June 27th, 2017

In 1964, President Lyndon Baines Johnson ramped up our country’s involvement in South East Asia in response to an attack by North Vietnamese naval forces on two American destroyers steaming in the international waters of the Gulf of Tonkin.

The attack was pure fiction.

This afternoon, on the heels of Seymour Hersh’ in-depth revelation, in Syria: Trump‘s Red Line for WELTthank you Mano Singham—that the 6 April Sarin gas attack by Syrian forces on Khan Sheikhoun was also a work of fiction, comes news that President Trump has intelligence pointing to a second gas attack is imminent in Syria.

Of the attack on Khan Sheikhoun, Hersch writes:

:The available intelligence made clear that the Syrians had targeted a jihadist meeting site on April 4 using a Russian-supplied guided bomb equipped with conventional explosives. Details of the attack, including information on its so-called high-value targets, had been provided by the Russians days in advance to American and allied military officials in Doha, whose mission is to coordinate all U.S., allied, Syrian and Russian Air Force operations in the region.

Some American military and intelligence officials were especially distressed by the president’s determination to ignore the evidence. “None of this makes any sense,” one officer told colleagues upon learning of the decision to bomb. “We KNOW that there was no chemical attack … the Russians are furious. Claiming we have the real intel and know the truth … I guess it didn’t matter whether we elected Clinton or Trump.“

Within hours of the April 4 bombing, the world’s media was saturated with photographs and videos from Khan Sheikhoun. Pictures of dead and dying victims, allegedly suffering from the symptoms of nerve gas poisoning, were uploaded to social media by local activists, including the White Helmets, a first responder group known for its close association with the Syrian opposition.

The provenance of the photos was not clear and no international observers have yet inspected the site, but the immediate popular assumption worldwide was that this was a deliberate use of the nerve agent sarin, authorized by President Bashar Assad of Syria. Trump endorsed that assumption by issuing a statement within hours of the attack, describing Assad’s “heinous actions” as being a consequence of the Obama administration’s “weakness and irresolution” in addressing what he said was Syria’s past use of chemical weapons.

Driving home this afternoon, I listened to news reports that Trump had learned of a second attack in the works. Then the other shoe dropped.

Christopher Woolf, in The risks of war in the Middle East, as the US confronts Syria and Iran for Public Radio International’s The World, reports:

The White House says Syria appears to be preparing just such an attack, the latest escalation in a multisided civil war in Syria since 2011.

“A heavy price,” in this context, is widely seen in foreign policy circles as code for military action.

The Trump administration is also warning Syria’s allies, Iran and Russia, that they would also be held responsible for any chemical attack.

“This is a really dangerous situation,” says Borzou Daragahi, a correspondent for BuzzFeed News in Istanbul. “It’s how big wars start, actually.”

This bit of Darahahi’s report troubles me the most:

We’re still not clear about where the information is coming from. Our military and intelligence contacts say they have no idea what the White House is talking about.

We should all be troubled by this observation because this is, as Darahahi remarks, how big wars start.

There was confusion in Washington on Tuesday morning when sources at the Pentagon and in the State Department told reporters that they had no knowledge of any Syrian chemical preparations and that they were not consulted about the new threat issued by the White House.

“We’re still not clear about where the information is coming from,” says Daragahi. “Our military and intelligence contacts say they have no idea what the White House is talking about.”

That is, of course, unsurprising and terrifying.

Is Syria about to become our 21st-century Bosnia? No. Not this Bosnia, this Bosnia.

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