27 Apr 2013

Syria and chemical weapons: 12 key questions

WMD, the Middle East, and here we go again…

Already a British prime minister is talking about a “war crime” whilst offering the British people no detailed evidence.

Fortunately, President Obama is a man so congenitally cautious he’d convene a Congressional Inquiry to run a bath. For that, we must be grateful.

Haunted by the mistakes of Bush and Blair over Iraq and the resulting bloodshed continuing today, President Obama is even more beyond hesitant than usual regarding Syria.

And he matters in this. Cameron doesn’t.

We should be grateful for Oval Office caution, because important questions need answers and for the record here they are:

1. Why have the US/UK governments so far produced no detailed evidence to back claims of chemical weapons use? David Cameron himself said yesterday that the evidence was “limited, although growing” – but what details does he have? There is an important body of evidence that needs to be built and communicated to the public.

2. What were the samples? Measurements? Traces?

3. Why has nobody from Porton Down – where samples have reportedly been tested – been put up for interview by UK government to substantiate the claim?

4. Who can verify the provenance of sample material and prove it is bona fide to assure the British people we’re not being spun by opposition war propaganda?

5. Why were no samples obtained from the site of the video of alleged chemical weapons use reported by The Times? Why were they filmed, but no samples collected?

6. We’re asked to believe MI6 got samples of Syrian “chemical weapons attacks” before this one – yet somehow video was carefully shot but not one sample taken?

7. Why doesn’t any medic in the film wipe away the white foam on patients’ mouths – the basic paramedic fundamental to preserve an airway?

8. Why did just a few people die – surely a large number of people would have died in a chemical attack, as in Halabja and Iran/Iraq war?

Check out the Channel 4 News map of where rebels say the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons here.

9. The distressing images of seemingly sick or dead people with foam on their mouths have been widely shown. I am no expert but why is the foam at the mouth white as toothpaste and curiously uncontaminated with either blood, phlegm etc as you would expect – why is the colour and distribution so similar patient to patient?

10. Why did Washington and London suddenly start talking about all this on the very same day? Who co-ordinated the news message and why?

11. Why the co-ordinated “chemical weapons” message before the UN has even entered Syria to collect samples in a forensic fashion from alleged sites of attack?

12. President Obama said that a “whole bunch” of chemical weapons would have to be deployed and used in Syria to meet his “red line” test – so why was it widely reported on Sky and BBC yesterday that Obama’s red line had been stretched and crossed?

Feel free to bear these in mind in the coming days.

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