Monday, July 30, 2018

Questions for the proponents of the latest Syria “gas attack” story

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In the months since April 7th’s alleged chemical attack from Assad, numerous details have come out which make the official story about the incident hard to believe. I hope that the government and media figures who’ve claimed this version of events answer the following questions, and I hope that the Western public takes them into consideration.

-The official story claims that Assad attacked a civilian crowd which largely consisted of children, that he did this at a moment when no drastic actions were needed to defeat the severely weakened anti-government forces in Syria, and that he took this impractical action when he surely knew that it would result in international retaliation. If this story is true, what could Assad’s motive have been for carrying out the attack?
-Despite the “Assad gas attack” story being reported as fact by Western media, sources from the highest levels have made it clear from the start that they don’t have conclusive evidence it had happened this way. Right after the incident, the U.S. State Department made a statement which acknowledged that the U.S. didn’t know for sure whether Assad had actually committed a chemical attack. Then on April 9, government sources told Reuters that they “had not yet conclusively determined whether the attack was carried out by President Bashar al-Assad's Syrian government forces.”
Yet Israel bombed Syria in response to this still unconfirmed attack on April 9. And the Trump administration bombed Syria on April 13, when Assad’s guilt still wasn’t settled. The UK and France have also launched have air strikes on Syria with the “gas attack” story as their pretext. Did the officials who ordered these attacks have access to damning evidence against Assad at the time? And if they did have this evidence, why didn’t they release it to the public before they carried out their military actions?
-The White Helmets were the initial source of the claim that Assad had committed such an attack. Knowing this, why did the White Helmets show in their own footage that they didn’t use the necessary protective gear for gas exposure while they handled victims?
-Syrian boy Hassan Diab has said in an interview that he was taken to the hospital despite having clearly shown no need for treatment. States Diab about how White Helmets members interacted with him: “Somebody was shouting that we had to go to the hospital, so we went there. When I came in, some people grabbed me and started pouring water over my head.” His story differs from the account that the White Helmets presented.
Additionally, videos released in the days after the incident show that White Helmets members deliberately moved the bodies of victims to make the footage more graphic, like when the remains of an infant were shown on top of one boy despite the remains not having been present in a different video of the scene. Amid all this evidence that staging was involved in the videos, how can the White Helmets assure us that their activities around the incident were done with impartiality?
-One of the medical workers from the scene has said that “Some people came here and washed people. They said: ‘Chemical attack. Chemical attack.’ We didn’t see any chemical attack symptoms.” Their account is widely backed up. The journalist Robert Fisk has interviewed multiple witnesses to the incident, and they’ve agreed that no chemicals were involved. The Syrian doctor Assim Rahaibani told Fisk that a heavy dust storm had happened on April 7th, and that White Helmets members went around the area yelling that a gas attack was happening. The videos of the victims, Rahaibani concludes, show people who are suffering from hypoxia, a symptom of severe dust inhalation.
Proponents of the gas attack story have responded to Fisk’s report by claiming that Rahaibani was coerced into giving this account. Yet this claim has no evidence behind it. And Fisk’s version of events is supported by the interviews of reporter Pearson Sharp, who’s talked with randomly selected civilians in the area who largely can’t even remember any news about a gas attack.
On top of all of this, seventeen witnesses to the incident testified in the Hague in April, and they all agreed that a dust storm had happened which was falsely reported as a gas attack. What evidence is there to prove all of these witnesses wrong?
-When the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ report about the incident came out this month, it revealed nothing that contradicts the accounts of the witnesses I mentioned. The OPCW found no evidence that sarin was involved in the incident, which directly goes against the White House’s claims about the incident. And it still hasn’t confirmed that chlorine was used either. No updates have come out since then which prove that a gas attack happened, or that Assad had committed such an attack. Amid this continued lack of evidence that chemical weapons were involved, or that Assad’s government is in any way to blame, how do the official story’s proponents justify their position?
-Since the OPCW concluded in 2016 that the Syrian government had gotten rid of all of its chemical weapons, why are we to believe that Assad could have been able to carry out a gas attack this year?
Until the authorities behind the official story address these questions, the public will have no solid reason to believe them. And by extension, I think that people will be justified in questioning any future claims of Syrian gas attacks.

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