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9 September 2013 | Draft

Truth Test on Syria: Religious oath -- Polygraph -- Ouija board?

Systemic mapping of the pattern of affirmations and denials

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Making sense of complexity

An extraordinary feature of the current crisis regarding Syria is the number and variety of affirmations regarding responsibilities for whatever is deplored -- chemical weapons, deaths, strategic implications, suspicions, and the like. These have been partially reviewed separately (Enabling Suffering through Doublespeak and Doublethink: Indifference to poverty and retributive justice as case studies, 2013).

Missing is any presentation of information which endeavours to hold all the possibilities -- whether hypothetical or considered to be based on "concrete proof". This could be extraordinary given the recognized threat of triggering World War III. That efforts should be so strenuously made to portray a singular truth, regarding a complex situation involving a variety of agendas, could be considered the height of irresponsibility. This is especially the case since the process has been so widely noted as reminiscent of the decision-making fiasco and intelligence failures regarding intervention in Iraq in 2003. Indications of a similar pattern continue to appear (Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, Obama Warned on Syrian Intel, Information Clearing House, 8 September 2013).

Interested parties: Construction of such a "map" would first require a checklist of the most interest parties, beyond the "Syrian regime" and the "Syrian rebel groups". The list might include:

Relationships: It is then useful to distinguish between:

Nature of relationship: Also necessary to any mapping is the nature of any relationship, grouped here into three clusters:

Interactive animation: Together these can be tentatively and provisionally represented on the following schematic -- intended to be purely indicative and suggestive of other possibilities. It could well be the basis for an interactive animation which would allow users to adjust:

Version 1: Schematic indicative of the bodies potentially interacting with those in Syria (tentative)
The "Syrian regime" and "Syrian rebel groups" are positioned at the centre
Schematic indicative of the bodies potentially interacting with those in Syria

Symbolism: The visual symbolism of the schematic above has been enhanced by use of the:

The schematic is variously reminiscent of a negotiating table, a roulette machine, or some form of systems diagram. An effort was made to construct such a map to indicate the forces in play with respect to the dynamics of counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan (Afghanistan Stability / COIN Dynamics) and described as The Great Afghan Spaghetti Monster (McClatchy Checkpoint Kabul, December 2009). An adaptation of such a schematic, as presented below, was proposed with respect to the forces in play on the occasion of the UN Climate Change Conference, framed by some as the last chance to save the world (Insights for the Future from the Change of Climate in Copenhagen The meaning of "The Meaning of Copenhagen", 2010).

Adaptation to climate change
of a representation of counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan

(click on image for larger version)
Adaptation to climate change  of a representation of counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan

An effort to construct a more sophisticated map with respect to the situation in Syria has been made by the Debategraph group as shown below

Screenshot of interactive map of issues relating to Syria
(Reproduced from Syria: What next? 2012 by Debategraph; click image to expand and explore)
Interactive map of issues relating to Syria

Supporting arguments: Missing in any schematic maps of this form is an integration with Wiki-style databases in which the evidence claimed for any relationship -- or its denial -- is available to facilitate informed debate and media presentation. This would require a coding of each relationship on the map to enable such text to be retrieved. This was the approach taken with the databases of the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential -- specifically embodying claims and counter-claims on controversial issues perceived by international constituencies. In the case of Syria, the challenge is evident following the production of the UN report on the results of chemical weapons test (Tony Cartalucci, Five Lies Invented to Spin UN Report on Syrian Chemical Weapons Attack, Global Research, September 17, 2013)

The absence of documentation on relationships claimed by some with regard to Syria is a strong indication of the manner in which the debate is deliberately distorted -- from which it may be inferred (with a high level of confidence) that there is something being deliberately hidden (namely "missing links") in the effort to impose a pattern of consent.

Valuable clarification of the available intelligence, and the manner of its presentation, is provided by ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern (Time to Reveal US Intel on Syria, Information Clearing House, 9 September 2013). He notes that the four-page Government Assessment of the Syrian Government's Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013, was released by the White House rather than by the office of the Director of National Intelligence, thus suggesting that the white paper did not have the endorsement of the full U.S. intelligence community. The level of endorsement by the intelligence community is now variously challenged (Obama's Case for Syria Didn't Reflect Intel Consensus, Independent European Daily Express, 9 September 2013). As McGovern notes:

Citing the curious provenance of the Government Assessment, Gareth Porterreported that the document appeared to be a political product of the White House rather than a professional assessment from the intelligence agencies. Yet, by implying that the document had the imprimatur of the U.S. intelligence community, the White House has used the white paper to preempt congressional questions about who was actually responsible for the Aug. 21 chemical incident in a Damascus suburb....

It appears we are back to the Cheney/Bush days of "faith-based intelligence" when the "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." It used to be that intelligence analysis relied chiefly on empirical data. "Common sense," especially when misshapen by intense political pressures, did not hack it.

Such processes were made obvious in the case of formation of consensus for military intervention in Iraq. The approach is more generally relevant to collective response to major disasters (Enabling Collective Intelligence in Response to Emergencies, 2010).

Testing confidence level: In the Syrian case, the schematic developed above suggests the challenging possibility that it might be used as the basis for three or more quite distinct tests, especially if a degree of interactivity enabled the strength of links to be modified by those confronted with it. Thus, when adjusted to the satisfaction of a user, it invites several possibilities:

An argument for some form of "test" has also been made by Brian J. Foley (It's Time to Create a Process to Test Claims for War -- Let's Cross-Examine Obama About His Case for Bombing Syria, Information Clearing House, 9 September 2013). This might be extended to the contextual framework of international norms and treaties which the US variously mentions and avoids, as summarized by George Monbiot (Obama's rogue state tramples over every law it demands others uphold, The Guardian, 9 September 2013), who concludes:

As for the norms of international law, let's remind ourselves where the US stands. It remains outside the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, after declaring its citizens immune from prosecution. The crime of aggression it committed in Iraq -- defined by the Nuremberg tribunal as "the supreme international crime" - goes not just unpunished but also unmentioned by anyone in government. The same applies to most of the subsidiary war crimes US troops committed during the invasion and occupation. Guantanamo Bay raises a finger to any notions of justice between nations....

But Obama's failure to be honest about his nation's record of destroying international norms and undermining international law, his myth-making about the role of the United States in world affairs and his one-sided interventions in the Middle East all render the crisis in Syria even harder to resolve. Until there is some candour about past crimes and current injustices, until there is an effort to address the inequalities over which the United States presides, everything the US attempts, even if it doesn't involve guns and bombs, will stoke the cynicism and anger the president says he wants to quench. [emphasis added]

Other relationships: The schematic can be extended to include the relationships, potential or otherwise, between those "at the table" to give a schematic of greater complexity, as indicated below.

Version 2: Schematic indicative of the bodies potentially interacting with those in Syria (tentative)
The "Syrian regime" and "Syrian rebel groups" are positioned at the centre; relations between the bodies are added
Schematic indicative of the bodies potentially interacting with those in Syria

12-fold pattern: The schematic could of course be extended in other ways. As constructed above it excludes other perspectives such as those of the United Nations and Palestine. Including them (as in the version below) would then turn the pattern into a classic 12-fold roundtable, variously held to be of functional and symbolic importance in practice, as separately discussed (Checklist of 12-fold Principles, Plans, Symbols and Concepts, 2011). Their dynamics suggest other considerations in engaging with the systemic crisis (Enabling a 12-fold Pattern of Systemic Dialogue for Governance, 2011; Eliciting a 12-fold Pattern of Generic Operational Insights: Recognition of memory constraints on collective strategic comprehension, 2011). Clearly missing from the schematic is the military-indistrial complex which benefits so significantly from any form of warfare -- possibly to be clustered with the "rogue groups" in the following variant.

Version 3: 12-fold Schematic indicative of bodies potentially interacting with those in Syria (tentative)
The "Syrian regime" and "Syrian rebel groups" are positioned at the centre (as in the earlier versions)
12-fold Schematic indicative of bodies potentially interacting with those in Syria


Building consensus around a lie
"If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed."
(Adolf Hitler)

... suggesting that every effort should be made to test the quality of belief in what is upheld as truth.

Cheney08/26/02:There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.
Cheney09/14/03:We never had evidence that he had acquired a nuclear weapon.

Powell02/05/03:Iraq today has a stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons of chemical weapons agents.
Powell09/13/04:I think it's unlikely that we will find any stockpiles.

Bush05/29/03:We found the weapons of mass destruction.
Bush10/08/04:I wasn't happy when we found out there wasn't weapons.

Failure to do so, encouraging belief in the lie, ensures that "Syria" will follow "Iraq"

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"
(George Santayana)

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