We are in a strange situation: what ‘news’ can we trust?

We have had ‘confirmed’ reports of a chemical weapons (CW) attack by Assad’s forces on his own people – in Douma. This was the justification for USA, France and UK to launch missile attacks on Syria. Where do these ‘confirmed reports’ come from? Not from the UN or the independent organisation tasked with investigating such incidents. Nor, originally from the ‘Free Syrian Army’ (FSA), but from ‘independent’ sources and social media operating within IS controlled zones.

It must at least be questioned how such sources can be regarded as independent when embedded alongside avowed extremist groups which have been responsible for appalling crimes such as rape and beheadings. When an alternative view is suggested, either by Syria or Russia that is discounted as ‘fake news’.

But why should we believe one source rather than the other? The ones we have been told to believe in the past have proved false, what is the evidence they’ve changed?  The claim that Assad has used chemicals in the past is taken as proven yet, as far as I’m aware such proof is not available. The OPCW has stated that Syria submiited ‘around 40 notifications regarding activities of various armed terrorist groups.’ and that the Secretariat ‘verified the destruction of 100% of Category 1 and Category 2 chemical weapons declared by the Syrian Arab Republic.’ Document C-22/4.  That chemicals have been used as weapons in Syria seems certain but it not certain who the perpetrators have been.

Two questions need to be answered, one specific the other more general. It is being claimed that Russia is hampering the OPCW Fact Finding Mission and has tampered with the site to remove traces of CW. It seems that the Russians are much more effective than UK at this, despite their operating in a war zone. We are still cleaning up the very localised Salisbury incident of 4th March  while the Russians can do a whole town in a few days.

The second question is a question I’ve asked before and seen no satisfactory answer – who benefits? What would Assad achieve from use of CW in Douma?  In September 2013 Barbara F Walters concluded, in her own terms, provocatively,  that Assad had used chemical weapons as a way of drawing out USA intentions.  She ended her article with the question whether Assad would use chemicals again, and her answer was ‘No’.  (Readers will note that in the responses to her article it was argued strongly that no proof existed that Assad ordered the use of CW then).

That leaves open the question of who might have carried out such an attack, (keeping in mind that, despite USA, France & UK saying so, it has not been shown conclusively that an attack took place: shouldn’t we wait for firmer evidence before we kill people?). Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the so-called FSA will benefit from a weakened Assad. They know now that he cannot lose but they don’t want him to win overwhelmingly. USA and UK foreign policy in the Middle East has for decades followed the demand to keep Zionist Israel happy. Or could it be some renegade faction attached loosely to any of the above, including Assad’s forces.

When, instead of blaming without evidence and judging without a moral base, and instead of looking for places we can test our military prowess, will we find out whether peace-making might work. That should start with a genuine commitment to democracy even when the people choose the ‘wrong’ leaders. And if we want to help build strong democratic nations protectionist economic policies and isolationism won’t help!

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