I'm old enough to remember the Cuban missile crisis. For those few days in 1962, the family dinner table was tense and the air - the attitude - in the country was surreal. People lived and went to work, as before, but hanging over every waking moment was the full conscious realization, of every second of every day during the crisis, of the possibility that civilization could go up in mushroom clouds of radioactivity. Years later, as the full story of the Cuban missile crisis was finally known and told, it became clear that the world had made it through the crisis largely because two men - Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev and American President John F Kennedy - had stood down their countries' respective "war hawks." The real life scenario had come uncomfortably close to Stanley Kubrick's black comedy, Dr. Strangelove.
I remember those days, and the feeling in the air around our dinner tables, the smiling but tense faces as people tried to pretend everything was normal. And I have not experienced that feeling in all the years since, until last week's latest "Syria crisis" and the irresponsible tweets of Mr. Trump about the missiles flying soon. Funny, I seem to have missed that part about Twitter having been designed as a thermonuclear geopolitics platform.
As I pointed out in last Thursday's News and Views from the Nefarium, the problem with the whole Syria narrative was and is the same as that with the whole Skripal narrative: there's little to no proof that Syria's Assad regime used poison gas at all. And lost in the shuffle has been the fact that Russia brokered a deal a few years ago - remember that - whereby Syria would turn over all its chemical weapons in favor of a Western stand-down in that country. Also lost in the shuffle were all those stories from the Obama era that documented the West's, and in particular the USA's, training of the Syrian "rebels" in how to use - here it comes - chemical weapons.
Finally, perhaps, some sanity may be prevailing in Washington, District of Corruption:
The problem, as outlined by this New York Times article, is exactly what I said it was: Lack of proof:
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sought on Thursday to slow down an imminent strike on Syria, reflecting mounting concerns at the Pentagon that a concerted bombing campaign could escalate into a wider conflict between Russia, Iran and the West.
During a closed-door White House meeting, officials said, Mr. Mattis pushed for more evidence of President Bashar al-Assad’s role in a suspected chemical attack last weekend that would assure the world that military action was necessary.
There's an element of make-believe here that also disturbs:
“It’s too bad that the world puts us in a position like that,” he said. “But you know, as I said this morning, we’ve done a great job with ISIS,” Mr. Trump added. “We have just absolutely decimated ISIS. But now we have to make some further decisions. So they’ll be made fairly soon.”
Wait a minute... would that be the same ISIS that America and its allies helped prop up in Syria to use as cats' paws against the Assad regime? The same ISIS that Russia's intervention helped rout and defeat? The same ISIS that western groups and advisors trained in the use of chemical weapons?
Something about this whole story still stinks, and it stinks like the Skripal case: there's no proof, and as I put it last Thursday, the real problem is to explain why Mr. Assad would resort to such an attack at the very moment of his emergent victory. Why resort to an attack that will only re-inflame the West's involvement in his country? Mattis has stated the obvious: there's no proof, and here's the rub: there's not likely to be.
For that is exactly what has happened, and it's for that reason I still think this event is being manipulated to keep the West involved... it has that distinctive Riyadh-Tel Aviv odor to it...
See you on the flip side...