All Scrubbed Up, Nowhere to Show

Exclusive: Two weeks after an apparent chemical attack in Syria, the Obama administration continues to tout its “scrubbed and rescrubbed” intelligence as proving that the Syrian government is to blame. But not a single piece of verifiable evidence has been presented to the American people, notes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Secretary of State John Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the U.S. “intelligence community has scrubbed and rescrubbed the evidence” proving that the Syrian government launched a poison gas attack on Aug. 21, but this supposedly spotless data is still being withheld from the American people.

So, just a little more than a decade after President George W. Bush misled the nation into a disastrous war in Iraq, President Barack Obama and his team are trying to sell a new war with Syria by presenting even fewer details.

Secretary of State John Kerry speaking with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel during testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Sept. 3, 2013. (DOD photo)

Members of Congress also are reprising their roles from 2002-2003, displaying almost no skepticism as they get “classified” glimpses of this well-scrubbed intelligence. And, the mainstream press has slid into the same careless acceptance of U.S. government proclamations as fact, just as it did a decade ago.

For instance, the New York Times star columnist Thomas L. Friedman, who swallowed the Iraq War lies whole, is gorging himself again on whatever the U.S. government is dishing up on Syria. “Count me with the activists on the question of whether the United States should respond to the Syrian regime’s murder of some 1,400 civilians, more than 400 of them children, with poison gas,” Friedman wrote on Wednesday.

Note his complete lack of sourcing or ambivalence, though every point in his declarative sentence is in doubt, including the numbers of victims. British intelligence cites a figure of “at least 350” while U.S. intelligence provides the strangely precise number of “1,429,” but without offering any public explanation of how that total was reached.

After the Iraq War fiasco, which killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis (although, in that case, the U.S. government never did a serious body count), I wrote a number of articles calling for accountability not only for government officials who authorized the illegal war but for journalists who failed to protect the American people from government lies.

However, the conventional wisdom then was that it would be unfair to fire or demote journalists who ran with the pack. After all, they were simply doing what almost everyone else was doing – and it was impractical to purge the swollen ranks of implicated journalists, from senior editors to big-name columnists to beat reporters.

So, with very few exceptions, there was no accountability in the national press as there was next to none within the U.S. government (except for some whistleblowers who exposed government wrongdoing). This failure of fairness and justice created the danger that when the next Middle East crisis arose, the American people would be guided by many of the same politicians who messed up Iraq – and would be informed by the same journalists.

Thus, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, you had most of the testimony coming from two politicians – Secretary of State Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel – who as senators in 2002 voted for Bush’s Iraq War resolution. And you had the likes to Thomas Friedman and the Washington Post’s neocon opinion section again beating the drums for war, either by arming the Syrian rebels or through direct intervention by the U.S. military.

Forgotten Lesson

Though some of the Iraq War hawks in the press and politics later admitted they were duped by Bush’s certitude regarding Iraq’s WMD stockpiles – and they shouldn’t have stated the WMD’s existence as “flat fact” – they have quickly forgotten that lesson a decade later with Syria.

Instead of demanding that the Obama administration present its intelligence information in detail, the usual suspects have simply fallen back into the pattern of accepting disputed U.S. evidence as undeniable. Friedman almost swaggers rhetorically as he dares anyone to doubt the U.S. government’s case this time.

Similarly, Kerry is emboldened to embroider the U.S. government’s claims without supplying any checkable details. In his Senate testimony on Tuesday, Kerry declared that the “Assad regime prepared for this attack, issued instructions to prepare for this attack, warned its own forces to use gas masks.” He added that the U.S. intelligence included “physical evidence of where the rockets came from and when.”

Previously, Kerry had claimed that a phone intercept of a senior Syrian official caught him admitting that the Assad regime had carried out the attack. But a three-page white paper issued last Friday contained not a single independently verifiable piece of evidence. For instance, the “senior official” was left unnamed and his words were only paraphrased. There were no direct quotes, no transcript, no full context.

It’s also unclear how the United States knows about the Assad regime’s pre-attack preparations and the location of the missile launches. If the U.S. possesses satellite photographs or other physical evidence, none has been revealed publicly.

Though some credulous Congress people have emerged from the “classified” briefings deeply impressed by the intelligence community’s presentations, a few were underwhelmed. “Yes, I saw the classified documents,” Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, told The Hill newspaper. “They were pretty thin.”

One also might assume that if the intelligence were truly a “slam dunk,” the Obama administration would have figured out ways of highlighting the evidence. The fact that all the details are being kept from the American people should be regarded as a prima facie case for believing that Rep. Burgess is right.

There is an old journalistic adage, “show, don’t tell.” But the Obama administration is doing the opposite, “tell, don’t show.” One has to wonder why – if the evidence has been so “scrubbed and rescrubbed” – Secretary Kerry doesn’t want to dress it up and put it on display for the world to see.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

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23 comments on “All Scrubbed Up, Nowhere to Show

  1. Curious in California on said:

    It’s not clear to me what would qualify as “independently verifiable” evidence from my point of view as a citizen, taxpayer, and voter, that a Sarin gas attack had occurred and if so who perpetrated it.

    I don’t personally know anyone who was in Syria at the time of the alleged attack. If someone showed me the results of a chemical assay for Sarin, I wouldn’t have a clue how to interpret it, or how to be sure it wasn’t a forgery.

    I agree that some skepticism is healthy and necessary, but on some level we have to have some trust in our elected employees. If this whole story turns out to be a fabrication, it would be an epic scandal.

  2. rosemerry on said:

    “Syrian regime’s murder of some 1,400 civilians, more than 400 of them children”
    Was Tom Friedman so upset when Israel used white phosphorus to kill over 1400 Gazans, large numbers of them children, less than 5 years ago? There was no doubt who did that, nor who supplied so many of Israel’s weapons.

    • Peter Loeb on said:

      1. WE CANNOT TRUST OUR “EMPLOYEES”. We have been lead astray many too many
      times by hawks (both parties) hell bent for war. Some poeple forget cooking
      the intelligence books for Iraq and other so-called “temporary” interventions.
      (See bl a Mark Danner: THE SECRET WAY TO WAR:THE DOWNING STREET MEMO… and
      Nicolas J.S. Davies: BLOOD ON OUR HANDS: THE AMERICAN INVASION AND DESTRUCTION
      OF IRAQ….)

      2. Sweden nicely referred to the UN but said nothing about intelligence being “compelling” about Assad’s responsibility in Syria. Most of
      the House of Commons (Labour and Conservative) found no “compelling”
      intelligence. Russia also finds no evidence in US intelligence blaming
      Assad. And so on.

      3.ISRAEL (AIPAC) and Zionist-leaning hawks are convinced by their motives.
      They—and Obama—junk the Congress and UN and world and re-write a world
      with OBAMA uber alles (over all). —Peter, Boston

  3. muddmike on said:

    I would hope that before blowing up parts of a country and in the process killing many innocent civilians that the evidence would have to be at least as rigorous as that required to send a defendant in a criminal trial to prison for a year. The evidence should be revealed in a public trial.

    Also, when was the US appointed judge, jury and executioner for people in a foreign country.

    What would the US have done if a foreign country had bombed us after the Kent State massacre? What about all of the massacres of the native population, etc.?

  4. Jerry D Riley on said:

    Remember the Kuwaiti babies allegedly thrown from their incubators by Iraqi soldiers as one of the selling points for Gulf War I. That turned out to be totally false propaganda. I suspect that these “gassed Syrian children” fall into the same category. In fact there are reports that it was set up and filmed by our DIA and the “dead” children were paid for their role playing.

    • Yeah and the martians probably attacked the world trade center..Conspirators all over the place..

      • Snake Arbusto on said:

        That Assad would allow a chemical weapons strike in the full knowledge that it was exactly the pretext the US was planning to use is the most ridiculous conspiracy theory I have ever heard.

  5. As With “OSAMA”, Obama Got NOTHIN’!

  6. Where did the bodies come from..??Somebody gassed them..why can’t they find out who?? So we just sit back like we did in Hitlers Germany while 100′s of thousands were gassed??
    I don’t get it…

    • Andrew P Nichols on said:

      No – we indict at the ICC. And also add those people who authorised the use of phosphorus at gaza and Fallujah – and DU in Iraq. That’s what we do. We dont do old fashioned lynching. That’s very 1930s (Czeckoslovakia comes to mind)If we do the latter, who will be able to complain when countries we are told not to like do it?

    • EthanAllen1 on said:

      Exactly!! You obviously do not “GET IT”; and your comments reflect that.
      As Usual,
      EA

      • EthanAllen1 on said:

        Sorry, this is what I attempted to reply to:
        “gigi on September 4, 2013 at 3:25 pm said: Where did the bodies come from..??Somebody gassed them..why can’t they find out who?? So we just sit back like we did in Hitlers Germany while 100′s of thousands were gassed??
        I don’t get it…”

  7. incontinent reader on said:

    Moreover, some of what has leaked, namely the Israeli “NSA” interceptions of the calls to and from the Syrian minister now appear to confirm Syria’s shock at the incident and lack of culpability. Furthermore, the British, which have a more sophisticated signals intelligence listening post in Cyprus have confirmed nothing of the sort.

    I hope Bob, that you keep a tally of every Congressman and woman, Administration official- past and present- and every newsperson who signs on to attacking Syria, because all of them should experience political blowback of the worst kind when the public finally sorts it out. In the meantime keep turning up the heat as long as there is a chance to stop this lunacy.

    • ……..” because all of them should experience political blowback of the worst kind when the public finally sorts it out.”

      I commend you on your “fantasy” but the average American is so clueless, ignorant, jingoistic and uninformed that the notion of a “blowback” against a politician in this regard is exactly that; a fantasy. The only blowback a US politician should be wary of is being caught in a sexual escapade…now THAT YES!.. but anything else? forget it.

      • incontinent reader on said:

        Up to now you’ve been right, but on this one, a huge majority of Americans oppose military action, and as the chaos and catastrophe in Libya and elsewhere begins to sink in, and as the Administration keeps getting the nation sucked into one vortex after another, none of which it is able to control, the cluelessness may begin to evolve something very different. Many of us who have lost friends or loved ones, or who ache when our leaders spread unprovoked death and chaos through the world, or who make the connection between our loss of a home (and there are millions of us who have suffered foreclosure) and the banks, and energy companies and military contractors, are less than clueless and feel a seething anger toward our political and business leaders, so don’t discount the blowback. It may not be immediate, but when it hits it will be hard.

  8. Hold the press!

    On September 1, The Times of Israel reported that America’s case against Syrian regime’s using chemical weapon on civilians is based on information provided by Israeli intelligence agancies. The daily also reported that an Israeli delegation containing Netanyahu’s National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror and a collection of Shin Bet and top army officials visited Washington and met two Israel-Firsters, vice-president Joe Biden and Obama’s senior national security advisor Susan Rice. After their meeting, Joe Biden thundered: “There is no doubt who is responsible for this heinous use of chemical weapons in Syria: The Syrian regime“. Later, John Kerry, also, joined Joe Biden to cover-up Israel’s dubious intelligence information.

    http://rehmat1.com/2013/09/03/syria-the-tail-wags-the-dog-for-war-on-iran/

  9. A shadowy Israeli military unit is apparently the source of the “intelligence” that the Obama administration is using as justification for its planned attack on Syria.
    The German magazine Focus and The UK Guardian are reporting that the majority of the information indicating dictator Bashir Assad’s use of poisonous gas comes from the 8200 unit of the Israeli Defense Forces.

    Read more: http://www.storyleak.com/obamas-source-on-syrian-chemical-weapons-is-israels-nsa/#ixzz2dxjlqVXa

    http://www.storyleak.com/obamas-source-on-syrian-chemical-weapons-is-israels-nsa/#ixzz2dxj6Riim

  10. The Guardian website, article by Nafeez Ahmed, Syrian Intervention About Oil and Gas Pipeline Not Chemical Weapons.

    This is about the long war of controlling the fossil fuel supply and bypassing Russia’s influence in the natural gas market to Europe.

  11. Otto Schiff on said:

    Consortium news is now ful of Israel and Jew bushers.
    Heil Hitler!!!!