In a day filled with setbacks for an administration desperate to save a president’s “redline” credibility, Thursday the Pentagon delivered another when it was forced to clarify Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s bizarre statement before Congress Wednesday that Russia supplies Syria with chemical weapons:
In a response to a member of Congress, Secretary Hagel was referring to the well-known conventional arms relationship between Syria and Russia. The Syrian regime has a decades-old largely indigenous chemical weapons program. Currently, Russia provides the Syrian regime a wide variety of military equipment and support, some of which can be modified or otherwise used to support the chemical weapons program. We have publicly and privately expressed our concern over the destabilizing impact on the Syrian conflict and the wider region of continued military shipments to the Assad regime.
During his testimony at the House Foreign Affairs hearing, Hagel answered Congressman Joe Wilson’s (R-SC) question about where Syria’s chemical weapons came from this way: “Well, the Russians supply them. Others are supplying them with those chemical weapons. They make some themselves.”
Though the Pentagon tried its best with today’s statement, it reconciles nothing. It is just a fact that what Hagel told Congress (and the world) about Russia supplying Syria with chemical weapons is 100% false. Supplying conventional weapons “which can” be modified to support a chemical weapons program is not even in the same ballpark as “supplying” chemical weapons. You can modify a pipe into a pipe bomb. Does that mean Ace Hardware is “supplying” pipe bombs?
It is hard to decide which is worse: Was Hagel not telling the truth or does our Secretary of Defense just not know?
On top of that credibility issue, when not claiming military action against Syria doesn’t qualify as a war, Secretary of State Kerry is trying to present the Syrian rebels as a “moderate” group America can do business with, when all the intelligence says the complete opposite.
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