It's out, and full of high confidences, or what Tenet might call slam-dunks. A couple of observations..
1. The death toll seems really really precise. Where exactly did it come from? How do we know it didn't come out of someone's posterior?
2. The CIA and other agencies keep saying the rebels don't have the capability to fire/launch chemical agents. But a careful reading of the report does not suggest the rebels don't have the wherewithal to possess these agents. How do they know some undercover rebels didn't open some cans of gas just as Syrian artillery was raining down? Have they found the actual shell casings or other corroborating evidence? It's not like the rebels haven't been accused of possessing Sarin before. And of course the timing has always favored the rebels. Must we rush to war on this?
3. Saying there was an attack; that the rebels didn't have the ability to fake the photos nor the launch mechanisms also supports a release of gas by the rebels in an effort to draw the west into the war. Which we are now considering.
4. Having said all of the above, the report makes a decent case for the Syrians using gas. It's not out of the range of possibilities that they are both arrogant and stupid enough to launch chem weapons two days after UN inspectors arrive. Such could be based on their own internal assessment of how the west, including the Big O, might react. Part of that is the fact he's been sitting on his hands all year despite the red line and reports of chem use, which the administration now admits as part of their evidence.
It's not hard to imagine a frustrated chinless tinpot barraging pockets of resistance in Damascus--his city--to soften them up for a more extensive bombing campaign.
It's just not beyond the shadow of a doubt. After Iraq they are going to need more rock-solid evidence than that to convince the totality of the United States and the world.
Meanwhile, as Britain bails out Obama is left to team up with the French socialist. They have a responsibility to protect, dontcha know. Except in Iraq.
SOMETHING TO CONSIDER.. 8/31/13
...as we wait for the bombs to fall. Here's former DCIA James Woolsley being interviewed in 2004 regards Iraq and Syria:
So you think it is quite possible that some biological weapons haven’t been found?
You have to distinguish between weapons and agents. Weapons suggests loaded-up artillery shells and rockets and bombs. But you don’t load anything up with biological or chemical agents until the last minute. So most of the more sophisticated discussion about this talks about agents rather than weapons. Kay said that it is possible— indeed, I think he said it was likely— that something connected to WMD may have been smuggled out to Syria.
And the same thing was said some weeks ago by James R. Clapper, the head of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency. Even with chemical weapons, the numbers that keep getting cited are between 100 tons and 500 tons. That was in the National Intelligence Estimate in the fall of 2002, and it was in Powell’s statement. People talk as if that’s a huge amount. That’s the difference between approximately five tractor trailer loads and 25 loads.Perhaps the media could remind everyone that our current DNI is the same James Clapper who said Iraq's WMDs might have been moved to Syria.
THE URGENCY OF TOMORROW 8/31/13
After letting his cabinet and spokespeople tell everyone and their brother that Obama didn't have to wait for anyone to defend the international norm he's now decided to go to Congress. Talking heads are saying it was partly a political decision, which is odd considering they just recently explained that going it alone was OK because WMDs were used so it wasn't a political decision, just the right thing to do. Of course it was a political decision because this president had backed himself into several tight corners with no way out but to drop and take a safety.
So, here we are, no shock and awe this weekend, unless this is the biggest head fake in history. But it can't be a head fake because he just said it was important for our democracy he go to Congress. Maybe he's hoping Assad, or someone, launches more chemicals in the interim, which would allow him to act immediately. If not things are in stasis until 2 days before 9/11 when Congress returns. Who in Congress will want to vote on authorizing military force in a country that didn't attack us just as 9/11 approaches? In other words, chances are there will be no attack.
Or course the administration will then try to blame Congress for him not being able to uphold his red line, just as he has done with GITMO. Funny coming from a president who thinks nothing of issuing Executive Orders superseding US law every other week. The question is whether the mainstream press will let him get away with such a naseating lack of leadership. He is basically standing on the world stage now with his mom jeans pulled down and a wedgie, so it will be interesting to see the coverage.