Monday 26 August 2013

William Hague and the questions he doesn't want you to ask

The Foreign Secretary William Hague want to drag the United Kingdom into direct involvement in the Syrian conflict. This assertion is now absolutely beyond doubt. The Tory party has been persistently arguing the case for arming the Al Qaida backed Syrian opposition with British weapons for well over a year, and now Hague has taken to openly propagandising for war.

Following the report of a large chemical weapons attack in Damascus, Hague was quick to pin the blame on the Syrian government. Here's what he said:

"I know that some people ... say that this is some kind of conspiracy brought about by the opposition in Syria. I think the chances of that are vanishingly small and so we do believe that this is a chemical attack by the Assad regime." [source]
This is a classic example of a propaganda statement. Firstly he uses the word "conspiracy" to imply that any alternative to his own favoured explanation must be a "conspiracy theory", then he goes on to make a belief based assertion with no supporting evidence. Willaim Hague believes something, therefore it must be true, perhaps he has been taking "logic" lessons from Iain Duncan Smith?

The governments of the United States, the United Kingdom and France have all prejudged the UN investigation into the attack and condemned the Syrian government as the guilty party. It seems they are all itching for military intervention in Syria and this is exactly the pretext they need. It doesn't seem to matter a jot to them that the UN inspection team have yet to complete (or even properly start) their investigations. Clearly, the actual evidence isn't important.

Has nothing been learned from the decision to marginalise Hans Blix and the Iraq weapons inspection team? In 2003 the UN investigation was bypassed and the United Kingdom rushed into war on the false pretext of "Weapons of Mass Destruction". William Hague now seems intent on repeating a remarkably similar trick in Syria in 2013.

The alternative view that Hague derides, is that one of the terrorist groups on the Syrian rebel side might have faked this chemical weapons attack to give the United States and the United Kingdom the pretext to intervene against the Syrian government. Several people have expressed the view that the chemical weapons attack was a "false flag" operation by the Syrian opposition, not least Carla Del Ponte, who is a member of the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Syrian conflict who stated that testimonies from victims and field hospital staff suggest the use of sarin gas by the Syrian opposition. There is also the accusation that pre-prepared footage of the chemical weapons attack was uploaded to the internet the day before the rebels claim the attacks took place.

I don't claim to have any special information that provides me with absolute certainty that either side committed this atrocity, but I am inclined to put the views of UN inspectors over the beliefs of people like William Hague that have been banging on about the conflict in a grotesquely biased and partisan manner for years. I also think that it is very important to consider who the beneficiaries from such an action would be, and look at the possible motivations.
  • Why would the Syrian government invite UN weapons inspectors to Damascus in July 2013, then deploy chemical weapons within days of their arrival?
  • How is it possible to make sense of this? Is it possible to believe that Bashar al-Assad so stupid that he would invite weapons inspectors into the country then launch a chemical weapons attack right under their noses?
  • Is Bashar al-Assad stupid/callous/tactically inept enough to order the use of chemical weapons in a conflict zone where his own forces were concentrated?
  • What kind of battle would be of such strategic importance to the Syrian government, that they would risk using chemical weapons right under the noses of the UN inspectors?
  •  Don't the Syrian opposition have inordinately more to gain by staging a chemical weapons attack (the US and the UK joining the conflict on their side), than the Syrian regime has (killing some rebel fighters and potentially taking control of a small area of Damascus)?
  • Has there been any formal investigation into the allegations that pre-prepared footage was uploaded to the internet the day before the attack?
  • Should high profile officials (like William Hague) wait for the UN inspectors to draw some evidence based conclusions and avoid condemning one party with belief based assertions and capitalising on the incident to spread biased pro-war propaganda?
One person that is willing (or desperate) to overlook all of these questions is William Hague. He claimed that any explanation other than his favoured theory that the Syrian government are so incredibly stupid that they would act in this way is "implausible". This assertion came in an interview on the (highly partisan) BBC where the interviewer seemed to be goading him into declaring war on Syria with loaded questions like whether the only options were a military attack or doing nothing.

Another question worth considering is the fact that the shells used in the Damascus gas attack, and in previous alleged chemical weapons attacks are crude "home-made" missiles, probably manufactured somewhere in Syria. The fact that non-standard military ordnance is being used suggests the rebel forces might be behind the attacks, however the western media prefer to spin it that the Syrian regime must have created these "home-made" shells in order to create "plausible deniability".

In my view, the Syrian government are well aware that the only countries that are allowed to get away with using chemical weapons are the United States and Israel (who both used white phosphorous as chemical weapons in Fallujah and Gaza). Given that the Syrian regime currently have the upper hand in the conflict, why would they provoke condemnation from the rest of the World, and massively increase the chances of US/UK intervention by using chemical weapons under the noses of the UN inspection team they invited into the country?

Whatever the evidence, William Hague is absolutely determined to use this chemical weapons attack as a pretext for military intervention. He has made his mind up that the Syrian government is responsible, he is determined to ignore any evidence to the contrary and he is pushing a very strong propaganda line in favour of the UK military intervention that he has consistently favoured. His actions betray a desperation that the UK take military action before the United Nations inspection team can conclude their investigation.

Note: As I was writing this article, the news broke that the UN inspection team were repelled from the scene of the chemical weapons site by a sniper shooting up one of their vehicles. It seems that somebody doesn't want the site examined. William Hague would probably have you believe that the sniper was working for the Assad regime, and that the following is the only "plausible" version of events.

1. Assad invited the UN weapons inspectors into Syria in July.
2. Assad ordered a massive chemical weapons attack within days of their arrival.
3. Instead of blocking access to the attack site on safety grounds (it's in the middle of a war zone) Assad allowed the inspectors (that he invited into the country) to approach the site in a convoy, but ordered a sniper to shoot up one of their vehicles in the hope that they would give up and go away.

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