- Spitfire List - https://spitfirelist.com -

FTR #955 Syrian Chemical Weapons Attack? Not So Fast, Part 2

Dave Emory’s entire life­time of work is avail­able on a flash dri­ve that can be obtained HERE [1]. The new dri­ve is a 32-giga­byte dri­ve that is cur­rent as of the pro­grams and arti­cles post­ed by ear­ly win­ter of 2017. The new dri­ve (avail­able for a tax-deductible con­tri­bu­tion of $65.00 or more.) 

WFMU-FM is pod­cast­ing For The Record–You can sub­scribe to the pod­cast HERE [2].

You can sub­scribe to e‑mail alerts from Spitfirelist.com HERE [3].

You can sub­scribe to RSS feed from Spitfirelist.com HERE [3].

You can sub­scribe to the com­ments made on pro­grams and posts–an excel­lent source of infor­ma­tion in, and of, itself HERE [4].

This broad­cast was record­ed in one, 60-minute seg­ment [5].

Intro­duc­tion: Sup­ple­ment­ing FTR #954 [6], this broad­cast con­tin­ues analy­sis of the alleged Assad gov­ern­ment chem­i­cal weapons attack.

Key points of dis­cus­sion include:

"Yo, al-Qaeda dudes! Where ARE the hazmat suits?" [7]

“Yo, Al-Qae­da dudes! Where ARE the haz­mat suits?”

  1. Fur­ther analy­sis by MIT expert Theodore Pos­tol [8], who sees the pho­to­graph­ic evi­dence alleged to sup­port the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s alle­ga­tions as ques­tion­able. ” . . . ‘This adden­dum pro­vides data that unam­bigu­ous­ly shows that the assump­tion in the WHR that there was no tam­per­ing with the alleged site of the sarin release is not cor­rect. This egre­gious error rais­es ques­tions about every oth­er claim in the WHR. … The impli­ca­tion of this obser­va­tion is clear – the WHR was not reviewed and released by any com­pe­tent intel­li­gence expert unless they were moti­vat­ed by fac­tors oth­er than con­cerns about the accu­ra­cy of the report. . . .”
  2. Par­tic­u­lar­ly sus­pi­cious [8] (laugh­able?) is a pic­ture show­ing per­son­nel exam­in­ing the pur­port­ed sarin attack site with woe­ful­ly inad­e­quate pro­tec­tive cloth­ing. ” . . . . ‘If there were any sarin present at this loca­tion when this pho­to­graph was tak­en every­body in the pho­to­graph would have received a lethal or debil­i­tat­ing dose of sarin. The fact that these peo­ple were dressed so inad­e­quate­ly either sug­gests a com­plete igno­rance of the basic mea­sures need­ed to pro­tect an indi­vid­ual from sarin poi­son­ing, or that they knew that the site was not seri­ous­ly con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed. This is the crater that is the cen­ter­piece evi­dence pro­vid­ed in the WHR for a sarin attack deliv­ered by a Syr­i­an air­craft.’ . . . . ”
  3. Ques­tion­able analy­sis in the alleged chlo­rine gas attacks [9] also attrib­uted to the al-Assad regime. ” . . . In one of the chlo­rine cas­es, how­ev­er, Syr­i­an eye­wit­ness­es came for­ward to tes­ti­fy that the rebels had staged the alleged attack [10] so it could be blamed on the gov­ern­ment. In that inci­dent, the U.N. team reached no con­clu­sion as to what had real­ly hap­pened, but nei­ther did the inves­ti­ga­tors – now alert­ed to the rebels’ tac­tic of stag­ing chem­i­cal attacks – apply any addi­tion­al skep­ti­cism to the oth­er cas­es. In one case, the rebels and their sup­port­ers also claimed to know that an alleged ‘bar­rel bomb’ con­tained a can­is­ter of chlo­rine because of the sound that it made while descend­ing. There was no expla­na­tion for how that sort of detec­tion was even pos­si­ble. . . .”
  4. A British doc­tor [11] who was a focal point of PR cov­er­age of the alleged sarin attack has a jihadist back­ground. ” . . . . A British doc­tor who doc­u­ment­ed a sus­pect­ed chem­i­cal weapons attack in Syr­ia was con­sid­ered a ‘com­mit­ted jihadist’ by MI6 and was struck off the Gen­er­al Med­ical Coun­cil in 2016. Sha­jul Islam, 31, post­ed sev­er­al videos on Twit­ter in the after­math of the Tues­day’s (4 April) attack where he appeared to be treat­ing patients in Khan Sheikhoun. He appeared on sev­er­al tele­vi­sion net­works such as NBC to dis­cuss what he saw, but it has now emerged Islam was pre­vi­ous­ly charged on ter­ror offences in the UK. . . .”
  5. The under­ly­ing strate­gic rea­son [12] for some of the Trump/Russian inter­face, one that dove­tails with the Syr­i­an provocation/escalation: ” . . . . The Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates arranged a secret meet­ing in Jan­u­ary between Black­wa­ter founder Erik Prince and a Russ­ian close to Pres­i­dent Vladi­mir Putin as part of an appar­ent effort to estab­lish a back-chan­nel line of com­mu­ni­ca­tion between Moscow and Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump, accord­ing to U.S., Euro­pean and Arab offi­cials. The meet­ing took place around Jan. 11 — nine days before Trump’s inau­gu­ra­tion — in the Sey­chelles islands in the Indi­an Ocean, offi­cials said. Though the full agen­da remains unclear, the UAE agreed to bro­ker the meet­ing in part to explore whether Rus­sia could be per­suad­ed to cur­tail its rela­tion­ship with Iran, includ­ing in Syr­ia, a Trump admin­is­tra­tion objec­tive . . . .”
  6. George W. Bush admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials are con­fi­dent anoth­er ter­ror­ist attack [13] is com­ing appear to be con­cerned that the Trump could use ter­ror to grab and abuse exec­u­tive pow­ers. We present some of their thoughts against the back­ground of our dis­cus­sion in FTR #953 [14] about Bernie Sanders’ paving the way for Mus­lim Broth­er­hood-linked ele­ments: ” . . . . We can assume there will be anoth­er ter­ror­ist attack in the U.S. If the exec­u­tive order is in place, he will point to the attack as sup­port for the exec­u­tive order and the need to expand it to oth­er coun­tries with bad dudes (Mus­lims). If the exec­u­tive order has been struck down, Trump will blame judges and Democ­rats for the attack. . . .‘We both whol­ly believe that Trump needs a bogey­man. But, more impor­tant­ly, he needs dis­trac­tion and a blame source. In ter­ror­ists, he has his bogey­man. In his con­trol of the pre­vail­ing press nar­ra­tive via tweet, he has dis­trac­tion. And, in the judi­cia­ry, he has a source of blame for why his way was right from the begin­ning.’ . . . . ‘I am ful­ly con­fi­dent that an attack is exact­ly what he wants and needs.’ . . . .”

Sarin [15]

Where­as the Syr­i­an alleged sarin inci­dent appears to have been effect­ed by some of the West­’s al-Qae­da sur­ro­gates in the con­flict, past provo­ca­tions have involved more direct involve­ment by ele­ments of the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty. In May of 1963, with then South Viet­namese pres­i­dent Diem push­ing for a reduc­tion in U.S. forces in Viet­nam (against Amer­i­can wish­es), a bomb­ing occurred at a Hue radio sta­tion that was the focal point of Bud­dhist protests of the gov­ern­men­t’s pol­i­cy toward Bud­dhists. The author­ship of that attack and a 1952 Saigon bomb­ing, was not the Viet­cong

Key points of analy­sis:

  1. The May, 1963 attack in Hue: “ . . . . As Dang Sy and his secu­ri­ty offi­cers were approach­ing the area in armored cars about fifty meters away, two pow­er­ful explo­sions blast­ed the peo­ple on the veran­da of the sta­tion, killing sev­en on the spot and fatal­ly wound­ing a child. At least fif­teen oth­ers were injured. . . .”
  2. jfkandtheunspeakable [16]Foren­sic analy­sis of the wounds of the vic­tims: “ . . . Dr. Le Khac Quyen, the hos­pi­tal direc­tor at Hue, said after exam­in­ing the vic­tims’ bod­ies that he had nev­er seen such injuries. The bod­ies had been decap­i­tat­ed. He found no met­al in the corpses, only holes. There were no wounds below the chest. In his offi­cial find­ing, Dr. Quyen ruled that ‘the death of the peo­ple was caused by an explo­sion which took place in mid-air, blow­ing off their heads and muti­lat­ing their bod­ies.’ . . . ”
  3. Dr. Quyen’s con­clu­sions about the source of the vic­tims’ wounds in the 1963 attack: “ . . . . The absence of any met­al in the bod­ies or on the radio sta­tion’s veran­da point­ed to pow­er­ful plas­tic bombs as the source of the explo­sions. . . .”
  4. Analy­sis of the 1952 bomb­ing in Saigon: “ . . . . Who did pos­sess such pow­er­ful plas­tic bombs? An answer is pro­vid­ed by Gra­ham Greene’s prophet­ic nov­el The Qui­et Amer­i­can [17], based on his­tor­i­cal events that occurred in Saigon eleven years before the bomb­ing in Hue. Greene was in Saigon on Jan­u­ary 9, 1952, when two bombs explod­ed in the city’s cen­ter, killing ten and injur­ing many more. A pic­ture of the scene, show­ing a man with his legs blown off, appeared in Life mag­a­zine as the ‘Pic­ture of the Week.’ The Life cap­tion said the Saigon bombs had been ‘plant­ed by Viet Minh Com­mu­nists’ and ‘sig­naled gen­er­al inten­si­fi­ca­tion of the Viet Minh vio­lence.’ In like man­ner, the New York Times head­lined: ‘Reds’ Time Bombs Rip Saigon Cen­ter.’ . . .”
  5. In the 1952 bomb­ing, the oper­a­tional coor­di­na­tion between U.S. media out­lets and the per­pe­tra­tors of the attack is note­wor­thy for our pur­pos­es: “ . . . . Gen­er­al The’s bomb­ing mate­r­i­al, a U.S. plas­tic, had been sup­plied to him by his spon­sor, the Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency. Greene observed in his mem­oir, Ways of Escape, it was no coin­ci­dence that ‘the Life pho­tog­ra­ph­er at the moment of the explo­sion was so well placed that he was able to take an aston­ish­ing and hor­ri­fy­ing pho­to­graph which showed the body of a trishaw dri­ver still upright after his legs had been blown off.’ The CIA had set the scene, alert­ing the Life pho­tog­ra­ph­er and Times reporter so they could con­vey the ter­ror­ist bomb­ing as the work of ‘Viet Minh Com­mu­nists’ to a mass audi­ence. . . .”
  6. South Viet­namese inves­ti­ga­tion of the May, 1963 attack, arrived at a con­clu­sion sim­i­lar to Gra­ham Greene’s dis­cov­ery in the 1952 attack: “ . . . . Accord­ing to an inves­ti­ga­tion car­ried by the Catholic news­pa­per Hoa Binh. . . . a Cap­tain Scott . . . . had come to Hue from Da Nang on May 7, 1963. He admit­ted he was the Amer­i­can agent respon­si­ble for the bomb­ing at the radio sta­tion the next day. He said he used ‘an explo­sive that was still secret and known only to cer­tain peo­ple in the Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency, a charge no larg­er than a match­box with a tim­ing device.’. . . .”

1. The pro­gram begins with fur­ther analy­sis by MIT expert Theodore Pos­tol, who sees the pho­to­graph­ic evi­dence alleged to sup­port the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s alle­ga­tions as ques­tion­able. ” . . . ‘This adden­dum pro­vides data that unam­bigu­ous­ly shows that the assump­tion in the WHR that there was no tam­per­ing with the alleged site of the sarin release is not cor­rect. This egre­gious error rais­es ques­tions about every oth­er claim in the WHR. … The impli­ca­tion of this obser­va­tion is clear – the WHR was not reviewed and released by any com­pe­tent intel­li­gence expert unless they were moti­vat­ed by fac­tors oth­er than con­cerns about the accu­ra­cy of the report. . . .”

Par­tic­u­lar­ly sus­pi­cious (laugh­able?) is a pic­ture show­ing per­son­nel exam­in­ing the pur­port­ed sarin attack site with woe­ful­ly inad­e­quate pro­tec­tive cloth­ing. ” . . . . ‘If there were any sarin present at this loca­tion when this pho­to­graph was tak­en every­body in the pho­to­graph would have received a lethal or debil­i­tat­ing dose of sarin. The fact that these peo­ple were dressed so inad­e­quate­ly either sug­gests a com­plete igno­rance of the basic mea­sures need­ed to pro­tect an indi­vid­ual from sarin poi­son­ing, or that they knew that the site was not seri­ous­ly con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed. This is the crater that is the cen­ter­piece evi­dence pro­vid­ed in the WHR for a sarin attack deliv­ered by a Syr­i­an air­craft.’ . . . . ”

“Did Al Qae­da Fool the White House Again” by Robert Par­ry; Con­sor­tium News; 4/14/2017. [8]

. . . . With the U.S. intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty effec­tive­ly silenced by the fact that the Pres­i­dent has already act­ed, Theodore Pos­tol, a tech­nol­o­gy and nation­al secu­ri­ty expert at Mass­a­chu­setts Insti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy, under­took his own review of the sup­posed evi­dence cit­ed by Trump’s White House to issue a four-page “intel­li­gence assess­ment” on April 11 assert­ing with “high con­fi­dence” that Assad’s mil­i­tary deliv­ered a bomb filled with sarin on the town of Khan Sheik­doun on the morn­ing of April 4.

Pos­tol, whose ana­lyt­i­cal work helped debunk Offi­cial Washington’s group­think regard­ing the 2013 sarin attack out­side Dam­as­cus, expressed new shock at the shod­di­ness of the lat­est White House report (or WHR). Pos­tol pro­duced “a quick turn­around assess­ment [18]” of the April 11 report that night and went into greater detail in an adden­dum [19] on April 13, writ­ing:

“This adden­dum pro­vides data that unam­bigu­ous­ly shows that the assump­tion in the WHR that there was no tam­per­ing with the alleged site of the sarin release is not cor­rect. This egre­gious error rais­es ques­tions about every oth­er claim in the WHR. … The impli­ca­tion of this obser­va­tion is clear – the WHR was not reviewed and released by any com­pe­tent intel­li­gence expert unless they were moti­vat­ed by fac­tors oth­er than con­cerns about the accu­ra­cy of the report.

“The WHR also makes claims about ‘com­mu­ni­ca­tions inter­cepts’ which sup­pos­ed­ly pro­vide high con­fi­dence that the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment was the source of the attack. There is no rea­son to believe that the verac­i­ty of this claim is any dif­fer­ent from the now ver­i­fied false claim that there was unam­bigu­ous evi­dence of a sarin release at the cit­ed crater. … The evi­dence that unam­bigu­ous­ly shows that the assump­tion that the sarin release crater was tam­pered with is con­tained in six pho­tographs at the end of this doc­u­ment.”

Pos­tol notes that one key pho­to “shows a man stand­ing in the alleged sarin-release crater. He is wear­ing a hon­ey­comb face­mask that is designed to fil­ter small par­ti­cles from the air. Oth­er appar­el on him is an open necked cloth shirt and what appear to be med­ical exam gloves. Two oth­er men are stand­ing in front of him (on the left in the pho­to­graph) also wear­ing hon­ey­comb facemask’s and med­ical exam gloves.

If there were any sarin present at this loca­tion when this pho­to­graph was tak­en every­body in the pho­to­graph would have received a lethal or debil­i­tat­ing dose of sarin. The fact that these peo­ple were dressed so inad­e­quate­ly either sug­gests a com­plete igno­rance of the basic mea­sures need­ed to pro­tect an indi­vid­ual from sarin poi­son­ing, or that they knew that the site was not seri­ous­ly con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed.

“This is the crater that is the cen­ter­piece evi­dence pro­vid­ed in the WHR for a sarin attack deliv­ered by a Syr­i­an air­craft.”

No ‘Com­pe­tent’ Ana­lyst

After review­ing oth­er dis­crep­an­cies in pho­tos of the crater, Pos­tol wrote: “It is hard for me to believe that any­body com­pe­tent could have been involved in pro­duc­ing the WHR report and the impli­ca­tions of such an obvi­ous­ly pre­de­ter­mined result strong­ly sug­gests that this report was not moti­vat­ed by a seri­ous analy­sis of any kind.

“This find­ing is dis­turb­ing. It indi­cates that the WHR was prob­a­bly a report pure­ly aimed at jus­ti­fy­ing actions that were not sup­port­ed by any legit­i­mate intel­li­gence. This is not a unique sit­u­a­tion. Pres­i­dent George W. Bush has argued that he was mis­in­formed about unam­bigu­ous evi­dence that Iraq was hid­ing a sub­stan­tial amount of weapons of mass destruc­tion. This false intel­li­gence led to a US attack on Iraq that start­ed a process that ulti­mate­ly led to a polit­i­cal dis­in­te­gra­tion in the Mid­dle East, which through a series of unpre­dict­ed events then led to the rise of the Islam­ic State.”

Pos­tol con­tin­ued: “On August 30, 2013, the White House [under Pres­i­dent Oba­ma] pro­duced a sim­i­lar­ly false report about the nerve agent attack on August 21, 2013 in Dam­as­cus. This report also con­tained numer­ous intel­li­gence claims that could not be true. An inter­view with Pres­i­dent Oba­ma pub­lished in The Atlantic in April 2016 indi­cates that Oba­ma was ini­tial­ly told that there was sol­id intel­li­gence that the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment was respon­si­ble for the nerve agent attack of August 21, 2013 in Ghou­ta, Syr­ia. Oba­ma report­ed that he was lat­er told that the intel­li­gence was not sol­id by the then Direc­tor of Nation­al Intel­li­gence, James Clap­per.

“Equal­ly seri­ous ques­tions are raised about the abuse of intel­li­gence find­ings by the inci­dent in 2013. Ques­tions that have not been answered about that inci­dent is how the White House pro­duced a false intel­li­gence report with false claims that could obvi­ous­ly be iden­ti­fied by experts out­side the White House and with­out access to clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion. There also needs to be an expla­na­tion of why this 2013 false report was not cor­rect­ed. …

“It is now obvi­ous that a sec­ond inci­dent sim­i­lar to what hap­pened in the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion has now occurred in the Trump admin­is­tra­tion. In this case, the pres­i­dent, sup­port­ed by his staff, made a deci­sion to launch 59 cruise mis­siles at a Syr­i­an air base. This action was accom­pa­nied by seri­ous risks of cre­at­ing a con­fronta­tion with Rus­sia, and also under­min­ing coop­er­a­tive efforts to win the war against the Islam­ic State. …

“I there­fore con­clude that there needs to be a com­pre­hen­sive inves­ti­ga­tion of these events that have either mis­led peo­ple in the White House, or worse yet, been per­pe­trat­ed by peo­ple seek­ing to force deci­sions that were not jus­ti­fied by the cit­ed intel­li­gence. This is a seri­ous mat­ter and should not be allowed to con­tin­ue.”

2. Robert Par­ry has not­ed ques­tion­able analy­sis in the alleged chlo­rine gas attacks also attrib­uted to the al-Assad regime. ” . . . In one of the chlo­rine cas­es, how­ev­er, Syr­i­an eye­wit­ness­es came for­ward to tes­ti­fy that the rebels had staged the alleged attack [10] so it could be blamed on the gov­ern­ment. In that inci­dent, the U.N. team reached no con­clu­sion as to what had real­ly hap­pened, but nei­ther did the inves­ti­ga­tors – now alert­ed to the rebels’ tac­tic of stag­ing chem­i­cal attacks – apply any addi­tion­al skep­ti­cism to the oth­er cas­es. In one case, the rebels and their sup­port­ers also claimed to know that an alleged “bar­rel bomb” con­tained a can­is­ter of chlo­rine because of the sound that it made while descend­ing. There was no expla­na­tion for how that sort of detec­tion was even pos­si­ble. . . .”

“NYT Retreats on 2013 Syr­ia-Sarin Gas Claims” by Robert Par­ry; Con­sor­tium­news; 4/6/2017. [9]

. . . . The Chlo­rine Cas­es

The chlo­rine-gas cas­es have result­ed in only a few fatal­i­ties, which also under­cuts the claims that the Assad gov­ern­ment was respon­si­ble for them. Why would Assad risk more out­side mil­i­tary inter­ven­tion against his gov­ern­ment by using a chem­i­cal weapon that has almost no mil­i­tary val­ue, at least as alleged­ly deployed in Syr­ia?

U.N. inves­ti­ga­tors – under intense pres­sure from the West to find some­thing that could be pinned on Assad – agreed to blame him for a cou­ple of the chlo­rine alle­ga­tions com­ing from rebel forces and their civil­ian allies. But the U.N. team did not inspect the sites direct­ly, rely­ing instead of the tes­ti­mo­ny of Assad’s ene­mies.

In one of the chlo­rine cas­es, how­ev­er, Syr­i­an eye­wit­ness­es came for­ward to tes­ti­fy that the rebels had staged the alleged attack [10] so it could be blamed on the gov­ern­ment. In that inci­dent, the U.N. team reached no con­clu­sion as to what had real­ly hap­pened, but nei­ther did the inves­ti­ga­tors – now alert­ed to the rebels’ tac­tic of stag­ing chem­i­cal attacks – apply any addi­tion­al skep­ti­cism to the oth­er cas­es.

In one case, the rebels and their sup­port­ers also claimed to know that an alleged “bar­rel bomb” con­tained a can­is­ter of chlo­rine because of the sound that it made while descend­ing. There was no expla­na­tion for how that sort of detec­tion was even pos­si­ble.

Yet, despite the flaws in the rebels’ chlo­rine claims – and the col­lapse of the 2013 sarin case – the Times and oth­er main­stream U.S. news out­lets report the chlo­rine alle­ga­tions as flat-fact, with­out ref­er­ence to sourc­ing from the U.N. inves­ti­ga­tors whose careers large­ly depend­ed on them com­ing up with con­clu­sions that pleased the major­i­ty of the five-mem­ber Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil – the U.S., Great Britain and France.

If this fuller his­to­ry were under­stood, much greater skep­ti­cism would be war­rant­ed by the new alle­ga­tions about Assad order­ing a new sarin attack. While it’s con­ceiv­able that Assad’s mil­i­tary is guilty – although why Assad would take this risk at this moment is hard to fath­om – it’s also con­ceiv­able that Al Qaeda’s jihadists – find­ing them­selves fac­ing impend­ing defeat – chose to stage a sarin attack even if that meant killing some inno­cent civil­ians.

Al Qaeda’s goal would be to draw in the U.S. or Israeli mil­i­tary against the Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment, cre­at­ing space for a jihadist coun­terof­fen­sive. And, as we should all recall, it’s not as if Al Qae­da hasn’t killed many inno­cent civil­ians before.

3. A British doc­tor who was a focal point of PR cov­er­age of the alleged sarin attack has a jihadist back­ground. ” . . . . A British doc­tor who doc­u­ment­ed a sus­pect­ed chem­i­cal weapons attack in Syr­ia was con­sid­ered a “com­mit­ted jihadist” by MI6 and was struck off the Gen­er­al Med­ical Coun­cil in 2016. Sha­jul Islam, 31, post­ed sev­er­al videos on Twit­ter in the after­math of the Tues­day’s (4 April) attack where he appeared to be treat­ing patients in Khan Sheikhoun. He appeared on sev­er­al tele­vi­sion net­works such as NBC to dis­cuss what he saw, but it has now emerged Islam was pre­vi­ous­ly charged on ter­ror offences in the UK. . . .”

“British Doc­tor Who Doc­u­ment­ed Syr­ia ‘Chem­i­cal Attack’ Pre­vi­ous­ly Held on Ter­ror Offences” by Tareq Had­dad; Inter­na­tion­al Busi­ness Times; 4/7/2017. [11]

A British doc­tor who doc­u­ment­ed a sus­pect­ed chem­i­cal weapons attack in Syr­ia was con­sid­ered a “com­mit­ted jihadist” by MI6 and was struck off the Gen­er­al Med­ical Coun­cil in 2016.

Sha­jul Islam, 31, post­ed sev­er­al videos on Twit­ter in the after­math of the Tues­day’s (4 April) attack where he appeared to be treat­ing patients in Khan Sheikhoun.

He appeared on sev­er­al tele­vi­sion net­works such as NBC to dis­cuss what he saw, but it has now emerged Islam was pre­vi­ous­ly charged on ter­ror offences in the UK.

Islam, from Strat­ford in east Lon­don, first trav­elled to Syr­ia in 2012 and worked in oppo­si­tion-held areas of the coun­try such as Al Bab, close to the Turk­ish bor­der.

But short­ly after arriv­ing, he was want­ed by MI6 – Britain’s for­eign intel­li­gence agency – for his alleged role in the kid­nap­ping of British pho­to­jour­nal­ist John Cantlie and his Dutch col­league Jeroen Oer­le­mans.

Cantlie and Oer­le­mans were held cap­tive for nine days after they strayed into a jihadist camp in north­ern Syr­ia where Islam was work­ing.

Islam main­tains he was sim­ply a medic who was not affil­i­at­ed to any ter­ror groups, but when he returned to the UK in 2013, he was arrest­ed at Heathrow Air­port and held in Sus­sex Police’s spe­cial­ist counter-ter­ror­ism units.

Islam was charged along­side his younger broth­er Najul Islam, who had worked in the Depart­ment for Work and Pen­sions before trav­el­ling to Syr­ia, and Jubay­er Chowd­hury.

All three were held in the high secu­ri­ty Bel­marsh Prison until they were charged with ter­ror­ism offences to appear in Kingston Crown Court.

4. A back chan­nel appears to have been set up for the pur­pose of qui­et­ly explor­ing what the US would have to offer Rus­sia in order to get Moscow to drop its sup­port for Tehran. This points towards a sit­u­a­tion dif­fer­ent dif­fer­ent from the “Trump as Krem­lin dupe”–one that has Trump as a pawn of the neo­cons and Gulf monar­chies who real­ly want to see a war with Iran [12]:

“Black­wa­ter Founder Held Secret Sey­chelles Meet­ing to Estab­lish Trump-Putin Back Chan­nel” by Adam Entous, Greg Miller, Kevin Sieff and Karen DeY­oungThe Wash­ing­ton Post; 4/3/2017. [12]

The Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates arranged a secret meet­ing in Jan­u­ary between Black­wa­ter founder Erik Prince and a Russ­ian close to Pres­i­dent Vladi­mir Putin as part of an appar­ent effort to estab­lish a back-chan­nel line of com­mu­ni­ca­tion between Moscow and Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump, accord­ing to U.S., Euro­pean and Arab offi­cials.

The meet­ing took place around Jan. 11 — nine days before Trump’s inau­gu­ra­tion — in the Sey­chelles islands in the Indi­an Ocean, offi­cials said. Though the full agen­da remains unclear, the UAE agreed to bro­ker the meet­ing in part to explore whether Rus­sia could be per­suad­ed to cur­tail its rela­tion­ship with Iran, includ­ing in Syr­ia, a Trump admin­is­tra­tion objec­tive that would be like­ly to require major con­ces­sions to Moscow on U.S. sanc­tions.

Though Prince had no for­mal role with the Trump cam­paign or tran­si­tion team, he pre­sent­ed him­self as an unof­fi­cial envoy for Trump to high-rank­ing Emi­ratis involved in set­ting up his meet­ing with the Putin con­fi­dant, accord­ing to the offi­cials, who did not iden­ti­fy the Russ­ian.

Prince was an avid sup­port­er of Trump. After the Repub­li­can con­ven­tion, he con­tributed $250,000 to Trump’s cam­paign, the nation­al par­ty and a pro-Trump super PAC led by GOP mega-donor Rebekah Mer­cer, records show. He has ties to peo­ple in Trump’s cir­cle, includ­ing Stephen K. Ban­non, now serv­ing as the president’s chief strate­gist and senior coun­selor. Prince’s sis­ter Bet­sy DeVos serves as edu­ca­tion sec­re­tary in the Trump admin­is­tra­tion. And Prince was seen in the Trump tran­si­tion offices in New York in Decem­ber.

U.S. offi­cials said the FBI has been scru­ti­niz­ing the Sey­chelles meet­ing as part of a broad­er probe of Russ­ian inter­fer­ence in the 2016 U.S. elec­tion and alleged con­tacts between asso­ciates of Putin and Trump. The FBI declined to com­ment.

The Sey­chelles encounter, which one offi­cial said spanned two days, adds to an expand­ing web of con­nec­tions between Rus­sia and Amer­i­cans with ties to Trump — con­tacts that the White House has been reluc­tant to acknowl­edge or explain until they have been exposed by news orga­ni­za­tions.

“We are not aware of any meet­ings, and Erik Prince had no role in the tran­si­tion,” said Sean Spicer, the White House press sec­re­tary.

A Prince spokesman said in a state­ment: “Erik had no role on the tran­si­tion team. This is a com­plete fab­ri­ca­tion. The meet­ing had noth­ing to do with Pres­i­dent Trump. Why is the so-called under-resourced intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty mess­ing around with sur­veil­lance of Amer­i­can cit­i­zens when they should be hunt­ing ter­ror­ists?”

Prince is best known as the founder of Black­wa­ter, a secu­ri­ty firm that became a sym­bol of U.S. abus­es in Iraq after a series of inci­dents, includ­ing one in 2007 in which the company’s guards were accused — and lat­er crim­i­nal­ly con­vict­ed — of killing civil­ians in a crowd­ed Iraqi square. Prince sold the firm, which was sub­se­quent­ly re-brand­ed, but has con­tin­ued build­ing a pri­vate para­mil­i­tary empire with con­tracts across the Mid­dle East and Asia. He now heads a Hong Kong-based com­pa­ny known as the Fron­tier Ser­vices Group.

Prince would prob­a­bly have been seen as too con­tro­ver­sial to serve in any offi­cial capac­i­ty in the Trump tran­si­tion or admin­is­tra­tion. But his ties to Trump advis­ers, expe­ri­ence with clan­des­tine work and rela­tion­ship with the roy­al lead­ers of the Emi­rates — where he moved in 2010 amid mount­ing legal prob­lems for his Amer­i­can busi­ness — would have posi­tioned him as an ide­al go-between.

The Sey­chelles meet­ing came after sep­a­rate pri­vate dis­cus­sions in New York involv­ing high-rank­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Trump with both Moscow and the Emi­rates.

The White House has acknowl­edged that Michael T. Fly­nn, Trump’s orig­i­nal nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, and Trump advis­er and son-in-law Jared Kush­n­er met with the Russ­ian ambas­sador to the Unit­ed States, Sergey Kislyak, in late Novem­ber or ear­ly Decem­ber in New York.

Fly­nn and Kush­n­er were joined by Ban­non for a sep­a­rate meet­ing with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who made an undis­closed vis­it to New York lat­er in Decem­ber, accord­ing to the U.S., Euro­pean and Arab offi­cials, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to dis­cuss sen­si­tive mat­ters.

In an unusu­al breach of pro­to­col, the UAE did not noti­fy the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion in advance of the vis­it, though offi­cials found out because Zayed’s name appeared on a flight man­i­fest.

Offi­cials said Zayed and his broth­er, the UAE’s nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, coor­di­nat­ed the Sey­chelles meet­ing with Russ­ian gov­ern­ment offi­cials with the goal of estab­lish­ing an unof­fi­cial back chan­nel between Trump and Putin.

Offi­cials said Zayed want­ed to be help­ful to both lead­ers, who had talked about work­ing more close­ly togeth­er, a pol­i­cy objec­tive long advo­cat­ed by the crown prince. The UAE, which sees Iran as one of its main ene­mies, also shared the Trump team’s inter­est in find­ing ways to dri­ve a wedge between Moscow and Tehran.

Zayed met twice with Putin in 2016, accord­ing to West­ern offi­cials, and urged the Russ­ian leader to work more close­ly with the Emi­rates and Sau­di Ara­bia — an effort to iso­late Iran.

At the time of the Sey­chelles meet­ing and for weeks after­ward, the UAE believed that Prince had the bless­ing of the new admin­is­tra­tion to act as its unof­fi­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive. The Russ­ian par­tic­i­pant was a per­son whom Zayed knew was close to Putin from his inter­ac­tions with both men, the offi­cials said.

Scruti­ny over Rus­sia

When the Sey­chelles meet­ing took place, offi­cial con­tacts between mem­bers of the incom­ing Trump admin­is­tra­tion and the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment were under intense scruti­ny, both from fed­er­al inves­ti­ga­tors and the press.

Less than a week before the Sey­chelles meet­ing, U.S. intel­li­gence agen­cies released a report accus­ing Rus­sia of inter­ven­ing clan­des­tine­ly dur­ing the 2016 elec­tion to help Trump win the White House.

The FBI was already inves­ti­gat­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions between Fly­nn and Kislyak. The Wash­ing­ton Post’s David Ignatius [20] first dis­closed those com­mu­ni­ca­tions on Jan. 12, around the time of the Sey­chelles meet­ing. Fly­nn was sub­se­quent­ly fired by Trump for mis­lead­ing Vice Pres­i­dent Pence and oth­ers about his dis­cus­sions with Kislyak.

Yousef Al Otai­ba, the UAE’s ambas­sador in Wash­ing­ton, declined to com­ment.

The lev­el of dis­cre­tion sur­round­ing the Sey­chelles meet­ing seems extra­or­di­nary giv­en the fre­quen­cy with which senior Trump advis­ers, includ­ing Fly­nn and Kush­n­er, had inter­act­ed with Russ­ian offi­cials in the Unit­ed States, includ­ing at the high-pro­file Trump Tow­er in New York.

Steven Simon, a Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil senior direc­tor for the Mid­dle East and North Africa in the Oba­ma White House, said: “The idea of using busi­ness cutouts, or indi­vid­u­als per­ceived to be close to polit­i­cal lead­ers, as a tool of diplo­ma­cy is as old as the hills. These unof­fi­cial chan­nels are desir­able pre­cise­ly because they are deni­able; ideas can be test­ed with­out the risk of fail­ure.”

Cur­rent and for­mer U.S. offi­cials said that while Prince refrained from play­ing a direct role in the Trump tran­si­tion, his name sur­faced so fre­quent­ly in inter­nal dis­cus­sions that he seemed to func­tion as an out­side advis­er whose opin­ions were val­ued on a range of issues, includ­ing plans for over­haul­ing the U.S. intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty.

He appears to have par­tic­u­lar­ly close ties to Ban­non, appear­ing mul­ti­ple times on the Bre­it­bart satel­lite radio pro­gram and web­site that Ban­non ran before join­ing the Trump cam­paign.

In a July inter­view with Ban­non, Prince said those seek­ing force­ful U.S. lead­er­ship should “wait till Jan­u­ary and hope Mr. Trump is elect­ed.” And he lashed out at Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma, say­ing that because of his poli­cies “the ter­ror­ists, the fas­cists, are win­ning.”

Days before the Novem­ber elec­tion, Prince appeared on the Bre­it­bart radio pro­gram, say­ing that he had “well-placed sources” in the New York City Police Depart­ment telling him they were prepar­ing to make arrests in the inves­ti­ga­tion of for­mer con­gress­man Antho­ny Wein­er (D‑N.Y.) over alle­ga­tions he exchanged sex­u­al­ly explic­it texts with a minor. Fly­nn tweet­ed a link to the Bre­it­bart report on the claim. No arrests occurred.

Prince went on to make unfound­ed asser­tions that dam­ag­ing mate­r­i­al recov­ered from Weiner’s com­put­ers would impli­cate Hillary Clin­ton and her close advis­er, Huma Abe­din, who was mar­ried to Wein­er. He also called Abe­din an “agent of influ­ence very sym­pa­thet­ic to the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood.”

Prince and his fam­i­ly were major GOP donors in 2016. The Cen­ter for Respon­sive Pol­i­tics report­ed that the fam­i­ly gave more than $10 mil­lion to GOP can­di­dates and super PACs, includ­ing about $2.7 mil­lion from his sis­ter, DeVos, and her hus­band.

Prince’s father, Edgar Prince, built his for­tune through an auto-parts com­pa­ny. Bet­sy mar­ried Richard DeVos Jr., heir to the Amway for­tune.

Erik Prince has had lucra­tive con­tracts with the UAE gov­ern­ment, which at one point paid his firm a report­ed $529 mil­lion to help bring in for­eign fight­ers to help assem­ble an inter­nal para­mil­i­tary force capa­ble of car­ry­ing out secret oper­a­tions and pro­tect­ing Emi­rati instal­la­tions from ter­ror­ist attacks.

Focus on Iran

The Trump admin­is­tra­tion and the UAE appear to share a sim­i­lar pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with Iran. Cur­rent and for­mer offi­cials said that Trump advis­ers were focused through­out the tran­si­tion peri­od on explor­ing ways to get Moscow to break ranks with Tehran.

“Sep­a­rat­ing Rus­sia from Iran was a com­mon theme,” said a for­mer intel­li­gence offi­cial in the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion who met with Trump tran­si­tion offi­cials. “It didn’t seem very well thought out. It seemed a lit­tle pre­ma­ture. They clear­ly had a very spe­cif­ic pol­i­cy posi­tion, which I found odd giv­en that they hadn’t even tak­en the reins and explored with experts in the U.S. gov­ern­ment the pros and cons of that approach.”

Michael McFaul, for­mer U.S. ambas­sador to Rus­sia, said he also had dis­cus­sions with peo­ple close to the Trump admin­is­tra­tion about the prospects of draw­ing Rus­sia away from Iran. “When I would hear this, I would think, ‘Yeah that’s great for you guys, but why would Putin ever do that?’?” McFaul said. “There is no inter­est in Rus­sia ever doing that. They have a long rela­tion­ship with Iran. They’re allied with Iran in fight­ing in Syr­ia. They sell weapons to Iran. Iran is an impor­tant strate­gic part­ner for Rus­sia in the Mid­dle East.”

Fol­low­ing the New York meet­ing between the Emi­ratis and Trump aides, Zayed was approached by Prince, who said he was autho­rized to act as an unof­fi­cial sur­ro­gate for the pres­i­dent-elect, accord­ing to the offi­cials. He want­ed Zayed to set up a meet­ing with a Putin asso­ciate. Zayed agreed and pro­posed the Sey­chelles as the meet­ing place because of the pri­va­cy it would afford both sides. “He want­ed to be help­ful,” one offi­cial said of Zayed.

Cur­rent and for­mer U.S. offi­cials who have worked close­ly with Zayed, who is often referred to as MBZ, say it would be out of char­ac­ter for him to arrange the Jan. 11 meet­ing with­out get­ting a green light in advance from top aides to Trump and Putin, if not the lead­ers them­selves. “MBZ is very cau­tious,” said an Amer­i­can busi­ness­man who knows Zayed and spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty because of the sen­si­tiv­i­ty of the sub­ject. “There had to be a nod.”

The Sey­chelles meet­ing was deemed pro­duc­tive by the UAE and Rus­sia, but the idea of arrang­ing addi­tion­al meet­ings between Prince and Putin’s asso­ciates was dropped, offi­cials said. Even unof­fi­cial con­tacts between Trump and Putin asso­ciates had become too polit­i­cal­ly risky, offi­cials said. . . .

 5. George W. Bush admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials are con­fi­dent anoth­er ter­ror­ist attack is com­ing appear to be con­cerned that the Trump could use ter­ror to grab and abuse exec­u­tive pow­ers. ‘We can assume there will be anoth­er ter­ror­ist attack in the U.S. If the exec­u­tive order is in place, he will point to the attack as sup­port for the exec­u­tive order and the need to expand it to oth­er coun­tries with bad dudes (Mus­lims). If the exec­u­tive order has been struck down, Trump will blame judges and Democ­rats for the attack. . . .‘We both whol­ly believe that Trump needs a bogey­man. But, more impor­tant­ly, he needs dis­trac­tion and a blame source. In ter­ror­ists, he has his bogey­man. In his con­trol of the pre­vail­ing press nar­ra­tive via tweet, he has dis­trac­tion. And, in the judi­cia­ry, he has a source of blame for why his way was right from the begin­ning.’ . . . . ‘I am ful­ly con­fi­dent that an attack is exact­ly what he wants and needs.’ . . . .”

“How Pres­i­dent Trump Could Seize More Pow­er After a Ter­ror­ist Attack” by Ryan Liz­za; The New York­er; 2/7/2017. [13]

. . . . I talked to sev­er­al coun­tert­er­ror­ism experts this week, and they all believe that there will be anoth­er attack.

“I do believe the world faces a seri­ous and grow­ing ter­ror­ist threat,” Evan McMullin, the for­mer C.I.A. offi­cer and Repub­li­can who ran for Pres­i­dent as an inde­pen­dent can­di­date against Trump [21], said. “But Trump, either by igno­rance or mal­ice, is dis­tort­ing the nature of that threat by tar­get­ing very well-vet­ted immi­grants, includ­ing legal per­ma­nent res­i­dents and refugees. He sim­ply does not have a strong nation­al-secu­ri­ty case to make against these peo­ple, which is why it is rea­son­able to won­der if he has some ulte­ri­or motive for tak­ing such extreme steps against them.”

Yes­ter­day, Trump’s cam­paign to high­light this threat took a bizarre turn when he accused the media of bury­ing cov­er­age of ter­ror attacks. “It’s got­ten to a point where it’s not even being report­ed,” he said in remarks to troops at MacDill Air Force Base, in Tam­pa. “In many cas­es, the very, very dis­hon­est press doesn’t want to report it. They have their rea­sons.” The White House lat­er released a list of attacks since 2014 that it insist­ed had not received enough atten­tion.

This is the sec­ond time in a week that Trump has accused oth­ers of not under­stand­ing the threat posed by ter­ror­ism. Over the week­end, he used Twit­ter to attack the fed­er­al judge who put a halt to Trump’s immi­gra­tion ban. He called James L. Robart, who was appoint­ed by Pres­i­dent George W. Bush and unan­i­mous­ly con­firmed by the Sen­ate, a “so-called judge,” and lat­er added, “Just can­not believe a judge would put our coun­try in such per­il. If some­thing hap­pens blame him and court sys­tem. Peo­ple pour­ing in. Bad!”

One of the ques­tions raised by Trump’s claims that the media and the courts have endan­gered the coun­try is what he would do in the event of a ter­ror­ist attack.

Jack Gold­smith, a for­mer senior Jus­tice Depart­ment offi­cial in the George W. Bush Admin­is­tra­tion, who helped design the post‑9/11 anti-ter­ror legal archi­tec­ture, recent­ly sug­gest­ed [22] that Trump might actu­al­ly want his trav­el ban to be over­turned. That way, in the wake of an attack, he can use the judi­cia­ry as a bogey­man and jus­ti­fy any new efforts to push through more extreme mea­sures.

I asked Gold­smith and oth­ers what the menu of options might be for a Pres­i­dent Trump empow­ered by the jus­ti­fi­able fears Amer­i­cans would have in the after­math of a seri­ous attack. “If it is a large and grim attack, he might ask for more sur­veil­lance pow­ers inside the U.S. (includ­ing few­er restric­tions on data min­gling and stor­age and queries), more immi­gra­tion con­trol pow­er at the bor­der, an excep­tion to Posse Comi­ta­tus (which pro­hibits the mil­i­tary from law enforce­ment in the home­land), and per­haps more immi­gra­tion-relat­ed deten­tion pow­ers,” Gold­smith wrote in an e‑mail. “In the extreme sce­nario Trump could ask Con­gress to sus­pend the writ of habeas cor­pus, which would cut off the kind of access to courts you are see­ing right now for every­one (or for every class of per­sons for which the writ is sus­pend­ed).”

He point­ed out that Pres­i­dent Abra­ham Lin­coln sus­pend­ed the writ of habeas cor­pus and ignored courts that insist­ed he didn’t have such pow­er. “The point of the exam­ple is that the only ques­tion is not what pow­ers Trump might ‘ask for,’ ” Gold­smith said, “but also what pow­ers he might assert or assume or grab, and what he can get away with.”

John Yoo, who as a lawyer for the George W. Bush Admin­is­tra­tion was the fiercest defend­er of its most extreme post‑9/11 poli­cies, includ­ing the use of tor­ture, recent­ly wrote an Op-Ed in which he said he was alarmed by Trump’s attempt to expand the pow­ers of the exec­u­tive branch [23]. (This was as if Trump had writ­ten an essay argu­ing that he was con­cerned about devel­op­ers adding their names to build­ings in let­ter­ing that was too large.) Yoo told me, “If there is anoth­er ter­ror­ist attack, I could see Trump seek­ing all of the pow­ers that the Pres­i­dent can exer­cise dur­ing wartime. The domes­tic pow­ers would have to be approved by Con­gress, such as lim­i­ta­tions on habeas, domes­tic war­rant­less sur­veil­lance, and an inter­nal secu­ri­ty act. We real­ly haven’t had a sys­tem like that since the Sec­ond World War or the Com­mu­nist cas­es of the nine­teen-fifties.”

Matt Olsen, the for­mer head of the Nation­al Coun­tert­er­ror­ism Cen­ter, told me that he didn’t agree with Goldsmith’s sug­ges­tion that Trump actu­al­ly wants the exec­u­tive order over­turned, but he said that he thought Trump was lay­ing the ground­work for argu­ments he might make after an attack. “This is a win-win for Trump,” Olsen said. “We can assume there will be anoth­er ter­ror­ist attack in the U.S. If the exec­u­tive order is in place, he will point to the attack as sup­port for the exec­u­tive order and the need to expand it to oth­er coun­tries with bad dudes (Mus­lims). If the exec­u­tive order has been struck down, Trump will blame judges and Democ­rats for the attack.”

Olsen was also con­cerned that Trump might undo many of the changes that Barack Oba­ma put in place to rein in the excess­es of the Bush era. “As for oth­er options in a post-attack sce­nario, just look back to 9/11,” he said. “C.I.A. black sites, enhanced inter­ro­ga­tions, Git­mo, and war­rant­less sur­veil­lance will all be on the table. In addi­tion, regard­less of nation­al­i­ty, there will be changes to immi­gra­tion and refugee poli­cies.” He added that he could also imag­ine an effort to loosen restric­tions on sur­veil­lance inside the Unit­ed States.

Todd Bre­asseale, the for­mer assis­tant sec­re­tary for pub­lic affairs at the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty, was also alarmed. “I had a very sim­i­lar dis­cus­sion with a for­mer senior intel offi­cial on this very issue, before Jack’s col­umn,” he told me. “We both whol­ly believe that Trump needs a bogey­man. But, more impor­tant­ly, he needs dis­trac­tion and a blame source. In ter­ror­ists, he has his bogey­man. In his con­trol of the pre­vail­ing press nar­ra­tive via tweet, he has dis­trac­tion. And, in the judi­cia­ry, he has a source of blame for why his way was right from the begin­ning.” Bre­asseale added, “I am ful­ly con­fi­dent that an attack is exact­ly what he wants and needs.”

Trump’s efforts to hype the threat from ter­ror­ism dur­ing a peri­od of domes­tic calm should be regard­ed with extreme skep­ti­cism. As McMullin not­ed, “Trump’s strange focus on the ter­ror­ist threat” was “out of step with real­i­ty at the moment” and was “a tell­tale sign of a leader con­tem­plat­ing poli­cies that would oth­er­wise be unac­cept­able.”

6. For his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive, we detail two provo­ca­tions in Viet­nam rough­ly a decade apart. Where­as the actions in Syr­ia were appar­ent­ly per­formed by the Islamist/al-Aqae­da proxy war­riors employed by CIA and the oth­er com­bat­ant ele­ments in the Syr­i­an con­flict, ele­ments of CIA engi­neered two bloody bomb­ings using plas­tic explo­sives.

In 1954, a bomb­ing in Saigon was arranged and blamed on the Viet Minh as grounds for increas­ing U.S. aid to the ulti­mate­ly unsuc­cess­ful French counter-insur­gency war in what was then French Indochi­na.

Ten years lat­er, a sim­i­lar bomb­ing was arranged in Hue and blamed on the Diem gov­ern­ment, at that time at log­ger­heads with the U.S. over his desire to reduce the U.S. mil­i­tary pro­file in Viet­nam. At the same time, Diem was at odds with the Bud­dhist major­i­ty in his coun­try over their desire for greater reli­gious and civic free­dom.

Of par­tic­u­lar inter­est is the strate­gic plac­ing of the media in the 1954 inci­dent, prim­ing them to process the event in the man­ner des­ig­nat­ed for suc­cess­ful pro­pa­gan­da effect.

JFK and the Unspeak­able: Why He Died and Why It Mat­ters  [24]by James W. Dou­glass; Touch­stone Books [SC]; Copy­right 2008 by James W. Dou­glas; ISBN 978–1‑4391–9388‑4; pp. 129–131. [24]

. . . . On the evening of May 8, encour­aged by [dis­si­dent Bud­dhist monk Thich] Tri Quang and oth­er Bud­dhist lead­ers, a crowd gath­ered out­side the gov­ern­ment radio sta­tion in Hue. At about 8:00 p.m., Tri Quang arrived car­ry­ing a tape record­ing of his morn­ing speech. He and the peo­ple demand­ed that the tape be broad­cast that night. When the sta­tion direc­tor refused, the crowd became insis­tent, push­ing against the sta­tion’s doors and win­dows. Fire­fight­ers used water hoses to dri­ve them back. The sta­tion direc­tor put in a call for help to the province secu­ri­ty chief Major Dang Sy. As Dang Sy and his secu­ri­ty offi­cers were approach­ing the area in armored cars about fifty meters away, two pow­er­ful explo­sions blast­ed the peo­ple on the veran­da of the sta­tion, killing sev­en on the spot and fatal­ly wound­ing a child. At least fif­teen oth­ers were injured.

Major Dang Sy claimed lat­er that he thought the explo­sions were the begin­ning of a Viet Cong attack. He ordered his men to dis­perse the crowd with per­cus­sion grenades, crowd-con­trol weapons that were described by a U.S. Army Field Man­u­al as non­lethal. How­ev­er, from the moment the armored cars drove up and the per­cus­sion grenades were thrown, Major Dang Sy and the South Viet­namese gov­ern­ment were blamed for the night’s casu­al­ties by Thich Tri Quang and the Bud­dhist move­ment. The Bud­dhists’ inter­pre­ta­tion of the event was adopt­ed quick­ly by the U.S. media and gov­ern­ment.

Dr. Le Khac Quyen, the hos­pi­tal direc­tor at Hue, said after exam­in­ing the vic­tims’ bod­ies that he had nev­er seen such injuries. The bod­ies had been decap­i­tat­ed. He found no met­al in the corpses, only holes. There were no wounds below the chest. In his offi­cial find­ing, Dr. Quyen ruled that “the death of the peo­ple was caused by an explo­sion which took place in mid-air, blow­ing off their heads and muti­lat­ing their bod­ies.”

Nei­ther the Bud­dhists nor the gov­ern­ment liked his ver­dict. Although Dr. Quyen was a dis­ci­ple of Thich Tri Quang and a gov­ern­ment oppo­si­tion leader, his find­ing frus­trat­ed his Bud­dhist friends because it tend­ed to exon­er­ate Diem’s secu­ri­ty police. They were appar­ent­ly inca­pable of inflict­ing the kinds of wounds he described. On the oth­er hand, the gov­ern­ment impris­oned Dr. Quyen for refus­ing to sign a med­ical cer­tifi­cate it had drawn up that claimed the vic­tims’ wounds came from a type of bomb made by the Viet Cong—something Quyen did­n’t know and would­n’t cer­ti­fy.

The absence of any met­al in the bod­ies or on the radio sta­tion’s veran­da point­ed to pow­er­ful plas­tic bombs as the source of the explo­sions. How­ev­er, the Saigon gov­ern­men­t’s eager­ness to iden­ti­fy plas­tic bombs with its ene­my, the Viet Cong, was ques­tion­able. As Ellen Ham­mer point­ed out in her inves­ti­ga­tion of the inci­dent, “In lat­er years, men who had served with the Viet Cong at that time denied they had any plas­tic could have pro­duced such destruc­tion.”

Who did pos­sess such pow­er­ful plas­tic bombs?

An answer is pro­vid­ed by Gra­ham Greene’s prophet­ic nov­el The Qui­et Amer­i­can [17], based on his­tor­i­cal events that occurred in Saigon eleven years before the bomb­ing in Hue. Greene was in Saigon on Jan­u­ary 9, 1952, when two bombs explod­ed in the city’s cen­ter, killing ten and injur­ing many more. A pic­ture of the scene, show­ing a man with his legs blown off, appeared in Life mag­a­zine as the “Pic­ture of the Week.” The Life cap­tion said the Saigon bombs had been “plant­ed by Viet Minh Com­mu­nists” and “sig­naled gen­er­al inten­si­fi­ca­tion of the Viet Minh vio­lence.” In like man­ner, the New York Times head­lined: “Reds’ Time Bombs Rip Saigon Cen­ter.”

In Saigon, Gra­ham Greene knew the bombs had been plant­ed and claimed proud­ly not by the Viet Minh but by a war­lord, Gen­er­al The, whom Greene knew.

Gen­er­al The’s bomb­ing mate­r­i­al, a U.S. plas­tic, had been sup­plied to him by his spon­sor, the Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency. Greene observed in his mem­oir, Ways of Escape, it was no coin­ci­dence that “the Life pho­tog­ra­ph­er at the moment of the explo­sion was so well placed that he was able to take an aston­ish­ing and hor­ri­fy­ing pho­to­graph which showed the body of a trishaw dri­ver still upright after his legs had been blown off.” The CIA had set the scene, alert­ing the Life pho­tog­ra­ph­er and Times reporter so they could con­vey the ter­ror­ist bomb­ing as the work of “Viet Minh Com­mu­nists” to a mass audi­ence.

Hor­ri­fied and inspired by what he knew, Gra­ham Greene wrote the truth in his nov­el, por­tray­ing a qui­et Amer­i­can CIA agent as the pri­ma­ry source of the Saigon bomb­ing. In The Qui­et Amer­i­can, Greene used the CIA’s plas­tic as a mys­te­ri­ous motif, specif­i­cal­ly men­tioned in ten pas­sages, whose dead­ly mean­ing was revealed final­ly in the Saigon explo­sions blamed false­ly on the com­mu­nists.

A decade lat­er, plas­tic bombs were still a weapon val­ued in covert US. Plots designed to scape­goat an unsus­pect­ing tar­get. In March 1962, as we have seen, Gen­er­al Lyman Lem­nitzer, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pro­posed “explod­ing a few plas­tic bombs in care­ful­ly cho­sen spots” in the Unit­ed States, then arrest­ing and blam­ing Cuban agents for the ter­ror­ist acts.

In May 1963, Diem’s younger broth­er, Ngo Dinh Can, who ruled Hue, thought from the begin­ning that the Viet Cong had noth­ing to do with the explo­sions at the radio sta­tion. Accord­ing to an inves­ti­ga­tion car­ried by the Catholic news­pa­per Hoa Binh, Ngo Dinh Can and his advis­ers were “con­vinced the explo­sions had to be the work of an Amer­i­can agent who want­ed to make trou­ble for Diem.” In 1970 Hoa Binh locat­ed such a man, a Cap­tain Scott, who in lat­er years became a U.S. mil­i­tary advis­er in the Mekong Delta. Scott had come to Hue from Da Nang on May 7, 1963. He admit­ted he was the Amer­i­can agent respon­si­ble for the bomb­ing at the radio sta­tion the next day. He said he used “an explo­sive that was still secret and known only to cer­tain peo­ple in the Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency, a charge no larg­er than a match­box with a tim­ing device.” . . . .