I’ve said from the beginning that the prevailing narrative about the chemical-weapons attack in Syria — in brief, that Assad did it — makes no sense. I’ll say this, too: not only does it make no sense, but it so obviously makes no sense that any sensible person should doubt it in the absence of overwhelming evidence.
Yet two days later President Trump launched a cruise-missile attack on Syria on the basis of this narrative, which could hardly have been confirmed so quickly even if it were true. In doing so he may have achieved some ulterior goals — to impress Xi Jinping, perhaps, and to weaken the mainstream media’s relentless Trump-is Putin’s-puppet narrative — but it was a terribly impulsive move, and has done serious damage to any hope of better relations with Russia. I was shocked when it happened, and deeply disappointed.
After the Tomahawk salvo, the Trump administration put out a report arguing that Assad was indeed behind the gas attack. This week an eminent academic, Theodore Postol (who is a professor emeritus of science, technology, and national-security policy at M.I.T., and a former high-level Pentagon adviser) has published a detailed analysis of the administration’s report and the available evidence. He has concluded that it is, not to put too fine a point on it, rubbish. The evidence, says Dr. Postol, shows that the sarin container was not dropped from the sky, but positioned in the middle of a road and smashed open by a bomb mounted directly on top of it.
For all of this I owe a hat-tip to John Batchelor and Stephen Cohen, who discussed these matters on Tuesday evening. You can listen to their conversation here.