Hitchens, by the way, is the younger brother of the late Christopher Hitchens, journalist, alcoholic, former Trotskyist turned gung-ho backer of the 2003 Iraq invasion. The younger Hitchens describes himself as an Anglican Christian and Burkean conservative.
Unlike most of the mainstream media, rather than leaping with moral outrage to condemn Assad for the heinous murder of innocent children, Hitchens steps back and asks why Assad would engage in such an attack, given that, with Russian help, he has been winning the war, and that Trump has stated that regime change is no longer a US goal. Is he so stupid to jeopardize all of that for the sake of removing a few rebel fighters from an apparently insignificant village?
Very few people, excepting the perpertrators, know who was really responsible for the outrage. Nevertheless this has not stopped much of the Western political establishment, and the mainstream media leaping to the conclusion that the Assad regime was behind it, and with anguished cries of moral outrage, demanding that 'something be done'. Exceptions to this, I am relieved to say, are CBC News in its initial coverage, whose reporter pointed out that all of the reports and footage came from rebel sources, and that no independent journalists dare venture into the region, which is controlled by al Qaeda; and also Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister, Chrystia Freedland (who I don't normally hold in high regard) who advocated waiting until evidence came in, before jumping to conclusions.
But of course that didn't stop the usual suspects - Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Francois Hollande, John McCain etc - piling on the invective about the brutality of the Assad regime. And then yesterday Donald Trump joined in, wringing every ounce of pathos out of the situation by describing the murder of babies, as he held his hands 12 inches apart, and repeated "killing babies" several times. More ominous was the fact that he said the act had crossed many lines - red lines!
But looking at the situation dispassionately, does it really make any sense that the Assad regime was behind the attack? Assad has been winning the war, with Russian help. The US and UK governments had recently said that they no longer considered regime change a priority. Would Assad jeapordize all of that for the sake of killing a few al Qaeda fighters in an apparently insignificant village? From a cui bono point of view it seems to me much more likely that one of the many factions who are opposed to the regime are behind the outrage. UN jurist Carla Ponte has asserted that some of the rebel groups have, and have used poison gas. There also seems to be a strong body of evidence pointing to anti-Assad rebels (with Turkish help) being behind the earlier gas attack at Gouta, near Damascus. But this all gets lost in the rush to condemn the villainous al Assad and demand Western intervention.
As Peter Hitchens says "You are being assailed through your emotions, to act first and think long after, and far too late." To Hitchens, and to me, this all has the smell of a setup. Let's hope it doesn't lead to more foreign intervention in this shameful and vicious war.
Read what Hitchens has to say: "Its WMD All Over Again. Why Don't You See It."