(Allegedly graphic videos)
Men sprawled on a tile floor, shirtless and convulsing. Children, too, seemingly unable to control their shaking and flailing. Panic and screams in the background.
These are some of the hard-to-stomach images that the Obama administration has shown a select group of senators in closed-door briefings to make the case that a limited military attack on Syria is justified.
CNN was the first to obtain the 13 different videos seen by members of the Senate Intelligence Committee that depict the gruesome scene of an chemical weapons attack in Syria on August 21. The administration told senators that their authenticity was verified by the intelligence community.
The attack, allegedly carried out by Syrian forces under President Bashar al-Assad, has touched off the most critical foreign policy question since the uprising began in 2011: Is a military response merited?
The videos capture a moment of panic, as those who are standing try to feed water to those who appear incapacitated. Prayers are repeated.
I find the evidence less than convincing.
First of all I don’t trust the source(s) of the evidence. Secondly, even if the evidence does prove that chemical weapons were used it doesn’t tell us who used them. Thirdly, I do not care.
Let’s start at the beginning. Wikipedia:
Sarin, or GB, is an organophosphorus compound with the formula [(CH3)2CHO]CH3P(O)F. It is a colorless, odorless liquid, used as a chemical weapon owing to its extreme potency as a nerve agent.
Initial symptoms following exposure to sarin are a runny nose, tightness in the chest and constriction of the pupils. Soon after, the victim has difficulty breathing and experiences nausea and drooling. As the victim continues to lose control of bodily functions, the victim vomits, defecates and urinates. This phase is followed by twitching and jerking. Ultimately, the victim becomes comatose and suffocates in a series of convulsive spasms.
Sarin was invented by the Germans during World War II. It is similar in formulation to organophosphorus insecticides like Malathion. (Some of you may recall that in a previous life I was a pest control technician and I am familiar with these type of insecticides.)
Sarin is some nasty shit. Very nasty. The good news is it is unstable and degrades fairly quickly. The bad news is it is highly volatile and can be inhaled, ingested or absorbed through the skin. Full body protection is needed when handling Sarin or treating victims of Sarin exposure.
And that’s the problem.
The evidence does not show the kind of devastation that Sarin would really cause. If Assad is using chemical weapons that’s some pretty weak-ass stuff. I would expect to see whole villages and neighborhoods wiped out – everything and everybody dead, including adults, children, dogs, cats, birds, rats and cockroaches. Anyone not wearing protective gear who entered the contaminated area to do first aid or retrieve bodies would also die. And the bodies would be a mess.
I have seen pictures and videos that look like dead people. Some or all of them may really be dead. But I can’t determine the cause of death from a short, blurry, jerky video in Arabic. Nor can I determine that poisoning occurred from videos of live people receiving some unspecified treatment.
These videos are just the same shit with the Official Obama Classified Seal of Approval.
BTW – If they are classified, who “leaked” them to the media?