Weekly Standard Blatantly Distorts Obama Official’s Quote on Syrian Chemical Weapons

Another word for this is lying
Politics • Views: 36,598

Here’s a perfect example of how the right wing media distorts information to create false impressions, as the Weekly Standard’s Daniel Halper (who specializes in drumming up fake outrages) takes a quote from an anonymous Obama official completely out of context: Obama Aide on Syria’s Assad: ‘If He Drops Sarin on His Own People, What’s That Got Do Do With Us?’ | the Weekly Standard.

President Barack Obama got ahead of himself and his advisers when he said that Syria using chemical weapons would cross a “red line,” the New York Times reports.

“How can we attack another country unless it’s in self-defense and with no Security Council resolution?” an unnamed Obama administration official tells the paper. “If he drops sarin on his own people, what’s that got to do with us?”

This is an amazingly dishonest misrepresentation of the New York Times report. Here’s the actual article, and here’s the section with the out-of-context quote:

While concerns about Syria’s chemical arsenal go back years, apprehension rose sharply last July when American intelligence agencies detected signs that the Assad government was moving part of its huge stockpile out of storage. There was some evidence that the Syrian military was mixing chemicals, a possible indication that they were being prepared for use.

The reports grew more disturbing, if still fragmentary, by the weekend of Aug. 18 and 19. Denis McDonough, then the president’s principal deputy national security adviser and now the White House chief of staff, coordinated a series of urgent classified meetings in the West Wing. “It was a catalyzing event,” said one official involved.

The advisers reviewed an array of pre-emptive military options and quickly discounted them as impractical. The evidence was not strong enough to warrant a pre-emptive strike, they concluded, and military officers said the best they could do with airstrikes or commando operations would be to limit the use of chemical weapons already deployed.

Mr. Obama’s advisers also raised legal issues. “How can we attack another country unless it’s in self-defense and with no Security Council resolution?” another official said, referring to United Nations authorization. “If he drops sarin on his own people, what’s that got to do with us?”

Let us list the dishonesty:

  • Halper’s headline and opening paragraphs give the impression that the quote came from a recent statement, indicating that the Obama administration is backing down on action against Syria. In fact, the quote refers to a discussion that took place last August.
  • Halper wants you to think his quote shows the Obama administration being callous and blasé about Syria’s Assad using sarin nerve gas against his own people — but in context, you can clearly see that it was in a discussion about the legal issue of attacking another country that has not directly attacked the US. The question, “If he drops sarin on his own people, what’s that got to do with us?” refers to the difficulty of making a case for military action when there has been no direct attack against the US.
  • The New York Times article even specifically says that this quote is “referring to United Nations authorization,” yet somehow this little detail was completely left out of Halper’s distorted article.

This kind of stuff is why whenever you see the right wing media using a quote to attack the Obama administration, you must always go to the source. Nine times out of ten, you’ll discover that something is being either drastically distorted or completely made up.

UPDATE at 5/5/13 12:10:53 pm

Daniel Halper, by the way, was also the original source for that completely false (and never retracted) report that Obama’s children attend a school with “11 armed guards.”

Related
UPDATE at 5/5/13 1:28:39 pm

The right wing echo chamber is already spreading this dishonest article; it’s now featured at the top of Drudge Report:

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