To say things have been a complete mess is an understatement of epic proportions. The amount of lies, revisionism, misrepresentation, and chicanery on display by those trying to promote and justify the US, UK and French strikes on Syria has been incredible to observe.
Implausible Narratives Seem Plausible When Alternatives Are Omitted
If you rely almost solely on the mainstream media for your news, you may be under the impression that assigning guilt to Assad is the only logical conclusion as to who is responsible for the latest (alleged) chemical weapons attack, even though, as special forces chiefs, ambassadors and others have pointed out (some even being shut down by mainstream press before they could say too much),the narrative we’re being fed makes no sense. It would have been a highly counterproductive thing for the Assad regime to engage in.
Many pundits and politicians speak as if it is demonstrable fact. However, the reality is that their assertions are based on assumptions, with many speculating at Assad’s guilt in this instance pointing out that his forces have used it in the past. While this is true and is a fair reason to suspect him of a gas attack, (assuming one has definitely occurred), this premise is rarely presented in full context.
In this instance, context isn’t just helpful, it actually serves as a damning indictment of how much our mainstream press is willing to ignore and omit in order to coerce us into only ever thinking there’s one possible explanation for an incident that (if proven to have been a chemical weapon attack) could be attributable to a number of sources.
There have also been quite a few individuals in the media asserting the latest allegations must have been carried out by Assad on the basis of last year’s attack, also assuming that this was carried out by Assad. Sebastian Gorka provides one particularly vocal example of this trend. However, General Mattis recently admitted that there is no evidence to support such a conclusion on culpability. Perhaps someone should have reminded Mattis of this before he made subsequent statements in support of the strikes:
This contrasts from what he should be saying based on what he’d revealed only 2 months earlier was at least noticed and reported on. Mattis’ February admission has hardly dampened legacy press enthusiasm in referencing the 2017 attack as carried out by Assad’s forces:
There are some who should know better than to perpetuate such nonsense, including Human Rights Watch’s Kenneth Roth:
Roth’s record suggests that he may struggle to differentiate between news and propaganda, if his past tweets of unverified ‘evidence’ of human rights abuses are any indication:
Some pundits have gone so far as to place the blame directly on Putin:
Fortunately, there have also been voices online (both within and outside of the media sphere) which have served as a voice of reason against the legacy press promotion and justification of illegal strikes. These anti-establishment voices have cautioned that the facts do not support action against Assad, adding that inspection agencies should be allowed to do their job if there’s any point in having them. Some also asked questions regarding the timing of the strikes, less than 24 hours before OPCW inspectors were due to begin their investigations of the Douma attack.
OPCW Invited, UK/US/France Rush To Strike & All Delays Blamed On Russia
On April 10, 2018, news reports emerged which revealing that Syria had invited OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons), to go to Syria to carry out an inspection. The invite was quickly accepted by OPCW, with details appearing the the same day on its website.
Separately, a meeting took place at the UN in which agreement could not be reached on competing resolutions proposed by the US and Russia. The US proposal called for the creation of a new investigative mechanism, to which Vassily Nebenzia, on behalf of the Russia Federation, raised objections asserting that the Joint Investigative Mechanism had become a puppet of anti-Damascus forces.
Russia’s counter-proposal called for the UN Security Council to carry out the investigation and take responsibility for attributing guilt. The US and allies unsurprisingly voted against the Russian proposal, creating a deadlock in the Security Council. A detailed summary of this back-and-forth was available online but subsequently removed. The summary is still available via archival services.
Within 24-hours of the deadlock at the Security Council, the UK’s Home Office began churning out accusations that included claims that Russia was blocking the investigation into the attack. This came despite the fact that the OPCW had already accepted Syria’s invitation to investigate.
The UK Foreign office accused Russia of “abusing the power of veto”, but the UN’s record of events makes it clear the situation was more nuanced. More importantly, with the OPCW invited, the UK’s allegation of improper blocking was clearly misleading, as an independent investigation had already been agreed upon and was set to take place on April 14, 2018.
The OPCW team arrived in Syria on the morning of April 13, 2018 a day ahead of inspections. Later that same day, Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov made headlines when it was reported that he was accusing the UK government of involvement with what he asserted were staged attacks (in reference to the alleged chemical weapons attack on April 7, 2018). Before the OPCW team even had chance to get breakfast, news broke of strikes carried out at three locations in Syria by a joint operation of the US, UK and France.
Leaders of the nations involved provided varied and sometimes contradictory justifications for the strike. Some stated that they were acting on intelligence. If true, with OPCW on the ground, it does not logically follow that the better option would be to destroy alleged evidence rather than have OPCW inspect the sites. This would also be safer, if any of the targeted locations held chemical weapons.
Trump asserted that the missile strike represented a response to the chemical attack, which he attributed to Assad even though the OPCW hadn’t yet had a chance to inspect much less make suggestions as to culpability. The establishment narrative claimed that the strike was necessary, because otherwise more women and children would be victim to Assad’s chemical weapons. Again, if this line of thinking were accurate, the inspections carried out by OPCW would have been a better option than the missile strike which took place.
The public has been told that Trump was acting on secret legal justification. However, rather than being secret, the legal justification was published and was promptly shredded almost immediately by former UK ambassador Craig Murray and Oxford University’s Professor of Public International Law, Dapo Akande.
The UK’s Theresa May stated the strikes were “in the nation’s interest,” despite most of the UK disagreeing vehemently with her assessment. French President Emmanuel Macron said the strike protected the “honor of the international community,” and claimed that France had evidence (primarily social media posts from 2 groups affiliated with the Salafist militia that had seized Douma) of Assad’s guilt in the Douma attack.
Despite all this, neither Trump, Macron or May could give a coherent, fact-based reason as to why the strike was necessary, especially when the OPCW inspectors were already in Syria, and other options were available. At best their explanations had gaps in logic and in most cases their justifications either played on emotion, deferred to invisible “legal justification” or were completely devoid of details explaining the rush.
Since then, we have also heard rumor that Russia and/or Syria have been blocking inspections, however, this doesn’t appear to be the truth. It appears, according to an OPCW statement published on April 18, 2018, that they were actually waiting on UNDSS (United Nations Department of Safety and Security) to confirm that it was safe to visit the site and another statement was made on April 21, 2018.
Whitewashing Jaish Al-Islam Conceals Reasons To Doubt Allegations & Attribution
The mainstream media seem to have little to say when it comes to Jaish Al-Islam, the group that held Douma until a day or two after the alleged chemical attack, as a factor in relation to the allegations of a chemical weapon attack. Understanding the history of this group raises additional potential culprits as to who could have carried out such an attack, and who would have a real motive to do so.
Acknowledging the conditions in which Jaish Al-Islam surrendered the territory strongly contradicts the Western establishment media narrative. Assad’s government secured agreement from JAI for the release of all civilian captives. In other words, it sought to secure the freedom of those it has been accused of having gassed. In exchange, JAI would be allowed safe passage to retreat to Jarabulus.
It’s interesting, though not necessarily causative, to note that Russia reported receiving a tip-off about chlorine being smuggled across the Turkey-Syria border in the month prior to the attack, specifically in preparation of a “chemical weapon provocation.” Turkey has funded Jaish Al-Islam in the past, and we can see from the map above, the border with Turkey is where they have chosen to retreat to. Overall, it seems we are intentionally being kept blind to information that might raise questions regarding the establishment narrative.
Perhaps this inducement to blindness is because those ‘moderate rebels‘ that our political leaders and press have been supporting in East Ghoutta are a Saudi-backed Salafist militia that has engaged in war-crimes going back to November 2015 when they first starting locking civilians in cages to use as human shields.
…or maybe it’s because, in 2016, Amnesty International accused the same group of using chemical weapons and its leader confirmed that an “unauthorized weapon” had been fired?
“There are also allegations that armed groups attacking Sheikh Maqsoud have used chemical weapons. A doctor told Amnesty that on 7 and 8 April he treated six civilians and two YPG fighters for symptoms including shortness of breath, numbness, red eyes and severe coughing fits. He said that several of the victims reported seeing yellow smoke as missiles impacted. A toxicologist consulted by Amnesty, who viewed video clips of the apparent attack and reviewed the doctor’s testimony, said the patients’ symptoms could be the effects of a chlorine attack. A subsequent statement purportedly issued by the leader of the Army of Islam armed group said that a field commander had deployed an “unauthorised weapon” on Sheikh Maqsoud and would be held to account”.
Knowing about Jaish Al-Islam would have given many the context needed to know there was reasonable doubt on the allegations made. By not telling us about this until after the strikes (and then only thanks to interviewees wanting to explain the situation) and by being cheerleaders for strikes in many cases – the media have further harmed their own reputations.
Of course, such deceptions through omission pale in comparison to the potential fallout over another entity in Syria…
The White Helmets
The famous (or infamous, depending on perspective) White Helmets have been a bedrock source of the “open source evidence” used to justify military strikes in Syria. However, what is characterized as a humanitarian aid organization serving Syrian civilians, in reality, the utter opposite. Given that the group is embedded with Jaish Al-Islam and is also a source of much of the previously mentioned “open source evidence”, it’s worth considering the nature and history of this organization.
The White Helmets were formally set up as a search and rescue operation for rebel groups, in Istanbul, Turkey, back in March 2013 by a former British military intelligence officer named James Le Mesurier.
The organization was intended to specifically support rebel groups and entered Syria along with rebels backed by members of the Arab League that wanted to oust Assad.
In recent years it has become increasingly apparent that this group has played a significant role in producing propaganda intended to generate sympathies in the West as part of an effort to manufacture consent for escalating hostilities against the Assad regime.
One of the most well-known examples of the White Helmet’s involvement in staging propaganda can be seen in the following video:
The footage, accompanied by a photo after the scene had been filmed showing those involved as if they are simply actors on set:
The video was excused as a “mannequin challenge” video, a laughable excuse that even Snopes seemed to be willing to accept, despite the fact that Snopes has already proven itself to be a questionable fact-checking source, epitomized by its attempt to prop up Hillary Clinton’s claim that all 17 US intelligence agencies had involvement with the ICA assessment of the 2016 DNC breach.
The allegations made against the White Helmets are far more substantive than just one video. The group’s film clips often show rescuers running around passing infants to each other and, in almost none of their videos, does this humanitarian organization, backed by more than $100 million in foreign aid, seem to make use of backboards that are a basic requirement for effectively carrying out first-responder duties without a significant risk of causing additional damage to the victims being rescued, something that was noted in a recent article by Patrick Henningson, “Forget Oscar: Give The White Helmets the Leni Riefenstahl Award for Best War Propaganda Film”.
The White Helmets are also no strangers to misappropriating third party content to provide illustrations to accompany their claims:
Putting the propaganda factor aside, the White Helmets are also affiliated with terrorist groups.
Much of this has been on public record since 2015 and was covered in detail by Vanessa Beeley in a series of articles she has written about Syria, and yet mainstream media still tries to present the White Helmets as a legitimate humanitarian organization helping Syrian civilians.
For any who still doubt these ties, there are many images showing the relationship between White Helmets members and jihadi groups.
This isn’t just clear from images. Members of the White Helmets have been present at multiple executions and have appeared in videos showing the transportation and dumping of bodies of slain Syrian Army soldiers.
Perhaps most damning, though, is what was found at the White Helmets headquarters in Aleppo by Carla Ortiz:
From the headquarters of the #WhiteHelmets who reported D alleged #chemicalatack in #Douma Meet them & take your conclusions Desde la base de los #CascosBlancos q reportaron el supuesto ataque quimico en #Duma Conócelos y saca conclusiones FullVideo?? https://t.co/n1rH9DKIiz pic.twitter.com/p5aHPTD8GK
— Carla Ortiz (@CarlaOrtizO) April 17, 2018
Carla Ortiz has also had an interview with Jimmy Dore recently that is well worth watching.
A large concern with the “open source evidence” being relied on by the US, UK and French governments to justify their strikes is that the evidence consists of social-media posts coming from two groups affiliated with rebel groups and one of those two groups is the White Helmets, who we’re being instructed to trust (we even have a movie telling us how great they are).
The first person I saw identifying this issue of the two sources was the inimitable Stephen McIntyre, who has also posted up an analysis of the Douma evidence – definitely recommended reading for those wanting to familiarize themselves with the facts.
Be warned though, trying to call out the bullshit can be a bit of a minefield to the reputations of those attempting it. As the Snopes article highlights, some have misappropriated content for the purpose of criticizing the White Helmets too – and this really doesn’t help those that are trying to expose the White Helmets.
Another example came from a girl being passed from one man to another and then again to another. These photos were used by different media outlets and were subsequently interpreted as covering three separate incidents, but they all, in fact, came from the same incident.
Bombing-For-Humanity Appeals And The Pretense We Weren’t Engaging In Regime Change Already Ignores One Billion Dollars A Year Spent by CIA on Destabilization
Many, it seems, speak out for what they see as a need to attack or invade Syria in a humanitarian frame, to save Syrians from that evil monster Assad. The problem with acting as though invading or dropping bombs somehow helps the citizens of Syria is that such action usually only benefits the military industrial complex and the rebel groups that have destabilized Syria.
We’ve seen this used as justification for the strikes from nation’s leaders, including Theresa May, who stated:
“Syrian children are gasping for life as Assad’s gas chokes them — it must stop now. Britain’s carefully targeted strikes on three chemical weapons sites in Syria is a clear message to those seeking to disregard the international rule book”
A similar statement was issued by Donald Trump, citing Assad gassing women and children, and of course hacks, pundits and other politicians (including Vice President Pence) were quick to follow his lead
If those pushing this frame care about Syrians, a good way to demonstrate it is to criticize those that spend a billion dollars a year on funding, arming and aiding Saudi-backed “moderate rebels” to destabilize Syria, but, that may be inconvenient as it would require such people to criticize their government.
Of course, some couldn’t help but use the allegations and subsequent strikes to try to score partisan-political points against opponents:
Unfortunately, people like Jane Merrick seem to fail to understand that the strikes were in violation of international law, an ironic reality in the face of May’s sentiments. Putting all the nonsense aside, were the strikes justified by the existence of alleged “chemical weapons facilities,” identified by our intelligence services and targeted with millions of dollars worth of missiles? It doesn’t seem so.
So, Was There A Chemical Weapon Attack In Douma?
Until the OPCW releases its findings, it’s difficult to say for sure. Certainly there were dead bodies filmed, however, due to the source, it’s difficult to know how much manipulation and ‘set-dressing’ occurred before this was recorded. Looking at other sources, such as Robert Fisk, who wrote an article in the Independent covering his recent trip to Douma, and interviews conducted by Pearson Sharp (of OAN) of numerous hospital staff, it certainly seems like many people in Douma have doubts.
Somewhat bizarrely, there was also a BBC reporter who tweeted the following and then soon deleted it:
In addition to this, Russia recently presented witnesses and unharmed citizens to an OPCW briefing at The Hague who were supposedly victims of the chemical attack, one of them even featuring in the White Helmets video taken at Douma hospital. It should also be noted that nobody in the hospital video showed symptoms of suffering from a chlorine gas attack. There were no signs of vomiting, acute edema, violent coughing, myosis (pinpoint pupils), nose and ears turning blue, etc.
In response, we’ve seen Western leaders and the media denounce it as a “stunt”, however, behind their outrage there seems to be little substance. Some, such as Robert Mackey, writing for the Intercept, attempted to dilute the significance of the testimony being given. In his article, titled “Russia Brings Syrians to The Hague to Make Underwhelming Case Chemical Attack Was Fake”, Mackey tries to undermine the event by ignoring statements made by both staff working at the hospital as well as an alleged victim of the attack.
The article propagates the baseless rumors that individuals are making statements under threat, citing “extreme intimidation” where the only evidence of this is allegations made by “former colleagues” of the Douma hospital – a claim to be wary of when “former colleagues” could easily be a cloaked reference to the White Helmets, especially as this allegation comes from Paris-based UOSSM (Union of Medical Care & Relief Organizations), which has promoted the White Helmets as a legitimate aid organization in the past.
Mackey’s article also states: “Russia had ignored a request from the OPCW to allow its inspectors in Syria to interview the witnesses first” This is factually incorrect, as the OPCW was given the opportunity to interview them but chose to only interview six. Mackey also states:
“In his brief remarks, the boy merely said that he had been doused with water in the clinic, and made no mention of having been enticed with sweets to cooperate in the filming of a staged scene or of any encounter with members of the White Helmets.”
Being enticed with sweets is something that came from a separate interview with Hassan Diab (or “the boy” as Mackey refers to him) that was carried out prior to the appearance at The Hague. It is unclear as to why Mackey conflates the two children. As for what Diab actually stated, it was: “We were at the basement and we heard people shouting that we had to go to the hospital – so when we were in the hospital we went through the tunnels. At the hospital they started pouring water on me, cold water, thank you.”
At the briefing, ITV’s Rupert Evelyn asked: “How low do you have to go to bring a little child?”. Hassan Diab is eleven and was able to give a clear statement. Contrast this with the far less convincing Bana al-Abed, a girl younger than Hassan and someone used repeatedly by the West to tug on heartstrings in order to manufacture consent for intervention in Syria. This is relevant because Bana al-Abed featured on ITV News the very next day. Independent Journalist Caitlin Johnstone has reported on Bana al-Abed being used to create and substantiate false narratives regarding the conflict in Syria for over a year, referring to such efforts as “the Bana Alabed psy-op.”
There has, of course, been conflicting information and evidence coming from Douma. A video from CNN’s Arwa Damon speaking to those formerly in Douma and another video published by Stefan Borg and Felix Larnö (working for Sweden’s TV4), in which they recorded an interview with a man that explained their building had been hit. The only problem here is a statement that suggests 25 children died in one building, a significant majority of all of the child fatalities allegedly caused by the entire incident, which, statistically, seems a bit odd.
With conflicts in information from different sources and the OPCW yet to announce anything officially, the only honest answer to the question of whether a chemical attack occurred is that this remains uncertain (at the time of writing).
However, it’s hard to ignore how things have transpired:
We were told of an alleged chemical weapon attack with blame attributed to Assad’s forces at a time that this would be both unnecessary and highly counterproductive for Assad, producing a narrative without any clear motive and that made little sense. This was supported with “open source evidence” that came from two groups affiliated with Jihadist rebels, with one of the groups having earned a reputation for producing propaganda. We were then told this evidence and “legal justification,” or “intelligence,” justified strikes that were clearly rushed ahead of OPCW inspectors carrying out their inspection. It now seems none of these cited reasons were valid, and the targeted sites were unlikely to have held chemical weapons stockpiles.
For more on this see Dennis Bernstein’s superb interview with former UN Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter.
We have been told that dissent against the brutally misguided, conspiracy-theory-based foreign policy decisions made by our governments is all due to Russian bots. We’ve seen that the reality behind this is that Western activists have been getting smeared by initiatives linked to think tanks such as the Atlantic Council and the German Marshall Fund (US) and, we can see, at present, that Russia and Syria seem eager to present evidence while our media and politicians are tripping over each other in their efforts to express disbelief and outrage at substantive, conflicting testimony, being presented at the Hague by Douma hospital staff and supposed ‘surviving victims’ of an alleged chemical weapons attack.
Regardless of the outcome of the OPCW’s investigation, our leaders hastened to act without evidence, to storm ahead of the OPCW inspection and engage in strikes on Syria. This took place in defiance of International law and against public opinion, and was based on questionable intelligence. In Syria, our politicians (especially Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Gavin Williamson, Donald Trump, Heather Nauert, Nikki Haley, Emanuel Macron & Jean-Yves Le Drian) as well as the mainstream press have disgraced themselves and brought shame to their parties, publications, industries, and nations respectively.