By Robert Parry: Congress Denied Syrian Facts, Too
A U.S. congressman who has read the Obama administration's classified version of intelligence on the alleged Syrian poison gas attack says the report is only 12 pages, just three times longer than the sketchy unclassified public version, and is supported by no additional hard evidence. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Florida, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also had to make a formal request to the administration for "the underlying intelligence reports" and he is unaware if those details have been forthcoming, suggesting that the classified report like the unclassified version is more a set of assertions than a presentation of evidence. "We have reached the point where the classified information system prevents even trusted members of Congress, who have security clearances, from learning essential facts, and then inhibits them from discussing and debating what they do know," Grayson wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times on Saturday. "And this extends to matters of war and peace, money and blood. The 'security state' is drowning in its own phlegm. My position is simple: if the administration wants me to vote for war, on this occasion or any other, then I need to know all the facts. And I'm not the only one who feels that way." As I wrote a week ago, after examining the four-page unclassified summary, there was not a single fact that led the United States into the Iraq War. The only difference was that the Bush administration actually provided more checkable information than the Obama administration did, although much of the Bush data ultimately didn't check out. It appears that the chief lesson learned by the Obama administration was to release even less information about Syria's alleged chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21 than the Bush administration did about Iraq's alleged WMD. The case against Syria has relied almost exclusively on assertions, such as the bellowing from Secretary of State John Kerry that the Syrian government sure did commit the crime, just trust us. The Obama administration's limited-hangout strategy seems to have worked pretty well at least inside the Establishment, but it's floundering elsewhere around the United States. It appears that many Americans share the skepticism of Rep. Grayson and a few other members of Congress who have bothered to descend into the intelligence committee vaults to read the 12-page summary for themselves. Rallying the Establishment. Despite the sketchy intelligence, many senators and congressmen have adopted the politically safe position of joining in denunciations of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad where's the downside of that, and the mainstream U.S. media has largely taken to writing down the administration's disputed claims about Syria as "flat fact." For instance, the New York Times editorial on Saturday accepts without caveat that there was "a poison gas attack by President Bashar al-Assad's regime that killed more than 1,400 people last month," yet those supposed "facts" are all in dispute, including the total number who apparently died from chemical exposure. It was the U.S. white paper that presented the claim of "1,429" people killed without explaining the provenance of that strangely precise number.