The Obama party line on Syria – and reality
The Obama administration claimed that it negotiated with Syria and Russia to eliminate “100 percent” of Syria’s chemical weapons. After President Barack Obama’s 2012 “red line” warning to Syria about using chemical weapons, Syria launched a chemical attack in August 2013. But U.S. military action was avoided by the alleged Russian/American/Syrian diplomatic accomplishment, achieved without “firing a shot.” Here’s what we were told:
President Obama, on April 28, 2014: “We’re getting chemical weapons out of Syria without having initiated a strike.”
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., crowed on June 1, 2014: “We’re getting the chemical weapons out of Syria.” And Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., chimed in July 6: “We should commend the administration for the result that they got.”
Then-Secretary of State John Kerry, on July 20, 2014: “We got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out (of Syria).”
President Obama, on Aug. 18, 2014: “Today we mark an important achievement in our ongoing effort to counter the spread of weapons of mass destruction by eliminating Syria’s declared chemical weapons stockpile.”
Kerry on Oct. 31, 2014: “We … cut the deal that got 100 percent of the declared chemical weapons out of Syria, and people nevertheless have been critical — of one day of bombing versus the virtue of getting 100 percent of the chemical weapons out of Syria.”
Kerry reiterated the accomplishment on Feb. 24, 2015, telling the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “We got, as you know, last year, all the chemical weapons out of Syria.”
True, Bloomberg reported on May 13, 2015: “The U.S. government was informed months ago that an international monitoring body found traces of chemical weapons that President Bashar al-Assad had promised to turn over, including sarin gas — a clear violation of the deal he struck with President Obama after crossing the administration’s ‘red line’ two years ago.
“Officials from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons told the Obama administration early this year that its inspectors had found traces of two banned chemical weapons during an inspection of the Syrian government’s Scientific Studies and Research Center in the district of Barzeh near Damascus, two administration officials told us. A report by Reuters May 8 said that OPCW inspectors had found traces of sarin and VX nerve agent at the site in separate inspections in December and January.”
After the Bloomberg story, then-White House press secretary John Earnest initially admitted: “We’re aware that the OPCW continues to receive credible allegations that the use of chemical weapons in Syria is still taking place.” But a month later, on June 17, 2015, Earnest responded: “(Syria’s) declared chemical weapons stockpile that Assad previously denied existed has now been acknowledged, rounded up, removed from the country and destroyed precisely because of the work of this administration and our successful efforts to work with the Russians to accomplish that goal.”
But Susan Rice, then Obama’s national security adviser, on Jan. 16, 2017, said, “We were able to find a solution that didn’t necessitate the use of force that actually removed the chemical weapons that were known from Syria, in a way that the use of force would never have accomplished. … We were able to get the Syrian government to voluntarily and verifiably give up its chemical weapons stockpile.”
After last week’s chemical weapons attack that left nearly 100 Syrians dead, former Obama advisers now say they always knew that not all of chemical weapons were eliminated — and that turning over all their weapons is not exactly what tyrants tend to do.
Antony J. Blinken, a former deputy secretary of state, recently said, “We always knew we had not gotten everything, that the Syrians had not been fully forthcoming in their declaration.”
Michael McFaul, Obama’s former ambassador to Russia, said, “For me, this tragedy underscores the dangers of trying to do deals with dictators without a comprehensive, invasive and permanent inspection regime.”
Tom Malinowski, an assistant secretary of state for human rights under Obama, laments: “The difficult and debatable choice the Obama administration … made not to use military force when Assad last used nerve gas against his people (in 2013) will shape our thinking about this and similar crises for a long time to come. The lesson I would draw from that experience is that when dealing with mass killing by unconventional or conventional means, deterrence is more effective than disarmament.”
This brings us the Obama’s Iran deal that allegedly prevents Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Why should we believe that Obama was any less duped here than when he claimed the elimination of “all” of Syria’s chemical weapons? We shouldn’t.
Elder is a best-selling author and nationally syndicated radio talk-show host.