Hitler and Chemical Weapons

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has apologized profusely for his much-criticized comparison of Syria’s Bashar Assad to Adolf Hitler, but his clarification that he meant Hitler did not drop chemical bombs from airplanes requires some historical context. The Nazis manufactured and stockpiled thousands of tons of chemical munitions. While Hitler never employed them in battle, historians say that was largely for tactical reasons.

Spicer was skewered in the media for his initial comment — he said that Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.” As multiple news outlets quickly pointed out, Hitler had killed millions of Jews and others in concentration camp gas chambers during the Holocaust.

In the same press conference, Spicer clarified that he meant that Hitler “was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing.” More specifically, he said in yet another clarification after the press conference that he was “trying to draw a distinction of the tactic of using airplanes to drop chemical weapons on population centers.”

That’s more in line with the comment Defense Secretary James Mattis made later in the afternoon when he said the intent of the U.S. missile attack on Syria on April 6 was “to stop the cycle of violence into an

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