Seymour Hersh: Obama Didn’t Tell The Whole Story on Syrian Chemical Attack – Knew Rebels Had Access To Sarin Gas

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In an interview with the Guardian, two months ago, legendary journalist, Seymour Hersh blasted the “pathetic” US media for its failure to challenge the Obama administration, which he asserted, “lies systematically.” Now, he’s making waves with a long and exhaustive report in which he questions the case made by the administration that Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus on August 21, charging that Obama “did not tell the whole story” about the attack to the extreme frustration of  officials inside the military and intelligence bureaucracy, who were reportedly “throwing their hands in the air and saying, “how can we help this guy” – Obama – “when he and his cronies in the White House make up the intelligence as they go along?”’  (Not surprising for a regime that makes up and applies health care laws as they go along.)

Regular readers of this blog are already familiar with many of the points made in this  report which compliments Walid Shoebat’s findings - Evidence: Syrian Rebels used Chemical Weapons (not Assad.) And it sides with what Putin and Assad have maintained all along: the Syrian Regime did not release the gas in the attack that killed anywhere from 1,429 people, (according to the Obama administration), to  281 known fatalities, (according to a French report.) Hersh writes that the “strikingly precise US total was later reported by the Wall Street Journal to have been based not on an actual body count, but on an extrapolation by CIA analysts, who scanned more than a hundred YouTube videos from Eastern Ghouta into a computer system and looked for images of the dead. In other words, it was little more than a guess.”

What the US intelligence community did know, was that “the Syrian army is not the only party in the country’s civil war with access to sarin, the nerve agent that a UN study concluded – without assessing responsibility – had been used in the rocket attack.”

In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports, culminating in a formal Operations Order – a planning document that precedes a ground invasion – citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity. When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad.

In his nationally televised speech about Syria on 10 September, Obama laid the blame for the nerve gas attack on the rebel-held suburb of Eastern Ghouta firmly on Assad’s government, and made it clear he was prepared to back up his earlier public warnings that any use of chemical weapons would cross a ‘red line’: ‘Assad’s government gassed to death over a thousand people,’ he said. ‘We know the Assad regime was responsible … And that is why, after careful deliberation, I determined that it is in the national security interests of the United States to respond to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike.’ Obama was going to war to back up a public threat, but he was doing so without knowing for sure who did what in the early morning of 21 August.

He cited a list of what appeared to be hard-won evidence of Assad’s culpability: ‘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 gas masks to their troops. Then they fired rockets from a regime-controlled area into 11 neighbourhoods that the regime has been trying to wipe clear of opposition forces.’ Obama’s certainty was echoed at the time by Denis McDonough, his chief of staff, who told the New York Times: ‘No one with whom I’ve spoken doubts the intelligence’ directly linking Assad and his regime to the sarin attacks.

But in recent interviews with intelligence and military officers and consultants past and present, I found intense concern, and on occasion anger, over what was repeatedly seen as the deliberate manipulation of intelligence. One high-level intelligence officer, in an email to a colleague, called the administration’s assurances of Assad’s responsibility a ‘ruse’. The attack ‘was not the result of the current regime’, he wrote. A former senior intelligence official told me that the Obama administration had altered the available information – in terms of its timing and sequence – to enable the president and his advisers to make intelligence retrieved days after the attack look as if it had been picked up and analysed in real time, as the attack was happening. The distortion, he said, reminded him of the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, when the Johnson administration reversed the sequence of National Security Agency intercepts to justify one of the early bombings of North Vietnam. The same official said there was immense frustration inside the military and intelligence bureaucracy: ‘The guys are throwing their hands in the air and saying, “How can we help this guy” – Obama – “when he and his cronies in the White House make up the intelligence as they go along?”’

***

In both its public and private briefings after 21 August, the administration disregarded the available intelligence about al-Nusra’s potential access to sarin and continued to claim that the Assad government was in sole possession of chemical weapons. This was the message conveyed in the various secret briefings that members of Congress received in the days after the attack, when Obama was seeking support for his planned missile offensive against Syrian military installations. One legislator with more than two decades of experience in military affairs told me that he came away from one such briefing persuaded that ‘only the Assad government had sarin and the rebels did not.’ Similarly, following the release of the UN report on 16 September confirming that sarin was used on 21 August, Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, told a press conference: ‘It’s very important to note that only the [Assad] regime possesses sarin, and we have no evidence that the opposition possesses sarin.’

It is not known whether the highly classified reporting on al-Nusra was made available to Power’s office, but her comment was a reflection of the attitude that swept through the administration. ‘The immediate assumption was that Assad had done it,’ the former senior intelligence official told me. ‘The new director of the CIA, [John] Brennan, jumped to that conclusion … drives to the White House and says: “Look at what I’ve got!” It was all verbal; they just waved the bloody shirt. There was a lot of political pressure to bring Obama to the table to help the rebels, and there was wishful thinking that this [tying Assad to the sarin attack] would force Obama’s hand: “This is the Zimmermann telegram of the Syrian rebellion and now Obama can react.” Wishful thinking by the Samantha Power wing within the administration. Unfortunately, some members of the Joint Chiefs who were alerted that he was going to attack weren’t so sure it was a good thing.’

The proposed American missile attack on Syria never won public support and Obama turned quickly to the UN and the Russian proposal for dismantling the Syrian chemical warfare complex. Any possibility of military action was definitively averted on 26 September when the administration joined Russia in approving a draft UN resolution calling on the Assad government to get rid of its chemical arsenal. Obama’s retreat brought relief to many senior military officers. (One high-level special operations adviser told me that the ill-conceived American missile attack on Syrian military airfields and missile emplacements, as initially envisaged by the White House, would have been ‘like providing close air support for al-Nusra’.)

The administration’s distortion of the facts surrounding the sarin attack raises an unavoidable question: do we have the whole story of Obama’s willingness to walk away from his ‘red line’ threat to bomb Syria? He had claimed to have an iron-clad case but suddenly agreed to take the issue to Congress, and later to accept Assad’s offer to relinquish his chemical weapons. It appears possible that at some point he was directly confronted with contradictory information: evidence strong enough to persuade him to cancel his attack plan, and take the criticism sure to come from Republicans.

Read the rest, here.

The only rational reaction to anything Obama or any of his mouthpieces says at this point in his presidency, is acute suspicion. In fact, the assumption should always be that they’re lying, unless it can be proved otherwise.

See also Yossef Bodansky’s blockbuster piece: Did the White House Help Plan the Syrian Chemical Attack?

Previously:

30 Bodies of Christians Massacred By Syrian Rebels, Last Month Found In Mass Grave

“Scandalous”: Israel Fuming About WH Leak Confirming Their Strike on Syria

Why Was An Al Qaeda Commander Photographed Inside a USAID Tent? (Video)

More Tales Of Woe From The Christians Of Maaloula Syria

Obama Waives Federal Law That Prevents Arming of Terrorists So He Can Arm The Syrian Rebels

Grief Stricken Christian Woman in Syria Lashes Out: ‘We Blame Obama!…He Is Helping The Rebels’…

Maaloula: The battle for Syria’s ancient Christian Village continues (Video)

Syrian Rebels Infested With ‘Muslim Brotherhood-Type Islamists and Al Qaeda Fighters

Video: Tearful Christian Woman Terrorized Out Of Her Syrian Village Begs Obama To Stop Arming The Rebel Jihadists

Iranians Warned U.S. That Syrian Rebels Had Chemical Weapons Over a Year Ago…

Hostage Released From Syrian Prison Says he Overheard Rebel Captors Admitting Insurgents Used The Chemical Weapons (Video)

Justin Amash: Obama “Embellished” Syria Information – Says Briefings Have Made Him “More Skeptical” (Video)

Video: Senator McCain Gets An Earful From Passionate Syrian Woman At Town Hall

Obama’s Smoking Gun Proof That Assad Was Behind Chemical Weapons Attack Was Doctored?

Putin Throws Down: How About Showing Us Some Convincing Proof Syrian Regime Used Chemical Weapons?

Post Holiday Weekend Link-Around: Will Congress Authorize ‘Operation Don’t Make Obama Look Bad’?

Linked by Doug Ross, thanks!

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8 Responses to “Seymour Hersh: Obama Didn’t Tell The Whole Story on Syrian Chemical Attack – Knew Rebels Had Access To Sarin Gas”

  1. Grumpy Elder (@Grumpyelder) Says:

    Seems like, except for the Obama Administration, a handful of chicken hawks on Capitol Hill, and the lapdog media, pretty much everybody on the planet who pays attention knew the rebels had Saran..

    The question is, why is Our President currently in such a hurry to train, finance and arm, people known to have have very close ties to Al Qaeda and other Islamic Terrorist Organization in Libya and Syria ..

    I’ll link this on Grumpy Opinions a little later..

  2. Seymour Hersh: Obama Didn’t Tell The Whole Story on Syrian Chemical Attack – | Grumpy Opinions Says:

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