Obama Still Withholds Syria Evidence

Exclusive: President Obama has sidetracked the rush to war with Syria, agreeing to pursue a diplomatic plan involving Syria surrendering its chemical weapons. But the U.S. government still hides its supposedly conclusive evidence that the Assad regime was guilty of the Aug. 21 chemical attack, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Even people who trust the Obama administration’s accusations blaming the Syrian government for the apparent Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack outside Damascus can’t explain why these supposed phone intercepts and satellite photos are still being kept secret from the American people.

One intelligence source told me, after President Barack Obama’s Tuesday night speech on Syria, that the reason for the unreasonable secrecy should be obvious by now: that the evidence would not withstand scrutiny. He said it is viewed as flimsy even by some of the CIA analysts involved.

President Barack Obama addresses the nation regarding the Syrian crisis on Sept. 10, 2013, at the White House.

So, the “smart play” for the administration has been to withhold the “evidence” and rely on a combination of emotional outrage over the deaths of children and a “group think” that will increasingly treat skeptics as “discredited” and “outside the mainstream.” Though this P.R. strategy has largely succeeded – as more mainstream journalists and pundits fall into line – its downside is that it reeks of the tactics used to enforce conformity over President George W. Bush’s case for war against Iraq in 2002-2003.

Indeed, many of the same political and media players who were duped in that bloody fiasco are at the front of the line a decade later, accepting as gospel truth the allegations against Syria that the Obama administration has asserted without evidence. It doesn’t seem to matter that the four-page “Government Assessment” of the case against the Syrian government – issued on Aug. 30 – contained not a single piece of evidence that could be checked independently. It was all “we assess” this and “we assess” that.

The Obama administration then relied on the old tactic of repeating an unproven assertion, knowing that if a charge is declared with sufficient certitude often enough, the weak-minded will simply begin treating it as accepted wisdom. That’s especially easy when the target of the accusations has been thoroughly demonized as is the case with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Obama Adds to the Mystery

President Obama continued this process of repetition Tuesday night, telling Americans what they are supposed to believe, not showing them any real evidence.

“We know the Assad regime was responsible,” the President declared in a prime-time address. “In the days leading up to August 21st, we know that Assad’s chemical weapons personnel prepared for an attack near an area where they mix sarin gas. They distributed gasmasks to their troops. Then they fired rockets from a regime-controlled area into 11 neighborhoods that the regime has been trying to wipe clear of opposition forces.

“Shortly after those rockets landed, the gas spread, and hospitals filled with the dying and the wounded. We know senior figures in Assad’s military machine reviewed the results of the attack.”

Interestingly, Obama omitted one regular feature of the U.S. government’s litany of allegations, the supposed intercepted phone call of a “senior official” caught admitting that the Syrian government had conducted the attack. This claim was included in the “Government Assessment” and repeated by Secretary of State John Kerry and other U.S. officials.

The “senior” Syrian official was never identified, no direct quotes were used, no context was explained and no transcript was provided, just a paraphrase and the Obama administration’s implicit plea to “trust us.” The mysterious official with his convenient admission of guilt didn’t make the cut into Obama’s speech for some reason.

But Obama did highlight a previously obscure point, that rockets were fired into “11 neighborhoods.” In recent days, some pundits have cited the quantity of neighborhoods allegedly attacked as conclusive proof against the Syrian government because the sheer number of targets would seem to preclude a rebel attack or the possible accidental release of chemical agents by rebel forces.

However, this “slam-dunk” proof is undercut by a footnote contained in a White House-released map of the supposed locations of the attack. The footnote read: “Reports of chemical attacks originating from some locations may reflect the movement of patients exposed in one neighborhood  to field hospitals and medical facilities in the surrounding area. They may also reflect confusion and panic triggered by the ongoing artillery and rocket barrage, and reports of chemical use in other neighborhoods.”

In other words, a map attached to the White House’s own “Government Assessment” offers a contradictory explanation to what Obama and others have claimed about the number of neighborhoods that were struck by the alleged chemical attack of Aug. 21: victims from one location could have rushed to clinics in other neighborhoods, creating the impression of a more widespread attack than actually occurred.

Obama’s other assertions also continue to beg a series of questions regarding why no verifiable evidence has been presented to the American people three weeks after the Aug. 21 incident. These questions include: How does the U.S. government know about the Syrian military’s alleged chemical-attack preparations? Does the U.S. have satellite photos of troop movements, gas masks being worn, and the rockets being fired on Aug. 21? Are there communication intercepts on these topics?

If Syrian officials “reviewed results of the attack,” as Obama claims, what were they saying? Were they shocked by what happened or were they pleased? Why did Obama, a precise practitioner of the English language, choose the vague word “reviewed”?

Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, Secretary 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.” If so, what was that “physical evidence”? If the U.S. possesses satellite photographs or other hard proof, none has been revealed publicly.

Even Defenders Are Confused

In an article first published at Counterpunch on Tuesday (and re-posted at Consortiumnews.com), former CIA analyst Melvin A. Goodman endorsed the Obama administration’s case against the Syrian government. But Goodman later acknowledged to me in an e-mail that he had not seen the evidence himself. Still, he said he had done “due diligence” and was convinced the evidence was real.

Yet, even as he accepted the allegations against the Syrian government as true, Goodman was puzzled by the refusal of the Obama administration to disclose its evidence. In his commentary, he wrote:

“The distortion of evidence of Iraqi WMD a decade ago has made it difficult to convince the American public, let alone a skeptical international audience, of the need to respond to Syria’s use of chemical weapons. As a result, the Obama administration must ignore the usual safeguards regarding intelligence sources and methods, and provide the intelligence that is not only convincing but beyond any reasonable doubt.

“We need to know more about the intercepted communications that allowed the United States to track three days of activity by chemical weapons personnel near an area used to mix chemical weapons. We have identified the area publicly so there is no reason to withhold information that would be dispositive. …

“Finally, since the Obama administration has an intercept ‘involving a senior official intimately familiar with the offensive,’ according to the U.S. assessment, that confirms the use of chemical weapons and his concern with UN discovery of evidence, the tape itself should be played. Surely, in view of what we have just learned about the intercept capabilities of the National Security Agency, no one in Syria (or anywhere else for that matter) will be shocked to learn that the United States monitors high-level communications in a zone of interest.”

Yet, this evidence, which Goodman and others believe exists and would represent “dispositive” proof against the Syrian government, continues to be kept secret. Instead, the Obama administration relies on the technique of endless repetition of unproven claims and the release of some heartrending videos of victims, a tug at emotions but not evidence of whodunit.

So, why? Why not release the evidence? Goodman is undoubtedly correct that there is no overriding intelligence reason for the administration’s “evidence” to be withheld. Everyone knows the United States has spy satellites and technical means to intercept phone calls. So, why is this evidence still being withheld from the public?

The most obvious answer, as the intelligence source told me Tuesday night, is that the certainty of the administration’s case would crumble if independent analysts got a look at it. Thus, it makes public relations sense for the Obama administration to hide the evidence and simply deride anyone who dares question the rush to judgment on the Syrian government’s guilt.

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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34 comments on “Obama Still Withholds Syria Evidence

  1. mattcarmody on said:

    Very suspicious that this march to another illegal war of aggression has been orchestrated to coincide with the USA USA USA rah-rah of September 11th.

    • Pelu Maad on said:

      LOL…..was it planned for late August, when no one is around in DC…..and then backed up to 9/11?

    • gregorylkruse on said:

      It certainly seems like an opportunity they can’t afford to pass up. Notwithstanding the absurdity of bombing a people to prevent their being poisoned to death, it seems to me that the purpose of the aggression (or threat thereof) outsizes the rationale for it by orders of magnitude. As is always the case with Obama, there is a suspicion that he and his men are bluffing for the purpose of restraining the Israeli attack dogs, but then it always turns out that he is doing the bidding of the corporate attack lions.

    • “From a marketing point of view, you don’t roll out new products in August.” –White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, on why the Bush administration waited until after Labor Day to try to sell the American people on war against Iraq, “New York Times” interview, Sept. 7, 2002

  2. DESPOTUS president MoonWar Hussein Obum: GoebbelOn!

    • I find your assumptions to be puzzling. Where did you obtain this information?
      Actually, the Russians are saying that they don’t know who used chemical weapons and Assad has steadfastly denied using chemical weapons.

  3. I’m all for transparency and not taking elected officials at their word–especially when it comes to using force. But am I missing something here? Haven’t the Russians and Assad basically admitted that the Syrian military used chemical weapons? I don’t think anyone doubts that it happened at this point. They are at least giving lip service to the idea of handing over their chemical weapon stockpiles. I think Parry is 10 years too late with his skepticism about WMDs and government conspiracy theories.

    • rosemerry on said:

      “I don’t think anyone doubts that it happened at this point.”
      There has still not been a report published on the investigation, so there are many doubts.
      In any case, why is the netanyahu “red line” only about chemical weapons? Surely the USA has been the biggest user of napalm, phosphorus, agent orange etc and it is still stalling on its 1997 committment to eliminate its stockpiles.

    • incontinent reader on said:

      Baloney. Your comment sounds like Kerry-speak. The Russians and Syrians have admitted nothing of the sort, and most Americans DO doubt it. The photo that Kerry waved about on August 30th as ‘evidence’ of Syria’s chemical attack was taken by Marco di Lauro/AP of a massacre in Iraq in 2003, and then recycled by the BBC on May 29, 2012 to ‘prove’ the Syrian Government was responsible for the massacre in Houla, (That massacre was later attributed to the rebels.) For you facts obviously don’t matter, so why should anyone take your comment seriously? As for ‘rocko’, it’s a nice moniker to disguise an AIPAC shill. Or, am I missing anything here? Eat your heart out, but do it Syria.

    • Andrew Riley on said:

      No the Russians and Syrians have admitted no such thing. Syria still maintains that it did not use chemical weapons and Russia supports this assertion. I think you have confused Syrias offer to give up its chemical weapons with some sort of confession. Why don’t you pay attention or if you won’t then don’t comment at all.

    • DDearborn on said:

      Hmmm
      rocko you have not been paying attention to the FACTS. Fact 1: The UN investigators that went inside Syria earlier in the year to investigate a previous gas attack concluded (in writing to the UN) the it was the REBELS THAT WERE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE GAS. Fact 2 A video taped interview from one of the Major news services has the leadership of the REBELS taking responsible for the next gas attack. Stating on camera that it was an accidental release.
      The attack that crossed the “red line” occurred during the UN investigators (who were invited back in by Syria) were on the ground in Syria. The attack happened literally right down the road from the UN investigators. No one but the Israel’s and US Zionists believe Syria would invite investigators back in and then gas them. I mean come on this reeks of false flag. Fact#4 Germany and a host of other intel agencies have publicly stated that they believe these attacks were committed by someone other than the Syrian government. Most likely the Rebels. Fact 5 The US/Israel have been providing weapons and money to mercenaries, agents, special ops teams, and plain old terrorists for at least the last 2 years to destroy critical military and civilian infrastructure. The CIA finally came out and admitted to that just the other day. Now contrast all that with the evidence the US/Israel has presented to the world: Well…we have tapes, we heard them they did it………
      And finally the US/Israeli backed terrorists have every reason to use gas to attempt to get the US involved. Syria on the other hand as exactly zero reasons to gas their own people. This is doubly so considering that Syria has essentially neutralized the terrorists. Of course now the CIA has stated it is pumping even more money weapons and men into Syria. All of the US/Israeli actions to date have been illegal by the war. Syria has attacked NO ONE!!!!
      With all due respect rocko WAKE UP!!!!!!!

    • Snake Arbusto on said:

      Please tell us what your assertion, couched in the form of a question, that “the Russians and Assad basically admitted that the Syrian military used chemical weapons” in the August 21 attack is based on. Or are we to believe you on even less grounds than we have to believe the Obama regime?

  4. Frances in California on said:

    No, Rocko: Assad denies it.

  5. TheAZCowBoy on said:

    LOOKS like the UNITED SNAKES (US/Israel/NATO) have decided that their Chinese Visa’s won’t allow for more aggression until the Chinese increase their credit lines (P/O’d Chinese not sending (((yauns))) for US/NATO aggression anytime soon). Meanwhile, CIC Obama and his ‘partners-in-crime,’ that 1/2 acre of Zionist hell, are figuring the MOSSAD’S PhotoShop video’s ‘failed’ to ignite WW III. (Gasp!)

    Meanwhile, pompous Saudi Prince Bandars sending of chem/weapons into Syria and the financing of their use, killing and injuring 1000′s are about to be discovered (Disgruntled rebel’s: BTW: Many were also killed by lack of info on how to use chemical weapons) Rebel video’s are already in cyberspace as we speak.

    What-to-do! Let Putin ‘step up’ and calm the 900 lb. gorilla and his AIPAC financed US Congessional whores and pimps and look for some holes in Syria’s/Russia’s offer to ‘turn in their chem/weapons leaving the US (users of DU/chem/Nerve gas weapons themselves in Fallujah) and that 1/2 acre of Zionist hell (Users of White Phosphorus & D.I.M.E chemical munitions in Gaza 2008/20012 and Lebanon, summer of 2006.
    Yassar, we escaped this Jewish ‘False flag’ attempt, but will we succeed next time? I worry about these arrogant incorrigibles and their capacity to commit ‘perfect crimes’ all over the world – including in the US and places known only to the Zionist Jews G-d Lucifer.

  6. Boiled Frog on said:

    Fool me once shame on you.
    Fool me twi……won’t get fooled again!

  7. lmjohnson532 on said:

    Thank you, Mr. Parry. You brought up something I’ve not seen mentioned elsewhere and that is: Kerry’s overly frequent use of the word “assess” and/or “assessment.” That was the first garrison sized red flag for me. Something based on an assessment is what they think, not necessarily based on what they KNOW. Did they realize that also when they said their allegations were based on common sense and not on evidence that would stand up to the law? That comment did not pass the smell test.

    • Snake Arbusto on said:

      To rocko: Ad hominem. Assad says he didn’t do it, and so does the evidence, and so does common sense. We’re still waiting for you to back up your earlier _questio_.

  8. Oh, well, Assad says he didn’t do it. My bad.

  9. Pelu Maad on said:

    Is President Obama being steamrollered by Netanyahu and his neocon American friends? It’s just plain stunning that his recent actions are SO much like Bush administration machinations. Was the hype about Iran’s nuke program dropped and a new approach using Syria and Assad adopted?

  10. F. G. Sanford on said:

    This whole chemical weapons fiasco was just to change the subject when the “freedom fighters” went off the reservation. See, the plan was, they were supposed to “capture the hearts and minds of the Syrian people”. But when they started eating their heats and chopping off their heads, the administration realized they had to get them to slow down and let off the gas, so to speak.

  11. Tautology is the only modus operandi these executive cabals know. You can expect the Russian plan to be turned into ” he’s snubbed the international community and must go”. When imperialist warmongers like Obama want war, nothing can stop them. I fear for the planet.

  12. Obama has no proof that Syrian military used – because all independent reports say it was done by western-supported rebels who got the chemical weapons from Israel via Saudi Arabia. Tehran has claimed that Iranian officials provided that information to Washington ahead of the tragedy.

    Obama is unwilling to attack Syria but is being pushed by the AIPAC as first step to attack Iran in the future.

    http://rehmat1.com/2013/09/08/judea-declares-war-on-syria/

  13. HorseNest on said:

    We’ve seen and heard the evidence, it’s just that it isn’t very strong. However, evidence or not, it makes no sense for a rogue state like the United States of America to hold any other nation accountable for international crimes, especially crimes involving banned weapons. No other country has used more banned weapons than the US. Moreover, violence wouldn’t be a solution.

  14. Gengass Con on said:

    Not only have Assad and Putin denied Assad is behind this CW attack, but recently released Italian and Belgian captives of the Syrian rebels overhead talk about the rebels being behind the Ghouta attack:

    “From a room where we were being held and through a half-open door one day we overheard a conversation in English via Skype involving three people whose identities I do not know,” he said.

    “In the conversation, they were saying that the gas operation in two suburbs of Damascus was carried out by rebels as a provocation to force the West to intervene militarily,” he said.

    http://www.france24.com/en/20130909-freed-belgian-italian-recount-syria-kidnap-ordeal

    Maybe the rebels just WANTED them to think that because, um, well, uh, actually it would serve no purpose…

  15. Ario Barzan on said:

    Hey, I feel sorry for the American people. Many countries exploiting the American people and its politicians for their own purposes. Many politicians and countries in the world wants the U.S. to get involved in constant war anywhere in the world. For instance Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey even some European countries etc would like to use America’s resources for their own expansionist policy in the Middle East and the world. The American people need to wake up and put a stop to this. If they do not do that, the U.S. will face the same fate as the Roman Empire did.

  16. A new confidential memo to Obama from Israel: “Russia has decided to supply Iran and Syria with S-300 anti-missile batteries….

    http://rehmat1.com/2013/09/12/israel-lets-replay-the-s-300-hoax-against-iran/

  17. Still two points, which are a big problem….

    1. the “Government Assessment” – all the intelligence assessments I heard about in the past contained some variation of the words “Intelligence” and “Assessment” in combination, and had signatures by higher ups in intelligence agencies. Who produced this one, and who-all signed? What does “Government” mean? Seems to me a dock worker at the Post Office could write an op-ed titled “Government Assessment” and the title would be technically accurate. This one I’m sure was written (possibly signed or not) by someone higher up than that, but who?

    2. What/where is the ‘assessment’ of the resulting OutCome?
    Obama says we need to send a message – and in so many words, something more forceful than email. Regardless of whether it’s called message, strike or limited force or engagement, it is technically an act of war on a foreign country. And the only OutCome we know about, is that the contents of the message sent, is that “we” won’t tolerate chemical weapons use, for which the evidence of their assumed use is hard to come by, and for which the criticism (although maybe needing further proof) at least has some things to back it up.

    OK, so using force would say we really mean it this time. But still no assessment of the likelyhood of various possible outcomes?

  18. Carroll Johnson on said:

    This does make one think back to the dumped infant incubators in kuwait. Hmm.

    ps I’m enjoying my copy of “America’s Stolen Narrative” very much!

  19. WMcMillan on said:

    The Obama administration must think we are all a bunch of dummies. First of all, what would be Assad’s motive to use CW? He isn’t losing the civil war, at worse it is a stalemate, at best the government forces are taking back lost territory. The only folks who could, in theory, benefit from a CW “attack” are the folks who want a superpower to step in and take him out. Aside from the rebels, who else stands to gain?

  20. Call it a wild hunch on my part, but could this anonymous “senior Syrian official” who admitted the government was responsible for the chemical weapons attack possibly be Vice-President Farouk al-Sharaa? Because the Turks – supporters of US action – have been pushing for him to replace Assad.

  21. Thingumbob on said:

    Thanks. As honest Abe demanded when our would be imperialist adventurers decided to annex Mexico– show us the proof.

  22. Norman Baker on said:

    There’s no doubt in my mind that we are seeing the Obama Administration genuflect before the Military Industrial Complex. Who else (what other nation or entity) would benefit from sending missiles into what is already a ‘hornet’s nest’? Who cares about killing foreigners with drones or missiles as long as we have jobs created for our arrogant, weapons-manufacturing corporations?

  23. rpdiplock on said:

    Obama and his administration are so full of the outpourings of bullshiite … they don’t realize that they’re standing in it.