It is hard to determine the truth as to what happened when president Trump ordered a “one-off” military strike on Syria with “smart. Very smart.” missiles. There are conflicting reports on the actual targets of the strikes and these reports vary by source country. As it stands, the United States, the UK and France participated in the strike. The United States, Russia, Iran, and Turkey have military forces operating in Syria along with non-state actors that include two different versions of a Free Syrian Army, Kurdish forces from the YGP, Kurdish forces from Iraq and Hezbollah. All of these groups are fighting or claim that they are fighting ISIS and/or Al-Queda. Every party in the conflict along with every neighboring state has an interest in the outcome and conducts a massive amount of media activity to prove it's case to someone.
All of the competing interests and their media efforts make it hard to know what got hit with what weapon and by whom. All Russian stories have to be discounted because of the dominant narrative that all things Russian are against American in all cases at all times. The Mockingbird has sources inside Syria, but they can not be used because that would endanger them when they return to America. They are also busy being shot at by ISIS right now. That leaves mainstream articles in the United States and the UK quoting primary sources. In order to be fair and balanced, we will cite only the Columbus Dispatch, which has a long history of being tight with the FBI and the Daily Mail, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch who also owns Fox News. These are hard right sources that are establishment aligned.
The big loser in the airstrikes seems to be the pharmaceutical and health care infrastructure of Syria. According to the Columbus Dispatch “Warplanes and ships from the United States, Britain and France launched more than 100 missiles at three chemical weapons storage and research facilities near Damascus and Homs.” Having a chemical weapons production facility in a populated area is not safe even without airstrikes. Having a storage facility in even worse. The United States had a ship full of chemical weapons in the harbor at Bari, Italy during World War 2. The Germans destroyed it in an air raid and covered the City and harbor in a deadly mixture of oil and mustard gas. 628 allied servicemen were burned and blinded by the gas and the coverup afterwords prevented the full extent of civilian casualties from ever being known.
Bombing chemical weapons facilities in a city is a bad idea. It is absolutely assured to kill civilians. There have been no reports of civilian casualties from chemicals released by these attacks. Perhaps there were no chemical weapons in these facilities. The chemical weapons Syria is alleged to have used are Chlorine and the nerve gas Sarin. Any facility that produces Sarin is going to produce a huge amount of either hydrochloric or hydrofluoric acid as a byproduct. Both of those acids have a low boiling point and are deadly corrosive toxins. Had an actual production facility inside a city been hit, a cloud of poisonous corrosive acid would have resulted leading massive civilian casualties with symptoms that would be easy to identify. Chlorine gas can be produced by just about anybody willing the ability to purchase household cleaners in the United States and fill a pressure tank. It smells like bleach. Blowing up a large scale facility for the production of it would have produce absolute proof of the nature of the facility to anyone with a nose in a five mile radius.
Whatever these three targets for 110 missiles were, it seems pretty unlikely they were producing or storing chemical weapons when they got bombed. At least one of the targets definitely did not produce chemical weapons. This three story facility had been inspected by international chemical weapons inspectors prior to the attack. According to the Daily Mail the site in Barzeh, a Damascus suburb, actually was a base for the inspectors “the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons had visited the site in Barzeh in recent years and had declared it free of any toxic weapons.
"The OPCW used to stay in the two upper rooms, and use the labs, and we would cooperate with them completely," he said. "The OPCW has proven in two reports that this building and the center as a whole are empty and do not produce any chemical weapons."”
The site at Barzeh was used to produce snake and scorpion anti-venom and other pharmaceutical products. The strike destroyed a lab that produces niche medicines. This sort of attack mirrors Bill Clinton's strike on the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum over now mostly discredited allegations that it was producing VX nerve gas. The attack, launched ironically during the height of a presidential sex scandal, destroyed half the anti-malaria drug production capacity of Sudan and resulted in the deaths of over 50,000 people due to shortages of basic life saving medicines. Widespread lives stock losses due to a lack of production capacity of veterinary medicines was also a contributing factor in later famines in Sudan.
The similarity between the events exactly 20 years ago and this month are apparent. It is assured from undisputed evidence that no target struck in Damascus produced or stored chemical weapons. Indeed, the Trump administration has admitted as much. According to Pentagon Joint Staff Director Kenneth F. McKenzie (Lt. General USMC) “Assad may still be able to use chemical agents in the future. I would say there's still a residual element of the Syrian program that's out there,” McKenzie continued. “I'm not going to say that they're going to be unable to continue to conduct a chemical attack in the future. I suspect, however, they'll think long and hard about it.”
This has not kept Senate Republicans from salivating over additional strikes “I fear that when the dust settles, this strike will be seen as a weak military response and Assad will have paid a small price for using chemical weapons yet again,” Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C) said in a released statement. Graham was not clear why he thought the response was weak, and but it can be assumed he has some interest in more strikes.
All the great powers vying for control of Syria want the country weak and militarily occupied. Russia wants a warm water port and an air defense buffer zone. Kurdish people live in Syria and Turkey wants no hope or basis for a Kurdish state. Iran wants to shore up it's flank and outflank the American presence in Iraq. NATO wants bases closer to Iran and Russia and pipelines from Iraq to the Mediterranean Sea in order to bypass the Persian Gulf. No great powers want Syrian refugees in their country. Apparently no power wants Syrian people to have access to health care with that infrastructure being present in their own country.