Published on 10 Dec 2012

A chemical matter of trust

As is often my wont, the last thing I did on Friday night was to listen to the midnight news. Ban Ki-moon spoke of Syria’s chemical weapons. His tone was firm but measured. He was also confident as he stated that thus far there was no evidence that the Syrian government had moved or interfered with the five known stockpiles of their chemical weapons.

On Saturday I was listening to the radio news again. This time it was reported that the UK had evidence that there are signs that Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles have been interfered with amid some signs of readying for use.

The warnings of dire consequence flowed thick and fast from both Washington and London. That very axis with which we became so familiar in the build up the Iraq war, had an eery ring.

It seems inconceivable that the UN secretary general would stick his neck out on such an issue and tell a lie. The problem for the US/UK axis when it comes to trust anywhere in the Middle East is that whilst the political; and diplomatic personnel may have changed, history has not. That axis was seriously wrong in its understanding of Iraq’s possession of weapons of “mass destruction”. Is there any reason to believe they are any more right when it comes to Syria’s chemical stockpile?

Channel 4 News in Syria: click here for latest reports and video

Experts to whom I have spoken tell me that the Syrian stockpiles are elderly and potentially extremely unstable if they were ever opened. In short, to make use of them the Syrian government would have itself to be on suicide mission. In the words of one expert, the chemicals would more likely kill the perpetrators before ever reaching the targets.

But as experts and governments wrangle over the chemicals themselves and their state of readiness or otherwise, another issue is exposed. It is that of trust.

The overhang of mistrust flowing from the Iraq war, specifically regarding British and American claims, is still very much alive. For both London and Washington, the fall-out from the origins of that war has a staying power that rivals the life of a chemical weapon itself. I sense from my Twitter feed and other intersections with the public, that skepticism is rife.

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9 reader comments

  1. margaret brandreth-jones says:

    Exactly Jon, why believe any of them . You cite 2 diametrically opposed reports in 12 hours. Unstable chemical weapons eh? What is to say that other undiscovered chemical weapons are not being stored elsewhere? Is it a shock to you that cynism and skepticism is rife>

  2. Philip says:
  3. Joey Manic says:

    The West seems to be saying ‘kill as many people as you like with conventional weapons but chemical armaments? Well now you’re just being silly’!

  4. Y.S. says:

    In war trust no one, Cant trust Britian, USA, Syria or Iran, but be extra careful of Israel.
    They will tell you Chemical weapons are there, nuclear weapons are there, anything and evrything so USA and Britain do the dirty work for them.
    Best is they got it all themselves chemical and nuclear …. and more likely to use it.

  5. anon says:

    Existence? it seems the experts differ. see Jonathon Rugman Dec 4th 2012. whatever is the reality let us hope that such devastatingly horrendous solutions are never used.

    Is it possible that they could fall into rebel hands ?How old are the installations ? It seems that neither faction has an ounce of humanity . Power and the madness of conflict drives them on.

  6. Mudplugger says:

    Stand by for the 45 minute warning……..
    (Now where have I heard that before ?)

  7. John O'Callaghan says:

    Of course you are right Jon.
    We need to consider how our schools and our media approach the issue of
    the mendacity of our governments and the almost complete lack of morality in
    their dealings with others.
    They are lying to us about the chemical weapons for a reason. I’m not sure what it is but I am sure that we should not get uncritical reporting of these obvious pieces of misinformation. Alistair Campbell fought a successful campaign against the BBC when their journalist, whose name escapes me, reported on the early morning news that Blair and others had “sexed up” the “weapons of mass destruction” but that should not prevent more critical reporting of these matters.
    We should be telling our children about this so that they don’t believe obvious propaganda.
    Thanks for doing your bit.
    John OC

  8. Moonbeach says:

    Why don’t we just mind our own business?

    As ever, a minority (the Rebels) is destroying the buildings and infrastructure of a nation that is undemocratic by our standards. But so what?

    Check out the real benefits to the ordinary people of the Middle East of these so called popular uprisings.

    How many people in UK object to the Government’s stance on the Court of Human, Gay Marriage, UK Referendum on EU membership, the War in Afghanistan, Overseas aid to countries with space and nuclear programmes? Democracy? My backside!

    Was Tony Blair a war criminal by authorising the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqui men, women and children in our name when they had not done UK any harm?

    Perhaps Ban Ki-moon would like to comment on these matters!

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