- By John HudsonJohn Hudson is a senior reporter at Foreign Policy, where he covers diplomacy and national security issues in Washington. He has reported from several geopolitical hotspots, including Ukraine, Pakistan, Malaysia, China, and Georgia. Prior to joining FP, John covered politics and global affairs for the Atlantic magazine’s news blog, the Atlantic Wire. In 2008, he covered the August war between Russia and Georgia from Tbilisi and the breakaway region of Abkhazia. He has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, BBC, C-SPAN, Fox News radio, Al Jazeera, and other broadcast outlets. He has been with the magazine since 2013.
Allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria may be supported by the United States, France, Britain, Israel, and Qatar, but former Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich thinks they might just be Western-manufactured pretexts for war.
The anti-war Democrat, who went on a fact-finding mission to Syria in June 2011, sent out a little-noticed tweet on Thursday imploring his followers to “Google ‘Syria #FalseFlag #Chemical Weapons'” if they’re “trying to make sense of what’s happening.”
I took the former lawmaker’s Googling advice and turned up a collection of stories implying that the United States fabricated evidence of a chemical attack (see: WikiLeaks Supporters Forum) or staged it in conjunction with the Qatari government (see: InfoWars, a conspiratorial website and radio show that Kucinich has been a well-received guest on).
It’s not clear which theory Kucinich subscribes to (efforts to reach him were not successful), but the ex-congressman is not alone in his skepticism about claims that sarin gas was used in Syria, despite his status as a fringe voice in U.S. politics.
In Congress, key lawmakers remain divided on the right U.S. response in Syria, as our own Kevin Baron reports, with Republicans such as Sen. Lindsey Graham urging the president to respond immediately and Democrats such as Sen. Claire McCaskill urging patience. Today, White House spokesman Jay Carney said “much more” work needs to be done to verify the intelligence assessment that Assad’s regime used chemical weapons.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has also weighed in on the topic, rejecting calls for intervention based on the lack of evidence on hand about the deployment of sarin. “Perhaps there are some states that believe any methods are good as long as they can help overthrow the Syrian regime. However, the subject of the use of weapons of mass destruction is far too serious,” he said. “I think it is unacceptable to use it, to speculate on it for geopolitical purposes.”
Kucinich’s remarks are part of an ongoing effort to provide a counternarrative to the idea that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is an absolute tyrant and his opposition are well-intentioned freedom fighters.
“I’ve read where President Assad has made certain commitments, and I would imagine that when things finally settle down, that President Assad will move in a direction of democratic reforms,” Kucinich predicted in a controversial interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 2011.
Kucinich also came under fire during his fact-finding mission to Syria, when the state-sponsored news outlet SANA quoted him saying Assad is “highly loved and appreciated by the Syrians.” (Kucinich actually said “people still have a love and respect” for Assad, a somewhat — but only somewhat — less glowing appraisal of the strongman.)
Everyone should certainly be cautious about jumping to conclusions regarding chemical weapons in Syria, since it’s not yet clear how they were used or who used them. But, of course, there’s a difference between exercising caution and drumming up rumors that the chemical weapons evidence was somehow manufactured by the West without any proof.