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Syrian Rebels Claim Hundreds Killed By Poison-Gas Attack 222

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the better-killing-through-science dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Haroon Siddique reports for The Guardian that opposition activists have accused forces loyal to the Assad regime of using chemical weapons in towns in the eastern Ghouta. Accounts of the death toll vary wildly. The British based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights put the number killed at 'dozens.' Others put the figure much higher. The Local Coordination Committees said 'hundreds' were killed, the majority of them civilians. Graphic videos purporting to show the victims of the attack have been posted online (WARNING: graphic) showing chaotic scenes of people, including children, having seizures, being treated, and dead bodies lined up. 'Symptoms of the patients include nausea, hallucinations, suffocation, hard coughing, high blood pressure, seizures etc,' says the Syrian Revolution General Commission (SRGC). 'There is still no clue of the chemical weapon/toxic gas that was used by the regime's forces to target the innocent civilians.' Ake Sellstrom, the Swedish scientist who heads the U.N. inspection team in Syria, told the Swedish media that he had seen only the television images of the alleged attacks. 'But the high number of wounded and dead they are speaking about sounds suspicious,' Sellström told Swedish news agency TT, via telephone from Damascus. 'It sounds like something one should take a look at.'. The official Syrian news agency called the reports 'untrue' and designed to derail a United Nations inquiry into charges of chemical weapons in the conflict."
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Syrian Rebels Claim Hundreds Killed By Poison-Gas Attack

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  • Perfect timing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @10:55AM (#44630971)

    The timing and location of the reported chemical weapons use - just three days after the team of U.N. chemical experts checked in to a Damascus hotel a few km (miles) to the east at the start of their mission - was surprising.

    "It would be very peculiar if it was the government to do this at the exact moment the international inspectors come into the country," said Rolf Ekeus, a retired Swedish diplomat who headed a team of UN weapons inspectors in Iraq in the 1990s.

    "At the least, it wouldn't be very clever."

    • Re:Perfect timing (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardpriceNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @11:15AM (#44631275)

      Precisely - why would Assad sign off on chemical weapon usage when that has already been declared a tripwire for foreign intervention by major countries? It sounds far too suspect, especially when both sides in the conflict have been alleged to have access to stockpiles, and we have already seen one side to have ideologically driven factions - driven enough to sacrifice civilians in a disputed territory (and thus have civilians which back both sides) in order to trigger an external intervention in their favour, much like in Libya?

      • Re:Perfect timing (Score:4, Insightful)

        by interkin3tic (1469267) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @11:56AM (#44631953)
        Assad may have done it for a variety of reasons

        - He's illogical
        - He thinks he is a God and can't possibly be affected by other countries. They've been letting this go on for a year now, it's not like Syria is going to be much easier for us to come into now.
        - He's so desperate that he's less worried about the international response than he is about surviving the week
        - He thinks that the rebellion will be crushed before the international community can arrive. Other countries probably aren't willing to depose him if there's nothing left to replace him
        - It may be part of a negotiation we're not aware of. "Rebel leader, surrender now or I'm going to start gassing. Okay, you didn't, time for the gas."
        - He may think he can scapegoat it on the other side or a rogue commander
        - He may have realized he can't win and just wants to kill as many people as he can out of spite
        • by DarkOx (621550)

          -He thinks he can get away with because external diplomatic issues will prevent anyone else from doing anything. (I tend to think he would/will be correct in that assessment, its been an on going humanitarian crisis for two years and squabbles between US, Russia, China, and other middle eastern powers have effectively stayed the hands of the interventionists so far)

          -He thinks not being an major oil exporter nobody will care.

          -He thinks the interventionists are worn out from their experience in Iraq and Afg

        • Assad is many not particularly nice things, but so far he hasn't shown any signs of being deluded or irrational or too arrogant.

      • Re:Perfect timing (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @01:01PM (#44632853)

        Precisely - why would Assad sign off on chemical weapon usage

        Just because the weapons where (allegedly) used, does not mean that Assad signed off on them. It is possible that the decision was made by an overly aggressive local commander, or even some individual soldiers about to be overrun.

        that has already been declared a tripwire for foreign intervention by major countries?

        Obama declared the use of gas to be a "red line", but has already backed away from that declaration. I don't think anyone any longer believes that the use of chemical weapons in Syria is any more of a "trip-wire" than the coup-that-is-not-a-coup in Egypt. It is unlikely that Europe is going to go in without American involvement, and America has decided that flexible ambiguity is more important than credibility.

        • by cayenne8 (626475)

          Obama declared the use of gas to be a "red line", but has already backed away from that declaration. I don't think anyone any longer believes that the use of chemical weapons in Syria is any more of a "trip-wire" than the coup-that-is-not-a-coup in Egypt. It is unlikely that Europe is going to go in without American involvement, and America has decided that flexible ambiguity is more important than credibility.

          Fearless leader here in the US, has lost pretty much all credibility in the world. You thought Bu

      • by geekoid (135745)

        "why would Assad sign off on chemical weapon usage when that has already been declared a tripwire fo"
        well, you assume is has complete control over all his men, 24/7 and no one would do something stupid of their own violation. IT's a common mistake to assume the leader of the country watches everything everyone in the government is doing. It's just not possible.

        Also you assume Assad's thinking clearly or cares.

        I don't know, I'm just pointing out the bad thinking

    • by bitt3n (941736)

      "At the least, it wouldn't be very clever."

      or it would be very, very clever

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The side that's winning decides to piss off everyone by using poison gas on civilians/rebels. I guess now all the bleeding hearts will be chanting for Chairman Obama to "liberate" and "freedomize" the nation of Syria from their secular ruler so we can gain a level headed theocracy in it's place.

    • Wow, you just don't really like anyone, do you?
    • by cayenne8 (626475)

      . I guess now all the bleeding hearts will be chanting for Chairman Obama to "liberate" and "freedomize" the nation of Syria from their secular ruler so we can gain a level headed theocracy in it's place.

      What makes you think Obama is going to do anything, really?

      He draws lines in the sand....and when crossed, backs up and draws new lines in the sand.

      I'm thinking at this point, most of the world will call Obama's bluffs, because he just isn't gonna really commit to anything.

      I personally do NOT think we s

    • because you do realize there are other options for the middle east than theocracy and autocracy

      like democracy

      you think that's funny? then you're part of the problem

      • by idontgno (624372)

        The last experiment [wikipedia.org] in Arab Democracy voted in a theocratic autocracy. [wikipedia.org]

        You're right, sometimes the result of regime change isn't just autocracy or theocracy.

      • It's not an option right now. If you want to know why, just look at Egypt. They had their free elections, and what then? The guy they elect didn't wait long to begin dismantling those same democratic institutions that brought him to power, essentially announcing himself a dictator.

        Democracy may become an option with some further development, though, but out of the two options available today, authocracy is more likely to evolve into democracy than theocracy is. With luck, they can take the same path that Tu

  • by Assmasher (456699) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @10:59AM (#44631041) Journal

    ...video linked supplied, there's no chaos, and despite the insinuation of more than one person, including children, having seizures - I saw one guy whose legs were trembling. I've seen shock victims trembling worse.

    I'm not saying this didn't happen, I am just saying that the video basically shows nothing (and maybe there's something wrong with me, but I didn't think it was 'graphic' in the slightest.)

    Maybe they linked the wrong video.

    • OK, if that's not enough of a shock here is a playlist with at least 100 videos [youtube.com] showing the incident and its aftermath (warning: graphical) including the dead, the dying, the struggling and the symptoms of a chemical attack.

      DISCLAIMER: I didn't made the videos, I didn't made the playlist and I don't support or oppose any sides. I'm only posting this to help clarifying parent's point.
    • The one I saw had dozens of dead children who looked like they were sleeping. To me, I'm more disturbed by that than blood and gore. Perhaps it's just because I've seen more pictures on the internet of blood and gore than I should have.
    • by Shoten (260439) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @12:09PM (#44632119)

      ...video linked supplied, there's no chaos, and despite the insinuation of more than one person, including children, having seizures - I saw one guy whose legs were trembling. I've seen shock victims trembling worse.

      I'm not saying this didn't happen, I am just saying that the video basically shows nothing (and maybe there's something wrong with me, but I didn't think it was 'graphic' in the slightest.)

      Maybe they linked the wrong video.

      I'll go one step further...but first, let me give context to forestall anyone claiming I'm a fan of Assad and his pals. I most emphatically am not, and never have been. Nor do I support the purposes of Iran, which uses Syria as a fulcrum, most specifically in the Levant (Lebanon and surrounding area). This isn't about me supporting Syria, just about what I see when I look at this one video. In fact, I think that at this point both sides in this conflict have been thoroughly populated with people whose aims are not "good."

      I saw a lot of people lying down. Not really indicative of one thing or another. No cyanosis or signs of skin irritation, nor signs of labored breathing or choking really. But hey, the absence of solid proof is not proof of absence and I don't think anyone said what kind of "poison gas" it was, so it's not particularly clear. But then I saw the "convulsing guy." He was twitching from the waist down...but his head was calmly, smoothly lolling from side to side? He was having a convulsion with his lower body, but not anywhere else? Hm. I don't believe that nerve agents turn people into MC Hammer. Nerve agents (cholerinterase inhibitors, specifically) make your whole body go apeshit...that's how you die. And it's not that one half of one person would be trembling and everyone else would look like they were taking a nap...anyone who was dead would look horrific and anyone who wasn't dead would not exactly look calm either. I call bullshit on this.

      The rebels have made disproven claims in the past about chemical warfare attacks. They know that the Obama administration has stated that use of chemical weapons would result in direct US involvement, and they have a decided incentive to report on any that do happen, but also to fabricate evidence of one if they think they can pull it off. Furthermore, there's less of a penalty for a false claim than there is benefit from successfully pulling off a hoax. Hell, they even know how one person...one single source...lying about WMD got us to invade Iraq and demolish an entire nation.

      And as stated above, UN chemical weapon inspectors had JUST shown up a few kilometers nearby. I find it incredibly difficult to believe that Assad would deploy such a weapon within easy reach of the very people who would be there to investigate.

      And yes, the user name of the guy I'm quoting/responding to is "Assmasher," but that doesn't mean he's wrong. Let's stick to discussing this based the merits of what's said, guys :)

    • by s.petry (762400)

      When you see videos of crisis actors, I believe it's fair to question what media puts out. As with you, I'm not saying it didn't happen. I'm saying that a healthy dose of skepticism is required today [youtube.com].

  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @11:02AM (#44631101)

    US meddling in mid-east affairs is a guaranteed disaster for the US.

    Help one tribe, and the opposing tribe will hate you forever. Then the tribe you help will soon hate you also. Bottom line: Muslims must hate infidels, it is a key part of their religion.

    No matter who the US helps, the US involvement will be called an "invasion." The US will be accused of using the US military to steal mid-east oil. It happens every time.

    Sadam, Osama, and the Muslim Brotherhood, were all the good guys, and our buddies, at one point. Now, even Kuwait hates us.

    There is no way to win in a mid-east conflict. The only winning move is not to play.

    Other than buying oil, the US has no business in the mid-east. Let the crazies kill each other, if that is what they want to do. It is part of their culture, I guess.

    • by Aguazul2 (2591049)

      That's a good honest mix of prejudice and truth. US/UK do have a history of stealing oil, though -- CIA admitted its part in Iran just recently -- so it is not just accusations. US defence seems to be based on the idea: "a good offence is the best defence", i.e. meddle everywhere you possibly can. And when everyone hates you, you need your defence more than ever. Oops. (Or not so oops if you're in the defence business.)

    • US meddling in mid-east affairs is a guaranteed disaster for the US.

      Wha? What economic manual have you been reading from? So, we send some US companies in to do "relief" work and funnel tons of pork into the rich elite's coin purse. I mean, yeah, it's a disaster for the common man but it's a gold mine for the folks running the show. It's exactly this kind of foreign meddling that the USA specializes in. [youtube.com]

      See, where you went wrong was with assuming the reasons they tell you about are even remotely based in reality. WMDs? Humanitarian issues? I mean, Africa Exists, man

      • I mean, yeah, it's a disaster for the common man but it's a gold mine for the folks running the show

        Very good point. I should have mentioned that. I just read an article that details how US aid to Egypt is all going to US defense contractors. Then after everything is destroyed, Halliburton can rebuild it with more US dollars.

        Who cares about all the death, and suffering? Who cares about further burdens on the US tax payers? As long as Dick Cheney gets even richer, I guess it's all good.

    • by advid.net (595837)

      Bottom line: Muslims must hate infidels, it is a key part of their religion.
      . . .
      Let the crazies kill each other, if that is what they want to do. It is part of their culture, I guess.

      Am I alone on /. to be surprised that comment is "5 Insightful" ?

      • IMO: crazy is as crazy does.

        How closely do you follow news from the mid-east? Events like the Boston bombing are just another day in the Muslim world.

    • by mrops (927562)

      Good at least one westerner who is partially correct.

      Don't freaking interfere. CIA finally admitted its role in Iran too, somehow Iran is the monster for wanting nukes against a proven adversary.

      You can think all you want that Muslims are lunatics, the matter of fact is all these guys, Sadam, Osama, Muslim Brotherhood and Kuwait were friends. Why would a friend be pissed at a friend. I mean, the only friends I am ever pissed at are the ones where I realize he is no friend at all.

      This brings us to what Winst

      • by geekoid (135745)

        They have been violently attack and going into other peoples territories far longer then the US has existed.

    • by sl4shd0rk (755837)

      US meddling in mid-east affairs is a guaranteed disaster for the US.

      This isn't new. The US has been meddling in the mid-east affairs for decades of decades. The only reason it turns into a disaster is because the only time it steps in is when something too-big-to-fail is in danger (Oil, etc).

    • by clarkkent09 (1104833) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @11:51AM (#44631867)

      Other than buying oil, the US has no business in the mid-east.
       
      Naive isolationism has such a weird attraction to Americans. Buying oil is not like going to a supermarket and buying milk. It is the most strategic resource there is and whoever controls it controls the world. US pulling out of the middle east means a free for all, with Saudi and Iran (at least) going nuclear, and all the small oil producing countries aligning themselves with whoever replaces the US. Russia, China and others taking over the oil industry that we built. How would you like us to be a bitch to an oil cartel and whatever major powers (FAR worse than us in every way) are behind them, with power to screw with our economy any time they want? Some day we may not be dependent on the middle east oil, and may that day come soon, but it is not here yet.
       
      Btw, the public perception of US military is completely opposite from the truth. It is not a weapon we swing around to intimidate and oppress countries. Our military power is an asset that we trade (with Saudis, Qataris, Emiratis, Kuwaitis, Israelis, Japanese, Koreans, Australians, Europeans, and countless other countries that we protect) just like any other asset. In exchange for it, we get less than we spend on it directly, but indirectly we get far more in terms of stability, free commerce, access to essential resources and allies in the UN and other organizations. It doesn't take much imagination to picture a world in which US pulls out, and the chaos that would result.

      • and all the small oil producing countries aligning themselves with whoever replaces the US.

        How much does the US's most hated adversary pay per barrel of oil?

        Some day we may not be dependent on the middle east oil, and may that day come soon, but it is not here yet.

        Shell has the technology to gassify natural gas into diesel and gasoline for $30/barrel. They are doing it in the middle east already. The US is now known as the "Saudi Arabia of Natural Gas" and the government won't permit new gassification pl

        • Well, Shell is thinking about it [wsj.com]. The big problem with Gas-To-Liquids is the upfront cost for the plant. At 10 billion a pop, you want long term assurances that the feedstock will be cheap. It's hard to line up long term contracts for that much natural gas.

          That's why the Pearl project in Quatar went through. Quatar guaranteed a set price for decades.

          The hope is that the Pearl plant will get the kinks worked out and they can bring other GTL projects in for considerably less. However, given the volubilit

          • Who guaranteed Quatar would be there for decades?

            Sounds like Shell forget their Africa lessons. Agreements with governments rarely a held to by the next one.

      • by sl4shd0rk (755837)

        How would you like us to be a bitch to an oil cartel

        You mean we aren't right now?

      • by geekoid (135745)

        "Naive isolationism has such a weird attraction to Americans."
        to loud mouth Americans that haven't actually read history.
        The rest of us are well aware of the dangers of isolation.

    • by X.25 (255792)

      US meddling in mid-east affairs is a guaranteed disaster for the US.

      Help one tribe, and the opposing tribe will hate you forever. Then the tribe you help will soon hate you also. Bottom line: Muslims must hate infidels, it is a key part of their religion.

      No matter who the US helps, the US involvement will be called an "invasion." The US will be accused of using the US military to steal mid-east oil. It happens every time.

      I have to ask you a honest question.

      Do you seriuosly believe that what US was doing in middle east can be considered 'helping'?

      Helped who, exactly? Major military contractors/industry? Local thugs?

      Of course, reason why people in Iraq, for example, must hate US is because of their religion.

      Not because what US military has done.

      You are so silly.

    • by grumpyman (849537)
      Well, if US needs more than it's domestic oil, why is Mid-East vs Oil Sand such a tough call? Seems US would rather getting into these type of messes than working with a democratic/developed country in resolving issues.
    • Oh, there is a way to win a middle east conflict. Genghis Khan figured this out during his life time and the same principle still applies. If you are going to fight a war in the middle east: leave no survivors. They seem to understand, and respect, unadulterated violence and little else.

      The violence over there only ends with mushroom clouds. At this point I'm convinced of that. Whom ends up nuking whom first/last whatever I don't know. I just don't see anyway of really preventing the powers that be fr

      • Oh, there is a way to win a middle east conflict. Genghis Khan figured this out during his life time and the same principle still applies. If you are going to fight a war in the middle east: leave no survivors. They seem to understand, and respect, unadulterated violence and little else.

        I have read that Muslims respect GWB more than Obama for just that reason. Personally, I do not respect either of them.

        Problem with killing every Muslim in the mid-east - other than the humanitarian aspect - what are the nu

  • But why is this on Slashdot? This isn't a discussion on the engineering of the gas or the dispursement methods used, just a news article.
    • But why is this on Slashdot? This isn't a discussion on the engineering of the gas or the dispursement methods used, just a news article.

      Because "nerds" want the stories that the major news outlets will not carry or will gloss over for more entertainment and sports coverage.

      • I saw this on CNN this morning, heard it on NPR on the way into work and just read about it on NBC.com. It's not being "glossed over".

    • This isn't a discussion on the engineering of the gas or the dispursement methods used, just a news article.

      Because nerds aren't all clinical sociopaths more interested in the method of killing than the fact of it.

      Plus, being a nerd is all about caring about some important, intellectual topic that the mainstream doesn't see the point in compared to who the latest pop star is sleeping with. Few things are nerdier than international policy, even though most of it is carried about by non-nerds. (Kind of like baseball.)

  • So what's new? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by 0123456 (636235)

    I remember when Iraqi soldiers were throwing babies out ot incubators in Kuwait, and there were mass graves of hundreds of thousands of people in Kosovo.

    • by ph1ll (587130)

      "I remember when Iraqi soldiers were throwing babies out ot incubators in Kuwait..."

      Are you aware that this has long been dismissed as propaganda? Have a read here [wikipedia.org]:

      "Though reporters did not then have access to Kuwait, [the] testimony was regarded as credible at the time and was widely publicized. It was cited numerous times by United States senators and the president in their rationale to back Kuwait in the Gulf War...

      "Following the liberation of Kuwait, reporters were given access to the country and found the story of stolen incubators unsubstantiated....

      "In 1992, it was revealed tha

    • Yep. This kind of propaganda has been going on for a very long time. In WWI, the British press contained stories of German soldiers parading around Belgian towns with babies on their bayonets.

      One learns to be skeptical of these claims.

      The first casualty in war is the truth.

  • Possibly off-topic, but thank you to the editor for including the warning about graphic images. I for one don't want to see that kind of thing, and thanks to you, I didn't.
  • Fake (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dunbal (464142) * on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @02:29PM (#44633967)

    1. Not a single old person. It's either children (poor babies! think of the children!) or young men of combat age. With the occasional young woman thrown in. I guess there are no elderly at all in Syrian "civilian areas"? There are real dead people mixed in with living people, that much I'll grant you. However this chemical agent is "curiously selective" of its victims, and the cause of death is unknown and debatable until someone does an autopsy.

    2. No evidence of fasciculations. I see plenty of people having tonic clonic seizures that somehow permit them to still be aware of their environment and look at the camera-man (doesn't happen in a real seizure), or point their index finger in a religious sign to their God. Fasciculations however are involuntary. You can't fake them. They're a sign of lower motor neuron damage/blockade, the sort you'd expect with chemical weapons (especially organophospates and nerve agents like Sarin/Tabun and family). But since they can't be faked you won't see any.

    3. The timing, as has been pointed out elsewhere, is highly suspicious.

    That's my $0.02 worth. But most people will believe whatever they are fed. I mean there's video, so it has to be real, right? No one has ever faked a massacre before for the cameras, right?

  • The US tried this false flag a few months ago, and the UN found out it was the US supplying the poison gas to the "rebels".... now that's calmed down and they are trying again.

    As for the US staying out of the Middle East, we can't do that, because it would cause the fall of the Petrodollar, and we'd all be at least 50% poorer, overnight, if not worse off. (Hopefully avoiding the fate of the Weimar republic).

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