This video contains imagery of children gasping for air as a result of a purported chemical attack. It is presented as an atrocity of war. It is distressing. The aftermath of any act of war is distressing. Images of children with limbs blown off would be no less distressing. The video of a child having his head sliced off by terrorists would be no less distressing. This video is presented as a special case, as specially atrocious, for a reason.

Although the video says clearly that, while the US blames the incident on the Syrian government, this is denied by the Syrian government and the Russians blame it on an inadvertent strike on a terrorist held chemical munitions factory, the impression we come away with is that the culpable party is the Syrian government and that ‘something must be done’. For something to be done we must understand what is happening here and too many of us do not.

I don’t know whether the chemical incident was the result of a conventional attack that struck a terrorist chemical gas repository and released the toxins, as the Russians say or if it was staged in some way by the terrorists and their backers. I tend to believe that the latter scenario is correct given the quality of the video production and the immediate and seemingly coordinated response by the US and their allies.

What I do not believe, and what defies common sense and circumstantial evidence, is that the Syrian government deliberately used a weapon whose use would give the excuse for action against them. I doubt that President Trump believes this because, despite his many flaws, he recognises a scam when he see one (who better?). Trump’s speech about being flexible changing his mind felt to me like that of a captive with a gun at his back.

Whatever Trump’s motivation we must not fall for this. We must not allow anyone we know to fall for this. This is part of the imperialist modus operandi, name something as an atrocity or potential atrocity and then go to war committing far worse atrocities that the one they named. Those who the ‘gods’ would destroy they first defame as mad or bad.

Idlib is a terrorist stronghold supported by the US, UK and Israel. They will not allow the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) to retake it. Also they will not permit a resolution to the Syrian conflict that leaves Bashar al Assad as president and Syria as a whole and independent secular state. As the conflict moves towards its end state Syria’s enemies become anxious to frustrate that resolution.

Following his speech Trump launched an attack on a Syrian airbase.

Ray McGovern a former CIA analyst summarises the facts:

On 4 April 2017, the town of Khan Shaykhun in the Idlib Governorate of Syria, was struck by a heavy airstrike followed by massive civilian chemical poisoning.

At the time of the attack the town was under the control of Tahrir al-Sham,formerly known as the al-Nusra Front.

The President of the United States, Donald Trump, as well as the UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, blamed the attack on the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad, while the Russian and Syrian governments said it was caused by the Syrian Air Force’s destruction of a nearby rebel-operated chemical weapons warehouse.

In response, the United States launched 59 cruise missiles at Shayrat Air Base, which U.S. Intelligence believed was the source of the attack.

Ray McGovern

McGovern argues that this is what most likely happened:

The Russians briefed the United States on the proposed target. This is a process that started more than two months ago. There is a dedicated phone line that is being used to coordinate and deconflict (i.e., prevent US and Russian air assets from shooting at each other) the upcoming operation.

The United States was fully briefed on the fact that there was a target in Idlib that the Russians believes was a weapons and explosives depot for Islamic rebels.

The Syrian Air Force hit the target with conventional weapons. All involved expected to see a massive secondary explosion. That did not happen. Instead, smoke, chemical smoke, began billowing from the site. It turns out that the Islamic rebels used that site to store chemicals, not sarin, that were deadly. The chemicals included organic phosphates and chlorine and they followed the wind and killed civilians.

There was a strong wind blowing that day and the cloud was driven to a nearby village and caused casualties.

We know it was not sarin. How? Very simple. The so-called “first responders” handled the victims without gloves. If this had been sarin they would have died. Sarin on the skin will kill you.