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The Chlorine Issue
That the Assad government over recent months has been putting increasing pressure on the rebels and consolidating its gains requires the U.S. to step in, in the view of the Israelis and our homebred neocons. The Post's editors don't even ask you to read between the lines.
"Let's get real," they warn. "Without U.S. involvement, the worst-case predictions are coming true."
The Post's impassioned cri de coeur is a throwback to the situation in Syria last summer when a number of successes against the rebels showed that Assad might be turning the tide. The prospect of failure in the cause of "regime change" was getting very "real."
So, the neocon-dominated Post and John Kerry's neocon-leaning State Department set out to change that reality, seizing on the murky case of who released Sarin in a suburb of Damascus on Aug. 21, apparently killing hundreds.
On Aug. 30, in a speech pressing for war, Kerry declared, 35 times, that "we know" that the chemical attack was launched by the Syrian government. But the "evidence" that he provided at the time boiled down to "trust us."
Despite media and political pressure to attack, Obama was hesitant to authorize an aerial bombardment without congressional approval. That gave time for Russian President Putin to come up with a compromise plan for Assad to surrender his chemical weapons arsenal, even as Assad continued to blame the rebels for the Aug. 21 incident.
The quieting of the war drums infuriated the neocons -- and their fury has flared up periodically since then, even as the case against Assad as the guilty party in the Sarin attack crumbled.
The evidence piling up over the past several months has included two impressive investigative reports by Pulitzer Prize-winner journalist Seymour Hersh describing doubts within the U.S. intelligence community about Syria's guilt and citing sources pointing the finger at Turkey and the rebels. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Was Turkey Behind Syria-Sarin Attack?"]
Whatever the ultimate explanation of who launched the Sarin attack, it is clear that Kerry was not telling the truth about his knowns and unknowns, to borrow another expression from Don Rumsfeld.
We now know that the reliability of Kerry's information on Syria was on a par with the claims about Iraq's WMD from one of his predecessors, Colin Powell. And, thanks to Hersh's investigative reporting, we also know that the U.S. military attack that was being planned would have been "shock-and-awe -- part two," a far cry from what Kerry had said at the time, that it would be an "unbelievably small, limited" war.
More Drums of War
Now, the war drums are banging again over Syria's alleged use of chlorine in some of its bombs, with the Washington Post taking its usual spot in the percussion section. Still, there has been a struggle pulling together a full orchestra to perform this new propaganda concerto.
On April 13, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power told ABC's "This Week" that Washington was looking into reports that chlorine gas was used in the Syrian village of Kafr Zeita, 125 miles north of Damascus. She added, though, that the reports were thus far "unsubstantiated."
Adding to the new furor, the anti-Assad advocacy group Human Rights Watch released a report that said that evidence it has reviewed "strongly suggests" that regime helicopters dropped improvised explosives known as barrel bombs loaded with chlorine gas cylinders on three towns in northern Syria in mid-April. The report noted that only the Syrian government operates helicopters.
On May 13, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told a news conference in Washington: "We have at least 14 signs that show us that, in the past recent weeks again, chemical weapons in a smaller scale have been used, in particular chlorine," Fabius said. "Right now we are examining the samples that were taken."
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