Did Bashar al-Assad order poison gas attack?

[Correction 4/8/2017: Sarin, as peteybee of Spread an Idea pointed out, is a liquid, not a gas.]

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley states as a fact that the Syrian government used poison gas (probably sarin) against civilians in its fight against rebels.  I question this because: —

  1.   It doesn’t make sense that Bashar al-Assad would risk turning the world against him and his regime when he and his Russian allies are on the verge of victory against ISIS and other jihadist rebels.
  2.   No news account that I have read states unequivocally that such attacks have occurred.  They all use words such as “allegedly” and “reportedly” and then go on as if the fact was proven.

Haley’s speech reminds me of Colin Powell’s speech to the United Nations back in 2003 that Saddam Hussein possessed chemical, biological and/or nuclear weapons.   We now know that this was just an excuse to invade Iraq, a nation that never threatened the United States but was feared by the leaders of Israel and Saudi Arabia.

The Iraq war united most of us Americans behind President George W. Bush, at least for a time, but in the end it helped create the backlash that led to the election of Barack Obama.

Donald Trump was one who came to understand what big mistake it was to invade Iraq.   He also said it would be a big mistake to intervene in Syria in 2013.   He was right both times.   Those are two reasons I thought he might be less of a war hawk than Hillary Clinton.

Now he seems eager to go to war.   He now criticizes the Obama administration from holding back on going to war in 2013 in similar circumstances.

I don’t claim to know exactly what happened.   And I’m all for an impartial investigation, if such as possible.  I am sure that it would not have been to the advantage of Assad and his allies to launch such an attack, and it is to the advantage of Assad’s enemies for the public to think he did.

Whatever the facts, I do see how Trump might think this is an answer to his political difficulties.  It would take the public’s mind off the political crisis in his administration.  By directly confronting Russia in Syria, he would refute charges that he is a puppet of Vladimir Putin.

Weak authoritarian leaders down through history have seen war as a means of uniting their peoples behind them.  But as often as not, they have lost their wars, and thereby revealed their weakness.   This is the risk Trump runs if he sends troops to Syria.

The U.S. government has cried “wolf”—or rather cried “Hitler”—many times since 2001.   There will come a time when the American people no longer believe that cry.  Maybe the time has already come.


It’s WMD all over again | Why don’t you see it? by Peter Hitchens for the (London) Daily Mail.

Who supplies the news?  Misreporting in Syria and Iraq by Patrick Cockburn for the London Review of Books.   Important.

How Does Media Know What Happened in Syria Chemical Attack? by Kevin Gosztola for ShadowProof.

America can’t stop Syria and it shouldn’t try by Michael Brendan Dougherty for The Week.

Would the Public Rally Behind Trump in a Crisis? by Daniel Larison for The American Conservative.

Photo via The Week.


Update [Added 4/8/2017]

These are the possibilities, as I now see them:

  1.  Bashar al Assad, encouraged by the fact that President Trump decided that regime change is not a goal, thought it was safe to use chemical weapons against rebels.
  2.  Some Syrian officer, without Assad’s knowledge, decided it was safe to use chemical weapons.
  3.   The Syrian air force, as the Syrian and Russian government claimed, accidentally bombed a chemical depot or factory.
  4.   Rebels put deadly chemicals in place where they knew they would be bombed in order to discredit the Syrian government.
  5.   Rebels staged the whole thing as a false flag attack, with or without actual casualties.

Actually, all five sound implausible, now that I think about it.

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One Response to “Did Bashar al-Assad order poison gas attack?”

  1. Vincent Says:

    Nevertheless, one looks forward to America uniting behind a good cause. Might not the air strike be a wise intervention? Can the people of America not give some credence to their own democratic system of government?

    From outside i see americans everywhere – i don’t include you – treating every move as a game of bashing the internal enemy as
    perceived from their own bubble of prejudice fuelled by ignorance. Against which honest naked self-interest seems refreshing and comparatively healthy


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