Former Congressman Ron Paul discusses a new Seymour Hersh article out this week showing that the US knew Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was not responsible for the chemical attack in April, but President Trump decided to bomb anyway. Paul also singles out Rep. Adam Kinzinger for being a hawk who is "determined to stir up super-antagonism towards Russia" and criticizes Trump for allowing himself to be influenced.
RON PAUL: Somebody did a special interview this week, and he's getting to be well-known, someone who is not 40 years old yet... Rep. Adam Kinzinger from Illinois. He is determined to stir up super-antagonism towards Russia. And he can not stand the fact that there might be a softer aproach, and he doesn't like Trump
We're not Trump champions, but [Kinzinger opposes Trump] for this reason: He's not hawkish enough!
He did point out that Trump's positions [on foreign policy] are actually not that bad. When he sends 59 Tomahawk [missiles] into Syria, and sorts of things like that. [Kinzinger] likes that.
Of course, there is this issue of gas - whether it was actually gas released in April, and we've had some people looking into this. And this is ongoing, but there may be signs that the monolith against Russia and Assad --symbolized by 97-2 vote [in the Senate] could be starting to crack...
He really doesn't like Putin because 'he's killing his own people.' Well, I don't know exactly what he's referring to. I know Putin is no angel, but when you think of how many people our foreign policy kills, we talk about that so often... This is just such hypocrisy, but it is mainly to promote a hawkish policy, back to 'Assad has to go.'
To me, it is amazing how the liberal Democrats, who are supposed to be anti-war like they were in the 1960s, they are now, it looks like, maybe more hawkish than the Republicans...
It is amazing, [Hersh] had an article over the weekend, and everyone is talking about it today. It is a blockbuster article, it absolutely damages Trump completely, but it also damages the pro-war narrative. Nobody in the Washington Post or New York Times -- here is a blockbuster from a Pullitzer Prize-winning reporter and he had to go to Germany to get it published. Nobody in the U.S. will touch it.
The article essentially says based on his intelligence contacts that the U.S. knew --President Trump knew-- this was not a chemical attack in April, and he fired the Tomahawks anyway, and it is a blockbuster. And think about it. Nobody wants to touch it. An article like that!
Isn't strange how Trump is so back-and-forth [on foreign affairs]. I think that is the worst position to be... But Trump is criticized mostly by the Kinzingers and the others in the Senate for being too soft on Russia. But then he comes, and he is too aggressive from our view point. He is dropping bombs willy nilly, and it scares us that he will fdo that, he will be influenced by that.
And now what we're seeing is, it wasn't ignorance, there was material out there.
So it sort of reminds me of what was available to us that we could find before the Iraq War. It was there by reputable people, but it is lost in politics. It is a shame.
An excerpt of Hersh's latest article:
Within hours of viewing the photos, the adviser said, Trump instructed the national defense apparatus to plan for retaliation against Syria. “He did this before he talked to anybody about it. The planners then asked the CIA and DIA if there was any evidence that Syria had sarin stored at a nearby airport or somewhere in the area. Their military had to have it somewhere in the area in order to bomb with it.” “The answer was, ‘We have no evidence that Syria had sarin or used it,’” the adviser said. “The CIA also told them that there was no residual delivery for sarin at Sheyrat [the airfield from which the Syrian SU-24 bombers had taken off on April 4] and Assad had no motive to commit political suicide.” Everyone involved, except perhaps the president, also understood that a highly skilled United Nations team had spent more than a year in the aftermath of an alleged sarin attack in 2013 by Syria, removing what was said to be all chemical weapons from a dozen Syrian chemical weapons depots.
At this point, the adviser said, the president’s national security planners were more than a little rattled: “No one knew the provenance of the photographs. We didn’t know who the children were or how they got hurt. Sarin actually is very easy to detect because it penetrates paint, and all one would have to do is get a paint sample. We knew there was a cloud and we knew it hurt people. But you cannot jump from there to certainty that Assad had hidden sarin from the UN because he wanted to use it in Khan Sheikhoun.” The intelligence made clear that a Syrian Air Force SU-24 fighter bomber had used a conventional weapon to hit its target: There had been no chemical warhead. And yet it was impossible for the experts to persuade the president of this once he had made up his mind. “The president saw the photographs of poisoned little girls and said it was an Assad atrocity,” the senior adviser said. “It’s typical of human nature. You jump to the conclusion you want. Intelligence analysts do not argue with a president. They’re not going to tell the president, ‘if you interpret the data this way, I quit.’”
He was told we did not have evidence of Syrian involvement and yet Trump says: 'Do it.”’
On April 6, Trump convened a meeting of national security officials at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. The meeting was not to decide what to do, but how best to do it – or, as some wanted, how to do the least and keep Trump happy. “The boss knew before the meeting that they didn’t have the intelligence, but that was not the issue,” the adviser said. “The meeting was about, ‘Here’s what I’m going to do,' and then he gets the options.”
The available intelligence was not relevant. The most experienced man at the table was Secretary of Defense James Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general who had the president’s respect and understood, perhaps, how quickly that could evaporate. Mike Pompeo, the CIA director whose agency had consistently reported that it had no evidence of a Syrian chemical bomb, was not present. Secretary of State Tillerson was admired on the inside for his willingness to work long hours and his avid reading of diplomatic cables and reports, but he knew little about waging war and the management of a bombing raid. Those present were in a bind, the adviser said. “The president was emotionally energized by the disaster and he wanted options.” He got four of them, in order of extremity. Option one was to do nothing. All involved, the adviser said, understood that was a non-starter. Option two was a slap on the wrist: to bomb an airfield in Syria, but only after alerting the Russians and, through them, the Syrians, to avoid too many casualties. A few of the planners called this the “gorilla option”: America would glower and beat its chest to provoke fear and demonstrate resolve, but cause little significant damage. The third option was to adopt the strike package that had been presented to Obama in 2013, and which he ultimately chose not to pursue. The plan called for the massive bombing of the main Syrian airfields and command and control centers using B1 and B52 aircraft launched from their bases in the U.S. Option four was “decapitation”: to remove Assad by bombing his palace in Damascus, as well as his command and control network and all of the underground bunkers he could possibly retreat to in a crisis.
“Trump ruled out option one off the bat,” the senior adviser said, and the assassination of Assad was never considered. “But he said, in essence: ‘You’re the military and I want military action.’” The president was also initially opposed to the idea of giving the Russians advance warning before the strike, but reluctantly accepted it. “We gave him the Goldilocks option – not too hot, not too cold, but just right.” The discussion had its bizarre moments. Tillerson wondered at the Mar-a-Lago meeting why the president could not simply call in the B52 bombers and pulverize the air base. He was told that B52s were very vulnerable to surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) in the area and using such planes would require suppression fire that could kill some Russian defenders. “What is that?” Tillerson asked. Well, sir, he was told, that means we would have to destroy the upgraded SAM sites along the B52 flight path, and those are manned by Russians, and we possibly would be confronted with a much more difficult situation. “The lesson here was: Thank God for the military men at the meeting,” the adviser said. "They did the best they could when confronted with a decision that had already been made."