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