s our elected prime minister. He apparently upholds some international ‘law’ which apparently allows Australia to enter whatever conflict we like, choose whatever targets we like and come home proclaiming to have done good work. Where does international law come into Australia’s involvement?

      By the way, the Russians claim that some missiles were shot down. Who would know if this was true?

      1. James O'Neill

        Charlie, your first question requires an answer longer than Crikey would permit, but the short answer is that Australia does subscribe to basic concepts of international law, as Turnbull and Bishop of fond of repeating (“the rules based international order “) being a particular favourite. In the present case we signed up to the UN Charter. Article 2(4) prohibits tthe he use of force in settling international disputes. Article 51 is also relevant as it provides exceptions, neither of which are applicable here. Therefore the bombing of Syria by the US et al is contrary to international law.
        As to the second point, looking at the respective track records of Russia and the US since, say, the collapse of the Soviet Union, which one has the better record for truth telling? A no-brainer really.

        1. David Thompson

          You’re working well, James, so why don’t I help you along, with a few facts.

          Yes, that’s an OPCW report. It was issued in March – a month ago.
          And, it’s a report on an OPCW inspection done on the Syrian ‘CW’s ‘research centre’ that was bombed a couple of days ago.
          The inspection, and follow up, were done last year.
          To quote a summary from a very notorious media outlet:
          “The report on the first inspection that was conducted between 26 February and 5 March 2017 says that “the inspection team did not observe any activities inconsistent with obligations under the Convention,” noting that Damascus had provided unimpeded access to the inspectors “to all selected areas.”
          The follow-up inspection, carried out in November, did not find any incriminating evidence either.
          The March 2018 report reiterates: “As stated in previous reports, all of the chemicals declared by the Syrian Arab Republic that were removed from its territory in 2014 have now been destroyed.”
          A fella who worked at that facility for decades conducted a tour of the bombed facility for 3 international outlets, just yesterday: the notorious media outlet, AFP (French), and CBS (and, no there’s not more than 1 CBS).

          Why would 3 journalists, 2 of them from countries who bombed the CW facility, decide to take a tour of a bombed out CW facility, a day after the bombing?
          Are they mad?
          Or, did they believe the OPCW report from March, and/or their tour guide who told them that the facility, among other things, researched and produced, wait for it…?
          Bernie needs to stop hyperventilating, and do some homework.

      2. ken chapman

        Charlie. The U.N. charter only applies to nation states. The terrorist “organisations” are covered by the terror charters of the UN (1997 convention for the suppression of terrorist bombngs The reason given for Austral’s involvement in Iraq & Syria are Daesh forces have had a direct impact on Australia’s security which has been reinforced by court cases on terror related offences.

        On Truth, Russia sells anti missilery systems so will say they shot down lots, USA sells missilery so will say none shot down. Reality is antimissile system is only as good as the operators & suspect Syrian operators are incompetent at best.

  6. JQ

    Is it not true that there is no evidence that Assad gassed his own people?

    Why would Assad risk international condemnation and retaliation to bomb his own civilians in a conflict in which the ISIS controlled region was surrounded by Syrian forces? It makes no sense. Oh, but he gassed civilians before. No, wait, in February this year Defence Secretary Mattis admitted that there was no evidence Assad used poison gas on his own people in 2013 or 2017.
    So yes, let’s doubt the US attacked Syria but believe wholeheartedly that Syria attacked itself to prompt said international response.

    Warmongerer and death god incarnate John Bolton became Trump’s national security advisor on April 9th, but that’s just a coincidence, isn’t it?

    1. JQ

      To clarify: I am not suggesting Bolton was in any way involved in the gas attacks, but it is clear the attacks are being used to justify more endless bloodshed, regardless of the truth behind them.

      Fun fact: America has been at war for 222 of the 239 years since its foundation.

      1. AR

        Luckily, their Constitution, that holy of Holies,specifically eschews and prohibits a standing army.
        Imagine the damage if therefore if the had one?
        PS. 10+ for death god Bolton, spot on.

        1. AR

          … or even Imagine the damage they could do if they had one.

  7. [email protected]

    Dont have to be a disgusting leftie to not trust the word of the current shoddy western leadership. Apart from lack of motive for the chemical attack, the ‘word’ of the ‘weapons of mass destruction’ coalition is hardly evidence. Bernard, you are nothing but a tool in our propaganda machine. No better than russian media. Face it, all players in this game of war are as dodgy as each other. Syria is a sovereign state, we must leave them be.

  8. Sue Miills

    Yep. I stare in horrified fascination at the distance between the words coming out of their mouths and sanity, sincerity …. sense, reason.. truth …. How does lobbing missiles at the situation, (150?!! dear god!) and THEN sending in the inspectors to see if chemical weapons were used do any good? Footage of 2 Nazi thugs I saw once & the looks on their faces keeps coming to mind. That they were being filmed in all seriousness, that no one was just calling bullshit.

    Well done Bernard

  9. Linda Connolly

    Well gosh, BK, everyone knows that dying from a Russian deployed weapon (of any kind) is SO much worse than dying from a US or UK or Australian deployed weapon (remember “destroying the village in order to save it”?) so I’m sure the Syrian people will be grateful for yet another attack on them.
    But then of course the US has a God-appointed role as sheriff of the world, which is obviously QUITE different from being a “global troll” ……

    1. Charlie Chaplin

      And don’t forget, Linda, when we’re dropping the bombs or sending the drones, it isn’t genocidal slaughter- it’s humanitarian intervention. Currently we’re intervening in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and Pakistan – either actively or as an enthusiastic helper and cheer squad. We intervene so well. 🙂

      Let’s get on with the job, I say. Let’s add the countries BK mentioned to the list and intervene there, too. Let’s bomb the f*ck out of China, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Russia and Saudi Arabia. We should probably take out Venezuela as well because brutal dictator. Feel free to add other countries to the list. When we’ve completed our moral obligations and wiped out all the butchers we can repopulate the world with nice liberal democrats, just like us.

      1. kyle Hargraves

        There is even a lateral component to this kind of thinking Charlie. After what you have suggested we could make a start on (get stuck into) Africa as a whole. Uncle Sam would be more than up to it.

        Consider the demand for man/woman power and the possibilities for economic growth – among the “good guys” as least. Duly populated as you convey, the travel business would boom.

        Alternatively, we could fake it and see if the travel business responds.

  10. ken chapman

    Excuse me Bernard but aren’t you forgetting that chemical attacks reduced after the last cratering of the Syrian airfield (from which the attacks were launched). Rami G. Khouri (a journalism professor and public policy fellow at the American University of Beirut, and a non-resident senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School) indicated that “The tripartite Anglo-American-French missile strikes will probably succeed in briefly stopping the use of these barbaric instruments of war, as they have in the past.”

    Having had to work in the boundaries of the “rules of war” both the chemical attack & missile are illegal but neither the USA or Syria are signed up to the International Criminal Court so what mechanism can be used to prosecute Trump or Asard.

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