Children sat huddled in a Syrian cellar sheltering from the latest bombardment from the Assad regime.
Scared. Hungry. Targets of their own Government.
Desperately trying to stay alive in a war torn country where 400,000 of their compatriots had already died.
Caught in a bloody conflict. Pawns of a brutal dictator.
But, they hoped, safe underground.
Until a strange smell permeated the air. Their eyes became strained and sore. Breathing became difficult. Their mouths frothing as they gasped for air.
These young souls the latest victims of a chemical attack. Their safe haven had become an underground bunker from hell.
And so, in the early hours of Saturday morning, the UK, France and the USA took action.
Targeted strategic strikes against the murderous Assad regime which had flagrantly flouted the international ban on chemical weapons.
A ban which has existed for nearly a century but which has been breached time and time again by Syria.
They weren’t even supposed to have chemical weapons anymore.
We had been told by Russia, ardent supporters of Assad, that they would make sure that the poisonous arsenal was destroyed. It wasn’t. And once again it was used.
But then again, should we be surprised? The people who attempted to murder their own citizens with a nerve agent in Salisbury are hardly to be trusted when it comes to policing the use of chemical weapons by their puppet, Assad.
And so the stupid, inhumane and callous game of misinformation began again. Smokescreen and confusion. Misdirection and sleight of hand. And useful idiots rallied to Russia’s cause.
As it was in Salisbury, so it is with Syria. Phase 1: There was no attack. There is no proof. Quickly followed by phase 2: It was “staged and directed” by the UK and America. A black-op to discredit Russia.
Now there will be some of you, I fear, who are fully paid up members of the Great Conspiracy Club. Who actually give credence to the idea that either of these big lies could be true. Who honestly believe that Britain is an evil empire willing and capable of such deadly connivance.
You probably have doubts about the moon landings. You might even believe that Lord Lucan is out there somewhere riding Shergar on our flat earth.
Then there are those, like the Dean of Law at Durham University, who claims that the UK Government took part in the air strikes just to bolster the Tory Party prospects in next month’s local elections in England. Which takes paranoia to a new level.
The fact that he is a prominent Labour supporter gives the game away. It is he who seeks partisan profit. Because the truth is that the Prime Minister and her Cabinet have acted against the majority view of the British public according to opinion polls.
In other words, they did what they believed to be right, rather than what was electorally popular. Which is how Governments should behave.
I worked in Downing Street when David Cameron tried, and failed, to get Parliamentary backing for action against Assad before. Too many were prepared to trust Russian assurances that they would sort out Assad and rid Syria of its chemical weapons.
We now know the outcome of that honest but misplaced trust. We must not be fooled again.
And just as taking military action can have consequences, we now know that not acting can have even worse ones.
So there are times when we have to take a stand. As we did over Kosovo. Described as “unpardonable folly” by Alex Salmond. But action and intervention was right and just and legal. And saved countless lives.
I am in no doubt. Action to degrade Syria’s capability to gas its own and others is right. It is legally right. It is morally right. If only we had acted five years ago.
And one more thing. Let’s stop comparing every international intervention to the Iraq invasion. That was different. That was about regime change. That was about questionable intelligence and so called dodgy dossiers.
This time the case is different. The objectives are different. The evidence is compelling. The action has been proportionate and hopefully effective.
But what about the Opposition?
The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has argued for the United Nations to take the lead. Except he is asking for the improbable. Russia has used its veto six times already to block any UN investigation. They are not going to change their tune now. And it was Russia who promised to rid Assad of chemical weapons before. And who instead turned a blind eye.
And he wants more proof that chemical weapons were used and that Assad was responsible. He refuses to accept the overwhelming evidence. Just as he still refuses to point the finger of blame at Russia for the Salisbury assassination terror attempt. The truth is that he lives in a deluded, imagined utopia where rational talk and international agreements can always be reached. Where bad people can be stopped from doing bad things by a wee chat over a cup of tea.
But these are not rational people. They are barbaric, murderous and callous sociopaths who will, literally, stop at nothing. For whom all human life is expendable.
These are despots who will not bend to patient diplomatic niceties. Who would only use any dialogue and delay in action as time and opportunity to carry out more atrocities. Who treat all human life, except their own, as expendable.
So we were right to act. To send a message that chemical weapons are beyond the pale. And that we will not sit idly by.
That we hear the cries and feel the fear of the children of Syria as their own President turns the basements of their homes into gas chambers.