WASHINGTON (AP) - The painful legacy of the Iraq war has complicated President Barack Obama's efforts to muster support for military action against Syria.
As a senator, Obama opposed the Iraq war, and as president, he brought it to a close. But that war's end did not erase memories of the false premise on which President George W. Bush built a case for the U.S.-led bombing campaign and ground invasion.
Ten years ago, Bush urged the American public, the Congress and the international community to believe intelligence assessments that Saddam Hussein's government possessed weapons of mass destruction - a claim later proved wrong.
Now Obama is holding Syrian President Bashar Assad responsible for a reported chemical weapons attack and saying that justifies military action against his the Damascus government. But there are doubts about whether the evidence is convincing.
"The well of public opinion was well and truly poisoned by the Iraq episode and we need to understand the public skepticism," British Prime Minister David Cameron said during Parliament's debate that led to a stunning and unexpected refusal to endorse military action against Syria.
Cameron and Obama argue that Iraq and Syria are vastly different in both the evidence in hand and the consequences.
Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction. In Syria, there is little doubt that civilians were killed by chemical weapons. The question is whether the United States can pin the blame beyond doubt on Assad's government.
"I recognize that all of us - here in the United States, in Great Britain, in many parts of the world - there is a certain weariness given Afghanistan, there's a certain suspicion of any military action post-Iraq," Obama said Friday.