Over at Alternet, an article by Steven Rosenfeld claims that the report released by the Trump administration included faked information, information not actually reviewed by or known to Trump when the decision to strike Syria was made, and otherwise misleading crap meant to help Trump politically, but not actually representing Trumps actual reasons for bombing human beings. Contextualizing the information for us, Rosenfeld reminds us this isn’t the first time something like this has happened:
President George W. Bush’s White House fabricated intelligence concerning Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction before his April 2003 invasion of Iraq. What seems to be unfolding at the top ranks of the Trump administration is similar to Bush’s pronouncements and evidence following the 9/11 terrorist attack.
The primary difference between the two situations is that the fake facts of Bush were released in advance of the attack on Iraq while the fake facts of Trump are being released after the attack on Syria.
I think that Trump certainly deserves scrutiny, and almost certainly does not deserve any credit that others would grant for empathizing with the victims of Assad’s brutality. However, I find Rosenfeld’s questioning of sources to be a bit extreme. Consider this passage:
Which poison gas was used, how it was delivered and who was behind the incident remain unanswered questions, said Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, though United Nations scientists and Turkish doctors who did autopsies have pointed to sarin.
“The Syrian government may well be responsible for the attack, or others may have been involved,” she said. “But without an independent, international investigation, we simply don’t know. That means the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) [an international body with 192 member countries] must be given a full and complete and open mandate to follow all leads and report fully.”
“Similarly, we have reports from Turkey that autopsies on some of the bodies indicated the gas was sarin; reportedly OPCW and/or U.N. scientists were present,” Bennis continued. “But the reports come only from the official Turkish medical/forensic authorities. Again, without a full and thorough independent investigation, all of the unknowns remain just that.”
While I think it’s fine to consider the use of sarin to be a tentative and not a final conclusion, “all of the unknowns remain just that” appears to be hyper skeptical when the source of the sarin report is a government lab from a country not directly involved in the conflict and observed by scientists beholden to international organizations charged with protecting people from these weapons.
So I’m not as willing to state there was no information available because what information we had was provided by Turkish labs in reports where the fact finding and subsequent analysis was performed in collaboration with OPCW and not, as might be ideal, performed entirely outside of the region and entirely by the OPCW or similarly credentialed investigators with no possible personal interest in the Syrian conflict.
We have enough bases to criticize Trump, after all. I see no need for hyperskepticism.
On the other hand, I find myself agreeing entirely with the summation by Rosenfeld that Trump was “acting without any intelligence”.
To be fair, I don’t think the international community can do anything to fix that.