Former Congressman Dennis Kucinich speaks at a union-sponsored event in 2011. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
It’s right to be skeptical of American claims about weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, given the duplicity of the George W. Bush administration in Iraq. It’s right to be concerned that the United States is planning to bomb Syria, if the current accord over destroying Syria’s chemical weapons stocks breaks down.
But here’s what’s not right: it’s not right to deny the overwhelming evidence that Syria used poison gas in the suburbs of Damascus on August 21. I’m talking to you, Vladimir Putin. And to you, Dennis Kucinich. And to all of those on the left who’ve speculated that the horrific incident on August 21 was the work of Syria’s rebels. It wasn’t. The Syrian government did it. Let’s put that one to rest.
Putin, scrambling to defend an ally and anxious over the possibility that President Obama would carry out what, by all accounts, would be a useless, strategically incompetent, and lethal and dangerous attack, is the leading serial denier of the obvious. In doing so, Putin and his government—including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations—have made themselves look foolish. The same goes for Dennis Kucinich, the liberal former Democratic member of Congress from Ohio who, unaccountably, has joined forces with Fox News and who conducted a sycophantic interview with Assad in Damascus.
Russia has stood firm against an attack on Syria, and Putin and Lavrov have been instrumental in pushing for a Geneva II peace conference in search of a political settlement of the civil war in Syria, which has left tens of thousands dead. But Putin’s absurd whitewashing of the Syrian government for its obvious use of poison gas should not be part of the picture.
Let’s recap: in an op-ed in The New York Times, Putin blithely cited invisible evidence that the rebels were responsible for the gas use, and he even managed to work into his ridiculous defense mention of a threat to Israel:
“No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria. But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists. Reports that militants are preparing another attack—this time against Israel—cannot be ignored.”
In a news conference in Russia, Putin went so far as to say that the rebels slyly used old Russian-made artillery shells to disguise its origin:
Speaking at a conference, Putin said “we have every reason to believe that it was a provocation, a sly and ingenious one.” He added, however, that its perpetrators have relied on “primitive” technology, using old Soviet-made ammunition no longer in the Syrian army’s inventory.