“Whose Sarin?” by Seymour Hersh

"Barack Obama did not tell the whole story this autumn when he tried to make the case that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus on 21 August. In some instances, he omitted important intelligence, and in others he presented assumptions as facts. Most significant, he failed to acknowledge something known to the US intelligence community: that the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin, the nerve agent that a UN study concluded – without assessing responsibility – had been used in the rocket attack. In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports, culminating in a formal Operations Order – a planning document that precedes a ground invasion – citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity. When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad."


Hersh is a friend and I share his opinion and analytic conclusions in this matter.  pl    


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41 Responses to “Whose Sarin?” by Seymour Hersh

  1. Again recommend a BBC Contemporary Masterpiece show entitled “PAGE EIGHT” that seems to address closely related issues!
    Always remember that this Preisent is fully documented as listening to no one in particular b

  2. While Mr. Hersh is sometimes wrong he usually is correct in his analysis IMO!

  3. Charles I says:

    S.H done a lot of interesting work, first encountered him upon the KAL shootdown investigation decades ago.
    WRC thanks for the BEEB tip.

  4. Ramojus says:

    Colonel, what is your view regarding the claim, in Hersh’s upcoming book, that the Osama Bin Laden operation was faked?

  5. turcopolier says:

    You mean the operation that killed UBL? I think that was quite real. but it was not a very difficult operation and the whole thing was hyped far too much. Remember I was in SF/specops in VN. In SOG, ops like that were a commonplace occurrence. We operated “across the fence” against the NVA on a regular basis. Now, “Charles,” was a badassed guy unlike a lot of these jihadis. The recent wars are described in an exaggerated way. I hear people on TV talking about how terrible everything was in Iraq or Afghanistan. I have seen things… (reference to Blade Runner) The personal worst for me was the destruction of a company of 2/5 Cav. 52 killed and over 70 wounded in one day. Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes… pl

  6. Bandolero says:

    I still miss any reliable public proof that the guy killed in that op was really OBL, and not, for example, an impersonator of OBL. If that guy was really OBL, I wonder, why he wasn’t arrested alive to be presented to the world in a courtroom, but instead shot dead and dumped in the sea.
    Do you have any convincing explanation for this?
    I may think of lot’s of good explanations for this but they all imply that the guy killed in Pakistan was not OBL.

  7. turcopolier says:

    Nothing would convince you so why should I try? Oh. well. Why did they kill him? Where would we have tried him? New York? Get serious! Guantanamo? A possibility, but why bother. This was not a criminal case. It was an operation of war and he was a legitimate target. Why not kill him? what were they going to do with his body? Stuff him like Lenin? Lastly, there was no way to know in advance how many men he had in residence with guns. As I said you won’t believe this because you think of us as the enemy. pl

  8. turcopolier says:

    What does Sy say about the UBL op? pl

  9. Bandolero says:

    Regarding “Whose Sarin?” I disagree with Hersh. I think it’s much more likely that the culprit was the “Chemical Unit” of Alloush’s FSA “Islam brigade” than Nusra guys.

  10. turcopolier says:

    Which rebels’ Sarin was used? What real difference does it make? the main issue is whether or not the government “done it.” pl

  11. Bandolero,
    If you think that some of what Sibel Edmonds claims is true, there is an obvious possible answer to your question. He may have known too much, and — if if brought to trial — might have revealed it.
    Of course, this could well be an answer which could conceivably be true, but which those who are in a position to know what really happened have good reason to believe is false. But to argue from the premise that the USG did not bring OSB to trial, to the conclusion that the figure they killed cannot have been OSB, is a palpable non-sequitur.

  12. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Yes, someone saw OBL in Dar El Salam – and he was staying with the Shah of Iran.
    Together, they were going to have lunch with Princess Diana and Elvis.

  13. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think disposing of the body would have been an issue as well; his grave site would have become a shrine.

  14. Ramojus says:

    I guess I’m just surprised that a journalist of Hersch’s reputation intends to make the claim that the elimination of UBL was faked.
    I have been influenced by his journalistic contributions since high school(a Jesuit one), when I read his piece about the My Lai massacre.
    Is he onto something to put his credibility on the line? Or is this something akin to Bob Woodward books, i.e. claims that are difficult to independently verify?

  15. Laura Wilson says:

    It seems to me that you are right on all counts. In addition, the last thing the world needs is a martyr with a grave site at which to worship. Enough of these already!

  16. Laura Wilson says:

    It’s also possible that the main issue was “How do we get rid of more chemical weapons?” Apparently….that has been accomplished. Not all but some more…is this a worthwhile goal no matter whose were used??? I don’t know but what do you think?

  17. Bandolero says:

    Regarding not bringing the guy to a public trial I agree. If the guy knew something one want to conceal one would make sure he can’t communicate with the world. Of course, a victory against all the conspiracy theories around 9/11 would be much bigger, when the mastermind himself would confess to the crime he is accused. For that reason for example the German Nazis bigshots were brought to trial. But, of course, when he could have revealed something embarrassing, it would be plausible to make him silent.
    However that guy was not only prevented to speak but also the only reliable evidence regarding his identity was buried at sea. I can see hardly any other motive for this than that there is a secret with the identity that had to be buried. Remember, Gaddafi, for example, was shown five months later to the public for a couple of days, so people should know that the war had ended.
    I remember well Robert Baer’s “When Will Obama Give Up the Bin Laden Ghost Hunt?”
    As I heard the news that Obama claimed US forces killed a guy in Pakistan and dropped him into the sea claiming it was Bin Laden, I thought it looks pretty much like Obama’s way to extricate himself from the policy dilemma Robert Baer described in that article.
    And I still haven’t found much what would convince me of the contrary.

  18. The Twisted Genius says:

    Ramjous and Bandolero,
    I served over two years in a SMU (special mission unit) and worked with both Seal Team Six and Delta. All the information, including helmet video, that has been released about the raid on UBL rings true to me. In my opinion, far too much has been released. It should have been a simple statement that U.S. forces conducted a raid in which they killed UBL. His body was buried at sea in accordance with Islamic law and customs. Nothing more. Let everyone else speculate about what did or didn’t happen. Let AQ waste their time and resources trying to prove he’s still alive.

  19. The Twisted Genius says:

    This an excellent report by Sy Hersh. It leaves me with two thoughts:
    Our SIGINT collectors have to concentrate on the important and hard targets and not continue to expend resources on trying to “collect it all.” HUMINT does a much better, though still imperfect, job of focusing limited resources.
    The palace intrigues taking place in our government are more vicious and vile that anything in “Game of Thrones.”

  20. Fred says:

    Elvis sure does get around.

  21. Fred says:

    I can think of 3,000 or so reasons to kill him. But most important is that it was combat and not a police raid to serve an arrest warrent. If he wanted a public trial he could have turned himself in at any time.

  22. Bandolero says:

    Hersch didn’t. Read the Guardian:
    “Hersh has pointed out that he was in no way suggesting that Osama bin Laden was not killed in Pakistan, as reported, upon the president’s authority: he was saying that it was in the aftermath that the lying began”
    I did. I think when Robert Baer wrote in 2008 – see the TIME link I posted above – that OBL may be dead since the end of 2001, the “OBL” tapes following that were made with impersonators and voice fabrications, Baer was right.
    Baer also said Obama should declare OBL for dead or irrelevant, but noted that Obama faces a policy dilemma doing so. If Obama just declared OBL for dead, he would have come under attack from hawks, but if Obama never declared OBL for dead US troops and budget would be squandered for hunting the ghost of OBL in some irrelevent AfPak region for years to come. So how could that policy dilemma be solved?
    If US forces in 2011 in Pakistan indeed – as I think – killed an impersonator of OBL and Obama declared that it was OBL who was killed, I think, Obama would have found a quite elegant way of extricating himself from the policy dilemma I lined out above. It would have been a well planned PsyOp which I would judge to have been quite useful and successful.
    Am I sure? No way. But I find that assumption to be the best matching with the known facts.

  23. Bandolero says:

    The difference, of course, is that if carefully vetted FSA rebels used Sarin, it would be more embarrassing for those countries who vetted and supported them as if it was Al Qaeda.
    However, pointing finger to Assad and then making the CW deal I find not a terribly bad move from Obama. That way Sarin using “rebels” and their state backers were sent the strongest possible message of: don’t do this, it won’t help you.

  24. Fred says:

    ” In a letter to Senator Carl Levin, Dempsey cautioned that a decision to grab the Syrian arsenal could have unintended consequences: ‘We have learned from the past ten years, however, that it is not enough to simply alter the balance of military power without careful consideration of what is necessary in order to preserve a functioning state … Should the regime’s institutions collapse in the absence of a viable opposition, we could inadvertently empower extremists or unleash the very chemical weapons we seek to control.’
    Thank God for General Dempsey. Why can’t the rest of Obama’s advisors think as clearly? Just what do they owe their allegiance too? It doesn’t seem to be the Constitution of the United States.

  25. VietnamVet says:

    Clearly the Sarin attacks were intended to be justification for the US intervention into Syria. It is even more potent than “protection of the citizens of Benghazi from massacre by Gaddafi” that was used to intervene in Libya.
    Things changed since 2011. First, Westerners are tired of the spreading never ending wars. Second, the Russians said “Nyet”. Finally, Americans realized they would be providing air support for Al Qaeda.
    The Russian plan to destroy the regime’s chemical weapons saved Obama’s ass when he suddenly was forced to back down from the attack.

  26. DC says:

    We can conclude, fairly confidently, that the Assad regime was not responsible for the Sarin attacks. Even more clearly, the Obama regime desired to send out signals that it was prepared for war, and was willing to discount some intelligence and manipulate facts in order to create that messaging. But why? Was it a public show of support for Israel and SA’s back-door hectoring? A desire for a credible threat in order to support negotiations? A desire to bait the Syria war hawks out of the closet? All of these reasons? One motivation I doubt is that Obama desired war against Assad and was willing to manipulate evidence in order to do it. He could have gone through with it if he wanted it badly enough.

  27. FB Ali says:

    The women and children in the house in which the raid took place were later taken into custody by the Pakistan army. Various reports appeared in the media about them subsequently, mostly through leaks (some of them deliberate). In these they were referred to as ObL’s wives and children. In not one was there a suggestion that the person living with them and killed in the raid was NOT ObL.
    It would have been in the interests of the Pakistan authorities to suggest otherwise, had there been any basis for that.

  28. turcopolier says:

    A mistake typically made is to ascribe purpose to bumbling ineptitude. pl

  29. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I am willing to trust the words of the Iranian Foreign Minister that Iran had warned other countries that sarin is being sent to Syria.
    I think it is safe to assume that either Saudi Arabia or Turkey had supplied it.
    Which means that Turkey or Saudi Arabia now belong to the US State Department’s category of “State Sponsors of Terrorism”.
    Will there be retaliation against either country?
    I think not.
    I also think in the absence of such retaliation – public or private – there could be future incidents of gas attacks against civilians.
    This was an insane endeavor from conception to execution and its formulator and executors belong in the Looney bin.

  30. Charles I says:

    I recall reports stating that “sources” or some such alleged Dna was taken from the corpse and some of the alleged bin Laden children on site, used to “confirm” the i.d.
    Here’s a report citing i.d. confirmation via a bin laden sister’s dna, while simultaneously reporting that photos of the stiff circulating OBL to me.

  31. Charles I says:

    The claim is that the analysis of all the communication via the all interstices of the straw leads to the un-indicted needle in question, all the rest chaff that in no way violates your constitution.
    I believe the first may be true, I’m certain the latter is.
    Cheque’s in the mail, promise not to cum in your mouth, Let me be honest with you, etc, ec,

  32. Charles I says:

    Another is “Its all about me” analysis.

  33. turcopolier says:

    Charles I
    “Another is “Its all about me” analysis.” referring to whom? pl

  34. Bandolero says:

    Yes, I know this. I also know that there is testamony from his “wifes” being with him and a Pakistani doctor jailed for working with the CIA in a polio campaign to find OBL and so on.
    That evidence didn’t convince me. PL was probably right about my bile. Since the WMDs in Iraq claims followed Hill & Knowlton’s Kuwaiti incubator babies my level of mistrust on anything the US government tells the world about war and peace is really quite high.

  35. Thomas says:

    “The palace intrigues taking place in our government are more vicious and vile that anything in “Game of Thrones.””
    Yes, which is why I found it interesting when Obama announced his decision he emphasized overriding his cabinet’s position on the matter.

  36. Joe100 says:

    Hersh’s report seems consistent with an interesting open exploration of the public evidence. For some perspective on what can be known from public information, a crowd-sourced blog was set up to examine the Ghouta incident following the claims and counter claims about who was responsible.
    This work process is described as follows:
    “This blog was created to counter these disinformation campaigns, by providing an open online collaboration platform to investigate who is behind the attack. It turned out to be very successful with dozens of contributors meticulously documenting and analyzing thousands of pieces of evidence. Due to the sensitivity of the matter, high standards were enforced: Only reliable evidence verified by multiple sources may be used. No unverifiable statements from a single source, no generous interpretations of blurred images, and no cherry-picked circumstantial evidence.”
    The resulting findings and full supporting analysis process are at http://whoghouta.blogspot.se/2013/11/the-conclusion.html
    The bottom line of this work is “The only plausible scenario that fits the evidence is an attack by opposition forces.”
    I would be curious to know what the intelligence professionals among us think of this work?

  37. Charles I says:

    Referring to our own vastly ignorant take on the world – as though its just like us, wants to be like us, thinks in the same contexts as us, can be made both to be like us and to like us, which I take to be a theme in your critique of ends based intelligence picking.

  38. Margaret Steinfels says:

    I’ve looked at this site…and repeat the question: what do intelligence professionals make of it?

  39. MRW says:

    Then, who was killed in the US helicopter that got torched in the OBL backyard? The guy who lived across the street was on his roof and saw it blow up after the supposed rescue. This was on Pakistan TV. I have the clip (later translated by an official US translator), which was subsequently wiped from the web.
    The guy across the street was interviewed within an hour of the announcement by a female anchor from a Paki news station.

  40. turcopolier says:

    The helicopter was destroyed by the raiders because it had been disabled. pl

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