the u.s. launched an attack on a site inside syria over the weekend. the americans claim they targeted a facility related to foreign fighters in iraq. the syrian government claims it attacked a civilian construction site and killed eight civilians. neither side has all that much credibility in situations like this.
al jazeera english has a video in which it interviews some of the civilians injured in the attack:
naturally, the dittoheads on the right are mindlessly cheering this attack, as they would any attack on an a-rab country. i find it very odd when people cheer bloodshed like this. it's one thing to feel that killing people is sometimes necessary. it's quite another to cheer killing before you even know why they were killed. it seems more than just a little sick to me.
in any case, i do wonder why the u.s. decided to strike now, or even if we'll ever find out. is this the october surprise? i doubt it. you have to be pretty out of it to think that a raid like this (which appears on page 11 of today's NYT) would affect the presidential race at all.
josh landis hypothesizes that the bush administration viewed this as a "freebee", i.e. a chance to strike syria without long term consequences before it has to hand over the keys to obama. if landis is right, the bush administration really is a gang of psychopaths, ordering the deaths of human beings just to make a point to a foreign leader they don't like.
juan cole speculates that the raid was meant to disable al qaeda in iraq and make sure the group "did not have the means to mount a spectacular bombing or assassination campaign that would hurt McCain and help Obama." cole's theory only makes sense if the target really was an al qaeda in iraq site. it also only makes sense if whoever ordered the strike believed that an al qaeda in iraq attack would help obama. it's not clear to me that it would. also quite a lot of conservatives seem to think the exact opposite: that the lack of violence in iraq is a sign that mccain was right about the surge.
so what do i think? i'm not sure. it could have been intended to be a strike on some group of foreign fighters. but the on the scene interviews in the above video are pretty convincing evidence that at least some civilians were the victims of the attack. so it could be that the entire attack was an american screw-up, hitting a syrian target based on bad intelligence that really ended up being a civilian construction site. or it could be that the attack really did hit some foreign fighters but it also included the deaths and injury of several civilians, with the syrian government only providing access to the wounded civilians to reporters. i'm having a harder time going with the landis theory. maybe i'm just naive. but i don't think the bush administration is sick enough to order the deaths of people without even any plausible political gain.
UPDATE: landis's monday morning update sounds more plausible to me. he's now thinking that satellite photos picked up some smugglers crossing the syrian-iraqi border. the u.s. assumed they were foreign fighters hiding in a "safe house" and ordered the raid. instead, they ended up killing a family of smugglers.
that seems completely plausible to me. it's similar to the kind of intelligence screw-ups we've seen again and again, particularly in afghanistan and pakistan. it also would mean that the raid has nothing to do with the election.
but still, this is all just guesswork. we may never know the real story. i do find it interesting that lebanon is siding with syria in condemning the raid. and it wasn't just president michel suleiman who condemned american action. it was also prime minister fouad seniora who is normally no friend to syria.