‘This Madman Must Be Stopped’ – Syrian Chemical Weapons

Last August, Barack Obama told reporters at the White House:

claimed that US intelligence assessed 'with varying degrees of confidence' that 'the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin'.

Having offered this caveated assertion, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel added:


footage said to show victims of chemical weapons foaming at the mouth.

Thomson offered a link to a detailed report of the 1995 sarin attack in Tokyo, noting: 'am advised there's no mention of any prominent bright, white foam at mouths'.

Thomson also asked, reasonably: 'Why doesn't any medic in the film wipe away the white foam on patients' mouths – the basic paramedic fundamental to preserve an airway?'

On GlobalPost, Tracey Shelton and Peter Gelling questioned whether the filmed symptoms matched claims that sarin had been used:


offered other explanations:

described as 'microscopic'.

Dr. Jeffrey Lewis of the Monterey Institute of International Studies, also founder of Arms Control Wonk, a nuclear arms control and non-proliferation blog, wrote:


here and here? Writing for Foreign Policy in December, Charles Blair commented:

view in the Independent that the claims are 'theatre', 'a retold drama riddled with plot-holes'. If the media stage managers appeared to be offering some kind of informed consensus, it was for a reason:

"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”>Stop Him!

The scepticism from Thomson, Fisk and others has been welcome indeed. Wider scepticism has doubtless been encouraged by the mixed messages from US officials. Corporate media performance has nevertheless been shocking.

In a leading article, 'Stop him,' the Sun told its readers on April 27:

reach in print and online is nearly 18 million. Its editors also quoted Cameron:



noted that 'initial samples and evidence trails have degraded'. The result:



responded to the sarin story with an article entitled, 'A wary, weary West is leaving Syria in the butchers' hands; Obama may talk of red lines, but the US and its allies simply don't have the will to intervene.'

If that was not clear enough, Brogan added: 'the CIA has endorsed the conclusions of MI6 and other intelligence agencies that chemical weapons probably were used'. (Brogan, Daily Telegraph, April 30, 2013)

That, of course, does not remotely justify the title. Nor does the next sentence:

analysis made a nonsense of Brogan's response, noting that Senator John McCain, the leading American proponent of intervention, had 'admitted that the chemical weapons evidence "may not be airtight".' It also quoted Hamish de Bretton Gordon, a former commanding officer of the Army's chemical weapons unit who now runs consultancy SecureBio: 'even if any sarin found was from a regime shell – the nerve agent could have been deployed accidentally or by a rogue squad'.

The Telegraph's editors had previously commented:

said, 'there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated. This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities'.

Del Ponte added:

rowed back and the US demurred, this was impossible to ignore. Even the BBC, after a delay, posted the story half-way, then at the top, of its news homepage. This made a jarring contrast to the BBC's usual propaganda performance on Syria. As Craig Murray, formerly Britain's Ambassador to Uzbekistan, noted, corporate media are supplying 'an extraordinary barrage of distorted propaganda to fool western populations over the course and meaning of events'.

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