AUGUST 28, 2013
By Alan Reynolds
National Review Online

Be skeptical of the administration’s claims on Syria.

Syrian soldier in the Jobar neighborhood of Damascus, where chemical weapons were allegedly used.

When it comes to reports of civilian deaths from chemical weapons in opposition-occupied Syrian towns, the Obama White House suddenly claims to be as certain of its own intelligence as the Bush White House was about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction in October 2002. But it is much easier to rush into war, without congressional or popular approval, than it is to get out.

There was far more humility at the Obama White House the last time similar atrocities led the usual suspects to urge the U.S. to become militarily entangled in Syria. Complaining that “Mr. Obama made no response to a previous claim of chemical-weapons use,” a recent editorial in The Economist concludes that “America’s credibility depends on intervening.” Today, President Obama evidently agrees. But intervening cannot avoid taking sides — helping some favored group of thugs to either seize or retain control of the government (meaning the treasury, army, and police). So, which side is the U.S. supposed to take and why?

The previous claim of chemical-weapons attacks, which The Economist now accuses President Obama of neglecting, occurred in Aleppo on March 13 and 19. One of the four U.N. investigators, Carla Del Ponte, then said the commission had found some evidence only that anti-government rebels may have used chemical weapons, not the government. Even aside from who used which chemicals, there were other war crimes going on in that rebel-occupied area, including an illegal siege, executions, kidnapping, rape, and torture. As the June “Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic” explains, “Since July 2012, anti-Government armed groups in Aleppo have surrounded Nubul and Zahra, blocking food, fuel, and medical supplies to 70,000 residents. As the siege tightened in recent months, the population, especially women and children, began to suffer malnutrition. The wounded and sick cannot receive medical treatment. Persons attempting to leave the villages are often kidnapped, held for ransom, or killed. . . . Torture has been documented in detention facilities run by the Judicial Council and the Shari’a Board in Aleppo.”

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