Magazine article The Spectator

By All Means Wring Your Hands over Syria. Ju St Don't a Sk Me to T Ru St You

Magazine article The Spectator

By All Means Wring Your Hands over Syria. Ju St Don't a Sk Me to T Ru St You

Article excerpt

They're getting the rebuttals in early, have you noticed that? You might call them a pre-emptive strikes. Here's William Hague, speaking to BBC Radio 4 about those chemical attacks in Syria. . .

'To believe that anybody else had done it, you would have to believe that the opposition in Syria would use, on a large scale, weapons that we have no evidence that they have, delivered by artillery or air power that they do not possess, killing hundreds of people in areas already under their control.'

Pretty good, that. He must have practised it beforehand. 'Have' and 'possess' mean the same thing, after all, so you need a bit of preparation there. Better, certainly, than John Kerry, who gave a press conference at the White House and said. . .

'Anyone who could claim that an attack of this staggering scale could be contrived or fabricated needs to check their conscience and their own moral compass.'

. . . which was a bit disingenuous, because nobody really is suggesting that. Rather, some simply wonder why Bashar al-Assad, who presumably doesn't want to be bombed by the West, did the one thing that renders him guaranteed, more or less, to be so. Which is not to say - please note, lunatics seeking bedfellows, or hawks seeking somebody to be angry with - that I think he didn't.

Remember, I am a journalist. I don't think anything. I just want to know why other people, who are presumably better informed, do think things. And it's annoying, and a bit troubling, when they don't seem to want to tell me. Here's Kerry, again . . .

'We have additional information about this attack, and that information is being compiled and reviewed together with our partners, and we will provide that information in the days ahead.'

But they haven't, not yet. And so, for now, I am expected simply to trust Hague, about the evidence he says he doesn't have, and Kerry, about the evidence he says he does.

And I don't mean to be difficult here, but I'm not sure that's good enough.

Trust is the big political issue of our day.

This is what all of that NSA and GCHQ spying stuff was about, really; the sheer unsatisfactoriness, in the modern age, of a government saying, 'Hey! Look! It's all fine!

We've checked!' and expecting that to be the end of the argument. In America, curiously, they seem to have a better grasp than us of the extent to which this simply won't do. If you can bear one more quote, consider Obama on surveillance, saying:

'It's not enough for me as President to have confidence in these programs - the American people need to have confidence as well. …

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