Chemical Weapons in Syria? True?

“Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.”

We, the American public, have already been fooled twice by our leaders about the truth on international incidents.  Both times, the resulting actions were disastrous. 

Now, we need to resist being “fooled” for a third time, this time by a claim that the Syrians, apparently with help from Russia and Turkey, have been using chemical weapons against the rebels.  Frankly, I don’t honestly know whether the Trump Administration claims that chemical weapons were responsible for 42 deaths at the former rebel stronghold of Douma are true or not.  Most likely they are true, but I still have lingering doubts.

The first time we Americans were fooled was when the Lyndon Johnson Administration claimed that two U.S. destroyers were attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin on

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USS Maddox,, one of the destroyers in Tonkin incident.

Aug. 4, 1964.  It later turned out the “attack” may indeed have never occurred as it was characterized.  Even though the reports about the incident were still sketchy, the next day President Johnson called upon Congress to enact the famed Gulf of Tonkin resolution that gave the President authority to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression. It also declared that the maintenance of international peace and security in Southeast Asia was vital to American interests and to world peace.  And within two days, Congress passed the bill with an overwhelming bi-partisan vote.

Presidents Johnson and Richard Nixon used that resolution to escalate the Vietnam War, and for years the American public supported that action, until eventually tiring of the War.  During that time, any of us who questioned the wisdom of our Vietnam experience were called “traitors,” “unpatriotic” or even “commies” by the many Americans who were duped about the realities of our engagement in Vietnam.

The second example of being fooled was in 2003 when the George W. Bush Administration claimed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.  Again, the same scenario developed, although this time there was more skepticism throughout the country. 

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Secretary of State Colin Powell at UN claiming WMDs existed in Iraq.

Nonetheless, Congress with some opposition approved the attack on Iraq.  Throughout the debate, the Bush Administration provided “evidence” of the existence of WMDs; later it was learned such “evidence” was circumstantial at best.  No WMDs were ever found; yet the war began.

In both of the examples, we saw government propaganda at work.  Sadly, the American media largely went along with the fiction until a few more enterprising journalists began to look more closely into the government’s claims.  Yet, in both incidents, the damage had been done, bringing 58,209 U.S. casualties in Vietnam and nearly 4,489 in Iraq.  In addition, more than a million citizens of both countries were killed, coupled with terrible devastation to their infrastructure.  

It’s Sunday morning, April 14, as I write this.  It’s spring and the grass should be green and the trees filled with buds, but we have more than an inch of snow and more is coming.  To the north of us in Green Bay, there’s a foot on the ground.  I’m far from the Syrian city of Douma, so how am I to know about the truth of chemical weapons?  Must I take the word of our government?

President Trump ordered the attack two days earlier, even before an international commission had a chance to verify that chemical weapons were indeed used.  We’re told Syrian President Assad is an evil devil, and it certainly appears that way.  Assad and his Russian allies deny the use of chemical weapons.  

How am I to know the truth?  The government tells us the attack was a success in knocking out much of Syria’s chemical facilities with minimal casualties.  

President Trump declared “Mission Accomplished.”  Will that prove true?  Sounds familiar.   Didn’t President Bush declare “Mission Accomplished” just a month after we  invaded Iraq?   How true was that claim?

— Ken Germanson, Milwaukee WI, April 14, 2018

 

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