Oh boy. Redlines and stuff.
U.S. intelligence agencies believe Syria’s government has likely used chemical weapons on a small scale, the White House said on Thursday, but added that President Barack Obama needed “credible and corroborated” facts before acting on that assessment.
The surprise disclosure triggered immediate calls for U.S. action by members of Congress who advocate deeper American involvement in Syria’s bitter civil war.
The White House said the U.S. intelligence community assessed with varying degrees of confidence that the chemical agent sarin was used by forces allied with President Bashar al-Assad. But it noted that “the chain of custody is not clear.”
I feel obligated to once again quote Arthur Silber on “intelligence” (and suggest you take this to heart as this story unfolds):
NEVER, EVER ARGUE IN TERMS OF INTELLIGENCE AT ALL.
It is always irrelevant to major policy decisions, and such decisions are reached for different reasons altogether. This is true whether the intelligence is correct or not, and it is almost always wrong. On those very rare occasions when intelligence is accurate, it is likely to be disregarded in any case. It will certainly be disregarded if it runs counter to a course to which policymakers are already committed.
The intelligence does not matter. It is primarily used as propaganda, to provide alleged justification to a public that still remains disturbingly gullible and pliable — and it is used after the fact, to justify decisions that have already been made.
… This was true in the case of Iraq; it is true — and will continue to be true — with regard to Iran; it was obviously true in connection with the Tsarnaevs (assuming they did what everyone now believes they did).
And it will be true whatever happens in Syria.
By now, we should be wary of any mention of WMD as a justification for war.