When Putin Bailed Out Obama

Exclusive: As pressure again builds on President Obama to attack Syria and press a new Cold War with Russia, the extraordinary events of three years ago after a sarin attack near Damascus are worth revisiting, says ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

By Ray McGovern

Three years ago, when a reluctant President Barack Obama was about to launch an attack on Syria, supposedly in retaliation for President Bashar al-Assad crossing a “red line” against using chemical weapons, Obama smelled a rat – or rather he sensed a mousetrap.

Advised by some of his intelligence advisers that the evidence blaming the Syrian government for the lethal sarin attack was weak, Obama disappointed many of Washington’s neocons and liberal war hawks, including those in his own administration, by deferring action. He tossed the issue to Congress, thus guaranteeing a delay.

Earlier in the crisis over Syria, President Vladimir Putin of Russia welcomed President Barack Obama to the G20 Summit at Konstantinovsky Palace in Saint Petersburg, Russia, Sept. 5, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

During the crisis over Syria, President Vladimir Putin of Russia welcomed President Barack Obama to the G20 Summit at Konstantinovsky Palace in Saint Petersburg, Russia, Sept. 5, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Precisely at that key juncture, Russian President Vladimir Putin took the pressure off Obama by persuading the Syrian government to destroy its chemical weapons, which Assad did – while still denying any role in the attack at Ghouta, just outside Damascus, on Aug. 21, 2013.

Washington’s hardliners were left aching for their lost opportunity to attack Syria by citing the Ghouta attack as a casus belli. But the evidence suggested, instead, a well-orchestrated Syrian rebel false-flag operation aimed at fabricating a pretext for direct U.S. intervention in the war on Syria.

With Putin’s assistance in getting Assad to surrender the chemical weapons, Obama was able to extricate himself from the corner that he had rather clumsily painted himself into with his earlier bravado talk about a “red line.”

But Washington’s irate neocons and many of their liberal-interventionist chums felt cheated out of their almost-war. After all, Syria had been on the neocon “regime change” list as long as Iraq and was supposed to follow the 2003 Iraq invasion if that neocon-driven adventure had not turned out so disastrously.

Still, the neocons would make Putin pay for his interference six months later by promoting an anti-Russian putsch in Ukraine, followed by U.S. and European Union sanctions to punish Russia for its “aggression.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “What Neocons Want from Ukraine Crisis.“]

According to Jeffrey Goldberg who conducted a series of interviews with Obama for a lengthy article in The Atlantic, the President boasted about his decision on Aug. 30, 2013, to resist pressure for military action from many of his advisers and instead step outside what he called “the Washington playbook.”

Goldberg described the day as Obama’s “liberation day.” For Secretary of State John Kerry, however, Aug. 30 ended in disappointment after earlier that day he had shaken the rafters at the State Department bellowing for a U.S. attack on Syria.

Goldberg explained that having already caved in under hardline pressure to double down on sending more troops to Afghanistan for a feckless “counterinsurgency” operation in 2009, Obama was not in the mood for “seeking new dragons to slay” merely to preserve his “credibility.”

According to Goldberg, within the White House, Obama would argue that “dropping bombs on someone to prove that you’re willing to drop bombs on someone is just about the worst reason to use force.”

Nevertheless, Washington’s neocons and liberal hawks – along with the Saudis, Israelis and French – argued strenuously that Obama was obliged to “retaliate” for Syria’s alleged violation of the “red line” he had set a year earlier against Syria’s using – or merely moving – chemical weapons.

Goldberg wrote that Kerry told Obama that he was expecting the President to give the final order for a military strike on Syria on Aug. 31 – the day after Kerry’s afternoon cri de guerre and Obama’s evening volte-face. 

Obama: Sensing a Trap

It took uncharacteristic grit for Obama to face down his advisers and virtually Washington’s entire foreign policy establishment by calling off the planned attack on Syria at the last minute.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Aug. 30, 2013, claims to have proof that the Syrian government was responsible for a chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21, but that evidence failed to materialize or was later discredited. [State Department photo]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Aug. 30, 2013, claims to have proof that the Syrian government was responsible for a chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21, but that evidence failed to materialize or was later discredited. [State Department photo]

Goldberg wrote that Obama had “come to believe that he was walking into a trap — one laid both by allies and by adversaries, and by conventional expectations of what an American president is supposed to do.”

Shortly after Kerry delivered his Aug. 30 philippic at the State Department, in which he blamed the Syrian government no fewer than 35 times for the chemical attack at Ghouta, Obama chose to spend an hour with his Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough, on the South Lawn of the White House.

Goldberg noted: “Obama did not choose McDonough randomly: He is the Obama aide most averse to U.S. military intervention, and someone who, in the words of one of his colleagues, ‘thinks in terms of traps.’”

It was an important conversation. In my view, Obama’s willingness to listen and then assert himself can be seen as a dress rehearsal for the kind of leadership that was required to hammer out a deal on the nuclear issue with Iran. The President ended up putting a tighter rein on Kerry and ordered him to avail himself of Moscow’s help in negotiating last year’s landmark deal restraining Iran’s ability to acquire a nuclear weapon.

In that venue also, Putin and Russia Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov proved helpful, and both Obama and Kerry have expressed appreciation for Russia’s assistance in closing that major deal.

Still, in late September 2013, after the dust had settled regarding the Syrian mousetrap – with the Putin-brokered agreement on track to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons on a U.S. ship specially configured for that purpose – it must have become crystal clear to Obama that he had come within inches of letting himself be tricked into starting yet another unnecessary war.

The first step into that trap had come a year earlier, when he was persuaded to set down a red line against Syria’s using or even moving its chemical weapons.

At the end of an impromptu press conference on Aug. 20, 2012, NBC’s Chuck Todd primed the mousetrap with some cheese by asking what seemed like an expected question that Obama appeared ready to answer. Todd asked a two-part question (one part was about Mitt Romney’s taxes and the other about Syria’s chemical weapons). Obama eventually wound around to the Syrian part of Todd’s question:

“I have, at this point, not ordered military engagement … But the point that you made about chemical and biological weapons is critical. That’s an issue that doesn’t just concern Syria; it concerns our close allies in the region, including Israel. It concerns us. … We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.”

Clinton’s Hand

It is a safe bet that this answer was pushed by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her neocon advisers who had made no secret of their determination to topple Bashar al-Assad, one way or another. The Washington Post account of the press conference suggests that White House staffers had been blindsided and were trying to put the best face on it.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Nov. 21, 2012. [State Department photo]

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Nov. 21, 2012. [State Department photo]

Then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told Jeffrey Goldberg, “I didn’t know it [the red line] was coming.” Goldberg added that Vice President Joe Biden had repeatedly warned Obama against drawing a red line on chemical weapons, fearing that it would one day have to be enforced.

Ten days before Obama’s impromptu press conference, Clinton met with her Turkish counterpart in Istanbul and emphasized the need to jointly plan ways to assist the rebels fighting to topple Assad – including possibly implementing a no-fly zone. Clinton announced the establishment of a working group in Turkey to respond to the Syrian crisis, according to The Associated Press. The group would increase the Syrian involvement of the intelligence services and militaries of both the U.S. and Turkey.

“We have been closely coordinating over the course of this conflict, but now we need to get into the real details of such operational planning. It needs to be across both of our governments,” Clinton said.

The urgent tone reflected the reality that in early 2012, Syrian government forces were beginning to prevail in key parts of the country. Middle Eastern history and politics Professor Jeremy Salt of Bilkent University, Ankara, noted that the Syrian opposition had little hope of being effective without help from the West.

Professor Salt pointed out that Damascus had mostly been cleared of rebels and Aleppo was on its way to being cleared, with the rebels very much “on the back foot.  … that’s why Hillary Clinton is in Istanbul. To ask the basic question, ‘What’s next?’”

Foreign affairs analyst Richard Heydarian put it this way: “What the Clinton administration [sic] is trying to do right now is try to coordinate some sort of military approach with Turkey and possibly also with the help of Israel and Arab countries because they feel the opposition has a chance to retain its stronghold in Aleppo.”

These were signs of the times. Washington’s hawks felt something needed to be done to stanch rebel losses, and Turkey was eager to help – so much so that it appears likely that Turkey played a key role in enabling and coordinating the sarin false-flag attack in Ghouta a year later. [Also, see “A Call for Proof on Syria Sarin Attack.”]

Evidence reported by Seymour Hersh in April 2014 in the London Review of Books implicates Turkish intelligence and extremist Syrian rebels, NOT the “Syrian regime.” Hersh does his customarily thorough job of picking apart the story approved by the Establishment.

A Convenient Sarin Attack

So, sure enough, a sarin gas attack took place in Ghouta on Aug. 21, 2013, a year and a day after Obama set his red line. The Washington establishment and its surrogate media stenographers immediately blamed the attack on Bashar al-Assad – a pantomime villain whom Western media shoehorn into the same category as its other favorite bête noire, Vladimir Putin.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Of course, you would not have learned this history from reading the “mainstream media,” which operated with the same sort of “group think” that is demonstrated before the disastrous invasion of Iraq, but evidence was available at the time and accumulating evidence since then has put the finger on jihadist rebels as the most likely sarin culprits. Intelligence reporting showed that they were getting sarin precursors from Europe via Turkey and making “homemade sarin.”

Though the behind-the-scenes story was ignored by the major U.S. news media, Hersh reported that British intelligence officials promptly acquired a sarin sample from the debris of the Aug. 21 attack, ran it through their laboratory, and determined it NOT to be the kind of sarin in Syrian army stocks.

(Hersh holds the uncommon twin-distinction of being the quintessential investigative, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter during an earlier era of more independent American journalism and now being blacklisted from today’s U.S. “mainstream media” which shuns such independence in favor of government “access” and lucrative careers. This is why he must go to the London Review of Books to get published.)

In late 2013, Hersh reported that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with Al Qaeda had mastered the mechanics of making sarin and should have been an obvious suspect. But U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. (and a top proponent of “humanitarian” wars) Samantha Power told the media the opposite. After all, blaming the sarin attack on Assad was just what Power and the other hawks needed to push Obama into a major retaliatory strike on Syria.

Hersh noted that intelligence analysts became so upset with “the administration cherry-picking intelligence” to “justify” a strike on Assad that the analysts were “throwing their hands in the air and saying, ‘How can we help this guy [Obama] when he and his cronies in the White House make up the intelligence as they go along?’”

Writing in December 2013, Hersh asked if “we have the whole story of Obama’s willingness to walk away from his ‘red line’ threat to bomb Syria. … It appears possible that at some point he was directly confronted with contradictory information: evidence strong enough to persuade him to cancel his attack plan, and take the criticism sure to come from Republicans.”

We Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) tried to warn Obama shortly after the sarin attack. But we have little reason to believe that our Memoranda to the President are high on his reading list.

More likely, Obama was brought up short when, a few days before Aug. 30, 2013, he was paid a visit by James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence. According to Goldberg’s account, Clapper interrupted the President’s morning intelligence briefing “to make clear that the intelligence on Syria’s use of sarin gas, while robust, was not a ‘slam dunk.’

“He chose the term carefully. Clapper, the chief of an intelligence community traumatized by its failures in the run-up to the Iraq War, was not going to overpromise, in the manner of the onetime CIA director George Tenet, who famously guaranteed George W. Bush a ‘slam dunk’” regarding all those non-existent WMD in Iraq.

Or, who knows? We should allow for the chance that the President was told the truth by someone else in his entourage.

Pay-Back for Putin

For his part, Russian President Putin had the gall to think that Moscow’s help on Syria might bring a more cooperative spirit in Washington and a chance to cultivate healthy bilateral relations based on mutual interest and respect. He even suggested that Washington might consider abandoning the notion that the U.S. is more equal, so to speak, than other nations.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, flanked by Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria "Toria" Nuland, addresses Russian President Vladimir Putin in a meeting room at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, at the outset of a bilateral meeting on July 14, 2016. [State Department Photo]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, flanked by Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria “Toria” Nuland, addresses Russian President Vladimir Putin in a meeting room at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, at the outset of a bilateral meeting on July 14, 2016. [State Department Photo]

Perhaps a bit deluded in the immediate afterglow of having helped Obama steer away from an unnecessary war in Syria, Putin published a highly unusual op-ed in the New York Times on Sept. 11, 2013. Putin reportedly drafted the final paragraph himself. It is worth citing in full:

“My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is ‘what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.’ It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”

So, if you are still wondering why the neocons and their complicit mainstream media have made Putin into the devil incarnate, think about his sin of pulling Obama’s chestnuts out of the fire in September 2013 when war with Syria was so tantalizingly close. The neocons would make Putin pay for that by moving into high gear plans for a coup d’etat in Ukraine six months later (Feb. 22, 2014), as Putin’s attention was focused on the Winter Olympics in Sochi and the fear that it would be disrupted by a terrorist attack.

In more than a half century watching U.S. presidential administrations develop foreign policy, I have not seen a more bizarre sequence of events.

[I provide more detail on the play-by-play during the fall 2013 imbroglio on Syria in a 30-minute video.]

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington.  He was a CIA analyst for 27 years and is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

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36 comments for “When Putin Bailed Out Obama

  1. Chris Chuba
    August 31, 2016 at 10:36 am

    Yeah, this incident is regularly cited as an example of Putin ‘humiliating us’ by neocon loonies. No good deed goes unpunished. If one was trying to be objective, there are numerous examples of Russia cooperating with us, so how did this Cold War start?
    Examples of cooperation (not arguing merits of policy):
    1. Russia cancels already approved weapons sale to Iran over nuclear program.
    2. Russia approves U.N. sanctions against Iran over nuclear program and is active in achieving JCPOA.
    3. Russia refrains from vetoing no fly zone in Libya.
    4. Russia bails out Obama in Syria by removing chemical weapons.

    Allegations of Russia ‘provoking’ the West:
    1. Ex-pat murdered in U.K. called an act of war (allegations unproven).
    2. Annexation of Crimea and support of Donbass rebels.
    -Without litigating the Ukrainian situation, how is Russia’s annexation of Crimea harmful to the U.S. and Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights benign?

    3. Russia’s intervention in Syria.
    -How is this an action against the U.S., why is it that the U.S. can take actions in multiple countries but Russia is declared a rogue state by getting involved in one?

    So what justifies the claim that Russia started the Cold War?

    • liz allen
      August 31, 2016 at 6:59 pm

      The entire media debacle on Russia and Ukraine story was a reminder, how the corporate media and the neo cons work hand in hand. Russia is not our enemy, they are a country with people just like us…But, its easy for the neo cons (I include Clinton amongst them) and their false “American exceptionalism” another farce on the American people. the US always needs a boogeyman and Russia no matter who is President is and easy target.

      thanks to the great man Ray McGovern for telling the truth.

  2. Sam F
    August 31, 2016 at 11:48 am

    It is amazing that the US
    1. cooperates with no party having legitimate interests in Syria,
    2. has no policy there clearly linked with any interest of the people of the US or of Syria, or humanity in general,
    3. has no analysis showing any connection between its actions and any likely desirable outcome,
    4. has learned nothing and intends to learn nothing from the string of disasters caused by such policymaking, and
    5. keeps all of its policymaking a secret from its own people, rather than just tactical information.

    One can only conclude that the US
    1. foreign policy proceeds entirely from corrupt anti-constitutional influences,
    2. mass media and elections are controlled by corrupt influences alone.

    So the US is not a democracy even in the loosest sense. It is a corrupt and worthless empire run by infantile tyrants who are the worst enemies of the United States.

  3. Paul Grenier
    August 31, 2016 at 11:49 am

    If there was a subscription cost for ConsortiumNews (and by rights there should be, but welcome to the cost-free internet — ridiculous as it is), this article alone would justify the annual subscription fee.

  4. Bart in Virginia
    August 31, 2016 at 12:04 pm

    One wonders what percentage of our poorly informed citizenry still believes that Obama’s red line was indeed crossed by the Assad government’s use of gas? Thanks to our muzzled MSM I’d go with 95+%.

    • b.grand
      August 31, 2016 at 4:57 pm

      MUZZLED ?? Hell no, they’re not even on leashes. They run up and down the fence line barking their heads off, snapping at Putin, Assad, China…..

      Today Anne Applebaum of the Wash. Post was on C-SPAN (calling in from Warsaw) citing the Red Line, “Assad’s chemical attacks” and how Obama’s failure to act …yadda, yadda… … just like she’s been trained to howl.

      Your 95% is easily correct.

      • liz allen
        August 31, 2016 at 7:03 pm

        Lets be clear about WHERE those chemical weapons came from. John Insane McCain and his pal Lindsay Graham tried to get ammo, and other war materials into the so called “rebel groups” who turned out to be Isis. When Obama refused to arm the “rebels” they got Prince Bandar of Saudia Arabia to do it. That’s where they came from, all to blame the chemical attack on Assad…Why they want to get rid of Assad is 64,000 $ question. He is a secularist, the only one left in that area of the world. Why: all for Israel…Israel has their mitts in everything gone wrong in the middle east.

  5. Dr. Ibrahim Soudy
    August 31, 2016 at 12:26 pm

    Ray,

    What are you suggesting that Americans do?! We all know that the “Neocons and Liberal Hawks” are in control of the “Group Think” in Washington. They move from one party to the other as a matter of convenience……they are now solidly behind Hillary…….WHAT ARE YOU SUGGESTING THAT PEOPLE DO?! Please make a simple clear To- Do List……..Thanks.

    • jaycee
      August 31, 2016 at 4:53 pm

      Obama’s pulling back in 2012 was also influenced by a strong reaction against the campaign by the American public, who inundated Congressional offices with opposition to these plans. A similar reaction influenced the British parliament to reject supporting the bombing. The public still has a say, or else such concentrated efforts to manipulate opinion by the MSM would not be necessary.

      I’d say the unaccountable elites have already decided a large-scale war is on the agenda, as suggested by the civil defence paper just published by the German government. By the obvious playbook, this event will occur early in Clinton’s first term sparked by a stunning false flag atrocity. But nothing is set in stone. One thing the American people can do is prevent a Clinton presidency, or else make sure her victory is narrow and compromised.

      Why are the elites so set on this path, across the “West”? Twenty plus years of mediocre mismanagement has destroyed the fundamental economy, and war is the only means to retain their standing. We all need to say NO, and rejuvenate the conversation on how to find a soft landing for all of us.

  6. Annie
    August 31, 2016 at 12:34 pm

    Maybe by comparison Obama appears less hawkish, but this is a president who decides who gets droned on a regular basis which means crossing into sovereign nations, killing many civilians while terrorizing whole communities. When Clinton falsely claimed in 2011 that Gaddafi was slaughtering innocents while he actually was putting down an armed insurrection Obama chose to believe her instead of his own Secretary of Defense, Gates, who didn’t think it was a good idea to attack Libya. He also made Clinton, who gave a thumbs up to the war in Iraq, his Secretary of State. and gives her his 100% backing in her presidential run. I remember Obama’s speech to the nation when he decided not to cross the red line and attack Syria. I remember him saying that the Assad regime was no longer viable, or something quite similar, which made me think he was also saying this regime will eventually be gone, and I think he’s over seeing that right now.

    • Annie
      August 31, 2016 at 1:55 pm

      P. S. I do give a good deal of credit to Putin! We need that kind of outside leadership since we’ve become such a warrior, crazed nation. By the way Obama has bombed seven nations since he’s in office.

  7. Dan_B
    August 31, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    Thank you, Ray.

    You’re an oasis of credible analysis in our media desert.

  8. Henry Jacobs
    August 31, 2016 at 1:33 pm

    Hank

    I keep telling my friends if you want to know what’s going on in this world, please take a look at Consortiumnews,com. Why don’t I hear any trafficking on the mainstream media outlets, of Robert Perry truth finding and reporting. It seems to me there’s no interest even among my friends of which I have few, to look for the truth.

    • Daniel Guyot
      September 1, 2016 at 3:32 am

      Consortiumnews and people like Robert Parry and Ray McGovern are absolutely remarkable. It is great journalism, just the kind of journalism we need, especially here in France too, because the situation of French mainstream media is not better than in the USA. I am doing my best for making Consortiumnews popular, but as you said, there is generally no interest among people to look for the truth. I am even more pessimistic. I believe, that most people do know the truth, but they are afraid to admit it, they want to ignore it, because it is more comfortable.
      Anyway I would like to express once again my gratitude to Consortiumnews for the great job done by Robert Parry and his friends.

    • Bart Gruzalski
      September 1, 2016 at 9:51 am

      I hate to say it, but Parry does censor certain writers. I’ve had this wonderful piece now in his File 13 and he has refused to publish it (I may try to “bribe” him once more, but I’ve stuck something up his claw, and I’m either more or as progressive as anyone publishing here). I did take offense at his wanting to give away to a young author who did a good job on an interview of Bernie folk at a meeting, since allegedly these pieces are worth $250 and, instead, he wanted me to cough up a week of work “for free” to strengthen her article that had nothing of the “big” scope (beyond reporting on a bunch of people at a meeting). So I don’t get it and probably this will go away too. McGovern is excellent, we’re about the same age and I suspect we crossed paths more than once beginning with both of our anti-war protests which put me in jail and if I remember correctly did the same for Ray. At least I didn’t get beat up like he did…. I came close but I stopped running and dumped the very last handful of tire-flattening nails out of my hand after I stopped running, expressing amazement that they were chasing me–and when I stopped on a dime, hearing footsteps catching up to me, these short guys (I’m Abe Lincoln’s height) flew past with their night sticks out. Still we have to stop this war and I’ll respond to Dr. Soundy at the end.

  9. Wobblie
    August 31, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    Goldberg is a Zionist-neocon.

    This article is pushing a mistaken narrative. Obama was itching to invade Syria, which is why he had the famous “red line”.

    It was the military that refused because they had been stretched to the breaking point, as reported by S. Hersh.

    “The Red Line and the Rat Line”
    http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n08/seymour-m-hersh/the-red-line-and-the-rat-line

    https://therulingclassobserver.com/2016/08/16/the-individual-among-us-part-i/

  10. Joe Tedesky
    August 31, 2016 at 3:02 pm

    Samantha Powers rush to judgement to bomb somebody at anytime goes to show how easy it is for these American leaders to do whatever terrible thing it is they must do, because there is nothing to fall short for them since it’s all in a day’s work. So, fixing the intelligence around the desired preference, is an okay thing to do. It doesn’t matter who is right, or how many die, as long as it gets done. This is where hubris, and exceptionalism becomes a mighty dangerous attitude. Note; Hillary is attacking Trump for his not buying the exceptional group think hook line and sinker.

    When it comes to Obama giving speeches laying down red lines, I would hope he fired that speech writer. Seeking out a slam dunk conclusion, could have them ending up in there own backyard to fine the culprit of such a serious offense. If it were ISIS, then where did ISIS get the material to make sarin gas? If you make a list of who may have fired off the chemical weapons, well at least eliminate Bashar al-Assad. That very week the UN send inspectors into Syria to check for just that very thing. Would al Assad be that stupid? I will vote No, it just doesn’t seem smart in anyway that the Syrian government would do such a dumb thing.

    I feel for the Russian people. What is to be gained by starting a conflict, or worst a nuclear war, with the Russian people. Even if politicos in our American government were to have some issue with Vladimir Putin then fine, but why hurt the average Russian citizen. Plus, I have been reading many of Putin’s speeches since all of this began, and quite honestly the man sounds more than sane to me. He admits Russia’s military is built around a defensive strategy. America on the other hand can’t seem to build enough bases, or annexes, to please it’s warmonger hierarchy. Seriously, we and the rest of the world should be glad that Vladimir Putin has the patience and reserve to put up with all this saber rattling and war.

    Lastly, thanks Ray you are priceless for what you bring into my life with your commentary and reporting.

  11. Jim Hannan
    August 31, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    I thought at the time that it was brilliant of Obama to refer the issue to Congress. This way, everybody would be on the record for our next war. It turned out that it was the Republicans who were afraid to give our first black President any power, including war power.

    But in the ensuing three years since then, this point, Republican intransigence, is never ever talked about. Richard Haase and the other Washington establishment are still on Charlie Rose, NPR, PBS Newshour, and they all whine about Obama not pulling the trigger. In their eyes, Obama’s entire foreign policy is a failure because he didn’t attack Syria over this false flag. Not once have I heard that it was Republicans who opposed military use of force in Syria. And Charlie Rose, Judy Woodruff, the NPR staff never mention it.

    Ray, isn’t it about time for another Santa Fe visit. Would be great to see you again.

    • b.grand
      August 31, 2016 at 4:47 pm

      Jim Hannan, what exactly are you saying here? That you think Congress should have authorized Obama to bomb Syria, and you blame the Republicans for not doing so? If so, that’s the most back-handed comment I’ve seen in a long time.

      (Are you also trying to play the race card? If that’s what stopped the bombing, so be it. I’ll take ‘right thing for wrong reason’ if that’s what happened.)

      Personally, I’m grateful for those Republicans who opposed bombing Syria. Last November, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard introduced H.R. 4108 – To prohibit the use of funds for the provision of assistance to Syrian opposition groups and individuals. So far, the only co-sponsors of the bill are Republicans.

      • b.grand
        August 31, 2016 at 5:02 pm

        https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/4108

        A BILL

        To prohibit the use of funds for the provision of assistance to Syrian opposition groups and individuals.

        Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
        SECTION 1. Prohibition on provision of assistance to Syrian opposition groups and individuals.

        Notwithstanding any other provision of law, funds available to the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense, or any other agency or entity of the United States involved in intelligence activities, or to the National Security Council or its staff may not be obligated or expended to provide assistance, including training, equipment, supplies, stipends, construction of training and associated facilities, and sustainment, to any element of the Syrian opposition or to any other Syrian group or individual seeking to overthrow the government of the Syrian Arab Republic, unless, after the date of the enactment of this Act, funds are specifically authorized to be appropriated and appropriated by law for such purpose.

  12. Pablo Diablo
    August 31, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    YES, Trump is a nightmare, but at least he says that Putin is a smart guy and we should work with him to solve some of the world’s problems. While Hillary is pushing NATO up to Russia’s doorsteps in hope of a new “Cold War” to feed her neoconservative pals in the War Machine.

  13. Michael Beer
    August 31, 2016 at 5:23 pm

    Putin did bail Obama out. The false-flag argument is weak, but the elimination of large quantities of chemical weapons could never have been achieved by a major bombing campaign and would have caused enormous suffering. There is a very simple reason why it is likely that Syria military did the Sarin attacks…because they agreed to unilaterally disarm. If the Assad regime had felt attacked by opposition forces or some false flag operation…the regime would have never…even under pressure from Russia, have unilaterally disarmed during a civil war. And if Assad could have persuaded the Iranians that Syrians were killed in chemical attacks by the Syrians, he would have tripled Iranian support for his government overnight. Assad put up no resistance. When a child acts in a certain way after cookies are missing….then parents know with near certainty the guilty party.

    • Chris Chuba
      August 31, 2016 at 6:18 pm

      Agreeing to eliminate their chemical weapons stockpile should not be taken as a sign of guilt.

      An alternative explanation is that Assad concluded that the arsenal was now more of a liability than an asset. If he keeps the chemical weapons, he has a target on his back against countries that can easily overpower his military. The chemical weapons can be captured by rebel forces and then used against his. Some of his arsenal was reportedly captured by ISIS and Al Nusra.

      What was the benefit to keeping chemical weapons? They were never intended to be used casually. They were a poor man’s MAD against Israel but obviously the use of such weapons against Israel would be a last resort.

      So you have chemical weapons of little value but a big liability. Getting a chance to dispose of it does not in and of itself imply guilt to any degree. The chemical weapons programme was built by his father so there is no reason to assume that Bashar Assad ever considered it to be of value.

      • Gregory Herr
        August 31, 2016 at 6:48 pm

        http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2015/12/syrian-chemical-weapons-attack-false-flag-turkey-isis.html

        And what makes anyone think Assad is both depraved and stupid to do such a thing? It makes no sense to give U.S. their “justification”.

      • b.grand
        September 1, 2016 at 2:07 am

        RAY McGOVERN – – – Perhaps you’ll translate the pertinent parts of “Die Welt” for us. Lots of allegations in this MofA piece.

        http://www.moonofalabama.org/2016/08/german-pro-atlantic-paper-admits-ghouta-sarin-attack-committed-by-al-qaeda.html

        German Pro-Atlantic Paper Admits: Ghouta Sarin Attack Committed By Al-Qaeda

        The German paper Die Welt is staunchly pro-NATO and pro-U.S. It always follows the official, conservative propaganda lines up to the dot on the last i. But in today’s Sunday edition one of its well-connected journalists and department head argues for a change of direction on Syria. Assad is not going to go away and “the west” needs to accept that to prevent a Salafist take-over of that country.

        Buried in the German language piece is this version of events of the 2013 Sarin attack in Ghouta and the “lack of response” by the Obama administration (my translation):

        When on August 21 2013 the nerve gas Sarin was used in Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus, [Obama] had to make a decision. He ordered to prepare an attack by sea-launched cruise missiles. But the British secret service was in possession of a sampling of the used Sarin. An analysis showed it not to be Sarin from the Syrian regime, but from the inventory of al-Nusra. Obama dropped his plan.

        There are several problems with this line of events. The British parliament had rejected an attack on Syria. The U.S. congress refused to authorize one. If Obama would have attacked, the Republicans would have, without doubt, started impeachment procedures against him. The domestic policy implications, not the origin of the Sarin, stopped Obama’s attack plans.

        The explanation of Die Welt reporter, that al-Nusra Sarin’s was different from Syrian government Sarin, is also dubious. According to a recent extensive report based on interviews with an al-Qaeda aligned “rebel” in Syria, al-Qaeda acquired the Sarin from a storage facility of the Syrian regime when it conquered the Syrian base of Regiment 111 in late 2012. This was before the split of al-Nusra and the Islamic State. There would thus be no difference between “regime Sarin” and “al-Qaeda Sarin”.

        But even completely independent of the origin of the Sarin, U.S. missile experts had long concluded that the missiles which carried the Sarin in the attack could not have been fired from government held areas. Their range was simply too short. Thus the event must have been a false flag attack.

        Nonetheless, the German newspaper analysis is a sign that the tide has turned and that the official “regime change” storm is calming down. The dismantling of a major official propaganda item, like the Sarin attack, points to the introduction of a new narrative. How that will develop further is yet to be seen.

        Posted by b on August 28, 2016

  14. Realist
    August 31, 2016 at 8:12 pm

    Either Obama is simply a tool who has agreed to do the bidding of whomever is the power behind the throne in the Deep State or he is a highly prejudiced individual who has a deep personal loathing of both Vladimir Putin and the Russian people. He also acts irrationally against the interests of the Chinese and Islamic countries (the latter putting the lie to the claim that he is himself a Muslim), suggesting a personal bias there as well. Yet he loves Poroshenko and his “moderate” headchoppers in Syria. We know he has great animus towards Nutteryahoo, but yet allows himself to be led around by the balls by this fellow war criminal. Is he a dupe or a coward? However, you slice it, I see no shred of integrity in Obama’s character. He deceived us in his presidential campaigns and betrayed all the promises he made. He condemned Dubya and then embraced most of his policies, much to the detriment of everyone in the world except Israel, the American MIC and the Wall Street banksters. Most of his policies would have been more palatable coming from McCain or Romney, because we would have expected them from those guys. I feel an urge to re-read Dante to ascertain exactly for which circle of Hell Mr. Obama is headed after leaving this mortal coil.

    • Gregory Herr
      August 31, 2016 at 9:22 pm

      Whatever circle that might be, he should have to feel the agony and heartbreak that his depraved warmongering has wrought upon so many lives…like the character John Coffey in the film “The Green Mile” (an innocent, so not a perfect analogy) feels the suffering of others. In my scenario, Obama will try to cough it out (like Coffey), but won’t be able to…because there is so much of it.

      • Realist
        September 1, 2016 at 6:22 pm

        I would sure not want to have a “friend” like Obama. The guy will stab you in the back whenever it suits him.

  15. Lux
    August 31, 2016 at 11:07 pm

    “In more than a half century watching U.S. presidential administrations develop foreign policy, I have not seen a more bizarre sequence of events.”

    Ray – I have to thank you greatly for this article. But to understand the “bizzare” you need to understand the oil pipeline plan for Syria. This entire Syrian crisis is due to the fact that Assad did not want to go along with the Saudis and New World Order plan for a pipeline through Syria that would have cemented their interests in Syria at the expense of the Syrian people.
    The Secret Stupid Saudi-US Deal on Syria. Oil Gas Pipeline War – http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-secret-stupid-saudi-us-deal-on-syria/5410130

    All of these Middle East wars, including the wars in Iraq, Libya, etc. are wars for pipelines and New World Order one world government that will kill as many people as it takes to push through their evil plans while making their “friends” money through the death of millions (if not billions).

    Also, while I do not know anything about the Church that you are affiliated with, I will tell you that some global religious institutions cannot be and should not be trusted (e.g. the Catholic Church). You will come to recognize them by their rhetoric and their actions. They do not serve the God of good of this universe. The God of good of this universe does not condone war except for defending against evil and the God of good of this universe does not condone globalist policies that deprive people of their right to self-determination.

    Wars fought on behalf of multinational corporations and evil overloads (like the Saudis) while millions die and become refugees because their countries and their homes are destroyed, or corporate and government polices that kill jobs for the purpose of more money for elites while people are deprived of basic benefits (food assistance, unemployment insurance, etc.) – are not on the side of the God of good of this universe.

    You should warn all of your former and current CIA friends that the God of good of this universe is watching and knows the past, present, and future. You should also now warn them that this planet can be destroyed in its entirety at any time and that if things don’t change soon that is exactly what is going to occur. God will no longer allow evil to prevail and the tyranny of the globalist New World Order is OVER! – it it evil.

    Now is the time of light and the people WILL BE FREE OF TYRANNY. Tyranny by multinational corporations and governments and a technocracy that oppress people by twisting the legal system and writing laws that benefit the wealthy while stripping the people of privacy rights and freedoms will be destroyed by God – one way or other – e.g. personal disease that the medical community cannot stop, accidents, election results that defy “those in the know”, acts of God, etc. Evil has a price. And the tab of evil is now due.

    God cannot be stopped. God is everywhere. God is the most moral force in this universe. God always wins and should win – elite “leaders” all around the world are evil.

    All people have a direct line to God if they want it – no priest or preacher or religious organization is required.

    Based on your article, I suspect God is already talking to you directly. If you keep looking and listening, God will continue to help you find the truth. I wish you all the best.

  16. elmerfudzie
    August 31, 2016 at 11:54 pm

    Ray, I’d like to digress a little, add a few comments to broaden this discussion about the Syria conflict and include a bit of recent political history…Gone are the day’s of Hillary touting that red re-set button photo op with with Lavrov during the Medvedev presidency. His successor would be a lot tougher to deal with, thus Putin’s election was a response to the Neo-Con globalist agenda and endless examples of negotiating in bad faith. The Russian oligarchy comprised of the nomenklatura, military establishment and feudal lords (billionaires of one sort or another) are not all fools! Our Neo Con “diplomats” squandered the opportunity of working with the Medvedev presidency, all the while failing to comprehend why Putin suddenly came to such popularity and power. Does anyone use that “domino theory” any more? How could one help avoiding it? First Syria falls, Erdogan waves a final good bye to NATO and instructs them to take their nukes home (the Incirlik Air Base), the Stan countries turn towards Russia with it’s long and knowledgeable history of Orientalism, and finally ending in the Ukraine with an explosion -WW III. Operation Anakonda 16 was the second to the last straw in a string of totally unnecessary political and military provocations. Thus, when Romania, Poland and the Czech Republic permitted our ABM battery deployments within striking distance of Russian military front line defenses, Putin blew a fuse. As I recall, during Anakonda, the Western Occident amassed 14,000 U.S. troops at Poland’s Vistula river, with a grand total of 31,000 foot soldiers from NATO. There were 100 aircraft, 12 vessels and 3,000 vehicles involved in these “exercises” AND with more on the way for PERMANENT stationing of ADDITIONAL troops…Now, these military placements cannot be justified by or linked to any so-called Iranian missile threat. The actual word(s) to use here is “encirclement”. I believe the Nazi’s called it Umkreist und umgeben? Putin mockingly remarked that this new ABM deployment was like trying to scratch your right ear with your left hand (responding to the west’s shield against Iran) Finally, if NATO’s brute force somehow manages to successfully remove Assad either through an arranged deportation or his demise then Syria will become the match that lights a long wick ending at a stick of dynamite-The Ukraine.

  17. Ludmila
    September 1, 2016 at 4:31 am

    Thank you very much for your truthful realistic articles. Hope that they will help many people,Americans among them, to understand
    Russia better. I remember from my early childhood one mantra which our mothers repeated every day: “Anything but no war”.
    I have relatives both in Belorussia and Ukraine – none of them wants any war . When at school we were taught nothing bad about any people on the Earth – we corresponded with children from many countries, it’s a pity there were no Americans among them.
    In Ukraine my cousin’s granddaughter was educated first in the kindergarten then at school and UNI (she’s 29 now) that Russians are very awful people, and sht is sure of it even now – a Russian girl as she is!
    Thank you very much again

  18. September 1, 2016 at 9:00 am

    As we attempted early on to warn about Obamas early determination to escalate in Afghanistan, there were those of us who opposed him (The Dec. 2009 anti-surge DC Rally organized by EndUSWars), as we also did with Bush Cheney over the August 2007 plans to attack Iran (The Kennebunkport Warning). We have kept the heat on with others such as Cindy Sheehan in Martha’s Vineyard, while body bags piled up elsewhere while Obama vacationed, as we did on Bush during the anti-war marches in Kennebunkport, and supported peace initiatives by Bush/Bush Sr., with Putin at the Kennebunk Kport Summit.
    I have run for State and Congressional office on anti war platforms in three runs from 2002 to 2016, and have yet to see a determined mass mobilization, by a Presidential Candidate, against the new con war policy as it has played out during these times, sufficient to provide determined opposition to the extent needed to avert disaster.

    Aside from Lyndon LaRouche, whose character was assassinated early on, yet who has prevailed as an intelligence analyst par excellence.

    The only major candidate joining ranks with other world leaders to avert full scale meltdown as is the apparent goal under a Clinton Administration is the lunatic Trump. I want Jill Stein to succeed but she has thus far refrained from going toe to toe on Hillarys Chickenhawkism. She must go full throttle against these Oppenheimer heirs, before her tiny window closes completely. Somebody please tell her to stop with the humanitarian impulse visits and start using her full throated condemnation, of which she is more than capable, to save the world at this brink of utter moral mayhem. It should not fall to her veep to be the one with the balls to tell the truth with finality.
    She should add to the moniker Uncel Tom with the sound rejoinder of warmonger, drone killer.

    I advise her to join up with Code Pink in a women anti war summit. Immediately.

  19. Jim Hannan
    September 1, 2016 at 9:56 am

    You’re right, it is back handed. I personally think attacking Syria was a bad idea. But everyone in the Washington establishment, including Richard Haase of the Council on Foreign Relations, various editorial page writers at the Washington Post and New York Times, constantly criticize Obama for not attacking Syria. If they think he was wrong, why don’t they also put some of the blame on the Republicans in Congress, who wouldn’t give Obama the authorization? They don’t ever even mention this issue, and in fact, are mad at Obama for referring the issue to Congress, they wanted him to bomb on his own, so then he would own it. His wisdom in referring it to Congress was to make it an issue that they all had a stake.

    In any event, the congressional referral allowed him to not have to use military force and it cleaned up a lot of the chemical weapons in Syria. So, it was still a good idea.

  20. September 1, 2016 at 10:46 am

    The Fall of 2016

    Oh to be a Citizen
    and look with disgust
    at our elected leaders
    who we do not trust.

    Too many bureaucrats
    who are of no use.
    Those who rise the highest
    through fraud, waste and abuse.

    Just look back
    for hundreds of years or more
    so many criminals
    rotten down to their core.

    Who slaughtered the natives,
    was their land taken by stealth?
    Who enslaved our brothers
    in the pursuit of great wealth?

    Others warned of Russian evil,
    they posed a great threat.
    In the end our own worst enemy
    was us that we met.

    Are such things in our past,
    do they pollute our soil…
    Will our debts be paid off?
    Drone an Arab. Grab his oil.

    And now we elect
    with a grimace and a smile
    another liar or thief
    from our own reject pile.

    They all have great PR
    and egos to boot
    matched only by their hunger
    for sex, power or loot.

    Neither a crony crook
    nor psychopath is choice.
    Neither one do I want
    nor need for my voice.

    We are sick of secret deals
    and criminal ties
    followed by coups,
    scandals and lies.

    Oh why Oh why
    can we not choose
    a man or a woman
    who we could use?

    Someone to follow the laws
    and the oath they vowed
    as an example to others
    and to make us proud.

    Somethings wrong with our democracy,
    some things need to change with us.
    Our leaders are scum,
    our capitals filled with pus.

    A revolt is at hand,
    a need for change does grow.
    Will it come from on high,
    will it rise from below?

    (full poem with hyperlinks at http://thesaker.is/24204/ )

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