Despite intelligence warnings that no evidence was found linking Syrian government to the Sarin gas attack in Khan Sheikhoun, US President Donald Trump decided to authorize a missile strike on a Syrian air base, a report by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh in the German newspaper Die Welt said.
“We KNOW that there was no chemical attack … the Russians are furious. Claiming we have the real intel and know the truth … I guess it didn’t matter whether we elected Clinton or Trump,” an American officer is reported to have told his colleagues when he came to know of the decision to bomb the airbase with Tomahawk missiles.
The Die Welt report states that there was a targeted strike on April 4 by the Syrians on a building in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun which held several high-profile jihadists. Unknown to the Syrians and the Russians, the basement of the building reportedly contained lots of chlorine-based decontaminants along with fertilizers and herbicides (for local consumption) which when lit on fire released neurotoxins similar to Sarin which may have eventually led to a lot of casualties, including children, in the area.
Hersh writes that he was told by several intelligence officials on the ground that there was a disconnect between President Trump and many of his advisers regarding the incident in Khan Sheikhoun. In the report, he said US military officials were warned beforehand by the Russians and the Syrians about the imminent strike to neutralize jihadists in Khan Sheikhoun.
“Did the Syrians plan the attack on Khan Sheikhoun? Absolutely. Do we have intercepts to prove it? Absolutely. Did they plan to use sarin? No. But the president did not say: ‘We have a problem and let’s look into it.’ He wanted to bomb the shit out of Syria,” an adviser told Hersh.
Many of the photographs uploaded to the internet showed children suffocating and being treated at hospitals with symptoms similar to a nerve agent-based chemical attack. At least 70 people were reported to be killed in the attack.
After the attack was widely reported in the media, Trump took the opportunity to lash out at the Syrian government and President Bashar-al Assad for murdering innocent babies. Hersh writes that despite officials telling Trump about no evidence of Syria using Sarin on its people, the President went ahead to order a missile strike on the Shayrat airbase in Syria as a warning.
Hersh is known for his investigative story on the prisoner abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq by US officials and the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam war for which he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting.