Daily Mail Online:
The world has looked on in horror as graphic images emerged showing the aftermath of a dawn poison gas attack in the suburbs of Damascus that wiped out 1,300 people as they lay sleeping in their beds.
Syrian activists accuse President Bashar al-Assad’s forces of launching the nerve gas attack in what would be by far the worst reported use of poison gas in the two-year-old civil war.
Activists said rockets with chemical agents hit the Damascus suburbs of Ain Tarma, Zamalka and Jobar before dawn.
While these pictures of dead children are graphic, disturbing and undoubtedly the worst so far to have emerged from the conflict, MailOnline has made the decision to publish them in order to raise awareness of the plight of innocent people in a war that shows no sign of ending.
That is just one article. There are a bunch of them out there. There are a bunch of videos too. They purport to show proof that President Assad of Syria is using nerve gas on his own people. This proof is supposed to justify our direct intervention into the Syrian civil war on behalf of radical Muslim rebels.
I find the evidence less than convincing.
First of all I don’t trust the source(s) of the evidence. Secondly, even if the evidence does prove that chemical weapons were used it doesn’t tell us who used them. Thirdly, I do not care.
Let’s start at the beginning. Wikipedia:
Sarin, or GB, is an organophosphorus compound with the formula [(CH3)2CHO]CH3P(O)F. It is a colorless, odorless liquid, used as a chemical weapon owing to its extreme potency as a nerve agent.
Initial symptoms following exposure to sarin are a runny nose, tightness in the chest and constriction of the pupils. Soon after, the victim has difficulty breathing and experiences nausea and drooling. As the victim continues to lose control of bodily functions, the victim vomits, defecates and urinates. This phase is followed by twitching and jerking. Ultimately, the victim becomes comatose and suffocates in a series of convulsive spasms.
Sarin was invented by the Germans during World War II. It is similar in formulation to organophosphorus insecticides like Malathion. (Some of you may recall that in a previous life I was a pest control technician and I am familiar with these type of insecticides.)
Sarin is some nasty shit. Very nasty. The good news is it is unstable and degrades fairly quickly. The bad news is it is highly volatile and can be inhaled, ingested or absorbed through the skin. Full body protection is needed when handling Sarin or treating victims of Sarin exposure.
And that’s the problem.
The evidence does not show the kind of devastation that Sarin would really cause. If Assad is using chemical weapons that’s some pretty weak-ass stuff. I would expect to see whole villages and neighborhoods wiped out – everything and everybody dead, including adults, children, dogs, cats, birds, rats and cockroaches. Anyone not wearing protective gear who entered the contaminated area to do first aid or retrieve bodies would also die. And the bodies would be a mess.
I have seen pictures and videos that look like dead people. Some or all of them may really be dead. But I can’t determine the cause of death from a short, blurry, jerky video in Arabic. Nor can I determine that poisoning occurred from videos of live people receiving some unspecified treatment.
There is an underlying premise here that I don’t understand. It seems like we’re saying it’s okay to kill people with guns and bombs but if you use poison gas that is so reprehensible that we will to go to war to stop you. Does the means by which people are killed make that much difference?
War is ugly, but this isn’t our war. We don’t have a dog in this fight. There are no good guys, just bad guys and victims. Regardless of who wins they won’t be our friends. Our sole interest should be in containing the war to keep it from spreading and to keep outsiders (and their military support) out. But even that is a limited interest.
BTW – If you think the body count is high now, wait until you see what happens if the rebels win. It will be a bloodbath.