Jon Schwarz is editor of MichaelMoore.com and was research producer for 'Capitalism: A Love Story.' He's also contributed to the New Yorker, New York Times, Atlantic, Wall Street Journal, Slate, Saturday Night Live and NPR.
Obviously I have no idea whether any chemical weapons have been used in Syria, and if they have who's responsible. But this is a good time to remember that, even beyond the bogus case for the invasion of Iraq, the U.S. government has a long history of lying about this subject.
This is from last week:
In a letter to key lawmakers, the White House said U.S. intelligence agencies “assess with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin.”
Now Carla Del Ponte, a member of the UN Commission on Syria, says they have "strong, concrete suspicions" that chemical weapons were used in Syria, but that they were deployed not by the Assad regime but by Syrian rebels. (Del Ponte was the lead prosecutor of Slobodan Milosevic; earlier she barely escaped assassination when Sicilian organized crime attempted to blow up her house with 1000 pounds of explosives.)
And this is from March 1988, about Saddam Hussein's notorious gassing of the Iraqi city of Halabja back when Saddam was our ally:
The U.S. State Department said both Iran and Iraq had used poison gas in the fighting around Halabja and called on both nations to desist immediately.
"This incident appears to be a particularly grave violation of the 1925 Geneva Protocol banning chemical weapons. There are indications that Iran may also have used chemical artillery shells in this fighting," department spokesman Charles Redman said in Washington.
He declined, however, to say what evidence the United States had to implicate the Iranians.
Seventeen years later, investigative reporter Joost Hiltermann wrote about declassified State Department cables instructing U.S. diplomats to muddy the waters by claiming that both Iraq and Iran had used chemical weapons around Halabja and "to dodge the 'What’s the evidence' question with the stock 'Sorry, but that’s classified information' response...In the final analysis, the only evidence for the convenient claim that Iran used chemical weapons during the war is that the US government said so."
More recently, a senior U.S. official explained the general principle about this kind of thing: "The countries that cooperate with us get at least a free pass. Whereas other countries that don't cooperate, we ream them as best we can."
P.S. Charles Redman, the Reagan State Department spokesman who lied about Iran using chemical weapons in 1988, was later rewarded by Bill Clinton with the Ambassadorship to Germany. He then cashed in by becoming a senior vice presidential at Bechtel. Thanks to Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks you can read here about Redman flying to Tripoli to try to get Bechtel into business with the Qadhafi family.
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