Wednesday, May 17, 2017

United States Releases Photos Suggesting Crematory in Camp Near Damascus

American officials announced that they discovered a crematory in the Sednaya prison complex north of Damascus, which they claim is evidence of the extent of the criminal nature of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Stuart E. Jones, the acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, said at a news conference Washington:

“We now believe that the Syrian regime has installed a crematorium in the Sednaya prison complex, which could dispose of detainees’ remains with little evidence. At this point, we are talking about this evidence and bringing it forward to the international community, which we hope will put pressure on the regime to change its behavior.”  

Assad's regime has denied these reports, although again, American officials are insisting that these findings are true, and that Assad is lying when he denies reports of his responsibility with human rights abuses within Syria.

Nikki R. Haley, the American ambassador to the United Nations, said:

“The attempt to cover up mass murders in the Assad crematorium is reminiscent of the 20th century’s worst offenses against humanity.” 

If this is true, this would go beyond probably any of the other incidents of genocide seen in history since World War II on many levels, because this would imply that the Syrian government made it a priority to build these chimneys to burn their victims, so that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to trace their end or keep track of who went missing and who was killed. It would be a modern day episode that would remind us of Elie Wiesel's words suggesting that the greatest evil in the world, the smoke coming from the chimneys at Auschwitz, is still possible in the 21st century. This would clearly suggest a regime that actually went about killing in the same bureaucratic manner that the Nazis did. Maybe the number of people killed is not the same, although they are estimating that up to 50 people per day were burned in these crematory. 

Again, if these claims are true, then this would provide a solid basis upon which to initiate war crimes trials against the Syrian regime. Yet, the Syrian regime will not just stand idly by and allow Assad to be taken to The Hague or elsewhere to stand trial. Clearly, this would require some kind of armed involvement by foreign powers, which most likely would be led by American forces. Of course, if this, and many other claims that clearly suggest a level of evil in Assad that we have not seen in many decades in a world leader, then it would indeed compel the world to take some sort of action against him, and what truly would then qualify as a criminal regime. 

However, it also feels unreal, and not in any small part because government officials have been caught lying about very hyped up information before. A few weeks ago, there were reports that Bashar al-Assad's government attacked a village with chemical weapons, although this makes no strategic sense at all. That is not to say that it is impossible, although these claims seemed suspect when you really scrutinize it further, given that there would be absolutely no advantage for Assad to launch such an attack when he clearly knows that the entire world community would condemn this, right at the very moment when he seems about to take control of his country again. 

And lest we forget, the Bush administration used the infamous Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD's) argument to justify their unjustifiable invasion of Iraq, which proved to get American forces bogged down in a quagmire. The Bush administration was very selective with the reports that they decided to listen to and take seriously, and they were dismissive and arrogant towards any reports and any sources that suggested otherwise. This false flag to justify a war where corporations came out the winner undermined future justifications for future wars, perhaps especially in the Middle East. That is why all of these claims against Syria are seen with increased scrutiny by more people, and why Trump's air attack on Syria a few weeks ago seemed to raise the ire of so many Americans, both to the left and to the right, politically. 

This is the flip side of making false claims, such as Saddam Hussein's mass arsenal of WMD's, to launch a war. It betrays the public trust in government officials, and casts a huge shadow of doubt whenever what feels like incredible claims are leveled once again against still another regime, especially one located in the Middle East (and Syria obviously borders Iraq!). 

I cannot say for sure that these claims are false, so I am not suggesting that. However, this feels like one more in a long series of claims that keep growing more serious and more severe against Assad's regime, which American officials and administrations quite clearly would like to see fall. It might even be true. But right now, when you hear these kinds of wild claims, where Assad and his regime have basically been compared to Hitler, you cannot help but think of the past. President George H. W. Bush once claimed that Saddam Hussein was like another Hitler, and his son, President George W. Bush, also laid wild claims that, ultimately, proved to be baseless against Hussein's Iraq regime, such as his supposed ability of a 45-minute response time to launch an attack, which is actually something that would suggest that he had the kind of power that military superpowers like the United States or the former Soviet Union might have, as opposed to some relatively weak and insignificant regime which had a no fly zone and other power reducing actions taken against them.  

So, these charges are horrifying, and would warrant a strong and serious response from the world community. However, we know that American officials have greatly made such claims before, and these proved to be exaggerations, if not outright fabrications. Sure, they apologized on some level afterward, but once the invasion started the war, there was no going back - especially for the estimated million Iraqi citizens who were killed, as well as the countless tens of thousands who were injured and maimed. Also, these American officials believe that there is a crematory there, but there is no irrefutable, definitive proof. Those pictures might show what they claim, but they also might not. We have to remember that more than a decade ago, no less of a respected official than Secretary of State Colin Powell went before the world community with other damning photos, which came back to haunt him once it was revealed, definitively, that these photos were not what he and other American officials claimed that they were.

That is why we need to approach this with extreme caution, because now, one of the serious obstacles to any reports like this would be the credibility of those who made the discovery and are making the claim. Somehow, that seems an especially pertinent reminder in this age of President Trump.

All quotes used in the above article (highlighted in yellow) were taken from the following newspaper article by the New York Times (see link):

Syrian Crematory Is Hiding Mass Killings of Prisoners, U.S. Says by Gardiner Harris, Anne Barnard, and Rick Gladstone, May 15, 2017:

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