About eddiegirdner

Retired professor, Political Science. Author, traveler, Leica Photographer.

Will the US Start a War With Iran?


If Trump really wanted to stop war in the Middle East, why would he keep Bolton as head of the National Security Council? The US National Security State-Global Empire is now geared for continuous war. There will never be peace as long as the US Empire rules the world as the New Rome. The US Economy depends upon continuous production of weapons of war and their sale and use. They are purchased with fiat money simply created with a computer. The bill is sent to the US taxpayers and added to their future debt tab. More interest. More profits. Trump is a business man. He knows where the profits come from. He loves Saudi Arabia because they buy billions of dollars worth of US Arms. He is ready to sink Turkey if they buy any arms from Russia. He threatens to destroy the economy of Turkey, which Washington made inroads in doing in the Fall of 2018 by sinking the Turkish Lira. This only takes three or four days by the big US banks in New York.

The US has created the greatest arms market in the world by destabilizing almost every country in the Middle East since 1990. But the officials are not yet satisfied. Now the US is going after Iran and threatening Turkey. Still, they talk about security. They must mean security for profits of the military-industrial-congressional-corporate ruling class in the USA.

Retired Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson has explained how Dick Cheney set all this in motion. How it now continues.

When will Americans get it? America is not a democracy. It is an Empire increasingly ruled by corporations that make most of their profits through war. Washington and the politicians are bought, except for a very few that just get chewed up and spit out by this system. If worse comes to worse, they just fake the vote. America is the only country in the world that I know of where in a two party system, the party that gets less votes sometimes wins! (Twice in 16 years) And that is called democracy in America? What would it be called in China or Russia?

Is Bolton Steering Trump Into War with Iran?

“Stop the ENDLESS WARS!” implored President Donald Trump in a Sunday night tweet.

Well, if he is serious, Trump had best keep an eye on his national security adviser, for a U.S. war on Iran would be a dream come true for John Bolton.

Last September, when Shiite militants launched three mortar shells into the Green Zone in Baghdad, which exploded harmlessly in a vacant lot, Bolton called a series of emergency meetings and directed the Pentagon to prepare a menu of targets, inside Iran, for U.S. air and missile strikes in retaliation.

The Wall Street Journal quoted one U.S. official as saying Bolton’s behavior “rattled people. … People were shocked. It was mind-boggling how cavalier they were about hitting Iran.”

Bolton’s former deputy, Mira Ricardel, reportedly told a gathering the shelling into the Green Zone was “an act of war” to which the U.S. must respond decisively.

Bolton has long believed a U.S. confrontation with Iran is both inevitable and desirable. In 2015, he authored a New York Times op-ed whose title, “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran,” said it all. He has urged that “regime change” in Iran be made a declared goal of U.S. foreign policy.

When Trump announced his decision to withdraw the 2,000 U.S. troops now in Syria, Bolton swiftly imposed conditions: ISIS must first be eliminated, Iranian forces and allied militias must leave, and the Kurds must be protected.

Yet enforcing such red lines would require a permanent presence of American troops. For how, without war, would we effect the removal of Bashar Assad’s Iranian allies, if he declines to expel them and the Iranians refuse to go?

Bolton has an ally in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. In Cairo last week, Pompeo declared it U.S. policy “to expel every last Iranian boot” from Syria.

And though Hezbollah has been a “major presence” in Lebanon for several decades, “we won’t accept this as the status quo,” said Pompeo, for Hezbollah is a “wholly owned subsidiary of the Iranian regime.”

But how does the secretary of state propose to push Hezbollah out of Lebanon peacefully when the Israelis could not do it in a month-long war in 2006?

Pompeo’s purpose during his tour of the Middle East? Build a new Middle East Strategic Alliance, a MESA, an Arab NATO, whose members are to be Egypt, Jordan and the nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

There are other signs a confrontation is coming soon. The U.S. has objected to Iran’s pending launch of two space satellites, saying these look like tests of missiles designed to deliver nuclear warheads. Yet Iran has never produced weapons-grade uranium or plutonium and never tested an ICBM.

Pompeo has also called for a conclave in Poland in February to bring together an anti-Iran alliance to discuss what is to be done about what he calls “our common enemy.”

Over the weekend, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu boasted of Israel’s latest strike in Syria: “Just in the last 36 hours, the air force attacked Iranian warehouses with Iranian weapons at the international airport in Damascus. The accumulation of recent attacks proves that we are determined more than ever to take action against Iran in Syria, just as we promised.”

Israel brags that it has hit 200 targets inside Syria in recent years. The boasting may be connected to Bibi’s desire to strengthen his credentials as a security hawk for the coming Israeli election. But it is also a provocation to the Iranians and Syrians to retaliate, which could ignite a wider war between Israel and Syrian and Iranian forces.

What does the U.S. think of the Israeli strikes? Said Pompeo: “We strongly support Israel’s efforts to stop Iran from turning Syria into the next Lebanon.”

In short, forces are moving in this country and in Israel to bring about a U.S. confrontation with Iran – before our troops leave Syria.

But the real questions here are not about Bolton or Pompeo.

They are about Trump. Was he aware of Bolton’s request for a menu of targets in Iran for potential U.S. strikes? Did he authorize it? Has he authorized his national security adviser and secretary of state to engage in these hostile actions and bellicose rhetoric aimed at Iran? And if so, why?

While Trump has urged that the U.S. pull out of these Mideast wars, Pompeo has corrected him, “When America retreats, chaos often follows.”

Is Trump looking for a showdown with Iran, which could result in a war that might vault his approval rating, but be a disaster for the Middle East and world economy and do for him what Operation Iraqi Freedom did for George W. Bush?

One thing may confidently be said of the rhetoric and actions of Bolton and Pompeo: This is not what brought out the new populists who made Donald Trump president, the people who still share his desire to “stop the endless wars.”

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of Churchill, Hitler, and “The Unnecessary War”: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World. To find out more about Patrick Buchanan and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.




The Awful Truth About War

Why I Tell No War Stories

War Story: an account or anecdote concerning one’s personal experiences of hardship, ordeal, or adventure in military combat during war. ~ Dictionary.com

Though as a activist, philosopher, educator, and veteran, I speak often of war in theory and in practice, I earnestly strive to avoid telling war stories as traditionally understood. While, on occasion, I may certainly make reference to experiences, mine and others, in war and during military training, what I do is, I hope, educative, that is, I tell the truth about war’s reality – its criminality, futility, and waste – and its tragic and profound effects upon the warrior. In doing so I strive to dispel the mythology that Warists, those who make and profit from war, continually perpetuate and foster upon the American public, particularly the youth, while being careful to avoid making war appear noble and warriors heroic.

I do, however, acknowledge two very unique and specialized occasions when war stories have value. First, telling or documenting war stories as “testimony” may have social value such as when veterans courageously testify about, or social scientists document, the inevitable atrocities of war at a hearing or tribunal, e.g., Winter Soldier Hearings, or in an investigative report of such experiences such as in Nick Turse’s “Kill Anything that Moves, the Real American War in Vietnam.” Second, telling war stories as “therapy” may have cathartic, perhaps even curative value, if related in an appropriate therapeutic environment and in the company of others who understand and shared the experience.

Telling war stories under any other conditions is problematic and should be avoided. For example, telling war stories as “historical accounts,” oftentimes contributes to the mythology of war as the historian or documentarian is invariably careful to respect the dignity and nobility of her nation’s soldiers by relating their actions, whether intentionally or not, in a positive light. Oral histories, personal accounts, and memoirs are just as suspect as the memoirist often, perhaps understandably, positively portrays his actions and not to disrespect the nobility, dignity, and sacrifices of fallen comrades whom he may have loved as a brother or sister (consider, for example the national best selling memoir by Marcus Luttrell, “Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10).

For the most part, however, telling war stories is propagandist as evidenced by the willingness and enthusiasm of the government to fund such popular war-story films as “Top Gun,’ “Acts of Valor,” “Blackhawk Down,” “American Sniper,” and “Hurt Locker,” that portray our side as noble, heroic, selfless, and moral, the other as insurgents and evil. Further, telling war stories contributes to the mythologizing of war by masking its horror, brutality, futility, and waste behind a façade of positive human virtue such as comradeship, altruism, and a willingness to sacrifice oneself for others or for one’s nation, even if for a cause that is ambiguous or suspect. Most insidiously, perhaps, whether intended or not, telling war stories provide an incentive to the next generation of prospective warriors, cannon fodder, to enlist in the military. Finally, telling war stories is voyeuristic, allowing the listener to vicariously delight in the excitement of battle and the “joy of the kill”— all without personal risk or peril– similar to the rush experienced by video war gamers and paint ball “warriors”.

It has been nearly fifty years since I enlisted in the Marine Corps and participated in the American invasion and occupation of Vietnam, the primary, no, the sole purpose of which was, as far as I can determine, to kill people and blow shit up – that is, after all, the definition of the strategy of attrition. Though as a somewhat naive late adolescent/young adult, I was deceived into believing otherwise, I was not championing American values or defending freedom. Nor was I liberating the Vietnamese people. Perhaps understandably, given my young age and a military and political leadership, much like today’s, that demonstrates its disdain for transparency, I was incapable or unwilling at the time to question or to doubt what I was being told, or to make such subtle moral and legal analyses and judgments of value and necessity.

When you strip away the lies and jingoistic rhetoric, I was an aggressor and an occupier motivated by mythology, struggling to survive in a hostile and alien environment. Ultimately, my goal was to stay alive and return home with my body and mind intact regardless of the cost to those we were allegedly there to liberate and protect.

Since there is nothing truly noble or heroic in such egoistic and for the most part, criminal behavior, I have nothing of value to relate about my experiences, what some may see as “adventures,” in war. Further, since aggression and occupation is immoral and illegal, my experiences in the military and in Vietnam are not something of which I am proud. Nor did it provide a “service” to this country or to humankind. So should we meet on the street one day, do say hello, but please do not thank me for my service as aggression and occupation is not something for which someone should be thanked.

At the time of this writing, as this nation embarks upon a congressionally mandated thirteen year long commemoration, perhaps celebration is more accurate, of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, our leaders, in the interest of forwarding their hegemonic agenda of militarism and resource exploitation, continue to avoid acknowledging the truth about our involvement in the Vietnam War. Though perhaps inspiring to civilians, even comforting to some veterans, war stories, by contributing to this mythology, ultimately hinders reconciliation, dishonors the veteran, makes healing more difficult if not impossible, and damages the moral integrity of this Nation.

The Vietnam War is history to many, ancient history to most of my students. As evidenced by the tragically high occurrence of PTSD, Moral Injuries, and suicides among veterans, the war persists and the struggle for survival continues.

So while I will continue to talk and write about war and its consequences, I will avoid telling war stories. Though loosely based upon my personal experiences of war and recovery, what I offer the reader is not a memoir, but a jumble of very personal recollections, insights, and cynical ranting about war and the struggle to restore a sense of normalcy in its aftermath. Primarily, it is intended as a means to educate about war and healing, as a tribute and as a voice for those with whom I walked the road of war and recovery, so many now gone, who sacrificed so tragically, in most cases unnecessarily, for a cause they believed just and necessary.

Camillo “Mac” Bica, Ph.D., is an author, activist, and Professor of Philosophy at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. His focus is in Social and Political Philosophy and Ethics particularly as it applies to war. Mac is former Marine Corps Officer, Vietnam Veteran, long time activist for peace and social justice and coordinator of Veterans For Peace Long Island. He can be contacted through his website athttp://www.camillobica.com.

What Happened in Syria

This is a very informative article for anyone who wants to know how the US tried to take over Syria and failed. Every American should understand the record of these events that are now never covered by the mainstream media. US policy in Syria has been a failure from beginning to the present.

What will happen in future is uncertain as the National Security State-US Empire tries to hold onto pushing to more war. For more corporate profits, of course.

My book: USA and the New Middle East (2008) is in many libraries in The Middle East and in several in the US. The analysis there has stood the test of time pretty well. The US is still in Iraq as I predicted in that book. I laid out the reasons why the US would never leave the Middle East. Lawrence Wilkerson has shown much more about what happened inside the George W. Bush Administration and how Cheney was the man running foreign policy.

The Syrian War Is Over – It Never Should Have Started

At the close of 2018, President Donald Trump announced that American troops were being withdrawn from Syria. By the open of 2019, National Security Advisor John Bolton and Senator Lindsey Graham were saying that there would be no withdrawal before a full defeat of the Islamic State and other objectives were achieved.

As usual, the tune being played by the White House is more cacophony than symphony, and no one knows when the troops will be withdrawn from Syria. The notes played have included everything from immediately, to a month, to several months to not until were done.

Whenever it is to be done, the withdrawal of U.S. troops has brought near unanimous criticism from the mainstream media. The alternative media has had several very good articles on the appropriateness of the withdrawal since all of America’s objectives in Syria have been realized to the extent they can be realized. Trump, himself said this when he said, via Twitter, “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there. . . . ”

But, it is not true that the defeat of the Islamic State was the only reason for American troops being in Syria. The reasons have ranged and changed from regime change, the Islamic State and chemical weapons to Iran. And most of the alternative media articles have missed the more important point that, if America’s objectives have been realized, it is only because they were never problems in the first place. If the obstacles to peace are gone, it is only because they were never there. If the troops can be withdrawn from Syria, it is only because they never should have been there.

Regime Change

The realization that it is time to withdraw the troops from Syria is simultaneously the realization that America does not need to pursue regime change in Syria. James Jeffrey, the US special representative in Syria, now saysthat, though America wants to see a regime in Syria that behaves fundamentally differently, the US has abandoned its consistently stated insistence that Assad must go: “We want to see a regime that is fundamentally different. It’s not regime change — we’re not trying to get rid of Assad.”

But, if America does not need regime change in Syria now, it can only be because it never did. Bashar al-Assad has long been willing to behave fundamentally differently as an ally of the west. In his 2009 article entitled “Syria Calling,” Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh says that then Senator John Kerry, who was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and who had just met with Assad, said that Assad “wants to engage with the West . . . . Assad is willing to do the things he needs to do in order to change his relationship with the United States.” Hersh says that Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the ruler of Qatar, told him that “Syria is eager to engage with the West.”

“The things he need[ed] to do” included altering Syria’s relationship with Israel. According to professor of politics and international studies at the University of San Francisco Stephen Zunes, Assad offered talks with Israel but was spurned by the US and Israel. But Assad kept trying to establish cooperation with the US Zunes says that, because he was anxious to receive international legitimacy, Assad was willing to give security guarantees and full diplomatic relations to Israel in exchange for a peace agreement. Hersh says that Israel and Syria had at other times engaged in talks too. He even says that they had reached “agreements in principle on the normalization of diplomatic relations.” He says that Assad continued informal talks with Washington into the Obama administration. Zunes said in a personal correspondence that blame for the failure of those talks lays not with Assad but with “[t]he new hard-right Israeli government that consolidated power in 2009.” Nothing could happen, Zunes said, “without the return of the Golan, which Netanyahu refuses to do.”

Assad did not only try to reshape his relationship with America indirectly through proposing to reshape his relationship with America’s Israeli ally, he also tried to directly change the nature of Syria’s relationship with America. In the wake of 9/11, Assad issued a statement supporting America’s war on al-Qaeda. In his book Reporter: A Memoir, Seymour Hersh says that in the wake of 9/11, Assad came to America’s side “by sharing with the CIA hundreds of his country’s, most sensitive intelligence files on the Muslim Brotherhood in Hamburg, where most of the planning for 9/11 was carried out.” Assad also provided the US with details about a future al-Qaeda attack on the US Fifth Fleet headquarters in Bahrain, which Hersh says that he confirmed was invaluable.

So, if America wanted a cooperative regime in Damascus, they had only to accept it. Regime change was never necessary because Assad was offering a new relationship. The regime change objective can be abandoned because it was never necessary to go to Damascus to get it.

Islamic State

It was never necessary to send troops to Syria to remove the Islamic State because the Islamic State was not originally a problem. The Islamic State was permitted to be born and to grow because it was a coincidental and convenient tool of American foreign policy. The Islamic State challenged Iraq, Syria and Lebanon: the very three allies of Iran that America sought to challenge and to amputate from Iran.

Washington knew its allies were funding al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. A September 17, 2014 memo written by Hillary Clinton clearly states that based on “western intelligence, US intelligence and sources in the region,” the US knew that “the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia . . . are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to Isis and other radical groups in the region.” Biden also acknowledged that America’s “allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria. . .. They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad except that the people who were being supplied were Al Nusra and al-Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis.”

But America knew it long before that. As early as August 12, 2012, a classified Defense Intelligence Agency Information Intelligence Report made the rounds through the US intelligence community, including the CIA, FBI, State Department and CENTCOM. Section 8.C. of the Defense Intelligence Agency report says “If the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor),” and goes on to say that “this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime. . . .” In the preceding section 7.B., the powers that are supporting ISIS are identified as “Western countries, the Gulf States and Turkey.” Section 8.D.1. of the report goes on specifically to say that ISIS “could also declare an Islamic State through its union with other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria.”

State Department cable sent by Clinton as early as December 2009, reveals that America already knew that Saudi Arabia was funding al-Qaeda by then.

And America not only knew about the funding of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, they blessed it. According to David Ignatius of the Washington Post, at a May 2015 Camp David summit, “Obama and other US officials urged Gulf leaders who are funding the opposition to keep control of their clients, so that a post-Assad regime isn’t controlled by extremists from the Islamic State or al-Qaeda.” Notice Obama did not demand that they stop funding al-Qaeda or the Islamic State, only that they control them and keep them on the desired course. Secretary of State John Kerry accidentally confessed that blessingwhen he told Syrian opposition activists at a meeting in September 2016 that “We were watching. We saw that Daesh [the Islamic State] was growing in strength and we thought Assad was threatened. We thought, however, we could probably manage, you know, that Assad might then negotiate and instead of negotiating, you got Assad, ah, you got Putin supporting him.”

Just as America knew very early about allied funding for al-Qaeda, so it very early on blessed it. A WikiLeaks cable with the shockingly early date ofDecember 13, 2006 that was written by the charge d’affaires of the US embassy in Damascus to the Secretary of State shows the embassy recommending the encouragement of sectarianism and tension between Sunni and Shia Syrians. The cable recommends that the US”Play on Sunni fears of Iranian influence,” though it admits those fears are “often exaggerated.” It says that “There are fears in Syria that the Iranians are active in both Shia proselytizing and conversion of, mostly poor, Sunnis.” It recommends that the US “coordinate more closely with” Egypt and Saudi Arabia “on ways to better publicize and focus regional attention on these issues.” The top US diplomat in Syria is here counseling the exacerbation of sectarianism as a means of undermining the Assad government.

As for extremists, the same cable identifies “the potential threat to the regime from the increasing presence of transiting Islamist extremists.” The embassy sees this presence as one of the “vulnerabilities” for which “there may be actions” the US government can take to “improve the likelihood of such opportunities arising.” The presence of extremists is not seen as an undesirable problem to be eliminated, but as an anticipated opportunity to be encouraged.

So, America need never have had the need to go into Syria to eradicate the problem of a metastasizing Islamic State. The problem need never have existed had America not seen the Islamic State as an unfortunate but manageable tool that could help it achieve its foreign policy objectives regarding Iran because its objectives and the Islamic State’s objective coincided.

Chemical Weapons

The crossing of the red line of chemical weapons was another reason frequently given for sending troops to Syria and for overthrowing the regime. But this problem too seems no longer to be a reason to keep the troops there only because it was a problem that went away before the troops were there.

In September 2013, as a result of a plan worked out by Syria, Russia and Iran, Walid al-Moalllem, Syria’s foreign minister, announced Syria’s willingness to acknowledge its chemical weapons stockpiles (that, despite America’s boasts that force compelled Syria to do so, Syria had, according to Noam Chomsky, acknowledged long ago), sign the international convention against chemical weapons, place its arsenal under international control and swear off any future development of chemical weapons. The United Nations confirmed receipt of a letter signed by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad declaring Syria’s intention to sign the international chemical weapons treaty. Shortly after, on September 14, the United States and Russia finalized an agreement on the removal or destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons. According to The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the destruction of those chemical weapons was completed as promised.

The US case that Syria has used chemical weapons nonetheless is weak. And, though Trump says that his only reason for being in Syria was the defeat of the Islamic State, he has previously given the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime as a reason for regime change and for being in Syria. But, like the times prior to the Trump administration, the case against Assad was weak.

The case against Assad relied on the claim that the chemical weapons were dropped from airplanes and only government forces have airplanes. But, Theodore Postol, MIT professor emeritus of science, technology and national security, a leading analyst on military technology and former scientific advisor at the Department of Defense, says that his analysis of the evidence shows that the chemical weapon was not dropped from an airplane but exploded on the ground. Postol concludes that “. . . there is absolutely no evidence that the crater was created by munitions designed to disperse sarin after it is dropped from an aircraft. . . . The data cited by the White House is more consistent with the possibility that the munition was placed on the ground rather than dropped from a plane. . . . Analysis of the debris as shown in the photograph cited by the White House clearly indicates that the munition was almost certainly placed on the ground. . . .”

Furthermore, Postol has shown that the crater identified by the US as being the one where the sarin gas hit the ground after being dropped from a planecouldn’t be the source of the sarin gas that killed the victims of the gas attack. He says his analysis of photographs of the crater site, the cite where the victims are located and wind and weather data reveal that the location of the victims is inconsistent with the crater cite offered up by the White House. His conclusion is that the version of the gas attack described by the White House that points to Syrian regime culpability – sarin gas dropped from a plane, landing on the ground and making a crater, and killing civilians in a nearby hamlet – never occurred.

The former US intelligence analysts, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, say that, according to their “US Army contacts in the area,” what really happened is that “a Syrian aircraft bombed an al-Qaeda-in-Syria ammunition depot that turned out to be full of noxious chemicals and a strong wind blew the chemical-laden cloud over a nearby village where many consequently died.” Former Chief of Staff to Colin Powell, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, saysthat most of his sources – including members of the team that monitors global chemical weapons and people in the US intelligence community – are also telling him that that is what probably happened. Investigative journalist Gareth Porter reports that a former US official knowledgeable about the chemical weapons event said that Russia informed the US that Syria planned to strike the warehouse 24 hours before the strike. The source, according to Porter, “is in direct contact with a US military intelligence officer with access to information about the US-Russian communications.” Russia also informed the US that the Syrian military thought the warehouse housed chemicals. Furthermore, Porter reveals that “an internal administration paper circulating in Washington . . . clearly refers to ‘a regime airstrike on a terrorist ammunition dump in the eastern suburbs of Khan Sheikhoun.’”

On April 14, 2018, Trump ordered the bombing of Syria because of another claimed chemical attack: this time in Douma, near Damascus. Only days before the missile strikes, Defense Secretary James Mattis said that the USlacked the intelligence that Assad was responsible for the alleged chemical weapons attack. Mattis admitted that the US was “still assessing the intelligence… We’re still working on it.”

Russian chemical weapons specialists who were on site found no trace of chemical weapon use. Neither did Red Crescent doctors who treated people. The OPCW inspectors might quickly have answered the question, but their access to the site was blocked by the United Nations department of Safety and Security.

The evidence for Assad’s chemical weapons attack on his own people came from rebel-affiliated and Western financed groups like the White Helmets. However, investigative journalist Robert Fisk, who was the first western journalist to make it into Douma, heard from no local who knew of a chemical weapons attack. He did hear a different version of the story in Douma than the one put out by the White Helmets and accepted by Donald Trump.

The video of victims of chemical attack is real, but the interpretation is false. The suffering is real, but they are not suffering from chemical exposure. They are suffering from oxygen starvation. There was heavy shelling by government forces that night. But this particular night, there was also a huge wind and huge dust clouds choked the tunnels and basements the people were hiding in. The suffering people in the video were struggling from hypoxia, or oxygen starvation. Then a White Helmet “shouted ‘Gas!’” The panic, and the propaganda begun.

When Russia brought seventeen witnesses from Douma to the Hague to testify before the OPCW, the US, U.K., and France not only did not listen to the evidence, they did not show up. The witnesses from Douma supported the story that Robert Fisk had heard when he was in Douma. Each witness was either a victim of that night’s events or a doctor who treated them. Some of the victim witnesses even show up in the White Helmet videos. They all said that there had been no chemical attack: they were sucking in dust, not gas.

If the US can withdraw from Syria with no further action taken on chemical weapons, it’s because there has been no problem with chemical weapons since Syria eliminated them.


Iran is in Syria legally: they are there at the invitation of the government of Syria; the US is in Syria illegally: domestically, the troop deployment was never authorized by congress, and, internationally, they were never invited by Syria or authorized by the United Nations.

Iran has also consistently been fighting the Islamic State terrorists whose defeat, according to Trump, is the condition of America’s withdrawal. They have been far more responsible than the US for the defeat of the Islamic State that Trump is now taking credit for.

Nonetheless, the US has claimed as a vital reason for being in Syria that they need to roll back Iran and get all Iranian troops out of Syria. It was surprising, then, to hear Trump declare, not only that the US can now withdraw from Syria, but that “Iran . . . can frankly do whatever they want there.” Once again, Iran’s presence is not a problem now because it was not a problem then.

The United States has long known that its ally, Saudi Arabia, and not its enemy, Iran, is the largest problem in the region, since it is the leading state sponsor of terror. All recent attempts to link Iran to terrorism have failed. Even America’s own reports on terrorism don’t list Iran as the leading state sponsor of terrorism. The State Department’s Patterns of Global Terrorisms “rarely identifies a terrorist incident as an act by or on behalf of Iran.” And, the recent Global Terrorism Index from the Department of Homeland Security clearly states that, not Iran, but “ISIL, Boko Haram, the Taliban and al-Qaeda” are the biggest terrorist threats. None of these four groups is Shiite and none is aligned with Iran, but combined they are “responsible for 74 per cent of all deaths from terrorism.” The Index also clearly identifies “ISIL,” not Iran “as the deadliest terrorist group.”

So, Saudi Arabia is the leading state sponsor of terrorism and of the Islamic State, the Islamic State is the deadliest terrorist threat, and Iran is one of the largest state oppositions to the Islamic State. But Iran is the leading problem in the area that needs to be rolled back.

The only reason why Trump can say that the US can leave Syria now and let Iran do “whatever they want there” is because there was never a problem with what Iran was doing there.

The crucial point that is being missed in the conversation about Trump’s promise to withdraw US forces from Syria is that, if the conditions are compatible with a withdrawal now, it is only because they always were.

Ted Snider writes on analyzing patterns in US foreign policy and history.

What is Trump’s Foreign Policy?

John Bolton: Trump’s Foreign Policy Architect or Saboteur?

He’s slow-walking the Syria withdrawal, either on the president’s orders or over his head.

National Security Advisor John Bolton attends meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Oct. 23, 2018. (Office of the Russian President/public domain)

On December 19, as Christmas Day was fast approaching, Donald Trump delivered an early holiday gift to American troops stationed in Syria: pretty soon they would be packing their bags and getting out. To illustrate the point, the showman-turned-president released a video, one minute and 19 seconds long, of him in front of the White House portico proclaiming that the withdrawal was imminent. “After historic victories against ISIS, it’s time to bring our great young people home,” Trump said.

At precisely that time, the foreign policy establishment—a.k.a. The Blob—was springing into action. Their hearts beating wildly, they took to the airwaves and the op-ed pages to warn that a dopey president was making America less secure. David Ignatius, the longtime columnist at the Washington Post, wrote a column entitled, “Trump’s Syria withdrawal snatches defeat from the jaws of victory.” Democratic Senator Jack Reed, the ranking member on the Armed Services Committee, put out a statement pronouncing, “Just because President Trump tweets that he has defeated ISIS doesn’t make us safer, especially when the reality is very different on the ground.” Pentagon officials who were ordered to prepare for a quick withdrawal were privately hoping that the uber-hawkish Senator Lindsey Graham could persuade Trump to slow everything down.

And then there was John Bolton, the White House national security advisor and Blob member of 30-plus years who makes ancient Sparta look reasonable and peace-loving. While Bolton would never say so explicitly, it was obvious from the outset of Trump’s Syria decision that he didn’t support what his boss was doing. Indeed, it was only months prior that Bolton had said categorically that U.S. troops would not be leaving Syria as long as Iranian operatives or Iranian-sponsored militias were breathing Syrian air. Now, Trump had pulled the rug out from under Bolton and made him look foolish. He was outside the loop, ignorant of what his own boss was planning.

Bolton, a wily bureaucratic operator who knows how to slay inter-agency dragons, immediately went to work. If he and his like-minded colleagues at the Pentagon couldn’t persuade Trump to reverse the troop withdrawal, they could at least try to convince him to slow down implementation, drag out the process, and perhaps attach a few conditions to the drawdown. A more conventional president might have stuck to his guns, but Trump has a tendency to change his mind depending on whom he sees on Fox News (which could mean Lindsey Graham or Retired General Jack Keane, who isn’t exactly known for his foreign policy restraint). Bolton, Graham, and the swamp creatures understand this indecision perfectly well, and they took advantage of it. Soon enough, Trump was backing down from his original position and telling reporters that the troops would leave gradually.

Then, on Sunday, January 6, Bolton upped the ante. Speaking to reporters during his trip to Israel, he said that certain things would need to occur before American GIs could be pulled out. “This is a cause and effect mission,” Bolton commented. “Timetables or the timing of the withdrawal occurs as a result of the fulfillment of the conditions and the establishment of the circumstances that we want to see. And once that’s done, then you talk about a timetable.”

What are the conditions Bolton speaks of? First, the total elimination of the Islamic State—an objective any honest terrorism expert will admit is impossible (how does one “defeat” terrorism anyway?). And second, an assurance from Turkey that they won’t slaughter the Syrian Kurdish fighters now doing the bulk of the anti-ISIS work on the ground. What that assurance would look like is anyone’s guess. To Bolton, however, it doesn’t really matter: the trick is to slow Trump’s original announcement to such an extent that it’s made irrelevant. In his mind, the Syria mission isn’t about the Syrian people, Bashar al-Assad, or ISIS, but the evil Iranian empire swallowing up territory. Bolton’s obsession with regime change in Tehran starts with Syria—and if that means parking a few thousand more American ground troops in the desert indefinitely, so be it.

Is Bolton actually speaking for President Trump? Or is he freelancing like he did before the Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, when his talk of the “Libya model” nearly upended diplomacy before it began?

If it’s the former, Trump needs to get in front of a microphone and level with the American people about why the policy has changed. If it’s the latter, he needs to immediately summon Bolton back to Washington and tell him in no uncertain terms that he has 10 minutes to put his things in a cardboard box before vacating the White House grounds.

Daniel R. DePetris is a foreign policy analyst, a columnist at Reuters, and a frequent contributor to The American Conservative.