The White House stated in a letter to Congressional leaders that it has reasonable evidence that Syrian President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons, but Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told reporters it was only on a “small scale.”
The letter confirms a statement two days ago by Israel’s military intelligence officer Gen. Itan Brun that the nerve gas sarin was used. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry refused to accept the informant as fact, particularly since Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu did not “confim” the information in an ensuing telephone conversation.
President Barack Obama is in no hurry to carry out his promise that if Assad were to cross the red line and use the mass destruction weapons, a horrid war crime, he would order the American military to intervene militarily in the two-year-old civil war.
He presumably does not want to take military action unless he has solid and 100 percent certain evidence to show the world. The United States has been burned enough by getting stuck into wars and paying the price with the lives of American soldiers, but this time around, it may be burned by not having intervened to stop one of the worst imaginable war crimes.
Rebels have posted on the Internet, on at least three occasions the past three months, pictures of children and adults with burns from chemical weapons.
Hagel told reporters in the United Arab Emirates that “our intelligence community does assess, with varying degrees of confidence, that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically, the chemical agent sarin.”
Kerry said that the administration believes Assad used chemical weapons twice. Only twice.
All indications are that the “red line” is actually only orange.
The problem is that by the time the American government comes up with its proof, Assad may have deformed or killed dozens, or hundreds or thousands of more of his people.
The White House letter warns, “Precisely because the President takes this issue so seriously, we have an obligation to fully investigate any and all evidence of chemical weapons use within Syria.” It was signed by Miguel Rodriguez, director of the Office of Legislative Affairs.
The letter was sent to Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Carl Levin, D-Mich., after they and other senators asked the White House for answers on the chemical weapons question.
An indication of the U.S. government’s desire to see things other than they are can be found in an editorial in Wednesday’s New York Times, which often acts as a non-official member of the Obama Cabinet.
Under the headline “Were Chemical Weapons Used in Syria?” the editorial stated that although it is easily imagine bale that Assad would gas his own people, “There is no proof that he has done so…. The case against Mr. Assad, so far, is thin.
“Experts say the best way to prove that chemical weapons have been used is to collect soil samples promptly at the site and examine suspected victims. That’s hard to do in a war zone, and, so far, Israel, Britain and France have not offered physical proof “
The editorial calls for “a coordinated investigation…to see whether the charges by Israel, Britain and France hold water.”
The newspaper is correctly worried about a repeat of history, recalling American intervention in Iraq on the wrong assumption that Saddam Hussein had a nuclear weapons program.
But there also are other lessons from history than can be noted.
The United States knew that Hitler was exterminating Jews. But did it have proof?
Are countries bound to treat moral issues as legal cases at the cost of genocide?