Is the Death Count in Syria’s Sarin Attack Phony?

John Glaser, September 03, 2013

McClatchy has a valuable article poking holes in various aspects of the Obama administration’s case for war with Syria. In one segment, reporters Hannah Allam and Mark Seibel question the U.S.’s estimate for how many Syrians were killed in the alleged sarin gas attack on August 21.

Another point of dispute is the death toll from the alleged attacks on Aug. 21. Neither Kerry’s remarks nor the unclassified version of the U.S. intelligence he referenced explained how the U.S. reached a tally of 1,429, including 426 children. The only attribution was “a preliminary government assessment.”

Anthony Cordesman, a former senior defense official who’s now with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, took aim at the death toll discrepancies in an essay published Sunday.

He criticized Kerry as being “sandbagged into using an absurdly over-precise number” of 1,429, and noted that the number didn’t agree with either the British assessment of “at least 350 fatalities” or other Syrian opposition sources, namely the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has confirmed 502 dead, including about 100 children and “tens” of rebel fighters, and has demanded that Kerry provide the names of the victims included in the U.S. tally.

“President Obama was then forced to round off the number at ‘well over 1,000 people’ – creating a mix of contradictions over the most basic facts,” Cordesman wrote. He added that the blunder was reminiscent of “the mistakes the U.S. made in preparing Secretary (Colin) Powell’s speech to the U.N. on Iraq in 2003.”

An unclassified version of a French intelligence report on Syria that was released Monday hardly cleared things up; France confirmed only 281 fatalities, though it more broadly agreed with the United States that the regime had used chemical weapons in the Aug. 21 attack.

Every war necessitates a sales campaign. It is harder to sell a war of choice to the American public and to Congress if the death toll is 281, or 350, than if it is 1,429, “including 426 children.” But even then it’s a stretch given that we’re talking about 0.014% of the total estimated death toll of 100,000.

Then again, this is not a humanitarian war to save the Syrian people. It is being portrayed as one to certain audiences, but a close observer of the administration’s policy will note that Obama is explicitly aiming not to incapacitate the Assad regime’s military. The conventional means by which most people have been killed will not be degraded, Obama says, only the delivery systems for chemical weapons.

Odd then that the administration would fib the numbers on this chemical attack then, right? Not exactly. If the public is under the delusion that this is a humanitarian intervention, all the better. Meanwhile, Obama will bring the U.S. to war in a foreign conflict for the sake of his “credibility,” i.e. Iran must continue to believe we’ll bomb them to smithereens.




18 Responses to “Is the Death Count in Syria’s Sarin Attack Phony?”

  1. [...] Print This | Share This | Send a letter to the editor | Letters | Antiwar Forum [...]

  2. Once again, the O-bomba administration lies to us. Obama has probably killed more innocent children with his drone attacks than were kill with the gas attacks. He'll probably kill more with his retaliatory bombing attack.

  3. Look at the evidence: Hussein stole incubators from Kuwait hospitals (the same was said about the Germans in WWI), Hussein was the new Hitler, Hussein gassed his own people (but any evidence this was never brought up in his show trial), Hussein put people through shredders, Hussein supported al Qaeda, Ghadaffi fed viagra to his supporters so the could rape women. Ghadaffi was the new Hitler. Ghadaffi supported al Qaeda. Ahmadjenidad wanted to wipe out Israel. Ahmadjenidad was the new Hitler. Ahmadjenidad wants to take over the world (hmm, the 1000+ US military bases around the world may be a more accurate indicator of who is trying to control the world). Assad is the new Hitler. Assad supports al Qaeda. Assad gasses his own people. Did I mention Assad is the new Hitler? Should Assad be murdered by the US, I predict that the new Iranian president Rouhani will be the new Hitler. Perhaps that should 'New Hitler' (TM) (R).

    In short, the US government lies through its teeth about anyone it wants to depose. It also doesn't care a hoot about the Syrian people, whether the live or die, unless they can be exploited in a favorable photo-op.

  4. The number comes off the White House's own Web site. That's why it is being reported as fact in the media.

  5. Some people apparently have the propensity for inflating numbers for political purposes. Which leads me to suspect that the people who are inflating the chemical attack numbers are not the same people who came up with the disproven 6 million figure.

  6. "ze plane ! ze plane !" "The children. The children." And they were sleeping with teddy bears clutched to their chests. Foul ! Amurka jest can't stand it no more ! Bombs away brave fliers in the sky. Git 'em ! Show 'em who's boss ! stone age.. glass parking lot…freedom fries !

  7. The gulf of Tonkin incident, body counts, serial declarations of "progress" in Vietnam (ditto of course Iraq and Afghanistan), serial "lights at the end of the tunnel". Incubator babies. Al qaida connections, weapons of mass destruction north, south, east, and west of Tikrit. Uranium from Africa sourced from patently forged documents; mobile Bio weapons labs sourced from "Curveball".

    Clapper's bald-faced lie, first exposed, then "explained" as "the least untruthful answer".

    The simple truth is: military officers lie routinely because successfully completing their mission is their only morality. The political class lies, some more competently then others, in order to get elected and stay elected. And intelligence services lie professionally, having developed the art to its highest level as part of their work in the field of strategic deception. Unfortunately, their arrogance, habit of secrecy, and exaggerated sense of self-importance overtakes them, and they take to lying whenever it serves them, particularly when it protects them or assists them in the universal human habit of self-aggrandizement.

    I sympathize with young people — I'm 65 — who lack a lifetime of experience in these matters, and will have to be gulled repeatedly over a period of decades (perhaps), until at last, and too late, they come to understand that they live within an ocean of lies and are fed on a diet of lies. Fed to them by, and for the benefit of the rich and powerful. It's hard to blame the rich and powerful. Historically, it's been a pretty good strategy for them. For the rest of us, not so much.

    If only the old maxim were more widely known and taken to heart: "There's a way to tell when these people lie. Watch them carefully. Then, whenever you see them move their lips…"

  8. [...] “An unclassified version of a French intelligence report on Syria that was released Monday hardly cleared things up; France confirmed only 281 fatalities…t is harder to sell a war of choice to the American public and to Congress if the death toll is 281, or 350, than if it is 1,429, “including 426 children.”” http://antiwar.com/blog/2013/09/03/is-the-death-count-in-syrias-sarin-attack-phony/ [...]

  9. Right on the mark except the bit about incubators in WWI. Was it not bayoneting Belgian babies as reported by Lord Bryce whose statue should be prominently on display in the State Department if it is not already there?

  10. I'm certainly opposed to the USA Warfare State attacking Syria in violation of international law.

    However, I would like to note that this writer seems to be deficient in math skills (or made a significant mistake in his arithmetic). Taking what is most likely the phony alleged number of 1429 people killed and the estimated death toll in the Syrian conflict of 100,000, it is obvious even from casual observation that his claimed percentage of .014% is ridiculously wrong.

    To make it simple enough for anyone to observe without the aid of a calculator, 1,000 is 1% of 100,000. Therefore, 1,429 will be a greater percentage of 100,000. That is to say, more than 1%, not .014%. To calculate the percentage requires that one divide 1,429 by 100,000 and multiply the result by 100.

    He did the first part and got .014, but to turn that into a percentage requires multiplying it by 100, so the percentage allegedly killed was 100 times greater than this writer is claiming.

    The big problem with asserting inaccurate information is that people who notice it are more likely to be sceptical of ones future assertions.

  11. It was nuns being tied to clappers in bells and then being crushed to death when the bells were rung. Having said that the Germans did commit numerous war crimes including murder, rape, looting on an industrial scale (literally, they moved all industrial plant back to Germany), arson, wanton destruction on a massive scale, etc. through out Belgium and north-east France throughout the war.

  12. What's with these inflated death and injury tallies that people like Kerry bruit about?
    Is he mixing it up with the Boston Marathon Massacre and Bombing which claimed hundreds of injuries lying all over the street? Or is this simply new Boston math? Do tell, Secretary Kerry. It's back to school time and we are all eager to learn the system.

  13. [...] Is the Death Count in Syria’s Sarin Attack Phony? [...]

  14. [...] Glaser on how we just don´t know how many people died in the Syrian chemical weapons attack. (Body counts are notoriously shifty, especially initially. I can picture a headline [...]

  15. who will stop this bloody buster.

  16. [...] Is the Death Count in Syria’s Sarin Attack Phony? (Antiwar) [...]

  17. We don't know what the full death toll is from the 2 years prior to the Aug 21 gas attack, but I heard today that the drug war related violence in Mexico exceeds the death toll from the Syrian "civil" war, which seems to have been engendered by the US piping in mercenaries along with some other malefactors in the area supplying armaments. Even if the death toll in Syria had been a million, the Aug 21 attack would have been 0.14, taking the US estimate, and nobody is claiming it was a million. With France counting 281 bodies, and the US govt. refusing to say how they came up 1,429, one has to wonder how the 100,000 number was arrived at for the overall toll from this conflict.

  18. Speaking of going thru the above article we believe this since its what we actually feel so it is great to see a guy thats blogging it for all to look at!