I probably should just stop believing any initial reports that would appear to lend support for hawks and their Middle East ambitions.
Even as lawmakers pressed President Barack Obama on Thursday to take more aggressive action in Syria, questions surfaced among experts and from within the U.S. government about the strength of the evidence showing that chemical weapons have been used in that nation’s 2-year-old civil war.
But experts say the reports should be met with some skepticism because of the small amount of sarin that was found, the lack of widespread deaths and injuries, and inconclusive U.S. intelligence assessments.
The intelligence findings cited in a letter from the White House to Capitol Hill on Thursday were of “low or moderate” confidence, said a U.S. intelligence official who requested anonymity in order to discuss the classified reports.
Another person familiar with the issue, who asked not to be further identified because of its sensitivity, said that only a minuscule trace of a “byproduct”– a toxic residue left behind after use of a nerve agent, and which he did not identify – had been found in a soil sample.
“They found trace amounts of a byproduct in soil, but there are also fertilizers that give out the same byproduct,” the person said. “It’s far from conclusive.”
Obama has long resisted significant involvement in Syria, despite repeated calls to help end the bloodshed in the war-torn country. But he has said repeatedly that the use of chemicals weapons would trigger what he called a “red line” and lead to greater intervention.
So far, the United States has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Syrians seeking to overthrow the Assad regime and has called on the United Nations to investigate the possible use of chemical weapons. That inquiry has been blocked by Assad.
Bear in mind that we’ve been here before. It’s the same damn song. And it will be the same damn one on Iran in a few years when some President starts warning us of mushroom clouds over DC or Tel Aviv.
In short, in matters of war, do not trust anything said in Washington D.C.