The war in Syria, a complex, controversial, and oft-tragic conflict involving the government of President Bashar Assad, ISIS, and Islamic militias – both rebels and government defenders, of a wide range of militancy levels – and plenty of atrocities on various sides, continues apace. The most recent major incident is a chemical-weapons attack, apparently utilizing nerve gas, in the embattled Idlib Province, which has been widely blamed on government forces by the mainstream media.
This essay gives us some reasons to hesitate before accepting this account uncritically:
The footage of men, women, and children in paroxysms of agony in the wake of a chemical weapons attack near the town of Khan Shaykhun in Idlib province, should make even the most hardened among us to weep. Such human suffering obliges us to question the very premise upon which we like to consider our world as advanced or civilized.
And it is precisely because of this that when we are witness to such an ontological breakdown in humanity that we must resist the pressure to accept the officially prescribed narrative of responsibility at face value… for pro-government forces to carry out such an attack at this time would constitute an act of political and diplomatic self-harm of near-historic proportions. […]
The Syrian government did not deny that it carried [out] an airstrike in Idlib around the same time footage emerged of such unconscionable human suffering. Their explanation is that they bombed a weapons depot close to the town in which Salafi-jihadi groups were storing chemical weapons. Confirmation that such groups are in possession of chemical weapons came in 2013 from UN special investigator Carla del Ponte, based on a UN investigation carried out concerning previous allegations of their use.
It is true that this account appears on the pro-Russian “Sputnik News” site, and the Russian Federation is a close ally of Syrian President Assad. However, some degree of bias is a fact of life in news reporting, especially in our present age, and there is no more reason to automatically discount this article based on its source than there is to automatically and uncritically accept accounts by mainstream media which are generally (and sometimes reflexively) anti-Syrian and anti-Russian.
In the world in which we live, it is important to weigh the relative merits of various accounts, in the hope of arriving at a reasonable conclusion. That it would do little good, and indeed much harm, to the cause of the Syrian government to unleash a chemical attack at this time seems a logical conclusion. And that chemical agents were spread as the unintended outcome of an attack on a weapons depot (a logical military target) which may very well have contained such weapons seems, also, quite logical.
I’m not on the ground in Syria, and I have no special knowledge of the area. But in weighing the relative merits of a logical explanation versus a hysterical account by media sources known to be biased against both the Syrian government and their Russian backers, the weight of the probability seems to incline, to me, toward the Syrian account being the accurate one. Your mileage may vary…
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