There are those events in history that define real evil, they stain our conscience long after they've past, Bosnia, Rwanda, Halabja, and now, Syria.
To all but the most committed conspiracy theorists, Assad is guilty. Activists from the Violations Documentation Center (VDC) reported two separate attacks involving the use of chemical weapons in the Eastern Ghouta region. Independently, the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations also received reports of two separate incidents and we know from both the Syria Civil Defence and the Syrian American Medical Society that those hundreds exposed to the attack were brought to medical facilities where they showed symptoms consistent with exposure to a chemical agent.
That in addition to the blood and urine samples, there's hardly any room for serious doubt over what happened, large compressed gas cylinders were used in the attack, of the same type used in previous aerial raids. Aircraft spotters reported Mi-8 Hip helicopters in the area during the time of the incident and these fit comfortably in the scale of depravity Assad is known for. This is the eighth time he's used chemical weapons, this year alone.
Syrian opposition doesn't operate either aircraft or barrel bombs and to my non-surprise, Assad's efforts directly benefit from the attack. Military gains are slow and Assad has been fighting in the region since February, but now days after the incident Douma is under full Assad control.
If nothing else, one thing is clear from this attack; there is no moral distinction between Assad and ISIS both kill innocent people for political gain. No long term plan for Syria should involve settling for either of them and the strike from the US, UK and France can't be allowed to substitute for an actual plan in Syria, bombing without an end game will only destabilize the country.
What options are there? Labour calls for a "full investigation" into the attack, that sounds fair enough but when Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack happened last year, their response was the same. When the UN reported unambiguously it was met predictably with silence.
Purely diplomatic efforts aren't going to work either, though a great way to virtue signal, we've had round-after-round of talks at the Geneva convention, three special envoys from the UN and all undermined by Russia's veto. What needs to happen is a set of unilateral sanctions on Syria's budding cohorts, that means Russian money and property in London.
Alongside that, military action is necessary. The Syrian Negotiation Comission has proposed that we respond to every attack on civilians by taking out Syrian air bases, so far as I can see, that's the best option.
The proposal by some, that we sit back with inaction and allow Assad to kill in peace as he racks up a death toll of 500,000 is unconscionable. If we do nothing, we send the message to every would-be psychopath, that WMDs can be used with impunity. I'm not willing to say to the next generation of Syrians "I'm sorry, we knew what Assad was doing, we knew there was a problem in Syria but we ducked the difficult decision and we chose to do nothing about it."