Tag Archives: Defense Secretary James Mattis

Reality Check: Lies Justify U.S. Air Strikes on Syria?

The U.S. seems to be stuck on repeat.

Our government and our media have been peddling lies to justify war, from WMDs in Iraq to humanitarian intervention in Libya.

The latest? A U.S.-led missile strike on Syria for the alleged use chemical weapons on civilians. This, just a week after President Trump said we were ready to get our troops out of that country.

Time and time again, history has proven that our government has made the wrong choice in its efforts to overthrow authoritarian governments in the Middle East, from Iraq to Libya, and now Syria.

But this time, the U.S. is meddling in a country where multiple countries are playing out a proxy war, including Israel, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Not to mention the heightened tensions from our president calling out Russia for its support of the Assad regime.

The big picture question: will we see this war escalate into a global conflict?

This is a Reality Check you won’t get anywhere else.

So much has happened in Syria in the past two weeks: an alleged gas attack by the Assad regime, missile strikes blamed on Israel hit Syria and killed some 14 people, including Iranians, then President Trump announcing late Friday that the U.S. had launched its own missile attack on Syria in coordination with allies France and the United Kingdom.

Strong words from the president for not only Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, but also for his allies Iran and Russia.

As we reported last week, it was just a year ago that Trump authorized the first missile strike on Syria. So what did this new bombing involve?

Here’s what we know: the missile strikes hit just before dawn in Syria. They were carried out by manned U.S. military aircraft, and targeted an airfield, an alleged chemical weapons storage and manufacture facility, and command and control of the Syrian air defenses.

And while this barrage of air strikes is over, the pentagon did not rule out further strikes later.

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis had previously stated that there was no evidence that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad used sarin gas on his own people. Now Mattis seems to be telling a different story.

To be clear, our government is claiming that there is evidence of a chlorine gas attack, and is framing this bombing as a retaliatory measure to stop Assad from gassing his own people, a humanitarian action.

Yet, as the financial times reported last Wednesday, it will take weeks to confirm if deadly gas was used, and by whom.

Again, Mattis said there is no evidence Assad used sarin gas on his own people. And why would Assad? What motive does the Syrian government have to gas attack civilians if it would only risk western retaliation?

Remember, the U.S., U.K. and France have been arming Syrian rebels bombing ISIS and putting boots on the ground in Syria for years. 2017 marked the first direct targeting of Assad’s government, and now this missile strike. Both labeled as humanitarian efforts.

But remember, the U.S. government has a history of taking humanitarian action without evidence.

Remember when Colin Powell and others in the Bush Administration said there was no doubt that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? He didn’t.

The lies continued, with claims that after our invasion of Iraq the extremists would be curtailed. Yet with some 4,500 American lives lost and $2.4 trillion spent, Iraq is still a mess.

And what about Libya? In an episode of Reality Check from early March, we covered the open market slave trade happening there as a result of U.S. intervention. Even former President Obama said the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi was his greatest single mistake in office.

Our elected leaders never seem to learn from these mistakes. And the mainstream media is severely failing in holding them accountable.

Case in point, these latest strikes were authorized by the president, not congress. Congressional leaders were notified by the vice president shortly before the airstrikes were carried out. And many members of congress were angry at the president for not getting congressional approval before taking action against Assad.

Back in 2013, Trump criticized then-President Obama on Twitter for even considering striking Syria without congressional approval, saying:

“The president must get congressional approval before attacking Syria-big mistake if he does not!”

What you need to know is that history tends to repeat itself, if we let it. Our government could very well be trying to do the same thing in Syria as it has done in Libya and Iraq.

And the trail goes back further. There’s a Wikileaks cable from 2006 detailing how to overthrow Assad, including radicalizing Islamists in the region.

Yet President Trump says this bombing was a targeted attack to stop the use of chemical weapons, that’s it. U.K. prime minister Theresa May took it further, stating that “this is not about regime change.”

It’s hard to believe when history tells a different story.

That’s Reality Check. Let’s talk about that on social media.

 

NOTE: The flag used in the graphics for this episode should have been the Syrian Arab Republic flag with two green stars, not the Syrian Interim Government flag with three red stars.

Defense Sec. Memo Confirms Trump’s Military Parade

Washington, D.C.— A memorandum for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, issued on March 8, confirms that a Veterans Day military parade requested by President Trump last month will be held in honor of U.S. military veterans and provides “initial guidance” for the planning of the parade.

“This parade will focus on the contributions of our veterans throughout our history of the U.S. Military, starting from the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, to today, with an emphasis on the price of freedom,” the memo stated.

The memo included a list of “considerations provided by the Secretary of Defense” including plans to “highlight the evolution of women Veterans” and assurances that tanks would not be included in the event in an effort to “minimize damage to local infrastructure.” The D.C. Council had previously tweeted their objection “Tanks but No Tanks.”

The document goes on to note that Veteran and Medal of Honor recipients will surround the President in the Capitol reviewing area, and there will be a “heavy air component at the end of the parade.”

While the document doesn’t provide a cost estimate, last month the White House budget director gave a preliminary estimate to the House Budget Committee and said the parade could cost between $10 to $30 million.

Despite having the largest and most powerful military force in the history of humanity, military parades in the U.S. are rare, with the last taking place after the first Gulf War in 1991 at a price tag of roughly $12 million (not adjusted for inflation).

In early February, President Donald Trump told his generals to begin preparing for a military parade in Washington, D.C., reportedly inspired by the French Bastille Day parade he watched in Paris over the summer. Opponents criticized the idea of holding a military parade, likening it to militaristic displays in states such as Russia or China. Politico reported there was broad bipartisan pushback— with politicians on both sides of the aisle calling it a waste of money that would break with democratic traditions. A poll conducted by Military Times claimed that 88 percent of 100,000 respondents opposed the parade and “said the military has more important needs to address.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders refuted those notions, stating that Trump’s intention was to have “a celebration” of the military and that “President Trump is incredibly supportive of America’s great service members who risk their lives every day to keep our country safe.”

The Trump administration has appointed numerous high-ranking military leaders into roles in the White House and cabinet, including Defense Secretary James Mattis, Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster.

Defense Sec. Mattis Admits U.S. Has No Evidence Syrian Government Used Sarin Gas

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis confirmed that the U.S. government has no evidence that the Syrian government used sarin gas on its people— a claim that was used by the White House as justification for an April 2017 launch of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Al Shayrat airfield in Syria.

On Friday, Mattis said that reports of chemical weapon use by the Syrian government have come from aid groups and others, but that the U.S. doesn’t have any evidence to support these assertions.

“We have other reports from the battlefield from people who claim it’s been used,” Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon. “We do not have evidence of it.”

“We’re looking for evidence of it, since clearly we are dealing with the Assad regime that has used denial and deceit to hide their outlaw actions,” Mattis continued. “We’re even more concerned about the possibility of sarin use.”

Mattis explained that he was not refuting the third-party reports of chemical weapons used by the Syrian government led by President Bashar Assad. Assad has steadfastly denied that his government has used chemical weapons throughout the conflict.

In 2013, UN investigator Carla Del Ponte made note that Syrian rebels, not the Assad regime, used chemical weapons in the two-year civil war, contrary to assessments made by American officials.

According to a report by The Times of Israel:

“Carla Del Ponte, head of the independent UN commission investigating reports of chemical weapons use in Syria, told a Swiss-Italian television station that UN investigators gleaned testimony from victims of Syria’s civil war and medical staff which indicated that rebel forces used sarin gas — a deadly nerve agent.

‘Our investigators have been in neighboring countries interviewing victims, doctors and field hospitals and, according to their report of last week which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated,’ Del Ponte said in the interview, translated by Reuters.

‘This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities,’ she added.”

 

During his comments on Friday, Mattis referred to the April 2017 cruise missile strikes on a Syrian airbase, noting that the Syrian government would “be ill-advised to go back to violating” the chemical weapons prohibition.

[RELATED: The Two Major Problems With President Obama’s Syria Address]

In addition to the UN investigation, one of the foremost academic experts in the field of missile fired chemical weapons, Theodore Postol, Professor of Science, Technology and National Security Policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), came forward in a series of reports to note his opposition to the official Trump administration’s narrative in regards to the Khan Sheikhoun nerve agent attack in Syria, blamed on the Assad government, which precipitated the cruise missile strikes by the U.S., according to a report in the International Business Times. According to Postol, the Syrian gas attack was not carried out by the Syrian government.

In one of his reports, Postol concluded that the US government’s report does not provide any “concrete” evidence that Assad was responsible, adding it was more likely that the attack was perpetrated by players on the ground.

Postol wrote in his report:

“I have reviewed the [White House’s] document carefully, and I believe it can be shown, without doubt, that the document does not provide any evidence whatsoever that the US government has concrete knowledge that the government of Syria was the source of the chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun, Syria at roughly 6am to 7am on 4 April, 2017.

In fact, a main piece of evidence that is cited in the document point to an attack that was executed by individuals on the ground, not from an aircraft, on the morning of 4 April.

This conclusion is based on an assumption made by the White House when it cited the source of the sarin release and the photographs of that source. My own assessment is that the source was very likely tampered with or staged, so no serious conclusion could be made from the photographs cited by the White House.”

Postol noted that he has “unambiguous evidence that the White House Intelligence Report (WHR) of April 11, 2017 contains false and misleading claims that could not possibly have been accepted in any professional review by impartial intelligence experts.”

Postol called for an independent investigation into the decision to launch cruise missile strikes in Syria, concluding:

“It is now obvious that this incident produced by the WHR, while just as serious in terms of the dangers it created for US security, was a clumsy and outright fabrication of a report that was certainly not supported by the intelligence community.

In this case, the president, supported by his staff, made a decision to launch 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian air base. This action was accompanied by serious risks of creating a confrontation with Russia, and also undermining cooperative efforts to win the war against the Islamic State.”