By Daniel Margrain
On April 4, 2017, the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad was accused of intentionally deploying poison gas in Khan Seikhoun in Idlib province in the north of the country, In response to the alleged attack, and with near-unanimous journalistic support, the United States government launched an illegal missile strike on Syria’s al-Shayrat airbase three days later (April 7, 2017).
Cathy Newman on Channel 4 News (April 10, 2017) stated as if it was a fact that President Trump’s unauthorized attack on the airbase was “in retaliation to a sarin gas attack by president Assad”. Among those joining in the chorus proclaiming Assad’s ‘guilt’ as if they were as one, was the New York Times. Reporter, Michael B Gordon, who co-authored that papers infamous fake aluminum tube story of September 8, 2002 as part of the media’s propaganda offensive leading up to the 2003 U.S-led Iraq invasion, published (along with co-author Anne Barnard) another propaganda piece.
Showing no scepticism that the Syrian military was responsible for the gas attack, the authors cited the widely discredited $100m-funded terrorist-enablers, the White Helmets, as the basis for their story. Meanwhile, Jonathan Freedland, without a shred of evidence, wrote in the Guardian: “We almost certainly know who did it. Every sign points to the regime of Bashar al-Assad”. Three days later on twitter (April 7, 2017) George Monbiot exclaimed: “We can be 99% sure the chemical weapons attack came from Syrian govt.”
In an attempt to get to the bottom of the alleged attack amid the fog of anti-Assad propaganda, I wrote an extensive article which raises a number of issues regarding the authenticity of the various claims made. More recently, journalist Peter Hitchens announced to his readers in his Mail on Sunday column (April 30, 2017), that he had sent a series of questions to the Foreign Office (FCO) about their apparent confidence with regards to Assad’s guilt over the sarin gas attack claims. In Hitchen’s view, the answers he received – which he has been prevented from publishing – were “useless, unrevealing and unresponsive”.
Three days later (May 3, 2017), Hitchens published the said questions, which the FCO “won’t or can’t answer”, in his Mail column. The questions the journalist poses are thoughtful, perceptive and often detailed. They include legitimate requests to the UK government to clarify contradictory statements and accounts. The fact that the FCO refused to answer them satisfactorily, or allow them to be published, hints very strongly at a government cover-up.
These are the questions Hitchen’s asked upon which he received worthless replies:
“In his article in the Sunday Telegraph of 16th April 2017, the Foreign Secretary states that:
‘British scientists have analysed samples from the victims of the [Khan Sheikhoun] attack.’
Where and when did they do this?
What assurances did they have of the provenance of the samples?
Who controlled the custody chain, and vouched for it?
How did they know that the samples were at no stage handled by persons with a propaganda interest in a certain outcome?
Were they at any stage under the control of Tahrir al-Sham, formerly Jabhat Fateh Al Sham (previously the Jabhat Al-Nusra), or any other part of that faction?
If not, how did they leave Syria?
Under whose custody were they between Khan Sheikhoun and the Syrian border?
How do we know?
He also says : ‘These have tested positive for sarin or a sarin-like substance.’
Eyewitness reports (cited in evidence by the Foreign Secretary) speak of ‘clouds of smoke’ (Independent 05/04/2017) and say ‘We could smell it from 500 metres away.’(Guardian 07/04/2017) and ‘The smell reached us here in the centre; it smelled like rotten food.’ (Daily Telegraph 06/04/2017).
Sarin is odourless and invisible. Videos of the attack also show responders without protective clothing, handling victims, which would be highly dangerous in dealing with victims of sarin. Does the Foreign Secretary have any view on the apparent contradiction here?
The Foreign Secretary also writes:
The UK, the US and all our key allies are of one mind: we believe that this was highly likely to be an attack by Assad, on his own people, using poison gas weapons that were banned almost 100 years ago, under the 1925 Geneva protocol. In view of this horrific evidence, the world last week once again had a choice, just as we did after the gas attack at Ghouta in 2013.
This is doubly interesting.
‘Highly likely’ is well short of a declaration that the matter is in fact proven. Yet the United Kingdom has endorsed a missile attack on a sovereign country by the United States, the pretext or reason for which was given as the alleged gas attack, which the Foreign secretary himself categorises not as proven fact but as ‘highly likely’, allegedly by the Assad government on Khan Sheikhoun.
What is the status of this attack under international law? Under which part of the UN charter is it lawful? If it *is* lawful in the case of such an action being proven, then is a belief that the alleged action by the Syrian state is ‘highly likely’ sufficient?
Who, if anybody, does the Foreign Secretary say is responsible for the Ghouta attack? On what basis does he say this?”
These are extremely important questions that need answering in order for the public to ascertain what the UK government’s role was in the events that led to the illegal US attack on Syria. The public need and demand answers to these legitimate questions to avoid a potential eventuality in which Theresa May’s government drags the country into yet another unnecessary war based on false pretenses.
I rely on the generosity of my readers. I don’t make any money from my work and I’m not funded. If you’ve enjoyed reading this or another posting, please consider making a donation, no matter how small. You can help continue my research and write independently..… Thanks!