By Robert Parry: Chemical Weapons Attack: Treating Anti-Syria Charges as Flat Fact
With the blessing of the New York Times, the Obama administration has succeeded in cementing a dubious conventional wisdom about the Syrian government's alleged use of chemical weapons last Aug, 21 without presenting a shred of actual evidence. In a front-page story, co-written by Michael R. R. Gordon, who also co-wrote the infamous "aluminum tube" article falsely accusing Iraq of building nuclear centrifuges in 2002, the Times included the U.S. allegations about Syria's chemical weapons use on October 23 that the State Department warned the White House in June that Syrian government was also blaming on the Syrian government, as a "green light for continued CW use." The Times then wrote that the State Department's warning "proved to be prophetic. A devastating poison gas attack on Aug. 21 killed hundreds of civilians." The story continues in that vein, accepting as undisputable fact that the Syrian government was behind the Aug. 21 attack on a suburb of Damascus despite significant doubts among independent analysts, UN inspectors and, I'm told, U.S. intelligence analysts, UN inspectors and, I'm told, U.S. intelligence analysts. Indeed, the reported lack of consensus in the U.S. intelligence community helps explain why a four-page U.S. "Government Assessment" of the incident was released on Aug. 30 not by the Director of National Intelligence but by the White House press office and was touted not by the DNI but Secretary of State John Kerry. The U.S. government's white paper contained no evidence to support its assertions blaming the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Though the Aug. 21 incident brought the United States to the brink of another Middle East war, the Obama administration has refused over the past two months to release any proof that it claims to possess, such as communications intercepts, images of rocket launches or even the basis for its precise count, "1.429," of those supposedly killed by Sarin gas. The U.S. government has even denied U.S. congressman Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Florida access to the supposed evidence under-girding President Barack Obama's request for authorization to use force against Syria, a proposal that is now in abeyance pending Syia's compliance with a Russian plan for destroying Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons. Grayson, who has publicly questioned why the administration insists on withholding evidence, was informed by the House Intelligence Committee that he would not be allowed to look at the intelligence because he gave an unrelated floor speech citing published charts about National Security Agency spying that were leaked by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The committee chairman Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, also justified the denial, in part, because Obama's request to use force is not currently before the House. According to an article in Politico, Rogers said requests to review intelligence information are weighed against "the sensitivity to the national defense or the confidential conduct of the foreign relations of the United States defense or the confidential conduct of the foreign relations of the United States of the information sought, the likelihood of its being directly or indirectly disclosed and the jurisdictional interest of the members making the request."