Former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has told Foreign Policy Obama betrayed the United States when he ordered the Pentagon to stand down on a retaliatory strike against Damascus in response to the Ghouta chemical attack.

Obama had declared a “red line” on the use of chemical weapons in Syria, but “Assad did it anyway, and Hagel had spent the day approving final plans for a barrage of Tomahawk cruise missile strikes against Damascus. U.S. naval destroyers were in the Mediterranean, awaiting orders to fire,” Foreign Policy reported on Friday.

Instead of green lighting the attack, “Obama told a stunned Hagel to stand down. Assad’s Aug. 21 chemical attack in a Damascus suburb had killed hundreds of civilians, but the president said the United States wasn’t going to take any military action against the Syrian government. The president had decided to ignore his own red line—a decision, Hagel believes, that dealt a severe blow to the credibility of both Obama and the United States.”

We now know al-Assad had nothing to do with the chemical attack. Days after the attack Dale Gavlak and Yahya Ababneh, freelance reporters for the Associated Press interviewed doctors, Ghouta residents, rebel fighters and their families. They presented a different picture than the one pushed by the Obama administration and headlined by the corporate media.

Witnesses said the attack was carried out by the al-Qaeda and Islamic State linked Jabhat al-Nusra with chemical weapons supplied by Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan.

Additionally, according to journalist Seymour Hersh, Turkish intelligence worked closely with al-Nusra to develop chemical weapons. “Erdoğan’s hope was to instigate an event that would force the US to cross the red line,” Hersh writes.

“In the months before the attack, the American intelligence agencies produced a series of highly classified reports, culminating in a formal Operations Order—a planning document that precedes a ground invasion—citing evidence that the al-Nusra Front, a jihadi group affiliated with al-Qaida, had mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity. When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad,” Hersh wrote for the London Review of Books on December 19, 2013.

According to a report issued by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology the Obama administration, France and the UK fabricated evidence on Syria’s supposed chemical weapons program as a pretext to invade the country. The report was authored by former UN weapons inspector Richard Lloyd and Professor Theodore Postol.

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, wrote in November that the National Security Council instructed various intelligence agencies to come up with a “scenario unfortunately reminiscent of the lead up to Iraq” that would place blame for the chemical attack on Syria. The effort produced skepticism that Syria was responsible and resulted in a number of analysts threatening to resign from the group and disassociate themselves from any report released to the public.

“This led to the White House issuing its own assessment, completely divorcing the process from any direct connection to the intelligence community. The spectacle of CIA Director George Tenet sitting behind Secretary of State Colin Powell in the United Nations, providing him with credibility as Powell told a series of half-truths, would not be repeated,” Giraldi writes.

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