The U.S. Attack on al-Shayrat Airfield

8 Apr



In early morning darkness on April 7th the United States fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Syrian al-Shayrat Airfield from two American destroyers stationed in the Eastern Mediterranean. It described the targets as Syrian fighter jets, radar, fuel facilities used for the aircraft. It asserted prior notification of Russian authorities, and offered the assurance that precautions were taken to avoid risks to Russian or Syrian military personnel. Pentagon spokespersons suggested that in addition to doing damage to the airfield, the attack had the intended effect of “reducing the Syrian government’s ability to deliver chemical weapons.”


President Donald Trump in a short public statement justified the attack as a proportionate response to the Syrian use of chemical weapons against the town of Khan Sheikhoun in the western Syrian province of Idlib a few days earlier, which killed an estimated 80 persons, wounding hundreds more. Although there were denials of Syrian responsibility for the attack from Damascus and Moscow, a strong international consensus supported the U.S. view that Bashar al-Assad had ordered the attack allegedly as a means of convincing opposition forces concentrated in Idlib that it was time to surrender.


In the background, is the conviction among the more militaristic policy advisors and political figures, including Trump, that President Barack Obama’s failure to enforce his 2012 ‘red line’ warning to Syria emboldened Assad to launch this latest attack with chemical weapons. Of course, this is all hawkish speculation that can be neither proven nor disproven, but it undoubtedly influenced the Trump entourage to suppose that it was presented with an opportunity to exhibit a greater readiness to use American military force in the Syrian conflict, incidentally, an outlook long advocated by Hillary Clinton and many of her advisors and foreign policy supporters. To do so, abandoned one of Trump’s signature pledges, to avoid military engagement in the conflicts raging throughout the Middle East, which he portrayed as a costly failure of prior American political leaders. Trump under pressure due to the growing evidence of ties with Russian political leaders during the 2016 presidential campaign may have welcomed an occasion on which to demonstrate his independence from Moscow and Putin. The departure from the Trump campaign agenda is particularly pointed as there were no American casualties resulting from the attack on Khan Sheikhoun 60 hours earlier than the Tomahawk response.


In Trump’s brief public rationale, the red line argument was not relied upon, but rather the combination of humanitarian outrage and grief with an assertion of the “national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.” This geopolitical purpose was reinforced by a cursory appeal to international law and even the UN Security Council: “There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and ignored the urging of the U.N. Security Council.” Yet identifying Syria’s evident violation of international law should not be confused with an international law justification for the use of retaliatory force. In using this language Trump was evidently seeking to weaken the impression of an irresponsible unilateral American recourse to non-defensive force without bothering to seek an endorsement from the U.S. Congress or the UN. Not surprisingly Moscow and Damascus both condemned the attack as an act of ‘aggression’ and ‘a flagrant violation of international law.’


Trump used some additional words designed to draw attention away from the unilateral nature of the attack by contending that it fulfilled the common goals of “civilized nations” to deter Assad and defeat terrorism, thereby linking the American initiative to what he called ‘justice’ rather than basing legitimacy exclusively on an appeal to ‘law’ or ‘order.’ Trump expressed this sentiment as follows: “And we hope that as long as America stands for justice, that peace and harmony will in the end prevail.” This is very different in tone, substance, and policy from Trump’s campaign rhetoric, which stridently stressed ‘America first,’ clarified as a call to act with reinvigorated resolve to devote military capabilities exclusively to promoting U.S. material national interests, and to stop wasting resources and energy by trying to address the larger concerns of the world, especially in the Middle East. This abrupt affinity with an internationalist spirit is made explicit in Trump’s final words—“Good night, and God bless America and the entire world.” As far as I know, this ritualistic invocation of God so much associated with George W. Bush and mimicked by Barack Obama never was extended to include “the entire world,” which is such an unfamiliar wording as to suggest that it was deliberately inserted to stake a quite unexpected and renewed claim to American moral leadership in world affairs. As with the attack itself, it seems likely to be a one/off embrace of cosmopolitan sentiments, but it is still worth noting. After all, language matters.


As has been suggested, bombing a Syrian airfield is unlikely to help Syrian children exposed to the terrible ravages of this war, that is, unless it does create a new momentum for a sustainable ceasefire. Already, the Russian reaction signals a worsening of relations with the United States in Syria and generally, and may end up producing the kind of confrontation that had led Republicans in the national security establishment to abandon Trump during the presidential campaign a year ago. With the removal of Bannon from the National Security Council it may not be premature to suggest that the deep state has found ways to reestablish its influence on national security policy after all seemed lost due to Trump’s electoral victory and vindictive attitude toward ‘the intelligence community.’ It is far too early to say that bureaucratic wars are over, but there is at the very least clear movement evident toward the restoration of the pre-Trump established order in Washington.


The Khan Sheikhoun attack raises more fundamental questions that are neither raised nor resolved by Trump’s speech. Despite making a gesture in the direction of international law by reference to the Chemical Weapons Convention and Security Council directives, the strike against al-Shayrat Airfield was a non-defensive use of force by the United States that violates the core UN Charter prohibition unless carried out on the basis of an explicit Security Council authorization. It is precisely the sort of unilateralism that the Charter, and post-1945 international law, made unlawful. In this context there was no urgency or necessity to strike immediately that might have made the departure from Charter norms seem more reasonable. Of course, Security Council authorization would not have been forthcoming, given the near certainty that Russia would use its veto. In that sense, assuming the attribution of responsibility for the chemical weapons attack to the Assad regime holds up, which is by no means assured, there is a dilemma presented when the moral and political case for action is strong, but lacks an ample justification in international law.


Of course, international law has for more three decades given way to the dictates of counterterrorism policies, which have featured retaliatory strikes ordered by American presidents without international authorization. Has this pattern of essentially unchallenged practice by the U.S. Government done away with the legal constraints of the UN Charter? Some jurists suggest that state practice of this character creates new expectations about the scope of legality of international uses of force by states in addressing security threats posed by non-state actors or by internal threats of state/society atrocities as here and in the Kosovo War of 1999. In a decentralized world, lacking governmental authority at regional and global levels, it seems regressive to endorse this return to a state of affairs where warfare is discretionary, and international law and respect for the authority of the United Nations are reduced to considerations of convenience and self-interest, and thus, as here, when inconvenient, a powerful state can use force with unconditional impunity in pursuit of its foreign policy goals.


There are also accompanying prudential questions about recourse to a military response in this instance where the intended target is the internationally recognized government of a sovereign state that is engaged in a protracted civil war. Is this a further challenge to state-centric world order? Will the attack magnify the conflict still further rather than deter Assad and make a political compromise more likely? Will the antagonism of Russia and Iran make it more difficult to bring the conflict to an end by reliance on diplomacy? There is no way to answer such questions beyond the observation that where, as here, international law opposes recourse to force, the risks of further escalation are considerable, and the rise of geopolitical tensions inevitable, the presumption should be strongly against a military response.


Then there are domestic questions about whether it is okay for an American president to resort to an international use of force without some sort of Congressional debate and authorization (short of a Declaration of War). Again Trump has plenty of precedents for acting without a specific Congressional authorization from the presidencies of Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. Executive warmaking authority was definitely increased after the 9/11 attacks, and given a limited, although broad, legislative imprimatur in the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) statute of 2001. AUMF is limited to those forces responsible for the 9/11 attacks and ‘associated forces,’ which the Obama presidency interpreted to extend to Al Qaeda wherever located, and without any time horizon. It seems beyond doubt that constitutionalism in the war/peace context has been severely weakened over the course of the last 70 years, and this latest episode just continues the trend. It would seem that where there is no necessity to act instantly and where there is no formal UN authorization, the underlying republican commitment to checks and balances to avoid abuses of power, should have led Trump to seek authorization from Congress, and in light of his failure to do so, a critical reaction from Congress.


There are two clusters of serious questions raised. Is this a new turn toward belligerent internationalism by the Trump presidency that will shape the near future of American foreign policy in the Middle East, and possibly elsewhere? Does the reversion to unilateralism with respect to international uses of force heighten the risks of geopolitical escalation and large-scale warfare, including possibly the threat or use of nuclear weapons?





32 Responses to “The U.S. Attack on al-Shayrat Airfield”

  1. Gene Schulman April 8, 2017 at 12:02 pm #

    Hillary must be wetting her panties with glee. After all, isn’t this what she wanted to do had she been elected? (Oops, appointed?) Those neocons will have their way no matter who sits in the Oval Office!

    • Rabbi Ira Youdovin April 9, 2017 at 9:08 am #

      Mr. Schulman,

      At a time when innocent Syrian men, women and children and dying in Sarin Gas attacks, and there is serious discussion of the responsibilities and/or limitations incumbent on empowered by-standers (see Prof. Falk’s post), it is tragically sad that the best you can contribute is a vulgar insult hurled at Hilary Clinton. For shame.

      Rabbi Ira Youdovin

      • Gene Schulman April 9, 2017 at 11:17 am #

        If you would do your homework you would know that the Syrian bombing was not a Sarin Gas attack. It was a usual bombing run and the bombs happened to fall on the rebel stores of gases, not Sarin, which caused some injuries and deaths. Trump’s retaliation, even if it were true that the Syrians used gas, is illegal under international and US law.

        I do not take my comment to be a ‘vulgar insult’, rather the truth.

        It is you who should be ashamed for perpetuating lies and hasbara about the horrific crimes the US and Israel are committing in that benighted part of the world.

        I have no respect for your ‘opinions’ and I would request that you refrain from addressing yourself to me in future.

        Thank you.

      • ray032 April 10, 2017 at 6:41 am #

        Gene is probably right. Clinton advocated what Trump did before he did it.

        This is from a site using satire for all those praising Trump for finally becoming a legitimate US President, undermining the World Order to bomb another Nation illegally.

        Dear Donald,

        What can I say except all is forgiven (well except I’m jealous that you got to do it and not me). Bill and I would love to have you and Melania come and stay some time. Let us know when it’s convenient.

        Best regards,


        PS. Do you think if I pretend to be in favour of peace, no more foreign interventions and getting along with Putin, I might stand a chance in 2020?

      • Gene Schulman April 10, 2017 at 11:37 am #

      • ray032 April 10, 2017 at 4:35 pm #

        When news of this attack made the news, there was no investigation, evidence or proof needed before the illegal US strike in violation of International Law. My immediate gut feeling was this was a false flag operation orchestrated by the CIA.

        CNN and MSNBC have no integrity ‘Speaking Truth to Power.’ The so called journalists are no more than script readers as propagandists for the Power. They don’t question anything the government says. I now see than as propagandists inciting for War.

        CNN had a special last Sunday showing how the Islamic terrorists improvise like MacGyver. It has been proved the Terrorist fighters supported armed and financed by the CIA Saudi Arabia, England, France, Canada, Turkey, Israel and other external powers have used chemical weapons in the past.

        There’s no question? Assad did it as reported by the objective, without any false bias White Helmets financed by the US and England. Real Doctors who have examined their procedures in the propaganda video CNN and MSNBC show without investigative questioning expose them as frauds.

        All thinking people should know what is happening in Syria is not a civil war no matter how much Western propagandist portray is as such. War is the total absence of civility in every case. This is a World War in the making.

        The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap[….] Woe to the multitude of many people, which make a noise like the noise of the seas; and to the rushing of nations, that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters!
        The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters: but God shall rebuke them, and they shall flee far off, and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like a rolling thing before the whirlwind.

        February 27, 2012

  2. Amahoro Youth Club April 8, 2017 at 12:33 pm #

    Dear Richard

    Many many thanks for your wise words. I’ve posted it tonight and it will go out Monday as TFF PressInfo reaching 9000+ people around the world, including arund 4000 media people – but don’t expect any reactions 🙂

    Thanks for your continued brave word in support of Palestine – I highlighted your book, the meeting in London and the shameful cancellation of your lecture.

    Tough times indeed – peace people being increasingly the object of discrimination…

    Warm greetings to you both from us both…


  3. Schlüter April 8, 2017 at 12:40 pm #

    I feel reminded of the words: “They took the babies out of incubators”! See also:
    “Syrian Tonkin Gulf – Trumpillary”:
    Weekend regards

  4. ray032 April 8, 2017 at 5:22 pm #

    ‘America the Liberator’
    Now is the time to recall what happens when America comes to the aid of other nations with military action
    Gideon Levy Apr 09, 2017 2:08 AM

    A star is born: U.S. President Donald Trump. One missile strike and the man the whole world feared became its great hope overnight. Yesterday’s Satan is tomorrow’s God. From German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Israel’s own Judy Shalom Nir-Mozes, and of course, Yair Lapid, they’re all cheering him. Savior of children, humanist, man of conscience, modern-day Janusz Korczak, who, shocked and saddened by the dead Syrian children, bombarded their killers.

    If his Tomahawks saved even one Syrian child, dayenu, it would be enough. That’s already more than his predecessor did. But we must spoil the party, it’s premature and over the top. The Nobel Peace Prize can wait.

    Now is the time to recall what happens when America comes to the aid of other nations with military action: It always ends badly, usually in a Holocaust. The last time the United States saved the world through war was in 1945. That was the last just war. Since then, the United States, the greatest perpetrator of massacres since World War II, has caused the deaths of millions in wars meant to rescue and liberate them.

    When America liberates, it sows death and destruction and causes endless sorrow. Ask the Iraqis. What wouldn’t they give for America not to have come to their aid and free them from their tyrant. Their country would have been a safer and much less bloody place had the leader of the free world not decided to liberate it in a war that was dubbed, naturally, “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” Ever since, Iraq has known very little freedom and much more bloodshed. The U.S. occupation of Iraq was also the catalyst for the Arab world’s implosion. The poison gas of Syrian President Bashar Assad is an indirect by-product. The people of Libya will never forget their rescuer. The U.S. intervention in their civil war led to the removal of their dictator but also to the destruction of their state, which persists to this very day.

    America’s wars of liberation resemble, if not in their death tolls, those of Israel, its ally. In 1967, Israel liberated the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and ever since the inhabitants of these territories have been dumbstruck with appreciation for and gratitude to the liberator of Jerusalem and Palestine. They have never known such freedom. Before that, Israel liberated Jaffa and Haifa, Ramle and Lod, in a war that, naturally, became known as the War of Liberation. The United States liberated South Korea — two and a half million dead — and South Vietnam — four million dead. Together, six and a half million people killed in vain. And behind each such war against communism stood lofty causes and mass bloodshed.

    So it might be better were America not to come to the aid of Syria’s children, especially if the finger on the trigger is Trump’s. On the other hand, they must be rescued, whatever it takes, and the United States is the only one that can do the job. After years of vicious warfare in Syria, there is no magic cure. Some analysts suspect, in light of the results, that Trump’s Tomahawk missiles were coordinated in advance with Russia and, through Russia, with Syria, and that the strikes were in fact meant only to serve the president’s domestic political goals.

    But this could be a blessing in disguise. If the president sees the world cheering him for the first time in his first 100 days in office, perhaps he will persist. Perhaps this acclaim will lead to a new era, an era of action after his predecessor’s beautiful, high-flown rhetoric.

    Trump must turn first to Jerusalem, whose institutions do not need to be bombarded in order to exert pressure on the government. The president can achieve in Jerusalem what no missile could achieve in Syria. A reminder: The only time the United States was a partner to genuine success in uprooting an evil regime was in the face of apartheid South Africa. America did not fire a single missile. A diplomatic Tomahawk on Jerusalem would bring Trump more gratitude than did the 59 missiles of his nighttime strike on Khan Sheikhoun. Perhaps it would also save even more children.

  5. Jerry Alatalo April 8, 2017 at 8:47 pm #

    “Executive warmaking authority was definitely increased after the 9/11 attacks, and given a limited, although broad, legislative imprimatur in the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) statute of 2001. AUMF is limited to those forces responsible for the 9/11 attacks and ‘associated forces,’ which the Obama presidency interpreted to extend to Al Qaeda wherever located, and without any time horizon. It seems beyond doubt that constitutionalism in the war/peace context has been severely weakened over the course of the last 70 years, and this latest episode just continues the trend. It would seem that where there is no necessity to act instantly and where there is no formal UN authorization, the underlying republican commitment to checks and balances to avoid abuses of power, should have led Trump to seek authorization from Congress, and in light of his failure to do so, a critical reaction from Congress.”
    Members of the United States Congress have an obligation to address President Donald Trump’s decision to carry out a missile attack on the sovereign nation of Syria as the action falls outside the limits of the 2001 AUMF. It seems clear that according to the Constitution of the United States, which each lawmaker took an oath to defend, the President’s action was unconstitutional.

    This is the year 2017 – not the days of the “wild west” where lawlessness was rampant, destructive, and experienced by people across broad areas of the Earth’s landmass.

    Professor Falk’s legal-focused writing examines President Donald Trump’s military action against Syria, and reveals extremely serious issues relative to the Constitution requiring the United States legislative branch’s immediate attention.

  6. Beau Oolayforos April 9, 2017 at 9:04 am #

    Dear Professor Falk,

    As I understand it, 2 investigations are ongoing: 1. Whether Assad used chemical weapons to kill 80 people, and 2. Whether a recent US-led airstrike on Mosul killed 300-400. Of course, our weaponry is clean and “beautiful”, according to at least one media whore.

    Right on cue, we have an adorable 7-year old, tweeting her approval for airstrikes, and urging more of the same – but not from Mosul. My own 7-year-old would have also tweeted something, in her own perfect Syrian Arabic, but she was busy, and then turned 8. Who ghostwrites for these kids? Smells like fake news, or ‘propaganda’ in Oldspeak.

    • ray032 April 9, 2017 at 10:37 am #

      Why was there not a similar outrage when US bombs killed 200 civilians, including women and children, in Mosul only 2 weeks earlier?

      Naturally Western MSM, including the CBC, would not show the Public this video of a child who lost her mother in that US bombing. The hypocrisy, double standards and crocodile tears are sickening.

  7. ray032 April 10, 2017 at 6:25 am #

    Americans spend so much more money on the military and the weapons of Death and Destruction than Russia, China, Iran and many other Nations combined, they have a collective orgasm when they’re used.

    • Gene Schulman April 11, 2017 at 5:34 am #


      I find your posts so much more appropriate when you leave out the biblical gobbledegook, as in these. I hope you will continue in this manner.

      Best regards.

  8. thi April 11, 2017 at 2:56 am #

    About the illegality of the air-strike I wrote here, however, in less details. Thank you.

  9. ray032 April 11, 2017 at 9:51 pm #

    With a critical public increasingly turning to social media to scrutinize the claims of the mainstream as well as the credibility of the assertions made by the various NGOs and government-funded human rights organisations, it’s arguably becoming more difficult for the corporate press to pass their propaganda off as legitimate news.

    This is particularly the case during periods when the establishment pushes for military conflicts. One salutary lesson from the Iraq debacle, is that the public appear not to be so readily fooled. Or are they?

    It’s a measure of the extent to which the mass media barely stray from their paymasters tune, that president Trump, with near-unanimous journalistic support, was able to launch an illegal missile strike on Syria on April 7, 2017. Cathy Newman on yesterday evenings Channel 4 News (April 10, 2017) stated that the attack on the al-Shayrat airbase was in “retaliation” for an alleged sarin gas attack by president Assad. However, for the reasons outlined below, such a scenario seems highly unlikely.

    New York Times reporter, Michael B Gordon, who co-authored that papers infamous fake aluminum tube story of September 8, 2002 as part of the media’s propaganda offensive leading up to the 2003 U.S-led Iraq invasion, published (along with co-author Anne Barnard), the latest chemical weapons fake news story intended to fit with the establishment narrative on Syria.

    Lack of skepticism

    Showing no skepticism that the Syrian military was responsible for intentionally deploying poison gas, the authors cited the widely discredited $100m-funded terrorist-enablers, the White Helmets, as the basis for their story. Meanwhile, the doyen of neocon drum-beating war propaganda in Britain, Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian, wrote a day after the alleged attack: “We almost certainly know who did it. Every sign points to the regime of Bashar al-Assad.” What these ‘signs’ are were not specified in the article.

    Even the usually cautious Guardian journalist George Monbiot appears to be eager for military action. On Twitter (April 7, 2017) Monbiot claimed: “We can be 99% sure the chemical weapons attack came from Syrian govt.” Three days later, media analysts Media Lens challenged Monbiot by citing the views of former UN weapons inspectors, Hans Blix and Scott Ritter, both of whom contradicted Monbiot’s assertion. “What do you know that Hans Blix and Scott Ritter don’t know?”, inquired the analysts. Monbiot failed to reply.

    Apparently it hadn’t occurred to these, and practically all the other mainstream journalists (with the notable exception of Peter Oborne and Peter Hitchens), that Assad’s motive for undertaking such an attack was weak. As investigative reporter Robert Parry, who broke many of the Iran-Contra stories, argued:

    “Since Assad’s forces have gained a decisive upper-hand over the rebels, why would he risk stirring up international outrage at this juncture? On the other hand, the desperate rebels might view the horrific scenes from the chemical-weapons deployment as a last-minute game-changer.”

    A second major inconsistency in the official narrative are the contradictory claims relating to the sarin issue. Charles Shoebridge referred to a Guardian article that claims sarin was used, but he counters the claim by stating: “Yet, a rescuer tells its reporter “we could smell it 500m away”. The intelligence and terrorism expert was quick to point out that sarin is odorless (unless contaminated). As blogger Mark J Doran astutely remarked: “Now, who is going be stuck with lousy, impure sarin? A nation state or a terrorist group?”

    Dodgy ‘doctor’

    Then there has been the willingness of the media to cite what is clearly an incredulous source, ‘British doctor’, Shajul Islam. Despite having been struck off the British medical register for misconduct in March 2016, the media have quoted or shown Islam in their reports where he has been depicted as a key witness to the alleged gas attack and hence helped augment the unsubstantiated media narrative. In 2012 Shajul Islam was charged with terror offences in a British court.

    Peter Hitchens takes up the story:

    “He was accused of imprisoning John Cantlie, a British photographer, and a Dutchman, Jeroen Oerlemans. Both men were held by a militant group in Syria and both were wounded when they tried to escape. Shajul Islam, it was alleged, was among their captors. Shajul Islam’s trial collapsed in 2013, when it was revealed that Mr Cantlie had been abducted once again, and could not give evidence.

    Mr Oerlemans refused to give evidence for fear that it would further endanger Mr Cantlie. Mr Oerlemans has since been killed in Libya. So the supposedly benevolent medical man at the scene of the alleged atrocity turns out to be a struck-off doctor who was once put on trial for kidnapping.”

    Fourth, there is the question as to why the U.S would launch a military strike in the knowledge that it would risk further sarin leaks into the atmosphere. As the writer and musician, Gilad Atzmon, argues:

    “It doesn’t take a military analyst to grasp that the American attack on a remote Syrian airfield contradicts every possible military rationale. If America really believed that Assad possessed a WMD stockpile and kept it in al-Shayrat airbase, launching a missile attack that could lead to a release of lethal agents into the air would be the last thing it would do. If America was determined to ‘neutralise’ Assad’s alleged ‘WMD ability’ it would deploy special forces or diplomacy. No one defuses WMD with explosives, bombs or cruise missiles. It is simply unheard of.”

    Atzmon adds:

    “The first concern that comes to mind is why do you need a saxophonist to deliver the truth every military expert understands very well? Can’t the New York Times or the Guardian reach the same obvious conclusion? It’s obvious enough that if Assad didn’t use WMD when he was losing the war, it would make no sense for him to use it now when a victory is within reach.”

    Logical explanation

    A far more logical explanation, given the location, is that chemicals were released into the air by Salafist terrorists. The location of the alleged attack is an al-Qaeda-affiliated controlled area in Idlib province. It is from here that the Western-funded White Helmets operate. Rather conveniently, they were soon at the scene of the alleged attack without the necessary protective clothing being filmed hosing down victims.

    As these are the kinds of people who cut out and eat human organs as well as decapitate heads, they are unlikely to have any compunction in desisting from an opportunity to use Syrian civilians, including children and women, as a form of ‘war porn propaganda’ in order to garner public sympathy as the pretext for Western intervention.

    Syrian-based journalist, Tom Dugan, who has been living in the country for the last four years, claims no gas attack happened. Rather, he asserts that the Syrian air force destroyed a terrorist-owned and controlled chemical weapons factory mistaking it for an ammunition dump, and “the chemicals spilled out.” This seems to be the most plausible explanation.

    Mr Dugan’s version is markedly similar to the analysis of former DIA colonel, Patrick Lang Donald who, on April 7, 2017 said:

    “Trump’s decision to launch cruise missile strikes on a Syrian Air Force Base was based on a lie. In the coming days the American people will learn that the Intelligence Community knew that Syria did not drop a military chemical weapon on innocent civilians in Idlib. Here is what happened:

    The Russians briefed the United States on the proposed target. This is a process that started more than two months ago. There is a dedicated phone line that is being used to coordinate and deconflict (i.e., prevent US and Russian air assets from shooting at each other) the upcoming operation.
    The United States was fully briefed on the fact that there was a target in Idlib that the Russians believes was a weapons/explosives depot for Islamic rebels.
    The Syrian Air Force hit the target with conventional weapons. All involved expected to see a massive secondary explosion. That did not happen. Instead, smoke, chemical smoke, began billowing from the site. It turns out that the Islamic rebels used that site to store chemicals, not sarin, that were deadly. The chemicals included organic phosphates and chlorine and they followed the wind and killed civilians.
    There was a strong wind blowing that day and the cloud was driven to a nearby village and caused casualties.
    We know it was not sarin. How? Very simple. The so-called “first responders” handled the victims without gloves. If this had been sarin they would have died. Sarin on the skin will kill you. How do I know? I went through “Live Agent” training at Fort McClellan in Alabama.

    The former colonel’s testimony is extremely persuasive and exposes the media’s attempts to take at face value Pentagon propaganda. Another convincing reason to discount the official narrative, is because Assad doesn’t possess any chemical weapons. Even The Wall Street Journal, citing a Hague-based watchdog agency, conceded on June 23, 2014 that “the dangerous substances from Syria’s chemical weapons program, including sulfur mustard and precursors of sarin, have now been removed from the country after a monthslong process.”


    The alleged attack follows a recent pattern of anti-Assad stories exemplified by four similar controversial events in which the media have attempted to pass fiction off as fact. The first of these on February 13, 2017, relates to the findings of a report by Amnesty International which contends that Assad was responsible for the “execution by mass hangings” of up to 13,000 people. The alleged atrocity that evoked in the press comparisons to Nazi concentration camps, was within days criticised for its unsubstantiated and uncorroborated claims.

    It should be recalled that it was Amnesty International who uncritically supported the emergence of a fake news story during the first Gulf War in which Iraqi soldiers were said to have taken scores of babies out of incubators in Kuwait City leaving them to die.

    The second press release, three days after the mass-execution story aired, concerned the heart-rending case of a Syrian boy who Anne Barnard of the New York Times reported on twitter as having “his legs…cut because of attacks from Assad and Russia.”

    It soon transpired, however, that the organization credited with filming the “attacks” was Revolution Syria, a pro-insurgency media outfit who also provided the videos for the equally fraudulent claim that the Russians bombed a school in Haas in October 2016. Dr Barbara McKenzie provides a detailed background to the story which can be read here.

    The third piece of false reporting to have emerged, is in connection with Security Council resolution 2235 which highlights the conclusions of a August, 2015 OPCW-UN report. The said report, aimed at introducing new sanctions against Syria (which Russia and China vetoed), didn’t make the claims subsequently attributed to it in the corporate media, namely that between April, 2014 and August, 2015 the Assad government was definitively responsible for three chemical attacks using chlorine.

    Security analyst Charles Shoebridge pointed out on March 1, 2017, that “most media didn’t even seem to bother reading the report”. Shoebridge confirmed that the OPCW-UN investigation contained findings that did not correspond to what the public was being told. Pointing out the reports many caveats and reservations, the analyst said the evidence “wasn’t sufficiently good to declare that Syria had dropped chlorine to a standard that could be considered “strong”, or “overwhelming”, adding that “investigators were largely reliant on reports from the White Helmets.”

    Finally, independent journalist Gareth Porter inferred that U.N. investigators increasingly make their conclusions fall in line with Western propaganda after he exposed distortions contained in a March 1, 2017 report by the United Nations’ “Independent International Commission of Inquiry“ which claimed that an airstrike on a humanitarian aid convoy in the west of Aleppo City on Sept. 19, 2016, was undertaken by Syrian government planes. Porter reveals that the reports findings were based on pro-rebel Syrian White Helmets testimonies that were “full of internal contradictions.”

    Extraordinarily, in March, 2016 German journalist Dr. Ulfkotte brought the lies of the mainstream out into the open by confessing live on television that he was forced to publish the works of intelligence agents under his own name, adding that noncompliance with these orders would result in him losing his job. Sharing this information in front of millions of people (reminiscent of the film Network), Ulfkotte said:

    “I’ve been a journalist for about 25 years, and I was educated to lie, to betray, and not to tell the truth to the public. But seeing right now within the last months how the German and American media tries to bring war to the people in Europe, to bring war to Russia — this is a point of no return and I’m going to stand up and say it is not right what I have done in the past, to manipulate people, to make propaganda against Russia, and it is not right what my colleagues do and have done in the past because they are bribed to betray the people, not only in Germany, all over Europe.”

    The inability of mainstream journalists to undertake basic fact-checking illuminated by the examples described, reinforce the veracity of Ulfkotte’s claims that corporate journalists are “educated to lie, to betray, and not to tell the truth to the public.” But more than that, it amounts to a stark admission that the corruption at the heart of the elite media and political establishment is systemic. As Mark Doran on Twitter put it: “Our corrupt politics, our international crime, and our ‘free media’ form a seamless whole.” The goal of this consolidation of power is to secure yet another middle east resource grab.

    • Richard Falk April 12, 2017 at 7:02 am #

      Thanks, Ray, for this important comment that should be published as a distinct article in
      a more widely read media outlet. You have summarized the skeptical case extremely effectively.

      • ray032 April 12, 2017 at 7:52 am #

        Richard, whenever I post other writer’s articles, it’s because I agree with the content affecting my thinking and perceptions, believing it’s important to share. It is not I who has summarized the skeptical case extremely effectively.

        What does concern me is watching CNN & MSNBC from CanaDa and increasingly seeing them not speaking Truth to Power, but being the propagandists for the Power and the inciters in chief for War with Russia. Of course it’s very subtle propaganda affecting the American psyche.

        While Gene may be chagrined, these words can be attributed to me as I introduced the article I wrote 6 years ago to my FB News Feed TODAY.

        With the tempo to the drum beat of war increasing, it’s time to revisit this Public Record from 37 years ago.

        The father of the current Prime Minister recognized the dangers for the human race when the atmospheres between the US and Russia were so poisoned, he undertook his Peace Mission the Americans were not too pleased with. (click on the link PM Trudeau Peace Mission To China – 1983)

        Pierre Eliot Trudeau must be spinning in his grave to see the atmospheres even more dangerous these 37 years later, and his selfie son, as an unquestioning vassal to the Americans, yapping at Russia like a chihuahua attack dog.

        Two years after Trudeau Senior’s Peace Mission, with the atmospheres still poisoned, I was moved to interject this message into the 1985 Remembrance Day Ceremony at the National War Cenotaph in the hearing of the Governor-General, the Prime Minister, the Military Brass, the Ambassadors of the Nations and the Public:

        “Hear O people and Nations, even to the ends of the Earth, the Word of the LORD God, who is, and was, and is to come, The Almighty.

        The LORD has a controversy with the people.

        Do you do well to honour the dead, and yet, deny the God of the Living?

        Why do you follow the vain traditions of men, and make of no effect, the Principles of God?

        You come here for one hour, one day a year, in a great show of Public Patriotism, and then forgetting, go back to work and make the same careless mistakes made by the generations prior to the 1st and 2nd World Wars.

        Hitler is dead, but it’s his legacy that remains – A Soviet-American military-industrial complex consuming $trillions of dollars every year, holding the entire World hostage…………”

        “Hostage” was the last word said perched on a bus shelter roof, as police got up and grabbed the megaphone. I was arrested for “shouting, causing a disturbance,” convicted and fined $250. I appealed without a lawyer to The Supreme Court of Canada.

        February 23, 2011

      • Gene Schulman April 12, 2017 at 11:50 am #


      • Daniel Margrain April 12, 2017 at 12:16 pm #

        Hi Richard, I wrote it. It’s available at Global Research. I’m not a professional writer but take a great interest in international relations. Can you please offer any contacts/advice as to how I might be able to get it published professionally? Thanks in advance. Daniel.

      • Richard Falk April 13, 2017 at 7:31 am #


        A very valuable article. Once published online it is difficult to get it published in main media
        venues. In the future try the publications, online or print, that you think most appropriate. Until
        you have connections with a particular place or person there are no shortcuts beyond submission and
        a patient persistence until you find success. In the end, there are not that many informed writers
        with a viewpoint on international issues. Wishing you well…


      • Laurie Knightly April 12, 2017 at 7:09 pm #

        Yes, Ray’s link very apropos – read it 3 times. On the surface it would appear that any of the possibilities except Assad would make more sense. And why would people be so certain immediately? As an Alawite, and not signing the Amman Message in 2004, Assad is an anomaly in that woods. Wonder who there is to replace him.

        Glad to hear the conference in Ireland took place – finally. Will we get an essay on this? International Law and the State of Israel is an excellent concept. Little wonder that it met resistance when it was proposed………

  10. Kata Fisher April 13, 2017 at 10:52 am #

    Professor Falk and et alii

    You may like to know that removal of chemical weapons was not done/was not remove in Juridic Person and was [a] partial and a mishap — that mistake alone allowed for further killings.

    Meaning, removal of chemical weapons was not done correctly — or was held back / smuggled around. It was not done properly and provided for future deaths. In addition to that, it has placed Syrian governing in grave risk.

    I am sure that diplomats and negotiators — they will figure out their shortfalls under international law, and how they may like to — or can keep correcting all that. Removal of Assad is one no option because they will create another Iraq that will pour itself out in wrath over Jordanians and Israelites! Will be damn if they do.

    Best wishes form coco-lushed mountains …

    A love note for Gene: Removal of God in think will be most appropriate!
    By the way — April 1. has passed by … and may just be the time.

    Best wishes form coco-lushed mountains …

  11. judith Deutsch April 13, 2017 at 2:20 pm #

    Regarding international law: have any wars been legal after establishment of UN? Wouldn’t the UN be guilty of the crime of aggression when it perpetrated the Korean War — with estimated fatalities of 3 million people? Aren’t all subsequent US wars illegal — in southeast Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, former Yugoslavia? And again there are the damning reports about UN peacekeepers in Haiti — not only causing cholera but sexual exploitation of children? Again– returning to the UN Declaration, aren’t all wars atrocious and avoidable? Why can’t this be stated and accepted outright?

    • Richard Falk April 13, 2017 at 5:56 pm #


      Yes, many of the wars since 1945 seem illegal, but international law is not so clear in some instances. For instance,
      when military assistance is given to the legitimate government engaged in a civil war or when intervention takes place
      in circumstances threatening genocide or when the UN Security Council gives its approval as in the 1992 Gulf War and to
      some extent in the NATO War in Libya in 2011. When the SC gives authorization it seems to give the use of force a lawful
      character, although the conduct of the war is still subject to the constraints of the Geneva Conventions and international
      humanitarian law. The US attack on Iraq in 2003 was a clear violation of international law, constituting aggression, the
      Korean War was far more ambiguous legally as authorization given (due to Soviet boycott of SC) and the generally accepted
      facts attribute an armed attack to North Korea (although it was provoked). Basically, you are right, and there is no doubt
      that international law governing recourse to war has been increasingly marginalized in the 21st century. Greetings, Richard

    • ray032 April 13, 2017 at 6:24 pm #

      Judith, I think it’s been covered in Richard’s blog several times.
      He who pays the piper calls the tune, and there seems to be a consensus here, the US who pays most for the UN, not only has a VETO, but uses the UN as an instrument to achieve US Foreign policy interests and goals.

      The UN Secretary-General, unless he was an exceptionally brave individual, wouldn’t dare call out the US Publicly for undermining the World Order for it’s violations of International Law or he might meet the same fate as Dag Hammarskjold.

      Here are a few of his quotes;

      -It is playing safe that we create a world of utmost insecurity.
      -Time goes by, reputation increases, ability declines.
      -Life only demands from you the strength that you possess. Only one
      feat is possible; not to run away.
      -Never, for the sake of peace and quiet, deny your own experience or
      -To forgive oneself? No, that doesn’t work: we have to be forgiven. But
      we can only believe this is possible if we ourselves can forgive.
      -The pursuit of peace and progress cannot end in a few years in either
      victory or defeat. The pursuit of peace and progress, with its trials and
      its errors, its successes and its setbacks, can never be relaxed and
      never abandoned.
      -Pray that your loneliness may spur you into finding something to live
      for, great enough to die for
      -The longest journey is the journey inwards. Of him who has chosen his
      destiny, Who has started upon his quest for the source of his being.

      This is for Gene,
      -God does not die on the day when we cease to believe in a personal
      deity, but we die on the day when our lives cease to be illumined by the
      steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is
      beyond all reason.:)

      • ray032 April 13, 2017 at 6:43 pm #

        One more Dag quote so relevant to this serious Syria situation;

        -The Assembly has witnessed over the last weeks how historical truth is established; once an allegation has been repeated a few times, it is no longer an allegation, it is an established fact, even if no evidence has been brought out in order to support it.

      • ray032 April 14, 2017 at 9:26 am #

        UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold was killed in a suspicious plane crash in 1961 but his quote cited above is so relevant to what is going on Today, and so dangerous with so much at stake for our Common Future and well being.

        Still, CNN & MSNBC, with all their “expert panels” of Generals accept and propagate as unquestioned fact, Assad used the chemical weapons.

        Here is one more respected skeptical Journalist, Robert Parry, questioning the Official account in this excerpt:

        ‘Trump Withholds Syria-Sarin Evidence’
        After making the provocative and dangerous charge that Russia is covering up Syria’s use of chemical weapons, the Trump administration withheld key evidence to support its core charge that a Syrian warplane dropped sarin on a northern Syrian town on April 4.

        A four-page white paper, prepared by President Trump’s National Security Council staff and released by the White House on Tuesday, claimed that U.S. intelligence has proof that the plane carrying the sarin gas left from the Syrian military airfield that Trump ordered hit by Tomahawk missiles on April 6.

        The paper asserted that “we have signals intelligence and geospatial intelligence,” but then added that “we cannot publicly release all available intelligence on this attack due to the need to protect sources and methods.”

        I’m told that the key evidence was satellite surveillance of the area, a body of material that U.S. intelligence analysts were reviewing late last week even after the Trump-ordered bombardment of 59 Tomahawk missiles that, according to Syrian media reports, killed seven or eight Syrian soldiers and nine civilians, including four children.

        Yet, it is unclear why releasing these overhead videos would be so detrimental to “sources and methods” since everyone knows the U.S. has this capability and the issue at hand – if it gets further out of hand – could lead to a nuclear confrontation with Russia…………..

  12. Daniel Margrain April 13, 2017 at 3:14 pm #

    Thank for taking the time to reply. I have followed your career for many years and admire you a great deal. Daniel.

  13. ray032 April 13, 2017 at 4:42 pm #

    The US Missile Attack on a Syrian Airbase: The Most Dangerous Escalation in Syria by Fazal Rahman, Ph.D.

    In some earlier articles (1, 2), I had described the dangers of escalations of wars and civil wars in Syria and Middle East by provocative military actions of Turkey, US, NATO, their so-called Coalition Forces, and foreign and domestic terrorists, financed, trained, and armed by them. In Syria, in opposition to them, and in support of the legitimate government of Syria, which they have been trying to overthrow since 2011, the superpower of Russia and the great regional power of Iran have also intervened very effectively, and have been crucial in turning the tide in favor of the Syrian government. All the major anti-state terrorist groups in Syria are in retreat and the Syrian government forces are getting closer to complete victory and establishment of control over all of its territory.

    It is within the above situation that chemicals released from some sources killed around 70 people and injured numerous others. The US and its allies immediately jumped on that opportunity and blamed the Syrian government forces of having attacked with chemical weapons, without any evidence or proof. Syrian government and military, as well as Russia, strongly denied that and have offered a logically and factually credible explanation that the release of those chemicals originated from the chemical weapons depot of the so-called rebels, when it was hit during a raid by the government forces. However, US and Coalition Forces completely ignored and dismissed that explanation and insisted that their own version was indubitable. At the same time, Trump and other high-level government officials started making totally shameless, demonic, and hypocritical “humanitarian” noises against such alleged barbaric chemical attack by the Syrian government forces, so soon after they themselves killed hundreds of civilians and wounded hundreds more, including dozens of children and women, in aerial bombardment of a mosque in Syria, residential areas of Mosul in Iraq, and a raid on an alleged Al-Qaeda compound in Yemen. In contrast to the lack of evidence and proof in case of the alleged chemical weapons attack by the Syrian forces, evidence and proofs of those slaughters are well-documented and are undeniable, even though the US has been stretching the limits of irrationality, lies, and denial of facts to the extreme in these cases. As usual, the thoroughly complacent news and other media in the US are reproducing such bizarre hypocrisies and lies, even in such a dangerously escalating situation, almost totally uncritically. Not a word from them on the earlier and continuing slaughters of 400,000 and forcing millions into exile in Syria-an indubitable consequence of the intervention of Coalition Forces in Syria, under the leadership of US, and funding, training, and arming of thousands of foreign and domestic anti-government fighters-, slaughters of around 3 millions, including tens of thousands of children, and woundings and devastation of lives of countless millions, during the invasions and wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, and diabolical destruction of infrastructures and means of living of the people in all those countries. And let us not forget the US role in Iran-Iraq war, during which it had supplied Saddam Hussain’s military with chemical weapons and trained and guided its personnel in their use, destroying the lives of tens of thousands, including thousands of children……………………………

  14. Brewer April 16, 2017 at 2:30 pm #

    Attack on Khan Sheikhoun timeline
    “April 4, at 8 a.m*., Abdullah al-Gani and Muaz al-Shami, freelance journalists who have links with radical groups located in Idlib, provided Orient News and Al-Jazeera with the video footage made by the White Helmets. The graphics show the consequences of the alleged chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun. According to Muazz al-Shami, sarin gas was used in the attack.”

    “Yesterday, (April 4) from 11:30 am to 12:30 p.m. local time, Syrian aviation made a strike on a large terrorist ammunition depot and a concentration of military hardware in the eastern outskirts of Khan Sheikhoun town,” Russian defense ministry spokesman Igor Konoshenkov said in a statement posted on YouTube.”

    “Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem explained that the first reports of the chemical attack appeared several hours before the government airstrike”

    * The video footage shows clearly that the sun is high in the sky – it could not have been filmed that day.

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