Syria, sarin, and the misuse of intelligence data

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kurt_w
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Syria, sarin, and the misuse of intelligence data

Postby kurt_w » Sun Dec 08, 2013 11:17 pm

It has almost been forgotten now, but for a brief period last summer the Administration appeared to be pushing hard for some kind of military action in Syria, in response to an outrageous poison-gas attack on a civilian population.

Fortunately for everyone, cooler heads prevailed, an accord was reached, and Syria's chemical weapons program is now being dismantled through peaceful cooperation rather than military conflict.

A victory for US and allied diplomacy. High-fives all around.

But if Seymour Hersh's report in the London Review of Books is even close to accurate, there are all kinds of alarm bells that ought to be going off -- regarding the Administration's initial, belligerent response to the Sarin attack. It's a long and complicated story, which I won't try to summarize here. But there are allegations that the Administration manipulated intelligence data, cherry-picked evidence to support its beliefs, and ignored alternative scenarios. The scale is much smaller, and the outcome was obviously much happier, but the similarities to the selling of the Iraq War in 2002-2003 are all too obvious.

I was glad when Hersh was scrutinizing the Bush Administration's misdeeds in the Iraq War. I'm also glad to see that he's holding the Obama Administration to the same standard. We need more, high-quality investigative journalism, and this need is never greater than when an Administration is beating the drums for war.

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Re: Syria, sarin, and the misuse of intelligence data

Postby Stella_Guru » Mon Dec 09, 2013 10:35 am

kurt_w wrote:It has almost been forgotten now....

Yes, I wonder why? This little blip in our culture of war is unprecedented in recent times, and is something positive that could be built upon.

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Re: Syria, sarin, and the misuse of intelligence data

Postby kurt_w » Mon Dec 09, 2013 10:55 am

In terms of making an impact on people's attention, the timing was poor because it all happened right before the big govt shutdown/debt ceiling crisis fiasco back in Sept/Oct. That kind of absorbed all the media's oxygen.

There is also a certain culture among political pundits that thinks that bombing, missile strikes, etc. are a sign of "seriousness". I guess diplomatic agreements and successful quiet negotiations don't sell newspapers, or ads on cable news programs.

Still, even if it annoys the pundits, I hope people will notice that the Syria "WMD" crisis got resolved successfully without military action ... and remember that next time around.

I also hope the Seymour Hersh column gets attention, and embarrasses the Obama Administration into rethinking how they handle "intelligence" data.

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Re: Syria, sarin, and the misuse of intelligence data

Postby gozer » Fri Dec 13, 2013 12:22 pm

of course he cherry-picked and maybe worse. it has been all over the austrian and german media almost ab initio then later almost everywhere else on the continent and elsewhere that the first chemical attacks were chlorine, with the two chlorine plants in syria having been in rebel hands for almost a year, and the rebels have captured oodles of chemical-weapons sites, and could very well have set off sarin shells. only a large-scale v x attack would be of manifest provenance, but maybe not even that anymore.

what it boils down to is that the bundesnachrichtendienst came up with conclusions almost diametrically opposed to what obama was claiming in public, the mossad, d g s e, and mi6 reports were more reserved versions of the obama line, and that of the russian s v r was somewhere in betwixt, as apparently was whatever information their swiss, austrian, and croatian counterparts could glean, given that iran is likely to have better data on this than any third party, i would trust the bundesnachrichtendienst and s v r data more than anything the c i a allegedly collected. these were the folks who were a week behind the french newspapers in guessing about the 1998 india nuclear test for god's sake. i thought they had cunning linguists and folks who can speak 50 languages and talk to snakes and see 120 å into the ultraviolet and infrared and shit.

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Re: Syria, sarin, and the misuse of intelligence data

Postby Sandi » Fri Dec 13, 2013 1:09 pm

What policy Obama had in Syria has long since collapsed. Even non-lethal aid has been suspended.

That sound you hear is President Obama’s Syria policy shattering into a million pieces. The latest sign of the ongoing catastrophe is the administration’s decision to suspend nonlethal aid to the mainstream Syrian resistance after fighters from the Islamic Front seized warehouses in northern Syria belonging to the Supreme Military Council, as the moderate rebel faction is known. The head of the council’s military wing, Gen. Salim Idris, had to beat a hasty retreat to Turkey and Qatar.

That the non-Islamist opposition is collapsing is utterly predictable given the administration’s hesitancy to provide it with more backing. The Islamic radicals are the obvious winners on the rebel side, while Hezbollah and the Iranian Quds Force grow stronger on the other end.

Yet somehow the administration, and in particular Secretary of State John Kerry, is still hoping to cobble together a Syria peace conference on January 22 in Switzerland. How, one wonders, is a deal going to be reached between an increasingly powerless and disjointed moderate opposition and a Syrian president who is growing increasingly confident in his ability to hold onto power?

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Re: Syria, sarin, and the misuse of intelligence data

Postby rabble » Fri Dec 13, 2013 1:16 pm

Non-lethal aid in this case means comm equipment and laptops that were being appropriated by the extremists.

Humanitarian aid like blankets, food, and med supplies, continues.

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Re: Syria, sarin, and the misuse of intelligence data

Postby kurt_w » Fri Dec 13, 2013 1:32 pm

Sandi wrote:That the non-Islamist opposition is collapsing is utterly predictable given the administration’s hesitancy to provide it with more backing.

So, Sandi, are you suggesting that the US should have gotten more directly involved in the Syrian civil war?

"Commentary" is probably the flagship neoconservative magazine; they tend to be in favor of US military intervention anywhere and everywhere in the Mideast. It's not particularly surprising that they're publishing editorials criticizing Obama for failing to drag the US into that war.

But is that really what you think we should be doing?

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Re: Syria, sarin, and the misuse of intelligence data

Postby kurt_w » Fri Dec 13, 2013 1:35 pm

Personally, I take exactly the opposite position. I think the mistake was the Administration's (temporary) enthusiasm for getting involved, back during the aftermath of the poison-gas incident.

I think their subsequent change of course, and refusal to get involved in a civil war in Syria, was a much better decision.

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Re: Syria, sarin, and the misuse of intelligence data

Postby Sandi » Fri Dec 13, 2013 1:37 pm

kurt_w wrote:So, Sandi, are you suggesting that the US should have gotten more directly involved in the Syrian civil war?


No Max Boot is suggesting it. However I agree that we should have provided more help. We also should have taken steps to stop Iranian help.

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Re: Syria, sarin, and the misuse of intelligence data

Postby kurt_w » Fri Dec 13, 2013 1:48 pm

You think we should have provided more of what kind of help? And to whom? How would you ensure that your increased "help" didn't end up helping the wrong people?

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Re: Syria, sarin, and the misuse of intelligence data

Postby Michael Patrick » Fri Dec 13, 2013 2:14 pm

Sy Hersh has been at this a long time. I'd tend to believe him because he's been right so often.

And yes, there really are no good guys to help in Syria.


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