In a press conference this afternoon, Secretary of State John Kerry laid out the evidence that Syria did indeed use chemical weapons. He said that we know the Assad regime had used chemical weapons before on a smaller scale, we know that three days before the attack, Assad's chemical weapons personnel were in the area making preparations; we know that these preparations were in response to specific instructions, and we know that the weapons were launched only from government controlled areas and landed only in contested areas. Kerry said that the intelligence being released was unprecedented but that some sources and methods still had to be protected.
Kerry further said that the evidence included thousands of reports from Syrians on the ground in 11 separate sites, all showing people exhibiting symptoms related to chemical attacks, and without any evidence of other types of attacks. There was "not a single drop of blood," he said.
He noted that he personally asked Syria to immediately allow inspectors access but that instead for four days Syria shelled the neighborhoods at a rate four times higher than they had before the attacks -- to destroy evidence of the chemical strikes before allowing inspectors limited access.
As a result of all this, said Kerry, the question is no longer what do we know "but what are we going to do about it?"
While he did not directly answer that question, he made clear that doing nothing was unlikely. "It matters here if nothing is done," he said.
It matters that 100 years ago chemical weapons were banned in response to the horrors of World War I, he said. "This matters beyond the limits of Syria's borders," he said.
He noted that because Russia would block United Nations action, the United States would have to follow another course. And he said that the administration would be talking to Congress and the American people, but that "history would judge us harshly if we turned a blind eye."