U.S. relies on appalling death toll from #Syria attack to make case, but our casualty figures "much higher than others'"


drumbeat to syria

Via a New York Times email alert:

A divided Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday approved an authorization of force against the Syrian regime, setting up a showdown next week in the full Senate on whether President Obama should have the authority to strike.

President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are pushing as hard as they can to persuade us that bombing Syria is the right thing to do. In fact, per another email alert I received, Kerry is saying that the administration wants a “trigger” that would authorize military action for 60 days each time al-Assad’s regime uses chemical weapons.

But they're getting a lot of resistance and for good reason. There are still unanswered questions, Americans are queasy about jumping into yet another conflict in a volatile region, and some of the answers we've gotten don't sound as convincing as they should.

And now this from the Los Angeles Times:

The death toll given by the Obama administration for an alleged Syrian chemical weapons attack is far higher than confirmed counts of two key allies and a main activist group, which said it was shocked by the U.S. figure.

In pressing Congress to authorize a military strike against Syria, the administration has asserted that the government of President Bashar Assad killed 1,429 people, including at least 426 children, in an Aug. 21 attack on the suburbs of Damascus.

But Britain and France have cited far lower numbers of confirmed deaths, raising questions about the intelligence the White House is using to make its case to launch missile strikes against Syria.

"Raising questions about intelligence" is not a welcome phrase right about now.

British intelligence came up with 350 as the number of people who had been killed. French intelligence said there were at least 281 confirmed deaths, but maybe as many as 1,500.

But so what, right? The point is that civilians were murdered. Not so fast.

The casualty figures are important because the administration is resting its case for military action in part on the scale of the attack.

If we're going to commit an act of war (and yes, bombing another country is an act of war), then it goes without saying, especially after the fraudulent Iraq debacle, that we should base our actions on reliable intel.

The precision of the U.S. figure, given the initial confusion surrounding the attack and the often contradictory reports of the violence in Syria, also raised questions among some observers.

But never mind all that.

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Also for your consideration, Mark Karlin at BuzzFlash has posted this: What Congress Will Be Voting on Is Another War, Not a "Limited Punitive Strike"