The American War Brief Is Extremely Weak
The White House released a 4-page document setting forth its case for use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government.
But as shown below, the case is extremely weak (government’s claim in quotes, followed by rebuttal evidence).
“A preliminary U.S. government assessment determined that 1,429 people were killed in the chemical weapons attack, including at least 426 children, though this assessment will certainly evolve as we obtain more information.“
But McClatchy notes:
Neither Kerry’s remarks nor the unclassified version of the U.S. intelligence he referenced explained how the U.S. reached a tally of 1,429, including 426 children. The only attribution was “a preliminary government assessment.”
Anthony Cordesman, a former senior defense official who’s now with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, took aim at the death toll discrepancies in an essay published Sunday.
He criticized Kerry as being “sandbagged into using an absurdly over-precise number” of 1,429, and noted that the number didn’t agree with either the British assessment of “at least 350 fatalities” or other Syrian opposition sources, namely the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has confirmed 502 dead, including about 100 children and “tens” of rebel fighters, and has demanded that Kerry provide the names of the victims included in the U.S. tally.
“President Obama was then forced to round off the number at ‘well over 1,000 people’ – creating a mix of contradictions over the most basic facts,” Cordesman wrote. He added that the blunder was reminiscent of “the mistakes the U.S. made in preparing Secretary (Colin) Powell’s speech to the U.N. on Iraq in 2003.”
An unclassified version of a French intelligence report on Syria that was released Monday hardly cleared things up; France confirmed only 281 fatalities, though it more broadly agreed with the United States that the regime had used chemical weapons in the Aug. 21 attack.
Next, the government says:
“In addition to U.S. intelligence information, there are accounts from international and Syrian medical personnel; videos; witness accounts; thousands of social media reports from at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area; journalist accounts; and reports from highly credible nongovernmental organizations.”
Reports on the ground are contradictory, with some claiming that the rebels used the chemical weapons. See this and this. Indeed, government officials have admitted that they’re not sure who used chemical weapons.
More importantly the U.S. government claimed it had unimpeachable sources regarding Iraq’s WMDs … and that turned out to be wholly fabricated.