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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 4/16/17

In Defense Of Skepticism Around Alleged Chemical Attack In Syria

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Reprinted from shadowproof.com

Days after a suspected chemical attack in Syria, the very expression of doubt around what President Donald Trump's administration claims happened is marginalized as "far-left" or "far-right." That skepticism is treated as fringe is confounding, as if numerous people forgot all governments lie and are especially prone to lying for the purpose of generating support for the use of military force.

A terrible act or incident definitely took place on April 4. Some chemical, likely a neurotoxin, spread and killed over 70 people, including children. Doctors Without Borders staff described examining eight people, who "display symptoms consistent with exposure to an agent such as sarin gas or similar compounds, including constricted pupils, muscle spasms, and involuntary defecation."

But without any completed fact-finding investigation to confirm doctors' suspicions, Trump authorized a 50-plus Tomahawk missile attack on the Shayrat Airbase in retaliation. Officials effectively sought to foreclose any investigation into whether Syrian President Bashar al Assad's regime or an al Qaida-affiliated group in control of the area was the culprit.

There was no effort by the Trump administration to go to Congress and show senators and representatives evidence related to how a chemical spread through Khan Sheikhoun. Nor did Trump address citizens and articulate proof of what happened in Syria to communicate the gravity of the situation; in particular, that there was a strong likelihood the administration would respond with a show of force before the week was over.

Plenty of reasonable questions existed around media reports on the alleged chemical attack. Who were the sources of eyewitness reports on the alleged attack?

The Tahrir al-Sham alliance "dominated by the Fateh al-Sham Front, formerly known as the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front," controls Idlib, the province where the alleged attack occurred. They have ways of controlling what information goes out and who puts out information from the area to the world. So, were any of the sources affiliated with this alliance? Did they have affiliations with other militant groups?

What kind of stockpiles of chemical weapons did militant groups in the Idlib province possess prior to April 4?

Idlib is one of the last remaining strongholds for the opposition against Assad. Were United States intelligence officials and other world leaders certain that groups in Idlib did not possess sarin gas or other similar toxic materials? How certain?

What interest would President Bashar al Assad have in deploying chemical agents against civilians when Syrian government forces are roundly defeating opposition forces?

Unfortunately, journalists, politicians, campaign operatives, and a select group of activists determined such questions amount to quackery in its purest form. There even is a contingent of left-leaning people, who have observed how neo-Nazis like Richard Spencer do not believe Assad gassed civilians.

Because neo-Nazis are skeptical of Trump, they argue it is borderline fascist or Nazi to question the Trump administration's narrative.

Fringe Questions With No Place In Mainstream Discourse

Beirut-based journalist Annia Ciezadlo wrote a column for the Washington Post, "Why would Assad use sarin in a war he's winning? To terrify Syrians." The intent was to show this is a fringe question that has no place in mainstream discourse.

"We still don't know exactly what happened in Syria and who was responsible," wrote the far-left writer and commentator Rania Khalek on Twitter, "but fact remains that Syrian govt gains nothing from a CW attack." The far-right conservative commentator and talk-radio host Michael Savage put it more succinctly: "Now what would Assad have gained by doing that? Is he stupid?"

In the increasingly influential world of conspiracy websites like Infowars, this simple question -- and the lack of definitive answers -- has managed to sow doubt. As it spread online, the idea that Assad had nothing to gain from a chemical attack fed into a vortex of claims that the Khan Sheikhoun gas attack was a false flag, an elaborate hoax designed to justify a U.S. military intervention in Syria. President Trump's missile strikes on April 6, and his administration's abrupt about-face on the question of regime change, have only bolstered that theory.

It is telling that Ciezadlo attributed the prevalence of this particular question to the influence of Infowars. Journalists have an obligation to scrutinize what happened instead of rallying around a dominant narrative. The collective and consistent failure of press institutions to challenge government is why a website like Infowars is able to fill a void and spread claims of hoaxes.

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for OpEdNews.com
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