By Caitlin Johnstone – December 19, 2019
There have been many US military interventions that were based on lies. This is not a conspiracy theory. It is not some kooky blogger’s opinion. It is an extensively documented and indisputable fact.
Nothing has ever been done to address this extensively documented and indisputable fact. No laws were ever changed. No war crimes tribunals were ever held. No policies or procedures were ever revised. No one was ever even fired. No changes were implemented to prevent the Iraq deception from happening again, and, when it happened again, no changes were implemented to prevent the Libya deception from happening again.
When you make a mistake, you take measures afterward to ensure that you never make the same mistake again. When you do something on purpose, and you intend on doing it again, you do not take any such measures.
There is a large and growing body of evidence that we have been lied to about Syria to an extent and to a level of sophistication that may be historically unprecedented. One particular aspect of the US-centralized empire’s military involvement in that nation, the 2018 airstrikes by the US/UK/France alliance and the alleged chemical weapons incident which preceded it, has been subject to intense scrutiny ever since it took place. And with good reason: there are many pieces of evidence indicating that the Douma incident was staged to falsely implicate the Syrian government.
I don’t claim to know exactly who would have been involved in such a staging and to what extent. It is technically possible, as the UK’s Admiral Lord West speculated at the time, that it was perpetrated independently by the vicious al-Qaeda-linked Jaysh al-Islam forces who’d been occupying Douma, a last-ditch attempt to provoke a western military response that might save them from the brink of defeat at the hands of the surging Syrian Arab Army. Jaysh al-Islam has an established record of deliberately massacring civilians, and of using civilians as military leverage by locking them in cages on rooftops in strategic Douma locations to prevent airstrikes. The narrative management operation known as the White Helmets would also have been involved to some extent, and it’s very possible that Saudi Arabia, who backs Jaysh al-Islam, was involved as well.
Any number of other allied intelligence agencies could have also been involved to some degree (perhaps with the more expanded goal of ensuring continued US military commitment in Syria during an administration that is vocally opposed to it), and it’s unknown if anyone involved would have had direct contact with any part of any US government agency regarding any of this. All we know for sure is that there’s a growing mountain of evidence that the Syrian government was not involved, and that this raises extremely important questions about (A) who really killed those civilians in Douma and (B) how seriously any future demands for military action should be taken from the US power alliance.
That mountain of evidence includes the following 12 items. Taken individually they are reason enough to be skeptical of the narratives that are being promoted by a government with a known history of using lies, propaganda and false flags to advance preexisting military agendas. Taken together, and looked at with intellectual honesty, they are enough to obliterate anyone’s trust in what we’ve been told about Douma.
1.- A leaked OPCW Engineering Assessment concluded that the gas cylinders on the scene were manually placed there.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is a purportedly neutral and international watchdog group dedicated to eliminating the use of chemical weapons around the world. In May of this year, a leaked internal OPCW document labeled “Engineering Assessment of Two Cylinders Observed at the Douma Incident” was published by the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media. The Engineering Assessment was signed by a South African ballistics expert named Ian Henderson, whose name is seen listed in expert leadership positions on OPCW documents from as far back as 1998 and as recently as 2018, and its authenticity was quickly confirmed by the OPCW in a statement sent to multiple journalists that it was “conducting an internal investigation about the unauthorised release of the document in question.”
Henderson ran some experiments and found no scientifically grounded theory for how the cylinders could possibly have been dropped vertically from the air while being found in the condition and locations that they were found in, concluding instead that they were manually placed on the scene. This is a huge difference, since the Assad coalition was the only side with aircraft and Jaysh al-Islam were the only forces on the ground.
“The dimensions, characteristics and appearance of the cylinders, and the surrounding scene of the incidents, were inconsistent with what would have been expected in the case of either cylinder being delivered from an aircraft,” Henderson wrote. “In each case the alternative hypothesis produced the only plausible explanation for observations at the scene.”
“In summary, observations at the scene of the two locations, together with subsequent analysis, suggest that there is a higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed at those two locations rather than being delivered from aircraft,” Henderson concludes.
This is unsurprising, since the hypothetical physics of the empire’s airdrop narrative make no sense to anyone with any understanding of how material objects move. To get a simple explanation of this, watch the breakdown in this three-minute animation. For a more in-depth look, check out this long Twitter thread by Climate Audit’s Stephen McIntyre.
The existence of Henderson’s report was kept secret from the public by the OPCW, which might make more sense after we get through #2 on this list.
2.- US officials reportedly pressured the OPCW to find evidence of Assad’s guilt.
In addition to whoever leaked the Henderson report in May, a second whistleblower going by the pseudonym of “Alex” emerged in October to give a presentation before the whistleblower’s advocacy group Courage Foundation exposing far more plot holes in the official Douma narrative. This same whistleblower also spoke with award-winning British journalist Jonathan Steele, who published a bombshell report on Alex’s revelations in CounterPunch last month.
Among the most stunning revelations in Steele’s article was Alex’s report that US officials attempted to pressure OPCW inspectors during the Organisation’s drafting of its Interim Report on their Douma investigation in July 2018, and that this intercession was facilitated by an OPCW official named Bob Fairweather.
“On July 4 there was another intervention,” Steele writes. “Fairweather, the chef de cabinet, invited several members of the drafting team to his office. There they found three US officials who were cursorily introduced without making clear which US agencies they represented. The Americans told them emphatically that the Syrian regime had conducted a gas attack, and that the two cylinders found on the roof and upper floor of the building contained 170 kilograms of chlorine. The inspectors left Fairweather’s office, feeling that the invitation to the Americans to address them was unacceptable pressure and a violation of the OPCW’s declared principles of independence and impartiality.”
It’s unknown what forces were at play that enabled the US government to insert itself into into an ostensibly impartial OPCW investigation with the help of an OPCW official, but it wouldn’t be the first time the US government leveraged the Organisation into facilitating preexisting regime change agendas against a disobedient Middle Eastern nation. In 2002 Mother Jones reported that the US government, spearheaded by John Bolton, had used the threat of withdrawing its disproportionately high percentage of funding from the Organisation if it didn’t oust its then-Director General Jose Bustani. The popular Bustani, who’d previously been unanimously re-elected to his position, had been hurting the case for war with his successful negotiations with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. In March 2018, after Bolton was selected as Trump’s National Security Advisor, The Intercept revealed that the campaign to remove Bustani had also included Bolton personally threatening his children.
Bolton was operating at the highest levels of the Trump White House throughout the entire duration of the OPCW’s Douma investigation. He was Trump’s National Security Advisor from April 9, 2018 to September 10, 2019. The OPCW’s Fact-Finding mission didn’t arrive in Syria until April 14 2018 and didn’t begin its investigation in Douma until several days after that, with its final report being released in March of 2019.
3.- Levels of chlorinated organic chemicals didn’t indicate any chlorine gas attack took place.
“The main point is that chlorine gas degrades rapidly in the air,” Jonathan Steele told Tucker Carlson last month detailing what was told to him by Alex. “So coming in two weeks later, you wouldn’t find anything. What you would find is that the gas contaminates or affects other chemicals in the natural environment. So-called chlorinated organic chemicals [COCs]. The difficulty is they exist anyway in the natural environment and water. So the crucial thing is the levels: were there higher levels of chlorinated organic chemicals found after the alleged gas attack than there would have been in the normal environment?”
“When they got back to the Netherlands, to The Hague where the OPCW has its headquarters, samples were sent off to designated laboratories, then there was a weird silence developed,” Steele continued. “Nobody told the inspectors what the results of the analysis was. It was only by chance that the inspector found out through accident earlier the results would come in and there were no differences at all. There were no higher levels of chlorinated organic chemicals in the areas where the alleged attack had happened where there is some suspicious cylinders had been found by opposition activists. So it didn’t seem possible that there could have been a gas attack because the levels were just the same as in the natural environment.”
“[Alex] got sight of the results which indicated that the levels of COCs were much lower than what would be expected in environmental samples,” Steele reported in CounterPunch. “They were comparable to and even lower than those given in the World Health Organisation’s guidelines on recommended permitted levels of trichlorophenol and other COCs in drinking water. The redacted version of the report made no mention of the findings.”
“Had they been included, the public would have seen that the levels of COCs found were no higher than you would expect in any household environment”, Alex told Steele.
This inconvenient fact was omitted from both the OPCW’s Interim Report in July 2018 and its Final Report in March 2019.
4.- Many signs and symptoms of alleged chlorine gas poisoning weren’t consistent with chlorine gas poisoning.
The OPCW’s Final Report on Douma in March 2019 assures us that the team found “reasonable grounds that the use of a toxic chemical as a weapon took place. This toxic chemical contained reactive chlorine. The toxic chemical was likely molecular chlorine.” A leaked internal OPCW email, featuring an inspector voicing objections to the aforementioned Bob Fairweather over vital information being omitted from the developing Interim Report on Douma, contradicts this assurance, saying observed symptoms weren’t consistent with chlorine gas poisoning.
“In this case the confidence in the identity of chlorine or any choking agent is drawn into question precisely because of the inconsistency with the reported and observed symptoms,” the email reads. “The inconsistency was not only noted by the FFM [Fact-Finding Mission] team but strongly noted by three toxicologists with expertise in exposure to CW [Chemical Weapons] agents.”
So the OPCW’s investigative team as well as three toxicologists said what was observed didn’t match chlorine gas poisoning symptoms. This information was, of course, hidden from us by the OPCW.
A leaked first draft of the Interim Report on Douma, before OPCW officials started cutting out chunks which didn’t suit the US narrative, gives more detail. Here are some excerpts (emphases mine):
“Some of the signs and symptoms described by witnesses and noted in photos and video recordings taken by witnesses, of the alleged victims are not consistent with exposure to chlorine-containing choking or blood agents such as chlorine gas, phosgene or cyanogen chloride. Specifically, the rapid onset of heavy buccal and nasal frothing in many victims, as well as the colour of the secretions, is not indicative of intoxication from such chemicals.”
“The large number of decedents in the one location (allegedly 40 to 45), most of whom were seen in videos and photos strewn on the floor of the apartments away from open windows, and within a few meters of an escape to un-poisoned or less toxic air, is at odds with intoxication by chlorine-based choking or blood agents, even at high concentrations.”
“The inconsistency between the presence of a putative chlorine-containing toxic chocking or blood agent on the one hand and the testimonies of alleged witnesses and symptoms observed from video footage and photographs, on the other, cannot be rationalised. The team considered two possible explanations for the incongruity:
a. The victims were exposed to another highly toxic chemical agent that gave rise to the symptoms observed and has so far gone undetected.
b. The fatalities resulted from a non-chemical-related incident.”
5.- A doctor in Douma told journalist Robert Fisk that there was no gas poisoning.
Shortly after the Douma incident a video was circulated online and redistributed on news media around the world featuring people being hosed down with water in a hospital and an infant receiving a respiratory treatment. A doctor who worked in the hospital Assim Rahaibani gave the following account to journalist Robert Fisk days after the incident, saying those in the video were actually just suffering from hypoxia due to dust inhaled after a conventional bombing:
“I was with my family in the basement of my home three hundred metres from here on the night but all the doctors know what happened. There was a lot of shelling [by government forces] and aircraft were always over Douma at night — but on this night, there was wind and huge dust clouds began to come into the basements and cellars where people lived. People began to arrive here suffering from hypoxia, oxygen loss. Then someone at the door, a ‘White Helmet’, shouted ‘Gas!’, and a panic began. People started throwing water over each other. Yes, the video was filmed here, it is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia — not gas poisoning.”
Lest anyone accuse Fisk of having any special loyalties to the Syrian government, in this same report he says it “is indeed a ruthless dictatorship.”
6.- A BBC reporter said he has proof that the hospital scene was staged.
The BBC, another establishment that can hardly be accused of Assad loyalism, saw its Syria producer Riam Dalati claiming earlier this year that he had proof beyond a doubt the aforementioned hospital scene was staged. While holding to the establishment line that the attack did happen, Dalati expressed uncertainty as to what if any chemical would have been used and said “everything else around the attack was manufactured for maximum effect.” Emphases mine:
“The ATTACK DID HAPPEN, Sarin wasn’t used, but we’ll have to wait for OPCW to prove Chlorine or otherwise,” Dalati tweeted. However, everything else around the attack was manufactured for maximum effect. After almost 6 months of investigations, i can prove without a doubt that the Douma Hospital scene was staged.”
“No fatalities occurred in the hospital,” Dalati continued. “All the White Helmets, activists and people i spoke to are either in Idlib or Euphrates Shield areas. Only one person was in Damascus. Russia and at least one NATO country knew about what happened in the hospital. Documents were sent. However, no one knew what really happened at the flats apart from activists manipulating the scene there. This is why Russia focused solely on discrediting the hospital scene.”
In other words, Russia knew that these “activists” were staging the scene for the news media, and understandably focused on discrediting their work.
“I can tell you that Jaysh al-Islam ruled Douma with an iron fist,” Dalati added. “They coopted activists, doctors and humanitarians with fear and intimidation.”
Dalati set his account to private for an extended period after these extremely controversial statements got him a flood of attention, but the thread is up on Twitter as of this writing (here’s an archive in case they vanish again).
7.-More evidence the Douma scene was knowingly staged for media.
Riam Dalati also tweeted evidence after the attack that people had staged the corpses of two children to make it appear as though they died hugging each other for the purpose of emotional manipulation. If you’ve got a strong stomach (seriously think hard about whether this is something you want in your head before diving in), Stephen McIntyre also compiled some disturbing proof of dead infants being physically placed on top of other corpses in between video shoots of the Douma incident’s aftermath.
Whoever was positioning these bodies for the cameras clearly had a goal of generating an emotional response from the outside world. Which would be precisely the goal of staging a false chemical weapons attack.
8.- Witness testimony at The Hague.
Seventeen Syrian civilians, including medical personnel and some of the “victims” seen in the aforementioned hospital footage, spoke at the OPCW headquarters in The Hague saying that no chemical weapons attack took place. RT reports:
“There were people unknown to us who were filming the emergency care, they were filming the chaos taking place inside, and were filming people being doused with water. The instruments they used to douse them with water were originally used to clean the floors actually,” Ahmad Kashoi, an administrator of the emergency ward, recalled. “That happened for about an hour, we provided help to them and sent them home. No one has died. No one suffered from chemical exposure.”
The briefing was boycotted by the US and 16 of its allies and was smeared as an unconscionable Russian hoax by media outlets ranging from Sky News to Al Jazeera to The Guardian to The Intercept, apparently for no other reason than that what these Syrians were saying didn’t match the unsubstantiated claims being promoted by the political/media class of the US-centralized empire. If you want to just listen to what the Syrians themselves say and make up your own mind, RT has an English translation video here:
9.- The first OPCW Director General finds the glaring irregularities and omissions from the OPCW’s Douma report “very disturbing”.
After the aforementioned Courage Foundation presentation given by Alex this past October, the aforementioned former OPCW Director General Jose Bustani (the one whose kids John Bolton threatened) had this to say:
“The convincing evidence of irregular behaviour in the OPCW investigation of the alleged Douma chemical attack confirms doubts and suspicions I already had. I could make no sense of what I was reading in the international press. Even official reports of investigations seemed incoherent at best. The picture is certainly clearer now, although very disturbing”
“I have always expected the OPCW to be a true paradigm of multilateralism. My hope is that the concerns expressed publicly by the Panel, in its joint consensus statement, will catalyse a process by which the Organisation can be resurrected to become the independent and non-discriminatory body it used to be.”
10.-This OAN reporter literally just walking around asking people in Douma what they saw.
11.- MIT Professor Emeritus Theodore Postol speaking about the plot holes and irregularities in scientific protocol with the Douma investigation.
12.- Common sense: Assad stood nothing to gain from launching a chemical attack, while Jaysh al-Islam fighters stood everything to gain by faking one.
This is the initial reason why critical thinkers were so skeptical of the establishment Douma narrative: from the very beginning, it made no sense at all.
Click this hyperlink to read a BBC article dated five days before the Douma incident, describing how the Syrian government “appears poised to regain control” of the town and how Jaysh al-Islam fighters were already evacuating. The battle was won. Assad would have stood absolutely nothing to gain from tempting a retaliation from western powers (which could have been far more severe than it ended up being) all to drop a couple of cylinders of chlorine gas, which incidentally is a highly ineffective weapon that ordinarily takes a very long time to kill.
Jaysh al-Islam (and whoever else they may have been working with), on the other hand, would have stood everything to gain by murdering a few of the civilians they had been holding captive in the town they’d invaded in the hopes that western forces would become their airforce for a bit and hold off the Syrian Arab Army from reclaiming Douma.
“Why would Assad use chemical weapons at this time? He’s won the war,” Major General Jonathan Shaw told The Mail on Sunday at the time. “That’s not just my opinion, it is shared by senior commanders in the US military. There is no rationale behind Assad’s involvement whatsoever. He’s convinced the rebels to leave occupied areas in buses. He’s gained their territory. So why would he be bothering gassing them?”
“The jihadists and the various opposition groups who’ve been fighting against Assad have much greater motivation to launch a chemical weapons attack and make it look like Assad was responsible,” the ex-SAS and Parachute Regiment commander added. “Their motivation being that they want to keep the Americans involved in the war — following Trump saying the US was going to leave Syria for other people to sort out.”
Admiral Lord West made similar comments on the BBC around the same time, prompting BBC host Annita McVeigh to flip into frantic narrative management mode suggesting that he’s “muddying the waters” during an “information war with Russia”.
“President Assad is in the process of winning this civil war, and he was about to take over Douma, all that area,” West said. “He’d had a long, long, long slog slowly capturing that area of the city, and there just before he goes in and takes it all over, apparently he decides to have a chemical attack. It just doesn’t ring true. It seems extraordinary, because clearly he would know that there’s likely to be a response from the allies. What benefit is there for his military? Most of the rebel fighters, this disparate group of Islamists, had withdrawn, there were a few women and children left around. What benefit was there militarily in doing what he did? I find that extraordinary.”
“Whereas we know that in the past some of the Islamo groups have used chemicals, and of course there’d be huge benefit in them labeling an attack as coming from Assad, because they would guess quite rightly that there would be a response from the US as there was last time, and possibly from the UK and France,” West added.
“If I were advising some of the Islamist groups, many of whom are worse than Daesh,” West said, “I would say look, we’ve got to wait until there’s another attack by Assad’s forces, particularly if they’ve got a helicopter overhead or something like that and they’re dropping barrel bombs, and we set off some chlorine. Because we’ll get the next attack from the allies. And there’s no doubt that if we believe he’s done a chemical attack we should do that. And those attacks will get bigger, and it’s the only way they’ve got, actually, of stopping the inevitable victory of Assad.”
These are not Assad sympathizers or Kremlin assets saying this. These are not a bunch of hippie dippie anti-imperialists. These are lifelong military men, thinking in military terms, describing what they were seeing. And what they were seeing is the thing that a false flag is.
This isn’t just some idle philosophical question. People died. A massive war crime occurred and the more minutes tick by before a legitimate investigation is launched — with full transparency and accountability this time — the less available evidence there will be. Which is why establishment narrative managers on Syria go full dead-weight when asked if they support a full criminal investigation into what happened. They don’t actually believe it will go their way, and rightly so.
Meanwhile the illegal occupation of Syria drags on, perhaps until Trump can be replaced with a more compliant puppet, and we’re all basically just sitting around waiting to be deceived again.
This cannot continue. This must not continue.