Secretary of State John Kerry rebuffed a question directed to him on a Sunday talk show about whether an alleged sarin gas attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was a “slam dunk.”
The day after President Barack Obama’s surprise announcement that he would seek congressional approval before launching what is assumed to be a limited cruise missile strike against Syria, Kerry appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” to make the case for military response.
“I just want to underline the news you made this morning,” host David Gregory said. “This is a sarin gas attack, perpetrated by the Assad regime. This is a slam dunk case that he did it?”
“The words ‘slam dunk’ should be retired from American national security issues,” Kerry said, shaking his head.
The words have extra meaning. In YEAR??, CIA Director George Tenet told then-President George W. Bush about two weeks before deciding to invade Iraq that it was a “slam dunk case” that Saddam Hussein had unconventional weapons, according to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward.
“We are saying that the high confidence that the intelligence community has expressed, and the case that I laid out the other day, is growing stronger by the day,” Kerry told Gregory on Sunday.(DON’T OVER EXPLAIN.)
Not a “slam dunk”? I can’t say I blame him for not wanting to go that far.
Kerry should know that Carla del Ponte, a member of the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, told Swiss TV in May that there were “strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof,” that Syrian rebels had used the sarin gas, according to The Washington Times.
Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that it was “utter nonsense” to presume that the Assad regime was behind the most recent chemical warfare attack, according to the Guardian.
Although neither is proof, it should be enough to give one pause before deploying U.S. military assets.
Watch the exchange, courtesy of NBC News.