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WDEL Blog: Allan Loudell

New ideological battle in the U.S.: What was the source of Syria's chemical weapons?

As the Obama Administration seems to be moving towards some kind of military intervention in Syria - likely targeted air strikes - a new battle is simmering in the U.S. between Right and Left. It has everything to do with the Bush Administration's core justification for invading Iraq: Saddam Hussein possessed WMD's.

But, as usual, the apparent reality is more complicated, and likely will not please partisans of the Right or Left.

To the question - where did Syria get its chemical weapons? - those seeking to vindicate President George W. Bush suggest Syria got its WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction) from Saddam Hussein on the eve of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Indeed, those promoting this line of reasoning have a source: Former Iraqi General Georges Sada, Saddam's #2. In January 2006, Sada publicly declared Saddam's military transferred large stockpiles of chemical weapons to Syria using civilian aircraft with the passenger seats removed: "Saddam realized this time, the Americans are coming. They handed over the Weapons of Mass Destruction to the Syrians."

Interestingly, I distinctly recall a British newspaper report at the time that Saddam Hussein had sent any WMDs on ships to SEA to an undisclosed location. I never saw a follow-up. But I digress.

But does the scenario of Iraq transferring WMDs to Syria make any sense? Sure, it would seem Saddam had some chemical weapons, which he used against the Kurds.

But consider: Although the ruling parties in both Damascus and Baghdad were the Ba'athists, they became mortal enemies. Remember, Syria's Shi'a Muslim Alawis - in control of the Damascus government - have always been aligned with the Iranians, archenemy to Saddam Hussein's Sunni Muslim minority government. And don't forget, alone among Arab nations, Syria supported Iran during the Iran--Iraq war. Of all places, why in the world would Saddam hand over his most fearsome weapons to Syria? Furthermore, by the eve of the second Iraq war, most certainly U.S. military surveillance would have spotted a convoy of trucks moving across the western desert towards Syria. (Take a look at a map of the region. That part of Iraq is utterly barren.)

Further, in a post-invasion interview, Saddam Hussein said he had been bluffing about Weapons of Mass Destruction. Why? He was worried about Iran.

Now, let's go back further in time. Some believe the Syrians began developing their chemical weapons as early as the 1970's. According to Israeli media, Syria started developing its own chemical weapon capability in 1971 at the Centre D'Etudes et de Recherches Scientifiques, a facility in Damascus.

A 2012 Congressional Research Service (CRS) analysis, citing U.S. intelligence reports, concluded, "Damascus probably developed its chemical weapons program in response to a perceived threat from Israel." Some experts suggest Egypt sent Syria chemical weapons on the eve of the October 1973 Yom Kippur War. (Remember, the secular Nasser government in Cairo collaborated with the Ba'athists in Damascus. Although Cairo technically was Sunni and the Ba'athists in Damascus were, as noted before, Shi'a Muslim Alawis, socialistic solidarity trumped these sectarian differences. Lest we forget, Egypt and Syria were briefly united as the U.A.R. -- the United Arab Republic.)

Others say Syria's chemical weapons capability came later. Then-C.I.A. Director William Webster testified in 1989 that Syria had started production of chemical weapons in the early 1980's. In June 1986, the Reagan Administration imposed a ban on the sale of sarin and mustard precursors to Syria. But reports surfaced of smuggling, for example, by a retired Russian Lieutenant General Anatoliy Kuntsevich, charged with shipping 800 kilograms of precursor chemicals to Syria. Russian authorities dropped the charges, but Israeli press reports said Kuntsevich conceded to the transfer of nerve agent precursors.

Now our review comes full circle. (And this exposes the apparent hypocrisy of the official U.S. position on Weapons of Mass Destruction.) FOREIGN POLICY reports the United States has hardly been consistent about WMDs. Citing recently declassified C.I.A. documents, FOREIGN POLICY reports that near the end of the Iran--Iraq War a quarter of a century ago, the Reagan Administration warned the Iraqis that Iranian troops were advancing to exploit a hole in Iraqi defenses. U.S. officials gave this information to Saddam Hussein's government - perceiving it as the lesser of two evils - even though they believed Saddam's military would counter the perceived Iranian threat with chemical weaons. Then-C.I.A. Director William Casey was informed about Saddam Hussein's push to stock enough mustard gas to keep up with demand along the front lines.

Shane Harris & Matthew M. Aid at FOREIGN POLICY: The latest revelations "are tantamount to an official American admission of complicity in some of the most gruesome chemical weapons ever launched."

With this kind of background, can the Obama Administration reasonably claim a higher ground for the United States? Will liberal / progressive supporters of the current administration blindly support it, despite the parallel to the George W. Bush admininistration's preparations for war in Iraq? (The Russians particularly see this parallel.) Will interventionist conservatives be able to claim - with a straight face - moral clarity?

Let me quote Conor Friedersorf at The ATLANTIC:

"When humans find themselves greatly empowered, and able to act in secret, they often do morally monstrous things, sometimes with the best of intentions. Part of our job as citizens is to never trust our leaders with that sort of unchecked power, for their sake, for ours, and for the sake of the world. That's easy to see when looking back at the bad behavior of leadership a couple of decades ago. But those men were no more or less moral than the people leading us today."



Two perspectives on how Syria procured its chemical weapons from CBS News Military Consultant (and retired U.S. Army Colonel) Jeff McCausland and CBS News Middle-East reporter Edward Yeranian in Cairo...


Audio Here

Posted at 7:12am on August 27, 2013 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

mrpizza
Tue, Aug 27, 2013 7:16am
The source: Iraq in 2002. Plain and simple. These are clearly the WMD's that Bush supposedly "lied" about.

Allan Loudell
Tue, Aug 27, 2013 7:21am
Again, I ask, Mr. Pizza, why would (then) Sunni minority-dominated Iraq transfer its WMDs to its mortal enemy - Shi'a Alawaite-dominated Syria - aligned with an even greater enemy, Iran?

It doesn't make sense.

Allan Loudell


dunmore
Tue, Aug 27, 2013 8:02am
mrpizza - Sorry, the Iraq--Syria connection has been disproved. The U.N. inspectors in Iraq before the 2nd Gulf War found no evidence of the Iraqis restarting their chemical warfare program, nor any stockpiles. After the invasion, the U.S. found no stockpiles. Now, the Iraqis might have been thinking of restarting this program, but with the U.N. inspectors there, they could not.

Mike from Delaware
Tue, Aug 27, 2013 8:32am
Allan: Thanks for the in-depth background.

So Mrpizza, based on what Allan has shared [Allan wouldn't make up this stuff], Bush Jr. still did lie as it doesn't make sense that Iraq would freely give WMD's to its enemy. But even IF Bush truly believed that Iraq had those WMD's, his true motivation wasn't the WMD's, but to have revenge for Saddam's verbal threats against his pop, Bush Sr. If the WMD's had been the true motivation, then why not invade Syria instead of Iraq?

Having said all that, which is now "ancient history', I guess the bigger question today ought to be, where did those WMD's that Saddam shipped off to sea finally end up?

Thank you Allan, you've brought a new dimension to this issue that I didn't realize was an issue. So there probably WERE WMD's, and probably [sure seems likely] were shipped off to some secret location via the sea. But where? Who has access to these WMD's? Who knows where they are today?

As the they used to say in old-time radio drama's, the plot thickens.......

kavips
Tue, Aug 27, 2013 9:02am
Allan: As with personal relationships, acquaintances in offices, etc., sometimes one's friend one year can become an antagonist the next, and later, both can be friends again. People (nations too) are different from each other, and sometimes those differences can be divisive; other times a common threat can cause both to work together in their own self interests.

One has to point out that repressive regimes in that region constantly feel threatened by the U.S: Iran, Iraq, Syria, (Libya previously)

Depending on the intensity of our rhetoric, possible collusions unexplainable in today's world could have made practical sense at the time.

But the real issue is why is this even the topic? Seems to be another distraction away from the real story; which is should we escalate military action.

Only in America would the main press think it was more important to debate Bush II's involvement as the central topic, thereby completely ignoring the necessary debate as to whether we fight or not...

Considering major media's failure, I guess it is again up to blogs to lead the conversation; blogs are, after all, real people, not fake ones like we see on TV.

So... do we go in, or sit this one out?

Allan Loudell
Tue, Aug 27, 2013 9:14am
kavips...

Three points:

(1). U.S. inconsistency with regard to the use of WMDs is NOT a debate you're hearing (or seeing) very much in the network newscasts, or major news accounts. (Except, as noted above, conservative talking heads proclaiming vindication for Bush II). But I would argue it provides context to the current exhortations of this Administration.

(2). Agreed, that relationships among nations can be fluid, depending on circumstances. But certain primal hatreds can persist for decades, even centuries. For example, I don't see any lovefest between Israel and the Arab world anytime soon. Or any reversal of the ancient antagonisms between the Arabs and the Persians, or the Arabs and the Turks.

(3). Yes, we must debate the efficacy of any U.S. military intervention. Although honestly, most Americans seem to have such war fatigue, I don't even think they have the energy for any such protracted debate. They're disengaged. Plus, it's the end of summer and back-to-school. For average folks, I suspect, the debate over Syria is just background noise. However, the past bears witness as I would argue the last couple of decades underscore how U.S. military interventions more often than not do not achieve their stated ends.

Allan Loudell

JimH
Tue, Aug 27, 2013 11:52am
I firmly believe Syria obtained its Weapons of Mass Destruction from Iraq. At the lower levels of civilization, hatred can persist from an alleged insult going back 13-hundred years. Leaders can often be more practical when they need to be because they see the larger picture. Plus, Iraq planned to retrieve the WMDs after they won the war.

Yes, the US population is sick of war. But we normally are opposed to ethnic cleansing. Yet when it is Christians who are being slaughtered, we turn our head. The Orthodox Christians are being targeted, as are their places of worship and communities. The media continue to ignore this because it is Orthodox Christians being murdered. Killing us is not a crime.

EarlGrey
Tue, Aug 27, 2013 1:19pm
I believe JimH is correct on the WMDs and Iraq/Syria (in war the enemy of my enemy is my friend)

As to the question of whether or not the US should be involved in Syria...my answer is a firm NO! This is a no-win war for our country... Why should we use our weapons/military to effectively go to war against China, Russia and Iran? And, if our military is able to rid the earth of the horrible dictator...yet another country has been placed into the hands of Al-Qaeda/Muslim Brotherhood. This is a Sunni/Shia war and (as we have seen in Iraq/Egypt/Libya); our bombs will not win the hearts and minds of the people but will win more converts to A-Q and M-B.

Allan Loudell
Tue, Aug 27, 2013 1:24pm
JimH---

I have seen a number of accounts about the plight of the Orthodox Christians in the "serious" U.S. newspapers, and occasionally on CBS. The DAILY BEAST carried a major piece August 22nd entitled, "The Muslim Brotherhood's War on Coptic Christians".

I've certainly done interviews about this subject, including with a priest from the Coptic Orthodox church in Newark.

But, sure, in "popular" media, this story isn't going to receive as much attention, just as the sectarian divisions within Islam, persecution of the Baha'is, etc., don't receive very much attention. Too complicated.

Of course, the Clinton Administration intervened against an Orthodox Christian ethnic group (the Serbs, particularly the Bosnian Serbs) during the Yugoslav civil war, but by virtually all neutral accounts, the Bosnian Serbs were disproportionately responsible for ethnic cleansing, not the Bosnian Muslims.

The Serbian leader, Slobodan Milosevic, crafted a xenophobic Serbian nationalism to replace communism. Orthodoxy was incidental (although a number of Orthodox clerics seemed to support Milosevic).

To this day, the United States remains massively more popular in the Muslim parts of southeastern Europe (Albania, Kosovo, Bosnia) than in now-truncated (and Orthodox) Serbia.

But I would argue the dynamics were more ethnic than religious: Kosovo's Albanian Muslims and Albanian Catholics fought side-by-side, for example, against the common enemy: The Serbs. Now it happens the Serbs then and now happen to be overwhelmingly Orthodox. And yes, Albanian mobs burned down Serbian Orthodox churches but left Catholic churches untouched.

Want an example of the United States siding with a Christian minority over Muslims? Try East (former Portuguese) Timor during the Clinton Administration.

Whereas, during the 1970's, Henry Kissinger in the Nixon/Ford administrations "sold out" Catholic-majority East Timor when the Indonesians invaded (in the name of anti-communism) - allowing an Indonesian genocide of the Timorese - by the 1990's, the Clinton Administration and Congress began to champion the cause of East Timor (against considerable U.S. business pressure, I might add.)

Allan Loudell

billsmith
Tue, Aug 27, 2013 5:09pm
MikeFromDelaware: The key to being an effective brown nose is not to look like a brown nose. What you have posted is a pathetic example of blatant and obvious sucking up. Has it ever worked for you?

mrpizza
Tue, Aug 27, 2013 7:26pm
Sounds like Bill is having his time of the month again.

I too am war weary and in no mood to go into Syria or anywhere else, especially under the ineptitude of the Obama regime.

mrpizza
Tue, Aug 27, 2013 7:29pm
By the way, I don't care what any of you say about George W. Personally, I consider him a great American hero. If you want to call him a traitor, have at it.

Mike from Delaware
Tue, Aug 27, 2013 11:44pm
Billsmith: Why would I suck up to Allan? There's no point. Could it be that I actually meant what I wrote? Wow, what a concept, respect of someone & honesty. Just because you have some issue with how Allan & WDEL operate doesn't mean the rest of us agree with you. I worked for Allan for 5 of my 7 years at WILM & let me tell you he's a good person to work for & is an excellent newsman. I'd gladly work for Allan again. Frankly I don't give a rip if you agree or not.

I've gone a week not reading your posts, but read this one, that was a mistake as you're still spewing the same crap & hatred, just a different week. So I guess I'll go back to ignoring your posts again.

mrpizza
Wed, Aug 28, 2013 6:30am
MFD: Now there's something we can agree on. Allan Loudell is a GRRRRREAT man!

kavips
Wed, Aug 28, 2013 8:32am
Be careful Mr. Pizza... Now BillSmith is going to think you and Allan are the same person too...

billsmith
Wed, Aug 28, 2013 8:59am
"I'd gladly work for Allan again."

MikeFromDelaware: There it is. I guess you think flattery will get you a job.

kavips
Wed, Aug 28, 2013 9:02am
In reading Allan's thoughts somewhere above, this thought came to me.. In which wars did we achieve our ends? In which did we not? I thought a list might be interesting. See if I forgot any...

Afghanistan -0- Did not
Iraq -0- Did (not?)
Kosovo -0- Did
Macedonia -0- Did
Bosnia -0- Did
Iraq War I -0- Did
Panama -0- Did
Grenada -0- Did
Vietnam -0- Did not
Korea -0- Did

Allan Loudell
Wed, Aug 28, 2013 9:27am
kavips...

I look at it a little differently.

First, I would clump all the former Yugoslav republics into one intervention. Otherwise, your list looks longer than it really is.

And Iraq II certainly did not, because we ended up with a government tilting Iran's way. Futhermore, the resulting country is a bloody mess and certainly not the democratic state inclined to embrace Israel that the neo-cons envisioned.

Iraq I achieved its main goal (the "liberation" of Kuwait), but the U.S. presence in that part of the world, particularly the U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia, radicalized many Muslims, including Osama bin Laden.

In Panama, the United States may have ousted Noriega, but the corruption and drug-smuggling go on.

Grenada is too small to really matter, but it is noteworthy that the U.S. ended up finishing the runway the Cubans had started, and the country ends up being so insignificant, the State Department shuttered the U.S. Embassy in St. Georges.

Mike from Delaware
Wed, Aug 28, 2013 10:23am
Billsmith: Allan hired me at WILM. He was happy with my work. We had a good working relationship. I don't have to resort to sucking up or brown nosing to hold onto a job [as possibly you do] as my work ethic and performance speaks for itself. I was a hard working, loyal employee of WILM.

If I wanted to work at WDEL I'd apply and would expect my hiring to be based on my past work at WILM, WAMS, WNRK, WNNN-FM, WBBX, and Armed Forces Radio, NOT my age, my sex, my faith, my gender, my color, OR by how good of a suck up I'd be. Apparently you have a different standard that you use. It is what it is. END of this discussion.

Allan Loudell
Wed, Aug 28, 2013 10:27am
For the record, I'm not a department head here. I don't do the hiring.

And let's make this easy. No more compliments.

Now, could we really get back to the discussion of core topics and get past this personal stuff?




Mike from Delaware
Wed, Aug 28, 2013 3:42pm
Sadly this started by simply saying: Thanks for the in-depth background. Not really a compliment, simply a thank you for providing additional info that I sure lacked and is important to the issue being discussed.

Getting back on topic:

Sadly, since the End of WWII, we've not be very successful in ANY of these engagements with the exceptions of Grenada [minor league], and Desert Storm I [Papa Bush's war] which was quite amazing and IF we'd have simply stopped there, we'd be far better off today than we are, both financially and how well we get along with the rest of the world. The rest of the wars have not yielded the results we wanted, and were very costly in lives and money.

I still hope the Obama will let the Russians try their hand at this and get their people killed and spend their Rubles.


billsmith
Thu, Aug 29, 2013 10:43am
There is so much information MikeFromDelaware lacks, it's hard to post something that does not provide it. The tough part is providing information he is willing to believe, since he only believes fundamentalist preachers and right-wing talk show hosts who reinforce his prejudices.

And now he provides us one more example of Christian love and tolerance at work: It's OK if Russians get killed. He's already made it clear, it's OK if Muslims get killed. Apparently doesn't care about people in either group. Given current persecution of gays by the Russian government and Russian Orthodox Church, one would think MikeFromDelaware would be more willing to see them as among god's elect. Maybe his head is still back in the Cold War.

Rush put a stop to effusive flattery from callers by training them to say "dittos." That wasn't complimentary enough for some, so they say "mega dittos." Right-wingers, tea-partiers and the religious right are authoritarian personalities and have a need to grovel to authority. Their idea of "heaven" is being able to spend authority groveling to god. Rush and Allan Loudell get sick of people sucking up, but apparently the god of the right-wing world does not.

Mike from Delaware
Thu, Aug 29, 2013 1:15pm
Heard on NPR that apparently the British want to go into Syria. Works for me. Let the British and the Russians go in, if that's their desire. Still don't see a need for the US to go in. We're not the world's police.


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