Trying to have some reasoned debate on the subject of the alleged Syrian chemical attacks seems to me akin to trying to quietly asking for calm in a room full of people shouting ‘fire’ at the top of their voices. In the rush for the door, no one is asking for detail, and those that do are being shouted down anyway.
I am a former instructor in Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) defence, trained only a few miles from Porton Down. Every serviceman and woman is trained in NBC defence as part of their basic training. As such they are taught to recognise the symptoms of nerve agent poisoning, which include difficulty in breathing, pinpointing of the pupil and muscle spasms. Footage shown of an alleged Sarin attack on Douma does not show these symptoms, and instead appears to show the victims of the attack choking, coughing, with redness around the eyes; this is more in common with the use of a riot control agent such as tear gas, or with a choking agent such as chlorine. It should be pretty apparent to any sevice person engaged in Britains latest military misadventure that if they are being told they are being sent in response to Sarin attacks, it is highly likely they are being led up the garden path.
It is however highly likely that Chlorine may have been the cause of any such symptoms, and this creates a dilemma in that there are many reasons why chlorine may be present. Chlorine has a number of legitimite uses, water purification being the main one. Stockpiles of chlorine which are stored in an environment where they can be damaged by shell or missile fire can be accidentally released, and its presence is not in itself proof of one side or the others use of it as a chemical agent.
Since Tony Blair took us into the highly controversial Iraq War it has been an accepted convention that Prime Ministers make their case to engage in military action to parliament before taking any action. Theresa May has now blown that convention out of the water. This was mainly due to the Tony Blairs case for war being made on the back of flimsy or indeed utterly wrong “intelligence”. In this case there was no immediate threat to the UK. Had there been, Theresa May could have been said to have acted correctly when using the “royal perogative” to order an attack. But that was not the case, and this attack, coordinated with the French and the Americans could and should have waited until the case for air strikes had been made and won in parliament. Instead, clearly fearing she might not win, Theresa May has clearly overstepped her authority and launched an attack on the timings laid down by the United States, doing so specifically to bypass parliament.
It may well be that these were genuine chemical attacks and it may well be that the Assad government is responsible, but the British response has been premature. On occasions when the United Nations has deemed that Syria has been responsible for chemical attacks, Britain has done nothing. Now, with no such investigations Theresa May has acted, and cut the UK parliament out of the loop in the process. I feel that in part her actions are to send a message to the Russians, who she also holds responsible for the Salisbury incident. Indeed Ruth Davidson, no doubt dressed up in her Honorary Colonels uniform while excitedly watching news reports of British military action tweeted that “chemical weapons cannot be used with impunity”. So why no action against Russia? Why instead are we bombing a country who does not have the ability to strike back directly? It seems to me that what the Theresa May has demonstrated is that some countries can act with impunity. By cutting out the UK parliament, being going beyond her authority, our weak and wobbly Prime Minister has demonstrated, if it wasn’t apparent already, that she is not fit to hold the office, and must now resign.