Trump, Pence: There Will Be “A Big Price To Pay” For Saturday’s Syrian Chemical Attack
Dozens dead, hundreds in need of medical care
A chemical attack in Syria has left dozens dead. Assessment is on-going, so reports vary as to how many people were killed. Early reports say that at least 42 people were killed, with hundreds in need of medical care. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is reporting that over 70 civilians were killed.
According to reports, the victims of Saturday’s chemical attack showed signs of chlorine and nerve agent poisoning.
President Trump has responded vigorously on Twitter, tagging Syria’s president “Animal Assad” and reminding us that Obama’s 2013 empty “red line” threats against Syria’s use of chemical weapons emboldened the Russia-supported regime.
The Wall Street Journal reports:
A suspected chemical-weapons attack on a rebel-held Syrian town near Damascus late Saturday has killed at least 42 people and sickened hundreds more, relief workers said, sparking calls for international action and a sharp rebuke from U.S. President Donald Trump.
Poisonous gas was unleashed from a barrel bomb dropped by a government helicopter, according to the White Helmets, a Syrian paramedic group. Victims showed symptoms of poisoning by chlorine and nerve agents, doctors said.
. . . . Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that reports of a chemical-weapons attack on Saturday were “fabricated information” and warned of “the most-severe consequences” if other powers sought to intervene militarily.
Entire families were found dead after Saturday’s attack, huddled inside apartment buildings and basements, apparently unable to escape, according to the White Helmets.
Rescuers warned the death toll could rise as the search for victims—hampered by ongoing airstrikes—continued Sunday.
Syria’s main political opposition group, the Syrian coalition, called on the U.S., Britain and France to retaliate against regime air bases and other targets. Relief groups urged an independent investigation.
Many of Saturday’s victims in the town of Douma smelled of chlorine and had bluish skin and more than 500 needed medical care, according to the White Helmets and the Syrian American Medical Society.
Last year, President Trump responded to a chemical attack by Assad’s regime against Syrians with 59 Tomahawk missiles.
This morning, President Trump stated that there will be a “big price to pay” for this latest attack.
Vice President Mike Pence iterates that there will be a “big price to pay” for Saturday’s chemical attack.
.@POTUS & I closely monitoring likely chemical attack in Syria. We condemn in the strongest possible terms the assault on innocent lives, including children. The Assad regime & its backers MUST END their barbaric behavior. As POTUS said, big price to pay for those responsible!
— Vice President Mike Pence Archived (@VP45) April 8, 2018
As he did following last year’s chemical attack against the Syrian people, the president notes that Obama’s empty red-line bluster has led to further disaster.
World leaders are responding to Saturday’s attack with shock and horror, with Turkey referring to the attack as “war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
“President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price to pay,” Trump tweeted. “Open area immediately for medical help and verification. Another humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever. SICK!”
His sentiments were shared around the world. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson called the attack an example of the Assad government’s brutality.
The European Union issued a statement appealing to Assad’s allies Russia and Iran to “use their influence to prevent any further attack and ensure the cessation of hostilities and de-escalation of violence.”
Turkey, which has been cooperating with Assad allies in talks for a political solution, called for international action to prevent what it called war crimes and crimes against humanity.
For what it’s worth, CNN is reporting that the Assad regime denies responsibility for the attack.
But the Syrian government and its key ally, Russia, vehemently denied involvement in Saturday’s attack. Instead, they accused rebels in Douma of fabricating the chemical assault claims in order to hinder the army’s advances and provoke international military intervention.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry called the reported attack a “hoax” that interfered with a deal to end fighting in Douma and evacuate civilians. Dozens of buses entered Douma on Sunday evening to take detainees released by Jaish al-Islam, the last remaining rebel group in Douma, to government-held territory, according to Syrian state TV. The vehicles will also transport rebels and civilians to northern Syria, state TV said.
UN Ambassador Nikki Haley has called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting.
We along with 8 other members have called for an emergency Security Council mtg tomorrow in reference to the horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians in Syria. This is becoming all too common. Strong action is needed. pic.twitter.com/Vt3L5fjVla
— Archive: Ambassador Nikki Haley (@AmbNikkiHaley) April 8, 2018
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) calls the president’s response to this latest Syrian chemical attack a “defining moment in his presidency.”
A top Republican Senator said the chemical weapons attack that killed dozens in Syria is a “defining moment” for President Trump to show his resolve in standing up against Damascus despot Bashar al-Assad.
“Well, it’s a defining moment in his presidency, because he has challenged Assad in the past not to use chemical weapons,” Sen. Lindsey Graham said on ABC’s “This Week.” “We had a one-and-done missile attack. So Assad is at it again. They see us, our resolve, breaking. They see our determination to stay in Syria waning. And it’s no accident they used chemical weapons.”
Graham is likely referring to recent reports that Trump would like to get U. S. troops out of Syria in “months, not years.” Graham may also be referring to recent indications that Trump is willing to host Putin in the White House.
Is it possible that Assad (and Putin) actually read these reports as a sign of Trump’s weakness and decided to test him? If so, they made a big mistake. Big.
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I don’t think of myself as a conspiracy theorist, but it seems to me getting a helicopter and painting it wouldn’t be that difficult.
POTUS discusses leaving Syria, and next thing you know! there’s a chemical attack. It seems unlikely that anyone would make a chemical attack when the U.S.A. might be leaving soon. Why not just wait until it leaves?
I hope that an investigation is made before any such situation is used to keep or introduce more, of our troops there. Americans want their troops home.
Watch as the left flocks to Asseds defence because their hatred of Trump trumps everything else!
Unless this has some tactical value—and the press doesn’t seem to be reporting any such thing—there’s no reason to ascribe it to one or the other of the active players in the area.
And since there’s no party active in the Middle East that I’d trust as far as I can throw my car, I see no foundation for ritual outrage over a crime which can’t be attributed. Unless the President has far more reliable information than we plebians will ever have—and maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t—it will be impossible to justify any action.
On the other hand, policy-by-panic is … well, if not appropriate, at least customary.
“Unless the President has far more reliable information…”
Tom, that’s pretty silly, don’t you think? Of course the POTUS has more and reliable information. Most of which he will not be sharing.
You can’t possibly have any idea. He’ll have lots of info. So what? Is it accurate, or is it Gulf of Tonkin silliness all over again? You have no idea, and no way to find out.
Wait, what? I’m not the most ardent Trump fan, but from what I’ve seen, he may spout off about this and that, but actions he takes are rooted in intel and study of the issue. He didn’t order a strike on Assad last year without intel, so why would he do so this year?
In what universe does the President of the United States of America NOT have more reliable information than we do?
Trump has not earned this level of distrust from his actions in office, so I’m a bit confused by this. I used to say about Obama, “don’t listen to what he says, watch what he does,” and this is true of Trump, as well. In Obama’s case, he was politicking and smarming about “no red states, no blue states” while busily enacting all kinds of divisive policies that undermined his every word.
While I still think we need to watch what he does and not worry so much about what he says, Trump is totally different, he’s not a politician (and shows few signs of becoming one, though his endorsement of some GOPe candidates may be a decent rebuttal to that point). He is show and talking smack and bullying and feinting first this way then that. He’s a wheeler and dealer (Art of the Deal, anyone?). The key art of any deal is follow-through, though, and Trump knows this better than anyone in DC. You do what you say, or you lose face, you lose cred, and you lose power.
Because he’s not a politician, his game may be too alien to old-time KGB thugs like Putin who may sniff a whiff of surrender in nothing more than a new round of negotiations. Hey, how’s about we meet with NoKo to discuss nuclear disarmament (does anyone think, for an instant, that Trump will agree to further crippling the US?). Oooh, wouldn’t it be fun and good to invite Putin to the White House for a little confab? Oh, how about we let it be known that we don’t want to stay in Syria? That’s kind of like saying, we don’t really want this piece of real estate because it’s just so bothersome to upkeep. The response isn’t, “hey, let’s nuke this piece of real estate out of existence,” it’s hey, I can come down on that price a bit, you know. Just got authorization. I can also get closing costs and a life-time fixed lease on beach access. How serendipitous!
The problem here is not that Trump is uninformed but that his opponents are playing an old game by old rules. In doing so, they just lost if it turns out Assad was behind this chemical attack (and it seems pretty clear that he was since Assad is now boasting that rebels gave up last Ghouta suburb). As old-school as they are, though, they will not make the same mistake again.
In what universe does the President of the United States of America NOT have more reliable information than we do?
This is a statement of faith, not of fact.
Very large numbers of people exert considerable efforts to influence the President of the US. (This is not a condition specific to President Trump, obviously.) That implies that rather a lot of them are trying to deceive him. That’s their jobs, and they’ll be working at it full time.
Blind faith that these efforts will never be successful is just foolish.
Come on, Tom, you can’t be arguing that the President’s daily intel briefings don’t contain information that we don’t have. Can you? I get the growing distrust in government and why it’s happening, but do you really think that the president doesn’t have access to accurate intel on things like who released chemical weapons in Syria? What makes you believe this?
It sounds a bit tinfoil hat to me, but I guess some rogue US agency could have gassed Syrian rebels and then blamed Assad and then lied to Trump and then infiltrated every other allied nation’s intel agencies with the same goal and convinced them to report the same lie and then this global collusion involving the UK and Israel, among other allies, could . . . ugh! I give up. That’s just a bit cray-cray.
Just a couple of points here.
1) You are assuming that the intelligence agencies are providing ALL of the intel on this incident and that it is ALL factually reliable. As we know, there is still an active cadre within the intelligence community which does not support Trump and is actively pursuing its own agenda. So, we have no idea what intel he is receiving or how accurate it is. In fact, most of what the POTUS receives from intel agencies is their ASSESSMENT of raw intelligence data.
@) Everyone is assuming that the release of the chlorine gas, if such really happened, was done on purpose. This is the basis for just about all of the arguments for and against the theory [and that is all that it is] that Syria forces were responsible. Remember that this occurred during continuous conventional bombardment of this area by Syrian forces. The same thing happened a year ago. It is entirely possible that the rebels, who have been known to possess and use chemical weapons themselves, may have been storing such weapons which were dispersed by the explosion of a conventional munition deployed by Syrian forces.
Thanks, Mac! 🙂 I appreciate your input as always. Here’s the thing, though, even if our own government’s intel agencies are corrupt to the gills, Trump has access to other intel sources (like the Mossad). He also has quite a few reliable military men (what the left calls “Trump’s generals”) who are not stupid and who also have intel resources outside this country. We share intel all the time with our allies, and vice versa. Don’t you think that if Trump were being played, he’d be notified by one of our allies? Or do you imagine that Bibi is incapable of contacting Trump with intel that does not comport with what he’s being told by our own intel?
I really think that all this conspiracy stuff is not only ludicrous but that it is playing into the hands of the left. With your scenario, “they” win every day and twice on Sundays. Their “deep state” is so immense that they’ve got our allies working against Trump. If that’s the case, if the entire world is a threat, we are screwed. It’s over. America is over. If we buy that, we are fools who deserve to lose our republic because nothing about it matters if it’s swept away by a global conspiracy while being simultaneously gobbled up from within by regressive loons and the “second Civil War” nutters. Newsflash, if America’s allies are complicit in misleading the President of the United States of America into retaliatory military action against Syria, you might as well head to your bunker now because we’re through.
As to the second point, whaaaaattttt?! Of course there was an intentional chemical attack, or are you suggesting that Middle Eastern, European, and Asian, intel are all in on some misdirection plot and faked the whole thing? Was it just a happy coincidence that within 72 hours Assad declared victory over defeating the rebels in Ghouda, the very town that was just attacked by chems? What group of rebels unleashes chemical weapons on its own turf, weakening their hold on Ghouda to the point that Assad rolls in? If you were engaged in a battle, would you nuke yourself, knowing your enemy would declare victory shortly thereafter? This is at “the Holocaust never happened” and “the moon landing was faked” level of pure fantasy and delusion.
Come on, Mac, you can’t believe what you are saying.
The point is, POTUS has “better” sources, but let’s not forget he’s not out there himself investigating. Isn’t it really unfathomable to believe the deep state would lie to him in order to keep America involved in Syria, when that’s what the establishment has been clamoring for? Would it really be so hard to frame Assad?
How would POTUS know if he was being lied to?
Yes, it is far-fetched to imagine that the President doesn’t know what is going on in Syria. The US President doesn’t operate in a deep state bubble; he is in contact with allied leaders. For what you are describing to be feasible, that would implicate the governments of our key allies (the UK, Israel, Australia). You don’t think they’d tip Trump off is something that big were afoot? How deep do you imagine the deep state goes? Is it global? Is Israeli intel corrupted? That of our other allies?
Skepticism is healthy. This level of . . . what? paranoia? Illogic? Conspiracy theory? is just nuts.
Further, if it does extend that far, we are fracked. Well and truly fracked. No Civil War can fix a global anti-America conspiracy that involves the State of Israel, the UK, and other staunch US allies.
I’m confused. What facts are in dispute? Assad has used chemical weapons before, there are dead bodies on the ground showing death by chemical attack, and a Syrian paramedic group claims they witnessed delivery of chemical attack via Assad regime helicopter.
So, here we go again. Another alleged chemical munitions attack without independent corroboration and without any evidence of who is responsible. And, the same players are busily urging the POTUS to engage in some kind of attack upon the Assad regime.
In this case, as in the last one, all of the “witnesses” are either rebels or groups supporting the rebels. The White Helmets have been surrounded in controversy since they started operating in rebel controlled areas of Syria in 2012. There has been at least one confirmed incident of members of this organization, most of whom are indigenous residents of the rebel controlled areas, of staging a rescue operation which was disseminated as footage of an actual rescue operation. So, its credibility is not so good. We will have to wait to see if, unlike the last incident, anyone produces wreckage of the munition involved, especially identifiable remains. Another thing to remember is that these are groups in open armed rebellion against the recognized government of the nation of Syria. It is a civil war and these are rebels. More importantly, they are OUR rebels. The US has been providing funding and materiel support to these groups since 2011. It is interesting that the groups which the US supports include Al Qaeda and the Al-Nusra Front, both designated terrorist organizations by the US. This begs the question, who the US is backing and why.
Now, to play devil’s advocate here. Why are we all bent out of shape over the limited use of chemical weapons? Reportedly, in this attack, more people were killed by conventional weapons as by the alleged gas attack. In fact, the reporters had to walk back the claim that 80+ people were killed by chemical weapons to 42, because 40 people died when a bomb shelter collapsed. It is perfectly acceptable to the world community for thousands of people, many of them civilians, to be killed by conventional high explosives, but a crime against humanity for a handful to be killed by poison gas. And, once again, this is a SYRIAN civil war. The US should not be involved in it at all. And, we certainly should not be aiding and abetting rebellion against a sovereign government.
The US got this all started with Obama’s Arab Spring BS and abetted it by providing support to the Syrian rebel groups, several of which are designated as terrorist organizations by the US. It is well past time to leave the Syrian situation alone.
Recognized by whom? Does the US still recognize it? If so perhaps it shouldn’t.
Yes. The use of poison gas is against the laws of war; the use of conventional explosives against legitimate military targets is not.
The entire world recognizes the Assad government. It even has a seat at the UN [it was an original member of the body]. It enters into internationally recognized treaties with a host of countries around the world. As to whether the US still recognizes the Assad government, who cares. Syria is not part of the US.
When speaking of the use of chemical weapons and the laws of war, one has to realize that there is a huge distinction between intentional conflicts and internal armed conflict conflicts [civil war]. International conflicts, conflicts between nations, are governed by a variety of legal agreements, such as the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Conventions. Internal armed conflicts are generally governed solely by the laws of the country in which these conflicts are taking place; though international agreements addressing genocide and gratuitous injury [torture] can sometimes be applied retroactively.
So, in the case of Syria, the laws of war would probably not apply to the use of chemical weapons against rebels and rebel positions. However, sanctions can be imposed by the other signatories to the Chemical Weapons Convention [CWC]. But, the ownership of chemical weapons in Syria is a bit murky. A significant amount of chemical munitions were reportedly captured in the early stages of the conflict, by rebel factions. Even the US State Department acknowledges that the rebels use chemical weapons :
“Tactics of ISIS, HTS, and other violent extremist groups include the use of suicide bombers, kidnapping, small and heavy arms, improvised explosive devices, and chemical weapons.” – https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/SyrianArabRepublic.html (under the Safety and Security section)
And, later reports are identifying the chemical used as being chlorine gas. You would think the Syrian government would use something a little more potent, say a nerve agent. On the other hand chlorine gas is relatively easy to produce [you can do it at home with readily available chemicals], something that a rebel group might be more interested in producing.
Now, the history of the banning of chemical weapons in international warfare. Back in the Great War, the War to End All Wars [WWI], chemical weapons were used extensively due to the predominance of trench warfare. It was hard to lob artillery in or over run trenches. But, if a gas shell could be dropped close enough to a trench, it would burst and the spreading gas would travel close to the ground and seep down into the below ground level trenches. It was extremely effective. So effective that, following the war, it was agreed to outlaw its use. Of course, this did not stop it being used in international conflicts, every participant in WWII had extensive chemical munition projects under weigh. It was not used, to any great extent, because the various combatants had pledged to inundate the territory of the first combatant to use such weapons on a wide scale. In fact, the US still has an acknowledged 2770 metric tons of nerve agents, down from 27771 metric tons in 1997.
On the “humanitarian” side of the equation, dying from exposure to poison gas is really no worse than slowly suffocating in the ruins of a collapsed building, or being burned alive by incendiary munitions, or dying from radiation poisoning or any of a dozen other means of extinction. Dead is pretty much dead. But, the “humanitarians” seem to have no problem with people being killed using high explosives or projectiles, incendiaries, or nuclear radiation. Even nuclear weapons are permissible in international conflicts. But, chemical weapons? Horrible.