The Case Against Backing Syria Strike: Re: “Assad is testing us, Baird warns,” Sept. 8

First published as the lead letter in the Toronto Star (11 September 2013),


External Affairs Minister John Baird's concern over the atrocities being inflicted on Syrian civilians is commendable. But he should examine the relevant evidence before throwing Canada's support behind a plan for bombing Syria that will result in the deaths of far more than the 25,000 civilians whom he imagines as the victims of the next poison gas attack.

Carla Del Ponte, of the UN Independent International Commission on Syria, stated in May that there was “strong, concrete” evidence (though not “incontrovertible proof”) that rebels—and not Assad's regime—had used nerve gas in previous attacks on civilians.

Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, an organization of former senior U.S. intelligence officers, informed President Barack Obama on September 6 that sources within U.S. intelligence “are telling us, categorically, that ... Bashar al-Assad was NOT responsible for the chemical incident” of August 21, that this incident “was not the result of an attack by the Syrian army,” and that CIA Director John Brennan “is perpetrating a pre-Iraq-War-type fraud on members of Congress, the media, the public—and perhaps even you.”

They add that there is “a growing body of evidence,” mostly from sources “affiliated with the Syrian opposition,” that this incident was “a pre-planned provocation by the Syrian opposition and its Saudi and Turkish supporters” intended to “bring the United States into the war.”

Contrary to Baird's belief, it is not Assad but Obama who is testing us. Obama wonders whether we have forgotten the lies about WMDs that legitimized the invasion of Iraq in 2003—as well as the principles enunciated at the Nuremberg trials, according to which aggressive war “is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

Michael Keefer, 
Professor Emeritus, University of Guelph, 



I sent this letter to the Toronto Star on September 8, 2013, and with it all of my relevant contact information. Two days later, having received no acknowledgment, I sent my letter in a second time, accompanied this time by a note pointing out that it had raised matters not just of opinion, but of quite crucial evidence and of international law, and indicating that I thought the newspaper's Atkinson Principles (which are stated on the Star's website) implied respect for issues such as these.

Shortly after noon on September 11, I received from Kathy English, the Star's Public Editor, a boiler-plate expression of regret. After explaining that the paper “receives many many letters to the editor from readers expressing their views on news and issues of the day” and publishes more than a dozen of these on any given day, but doesn't make a practice of contacting people whose letters are not chosen for publication, Ms. English thanked me “for taking time to express our [sic] views.”

I replied, thanking her for the information, but noting that the point was now moot, since my letter had appeared in print that morning. I added: “May I take the small typo in your last sentence as a Freudian slip, an acknowledgment that 'our views' on the so-far narrowly averted US bombing of Syria are the same?” To which she responded:

“I'm sorry I did not see that your letter was indeed published. A typo, indeed!”