7 Dec 2012

Syria, a weapon of mass deception?

Without wishing to delve too far into The Who’s back catalogue, as things grow ever tetchier around Damascus, we need to remind ourselves in the UK that we won’t get fooled again.

Once more, weapons of mass destruction could become weapons of mass deception at screaming high volume these past few days. From the western media who, in the heated atmosphere pre-Iraq and under pressure from Bush and Blair, brought us the Baghdad WMD story, now we have the “Damascus chemical weapons threat”.

William Hague has said any use of chemical weapons would invite an immediate western military response. The Americans too.

Protesters march in Syria

Yesterday the US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said : “The president of the United States has made very clear that there will be consequences. There will be consequences if the Assad regime makes a terrible mistake by using these chemical weapons on their (sic) own people.”

And the president: “A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilised. That would change my calculus.” Well, that was Obama back in August, and recent days have only ramped up the bottom line: you use chemical weapons – we bomb you.

But just to be old fashioned: what’s the evidence of any threat? What’s the basis for all this? What, in short, are they all talking about? Yes, by all accounts Syria has nerve and chemical agents. But possession does not mean threat of use. Israel is not credibly threatening to use nuclear weapons against Iran, despite possessing them.

Equally, as yet there simply is little credible evidence Syria is threatening to use chemical or nerve agents against its own people. Finally, after days of evidence-free rhetoric from the US government and their ever-obedient Westminster franchise, it was left to UN boss Sec-Gen Ban Ki Moon to point out today that there is, as yet, no confirmation that Syria is preparing to use them.

“Recently we have been receiving alarming news that the Syrian government may be preparing to use chemical weapons. We have no confirmed reports on this matter,” Ban said after visiting a Syrian refugee camp in Turkey. Vague US “intelligence reports” are routinely and often unquestioningly trotted out in US papers as the basis for Obama, Panetta and Clinton wagging their fingers at Damascus.

This then gets taken up elsewhere, and the story built upon nothing is soon accepted as global fact when it’s nothing of the kind. After Iraq and WMD, if the CIA or MI6 say it’s cold at the north pole, any sensible person would seek at least a couple more sources or would fly there and check. So they should look to produce the evidence that Syria has begun mixing chemicals as a preparation for use (and thus an excuse for the west to consider bombing) or perhaps stop theregular calls for it to be stopped.

Readers and viewers, meanwhile, should question why, and why now, there is suddenly a supposed chemical weapons “threat”? Where’s the proof? What is the evidence? The past should be a lesson to us all.

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23 reader comments

  1. Sandy MacKenzie says:

    What’s the saying ? Fool me once…….show me the evidence. Sick of the warmongers trying to pull the wool over our eyes. Won’t be fooled again ! (Wasn’t fooled the first time they pulled this stunt either but this time it’s more than insulting the intelligence of people.)

  2. jim says:

    Why is there a “sic” after “their”?

    1. Rob says:

      Presumably pointing out Panetta’s poor grammar: he treats the Assad regime as singular earlier in the same sentence.

    2. Pablo Pablo says:

      Should be “its”


    3. Marisa says:

      Because it should read “his” the pronoun refers to the president (singular not plural)

    4. Marisa says:

      Oops! I mean it should read “its own people” The pronoun refers to the “Assad regime”…not the president!@#

  3. Ayad says:

    On behalf of every Syrian that doesn’t want to see his country turned into another Iraq 2003, THANK YOU.

  4. John G says:

    Totally agree. I often despair at the way in which misinformation is peddled as fact. Most people read little beyond the headlines, so will interpret this as a threat that Syria is about to use chemical weapons. We need more journalists to question these issues rather than just report what is being said. Well done, again, Mr T.

  5. David Sketchley says:

    Preparing for false flag attack by US allies Al Qaeda using chemical weapons.

  6. Mark El-Kadhi says:

    Finally something from a mainstream news source which is not simply parroting US or Israeli military intelligence propaganda, and is actually questioning the truth of claims from those sources.
    To be celebrating this highlights the way 99.9% of ‘news’ – certainly on Syria, Israel/Palestine and Afghanistan – is straight from the establishment’s mouth onto our screens, with no fuss about questions or evidence on the way. Take the whole Malala Yousufzai story, which has grown into a mammoth scoop that keeps on giving for the pro-war lobby: where were the questions about the thousands of civilians blown to bits by our forces, not least through drone attacks? Where are the pictuers and stories of the children blown to pieces while collecting firewood by this drone attack, say?

    Well done Alex Thompson; most of the rest of your colleagues are putting their mortgages before their morals on Syria, as with Afghanistan and Palestine.

  7. Philip says:

    This sort of corrupt politicking enthusiastically embraced by much of the media has been around for a long time. Possibly the biggest example after WMD in Iraq is the EU, the perception of which in the UK is largely devoid of reality. But there are also the stories that are largely ignored – like israeli settlements on the West Bank, Sudan/South Sudan, Rwanda and DR Congo, etc. Instead we focus on what the latest celeb is up to.

  8. Phil D says:

    Well said Alex. I honestly find it hard to swallow when Hague and the USA come out with statements like this. Unfortunately it appears only a few in your profession appear to have a critical mind when it comes to reporting on what these people are telling us. An awful lot just repeat these statements as if they are mouthpieces for Western government, or worse they hype them up further. It heartens me to hear yourself and Robert Fisk both asking people to question more. Keep up the good work!

  9. Dee T says:

    Thanks again to channel 4 for a considered and balanced view. How I wish Channel 4 news was the main news broadcaster!

  10. Louisa Livingstone says:

    Thank you for being an independent thinker and not just echoing the Governments’ warmongering propaganda.. and as independent as you are, there are plenty more people who think just like you, because it’s intelligent thinking, free thinking, and not the kind of so-called thinking attached to an agenda of profiteering lies, manipulation, deceit, and mass murders of innocent people and families who we are related to in spirit, who also don’t want any wars!

  11. Ross Kelly says:

    We all know the reality of what’s going on here, the game’s up and the people are yawning, roll on sanity.

  12. Mark A Wyatt says:

    I am in total agrement with you Alex, at last some common sense, intelligence and honesty from a mainstream journalist, thank-you!I normally get my news and analysis from proper journos like “The Corbett Report” or “21st Century Wire”, sources I can trust to give me an honest, educated, non bought and paid for perspective, you have now joined that honoured list, well done Alex and well done Channel Four! It’s time you picked up the batten of the “free press” and ran with it on our behalf, people are fast realising that they cannot trust the establishment and it’s bought and paid for media, fill that gap Channel Four!
    Mark in Bude.

  13. Thomas says:

    Although not an absolute rule, binary weapon payloads are not mixed beforehand, the otherwise inert materials are combined inside the weapon at point of launch.

    I think the point unmade is that with only a few exceptions, those fighting the Syrian Army and bombing the civilians, their hospitals, schools and towns aren’t Syrian -they AREN’T his own people. They are a ragbag of UK, US, Israeli and despotic Arab absolute monarchy funded mercenaries, from all over the place, including the UK, Turkey, Libya, Afghanistan, dreg fanatical religious extremist from the rest of the Middle East. Syria too is still host to several million Iraqi refugees from that outrage. The Syrian elements of the original peaceful demonstrations that wanted reforms, not fully the overthrow of President Assad, have long ago disowned the ‘rebels’ and desire the protection of the Syrian Army from these rent-a-jihad tools themselves.

  14. John Mills says:

    Just want to commend Alex thompson on his article: ”weapon’s of mass deception”….Thank you Alex for doing your job and telling it how it really is…an all too rare event in mainstream reportage these day’s….personally, i no longer watch or listen to any of the mainstream news channels in this country, the evident bias and selective addition and omission is reprehensible….ultimately, the crimes of our governments and a compliant media will prove catastrophic for us too…the blood of over a million people in the last decade alone, a large proportion of them children, is a stain on this nation and it’s master the United states, that will never be cleansed.

  15. Tellitlieitis says:

    The massed ranks of the hassidic hasbarics are going to have a hissy fit at huffpo !!

  16. harleymc says:

    “After Iraq and WMD, if the CIA or MI6 say it’s cold at the north pole, any sensible person would seek at least a couple more sources or would fly there and check.”

    I look forward to Alex Thomson’s reports direct from Syrian military bases, that or a disavowal of being sensible.

  17. David says:

    Thanks, Alex, well done. We need a lot more of this sentiment published in the “main-stream” press.

  18. bjski says:

    Well done. It’s so difficult to get independent information – so easy to get repeated disinformation.

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