US government officials offered “zero real evidence” that the Syrian government was behind the alleged chemical attack in Douma, relying instead on information circulating online, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky) said.
In their briefing to Congress, the director of national intelligence and the secretaries of defense and state reference “info circulating online,” Massie tweeted on Thursday, adding that this means they either don’t have conclusive proof or they chose not to provide it to Congress. “Either way, not good,” he added.
Massie and his colleague Justin Amash (R-Michigan) are two of the most prominent House Republicans to oppose the US, UK and French missile attack on Syria last week. Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) has also spoken out against US intervention in Syria.
In an exclusive interview with the conservative outlet Breitbart on Wednesday, Massie echoed Paul’s argument that President Donald Trump should “trust his instincts” over his establishment advisers, and get the US out of Syria.
“I think Trump’s instincts in 2013, I think Trump’s instincts when he was campaigning, and I think his instincts two days before the attack were all correct. Those instincts were that we should not get involved in Syria, and we should get out of Syria,” the congressman said.
The US, British and French governments have insisted they had intelligence and other evidence proving that chlorine and sarin were used in the alleged April 7 attack in Douma, but have declined to disclose it, claiming it was either classified or could endanger “organizations on the ground.”
Even the Foreign Policy magazine, inclined to believe the government’s arguments, noted that the intelligence assessments offered by the trio “relied to an unusual degree on information gleaned from open source material and social media,” noted on Tuesday.
“I can’t think of any other examples where so quickly online footage has been used as one of the main justifications for military action,” Ben Nimmo of the Atlantic Council think-tank told FP.
Earlier in the week, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the three countries had “excellent intelligence gathering” and could not wait for the investigators from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to start their work in Douma.
“Should the US and our allies wait around for [Syrian President Bashar] Assad to use more chemical substances on his people? Should we wait for that formal investigation that can take months and months?” Nauert told reporters.
The US was just as convinced of its intelligence in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, while the OPCW and other international organizations disagreed, AP’s chief diplomatic correspondent Matt Lee pointed out.