President Bashar Assad told CBS News, “There has been no evidence that I used chemical weapons against my own people.”
While most people are skeptics about anything Assad might say in his defense, the facts are clear: with all the horrific pictures of victims and leaks about intel showing the Assad government definitely being responsible for the gas attack, any kind of hard evidence coming from the Obama administration proving that contention has been sorely lacking.
The Associated Press reports:
The U.S. government insists it has the intelligence to prove it, but the public has yet to see a single piece of concrete evidence produced by U.S. intelligence — no satellite imagery, no transcripts of Syrian military communications — connecting the government of President Bashar Assad to the alleged chemical weapons attack last month that killed hundreds of people.
In its absence, Damascus and its ally Russia have aggressively pushed another scenario: that rebels carried out the Aug. 21 chemical attack. Neither has produced evidence for that case, either. That’s left more questions than answers as the U.S. threatens a possible military strike.
The early morning assault in a rebel-held Damascus suburb known as Ghouta was said to be the deadliest chemical weapons attack in Syria’s 2½-year civil war. Survivors’ accounts, photographs of many of the dead wrapped peacefully in white sheets and dozens of videos showing victims in spasms and gasping for breath shocked the world and moved President Barack Obama to call for action because the use of chemical weapons crossed the red line he had drawn a year earlier.
Yet one week after Secretary of State John Kerry outlined the case against Assad, Americans — at least those without access to classified reports — haven’t seen a shred of his proof.
There is open-source evidence that provides clues about the attack, including videos of fragments from the rockets that analysts believe were likely used. U.S. officials on Saturday released a compilation of videos showing victims, including children, exhibiting what appear to be symptoms of nerve gas poisoning. Some experts think the size of the strike, and the amount of toxic chemicals that appear to have been delivered, make it doubtful that the rebels could have carried it out.
What’s missing from the public record is direct proof, rather than circumstantial evidence, tying this to the regime.
The U.S. has acted in the past on a lot less evidence than is being demanded here. We bombed Muammar Gaddafi following a bomb blast at a Berlin disco in 1986, with the public being told of intelligence that confirmed Gaddafi was at fault, thought it was never revealed.
Given the perfidy of the administration on Benghazi, asking for direct proof is more than justified. We can certainly understand not revealing sources, or even much in the way of methods of how we collect intelligence. But there has to be something the administration can release to justify going to war.
Perhaps the president, in an effort to sell the strike to the American people, will reveal some intel during his speech to the nation on Tuesday night. If he does, it better be more than simply rehashed YouTube videos of the aftermath of the attack. Preying upon the emotions of Americans by showing suffering people isn’t enough. There has got to be something showing a direct link between the attack and the Syrian government if the president hopes to turn the situation on the Hill around.