On April 15, we wrote about the controversy sparked by Seymour Hersh’s latest article in the London Review of Books, The Red Line and the Rat Line. As in his earlier LRB article, Whose Sarin?, he maintains that the Obama administration knew that the extremist Islamist rebel group, al-Nusra, possessed chemical weapons capabilities and mounted the attack on Damascus suburb Ghouta which spurred President Obama to take the United States to the brink of mounting a massive attack on Syria. Of course, at the last minute he elected to seek the approval of Congress first and then Russian Prime Minister Putin saw Secretary of State John Kerry’s offer to refrain from attacking Syria if it liquidated its chemical weapons and raised it.
Compounding the controversy, Hersh also maintained that Turkey helped al-Nusra with the attack on Ghouta to implicate Syria in a false flag operation and lure the West into attacking Syria.
Much of the controversy over Hersh’s articles coalesced around Eliott Higgins, who maintains Brown Moses Blog and clings to the notion that the Syrian government was the guilty party in the chemical weapons attack. Though he’s self-taught, Higgins’s expertise on Syrian rockets and chemical weapons is highly regard. But, at Mint Press, Carmen Russell-Sluchansky talked to Professor in the Science, Technology, and Global Security Working Group at MIT Theodore Postol, as well as Richard Lloyd, an analyst at Tesla Laboratories and former UN weapons inspector. In December 2013, they took the U.S. Government to task for its willingness to act as if it were certain that the Syrian government was guilty of the attack.
“The thing I find extremely disturbing is that the Secretary of State and the White House were very specific,” Postol told MintPress. “They claimed that they had satellite positions of the launches of these rockets. That’s a pretty specific claim. I know the satellites they’re talking about and I also know they can’t tell what rockets are carrying a chemical warhead and what rockets are carrying explosive warheads.”
In addition to stating that the launch points looked like they weren’t in government-held territory
Both Postol and Lloyd are confounded by Higgins’ contention that these “volcano rockets” could have only come from the Syrian army.
“They are well within the manufacturable range by a modest machine shop,” Postol said. “The design is clever for what it’s designed to do, but once you have the design, you can make it pretty easily. … Lloyd points out that he has designed a course on the arms used in the Syrian conflict.
“I have a section all on the rebels,” he explained. “They have factories. A production line. They have just as much capability as anyone else in building these weapons.”
It’s nice to know Hersh has science on his side.
A rebuttal by Higgins can be found in his April 9 post The Knowledge Gap ― Seymour’s Hersh of Cards. (Agreed: lame pun.)