Three years later: In Syria, the psychopaths are unstoppable

Even as I write, the great and glorious city of Aleppo, one of the oldest beacons of human civilisation, is being destroyed. Its Great Umayyad Mosque is already in ruins, its suburbs flattened daily by a new weapon that is, by virtue of its extraordinary mixture of primitive simplicity and sophisticated delivery, a form of psychopathy all unto itself: the barrel bomb.

We have no idea why the regime uses it – perhaps it is running short of Russian missiles, or perhaps it does not want to waste them on civilians. All we know is that at one point in January, 30 of these crude devices, barrels stuffed with TNT and shrapnel, were raining down on civilian areas of the city each day. Thousands of people have been killed. Any doubt that this is a deliberate attempt to instil terror can be set aside: in one suburb, they were accompanied by leaflets saying that all residents should leave.

And yet it goes on. We cannot claim ignorance, as we have in the past. For all the allegations of videos being faked or information exaggerated, no one doubts the generality of what is reported by the endless video updates from “inside”, almost live from the scene of battle or bombing. This is the best documented war of all time, but curiously that has only made it the more unstoppable.