Secretary of Defense James Mattis stated on or about February 2nd, 2018 that the United States has “no evidence” that the Syrian government used the banned nerve agent Sarin against its own people in attacks in 2013 and 2017. The most recent one provoked a massive Tomahawk strike ordered by President Trump that was quite provocative in the eyes of the Russian Federation and of course the Syrian government.
Secretary Mattis’ assertion is in direct contradiction to the White House Memorandum which was rapidly written and declassified to justify the Americans’ strike. However, the Secretary offered no specifics to his statement. He did discuss the fact that there were aid groups and other people, including NGOs and other fighters operating in the area that had provided evidence and reports of what happened with the Sarin strike. Their information stopped short of naming President Assad as the culprit.
“I don’t have the evidence,” Mattis said. “What I am saying is that other groups on the ground – NGOs, fighters on the ground – have said that sarin has been used, so we are looking for evidence.”
The reporting on this is highly suspect, though. Newsweek, Reuters and the Washington Post are three American publications that all have run pieces pointing out this contradictory matter. At this time, FoxNews has nothing on its site about this matter, but ZeroHedge does.
Gen. Mattis, known affectionately as “Mad Dog” Mattis, is known for an uncompromising approach to dealing with America’s enemies:
Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.
He was an outspoken critic of President Obama’s Middle East policy, naming Iran as the single most serious threat to stability in the region.
By all accounts, then, the General is faithful to the idea that projecting American power abroad is a good thing. Seen with this context, the general’s statement seems unusual, and the media outlets that have a less than favorable view of Donald Trump as the American President have been quick to jump on board the train to point out that the General disagrees with his CO, the President.
Sadly, if this issue is able to gain traction, it is only going to do so as long as it serves the media’s narrative that President Trump is crazy or stupid, and should not be trusted with the leadership of the nation. No doubt this will be spun as 25th amendment material, since the President “could in a moment of passion, decide to nuke someone.”
It is important also to consider that the statement that Gen. Mattis gave is not that he says he disagrees with the Trump decision to launch the Tomahawk strike. He is only saying there is no evidence in his possession that confirms the the Syrian government was behind these attacks.
Furthering this point, it is difficult at times to get hard evidence of such things in an active war zone. Contextually, there are three possible agencies that could have done this attack: (1) the Syrian government, (2) the fighters of whichever group, like Al-Nusra or ISIS who elected to use this to frame the Syrian government, and (3) the US, in an attempt to frame the Assad regime.
The Americans were not invited to help Assad, so their presence in Syria is an inconvenient truth – Syria cannot expel them, but they were never wanted, and even by the American people, involvement in yet another Middle Eastern nation is not high on the “things I want my country to do” list for most Americans.
The loser in this situation is the United States, because of the mishandling of this conflict. While most of the conflict and the American action in it took place during the Obama era, it is probably the case that if the USA simply gathered all its troops and equipment and retreated to Israel or the Mediterranean Sea, or just plain left, the result might be a great deal worse for the Russian and Syrian national forces already there.
The problem here is that there may well be a serious intelligence breach or failure that created or allowed the decision to launch that Tomahawk strike. Russia Today also ran the Mattis piece, because to do so suits the Russian narrative that there is no way Bashar Assad would use gas on his own people. Indeed, it does not make rational sense to a Westerner how a dictator retains power when his country is already a war zone and watched by world powers. To do a mass killing of one’s own citizens under such a watchful eye seems a highly absurd course for any leader to take.
The further problem is the reality of conditions on the ground. As this report points out, the Americans may be in a situation where foolish decisions by previous administrations and maybe even this one, have created a situation where they cannot leave.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.