James Howard Kunstler -- World News Trust
April 7, 2017
Close your eyes, click your heels three and tell me if you actually know what the fuck is happening in Syria.
There’s an awful lot about the poison gas attack that doesn’t add up for the casual observer. It was only a week ago that the United States enunciated a new policy that we would be content for Bashar al Assad to remain in power presiding over the Syrian government -- after years of grousing and threats against him. Apparently Trump Central had concluded that Assad was a better alternative than another failed state in the Middle East with no government at all.
That policy change was a yuge benefit for Assad since it removed any pretext for U.S. subterfuge or “black box” mischief against him. He was rather busy fighting a civil war, after all. Against whom? A mash-up of Jihadi forces ranging from Isis (so-called), to and Jabhat al Nusra, its spinoff gang dedicated specifically against Assad personally. Assad’s relations with Isis were ambiguous and complex. Isis had used Syria as a staging area for its operations next door in Iraq. It was rumored that Assad purchased oil from Isis. Yet Isis had participated in actions against Assad. In any case, all of the Jihadis were Sunni, in opposition to Assad’s Iran-leaning regime. Assad himself belongs to the Alawite sect of Islam, a twig on the Shia branch. Syria as a whole is a majority Sunni population, so Assad and his father Hafez before him (President 1971–2000) have represented a minority (12 percent) in an era of inflamed Sunni-Shia passions.
Trusting that you're are not additionally confused by all this, why would Assad choose this moment -- only days after the United States granted him a pass on remaining in power -- to do the one thing guaranteed to bring the wrath of the United States down him, namely, kill a lot of civilians, including women and children, with poison gas? Either Assad is inconceivably stupid or possibly the gas attack is not exactly what happened.
Russia has claimed that Assad’s air force attempted to bomb a “rebel” (al Qaeda? Al Nusra? Isis?) ammunition depot that apparently contained supplies of Sarin nerve gas. Neither the U.S. government nor the American media has presented any arguments to counter that hypothesis. The New York Times banged the war drum as loudly as possible in the days after the incident. And now, of course, Trump Central has fired $60 million worth of cruise missiles at Assad’s main air force base. Assad’s spokesmen denied responsibility for the attack and the Russians are still asking for conclusive evidence via the UN Security Council.
The current incident appears to be -- or was engineered to be -- a replay of the August 2013 gas incident that left President Barack Obama looking weak and indecisive for not carrying out retaliation against Assad “crossing a line in the sand” against human decency. And so you have Mr. Trump, who may feel now that he cannot afford to appear weak and indecisive -- above all other considerations, including the truth about what really happened at Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib province of Syria. So he bombed an airport, after warning the Russians to remove their personnel from the vicinity. In the event that the world ever does learn what actually occurred at Khan Sheikhoun, and the truth turns out differently than the current narrative, Mr. Trump can say, “We only bombed some Syrian air force infrastructure… no biggie… no women and children harmed.”
The outstanding question remains: what might have possibly motivated Bashar >al Assad to turn upside down a situation of great advantage to himself mere days after he achieved it? It will be interesting to see if a credible response emerges from the hall of mirrors that U.S. policy has become.
James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling -- A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.