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So, contrary to the certitude of Denis McDonough and Candy Crowley that "everyone believes" the accuracy of the U.S. government's case against Assad's regime, there actually are members of Congress, average Americans citizens and people around the world who aren't sold on the Obama administration's sales job.
Some members of Congress, such as Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Florida, as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Assad, are demanding that the White House make public whatever evidence it claims to have tying Assad and his regime to the August chemical event near Damascus.
The Obama administration has cited "sources and methods" as its excuse why it can't reveal its proof, but there have been many cases in the past in which presidents have recognized the need to waive secrecy in order to justify military action.
As senior CIA veteran Milton Bearden has put it, there are occasions when more damage is done to U.S. national security by "protecting" sources and methods than by revealing them. For instance, Bearden noted that Ronald Reagan exposed a sensitive intelligence source in justifying to a skeptical world the justification for the U.S. attack on Libya in retaliation for the April 5, 1986 bombing at the La Belle Disco in West Berlin, which killed two U.S. servicemen and a Turkish woman, and injured over 200 people, including 79 U.S. servicemen.
Intercepted messages between Tripoli and agents in Europe made it clear that Libya was behind the attack. Here's an excerpt: "At 1:30 in the morning one of the acts was carried out with success, without leaving a trace behind."
Ten days after the bombing the U.S. retaliated, sending over 60 Air Force fighters to strike the Libyan capital of Tripoli and the city of Benghazi. The operation was widely seen as an attempt to kill Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, who survived, but his adopted 15-month-old daughter was killed in the bombing, along with at least 15 other civilians.
Three decades ago, there was a certain shame attached to the killing of little girls. As world abhorrence grew after the U.S. bombing strikes, the Reagan administration produced the intercepted, decoded message sent by the Libyan Peoples Bureau in East Berlin acknowledging the "success" of the attack on the disco, and adding the ironically inaccurate boast "without leaving a trace behind."
The Reagan administration made the decision to give up a highly sensitive intelligence source, its ability to intercept and decipher Libyan communications. But once the rest of the world absorbed this evidence, international grumbling subsided and many considered the retaliation against Tripoli justified.
Similarly, the U.S. government faces international skepticism now over its allegations about Syria, especially after the bitter experience of the invasion of Iraq based on false intelligence. The Obama administration may try to pretend that no skepticism exists today, but that clearly isn't true and only further undermines U.S. credibility.
If indeed the evidence of Assad's complicity is as conclusive as the Obama administration claims it is, then releasing the information could go a long way at least toward assuaging concerns that the U.S. government might bomb the wrong side.
However, if the administration sticks to its strategy of trying to muscle its case for war through Congress, the White House will only fuel suspicions in Congress and elsewhere that the "evidence" against Assad simply can't stand the sunlight of public scrutiny.
If, for whatever reason, Obama is unwilling to do that, then at this point he might heed the advice offered by Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Massachusetts, Sunday on CNN:
"If I were the president, I would withdraw my request for authorization of this particular point. I don't believe the support is there in Congress. People view war as a last resort. And I don't think people think that we're at that point. So I would -- I would step back a little bit. We have other issues we have to deal with in Congress domestic and international."