Syrian Gas Attack: A Convoluted Situation

As always what follows is opinion. For what it’s worth the recent gas attack in Syria does not seem to have a clear source. The event in Khan Sheikhoun killed dozens, including children and wounded hundreds. The victims were civilians.  Syria’s President Bashar Al Assad denies any complicity, saying his stockpiles of weaponized gas were destroyed in accordance with international sanctions. The USA charges that the attack came at Assad’s order. Assad blames rebel factions. There is speculation that Russia may have had a role to play. Russia also denies any complicity. Still, the lack of clear evidence one way or the other about Assad’s involvement or that of Russia leaves one to wonder.

Finger pointing is rarely evidential. But as a result of the gas attack, the USA took very pointed action by using 60 Tomahawk missiles to strike the airfield where it is said the attack originated. One missile failed with the remaining 59 reaching targets at the airfield. ( BTW the cost of this attack is about 1.5 million dollars for each missile fired. Replacement cost will be in the neighborhood of 60 million dollars).  By coincidence, if one can believe it, relatively few of Syria’s jet fighters were destroyed.  In fact not long after the missile attack  the airfield was active again, with an air attack launched against the very same location of the gas attack. At least one bomb was dropped at the same site.

The US President’s order to launch the missile attack has largely been viewed favorably, both here in the USA and around the world. No one, however, seems much concerned about the actual factual source of the gas attack. This morning, (April 9, 2017), on Face the Nation, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reiterated that the US reaction was appropriate, but he seemed to falter about whether Al Assad should be removed.

Senator John McCain, in recent days, including this morning on Face the Nation has said that the American response has begun a correction to eight years of neglect. It might be useful to note that in response to President Obama’s request to take military action against Al Assad eight years ago, was thwarted by Republican refusal to give President Obama that authority. Be that as it may, the American response begs a question: Is American responsible for what is happening in Syria? Does this country have a moral right to take action against Bashar Al Assad?

My opinion on the second question based on what has been clear war crimes commission over the past many years is a resounding yes. I believe it is clear that Assad has committed terrorist acts against his own people resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths. Those actions are the actions of a monster who must be brought to justice.

Rex Tillerson said this morning that the primary focus of the USA must remain the removal of Daesh. I’ll agree with that, but it must be remembered that Daesh is not solely responsible for terrorist actions in the world. The focus needs to be far ranging. Al Qaeda remains a significant terrorist force along with several handfuls of smaller but no less potent terror organizations around the world.

Many of these terror organizations recommend and encourage actions by local home grown terrorists, often individuals who use vehicles to create killing and maimings as recently occurred in London and Stockholm.

My second novel, A Prairie Vendetta, still under construction, explores the idea of home grown terrorists. In this case a small group of disaffected Metis angry at treatment by the Canadian government. They are inspired by an individual enamored by the Canadian rebel Louis Riel who attempted to hold the government to high standards of treatment of the Metis people. Terrorism takes many forms and is often founded on many varying reasons. But whenever those reasons include a willingness to harm innocents actions to prevent successful terroristic activity are justified.  My fictional story is partly historical. The examination of the Metis history is fascinating and instructive. Responsibility to combat terrorism often must include our individual involvement. If we see something that is not right, we must report.

Thanks for your support. Good reading everyone.

Ron Stotyn, PhD SmallFront-Cover

I am a retired college professor and former broadcast journalist. I live in Vermont with my wife. I write near the shores of Lake Champlain. As an author I cast characters in the task of anti-terrorism efforts. The setting for my stories is Canada. My first novel is The Chechen's Revenge, a story of Sean-Guy O'Dwyer-Lariviere and his team of Canadian Anti-terrorism Service agents on the trail of a rebel Chechen, determined to create havoc and death on Toronto's Go Train system. The Chechen's Revenge is now in print and can be ordered online at

Posted in Terrorism, Uncategorized

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