Bashar al-Assad, Syria, and the truth about chemical weapons

By Robert Frisk, 12/8/12
Orig­i­nal arti­cle found here

Bashar al-Assad, Syria, and the truth about chem­i­cal weapons

Bashar’s father Hafez al-Assad was bru­tal but never used chem­i­cal arms. And do you know which was the first army to use gas in the Mid­dle East?

The big­ger the lie the more peo­ple will believe it. We all know who said that – but it still works. Bashar al-Assad has chem­i­cal weapons. He may use them against his own Syr­ian peo­ple. If he does, the West will respond. We heard all this stuff last year – and Assad’s regime repeat­edly said that if – if  – it had chem­i­cal weapons, it would never use them against Syrians.

But now Wash­ing­ton is play­ing the same gas-chanty all over again. Bashar has chem­i­cal weapons. He may use them against his own peo­ple. And if he does…

Well if he does, Obama and Madame Clin­ton and Nato will be very, very angry. But over the past week, all the usual pseudo-experts who couldn’t find Syria on a map have been warn­ing us again of the mus­tard gas, chem­i­cal agents, bio­log­i­cal agents that Syria might pos­sess – and might use. And the sources? The same fan­tasy spe­cial­ists who didn’t warn us about 9/11 but insisted that Sad­dam had weapons of mass destruc­tion in 2003: “unnamed mil­i­tary intel­li­gence sources”. Hence­forth to be acronymed as UMIS.

Coup de théâtre

And now, the coup de théâtre. Some­one from the Cana­dian Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion called me up this week to talk about the use of chem­i­cal weapons by Hafez al-Assad in Hama dur­ing the Sunni Mus­lim upris­ing in the city in 1982. Their sources were the same old UMIS. But I hap­pened to have got into Hama in Feb­ru­ary 1982 – which is why the Cana­dian was call­ing me – and while Hafez’s Syr­ian army was very def­i­nitely slaugh­ter­ing its own peo­ple (who were, by the way, slaugh­ter­ing regime offi­cials and their fam­i­lies), no one ever used chem­i­cal weapons.

Not a sin­gle sol­dier I saw in Hama car­ried a gas mask. No civil­ians car­ried gas masks. The dan­ger­ously per­fumed air which I and my col­leagues smelt after chem­i­cals were used by our (then) ally Sad­dam against Iran­ian sol­diers in the 1980s was not present. And none of the dozens of civil­ian sur­vivors I have inter­viewed in the 30 years since 1982 ever men­tioned the use of gas.

But now we are to believe that it was used. And so the infan­tile new fairy tale has begun: Hafez al-Assad used gas against his own peo­ple in Hama 30 years ago. So his son Bashar may do the same again. And wasn’t that one of the rea­sons we invaded Iraq in 2003 – because Sad­dam had used gas against his own peo­ple already and may do so again?


Yes, the big­ger the lie, the bet­ter. Cer­tainly we journos have done our duty in dis­sem­i­nat­ing this bunkum. And Bashar – whose forces have com­mit­ted quite enough iniq­ui­ties – is about to be accused of another crime which he has not yet com­mit­ted and which his father never did com­mit. Yup, chem­i­cal weapons are bad news, folks. That’s why the US sup­plied Sad­dam with the com­po­nents for them, along with Ger­many (of course).

That’s why, when Sad­dam first used gas on Hal­abja, the UMIS told CIA offi­cers to blame Iran. And yes, Bashar prob­a­bly does have some chem­i­cals in rust­ing bins some­where in Syria. Madame Clin­ton has been wor­ry­ing that they may “fall into the wrong hands” – as if they are presently “in the right hands”. But the Rus­sians have told Bashar not to use them. Would he piss off his only super­power ally?

And by the way, which was the first army to use gas in the Mid­dle East? Sad­dam? Nope. The Brits, of course, under Gen­eral Allenby, against the Turks in Sinai in 1917. And that’s the truth.