December 09, 2013

#Sarin: Did Obama cherry-pick #Syria chemical weapons info?

In what is indeed explosive, without hyperbole, that's exactly what Seymour Hersch is claiming. He says, in a story released Sunday, that after Team Obama found out about the Aug. 21 sarin attack, but not having advanced warning from systems that specifically monitor the Assad government, that the National Security Agency went through its accumulation of other, more "chattery" radio communications around Syria at the time of the attack, and found what it wanted to, to claim this was an attack by the Assad government.

Here's a couple of specific tidbits. First, this:
The White House needed nine days to assemble its case against the Syrian government. On 30 August it invited a select group of Washington journalists (at least one often critical reporter, Jonathan Landay, the national security correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers, was not invited), and handed them a document carefully labelled as a ‘government assessment’, rather than as an assessment by the intelligence community. 

That's interesting enough, and a bit of an eyebrow-raiser.

As I've blogged here before, when it came to Bush's run-up to the Iraq War, McClatchy was far and away the most aggressively skeptical national newspaper chain bureau or wire service organization. And, it's continued that same skepticism against the Obama Administration, specificially on Syria, in fact. It's also questioned the logic of Obama's Libyan intervention.Also, calling it a "government assessment" does appear to be narrowly legalistic.

Next, this:
An unforseen reaction came in the form of complaints from the Free Syrian Army’s leadership and others about the lack of warning. ‘It’s unbelievable they did nothing to warn people or try to stop the regime before the crime,’ Razan Zaitouneh, an opposition member who lived in one of the towns struck by sarin, told Foreign Policy. The Daily Mail was more blunt: ‘Intelligence report says US officials knew about nerve-gas attack in Syria three days before it killed over 1400 people – including more than 400 children.’ 
Yes, also an eyebrow-raiser. If we want to be blunt, if Team Obama really knew about this in advance and did nothing, not even warming the Free Syrian Army, then it's arguably complicit in murder.

There's more there than this, in a long article. Hersh indicates that it seems Islamist group al-Nusra is a likely candidate for having done this. In turn, as I said in my first articles about the sarin attacks, written when the fruit of Obama's Libyan intervention was already looking a bit bittersweet, this was even more reason not to get involved in Syria.

Of course, the push-back from Team Obama is fast and furious. And, shock me that Tiger Beat on the Potomac is running flak for that push-back.

And, on this issue, while I'm not totally surprised the WaPost rejected it, the New Yorker does raise an additional eyebrow. HuffPost has more on Hersh's publication attempts before it ultimately going in the London Review of Books. On first glance, that's weird. But, that's somewhat pre-Internet thinking.

However, Sy Hersh is far from infallible. His claim that Obama is lying about Osama bin Laden's death needs to be taken with a big grain of salt, for example.

My bottom line on this particular issue? It's possible.

But, without follow-up reporting, especially by someone other than Hersh, I'm still somewhat skeptical.

There's also the "narrative" issue. Obama was ready to go to war over this, than backed off. Was he really ready to go that far down the road of George W. Bush and "Curveball"?

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