Columnists
When is the use of poison chemicals in warfare a 'false flag'?
By Henry Bucher, Associate Professor Emeritus of Humanities, Austin College
Apr 5, 2017
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When most of the world press reported in 2012 that Syrian president Bashir Assad used poison chemicals against his own civilians, the most serious question was: “what would the USA do?” President Barack Obama had previously drawn “a red line” and that line was the use of chemical weapons—illegal under the Geneva Convention. As expected, pressure was put on the White House to respond with serious military intervention; but counter pressure was suggesting that a “false flag” was being deployed to bring the USA more deeply into the conflict. President Obama seriously considered military intervention if Congress consented: consent was not given.

Award-winning journalist Seymour M. Hersh was the first to show that cooperation between British and US intelligence confirmed that the chemicals used in 2012 were not the same as those in possession of the Syrian government, suggesting with some merit that one of the many groups resisting Bashar Assad planted the chemicals as a “false flag” that they hoped would result in the commitment of US troops. The most sophisticated group was the Al-Nusra front supported by Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Erdogan. The fact that Turkey is a NATO ally complicates an already complex situation where the US has more “frenemies” than friends and enemies.

The UN inspectors who had come to Damascus to assess the situation in 2012--a few days before the first use of chemicals-- found it curious that Mr. Assad could not wait until they had left the scene had the chemicals been used by his Syrian army. Equally curious now (early April, 2017), are news reports of this recent chemical attack within a week of the coming Brussels peace talks about Syria’s future.

Again, most news agencies are claiming that Mr. Assad is behind these recent horrendous attacks on civilians. Could the same forces that we now know did carry out the previous “false flag” attacks in 2012, hoping President Obama would bring the US into the conflict, now be trying again in hopes that President Trump will send even more US military than he is now doing incrementally? What happens depends on how seriously President Trump listens to the rich intelligence sources available to him.

Some fear that Mr. Trump, given the several failures in his first seventy-five days, is looking for yet one more issue to divert attention away from them. Let us hope that escalating war in Syria is not the victim of another “false flag.” The real victims have always been the people of Syria. We should place every effort into the coming Brussels peace talks.