Rush to Judgement?
In the wake of the US military strike on Syria, Thomas O Meehan asks some awkward questions
We are currently undertaking military action against Syria to avenge a massacre we know very little about. Our establishments are running with the line that Assad is responsible for a gas attack on a rebel-held area of his own territory. The Neo-con war with anybody axis is coordinating talking points in suspicious unanimity. These are the early days of the Trump administration. It is not out of the question that various interests may be involved in this. The tactic of “Testing” a new president is well established.
Footage purports to show victims of chemical weapons. People on the scene were at pains to describe the victims as suffering from a nerve agent. Men stripped off their clothing and fire-hosed it to remove toxic agents before medical treatment, and were shown on BBC and France 24. Dead children in blankets were exhibited for the cameras.
President Trump, as is his want, responded with outrage at what he and the media claimed was a Syrian violation of the rules of war. But was it? Claims that Assad gassed his opponents have been made before. Assad cooperated with demands to turn over his gas stockpile. He had every reason, then, to avoid an American airstrike. The only proven allegations of poison gas usage lay at ISIS’s door. And the victims of the Tokyo subway sarin attack were suffering from respiratory collapse. Toxic nerve agents like sarin can cause that, but so can Chlorine. And anyone can make chlorine gas in their kitchen.
Let’s ask more awkward questions;
- Why would the Assad regime provoke the world and the US when they are winning their civil war? Would Syria’s Russian allies consent to such a provocation? What would have been gained by a one-off gas attack that rendered no great tactical victory? Poison gas is best used to clear large areas of occupation. A pinprick gas attack on a neighbourhood with no follow up to capture ground is pointless, especially if the population has nowhere to run. According to the New York Times, only about one hundred fatalities resulted. In the context of a civil war this would be more an act of pointless, albeit savage vandalism.
- Re evidence of toxic attack, who are the experts on scene? How did they get there? Are such experts able at all times to make dispositive determinations in areas where actual western journalists do not go? Who can be trusted in so partisan an environment? Have any actual scientists examined tissue samples, especially lung tissue and skin samples? I’ve seen corpses with foaming mouths. This also happens with common Chlorine inhalation. It happens whenever the lungs fill with fluid.
- All of those interviewed report a massive explosion(s). Are toxic agents really dispersed in such a manner? Wouldn’t a massive explosive burst destroy the toxic agent as much as disperse it? A statement by a young girl repeated by the New York Times described a single bomb hitting a single house after which a yellow fog killed those who responded. Even a New York Times reporter wondered if the “fog” might have had something to do with what was in the house rather than with the bomb itself. All the more curious when the same reporter wrote, “The area around Khan Seikhoun is not held by the Islamic State, but by other insurgents: Al-Qaeda-linked militants and a variety of other rebel groups.” Is it fantastical thinking that “Al-Qaeda-linked militants” might have stored something nasty?
- Nikki Halley, the US’s UN representative, openly accused the Russians of responsibility yesterday. This, after the Russian representative presented a line of explanation quite like my own about chemical agents already present on the ground. If the best we can do is to show pictures of dead babies, what does that say about our investigative capacity? Argument by appeal to emotion is a cardinal logical fallacy. And why the rush to judgement?
Don’t expect any answers soon. They might discourage the public from involving American and British kids in another pointless Middle East war. And that is the Neo-con objective here. Whatever the case, we are not about to change the course of the Syrian Civil war and we shouldn’t be trying.
And just what would we achieve by intervening? Suppose Assad really had done this evil thing. Who would replace him and who decides? The best elements of Syrian civil society are now dead or living in tents in Turkey. So the only force likely to replace Assad are Salafists with more in common with ISIS than with us. The last time that we played at regime change, Iraq fell into the Mad Max zone it remains in today after so much blood and treasure.
And never forget that Assad’s power rests on a coalition of minorities. One of those protected minorities is the Christians. Please, please, can we not sell out the Christians once again.
THOMAS O MEEHAN is a freelance writer and a former government Senior Research Analyst and Inspector. He lives in Bucks County PA and he blogs at Odysseus On the Rocks