Syria and other important matters.

Friday, April 7, 2017

The map is not the territory.

Alfred Korzybski

If you establish a democracy, you must in due time reap the fruits of a democracy. You will in due season have great impatience of public burdens, combined in due season with great increase of public expenditure. You will in due season have wars entered into from passion and not from reason;

Benjamin Disraeli

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

George Santayana


It is now known that although President Trump did not directly notify President Putin of the impending strike against the Syrian airbase, established protocols for notifying Russian military in the region of upcoming operations were activated; President Trump knew that the Russians knew we were going to fire missiles at that airbase, and when we would do it. Since the area is defended with Russian SAM-10 and SAMs of lesser but quite effective capability, yet all 59 missiles apparently reached their targets, it is a reasonable inference that the Russians were ordered to stand down and let the attack take place.

It is also an even greater puzzle: who attacked Khan Sheikhoun, the northern Syrian town struck by war gasses, and why? There are few known military targets anywhere near where the war gas attack – said by the Turks to be sarin – took place. The New York Times summarizes quite well why Assad had good reason not to order such an attack:

The Grim Logic Behind Syria’s Chemical Weapons Attack


BEIRUT, Lebanon — The diplomatic situation had been looking bright for President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. With the help of Russia, he had consolidated his power, the rebels were on their heels and the United States had just declared that ousting him was not a priority.

So why would Mr. Assad risk it all, outraging the world by attacking civilians with what Turkey now says was the nerve agent sarin, killing scores of people, many of them children? Why would he inflict the deadliest chemical strike since the 2013 attacks outside Damascus? Those attacks came close to bringing American military retaliation then. And in a stunningly swift reversal, Tuesday’s attack drew a response from President Trump: dozens of cruise missiles launched at a Syrian air base.

One of the main defenses offered by Mr. Assad’s allies and supporters, in disputing that his forces carried out the strike on Tuesday, is that such an attack would be “a crazy move,” as one Iranian analyst, Mosib Na’imi, told the Russian state-run news site Sputnik. [snip]

This logic seems nearly impeccable. But the Times continues

[snip] Yet, rather than an inexplicable act, analysts say, it is part of a carefully calculated strategy of escalating attacks against civilians.

For years, at least since it began shelling neighborhoods with artillery in 2012, then bombing them from helicopters and later from jets, the Syrian government has adopted a policy of seeking total victory by making life as miserable as possible for anyone living in areas outside its control. [snip]

The article continues to make this case at length, and you can believe as much of it as you want to. The fact remains that using war gasses on civilian rebels at that time and place makes no sense for Assad, and whatever he may be, I would not have said he was stupid. If you have a winning position, why take stupid chances that can do you very little good, and can do you a great deal of harm?

So who does benefit from the war gas attack on Khan Sheikhoun? The rebels, of course. And of those rebels, the Caliphate stands to gain most. Assad has lost an airfield. And if the United States can be sucked into a conflict with Russia, all the better. The cost of the attack? One expendable missile, fired from anywhere although preferably from in or near Assad regime territory.

Who is most likely to have war gasses? ISIS – the Caliphate.

For a more detailed analysis, see:

What caused the chemical calamity in Khan Sheikhoun, Syria on April 4, 2017?






Opposition forces carried out a chemical attack (as a false flag).[1]

52% (Inconclusive)


A Syrian Arab Army (SAA) conventional bombing caused an unintentional release of opposition chemical agents.[2]

36% (Somewhat unlikely)


The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) carried out a chemical attack.[3]

12% (Somewhat unlikely)

While I cannot endorse these numbers for lack of evidence, I do think their rank order of likelihood is correct, and I will go further and say I find it easier to believe this was a false flag operation by ISIS than any other hypothesis. They have the means, motive, and opportunity. Assad has little motive, and international inspectors do not believe he has the means (although this is hardly decisive: he has the means to acquire war gasses; I leave calculating the probability that he has done so without detection to you.

I do not find it likely that any war gas, sarin or otherwise, was lying around in that village and was accidentally released, either by a Syrian air strike or anything else. US intelligence is convinced that there was a Syrian air strike, and that this was the delivery of the war gas. They certainly have evidence that there was an air strike, and that it came from the now destroyed Syrian air field; I have not seen or heard of the evidence that the air strike was delivery of a chemical weapon.

I have seen no evidence that the Syrian air strike was against a rebel owned war gas manufacturing facility, which is another possible explanation for Syrian air presence at the time of the war gas attack. It, is, however more believable than that Assad has secretly hidden war gasses from international inspectors, then chose to use them against his own people in an attack that had no military target at all but was intended merely to kill civilians and children in the presence of the international press.

But if it was a false flag operation intended to deceive President Trump, its success is alarming, and does little to increase the credibility or efficiency of US intelligence operations in that region, or the analysts in the White House. Since we don’t know, we can draw no conclusions. But we can wonder if the main beneficiary of this operation may not be the Caliphate.


Was it sarin?

I have seen no evidence of sarin. Sarin need not be breathed; it is a liquid and a very tiny amount absorbed through the skin is deadly. The rescue and medical workers in the TV pictures show victims gasping for breath. With sarin you do not gasp. You can’t.

What was it? Most of the symptoms I observed in the TV pictures suggest phosgene or even chlorine, but both are fairly easily detected and we have heard no accounts of “new mown hay” or Clorox odors. Neither is as lethal as this agent obviously was. It was obviously a war gas, but apparently some were exposed and lived, and unprotected medical and rescue worker were in close contact with victims but were not affected. I have no idea.


I have this:

Air Strike “Was it Machiavelli or Sun Tsu?”
LOL, it was Curly, you know the Stooge.
This pitiful excuse for a cruise missile strike has the Russian staff cracking jokes. My favorite: “We have no idea what happened to the missing 36 missiles.”
You may have learned more by now but I’ll help. You can look at the pictures for yourself. The runways are fine, you killed 6 planes and it looks like some powerful spoof threw the rest of the missiles off target. Remember, “the Russians have eye watering EW capacity”, some US general after the Ukraine started.

Chris Carson

I have not seen these pictures. The last news I have was that all 59 missiles reached their target, and the target was devastated. Obviously if that is incorrect the situation is radically changed. One reason I hate to comment on breaking news with incomplete information.



Friday was the day Donald Trump truly became president. The buck stopped here with him. Before this he was doing a wonderful job as chief administrator. Friday he became commander in chief of the most powerful military in the world. His actions were retrained but powerful. A warning to stop now before it get worse. It’s easy for many to say he should have ignored what happened, but he had to look at the real time Intel of all those dead babies. I’m rather proud of him.

Good Bless the United States of America.

Phil Tharp

I have the same feelings. I also recall Disraeli


Syrian Gas Attack & Response I’m troubled by many aspects of this gas attack.
It appears to be suspiciously well and quickly documented in war-torn Syria. I have seen no documentation or suggestion of a military target nearby.
Which suggests the question of why Assad would engage in Suicide by Trump?
If this was a false flag operation it was designed and executed expertly. Almost no one would not take the bait and President Trump was almost certain to.
So, if this was a false flag attack, who benefits?
We can be sure the Russians were watching those Tomahawks in great detail with every sensor platform they have.


I have the same suspicions, and I do not see anyone dealing with them. I do not like this.


Other takes on Syria

All may not be as it appears. It rarely is, as we seem to re-discover every day.

More evidence that it wasn’t Assad who used the gas (although Hersch seems to assume it was sarin):

More about Hersch:

Richard White

I find the Dilbert analysis very well done and interesting. We don’t know anything, and the news slowly filters out.


How Convenient For The Israelis

Dear Jerry,

It sure looks like a rematch is being scheduled for the failed 2006 War.  Its probably been forgotten that Israel roundly lost the 2006 fight against Hezbollah tactically and operationally.  Strategically the outcome was a stalemate at best.  Israel then tried to mask this defeat by a period of indiscriminate shelling and bombing of civilians all over Lebanon, similar to what Assad is accused of doing recently.  Except that no one has alleged Assad used US supplied weapons to do whatever he is alleged to have done.

And of course both Assad and Hezbollah are well known allies, proxies and satellites of Iran, the contemporary source of all evil on Earth.

It was certainly fortuitous for Friends of Israel everywhere that Assad chose this precise moment to decide it was vital to his regime’s survival to deploy chemical weapons of mass destruction against unarmed civilians.

Best Wishes,


No comment. Of course it has to be considered.



Dr Pournelle 

RE: Slay a dragon

This is speculation, but perhaps the strike on the Syrian air base was also intended to serve notice to the Chinese gov’t: Trump will do what he says he will do. You will not see multiple lines drawn in the sand. You will not see even one. 

There’s a new sheriff in town. 

The Chinese president cannot fail to notice the size or the timing: massive strike ordered, dinner, massive strike reported. Trump said he will nuke Pyongyang. He means it. Curb your dog now or we will put it down. 

As to the reduced casualties, I think the timing was driven more by the dinner with the Chinese president than by a desire to mitigate casualties. If I wanted to send a message to the Syrians, I would have struck when they were open and taken out the command element. 

Live long and prosper 

h lynn keith

It will certainly have that effect.


Syrian Attack

The missiles strikes against Syria came with many interesting reports.

In 2013, the US government could not link Assad to the strike. I read reports that Syrian rebels claimed responsibility. I do not have a position on the 2013 incident and neither does LTG Michael Flynn:


During a 2015 trip to Russia, Donald Trump’s pick to be national security adviser, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, said he didn’t know whether the 2013 sarin gas attack in Syria was conducted by the Syrian Army or by other forces in an attempt to draw the United States into the conflict.

Flynn not ruling out the possibility of a “false flag” attack raises questions about how the Trump administration will approach the Syrian conflict.


Russia seems pretty sure the 2013 incident was not Assad:


Russia said it has “clear” evidence that Syrian rebels fired a rocket laden with sarin gas at an Aleppo suburb in March, a view that clashed with U.S. conclusions on the same issue last month and was initially rejected Tuesday by Washington.


And the Russians aren’t alone on this:

Russia will make a similar argument about the 2017 strike before the United Nations:


Russia will argue at the United Nations that an apparent chemical attack that left scores dead in Syria was in fact contamination caused by rebels’ chemical munitions, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday.


Now, Russia offered two stories. The one in this article claims the Russian side believes that a Syrian rebel chemical munitions factory was hit in the strike, causing the leak. Others on the ground say two chemical strikes occurred — the initial strike and then a strike on first responders. But, another Russian source stated the rebels knew, in advance, of the airstrike and released the gas around the same time as the airstrike to make it look as if Assad had done it.

As with the 2013 incident, I do not know what to make of the 2017 incident. Like you, I would not have ordered the strike until I was clear on what was happening.

It is curious the Russians did not attempt to intercept any of the cruise missiles. I have some ideas about that, but I’m sure you do too…. Not being a fly on the wall at the Kremlin, I’ll keep my ideas to myself for now.

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo

I am not privy to Kremlin policy discussions.


More on NASA and Em Drive
A leaked NASA paper was posted on a NASA spaceflight forum –
says that the drive actually works!
“But a leaked NASA document obtained this week by the IB Times suggests the system may indeed be viable. The paper, described as “an early draft of Nasa’s much-anticipated peer-reviewed paper”on the technology, details tests carried out by NASA’s experimental Eagleworks Laboratories at the Johnson Space Center in Texas and describes the system “consistently performing.”
I’d prefer a link to the paper rather than a link to a page talking about the paper. But, it is what it is.


You can believe as much as you want to. I would like to believe it all, but the lack of evidence I can examine keeps interfering.


NR: did Obama aide commission false NOAA report

Dr Pournelle,
Spotted this summary in National Review:
A president abusing his office in order to influence holy science? Say it ain’t so!
Maybe that Trump transition team questionnaire to the EPA was sort of justified? Maybe the march of scientists is just practice for a beltway job fair? Maybe Bill Nye is just another loud nut job entertainer? Maybe it was all just a Chinese conspiracy?
Wishing you and Roberta the best,

I bite my lip…


Mining Asteroids Just Got Real

Yes, I know it’s “The Sun” and respectable “news” like MSNBC, CNBC, CNN, Fox, and the Wall Street Journal never do fake news — oh wait they do.. WSJ is involved in the anti-Google ad revenue scandal that

I can brief you on if you prefer. But, I digress. The Sun reports

on something picked up by Business Insider (a NYT publication) and others on mining asteroids and Goldman Sach’s support of the same:


“While the psychological barrier to mining asteroids is high, the actual financial and technological barriers are far lower,” the report said, according to Business Insider.

“Prospecting probes can likely be built for tens of millions of dollars each and Caltech has suggested an asteroid-grabbing spacecraft could cost $2.6bn.”

[Goldman Sachs] added: “Space mining could be more realistic than perceived.”

It is believed an asteroid the size of a football field could be worth up to £40 billion.

However, bringing that much platinum back to Earth is likely to crash the precious metal market – and probably the rest of the economy with it.


And this crap about “crashing the economy” reveals that writers at The Sun clearly don’t understand how the diamond trade works. Nobody would want to “crash the market” as that would ruin their profits.

Better to bring the stuff back here, sit on it like a dragon, and release it — discreetly — into the economy while transferring wealth to one’s self and one’s associates. That, I believe, is the more likely course of action — assuming no one pirates the payload. Space pirates will crop up very quickly, I’ll bet.

Whatever the case, we must learn to live in space!

Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC

Percussa Resurgo


I have been saying do since A Step Farther Out…


Atmosphere Detected On An Earth-sized Exoplanet

From the BBC: Atmosphere found around Earth-like planet GJ 1132b (
The planet is 1.4 times Earth’s mass and orbits a M type star. It is estimated to have a surface temperature of 370 degrees C, so there is little hope of life as we know it, but this is a demonstration that atmospheres on Earth-sized exoplanets can be detected and even partly characterized by current technology. Legacy of Heorot, anyone?


Speaking of which, it’s time to go working on Godsons and Starborn





Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.



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