Elias Groll vs. Ghouta, Syria’s ‘most plausible hypothesis’
Though discussing evidence (‘Why don’t you show us the evidence, Mr. Kerry?’) and assertions and plausibility does not matter to the Congressional dolts who will vote for their owners in a few days, it does matter to those attempting to keep resistance strong. In that light, I’ve noticed that the most plausible account of what happened in Ghouta, based on evidence and not assertions, is that there was an accidental release of chemical weapons agents by the rebels. Good to know the learned and insightful Diana Johnstone is thinking along the same lines (which are grounded in an in-Ghouta mintnews.com report and perhaps an International Business Times report):
… the most plausible hypothesis so far is that the incident was an accident. Indeed, rebel sources themselves have been quoted as saying that the incident occurred as a result of their own mishandling of chemical weapons obtained from Saudi Arabia. In that case, the victims were the “collateral damage” so frequent in war.
But more important than its plausibility is that the accident hypothesis is now reaching dangerously large numbers of Americans. For confirmation of that good news, we see that the mainstream media now can’t ignore the hypothesis and must go on the attack. And that’s where Foreign Policy Magazine’s Elias Groll comes in. Here’s his entire case for why the ‘accident hypothesis’ is “crazy” (and yes, note the extreme, trollish rhetoric):
… The chemically-laden rockets were launched from government-controlled territory into rebel-held lands. Western intelligence agencies intercepted phone calls from within the Assad regime panicking over the chemical attack’s massive spread. Then the regime launched a series of conventional rocket barrages in an apparent attempt to cover up the crime. To believe the rebels pulled this off, you’d have to convince yourself that the opposition did all of this to themselves. Oh, did we mention that the Syrian military has hundreds of metric tons of precursors for chemical weapons?
A sentence-by sentence response:
The chemically-laden rockets were launched from government-controlled territory into rebel-held lands.
We all know the government is firing missiles at rebel-held territory, but how does Groll know the missiles fired from government-controlled territory were chemically laden? He doesn’t, of course, it’s a bald assertion backed by no evidence provided to the public. Instead of pretending assertions are evidence, why doesn’t Mr. Groll join his more enlightened colleagues and demand evidence for what the U.S. says happened?
Western intelligence agencies intercepted phone calls from within the Assad regime panicking over the chemical attack’s massive spread.
“Western” as in Israeli, why not just say it? Anyway, none of these calls have been released to the public, so again your argument is rooted in interested assertions about whether the calls are authentic, and if they’re real about their content and context and who was making and receiving them. Secondly, reports by those who have listened to the calls agree that Syrian government (i.e., ‘Assad regime’) officials were rightfully panicked and apparently confused by the release of the poison gas. None of this seems to be evidence for who perpetrated the attack or whether or not it was an accident. Again, though, maybe if the public could hear the calls the preceding would be cleared up. Why don’t you ask for the evidence to be released, Mr. Groll, so you can then make a reasoned rather than groundless judgement?
Then the regime launched a series of conventional rocket barrages in an apparent attempt to cover up the crime.
Again this is a bald assertion not supported by any evidence released to the public. This conception of what happened also conflicts with the fact that the Syrian government allowed access by UN inspectors within 24 hours of the UN’s initial request, so that looks like an “apparent attempt” NOT to cover up anything. But I’ll of course grant that it’s reasonable to assume the military had been bombing the rebel areas with conventional weapons before, during, and after the chemical accident or attack. There’s a civil war going on, after all. What government adn military motives were is ‘apparent’ only to mind readers until we see actual evidence. Where is that, why isn’t the public shown it? Just saying, but not releasing evidence indicates to this skeptical person that the U.S. government might be hiding a lack of evidence for its assertions.
To believe the rebels pulled this off, you’d have to convince yourself that the opposition did all of this to themselves.
How does the accident hypothesis equate with “the opposition did all of this to themselves” or “pulled this off”? It doesn’t. An accident is not ‘pulling something off’ or doing something to yourself, it’s an accident.
Oh, did we mention that the Syrian military has hundreds of metric tons of precursors for chemical weapons?
And … how is that well-known fact evidence of anything? Or is this argument by absence, where you mention one well-known fact but not the other not so well-known fact, that the rebels have been caught with sarin gas supplies?
I would love to hear from Mr. Groll about how I’ve shown him the error of his ways, which in a nutshell was accepting one side’s assertions as fact even though it refuses to provide the evidence for its claims. Instead, if he wants someday to be a good journalist, Mr. Groll should become very skeptical when sources refuse to provide evidence for their claims. On the other hand, if he wants to become a mainstream Washington insider and make a big-time salary, Groll is well on his way and should change nothing about the way he argues/trolls life-and-death foreign policy issues. Have fun virtually riding the missiles into Damascus dude! ;-/
P.S. 1: BIG hip tat to Gareth Porter — in How Intelligence Was Twisted to Support an Attack on Syria — for some of the insights and links provided above.
P.S. 2: Contrasting the mintnews.com account and the Kerry/Obama’s assertions, Jim Naureckas of FAIR has a wise commentary, Which Syrian Chemical Attack Account Is More Credible?:
… As with the government white paper, there are gaps in the Mint account; while Abdel-Moneim cites his late son’s account of carrying chemical weapons, the rebels quoted do not indicate how they came to know what they say they know about the origin of the weapons. But unlike the government, Mint is honest about the limits of its knowledge: “Some information in this article could not be independently verified,” the story admits. “Mint Press News will continue to provide further information and updates.”
This humility about the difficulty of reporting on a covert, invisible attack in the midst of a chaotic civil war actually adds to the credibility of the Mint account. It’s those who are most certain about matters of which they clearly lack firsthand knowledge who should make us most skeptical.
Photo by HonestReporting under Creative Commons license