A Syria Thread for Starters

     One of the reasons that I started this blog when I did was to keep track of my own postings, and those of others, on the current war in Syria.  Your conversations, comments, links, and postings are also welcome to join mine in the comments section below.


7 comments on “A Syria Thread for Starters

  1. mustardnine says:

    A post on Sycamore Three

    Saturday, April 27, 2013

    Syria And Chemical Weapons And The West
    I am sorry to hear that there is evidence that sarin gas has been used in Syria, whether by the Syrian government, or Syrian rebels, or agents provocateurs from foreign interests. Sarin is a deadly nerve gas, and is prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

    I am also sorry that the West is being hypocritical about the use of chemical weapons (in this case, poison gas).

    The World Wars

    Poison gas was used by the French, the Germans, and the British in World War I. They used tear gas, chlorine gas, and later phosgene gas. It was a weapon of mass destruction; and both sides used it, morals and humanity be damned. Thousands died.

    In the years following, Britain planned to use poison gas in its newly conquered territory, Iraq. There was doubt expressed in high councils about the morality of such an action, but Winston Churchill is on record as strongly favoring its use, despite the experiences of the World War. “I do not understand this sqeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly in favour of using poison gas against uncivilised tribes.” Furthermore, as the debate went on,

    ‘ Churchill remained unimpressed by such considerations, arguing that the use of gas, a “scientific expedient,” should not be prevented “by the prejudices of those who do not think clearly”. In the event, gas was used against the Iraqi rebels with “excellent moral effect” though gas shells were not dropped from aircraft because of practical difficulties […..] ‘

    And Churchill had had no moral epiphany twenty-odd years later, during World War II; on the contrary, he now justified use of gas against anyone, not just “uncivilized tribes.” In 1944, he was calling for gassing the Germans:

    ‘ I quite agree that it may be several weeks or even months before I shall ask you to drench Germany with poison gas, and if we do it, let us do it one hundred per cent. In the meanwhile, I want the matter studied in cold blood by sensible people and not by that particular set of psalm-singing uniformed defeatists which one runs across now here now there. Pray address yourself to this. It is a big thing and can only be discarded for a big reason. I shall of course have to square Uncle Joe and the President; but you need not bring this into your calculations at the present time. Just try to find out what it is like on its merits. ‘

    Fortunately, in this instance cooler heads prevailed and gas was not used.

    Sarin Gas

    Sarin gas, originally thought to be useful as a pesticide, was developed in German laboratories in 1938. Its military use against human beings was quickly recognized by the Germans — but they never used it.

    In the Cold War years following World War II, it was produced in large quantities by the United States (and distributed to its NATO and other allies), and by the Soviet Union (and distributed to its allies). This would include various Middle-Eastern client states of the two superpowers, such as Iraq.

    The Council on Foreign Relations believes, according to their website, that sarin gas was used by Saddam Hussein in the 1990s against his Kurdish minorities, in dozens or hundreds of operations that resulted in the deaths of at least 5,000, and inflicting injuries and birth defects upon many thousands more.

    Other Agents

    Iraq may have used sarin in its 8-year war with Iran; along with smallpox and anthrax. Or Saddam Hussein may have made other choices: According to Wikipedia,

    ‘The non-profit American Type Culture Collection and the Centers for Disease Control sold or sent biological samples of anthrax, West Nile virus and botulism to Iraq up until 1989, which Iraq claimed it needed for medical research. A number of these materials were used for Iraq’s biological weapons research program, while others were used for vaccine development. For example, the Iraqi military settled on the American Type Culture Collection strain 14578 as the exclusive anthrax strain for use as a biological weapon, according to Charles Duelfer. ‘

    Reread that: who sent biological samples to Saddam??

    The Situation And The Hypocrisy

    And so, it would appear, the threat of chemical and biological weapons is very real in parts of the Near East. It is certainly possible that there are stockpiles of sarin in Syria, and that they are being used. If these stockpiles exist in significant quantities, there is a very real risk of great loss of life. The situation could be bad.

    However: even if the stockpiles exist (which has yet to be demonstrated), a great deal turns on the question of who has them and where did they come from.

    If Assad’s government has them, then he and they are playing a very, very dangerous game. And if they are playing a dangerous game, and if the West is really interested in peace, human rights, democracy, and so forth, then the West had better proceed with great wisdom and delicacy, or they are going to uncork another Iraq-Libya-Somalia-Mali-Sudan-Uganda-Afghanistan-Vietnam-Cambodia-Laos-El Salvador-Nicaragua-style bloodbath.

    But if the stockpiles of sarin are in fact controlled by Syrian rebels, or Western intelligence agencies, then blaming Bashar al-Assad is very evil. It is attempting to commit murder, with a plan for framing the victim. And besides being utterly immoral, the whole idea is self-defeating — quickly. I think we all have enough long-term memory to recall how quickly our NATO-oriented lies and double-dealing about Gaddafi and Libya turned sour. Do we remember Ambassador Christopher Stevens? Just whose side did we think we were on?

    Do we really want to make the same mistake in Syria, to cover the bone-headed ignorance of some cabal of political hacks in the Pentagon or the State Department? For the sake of some sort of transitory one-upsmanship in the media, or at the ballot box, do we really want Our Party to keep making the same long-term mistakes, and deliciously hope that the Other Party makes even worse ones — and screw the rest of the world — as if all of life were no more serious than the latest national championship in sports?

    Let us then face some unpleasant facts.

    1. The British and American governments have developed, manufactured, and used poison gas and have sold it around the world to all kinds of governments and “regime changers.” They have then blamed their customers for possessing what they sold them. This is pure hypocrisy.

    2. The Chemical Weapons Convention outlaws the use, manufacture, and distribution of chemical weapons. The United States, Britain, and over 100 other nations signed this treaty in the 1990s. The Israeli government has refused to do so. The United States and Britain refuse to hold Israel accountable, but demand thorough “inspections” of Syria. This is pure hypocrisy.

    3. While refusing to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Israeli Government (with the enthusiastic approval of its people) used white phosphorous (a deadly chemical weapon) on civilian populations in Gaza as recently as 2009. They possess it, they stockpile it, they use it proudly. Yet they loudly accuse the Syrians of possessing chemical weapons and demand “regime change.” This is pure hypocrisy.

    4. The United States Government has condemned Al-Qaida in Afghanistan and invaded that country because the Taliban (supposedly) would not give up the Al-Qaida people to US “authorities.” The United States invaded Iraq because they (supposedly) had “ties” to Al-Qaida. The US condemns any government or individual who (supposedly) supports Al-Qaida. And yet, the US government has (more or less openly) supported Al-Qaida in Libya, and is now (more or less openly) supporting Al-Qaida in Syria. This is pure, utter hypocrisy.

    How long we will turn a blind eye to this, which is being done in our name? This also is hypocrisy.

    To be continued, no doubt.

    Posted by Robert Heid at 11:27 AM
    1 comment:

    castironMay 3, 2013 at 9:59 AM
    Thank you for this article. I wish you hadn’t had to write such things. The more I look into history, the more I find things are what we are led to believe.

  2. mustardnine says:

    Wednesday, August 28, 2013

    Attack on Syria: Brief and Limited

    This post will be brief and limited.

    In a post entitled, “Loose lips on Syria,” the Wall Street Journal Online has announced, in a sort of regretful way, that “U.S. leaks tell Assad he can relax. The bombing will be brief and limited.” The subtext is ambiguous, at least to me.

    They would like for Assad to “not relax”? Or, they would like for there to be no war, under the circumstances? Or, they are opposed to this prospective war on principle? Or, they want an all out war, and they are afraid that this pre-limited method of entry won’t quite do it?

    Is the bombing a done-deal? Or is it not? Is this article a last-minute trial balloon to test public reaction? Or is it a justification-in-advance for some future “We-told-you-so,” given several possible endings to the “scenario”?

    The Wall Street Journal, much like the New York Times, serves as a generations-old media agency for the American-British-Israel Establishment. It is used both to inform and to disinform. I do not know what it is doing at this time (or ever).

    I will confine myself to this remark:

    The September 11, 2001, attacks upon targets in the United States were also brief, and limited. Point being . . . ?

    * * *

    I have written more extensively on this subject in my post of April 27, 2013: “Syria, Chemical Weapons, And The West.”

  3. mustardnine says:

    Thursday, September 5, 2013

    Syria On-Going: Three Similar Perspectives

    I hesitate to make this further post about Syria, because I do not want this site to become merely political comment and counter-comment. Whatever the Great Conversation may be, and whatever our small part in it, it must remain, in my view, something more and better than merely “current events,” or even a discussion of war and my own anti-war views; and I have already posted my thoughts on Syria (here and here.) That is to say, this “further post” may be hardly more than self-distraction on my part.

    I am indeed working on some other posts, with other themes, that I am not ready to publish, delayed partly because the considerable current reportage about the conflict in Syria, and the conflict over Syria, are much in the news — as they should be, in my way of thinking — and finally raising fresh lines of questioning that are long overdue. So I am readily admitting to some self-distraction here.

    I am here posting several recent links that I have run across, or that have been sent to me by much respected friends. I recommend them to your reading and consideration.

    “No Syrian War To Save Obama’s Face!” by Patrick Buchanan. Extremely current (September, 2013), and providing interesting information about the past use of poison gas in previous wars. I often agree with Pat Buchanan on matters concerning foreign policy (though not necessarily on matters domestic or partisan), and this is one of those times.

    “Syria And Byzantine Strategy,” by Robert Kaplan. Extremely current (September, 2013), and with an important (because rare) look at certain successful long-ago political strategies in that part of the world.

    “Those Old Colonial Lusts,” by Eric Margolis. This was written in June, 2013, and might seem dated; but since it provides much historical background that we have either never known, or have just forgotten, it remains quite timely.

    Each of the writers of the links above is a man having long political engagement, and much direct real-world experience. Their thinking is much better informed than we can usually expect from bright youthful journalists who read the predigested printouts from the press-wires to us, or retired old generals who comment authoritatively from power-point scripts handed out by the Pentagon.

    Each of these essays can help us rise above the sound-bite-level, tomorrow-morning, either/or-snap-decision mentality that seems to be just about all that the U.S. main-stream-media affords.

    * * *

    Comments are always welcome.

  4. mustardnine says:

    A post on Facebook

    FYI for interested friends only (Other friends, not interested in “current events” need not examine the link – we are all busy and have many other legitimate interests, no offense taken)

    For interested friends, who are inclined to proceed:

    Caveat: I rarely quote from World Net Daily as a reliable source for interpreting current events; but when they get something right, ahead of their friends in the Christian Right, I am glad to acknowledge their efforts at honesty. This is one such effort — and in my opinion, a good one.

    Further warning: this is a rather lengthy piece, and requires some previous knowledge of the actors-on-the-political-stage who are mentioned. Your eyes may glaze over!

    But there are a lot of revelations that are potential game-changers here. I think it is good to be as well-informed as we can be about political currents and counter-currents.

    I would urge you to consider that if Mr. Obama has been misleading, or has been misled: remember that the leaders of the Christian Right and other neo-conservatives have been misleading and misled, too. There have been logs in many eyes, not just one or two.


  5. mustardnine says:

    Saturday, September 7, 2013

    Current Events In Syria, And The Persecuted Church
    In light of the current peculiarities in the relations between the US Government and Syria, a good friend raises a good question. He writes, in response to my last post:

    The question I have is about personal strategy. How should Christians behave in a world that is at war? Many tens of thousands of Christians left Iraq to escape persecution and went to Syria where they are now the buffer zone in an even more dangerous hostility. The Christians in other Muslim controlled countries have to keep a low profile to avoid being targeted by extremists. Is there anything we can do to help them and to identify with the suffering persecuted church?

    As I said, I think that this is a good question, and one that mindful Christians ought to be addressing very seriously. As with many practical, real-world questions of this kind, I note that the general situation is complex — tangled, even — and it should not be surprising that the answers are complex as well.

    I do not think that I have all the answers, or indeed, perhaps, any answer; and at the end of this post, all I expect to do is suggest a part of an approach. I will focus my thoughts on the first statement, and on the last question.

    (I suspect that my comments will, at the beginning, tend to come across as complaining or blaming, but I sense that they are necessary to frame the situation, at least as I see it. Bear with me.)

    Let us begin with the last question: “Is there anything we can do to help them and to identify with the suffering persecuted church?”

    My first response would be, with a touch of anger in my tone, “The very first thing that we can do to help them and to identify with them is to recognize that they even exist — which American Christians that I know have not done.” And right there begins a problem for me, since my response consists of a gross generalization, and an implicit general criticism, and I know that it does not even apply to my good friend and brother who raised the question. Nevertheless, I would note, a gross generalization can be true as a gross generalization, even if it is false as to important exceptions. (And I am writing for a very small, but very world-wide audience.) At any rate, I am here talking about bad ideas rather than seeking to blame “bad people,” so again I ask you to bear with me, and believe that I am not attacking persons as persons. I am trying to separate bad ideas from good people (or ordinary people). I am seeking to disentangle a bad knot from a good shoe-string, if you will.

    My first response, then, reading it backward, is that American Christians have generally not even recognized that the Christians in the Middle East exist at all. Yes, I know that there are wonderful exceptions. I know that Shane Claiborne was on the ground in Iraq with the Christians (and Muslims) before the “shock and awe” fell from American bombers in 2003, and stood with them in that ordeal. I know that Brother Andrew has been in contact with Christians (and Muslims) in Lebanon, Israel, and Palestine for many years. I know that Carl Madearis has, too. No doubt there are many others, and I have personally met some of them. But these are exceptional cases of people who have actually taken it upon themselves to go to the locations in question, and get first hand experience. For most American Christians, this is simply not the case. They have not even heard of the Syrian Orthodox Church, or the Assyrian Church, or Maronites. A few may have heard of the Copts, but they know next to nothing about them.

    If an American Christian, myself included, wants to know what is going on in the world around him, he is pretty much totally dependent on the available media outlets, and on the pulpit. The media outlets are usually limited to the nightly-news, supplemented with some talk-radio and perhaps a newspaper subscription. All of these are heavily influenced by what I shall call the Consensus Narrative, or more simply the Narrative, which, if not controlled by Controllers, is at least influenced by Influencers. And I would argue, and I think most of us would agree, that this Narrative is capable of misinformation and even disinformation. This Narrative is not interested in talking about the “persecuted church,” or even the Church at all, in anything like a truthful or positive light. (At least, I did not hear much in the media about the concerns of the “persecuted church” during “Operation Iraqi Freedom” in 2003, or thereafter.) So that is a part of the problem — the media-government Narrative is strongly biased. We must deal with it.

    The second source of information for most American Christians is the pulpit — which I am extending here to include most other Christian media — Christian talk-radio, Christian publishing, Christian music concerts, and the like, which disseminates a “Christian world-view” to its audience. That world-view has been formed, in large part, by “end times” rhetoric and an all-American and Israel-centric theology that has completely obscured the existence and the role of the Church in the Middle East. This is much too broad a topic to address in a single post, so I shall not try. I simply mention that this world-view exists. I would add that it is generally — another gross generalization — pervasive in the American Church.

    With that I conclude, for the moment, my comments on the final question. As I said, I am only suggesting a part of an approach.

    I’ll turn to the first sentence in the reply: “The question I have is about personal strategy.” I can only give my own.

    My own personal strategy has been to re-examine myself and the world around me, and to raise fundamental questions about what is going on. And I have taken the time (years) to search for answers, and to wait for them if necessary. In my case, I have found this personally helpful.

    I will admit to some personal biases. My personal biases include the following.

    1. I do not trust a single thing that my media/government says or does, and haven’t for many years. This personal viewpoint has led me to do quite a bit of personal inquiry and research over some years, and I have found that my government has lied to me, and to my friends and neighbors, on so many matters of importance, for so long, that I am sticking with this bias.

    2. I mostly do not trust the spokespersons of the modern American church. They come across as entertainers, preferring appearance over substance. Their “prophecy conferences” do not impress me or enlighten me. Their “worship events” leave me cold. Their constant affirmations of “America’s Godly Heritage” is a 95% lie. Their “revelations” and “anointings” I find shallow and unfruitful. Their “proclamations of the gospel,” while frequently containing important truth, are too often crippled in their public delivery by ignorance coupled with arrogance.

    (This has not, so far, shaken my own faith. I fully believe in everything that I read in the Apostles’ Creed. I attend church regularly. I read the Holy Scriptures, and I believe them. I pray, and see remarkable answers. I walk in love. I am kindly to people with whom I disagree — I do not use such blunt remarks (as I used in #2 above) in face-to-face conversations with brothers in Christ. (Of course, they don’t often ask for my opinion, either.) In brief, I seek to trust Christ. But I no longer trust the Church.)

    Have I said enough? I do not think that the American Church is in any position to help the persecuted Christians anywhere, at all. For one thing, they are not even inclined to do so. Rather, they are a contributing cause of the persecution of the persecuted Christians, by repeatedly praying to God to bless our all-American-all-Israel-all-righteous invasions of their home countries, placing them under even more hostility and suspicion than they have had before.

    Since that is the way that I think right now, all I can suggest is personal strategy. I’ve suggested a part of my approach. I have some personal intentions and future objectives. I invite you to develop your own. Perhaps you can find a way to influence your local congregation. I would suggest an approach:

    1. Question the Narrative yourself. (Perhaps you already have.) Ask lots of people lots of questions. Ask them what they have found. Take notes on what you find.

    2. Question the Christian (churchian) Narrative. Ask lots of Christians lots of questions. Ask them what they have found. Take notes on what you find.

    After all that, and based on your findings, it might be time to:

    3. Strongly encourage other Christians, preferably in private or in very small groups, to begin to question the Narratives. Ask people. Take notes.

    4. Take it from there.

    Notice that I do not get around to proposing some major action in the larger American Church to “help the persecuted Church.” What help can Laodicea give to Smyrna?

    * * *
    Your comments are always welcome. Usual courtesies apply.

    Posted by Robert Heid at 10:48 PM

    Rick FruehSeptember 8, 2013 at 1:06 PM
    Great thoughts. The church which is 0planted in America has American eyes, American ears, and most grievous of all American hearts. Since birth and all the way through Christian schools and Sunday School teaching professing believers have been literally brainwashed until we are ignorant to the eternal and are consumed with the temporal. To think that God’s people would ever support violence on a massive scale is almost unthinkable. However when your allegiance is given to a fallen nation as well as Christ an amalgam is created which renders your allegiance to Christ as fraudulent.


    DaleSeptember 8, 2013 at 10:18 PM
    I agree that we have to question the narratives we are getting and by influencers and controllers I think you meant political operatives that try to filter or bias the news we get. That said I try to hear from viewpoints outside of the U.S. I subscribe to the Jerusalem Post for the Israeli viewpoint, and to the Jerusalem Post Christian edition for the viewpoint of Christians who are more closely familiar with the issues in Israel, Samaria and Judea, Gaza and neighbors. I also can get Russian TV and Al Jazeera by antennae TV in the Washington D.C. area. These sources do present multiple viewpoints, and may help in getting closer to the facts. However getting the facts right does not mean that we can do anything about them. We are often observers as God continues to bring history toward its conclusion. All the facts agree with the teaching of Jesus and Paul. The temple was destroyed in agreement with the prophecy of Jesus. This destruction was so complete that today’s leading experts do not agree with the precise location of the Solomonic and later temples on the temple mount. Currently the focal point of worship in Jerusalem (the temple mount) is controlled by the descendants of Hagar which fits well with the teaching of Paul in Galations. We can either be slaves or free and Paul has taught us that the gospel teaches us freedom in Christ. The facts on the ground underscore that Paul’s prophetic word is from God. We need that freedom which does not come from any man-made government, but only from the gospel of Christ that relates us to the Jerusalem that is above.
    What does this have to do with Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt and other places? Why are Christians in those countries so often at risk? We are often not aware that when we use force in an Islamic country this tends to stir up the extremists, who think that jihad means to attack any neighbors who happen to be Christians.
    However, the U.S. presidency in recent years has the power to wage war. This is the prophetic white horse going out to conquer. Obama controls this power at present and due to his understanding of the Islamists on a deeper level than most, I am sure that he has plans for the Arab Spring and is tinkering with all the wars in the middle East, Egypt, Syria as well as keeping Iraq and Afghanistan under his influence. If we were going to stop him from sending arms into Syria, we should have done it already, but you know that the covert operations are always the opposite of what they say in public. If we could stop him from firing cruise missiles into Syria, we likely should, but he has the power and can find the means to manipulate Congress into fitting into his plan, just like Bush did for his plan. Note that if Obama fires missiles into Syria, Iran has vowed to retaliate.
    The Pentagon’s intention in firing missiles into Syria may be to bait Iran into making a major blunder that will justify the U.S. in taking out their nuclear capabilities. This may be the reason that McCain is disappointed that Obama didn’t act already. He wants the Iranians to retaliate and give the U.S. an excuse to take out a much bigger threat, and he didn’t get it. Then there is Putin. He is well aware that years ago the Russians helped Saddam H. build a nuclear reactor and the Israelis took it out. Then the Russians helped Saddam design and build extremely safe bunkers and Bush took them out. They now help the Iranians develop their nuclear program and soon either the U.S. or Israel will destroy it. I don’t think Putin really cares except that it makes Russia look bad when their handiwork is destroyed. However, it seems that Putin and Obama are pulling in opposite directions in Syria. Between the two of them they are likely to pull Syria into pieces.
    I don’t think either of them really care that many innocent people will get hurt. How can we help the innocent? Are the people like Andrew and Barnabas putting trustworthy people on the ground, through whom we could send food and/or supplies for survival?


    • mustardnine says:

      @Dale: ” Are the people like Andrew and Barnabas putting trustworthy people on the ground, through whom we could send food and/or supplies for survival? ”

      Probably food and supplies are not the greatest issue — safer social/cultural environment is probably what they need.

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