U.S. intelligence sources spent most of last week tamping down the idea that the Syrians have begun using chemical weapons on each other. So why isn't Representative Mike Rogers going along with them? When asked about the chemical situation on "Face The Nation" yesterday, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said that "it is abundantly clear that that red line has been crossed" and the President needs to take action to secure Syria's stockpile of dangerous weapons.
So what does Mike Rogers know that no one else does? Well, probably nothing. He's getting the same information that the intelligence services are, but he's obviously taking a different interpretation of the evidence than the official public stance. You can't really blame him though. After all, try and square these two sentences from a CNN report on the chemical weapons rumors and not come away believing that people only hear what they want to hear:
Analysts believe it's possible people in the video were deliberately exposed to a "caustic" agent such as chlorine. But that would not be the same as using a chemical weapons as defined by international treaties, such as a nerve or blister agent.
Dousing people with chlorine sounds like using chemicals as a weapon to us, but then we don't get to write treaties on the rules of war.
The trouble, of course, is that even if everyone agrees that the red line is crossed, no one agrees on what to do about it. No one is pushing for an invasion of Syria, and even those who simply want to arm the rebels are not united on which rebels should get which weapons. It's very delicate situation which is why some people don't want to make those hard choices until they absolutely have to.
Meanwhile, the war itself continues to deteriorate. A leading rebel commander lost a leg in a car bomb attack today and Israel is shooting over the border and into the Golan Heights. It seems the one thing Rogers is definitely right about is that indecision on the part of Western allies is dangerous for everyone.