By now the pattern of these alleged chemical weapons attacks is set in stone. They come at seminal junctures in the conflict, when Syrian government forces are on the verge of a significant strategic victory or advance against the alphabet soup of Salafi-jihadi groups that are operating in the country.
Thus the Ghouta attack of 2013 occurred just as UN inspectors arrived in Damascus to investigate claims that Nusra Front were using chemical weapons, and at a point when the Syrian Arab Army and Hezbollah were winning key battles — al-Qusayr, Aleppo, Ghouta — with the momentum on the ground shifting in favour of Damascus.
The Douma attack, likewise, has come at a critical juncture, just as the military operation to liberate the entire district of eastern Ghouta from opposition militant groups, dominated by Jaish al-Islam, approaches completion.
Call me old-fashioned, but purely on the level of motive the pattern of these attacks constitutes by itself grounds for circumspection, if not scepticism?
Yet again, as with previous attacks, the evidence and information surrounding the Douma attack has been provided by opposition and pro-opposition groups, such as the White Helmets and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Though no one is suggesting (at least certainly not me) that no attack took place, or that the footage of children stricken in the aftermath was fabricated, until independent verification is forthcoming the claim of Syrian army culpability cannot be taken at face value — not when we are dealing with probably the most heavily propagandized conflict of modern times, wherein the information war has been elevated beyond the status of an adjunct to the conflict on the ground to the point where it is now a key and crucial front in of itself.
Indeed for neoconservative hawks such as Trump's newly appointed National Security Advisor, John Bolton, the world is America and America is the world, with those who dare resist ripe for attack.
Conveniently abstracted from the wholesale demonization of Assad, Putin, Russia and Iran — the forces fighting to liberate Syria from the kind of people who when conducting attacks on civilians in London, Paris, Brussels, and San Bernadino are described as terrorists, but when it comes to Syria are described as rebels — is the fact that groups such as Nusra and Jaysh al-Islam have access to chemical weapons. The US State Department admitted as much in a travel warning posted on its website (though later removed), according to reports towards the end of 2017.
Now, a month later, we have the Douma chemical weapons attack, followed by an Israeli airstrike on a Syrian military facility in Homs, confirming yet again that Israel under Netanyahu is a rogue state, unbound by any legal or moral constraint.
"Scratch any cynic and you will find a disappointed idealist," legendary US comedian George Carlin once opined, proving that oft-times the most profound wisdom is articulated in jest. In admitting to having lost any faith in the moral rectitude of Western governments in matters of war and peace, I don't think that I am alone. How could it be otherwise when the evidence of their malign actions is so overwhelming? For more and more people in the West, a million dead Iraqis and countless dead Libyan verily scream at them from the grave every time they come close to consider taking their governments' claims at face value when it comes to the pretext presented to them for still more military intervention in more countries.
Don't get me wrong: it has not yet reached the stage where I refuse to believe a word they say about anything. But let's just say that if they tell me it's going to be warm and sunny tomorrow, I'll be sure to pack my umbrella and stick on my overcoat before leaving the house.