June 29, 2017
Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, the journalist who exposed the My Lai massacre of Vietnamese women, children and old people by US troops, the Abu Ghraib prison torture scandal in Iraq, and many other critically important stories, has now obliterated the US government’s (and the US media’s) claim that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s military killed nearly 100 people with a Sarin nerve gas bombing in April, an incident which prompted President Trump to order a Tomahawk cruise missile attack on a Syrian Air Force base.
Hersh’s My Lai expose was initially published by the Dispatch News Service, and was eventually run by 33 US newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times (which employed him in its Washington bureau during the Watergate Scandal era, from 1972-75). His later Abu Ghraib expose ran in the New Yorker magazine, as did several other important investigative pieces about the origins of the Iraq war, and about a US covert bombing campaign in Iran.
But this latest piece, arguably his potentially most explosive — because it shows a President Trump risking triggering a World War III with Russia based upon his own rash decision, over the objections and to the dismay of his own military and intelligence advisers — couldn’t find a mainstream publisher in the US or the UK. Instead, he had to run it in a German newspaper, Die Welt.
Fortunately, Die Welt, one of Germany’s major daily newspapers, realized the importance of what Hersh was exposing, and has made the article, as well as a side-bar transcript of a conversation between an American soldier and an intelligence service person in Syria, available online — in English. Here they are:
I won’t go into all the details. Everyone should read these two pieces for themselves. Suffice to say that Hersh, who has excellent sources in the military and in various US intelligence organizations, has documented how the Trump administration lied about the deaths in an ISIS-held town called Khan Sheikhoun that the Syrian Air Force bombed last April, claiming Syria had used a sarin nerve-gas bomb when in fact the US military knew all about the attack beforehand and that the weapon had been a Russian-provided smart bomb, which was used to target an ISIS leadership meeting underway in the targeted building. (The Russians had contacted the US about the bombing earlier, to make sure no CIA personnel would be in the building at the time.)
Unfortunately, unbeknownst to the Russians and Syrians, the ISIS-held building they hit had stores of Chlorine in its basement — a poison gas itself — as well as stocks of fertilizer and herbicides which, when burned, release Sarin-like neurotoxins. It was these which killed the victims. (Witnesses had reported a cloud of gas, and as Hersh points out, sarin is invisible and does not explode. It is simply released by the bomb, to do its killing unseen.)
Over the objections and concerns expressed by his top military advisors, reportedly including “Mad Dog” Mattis, Trump insisted on bombing the Syrian airfield used to launch the attack flight. Fortunately in that case, Trump’s advisors prevailed in getting him to settle for a symbolic attack, first warning the Russians, and inevitably the Syrians too, to clear out their jets and personnel from the target to avoid any serious harm from the 59 Tomahawk missiles launched for the US attack.
Hersh’s Die Welt article comes out just as Trump is now again making up, or is believing, a “fake news” story that Assad is “planning another Sarin gas attack” from the same Shayrat Air Base that the US bombed earlier, with Trump vowing to retaliate more seriously this time if Assad goes ahead with another gas attack. Again, the military and the intelligence community are both saying they see no evidence of planning for a gas attack, and in any case they believe that Assad’s poison gas weapons were all eliminated in the 2013 agreement, as monitored and certified later by UN inspectors.
What’s disturbing is that the US media, which credulously reported both the first alleged Assad Sarin … or was it chlorine gas? … attack in 2013, later shown to have been the work of ISIS (and which continue to call it an Assad crime), and that now call the April incident too a Sarin gas attack by Assad, are almost universally supporting Trump’s claim that Assad is planning another (sic) Sarin gas attack — even NPR!
Obviously Trump’s threat to retaliate is an invitation for ISIS to manufacture another “gas attack,” in order to induce Trump to attack Assad.
And if the US media are so credulous already, who’s going to stop this insanity from continuing until it spins out of control and a US attack ends up killing Russian soldiers, downing a Russian plane or leading the Russians to down a US plane, at any of which which several points we’re on the cusp of a third and final world war?
Read Hersh’s article and spread the word. And demand that your local paper write about Hersh’s latest expose.
What kind of journalism is it when a paper like the Times or the Washington Post can report on Trump making such an assertion, and basing it on a claim that the April bombing was a Sarin gas attack, can simply ignore the counter claim by a journalist of Hersh’s caliber — especially when he is a former Times reporter!
Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).